Friday, September 14, 2007

The Fountain Pen, Issue 9, September 2007

In this is issue…

From Mayra’s Desk…
News!
Article:
“Violin, My Muse,” by Mayra Calvani
Column: Ask the Mad Word Doctor
On the Spotlight:
Author and Publicity Expert Dorothy Thompson
Author J.C. Hall
Fiction: "Hoofbeats," by Anne K. Edwards
Mayra’s Book Reviews:
There's a Spider in my Sink (picture ebook)
Birthday Snow (picture book)
The Missing Locket (young adult)
Resources
Contests


*****
From Mayra's Desk...
Dear Readers,
The voting has started! Vote for my story, The Doll Violinist, and be eligible to win prizes!
I'll be giving away a beautiful antique doll, a $50 Amazon certificate, a gorgeous sterling silver & zyrconium ring, and free books. My illustrator, Amy Moreno, will be giving away a custom-made, pen and ink rendering of your house based on a photo provided by you!
All you have to do is vote for The Doll Violinist at the ABC's Children's Picture Book Competition and you will be eligible. You're allowed ONE vote per day for the duration of the 2-week competition. The more you vote, the higher the chances you'll have of winning. Please go to my blog, Mayra's Secret Bookcase, for details on how to vote and enter.
Please help Amy and I win that publishing contract!
Thanks to all for your support!
Best wishes,
Mayra
*****
News!
My horror novel, Dark Lullaby, is finally out and available for purchase!
Dark Lullaby is an atmospheric, bizarre horror and does not contain graphic, slasher scenes. Paranormal thriller would be a better way to describe it.
Synopsis: At a trendy Turkish tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated by her beauty as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. Soon, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her—her skin’s abnormally high temperature, her obsession with milk products, her child-like and bizarre behavior as she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.

The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister’s baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her.

But nothing, not even the stunning splendour of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature. In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister’s unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul…
The link to Amazon is here.
The link to the publisher (much cheaper!) is here.
I'll be going on a virtual book tour during the month of October, which will culminate in Halloween, when I'll be giving away one printed copy of the book to a lucky winner! More details on the next Halloween Special issue, so stay tuned!
Also in the news, I was recently interviewed for http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com/. You may read the full interview at:
*****
"Violin, My Muse"
By
Mayra Calvani

Violin… The word brings such vivid images to my mind. A slender and graceful soloist performing on stage, her eyes closed with delirious ecstasy. The mysterious, dark, gaunt figure of Paganini, his long thin fingers racing up and down the fingerboard with demonic, preternatural speed. Tartini reclining in bed while handing the violin to the devil himself. Sherlock Holmes playing a tune in his small flat on 221b Baker Street.

The sound which comes forth from the violin stirs different emotions deep within my soul—sublimity, sweetness, passion, sadness, fear. Sibelius’ concerto is dark and mysterious; Beethoven’s is spiritual and noble; Brahms’ is earthly and passionate; Tchaikovsky’s is grand and dramatic.

It’s curious how, unlike other instruments, the violin seems to possess a dark, sinister quality. Surely no other instrument in history has been the ‘victim’ of such lore and legend. The violin is light and darkness. It has two faces, two personas. This is what makes the violin so intriguing. At the same time, it is associated with the feminine. I’m not referring to the shape and sound of the violin, but to the feelings it evokes on their owners. I’ve read that men violinists see the violin as a female companion, while women see it as an extension of themselves.

Another thing I’ve come to realize is that most people have intense emotions about the violin—they either love it or hate it. Interesting enough, for someone who hasn’t an affinity for music, the violin can be the most horrific, tortuous instrument to listen to.

I was a late starter. I began taking violin lessons in my mid thirties. Just as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde woke up one day and decided to become a lawyer, I woke up one day and decided I wanted to play the violin. For somebody like me, who had never had any kind of musical education, it was a great challenge. Four years since then, I can only say I don’t know how I could have lived without my violin for so long. A wonderful new dimension has opened in my life. Enveloped in music, surrounded by etudes and books, I wallow in the daily practice of this magnificent instrument, this marvel of ingenuity. But, most strange of all, this new dimension has extended to my writing as well. The violin has stirred my imagination and unleashed my creativity in ways that I never experienced before. A little orphan girl who wishes to become a violinist begs me to write her Christmas story; amateur teenaged violinists whisper in my ear that they wish to be the protagonists of my new mystery; a fragile, mentally unbalanced young violinist shares with me her horror tale, assuring me that her story would make a bestseller…

Always near my computer, my violin beckons me to hold it when I’m stuck in a scene or passage, as if only one embrace, one stroke, are enough to lift the dark cloud from my mind. And always in the background is the violin music, my muse and inspiration. I hope this gift will continue to be bestowed upon me for many years to come.

