Saturday, January 29, 2011

Guest Author Series - Author AR Norris talks about the Kindle

STEPH: Hi Amber, can you tell us a little about yourself?

AMBER I live in the beautiful Northern California Wine Country of Napa Valley. Married to a wonderful husband, we have 4 children ranging from 3 to 15 and two canine babies. One very evil cat -- of which the dogs fear -- decided to accept our offer of residency and has tolerated us for about 7 years now. Although I enjoy reading all genres, my writing centers on speculative fiction and science fiction.

STEPH: What kind of Ebook Reader do you have?

AMBER: Is it the Kindle 2 or 3? - I just recieved the Kindle 3G with WiFi for Christmas. (Thank you Hubby and Kids!)
STEPH: Sounds like the Kindle 3.

STEPH: What's the best feature on the kindle you like?

AMBER: I think my favorite feature is the ability to click for more information on the book. It takes you to Amazon and you can look up more information on book, get reader reviews, and find other books by that author. I've been able to easily find other works by my favorite authors that are not found in my brick and mortor store. I'm no longer restricted to what others decide to put on the shelf and can easily get opinions from others readers.

STEPH: How many books are on your Kindle?

AMBER: I've only had it since Christmas so my collection is still rather small. I've only downloaded about 35 books so far. I've spent the time to create collections so they're separated by genre. This makes it easy to find the book I want based on the mood I'm in.

STEPH: Where do you buy books from - just Amazon or other places?

AMBER: I've bought books through Amazon's Kindle Store and B&N so far, because it's easiest. I'm starting to branch out to other publisher sites now.

STEPH: Do you have a program like Calibre to help you convert & load books?

AMBER: No, I haven't needed to convert anything. So far the few that I've downloaded away from Amazon, I've been able to save to my PC, plug in Kindle's USB and upload it directly. Super easy to do and no converting needed.

STEPH: Any cons or something you don't care for with your Kindle?

AMBER: The only thing I've found I don't like is it doesn't have a reading lamp. So in the evening I still have to turn on my nightstand lamp. I'm going to look for a book light in the next month or two, if Kindle doesn't have an accessory. I would also like it in color, but it's so much like a page in a regular book that I don't miss it as much as I thought I might.
STEPH: Now, I'm not so sure, my husband has a reading light the Kindle 3.

STEPH:Tell us about your upcoming project.

AMBER: I can't wait until debut novel, Duty and Devotion, comes out in ebook format. It's a SFR set about 700 year in the future. The two main characters are sisters from the now ice covered planet of Earth. They are drafted into the first war in several hundred years. No one really knows what to expect, not even the current militia, which is run more as a galactic monitoring system. The story takes us through their training and the very different paths they each go down. Nettie, the older one becomes a space fighter pilot while the younger is training to become a ground combat soldier.

When battle starts, both sisters find out what it really means to live in a time of war and fight for freedom. Nettie's pain and loss close her heart to anything but her duty, but Officer James Northman is focused on opening her heart again to see the happiness even in chaotic times. Rinny finds love and devotion right off the bat in Danny Gubvre, but learns war is a fickle beast when it rips it away as she's captured by the enemy. Now she's fighting to keep her home free, return home herself, and just maybe find her lost love.

Duty and Devotion will be released by Desert Breeze Publishing June 15th.

STEPH: Any thoughts on Ebook Readers in general?

AMBER: Overall it is an amazing step into the future. As a SF writer, I can only see good things from this technology finally hitting the main stream. Whereas paperbacks brought literacy to the masses, ebooks will ensure they stay that way. It really has brought the written story to the electric age and put it back on the same playing field as movies. It's so exciting to see the new buzz from kids and young adults refinding the joy of reading.

Thanks for being here today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guest Author Series - Author Melanie Atkins talks about B&N Nook Ereader

STEPH: Welcome to to my ebook reader series, Melanie. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

MELANIE: I'm a multi-published author of romantic suspense, a fan of crime dramas, and an avid reader. Writing is more than an escape for me-- it's just what I do. I grew up in the Deep South listening to tall tales and writing stories about my cats. Now I write stories of love, suspense, and mystery with the help of my furry little feline muses. And... I love to read, especially on my Nook.

STEPH: What ebook reader to you have? How long have you had it?

MELANIE: I've had my Nook about six months. I love it!! I don't want to read paper books anymore, because I have to hold them open. lol

STEPH: What do you like the most about it?

MELANIE: I love that I can order books anywhere via either 3G or wifi and have them in only seconds, and that I can increase the font size so I can read at the gym with the Nook propped on the treadmill. I can also turn the page with the push of a button. So cool.

