Monday, July 30, 2012

An Interview with Jennette Marie Powell

I am pleased to have talented author Jennette Marie Powell with me today!  She’ll be sharing what inspires her work, as well as some great advice about self-publishing.
Jennette Marie Powell

Jennette has written the exciting time travel adventures Time’s Enemy and Time’s Fugitive.  These are books one and two of her Saturn Society Series, and they’ll appeal to anyone who loves science fiction, romance and history!

Jennette is an awesome storyteller and meticulous researcher. As I read Time's Enemy, I was thoroughly entertained by the story, and fascinated by the history!  

I met Jennette through OVRWA and had the opportunity to listen to her present some great information as part of a self-publishing panel. I thought what I learned from her would be well worth sharing!

1. Before jumping into your recent works and info on self-publishing, I’d like to know how long you’ve been writing. 
I wrote my first story when I was seven, about my best friend and her family! I think it filled maybe half of one of those note card-sized spiral notebooks. :)  I also wrote in high school and in college – I earned a minor in Creative Writing – but started really writing – as in, for publication, in 1999.

2. Time’s Enemy is a sci-fi romance with historical elements.  It takes place in Dayton, Ohio and you’ve incorporated some very interesting Dayton history.  Are you a native of Dayton, and is that why you placed the story there?
I’ve lived in the Dayton area all my life, so yes, that had something to do with it! I originally was going to set it elsewhere – maybe Columbus – because I didn’t think I could sell a story set in Dayton. But my characters had other ideas, so I figured what the heck! Doing the research was what brought about my love of local history.

An unwilling initiate in a secret society of time travelers breaks its highest law by changing the past, risking death and betrayal by the woman he loves.

3. Unwilling time traveler Tony Solomon is back in Time’s Fugitive. Can we expect more volumes in the Saturn Society Series?
I’m currently working on a short story that’s a prequel to the series. As for more novels – maybe! Right now, I have so many ideas clamoring to be written, and already planned for 2013. But I do love the SS novels, and can certainly see another one – maybe more – down the road. I left a few doors open just so I could do that!

4. Your premise of the protagonist being a reluctant time traveler, who then becomes willing, only in order to manipulate the past for love, is a fascinating one! What inspired that idea?
It pretty much developed organically from the characters. Time’s Enemy was the novel where I learned my process—what works for me, and what doesn’t. I tried writing without an outline at first, and while I basically ended up with 600 pages of mostly rambling with no end in sight, I did learn a lot about my characters and had fun. Reining it in with a plan saved it and gave me a place to end the first book, and ended up working out for the best. My characters still surprise me, but mostly do it in the outlining stage now.

 Framed for murder, an unwilling time traveler will do anything to protect the woman he doesn’t want to love and their unborn child.  But when they escape much farther into the past than planned, their troubles are only beginning—and secrets can get them killed.

5. Do you have another series in the works?
I actually have a couple others, both with just one book. This is because in traditional publishing, we never know if we’ll sell the series, so the common wisdom says to write one book that can stand alone, and if it sells and the publisher asks for others, then write the others. One is a historical science fiction romance book set in Dayton in 1905, the other is my next release.

6. What is your next release and when is it due out?
My next release is Hangar 18: Legacy, a contemporary science fiction military romance with a suspense element. It’s set on Wright Patterson Air Force Base – where according to legend, alien bodies and spacecraft from the Roswell incident was taken. It’s about a psychic AF researcher and the skeptical developer of mind-control software who must team up to rescue an imprisoned extraterrestrial thought dead for decades. I haven’t set a specific date for release, but I’m planning to have it out sometime this fall.

7. Tell us about your self-publishing journey. What motivated you to take that leap?
Once self-publishing became a viable means of distribution and reaching readers, it seemed the perfect choice. After years of rejection—most of which were on the lines of “your writing’s good, but I can’t sell this—I realized that what I was writing was too niche for a big publishing company to take a chance on. But with self-publishing, a book has all the time it needs to find an  audience, and the author can still earn a nice bit of money over the long haul—while offering great stories to readers for reasonable prices.

