Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stuff Your Stocking with Books Blogfest!

My short story "Home for Christmas" is featured today at  at 10 am at Long and Short Reviews 'Stuff Your Stocking with Books' Blogfest. Come on over and say hello!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'm going to take a little break over the Christmas holidays, but I'm going to leave you with a couple of things. The first is a poem written by a British lady named Rose Fyleman who was visiting Winnipeg in the 1930s at Christmas. A friend took her around town to see the sights; the Fort Garry Hotel for tea, the statue of Queen Victoria in the park, the policemen wearing their buffalo hide coats. And she was enchanted with it all. This poem always reminds me to quit complaining about the snow and the shovelling and to just enjoy the beauty of the season.

In Winnipeg at Christmas

In Winnipeg at Christmas there's lots and lots of snow,
Very clean, and crisp and hard
And glittering like a Christmas card
Everywhere you go;
Snow upon the housetops, snow along the street,
And Queen Victoria in her chair
Has snow upon her snowy hair
And snow upon her feet.
In Winnipeg at Christmas they line the streets with trees-
Christmas trees lit up at night
With little balls of coloured light
As pretty as you please.
The people hurry past you in furry boots and wraps;
The sleighs are like a picture book,
And all the big policemen look
Like Teddy Bears in caps.
And oh! The smiling ladies and jolly girls and boys;
And oh! The parties and the fun
With lovely things for everyone-
Books and sweets and toys.
So, if someday at Christmas you don't know where to go,
Just pack your boxes up I beg,
And start at once for Winnipeg;
You'll like it there I know.

- Rose Fyleman


My second offering is a Christmas video. This video was made by a 16 year old Winnipegger who lives in the same part of town as I do. The shots of the new fallen snow on the trails and forest near our home are quite lovely. I think this kid is pretty talented. Without further ado, "The Little Drummer Boy":



Have a wonderful, safe Christmas everyone!

Jana

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guest Blogging at Janet's Journal Today

My good friend Janet Corcoran invited me over to her blog today to talk about my new release "The Girl Most Likely". I'll also be talking about success; are you only successful if you make a lot of money? I'd love to hear opinions from writers and readers. I'm giving away an E-Copy of "The Girl Most Likely" to a commenter on this blog, so come on down!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And the Winners are...

The winners of the prizes on my Goddess Fish Virtual book tour, chosen at random by my daughter, are (drum roll please!):

Joanne B - Joanne wins the $20 gift certificate from The Wild Rose Press.

ML - ML wins the $20 gift certificate from Amazon.

Congratulations!

Thank you so much to Marianne and Judy from Goddess Fish Promotions, and thank you to everyone who followed me on this tour and commented on my posts. You made the tour very rewarding for me and I hope to see you in future tours.

Joanne and ML, I'll be getting your prizes out to you soon!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Guest Blogging with Sharon Buchbinder Today



I'm over at my friend and fellow Wild Rose Press author Sharon Buchbinder's blog today talking about plotting and outlining. I'll be giving away an E-Copy of "The Girl Most Likely" to one commenter so don't be shy about saying hello! You can also read and comment on my November 21 interview with Sharon for a chance to win. Thanks and see you there!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Tour Continues on Saturday!

Because of a mixup on the Thursday blog, my virtual book tour is continuing on Satuday December 10. I will at http://www.its-raining-books.blogspot.com/ I hope you can drop by.

The winners of my prizes offered on the tour will be choosen on Monday, December 12 and will be posted here. Best of luck everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Last Stop on my Goddess Fish Virtual Book Tour!

I'm at the Romance in the Backseat blog and today I'm talking about writing retreats. Today is your last opportunity to comment for your chance to win my grand prize, a $20 gift certificate from The Wild Rose Press plus a $20 gift certificate from Amazon. To check out all the stops on my Goddess Fish tour and to get in some last minute commenting, go to my schedule on my website. I'm looking forward to seeing you on my last stop!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Visiting with Sherry Gloag Today

I'm at Sherry Gloag's Heart of Romance blog today. I'm going to be interviewed by my characters, Cara and Finn, from "The Girl Most Likely". Yikes!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guest Blogging with Lisa Sanchez today

I'm over at Lisa Sanchez's blog today and we'll be talking about, among other things, what it's like to lead a charmed life in high school, only to lose it all as an adult. Don't forget to comment for your chance to win my grand prize: a $20 gift certificate from The Wild Rose Press plus a $20 gift certificate from Amazon. See you there!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Another day, another blog stop!


Today I'm with Lila Munro at Realmantic Moments. For writers out there I'll be talking about creating the romance arc in a romance novel. I hope you stop by and say hello. Don't forget about my grand prize. All you have to do is comment for your chance to win!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tour Stop for December 1

Today I'm at the Romancing Rakes blog. My character Cara will be talking about surviving the high school reunion.

I'd love to read your comments on this or any of my Goddess Fish virtual book tour blog posts. For a complete list of the stops on my tour, go to my "Appearances" page on my website. Don't forget to leave your email address!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Today's stop on the tour

Today is release day! Yay!! "The Girl Most Likely" is now available from The Wild Rose Press. I'll be celebrating over at the Words of Wisdom from the Scarf Princess blog. Since TGML is about an older heroine/younger hero, I'll be exploring the pitfalls and myths about such a relationship. Comment for your chance win a $20 gift certificate from The Wild Rose Press plus a $20 gift certificate from Amazon. Don't forget to leave your email address!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Next Stop on my Virtual Book Tour!

Today, November 29, I'm over at Carrie Ann Ryan's blog talking about "The Girl Most Likely". I hope you can drop by and say hello. Remember, if you comment on this, or any of my other Goddess Fish Virtual Book tour posts, you'll be entered to win the grand prize of a $20 gift certificate from The Wild Rose Press and a $20 gift certificate from Amazon. Make sure you leave an email address!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Guest Blogging Begins!

"The Girl Most Likely" is being released November 30 and to celebrate I'll be dashing around the Internet! I've got two stops today:

The Roses of Prose - I'm being interviewed!

My Goddess Fish Virtual Book Tour also starts today. Every weekday for ten days, from November 28 to December 9, I'll be at another stop on the tour. The first stop today is at the Romance to Make Your Heart Race Blog. Anyone who comments on this blog post or on any of the other 9 stops on my GF tour will be entered to win the Grand Prize of a $20 gift certificate from The Wild Rose Press and a $20 gift certificate from Amazon.


I hope to see you on my tour!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Our New Anthology!

I couldn't be prouder! It is my pleasure to announce the release of my writing group's first anthology. The Saskatchewan Romance Writers has put together 20 short stories by 17 members, and if I do say so myself, we rock!


Love, Loss and Other Oddities:
Tales from Saskatchewan
Twenty stories of love, loss and strange
happenings on the prairie from seventeen
Saskatchewan authors.

Foreword by New York Times
bestselling author Mary Balogh

Love and loss aren’t the only things happening
every day on the prairie: Saskatchewan is full of the
unexpected. Seventeen regional authors explore
just how strange and wonderful this province can
be in these twenty stories. From historical fiction
to paranormal romance, with stops along the way
for contemporary adventures, suspense, and urban
fantasy, this anthology is the one Saskatchewan road
that won’t take you on a straightforward journey.

Nurturing local writers of popular fiction for twentyfive
years, Saskatchewan Romance Writers is proud
to present this collection of outstanding short stories.
Come take a trip through the extraordinary prairie!


“The title is a perfectly accurate one… there is
something here to suit all tastes. I have read all the
stories and have been well entertained.”
– Mary Balogh


LOVE
Back for a weekend in the city where it all went wrong,
Emma has reservations about everything,
especially him.

LOSS
A trip to her childhood home offers a Cree woman a chance
to settle more than her late father’s estate.

AND OTHER ODDITIES
When Sam appears in human form, Litha must decide
between dying to be with him and living without him.


