Our Wednesday Writer's Spotlight this week features an interview with the author of Bewitched. Mark's book will be released on March 1st. Bewitched is a young adult story about a young man who learns that magic is real and must save the world. Let's find out more about Mark and his writing process.
When did you first start writing? What made you want to be a writer?
When I was a kid I loved writing. I think one of the reasons was because I felt like I didn’t have control over certain parts of my life. Writing let me take control. I could make things turn out the way I wanted them to. Later, that led to the simple joy of creating characters and situations. It became an important creative outlet to me.
For a long time I’ve known that I’ve wanted to be a professional author. Now I’m attempting to do just that. Other than Bewitched, I have several other projects which I plan on completing soon, including a sequel to Bewitched.
What inspired you to write your book?
The television show, Bewitched. I asked myself what it would be like if a guy actually did marry a witch. What if the in-laws were actually dangerous witches who wanted to kill him? As I began to further develop the story I decided I wanted the protagonists to be teenagers. From there the world of witches began to work itself out in my mind. The rest of the story developed as I continued to write based on my premise.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m not sure what a pantser is, although I believe the Germans had a division during WWII….
Okay, I’m kidding. I just find “pantser” a funny term for a person who creates on the fly. Usually I start with a premise of some sort and then kick around ideas, scenes and possibilities for a while and see where it all takes me. I slowly work the plot out. After awhile more ideas come. Eventually they all jell together. Sometimes I’m happily surprised at things that happen, sometimes I know what I want to happen and make it work out. Mainly, I like taking a character and putting him into a difficult situation and then seeing how he handles it. The whole thing is a very enjoyable experience.
Do you have any writing rituals or special processes you complete before sitting down to write?
None that come to mind. However, I have found that I get great ideas while in the shower. I let the water beat down on me and for some reason my mind opens up and I have a lot of ideas pour in. I don’t want you to think showering is a ritual or special process for me; I shower a bit more regularly than that. But perhaps when I’m really humming along on a book, I am also particularly clean.
What authors inspire you?
The first author I read that made me want to write similar to him was Dean Koontz. His story ideas and writing style were both so engaging I couldn’t put his books down. I have a few story ideas in the hopper I hope to get to one day that are more in the thriller vein like his. I’ve switched to Young Adult writing for now and love it. I can still bring the “thriller” elements I like from Koontz into my YA writing. I also like Stephen King, he has a great mind. Patterson has also been fun for me to read. I do read YA literature, but I also like these thriller- mystery writers as well. Every so often I delve into the past and read Dickens. The other day I finished reading “Frankenstein,” simply because the book was sitting on top of a box in our basement. Love it. It even inspired a change I’m going to make in another half-written book I plan on finishing one day.
If you could only write in one genre for the rest of your career, what genre would you choose? Why?
I think it would be YA. I enjoy paranormal, and in particular Urban Fantasy, but I don’t want to be tied down to just that, even though chances are I will write many more novels with Urban Fantasy features. But, I think I prefer YA because beyond any other element in writing I enjoy the “adventure” aspect of a tale. Fantasy and Paranormal lends itself well to adventure, but even more important I think is having a young protagonist. Since I was a kid watching Lost in Space, I decided that kids love adventure, and children as well as adults enjoy watching young protagonists survive and conquer against seemingly impossible odds. That doesn’t mean I don’t have some story ideas with adult protagonists; it just means I enjoy writing in the YA genre the most.
Which of the characters in your current release is your favorite? Why?
That’s easy. It would have to be Crissy. She was fun to write, she is fun to explore and she can do so many unexpected things. I like the fact that she is a total innocent, but is one of the “good guys” set against these truly frightening, evil bad guys. I also have some fun ideas regarding her evolution as I move on to a sequel of “Bewitched.” It was particularly fun writing her so that the reader suddenly discovers that Darren’s mentally handicapped sister is his “Oracle.” She is supposed to give him vital input and perspective, yet she struggles communicating in her day-to-day life. Plus, she’s just a cutie in my head and I think those reading her are similarly charmed by her. Exactly who/what she is has yet to be revealed…
Are any of your characters modeled after real people? If so, which ones?
Only in a general way. I’m working on another series called, “The Suburban Adventures of Gabriel Winston.” To help myself create a group of girls in Gabriel’s school, I pulled out some pictures from my old junior high yearbooks of some girls I knew growing up. I used some basic personality traits of these girls to help scaffold these characters. I would look at their pictures to get the personality in my head when I wrote.
As for “Bewitched,” I had two friends growing up I was very close to, Darren and Mike. However, neither character is based on either of these people. I think in the case of this book I started with some “stock” characters in my head and then refined them as I went along until hopefully, they became real and distinct in the mind of the reader.
What music was on your playlist while writing your novel?
I’ve always loved the Beatles. I also have a huge 80’s collection of music. Still, I can’t leave out some excellent music from the 70’s as well. And now, thanks to my kids, I listen to a lot of today’s pop music, loving Owl City, Salina Gomez, Smash Mouth, Cold Play, Plain White T’s – even some of the catchy ditties from “Phineas and Ferb.” But most of all, I’ve been really loving the old crooner sounds of Michael Buble.
Morning person or grumpy bear?
Not so much grumpy as catatonic.
Tell us one thing it would surprise us to know about you?
I’m actually not as handsome as I let on…..
What is next for you?
I’m going to finish “Where’s Cherry Soda,” a middle grade book about a 4th grader who gets into trouble/adventure with some wild Sci-Fi gadgets her brilliant but absent minded father creates.
Do you have any unique skills or talents? If so, what?
I can dance a jig like nobody’s mother….actually no. I do like reading to my kids. I have read almost all the Harry Potter books to my family. I love doing the voices. Hagrid kills my throat, but my kids won’t let me read him any differently.
