by R. R. Smythe
Writer’s Journey–where Brynn speaks with up-and-coming writers about their path to publication as well as the stories they love to read.
Welcome, Tanisha. Tell us about your writing journey?
I’ve written off and on for years, but only in the past three years have I been focusing seriously on my writing.
My Journey as a writer has taken the scenic route. I began writing at an early age about seven or eight years old. I was an only child until I was eleven and though I have a very tight knit extended family, I was the only girl in a family of boys. I think that’s why most of my characters are such strong willed women. I have a complete understanding of men because I grew up with boys and I have seen everything they do, the way they speak to each other, the way they interact, so I understand those characters. I also have an affinity for strong female characters that still have softness and vulnerability that makes others want to protect them.
By the time I reached middle school, I had written my first young adult series, The Ten, about a group of high school kids, reminiscent of Sweet valley High but with a more diverse cast of characters. My writing has always been multi-cultural since I have never lived a segregated life, neither has any character I’ve ever written. It became even more important to me to have diverse characters once my daughter was born, since she is bi-racial (we’ll tri-racial according to her) I wanted her to see that there are no limits to who your friends or loved ones are. Especially since my daughter is fair skinned with red hair and I am soo not.
I also have a love of everything sci fi, kung fu and comic book related. As I said, I grew up with boys which has basically turned my into a twelve year old boy in the guise of a grown woman. So not only do I watch the New Orleans Saints every Sunday during football season ( it’s a religion here in New Orleans) but I will geek out for hours on movies, books, tv shows and cartoons, in my pajamas with my daughter. She happens to be thrilled beyond belief that she may make it to Comic Con next year and is currently planning a costume.
What genre do you write?
I write paranormal romance when I write “adult” stories, but I began as a young adult writer. I still dabble every now and then, as a matter of fact I recently completed Day Fall, a retelling of little red riding hood. The main character is a 14 year old girl who has taken on the provider roll as a hunter since her mother was killed in a hunting accident. The main character, Lycia, tells of her village and the coming harvest and the choosing ceremony in which she will chose her marit (husband) and the impending danger of the Soltaia, the solstice in which the moons and suns of Eldorra rise and set at the same time, when the beasties that roam during the day are able to stalk the villagers at night as well. The nights are when the women of Lycia’s village hunt and fish, since the sun damages their delicate skin, while the men take on the traditionally female roles.
This story actually came about while watching television with my own very opinionated and strong willed 10 year old daughter. She was watching a movie and realized that if the bad guy was after the girl and everyone else was running, why didn’t the girl just set a trap and kill it, instead of waiting for someone else to do it. It made me wonder, why doesn’t she just kill it?
I wrote Dayfall that night, for her. She loved it. It’s posted on my blog tanishadelill.wordpress.com if you want to read it.
What are your favorite books and why?
My taste in books runs the gamut, Everything from Harry Potter to Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve always read and love stories about under dogs or strong characters. I’m a fan of Anne rice because of the gothic elements in her books. Janet Evanovich, she infuses so much humor into her characters, Charlaine Harris, love Sookie Stackhouse’s spunk, but most of her characters are spunky self-sufficient women. And of course, Sherilyn Kenyon who inspired me to write about the fantastic in everyday life.
Tell us about what your agent is shopping now, and what you have in the works?
Currently, my agent is shopping around the first in a plan series, “The First to Fall”. The First to fall, the first in a series, introduces New Orleans police detective Elijah Cain. Standing nearly seven feet tall with eyes the color of turquoise, he has the ability to read minds and live the memories of others making him intimidating and unnerving. When he meets the woman who has haunted his dreams for nearly a year, the attraction is immediate and all consuming. The enigmatic Dr. C. Keegan Kent is everything he’s ever wanted and more than he could ever imagine. As they grow closer, he is drawn into a world he never knew existed and a war that has been centuries in the making.
Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker. She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter. When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanian either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.
