Posts Tagged ‘Dark fantasy’

Off to Japan: My Writer’s Packing List

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

By

Dora Machado

Japan Rail Passes

If everything goes as planned, by this time you read this, I’ll be on a plane to Japan. Even though I’ve been to Asia Minor before, this will be my first trip to Asia proper. I’m so excited!

For this trip, I’ve had to make zero planning effort. That’s because I’m teaming up with one of my all-time favorite traveling companions, travel blogger Mariana Marshall of http://marianaonthemove.com/, with whom I walked the last 100 kilometers of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela. She is also my daughter.

The advantages of tagging along with a travel blogger can’t be understated. My traveling companion carefully researched and selected the itinerary and made all of the traveling arrangements, transportation and lodging reservations. I just get to come along for the ride!

We’ll be spending some time in Tokyo and then traveling on to explore Kyoto and its environs. We’ve got a very long list, but I’m looking forward to staying at a traditional Japanese guest house (ryokan), exploring the natural hot springs (onsens), and riding Japan’s fabulous bullet trains.

Packing for Japan in the winter had me asking a lot of questions, but travel bloggers are Girl Scouts at heart, and mine found this awesome packing list from a fellow blogger:  http://herpackinglist.com/2012/12/ultimate-female-packing-list-japan-winter/.

My writer’s packing list must, of course, include my computer, tablet and cell phone. We don’t speak the language, so we’ve uploaded some interesting apps that might help if all else fails. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Technology is a wonderful convenience, but I’ve learned that, when traveling, it isn’t always reliable. So in addition, I’m bringing a good, small, old-fashioned notebook to jot down my thoughts and observations, a few good pens, and my camera, all indispensable tools that will work with or without an Internet connection, and that are suitable to all environments.

But the most important elements for a successful trip are stowed not in my suitcase, but rather in my mind. They include flexibility, openness and imagination. Flexibility is key when traveling, the ability to roll with the punches, accept, adapt and adjust to the changes intrinsic to the traveling experience. From airports to hotels, from technology to people, traveling exposes us to new situations that test our comfort levels and push our boundaries.

An open mind is also vital to the traveling experience. It allows us to see the world for what it is, not for what we think it should be. It also teaches us to value the differences that make each place unique and each culture extraordinary.

And finally, I bring along my number-one writing tool, my imagination, to take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I’ve never experienced before, to relish the emotions of the journey, to collect the odd, the common and the spectacular, to understand and process the experience of being human. For a gal into world building, the traveling experience is a rich trove indeed.

So, wish me luck.

Sayonara, kids!

Japan bound

Colorado Is For Writers

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Hello Everybody,

I just got back from beautiful Colorado. Here’s a post I wrote about my writing experience in the Rocky Mountains.

Enjoy!

D.

Copper Mountain, top of Union Peak, December 26 2013

Colorado has to be one of my favorite places in the world. The views of the Rocky Mountains are breathtaking. The people are friendly, fit and youthful, no matter their age. Nature indulges, facilitating so many of the activities for which the State is known, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, biking, hiking, fly-fishing, rafting and . . .  writing?

Yes, writing.

It’s easy to find inspiration among these mountains. It’s easy to keep the mind focused when surrounded by such stunning vistas. I find myself energized by the folks who tackled the slopes with the same energy and enthusiasm I feel when I tackle a story. It goes against the principles of oxygen deprivation, but I find that the mind flows effortlessly at ten thousand feet, especially after a few hours of skiing or snowshoeing, and a little nap.

Skiing

We’ve had some epic snow dumps so far this year and the snow has been delicious. Those of us who frequent Copper Mountain, Colorado, on a regular basis, couldn’t be happier. I heard a few people complaining about the cold weather this year, but I’m not one of them. When the going gets tough on the mountain, when the wind picks up and you can’t see the chair lift in front of you, I head indoors. The way I see it, it’s time for some serious writing.

I’ve produced some of my best writing in Colorado. These mountains have inspired thousands of words out of me. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to come out to Colorado and share in the state of mind that makes it such a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts and, yes, for writers too.

Copper Mountain, Dec 26 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Thanksgiving always makes me feel lucky. Even if I have a tendency to stress over the stuffing, the seating arrangements and the lumps in the gravy, I love this fantastic holiday. It encompasses all of my favorites: family, friends, food and fun.  Every year, before we sit at the table, our family gives thanks for the blessings in our lives. So I thought we should do the same here, from my writer’s point of view.

In the spirit of the holiday and beginning with the obvious, I’m grateful for:

My family and friends, who support me and my writing with love, patience, grace and enthusiasm. Without them, even writing loses its meaning.

The craft of writing–gift, blessing, curse and obsession.  I’m thankful for every word, sentence, paragraph and chapter; for every story, novel and series; for every idea, image and dream; for the pure joy of writing.

My writer friends, whose flames light my way and brighten my nights.

The editors who help me become a better writer and who care enough to point out the obvious as well as the obscure.

The publishers who invest in our work and the talented teams that bring our books to market, including the cover artists, book designers, proof readers, line editors, support staff and everybody who contributes to the creation of something as unique and special as a book. Thank you for being part of our stories.

Those who help us promote our work: agents, public relations specialists and especially all those fantastic bloggers and reviewers who showcase our books.

