“The least strained and most natural ways of the soul are the most beautiful; the best occupations are the least forced.” — Michel de Montaigne, philosopher, 1533-1592
Meet The Author is designed to promote a writer and their current book in a fun and friendly “quick fact” format. This week we have Dutch Contemporary New Adult author Lis Lucassen. I reviewed her debut Heat published by Storm Publishers a few months back. This novel puts Lis on the map in the Netherlands as that nation’s first-ever NA author.
You can read that HERE.
Contemporary New Adult
I started writing because
I had to prove to my daughter that you have to follow your passion in life.
The best thing about being a writer
The possibility to escape.
My current favorite read
Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover.
Under a burning sun more than a thousand miles from home, Lynn Stevens is trying to get her life back on track and leave memories of that one fateful night behind. She meets Dan, a young man with strangely erratic behavior and smoldering brown eyes, who is on an involuntary vacation with his parents. In him, she sees her own struggle reflected every time she is starting to get too close. Dan doesn’t like being touched. But when he sets out to uncover Lynn’s secret, it means he’ll have to tell her some secrets of his own.
Connect with Lis Lucassen:
Facebook Storm Publishers: https://www.facebook.com/stormpublishers
Facebook Lis Lucassen: https://www.facebook.com/lislucassen
Today in This Literary Life Dutch Contemporary New Adult author Lis Lucassen shares the joy and tingles of that very first kiss.
I love reading about it. I most definitely love writing about it.
And I still remember how it happened to me. For me, it’s one of the most
anticipated and important scenes in every romance novel. It’s the pillar of the story. It’s pure, it’s sexy, it’s everything you hoped for and then it happens… And everything’s changed.
What I’m talking about?
The first kiss.
That magical moment in which the hero and heroine can’t deny it anymore. Their lips touch and their feelings explode.
I’m a sucker for a good first kissing scene. Every page I turn, I’ll hope the next will be the one where mouths glide against each other, where eyes flutter closed and where our beloved characters lose themselves in each other. Completely. Totally.
Writing about that first kiss is all about planning. When will it happen? When’s the right moment? On which page are the stars aligned? If it comes to soon, there’s no magic and it feels too rushed. When it comes too late in the story, the momentum is off and there’s no gratification. It’s like holding on to your favorite cookie, only to find out it’s gone stale when you finally are ready to eat it. And everybody likes their cookie with some crunch, am I right?
A first kiss needs to be just that. Crunchy. And magical. It takes you back to that special moment in your own life, or makes you want it even more if it didn’t already happen to you. In that last case, let me tell you, you’re the lucky one!
You’ve still got that earth stopping, heart shattering, sense numbing, and totally of the charts blissful moment in your future. For us that are behind the kissing mark, we’re lucky that romance writers exist, so that we can live vicariously through the characters that they gave us.
Lis Lucassen’s latest novel Heat (read my review HERE) is available at these outlets:
Connect with Lis!
Facebook Storm Publishers: https://www.facebook.com/stormpublishers
Facebook Lis Lucassen: https://www.facebook.com/lislucassen
THE SAGA CONTINUES!
Now, I am lucky enough to have gotten a sneak peek at the first book of their second series, Tau’s Pride. Though I don’t have a launch date for Storms, I’m thrilled to show off the amazing cover. A reliable source informs me that it illustrates one of the biggest scenes in the book!
Want to learn the story behind the creation of this stunning cover? Learn all about it right HERE.
TAU’S PRIDE: STORMS
My regular readers will have noticed that my posting schedule (almost always five days a week) has gone off the rails. Way off. My husband is seriously ill and this has upended my social media activities–and life in general. I am now revisiting both the frequency and the content of my blogging, so that I can balance an active and hopefully interesting blog with my family responsibilities. I’m happy to say I expect to be back on track by next week.
On the plus side (there’s always a plus side), my break from all things online left me some serious reading time, so I’ll have a bunch of new book reviews to share, as well as my two newest features–Meet the Author and This Literary Life.
Take care and thanks for visiting.