8. Tell us about your background, and how that’s helped you in self publishing.
My college degree, and the first ten years of my professional life, were spent in graphic design. When the Internet started to really take off, I knew that was the future, so I transitioned into web design, and eventually programming. Both have served me well, as I design my own book covers and book interiors, and format my ebooks! This was another reason why self-publishing was a no-brainer for me. :)

9. For self-published print copies, would you share your opinion on Lightning Source and Createspace, and let us know what’s the most advantageous choice for techies and non-techies.
There’s potential for more money with Lightning Source, as they allow authors to set the retailer’s cut as low as 20%. CreateSpace’s retailer cuts are fixed at 40% for sales through Amazon, and 60% for sales through other retailers. But Lightning Source’s pricing advantage comes at a cost: $75 in setup fees, you must supply your own ISBN, and their technical specifications are more exacting, which can cost $40 each time a change (or a mistake) is made. I typically recommend Lightning Source if you are a graphic designer experienced in print, or are working with a cover artist who is. Otherwise, CreateSpace is much easier, much cheaper, and the quality and print fees for author copies are comparable.

10. What advice do you have for anyone thinking about self-publishing?
Learn your craft first! Odds are, your first book won’t be ready for publication, even if you think it is. I know mine wasn’t, even though it was contracted by an e-publisher! I wrote six books before I published myself. The sixth was actually a complete rewrite of that first book, so even though the first one may not be publishable when you first write it, that’s not to say it isn’t later. But either way, always keep learning and improving your craft!

Jennette, thanks so much for joining me today and sharing some great information with us! To visit Jennette, go to Time’s Enemy and Time’s Fugitive are now available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Click here to order and read more about Jennette’s books!

Now it's your turn, what inspires your writing? Also, are you self published or considering self-publishing? If so, are you technical or non-technical? What's been your experience?

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Barbecued Ribs: Easy and Delicious

Oven Baked Ribs: Unbelievable Easy!
I love barbecue, but I can't imagine enjoying it while being laced up in a corset and wearing a frilly dress!  It's too messy and too filling.  Remember that scene in Gone With the Wind where Mammy helps Scarlett dress for the Twelve Oaks barbecue?   

Mammy:  “I done told you and told you, you can always tell a lady by the way she eats in front of people - like a bird. And I ain't aimin' to have you go over to Mista John Wilkes' house and eat like a field hand and gobble like a hog,”

Scarlett:  Fiddle dee-dee! Ashley Wilkes says he likes to see a girl with a healthy appetite.

"Every girl has the right to eat and enjoy barbecue!"

Click here to watch the entire scene.  Thank goodness times have changed.  Nowadays it’s healthy for a girl to have a healthy appetite.  We’ve learned to depend on exercise and eating right to maintain our shapes rather than imprisoning ourselves in corsets, and we can wear shorts and a t-shirt to a picnic instead of our Sunday best!

Barbecued ribs are one of my favorite dishes, and I’ve only learned recently—at my thirteen year old's insistence—how to prepare them!  This is cookout season and Labor Day picnics are right around the corner.  It’s the perfect time for ribs—and it doesn’t matter if they’re grilled or baked! 

I found this awesome recipe at! These ribs are amazing and super easy, so I hope you’ll give them a try.  Yeah, I know, ribs aren’t healthy or low fat, but it’s okay to splurge once in a while, so enjoy!

Low & Slow Oven Baked Ribs


2 racks of baby back ribs or St. Louis Style ribs
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I use Montgomery Inn)


Preheat oven to 225

Season ribs with Dale’s marinade your favorite rib rub (I use this fantastic Kansas City Rub), grill seasoning or just salt and pepper

Place ribs meat side down in baking dish (I buy a huge aluminum pan for this)

Cover dish with aluminum foil and place in oven

If using small baby back ribs, take out of oven after 3.5 hours.  If using regular baby back or St. Louis style, take out after 4

Drain off drippings. Flip meat over using two spatulas so the meat side is up. Put a layer of BBQ sauce on ribs, and return to oven for 20-30 minutes.