*****

THE MAD WORD DOCTOR
Reading Characters’ Minds


Dear Doc Joan,
I understand about writing in one character’s POV [point of view] at a time, but will you please clarify how to show that character’s interior monologue (the POV character’s thoughts)? This is a question for my whole critique group.
Thanks – Wannabe Mind Writers

Dear Mind Writer,
For one thing, unspoken thoughts shouldn’t have quotation marks. In fact if readers are thoroughly immersed in the character’s POV, it isn’t even necessary to tag the line as a thought. Following are some examples of weak interior monologue made better with editing.
Weak: Carl could hardly believe his ears when he listened to his phone messages and heard Tiffany’s voice. He wondered if she’d changed her mind about letting him take her to dinner. Fat chance, he thought.
Better: Carl could hardly believe his phone message—Tiffany’s voice. Had she changed her mind about the dinner date? Fat chance!
Analysis: Removed redundancies: What else do you listen with but your ears? And avoid words such as “wondered” and “thought” because they take readers out of the character’s head for a second and remind them, “This is only a story.” Phrasing as a question removes the need for “wondered.” It’s also obvious he’s the one who thought, Fat chance! Whether or not you use italics to show it is optional (read on).

Italics indicate when a character shifts to a deeper level of interior monologue. Most of our thoughts aren’t formed in words, but sometimes we do shift gears and talk to ourselves in actual words—silently, mind you. If she speaks aloud, do use the quotation marks. Many authors show this by putting the unspoken words in italics. When they do this, even if all other interior monologue stays with the story plan of using third person, past tense, they show the deeper level (italicized) in first person, present tense—as it would be if spoken. Consider the following passage (in Tiffany’s POV) using this technique:
Weak:
“Tiffany, uh, you called?” Carl’s voice shook on the phone.
“Oh, hi, Carl.” Tiffany drawled out his name, thinking with satisfaction how much the twerp hung on her little gifts of attention.
“You wanted me to call you back?”
“Thanks,” she answered sweetly, but thought, Well, duh! What do you think the message was for?

Better:
“Tiffany?” On the phone Carl’s voice trembled. “Uh, you called?”
“Oh, hi, Carl.” Tiffany drawled out his name, satisfied at the way the twerp hung on her little gifts of attention.
“You wanted me to call you back?”
“Thanks,” she honied her voice, but rolled her eyes. Well, duh! What do you think the message was for?

Notice the different levels of interior monologue in the latter version. In Tiffany’s first lines, her thoughts stay in third person, past tense. In her next lines, her level of monologue begins on that same level but shifts to first person, present. Of course, if your whole story is in first person, this too would stay first person throughout.
Henceforth may you give your readers power to read a character’s mind.
– Doc Joan

Have a question to share in this column? Email me at: jmuHall@aol.com with “Ask the Book Doctor” as your subject line. If you want to remain anonymous, I’ll address you by whatever pseudonym you sign. To see previous issues, go to: http://www.joanuptonhall.com/books.htm. Scroll past the book covers and click “Ask Doc” Q&A’s.

*****

Interview with Dorothy Thompson, author, publicist and relationship expert.

Why don't you start by putting on your publicist hat and telling our readers what a publicist can do for an author that the author cannot do himself?
Hi, Mayra, and thanks for asking me to be here! First let me begin by saying that I’m an advocate for learning how to do things yourself. If I know how to do it and you need to know how to do it, I’ll teach you to do it. For some, it doesn’t come as easy as it does for others. Not saying you aren’t as smart, but maybe you’re just too overwhelmed with editing or are on a deadline and you can’t do everything. That’s when a publicist comes in handy. Because I am an author much like the clients I represent, I have been in their shoes. I know their frustrations and that’s why my approach is very hands on with them. I have a client who is getting ready to go on tour in a couple weeks and he needed a book blog to aid him in his virtual book tour, but as he had never blogged before, much less set one up, he needed my help in setting one up which I did and which you can see at http://partiallyhuman.blogspot.com/.
Now, this guy isn’t dumb. He’s almost 24 years old and has three books published. But, there are just some things he’s not familiar with and I’m finding this is happening a lot because when an writer becomes an author for the first time and even for the eleventh time, his or her first instincts are to set up booksignings, maybe invest in bookmarks, that sort of thing, and maybe set up a website. But, blogging…I don’t think many authors realize the potential blogs have in aiding to sell your book. So, that’s a little part of what I do that some authors can’t do. But, I find it funny…once I set the blog up for them and explain what to do after that, they become blogging fanatics. Now, that really makes me happy.
I think what authors don’t realize is that if they spent as much time on the Internet – and that’s what I specialize in – as I do, they would learn everything there is to know about online promotion but it has to be a 24/7 thing. A lot of authors just don’t have that amount of time to put into promotion simply because they have books to write, edit and revise. That’s where a publicist comes in. They do the work so you can do what you do best and that is write. However, I do encourage all my authors to do some kind of online promotion every single day.

