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!

 

 

 

Where We Fell: Release Day & Giveaway

Amber L. Johnson’s WHERE WE FELL is finally available.

You can now get your e-book copy of Amber L. Johnson’s debut New Adult novella, WHERE WE FELL.

Early praise for WHERE WE FELL:

a well written, emotionally uplifting, and honest story                                        – Stephanie on Goodreads

“Amber L. Johnson is one of the brightest new authors on the horizon.”              – Author Sydney Logan
“It may be short story, but definitely a powerful one.”  – Lucia @ Reading is My Breathing

 

Hannah Where We Fell quote

“Wouldn’t it freak you out if I took my hair off right this second and was like, ‘Oh my god, Oliver, I had cancer too!”

“Don’t lie.  That’s a shitty thing to lie about.”

“Is it?”

I shrug, trying to control my emotions.  “It would explain why you changed your hair, I guess.”

She straightens her spine.  “I guess it would.  Or maybe it makes sense that my mom had cancer.  And lost her hair.  So I dyed my hair and cut about sixteen inches off to donate to her for a wig.  That might make sense, too.”
Hannah Hartwell is weird.  And she’s awkward.  But at this exact moment she is not a liar.
“I might not know what you’re going through first hand, okay? But I know what it’s like to see it from the sidelines.  My mom didn’t even tell me that she was going in for testing.  Didn’t tell me she got a diagnosis.  She just called me on a Wednesday and said she was going in for surgery on Friday, and could I please make sure to pay my phone bill on time this month.  It was like, how did she just go to these appointments without telling anyone?  So blase.  Like you.  It baffles me.”
I’m silent as she talks because I have nothing to say.
“It’s kinda ironic that the woman who leaves an oncologist because he’s ‘married to his job’ ends up getting the one thing he could potentially help her with.”
The room is so quiet that I can hear the music from outside filtering into the house between the window panes and cracks under the doors.  Our food is going to go cold, which bothers me a little, even though I’m no longer hungry.  She did spend a long time cooking it, after all.

Instead of saying anything about her confession, I pick up the ear of corn and start eating.

“This is good,” I say.  And I mean it.

She forces a tight smile and picks at her own plate.

“It’s not ‘cure my cancer’ good.  But it’s good.”

This time, it’s a spoon that she throws at my head.

 

You can get WHERE WE FELL on Amazon and Createspace

Important Links:

Amber on Goodreads

Book on Goodreads

Amber on Twitter

Author Page on Facebook

Amber’s Blog

Where We Fell Playlist

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Blog Tour: Interview with Amber L. Johnson

Amber Blog tour1

 

Remaining Tour Stops:

Sunday October 27
Fandom Fanatic – AUTHOR GUEST POST – Writing  from a male point of view
The Blonde Mark – REVIEW

Monday October 28 – Release Day
Sydney Logan – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
FicWishes – EXCERPT
Fandom Fanatic – EXCERPT
First Page to the Last – EXCERPT

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An Interview with Amber L. Johnson

 

amberljohnson

 

WebsiteBlogTwitterFacebookGoodreads

 

I first encountered Amber online, when she was writing fan fiction under the pen name of 107yearoldvirgin, and she had a huge following -for good reason. She writes highly-relatable characters, knows how to plot and is blessed with a charming sense of humour. I used to love to escape into her stories, so I’m very pleased to share this interview with you today.

 

Jess: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little, but I didn’t actually get serious about it until a few years ago.

 

Jess: You were a prolific fan fiction author when your son was just a baby. In fact, I remember a funny author’s note in which you said that you’d hidden out in your bathroom to get a chapter done. I don’t think I did anything terribly creative when my kids were small. Seriously, how did you manage to accomplish so much?

