Tag Archives: Jill Archer

#MindMeld: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed… #SFF #Books #Reading #Recommendation

SF Signal’s Andrea Johnson asked if I’d do another Mind Meld and, of course, I said yes because I love the Mind Melds. Yesterday’s question was:

Something old, something new, something borrowed. . .

Recommend three books to our readers out of your list of favorites: An older title, a newer title, and a title you discovered because you borrowed it from a friend or a library.

After reading the other responses, I realize I should have read the question better. I read the “and” as an “or” so I submitted two books I bought and one that was given to me, which doesn’t exactly count as “borrowed.” And my “old” book was from way back in 2012. Lol.

But, to be honest, I’ve talked a lot online here and elsewhere about my old, old favorites and I hadn’t ever talked about the 2012 book I loved. I also think that, though panelists should try to be responsive to the questions they are asked, one of the best things about the SF Signal posts is that they are mostly about having fun while promoting SF and related genres. I can’t say I read every post (they post a lot) but I try to keep up. I’ve loved the tone, depth, and breadth of the posts I’ve read.

So click here to read my recommendations (the other two are recent releases) and click here to check out some of the other SF Signal posts and subscribe or follow them.


Five Photographs: Anna Durand (Christmas in May, Baltimore Orioles in Michigan, and… Thomas Edison)

Anna Durand shares her Five Photographs today. Among them, a hand-painted miniature village and a Baltimore Oriole (for bird lovers, not baseball fans :-) ). And for anyone who’s struggling with whatever goal they’re currently trying to achieve, she’s got some great advice: DON’T QUIT!

Something that represents something unique about you

Anna Durand Unique

I own my own village. The residents live by my whims; they never eat or drink or sleep, but are always cheerful and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Like Brigadoon, however, they come out for only a brief time, then sleep again until their next awakening.

This is my Christmas village, hand-painted by me, piece by piece, over the course of 18 years. I love the holidays, and my village not only provides added cheer, but it’s also a conversation starter. Anyone who visits my house in December is instantly drawn to the idyllic little town and can’t help asking questions about it. Naturally, my village has a bookstore and a library.

The town’s name? Well of course, it’s Noël!

[Jill: beautiful and charming!]

Something that represents where you live

Anna Durand Michigan

My home is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where natural beauty is on display everywhere you look. We have a rich history of mining and lumbering, but my favorite part of the U.P. shows itself every autumn. The fall color here is spectacular — though often short-lived, thanks to our ever-present wind!

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Anna Durand Cat

My cat is my little shadow. He follows me everywhere around the house, and out in the yard. When I’m writing, he sits nearby keeping an eye on me — mainly to make sure I don’t forget to feed him his treats. I often have to fight with him for custody of my desk chair!

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Anna Durand Winter

Winter can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it refuses to leave on time in the spring. I hate house guests who hang around too long! Even the snow gets tired and starts to droop, but the cold sticks around until everyone’s ready to run winter out of town. But we make the best of it, with snow sculptures and spicy Mexican food (U.P. style) to keep us warm.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Anna Durand Joy

I love photographing birds, and with my bird feeders, I get to see many different species — even through the winter. Last summer, I snapped this photo of a Baltimore Oriole. I don’t see many of these, which makes it a treat. Soon, the hummingbirds will arrive and demand their sugar-water. They deserve it, though, after their long journey up from the Gulf of Mexico.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Ultimate power comes at the ultimate price.

Torn apart by their haunted pasts, Grace and David struggle to reclaim their passionate bond and defeat an enemy who wields unspeakable psychic power. As events drive them toward a battle of epic proportions, they must risk everything — their hearts, their lives, and even their souls — to protect each other and the entire world.

Intuition is the award-winning second book in the Psychic Crossroads series.

What are you working on next?

I have several projects in the works. Reborn to Avenge, the third part in my Reborn series, will release in late May. The Mortal Falls is a paranormal romance with magic and plenty of heat, and it will be the first book in a new series. I’ve also started work on a hot contemporary romance (a standalone book).

What are you currently reading?

I’m listening to the audiobook of Jayne Castle’s The Lost Night. I love her Harmony series! I’m reading (with my eyes, not my ears) Lisa Kessler’s Hunter’s Moon.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

It’s that slow time of year when all the good stuff is on hiatus. Bummer! Some of my favorite shows are Haven, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.LD., and Jane the Virgin. Jane’s a romance writer, so of course, I have to watch that show.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I love the fae, because they can be naughty or nice, sometimes without meaning to be either. They might’ve struck a bad bargain and now must do someone else’s bidding, or maybe they’re cursed. You just never know — and that’s half the fun!

Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series has two of my favorite types of characters — fae and sexy Highlanders. You can’t get much better than that.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

More than ever, writers must figure out how to market their own books. Even those traditionally published find their publishers expect them to shoulder the marketing burden.

How can we meet that challenge?

It’s a huge responsibility and a massive challenge. There’s no magic bullet, so you just have to keep trying different tactics until you find what works for you.

Don’t trust anyone who says they have the secret to becoming a bestseller. Those kinds of claims never pan out, and the person making them usually earns their living from selling nonfiction books about their magic method, not from selling their fiction. It’s easy to get discouraged when you hear miraculous tales of writers who dumped their first book on the market and sales exploded right off the bat, but these stories inevitably have a hidden backstory.

Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to try new tactics. Most of all — and this is the hardest lesson to accept — don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from it and move on.

Remember what Thomas Edison said: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

[Jill: Another reminder of that idea is the Japanese proverb, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” There is ONLY ONE guaranteed way to ensure you never succeed.]

Anna Durand

Anna Durand

More about Anna

Anna Durand is a multi-award-winning writer, a freelance librarian, and an audiobook addict. She specializes in sexy romances, both paranormal and contemporary, featuring spunky heroines and hunky heroes. In her previous life as a librarian, she haunted the stacks of public libraries but never met any hot vampires hunting for magical books.

Thank you for the interview and pictures, Anna!


Five Photographs: Anise Rae (and the pressure to write at the speed of light)

The next guest in my Five Photographs series is author and marathoner Anise Rae. As with all of these posts, she touches on all sorts of things, one of which is the pressure we writers face these days to publish faster and faster. Love golden retrievers, but hate to clean your house? Know what vampires and baby powder have to do with one another (or want to find out)? Then read on! :-D Welcome, Anise!

Something that represents something unique about you:

Anise Rae Marathon

Years ago I ran two marathons. At the time, I was a fairly serious–yet very slow–runner. This is a photo of me crossing the finish line at 4 hours and 58 minutes. It’s far from the most flattering picture, but I’d just run 26.2 miles. I keep it out not to rest on my laurels or reminisce about past glories, but as a reminder to ask myself what other challenges I might be able to conquer…and then to go out and do it.

Something that represents where you live:

Anise Rae Georgia

My screened-in porch is my favorite place to write. It’s like sitting in a tree house. The most frequently seen neighbors are birds, squirrels, and deer. Despite the risk of visiting bugs, I always keep that door cracked open. I’d say it was so the big story ideas have room to come in…that they don’t have to filter through the screens that way…but really it’s so the dog can come and go as she pleases without me getting up.

[Jill: when I saw this, I guessed you were from Appalachia. LOVE that area of the U.S., although I’ve spent more time in the northern part of it.]

Your pet or thing you care for (besides your humans):

Anise Rae Gylfie

Gylfie is the fluffiest golden retriever I’ve ever seen. When we got her as a puppy, I thought her fur would settle down and become silky and fine, but she stayed teddy bear soft. She loves attention from every single human who has the good sense to come see her. As for the name Gylfie, my daughter named her after a character in the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky.

[Jill: Aww, what a happy face! You can tell what a friendly dog she is. :-)]

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you:

Anise Rae Frustrating

Cleaning! I like a clean house, but I’ve never enjoyed getting it that way. Right now, my house is up for sale, which means it has to stay as spotless as possible. That’s a challenge I really don’t appreciate living up to. The title of the book in the photo is a perfect representation of my thoughts on spotless houses: A Clean House is a Sign of a Misspent Life. For this photo, I’ve taken the book off my bookshelves and posed it in my front entryway. Maybe it’s best to give potential buyers an upfront view of the household’s current philosophy. Yeah…probably not.

[Jill: lol. I hear you. At the end of it all, do we really want to say, “but my house was always clean”? Though I admit to a deep-seated envy of those who have immaculate homes. :-D]

Something that brings you joy (besides writing):

Anise Rae Joy

I love swings. As a kid, I would pump my legs and get as high as possible. It was as close as I could get to flying through the air. These days, I still love to swing, even on playground swings, but I’m just as content sitting comfortably on the porch swing with my feet brushing the ground on every pass back and forth.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

My latest book is Enchanter’s Echo.

Edmund Rallis, heir to Rallis Territory, will play every game he knows to win back the heart of enchantress Aurora Firenze. But he inadvertently puts her on the frontlines of a new game, one with an enemy who’s determined to destroy his land and drive the Republic toward war. If the new enemy isn’t stopped in time, Edmund will lose his enchantress again—and this time there won’t be another chance.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on the third book in the Mayflower Mages series, which is Gregor’s story. He’s one of the warrior mages in the first two books…a soldier with the heart of a poet.   (Enchanter’s Echo is book two, but each book stands alone.)

What are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading Courtney Milan’s Proof by Seduction. It’s a historical, which isn’t my typical genre, but I love how the hero and heroine are so at odds with each other in the beginning.

What are you currently watching?

I absolutely adore Sherlock. I also watch Outlander, though I’m a few weeks behind. Defiance is another of my favorites. It’s on the Syfy channel.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I love the romance plot lines in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. I read them because I love how the men meet their matches. On the other hand, the lessers—the vampire killers who have no soul and smell like baby powder—freak me out. I can’t think of another villain that gives me the chills like those guys. The other day I was in a parking lot alone, and I smelled baby powder. I had to have a little talk with myself…the lessers are not real…the lessers are not real…. I hustled into the store anyway.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I think the biggest challenge is the pressure to publish faster and faster. I’ve seen a lot of writer friends who have to churn out story after story. Though I admire that ability a great deal, I’ve also seen a few of them burn out.

[Jill: I agree that there seems to be increasing pressure to produce more books with less time in between release dates, which is another interesting writer challenge to talk about.

Why is it happening? My guess is it’s a combination of these related factors:

the rise of self-publishing and digital books (which have a quicker to market time frame) so all writers, regardless of whether they are self-pub, trad, or hybrid, feel pressure to keep up;

an author’s best promo is their latest release;

the number of books released every year seems to be increasing exponentially and is at an all time high (other authors have mentioned that “discoverability” continues to be the greatest challenge facing writers today); and 

the nature of life (everything seems to get faster with each passing generation).]

