Just a quick update to say that I’ve been offered a contract editor position for a publishing company! I’m super excited to be working with this team of editors. I’d been proofreading for them for almost a year and guess I did a good job! All that work is paying off!
Not to fear – I still love my indies and will continue working with you as well. And I’m still taking on new authors as well, just scheduling a little better now.
I’m happy to reveal to you the cover of Path of Needles! Make sure you put this one on your TBR list — I worked on it and can say, it’s a unique twist on fairy tales.
Title: Path of Needles
Author: Hannah Kollef
Launch Date: October 12th, 2012
The Midnight Ball
The clock was about to strike midnight as I stood beside a potted bamboo plant, nursing a stolen glass of wine and praying no one would see me. My red dress chafed. My high-heels were killing me. The noise level in the gallery was almost deafening. And if I had to listen to one more person talk about the weather, I was going to scream.
And speak of the devil…
Phil, my father’s literary agent, had spotted me. I tried to pretend I hadn’t heard him but it was too late. He was already motioning for me to join him. I smothered my groan, both at the thought of the conversation and the pain in my feet, and walked over to where he stood with a few other people.
“Hey, Kat,” he said eagerly. “We were just discussing all the weird weather we’ve been having. Did you feel the earthquake last week? An earthquake in New York City. Still can’t believe it.”
A blond woman cut in before I could answer. “I heard it was solar flares. That’s what caused the tsunami in Japan, you know. Terrible stuff. All those deaths.”
“Nonsense,” said a young man. I’d forgotten his name, but I was pretty sure he worked for NPR. His face was flushed and he slurred his speech a bit. “It’s Global Warming. Those goddamned Republicans have been ignoring us for decades and now they’re getting their proof. Tsunamis in Japan, earthquakes in New York City, tornadoes in Alaska. Alaska! And they gave us crap for the electric car!”
The young man suddenly turned to me, an expectant look on his face.
“Well?” he blustered. “Don’t you agree?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Phil cut in. “Her father is Jonathan Finnegan. Of course she agrees. All this nonsense about the Mayans, on the other hand…”
Thus began a heated debate in which I had little interest. Fortunately I spotted my uncle, Hank, standing beside the buffet table with a plate of fruit.
“I think I see my uncle,” I muttered and made my escape. I weaved my way through the crowd of polished literati, avoiding anyone who might recognize me as my father’s daughter. Waiters in black suits and glittering masks mingled with the crowd. They carried trays of drinks and the small finger foods partygoers like to admire but not eat. One stopped in my path. He was slighter than most men and had on a silver mask that extended into the air like wings beside his face.
There was something almost familiar about him. It might have been his thin lips, or the sharp, aristocratic slope of his nose. He didn’t speak, just held up a tray filled with a dozen glasses of red wine.
“I’m good, thanks,” I spluttered, holding up my half-full glass.
The waiter smiled and inclined his head, leaving before I could figure out who he looked like. The whole interaction had taken ten seconds, but it was disorienting. I wrote it off to the wine and hurried over to Hank.
He looked distinguished, as always, with his grey hair and closely cropped beard. The vintage Pink Floyd tee shirt he wore under his suit gave him an edge of cool that fit well with his New York art gallery. Hank was not his original name. He’d changed it before we were born, when he came to America and found people unable to pronounce his Russian name. He also wasn’t my uncle by blood. But he and my father had been friends for longer than I’d been alive, and they might as well have been brothers. He’d helped to raise me, and in some ways, was closer to Roger and I than our father.
I’m trying out something different. Please let me know how you like the guest post below. I’m hoping that it is helpful to other writers out there. If so, I’ll try to post more guest posts like this. Thanks!
