Sep 9, 2013

Author Interview: Meredith Bond




Meredith Bond is the author of the Vallen series of which "Magic In The Storm" is being reviewed over at Unleaded:  Fuel for Writers.

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Her paranormal romances include “Magic In The Storm,” “Storm on the Horizon,” and "In A Beginning" (in the anthology “Tales From The Mist”). Her traditional Regencies include “The Merry Men Quartet” of which “A Dandy In Disguise” has just been released. Meredith also teaches writing. If you want a taste of her class, Chapter One is available at your favorite e-retailer.  Want to know more? Come visit Meredith at her website, www.meredithbond.com or chat with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/meredithbondfan) or Twitter (@merrybond).



I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Bond during my review of her first book of the Vallen series.

What inspired you to write your first book? Boredom. Honestly. I’d just gotten married and moved to Williamstown, MA where my husband was a professor at Williams College. I had newly minted master’s degree in secondary education and thought that I’d teach high school history and social studies. Williamstown is an absolutely gorgeous town in the middle of nowhere on the Vermont-Massachusetts-New York border. Basically, I was told that if somebody died, I’d get a job teaching. I had nothing else to do, but read my favorite romances… until I started to write them myself.

How did you come up with the title? Excellent question! I honestly can’t recall. It must have been my husband. He comes up with a number of my titles.

What are your current projects? Oooh, the question most dear to every author’s heart! I have just re-published a Regency romance, A Dandy In Disguise (originally published as Dame Fortune by Zebra Books), and now I’m working on a really fun post-Arthurian fantasy trilogy. I’ve got the first two books of the Children of Avalon series finished (but for editing) and am working on writing the third book. As soon as my editing is done, and a bit more of the third book is completed, I’ll start publishing them. I’m aiming to get the first one out in October. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? I’m going to assume you mean in the book I’m working on right now, Air: Merlin’s Chalice, the first book of the Children of Avalon series. I’m currently changing the whole thing from third person to first – both I (and my critique group) think it’ll work much better that way. I’ll be able to get much deeper into my heroine’s head, which is always a good thing.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Well, I have to say, my grammar has improved a great deal over the years – I’m no longer writing so many run-on sentences, except for this one, of course. J But definitely, remembering to include descriptions is always a challenge for me, and those dratted five senses. I never remember them and have to go back searching for them and adding them in as I edit.

Do you have to travel much for researching or marketing your book(s)? Sigh… I wish. I have gone to England a few times and deliberately toured Regency era homes there. And I had loads of fun doing research for An Exotic Heir in Kolkata, India, driving around the old British homes, the Governor’s mansion and, of course, going to the bazaar (which hasn’t changed as much as you might expect it to in 250 years).

What was the hardest part of writing your book? Balancing all the pieces. There are two major plot lines in Magic In The Storm as well as a couple of subplots, so balancing everything and making sure nothing got forgotten or dropped. Oh, and sex scenes! Sex is hard to write – at least for me. How much to do you describe (without using too many cringe-worthy clich├ęs)? Why is it there? Does it have to be there? What does that scene do for the book? For the lives of the characters? For their stories? It’s always a challenge writing sex scenes.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life? For Magic In The Storm, I had to create an entire world and a people. I had to decide on what magic could be done, and what couldn’t. I had to come up with the rules of the world and then stick to them. That is always a challenge when writing paranormal and fantasy.

Do you have specific tools to aid your writing? Yes, and in fact, I just wrote a two-part blog series on “My writer’s toolboxes”. You can find them here: http://meredithbond.com/blog/posts/

How would you characterize your experience with self publishing? Excellent, if sometimes a little frustrating. I love self-publishing. I love formatting my books (although Smashwords will always give me headaches). I love being in control of every aspect of publishing (from writing to formatting to designing the cover). I do not love marketing, but in today’s publishing industry, I would have to do that no matter how I was published. Other than that, it’s fantastic!

Who designed the covers? Su at Earthly Charms did the cover for Magic In The Storm. For its prequel, Storm on the Horizon, I copied her design concept and made that cover on my own. I love designing my own covers (with help from my husband who is great at picking out just the right fonts for my titles).


I want to thank Ms. Bond for taking the time to answer my questions. I am looking forward to more of her Vallen series!
 

Aug 12, 2013

Recently, I "liked" a page on Facebook called "Creepy Places."  The page posts pictures of just that including the name and location of the place.  With each picture I've seen I start thinking that there has to be a story behind it - whether that story is inside my head or inside the head of someone else.  I thought I would try posting a picture here on my blog and giving people a chance to see what kind of story they can come up with. 

