September 16, 2015 • No Comments
I have a terrible obsession with containers. I deeply believe that if I owned the right organizers and boxes, my life would run smoothly. There is some truth to that: if stuff has a home, it’s less likely to be toppling off tabletops and making mountains on the floor.
But mostly I think I like pretty colourful toys. The trend toward brightly coloured lunch kits pleases me enormously. I love these GoStak containers for holding nuts, dressings, and other spillable items. The bottom of one jar forms the top of the next and the top one has a handle.
I pack a lunch for work pretty much every day (I hardly ever escape my desk for a restaurant meal). The other consideration for good containers is therefore how light they are. I managed to tear the muscles in my shoulder from carrying too much in my tote bag day after day, which has taken months to heal. So, lightweight is good. These are made of a tough but light (and toxin-free) plastic. The other find I made lately is from Sistema – they make a range of containers that have the cutlery built in and clipped inside, so if you forget a fork there are no worries. They also have sections that segregate wet and dry ingredients, so the granola for your yogurt doesn’t turn to rubber before you eat it. A small consideration, but texture is part of what makes food enjoyable!
I bought a few of these containers when I found them to replace old ones that were past their prime. They aren’t the cheapest on the market, but I know I’ll get the value out of them since 5 lunches a week x 52 weeks a year means plenty of mileage. By packing my meals, I’m eating better, spending less, and keeping waste out of the landfill.
On the whole, though, I think I was drawn by the bright colours and the fact that there were lots of clippy-snappy bits to play with. Maybe what I really want is an edible Lego set?
September 15, 2015 • No Comments
So earlier this summer (it seems ages ago) I went with two dear friends to the west coast of Vancouver Island. We rented a cabin in Ucluelet, which is about as close to the wide open Pacific as you can get without actually falling in. It is truly wild and beautiful out there, with a few touristy spots but far more unspoiled beauty. There are lots of hiking trails that range from “suitable for couch potato” to the kind that requires helicopters and alpha heroes. You can guess which one I was on!
Yes, I took my writing but didn’t spend all the time at the keyboard because a) I wanted to spend time with my friends and b) look at that view! We walked a lot, ate a lot, and in the evenings . . . well, we had cable and a mutual obsession with cooking shows in general and Masterchef in particular.
Yes, we went to the ends of the earth to sit in a cabin and watch Gordon Ramsey turn red in the face and yell about the proper sear on steaks. And we loved each other because we could enjoy this guilty pleasure without having to apologize for it. That’s what old friends are for. And the best part? Since the cabin had a fully equipped kitchen, there was plenty of opportunity to make some terrific meals ourselves. I’m not a big fan of barbecued food, but I’m slowly being converted by the excellent meals I’ve been served lately.
So why the fascination with Masterchef and its mystery boxes, challenges, and personalities? I think for me it’s the opportunity to reclaim the rituals of sharing food. I love cooking, but the pace of life makes it too easy to cut corners. Learning the language of cuisine, what makes something good, and a little bit about how to elevate one’s own meals is a kind of mindfulness exercise. Now I pause–at least sometimes–to think about presentation, the balance of flavours, and how to assemble ingredients in an interesting way. And when I’m with similarly-minded friends, we talk about cooking far more than we did in the past. I appreciate having something new to enjoy with them, even in a remote holiday cabin.
September 14, 2015 • No Comments
Coming November 1, 2015 Le pouvoir du vampire écrit par Sharon Ashwood in paperback and ebook
Also known as Possessed by a Warrior. Yup, that’s Sam and Choe, en francais
So far that’s the only French edition in the works, but it’s a landmark because it’s the first Ashwood title to be translated into French. Previously, the Dark Forgotten was done (beautifully) in German by Knaur with some of the nicest covers I’ve ever received (check out this page for a look). I’m very, very happy to expand my world domination plans to Paris. Hopefully it’s the beginning of great things!
July 31, 2015 • No Comments
So, when I was about to begin A Study in Ashes, I was hunting about for some reference material on female colleges. I found plenty of references to the fact that such things existed, but not much detail until I got my hands on this book. I blogged about it here.
To my delight and trepidation, the Baskerville Affair (and A Study in Ashes in particular) has been made part of a college course! http://cdmyers.info/Steampunk.html
It raises some interesting questions about the use of history in what is essentially fantasy. I tend toward a real or real-ish setting because it grounds the story in an “ordinary world” that is the foil of the fantasy. I don’t think it is “bad” or “good” to include a certain level of historical detail but I do think it’s important to make what’s included reasonably accurate.
The other benefit of researching is you never know what you’ll find. The entire setting of the Dartmoor laboratories is a real place I discovered by chance. It’s an old farm and the ruins of a gunpowder mill. However, it serves delightful cream teas and holds pottery classes. The Hound of the Baskervilles was an old collie, I’m afraid.
