Welcome back, Readers! Here we are, in the fabulous fall season, officially! I hope everyone is faring well, between the changing seasons, and staying healthy! The weather here has been decent, for the North Country!
For the third installment of my Fall Blog Series, I’ll be sharing my interview with editor Vicki Lame, of Wednesday Books!
Wednesday Books is an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, which publishes a wide variety of unputdownable YA and Adult fiction. Vicki and I had a wonderful discussion about the publishing process, what her wishlist includes, and how she came to be an editor. I think you’ll agree, Vicki is an absolute rockstar, and authors would be lucky to work with her at Wednesday Books!
Vicki Lame can be found on Twitter @thedaysbetween
You can also check out @WednesdayBooks and @StMartinsPress, too!
Welcome, Readers! I am so happy you’re here. Today I am continuing with my Fall blog series: Meet The Editors, and today I’m sharing my interview with editor Dina Davis, of Mira books.
Mira Books is an imprint of Harlequin (HarperCollins). Dina will be chatting about her background, her editorial process in acquiring authors, and what she is specifically seeking at this time. Please note: Dina accepts AGENTED SUBMISSIONS ONLY.
Without further ado, let’s learn about editor Dina Davis and Mira!
Susan Thank you for joining me on my blog today, Dina! If you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into the publishing world?
Dina I went to NYU, wanting to get into writing and be a journalist. I really liked it. But I did some internships, and felt that journalism, like newspaper journalism, wasn’t my style. I always loved fiction more. And so when I graduated, the internship that I was currently at was at a magazine. They had a book department and they had an editorial assistant job opening. I applied for that and ended up getting it. That was more nonfiction, Christian books. With a little bit of fiction and stuff. It was guidepost books, and it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. Like, those weren’t the types of books that I like to read. I always was into romance, so I was always looking at Harlequin. And when the Love Inspired imprint opened up, it’s like, well, that’s it! I’m into romance, science fiction. And I also had some connections in the inspiration world already. So I went over there. What I always really wanted to do was get into the big books on the trade side. And that’s how I moved over here in April. I’m in Mira now, and I’m carrying a bunch of different things across genres. I’ve moved outside of the inspirational Christian space. I’m doing mainstream fiction and it’s really fun to get into the very dark stuff as well as still the light hearted RomCom-y things now.
Susan Yes, that’s great. What a journey, right?
Dina Yes! I’ve been kind of all over the place. I feel like most people in publishing have that windy road.
Susan So, you’re talking about how now you acquire more of an eclectic mix of things. Tell us a little bit more about that. What kind of books do you love the most?
Dina Well, personally, I read a little bit of everything, but romance has always been like my, “if I need something that I can just forget about stuff and get into”, that is my go to, or the complete opposite; Dark Horror kind of stuff. Escapism is my big thing. But when it comes to what I’m acquiring we don’t do a ton of romance at Mira. Our focus is more about commercial fiction. We do some RomComs. But we’re not really looking specifically for romance focused stories. I love a book that has a good love story, but has more to it than just a romance plot. Also, I wouldn’t say to send me a historical romance or a contemporary romance or something that’s not in that RomCom realm. I am looking for psychological thrillers, for some horror. I like character driven, issue driven stories. The Big Book Club fiction in the upmarket realm. I do a little bit of light Sci Fi Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. So really, like across general fiction categories, mostly leaning commercial, but also some more upmarket and book club stuff, too.
Susan Wonderful. And so, part of what I wanted to talk with the editors in this series about is, the different roles that you might have, or the hats that you wear as an editor. When we’re on the agent side, or the author side, unless we work directly with that press or that editor, we don’t really know, you know, what goes on on the other side. So, I wondered if you could kind of walk us through what it’s like to work with an editor at Mira, like yourself.
Dina Okay, I am pretty new and still kind of learning the MIRA team and stuff, but I’d say editors, we do a lot more than just editing. We are your liaison. We are the person that is in contact with all the marketing and publicity and contracts and sales teams. When we fall in love with a book and acquire it, we really want it to do as well as possible. So our job in addition to making sure the project is as strong as possible, w are going to all the different teams and fighting for the right covers for it and pushing for the right distribution and talking about what we can do on the marketing/publicity side. And we have a great team that works really well together in all of those departments. I think that we’re pretty cohesive, and if an offer comes to us with questions or issues and stuff, we are pretty responsive and able to get feedback from the different departments pretty quickly. Are there specific questions that you have?
Susan A lot of times my authors and other agents wonder about what the behind-the-scenes process is. What does it look like? Is it a team approach? Obviously, it sounds like it’s a team approach at Mira. And another aspect of it that always comes up, at least with some of my authors is, what about the final product, like the cover? Does the author have any input? Is it a collaborative process with the author?