Carrie Ann Lahain
This is my second contribution to the Takkayal feature on Egyptian poet and short story writer Nada Adel Sobhi’s blog Nadaness In Motion, where she posts her work, book reviews and some of the most creative writing prompts I’ve run into. Takkayal, Arabic for “imagine,” is the name of her picture prompt series. This story follows Melody Winters, the character I introduced in my first Takkayal piece, “As Above, So Below.” Melody is a young girl with a unique view of the world. Today’s story is based on a photograph by Egyptian photographer and Engineer Seif Talaat.
As I don’t have permission of the photographer, I’m not posting the image. You can see it on Nada’s website HERE. While you’re there, consider writing a flash fiction piece of your own. You can post it in Nada’s comment section. The flower below has nothing to do with the story. It is here simply for your viewing pleasure.
by Carrie Ann Lahain
It had happened again.
And after taking so much trouble to avoid it.
Melody Winters, overheating in her coat, clutched the leather-bound volume to her chest and knocked on the door of apartment 555. A long moment passed, then a click of a lock, and the door opened with a leisurely sweep. Mr. Hamdi smiled down at her. His thick black
reading glasses and the pen tucked behind each ear told her she’d interrupted his work.
He glanced down at the book. “My dear, have you conquered Bleak House already? I don’t know what Mr. Dickens would say to that. He did like to stretch things out, you know. Well…come inside and tell me all about it.”
“I’d like to…love to…but…” Melody looked down at her foot toeing a dent in the hall carpet.
The elderly man squinted at her. “You are dressed for the outdoors, I see. I take it your intention to avoid trouble at school has not gone as hoped?”
“I tried. Really, I did.” She’d given up a whole week of quiet lunches reading on the patch of lawn outside the school to sit in the cafeteria listening to Lizzie Samuels giggling over Albert La Roche. Correction: Awful Albert La Roche. Giggle. Giggle. Giggle. And with Mr. Tulkinghorn hounding Lady Dedlock about her secret. Melody had to sit on the book to keep from reading ahead.
“Step inside a moment and we’ll discuss this.” Mr Hamdi held the door open for her and, with a wave of his hand, directed her to his library.
The tightness in Melody’s chest loosened as soon as she entered the cozy room with its three walls of shining mahogany bookshelves that stretched floor to ceiling. The fourth wall was all windows, though they were covered by heavy drapes most of the time to protect the books from sunlight. Mr. Hamdi’s massive desk, which must have been buried a foot deep in papers, sat in front of the windows.
“I shouldn’t. Mother told me not to be a nuisance.” Melody was to return Bleak House and go straight across the street to Lizzie’s apartment to watch the latest Spiderman movie and eat popcorn.
Heaven help her.
“A nuisance?” Mr. Hamdi took a seat at his desk.
“Meh. Gogol? Where is he going to go now that he’s dead?” He leaned back and rested his hands on the stack of papers nearest to him. “Remember what I told you. Everything’s been translated into everything else.”
“But you also said every translation is precious.”
“That, too. Now. What went wrong?”
“Mrs. Tate caught me reading Bleak House in her geometry class. I hate geometry.”
“It’s a good thing Pythagoras and Euclid didn’t share your disdain or where would we be?”
“With a lot more time to read.” Melody sank onto her favorite bench. The brocade cushion had a little depression she could settle herself into, like a fox curling up in his den. “Anyway, those Greek guys didn’t have Dickens.”
They also didn’t have parents like hers. When most kids did wrong, they were put under house arrest. Melody did wrong, and her parents sent her out to “spend time with her peers.”
Laughing, Mr. Hamdi shook his head. “One of a kind, little Melody. That is what you are. Uniqueness often brings consequences.”
“Spiderman.” And giggling over Awful Albert La Roche. Melody checked her watch. “I have to go. I’m already late.”
“Not even time for tea and a bite of Halawa?”
“Not even that.” Melody could already taste what she’d miss. The hot tea flavored with mint. The tang of sesame and delightful crunch of pistachio nuts.
Tightness returned to her chest. She noticed she still held Bleak House. Rising, she put it back in its place–the bookcase closest to the door, third shelf up, right between David Copperfield and Hard Times. Mr. Hamdi shelved his books by country of origin, then author, then chronological order. An elegant system. “Thanks again for lending it to me.”
Mr. Hamdi shrugged the comment away. “What would you like to tackle next? Poetry, perhaps? A friend just sent me his new translation of some of Verlaine’s poems. It’ll be in France. Second bookcase. Fourth shelf.”
