Inside Pages from Our Summer Garden

Hello! I noticed the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon for my full-color children’s book Our Summer Garden only gives viewers a preview of a single page, so I decided to put some pages of the book here so you can see more of the interior. Enjoy! Click on each picture to see a larger version of it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.46.37 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.46.49 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.34.20 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.47.04 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.34.35 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.47.16 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.34.51 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.47.29 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.35.14 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.35.49 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.35.35 PM

Our Summer Garden by Stephanie Void is available here.

How to Make a Children’s Picture Book!

So, recently I published my first ever children’s book, a picture book for small children about growing a vegetable garden. It’s full color all the way to the edges, available in softcover through Amazon, and indie published. It’s called Our Summer Garden and it’s available here if you want it.

Want to know how I made it? I made a video about the steps involved in case you want to create and sell your own picture book! here it is:

 

Author Spotlight: Tara Maya

Today I’m featuring fantasy author Tara Maya, whose book Initiate is currently free! It is the first book in her The Unfinished Song series. I’ve got an excerpt here and links to everything, so read on!

The Unfinished Song (Book 1): Initiate by Tara Maya

A DEADLY INITIATION…

A DETERMINED GIRL…

Dindi can’t do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi’s clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

AN EXILED WARRIOR…

Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn’t commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don’t kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father’s wars and his mother’s curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her… assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

EXCERPT

Blue-skinned rusalki grappled Dindi under the churning surface of the river. She could feel their claws dig into her arms. Their riverweed-like hair entangled her legs when she tried to kick back to the surface. She only managed to gulp a few breaths of air before they pulled her under again.

She hadn’t appreciated how fast and deep the river was. On her second gasp for air, she saw that the current was already dragging her out of sight of the screaming girls on the bank. A whirlpool of froth and fae roiled between two large rocks in the middle of the river. The rusalka and her sisters tugged Dindi toward it. Other water fae joined the rusalki. Long snouted pookas, turtle-like kappas and hairy-armed gwyllions all swam around her, leading her to the whirlpool, where even more fae swirled in the whitewater.

“Join our circle, Dindi!” the fae voices gurgled under the water. “Dance with us forever!”

“No!” She kicked and swam and stole another gasp for air before they snagged her again.

There were so many of them now, all pulling her down, all singing to the tune of the rushing river. She tried to shout, “Dispel!” but swallowed water instead. Her head hit a rock, disorienting her. She sank, this time sure she wouldn’t be coming up again.

“Dispel!” It was a man’s voice.

Strong arms encircled her and lifted her until her arms and head broke the surface. Her rescuer swam with her toward the shore. He overpowered the current, he shrugged aside the hands of the water faeries stroking his hair and arms. When he reached the shallows, he scooped Dindi into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to the grassy bank. He set her down gently.

She coughed out some water while he supported her back.

“Better?” he asked.

She nodded. He was young–only a few years older than she. The aura of confidence and competence he radiated made him seem older. Without knowing quite why, she was certain he was a Tavaedi.

“Good.” He had a gorgeous smile. A wisp of his dark bangs dangled over one eye. He brushed his dripping hair back over his head.

Dindi’s hand touched skin–he was not wearing any shirt. Both of them were sopping wet. On him, that meant trickles of water coursed over a bedrock of muscle. As for her, the thin white wrap clung transparently to her body like a wet leaf. She blushed.

“It might have been easier to swim if you had let go of that,” he teased. He touched her hand, which was closed around something. “What were you holding onto so tightly that it mattered more than drowning?”

LINKS

Tara’s blog

Tara’s Twitter 

The Unfinished Song on Facebook

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

iTunes

Smashwords

Initiate is free everywhere except on Barnes and Noble (where it’s $0.99). You can download a free .epub version via Smashwords.

All Authors Blog Blitz 2013: Paul Papa

Today I am participating in the All Authors Blog Blitz, and as part of that, I will be hosting another author on my blog! His name is Paul Papa and he is the author of the following books. He seems like he’d be really interesting to know in person!

Haunted Las Vegas: Famous Phantoms, Creepy Casinos, and Gambling Ghosts

Check out my interview with him! He was a really great subject to interview!

What made you want to become a writer?