Tell us a bit about your company, Pump UP Your Book Promotion, and your mission.
I started Pump Up Your Book Promotion in April ‘07, so we haven’t been in business very long but business is booming. To tell you the truth, I’m not even sure what happened except one thing led to another. I started out by getting a call from an online friend who wanted me to promote her book online. She was a member of a couple of my writing groups and had listened to the various ways I was showing people how to promote online and she insisted on paying me to promote hers. I thought she had lost her mind because I wasn’t a publicist. Little did I know, but this was the beginning of my career as one.
I had just finished a virtual book tour myself, which I think was successful, so I suggested setting up one for her but I wanted to test my wings first. A lovely woman, Marilyn Celeste Morris, was my guinea pig. I sent her out in April on a virtual book tour for her book, “Once a Brat,” for my newly established company, Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours and I just loved it. While Marilyn was on tour, I was getting emails from authors all over who wanted me to set up their virtual book tours, too. And it hasn’t let up since.
Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours is part of Pump Up Your Book Promotion, a public relations firm specializing in online promotions. There are lots of reputable public relations firms that deal mainly with offline promotion and I thought why not fill that void – that online book promotion that most public relation firms are not concentrating on.
What we do is aim for extensive recognition in the search engines by showing these authors how to get their books in the # 1 position in the search engines for their key search words. By the time their tour is over, if they have properly used these search words in different areas I have instructed them to, it’ll happen.
The main purpose in this is that your virtual book tours are perpetual. They keep on promoting you long after your tour is over if the blog host keeps your interview/guest post/review/whatever on their blog. By creating this enormous online presence, your virtual book tour will be a success.

What is the hottest thing in book promotion right now? Why?
Great question, Mayra! The hottest thing in book promotion right this very minute I have to say would be videos and podcasts. Readers love visual and audio. If they go to a website or blog and there’s a visual or an audio, they feel as if they’ve gotten more value out of their time spent there than if they were there just reading text. You need to appeal to the senses. Virtual book tours are hot right now and combined with the visual and audio aids, you’ve got a real good chance at creating a great campaign.

How easy/difficult is it for an author to plan a virtual book tour?
LOL, ask my authors. I have an article up at http://pumpupyouronlinebookpromotion.blogspot.com/2007/08/real-world-of-virtual-book-touring.html called “The Real World of Virtual Book Touring” where I’ve had my recent authors give me input on how much work there is even when having someone plan their tours for them. Most of them said they had no idea it was going to be a lot of work. I put in 81 hours a week setting up and maintaining tours for about seven or so authors a month. The authors themselves put in an incredible amount of time answering questions and writing guest posts. If you do a months worth of tours, you have approximately twenty interviews and guest posts to get done. One of my authors told me it took a half hour just to answer one interview because they are really concentrating on making those search words count.
But, back to your question, it is hard but very doable. If you are setting up a tour yourself, you are querying blog hosts, keeping track of dates, answering questions and more than likely writing guest posts, then you are following up. When I was on my own virtual book tour back in November ’06, I remember it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. And I do remember breathing a sigh of relief when it was over, lol.

How can authors find out which blogs have the higher traffic for their book's genre?
Ahhh…trade secrets revealed. Alexa.com (http://alexa.com/) gives rankings for blogs (or websites) and compares them to other blogs of similar content. Someone told me recently that so-and-so blog must not have a lot of visitors because no one comments there. You can’t judge a blog by comments. I know a lot of high profile blogs where people just don’t comment, so you can’t judge a blog by that.
If you go to Technorati (http://technorati.com/) for instance, and put in your key search words, you’ll get blogs come up related to those words. Take the url of those blogs over to Alexa and do a comparison. Takes time, but it’s the only way you’ll at least get an idea of the blog’s status.
Technorati is the world’s largest blog search engine, but there are many blog search engines out there where you can do this.

