Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Please meet Melinda Skye! Her debut novel Misdirection is now available as an e-book and will be out in print format in August.

1.     Tell us about your new release, Misdirection.

-        Misdirection is a novel I wrote way back in 2003 as my senior thesis in college. For the full story, see my guest post at:  After I graduated, I sort of put it away while getting on in the real world and only just recently pulled it back out to look at it. I’d written a couple other books in the meantime, and learned a lot about publishing along the way and decided to give Misdirection a chance.  I had to completely re-work it, after so many years the technology was humorously out of date.  But with some help I got it all fixed up and now everyone gets to read it!
-        It’s a romantic suspense novel, where the main characters are spies for a covert government agency. They think they’re on the trail of a thief, but instead uncover a terrorist plot. Even though they start out not wanting to work as partners, eventually they get to understand each other and work well together. For a more official description (one that I spent a lot of time working on!) see:

2.     You also write a fantasy series, Sisters of the Sword under the name Skye Forbes. Does that make you feel a bit schizoid?

-        Some days, yeah.  I try and separate the two out and not work on both in one day, to make thing easier for me.  Fortunately, the two styles are so completely different that at least I don’t get characters or plots confused. The Sisters of the Sword are urban fantasy novels, focused on Norse mythology. The heroines are the nine Valkyries and they interact with creatures and people from all different mythologies.  I really love the paranormal aspect of it, since that’s some of my favorite stuff to read.

3.     Tell us about your plans for future books, or books you dream of writing one day.

-        Right now, I’m in the middle of working on the sequel to Misdirection, tentatively called Misconception. It’s going to feature Griff, a minor character in Misdirection, as the hero of his own book.  Also underway is another of the Sisters of the Sword series.  And if that weren’t enough, I’m working on a screenplay with my critique/writing partner, the lovely Sonja Foust (  I’d love to write a YA novel someday – I have a couple of plots floating around in my mind that I think would suit a teenage heroine, so now I just need to find the time to work on them!  For me, it’s really a matter of not having enough free time to get to all the books I want to write.  Having a day job can be a real drag!

4.     What part of yourself did you include in the characters (hobbies, attitudes, background)?

-        I’m told Viv, the heroine in Misdirection, talks a lot like I do.  I didn’t really intend to make her like me, but I was pretty new to writing at the time I created her.  When I was younger, I really wanted to be a spy, so that’s sort of how the job and plot came to be. Otherwise, I try and make the characters stand alone. Especially in my Sisters of the Sword series, I don’t have much connection to an immortal Valkyrie.  But Viv definitely is more of a reflection of myself. I love romance novels, can’t stand people who make assumptions about me before they’ve even met me, and don’t have any tolerance for stupidity.  I wish I knew more about growing up wealthy and gorgeous is Boston high society, but alas, that part is made up.  I try and make my characters accessible to everyone, even if you aren’t a spy or a sword-wielding Valkyrie. 

5.     What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favorite?

-        I love creating new worlds and new people. I constantly think about plot lines and characters and whole new worlds and I love sharing those things with people.  I just love words, in general. I was an English major in college and a lot of that grammar/reading nerdiness has stuck with me.  In general, I just love books, whether I’m creating them or reading them.  I also love the writer community. There are so many wonderful people out there that I’ve gotten to know through writing. 
-        My biggest pet peeve about the whole thing is the glacially slow pace of the publishing industry.  There has to be some way to streamline the industry.  I’d love to make it all a little bit more efficient.  At least there are great people out there to make the waiting easier!  I also sometimes wish I could both spend time with my husband/friends AND write at the same time. But I work better without distractions, so I have to balance my time, which can be a drag, sometimes.

6.     What was the last book you read?

-        I’m currently re-reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series in anticipation of his new book coming out in July.  I love his novels – he’s an incredible author.  After I finish that up, I’m planning on reading Ilona Andrews’ newest book.

7.     Do you have a favorite genre?

-        I’m pretty flexible, as long as I know it’s going to have a happy ending.  I most often gravitate, these days, to science fiction/fantasy books, but I still love romance and mysteries.  I rarely read “literature” these days, thanks to an overdose in college of depressing books, but there are still some great books out there that I pick up every once in a while.

