Thank you for stopping in. Your interest in my writing means the world. If you have not read my work, please visit my BOOKS page for more details. If you have read SOULED OUT, FRAYED, or TIN MOON, please leave a review online and be sure to tell a friend. Your voice matters more than anything. Word-of-mouth and reviews are the most important ways for authors to be discovered by new readers.

Thank you for taking time to stop in and learn more about me. You are wonderful!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: BLOOD & SNOW series



I purchased this YA read on Amazon the other day on a whim (only 99 cents for the 4-pack). It starts off slow, however, Workman offers new tidbits of info at just the right moments to maintain a steady flow. The pace is perfect. And there is always a new element being dropped into the storyline, making it much more complex than originally anticipated.

My not-so-likes:

-I feel like the character Snow should be a little older. Maybe eighteen, but not fifteen. It just doesn't seem to fit that well. I still think her home life and abandonment issues would have survived a slight age bump. However, it is what it is, and it's not a deal breaker by any means. (The covers are gorgeous, but they suggest an older heroine, which made Snow's age a bit of a shock at first.)

-The main character's name. It is actually Snow White. That was really hard for my brain to grasp for, like, the first two volumes. But I eventually got over it and it just became part of the character.

-Volume one, BLOOD AND SNOW, is not a whole book. It just stops. There is no wrap up or lead-up to a big cliff-hanger. Had I only purchased volume one and got to this point -I won't lie- I would have been hot-damn pissed. NOT because of the length. Because, rather, I would have wanted to know immediately what was happening in the storyline and it would have killed me to wait. So, note to future readers, buying the volume 1-4 pack is best because you will want to read them in one sitting. (Or two, as was the case with me.)

-There are some odd comma placements happening. I won't lie. But they are not spontaneous. They won't jump out at you from a dark ally with a shiv. There is a pattern, and it is really not that distracting once you get into the rythm.  

Workman knows how to tell a good story. I have never been one for fairytales, but the BLOOD AND SNOW series adds enough vampire action -which I adore and could never live without- and original ideas to create a rich world with characters that readers can't help but care for. Seriously, not once did I daydream about bludgeoning a character to death. They all bring something to the plot, especially Christopher. I have a cougar crush on Hunter Christopher.

With all of the recent Snow White hype, THIS is the original spin that should have been in theaters.


So is this worth your time? I don't know, but it was sure as hell worth mine. So much, in fact, that I just purchased BLOOD AND SNOW 5: PREY AND MAGIC for 99 cents and BLOOD AND SNOW 6: MASQUERADE'S MOON -which is FREE December 12-13th!

Happy reading!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Interview with author C.M. Skiera

Cover for 'Crimson & Cream'
Hounded by watchmen, trolls, goblins, and a relentless bounty hunter, 13-year-old Jetsam dreams of the day he’ll no longer have to run for his life.

In the mountain city of Dwim-Halloe, Eadriel and Elvar were born twins to teachers at the city’s revered School of Magic. When the new king outlawed magic, the boys’ parents were murdered. Their deaths forfeited the twins' magical birthright and made them homeless fugitives.

Rescued by an orphan gang, the fleeing twins were nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam. To survive as outcasts, the orphans scavenge and pilfer nightly. Their last risky foray sent them fleeing into an unfamiliar cavern. Now the boys are lost deep underground where they encounter a strange beast that will change their lives forever and begin a harrowing journey for their ultimate survival.

Crimson & Cream recounts Jetsam’s adventurous tale of flight and discovery as the fugitive orphan unravels his tortured past while securing his tenuous future.



It's Friday! In celebration, I am decorating a debut author in holiday lights, silly-bands, and well-placed danish pastries... Okay, as much as some of you would secretly enjoy that, this author actually needs no fluff to catch a reader's attention.

C.M. Skiera is here today to talk about his novel, CRIMSON & CREAM, and answer some absurdly fun questions. 

Please introduce yourself C.M.

Hi Readers!

I’m a middle-aged man from Michigan who now lives in California with his wife and two rescue dogs. I work as a professional environmental engineer to pay the bills. I've been writing as a hobby since the mid 1990s. 

I started writing Crimson & Cream in 1999, and after lots of twists and turns, 13 drafts, plenty of rejections, the arrival of the 21st Century and the advent of online self-publishing, it's finally here. Whew!

CRIMSON & CREAM is an epic fantasy. Why and how did you begin writing this manuscript?

I've always been a big fan of epic, speculative storytelling, and I especially love Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars (of course). I always wanted to craft an epic story like that, and when the kernels of CRIMSON & CREAM came to me, I decided to run with the idea. I'm sure the influences of all three are evident in CRIMSON & CREAM.

I spent just over seven years writing and revising one of my books. In the beginning, I was in such a rush to make it shiny and call it finished. Oh, how wrong I was. The horror! Slowly, however, I’ve learned to take my time. Craig, you started writing CRIMSON & CREAM in 1999. How does it feel to finally throw it to the wolves? (Oops, I meant loving readers.) Do you feel like it’s finally finished, or is your writer half still mentally making changes?

