Ka-BOOM!!!!!

Neuremberg house clipMy kids blew up my house. It’s the only explanation for its current state of… post nuclear devastation.

Kidding. Sort of.

Did you ever go through a time where you carefully crafted plans, made promises and held yourself to high standards and then suddenly, the whole structure gave way? I bet you have, and on more than one occasion. After all, we really can’t control anything but our own attitudes when life doesn’t go as we expect.

I believe God gives us trials so that we learn to rely on Him and not on ourselves. And oh boy, I’ve been reminding myself of that a lot. And you know what? I can keep up with a lot of responsibilities when the structure provided by a domestic routine holds. But throw a few caltrops in the road, and the whole household machine wobbles toward the ditch.

The Roman Society: Caltrops

The Roman Society: Caltrops

November has been one of those months where there has been one caltrop in front of another. And these unwelcome experiences do pass. Seriously. Nothing bad lasts forever, providing we don’t dwell on it.

 

 

 

 

This month at our house, we’ve had:

  1. A small bathroom repair turn into a major renovation. That means the six of us have only had one functional bathroom for a month and our Christmas budget is shot;
  2. An injury to a child caused by a brand new, defective appliance;
  3. A seriously awful reaction to a prescription drug;
  4. This blog fell victim to a spammer.
  5. A broken dishwasher, oven, bread machine, TV and washing machine;
  6. We’ve been waiting for months for contractors to put in a basement egress window and now we have this snow;
  7. A scare with Techwiz’s heart; and
  8. The flu.

Know what? We’ve made it through so far, even though there have been tempers and tears at times. My Christmas shopping is almost complete and I have everything on the kids’ wish lists. And during all this? I did NaNoWriMo. See that little button over there on the right of my pages? I wrote 50, 211 words of my new manuscript in 30 days. While I’m wondering how the heck I managed it, you might be wondering why I tried.

 

2013-Winner-Vertical-Banner NaNo

Way back around the middle of October, before life got overwhelming, I considered whether I wanted to sign up for NaNo. Last year, all my friends did and while they got a nifty certificate and 50K+ of a new OF to show for it, I chose to NOT join and work on my manuscript. And while they got their ‘wins’, I ended up writing 33K anyway. So, I thought, why not? Why not see if I can keep up the pace of a professional writer, while looking after a household during what is normally our busiest time of year?

So, I signed up, and everything went swimmingly at first. I was always ahead of schedule and according to the statistics analyzer, likely to finish on November 20th. And then, Real Life happened. And I got through NaNo, but barely finished today. So what have I learned that might benefit you when your life gets overwhelming? A few things.

People have always asked me, “What advice would you give an aspiring writer?” and I’ve only been able to quote others. Well, now I know exactly what to tell them. And it’s obvious to state, and really difficult to do: Exercise self-discipline.

That’s not only true of a writing career. It’s essential to any sort of success in life.

Being an author, while being part of a family or any other network, requires one to achieve some sort of balance. Now, I’m not saying that my life is in good balance, because it isn’t. But I’m not dying of anxiety, depression or frustration and nobody’s died due to my negligence. And the reason it’s all not thoroughly shot is, instead of trying to devour a whole elephant-sized mess of challenges at once, I take one bite of the elephant. And eventually, the challenges get down to manageable sizes.

It’s easy as an author (or anyone who works from home) to procrastinate. Some people even resort to putting applications on their Internet-accessible devices that block them from going online. I just stick to structure as much as possible. This is pretty much how a weekday is supposed to go (not that it always does):

  • 7AM: Morning ablutions. Stick on a load of laundry.
  • 7:10AM: Wake Painterjoy. Let the dogs out.
  • 7:25AM: Wake Techwiz. Get my coffee.
  • 7:30AM: Read my short devotional and pray.
  • 7:50AM: See my high schoolers out the door and wake my public schoolers.
  • 8:00AM-9:00AM: Do dishes and tidy up.
  • 8:50AM: All kids had better be off to school!
  • 9:00AM: Breakfast and read a book.
  • 9:30AM: Make any essential phone call(s). If there are none, possibly call a friend.
  • 10:00-11:30AM: Answer emails. Change the wash loads.
  • 11:30AM-1:00PM: Spend time with the kids while they eat lunch.
  • 1:00PM-3PM: Write.
  • 2:30PM: Check for any urgent emails.
  • 3:00PM-4:00PM: Hear about the kids’ days.
  • 4:00-5:00PM: House chores and tidy up.
  • 5:00-6:00PM: Dinner and hear about Hubbs’ day at work.
  • 6:00-8:00PM: Variable: Errands/Walk dogs/House chores/Socialize with Hubbs/Help with reno jobs/Spend time with kids (homework help, 1:1 time, deal with anything urgent).
  • 8:00PM: Kick out all visiting friends of kids. Hubbs to bed.
  • 8:00-9:30PM: Write. Prep blog posts, write reviews. Face and Twitter time.
  • 9:00PM: Tell kids to prep for bed (snacks, grooming, etc).
  • 9:30PM: Younger kids to bed.
  • 11:00PM: Older kids to bed.
  • 11:00PM-?: Write and/or read.
  • 1:00AM: Iron-clad bedtime.

Somewhere in there, I’m supposed to maintain a relationship with my husband and occasionally socialize with friends. And I had occasion to count how many times I took the kids to doctors’ appointments this year. This Friday, I took a kid to appointment #98. We have 4 more scheduled before December 31st. As I can’t drive with vertigo, getting places can be a pain.

I learn everything the hard way and life tends to be a juggling act. So, what can I tell you about being productive?

  1. Know thyself and know thy limits. Sometimes, you MUST say ‘no’ to others, but occasionally the thing you need to say ‘no’ to is something selfish;
  2. Take care of your physical, spiritual and emotional health;
  3. Schedule your time, including time for your family;
  4. Break with routine sometimes to have some spontaneous fun;
  5. Do what you love;
  6. Treat people the way you wish to be treated;
  7. Be passionate;
  8. Persevere when you fail;
  9. Be a friend;
  10. Forgive yourself and others;
  11. Apologize;
  12. When something’s gotta give, go with the flow.

 

So, I conquered NaNo. Will I do it again? Maybe. I made really good progress on Mommapocalypse. What’s next? I’m prepping for Christmas and querying Moms on Missions. And I need to get some fan fiction chapters out to my fans, because they’re amazingly patient and I love them. There will be OF writing because I have to keep momentum. I’m hoping to circle with my friends who write because we’ve all been hiding under rocks. Then, there’s the blog.

 

Will I reach all my goals by New Years? Probably not. Will I reach them eventually? I have faith that I will. And my biggest tool will be self-discipline. What are your challenges?

As I mentioned, I fell victim to a spammer who managed to serve my blog over 10, 000 comments this month. If you left me a legitimate comment and it’s not up, I’ve likely erased it accidentally. If you love me, please leave me a comment and let me know you’re reading, and to guarantee that I know you’re not a spambot (because the devils are tricky and hard to tell from real readers), please start your comment off with my name.

 

Hey, I’m sleep deprived and I’ve had no social life for a month. Let me know you’re there?

Happy End of November!

 

Sylvain Reynard Shares His New Projects

Gabriel's Redemption cover smallThe following is an announcement from Sylvain Reynard. The third novel in his series, Gabriel’s Redemption, is now available for pre-order (*squee*) and I’ll be kicking off the blog tour with a review (on my site) on December 3rd, Release Day. Without further ado:

Dear Everyone,

 

Back in September, I wrote a post in which I mentioned my next novel. I’m pleased to be able to give you more information now.

 

My next novel is the first in a new series, and it will be entitled The Raven.  With this novel, I’m asking you to pack your bags and travel with me to the city of Florence. The Gabriel Series showed you the city during the day.  This time, I’ll show you Florence’s underworld, which is ruled by creatures of the night …

 

Here’s the formal announcement:

 

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel Series comes a dark, sensual tale of romance in a city shrouded in mystery…

 

 

Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery restoring fine works of Renaissance art.  But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley.  Raven is only semi-conscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attacker’s screams.  Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her …

 

Cassita vulneratus.

 

When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed.  She returns to the Uffizi, but no one recognizes her and more disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week.  With no recollection of the events leading up to her disappearance, Raven also learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history – the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the baffled police force identifies her as its prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth about her disappearance.   Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets …

 

As I mentioned in my September post, readers of Gabriel’s Redemption will be able to read an excerpt from The Raven at the end of both the paperback and e-book editions.

 

But what I didn’t mention was that one of the characters of The Raven appears in Gabriel’s Redemption.  Can you identify him or her? I welcome your guesses in the comments below and on social media.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s a connection between The Gabriel Series and my new series – a connection that is more than simply me, or the city of Florence, or the Uffizi Gallery. If you’ve read the cover copy above carefully, probably you’re beginning to guess the answer. But I’ll be explicit and state that we won’t be saying goodbye to the Professor and Julianne at the end of Gabriel’s Redemption. Look for them to have cameo appearances in The Raven as well …

 

While I don’t have a release date for The Raven yet, I hope to have one soon. This novel marks my transition from a contemporary love story to a paranormal one. I hope you’ll join me on this journey and that if you have friends and family who enjoy paranormal novels, you’ll help me share the news with them.

 

As we approach the December 3rd release date of Gabriel’s Redemption in North America, my American publisher has listed a giveaway of the novel on Goodreads.  US entrants can enter the contest  here.

 

And if you’d like to read a new excerpt from Gabriel’s Redemption and enter another contest, you can do so here at Romance Times.

 

Finally, I want to wish everyone who is celebrating Thanksgiving this week a very happy holiday. I have much to be thankful for and in particular, I’m thankful for you, my readers.

 

All the best and thank you for your continued support,

SR

 

 

Guardians Blog Tour Interview: TM Franklin

 

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Ava’s life is . . . complicated.

