Monday, April 28, 2014

Say Hello to Davonna Juroe! The Story of Seeing Red and Scarlette

Davonna Juroe
Two years ago, I met Davonna Juroe. Her infectious love of fairytales and folklore was what originally drew me to her book, Scarlette - a new twist on the well-known tale of Red Riding Hood. Fast forward to 2014, and Davonna has published a New Adult novel, Seeing Red, which combines her fascination with the 1960s and her unique talent for putting modern spins on classic story ideas. A connoisseur of all things retro and vintage, Davonna's perspective on the world of fiction is exciting and fresh. She was kind enough to take the time to visit with Writing Belle and to share what she's been up to in the last couple of years - and what's next!

Me: Hi, Davonna! It's been almost two years since you visited with Writing Belle. Re-introduce yourself to everyone! 

Davonna: Hello, Summer! Thanks so much for having me back. I can't believe it's been that long. A big hello to all your blog readers out there!

I'm a YA and NA independent author who lives in Seattle. I may or may not be a mermaid wannabee, science nerd, unicorn activist, Masterpiece Theatre junkie, and a cosplay admirer. ;)

Let's talk about Scarlette for a moment. What's the story - and where did you get the inspiration for such a plot? 

Scarlette is an historical paranormal retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" that is set during the 18th century Beast of Gévaudan attacks. I was inspired to write the novel while sewing a cross-stitch pattern scene from "Little Red Riding Hood."

While I was stitching, some questions came to my mind: "What if Little Red Riding Hood had been a real person? What would she have been like and where would she have lived?" Those "what if" questions were enough to send me on a research quest to find out all I could about Ms. Hood.

There were two factors that jumped out at me during my investigation. First, the fairy-tale had a lot of roots in French history. Second, one of the earlier versions of "Little Red Riding Hood" featured a werewolf instead of a wolf as the villain.

"The Beast of Gevaudan"
My aim was to rewrite the fairy-tale as if it really might have happened in history. So I decided to use one of the most famous alleged werewolf attacks in French history (the Beast of Gévaudan) to use as a backdrop of my novel. The rest, as they say, is YA history.

You're an avid fan of the 1960s, which I'm guessing was a huge inspiration for Seeing Red. Can you sum up the plot for readers and explain how your love of the 60s found its way onto the page? 

"Seeing Red" is a NA that is set in Manhattan during the glamorous "Mad Men" era. The story focuses on 22-year-old Bridget Jeane. After calling off her engagement to her alcoholic fiancé, Bridget begins to question the idea of matrimony. Until a Madison Avenue advertising executive asks her for a date.

During a time when it was considered strange for a woman to have a career and not marry young and start a family, Bridget quietly challenges these social norms. At its heart, "Seeing Red" really is a tale of self-determination set on the cusp of the women's rights movement. Bridget is a woman desperately trying to navigate the labyrinth of sexism during a nostalgic era to many Americans.

My love for the '60s found its way onto the page because of that period's fashion. My mom graduated from high school in '61 and loved dresses. It's not uncommon when I visit her that we will watch "Gidget" or other movies from the '50s and '60s just to ogle the party dresses.

I was excited when "Mad Men" came out because I heard the buzz surrounding the show and that the fashion was to die for. Little did I know that watching the series would become a huge source of inspiration for "Seeing Red."

How did you become interested in writing? 

I've been writing stories for many years. Even back in first grade, when I was just learning to write, there was a primitive story I wrote about a bear coming to visit someone's house. I kept writing stories all throughout elementary school. Many tales seemed to focus on princesses and mermaids. In sixth grade, one of my assignments was to make a picture book and read it to the kindergarten children. I loved that project and still have it. It may have well solidified my dreams.

I took many meandering paths as a young adult while trying to figure out what I wanted to do career-wise. Finally I listened to my heart, knowing that writing was my calling, and ran with that.

You're not only a talented writer (you've got a strong, entertaining writing voice!), but you've got a lot of other interests, too. Tell me about your hobbies! 

Why, thanks so much! Oh my, hobbies… There are way too many. I actually just got into photography not too long ago. I feel like I'm obsessively taking pictures and learning my way around the camera everyday. I love cooking, especially making allergy-friendly meals. Knitting too (I'm working on a pair of hot pink legwarmers.).

I also can't seem to get enough of English ghost stories lately. The Victorian and Edwardian writers have treasure troves of tales. I'm a sucker for a hot cup of tea on a rainy afternoon while reading scary tales by M.R. James, Charles Dickens, and Henry James. Truly classic-cool.

