Not all who wander are lost. – J.R.R. Tolkein
One year ago today, I started my blog, Into Another World, to share some of the things most important to me – writing and being a parent. I explained back then, why I choose this name for my blog, but I thought today would be a good time to reiterate that.
I chose “Into Another World” because that is what books do. They allow you to enter another time period, another world, another life. You can do anything, be anyone when you are pulled into a book. You could be a soldier during the Revolutionary war, spend time on a pirate ship, explore a distant planet and so much more. There is no limit to the worlds you can visit.
As a reader, I love the feeling of being swept up into the story. And as an author, I hope to be able to provide that same experience for my readers. So I chose the title “Into Another World” because for me that embodies what I love about books.
However, my life as an author is also balanced with my life as a wife and mother. And really if you think about it when you become a parent, you are thrust into another world. No longer are your days centered on what you want, but now include the needs of your children. You have entered a world where your children’s school and activities become part of your daily routine. Becoming a parent changes everything. So for me, the title “Into Another World” also encompasses my life a mom.
And so, I began this blog with the goal of writing about raising my children as well as writing and the self-publishing world. In the beginning, I posted something every day Monday through Friday but with more time needing to be dedicated to volunteering at my kids’ schools and working on my latest work in progress, I did drop one day of posting on my blog. For those of you following my blog, here is the breakdown of topic I cover on each day.
Mondays – I post about my children and being a parent.
Tuesdays – This is the day I dropped as a regular posting day. I leave it open for guest authors on a blog tour or for announcements on my own books.
Wednesdays – I post an inspirational quote about writing, children or just life in general.
Thursdays – I alternate between posting about writing (I have a whole series devoted to fantasy writing), or I post about the book marketing or other self-publishing issues.
Fridays – I feature a different author on my blog by providing an author interview, book excerpt or guest blog. What an awesome way to find a new author or book to love.
My blog’s readership has grown over the past year. I have enjoyed every comment that people have left and read every email sent. I love knowing that for one day I may have helped someone or at least provided some information they may not have known. And I hope to continue that in the year to come.
You can’t stop a kid from growing and often times if you buy them a new outfit, they have outgrown it before you know it. This has never been much of a problem with my son. Besides buying adjustable waist shorts and pants because he was skinny, I don’t feel like we went through clothes like my daughter does.
In February, I bought Lexie a dress for Valentine’s Day. So that it would last longer, I bought a size larger than normal. It looked great. Just a month later, it looked too short. And it isn’t only dresses this seems to happen with. I can buy her a shirt and within a month or so, it is too short. Oh it looks fine as long as she doesn’t raise her hands. If she does that, the shirt is half-way up her back.
And don’t get me started on how many of her shorts and skirts never seem to fit right, or if they fit well when bought don’t fit a month or so later. Some of it I chalk up to her growing and some I think may be shrinkage of the clothes when they are washed.
But my dilemma is not that she keeps going through clothes so fast, but that it is impossible to determine what size to buy. It is easier since I have her with me sometimes but the grandparents like to know her size in case they find something while shopping.
Soon after I bought her the Valentine’s dress, I bought another dress in the same size, and it was too big. And sizes are not consistent from store to store. An outfit at Target may be too big, but the same size outfit at Kohl’s might fit fine. It just seems there is no standard in sizing.
I notice this more with Lexie’s clothes than Jase’s. It seems easier to me with him. He is your typical boy and wears shorts and T-shirts all the time. If a shirt is a little too big on him, I don’t worry about it because he will grow into it. If the shirt (or dress) is too big on Lexie, it can just look wrong.
The funny thing is even though they are almost three years apart in age, there are close to the same size in clothes. I am currently buying 5-year-old Lexie size 5 and 6 clothes while eight-year-old Jase is in size 7 or 8. I do think girls clothes just seem to run smaller.
We will be school shopping in just a few weeks, and I am sure the kids will have out grown their summer clothes. I doubt Lexie will fit in most of her clothes from the last school year so it will be a whole new wardrobe for her. As for Jase, luckily for me (and my wallet) he shouldn’t need as much.
Today, please welcome young adult author Teshelle Combs to my website. Be sure to check out an except of her fantasy novel, Core, after her interview.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
The first person to ever tell me I was a writer was my best friend growing up, Shoshana. At sleepovers, we would stay up late and I would tell her stories that had been stored up in my head. Even when we were young, they were probably novel-length. And when I was finished she’d tell me, “Teshelle, you should write these down. I think you’re a writer.”
