Monday, November 28, 2011

Gnomes and shapeshifters, oh my

Looked down in my garden and what should appear?

You tell me. Is is gnome, fairy of maybe the little hairy man from Neil Gaiman's STARDUST who serves Tristran a sumptuous plate of fried field-mushrumps?

But this is the mushrump itself!

Peering in tiny faces in the fauna opened my eyes to all kinds of magical happenings.


baby footprints

disappear in the sand,

gulls tracks appear,

and are gone



fairy transport?

what goes here?

What story comes to mind when you see faces where they shouldn't be and footsteps fading into what--thin air?


Hope your long weekend was wonderful.

It was quite glorious--and as you can see, magical--here. At least inside my head. *meanders off in search of wonders*


Secondly!!!! S. R. Johannes, who many of you will know from her blog Market My Words, is holding a book launch tomorrow, Tuesday, with a ton of fabulous prizes. Fill out the entry form and check in her blog or Twitter for all kinds of fun surrounding UNTRACEABLE, which earned a smashing review from Kirkus.

(sorry if the spacing is weird --I edited after pub and Blogger went wonky)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Call the sirens!

Today is Black Friday, but forget the mall--there’s an underwater war going on!

As part of Karen Amanda Hooper’s release of TANGLED TIDES, she’s hosting a blogsplash fit for mermaids. But first you must pick a side. What floats your boat? Mermaids, sirens, selkies or gorgons?

I choose sirens—sun-loving, seductive singers who can control weather and are rebels. Oh, yeah. I can picture myself lounging in the sunshine, filling the air with beautiful music, painting the sky however I want it.
Of course, there’s the dicey part about stealing other people’s memories, but, hey, what a useful tool for a writer, right?

Here’s the link to Karen's blog where the fun is happening, including a book giveaway via Twitter contest.


And here’s the blurb for Karen’s debut novel, published by Rhemalda:

Yara Jones doesn’t believe in sea monsters—until she becomes one.

When a hurricane hits her island home and she wakes up with fins, Yara finds herself tangled up in an underwater world of mysterious merfolk and secretive selkies. Both sides believe Yara can save them by fulfilling a broken promise and opening the sealed gateway to their realm, but they are battling over how it should be done. The selkies want to take her life. The merfolk want something far more precious.

Treygan, the stormy-eyed merman who turned Yara mer, will stop at nothing and sacrifice everything to protect his people—until he falls for Yara. The tides turn as Yara fights to save herself, hundreds of sea creatures, and the merman who has her heart. She could lose her soul in the process—or she might open the gateway to a love that’s deeper than the oceans.


TANGLED TIDES on Amazon, Rhemalda Bookstore, B&N, Goodreads.

Congratulations, Karen!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kissed by honu

When I learned that Karen Amanda Hooper was kissed by a sea turtle in Hawaii, I thought, "Well, of course. That is the natural order of things."
(picture source)

Karen's blog is one of my favorites--personable, fun, heartfelt. Lately, it's filled with all things mermaid with the upcoming release of her debut, TANGLED TIDES.

On Black Friday, she's doing a blogsplash, which I will participate in, but this is a pre-interview that I hope you'll enjoy. And be sure to come back Friday to join the fun.

Q: This being National Novel Writing Month, I believe you started a mermaid novel during that event a couple of years ago. Did that grow into Tangled Tides? Can you briefly describe how the story evolved?

Karen: I actually started writing my mermaid story in September, but yes, I wrote a good portion of it during NaNo a couple years ago. I think I finished in early January and then edited and revised for a couple months before querying agents. When it received no offers of representation I shelved it for a year. This past summer Michelle Davidson Argyle suggested I send it to Rhemalda, and POOF! A few months later we're celebrating its release. Crazy but true.

Q: If magic happened and you turned into a mermaid, what would be the best thing about being a mermaid? The worst?

Karen: Well, my merfolk can control water, so I would have a lot of fun experimenting with that ability. However, my merfolk can't tell a lie. That doesn't sound too bad at first, but imagine not even being able to tell tell those healthy white lies. Like when a friend asks if you can tell that she gained twenty pounds and asks if she looks bad. Silence is your only kind option, and silence speaks volumes.

Q: How did you do research for the mythological creatures? Did you invent your own mythology, as well?

Karen: I've had a weird love for Medusa ever since I was a little kid and watched the original Clash of the Titans upmteen times. I already knew her story, but I played off of it and gave it my own twist. All the other mythology in my story revolved around how I imagined things could have been if Medusa and Poseidon were in love and ruling their own world.

Q: Are you a water pixie or land lover in real life? Did you make any excursions into the watery depths?

Karen: I'm a mix of sea, land and air. I love everything from snorkeling to hiking to jumping out of airplanes. My favorite watery depths story is when I was in Hawaii and had the incredible experience of swimming with dolphins and huge sea turtles--in the wild. Not in an aquarium, or touristy encounter where you pay to swim in a pool or something. I was swimming off the Kona coast one morning and spinner dolphins came out of nowhere and decided to jump and play all around us. Then, later, we came across about ten honu (Hawaiian sea turles) and one actually glided up the front of me and his nose touched my chin. I call it the day I was kissed by a honu.