Melody hesitated. It wouldn’t do for Lizzie to catch her sneak reading poems when she was supposed to be watching Spiderman beat up bad guys. Still, she drifted to the French section. Then to the letter V. There it was. Paul Verlaine–Fifty Selected Poems. Such a slender volume.
So easily hidden.
Egyptian poet and short story writer Nada Adel Sobhi has a gorgeous blog Nadaness In Motion where she posts her work, book reviews and some of the most creative writing prompts I’ve run into. Takkayal, Arabic for “imagine,” is the name of her picture prompt series. I’ve been admiring the images for months and never took the plunge. Well, her current prompt captured my imagination and I had to give it a try. So here’s the image and my contribution. Does this painting awaken anything for you? If so, head on over to Nada’s site and add your comment here.
As Above, so below
That’s what they told her.
As within, so without.
She’d understood this once. How everything is everything else, however much your eyes and ears tell you otherwise. Your senses? They’ll try to fool you.
Remember, child, the key to the door with no lock.
She’d giggled at them then watched her laughter rise in waves of golden light, blowing here and there. Everywhere.
Of course, she’d remember. How could she ever forget?
“Melody Winters, pay attention!”
Melody gasped. Her eyes snapped open to meet Mrs. Tate’s glare. The teacher stood at the front of the classroom, geometry lesson scrawled on the board behind her. “Well? Care to explain yourself?”
Albert, who sat behind Melody, hissed in her ear. “You’re in for it now, Mousy Mel. The mean hag will double your homework.”
Melody took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Tate…I…”
“Had your head in the clouds? Again? Well, we must help you with that. Mustn’t we?” The teacher’s red-painted lips stretched into an unfriendly smile.
Double homework alright. And a note to take to her parents. They’d have to sign it and send it back to Mrs. Tate. So unfair, Melody thought, as the cold November air bit through her thin coat. All around her the press of people, the cars with their loud horns and gritty exhaust that stung her nose and throat, it all closed in on her. Melody reached the corner of her street and ran the rest of the way to her building, and then up five flights of steps. Slamming the apartment door behind her, she pressed her back against it, listened to her lungs fill and empty, fill and empty as she caught her breath. Her parents didn’t close their bookshop until seven. A short reprieve.
Melody changed out of her school clothes and padded to the kitchen. She toasted a slice of bread, spread it with butter, and climbed out the kitchen window onto the fire escape. Too cold, really, to be out here. And it’s getting dark. But this was her place, high above noise and crowds and snickering boys and teachers who glared.
Nibbling at her toast, Melody looked up at the darkening sky and…There…right there…at edge of her mind…a flicker… But it was like catching sight of something from the corner of her eye. Only no matter how fast she turned her head, she could never catch it. What is wrong me? Mousy Mel. Silly little girl with her head in the clouds. The endless clouds. In an endless sky.
Five stories below Melody, the first streetlamps flickered to life. One then another and another. Glowing golden amber. Illuminated jewels that extended down the girl’s street to the next and the next and the next.
A young woman receives a manuscript left to her by her great-grandfather that changes how she understands herself and the world.
This unique literary novel is half warm family tale and half philosophical/spiritual meditation. When Ellen Marie takes her husband and baby daughter to visit her great-grandmother in South Florida, she has no idea of the treasure that’s been kept for her. She was only five when she visited Papa and Nana in their Port Ludlow, WA condo, and never had the chance to return. Thus, her Papa didn’t get the opportunity to pass along the life lessons he wanted her to have. But Ian Barrett MacLogan doesn’t let a little thing like chronological time get in the way of such an important matter. He wrote a journal that covers a two-week vacation that he imagined would have happened when Ellen was twelve or so. During this imagined trip, he details all of their adventures and the words of wisdom he and his beloved wife shared with her.
“Well, remember, Nana and I promised some time back to talk with you only about truth and not about facts.”
The plot itself alternates smoothly between grown up Ellen’s visit with Nana in Florida and this imagined visit to Port Ludlow. Both realities are filled with wonderful characters and finely wrought scenic descriptions that helped shape and advance the story. Through out the book, I felt as if I were right there. This grounding of the senses kept me tethered through the more abstract and esoteric discussions of the nature of the soul and its place both in creation and as co-creator of its own experience.
