Michaeline: Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin at a booksigning in 2013

Ursula K. Le Guin (by K. Kendall via Flickr) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Ursula K. Le Guin passed away on January 22, 2018, and through the comment sections of Jenny’s Argh Ink blog, I found Le Guin’s blog, The Bookview Cafe – one that she shared with a lot of writers, mostly women.

The recommended blog post was titled, “Navigation Q1: How do you make something good?” Le Guin started with the very funny (but absolutely practical) advice: “Well, you could start with butter and fresh farm eggs, it’s hard to go wrong from there, unless you are a vegan.” And then she gets serious. Go ahead, take a look if you like. I’ll still be here.

It’s like a little tarot card, this cryptic comment. For me, the butter and fresh farm eggs are real life experiences. (I know – that seems really odd for a writer of fantasy to say. But in order for fantasy to really fly, it needs to be grounded with real-life motives and behaviors. The rest is all caramel sauce or bechamel. Spin that into fairy glass, or stuff it with mushrooms, as you like. Or just make a fried egg in butter, if you don’t like fantasy. A fried egg in butter is one of the most delicious things on earth, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not a vegan.)

If you’ve read the post, then you know how Le Guin spins her metaphor into a textbook souffle – and then gives you permission to ignore those rules if you are making blintzes. That really rang the dinner bell for me. I’m making blintzes, and I should embrace that and make lots and lots of blintzes!

From one egg metaphor to another, I found this page about a book of hers that came out last December from Houghton Mifflin called “No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters”. The table of contents sold me, especially after reading the blog. It’s an old chestnut that, “wow, I’d read her shopping list!” I haven’t read much Le Guin, but her blog posts were very charming. I *would* like to read about her cat, her “crabby old lady” diatribes, and yes, the section titled “The Narrative Gift as a Moral Conundrum” makes me want to search the internet right now and see if it’s on the blog. I’d better wait, though, and get the real book, and take my time.

They call it “dead rock star” effect. It’s sad that it takes a death for me to re-discover what thousands have already known. I might be spending a lot of February, going through Le Guin’s books and other writings. Better late than never, I suppose.

Jeanne: Interview with Shelly Chalmers

Today we’re talking to Shelly Chalmers. I met Shelly through the Golden Network, the organization that allows Golden Heart® finalists to stay in touch and support each other. Shelly is the Communication Chair, which means she’s the cheerleader who’s always posting little motivational memes in our Facebook group and reminding us to keep pursuing our dreams.

She also does a great job of modeling that behavior. After becoming a finalist in 2014, she went on to publish her first book, Must Love Plague, last October.

You can read a sample chapter here if you’re interested. Continue reading

Jeanne: Interview with Sandra Owens

Product DetailsSandy Owens is legendary among the Golden Heart® crowd because she went from unpublished in 2013 to RWA® Honor Roll* less than five years later. As we started working together on this interview, I quickly realized why: the woman has an awe-inspiring capacity for turning out high quality work.

Question 1: In your new series, Aces and Eights, a trio of brothers own a biker bar in Miami as a front for their FBI work. How did you get your information about the inner workings of the FBI? Continue reading

Jeanne: Interview with Sarah Andre

Sarah AndreToday’s interviewee is romantic suspense author Sarah Andre. I first met Sarah over breakfast on the last morning of the 2014 RWA® National Conference in San Antonio. It proved to be a fortuitous meeting because Sarah was up for a Golden Heart® that night.

Since I’d only recently joined my local RWA® chapter, I had no idea what a Golden Heart® (or a Rita®, for that matter) even was. Sarah explained that the GH is RWA’s® top award for unpublished fiction. I immediately began dreaming of someday being a finalist, and the next year, I was. So thanks for that, Sarah!

Question 1: Your books are very dark. What draws you to the darker side of human nature?

