Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Interview with J.A. Campbell

I'm not sure when Julie and I became friends.  We've been in Kelley Armstrong's Online Writer's Group (OWG) for years.  One instant message conversation turned into many, as well as mutual beta reading and a (stalled) collaboration.  I was so thrilled to hear the news of her upcoming publication that an outsider would have thought that *I* was getting published, and I am proud that A Writer's Block is a stop on her promotional blog tour.

Hi Angela! Thanks so much for having me today.  I’m not quite sure when we became friends either, but I’m glad it happened.  The IM conversations, beta reading, encouragement and friendship have been so awesome over the last couple of years.

For the readers who will hopefully become your fans, tell us about your Into the West series.
Westward, Yo! is the first of six short stories in the Into the West series.  They are about Jersey teenager Tina who’s life gets turned upside down when she has to move from her close by malls, easy shopping and typical teen life to ghost town Arizona.  Seriously, the nearest mall is over an hour away.  She’ll only survive if she can pursue her one outdoor passion… Horses.  Fortunately a local ranch lets her come ride, and then her adventure really begins.

What makes Westward, Yo! different than other young adult books on the market today?
Well, I wrote it of course.  LOL, oh you meant other than that?  Okay.  Westward, Yo! is a fast paced modern western with paranormal elements.  I’m not aware of too many teen westerns out there right now and I like to think that I bring a different voice to modern westerns since I come from a fantasy, and horse background.  Oh, and I asked one of my friends for help with this question.  Allie O’Connor (horse trainer) says “the author is so awesome?”

I know you've got a lot on your plate in addition to the Into the West Series.  Tell us what's happening in your writing world.
Into the West has six short stories, due monthly.  By itself that is more than enough.  I also have a young adult Urban Fantasy called Senior Year Bites, coming out this summer and a young adult fantasy Arabian Dreams due out August 1st.  Edits for those projects are keeping me busy.  I’m also hard at work on the sequels to both of those novels.

A Writer's Block is about books--not just the ones I plug, but also my journey in getting (or not getting) published.  Tell us about your road to publication from idea to...well, today!  Meaning go beyond your acceptance letter to the steps that came after.
Well, the first part took years of writing, querying agents, writing more, sending out more queries, almost giving up a few times, rinse and repeat.  Finally, on a whim, I queried too publishers directly at about the same time.  I had one acceptance phone call and one acceptance email within a month of those queries.  I was shocked.  True, they are small press, but there are distinct advantages to small press.  That is another blog post.

Once I got the contracts signed there was a bit of waiting, some edits on Arabian Dreams, more editing, learning to market, getting my name out there, and writing.  Then Echelon Press, the publisher for Arabian Dreams, sent out an email about a short story concept.  I immediately volunteered.  That turned all my plans on their heads.  Now I have to write short stories, and edit, and write my next novels, and I have some very tight deadlines.  All of this on top of working the day job of course.  Honestly it has taken a huge sacrifice of my free time, even more so than before, to keep up.  All I do is write and work and sleep and play with my dog.  Occasionally I make time for my friends, but that is pretty rare right now.  It is completely worth it though.

So that’s what it’s like… lots of hard work J
The internet is full of advice for writers.  Some we can use, and a lot we'll twist ourselves into knots over until we realize it doesn't work for us.  What's the worst advice you've gotten?
The worst advice I ever got was “write what you know.”  Followed by the other worst bit of advice, “stories don’t need fantasy to be interesting.” 

Unless there are a lot more vampires, elves, wizards, and unicorns out there than I thought, writing what you know is crap.  I’m not saying don’t do your research, but if you’re writing about horses traveling to other worlds, unless you have my horse, you’re gonna have a hard time experiencing it before you write about it.  (No, you can’t have her)  And damn it, yes it does have to have fantasy in it to be interesting.  To me.  There aren’t many books without fantastical elements in it that will keep my attention for long.  Or even get me to pick it up in the first place. 

