Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Laptop crammed in a plane

Has this ever happened to you?

I was flying from Colorado to Tampa when the guy sitting in front of me, 11 C to be exact, decided to settle for a nap. Crunch. With a violent shove, the back of his seat smashed down on me, my knees, and my brand new laptop, without so much as a second thought. I could’ve used the Jaws of Life to extricate my laptop from the jam, or perhaps the assistance of the flight attendant, who ignored my predicament with an indifferent shrug. For the rest of the flight, I stared at the man’s balding pate, practically laying in my lap. Score one of the gods of mischief. 11 C unhinged both my laptop and my muse.

I have a love-hate relationship with planes and airports. I love traveling, but I hate the process of getting there. The long security lines that range from the strange to the absurd rankle me. Do they really make us safe or is it all perception-based make believe? The uptight travelers and the grumpy flight attendants drive me crazy. Are we paying customers or human cargo? I hate to admit it, but every once in a while when I’m traveling, I have to suppress an impulse to shout at the top of my lungs something along the lines of “travelers of the world, unite!”

It wasn’t always like this. I have distant memories of the friendly skies and every once in a while I score a pleasant flight on a carrier that doesn’t charge extra for your suitcase–or your next breath—and still considers smiling an important requirement in their job descriptions. But still, I fly an awful lot and I long for the kinder times where we weren’t all looking at one another as potential terrorists across the aisle and my knees were not bruised after every flight.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the economics about selling more seats per airplane. I’ve also heard about the arguments that Americans are getting bigger vis-à-vis airplane seats. Okay, fine. Let’s stick to our diets, America. But sometimes, when I board a plane and look around me, I suspect that somewhere, someone is playing a joke on all of us. Only miniature elves could fit in some of those narrow, jam-packed seats, and even then, their tiny knees might end up as bruised as mine.

As a writer, I do an awful lot of work while in the air. Those hours are vital to my schedule. And while I’m willing to sacrifice my knees for the thrill of the journey, my laptop is sacred. It’s hard enough to work in the cramped quarters as it is, but when 11 C slams down his seat without warning and smacks down my laptop like a swatter on a fly, this usually chill traveler sees red.

Which is why I’ve come up with my own rules for flying. Unless the flight is very long, I don’t recline my seat. Period. It maintains an illusion of space and it really helps the person behind me if she or he is using a laptop. If I must recline my seat during those longer flights, I look back to make sure I’m not going to smash the other person’s laptop, device, or carryon dinner. If the person is awake, I inform them I’m about to recline the seat a couple of inches and do so slowly.

Did you get all of that, 11 C? It’s called common courtesy and, I promise, it won’t hurt you.

BTW–and since we’re talking about writers on planes–maybe we should address one other little tiny issue while we’re at it. If someone is using a laptop or a device near me, I typically avert my eyes from the content. Nothing is more unnerving to a working author than a nosy neighbor peering into one’s half-formed prose.

Yeah, I’m talking to you 12 D.

LOL.

Happy travels!

D.

Tampa Airport at night

My local airport, Tampa International at sunset.

On Inspiration, the Writing Process and My best Advice for New Writers

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Three Questions Answered for Sisters in Crime

Inspiration Point

Hello there!

My dear friend Eleanor Khuns, author of the fantastic historical mysteries Death of a Dyer, A Simple Death and Craddle to Grave tagged me to participate in the Sisters in Crime  blog hop by answering the questions below.

Enjoy!

D.

Which authors have inspired you?

I’m one of those people who think that the human mind is influenced by every contact and every read, no matter how casual or light. I learn from every word I read. Heck, even when I don’t enjoy a writer, I’m still learning from what him or her. As a young woman growing up in the Dominican Republic, I was exposed to many different influences. I thrived on young adult novels from Louisa May Alcott. I loved Enid Blyton and blazed through The Famous Five, The Seven Secrets and The Malory Towers series. I think I wanted to be a student at Malory Towers as much as my kids wanted to go to school at Hogwarts!