Transcending the Mundane: How to Enhance Creativity
The earliest cave paintings date back to approximately forty thousand years ago! Considering that Rome existed less than two millennia ago, this is quite a stretch of human history. The Cave of Altamira, located in Spain, is thought of as the Sistine Chapel of cave paintings by modern anthropologists because of its ornateness and implied intelligence, creativity, and resourcefulness. What spurred on and enabled this type of high-level creativity? The jury is still out for anthropologists but the demotic consensus appears to be swift and profound development of the neocortex, which is part of the brain’s cerebral cortex.The fascinating thing about this theory is that in many ways these early humans – the forebears of modern homo sapiens – have essentially the same brains as we do! The truth is that the same neocortical development that helped the early humans paint these ornate images at the Cave of Altamira can help modern humans be more creative in their day-to-day lives! Since the neocortex is associated with spatial reasoning, language, conscious thought and perhaps creativity, and since creativity and intelligence are highly linked, optimizing brain performance might be the ideal way to bolster creativity. Continue reading Guest Post: How to Enhance Creativity→
The first twenty readers who request a Kindle ebook today will receive a free copy of The Crooked Swan by Julie Helm. Please leave the email and specify the device where you would like your gift sent in the comments. Thank you.
About the book: What was Kayla thinking when she gave Narissa the solo in the Christmas recital? Caught in a world she thought she’d never be a part of, Kayla learns that what was given in a moment of frustration and pity cannot be taken back so easily… especially with Narissa. As Kayla recognizes within herself a great need to help Narissa dance, she discovers patience and forgiveness, and the beauty found within the soul of a little girl who is more angel than child… she discovers the healing power of love…and the joy found in truly caring for others.
Julie Helm speaks out about what inspired The Crooked Swan:
When I was a young girl I loved to dance. I’d lie in my bed at nights and imagine that I was the lead dancer in a world famous ballet company. My dreaming took me everywhere: On pointe shoes I danced into the waiting arms of a dreamy dance partner. He would lift me so high the stage lights forced me to close my eyes. It all felt so real. Leaping and whirling, moving gracefully on my toes, I danced until sleep claimed me and I could no longer think.
So I begged my mother for dance lessons. And though I danced my heart out in my classes, becoming a world-class dancer would never be part of my future. As I stretched and tried bending my young body into the limitless contortions my dance teacher tried teaching me, I realized that all I needed was to enjoy myself. Some bodies aren’t designed to be as limber as others.
Dancing became a lot of fun. I met other dancers, from time to time, who were more coordinated and obviously more talented than me. Sometimes it was hard to watch them because I wanted to dance perfectly, too. But I kept dancing…because I knew that if my abilities were ever judged by what was in my heart…I would be the prima ballerina, the most graceful beautiful dancer of them all.
Years passed, and dancing was put aside to raise my family. One night while I was lying in my bed trying to find sleep…I thought again of a young imperfect girl who wanted to dance as gracefully as other dancers…and The Crooked Swan was born. Though the main character’s story is not my own, there are many situations in the book that related to me as a young dancer.
A beautiful dance, one that is orchestrated to perfection, is never just about what the body is capable of doing, even with God given abilities and talent. It’s the combination of both heart and ability that make the truly great dancers.
I invite you to read The Crooked Swan. You will not be the same afterwards. The story takes you on an unforgettable journey into the world of dance, so that we may all appreciate and love The Crooked Swans in our lives.
About the Author: Julie G. Helm grew up in Idaho, lived several years abroad, and has spent the last twenty-three years living in Utah. She has been writing stories for children, young adults, and adults as long as she can remember. At present she has three books on the market, The Crooked Swan, The Lost Monster Tales, and Merlin for Sherman. She has belonged to one of the top fantasy and science fiction writer’s groups in the area, acted as the liaison for the BYU Writer’s Conferences, and worked as an acquisitions editor for Gibbs Smith Publishers. She won first place in an area writer’s conference judged by the late Roger Zelazney. Along with raising her six children with a devoted husband, Greg, she continues to write stories to delight and thrill all those who read her books.
**As some of you may know, I lost my grandmother, Martina, this week. I was asked to write something to read at the funeral and thought I’d share a little about the great woman she was.
My grandmother, Martina—my Nonnie—had a pretty good life. She told us so on one of our last visits to see her while she was in the hospital. While in her final days, she was but a shell of the vibrant person she used to be—old, run-down, unable to do a lot of things by and for herself. I ask you not to remember her this way, as she wouldn’t have wanted that. I ask you to remember her through the eyes of a child. Continue reading In Memory Of→
Today I have a special treat! Jim Galford, author of Into the Desert Wilds, with a guest interview/short story from Oria! I had posed some questions to him for her to answer, and instead, I got a short story! Read on to get this special “extra” from Jim!
