Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview with Mavis Duke Hinton

I'd like to introduce Mavis Duke Hinton, author of THE DACHSHUND ESCAPADES.

Please tell us about yourself. Where are you from? When did you start writing?
Although I was born in North Carolina and currently live here, I grew up in a military family.  I lived in France and Germany as a child, and experienced a bull fight in Spain, The World’s Fair in Belgium, and the Tulip Festival in Holland.  My family enjoyed touring Europe on camping trips, and we met and shared meals with friendly Europeans along the way.  I attended a French parochial school for kindergarten through half of the second grade, so I was fluent in French by age five (but I’m not now!).  My mother decided at that time that I needed to attend the American school for military children, which was located an hour and a half from our home. That lasted only through third grade, as my father’s tour of duty ended, and we returned to the States where I attended school in Ft. Eustis, Virginia.  In all, I attended 13 schools by the time I graduated from high school.  I have also lived in Florida, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, but my favorite of all was Alaska, where we lived in Ft. Greely, located in the central part of the state.

As far back as I can remember, I enjoyed writing, at age ten even producing a little “newspaper” called The Daily Blab for the amusement of my friends.  Of course, I had to do everything by hand then, complete with pictures and articles—even advertisements!  In high school, I went through my short story and poetry phase.  I wrote articles for the campus paper in college as well.  Over the years, I’ve taught all levels of middle and high school English, along with AP British literature, creative writing, speech, and journalism.  While doing so full time, I never had the time to write as such, with my family responsibilities and the heavy load of grading research reports and essays.  My late father used to tell us what our dachshunds were thinking, and I believe I have inherited that 'gene' for doing so.  All of this is tongue in cheek, of course—and it makes for many a laugh around our house. My family encouraged me to use my “talent” to write a book. So, I walked away from my full-time career in ’05, started writing, and voila—I became an author, with my series entitled THE DACHSHUND ESCAPADES.  I am currently working on Book 3, DACHSHUNDS FOREVER, a work in progress.

Why did you choose to write this book?
My other reasons (besides the “gene” thing) for writing from the dog's viewpoint are:
1) I enjoy imagining how day-to-day happenings must appear to the family dog;
2) I can shift  reality to share with readers what dogs think about life situations;
3) I have a zany sense of humor (my family can attest to that), and can use such humor when incorporating it into the dog’s viewpoint;
4) I love and appreciate dogs as man's best friend.  They show us unconditional love, like God has for us.  One of the characters in THE DACHSHUND ESCAPADES series, Papa Duke (who is based on my father), so aptly states my feelings about dogs:

"A dawg loves you no matter what. You can be ugly, old, even dumb--but a dawg don't care. All he wants is your love and some food now and then. I think dawgs represent the unconditional love God has for us--maybe that's why He created them, to show that to us." 

If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Without a doubt, I would want to dine with Mark Twain.  I have always admired his works, and his brand of humor just cracks me up—his way with words amazes me.  It would be so enjoyable to converse with him, hear his answers to my numerous questions, and just enjoy his company. I know historically how life was during his lifetime, but it would be a pleasure to hear him talk about it.  Not everyone thinks he is that humorous, but in such works as INNOCENTS ABROAD or TOM SAWYER, I just laugh every time.

Who is your favorite character out of any you've created?
Besides Sarge, the doxie “author,” Papa Duke, of course.  His penchant for telling funny (but true) stories about his zany experiences, his zest for life, his robust laugh—it was a labor of love creating that character from details that I recall fondly about my dad, who died in 2000.  My books are my legacy to my grandchildren, giving them a chance to know him, since he passed away before they came on the scene.  I’ve told the granddaughters, ages six and seven, his stories often, and they request them again and again. Our little grandson just turned two, but perhaps in years to come he’ll enjoy hearing about his great grandfather Duke. In fact, six-year-old Alexa recently saw a photograph of Dad.  She said wistfully, “I miss Papa Duke so much.”  I replied that she had never met him—but she quickly added, “Well, I can still miss him, can’t I??”

What are your hopes for this book?
I want the entire series of THE DACHSHUND ESCAPADES to reach that niche audience of dog lovers, encourage and uplift them, and leave them saying to themselves, “Wow!  Those family members really love the Lord and each other—and what a dog Sarge is!”

