Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cover Reveal: A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris

It's my pleasure to participate in the cover reveal for A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris. Click here to enter the giveaway over at YABC!

Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets.

When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn't believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her.

Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.

But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell before midnight on New Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever.

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press ( )

Release date: May 21, 2015

Author website:
Author Twitter: @cnorrisauthor
Book Trailer link:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Goya in Urdu and Spanish

This word came across my tumblr feed via my lovely daughter. It was one of a list of 11 untranslatable words from other languages. You've probably seen others of this sort. I am now in love with this word and may have to learn Urdu. 

I'm a big fan of cross-language connections. I'm a Spanish teacher by day and a novelist by night, so I guess it only makes sense that I'm also a huge word nerd. Bilingual puns make me giggle ridiculously.

Goya, which we are told above means "the transporting suspension of disbelief that can occur in good storytelling" in Urdu, is also a word in Spanish, or, more accurately, a name. It's the name of one of my favorite Spanish painters: Francisco Goya. I first learned of him when I was a college student studying in Spain for a summer. It was 1992, a big year for España--they had the Olympics and the World's Fair. I never made it to Barcelona for the Olympics, but I did make it to the World's Fair in Segovia. 

Goya was featured as part of the Spanish art exhibit. Many of his most famous paintings were collected all in one room. I had no idea how special that was at the time. Thinking about those paintings now, I think that the man is accurately named, even in Urdu. His paintings are transporting in the same way that the best storytelling is, even if he didn't tell his stories with words. 

Some of his paintings have lingered in my imagination, telling their stories and making me weave my own:
La maja desnuda is one of my favorite paintings ever. Back when I had my very first public email account, on The Well (showing my age to mention it, I know), I was (or whatever the tail was--I think I've forgotten).

I think the appeal for me lies in the rich details--the way the sheet is folded under the legs. The expression on the woman's face, which can be read a hundred different ways. The demure position of her thighs revealing only what she chooses to reveal. The way her breasts roll out to the sides in just the way that real breasts do. The directness of her gaze, with no shame or shyness evident.

It has a sister painting: La maja vestida (very similar, but the woman is dressed). The existence of the dressed painting has led to some interesting theories about the history of this painting. I'm no art historian and don't know the true history of this painting, but I've always liked the legend that the clothed version was done for the lady's husband, and the nude for the painter himself.

Another favorite is Tres de Mayo, 1808.

This one has very specific history behind it, which I am somewhat familiar with thanks to my college professors. It depicts a firing squad punishing Madrileños who were part of an uprising against Napoleon's army and French occupation of their city and country. 

It's very easy to tell whose side Goya was on. The light guides your eyes to the man in white and yellow and his sad, but not frightened or cowed face. In contrast, the French soldiers are a faceless line of men, almost indistinguishable from one another. 

Want another kind of story? View "Saturn Devouring His Son,""The Colossus," or the collection of etchings called "Los Caprichos" (especially El Sueño de Razón). 

Goya was quite the storyteller. If I could paint something half as good with my words . . . .

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Hobbit: A Defense

So the trilogy of Hobbit movies have gotten a lot of flack. Some of it is probably deserved, as obvious padding. Other detours from the original book really pleased me. Since I finally made it to a movie theater for the third installment, it's my turn to weigh in.

First the complaint I agree with:
1. The overt references to the Lord of the Rings trilogy were ham-handed and unnecessary. In my writing critique group, we call this a failure to trust your reader. All the groundwork was already there for fans to make the connection to events in the other movies. A jab in the ribs and a "Do you get it?" was clumsy storytelling. We knew that Gandalf suspected the nature of the ring Bilbo had found and had his own reasons for not taking action. We knew that Legolas, in his wanderings, would meet up with Strider/Aragorn. The people who didn't know that probably still didn't get it when they were poked roughly in the ribs because they must not know the books or movies. 

Now the complaints I'm willing to defend:
2. The added material. In more than one review, I read that the whole Tauriel storyline was unnecessary. I disagree. Tauriel did a lot for the story. She provided the reason that Legolas becomes a wanderer who does not live among his own people in LOTR. It was a great, complicated mesh of emotions in that particular love triangle. She helped viewers distinguish among the dwarves. She was a much needed strong female character (Tolkien didn't write women much at all, let alone well) that helped engage female audience members. She helped us understand what was wrong with Thranduil, the father of Legolas--he was driven half mad by the loss of love in his life. She was the way in for the allegorical discussion of points about race and loyalty and honor. It would have been a poorer story without her. 

3. Legolas's agility moments: I have a feeling this is one of those you-love-it-or-you-don't moments
and neither side will win the other over. I loved Legolas's amazing moves in the original trilogy and I loved them again here. In the same way that I admire Jackie Chan's ability to use his environment to his advantage in a fight, I enjoy Legolas's daredevil risks. It makes even more sense when you come to view him as a man in love with someone who loves someone else. Only Legolas would jump out into space and grab the legs of a giant evil bat just as a means to get from one place to another more quickly. Only Legolas views all things in terms of how he can ride them--steering a giant beast with the blade he has jammed into its brain, turning a tower into a bridge, and climbing it while it crumbles. I'm not interested in straight warfare--sword vs. sword gets dull to watch over time. I can count on Legolas to do something crazy-cool to keep me engaged in the scene.
4. The indistinguishable dwarves: The writers had quite a task here, trying to make thirteen white men, nearly all the same height and build, distinct enough for us to know them in the story, when they are all in decidedly secondary or tertiary roles to the main story lines. So we have the love story, which we all knew would end badly. The father figure. The king. Other than that, they are primarily distinguishable by their beard affectations (and one of them by being really really fat). So, yes, I agree that, at the end of the story, I don't know many of their names or their backstories. But I also think that isn't necessarily a flaw. For those complaining about length of the movies, imagine how long they'd have been if we had fully realized each and every dwarf! Thorin needed a band of trustworthy followers around him, but the group can essentially function as one character. Does anyone know the names of Robin Hood's Merry Men beyond Little John? Captain Hook's pirates beyond Smee? It doesn't matter to the overall story.