Great with baked beans and slaw!

If you’ve read The Governor’s Sons (here's the Kirkus Review), you’ve probably determined that I love writing about food.  And anyone who likes writing about food loves eating, too!  My second book, Escape: Book One of the Unchained Trilogy, is due out next month. Like The Governor’s Sons, it takes place in the South, but the time period is 1856.  Since I’d elaborated so much about food in Escape, a friend of mine, who’d critiqued it in its very early stages, suggested I include recipes.

Coming in August!
I did consider that idea, but in the end, I didn’t, and I cut out a lot of the food talk. However, I might share a few recipes of  the southern dishes mentioned in the story here on my blog. But I’ll only share versions that are quick and easy—so you’ll have more time to read and more time to write!

What’s your favorite barbecue—ribs (that's mine), shredded pork shoulder, beef brisket, chicken, something else?  And do you have a favorite BBQ recipe (rub, sauce, etc.)? 

If you don’t like BBQ, what’s your favorite grilled meat or veggie? Thanks for visiting—and happy eating!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ernest Hemingway's Iceberg Theory

I attended a fantastic workshop over the weekend presented by author Cinda Williams Chima, on creating compelling characters.  Something Ms. Chima mentioned that's helped her develop the intriguing characters of her YA fantasy novels is Ernest Hemingway's Iceberg Theory

A Young Ernest Hemingway
If you're like me, and not familiar with that theory, here's what it is, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In 1923 Hemingway conceived of the idea of a new theory of writing after finishing his short story "Out of Season". In A Moveable Feast, his posthumously published memoirs about his years as a young writer in Paris, he explains: "I omitted the real end [of "Out of Season"] which was that the old man hanged himself. This was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything ... and the omitted part would strengthen the story." In the opening chapter of Death in the Afternoon he compares his theory about writing to an iceberg.

Hemingway biographer Carlos Baker believed that as a writer of short stories Hemingway learned "how to get the most from the least, how to prune language and avoid waste motion, how to multiply intensities, and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth." Furthermore, Baker explains that in the writing style of the iceberg theory the hard facts float above water, while the supporting structure, complete with symbolism, operates out-of-sight.

The Tip of the Iceberg
So what the audience reads is only the tip if the iceberg! Just think of all the back story and info dumps you’ve cut from your finished novels and short stories. You know a lot more about your narrative than your reader ever will—and that makes for a much richer story.  In addition, all that hidden information can go into creating a sequel!

Had you ever heard of Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory? If not, have you been using it without knowing there was a term for it? Thanks for visiting!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Myrna Loy: Exotic Temptress to Refined Socialite

Before jumping into today’s post, please stop by author Michele Stegman’s blog, Thoughts From the Writer’s Block.  Michele writes historical and contemporary romantic fiction and she recently interviewed me about my novel, The Governor’s Sons.  

Michele told me that when she read The Guv it made her think, because instead of portraying blacks in the 1930’s South as poor and downtrodden, I’d chosen to portray them as college educated or in the midst pursuing college degrees.

The stereotype of blacks as poor and struggling was perpetuated in Hollywood until the advent of The Cosby Show in the 1980s!  Myrna Loy even mentioned to film executives during her Hollywood heyday, "Why does every black person in the movies have to play a servant? How about a black person walking up the steps of a court house carrying a briefcase?" (From her biography Being and Becoming).

Without further ado, onto Myrna Loy, the topic of today's post, and one of my very favorite actresses!  I thought she'd be fun to write about because of the mixed race issues I sometimes discuss here.  Although not of mixed race heritage, Ms. Loy’s early films often portrayed her as such.

Trained as a dancer, Myrna Loy devoted herself fully to an acting career following a few minor roles in silent movies. Because of her looks, she was originally typecast in exotic, mysterious roles.  However, when you think of her as the wealthy Nob Hill heiress, Nora Charles from the motion picture detective series, The Thin Man (based on Dashiell Hammett's novel by the same name) that’s hard to believe! 

