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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just Do it, One Step at a Time

So, if (and only if) I repeatedly write, I'm a writer. Cool.

Few people have internalized this idea as successfully as Dean Wesley Smith, who ghosted an entire book in ten days and didn't even think of taking a break from writing after that feat. Because he was being paid to do it. Because it needed to be done. Take a look via the link. You'll love it. Any way you slice it, it's impressive, and it's likely to inspire you. I read through his blog posts and realized that I could do something like that, too, in spite of not having a New York publisher paying me. In spite of the compliments I talked about in my last post, I've really let life get in the way. I have ideas for novels and they aren't going to write themselves.

Dean Wesley Smith gets a lot done in the wee hours, when distractions seem to be at a minimum. I wouldn't be able to do that and carry on with my business and personal life. What's worked for me in the past has been concrete deadlines. So, let me start in my new residence with the deadline of the end of the work day Friday.

By that time, I want to have completed some specific finishing touches on "Middle Awash in Talent."  I'm planning to submit it to a prize contest, and if it doesn't win publication, I'll publish it the self way.

I'll let you know how it goes next week. I also hope to have some great new material for you by then!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Coming Home

Is it a sunrise or a sunset? 
My husband and I have been in our new home state for about a week. This is our third multi-state move since this time last year. Although we had some difficulties getting here, it still feels as though this move is the One, the end of new difficulties, the beginning of feeling our place in the world.

I've been reading that writers should show their true selves on their blogs. Here's the truth about our recent situation: Illinois never seemed it would be anything more than a stopover. I had dreams and plans and everything was going to work out incredibly well. I was going to get a good job in my chosen field in NYC, Boston, or elsewhere, and be able to support my husband. I have so many chosen fields, after all, something had to come through. Or so I thought. Turns out, I've had some disappointments this spring, in this 2013 that was clearly meant to be our year. (We met on a 13th and married on another 13th, so that's our number.) Of five solid plans I had, not a single one panned out.

My husband and I were so close to being homeless that we told my parents we were moving in with them. They're in Oregon, so this was not a step to be taken lightly, given the distance and expense, and total leap of faith, required. In spite of my recent disappointments, I was totally secure in the thought that once we'd made that decision, everything would fall into place for us. Oregon is nice, and we would each get a decent job in a decent amount of time and we would support each other financially as well as emotionally. We told our landlord and started a painfully slow process of packing up and trying to get someone to take over our lease.

And then, mere days before we would have been on the road westbound, an old contact emailed my husband asking if he was interested in a job in North Carolina.

Yes. Yes, we were.

The relief began to flood in for me, but my husband remained reserved throughout the phone interview process (two or three steps) and confirmation after confirmation that this was going to happen, and even the offer.

My husband expressed some doubts as to whether the salary would be livable, but I said, "They're going to offer you X. That's enough to be comfortable and slowly pay off our debts." And I nailed it!

But we've been through so much, I saved my joy, too, even though I thought we deserved to scream "Yippee!" out each and every window of our Illinois apartment.

So here we are. Contract negotiations being what they are, we're staying in a hotel until some time in July. It's a mite inconvenient, but it also gives us an unparalleled opportunity to check out the area and decide where would be a good, affordable place to live. Before, we've always been rushed and have ended up with some pretty lousy living arrangements for different reasons.

We still haven't had that moment of jumping in the air and yelling with jubilation. How can we tell when the threat of homelessness is truly behind us? What is the magical gateway that serves as express permission to revel in our long-awaited good fortune?

I still meet my wonderful Tucson writers' group through Skype. Our most recent meeting was the second night I was here, and I was exhausted from the details and mishaps of the move. But I'd still managed to give the group new material based on their and my editor's previous suggestions, and I explained my plans for submitting SNKL and the tasks I had to accomplish before I could submit. One of the writers expressed admiration at the way I've pressed on with my writing and all it entails in spite of all the disruption—and she didn't even know the whole story. So perhaps that acknowledgment is my moment of hurrah. Just having another human being appreciate my efforts is sublime.

Because everyone likes to be acknowledged! And I certainly do keep on keepin' on, roll with the punches, get back up when they knock me down, etc. So that eternal optimism has crept back in and wants to tell me that all I need is a little (more) patience, and North Carolina is the place where it will all work out.


Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Try Books

I'd suggest my own books, of course (most of which are also available at IndieBound), but anyone reading just about anything is a beautiful sight for an author, translator, editor, and publisher like me. Enjoy!

I'm making another multi-state move, so I'll be out of it for a while. I thought I'd leave you with this bookish thought!

Monday, May 13, 2013

People Watching in the Past: Interview with Author Lisa Yarde

Lisa Yarde's current project is Sultana: Two Sisters, the third in a series on the last Muslim dynasty to rule in medieval Spain. She has blogged on the project at The Brooklyn Scribbler. It will be released in June 2013. 

JK:  Tell us a little about where you grew up and what you do/have done besides writing. 

LY: I was born in Barbados and part of my love of history stems from childhood, where I grew up surrounded by relics of Barbadian history. By day, I work for a small non-profit in midtown Manhattan.