McLendon has a warm, rich writing style that is full of humor. His characters are people you feel you know…or wish you knew. I felt a special affinity to Cy, Nana’s elderly neighbor. He’s a holocaust survivor, whose own experiences of the non-material kind leave him in need of daily assurance that he is, indeed, still among the living. Cy’s wonderful mix of sprightly energy and human vulnerability made for some of the most memorable scenes, especially during the book’s rather “electrifying” climax.
PAPA’S GIFT made me laugh, cry, and wonder. It also left me remembering Papa’s words of encouragement to Ellie about the time and pacing of her spiritual growth, an insight that I find myself repeating throughout the day: “There is no deadline. There is no hurry. There is no rush hour in eternity.”
I’m happy to say that several of Bev’s books are currently on promo at greatly reduced prices–or even FREE! Here’s a list including buy links. So if you’re looking for some fabulous summer reading…click away!
FREE July 2nd through July 6th:
The summer of 1979 was the best summer ever! Pretty, blonde and dangerously impetuous, Bev and Carol head for the sun, lucky beneficiaries of a generous university grant. They are full of enthusiasm and the dazzling spirit of adventure that only seems possible when we are young. Essential swimwear is selected and Lipton’s vegetable oil is perfumed with patchouli for the perfect tan. They end up in Argelès-sur-mer, on a campsite close to the coast and not far from the border with Spain. Every day brings new challenges: how to hold a meaningful conversation on a naturist beach, what to do about a precocious teenage stalker, how to transport a gallon of port on a moped… all of which they meet head-on, with dubious philosophy and irrepressible optimism. ‘One Summer in France’ is a humorous tale based on a three-month study break the author took as part of her languages degree course at Keele University in 1979. ‘Would you do it all again?’ asked Carol. ‘Like a shot!’ I said. And I would. Author’s Note: There are three Bev and Carol adventures, which are all stand-alone books. For those who would like to know the order, here it is: ‘One Summer in France’, ‘Bunny on a Bike’ and ‘Stranded in the Seychelles’
Short story. Detective Inspector Hanson is on the track of a serial killer.
Only 99-cents/pence July 1st through July 7th
Alex Crane is a protagonist with a difference. Single-minded and, at times, glacial she is intelligent and independent. Her story begins in the past, unfolding into a multilayered plot that weaves its way through a family history peppered with secrets, towards a devastating conclusion.
Alex does not intend to ruin other peoples’ lives. She simply has no conscience. Her physical appearance elicits unwanted sympathy from others (she has several large moles on her face), and the reader might conclude that she has chosen to shut herself off from the world. He or she would be wrong. Alex is calculating and ruthless. She is capable of anything. There is only one weakness in her resolve, and that is her love for Lizzy, a girl she has known since primary school. When Alex decides who is important to her, no one else even comes close.
1.99/.99 July 2nd through July 9th
Carol and Bev are quirky and unpredictable, incorrigible yet loveable. Graduates, with no idea about what they want to do for a living, they see an advertisement for Playboy croupiers and, with a typical lack of forethought, decide to apply. After parading in bikinis and completing two gruelling maths tests (with a certain amount of cheating) they get the job. They do four weeks training at Victor Lownes’ mansion in Tring, where there is free-flowing champagne and a well-stocked jukebox. They are unexpectedly commandeered to be photographed with Victor on his return from hospital, and are subsequently invited to attend one of his weekend parties, where they meet a number of celebrities, including a very tolerant Peter Cook. After their training is completed, they deal blackjack to punters from all walks of life, fend off lecherous pit bosses and almost fall in love. They get into trouble with unscrupulous landlords and come out on top. Through it all, Bev and Carol make us laugh with their very different attitudes to life. One thing is sure – they will be friends forever. Bunny on a Bike is a memoir. The author offers us an authentic, entertaining account of the process of becoming a Playboy croupier, and celebrates the often hilarious aspects of being young in 80s London. If you like frivolity and fun, if you like a dry kind of humour, if you like to laugh, you will love Bunny on a Bike.