How can we meet that challenge?

I believe there’s a well of artistic inspiration and creative ability inside everyone. As that juicy goodness is used up, that well needs to be replenished. It’s essential to find a balance between creating stories and keeping that well of creativity full. It’s easy to neglect that last part because it requires taking time for yourself. It requires time to play, whatever form “play” may take, even though it may use up precious time on the publishing calendar. I think any creative person neglects that well at their peril. For those who are familiar with Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, this probably sounds very familiar. I’m a big fan of her work.

[Jill: It used to be authors could put out a book a year and that was ok. It doesn’t seem that way anymore, although, of course, genre expectations vary. I’m certainly not immune to the pressure we all feel to produce work faster but I’m also really leery of producing something that isn’t the best I can do just to get something out there.

You’re right, Anise, that anyone who is suffering burn out needs to refill their creative well. I like to hike, bike, and do day trips, but lots of authors like to make jewelry, crafts, and other art.]

Anise Rae

Anise Rae

More About Anise

A native of Ohio, Anise Rae long ago moved south, armed with boxes of romance novels, notebooks of her own stories, and degrees in chemistry and library science. Creating chemistry on the page between two lovers proved to be a lot more fun than working with test tubes in a lab or searching patent databases. She refocused on writing.

Her stories revolve around heroines who dare to stand up to society’s expectations and be true to themselves and heroes with plenty of savvy to fall in love with such brave women. And her stories always include magic. Lots of magic.

She lives in Atlanta with her two children and a fluffy dog that has an amazing ability to find dirty socks.

Anise can be found online here:

Thank you, Anise, for sharing your pictures and thoughts with us today!


Five Photographs: Rebekkah Niles (and the “Us” versus “Them” mentality in #writing)

Today’s guest is Rebekkah Niles, who’s here with her five photos. (For those of you who missed earlier intros or who stumble across this later, I’m doing a “Five Photographs” guest blog series this spring. I asked a bunch of writers to submit five photos and answer a brief list of questions.)

In Rebekkah’s interview she touches on an interesting phenomenon in publishing today — the “us versus them” mentality. There are more than a few examples of this attitude out there, among them, self-pub versus traditional. I pose the question: Is trying to be a hybrid author really the biggest challenge facing writers today? 

Rebekkah also shares a little bit about her book Into the Tides and she’s offering a giveaway: one signed print copy and two ebooks. Details below. Welcome, Rebekkah!

Something that represents something unique about you

 

Rebekkah Niles Unique

I’m a geek, with a deep love of fantasy, and have a special appreciation for dragons. Plus, my friends and I like to joke that we each have an ‘inner dragon’–that little piece of us that’s easily distracted by shiny things, loves sitting the sun, and thinks giant shelves of double-stacked of books are an extension of a dragon’s natural hoarding instincts. Really, that’s why I have a collection of loose bulk gemstones (surprisingly inexpensive, actually)… I’m part-dragon; it’s in my instincts.

[Jill: ha! love it.]

Something that represents where you live

Rebekkah Niles Dogwood

North Carolina’s state flower is the dogwood, and these flowers trim the streets and forests everywhere you go in spring, right about until the wisteria and azaleas take over in late April and early May. In fact, North Carolina is a beautiful flower-filled state, with something in bloom from late February through early December (at the least!). On the downside, it’s also bug-heaven, so if you plan a visit, bring bugspray.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Rebekkah Niles Bard and Sonnet

Bard and Sonnet mostly ignore each other, and only snuggle if it’s on a lap–but for pets, they will cuddle.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Rebekkah Niles Bride

While my fiance is the delight of my life, and there are some fun things about the process, I have to say wedding planning is the most frustrating thing in my life right now. Tell me again why everything costs so darn much? Fortunately, my fiance makes it all worth it. Though now I understand why everyone always seems to joke about eloping…

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Rebekkah Niles Tea

I think this picture might be cheating, because it has four things that make me happy: tea, sunshine, plants, and spending time with my true love. Nothing like sitting outside on a beautiful day with our little patio garden, sipping a lovely coconut oolong and relaxing together!

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

In Into the Tides, a disaster causes magic to drown the American South, including Kelly’s parents. Kelly discovers her music magic might be able to save those lost… but she’s tone-deaf, and if she tries and fails, it will cost her everyone else she loves.

What are you working on next?

In the sequel to Into the Tides, former rockstar Trax tries to control an unstable magic to regain his music… but the magic is growing, and if he can’t master it, it will destroy him, the woman he can’t stop thinking about, and possibly everyone around them.

What are you currently reading?

Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. Angels in New York–Immortal creatures of immense power, they rule the world with little care for the mere mortals who inhabit it; but when one goes bad, an angel will have to turn to a mortal woman to save them all. I can’t put these down.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Castle! Oh my goodness, Fillion’s great in everything he’s in. It’s no Firefly, but it’s more than enough to leave me in stitches.

[Jill: I haven’t seen Castle but I loved Fillion in Firefly/Serenity. Doubt there’s anyone following this blog that hasn’t seen that show/movie, but if not… go stream!! So bizarre that it was cancelled. Movie was good way to wrap it up but more seasons would have been great. Such well drawn characters and a fun universe.]