JK:  Tell us about your book and its intended audience. 

LY: In Sultana: Two Sisters, two lifelong friends become captives, sold into the harem of Sultan Yusuf of Granada during a turbulent period for fourteenth-century Moorish Spain. The friendship unravels and turns into a bitter rivalry. A young girl with a hidden heritage becomes Butayna, the Sultan’s beloved first wife, while her counterpart Maryam enjoys a life of pleasure and luxury at Yusuf’s side. Each woman bears the Sultan a son and finds diverging paths in a dizzying rise to power. The struggle between Yusuf’s wives threatens to destroy his kingdom. Only one heir may inherit the throne and one woman can claim the revered title of Mother of the Sultan.

This book is predominantly for women, adults and above, who enjoy tales of intrigue and adventure in varied settings. It takes place ten years after the events in Sultana and Sultana’s Legacy. Yusuf is the grandson of the protagonists in the two earlier books. I have incorporated many historical figures and the swift-changing politics of the time. The connections and disparities between the religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam have shaped the characters. Readers who are familiar with this period in Moorish Spain’s history or who have visited the Alhambra in Granada, Spain will find affinity with the setting and culture. For readers who are unfamiliar with the prior stories or Spain’s past, I hope Sultana: Two Sisters will convey a strong sense of medieval Spanish society.
JK:  How does real life affect your fiction? 

LY: As I recently explained to fellow members of the New York of the Historical Novel Society, I only write about historical figures. Real life and history shape my storylines. Two clichés often hold true; the devil is in the details and the victors often write the history. It is my duty as a writer to sift through the facts for the kernels of truth. When sources contradict each other, I often go with common knowledge, except if a very strong reason leads in another direction.

History provides the when, where and how, but the why is often missing. My focus revolves around the development of motivations for the historical figures who serve as my primary characters. I try to explain the course they decided on, within the realm of reason. Nuggets of personality traits, personal appearances and other information from chroniclers gets put to good use in my stories. My writing emphasizes the underdogs, people who by virtue of their race, gender, religion or personal defeats never left a record of their lives. Propaganda informs too much of what we know today.    

JK:  What is your favorite book? What other things influence your work? 

LY: Frank Herbert’s Dune series is still a favorite. The characters are unforgettable, as are their machinations. Herbert introduced the notion of world building to me, which I try to incorporate into everything I write. He inspired my love of intrigue and strong figures.

I love watching people. Basic human nature, our feelings and fears, have not evolved over centuries. I am often amazed at how the bloody politics of the medieval world mirror corporate maneuvers: bloodless, but still devastating. 
JK:   Do you have a favorite word?

LY: As in one I use too often? A word that always comes to mind when I am writing is ‘belied’ as it pertains to the dialogue and deeds of my characters. In this particular story, many of the characters rarely say what they mean, and their speech deliberately contradicts body language or actions. When the truth is more likely to place someone in danger, sometimes secrets are the wisest course for my characters.

JK: How do you use language to differentiate your characters and/or settings? 

LY: Throughout my novels, I tend to use some period terms or phrases. Sultana: Two Sisters features interactions between Muslim, Jewish and Christian Spaniards. Arabic, Hebrew or Spanish words are in the narrative and dialogue to reflect regional variations or convey my heroine’s immersion in another language.
JK:  In general, what is your inspiration? What was the specific inspiration for your most recent project?

LY: Love of a good story has always motivated my efforts. Historical fiction takes readers to another place and time, but good historical fiction leaves them engrossed in the storyline with fascinating details and memorable characters.

In college, I took a religious studies course on the history of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and learned of the Muslim presence on Europe. My series covers the history of the last Muslim dynasty to rule in Spain, from their palace of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Sultana: Two Sisters focuses on the turmoil within the Alhambra in the fourteenth-century, when Yusuf’s two wives vied to influence him and place their respective sons on the throne. This is a remarkable period filled with contradictions. Cross-border conflicts between the Christian and Muslim states occurred, while Muslim rulers relied on corps of Christian guardsmen for their protection and developed significant relationships with Jewish people.   
JK:  How much time a day do you devote to fiction writing? What is your work area like? 

LY: I write whenever I can. This means on the morning and evening commutes, at lunchtime and on weekends. When I am at home, writing takes place at a desk in my bedroom, with the door closed in complete solitude. It is a struggle to concentrate if someone else is in the room. Background music is essential. While writing Sultana: Two Sisters, flamenco, Sephardic and Middle Eastern music helped set the right mood.  

JK: When and why did you get started writing? What characteristics from your first efforts survive today?

LY: As a friend on Facebook reminded me, I started in junior high school with short stories of knights and damsels in distress. I have always had a fertile imagination, coupled with a passion for history, so writing historical fiction seemed a natural choice. When I started studying medieval times, the realization grew that the period was more fraught with danger, superstition and great discoveries. World building is still very important. My favorite books usually leave me completely immersed in a setting and time, an element I strive for in my stories.
JK:  What kind of feedback do you get? Are your family and friends supportive?

