Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trivia Contest Reminder and Help Fix Thereafter!

Just a reminder that only one question has been answered in my trivia contest from Monday, so four audiobooks of Twinned Universes are still up for grabs. (Alex, you already have your copy. ;) ) You can find the questions here.

If you follow the Blog Ring of Power interviews across the five host blogs, then you've already met one of our hosts, Terri Bruce. She's currently involved with a legal dispute with her publisher over the numerous errors they introduced into her second book. You can learn more about the details here. If you're inclined to help her, please consider helping to defray her legal costs here. I'm sure she'd appreciate it!

Hope your week is going well. Please come back Friday for my weekly science update!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Trivia Contest: Win an Audiobook of Twinned Universes!

There's a slight break in the Blog Ring of Power interview schedule, since the next one doesn't start until Wednesday. (It'll be on Terri's blog.) So we're going to do something a little different this week. I have coupon codes for five free copies of the audiobook version of Twinned Universes. Below are five trivia questions; the first person to answer any of them correctly gets a coupon code. Please answer only one question. I'll try to update when questions have been answered so you know which ones are still available.

1. Near the beginning of Lyon's Legacy, Joanna refers to a famous clone. Who or what was it?

2. How many versions of "Strawberry Fields Forever" were used to making the final recording, and how were they put together?

3. Which Shakespearean character has the most lines in a single play? What did Shakespeare leave his wife in his will?

4. What famous Chicago sculpture do tourists frequently use to photograph their reflections?--Cloudgate/The Bean--Alex

5. What is the name of the spaceship in Twinned Universes? (Hint: it's the same one from Lyon's Legacy.)

Good luck, and please make sure I have a way of contacting you to give you the coupon code!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back on the Blog Chain: Books and Movies

For this round, Michelle picked the topic:

What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation? Why? What's your least favorite and why?

I've mentioned before on this blog that I don't watch movies much any more; there are so many other things I need to do. The last time I saw a movie in the theater was before I became pregnant, and even at home I don't watch movies. (Usually my husband and son do most of the TV watching in our house.) My memory for the relative few book-to-movie adaptations I have seen is therefore a bit rusty. For favorite, I would put The Lord of the Rings for the scenery. Least favorite--I really don't have one. While I'm sure there are movies out there that differ significantly from the book, I can't recall one that I've seen and disliked. Maybe I'm just repressing the memory. ;)

Readers, could you please help me out by telling us your favorite and least favorite book-to-movie adaptations? And please check out Kate's post before mine and Christine's tomorrow. I'm sure both of them will have more to say on this topic.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blog Ring of Power: Lauren Jankowski

Today I have with me Lauren Jankowski, a Broad Universe member I met at WisCon in May. Let's get to know Lauren better:

How long have you been writing?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a storyteller.  From a young age, I would pick out things from my surroundings and make up stories about it (I remember making up stories about the personalities of different trees).  When I learned how to write, I just never stopped.  I began to write seriously during my high school years, which is probably more than ten years now.

When and why did you begin writing?

Growing up, I never understood people.  I was a very awkward individual during my school years and had very few friends.  I much preferred to lose myself in a book.  As I grew up, writing became a way to chase away loneliness and stress.  I would lose myself in daydreams, which I would then write down.

I think some part of me has always been a feminist and I began to identify as such probably in middle school.  In elementary school, many of my teachers would read stories to the class and the female characters in the stories were so incredibly dull.  They always seemed to be moaning about the most boring things and were gender stereotypes.  The boys got to have all the adventures and go off on the quests.  I used to listen to these stories and in my head, switch the genders of the characters so that I could identify with one.  My life was forever changed when, in fifth grade, the teacher read a story by Lloyd Alexander: The Book of Three.  It was a fantasy novel about a quest, the kind of story I loved.  But what I found so incredible, what has stuck with me even today, is the character of Eilonwy.  Here was a young girl on a quest with the guys and she was just as smart, just as brave, and just as active as the boys.  She was my first heroine and it inspired me to try my hand at writing stories about strong women.

As I grew older and read more books, I found a disheartening lack of strong women in the fantasy stories I loved so much.  There were also few (if any) adoptees and the ones that I found were woefully inaccurate portrayals of the adoptee experience.  I found more adoptees in Classical myths.  So I decided to write my own series that would center on strong women (a couple of whom were adoptees).

Tell us about your early works—what was the first thing you ever wrote?

Obviously, most little kids write weird nonsensical stories, so I suppose that would be the first thing I ever wrote.  Then came essays and school papers, which I often struggled with.  I find it difficult to write non-fiction.  I’ve always been a fiction girl.

