Friday, August 29, 2014

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: The Best Book I('m) Read(ing) in August

It's that time of the month again! Time for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse and my discussion about the best book I read in August.

Unfortunately, this was a bit of a dry month for me reading-wise. Between the book release and all that went along with that, my fantastic trip to California, and the untimely return of my job responsibilities (school is back in session), I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked.

I was going to talk about the book I'm currently reading. It's a scary one called The Silence by Sarah Rayne.



I really the concept of the book, which is a mixture of old letters offering clues as to what happened in this haunted house intermingled with the modern narration of those experiencing the house's terror. This book started out really strong, but it really lagged in the middle, and at the end it took off again. So I'm a bit "on the fence" about it.

Therefore, I've decided to talk about a craft book by James Scott Bell called Write Your Novel from the Middle.


This is a short, to-the-point book, and as a writer you can pick it up, read a little, and immediately come away from the page with usable information.

At first I was a little skeptical about this technique. As a writer, I usually begin with the first chapter and just keep forcing my way through the weeds and the swamps of writer's block and difficult stop/starts until I reach the end. James Scott Bell completely shakes up that technique suggesting that you start directly in the center of the book with the scene that forces the main character to examine their heart, motives, or situation. He provides examples of classic books like Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. If you turn to the exact center of the novels, you find the character in some kind of self examination or situation assessment. For example, in Gone with the Wind, the exact middle is Scarlett's great speech "I'll never go hungry again." She realizes that this war is nothing like she thought it would be, nothing has turned out the way she'd hoped, but she's the sort of person who will rise above, conquer, and survive.

I tried this little experiment myself. I turned to the middle of some classics I know and love--Rebecca, for instance. In the middle of this classic novel, the narrator realizes that Mrs. Danvers has completely sabotaged her costume for the ball, suggesting she wear a custom-made dress from the paintings in the hall. When Maxim de Winter's young wife does this, her husband and the other guests are shocked. She looks exactly like Rebecca. Instead of wowing the guests, the opposite effect occurs, and Mrs. Danvers is pleased as punch. The narrator realizes Danvers hates her and wants her to disappear as she can never replace Rebecca. (Here's the scene in the movie in case you want to view it).





I must confess that I'm not completely finished with the book yet, but I'm trying out the technique, and I have to admit that it's working really well for my current work-in-progress.

So it's not a fiction recommendation this month, but the writers in our midst may find this book useful and surprisingly original as a book of craft.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Heartbreak and the Book Tour Stop #4

Today's blog stop at Chick Lit Chickadees includes my guest post on heartbreak! Happy reading!

Check out link HERE.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Narrow Escape and Blog Stop #3

Just last week, I, my husband, and two friends of ours were toodling around Sonoma County, enjoying wine tastings, beautiful scenery, and fantastic, temperate weather.





We planned our stay right at the end of my summer vacation, so our flight left San Francisco Saturday afternoon. On the way to the airport, one of our friends made a joke about the contingency plan for earthquakes written in the hotel room's notebook.

"It says to get under a table and hold onto the legs," he laughed. "So, I guess I'll be under the table madly flipping through pages trying to figure out what to do during an earthquake."

We all laughed.

This spawned a conversation about the last earthquake in San Francisco when my husband still lived in the Bay area, the damage done, etc. In those moments, the thought actually crossed my mind:  wouldn't that be something if one were to happen while we're talking about it?

But our flight left that afternoon safely and without incident and we arrived home late that night.

Sunday morning the Napa earthquake hit. I couldn't believe it. It was surreal. I was thankful that we had escaped right before it hit. I was even more thankful that no one in the area died in the 6.1 quake.

Our friend who had traveled with us commented that "everyone in that area lives so precariously--never knowing when an earthquake might befall them." My husband, however, assured him that no one in San Francisco or the surrounding areas walked around fearing the next earthquake. They live their lives. And if one hits, they have preparedness plans in place.

It made me think about the fact that we all live somewhat "precariously." Earthquakes aren't the only disasters that befall areas, and we can't spend our days wondering what horrible things could happen and when. For those of us who trust in God, we turn to him, pray for safety, and leave it in his hands. All of us can take all kinds of safety measures (and should at times), but we can't see the future, and we can't really live out our lives if we're constantly fearing what terrible thing might happen next.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

Song from the Ashes book tour stop number 3 is today at Georgina Troy's blog! You can read the interview HERE.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Second Stop!

The second stop on the blog tour is a great review from Brook Cottage Books!

You can check it out by clicking on this LINK.




Monday, August 25, 2014

The First Blog Tour Begins!

My first blog tour for Song from the Ashes begins today hosted by Brook Cottage Books. The first stop is a fantastic review from Echoes in an Empty room! 

After that, be sure you travel over to Deal Sharing Aunt to enter the raffle for a $25 Amazon gift card giveaway!

I'll keep everyone posted on each day's blog visit (and whether it's a review, giveaway, guest post, or interview).

Thanks for following!