But, talk about being a hybrid of many worlds! At the same time I was reading Louisa May Alcott and Enid Blyton, I was also reading the Latin American classics. Books such as A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosas, and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende left lasting impressions. I also tapped into my parents’ wonderful library, enjoying the Russians (I favored Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy), the French (Victor Hugo), the Germans (Eric Maria Remarque), the Spanish (Jose Maria Gironella), and the Americans (Hemingway, always Hemingway).

Later, when I came to the States, I discovered fantasy and was dazzled by J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, Frank Herbert, Robert Jordan, and George R.R. Martin, way before he became popular, I should add. I also fell in love with commercial fiction. Diana Gabaldon, Bernard Cornwell and Anne Rice are some of my all-time favorites.

What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?

The best part of the writing process for me is the writing itself. I love working on a first draft, laying down the ideas, characters and structure of a novel for the first time, discovering the full story in my mind. There’s something liberating about a blank screen, about the sentences turning into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. I love the evolution of a story, the transformation that occurs as the story progresses, the unforeseen twists and turns that defy the outline and provoke the imagination.

The most challenging part of the writing process comes at the end for me, after the manuscript is done. I’m not one for self-promotion and yet the current publishing environment requires a great deal of it. I love talking to readers about writing and books, getting to know them, listening to their ideas and reactions to the stories and reading and writing in general. But tooting my own horn? It doesn’t come naturally to me.

If you were to mentor new writers, what would you tell them about the writing business? 

I enjoy mentoring new writers. I always tell them to educate themselves in the totality of the process upfront. It saves time if you have the basics covered, if the writer is proficient in grammar, punctuation, formatting and so forth. It also helps enormously if the writer has a good idea of how the industry works and how the market for her genre behaves.

I would also tell a new writer to submit their work to the highest possible standards of critical review prior to shopping for publishers. There’s a lot of stuff clogging the pipeline and a polished, edited manuscript can make all the difference in the world. Editors, critique groups, other writers and beta readers who know the genre can be invaluable to the new writer.

Above all, I would tell the new writer to write, to complete the manuscript from beginning to end, to edit it, to trudge through the entire creative process and learn from it. Your first manuscript may never see the light of day. Maybe your second and third won’t either, but no one can take away the treasure trove of learning that you gain each time you complete the creative process from beginning to end and the joy that comes from writing.

Thank you Eleanor for inviting me to participate in the Sisters in Crime blog hop. Hop on to the next blog and meet Barb Caffrey, the talented author of the comic, YA urban fantasy, An Elfie on the Loose.

Links:

http://www.eleanor-kuhns.com/2014/09/19/sisters-in-crime-blog-hop/

Eleanor Kuhns books 2

https://elfyverse.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/right-under-the-wire-barb-does-the-sincbloghop/

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http://www.sistersincrime.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=134

Dora Machado's Books (640x237)

 

 

The Life of a Writer

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

A Guest Post 

By

 Christine Amsden

StolenDreams_BannerSmall (1)

  I’m delighted to welcome Christine Amsden to my blog. She’s the talented author of the Cassie Scott series, a set of four fantasy novels that—as you may have noticed—I have often and gladly recommended on this blog. I’m thrilled to be a stop in her virtual book tour, as she celebrates the release of the fourth and final book of the series, Stolen Dreams. Today, she speaks to us from the heart. If you’ve ever wanted to be a writer, listen careful to what she has to say.

 Enjoy!

 D.

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So …. you want to be a writer? Are you a dreamer? A story teller? Do you simply love the way words feel when they come together to create a picture? Climb on the crazy train then, and get ready for a long, bumpy ride.

Besides being a writer, I’m also a writing coach. I’m exceptionally good at it for one reason that has come as a surprise to me: I’m honest. Now, I always knew I was honest; what I didn’t realize was how rare this quality is, even in a coach. I tell the truth as I see it because only by reflecting both beauty and flaws can I inspire growth in a writer.

With that in mind, let me tell you the hard, cold truth about being a writer. It doesn’t pay. The handful of bestsellers out there cluttering up the pop culture notion of what a writer is represent less than one tenth of one percent of traditionally published authors (I’m not even talking self pub here). If anyone has said, “Don’t quit your day job,” they weren’t trying to be mean. They were trying to be honest.

