Tuesday, July 31, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow, wow, and triple wow! I absolutely love Deena, even though I can see why her family thinks she's uptight and uppity. But gosh, I can so relate to her as someone who never really belonged anywhere, always an outsider, always at arms length, and unable to let fly and be herself.
In steps confident, brash, and hedonistic Tak Takumi, who just happens to be Deena's boss's playboy son. Charming, rich, and NICE, Tak sweeps Deena off her feet in a whirlwind romantic tour around the United States. He indulges her, caters to her, understands her and puts up with her insecurities.
While Deena's busy proving her architectural genius to Tak's father and hiding Tak from her family craziness, she inadvertently hurts Tak, the source of her newfound confidence and well-being by denying him the validation he needs. Tak is pushed to the limits of his tolerance and love, and in one explosive moment, Deena comes face to face with life without him.
This story was multi-faceted in so many ways. Both families were mixed up and dysfunctional in so many ways. Secrets, vendettas, hatred and prejudice, guilt, regret, neglect, and abuse, cruel words, bitterness and the taint of murder simmer in a toxic mix of volatile emotions and riotous scenes.
Deena turns out to be stronger than she thought, and while not everything was resolved (which is as it should be), many relationships were repaired and Deena walks away richer with the love, acceptance and support she always craved.
Ms. Pugh portrayed Deena's family realistically with a touch of humor and a twinge of tragedy. I'm Chinese and that scene where they ragged on Chinese and Buddin' was a crack up. And I'm sorry, but I agree with Grandma Emma when she banged her fist to the table. There's more to say, but I think I'll interview Deena and Grandma Emma on my blog someday.
Other than needing a proofreading, some wrong words and grammatical errors, I rate this book highly. 4.5 stars. If you like the architectural detail you'll swim in it. Otherwise, it could be a bit slow. AND how the heck did they hide out 3 years with nosy relatives like Grandma Emma and Aunt Caroline???
View all my reviews
Monday, July 30, 2012
Realism with a hint of hope. A lot of fantasy is very this-is-good, this-is-evil black and white, and real life just doesn't work that way. No one is out there dressed in all black, spending tens of billions of their hard-earned cash on doomsday devices (not since the Cold War, anyway). Bad guys are motivated by the same things as good guys, and the differences are often only cosmetic. That said, life isn't all bleakness and horror: there's quite a bit of upside to being alive. A relentlessly negative book would probably be relentlessly unreadable. You've got to have that speck of light for any of the darkness to have effect. That's what the best dark fantasy authors do extremely well.
I downloaded your book, Golem. You list it as Horror. Can you give us a bit of background on it?
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I fought the urge for decades. I'd always pictured "writers" as self-absorbed narcissists with an overwrought sense of importance, so I slaved away at trying to be a productive member of society until Dec. 2010, when I finally gave in to my friend's repeated requests and read George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones." I had read Tolkien as a kid and Neil Gaiman in my early 30s, but absolutely zero fantasy other than that up to that point. Martin was different: there were no high-sounding elves with poles up their rears, no cardboard evil wizards or bland one-note heroes slaying entire armies without getting a scratch. To say I was entertained is an understatement: I was inspired: "I can write like this. I *should* write like this." Before I'd finished reading the first book in Martin's series, I was already hard at work starting my own.
That's great! What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I'm blessed to work from home for an online news site, so I can manage my own schedule. My daytimes are full of being a dad to a three year-old girl, so after she goes to sleep, after my full-time work is done and there are no more distractions, I can write in complete silence.
Ah, yes... silence often comes after all are asleep in the household. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I'm a storyteller, and hate literary gimmicks. I just write in a straight-ahead third-person narrative with very little experimentation, no unreliable narrators, no clever wordplay, etc. Those things tend to distract rather than add, and I want the reader as fully immersed in the world of my novel as humanly possible. Anything that reminds the reader that they are reading a book is a big taboo for me. The characters and settings need to be as real as the ones outside for a novel to really work.
Nothing getting in the way of the story, right? How do your books get published? Traditional or Indie?
I tried traditional on my first go-around, and was rejected by 43 of the 43 agents I queried. Going over a list of 100+ fantasy publishing houses, I was shocked to find that only three of them accepted submissions from unknown authors, and that the waiting period for a *possible* callback would be 12 to 18 months (not to mention that 40% of them were out of business... on a list that was just two years old. Imagine that.) Having worked in plenty of other industries that are not on the verge of catastrophic collapse, I couldn't fathom how any of these houses stayed in business. The model itself is sick --if Walmart or Best Buy operated like the publishing industry, they'd be out of business in a week-- and I couldn't justify wasting my time sitting by the phone waiting for some phantom phone call. And that's not even mentioning the horror stories from traditionally published authors regarding titles, cover art, lack of marketing, and editorial direction. So I went indie after two months of waiting, and while I'm not successful financially I have found the process extremely rewarding artistically. I didn't even consider going traditional for my second book. There's simply no good reason to do so.