Finally, I’m especially thankful for my readers, for their encouragement, enthusiasm and praise. They are the reason why authors like me keep writing.

Have a wonderful holiday!

D.

Thanksgiving turkey

The Curse Giver is an Award-Winning Finalist in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

bestbooksfinalistJPEGsmall

Great news!

I am delighted to announce that The Curse Giver is now an award-winning finalist in the fantasy category of the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, sponsored by USA Book News. Now in its 11th year, the USA Best Book Awards is one of the largest mainstream book award competitions in the United States.

I’d like to congratulate all of the winners and finalists of the USA Best Book Awards. I’d also like to thank the judges for their hard work sifting through such a talented field and for awarding this distinction to The Curse Giver.  Huge thanks to all the folks who worked on The Curse Giver and especially to Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books, for putting together a terrific book.

You all know that writing is an indulgence to me, a selfish, satisfying pursuit. I don’t write to win contests and I’m always amazed when I do, but every once in a while it’s nice to get a pat on the back from folks who know what they’re doing.

D.

USA BOOK NEWS ANNOUNCES
WINNERS AND FINALISTS OF
THE 2013 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS

Mainstream & Independent Titles Score Top Honors

in the 10th Annual USA Best Book Awards

St. Martin’s Press, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, John Wiley & Sons, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hay House, Llewellyn Worldwide, and hundreds of Independent Houses contribute to this year’s Outstanding Competition!

LOS ANGELES – USABookNews.com, the premier online magazine featuring mainstream and independent publishing houses, announced the winners and finalists of THE 2013 USA BEST BOOKS AWARDS on November 14, 2013. Over 400 winners and finalists were announced in over 100 categories. Awards were presented for titles published in 2012 and 2013.

Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of USA Book News, said this year’s contest yielded over 1500 entries from mainstream and independent publishers, which were then narrowed down to over 400 winners and finalists.

Keen says of the awards, now in their eleventh year, “The 2013 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the United States. With a full publicity and marketing campaign promoting the results of the USA Best Book Awards, this year’s winners and finalists will gain additional media coverage for the upcoming holiday retail season.”

Winners and finalists traversed the publishing landscape: St. Martin’s Press, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, John Wiley & Sons, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hay House, Llewellyn Worldwide, Thomas Dunne Books, Oxford University Press, American Cancer Society and hundreds of independent houses contributed to this year’s outstanding competition.

Keen adds, “Our success begins with the enthusiastic participation of authors and publishers and continues with our distinguished panel of industry judges who bring to the table their extensive editorial, PR, marketing, and design expertise.”

USABookNews.com is an online publication providing coverage for books from mainstream and independent publishers to the world online community.

The winners and finalist of the Fiction/Fantasy category include:

Winner
Collider by Chris Hejmanowski
Fisher Press
978-0-9857180-0-8

Finalist
The Bane of Yoto by Joshua Viola with Nicholas Karpuk
FiXT
978-0985559014

Finalist
The Curse Giver by Dora Machado
Twilight Times Books
978-1-60619-289-4

Finalist

The Silver Sphere by Michael Dadich
Evolved Publishing
978-1622536016

A complete list of the winners and finalists of The 2013 USA Best Book Awards are available online at http://www.USABookNews.com.

CurseGiver_Front Cover Final

http://amzn.to/13oVu2P

There’s No Place Like Home

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

The holidays are upon us and my guest blogger today is the talented author of The Coal Elf, Maria DeVivo.

The Coal Elf is about Ember Skye, a teenage Coal Elf with a big ashy chip on her shoulder. Having been torn away from a carefree life and forced into a world of dirt and darkness has started to get the best of her. And being the only girl-elf working as a coal miner at the North Pole doesn’t help much either. She wants to go home and yet she can’t.

When a mysterious illness threatens to decimate elves both Above and Underground, Ember is thrust into a journey that will see her confront the literal and figurative demons of her past and lead her to the head of the North Pole himself.  Yes! Santa is real. But this isn’t your childhood Christmas tale.

The Coal Elf is an original, dark and evocative tale with a different take on Christmas. Scroll to the bottom for a peek at this unique story and help us drive it up to the top of Amazon’s charts by buying The Coal Elf at a special holiday price of only $2.99!

And now find out why There’s No Place Like Home during the holidays.

Enjoy!

D.

There’s No Place Like Home

By

Maria DeVivo

Maria De Vivo

What’s the old saying?  “Home is where the heart is.”  It must be true because one of the prevalent themes in story-telling is the concept of Home – Having one, being a part of one, rejecting one, leaving one, desperately trying to find your way back to one.

Humans have an innate honing device that draws us to a nostalgic place of comfort and love. Some of the most influential stories of our time use HOME as a central theme.  After having experienced the wonder and glory of Oz, Dorothy said there was no place like it.  Her journey brought her to the realization that her black and white world of farm animals and twisters was really where she belonged.  Thrust onto an island while the war-torn world around them has no idea of their whereabouts, the children in The Lord of the Flies are in constant pursuit of returning home while in the process, create a home. And more recently, Katniss Everdeen initially strives to win The Hunger Games to go where?  Back Home.

In The Coal Elf, Ember Skye deals with this notion of Home from the moment she is called to her Life Job.  When she is sent to the Mines, her memories of her life Aboveground grip her so tightly that she is almost blinded by nostalgia.  The entire novel follows her path of dealing with those memories, confronting certain realities, and altering her own perceptions as to where she belongs, where she fits in, where she’s meant to be.

