Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Past

As I was making pies Wednesday night and cooking up a storm Thursday, I couldn't help but remember the first Thanksgiving Justin and I spent alone together.

It was the second of our marriage. We were living in Moscow, Idaho, attending the University of Idaho. We didn't have enough money or vacation time to go to either of our faraway homes (both were a 9+ hour drive away) and I was working in retail with Black Friday the next day. And since I was adventurous in the kitchen, I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for only the two of us.

I don't remember everything about that day. I do remember that a grocery store sold the back end of turkeys--the thighs and legs--which was great because we both love dark meat and we cooked those small little half turkeys all the time, so that wasn't a big deal.

I remember the pumpkin pie being a big deal. It's Justin's favorite. And when I went to make it, I only had sweetened condensed milk, not evaporated milk. I went out shopping and every store was closed. I even tried every open gas station in Moscow. Big surprise, no gas station carried evaporated milk.

We called Justin's grandmother who told us how to modify our recipe so we could use our sweetened condensed milk (too bad Pinterest didn't exist then or I could've probably figured it out). And I also remember nothing being done at the same time. The potatoes were cold by the time the turkey was ready. And when we cut into the turkey, it was still pink and bloody inside. It went back in the oven. We microwaved the potatoes and yams and tried again. The turkey was still undercooked. We finally had to just microwave the turkey.

It was just the two of us, figuring it out together. A perfect memory of our early marriage. But now I can make the whole feast for fifteen timed perfectly!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Write a Book

Take 26 letters.

This concept amazes me. Oh, how I love language.

Spend 2-3 hours a night arranging those 26 letters in a hundred million different ways. Add sleepless nights. Listless days. Countless hours of staring into space. Add genuine tears—sometimes tears of frustration, tears of self-doubt, tears of happiness, love, and sadness. Then delete a great deal of those 26 letters you’ve arranged so painstakingly and begin arranging again. Add a sliver of your soul, a pinch of your passion, a good deal of your own dreams and desires. Do this, every day, for hours. Repeat for months and even years.

And then you’ll have written a book. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest Post by Author Marissa Ames

Since becoming an independently published author last year, I have crossed paths with some pretty great people. I think indie authors are pretty awesome people - they march to the beat of their own drum, play by their own rules, and truly support and promote the art of writing and the world of literature. Marissa is one of those people. She reached out to me and made me see that being "independent" did not mean being "alone."

Marissa Ames
Her first novel Minstrel debuted the beginning of this month (my copy just arrived today!) and I was lucky enough to interview her. She has also put out a companion short story called "Darrion."

Tell me about Minstrel. Minstrel is the first of about 6 or 7 planned books that tell the story of Tir Athair and its conflict with Tir Saoirse, from the viewpoints of different characters. Minstrel tells the story of the start of the civil war, from the viewpoint of a court minstrel who gets way too involved in royal politics. 

Arriving in the royal city of Cynegil just after the good king’s death, Liam and his traveling troupe face arrest for entertaining during a time of mourning. The new king, Riordan, offers them a choice: play for the court as he demands or be punished for the crime. With little recourse, they acquiesce. While the troupe entertains within the hall, Liam witnesses the dissension between the king and his twin brother, Shamus. When Shamus enlists Liam to record the kingdom’s history from his own viewpoint, the king becomes suspicious. And when Liam becomes involved with Molly, the mysterious redheaded washerwoman, and Tristan, the royal soldier with a deadly secret and a skill for causing unfortunate accidents, his life becomes even more complicated. As the kingdom staggers beneath drought, famine, and conflict, Liam and Shamus must flee Cynegil with prices on their heads. Will they survive their journey or will they become just another ballad to be sung? 