I noticed that you love retro dresses. I adore the fashion of yesteryear (excluding the nineties. My hair scrunchies and black stockings are long gone). How does your sense of style and love of yesterday's culture permeate your writing life? 

Yes, I love vintage fashion. There's a focus on style in "Seeing Red," for sure. I particularly mention the dresses and outfits Bridget wears. In some aspects, yesteryear to me is almost a kind of fantasy world because it's a place we can never really visit in time. It's fun to romanticize about the past and what it was like, which seems to be why all my projects have some type of historical element in them.

Fun question: You visited the tale of Red Riding Hood in Scarlette. What other fairytales do you think would make good "new" stories? (I love the idea of a modern Cinderella or a twist on Rapunzel)! 

"The Little Mermaid," for sure! I may or may not have drawn up some notes on the tale.

Favorite writing snack? 

I seem to go in phases. Lately it seems like sea salt and vinegar potato chips are at my reach. Other days, I love any type of gummy candies.

Charles Darwin 
What does the future hold in store for you? Any upcoming projects? 

Yes, my next project is a supernatural pop-science YA novel set in the present day. It's about an 18-year-old son of an anthropologist who discovers a set of long lost, unidentified fossils that belonged to Charles Darwin. He and his father venture to South Africa to find the origin of the bones. But Father and son are thrown in the middle of a deadly anthro-political cover-up and targeted by an international relic hunting organization after uncovering the fossils' true genetic source: an aquatic humanoid species -- mermaids.

Thank you so much for visiting today!! I can't wait to see what you come up with next - you're career is so bright and promising!

Thanks again for having me, Summer! And best of luck with the "Collapse" series!

Connect with Davonna: 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Orenda by Ruth Silver: Release Day and Amazon Gift Card Giveaway


ORENDA by Ruth Silver
a Young Adult Fantasy Adventure series
published by Patchwork Press

Join forces with a parallel universe. Dark forces, magical creatures, and the world Lil thought she knew collide when a dream transports her to the strange world of Orenda. Stunned and terrified, Lil comes face to face with her doppelganger, Willow, who possesses the ability to travel between the two worlds. Everything Lil knows logically says that Orenda can't exist, but a small clue may be proof that it was more than an ordinary dream. With the threat of her younger sister in danger, Lil crosses dimensions but it may cost her even more than she bargained for. A sword wielding girl, the eternal suit, and a parallel universe come together in this action-packed Young Adult fantasy adventure that will keep readers of all ages turning the pages. Orenda is the first novel in the Orenda series.

Ruth Silver author photo  
Lil stood firm, sword-in-hand, staring at the beast as it flew directly at her. “How do I kill it?” She raised the sword above her head with two hands. Hudson glanced at her. “With what we taught you. The dragon is no different than a man.” “It has wings and is flying at me. I’d say it’s different!”    

About the Author 
Ruth Silver is the best-selling author of ABERRANT, a young adult dystopian adventure series published by Patchwork Press and Lazy Day Publishing, in 2013. Silver attended Northern Illinois University and graduated with a Bachelor's in Communication in the spring of 2005. While in college, she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, Deuces are Wild, which she self-published in 2004. Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required, because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories. Her love of writing led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia. Silver enjoys reading, photography, traveling and most of all writing. She loves dystopian and fantasy young adult stories. Ruth has been actively writing since she was a teenager. Upcoming works include Royal Reaper, a young adult series about grim reapers, due for release June 3rd, 2014. She currently resides in Plainfield, Illinois. 


Congratulations, Ruth! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

4 Things I Wish I had Done Differently: Leti Del Mar

Leti Del Mar is on a roll. She has already self-published three books, Land of the Unaltered, The Inadvertent Thief, and How to Self Publish: A DIY Approach. Her fourth book, Secrets of the Unaltered, released this month. And trust me, this girl knows how to be an indie author and do it right. Today she was kind enough to share four insights into the world of publishing - four things that she learned from firsthand experience. Check out her words of wisdom - and be sure to take a peek at her latest novel!

4 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently, by Leti Del Mar

With the release of my fourth book, Secrets of the Unaltered, I can’t help but think over my own Indie Journey. A few mistakes stick out in my mind.  Nothing too major, just things I wish I thought about sooner.  

1. I wish I Self-Published sooner.  I wasted lots of time querying agents, waiting for responses and then waiting for responses about their responses that lead nowhere. In the time it took me to decide to self-publish, I could have written and published two more books. I wish I had taken the leap sooner.