Do you listen to music when you write or do you need quiet? 
I have this uncanny ability to block out everything when I am reading or writing—therefore, either way is fine with me.  In fact, when our daughters were growing up, they disliked  it when I was reading, because (in their words) the house could be burning down around me and I wouldn’t realize it until a fireman came to rescue me!  Clark, my husband doesn’t bother to ask me anything if I’m “in the zone,” because I simply won’t hear him J.  It’s not intentional—I am just engrossed in what I’m doing.

What's one quirk of yours?
I only get to name one?? (laughs)  Actually, the quirk I’m about to mention harks back to my full-time teaching days:  I’m just not all that “laid back” over tasks I feel are important to finish.  I absolutely detest having anything hanging over my head—meaning that I kill myself to get it done.  When I had, for example, 140 senior research projects to grade, I worked feverishly to get those things graded and back to my students.  There were just too many others things requiring my attention to let them be.  Even now, as I work from home, I put things in order of urgency and hack away at my list.

What is your favorite book and why?
Most recently, RADICAL by David Platt was a life changer.  Here’s one statement from the book that hit me squarely between the eyes:  “Are we willing to fundamentally alter our understanding of Christianity from a luxury-liner approach that seeks more comforts in the world—to a troop-carrier approach that forsakes comforts in the world to accomplish an eternally significant task and achieve an eternally satisfying reward?”

I have been a Christian since age 28, but this book brought a fresh outlook for my purpose in writing: it is not for self or merely to entertain readers—my purpose is to glorify Him and uplift my readers in the process.

What's the farthest from your current home you've ever visited?
Well, having lived in Europe as a child would qualify as pretty far away from North Carolina!  A few years ago, we drove (yes, drove) out to Arizona to visit our daughter Bethany and hubby Kurt.  Clark and I have also toured parts of Canada by car. We love traveling, so it was enjoyable seeing interesting places like Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon, eating different food (but North Carolina barbecue is still the best!), and exploring towns that way.  When my family lived in Alaska, Dad’s next tour of duty was Miami, Florida—and we drove down!  So, I’ve seen a great deal of this country, and loved (almost) every minute of it!

Please tell us about your book.
I AM SARGE is Book 1 of THE DACHSHUND ESCAPADES series, and the books in this series are written in first person from the family dog’s viewpoint.  My stories are 95% true, as they are based on my family, friends, and of course Shadow, my “granddog.”

Here is the synopsis from the back cover of I AM SARGE:

Sometimes a dachshund’s “lowdown from the ground”
perspective is just what human beings need.

I was only eight weeks old when I was adopted into my new human family who knew immediately I was a super dog. They proudly gave me the name Sarge—after my Papa Duke, who was a sergeant in the Army. Quite a fitting name for a good-looking dachshund too, I might add. I just know someday I’ll do great and mighty things, befitting a super dog.

But in the meanwhile, I’ll just steal your heart and make you laugh out loud with the antics of this “chow hound.” And maybe, if you come over, Papa and I—two food lovers—might just share a snack or two with you, too.

Fall in love with Sarge, the quintessential dachshund,
and laugh along with his foibles and humorous escapades.

My links:
My website: Mavis Duke Hinton
Facebook: Mavis Duke Hinton's Books (please “like” my page!)
Twitter: @writer4dawg (follow me!)

For those in the Triad area of North Carolina, I’m having a book signing at Barnes and Noble Booksellers:  Saturday, April 7, from 2:00 p.m. “until.”  The address is  
906 Mall Loop Rd., High Point, NC.  The event is featuring both of my books:  I AM SARGE and I AM DACHSHUND.

I’m also on LinkedIn, and my books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook, etc.

Thank you for having me today, Laura!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rising Book 2 - flashback/excerpt

I posted this picture months ago on my blog, but with the release of Rising Book 1: Resistance, it's a lot more relevant now. This is artwork that was done by Holly Robbins, my cover artist, of Lachlan and Brenna—two of the secondary characters in Resistance.

These were two characters that hadn't been planned for when I started the book; they both swept in for different purposes. As I came to the end of writing Rising Book 1, I realized that Lachlan and Brenna's story needed to be told too, and they became my narrators for Rising Book 2.

For any of you who have read Rising Book 1, you might understand when I tell you that the idea of telling their story terrified me. For those of you who haven't read it, I'll just say that these two characters have been through a lot, and their story is the most intense I've ever written. I'm actually telling their back story in scenes that take place between each chapter. I'd debated for a while about whether or not I should do that, but in the end, their history was way too complex and relevant to the story to tell it any other way.

