Monthly Archives: March 2011

MuseItUp! Author Interview: Nancy Bell

Today I’m proud to introduce Nancy Bell, author of the YA book Laurel’s Miracle. I chose to interview Nancy because Laurel’s Miracle struck me as a beautiful concept-but I’ll let the interview speak for itself.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Laurel’s Miracle?
Laurel’s Miracle is the story of thirteen year old girl’s journey to find a cure for her mother’s illness. There are many levels to this theme, during the course of her quest she learns many things about herself and the world around her. The children in the story deal with bullying and abuse, but they also discover the magic which exists in the world around us. The crux of Laurel’s quest is she must solve a riddle given to her by a White Lady she meets at a spring, there are many ancient and sacred springs, wells and pools in Cornwall which is where the story takes place. The riddle’s clues lead them along the earth energy lines that run across SW England from St Michael’s Mount to East Anglia. The lines are called The Michael and Mary lines, with the Michael line being the more famous of the two. They follow the clues from Mounts Bay (St. Michael’s Mount) to the Cheesewring on Bodmin Moor to Glastonbury Tor. There are lots of adventures and mythical creatures who make an appearance, a Selkie, which is a shape shifter who is either human or seal, they can be male or female, in Ireland they are called Roans, a Cornish piskie named Gwin Scawen which is Old Cornish for White Eldertree, he is very mischevious and plays a major role in the story. I have also incorporated the stories of a sea monster seen off the Cornish coast and he plays a small but important role. A Cornish giant makes a cameo appearance. There is tons of educational information threaded through the novel so readers will absorb the knowledge as part of the story. While it is geared primarily to the Middle Grade audience, there are plenty of layers which will capture the imagination of readers of any age.

2. When and how did you decide you wanted to become a writer?

I don’t think I did decide. I have always written, even when I was very young I would scribble silly stories and poetry, whatever words came into my head. Somehow, it seemed very important that I capture my thoughts on paper. I have no idea where that notion sprang from.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your poetry and how you started writing poems?

Poetry is a way to share my view of the world, I tend to see beauty and magic in any situation. I write mainly nature poetry and spiritual stuff, but not all. Some of it is just silly whimsy, but if it makes you smile then I’m happy. I write poetry mostly for myself, to capture a vision or a moment in time, if others enjoy it that’s a bonus for me. I wrote April Earth while I was walking the dogs, the plowed field was steaming in the spring sun while the snow still covered the hills. I wrote- I saw the earth breathe today… and the poem wrote itself from there. It was published in the ezine Earthsongs and is included in my self published book of poetry Through This Door. I self published it because no one is going to get rich from a book of poetry and I wanted to share my words with whoever wished to read them.

4. What advice would you give to a writer trying to write a middle grade or YA novel?

Advice would be, remember never to preach, speak with a voice which is appropriate for your target audience and try to avoid the ‘hip phrases’ as it will date your work. No teenager today wants to read a book full of “groovy” and “dude” even though in the 1960’s that was cool. Opps, now I’ve really dated myself, haven’t I?

5. How do you help yourself get back into the voice of a kid?

Oh my, I don’t think I ever quit being a kid. I listen to my grandchildren and kids in the mall as well, people watching is a great source of information and inspiration.

6. What has your path to publication looked like?

I was very lucky to have my first poems and some short stories published in the local newspaper when I was in grade school and throughout high school. I wrote lectures for Pony Club on horse care and some were published by a major publication which was a thrill. Laurel’s Miracle is my first long novel to be contracted and I am very excited about it.

7. What was the happiest moment of your writing career?

The first time I got a cheque in the mail for one of my stories. And surprisingly when I wrote the chapter that connected the pieces of Laurel’s Miracle together. I have always written in order, each chapter following the next, with Laurel my Muse would jump all over the place and I wrote the last chapter while I was part way through the story. It took me six hours straight but I just couldn’t stop until it all came out.

8. Other than writing, what interests you most?

I love horses and have always had them, I do some rehabilitation with rescue dogs and special needs horses. I love discovering the mysteries that lay right under our feet.