Dina We do run covers past authors, and take feedback from the authors. Like, back-cover copy; I see it, and I send it to the author before I send it to my boss to get approval, because the author is going to have the closest relationship with the material and will be able to say, “Oh, well, that thing isn’t quite accurate,” or “I don’t want to give that much away,” and stuff like that. We try to loop in the authors early on in the design process, asking if there certain poses you want to see if there are characters in the cover? Or what kind of settings and scenes and stuff would you like here? So we try to work very, very much with the authors to get to their sense of it. But it also comes down to, when we’re all debating on different little pieces of it, what’s going to sell. You have to ask if this cover is going to be eye catching, versus a different one and stuff. So we know that a lot of people on our team, the sales people, the marketing people, the publicity people, really know what’s going to stand out on both social media and on that shelf, and what we’re going to push. So yeah, we try to work as a team with everybody and try to make everybody as happy as possible when it comes to those things.
Susan That’s really neat. It’s such a process, right? So many different steps and different avenues that have to be followed before it’s done. So, from the time a book is acquired to the time that it gets onto the bookshelves, what kind of a timeframe is that? I know that in some cases, it’s years. Right? You’re looking at years down the road.
Dina Yeah, I think that that’s going to really depend on the book and what our schedule looks like at the time. And if they’re like spots that we have to fill right away, like, did we just buy a psychological thriller, and next summer, we don’t have a psychological thriller in a specific month, we can fill that hole with it. It is so it’s hard to give a general sense of that. I can say, I’ve acquired two new authors for the line since April, and one of them isn’t going to be published until 2024. And the other one is going to be published next June. It also depends on if we are buying a full manuscript or proposal? We rarely buy on proposal, but it depends on how well the author is established, and if there’s somebody who has worked on different imprints internally or something like that. And if it’s on a proposal, we have to wait for a book to be written. That pushes things out further too. I think we tend to try to publish everything within 18 months. But it all comes down to schedules.
Susan So, I guess it all depends. That’s the side of publishing that agents and authors aren’t always privy to. That’s really good info. So from an agent perspective, when we send things to editors for consideration, do you prefer that the agent send a proposal and sample chapters or a proposal and the manuscript? How do you like to receive materials?
Dina I know that this varies for every editor to but I definitely prefer to just have the full manuscript because if I start reading, and I really liked it, I don’t have to get back to you and be like, is this full? Is there more to this manuscript? Can you send it to me? And then I have to wait for it. What if you’re on vacation, and I really want to keep reading or something like that. I do like to have a synopsis, if it’s available. If it’s not, that’s fine too. It also depends on what the genre is. If it is like, a psychological suspense, I don’t think that I would want to know all those twists and turns that happen at the end. So I’d rather read the book and be drawn in and keep going. But it can be helpful. There have been a couple of books lately that I’ve been like, I’m interested in this, but I’m not sure if the ending is gonna hold up. If I could take a peek at the synopsis, that could save me time. It helps. But I’m definitely someone who prefers to have a full manuscript. I know, there are a lot of people who are like, just send me three chapters. It saves us an email, because I can read the first three chapters and make a decision based on that, but I can also just keep going.
Susan Okay, excellent. What do you feel is the best part of your job? What do you like the most about what you do?
Dina Well, I love the editing, and working with the authors. If I can get on a brainstorming phone call, and hash out all the little details. I did that with an author recently. We were on the phone for two hours, figuring out plot points, and, and it was really fun. It can be really engaging to get into the nitty gritty of that. And that’s one of the things that I also had loved about the journalism route that I was on, because it was kind of like the interview process of trying to pull information out of people. You can do that even more creatively in a fiction brainstorming session. So I like doing that. And then just also getting into the stories and really reading them and figuring out how to make them as strong as possible. I think that’s the most fun part of the job.
Susan I know that from the agent side, I’m more of an editorial agent, because I love digging in, too. Ironing out as much as we can together with the author. I love that aspect of it as well. So that’s really cool. Let’s see…What are some things that you’re most excited about seeing currently? Where would you see the most interest in your inbox?
Dina I’ve been trying to really find a great horror, but it has to be something that is an “at the moment” issue kind of book. I feel like it has to be something that has wider appeal, because we don’t get very deep into the horror or fantasy or science fiction genre at Mira. So it needs to have that emotional human element that drives it. And then, I am always going to be looking for character driven psychological thrillers slow burn kind of books, I am looking for rom coms, but they have to be a really fresh spin on tropes. And they really have to make me laugh; that’s the main thing that I’m looking for in that realm. That can be really tough to pull off sometimes, because it still has to have all that conflict and heavy parts to it, too. Yeah, I am interested in some historicals that are more in the commercial space. Recent historicals, but I’m not interested in World War Two. But I’d love to see things like like a story that’s own voices that takes place in New Orleans and is based around the Voodoo queen, something like that would be really fun. Something that is different from what we see every day. And then, in general, I’m just looking for things by marginalized creators who are writing in those spaces too, and books that are just outside of the bounds of what publishing has been kind of narrowly focused on for so long. So I’d really like to expand that especially within the Mira line and get more voices in.
Susan Thank you. And so just for the very end, I just wanted to find out some fun things: So what is your favorite color?