Stories by
Kat Aubrey, S. E. Berger, Doreen M. Bleich,
Annette Bower, Joanne Brothwell, Teri Christine,
Jessica Eissfeldt, Anne Germaine, Karyn Good,
Clare Hurst, Hazel Milne Kellner, Hayley E. Lavik,
Judy McCrosky, Carolynn McDougall,
Lesley-Anne McLeod, Jana Richards and
Carrie Ann Schemenauer

Love, Loss and Other Oddities is now available for purchase as an ebook at Lulu.com

For the Kindle version, go to Amazon

And to read more about the anthology and the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, go to http://saskromancewriters.com/love-loss-and-other-oddities/

Click here to read a preview!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What an Agent Wants (or doesn't want) Part Two

Last week I talked about the Writers’ Digest webinar I attended called “How to Make your Romance Hot Enough for an Agent”. The webinar was hosted by agent Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency (http://www.nelsonagency.com/) After her presentation, Sara generously invited attendees to send her the first five pages of a work in progress for evaluation. There was the possibility that if she liked what she read in the first five pages, she might ask for the full manuscript.

When the ad for this webinar popped into my inbox, I was intrigued by Sara’s offer to look at the first five pages of a WIP. I’ve only made one submission to an agent (which went nowhere). That was several years ago and I know my writing’s improved since then. Do I have what it takes to interest an agent?

I sent her the first five pages of “Welcome to Paradise”, an 85,000 word romance I’ve been working on for at least two years. Actually, that’s not true. I really haven’t worked on it since 2009 because I got involved with other writing projects. That was another reason I thought I’d take this class; it might inspire me to complete this manuscript. It’s close to being done, but definitely not ready to send out into the world.

Here’s the first page of “Welcome to Paradise” that I sent to Sara:

It was official. She’d just hit rock bottom.

Bridget Grant sighed as she wiped the sticky remains of spilled beer and nacho cheese sauce from one of the tables. Is this what her life had come down to? Serving wench in her mother’s bar?

As she lifted her head, she caught several patrons staring at her. They quickly turned away when she stared back with all the haughty pride she could muster. Less then a day in Paradise and she was already the talk of the town. She felt naked in the small town fishbowl that was her hometown.

Paradise, North Dakota. Never had a town been so erroneously named. With a population of less than a thousand, counting dogs and gophers, Paradise had little to offer. She’d known twenty years ago she didn’t belong here, but here she was, back where she started. Everything she’d worked for, all her dreams for herself and her family were gone. Anger and despair pressed on her heart as she swiped blindly at the dirty table.

Suck it up, Bridget.

Bridget took a calming breath as she straightened her shoulders and gave herself a mental shake. It didn’t matter what she did for a living or what anyone thought of her. As long as her daughter stayed out of trouble she’d gladly sling beer and wipe sticky tables.

And here’s how Sara responded:

“Thank you for participating in the webinar and thanks sincerely for sending in these sample pages. Your heroine is super charming and the story is right up my alley. Unfortunately, if this came through the slush pile I would pass on asking for a full but it's a close call. I have some notes here so hopefully this will help you find just the right publishing partner.

Like I said, you have a charming story and a strong, wonderful, engaging heroine - great work! For me, there were some moments in the mechanics of your writing that I felt could be stronger. You open with tons of character and personality - my suggestion is to trim the backstory and telling. There is just a hint too much of it. Your instincts are correct - get the story moving and show Bridget's cute personality. Here's an example, "Paradise, North Dakota. Never had a town been so erroneously named. With a population of less than a thousand, counting dogs and gophers, Paradise had little to offer. She’d known twenty years ago she didn’t belong here, but here she was, back where she started. Everything she’d worked for, all her dreams for herself and her family were gone. Anger and despair pressed on her heart as she swiped blindly at the dirty table."

My suggestion is to cut this out entirely and any moment, especially in the first 30 pages, that reads like this. It's a bit of data about the world and the heroine that we could show easily, so do that instead. Use body language and interactions and dialogue and plot to show her exasperation with Paradise, ND and her disappointment at being back here.”

Darn. I don’t always recognize the difference between internal monologue and telling. I’m hoping to take Sara’s advice and move this story from “almost there” to “you made it, baby!” Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Do you have an Achilles heel in your writing, some area that needs improvement that you struggle with?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What an Agent Wants

What does an agent want? Isn’t that the million dollar question? For a writer who wants to go the traditional publishing route, agents are key. Many publishing houses only accept agented submissions. So writers must entice an agent with their work and hope for representation. But literary agents are known to play hard to get. What exactly do agents want?

Recently, I had the opportunity to find out. I signed up for a Writer’s Digest Webinar entitled “How to Make your Romance Hot Enough for an Agent”, hosted by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency
LLC (http://www.nelsonagency.com/)  Sara went through her checklist of what she’s looking for:

- Superior writing
- Unique concept
- Platform
- Professional attitude

Sara says that she uses these four criteria to evaluate a submission at every stage in the process, from the query letter, to the sample pages, to the the full manuscript. During the webinar she explained her checklist to let us know exactly what she’s looking for.

1. Superior Writing – These are components that make up superior writing in Sara Megibow’s estimation:

Completed manuscript – the manuscript is not only done, it is the best product you can produce. It is critiqued, edited, polished and 100% ready to go.

Strong Mechanics – Can you write well? The manuscript is well-written from a technical perspective. The writer has a handle on the “tools” of writing, such as dialogue, flashbacks, backstory, sexual tension, character development and motivation, and each of these tools is in balance. There’s not too much or too little of any one of the tools. She says that one of the main reasons for passing on a submission is too much backstory in the opening pages.

Authentic characterization – Sara gave the example of a character who is a librarian and sees a man getting shot when she looks out the window of the library. She immediately goes to investigate. What? No, your average person would call 911. A character who investigates does not feel authentic. Characters should be authentic, engaging, intelligent, and their actions should seem organic to who they are. In other words, if X does something and Y does something else, X’s reaction should be realistic.

Engaging plot – She wants something unique, something she hasn’t seen before. It should have a twist that hasn’t been done to death but should still be realistic. The story must be interesting and engaging. If a writer has been getting the feedback from readers/critiquers/editors that they’re not falling in love with the story, that might be a clue that the plot is not engaging enough. As an example of an engaging plot, Sara Megibow cites “Private Arrangements” by Sherry Thomas.

Interesting world – This is important for paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi novels where world building is the most important element. She doesn’t want stuff she’s seen before, such as a vegetarian vampire who likes humans and doesn’t kill them or a dystopian novel in which food is central to the plot.

Unique narrative voice – Your submission stands out in the slush pile as different without being silly. It is unique, intelligent and well put together and your query is professional.

Brilliant pitch – This is one of the most important parts of your submission whether you are going the traditional publishing route, small/epublishing or self-publishing. This is one or two sentences that immediately engages the reader and describes the plot of your book. Sara gives this example of from “The Fallen Queen”, a fantasy with romantic elements, by one of her clients, Jane Kindred: The heiress to the throne of Heaven is deposed in a celestial coup and is whisked away to Earth and hidden in Russia by two nefarious demons. The pitch should read like a back cover blurb or a movie tagline.

Strong hook – The hook and the pitch work together. Can the reader easily understand the characters, the world, the story they can expect just from reading the pitch?

Sara says that the lack of superior writing is a deal breaker for her; she likely would not offer representation if she felt the writing wasn’t there.

2. Unique concept

- The writer must understand the market and the difference between different genres and subgenres. Most people understand the difference between contemporary and historical, but what about dystopian and urban fantasy? Middle grade and YA? What’s appropriate content for each? What’s appropriate word count? Sara says that if you can nail the subgenre in your query, such as “a 65,000 word YA historical with romantic elements” you’ve made a good pitch and got her attention. If your concept isn’t completely unique (such as another vampire novel), it isn’t a deal breaker for her as long as the book is well written.