Follow Tanisha at:
Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:
I’d love to introduce you to debut author Deb Julienne! She has a brand new series starting next week with her novel titled “Sex, Lies, and Beauty Aides,” a super-fun-sounding, sexy romp. Today Deb is here to show us how a romance writer’s mind works when coming up with a new story—or in Deb’s case, a new series. Below is a very, very lovely gallery of gentlemen and ladies who inspired the series Deb is working on next.
Here’s a little biography for you. Welcome to Blame it on the Muse, Deb! Read the rest of this entry »
I made hundreds of trips into what was called DC’s “riot corridor” in my high school years. The burned-out, desperate section of the city (near 14th and U, NW) still smelled of smoke some days. After school and through one summer, I did research at the old Children’s Hospital.
In exchange for odd jobs around the microbiology lab, I was guided first through my investigation of skin bacteria and later through rigorous tests of antibiotics. I got equipment and training and a life-long love of research.
I can still give the pitch on the antibiotics work. The big drug companies were under the gun because they were extending patent protection by combining established drugs. The FDA thought the whole concept was bogus. I tested an interesting pair – a synthetic drug and a traditional discovered drug – alone and in combination. I filled dozens of plastic honeycombs with growth media, drugs, and bacteria in gradated amounts, drop by drop. I incubated these and recorded effective dosages.
The work would drive me crazy today. Hours and hours of drip, drip, drip. And if your hand shook when you sealed the honeycombs shut with big bands of tape, you sanitized the area and started all over.
But I loved that work then. And I felt at home in the lab, both because of the work and because of the people. The boss, who worked right beside us, was Waheed Khan, a gentle, soft-spoken Pakistani who had enormous patience. He never showed any frustration with my mistakes and he was jubilant when I got good, clean results. His chief assistant was a slight Indian woman who asked me questions about my work and about growing up in the U.S. She also shared her tea with me, even teaching me the best way to make it. I’d make two cups one day, and she’d make two on another.
A college kid added spice to the mix. “Jesus Christ Superstar” was big then. He was Jewish, and he wanted me to explain it all, song by song. He also wanted to know everything about the hospital, and he wanted a companion, so I found myself leaving the lab with him from time to time. We sat through lectures with lots of gross pictures, but also one that was rather risqué, illustrated by what the doctor called “entries from the Chicago Journal of Surface Anatomy,” i.e., Playboy. We sat in the waiting room and witnessed the heartrending combination of poverty, children in need, and bureaucracy. He even wrangled an invitation for us to witness an autopsy, and I was willing to go until I found out the subject was a baby. I turned down that trip, I think wisely.
All the things I was exposed to at Children’s during my teenage years paid off later. The culture of research, the ways of thinking, the different accents and cultures, and seeing the connection between methodical work in the lab and people in need. When I faced long hours in refrigerated rooms or stank of disinfectant or struggled with strange accents and attitudes, I was prepared. I knew I could handle it, and something good would result.
by Nancy Hardy
In my mid-teens to early twenties, I was obsessed with movies, and would make every effort I could to see all of the Academy Award nominees before Oscar night. At one point, I even dreamed of becoming a film director (well, I still do, but that’s a completely different post for a day in the distant future.) When my peers were fawning over rock stars, I idolized the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Kenneth Branagh.
With age, career, and children, my time commitments have grown to nearly insurmountable proportions, and I see fewer and fewer Oscar nominees before the big night with each passing year. Of the nine Best Picture nominees, I’ve seen one. ONE. And that was Gravity. Of these nominees, the only one that focused primarily on romantic relationships was director Spike Jonze’s Her. It’s an unconventional love story about…well, you should just take a look for yourself.
The sweetest romance I saw at the movies this year was surprisingly in an animated film (or maybe not surprising, because that’s what I see on the big screen the most these days, with two daughters under age seven in tow.) The leads in Despicable Me 2 are voiced masterfully by Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig. Their voices are so good together in this film, you could see them having some terrific on-screen chemistry in a live action film (maybe I need to check out Anchorman 2?) This clip shows that sizzle:
Although one of the minions has a different idea of how this love story should go:
Despicable Me 2 is nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar.