I didn’t listen. :)

I quit my day job ten years ago when I got married, urged by my husband (who made enough for the both of us to live comfortably) to follow my dreams. I took the risk; one of the biggest of my life, and I have no regrets. Children came two years after marriage, filling my days with a combination of domestic and writerly activities that I found perfectly compatible. In a way, diluting my days with a wider variety of activities helped inspire me and make me more productive. I have written six complete novels in the eight-and-a-half years since my son was born (this doesn’t include a couple of dead-end projects that were, nevertheless, learning experiences).

Creative work isn’t like other types of work. It isn’t linear. It isn’t easy to quantify. Forty hours of creative work may be enough to write an entire novel draft (under extremely bizarre I-officially-hate-you circumstances), or it may only be enough to learn one important lesson before going back to the drawing board. An inspired writer can take a few stolen hours and create magic. An uninspired writer … well, that’s the problem with the ideal of the “full time writer,” aside from the paycheck thing. Sooner or later you run out of things to write *about*.

That’s why I started coaching. It’s also why I’m currently looking for creative new opportunities for part-time work. I’ve got a gig as a judge in a cooking competition coming up soon. Should be fun!

I know a lot of writers. Their stories are all different, their day jobs all unique, but one common theme rings true: We all long for the day when we can write full time, when our income from writing will support us in a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. I think knowing this story so well is one of the reasons why I’m a fan of TV talent shows like The Voice, America’s Got Talent, and (most recently) Rising Star. The acts all come on and say the same thing – that they dream of getting paid to perform. To do what they love.

You don’t want me to sing, but putting that aside, I understand. I really, really do.

And yet I understand one other thing, or at least, I am working towards understanding. (Self-actualization is more a journey than a destination.) I understand that I am a writer. Fame and fortune are not necessary for us to do what we love. We can do it just because we want to. Because, for whatever reason, these activities fulfill us.

One of the most common interview questions I get on tour is, “What advice would you give to aspiring writers?” I answer, “Only write if you love it.” The full answer is that if you’re writing for fame, or fortune, or for any external force, it’s not worth it. Writers write because the written word is our currency. It is an end in and of itself.

Between one thing and another, I lost track of that fact in the last year or two. I’ve taken the summer off from writing. I’m spending more time with my kids while they’re still young (6 and 8), working on promoting my Cassie Scot series, and still doing a little coaching. Writing will call to me again, sooner or later. It always does. I’ve already started to feel the pull of a project that would take me in a completely different direction from anything I’ve done before. It may pan out. It may not. Luckily, as an independent author I can write whatever I like. No one owns my time or my creativity.

If you want to be a writer, then write. It never even has to be something someone else sees. (Kind of like me singing in the shower where no one else can hear. :) ) If and when it grows to the point where you would like to share it, come seek us authors out on the Internet and join our circles of madness. But if you can, even then, try to keep it in perspective. There is always the dream; we are dreamers by nature, but don’t let the dream keep you from living your life now.

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Stolen Dreams , Book 4 of The Cassie Scot Series

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http://amzn.to/1roxsAN

Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

But things may not be precisely as they appear.

Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own?

Don’t miss the amazing conclusion to the Cassie Scot series!

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About The Cassie Scot Series:

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

Cassie Scott 1

Secret and Lies

Mind Games

About Christine Amsden

Christine Amsdem 200 by 300

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that affects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

Contact Christine at:

http://christineamsden.com/wordpress/Website or:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with The Dark Phantom

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

5 Questions with The Dark Phantom

Hi everybody! I just did this interview for The Dark Phantom at http://thedarkphantom.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/5-questions-with-dora-machado-author-of-the-curse-giver/

Q: Tell us why readers should buy The Curse Giver.

A: If you like fast-paced, plot-twisting, epic, dark, and yes—why not?—romantic fantasy, The Curse Giver is for you. In a world teetering on the brink of war and destruction, three lives collide, bound together by a powerful, terrifying, undefeatable curse: an embittered lord at the brink of death, doomed by a curse he doesn’t understand and tormented by a terrible secret; an innocent healer on the run, accused of a crime she didn’t commit, bearing a mysterious birthmark that commands her murder; and the evil curse giver who has already conjured their ends. The stakes are high—peace, healing and freedom or war, madness and horrible death. Somewhere between love and hate and justice or revenge, redemption awaits those who dare to challenge the tenuous boundaries of good and evil.