If I were to look in your closet right now, would I find frills and lace or demin and tees?
I’m tempted to say frills and lace, purely for the comedic value. But I’ll answer this one straight and admit mainly frills and lace. (Yes this question was designed for our female authors but Mark has a wonderful sense of humor and answered it anyway. )
"Bewitched is spell-binding! A highly-unique page-turner that hooks you from the first paragraph. With complex characters and unexpected twists and turns, Harris delivers and leaves you hoping for more!" - Stephanie Keyes, author, The Star Child series
Is it love or is it witchcraft? He’ll never find out if he kills her first.
The first time Darren saw Samantha, she was floating above his high school gymnasium during a basketball game, invisible to everyone but him. Next time he sees her, she's sitting in front of him in class, wowing his friends and causing unexplainable things to happen that only he seems to notice. But things really get strange (and complicated) when his dying grandfather tells him that he is part of an ancient order, the “Pessum Ire,” whose duty is to destroy witches. What does he do now, since he’s almost positive Samantha is a witch…and he’s crushing on her pretty hard?
Pre-order your copy at the Inkspell Store.
After publishing and reading so many wonderful books this year, we thought to ask our authors about their favorites. What book did they feel was their favorite read of 2012. What do you think of their choices and do you agree? What books would you choose? Let us know your thoughts!
I can’t give you an absolute favorite book of 2012 because that’s impossible but I can tell you that one of my favorite books was Anna and the French Kiss. I’m not sure if it was the dreamy British hero, the awkward American heroine, the transporting backdrops, or the ‘authentic’ tone that Stephanie Perkins managed to capture throughout, but this book stuck with me. The second book – not so much – but Anna and St. Clair are still some faves of mine… Why does some of this feel familiar… Hmmmm?
It's a tough call, because I've read so many great books this year, but I'd have to say my favorite book for 2012 has to be The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. I'm a huge fan of Ms. Clare's Mortal Instruments series and loved the world and characters she created. As book two of The Infernal Devices trilogy, The Clockwork Prince is set in the same universe but instead of New York city in modern day, this series is set in London during the Victorian era. Ms. Clare's descriptions and storytelling ability just seems to get better an better with each book, transporting me not only to another world, but to another time and place. The Clockwork Prince had me reading late into the night, unable to put it down.
In fact, I love The Infernal Devices so much that I'm looking forward to The Clockwork Princess, the third book in the trilogy, coming out at the end of March almost as much as my own debut release of The Watcher on March 4th.
T. Michelle Nelson:
I don’t typically read a ton of YA literature. At least I didn’t until this last year. There are tons of great new YA books out there right now. Jamie Manning’s BLOOD BORN for example, is an awesome book, especially for us vampire lovers, and a book written by Inkspell’s own Stephanie Keyes called THE STAR CHILD was amazing as well.
THE STAR CHILD grabbed my attention from the moment I heard of it because I’ve been a little obsessed with Ireland for a while. I had hopes of reading about the beautiful scenery and Irish culture if nothing else. You get that with Keye’s book, but you also get a story that will suck you in and keep you up for hours reading. Kellen St. James, her main character, is relatable and well-developed. Exactly the kind of guy you want to root for to save the world.
Keyes builds a world that is magical and takes the reader on a journey unlike any other book. THE STAR CHILD is masterfully written and a fast read, and I’d suggest just that. Read it fast before her second book comes out in April. I know I can’t wait. (Hopefully she will read this review and send me an advanced copy. *hint*)
Baptism of Fire by Stephanie Constante had me hooked by the first chapter.
First of all, let me just say that not once since I began to read was I bored with this book. It was an absolute page turner. In fact, I read it in two days (and only because I needed a good night sleep). Otherwise, I would have read it all the first night.
The romantic elements to this story are strong and captivating. The characters are charismatic, fun, and entertaining. The plot is unique and keeps you interested from the very beginning.
Aidan, the hero of the story, is so easy to love because of his personality. His charm would win any girl’s heart. I loved the fact that his identity caught me completely off guard and I had no idea who he really was until he revealed it to Leito.
I’m looking forward to reading the second installment to this series. I just need to know what happens to Aidan and Leito.
Would I recommend this book to Young adults’ enthusiast? Most definitely. It has everything you love about a fantasy novel with a splash of romance and adventure added to the mix.
This year, my favorite read was The Life & Death Of Lily Drake by T. Michelle Nelson. It seems like so many of the books that I pick up lately have wimpy female characters. When that happens, I don't feel committed to seeing the book through. Instead, I just bow out. Not only did this book have a gutsy female lead, but it's not like any other book out there. I just loved that.
My favorite read in 2012? "The Princess Bride" by William Goldman.
Why? Because it was just so much fun! Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies of all time and so I wanted to read the book, just to compare the two. (After all, William Goldman wrote both the book and the screen play). There were differences, of course, and I found them both enjoyable and interesting. I enjoyed reading the back stories of the characters that we missed out on during the movie. All of the humorous asides put in by Goldman made for a lighthearted read. If you love "Princess Bride" the movie... then you must read the book if you haven't already!
City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare is the best book of 2012 for me. Her world-building skills always amaze me. I’m sucked into her books, which lead me through a gamut of emotions. I laugh, I cry, I get angry, and come out the other end more in love with the characters than ever before. The best part is knowing that I’ll get to experience it all over again as movies.
Since you didn't say the book had to be published in 2012, I'm taking the liberty of recommending an old book that's out of print, although copies are still available from used book dealers.
Gus the Great by Thomas Duncan is a book that somehow got lost in time and it shouldn't have. Here's a review I wrote on Amazon,http://www.amazon.com/Gus-Great-Thomas-W-Duncan/dp/2702836372/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358032386&sr=1-1&keywords=gus+the+great
"Recently I thought of a book I read many years ago. I couldn't remember the title, name of author, or even what it was about except maybe a circus. All I could remember was that it was beautifully written and held me fascinated from the very first page.
