Guest Post by Mary S Palmer

Mary S Palmer is the author of Time Will Tell, recently published by the speculative fiction imprint Urania.  She has also co-written other books, such as To Catch a Fish with David Wilton, which is being re-released on June 1st. After a handful of emails, Mary gladly agreed to write a guest post for my blog. Thank you, Mary!

Don’t forget to check out my interview with Mary, asking her all sorts of writerly questions here

The Underside of Writing

     Little things count. They add up to big things. When something happens to me, or around me, I like to write it down as soon as possible; otherwise, the minute details escape and I can’t recapture them. I think of William Wordsworth and how he would leave the scene of an event and recollect it in a spot of tranquility, thus enhancing the experience and preserving it for future generations.

Oftentimes, such an experience doesn’t seem earth-shaking. Maybe it’s an everyday occurrence that wouldn’t interest anyone. What makes life interesting, though, is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I never considered myself as one of those people. Whether this is true or untrue might bear consideration, depending on how a person views one brief moment in my life.

About ten years ago, I may have saved a child’s life. I was riding down a major highway at night and spotted a child in the middle of it. Cars were coming from all directions. Without thinking, I hopped out of the passenger’s seat of my car and snatched up the toddler. By then, the group of adults on the other side of a service road parallel to the highway ran out to find the child. He was safe. Rescuing him wasn’t a brave deed for me; I just acted instinctively. I never told anyone about this because it was years before I realized that he’d probably have been hit sooner or later if he’d stayed on that road much longer. I never knew the child’s name or anything about him. Still, I’ve often wondered what that child will grow up to be.

No matter. I fictionalized this incident and fit it into a sequel to TO CATCH A FISH, which is entitled BAITING THE HOOK. The underside of writing is to take such incidents, which may seem unimportant at the time, and incorporate them into a story.

Writing is like every other creative activity. Don’t make things harder than they are. As a horticulturist once told me about planning a garden: “Sometimes it’s just best to just improvise and use what you’ve got.”

~ MSP

 Previous Posts: Guest Nancy Volkers,  Guest Lisa Becker,  Guest Avery OliveGuest Paul Stansfield P1

Writerly Questions with Sarah Alderson

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

It may not be a Monday, but as a little something extra for all y’all wonderful book-lovers, I am posting a second interview this week! I was asked by Simon and Schuster to be part of the Canadian blogger tour for a debut author from the UK. Here is Sarah Alderson talking about writing and her brand new novel, Hunting Lila. You can also check out my review on this book here

Having spent most of her life in London, Sarah quit her job in 2009 and took off on a round the world trip with her family on a mission to find a new place to call home. After several months travelling the world, they settled in Bali where Sarah now spends her days writing by the pool.

How long did it take you to write this book?
Hunting Lila took about three and a half months to write, but I was working full time also, so I wrote it in the evenings after work and edited it on the train in the mornings. It was a real labour of love. I wrote Fated in about 2 months (I was no longer working then), and then I wrote the sequel to Fated in 30 days just because I wanted to see if I could. It was exhausting. I wouldn’t do that again. Nowadays it takes me about 6-8 weeks to finish a book. But then I tinker with it over the twelve months or so it takes for it to reach publication. A book is never finished!

When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
I write all day most days, from about 7am until about 10pm (if I’m not out with friends in the evening). I take breaks obviously, for Pilates and to dance, for the odd lunch date, and I take a few hours out every afternoon to pick my daughter up from school and to hang out with her being a mummy… but at the moment I put in at least 10 hours a day.  I am really lucky because I live in Bali and I have someone who comes to my house every day to do all the housekeeping and she makes me coffee, too, so yeah, I don’t have much to do other than write.

I’m writing several books at once, editing others, I guest blog on several blogs and have my own blog, I also do lots of travel writing and am addicted to social media so yeah, I write a lot. I’m at my best depending on when I’ve had my coffee.

That is a long day! Where is your favorite place to write?
I can write anywhere, on trains, buses, planes. Nowadays I tend to write at my desk which overlooks the rice paddies in Bali. But my all-time favourite writing spot was here. This is the beach in India where I wrote most of Losing Lila. I would sit at a chair right here, drink chai, eat a fruit salad and tap away…it was HEAVEN.

 Okay, I am in envy. I would love to be able to work on the beach… Well, maybe not. I doubt I would get anything done! What is your preferred method of writing, by typewriter, computer/laptop, or pen & paper?
Laptop always. I can’t remember how to write with a pen anymore. Plus my handwriting is terrible and I can type about 90wpm. My hand can’t keep up with my flyaway brain.