3. Platform

- She often uses a writer’s platform to help evaluate a submission. The lack of a platform is not a deal breaker if the writer’s submission is great, but it is important in going from writer to published author. A writer who understands this is a step ahead.

- Elements of a platform can include:

Professional website – may contain a head shot, short bio, what I’m writing, industry blogs I like, books read recently, etc.

Blog or active news page

Twitter or Facebook

Member of Romance Writers of America – Sara highly recommends membership in RWA. It is a fantastic organization to help the writer understand the publishing industry.

Sara says the most important thing for the writer to focus on is writing. However, she is impressed by a writer who has done some self-marketing.

4. Professionalism – Sara is interested in working with writers who want a partner in publishing. She expects a professional query letter, professional responses, and professionalism when attending conferences. Lack of professionalism is a definite deal breaker. Even if the writing is good, she likely wouldn’t offer representation to someone who shows from the outset that they would be difficult and unprofessional to work with.

At the end of her webinar, Sara invited attendees to send her the first five pages of a work in progress for evaluation and possible request of a full manuscript.  Next week, I’ll let you know how that turned out for me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Remembrance Day Wonder

When I opened my email last night I got a surprise. My niece and my nephew's girfriend have been doing some searching into my father's World War Two history and found this link. My Dad served in the Canadian Army in the Regina Rifles, nicknamed "the Farmer Johns" because of all the farm boys in the regiment, and supposedly the number of them named John, like my Dad. He landed at Juno beach on D-Day with the rest of the Canadians, was captured June 9, 1944 and remained a prisoner of war until April 1945.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011. A collector of militaria is given this helmet:


It's pretty rusty and beat-up, but it does have a patch with a number that identifies the original owner. Who happened to be my Dad.



From my Dad's war records, I confirmed the number on the helmet was his. I have no idea how this helmet ended up in farm in Alberta. The previous owner said he didn't know my father. Since Dad was a POW, he came back to Canada with little of his military stuff. I never heard him mention a uniform or piece of equipment that he brought back. I certainly never saw one.

Dad's been gone since 2001. Finding this link to him a day before Remembrance Day is like getting a message from him. Maybe he wants us to tell his story. Or maybe he just wants us to remember.

Please take a moment on this Remembrance Day, November 11, to remember the sacrifices and contributions of soldiers from wars past and present,

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Awe-Thors Blog Tour - Interview with Regan Taylor

Today my guest is Regan Taylor, a very prolific fellow Awe-Struck Publishing author. I'm always impressed with the interesting links on writing and the writing business that Regan passes along on our author loop. She is a very savvy writer! Without further ado, here's Regan!


Hi Jana!
Thank you for having me visit with you and your readers today on our blog tour.  I’m sitting here with one of my favorite triple venti lattes and a slice of cheese cake. About the cheese cake, one of my closest friends recently passed and her favorite food was cheese cake so this is for Debi. And if I might, what Debi left me with was it’s not being able to say goodbye that matters but having had the gift of saying hello because without that hello, that person wouldn’t be in your life.

Jana:  Thank you for that reminder about the importance of friendship, Regan. It's a lesson we all need to remember. About your writing - Where do you get ideas for your stories?

Regan:  Pretty much from my life. Events or things that just happen through the day. For instance, The Glass Cage was based on an experience that happened to several friends of mine as well as myself. Her World (tentative title) is based on an incident that happened at work which was pretty innocent – one of my attorneys had a meeting with some mucky muck and my imagination took off.

Jana:  Where did the idea for your latest Awestruck release come from?



Regan:  That would be The Photograph, book 1 of my Treasures Antique series. In the romance community, as a reader, we talk about wanting to meet a guy just like the heroes in our books. What would happen if one of those heroes was suddenly standing there in your life? What would you do? What would you want to happen? What if he was from another time – and had to go back. Would you brave time and space to be with that one true love?

Jana:  I love the cover for The Photograph, by the way. It's gorgeous!  How do you research? Internet, interviews, books, etc.? Do you like to research?



Regan:  It depends on the book. For my romantic suspenses I rely on my own experience working in law enforcement and then go to friends who are still officers for the most up-to-date information. For my western series (The Bride Series with Awe-struck) I’m pretty old fashioned -- I spent a lot of time in the library researching the movement west in the 1850s-60s.  I also watched some of the early westerns, like Stagecoach with John Wayne. By the way, he was quite the hottie when he was younger!  I live in a city of 54,000 people (give or take) but we are still very much a small town and our librarians are part of that atmosphere so when I’m looking for information they have been outstanding in their assistance.



Jana:  What is the most unusual thing you have ever done in the name of research?

Regan:  I wouldn’t say it was unusual per se but it was a lot of fun. For With All Dispatch, book 2 of my Treasures series which is due out in spring 2012, I spent a day taking the route my hero and heroine take as they are getting to know each other. I went to the Cheese Factory which was founded in the early 1850s and is still a fully operating cheese factor in western Novato. From there I went out through the Platform Bridge to Pt. Reyes and spent a few hours at the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse. I treated myself to dinner at the Pelican Inn – an authentic English pub and restaurant out in Muir Beach. Along the way I stopped at different places and wrote what my characters were doing and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Jana:  What authors or friends have influenced you as a writer?

Regan:  Oh gee, so many – Karin Tabke, Tawny Weber, and Allison Brennan just to name a few.

Jana:  What’s next for you? Tell me about your next or newest release?

Regan:  I have three in the works. Well actually With All Dispatch is due out in Spring 2012 and it  picks up at the end of book 1 with Molly dealing with the fall out of her roommate Carrie’s relationship with Black Eagle. She meets a guy named Gareth (it is a romance <G>) and learns something very interesting about his past, something that changes her whole world view. Book 3 of that series moves into a darker area for me with a serial killer. I’ve written a few scenes of it and talk about creepy!
And I have my first draft of Traveling Bride, book 3 of my Bride series, completed.  This one is a time travel. I can’t seem to stay away from them.

Jana:  How can readers connect with you online?

Regan:  Easiest is Regansreads @ gmail.com or my website, Regantaylor.com

Jana:  What is the biggest compliment you’ve ever received about your writing from a reader, editor, reviewer, etc.

Regan:This was about Devil’s Details where a reader said she wanted Luke to be real and to come into her life.

Jana:  What (and who) do you like to read for fun and relaxation?

Regan:  Deanna Raybourn and Tasha Alexander.

Thanks for visiting with me today! It was great getting to know you and your books a little better.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Uncial Press is Having a Birthday Party!

Uncial Press is five years old! To celebrate, Jude and Star are having a birthday party, but you get all the gifts. Every day an ebook, written by one of Uncial Press's talented authors, will be given away. My book "Her Best Man" will be given away October 29.

But wait, there's more! Two grand prizes will be given away. On October 13, a Kobo eReader loaded with several Uncial Press books will be awarded. And on October 27, the second grand prize, a Kindle eReader, also preloaded with several Uncial Press titles, will go to one lucky entrant.

All you have to do to enter is to go to www.uncialpress.com/birthday-party.html  Good luck!


And if you need more contests, please go to my website at www.janarichards.net/contest.html  for details about my own contest. In conjuntion with Uncial Press's birthday, I'm giving away a copy of each of Uncial titles, "Her Best Man", "Seeing Things" and "A Long Way from Eden". Please stop by!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Awe-Thors Blog Tour - Interview with Skyla Dawn Cameron

I'm very pleased to have Skyla Dawn Cameron as my guest this week. In addition to being a talented and award-winning author, Skyla is also an editor with Awe-Struck/Mundania Publishing. Thank you for being here, Skyla!

Thank you very much for having me, Jana!

