Monday, May 28, 2012

Muse with the most bite

June is right around the corner and I couldn't be more excited. Sure the turn of the calendar means warmer weather, backyard barbecues, sprouting gardens and summer holidays - but it also means the return of True Blood.

And of course, Alex Skarsgaard as Eric Northman.

If you've followed my blog for, oh, five minutes, you know I'm a huge Alex fan. He may even be my favorite onscreen vampire (but don't tell Ian Somerhalder/Damon.)

I spent most of the weekend preparing my koi fish pond and garden for the summer - two major distractions over the next couple of months. When the weather is nice, I just want to be outside, and until my hubby builds me that writing "cabin" (hint, hint, Jeff), I can't sit in the garden area and work away.

One might assume Alex ranks as a significant distraction, as well.

Normally I'd agree. But this time I'm using him as reward.

With some pretty hefty writing goals and deadlines looming over the next few days, I'm looking for as many dangling carrots as I can get. Alex is pretty much gold plated.

Don't believe me?

How about now? I'd say he makes for a prime Muse Avatar this beautiful  Monday.

True Blood premieres June 10. I have a feeling you'll be seeing a lot more of him on my blog over the next few months.

Have a great week!


The Book In My Bag Today: Chasing Fire, Nora Roberts

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Celebrating: To Ride a Puca

I'm thrilled to host author Heather McCorkle in a celebration of her newest young adult fantasy, To Ride a Puca.

Heather isn't just talented - she's a true advocate for literacy. When she isn't working on her own stories, Heather is championing debut authors and fostering new writers. Just my kind of gal.

Please join me in welcoming the wonderful Heather McCorkle as she talks about druids, Pucas and all things writerly.

Give us the one-sentence pitch for To Ride a Puca
With the druids’ final battle upon them, can Neala convince her people to stand and fight, or will she lose the land of her birth just when she’s found her place in it?

Druids? I like druids! Sounds fabulous.

Why is this book special to you? 
This book is special to me for many reasons. I’ve always been fascinated by stories about druids, and being Irish/American, the land of my ancestors~and more importantly, why they left~has always fascinated me as well. When I started doing research and uncovered the sad history of the druids in Ireland I knew I had to write about it.

2. Who is the main character? What is your favourite trait about that character?
The main character is Neala O’Carroll. My favorite thing about her has to be how she always speaks her mind, often when she shouldn’t. ;)

3. Which of your fictional characters is most like you?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Neala and I definitely have a lot in common, though she is her own person for sure. So to speak.  

4. Which character is easiest to write? Most difficult?
The easiest for me to write was Dubh because on some level I just knew who he was, as though he came fully formed to me. The hardest was Tyr because I felt awful about some of the things I put him through. Someday I may have to make it up to him and write his own book for him. We shall see!

5. What writing craft rule would you never break?
I’m afraid I’ve probably broken them all at some point. Rules are made to be broken after all.

6. Describe your most creative atmosphere? Are you the type of writer that can "write anywhere?" Besides your computer / pen / notebook, what's your must-have item for writing?
A desk beside a window with a scenic nature view and music appropriate to whatever book I’m writing at the time playing. But I almost never get that so I can write anywhere, and I do. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go so it’s probably my must-have item.

7. Do you believe in writer's block? How do you overcome it?
I don’t, but it believes in me. ;) The good news is, I know exactly how to overcome it. For some weird reason a shower almost always works. When that doesn’t I call up a friend who knows the story well and brainstorm with them, or I do research if I can’t reach anyone. A lot of my inspiration comes from research.

8. When you finish a manuscript, who is your first reader? Do you have a critique group? If yes, what are some key rules for a successful partnership? 
That would have to be my other half, sort of. I read it aloud as part of my editing process and he listens and tells me when something sounds strange of doesn’t make sense. I have a wonderful critique group and beta readers who help after that stage. The key rules are respectful, constructive criticism only, and we always do for others what they do for us.

9. Who would you credit for encouraging you to write?
My wonderfully supportive husband, my critique partners, and my beta readers.

