Check This Out: Love, God, and Mexican Pastries

With me on the blog today, for the first of two holiday giveaways (’tis the season) is one of my Secret Gardener VCFA classmates, the wonderful Karen Ripley. Karen is here to talk about her recently released young adult novel, Love, God, and Mexican Pastries, a Gallina Roja publication. You can find the synopsis here.

   

One of you will get a copy of Karen’s book. But we’ll discuss that later. Let’s talk to Karen!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Karen: (1) I had to fill the Santa cookie jar with old, leftover Halloween candy because I ate all the cookies.


(2) Yesterday, I went to an exercise class with my t-shirt on inside out.
(3) My kindergarten report card says, “Karen is great at napping.”
(4) My sixteen-year-old daughter and I goof off by practicing kickboxing in the kitchen when we’re making dinner.

El Space: What was the inspiration behind this young adult novel? Why was it important for you to tell this story?
Karen: ***BIG spoiler alert. Don’t read this if you are like me and don’t want to know the ending of a book before you read it.*** This novel is based on a very personal experience. Many years ago my young niece became pregnant and decided to place her baby for adoption. We’re good friends and I watched in awe at her faith as she courageously went through all heartbreaking steps and placed her beautiful daughter with a loving family. I asked myself over and over, how could someone make such a sacrifice? I don’t know if I ever answered that question, but this novel is me searching for that answer.

El Space: Your novel has gone through quite a metamorphosis. I’m so glad you hung in there with Melina [the main character]. How did critiques and your editor help you shape the story?
Karen: When I started writing, I read and heard advice such as trust your reader and make sure your character is likable. I thought that along with cutting out the adverbs, I was doing all of that. But when my critique group pointed out scenes that weren’t moving the story along and my editor said my character was starting to bug her, that’s when the real revision started. It was a lot of serious work but it also made me really proud of my writing.

El Space: How did the characters change as the story developed?
Karen: Probably the biggest change for me was coming to really love my characters. Starting the book, I knew some characters were going to do some rotten things and in many of my drafts, some of the characters, maybe all of them, felt more caricature-like than real. It wasn’t until I got to know their back story completely that I could understand them and I saw them develop. Recently, my daughter was reading my book, and said, “I’m so furious at Marcus right now.” And my first thoughts were, He’s really a good guy who’s just messed up.

El Space: What were the challenges of writing this novel?
Karen: Probably the biggest challenge was and is overcoming my own doubts and fears. I started this novel over a decade ago. I’ve needed to learn a lot about writing and it’s taken a long time. It’s so easy to doubt your abilities when it takes years and years to get a novel out. I put the manuscript aside for a solid year and worked on another novel after a very painful face-to-face rejection with an agent. Looking back, a year off was exactly what I needed to be able to come to the story with new eyes; but I really struggled with feeling like a failure.

El Space: How did you select the title?
Karen: Ha! 😄 Really, it was like the whole writing process, trial and error, critiquing, revision. I tried lots of cheesy titles such as: Love Story and The Right Forever. After bunches of cheese, I threw out Love, God, and Mexican Pastries almost as a joke. My daughter really liked it, my editor loved it, and that’s how it came to be.

El Space: Who designed the cover? How did you feel about it when you first saw it?
Karen: Shawnda Craig was the cover designer, and she’s amazing. As an indie author it’s different than traditional publishing where you usually don’t get to consult with the cover designer, but Shawnda and I chatted about different concepts and went through several drafts. When she sent me two covers I loved, it felt like seeing the first snowfall of the year.

El Space: What are you hoping teens or other readers will take away after reading your novel?
Karen: I’d love readers to finish the book with a feeling of hope and a joy in family.

El Space: What books have inspired you lately?
Karen: I’m reading about book marketing lately. Make a Killing on Kindle by Michael Alvear has a lot of great advice for indie authors. I enjoy reading to my grandson, though he’s 18 months and only sits still for a couple of pages. I love reading Long Ago, on a Silent Night by Julie Berry to him. And every night I try to read something beautiful, and lately it’s been The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

   

El Space: What will you work on next?
Karen: I’ve got a middle-grade story about a spunky girl who goes to battle with her bus driver. Another middle-grade story about a young cowboy who competes in the rodeo is in a rough-draft state. Also, I’ve done a little free writing on another YA novel but so far that’s just mush.

Thanks, Karen, for being my guest!

Looking for Karen? You can find her here. Looking for Love, God, and Mexican Pastries? (Or all three in a different context?) Click here.

One of you will be sent a copy of Love, God, and Mexican Pastries simply because you commented. Winner to be announced after next week’s giveaway.

Katie insists that you read this book, because it’s the best book ever and you should also feel that way, ’cause she is always real with people and that’s how she feels.

Christmas giveaway image from thefrontporchgourmet. Author photo by Sara Brewer. Love, God, and Mexican Pastries cover courtesy of the author. Other book covers from Goodreads. Santa cookie jar from ebay. Kickboxing image from clipart-library. Failure sign from teachertoolkit.me. Other photo by L. Marie. Katie is one of the Capsule Chix, a product of Moose Toys.

Check This Out: Legends of Windemere (Part 2)

Welcome back to the blog. Glad you’re here. Help yourself to a beverage. With us is the cool and clever Charles Yallowitz, here to continue the discussion of his series, Legends of Windemere. Charles also is a poet, so I’m sure he appreciates the alliteration I just used. 😀 If you’re a first timer, you  might want to check here for part 1 of the interview with Charles.

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And of course, there’s a giveaway. Two of those who comment today will win the first three books of the series. But first, let’s talk to Charles.