My first novel, which came to be a rough draft of my novel Sere from the Green, was written in my junior year of high school.  I wrote about seven “novels” between my junior and senior years.  I put novels in quotes because they are dreadful.  I was an undisciplined writer and it is painfully obvious.  They are about 90% dialogue.  The technical aspects like grammar and sentence structure are non-existent.  However, I did have a vivid imagination, and so the story idea is fairly workable (I’ve come to see some parts of what I wrote back then as a kind of outline).

When did you first consider yourself a professional writer?

I first considered myself a professional writer about seven years ago.  Books had consumed my life and I spent every waking hour either writing or querying.   I was working twice as hard as most writers, but I wasn’t getting paid for it.  Throughout my college years, I was juggling three different writing styles: school papers, freelance work, and my novels.  I never had a spare moment, I was always writing something.  Even during the summertime, I was up all hours of the night working.  As awful as it sounds, I didn’t even bother trying to have social life.

What books have most influenced your life?

Earlier I mentioned Lloyd Alexander.  His series “The Chronicles of Prydain” changed my life by introducing me to the idea that girls didn’t have to just sit around waiting for a prince.  They were allowed to be just adventurous and daring as their male counterparts.  Alexander also ignited my love of fantasy, which led me to Tolkien and his Middle Earth.  From Tolkien, I learned that writers could create their own mythologies (even their own worlds).

When I became more dedicated to feminism, of course I noticed the absence of women in genre writing.  So I went looking for genre authors that were women and found a ton (some of which are still on my bookshelves waiting to be read).  I think “The Handmaid’s Tale” was my first taste of dystopic themes.  That book scared the hell out of me because I could see the attitudes in the book in my daily experience (namely powerful men seeing women as little more than baby factories).  I’ve always found it remarkable how relevant that book remains even today.

I also fell in love with Angela Carter’s work, which is so darkly beautiful and moving.  Carter’s words are so vivid that I can almost physically see the pictures she paints.  She is fearless in her telling of stories through a feminine lens, which is something I greatly admire.  We shouldn’t be afraid to tell the female experience, but sometimes it seems like women shy away from it.  I think it’s because women’s writing has historically been seen as less valid than men’s.  Also I think the feminine lens has been narrowly defined as “girly”, when in fact it is so much more complex.  Just like no two women are alike, no two experiences are alike either.

It has been a long time since I’ve read her work, but Ursula K. Le Guin had a great influence on me as a writer as well.  She was the first woman I read who wrote straight fantasy and scifi instead of this watered down fantasy/scifi/paranormal romance that most women seem to be relegated to.  As a young woman, that was a powerful message:  I could write whatever kind of genre I wanted and didn’t have to include romance simply because I happened to be a woman.

What genre do you write?

This is always a tricky question to answer.  I tend to get bored if I stick to one genre and so my novels have become a hodgepodge of genres.  The one genre I never tire of and the one that is most apparent is fantasy (specifically urban/contemporary fantasy with a few homages to myths).  I also like to include a little mystery, another genre I really enjoy.  Recently, I incorporated a strange mix of superhero and western in a novel.  I’m not sure if the current version is the one that will wind up in print (it still needs to undergo a couple rewrites and polishes before it’s ready for sale), but I found it entertaining how the genres meshed together.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

I absolutely love to include feminism in my books.  Writing about strong empowered women is a passion of mine.  I also really, really love writing about the adoptee experience.  I hope that adoptees will read my books and find characters they can identify with it.  Because as an adoptee, I can attest that it is really damn hard to find a relatable adoptee in fiction.

One of the overarching themes in my novels is about identity.  What makes us who we are?  Are we products of our past or do we create who we are or both?  Do we have multiple identities?  I’ve always had an interest in anthropology and people fascinate me.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

There is no other ideal career for me.  If I couldn’t be an author, I wouldn’t be me.  Writing isn’t just what I do.  It’s who I am.

Facebook page:
Goodreads author page:
Twitter: @Lauren_Jankowsk
Other: Flickr:
Is your book in print, ebook or both?
Both novels (Sere from the Green  and Through Storm and Night) will be available in print and ebook.

Lauren's interview continues on the following blogs:

Vicki--The Writing Life--8/20/13
Terri--The Creative Process--8/21/13
Theresa--About Your Current Work--8/22/13
Emily--Words of Wisdom--8/23/13

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Guess the Lie to Win an Ebook of Twinned Universes!

Just stopping by with a quick announcement: I'm featured today on Writerly Wednesdays, over at Crystal Collier's blog. If you correctly guess which fact about me is a lie, you could win a copy of Twinned Universes! Hope you enter!

The Indie Life: Who Defines Quality?

Welcome to this month's post about The Indie Life!