Jana:  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Skyla: I never wasn’t writing—when I was about eleven, I was writing YA horror novels. It wasn’t until high school when I realized I was wasting my time taking law and science and a million other classes when my natural talents lay elsewhere, so I began pursuing writing as a career when I was eighteen.

Jana:  What genre/genres do you write in? How/why did you choose these genres?

Skyla:  I write primarily urban fantasy and I’m not sure why as my first love for my entire life was horror. But UF itself is such a wonderful mix of genres that I was immediately drawn to it. I think everything I write—except for a trunk novel I wrote years ago that was a thriller—has a paranormal bent of some sort. My personal taste in films, books, and music varies widely, so I like to try everything.

Jana:  If you could write a new book in any genre you haven’t written in before, what would you choose?

Skyla:  I’ve finished eighteen novels and have another fifteen or so in various states of completion, so I think at this point I’ve tried everything I want to.

Jana:  Where did the idea for your latest Mundania release come from?


Skyla:  The first book in my current urban fantasy series, Bloodlines, had a snarky, violent, promiscuous vampire as a narrating character. I wanted to try something totally different and outside of my comfort zone for the second book, so I decided to write about a demon hunting nun in Hunter. I’m still undecided as to whether it was a good idea or not.


Jana:  How do you research? Internet, interviews, books, etc.? Do you like to research?

Skyla:  I do a lot of reading online because my budget is limited. Perhaps my favourite thing to do is to just ask random questions of friends and family who might know the answer. “So let’s say that a large Biblical demon caused an earthquake and destroyed a high school: what would be the procedures for setting up a temporary school?” “It’s winter and I need to raise zombies from a cemetery: exactly how deep is the ground frozen?” (This actually had a fascinating answer, as my friend’s father used to work in a cemetery.) “Let’s say I shot you in the shoulder...”

Jana:  What interests and hobbies do you have, aside from writing?

Skyla:  I run, bellydance (some tribal fusion and hip hop fusion, and I totally suck at it), cook/bake (primarily vegan), and I do some indoor gardening as I live in an apartment. Generally my time is pretty split between the day job and writing. I sadly even have very little time for pleasure reading because I have to read so much for work. I also have five cats and a dog, and they keep me rather busy. Oh, but video games! Some people meditate, I game; it’s the only time I can shut off my brain and relax. I schedule regular time for gaming as it’s one of the few things that keep me sane.

Jana:  What’s next for you? Tell me about your next or newest release?


Skyla:  February (tentatively) marks the release of the third book in my current series, called Lineage. It’s about a sociopathic, suicidal quarter demon out for revenge, and is filled with car chases, explosions, magic, conspiracy theories, and very morbid humour.

Jana:  What are you working on now – your current WIP?

Skyla:  I have several. I’m finishing Lineage then I’ll be working on the fourth book, Exhumed, to release at the end of 2012. I’m also working on the fifth book in a very dark YA paranormal (unpublished) series, the first in an urban fantasy post-apocalyptic urban fantasy series, and the first of a dark paranormal horror comedy trilogy. Among others.

Jana:  Why do you write?

Skyla:  Because I have to. It’s pretty much like breathing at this point. Also, it helps me process and deal with things in a way that won’t lead to me being arrested.

Jana:  What does your writing schedule/routine usually look like? Do you write a little every day or do you block out large chunks of time to devote solely to your writing?

Skyla:  It’s common for me to work eight to ten hours a day at the day job plus another three or four on extra stuff (like editing or reading submissions), so I basically write whenever I can. A couple hours late at night when my brain isn’t fit to work on other people’s stuff is when I work on my own, and I *try* to devote my weekend evenings to my work (which doesn’t always happen).  I used to work in short, creative bursts of two weeks and I had trouble finishing books if I couldn’t in that amount of time; I’ve now disciplined myself to stick with projects for longer periods of time as I can’t devote thirteen hours a day to writing anymore.

Jana:  What is the biggest compliment you’ve ever received about your writing from a reader, editor, reviewer, etc.

Skyla:  It may sound the opposite of most people, but actually my mother reading and enjoying my work is a big deal to me. I know many writers whose family shows no interest in their work or make no effort to discuss their work, so I’m very grateful. My mother, for example, read a WIP of mine last year and the end made her cry—that was a huge deal for me. And just last week she finished my latest release (Hunter) and remarked that she both thought it was my best book to date (I think only her and I share that opinion, as most people preferred the first in the series) and that she couldn’t “hear” me in the book and forgot I wrote it while she was reading. This tells me I did my job as a storyteller taking a totally different point of view, and my mother isn’t a writer/editor/etc, but one hundred percent a reader, so her opinion is very important to me.

Jana:  How can readers connect with you online?

Skyla:  I’m just about everywhere but I’m primarily on Twitter at twitter.com/skyladawn. On Facebook I’m at facebook.com/skyladawncameron. You’ll also find me on Google+ and GoodReads to a far less extent. My website is at http://www.skyladawncameron.com/ where I sporadically blog, and I blog every other week at http://www.evilwriters.com/

About the Author: Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever. Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy, which is great for her attention deficit disorder.

Skyla lives in Southern Ontario where she dabbles in art, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. She’s naturally brunette, occasionally a redhead, and will probably go blonde again soon. If she ever becomes a grown-up, she wants to run her own pub, as well as become world dictator.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Awe-Thors Blog Tour - Interview with Sharon Poppen

My guest today is Sharon Poppen, author of the Awe-Struck Publishing novel "Abby-Finding More than Gold". Here's Sharon's bio:

Sharon Poppen (http://www.sharonpoppen.com/) has won awards from Arizona Authors Assoc. and National League of American Pen Women. Her western novels After the War, Before the Peace, Hannah and Abby-Finding More Than Gold are available at Amazon Books, most web based book sellers and from her website.
Her work has appeared in such publications as A Flasher's Dozen, Desert Treasures, Skive, Offerings from the Oasis, A Long Story Short, Apollo Lyre and Laughter Loaf.  Her workshops on Journaling, Short Story Writing and Blogging bring rave reviews.  Sharon is a member of Lake Havasu City Writer's Group.

List of Published Novels -
    After the War, Before the Peace - Xlibris Publishing
    Hannah - Virtual Tales Publishing
    Abby-Finding More Than Gold - Awe-Struck Publishing

Jana:  Where did the idea for your latest Awestruck release come from?


Sharon:  Abby-Finding More Than Gold is my third novel. My first two novels covered times and areas I wasn’t familiar with and took a bit of research. I read somewhere that a writer should write what they know/have experienced. I don’t necessarily agree, but I thought I’d give it a try. I stuck with locations and cultures where I have lived and experienced. I gave my characters names from my past. But like in all my writing, I find that no matter where I put my characters or how well I think I know them, they have a way of taking over plot and planning. Then it gets exciting. So, I’m a firm believer that action/imagination coupled with the use of the five senses will lead to a good story every time.

Jana:  What keeps you motivated?

 
Sharon:  The voices in my head. When I conduct my writing workshops about writing fiction, one of the things I tell the attendees is that I believe fiction writers have a touch of schizophrenia. But, our ‘voices’ tell us to tell their stories, not pick up an UZI or something. Also, I read a lot and am a big movie goer. Sometimes after I finish a book or movie, a happening in that book/movie will stay with me and I begin to have ‘what if …’ thoughts. Those thoughts often lead to another story line that begins to take shape and characters that begin to develop.

Jana:  How do you deal with rejection?

 
Sharon:  I expect it. I sincerely believe my books are good reads, but that doesn’t guarantee they will get the indepth attention of a publisher or agent. So often, when I read an interview with a popular writer, I find that they had a friend/relative who worked for this or that publishing house or they are already a entertainment or political celebrity and decided to write a novel. That doesn’t mean that the newbie writer can’t get noticed, it’s just a matter of having your work in the right place at the right time. So, I take the rejections and do a quote that I have posted on my desk says to do. Per Isaac Asimov, ‘You must keep sending work out: you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.’