Here's your chance to see if you have a story inside of you.  Take a look at the picture here and post a short story in the comments below.  I'll send a participant web badge to the folks who post and at the end of the week, I'll have an independent party read the stories and pick a winner.  I'll send a winner's web badge of my own design to that person.
 

Now that the pictures up here, let's see those stories!

Aug 7, 2013


 

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion  At the beginning of the year, and incidentally my last post, I talked about keeping track of the books I read this year on Goodreads.  The goal was to read 24 books in a year.  With that being two books a month, I am about two books behind for the year.  I have started reading several books this year, but haven't finished any of them (Khafka's The Trial, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Bloodlands, and Meredith Bond's Magic In The Storm).

With that being said, I have to ask myself why I've started these books but not finished them.   I started reading The Trial when I had some quiet time and thought a little academic reading would do me good.  I liked the book, but just didn't pick it up again.

I was on an espionage track with both my reading and my video watching (MI-5) for a while, so I picked up The Spy Who Came In From The Cold at a book sale knowing it was a classic story which had been made into a movie (Richard Burton, 1965).  I liked the action the story started with, but I guess my espionage bent was more to current and not WWII.

I hesitated after reading the first few pages of Bloodlands because I had recently read several horror books as well (Undertaker's Moon, Dhampir, Timeless) and I did not want to use this one as yet another horror/vampire book to review for Unleaded:Fuel For Writers.

Finally, I picked up Meredith Bond's Magic In The Storm a few days ago on my Kindle.  I had tried once before to start reading it, but my mind was just not in a place to read a paranormal romance at the time.  Now, however, when I started again, I was thoroughly enjoying it.  This will most likely be the book I stick with and will probably review for September's book review on Unleaded.

If you have book suggestions for me to read or review, please leave a comment below.  Stop by Unleaded and click on my name in the author list to see the book reviews I have done for them.  Thanks for stopping by!

Jan 19, 2013

With the start of the new year, I've decided to start keeping track of the books I've read throughout the year.  I want to see how long it takes me to read a book on average and how many books I can read in a year.  I've set my initial challenge to read 24 books in a year.  I searched for an online list application, quite frankly because I didn't want to write one myself.  What I finally settled on was GoodReads.

So far I'm two books in and January isn't over yet.  As work taking more time than the average 9 to 5, and two energetic boys to run after, my reading time is often limited to just before bed or for a few minutes after supper.  With that being said, I am surprised that I have have managed two books.  I'm curious as to when most folks out there find time to read.  Drop me a comment and let me know.

Click here for my list on GoodReads.  I'll be adding ratings and links to my book reviews as I write them.  Some of my reviews are located on this blog and others on Unleaded:  Fuel for Writers





Dec 5, 2012

Author Interview: Debra Dunbar


Debra Dunbar is the author of the "Imp Series" which is being review at Unleaded:  Fuel for Writers


Debra Dunbar lives on a farm in Frederick County, Maryland with her family and a multitude of four legged friends. Her novels feature supernatural elements in local settings. A DEMON BOUND is the first novel in her Imp Series:
Samantha Martin, is an imp living among humans. She tries to keep her identity a secret, but when she spots an angel one night, clearly hunting demons, the imp comes out of the bag. Sam ends up smack in the middle of trouble, dragging her human neighbor, Wyatt, along for the ride.

A DEMON BOUND and the sequel SATAN’S SWORD is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com, Nook at Barnes and Noble, and a variety of formats at Smashwords.com. Catch up with the author at http://debradunbar.com

I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Dunbar regarding her first book in the series, "A Demon Bound":


What inspired you to write your first book?
I’m guessing you don’t mean that hideous piece of Dragon Lance fanfic I wrote in college?
My inspiration for A Demon Bound was boringly academic. I’d been reading Marie-Louise Von Franz’s Jungian interpretation of Folklore tales, and was pondering what would happen if parts of the personality we suppress into our unconscious (i.e. Hell) came to the surface. Out of that I eventually got to “If a demon lived among humans long enough, would she become more humane?”
Once I had my theme, I spent months thinking of characters, plots, conflict before I ever opened the laptop.

How did you come up with the title?
The original title was “A Cockroach Bound”. Yeah. I know.
My protagonist is a demon, and the angel who ends up binding her calls her “cockroach.” That’s the ONLY name he calls her by. I had a lot of feedback that, although the name made sense, there was such a visceral “icky” reaction to cockroaches, I’d turn people off with the title. So it ended up “A Demon Bound” instead.

