Archive for December, 2012

On December 27th, my friend Elisa Bonnin published her debut novel Arbiter, a YA Fantasy, through Vittoriosa Books. It is available on Amazon.com as a Kindle ebook, and at least for today it’s a free download. (Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can read the book on a variety of devices, like the PC, MAC, Blackberry, Android, etc.)

Check it out at “Arbiter (Young Adult Blockbusters)”.

In her Acknowledgments, Elisa writes “This book could not have come about without the support of my family… my friends, particularly Lauryn, who put up with my insanity, and Joanna, who helped me edit the book and pointed out several truths that were hard to swallow.”

This is the first fiction novel that I’ve ever edited that has been published, and it’s the first time I have ever been acknowledged beyond having my name listed at the front along with the other editors (as has been the case with the anthologies I’ve contributed to). Usually my work as an editor is unacknowledged by default, something that happens behind the scenes and for which I can usually take little credit for the end result. (The best editor, like the film editor, should be invisible, and one would have to be a self-centered jerk to go around saying “Yes, in that passage there, I fixed a typo, and I was the one who said to put a bridge there.”) :)

In this case, though, I encouraged Elisa to submit the manuscript to a publisher and I edited the book, chapter by chapter, so I had a special attachment to the story. I told her she made me want to become an agent, to make sure work like this got published, even though I had yet to read the final version. That she got published, by an outside publisher, a couple of months after we finished the editing project, is so inspiring! It goes to show that all these fancy rules about the necessary platform and experience and publication credits are not always true.

I hope to do an interview with Elisa shortly, in terms of how she pitched the book (first in a series of five books), what her process of publication was like, and how she is promoting the book. I’ve downloaded the final version, which I’m excited to read in one sitting, and I’ll write a book review. (That may not happen for about two weeks, though, while I catch up on other work projects. In the meantime, I’ve pitched the review to E & K Family Book Review for publication.)

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My review for C.S. Lakin’s fairy tale/parable novel was posted online at E & K Family Book Review on December 27th.

I will post this under Book Reviews in four days, to allow it to stand as original content for a week before sharing it on my site. :)

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My review for the first of the Harlequin Desire Rich, Rugged Ranchers series is posted at TheRomanceReviews.com.

I will post the review on my website under Book Reviews next week.

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As part of the WOW! (Women on Writing) Blog Tour, I had the chance to meet Romance novelist Lawna Mackie, and interview her. She lives in Canada, on a small acreage in Didsbury, Alberta, so we did the interview by email and I am sharing her style (replete with smiley faces) exactly as it is. She is warm, delightful and passionate about her work and life-joy. Her website is www.LawnaMackie.ca.


My book review for her dark fantasy romance Perfect Misfits is posted at TheRomanceReview.com.



Lawna 2010

An Evening with Lawna Mackie




What is the biggest misconception about the romance genre that you have come across?


Well, I’m not sure if this is a misconception, but I do think that many people might not realize how many different romance genres there really are. When I was a teenager I started reading Harlequin Romances and honestly I had no idea what else might exist out there with regards to romance. I eventually discovered paranormal romance, which I totally fell in love with. Today, there are so many different types of romance, everything from sweet love stories, dark romance and even erotica.


Which romance genres do you write in?


I like fantasy romance which borders on the dark side. I consider them “dark” because I like to show major flaws in my characters, even the heroes. The stories are gritty and there is some colorful language. I think my novels take the reader on a journey, a journey where even the hardest of souls can become tame and gentle when love comes into the picture. My novella Quinn’s Christmas Wish is a very sweet romance, but it still has some darkness to it where the villain is concerned. It is not a fantasy but a historical romance with a small piece of paranormal. Currently I’m in the process of writing a modern-day novella, which of course is also a romance, called Bareback for Cowboy.


If you could give one piece of advice to new romance writers, what would that be?


I’m a firm believer that in order to write something meaningful you must also like to read that type of story. For example, if you can’t stand reading erotica then don’t be tempted to write one.