8.     Please share a favorite quote with us.

-        “Some books leave us free and some books make us free.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here's more about Melinda:

In accordance with multiple confidentiality agreements, Melinda Skye would like to affirm that the events in this book bear no
resemblance to her life. None at all. She swears she lives a mundane quiet life in Portland, Oregon with her husband
and their menagerie of crazy pets and does not fly off to Paris at a moment's notice to avert international disasters. And that wasn't her you saw on the plane to Istanbul.

Follow Melinda at:

Sunday, June 26, 2011


A huge Book Blather welcome to the multi-talented Jen Paros. She not only writes the books, she illustrates them as well, truly a miracle to yours truly who was born with five thumbs on each hand. I had the pleasure of meeting Jen at a recent writers' conference and alway enjoy her thoughful posts at Author Magazine. She graciously agreed to share her latest essay on the futility of "trying too hard." Welcome, Jen.

Be As Perfect As You Are:  
No Strain, All Gain
By Jennifer Paros

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are." - Malcom Forbes                                                                                                

Lately, I have been working on unraveling my impulse to try harder, along with an addiction to feeling strained and stressed – as though these conditions are true indicators of putting in proper effort and guaranteeing desired results. I love to write and draw, but when the work is marked with heavy effort it becomes chore-like, a signal that I am attempting to outrun fear and insecurity by trying harder.

When I was a child, I wanted to be pretty the way I thought some other girls were pretty.  I took to getting different haircuts to try and achieve “pretty”.  But each haircut led to a greater sense of hopelessness.  I felt jealous of the girls for whom being pretty seemed easy - and undeniably separated from what I wanted.

One day, while tagging along with a schoolmate, Liz – who had long, thick, straight blond hair – we stopped by her home and I watched as she went to the bathroom mirror and pinned her bangs back with small clips and put the rest in a ponytail.  I stood in awe of her comfort with her own reflection, with her hair, with the choices she was making.

At the time, this just reinforced my envy.  But, in truth, it wasn’t her looks of which I was jealous. It was how unburdened her relationship to her physical image was, while my own was loaded down with a thousand stories of not being good enough.  I wanted to be free like Liz and thought it was her appearance that had freed her, rather than her thinking.

I was in a place of perpetual “trying” – consistently expending effort with the underlying expectation of failure. I thought I was striving for something, but the truth was, I was pulling against a negative.  The expectation of failure existed because I had already judged myself as not good enough, and so my eyes were always looking for “evidence” for my case – and finding it no matter what actions I took.

This is what trying too hard is.  It is effortful, pressure-filled, tinged with a bit of desperation and generally unsatisfying.  Any victories gained become drained of their glory soon enough by the fear that fueled the untrusting approach in the first place.

"The myth of 'no pain, no gain' is prevalent in our society. My philosophy is a bit simpler: 'no pain, no pain.'"... Michel Neill 

Recently, I saw a video of a little girl drawing.  First, the girl rifles through postcards of reproductions of artwork, then chooses one.  Propping it up beside her, she takes out a clean piece of paper and begins drawing from the picture.  As someone who draws regularly, it was liberating to watch her.  She was matter-of-fact about the whole thing, judging neither her choices nor their outcomes.  She was just doing what she set out to do.  There was no trying hard, and she was free because of it.

Years ago, in an attempt to point out the folly of being hard on our work and ourselves, a favorite art professor of mine said: “Every line you make is a gift.” She was directing the class’s attention towards reverence for the integrity of making marks on paper specifically, but in a larger sense – for the whole of our experiences and ourselves – beyond any criticism our minds might hold. 

At the time, her words reminded me of what a simple, beautiful act creating can be – much as I was reminded while watching the video of that little girl. Much as I could have been reminded watching my childhood friend create her expression at the mirror, had I not been trying so hard to get something already available inside me.

A vantage point of reverence is invaluable.  In its light, trying too hard drops away in deference for the truth that everything is intrinsically and easily whole and complete as it is.  It means we already “have it”. There is no “fixing” because nothing is wrong as it is.  And without the fixing and seeking, there is no trying too hard.  There’s no battle against self or the world and no striving outside of us.  Now we’re looking within for what we want, revering it and inviting it to come forward for full expression.