The Great Gatsby, the sprawling Baz Luhrmann-directed Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle is of course based on the classic novel of the same name, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. While I still argue the merits of the book’s “love story” (I think most of the characters were more in love with money-or the idea of it-than in love with any single person,) the film looks romantic. Credit that to the sumptuous costume design and lush production design that characterize many a Luhrmann film. The Great Gatsby is nominated in both of these categories.
And while A Room with a View is long removed from its Oscar glory (it released in the U.S. in 1986,) I must include it for the sheer romanticism of THE KISS. It’s been one of my favorite movies since I was 15. Enjoy this short clip!
Bonuses: The film is based on a fabulous book, and it was the first movie I ever saw with Daniel Day-Lewis. Oh, and Maggie Smith!
So tell me, what are some of your favorite romantic Oscar-nominated or -winning films?
by R. R. Smythe
The following is an interview by the lovely Dana Brantley Seiders. You can visit her at http://www.dbsieders.wordpress.com/
I am delighted to welcome Brynn Chapman to my blog.
Brynn is a fellow member of team Aponte Literary, represented by our wonderful agent Victoria Lea, and I recently had the great pleasure of reading her YA Fantasy Romance, Where Bluebirds Fly. Now I’m not normally a fan of YA, but Verity Montague is such a unique and compelling heroine that I was captivated from the get-go. Forget typical teen angst (mean girl peers, boyfriend woes, my-parents-don’t-understand-me), Verity is a young woman forced to grow up fast during a time when survival was a struggle and neighbors could turn enemy without warning. She has to conform and protect her brother, her only remaining family and a young man for whom conformity is an even greater struggle. Her fight to protect him leads her through time and to an equally compelling hero, one who shares her unique gifts.
Verity Montague and her brother John have secrets. They’re different from their fellows in 17th Century Salem, and in this time of paranoia and suspicion, difference is a death sentence. When they can no longer hide their strange way of perceiving the world, not to mention the injustice of the persecution that surrounds them, they are condemned as witches. Their only chance to escape is a mysterious portal through time.
Truman Johnstone has dedicated his life to helping children with autism, giving them the love and support he never had during his own troubled childhood. When he hears a desperate cry for help one dark night, he answers without question. But saving a beautiful girl from the past puts his sanity in question and his orphanage for troubled youths in jeopardy. Can the unusual traits they share save them?
Thanks for being here with me today, Brynn! I was fascinated by your spin on witch hunts, a very dark spot in American history. Sadly, in troubled times, the ugliest part of human nature often leads us to target those who are different as scapegoats. In this case, indentured servants Verity and John are singled out because of their unique way of perceiving the world. Can you tell us more about the phenomenon of synesthesia and what inspired you to use it in your story?
I first heard of the phenomenon on NPR, and as is my way, proceeded to devour several books on the subject (the man who tasted shapes and others) I then went on the cognitive neuroscience boards and interviewed people who had it—their experiences, how it affected their daily lives to try and be accurate in my representation.
Heres a handy-dandy neuroscience video
I very much enjoyed the setting for your story, rich in historical detail. Looking at some of your other work, you seem drawn both the distant past and an imagined not-too-distant future (e.g. Project Mendel). How do you decide (or how do your characters tell you) where/when your stories take place?
Hmm. I am fascinated with all things historical—anywhere from 1700 to 1930 is typically where I write. My father was a history teacher and used to drag me to historical sites all over America—which I hated—which I now love.
Most of my favorite paranormal stories blend elements based in fact/science seamlessly with the supernatural to create a setting just one or two shades shy of reality. You do that quite well – how extensively is your research for each story and how do you approach it?
I’m one of those obsessive researchers. I went to Salem and experienced every historical tour I could find, wandered through the graveyards. Read and have extensive tomes on the subject. I’m very Aspergerian in my research obsessions.
So… the ending of Where Bluebirds Fly just screams sequel. Any hints of what’s next in the Synesthesia-Shift Series?
WHY yes. Why don’t we just do the cover reveal for Requiem Red! Look for it in March or April of this year. Book Two in the Synesthesia Shift Series. What I can tell you—is it takes place in a 18th century asylum…and that I am going to tour and do a photoshoot at one such asylum next month.
Random question just for fun – dark chocolate or milk?