Q: What makes a good fantasy novel?

A: Fast-paced action, thrilling adventures and rich imagination perfectly balanced by deep, complex and engaging characters, intricate plots, and transcendental relationships that matter.

Q: What is a regular writing day like for you?
A: I sit down to write sometime between eight or nine in the evening and write through the night. I go to bed anywhere between three and six and sleep the morning away. I get up around ten or eleven and spend the afternoon editing what I did the night before and taking care of the business aspects of writing. The best part: It’s my schedule and I get to choose my office’s dress code, which, by the way, is a notch below casual, super comfy. The biggest challenge: Talk about not being a morning person!

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an author?

A: The amazing readers who come along in my adventures.

Q: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received that you’d like to pass to other authors?

A: Write like the wind, write often, diligently and continuously, write for yourself and, my favorite, write all the way to The End.

CurseGiver_med

Now available at:

Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/The-Curse-Giver-ebook/dp/B00DSUQL4I/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373559878&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Curse+Giver

Barnes & Noble.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-curse-giver-dora-machado/1115929771

Romance eBooks
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thecursegiver-1228818-143.html

The Creation of El Vengador by Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

The Creation of El Vengador
By Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

El Vengador400

Deputy Sheriff Michael Kirtchner gets an “unknown disturbance” dispatch call to a remote house trailer in the swamp. There, he discovers an old woman and a dog, terrorized by a mysterious beast, which he takes to be a bear. But when he contacts Game Warden Jeff Stuart to come trap the animal, Stuart tells him to get out if he values his life – this is no ordinary animal. Is Kirtchner up against a Swamp Ape – a Florida version of Bigfoot – or something more…sinister?

El Vengador (http://www.sff.net/people/steph-osborn/ElVengador.html) is my first deliberate foray into the paranormal and horror genres. I’ve had numerous friends try to convince me to do so in the last few years, but never was able to get hold of the right story idea. So I waited and let it “percolate” in the back of my mind.

But when a Facebook friend (who wants to remain anonymous) told me the story of his encounter of a mysterious “Florida Swamp Ape” during his tenure as a deputy sheriff, I was fascinated. And when he gave his permission for me to fictionalize the story, I knew I had found my paranormal horror story.

So I took his basic story from his own words and I transformed it. I cleaned it up, couched it in proper writer’s grammar, changed the point of view. I changed the deputy’s name, added the perspective of other civilians who encountered the creature…and then I twisted the knife.
Because, you see, I have some Cherokee in me. Oh, the family can’t prove it, not after the way the Cherokee were ejected from their properties during the Trail of Tears; any Native American who could pass as white in those days, did, and all records of their heritage were lost. But because I have several distinctive genetic expressions of that heritage, I am accepted by most elders I know as Cherokee. And my curiosity being what it is, along with my sincerity in wanting to know, I’ve been taught numerous things that most people don’t generally know.

Like the fact that the Cherokee (along with the Seminole and the Iroquois Confederacy, among others) are purported to have been offshoots – colonies, if you will – of the Maya peoples. It’s interesting to note that, just as the “Cherokee” are a group of tribes [Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, etc.], the Seminole are a group of tribes [Seminole, Creek, Miccosukee, etc.], the Iroquois Confederacy are a group of tribes [Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, and later Tuscarora] ― so too are the Maya really a collection of tribes [Yucatec, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Ch’ol, Kekchi, Mopan, and more]! The Maya comprised, and still comprise (oh yes, they’re still around ― they were laughing their butts off at the white fear of the “end” of their repeating calendar), more than 25 different peoples. The notion of splinter groups of this huge nation (it covered a substantial portion of Central America, butted up against the Aztec/Olmec empire, and expanded out into the Caribbean) moving up into Florida, then up the East Coast of North America, isn’t hard to believe at all.

It’s also true ― as I mentioned in the story ― that the medicine people and elders hold that the Maya, in turn, came from some place across the Great Sea to the East. Depending on who you talk to, this means we/they originated in Ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, Greece, the Biblical traders of Tarshish, or even Atlantis!