July 6, 2015 • 9 Comments
A member of my local writing chapter has just released a fantasy book. As it’s a genre very close to my heart, I thought I’d introduce it here. Please welcome Sylvie Grayson and the first volume of Khandarken Rising: The Last War. This is brand new to me and I look forward to reading it!
What do you usually write?
I have been writing contemporary works, with an emphasis on suspense, romance and attempted murder. I like the way suspense pushes the story along with greater speed and purpose. It keeps the reader reading (and the writer writing 🙂 ) when there is danger lurking and bad guys looking for their own goals.
How is this book different from your others?
The Last War: Book One, Khandarken Rising, just grabbed me by the throat. I read every genre, and enjoy them all. But some books speak to me more at different times than others do. The whole world of Khandarken rose out of the mist, as far as I’m concerned. And I loved writing it. The idea of creating a new world, with different issues, and another focus was very freeing. I hadn’t realized it would be this way, but felt it opened up so much to me. I’m currently working on Book Four of the series.
Will this be your new focus?
Perhaps. Because I have a few contemporary books calling to me too. So if I am free to move back and forth between contemporary and sci-fi/fantasy, it just seems like the best of both worlds. It is also more of a challenge in some ways. Working on Book Four has forced me to go back and really study my notes for the first three – some of the details have evaded me and I have to remind myself of all the nuances of that world. Each book takes me into a different part of the territory and the surrounding countries, and it’s been so much fun creating that.
The Last War: Book One, Khandarken Rising
The Emperor has been defeated. New countries have arisen from the ashes of the old Empire. The citizens swear they will never need to fight again after that long and painful war.
Bethlehem Farmer is helping her brother Abram run Farmer Holdings in south Khandarken after their father died in the final battles. She is looking after the dispossessed, keeping the farm productive and the talc mine working in the hills behind their land. But when Abram takes a trip with Uncle Jade into the northern territory and disappears without a trace, she’s left on her own. Suddenly things are not what they seem and no one can be trusted.
Major Dante Regiment is sent by his father, the General of Khandarken, to find out what the situation is at Farmer Holdings. What he sees shakes him to the core and fuels his grim determination to protect Bethlehem at all cost, even with his life.
Sylvie Grayson loves to write about suspense, romance and attempted murder, in both contemporary and science fiction/fantasy and has published romantic suspense novels, Suspended Animation, Legal Obstruction, and The Lies He Told Me, all about strong women who meet with dangerous odds, stories of tension and attraction. She has also written The Last War series, a sci fi/fantasy adventure, the first book of which was released in June 2015.
She has lived most of her life in British Columbia, Canada, in spots ranging from Vancouver Island on the west coast to the North Peace River country and the Kootenays in the beautiful interior. She spent a one year sojourn in Tokyo Japan. She has worked as an English language instructor, a nightclub manager, an auto shop bookkeeper and a lawyer. She lives in southern British Columbia with her husband on a small piece of land near the Pacific Ocean that they call home, when she’s not travelling the world looking for adventure.
June 24, 2015 • 45 Comments
Those who have been following my Horsemen series know that there is a big wedding involved. To celebrate the grand finale of the series, I’m giving away this handcrafted, one-of-a-kind memory book. My favourite feature is the cutaway bird design in the back, but as you can tell there’s not an inch of this cover, inside or out, that doesn’t have something beautiful. To enter to win this treasure, leave a comment below with your favourite celebration memory–it doesn’t have to be a wedding, but just something you’d like to share! This draw is open until July 11, 2015, midnight PST.
June 22, 2015 • No Comments
May 4, 2015 • 1 Comment
Congratulations to Shari C. who was the winning commenter on Carmen Fox’s post!
May 2, 2015 • 1 Comment
Check out this fabulous new trailer for the Horsemen series:
April 28, 2015 • 57 Comments
Allow me to introduce Carmen Fox, a writer who has the absolute right stuff. Wondering what that is? Read on–her story speaks for itself! And be sure to leave a comment–she’s offering a great prize to someone who stops by! Not only does some lucky winner get a $15 Amazon gift certificate but also the chance to name a character in one of her books!
Thank you, Sharon, for giving me the chance to appear on your blog.
So who am I?
I’m an urban fantasy/paranormal romance/mystery writer who didn’t start out at the top of her game. My skills are learned skills. It is my strong belief that, given the right encouragement and input, everyone can learn to write well.
But what about natural talent? Some people think a writer puts down thoughts in the form in which they popped into his or her head. The problem with that attitude for me was that I’m a terrible speaker. Even when it comes to telling jokes I stumble over my words and am sure to mess up the punch line. Lacking this natural talent, would I ever amount to anything?
As I said, I don’t believe in this mythical gene that allows a few chosen ones to enchant their readership without trying. More likely, they got a head start simply by grasping the fundamentals at an earlier age. Their talent comes down to knowledge.