It was during her silent days that she was cast mainly as vamps or femme fatales.  Although born Myrna Adele Williams in Helena, Montana (of Welsh, Scottish and Irish descent) Ms. Loy frequently portrayed characters of Asian or Eurasian background.  Some of those early films include Across the Pacific, A Girl in Every Port, The Crimson City, The Black Watch and The Desert Song. 

She later recalled that those roles "...kind of solidified my exotic non-American image." And it took years for her to overcome this stereotype.  As late as 1932 she was cast as a villainous Eurasian in Thirteen Women.  (I actually saw this movie several years ago, and Ms. Loy  played the heck out of that role!)  She also played a sadistic Chinese princess in The Mask of Fu Manchu, opposite Boris Karloff. To see some of Myrna Loy at her vampish best in Thirteen Women, click here.

Prior to her early thirties vamp roles, she had small parts in some musical films, yet because of those, she became associated with musical roles.  And when those early musicals became less popular with the public, Ms. Loy’s career declined.

In 1934, Loy appeared in Manhattan Melodrama with Clark Gable and William Powell. Gangster John Dillinger was shot to death after leaving a screening of that movie at the Biograph Theater in Chicago.  After that, the the film received widespread publicity. Some papers even reported that Loy had been Dillinger's favorite actress. (As an aside, if you haven’t seen Johnny Depp in Public Enemies as John Dillinger, that film did a great job of portraying what happened at the theater very realistically—great movie, worth renting!)

Later in 1934, Loy was cast as Nora Charles in The Thin Man.  That film's director chose her after he detected a wit and sense of humor that lay untapped in her previous films.

The Thin Man became one of  1934’s biggest hits!  It was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film.  Ms. Loy received outstanding reviews, and in addition was acclaimed for her comedic skills. She and costar William Powell became a popular screen couple and were paired in 14 films together.  Loy later said of  The Thin Man "that [film] finally made me... after more than 80 films.” What a journey she had from exotic temptress to refined socialite! 

Are you a Myrna Loy fan, too? If so, what’s your favorite Myrna Loy movie? Mine is The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer! Thanks for visiting!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Belle da Costa Green: Librarian of Mystery

No one ever thinks of a librarian as having an exciting life or harboring a scandalous secret.  However, last week I stumbled upon a very fascinating librarian that I'd never heard of. 

Belle da Costa Green's life (1883-1950) is chronicled in Heidi Ardizzone's book An Illuminated Life: Journey from Prejudice to Privilege.  What did da Costa Greene have to give up in order to achieve the dream of a lifetime?  

This sensational woman lit up New York society while working as J.P. Morgan's personal librarian, all the while, hiding a past that would have prevented her success.

In 1905, J. P. Morgan hired Belle da Costa Greene to organize his rare book and manuscript collection.  At this time, she only had a few years of experience to recommend her, along with a dynamic personality.

Ten years later, she had shaped the famous Pierpont Morgan Library collection.  She'd also become a proto-celebrity in New York and the art world, renowned for her self-made expertise, acerbic wit, and flirtatious relationships.

She has been described as a sensual and beautiful woman, known for her exotic look  and designer wardrobe.  She once said, "Just because I am a librarian, doesn't mean I have to dress like one."

Here's her secret:  Greene was born into a family African Americans.  To cover this up, she changed her name and created a Portuguese grandmother to gain entry into white society. By entering a new world, she dined at the tables of high society, as well as those of bohemian artists and activists.

J.P. Morgan left her $50,000 in his will.  Nowadays that would be around $800,000!  When asked if she was Morgan's mistress, she is said to have replied, "We tried!"

Da Costa Green never married, but had a long lasting romantic relationship with the Renaissance Italian art expert Bernard Berenson.

Fascinating story, fascinating librarian! For more insight on her, click here.

Had you ever heard of Belle da Costa Green? And by the way, do you know of any fascinating, mysterious librarians?

Thanks for visiting!