What has been the hardest part of writing romance (creatively or professionally)?


I can’t say that I find writing romance difficult. What I did find hard was telling my family and friends what I was writing and then to have them eventually read it. I also think romance writers don’t always get the respect they deserve. It is a major accomplishment to write ANY type of novel. I think some people may be under the impression that writing romance is easy and not the same as writing a mainstream fiction novel.


Take us through your writing process—how do you tackle writing your steamy love scenes and balancing the gritty with the tender aspects of the moment?


My books have HOT love scenes, which I do like, but honestly I couldn’t write them unless I was inspired. I wouldn’t want to write a love scene if the characters weren’t falling in love with each other.


Who do you write for?


I write for myself. I find that my stories take me on an adventure, so in truth it’s kind of like reading a book. I never really know how my stories will end, except that they will have a happy ending.


What can your readers expect from a Lawna Mackie romance?


Hopefully my readers will find the love I try to build between my hero and heroine. I can write some very dark scenes around my villains who help move the story forward and push the main characters to depend on and need one another. I would tell my readers to expect adventure, evil characters, and a journey to finding ultimate love whether that is in another world I’ve created or a fictional place called Bandit Creek, Montana. Love will triumph and it’s always happily-ever-after. Oh… I also LOVE animals, so you’ll be sure to find an animal or animal creature in all the stories I write.


What makes Sherrilyn Kenyon and Christine Feehan your favorite authors?


They are amazing. Christine Feehan’s older novels reminded me of fairy tales. I love fairy tales where the heroine conquers the beast and teaches them to love. Sherrily Kenyon stole my heart with the Dark-Hunter series. I think these two fabulous ladies helped me to start writing.


Tell us about your favorite love story and what made it stand out.


Christine Feehan’s novel Lair of the Lion is my favorite story. It reminds me of Beauty and the Beast. I love it when the heroine sacrifices herself to the beast (hero) for a greater good. Eventually, her love for him melts his icy heart. It’s as simple as that.


How has the role of romance changed in your life over the years?


Most definitely, I started reading romance as a teenager, and I knew I wouldn’t settle for anything less than the heroes I loved to read about. I knew he had to exist somewhere.


When and how did you know you were truly in love with your husband?


It may sound silly, but the first moment I saw my husband I believed he was the one for me. He treated me like a princess and still does to this day. He is a modern-day real life hero. :)


What is your definition of “soul mate”?


A soul mate is somebody who fills you with happiness not just every-now-and-again, but every day. Your soul mate is the star that twinkles in the sky, the sun that brightens and warms your day or the moon that holds you captive in awe. Without a soul mate you are not complete. In good times and in bad you will always be there for one another no matter what.


If a happily-ever-after was possible in real life, how do you imagine that would be?


I think I live that happily-ever-after life. My husband is my prince, my knight in shining armor. Sure, we have our moments, but we love each other very much. It makes writing romance much easier. We’ve been together for 23 years and I love him more each day. If I had to die tomorrow and somebody asked me if I would change anything, my answer would be “No. I wouldn’t change a thing.”


On your website, you note that your favorite saying is “Dream Big”. How have you applied this motto, and what has been the result?


“Don’t ever give up” is my slogan. It goes hand-in-hand with “Dream Big” if you don’t dream big how will you ever know if you can achieve it? I believe everyone’s dreams can come true if you just believe they will. I’m not saying this will happen overnight… it may, but it might not. I still have dreams for my writing goals, like wanting to be a bestselling novelist in The New York Times. I think my life is pretty perfect already, but that is my writing dream.


Where do you find magic in your everyday life?


That’s an easy one… from the love of my husband, family and friends. And of course my animals. I’m content with all of them in my life.


You started a blog about “Animal Inspiration”. You noted that every one of your novels features an animal and that animals play an important role in our lives, and you’ve shared some stories about your beloved pets. What role have your many animals played in your life and in your attitude towards others?