Q: How does it feel having your creation come to life on the pages of a book? To reach that goal?

Karen: It's very surreal. Exciting, but surreal. This time last year I was brokenhearted about having to shelve Tangled Tides, and now it's out in the world as a real book! Heck, six months ago I had nothing but tons of agent rejection letters. Just goes to show that anything can happen in this business. Never give up on a project you love!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Signs of winter, sort of

When the earthmovers arrive by the Venice Beach pier and start building mountains of sand, winter is coming.

Every year, they do this to protect the low-lying residential and business properties from flooding when tides get high and waves get massive.

And every year, kids bring snow saucers or any flat object and slide downhill.

There's been a lot of pounding going on, as well, as they put sand fences up along the bike path to keep the whipping winter wind from acting like sandpaper to any creature passing by.


I found this darkly humorous--a tsunami warning sign perched atop a new mountain of sand.

This little wall of sand wouldn't do much good and it's a long way to higher ground on this stretch of coast. It's really rather sobering in light of the horrifying disaster in Japan. Mostly, I try not to think about that, but these signs are hard to ignore.


On a lighter note, a little haiku on a blustery day.


emerald-green wave,

white-ruffed, trailing a veil of

mist on its shoulder


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gayle Brandeis on expecting brilliance, NaNoWriMo, ebooks and more

My friend Gayle Brandeis began her novel-writing career with fireworks—she won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize in 2002 for THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS. Three more of her novels were traditionally published after that. Now Gayle is stepping into the self-published, ebook arena like many other authors.
I interview her here on why and how she chose that route for the sequel to Dead Birds, THE BOOK OF LIVE WIRES.
Before we start the Q&A, I want to share a sample of Gayle’s poetic, riveting style. Here’s the Live Wires opening:
It was the way she moved her arms. It was the way the four year old
moved her arms as he lifted his own arm to swing his axe. It was like they were dancing together, his arm, her arms, as he sliced through her mother’s stomach, her father’s chest. It was the way she moved her arms that convinced him to spare her.
They rose up from her shoulders like tendrils of smoke, like steam from a fresh wound. The tendons were so beautiful, streams running down her triceps, he almost cried. Her wrists turned as if oiled. Her fingers waved like wild grasses. He held his axe over his head and watched this girl’s blood-spattered arms undulate as she tossed her head back and screamed and screamed. He had never seen anything so lovely in his life. He lowered his axe, let it drop to the floor. He held out his hand.

You can currently order the ebook for $2.99 from Amazon or Smashwords. Here’s my interview with Gayle, in which she is simply awesome.

Me: When you wrote The Book of Dead Birds were you already imagining a sequel? How did The Book of Live Wires evolve? Is there a theme connecting the two?

Gayle: I definitely wasn’t envisioning a sequel as I wrote The Book of Dead Birds. The sequel came about through National Novel Writing Month in 2002. The Book of Dead Birds had won the Bellwether Prize earlier that year, judged by Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, and Maxine Hong Kingston, the three writers I most admire in the world, and while this was so deeply thrilling and affirming, I found I could no longer write. I suddenly felt as if those three amazing women were looking over my shoulder as I wrote, expecting brilliance, and I didn’t feel I could live up to those self-imposed expectations. When I heard about NaNoWriMo, I realized it could help me break through the creative blocks I had set up for myself--writing that quickly, there isn’t time to worry about whether you’re going to please your favorite writers.

I think I wrote a sequel that month because I had been curious about what my characters had been up to since I had finished the first book--I always had the sense that they were off living their lives, but I couldn’t access them until I started to write about them again. Live Wires is narrated by Darryl Sternberg, Ava’s love interest from Dead Birds and now her husband and the father of their baby. A couple of readers had told me that they couldn’t quite get a grasp on Darryl in the first book, that he seemed like too good a guy, and this was my opportunity to get under his skin more deeply. Just as Dead Birds alternates between Ava’s and her mother’s stories, this book alternates between Darryl’s and his grandmother’s stories (he is having her journals translated from Russian, French and Yiddish.) Along with characters in common, I’d say the theme that ties the two books together is the need to heal one’s past in order to move freely into the future.

Me: After four traditionally published novels why did you decide to e-publish The Book of Live Wires? Did other authors influence your decision?

Gayle: Over the years, I’ve mentioned the sequel at various book events, and readers have always been interested in the book, but I never thought I would share it--it was so hastily written, and I felt as if it was something that I had written for myself, not for a wider audience. After more people asked about it recently, though, I decided to revisit it and was surprised to find there was more life inside of it than I had imagined.

I decided to bring it out as an ebook because I want to embrace the shifting sands in the publishing industry rather than run away from them. I thought it would be fun to do an experiment with this book in particular because I have enough detachment from it, having written it so many years ago--it feels like I have nothing to lose.