After all, it’s not every day a girl learns she’s not entirely human, or unlocks hidden powers strong enough to make even the First Race sit up and take notice. After surviving an attempted kidnapping and standing up to the Race’s Ruling Council, Ava Michaels returns to college and what she hopes is a normal life. But Ava quickly realizes that for her, normal may not even exist anymore.

In fact, the Council wants her under their control, and they’re not the only ones. The mysterious Rogues have a plan of their own, and it turns out Ava’s a big part of it, whether she wants to be or not.

On top of that, her new relationship is tested in ways she never expected. Her boyfriend, Caleb Foster, has disappeared—accused of betraying the Race—and Ava herself stands implicated in a crime she didn’t commit.

Clearing their names will mean uncovering a web of deceit and intrigue with Ava woven right in the center. To unravel the strands, she joins forces with some unlikely allies; a Protector who once haunted her nightmares, a young girl with secrets as unexpected as Ava’s, and a group of rebel Guardians who have their own fight against the Council.

Together they stand in a battle to find the truth, bring Caleb home, and secure Ava’s freedom—not to mention save her life.

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TWCS Publishing House | |More Information | Goodreads

 

 Tami

About T.M. Franklin

T.M. Franklin started out her career writing non-fiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. After writing and unsuccessfully querying a novel that she now admits, “is not that great,” she decided to follow the advice of one of the agents who turned her down—write some more and get better at it. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days.

 

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Mike, is mom to two boys, Justin and Ryan, and has an enormous black dog named Rocky who’s always lying nearby while she’s writing. Whether he’s soothed by the clicking of the computer keys or just waiting for someone to rub his belly is up for debate.

 

In addition to MORE and The Guardians, Franklin penned the Amazon best-selling short story, Window, as well as another short story, A Piece of Cake, which appears in the Romantic Interludes anthology.

Connect with T.M. Franklin:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Interview:

 

I’ve been acquainted with T.M. for some years and have had the good fortune to spend time with her in my writers’ circles. She writes elegantly, with a sort of direct yet colourful prose that is very immediate to the reader (which is great for Young Adult fiction). The first two books in this trilogy are presently available and they would probably be my number one recommended gift for teens this holiday season.

 

Jess: Thanks for being with me today! I find that I have a zillion questions to ask you, but I don’t want to give too much away. Do you get frustrated when someone spoils the ending of something you’re reading?

Oh absolutely!! I hate to be spoiled. I’m definitely one of those fingers-in-the-ears-and-scream-la-la-la people when someone starts talking about the ending of a book I want to read.

Jess: What do you like to read?

I enjoy a variety of genres, depending on my mood. I do read a lot of YA, and I like a little bit of fantasy/paranormal, so I think that’s why I like to write it. I also love general romance, humor, adventure – anything with a good story.

Jess: I must start with something cheeky. LOL! Ava Michaels has a mom who would like to be planning her wedding ASAP. My own series features a group of matchmaking moms. Ava and my characters have a common feature: they really roll their eyes at the idea that marriage is the ultimate achievement in life, while (at the same time) pining for their soul mates. It’s a nice bit of irony. Would you like to expound on that?

Well, I don’t know that Ava’s pining exactly. She is young and in love, and that can kind of take over your world if you let it. At the same time, she has a lot of other things to deal with. I mean, all of these people want her and she’s accused of a crime she didn’t commit and she’s still trying to figure out how she fits into this strange, new world she’s discovered. On top of that, she’s only nineteen. So marriage is kind of on the back burner for now.

Jess: I always forget she’s still a teenager. She seems older. LOL! How does your newsroom background influence your writing style?

I think it affects it a lot. Writing news, you definitely develop a concise, conversational style. Everything is timed and we’re constantly trying to tighten up copy because the newscast is always running long. So, I tend to write in shorter sentences, without a lot of flowery words and descriptions. I write how I talk.

Jess: You started writing your debut novel, MORE, during NaNoWriMo. Did you also work on The Guardians as a November project?

I did work on it, but I didn’t get as much done last November, mainly because I was also promoting MORE at the time. The same thing is happening this year. I’m promoting The Guardians and attempting to write the third book in NaNo. I’m not doing so well, honestly. LoL!

Jess: I’m doing NaNo this year and achieving a word quota per day can be really tough. I wanted to do it, though, because professional authors tend to follow this kind of writing schedule. How much do you write a day, normally? And was NaNo tough for you?

The part of NaNo that was tough wasn’t so much the word count. It was the not going back to fix things. I had a constant desire to edit while I was writing, and NaNo is all about just letting it flow – getting that first draft written and then going back to edit and fix things later.

Jess: Ooh, that drives me nuts, too!

As for how much I write a day, it varies. Some days it might only be a couple hundred words. Others I might write two or three thousand, sometimes more. It just depends on what’s going on and what’s distracting me, and how the story’s flowing.

Jess: You work outside the home and have a family. What’s your normal writing routine like?