This tidbit was presented in the form of a list of questions for Oria, a main character in Into the Desert Wilds. As character reactions are meaningless without context, I’ve taken the questions and integrated them into a scene that does not occur in the book, but has a place in the timeline. All interviewer questions for the character are merged into this story scene. The actual original questions are listed before the story begins.
Q1) The mists really changed your lives. Can you say what’s the biggest difference now?
Q2) Estin is like a father to you. Is there an advantage to having a ‘prey’ breed as a father figure?
Q3) It seems like you feel the need to prove yourself. Are you trying to do so for your mother or yourself?
Q4) You and your brother have different strengths in combat. Do you attribute this to anything in particular?
Q5) Your younger siblings didn’t get the opportunity to know your homeland, only the desert that you are in now. How do you think this has effected/shaped them?
Q6) What is the greatest strength a leader can have? Weakness?
Q7) What drew you towards Phaesys? What ways is he like/dislike you?
Waiting for the inevitable sunrise and the dangers that would come with it, Oria lay against the side of the crumbling room where they were staying, hoping that sleep would come but knowing better. She closed her eyes in vague hopes of some rest, even if sleep was beyond her reach. Even then, she nervousness about the day to come made her want to fidget or walk around. She found herself mostly changing position as her tail cramped or her ears itched randomly, keeping her on-edge at all times.
“Can’t sleep, kid?” asked one of the elves in the room. The others appeared to be sleeping, but Oria doubted that was the case.
The armored woman, Sirella, sat against the wall nearby with a sword resting across her knees, ready to be used at a moment’s notice. Her long black hair had been braided and draped over her shoulder. Despite having her own eyes closed for nearly an hour, the woman must have been feeling much the same as Oria and was unable to sleep either.
“Just worried about tomorrow,” Oria admitted, pulling her knees up to her chin. “Can’t get my mind off what will…and could…happen.”
Sirella set her sword aside and leaned forward, watching Oria briefly.
“Then would you like to talk about something other than that?”
An evil smile passed over Sirella’s lips, making Oria wonder if it was wise to say she would talk about anything with the former leader of a thieves’ guild. Still, it was better than letting her mind race with ideas of who might be hurt or killed in just a few short hours.
“I had questions for Estin that he refused to answer,” noted Sirella. “He never wanted to talk about the past or his family except in terms of wanting to be with them. Would you mind?”
“Go ahead, Sirella. If we even live to see tomorrow, I can decide then whether it was a good idea to tell you any of this.”
Scooting a little closer, Sirella glanced over at the other elves in the room, then whispered to Oria, “Don’t worry. They won’t tell anyone unless I say it’s alright.”
“You’re not making me feel like this is a good idea. Maybe my dad had the right idea…”
“Nonsense. Do you really want to be as tight-lipped…muzzled…as Estin? Thought not. Besides, it’s just a few questions to pass the time. Where’s the harm in that?”
Folding her legs under her and pulling her bushy tail into her lap, Oria watched Sirella expectantly, reserving judgment on whether she wanted to talk until after hearing the questions.
“Estin said you were all from somewhere in the mountains…”
“Altis. Well, the woods near Altis.”
“…and that it was completely unlike Corraith. Aside from taller rocks, how different could it be?”
“You’ve never seen mountains, have you, Sirella?”
“No. Never got farther than the southern oasis.”
“They’re not like the desert at all, big rocks or not. The majority of the hills and mountains are covered with thick woods—pines for the most part. There aren’t as many rocks as you’d expect, though the cliffs are pretty bare.”
Sirella nodded, though something in her eyes indicated a degree of confusion.
“Pines…big green trees with needles instead of leaves.”
“Similar to palm trees?”
“Not at all. They provide a lot more shelter against the rain and snow.”
Blinking, Sirella seemed totally lost at that point.
“Rain I understand. But you get snow out there?” she asked Oria, wrinkling her nose a little in confusion. “I heard the southern oasis gets a few flakes a year, but mostly they make due with the three or four rainstorms each wet season. Never seen the snow myself.”
Oria laughed and shook her head.
“Not a few flakes. Mounds of it. My last winter there, I was up to my waist in snow, though I was only about as tall as your chest. My brother and I had to be careful not to fall into valleys filled with snow or mom wouldn’t find us until spring. The rains weren’t much different. When those came down, whole sections of the woods would flood out and make new streams.”