You also wouldn’t have to worry about fly-away papers landing in the ocean either *wince* It seems to be the latest thing to listen to music while writing, do you and, if so, what kind?
Always. Right this second I’m listening to Noah and the Whale. I create playlists for all my books and when I’m writing that book I spend most of the time listening to that playlist on repeat. All my soundtracks are on my website www.sarahalderson.com

Who is the first person who gets to read your manuscript?
Every book I write I send to my two best friends as I go. They get it chapter by chapter and that’s the way I will always do it. I love writing for them. After I’m done I send a copy to my dad and to my agent! Although, I just wrote a very steamy adult book and haven’t told my dad about it as I’m way too embarrassed to have him read it, especially as he always refers to my protagonists as ‘you’ when he’s talking to me about them. Once my agent has given me her edits I work on those and then submit to my publisher.

Um, yeah, I can totally understand not mentioning the steamy novel to your dad *LoL* Since your besties and your father are the first ones to see your works-in-progress, are they also the first people you called when you were signed? Please tell us about what you did after hearing you were being published for the very first time!
I burst into tears. It was a long-time of waiting to hear and the relief was so great. Then I opened a bottle of champagne. It was very sweet actually because we had some friends over for a party that night and I got the text half-way through the evening. I was upstairs on our balcony with my husband, and our daughter was playing with her friend right by us. They looked up when they saw me burst into tears and then I was hugging my husband and we were laughing and the children started throwing bits of torn up paper over us like confetti.

What a wonderful way to celebrate getting your first book published, it sounds like perfect timing to me! I’m sure other writers had a similar reaction, so let me ask you about some of the authors you like. What is on your nightstand right now?
I read mostly on my Kindle these days. I just read Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest, which I loved. And also The sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

You have mentioned travelling a lot with your family in search of a perfect place to call home. What’s your favourite city in the world?
Oh crikey, I was born and bred in London and that will always be my city – the place I know like the back of my hand and on practically every corner I’m assaulted by memories (places I worked, places I got fired from, first kisses, break ups, first meetings, birthdays, anniversaries, childhood adventures with my grandmother…I find it quite overwhelming visiting). But I love New York and San Francisco, too. I also used to live in Italy so I have a soft spot for Florence and Naples, and obviously for Paris because I used to go there every year with my husband who was born there. I also love the wide blue skies and stunning waterfront of Perth. I love the food and chaos of Asian cities – Bangkok is crazy. Wow. I can’t decide. I love cities – the pace, the vibe and energy, the shopping and culture. I’m a city girl at heart.

One last question, for all the aspiring authors out there: What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
I can’t speak for other writers but for me it would be peace, quiet, great music and chocolate. Also Tequila. 

 Previous Interviews: JLA Interview,  Avery Olive InterviewPeter Lukes Interview,  Janis Flores Interview

Teaser Tuesday (May-5)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Should Be Reading. Share the title and author, so others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!!!

Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

The three of us stared mesmerized as the knife hung there in the jagged space between us. And then I felt it. The weight of the knife in my mind.

 It was physically painful to tear my eyes away from his shoulders and arms, like ripping a Band-Aid from my eyelids.

 Previous Teasers:May-1May-2May-3, May-4

Writerly Questions with Mary S Palmer

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

Today I have Mary S Palmer discussing her novels Time Will Tell, released by Urania imprint on March 9th, and later this week will be a guest post!

Mary Palmer is an English professor at Faulkner State Community College and Faulkner University. She is also active at church and in her community –helping with charitable organizations, being in charge of public relations for a music group, not to mention attending a biweekly critique group. She also belongs to the Mardi Gras Association, an Arts Council, and the Baldwin Writers Group. Though her children may be grown up, she is still very involved with them. 

How would you summarize your book Time Will Tell in one sentence?
Reporter Mona Stewart finds herself in an alien world of two factions at war over the key to immortality and cures for fatal diseases.

Longevity health-wise and cures to deadly diseases is something we strive for in the real world, so that sounds like a great story line! How long did it take you to write it?
About a year.

That seems like the average amount of time it takes a lot of authors. How many drafts do you go through?
Fewer than most of my books; probably a half a dozen.

When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
Any time I have the time.  Since I teach at two different colleges I have a lot of essays and tests to grade, not to mention preparing lesson plans.  More time has been spent recently at signings for “To Catch a Fish”, co-authored with David V. Wilton, which I am currently writing the sequel to it “The Callings” with  Loretta Theriot.

Where is your favorite place to write?
In my home office on the computer. However,  I sometimes write at my kitchen bar, or, if a thought strikes me, I get up at night and write a scene in my bedroom.

If you are writing at night, does that mean you wear your pajamas when working?
Usually, I am fully dressed and have my make-up on.

You mentioned the other location you sometimes write is in your kitchen, so what do you drink or eat while you write?
A sandwich and fat-free milk or a Coke.