So it seemed to me that it would put a fun spin on things if I had this swamp ape, this mysterious unknown creature, be something other than pure animal. As it turned out, my research into the Maya turned up a mysterious “Howler Monkey God,” Hun-Batz, and an entire mythology in which this god was set. Monkey = simian, and ape = simian, so it wasn’t a huge jump for me to proposing a curse invoking the Son of Hun-Batz. And suddenly the whole thing congealed into this amazing, suspenseful, paranormal horror story.

How amazing and suspenseful? Well, let’s just say I literally creeped myself out. I’m a night owl, prone to insomnia and getting up in the night to putter around until I can fall back asleep. And I immediately discovered that I didn’t enjoy that anymore; I had a constant feeling that there might be something outside, in the yard, in the dark, watching through the windows and doors. When I did go back to bed, it was only to have lucid nightmares about the creature and the events in the book! I took to closing the curtains and blinds, avoiding the windows at night. Finally I gave up writing on the story after sundown, choosing to write only in the light, and hoping to get the imagery out of my head by bedtime.

I was more or less successful in that. I find that I still do better not to think about the book at night, and I still have the blinds and curtains closed at night. But our neighborhood is well lit with street lights, and the birds cluster in the trees around the house and sing cheerfully. So I know there’s nothing out there that they think is unusual. And that is comforting.

I don’t know that I’ll regularly write horror. I’m inclined to think, from my experiences with El Vengador, that I might not be cut out for that! Still and all, much of the science fiction mystery I do write tends to have strong elements of both paranormal and thriller, with the occasional seasoning of horror concepts thrown in for good measure. So I think I can take what I have learned from the experience and fold it back into my other works. And I think they’ll be the better for it.
And you never know. After all, my friend really did encounter…something…in the swamps of Florida…

What is it like in the weeks before a book release?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Well, it’s a little crazy.

Most people might think that as a book release date approaches, an author’s work begins to wind down.

“If the book is already written, why are you so busy?” my friends ask.

“Because” I say, “Promo is about to begin.”

In fact, an author’s work ramps up as the launch approaches. Time seems to accelerate. Every task grows more urgent with every hour that passes. From an editorial perspective, there are Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) to review. All those words, paragraphs and chapters present plenty of opportunity for errors. Details must be corrected both in the e-book versions and the print ARCs—things like formatting issues, indents, typos and nits. No matter how many times you scour the text, those diabolical little word gremlins are hard at work defying our best attempts at perfection.

You also have the promo coming at you like a fast pitch to the head. A look at my schedule for the summer leaves me breathless and it’s not even July yet! These days, I spend a lot of time talking to the wonderful folks who are organizing the promos for The Curse Giver. Press releases must be written, reviewed and rewritten. Virtual book tours must be organized, rearranged and adapted. Giveaways have to be scheduled. Reviews have to be collected.

“Wait, reviews?” you say. “The book’s not even out yet!”

Guess what? These days, reviews are necessary even before the book comes out. Word out on the street is that each five star-review translates into hundreds of sales.

Ah, shucks, then. Add begging for reviews to the list.

That’s on top of the interviews, the guest blogs and articles that are piling up on my desk. Don’t get me wrong. I love doing these. They are hard work, especially when you’re doing so many of them. They require a lot of time, because the questions are different and diverse, and I make sure that each interview, blog and article gets my time and full attention. But they are also a great opportunity to get to meet readers, bloggers and reviewers from all over the world, people who are as passionate as I am about fantasy, reading and writing.

So yeah, it’s crazy hectic over here, but that’s okay—no—better than okay, because The Curse Giver is on the way.

The Curse Giver's Galleys

The Curse Giver's Galleys

From Sketch to Cover: A short Interview with Brad Fraunfelter, who created The Curse Giver’s cover.

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Have you ever wondered how an original book cover is created?

Well, it’s a work of art, a labor of love that includes brainstorming and research, a fascinating journey. It’s a creative process that involves the transformation of ideas into concepts, the conversion of words into tangible images. It starts with a sketch and it ends with a visual statement. But the best way of understanding the process, is to witness it, as I did in the case of my new novel, The Curse Giver.

