Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Facts for Fiction: The Geography of Nowhere

Since I read so much nonfiction, I'm starting a new blog feature called Facts for Fiction. It'll be about the nonfiction books I read and how they could be useful for writing. I'm not sure how frequently I'll run this feature; it'll depend on how often I read a book that's worth discussing.

The book that inspired this feature is called The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Escape. (It's by I originally thought it was going to focus on suburbs and the psychological and social effects they have on their residents. Instead, this book is more about architecture, landscape design, and cars. The author's premise is that the promotion of the private car over public transport has not only encouraged the development of the suburbs but resulted in boring buildings and less space devoted to civic and public buildings. Our environment has been designed for cars, not people. Kunstler complains that big businesses build without considering local communities. Although he discusses quality in a way that reminds me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, his ranty tone can be a bit off-putting at times. Still, I did find this book useful for its ideas on how to design cities for comfort--or lack of comfort. He recommends mixed-use communities that have residents of different classes, a unified style, and transitions from public to private areas. (Some of these things, such as mixed-use, are actually against the law in many areas, which only serves to keep us dependent on driving to the store for a gallon of milk. This may not be sustainable in the long run.) Still, most of this book focuses on the negative, so perhaps it might be more useful if you're planning to write a dystopia.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? What do you think of American cities and suburbs?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Blog Ring of Power: Michelle Pickett

Today for the Blog Ring of Power, Michelle Pickett (a fellow member of the Scene 13 group blog) will tell us about her current work: Milayna. You can find the rest of her interview at these links:

About You : The Writing Life : The Creative Process : Words of Wisdom

Tell us about your new book and when it is out? Where can people purchase it?

My newest book is a paranormal romance titled, “Milayna.” It releases December 2nd. It can already be pre-ordered on, Barnes&Noble, and

Is there anything new, unusual, or interesting about your book? How is it different from other books on the same subject?

My editor said she was excited to edit the book because it differed from others because the demi-angels and demi-demons were both students in high-school. They were the same age, look, and had the same characteristics as each other. This is different than most books dealing with demons. Although, there are other “levels” of demons in the book.

Another thing that makes “Milayna” different than other books is the main character, Milayna, has visions of future events. These are generally events that are going to happen in the near future and close to her. She must step in and shield humans from any danger created by the event, whatever it may be. And when I say “must,” I mean it literally. She has no control over her actions. Her body takes over and she is compelled to step in and “right the wrong.” While the other demi-angels in the group have visions, too, Milayna’s are strongest—for reasons I won’t go into.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

This question relates to the next question. The favorite part of the book to write was when Milayna found out she was a demi-angel. She had trouble dealing with the change in her life. While it was my favorite part of the book to write, it was also the hardest because while I wanted her to be upset by the news, I didn’t want her to seem like a brat. So there was a fine line between what readers would accept as normal irritation versus being a spoiled brat.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

My favorite part, without giving too much away, was when Milayna found out she is a demi-angel. She just didn’t say, “Oh, I’m a demi-angel? Okay. Cool.” And go about her business. Some books have characters that react to news like that. “I’m a vampire? Yay, let’s go have a drink!” Yeah, I don’t think so. That’s not how a person would react—at least not a normal person.

When Milayna finds out she’s a demi-angel she isn’t that accepting of the news. She doesn’t take it well and isn’t happy with the new turn her life has taken. I tried to write the part a little closer to how a person might act when thrown a curve ball like that. I hope I managed to get it right.   

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in this book?

There are always things I’d change. I look at PODs and think, “Geez, I really wish I would have done this, this, and this.” But, that ship has sailed. So I try not to dwell on what I can’t change and instead make my next book stronger with what I’ve learned. Because with each book an author writes, we learn. Not necessarily because we’re such great writers, but because we get feedback from beta readers, editors, and finally reviews from readers. All these combine and give us a wealth of information that we can use to make our next books stronger and, hopefully, what readers want to see.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There really isn’t a message in “Milayna.” The book itself is written for escapism, and I hope that’s what I give my readers. But I do have a message: I write because I love to write. But I also write because I hope readers will enjoy the stories I have to tell. If so, please let me know by leaving a review on Amazon or B&N. And drop me a note and let me know what you like and what you’d like to see. My message is simple. I write for you. Tell me what makes you happy, what takes you out of this life and transports you to another world for a few hours, and that’s what I’ll try to give you.   