9. What are you reading right now?

I’m reading “Hamish Miller, A Life Devined” This is the story of Hamish Miller renowned dowser and co-author of the book The Sun and The Serpent which I discovered while researching Laurel. I had some questions so I emailed the publisher, Penwith Press and to my delight Hamish himself emailed me back. He was an amazing man and started a movement called Parallel Community which has members worldwide, the aim is to honor the earth and change the way the world is by starting with ourselves.

10. What are you working on that readers have to look forward to?

In December 2011 A Step Sideways will be released from MuseItUp Publishing. This book is a companion book to Laurel and has some of the same characters. The main character in A Step Sideways is Gort from Laurel’s Miracle and a journey within which he takes in search of his true self. It sounds stuffy when I say that, you can be sure there is lots of action and humor. Gort takes a step sideways in time and discovers he is Sir Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights. His horse, Ailim is my editor’s favorite thing in the whole book. The names have meanings, you can read more at my website Gort in particular is the name associated with the Ivy in the Celtic Tree Ogham and is associated with the spiral of discovery of self and finding your place and how you relate to the world. That is very much the journey which my character takes. Aillim means Silver Fir, the horse is a large gray war charger and so the name fits. I am also working on the story of Laurel’s grandmother, once you have read Laurel’s Miracle it will be clear why that story will be most interesting and address some unanswered questions from the subplot. I had the great pleasure of meeting with Jack Whyte at the Surrey International Writers Confernce last October when he read a short piece from A Step Sideways, it was a fight scene with the knights and horses and I really wanted an experts opinion on the fighting. Horse behaviour I know, fighting with swords and whatnot not so much. I was ecstactic when Jack gave it his approval. Definitely a high light.

Bio: Nancy Bell is proud Albertan, horsewoman, wife, mother and grandmother. She lives on a farm near Balzac, Alberta with her husband, five horses, two ponies, various dogs, cats and whatever else happens to wander into the yard. Nancy’s first poems and short stories were published while still in grade school and she won the 2009 Earthsongs Bardic Competition. Nancy works as an editor with MuseItUp Publishing a new Canadian epublisher where she enjoys the excitement of working with authors in the creative process. She also enjoys writing poetry and short stories. Nancy welcomes feedback from her readers and can be contacted at

Prompt of the Week

Today’s prompt is:


My Response:

feels like my first night
entirely alone.

All alone
I toss and turn
and my bed feels cold without you.

This isn’t how it was supposed to be.
I was supposed to see you more;
now I will only see you less.
I don’t think you know
how hard this is for me-
and a bitter part of me hopes
it will be just as hard for you.

I hope
I will never have to spend another night alone.

Your turn

Prompt of the Week

Today’s prompt is:


My response:

The village that they took me to was peaceful and unlike anything I had ever seen. The temple of Unity was the largest building in the whole town, and Ahkmar’s temple was all but abandoned, a tiny shack. There were no gold or silver coins, but the people traded with cloth and beads and food. At the center of the market there was a fountain with a beautiful woman pouring water into a large marble basin. We passed through the town and onto one of the farms. Two men were working in a field full of pumpkins and squash.

The farm itself was a big blue house with a huge porch. Two arm chairs and a coffee table sat on the porch. Nobody was in either of them. The woman knocked on the door and immediately began tapping her foot with impatience while the man stood next to me in silence. After a couple of moments a woman who was perhaps a foot shorter than I was and half a century older appeared at the door. She looked at the couple and then looked at me and raised her eyebrows.

“Where did you find her?” the old woman asked.
“We found her by the pond. She said she has left the city in search of a new home.”
“You should have told her to go to the next one,” the woman said, her voice growing cold.
I cleared my throat and stepped forward. “But I do not want to go to the next city.”

There was a long silence as the woman looked me up and down, evaluating me by some standards I did not know. She clicked her tongue a couple of times and I winced-perhaps they would send me away after all. Then she smiled.

“Then come in, my child, and tell me your story.”


Picture taken by London Looks

It would appear that St. Patty’s day celebrations got in the way of writing a proper blog post for today. I apologize for this interruption in our routine and I hope you will enjoy the series of posts I’m currently working on.

In the meantime, how do you celebrate St. Patty’s day?