Take a look at the concept’s evolution. If you click on the pictures, you will see the details coming to life.

Pretty neat, yes?

Brad Fraunfelter, the talented artist who created The Curse Giver‘s stunning cover, agreed to share his perspective with us, answering a few questions about his work and the cover’s creation process.

Q: What was your inspiration for The Curse Giver‘s cover?

Brad: My inspiration for the cover was drawn closely from the author’s write up’s which I studied carefully.  I chose the last idea which was on Dora’s list because I felt it would be visually most interesting. I wanted to show a dramatic contrast between the softness of the skin and dress of the girl, against the harshness of the armor of the man. For this reason I chose a white dress and pale skin for the girl, and dark, jagged armor for the man.

Q: How long did it take you from start to finish?

Brad: From start to finish, the painting took roughly a month: It involved a lot of preliminary research to study various forms of armor, and to design and sketch all the parts of what he was wearing, including the sword, helmet, and shield. Once I had these problems solved I could start on the painting itself.

Q: How did you accomplish such a stunning light effect on the armor?

Brad: To achieve the lighting effect on the armor I carefully studied the effects of light and reflections on metal. I also studied a few images of armor that I found on the internet for reference material. I also did several photoshoots of my own to get the placement of the man’s arms and hands correct and to nail the position of the light source.  I wanted to achieve the appearance of a “mystical” glow, so as one of the last steps to the painting I brushed in a soft white haze across the highlight areas, such as the girl’s dress.

Fascinating. Don’t you think?

To take a look at Brad’s creative process, from beginning to end go to: http://www.bradfraunfelterillustration.com/

Website: www.bradfraunfelterillustration.com

E-mail: brademail99@yahoo.com

Brad Fraunfelter Illustration

Glendale, California
(323)240-5744

Guest Post by Aaron Lazar: Downton Abbey Made me do it

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Hello everybody.

Today I bring you a fantastic guest post by my friend and fellow Twilight Times Books author, multi-award winner and Kindle bestselling author  Aaron Lazar, who in a feat of daring, decided to create a rift between one of his favorite characters, Quinn Hollister and his beloved wife Marcella. Now, you must understand, from an author’s point of view, doing something mean to a beloved character takes some guts and a very good reason. Aaron’s Lazar’s reason? Downton Abbey made me do it.

Read on and enjoy. D.

Quinn Hollister

How I met Quinn Hollister by Aaron Lazar

Quinn Hollister was born amidst unexpected chaos.

I met the protagonist of the Tall Pines Mysteries series when I was laid off from Kodak in 2009 after nearly thirty years of service. I’ll never forget it. The angst. The shock. The feelings of betrayal. And yes, the extra time for writing that was one of the many unexpected blessings associated with the layoff.

Quinn and the love of his life, Marcella, her mother, Thelma, and their bird, Ruby, surprised me right around that same time by appearing in a dream.

I know, how clichéd can you get? But it’s true. The dream was vivid and enticing, depicting a luxurious bird resort in the Adirondacks, and a little tangerine-red bird named Ruby who snuggled on my shoulder and won my proverbial heart.

I’ve never owned a bird. I never knew a bird, aside from those morning doves outside my window. And until this happened, I never thought about birds.

From this bewildering dream the Tall Pines Mystery series developed. And with it, Quinn Hollister, the bird’s owner and husband of my female protagonist.

Life was quite tumultuous at this point, as you can probably imagine, with me constantly on the hunt for engineering work for the day job, but in spite of the trying circumstances of worrying about survival and putting food on the table, I also had some free time to travel locally.

In a strange and convoluted way, the layoffs opened up a new world of opportunity, including the birth of this new, totally unplanned, third mystery series set in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York, as well as the creation of Quinn Hollister. (the other two series are LeGarde Mysteries [10 books] and Moore Mysteries [3 books])

My wife and I found a cabin overlooking the Sacandaga River in Hope, New York. It was inexpensive, relaxing, and a perfect setting for a mystery. We fell in love with the majestic beauty of the area, especially the soft, cleansing waters of the Sacandaga River over which the rustic cabin perches.