The reason I mention all of this is because I'm going to share one of these flashback scenes from Rising Book 2 on my blog today. It was really hard to find one that wouldn't spoil certain things in the first book for anyone who hasn't read it, but I think I managed it.

So under the "read more" cut below, here's a flashback scene from Rising Book 2. It takes place around nine years before the start of Rising Book 1. (And it's still a work in progress--I'm not done writing the first draft of Book 2 yet.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Avatar: The Legend of Korra...and a "Rising" interview and a review.

Last year, I did a post on the tv show "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and how it is one of the best shows I have ever seen--cartoon or otherwise. (I also said the movie "The Last Airbender" was a travesty to what the show was. It kind of destroyed everything I love about it.) I have watched the tv show so many times--it's only 61 episodes, about 22 minutes each, and so, so worth watching. Anyway, the creators/writers have been working on a sequel, called "The Legend of Korra." "Korra" takes place 70 years after the end of "Avatar: The Last Airbender." It premieres next month, though they do have a website where the first two episodes will premiere this Saturday, because they got 100,000 new likes and shares on facebook and twitter. :D

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am for this. The world-buildling, the characterization, the friendships, romances, consistency, the humor, the way the characters matured from little kids--the writers gave me all of that on the first show and made me trust their storytelling skills absolutely.

Here's a trailer for the new show. Story + characters + animation = gorgeous.

Here's a fanmade trailer that someone made for the original show, "Avatar: The Last Airbender":


I was also interviewed by author Mavis Duke Hinton on her blog: Interview. Come back on Monday to see an interview with her here. :)

Krista McLaughlin left an awesome review for "Rising Book 1: Resistance" on her blog: Rising review at The Jelly Beans of Writing

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rachel Morgan's "Guardian" - Blog Tour Stop

Today, it's my pleasure to introduce you to Rachel Morgan, author of the Creepy Hollow series. Her first book, Guardian, was released earlier this month.

1. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Not exactly. As long as I can remember I’ve loved stories. I made up plenty while playing Barbies or acting out fantastical scenarios on the school playground. At some point in high school I started writing ideas down, but I never advanced further than a few chapters. It was after I finished my Honours in Genetics (and decided that research wasn’t for me) that I seriously decided I wanted to write for a living.

2. Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely, if you can make enough from it to live on! Actually, now that I’m thinking about it... even if you don’t make enough money from your writing, that shouldn’t make it any less of a career. We writers sure as heck put enough time into it that it should count as a career! But it would be a dream come true to me if I could make a living solely telling stories :-)

3. What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book (which has not yet been inflicted upon the reading world) was inspired solely by the idea of a guard falling in love with his prisoner. The story became about so much more than that, but that was the original idea. It’s interesting how stories develop and grow and transform from that tiny initial spark.

4. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Right now I’d have to pick Cassandra Clare. I think she writes beautifully as well as being able to tell such brilliant and complex stories. She has twists that I don’t always see coming, heart-wrenching love stories, and characters that I just can’t get enough of :-)

5. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Um... read? In between teaching, and writing and social networking, though, there isn’t much time for reading (or anything else, for that matter!). There are a few TV shows I enjoy watching (like The Vampire Diaries, Modern Family and Glee), and movies are nice to go too as well (yay, Hunger Games!).

6. What books are on your bedside table right now?
Well there’s my Kindle, which is full of books, and there’s also Legend by Marie Lu and Switched by Amanda Hocking (yeah, I haven’t read that yet. Shocking, I know!).

7. Do you listen to music when you write? What songs/bands have most recently inspired you to write?
Thanks to you, I have most recently been inspired by the band He is We. I fell in love with All About Us after you shared it on your blog :-) There’s a scene a few books on in the Creepy Hollow series that comes to mind now every time I hear that song.

8. If you could be a character in any fiction, who would you be? Why?
Hmm... Last time I answered this question I chose Lyra from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, but this time I’m going to pick Hermione. She’s smart, funny, loyal, pretty, can do magic, survive a wizard war, and is friends with the famous Harry Potter!

Thanks SOO much, Laura, for hosting me on your blog today!

I've had the pleasure of reading Guardian--it was a fun novellette, and I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series. You can purchase the book at the links below, and check out Rachel's blog and other info. ^_^

Rachel Morgan was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. These days, in between teaching mathematics to high school children, she writes fiction for young adults.

The Creepy Hollow Series

Author Info

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lucky 7 Meme

Tara Tyler has tagged me in the Lucky 7 Meme.

