Greetings from Maine!

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Hello, readers!

Today I write to you from one of my favorite, most inspirational locations, coastal Maine.  I have always been fond of the ocean, although not being in the ocean, but being near it.  The sound of the surf, the lighthouses, the happy puffins, and today, the way the striated clouds parallel the horizon, makes me quite content.  I find inspiration here, in this setting, even though the wind makes my cheeks frozen and numb.  What is it about the ocean, specifically Maine?

 

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Back in 1990, I flew with my friend Jenny to Spain, and spent a few weeks living with a family which we had met when their daughter was an exchange student at our high school.  It was our first transatlantic flight, one where we would actually need a passport, and we were all of nineteen years old.  On the return flight, our plane made a surprise stop in Bangor, Maine, at which time I viewed for the first time the beautiful, lake-filled, ocean-coasted landscape of that state from the window of our plane. At that moment, I made a pact with myself that I would be sure to visit and spend quality time in Maine.

Nowadays, my husband and I make at least one yearly trip to Maine.  During that time, we visit familiar and unfamiliar places.  I draw much inspiration from the sea and the surf here. On one visit, we saw some beautiful harbor bells for sale.  These multi-toned bells are crafted to mimic the unique harbor bell tones of the various harbors on the coast.  We purchased three different bells that visit, each representing the bell tones from different places:  Cape Cod, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth.  Each sounds different, and each represents both a lonely and uplifting spirit.  Here are some sound samples.  What do you think?

Cape Cod Buoy Bell

Chesapeake Buoy Bell

Portsmouth Buoy Bell

I learned from the vendor that all buoy bells are different, each one a unique combination of tones, distinguishing it from the bells of other harbors.  I have also since learned that there is a long history of these bells in Europe as well.  We ended up keeping the Portsmouth buoy bell, and gifting the others to our parents.  We leave our bell up year round on our front porch.  Even the smallest breeze sends the mournful, yet hopeful tones through the air.  We love its sound.

Coastal Maine and buoy bells were an inspiration in my Harbor Bells Trilogy.  Here is a small snippet from chapter 1 of book 1, tentatively titled, THE FIRST HARBOR BELL:

An old man, with skin transparent enough to see the veins and sinews beneath, sat on a stump.  Mangled and contorted, his bony fingers grasped a walking stick, gnarled with knots of the tree from whence it came.  His knuckles, enlarged and swollen with age, protruded profoundly, threatening to burst through the very skin that was holding his aged body together.   Around his shoulders, a cape, threadbare from time and wear, fluttered as a breeze floated past. 

In the distance, a harbor bell sounded.  Its three-toned broken chord, resonated within James.  It was a familiar sound.  One that he had been around his entire life in coastal England. 

Today, though, the bell‚Äôs music felt somewhat different.  As if a trance threatened to overtake him, James stood, looking intently at the caped man. He was captivated.

While this book is still in the early draft stages, I am happy to share this bit with you all.  If you listen to the samples of the buoy bells above, what do they make you think of?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments ūüôā

Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired by our books and Characters, Part 1

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Welcome, Readers!

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.

 

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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 ‚Äď Kintyre Turn and Bevel Dom ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôd 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.

‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been doing this part of adventuring wrong,‚ÄĚ Pip moans around her own mouthful.

Bevel pinks again. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve had a long time to practice. Luckily, Kin was willing to put up with my experimentation.‚ÄĚ

¬†‚ÄúAnd I‚Äôm lucky Bevel actually enjoys cooking and was willing to experiment,‚ÄĚ Kin says around a mouthful. ‚ÄúWe got sick of standard travel fare pretty quick.‚ÄĚ

 

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 ‚Äď plums, cranberries and raisins preferred ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď an acceptable equivalent in the Overrealm would be Banana leaves. Tinfoil would also be acceptable.
  • A Centaur Sweet and Savory Spice Blend ‚Äď 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‚Äôve 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 ‚Äď whiskey, sherry, or brandy work best. Wait until all the liquid has been absorbed into the fruit; while you‚Äôre 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‚Äôt 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.

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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/

You can find out more about Bevel Dom and The Accidental Turn series here.

 

Big News, And I’m Shouting It From The Mountaintops!

On the mountain top

It’s been a really great day!!! ¬†Here’s why:

Today I¬†have the privilege to¬†announce¬†a new adventure:¬†My novel, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL, has been acquired by REUTS Publications, and I couldn’t be more pleased. ¬† Read the official announcement here!