Dina Anything on the blue spectrum really kind of?
Susan Nice. And do you have a favorite musician, band type of music? What do you listen to?
Dina I’m a little all over the place and that like, I think that a lot of it kind of got stuck when I was in high school. So if you look at like the hip-hop, rap, emo stuff, punk stuff, that came out in like 2008. But I also like the stuff that my parents listened to. I grew up with my parents listening to Tom Petty, Alannis Morrisette, Metallica. I’m kind of all over the place.
Susan It’s a nice eclectic collection! Do you have a favorite place that you visited?
Dina I studied abroad for eight months in Florence, Italy, and it’s my absolute favorite place in the world. I’d love to have a vacation home there one day.
Susan That’s great. I think for myself, when I was finished with college, a friend of mine and I did a tour through Europe, and it’s just so amazing. You know, we spent a month there and it was just so inspiring. I’d love to go back.
Dina Yeah, it’s so great.
Susan Do you have a favorite food?
Dina Anything potatoes? Like, I’m an Irish girl. We make something called potato candies?
Susan Well, what’s that?
Dina It’s literally a pound of powdered sugar mixed with a mashed boiled potato and then you roll it out and put peanut butter on it and roll it up like a dessert roll, and then put it in the fridge until it hardens. It’s very, very sweet.
Susan Oh my gosh, I guess so! Lastly, just do you have a favorite book of your lifetime?
Dina Oh, man. It’s so hard to choose. Well, I guess the book that really got me into, well, okay, there are two that really got me into reading when I was a kid. So, the first book I ever read on my own was called Purple, Green and Yellow, and it was literally about a girl who would color herself with markers until she got “super indelible, never come off until you die or maybe even later markers.” Like, that’s literally a line in the book! And that’s always stuck with me because it was the first book I was able to read by myself. And then, The Giver was something that I read in middle school that has always stuck with me. It was when I was first getting into audiobooks, and wasn’t sure if I could handle listening to a book. I was like, “Oh, well, I’ve read that enough, and it’s something that would be an easy way to introduce myself to it.” That’s what I would go back to, and stuff. So that was kind of a big book for me throughout my life.
Susan That’s cool. Well, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for participating in my blog series!
Dina Thank you for including me, and it was great to talk to you.
Last week, I featured author Jenn McKinlay, and her book, Paris Is Always A Good Idea. The post can be found here.
Today’s Summer Fave is by New York Times bestselling author, Abby Jimenez, whose RomCom, Part Of Your World, has stolen my heart!
This book features two characters, Alexis and Daniel, and their worlds couldn’t be more different. “Big City” Alexis comes from money…LOTS of money. She is a physician among physicians in her family, and reluctant heir to the head of the Hospital Board; a familial career path which dates back generations.
Daniel is the Mayor of Wakan, MN, a seasonal, small, one-horse town, where he is a jack of all trades, artisan carpenter, bed and breakfast owner, and baby goat fosterer. He and his country cousins are a big part of each other’s lives, in the most close-knit and charming way.
When Alexis’ car breaks down in Wakan, Daniel rescues her. Of course, there is lots of chemistry early on, but how can they make it work when they are from completely different worlds?
I adore this book. I feel so much for Alexis and Daniel. Scratch that…I LOVE THEM! And if you fancy yourself a read that will take you through a “colliding worlds” type of romance, with all the charm of a small town and baby goats in pajamas, this book is for you. Additionally, Abby has created wonderfully fleshed out side characters and subplots that will bring on all the feels.
Get this book!
Alright. Let’s commence with the interview!
Writer’s Block:Would you mind telling my readers a little bit about yourself? Can you describe your background, and how it has brought you to become an author?
Abby Jimenez: My background has nothing to do with writing, interestingly enough. I took a few creative writing classes in high school, but went straight into the workforce when I graduated and never even went to college. In 2007 I lost my job and founded a cake business out of my house. I ended up opening a retail bakery in 2009. I went on TLCs show Fabulous Cakes for two seasons, then I got an invite from Food Network and won Cupcake Wars. In 2011 I moved to Minnesota and opened up two more locations, one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul. It wasn’t until 2017 that the bakeries were stable and staffed well enough for me to take a step back and start writing. I started writing as a hobby and it turns out I was somewhat good at it. I spent a year on Critique Circle honing my craft and I came out of it with The Happy Ever After Playlist. I got an agent with that book and while we were in submissions I decided to write the prequel, The Friend Zone. The rest is history!
Writer’s Block:I have read two of your books, The Happy Ever After Playlist, and Part Of Your World…Both fantastic! For this post, I will focus on Part Of Your World, since it’s your latest release, but after reading both, I noticed something really charming: Minnesota! Do you have a personal connection to Minnesota?
Abby Jimenez:I live in Minnesota! I lived in California for most of my life, which is why the first two books start there. As of right now all my future books will be based in beautiful MN.