Jennifer Paros is a writer and artist, author of the children’s book Violet Bing and the Grand House, and montly contributor to Author Magazine 

 She wrote her first children's novel in college and then started studying visual arts in order to illustrate her stories.  Jennifer enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction and and strives for all of her work to communicate our intrinsic value and power.  She lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons and hopes you'll visit her, her pictures, articles, and blog at

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oh, Horrors!

Recently back from an idlyllic getaway on the island of Madeira, revived, rested and raring to go, foreign correspondent, Sue Roebuck shares her recent interview with author, Julia Kavan originally published on Sue's blog, Laurecea.

                 The horror awaits, shadows hover, succubi and incubi lurk. Boy oh boy, I'm still on my new favorite subject.

I'm seriously thinking of experimenting with the horror genre. And why? Because ever since I read Stephen King's The Shining or watched the film The Exorcist (and didn't sleep for a week after), I've hankered after horror, paranormal, supernatural stories. Yes, it does take me some time to get a clue, I admit it.

But if I'm going to write in this genre, I need to glean titbits from people in the "know". That's why I've invited author of horror stories Julia Kavan here today. I'm going to try and get into her mind (evil laughter).                                              

Julia Kavan is one of those writers that you know is going to be a success. I feel it in my water LOL. And, more importantly, I've read some of her stories. 

Let me give you some insight into why I say this: she’s different, she’s consistent, and she doesn’t waste words. Take a look at her blog: and you’ll see what I mean. Don’t those pictures just send you into a darker, even-more-sinister world than we live in now?

Julia’s writing definitely errs on the dark-side which is no understatement if you read her Dreaming Not Sleeping , published on Jan 14 2011 by Etopia Press.  It terrified me into leaving the light on all night.

I asked her if I could get into her mind and she told me to be careful because it's very scary in there.  So if you have a thing for spooky/psychological horror, then Julia is just the girl for you! 
Welcome Julia to Lauracea. I’m shivering as I write that short summary of your story. But I have to admit, I had to read it until the very end – it was so absorbing.

 Sue: What is it about your chosen genre that fascinates you so much?

Julia: I’ve always loved ghost stories, both real and fictional. As a kid I sought out anything to do with the unexplained and the mysterious... I like to be intrigued.   I could always be found in either the esoteric or Horror/SciFi sections of bookshops... and nothing has changed really. Sue: I love the pictures you choose to publish on your website. But they're usually dark and mysterious. Is this how you'd describe yourself?

Julia : I am a little dark, but I don’t think I’m particularly mysterious... I like dark images – I have books of HR Giger artwork, and my favourite painting is L’Umana Fragilita by Salvatore Rosa. The painting hangs in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and I go and see it every so often.

Sue: Have you dreamt anything similar to the woman in your story “Dreaming Not Sleeping?

Julia: I’m a vivid dreamer and often wake still feeling whatever was happening in my dream. “Dreaming” came about through a combination of things – a walk in the forest, some random graffiti on a tree, the music in the car going home – all combined with my experience of intense, and sometimes lucid, dreaming.

Sue: Do you ever get spooked?

Julia: I’m pretty good at spooking myself, but never anywhere you would expect to find creepy! I find mirrors in darkened rooms scary – something I’ve used in another short story, and I also avoid looking out of windows at night... no, no idea why....Sue: Your new novel “Reflections” is nearly ready for publication. Tell us about your writing process.

Julia: It tends to vary for each work in progress. Reflections is a supernatural mystery that started as a short story, but when I started thinking about the motives behind the things the main character was doing a bigger story began to emerge. The novel is about finding missing people – and also identifying human remains, in order for them to be returned home. In Reflections we get to hear from the ‘lost’, as well as those trying to solve their mysteries. I used multiple points of view – and enjoyed getting to know how each of the characters ticked. I have  photographs and notes and random paragraphs in a big folder. My MC is a forensic artist and I had to research that – so have clippings and emails from various experts.
My latest project is more about psychological horror. It’s written in first person and the main character finds herself trapped in a real life nightmare. I can find writing like this quite intense, as I have a tendency to put myself in my characters shoes, and sometimes their frame of mind for particular scenes. My writing flows in a completely different way – and I don’t edit those sections too much – I hope the ‘rawness’ adds something.
I have nothing to go on for this novel – no real outline, no character profiles or photos, just some sketched out ideas and seeing what the character does – if there is such a technique as extreme pantsing then that’s what I’m doing.