Scary! Very scary, but it’s also a relief. I feel like the book is finished--the story and plot line will not change. That being said, I’d always consider polishing and tweaking the book based on reviews and reader feedback.After reading it from front to back more than a dozen times, I feel like I’ve lost my objectivity.

Having dedicated so much time to one manuscript, do you feel like CRIMSON & CREAM ever suffered at the hands of your evolution as a writer or did you have previous writing experience/knowledge as guidance?

I’m sure it definitely suffered! Going back and looking at the first draft, there is a big difference. However, I did finish a novel prior to Crimson & Cream (yet unpublished and a different genre), so I already had an idea of the process, but I was (and still am) very raw.

Is there a juicy tidbit or funny anecdote you can share about CRIMSON & CREAM?

I developed the core of the story on a long solo drive from Lansing to Chicago (mainly to entertain myself). My sister was supposed to make the trip with me, but she had gotten sick. If she had been feeling well that day, I’m not sure I would have come up with the story.

Please describe CRIMSON & CREAM in 50 words, 10 words, and 1 word.

50 Words: Crimson & Cream is the story of 13-year old Jetsam, who finds himself a victim of circumstance, his life growing more difficult each day. A series of life-changing events force him to boldly decide his future, while trying to sort out the tangled mysteries of his troubled past. 

10 words: Unlucky orphan runs for his life while chasing his dream. 

1 word: Run!

If you could change the flavor of popcorn to anything in this world or beyond, what would it taste like and why?

Probably bacon. Non-fat bacon, yum. It wouldn’t even need butter! I would eat it every day.

I love Inside the Actors Studio. Please answer James Lipton's 'Final Ten' questions:

What is your favorite word?

That’s a tough one. I certainly don’t have a predetermined favorite. I’ll say Pantomime. I like the way it sounds.

What is your least favorite word?

No.

What turns you on?

Honest passion and enthusiasm.

What turns you off?

Strong-arm, soap-box pontificating on politics and/or religion.

What sound or noise do you love?

The sound of waves reaching the beach.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Car alarms--the least-effective popular invention ever.

What is your favorite curse word?

The F-bomb. A timeless classic.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Acting.

What profession would you not like to do?

Salesman.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

"There are no car alarms here. Relax, and have some bacon popcorn!”

Thank you so much C.M! I've really enjoyed this interview.

For more C.M. Skiera or his novel, CRIMSON & CREAM, follow the links below:





                

Monday, June 11, 2012

Author Rachel E. Fisher is here!


Okay, I've got something good for you today. No, I mean GOOD.

I had the pleasure of asking Rachel Fisher, author of Eden's Root, how she came up with the concept for her young adult, apocalyptic story. Now, I realize a lot of readers can get bored with the answers to this type of question, but not this one. Let me tell you!

Rachel's biology background, personal battle, and love for writing leaves her more than qualified to write such a realistic and -dare I say- nail-biting account of a broken world that might all too soon become the fate of our own future.

I will turn over the blog to Rachel, now.
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Blakely, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss how I came up with the concept for my book, Eden's Root. I've been told by reviewers that it was very original and many have asked this exact question. I'd have to say that a lot of non-fictional things came together in my life at once and when they married what resulted was this fictional tale.

To be fair, I was always a voracious reader (particularly of ya and sci-fi) and I am a professional writer, though not creatively. I think I've been expressing myself through my keyboard for so long that when the story began to come to me, it just poured out. Of course, I've learned a LOT along the way. My writing keeps improving as I hone my craft. There are so many little things that you don't realize will affect the flow and tone of your story. But I've been fortunate to have really helpful, creative, people to give me the critical feedback that I need.

The main catalyst for this story was my (successful!) battle with ovarian cancer. I realize that this is not really an upbeat topic, but then, neither are apocalyptic tales. I was 32 when I was diagnosed and my world turned upside down. When I was young, my parents did not have bunches of thirtysomething friends who were ill. Yet I know two other women who've battled ovarian cancer in their twenties, a friend's sister with a cartilage cancer (she's 30), and I have three different friends with auto-immune disorders. And that's just my friends. When I add other family member's friends, and friends of friends, the list of healthy people is shorter than the list of sick people, and all of them are under 50 years old.

The question that kept haunting me was, "Why did I get sick? Why are so many people sick?" So I researched about food and health and my biology background really came into play. As a youngster I was always intent on becoming a college professor of Biology. I finished my major incollege in three semesters because I absorbed my classes like a sponge. Unfortunately as I neared completion of my Masters in Oceanography, I became disillusioned with the field of research and I quit. My interest in the job may have waned, but my interest in Biology never did, nor did my training as a researcher. All of my findings about food led to the inevitable conclusion that our food was neither safe nor nutritious. I started to become AFRAID to eat and that was when I got angry. Really, really angry. If there is anything that should be a human right, it's to eat a piece of food without worrying that it will break something inside of you irreparably. And yet, that was how I felt.