Book trailers can be very expensive. Are they really worth the cost in terms of book sales?
Book trailers are just like anything else you spend money on to promote your book. Will you make it up in sales? The jury is still out whether or not they are convincing people to buy these books, but they most definitely couldn’t hurt. The way I look at it is, if you’d spend a hundred bucks on bookmarks, why not book trailers? Will you get your money back? Well, the thing is, you want to be noticed and book trailers are one way to do it. Authors spend an incredible amount of money on book promotional items, so why not trailers? I just started a new thing at Pump Up where anyone who purchases the gold package can get a free virtual book tour promotional video to advertise their tour. These trailers can be seen at YouTube, Google Video and Yahoo Video, among other video websites. If you’d like to see the one I’ve got for Caridad Pineiro who will be touring in September, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLzUXLZlyTg&eurl and the most recent one I made was for Hazel Statham who will be touring in September, also. You can see hers at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzgsRo4ZLHA. So, I’m playing around with this area of book promotion and we’ll just see how that goes.
What do you think is the most common mistake authors make when promoting their book?
The most common mistake I feel they make is not realizing the potential of blogging and using those key search words. I have a lot of author friends who are blogging and still don’t know how to add tags to their posts. The potential is there, yet it’s not until you see it in action do you realize how many hits you could have gotten had you learned. I’ve got so many funny stories of how even executives and owners of huge corporations find blogging one of the most mystifying things and I try to explain that online promotion is one of the most valuable things you can give to your book’s campaign.

If you had to choose among all the various forms of book promotion--press releases, reviews, mailings, book tours, speaking and giving seminars, etc--which one do you think is the most effective for name visibility and book sales? Or are these two different things?
This is the easy. Speaking and giving seminars has to be the #1 way to sell books, plus you’re making an incredible amount of money doing it. That’s where the money is. What a lot of new authors don’t realize when they first get into this promotion thing is that they aren’t going to make enough off of royalties to quit their day job and most of their royalty checks aren’t anything to brag about. Sorry, but it’s the cold hard facts. Especially if part of their royalty checks are being divided by not only the publisher, but the distributor also. You make pennies at Amazon. We all want those high rankings but if you realized just how much you are making from those sales, you’d laugh. I have two authors right now on tour who are solely living off their speaking engagements and whatever royalties they get. Speaking and giving seminars, no doubt in my mind is where it’s at.
Now, if you’re not someone who loves to give seminars, aim online for those sales. Of everything you mentioned above, virtual book tours has got to be my most favorite, of course. If you’re looking for name visibility, go on one of these tours. People will get sick of seeing you all over the place! But, one person who will get tired of you the most will be our friend, the Google search engine. ;o)
You also keep a series of blogs which offer free promo opportunities for authors.
I have to laugh because in an earlier question, you asked me about how much is involved putting a virtual book tour together and I told you it took a lot of time on the author’s part…well…this interview, for example, has taken almost two hours to complete. Multiply that by 20 and you’ll see just how much time goes into one.
Okay, my promo blogs! What I’ve done is create quite a few promo blogs to help authors promote their books and all of them are absolutely free. Here they are by alphabetical order:
As the Page Turns
http://asthepageturns.blogspot.com/
Author Talks
http://authortalks.blogspot.com/
Be My Guest!
http://www.bloggingauthors.blogspot.com/
Book Publishing Secrets of Authors
http://www.publishingsecretsofauthors.blogspot.com/
Plug Your Book!
http://www.plugyourbook.blogspot.com/
Plug Your Book Trailer!
http://www.plugyourbooktrailer.blogspot.com/
Straight from the Author’s Mouth
http://www.straightfromtheauthorsmouth.blogspot.com/
The Story Behind the Books
http://www.thestorybehindthebooks.blogspot.com/
The Writer’s Life
http://thewriterslife.blogspot.com/