This book and I have quite a little history! ¬†Here’s how our adventure began.

In 1994, a friend and I went on an adventure of our own; a month-long trip through several countries in Europe.¬† As classically trained musicians, we were quite interested in the histories and world¬†that Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and other master composers¬†lived in, and that trip afforded us an opportunity to see much of it first hand.¬† I hadn’t realized it at the time, but on that trip, the seeds of WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL were planted.¬† During the years (10+!)¬†that followed, I¬†revisited¬†those memories through the photos and journals that I kept during the trip, and as time went on, I knew I had to continue the adventure, in the form of a novel.

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2012 brought¬†another stop on WINDOWSILL’s adventure:¬† I decided to use NaNoWriMo as the launching pad for writing it.¬† By the end of the November, I had the first draft nearly completed, and¬†it was clear¬†what a special story it was to me.¬† Its¬†plot¬†continues to hold a unique¬†connection to me and my musical life, as do its characters.¬†¬†But I wondered: ¬†Would anyone else feel similarly?

I beta’d it. ¬†I revised it.¬† I modified and added parts¬†to it.¬† I removed parts of it.¬† I freaked out a little bit when I realized that I still needed those discarded parts,¬†so I¬†sifted through older drafts to put them back in. ¬†(It’s true what they say about keeping all of your early drafts… ) I continued to believe in it, and I never gave up hope.¬† Now, several drafts, edits, contests and queries¬†later, the reality is finally sinking in.¬† My novel, set partially in the 21st century and partially in the 1800’s, has found¬†its home, and a¬†new adventure is about to begin.

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Along¬†this journey, I have met some amazing writerly people, who guided and encouraged me.¬† New friends, professionals in the business.¬† I never met a contest or Twitter pitch party I didn’t like.¬† At one point, I posted about how even though the art of writing seems like a lonely, solitary endeavor, it really isn’t (at least not for me!)¬† We learn from each other in so many ways.

Thank you, so much, to everyone who supported me on this incredible journey thus far.  It means a lot!

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So now, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL and I embark on another part of this publishing adventure together.¬† I look forward to posting updates on the process from acquisition to publication as we go, and I hope you’ll share the¬†ride with me!

Feel free to leave comments below!

And visit my Facebook Page and Twitter as well!

 

 

 

Cookies With Nana

Hello, writerly friends!

Happy New Year!  While this post is happening a little bit later than I wanted, the sentiment is the same.  With the passing of the 2015 holiday season, I am poised to reflect on something wonderful; a gift that I received from my mother.  I hope that reading this will give you a warm feeling on these cold winter days.

One of the fondest memories I have from my youth is baking with my mother.  Mom was a first grade teacher for many years, and her attention to details is what made her a fine baker.

I mention this, because several years ago at the holidays, my mom presented me with a book she had put together; a journal of sorts, or perhaps more of a scrapbook, which was filled with stories, cookie recipes and pictures.  The stories told about my female relatives and their Italian heritage.  Each story was adorned by a photograph of the relative whose recipe it was.

These were special cookie recipes.¬† I knew the cookies were Italian in origin, but these particular recipes held a special place in my mother’s heart.¬† She had enjoyed baking cookies with her own mother (my Nana), just as I had enjoyed baking with mine.

I had grown up making the same cookies with my mother in our kitchen, but I hadn’t realized¬†from whom¬†the recipes came.¬† My mother added her own special holiday cookie recipes as well, making the book something of a time capsule.

A photograph of my great grandmother, Nana’s mother, with a favorite of her recipes sits on the final page of the book.¬† That is so special to me.¬† The photo is very old and faded, her wavy silver hair apparent.¬† Clearly, Nana learned to bake special cookies from her mother.¬† It’s a family tradition worth keeping, and I intend to add a page with¬†my own photo and¬†recipes into the book as well, so it may be passed on.

So there you have it; a bit of a sentimental journey, but a fond one, nonetheless.¬† Does your family have any special holiday baking traditions?¬† Are there family recipes that hold sentimental value to you?¬† I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2015 is over…

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Hello, Writerly Friends!

I have grown to love NaNoWriMo.¬† That 30-day long leap into the throes of frantic writing exhilarates me.¬† Not only that, but the month of October has, through the years, become treasured as well, because¬†that’s when I¬†plot and plan my way through a fresh new manuscript idea.¬† Love it!