Tell me about yourself. I grew up in Salmon, Idaho, where the movie theater played the same movie for two weeks. We could either get in trouble or build our talents. So I wrote my first novel when I was 12 years old. I'm not saying that novel is good! Everyone has to practice. Now I live in Reno, Nevada, with a husband, two children, and an entire urban farm. When I'm not working my day job or taking care of the family, I spend way too much time on Facebook or in my imaginary worlds. Why did you choose this genre? I've been a fantasy geek for my entire life, and I've been fascinated with medieval times since I was a child. When I was a teenager, it was a geeky obsession that drove my mother crazy. I actually listened to cassettes of Irish drinking songs while other teens listened to Metallica. I even gathered rocks in my dad's 2-acre horse field to build a castle, but got distracted after earning the money to buy the cement. (I wonder what dad ever did with that cement.) As I matured, my obsession waned but the interest and knowledge I collected is still there. 

What inspired this story? About ten years ago, I wrote a story that took place in Tir Athair. The conflict between the two kingdoms was such an integral part in the story that I felt I needed to tell the story of how it all got started. Since I like to tell stories of greatness from the viewpoint of someone who isn't stereotypically great, I needed a main character who could give me that insight. While listening to a song by the band Blackmore's Night, I had the idea to make my main character a minstrel. 

What would you say to someone who generally isn’t drawn to fantasy to give Minstrel a try?
It's a very character-driven story, with a lot of moral themes. Also, I like to refer to it as "low fantasy." There aren't dragons, magical orbs, or cataclysmic events. It's about normal people trying to survive.

At what moment did you like your main character least? In the first third of the book, before Liam starts getting in trouble with the crown, he and the other members of his troupe have a "falling-out". I've heard it said that everyone who is offended, and reacts in anger, feels he's justified in his actions. Liam has some of those moments. As we all learn, we're not always right when we react this way. 

At what moment did you hurt for your main character the most? At the risk of giving away the plot... Halfway through the book, when Liam leaves the city with the prince, he leaves behind something that's very important to him. When he returns for it, he learns that it's no longer his. 

What are some of your favorite books, authors, TV shows, movies and/or influences? 
Tamora Pierce was my favorite author growing up, and her books helped instill a sense of self-worth with her girl-empowering fantasy stories. I loved how Dragonlance focused on individual characters while telling an epic story, and I admire how Jim Butcher instills so much humor and character into The Dresden Files. As far as TV and movies, I'm a sucker for the fantasy series that throw in a huge amount of character development instead of relying on swordfights and pretty dresses. The Walking Dead is great for that. It's not about the zombies; it's about the characters. 

Fill in the blank—if you like _____________ you will probably like Minstrel. 
If you like Tamora Pierce, but don't want to stick to teenage characters. 
If you like your George R.R. Martin to be toned down just a little... 
If you like historical fiction and medieval times, but aren't fussy about the details or the artistic license.

I got my copy of Minstrel today. I have a lot on my to-do list, so I told myself I would only read the first chapter. Well, three chapters later, I finally had to pry myself away and get back to reality. So now the really important stuff, where can you get your copy? Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It's available in print and in e-book format. Remember on Amazon, you can see the first few chapters for free, but I think you'll end up buying it.

Follow and support Marissa here:
Twitter: @MarissaAmes

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Super Prestigious Interview About My New Novel

As I was sitting down to blog about my book, I was thinking what I wanted my few and precious readers to know and I thought it wasn't too bad that there wasn't some insightful interviewer to just ask me all the right questions. But then I decided that *I* could be that interviewer. (I swear, I do not have multiple personality disorder. I've been tested.) So here you exclusive interview by yours truly!

Give us a brief synopsis of the book. It picks up not too long after Oceanswept ends, with Tessa and Nicholas heading to St. Kitts so Tessa can be reunited with her father. We know this is risky because Nicholas is/was a pirate and Tessa's father basically hunts pirates. As expected, when they get to St. Kitts, things don't go as planned. Tessa meets a man named Emilio De Luca who is romantically interested in her. We meet a young woman named Meg who has ties to piracy as well. And Skidmore makes a return. There is sailing and daring adventures. All you loved about Oceanswept and more.

The synopsis talks about a handsome baron. Tell me about him. Emilio De Luca is kind of a fun character. He's actually an Italian, so his title is irrelevant in the English colonies. He's a hard worker and kind of a visionary and has made a fortune in sugar cane. He has a lot of tenacity and a really, really good heart. Very thoughtful kind of guy. He falls for Tessa and befriends Nicholas. He shares a lot of qualities with both Tessa and Nicholas. Like Tessa, he's sick of societal expectations. Yet like Nicholas, he is very used to getting his way and in a way lacks empathy because of that.

