Meet My Character Blog Tour and “INSPIRED Days”

Blogs are hoppin’ as part of the Meet My Character Blog Tour! Here’s how it works, as explained to me by the author who tagged me:

This tour highlights a main character from your WIP (work in progress), recently published work, or soon to be published work. The person who invites you will have a set day to post. You will post one (or two) week(s) after that, the authors you tag will post one/two week(s) after you, and so on. Here are the questions to answer about your main character:

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

2) When and where is the story set?

3) What should we know about him/her?

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

6) Is there a working title for this novel if it is a WIP, and can we read more about it? OR what is the title of this novel and where can it be found?

If a WIP: 7) When can we expect the book to be published?

It is suggested that authors recruit 2-4 others to continue the chain. There is no pressure to have any specific number; this is just for fun and is a nice way to get more cross traffic between all our sites/blogs. Please send the one who tagged you a short bio and any links to blogs, author pages, etc. you wish him/her to use so he/she can tag you in style.

To begin with, then, here’s the bio for my tagger, Salena Casha:

* * *

Salena Casha’s work has appeared in over 30 publications. Her first three picture books were published by MeeGenius Books. She is represented by Carolyn Jenks of the Carolyn Jenks Agency. Her website can be found at www.salenacasha.com.

* * *

I was a while in deciding which of my characters to feature. Gant-o’-the-Lute from lately-launched Wilderhark Tale “The Song Caster”? Marion Hood from my “Outlaws of Avalon” Camp NaNoWriMo project? In the end, I decided to go with the female lead from my novel INSPIRED, since it will serve as a perfect introduction to what I’ve got in store for this blog throughout the month of August. So stick around past the Meet My Character Blog Tour business for details on that!

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

INSPIRED’s FMC (that’s “female main character”, to those unfamiliar with the shorthand) is Annabelle Iole Gray, a fictionalized version of real-life author Danielle E. Shipley. You may have heard of her.

2) When and where is the story set?

The “real world” setting is a modern-day, unnamed Missouri town. Settings on the plane of fiction include (though are by no means limited to) an ancient jungle, a medieval-esque fantasy land, a post-apocalyptic Paris, and hell.

3) What should we know about him/her?

Annabelle loves books. A lot. More than people, with whom she’s suffered a lot of culture clash because, well, she’s an unapologetic weirdo. A hardcore reader, she has no idea, yet, what a great writer she could be, with a little help from a light elemental who’s installed himself as her muse.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

She’s had her head taken over by a group of fictional refugees from the mind of another, lately deceased author. It seems like all fun and games, at first, but it’s only a matter of time ‘til she figures out what Uncle Ben Parker, Rumplestiltskin, and Darth Vader have been telling us all along: With great power comes great responsibility, and all magic comes with a price, though the dark side does indeed have cookies.

Such words of wisdom.

Such words of wisdom.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

To write the stories of all her new character friends – and, ideally, to become rich and famous upon eventual publication of said stories.

6) Is there a working title for this novel if it is a WIP, and can we read more about it? OR What is the title of this novel and where can it be found?

The book’s called INSPIRED, folks, and it’s waiting for you at Amazon (paperback and e-book), Barnes & Noble (e-book only), and Kobo (also e-book only). Oh, and starting tomorrow, there will be a giveaway. And a sale. But more on that in a minute. First, I’ve got tagging to do!

Three author friends o’ mine have volunteered as tribute:

Tirzah Jael Duncan writes novels, short stories, and poetry. She strives to learn the use of a variety of weaponry, from bow and gun to knife and hand. She loves the pen and sword in nearly equal measure.

You’ll also catch her attending St. James Anglican cathedral with reverential glee, obsessing over her favorite fandoms, enjoying her job in customer service a bit too much, role-play storytelling, wandering on late night walks through beautiful places, talking aloud to herself, and trying her hand at theology and philosophy.

She thinks she’d make an excellent companion to rebel time lords and consulting detectives, and is still largely convinced that Narnia is just a wardrobe away.

She wants to be C.S. Lewis when she grows up.