So what is HOME?  What defines it?  For me, it’s an unseen structure made up of memories.    Spring birds singing in the morning as I waited for the school bus.  Running outside on a cool summer night to flag down the ice cream truck.  Standing on tree stumps in my backyard as dead leaves fell from the autumn trees.  The smell of my father’s work boots in the hallway.  Cuddling with my sister on Christmas Eve.  Coming home from school and being so angry with my mother for cleaning up my room.  My uncle’s voice booming as he and my mother sang Kenny Rogers’s songs.  My concept of Home expands far beyond the actual dwelling itself, and now I’m making a Home for my daughter, hopefully helping to build those memories of love and comfort she will seek refuge in her future.

****

About Maria DeVivo

Maria DeVivo is a New York native who has had a lifelong love affair with “the pen.”  A graduate of St. John’s University, she has a passion for all things mystical and mythological.  She has taught 7th grade Language Arts since 2000, and in 2010, designed the curriculum for an academic elective course entitled Folklore, where she was able to share her passion and knowledge on concentrated topics such as folktales and mythology with her students.

Having grown up in a large Irish/Italian family (where Maria is the oldest child, and of course, the wisest) the mystery and wonder surrounding the holidays were a main staple of her upbringing.  At the age of seven, when her mother finally admitted “the truth” to her, she has become somewhat of a “Santa-phile”, an obsession that has rooted its way into every fiber of her being.  Maria is one of those people who cries when Santa makes His grand appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Coupled with an obsession for all things dark and demented, her debut novel, The Coal Elf, was born.

Maria now lives in Florida with her husband, Joe, and daughter, Morgan.  When not teaching or writing or running around after her daughter, she enjoys drinking iced coffee, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

Connect with DeVivo:

www.mariadevivo.com

www.facebook.com/mariadevivoauthor

@Maria_DeVivo

****

THE COAL ELF

Ember Skye is a fed up teenage Coal Elf with a big ashy chip on her shoulder. Having been torn away from a carefree life and forced into a world of dirt and darkness has started to get the best of her. And being the only girl-elf working as a coal miner at the North Pole doesn’t help much either!

Then there’s Sturd: a power-hungry, twisted elf with a checkered past and a serious grudge against Ember. Slowly but surely, his maniacal tendencies are revealed, leaving Ember with the sacred “Naughty List” literally in her lap.

When a mysterious illness threatens to decimate elves both Above and Underground, Ember is thrust into a journey that will see her confront the literal and figurative demons of her past and lead her to the head of the North Pole himself.

Yes! Santa is real. But this isn’t your childhood Christmas tale!

coal elf pic for vid

AMAZON

Reviews

“…A story with plenty of twists and turns, the reader is drawn into a world of dust and darkness with tension so strong it can be felt throughout. You will hold your breath at the challenges Ember must face and be pulled along as the plot thickens.” ~ Anne K. Edwards, author of The Last to Fall

“The teenage protagonist of Maria DeVivo’s debut novel, The Coal Elf, published by Twilight Times Books, November 2012, got screwed by “the Boss” of the North Pole. Imagine having your wonderful life and future destroyed when, instead of receiving the job assignment to make toys or bake cookies for a living, you were thrust into a gloomy, underground life of mining coal for the children on the naughty list. Ember Skye stole my heart from the first page as DeVivo describes her life as a Coal Elf and sets up the conflict and her epic battle with the antagonist, Sturd, a despicable, nasty elf who embodies evil.

Throw this conflict, these and a handful of other memorable characters into an incredibly creative North Pole setting, and you have a story that I could not put down. What I particularly enjoyed was DeVivo’s portrayal and extension of Christmas with her creation of a detailed fantasy world where we learn how the North Pole might actually work. This awesome setting is expertly woven into the story so that I was transported into this amazing world as I read.

Do yourself a favor and read The Coal Elf–I highly recommend it. This is one of those books that should be made into a movie (Tim Burton are you listening?). Great characters, engaging plot, believable dialog, wonderful setting and, above all, writing that compelled me to keep turning the pages (that’s what we all really want as readers, right?).” ~Daniel Springer, author of the award-winning The Wilco Project.

Don’t forget! The Coal Elf is now available at a special holiday price of only $2.99!

A Review of Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone Audio-Book Edition

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Hello everybody!

I love to listen to a good story. I find it comforting, relaxing and fun to hide in a quiet corner, plug in my headset, and bask in the wonders of a great tale. My love affair with audio-books probably began early on as a child, when my parents shared their love for books by reading aloud to me. I remember thinking that it was such a treat! I then read to my own children and learned to relish not only the great children’s books of a new generation, but especially, our time together. Reading aloud to our children is not just fun; it’s also a loving gift and a lasting legacy. Look at me. I’m still craving the story that the voice tells. Or is it the voice that tells the story?

Audiobookjungle.com is one of only a handful of sites dedicated exclusively to audio-books. As a disclaimer, I will say that I don’t know the principals and only discovered it by accident, when my publicist submitted Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone for review. It is a treasure find, packed with helpful reviews, discussions, articles and tips for audio-book addicts. So if like me, you love to listen to your books as you commute to work, wash the dishes or before you turn in for the night, don’t miss http://audiobookjungle.com.