I don’t know that I have an actual routine. I write when I can – in between everything else and sometimes during! I write while I’m at work if it’s quiet, or waiting at the doctor’s office, that kind of thing. I write while my son’s doing his homework or while everyone else is watching TV. (I can’t listen to music while writing, but TV doesn’t distract me for some reason. Maybe because I grew so used to TV noise while working in a newsroom.)

Jess: R Cubes remind me of Jello vitamins, and they don’t sound very appealing. The Protectors use them a lot and they seem to be very practical people.  So if they need these R Cubes to sustain their strength after teleporting, why don’t they make them tastier? (Yeah, I’m a bit of a foodie!)

In my mind, there are a couple of reasons. First, the Protectors are tough. R-cubes are there to get the job done, and the Protectors don’t need a lot of fancy flavouring, because they’ve got other things to deal with. Boo-yah! Second, if they tasted good, you’d have kids chomping on them all the time, and that’s not what they’re for. Yes, they’re essential, but I think of them like our vitamins – you swallow them down and move on. They’re not there to be enjoyed.

 Jess: Self-sacrifice defines the Protectors’ relationships: duty before all. When they can’t follow their duty, they really suffer. If their soul mate’s ideals go contrary to their own, they choose ideals and duty over love. Was there a special source from which you drew this idea? 

Not a particular source, but the concept is one that I think is important and carries through all three books. What happens when what you’re raised to believe is challenged? Do you stick to what you know, or do you explore the possibility that there could be something else out there? In Caleb’s case, Ava leads him to question what his role is in the world, and he has to decide what’s right for him. We see another side of this in Tiernan’s backstory, and how that molded him into the person he is today. Ava, although not a Protector, deals with this issue as well. She learns the world is not what she thinks, and basically that everything she thought was true, isn’t. Does she have a destiny or does she have a choice? Does where she comes from define who she is? That’s an underlying theme through the whole trilogy.

 Jess: You do a lot of artwork including book covers, banners and book-themed jewelry. What draws you to this kind of artistic expression and how do you choose your materials?

I’m by no means a professional, but I started doing banners for friends a couple of years ago. I’m self-taught on Photoshop and have spent a lot of time combing forums and learning how to do things, although obviously, I still have a lot to learn. I find creating graphics to be kind of calming, actually. It’s creative, but in a different way from writing. It’s all visual, so there’s no searching for the right word or phrase. That part of my brain can take a break!

As for the jewelry, I haven’t done a lot, but that’s fun too. I’ve been hanging out a lot in the bead section at the craft store. There are so many cool kits and things to create your own charms and jewelry. I don’t see myself doing a lot of it, but it’s fun for giveaways to be able to make some one-of-a-kind pieces.

 Jess: Comic relief is important in this story. Early on, Ava displays a reluctance to introduce Caleb to her Uncle Bobby, who takes out his dentures to… ah… I’m not going to spoil it. Tell me how these quirky ideas manifest.

Oh, I have no idea. Lol! I have all kinds of weird things going on in my head.

Jess: Snort. Me, too. I guess we shouldn’t question the weirdness. 😉 Tiernan is way more than meets the eye. What can you tell us about him without giving too much away?

It was a lot of fun sharing more about Tiernan’s character in The Guardians. In MORE, we only got a few glimpses of him, and they were all kind of terrifying. But in the Guardians, we get to see a different side to his personality – including a rather wry sense of humor – and we find out a little about his past, and why he is the way he is. Developing his relationship with Ava was one of my favorite parts of writing The Guardians. They definitely get on each other’s nerves and push each other’s buttons, but they also grow to trust each other.

Jess: Why heterochromia (different coloured eyes)?

June's multi-colored eyes by Keith Kissel

June’s multi-colored eyes by Keith Kissel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted something to identify the Race, but that couldn’t be covered by the Veil. The HC also serves as an identifier of those who have no desire to “fit in” with the humans, so don’t use contacts – like Tiernan and the Rogues, for example.

Jess: Crystals and magic stones actually work in this universe and Ava has a special necklace which is on your cover: Azurite stimulates mental activity and Fluorite gives clarity and peace. I myself have a necklace which is supposed to stimulate creativity but I don’t wear it all the time because the maker claimed it would also make me irritable. I’m not sure it does anything! Birth stones are also based on this idea. Do you have a special piece of jewellery that you hope gives you an emotional or creative nudge?

I don’t. I definitely could use Ava’s necklace on occasion, though!

Jess: Star Trek or Star Wars?

swst2a

Ooohhh… I love them both, but I have to go Star Trek. Just because I found the second Star Wars trilogy so disappointing.

Jess: We were obviously separated at birth. I feel the same way. Love Spock! I digress… Psychic gifts can be used benevolently or malevolently. This book is a battlefield fought in minds. Each Race member has a gift: telekinesis, influence, manifestation or erasure of objects, the blurring or supplanting of memories, intuition, sensing… This is some pretty scary stuff when one considers that if your control over your own mind isn’t strong, you can be influenced, even to the degree of betraying your loyalties. Where did you get the inspiration for this?

If a hero has no weakness, he’s not much of a hero. Overcoming weakness is what makes us strong. I think that’s all I can say about that without giving too much away.