Jana:  What authors or friends have influenced you as a writer?

 
Sharon:  I have always loved family sagas. In my early teens, I read Dear Wife, a book by young adult author, Gladys Malvern. Her books are coming back into print and I was lucky enough to get a copy of Dear Wife and I enjoyed it as much today as I did so many years ago. Another of my hero’s is Leon Uris with his Battle Cry, Exodus, Armageddon and so many others. I also loved the very early Harold Robbins. One of the best books ever written was A Stone for Danny Fisher. I avidly read the political drama of Allen Drury and the powerful books by Ayn Rand. And recently, thru my local book club, I’ve found the lovely humor of Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiaason.

Jana:  What is the biggest compliment you’ve ever received about your writing from a reader, editor, reviewer, etc.

Sharon:  My biggest compliment was when my six year old granddaughter found my book in her mom’s car on the way to school, she took it and stood at the entrance to the school yard. As her friends came through the gate, she fanned the book saying, ‘Look. My grandma wrote this. All words. No pictures.’ For my granddaughter to feel such pride in my accomplishment still brings tears to my eyes.

My second biggest compliment was when I had two different publishing houses offer me contracts for one of my books. That memory sure helps when I get the rejection letters.

Jana:  Two differnet publishers? That's very exciting! What’s next for you? Tell me about your next or newest release.

Sharon:  My next novel ‘Regardless’, a gay/sci fi, is scheduled for release in Sept. 2012. It’s a whole new genre for my usual works of historical romance. Because it crosses genres, it was a hard sell, so
I’m so happy that Regal Crest Publishing has seen fit to add it to their prestigious library.

Jana:  Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to fellow authors?

Sharon:  Just sit down and write. Don’t worry about what others think. Don’t worry about editing. Don’t worry about publishing. Just get into your characters – picture them, feel them, smell them, taste them, hear them talk. Don’t worry about plot. Make your characters so real that your reader will dread the last page of your book when they can no longer travel along with the character you have created. The character who has become like a friend/relative/enemy to your reader.

Here's a blurb from Abby-Finding More then Gold:

    In 1897, Abby Barron, a young Irish-American girl, loses her cousin to a
fire and with him the plans to escape Chicago to search for gold in the Yukon
fields.  A want-ad for a cook revives the plan and she soon hires on with Paddy
and Tommy, a medicine-show man and his son.
   
   Despite Abby's wanderlust and Tommy's desire to settle down, the two
fall in love. But it's a long road to fulfill Abby's dreams of reaching the Yukon--one
that tests the bonds of love and uncovers long-held family secrets.

Book Excerpt-
The Leaving
Chapter Five

Abby smiled at the gatekeeper as the little caravan pulled out of the storage lot early on a cold, breezy morning. The wind whipped against her face as she sat next to Paddy on the frosty wooden bench of a wagon containing the men’s living quarters, clothing and food supplies. Tommy was driving the second wagon carrying their tonic, cooking equipment, musical instruments and her sleeping quarters.

A lumbering, but sturdy, farm horse pulled each wagon along. Their thick, winter-coated bodies, along with their mammoth size, frightened Abby. When Tommy had asked her to hold the reins of one as he cinched it into its harness, it took sheer force of will to override her fear and manage to do one of her first tasks as a member of this trio. Both Tommy and his father noted her determination and shared an approving smile.

They made their way down the busy city streets crowded with trolleys, horses, pedestrians and a few of the new motor cars. On occasion, folks came to walk beside the wagon and purchased a bottle or two of Dr. von Poppel’s Health and Beauty Tonic. Paddy kept a case of the brew handy for easy dispensing. Abby noted his unabated enjoyment of interfacing with people. He was glib of the tongue and generated a genuine sincerity.

Paddy was whistling as he guided the horses along. Abby stole a look at the jolly man. He turned and met her eyes.

"Well, colleen, you’re on your way.”  His eyes twinkled. “Afraid?”

“Oh no. Of course …”

He raised his eyebrows, which caused her to pause in a blush.

“Well, yes. Maybe a little.”

“Good!”

“Good?”

“Abby, love. Whenever you start on a new venture, make sure you have a little fear deep in your gut.”

“Why?”

“You see, child. Life is more exciting if you take chances now and again. But, once you make a decision to take a chance, be sure you have a trace of fear as your partner in the venture. That fear may be the difference between success and failure. It will keep you on your toes. Keep your senses on alert for danger. Mind me now. Always respect your fear. Make sure you’re the boss of it, but don’t deny its nagging companionship.” He turned and smiled at her. “Understand, love?”

“I don’t know. But I do know that I’m a tad afraid right now.” They were just a few blocks south of her old neighborhood. If she jumped from the cart, she could be back in the safety of the Moynahan flat with Aunt Kitty in no time. She shivered, not sure if it was the weather or fear. She squared her shoulders trying not to think about the known, just down a few familiar streets, and focus on the unknown up ahead, beyond her view.

Paddy noticed the neighborhood and watched Abby struggle. “You put that fear in its place right proper this time.”  He reached over and patted her heavily gloved hand.

Abby smiled weakly in return. She wasn’t so sure her fear was in its proper place. Her mind drifted to the last few minutes spent with the Moynahans. Long before she needed to be awake, her heartbeat had stirred her awake. It was so strong and loud that she’d been amazed her chest could contain it.

The Moynahan cousins said their good-byes the night before. There were hugs and tears as well as good wishes shared abundantly. Peggy had led them in a prayer for Abby’s safekeeping. The girls had never been close, so Peggy’s tears had been a surprise.

Her last words before falling off to sleep had been, “I’ll miss your energy and rosy outlook. Always remember, you’ll be in my prayers. I truly believe you’ll be successful. And Abby, I love you.”

“I love you too, Peggy. Thank you. When I get frightened, I’ll remember your prayers.”

“Remember to write.”

“Oh, I will.”

Now, here in the wagon, she squared her shoulders and did, in fact, draw strength thinking of Peggy’s prayers. The warmth of the embraces she had shared on the dark back porch with her aunt and uncle slipped into her consciousness bringing tears. She swallowed in an effort to push the bittersweet memory aside for now and turned to Paddy.

“How far will we go today?”

“We make about twenty mile a day.”  From the corner of his eye, he watched her struggle with her emotions and hoped each mile traveled would help her move emotionally from what lie behind to what lie ahead. He smiled with a hunch that this colleen would probably make it. She had a fire that would stoke the energy necessary to sustain her curiosity and drive to pursue her dreams.

In an effort to make things easier for her he launched into one of his thousands of tales of life on the road. The girl laughed and urged him to tell more stories. As the populated area became less dense, Abby noticed the old fellow’s eyes scanning the horizon.

“Looking for something?” she asked.

“Just watching out for a good campsite.”

Abby started. “You don’t have a place set up?”

“Oh no, colleen. That’s part of the adventure.”



You can find Sharon on the web at the following spots:

Website - http://www.sharonpoppen.com/
Blog Site - http://poppensthoughtsonwritingandstuff.blogspot.com/
Email - poppen@citlink.net  
   
Next week my guest will be Skyla Dawn Cameron. For a complete schedule of the Awe-Thors Blog Tour including my guest blogging schedule and guests to Journeys with Jana, please go to my website at www.janarichards.net/index 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Awe-Thors Blog Tour - Interview with Christine London

I'm pleased to have fellow Awe-Struck Publishing author Christine London as my guest today. She writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense with a British Commonwealth twist. Christine was born in Chicago, Illinois, but left the long winters of the Midwest as a child to find her roots in the sun and charm of California, both North and South. Her adopted home became Great Britain when she spent a year of college in the east end of London with three male flat mates; one from each country on the main island. Her fascination and love affair with all things British has grown over the years, facilitated by summers spent trading houses.