2. I wish I had established an Author's Platform prior to publishing my first book.  I had never even heard of an Author’s Platform until after publishing my first book. Eventually, I figured out how to properly use social media.  Now, each book I release has a stronger launch and better initial sales than the previous one. My last book even made it to #1 on Amazon’s Best Seller List in its category.

3. I wish I knew the short cuts to a cheap book cover.  There are lots of inexpensive ways to put together a fantastic book cover.  There are pre-made covers that can cost less than  $50.  I love to use Royalty Free images and with just a few tweaks with Photobucket or Photoshop, I have made some fantastic looking book covers for less than $15.

4. I wish I had discovered Beta Readers sooner.  I didn’t know what a Beta Reader was when I wrote my first book.  I had an editor go through it, but now I wish my beloved group of betas had given me their opinions on it too.  I’ve had great success finding beta readers on World Literary Cafe message boards.  I doesn’t cost a cent but has made my work really shine.

If I could turn back time I would have done things just a little differently. Although, I’m sure that after four more novels, I’ll have even more to say about it!

Grab Secrets of the Unaltered for 0.99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords!

About Leti
I live in sunny Southern California with my husband, daughter and abnormally large cat. When I'm not writing, reading or blogging, I am teaching Biology and Algebra to teenagers. I'm also a classic film buff, passionate about Art History and love to travel.

Author Links: 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sign-Ups for State of Pursuit Release Day Tour!

In less than two months, State of Pursuit will be released to the world. I think this is the fastest book I have released yet - meaning, the writing, editing and creation was done a lot quicker than the previous books. Each book requires different elements, which requires a variety of research, which can, in turn, make the process of publishing the novel take longer. State of Pursuit will be available on June 6th, 2014, and I'm starting sign-ups for the release day tour today. All of the tour hosts can enter the giveaway, which will include some awesome swag that I'm gathering right now! To be a host, all you need is a blog, website or Facebook page! If you don't have a page, you can participate in the giveaway by tweeting, posting on Instagram or pinning on Pinterest. Use the Google form below to sign up. Thank you for all of your support! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Science of Survival: Talking Post-Apocalyptic Books

I've been wanting to do a feature on survivalist fiction for a long time. What I write is a unique mix of survival, post-apocalyptic adventure and romance. I love all of those elements. Right now I'm currently reading DeADINBURGH, by Mark Wilson and Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I know of) by F.J.R. Titchenell. Both of them are authors that I discovered through interviewing them on Writing Belle. The reason I read zombie fiction is because I love the survival aspect. The reason I watch The Walking Dead (periodically, with a blanket over my head during the scary parts....) is for the same reason. I like the nitty gritty light that survival stories shed on the humanity of characters. What will they do to survive? It's a fascinating premise, and today I want to show you how to create an amazing survivalist story, too! 

  • Get desperate. The all-time awesome medal for survival stories goes to Robinson Crusoe (for me, at least). If you're writing a survival story, the tension in the plot really sizzles if you take a character completely out of their element and put them somewhere really desperate. Quickly. 
  • Get real. No doubt about it. We've all wondered how we would survive without bottled water and cable programming. Go without your smartphone for just one day and you'll realize how much you use it for seemingly trivial tasks such as calling home to ask if you should bring dinner. Give your characters this realization. They should feel the strain just like you would. 
  • Grow up. For a little while, your characters are entitled to being Debbie Downers about the entire situation. At some point they need to step up to the plate and perform, though. Don't forget this. In my novels, Cassidy Hart was initially scared to death and naive about every move she made - and now she's a kick-butt sniper in a militia. Basically what I'm saying here is that even in a survival story, you need healthy character growth. 
  • Find your setting. Regardless of whether or not your character is flung into a survival situation in outer space (Gravity, anyone?) or in the middle of a desert (the horror of Tremors!), know your setting, and know it well. Know the conditions, know the weather, know the resources and know the size. Familiarize yourself with every aspect of that region but make your character blind to it from the get-go. They should slowly figure out what you already know. 
  • Be ruthless. Survival is ruthless, so get with the program. Just kidding! Well, only a little bit. Be realistic. Readers will know when you're faking it for the sake of the characters' dignity. 
  • Balance your cast. I have personally found that focusing on certain aspects of survival make the story more interesting. For example, self-defense and finding food are just two elements of staying alive. Find your focus and sprinkle in the peripheral. Find your shining star within your cast of characters. Unless your name is Koushan Takami and you wrote Battle Royale, try not to have more than thirty characters, you know what I'm saying? *wink* 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Collapse Series: Title and Cover Reveal!!!