Finally in the middle of the night it popped into my head: GUS THE GREAT. I bought a copy and just finished it. There are so many books written decades ago that are out-of-date but not this one. It's as good as ever and I can honestly say one of the best books I ever read."
What were your favorite reads of 2012? What books could you not have lived without? What books captivated your days and nights? We'd love to hear from you!
Our Wednesday Writer's Spotlight this week features an interview with the author of The Obvious Game. Rita's book will be released on February 7th. The Obvious Game is a young adult story about a young lady who is facing a variety of challenges in her life. Let's find out more about Rita and her writing process.
When did you first start writing? What made you want to be a writer? I started writing when I was around my daughter’s age now – eight. I wrote mostly poetry and a few short stories through high school and college, then I wrote my first (unpublished) novel when I was twenty-five. Though it never saw the light of day, the writing of that novel reassured me I was capable of a full-length novel and that I just needed to get better at it.
I finished a graduate writing program in 2002, and my thesis advisor, Michael Pritchett, actually helped quite a bit with the early drafts of THE OBVIOUS GAME, as did my agent, Eric Myers. I edited a parenting anthology called SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK in 2008 to kind of dip my toe in the Dewey Decimal system. After I published that book, I had the bug, and I was ready to try a novel again. The anthology was a great experience, but it’s completely different to publish a book that’s just your writing.
What inspired you to write your book? While Diana’s story is not mine and Diana is different from a personality perspective than I am, this novel is semi-autobiographical. My mother had cancer when I was in middle school, and my anorexia showed up when I was seventeen. I didn’t completely defeat the rules in my head until I was almost thirty. I wanted to write a novel, and I wanted to give life to what helped me overcome my eating disorder. I thought a young adult novel might be a good platform from which to jump beyond myself and put a conversation starter into the hands of teens and their parents. Moreover, I get a lot of email from parents of kids with ED who don’t understand why their kids are acting that way. Despite their love for their kids, they find it hard to be compassionate. I want to help parents and friends understand what it feels like to be in that headspace. And I want kids with ED to hear the words that helped me with the hope that it will help them. And I like high school wrestling and – back in the day -- wrestlers.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? Plotter. I like to stick my headphones in my ears, lie back and access my memories. Usually something will pop up and then I’ll think how it could’ve gone differently, or what I liked about it, or what was important about it. I’ll take something real and mess with it until it isn’t real anymore. I feel the same when I’m writing as I do when I’m falling in love. I wouldn’t do it otherwise – it’s a lot of rejection and a lot of hard work.
Do you have any writing rituals or special processes you complete before sitting down to write? Nope. I have a husband, a kid, two cats, two hermit crabs and a fish, as well as a more-than-fulltime job. I write when I can.
What authors inspire you? Any author that publishes inspires me, because after SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK and THE OBVIOUS GAME, I understand what a challenge the current publishing environment is. That said, I love John Irving, Tom Robbins, Amor Towles, Joseph Heller and a host of YA authors I’ve only just discovered and who are legion.
If you could only write in one genre for the rest of your career, what genre would you choose? Why? I think I’ll stick with contemporary YA fiction. I was always so sure I would write literary adult fiction, but then I really thought hard about which books have shaped my life the most. They were the books I read when I was in high school, when I was still figuring out my worldview. So I changed my mind and wrote a YA novel.
Which of the characters in your current release is your favorite? Why? Pa is my favorite. He’s a lot like my own dad, and I’ve learned a lot from my dad. Only one of the things Pa said is really what my dad said, but a lot of his dialogue is what I think my dad would say in that situation.
Are any of your characters modeled after real people? If so, which ones? All of them are composites of people I know. It’s hard to completely envision a character out of thin air for me, but it’s not hard to take a piece of this person, a piece of that person. Not all of those people are people I knew when I was a teenager, though. My job in media has a side effect of meeting a lot of people, and I like listening to their conversations, thinking about how they would react if put in a certain situation. I steal dialogue by eavesdropping. I’m interested in people.
What music was on your playlist while writing your novel?
Since the novel is set in 1990, I actually named all the chapters after albums that were on the radio in my hometown around that time, with the exception of the last chapter. Here’s the chapter list and its corresponding albums and the song off each album I think complements best that chapter.
The Obvious Game Playlist
Chapter 1: Pride by White Lion (1987) – When the Children Cry
Chapter 2: Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses (1987) – Welcome to the Jungle
Chapter 3: Scarecrow by John Mellencamp (1985) – Small Town
Chapter 4: True Colors by Cyndi Lauper (1986) – True Colors
Chapter 5: Can’t Hold Back by Eddie Money (1986) – Take Me Home Tonight
Chapter 6: Hysteria by Def Leppard (1987) – Hysteria
Chapter 7: Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction (1988) – Jane Says
Chapter 8: Just Like the First Time by Freddie Jackson (1986) – Have You Ever Loved Somebody
Chapter 9: Use Your Illusion by Guns N’Roses (1991) – November Rain
Chapter 10: Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf (1977) – Bat Out of Hell
Chapter 11: Head Games by Foreigner (1979) – Dirty White Boy
Chapter 12: Faith by George Michael (1987) – Monkey
Chapter 13: Cuts Like a Knife by Bryan Adams (1983) – Straight From the Heart
Chapter 14: Double Vision by Foreigner (1978) – Hot Blooded
Chapter 15: Disintegration by The Cure (1989) – Fascination Street
Chapter 16: Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe (1990) – Poison
Chapter 17: Achtung Baby by U2 (1991) -- Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?