Last week, I announced that one of my books had won a "stamp of approval" from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Ironically enough, the timing of the B.R.A.G. award for Lyon's Legacy came right around the time when an article about Awesome Indies was published on The Passive Voice blog. Some indie authors think that sites that give awards to indie-published work are becoming the new gatekeepers and think they're a bad idea, even if it's a way for writers to validate their work. (Personally, I see it as marketing.)  The discussion on that post got so heated Passive Guy wound up deleting all the comments, which is a shame.

Why do we get so passionate about quality and who gets to define it? Perhaps because, according to Robert M. Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (one of my favorite books), Quality cannot be defined. However, when Pirsig teaches English composition to freshmen, he starts out by having them rank works by different students and found that the rankings were pretty consistent. He then had them look at various aspects of the work, such as organization. Even though this by itself is not Quality, it contributes Quality to the work. To paraphrase Pirsig (because I'm too lazy to look it up), "What started out as heresy turned into a beautiful introduction (to the class)."

Even if you don't accept Pirsig's statement that Quality cannot be defined, you can still agree that we all have different ideas about what makes a good book. Some people may focus on story craft, while other care about writing mechanics. People may disagree on how to begin a story, how much description to add, and what point of view works best. These ideas may change over time, both for the person and the overall culture. On the face of it, figuring out what makes a good book is hard.

I think in the end, each reader and writer has to decide for herself what makes a book good. As a writer, one should make one's work as good as possible given the skills and resources at hand. As a reader discussing books, it's helpful to explain what you liked and didn't like about a particular book. The more details you can provide, the more helpful your thoughts will be to others.

Pirsig quotes a line from Plato's Phaedrus: “And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good—
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?” I say both yes and no. As a writer, I do need to hear objective comments about my work because I'm too close to it to see it clearly. But as a reader, I have forty years experience reading, so I think I know by now what I love and admire, what makes me close a book prematurely, and what leaves me feeling so-so about a work. Self-publishing means any reader can make that decision about any work independently of someone letting that book slip through the system. Let's not take these readers for granted.

To find more Indie Life posts, check out the Linky List below:

Copy this linky code to include the linky in your Indie Life posts!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Blog Ring of Power: T.J. Loveless

Today I have with me T.J. Loveless. Her interview started on Friday on Emily's blog, so we're going to talk about The Writing Life. (Due to technical issues, I'm not able to use T.J.'s pictures.)

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine? Do you use pen and paper or
computer? Work at home or at the library/Starbucks, etc.

I have a husband, three critters and teenagers. Routine?! They have that? Seriously, no. I tried to come up with one, write at such and such time, etc, but found myself staring at a blank document, without a story in my head. I can write at the PC – but not very well. I have to sit in the recliner, laptop settled on my knees, a Muse snuggled into my left leg and another lying across my shoulders, with Editor Kitty purring somewhere close. Can’t forget plenty to drink, maybe a snack, music plugged into my ears, TV on in the background, and glasses to actually see what I’m writing.

When do you write?

It’s best for me at night. It’s calm, quiet, fewer interruptions. I can do a chapter or two during daylight hours, but usually have to erase them and start over LOL

How much time per day do you spend on your writing?

It isn’t a regular schedule. I’ve been known to settle in and write 10,000 – 20,000 words in one session. Other times, I can only grab an hour and 3,000 words.

What has been the most surprising reaction to something you’ve written?

Tears and a certain favorite character. The book I have on query, Going Thru Hell, made several Beta Readers cry and quit talking to me for months. Lucky Number Six has garnered lots of laughs and created fans of the unicorn, Miracai. I’d thought it was going to be the MC, Tiffany, but man, was I wrong! It cracks me up. And yesterday, I received an email from someone who’d picked up the book after seeing it on a Kindle deals webpage. She read it and sent and email that caused me to cry – she’d been in a deep depression, and contemplating suicide. Reading Lucky Number Six made her laugh for the first time in three years. I promised her the entire series for free – and an ear if she ever needed it. Just that one email made all the work and worry worth it.

Other than your family, what has been your greatest source of support?

Other writers. They know, they understand, they get how to give constructive criticism and that sometimes a, “WOOHOO!” is the best encouragement.

How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews? 

I look at them as a learning experience. I won’t lie, the first ones hurt. Oh, wow. But since then, I’ve learned to love red ink and well thought out negative reviews. They have helped me to improve, become better at putting words to virtual paper.

T.J. can often be found surrounded by the wonderful chaos of life, writing, editing and laughing at the antics of family. 

Facebook page:
Goodreads author page:
What format is your book(s) available in (print, e-book, audio book, etc.)?
All books are in eBook at this time

 T.J.'s interview continues on the following blogs:

Vicki--The Creative Process--8/13
Terri--About Your Current Work--8/14
Theresa--Words of Wisdom--8/15

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