Archive for April, 2014

The Writing Process

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

My dear friend, the talented Maria De Vivo, author of The Coal Elf, passed me the baton for the Writing Process Blog Tour. In turn, I passed the baton to three writers who I think you might enjoy meeting. This means all of us get to answer four questions about our work. Here are my answers:

What are you working on?

Oh, my! And I thought these would be easy questions. I have several projects going. I’m about halfway into a contemporary urban fantasy novel with a Latin twist. I’m also in the research stage of three different projects, one of them a fantasy/time travel adventure. And of course, I’m also in the process of writing the companion novel to The Curse Giver, a fantasy epic adventure with a hint of romance tentatively entitled The Soul Chaser.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I think I bring a different perspective to the fantasy genre. I grew up in Latin America and I’ve seen and experienced the advantages and disadvantages of living in a developing nation. My stories are usually nuanced by issues of poverty, inequality, corruption and injustice. I like a complex plot with flawed, multidimensional characters engaged in passionate and meaningful relationships at many different levels. I write characters that are a product of changing environments and yet have to evolve with the circumstances.

I don’t mind a little length if it allows me the chance to ramp up the journey’s intensity and explore the richness of diverse and innovative worlds. My style is a little different too. I like to tell an epic story with lyrical flare. Finally, I bring some gritty realism to my fantasy worlds, a taste of the world we live in.

Why do you write what you write?

I straddle many worlds in real life, so fantasy is a perfect fit for me. I love the freedom of creating my own worlds. In many ways, fantasy is a reinterpretation of the human experience, as current and enduring as the world we live in. To me, fantasy is the most interactive of all the genres, the most flexible. I get to play and experiment with concepts, settings and ideas in all kinds of different frameworks. Who wouldn’t love that? I write fantasy because it’s fun.

What is your writing process?

It usually begins with an idea that gives birth to a character. Then that character takes over. I’m quite obsessive when I’m writing. I write all the time, wherever I am. The bulk of my writing takes place late at night. I write best during those uninterrupted times and I write for as long as I can. Sleep deprivation is usually a challenge. I can typically churn out a draft in three or four months. After that, I go into a compulsive editing phase, where I might be writing something new while editing the draft. It’s a grueling process and yet I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

There you have it. My writing process in a nutshell. I’m passing the baton to:

Jerry Hatchett

My friend Jerry Hatchett writes thrillers you can’t put down. He’s the author of several Amazon bestsellers, includingSeven Unholy DaysThe Pawnbroker and the upcomingUnallocated Space.

Linda Au

My friend Linda Au is a novelist, a humor writer and the funniest woman I know. She’s the author of several humor books, including Head in the Sand and the award nominated Fork in the Road.

Eleanor Khuns

My friend Eleanor Khuns is a writer of historical mysteries, winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition and author of A Simple Murder, Death of a Dyer and Craddle to Grave.

Dora Machado's Books (640x237)

Introducing Elfie

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

It’s my pleasure to introduce Barb Caffrey, my editor at Twilight Times Books, who has just published her first novel, a comic urban fantasy romance entitled An Elfie on the Loose. We’re doing a “book blast” to encourage folks who might like to buy the book to download it today to help the ratings soar! Here’s what one reviewer is saying about it:

“Barb Caffrey’s
An Elfy on the Loose is a fresh and unexpected take on the urban fantasy genre with a charming and original protagonist. You’ll want to read this one.” – Rosemary Edghill, author of Dead Reckoning, Music To My Sorrow and the Bast Mysteries.

So without further ado, here’s a little bit about this enchanting story.




One Elfy for an entire planet?

He’s supposed to be the Watcher for his people, the representative on Earth from his dimension, but the small being known to his enemies as “Jonny-Wonny” wakes up to big trouble — trapped in a bizarre house in Knightsville, California with humans straight out of reality TV. Jon knows that something has gone dreadfully wrong — he’s starving, lonely and dressed in funny clothes.