As luck would have it, audiobookjungle.com did review the first novel of the Stonewiser series and, to my utter delight, found it worthwhile. So here it is, audibookjungle.com’s brand new review of Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, audio-book edition.

Enjoy!

D.

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone Audiobook Review by Audiojungle.com

Written by Dora Machado, Narrated by Melissa Reizian Frank

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone by Dora Machado Audiobook Review

Who is the author

Dora Machado, the author of the Stonewiser trilogy is relatively new to the fantasy scene, at least that’s what I gathered from looking her up online. At the time of posting this review she has written four fantasy novels which seem to be well received from the readers. The first book in the Stonewiser trilogy, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone is the one I read and I’ll certainly be grabbing the next one as soon as possible. It’s really good. No wonder it won the 2009 Benjamin Franklin award for best debut novel.

What does stonewiser mean
The title sounds a little mysterious because the word stonewiser is fictional and you don’t know what to expect until you start reading. I’m usually the type of person who would do minimal or no research regarding a book I’m about to read, as I don’t want to see any spoilers or get my judgment of it’s quality swayed. The problem is that if you do that with authors new to you it takes awhile to get used to their style and get a feel of what the book is going to be about. Dora Machado throws you straight into the action from the first chapter. You immediately learn that stonewisers are gifted people that can imprint stones with information and read it. You also learn that there are some kinds of stones that are not supposed to be wised because The Guild forbids it. That’s good writing right there – you get the essentials right away but you want to know more, right now! :)

What’s the premise of the story?

Find out more at http://audiobookjungle.com/

What I liked

The writing. It’s well crafted, easy to follow and engaging. While the basic skeleton of the story isn’t groundbreaking (a rebellious heroine that kicks ass and changes the world) it has fresh and intriguing bits. I appreciated the occasional dark and gritty scene that surprises you with it’s violence without becoming uncomfortable to read. The characters were vivid and interesting and here’s where the narrator should also get a portion of the credit. Melissa Reizian Frank does an excellent job. I also appreciated that the audiobook didn’t end with a cliffhanger and the ending provided enough closure to even look at The Heart of the Stone as a stand-alone novel. That doesn’t happen a lot these days, especially with fantasy novels.

What I didn’t like
This may seem a little nit-picky but it bothered me noticeably and it’s something I think an editor should have noticed. The use of ‘Meliahs, help/save us’ as an exclamation (Meliahs is the goddess of the sacred stones) was overdone and appeared too often in scenes where the characters were distressed in some way.

Final thoughts
If you’re looking for a fresh and well written fantasy audiobook, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone is an excellent pick. I hope it gets as much of a following and readers as it deserves.

A Quick Guide to The Stonewiser Series

Get your copy on Audible:

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone by Dora Machado Audiobook Download

On Amazon:

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone by Dora Machado Audiobook Review
Written by: Audiobook Jungle
4.95 stars
http://audiobookjungle.com/

My Interview with Karen Swart

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Hi Folks,

Here’s my brand new interview with South African paranormal and urban fantasy author, Karen Swart, where she asked me all kinds of interesting questions, including whether my books had a hidden message. You know what? I had to think about that one.

Enjoy!

D.

****

Hi Dora! Did you always wanted to be a writer?

Hi Karen. Yes! I’ve wanted to be a writers since as far back as I can remember.

When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?

Good question! I think I only began to call myself a writer after my first book, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, was published.

How long did it take to get your first book published?

About a year from beginning to end. It felt like a century!

Do you do another job except for writing?

Not anymore! These days I’m lucky enough to write full time and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in fewer than 20 words what would you say?

My latest book is called The Curse Giver. Twenty words, eh? Why, let’s give the old logline a try: An innocent healer condemned to death must ally with the cursed lord pledged to kill her to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.

Who is your publisher?

I’m a very lucky gal. The Curse Giver was published by Twilight Times Books, an independent publisher based out of Kingsport, Tennessee, that specializes in publishingcritically acclaimed literary, mystery and SF/F books. A dynamic, top-of-the-line, quality-oriented publisher, TTB has more than 140 titles in the 2013 Spring Catalogue and is the home of a talented and friendly bunch of authors who have enriched my publishing experience. Check out TTB at http://twilighttimesbooks.com/

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?

It takes me about four months, give or take a little. Keep in mind that the time invested is not always consecutive when you are working on a novel. Sometimes I’ll advance one project and then shift to another novel, before going back to complete the first one.

What can we expect from you in the future? More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?

You can expect more stories from me in the future, more dark fantasy romance, a dark contemporary fantasy with a Latin twist, and more about the world of The Curse Giver in its companion novel, The Soul Chaser.

What genre would you place your books into?

The Curse Giver falls into the fantasy genre and fits well in the subcategories of epic fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy romance and romantic fantasy.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?

I’ve always been intrigued by the fantasy genre. I love the genre’s creative freedom, the opportunity to rethink, redesign and reinterpret the human experience, the creative challenges that that arise from world building, and the mysteries that magic brings to the human equation. I grew up in the Dominican Republic and my life always felt kind of magical in many ways. I’ve always straddled different worlds. Fantasy is a perfect fit for me.

Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?