Despite her usual careful control of expression, Sirella’s eyes widened and Oria knew she had the woman hooked. Deep down, Oria wished she had an elaborate lie to tell her, but none came to mind easily. A simple one would have to do.
“If it rained too hard,” she told the elven woman, making sure to keep from smiling, “the entire plains below the mountains could wash away. That’s why we stayed in the mountains, so we were above the water.”
Sirella’s face revealed little, but her eyes told Oria that she might have gone too far on that one. The woman did not believe a word of it and might have even dismissed the talk of snow entirely.
“What about your siblings?” she asked Oria.
“What about them?”
“They never got to see the mountains, the snow, or the pines. They only know the desert. Do you think they’ll be different from you and your…your parents?”
“Probably.” She picked at bits of dirt in her tail as she thought a moment. “My father’s people weren’t from the mountains and he turned out fine. Maybe it’s just enough that we remember and that mom and dad raise them. I’m sure Corraith will make them a little different, which is fine, as long as they don’t turn out like the snobby nobles you had around here. I’d have to thump them if they did.”
Sirella giggled at that, then brushed a long strand of her hair back behind her pointed ear as she asked, “You keep saying ‘father,’ when talking about Estin. You’re a fox…not a fox like we have around here, but a predator is a predator, no matter whether they have snow or not. He’s not your real father I’m guessing, so…was it hard growing up with prey as a dad?”
“What was your father like, Sirella?”
“A foul old sot who lost the house in a game of chance when my sister and I were barely old enough to last a night on the streets.”
“Did he care about you, your sister, and your mother?”
“He died trying to put food in our bellies, for all the good it did.”
“My birth father,” Oria began, trying not to think too hard on the topic. It was not something she was comfortable talking about with anyone. “He was scared of my mother…of her power. He loved my brother and I dearly, but as soon as he saw that he was not the top predator in the area, he ran. He took Atall and I and fled from mom, throwing away all the promises he’d made her. He was a warrior, a decent male, and would have been a good father…if he hadn’t gotten himself killed running from his mate.
“He, unlike Estin, was a predator for all the good it did him.”
“That doesn’t really change that your ‘dad’ probably looks and smells like dinner to your mom. That can’t be healthy.”
Nodding, Oria answered, “It wasn’t. Mostly it was hard on mom, though. The camp did not exactly approve and many really wanted to see her gut him. They could get along with predators and prey living as neighbors, but her taking him as her mate was not a popular choice. Before it was official was the worst…at least after she made it public, the pack had to stand by her decision or openly oppose her, which was not a wise thing to do.”
“So your mother chose him…so what? I’d still think a predator would consider him beneath them.”
That amused Oria and she laughed a little at the thought.
“My birth father gave up his life for his children, but abandoned his mate. Without hesitation, Estin would give up his life for any of Feanne’s children, whether they are his or not. He doesn’t care who our father is. His life belongs as much to us as to our mother. I’ve never seen that kind of dedication in anyone of any breed or race. He’s my father because of who he is, not anything to do with birth, breed, or anything else. Besides…us not knowing if he might actually be our real father means looking at him as prey would say something bad about my siblings and I.”
Sirella pondered that for a while, then motioned for Oria to stay quiet as she ran off to investigate something. It did not take long and she returned, taking her seat beside Oria again.
“Old rubble falling,” she explained. “Thought they might have found us, but we’re still getting lucky.”
They sat in silence for some time, the only sounds being the shallow breathing of the other thieves that had come with them. When Sirella spoke next, it jarred Oria and she realized she had been lost in thought.
“Your family is leaving as soon as things calm down, aren’t they?” the woman asked Oria, more of a statement than a question.
“As soon as this battle is done. We don’t belong here. The soldiers are terrified of my mother and would love nothing more than to kill my father. The city itself doesn’t need us or people like us. We’re better off trying to make our way home.”
“Your mother to her role as pack leader and you to wait to inherit it? Sounds thrilling.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” Oria replied, realizing that it was the first time she had really thought about that in many months. “If and when mom dies, the strongest or most respected member takes charge. I don’t get anything without work…and a lot of fights.”
Sirella smiled knowingly, asking, “Is that why you’re out here, risking yourself with us lowlifes? Trying to prove yourself for when you go home?”
