Books I Love · Writing

The Words of Wilder and Austen

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

William and I have been reading The Little House series together at bedtime. We’re halfway through Farmer Boy. He’s enjoys it, but I know when he still hasn’t wound down enough to listen.

So I wait…

…and open up my trusty Kindle.

I’m currently re-reading Pride and Prejudice. I absolutely LOVE this story. Oh poor, misunderstood Mr. Darcy! But guess who took an interest in what I’m reading?

William. Wait, what?

Weird.

Okay, enough alliteration. I was totally shocked that my six-year-old son wants me to read Jane Austen to him, but I’ll go for it. So I actually read passages like this to him:

“To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting personage than to herself. They had long wished to see him. The whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. The suspicions which had just arisen, of Mr. Darcy and their niece, directed their observation towards each with an earnest, though guarded, enquiry; and they soon drew from those enquiries the full conviction that one of them at least knew what it was to love. Of the lady’s sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident enough.”

I have no idea how much of that he takes in. Every once in a while, he’ll stop me to ask what a certain word means, but he seems to like the flow of the language. He’s asked for me to read it for the last several nights.

And I do a little happy dance inside. 😉

The thing is, I haven’t read the classics for a while. For the sake of my writing, I needed to read modern books. My first draft of Harp Lessons tried to emulate some of Austen’s flowery style and my editors had to chisel away at the manuscript to make it more stylistically pleasing for today’s audience.

I am nowhere near having the command of the English language that Austen did. But when I tried to pretend that I did?

Call the bomb squad!

The result was that my words were fit for weapons of mass destruction rather than to delight a mass of readers. I’m relieved to have had patient editors when I first learned the ropes. They were fabulous people to subject themselves to my pretentious words.

I am reminded of the journal I kept of my trip to England back in 2005.

Hee hee.

While describing the places I went, I was so wrapped up in the experience, I couldn’t resist using the word… wait for it… “alighted.”

Fortunately, I’m the only one who ever goes back and reads that journal. But maybe William will one day read it and forgive my attempt to emulate a favorite author. 😉

I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever tried, crashed, and burned while imitating the writings of your favorite authors? Did it actually turn out pretty good? Do your kids like to read the classics? Do they “get” it?

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The Stone of Kings · Writing

Meet the Characters of The Stone of Kings – Jim Jam and His Troope of Faeries

I couldn’t find pictures of red foxgloves. But this is what faerie hats look like, only red. 🙂 Attribution: W.J.Pilsak at the German language Wikipedia.

When I told my husband about Irish faeries being in my book, I think it put him in mind of Tinkerbell and adventures in tiny faerie villages with smiling bugs for sidekicks.

Er, no.

Irish faeries, aka The Good People, are not Disney-esque in the least and you must treat them with proper respect. If you don’t, you may regret it.

This was a difficult post to write because I didn’t want to risk giving away too much of my story. Also, there are tons of different myths and ideas about the Fae Folk. It can be a fascinating study, and I highly recommend it. But here’s a general rundown of how I depict the faeries in The Stone of Kings.

What He Looks Like

Most of the time, the faeries are invisible. If you are worthy enough to be able to see them, you’ll find that they disguise themselves to look like foxglove (or lusmore) flowers. Like the others, Jim Jam is tiny and green. He wears clothes styled like the aristocracy of 1715, but all in green hues. The only thing not green is his hat, which is tall and pointy like a foxglove blossom. It is specifically red, because red is a magical color in the faerie world. Jim Jam also has delicate wings which is an aspect that I chose to use for my book. Some of the faerie myths have them to be wingless.

His Part To Play

Each immortal druid deals with a specific faerie troope. Jim Jam is the chief of the troope that deals with Bresal. We really only see them at the beginning and the end of the story, but they are central to the plot, nonetheless. Like with the other druids, Jim Jam and his faeries have given Bresal his magical spells. But the law stands that he must not write down the spells. Jim Jam kind of knows that Bresal will break this law, and lets it happen.

Jim Jam has his reasons…

What He Means to the Story

I found Jim Jam’s name in the story “Frank Martin and the Fairies.” I don’t think there’s any great significance to his name other than that. I just liked it. 🙂

His Failing

The Fae Folk don’t have failings, in my opinion. 😉 But if you want to call it a failing, they like to make trouble for people who don’t respect them.

Respect the faeries!

His Strength

Jim Jam and his troope of faeries are extremely intelligent. They understand human nature better than humans themselves. They gift worthy people because they recognize how these people can make Ireland a better place than it already is. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, it’s hard to imagine it to need improvements (such a gorgeous country!), but the faeries know how to pull it off.