Tell us a bit about your book promotion book.
My book promotion book is actually a self-published ebook titled “A Complete Guide to Promoting and Selling Your Self-Published eBook.” A lot of the principles in the book I am using to help my clients promote their books through these tours. Don’t let the “self-published ebook” fool you…it can be used to promote your print or otherwise published book, also. The main goal of this book is to show authors how to and where to promote online. You can visit the webpage at http://www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.com/BookPromotionEbook.html. As a matter of fact, I’m offering a freebie to go along with the purchase of the promoting ebook. You can get absolutely FREE the radio promotion ebook, 101 INTERNET RADIO SHOWS TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOKS. This is a limited time offer, but it’s a great deal while it lasts.
Putting your author and relationship-expert hat, please tell us about your other books.
Oh, my goodness, I have to tell you, of all the books I have, ROMANCING THE SOUL, is very dear to me because the book wouldn’t even have been thought of if not for a dream I had when my twin soul came to me and told me to put this together. I know it sounds new-agey, but it really happened. ROMANCING THE SOUL is a collection of true soul mate stories and was published by Zumaya Publications. My other book I co-wrote is titled THE SEARCH FOR THE MILLION $$$ GHOST and that’s about an eccentric millionaire’s quest to find the ghost of his late wife and he’ll offer them a million dollars to do it. I co-wrote that with Heide AW Kaminski and Pam Lawneczak. Both books can be found at Amazon.

Who is Dorothy Thompson, the lady? Describe an ordinary day in your life.
Try overworked? Goodness, you don’t even want to imagine what I go through. The Pump Up business keeps me at it 24/7. I love it, but it’s an extraordinary amount of time involved to keep it running. If you’re not making sure the present tours are running smooth, you’re finding tour hosts for the next set of authors going out. It’s more involved than you could ever imagine…lots of sleepless nights and plenty of caffeine, but you know, I live for this. I have met so many wonderful people and a lot of them have become lifelong friends. Not only that, the blog hosts I do want to mention have been incredible. Everyone has really made this such an incredible experience and I hope the authors leave with the same feeling. I do give it my all because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to having others trust me to do what they paid me to do.

As an author and publicist, what is your greatest reward?
It’s got to be the people I have become involved with since I started Pump Up. We have an incredible lady who is working with me now named Nikki Leigh (http://www.nikkileigh.com/) who basically saved me when my last partner left. I do want to mention her because at the time she came on board, I was handling seven authors on my own and she agreed to take one for me, thus lifting my workload. It’s incredible the amount of time you spend for just one author and handling seven at one time was a bit much even for me. She is incredible, fast and knows the business and knows how to promote. That’s what I look for in a partner because this type of business, you have to know online promotion. She’s a whiz, that’s all I have to say.
But, it’s also people like you, Mayra, because if it weren’t for the many blog hosts who we have contracted to host these tours, there would be no Pump Up. I thank you and all of my authors thank you and everyone else who have helped make Pump Up a success.

Leave us with some witty words of wisdom.
LOL, at 1:14 in the morning, you want words of wisdom. Okay, here’s the lowdown. Don’t underestimate the power of virtual book tours. While you look over the different stops that my authors appear on and you start to thinking that it looks like a bunch of tours thrown together, what you aren’t seeing are the ways we use these stops to further promote your tour. There are press releases being sent out that ends up in Google News. We announce your stops on writer’s boards and social networking sites. We are submitting your interviews to publications that end up in Google News, also. We go the extra mile. What the casual observer sees is not the whole picture. Ask the authors. They know what they have been through answering interviews and writing guest posts. It’s a lot of work to all involved, but what happens is that all those interviews and all those guest posts end up being archived, thus your virtual book tour is perpetual. That’s the beauty of online marketing and the power of virtual book tours.
Thanks, Dorothy!

Thank you, Mayra! It’s been a pleasure!
*****
Interview with Fantasy Author J.C. Hall

Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your latest book, LADY OF THE LAKES, and what inspired you to write such a story?
LADY OF THE LAKES is the story of Corryn, a young outcast from his village who encounters Jess Lochlen, Lady of the Lakes, so-called because she travels via the Silver Lakes in the land of Rogrovia. Jess is on a double mission—to recover her captured infant cousin, and to determine if treachery is stalking the Rogrovian throne. Fascinated by her and her silver sword, Corryn tags along, and gets much more than he bargained for as he gets swept up in political intrigue, high adventure and romance.
I love the fantasy genre, but much of what I read feature male protagonists. I wanted to read about strong female protagonists who have responsibilities, can wield a sword (preferably a magic one), and who actively participate in politics and high adventure. I also wanted to create a believable romantic relationship between my two main characters who are literally from different worlds.
A common theme in both LADY OF THE LAKES and my other fantasy novel LEGENDS OF THE SERAI is the difficulty the female protagonists have in reconciling their duty (responsibilities) with their personal relationships (romance).

