Friday, August 29, 2014

Wickedly Dangerous - Author Interview + Giveaway!

Today it's my pleasure to have author Deborah Blake as my guest today.  Her novel, WICKEDLY DANGEROUS will be released on September 2, 2014 and I can tell you that it's truly Wickedly Wonderful!  I had the pleasure of reading it a few months ago to provide a quote for her book.  This is the quote I provided: Baba Yaga is smart, confident, and pragmatic--all the qualities I love in one character! Be prepared to stay up well past your bedtime.

Below is a Q&A with Deborah, who is a wonderful lady as well as talented (that's important to me - I never promote authors who are mean or obnoxious).  She has also offered to give away one signed copy of WICKEDLY DANGEROUS to a random commenter on my blog.  The contest is open to international readers and please include an email so I can contact you!

Cover Copy: Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…

Take 10 with Deborah:

1.) Where did you get the idea for WICKEDLY DANGEROUS?

My agent Elaine Spencer and I were chatting one day about what I should write next. We both agreed that we liked my books that had witch protagonists and we both liked updated retold fairy tales. But that left me with this question: what fairy tales haven’t been overdone, and also involve a witch? I thought of Baba Yaga, who wasn’t as well known as Snow White or Beauty and the Beast, and when I did some research, much of what I found actually led to the story. The fracking that is part of the storyline came about because we’re having huge fights about it here where I live in upstate NY.

2.) The story is wickedly fun to read. How hard was it to integrate all those wonderful mythical characters, humor, and still have the main protagonists dealing with finding missing children?

It was a little bit of a balancing act to have the magical world and the humor, plus some grim reality—but that was part of what made it fun to write. I have always had some humor in my writer’s voice, and in this story, I think it helped to keep things from getting too grim. I actually enjoyed having the magical elements side-by-side with the regular mundane world. After all, you never know what’s out there, do you?

3.) What do you like most about Barbara Yager (a.k.a. Baba Yaga)?

(Laughs.) Honestly, I love her bad attitude. She’s kind of crabby sometimes, and doesn’t much like people, although she has a good heart underneath. And I like how she is surprised when love finally sneaks up on her. And, of course, her relationship with Chudo-Yudo, the dragon-disguised-as-a-giant-white-pitbull she lives with. That was a hoot to write.

4.) Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?

Oh boy. How long do you have? There are so many authors who inspire me, and some in particular who inspired this book. (Tanya Huff has a fabulous series about the Gale family that has magic hidden in plain sight, and I reread everything Patricia McKillip ever wrote because she has such an incredible way of painting fantastical pictures with words.) As I’ve probably mentioned before, when I read Poison Study, I was so impressed I was beside myself. [Awww, thanks :)] Other people who have had a big influence on my writing: Jennifer Crusie (her use of humor and quirky characters is the best ever), Mindy Klasky, Lisa Shearin, Jim C. Hines, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Carol Berg—I could go on and on. Different authors have inspired me at different times (and you can see there is a wide range of writing styles and even genres here), but what they all have in common is the ability to tell a completely original story with compelling and likable characters, and tell it well.

5.) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you learn that you didn't know before?

I did. I knew the very basics of the Baba Yaga tales (my family is of Russian Jewish origin, and it is possible my grandfather introduced me to the character, although I also remember reading about her in fairy tale books, which I devoured by the dozens), but not much beyond that. And everything I learned worked so well with the story, it amazed me! To begin with, there were often references to the Baba’s sisters, so it made it easy to create a series with different Baba Yaga characters in each one. I discovered that she was associated with a dragon named Chudo-Yudo who guarded the Water of Life and Death, and three mysterious Riders, and that if you start delving into the Russian culture, there was abundant evidence of her as not just a witch but also a demi-goddess or goddess of the elements. She was said to guard the doorway between our world and the Otherworld. All very fun stuff to work into a story. Of course, I also did some more research on fracking, and found out it was even worse than I thought…

6.) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you by surprise?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, really (I think I got serious in 6th grade) and always wanted to be a writer. But I was also timid and insecure, so when I sent out a batch of short stories in my teens and 20’s and got rejections, I just gave up for a long time. Fast forward to about 10 years ago, and I suddenly got an idea for a nonfiction book (on witchcraft, since I am a practicing witch/Wiccan). I sent off a proposal to Llewellyn Worldwide, they bought the book, and I wrote a bunch more for them. But once I’d finished that first book, I said to myself, “See—you CAN finish a whole book! No more excuses!” and began to work on my first novel. My third novel got me my agent, and we sent out three more before I finally sold this one. But here I am, with two novels and a prequel novella coming out this year. There is something to be said for being too stubborn to know when to give up. (My first novel got lots of great feedback from agents and 67 rejections. Clearly I’ve toughened up from when I was younger.)

