Monday, 30 January 2012

Introducing... Stephanie Judice

I'm thrilled to be able to introduce you to talented author, Stephanie Judice. Stephanie resides in Louisiana, USA, and is the author of the YA novel, RISING (Saga of the Setti).

On a personal note, Rising is one of the first books I read on my Kindle, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

The book's video trailer is included after the interview below.
BOOK EXCERPTI stepped steadily through an endless field of sugar cane in a haze of night fog.  I’d been here before in this eternal nightmare.  Knowing I wouldn’t wake up until I saw them, I walked on.  I gripped the cold, black stone in my palm, disturbed by its familiar presence.  The stone was always there in this nightmare, freezing my palm till it burned.  I never knew what it was or why I held it, but there was deep power in it.  Something compelled me to move on.  The thin blades of cane sliced my exposed skin.  The row of green stalks lashed at my arms and bare chest as I pushed my way farther into the field ahead.  Abruptly, the cane field ended.  I found myself standing alone at the edge of a brackish swamp.  Pain seared through every vein in my body, pulsating from the burning stone in my hand.  I stood still, staring into the darkness.  A storm was brewing.  Lightning flashed, revealing cypress trees bending in the wind and waves of rippling black water.  I held the stone tightly in my fist.  A sudden gust of wind swept across the water.  I stood firm although the gale threatened to topple me.  A whispering, rustling sound began to build.  A streak of purple lightening split the sky.  To my horror, hundreds of ghastly shapes flew toward me.  The whispering was not the wind, but the movement of these creatures drawing closer.  I was frozen to the spot, doomed to watch them advance.  Another flash of lightening.  One of the creatures hovered right in front of me.  At first, I thought it wore a sleek, gray cloak, then realized instantly that it was not cloth, but wings that fluttered with every breath of wind.  A sheet of ashen skin hung in tatters over its skeletal body.  Its cloak-like wings were dry, cracked and frayed at the edges.  What horrified me most about the monster was the lack of any facial features at all, except for a black, gaping hole for a mouth.  It hissed once then inhaled deeply.  I felt excruciating pain, like needles pricking along every surface of my skin.  I looked down at my chest, which began to break like glass.  My skin literally shattered into tiny shards and pulled away from my body. The creature inhaled again, sucking the pieces toward its mouth.  Instinctually, I pressed the black stone to its head.  Piercingly, the creature screamed as smoke rose from seared ghastly flesh, then—


What/who inspired you to write?
From as early as I can remember, I’ve been in love with stories and lost in my own imagination. I even remember my 1st grade teacher Ms. Newman writing on every report card that I “daydreamed too much.” Little did I know this “flaw” would eventually flourish into writing my own stories.

It was not until 10th grade when my English teacher asked the class to write a creative short story where I first realized my deep love for this craft.  I have been writing ever since.

What is your writing process/when do you find the time?
Well, Ms. Newman was right. I daydream too much. Any spare moment I have to wander away inside my own in my head, while driving to work or fetching kids, I think about my characters and things they will do.  I spend countless hours just thinking about things they would say or just observing nature and considering how it would fit into the imagery of my stories.

Because I’m a teacher, wife, and mother of four, I have to snatch any moment I can to put the words down that float around in my head during daytime.  Usually, it’s late at night when the house is quiet and still that I get my best writing done.

Any triumphs/eureka moments?
I’m not sure if this counts as a “eureka” moment, but there’s one thing that has helped me in the process of writing this series. I’ve given myself permission to write any part of the story when the inspiration comes upon me, no matter that it may not fit into the series until later on.  Inspired pieces shouldn’t be ignored because you’re not chronologically there yet.  For example, I have a rather bewitching scene for Book Two that was written nearly two years ago. And, on the way to work last week, I watched a rather magnificent sunrise pushing back gray clouds to reveal pinks and purples illuminating the landscape. I wrote the final page of the final book (Book Five) for my Saga of the Setti series that very day. Sometimes, it’s important to get the words down and make them fit into a sequential pattern later. I’ve discovered that the inspiration must not be ignored and put off until later. Snatch the words from your mind and keep them for when they’re needed.

What advice would you give someone wanting to write their first book?
Be patient.  The process is long and requires patience in every stage. Be patient with your writing, your editing, the publishing process, and the marketing process. I’ve discovered that being an author isn’t about finishing and producing a product then wiping your hands with a glorious, “It’s finished. I did it.” While there are moments of pride in your work and what you’ve accomplished, being an author is a never-ending process that requires patience all along the way. Just enjoy the ride. 

Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie. And don't take too long with that next book, I can't wait...

Friday, 20 January 2012

Instead of a Magic Eye... what's wrong with this picture?

Happy Friday! Hope everyone is okay and looking forward to the weekend.

Instead of posting a Magic Eye this week, I wanted to share this picture. Can you see what's wrong with it?

When I first saw it I couldn't see anything wrong at all... but after a while it becomes clear...