I never intended to write a story like this, or to write a novel at all. I considered writing a childhood interest, like my painting. Nothing to be taken too seriously. But then as my anger, my knowledge, and my love of science fiction all came together, this story began to flow and I couldn't stop it. I got about 100 pages into writing when I realized that Eden's Root was not the end, that it was the first in a trilogy. And I've been writing non-stop ever since. It has been somewhat healing to tell this story, though I still worry endlessly about the increases (I believe) in chronic disease in young people. I feel like I've found a way to express myself and all of the conflicting things that I feel, without jumping on a soapbox and berating people. If you love Fi like I love Fi, then you know that she wouldn't handle her anger that way. She wouldn't allow an angry heart to dictate her life and neither will I. I'm alive, I'm extremely blessed, and now, wonderfully, magically, I've found writing.

You might think that because the Eden's Root Trilogy is my "catharsis" with regards to my former disease, I wouldn't have interest in writing more...but you would be wrong. :) I have another story just waiting on the sidelines of my mind for me to finish with the Eden's Root Trilogy. I don't know what happened...it's like a faucet turned on in my brain and now I'm just trying to keep up as the water rises!

- Rachel

Rachel's Website
Amazon Eden's Root Paperback
Amazon Eden's Root E-book
Eden's Root on Goodreads.com
__________

Thank you, Rachel, for sharing a bit of Fi's story, and most importantly, your own. The best fiction is born from our darkest fears, greatest accomplishments, and that hidden place where they cohabitate.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ready to mingle with the "Night Students"?

I have something devilishly delightful to brighten your Monday. Kate Evangelista has been gracious enough to share the cover and an excerpt from her novel Taste, which will be ready to creep its way into your soul this May.

My favorite line: "If I had to imagine what Lucifer looked like before he fell from heaven, the boy on the bench would certainly fulfill that image."  


At Barinkoff Academy, there's only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.


Excerpt
I sat up and followed Calixta’s gaze upward. I rubbed my eyes. I didn’t know what I was seeing at first. A statue? ­My brain refused to snap together coherent thoughts.  I didn’t realize I’d fallen so close to one of the garden benches until I stared up at the boy that sat on one. He was strikingly beautiful. His tumble of blonde hair curled just above his sculpted cheekbones. He wore a silk shirt and a loosened cravat, like he’d become bored while dressing and decided to leave himself in disarray. His ivory skin and frozen position was what had me mistaking him for something carved from marble by Michelangelo. Then he sighed—a lonely, breathy proof of life. If I had to imagine what Lucifer looked like before he fell from heaven, the boy on the bench would certainly fulfill that image. My brain told me I had to look away, but I couldn’t.
“Luka,” Calixta said again, her voice unsure, almost nervous. It no longer contained the steel and bite she had threatened me with, which made me wonder who the boy was.
He leaned on his hands and crossed his legs, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on the night sky. His movements spoke of elegance and control. I’d encountered many people with breeding before, but his took on the air of arrogance and self-assuredness of someone used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it.
I only realized I’d been holding my breath when my lungs protested. I exhaled. My heart sputtered and restarted with a vengeance. Luka tore his gaze away from the stars and settled it on me. I’d expected pitch-black irises, like the other Night Students, but blue ice stared back at me.
“Human,” he whispered.
He reached out, and with a finger, followed an invisible trail down my cheek. I stiffened. His touch, cooler than Demitri’s, caused warm sparks to blossom on my face. He lifted his finger to his lips and licked its tip. He might as well have licked me from the way my body shivered.
Luka’s curious gaze held mine. “Leave us,” he said, but not to me.
“But—” Calixta protested like a spoiled child.
He spoke in a language I hadn’t heard before, remaining calm yet firm. The words had a rolling cadence I couldn’t quite follow, like rumbling thunder in the distance. They contained a harsh sensuality. The consonants were hard and the vowels were long and lilting.
Footsteps retreated behind me.
Luka reached out again.
It took me a minute to realize he wanted to help me up. I hesitated. He smiled. I smiled back timidly and took his hand, completely dazzled. Even with my uniform soaked from melted snow, I didn’t feel cold—all my attention was on him and the way his callused hand felt on mine. Without moving much from his seated position, he helped me stand.
“What’s your name?” he asked. He had a voice like a familiar lullaby. It filled my heart to the brim with comfort.
I swallowed and tried to stop gawking. “Phoenix.”
“The bird that rose from the ashes.” Luka bent his head and kissed the back of my hand. “It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
My cheeks warmed. My head reeled, not knowing what to think. I couldn’t understand why I felt drawn to him. And the strange connection frightened me.
From behind, someone gripped my arms and yanked me away before I could sort out the feelings Luka inspired in me. I found myself behind a towering figure yet again. Recognizing the blue-black silk for hair tied at the nape, relief washed over me. Calixta hadn’t come back to finish me off.
Demitri’s large hand wrapped around my wrist. Unlike the night before, no calm existed in his demeanor. He trembled like a junky in need of a fix. The coiled power in his tense muscles vibrated into me.
“What are you doing here?” Demitri asked.
I didn’t know he’d spoken to me until I saw his expressionless profile. I sighed.
“Phoenix.”
I flinched. The ruthless way he said my name punched all the air out of me. “You owe me answers,” I said with as much bravado as I could muster.
“I owe you nothing.” He glared. “In fact, you owe me your life.”
“I don’t think so.”
Ignoring my indignation, he faced Luka, who’d remained seated on the bench during my exchange with Demitri. “Why is she with you, Luka?”
“I wasn’t going to taste her, if that’s what you’re implying,” Luka said. “Although, she is simply delicious. I wouldn’t mind if you left us alone.”
There it was again. Taste. The word that kept coming up between these Night Students and I was connected to it in an increasingly uncomfortable way. To taste meant to sample, but what? My flesh? They had to be joking because the alternative wasn’t funny.
“The sins of the father …” Demitri left his sentence unfinished.
Luka’s smile shifted into a snarl. “Obey my command.” His chin lifted. “Kneel.”
Demitri’s stance went rigid. His grip tightened around my wrist.
Okay, weird just got weirder. Why would Luka want Demitri to kneel before him? I thought back to Eli and the others bowing to Demitri when he questioned them, but they didn’t kneel. Seriously? Were they all living on a different planet or something?
Kneel.” Luka’s detestable smirk made his features sinister rather than angelic. The real Lucifer: a fallen angel.
Without letting go of my wrist, Demitri knelt down on one knee and bowed his head, his free hand flat at the center of his chest. “Your command has been obeyed,” he said formally.
Luka nodded once.
Demitri stood up and pulled me toward the school without telling me where we were going. Not having the time to thank Luka for saving me from Calixta, I risked a glance back. Luka smiled at me. His smile spoke of whispers, secrets, and promises to be shared on a later date.