My college boyfriend (who I’m now married to, poor guy) was the first person to encourage me to do it professionally. I took my first Creative Writing class about two years into my undergraduate degree and I fell in love. “Just do it, Tess,” he told me. “If you love it, just do it.” And I did.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think most of us who end up as writers become who we are at very young ages. We get those big chunky kindergarten pencils in our hands and start scribbling out stories. I think I became an author the first time I sold a copy of my book. I did my crazy happy dance for ten minutes, I was so elated.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
Oh dear. I’m going to get in trouble for this one. Right now, I have an old novel, The System, that desperately needs to be revamped. I also need to work on the sequel for Core, or I’ll be attacked by my fans. And I’m half through a new book for a series that is still untitled. I don’t know which of the three projects to tackle first. Suggestions?
Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
As of very recently, I write full-time! I’m about to be a mama (Jaxter is due at the end of August), and with the release of “Core” it just seemed like perfect timing to go for it.
My work day is… well, rather long. I usually start out the day working on marketing Core. Since I’m indie, I do all of it myself and it can be a lot. At some point I usually pass out (a cuter way to say it would be “take a nap,” I guess) because I’m pregnant and giant and it’s hot in SW Florida. And then for the second half of the day, I work on my new projects. I’d say a typical work day starts at 9:30am and ends at about 10:30pm.
Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?
Oh, my can I please choose all of them? Okay, I suppose if I have to choose, my favorite character is Cameron Anders, the youngest brother of the Anders nest. Not only is he a blue dragon–the cold intellectuals of the dragon world–but he’s got a bid of red dragon blood in his veins as well. It makes him harsh and silent, and few see his true nature. I’m excited to tell more of his story.
If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?
Even though Cam is my favorite, he leads a tough life, always having to keep silent, always keeping his story and his ideas hidden. So, iIf I could be anyone, I’d be Ava. Ava’s tough, but she has no problem speaking her mind. And mostly I’d want to be Ava because, of all my characters, she gets to have Cale. To have someone care about you, need you, Choose you? Well there isn’t much better than that.
Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?
Chips. Sour cream and cheddar, baby! Seriously, eating and working is just regular, everyday life. I have about two granola bars worth of crumbs stuck between the keys of laptop.
Thank you so much for my interview! It was so much fun. Loved your questions.
She had amazing eyes. Jade green with flecks of amber red in them. They were focused, unflinching. Warrior eyes.
“Okay,” was all she said.
She looked him up and down, trying to pinpoint his motive for offering his name to her. Then she turned on her heel and walked right out of the arena. She didn’t even look back, as though Cale had made no Impression on her whatsoever. No Impression at all. Rory raced up to Cale with a smile and threw a burly arm over his shoulder.
“So, how’d it go? Did you ask her? Did she say yes?”
Not even close. He could barely open his mouth in front of her. But he had looked her in the eye. And for Cale, that was all it took. He could taste the fire in his core threatening to break free. He could feel the blood in his veins begging for just a spark, just a flicker. He opened his mouth to let out the smoke that was filling his lungs and ignored the white wisps as they disappeared into the air.
It was as good as done. He belonged to Ava Johnson. Know it or not, she had herself a dragon.
Cale Anders lives a normal life–as normal as any eighteen year old dragon could hope for. He has always managed to straddle two worlds, one of underground fight clubs and siren hunts, and one of family barbecues and backyard football. Still, for as long as Cale can remember, he’s been the middle man–the ambassador for his own family–bent on reconciling the stark differences between his fiercely intelligent blue dragon relatives and the boisterous, passionate red dragon nesters.
But when Cale picks the steely-eyed human, Ava, to be his rider, he must choose between the family he’s always loved, and the only girl who can unlock his potential and spark his core. Ava, her heart entrapped in a prison of callouses, is caught off guard by the rawness of the Anders’ life and the honesty of the boy who claims to belong only to her. But even more alarming than her immersion in a world she never knew existed, is the realization that love can grow slowly, steadily, and painfully, no matter how furious her resistance.
Together, Cale and Ava upturn the balance of the dragon world, leaving their very lives vulnerable to the wiles of forces neither of them truly understand.
About the Author
Teshelle Combs is the author of the YA contemporary fantasy novel, “Core.” She’s one of those crazies who majored in English in college at the University of Central Florida and she daringly works as a full-time writer. Teshelle grew up in the beautiful St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and currently lives with her composer/voice actor hubby, Nate Combs, and their soon-to-be born baby boy, Jaxter, in Cape Coral, FL.
You can purchase Core on Amazon.
Lost time is never found again. – Benjamin Franklin
Many children play with Lego bricks or the Mega Bloks version and Jase is no different. I am not totally a fan of these little plastic pieces. I find them hard to get apart, and they never stay together during normal play. And don’t even get me started on how much it hurts to step on one of these little pieces.