Chapter 18: Nevermind by Nirvana (1991) – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Chapter 19: Listen Without Prejudice by George Michael (1990) – Something to Save
Chapter 20: Out of Time by R.E.M. (1991) – Losing My Religion
Chapter 21: The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby (1986) – Mandolin Rain
Chapter 22: Infected by The The (1986) – Out of the Blue (Into the Fire)
Chapter 23: Strange Fire by Indigo Girls (1989) – Strange Fire
Chapter 24: Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos (1992) -- China
Morning person or grumpy bear? I function best with 9-10 hours of sleep, but I seldom get it. I would say I’m less grumpy, more walking into walls.
Tell us one thing it would surprise us to know about you? I once physically bumped into Bruce Willis when I lived in Chicago. He’s about my height, and I’m 5’6”.
What is next for you? I’m at work on a YA novel called THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES.
Do you have any unique skills or talents? If so, what? I can sail.
If I were to look in your closet right now, would I find frills and lace or demin and tees? Denim and tees. I’d like to be fancier, but I work from home.
One of the big traditions with New Year's is to write resolutions. These goals are help make the new year even better than the old year. We asked the Inkspell authors what their resolutions are. Here's their responses. What are your New Year's Resolutions?
Being a big procrastinator, I have never been much for making resolutions. Mostly because I generally forget about them or try to ignore the fact that I made them within days of doing so. But, 2013 is a new year, so why not give it a go, right?
So this year, my resolutions are these:
1. Complete two novels and have ready for query at some point during the year.
2. Get on the new treadmill we got for Christmas at least twice a week. (this one is so not going to happen, but adding it makes me look good)
3. Set aside at least one hour each week for undivided "kid time" with my youngest daughter, Shelby.
4. DO NOT GET A NEW DOG THIS YEAR NO MATTER HOW CUTE THEY ARE.
That's it for me. Simple is better to my way of thinking, and I figure if I keep them small and manageable, I have a much better shot at keeping them.
Happy New Year, everyone :)
Both of my New Year's resolutions are writing related for 2013. I'm going to check my Amazon book ranks less- trying for once a month instead of three times a day! (What a time suck that is!) And, I'm not going to read my reviews. The bad ones just bring me down, and then it takes a whole day to get the courage back up to write again. Like last year, I'm vowing to write 1k a day everyday, so I end of with 365K at the end of the year. This past year I made it to 316,090. Almost. But in 2013, I'll make it to 365!
I believe in the power of intention and goal setting, and around the end of the old year, I review my year and assess where I am at, so I can chart my course for the future.
To that end, here are my intentions for 2013:
- to be physically active, and to that end, I plan to run another 10KM run. I did this in 2012, and was quite successful.
- to finish writing books two and three of The Watcher trilogy and see them through to publication.
- to make more time for myself in my meditation practice, for everything flows better from there.
- and on a personal note, to endeavor to not take things personally, remembering that other people's opinions of me are not only none of my business, but also reflections of their own world.
I prefer to think of them as "goals' rather than "resolutions," because as everyone knows, resolutions are only made to be broken and goals are made to be reached... ;)
So with that in mind, my top priority goals for this year are to complete all three of my works in progress, become an expert in marketing...(I hate marketing, so anyone want to help me out with that one?) and spend far more time with my beloved family!
Other than the ever-repeating resolution to lose weight (ugh), I'm going to make it a point to write some edgy stuff in different genres under my pen name. I love YA and romance, but I'm craving the freedom to push the envelop into erotica, horror, fetish, etc.
T. Michelle Nelson:
I resolve to try even more new things, prove to myself that age is only a number and get into the best shape of my life. To motivate myself to do this, I am signing up to participate in Tough Mudder, a 10-12 mile endurance event with obstacles designed by British Special Forces. Most participants undoubtedly, will be younger and in better shape than me, but I fully intend on crossing that finish line. My mother has always told me there is nothing I couldn't accomplish once I set my mind to it, although I seriously doubt she meant anything like this.
Here are my resolutions for the New Year:
1) Write six new novels this year. I wrote four last year, so I'm trying to bring that number up.
2) Make a list of weekly goals and a list of monthly goals and stick to them.
3) Read and review 150 books (I reached this number last year and I hope I can do it again!)
4) Go on a trip out of the country.
5) Exercise regularly (which means, at least three days a week)
6) Finish last year of university and get my degree.
7) Get my driver's license! It would be about time.
This year my resolution is to put work on the back burner, and focus on my family as much as possible. Don't worry, I'll still be writing fun stories for my delightful readers to enjoy, but with five children and a wonderful hubby--as well as the horrific acts in Connecticut this past December--my priorities have shifted. I am so richly blessed with a gorgeous family, and I need to seize each day knowing that it could be taken away at any time. Happy New Year, InkSpell readers!
My new year’s resolution list:
1- Finish the MS I have started.
2- Find a bigger house to move into.
3- Focus a little more on life outside of work.
4- Go to Disney with the kids.
I love making New Year's resolutions. A clean slate and a fresh start for a brand new year! I have a short list for 2013 that consists of the following:
-Release The Fallen Stars
-Edit and Release The Star Catcher
-Write a brand-new Paranormal Romance!
-Continue to spend more time with my family
-Continue with my workout regime
Happy New Year Inkspell readers!
My new years resolutions are:
1) Get a 2:1 in my 2nd year at university
2) Do a good deed everyday
3) Get experience in publishing/editorial work so I can pursue it as a career
Share your resolutions? Do you have any in common with our authors?
Even though Christmas is over, we decided to keep the celebration alive by asking the Inkspell authors about their favorite holiday present. Reading about the authors really gives you an insight into their lives and their stories! What do you think? Which is your favorite gift and why?
Mark Jay Harris:
Sleep in the afternoon after the kids have opened their presents. Santa's pretty tuckered out by that time, and sleep makes a wonderful gift!