Title: State of Pursuit 
Series: Collapse Series #4 
Author: Summer Lane 
Release Date: June 6th, 2014 
Cassidy Hart is alone. 
Her Commander and the love of her life, Chris Young, has gone missing in action. A horrific battle with Omega has left too many good men and women dead, and Cassidy must bear the burden of leadership in the militia on her own. 
But she's not about to give up. 
With the help of her faithful friends - and former enemies - she will stop at nothing to rescue Chris and ensure victory for the militias in their fight against the all-powerful Omega forces. 
The game has shifted. This time, Cassidy is one step ahead of the enemy. 
This time, Cassidy is in charge.

State of Pursuit will release June 6th, 2014! Until then, add it to your to-read-shelf on GoodReads and catch up on the previous three books in the series - State of Emergency, State of Chaos and State of Rebellion! I am so excited to release this next installment - so much work has gone into it. Thank you for reading my novels and supporting my work as a writer - this is a national bestselling series because of YOU!! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How To: Balance a BIG Cast of Characters

Let me say this: writing a book is no walk in the park. Anyone who says otherwise hasn't done it properly. When it comes to penning a novel, you've got to learn how to balance the fine art of storytelling with the fine art of staying sane. Yes. I said sane. We artists are often solitary folks and, unfortunately, some of us have had dreadful endings. (Edgar Allen Poe, anyone?) But hey, not all of us are like that. I'm very happy with being a writer. It's hard, but it's wonderful. It's challenging, but what's life without a challenge, right? One of the most interesting challenges that I learned to face over the years is balancing a cast of characters and supporting characters in my novels. If you have too many characters, it deprives the reader of getting to know your supporting cast - and character development is one of the key aspects of crafting a good story. If you don't have enough characters, the reader can get bored. So how do you find that perfect balance? 
Simplicity and strategy! 

  • Set a limit. I've heard it said that there shouldn't be more than seven to ten supporting characters in a novel. This can be true, but it's not something that's set in stone. Look at Harry Potter. Yeah. Way more than ten characters, and plenty of character development. But the basis of the idea is absolutely correct: don't have too many characters. Find the seven to ten core players of your story and focus on developing them. Everyone else is peripheral. 
  • Don't get complicated. Like I said before, focus on developing your main players. Show some growth and changes. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to give each character a purpose. Ask yourself: what is this person adding to the story? Knowledge? Comic relief? A valuable nugget of information that will conveniently give our hero the upper hand? Know beforehand, and it will make everything else easier. 
  • Give them something special. The reader should consistently be reminded of who a character is - and you can do this by giving the character something that makes them unique and memorable. For example: "He had an ugly red scar across his eye." Dramatic? Yes. Weird. Okay, yes. But memorable, right? Later on in the book when you're mentioning that same character, remind your reader who you're talking about by talking about that characteristic: "His scar looked grotesque in the light of the moon." Your reader will think, Ah, yes. That's right. He had a scar. Now I remember who we're talking about... Make it easy. 
  • Show a change. I mentioned this before, but let's face it: if you want drama and emotion - which is the very essence of writing - you've got to show your reader that your characters have changed somehow. Whether it's getting over a fear of heights or learning to forgive someone dark and sinister from their past, something should shift from the first page to the last. And if you're writing a series, something should change in each book. 
  • Don't be mean. Okay, listen. I'm a writer, and I understand better than anybody the temptation to kill off characters in order to lighten the character load. Kill somebody off? Great! You don't have to worry about writing them into your story anymore. Let me just say this: if your character dies, it better add to the story - not take away from it. It should give someone motivation, or bring about character growth, etc. You get my point. Don't be mean to your characters unless there's a really, really good reason for it. 
  • Cast the stereotypes. Yes. There are different sorts of roles for different sorts of characters. The brainiac? Check. The love interest? Double check. The conveniently placed witness to a murder? Triple check. Every book contains a certain number of characters doing a predetermined duty that will contribute to the end result of the novel. Fill those roles appropriately. Better yet, if you're a first-time novelist, this might be helpful: take your favorite books and grab a sheet of paper. List the characters and ask yourself what role they play. Do it enough times with enough books and you'll start to see a pattern of character roles emerge. 
The great thing about writing is that you can teach yourself everything you need to know about the craft with practice. It's like practicing an Olympic sport. Do it over and over again, study all you can and absorb wisdom and advice like a sponge. Make every word count.