The winners are:
& Mandy Broughton
Dee will BEE contacting you both shortly via email to arrange delivery of your prizes.
Thanks to everyone who entered the contest.
I'm pleased to announce that via a highly scientific method of selection (throwing toy bees at entrants' names), Dee Leone has randomly chosen the winners of autographed copies of Bizz & Buzz Make Honeybuns. BEE-cause Dee is so generous, and BEE-cause folks commented over two different blogs, Dee is awarding TWO books ...
The winners are:
& Mandy Broughton
Dee will BEE contacting you both shortly via email to arrange delivery of your prizes.
Thanks to everyone who entered the contest.
I'm thrilled to be interviewing A.M. (Alyx) Dellamonica on the Book Birthday of the first book in her new trilogy, Child of a Hidden Sea. Alyx is one of the most innovative and inventive speculative fiction authors on the scene today. I am a huge fan of her work, and have also been a past student of hers so I can attest to what a marvelous writing teacher and editor she is. She is the author of the Indigo Springs/Blue Magic duology, the first book of which was awarded the 2010 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. She is also the author of numerous short stories as well as being a regular reviewer of all things speculative fiction. When I asked her some searching questions about her work, and her advice to new writers attempting to build a career in speculative fiction, here's what she had to say.
KC: Your first two books, Indigo Springs and Blue Magic, are highly unusual speculative fiction in that they involve fantastical elements not often seen in speculative fiction - in effect, magic with an environmental bent shrouded in an almost fairytle/folkloric context. What gave you the idea for these books?
AD: There is a degree to which that idea--magic oozing from a crack in the earth, essentially as a form of toxic waste--just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. That said, I spent fifteen years on the periphery of a dynamic group of environmental scientists. Their work was inspiring on so many levels, and it's because of them, I am sure, that I write ecofantasy.
KC: Indigo Springs and Blue Magic comprise a duology which is an unusual approach in modern writing. So many authors seem to write either standalone books or trilogies (or longer series). Did you always know the story would span two books and was there any pressure from the publishers to make it into a trilogy?
AD: I had originally written Indigo Springs as a standalone; its story ended when Astrid was arrested. But as soon as I turned it in, my agent said, "There's a second book here" and began urging me to write it. She had ideas about a big Sahara/Astrid smackdown, and... well, you either know how it actually went or don't want to be spoiled.
I would not call that opinion of hers pressure, necessarily. She did want my career to start with a two-book deal, though. It took a lot of thinking to reopen the story, once I thought I'd sewn it shut, and it made Blue Magic tough to write, in some ways. But many authors find their second novel especially difficult.
I'm certainly not sorry I wrote it, or unhappy with where the story ended up. Blue Magic is a much better closing for Astrid's journey, and it gave many of her nearest and dearest, like Ev and Will Forrest, a chance to grow up on the page.
KC: The first book in your new fantasy trilogy, Child of a Hidden Sea, was released TODAY! (Happy Book Birthday again.) What can you tell us about the book?
AD: Because my first two books have a lot of sadness in them, my guiding artistic principle for this new series, the Hidden Sea Tales, was to have fun. If I enjoyed myself, the rationale went, so would all my readers. So the book is shamelessly packed with things I think are cool: lots of little islands with their own microclimates, a peculiar system of magic derived from that biodiversity, tall ships, and a navy more suited to the Age of Sail than the third millennium. Pirates, old-fashioned notions of heroism and honor, magically tamed volcanoes, an exceptionally gorgeous man and cultural clashes abound. Also, there's the occasional forensic investigation.
KC: When you write a duology or trilogy, do you plan out the entire storyline for all the books upfront or do you let the characters and plot develop as you go along? Have you ever wished you hadn't put something in an earlier book in a series because it limits what you can do in the next?
AD: As mentioned, Blue Magic was not in my initial plans when I set out to write Indigo Springs. I had to outline it more or less from scratch, based on what I'd already done. It's probably as close as I've come to writing by the seat of my pants.
With the Hidden Sea Tales, I proposed a three book story arc. The whole story was roughed out in that proposal... but things have changed in the writing.
Certainly there have been a couple of moments where I wished I could go back and shoehorn one more detail into Child of a Hidden Sea, for the benefit of the books that come later, but it is pretty full. Maybe even groaning. At some point, you have to let go and write on into the future.
KC: You have taught fiction writing for many years at UCLA, with a particular focus on speculative fiction. What do you see as some of the major challenges for new writers in the speculative fiction genre both in terms of writing craft and in terms of career development?
AD: The challenge I see most is impatience. Writing well is a skill that takes a long time to develop. So is neurosurgery, but aspiring doctors don't get to skip their exams and go indy. In a world where you can self-publish your novel tomorrow, it's harder to suck up rejection, gradual improvement and slow career growth.
I'm not saying everyone should go the traditional publishing route I have taken, but as a writing instructor I have, countless times, had students with interesting but flawed manuscripts say: "All these changes you're you're suggesting... wow... maybe I'll just publish it myself."