I’d love to hear from you!

What are some faerie myths that you’ve encountered? Have you ever seen a faerie rath? Do you have a faerie inspired story to share?

Join me this week for Wednesday Welcomes! We get a sneak peek at E.A. West’s brand new release, Pressure.

The Stone of Kings · Writing

Meet the Characters of The Stone of Kings – John Grady

Journey prank kidWhat He Looks Like

Always smiling. John is a man who takes everything in stride. It takes a lot to crush his spirit. It doesn’t really matter what he looks like because he’s simply likable.

His Part to Play

Turlough knows that Bresal is right. He needs to be sober for this particular journey, but he’s not used to soberness. John’s lighthearted candor helps distract Turlough better than Bresal’s deep intellectual knowledge. But Bresal sees John’s company as problematic because they can’t tell him anything about immortal druids or faeries. But John has a secret of his own…

What He Means to the Story

John is a supporting character. Though his role is small, he is significant. He is observant and without him the story might have ended very differently.

His Failing

John loves a joke as much as Turlough. Sometimes, it’s a bit inopportune. He and Turlough pull a prank on Breasal and while it hinders the start of their day’s journey, it does attract somewhat helpful attention.

His Strength

John loves a joke as much as Turlough. Here again is a character who’s failing is also his strength. We would all slide into deep depressions if we could not see a glint of comedy in the most dire of adventures. It’s the fun in life that gives us purpose and makes us keep going. John reminds Turlough of this many times.

I’d Love To Hear From You!

Do you have a friend like John? Someone who always seems to smile no matter what? Do you have a friend who’s antics sometimes get in the way? How dull will your life be without them?

Guest Posts

Wednesday Welcomes: Zanna Mackenzie!

Please welcome a lovely author from across the pond, Zanna Mackenzie! Her new book, The Love Programme is set in Scotland, the idyllic land of my ancestors. I would love go back there one day! It was gorgeous and inspiring, and I can’t wait to read Zanna’s book so that I can relive it in my imagination. 😀

****

The Love Programme

A contemporary romance set in the wilds of Scotland

 

What do you do when your childhood sweetheart and now ex-boyfriend won’t accept it’s over?

Lucy’s life is a mess. With her ex pursuing her across the country, she flees to Scotland and finds herself part of a reality TV show about love… will she find some answers or end up even more confused in matters of the heart?

***

Marcus won’t give up on trying to rekindle his relationship with Lucy, not even on the day he should be marrying somebody else!

Lucy decides she needs a place to escape to for a while and fate seems to agree when she’s given the chance to star in a reality TV show called The Love Programme whilst enjoying two weeks of luxury living on a grand country estate in Scotland.

When Lucy meets Paul, the owner of the estate, she thinks he might be The One but who is the mysterious Hannah and what part does she play in his life?

With Marcus planning to win her back Lucy has some serious soul searching to do.

It seems The Love Programme has its work cut out if it’s going to help Lucy sort out her life…

 

Amazon USA ebook link:

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Programme-Zanna-MacKenzie-ebook/dp/B00BCL6C8U/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1397140934&sr=1-4&keywords=zanna+mackenzie

 

 

There’s a sneak peak at the book below and The Love Programme can be downloaded now on Amazon

 

Extract From The Love Programme

“Just sit on this suitcase, will you, Fi? I can’t get the stupid thing shut!”

Fiona, obligingly perching her bottom on the bulging case so Lucy could tug the zipper to close it up, said, “I can’t believe you’ve agreed to do this. You’re going to be on a TV show about love! Won’t you be embarrassed having everyone know all your business?”

Her face red from doing battle with the suitcase and, thankfully, managing to win, Lucy shook her head. “No. Where else could I get a few extra weeks off work and live the life of luxury whilst a man tries to impress me with extravagant dates? Plus, I’ll be getting relationship coaching from a top expert.”

Lucy checked around the room to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. “Do you think I’ve packed the right clothes?”

Fiona lay back on the bed, stretching and spreading her arms out around her as though she was making the duvet version of a snow angel. “How should I know?”

“Mel said the programme is being recorded at the home of some Scottish laird. It’s a real mansion with a spa and acres and acres of land.”

Fiona pushed herself into an upright position, suddenly all attentive. “A laird, eh? Sounds interesting. What else do you know about him?”

“He’s not going to be one of the dates so don’t get all excited. He’s just rented his home out to the TV production company. Apparently he’ll be away on business most of the time we’re there, so we probably won’t even get to meet him.”

Fiona shook her head. “Shame, how exciting would it have been? Meeting a real life laird would be amazing.”