It’s going to be an exciting week as we present an in-depth look at the paranormal series Bonds of Blood & Spirit and its creators authors Wendi Kelly and Deborah Dorchak. I reviewed the first book of the saga, Loyalties, here last week. I fell hard for the world of wolf shifter Regina Capalini and the fascinating men in her life. Today is the first part of an in-depth interview with the authors. Part II is coming tomorrow along with a review of the second book, Uncivil Wars. Later in the week, we’ll look at the remaining books in the series.
But first, if you happen to be in the Las Vegas area this coming Saturday June 20th, you can meet Wendi and Deb in person…and even get them to sign your own copy of these fantastic books. The ladies are going to be at the Henderson Barnes & Noble at 567 N. Stephanie (just south of the intersection of Stephanie and Sunset) from 1pm to 3 pm. Click HERE for directions/map.
You write as a team, yet live nearly 2000 miles apart. Can you talk a little about how that works on a day-to-day basis? Do things run relatively smoothly or do you have an arbitrator/referee on call?
Wendi: Deb and I are connected at the hip, via google chat, google drive and our iPhones. And, should we step farther away than what instant contact can provide, there is always the slow version of conversation—email. We are live-time talking to each other almost all day, or at least have the ability to do so. When we are writing, we have a chat window open, and are talking to each other there, plus are both writing in an open Google Drive document, both often in the same sentence, changing each other’s words, finishing each other’s thoughts, cleaning up messy punctuation for the other if one is on a roll. We literally live in each other’s heads. Like our characters, distance means nothing to us.
Deb: It’s surprising how smoothly things run. Open communication is the real key to it all. People often ask us if we ever disagree on anything and what do we do about it when that happens. The answer is yes, we frequently do disagree on things. It’s natural. Not everyone is going to have the same opinion as you, so it’s expected. What do we do about it? We say what’s on our minds and talk it out. We listen without judgment to the other’s reasons and thoughts, then decide on the best course of action. Ego has very little space in a partnership/collaboration like this. You have to understand you can’t always get your way, or stomp your feet and run off with your toys when something isn’t going your way. The bottom line is, everything we do has to be for the benefit of either the business or the story. If an idea isn’t furthering either of those, into the can it goes.
Bonds of Blood & Spirit is a four-book mega saga—with a four-book series two in progress. How did this series develop? When you started Loyalties, did you envision a series of such length and complexity?
Wendi: I saw the overall story arc in my mind from the beginning and Deb shared the vision. It’s pretty fair to say I’m the visionary of the team, (Deb calls me the Director.) and though we knew we were writing a series from the beginning, I had no idea the arc was big enough for four six-hundred page books. Since the entire story whooshed through my head in about six seconds, it didn’t seem reasonable that it should take up that much space on the page! However, the characters had ideas of their own. So though, the main story, the main purpose of the story and reason for it being written never changed, those dang characters took us on a few uncharted adventures. So, that roller-coaster adventure was just as much a ride for us as it was the readers.
Deb: We knew right from the start this story was epic. It started shortly after Wendi and I began the business five years ago. I first met Wendi when I designed her first self-hosted website. Later on, I invited her to join a creative writing group board. I already had characters I had been playing for five or six years already. The new ones she created for herself meshed with mine. After we became business partners, the creative writing fell by the wayside, but we both missed writing for fun and our characters. They had a story to tell, and we decided to tell it. Cole, Harry, Regina and Diego were the originals, the ones we started with. Though we knew the story was big, we didn’t realize how big until the first Saga was complete. The overall arc took on a life of it’s own, with far more depth than we had anticipated. Sure, on the surface it’s entertainment at it’s best with lots of eye-candy, but there’s a deeper story beneath the glitter (metaphorical glitter, that is, our vampires don’t sparkle).
Some nuts and bolts—how do you keep track of your large cast and all their activities? Is it hard to maintain continuity from book to book?
Wendi: Google Drive and Pinterest are our friends. Many of the original characters have lengthy biographies. Selene and Regina’s biographies are over fifty pages long, going through their entire life, names, dates, what happened to them pre-story. They are so real to me, I know them better than members of my family. Each of our characters has an avatar that we both agree on so we know we are seeing these characters in the same exact way. That avatar is pinned to a pinterest board. Pre-pinterest, we had photos in a file. We have a google doc that has a floor plan of the Valley house and grounds, what the rooms, furniture and small details look like so that from halfway across the country we know we are describing items down to the last detail.