When that happens, and the work is promising but not just quite ready yet, my heart breaks a little. And yet it's hard to pitch the idea that you're denying yourself the opportunity to be better by taking a little longer.
KC: If you could give one piece of advice to a new writer, what would it be?
AD: To complain, especially about work or the weather, is human. If a bunch of writers are together and you hear them going on and on about how tough publishing is today, oh, woe, so much harder than ever before, OMG! try not to be too discouraged. I've been hearing the same conversation for decades.
At times those writers will talk about something specific that's happened to them. They haven't made as much money as they hoped, or the career took longer than expected to get off the ground, or they quit their day job and promptly developed some kind of artistic block, or they wish someone, anyone, had told them it's actually nigh-impossible to get a novel written when you have a newborn. If you hear this kind of talk, and find yourself thinking "that will never happen to me?"
It's possible it will happen to you.
When you hear someone complaining, it's easy to assume they're unhappy with their lot. But we all got into this because we wanted to, wanted to enough to live with the risks and long hours and poverty and the sacrifices. We complain to our peers for support and advice, but at the end of the day we got into writing because it is a glorious and rewarding thing to be able to do. And we love it. If we don't love it, we don't keep doing it.
The choice is always yours. There are only two people who can force you to write, and Kathy Bates probably charges more than you can afford. Being an artist is all about you. Choose to write your heart out. Choose to love it--not every minute, maybe, because every job has some supremely crappy minutes--but as often and as much and as passionately as you can.
You can find more information about Alyx, her work, and her interests at: http://alyxdellamonica.com
UPDATE: BLOGHOP WINNERS!!!!
Because I didn't do anything special to celebrate my blog's first birthday this month, I decided to do something special and choose THREE winners instead of one for my personal giveaway. The winners can expect to receive an email from me with gift links to their books on Amazon.
The three lucky winners are .... drum roll please ....
Congrats and thanks to all who entered.
The link to the grand prize winners is available here.
If it's summer, it must be time for a Summer Lovin' Blog Hop with thanks to Jane Wakely for organizing this one.
In addition to the grand prizes offered by the organizers, I will be offering copies of two of my short romance novellas as prizes, Ivory Tower and Dear John. Each of them is a "dark romance" because, even though it's summer, I always like a bit of sinister mystery in my romance.
If you want to be eligible for copies of these e-books, then leave a comment below with an email address where I can contact you. I will randomly choose a winner at the end of the blog hop and will email the winner copies of the two books. (If you enter your email address in the "email" field when you comment, it will NOT be made publicly available - will not show up with the comment.)
To enter for the grand prizes ($75 Amazon Gift Card, $25 Starbucks Gift Card, and $25 Amazon OR B&N Gift Card), fill out the Rafflecopter box here and press ENTER.
I listened to this entire trilogy on audiobook and loved the narrator. The story also grew on me as I went along so I'm in two minds about the ending - partly, I suppose, because I didn't really want the story to end. Ruins is the final installment of the series as I understand it. Overall, it's a wonderful book in terms of plot, characterization, story development etc. There's a LOT of characters to keep track of and Wells manages to give ALL the key characters a fully resolved story arc which is a masterful feat. He writes in shifting third person point of view but it's never distracting, and the narrator of the audiobooks does a wonderful job in differentiating the voices, including doing a good job with male voices which can be tough for a female reader.
My one criticism of the final book would be that there's a lot of philosophical chin-wagging, probably a little more than necessary for my taste. While the series is obviously largely about the kinds of sacrifices we can, or should be prepared to, make in order to "save the world", some of the issues in this book (I think more so than in the first and second books) are presented in "talking heads" style dialogue between characters, and the conversations become a bit repetitive. There's a lot of conversations about: "How far would you go to save the species/save the world/ensure a future for the planet?"
The book also covers a lot of physical ground with bands of characters traversing the country and the cities in order to achieve their goals. I would get close to saying there's too much going on in this respect, although it's never difficult to follow. But at times I did wonder how the heck we were ever going to get to a resolution of the story with so much going on, including the introduction of several major mysterious new characters.
In fairness, Wells DOES conclude the story in a satisfactory manner and ties up all of the loose ends. He gives a sense of a directed, if shaky, future for the planet which is well in keeping with the story.
Wells is obviously a master of spinning a complex tale and constructing detailed and touching narratives for all of his characters. I grew to really enjoy this series and to feel strongly for all the characters. So I'm a Wells fan now undoubtedly. I highly recommend the audio versions of all of these books in particular because the narration is really top notch.
This week I am thrilled to be presenting an interview (+ exciting giveaway contest) with my good friend and debut author, Dee Leone. Her concept book, Bizz & Buzz Make Honey Buns will be published by Penguin on June 26 and is available for pre-order now. This blog post also marks the FIRST time I am hosting a concept book author on my blog. So double thanks to Dee!!!