“He’s probably about sixty, balding, as round as he is tall and arrogant to boot.”

Fiona slapped Lucy on the arm. “Don’t spoil it for me. I was just picturing him as about our age, the classic tall, dark and handsome type. Big brown eyes…” She sighed happily. “Is it just me or do you find all those green wellies and Barbour jackets the country gents wear incredibly sexy?”

“No, it’s definitely just you!” Lucy shook her head despairingly.

As Fiona stared into space, no doubt continuing her little country gent fantasy, Lucy flopped down onto the bed. “Do you think I’m doing the right thing?”

“Of course you are. This could be a life-changing opportunity.”

“I’d like to be able to go on dates without feeling guilty about Marcus all the time.” Sighing, Lucy added, “I want to be free to have relationships like everyone else does.”

“I know you do. So, how can you doubt if you’re doing the right thing? You have to go to Scotland. You know you do.”

“I suppose so but will you be okay? I hate leaving you with your wedding just weeks away. There’s still some preparations to do and I am chief bridesmaid. Maybe I shouldn’t go. This is all crazy, I won’t go. I must be mad even contemplating it.”

“You’re going! End of story! The wedding is being perfectly managed by my mum and by Luke’s mum, so no worries there.” Fiona hauled Lucy to her feet. “What time’s your train?”

“I’m getting the overnight sleeper up to Inverness and then Craig, the TV guy, is going to meet me at the station and drive me to the country estate.”

“I’m so envious.” Fiona sulked, folding and unfolding the corner of the duvet around her fingers.

“I thought you were happy with your Mr-Not-So-Perfect?”

“I am.” Fiona sighed. “But a girl can dream, can’t she?”

 

****

Author bio:

Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

Formerly a travel agent and therapist (she has qualifications in clinical aromatherapy, crystal healing, naturopathic nutrition and herbalism) she loves walking the dogs and gardening – that’s when she’s not writing or reading!

Zanna has written three novels, The Love Programme, How Do You Spell Love? and If You Only Knew.

Find out more about Zanna at:

www.zannamackenzie.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter: @ZannaMacKenzie

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/zanna.mackenzie

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/10703273-zanna-mackenzie

Gluten · NaNoWriMo

Bring Back My NaNoWriMo Attitude!

I feel as if it will take the strength of two superheros to get me out of my slump. Rescue me, Spider-men!
I feel as if it will take the strength of two superheros to get me out of my slump. Rescue me, Spider-men!

This will be short, because I feel broadsided by life and gluten. But not to worry. To keep from being a Debbie Downer, I end this post with two positives.

Normally, I know that gluten causes my depressions and I can usually push though it. But after deaths of beloved grandmothers, our car being stolen, and now a beloved uncle – who I was looking forward to visiting with again – will quite likely never make it back to the States from England, I’ve been feeling like sludge, both physically and emotionally. I totally expected to be back into blogging again, but I can barely bring myself to work my edits for The Stone of Kings (which are now overdue). So please bear with me while I get through this mess which is currently my life.

I may just be that all I post for a while is Friday Fun, because I do have one lined up for this Friday. I thank the Lord for my boys because without their sweet hugs, smiley faces, and hilarious clowning, I’d be reduced to tears everyday. I’m so blessed to have them lift my spirits even just a little. 😀

For my second positive, I just discovered that the audio version of Harp Lessons has been released! It was quite surreal to hear a professional reader bring my words to life 😀 And I love the beautiful new cover!

Blogging Contest · Harp · NaNoWriMo

#19 Your Greatest Fan

Ick, sometimes I feel as if I’m my own greatest fan. Which is about as sad and silly as I’m My Own Grandpa.

I’d love it if my hubby were my greatest fan, but when he reads, it’s always non-fiction. I don’t think that harps and romance or faeries and druids will appeal to him. 😉 So, unless I sell a million copies of my books, my writing will look like just a hobby to him.

Having a hobby doesn’t really draw fans.

I suppose my greatest fan depends on which book you’re talking about. So far. For either one, my fans are my mom and step-mom (whom I also call Mom, just to add lovely confusion 😉 ).

My birth-mom has the same taste in reading as I do. She and I enjoy discussing the finer points of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series. She liked Harp Lessons, but has been really enjoying being my beta reader for The Stone of Kings. When I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go with TSOK, we had wonderful brainstorming sessions. That always got the story moving again.

My step-mom is more of a visual artist, but has provided most of the inspiration for both my finished books. She has encouraged my writing throughout my childhood, got me started playing harp, and took me on my first trip to New York City, where she grew up. She and her mom, my Grandma Caroline, told me endless stories of Ireland and what it was like to live there. If you’ve read Harp Lessons, do these things sound familiar? Naturally, Mom has been tickled pink that I’m now a published author.

I know there are those outside of my family who have loved Harp Lessons. But I can’t imagine having many “fans” since I’ve only got one book out there so far. I’m quite happy to have my mothers as my greatest fans. But it’ll be nice to start getting multiple five-star reviews that my fellow author friends (who have great backlists) have.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 17,462

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo

#7 Self Publishing Or Publishing Contract?

Image attributed to InfoGibraltar via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the things that I love about Kristen Lamb, is that for as much as she supports a self published writer, she doesn’t knock those who prefer to go the more traditional route.

I think I’ve used up my trust-me tokens on financial investments. “Trust me, spending my last semester at Cambridge, England will make me a better teacher.” Well, that part was actually true until my (then unknown) gluten allergy caused my anxiety and depression to “flare” so badly that I had to resign. But England was a big investment.

And so would it be to self publish.

I hate red tape and “dry thinking.” I’d rather just be creative and write the book. But for the purposes of this post I decided to look into it. It’s probably good for me anyway.

I found this article on Bloomberg about the real cost of self-publishing. And already I’m not liking this. So, let’s pretend that I’ve decided to self publish The Stone of Kings (instead of what I really did, and send it to my publisher.) The first thing the Bloomberg article says that I need is an editor and I’ll go with the $3.50 charge per page. I’m assuming that the pages must be double spaced, since that what I had to do when I submitted it to Astraea Press. Okay, 296 pages at $3.50 per page comes to $1,036.

Can you see that conversation with your hardworking spouse on a single family income? Yeah, I can’t either.

Well, that just made this post easier to write. After editing, I still need cover art, printing, software purchase, and ISBN number. I’m not sure I would do the rest of what is suggested. I’ve got the WANA Way for that 😀

I’m happy with Astraea Press. So long as they like what I’ve got, I don’t have to pay anything. I get full say in the cover art and editing process. I’d rather give them part of the sales later than do all the dry stuff myself first.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 6620

Friday Fun

…Early To Rise, Makes A Kid…Well, Silly – Friday Fun!

If I can disguise myself as a mossy stump, maybe I can get into the park...
If I can disguise myself as a mossy stump, maybe I can get into the park…

The government shutdown put a bit of a damper on our trip to northern Georgia this past week. We weren’t able to see all the waterfalls that we wanted to, and it’s interesting how we didn’t think about that before we left Florida. Still, we had a good time in Helen, and I didn’t even let the fact that I missed posting for Wednesday Welcomes this week bother me too much.

During the trip, William woke up no later than 6:30 every morning. Unlike his brother, once he’s up, he’s up. One morning, Charlie woke up at 5, and fortunately fell back asleep. But not before wagging his head back and forth singing, “Do the Propeller” by The Wiggles.

An hour later, William woke up looking for the phone. He wanted to call Grandma Joey (JoAnn) to thank her for the cookies (which he hadn’t yet received). It took about 10 minutes to convince him that Grandma Joey was still asleep and that he could thank her when he saw her in person (and actually ate the cookies).

Unrelated funny thing I happened to think of…

William was walking ahead of me in a department store which had white tile flooring. The tile ended to black stone and he stopped short. I asked him what was wrong. He looked up at me with a serious expression and said, “There’s a hole there.”

“A hole? Where?”

He pointed to the black stone floor. “There. How do we get across?”

Hee hee! I’d love to see what he makes of those optical illusion chalk drawings. 😀

What are some of the awesomely funny/sweet things your kids say and do?

Guest Posts

Wednesday Welcomes – Iris Blobel!

Today I have the pleasure of  introducing a wonderful author who I would love to sit down with and have a chat over a nice pot of tea. Unfortunately, she lives a half a world away. But I’m sure hubby would be happy to vacation in Australia sometime. 😉 She is here to talk about my favorite place of dreams and to tell you all about her latest release, New Beginnings (which I can’t wait to read). Take it away, irresistible Iris! 😉

The land of dreamers …

It’s an absolute delight to be Shea’s guest today.

Shea and I share the same love for that special emerald country in Europe – Ireland!

My first two books were set in Ireland. The main character in “Sweet Dreams, Miss England” was Daniel from Dublin. Nicky (the female protagonist) and Daniel spend quite a bit of time in Ireland and it was a pleasure to write a couple of chapters about them travelling to Limerick and then to the south coast.

When I started my second book “Journey to Her Dreams” I had a vague idea about the plot, a vague idea about how important the dreams were supposed to be, but needed a place to set the story. The story’s main plot was based on dreams – and where better to set a “dream story” than in Ireland, the land of magic, fairies, leprechauns and rainbows. Perfect!