First of all, thank you so much for letting me be part of your blog. I really do appreciate it; now, to your very good question. As a kid I was never much of a reader, but I always loved hearing a well-crafted story. Some of my earliest memories of storytelling came from people like Paul Harvey on the radio. I lived in a small town and it typically didn’t take more than 5 minutes to travel from one side of town to the other. I can remember not letting my mother or father (depending on who I was riding with) shut the car off until I was able to hear the conclusion of Harvey’s story. I think it was those stories—called The Rest of the Story¬—which sparked my interest in telling a good tale. Later in life I became a reader and that led to me one day saying to myself, ‘you know, I think I could do this.’ The rest, as they say, is history.

Which of your books is your favorite and why? 

As you know, your books are kind of like your children. It’s hard to pick one as a favorite. I’ve written three so far and I like each one for different reasons. It Happened in Las Vegas will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first published book. The book is an easy read because each of the stories is only about 1,500 words long and they don’t have to be read in order. I’ve included in the book what I believe to the 25 most intriguing events that helped shape Las Vegas into what it is today.

Haunted Las Vegas was one of the most fun—and most scary—to research. I really enjoyed taking a different view of my city. I had a blast writing this book because it isn’t meant as an in-depth investigation into ghosts and hauntings. Instead, it is simply about the ghost stories I discovered, or was told, about Vegas—some old Vegas and some new. I got to visit many spooky places while researching and event snuck into a few at night. Scary fun!

It Happened in Wyoming was great because I was raised in Wyoming and I really enjoyed learning more about the state I used to call home. Like It Happened in Las Vegas, It Happened in Wyoming is an easy read that reveals little known tales about life in the old and modern west. I chose stories specifically that I believe showcased the pioneer spirit that made not just Wyoming, but all of the US great.

What kind of odd research did you have to do for Haunted Las Vegas?

Well, I don’t know if it was odd, but I did sneak into a haunted house. As I started researching the story about the Hell House, I was so intrigued by what the people who lived there had to say that I had to see it for myself. So, flashlight in hand, I snuck past the large metal gate in front of the house and made my way to the back. I found an open door and went inside. The house—which is no longer occupied—has been reduced to studs on the inside. That fact didn’t make it any less scary. I was also able to pinpoint the room where the mob killed off their rivals. It was creepy. I took photos and they can be found on my website (http://paulwpapa.com/) or my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PaulWPapa).

What’s it like living in Las Vegas?

I love living in Vegas. For a town that only turned 100 in 2005, Vegas has a very intriguing past. As a story teller, how can you go wrong with a town built on people’s vices? Everything you want is here in one place—the mob, the Mormons, the millionaires, the bootleggers, the Hollywood stars, a massive dam, an atomic bomb—everything! There are so many stories to tell and I’m just getting started.

What is the strangest thing you’ve seen there?

I worked security in several of the casinos and saw many strange things—far, far too many to mention…
What is your favorite thing about Las Vegas and how do you think the people there differ from the people in the rest of the US?

My favorite thing about Las Vegas is that it’s really a melting pot. Outside of places like New York or Los Angeles, Las Vegas is one of the only places where you can be exposed to almost any culture in the world. Have a craving for a particular food? We have a restaurant you can go to. We have both a China Town and a Korea Town. We have Italian, Mexican, Greek, Asian, and Hawaiian Festivals and it’s great to dive into other’s customs…and, of course, food.

What’s next for you as a writer? 

I’m finishing up my fourth book as we speak. It is called The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Nevada and as you may have guessed, it is about notable crimes that have occurred in the Silver State. I am also writing a biking trail guide and a book about food in Las Vegas. Additionally I am publishing a children’s book I wrote. Which reminds me, I better get back to writing. Thanks Stephanie for hosting me and Y. Correa for putting together the Blog Blitz. And don’t forget to follow me at http://paulwpapa.com/ and on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Paul-W.-Papa/e/B002KXW69S/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1370961508&sr=8-1

Thanks, Paul!

Anyone can be a writer. Seriously.

Since I’ve been keeping up on all the news, happenings, and whatnot going on in the publishing industry, I’ve decided to weigh in on a few things.

The first of these things is my firm belief that anyone who wants to can be a writer. It’s not some exclusive club where if you aren’t born with The Writing Talent, you can’t get in. Writing can be taught and it can be learned.

You can be a writer if you want to be one. It’s that simple. Heck, I did it. I even did a video explaining my thoughts on the matter. So jump on in, the water is fine!

Yours,

Stephanie Void

Gollum: Unsung Hero of LOTR?

Is Gollum the unsung hero of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit? I’m going to say yes.

Gollum is, hands down, my favorite character in the entire Tolkien universe. And I’m here to defend his reputation.