Author Bio:

Julie writes fantasy novels. When she’s not out riding her horse, she can usually be found sitting in front of her computer with a cat on her lap and her dog at her side.  You can find out more at her website:

Into the West #1, Westward, Yo!
Tina Harker is a typical teenager. She loves hanging with her friends at the malls, shoes, and manicures. More than that, she loves horses. Life is everything she wants it to be, until her father packs their family up and drags them across the world to Arizona. Does he really think she’ll be happy living in a ghost town in the middle of the desert? It’s a million miles to the nearest shopping center, not even a real mall. Her only hope for survival is finding a new horse.

Trying to make the best of her horrible situation, Tina agrees to go on her first cattle drive. When one of the calves wanders off, Tina, in true cowgirl fashion and looking for excitement, rides off to rescue the poor little thing and gets a lot more adventure than she ever expected. A cowboy she’s never met accuses her of stealing cows, bandits kidnap her, and that’s not even the exciting part.

Into The West #1 Westward, Yo! Is available here:
Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blog Blahs

I haven't dropped off the face of the earth.  Sure I've got a ton of school work, and I'm behind in a couple of classes.Yes, I'm having new adventures in writing that take that much more time away from blogging.  But I'm actually quiet because of the blog blahs.  The format...the's OK, but I need something new.

...Don't know what that new thing is yet.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pale Demon (The Hollows, Book 9)TTitle:  Pale Demon
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: HarperCollins (22 Feb 2011)
Genre: Urban Fantasy (alternately Contemporary Fantasy)
Pages: 448 Hardcover have a love/hate relationship with Rachel Morgan.  It's mostly love, or I wouldn't be here telling you about Pale Demon, book 9, of Kim Harrison's Hollows series.  But hate has sneaked in once more.  As I'm reading the book, I'm tucking away bits of info to go into the review: it starts with recognition of the heartache that the characters (and thus we loyal fans) suffered at the end of the last book; Trent comes in early and plays a heavy role (yay for those of us who have secret Trent redemption fantasies).  It didn't take me long to think I'd be pimping this with a focus on those who aren't sure they're dying for next book.  Believe me, you want to read this.

Then, at halfway through (my e-arc; there's not telling just where this scene will land in the edition you end up with), hate smacked me like a spell knocking me almost into the ever-after.  A character did something absolutely unforgivable, and Rachel's reaction, after a bit of temper: I'd done some pretty stupid things in my day, too.

Rachel could be the poster child for stupid things, so she's got me there.  But this...this is the sort of thing that evil characters are made of, not an "oops" that we can forgive our friends for.  And Rachel lets it go without so much as a "My bad."  Unacceptable. 

Why continue reading?  Because Kim Harrison is that damn good a writer.  I've learned that, if I give the story the chance, not only will I be entertained, but Harrison will also fill the breaks that make me go, "Wait...what?"  Things that I thought were mistakes turn out to be character and world building genius.  Reading more, I discover that the genius had continued in Pale Demon.

If you new and you've read all that thinking "Thanks for avoiding spoilers, but what's this all about?" read on.

Dead Witch Walking  starts off the Hollows series featuring Rachel Morgan, a "runner" (kinda like a cop) and witch in Cincinnati after "The Turn".  See, the world has changed thanks to genetically modified tomatoes and the virus they spread that took out a quarter of the human population.  Hidden in plain sight, supernatural races came out and stepped up, keeping society from crashing.  Rachel, her pixy partner Jinx, and drop-dead-gorgeous  living vampire Ivy make up a team of runners that help police the city since stand human cops are not equipped to bring in supernaturals who don't want to come quietly.

The bad news is that, if you're like me and a book or series first described as funny doesn't rock your boat, you might roll your eyes through a lot of Dead Witch Walking.  Rachel's cases are on the sillier side of serious and I might not have made it through the first half of the book if I hadn't been so determined to see what all the buzz was about.  Then the action gripped me and I was buzzing, too!

The effort to amuse is, in my mind, the worst part, and it is quickly replaced by the organic sort of humor that even we grumpy people can enjoy.  The best part is the characterization.  Rachel is flawed, as all good characters are.  Her taste in clothes is hooker chic, she makes terrible decisions about relationships, and at the start, she doesn't begin to understand how screwed up she is.  And everybody else knows it--a lovely factor in a genre where the worst personality traits are often counted as good things.  Her friends see her clearly, loving her despite and because of her faults, and addressing them.  There is adventure, action, love, and heart ache, but there's something more in the characters that makes me especially want to recommend this series.   