STEPH: What do you like the least about it?

MELANIE: That I didn't wait and get the Nook Color. lol

STEPH: What features are unique to your Nook?

MELANIE: I don't know if any of its features are unique anymore, since it's the first Nook. But it does have both wifi and 3G, which makes ordering easy. It also acts as an mp3 player. I don't have any music on it now, but I can add it if I want to.

STEPH: Is loading books onto the Nook easy?

MELANIE: Easy as pie. Find the book and order, and it's automatically downloaded in seconds. The last book, I bought at the gym on the recumbent bike. So simple and fun.

STEPH: What are some of the pros to your book reader?

MELANIE: The screen isn't backlit, so it doesn't hurt my eyes. I'm able to increase the font size, and it has both wifi and 3G.

STEPH: Was price a factor when you bought it?

MELANIE: Yes. I waited until I had a little extra money... then I snapped it up. I'm very happy with it.

STEPH: Anything else you'd like to tell us about the Nook?

MELANIE: It's so easy to transfer books to the Nook that I've bought at sites other than Barnes and Nobles. I hook it to the computer via a USB cord, as if it were a flash drive or something, and just drag and drop. No proprietary format, either. The Nook allows a variety of them, including pdf, but epub seems to work the best. I'd buy it again tomorrow.

STEPH: Thanks for sharing, Melanie!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Author Jillian Chantel

Not to knock AA, NA, or any of those wonderful organizations that help a lot of people, but I feel like I'm at a twelve step meeting. Hello, my name is Jillian Chantal, I'm a writer at Desert Breeze Publishing and I own an e-reader.

My Sony e-reader has been my friend and has also been my foe. I have the Sony touch screen version. I got it over a year ago and initially was not enamored of it at all. One problem was that it didn't come with an owner's manual or even a one page "for dummies" diagram on how to use the thing. That was a big reason I didn't use it at first. I'm a bit of a technophobe. Well, not really phobic about it but I'm convinced I have some kind of chemical in my body that really, really hates electronics. If a device can go wrong, in my hands, it will.

Once I played with the little demon for a bit, I figured out how to upload books to it as well as the other features. That was nice but it really would have been great to have a user's guide. I enjoyed reading on it. I liked that I could adjust the size of the print and could carry the thing in my purse. It's very light. I'm happy that I can upload pdfs to it and can make notes. My version has the touch screen and I like that feature for some purposes but not for others. I use the little buttons at the bottom of the device to turn the pages because the touch feature requires almost a hard shove as opposed to a small little brush of the fingertips. I use the touch feature to choose the book I want to read and to open the other screens. One thing I do wish is that it had wireless download, although since I download to the computer first, I have the books in two places and that's nice, too.

A great thing about the Sony is the ability to travel with it- I can take a lot of books in one small package- no large, heavy books to carry in the airport; however, there is a down side to airplane travel with it. You can't have it on at the beginning of the flight nor near the end of the flight. That's about 30 minutes of good reading time lost. In fact, I've been in the middle of an exciting chapter more than once and had to shut it off. Now, let me say, this would be true for any such device so I don't hold it against my little old Sony.

One other thing I didn't foresee with this device is the amount of attention it attracts. Every time I try to read in public on my lunch break, someone asks me what it is and I have to show all that it does. Now, this is good as an e-published writer as I can show them it's nothing to be afraid of using and even bring up that I'm a writer. It's not so good when I want to read and be left alone. If I was a single girl, I might consider the interruptions by attractive men to be a good thing. As it is, I would rather read in peace, thank you.

I've got a great little red leather cover on mine and it's just too cute. It makes it easier to hold when reading. It even feels like a book!

Friday, January 21, 2011

California Friday - Santa Barbara

Joe and I at the SB Zoo last year

Santa Barbara is a beautiful city approximately 75 miles north of LA on the California coast. I've been there several times myself. I love the view of the ocean. The city is built on a set of gentle rising rolling hills overlooking the coastline. One of my favorite places to visit is the zoo. It's low-key and not very crowded. You can lazily stroll through it without feeling rushed and enjoy the animals.

Being a bit of a wino, I'm a sucker to visit the Santa Barbara Winery. I haven't been in a while, but I remember enjoying the reds and the ambience of the storefront. (Hard to now with a 4 year old.)

Santa Barbara is home to one of the missions, which were founded in the 1700's by the Franciscan monks that traveled up the California coast from Mexico. I visited the mission several years ago and was struck not only by it's beauty, but by its functionality.