I do. I think it’s a tossup between the main characters, Bren and Lusielle. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, the reluctant hero and the tortured soul. In The Curse Giver, Bren, Lord of Laonia, is all of those. He’s got the makings of a hero, but his circumstances make him an outcast and a villain in his own mind. He is weary, bitter and troubled, but he’s also dutiful and determined, and he will not betray his people. As the story begins, he rescues Lusielle from the pyre, but only because he’s hunting a birthmark she bears. To defeat the curse that has obliterated his family and is killing him, he has to murder the woman who bears the birthmark in the foulest possible way. But as he escapes with his prey in tow, she is not what he expected. He faces yet another dismal choice: Can he murder the only woman capable of healing more than his body, his soul?

Lusielle is also one of my favorite characters in The Curse Giver, but for a totally different reason. When the story begins, she’s been betrayed by her greedy husband and condemned to die for a crime she didn’t commit. After years of abuse and slavery, the false accusations destroy her bleak but orderly world. As she flees with the bitter lord who has rescued her, she finds herself in an impossible situation: If she’s going to survive, she must help the mysterious lord who is determined to kill her to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends. What I like most about Lusielle is that she has to change; she has to muster the courage to free herself from her tragic past and find the strength within to thrive in a world she doesn’t understand.

How long have you been writing? And who or what inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing for publication for about seven years now. I’m inspired to write by many people and many experiences, but ultimately, I write because I can’t stop writing. I swear. I’ve tried. I just can’t. My mind is powered by this story generator that keeps on going and won’t quit.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? Do you listen to music, sit in a certain chair…?

I’m one of those people who prefer to write in silence. I guess my mind is way too noisy as it is! I have a writing studio in my home, a cozy little room that opens up to a veranda that overlooks a beautiful, spring-fed river. It’s quiet and peaceful, and it’s my favorite place to write. I like to sit on my favorite chair, a Scandinavian ergonomic design that offers excellent support for the long hours of writing.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book, then choose the title?

I usually discover the title of my novels at the very moment when I write it for the first time into the story. It can happen early on, during the opening paragraph or late in the process. It’s really neat. It’s always a “wow” moment.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals such as those in Aesop’s Fables: “The moral of this story is..”)

I don’t strive to preach any kind of morality in my stories, but I do write a lot about conflicting situations, injustice, opposing beliefs, and the meaning of concepts such as truth, faith and prejudice. Sometimes, the storyline leaves me and my readers thinking about things. For example, in The Curse Giver we join with the characters as they discover how reason, knowledge and awareness are the main components of our personal sense of strength. We don’t have to be magical to be strong. We just have to believe in ourselves.

Which format of book do you prefer, e-book, hardback, or paperback?

I’m partial to the indestructible, beach-proof, throw-it-in-your-bag, good old-fashioned paperback. I love the feel of a book between my hands. But I will confess—albeit reluctantly—that my latest e-reader has been growing on me. The idea that I can carry ALL of my favorite books around in my purse is irresistible.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is your favorite/worst book-to-movie transfer?

I think that books and movies are two different and distinct media. I usually approach them with different expectations. What makes a book great is not the same thing that will work for a movie. The translation is particularly challenging for science fiction and fantasy. There are an awful lot of great SF/F books that have been made into terrible movies. I used to say that I never wanted to see my books made into movies. That is, until I watched George R. Martin’s Game of Thrones on HBO. It might be time to rethink the old prejudices. . . .

Your favorite food is?

Cake. I know. Not a good one. I like carrots too. Does that help?

Your favorite singer/group is?

That would be a long list!

Your favorite color is?

Blue.

Remember to check out today’s spotlight to find out more about Dora and The Curse Giver.

http://authorkarenswart.blogspot.com/

http://authorkarenswart.blogspot.com/2013/10/book-blitz-curse-giver-by-dora-machado.html

Why Texting is a Tool of the Devil and Proofreading Your work Matters . . . A lot!

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Part Two of my Interview with Proofreader Extraordinaire Linda Au

By

Dora Machado

Please allow me to reintroduce my friend and proofreader extraordinaire, Linda Au, who shared her insights with us on my previous blog post, regarding the ins and outs of her profession and why an author wants a little OCD in his or her proofreader. With an incredible eye for detail, a questioning approach and an uncanny ability to find even the most cryptic of errors, Linda is an incredible asset to every project she tackles. I know. I’ve worked with her many times and benefited from her professional OCD, which as we’ve learned, doesn’t always extend to all other parts of her life, like cleaning the house.

In the second part of my interview with Linda, we tackle some of the hottest issues facing authors today. As the writing world changes and publishing gets both simpler and also more complicated, Linda shares her thoughts on what’s the real current state of spelling in the  world and why proofreading matters . . . more than ever!

Enjoy!

D.

Welcome back, Linda. Writers today face so many hurdles and expenses. Why should having a manuscript professionally proofed be a priority?

In this rapidly evolving publishing world, everyone can call themselves writers by simply typing in a Word document, finishing with “The End,” and uploading it to Kindle Direct Publishing. Bingo! You’re published. Offer your “book” for free and you might even skyrocket to an impressive sales ranking for the day. But you’ll soon realize that even readers who download e-books that didn’t cost them a dime have standards. Their time is worth something. The general reading public is a lot smarter than the general writer-wannabe gives them credit for. They might download your first freebie book, but if it’s riddled with errors, typos, and bad formatting, they won’t care how good the story is (if it’s any good—and you can bet I’m skeptical about that). They won’t bother to download your second one.

