Interview with author Liz Michalski and Evenfall Giveaway!

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Mar 29, 2011 Under contests, dogs, Ridgebacks, writing

I’m so excited to share an interview with debut author Liz Michalski, whose adult novel EVENFALL just recently hit stores!.  Read through the interview, then comment to win a free copy of Liz’s book!

Here’s the EVENFALL cover:

Isn’t it gorgeous?  And here’s the book description:

In life, Frank could’ve had any woman he wanted.

In death, he’ll try to win back the one that mattered…

Frank Wildermuth always regretted a mistake he made as a teenager: choosing Clara Murphy over her sister Gert. And like a true Murphy woman, Gert got on with her life, never admitting to heartbreak. Not even now, decades later, with Frank dead-dead, that is, but not quite gone. Now, Frank’s niece, Andie Murphy, is back in town to settle his estate, and she sees that things have changed in Hartman, Connecticut. Aunt Gert still drives her crazy, but Cort, the wide-eyed farmboy she used to babysit, is all grown up-with a whole new definition for the word “sleepover.” Even freakier are the whispers. Either Andie’s losing her mind, or something she can’t see is calling out to her-something that insists on putting right the past.

Now for the interview!

D:  Evenfall is written from three points of view:  Aunt Gert’s, Andie’s, and Frank. Did you know going into this story that you’d be using multiple perspectives, and can you tell us some of the difficulties associated with that?

L:  I knew early on that Frank would tell his story in the first person but that he wasn’t omniscient — there were too many gaps in the way his story came to me for him to ‘know’ everything.  Originally I had Gert in first person as well, but her voice was so strong that way I felt it would take over the book and overpower everyone else.  With Gert in third person, it made sense to have Andie tell her story from that perspective too.

The most difficult part, for me, was choosing which characters to leave out.  I toyed with having two other perspectives in the book — that of Clara and Cort –  but I felt five would be too unwieldy for me to manage.  Since Clara’s choices truly influence the arc of the book, I tried hard to let her tell her story through the other characters, and to make her sympathetic through them as well.

D:  Was Evenfall your first book, or do you have some hiding in the trunk, clamoring to get out?

L:  In my twenties I did write another novel.  I sent it out to one agent, who rejected it with a very nice personalized note.  I put it away after that.  : )  I think, looking back, that it really never would have found a home, but it was a very good learning experience.

D:  A ghost plays a prominent role in your novel. Do you believe in ghosts?

L:  I would like very much to believe in ghosts, especially benevolent ghosts like Frank.  I have had very, very vivid dreams featuring people I love who have passed on, and would like to believe that they aren’t only the product of my subconscious, but am not quite convinced.

D:  Since you know I’m a dog nut, you won’t be surprised that I glomped onto the dog in your story, Nina.  Did you base Nina on characteristics of your own dogs?

L:  The story of Nina is actually one of the ‘secret pages’ on my website.  (For people who come to a book reading or send me a picture of themselves with my book, I’m giving out codes that let them access those pages and learn more about the backstory of Evenfall.)   But all of my dogs have been big-hearted, protective beasts.

D:  Name the naughtiest thing one of your own dogs has done:

L:  Oh, the list is long and illustrious, and I’m not sure there can be just one thing. (Debra:  I know the feeling) It has to be a toss-up between the time one dog concussed me (accidentally, of course) and the time the same dog decided that a horse counted as ‘big game’ and attempted to take said horse down by the neck.  The counter-surfing incidents in which they ate entire cakes, loaves of bread, a 120 count bag of Dum-Dum lollipops (just the wrapper and candy — they spit out the sticks) and an entire bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken aren’t even in the same league.

(While Liz didn’t have photos of her dogs caught in the act, I just happened to have a few of my Fergie–aka: The Ferganator.  In honor of naughty dogs everywhere):

Sprinklers Taste Just Like Chicken

So do toothbrushes.....

What this backyard needs is more cardboard pieces....

D:  Nina seems to have an awareness of what’s going on above-and-beyond what many would attribute to a dog. Do you believe dogs understand and sense more than we realize?  Do you have any personal examples?

L:  I do believe dogs are often more aware than we give them credit for.  My current pup, Harley, is particularly sensitive to moods.  There have been times when I’ve found him sticking especially close to me, and when I’ve thought about it I’ve realized I’m particularly stressed that day.