You see, he gets an unfairly bad reputation as, well, bad. He does. What is he remembered as? The emaciated creature with a twisted lust for the Ring. And oh yeah, and he has his own brand of speaking. Which I love and have mastered emulating, oh yes precious.

I’m an unashamed fan of Gollum. When I read the Two Towers for the first time (and every time after) I would skip over Rohan and Helm’s Deep and all the dudes-with-swords parts (maybe I would pause and read the Treebeard sections) just to get some more of the “my precious” crack. After I had read the entirety of that part, I’d go back and read about Rohan. I have my literary priorities, and I stick to them.

Since I learned how to speak his voice the same way Andy Serkis did in the movies, I used to perform whole “my precious” monologues for the entertainment of friends and strangers alike. To clarify, only for the strangers if they asked. I’m not quite creepy enough to do an unsolicited round of “they stole it from usss” to my college’s design class. When my sister and I videoed (with our home camcorder, no less) our own personal remake of Lord of the Rings, my favorite character to play was Gollum (I’m convinced there is a deleted scene somewhere where he escapes Rivendell when his Elvish psychiatrist gets distracted).

Yet my favorite 500-something-year-old hobbit is constantly thought of as the villain. Why?  Because he’s stuck on the Ring and it makes him do some pretty awful stuff. Do you know who else was stuck on the Ring and did awful stuff? Boromir. Yet, the good old boy of Gondor had a hankering for some shiny cursed gold, and he didn’t even get a chance to hold it. Boromir never even possessed it, as Gollum had (and nothing else, not even a pair of pants, I might add) for 500 years, and it still got him.

What I’m saying is:

Gollum: Ring had no competition of other possessions, and the crazy happened.

Boromir: Ring had competition of Horn of Gondor, pants, amazing city, other manly sword gear, food that wasn’t raw meat, and people who actually spoke to him. And the crazy happened.

See where I’m going with this? So that makes Gollum one resilient little bugger.

This brings me to my second point: he helped Frodo and Sam out of a pretty tight spot. The Dead Marshes isn’t exactly populated with guides, but there he was, knowing the way around and handy in a pinch! Yes, the bad Gollum side won out in the end, but Smeagol did do some serious serious good when he was on top. Let’s take a look:

He kept the two hobbits upon whom the fate of the world rested from dying in the marshes.

He kept Sauron from knowing where the ring was for 500 years, which could have been more if Bilbo hadn’t come along. He was the pivoting point of the whole series.

He gave Sam rabbits to eat.

He gave Frodo perspective on what the Ring does to its keeper.

Faramir bonded with the hobbits over him (book version).

He saved Frodo directly in the marshes (movie version).

He made the Two Towers 100% better.

He did show them the way into Mordor (even though they had to go through Shelob; yuck).

So there you have it. A good guy in a twisted way. An anti-hero. A sympathetic, complex character fighting an inner battle.

And isn’t that what we all want from the characters in the books we read?

Yours,

Stephanie Void

Kickstarter for The Blue

I made a Kickstarter for The Blue, the YA science fiction book I’m finishing up. Why? Because The Blue is different from my other books in that I had a mission when writing it. My mission? To spread the desire for space travel, science, and adventures to kids and teens everywhere. Because I want humans to explore space, and the best way to get people to want to do that is to get people dreaming about it. And how do you get people to do that? By reading about it!

My project is here.

And the very excellent Cody Barrus interviewed me about it here!

Excerpt from The Blue by Stephanie Void

I’ve got a new book coming out soon and it’s my first science fiction book! Check out the first chapter below, and if you want, sign up for my newsletter (it is at the very bottom of the page) so I can let you know when the full book comes out. I promise, no spam!

The Blue by Stephanie Void

Chapter 1

 

The old man looked decidedly uncomfortable.

I watched him from across the café as I relaxed, sipping what never would have passed for coffee if I had been planetside. The sandwich I was eating wasn’t much better—it was supposed to be protein-avocado-lettuce, but all I could identify was the lettuce. The few wilted leaves languished among an unidentifiable paste on the bread, but at least it was food. I had been hungry after the long flight to Blodwyn Base. And here, in space, I was lucky to even get the lettuce.

Taking a bite of the sandwich, I directed my attention to the old man again. He had walked to the café’s counter and was talking to the curly-haired girl behind the counter, who was placing rolls of bread into the bakery case.  The old man’s hands were shaking violently as he bent over the glass of the bakery case to look at the pastries inside.