* * *

J. Keller Ford is a Young Adult and New Adult author of speculative fiction. Her short stories, “The Amulet of Ormisez” (Make Believe Anthology) and “Dragon Flight” (One More Day Anthology) are published by J. Taylor Publishing. “The Passing of Millie Hudson” will be released by Hypothetical Press as part of the Reading Glasses Anthology in August 2014. Two of her non-fiction short stories, Baby and Five More Minutes, won reader’s choice awards at www.midlifecollage.com. Her first YA fantasy novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING—her first installment in the Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy—is complete and under contract negotiations.

When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and reading. She makes her home on the west coast of Florida with her family, three dogs, and a pretentious orange cat.

* * *

Emma Michaels is a multi-talented bookish girl. Not only is she the designer of beautiful covers, but she has many other accomplishments under her belt. She started book blogging in 2009 and was first published in 2010. She started The Writer’s Voice blog in 2011 as a way to help readers get to know authors on another level.

She moved to Washington at seventeen to be with the man that she loves, who asked her what she secretly wanted to be when she grew up. Naturally, she told him that she wanted to be an author, but at the time she thought “it was a pipe dream.” He encouraged her to pursue her dreams and taught her that “sometimes reaching for the impossible can make a world of difference in your life.” Now she is published and reaching well beyond what most people can imagine.

* * *

So now, who’s ready to hear about what I’ve got planned for next month? I call it “INSPIRED Days”! I’ve got a lineup of cool, INSPIRED-themed stuff to share throughout August, including:

– Guest posts from the novel’s main characters

– All-new flash fiction

– And more! (What, you didn’t think I’d spill all my surprises up front, did ya?)

Not to mention (pfft, forget that – I’m totally mentioning it!) my first-ever Goodreads giveaway, with 3 paperbacks of INSPIRED up for grabs!

But wait! There’s STILL more! For the entire month of August, J. Taylor Publishing and I are running a sale: The Kindle e-book of INSPIRED = just 99 cents on Amazon!

It all starts Monday (except for the giveaway and the sale, both of which start tomorrow), so stay tuned!

Inspired Days Button

Unapologetically Yours

I’ve been seeing something in the social media world that disturbs me.

It’s this idea that if an author – (or any kind of person with an accomplishment they’d ideally like to be paid for, but we’ll use authors as the example, since that’s kind of my crowd) – wants to tell the world about their book, they’ve got to do it a certain way.

They’ve got to be all super-casual, or just kind of sneak it in, or try to be cute about it in the hopes that the cuteness will offset the fact that, le gasp, they dared to inform the public that their book is available for sale. I’ve even seen a tweet with the phrase “sorry for the shameless plug”.

Sorry?

Sorry?

The discord between “sorry” and “shameless” aside, why in the world is this person apologizing?

Why is it frowned upon to just boldly say, “I’ve finished a book! It’s available here! Go buy!”? You’re not twisting anybody’s arm. They’ll check out the link, or they won’t. They’ll buy the book, or they won’t. It’s not a gun to the head, it’s an advertisement.

Let’s go back to basics for a moment, here. Quick pop quiz. What is a writer’s job?

a) Writing

b) Selling what they write

c) Devoting their creative word energy to hilarious/relatable/inspirational tweets/statuses about anything but their book and hoping the power of positive thinking will be enough to write and sell their books for them

d) Mostly a), with some b) thrown in, in the hopes of maybe possibly earning a livelihood

Newsflash: The answer isn’t C.

Newsflash number 2: Declaring in your own webspace that you’ve got a product for sale is not spam.

Jumping into someone else’s space and plugging your book? That’s a no-no.

Butting into a conversation with nothing to say but, “Hi, buy my book”? That’s obnoxious.

Flooding people’s inboxes with a lot of cloned messages about your book, your book, your book? Just don’t.

Those things are invasive and rude in the way wallpapering your neighbor’s house in self-promotional flyers is invasive and rude. (And, y’know, vandalism.) But guess what? You can wallpaper your own house anyway you like, because it’s your house. Just like your website/blog/social media account is yours. Yours on which to say what you want to say. Is posting absolutely nothing but links to your books the most entertaining thing in the world? No. But neither is it a crime (unlike vandalism), and it’s nothing worth receiving dirty looks for.

Look, authors (and artists of all stripes). I know confidence can be hard to hang onto. Doubting yourself and the worth of your work is par for the course. But you poured your heart into this. You dedicated hours – weeks and months and years of hours – into this work of art that the world would never have had in quite that form without you. After nine months of pregnancy, does a mother deliver a baby and then shamefacedly whisper the birth announcement? NO! After years of study, does a researcher make a scientific breakthrough and just kind of hope that somebody will notice? NO! After I-don’t-even-know-how-long of training, does a marathon runner cross the finish line and never speak of the race again? No, no, NO!