Author Interview: David B. Coe

Today I’m very proud to introduce author David B. Coe. Although not too familiar with his novels, I am a big fan of David B. Coe’s work in the blogosphere, particularly on Magical Words.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your most recent book?

Actually, this is a somewhat more complicated question than it sounds. My most recent novel was actually the novelization of the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe movie ROBIN HOOD that came out last year. I was hired to turn the script into a novel, which was an interesting experience. I wasn’t allowed to change any dialogue or plot; creatively speaking I only was allowed to explore creatively in descriptive passages and internal monologue. And I only had five weeks to write a 90,000 word novel. But it was a little like playing with someone else’s toys, and so I don’t really count it as one of my books.

So, then I could say that my most recent book is THE DARK-EYES’ WAR, the final book in my Blood of the Southlands trilogy. This is an epic fantasy series, set in the same universe as my Winds of the Forelands quintet. It’s sort of a medical thriller in a medieval setting, except eventually the magical contagion sweeping across the land leads to a war. I loved writing the Southlands and Forelands books — they were filled with sorcery and politics and intrigue. Lots of fun. But THE DARK-EYES’ WAR came out in hardcover about a year ago, and while it will be released in paperback late this year, it doesn’t feel very current.

Which leads us to my third “most recent book,” which I think might be of interest to readers of your blog. I am a co-founder of, and a regular contributer to the Magical Words blog site (, a site devoted to the craft and business of writing. The original members of the site were Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, C.E. Murphy, and me. Catie Murphy is on hiatus from the site, and we have since added A.J. Hartley, Stuart Jaffe, and Edmund Schubert as regular contributers. All of us collaborated on a new writing book called, appropriately enough, HOW TO WRITE MAGICAL WORDS: A WRITER’S COMPANION, which was released by Bella Rosa Books late in December. So that is my latest project. And that’s probably more than you wanted to know….

2. When and how did you decide you were going to become a writer?

I wrote my first novel when I was six. It wasn’t very good, and I did the illustrations myself, which actually made it even worse. But I think on some level I had already decided at that time that I was going to be a writer. Creative writing was always my favorite activity in primary school; when I got to high school I managed to set into a selective writing class, and I went to college expecting that I would be a creative writing major. Things got a bit muddled at that point. I started thinking that maybe journalism would be a more practical pursuit than fiction writing. And then I fell in love with history, and decided that I would get a Ph.D. so that I could teach, and study history, and write. But I eventually decided that the academic life wasn’t exactly what I wanted, and I went back to my first love: fiction.

3. What was the first story you remember writing about?

That first novel that I wrote as a six year-old is about a pair of bald eagles who are making a nest when a hunter comes and tries to shoot them. The eagles attack the hunter and drive him off, and then go back to their nest, where they live happily ever after. The next book, also written when I was six, is about a fish named Jim who none of the other fish like. But then the other fish get trapped in a fishing net, and Jim rescues them. After that, the fish like him, and they all live happily ever after.

Clearly I was grappling with profound issues in these books; the ever-changing struggle between the natural world and humankind, the bleak tableau of the faceless masses in a harsh, capitalistic society and the redemptive power of sacrifice and selflessness. Plus, you know, kid stuff….

4. How long does it usually take you to complete a first draft?

Well, longer now that my books are about more than fish and eagles….

When I started out, I was taking the better part of a year to write my first drafts; nine months at least. But I was less confident in my writing then. I was still learning my craft. And the market was such that epic fantasies were commonly 200,000 words long. These days, I write a book in about half that time, maybe even less. (ROBIN HOOD was an obvious exception.) I’d say four months is about right for me these days. But again, I’m a much more experienced writer, and my books are now coming in at 100,000 to 120,000 words, because that’s what the market will bear.

5. Can you tell us a bit about your editing process?

I think that self-editing might be the most idiosyncratic part of the writing process. I know so many writers, and every one of us seems to have a different approach to editing our work. I tend to write somewhat slowly — maybe 1,500 to 2,000 words a day when I’m in a good rhythm — but I do a lot of polishing as I write. I’m pretty careful with my wording, with my character work, with my plotting — as all professional writers are. But I’m just OCD enough that I can’t move on to a new section of a chapter or story until I feel that what I’m working on is clean and just about how I want it. As a result, my editing process is a bit less intense than that of other people. To be clear: This isn’t because I write better drafts than others, or because I’m doing anything “right” that others are doing “wrong” but simply because I do so much of my editing along the way. So I’ll finish a draft, let it sit for a few weeks, and then go through it a couple of times to change some of the wording and make sure that my plot points fit together.