Joanna, what a perfect question to ask. My philosophy is quite simple: animals give their love unconditionally, and they never give up on us humans. The only thing they ever do is love us regardless of whether that love is returned. I’m a huge animal advocate so the thought of any animal out there that has been mistreated instantly brings tears to my eyes. I believe animals can teach us to love and to forgive.


Please share with us your dreams for 2013. What do you see for yourself next year?


I really do dream of becoming a bestselling author. My goal is to be able to make enough money from writing that it could become my full-time job. :)


Is there anything else you would like to say?


I’d just like to say thank you for this interview, Joanna. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to share a bit of what, and why, I write romance. Truly I write what I do because IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE. :) Have a great day everyone.

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I wanted to share a short story I had written earlier this year that celebrates the spirit of the season. It has not been published before. Enjoy!

 

THE MOM ACCOUNT

by Joanna Celeste




It was that time of the year again. I stood by Mom as she piled the last of our stuff onto the checkout line at Wal-Mart. Between me and my little brother, Cooper, I estimated we had just bought about $580 worth of new sneakers, new clothes, and new school supplies. We shopped for the best deals, and we had a slew of hand-me-downs, but we kept growing out of things. The total rang up on the screen and I winced, glancing at Mom’s face. $600. A little over half the month’s rent. She didn’t flinch; I was probably the only one who could see the slight difference in her eyes, and the gentle turn of her mouth. But then she and I had always been that way, connected on a special level.


It stunk being eleven. I wasn’t allowed to get a proper job until I was sixteen—child labor laws and all that—and Cooper was only nine. All our money came from chores and allowance, which was really Mom’s money in disguise.


Thanksgiving––and Mom’s birthday––had come and gone without a single real present for her. We couldn’t afford to give her more than trinkets and handmade stuff. The birthday before last, Granny had gifted her money for the casino.


I grinned, bringing back that day. Mom had sailed through the door, beaming like the sun on a summer day, chattering excitedly about her fantastic luck. Then she had opened her purse and taken out a wad of bills, just like from the movies! Cooper and I had held the money in our hands, had taken pictures of it, and we had counted it—one thousand two hundred dollars, in hundred dollar bills. Cash.


Mom had thrown the cash around with abandon, and then she had let us follow suit. For fifteen minutes, we had been filthy rich. We had thrown the money off the staircase of the second floor, watching the cash flutter to the living room, over our Goodwill sofa. We had thrown it over our heads, dancing in the cash snowstorm. Then we had carefully picked it all up and counted it again. But the best thing had been Mom’s expression. She had been happy in so many ways it had spilled out of her like a supernova. I had suspected people on our block had even smiled to themselves, without knowing why.


“Vanessa,” Mom squeezed my shoulder. “Honey, it’s time to go.”


I nodded and followed her out of the store to our car. We stuffed the twelve shopping bags into the trunk and seats. I held one in my lap. Mom had spent every dime of that special birthday money on bills. On things for the house. I had never seen her buy anything for herself, and she had said—when she had thought no one could hear—that she couldn’t remember the last time she had bought something  just for her.

***




By the time we got home, I had a Plan.


Coop and I thanked our mom and dashed upstairs to unpack our goodies. Our rooms were separated by a curtain, so I could take out my secret piggy bank while he unpacked.


Mom had taught us that if we always kept money hidden, not to be used ever, then we could win at Monopoly because just when the other guy thought we were toast, we could whip out our savings. I wasn’t great with that many games, but I owned Monopoly, so I kept a real-life stash of money, not to be used ever. But this was important.


I poured everything out and counted—twenty-four dollars and sixteen cents in change and loose bills. I had learned one thing from Dad, before he had moved away, and that was that pennies could really add up to something. He used to have jars and jars of pennies, in his crowded tiny apartment.


I frowned at my stash. It wasn’t going to be enough for my Plan.


“Coop,” I wiggled the curtain to ask permission to cross into his room.


“Yeah, I’m going downstairs to play Super Mario,” the door opened and I whipped the curtain aside.