So there you go. Was it a flawless trilogy? No. But was it a really enjoyable romp? Yes, indeed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Watch Me Burn!

Hooray! It's finally here! Book 2 in The December People series, Watch Me Burn, is now available for purchase. Re-join the Vandergraff family as they navigate the delicate balance between dark magic and family.


Barnes and Noble & Kobo links should be available soon.

David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl--who happens to be a summer witch--begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic's command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.

A little taste...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#IWSG: Keeping all the plates spinning

 So 2014 is over now--whoosh! That went fast.

2015 is already a Balancing Act. I guess that shouldn't surprise me anymore, but each shift in expectations and responsibilities seems to knock me newly for a loop even though I've been around that loop several times now.

My struggle this year is balancing projects--I've got several going and figuring out which one should get my attention first and keeping my attention focused on just that one until I've finished is hard for my easily distracted right-brain.
Part of me is wanting to grab onto that shiny new story over there--the one that is still just an idea, a gleam in my eye. But if I do that, than what happens to all my other babies? They need to grow up and get out there in submission (and eventually publication!), too.  One can almost walk on its own. Another still needs its training wheels. A third stinks a bit and probably needs its diaper changed.

I have three of these kinds of balls in the air right now. My 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, My 2014 NaNoWriMo novel, and the sequel to my superhero novel (coming out in April with Curiosity Quills).

My solution is to be ruthless with myself. I'm setting deadlines and forcing myself to focus on just one thing at a time. This month, it's the rewrite of my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel (Cold Spring, historical fiction). It's been through my critique group, so it's a matter of processing all that feedback and applying it, then sending the new and improved version out to beta readers. I love this baby, of course, but I've been working on her a long time and it can be hard to ignore the toddler-superhero book jumping up and down in the corner. After all, its older sister had some success and that means it has a better shot than some of the others.

How do you do it? How do you keep your focus on ONE project among all the things you want to write?


This posting is part of the Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. To check out other posts by writers in a variety of places in their careers, check out the participant list. This group is one of the most open and supportive groups of people I have ever been associated with. You should check them out!


UPDATE: In reading other #IWSG postings, I learned that I was supposed to introduce myself this week. I missed the memo!

So, hi! I'm Samantha Bryant. I teach middle school Spanish by day and write by night. I write a variety of things from women's fiction to speculative fiction to humorous essays ( at least they amuse me).  My debut novel, Going Through the Change, will be released by Curiosity Quills on April 23, 2015. You all should buy it so I can take my family on a nice vacation :-)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Beware a Treasure Darkly…

I'm happy to present the cover of Jordan Elizabeth's Treasure Darkly:

cover art by:  Amalia Chitulescu

Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe…until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead. A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he.

And he is not alone. His new found sister, Amethyst, thinks that's rather dashing, until Horan kidnaps her, and all she gets is a bullet through her heart. When Clark brings her back to life, she realizes he's more than just street-smart - and he's not really a Treasure. Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.

TREASURE DARKLY, book 1 of the Treasure Chronicles
This young adult fantasy introduces the Wild West to a steampunk world, mixed together with romance and a touch of the paranormal.

Enjoy the following excerpt…
“Looks like he did drink it up.” The general client spoke from the right. “Must’ve interacted with all that bloody hertum. Look at ‘im, he’s bleeding already.” 
“What’s it gonna do to him?” the guard from the morning asked.

“Lots of stuff.” The general laughed. “When he touches the dead, he’ll be able to bring them back, and exchange that life for another. Perfect soldier, huh? We only have one vial ready and I was going to give it to a lucky fellow. Guess it will be this boy.”

“Whatcha gonna do with him?” The guard snickered. 
“Have to be a test subject,” the general said. “Sure thought it was that Judy who stole my bottle. Pity I killed her. She sure knew how to make my pecker sing.” 
Clark’s mother.

Clark bolted off the ground and ran. He could hide in the hole under the shed behind the brothel. Mable never found him under there. He might be cursed with raising the dead—he’d already done that to the poor mine worker—but it didn’t mean he’d let them take him for tests.

Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, is the author of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW and a contributor to GEARS OF BRASS, both available from Curiosity Quills Press.  GEARS OF BRASS includes a short story featuring Amethyst Treasure, one of the main characters in the Treasure Chronicles.  Check out Jordan’s website,, for contests and book signings.  Jordan is represented by Belcastro Agency and President of the Utica Writers Club.

Steampunk is often recognized by its unique jewelry.  The Treasure Chronicles include a rugged “Western” setting, so I went for something with an explorer feel for a giveaway.  Presenting a beautiful necklace created by me, Jordan Elizabeth

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Fifteenth Year Begins

I don't remember what the weather was like on her first day. After all, I spent it (and several of the ensuing days) in the hospital being grateful for modern medical care.

But, today, on the first day of her fifteenth year, the weather is dreary--rainy and chilly. It doesn't matter though, she has always been able to make her own sunshine.

My daughter is fifteen today.

Whew! I've been practicing saying that out loud. It can be hard to get the words out around the lump in my throat. See, in my mind, she still looks like this:

 helping chaperone as a baby
Or maybe like this:

Me, age 31; Her, age 3

But these days, she looks like this:

See, what I mean? She's amazing. Strong, smart, beautiful, funny, and talented. But she's also my baby, and she's growing up much too fast.