Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writer Chat Wednesday: Janine Caldwell

I am so pleased to have as my guest today for Writer Chat Wednesday Janine Caldwell, a fellow Arizonan and debut YA author. Janine just released her first two novels and I'm glad she was able to stop by so you have a chance to get to know this dynamic woman.

Natalie Wright (NW): Do you have any news to share about your work?

Janine Caldwell (JC): I just released my debut YA fantasy series called The Vortex Series. The e-versions are available everywhere and the print versions will be available soon through Amazon.

NW: That is exciting news!  What books have you written so far?

JC: Rematch and Double Fault are the first two books of The Vortex Series.

NW: What was the inspiration for The Vortex Series? 

JC: A few years ago I was leading a Bible study in my house for a group of eighth grade girls when they introduced me to The Twilight Series. Not only did I fall in love with the books, my girls also informed me that Stephenie Myers lived in the next town over from us. Now, as an English major I’ve always loved literature and have even dabbled in screenwriting, but I had never tried to write a novel. Something about knowing an author such as Stephenie was creating these stories miles from my house inspired me to write again. I’m a sucker for all things fantasy and romance, so I dreamed up a story that I myself would want to read. Living about an hour from Sedona, naturally I was drawn to the mysterious nature of the Sedona vortexes and what hidden power they might have. Combine all that with learning that I’m a direct descendant of The Brothers Grimm, I felt my true calling was to write YA fantasy.

NW: What is one of  your favorite scenes from one of your books and why?

JC: In REMATCH, it has to be the last scene of the book when Trent’s heart is truly revealed to Cassie. We learn that even the best of intentions can still cause life to go terribly wrong if it’s not the destiny you are to follow.

NW: What genre do you write in?

JC: YA fantasy

NW: What works in progress do you have?

JC: I’ve completed about a third of a new novel entitled VISITED and am outlining DEUCE, the final book of The Vortex Series.

NW: Which character from your books do you like most / are most like?

JC:  I would have to say that in high school, I was most like Kelli, Cassie’s best friend. She’s sort of tough and mistrustful of high school boys and is very selective about who she gives her heart away to.

NW: Which book do you wish you had written?

JC: The Hunger Games--doesn’t everyone?

NW: What is your favorite movie – the one you can watch over and over again?

JC: Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” with Keira Knightley and every single Harry Potter movie. I could never get tired of either story.

NW:  What is your favorite band or musical performer?

JC: I’m hopelessly addicted to alternative rock and have been an avid fan of the Foo Fighters since Dave Grohl started the band. I wish I could’ve quoted every line from “Times Like These” in REMATCH because the song depicts Trent’s agony and crossroads in life perfectly. In fact, “Times Like These” would’ve been a great alternative title to REMATCH since there is an element of time traveling in the series.

NW: What do you hope readers will take with them from your writing?

JC: I hope that they will be entertained first and foremost, but for my teen readers, I also hope Cassie and Trent’s story will make them pause before they make any major decisions in their lives that will influence their future forever.

You can connect with Janine here:

Janine Caldwell, YA Fantasy Author

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Writer Chat Wednesday: Alisa Jeruconoka - London Calling!

My Writer Chat today is with Alisa Jeruconoka from London, England. Alisa is a YA fantasy writer and author of Unparallel WorldsI had a chance to chat with Alisa recently and I was so intrigued by her description of her story and inspiration, I had to buy the book to read it for myself!

Alisa JeruconokaFirst of all I want to thank Natalie for this fantastic opportunity to spread the word about my YA fantasy fiction novel ‘Unparallel Worlds’. The future of the whole planet depends on the delicate balance of Light and Darkness. Love and Hatred, Friendship and Betrayal are the keys to open and reveal the ancient secrets.

Natalie Wright: Do you have any news to share about your work?

Alisa Jeruconoka: Having only recently put the book on Amazon I’ve had 5 reviews already and there all great! It made me really happy that people are enjoying my book and for me this was the first step and although sales are important knowing that I have managed to write a story that people enjoy is priceless!

The other bit of news is that I had a very talented video maker email me after visiting my site, he said he was really impressed that at a time when everyone else is writing about vampires and werewolves in the YA market (and I’m not saying that these aren’t good reads) it’s refreshing that someone is trying to introduce the almost lost genre of otherworldly fantasy fiction to this audience. He said that this was vital to give them the opportunity to expand their minds with such a richly imagined story (I gathered that he was a fantasy fiction fanatic).

