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Archive for June, 2011

Award-winning, first-time novelist Marisel Vera pens an honest, heart-felt, often sad tale of an idealistic, naïve Puerto Rican girl named Felicidad who goes to America to be with the man she loves.

The story, told from an author omniscient point of view, begins in the early 1940’s in the Puerto Rican countryside and ends about ten years later in Chicago. It follows Felicidad’s life from the time she’s a young jíbara living in appalling poverty in the mountains to the time she gets married and moves to America.

Young Felicidad lives in a tiny shack with her parents and siblings. Her father works in the fields and can barely support them. At times, Felicidad must be happy with only one meal a day. Their living conditions are so deplorable, she must tie her locks in a bun so that flying roaches in the latrine will not make a nest in her hair. Her sister dies because they can’t afford medical care. But worst of all, her mother is losing her mind. Unable to face the situation they’re in, one day her mother climbs naked onto the roof. The priest, of course, says she’s possessed by the devil.

Then Felicidad is sent to another town to live with her uncle and his wife, who own a panaderia. Though her uncle is kind and quiet most of the times, her aunt finds every opportunity to criticize Felicidad and treat her like a servant. Felicidad, naïve and good-natured, does her best to put up with her. She slaves in the panaderia and remains submissive, but she dreams of a prince who will love her and ‘rescue’ her one day. Years pass and Felicidad doesn’t hear a word from her family. She misses them terribly and would like nothing more than to visit them, but she wonders if the feeling is reciprocated and, afraid of rejection by her own flesh and blood, she stays away from them.

One day, a handsome man walks into the panaderia and Felicidad is swept off her feet. Aníbal Acevedo, a man of the world as far as women go, is taken by Felicidad’s innocent beauty. To everyone’s shock, a few days later, he asks her to marry him. Felicidad is ecstatic, filled with idealistic illusions of happiness, but is Aníbal capable of fulfilling his dreams, when he has another woman waiting for him in Chicago?

Marisel Vera’s prose flows beautifully. In a skillful, often blunt manner, she paints a painfully realistic picture of the jíbaro. In a way, Felicidad’s story is a Cinderella story but with an unusual twist. The two protagonists, Felicidad and Aníbal, come to live through the pages, each one so very distinctive from the other. It is especially fascinating to be inside Aníbal’s mind and see the world from his perspective, a brutal contrast to Felicidad. Their love story is bitter sweet. But most of all, the author gives us a powerfully sad glimpse of the jíbaro in the 1950’s in Chicago, their difficult lives and tribulations, the prejudice they had to confront. Vera is definitely a new Latina voice to be reckoned with, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

IF I BRING YOU ROSES
By Marisel Vera
Grand Central Publishing
http://www.HachetteBookGroup.com
ISBN-10: 0446571539
ISBN-13: 978-0446571531
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 351
Price: $13.99/$15.50 in Canada
General Fiction

Visit the author’s website at http://www.mariselvera.com/

Purchase from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/If-I-Bring-You-Roses/dp/0446571539

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Camilla Chafer is a freelance journalist, non-fiction book writer (and editor) and debut novelist. She’s written for dozens of newspapers, magazines and websites throughout the world on a wide range of issues from politics and technology to education and lifestyle. At times she’s worked as a copywriter, book editor, blogger and something dull in central government that she can’t tell you about. A graduate of the University of Leeds, with degrees in European Politics and Security and Defence Analysis, Camilla now lives in London, UK with her family and geriatric cat.

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

I’m Camilla and I’m a journalist/author from London. In the book field I started out writing non-fiction, predominantly in the education/parenting sector. Meanwhile my novel Illicit Magic languished on my hard drive and there’s an even older one lurking there somewhere and probably some even older ones hand written (gasp) in notepads that date back to my teens. When I’m not writing fiction, I’m writing for newspapers, magazines and websites.

Do you have another job besides writing?

No, I’m a freelance journalist so writing is what I do. However that does mean I’m involved in a wide range of topics for lots of different clients. I could be writing on anything from technology to politics to lifestyle or giving a lecture in any given month. I also have a background in book editing so I know what it’s like being an editor as well as an author.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

I wanted to write a book that had a really strong heroine – not invulnerable, but thoughtful and who would grow as a character – and that combined with me being interested in witches. They are very much an embodiment of female power in the supernatural field and I really wanted to write about a strong character who would be able to have her own adventures.