At that point, I send it off to my agent and either to my editor, or, if the book isn’t under contract yet, to a beta reader or two. Once my readers come back with comments, I’ll go back and start to rework those parts of the book that don’t seem to have worked. If the book is under contract, this revision process will be followed by copyedits and proofs. So, by the time a book goes to press, I’ve read through it and worked on it at least five or six times.

6. What did your road to publication look like?

Well, as I said before, I was in academia, thinking that I would probably get a job teaching history somewhere. But I completed my doctorate in the spring, and I had a few months before the next round of academic jobs were advertised. My wife said, “You know, since the day I met you, you’ve been talking about writing a novel. You have a few months; why don’t you start one?” And that’s what I did. I wrote a few short stories, to get the feel of the world I’d created, and the voice for the novel I wanted to write, and then I started in on the book itself. By the end of the summer, I had finished the first five chapters of what would become CHILDREN OF AMARID, my first novel. I gave the chapters and a synopsis of the rest of the book, to a friend who had been in publishing for years and years, and who had agreed to act as my agent, and he shopped my book around while I applied for history jobs.

We got a couple of rejections. But then, in March, just as I was offered a teaching position at a very good school in Colorado — my history dream job essentially — I also heard from an editor at Tor, who wanted to see everything I had relating to CHILDREN OF AMARID. Basically my two professional pursuits collided in a single day and I had one weekend to make up my mind which path I would follow. I chose writing fiction, and really have never looked back.

7. What do you think the most important piece of advice is for a writer to keep in mind?

I’m going to cheat and give you more than one. The first is simply this: Writers write. It’s fine to talk about how much we love writing, and to bounce story ideas back and forth with friends. But when it comes right down to it, the only way to be successful in this business is to churn out the pages. We have to put our butts in the chair, everyday if possible, and get the work done. Even if we’re not getting published yet, even if we’re collecting stories on our hard drives or in our spiral notebooks, we have to keep on writing.

Second, we have to remember that writing, while it seems to be a solitary endeavor, is actually an interactive art. The Writer needs the Reader, just as a visual artist needs someone to look at her work, or the singer needs someone to hear her song. We can’t be afraid of rejection. No one has ever sold a story without sending it out for others to see. Not everyone will like what we write. Some people might hate it. And I’m not going to lie and say that this doesn’t hurt. It does. But that’s the price of doing business. If a writer is too afraid to send out his or her work, then her/she isn’t really a writer.

And finally, don’t expect to get rich doing this. Some people do, but they are the exceptions to the rule. This is a very, very hard way to make a living. Write because you love it, because you are sickened by the thought of not writing, of not giving expression to the voices in your imagination clamoring to be heard, of not telling those stories burning a hole in your chest. If you don’t love it that much, don’t do it, because the pay sucks, the hours are worse, and there is no job security.

8. What do you think about the future of the ebook industry?

Obviously, the ebook industry is growing, and will continue to grow at an accelerating rate. But I do not believe that paper books will disappear any time soon. The model often used when people predict this is the recording industry — the switch from LPs to CDs to digital. But I think this analogy breaks down pretty quickly. The percentage of the general population that listens to music is huge; the percentage that reads books is actually very small. And while book readers are enjoying ebooks, they also love their dead tree books, and won’t give them up any time soon. I also believe that ebooks will actually bring more readers to the market and may well wind up being a boon to the publishing industry.

There is a dark side to it as well, though, as one would expect. The publishing industry has contracted in recent decades, to the detriment of writers and readers alike. There are fewer publishers now, fewer markets, which means fewer opportunities for authors and fewer choices for readers. I think that as proprietary technological battles over format play themselves out, we’re going to wind up with only one or two real players in the ebook market, and I think that could be dangerous, in that it could severely narrow the market yet again.

And for the record, no, I don’t own an e-reader of any sort. But my wife has an iPad.