Just a little about the mission's history. It was founded as part of the Franciscan Missions on 4 DEC 1786, on the feast day of St. Barbara. The intent was to convert the local native American tribes Рthe Chumash and Barbaernó. Over the years, the mission was devastated by earthquakes and rebuilt. The last time it was rebuilt was in 1927.

The city of Santa Barbara grew up between the mission and the coast. Presently, the mission still celebrates Catholic Mass. The local parish rents the mission from the Franciscans.

Whenever I visit the city, I try to swing by the winery and the mission.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Writing Tips - Crafting Characters

Characters are the heart and soul of your story, but what makes them cross the line from two-dimensional to three-dimensional? What makes them compelling?

Author David Corbett offers four elements that you can add to your characterization and I think they're spot on.

To cross the line, keep your character's internal compass consistent, yet ensure they can still surprise you.

First, a character has to have a driving need, desire, or goal. What makes a character interesting is what that character wants, and the stronger the desire, the more compelling the drama. Desire helps to create conflict, and how your character manages conflict makes the story interesting.

Second, secrets make interesting characters. If there's a trait or an incident the character wants hidden, but is revealed, it might make that character lose standing with family and friends. What makes secrets delicious is that they tell readers what characters have to lose and why.

Third, contradictions bring to light what readers can't predict and thus shows surprise. For example: a character can be desperate, yet proud, and decide to take a job that might not be up their alley, just so they can earn a living.

Lastly, nothing draws a reader to a character than vulnerability. When people need help or are wounded, we're drawn to help or feel sympathetic to that character. Secrets play into this trait. If the character is afraid of the secret getting out, it gives the character a vulnerability they might not have had.

What can you do to help deepen characterization? Flesh your characters out. Cast the character. Write character bios. What do they like? Dislike? Write a flash fiction or short story to get to know them. Draw on real life inspiration such as friends, family members, and co-workers. You can also make a list of your emotional triggers. For example: What's your greatest fear? When did you show true courage? By drawing on your triggers, you can bring added dimension to your character's desires, wants, needs, secrets, contradictions, and vulnerabilities.

Reference: "Hooked on a Feeling," by David Corbett, page 32-36, Writer's Digest, Jan 2011.

Friday, January 14, 2011

There's Snow in Southern California

Me, Andrew and Joe getting ready to go down the slope!

There's snow in Southern California. No, really, there is. You just have to know where to look.

My son's cub scout troop sent out an email saying they were going snow tubing in Wrightwood. I raised an eyebrow. Being a non-native I was skeptical. Where was Wrightwood?

My husband knew all about it. He went to Dick's Sporting Goods and had a field day buying us boots, bibs, hats, and gloves. I went to Google maps.

Then again, I should have known better. Southern California does get snow. It snowed at my house on New Year's Day in Castaic. Andrew & Joe had a blast making snowballs. It was the first time in my 13 years living in SoCal I saw snow falling in my back yard, but I digress.

Wrightwood, CA is in the Angles National Forest which is just northeast of LA. It's a very high elevation – 6,000 foot, hence the snow. And it's only 1 ½ hours from my house. 13 years and I totally missed it. Someone buy me clue.

We looked like New England snow bunnies after my husband was done at Dick's, but we were ready for the snow. Thankfully, we didn't need chains going up the hill. (Hubby bought them, too!)

We're off!

We arrived at the Mountain High Resort around 9:30 am. After a long wait it was time to tube! (Because, let's face it, it's not easy organizing a troop event with all the kids and parents and you know some people – they are professionally late.)

Snow tubing is fun. You ride an inner tube down a long slope. My 4 year old, Joe, had a blast. He could have tubed all day non-stop, but Mom had to hold his tube and I got pooped! Andrew went down the slopes with his cub scout buddies.

Rumor was Adam Sandler was on the slope. I didn't see him. Adam and I went to the same high school, but he was 2 grades ahead of me. We had the same "evil" assistant principal – Mrs. Pellerin. You know that "evil" look, the one that makes you run down the hall the other away? Again, I digress.

I didn't see Adam Sandler, but a lot of people were checking out my really cool New England Patriots Starter jacket.

The Hubby

We tubed for two hours and on the way home we stopped by the Grizzly Café in Wrightwood for lunch. The food was tasty and there was a lot ambience (something that's missing in the restaurants around where I live.)

Hubby is planning another trip this coming Sunday. I think it's going to be a blast, but I'm going to keep an eye out for Mrs. Pellerin. You never know…

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday's Writing Tips - The Romantic Heroine

A modern heroine has a lot to live up to. Our society is so fast paced, and yet she’s suppose to embody that perfect balance between being a woman, and living up to today’s high expectations. So what is she suppose to look like? Let’s start there.