Tell us about your book’s cover – where did the design come from and what was the design process like?
Robin Ludwig Designs, INC did my cover. I was online going through her portfolio and found a cover I fell in love with. I knew it was “Milayna.” I loved the colors swirling around her, almost like good and evil. Then Robin put angel wing overlays all over the design. They are hard to see where the color is darkest, but you can really see them on the model’s face and behind my name. I loved this idea because Milayna doesn’t have wings in the book, but I wanted to have something that represented angels, and I thought this was a great compromise.

The process was incredibly easy. I told Robin what piece in her portfolio I was using as inspiration and she did the rest. I hope to use Robin for the next two books in the trilogy so the books coordinate. I’d like to see each one done in the same format, but maybe using different colors for each cover and the model in a different pose and maybe with another character from the story.

I'm a wife, mother, author, reader, although not always in that order.  I write young adult urban fantasies, science/fiction, paranormal, and young adult and new adult contemporary romances. Reading was one of my earliest passions, writing soon followed. I began writing seriously during college where I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in accounting. Why I chose a career that frowns on creativity remains a mystery.

Red Bull or Monster Khaos are my coffee of choice. I’m addicted to Reese’s peanut butter cups and peanut butter M&Ms and eat way too many while I write (I’m currently trying to kick this habit). I have an abnormal obsession with hoodies and can’t write without one. I hate to cook, but love to watch cooking shows. I’m a hopeful romantic; I love a swoon-worthy ending that will give me butterflies for days. And books that keep me thinking of them long after I’ve finished the last page.

I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, but now live in a sleepy suburb of Houston, Texas with my extremely supportive, not to mention gorgeous husband, three school-aged kids, a 125 pound “lap dog,” and a very snooty cat.


From the bestselling author of PODs comes an unforgettable tale of action, intrigue, and following your heart in the midst of betrayal.

It's hard being good all the time. Everyone needs to be bad once in a while. But for seventeen-year-old Milayna, being good isn't a choice. It's a job requirement. And it's a job she can't quit. Born a demi-angel, Milayna steps in when danger and demons threaten the people around her, but being half angel isn't all halos and happiness. Azazel, Hell's demon, wants Milayna's power, and he'll do anything to get it. But he only has until her eighteenth birthday, after which she becomes untouchable.

With the help of other demi-angels, Milayna thwarts the trouble Azazel sends her way. Fighting with her is Chay. He's a demi-angel who's sinfully gorgeous, and Milayna falls hard. But is Chay her true love...or her nemesis in disguise?

Because when she learns of a traitor in her group, there's no one she can trust...not even the one she loves.


Buy Links for Milayna:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Labels Do Books Need?

Yesterday, The Atlantic posted an interesting article about "The Underrated, Universal Appeal of Science Fiction. The article suggests that the way we use "genre" as both a way to categorize a book's subject and a way to distinguish some books from general fiction may cause us to devalue works in popular genres like mystery, romance, and speculative fiction. General fiction becomes regarded as literature, while genre books are considered fluffy and escapist. I personally think this is an artificial distinction, as genre books can be serious too. However, as both a writer and a reader, I do like having a way to separate books with things I like (magic, science, alternate realities) from books that focus on reality and have no sense of wonder. Therefore, the labels of "science fiction" and "fantasy" do have use for me, and I'm sure fans of other genres feel the same way about their favorite books.

However, I'm now left to wonder how useful the literature label still is. Some stories that are considered classics today were very popular in their own times and might have been considered genre works once. Since self-publishing allows authors to avoid the publisher gatekeepers, any type of work can be published without getting "approved" by "authorities." That means readers will have to find other ways to pick the books they read. Some might rely on reviews or personal recommendations, while others will trust their own judgment. But when everyone brings different preferences and requirements to the same book, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to agree on what is worth reading (or calling "literature") and what isn't. Is this a problem? It might be for teachers, but for readers, more choices are better than less.