I visited Dublin three years ago and it was wonderful to add my experiences into the story and see it come alive. I was very lucky and fortunate that Astraea Press took the risk to publish it. The feedback has been very rewarding.

There are many other things I like about Ireland – of course the beautiful and unique countryside, the Irish accent, their humour, their music and bands (especially Westlife), their pride and so many other things. I’m sure if you’re a lover (even just a small one) of Ireland you know what I’m talking about.

Anyhow … Yes, I am here to talk a bit about my latest release New Beginnings. My latest book’s set in Tasmania, which is not Ireland, and I wouldn’t necessarily compare the two islands, but it has the same mystique and charm to it. The perfect setting for my story which includes a wee bit of a mystery in it.

New Beginnings is the first in the “Beginnings” trilogy, as we follow the lives of Sophie and Mia Levesque as they start over in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, Mark O’Connor, Zach and Jared. I hope you will have a chance to get to know them all!

New Beginnings:

Tagline:

To believe in new beginnings is to trust in tomorrow

Blurb:

Twenty-two-year-old Sophie Levesque has been guardian to eight-year-old sister Mia since their mother’s death a few years ago. Luck comes their way when they inherit a small house in Hobart. Problem is, though, they don’t know or have even heard of Clara Bellinger, the testator, and Sophie is afraid it’s all been a mistake.
As Mia settles well into her new school and life in general, Sophie is not only occupied by her search of what connected her to Clara, but also her new studies and the two men, who suddenly have become part of her daily life – Mark O’Connor, the lawyer representing Clara’s estate, and Zach, the hunk from across the road.

Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/New-Beginings-ebook/dp/B00ENU02BU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377251351&sr=1-1

Astraea Press: http://astraeapress.com/#!/~/product/category=662245&id=27261175

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/349320

Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/new-beginnings-6

Bio:

Iris Blobel was born and raised in Germany and only immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. Having had the travel bug most of her life, Iris spent quite some time living in Scotland, London as well as Canada where she actually had met her future husband. Her love for putting her stories onto paper has only recently emerged, but now her laptop is a constant companion. Iris resides west of Melbourne with her husband and her beautiful two daughters as well as her two dogs. Next to her job at a private school she also presents a German Program at the local Community Radio.

Books I Love · Writing

How To Get Inspired – Part 1

Um, is that a ghost in the window? Whew! Nope, just a lamp shade. No, wait…       Image via Wikimedia Commons.

A couple of weeks ago, Hubby and I got the chance to stay for a few days at Estes Park, Colorado. The boys didn’t join us. Instead they had a great time at my sister-in-law’s farm. William’s tears kept spilling out all the way to the airport on the day we left (“I’m going to miss my cousins!”). But Estes was fun for us. When we weren’t hiking the incredible Rocky Mountains (this was my first time experiencing them),  we explored the town. Of course, we couldn’t ignore the huge, historic, and haunted, Stanley Hotel which overlooked it.

At first, hubby said that it was the hotel where The Shining was filmed. But this turned out to be half true. It was the setting for the mini-series, not the movie with Jack Nicholson. But more importantly, it was where Stephen King was inspired to write that novel.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never read The Shining, nor have I seen the movie. I’ve seen the first part of the miniseries since we got back. I have a hard time swallowing much of Stephen Kings works though I’ve read a few. I like his plot ideas and description. Some of his content pushes my boundaries a bit too much and turns me off, but none more so than the amount of expletives he uses. This is was especially true when I tried to read Blockade Billy. I couldn’t finish it despite how short it was.

What does fascinate me about King is how prolific he is as a writer. I enjoyed On Writing for the same reason I enjoyed Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone. Both books caused ideas to light up in my head like a Christmas tree. So while at the Stanley Hotel, I remembered how King wrote about where his ideas came from.

Many people, non-writers in particular, often wonder how writers become inspired. King came up with The Shining after spending the night in that haunted hotel in Estes Park. But even he says that you don’t have to go through great lengths to come up with a plot. Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games while watching TV.

The key is to simply ask, “What if?”

What if a recovering alcoholic spent the winter alone with his family in a haunted hotel? What if in the future, there was one group of people who controlled the wealth and found a way to bring back gladiator style games? What if one of Turlough O’ Carolan’s guides got stuck in present day and began to remind people about who he really was? This last “what if” was how I started The Stone of Kings.

What about you? How do you get inspired to write? Does it wake you in the night? Does it hit you while you’re doing the dishes? Or have you had to go across your country?