A big element to your heroine is attractiveness, but the romantic heroine shouldn’t be drop dead gorgeous – she should be convincingly attractive to the reader.

What does that mean?

The everyday woman usually doesn’t have model looks. By weaving in realistic physical flaws you can paint a picture of any everyday romantic heroine. Perhaps she thinks she’s too tall. Or she doesn’t like her nose. She could be a plus size, or doesn’t care for her curly hair. Most women can connect with those elements. The big thing to keep in mind as you paint your heroine is to keep her self-respect intact. If she doesn’t respect herself, then how can the hero? Our heroine may not like her nose, but her self-respect for her body and her appearance can’t suffer. If it does, then she isn’t convincing as a romantic heroine.

The Qualities a Romance Heroine Embodies

For a modern reader, a romantic heroine must embody three things: an ability to connect with the reader, strength, and she must deserve the hero. Most modern writers try to deliver.

Food for thought: Have you read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald? Think of his heroine in the story, Daisy. Written in the 1920’s, Daisy doesn’t embody the modern romantic heroine. She lacks strength and she doesn’t deserve Gatsby – yet in the 1920’s, Daisy cut a romantic figure for her contemporary audience. Nowadays, Daisy would be frowned upon.

Keep in mind romantic norms have changed over the years. Modern readers expect heroines, even those in historical, to embody modern trends. This might prove tricky in historical since women were treated differently and expected to act differently, but it is do-able to have historical heroine portray modern norms.

Connect with Readers

If the heroine can’t connect with the reader, then she isn’t convincing. Her physical appearance is only one aspect of connecting with readers. There are other aspects as well. For one: a sympathetic past. This doesn’t mean she suffered an abusive set of parents per se, but she has to be shaped by previous experiences. Was she raised by an aunt and uncle? Did she have a stern father? Was she the only girl in a family of five boys?

NOTE: The reader doesn’t need to know all about the heroine’s past in the first chapter. Reveal it slowly, over time, preferably to the hero of the story. An info dump on the heroine’s past in chapter one is a sure story killer.


Heroines don’t need to be physically strong, but they must embody an inner strength that the reader can relate it. She may have problems, but she has to have the inner strength to overcome them. She has to be able to do the right thing when the time comes.

She Must Deserve the Hero

Our hero is strong in body and character. He doesn’t lie, unless he think he’s protecting the heroine. He doesn’t steal. H e strives to do the right thing. Our heroine must embody these traits as well.

She may be looking for a romance, but she doesn’t need it. She can take care of herself. Finding Mr. Right is a bonus for her.

The same rules apply to our women as they do our romantic men. They have dignity. They’re honest. They’re tenderhearted toward their men.

So when composing a modern heroine, even a historical one, remember to be convincing, show her inner strength, and make her worthy of her man.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Styles of Poetry

Poety has always held a soft spot in my heart. Here some forms of poetry that I enjoy. Do you write poetry? Do you find this helpful? Let me know. Next week, I'll have another post about some more forms of poetry that I enjoy.


This is a popular style where the first letter of each line spells a word, usually using the title. Acrostics are easy to compose and the poem should "tie in" with the title.





A Diamante poem is a 7 line poem set up in a diamond shape.

Line 1: a noun/subject
Line 2: 2 adjectives describing line 1
Line 3: 3 "ing" words related to line 1
Line 4: use 2 words to describe the noun then 2 words to describe the antonym or synoym in line 7 (if there is an antonym used in line 7, the shift occurs here)
Line 5: 3 "ing" words related to line 7
Line 6: use 2 adjectives descibing line 7
Line 7: the 1st word's antonym or synonym.


brilliant, white
dazzling, heartstopping, pulse-pounding
vibrant, awake, asleep, opaque
daring, biting, grasping
obsidian, cool

An ode is a poem praising a person, place, or thing. Generally, there are no rules or rythme schemes to follow.


Foreign Country, Foreign Land
Foreign Language, Foreign customs,
I want to learn all I can.

There is a small town by the water,
Steep hills overlook the Rhein River
And the colors of Autumn blossom on the leaves.

A custom from old comes to town
Every Autumn, Every year,
A walk is offered, for fun, for cheer…

Maria and I, though foreign we are,
Start the march as evening falls,
Accompanied by friends, we begin at the start…

Our walk brings us to a castle,
I light my torch, Maria has some tea…
Our friends partake of the local food and beer.

By the river we walk, our friends full of excitement…
Another stamp, another beer, another torch, another path…
A barge comes by, glistening in the night.

I know for weeks to come, Maria and I will talk
Of this time and place and our beloved Torchwalk.