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

The fire-lizards in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. Yeah, having a dragon would be awesome… but these tiny arm-sized dragonets are too cute, and quite a powerhouse of their own when they put their minds to it!

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I’d say the biggest challenge facing writers today is the temptation of the “versus” mindset: a lot of people say things like “self-publishing versus traditional publishing,” or “Amazon versus Barnes and Noble sales,” or “e-book versus print,” but the truth is, it’s not a competition. Publishing isn’t a one-size fits all venue, nor is it limited to just one approach. When we have more options open to us than ever, everyone wins; but when writers try to undermine each other or claim there is only one right way to do things, it makes all writers look bad and could well end up limiting our options in the future.

[Jill: This was a really interesting thing to pick as a writer challenge to talk about. I agree. There is definitely an “us versus them” mentality about some things. I can think of a few others… Lots of drama outside of our stories as well as in them. I’ve often thought about what produces that “to your corners” attitude. Maybe it’s just a reflection of our current culture. In the U.S. at least, it seems as if everything is becoming more and more polarizing. Is it because we live in uncertain times? I doubt it. Each generation and every industry has faced uncertain times.

Is it because we feel compelled to live life faster and more efficiently than ever before? Perhaps… Maybe it’s easier for people to just decide they’re in “this group” versus “that group” so that every time an issue needs to be addressed or a question needs to be answered they can look to the group for direction instead of taking the time to research the issue/question and analyze it for themseves. Do I think that’s right? No.] 

How can we meet that challenge?

The best way to rise up to the challenge is to educate each other while supporting one another. There’s more options to writers now than ever before, but if we undermine one another, no one wins. On the other hand, joining national writers’ groups, educating each other on best practices, and knowing the difference between “bad for me” (such as publishing method or genre choice) and “bad for all writers” (such as vanity publishing or rights-grabbing clauses in contracts) can make publishing better for everyone. The best thing writers can do is share information on what works for ourselves, while being welcoming to writers who offer new or different ideas. When writers help writers, everyone wins.

[Jill: Agreed! “Bad for everyone” is as different from “bad for me” as “bad for me” is from “bad for this book.” Regarding self-pub versus traditional: ideally, each writer will decide which method of distribution is best for each individual project.

For what it’s worth, I’m seeing less us versus them attitudes with respect to the self-pub versus traditional debate. I think many writers are starting to realize it would be great to do both. Maybe trying to be a hybrid author is the biggest challenge facing writers today? :-D]

Rebekkah Niles

Rebekkah Niles

More about Rebekkah

Rebekkah Niles writes contemporary fantasy with romance and a touch of geekery. She lives in North Carolina with her cats and her fiance. Her lair has more wall space devoted to bookshelves than clothes or desk, and several art prints from her favorite fantasy artist, Nene Thomas, fill up what’s left.

When not writing her own fiction, she daylights as an editorial assistant. Outside work, she can be found writing (of course), reading, drinking tea, playing video games, and trying not to kill her plants.

You can also find her on her blog or on her website.

More about the Giveaway

Rebekkah is offering one signed print copy (U.S. only) and two digital versions of Into the Tides. To enter the giveaway, click here for the Rafflecopter form. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thank you, Rebekkah, for the great interview, giveaway, and fun photo collection! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. For those of you celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday, I hope you have a happy one!


Five Photographs: Rachel Leigh Smith (Crawfish & Cross-Stitch)

The next guest in my spring “Five Photographs” series is Rachel Leigh Smith. She’s here with another terrific collection of photos, a peek at her writing, and more reading and watching recommendations. She’s also giving away one signed copy of her first book, My Name is A’Yen. Details below. Welcome, Rachel!

Something that represents something unique about you

Rachel Smith Unique

This photo is me in a nutshell. My favorite flower, my favorite movie, my favorite country, and the blue postcard in the back says “Keep Calm, I’m The Doctor.” The book you can see under the Ariel music box is my crit partner’s first published novella. And I’m a cat person.

Something that represents where you live

Rachel Smith Crawfish

I live in Louisiana, home of some of the most unique food you’ll find in the US. Most people know these little babies as crayfish. If you call them that, it means you’re a Yankee. They’re crawfish, or even better, crawdads or mudbugs. We prefer them boiled. What you see is three pounds, and I ate every single one of them. My sister ate five pounds that night.

[Jill: Ha! I always open the photos first when I get these posts. I knew where you were from when I saw this. :-) ]

Your pet or plant or thing you care for

Rachel Smith Zoe

This is my Zoe. She’s gorgeous, so sweet, great around kids, my snuggle-bunny, and dumb as a rock. I’m constantly reminding my family I didn’t pick her because she was smart, I picked her because she was cute. How can you not love that face?

[Jill: I love cats with unique fur patterns on their face. She is adorable.]

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Rachel Smith Frustrating

This is what I call the damn hedge. It surrounds our property. And I’m allergic to it. I get a few days break from the pine pollen madness before this stupid thing starts up.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Rachel Smith Cross-Stich

Counted cross-stitch! This pattern is White Nights in St. Petersburg from Chatelaine, and I’m almost done with it. It’s massive, my fabric is 32” square.