 

Back when I had just started it was because I’d been going through some crappy stuff and wanted an outlet. It was cheaper than therapy. When my son was first born, he had colic. He’d cry for upwards of 20 hours a day and was consistently sick from being in daycare. Once he hit ten months he started walking and his colic started going away so he was actually sleeping at night. Because I was used to not sleeping I used the extra hours while he was in bed to write. I’d crank out 2,000 words an hour most times, so I’d write for two or three hours and – bam – a new chapter would go up.

The day I locked myself in the bathroom was a snow day and there were five people in the house – all wanting something. Food or attention (this was before we had my son evaluated and weren’t aware of the extent of his needs). I just needed a break and to be able to sit in the quiet for ten minutes by myself. So I faked a stomach ache and sat on the bathtub to finish a chapter and upload it. Not my proudest moment, but one that makes me chuckle nonetheless!

Jess: Tell me about it! This is how I feel most days:

Motherhood

 

Jess: I definitely remember those colicky kid moments. And we moms need to take our Mom Time and our laughs wherever we can get them! What is the most valuable lesson that writing fan fiction taught you?

Patience. My editor, Kathie, used to tell me to slow down and stop updating so fast. She said that people would become overwhelmed by the amount I was writing – that I didn’t give them time to appreciate a chapter. Or a story. And it was one of the best lessons I ever learned. Being prolific is one thing but over saturating your readers will make a lot of them simply give up on trying to keep up.

 

WhereWeFellFINALCOVER small

Summary:

Oliver Bishop is having a seriously bad day. With one diagnosis, his life suddenly has an expiration date. Confused about the numbness he has to the idea of it, he unwittingly puts himself directly in the sights of a girl that just may give him a reason to fight – and to live.

Available October 28th on Amazon Kindle.

 

 

Jess: What was it about this particular story that made you decide to write it as your first published piece of fiction?

Honestly it was because I felt like it had an important message. I’ve always said that I wanted my first piece to be something I was proud of. Something that really sets the tone as to who I am as a writer. And I think this hits all of my requirements.

 

Jess: What was your biggest challenge in moving from fan fiction to original fiction?

Fan fiction is still propelled by original ideas, but we have to be honest with ourselves that it’s a lot easier than coming up with our own worlds and characters that people don’t know. If I write a character name in a fan fiction, I don’t even have to describe them. Your mind already knows what they look like. It already knows their back story, even if we give them a new one. Starting from scratch is tough. And it’s even tougher when you think that your old readers won’t be able to see the new characters that you’ve created because they’re so used to reading fan fiction.

 

Jess: Lots of things must have happened as you developed and published this novella. What came as the biggest surprise to you?

The biggest surprise to me was the outpouring of positive support I received from bloggers and other authors that were willing to take a look at something I’d worked so hard on. I’m my own worst enemy and I was feeling like maybe I didn’t stand a chance – but the feedback I’ve received from everyone has made me think that maybe I’m not as hopeless as I once thought.

 

Jess: You’re definitely not hopeless, bb. Trust me. Tell us something about your newest release that isn’t in the blurb.

Hannah’s obsession with health through being a vegetarian was inspired by my husband. After I got sick, he watched a bunch of documentaries and we started changing our lifestyle to be more vegetarian and organic. This was my way of honouring him and poking a little fun at the same time.

 

Jess: Very cool. What’s your preferred climate for writing? Do you like to write in a certain place, with music? Is there a specific time of day that you write?

I can write pretty much anywhere if I’m in a comfortable chair and have music playing. I prefer to be alone so that I can concentrate.

 

Jess: What comes to you first, the plot or characters?

It always starts with one scene. A conversation will take place between the characters and I lock it into place to write around. The plot usually changes as I write because my characters act of their own volition, no matter how much I try to rein them in.

 

Jess: Can I possibly talk you into writing a comedy?

I write comedy! It’s just usually comedy about really tragic things.

 

Jess: LOLOL! Touché. Who has most influenced your own writing?