Fellow authors, you have achieved something that, for many, is nothing more than a dream – that, once upon a time, was no more than a dream for you. You created a story – a product that can potentially touch people’s lives in a way so very few things can. The laborer is worthy of his wages! You deserve, at bare minimum, to be able to say, with all due levels of pride, that you wrote this thing! You have every right to point to it and claim it as yours, without apology!

Now, make like an introvert with stage fright and sociophobia who spends her summer weekends at a Renaissance Faire interacting with strangers anyway, and hold your head up high in the name of what you love.

Author and proud.

Author and proud.

An Unexpected Detour (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 2)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘An Unexpected Detour’!”

<<<>>>

Hobbit Hole

[The curtain rises on an idyllic backdrop of rolling green hills. Before one of these painted hills stands a round wooden door, and on a padded garden bench before that sits Allyn-a-Dale, portrayer of Jack Snow, checking and rechecking the pocket watch chained to his waistcoat with an impatient sigh. From across the stage, Will Scarlet wanders over, robed and bearded in gray with a tall, broad-brimmed hat and a taller walking staff.]

Allyn/Jack [pocketing his watch with an expression of relief ]: Ah, good morning. I’d wondered whether you intended to leave me at this little under-hill bed and breakfast forever.

Will/Gray Wanderer [leaning jauntily on staff ]: “Good morning”, is it? And what do you mean by that? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?

Allyn/Jack: I meant that it is both morning and good to see you, though I begin to question that, now, Hatter.

Will/G.W.: Hatter? Who’s that?

Allyn/Jack [irritated ]: It’s you. Artifice Cheshirecott, the Mad Hatter of Wonderland. For pity’s sake, you just introduced yourself one act ago. Have you forgotten yourself already?

Will/G.W. [cheerfully ]: Shows what you know about hatters and madness. With my wizard hat on, I’m no Arti-what’s-his-face. I am Gandalf! And Gandalf means… me! And I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure!

Allyn/Jack: I’d hoped I made it clear I don’t want an adventure. I just want to return to the North Pole.

Will/Gandalf [glowering over his beard ]: What kind of talk is that, Jack Snow? Can it be the one who’s forgotten himself is you?

Allyn/Jack [standing, straightening waistcoat with dignity ]: I perfectly well know who I am: The Fairytale Forest’s chosen Santa Claus.

Will/Gandalf [jabbing his staff toward Allyn ]: Wrong! Well, also right, but wrong! You are the son of Peter Pan, the greatest adventurer Neverland ever saw! Why, so clever was he in seeking out new excitement, he once picked a fight with a fearsome pirate captain on his ship anchored in Diamond Cove. The struggle looked likely to go either way, until – with a crow of triumph – Peter slashed off the pirate’s hand and knocked it right out of the bay with his sword, then flew circles ‘round the diamond while a crocodile caught the fly body part in his jaws. Thus the battle was won! And the game of baseball invented at the same time.

Allyn/Jack [shaking his head ]: I could believe it.

Will/Gandalf: There you are, then. Blood will out, Jack Snow. Blood will always out. So come along. Pack your pocket handkerchiefs, and we’ll be off by way of the Lonely Mountain! Hahahaha, will you ever have a tale or two to tell when you get back!

Allyn/Jack: Can you promise that I will get back?

Will/Gandalf: Sure! Maybe. Probably not. But if you do, I can promise you this much: You will not be the same.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Steven Bourelle  and Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘baseball’ and ‘“Hobbit” spoof’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends:  Will and Allyn out!”

In Which We Arrive at the End Game

You’ve read my take on books one and two (or, if you haven’t, I totally just linked to them, so at your leisure…). Now, at long last, here’s my short ‘n’ sweet review for the final book of the Paradox Trilogy.

The Book: “Heaven’s Queen (Paradox #3)” by Rachel Bach.

Genre: Sci-Fi / Space Opera

Blurb: From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell’s doomed ship, Devi Morris’ life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that’s eating her alive.

Now, with the captain missing and everyone – even her own government – determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi’s never been one to shy from a fight, and she’s getting mighty sick of running.