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa

A wonderful thing has happened: The Iron Queen is out three weeks earlier than originally posted, at least in the U.S.  International fans should check your local sites and stores to see if you can get your hot little hands on the book now, too.  Go on.  We'll wait.

If you're already a fan, what you need to know is that this book is even better than the last.  I'm trying to think of what I can tell you without giving spoilers, and I think I'm going to have to settle for my own reaction...I had to start dinner when I reached the climax, and I was so engrossed in the story that I took carrots, the peeler, and a little bag into the room with the computer (ah, the joys of e-reading).  I just barely spared enough attention away from the book to make sure I didn't accidentally peel my fingers!

Normally, I wouldn't post the trailer, but it does a good job of introducing Meghan, summing each book up shortly without giving too much a way, and doing it with lovely graphics.

I love...
1. The world-building.  Kagawa's version of the Nevernever is memorable, both conforming to faerie lore that long time fantasy fans will find familiar but also breaking new ground.  The Iron Fey themselves come (in)organically from the dreams of humans in the age(s) of technology in a way that makes one think, "Huh, how'd I miss that?"  Good, good stuff.

2. The only thing Meghan Chase and I have in common is gender, and yet I spent close to no time thinking of that at all.  There were a few moments of resistance when I had to remind myself that I was judging her choices from my own experience (and with a son her age, that's considerable) rather accepting her youth.  But for the most part, I tagged along in her adventure joyfully.

3. Meghan Chase herself.  The more-obnoxious-than-the-last heroine doesn't seem to as big a problem in Young Adult Urban Fantasy as it is in adult UF, but the genre does have more than its fair share of I-don't-think-I'm-pretty-but-the-hot-guys-love-me Mary Sue characters.  Meghan isn't one of them.  She's a girl who doesn't have it so easy, even before her world takes a turn for the weird, but she's full of heart and she tries.  More importantly, over the course of the books, she grows.

...And if you don't want to try the series out because of all that, there are, of course, hot guys.

The Iron King (Harlequin Teen)          The Iron Daughter (Harlequin Teen)          The Iron Queen (Harlequin Teen)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

From beneath you, it devours...

Maybe the title is a bit dramatic; the First Evil is not coming for me (10 pts for anyone who immediately recognized the reference).  But the first day of the next semester is fast approaching and I'm looking at everything I don't have done.  And my husband is the literary version of my brother's puppy.

I'd seen pictures, but unlike my dad and husband, I'm not a dog person.  I haven't taken trips to my brother's house just to visit his pup.  Then last weekend, my brother took his family out of town and got my husband to agree to dog-sit.  This juvenile Great Dane is already bigger than the full grown Dobermans I grew up with, but with all the energy of a little yappy dog.  Since he's crate trained, we were able to go out around his schedule, but the rest of our weekend was punctuated by, "Humans! I love you, you love me? Wanna play? I wanna play! Can I sniff your butt?  Sit on your lap? Chew your house shoes? Playplayplayplayplayplay!"

Having put aside all that I'm working on to read the first half of his unfinished manuscript, I still had to go to bed last night/this morning (I've gotta work on my sleep schedule) to "I introduced a new character! Wanna read it?  This who he is and what he does and how I introduced him. Do you like him? Wanna read it now? Whatcha think?!" Only to sleep in late and wake up to, "You gotta read my new scene! Here's who's in, this is what they said, this is what it's leading to. Wanna read it? Whatcha think? Is it OK? Why aren't you reading it?!"

On the upside, my husband doesn't smell like a dog and I don't have to take him for walks in the snow.  On the downside, my brother took the crate with him when he picked his pup up.

Meanwhile, I've got to work on my own projects because, once classes start, who knows when I'll be able to sneak in the time?

Oh, but I can't go without mentioning that I was guest blogger for J.A. Campbell's Tea Time.  All mentioned!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

So far beyond OMG!

I always try to blog in a way that will be understandable to people who don't know the first thing about me, but let's be real: most of you lovelies who visit A Writer's Block know me from somewhere, if only a forum online.  You know that I'm pretty down to earth, generally friendly, and not too over the top.  You'd have never guessed how I'd be a total gibbering idiot in front of (but mostly, thankfully, behind the back of) one of my favorite authors.