When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical school. After realizing she wasn't going to be the next Doogie Howser, M.D., Kate wandered into the Literature department of her university and never looked back. Today, she is in possession of a piece of paper that says to the world she owns a Literature degree. To make matters worse, she took Master's courses in creative writing. In the end, she realized to be a writer, none of what she had mattered. What really mattered? Writing. Plain and simple, honest to God, sitting in front of her computer, writing. Today, she has four completed Young Adult novels.

If you would like to learn everything you possibly can about Kate, click on the links below post haste!

Author Website: www.kateevangelista.com
Twitter: @KateEvangelista
Crescent Moon Press page for Taste: http://crescentmoonpress.com/books/Taste.html

Thank you for sharing with us Kate! Taste will be a great addition to any YA paranormal romance collection. I'll be lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce when it debuts next month.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Before you go out tonight, read this.

Dr. Annabelle R. Charbit, author of A Life Lived Ridiculously, is back to share tips on how to avoid falling prey to sociopaths. This is the best pre-Saturday night advice you're gonna get, so read, remember, and don't be affraid to judge others when you're out schmoozing and co-mingling tonight. Feel free, in fact, to print this out in case you need a reminder later.

Caution: If too much alchohol is consumed, give said article away so as to avoid an awkward tattoo chalk full of sociopath warnings that may become a problem in future relationships.  

But seriously, empowering yourself with knowledge (for any situation) can help you avoid the many forms of danger -especially if it comes in the form of a very attractive individual with nice hair and all the right moves.

Okay, I'll zip it now and turn the blog over to Annabelle's article:


Ten ways to spot a sociopath (aka con-artist) on your first date

There are people in the world who don't care about love, and who feel no remorse, empathy or emotional attachment to others. They don't even know what these feeling are. These people are called
sociopaths. Most people think of a sociopath as a deranged serial killer, but, with 4% of the population having the character traits of a sociopath, most sociopaths never physically harm anyone. Sociopaths do however ruin lives, empty bank accounts, and cause untold emotional trauma, using simply the fact that they don't care.
 

WHAT MAKES A SOCIOPATH?

The Absence of Feelings: Sociopaths may seem to laugh or cry but they present with no depth of emotion. While easily provoked to frustration or rage, their display of feeling is little more than a momentary, isolated temper tantrum. To the sociopath, other people are tools to  get them what they want: money, sex, a job or other possessions. They live in their own amoral world where nothing they do has any consequences and where they owe no one anything. They have no empathy. Thus, they elude all responsibility for their actions, and can easily turn the tables, blaming their partner without guilt or shame.