The publishing slush pile used to be on the publisher’s desk. Then it moved to the agent’s desk. Now the whole slush pile is right out there for sale on Amazon.com. How can a serious writer stand out with all that competition? I’m convinced that what’s going to separate the men from the boys in the new publishing world is professionalism. Good writing. Good content editing. Good typesetting for print books and formatting for e-books. Good copy editing and proofreading.

By the way, as a side note: I am sometimes vexed that readers expect e-books to all be free or ridiculously cheap. A good, professional book still costs money to produce. The writer, editor, copy editor, publisher, and proofreader all still charge money for their services (and it’s a lot less than you think it is—none of us are retiring to the Caribbean any time soon). The only cost savings with e-books are with actual physical production: printing, binding, distribution. So yes, e-books should be cheaper, but good stories still cost money.

You are a writer too. What kinds of books do you write? Do you proofread your own books?

The two books I have out now are collections of humor essays, written under my maiden name/pen name of Linda M. Au. Although the essays are fun to write, switching gears and being funny in so many different little “stories” can feel burdensome when I’m putting one of the humor books together. I’m collecting ideas and essays for a third book, but I’ve got no personal deadline for it. Next up instead are a few of my NaNoWriMo novels, some of which have won awards (in whole or in part). Fiction is really my first love.

And yes, I do proofread my own books. (I also typeset them.) But I also run them through beta readers when they get close to being finished. That’s as much for content as for spelling and error-checks. Any problem a beta reader can point out helps me be better. I often cringe if it’s a typo or a missing word, of course, since that’s been my bread and butter for decades, but I’m relieved they’ve helped me be as good as I can be when I go to print.

What’s the hardest thing about working with writers?

The extremes in my clientele. It’s tough to have two very different clients at the same time. For instance, one writer might think she’s being helpful by throwing all sorts of formatting into her Word document manuscript, treating it almost like a layout program (which it’s not), or by learning just enough publishing jargon to be dangerous. Manuscript formatting has to be basic, especially if the next step is page layout or e-book formatting, both of which do not play nicely with overly formatted Word documents.

At the other extreme is the writer who still doesn’t seem to care if he or she spells words right or punctuates sentences properly. I’m not talking about a writer who struggles with these issues—I can appreciate the struggle and I really love helping such writers. But I don’t have a lot of tolerance for writers who insist that they are too busy being “creative” to learn the boring, nitpicky details of how to punctuate or spell. To me, that would be like a carpenter saying he’s too busy trying to create a beautiful rocking chair to learn how to use a hammer and saw.

If you’re a writer, words and grammar and punctuation are your tools. You need to learn to use them properly if you want to be taken seriously. And, I guarantee you that, once you learn these things, the creativity will still be there. In fact, it will be freed up and much more accessible to your readers because the mechanics will have become second nature.

In your opinion, what’s the current state of spelling in the world?

I think texting is a tool of the devil.

Seriously, I think that text-messaging has its place but has greatly reduced the regard for spelling conventions. I do writing coach work for eighth graders, and I see a lot of them slipping into text-messaging language in their essays: “ur” or “u” … stuff like that. They don’t even realize they’ve done it until I point it out.

I realize that language is fluid, and it’s a living thing, blah blah blah. But, there’s a big difference between language changing for practical reasons (such as “Google” becoming a verb) and language changing because too many people got lazy and misspelled a word or phrase for so long that the powers that be gave up (such as “alright” instead of “all right” slowly becoming more acceptable, though it’s not actually correct yet). Language changes that come from a lazy, uneducated populace bother me. It’s not quite the downfall of civilization, but I bet every civilization that fell had already started mistaking “its” for “it’s.”

Why will proofreading matter in the future?

As indie publishing/self-publishing becomes the norm (and it’s careening headlong in that direction already), what’s going to set the professionals apart will be their continued attention to detail and their pride in their work. And that has to include the use of the language. Not just pretty words, but properly spelled, properly punctuated pretty words. After all, writers are selling their ideas, expressed through their words. Why wouldn’t they want them to go out into the world as polished as they can be?

What’s your best proofreading advice for authors everywhere?

If you have to get yourself a grammar textbook or a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, do it. If your first experience with a proofreader turned up ongoing issues and concerns—words you habitually spell incorrectly or grammar or punctuation issues you still don’t get right—then study and learn. It’s difficult to learn creativity or imagination, but it’s relatively easy to learn grammar and punctuation.

But never think that referring to a textbook can replace actual proofreading. Your own eyes are too forgiving of those words you missed or misspelled. Someone else’s objective eyes just may catch them … and you’ll be a better writer for it.

Language is your only tool as a writer. Learn to use it properly, and you can write anything well.

Thank you so much for this interview, Linda. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared with us. I had a lot of fun talking to you.

***

Linda’s short humor essays have garnered numerous awards. Two books of her humor essays, Head in the Sand…and other unpopular positions and Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions, are currently available on Amazon.com and BN.com.

Linda has worked behind the scenes in publishing as a proofreader, copy editor, and typesetter since the late 1980s. She has worked with many independent authors, as well as publishers such as Carroll & Graf, Shoemaker & Hoard, Crown & Covenant Publications, Christian Publications (now WingSpread/Zur), Pegasus Books, and F+W Publications.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Linda-M-Au/119278508108217

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaMAu

Blog/Web site: The Other Side of the Desk

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/austruck/

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Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com.

Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/ and sign up for her at newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php,

Facebook and Twitter.

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

The Curse Giver from Amazon

Amazon: : http://amzn.to/13oVu2P

A New Review of The Curse Giver

Monday, September 30th, 2013

By

Beverly S. Mcclure

Have you ever felt as though your life has been cursed, that whatever can go wrong will?

Perhaps you’re right.

What if there is such a thing/person/whatever that casts curses on a person or even a whole nation?

A scary thought, right? It may just be possible.

Award Winning Author Dora Machado’s latest fantasy novel, THE CURSE GIVER, deals with curses, betrayal, trust, family loyalty, and love. Lusielle, on the brink of death by being burned alive because her husband turned her in as a practitioner of forbidden arts, is rescued by Lord Brennus, a highborn. He has ulterior motives for saving her life, however. Lord Bren (Brennus) has been cursed to die a horrible death. To save himself and his people he must find the woman with a special birthmark and kill her. Lusielle has that mark, and she also may be the only one who can defeat the curse giver and give Bren hope.

The author has created characters with good points and bad, like real people. They seem realistic for the time period they live in. Lusielle faces her uncertain future with bravery and cunning, surprising Bren more than once. I found myself hoping that Bren would change his mind about killing her. No, I’m not saying what happens between them. You’ll find out when you read the book. Minor characters, and there are a lot of them, add to the suspense and conflict of the story, making the reader, this reader anyway, anticipate their next actions. Thankfully, the author provides a glossary at the end to help keep track of the characters.

THE CURSE GIVER should appeal to fantasy lovers and to readers that enjoy a battle or two with swords swishing. And for those that like a good romance, you might just find it here. Dora Machado has written another winner, so pick up a copy or add one to your eReader and spend the evening, lost in another world.

http://beverlystowemcclure.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-curse-giver-review.html

CurseGiver_Front Cover Final

The Curse Giver on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/13oVu2P

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Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books, July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com.

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.comthingsTheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/

Sign up for her newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php,

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Making of an Audiobook

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

An Interview with Melissa Reizian

One of the best voice actresses in the business tells us how she chooses her projects and why writing for speech is at the heart of successful storytelling

by

Dora Machado

When I started this great adventure of writing, I never dreamed my novels would be published, let alone made into audiobooks. From the first time I typed “The End” at the bottom of a manuscript, to the first time I held each of my books in my hands, every step of this voyage has been filled with lots of emotions and incredible joy. I didn’t expect any less when we embarked in the new adventure of making the Stonewiser series available in audiobook, but I have to say: As an author, listening to the professional narration of Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone has been one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had.

Once the decision was made to create the audiobook, it was an incredible journey. Following the advice that my friend and fellow TTB author, Aaron Paul Lazar, gave in his award-winning Murder by 4 blog,  http://bit.ly/157aX8H, I approached the Stonewiser series’ publisher with the idea. From there on, it went really fast. ACX was contacted. Voice auditions were held. I stepped into a new world where voices became characters and characters developed their own voices. I learned about pitch, tone and accents. I listened in wonder as actors bid to tell the story. None was more gifted than the talented Melissa Reizian. And thus she became my heroine’s enduring voice.

Intrigued by her world, I talked to Melissa Reizian about the process of creating an audiobook, her project selection criteria, and her best advice for writers who want their books to become audiobooks. I also talked to her about her voice’s magical ability to tell a wonderful story and turn a book into a magnificent listening experience.

Welcome, Melissa. Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog today. Can you tell us how you first became interested in narrating books?

I have been a full-time voice actor for more than 13 years. Before that, I was a television news reporter/anchor/producer/videographer—a “one-woman band,” we used to call it—and during that time, people always commented on my voice and my delivery. I have always had a “storytelling” kind of voice. I quit the news business when my oldest son was a few years old so I could spend more time with him (and now my two other sons as well!). For the first decade, I focused on commercials, e-learning training voiceovers, and other types of narration. I had a client who presented the opportunity to start auditioning for audiobooks and I jumped on it! Since then, I’ve narrated more than a dozen audiobooks. I feel this is the part of the job I’m most passionate about…and get the biggest sense of pride and reward from doing. It allows me to utilize my acting skills, bringing characters to life, either with fun accents and dialects, or just with intonation and the delivery of the read. I remember my oldest son, Jarod, looking up at me with big, incredulous eyes one night as I was reading the Disney novelization of Treasure Planet to him. I was doing the cat-captain’s voice with a British accent, and he just stared up at me and said, “You can BE HER?” I was hooked!

For those of us who are not familiar with the steps involved in creating an audiobook, can you tell us a little bit about the process?

First, you should always read the book you’re narrating. You would then research any foreign accents or dialects you need to learn.…I usually find other voice actors who are native speakers of that language and ask them to read some of the lines for me.…I’m a good mimic, so that usually is all it takes. If you don’t know what’s coming up in the book, and you are suddenly faced with, “…he said, with his thick Scottish brogue” (which HAS happened to me!), you are in a bit of trouble if you can’t pull it off! (I was told by a native speaker that my first attempt at an Irish accent in a recent romance novel sounded like a “Canadian vampire.” Not sure how he knew what a Canadian vampire sounded like…but I did work on it until it was right!)