9. What are you reading right now?

A couple of things. I always have the latest issue of THE NEW YORKER handy. It’s a great publication — I can find not only fiction, but also articles about politics, technology, popular culture, social issues, etc. It’s entertaining, and it also is constantly giving me story ideas. I also have a bunch of books on my To Be Read pile, all of them by friends: RAGAMUFFIN by Tobias Buckell, BLOOD CROSS by Faith Hunter, STAYING DEAD by Laura Anne Gilman; DOPPLEGANGSTER by Laura Resnick, to name a few. And I’m in the middle of a history book called AS IF AN ENEMY’S COUNTRY by Richard Archer, which I’m reading for my current work in progress.

10. What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?

What a segue! My next project is something I am totally jazzed about. I am writing historical urban fantasy under a new pseudonym: D.B. Jackson. The series is called Chronicles of the Thieftaker, and the first book, which will be out in May 2012 is called THIEFTAKER. It is set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, and it is about a man named Ethan Kaille who makes his living as a thieftaker, essentially an eighteenth century private investigator. Ethan is a former mutineer and convict. He’s also a sorcerer. And in this first book he investigates the murder of a young woman who dies the night of the Stamp Act Riots and who appears to have been killed by magic. The second book is with my editor right now; I’ll be revising it soon.

I’m also writing a fantasy for middle readers; I have a contemporary urban fantasy that needs one last rewrite before I shop it around; and I have an idea for a new contemporary urban fantasy that I plan to start once I’ve completed the middle reader book.

Thanks very much for the questions!

Bio: David B. Coe is the Crawford award-winning author of the LonTobyn Chronicle trilogy, the Winds of the Forelands quintet, the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, and more than a half dozen short stories. He has also written the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He is currently working on a new historical fantasy, Thieftaker, which will be published under the name D.B. Jackson.

David is also part of the Magical Words group blog (, and co-author of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion. His web site can be found at:

Starting Different Projects

My writing has hit a low point over the last couple of weeks. It would seem that it took a blow after I finished Moonshadow’s Guardian. The story had me completely entranced, and I’m already eager to begin the first rewrite. Currently I am playing the waiting game-with plenty of school work to distract me in the meantime-because I know that you should never start editing right away. However, rewrites are going to begin sooner than I originally planned; I need to rewrite this story, to make some very specific changes to it, to get it out of my system.

Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, as much as I love the story, will have to take the backburner for now. I know that I cannot currently give it the attention and time that it deserves. When, as a writer, you are told that you must write every day and move quickly from one project to the next, this kind of thing can be hard to admit-even to yourself. But it’s important to remember that every writer is different, every writer’s needs and strengths are different; there’s no one way to go about becoming an author.

Keeping this in mind I’m not going to yell at myself for not accomplishing much on the writing front this week; instead I’m going to do some research-reading a new book I bought about castles-and then jump right into the rewrite of Moonshadow’s Guardian.

Fiction isn’t the only thing that’s been hard for me in the last couple of weeks; the blog posts which were plentiful in my head at the beginning of the year seem to have dried up. I know I want to start a new series of blog posts for Friday mornings, but I have no idea what to focus on or where to begin. Sometimes writing really is like pulling nails, both on the fiction front and on the non-fiction front. Sometimes it means you have to push harder; other times it means you have to take a break.

As a blogger I have one advantage that lots of other writers don’t; I can ask you guys what I should write about next. This is my first poll and it will be up for a week. Come back next week to find out the results-and to see my shiny new series of posts.

Prompt of the Week

Today’s prompt is:

Write about a time two of your characters (or more) were walking through a forest and encountered a vicious animal

Please post the first sentence of your response.


As writers we are told everywhere, in books and all over the web, that to succeed we must write every day. This is true to a point. Being a fiction writer primarily, I am letting go of the idea that I need to work on one of my novels every day. Going to school and having lots of friends-with a bigger social circle than most other writers I know-means that I don’t have time to write every day.

It’s very easy when you miss a day or two-or a week-to bring yourself down, to feel guilty about not writing. All the time we hear that serious writers work at their craft every day, that they apply butt to chair and work until their fingers hurt. Certainly full time writers should write every day or at least almost every day, but for the rest of us, it might not be plausible.