Jess: In effect, although Race members are physically strong, it’s the mind that ultimately matters. The physical playing field isn’t level, since some can teleport, for example, but ultimately it’s strength of mind that matters. Or should I say, “mind over matter”? LOL! How did this concept become intrinsic to the trilogy?

I’ve always had a soft spot for the smart heroes – the ones who use brain rather than brawn. I’ve also always been fascinated by those studies that say we only use a small percentage of our brain. It just opens up a world of possibilities – of potential – which is where the idea of the Race abilities came from in the first place.

Jess: Kewl. I really like it that the main characters in these books are ones I wouldn’t mind my teenagers idolizing. For a long time, it seemed like authors and filmmakers presented us with nothing but antiheroes. How important are heroes?

I think heroes are very important, and I’m not talking about perfect people or people who never make mistakes. I’m talking about people who do the best they can. People who take what comes at them and try to do the right thing. Maybe they’re right and maybe they’re not, but their motivation is pure. This, to me, is a true hero, and it’s something we all can be.

Jess: I ate up these books and then pouted for more. When is the last book going to come out?

I just got the release date – October 9, 2014.

 Jess:  Yay! Thank you for being with me today! I hope we get to WC again soon!!!

Me too – thanks so much for having me!

 

 

 

An Interview with Vera Nazarian

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   CobwebBride-smallCobweb Empire coverBuying links:

http://astore.amazon.com/veranazariafanta

Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble (NOOK)
Smashwords (various)
XinXii
Apple iTunes
Kobo
Sony

Vera Nazarian immigrated to the USA from the former USSR as a kid, sold her first story at the age of 17, and since then has published numerous works in anthologies and magazines, and has been translated into eight languages.

She is a two-time Nebula Award Nominee, an award-wining artist, member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the author of critically acclaimed novels Dreams of the Compass Rose, Lords of Rainbow, humorous parodies Mansfield Park and Mummies and more, in her Supernatural Jane Austen Series, and most recently, Cobweb Bride.

After many years in Los Angeles, Vera lives in a small town in Vermont, and uses her Armenian sense of humor and her Russian sense of suffering to bake conflicted pirozhki and make art.

 Vera Nazarianhttp://veranazarian.com

 

Interview:

Vera Nazarian, as a writer, builds worlds much as CS Lewis, Tolkien and LeGuin have done. Cobweb Bride and Cobweb Empire are so well-drawn that I can see them play like a movie in my head. These stories are a new take on the Persephone myth, with a European flair and not a small dose of wit. I feel very fortunate to be able to pick Vera’s brain today. Trust me, there are many more questions I’d like her to answer, but I’m not going to ruin the books for you!

 

Jess: The first thing we see is the map. Did you make it yourself?

First of all, Jess, thanks so much for the fun interview questions, and it’s a pleasure to be here! Yes, the map is my own artwork, and there are two versions of it, slightly different, in books one and two, which you can see here on the Cobweb Bride official website, side-by-side.

In addition to being a writer, I am also an award-wining artist. I work in oil on canvas, pen and pencil, colored pencil, and a variety of other physical world media including sculpture, dollmaking and other crafts. I also do software graphic design, including most of my own book covers. Also, I self-illustrate the interior of many of my books, including the Supernatural Jane Austen Series. (Interior pen and ink, sample illo #1, illo #2, illo #3, illo#4.)

Some of my oil-on-canvas artwork can be seen here:

http://www.sff.net/people/vera.nazarian/museum.htp

 

Jess: You made the covers? *faints* They’re gorgeous. Are you always such a visual thinker?

I think it comes with the territory of being an artist, which you can understand, being an artist yourself. Unless I see the scene and the characters I am creating, I don’t feel grounded in the material I am writing, so I tend to write with flourishes and verbal color, in order to paint the images before your mind’s eye. Things and people visually come alive before they start to live and breathe.

Jess: That’s true, although I’m a dabbler compared to you. I see my characters and frequently their mannerisms tell me who they are. And your characters have a very European feel. Why did you decide to invent an alternate Renaissance-era country instead of using an existing one?

Believe it or not, the answer to this question requires for me to enter major spoiler territory for the whole Cobweb Bride trilogy. The Realm and the Domain and all the lesser kingdoms they contain are tied very closely to the heart of the story. So I am going to suggest that the readers ask me this question again, after they’ve read all three of the books. Yes, I know, sneaky and tantalizing as this may be, it’s all I can say!

Jess: LOL! Well, I like being kept on my toes. The body of your published work seems quite variegated; you don’t stick to one genre (except that I notice you like to meld a pair of genres together, such as fairy tale and dystopia in this case, and romance, parody and the paranormal in others). Has this affected your choice of publishing method?

I tend to write literature of the fantastic, or what I call wonder fiction. This includes speculative fiction, fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, alternate historical milieus, and anything that piques the imagination. For the most part this means that I write what I want as long as it serves the story that begs to be told. Usually I like to wrap our ordinary world and our normal mundane reality into magic, wonder and metaphor. That can mean supernatural elements and whole other worlds created from scratch, mythical, legendary, and mind-blowing.