Graduating from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Chris continued with family, teaching, singing in a jazz sextet and running foot races (and winning) before discovering her true passion….the romance and adventure of writing.

It took one Scot to awaken her poetic appreciation of Scotland's natural beauty, and another Scot to ignite her passion for writing. Thank you, gentlemen.

Here's a blurb from Christine's Awe-Struck novel Leap of Faith:


Film student Faith Holmes is on an Italian holiday bought and paid for -- a familial inducement to finding an Italian husband. She wants none of it. Boredom and curiosity make for a volatile mix and Faith is lured into the heart of the island of Forio's exclusive international film festival not as guest, but crasher. Hollywood's premiere publicist Hunter Jameson has more than enough on his plate when his client, English film sensation Alex Winslow decides he's departing from the straight and narrow. One American party crasher should be the least of his worries. He has no idea that Alex's growing feelings for Faith rival his own. The only thing for certain is his life will never be the same.

Jana:  What do you do to market your book? What is your favorite method of promotion. What is your least favorite?

Christine:  Evidently not the right thing as I have yet to connect in a meaningful way with the masses of people who do NOT consider themselves avid readers. It is these that comprise the largest numbers. It is this (potential) reader that will, through word of mouth, tell his family and friends that he read the most extraordinary book. "You must read it!" are the musical words to an author's ears.

  It is through this vehicle--the everyday person who loves good entertainment AND is willing to invest 6-12 hours of her precious time to read YOUR book, that we create a tsunami of "you must read this".
  What is the magic to connect to this person? Now if I knew that I would not only be a gazillionaire through my writing, but also the greatest book promoter of all time. lol.

My favorite method is writing my travel and Hollywood event blogs. ( My "London Blog" at: http://christinelondon.blogspot.com/ ) Through my travels--description and photos--I can share some of the world's most beautiful and alluring locations. People enjoy, if only vicariously, travel through Europe, Australia and the good ole U.S. of A. as well as the ability to 'see' into Hollywood red carpet and awards events--an outsider looking in. In this way I provide desirable, entertaining content to folks who might then turn around and think-- Hey..I wonder what her books are like? That is the theory at least. As I said, to date, I have hundreds/thousands who love my blogging, but have not found the same cross over--YET--to my very visceral novels.

What is my least favorite promotions? Anything that requires me to crow about myself/my work. It speaks for itself, as do my blogs and therefore should stand alone. I dislike anything that requires a huge learning curve--such as creating book trailers/blog radio/website work. These technically based things not only bore most creative people and are best left to those who love to do them, but we are not good at them! We authors are good at writing books, not HTML, graphics and techno-babble!

Jana: I so hear you about your least favorite promotions. I feel very uncomfortable blowing my own horn, and I'm lousy with technology. Where did the idea for your latest Awestruck release come from?

Christine:  Leap Of Faith is my Awe Struck offering. The heroine is a compilation of my son and daughter. As a mom I spent years defending my son and being his advocate.

He is an epileptic. He also has ADD.

The heroine, Faith Holmes, is a vibrant outgoing young woman terrified by her recent diagnosis. She feels flawed and unworthy of the attentions and love developing between her and the hero. Sound like any young person you know?

Through this story I have found not only a vehicle of entertainment and inspiration, but a way to uplift the reader, educate her and make her feel capable of overcoming her own issues. Pretty special, eh?

Jana:  How do you research? Internet, interviews, books, etc.? Do you like to research?
  
Christine:  I research online as I am writing as questions arise. It is the most wonderful tool ever invented to find answers to almost any query. I have interviewed people in the past, but tend to find that a bit stilted. My Coast Guard Helicopter rescue mission gone wrong book-- Against The Current-- ( Phaze Books, an imprint of Mundania Press -ISBN: 978-1-59426-809-0) called for the most up to date pilot info. So I contacted an L.A. air station pilot and we sent emails to and fro.

Usually I do any outside 'research' during my summer travels abroad. I take thousands of photos and blog about my travels, often to places I already want to use as setting for a future work. Sometimes I find a place or person that inspires an idea I did not have before. Travel is the great eye opener and educator. So I use it to enrich my life, the lives of my blog readers and, eventually the lives of my novel readers.

Jana:  What is the most unusual thing you have ever done in the name of research?

Christine:  Hard to choose one--so I won't..lol. I crashed an international film festival on the Italian island of Ischia (Faith does the same in Leap Of faith), talked my way into an exclusive restaurant in London (As Erik of Soul In His Eyes does for his lady Christine), attended the Visual Effect Awards at the Kodak Theater where the Academy Awards are held, in order to write believable awards ceremony scene(s) and basically act the part in any given situation so that I may gain entrance to see, feel, hear the things I need my characters to experience.

Hutspa? Gumption?.....You bet!

Jana:  Why do you write?
  
Christine:  To uplift, inspire, entertain and educate.  It is both great gift and great responsibility. What grander calling? What better way to leave legacy?

Thanks for this opportunity, Jana.

Warm Regards,
Christine London

Here's an excerpt from Christine's Awestruck Publishing novel Leap of Faith:

 "You!"
  

The commanding voice stopped her in her tracks.

"I thought you'd never get here."

Turning slowly, Faith was surprised to find the gruff voice belonged to a fair-complexioned Brit, the first she'd seen, or heard since landing on the little Italian island of Forio.

"Beg your pardon?" she asked, her eyes dipping briefly to her scant attire.

"Here." He shoved a silver tray carrying four flutes of champagne into her hands. "Mostriani is waiting." With that, he strode around her and disappeared into the great room.

Faith hesitated, trying to process what had just happened. She turned toward the ornate grand living area; eyes again dropping to the towel barely clinging to her hips took a deep breath and marched in to meet the notables.

The spread of Italian baroque furniture complimented the plush olive area rugs, more ornate than it had appeared as she'd peeked through the windows. Against the far wall was an Italian vanity made from walnut highlighted by an intricately carved gilt frieze supporting a triple arched mirror. Upon it were multi layered trays decked in canap├ęs.

"Senora." Her thoughts were yanked from the amazing spread to the man sitting in the largest of the sculpted cabriole chairs. "Vino."

He summoned her with a strong backward pointing gesture, index finger repeatedly touching his yellow chintzed shoulder. The nerve, she thought and did they really make men's suits with such a gaudy shine?

Balancing the tray on her palm, she glided it to within his reach.

"Ah, no, no, no. Not the champagne. I asked for a ninety seven Umbrian Barolo." Bushy black eyebrows knitting in disapproval, he craned his neck to search the hall.
< em>"Where is Marcello?" 

"I…I don't know sir." She retracted the tray and dipped her head in apology.

"Why do-a they send the pool staff into the hotel?" He pushed to stand, nearly knocking her to the floor as he swept by. "Marcello will have the answer."

Faith watched as he vanished into the same hall she had used to enter. Sheltered by lush vegetation and shaded by pines, Hotel Annuzio nestled at the end of a small bay, a cobbled traffic circle isolating it from the fashionable shopping strip. It was a location cut off from the local community, unknown to all except the elite. This week it was the international film festival and all the elite were out in force.

Quickly disposing of the four flutes, Faith put the tray down on a barman's bussing cart and slid through a partly open door into the adjacent room. Royal blue carpeting, whitewashed walls and rows of cushioned chairs faced a linen-draped table at the front. Six microphones placed at equal intervals, three pitchers of water and tri-fold nameplates indicating the last of the day's expert panelists gave silent testament to the fact she'd stumbled upon the very heart of the event. Professional camera equipment lined the back wall, uplifted on a small portable stage. Yes. This must be the room where the actors and directors were interviewed by the press.

Cool and vacant, it reminded her of any other conference setting. Wall to ceiling banners provided backdrop behind the panel table and to its right, the area where photographers took pictures of the celebs before they sat for interview. 