10. What advice would you give young writers?
Go to college, take writing courses, attend writing workshops, writer’s retreats. Always strive to improve and learn to edit your work well.

11. Name three things on your writerly bucket list.
I’d love to sell a million books, even if it’s all of my books combined. I’d love to see To Ride A Puca break into the top 10 sellers on Amazon and/or B&N. And, I’d love to write all the books that are occupying my head right now.

12. You're very active! How do your extracurricular activities play into your writing?
They’re a huge part of it and always make it into my books somehow. My extracurricular activities enrich my writing and give it more of a sense of realism. I consider all that I do research for future novels!

13. How much research do you before you write? How do you approach this research?
That depends on the book, but usually a lot. Research inspires me, sometimes introducing entire new chapters that I hadn’t planned on. I love to research online and then verify with library research or by buying books on the subjects I need to learn about most.

14. And because some believe 13 is unlucky...anything I didn't ask but you wish I would have?
Thirteen is my lucky number. ;)

Great answers, Heather! 

About Heather

Heather is an author of young adult fantasy, in all it's many sub-genres. Entertaining readers, helping other writers, and supporting fabulous debut authors are her passions. When not writing or surfing her favorite social networking sites, Heather can be found on the slopes, the hiking trails, or on horseback. As a native Oregonian, she enjoys the outdoors nearly as much as the worlds she create on the pages. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Muse Avatar: Philip Phillips

I'm probably jynxing him right now, but I really want Philip Phillips to win this season of American Idol. My favorites never do. I picked James Durbin, and before that, Adam Lambert. If I could have, I'd have voted for this season's Colton Dixon...though in retrospect, I can appreciate Philip Phillips is the better talent of the two.

I held my breath during the top three elimination round and actually fist pumped when Philip advanced to the finals - last time one of my picks hit top two, Adam Lambert lost to...? I don't even remember. Didn't I hear Adam is going on tour with Queen this year? Just saying.

Odds are high the young, power vocalist Jessica Sanchez will win season 11. No question she's good - but Philip deserves it more.

When fashion guru Tommy Hilfigger advised the Idol contestants to ramp up their image, Philip stayed true to himself. When the judges razzed him for skipping the melody of certain classic songs, Philip shrugged off their advice, relying on America to "get" his artistic talent.

Wednesday night's final episode will determine if the voting public "gets" Philip. I already know I do.

Philip is a true artist. In a crowd of musical copycats, Philip is original. Unique. He doesn't conform to pop culture stereotypes, though I have no doubt his music would appeal to the masses. If you don't watch Idol and have no clue who Philip Phillips is, check out this cover of Volcano he performed two weeks ago.

Goosebumps, much?

Steven Tyler said it best: That's the kind of song I could listen to over and over again.

Me too.

Which is what I'll be doing this week as I cram in a whole bunch of cool writerly stuff - school presentations, a trip to Humbolt, SK to honour a Canadian car racing hero and launch Gotta Jet, plot outlines, and a lot of writing.

In fact, Volcano is on my playlist for a semi secret project that is nothing like anything I'm currently writing. Perhaps the most challenging thing of my career thus far. Exciting!

Philip may not win Idol, but he and his music have already found a place in my heart. A perfect muse avatar, don't you think?

Here's hoping one of my picks finally takes the title.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Chasing Fire, Nora Roberts

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book #16 - The Next Always

Thriller may grip me in heart-pounding action, and I'll never shy away from anything paranormal, but I have a soft spot for romance...or rather, romance written by Nora Roberts.

Truthfully, I've had a new Nora and a new JD Robb (the futuristic mystery series Nora writes under a pseudoname) sitting on my bedside table for quite some time. Lots of books in the TBR pile - most of them thriller or YA, and since that's what I'm writing, they win the ongoing battle of "making time to read."

But no amount of willpower can hold me back when there's a new Nora Roberts trilogy on the shelf. Something about the effortless way she weaves in all of the characters, creating one romance while setting up the second and third's magical.