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?
When I first began writing, I would simply have a good idea of my main characters and their motivation and several key-scenes in mind, and then proceed to find ways to get the characters to move from one key-scene to another. While fun, it’s not the smartest way to write a novel. Now, I’m a believer in outlining. It may seem counter-productive to spend so much time on an outline when you could just jump in and start writing the first draft right away, but it’s time well spent. It’s much simpler and takes considerably less time to change things within an outline, and it forces you to think things through to the end. I’m still new at this, and seem to work best with both going at the same time. I start writing the first draft and soon the outline develops, and as I keep writing, the outline changes for the better and that keeps my first draft on the straight and narrow—no meandering, no side-tracking, no waste of time or effort.

Technically speaking, what was the most difficult part in writing this novel?
Tying up all the loose ends. The climax is where things come to a head and that’s dramatic, but then you have to tie up all the loose ends and that’s anti-climactic and hard to carry off without feeling like you’re over-explaining to the reader.

You chose an unusual language in your novel, similar to medieval language… was this choice an easy one to make? Are fans of fantasy novels used to this type of language?
I use it to highlight the difference between Jess (who, after all, does come from a different world) and Corryn. I think high fantasy readers (as opposed to readers of contemporary fantasy) do expect a degree of otherworldliness in the story, and language is one way to evoke that sense of wonder one experiences when reading about the unearthly and the unknowable or unknown.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
Sure, who hasn’t? For me, writing both fiction and non-fiction helps to mix things up, allowing me to take a break from one thing and mess around with another. I started writing a screenplay recently. It’s a very different discipline from novel-writing, poetry, reviewing or travel writing, all of which I do. Anyone can get into a rut if you do the same old, same old. It helps to challenge yourself and try different things. There’s no law that says you can only be a novelist or a poet or a screenplay-writer. Writers write.

What type of books did you use to read as a child?
I grew up on Enid Blyton, then graduated to Agatha Christie, quickly followed by the rest of my dad’s novels lying around the house: mostly Dorothy Sayers, P.G. Wodehouse, Dashiel Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardener. It wasn’t until I emigrated to Canada that I discovered the fantasy section in the local library. I was hooked from my first Judith Tarr, Patricia A. McKillip and C. J. Cherryh, and read all their wonderful novels in a matter of months.

How do you set about promoting your novel? How many hours a week do you spend on book promotion?
I have a website (http://jc-hall.com/) devoted to all aspects of my writing, where samples of my fiction (novels, poems) and non-fiction writing (book reviews, movie reviews, travel articles) are showcased. I am a Top Reviewer (Books Category) with the online consumer community review website (http://www.epinions.com/). I also contribute to the Mad Ten Authors blog (http://madten.wordpress.com/). And I’ve just joined the Facebook online community.
Are there any fantasy authors who have inspired your writing?
My favourite fantasy authors are Patricia A. McKillip, C. J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold and Judith Tarr. Patricia A. McKillip writes beautiful, lyrical fantasy and has won numerous awards, including the World Fantasy Award. C. J. Cherryh and Lois McMaster Bujold write both fantasy and science fiction; their awards include the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award respectively. Judith Tarr writes standalone novels as well as high fantasy series, including the Avaryan Rising Chronicles.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Yes, my website URL is http://jc-hall.com/ and my blog can be accessed on the homepage of my website.
Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I’m currently working on two projects. The first is the outline of the last instalment of my Silver Lakes fantasy series: The Reclining Dragon. I’m also working on my first screenplay. It’s a very different format from novel-writing, but being that much shorter, it’s not taking me as much time. It’s also a departure from fantasy, and so will probably appeal to a very different audience. Hopefully, once I finish my screenplay, I will complete the outline of The Reclining Dragon and start writing it in earnest.