It sounds weird, but John Hughes has been my biggest inspiration. Probably for my entire life. I actually have to go back through my three new in-progress works to remove mention of him because I talk about him ALL THE TIME.

 

Jess: I’d better bone up on John Hughes. 😉 In your opinion, what makes a good book?

I love books that suck me in. I need the characters to be believable and to react in real ways to things that are happening. And I want, more than anything, for a book to make me feel.

 

Jess: I think you’ve always been very talented at doing exactly that. Best of luck with your new novella. I can’t wait to see more from you.

 

Amber L. Johnson’s novella, Where We Fell, will be available on Amazon Kindle on October 28th.


 

 

 

An Interview with Abria Mattina

Wake - AbriaMattinaEighteen isn’t too young to run your life into the ground, but it’s not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John’s, Newfoundland back to her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She’s looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.

http://www.amazon.com/Wake-ebook/dp/B005OMWXZE

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wake-abria-mattina/1106355960?ean=9780986957918

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/wake-9

 

Pigeons feather front cover smallIn this companion novella to Wake, Frank invites the Kirk family home to Smiths Falls for Thanksgiving weekend. Holidays are always a trial for the family that lost their daughter and sister, but Frank is hopeful that this Thanksgiving will be the exception. He has some happy news to share. If only he wasn’t so reluctant to talk about it.

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Among-Pigeons-Wake-ebook/dp/B00EPSJBAI

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-among-pigeons-abria-mattina/1116798951?ean=9780986957956

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/love-among-pigeons

 

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Today, I’m chatting with Abria Mattina, who is a published author, editor, respected blogger, book reviewer and book designer. She loves to mentor writers and I’ve learned a lot from her.

Jess: When did you decide to be a writer? How did you get your start?

Abria:

I don’t think it’s something I consciously decided. Born gay, born straight, born an artist… you get it. Smart money was on me ending up in some creative field, and I tried them all as a kid – visual art, dance, gymnastics, piano. I knew I liked to write as a kid, but I didn’t have my first don’t-eat-don’t-sleep-just-write episode until I was fifteen. I have had many more joyous episodes since, and I’m lucky enough to have a partner who understands them.

For a long time I resisted the thought of writing as a career, though. I thought the only way to make any money at it was to be a journalist, and I hated the thought of writing assignments. I felt that if I was going to write, I was going to do it for myself and write what I wanted.

 

Jess: What’s the one thing you’d tell an aspiring author?

Abria:

Being an author is very different from being a writer. Nobody tells you that, but it’s true. When you’re a writer you write for pleasure, and there’s no pressure because any success or failure is still hypothetical. Once you’re an author, all that changes. You have to perform for your audience. You have to be engaged, consistent, and you have to keep churning out material. Whatever you publish next will be compared to what you published last. There’s a whole new world of pressure waiting and the end of your journey as “just a writer.”

I like to blog about my mistakes in publishing, especially when it comes to marketing, because that’s information that I wish I had known beforehand. Maybe someone else will benefit from knowledge of my mistakes.

 

Jess: You’re very accomplished. How do you balance the many facets of your life and career?

Abria:

Honestly, I don’t. The thing about juggling so many things is that you can only hold so many balls at a time. Something always has to be up in the air while other things are firmly in your grasp. Learning to let go, to accept that I don’t always have to be on top of everything, is how I manage. When my writing life is going well, I find I don’t blog as much. When I experience writing slumps, I tend to blog more or try out new hobbies. It’s okay to fluctuate because it keeps the mind active and engaged.

 

Jess: We’re both Canadian. What do you consider the challenges of being an artist in Canada?

Abria:

Although my books are set in Canada, I can never see myself writing “Canadian Fiction” for two reasons: the market is much smaller and Canadian fiction has a reputation for being grim. There’s an emerging publisher in Toronto whose mandate is to publish “non-depressing Canadian fiction.” It’s a little sad that they had to say that openly in their mission statement. The vibrant, wonderful things about Canada never seem to make it into supposedly “great” works of Canadian fiction.