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Confessions of a Bear-Phobic


Everyone who knows me knows I love animals. I love all kinds of animals, including the dangerous ones in the wild. From the safety of my television screen or the cover of a National Geographic magazine, they’re beautiful creatures. There are no tigers in our neighborhood, no rhinos running through our backyard, so there’s no reason for me to fear them. The only real "semi-dangerous" wild animal I’ve encountered in our domestic life is probably a coyote—occasionally they enter suburbia—but they’re more of a threat to small animals than to people.

In the past few years, however, I have developed a strange fear of bears. While driving up to Great Meadow, Virginia a few years ago for a camping trip, my husband and I saw a big black bear poking his head out of the trees. That pretty much ended the fun part of the camping trip for me. Our small dog was with us, and along with my own personal safety, I was suddenly terrified for her welfare (even though we were camping with about five other couples who all had small children, and they didn’t seem at all worried). My husband assured me that spotting the bear was a fluke—no other bears would be around. Once we arrived at the camp ground, however, the sign posted on the ranger station read: Mama bear and her three cubs have been seen roaming these campgrounds. Be on alert. Please use bear boxes to lock up all food.


 

And that just about did it for me. I spent the rest of the day expecting to see a bear lumbering into our campground, and I couldn’t sleep that night for fear of a bear attack. We ended up only staying one night and left early the next day. A camper I am not.
So during our travels this past week in California, I once again experienced my fear of the almighty bear. While hiking in South Lake Tahoe, I asked my husband, “Are there any bears around here?”

 
“No,” he answered. “In all the years I’ve been coming up here, I’ve never seen a bear.”
The very next thing I saw was this:

 




Fun over.
But we had friends with us, so I pushed through the fear, hiking along the wooded paths and around the lake. We even rented some bicycles and rode through the woods (I figured at least I’d have a good chance of outrunning bears on a bike).





Just as I was beginning to relax and have a good time, we stopped at a look-out point and began chatting with a couple--there with their yellow lab. Somehow the conversation turned to bears and how Lake Tahoe was filled with them.
“The last six years they’ve been really active around here and in the residential areas,” the wife told us. And then they proceeded to relay a story about their house being repeatedly burglarized by bears that literally ripped the front door off the hinges, entered the house and made themselves at home (including raiding the refrigerator). “And then they just left again,” she assured us. “The bears were gone by the time we got home.”
To me, a bear home-invasion experience is much like people who hear voices in a house telling them to “get out!" A bear ripping the front door off of my home and entering it would have the same effect on me: a For Sale sign in the front yard.





So as we rode back to the camp ground to return our bikes, I felt newly assured that my fear of bears was completely justified.


 

What fears do you have?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some Upcoming Dates of Importance

Well, at least I think they're important! My blog tour through Pump Up Your Book is coming up September 2-26! See dates and venues below!


Divider 9PUYB Tour Schedule A
Divider 9
Tuesday, September 2
Interview at Examiner
Wednesday, September 3
Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Monday, September 8
Interview at The Writer’s Life
Tuesday, September 9
Book Feature at Bound 2 Escape
Wednesday, September 10
Book Review at A Simple Life, Really?
Thursday, September 11
Book Feature at Reading, Writing & Ruckus
Monday, September 15
Character Interview at The Literary Nook
Wednesday, September 17
Book Review at Undercover Book Reviews
Tuesday, September 23
Character guest post at Written Love
Wednesday, September 24
Book Review at Seasons of Opportunities
Thursday, September 25
Book Review at Books, Reviews, ETC
Friday, September 26
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Monday, August 18, 2014

Song from the Ashes featured!

I am humbled and touched by this beautiful tribute to Song from the Ashes on my friend's blog. Lisa and I have been friends for twenty years, and it was her little girl, Lilly, who inspired the character of Carys in my novel.

In her post, she highlights our friendship (including some wonderful photos from our twenties, the themed dinners we used to cook, and our travels in London), as well as a moving review of the novel.

Go to:

http://pray4lilly.blogspot.com



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Review!

The first review of Song from the Ashes came up this morning on Amazon, and it was a 5 star review!

Song from the Ashes

There's also a 4/5 star review at Barnes and Noble, so I'm excited about both of these!

I really appreciate those who take the time to review the book after reading it, as I know I sometimes agonize over writing reviews when I finish a book. If I loved the book, I want my words to properly convey how good I thought it was, but if the book was just okay (I won't write a review on a book I didn't like), I want to be honest, but I don't want to hurt an author's feelings (since I know what that feels like). But at the end of the day, I know I really want HONEST reviews. Otherwise--what's the point, really? Anyone can say a book is good.

For me, I think I'm a little more hardened to reviews or bad critiques, rejections, etc. due to 5 years in George Mason's MFA in Creative Writing program. Every course in the program involved having our writing workshopped (or workshopping others), and from that experience I've grown a thicker skin.

Even so, it's great to get a review that validates your work.