It’s time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

Heaven's Queen and Me

My Thoughts: It took me forever to get around to reviewing this (since my head has been in a fog of “Song Caster” launching and Camp NaNoWriMo writing and Bristol Renaissance Faire Town Crier-ing and and and…), so the details escape me, but this much I remember: Of the trilogy’s installments, this was the book that tried its darnedest to make me cry. Though she got there kicking and screaming, Devi’s finally letting her heart have something closer to an equal say with her head, which means more emotions to cope with – both for her, and for me as the reader – particularly as, with a universe-wide battle raging on, there are bound to be some hard losses. But I’m not about to spoil things by saying what the gains and losses are. If you want answers, make like Deviana Morris and go after them, guns blazing.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): It’s Rachel Aaron/Bach. Am I going to tell you not to read this?

Your Thoughts: Put ‘em in the comments, and I’ll know!

In Which I Contemplate the Disappointing Limitations of Reality

When I was a kid, I had one wish. I wished it on stars, on birthday cake candles, on pennies tossed into a fountain at the mall. Of all the possible and impossible things to want, I wanted to fly. And honestly, I didn’t see what was all that impossible about it.

Faith, trust, and pixie dust; that’s the magic formula, according to some. Well, my pixie dust stash was a little low, but as a child – before I hit my twenties and life finally soured me into a cynic – I had faith to spare. Countless times I hurled myself into the air off of that low bench built into the wall of my old basement, each time sure that this time was the one. This time, I would defy gravity.

Gravity, like the villain it is, was all, “Mwa-hahaha, YOU FOOL!”

By my teen years, I got wise. Flying just was not going to happen for me in this world. Fortunately, there were always other worlds. The one behind the mirror, for instance; the world where my every dream existed as everyday reality. There, I could fly. There, I owned a farm full of puppies, ponies, and tigers. There, whichever cartoon character I was crushing on at the time would adore me and want to hang out and do fun stuff 24/7. It was all there, I knew it was. If only Sarah Maria would move out of my way!

Sarah Maria was my reflection.

Sarah Maria, all grown up and still at her post.

Sarah Maria, all grown up and still at her post.

As one would expect of her, she mirrored my every move. I blinked my right eye, she blinked her left. I raised a hand to touch the mirror’s glass, she reached up as if to give me a high-five. We met palm to palm, she countering my touch with precisely equal pressure. However hard I pressed, so did she. There was no pushing past her. No faking her out and slipping around her all smooth and sneaky-quick. A professional reflection never lets their reverse image through. Sara Maria was just too good. However much I might wish and try and beg, the perfect mirror world was denied me.

Some people like to claim that we control our reality. That it’s our beliefs and attitudes and insistent perceptions that make the rules. That with the right amount of psycho-spiritual clarity, we can do anything. Anything at all. Speaking as she who was once the most blissfully naïve little dreamer there ever was? Yeah, that’d be nice, but no.

Alas for our whims, we are not the Author of this story. We are but his beloved characters. We don’t determine the world’s strictures, we don’t mastermind the plot, we don’t edit out the bits that don’t suit us. We just blunder around – amusingly, tragically, courageously, desperately, even a little impressively, sometimes – trying to find our way to our happiest available ending. For all that the Author has the book all mapped out, we characters are what you call “pansting it”, controlling maybe a little bit more and for sure a whole lot less than we’d like to believe.

With or without pixie dust, our belief can only do so much, in this world.

Thank God for fiction.

A Little Christmas Mad-gic (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 1)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘A Little Christmas Mad-gic’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a prop house with a faux-snow-covered roof in front of a starry black backdrop. Walking across the top ridge is Allyn-a-Dale, dressed in a nicely tailored Santa Claus suit, a stuffed sack slung over his shoulder.]

Allyn/Santa: Hi-ho, ho, ho, one more chimney to go,

And then home at long last, my first Christmas test passed!

[Steps up to the roof’s chimney and leans over to peer inside.]

Allyn/Santa: Hold a moment. There’s something curious about this one… whoa, WHOA!

[Between the slippery snow and the destabilizing weight on his back, he loses his balance and pitches headfirst into the chimney. While colorful lights flicker, the house turns (having been built on a rotating platform), its hollow back side revealing Allyn spinning around in a horizontally revolving cylinder, like a sock in a clothes dryer. The starry backdrop rises out of sight, revealing a sunshiny, picturesque garden scene, bordered with trees. The house’s platform base having wheels as well as rotation capabilities, it spins and rolls its way offstage, Allyn tumbling out as it disappears into the wings.]