Writer’s Block:You write “Minnesota” so well, Abby, I feel the need to see it in person! *Bucket list!* Here’s another charming aspect that I noticed in your books: recurring characters! I love when character “cameos” can be found across an author’s work! How do you decide which characters make an appearance in subsequent books?
Abby Jimenez:Sometimes it’s obvious to me that the next character needs to be someone we’ve met in a previous book–but sometimes it’s the readers who make me reintroduce someone. Everyone loved Doug so much, there was no way I couldn’t include his cameo in Yours Truly (Bri’s book!).
Writer’s Block:Doug is awesome! And I am so excited to read Bri’s book! A third commonality between your books I have read: Dogs! Tell us about that connection. Do dogs play a special role in your life, as they do for your characters?
Abby Jimenez:I absolutely looove dogs. I think dogs are so telling. The kind of dog a character owns and the way the dog responds to that person says a lot about them. A great way to build on a character’s world and personality is by giving them a dog. There will always be a dog in my books!
Writer’s Block:I love dogs, too! I always thought my Sahara, a Brittany Spaniel, should be featured in one of my own books. She is such a goofball! Maybe I’ll do that. A comment: I ended up adding Part Of Your World to my list of fave summer reads for a number of reasons. One reason is because of your settings. Your Minnesota locales feature lakefront homes, people who genuinely care for one another, and oodles of charm, which make me want to take a roadtrip! Thank you for that summertime inspiration!
Abby Jimenez:Shameless Minnesota plug here, but I adore my state.
Writer’s Block:One thing that I admire about your books is the masterful way you impart the “meet-cute”. I can’t think of another author who does them better! In your latest release, your meet-cute is a car breakdown and rescue. How do you come up with these delightful scenarios?
Abby Jimenez:Each meet-cute has its own inception point. Here’s a fun one: In The Happy Ever After Playlist Sloan meets Jason when his runaway dog dives through her sunroof. I’d seen this cute video of a guy who was dog sitting for a friend. He made an adorable compilation video of all the fun stuff he was doing with the dog; playing in the hose, watching TV, going on walks. I thought, wouldn’t it be so cute if a woman found a man’s lost dog and she made him a video like that? What if this is how they meet? And so the sunroof scene was born!
Writer’s Block:I have read Playlist, and that is one of the all-time best meet-cute scenes I have ever read. You also have a knack for writing swoon-y leading men. In Part Of Your World, Daniel is a small-town jack of all trades. He’s also the town’s mayor, and a baby goat fosterer. He is as charming as they come…My heart! What is your process for creating these characters?
Abby Jimenez:When I write my men, I start by knowing the woman they’re going to love. Then I write the man she needs. That’s how I do it every time. And I love cinnamon rolls. I love writing men who are emotionally intelligent and vulnerable, who aren’t afraid to show their feelings and be head over heels for the woman they love.
Writer’s Block:That’s fantastic. I also love that your men have creative sides. At least that has been true with the two books I have read. Jason, in The Happy Ever After Playlist, is a rock star/songwriter (near and dear to my heart!) Now, a serious note: As delightful as this colliding-worlds story is, there is a thread running through it which highlights domestic abuse, and its various forms. You handled that thread with finesse, and took a stance of empowering women in that situation. I imagine that would be a difficult layer to work into Alexis and Daniel’s story. Can you talk about that aspect of the story?
Abby Jimenez:My best friend is a domestic abuse survivor. Before I knew her, I remember thinking that I couldn’t understand how a woman could stay in a situation like that. And then I met Lindsay and she was this strong, independent woman–who had barely left her first marriage with her life. Hearing her story was very eye opening to me. It was the moment I realized that DV can happen to anyone–young, old, poor, wealthy–and I learned that abuse can be subtle and isolating and it doesn’t always mean bruises and broken bones. I wanted to tell a story about the different kinds of abuse. I wanted to create a roadmap for those in that situation so they could start to see a way out, and I wanted to educate those witnessing it so they could recognize it for what it is.
Writer’s Block:That is brilliant. I hope your work can help others in that situation. Final question: I can’t wait to read your backlist, but before we end today, tell us: Are there any new projects you are working on? *fingers crossed!*
Abby Jimenez:Yes! My next book comes out in spring of 2023. It’s called Yours Truly and it’s Bri’s book! We get lots of cameos from the characters from Part of Your World and we even get to spend some time in Wakan.I can’t wait!
Writer’s Block:I can’t wait, either, Abby! Thank you so much for your time! Your books have been a joy to read. To close us out, I’d love to share a couple of quotes from Part Of Your World:
Today, I am sharing a book series review, as relayed to me by Charlotte, my 10 year old daughter. The Calabiyau Chronicles is a series of books which opened the excitement of reading to my daughter. When she was in the 4th grade, during her birthday month, she was invited to select a free book from a huge collection of brand new books that had been delivered to a classroom. The way she described it, the selection of books was so enormous!