Who is your target audience?

I wanted to write a supernatural mystery that was the next step up in age range from the myriad of YA paranormal fiction novels out there. I asked myself, what do these readers move on to when they get a bit older, when they’ve got through college, and that was part of the creative process to define my audience and the content. My heroine, Stella, is in her mid-twenties and we’re going to be able to grow up with her through the series.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

Generally just after I’ve turned off the lights for the night and snuggled under the covers. Then ping! I get an idea and have to turn the light back on, disturb the cat, find a pen and make some notes. By then I’ve got cold again.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

Disappointing my reader, without a doubt. I want to offer them the best book I can so they can enjoy it and muse it over in their minds, wishing there was a little bit more. I also fear typos. Irritating little beasts.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

I tend to write chapter by chapter – though often a scene will spring out at me that I know will be in there later on, but I won’t know where to place it yet. So I write these scenes out of sequence and eventually they slot in. I’m not too precious about the process. In Unruly Magic, the sequel to Illicit Magic, I wrote the ending before I found out exactly how I was going to get there.

Sometimes, I’ll edit as I go along, generally because I’ve written something in a later chapter that needs some support or a clue in an earlier chapter and I don’t want to forget about it. Once I’ve got a full first draft, I start the first big edit where I copy edit and add extra description or dialogue and so on. After I’ve done all that, I start the process of several big edits to get the flow right and then there’s the final proofread to catch any errors.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

You can find out more about me and my books online at www.camillachafer.com and I try and add extras such as playlists and book group guides to give readers a bit more. I also write about the writing process using my background as book editor/ proofreader along with that of being an author of both non-fiction and fiction.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Illicit Magic is the first of the Stella Mayweather paranormal series. The sequel Unruly Magic, due out in July, picks up six months after Illicit Magic ended and takes us into a new era of Stella’s life. When a young girl turns up on Stella’s doorstep saying an ancient book told her Stella would be the one to protect her, she is reluctant to get involved. Dragged into the mystery of why several factions want the young witch, Stella is torn between two worlds: magic and a normal life, if only that decision were so simple. The third book, Devious Magic, is due out December 2011 and will see Stella come face to face with an arch enemy.

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Paula Meseroll is a public relations professional and award-winning freelance writer/editor/columnist whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, including Syracuse University Magazine, UB Today, Central New Yorker Magazine, and All Kids Considered. A summa cum laude graduate of Marywood University with a degree in communication arts/public relations, Meseroll is director of marketing and communications at Syracuse University. She’s here today to talk about Flossie Turner Lewis and their new book, Little Hot Mama.

Q: How did you first learn about Flossie Turner Lewis?

A: I met Flossie at the Laubach Literacy/Literacy Volunteers of America national conference held in San Diego in 2002. Flossie had won the National Award For Excellence as the Outstanding Student of the Year and as the editor of Laubach Literacy’s newsletter, LitScape, I had the chance to interview her. As a long-time reporter and freelance writer, I know a good story when I hear one and Flossie’s had everything—family conflict, the glamour of show business, a woman’s struggle to make a life for herself and her children on her own while being unable to read or write. I also saw her hold a room full of people spellbound as she gave her award acceptance speech, telling of her life in show business and her struggle with illiteracy. She is, in a word, amazing.

Q: For those readers who aren’t familiar with her name, please tell us who Flossie Turner Lewis is.

A: Flossie Turner Lewis began delighting audiences with songs and dances in 1935, when she was just two years old. Known by her stage name “Little Hot Mama,” she was the child of black show business stars Hot Papa and Dolly Turner. Flossie, along with her sister LuLu B. and brother Junior, traveled with their parents and performed as the Turner Family Revue. Her own show business career lasted for more than 40 years. She performed on the carnival and chitlin circuits, in speakeasies and minstrel shows, and in the swank nightclubs of Miami’s Overtown where the Turner Family shared venues with other black entertainment greats of the day. From the Deep South to Miami, Puerto Rico, and Los Angeles, Flossie lived her life as a performer, a mother, an eyewitness to racial discrimination and turmoil, and a woman who could not read or write—until she decided to learn how at the age of 65. She is now almost 78, has earned an honorary high school diploma, is the most requested speaker for the United Way in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has lobbied Congress and state legislatures on behalf of literacy organizations, and is much in demand as a commencement speaker.