He liked the whole idea of the story so much that he went on to create a really cool video for me which is now on Youtube and my website

NW: I love this trailer for your book so much, I had to include it here for people to see.

NW: What was the inspiration for your book?

AJ: I have always enjoyed writing and from a young age I found I really enjoyed writing fantasy fiction. I could never wait to get home from school to read the latest story to my mum (who’s still my biggest fan) and we would have a real laugh acting out the characters.

This love of writing stayed with my throughout college and university where I had many of my works chosen over others to be performed by the drama students in annual productions.

Like everyone else though when I left University I went straight into full-time work as a translator/interpreter and because I was dealing with international clients from very early in the mornings to late in the evenings my favourite hobby of writing fantasy fiction was put on hold for several years.   

Then one day I visited a bookstore with my fourteen years old niece to choose a book and found that there was a lack of genres for her age group to read (strangely the same view the video maker I mention above shared). This happened about the same time I had changed jobs to one which was not so demanding, so all of a sudden I had spare time on my hands. It was then that I decided I would use this time to write a book for her age group that was completely different to anything else out there. The result is Unparallel Worlds.

Whilst writing London the city I live in also inspired me. I visited my favourite places in London to get inspiration. Top of my list were Hampstead Heath where I got most of the ideas about the forests I write about in my book, The Natural History Museum and it’s exhibits played a part when I needed ideas about either the colourful fantasy creatures or the odd and weird dark creatures that exist on the planet Adriana in my book. 

The Natural History Museum building was also a source of inspiration with all the carvings on its walls. This along with the beautiful monuments and mausoleums in Highgate Cemetery gave me inspiration to describe the two great palaces in my story. 

If anyone reading this has not been to any of the above places then please make sure you do if you visit London I highly recommend them.

I also got inspiration whilst writing the book from listening to different types of music when writing about characters. The main types of music though were classical and gothic. I would use the melodies of each to create images and characteristics in my head for the wonderful, weird and odd characters in the book.

NW: What is your favorite scene from your book and why?

AJ: My favourite scene in the book is when Aurelia the princess of Light, a main character in the book, makes her way to the deepest and darkest part of the vast palace library that has thousands of halls and rooms, a part not many visit. She goes there to read the most ancient books and also to find an ancient spider, a guardian of this part of the library that can give her the answers about an ancient prophecy, which forms the basis of my story.

NW: Which character from your books do you like most / are most like?

AJ: From all the colourful and weird characters in my book, my favourite is professor Norris Wolfidge, a bumbling but likeable and wise character (almost like Boris Johnson the mayor of London). If only Zalion the King of Darkness had listened to him, it would have prevented the mutation in his land on the Dark Side and saved a lot of lives. (but if he had listened to him then I would not have such an interesting book)

NW: If you walked through a portal to dimension without books, what three books do you want to take with you?

AJ: This is a difficult question because I have so many favourite books. But if the portal took me to Adriana then the books I would take are:

Mark Chadbourne ‘Age of Misrule’ (first three books in one volume)- Just because I love these books

Tad Williams ‘The War of Flowers’ – This because it’s about someone who becomes part of a fairy world in the end.

Martin Millar ‘Lonely Werewolf Girl'- This because it would always remind me of London I love with a bit of urban fantasy.

NW: Do you have a “day job”? And if you do, what do you do when you’re not writing?

AJ: In the day I do freelance translations for large multi-national corporations. This is not as demanding as my previous job so it gives me enough money to survive but also gives me the time to write - my favourite hobby.

NW: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

AJ: I love creating and developing new characters in my head and then trying to overcome the challenge of describing them exactly as I want on paper.

NW: What is your favorite movie – the one you can watch over and over again?

AJ: ‘Hell Boy 2’and ‘The Fifth Element’

NW: What is your favorite band or musical performer?

AJ: Umm, I love good music and it depends on my mood what I want to listen. I like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, ‘Muse’, ‘Cold Play’.

NW: What do you hope readers will take with them from your writing?

AJ: As I am aiming this book at young teens I hope they realize there is more genres that just the vampire and werewolf stories out there. I hope they read my book and really get lost in the fantasy fiction I have written. I hope that after reading my book their minds are expanded and I secretly hope my book inspires the next generation of fantasy fiction authors.