My daughter searched through the piles of books, and emerged with her choice, KANDIDE AND THE SECRET OF THE MISTS. The cover and the title are what attracted Charlotte to the book. From my perspective, the book was glorious. A fantastic cover, intricate artwork within, and written at a level which I was thrilled that my 10 year old daughter had chosen. The book is fantasy, and features beautiful fairy-like creatures, winged and colorful.
According to Charlotte, SECRET OF THE MISTS was action-packed and exciting. The most exciting part was when Kandide, the main character and heroine, arrived at the mists, and was attacked by the Garglan, a vicious, hairy creature with wings, sharp teeth, claws, and a long tail. The Garglan also has creepy red eyes. Kandide needed the help of wolves to escape it.
Her excitement about SECRET OF THE MISTS prompted me to purchase book 2 of the series, THE LADY’S REVENGE. According to my daughter, THE LADY’S REVENGE is mysterious. A princess, Tara, is captured, and frozen in a block of ice. If the ice melts, she will die. Kandide is in charge of making Winter, and so she changes the season to Winter again, keeping the ice frozen. Kandide enlists the help of her brother to magically save Tara from the block of ice.
At the end of Book 2, Charlotte was so anxious for book 3…but it wasn’t released yet! I had to pre-order it, and she was so thrilled when it finally arrived! The title of Book 3 in this series, is THE MASKS OF DECEPTION. This book, like the two other before it, features beautiful pictures throughout. They are stunning.
Charlotte just finished reading it, and here is what she told me: There is a war going on between Calabiyau, and the Banshee Kingdom. She didn’t want to give me too many spoilers, but she did mention at one point, that the Fee’ have to enter the human world, and they get stuck. This is dangerous for the Fee’ because in the human world, time moves faster and they age really quickly. MASKS OF DECEPTION ends with “To be continued…”, which delighted my daughter. We are hoping for a book 4!
It should be noted that there is a beautiful, intricate coloring book that coincides with this book series. We also own the coloring book. It’s truly lovely.
As a parent, author, and teacher, I was so happy to find a series of books which my daughter became so enthralled with. I would also like to point out that when I reached out to author Diana S. Zimmerman about Charlotte’s zest for her books, she was more than happy to connect. That means a lot to the readers who fall in love with characters and places of an authors creation. Thank you for writing such a series for my daughter and other readers to enjoy.
For today’s post in this series, I introduce author Carys Jones, with a recipe inspired by her novel, Dare To Dream, published by REUTS Publications. Here is a blurb about the book, from the publisher’s website:
“Fourteen-year-old Maggie Trafford leads a normal life. Well, as normal as being crammed in a three-bedroom house with four siblings and a single parent can be, anyway. But despite being somewhat ignored at home, Maggie excels, earning top grades, a best friend who would do anything for her, and stolen looks from a boy in Maths.
It’s not until the dreams start that Maggie realizes “normal” is the least of her problems. Every night, she lives the same nightmare—red lightning, shattered glass, destruction. But nightmares are just that, right? No one believes her when she says it’s an omen. At least, not until the already mysterious pillars of Stonehenge start falling.
No longer alone in her fear, Maggie and the world watch with bated breath as one after another, the historic stones tumble, like a clock counting down. But only Maggie knows what it means: when the last stone falls, destruction will reign. And when the world ends, there’s only one option left—survive.”
Here is Carys Jones, in her own words.
I chose a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes to represent the character of Maggie from Dare to Dream. In the book, Maggie is plagued by nightmares of red lightning which ultimately destroy the world, hence why I leaned towards a red dessert.
Maggie is a sweet natured girl with hidden depth (like a great cupcake). Whilst not rich she is intense.
Red Velvet Cupcakes–As inspired by Maggie in Dare to Dream
What you’ll need;
250 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100 grams butter
200 grams caster sugar
1 tablespoon red food colouring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
175 millilitres buttermilk
What to do;
Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/325°F, and fill two muffin tins with paper cases
Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a mixing bowl.
In a different bowl cream the butter and sugar together. Then beat in the food colouring and the vanilla extract
Add the eggs and flour into the mix, beating continuously so that everything becomes a nice thick paste.
Finally beat in the buttermilk and then spoon the mixture into the paper cases.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. To check if they’re done, pierce a cake with a skewer or knife and if it comes out clean then your cakes are done.
Leave them to cool on a wire rack before adding the frosting.
For the Topping you’ll need;
500 grams icing sugar
125 grams cream cheese
125 grams butter
Mix the icing sugar, cream cheese and butter together.
Whisk thoroughly until smooth.
Carefully ice each cupcake (once thoroughly cooled)
Decorate with chocolate sprinkles and red sugar if desire.
Carys Jones loves nothing more than to write and create stories which ignite the reader’s imagination. Based in Shropshire, England, Carys lives with her husband, two guinea pigs and her adored canine companion Rollo.
When she’s not writing, Carys likes to indulge her inner geek by watching science- fiction films or playing video games.
She lists John Green, Jodi Picoult and Virginia Andrews as her favorite authors and draws inspiration for her own work from anything and everything.