The best Christmas gift I ever received was when I was either a junior or senior in high school. As the oldest of four children, I understood better than my siblings the "price" of Christmas for a large family. I thought I would hedge my bets for the one thing I wanted that year -- new skis -- by not asking for another thing that Christmas. I had figured, one gift request -- they gotta fill it, right?
Well, at the end of the morning of opening gifts, I had all sorts of new gear -- new ski jacket, gloves, hats, etc. -- but no skis. I put on my happy face, knowing deep down the skis, boots and poles were just too expensive for my poor parents to be able to buy while still providing a Christmas to my sisters and brothers.
My mother had other plans. She sent me into the bathroom to clean up because "there is no way I am going to shower in that nasty thing on Christmas day." So I went and dutifully cleaned up the bathroom -- grumbling the whole time about how the oldest always gets a raw deal. I grumbled until I returned to the living room to find the skis I had wanted pulled up from where they had been hiding behind our couch. The shock on my face must have been priceless.
I spent close to the next 30 minutes bawling my eyes out, amazed at what my parents had done for me, knowing the sacrifices that must have been necessary for them to afford all the ski stuff they got for me. Like they always have, somehow, my parents managed to make Christmas perfect.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!
Of course, I love books. It's always wonderful to get books, gift certificates for books, or anything even remotely related to books as a Christmas present. But as a mom, the best gifts are always how your children experience the holidays. My kids (3,6, and 8) have this unusual tradition of wrapping up things from around the house and giving them to each other for Christmas. They usually pick toys they've had for years. It's odd, and I don't know where they got the idea, but it's been going on for a few years now and I think it's hilarious. Watching them go though this gift exchange is undoubtedly my favorite gift of Christmas.
My favorite Christmas present would be a surprise romantic trip to a castle or monastery turned into a hotel. I saw something like that while I was browsing yesterday and I thought it must be wonderful to receive a present like that under the Christmas tree. Besides that, of course my answer would be books. I love books in all shapes and forms, and a bookish Christmas present always makes my day!
This one is easy. My most favorite Christmas present of all time is my sister!
As I went to bed on that particular Christmas Eve I was surrounded by three brothers. Two that were older than me, and one a few years younger. I remember wanting a baby sister more than anything! And although our baby was supposed to arrive in January, I remember my father coming into my bedroom on that early, early Christmas morning (so early it was still dark. He flipped on the light and with a big smile on his face, said, "Merry Christmas, Deb! You have a brand new baby sister!" We've been the best of friends ever since!
When it comes to Christmas, my favorite Christmas present is having everyone at home and together for the holiday. Over the past couple of years, there have been a lot of changes at our Christmas dinner. We lost some of our numbers, then added a few. Some of us have moved away. Each of these things has changed our family's dynamic. So for me, having everyone together, in one place…that's easily, the very best gift I could ever hope for. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!
T. Michelle Nelson:
My favorite Christmas present is my very first one. I was adopted in October of 1974 at six weeks old. My mom wanted to go Christmas shopping and my dad needed to go get some motor oil or some other manly type thing and had no interest in going with my mom to get presents for me. While they were out getting Dad's manly purchases, my mother no doubt pitched a fit about not having their new baby any gifts so when Dad came out of the store he had bought me this plastic fish. 38 years later and I still have it, maybe a little worse for wear, but it is my most prized possession.
Everyone at Inkspell Publishing hopes that you had a wonderful holiday and received your heart's desire. We'd love to hear what your favorite gift was and why!
Recently there has been a big discussion about book covers around the water cooler. In the past, the bodice rippers were often hidden because of the indecency of the characters on the cover. Today covers have come under fire not because of the content but whether or not the people had heads or if they were just torsos. There are many different blogs where people vote on the cover that they like best. Inkspell decided to ask our authors for their take on the Cover Wars. We want to know what they like in a cover and what they don't like.
I think that a good book cover design is pivotal to the success of a book! I enjoy books that are decorated with colorful, whimsical, and intricate designs; and I like for them to be a clear expression of what the content of the book is. I despise the books that have computer generated people on them. I think real models are always best. And fun, creative fonts are a must. When I saw the cover for my book, The Carny, I almost fell out of my chair. It was so, incredibly gorgeous...and it so very clearly represented what was inside the book--it was perfect. I think that authors should always be allowed to have a say in their covers, and that book covers should always bring out the very best in that author's story. Anyone who says a cover doesn't matter is lying. It is the first impression a reader has of your work, and can either make or break your chances at sharing your story with that reader.
You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can't escape the allure of a really intriguing book cover either. I think the more mysterious the cover the better. The more it piques intrigue the more likely one is to wonder what it is about and pick it up and read the back cover. Of course it depends on the genre. Romance books aren't going to necessarily want to go in that direction. Mystery, thrillers, paranormal, YA, on the other hand want to make people ask themselves, "What exactly is that book all about?" "Why is that on the cover?" "What does that picture represent?"
Book Covers by far are one of my favorite things about a book. I can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve been induced to buy a book by the cover alone. My thoughts about covers are simple. I, personally, used to believe that a cover with real people was better than those with cartoonish figurines. However, as time has passed and technology grown, I’ve changed my mind about this debatable subject. Although I still very much prefer covers with real men and/or women in the front, there are times I will look to others that are different in order to find a good read. My preferences vary also. I enjoy covers with real people, beautiful backgrounds, or even with some art thrown in the mix, which show with pictures what the story is about. There’s nothing more alluring than a cover that entices you to open up the book and find out what it’s about.
I'm usually drawn towards the darker book covers, where less is more kind of thing. I like the mystery and intrigue it offers. A glossy finish with high contrast colors on the cover is a nice touch, also. Having people on the cover doesn't draw my attention as much as say a unique object or design, but I have bought books with people on them. I'm not too picky. I think there's a lot to be said about judging a book by its cover and I try not to do that, but I admit I often find myself choosing what catches my eye.