[Jill: Beautiful! I’m not sure I’d have the patience…]

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

A’yen is crowned king, but it isn’t stopping his enemies. Someone is after Ro, and the woman he’s falling in love with is caught in the middle. A’yen races to save Ro before he can act on his deepest desire: killing his tormentor. Happily ever after can’t happen if Ro is dead.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently writing #6 in A’yen’s Legacy, and trying to figure out how to finish my other series opener novel while still writing on Essence of Loyalty.

What are you currently reading?

Keir by Pippa Jay and The Darkest Craving by Gena Showalter. I’m very much in the Kane club now, though I didn’t care for him before.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Criminal Minds, The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, Orphan Black, Arrow, The Flash, The Musketeers, Broadchurch, Wolf Hall, and Call The Midwife. And yes, there is a distinct preference there for BBC shows, whether on PBS or BBC America.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

The Raksura, from The Books of The Raksura by Martha Wells. They’re fantasy with a strong romance sub-plot in the first three, centered on a race of shape-shifters called the Raksura. They have a human form and a winged form. I read the main trilogy about once a year and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the second novella collection this summer.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Finding your readers. Everything is so saturated, and a lot of so-called promo opportunities don’t work. When you write in a niche genre like me, finding those readers is even harder.

How can we meet that challenge?

By writing the best damn book we’re capable of. Every writer should constantly be learning more about the craft of writing, how to structure and pace a novel, and strive to make each novel better than the last.

Rachel Leigh Smith

Rachel Leigh Smith

More about Rachel

Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. There may also be Netflix binging…

She’s a member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and Romance Writers of America. She blogs sporadically at http://www.rachelleighsmith.com, hangs out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RachelLeighSmithAuthor, and can sometimes be found at http://twitter.com/rachelleighgeek. You can sign up for her newsletter here.

The Giveaway

Rachel is giving away one signed copy of My Name is A’Yen. Click here for the Rafflecopter form. Click here for my complete giveaway rules.

ALSO: My Name Is A’yen is on sale for 99 cents through 5/10! Sale price available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Coffee Time Romance Bookstore, and All Romance Ebooks.

Thanks for the interview, pictures, and giveaway, Rachel! Best wishes and happy Monday, all!


#Writing #Workshops for May (oh, and a chipmunk pic, bc why not?)

Below are the online workshops being offered in May by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

What does a chipmunk have to do with writing or workshops? Absolutely nothing. We caught this little guy (girl?) in our house earlier this week. No idea how it got in, which is somewhat disturbing. Not that I would have wanted them to go after it, but my cats showed zero interest. We let it go in the backyard.

What does a chipmunk have to do with writing or workshops?
Absolutely nothing.
We caught this little guy (girl?) in our house earlier this week. No idea how it got in, which is somewhat disturbing. Not that I would have wanted them to go after it, but my cats showed zero interest. We let it go in the backyard.

Beginning WordPress

05/04/2015 – 05/31/2015

This class will focus on understanding the basic functions of WordPress such as making posts and pages, adding images, copying and pasting from one post or page to another, creating links, connecting your social media links for Facebook, Twitter, etc., using plugins, widgets, and themes, creating parent and child pages, using menus, and customizing the look and feel of your site. In short, everything you need to create a website or blog and make it uniquely yours. The class lasts four weeks.

Lessons include:

  1. Navigating the Back End of WordPress
  2. Understanding Themes: Changing the Look of Your Site Through Themes
  3. Customizing the Themes: Changing the Header and Background
  4. Understanding the Difference Between Posts & Pages: What They Are; How to Use Them
  5. Adding Images & Links
  6. Things you can do to Jazz up your site. Using Asides and Widgets
  7. Working with Plugins: Understanding Plugins, Some Plugins You Must Have, Setting Up FB & Twitter Links on Your Site
  8. Some Things You Need to Know About the Web and Websites

About the Presenter, Pepper O’Neal

Pepper O’Neal has a doctorate in education and has taught a number of adult education classes on many different subjects. She currently works as a freelance researcher and author. When she was told by both of her publishers that she needed to have a website, she realized she needed to finally join the age of technology. She also realized she had two options. She could pay someone to design the site for her, or she could to do it herself. As she hates depending on others for things involving her career, she decided to learn how to use the free web-design software WordPress and Joomla. She took classes, hired experts for tutors, and picked the brains of her web-designer friends. After designing her own websites, she decided she liked doing it, and now she designs websites for others.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

Beware the Info Dump, My Child

05/04/2015 – 05/17/2015

Say you’re starting work on your latest story. You’ve just done a ton of research to get all the details right, down to the outer ridge of your heroine’s left boot. You are proud of what you’ve done, and who could blame you? Inspired, you want to bring the reader into the story and you want him or her to be as fascinated and intrigued by it as you are. But you make a small tactical error. Just a small one. You dump all this stuff at the beginning of your story so they can get started on the wonderfulness that is your story… And you are left scratching your head when the readers don’t come, or they read the first couple of pages…and wander away, choosing not to continue.

What happened? Why weren’t they fascinated? What’s wrong with them?!

How much research is just right? What’s the tidbit to work in? What isn’t?

This class will teach you some tricks and tips to keep in mind when it comes to making the best use of your research, along with examples.

About the Presenters, Elizabeth Flynn and Heather Hiestand

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years.