But Jase loves them and has A LOT of them. I think it is great that he sits down and builds them. It is good hand/eye coordination and he has to be able to follow the directions. He willingly saves up his money to buy new sets and as anyone who knows those sets, they are not cheap. Most of his sets are Lego City or Star Wars, but lately he has been buying some Halo Mega Bloks too.
He likes Legos so much that when his first-grade class was given the assignment of creating a shoe box float, his of course had to have Legos on it. He went with Star Wars and created a battle scene. We used velcro to attach the large piece to our shoe box. And yes, I even glued a piece to a chopstick, so he can have a ship flying over the battle. It won best Star Wars float.
Of course as any parent of a kid who collects Lego sets, the main concern is what to do with all of them. I know some kids build them and leave them built but here at our house they end up falling apart as they are played with or even worse stepped on. So while some of them are in some sort of built stage, we ended up with a drawer full of pieces, not to mention all the ones I find on the floor – preferably not with my bare feet.
Keeping them in a tub or drawer however left you with no way to find a piece when you need it. I researched many different ways to organize the pieces – from expensive Lego brand holders to simple bins. We decided to use two drawers under Jase’s bed to store them, but they needed to be organized within the drawers.
Jase and I went to Target and found these organizers by Stanley in the hardware section. At $10 a piece this seemed an economical means of storing them. We bought 2 of them and then sorted the pieces. They fit nicely in his drawer, and we still had room to store the built (or partially built) sets.
So now when I find a Lego brick when sweeping (or more likely stepping on with my bare feet), I can put it where it belongs. Now if I could only find an easy way to pull the tiny bricks apart when he asks for help…
Today I have on my blog author Evan Kilgore discussing his latest thriller Made in China.
About the Author
Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
In college, at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television, I began interning at a variety of film production companies in LA. During the second half of my senior year, I transitioned those experiences into becoming a script reader and eventually a full-time story consultant and story editor at a Hollywood talent agency and for several independent production companies and individuals.
In the seven years since, I have read, by a conservative estimate, probably around 12,000 screenplays – everything from works by what I consider to be masters like David Mamet, Neil Labute, and Aaron Sorkin to Oscar winners, blockbusters, and plenty of fairly terrible scripts as well. It has been, and continues to be, to me, kind of a dream job. It keeps me stimulated and engaged, while seeing a constant torrent of both stories done beautifully and also stories done terribly has become in many ways a master class in helping me to shape and develop my own style.
What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)
I think some of the worst impulses that I have sometimes been told to channel, at least from my perspective, focus on finding what is hot or what is selling and then trying to tap into that market before it dries up. I think writing specifically in order to sell almost always produces books that read like machines. I cannot tell you how many somewhat mediocre vampire, zombie, wizard, and Satan screenplays I have read for my Hollywood consulting jobs, and in most of those cases – the ones that were subpar – it felt to me like the author clearly set out to try to sell the next Harry Potter, rather than writing because of an actual passion for a specific subject, or a set of real emotions, feelings, and ideas they wanted to communicate. Writing solely to satisfy someone else is, to me, almost never a good idea.
Along these lines, I think some of the best advice I have been given is to put myself into the stories I write – to inhabit the world of the book, to be the characters themselves, and to be unafraid of whatever you as the writer might expose in yourself, accidentally or on purpose, by exploring these elements in your characters. Sincerity, to me, is one of the most intangible and undefinable yet also one of the most visceral and important elements in any story in any medium.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I have, at times, come down on both sides of this particular debate. I think it really depends on the project in question, the nature of the story, and the intended overall tone, flavor, and delivery of it. My first published book, WHO IS SHAYLA HACKER, did not have a concrete outline. I knew the basics of the story, and I knew vaguely where I wanted it to go, but the experience of writing it was more of an edge-of-my-seat endeavor, following the intertwining plot threads and seeing how they slowly became more entangled with one another.
Conversely, MADE IN CHINA was heavily outlined from start to finish. I knew fairly clearly, when I sat down to write the manuscript, what every single scene was going to be, what it would accomplish for the story, what it would advance within the characters, and how it would slowly tap the back stories and the underlying groundwork that I had already put into place.
For screenplays, more or less across the board, I always outline, since as a format, I think you have so much less latitude for free exploration in that world. There is, compared to a novel, so little time in a script, and a studio or a producer will expect it to follow a much more rigid pattern and set of conventions. That is why, for some of my novel projects, I enjoy crafting a particularly interesting character and then simply letting him or her wander into the world to see what happens.
About the Book
Please tell us about your current release.
MADE IN CHINA is a fast-paced, character-driven thriller story that I would like to think is reminiscent of a blend of book/movies like Patriot Games (Tom Clancy) and The Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton). The main character, John Grant, is a regular guy just trying to get by and raise his young son, Connor, while his marriage with his wife, Lynn, comes apart at the seams. Lynn is an executive at a major toy company, and John can hardly compete with all of the pre-release next-gen toys she is constantly giving to Connor.