A couple of writer friends have recently put out ebooks--Rebecca O’Connor’s Rise (a companion to her memoir, Lift) and Tod Goldberg, who released a short collection of stories. I had already thought about doing this experiment when I heard about their own, but watching them forge ahead into this new territory definitely inspired me on my own path.

Me: How do you feel about the rapid changes in publishing? Things that excite you or worry you?

Gayle: Change is both exciting and scary, and it has been a very conscious effort for me to shift my thinking to focus more on the excitement of this time of transition. How lucky we are to be able to watch history unfold, to be part of a changing landscape!

I won’t deny that I do worry about my ability to continue to make a living as a writer, however. My publisher had the right of first refusal on The Book of Live Wires, so my agent had to show it to them before I put it out as an ebook--it was a very funny feeling to be hoping for a rejection so I could move forward with my e-publishing experiment! I never imagined being in that position before. When the rejection did come, it was both better and worse than I could have imagined--the editor said that she loved the book and in a “kinder, gentler time” would have published it, but the larger editorial board wasn’t willing to take a risk on me because my earlier books don’t have the numbers they’re looking for. Of course now I worry that when I want to publish future books--and I do hope to continue to publish traditionally--publishers will turn me away because of my stubbornly midlist status.

It’s good to know that if need be, I can always take publishing into my own hands. I think that in many ways, this is a more empowering time for writers than ever.

Me: What was your experience with Smashwords? Any advice to other writers who are considering e-publishing? How many hats did you have to wear?

Gayle: I published with both Smashwords and Kindle--that seemed to be the way to reach the most varieties of ereaders. I am also working right now to get the book up on Google Books, because a large number of independent bookstores are now offering Google Books to customers through their brick and mortar stores, and I really do want to continue to support indies (that was one of the only things that made me hesitate about this experiment--I don’t want to contribute to the decline of beloved bookstores.)

This process has required the wearing of many hats--I think I have permanent hat hair from the constant shifting between being my own editor, proofreader, art department, typesetter, and tech person (although thankfully I have in house IT and graphic design backup from my husband Michael, and my friend Laraine Herring helped greatly with the editing). Smashwords offers a style guide to help with the formatting, but it can be a bit confusing anyway--I found this little video particularly helpful in clarifying some of the necessary formatting steps:

One other bit of advice--Flickr is your friend. There are lots of wonderful images that are available under creative commons that you can use for your book cover, and you can often negotiate with the artist to use an image when some rights are reserved (the photographer whose image I used just asked that I pay for a year of his professional flickr account, which was about $25.)

Me: How are you approaching marketing?

Gayle: I hired a professional publicist, just to get some extra muscle behind the book, and am excited by the potential contacts she’s making. I haven’t yet fully launched my own marketing campaign, but plan to use social media (Twitter and Facebook) along with emails to friends and family and colleagues, to get the word out. I’ll probably visit some other blogs, as well, and plan to write some essays connected with the book that will hopefully drum up interest.

I released the book when I did to celebrate National Novel Writing Month, and also the forthcoming 10th anniversary of the Bellwether Prize in January (when my friend Naomi Benaron’s amazing and much buzzed novel, Running the Rift, will be released. I helped her edit the book, and am hoping that our connection and this new ebook will keep my name alive in the Bellwether conversation.)

Me: What's next for you?

Gayle: I am in the throes of National Novel Writing Month right now, focusing on a YA novel that is currently making the rounds of publishers as a proposal (I had only written a couple of sample chapters). I am having so much fun fleshing out this idea that I’ve carried around in me for so long and am excited to try to blast out a draft in a month. I have a couple of other projects in the works--a new novel for adults and a memoir about my mom--but they are on the backburner while I give Seed Bombs my full attention.



By the way, Gayle has kindly stopped by in the past to answer questions posed in the comments. So if you want to ask something go ahead and she’ll answer if she can around her crazy-busy schedule.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fade to black and Open Office

My last few days have been tangled in a technology web of massive proportion (Hence the photo of a giant spider web in negative format, which I took a long time ago but seems appropriate today).

I'm certainly glad I didn't sign up for NaNo this year. I returned home from a day of family chores, fired up my desktop and found...a black screen.

I got help trying to reboot, save files, etc. The end result is most of my files were saved except for the latest version of my fairy tale novel, which was 70K. I think I may only have lost a few pages of the newest writing. I usually save to thumb drive every day but skipped one or two days, I think. Anyway, that's fixable because of the versions on the thumb drive. But the desktop needed a new hard drive and operating system. It doesn't want to accept my older Word, so I'm going to have to try to reach Microsoft service to see if it can be registered again. Otherwise, it was recommended that I try Open Office. So far, this free, downloadable, word-processor seems to open some of my documents but not all. I'm still experimenting with it.

Does anyone out there use Open Office? What is your experience with it and with sending documents out on submission?

Meanwhile, I have my handy laptop upon which I am typing this post. I have a new version of Word on it and may decide to switch to writing on it. I know, I know, I also need to put a backup on this and not just rely on thumb drives. Me and technology=chaos.