Quinn evolved slowly. At first he was an OCD Italian name Joe, until a friend pointed out that he resembled a popular TV character in the Monk series.

I’d never heard of Monk and rarely watched television, but I didn’t want the world thinking I’d copied his persona. So, I encouraged this character to evolve.

Probably because I’d been obsessing lately over my own somewhat distant Native American heritage, Quinn morphed into a tall, serene, half-Seneca antique collector with clear turquoise eyes bequeathed to him by his long-dead English playwright father. Married to Marcella, his wife of eight years, he adores her and manages to drive her nuts at the same time with his borderline case of OCD. This gentle man moves with grace, builds sweat huts, and wears in his glossy black hair long. He swims every morning in Honeoye Lake and likes things evenly spaced and on plan. Piles of magazines must be neatly stacked, forks and knifes should be aligned and parallel, socks need to be neatly separated by color in the drawer, and if a stock pot isn’t clean upon inspection, it will be rewashed without discussion.

I’ve grown quite fond of Quinn and his family, and I feel terrible about what I’ve put them through. Especially in this last book, MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA (est. 2014/2015 release).

Quinn loves Marcella. He’d do anything for her, including putting up with her very annoying mother, Thelma, who lives with them. But there’s one thing he doesn’t like one bit, and that’s Marcella’s long time association with her former lover, Sky Lissoneau.

Sky—Marcella’s first sweetheart—proposed to her twenty years ago after her college graduation. Alas, she broke his heart when she lovingly declined, deciding to pursue her operatic singing career in New York City instead of marrying him. Completely devastated, Sky joined the military and eventually went MIA, where for eighteen years friends and family agonized over his safety.

In Essentially Yours, book two in the Tall Pines series, life changes in a most surprising way when Sky’s backpack arrives on the doorstep jammed with a mysterious collection of essential oils, a password-protected memory stick, a bag of emeralds, and a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets. After an intense adventure involving an evil drug company and a possible cure for leukemia, Sky shows up. While it’s confusing to Marcella (she still has feelings for him, but loves her husband at the same time), Sky’s return spikes jealousy in Quinn, and ultimately this homecoming causes a great deal of grief and what ends up being a tantalizing trio filled with plenty of sexual tension.

Coming back to the subject of my current work in progress, MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA, I really do feel bad about what I did to Quinn in this story. I tore a rift between him and his wife, and almost destroyed their marriage.

What’s wrong with me? Why did I allow such conflict between two happily married people? Didn’t they have enough problems with the big evil drug company chasing them all over the mountains, trying to kill them?

Frankly, I still blame Downton Abbey, which I have recently claimed made me into a virtual  murderer. (You can read about it here if you wish.) I’m afraid being exposed to all kinds of family drama pushed me into a mode I hadn’t yet experienced. Great conflict, high tension, and lovely surprises. Horrible deaths of beloved characters.

(Evil chuckle) Did I tell you I loved it?

In time, my characters and I both found resolution to our problems. After a year of searching, the perfect day job arrived. I am now happily employed at a small German company. Our Rochester office has four employees and an office dog. How cool is that, right?

In the end of MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA, I allowed Quinn and Marcella to make up, and to forge ahead in the world I’ve created for them in the Tall Pines Mystery series. Who knows what book five will hold? I hope I’m not too hard on them. After all, they need to carry on for many more books to come. And I really do have to live with myself. Somehow. ;o)

***

Twilight Times Books by multi-award winning, Kindle bestselling author, Aaron Lazar:

LEGARDE MYSTERIES

DOUBLE FORTÉ (print, eBook, audio book)

UPSTAGED (print, eBook, audio book)

TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON (print, eBook, audio book)

MAZURKA (print, eBook, audio book)

FIRESONG (print, eBook, audio book)

DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (coming 2013)

VIRTUOSO (~2014)

MOORE MYSTERIES

HEALEY’S CAVE (print, eBook, audio book)

TERROR COMES KNOCKING (print, eBook, audio book)

FOR KEEPS (print, eBook, audio book)

TALL PINES MYSTERIES

FOR THE BIRDS (print, eBook, audio book coming 2013)

ESSENTIALLY YOURS (print, eBook, audio book)

SANCTUARY (coming, 2013)

MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA (~2014)

WRITING ADVICE:

WRITE LIKE THE WIND, volumes 1, 2, 3 (ebooks and audio books)

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming Twilight Times Books releases DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (2013), SANCTUARY (2013), and VIRTUOSO (2014).