Well, times sure do change fast. I'm glad you found an audience. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Since I started writing fantasy, I started reading the competition: Abercrombie, Gene Wolfe, Eco, Herbert. I've always loved Russian literature from the 1800s, as well as Dungeons and Dragons, and have tried to meld both influences through my books. The setting of my novels was a D&D campaign I had been designing for years, but knew that I would never get the chance to use (all my friends, like myself, are lame working dads in their mid-30s). So I created different versions of myself through the years, shaped them into the four main characters and put them in a world I find extremely interesting. The side benefit to fantasy is that you don't need to do a lot of research into how things really operate in the real world: nevertheless, I tried to remain as grounded as possible, particularly with something as tricky and over-abused as magic.
Ha, ha, too much magic can take away suspense. Do you have any suggestions to help our readers become a better writers? If so, what are they?
Yes! Ignore the vast majority of advice for self-published authors, because most of it is obsessed with marketing, not writing. If you want to spend your entire life marketing, go join a marketing firm. If you want to be a writer, write what you need to say, not what you think will sell. This is not a "career," this is an artistic pursuit. The idea of authors becoming rich off their books is a relatively new concept, and incredibly short-sighted. Second: go as deep as possible. Don't hold back because you're worried your grandma will read this and think less of you. Go all-in on conflict, desire and pain, even if it embarasses or exposes you personally. If you're worried that imaginary readers might not like a certain scene or plot line, you'd better be doing this for money and nothing else.
I agree. Writing is a chance to explore those forbidden emotions and dark secrets. What do you think makes a good story?
Conflict, conflict, conflict. The protagonist needs to want something, and someone or something needs that same thing. That's the core of every great story, whether it's a twenty-second parable or a 8000-page multi-volume fantasy series.
Thanks for talking with us. I wish you best of luck with your career.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Slowly she dropped her arm back down and turned around expecting Dylan to step back. He didn't move. Rather he reached out to brush a stray piece of hair off her face.
As if on autopilot Callie closed her eyes as his fingers skimmed down her check and neck to her shoulder. With the weight of his hand resting on her shoulder, she waited not sure what to expect. And then she felt just the slightest bit of pressure as his lips settled over hers. Everything seemed to stop. The only things she was aware of were his callused hand on her shoulder and his lips on hers. The kiss was gentle. Tender.
This shouldn't be happening. Not with this man.
Even as her brain protested, Callie's body responded. She wanted to feel his hard-muscled body pressed up against hers. Even though she knew she should break contact, she took a step closer and rested her hands on his wide shoulders.
Today I live with my husband, three beautiful daughters and two dogs in Massachusetts. Whenever I have a free moment you'll find me either reading a romance novel or working on my most current story
Saturday, July 28, 2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fascinating multi-generational story of lies, lust and secrets. The villain's tentacles spread through everyone's lives, yet on the surface he seems to be a respectable man. Portia, the protagonist, is the villain's daughter and the most affected. Her story is tragic and everything she does is acting out her pain. I am unsure whether her story is really resolved or not. I guess it is "to be continued."
The sex was frequent and quite steamy, and the sights, sounds, smells and visceral were uniquely descriptive. The author has a nice way with words. The only thing that distracted me was the head-hopping where the point of view would suddenly change from paragraph to paragraph.
My favorite character was Scuba. That scene at the sports arena has me rolling with laughter. What a riot. I can't wait to read more about her. Yep, she got that right. The role models need help too.
Secrets was a fast read/page turner and I finished it in a couple of hours.
View all my reviews
Friday, July 27, 2012
In short, I have experienced some of the splendor and richness Ethiopia has to offer. I am grateful for these opportunities. I hope that others will be able to experience Ethiopia vicariously as they read Through These Veins, and I hope I will be able to repay some of the debt I owe to Ethiopia and the many people I met there.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Heather Hummel July 16, 2012
Too Sexual for a Biblical Tale? Rachelle Ayala Stops by to Chat about MICHAL'S WINDOW
This was an interview I didn't want to pass up! Rachelle Ayala is here to talk about her somewhat controversial book, MICHAL'S WINDOW - the big question is, are the love scenes to sexy for a biblical book? Let's find out...
Heather: MICHAL'S WINDOW is your first novel (and by the way, I love the cover!). What inspired you to write it?
Rachelle: Believe it or not, reading the Bible. Michal is a relatively unknown character, one that everyone loves to hate. Perhaps it's because she was a princess, but in any case, Michal's life is about loving to the fullest and losing everything for that love. The Bible depicts her as assertive, cunning, and opinionated. In a time when women's feelings were not important, she not only loved David, but acted quickly and decisively to save his life. Later on, she dared to speak her mind to her husband even though it displeased him.
Michal would have felt more at home in our century than her own times, and I felt this remarkable woman's voice had been suppressed for way too long.
Heather: Since this is a biblical story, did you expect it to have controversy around it?
When I set out to write Michal's story, I decided to make it well-rounded and gritty. I would immerse the reader into her innermost emotions and feelings and not "hide" anything that might be unsavory or deemed sinful.
I was not trying to write a sermon or a Sunday school lesson, but a novel that had historical elements woven with imaginative subplots in a way that would allow the reader to share Michal's experience.