Deb: That’s the million dollar question, innit? “Large cast” is an understatement. We have a mob. We try to keep it small, but it’s pointless. I’ll create a filler character, or a baddie slated to die and before you know it, we’ve named them, given them a background, and the next thing you know, the baddie is a real person with real motivations and seeking redemption. Kind of like bringing a stray puppy or kitten home. Once you’ve gazed into its eyes and named it, you’re a goner.
Continuity consists of tons of notes (yes, we’re constantly asking “Um…what were the color of his eyes?” or “Does her name have one ‘L’ or two?”), and diligent fact checking during the rewrite process.
Your books are character-driven paranormal adventures. I call them “meaty” sagas. How do you manage such beautifully developed characters and also sustain a high level of suspense? Wait…and then maintain this balance across book after book?
Wendi: The balance across the book goes back to the long term vision of the series story arc. We know the big picture story. And we know where the tempo and pacing needs to speed up, slow down, take a curve, or catch it’s breath. We look at the series as a journey on a roller coaster. Book one is the anticipatory climb, with a few dips and turns, that unexpected curve, then a slight moment to catch your breath and just before it ends, the climb begins again. Book two is quicker-paced, with shorter ups and downs, more curves, more breathless moments, emotional stomach twisters. By book three, there is that slowing down again, that last climb, the dark moments, everything is doomed, there’s that sharp turn…and no more,…you’ve arrived at book four. Time for that climb to the highest top of the roller coaster and then down you go, racing to the bottom of the ride. That pattern of balance and suspense is planned into our arc, and our very real, very “live to us” characters are caught on the ride.
Deb: A little something called “rewrites”. The first pass is spewing out the story, exploring where the characters go, and in general, piling on the gobs of clay over the wire frame. On the second, third, fourth passes, we look at what needs adding, what needs chopping and whittling away as much of the fluff as possible to get down to the core of the story. THEN, yet another pass—“weaving in”, as Wendi likes to say—the pacing, the suspense, the foreshadowing. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, maybe a word or a sentence here and there.
One thing we have learned since the first series is, it’s much better to write the whole series at once rather than release each book as it’s finished. This way we can go back and iron out wrinkles as new direction or ideas come into play.
By the time all of this is done, we’ve been into one another’s words so much the overall effect is a seamless story on all levels.
You two are not only partners in fiction, you also run a business together. Can you tell us a little about Blue Sun Studio? How do you divide up tasks? Is it hard to balance your various business activities and your shared creative work?
Wendi: It’s funny, when people ask that question, I have to stop and think, “How do we divide it up??” But the answer is pretty simple. We stick to our genus work. As it turns out, except for an uncanny ability to live in each other’s heads as writers, Deb and I are pretty much opposites in everything else. She speaks Techie Talk like a Spock clone. I don’t speak it at all. It all sounds like gibberish to me. Details, websites, admin things that require more that ten seconds of patience….All Deb. Marketing, sales, transformation, mindsets, strategies, long-term planning…I end up on that side of the fence. The rest, we juggle in the middle. We are both artists, that’s our common language, and shared creative work. When we are working together on a project, it is what we are both bringing to it. Sharing our creativity together is the most fun.
Deb: Blue Sun Studio is our design/coaching company. Right from the start, Wendi and I had a TON of skills and talents, that when pooled together, make for an extremely self-sufficient business unlike any other design company out there. We offer our clients a wide range of services, everything from designing websites and books, to coaching/mentoring on life, design and writing.
Striking our balance isn’t hard, not when you’ve got a good teammate who has a mind for staying on task. For the most part, when a project absolutely has to get done, we know exactly what we need to do it to get it out on or before the deadline.
We treat our own creative work no differently. From the start, Wendi and I have had “Fiction Friday”. This has been our exclusive writing day every week for the last five years. Our clients know (because it’s included in our project contracts) that Friday we’re “out of the office”. Sure, we’ll monitor emails and be there if an emergency pops up (like…oh…I dunno….you got hacked? You blew up your site? Or you suddenly noticed four rather odd horsemen riding across the horizon?).
Then there are those times when the best laid plans go out the window, Wendi’s Purple Pony comes galloping into town and no one sees us for weeks (other than our clients).