What's your opinion on the literature vs. genre debate? What, if anything, separates literature from other books? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blog Ring of Power--Alys Cohen

Today for the Blog Ring of Power, Alys Cohen will tell us about her writing life. You can find the rest of her interview at these links:

About YouThe Creative ProcessAbout Your Current Work: Words of Wisdom

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.

My writing process lacks regularity.  My actual writing happens on my Macbook Pro.  I do a bit of editing on my iPad Mini, which resides in my purse and goes everywhere with me.  I take notes in a little leather-bound notebook or on my iPhone.  Yes, I’ve drunk the Apple juice.  Since I use so many Apple products, my software is all Mac-based, which has resulted in some confusion with betas and editors.  I keep track of the operating systems and word processors my betas and editors use in a different notebook. 

I write when the urge hits, which is often.  Sometimes I get a few minutes.  At other times, I’ll have hours.  My favorite time is at night when the world as I know it is asleep and I’m less likely to be interrupted.  I am also more energetic at night.

How do you balance writing with other aspects of your life?

I don’t sleep much.  I’m one of those people who can get by on three or four hours of sleep every thirty-six.  Unfortunately for me, if I don’t try forcing myself onto a regular day schedule, that sleep will happen during the day when I have be out and about.  I am generally hyper-organized and can multi-task like my life depends on it.

When do you write?

I think an easier question is when do I not?  If I’m not at my computer, there’s a good chance I’m tossing ideas.  I have an odd ability to think in detail about two different topics at once, an ability which comes in handy quite often.

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

I’ll go for the easy answer and say a solid four hours per day is spent with writing as the primary recipient of my focus.  If I start adding in hours where I’m doing my regular job while plotting, then we’re getting into obsession-territory.

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

I had an early beta reader, a man, tell me he didn’t understand before why women stay in abusive relationships.  The early chapters of Sacred Blood made him rethink and finally understand.  It’s pretty amazing to be the one to help someone rethink abuse and for that person to stop blaming victims. 

What is the strongest criticism you’ve ever received as an author? The best compliment?

In one edition of Sacred Blood, the book opened with a domestic violence scene.  My goal was to shock the reader.  But a respected friend and fellow author told me that, even though abuse is horrible, he couldn’t really summon up any care for the characters because they are strangers.  I realized he’s right.  While most of us would say we’d care deeply, we have largely conditioned ourselves to put up walls to an extent to preserve ourselves emotionally.  So I rewrote the beginning so that we get to know Juliette a bit first, and to see the dynamic between her and Nathaniel. 

I think the best compliment I’ve received is that Juliette’s character arc brought tears in a reader who swears she doesn’t cry easily because Juliette’s growth inspired her, and then Juliette’s final decision twisted this reader’s heart and left her wanting more than the epilogue.

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

Trick question.  To me, family is those who love and support you.  Regardless of genetics, those who’ve supported me I consider to be my family.

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

Well, no one book will be everyone’s cup of tea.  I know people who don’t care for Angela’s Ashes, the Harry Potter series, of Lord of the Rings.  This is okay.  I’m not offended that there are people out there who don’t care for Sacred Blood.

As for negative reviews, I’ve written a blog post about this topic.  Negative reviews are important.

Blog: /
Facebook page: and
Goodreads author page:
Amazon Author Page:
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Abused and frightened, Juliette St. Claire has never
known love or kindness in her eighteen years.
Meeting Tristan LaRocque changes that,
infuriating her cruel boyfriend, Nathaniel Jensen.
But Tristan is powerless to help Juliette when merely trying
could result in her death.

As threats to her life intensify,
Juliette uncovers the mystical secrets
they have both kept from her,
and she must make some tough choices
about the men she thought she knew.

Fiercely passionate and profoundly riveting,
Sacred Blood is an outstanding story
that will leave you rethinking
love, friendship, and everything you hold dear.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Life at Seventeen Syllables a Day Now Available!

I recently finished a year-long, self-imposed challenge to write a haiku every day for a year. I planned all along to publish the collection when it was done, and it's finally ready. It's called Life at Seventeen Syllables a Day: A Journal in Haiku. You can find the paper version at Createspace or Amazon; an eBook version is available here for $0.99. Please check it out, and if you enjoy it, I'd appreciate a review. Thanks!

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