Q: How did Little Hot Mama, your book co-written with Flossie Turner Lewis come about?

A: At the literacy conference, we exchanged business cards and I told Flossie if she wanted to work together to write her memoir, I would be happy to do so. When the conference was over, I went back home to Syracuse and got busy with other projects. Several months later, I found her card in a desk drawer and decided to give her a call. She told me other writers had offered to work with her to tell her story. She said she had to pray about me to see if I was the one she should work with and she’d let me know. A few days later, she called me back and said the answer was yes.

Q: Who’s your target audience?

A: Flossie’s story is interesting on so many levels that practically anyone would find it a great read. Literacy students, tutors, people interested in African American, black entertainment, and women’s history would all be especially enthralled.

Q: What would you like readers to get out of the book?

A: Most of all, I would like people to be entertained. That is the basis of everything Flossie did in her show business life—for the Turner Family, despite poverty, hunger, and her father’s gambling addiction, the show really did have to go on. I hope readers will be as deeply moved as I am by her story.

Q: What makes this woman’s story so special?

A: Flossie’s story is the inspiring tale of one woman’s struggle to make a successful life for herself and her children, despite the roadblocks of racism and illiteracy. Her first-person accounts of life on the minstrel show and chitlin circuit are a part of American history that perhaps no other living person can tell.
Flossie is an astoundingly strong woman who refused to be defeated by circumstance. She met everything life threw at her and overcame it all. The book has moments of intense pain and anguish—such as Flossie’s experience of being a poor, black single mother with a brain-damaged child, as well as the night when Flossie’s beloved mother died in her arms. But there are also parts where readers will literally laugh out loud—many of the hilarious plot shows that the Turner Family was famous for are described in detail. There are 35 pages of photos of Flossie, her family, and the entertainers they worked with.

Q: Tell us about the actual writing process of this book. What was it like working with Flossie?

A: Since Flossie lives in North Carolina and I live in upstate New York, we did all of our interviews by phone. Some nights we spoke for a few minutes, other times for hours. We laughed and cried together as she dredged up memories she’d submerged for decades—to get the details, I asked about many things she didn’t want to think about because the memories were too painful. Flossie likes to say that I know more about her than she does. Her recollections are intensely vivid—her family became so real to me that I actually dreamed about them at night. I have literally hundreds of hours of taped interviews which were made over the course of more than a year. During that time, we became more than collaborators. We are very good friends. Then came the hard part—organizing Flossie’s sometimes chaotic life into a readable manuscript and writing her story.

Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

A: Flossie and I could not be more different—she’s African American, I’m white. I’ve been reading since before I started kindergarten, words were just jumbles to her until she was in her late 60s. I graduated from college with highest honors; Flossie’s schooling was practically non-existent most of her life. There were times I had to research what she told me—names, dates, places—because she didn’t know how to spell them. Her life was so vastly different than mine that I literally had to submerge my own personality to write in Flossie’s voice. In that, I think I was successful—more than one person who has read the book has asked me if I am African American because I had the words and usage so right.

Q: Where is the book available?

A: Little Hot Mama: The Flossie Turner Lewis Story is available on Amazon.com as a Kindle e-book. It is also available as an e-book to libraries to purchase for unlimited lending to patrons.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

A: Flossie and I, our literary agent, Leticia Gómez, and our publisher, Stay Thirsty Media, have joined together to donate 50 cents from the sale of every digital copy of our book to The Flossie Turner Lewis Literacy Fund at ProLiteracy to support the most worthy cause of adult literacy.

Read more about Flossie Turner Lewis and “Little Hot Mama”:

http://www.prx.org/pieces/54066-lil-hot-mama-flossie-turner-lewis
http://www.syr.edu/news/articles/2010/flossie-turner-lewis-09-10.html
http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/al_focus/photos/little-hot-mama
http://www.thenewshouse.com/story/indomitable-spirit-little-hot-mama

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All her life, the archetypal hero and his journey have enthralled Darby Karchut. A native of New Mexico, Darby grew up in a family that venerated books and she spent her childhood devouring one fantasy novel after another. Fascinated by mythologies from around the world, she attended the University of New Mexico, graduating with a degree in anthropology. After moving to Colorado, she then earned a Master’s in education and became a social studies teacher.