I was lucky enough to be at home full time when I was writing “Reflections” – I also wrote four ninety-minute screenplays at the same time – I would write for eight hours a day, and then more late at night. However I could also go for weeks at a time without going near the computer, particularly if I wasn’t teaching. Now I work in a hospital for four hours a day – then still do eight hours either writing, editing or researching. With a growing circle of writing friends on the internet I have managed to keep myself at the computer more consistently than ever.
Sue: You are a creative-writing tutor. What advice do you give your students who are tending towards your favorite genre?

Julia: I tell them to read. A lot. And to see what aspects of a story affect them. They should experiment and not worry too much about ‘rules’.
Strangely, I haven’t had many students working in the direction of horror – I get a lot of people who have no idea what they want to write and enjoy trying different genres. Luckily I am usually teaching on the run up to Halloween – so have the perfect excuse to get them to have a go at writing a ghost story. Even those that wouldn’t have considered writing something like that seem to enjoy the exercise – and are quite surprised by it!

Sue: What are your favorite books and which ones do you recommend for fans of your genre?

Julia: I rediscovered The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker earlier this year – and love it. I’d recommend that to everyone. I also read Peter Straub and have recently picked up Neil Gaiman – try his short story, “Tastings”.
I used to have a massive collection of horror novels – sadly lack of space forced me to part with it, but I hope to build a new collection on my Kindle! I’ve already started, with fellow Etopian author, Steve Emmett’s “Diavolino” – a more traditional horror/ thriller, and I’m on the look out for more new horror writers to add alongside the well established authors.  I do find I experiment a bit more with ebooks – not always sticking to what I know. I use the sample facility a lot, and have had some surprises. I always look at the Horror section first though – I said nothing  has changed! Even in the world of ebooks that’s where you’ll find me!

Watch out for Julia in the future and, as a foretaste, I recommend Dreaming not Sleeping as a must read.

Thanks Julia for stopping by today. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to post them here and I'll be your friend for life. If you don't, I'll set Julia on you!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Me 'n Dad

I like stories that come full circle, stories I read and stories I write. I particularly like it when life and love intersect in a satisfying way.This blog is about the two men in my life I'll always love. My biological father and the father of my children.

I wasted too many years being angry at my father. That’s what we did back then. Blamed our parents for everything that went wrong with our lives. My rant went like this: Would it have killed him to show some affection? An occasional hug would have been nice. And, did he have to be so judgmental? Yeah, I was stubborn (a chip off the old block) and a bit rebellious, but isn't every kid?

Then, older and wiser, I realized, without him, I’d have never become a happily married woman with three sons and a published author. Happily, he lived to see the first two events. The last occurred after his death but Dad definitely sowed the seeds that resulted in my writing career.

My earliest memory is not of “I love you” endlessly repeated each time we hung up the phone or parted company. No, I remember being four year’s old, sitting on my father’s lap as he read to me. Alice In Wonderland was his favorite and mine as well. Actually, anything he chose to read to me was my favorite because I had his undivided attention. Books were the glue that held our family together.

Next comes the happily married part. My childhood longing to be loved by my father led me to seek out a man who shared his qualities. At age eighteen (yes, I know eighteen’s much too young) I met my future husband who not only embodied the best characteristics of my father, but gave and continues to bless me with the unconditional love I’d been seeking all my life. And, trust me, I‘m not that easy to love.

Though my father wasn’t warm and fuzzy, he gave me gifts I’ll always cherish. An inquiring mind. A thirst for knowledge. The love of books. My only regret is that I never thanked him for those gifts. So, Dad, are you listening? Without you, I'd have travelled a far different path. Your grateful daughter thanks you from the bottom of her heart. May you rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Madeira through the eyes of Sue Roebuck

Where do writers go to recharge their batteries? If your name is Sue Roebuck and you live in Portugal, you go to the magical island of Madeira. Scroll down for Sue's post.