So are we going to pulled into a love triangle? You could say that. Or maybe a love rectangle. :) We have Tessa and Nicholas who are in love with each other. Then we have Lord De Luca who falls for Tessa. And then we have Meg who is a former flame of Nicholas who wants him back.

There are a lot of romantic entanglements. I was furious at both Nicholas and Tessa several times. I wanted to portray their romance realistically. He's not had a lot of emotional development, considering his childhood. And Tessa's never truly been in a real relationship before. There's a breakdown of communication and a lot of issues with pride. These are two of the biggest plagues in any relationship in the history of the earth. They are these fun, adventurous fictional characters, but they make very real mistakes and react in very real ways. I remember writing some of their scenes and just being depressed. A friend even asked me why I seemed so down and I said, "My characters are fighting." So it gets to me too - I got furious at them as well. :)

You killed off a character! Yes. I am curious to hear reactions from my readers. My beta readers were all pretty shocked. I think the how of the death is just as shocking as the death itself.

I thought Captain Black would play a bigger role in Undertow. His time "onscreen" is small, but his influence is pretty big. I just had to remind readers that he was there because he is going to make a big splash in book 3.

All the characters are showing more depth. What did you learn about them when writing their story? Nicholas seems so sure of himself, so self-possessed. But we some some fissures in his swashbuckling character. He wasn't loved or nurtured as a child. They are emotions he doesn't really trust nor find himself worthy of. And his past acts of piracy haunt him. He recognizes some of his flaws. He can be self-aware. He knows he's rash and selfish. He tries to work on that.

Tessa. Well, Tessa is an interesting study. I believe in promoting strong female characters - but I also want to be realistic, considering the time period. We see a lot of weakness in Tessa. She is more wishy-washy than you'd think. She developed this devil may care attitude in Oceanswept but we get her to St. Kitts in a posh mansion with a handsome man courting her and her father expecting her to behave certain ways, and she just slips back into the mold she had broken out of. It's frustrating. But external events in Oceanswept kind of forced her to find her strength. In Undertow, she has to find it again, but it's her own decision and on her own terms.

Any teasers from book 3 that you can share? I am 90% sure I have a name, but I won't release that yet. We will really see Tessa step up and being a formidable force, totally taking charge of her future, and learning from past mistakes. At one point she even teams up with Captain Black to accomplish what she wants. There's a surprising dynamic with Captain Black and Tessa that develops. And we still have our romantic messes with Nicholas and Emilio. That's what makes a romance fun!

Thanks for your time. It's been great interviewing you. Oh, no problem. Anytime. Seriously. I am always here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Undertow - Book 2 in the Oceanswept Trilogy

My second book will come out on Wednesday, November 6. I chose this date to honor my mom because it is her birthday. I would never have had the courage to write books - and publish them independently - without her faith in me.

I don't have a solidified synopsis of the book yet, but here's something I've been playing around with (hey, I still have 24 hours to work it out, and that is how I roll).

The life she always thought she would have…or a new life she is just starting to imagine? Two paths lay before Tessa Monroe as she finally arrives in colonial St. Kitts with her dashing rescuer, the former pirate Nicholas Holladay. Everything should be perfect, but her worlds are colliding.

In the spellbinding sequel to Oceanswept, Tessa finds a tempting new future with a handsome baron unfolding before her on sunny St. Kitts and Nicholas finds that the path he was so eager to leave behind isn't quite through with him yet. 

Let me tell you, I am very excited for this installment. Tessa and Nicholas both go through a lot and grow a lot. 

This book will be available November 6 on with other platforms and a printed copy to follow within the next 60 days. 

And if you didn't know, I also have a new Oceanswept Chronicle out (these are short stories that supplement the novels - just a bit of an "editor's cut," if you will) called "Stowaway." It is actually a sneak peak at Undertow, so if you just can't wait until Wednesday, be sure to read it. :)

And as always, your honest reviews on, Goodreads, and other platforms are greatly appreciated. 


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