 “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. --John 9:24


Friday, August 8, 2014

Haints, Bogles, and Boogers


My current work in progress is slated to be a little on the scary side. It’s a contemporary Gothic novel set in Virginia wine country. The story is narrated by Chassie, a woman who lived much of her young life in a cult, and now, newly married to vineyard owner, Nicholas Dunraven, she is experiencing all sorts of strange people and phenomena at the Dunraven Estates.  Terrifying events unfold both inside and outside the house as Chassie discovers her husband’s past with a wife who was involved with witchcraft and strange occult groups, and who mysteriously disappeared four years earlier.

When I was a little girl, I remember my grandmother telling me, “Never play with a Ouija board or mess around with séances or anything like that. You never know what kind of demonic entities you might invite in—even if you’re playing around"). My faith in Jesus was always important to me, so I heeded her warning and never messed with that stuff. Having said that, I’ve experienced a couple of paranormal events in my life (once in an old house in southern Virginia where I was visiting people for Thanksgiving and once in the underground catacombs in Edinburgh, Scotland). Both were sufficiently scary, but I’ve never (thank the Lord) experienced an all-out home invasion like the people I see on several television series, such as A Haunting, My Haunted House, My Ghost Story, etc.
 

Some of these people’s lives have been completely turned upside down and/or ruined by these “hauntings.” When interviewed, the victims tell of objects moving by themselves, black masses shooting across their living rooms, scratches received during the night, and even people in the house being possessed by the entities. Some of these accounts end with folks calling in paranormal investigators and/or Catholic priests resulting in house “cleansings”, exorcisms, or abandonment of their home (sometimes resulting in the loss of a lot of money).


 

In watching and reading these accounts, however, I notice there are always similar modes of attack. For instance, victims often receive scratches for which they can’t account, doors open and shut by themselves, and sometimes there is a putrid smell in the house.
Various networks such as Lifetime, Bio, and Destination America run such shows, and viewers seem to gravitate toward them, leading me to believe that there may be more people experiencing paranormal phenomena these days, or that folks are just searching for what happens to the spirit after life. I suppose this is also why paranormal literature is flying off the shelves, including true accounts of house hauntings and possessions.

I know these horrifying events happen to people, so my question is—have you ever experienced or known anyone who’s had a paranormal experience?



"Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." (NIV- Revelation 12:12)



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Unhappily Ever After?

I’ll readily admit it. I’m one of those people. Occasionally, I like to read a book that has an unhappy ending. Actually, more than occasionally. I often like books with unhappy endings.

Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy a happy ending as much as the next person, as long as it’s not cheesy or silly or completely unrealistic. For example, I love the end of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and other Victorian novels. I smile when I close the book at the end of some modern novels, knowing that the guy and the girl got together in the end, the dragon was slain, the illness was cured, and all the wayward child returned home. Those endings have their place. But I really love a book that ends with a sob or a sigh, or even those books that make me think about the world at large and its injustices.



I think the reason I feel this is way is because life is often sad and things don’t always go the way we hope. C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we’re not alone.” With this in mind, I like finding characters with whom I can identify.

So I decided to highlight some of those books I’ve read with satisfyingly unhappy endings (without giving away the ending of course).

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The book and the movie (starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson) came out in the 90s, and honestly, it is one of my absolute favorites. Mainly the story is about Stevens the butler as he looks back over his life and his unrelenting loyalty to his employer. There is a love story in the mix and a historical nod to pre-World War II and the beginnings of the holocaust. It is a story I could read and watch over and over again simply because of its raw, yet reserved emotion, and the depiction of realization and regret.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

I know I’ve mentioned this novel before, and I’m mentioning it again because it really is one of my favorites. The writing is masterful and the story is just so very real. Set in the 1950s, the novel is a close look into the lives of the Wheelers—a married couple trying to break out of the traditional societal mold. Before they married and had children, they were sure they were destined for greatness, but now reality sets in and so does the feeling of entrapment. This is not a vulgar novel, but it is gritty and honest and addresses the realities of marriage and domestic life without any sugar-coating.

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh


This is a fascinating tale of one man and his three wives (and the novel is broken up into three parts--each part the point of view of each of his wives). In the first chapter we learn of Mr. Kimble’s death, and then we learn of what life was like with him through the perspective of his wives and how he basically destroys them. It’s kind of like watching a Lifetime movie, and although it’s sad, the ending is wholly satisfying.

 And as a bonus, here’s one I haven’t read yet, but everyone is loving it right now , and I’m told the ending is “devastating.”



So which do you prefer? A happy or a sad ending?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Song from the Ashes Release Day!



At long last Song from the Ashes is available for purchase!

You can purchase the Kindle version through Amazon (paperback version isn't available just yet, but coming in a few days), or you can buy the paperback or ebook directly through eLectio Publishing. If you buy the paperback through the publisher, you'll receive an ebook for free.




The link to Barnes and Noble for the Nook is also available. The paperback will be available through B&N soon.

If you enjoy Song from the Ashes, please consider leaving an honest review at Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble.



The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (Psalm 28:7)