The Relentlessness of Deception: Sociopaths lie all the time. As they don't view their spouse as a thinking, feeling person, they do not see this behavior as wrong. Their only quest is to serve themselves and, if this entails lying, cheating or even murder, they will do so. If one catches them in lies, they are brilliant at changing the subject, placing the onus on the other person, denying their involvement or trying to make their spouse seem crazy. They are even good at deceiving the police and the court system; sociopaths rarely end up in prison for their actions.

The Impulsiveness of Action: Sociopathic individuals rarely plan ahead. They undertake actions on the basis of momentary whims, often devious ones. Every act seems isolated in its own amoral universe. Thus, they cannot keep promises or repair the damage they've caused to others. When they lie, cheat or steal, the act exists solely for them; they believe it should have no repercussions or real world effects. They often appear to have "forgotten" they did something shortly after it happened. Their need for excitement encourages them to get involved in one night stands, shady deals and ill advised engagements. Sociopaths have no sense of commitment to their spouses, any children they may have together or the future.
HOW TO SPOT A SOCIOPATH

Sociopaths have impressive social skills, thereby making them extremely hard to spot. They are charming, funny and exciting. This is why we need to be aware. If your new romantic interest exhibits all or most of the following behaviors, be careful. He or she might be a sociopath.

1) Charisma and charm:
 They’re smooth talkers, always have an answer, never miss a beat. They seem to be very exciting. Their manners are impeccable; they are well groomed; they fulfill the codes of romance and courtship to a tee. They are likely to be eloquent talkers who lace their speech with impressive sounding facts and figures. They may be fun, laugh a lot, sweep their partner off their feet with their sweetness. 


2) Enormous ego: They act like the smartest, richest or most successful people around. They may actually come out and tell you that.

3) Overly attentive: They call, text and e-mail constantly. They want to be with you every moment. They resent time you spend with your family and  friends.

4) Jekyll and Hyde personality: One minute they love you; the next minute they hate you. Their personality changes like flipping a switch.

5) Blame others: Nothing is ever their fault. They always have an excuse. Someone else causes their problems.

6) Lies and gaps in the story: You ask questions, and the answers are vague. They tell stupid lies. They tell outrageous lies. They lie when they’d make out better telling the truth. If you probe deeper, you’ll find that their stories never stack up.

7) Intense eye contact: Call it the predatory stare. If you get a chill down your spine when they look at you, pay attention.

8) Move fast: They quickly proclaim that you’re their true love and soul mate. They want to move in together or get married quickly.

9) Pity play: They appeal to your sympathy. They want you to feel sorry for their abusive childhood, psychotic ex, incurable disease or financial setbacks.

10) Sexual magnetism: If you feel intense attraction, if your physical relationship is unbelievable, it may be their excess testosterone.

Some doctors call them
sociopaths, others refer to them as psychopaths. Either way, the terms are used to describe individuals who have a range of personality disorders. These people are NOT certifiably mentally ill; they are biological carriers of socially and personally problematic traits. Such traits may have been manifested from childhood in acts of cruelty to animals, property or people. These characteristics can disrupt relationships, create financial and emotional crises, and, at their worst, lead the person to callously undertake acts of vandalism, theft, rape or murder. Being aware what constitutes a sociopath can help one resist their charm and the errors inherent in establishing a life with them.

Sociopaths know exactly what they are doing, and most of them never kill anyone. But they are social predators who exploit just about everyone they meet. They have no heart, no conscience and no remorse.

You can’t ‘cure’ a
sociopath or help them to see the error of their ways. They don't see the world as we do, so the only thing you can do, is save yourself and walk away.


Dr Annabelle R Charbit

Author of A Life Lived Ridiculously: When a girl with obsessive compulsive disorder falls in love with a sociopath, she must fight for her sanity and her life
Buy A Life Lived Ridiculously at Amazon
Buy A Life Lived Ridiculously at Barnes and Noble

Synopsis
Maxine's brain is stuck. Everything around her feels wrong and the only way to fix it is to check, double-check, rearrange and count everything. What Maxine can't fix though is her parents' constant nagging over the absence of a husband. A humiliation that is further compounded when her younger brother runs off with Miss Perfect. Then she meets Sam, a smooth-talking charmer with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and enough terminal diseases to wipe out a small village. Maxine decides that Sam is her salvation, never mind that his life is more depressing than a Greek tragedy, and others are urging her to get away from him. The problem is that Sam has Maxine under his spell. Will Maxine escape from Sam before it is too late?


Thank you, Annabelle! This has been quite interesting. And A Life Lived Ridiculously is absolutely amazing!!! This book is for anyone in search of a great plot, unforgetable characters, and a good laugh.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Interview with Jenniey Tallman: mother, maven, published writer

It's time for an interview. Why? Because it's important for writers and readers to connect on a human level. And this is a special interview because I've known Jenniey Tallman since I was an awkward girl hanging out with her little sister.