What are your current projects?
I’m coming down the home stretch on the first draft of Book 3 in the Imp Series. (Working title is Elf’s Blood). I’m researching a zombie/cop short story named Dead Shift. There’s a prequel short story for the Imp Series in edit, and I’m doing a graphic novel collaboration for the Imp Series too.
I've got a lot of irons in the fire, but I like to intersperse the lengthy novel process with some short stories. 

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m really pleased with both A Demon Bound and Satan’s Sword. Of course, in a few years I’ll look back and see all sorts of things I wish I had done differently. That’s part of growing in the craft, though.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
My writing style is to let the prose just pour out of me like water from a faucet. I have an outline and a conflict grid, but other than that, I let it go.
Which means I always have a LOT of editing to do. With Satan’s Sword, I cut an entire chapter with one press of the delete key. I’d had some doubts about it, and when my beta readers confirmed that it interrupted the flow and build so close to the climax, away it went.

Do you have to travel much for researching or marketing your book(s)?
My urban fantasy series is set locally, so much of my research is Baltimore, Antietam Battlefield, that little bar off Rt 26 in Winfield.
As for marketing, I’ll probably be doing a few Cons on the east coast in 2013, and I've found that I do well at beer and wine festivals. Seems drunk people like to buy books. Who knew?

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Making the time to write/edit/market/build a social media platform. My books aren't generating enough right now to put food on the table and shoes on the horse, so I've also got a full time corporate day-job. Juggling family and what amounts to two full time jobs? The math just doesn't work. I always have to decide what gets the short end of the stick this week. 

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
For me it was the decision to self-publish. I've never had any prejudice about self-publishing, but I was crippled with anxiety that everyone would think I wasn't an “authentic” author. I half-heartedly put out 3 lame-ass queries for A Demon Bound early spring, but it felt wrong. So I did what any good MBA would do. I did a SWAT analysis and determined that self-publishing was my best alternative. 

Do you have specific tools to aid your writing?
Beer. And sometimes vodka if it’s a really bad week.

How would you characterize your experience with self publishing?
All those anxieties I had that others wouldn't think I was “good enough”? Mostly, they were unfounded. I've been warmly welcomed by traditionally published authors, some of them recognizable names in their genre.
But there IS a big steep hill full of misconceptions that we self-published authors need to climb. Many book reviewer sites (the biggies) refuse to even consider reviewing a self-published novel. I can’t blame them, they've been burned by subpar, error-ridden work. As more and more well-known authors begin to explore self-publishing their new and back-list works, I think these restrictions will lift.

Who designed the covers?
Crimson Chain Productions – Adam Frey.
Before we got to the studio, we’d looked at an entire year of cover releases for urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels. Adam wanted to do something different. He envisioned the cover as looking gritty, almost film noir. It was a huge break from the “woman in leather, with a sword, next to a wolf/vampire/half-naked-man with glowing eyes” cover typical of the genre. I love the direction he took the covers, and I hope he will continue doing them for the series.


I want to thank Ms. Dunbar for taking the time to answer my questions.  I look forward to reading the further books in her "Imp Series."



Nov 3, 2012

I have recently read several articles that I could easily see feeding conspiracy theorists and sending them into a frenzy, The NSA is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center from Wired, and How Your Cellphone Lets the Government Track You from Tech News Daily.

The first article describes how in Utah the NSA is building a center which will be absorbing as much information from emails, phone calls, web sites visited, etc as possible and storing it.  The NSA was founded after Pearl Harbor, and has been the subject of controversy for years.  The Utah Data Center is no different. In the very near future, if it hasn't happened already, I can see those three words sending the conspiracy theorists as well as many other Americans into a panic.  The very thought of Big Brother taking the next step and being able to monitor almost all communications is breath-taking.

However, unless you are a sitting Senator with direct access to the POTUS and chair of an auditing committee, there's probably nothing you can actually do about this but accept it.  One argument against building such a site may be, "well, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about."  But, I can imagine that we all have some secrets or at least some dirty laundry that we'd rather anyone outside of our personal diaries, best friends, and pets not know, much less store on a huge hard drive ready to bring up and possibly be used against us.  You know, just in case you haven't paid your parking tickets and the NSA delivers that information to your local law enforcement agency.  Another argument may be, "INVASION OF PRIVACY!"  I add the caps not to denote my own thoughts or fears, but the vehemence at which such words might be spoken.  And yes, it may be an invasion of privacy, but potentially no more than someone eavesdropping on your phone call you're having while on your stylish bluetooth headset or looking over your shoulder while you're typing an email while sitting in the airport.