I've had a productive week this week. My boss (hubby) has given me Wednesdays off to write, and it's been really helpful. But I had to be ultra-disciplined to avoid the temptation of 'social-networking,' instead. I think next Wednesday I'm going to unplug and take the laptop to a nice coffee shop, and that way I can't be distracted (And I just love the thought of spending hours writing in a coffee shop!).

I was thrilled to be interviewed on the The Book Hookup yesterday, by the lovely Celeste. If you have a chance, go and check it out. The Book Hookup is a great book blog site, so you may want to go ahead and give them a follow anyway.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Picture Source

Monday, 16 January 2012

Introducing... Marie Landry

What a stunning day I've woken up to. It's one of those cold, bright, crisp mornings with a twinkly frost covering everything in sight. I've just waved goodbye to the kids as they venture out on their chilly walk to school, and now I'm settled in front of the computer with a nice, warm latte. Do I feel guilty? ;o)

As promised on Friday, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Marie Landry, whose debut novel Blue Sky Days is officially launched tomorrow. Blue Sky Days is a contemporary YA romance and coming-of-age story. Marie is also a book blogger and you can find her over on Ramblings of a Daydreamer .

Book Blurb:
A year after graduating from high school, nineteen-year-old Emma Ward feels lost. She has spent most of her life trying to please her frigid, miserable mother - studying hard, getting good grades, avoiding the whole teenage rebellion thing - and now she feels she has no identity beyond that. Because she spent so many years working hard and planning every moment of her life, she doesn't have any friends, has never had a boyfriend, and basically doesn't know who she is or what she really wants from life. Working two part-time jobs to save money for college hasn't helped her make decisions about her future, so she decides it's time for a change. She leaves home to live with her free-spirited, slightly eccentric Aunt Daisy in a small town that makes Emma feel like she's stepped back in time.

When Emma meets Nicholas Shaw, everything changes - he's unlike anyone she's ever met before, the kind of man she didn't even know existed in the 21st century. Carefree and spirited like Daisy, Nicholas teaches Emma to appreciate life, the beauty around her, and to just let go and live. Between Daisy and Nicholas, Emma feels like she belongs somewhere for the first time in her life, and realizes that you don't always need a plan - sometimes life steers you where you're meant to be.

Life is wonderful, an endless string of blue sky days, until Nicholas is diagnosed with cancer, and life changes once again for Emma in ways she never thought possible. Now it's time for her to help Nicholas the way he's helped her. Emma will have to use her new-found strength, and discover along the way if love really is enough to get you through.

First paragraph:

It was infatuation at first sight. An infatuation that quickly turned into love, but at that moment I didn’t know what love was.

I was sitting on a hilltop in the park when our eyes met, making my stomach flip like it had never done before. He was the most beautiful boy I’d seen in my entire life and he was looking at me. When he stood up from the bench at the bottom of the hill and walked in a slow, almost lazy gait toward me, my heart raced. I told myself to stay calm; he probably just wanted to know the time, or ask for a quarter to make a phone call. He wasn’t interested in me—he couldn’t be, things like that just didn’t happen to me. In fact, I was so sure it wasn’t about to happen to me that I ducked my head and cast a look around to see if there was anyone else nearby that he might be heading for.

It sounds great, but before I start reading, I'm definitely going to need a box of tissues at my side!

So Marie, what made you decide to write a book?
First, I’d like to say thank you so much Mandy for having me on your blog! I’m honoured.
I’ve always been a writer. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, and before I could write, I would tell stories to anyone who would listen. It wasn’t something I decided to do one day, it was something I always knew I would do.
I was in my teens when I wrote my first novel, and I was about 20 when I wrote the first draft of Blue Sky Days. I’ve written several other novels over the years, but there were times I worried I would never be able to write a full-length novel. Most of my novels, including the original draft of Blue Sky Days were novella length, but after setting BSD aside for seven years, I was able to triple the word count and finally have a completed novel.

When do you fit writing into your day?
I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I can fit writing in any time. I try to treat it like any other job, and work at it 8-12 hours a day, sometimes more. Although, with finishing Blue Sky Days and getting it ready for publication, I haven’t done any proper writing in quite a while!

Self-published or traditional?
I always figured I would be traditionally published, but once I started researching self-publishing, I knew it was the right path for me. I like the idea of taking my future into my hands and running with it. I like having complete control over my own work and what I do with it. When I originally researched self-publishing several years ago, there were only bad things said about it. It used to be the only option for hacks, wannabes, and generally people who could never cut it in traditional publishing. Now, there are many extremely talented people who could be traditionally published, but choose to do it on their own for a variety of reasons.

How was your experience?
The publishing process has been a whirlwind. I’ve done pretty much everything on my own: designed my own cover, did the formatting, created the book trailer, found people who were willing to beta read and proofread, and even made an exchange with an editor - she edited my book for free so she could put on her resumé that she helped a debut author. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I had no idea just how much work it would be. With the exception of a 3-day weekend in late November, I’ve been working seven days a week for the last few months. I can’t really complain though, because I’m living my dream - how many people can honestly say that?

