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Buy: Sloane Wolf by Margay; Nora's Soul by Margay; Pandora's Box by Gracen; Hell's Phoenix by Gracen

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wistful Wednesday

Centerpieces by Penelope Przekop:
Review and Giveaway

When I first decided to read this book, I did so based upon the fact that it had an interesting premise, a unique story to tell. That is one of the main criteria I use for picking many of the books I decide to read. It has to engage me in some way. Since I love art and history, I thought it was intriguing that the author chose to interweave the life of van Gogh with those of modern characters, namely Ellis and Tom Spencer, Holly Carter, who all work for a pharmaceutical company, and the mysterious Mimi, who owns a bizarre bookstore and thinks she's a vampire. So now we have an interesting premise, a mix of time, art and history, and some quirky characters. So far so good.

As I delved further into the story of these characters and how they connect with van Gogh, I couldn't help but to think, on many occasions, that this was the type of book Oprah would have loved to pick for her book club. I've read some of Oprah's picks and she has an affinity for the literary, the unusual, and the complex stories of complex people. Although this is a slim book, a mere 175 pages, it is filled to brimming with all the above. At times, I found myself wondering if I could finish this book (the same reaction I had with the Oprah picks, which is why I thought she'd love this book) because I sometimes couldn't make sense of what was going on. But I kept on reading because I wanted to discover how all of these characters tied into the story of van Gogh and his sad life and death. I'm glad I did because, in the end, it was a satisfying book that left no loose ends and delivered on its promise to the reader.

Miss Przekop is a skilled writer who knows her way around a piece of art, a complicated history and intriguing characters. Yes, she might have had me wondering if I would ever understand what was going on, at times, but that is the beauty of the story. It might confuse you at one point, but it delivers a satisfying conclusion at another. There are twists and plot devices that I wasn't expecting, but they only enhanced the story. All in all, a very satisfying read So if you like reading about the art world with a twist of the supernatural, you will enjoy this book.

Want a chance to win this book? Just leave a comment and you're in! Winner will be chosen by
(Review copy provided by author)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Supernatural Sunday

Please help me welcome a special guest in the Moonlight today, Laura Bickle, author of Ember and Sparks!

Growing a Story

by Laura Bickle

Growing a story is a lot like nurturing flowers. It takes a lot of care and patience. For a long while, it seems like nothing is happening. It's a lot of frustration with no immediate reward. Watching, waiting.

And then, one day...something blooms.

For me, a book begins with a kernel of an idea, like a tiny, withered bulb. It doesn't look like much of anything at the idea stage. I scribble the shriveled idea down in a journal, giving it plenty of white space to grow. I check up on it every so often, revisiting it to water with additional thoughts.  A story is very much a "What if ?" question at this point. "What if a fire elemental belonged to an arson investigator?" "What if the descendents of the Oracle of Delphi survived into the modern day?" "What if a criminal profiler secretly used Tarot cards to solve crimes?"

At this stage, the project could grow or go into hibernation. I'm not sure. It's very much like the bulbs I buy every so often from the hardware store. Sometimes, they sprout. Other times, they're musty or moldy. And there is no hope for a moldy idea.

If the bulb sprouts, I know that I can go forward with the idea. When does that happen? Usually, when  I can't get the idea out of my head. It's not only taking up space in a journal, but it's also sprouting roots in my subconscious. I start thinking about characters, outlining the structure of a story. I dream about the world. The idea begins to take the form of what could be. At this point, I'll clearly know of who the main character is and the challenge she faces.

As the bulb reaches roots into the soil and reaches up into the sky, I wonder about what kind of flower it will be. This is the equivalent of browsing pictures of perfect irises or seed catalogs. I wonder what color the flower will be or what species it is. Have I got a tiger lily or an iris? What genre is it? Is it fantasy? Urban fantasy? Will it be contemporary or historical? Dystopian? Or something else entirely? As I'm outlining, I try to nail down the genre, guess at what to expect. I'm not always successful, and there are always surprises. For example, I wrote a book with the intent that it was to be a contemporary fantasy...but it came out as a young adult story.