As for the practicalities of being a Canadian author, there are hoops to jump through, from ITIN acquisition to working with foreign agencies to making sure your work is protected and your pay deposited. I have an ITIN, and I would recommend that any Canadian author get one before working with an American publisher or retailer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). It makes payouts so much easier.

 

Jess: Do you self-edit, or do you have pre-readers? Your published works are pristine. If you tell me nobody looks at your drafts, I’m going to scream.

Abria:

I have beta readers and I hired a professional copy editor for Love Among Pigeons. Never underestimate the value of the ARC, too. I had a few early reviewers email me before the book launched to share any last typos they spotted.

 

Jess: How much time do you spend on research?

Abria:

This is difficult to quantify because research is always an ongoing process. I don’t spend six months doing nothing but research and then write. Most often, I research a subject that interests me until I feel that I know enough to write about it competently. After that, I keep going back to my sources in order to get the details and nuances right. I particularly like journal-style blogs for this reason, so I can read the perspective of someone who has firsthand knowledge of my topic. If I can talk to someone directly, even better.

The tricky bit about research is resisting the urge to insert little factoids into the text simply because you know them. Sometimes I see this in the books I read, and it kills me every time. There is a limit to what the reader needs to know to enjoy the story, and it’s the author’s job to keep a handle on that.

 

Jess: I adore ‘Wake’. It’s one of my go-to reads. What inspired you to write it?

Abria:

The first scene that came to me was the scene where Jem and Willa are taking a walk through her neighbourhood, just chatting like normal teenagers – talking about death and serious illness. Once I started, it was one of those stories that just kept coming. I went with it and enjoyed the ride, because there are few occasions in a writer’s career when a story comes so easily.

pigeons-mate-for-life-300x190Jess: ‘Love Among Pigeons’, the companion novella, distills complex elements into a strong, meaningful story. I tend to write epic-length tales. How different was it, going from writing a novel to writing a novella? What were your biggest challenges in each?

Abria:

If I’d tried to write them back-to-back, it would have been much harder. After producing that mammoth, Wake, I worked really hard to cut down the length of my projects. The longest draft of anything else I’ve done since was 70k words. Length wasn’t a problem with Love Among Pigeons, especially after I decided to frame it in the setting of Thanksgiving weekend. Because it centers around a holiday, it has a natural three-day trajectory.

About six months after I published Wake, I started playing around with the idea of a prequel because people had requested it. I couldn’t make anything work, and at the time I chalked it up to my state of mind (my mother was undergoing chemo and radiation), so I shelved the project for a while. A few of those scenes ended up in Love Among Pigeons, and it was nice not to have to reinvent the wheel. I’d been thinking about the story far longer than I’d been writing it. I didn’t feel like a challenge to write. The hardest part was finding the time to write.

As for Wake, the biggest challenge was editing a work of that scope. It still makes me shudder.

Keith Quintanilla, Deviantart

Keith Quintanilla, Deviantart

Jess: Your books deal with some tough, controversial subjects with compassion and tact. You don’t shy away from difficult moral questions. How have your experiences shaped you?

Abria:

I think being fundamentally obnoxious helps. The thing about taking on difficult, controversial subjects is that you’re always going to offend somebody. There were so many things about Wake that offended people – that Willa didn’t handle Jem with kid gloves, the way Tessa died, the way Frank deals with problems, and so on. It happened. I could have gotten my panties in a twist about it, but on the contrary, I was glad. Books that challenge us, piss us off, and make us think, are books that we remember. They’re books that we pass on to friends just so we have someone to talk to about our opinions.

I didn’t feel like I compromised on anything with Wake, even when I knew I was handling a scene or situation in a way that wasn’t conventional or even politically correct. That’s why I could stand by it.