The Island of Madeira

Planning a trip to Madeira? The travel guides tell you to take a look at the Botanical Gardens, go on a levada hike, take in a couple of rounds of golf, visit Camara de Lobos where Winston Churchill painted and, without fail, take the toboggan-ride down the steep hill from Monte. If you survive this last activity, bearing in mind that the toboggan has no brakes and relies totally on the well worn soles of two men dressed in white and wearing boaters, you should feel fairly satisfied at the end of your week or so on Madeira. You and thousands of other tourists. 

But picture this scenario instead: there’s no-one about in this verdant landscape. The only sounds are a trickle of running water, the rumble of a waterfall in the distance, and the bisbis chirp of a little bird that’s been accompanying you along this forest dirt track which is partially obscured by ferns as tall as you. Fog swirls through the thick canopy of bright green, fleshy leaves and branches of the hardwoods way above you, some reaching as high as forty meters. Moisture plops down onto the giant heather bushes and the fragrant Lily of the Valley tree beside you, shaking its pretty white flowers which in turn sprinkle moisture down onto yet another endemic species, a purple-flowering orchid. You wonder if you could starve out here, but there is an abundance of edible fruit especially the uveira da serra with its blue-black berries. This Madeira bilberry or blueberry is revered by the local people for its medical properties. In fact, the natural medicines in this forest could fill a pharmacy and you’ll find a range of cures from healing wounds to purifying blood (by using oil made from the fleshy bay tree fruits)

Suddenly a large bird breaks from the laurel foliage above. It makes you jump, although it’s more afraid of you. It looks like a pigeon but it’s bigger and has a white tail. You’re right – it is a pigeon, the long toed-pigeon, and this is the only place you’ll find it. Just like that little brown and orange butterfly settling on a yellow foxglove. And just duck for a moment, otherwise you’ll become entangled in the old-man’s beard lichen and moss that hangs from the foggy canopy of the Madeiran mahogany trees and Canarian laurels, indigenous species from the Lauraceae family.

You’ve read about this place in Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species”. Apparently, when he studied the species he received from Madeira he found the flora and fauna here as fascinating as that of the Galapagos.

So where are you? You’re in the ancient Laurissilva Forest, declared in 1999 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once, Laurissilva forests covered much of southern Europe but glacial activity lowered temperatures and wiped the forests out. Now, remnants only survive on the Canary Islands, the Azores and Madeira Island. There are important areas in Tenerife, Gomera and La Palma but it’s in Madeira where the largest still exists. Here the forest covers 21% of the island, 16,000 hectares and it’s a veritable paradise for its abundance of species.

Yet, despite its beauty, the forest has its enemies and Man tops the list. Over the centuries we have constantly cut into the forest, taking the valuable hardwoods for export, for firewood, or for making excellent furniture, for

building. Non-indigenous species have been introduced, such as mimosas and eucalyptus, which are infiltrating and stifling the flora, and consequently, the fauna. The forest in the Azores, for example, was almost dissipated thanks to the Pittosporum undulatum (sweet pittosporum) and cryptomerias which grew like weeds. And as for the forest fires in Madeira, well…

So how does this unique forest repay us for our treatment of it? By capturing the much-needed moisture, absorbing it and channeling it to the streams and rivers, thus preventing flooding.

But do the Madeirenses (as the people of Madeira are called) appreciate just what a jewel they have on their island? They certainly do. After all, they say, Man is part of nature too and therefore we should be able to relate with the natural world.

Dr. Raimundo Quintal, Chairman of the Friends of the Ecological Park of Funchal Association (Associação dos Amigos do Parque Ecológico do Funchal) is just one of the people who firmly believes in this. He assured me that with properly trained forest guides, anyone can follow the specially formed trails and enjoy what is rightfully theirs without damaging it. It’s just a question of attitude, that’s all.