But, as October 2015 came lurking on my calendar, I knew, deep down, that starting something new might not be the best idea.  Sure, I still have a million ideas in my head; little snippets that will eventually become stories, or subplots within other stories.  Also swirling around my imagination are characters which are still in their embryonic stage, but will someday become mature.

This year was different, though.  Along with those gestational ideas waiting to be developed, I had a few novels that needed finishing touches.  Since my RodeoRomCom was nearly complete, that became my focus.

So, October 1, I made my plan of attack:  Scan through my RodeoRomCom, plan out where to polish, add, or delete.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans, right?  Yeah.  That happened to me.

Mid-October, my husband took me on a weekend trip to coastal Maine.¬† This was a much needed break and I reveled in every moment.¬† And that’s when I noticed the multi-toned sounds of the harbor bells.¬† It was these tones that awakened a sleepy, partially written manuscript I had set aside when it needed a time out.¬† A-ha!¬† An epiphany!

So there I was, mid October, and I was ready to switch gears completely.  I dug out my completely unfinished Literary Fantasy (thank you for the genre identification help, @KisaWhipkey!), and jumped in head first.  All of a sudden, the book had direction, a major focus shift, and best of all, an amazing TITLE!

So, this November, I worked¬†on this Literary Fantasy, THREE HARBOR BELLS, which I can now say is one of the deepest, most cool pieces of writing I have ever done.¬† It’s still not complete, but I can see how it ends, and I couldn’t be more pleased with its direction.

In the end, this year I was not able to get 50K new words of a new novel.¬† But, hey, I still got so much out of the month!¬† And isn’t inspiration a magical thing?¬† Who knew that my little weekend trip to Maine would yield something so amazing?¬† THREE HARBOR BELLS¬†has a really great ring to it.

Keep writing, everyone.

How did NaNoWriMo work out for you all?  Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Hide The Elephant by Jonathan Dunne

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!

Let’s Talk: Is There Value In Diversifying Our Writerly Portfolio?

Welcome Readers!

I have been writing seriously for several years now.¬† I write mostly novel length fiction, with the occasional short story or novella thrown in.¬† This past summer, I began to dabble into¬†writing poetry.¬† I’m not sure how that came about, but it did, and as I always do, I welcomed the inspiration to try it with open arms.¬† The jury is still out on whether or not I’ve got what it takes to be a poet, however, inspiration is inspiration, and a writer’s got to write.

As I was looking back on my output, I was a little bit shocked.¬†¬†Last¬†week, I wrote about Learning From The Master’s, and how a writer should¬†seek out and study¬†the works of others in order to perfect their craft and discover their own unique author’s voice.¬† I believe in that whole heartedly.¬† It’s great advice for any artist.¬† But what surprised¬†me as I looked at my own writerly output?¬†There is a lot of different stuff in there!¬† That “a-ha” moment leads me to ask:¬† Is there value in diversifying our writerly portfolio?

I would like to believe there is.  One of the great joys I get in life is learning.  Whenever I am tasked with teaching a new course at school, I love to seek out the information needed to become proficient in that area.  I think that with writing, I enjoy the challenge of stretching my wings to embrace a new form or genre.

Last week’s “Learning From The Master’s” post, however,¬†points out¬†the importance of¬†taking the time to perfect one’s craft.¬† This might account for the amount¬†time it actually takes an author to get from first draft to publication.¬† It takes a lot of time to create something, let alone keep it true to a style, and further, to develop you voice.

Earlier, I mentioned the variety of styles which my writerly output embodies.  I did notice there are a couple of commonalities, though.  One commonality, for me, is the age of the MC.  It turns out that most of them are in their twenties.  Not all, but most.  Another trend in my writing is Speculative Fiction.  Again, not all, but most.

So what is my take-away from this discovery?¬† Well, I think it’s that¬†even if¬†someone’s¬†writing output¬†seems very eclectic, there are probably common threads that tie¬†their Writerly Portfolio¬†together.¬† For me the common threads are age of MC and genre.

What do you think?¬† Is there value in diversifying¬†a writerly portfolio?¬† Do you feel it’s better to focus on one style and stick with it?¬† When you look at your own writing output, what common threads do you find?¬† What differences?¬† I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by today!