In my first novel Dreams of the Compass Rose, in the arabesque vein of The One Thousand and One Nights, I created an ancient world with its own unique mythology. In my novel Lords of Rainbow, I created a world without color. In my Supernatural Jane Austen Series I’ve blended history, wit, humor, and satire with outrageous supernatural elements. Because so many things I write are cross-genre and hard to place in a usual marketing category, I find that they really lend themselves to self-publishing. For the same reason, much of my traditionally published work is less of a “weird genre blend” and more clearly categorized as fantasy or science fiction or other delineated genre.

Jess: You were first published over twenty years ago. How has the industry changed, in your estimation?

Oh, yes, the difference is immense. Back when I made my first sale as a high school kid some time in 1984—it was a fantasy short story to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s second volume of the anthology Sword and Sorceress, and the book itself came out in 1985—back in those days there was the traditional marketplace, and self-publishing carried a huge stigma of “lesser quality.” If you were a “real” writer, you wrote and submitted your work to magazines, anthologies, and major publishers or collegiate small presses and literary houses, to be published in tangible paper print, hardcover trade paperback, or mass-market paperback. And that was it.

Now, fast-forward to 2013, and ebooks have arrived, everyone is either a hybrid author (both traditionally and self-published) such as myself, or an Indie (self published or independent). The meanings of these terms are very much in flux even now, and almost no one is strictly one thing or the other, because of the advent of digital publishing and the rise of Amazon. Indeed, Amazon single-handedly changed the face of publishing by levelling the playing field for all writers and providing a publishing platform that allows authors to bypass the third party middleman gatekeeper (agent, publisher) and release their work directly to the readers. This resulted in a kind of new Golden Age of Publishing in general, and specifically, the Golden Age of Self Publishing. In many ways this also resulted in a glut of material being published, both good and bad, from trashy to sublime. But the exciting thing is, now the good, truly original stuff is no longer languishing for decades on author laptops but is out there and can be found, if you take the time to look for it!

Image courtesy of khunaspix at freedigitalphoto.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix at freedigitalphoto.net

Jess: It’s certainly a fascinating time in which to write. How do you come up with names?

I think names are hugely important. As a speaker of many languages (Russian and Armenian native speaker, plus studied English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and German), I have a deep and profound awareness and respect for roots of words and their origins, and also for the sound and cadence of each name as it is uttered in its native language. I sound names out, dip into my own well of experience with world literature and cultural history, and come up with names that sound right for characters to whom they belong, and properly reflect the time period. In the Cobweb Bride books, the names are a combination of Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian) and some German.

Jess: What intrigues you about this myth? In the original, Persephone’s the daughter of Zeus, abducted by his brother (her uncle) Hades, who wants her for his bride and takes her by force. After some scrapping within the family (none of whose members act very maturely), Hades offers Persephone some power and she is ‘overjoyed’ to accept her place as his wife. You don’t draw from this arc, but from the Demeter arc. The original myth exists in order to logically explain the existence of winter. You’ve turned that on its side and Death now is on strike, so nothing expires, including plants. Eventually, if Death doesn’t get his way, every living thing on Earth is going to starve and end up undead. So, how did your story evolve away from the original myth?

Without getting into more unavoidable spoilers here, let me just answer this one also with a “wait and see!” Because, believe it or not, this is the original myth, just very intricately presented and cleverly disguised in a Renaissance metaphor. It has been also mixed together with the trope of death taking a holiday.

Jess: Of course, as a fairy tale (dark and geared at adults as it may be), this is still a morality tale. Funny, how the living are now less vulnerable to permanent harm than are the undead. Wonderful irony. How did you come up with this idea in connection with the goddess Persephone?

The idea of death stopping has been done before, in fiction and the media, but here I wanted to explore it from the somewhat new angle of it being a curse instead of a blessing. Also, to take it all the way to its logical conclusion—if death stops, or rather, if the entire life process itself is set to “pause,” what exactly does it mean to all living things? Plants, insects, microbes, animals, and human beings? Indeed, the pause button has been pushed on evolution and all physical processes of life, including decay, the dissolution of living cells during the process of cooking, aging and growth of plants and living matter, and also, believe it or not… cell level reproduction. That’s why there can be no more new live food added to the food supply, because no new life can be created. And that’s a scary thought for the world indeed.

How does all this fit with Persephone? Why, it’s at the core of her divine function. Persephone is Life and Death. She is Spring emerging out of Winter, the source of new life. And without creating any more spoilers, she is what makes the sequence of life and death happen. Just think about it.

Public Domain. Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_L’enlèvement_de_Proserpine.jpg

Public Domain. Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_L’enlèvement_de_Proserpine.jpg

 

Jess: You have a huge cast of characters. Who appeared in your head first (other than Percy, obviously)?

The weird thing about historical epic fantasy such as this is that characters emerge when needed, organically growing one out of the other, from the time period, and out of the need for plot movement and the growth of story.