OMG!OMG!OMG! O. M. Friggin'. G.  I had dinner with Kelley Armstrong!

Note that I've been a sci-fi/fantasy fangirl since I was too young to know what fandom was.  And I was an officer in the sci-fi/fantasy club my first go 'round in college.  But I'd never been to a convention.  Note also that, while I'm not particularly impressed by "special people" (as I said to my friend today, "How impressive can they be when I know they poop, too?  They're only human.") I am a little starry eyed about my favorite authors.  A little.  I thought.

Then I got all late-registered for my first con ever, and my husband and I slipped into my first panel: Introduction to Kelley Armstrong.  I thought, "She's so much prettier than her photo!"  (She's very cute in her photos, but more than cute in person.)  Then I focused, cuz I can do that.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to take notes until after she mentioned an anthology, Blood Lite, that I had never heard of.  What I can tell fellow fans who have been anxiously awaiting any sort of development on a series based movie--it's off.  What may or may not be on is a TV series pilot.  Space TV green lighted the project, but after the whole movie thing, she's not holding her breath.

If, like me, you've got all the books but Counterfeit Magic (OK, OK, I don't have Men of the Otherworld either, but I read most of the stories so it was easy to put off) because you won't pay $40 to $100, rejoice!  If you don't hate ebooks, at least.  The Kindle edition is out now for $4.99. 

I'm not going to list her favorite authors, and that's the end of my notes, so back to my geekdom!  After the panel, we followed her out and introduced ourselves.  Or at least, I meant to introduce myself.  What I actually did was hold up my badge and explain (perhaps in spasms, I'm not sure) that I am An, Avangyline, Angela who moderates her writing forum so she may remember telling me to do stuff sometimes.

She very kindly did not respond as though I were the lunatic I present myself as.  And she asked if we wanted to meet for coffee.  Now, I was expecting coffee...Bea had contacted her in advance and then contacted me. But Kelley Armstrong asked me to go for coffee!  I gracelessly got out of the way of other fans and the husband and I went in search of Bea, then in search of the next panel.  Sure, I'd finally gotten my butt to my first con because it's in my city and Kelley would be there, but it was shear coincidence that she was a part of the next panel (Vampires,Gender, and Sexuality--Oh, My!), but good because Bea was able to confirm for coffee while I stood there like a nut...a silent, star-struck nut.  

We had lunch, hung out more since there was no room at one panel we wanted to attend, staying in place so we could catch seats the next, Fail! (about, of course, Racefail--linked for Bea's benefit)...and then it was time.

I called on all my years of theatre training to only be a little bizarre.  We made it through dinner, and talked about Kelley's books, books in general, my own writing (she scolded me; *squee*) and my husband's...yah know.  Stuff.  Then dinner was over, we took a coupla pix, talked some more, and said our good-byes.  And when Kelley was out of sight, I geeked out so hard that I looked like a giant 12 year old freakin' out over Justin Bieber.  

And I am only a tiny bit sad for my lost dignity because that, my friends, was so far beyond OMG.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Drunken New Year's Musing

I love urban fantasy because it makes anything possible right here, right now.  I realized this as my husband and I walked home from my cousin's house.  We paused to speak to a gorgeous woman who could have been Eshu (harkening back to my White Wolf days [and look, totally sauced, I still found yahs a link]--think African storytelling fae) and sidhe/shee by the look of her, or Eshu and pooka, by my desire to have at least one good pooka showing up at any time.  The dark woods nearby most certainly held sluagh (or an urban gang of young werewolves for those not following me and my love for fae).  Near the bottom of my hill is a house that can't decide if it's a Cape or a Tudor, and there is most certainly something magical going on within.  Two houses up from that is a brick Victorian that has definite opinions about its new occupants, though it hasn't shared them with me.

Considering all this I thought, "And any black car that passes might be a horse in its natural form."  Sure enough, a black car slowly rolled down the street.

There was a world of mythic possibility just avoiding ice patches a few blocks on the way home from a party. I like to see that world reflected in what I read.