I took another sip of my coffee, swallowing it quickly to avoid tasting it.

The old man wiped his brow with the back of one hand as he paid for a pastry and the girl handed it to him. The girl turned back to her baking and the man walked over to sit down at one of the tables about ten feet from me.

The café’s only other patron, a middle-aged woman, finished her coffee and left, leaving me alone with the old man.

The lack of people didn’t surprise me. I had only arrived at Blodywn Base a few hours ago, my body still adjusted to Iron Horn Base time, not Blodwyn Base time, which meant that I was eating breakfast at 3 p.m. Now, after two years on Iron Horn Base, I was on my way home, stuck for a two-day layover on Blodwyn Base.

I was happy to be going home to see my family, whom I hadn’t seen since I had left for Horatio Nelson Military Academy on Iron Horn Base two years ago. My little sister Katelyn would be twelve years old now, I realized with a smile.

As much as I looked forward to seeing Katelyn and my parents again, I wished it could have been under better circumstances. The reason I was going home now was because I’d been dismissed from my military training for an indefinite amount of time. It would be years, at least, before I could go back.

The accident hadn’t been my fault. It hadn’t been anyone’s fault. It had happened during a training accident in zero gravity in the artificial gravity room. The training room was still brand new; my group had been one of the first groups to train inside it. The artificially-generated zero gravity had flickered for just a moment, but it was enough to send all of us falling to the floor, which in my case had been thirty feet below me. I had hit the floor hard, some of the training equipment crashing down onto me.

At least, that’s what the doctors, nurses, and my friends had told me. They had told me that my spine had been severed just above the hip. I didn’t remember any of it happening. All I knew about it was that now, and for the next few years while my spine grew back fully, I couldn’t do any military training. Instead, I would live with most of my torso encased in a tight vest made of plastic, metal, and technology. The vest pumped medicine into my body and generated electrical currents that made my nerves and bones grow back.

It had worked fast. It had only been six months since the accident, and already I could walk again. But it would take years until everything healed and grew back to the point where I could do rigorous military training again—if I was lucky. There was also a chance that I, Alan Michael Wolf, star cadet, would never be able to be in the military again.

It had been my dream to be in the military’s Stellar Intrepid branch, the one in charge of exploration and investigation. I loved the idea of investigating the wonders of space for the rest of my life. Now it all hinged on how well my body healed over the next few years.

I had gotten used to the medical vest holding me together. Though it was bulky, I was able to wear loose clothing over it and no one could notice it was there.

I finished my sandwich with my eyes still on the old man, who looked sweaty and pale.

He had a glass of water in front of him, but when he reached for it with a shaky hand, he missed, knocking it over instead.

I got to my feet to go over to him.

“Sir, are you all right?” I asked him, moving closer.

The old man looked up at me, let out a strangled gasp, and tumbled from his seat, collapsing onto the floor.

“Help!” I shouted, moving to him. We were still alone—wait, there had been the girl serving baked good behind the counter. I shouted for her, thankful that we were at the only café on Blodwyn Base which employed people instead of being entirely self-serve.

She had been engrossed in baking, her back to us, but spun around upon hearing my shouts, curly ponytail bouncing.

“What is it?” She saw the old man on the floor. “Is he hurt?”

“He collapsed!” I cried. “He needs help. Can you call Medical?”

She didn’t need a second prompting. Darting to the wall behind her, she slammed her palm down on a circular red button. Immediately it lit up and a box popped out of the wall beside it.

“I’ve summoned Medical,” she said, grabbing to box and hurrying over to us with it. “This is the first aid kit. I—I don’t really know how to use it,” she said, eyes widening at the sight of the old man’s still form. “Do you know how to use it?” she asked, voice growing high and panicky. “I’m new to this job! This has never happened before! I’m sorry!”

A grim smile touched my lips. Well, there was one part of my military training which would not go to waste: at least I still knew how to use a first-aid kit.

I placed a finger under the old man’s nostrils and felt his pulse. Good. He was breathing and had a heartbeat.

“Can you get me the enhanced thermometer?” I asked the girl. I ripped the old man’s button-down shirt open and placed the circular enhanced thermometer she handed me on his chest.

“Will he be all right?” she asked breathlessly. I wanted to comfort her, but I really didn’t know what to say; I wasn’t the best at talking to females on a good day. The female cadets had been housed in a different dormitory on Iron Horn Base, which meant that other than my family and the nurses who had cared for me after my injury, I hadn’t had a conversation with a female in about two years.