I’ve always been a pretty opinionated person, especially about issues with lots of gray area, but what drew me to writing about disability and illness in particular is my adolescent experience with severe scoliosis. I wore a spinal brace for 23 hours per day, every day, from the age of twelve until the age of eighteen. You can imagine how cool I looked, walking around school in that. The experience toughened me mentally and physically. There were stares, questions, and plenty of pain. By the end I had convinced myself that none of it bothered me, but when offered a chance to wear the adult Spinecor brace, I burst into tears at the thought of putting on a brace ever again. I had a lot of negativity and self-consciousness stored up, just waiting to be channeled into Wake.

 

Jess: One of the things I love most about these books is their clean, direct style. Who has influenced you?

Abria:

I don’t know if I can pin it down to a definite source, because I read so much and always have. I suppose it boils down to the way I perceive tone and topic. I prefer florid language in the historical fiction I read, and spare language in contemporary fiction. I think sci-fi should be very detailed, but fantasy novels don’t have to be. I wrote in a style that reflects my tastes within the genre.

 

Jess: Your characters’ banter is so engaging. Willa, in particular, has a snarky sense of humour that cuts through bull and causes other characters to re-evaluate their behaviour. Where did you get the inspiration for her character?

Abria:

Willa is the person I would have been at seventeen if I’d had the guts to say what I was thinking every minute of every day. Willa feels that she has very little to lose, so she doesn’t care about offending people or being ostracised. She’s brash, but also clever and insightful, and that’s how she gets away with voicing unpleasant truths – sometimes.

Jem’s behaviour is a little closer to my actual teenage experience. He’s always putting his foot in his mouth and then wasting time by agonizing over it.

 

Jess: You’re a synaesthete. I know someone who sees music in shapes and colours. What kind of synesthesia do you have and how do you think it influences your work?

Abria:

I read in color, perceive sounds as colors, shapes, and tactile stimuli, and I perceive inanimate objects as having genders or personalities. Often tastes have colors, but that one isn’t universal for me. I don’t know that it really influences my work that much, but it definitely gives me a better-than-average memory.

 

Jess: How do stories germinate for you?

Abria:

They either start with a color or a character. With Wake that color was turquoise and it had a sound similar to the bridge of I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake. With one of my other projects, it was the color of the protagonist’s name. I rarely outline because I like having the freedom to let the characters surprise me. I find the story doesn’t grow organically when I outline, because I’m too focused on fulfilling a checklist of plot points.

 

Jess: If there’s one thing readers could take away from your books, what would it be?

Abria:

I think the value of my books lies in the way people use them to explain difficult situations or emotions to others. Over the past two years I’ve received emails from cancer patients and survivors who recognized themselves in the characters. Some of them couldn’t even finish the book because it cut too close to the bone for them. What these emails generally have in common is that the people writing them have used Wake to guide their friends and family into conversations about their feelings or experiences. The characters become stand-ins for their real-life problems, and it becomes easier to talk about it.

 

Jess: What’s the one thing you wish an interviewer would ask?

Abria: I guess, What’s the weirdest comment on your work that you’ve ever heard?

The answer would be: “I expected them to just stop arguing and start making out.” The person who said this was talking about the argument in the middle of Wake. That scene is loaded with tension, and in a typical romance book it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the protagonists let the passion of the argument turn into sexual passion. But I absolutely hate that. It’s such a cop-out, every time. If you’re going to start a fight between characters, finish the fight! It’s more believable, more satisfying for the reader, and better for you as a writer.

 

Jess: What do you think you might be doing 10 years from now?

Abria:

Pursuing world domination from a bunker in Greenland.

But seriously, being able to write full time someday would be sweet.

 

NOTE TO READERS: Wake is one of my favourite novels. I’m guest-blogging today at http://www.firstpagetothelast.com/ . Please visit to read my review.