*****
"Hoofbeats"
by Anne K. Edwards

Hoofbeats! This time of night? In such a blizzard?
Ole Mike rose from his warm bed and picked up his lantern. He lit it from the embers in the fireplace. Tossing a big of wood on them, he watched with satisfaction as they grabbed onto it with hungry red finters. He hung the coffeepot on the hook and swung it over the growing flames, then pulled on his boots. As always, the stone floor was cold.
He heard the hoofbeats again. Nearer. Was that a whinny?
He shoook his head at some folks' stupidity. Wasn't his horse. He didn't have any more. Ole Bub had up an' died a year back and he didn't see the sense of buying another. Town has grown so, it was nearly at his door. Wouldn't be long before they wanted his land to build on, a thing he feared.
But that didn't matter at the moment. He pushed himself up from the creaky wood chair by the fireplace and took up his worn coat.
Better go see who was riding around in the storm.
Taking up his lantern, he pulled his coat tight and opened the door. Regretting the necessity that drew him away from the snug security of his cabin, he stepped into the blowing snow.
"Halloo," he called several times.
No answer.
He cried "Halloo" above the storm.
His lantern guttered as the wind picked up.
Hoofbeats again! Closer now.
Ole Mike peered blindly about in the snow that stung like hot ashes on his face. He called once more and watied, listening.
The snow made it hard to see.
It came to him that he shouldn't be hearing hoofbeats either. The snow always muffled sound. So why did he hear them now?
A shadow loomed over him. It whinnied. Nearly a scream. Like Dapple used to do when he wanted his grain.
Ah, Dapple. So many years ago. They had been young fools together.
Tears filled Ole Mike's eyes. He peered up at the shadow.
It rose before him, then came down.
Dapple! He'd recognize that gray and white head anywhere. He'd never forgotten.
His hand trembled as he raised it to the well-loved face of the horse that belonged to another era.
"Dapple?" He touched the velvety nose that pushed at his hand. "How?"
The horse tool Ole Mike's sleeve in his teeth and tugged. THeir old game when Dapple wanted a run with Mike on his back.
Ole Mike shook his head sadly. "I can't, Dapple. I'm old now and stiff. You remember how that is. Like you were that last year."
Dapple pawed the snow, tossing it vigorously.
Tears froze on Ole Mike's chee. "I wish I could, Dapple. I wish I could." He sighed.
Dapple shook his head, pulling insistently on the sleeve he held in his teeth, his breath turning white in the frigid air.
Ole Mike set the lantern aside and wrapped his free arm about the warm neck of his first love. "Ah, Dapple. Ah. I'm too old. And this is only a wonderful dream."
In his mind he knew it was a dream. He wasn't cold any ore. And Dapple had been gone over forty years. This sort of thing just wasn't possible.
The snow stopped. Just like that.
Ole Mike stared out over the frozen landscape. The distant mountains were merged with the valley under the thick white blanket. It would take the town a long time to dig out.
He could see smoke rising from some of the chimneys as people stirred. Time to wake up and begin the new day.
Dapple continued to exert pressure on his sleeve, tugging Ole Mike away from his cabin with short sharp jerks.
"You want me to come with you?" The old man let the horse lead him away from warmth and security. "Why?"
The horse let go of his sleeve and whinnied. The sound echoed over the valley, rebounding from the mountainsides. He stamped impatiently.
Ole Mike shook his head. "I don't know if I can, but I'll try. You'll have to let me find a stump so I can pull myself up. Ain't young like we was once."
He used Dapple's withers as a walking aid as they headed for the chopping block around the side of the cabin. In the shadows created by the moond that broke through departing clouds, Ole Mike struggled onto Dapple's back.
The horse jigged, wanting to be off.
Ole Mike grabbed a handful of mane and settled as best he could.
Dapple took off at a full gallop.
***
"What do you suppose happened?" Cort James asked Sheriff Davies. "I come over this morning to bring him some stuff Mayra wanted him to have, biscuits and such. I found him like this."
Sheriff Davies shook his head. "Ain't no way to tell. Reckon he come out for firewood and his heart gave out."
"Suppose that's it." Cort swept the area with his hand. "These hoofprints are fresh."
"Yeh. Horse was moving fast, too." The sheriff shoved his hat back, scratched his head, and reset his hat. "Don't understand why they don't go no further than the edge of the trees though."

Fini...

*****

Mayra’s Book Reviews:

There’s a Spider in my Sink!
By Bill Kirk
Illustrated by Suzy Brown
www.Ebooks4Tots.com
Copyright 2005
Ebook
Ages 2-6

There’s a spider in my sink!
Did he drop in from the brink?
Does he want a little drink?
There’s a spider in my sink!

Thus begins this very cute picture ebook young children will love listening to and early readers will enjoy reading on their own.

The little boy in the story has a problem… a spider has suddenly taken possession of his sink! What is he to do? How to get rid of it without hurting it? After all, the only thing the spider wants is a safe home. But he has to do something! How will he be able to brush his teeth and comb his hair, when the sink is covered with cobwebs?