Neither, allergic. Bummer, I know.
How do you balance life and writing (yes, I’m always looking for advice on that!)?
Ug. I have to write in fits and spurts. Luckily, I do write fast—so days off, holidays, evenings, weekends—wherever I can fit it in.
Top three absolute favorite fantasy books?
I’m just going to give you my favorite of late. They seem to change every few years.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Entwined, and Matched stand out in my mind today.
Thank you so much for the wonderful interview.
by Lora Bailey
Today’s Thoughtful Thursday is about Gratitude. What makes us grateful? What bonuses in every day life make it worthwhile to keep on going – to work, to the gym, to the grocer, to the laundromat? This time of year with all the snow, ice and cold it’s more important now than ever to remember to be grateful.
One fun way I discovered to track my thanks is so simple it’s laughable – a Gratitude Jar!
Isn’t it unusual for such a low-tech item to be so popular? When I saw my first one, I thought, ‘now seriously, isn’t there an iPhone app for this?’ Maybe it’s time for us to get back to basics.
So I jumped in. Here’s my jar at the start of the year:
Assuming you have one too, what types of notes will you include in yours? I’m sure I’m not the only one beginning with high-end ideas, such as I’m grateful for family, health, friends, etc. (See, there are already some notes in there!) But,
Aren’t we all grateful for those things?
Let’s get real. I find myself saying “thank-you” out loud when the slow moving vehicle in front of mine turns off, especially when it happens on the morning I’m running late for work.
During the messy, busy days of real life, what else makes us stop and offer a word or thought of thanks?
- Finding the car keys
- Perma-press garments – who irons anymore?
- A strong wi-fi connection
- Bathroom tissue – think about it
- Skinny Girl cocktails, or cocktails in general
- The “hide” command on Facebook
- Whenever my husband cooks dinner (and does dishes)
- Heated seats in my new car (especially this year!)
- My manicurist
What about you? Please share what makes you stop a moment say “thanks!”
My first experience with the consequences of drinking and the only time I was ever chastised for being drunk occured during senior year. I was part of the cast of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Ironically, I hadn’t had anything to drink (or done any drugs). Still I have to admit I was high.
The chemistry of the stage is like no other. I’ve been involved in a small way in drama in recent years as a playwright, director, and stage manager, but it was all new to me in high school. Big personalities, adrenaline, nerves, characters, cues, and the electricity between audiences and players come together to connect people, tear them apart, and reveal quirks in ways that are otherwise inconceivable.
Unlike my star turn in the German Club film, I was not a headliner in our musical. I was a bit player in the chorus. Nevertheless, I enjoyed getting into the role. Too much at times, since I was supposed to be a snooty aristocrat. My bread and butter ad libs were bizarre and callous as I complained about the “little people.” The girl with whom I was paired reined me in since my comments alternated between making her want to break character by laughing or by punching me out. We had a safe sign that told me to cool it – her bared teeth.
Over the course of months of preparation, rehearsals became intense. Evenings and eventually Saturdays were taken over. One Saturday, two friends and I crossed the street to grab hot dogs at the White Castle. If you asked for all the condiments, you could get enough food for a dollar to avoid hunger, and that’s what we did. Two pounds of pickles, mustard, ketchup, mayo, kraut, and peppers piled on a hot dog kept body and soul together.
Other cast members went off in cars and found fast food elsewhere. Some even went to real restaurants. (One girl’s father owned, arguably, the fanciest restaurant in town.)
When we came back from our hot dog run, we found a party going on. There were no refreshments, but there was plenty of singing, loud talk, and laughter. It was silly, and I have a weakness for silliness. I jumped right in, assuming accents, cracking jokes, and being outrageous. It was fun for me, but whether cast members, including some who had never shown an interest in me, were laughing with me or at me is a mystery.
I only discovered all was not as it appeared when our director showed up and called for silence. He proceeded to dress us down for our behavior. I felt pretty bad until he started to talk about how unprofessional it was to drink before rehearsals and performances were over.