Drawing from her extensive knowledge of world cultures, she blends ancient myths with modern urban life to write stories that relate to young teens today.

Darby lives in Colorado with her husband, where she still teaches at a local junior high school. She enjoys running, biking, and skiing the Rocky Mountains in all types of weather. Griffin Rising is her first novel. Visit the author at her website: www.darbykarchut.com.

Your first teen novel, Griffin Rising, blends ancient myths with modern urban life. Please tell us a little about the book.

For centuries, rumors have abounded of a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger.

But for one young angel-in-training, Griffin, life is hell as a cruel master makes his apprenticeship a nightmare. On the verge of failing, a new mentor, Basil, enters his life and changes it forever. It is their father-and-son relationship, sometimes turbulent, often hilarious, always affectionate, that is the heart and soul of the story.

Masquerading as the average teen next door, Griffin struggles to learn his trade, navigate the ups and downs of modern life among humans (including falling in love with the girl next door), and prepare for the ancient trial-by-combat every apprentice must pass at sixteen or be forced to become mortal.

How did your fascination with mythology start?

All my life, the archetypal hero and his journey have enthralled me. A native of New Mexico, I grew up in a family that venerated books and I spent my childhood devouring one fantasy novel after another, especially the works of J.R.R Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander. As a teen, Joseph Campbell’s writings made me aware of the power in the great myths from around the world, so I attended the University of New Mexico and graduated with a degree in anthropology.

Why an angel?

One day, in the summer of 2009, I was browsing in my favorite bookstore and discovered a book about legends from the Middle Ages. Obsessed with all things medieval, I thumbed through it and came across a short paragraph that described a lowly caste of guardian angels that were said to control the ancient elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. Not being particularly interested in angels, I put the book back and forgot all about it.

A few days later, while running the trails in the foothills near my home, the idea of writing a story about clandestine warriors-angels, who live among us while training their young apprentices, just roared up behind me and slammed into my head. Like an avalanche, you might say. And thus Griffin, Basil, and all the other Terrae Angeli were born.

Is the book part of a 3-book series? What is the theme of the series as a whole?

The book is the first in a possible 4-book saga. The theme is simply: On the road to adulthood, every hero-figure needs a father-figure. Once in awhile.

What about your protagonist will make readers want to read about him? What qualities make him a hero?

Griffin is the classic flawed hero. Surviving a brutal past causes him to have moments of self-doubt. Except when a mortal is in peril, than his true nature as a guardian angel shines forth. And, although he is one of the good guys, Griffin can be as snarky as the next teenager, especially to his mentor and surrogate father, Basil.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Since I had never written anything before, I had no idea what I was doing. I was beyond clueless. So I simply wrote the first draft of the book, then went back and studied everything I could about writing. Each time I learned something new, I went back and re-wrote the book. I must have written over twenty drafts before I began submitting it to various agents and publishers. I also read three to four YA novels a week. The more I read, the better I wrote.

How do you balance your teaching job with writing? Do you have a writing schedule? I’ve trained myself to write whenever I have a fifteen-minute block of time: lunch break, after school, evenings, and weekends. It does take discipline, but I love writing, so it’s more like play to me. And I never watch TV. Or cook.

I heard you love the revision process. What about it do you enjoy so much? Most writers find it tedious.  OMGosh, I would STILL be revising Griffin Rising if I could. I live to tweak. I find the more I polish a piece of writing, the better it gets. Without exception. For me, the first draft is the hardest part – it’s excruciatingly painful. Even with a strong outline, I have to wrench each scene out of my head word by word. But then once that draft is finished, I dive in and begin tweaking and polishing, adding and taking away.

How did you find Twilight Times Books? Did they offer a contract for the series based on the first manuscript? I began submitting my manuscript to both agents and publishers in the spring of 2010. Since Twilight Times Book has a sterling reputation and is well respected among small and mid-list book publishers, I sent them a copy of the manuscript in April and kept my fingers crossed. In June, I was offered a contract. Subsequently, I have also signed a contract for the next book in the series, Griffin’s Fire.