All of that said, if you want to be a good writer, you do need to put a fair bit of time and effort into your work. The trick is to find the right balance so that you can write regularly without getting overwhelmed. It’s particularly tricky when you also work full time, have toddlers, or go to school-whether that be high school or college or sometimes even elementary.

So how do you find balance? I haven’t perfected it yet, but I’ll show you what I do.

Thinking in Goals instead of Times

Each week-okay, most weeks, I fall off the bandwagon sometimes-I decide what I want to do that week. For instance, next week I would like to put up three blog posts, finish the mythology and history for Some Secrets Should Never Be Known (henceforth known as SSNK because I’m too lazy to type it all out every time), and write the first mini-essay of my history class. When I think about my productivity for the week, I look not at how many hours I spent writing, I think about what really matters: what I got accomplished. I don’t give myself specific times to do things because I know I’ll miss at least one of them and get discouraged.

This week I didn’t really get any fiction writing done, but I did do some journaling, which leads me to my next point:

Journaling Counts Too

Since I only really write fiction, I can’t do what some other writers do and switch to a nonfiction project when the fiction gets tough. But I do journal-not every day, but enough-and that counts as writing too. If for whatever reason you can’t seem to finish the next chapter of your book, sit down with pen and paper and start writing about your life. Journaling gives you a space to write out your problems and work them out in your head-as stress is the main cause of ‘writer’s block’, in my opinion-and it gives you a place to write freely, writing whatever you want, because nobody’s going to judge you.

If you didn’t spend the day working on your book, a page or two in your journal will keep your writing muscles strong-besides, you might get an idea to continue your story or even start a new one if you just sit down and write whatever you please in a journal.

Give Yourself A Break

Remember that nobody’s perfect, and the more you beat yourself up about missing a writing day, the less you end up actually writing. Remember that it’s perfectly normal to get burnt out at the end of a novel-or even a novella-and that taking a day-or a few days-off isn’t a big deal. Give yourself a break. And perhaps if you haven’t been writing, it’s time to seek some inspiration-something that can be found anywhere if you look hard enough, especially in the nearest park.

I still don’t get as much writing done as I feel that I should, for a number of reasons. But with these strategies I’ve managed to accomplish a fair bit. Everybody falls off the bandwagon sometimes; the most important thing is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, take a little time for yourself, and then jump back into the writing game. And whatever you do, don’t forget to take time to do things for yourself-it’ll save you a lot of sanity.

MuseItUp! Author Interview: Carlie Angelus

I’m proud to introduce MuseItUp Author Carlie Angelus today. Her paranormal romance, Newly Wed and Newly Dead, comes out in April 2011.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming project with MuseItUp Publishing?

Yes, it is a paranormal romance featuring a young woman named Shelby who died on her wedding day and came back as a guardian angel twenty years later.

2. When and how did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve been writing since childhood and this is just the latest of my vivid imagination creations!

3. What was the first story you ever wrote about?

Hard to say. I’ve always been an avid reader/writer. Probably had something to do with being haunted. I’ve always been obsessed with ghost stories and the paranormal.

4. Where do most of your story ideas come from?

I believe they are provided courtesy of my muse (also known as “that little voice in my head that never shuts up”).

5. How did you find MuseItUp Publishing?

I met Lea Schizas at the amazing Muse Online Conference a couple of years ago and well…the rest is history.

6. What do you like most about working with MuseItUp Publishing so far?

I think their professionalism, detailed accuracy, and just plain outstanding communication with both authors and the public has won me over totally.

7. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Typically, I’m a pantser but this story came to me with the full plot formed in my head before I started writing. I think it was divine intervention.

8. What do you think about the future of ebooks?

I think e-books are no longer the future. I think they are here…now…to stay.

9. What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Seduced By Shadows (by Jessa Slade)

10. What are you writing that readers have to look forward to?

I’m working on my first demonology book that will be the “opposing” series to the guardian angel series that I currently have with MuseItUp.

Author bio:

Carlie Angelus is a native Floridian who is truly inspired by all things otherworldly. She considers her work to be of the mystical romance variety. Due to her obsession with the great beyond, all of her works include either an angel or demon. Find out more about Carlie at her Wings & Fiends blog.