You may visit Abria on her websites, http://www.abriamattina.com , http://www.shallwrite.com/ , and follow her on Twitter @AbriaMattina. Thanks for spending time with us today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Reveal & Review: Where We Fell, by Amber L. Johnson

Where We Fell is the debut novella by Amber L. Johnson. Keep reading to learn more about Amber and her upcoming New Adult release. Also, be sure to enter the giveaway for your chance to win an ebook copy, iTunes gift card, and a handmade cancer awareness bookmark!

Summary:
Oliver Bishop is having a seriously bad day. With one diagnosis, his life suddenly has an expiration date. Confused about the numbness he has to the idea of it, he unwittingly puts himself directly in the sights of a girl that just may give him a reason to fight – and to live. 

Genre: New Adult
Word Count: 25,000 words

Available October 28 on Amazon Kindle
Amber is a full-time mom, full-time wife, is employed full time, and writes when she can. She believes in Happily Ever Afters that occur every day – despite the obstacles that real life serves up on a regular basis. Or perhaps they’re sweeter simply because of them.  She always has 2 rubber bands on her wrist, a song in her head, and too much creamer in her coffee cup that reads ‘Cocoa’ – because she’s a rebel. If she’s not at her desk, with her boys, or behind the computer, she’s supporting live music with her arms raised above her head and eyes closed, waiting for the drop. 

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My Review: Where We Fell, by Amber L. Johnson

I’ve been annoying Amber L. Johnson for some years by urging her to get published. I know she heard that from an awful lot of hobby fiction readers. And finally, here’s her debut!

Oliver Bishop is about to graduate high school when he gets terrible news: he has lymphoma. As all his peers prepare to enjoy their last summer before college, he’ll be commencing treatment. He’s not really able to bring himself to hope; it’s much easier not to think about the future.

Enter Hannah, a cheeky young lady who refuses to let him give up on life. She is an awesome friend, caring for him during bad moments, making him and his parents laugh, and generally encouraging Oliver to remember he’s still the same person inside, not diminished by a disease.

This story made me curious about lymphoma and its treatment, prognosis, etc. Plus, the side effects it causes. Oliver’s cancer was caught quite early and the story spans about six months. But this isn’t a story about cancer. It’s a love story.

petorachan/deviantart

petorachan/deviantart

Throughout the novella, Oliver never stops being himself. I like that.

There are some interesting male characters in this story. I loved how affectionate Oliver’s dad was. You don’t see that a lot in fiction and I appreciated it.

The dad of Oliver’s best friend, Terrence, is a big contrast. He’s a minister, and when Oliver falls particularly sick, he arrives and starts praying over him. It struck me as a negative, unwelcome experience. I’ve been in situations where ministers prayed with our family, and the tone was much more upbeat and encouraging. Mind you, the prayers came at the ill person’s request. It must have felt like a wake-up, you’re dying moment for Oliver, especially with Terrence acting solemn. Made me shiver.

Where We Fell is an uplifting story that contains a couple of moments like that, that absolutely killed me. Amber has always known how to tug at heartstrings and she doesn’t need to write a lot of words to get her readers attached. Her fans will be pleased. Loved this novella, as I knew I would. Five stars.

 

Narcissism 101: My Writing Evolution

Writer poster

Talking about how I came to be a writer feels awfully self-centered. But, what the heck?

When I was a rug rat, I got sick and my mother got super-anxious because the doctor didn’t take it seriously. Not even when I attempted to die. Ends up, I was diabetic and my blood sugar was over 800 (Old scale. I think that’s like having an A1C of 80 today. Normal is 5). My mother was told I wouldn’t live. I did. Then, she was told I wouldn’t walk again. I did. At the age of four, she put me in ballet. I danced until I was 16, when weak ankles prevented me from going en pointe.

Doctors don’t know everything.

My point? I think when I temporarily lost the ability to walk, my imagination took over. Like in Polyanna.