When I was in middle school, Jenniey taught us how to steam our faces: Boil a pot of water and carefully lean over it -not too close!- while draping a towel over our heads and arms, giving the illusion that we're in a secret chamber. A hot-ass chamber that will catch fire if you don't keep your arms up! Remember to keep your arms up! Haha.

And in high school, I totally envied her yearbook photo: Jenniey smiling, kneeling under a beautiful tree that highlighted her red hair amongst a page of face-painted, hair-fried girls. Of course, I can't imagine what my own photo looked like that year. Probably no makeup, clothes five sizes too large, wearing one of my dad's flannels. So don't feel bad painted and fried girls.

My point, you ask? Jenniey is one of a kind. She always has been. And now the world gets to experience a little bit of that unique spirit through Jenniey's writing.  
________________________________

Jenniey, your writing captures everyday events in a way that makes them magical, dirty, and sentimental all at once. I think many writers shy from such depth -especially the little details that are just this side of being fucked six ways to Sunday- because it leaves them open to the most personal and, consequently, the most humiliating criticisms. Yet you do it flawlessly every time. Your characters and stories resonate. Broken people and moments look gorgeous in their truths, even while they feel ugly because of them. Your writing seems to leave the impression that it's okay to look at an inverted reflection in the mirror and say, "Yep, that's me. If you don't like it, kindly go suck it."


Are you really that fearless in your writing?

All right, firstly — you are awesome. It is incredibly swell of you to say all those nice things.

Fearless? I don’t intend to be, but yes, I suppose I am —at least the writing part is, and here is why: I usually begin writing with brutal honesty. It isn’t always comfortable; for instance, sometimes I feel nervous about my language, but when I’ve tried to make things comfortable it feels safe, false, and boring. So I end up thinking, Oh, screw it all. I’ll write what I feel like. Nobody has to read this.

After that, I am less fearless — when I have to put the work out into the world. At this point I either find the guts to ask someone to read it (all the while thinking, Screw you. Fine, you will never speak to me again, but I can live with that), or I send it as a submission somewhere thinking, Screw everybody. I’m sending this out.

Sometimes, I do a lot of revision, with a couple of excellent friends’ input and critique — overall I feel much less shy of this work. However, quite often, I’ll have something published after little revision and when no one (outside of the editor) has even read it — I feel painfully shy of these pieces. So, in that way, I am not fearless at all. In fact, I often feel like withdrawing completely.

You have a background in women's studies and sexuality. Do you utilize these fields of study to promote certain feminine platforms in your writing? Or do they kind of coexist, sometimes mingling, fraternizing, goading, playing with the idea of that first kiss?

I would say that studying those issues was the logical next step for me when I saw the themes recurring in my writing. In other words, the writing came first, then the studies. Class and identity issues are very important to me: labels, women, minorities, “abnormal” people. There are perfectly good reasons for this: as you know, my family is made up of pretty much every type of person ever put into a box. My experiences have been formed through devalued, stereotyped, and misunderstood populations.

As for the feminine: I started out writing about mothering. It was my experience, so I wrote about it. I wasn’t aware that this subject in writing was not highly regarded until much later. I did not know that stories about socioeconomically disadvantaged poor people were undesirable. Now that I know, I don’t change my writing to reflect other people’s experiences. I do, however, try to trick people into reading my writing anyway. 

Do you have a "typical" writing process or is it different for each project?

I suppose it is pretty typical. However, my first and only writing teacher told me that being a writer was like being a magician and one should never divulge her tricks. I can tell you that when I am writing, it is all I can think about. My mood is altered by the story I’m telling, sort of like a method actor — kinda sucks for my husband and kids. I always read my work aloud to myself, sometimes going so far as to record it and play it back to get objectivity. The rhythm of the words might be the very most important thing to me, even in fiction.

What is the most surprising thing you've learned about yourself through your writing? (And maybe about other people, as well.)

This is a really hard question. I don’t know if I have an answer for it. Have I learned anything about myself through my writing? That I am a feminist. That I like minimalism.

Which project was the most difficult, and why?

No question: an as yet unpublished apocalyptic tribal fiction story. (A very kind rejection labeled it that, not me.) I am still working on it and worry that I may well be working on it for the rest of my life. That is all right though; I really like the characters so I don’t mind spending time with them. It is just hard because I keep thinking it is done only to find out that it isn’t. It also has the distinction of being the first and only straight fiction writing I’ve done. Fiction does not come easily to me.

I will always carry one specific sentence in my mind from your story 'Truths About Suicidal Women', published in the Alice Blue Review. "Suicidal women keep the magic markers and paints above the refrigerator." It makes me laugh, while a squishy, reserved inner part of me simply nods. What is one of your favorite lines or moments from your writing and why?

That is really sweet of you, Blakely. I like that line too. It was actually that line which led me to the title of the story and to use that particular format — the framework of suicidal women.