And there are some things that I can't anticipate until the story blooms. I won't know which way the stem will lean, how many leaves will sprout. I have the structure, the stem straining toward the light. But each blossom and leaf unfurls into something new.

At this stage, I can't neglect the work. It needs light and water on a daily basis. We all know what happens to houseplants that we forget. They wilt. Sometimes, they can be revived with water. But sometimes, they die as a result of neglect. When the plant is growing, I'm watching it like a hawk, weeding out bad ideas, and adding a bit more to it every day. I'm worming around in the roots, feeling the nourishment of the earth on the idea.

And that's where daily writing comes in. Plant growth, like daily writing, is often imperceptible. But looking at how much a plant grows from week to week, month to month...only over longer periods of time can one see the growth.

And one day...there's a book. It's unexpectedly blooming on my desk in all it's happy glory. It still needs care: editing of brown leaves, some pruning, a bit of plant food to plump up the anemic parts. But it's come forth into the world, almost of its own volition. It has a life of its own.

It's not a dramatic process for me. It's slow. It can take a season or more to coax a plant to bloom. It's not always successful. Some die before they reach the light.

But when an idea thrives, the results are worth it.

Other Stops on Laura's Blog Tour:

August 8 Guest Spot Laura Bickle

August 11 Alayna Williams Guest Blog
August 23 Guest Blog

9/13/2011 Alayna Williams Guest Blog
September 21 Alayna Williams Interview
Sizzling Hot Books

9/27/11 Laura Bickel interview
10/04/2011 Novel Sneak Peak and one print set giveaway of both Embers and Sparks

Places to find Laura:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wistful Wednesday

Writing to Trends

There are a lot of interesting things out there to write about and when several writers inadvertently write about the same thing at the same time, it becomes a trend. And when other writers jump on the band wagon and start writing about those same things, they are writing to trend. Some examples are vampires, werewolves and now, angels. Fortunately, the interpretations of these subjects are as abundant and individual as those who write about them, so each story is unique and new. Despite this fact - or maybe because of it - there's no shortage of opinions on the practice of writing to trend.

In one camp, there are those who are highly against it, and they have varying opinions on why, not the least of which is the fear that the market will be glutted with poor imitations of more successful works. In the other camp, there are those who see nothing wrong with the practice and who whole-heartedly embrace it. I'm kind of middle of the road on it. I don't fault those who follow the trend and I don't begrudge the opinions of those who are against it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that shouldn't effect how others act. What matters most is how those individuals feel about what they are doing. As long as they're not plagiarizing other works, there is nothing wrong with following a trend.

Personally, I wouldn't follow a trend unless the subject really spoke to me. Vampires - fun to read about, but I haven't come up with a story of my own I'd want to write about. Dragons? Not my thing. Fairies? Possibly...

Then there are werewolves - here, the lines get a little murky because I do have a book coming out in the fall that deals with humans who shift into wolves, but I wouldn't call them werewolves, at least not in the typical sense. There is no painful metamorphosis with my characters, they shift seamlessly from one form to another and its more of a spiritual, shaman-like (appropriate since their Native Americans) transformation.

And last, there are angels. Angels are huge right now. It seems that everyone is writing about them. There is even talk around the blogosphere that they may be the new vampires. My first book, Nora's Soul, is about angels, and I have a whole series planned around it, the next of which is in the publishing process now. Some might accuse me of following a trend, but the truth is that I've been writing about angels for many years. Although published in 2008, I actually began writing Nora's Soul many years before (I won't say how many!) and I plotted out much of the series long before other books about angels even hit the shelves. I just haven't had as much exposure for my book as others have because I didn't have a marketing team or big publishing house behind me. So I could argue the point that I set the trend - but I won't. That's not the point of this post.

So what are your thoughts on writing to trend? Are you for it, against it? Do you think it has an adverse effect on writing in general? I'd love to see what you have to say on the subject.