Enter the couple’s ten-year-old diminutive daughter, who is “Not Daisy!” but is brilliant, sweet…and using high level magic with ease. She’s also desperately in need of a friend.

Insisting her name is really Sarah, and christening him Bruno, his new friend asks him how they’re going to get out of there.

The only thing that comes to mind is for Bruno to ask his teacher, Roberto the Wise, for help. But Roberto’s attempt at help only enmeshes all three of them further in a web of deceit and treachery. Bruno finds out that, unfortunately, most of what he thought he knew about himself was very wrong…and much of what Sarah knows about herself is also wrong, including her age.

Worst of all, a Dark Elf is on the scene and is intent on corrupting the local Humans, including Sarah’s parents.

New names, new locations, a new mission–Bruno is going to get to the bottom of all the craziness, and Sarah will be there for him every step of the way.

Watch out, universe–an Elfy is on the loose!


Barb Caffrey is a writer, editor, musician, and composer. She holds two degrees, is an inveterate and omnivorous reader, and is the writer of the comic urban fantasy romance AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (book one of the ELFY duology), available now from Twilight Times Books. She follows politics, loves sports, watches far too much reality TV and is mystified by the “Maury” show.  What all this says about her is anyone’s guess.

Japan Wrap-Up

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Hello everyone,

Some final thoughts about our trip to Japan and a few helpful recommendations from






It’s been over a month since mom and I returned from Japan, and 14 blog posts later I’m still struggling with how to adequately summarize our weeks in this confusing, enchanting place. It would be impossible to wrap this trip up perfectly with a neat sparkly bow as I’d prefer, but I’m going to try! After lots of reflecting, a little head scratching, and a few good fits of giggles, here is my best attempt at reviewing our top Japan experiences:

Best Place We Stayed


The Courtyard Tokyo Ginza Hotel

It was one of the pricier places to rest our heads on this trip, but the value of having an English-speaking staff was priceless to us. Not only were the rooms comfortable and (by Tokyo standards) spacious, but the concierge was enormously helpful in pushing us in the right direction when our heads were otherwise spinning. Since Tokyo was our first stop on our Japan tour, I totally took all of this for granted. But after weeks of navigating Kansai with little-to-no English spoken at our hotel & ryokan, I found myself breathing an audible sigh of relief to return to theCourtyard on our last night before flying out of Tokyo.

In addition to the wonderful staff and amenities, the location is perfect for exploring the city via walking and public transit. The hotel is walking distance to several subway stations and major sights, including the Tsukiji Fish Market, Kabuki-za, and many of Tokyo’s most famous eating establishments.

Best Thing We Ate



I have lived in very touristy areas of both Boston and New York City, and so while the eating options are numerous in Tokyo, I suspected it would be difficult to know where to get the most for our money. While we were eager to sample various Japanese staples, we didn’t want to get sucked into the overpriced, low quality tourist traps that any big city shelters in abundance. We found ourselves in just such a trap on our first night in Tokyo, and as we stomached some of the toughest soba noodles in all of Japan (at least as far as we could tell) we vowed to ourselves ‘never again.’ After that we got into the habit of researching our dinner options thoroughly before hitting the streets in an effort to make the most of our time and stomach capacity.

Now this didn’t always work mind you – we even found some of the suggestions by our guidebook and concierge to be disappointing. But we got it right when we googled ‘best ramen in Tokyo’ and picked Kagari out of our search results. I will never think of noodles the same after tasting this deliciously creamy concoction. And waiting in line for a seat at the eight person bar was probably one of the most authentic experiences we were able to muster while in Japan. Did I mention it was one of the cheapest meals we enjoyed in Tokyo?

Best Place We Visited



Our day with the deer and visit with the Todai-ji was a highlight of the trip, and while we saw many, many great sights in Japan, this one stands out to me as most impressive. The ease of getting to and around Nara also bolsters this day in my mind as one of the best of the stay. I would caution anyone visiting Kansai not to miss it.