What’s in a cover?
I’m a huge fan of book covers. Going to the book store is like a trip to a mini art museum. I know the old idiom “never judge a book by its cover”, but covers are a big part of what makes shopping for books so fun.
As an author of YA fiction, I’m also a fan of those types of covers. I love the dramatic colors and exotic font scripts, the pretty dresses, the moody backgrounds. There are some amazing artists devoting themselves to cover art, and I must say I’m really impressed with what’s coming out these days.
I’m a big fan of seeing a person on the cover with a scenic background. In young adult fiction there are several trends in book covers that feature a person. Some authors prefer the cover art not show their face, so that readers can come up with their own ideas of what the characters look like. Apparently, this is quite a trend in YA book covers. I’m not adverse to this. The other trend is to show the character’s back. This also allows for mystery, and lets the reader put a face on the character. Another trend is the main character, presumably, wearing a pretty dress and a melancholy expression (called ‘The Mope’).
For a fun list of young adult book cover trends featuring a person on the cover, check this blog out: http://jillianaudrey.blogspot.ca/2012/05/trends-in-young-adult-book-covers.html
Of course, I’m a huge fan of the cover for The Watcher and think artist Najla Qamber did an amazing job of combining a few of these trends. Mia, the main character is showing her back, and yet she’s also looking at the camera, so it’s a mysterious pose. Since I’m also fond of wings, I love the use of the tattooed wings on the cover, as they pertain to the character and have a special significance in the story.
I love a good cover. And let's face it. If the book has a gorgeous/appealing cover, say while browsing on Amazon, I will click on the book immediately, to read the excerpt. If the excerpt doesn't entice me enough, I won't buy it. So, covers do play a big role on whether to click and view a book or not. But then, there are times when browsing the library shelves or bookstores, I stumble upon a book whose cover isn't very appealing, but the description sends shivers all over my body. I guess, if an author has taken the chance, and worked on a story for months to make it shine, then she/he should consider a good cover. After all, it's the eye that leads the way--most of the time.
I’m the type of person who wants to say EVERYTHING! I can spend hours in a bookstore, looking at covers, reading the jackets. A cover can sell me on a book even before I know what the book is about. I love covers with people on them, especially if they’re doing interesting things, like underwater (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin), flying (Tempest by Julie Cross), dying? Oh my gosh, what’s going on here?? (This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers). I’m especially particular to the covers for The Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare. The Victorian and steampunk elements of Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince make me drool…not the mention the hot models. The novelty of single-object covers is lost on me. Between Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, and the million spin-offs, I’ll pass on a cover like that any day. But just as easily, I can be sucked in by a simple, yet to the point cover like the cartoon zombie and unicorn which grace the front of Zombie vs. Unicorn. And tattoos. Tattoo your cover models, people, I’ll read your books.
Moral of the story? I LOVE books. And I might be guilty (SO GUILTY!) of judging them by their covers.
Now that our authors have weighed in on the debate, we'd love to hear from you! What interests you in a book cover?
With today's technology, writers can write just about anywhere. However, some writers like to have a permanent space to write with files and inspiration. Others like to be free to move where they'd like. We asked our Inkspell authors to tell us about where they write. Could you guess which stories were written where? Which authors like a neat desk while others scatter their items to the four winds?
This is actually a real picture of my messy desk! And yes, that's Jack Sparrow running around between my notebooks. Some post-its are quotes from great writers, others are reminders of who to email and thank in my acknowledgments, and others are plot points I'm afraid I'll forget about. One notebook is every single chapter of my Minstrel's Serenade manuscript along with the POV to make sure I rotate it back and forth equally, and another notebook is a list of the blogs I have scheduled on this blog. The notebook to the right is my word count notebook where I keep tabs everyday.
I have yet to carve myself out a "private" nook at the house to do my writing and when I consider doing it, I always feel a stab of guilt over shutting out the family I already don't see enough thanks to a FT job and an hour commute. So, to keep peace within myself and my family, who misses me so much when I am not about (awww), I do the lion's share of my writing while sitting on the bed in my room. This way the kids can find me when they need me and I still feel like I am part of the family, even when my mind may be a million miles away. There may come a time when I feel I can't get enough accomplished this way, and I may change the writing set-up I am using, but for now, it works for me.
I have an office just off my library that my husband and I share. And, I have to admit, it’s where I spend most of my time. My books are handy and I have over fifteen gigs of music sorted into various “mood” playlists ready to go on my computer. I’ve grown so accustomed to my little work area, I find it difficult (but not impossible) to write anywhere else!
Now that you've seen where our authors write, can you imagine them anywhere else? :)
Thankful, grateful, gratitude, and appreciation...All are words to describe how many of us feel at this time of year. Reflecting back on the year before us, we do have a lot to be thankful for. As the holiday season approaches, everyone at Inkspell is very thankful for the many blessings that our readers and ambassadors have given us. But we thought to ask our authors about the many things that they are thankful for during this time of year. We hope you will enjoy their responses as much as we do!
T. Michelle Nelson:
I have many reasons to be thankful, but I am most thankful for my son. Somehow he has turned out to be the most thoughtful, intelligent and sweet young man a person could ever know. I am proud to be his mom every single day.
I have a lot to be thankful about this holiday season. I'm thankful for all of the wonderful people at Inkspell who believe in my book. I'm also thankful for my gorgeous cover, and all the fantastic reviews my book is receiving. I'm thankful Inkspell agreed to take on the next book in the series! On the writer front, I received my very first advance, which I am extremely thankful for, due to my awesome agent, who I'm also very grateful. She's taught me patience and wisdom. I have a huge, 3 day book signing coming up at a fancy craft fair in December, and I'm thankful for all the people that will be helping me out with that.