Boredom is a foreign concept. I think the only time I’ve ever been bored is when trapped in my Grade 9 (a.k.a. Freshman Year of high school) math class, with a teacher who said “Um… err,” every other word. It’s the only time I’ve ever considered doing violence. Seriously, abusing the English language like that? Grounds for mayhem. We spent four months learning how to do basic fractions. Sigh.

Why be bored if you can construct worlds in your head? Use your imagination, already!

9-19-2008_010 - Copy croppedI’ve always had an affinity for words. When I was two, I told my doctor that after someone took a bath, there was condensation on the toilet, which vibrated when flushed.

(Did I mention I was weird eccentric? Might as well put that out there right now.)

By the time I was three, I was reading and writing. Somewhere, my mother has a recording of me reading The Fwee Littoh Peegs. I think she played it for every friend I ever had. Most of them did not run away screaming. Yeah, I had good friends.

When I was five, I had a (very) short story published in an educational tome. I’m still fond of that story. That was likely the first time I said, “I want to be a writer.” I have a binder of stories I wrote as a child. Who knows? Someday, I might update and publish them. Not exactly my normal area of concentration. *coughs –spicy romance- coughs* But hey, Judy Blume gets away with writing two disparate genres. Of course, she’s Judy Blume. She’s on Twitter, by the way. I tweeted with her once… *fangirl moment*

At eight, I read at an adult level. I was annoying like that.

As a hobby, in Grade 7 and 8, I wrote three reference book manuscripts about animals, birds and fish, complete with drawings. I showed them to my school librarian. I think he was gobsmacked that a kid my age would spend scads of spare time compiling reference material. Alien. He wanted me to publish, but I hadn’t credited my sources, so I couldn’t do anything with the manuscripts. Now, we have the Internet and kids don’t need books like that anyhow.

In Grade 9, I met my first mentor, a genius who had abandoned teaching in a prestigious university in favour of shaping young minds. His name was Merv Sharpe and I don’t think I’d be a writer today were it not for him. He’d scrawl pages and pages of English notes on five blackboards and when class was over, not a few kids were groaning and clutching cramped hands.

The majority of my friends were quirky. They’d have been the fringe kids today, probably. Most of the guys had mullets (except my pal Brian J., who was an army cadet). Most of the girls were a bit punk, with earrings in unusual places and dyed, spiky hair. I had a ducktail like David Bowie. I put this highlight-stuff on it that washed out. It was like gold paint and it came in a mascara-like tube. My guy friends were hooked on Metallica and Skinny Puppy, and the girls were into Billy Idol and Eurythmics. As for me, I was absorbing Bowie 24-7, with a dash of Sting and Peter Gabriel thrown in for kicks.

The kids a year older than me let me hang out with them in Art. The ones my age jammed in the music room during lunch hour. Great times.

Yeah, I’m nostalgic about the Eighties. Sue me. The clothes and hair were epic. I still wear my Esprit jean jacket, which cost me a whopping $50 back in 1986. Quality lasts.

I can still sing you any Bowie song up to 1989. Try me.

He’s still got it. Just sayin’. I really want to see his multimedia art exhibition, but it probably won’t happen for me.

I got Mr. Sharpe again in Grade 13 (a.k.a. Senior Year #2). I’d get my work done and my pal Brian J. and I would start exchanging notes and sketches. Mr. Sharpe noticed, and in the hope that he could prevent us from plotting world domination, he started passing us sheets of foolscap with one word (or phrase) at the top, written in red. B.J. and I would spend the rest of the class responding to the teacher’s note. We’d swap papers and read them, then, hand them in. I still remember some of those pages:

Why?

Would you rather be a legend or a myth?

Hero vs. heroine.

Astrology and astronomy.

Merv Sharpe taught me how to express opinions and emotion on paper. If I could see him today, I’d hug him. I missed seeing him at my 20th high school reunion. Boo.