I was high on silliness, but I may have been the only sober person in full party mode. (My hot-dog-eating friends had not participated. They were serious people.) Luckily, our director gave us ten minutes to pull ourselves together, and we went back to work. No calls were made to parents, and he never brought it up again.
by DT Krippene
People ask me where I get my story ideas. Like everyone else, I answer, seeing something, hearing something, being somewhere. To be honest, though, my best ideas come at that brief moment at predawn, between sleep and consciousness. I like to call it Twilight Zoning, a cooler name for Stage 5 or REM sleep.
I’ve known Mary Strand since 2005 and I have to say — I’ve NEVER regretted the moment I met and got to know her. If you follow her humorous escapades on FB, you’ll know that MANY people feel that way. Mary is funny and fun, and one of the most focused and goal-oriented people I know (she’ll laugh but it’s true). Because of that, she has realized the publishing dream she’s been chasing a while now.
Mary’s debut novel COOPER’S FOLLY (a Golden Heart winning book) was released by Belle Bridge Books this week–the story of a lawyer-become-Nanny. Twist: Cooper is a man. Looking for a change in dreams. She’s here to tell us the story behind the story. I’m so pleased to introduce my friend, and Hugh Jackman’s secret–or not-so-secret–FB lover, Mary Strand!
Hi Musers! Now I’ve got “All I Have to Do Is Dream” as sung by the Everly Brothers playing nonstop in my head, and maybe you do, too. (Hey, at least it’s not Justin Bieber. You’re welcome.) But life is, to me, about the dreams you have for yourself and what you do with them. Read the rest of this entry »
Most of my experience of the neighborhood around Gonzaga was as an observer. Day-to-day life in poverty was on full display outside the windows of the school, complete with shouting, crying, and laughing.
My direct experience early on was confined to being jumped twice. In one case, I was trapped in the boys room by a couple of locals, but Coach Joe Kozik arrived in the nick of time to chase them away.
The second time was more alarming. I’d stepped between the Notre Dame building and a raised parking lot, and five or six kids were literally on me, grabbing my legs and arms, one hanging on my back, hands in my pockets.
Luckily the biggest one was only about thirteen. He leaned in within an inch of my face and told me to give him all my money. I needed my money to get home, so I yelled, “Hey, get off of me you punks!”
I knew people were not far away. A friend, Max, came running to my rescue almost instantly. Max was not a big guy, but he was tall. And he came at us with a demonic smile on his face that I can still see. The swarm of kids scattered.
A much better relationship with the neighborhood came later, when the school opened up the opportunity to tutor at the local grade school, thanks to a request from the mayor’s wife, Bennetta Washington. Gonzaga was helping to repair the riot-damaged city in a number of ways. Father Horace McKenna founded So Others Might Eat. The Jesuit community was involved in new housing, Sursum Corda. Eventually, an experiment began that put local seventh and eighth graders into our school.
By the time the tutoring program began, I’d been toughened up by regular travel into the “riot corridor” to do research, but it was nice to have escorted transit to and from the grade school. It was also nice that we had Notre Dame girls tutoring along side us. Any contact with this alluring, mysterious sex was welcome.
The kids were the best part. Eager and polite. I mostly helped with basic math, so nothing was too tough for me. My lack of teaching skills was saved by the friendship that grew up quickly. By the third class, I had bought a box of gold stars to put on their papers when we had them complete and correct. I always liked getting those stars when I was little. I didn’t bring them so much to encourage the kids as to say thank you to them for delighting me.
The fun could be tinged with confusion and sorrow. One of the Notre Dame girls was asked by a student how many “babies” she had. When she said none, trust was broken. I think the student thought she was being lied to. And the two never worked together again. One week I taught a soft-spoken girl who had horrible scars on one arm and one leg. It looked like she had been scalded with a pot of boiling water, and I could vividly imagine the pain. She worked up with me for lessons several weeks in a row, but I never asked her about what happened.
I think we all had hope that we’d make a difference. So Others Might Eat continues its good work, but Sursum Corda imploded in the crack cocaine epidemic. The program for seventh and eighth graders ended, but maybe our tutoring did some good. It certainly gave me a fresh and enduring views of neighbors, in the environs Eye Street and beyond.