“Wait! I want to call a Secret Meeting. I have a Plan.”


Cooper paused, one foot over the threshold. He scowled, as if debating whether this was worth interrupting him from tackling Level Five, but he tilted his head. “What is it?”


I outlined the steps, and a grin spread over his face. “Yeah. Let’s do it!”


We shook hands on it, and Cooper brought out his secret stash, from socks and paperclip boxes and even his collection of special quarters, laying everything out on his mattress. I added my pile from my room.


“Let’s count it,” Cooper suggested.


“Okay, I’ll do this half and you do that half,” I waved my hand down the middle.


We worked in silence.


“Twenty-two dollars and eight cents,” Cooper announced.


I counted the last few pennies. “Nineteen dollars and forty-six cents.”


Coop frowned. He hated uneven numbers. “We should make it fifty. That’s a lot.”


“If we include our allowances, we could add another eight dollars.”


“And I bet you have change in your room,” Coop dove through the curtain, rummaging. I would have protested, but I did have change in lots of weird little places.


“Ha! Forty-six cents!” He brandished a fist, coming back into his room. “That’s fifty.”


We shared our special smile and ran downstairs to get ready for dinner.

***




Eight days later, we held a Secret Meeting to wrap our presents. Christmas was fourteen hours away. I was a big pack rat so I had boxes, bags and tissue paper. Coop had toilet paper rolls and two ring boxes. We carefully laid everything out, with scissors and tape.


We shared a grin and set to work packaging up the money in lots of ways, so as to spread the gift out more. When all was said and done, we had eleven little packages, and one big finale, all wrapped and ready to go under the tree.


Coop and I knew the truth about Santa Claus, so we waited until Mom had gone to sleep, having put her Santa presents under the tree. We crept down the stairs like ninjas, avoiding that stair that always squeaked. It was hard not to rustle the gifts against each other, but we managed not to wake Mom up.


This was the first time that we were both more excited about Mom’s reaction to what she would receive, than what we hoped to find for ourselves under the tree.


I gave Coop a thumbs-up to note everything was under the tree. We plunked down upon the sofa, admiring our handiwork. Our tree was decorated with multicolored lights and tinsel, so the reflections and shadows danced across our living room.


“Should we bother sleeping?” I whispered.


Cooper yawned. “Let’s make pancakes.”


Pancakes at 3am was never a bad idea. We tiptoed around the kitchen, arguing quietly over Mom’s secret recipe—which wasn’t a secret, but she always added something to make it extra tasty that she called “love”. We had our suspicions it was something else, like cinnamon or apple sauce—no matter how many times we had watched her make them. We settled on cinnamon and apple sauce, but in the end they still weren’t as yummy as hers.


We set aside a plate for her, so she could have breakfast when she woke up. I made her coffee, because I remembered how to do it, and Cooper made her grilled cheese. It wasn’t a proper brunch without bacon and grilled cheese, but we didn’t have bacon.


The kitchen was a mess when we had finally finished cooking and eating. Chicory, cheddar and cinnamon warred with each other in the air, overtaking the house.


The dawn gray light seeped through the windows. We cleaned up as quietly as we could.


At the stroke of 6am, we ran into Mom’s bedroom, jumping on the bed to wake her.


“We just gotta warm it up first,” Cooper grabbed her other arm, and we got her out of bed. “This is gonna be the best Christmas ever, you’ll see.”


“Cooper!”


“What?”


I sighed, but Mom was too sleepy to notice the slip. We helped her down the stairs.


Once I had pressed a hot cup of coffee into her hands, and Cooper had warmed up the food just right, we all sat down to our Christmas celebration together.


“Thank you, this is delicious,” Mom murmured. “And you cleaned the kitchen?”


“It’s Christmas,” I gave her the first gift.


Mom unwrapped a tin with tissue paper separating six dollars, each bill taped to its own white sheet of tissue. She laughed as she inspected the gift. “Aw, thank you honey.”