El Space: How do you decide how much back story to include in each subsequent book of the series?
Charles: Since I write in present tense, I can’t do a narrative that goes over what previously happened. I have to remind readers about prior events through character dialogues. This creates a basic overview of the back story from the perspective of the continuing characters. I try to touch on the big events of the past and bring them up if it makes sense. For example, there is a betrayal in Prodigy of Rainbow Tower and it gets brought up from time to time, either by remembering the deceased character or somebody brings up the traitor. The trick to carrying over back story in present tense is really to make it appear natural within the course of a conversation. If you can’t fit it in, then don’t do it. You can either wait for an opening to appear or create an earlier conversation to bring it up.

Luke_Cross_SwordsEl Space: Which character is most like you? Least? If you were a character in your series, what powers would you have?
Charles: Luke Callindor [left] will always be the most like me, but he’s in much better physical condition. We share the same ability to become frustrated, and we think in ways that can confuse people. He does it in battle while I do it in my writing. The character that I’m the least like is probably Sari, since the one I’m really not like hasn’t shown up yet. Sari has a level of flirty confidence that I’ve never had. There’s a true sense of freedom that I get from her whenever I write her scenes.

In Windemere, I would train as a warrior, because I love swords. I don’t know if I’d develop any powers, but I would love to have Luke’s ability to see sound. It’s a small power that I randomly rolled in the game [Dungeons & Dragons] and kept for the book. His sound sight has turned into such a versatile ability that it’s become my favorite to use. This answer just turned into “I would be Luke Callindor,” didn’t it? My second answer is that I’d learn illusions and use them to tell stories in taverns and festivals.

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El Space: You have several female characters. What are the challenges of writing across the gender line?
Charles: I’ve never really thought about the challenges when writing my female characters. Their gender is only a guideline to help me remember pronouns and a few habits. I think a challenge for many is to make a female hero strong and feminine. There’s this habit of making a woman in fantasy either fragile with femininity or tough as nails with a more masculine attitude. The term butch gets thrown out there a lot, but I think it’s better to say that they’ve been androgenized. It’s very much about balance and pulling out the right aspects of a character for the right situation.

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Kira and Trinity

Nyx_GlowingOne thing that I have gotten in a little trouble for is that I don’t shy away from my female characters getting injured. I’ve read a lot of fantasy where the women will come out of a battle either unscathed or a little banged up, while the men are nursing some pretty bad wounds. I couldn’t see many of my female characters doing this, especially Nyx [right]. This has led to a few scenes where Nyx takes a beating while doling out enough destruction to avoid being called weak. So it is a risk to have a female hero who gets hurt in the same way as a male hero, because it touches on a sensitivity of some readers. The trick is to not do it often, not overdo it, and make sure it has a point for the plot instead of only gaining sympathy for the character.

pile_of_booksEl Space: I agree with that! Now let me ask you this: How has indie publishing changed since you first started? What advice do you have for an indie publishing newbie?
Charles: I haven’t seen much of a change since I’ve only been at this for a year. Amazon seems to come up with new promotions and rules every few months, but I think that’s part of the evolving system.

My advice to new indie authors is simple:
(1) Keep writing! Cliché, but true. I’ve seen a lot of indie authors stop writing and then wonder why people forgot about them.
(2) Connect with other authors to get support and talk shop. Many authors have paved the way for other indie authors. They know about the formatting, marketing, and other aspects of the business. Also, you never know what a new indie author will stumble onto and share with a veteran.
(3) Never publicly react to negative reviews, because that will make you look unprofessional. If it really bugs you, then find a friend or another author to vent to through emails. Just make sure they want to hear you rant first.
(4) Some people will tell you that this is a competition between authors. Well, it isn’t, because we’re all in the same boat. You will get farther and help the overall indie author community by sharing knowledge, joining blog tours, and supporting other authors. With every successful indie author, the choice to self-publish becomes more accepted as a viable path.
(5) Have fun. I don’t really have to go into detail here, do I?

El Space: Great advice. What authors inspire you?
Charles: Many authors inspire me, so it’s hard to pick a handful. I actually take a little from everything I read and watch, but I’ll try to give some kind of list. There’s the fantasy greats of Tolkien, Lewis, Saberhagen, and Le Guin. I love the characters written by John Flanagan in the Ranger’s Apprentice Series and Rick Riordan’s various series. To name a few others, Orson Scott Card, Edgar Allan Poe, Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist), and Mel Brooks. As you can see, I’m all over the place with my inspirations. It’s a miracle I can write a coherent sentence.

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El Space: How many books do you anticipate for your series? What are you working on now?
Charles: Legends of Windemere will have 15 books and another book will be done to clean up a potential loose end. After that I will have to decide on the next series to work on, but I’m probably going to start in on my vampire series. The Windemere vampires have an interesting history and that series is going to be a lot more brutal than what I’m doing now. I currently have two WIPs at this moment. One is preparing Legends of Windemere: Family of the Tri-Rune for a March release. I’m waiting on cover art and final edits to be done. I’m also writing Legends of Windemere: Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue, which is the 7th book of the series. I figure I’ll be able to relax around book 15.

Thanks, Charles, for hanging out on the blog with me! I’ve enjoyed your visit!

Looking for Charles? Head to his blog, Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad, or Twitter. Legends of Windemere can be found at Amazon. Two of you will win the first three books of his series. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on March 7.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cover art of the Legends of Windemere series by Jason Pedersen. Character art by Kayla Matt. Legends of Windemere covers courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Other covers from Goodreads. Sword from knife-depot.com. Books image from onkaparingacity.com.