Some authors like listening to music while they write. Do you?
No, it may distract me.

Is there anything that needs to be done before you are ready to write?
I prefer to have other chores out of the way first. In other words, have school papers graded, dishes washed and put away, clothes put up. In other words, I like to concentrate on writing and not have other things cluttering my mind.

Writing definitely requires a lot of brain power! How do you plot? Is it chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis, and do you use detailed outlines?
I never use any outline except the one roaming around in my head. I may have a general synopsis there, too. I let the characters and the action develop as it may and lead the story forward. To me, writing is like living what’s going on and you don’t know what happens next UNTIL it happens.

That is a great way to describe it, I like that. Since your characters are leading you through the experience, how do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
Sometimes I think first person is easiest to use. Limited omniscient is also one that I like. I find omniscient is sometimes difficult. My biggest problem is making sure I’m consistent and being clear when I change point of view in a book.

 How do you choose your characters’ names?
With difficulty. I don’t often use names of people I am close to or know well. I try to think of names that fit characters. Sometimes I use allegorical names if they are appropriate. I don’t like names that are hard to spell or extremely difficult to pronounce. Readers don’t want to work that hard to remember who’s who.

Your characters are named, their journey is complete, the story is finally written. Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
A good friend who has editing experience.

Someone who knows the publishing industry is a great person to be critique your story. Once your story was polished to perfection and sent off with hope in your heart, what did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
Said a prayer of thanksgiving.

Hollywood has been making films based on books for years. If yours was optioned for a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
I would like Will Smith play a character from the book “To Catch a Fish”, and I’d like to see Mariski Hargity play the lead of Mona Stewart in “Time Will Tell”. I think she has the demeanor to be believable in that part.

She is definitely well-known for her role in Law & Order and other TV shows. I heard that the one story you wish to have written was also something seen on the screen, what is it?
It’s a Wonderful Life.

Any life with books would be wonderful in my opinion, so what is the first book you remember reading?
Jack and the Beanstalk. When I first read that story, I was scared. At the same time, I wished I could climb that beanstalk myself. It made me want to read more, and I guess it challenged me to overcome fears, too.

What book is on your nightstand right now?
A novel I’m working on.

If your own work is on your nightstand, I guess that means you don’t have a guilty pleasure read?
My escape-literature would be mysteries. When I’m reading a mystery, I may also be reading a biography or a classical story. I find many mysteries predicatable but relaxing to read, and we all need some “down time.” I’m not easily stressed out–this helps.

How do you organize your library/book collection?
I try to do it alphabetically but I have about 500 books on bookshelves and they sometimes get out of place

Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, since I was 5 years old. My aunt was a teacher and I went to school with her sometimes. I think I saw other children writing and wanted to join in. Besides, I always liked people and I enjoyed finding out what made them tick. I also liked talking to adults. I remember one time sitting in a neighbor’s swing and chatting with this older lady who was almost reclusive. I don’t recall what she said, but she kind of opened up to me. Also, I can stand in line at a grocery store and, without asking the person behind me a thing, they will tell me their life story. I was a reporter/columnist for newspapers and maybe some of that shows.

Removing you from the role of the writer and placing you into the book, if you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
Scarlett O’Hara. I’ve seen Gone With The Wind more than once and consider it a masterpiece. The characterization and casting is fantastic. I think Scarlett had “some kind of smarts.” She was a survivor who had been a spoiled/pampered southern belle, but she rose to the occasion when she had to survive. I’d like to understand her innermost feelings. She and Rhett also were wise enough to understand the value of land/property. When I think of that, I think of what an old barber once said, “Buy property; there ain’t gonna be no more of that.”

There is a limit to everything, even life. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask/talk about?
Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I’d ask him about “In Memoriam” and how long it took him to write that poem.

What is the best advice someone could give a writer?
Have a tough skin; don’t take instructive criticism personally. Stay focused when you’re writing and remember that determination pays off.

Just a final question: what is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
I am a rather private person and I don’t let people know my problems.

 Previous Interviews: Peter Lukes InterviewKarenKSamoranos InterviewJune Kramin InterviewJanis Flores Interview

Books In My Mailbox (May-5)


This meme is hosted by The Story Siren.

Last month I received an email from Simon & Schuster asking if I would like to read a book by a debut author from London. I don’t mean London, Ontario, but that lovely place where royalty lives and Big Ben stands and awesome accents are abundant. Basically, I was willing to accept just at the words “UK”, but the story itself did also sound like an interesting read.