Dropping to one of the audience chairs, she drew in a large lungful of air. Fortified against the odds, she nevertheless felt a bit shaken by her brazen crashing of such a restricted affair.

Relieved to see the barmaids around the pool wore bikini tops and towels wrapped about hips, Faith had quickly used her beach towel to mimic them, tucking it in low-slung fashion. Now she sat in the deserted convention room wondering how she'd manage to get past the staff. No doubt Mr. amazing hair Brit would have all them all out looking for the imposter. Any other occasion would have encouraged Faith to pursue such a gorgeous broad-chested specimen, but she was definitely the outsider at this event.

It wasn't everyday a girl from San Fernando found herself amongst the beautiful people, much less in such close proximity to fame. The poster in the lobby touted some of the names expected to attend. Her favorite English actor was one of them.

Squaring her shoulder, she stood to face the music.
                                                               ****
"Why didn't Gabriella show?" Hunter leaned over the sink. Staring at his reflection in the mirror, he pinched the bridge of his nose.


"Something about her mum having the flu."  Joey handed a towel to his boss. "Hiding here in the loo isn't going to solve the shortage."

"I'm nursing one hell of a headache, so go a bit easy?"

"Okay, but don't say I didn't try to warn you about that one."

"The local girls are supposed to be reliable."

"Not when their boyfriends call to whisk them to the beach on a scooter."

Hunter splashed more water on his face. Wiping it from his week's growth, he looked at Joey's reflection in the mirror. "Are you telling me--"

"No sir. I don't know about Gabriella, but if I'd been cooped up in a small flat all week without a ray of sun, I'd be likely to have flu first day of decent weather."

"They would truly perish in London," Hunter quipped.

Joey chuckled. "That they would."

"How did you find the gorgeous brunette?"

Joey's brows furrowed. "The what?"

"That replacement girl out in the lobby."

"There are no `replacements'," Joey stated emphatically.

 Hunter cocked his head, gave one more swipe of his jaw line and tossed the towel to the collection basket.

"Mister Jameson, I--"

Door swishing closed behind him, Hunter hadn't time for Joey's speculations. He'd find out who'd taken the tray from him in the lobby hallway or know why.

 Leap of Faith can be purchased from Awe-Struck Books

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Awe-Thors Blog Tour - Interview with Susan Roebuck

I'm very happy to welcome Susan Roebuck as my guest today. Susan's first book with Awe-Struck Publishing is "Perfect Score" and I can tell you it's a wonderful book. I won a copy at a blog where Susan was a guest, and though I'd never read a m/m romance before and wasn't sure if I'd like it, I found myself falling in love. Susan has created characters that we want to cheer for.

So, without further ado, here's Susan.

Jana:  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Susan:  Like so many other writers, the answer’s forever. I can’t confess to writing plays for my little playmates at a tender age because I believe they’d have bashed me up and stolen my trike, but I did adore writing for myself. I was that nerdy kid in English class who, when everyone else groaned, jumped for joy when a written composition was announced for homework. 

Jana:  Where do you get ideas for your stories?

Susan:  Good question. I wish I knew. My brother was my muse. He was so talented and imaginative, creating amazing artwork and wonderfully wicked stories. At the age of 14 he gave me the basic idea for a short book and I wrote it. It won a school prize but I cringe when I think of it now. Over the years he also helped me on to win art-prizes. Unfortunately my beloved brother is no longer with us and it has left me bereft. However, every now and again I get an idea that spins in out of nowhere. Could it be that he’s still around somewhere? I like to think he is. In any case those flash ideas are the ones that work.


Jana:  Where did the idea for your latest Awestruck release come from?

Susan:  I’d better just say that I’m a pantser not a plotter (sounds like Michael Jackson’s “I’m a lover not a fighter” LOL). That means I write flying by the seat of my pants. In the very first version of “Perfect Score” my main characters were male and female. But I realized that the character who eventually became Sam, and was the female, could never have survived the childhood – and continuing - trauma. So the character changed sex – no pain involved, I promise. Seventeen versions later “Perfect Score” was finished. So the ideas flew in like bees – and often flew out again – until the story evolved all by itself.

Jana:  Do you have any strange writing quirks?

Susan:  I think the answer to the previous question just about sums this one up! I’m a very “nervous” writer too. I get up, wander about, sit down, go for a walk, cut my nails, procrastinate big time before I finally settle down and write. Once the flow comes, though, I’m glued to the screen and time whizzes by – three hours can seem like a minute. That’s probably not much of a quirk because many authors experience this. But still, my husband thinks it’s weird.

Jana:  How do you deal with rejection?

Susan:  I’m going to answer this one and get a little personal, perhaps, so forgive me. Obviously I’m not referring to Awe-Struck for whom I have the utmost admiration and respect.

When I first had “Perfect Score” out on submission I received a few rejections, as everyone does. Each rejection hurts but, as writers, we should shrug our shoulders, stick the letter in a drawer and just look to the future. What I’m going to say now is a little message to publishers/agents: Please remember that there is a human-being going to receive your very impersonal, form rejection. Try to be just a tad understanding (i.e. be nice). Because I received a form rejection on the day I received the diagnosis of breast cancer.

(I’m very well now, thanks to the wonderful care I’ve received – and this was over two years ago).


Jana:  I'm so glad you're well now, Susan!  Can you tell me about your Awestruck release?

Susan:  I’m always ready to do this one, because I’m quite proud of “Perfect Score”.
"Perfect Score", set in mid West USA in the 1960s, is about family relationships, corruption, growing up, integrity, responsibility, and being a man of worth in a society of the worthless.

Alex Finch, who lives with a wealthy uncle, is a blend of musical genius and stubbornness, and firmly believes in his fantasy that his love for Sam Barrowdale is reciprocated. Sam has more direction in his little finger than Alex has in his whole body. He’s strong, yet of small stature and has developed a tough outer-coating after the knocks of a traumatic up-bringing which left him homeless. His one aim in life is to earn enough money to look after his disabled sister. He has no time for a spoiled, rich, guitar player. Sam also stutters and has what is probably a severe form of dyslexia.

When Sam unexpectedly disappears, Alex begins a somewhat bungling quest to find him, only to discover that Sam has a fearsome enemy: Alex's powerful and influential yet sociopathic uncle.

As Alex spirals downwards towards alcoholism, many questions need answering. Just why did Alex's evil uncle adopt him at age eleven yet deny him any affection? And what's the mystery behind Alex's father's death?

“Perfect Score” which is becoming an acclaimed novel can be found: http://www.awe-struck.net/books/perfect_score.html
http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Score-ebook/dp/B004XT6M9C
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Score-ebook/dp/B004XT6M9C
http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/susan+roebuck/perfect+score/8608371/

Jana: What’s next for you? Tell me about your next or newest release.

Susan:  I have a couple in the pipeline. I’m ready to start submitting a 40k word novel (or novella since it’s on the cusp in terms of word-count). This one is so different to Perfect Score, as you’ll see:

Sorrows Pass.  When heroes die they go to Heaven. Right? Wrong.
Nowadays when the champions of Society are on the point of death they’re lured by their fantasies to an enigmatic place called Hewhay Hall where evil Slater’s ready to greet them. His way. Slater’s entered a portal to Earth thanks to the meddling efforts of a couple who knew nothing about black-magic. They were only chanting a fertility spell but they unwittingly brought forth the Prince of Envy.

Now he’s here, Slater’s delight is to torture stalwart heroes because they suffer more keenly, their fear and suffering is so much tastier.

Jana:  What are you working on now – your current WIP?

Susan:  Called When the Moon Fails. Set in Alaska, in Norfolk UK and in Portugal. There’ll be male and female main characters who have to deal with corruption and injustice (one of my recurring themes it seems). There’ll be a very bad female bullfighter who makes life hell for the local fishermen.

Jana:  A bad female bullfighter, eh? Sounds intriguing! How can readers connect with you online?