HONORABLE MENTION Eric Hoffer 2013 GRAND PRIZE * FINALIST 2013 EPIC Book Awards  * FINALIST 2012 FOREWORD BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS * Finalist DaVinci Eye Cover Award 2013 * WINNER 2011 EPIC Book Awards, BEST Paranormal * FINALIST 2011 FOREWORD BOOK AWARDS * WINNER 2011 Eric Hoffer BEST Book, COMMERCIAL FICTION *Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top 10 Reads for 2012 * 2X FINALIST Global eBook Awards 2011 * Preditors & Editors Readers Choice Award – 2nd place 2011* Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top 10 Books of 2012 * Winner of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s 9th Annual Noble (Not Nobel!) Prize for Literature 2011 * Finalist Allbooks Editor’s Choice Awards 2011 * Preditors&Editors Top 10 FinalistYolanda Renée’s Top Ten Books 2008MYSHELF Top Ten Reads 2008 * Writer’s Digest Top 101 Website Award 2009-2012

www.lazarbooks.com

www.murderby4.blogspot.com

www.aaronlazar.blogspot.com

www.aplazar.gather.com

http://aaronlazar.younglivingworld.com

www.pureoils.blogspot.com

Introducing The Curse Giver’s Cover

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

This is it! The cover for The Curse Giver is ready and I’m very excited to share it with you for the first time. So without further delay, here it is!

The Curse Giver's Cover

Seeing the completed cover for the first time was a powerful experience for me. Brad Fraunfelter did an amazing job. It’s a visual punch, an image packed with detail and emotion. I think it’s stunning. Don’t you?

What will The Curse Giver’s Cover look like? Want to take a peek?

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Book covers are a lot like people: They come in different sizes and colors, interpreting all kinds of diverse concepts and ideas, seeking attention. Selecting a book cover is an important part of the process of putting together a book, because, let’s face it, we all judge a book by its cover. I know I do. Don’t you?

The advent of the electronic book took the pressure off cover design, at least for a little while. Many of the original electronic readers weren’t capable of showcasing the cover’s art and many authors and publishers took advantage of that to cut back on cost. After all, original cover art is expensive and in the current book market, everyone is looking for ways to increase those very slim margins.

But new electronic readers and tablets are reversing that trend. These newer e-readers are perfectly able to convey the nuances of a well-designed cover, many of them in high definition. Book covers are back and authors and publishers everywhere understand the need to put out covers that grab the reader’s attention.

I want the same for my books. I’ve been very fortunate to work with quality publishers who seek to put together excellent books. In my experience, one of the big advantages of working with independent publishers is that they seek and value the author’s opinions. So I was thrilled when my publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times books asked me for ideas about a cover for The Curse Giver.

I got to work on a range of concepts, from simple to complex, from easy to hard. Original cover art is not just pricy; it’s time consuming and labor intensive. Lots of publishers choose to illustrate their covers with stock art because they can save lots of money. So I was delighted when my publisher selected Brad Fraunfelter, http://www.bradfraunfelterillustration.com/, who proposed a very realistic cover with lots of details in a slightly painterly style similar to the art of Donato Giancola.

His proposal’s rough sketch was ambitious, following my most complex cover suggestion. It showed a powerful warrior holding a woman whose naked back displayed the faint outline of butterfly wings. At first, I was a little shocked. If you’ve seen my books, you know that none of them showed people on the covers. That’s because I like to respect the reader’s individual imagination. But in his original proposal, the artist didn’t show faces, just bodies. I liked the power I saw in those images. I liked the passion he brought to the proposal.

In the next few weeks, Brad Fraunfelter will be completing the cover. It will be very different from my previous books. I don’t know exactly what the end result will look like, but I have no doubt about a couple of things: It will be an original piece of art and it will be a bold statement.

Want to take a peek?

Here it is!

CurseGiver_sketch_med (3)

What do you think?