United States customers can buy Unparallel Worlds by clicking on this link:

UK customers can buy ‘Unparallel Worlds’ by clicking this link:

Friday, March 16, 2012

3 Things I LOVE About Ireland & Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

It’s curious that all across America, on one day each year, we celebrate a country that very few of us have roots in or have visited. Sure, we have a significant population of Irish immigrants and their descendants in America. But I’m not sure that explains our willingness – en masse – to don the green.

I can’t think of any other single country and culture that has such a wide and diverse fan club. Can you?

As I ponder why St. Patrick’s Day has become a phenomenon for people who aren’t Irish or Catholic, I think back to my trip to the Emerald Isle in 2010 (for the magical story of how I won that trip, check out this post).

Me, Enjoying Ireland
Before I went to Ireland, I'd read many books and articles about its history, scenery, and culture as research for my novel Emily’s House. I thought I knew something about the place.

But you can’t know a place or its people from photographs and books. I tried my best to capture something of Ireland in Emily’s House, but to be honest, I don’t think my descriptive powers are adequate to describe for the reader the magic that is Ireland. You have to experience it for yourself.

For St. Patrick's Day, in honor of a place – and a people – that I love, here are the top three things I love about Ireland (and why I miss it daily since I left):

1.  Real, Delicious Food. Ireland’s cuisine gets dogged by foodies. It’s true the Irish cuisine is not varied and it’s not very “serious.” But if you enjoy fresh, unpretentious food that tastes like what it is and where it came from, then you’ll love feasting in Ireland.

Lets start with cows. I was prepared to see a lot of sheep in Ireland. And to be sure, there are plenty of the woolly creatures roaming the green hills. But there are a hell of a lot of cows. And those lovely, happy cows produce the best butter in the world. Irish butter from County Kerry is so golden yellow - so buttery looking - that I thought it was artificially colored.  But the yellowy-orange color is real and comes from all the chlorophyll in the riotous green grass Irish cows eat. I think bread may exist solely to be a place to spread Irish butter. Irish butter is in and of itself reason enough to go back.

And lest you think the Irish have cows roaming every square inch of countryside just so we can have delicious butter, some of those bovines end up as the best steak and hamburgers I’ve ever had (vegetarians, you might want to skip this paragraph). I’ve eaten steak in Omaha, Nebraska and Texas. Sorry American west, but you can’t hold a candle to Irish beef. If you love the taste and texture of a good steak like I do, then you can appreciate my statement: Ireland may have the best beef in the world. And it’s not because they get massaged (Kobe style). No, the beef is delicious because the Irish cows spend their life eating delicious grass and living a blissful cow life. If you’ve been to the American west, then you know that much of America’s beef cows live in the arid and semi-arid Southwest, eating a dry diet of dry plants. I have long thought that the cows don’t look all that happy to live in a dry, hot arid climate with dry, hot plants. And now that I’ve eaten Irish beef, I know that I’m right. Happy cows produce happy butter and happy beef.

Happy Irish Cows
I could write a whole post just on potatoes but I’ll save you that – for now. Suffice it to say the Irish love their potatoes and if you love potatoes, you can have at least one type of potato dish per meal. Did someone say mash on the plate with a side of fries? Yes they did and you gotta love a place that doesn’t see anything wrong with that.

Irish potatoes whipped with Kerry butter with a side of Irish steak. Have I made you hungry yet?

2. Green. Yes, I miss green. I live in the desert which has its own kind of spiritual energy and rugged beauty. In my home environment, the plants do have green leaves. But the plants have adapted to the bright sun and intense heat by growing silvery green leaves that reflect sunlight, thus conserving their precious water.

In Ireland, water is not scarce and plants aren't into water conservation strategies. Irish plants proudly display their verdant leaves. Every color of green that you can imagine (except maybe for the silvery sage green of the desert) lives abundantly in Ireland. Ireland is so green, it really is beyond description. But the effect is of an oasis and a feeling that life thrives in every corner of the island. I think that our love of green spaces is primordial. There’s something about immersing yourself in a green forest or verdant hills that makes you feel – human. Alive.

If you go to Ireland, spend some time driving on the narrow two lanes out of Dublin and into the rolling hills of the Irish countryside. There you will be surrounded by the green hills of legend, criss-crossed with ancient stone walls and dotted with cows – happy, beautiful cows.

Ah – the memory of green.

3. The People. If there are friendlier, more hospitable people on the planet, I’d like to know where they are. From the moment we stepped off of the plane to the minute we took off to go home (a sad moment), we had not one single negative experience with the people of Ireland.