To Carys, there is no greater feeling then when you lose yourself in a great story and it is that feeling of ultimate escapism which she tries to bring to her books.
The photo above, shows a Great Gatsby-inspired meal. From the website, it states: Waldorf Salad in a lettuce cup, and deviled egg, photographed in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. http://www.denverpost.com. I think it’s a great photo, and really sets the tone for what this blog series is about.
Today begins a month-long series, where some of my writerly friends and I will be sharing a little bit about our books, and recipes and foods which are inspired by them. I intend to share a new post each week of October, highlighting an author or two, each time.
Planning this series was meaningful to me. Foods and customs help to shape who we all are. When writing, it’s important to include those types of things, because it helps create character depth, and brings a more intimate knowledge of the story to light. When I read a novel, I want to feel like I live with those characters for a while. This blog series is an attempt to bring you, the Reader, closer to living within the pages of our novels. Join us!
For the first post in the series, I introduce you to J.M. Frey, the author of The Accidental Turn Series. Here she is, posting in her own words.
Bevel Dom’s Questing Cuisine
by J.M. Frey
One of the most fun parts of world building is figuring out the cuisines of the world. What grows in this climate? What is their staple grain? How often do they go to market? What kind of growing season do they get? Do they trade with neighbors, or neighboring counties, or neighboring countries? Do the highborn eat the same foods as the peasantry? Who gets to hunt on what land, and what sort of creatures do they consider food-animals over pet-animals?
For my novels and novellas in The Accidental Turn series, I firmly established a world where bread, cheese, European-style fruits and root vegetables, and farmed meat were the standards of faire. But my rogue and roving heroes – Kintyre Turn and Bevel Dom – were more likely to live off the land. Venison, eel, dried fruit and nuts, and foraged potatoes were more their speed. And in a world were exotic spices were non-existent and everyone – everyone human that is – had a kitchen garden filled with the same herbs, Bevel kept a string of cylindrical tins attached to his sword belt, and the spice blends he’d wheedled out of centaur chefs and night elf kitchen maids were his greatest treasure.
In his seventeen years as a roaming sword-for-hire, Bevel developed several clever and ingenious ways to serve up road-rations and just-caught creatures to make them palatable to two hungry Heroes. Here is one of them:
Bevel, trying to break through the heavy atmosphere, hands one of the leaf-wrapped packages to me, and the other to Kintyre. Wordlessly, Kintyre holds it out to Pip, and Pip, equally wordlessly, takes it. I take my own from Bevel, accepting the temporary truce, and it is still hot; it singes my fingertips a little. It steams as I unwrap it, and I am pleased to see that it is a sort of roll made up of meat wrapped around dried fruit. It is juicy and delicious, and I realize how hungry I am on the first bite.
“We’ve been doing this part of adventuring wrong,” Pip moans around her own mouthful.
Bevel pinks again. “I’ve had a long time to practice. Luckily, Kin was willing to put up with my experimentation.”
“And I’m lucky Bevel actually enjoys cooking and was willing to experiment,” Kin says around a mouthful. “We got sick of standard travel fare pretty quick.”
BEVEL’S SWEET MEAT ROLLS
Venison, pounded flat (rehydrated from salted jerky is fine, if you have the time to soak it for a few hours), at least the size of your hand.
Dried berries – plums, cranberries and raisins preferred – rehydrated by soaking them in whatever liquor you happen to have to hand. Soak them for at least an hour.
Some dried nuts, roasted in a pan over your cookfire, if you like.
Large, thick, non-poisonous leaves – an acceptable equivalent in the Overrealm would be Banana leaves. Tinfoil would also be acceptable.
A Centaur Sweet and Savory Spice Blend – the Overrealm equivalent would be cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, sea salt, white pepper, and thyme blended to taste.
Build up your camp fire in advance so that by the time you’ve prepared your rolls the embers are hot and cherry red. Pour three handfuls of dried fruit into your travel cup and soak it with liquor – whiskey, sherry, or brandy work best. Wait until all the liquid has been absorbed into the fruit; while you’re doing that pound your cuts of meat flat and lay them on the leaves. Muddle and chop the fruit and nuts together, and spread a thin layer over the meat. Sprinkle with your spice blend. Roll the meat and fruit mixture like a scroll, fold the leaf around it (making sure to tuck in the edges to the fire doesn’t crisp them), and secure all with a bit of string soaked with water. Place the whole package on the edge of the fire, and leave for upwards of an hour, until the meat is at your preferred cooking level, or your companion is complaining of hunger. Serve with a trencher of bread if you have any. Potatoes, baked in the fire, work just as well.
Or, I suppose y0u could do it on the Barbeque, if you want to cheat.