Off the top of my head: from “Into the Rainforest” (published in annalemma). I love the line that says something like, “We did not used to like eating small boiled fish, but now they taste good to us.” The truth is, I adore that story, but, that might be because it is something I would personally like to read. It perfectly captures the transitional moment when the narrator is no longer one of us. 

The "Mommy" question: With three sons that you "unschool", when do you write? What do you do when you're not writing? It's okay to lie. (Okay, that was a lie.) You have always been a "creator". That's how I picture you, anyway. I remember artwork covering your house growing up, and I suppose I've kept that image. Only now, I imagine three boys wreaking havoc in a high-speed chase through your house while you smile and find a table or wall to showcase their latest arts and crafts. Maybe next to one of your own. Am I totally wrong? (It's okay to lie here. It's also okay to admit that you do things that don't involve glue, glitter, paints, or the Victoria Secret catalog. (Yeah, I saw that blog post.)

Damn, Blakely. You pegged me. That is it, exactly. It is funny that this question follows the markers/paints, because that is a part of it. I do not keep the paints and markers out of reach, but if I did, I imagine I would be suicidal — it points to a lifestyle which is more concerned with order and cleanliness than with expression and spontaneity, and that would, quite frankly, make me suicidal.

When I write, it is with an invisible shield. I just let whatever is happening happen and put my blinders on. I get really, really, angry when one of the kids tries to pull me out of my trance. If they make a mess or a lot of noise, on the other hand, it doesn’t bother me at all. So, I write whenever I feel like it — as long as the boys aren’t sick or in need of parenting. I suffer from serious insomnia, so I do end up writing quite a lot when the house is asleep. Actually “suffer” sounds like a lie, to me. I suffered from it until I learned that I could write during that time, or do submissions — I do a lot of editing/polishing at those hours, actually.

I believe there should be 30 hours in a day. How many would you suggest?

Oh, I would completely agree as long as during the extra hours the kids would just sleep. Otherwise, no thanks. For a long time, nursing babies and whatnot, I lost track of hours and days entirely. That was good for me — having one long never-ending day. It drives some people mad, but it worked well for me. 

If you could pet any type of creature (real/mythical/mythological/supernatural/etc...), what would it be and why?

There is one particular kitten on Youtube — it is a Himalayan thing being unimaginably cute and soft. It makes me shake a little to think of it; I would eat it if I could.

You're not off the hook yet! Since I'm such a fan of the Actor's Studio with James Lipton, I'm going to require that you answer Lipton's "Final Ten".

1) What is your favorite word?
As.
2) What is your least favorite word?
Traditional.
3) What turns you on?
Kittens. KIDDING! Squirrels.
4) What turns you off?
Regurgitated bacon.
5) What sound or noise do you love?
A baby’s first attempts at speech.
6) What sound or noise do you hate?
Loud unexpected noises make me cry (Have you seen The Catherine Tate Show? <http://youtu.be/8JdeMenMTL4>.
7) What is your favorite curse word?
Fuck-a-duck (and make it cluck).
8) What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’d love to own an Inn — a place for weary travelers to stop for a bite, a brew, and a bed. I’ll do the cooking, Chris will do the brewing, the boys can do the housekeeping… we’ll be like the Green Valley <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CapsH0RQgE8>.
9) What profession would you not like to do?
Anything commercial.
10) If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Sincerely, I’m an atheist. I’m not saying that is what I’d like to hear; I just mean: really, fish don’t ride bicycles.

Here are but a few of Jenniey's published works:
'study, nine', Elimae:
http://elimae.com/2012/02/Study.html
'Into The Rainforest', Annalemma Magazine:
http://annalemma.net/features/into-the-rainforest.html
'Truths About Suicidal Women', Alice Blue Review:
http://www.alicebluereview.org/thirteen/prose/tallman.html

For the latest Jenniey news, kindly visit her website:
http://jennieytallman.com/
or her blog
http://jennieytallman.com/words/
She is also "not" on Twitter :) here:
https://twitter.com/#!/jennieytallman


Thank you Jenniey,
for a lot more than your words!


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

TOUCH OF FROST by Jocelyn Adams Review


!! HAPPY RELEASE DAY !!




Even the simplest of touches between Will Frost and Lauren McLean are forbidden.
To share love will surely mean death.
Since her granddad's passing, Lauren has existed a few steps out of sync with the world. Desperate to feel the love only he offered her as a child, Lauren returns to the haven they once shared — a snow-covered cabin at the foothills of the Rockies.
It's not the memory of her granddad that warms her ice-cold, frost-bitten body after being caught in a blizzard, though. It's the man in whose bed she wakes.
Along with bringing life to her soul, Will stirs deep-rooted memories in Lauren and brings out the love she seeks.
What Will knows about himself — the secrets of his kind — he keeps hidden, forcing Lauren to search for answers, to question and ultimately put her life, and his own existence, in danger.
In love, though, there is always a way.
Can Will get around the rules? Or will Lauren give up her life simply to have one last touch from Will Frost?