My whole family is meeting for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I'm thankful they are all happy and safe and pursuing their own life dreams. My sister is pregnant with baby #2, so I'm more than thankful for that as well. I already enjoy my nephew, and I can't wait to meet the new addition to the family!
There is nothing original about what I'm thankful for. It’s probably what everyone chooses for his or her answer whenever this question inevitably comes up every year! But I don’t care if I’m being a conformist. When I look around me every day, the answer is clear. My Family. Though our numbers have dwindled and the festivities changed, I am blessed to have people I love around me. My husband, my sons, my family are the reason that I have the guts and courage to do anything at all. It is this group of people that told me to “go for it” when I submitted my first novel to the Inkspell family earlier this year. Then, the same crew celebrated with me in September after the novel’s publication. That is why I am so unbelievably blessed this Thanksgiving, good people who stand by you and love you for who you are. That’s what I’m most thankful for. I wish each one of you readers a warm and wonderful holiday!
Jill Kaelin:Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, to ponder over how wonderful our lives are and cherish the little things. I have tons of things I’m thankful for in my life, so I decided to make a list of the top five.
Chocolate-the natural stress reliever.
Books-without which I wouldn’t be able to escape into magical worlds and live so many imaginative lives.
Our pets-the dog, CoCo, and our three cats, Bella, Ginger, and Nutty. They make each day more enjoyable…and messy.
Friends/Family-the people who love me unconditionally.
My daughter, Justyce-the relationship we have is priceless. She is my heart.
I’m also very thankful for my new friends at Inkspell! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Mark Jay Harris:
It may sound cliche to say I'm thankful for my family, but out of all the wonderful things I have in this life my family is the most important. We just had a new baby three weeks ago, and of course that tends to re-focus your thoughts. Without them to care for and without their support, it just seems like nothing else would matter much any way. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for my health, friends and chance to publish a book, but my family takes the front seat! They're the best!
First and foremost I would like to say that I'm eternally grateful to have four beautiful children that I absolutely adore and are the main reason for my happiness. Without them I wouldn't be the person I am. I'm also grateful to have such an understanding man by my side. A man that never sees the negative in things but instead, supports every decision I make even if he doesn't agree with me sometimes. I'm grateful that we're all healthy and happy in spite of difficult times.
And last, I'm grateful to have my loving mother by my side. Although we don't always see eye to eye, we're always able to set whatever differences we may have aside and enjoy our time together with no remorse.
Brooke Moss:I'm thankful for the opportunity to raise five amazing, talented, darling, witty, silly, happy children. Without my family, I would be nothing. What a wonderful group of people to spend my holidays with.
This year I'm thankful for all the traditional things, family, friends, etc. Additionally, I'm thankful for opportunity, perseverance, and the ability for continuing education. All things stem from this. 2012 has been an incredible year of growth and I'm excited and inspired by all the things to come!
Annabelle Blume:I'm thankful for the food in my fridge and the roof over my head. For the fact that my children are healthy and comfortable enough to express when they aren't happy. For my fury companions, even if they bark incessantly and irritate the neighbors. For the amazing adventures life has taken me on thus far. And for the future that lays before me, as unknown and scary as that can be.
I'm thankful for the moon and the stars and the fact that I can see them. And for the way the bright shining rays of the sun feel on my skin. For my friends who share laughter and tears with me. And for my family who stands quietly by my side through all things in life. Last, but not least, I'm thankful for my husband who's here to live it all with me every day.
What am “I” thankful for? Well, first and foremost, my family. They are truly the best this world has to offer. But my list surely doesn’t end there, nor do I have enough room to name everything that fills my heart. However, to mention just a few... I am very grateful to have food to eat, clothes to wear and shelter overhead. I’m grateful for my country, and words do not express my gratitude for those who give their all to protect and watch over it.
And of course, I need to mention how very appreciative I am to those who thought enough of my books to want to publish them. For those who have actually read them, and taken the time to leave their sweet comments. You all make my day!
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from anotherperson. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
Happy Halloween everyone! In honor of the holiday, we asked our Inkspell authors about their favorite candy! Can you just see them going out trick or treating and hording their favorites? Or do you think that they are all about buying something that they don't like so that they don't eat it all? What is your favorite and does it match our Inkspell authors?
Rebecca Hart:My favorite Halloween candy has changed over the years, just like my taste in clothing and music have evolved. When I was small, I was addicted to Charleston Chews, couldn't get enough of them. That is, until the day I found my first Mounds bars.
Dark chocolate and coconut -- how can you go wrong there? That's right. You can't. Now that I don't trick or treat anymore, and the focus is on bringing my kids out, I just let them know "the rules" before we leave the house.
"I call dibs on all the Mounds bars."
Thankfully, they don't seem to mind.
I really don’t have a favorite. BUT if I had to make a choice right this minute, I’d ask for the caramel apples I used to get while trick-or-treating in my youth. I lived in a small town, covered with fruit orchards and since the apples were harvested in the fall, many of the farmers would offer homemade caramel apples to the witches, ghosts, and goblins knocking at their doors. Trust me...these candied apples were to die for!
Actually, the candy bar that I can't live without is rare these days. It was my Grandpa's favorite, then became my favorite, and now I can only find them in specialty shops. It's called the Uno Bar, and it is light and fluffy and delicious! The sad thing is...whenever I find them, I buy as many of them as I can afford, and then I bring them home to horde them. My kids don't even get any. How mean is that?
Mark Jay Harris:
Peanut M&Ms with milk. I could live on them for days!
It's very hard for me not to overindulge this time of year. While I love the pumpkin-y treats of fall, like pumkpin bread, pumpkin pies, and pumpkin lattes (okay, that's not true, I can't stand pumpkin lattes, but you catch my drift), it's the Halloween candy that truly breaks my will power.