After Connor brings one of them to a friend’s birthday party, all of the children fall ill. At first, everyone suspects some kind of viral outbreak, but with the doctors at a loss as to how to explain or treat Connor’s rapidly deteriorating health, John alone embarks on a search for answers. What he discovers propels him on a journey across the world to China, and right into the middle of what might become the deadliest terrorist attack against America’s children in history – unless he can stop it.
Did you base any of your characters on real people?
MADE IN CHINA is not based on one specific event or character, but the idea behind it did originate, through my collaborator and cowriter on this project, Sebastian Twardosz, from a string of news stories about situations similar to the one at the heart of our book. At the time, there were several breaking stories about tainted lead paint from China poisoning homeowners in middle-America, tainted rubber baby bottles leaving children sick, etc. We just took the idea one step further.
Although it features a terrorism element, though, the book is not by any means intended to be political. We were very careful to make sure that the story remains a character story. Each of the characters acts for their own reasons; there are heroes and villains on both sides. This is not and was never intended to be a paranoia piece about international relations (although, inevitably, some of these themes do crop up).
Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?
I’m a fan of John Grant, the hero in MADE IN CHINA because he is a regular guy. He is no brilliant, bulletproof CIA agent or assassin. He is a dad trying to save his son and get his marriage back together – a blue-collar everyman with bills to pay, maxed-out credit cards, insecurities, flaws, and yet, at his heart, a dedication to his son and to his family that cannot be broken by anything in the world. John makes many mistakes in his life, but he would throw himself in front of a bus if it would save his son, and that is the sort of person that I like to spend time with.
His wife, Lynn, is a pretty strong person, too. Like John, she is far from perfect, probably the reason both of them have to work so hard to keep their family together, but, also like John, at her heart, Lynn makes her decisions for the right reasons. Connor, their son, is always her first and foremost concern, and she puts him above everything else. It is just that her methods and her outlook are different from John’s, driving them, often, to butt heads with one another.
I don’t know that I dislike any of the characters from an author’s perspective, although there are some particularly sleazy people in MADE IN CHINA that I think are fun to hate. I shy away from writing simple, outright “evil” characters. Even the so-called villains in this story do what they do for reasons that make sense to them – emotional reasons, logical reasons, desperation and problems of their own. I do not believe in archetypes, at least in my own writing; I want my “bad guys” to be as complex, understandable, and realistic as my heroes.
Just for Fun
Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
I always write at my desk in my second-floor bedroom. I am surrounded by windows that overlook a large lawn, but apart from the occasional apocalyptic attack of gardeners, it is quite peaceful. I like absolute silence, as much as possible, when I write. Although I have a lot of respect for people who can get things done in coffee shops, I am certainly not one of them. I get far too distracted, listening in on other people’s conversations or getting caught up in the bustle, and if I try to listen to music, I wind up paying attention to it, rather than my writing. I always write at the same time every morning, and I more or less never take days off unless I am traveling. Habit and routine are huge parts of my writing style, and I cherish and fiercely protect them when other parts of life try to muscle in.
Do you have an all time favorite book?
That is an impossible question – I read so much, and I love a lot of what I read – but I will do a top five: The Road (Cormac McCarthy), Then We Came to the End (Josh Ferris), Music for Torching (AM Homes), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami), Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton). But oh my gosh, Thomas Pynchon, Lionel Shriver, John Updike – there are too many, too many to list.
Treading water as a dead-end trainer at the YMCA in Santa Monica, California, John Grant can hardly compete with ex-wife Lynn when it comes to their son. Like any six-year-old, Connor loves toys, and Lynn works for the second largest toy company in the world. When Connor is invited to a friend’s birthday party, he brings along the latest pre-release model of an highly anticipated NextGen action figure, set to come out at Christmas. Two days later, all of the children from the party are in a coma with their parents in a panic. Is it some kind of outbreak?
With Connor’s health deteriorating fast, and his doctors at a loss to explain what is wrong with him, John alone plunges into a desperate search for answers. His journey takes him to China and what he uncovers may be the deadliest terrorist attack in history – unless he can stop it.
Evan Kilgore graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts with a fine arts degree in Writing for the Screen and Television. Who is Shayla Hacker, his debut novel, was first published by Bleak House Books in the following year. His second novel, The Children of Black Valley, was released one year later, followed by his third, Made in China, in 2013.
Evan has also written or co-written a variety of motion picture screenplays, including shorts such as MJMW and feature films including The Butterflies of Bill Baker. In 2011, he was honored as a Semifinalist in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Nicholl Fellowship. He lives and works in Los Angeles.