LY: Ah, feedback! Where would a writer be without it? I have been lucky over two years to receive letters from readers and several reviews. The emails relate how enjoyable a particular story was, the memorable characters, or requests for more information on the actual history. I love that last bit the most, because the research is vital to the idea of world building. It is difficult to convey the traditions, societal rules and religious beliefs of a period without detailed study. The library is growing and spilling on to the floor as a result, but I could not write effectively without guidance from history.

JK: Do you have a definable fan base? 

LY: My readership grows, but some attributes I anticipated still hold true. Those who have read my work, particularly the series which Sultana: Two Sisters belongs, tend to be predominantly adults. They are also women who share my fascination with the Alhambra’s history.

Family and friends are generally supportive. It took a few years, but my mother has now read all of my books, and has her favorite among them. I am grateful for the interest and support so many have offered.
JK: Thanks so much for stopping by today and sharing your amazing books.

LY: Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to connect with readers of your blog. I hope they find this post interesting. 

Find more about Lisa's books here: Website
Read her Blog 
and moderates at Unusual Historicals
Lastly, find her on: FacebookGoodreadsTwitter

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Elisa was absolutely fascinating... New Review for No Turning Back, EPUB Version and Giveaway!

Another review, this one by Meg of A Bookish Affair, confirms that the story of one woman's struggles in the transition to democracy in Spain is an accessible story that draws Anglophone readers in, too!

"Elisa was absolutely fascinating and I was very much interested in her story."

"Lidia Falcón is a new to me author but has high acclaim in her home country. I really enjoyed this book and would love more from her."

"This translation is very good and has a natural flow that keeps the story engaging."

Check out the original post or go to Goodreads to see the whole review.

No Turning Back, although also available in paperback, has been ebook-exclusive to Kindle up to this point, but it's now available in epub from Barnes and Noble. Snap up your copy today to help this starving translator stay out of the bread lines.

All of Chapter 6 can be read here, and I did a nice, short interview about translation here.

And we're getting down to the last few days of the great paperback giveaway! Enter to win this beautifully produced book on Goodreads

Goodreads Book Giveaway

No Turning Back by Lidia Falcon

No Turning Back

by Lidia Falcon

Giveaway ends May 15, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, May 6, 2013

Spectacular New Cover for Tree/House

There's something new and wonderful going on with my pre-SNKL magnum opus, Tree/House!

It will soon be released en español as Un hogar en los árboles. To get the party started, I've had a magnificent new cover designed! It will go on both the English and Spanish versions.

Impressive? Put together by Amygdala Design, I think it captures the book really well. I hope it gets more attention than my humble little snapshot of a tiger butterfly ever did.

To celebrate, Tree/House (complete with new amazing cover) will be on sale for 99 cents on both Kindle and Nook until May 13. Snap up your copy and give it as a gift to the reader in your life while you can. Moms love it! (At least mine does.) This book has seven good reviews already!

Buy it on Kindle! Buy it on Nook! (Kobo's change of platform prevents me from running this sale on that site, but watch for it later!)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco de Rhino

There are five species of rhinoceros, so what day is more appropriate than 5/5 to celebrate them?

On behalf of 

Celebrate Rhinos Everywhere on Cinco de Rhino!

Join the International Rhino Foundation on Sunday, May 5, 2013 for the fifth annual Cinco de Rhino celebration! Throw a party with friends, share fun facts, and donate to support research and conservation of the world’s rhino species.

During this one day, IRF is trying to raise $10,000 for rhino conservation – and to get people around the world talking about the importance of protecting endangered rhinos and their habitats. Can you help?

Learn more about Cinco de Rhino

Donate to IRF

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why Spain? My Take

Flamenco in Córdoba
I've been blessed with a love for Spain that transcends logic. I took all of the photos in this post myself. Maybe they don't seem that impressive to anyone else, but I think they're achingly gorgeous simply because they capture some small instant of Spanishness.

The Roman aqueduct in Segovia
My eye has been trained to prefer the colors and shapes of Spain. My ear prefers its languages and music. My mind latches onto its stories and history.

For  the book lovers:
the manuscript library at El Escorial
This taste for Spain drove my extended education through language learning (BA), translation (MFA), medieval culture (MA) and finally medieval literature and all the extras involved in a PhD. I'm a doctor of Hispanofilia. It's been a lifelong passion that's steered me into serious pursuits like research and perfectionism.

The Plaza de España in Sevilla
As mentioned in Monday's post, Spain boasts a history that made it a true crucible of cultures. The good and the bad, the romantic and the disgusting -- I'll never tire of reading about it. Since I'm a writer, I was compelled to write about it.

It's even beautiful in the dark!
Salamanca's Plaza Mayor
Why Spain? Because there is no more awesome location to use for a setting for a novel.

Why Spain? Love needs no reason.

Selling books does, though, and I'm lucky that this abiding passion gives me the energy I need in order to plug away at challenges like editing, finding an agent, and reaching readers. I would not wish the hard work of a writer today on anyone who didn't absolutely adore their subject matter!