I’m fascinated you used the descriptor ‘dark.’ My earliest craft memories are sitting through a Donald Maas course at my Houston chapter meeting in 2006 and not knowing who he was or a lot of the craft lingo he was using, but knowing from the awed expressions on my chapter-mates’ faces that he was “The Authority” on all things writing. So when he preached his trilogy of ‘tension on every page’ ‘make things worse’ and ‘no backstory until way into your novel’ I was profoundly shaped by that. Continue reading

Jeanne: Interview with Priscilla Oliveras

I’m experimenting with a new type of post–an interview with a fellow author. My plan is to ask, not just easy questions, but challenging questions specific to this particular author, either through their body of work, or through how they present themselves on social media.

For my first-ever interview, I asked Priscilla Oliveras, a fellow RWA® 2015 Golden Heart® finalist. I chose Priscilla because she’s kind of a hero of mine, for reasons I hope will become apparent as you read the interview. Priscilla’s first book, His Perfect Partner, was released in October 2017.

Question 1: You were a Golden Heart® finalist four times. What made you keep entering when your first final didn’t result in publication? 

Hardheadedness? 😉

Probably my love for the genre and my desire to share the stories and characters I kept imagining. This is a tough business. Rejection, unfortunately, is a large part of it. Being an active member of RWA® has blessed me with a great network of fellow romance authors–friends and mentors–whose successes and misses both inspire and fuel me. My family is a great source of support, too. They’ve encouraged me through all the ups and down, never giving up on me. So there’s no way I was giving up on myself, either.

Whether is was fate or faith or whatever you wanna call it, each of my GH finals seemed to come at a time when I needed the boost. When the reminder that maybe I wasn’t just knocking my head against the wall, and maybe my goal of publishing had potential, soothed my psyche. Each final was the shot in the arm I needed at that specific moment. And the instant GH family that forms when you final is an incredible gift.

Did I wish I had published sooner and no longer been eligible to enter the GH? Sure. But I’ll take the good that comes my way and focus on that to keep fueling my desire to do better. Continue reading

Michille: Characters with Disabilities

Silent MelodyI am reading Mary Balogh’s Silent Melody in which the heroine is a deaf-mute (that’s how she is characterized in the story). It’s fascinating to read the way Balogh describes how Emily views/lives in her silent world, how she communicates with others, and how they communicate with her. And how sensitively/insensitively the other characters treat her. Some of the language used in reference to the character makes me uncomfortable because part of my day job is public school system special education administration. I keep telling myself that it’s like reading a romance novel from 1972 – yes the rape scene is understandable given the genre and societal norms at the time, just as in 1780, there was no such thing as political correctness when referring to someone with a disability. Continue reading

Michaeline: Questions about Covers with Lois McMaster Bujold

 

e novella cover; Greek monastery, stormy sea and a ship

“The Prisoner of Limnos” came out October 27, 2017! The electrons are still piping hot! (Image by Ron Miller, courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Penric novella, “The Prisoner of Limnos”, came out just Friday, and we’re very pleased to bring you our interview with her about covers – a subject near and dear to our hearts, because every good book is in the need of a cover, eventually.

EMD: For the early Penric covers, I know you asked for fan input about the public domain pictures you used, and I believe you mentioned that your agency helped you with the typography. Before that, did you have much input in the covers of your traditionally published books? What was the most useful piece of advice you got when you were choosing your own covers for the e-publications? What kind of parameters did you use for choosing the public domain pictures? And can you share any websites you found helpful in your search for a cover?

LMB: My input on my traditional-publisher artwork has varied over the years, from none to intense. There seems to be no discernible relationship between the amount of my involvement and the results. I’ve had great covers with no involvement, disappointing covers with lots, and the other way around, apparently at random.

I don’t recall I had much advice when I embarked on doing e-covers years ago with The Spirit Ring. (That would have been back in late 2010.) My helper putting them together could at the time only work with one image, cropping but no photoshopping, so options were limited. I wanted to choose historical paintings for the fantasies, because not only could I see what I was getting, but they were already at a high level of artistic accomplishment. Bad photoshopping/image collage is much worse than none, amateurish and off-putting, and any hint of photography was very wrong for the fantasy mood. As we’ve worked together over the years, my e-wrangler and I have both grown better at sorting through the challenges.

The websites I found useful might Continue reading