“There’s no pack left to impress. They may have all died around the time we left. We won’t know until we go home.”
“Then you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re strong enough.”
“No, not me…” Oria started to say, then trailed off, wishing she had kept her mouth shut.
“You’re showing off for your mother. You want her to know you’re good enough, whether there’s a pack or not. I did the same thing to impress my parents, at least until I stopped caring what they thought.”
Sirella picked up her sword and lifted it so the point was aimed at the ceiling. With a casual wave of her left hand towards the blade, the weapon burst into flames that glowed red, then shifted to blue, then green. She smiled at Oria, then winked and the flames went out.
“Took me forever to learn to do that,” the elven woman admitted, putting the sword aside. “Now, I realize it doesn’t mean anything. Whether my parents were impressed or not, I’m still a street thief in a city that hates me.
Tricks and personal accomplishments don’t make us better people…they just pass the time.”
Oria nodded quickly, but saw Sirella’s eyes following her every movement. The woman was trying to read her.
“It’s not about mommy and daddy,” whispered Sirella, her sparkling eyes widening with interest. “You were proving it to yourself, but not anymore. You’re showing off for someone else.”
“I don’t know what you…”
“Oh yes you do, kid. It’s the fennec, isn’t it? I saw the sappy way you looked at him back at base. You’re doing this to convince yourself that you’re good enough for him.”
“Shut up, Sirella.”
“He’s a noble, stuck up, born to wealth and privilege, and probably heir to a dozen women…what do you two possibly have in common? I’d think to him, you were just another peasant girl…”
Oria snarled and leapt to her feet, grabbing the taller woman by the armor and slamming her into the wall.
Behind her, she could hear the other elves drawing weapons and could feel them just behind her, waiting for a cue to strike. She did not care, focusing only on Sirella, keeping one hand locked into the woman’s armor to prevent her from moving and the other holding her curved knife. Oria did not even remember drawing the weapon, but she held it steady near Sirella’s throat.
Though she blinked as she hit the wall, Sirella seemed entirely unsurprised and had not a bit of concern on her face.
“I was not criticizing you, kid,” she said, her voice calm despite the weapon near her neck. “That’s how nobles around here think. I’ve dealt with…and stolen from…enough of them that I know it’s true. Getting yourself killed isn’t going to prove anything to him. I don’t know what you see in him, or what he sees in you, but it’d better be something stronger than recklessness to make it work out.”
Letting her weapon drop to her side, Oria released Sirella and stepped away. By the time she turned around, the other thieves were sitting casually around the room as though nothing had happened.
“I don’t know what I see in him,” Oria admitted, shoving her dagger back into its sheath. “He’s handsome and strong, but that isn’t it. I think it’s just that he treats me well…even when I’m being stupid.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s just as reckless as I am. He tries to prove himself to his father and his soldiers all the time. What sets us apart though is that he tries to be sensible and do the right thing, even if it gets him hurt. He’s like my father in that…he wants to help others, no matter the risk. That’s not something I’m good at and I think I envy that about him just a little. I just want him to know how much I…”
Oria let that trail off and sat down hard. This was not something she had wanted anyone else to hear. It was not even something she really wanted to discuss with herself in the privacy of her own mind.
Kneeling beside her, Sirella lifted Oria’s chin to look her in the eyes.
“If there’s one thing I understand, it’s being stupid about who you love,” the woman said, this time without a hint of deception or sign that she was trying to lead Oria into saying more than she intended. “When this is all over, I’ll help you understand what makes the men of these lands pay attention. You two are good together, that much I saw just in the little time you were both at the base. You just have to undo years of his upbringing if you want to keep him. It’s no different than training any other man, really.”
“Anything,” Oria said softly, pulling her head away. “I feel like I’m losing him and don’t know what I’ll do if that happens.”
A distant horn made everyone in the room look up. Faintly, Oria heard shouts that soon grew into a jumbled rumble of many people yelling at once.
“Worry about your man later. That’s our cue, kid,” Sirella announced, nodding at the others. To the two women in the group and Oria, she added, “It’s time for the girls to show that army of men that it only takes a couple of us to do what a hundred of them are trying to do. Gear up, it’s time to go. Let’s get famous and win back this city.”