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 authors.

In my case, I'm not going to tag other authors because there are soooo many people doing this right now--instead, I'm going to say if you haven't done this meme and you want to, have at it! It's super fun. ^_^

My current manuscript is Rising Book 2: Rebellion, and fortunately, I'm well past 77 pages. ("Fortunately" because I'm on a deadline to finish the first draft by the end of April.) The fun thing about this is that these snippets are so short, it could make sense or not make sense. ;) Here are my current seven lines starting at line 7 on page 77.

"She hasn't exactly been very forthcoming."
"She never is." Freya stood up and looked at Lachlan expectantly, and he took that as his cue to leave.
Lachlan rose and waited for a mild wave of dizziness to pass. "Thank you again." He exited the tent and made his way back over to the one he'd left earlier, waving at Kilta and Tobias, who were still beside the fire, as he passed them.

And while I'm at it, here's a song from my Rising Book 2 playlist (which has about 25 songs on it). This is "One Day" by Trading Yesterday, one of my all-time favorite bands.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Angry Birds Birthday Cake

My son's birthday party is tomorrow. He wanted an Angry Birds birthday cake, so I spent today baking and putting it together. Here is the finished six-layer cake:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's all about the characters.

This past weekend was crazy--we had storms (high winds, hail, thunderstorms, tornadoes) come through the south, my cats got spayed and I had to get the vet's permission to pick them up early to avoid said storms, and then I fell sick again--it's been ridiculous for illnesses this winter--and I could hardly focus on anything.

On Saturday night, my husband and I started watching the tv show The Walking Dead, and I am sooooooo not a zombie person. I mean, I cannot begin to express how much I am not a zombie person. I have been horrified of everything zombie-related since my sister sat me down and made me watch 28 Days Later some years ago. But I started watching this show because one of my friends recommended it. Given that this friend is much more of a biographies and contemporary fiction sort of person, I was intrigued. I've spent most of the time with my eyes looking like this: O_O or covering my eyes or holding hubby's hand so tightly I'm probably cutting off his circulation. And then after every episode I watched in the first season, I went and squeezed my kids and still looked like this: O_O

My daughter, who's about to turn seven, wisely told me, "Mommy, it wouldn't be so scary if you stopped watching it!"

She's absolutely right, and as I'm asking myself whhhy am I freaking myself out like this, here's the answer: characterization.

Yup. This show has amazing characterization. They made me care about the characters immediately, and they keep introducing characters that I care about (and then freak out about--"AHH, AHH, this person's going to get eaten, I KNOW IT") but the point is, as a reader/television viewer, if you can make me care about the characters, I will step far beyond the bounds of my comfort zones to read/see the story, because I want to know what happens to these characters.The actual zombies freak. me. out. Of course, it probably doesn't help that we watched the first episode at like midnight, so I spent the whole night dreaming about zombies. (Fortunately, they were not panicky, scary dreams, but just annoying ones.)

And that is why I am watching a horror/sci-fi/zombie apocalpyse show that I simultaneously can't stand and enjoy. It's all about the characters.

(I should add that as we've moved into season 2, I'm doing much better on the dealing with zombies front. I also am still enthralled with the characterization.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Announcing "Guardian," the first book in the Creepy Holly series by Rachel Morgan.

"Guardian" and Other Book Announcements:

First, my books Smashwords is having a site promotion for the next week, and during that time, you can get both Rising Book 1: Resistance and Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School) half off with the promotional coupons on those pages.

Second, Alex J. Cavanaugh has his blog tour for his book, CassaFire going on now, in case you've missed that.

And now, for the main blog attraction: Today the Creepy Hollow series by Rachel Morgan kicks off with the release of her first story, GUARDIAN!!

GUARDIAN introduces readers to the magical world of Creepy Hollow, a realm where fae creatures both safe and definitely-not-so-safe dwell. Things are cool as long the fae stick to their own realm. It's when they find their way into the human world that things start going wrong...

1. Receive assignment.
2. Save a life.
3. Sleep.
4. Repeat.

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until one of her assignments—a human boy who shouldn’t even be able to see her—follows her into the fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? But Nate and Vi are about to land themselves in even bigger trouble—and it’ll take all Vi’s training to get them out alive.

The Creepy Hollow Series

Author Info

To find out more about the series, the author, and the characters, check out the blog tour that’s happening over the next two weeks.

I'll be hosting one of the blog tour stops on March 15, so check back then for an interview with Rachel. ^_^