Heather Hiestand wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period and she continues to return, fascinated by the rapid changes of the nineteenth century. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she is a bestseller at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room. She also writes as Anh Leod.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop


Five Photographs: Veronica Scott (NASA, SoCal, and Legos)

Today’s “Five Photographs” guest is SF/PNR author Veronica Scott, who is also the “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog. (For those of you that didn’t see it yet, she wrote a great post last Thursday on the appeal of fantasy romance.) She’s here today to share a little bit about herself and her writing. Welcome, Veronica!

Something That Represents Something Unique About You

Veronica Scott JPL

I worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (think Mars Rovers) in the Acquisition Division for a very long time. I was on the business side of the house, not a rocket scientist, but it was an incredible set of experiences! (I’m a fulltime author as of this past March.) This is a photo of the service award I recently received. There’s a tiny galaxy laser etched in the center!

[Jill: That is awesome! I think JPL would be an amazing place to work. I’m sure the business side of it was really interesting. Of course, it’s equally great that you’re now a full time writer. Congrats!]

Something That Represents Where You Live

Veronica Scott Garden

I live in drought stricken Southern California, so these nearby succulents and cacti represent our current state.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Veronica Scott Cats

Jake and Keanu, two very companionable and lively cats

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Veronica Scott Clock

Time! In three ways: I’m not a patient person at all, so I hate to wait for things. Second, there’s never enough time in a day for all the things I want to do, even writing fulltime now. And third, I spend too much time on social media (because I have so much fun there)!

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Veronica Scott Legos

Something that brings me joy is time spent with my grandson and we’re usually building Legos, so here’s one of our latest building projects.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

My latest novel is Mission to Mahjundar, science fiction romance. “Special Forces soldier of the future falls in love with blind Princess of Shadows, places rescuing her above his mission objective.”

What are you working on next?

I have Ghost of the Nile coming out in late May, and I’m just finishing the first draft of my next SFR, tentatively entitled Star Cruise: Marooned.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve been on an epic romance fantasy binge and just finished Radiance by Grace Draven, which I LOVED and can’t recommend highly enough.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

“Dancing With The Stars”, “Twelve Monkeys, “The Walking Dead,” Say Yes to the Dress,” “Madam Secretary”.

[Jill: my older daughter loves “Say Yes to the Dress” :-D ]

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Anne McCaffrey’s dragons from the planet Pern. I so want to be the rider of a golden dragon!

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

With all the wonderful books pouring out from authors these days, I think discoverability is the key. Finding your own audience!

How can we meet that challenge?

By being proactive on social media – whatever channels work best for the individual – and I love the way authors are helping each other, as with this guest blog opportunity of yours, forums, Facebook groups (and events)…sharing information and shining a light on each other’s books that we’ve enjoyed goes a long way. And of course, writing the next book, and the book after that is critical. So, it’s a juggling act but the books are always the most important thing.

Thanks for having me as your guest with this fun photo blog!

Veronica Scott

Veronica Scott

More About Veronica

Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog,  Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Blog   @vscotttheauthor    Facebook

Thank you, Veronica, for the interview and for sharing your pictures with us! I enjoyed getting to know more about you.  :-)


Five Photographs: Beth Caudill (Dogwoods, Spaniels, Chainmaille, and Backlist)

This spring, I’m hosting a guest blog series called “Five Photographs.” I asked a bunch of writers to submit five pictures and complete a brief interview. Today’s guest is Beth Caudill. In her interview, she talks about the importance of backlist and I share two interesting self-pub links. If you like King Charles Spaniels, dogwood trees, and/or chainmaille jewelry, you’ll love her pictures. Welcome, Beth!

Something that represents where you live

Caudill Pink Dogwood

The first house I lived in in West Virginia had several white dogwood trees. I always thought they were beautiful and a home isn’t a home without one in the yard. Fortunately for me, I moved to a state that named the dogwood blossom as its state flower. In springtime, you’ll find dogwoods blooming everywhere.  It took awhile, but I finally have my own tree in the yard, although it’s a pink variation instead of the bright white.

Something that represents something unique about you

Space Art

Growing up, I loved everything space. All I wanted was to be an astronaut.  While that didn’t work out, my love of space hasn’t gone away. I decorate my walls with space art of all colors. My favorite is this print titled Ladies of the Lake by Kim Poor.  It’s based off the Pleiades star cluster.

Your Pet or Plant or Thing You Care For

Caudill King Charles Spaniel

This is Megan and she’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She acts as my shadow until my husband comes home from work, then the little traitor follows him around.  But don’t let those brown eyes fool you; she gets plenty of cuddles and treats.

Something that really frustrates you

Caudill Star Gazer Lilies

I love Stargazer Lilies but I can’t have cut blooms in the house.  The dark yellow pollen on the stamen gets everywhere and it stains. At least I can have them in the garden.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Caudill Flower Bracelet

A few years ago, I learned how to make chainmaille jewelry.  This flower chain bracelet is one I wear all the time.  I particularly love the feel of silver rings but also work with copper and stainless steel.  If you want to see my work, check out my website at Starlight Falls Designs.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Cursed at his birth by a dark elf, Rowe Calder avoids personal entanglements, especially his betrothal to Caliressa Bellehaven. Circumstances force them together and love won’t be denied. But the dark elf claims his vengeance and only the strongest enchantress can reclaim Rowe’s soul.  – Enchantress’ Destiny, Paranormals of Arilase – Novella 2

What are you working on next?