Tips for would-be authors
If you really want to be an author, don’t let anything or anyone stop you. If you want to write a book, but don’t know if you can do it, do it anyway - you might surprise yourself. The first draft might be garbage - in fact, it will almost certainly be garbage - but that’s what second and third and fourth drafts are for. That’s what beta readers and editors are for. Don’t let fear and self-doubt stop you. There are times when you might be terrified and wonder what you’re doing, or why you’re doing it, but that’s normal. Keep at it, dream big, and let your imagination run wild.

That's great advice. Thank you, Marie, and best of luck with the book launch!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Superstitions and Magic Eyes

                              magic eye source

A Magic Eye for Friday 13th. Does this date ever cause you problems? Are you superstitious, or is it all stuff and nonsense?

I must admit, even though I don't think of myself as superstitious, there are things I do that suggest otherwise; crossing my fingers for luck, not walking under ladders, always finishing a bottle of red wine once it's opened. That's not a superstition..?

So I was thinking, how did Friday the 13th become such an unlucky day?

On National Geographic website, according to Donald Dossey, you can trace the fear of 13 to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.

"Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day," said Dossey. From that moment on, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding.

I don't know about you, but I think people should worry less about the number 13 and more about this Loki character. So what about you, do you have any strange superstitions?

Have a great weekend everybody. I'm back on Monday with an interview from author Marie Landry, whose debut novel 'Blue Sky Days' is being published on 17th January 2012.

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Betrayal - short excerpt, and Magic Eye

Hi everyone, and a belated Happy New Year to you all. Hope you had a wonderful festive season and are now ready to make the best of 2012. The Cowley family had a lovely time, eating too much, drinking too much and staying in our PJs way too long! It made a lovely change from the usual hustle and bustle.

Please enjoy the Magic Eye above. I very nearly posted a rude picture. The green swirly patterns were pretty, but when I looked closer, there was a... erm... let's just say a certain part of male anatomy and it was having a good time :o/

In-between all the eating and drinking I've been doing, I did, manage to get on with writing a few chapters of the next book in the Soul Protector series, so for anyone who may be interested, here's a short excerpt...

I sat in a corner of the Lakeside Café, a position where I could watch all the comings and goings without being noticed. There was no real need to hide away. What did it matter if he saw me when I was switched into Ruth’s body?
I twiddled the biro between my fingers, unable to take my eyes off the door. I’d intended to jot down prompts for Ruth’s current project, but fighting to keep her mind pushed into the background, ignoring the guilt at slipping into bodysnatching territory and watching for Dan, I was at my multi-tasking limit. I had no idea how this was going to play out. The best case scenario, the one I was praying for, would be Dan not showing and me having wasted my time.
On my second latte, he walked in. I shrank back into my seat as I watched him. Even though it was obvious he wouldn’t be switched, it was a relief to see no aura. I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling though; like he would turn and somehow know it was me.
He was wearing a thin Navy sweater over a white shirt, rolled up at the sleeves. His tanned forearms contrasted with the cold steel of his watch and as he rubbed a hand over barely-there stubble, the gesture was so familiar I wanted to jump out of my seat and go to him. Instead I sat still, barely breathing as I waited to see if my lover was cheating.
He walked purposefully across to the large windows overlooking the lake. I wasn’t the only person to notice; several women turned their heads as he walked past.
He came to a halt and I followed his line of sight towards a woman with long dark hair. She was seated alone at a small table. Her gaze was steady on him, a hesitant smile under the lip gloss. I only saw Dan’s side profile at this point, but I could tell there was no return smile for her and I let myself breathe a little more easily.
 The woman pressed perfectly manicured hands onto the table and stood up in one graceful movement. She was wearing a simple blue silk dress, and in her heels she was almost as tall as Dan. I’d heard that Claire had done some modelling, but for some reason I’d pictured her less perfect than this.
Without taking her eyes off Dan, she moved slowly towards him. He stood completely still, neither encouraging or discouraging her.
When she was just inches from him, her smile dropped and she wrapped her arms around him, burying her head into his chest. I couldn’t tear my eyes away, waiting for him to disentangle himself, wondering if he was going to let her down gently, or, as I hoped, make it blatantly obvious he was tired of her stalking.
I watched his arms peel away from his sides and that was when everything seemed to slow down. He placed one arm around her back and the other round the small of her waist before drawing her in tighter. My eyes were stinging, but I couldn’t blink. And just in case there was still any doubt in my mind, he tilted his head so that his face nestled into her hair.
They stayed that way for a long time.
I felt the burn of bile rise up my throat. I forced my hand to remain steady while I placed the full glass of latte back on the saucer, stood up, and quietly made my way out of the café.