Also,  the old man on the floor might be at death’s door, for all I knew. No wonder I could barely form a sentence.

The thermometer beeped, and I leaned over the display. Temperature: normal. Blood pressure: way down. Heart rate: way down.

“Adrenaline. He needs it. Tube with the yellow stripe,” I managed to say. She grabbed it in the span of a second and shoved it into my hand.

“You may want to look away,” I warned, ripping away the seal on the needle. Then I stabbed the needle into the old man’s chest.

Metal Music and Fantasy Fiction: unlikely bedfellows?

I am a huge fan of metal music. While I do enjoy the growly kind from time to time, my favorites are the epic, symphonic, power, or melodic kind. There’s something about metal sung by operatic females with male vocals in there providing extra musical goodness that I can’t get enough of.

When I first started listening to metal in college, I was blown away. This genre of music had existed my entire life under my radar! I had been a huge fan of fantasy books for years, and some of this medieval-sounding metal seemed like it had just leapt face-first out of the pages of the latest epic adventure book I was reading. There were orchestra swells, bagpipes, etherial voices, lyrics that told stories… it was all there. When I looked up certain bands, I saw that they even dressed like they were about to go on an epic quest straight out of a fantasy novel.

There’s something so intense and purposeful about liking either fantasy or metal. It’s a stand, if you will. It’s all or nothing. By its very nature, you either like it or you hate it. You can’t be wishy-washy about it. There are some genres of both fiction and music that you can enjoy certain pieces of without actually being a fan of the whole genre. Fantasy and metal are not among them. You either like the otherworldliness, the magic, and the intensity of it or you don’t. It’s a passion. There is no in-between, which is why I think both metal fans and fantasy fans make instant connections when they find others who enjoy their chosen genre.

They make those connections because liking it says something about the person’s character. It says that you aren’t satisfied with the everyday. It says your dreams are filled with wizards and your road trips are accompanied by music that would suit an epic quest on the back of a dragon. It says that living life to the fullest simply isn’t enough: your brain and spirit want even more than that. They want adventure, but they also want that touch of romantic mystery that comes with a time when people thought you really could turn lead into gold. It was a world of possibility, where anything could happen. (My character Cemagna thinks like that; if she lived in our world, she would probably be a metalhead!)

The intensity. The possibility and promise. The power of escape into another world. All of this is why I proudly remain both a fantasy lover (both in reading it and writing it) and a metalhead.

Yours,

Stephanie Void

RFSredoCover

Best Fantasy Books for Smart Women

Do you love the idea of female-fronted fantasy (alliteration!) with heroines who are 20 or older? Maybe you loved Harry Potter and Narnia back in the day but have grown up and want something older. Maybe you are still a teen but read like an adult. Maybe you would like a break from all those fantasy stories with high school in them. Either way, I have complied a short list to help you out!

Most characters in books, movies, TV, etc. tend to be young, single/un-attached, and childless. Yes, this leaves open endless possibilities, but I love it when writers do something different! I love it when a good fantasy has the main character’s history/children/etc. worked into the plot because it makes it far richer. I’m on the lookout for good fantasy stories like this, so if you know of any, let me know!

Without further ado, here are a few of Stephanie’s Recommended Fantasy Books for 20+ Women! These books feature smart, capable 20-something or 30-something women and a healthy helping of real-world magic. I really enjoyed all of them and give them five stars.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The book is about Claire and Sydney Waverley, two sisters. Claire tends a magic garden, living in the family home. Sydney and her young daughter, Bay, have just escaped from Sydney’s abusive boyfriend and have come back to their hometown to live with Claire. This is more of a magical realism story than a fantasy, but it’s still a great read.

Holly Lisle’s World Gates trilogy
Another story about sisters. 35-year-old Lauren and 25-year-old Molly are both taken to the same strange world, unaware they’re even related. What they both find out means that our own world is in danger.
I really like these characters and Lauren’s little boy, Jake. I love a good world-saving story that takes the time to develop the characters’ personalities.

Arena by Karen Hancock
Arena is about 20-something Callie, who thinks she’s signing up for a harmless research experiment but is really about to be taken to a brutal alien world. There is a way to escape, but it won’t be easy. (this book is technically sci-fi, but it’s so close to fantasy I keep thinking of it as fantasy). I’ve written to the author of this one; she’s a sweetie.

Happy Reading!