The Next Always: Book One of the Inn Boonboro Trilogy didn't disappoint. As always, the characters leapt from the page, and every detail was infused with atmosphere and heart-pounding romance.

While Nora's Roarke character will always be my main fictional heart throb, I'd comfort the handsome Beckett any day of the week - particularly fireside by any of the rooms in this stunning inn. Each of the rooms is named after a famous fictional couple. I'd be happy to invade any of them, but of course would be first in line for the... Well, you know who I mean. (And if not...I don't want to spoil it.)

It helps that I read this book during a surprise weekend getaway my husband planned, leaving me with at one with spectacular nature and the serenity to get lost within the pages. There's no other place I'd rather be.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Chasing Fire, Nora Roberts

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ditching the muse for...FABRIC

I know, I's Muse Avatar Monday, but this week I'm ditching the hottie for something even...hotter. The release of Jessica Bell's new poetry collection, Fabric.
Wait! Please don't close the tab at the the mention of poetry - because I know some of you wanted to. Trust me, I've never been much of a poetry fan myself...until I read Jessica's first collection, Twisted Velvet Chains It's raw, intense, and frankly, absolutely brilliant.

Fabric is nothing like Twisted Velvet Chains  - though it IS brilliant. But perhaps no one can do a better job of describing this collection better than the talented author herself. But first...the trailer!

(Sidenote: That's Jessica's haunting voice in the background. I mean it, this girl is seriously talented...)

Jessica says:
My poetry will not baffle you with phrasing that scholars award for academic genius and that can only be understood by those who wrote it. My poetry is for the everyday reader. In fact, it is even for those who don’t like to read poetry at all. Because it is real, stark and simple.

The poems in Fabric are no different. They explore specific moments in different people’s lives that are significant to whom they have become, the choices they’ve made. It’s about how they perceive the world around them, and how each and every one of their thoughts and actions contributes to the fabric of society. Perhaps you will even learn something new about yourself.

So, even if you do not usually read poetry, I urge you to give this one a go. Not because I want sales (though, they are fun!), but because I want more people to understand that not all poetry is scary and complex. Not all poetry is going to take you back to high school English, and not all poetry is going make you feel “stupid”.

You can still say to people that you don’t read poetry … I really don’t mind. Because if you read Fabric, you’re not reading poetry, you’re reading about people. And that’s what reading is about, yes? Living the lives of others?
Please support the life of poetry today by spreading the news about Fabric. Hey, perhaps you might even like to purchase a copy for yourself? The e-book is only $1.99 and the paperback $5.50.

Here are the links:

Let's keep poetry alive! Because not all poetry is "dead" boring ...

About Jessica Bell:

If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. And not because she currently lives in Greece, either. The Australian-native author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist has her roots firmly planted in music, and admits inspiration often stems from lyrics she’s written.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica Bell, please visit:

Congrats superstar. YOU are my muse!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Fabric, by Jessica Bell (of course)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A muse previously unnoticed

Thursdays are my favorite day of the week. First, there's TOUCH, featuring Keifer Sutherland, whose been a muse on avatar Mondays more times than I can count.

And then there's VAMPIRE DIARIES, which I mostly watch because my stepdaughter loves it. And for Ian Somerhalder, who I openly admit to crushing on. He's been Muse Avatar almost as many times as Kiefer. The pretty bad boy, and the rougher bad boy...hmmm, I sense a theme.

But this week, I'm giving the nod to a new-ish bad boy on the show. While Alaric Saltzman isn't new to the show, his rebirth as a vampire definitely is...and that spiked his hot-o-meter to muse-worthy proportions.

I have no idea what other shows Matthew Davis is in, but I'm content to follow him on VAMPIRE DIARIES. And since the season finale is THIS week (yikes), I have no problem adding the role of Muse Avatar to his list of "things to do."

Hopefully he can help me power through my "TO DO" items, including finally hitting "THE END" on the HEARTLESS manuscript. Want to know more about it - check out Jagger Valentine, she's the jaded Cupid who is the star of the show.