Heather: MICHAL'S WINDOW has been criticized for being too sexual in nature, going against it's biblical category. Do you consider the scenes to be sexually explicit or are you shocked by the reactions from some readers?
On the whole, the vast majority of my readers (including several pastors' wives and Sunday school teachers) have enjoyed the story including the steamy bits. Of course there are those who have never been exposed to any semblance of sex in a story with Biblical characters, and I understand how they may feel. I stand by my rating of "mild", because most of the descriptions are metaphorical and deal with what Michal is thinking and feeling. Of course, David's descriptions tend to be a bit more physical. There is one scene in particular where it got a bit hot and heavy, but this was written from David's point of view. A man just sees sex differently than a woman.
Sex is an integral part of the relationship between Michal and David. I debated leaving it out, but I would not have been able to show the reader the intensity of their attraction, obsession and yes, love, because they did love each other deeply. At the end, the reader should hopefully understand viscerally how it felt to be Michal, a woman ruled by love but caught in the challenging situations of her life.
Oh, I'm having fun with this one, Broken Build, a romantic suspense set in Silicon Valley with a software build engineer as the protagonist. This one has a simple premise. Could a man ever love a woman who had harmed him in the worst possible way? And I don't mean broken his heart, or stolen his money, or cheated on him with his best friend. But something much, much worse. I'm not going to tell you what it is because I structured this story in a way where things are revealed at the same time the character who is most affected by it finds out. It is a story for reader participation, whether throwing their e-readers into the wall, or laughing until their sides split, or howling and screaming at my characters while racing with them to solve the mystery.
On the surface, it's about broken software, broken cars, and broken lives. But it is a hopeful message that has a quirky ending. I'm not sure about a series yet, but there are quite a few characters that can be developed further (of the ones that aren't killed off or arrested).
Heather: Besides writing, what are your passions? Your muse?
I have a lot of passions, probably too many. I love music, playing the violin, mandolin and mountain dulcimer: classical and folk music. I've also made 23 mountain dulcimers, but I left off when the writing, revising and editing chores got too time consuming.
Nothing beats the first draft, and that's where my muse is. It's slinging words onto the screen without abandon, love-at-first-sight-daring, eating, sleeping, and dreaming my characters, and living through them. And most of all, it's the raw agony, the yawning void or the pressure-cooker fury, and blissful love with starry eyes, and having those emotions dictate the story. Too bad I only get about a month or two of first draft fever, then it's off to critique groups and the grind of revision and polishing.
If you don't have some people hating what you're doing, you're not doing it passionately enough. - Rachelle Ayala
What's your opinion? Should Bible characters have sex or keep it behind the scenes? How explicit compared to contemporary romance novels? Compared to historical romances? How necessary do you think sex is for the love connection? Do you want to be shown or told?
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Rachelle: I definitely want to read this one. I'll still think of her as a Michal, but I can see how Maya fits in with her Central American side. Sounds like you've got it all planned out. Well, thanks for visiting with us and I am sure JET will be another blockbuster.
Russell: You're welcome. I definitely hope so!
Non-fiction includes the international bestseller An Angel With Fur (animal biography) and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), a parody of all things writing-related.
Blake lives in Mexico and enjoys his dogs, fishing, boating, tequila and writing, while battling world domination by clowns.
His blog can be found at RussellBlake.com where he publishes his periodic thoughts, such as they are.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is life-affirming and positive. When we first meet Samantha, the protag, she is in the throes of yet another breakup, has quit her boring job, and is wetting her pillow with tears every night. Somehow along the way, while writing her novel and in between therapy sessions, Samantha has a dream with these words. "WRITE POSITIVE"
What follows is a miracle, but one in small baby steps. Amanda rethinks her existence and the negative self-talk that constantly spiraled around her, dooming her relationships and hampering her success. Instead she grits her teeth and determines to Write Positive every day in her Positive Journal.
Well before the halfway point, I set this book aside and started my own Positive Journal. I counted my blessings, thanked God for letting me meet Heather and buy her book, and cast negativity and worries behind me. Knowing God has a plan for me, and really trusting it are two different things. Keeping a Positive Journal and writing down my prayers and giving thanks will help me to do the best I can and leave the results to Him.
I then finished the rest of the story in a single evening. The story was full of little surprises and nuggets of truth, about serendipity, believing you deserve happiness and being content. I cheered with Samantha and shared in her happiness as she fulfills her dreams and has a brighter future to look forward too.
View all my reviews
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Journals from the Heart Series:
Whispers from the Heart (2011)
Write from the Heart (2011)
Life in the Iris of the Beholder (2012)
Signs from the Universe (2011)
Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw-Hill, 2008),
2009 Mature Media Awards, Merit Award
2009 New York Book Festival, Honorable Mention
Heather has ghostwritten for politicians, corporations, and public figures. Her books have appeared in newspapers such as: Publishers Weekly, USA Today and the Washington Post; and in magazines that include: Health, Body & Soul, First, and Spry Living, a combined circulation of nearly 15 million. A graduate with High Distinction from the University of Virginia, Heather holds a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree with concentrations in English and Secondary Education. She is currently earning a Ph.D. in Metaphysical Sciences.