The second article goes on to describe how the US Government may potentially be using your phone's GPS to track your movements.  Again, those same two arguments apply.  But, say you do take a long lunch break and go to the local strip club, unbeknownst to your wife.  The US Government, NSA or otherwise, is not likely to turn that information over to your wife just in an effort to blackmail you into...what?

Looking at the potential good here is what we have to ask ourselves is worth the invasion of privacy, or other arguments.  If the NSA is able to use information to route out terrorist cells, whether they be the sterotypical type, or the militant group who just wants to vent their anger against what they believe is an unjust government, and protect the US citizens from danger, foreign or domestic, then I say it's worth it.

Jun 9, 2012

“The Forever Girl: Sophia’s Journey” by Rebecca Hamilton

“The Forever Girl:  Sophia’s Journey” by Rebecca Hamilton is the first volume in “The Forever Girl” series.  Ms. Hamilton’s story is a most original take on the vampire mythos.  She weaves in witches, shape shifters, and religious fanatics to produce an interesting story which makes the reader wish for an extended ending. 

Ms. Hamilton has created an intriguing protagonist in Sophia.  The self professed practitioner of Wicca, which dominates the first sections of the story as a secondary conflict is set up in Sophia’s battles with Mrs. Franklin, a local fanatic Christian.  At first, I was afraid the entire book was going to be a pro-Wicca pamphlet and educational piece, but was relieved the story progressed beyond this.

The progression of Sophia’s relationship with Charles, the attractive stranger a mutual friend introduces her to, seems to drag the flow of the overall story.  I found myself nearly dreading to read once again the “are we dating or not” conversation.  Also, the ending seems a bit rushed as we are hurriedly introduced to a technology not yet seen before in the book.  This technology definitely seems to be a deus ex machina.  Ms. Hamilton would have been better served by exploring and explaining more of the story to solve her protagonist’s problems.

The dialogue flows quite well and helps push the story along as it should.  We are introduced to some of the back story through Sophia’s discussions with her mother and old friends.  Through one conversation, we have a quote which has become one of my favorites:  “Perhaps you might consider life is complicated enough without your helping things along.”

There are several examples where the “Show Not Tell” rule slows down the flow of the story and detracts from the overall experience.  At nearly every new day we are walked through Sophia’s morning routine and choice of clothes.  I had hoped this would have a bearing on the next portion of the story, but that expectation was unfulfilled.  There are a few other instances, but the morning routine example was by far the standout. 

As I read through “The Forever Girl,” I was struck by several mistakes in spelling, grammar, and story.  I had thought perhaps Ms. Hamilton had embarked on the road to self publishing without a proper editor.  However, I see “The Forever Girl Series” is published by Immortal Ink Publishing.  I feel that perhaps this editor has done Ms. Hamilton’s work an injustice in not properly editing the book prior to release.

Overall, I found “The Forever Girl:  Sophia’s Journey” to be an entertaining story.  I look forward to more of Ms. Hamilton’s writing.  I believe she is blooming with the potential to be a great storyteller in the paranormal genre.

May 12, 2012

Women in Combat




I read a wonderful blog post regarding the absurdity of women's armor in fantasy:  Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits  
I find this a practical examination as well as hilarious view of the subject.  There is a formula in the post that sums up the subject quite well.



This post was inspired by the the tumbler feed:  Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor 

The descriptions in this feed describe the pics as "awesome", "fine example", and "cool"

Most often these are descriptions that one would find in a collection of "Men Fighters in Armor."  I believe the majority of Women in Armor galleries would include words like "sexy", "oh yeah", and "babe." 

I believe a corollary to these posts is the following:  Impractical Aspects of Superhero Costumes
Although, this post should have been entitled "Completely Impractical Aspects of Superheroine Costumes."
This post expands the sexism of women in fantasy to women in comics.




I know.  I know.  The expected retort to this thread is "obviously, immature men and boys are the ones reading comics and fantasy novels as well as playing fantasy games."
...
My response to this is "the artists for the fantasy and comics have most likely not fought an actual woman trained in combat."  Through the years, I have dabbled in various combat styles and there have always been women in my classes.  There have been girls and women in my fencing classes that have easily been able to best me.  And in the martial arts classes I have attended have had women instructors whom I would not like to be on the receiving end of their attacks without protective gear.

In this video of women sparring in a taekwondo match, they're wearing effective pugilist's armor.


There are other comparisons such as women fencers, boxers, and even women's MMA.
All of them show two sides of the combatants, participating in their chosen sport in the appropriate "armor", and also a "sexy" side to them