How do you market your books? It is a multi-pronged approach. Prior to release, I sent out close to 80 copies to various YA book bloggers, reviewers, and local bookstores as well as networking within the YA book world via my own blog and website. Anything and everything to get a “buzz” going. As the school year begins this coming fall, I will also be doing author visits to various middle and high schools in my area. My publisher also sent advanced readers copies to the well-known book reviews such as Library Journal, Foreword, School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and so on.

I understand you’re working on the sequel, Griffin’s Fire. When will this one be out? The release date is tentatively scheduled for April 2012.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? I would encourage anyone interested in writing YA books to read extensively in that genre. Best thing you can do as an author is saturate your mind with good writing. There is an old saying: you read and you read and then one day, you throw up a book. Inelegant, but so very true.

Learn the rules of writing, then break them as necessary to make your story better. Everything is about The Story.

Thanks, Darby!

Thank you, Mayra. I had a terrific time visiting with you.

 

 

 

 

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I was seven when I first started reading mysteries with Encyclopedia Brown and Freddy the Pig Detective books, and that must’ve gotten me hooked because by the time I was 13 I was devouring all the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe books and Agatha Christies I could get my hands on, and at some point made the leap to the hardboiled PI novels from Hammett, Ross Macdonald, Jonathan Latimer and others. So why do I love these books? Well, the puzzle aspect is part of it, but only a small part of it. It’s really the characters, although Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books are an exception since he’s mostly a cipher, and with those books it’s more the stories and their exposure of guilt in middleclass America and the sins of the father theme that kept me reading. But it’s the characters that drive most of these mystery novels. The Nero Wolfe books were my favorites among the pure mysteries, and while the first 7-8 were tightly plotted, the plots almost didn’t matter with the others—what kept you reading were Nero and Archie and their relationship. It was like spending time with old friends. Of course it didn’t hurt that Stout was a brilliant writer. With the hardboiled books, my favorite was Hammett’s Continental Op. All these Op books and stories were tightly plotted, but it was still the Op that made these stories so compelling.

Now here’s a confession. I mostly write crime fiction, noir thrillers and horror, and I’ve really only written one hardboiled PI mystery, Bad Karma, although my novels Killer, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, and Pariah can be looked at as mysteries, albeit, very different types of mysteries. My ‘Julius Katz and Archie’, as well as my award-winning Julius Katz stories, aren’t really mysteries in the true sense since they’re not fiction, but instead true crime stories ads I’ve been working with Julius Katz and Archie to chronicle their actual cases.

I know everyone thinks what I’m writing is fiction. Hell, I won the Shamus Award for the first case I chronicled with them that we titled “Julius Katz’, and I won Ellery Queen’s Readers Choice Award for the second case I chronicled, titled ‘Archie’s Been Framed’. It’s all rather embarrassing that people have mistaken these cases as stories. I guess part of the problem is that for reasons I can’t explain people haven’t hard of Julius outside of Boston. But even in Boston people still think these are fictional stories even though they’ve been reading accounts of these very same cases in the newspapers for years. The reason has to be that people think I’m doing some sort of Meta fiction where I’m replacing the real-life flesh and blood Archie with the way I describe him in these stories. I’m not. I’m describing Archie the way he is, but people for whatever reason can’t accept it. Julius has been getting a big kick out of this, while I think Archie is mostly annoyed by it. I can’t help it. If people want to take ‘Julius Katz and Archie’ as a fictional novel, then so be it!

About the author

Dave Zeltserman won the 2010 Shamus Award for Julius Katz, Ellery Queen’s Readers Choice Award for Archie’s Been Framed, and is the acclaimed author of the ‘man out of prison’ crime trilogy: Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer, where Small Crimes was named by NPR as one of the five best crime and mystery novels of 2008, and Small Crimes and Pariah (2009) were picked by the Washington Post as best books of the year. His recent The Caretaker of Lorne Field received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it a ’superb mix of humor and horror’, and was shortlisted by ALA for best horror novel of 2010. Outsourced (2011) has already been called ‘a small gem of crime fiction’ by Booklist and has been optioned by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film.

His latest book is Julius Katz and Archie (Top Suspense).

You can visit Dave’s website at www.davezeltserman.com. Connect with him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/people/Dave-Zeltserman/1434849193.

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