7.) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

I try to write every day, although I probably realistically manage about 5-6 days a week. (For instance, tonight I’m writing this and a post for my own blog instead.) Since I have a day job, I usually write in the evenings, from about 6:30 or 7pm until around 10pm. On weekends I often do two stints if I am mid-book. I start with some plotting and character development before I ever begin the actual writing. I usually have a loose outline, although how in depth it is differs from book to book. It definitely goes faster when I have one. I often write a scene in my head before it makes it onto the page—either while I am supposedly napping/resting, or while I am taking a walk. When I sit down to write, I start by rereading and editing the previous day’s work. That serves two purposes: it makes the job of editing the finished manuscript much easier later on, and it also gets me back in the zone of the story, so that by the time I’m done with the 3-8 pages from the previous stint, the next bit of the story is usually ready to ooze out my fingers and onto the keyboard. [I do the same thing!] Because of this, my first draft is unusually tight and clean, which makes my editor happy.

8.) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite?

I have a great office in my dining room where I do all the business end of writing, and most of my emailing, and have my white boards and organize everything. But most of my actual writing is done in the living room, where I have a red recliner that is easier on my back and my arms than sitting upright at a desk (and where a cat can sit on the end, draped over my feet, instead of trying to squeeze between onto my lap in front of the laptop). I’m not one of those people who can write out in public at a coffee house—I need peace and quiet. I don’t even play music.

9.) What else do you enjoy doing besides writing? Interests? Hobbies?

I run an artists’ cooperative shop and make gemstone jewelry that I sell there. (I spent 25 years doing a lot of jewelry making, but the writing has gradually taken over most of the time I used to use for that.) I have a very large garden, and spend time out there, especially at this time of the year. It is good therapy after a long day of trying to herd artists. And I lead a group of witchy types called Blue Moon Circle, and we often meet a couple of times a month. There is also my Scrabble addiction, and the five cats. And I live in a 120 year old farmhouse that I’m always having to fix something on. I’m not sure if you can call that a hobby or not!

10.) What are you writing now? What's coming out next?

The next thing out is the second in the Baba Yaga series, WICKEDLY WONDERFUL, which is out in December. Right now I’m working on something that is a complete change of pace: a humorous contemporary romance, with nary a witch in sight. So far all my first readers are loving it, so that’s encouraging, and I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

Penguin Books:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Blog Hopping!

I've been invited to be a part of a blog hop and thought it sounded like fun.  I'd like to thank Aoife Marie Sheridan for inviting me to participate.  You can see her post here:

Next up is the answer to the following four questions:

1) What am I working on?

Answer: NIGHT STUDY - Book 5 of the Study series, which continues Yelena and Valek's adventures after SHADOW STUDY - Book 4 of the Study series, which is due out March 2015! Next up will be Book 6, which doesn't have a title or plot yet.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Answer: When I'm writing, I focus on the characters.  Plot, action, twists, deceptions all stem from what motivates my characters and how they interact with each other.  And from the overwhelming response from my readers, I think I create characters that they care about and wish to invite over for dinner. :)  I also blend fantasy/SF elements with a bit of romance and a touch of mystery/suspense, which generates an "unputdownable" read. ("Unputdownable" is a direct quote from a number of my readers who have emailed me at three a.m.)

3) Why do I write what I do?

Answer: As I said in answer #2 - I focus on my characters.  And I love putting my characters through the ringer and seeing how they react. I find that fantasy and science fiction lets me play a little more with my characters.  It gives me the freedom to invent truly unique elements and not be confined to reality.  When I was a meteorologist, I couldn't forecast my way out of a paper bag, but in my novels, I'm always 100 percent accurate!  Also I love horses and swords and the challenges they bring to my story worlds.

4) How does your writing process work?

Answer:  When I spark on an idea for a book, I write a rough sketch of story.  Usually I have a beginning and an ending and a main protagonist and that's it.  I have to write a snyopsis for my editor to approve, so I guess on what's going to happen in the middle.  However, once I do get approval, the finished story never matches my synopsis.  I like to discover the story as I write, which makes that first draft a long process with lots of anxiety!  I spend the first half worried I don't have enough story for a novel, and then spend the second half worried I have too much.  Somehow, I end up right where I should be around 100,000 words!  You would think I wouldn't worry so much after writing 13 novels, but nope - I still do it!

Once I have approval, then I pull out a brand new spiral notebook and pick out 24 girl's names one for each letter of the alphabet and do the same for boy's names.  I choose names that I like and have an interesting meaning that might be applicable to the story. For example, in STORM GLASS, I found names that meant power and had weather references.  Names like Kade, which means powerful, Raiden, which is the name of a thunder god, Indra means rain, Tal means dew, and for my glassmaker, Aydan, which means little fire.

Then I start writing the story and do research as needed.  I did need to know quite a bit about glass blowing for my Glass books, so I took a number of classes to learn how to work with molten glass.  I write at night from 10 pm to 3 or 4 am and I write at least 1000 words before going to sleep. Most nights I write an average of 1300.  It takes me about 6-7 months to write a first draft and 1 month for revisions.  Then I submit it to my editor, agent and beta readers and wait for comments! Then I revise again based on all their comments.

To keep the blog, I invited authors Deborah Blake and Jonathan Lister to participate. Deborah will be posting soon and Jonathan has his up!

Deborah Blake: Deborah is best known for her Pagan/Wiccan books, but also writes Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.

Her blog:

Jonathan Lister: He's the author of the Demos City Series.

His blog: