Jan. 7, 2020: Guest Scott P. Dawson and THE ART OF WORKING REMOTELY

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My freelance pal Paula Hendrickson introduced me (electronically) to Scott when she invited me to participate in the weekly #RemoteChat on Twitter. Scott is a fantastic host, and I love being part of a group of smart, funny, resourceful, talented, compassionate people all over the world.

I wanted to know more about Scott and his book, THE ART OF WORKING REMOTELY.

Devon Ellington: What factors played into your choice to work remotely, and how long did it take for you to make the transition?

Scott Dawson: Honestly, it was a total accident. I was almost two years into my new job and I was engaged. My fiancee and I had looked at housing, commutes, and jobs, and decided that living in New York City wasn’t for us. I was honest with my boss. I told him I was about to be married and wanted to live in another area. I wanted to let him know I was going to be searching for jobs — either an internal transfer or a job with another company. I had no other angle. No other motivation. He considered what I said. After a few moments he asked, “How would you like to work from home?” I hadn’t considered that, but months later I was working out of a spare bedroom of our new Massachusetts apartment. I had a laptop, fax machine, an ISDN line (twice the speed of dialup!) and easy access to New York City if I needed to go into the office for a few days. It was couched as a 3-month trial, after which I’d return to the office if it wasn’t working out. It did work out, and I continued in that job for 17 years.

DE: Is there anything you thought was necessary before you made the switch that you discovered was not?

SD: Yes! Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. We rented a 3-bedroom apartment, thinking that I’d need a dedicated office apart from our bedroom. Another room was set aside as an art studio, since my wife loved to paint. We definitely didn’t need the third room. We didn’t have kids yet, and my wife taught most of the day. I was alone, and totally could have carved out a corner of our living room or bedroom to do my work. It’s true that having the separate room was nice, but it would have been nice to save a little money while we could, too.

DE: How has it improved both the quality of your work and your life?

SD: On the work front, I find that I can get into flow so much easier than if I were around a lot of people. I’m rather disciplined at home, and when I’m in the zone, I can be incredibly productive (I’m a web designer and developer). It’s just not the same in an office environment. The impact on my life is unquantifiable. I was there for all of those moments that mothers and fathers want to see when their kids are growing up. I got support from my family throughout the days and years, and I gave support right back. Most meals, when we’re all in the house, are at our dining room table. No commute gets in the way of me connecting with my family before and after work. All of that sums up to a lower-stress, far happier me!

DE: Do you miss anything about on-site work?

SD: I travel occasionally to the office, and so I’m reminded sometimes of the things that I miss. If you subtracted the commute, the social benefits of working alongside other people would be compelling. Going out to lunch, sharing playlists, ranting about this, or celebrating that … it’s all easier when you’re co-located. I try to fill that gap as a remote worker by being far more intentional about my social commitments. It’s important to make plans to connect with other people.

DE: Can you share one of the strangest anecdotes about working with a remote client?

SD: Sure! It’s an anecdote that, at the time, was not strange at all. Time and change have conspired to make it strange. Now, asynchronous collaboration is all the rage. Slack, social media, and other collaboration platforms vie for our attention throughout the day. These platforms enable a lot of teams to be efficiently distributed around the world. When I first started working remotely in 1998, my business counterpart and I were collaborating on a web site prototype. I updated a clickable prototype and uploaded to a server. She clicked around the prototype when she was free, and printed out the pages to mark them up with changes. Then she FAXED them to me. Yeah, it was the age of fax machines and modems, and it worked great! I made the changes, and the process repeated. She and I worked so well together, and it was the first example I can think of where asynchronous collaboration was as seamless as it could be at the time.

DE: What is your best suggestion for a person who wants to negotiate a remote work option to set out positives such as heightened productivity, better quality of work, and less sick time/lateness from commuting issues balanced against so many managers’ need to stare at their workers to make sure they’re actually working?

SD: You’ve actually cited a lot of the business benefits of remote work in the phrasing of the question. https://usefyi.com/remote-work-statistics is my go-to resource for statistics about remote work, many of which can be pretty compelling for a negotiating table. Armed with facts, you can then think about how working remotely can work in your unique situation. Perhaps suggest a trial like my manager did, and keep tabs on your output and productivity as compared to the office environment. When you do get the opportunity to work remotely, demonstrate your efficacy and highlight the big wins. If you’re more productive, make sure that they see it. Lastly, position things in terms of how it benefits the employer. Sure, you’ll derive big benefits, but the ones that seal the deal are the ones that matter most to the decision maker.

Buy Link
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733991301 or https://artofworkingremotely.com/book

— The Art of Working Remotely Excerpt

Cornell’s career center was quite an operation. New companies arrived weekly, vying for the attention of Cornell’s upcoming graduates. Microsoft. IBM. Motorola. Morgan Stanley. We were also vying for their attention! We pored over the sign-up sheets posted in Carpenter Hall. What companies seemed interesting to me? There was no real intention to this “job search.” I hadn’t thought about what I wanted so it was a scattergun approach to my professional destiny. I wasn’t prepared for some of the more technical interviews. Microsoft didn’t even call me back after my session with them. I signed up for as many interviews as I could. I knew that time spent interviewing was good practice.

I walked into the interview room at the appointed time for one of these “practice” interviews. A major bank had sent a representative to speak with job hopefuls like me. The interviewer started off with the softest of pitches over the plate. “So, Scott, what can you tell me about the private banking business?”

[… expletive]

I hadn’t prepared for this interview. Heck, I hadn’t prepared for any of these interviews. I assumed I’d talk about me, my skills, my path. Big mistake. How could I reply? As with most things in life, the truth seemed the best option and most in line with who I was.

“To be honest, I don’t know what private banking is.”

He smiled. The next half hour was surreal.

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— Author Bio
Scott Dawson lives in Trumansburg, New York with his wife Amy and two children, Elizabeth and Xander. He’s a web designer and developer and enjoys writing, acting, creating art, and making music. He’s an avid skier in the winter and runs year-round on the roads and trails of Tompkins County in upstate New York. Connect with him at scottpdawson.com or @scottpdawson.

Reader Expansion Challenge: Book by A Woman Whose Work You Haven’t Yet Read: Until You by Jeannie Moon

 

This month, the challenge was to read a book by a woman writer whose work we had not previously read.

I got some wonderful recommendations. I looked at several books; I have a huge TBR pile from those recommendations that is very exciting. Some of them are big books that will probably change my life.

Then, I saw a RT on Twitter (can’t remember from whom, but it must have been a fellow writer). It was about a writer I had never yet read named Jeannie Moon, who writes romance. A younger writer criticized her because her female protagonist is ten years older than the male love interest.

Say what?

As an unmarried woman who’s older than I ever expected to be, that offends me.

I’ve dated older; I’ve dated younger. I joke a lot about how my cut-off in dating is that don’t date a man to whom I could have technically given birth.

That’s not always true. I’ve sometimes dated men younger than that.

But, as I said, I’m older than I ever thought I’d be.

I don’t date them very young, because I don’t date boys, I date men.

Of course, there are plenty of males who are chronologically men but emotionally boys. I try to steer clear of them, too.

I hurt on behalf of Jeannie Moon, and I was offended FOR her. She gets to write whatever she wants. She writes romance. That means her characters find their Happily Ever After.

In my Gwen Finnegan series, Gwen is twelve years older than Justin. Does it cause problems? Hell, yes. Do they have great sex anyway? HELL, yes! Do they genuinely love each other? Hell, hell, HELL yes!

Granted, the Gwen Finnegan books are paranormal mysteries with romantic elements, not romance novels. But I believe everyone deserves a happy ending. A real one, not a nudge, nudge, wink, wink kind that’s paid for by old white men in Florida “spas.”

I looked over Jeannie Moon’s published books and decided to read UNTIL YOU for this month’s challenge. First, that was the book criticized. Second, the male protagonist was a professional hockey player.

I’m a huge hockey fan. I’ve written about hockey, both in fiction and by covering the sport. I even spent eight months with a minor league team (where, even then, I was already older than some of their mothers). No, I didn’t date any of them. I wasn’t even tempted, and I set strong boundaries. But I wrote about quite a few hockey players over a period of years who started out as talented boys and grew into terrific men. I’m proud of them.

I didn’t date any of them after they’d all grown up, either.

An aside: I once brought a date to one of the games. We went to the bar where we all hung out after the games. My date and I sat on our own, but I brought him over to introduce him to the players. As we walked away, I looked back at the table, and a handful of the guys with whom I was closest looked horrified and shook their heads. When I went to the rink the next day, they sat me down and gave me a serious talking to about how this guy was entirely wrong for me, and they were worried.

I’d already figured that out. But I thought they were adorable to care.

Back to Jeannie Moon’s book.

I really liked it. It was charming and funny. She’d done her research. She got the hockey right and the teamwork right and some of the not-so-nice aspects right. She got various settings right and they sang, supporting the story.

There was one plot development where I thought the book would lose me, because I am sick and tired of that choice being the endgame in too many books, especially romance novels. But then, it took a sad and poignant twist. The way the characters dealt with it was beautiful and true to their core integrity, and made me care about them even more.

The antagonists were drawn a bit too broadly sometimes, and I got ahead of them. I didn’t need scenes in their POVs. The scenes were fine–the writing was good, we got insight. But I didn’t need those scenes.

But the other characters and the way they grew and loved and laughed and cried and lived and fought and supported each other — it was beautiful.

I had a smile on my face by the end of the book. I look forward to reading more of her work.

I’m sorry Jeannie Moon was attacked for writing lovely, vibrant people who genuinely love each other; but I might not have found her work otherwise. She’s definitely worth reading.

So what’s next month’s challenge?

April’s challenge is to read in a favorite genre by a new-to-you author. We reconvene to share on Tuesday, April 16th.

Please share in this post’s comments what you read this month. I’d love to add them to my TBR pile!

Yes, these posts are more essays on my emotional responses to a book than a review. That is my choice. A review serves a different purpose. The point of the Reader Expansion Challenge is to get us reading in new directions and respond emotionally as much as intellectually. These posts are not reviews. They’re discussions of reading experiences.

Jan. 15, 2019: The Reader Expansion Challenge

A Biblio Paradise Reader Expansion Challenge

Since this is a blog about the love of books and reading and book-related things, I thought it would be fun to have a Reader Expansion Challenge, where we expand our own reading and share what we’ve discovered and enjoyed.

There are a couple of caveats:

–Most months, you will be asked to read a book by an author you haven’t read before in any of your regularly-read genres; a new-to-you author whose work you want to try.

–If you’re moving out of your regularly-read genres, and there’s a familiar author you trust across genres, that’s a great starting point.

–Extra kudos if it’s published by a small press and is by an author that’s not yet well-known, but don’t feel hemmed in by the suggestion.

–You CANNOT promote your own books. That’s not what this is about. This is about finding great books outside of your normal reading experience and sharing them. It’s not self-promotion for writers. This site has special dates for that. Although it’s a great way for writers to support each others’ work and find new living authors to support.

–Your discoveries and comments go on the main blog page on the designated page for that part of the challenge. Just post a few paragraphs about how you chose the book/author, your response to the book, and what you learned from the stretch. Please do not put it in comments on the Information page. They will be deleted.

Note: This post is on the Main Blog Page. I am setting up an additional page so people joining the party throughout the year have the information. 

–I encourage people to read books that fellow commenters enjoyed, and then share their experiences in a future post. I’ll also consider asking some of the authors to come by and do an interview, if there’s interest.

–Invite fellow readers and writers to join. Share the link. Use the hashtag #ReaderExpansionChallenge.

–Have fun with new-to-you books and authors that you discover, and that are recommended by fellow readers.

Dates:
The dates are when you POST about the book you’ve read, not when to start reading. So you should start hunting down your book now that you will post about in February!

February 19, 2019: Read a book in a genre in which you don’t normally read.

March 19, 2019: In honor of International Women’s Day (which was on March 8), read a book by a woman whose work you’ve never read before.

April 16, 2019: Read a book in your favorite genre by an author whose work you have never read.

May 21, 2019: Switch it up! If you usually read fiction, read non-fiction; if you usually read non-fiction, read fiction.

June 18, 2019: Read a stage play. NOT a screenplay. It can be one you’ve seen, or one you haven’t. Libraries often carry play scripts, or can order them. Or browse Drama Book Shop or Samuel French or second hand bookshops. Note the difference between reading the script and watching the play.

July 16, 2019: Read a book of poetry. If you don’t usually read poetry, you have a wealth of choices. If you love reading poetry, try a new-to-you poet.

August 20, 2019: Re-read a favorite book from childhood. How have your perceptions changed? How do you feel about it now?

September 17, 2019: Read an anthology of short stories in your favorite genre that contains new-to-you authors (and it can also contain familiar ones). Are you going to read longer works by any of these authors?

October 15, 2019: Read something Halloween/Samhain-oriented in any genre you wish, by a new-to-you author.

November 19, 2019: Read something with a family-oriented theme, in any genre, that you haven’t read before.

December 17, 2019: Read a winter-holiday-themed book, in any genre, that you haven’t read before (and feel free to share any favorite winter holiday-themed books you read over and over again).

What next?

Read a book in a genre in which you don’t normally read about, and post about it on the February 19th post that will go up on this page!

 

The Versatile Colin Galbraith

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If you want to experience a truly versatile writer, spend some time with Colin Galbraith. He does it all: Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, web design, business writing. AND he’s the creator/editor/publisher of the new literary ezine THE RANFURLY REVIEW.

He’s one of those writers who can combine talent and skill with humor and professionalism. On top of that, he’s a loyal friend — which means he also tells you when you’re wrong!

His blog on the writing life, Freedom From the Mundane is a must-read, whether you’re an aspiring writer or a published one. In addition to commenting on the ups and downs of the writing life, he also opens windows onto moments of life in Edinburgh and beyond. Both Fringe Fantastic and Poolside Poetry portray everything from the ordinary to the absurd with stylish wordsmithery and wicked humor. His regular contributions to both The Scruffy Dog Review literary magazine and the SDR blog are delightful for both their range and their insight.

I liked his serialized novel Hunting Jack so much that I have a character in one of my novels read it on a flight!

If you haven’t made the literary acquaintance of this author yet, I encourage you to hop on over to one of the many links in this post and start reading. You won’t be sorry!

And come back tomorrow, when we chat with him!

Bio:

Colin Galbraith is the Chief Editor and Publisher of The Ranfurly Review, and an Associate Editor at The Scruffy Dog Review. He has published short stories, poems, non-fiction articles and reviews, in both print and online publications.

His novel, Hunting Jack, was serialised in 2004 by a US-based publisher, and his first chapbook, Fringe Fantastic: The Poet’s Experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was published in paperback in December 2005 to critical acclaim. Poolside Poetry was his second paperback, published in March 2007.

He has published three e-books of poetry; Brick by Brick (2005), Silly Poems for Wee People Vol.1 (2006), and Selektion (2007). He edited his first anthology, Full Circle – An ARS Concordia Anthology in 2007.

He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and daughter, and his website can be found by logging on to www.colingalbraith.co.uk

Interview with Hazel Statham

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Yesterday, you read my review of Hazel’s new novel, My Dearest Friend (scroll down to the post below if you haven’t yet read it). Today, you have a chance to sit in on a chat with the author.

DE: What is it about this time period that intrigues you?

HS: I love the romance and elegance of the Regency and Georgian periods and it is this that inspires me to attempt to recreate it in my work. History has always fascinated me but it is these two eras that I find the most inspiring.

DE: What sort of research do you do for your books?

HS: I have several reference books and have been an avid reader of Historical Fiction since in my teens. Also, the internet is an invaluable tool and I can spend hours perusing the various historical reference sites.

DE: Have you ever come across a piece of information while you researched one book (such as an anecdote or the contents of a letter) that inspired something completely different, and how did you follow through with it?

HS: Very often I find just snippets of things that start the creative process going. The theme for ‘The Portrait’ came from just one line from a song in the film Hawks : ‘I want to be the man that you think I am’. This inspired all kinds of ideas. The beginning of My Dearest Friend came from a dream, which I expanded on. One element of the story came on me quite by surprise as I just found the words coming out of the sergeant’s mouth and then went with the flow. It just added extra depth to the story.

DE: Do you find anything particularly liberating in this time period? If so, what?

HS: It takes me away from the harshness of the present century and allows me, if only briefly, to escape into the world of my characters and live within the mores of the age. I hope this is what my readers experience too.

DE: One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the book was how the friendship developed into love, instead of love following irritation. What inspired you to make this choice, and did you get a hard time for re-inventing the formula in such a positive way from anyone?

HS: I’m pleased you enjoyed the book. I don’t write to a formula. I write what I would like to read and develop the plot accordingly. In fact, when I was writing Robert and Jane’s story, I wasn’t aware that I had strayed from the norm. I know now that I diverted from the usual guidelines for the genre, but was unaware of it at the time of writing, I don’t think I’ve followed it with any of my works. Each one has its own story to tell and none are similar. I guess I wasn’t aware that I was taking a risk in their composition. As yet, no one has commented on it

DE: What are you working on now (if you’re at the stage where you can talk about it)?

HS: My current work-in-progress is going slowly at the moment as I have a lot of research to do. It’s still a Regency but that is its only similarity to anything else I have written. I can’t really divulge its theme, only that it is the story of a young bride who absconds from her husband after just one month of marriage. Her reasons are what drives the story. However, you can be assured of a happy ending.

Thank you, Hazel!

Bio: Hazel Statham lives in Staffordshire, England. She started writing at fifteen and has written on and off ever since. She has always been fascinated by history and writes mainly in the Regency and Georgian eras, although she has been known to occasionally stray into Medieval times. Writing is a compulsion she just can’t ignore and her work has been mainly influenced by Heyer, Bronte and Austen, although over the years, she has read many authors who have inspired her. When she was a child, she often told herself stories and this just progressed to committing them to paper to entertain family and friends. However, there have been gaps in her writing years where marriage and employment have intervened, but now that she no longer works, she is able to return to her first love and devote her time to writing. She had her first two novels published in 2005.

She has been married to her husband, Terry, since 1969 and have a grown daughter and beautiful grandson. Apart from reading and writing historical novels, her other ruling passion is animals and until recently, she was treasurer for an organisation that raised money for animal charities. She currently shares her home with a lovely yellow Labrador named Lucy, who is her constant companion. Lucy is a real sweetie, but it’s not always easy working at the computer with a large Labrador trying to get on your knee!

Her website is www.hazel-statham.co.uk

Her books is available at the Wings Press website.

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To read more about the ups and downs of the freelance writing liffe, visit Ink in My Coffee.

Review: My Dearest Friend by Hazel Statham

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My Dearest Friend
By Hazel Statham. KY: Wings e-Press Inc. 2008. $6 Download; $11.95 Paperback.

My Dearest Friend traces the growth of the love between Jane Chandler and Robert Blake, the Duke of Lear. Jane requests the Duke’s assistance in returning her wounded brother back from Portugal to England. The Duke, riddled with guilt because he could not save his own brother from the conflict, is more than eager to help. Along the way, they encounter adventure, treachery, illness, and find out that the Duke’s brother has a now-orphaned child. What starts as friendship blossoms into love between Jane and the Duke as they support each other through this difficult time. It’s when they are home and married that trouble brews, most of it caused by the tenant now renting Jane’s former home. How they are torn apart and fight to find a way back together over rocky emotional terrain makes a lively, warm, and intriguing read.

Regency historicals are tricky; Statham takes us beyond the confines of the genre in the best possible way with her depiction of the genuine friendship and caring that forms the basis for their love, instead of one party simply being determined to “tame” the other. The mutual respect and regard for each other makes this a cut above most books in the genre.

Bio: Hazel Statham lives in Staffordshire, England. She started writing at fifteen and has written on and off ever since. She has always been fascinated by history and writes mainly in the Regency and Georgian eras, although she has been known to occasionally stray into Medieval times. Writing is a compulsion she just can’t ignore and her work has been mainly influenced by Heyer, Bronte and Austen, although over the years, she has read many authors who have inspired her. When she was a child, she often told herself stories and this just progressed to committing them to paper to entertain family and friends. However, there have been gaps in her writing years where marriage and employment have intervened, but now that she no longer works, she is able to return to her first love and devote her time to writing. She had her first two novels published in 2005.

She has been married to her husband, Terry, since 1969 and have a grown daughter and beautiful grandson. Apart from reading and writing historical novels, her other ruling passion is animals and until recently, she was treasurer for an organisation that raised money for animal charities. She currently shares her home with a lovely yellow Labrador named Lucy, who is her constant companion. Lucy is a real sweetie, but it’s not always easy working at the computer with a large Labrador trying to get on your knee!

Her website is www.hazel-statham.co.uk

Her books is available at the Wings Press website.

Baby Got Books!

How exciting to open the door yesterday afternoon, as I was trying to meet deadlines, and find a pile of books waiting for me!

Betsy Ross: Quaker Rebel by Edwin Satterthwaite Parry was published in 1930, and is the only biography of Ross for adults I’ve ever found. I remembered reading it while I was in high school and have tried to track it down ever since. I finally did, through Alibris.

A theatre friend of mine sent me some books she thought I would enjoy, and boy is she right:

The Wrong Horse by William Murray. I’ve read this book several times, but didn’t have a copy of my own. I love it. It’s about the horses he shouldn’t have bet on at the race track, but fell in love with anyway. I’ve got a copy of his companion book, The Right Horse, and he’s written some racing-based mysteries that are great fun.

Saratoga Hot, little novels by Hortense Calisher. She is a new-to-me author, and the title alone sounds delicious. I look forward to reading it!

Agincourt by Christopher Hibbert, about Henry V’s famous victory. I’m fascinated by the period, and can’t wait to read it.

Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. I have Froud’s Faeries’ Oracle, which is a very powerful deck, and I’m interested in the book.

So, these go into the stack, to be alternated with the books I HAVE to read for various assignments.

Woo-hoo! Getting books is always the best!

Interview with Cat Muldoon, author of RUE THE DAY

Yesterday, you saw my review of Rue the Day. Today’s the chance to chat a bit with the author, Cat Muldoon:

DE: Rue the Day’s mythological inspirations were intriguing. Do you find Celtic mythology particularly inspiring? Do you have a favorite myth, either in the Celtic or another pantheon?

CM: Oh yes I adore the Celtic stories, culture and music. It is difficult to choose only one story from that tradition. The music inspires me (when done well). While writing Rue the Day, I always had Celtic music going: Iona, Silly Wizard, Clannad, piobrach, Lorena McKennit, and others. That’s not mythology, you say? But often the songs are based on the old stories. As a matter of fact, a song about a human man taking in a wounded Selkie female and tending her wounds inspired my short story “Seal Skins” in WomanScapes, which got published on its first venture through the mail.

I love the Selkie. They are often called the sealfolk. They have a seal skin for water, and they can zip it off and take on human form. They often do this to enjoy … shall we say dalliance… with humans and known to be ardent lovers and fierce protectors. I have never lived near an ocean and cannot give any explanation (in terms of here and now) that I would find the Selkie so engaging, but there you have it. In Faerie (in my books) there are selkie as well, but they do not slip out of their skins as in the human world. They shimmer from one form to the other.

Celtic knotwork (interlace design) appears on the surface to be merely artistic, but there are deeper layers of meaning to it which I enjoyed playing with in the novel. The Faerie castle is an interwoven knotwork design, but spiritually, it speaks of the interconnectedness of all life. So although this is not from a specific story, it is part of the Celtic magical and mythic culture.

DE: Why do you think myths speak to us so deeply?

CM: Stories touch our soul and myths even more. They speak to us on a deep primal level. Also I believe they touch us because no matter who we are or where we live, the stories are similar. Oh certainly they have cultural differences and such, but they are uniting. Joseph Campbell studied the legends and myths of the world for decades, and he discovered that there is a common story among all humanity, which he called the “monomyth” or the hero’s journey. All the heroes of the world tread the same path of self discovery, and it is the same path that you and I walk when we accept the challenge and allow ourselves to become the hero in our own life. If this touches you, read The Hero with A Thousand Faces or The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell.

DE: Are you a trained herbalist, or did you research extensively for the book? What were some of your favorite sources on herbalism?

CM: I am self-trained, and I did no research for the book, which goes to say that so much is already within me that I did not have to look things up. I did check out some photos of rue and double-check my memory on a couple things, but that was it. I have no formal training. A brush with death from medication given me as a child caused me to seek out natural remedies. At the time, there was no internet and there were precious few books on the topic – and no, I am not THAT old. Also my spiritual tendencies to follow the seasons and honor the land and its creatures have led me to a curiosity about plants.

You asked for herbalism references, which I provide below, but there is a great deal of healing work in the book, so I am including some other references that may be of value. Also you can truly learn a method of personal shielding from the book.

Aromatherapy:
Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan and Jos A. Smith
Magical Aromatherapy by Scott Cunningham
Complete Aromatherapy Handbook by Susanne Fischer-Ruzzi
The Aromatherapy Bible by Gill Farrer-halls
Energy Medicine by Donna Eden, David Feinstein and Carolyne Miss
Anything by Carolyn Myss
Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham
Practical Herbalism by Philip Fritchey
The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman
The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism edited by Malcolm Stuart

DE: Will we learn more about Lynx magic in the next books? Will Aislinn have the opportunity to learn it and use it? The choice of Lynx as Aislinn’s house and the use of Bree are interesting.. In the Medicine cards, Lynx is the secret-keeper, and in the Druid Animal Oracle, Cat is a guardian, and I like the way you layered those associations in the book.

CM: Oh my, I am deeply impressed. There are so many interwoven aspects of the book that may go unnoticed by most. I appreciate your perceptiveness. In my version of faerie, the people are organized into clans which they call Households. Some are named after animals, such as the Lynx, and some after trees, such as the Willow. Faeries do not all look like shrunken Irishmen. They are as diverse as humans. There is a reason for this that I hint at in the book. But I digress.

I chose the Lynx consciously because of their association and also because Aislinn, our heroine, shows the catlike traits of her Household even though she has never known her true nature. Bree has a special role which I will not reveal. You know this already, Devon. Your readers will find out about him when they read the book. It will not be until the third book that she discovers how to use the magic peculiar to her Household. She will fight against learning how to use any magic at all in the second book.

DE: What kind of process did you use to world-build and create this particular land of Faerie and Selkie? Do you outline, do you create collages of visuals, and how did you put it together for this particular story?

CM: I created the world in my head and in my senses. Writing a book is a total experience for me, and I believe this comes out for the reader. I am mostly blind, so collages are a bit of a challenge, but I waited until the aspects of the world became clear to me before writing them. According to “the way it’s done” in typical fantasy, I suppose I should create a map, but if I did it would look a mess, and I feel my location kinesthetically. This also allows me to let you feel along as you see, smell and hear the world around you. I have notes about the land just as I do about the characters.

The castle is something I am particularly pleased with. Pity is that I’m not allowed to share that excerpt (at least not in written form) because of the publisher’s rules, but you can listen to me read that section on my website. The castle is a living organism, not a “building.” It also has an unusual shape. Rather than having the typical floors with stairs, it depicts Celtic knotwork. There appears to be no beginning or end. You know by the plants covering the walls where you are in the castle. The various rooms do not have printed signs, but there is a piece of what on this side of the mists we would call Celtic Knotwork with a design in the center. The kitchen door has a design of a pot artistically woven into knotwork, for example.

The first book takes place mostly around the castle and in the sea, some distance away, as well as at the elusive boundarylands between the human world and Faerie that are only perceptible when the mists are up.

The undersea world of the Selkie is hinted at in Celtic lore but not described. I had great fun considering what the needs of a sentient underwater species would be in terms of shelter, food and so forth as well as their sensibilities and artistic nature. So when you read about the Selkie home, you can gain a great deal of insight into them as a people, just as you can when you read about the Faerie castle.

DE: What is a typical writing day for you? Is it difficult to set boundaries, or have you organized your life to support the writing?

CM: I have another life outside of writing, so it is generally late at night that I get the chance to write, and I’ve been known to be typing while half asleep. Of course, since I use a speech program to hear what’s happening on the screen, this works out reasonably well. My dream is to be able to support myself from my writing and speaking .

DE: What advice would you give to writers early in their careers, who are having trouble making the time to write?

CM: I’ve certainly made the mistake of letting life get in the way. Goodness, I never even meant to write a novel when I wrote one! But even at that I did fairly well at my goal of producing a short story a month. Now for 2008 I’m going for 2 short stories a month written and circulating plus the 2 next books in the Undercover Heir series.

I would say set a goal and figure out what you need to produce each week to make it. Also be sure to read good quality books, some in your genre and some things you would probably never imagine yourself reading, because that way you can improve more skills and broaden your horizons.

I believe that the reason my book appeals even to people who would never consider picking up a fantasy novel is that I read other kinds of fiction, from horror to romance to children’s books to science fiction to the occasional mundane book (not my favorite generally), and it makes my writing stronger. I never lock myself into “the fantasy formula” or any other, because I read diversely. But it is only once you understand the structure that you can break the rules successfully.

And in case you’re wondering how I read books as a blind person, I get books on audiotape from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. They’re great but very behind. I’m still waiting for book 7 of the Harry Potter series and the last book in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. However, if you know anyone in the states who is losing their vision, please get them hooked up. http://www.loc.gov/nls/ will get you to the appropriate branch for your state.

DE: How does your tai-chi practice influence your writing practice?

CM: What I do most of the time would better be called energy-centered movement than the true practice of tai chi. When I take time in meditation to breathe or breathe and move, wonderful ideas present themselves to me. I have dreamed stories before. Two of those are currently in circulation (seeking a publisher). A “daydream” (waking meditation) also inspired some of “Seal Skins,” which will be a 3-part set of short stories that form a novel once I get the other two finished.

I take some deep breaths and expect a story before bed, and I always get them, occasionally in dreams, but one way or another the ideas are flowing more than I could possibly ever have time to write them all. I laugh at writer’s block, because I think it is something writers talk themselves into when they don’t know how to jumpstart their brain.

Breathing and feeling the connections between all things, such as experiences that happen to me, people I meet, nature, etc., I open myself to abundant creativity.

DE: Rhoedrie and Eliatha are two of my favorite characters in the book, and I hope to see more of them in the next two books of the trilogy. Would you ever consider placing Rhoedrie at the center of his own book, such as his time away from his homeland during his training? The hints about it in Rue the Day are intriguing. Or would you consider short stories with some of Eliatha’s previous experiences?

CM: Ooh you just made me smile big. Thank you! Yes I have considered both those options. The characters are so real to me that if the readers are willing, I could easily write a number of spin-offs. Both characters will appear in the next two books. Most of the people you have met in Rue the Day will be in the next books, plus of course a few new ones.

Let me pause here and mention that Rhoedrie is a healer who has spent time away from his people (who scarcely EVER travel away from their own) to pursue new methods of healing. He is just returning to Faerie as the events of the story unfold. He is an Empath, which for the uninitiated means that he feels the emotions and pain of those around him. Rhoedrie very much likes the idea of a book centered around his adventures.

Eliatha is the premier Bard. A bard in Celtic tradition is a musician-storyteller-historian. If you look to the tales of Taliesin (often called Merlin), you will see an example of a bard. She keeps the history of Faerie and has a love interest in one of the other characters. Although she may seem to be a bit of a “hot house flower,” she has a bold spirit.

Devon, what is it about each of these characters that captivates you?

DE: Rhoederie’s spirit is captivating. He’s an empath, but he doesn’t let strong emotions or his reactions to those emotions stop him in his tracks. He finds a way to keep going, to overcome obstacles, in order to find a positive solution. He’s not afraid to think outside the box, to find out how things really work rather than sticking to the status quo, and that’s something I find appealing both in fictional characters and in people. Eliatha intrigues me not just because she’s a female bard, but because I feel we haven’t yet seen the full range of her intelligence and resources. A bard has to have an extraordinary memory and the ability to communicate sensory details and enthrall an audience. Those gifts can be used in many ways. I want to see her actively using them more. So often in this book she is reacting instead of initiating, and my sense of her is that there are so many more layers that we have yet to see, which I assume will come forward in the two next books! After all, you can’t put it all in the first one, can you? 😉

CM: One of my favorites is Fiona, who is Aislinn’s bodyguard and helper. She has definitely had some adventures that I would love to let her tell. I am also quite fond of the Selkie Corlath, who at first has little use for Faeries but because of knowing Aislinn he must face his disgust.