J.M. is a voice actor, SF/F author, fanthropologist and professional smartypants on AMI Radio’s Live From Studio 5. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. She also has an addiction to scarves, Doctor Who, and tea, which may or may not all be related. Her life’s ambitions are to have stepped foot on every continent (only 3 left!) @scifrey | http://www.jmfrey.net/
Here’s another favorite for this time of year. California Dreamin’ as performed by The Beach Boys:
Labor Day Weekend is always a bittersweet time of the year for me. We have a lovely visit from family for a couple of days, then it’s back to school for all of us. This morning as I write this, my third cup of is gone, and I reflect back on my sweet, yet at times bitter, Summer vacation.
For the most part, this was a fantastic Summer, as mentioned in a previous post. I have a book coming out from REUTS Publications next Summer, and I now have a wonderful agent, Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary, who is absolutely fabulous. When we had “the call”, it was as if all the pieces of my literary puzzle were somehow finding their way together, creating a more complete picture. Like magic. There is so much to look forward to!
Yet, in the paragraph above, I mentioned that this was a fantastic Summer “for the most part”. This is because we suffered a loss, and that loss was felt not only by my family, but by the entire school community. So, somewhere within this wonderful, magical summer, I also went through quite a bit of grief. And now, with the end of Summer upon us and the start of school to begin, I find myself thinking about that loss again, wondering how we will get through that first day of school. But we will.
Looking back, I learned (or, remembered…) a few things this Summer.
It might take a long time, but if you work steadily toward a goal, it will happen.
I am capable of much more than I thought I was.
Setting smaller goals and completing them keeps me on track.
Having Grit can get you through the hard times.
When faced with tough times, family and friends help get you through.
As this new school year starts, my goal is to remember these little lessons. This Summer was a good one for reminders!
How was your Summer? What new goals might you have for Autumn? Do you have any favorite songs for this time of the year? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for stopping by my Writer’s Block! A few years ago, I posted on the topic of the writer’s roller coaster ride. I had just entered a contest, and earned a spot in the mentor and agent rounds. It was HUGE!!! Today, I write about this topic again, this time through the lens of an author with a book deal. The emotions I go through are detailed below, on this Writer’s Roller Coaster Ride I am currently on. I love it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way! Maybe you have experienced some of these on your own writing journey.
DISBELIEF: As many of you know, the process of submitting a book to agents and publishers is filled with twists and turns, and a lot of disappointment. When I received the offer of publication from REUTS, I almost could not believe it. I had gotten to know the team a bit through the years, and I hoped deep down that my book would find its home with them. When it finally happened, it took a while for it to sink in.
PRIDE: This really speaks for itself. When a writer gets positive feedback of any kind, be it from a critique partner, a literary agent, or a publisher, the pride swells. And that’s okay! Enjoy it! Revel in it! Get ready for the next steps in your writer’s journey. The day I saw the official press release about my novel in Publisher’s Marketplace and on the REUTS blog, I knew it was really happening! My heart swelled! I love my publishing team at REUTS, and know that my book baby is in the best of hands.
SELF-DOUBT: I think as writers, we are very comfortable with self-doubt. We know it well, and consider ourselves friends. I say that in a jokingly sort of way, but truthfully, writers see so much in the way of “N0-thank-you’s” that we sometimes wonder if we are up to the tasks in front of us. Eventually we do grow more comfortable with self doubt. Now, as an author with REUTS, I still have my own doubts. I think about upcoming revisions and marketing my book, and wonder what those processes will be like. But through all of the wondering, I know I have an amazing support system in place; my family, friends, and my publisher are all part of my cheering section.
TRUST: Trust can be tricky for writers. We spend so much with our stories and characters while we write them. It can be tough to see their world as anything different than what we envision in our own minds. But part of the writing process includes trusting people with our book babies. It’s through the eyes of others that writers can create a more complete, fulfilling novel for our readers. Through the years, I have grown more and more comfortable asking for criticism and critique from people. I write about that topic a little bit here. I also get more comfortable with trust by helping others sculpt their own novels. There is something empowering about that. (see below)
EMPOWERMENT: The feeling of empowerment is also a tough thing for a writer, or any creative artist, to feel. We are always looking for what’s wrong with our work so we can fix it. Sometimes we can’t ever get to the point where we believe it’s any good. When writers learn to trust themselves with the writing process, and others with advice as they help you sculpt your book into a work of art, that’s when the magic happens. Your book takes on a life of its own. With that magic, comes empowerment. It took me a while to understand this, but it’s okay to step back, look at your novel, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
PEACE: Peace for me as a writer comes and goes. Self doubt rears it’s ugly head from time to time, but then fades away as my novel writing progresses. Peace with the writing process comes and goes. I need to remember to embrace it when it comes, and get excited when I meet little goals!
ANXIOUSNESS: This is where I am currently at on this roller coaster ride toward publication. As I write this post, I am super anxious and excited at what lies ahead for my book baby. I appreciative the incredible support system of my family, friends, and publisher, REUTS. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I love comments! Please feel free to comment below, or share your experiences with your own writer’s roller coaster ride.