Some characters came to me earlier than others. First there was Death himself, grim, foreboding and beautiful. I think I saw Percy and Claere next, then their male romantic counterparts, Duke Hoarfrost, and then others, all falling in place like dominoes.

I added more new characters in book two, Cobweb Empire, and there will even be a few new ones in book three, Cobweb Forest. But they are an ensemble team, all working together, unlike other more streamlined types of stories. It was suggested that I should have a list of characters and a name pronunciation key included in every volume of this book, and I am glad to provide it.

Jess: Percy’s mother lashes out at her in her grief. Would you care to expound on that or is it giving too much away?

It is an important question, but some of it is very much a psychological exploration of the story resolution, so I cannot give too much away, except invite you to consider the relationship between the goddesses Demeter and Persephone, and watch for some parallels. Niobea and Percy have things to work out.

Jess: The Infanta and Vlau’s connection is extremely complex and interesting. I like them a lot. How did you develop these characters?

I have two major romantic couples in the story, Percy and Beltain and then Claere and Vlau. To me they represent two kinds of love—the more conventional kind that has a basis in joy and the crazy kind that grew out of pain. Their relationships are light and dark, and they serve to contrast each other.

I love Claere and Vlau. In their case, the idea of death stopping has given me the unique opportunity of exploring the ultimate redemption scenario. It is the relationship between a murderer (who thought his act of murder was justified) and his innocent victim—after the fact, a true impossibility of course, except under these oddball imaginary circumstances. Furthermore, I wanted to have the relationship evolve from utter hate and hurt between two people to perfect love and devotion, in the widest swing of the pendulum possible. In some ways, this kind of road to redemption and character evolution is the most rewarding thing possible to write—intense, painful, and passionate on every level. It’s an angst-and-emo passion feast without being artificially sentimental. And I am so glad I can present this intense character journey to the reader.

Jess: There’s something Shakespearean about Nathan and Amaryllis. They remind me of the Fools from the tragedies, who seem to have an innate wisdom that others miss, and yet the truth is delivered in a playful tone that doesn’t offend the noble audience. And yet, I detect a hint of the Russian sense of humour in them as well. Was this what you hoped would come across?

Thank you for mentioning Shakespeare and my characters in the same sentence. I think you have the right idea here, because not only are Amaryllis and Nathan a kind of comic relief, but they also represent the social mores of the upper class nobility of the time—foppish, frivolous, cruel, selfish, and yet steeped in Renaissance ideas and ideals, in the excitement of scientific invention, art, and learning, and yet, on some level very bored with their privileged existence. The notion of ennui serves to allow them to exercise their wit and powers of observation, to go on an “adventure,” and on some level to compete with each other in order to prove social and personal dominance. Their running commentary on all things is a kind of “wisdom track” and reality check.

On, and I do want to say that, if anything, it’s my Armenian sense of humor coming through here, because Armenians are the eternal jokesters and optimists. Meanwhile, Russians tend not to have a sense of humor at all, but instead have great big emotional hearts, and tend to wallow in melancholy. As I say in my author bio, I combine my Armenian sense of humor and my Russian sense of suffering. So, on the one hand you get grim Lord Death, and on the other, you get smart-mouthing hilarious Catrine.

Jess: Various members of the nobility seem to possess either a lack of moral compass or a woeful inability to wield their power (or comport themselves) well. In fact, there aren’t many nobles in this story that are worthy of respect. Earthy, grounded peasants –for the most part- provide better leadership. Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?

Good point. I think absolute power tends to make people forget to make the effort in life that’s necessary to see its value. They no longer recognize that life does not come easy, and to appreciate the little things. And when people such as the aristocrats have nothing much to do that is not done for them, bad things tend to happen, as they start to take advantage of others, push all boundaries, and forget their humanity and their responsibility. Less privileged people such as Percy or the other girls, who live more difficult, “true” lives, also tend to maintain their sense of balance, their moral compass and a better understanding of good and bad, and their sense of responsibility to both themselves and others.

La Belle Dame de Merci, Sir Frank Dicksee, 1902

La Belle Dame de Merci, Sir Frank Dicksee, 1902

Jess: Not to give too much away, but there’s a positively scorching kiss in this book and for a minute, I honestly thought the characters were going to get carried away (and half hoped they would). Will there be more romance in the third book, Cobweb Forest?

Hah! Oh yes, I had entirely too much fun writing the hot scenes in Cobweb Empire! Yes, there will be more romance in book three, I promise! But to say any more would be spoilers. Besides, there are other couples and their romance we have not explored yet… So, stay tuned!

Jess: When can we look forward to that one coming out?

Cobweb Forest, the conclusion of the trilogy is coming on December 25, 2013, Christmas Day!

If you want to be notified as soon as it’s out, be sure to subscribe to the Cobweb Bride mailing list.

Jess: Wow! You’ve released these books pretty close together. Cobweb Bride was released in July, 2013, and taken as a unit these are epic-length reads. Did you draft all three novels prior to publishing Cobweb Bride?