The best starting point if you want to learn something new, even in the age of the geek, is a good how-to book. At least that’s the path I took. After giving my wallet a rigorous workout, my shelves soon buckled under the weight of bound wisdom. What I discovered was that novels have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Score! Armed with this knowledge, I fancied myself a writer and set about penning my first book, GUARDED (back then under a different title).
Fast-forward a few months. As part of an on-line auction, I bid on and won a partial critique by Sharon Ashwood. Yes, this Sharon Ashwood. She waded through my finished manuscript and, rather than the worshipping superfandom I expected, returned a rather sober verdict. She liked my worldbuilding and the humor, although not so much the slapstick moments. Sharon also struggled to aptly categorize my book as light PNR or UF, a task I myself wrestled with until I gave up and let the book stand as a mishmash of PNR/UF/mystery. But her comments significantly enhanced the quality of my manuscript.
Amid this critique discussing the good, the bad, and the downright awful, Sharon dropped a line that would mold my writing even more. She advised to invest in a course run by Margie Lawson, a teacher responsible for transforming many so-so writers into successful authors.
Since I had little to lose, I enrolled. Over the next three years I participated again and again, and Margie’s insights filtered through to me and into my next book and the book after that. Thanks to her, I twist clichés like it’s the 1950s and employ a wide range of voice cues, while putting body parts through painful acrobatics to show a character’s emotional state. Her personal feedback cemented my new-found understanding of language.
After Margie Lawson’s courses I moved on to Mary Buckham and many other wonderful instructors. Word after word, my style improved. In fact, it improved so much I was offered a contract for DIVIDE AND CONQUER almost as soon as I typed ‘The End.’
Stuff just got real. Shoot. My once casual pastime had morphed into a hobby with deadlines. What next?
Publishing a book is a slow process, where long periods of rest alternate with moments of panicked frenzy. In my off-time, I returned to GUARDED, the book I’d first sent to Sharon. The story’s characters occupied a place in my heart, and I couldn’t wait to dive into what became the mother of all edits. Yup, almost every sentence needed a re-write. The contrast between before and after more than once made me well up. It wasn’t that I used to be atrocious. I just wasn’t…good enough, an affliction that befalls many hopeful writers.
During my many hours of editing, the how-to books, now languishing on my shelves, mingled with Margie’s and Mary’s explanations, and things started to make sense. As it turns out, you need to know how to write before you can learn to write fiction.
Let’s take ‘show don’t tell’ as an example. Up to that point I’d associated this adage with ‘adding description.’ In my original e-mail to Sharon I even wrote, “I have no eye for detail when it comes to places or people, so coming up with sufficient specifics for “show, don’t tell” isn’t always easy for me.” How wrong I was. Rather, this principle is about respecting your readers enough not to TELL THEM THAT your character feels a certain way, but to SHOW THE PHYSICAL CONSEQUENCES of that feeling. Not to TELL THEM THAT your character is looking at something, but to SHOW THE SCENE your character sees. More specifically, stay away from “She watched an old couple walk up the street,” and instead write “An old couple walked up the street.”
I also discovered that ‘hooking a reader’ has little to do with formulating a clever first sentence and everything to do with resolving one issue while opening up another one.
With these sparks of clarity, I edited away, simplified the plot, and soon a new story emerged, the story I should have written at the start.
Five months in, my editor returned DIVIDE AND CONQUER, and my stomach jigged. While her comments focused on strengthening the emotional impact of my scenes, my re-read uncovered that I’d also told much of the story, and hooks were largely a no-show. I changed as much as I dared and returned the manuscript, still aghast at the difference between my old version of DIVIDE AND CONQUER and my new version of GUARDED. How can a few months make such a difference?
In hindsight, I’ve become rather proud of this initial discrepancy. DIVIDE AND CONQUER was released in March. GUARDED will be out in July. I still haven’t reached the top of my game, but both novels represent the best of my ability as it stands now, and I’ve been lucky to have found readers who love them. What about the future, though? Well, I want to learn more. Much more. I want to understand what it takes to make a reader cry in as little as two hundred words, and how to deepen conflict. My fervent wish for 2020 is that I’ll be able to look back on 2015 and see room for improvement. Because the secret formula to getting published is the same as succeeding in sports. Never stop improving your game.
Be sure to leave a comment–one lucky winner gets a $15 Amazon gift certificate and also the chance to name a character in one of Carmen’s books!
DIVIDE AND CONQUER, out now
Buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U0W2BIM
GUARDED, coming July 31, 2015
About me, Carmen Fox
Carmen lives in the south of England with her beloved tea maker and a stuffed sheep called Fergus. An avid reader since childhood, she caught the writing bug when her Nana asked her to write a story. She also has a law degree, studied physics for a few years, dabbled in marketing and human resources, and speaks native-level German and fluent Geek. Her preferred niches of geekdom are tabletop games, comics, sci-fi and fantasy.
She writes about smart women with sassitude, about pretty cool guys too, and will chase that plot twist, no matter how elusive.
Expect to be kept guessing.
Visit her blog at www.carmen-fox.com.