When I asked Dee some searching questions about her buzzing bee friends, here's what she had to say. She is also going to give away a copy of the book to a randomly chosen commenter on this blog post (see details following interview).
Thanks for asking me to be a guest on your blog, Kaleigh. I feel honored to be the first author you’ve interviewed who’s written a book for such young children.
KC: Bizz and Buzz are hilarious little guys who have some trouble with words. Can you tell us a little about their problems?
DL: The two characters enjoy feasting on honey buns baked by Bear. When the bees want to make some themselves, their friend relays the recipe one step at a time, but Bizz and Buzz interpret the directions in silly ways. Their first mistake is to use a little flower instead of a little flour. In addition to making a few missteps with homophones, the insects misinterpret other concepts as well. The bizzy little bees create a sweet treat that differs greatly from Bear’s, but they end up as happy as can bee anyway.
KC: How did you come up with the idea of the bees as main characters?
DL: When I wake up in the morning or in the middle of the night, sometimes story ideas just fly into my head. I keep a note pad on my nightstand so I can write down my thoughts before they disappear. There are times when I can’t decipher what I’ve written in the dark. Luckily, Bizz and Buzz were morning critters.
The idea to have the bees use the wrong ingredients was probably due to the fact that I was stressed about having to prepare food for an event. It’s just as easy for me to mess up a recipe as it is for my zany little bee characters. When I’m in charge of the menu, you might get something like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, or worse, plums with a chance of worms... but that’s another story.
KC: What other kinds of messes are we likely to see Bizz and Buzz get into in the future?
DL: There are plans in the works for Bizz and Buzz to bungle their way through several more adventures. If all goes well, look for these characters to misinterpret idioms, misidentify holiday figures, and use their talents to join a band. I love these little buggers! My greatest wish is that they will buzz their way into the hearts of children everywhere and motivate them to bee-come readers for life.
KC: You have been working on various different kinds of books as an author/developer - educational puzzle books, middle grade, verse, and easy readers. What is your favorite type of book to write, and why?
DL: Ha! That’s like asking what kind of ice cream, chocolate, or pasta I like best. I don’t have a favorite type of book to write. When one type of project has me stumped, I set it aside and work on something else. I’m better at letting my manuscripts marinate than my steaks.
When writing picture books or leveled readers, I love the challenge of creating stories with so few words. They’re rewarding to write because there’s always the possibility of helping to foster a child’s love of reading at an early age when life-long habits can be established.
Silly verse is also one of my passions. I have a whole collection of school-related poems that I’m in the process of revising. I love to work with rhyme… anywhere, anytime.
I enjoy penning middle grade novels because they tend to rely heavily on voice, a fun aspect of writing for me. I especially like creating characters with humorous sarcasm. In school, I was the shy kid. Whenever the class clown acted up, I had the desire to be funny, too, but only had the courage to show it through writing.
When I was growing up, my mother kept a box full of surprises we could choose from when we became ill. I loved language arts and math, so I often chose books with word challenges and cryptograms. I didn’t mind getting sick from time to time because I enjoyed solving those brainteasers. No wonder I created hundreds of educational puzzles!
KC: What are some of your own favorite children's books?
DL: I really don’t have a favorite anything except for a sport… gymnastics. So to answer the question, I guess I’ll tell you some of the books I enjoyed reading to my students and to my daughters.
Picture book favorites included anything illustrated by Tomie dePaola, Jan Brett, Eric Carle, or Dr. Seuss. I also had a fondness for sharing The Rainbow Fish and The Ice Cream Cone Coot. For elementary school children, some of the ones at the top of my list were: the Ramona and Amelia Bedelia books, Charlotte’s Web, The Cricket in Times Square, Mrs. Frisby and the RATS of NIMH, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
As far as other favorites, my girls had about a half dozen versions of each Disney story. We lived in Orange County and could see the Disneyland fireworks from our house. We were even visited by cute little field mice the first few days after moving in until we found out how they were entering. The girls named every one of the critters “Mickey Mouse” or “Minnie Mouse” and wanted to hear Disney story after Disney story. One of my greatest wishes is to write something for that company, too... someday, somehow!
Thanks for the interview, Dee. And now for the contest(s) ....
For a chance to WIN an autographed copy of Dee’s book, please leave a general comment or a suggestion at the end of this blog post about what kind of adventure you’d like Bizz and Buzz to have next. All those commenting by midnight June 26, 2014, are eligible. Make sure you leave an email address when posting your comment so Dee can contact you and arrange to send you the book if you're the winner. Email addresses will not be made available publicly.
FREE funsheets and bookmarks, as well as additional CONTESTS (Rafflecopter and Goodreads) can be seen on http://bizzandbuzz.weebly.com .
FOLLOW @bizzandbuzz on Twitter for yet another chance to win a book.
UPDATE: CONTEST WINNERS LISTED HERE.
I love to read books and chat with other authors and artists about their work. Here's where I share my thoughts about writing (the craft and business/legal aspects of the writing life) and my interviews with other authors. Feel free to visit and add comments anytime!