Susan:  I love hearing from readers and fellow-writers. You can find me on my blog:
http://lauracea.blogspot.com/

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/SuRoebuck

Twitter: @suemont

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/114349187831890732653/
I’m all over the place.


Sue’s biography: Sue Roebuck was born and educated in the UK but now lives in Portugal with her husband. She’s a teacher and her interest in dyslexia dates from way back. Nowadays she’s mostly involved with creating e-learning courses which, she says, is “teaching in your pajamas – as long as no cameras are present.”
Her novel, Perfect Score was published as an e-book by Awe-Struck publishing in September 2010 and reissued as a paperback in May 2011.
Sue’s determined that very soon, writing will be her full-time occupation.
You can find her blog here: http://lauracea.blogspot.com/

Thank you for joining me today Susan. It's been wonderful having you at Jana's Journey.

Next week my guest will be Christine London. For a complete schedule of all my guest bloggers and all my guest appearances on the Awe-Thors Blog Tour, please go to http://www.janarichards.net/

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Awe-Thors Blog Tour - Interview with Ann Tracy Marr

Today on our awesome Awe-Thors Blog Tour my guest is fellow Awe-Struck Publishing writer Ann Tracy Marr. I had a few questions for her...

Jana:  Where do you like to write? Describe your work space.

Ann: I write at my desk. It’s not really a desk, but two ancient Formica covered computer tables from the early 1980’s (they hold two printers, the monitor, mouse, keyboard, telephone, a handsome clock my husband received as a gift from his employer, pens, stapler, and a ton of paper), a table meant to reside behind a sofa (turned sideways, it is the home of a dying scanner, more paper, and a lamp), and a rickety book shelf (piled with books, paper, cd’s and lots of dust),all lined up in a row against the wall of the dining room.

I stare at a wall, since I had the sense to NOT line my desk up under the window. Half of the wall is blank and the other half has my grandmother’s tapestry hanging on it. I love that tapestry; it’s faded, but still clearly shows five French -- I assume they are French -- people around a card table. Two men and two women are seated; they wear powdered wigs and lots of lace. One of the men holds the eight of clubs. The fifth person is a woman with a gorgeous fan coyly directing attention to her low bodice. She is flirting with one of the men. Yes, this tapestry is big, maybe 4 by five feet. Kind of inspiring for writing romance.

The floor isn’t nearly as inspiring. I try not to look at it. 1920’s wood, covered by a cheap rust and off white rug to protect the wood from my rolling desk chair, tons of dust, trash can, shredder, a couple of boxes holding (what else?) paper, the computer tower, my purse, speakers… No, the floor doesn’t inspire anything other than a compulsion to clean, which I resist. I have better things to do than clean.
It doesn’t make for much of a dining room.

Jana:  What does your writing schedule/routine usually look like? Do you write a little every day or do you block out large chunks of time to devote solely to your writing?

Ann:  In the morning, I wake up slowly, then stumble to the computer and turn it on. While it works on bringing up Windows, I go to the kitchen, feed the cats, maybe make some hot chocolate. Depending, I either empty the dishwasher or fill it up. Then I wander back to the computer and try to make myself write.

Sometimes, it clicks and I will spend the morning pounding on the keyboard. Other times, I check my email, play games (bad girl), or even pay bills. On a very good day, I will pound my fingernails until two or three p.m., at which time my mind invariably shuts down for good.

Of course, this doesn’t happen every day. I am a computer consultant -- I might have an appointment to go to, or a computer to torture. And when family is around, it gets hard to concentrate. Ideally, the magic kicks in and I write.

I almost never write at night. That time is spent needlepointing, probably in front of the TV, or doing worthwhile things with the family.

Jana:  How do you deal with stress, especially the stress of meeting deadlines?

Ann:  I don’t feel much stress with deadlines. If I have rewrites, I knuckle under and do them – they never have given me grief. Other types of stress -- the stresses of life -- impact my writing schedule, impede the flow of words. Then I do whatever it takes, even vacuuming, to calm me down.

Jana:  What authors or friends have influenced you as a writer?

Ann:  I might as well be a hermit. None of my friends or family have done much to influence my writing. Unless you consider my aunt, who, after reading my first book, tartly told me, “Fine, now write a real book.” Grr. I ask around for opinions on plot points and get blank stares or wildly inappropriate suggestions.

So I turn to authors. I reread some of the romance greats -- Mary Jo Putney, Jude Devereaux, Amanda Quick, to name a few -- when I need a jolt. But I discovered that humor makes the plot fly, so I stocked up on Joan Smith, Marion Devon, Katie MacAlister, Julia Quinn, and a few others. 

Jana:  What do you do to market your books? What is your favorite method of promotion? Your least favorite?

Ann:  I make business cards and leave them in random places. Between the wall and the top of the toilet paper holder in MacDonalds restrooms -- on tables in restaurants -- anywhere in airports. I’ll go to a bookstore and stick them into books, although that makes me feel a teensy bit uneasy. I used to spend a lot of time in Yahoo chat rooms, but unfortunately, it translated into a LOT of time. I am on Facebook and Goodreads, but I don’t do much there. My favorite way to promote is to make YouTube videos, but getting people to look at them is a chore.

http://www.youtube.com/marr794

My least favorite form of promoting is doing book signings. My handwriting is terrible and my tableside manner gets weird.

Jana:  What are you working on now – your current WIP?

Ann:  My WIP is the opposite of the boy who cried “Wolf.” How would you like it if you overheard two men planning a very bad thing, ran around and tried to get someone to do something about it, and were ignored? Maybe the only people who listen are witless fools (A.K.A. the Banshee Brigade) and they make the situation dangerous. And maybe you would worry about the man who starts following you around town. Yes, he is appealing. Yes, you might find yourself falling in love with him. But no, you don’t trust him enough to tell him about the very bad thing. Somehow, you will manage to find someone to listen to you and do something to stop the very bad thing from happening. Somehow…

Jana:  What would you like readers to know about you and your books?

Ann:  The concept is not as weird as it sounds. So what is the concept?

King Arthur and Camelot are not a myth. Arthur lived in London, built castle Camelot there, argued with Merlin about magic, and invented the Round Table. Then Arthur died and Merlin disappeared, perhaps into a crystal cave, but Camelot and the Round Table endured. Wander through time till you get to the Regency period -- Camelot is still in London and the Round Table still rules Britain.

If you like Regencies, you will like my books. They are solid Regency, with a change in profanity -- instead of “Bloody Hell,” the man might say “Bloody crystal cave,” and there are lots more knights. After all, any man can perform a quest and become a knight. Then he might join the Round Table and help make the laws, just as Parliament does in real life.

Women still wear Norwich shawls, swoon, and claw their way to the tip of the Marriage Mart. Lady Jersey gossips too much and Prinny causes scandal after scandal. The concept is Regency romance with a splash of magic.

Jana:  How can readers connect with you online?

Ann:  My web page is the best way to find out about me and my books. http://www.anntracymarr.com/
I do a better job of keeping it up to date than Facebook. And anyone can email me at anntracymarr AT aol dot com.

BIO
Ann Tracy Marr gets so wrapped up in the Regency era that she forgets people want to know something about her. She admits to being fiftyish, which puts her firmly on the Dowager’s bench at Almack’s. There is a husband entailed to her estate and two unmarried daughters old enough to have made their curtseys to the queen but not so aged as to be considered on the shelf. To put syllabub on the table and keep her daughters in the highest kick of fashion Marr tinkers with the devil’s invention, computers. In plain English, Marr has a husband and two daughters on the sunnyside of adulthood. Her day job is computer consulting.

Next week my guest is Susan Roebuck. For a complete schedule of my guests on the Awe-Thors Blog Tour, please go to my website at http://www.janarichards.net/  You can find a list of my guest appearances on the tour there as well.