Being me, after a couple weeks, it slipped my mind that I had a couple books on the way from various publishers, so I was thoroughly ecstatic when I found a package in the mail containing this:

Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

So this week I will be sharing some bits and bobs about this novel as I read it, along with a surprise on Wednesday so be sure to come back that day! In the meantime, here is a touch of awesome for you to whet your appetite upon…

That’s right, yours truly is part of the blog tour and got an adorable little banner to prove it *L0L* The book may have been released in the UK almost a year ago, but Lila’s story is ready to take on our country “across the pond”.

 Previous IMM: Apr-4Apr-5May-2May-3

Simple Smile Saturday (May-4)

As of yesterday, book number three of which I am the editor has been released by Musa Publishing under the Urania Imprint. Addie King’s The Grimm Legacy plays with various characters from the Grimm Brothers stories, putting them in a contemporary setting and adding a twist.

Being a descendent of the Grimm Brothers doesn’t make life a fairy tale… it’s a curse.

Once upon a time Janie Grimm thought she led a normal life, but within the first week of law school she’s started losing her mind. Her father just died, her stepmother Evangeline is evil, her professors already hate her, and a frog named Bert keeps talking to her. Then there’s her growing attraction to the accident-prone Aiden, who tries to explain magic murdered her father and it was trying to kill her, too. Janie has only the protection of the mysterious Holder of the Legacy, the members of the F.A.B.L.E.S. organization, and the promises Evangeline made to Janie’s father before his death… but will it be enough?

 Previous Editorial Smiles: The Radiance, The Druid 

Book Review: Sophia &Emily at Silver Towers by Vivian French

Note to Reader: This is actually two children’s stories compiled into one, and there are a couple other similar books in the Silver Towers mini-series, which is part of the larger series called The Tiara Club.

Synopsis: When the students at Silver Towers are invited to The Prince’s Party, the girls begin to take dancing lessons. The problem is Sophia is having so much trouble learning the steps that she doesn’t think she’ll even be allowed to go.

It is the end of the term and the princesses are trying to figure out if they have enough tiara points to graduate. Princess Emily doesn’t think she will have earned her silver sash, let alone get to see The Wishing Star!

Cover: While the cover would not pique the interest of someone older or less inclined to the world of royals, it is quite appealing for a young girl who adores princesses. The cover is rather shiny in a blue metallic dotted with silvery stars, and depicts two girls in pretty dresses and tiaras.

Format: At the beginning of each book is what seems to be a letter from the Royal Palace Academy stating the school’s motto, what each princess needs to pack, who the teachers are, and what field trips will be taken. This allows the reader to understand the world they are about to enter without it being part of the actual prose of the story.

Each story begins with an introductory page by the main character. This note tells who the character is, her friends and dorm-mates names, as well as what the princesses need to receive in order to move on to the next step of being a perfect princess.

Writing Style: The word choice of this novel consists of rather simple words and would be perfect for children in grades one through three. It also makes a decent bedtime story as it takes an adult approximately fifteen minutes to read each book.

Illustrations: There are black and white drawings that appear throughout the story by Sarah Gibb. A small picture will open the chapter, and other larger ones will appear as the tale unfolds. They are fairly simple in that they focus on the people, with very little to fill in the background.

Location: Both stories take place at Silver Towers, which is the second level of princess school in the Tiara Club books. Not much is mentioned other than there are classrooms, a dining hall, a ballroom, and that the main character resides in the Silver Rose room of the dorms with five other girls (all of which are featured in other Silver Towers books).

Plot/Subplot: These books each had two running storylines, one is the main character trying to achieve enough tiara points to take part in an activity, and the other is the character’s ongoing troubles with the school bullies.

Point of View: The stories are told in the first person, narrated by whichever princess wrote a note to the reader. Also, as the story progresses, the main character will sometimes address the reader as though she too is one of the princesses at the school.

Character Development: The main character, whether it be Sophia or Emily, always learned something by the end of the book. For example, Sophie was self-conscious about her dancing abilities, but found a way to make that work to her benefit.

Character: Queen Samantha Joy is the headmistress of Silver towers and acts as the parent-figure. She makes the rules for the princesses to abide by, but is not unfairly strict either. The queen attempts to mold the girls into considerate people, by allowing them to learn from their mistakes and encourages them when needed.

Theme: Each of the Tiara Club books has a moral to their story, as they are attempting to teach princesses –and little girls- how to behave in a “perfect” manner.  Some of the themes are the importance of being punctual and trying to be nice to everyone even when they aren’t nice to you.

Quote: “It’s easy to be friends with those we love, but to make friends with an enemy is truly admirable.”

The Verdict: This is a good series for the princess-minded girls as it not only allows them to dream of gorgeous gowns and tantalizing tiaras and breathtaking balls, but also shows them that being a princess is more than that. It teaches the reader how important it is to be a good person.

 Previous Reviews: The Ship of Lost SoulsThe Emerald AtlasThe Royal Treatment