Rich, satiny cubes of caramel, sticky sweet ropes of licorice, and decadent velvety squares of chocolate tempt my taste buds. I'm usually able to resist the forbidden fruit of the season. Yet, when you pair salty and thick peanut butter with the sweet creaminess of chocolate, I'm a quivering mess.
My absolute favorite candies are the peanut butter cups from the Unreal candy company (getunreal.com). They're just like their mainstream cousin candy, without any nasty preservatives, artificial ingredients, or GMOs. I can feel slightly less guilty when I eat them, and eat them I do!
Sasha Summers:I have a SWEET TOOTH – so I can’t pick just one. When it comes to chocolate I LOVE Almond Joys and the newly discovered Dark Chocolate Raspberry M&M – like I needed another candy to crave. But if we’re talking candy candy – I love sour spaghetti and super tart cherry sours YUM!
Ironically I don’t get these things to hand out at Halloween because I would eat them all – and then I’d have to go dresses as a pumpkin. LOL! I tend to stick with the kid faves like Laffy Taffy, Tootsie Rolls, and Nerds… Perk – I don’t really like any of them so there’s plenty for trick-or-treaters!
Happy Halloween! :)
Snickers of course, Kellen's favorite! It's because of all the chocolate "carmely" goodness. Yum!
Jill Kaelin:My sweet tooth is pretty large, so there’s not much candy I’ll turn my nose up at. Chewy, chocolaty, sour, sweet…I like them all. But naturally, I have a favorite that I find irresistible. Lindt Lindor white chocolate truffles. These are my weakness. There’s just something about that creamy white chocolate inside that makes me want to devour the whole bag. Unraveling that blue, twisty plastic and finding the perfect ball of chocolate inside, makes my mouth water as I’m writing this. I have my students to thank for this addiction. A few years ago, one of my little sweeties bought me a bag of these divine chocolates. I’ve been hooked ever since. But, in my defense, may I just add that chocolate raises antioxidant levels in our bodies, so technically it’s really healthy. Happy Halloween!
Inkspell Authors, editors and everyone would like to wish you a very Happy Halloween! We hope you get all the candy you wish for and enjoy the spirit of the season!
Today we get to hear from T. Michelle Nelson who is the author of The Life and Death of Lily Drake. Lily Drake is a new vampire and also a mom but her toughest choice is which man is right for her! Two hunky guys fighting over your heart is almost every girl's dream come true!
When did you first start writing? What made you want to be a writer? I think I started writing from the time I could read. I wrote songs, poems, music and little stories. I always enjoyed writing. My favorite classes in school were always the English, Literature and Creative Writing classes.
What inspired you to write your book? I wanted to write a book with an unconventional heroine. Lily Drake isn’t an eighteen-year old beauty queen. She’s thirty-five, a single-mom, and sometimes goofy. I wanted to write a book with a main character that I could relate to.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? Total pantser. I think I have an idea or outline of where I’m going, and it never turns out that way!
Do you have any writing rituals or special processes you complete before sitting down to write? I make a big mug of coffee, have pen and pad to one side, and laptop in front of me. In bed. Sitting at a desk is torture for me. Almost the entire novel was written from my bed with three dogs curled up around me.
What authors inspire you? I admire so many, but for Lily Drake, definitely Margaret Mitchell. I remember reading “Gone with the Wind” and loving how Scarlett O’Hara was so imperfect. Mitchell wrote the go-to book on unconventional heroines.
If you could only write in one genre for the rest of your career, what genre would you choose? Why? I’ll go with the blanket answer of Romance. Most of the things I’ve written have started off as something else, but they wind up becoming a romance.
Which of the characters in your current release is your favorite? Why? I’m not sure I can pick one of my three main characters, but lately I’ve really been loving Burchard. Someday I want to tell his story.
Are any of your characters modeled after real people? If so, which ones? Not really. All of my characters have certain traits like people I know, but none were written with any particular person in mind as the model.
What music was on your playlist while writing your novel? Foo Fighters is always on my playlist, other than them, I have really eclectic tastes. At the time I was listening to Tool, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Beethoven and Alice in Chains to name a few. I never listen to music while I’m actually writing though. I find it distracting.
Morning person or grumpy bear? Grumpy Bear. I despise mornings.
Tell us one thing it would surprise us to know about you? I’ve been a vegetarian for almost twenty-six years.
What is next for you? I’m currently working on the second installment of the Lily Drake series.
Do you have any unique skills or talents? If so, what? I play almost every instrument a little, with the exception of horns. Piano, Drums, Guitar, Bass, but none of them very well.
If I were to look in your closet right now, would I find frills and lace or denim and tees? Denim and vintage rock tees. I do like to dress up on occasion though, but when I do it’s never frills and lace.
Thank you T. Michelle for stopping by. We loved hearing about your book and life. Don't forget that Lily Drake is up for sale now. You can get it in print or ebook today!
For Lily Drake, slaying vampires is easy...Dating
them is the hard part.
Lily Drake is your everyday hard-working single mom…until a gorgeous vampire shows up on her front door who she mistakenly assumes is her blind date for the evening. As one crazy scenario after another unfolds, Lily finds herself falling in love with two vampires, slaying the evil ones, and being prophesied as the savior of the entire undead race. Deciding between pizza and Chinese take-out will no longer be one of the hard decisions facing Lily Drake once she is immersed into vampire society.
Humanity or immortality? That doesn't hold a candle against this question -
which of the two handsome vampire cousins?
The Life and Death of Lily Drake is not your typical vampire love story. It’s a tale about the humorous mistakes a woman makes simply trying to survive not only life, but the dating scene. How will Lily manage working full-time, taking care of her young son and fighting the undead at every turn?
Lily will have to figure it out, but who better to save the world than a mom?