First, the downfalls:

There was not much time to acclimate myself to Lauren’s world before I was thrust into the icy water with her. While I immediately bonded with Lauren and her grief, a little more character history would have done a story good. I’m still left wondering why she was so close with her grandfather to begin with.  Just a close family? Absent parents? Only child enjoying the spoils of attention? A yearly winter treat?

And I have to say that certain exchanges between Lauren and Will Frost did not translate well. Odd word choices left moments that should have been awkwardly endearing in a girl-meets-boy kind of way, well, just awkward in a missed-the-mark kind of way. It made it hard to focus in on Will’s character. Sometimes he was a tough yet sensitive mountain man. But then, out would peak a gawky teen rather than a hot beefcake that simply lacks finesse.    

As for the plot, it is not very elaborate. Not to say that is all bad. But if you are a reader looking for action, read elsewhere. However, if you like those indulgent moments when two characters spark that flame, TOUCH OF FROST delivers.

Oh yes, the goodies:

Adams definitely knows how to enthrall readers. With little action to propel the storyline, TOUCH OF FROST could have easily melted away into oblivion. However, driven purely by two characters in a small cabin, their combustible lust and love prove momentous. At times I swore I could hear Lauren’s heartbeat thrumming faster every time Will glanced her way.  

Though Will’s character was a tad obscure at times, the majority was loud and clear. If I ever end up in Will’s cabin, there’s no way either one of us is leaving. *wink, wink* 

And, of course, the cover art is fabulous. Between that entrancing stare and a great synopsis, I was hooked, even though I rarely read a love story that doesn’t involve weapons, ballsy women, and dead (-ish) things.

The bottom line:

TOUCH OF FROST offers the intense attraction found in TWILIGHT and a divine heartache paralleling CITY OF ANGELS. Adams’ characters resonate. There is a certain serenity achieved in this snowy, isolated world that might leave you as revived as Lauren.

Final thought:

I was touched by Frost and I liked it. ;) 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bitten by Dan O'Brien -Review

My synopsis of BITTEN by Dan O'Brien: 

Lauren Westlake, an F.B.I. agent, arrives in a small Minnesota town after opening a cold case file. A killer is on the loose. But Lauren and the local police department must figure out if their killer is human, animal, or…other?

First, the downfalls: 

O’Brien seems to stumble into the stereotypical trap that a woman only has something negative to think upon meeting another woman. This immediately left me questioning the believability of the main heroine, Lauren. As an F.B.I. agent, wouldn’t she notice deeper traits or have gut feelings rather than allow herself to get sidetracked by someone’s heavy makeup or hot-pants? Now, while I kept a sense of humor about it -and could have easily created a drinking game out of it- I can’t help but comment that it is mathematically impossible to have that many hussies and harlots in one small town.

(Although, to be honest, I’ve never been to Minnesota.) 

Also, O’Brien repeats information a lot more than is comfortable. Characters should be used to relay information to the reader. However, I found myself reading the same conversation, only between different characters. Or Lauren would think something and then turn right around and say those exact thoughts to another character. Then why, as the reader, did I need to know she was thinking them right before she said them? (Now, having read that, pretend you have to listen to me tell someone else the exact same thing. Redundant.) O’Brien needs to give his readers more credit to connect the dots. I can do it. I had my mental pencil ready to go and everything.

Now, the goodies:

While there were a few downsides to O’Brien’s work, there were numerous positives and unexpected treats. I was immediately intrigued by his beautiful way with words and wintry landscape. I hate to be cold (I despise it, actually), but he made me long for thigh-high snow and icy tree branches snapping in the darkness as I read. Every major event became a vivid portrait. The atmosphere is cozy yet alarming. It is reminiscent, at times, of the campy early nineties television show ‘Twin Peaks’, as well as ‘Wolf Lake’, a show that focused on small town mysteries and dark werewolf secrets.

O’Brien especially delivers the “cringe” factor. Pushing the reader in all the right ways, the extra bits of gore are definitely appreciated. If a body has been disemboweled, I want to see it go the distance. And O’Brien does just that.     

What really stands out, however, is O’Brien’s incredibly unique and macabre twist on the traditional werewolf story. Through a series of run-ins with key individuals, the main character learns that not one, but two individuals are responsible for the bodies littering the frigid woods. I cannot add more for fear of spoiling it for others. And I would hate to do that.

Bottom line:

Dan O’Brien’s BITTEN adds a fresh twist to the traditional werewolf story. A great read for any horror or supernatural fans. And the ending totally hooked me into the sequel. So get to it, O’Brien. I want more.

(This review is posted at Fantasy Book Review http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/blog/2012/01/16/bitten-by-dan-obrien-reviewed/. Check out the site if your brain hungers for more knowledge concerning literature.)