And in the land that has produced such literary greats as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, William Butler Yeats, Jonathan Swift and Samuel Becket, people are quick with  a story, a laugh. Sharing. A country filled with people happy to be Irish and eager to share their home with you.

Ireland also has a history filled with harsh conditions, famines and difficulty. But the Irish people are resilient. A country that has throughout its history been beset with plenty of reasons to make her people give up has produced instead the most affable people on the planet.

I cannot speak of the people and the land and the food without mentioning a pint – of Guinness of course. You haven’t had a beer until you’ve stepped up to the bar and ordered a pint of Guinness in Ireland. The bartenders there are serious about their beer and it will be expertly poured for you. Go, sit in the pub with your new friends and enjoy the music, the stories and the delicious pint.

And perhaps this last reason I love Ireland is the secret to why our entire country is willing to become Irish one day a year. One day when we share a tradition that the world could use more of – to sit together with old friends while you make new ones, sharing a pint, telling a story and laughing together. The Irish know how to create joy from any circumstance. Oh, and a pint of Guinness helps.

Hubby having a pint with Danny O'Donoghue,
Lead Singer of The Script
Even their Rock Stars are Good Folk

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the Irish and Irish at heart.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Bit o' Love & St. Patrick's Day Fun From my Pal Jennifer S. Devore

One of my best Twitter pals, Jenny Devore (@JennyPopNet), wrote a fabulous blog post celebrating St. Patrick's Day and the Emerald Isle titled: Happy St. Patrick's Day, Bram & Arthur, You Magnificent Bastards! With a title like that, you know you have to read it - click the link.

The lovely Jenny saw fit to mention me and my debut novel, Emily's House. I love her description of the book - don't think I've said it any better myself:

"One special note, though not Irish-born, but clearly with the lustrous locks of red ribbons and a visage of peaches and cream, Natalie Wright has the green genes. A desert gal of the American Southwest, she penned a tale amidst the Gila monsters and cacti. It is one of our modern world clashing and melding with that of ancient Ireland, Druidic magik, faeries, raucous and lost teens, glorious descriptives of the Fair Isle and, most excellent of all, the pursuit of a gold bracelet! Emily's House is a must-read this, or any time of year."

Jennifer has such an interesting writing style and she is always entertaining. I highly recommend following her blog.

I you've read Emily's House, what do you think of Jenny's description? Does it capture the essence of the tale?

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone and tomorrow I'll post my own homage to Ireland.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Have a WINNER!

Congrats to Jason G. Alexander, winner of my "Judge This Book by the Cover" contest. Jason will receive a signed copy of my forthcoming novel, H.A.L.F. Here is the winning cover that all of you helped create through your comments and input:

I'm working on revisions to H.A.L.F. now. I'll keep you posted on the release date as soon as I firm it up.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Manic Monday: Hooray for Books! Reflections on the 2012 Tucson Book Festival

Young Reader and Her Best Friend
at the Tucson Festival of  Books
This past weekend I attended the fourth annual Tucson Book Festival on the campus of the University of Arizona. It was a fun, educational and exhausting weekend dedicated to the love of books. For writers, it is a great opportunity to attend workshops and panels - for free!

I attended a funny and informative workshop on World Building in science fiction and fantasy. The panel included Maxwell Alexander Drake, an award-winning fantasy author, Sam Sykes and Janet Hobbs (among others). These fabulous writers shared how they go about creating their amazing fantasy worlds and gave tips and pointers. For example, if your story is set in a current or past time on Earth, make sure you do your research to ensure that you are accurate about details. Drake commented that that's why he "makes it all up" - that way he doesn't have to worry about accuracy!

I was impressed with young Sam Sykes and decided to purchase one of his books, Tome of the Undergates (The Aeons' Gate, Book 1) and get an autograph. Fortunately for me by the time I got through the purchase books line, there was no signing line in front of Sam. I got to spend a few minutes chatting with him. Sam's twitter profile (@SamSykesSwears) says that he's the "angriest man alive." Yikes! But I found Sam to be funny, personable, and passionate about story. Sam and I discussed whether male fantasy writers and readers tend to prefer a more "world" driven story while female fantasy writers and readers prefer character-driven stories. Sam thought that was true to an extent and commented that he thought female writers were "ahead of the guys" on creating character-driven fantasy fiction and that the guys were playing "catch up." Sam says that he's a character-driven writer and that  the worlds he builds and details he includes have to relate to the characters and make sense from their point of view. I'm looking forward to digging into Tome of the Undergates (The Aeons' Gate, Book 1) and read Sam's character-driven high fantasy. If you enjoy fantasy, check it out and let me know what you think.