Coop and I shared a secret smile, and we decided to bypass tradition and forgo our turns at getting presents to give Mom hers, all at once.


Cooper dove in, handing Mom a ring box, with a $5 bill neatly folded up. She had barely gotten over her puzzlement before I gave her a toilet paper roll with a $2 bill wrapped inside it. Mom examined the bill, the aw-my-kids-are-so-cute look morphing into wait-is-this-all-going-to-be-money?


Mom tore through the wrapping, forgoing her usual lovingly-slow process of opening presents by plucking off the tape on the ends. “Is this all for me?”


“Yup! And wait, there’s more!” I chortled. “I’ve always wanted to say that.”


We gave her the remainder of the small presents—various change and dollar bills.


Then Cooper brought out The Big Box: an assortment of two fives and his special collection of quarters, all wrapped up with different colored tissue, thrown into a three-foot-squared box with peanuts.


Mom broke into laughter as she fished out the presents. “Oh, my goodness! More?”


Cooper stared, making sure every quarter was fished out. He nodded. “That’s it.”


Mom sat back on her haunches, heaving a sigh. “Wow. This-truly, it’s-amazing!”


“This is the Mom account,” I explained, bringing out a shoe box I had made into a piggy bank. “You put all your money in here, and you can only use it to buy yourself stuff.”


Cooper nodded solemnly. “You can’t use it on bills, or stuff for us; nothing like that.”


“What?” Mom looked over all the tissue-paper-taped coins and bills and toilet paper rolls. “I-” She burst into tears, and we hugged her from both sides. I found my brother’s hand and squeezed it. He returned the gesture. We both agreed: Best Christmas Ever.

***




Mom went shopping two days later. Coop and I waited in the living room, playing chess.


The door opened and Mom breezed in, beaming so widely she could have melted the polar ice caps with one smile. “Look what I got!” She brandished two shopping bags.


She showed us her things: A lipstick that came with its own Clinique sample kit, a long nightgown, and a book. I looked up at Mom’s expression. She traced her finger over every item, as if not sure if it was really hers. She was happy, and so beautiful.


Coop and I shared a smile. We’d get started right away on her next Mom Account.

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My review was just published at http://thedarkphantom.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/book-review-jumpstart-the-world-by-catherine-ryan-hyde-by-guest-reviewer-joanna-celeste/.


Catherine Ryan Hyde is the best-selling and award-winning author of 20 published and forthcoming books, including the acclaimed DON’T LET ME GO, WHEN YOU WERE OLDER, SECOND HAND HEART and WHEN I FOUND YOU. Her bestselling novel PAY IT FORWARD inspired the movie of the same name. The Richard and Judy Book Club, the UK’s equivalent of the Oprah book club, launched LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE and subsequent novels onto the bestseller list in the UK. Learn much more about the author, maybe even more than you wanted to know, at http://www.catherineryanhyde.com.


recent


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Interview first published today on E & K Family Book Reviewhttp://www.ekfamilybooks.blogspot.com/

Wish you could sit down with Tilda Pinkerton and ask her all of your curious questions? Here is your chance! Keep reading to learn all you could possibly want to know about this fascinating and wonderful character.

Questions by Joanna Celeste, Answers by Angela Shelton


What were your first impressions of Ooleeoo?
After that nasty splat of a landing from what I dare say was a crash, Ooleeoo has the most excellent grass. The fields were orange on the planet I was on right before I fell to the one I now adore. To see fields of green was serene, and now that there is chocolate grass and strawberry too, I love it even more. Wouldn’t you?


What concerned you the most about losing your memory?
I was not concerned about anything really, outside of the strange bent bump on my head that lit up the room red around my bed. I must confess though, I did have a sense of a horrible duress, but could not figure out where it came about. I certainly did in the end. That kind of evil is hard to comprehend.