If you’re interested (as I am) in this natural phenomenon, take a look at the Park’s blog: . I know it’s in Portuguese but you’ll get an idea of how they’re trying to preserve Madeira’s nature just from the fantastic pictures.

My thanks to Mr. Quintal for his time and for allowing me to use his photographs on this page.

If this hasn’t convinced you to visit the Laurissilva in the hills, then by all means take the toboggan-ride. I just hope you won’t be inspecting too closely the remarkable scarlet flowers cascading over the wall at the third blind, slippery bend.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


1. Regan, you are such a prolific writer. Tell us a little about your journey to publication and your first sale.

I feel like it’s pretty dull.  I was doing copy editing for a small press and got to know one of the authors, Jewell Adams.  Jewell was getting ready to do what she calls a kick butt week where you commit to doing 1,000 words a day for 7 days. She encouraged me to join with her group and I figured it would be fun to do – but never expected anything to come from it.  I kept going after that initial week and wrote my first book which the publisher I was doing the copy edits for signed.  I know I had a much easier time that most people and appreciate the help I had along the way.
2.    I know you have a full time job in addition to writing. How do you find time to write?

I will aim for 1,000 words a day on work days and between 2,000 and 3,000 on each of my weekend days.  It’s a discipline as well as something I do for myself.  I don’t have human children – my cats are pretty easy to take care of. They can be demanding, but don’t require as much one on one time so most days I have that hour or so for myself.
3. Do you have an upcoming release? How about sharing a blurb with us?
Yup! The Photograph is coming out with Awe-struck this month. I love this story mainly because it features one of my cats, MaiTai as one of the two heroes “Taister”. 

My heroine, Carrie, is an avid romance reader. She devours books like they are going out of style. She hasn’t had the best of luck in her own love life, but hope springs eternal – after all, that’s what the books say, right?

And then she meets the man of her dreams:  Would you brave time and space to be with the one you love?

4. Do you have a favorite genre?

I love both reading and writing time travels, particularly westerns. I know that the old west wasn’t the easiest time for women in particular, but there is still a certain romance to it.  With time travel you can go anywhere, anytime and meet anyone you want. You can also be in any genre you want by where you elect to go.

5. Most writers are avid readers. What are you reading right now?

I am! It changes pretty much every other day. I have an hour commute each way to work and despite having some fantastic “bus friends” (people I see pretty much every day on the bus who are all pretty social), I still have time to do quite a bit of reading. I’m fortunate in that I usually read 2-3 books a week. Most recently I read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and am currently reading Adrienne Barbeau’s Vampyres of Hollywood.  Not my usual fare because Ms. Harkness writes fantasy with vampires, witches, deamons and ghosts and clearly Ms. Barbaeu’s is vampire. That said, Vampyres of Hollywood is a wonderfully witty, totally camp book that’s an easy read that has you smiling through it.
Thanks for having me! I look forward to talking to you again soon.

For more about Regan Taylor and her books, visit

4 Bean Salad from Chef Jean

I’m offering you a ‘two-fer’ today ~ Four-Bean Salad uses 1/2 of the cans of vegetables and who wants dibs and dabs of bowls growing penicillin in the frig. The recipe for Four-Bean Pantry soup uses the leftover beans and ingredients we all usually have in our pantries.
Four-Bean Salad

You’ll only need 1/2 a can of each of the vegetables ~ the other half of the beans can be added to green salads, a pasta dish, or the Four-Bean Pantry soup, recipe below.

Salad:                                                           Dressing:
2/3 cup (1/2 can) garbanzo beans, rinse and drain                                   1 T. Crema di Balsamico
2/3 cup (1/2 can) Cannellini beans, rinse and drain                                      or Balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup (1/2 can) kidney beans, rinse and drain                             2 tsp. Extra-Virgin Olive oil
2/3 cup green beans, fresh or frozen, cut in bite size pieces           1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 medium sized carrot peeled and chop or grate                          1 T. water
1/2 bell pepper, chopped                                                    
Rinse and drain the garbanzo, cannellini and kidney beans and put in a serving bowl with the green beans. Add the carrot and bell pepper; set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard and water. Toss with the bean salad at serving time. Makes 6   1/2-cup portions.