DE: Fiona cracks me up because she’s part warrior, part favorite aunt, and that combination makes her endearing. I’m looking forward to seeing how Corlath develops. Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!

Visit Cat Muldoon’s website, or visit Wings ePress to learn more about her and to buy the book.

Upcoming author visits:

Jan. 9 & 10: Hazel Statham
Jan. 17 & 18: Colin Galbraith

For the daily ups and downs of one freelance writer’s life, visit Ink in My Coffee.

If you need help in setting the goals for your writing career, check out the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions for 2008 up on Wordish Wanderings until the 31st of the this month, and join us in the journey meeting them in 2008 on Ink in My Coffee.

Rue the Day by Cat Muldoon

Rue the Day: The Undercover Heir Book I
By Cat Muldoon. KY: Wings ePress Books. 2007. ISBN 978-1-59705-218-4. Digital Format $6. Paperback $11.95.

Cat Muldoon has created an alternate universe that sometimes collides with ours. Lynne searches for her runaway cat, Bree, in the fog. After spending years in foster care, Bree is her one true comfort. She finds Bree, but is also found by Cian, who claims to be her kinsman and calls her “Aislinn”, the name her mother called her years ago before disappearing in a similar mist, abandoning Lynne. Cian has come to return Aislinn to her true home, the land of Faerie, because her mother, Neala, is very ill. The weaker Neala grows, the weaker Faerie magic grows; both Cian and Aislinn’s father, King Nevin, are afraid of a coup attempt to restore the magic.

Forced to hide her identity as the Princess, but brought forward as a representative of the House of Lynx with the right to take over the Queen’s care, Aislinn is plunged into politics, intrigue, magic, and machinations unlike anything she’s ever known. She must find a way to restore the Queen’s health and defeat whoever is trying to destroy the kingdom. With allies such as Cian, his lover the bard Eliatha, the healer Rhoedrie, her guardian Fiona, the silversmith Bryan, the Selkie Khadri, and, of course, Bree, Aislinn has to learn the customs and nuances of Faerie to save both her mother’s life and her parents’ kingdom. She learns that the fey rely on intuition and consider her blocked and somewhat damaged; whereas she can combine the intuitive street smarts she picked up during her hard-knock life, and combine it with her use of the five traditional senses to come up with solutions and ideas to dilemmas facing the kingdom.

Deeply rooted in Celtic, animal totem, and Selkie mythologies, Muldoon has spun a tale rife with love, lust, greed, and the need to discover who one can trust and whom one can love. Beautiful touches such as the strong characterizations of the animals and clever uses of traditional knot work and herbs add both depth and whimsy to the book.

Bio: Cat Muldoom sharpens her claws and her wit daily. Her varied interests include singing, teaching, cooking, archery, and tai chi. Most of her stories are romance, paranormal, futuristic, science fiction, fantasy, and suspense. But with Cat, you never know what she’ll dream up next. Several projects are in the works. And yes, Cat adores felines. She has two of them. Visit her website at www.CatMuldoon.com.

To purchase the above book, visit Cat’s website, or visit Wings ePress

And come back tomorrow, for an interview with the author!

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Want more on the ups and downs of the writing life? Visit Ink in My Coffee.

Favorite Books of the Past Quarter

Here are some of my favorite books from the past few months’ reading. While they may not have been published in the last few months, I’ve read them in the time period. And they stayed with me long past turning the final page. I’ve been fortunate to read many excellent books in the past months, but these are stand-outs.

Bridge of Dreams by Chaz Brenchley. A lyrical, beautiful fantasy novel.

Hell’s Belles by Jackie Kessler. Urban fantasy extraordinaire, with succubus Jezebel on the run from Hell, learning what it means to be human.

The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers. A fascinating, compelling book about myth, reincarnation, and love.

A Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky. One of the cleverest, warmest, funniest books I’ve read about the magic of love in a long time!

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields. A lovely, sensitive, thorough, and respectful (in the best possible sense) biography of this woman who insisted on running her career on her own terms, and not bowing to outside pressure.

Diaries of Lavinia Riker Davis. These diaries, edited and privately published by her family, are a wonderful portrait of this author who wrote mostly children’s books in the 1940s and 1950s.