What's on tap for you this week? Will Alaric be your muse - or who do you have in mind?

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Blue Monday, Nicci French

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book #15 - Lament

Maggie Stiefvater could write a vignette on a napkin and I would eagerly lap up every brilliant word - in the world of awesome young adult fiction, she's tops the list of my favorites.

Lament is a fine example of her literary genius.

While it lacks the poetic flare of her blockbuster werewolf love trilogy, Shiver, Linger and Forever, Lament is a page turner in its own right.

At its core, Lament is a love story, featuring the human Diedre, and the faery assassin sent to kill her, Luke Dillon. He's a formidable hero, worthy of a few teenage crushes.

While the story is reminiscent of Melissa's Marr's amazing WICKED LOVELY series, Lament incorporates music - Deidre is a harpist, Luke plays the flute, James, Diedre's best friend is a wizard on the bagpipes, and each chapter begins with a snippet from an Irish tune.

To my surprise, Lament is actually Stiefvater's debut novel - which makes its brilliance even more impressive. Drawn in by the first chapter, I read this novel in almost one sitting. Definitely worth adding to your TBR list.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Blue Monday, Nicci French

Thursday, May 3, 2012

You'll love LOVE IS MURDER

How could you not?

The latest anthology by the International Thriller Writers features 30 original short stories by bestselling and debut thriller writers. From bodyguards to vigilantes, serials killers to cops, and plenty of mayhem inbetween, LOVE IS MURDER has something for every thrill-seeking reader.

Not to mention, it was edited by the amazing Sandra Brown.

Sandra Brown has chosen an eclectic collection of tales, from a thrilling short by NYT Bestselling Author Lee Child (another favorite!) to debut author William Simon's chilling story of what happens when the granddaughter of the U.S. President is kidnapped.

I have each of Sandra Brown's books in my personal library - and have read and re-read each of them - it would be a shame not to have this one added to my collection.

LOVE IS MURDER is available for Pre-order now. Plus, if you order by May 28, you'll receive an exclusive excerpt from Sandra Brown's new book, Low Pressure. (Coming September, 2012) I don't know about you, but that's more than enough incentive for me!

- Dawn

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book #14 - Anna Dressed in Blood

I won't lie - I didn't read much in April. Between writing for three blogs during the A to Z Blogging Challenge, two book launches, and maintaining a semi-normal writing schedule, the 100 Books in 2012 reading challenge me and my BF initiated in January kind of fell by the wayside.

Which meant, I fell into a bit of a trap, reading in coughs and spurts, but not quite finishing a book because I couldn't give it the attention it deserved.

Until Anna Dressed in Blood.

My local chain bookstore didn't carry this Kendare Blake title, and as a result, I've been pining for it for what seems like forever. Thankfully, the great Judith Graves was able to part with her copy so I could catch up with the times. I owe her big.

What a brilliant book! So much to love about Anna Dressed in Blood, but perhaps what struck me the most was its old style ghost story feel. Anna is exactly the type of ghost I'd be wary of finding in a local haunted house - and by the end of the book, she was the kind of spectre I'd be thrilled to find in a local haunted house. That speaks greatly to Blake's characterization skill.

While Anna is definitely the paranorm superstar of the novel, the book centres on Cas Lowood, a teenage ghost hunter ultimately seeking the beast who killed his father. I loved Cas from the first chapter, where he picks up a ghostly hitchhiker and sets the voice and tone of the rest of the novel. (Seriously, if you do nothing else, read this first well done.) I was "in" Cas' head until the very end - and almost turned back to the beginning to start again.

I read a lot of creepy stories, and while I won't go as far as to say Anna Dressed in Blood "scared me", I was suitably creeped out enough to warrant a few shivers. Though, it's debatable whether they were induced by the story itself or the author's absolute command of the craft.

If this is not on your TBR pile, add it...immediately. You won't be able to put it down.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Lament, Maggie Stiefvater