How did you deal with the sense that you didn’t fit in with the other Ooleeooans?
It is a terrible thing to feel you do not belong somewhere. Some are very good at pretending not to care. Due to my ability to make such beneficial hats, I avoided many spats. But really all credit is due with the children. They have the ability to see more clearly and look past any misconception that their parents’s perception may have implanted.


As someone who was stranded without recollection of your past or family, how would you define “home”?
Home. Earthlings have a saying I’ve heard from my friend Randy after his surveying, that home is where the heart is. My heart lies with my home planet, which was destroyed, leaving my heart in a bit of a void. Some in some ways I am homeless, though I do love Ooleeoo, yes.


Tell us about your friend, Quinn Quisquilious. How does he see the value in what others throw away?
There is value in all things, despite what some may say, especially certain aliens who toss everything away – even butterfly wings. On Earth, you have a saying that what is trash to one is another one’s treasure. This is true with Quinn with his personality so grand, his heart is hard to measure. He has an ability to not only see the good in all, but can even create an abacus out of detritus.


How do you craft hats out of various elements?
Hats appear to me out of the things that surround the hat wearer, like a woman appears in raw marble to the sculptor, without error. There are always elements around with a great many uses. It’s the mixture you use, inspired by muses – that makes magical hats. If I gave away all the secrets, magic could be used for things far more tragic than hat-making. My ability comes from something hard to write – it is from a connection to the Light.


What do you consider is your most special talent?
Light Throwing of course is a talent I have the best, for which I am extremely blessed.


You chose to create hats for people who had been cruel towards you. Why?
Beings are on their own path. It is not up to me to meet their cruelty with wrath. People who are acting out in violent and mean ways are reenacting something bad that happened to them along the way. An act of kindness can sometimes snap them out of their violent blindness.


In other words, what they do to me has everything to do with how they see and rarely anything to do with me. Meeting meanness with light leaves room for all to be bright.


What is something that very few people know about you?
Some Star Jumpers know, but no one on Ooleeoo, that it was my mother whom I never knew. My father sent me away to school.


What drew you to teaching?
Those who teach, teach themselves – that is as true as the ringing of mystic bells!


Who is your favorite student, and why?
Maggie Mae Mudpie caught my eye the first time I saw her pluck notes from the air, conducting music without a care. She is a delightful child and although afraid and mute, she is awfully cute.


You chose to teach your students about perception. How would you define it?
You may think you know what you know, when that can change as you allow your mind to grow.


What is the way you like best to learn?
Reading and listening gives your thoughts inspiration – which makes for a much better nation. When you don’t feed your brain, you leave your thoughts with nothing to do but complain.


You’ve spent most of your life battling KOD. What makes it all worth it?
KOD would swallow all the planets the Star Jumpers have brought water and vegetation to. He is quite rude and seeing to it that a tree thrives or a fish remains alive is what keeps me going.


What’s it like to change your age at will?
That is a skill I cannot do at will, it must be done while I travel. We Light Throwers, protectors of all Star Jumpers, must resort to a younger age in order to get past the nasty pain of moving past the speed of light. If we were older, the pain would be a fright.


What was your childhood like?
As a child I was in training most of the time. Some had more playful childhoods – I did not have that kind. It is nothing I complain about, I was pushed harder because my talents stood out. I had the ability to help many, so I had to work as hard as a hundred and twenty.


Did you ever wish you could be someone else?
Being yourself is a gift of the Light. To be anything else than what was given to me is not a wish, although I would love to bring some things back to life, even fish.


You said you didn’t have any friends or loved ones yet you’re considered the most valuable member of the Star Jumpers. Please elaborate.
When you are put on a pedestal as protector, you are not listed as friend or loved one or party director. You are placed in a different category all together, which sadly brings all kinds of emotional weather. With a childhood and life like mine, I made very few friends since most just want me to fight evil and work on Light retrieval. Animals are the dearest to me, from judgment they are free. Randy is my closest dare I say – friend.


Who had the most positive influence on you?
Outside of my Father, Penelope Pinkerton, who took me in, is the one who wins. You won’t find anyone more kind.

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