The story is written in iambic beat and has a smooth, fun rhythm that both children and adults will enjoy.
The colorful illustrations are appealing and possess the right touch of wackiness that well suit the story. I also found the ebook itself a pleasure to use. The book appears on the screen and all you have to do is click on the page for it to turn, giving the feeling of a real book. Even toddlers will be able to turn the pages on their own. In sum, this is a delightful little book that teaches children the good side of spiders, while at the same time developing children’s language and computer skills.

***
Birthday Snow
By Kim Messinger & Michael LaLumiere
Illustrated by Angela Ursillo
Stagger Lee Books
ISBN: 9780979100611
Copyright 2005
Hardcover, $14.95, 32 pages
Ages 4-8

Freckled-faced Daniel has a dilemma. It’s his birthday today but there’s no snow. Up until now, it has ALWAYS snowed on his birthday.

Patiently, he studies the sky from his bedroom window, waiting for signs of snow. He loves snow and all the fun things he can do when it snows, like wearing his snow clothes, make ice cream, and zoom down the hill on his snow tube.

Even though it is sunny outside, he puts on his snow clothes and decides to ask people—friends, his sister, the postman—about the weather. To his chagrin, they all assure him there won’t be any snow today. But that can’t be! It always snows on his birthday! Undaunted, he keeps faith and tries their crazy suggestions—does a happy dance, wears his pajamas inside out, puts four ice cubes in the toilet, etc..

Finally, exhausted, he falls asleep in his mother’s arms. Will there be snow when he wakes from his nap?

Birthday Snow is a beautifully illustrated picture book about persistence and faith. It is humorous without being wacky and maintains a sweet, rather quiet mood all throughout. It is a fun story to read to children at bedtime, as well as one early readers will be able to enjoy on their own. This book would make a lovely present on any occasion.

***

The Missing Locket
Book I, Cynthia’s Attic series
By Mary Cunningham
Quake (Echelon Press imprint)
ISBN: 1-59080-441-4
Copyright 2005
Trade Paperback, 152 pages, $9.99
Mystery/Paranormal, Middle Reader

The Missing Locket is a paranormal mystery featuring two lovable young sleuths that girls 9 and up will absolutely love. It is the perfect, darkly atmospheric story for young fans of intrigue and adventure to cuddle up with on those gray, rainy afternoons or read in bed.

It is the summer of 1964 and Gus and Cynthia, two best friends who are very different from each other yet very close, are bored out of their minds. Then they have an idea—why not explore Cynthia’s old and mysterious attic? After all, Cynthia lives in one of those huge mansions with three floors and lots of rooms, the perfect kind of house that stimulates young imaginations. In the attic, among all the antiques, spiders and cobwebs, they discover a huge, dust-covered old trunk.

When they open it, they find an old, dirty, pink ballet costume and slippers, which Cynthia, unable to resist, quickly tries on. Then something very strange happens… Cynthia begins to dance and twirl with the effortless beauty of a ballerina! Stunned, she soon takes it off. As they head towards the door, the unimaginable happens—they’re ‘pulled’ back to the trunk as if by magic, and the attic changes, becoming cold and still when only a moment ago it had been hot and muggy. What’s even more strange, the ballet costume and the trunk now look brand new!

Under the costume, they discover a sailor dress, and this time Gus tries it on, with drastic consequences… she’s whisked in time back to 1914, to the time when their grandmothers were only twelve years old. Of course, later on, Cynthia joins Gus, and together they must help their Aunt Belle and solve the mystery of the missing, bell-shaped locket, an adventure that takes them over on a steamship across the Atlantic and where they make friends with a young boy’s ghost.

Talented author Mary Cunningham has drawn a delightful, intriguing fantasy world that will delight middle readers. Her love for storytelling and for the genre really comes through the pages. The pace is quick and there’s enough twists and turns to keep juvenile fans of mystery guessing. The characters of Gus and Cynthia are sympathetic and interesting and young girls will be able to identify with them. This is the first book in the series and I certainly look forward to read the second book, The Magic Medallion, soon.

***
Resources:
*Bev Walton Porter, editor of Scribe&Quill ezine, has lauched a new radio show for authors and readers alike. The show, which focuses on writing and creativity, is called Elemental Musings. The first show will be this Sunday, September 16. For details, go to http://www.nowlive.com/scribequill.
*http://blogcritics.org/, Fantastic site for book reviews and author interviews.
*http://howtotellagreatstory.com/, The Beginner's Guide to Storytelling.
*http://5minutesformom.com/, High profile blog for moms on the run.
*Writers' Forums

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