Believe it or not, I actually wrote them all for the most part this year. Yes, it’s crazy, I know. The first half of Cobweb Bride was written about three years ago (with a death in the family, and so death was on my mind), then set aside as Real Life really interfered and some other difficult life events happened to me that resulted in the loss of my home to foreclosure, loss of income, various illnesses, and culminated in a move from California to Vermont.

I completed the second half of Cobweb Bride in a couple of months, by the end of January of this year, then wrote the entirety of Cobweb Empire in the next few months and released it in September, and now am finishing up Cobweb Forest, scheduled for December. So, all of this is happening very quickly…. Because I’ve got to pay the rent and the cats need cat food.

Jess: LOLOL! We’d better feed those cats! You could make a good story about what happens if you don’t. What’s next after this trilogy is complete?

Glad you asked! After Cobweb Bride is done in December, I switch gears completely, and will be working on a much more contemporary, fast paced, futuristic YA dystopia series, tentatively titled The Atlantis Grail.

Books one, two, and three of the series will be called Qualify (for the Atlantis Grail), Compete (for the Atlantis Grail), and Win (the Atlantis Grail). I hope to start writing Qualify as early as in January 2014, and release it by spring.

This series will be in the vein of Divergent and The Hunger Games, and it will be an exciting departure from my old fashioned historical fantasy.

Jess: Thanks so much for visiting with me today. It’s truly been a pleasure!

 

* * *

Please connect with Vera Nazarian on her website. My review of Cobweb Bride and Cobweb Empire will appear today on http://firstpagetothelast.com. Please check it out!

 

 

New Release & Review: The Guardians, TM Franklin

The Guardians: Book Two in the MORE Trilogy is Now Available!

Guardians coverAva’s life is . . . complicated.

After all, it’s not every day a girl learns she’s not entirely human, or unlocks hidden powers strong enough to make even the First Race sit up and take notice. After surviving an attempted kidnapping and standing up to the Race’s Ruling Council, Ava Michaels returns to college and what she hopes is a normal life. But Ava quickly realizes that for her, normal may not even exist anymore.

In fact, the Council wants her under their control, and they’re not the only ones. The mysterious Rogues have a plan of their own, and it turns out Ava’s a big part of it, whether she wants to be or not.

On top of that, her new relationship is tested in ways she never expected. Her boyfriend, Caleb Foster, has disappeared—accused of betraying the Race—and Ava herself stands implicated in a crime she didn’t commit.

Clearing their names will mean uncovering a web of deceit and intrigue with Ava woven right in the center. To unravel the strands, she joins forces with some unlikely allies; a Protector who once haunted her nightmares, a young girl with secrets as unexpected as Ava’s, and a group of rebel Guardians who have their own fight against the Council.

Together they stand in a battle to find the truth, bring Caleb home, and secure Ava’s freedom—not to mention save her life.

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TWCS Publishing House | |More Information | Goodreads

The Guardians Book Trailer

 

 

 

TamiAbout T.M. Franklin

T.M. Franklin started out her career writing non-fiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. After writing and unsuccessfully querying a novel that she now admits, “is not that great,” she decided to follow the advice of one of the agents who turned her down—write some more and get better at it. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days.

 

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Mike, is mom to two boys, Justin and Ryan, and has an enormous black dog named Rocky who’s always lying nearby while she’s writing. Whether he’s soothed by the clicking of the computer keys or just waiting for someone to rub his belly is up for debate.

 

In addition to MORE and The Guardians, Franklin penned the Amazon best-selling short story, Window, as well as another short story, A Piece of Cake, which appears in the Romantic Interludes anthology.

Connect with T.M. Franklin:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

My Review of The Guardians:

I’ve been reading TM Franklin’s stories from the time she was a hobby fiction writer -approximately four years.  I’ve had the good fortune to have her in my writing groups and I always love to spend time with her. She’s an elegant writer and I adore all of her stuff. On November 22nd, I’ll be interviewing her on my site and I’m excited, so stay tuned for that.

I’ve been waiting impatiently for The Guardians and was delighted to be granted an ARC. This novel topped my expectations. TM  has an impressive imagination and I devoured this in one sitting.

Ava learns a lot about her past and future in this installment and she is literally empowered to function in her new world. It’s a treat to see her evolve. But even better? Caleb truly supports her, demonstrating his honour of her wishes even when he doesn’t like her decisions. I am definitely in love with him now.

I love both Ava and Caleb, but now I’ve got a bit of a crush on Tiernan. Who would have dreamed the guy had a sense of humour? After reading MORE, I didn’t expect it, just proving that first impressions about people can be deceiving.

It pleases me when I find books where the main characters, although flawed, ultimately have traits that are truly heroic. If my kids were to tell me they admired these characters, I’d be delighted (and that’s not always the case). It’s great to be able to hand teenagers a book without worrying they’re going to get a crush on protagonists that don’t behave morally. I would happily supply MORE and The Guardians as gifts to the young adults I know. The holidays are coming, so consider this my recommendation. And as an adult, I enjoyed the books, too.

I can’t wait to see what happens next. Five stars.♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