And weigh in on this: Do you think female fantasy writers are more character-driven than males? And what about readers, do you like your fantasy to be character-driven? Or are you more into reading about amazing fantasy worlds?

One of the things I love most about the Book Festival is wandering around, coffee in hand, checking out all of the booths. One of my favorites this year was the booth for the publishing company Inner Traditions Bear & Co. They specialize in "books on indigenous cultures, perennial philosophy, visionary art, ancient mysteries, spiritual traditions of the East and West, sexuality, holistic health and healing, self-development, as well as recordings of ethnic music and accompaniments for meditation" (from their website). I love to read this kind of stuff as inspiration for stories, sub-plots and theme. Science, metaphysics, religious and spiritual theory and philosophy. I know, I'm a geek of epic proportions! Here's my haul from Inner Traditions.

I can't wait to dig into that book Grey Aliens and the Harvesting of Souls. Harvesting of souls?! What the heck is that all about? Since I'm engrossed in revising H.A.L.F. (which deals with hybrids that are part human, part grey alien), I'll see if this book has any fun details to inspire my imagination.

Then there's that book Seven Secrets of Time Travel: Mystic Voyages of the Energy Body. In Emily's House, there is quite a bit of time travel. I didn't want to create a machine for time travel but instead created an energy form of time travel. I thought I'd just made it up. But this Seven Secrets of Time Travel: Mystic Voyages of the Energy Body book is discussing the same thing. Who knew? Since I'm revising the second book in the Emily series, Emily's Trial, right now too, maybe these mystical books will inspire me further.

Do you have a book festival where you live? If so, do you attend and what's your favorite part?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Help Choose the COVER!

A huge thank you to all of you that gave me input on the last round of cover designs for my newest novel, H.A.L.F. What insight! But we had a tie between two choices. So I went back to the designer and asked for few tweaks and we're down to two concepts. I'd appreciate your help once again and let me know your vote between these two options. Thanks y'all!

Option #1 (Please note if this option is chosen,
it will have the title lettering like Option #2 below)
Option #2
Leave me a comment or head over to my Facebook page and vote there -


Monday, March 5, 2012

Manic Monday: Looking into the Face of God

Perhaps there is no better way to differentiate our species from all other known species than to say merely that humans seek to understand their place in this vast, strange and wonderful known universe.

As far as we know anyway, we are the only ones asking questions like "Were we created or are we a cosmic accident?" and "Why are we here?" and "What came before us? Before our universe was born?" and "What happens to us when we die?"

It is interesting to me that these questions are approached by humans in two apparently opposed ways: Through science and through faith.

Science looks to the very large using infrared, microwave and radio telescopes, trying to peer ever further back in time to see how it all began. And science also looks to the very small by smashing tiny particles (not even whole atoms mind you but mere pieces of atoms) into each other and observing the aftermath. They have said they want to find the 'God particle.' 

Faith, by definition, does not require a formula or visual proof.

I am fascinated by both ideas and am frequently saddened by the rancor on both sides. Sometimes even violent conflict. Ask Galileo about that. Don't we, as a species, have room for both? Can't we have science and faith?

To each his own path of discovery.
To each his own form of faith.

Last week I sat in my garden and noticed something amazing. Spring blew a warm kiss over the high desert I call home and the season's bounty has begun. And as I walked around my yard I noticed a single poppy had poked her head out of the dry, rocky ground.

A singular pleasure. A beautiful miracle.

The life we are surrounded by every day is neither micro nor macro in nature. It is neither as large as a galaxy nor is it as small as a particle. Yet within a single flower lives a universe of beauty to explore.
"You won't find faith or hope down a telescope,
You won't find heart or soul in the stars." 
     - From Science & Faith by The Script

And the mere existence of us - of these bags of water and bones that we call home - a lifetime of wonder to explore.

"Take my hand and lead me to salvation
Take my love for love is everlasting
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person is to see the face of God."
                 From Les Miserables, The Epilogue

Do you ask big questions from time to time? What inspires you? Do you seek answers "out there" or within? Have you ever had a moment when it all seemed clear to you?

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