I’ve been waffling on this. ‘The Plan’ says I should be working on the Prequel to my Tales of Ellemarlene series but I haven’t been able to decide on the main character for that story.  I’m also having trouble determining the motivation for the female character in the 3rd Paranormals of Arilase novella.  So I’m revising a contemporary novella that didn’t go anywhere because it lacked conflict.  I’m turning it into a contemporary fantasy series.

What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m judging a few books for the PRISM contest sponsored by the FF&P chapter of RWA. I can’t name those stories but I did read Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey and Dropping Gloves by Catherine Gayle this week.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I caught up on my Arrow episodes and watched the finale of Face Off.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I love Elektra’s bladed sai.  I like to watch the scene in Daredevil where Jennifer Garner practices with sandbags before she goes after the man she thinks killed her dad.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Producing content quickly to keep your fans interested and finding new fans.  I first sold some short stories a few years ago and had decent sales.  Then I had a few slow years, completed stories didn’t quite work and then I started homeschooling my kids. My writing derailed and while I’ve released two novellas in the past year, I feel like my career has gone backwards.

[Jill: how can you say it’s gone backwards? You released two novellas! :-) Writing/publishing is a very tough business. I recently read two articles that seemed to realistically capture the challenges writers face while still being encouraging:

Rachelle Ayala’s What I Learned After Four Years of Self-Publishing (Thanks to Jami Gray for the link)

Forbes’ Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer (Thanks to Shamus W. for the link. The headline is clickbait, but the article itself seems fairly even-handed in its approach. I especially liked the one commenter who pointed out that self-pub doesn’t have to be an all or none experience.)]

How can we meet that challenge?

While I’m still struggling, the best thing is to develop a daily schedule and keep writing. A writer’s best asset is their backlist.

[Jill: “develop a daily schedule and keep writing” Agreed! :-D

I think both backlist and frontlist are equally important. Our best marketing tool is our next book!]

More about Beth

Beth grew up in West Virginia but now resides in North Carolina with her husband and two children. She has a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and previously worked as a quality assurance computer software tester. Reading has been her favorite activity for as long as she can remember and her home has more books than shelves to store them. While being a fulltime parent, she is pursuing a writing career. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter and her local chapter Heart of Carolina Romance Writers.

Thank you, Beth, for sharing your pictures and thoughts with us!


Five Photographs: Celia Breslin (Desserts You Can’t Eat + Disney for Adults)

This spring, I’m hosting a guest blog series called “Five Photographs.” I asked a bunch of writers to submit five pictures and complete a brief interview. Today’s guest is Celia Breslin. Welcome, Celia!

Hi Everyone!

I’m happy to be here today to participate in Jill’s new guest blog series.  And Jill, thanks for giving me a reason to peruse my photo albums. :-)

Something that represents something unique about you

Breslin Tattoo

This is my tattoo.  I designed it myself. I was going for a primitive, moon-goddess-meets-silver-surfer kind of vibe.  Actual size: six inches.

Something that represents where you live

Breslin San Francisco Fog

San Francisco is a beautiful city.  I love watching the fog roll over the hills.

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Breslin Cats

These are my cats Lenny and Hazel.  We adopted them from our local shelter when they were both a little over one year old. They’re loads of purring fun.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Breslin Dessert

This is made-to-order, molten chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream and delicious, creamy sauce at Moki’s Sushi & Pacific Grill.  I get to watch my family enjoy this dessert because I’m allergic to dairy and cannot eat it!  Frustrating, indeed. :-)

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Breslin Vegas

I love going on vacation with my family. Last fall, we went to Vegas to celebrate our anniversary and stayed in a suite at the Wynn. We like to spend most of our time poolside then go to shows in the evening.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Human-wolf hybrid Darci wants a cure for her shifting problem not a Wolf mate, but Dominant wolf Ross intends to change her mind and capture her heart. – DIAMOND MOON, Black Hills Wolves series.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently editing the second werewolf story for the Black Hills Wolves (a multi-author series from Decadent Pub), writing the third wolf story, and also working on the third vampire novel for my Tranquilli Bloodline series (Champagne Books).

What are you currently reading?

21 Marine Salute, a collection of military romance stories by Heather Long.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Vampire Diaries and Originals.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Vampires and werewolves top my list of favorite fantasy creatures, along with the Fae. I particularly enjoy them all in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. And her vampire villain, Lothaire, tops my list of fun villains. For a weapon, I’ll go with the daggers in J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I’d say it’s the same challenge pre and post publication: it’s important to keep writing while one attends to the other aspects of the business, such as promotion, conferences, queries, submissions, etc.

How can we meet that challenge?

Write every day. Lock in that writing time on your busy schedule and make it happen!

Thanks again, Jill, this was fun! Have a great day, everyone! ::waves::  :-)

More About Celia

Celia lives in California with her husband, daughter, and two feisty cats. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and has a particular fondness for werewolves, vampires, and the Fae. When not writing, you’ll find Celia exercising, reading a good book, hanging with her family, or indulging her addiction to Joss Whedon’s TV shows and movies.

Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts with us, Celia! A dairy allergy would be tough, especially if it prevents you from eating chocolate desserts. (Although it would be tougher for me to give up cheese. I’m one of those people who prefers fruity/sour sweets to chocolate ones.) I’ve only been to Vegas once but I really enjoyed it. Went with a bunch of girlfriends that I’ve been friends with forever and we had a blast. I’d love to go back with my husband. Everyone was so friendly. Disney for adults! :-D

Now back to writing! ;-)


Five Photographs: JC Stockli (Rescue Pup + Why to Join a Writing Group)

This spring, I’m hosting a guest blog series called “Five Photographs.” I asked a bunch of writers to submit five pictures and complete a brief interview. Today’s guest is JC Stockli. Welcome, JC!