I just got home from a writer’s conference, and it was a good one. I thought I might share some of the awesomeness with you all. First, a little bit of background:
I heard about the Lakefly Literary conference in OshKosh, Wisconsin on Twitter a few months ago, when one of my good Twitter friends posted about it. My thought at the time: Sounds like fun! I wish I could go!
Then I went online, and read about the lineup of workshops and presenters. I admit that I was not familiar with the presenters. They seemed to be local to Wisconsin, and here I am in Northern New York. But the workshops seemed to be just what I needed, especially the one about making a marketing plan. Also, the price point couldn’t be beat. But the final thing that tipped the cart for me was the fact that several of my Twitter friends would be there, live and in person, and what an opportunity it would be to meet face to face.
So I booked my conference and flight to Wisconsin!
The Lakefly Literary Conference is still pretty young, only in its 4th year. It is small enough for an out-of-stater like me to feel welcomed, yet offers enough of what I was looking for to really make it worthwhile.
Ruth Percey, who runs the OshKosh library, puts the event on along with several other folks, and they really went out of their way to make sure that the offerings met our needs. By the end of the conference, she knew me by name! I left there with a great feeling of accomplishment. Being able to meet and hang out with authors and publishers is a special thing. There were many opportunities to browse books of all sorts, and even have them signed. New friends were made, and folks I had only known in the Interwebs suddenly became real people.
So here I sit, in my Post Conference high. I look forward to using the information I gathered at #Lakefly16. Feels good!
Anyone else going to a writing conference? Have you been to any good ones recently? Feel free to share in the comments!
EXTRA, EXTRA!!! HIDE THE ELEPHANT RELEASES TOMORROW!!!
It’s not every day that this North Country Girl is afforded the opportunity to read an advance copy of one of her favorite author’s upcoming novels, so when Jonathan Dunne, author of Balloon Animals, Living Dead Lovers and The Nobody Show, asked me if I would be willing, I jumped at the chance. I have interviewed Mr. Dunne a number of times (just click on the book titles just above for more information about him), and our conversations always have surprises in store.
What follows is my review of HIDE THE ELEPHANT, the upcoming release from dark humorist Jonathan Dunne. I hope you keep an eye out for it. It’s a real gem!
HIDE THE ELEPHANT by Jonathan Dunne: Expect The Unexpected
Any fan of Jonathan Dunne will come to expect certain things when he releases a new novel. They will expect to be entertained. They will expect to be startled at its many oddities. And they will expect a dark humor that only Jonathan Dunne can deliver. But if his new book has proven anything to me, it is that with Jonathan Dunne, the reader has to expect the unexpected.
I am a fan of Mr. Dunne’s novel’s. I have been from the first moment I read a single page of his first book. From Balloon Animals, to Living Dead Lovers, to The Nobody Show, I have grown accustomed to his dark yet unbelievably funny scenarios that split my sides from the laughter. But in his latest work, HIDE THE ELEPHANT, Mr. Dunne shows us a side to his writing that I believe will further cement him in my arsenal of writer’s whose works are not to be missed.
Like his previous novels, Jonathan Dunne artfully pulls the reader into the world of his main character. He does this by addressing The Reader directly in the text from time to time, which may seem taboo, but I find it charming. You become part of the story in this way. Also, like his other works, the setting is often something from way out in left field, but always in Ireland.
HIDE THE ELEPHANT has something different, though, in that the plot was incredibly sweet, almost heart-wrenching at times. Our hero, Mick Munroe, is a zoo keeper, spending the better part of forty years caring for an Indian Elephant at the zoo. When Altzheimer’s Disease begins to take its toll on Mick’s memory, he is forced into early retirement.
HIDE THE ELEPHANT tells the story of Mick and his elephant, Sinbad, as they escape from captivity; Mick’s captivity, in the form of senility, and Sinbad’s, in the form of literal bars. With nothing to lose, they take off on an adventure across Ireland to find freedom. And this Reader found herself admiring the way that Mr. Dunne mirrored Mick’s life with that of Sinbad’s. It was beautiful to see how the two captives leaned on each other for support, through all of the tough times, lucid or otherwise.
This is not to say that humor is lacking in HIDE THE ELEPHANT. There are plenty of places where poor Mick struggles just to get through the crazy thing his life has become, oh, mercy! And his Snicker’s-eating elephant is quite delightful at times. To put it bluntly, this book has something for just about everyone.
Not to be overlooked is my other favorite thing about Jonathan Dunne’s novels, which are his references to the places and character’s from his previous novels. I really like the cameo of Arthur Lawless from The Nobody Show, as well as the mentions of other citizens of Old Castle and Limerick City. These references pull The Reader further into the world of Dunne’s mind. Brilliant.
In my previous reviews for Mr. Dunne’s books, I encourage the readers of my reviews to check out his work. But this time, I would also mention that Jonathan Dunne has now shown that he is a writer who is evolving, embracing more sensitive issues, and doing so with finesse. I look forward to my next Jonathan Dunne read, although after this one, I really can’t imagine what to expect from him next!