In my teens, I dabbled in poetry. Somehow, I got a couple of poems published in a compilation. My family spent more buying half a dozen copies than I ever made off it, with good reason. I’d prefer that it never see the light of day.

University? I didn’t think a Lit degree would snare me a job, so I majored in music, specializing in Music Education. I’m a Dramatic Soprano. Betcha don’t know what that is! Technically, I can conduct a band or choir (You wouldn’t want me to). Plus, I tried out a bunch of instruments. Although I played a lot of flute, I cherish a secret hope to play the oboe professionally, but I don’t have the time to indulge every dream. I also loved bassoon, but I suck at clarinet. I minored in French, English Lit, and Psychology. My intent was to go to Teacher’s College, but my grandmother had Parkinson’s and I didn’t want to leave home. My mother worked and Grammie would have had to go into a nursing home. Not an option.

Then, I met Hubbs. I was his boss in the Opera Workshop program, where I was in charge of props and dressings. I took one look and thought, “I could marry him.” That was 22 years ago.

Later, I was a stage manager. We finished up school, then found out music degrees weren’t very handy. He decided to trade being an opera singer for accounting, and I took a six month course in Secretarial Sciences. That’s where I got my typing up to 90wpm. Need a job? If you’ve got a computer, take advantage of a free Learn to Type program and practice, practice, practice. Here’s one for you: http://www.typingweb.com/ All it costs you is time, and you can get all kinds of work out of it.

Motherhood. The only things I wrote for 12 years were letters to my children. And grocery lists.  Suddenly, Microsoft rocked our world. You might have known me in the Potterverse as Sculdermully. I may have written an online essay or three. I daydreamed Harry Potter and X-Files. I’m not sure I got a fair night’s sleep in ten years, but I read like a fiend.  Effectively, I was making up fanfic in my head, but never wrote anything down. And that’s because I don’t think you can improve upon JK Rowling. Chris Carter’s a fanfic writer’s dream, though.

People told me to read Twilight for months. I did, and was underwhelmed. But I took my kids to see it, and Boom! Robert Pattinson entered Stage Left. The whole Twiverse burst into colour and not long after, I discovered the world of fan fiction. I read everything I could find for about a year. Free stories!!! Then, I decided to take the risk of writing one of my own.

Amazingly, there was an audience for it.

Fan fiction is a wonderful way to train as a writer. Basically, you’re writing an old-fashioned serial novel and readers are glad to give you feedback on each chapter. If you’re fortunate, experienced editors are willing to train you, free of charge. As another plus, you meet other writers and you might even meet some professionals.

Why write someone else’s canon? Well, because we love the stories and characters and we have ideas of where we’d like to take them. Places the original author didn’t.

I read and review. A lot. About three years ago, I started paying the community back by editing for other new writers. Eighteen months ago, I was approached by a publisher to write an original novel. I wrote the manuscript, but they decided (after much debate) that a group of Italian-Canadian moms (age 45 to 60) wouldn’t use Facebook to match make their kids.

Um, that’s my age group. All my friends use Facebook. And I hate to tell you, but matchmaking’s not dead, even in Canada. Scary boo.

So, I’m going to start querying other publishers in about a week, once my kids’ birthdays have passed. I have to rewrite my synopsis and a new query letter before that.

This is an exciting life. I love mentoring, pre-reading and editing. It’s taken me nearly five years, but so would any education. And you can learn from any writer, even one who’s penning her first short story. You just have to be open to input. We all have lessons to learn.

I’m starting a new challenge in November: NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to write 50K in one month. I’ve never done NaNo before and it seems like a good way to chunk away at my next manuscript. I’m actually writing my original series out of order because the characters in Book Three just won’t stop yelling at me. I have 22K words of it, and I want to be at 75K by the end of November. Of course, real life happens and if I don’t get there, I know it will still happen.

crazy lemur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, who’s with me? Care to pick up your virtual pen for NaNo? Sign in, then look me up. I’m going to need your encouragement.