Something Unique About You:

JC Stockli UniqueMy ring represents my marriage, but it is a unique ring, just like my relationship with my husband. He special ordered it because he wanted something out of the norm. The engagement ring did not have a matching band (because what guy thinks of that when he orders a ring), so the wedding band is literally one-of-a-kind, hand-carved to match the engagement ring. More than that, it is a representation of a truly unusual relationship. We were two very anti-relationship kind of people, but within 3 weeks decided to get engaged. That was 10 ½ years ago, and we’ve been married for 8 ½ of those years. Everything in our life together has happened fluidly. From the moment we met to the birth of our children, nothing has been a struggle for us. We are truly blessed. Life has naturally progressed since we found each other. How many young couples can say that these days?

Something That Represents Where You Live:

JC Stockli SunsetI have taken some real breathtaking photos of the area that I live in, but this one in particular makes me happy. This was my back yard a few weeks ago. I awoke to this amazing blood orange hue warming my bedroom, setting everything on fire. When I look outside, this is what I saw. I live in the country, but am a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. I can hear the sea gulls along the coast while watching hawks fly overhead. It’s amazing.

Your Pet or Plant or Thing You Care For:

JC Stockli Awesome Possum

~

This is my “Awesome Possum”. Ever since we rescued this boy after being found alone underneath the wheel well of a school bus in the middle of Kentucky, Possum has been the perfect addition to our New England family… and I haven’t stopped writing since he arrived. My husband says he is my muse.

Something That Frustrates You:

JC Stockli Frustrating~

The fact that I spend more time alone in my office rather than with my family or doing what I love frustrates me. I believe that you have to smile and/or laugh at least once a day at work. Such a feat is difficult to accomplish on days when your whole family is home and you’re not. My daughter wrote this on my white board in my office, and while I realize that she was just saying I’d be out to lunch, I can’t help but find the dramatic undertone beneath it. Work sucks!

Something That Brings You Joy:

JC Stockli Joy~

These little monsters are my ALL. I think being a parent is hands down the most difficult job, because at the end of a 9-5 it’s not about going home to a glass of wine with dinner, maybe a work out and then some writing. It’s about making sure we all sit at the table together to chat about how our day went. It’s about making sure homework is done and tubbies are set. Let’s be honest, it’s about relinquishing all rights to privacy in the bathroom and premature grey hairs. On the weekends, it’s not about warrioring through a couple of chapters, but what you can do as a family to make lasting memories. Writing is secondary, even when your daughter walks up to you and asks if you’re done with your book yet. It’s about turning her on to reading so that she may be inspired to follow in your footsteps someday. It’s a difficult balance when you have passion for your work, but it’s worth it.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

The Nothingness is about an alcoholic waitress. It’s a dark, urban fantasy with paranormal elements, but the heart of the series is about the main character’s struggle to overcome her addictions. The first book in this series introduces the drug to the main character, where the remainder of the series takes her through the various stages of intervention, reveling in the high, over-dosing, hitting rock bottom, and finding ways to cope and recover.

What are you working on next?

Aside from working on the sequel to The Nothingness (The Saving, which I hope to release this July), I have a paranormal fantasy about witchcraft and a very intimate connection between two people. It was really just a story I wrote for myself, that literally flowed out of me in a month’s time. I feel it would be a shame not to share it with the world. I also have several other WIPs, another being a dark faerie fantasy / Gothic romance. I just sort of let my mind go with that one. It’s been amazing.

What are you currently reading?

Too much… Ha! But seriously, I have several “to read” books in my pile, I’m trying to wrap up The Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell. It’s a great mystery/thriller based on witchcraft folklore, which I dig.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Not a cop-out, but I don’t watch a lot of TV. I probably should, but I really don’t. When I do, it’s usually Scrubs reruns with my husband, or Big Bang Theory reruns. If I’m going to watch TV, I usually like it to be an escape, effortless, and funny. Have you ever watched Drunk History?  100% hilarious!

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I’m a Star Wars dork. I’m a fan of the Order of the Sith. Where I respect Darth Vader for the legend he is, I am partial to Darth Maul. His fighting style is just badass, and his death was a tragedy… but I realize there can be only two ;)

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Exposure. I think the digital age has been great for indies, but it’s a double-edged sword in my opinion. Social media is a useful tool, but it’s so immense of an undertaking to create a profile out of thin air. This is where I feel traditional publishing, even down to a small press has the upper hand. Indies don’t have a network of their own. They have to go out and make their own friends from scratch, not through a publishing house. It’s a daunting task for any introvert, even if we’re guarded by our digital cloak.

How can we meet that challenge?

Groups that aim to foster constructive, synergistic relationships between writers of all genres. The groups I have joined have been wonderful. They are full of supportive and positive criticism. They make it easier to build up the nerve to share ideas. And they say “sharing is caring”. No matter what stage of the game you are at in your writing career, we all need to pitch in and support each other. There’s a readership out there for all of us.

Thank you for sharing your pictures and thoughts with us, JC. Your little climbers are cute and your Awesome Possum is adorable! :-)


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