Today I have author Jim Galford with me to talk about his second book, Into the Desert Wilds, which is due for release on the 10th (tomorrow!). I had the pleasure of reading it early, and let me tell you, if you like epic fantasy, DON’T miss out on this book! As you can probably tell from my review, I LOVED getting back into Estin’s world, seeing what he’s been up to and how he and his family tackle the new problems they are faced with. And if you haven’t read the first book, In Wilder Lands, yet, go check it out!
TK: The first book is told solely from Estin’s PoV. This time, we have two different PoVs – Estin and Oria. Was it hard to make them sound different?
JG: Honestly, no. In my mind, the story happens no different from how one might see a movie. Oria and Estin are most definitely different people, with their unique perspective. It’s a little harder to separate two male point-of-views, but very easy when you’re dealing with a teenage girl (Oria) and her father-ish person (Estin). Estin has more of a “always concerned about what might come of his decisions” feel, while Oria has a carefree viewpoint, where she mostly just thinks about the moment at hand. They’re different enough that the transitions were really easy.
Now, finding Oria’s mindset as an adult male writer was tricky, but making her different from Estin was easy. I had to double-check a lot with my wife to be sure that Oria didn’t come across as a man trying to write a woman’s perspective, which was a fear I had with this particular point-of-view.
Generally, I’m always looking for a new way to broaden my scope of writing and point-of-view is the most obvious. Next comes emotional viewpoint. Into the Desert Wilds pushed my area of expertise on both a little, but I’m hoping to push even farther in the next book.
I have a wonderful post about developing a character by Jeffrey Zweig II, author of The End Begins: The Nine. Be sure to see my other post for his blog tour as there’s a great excerpt in it. I’ve added this one to my TBR list – how about you?
Developing the Character – Cassarah Doneye Telmar
Thank you for having me Trish!
Developing a character can happen many different ways. It depends upon the author’s writing style. Do you start with the character and build the world around them? Or build the world and put a character in there? Do you start with a simple base for each and develop them simultaneously?
I normally start with the character – there is a characteristic or a trait that I like and I start there. I develop them separately at first, then I construct a world that fits that version. Then comes the simultaneous development. I’ll try to show my progressing for Cass in my post today. I’ll try to remain as specific as possible without being spoiler-riffic.
Cass was one of the few “original” characters that remained from the adoption of my story. Her backstory always made her the heart of the story, so I stuck with her as the main character because she has attachments to every important piece of the story. So I started with exiled sorceress in the “modern world”.
Her personality came second. How did she act at The Nine? How would she react to a new world? The character’s personality and train of thought has to come pretty early for her to be believable and somewhat predictable even if she is completely not so! I settled for a brainiac who would be a fish out of water, so she would be kind of cold and straightforward with some sass mixed in. I inevitably based Cass’s personality off of Emily Deschanel’s performance from the TV series Bones. I love that character and thought she was a perfect example of what I was looking for. Continue reading Guest Post: Jeffrey Zweig II→
Jack Preston, an ordinary kid on his 8th grade trip to Washington DC, finds himself mysteriously transported back in time to 1720 Massachusetts. Finding a world without cars, phones and other conveniences of modern life takes some getting used to, but he’s even more surprised to meet a young Founding Father, Ben Franklin.
Being a righteous fellow, Ben befriends the confused and tattered Jack and offers him a place to stay. When Jack overhears a seedy plan that will most certainly ruin Ben’s brother’s printing business, Jack vows to help find the culprit before it’s too late.
From the streets of Colonial Boston, to the cargo hold of a huge galleon, Jack realizes he’s on the most bizarre, but important, adventure of his life. As Jack is thrown into a whirlwind of conspiracy, he realizes that much more than a printing company is at stake. An adventure is one thing, but being stuck hundreds of years in the past is quite another. Continue reading Blog Tour: Fables of the Flag→
My very own. And though I may not have picked you out, you waddled into my life on those tiny little legs and stole my heart with your silly smile. I could not deny your big brown eyes anything.
I grew with you.
Just as you learned much from me, I learned from you. I watched as you grew and developed your own quirky personality. We learned how to live with each other and in our own space. We learned to communicate and you were always there to lend me an ear. We played late into the evenings, enjoyed quiet time doing nothing, and I held you when you were scared.