Best Decision We Made


Japan Rail Passes

Japan has done a wonderful job of accommodating foreigners on their train system. Doing our research before departure, we discovered you must order this pass from your home country, and cannot purchase it once in Japan. I am so glad we discovered this. Not only did it make our travels and numerous day trips economically efficient, it saved us a lot of time in planning out our itinerary. For the most part we were able to arrive at the station, flash our pass to get through any JR turnstile, check out the signage to figure out which train was going where, and hop aboard without a problem. In the few instances where we required (or preferred) assigned seating, all we needed to do was show our pass at the ticket office, point to where we would like to go, and voila – tickets were handed to us! The only downside we discovered to the JR pass is that it does not cover tickets on the fastest line of bullet trains, but we found the second fastest shinkansen took us anywhere we needed to go just as well.

Highest Moment


Onsen Joy

There were many small victories on this journey through Japan, but to me, my highest moment is clear: discovering I loved onsens after all.

Biggest Challenge


Snowed in in Hakone

We traveled to the resort town of Hakone just in time to experience the biggest snowfall in the region in 130 years. 11 inches of snow shut down the area for three days, while we waited helpless in our overpriced hotel. The staff was more or less uninterested in helping us to make our international flight, even though we watched them go to great lengths to assist many members of a western conference make theirs. It was supremely frustrating to wait day after day without any idea of when we would be able to get out and little ability to communicate effectively with the hotel about our needs. Not to mention the snow shut down all excursions in the area, leaving us with nothing to do but sit in the lobby (and soak in the onsen, of course). Eventually the sun came out, and with it the breathtaking view of Mt Fuji we had traveled to Hakone for. It almost made missing our flight home worth it… almost.

What I’d Do Differently


In my previous travels, I had always found that the longer I was able to stay in a place, the better experience I had. This is why I scheduled this trip to last nearly a month. In retrospect I realize now how ambitious this was. I hugely underestimated just how challenging a first-time visit to Asia could be, and by week two mom and I were starting to drag our feet. By the time we got on the plane home we were exhausted. Now that I have a better idea how to meet these challenges, I wouldn’t hesitate to book a trip of this length to Japan again. But for a first-time visit – I think we may have gotten just as much out of a 10-day trip as we did out of our several weeks.

I also realize now that it wasn’t necessary to schlep all the way to Kinosaki to get the onsen experience. Had I done better research I could have discovered just how prevalent they are, and used the time it took to get to Kinosaki and back again to see other sites. It was cool to view the Sea of Japan and taste snow crab at its peak, but the purpose of the excursion – to experience onsens – turned out to be more or less a bust.

On the Next Trip…


There are three places we didn’t make it to on this trip that were cut during planning at the last minute:

The Japanese Alps

We decided not to visit the Japanese Alps because… well, I live in Colorado, and questioned the reason in traveling to the other side of the planet to do what I can do at home. But the truth is, I love to ski! And I missed out on an opportunity to experience how a different culture shares my passion. I will definitely be hitting the slopes on my next Japanese adventure.

Tokyo Disney

We didn’t visit Tokyo Disney for the same reason we didn’t visit the Japanese Alps – I grew up driving distance from Disney World and my parents still live close by. But after experiencing just how different and particular Japanese culture is, I became very curious as to how it would mesh with the very western phenomenon of Disney. So next time I visit Japan, I will definitely be using our Disney Vacation Club points to explore this idea further. It’s on the way to the airport, anyway!


I was most disappointed to drop a visit to the monastic complex at Koya-san, but we didn’t have time to go both here and Kinosaki. Next time I will not miss out on the opportunity to wander the forests here and learn more about Buddhism by staying a night or two in temple lodgings.

I would also love to explore further south. A beach bum at heart, I have been dreaming about a visit to some of the more remote islands of Japan ever since I read about them in a feature of an in-flight magazine.

In Conclusion


Japan has definitely been the most challenging place I’ve visited so far. There are a lot of things I felt were lost in translation and plenty of potential experienced missed out on because of this. But the great challenges did lead to great joys. There were definitely things I would have liked to have done differently. But would I do it again?

You betcha.