I also ask the author his or her intention for any of the characters.…Sometimes we learn something important about a main character in book two of a series, so knowing that she will become a fae, for example, is helpful in giving her lines the appropriate interpretation in book one. As I read, and decide how the characters will sound…accent, rate of speech, confidence, volume, etc.…I record snippets of their lines on my iPhone. Then I refer to this as I go, because sometimes a character is off canvas for a good bit of the book and you forget what he sounds like.

After I record, I edit out any mistakes I’ve made and edit out the dogs barking at the mailman, the neighbor’s lawnmower, the kids running down the hall like a herd of elephants, etc.! I also adjust the length of pauses to make the narrative and dialogue flow appropriately. This is one of the most, if not the most important parts of the process. You may have heard someone read and leave too short or too long of a space between lines. It totally takes you out of the story! Timing is the difference between being immersed in the story and “judging the book.”

How do you select your projects, and what are the elements that make a novel well-suited for narration?

It might seem obvious that it is much easier to do a great job on a book that you actually like! I can attest from personal experience that that is true. For example, with Stonewiser: the Heart of the Stone, I found myself wanting to get back to it to keep Sariah’s story going…. It’s exciting to bring the story to life. There was one book I did—that I did not choose, but rather was assigned—that was horribly written. It made me wonder how it even got published…and it was really, really hard to finish. I found myself making excuses not to get back in the booth with it. So now, I have completely learned my lesson, and only audition for books once I’ve researched them. I look at comments and reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. I also look at the subject matter. I’m certainly not opposed to some story-propelling steamy scenes, but gratuitous, extreme sex is not my bag…because frankly, I have to consider the impact it would have on my boys if they were to hear it, or hear ABOUT it from their friends!  I especially love narrating books that are written in first person (Sorry, Dora! J) because you get to do a “character” the whole time. But just a book that has strong, well-written characters with a story that moves is great. Pretty much the same things you’d look for in choosing a book to READ is what I look for when picking a book to NARRATE. You are spending about 40-50 hours with a 10-hour book from research to mastering, so you better love it!

Why did you choose to work on Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone?

I love fantasy as a genre. I got started really voraciously reading, as a kid, with Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. The idea that there is a whole other world with its own set of rules is just cool. And when it’s a story about real people living in that world, it’s a great escape from reality. Like in your case, Dora, you created this whole other universe that is totally believable because you are careful to maintain all the “rules” you established and write your characters true to themselves.

What was the most challenging part of this project?

Actually, figuring out what the characters should sound like was a challenge. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but suffice it to say that there are mysteries revealed as the story develops and all is not what it seems! As these secrets come to light, it becomes a little harder to justify what everyone should sound like. We actually went back and changed some characters’ accents after getting quite far into the book!

What was your favorite part of this project?

I loved the confrontational scenes between Sariah and…well, just about everyone! The girl doesn’t exactly have the easiest time of it! But performing and editing a really strong “acting” scene is very rewarding for me. Also, Dora, your descriptions are just phenomenal! You can “see” what you are writing happen in your head, and I really hope that readers get that from my narration when they listen to it!

What kind of readers do you think might enjoy listening to Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone?

People who love the fantasy genre—or sci-fi—will love it. But I would think this would even be enjoyable to someone who does not label themselves as “fantasy fans” because, when you come right down to it, this is a love story and a story of survival, self-awakening, and liberation. There are powerful messages in this book, as it challenges our notions of one’s “place in society,” the idea that we think we know everything about our enemies, and, to paraphrase my favorite Vulcan, “the needs of the one over the needs of the many.”

What would be your best advice for authors seeking to make their novels into audiobooks?

Write for speech! Nothing is more frustrating that narrating a book and realizing that no one would actually speak that way! Make your characters distinct and well-defined. This gives the narrator a good basis to make acting and voicing choices and helps the listener believe they are real.

I’d like to add that I can’t wait for people to get the chance to experience the audio version of Stonewiser: the Heart of the Stone. You can listen to a free sample at: http://bit.ly/18rUjkS. I really hope you’ll take the time to leave feedback (well, unless you don’t like it! J). I’ve gotta get going now and get back to reading part two—Stonewiser: the Call of the Stone!

Melissa, thank you very much for being my guest today and special thanks for all the hard work and passion that you put into giving voice to Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone.

Thank you so much!

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Stonewiser The Heart of the Stone Audible

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, the Audible edition, is now available at: http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Stonewiser-Audiobook/B00F52CJIY/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1379186069&sr=1-1

And on Amazon at:

http://www.amazon.com/Stonewiser-Heart-Stone-ebook/dp/B001F7ATEO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379351789&sr=1-1&keywords=stonewiser+the+heart+of+the+stone

Contact Melissa Reizian at her website www.YouChoiceVoice.com or email her at Melissa@YourChoiceVoice.com.

About Dora Machado

Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books, July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats. To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com. For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/, sign up for her at newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php,

Facebook and Twitter.

Website: http://www.doramachado.com/

Email: Dora@doramachado.com

Blog: http://www.doramachado.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DoraMachado101

Twitter: @DoraMachado or https://twitter.com/DoraMachado

Amazon Author Central: amazon.com/author/doramachado