Allyn/Santa [stumbling dizzily up to his feet ]: What in the world…?

[With the house of the way, the stage right tree becomes viewable to the audience, along with Will Scarlet lounging on one of the branches in a long-tailed coat and a top hat embellished with ribbons, feathers, and pins.]

Will/Hatted Stranger [grinning widely ]: What in which world? And where in what world? And why, of all worlds, are you here?

Allyn/Santa: That’s what I’d like to know. I was about to make a delivery of gifts to the home of the Rabbit family when—

Will/Hatted Stranger: Which Rabbit? What Rabbit?

Allyn/Santa: White Rabbit, if I rightly recall the list I checked twice.

Will/Hatted Stranger [grinning more widely still ]: Whoopsy-daisy, that’ll do it! Fell down the rabbit hole; it all makes sense!

Allyn/Santa [frowning ]: Sense? It makes no sense at all.

Will/Hatted Stranger: No sense, nonsense, only sense to be found here is none-sense. Welcome to Wonderland!

Allyn/Santa [moaning ]: Oh, for pity’s sake. I only just completed one crazy quest in time for the Christmas rush. I don’t want any more madness!

Will/Hatted Stranger [laughing manically ]: Bad news for you, friend! We’re all mad, here. And you’re addressing the maddest of them all! [sweeps off hat in a bow-like gesture ] Artifice Cheshirecott, at your service – more commonly called the Mad Hatter.

Gotta love a little mashup madness. ;D

Gotta love a little mashup madness. ;D

Allyn/Santa [bows with a sigh ]: Jack Snow at yours – more commonly called Santa Claus. Now, would you be so good as to help me get home?

Will/Hatter [hopping down from the branch ]: More than good, I’ll be great! Where do you live, Santa Jack?

Allyn/Santa: In the northern polar region of Fairytale Forest.

Will/Hatter: Fairytales? Tsk, tut, you’re well off the track. Wonderland isn’t strictly a part of the fairytale genre, though you’ll find a lot of overlap – hence your stumbling in, just now.

Allyn/Santa [relieved ]: So getting back should be easy.

Will/Hatter: Should be, yes. Will be? [more mad laughter ] Oh, no! I mean to milk this plot twist for all it’s worth. Let our serial genre-hopping adventure begin!

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Susan Francino and Miranda McNeff,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘hat or hats’ and ‘artifice’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends:  Will and Allyn out!”

I, HUMPTY, You Humpty, We All— No, Wait…

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

But if they threw their resources together, they might be able to fund the famous egg’s upcoming biography. And yoooooou can help!

I, Humpty cover

My friend and fellow reteller of fairytales, Eric Wilder of The Grimm Report, has assembled a collection of his once-upon-a-tabloids into I, Humpty, a book which I had the privilege of giving an early read. Behold, my review:

These aren’t your grandmother’s fairy tales! For that matter, they’re not your children’s, either. I, Humpty assembles the lurid scandals behind the curtain of fairy dust, from the courtroom dramas of Hansel and Gretel to the financial felonies of Robin Hood and Rumpelstiltskin – from the marital ups and downs between Beauty and The Beast to conspiracy theories of Wonderland and Oz – with gossip surrounding celebrities from Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella and, of course, the shell-breaking life story of the titular Humpty Dumpty. Shocking, silly, and sometimes hitting closer to home than one would expect from stories begun in lands so far, far away, this is journalism that doesn’t flinch from the grimmer side of “once upon a time”. Fans of the likes of TheOnion.com and James Finn Garner’s Politically Correct Bedtime Stories should find much to enjoy in I, Humpty.

To cover the costs of book production, Eric’s got a Kickstarter going, with thank-you gifts including such tempting items as the originals of I, Humpty’s hand-drawn illustrations (courtesy of artist Anna Milioutina) , signed copies of Our Brother’s Grimmest (a collection featuring articles from an assortment of contributors to The Grimm Report, including two by yours truly!), and even a shot at sainthood. Seriously.

Read all about it HERE, and do consider chipping in. If the project meets its goal, Humpty Dumpty’s not the only one who’ll crack up. ;D