Harley kicking up his heels

Another dog I had loved absolutely everyone, and barked maybe 10 times in his life.  I was hiking in the woods one day with my daughter and that dog, who had rambled off on his own.  All of a sudden he bounded down from a hill, got directly in front of my daughter and started to growl.  A moment later a very unsavory gentleman emerged from the woods.  He’d been hiking on a separate path and started to cut across the uncleared woods toward us.  When he saw the dog, he immediately got back on his own path and disappeared.

D:  I know you’re writing another book. Can you tell us a bit about it, and also—will there be dogs in that one, too?

L:  My next book is about a family in which in every generation, one daughter is born with the power to make things disappear — to literally wish them away.  Those wishes don’t always work out as planned, however.

Like Evenfall, this book has very strong ties to the natural environment.  And there are dogs — a small furry pack of them.

D:  Describe your ideal writing environment:

L:  My ideal writing environment would have shelves lined with the colorful  Waldorf toys my children are outgrowing, and maybe a few fish bowls with beta fish in them.  It would have white walls, but plum, hydrangea blue, raspberry, and canary yellow chairs and throw pillows, and a beautiful pine desk.

My most productive writing environment is an unheated beach cottage with no television and no internet connection and no phone.  I go there in March, when it is still quite chilly, and walk in the morning to warm up.  Then I write for four hours, break for lunch and short walk, write for a few more hours, go for a run, eat, edit,  and go to bed.

D:  Sweet or salty treats?

L:  BOTH!  Popcorn with dark chocolate, or a Snickers bar.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

Author Liz Michalski, photo by Elizabeth Sullivan Photography

And thank you, Liz, for stopping by!

Remember—comment to win a copy of her fabulous book! Share your favorite pet or ghost story, if you have one (but not necessary to win). Winner will be chosen this Friday, April 1st, at noon PST.


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Blog Tour with Jen K. Blom and Possum Summer!

Posted by houndrat on Friday Mar 4, 2011 Under dogs, Ridgebacks, writing, Young Adult

Blog Tour! Blog Tour!

My friend Jen K. Blom’s debut comes out this month, a Middle Grade book called Possum Summer. It sounds EXACTLY like the type of book I gobbled up as a young girl, a book I can’t wait to share it with my son. Orphaned possums being hidden in rooms? A little girl who despises her name–Princess–and insists on going by P? Awesome, right?

So, in order to spread the word about Jen’s fabulous book, she’s going to answer some questions below and, in turn, Princess–I mean, P–is going to ask me a few questions!

And here we go….

Welcome to the POSSUMS ARE AWESOME blog tour for the middle-grade book, POSSUM SUMMER, coming out THIS MONTH HOLY COW! (Have you preordered yet?)

Debra has allowed me to steal a day on her blog for my little blog tour … and of course P is with me. It seems I can’t shake her. So I must say thanks first to D, and then onward and upward!

First off, a little about the book:

a lonely kid.

an orphaned baby possum.

a dad that says no way.

how do you keep that kind of secret?

and what happens when you’re found out?

Here we go!

DD: I’m fascinated to see if other writers are as scatter-brained as me, so I’d like to know if you write scenes out of order or in order and why?

JKB: Well, I am scatter-brained. Or maybe it’s baby-brained? That being said, I write in order. Each scene normally creates the next and adds layers I couldn’t get by writing this and that scene out of order. And usually I have a couple that I look forward to writing so much that I use them as candy for when I’m half-way through and thinking that the book is bunk.

DD: If you could be one animal, which would you choose and why?

JKB: HM. I think I would like to be … an earthworm. Sometimes all this higher-brained claptrap and thinking and introspection just doesn’t work for me. Wouldn’t it be nice to simply eat your way through your world, being able to regenerate yourself whenever you got cut in two, happily squiggling through whatever came your way? (Except for rain. That would be a bad part. Oh, and birds. Hmmm. It seems I need a rethink.) Unless earthworms also have higher-brained claptrap and thinking and introspection. In that case, I think I’d rather just be water or something.

DD: Since I lived in Oklahoma for a few years, I’m dying to know why you chose it for POSSUM SUMMER’s setting?

JKB: Oklahoma is a beautiful place. It doesn’t get enough appreciation, really. Anyone who didn’t grow up there really looks at me oddly when I say that. The flatness has its appeal, the animals, the climate, the … most everything. It was the perfect place to make POSSUM SUMMER happen, because it quite simply was the only place I envisioned making it happen.

Princess: Oklahoma is THE BEST. You lived there, you know it!

JKB: P, this is Miss Deb. Deb, this is P.

P: Hello, Miss Deb! How are you? What do you like to eat, since you were once in Oklahoma?

DD: Anything with sugar in it. Seriously. I guess if I had to pick ONE thing, it would be … really good, warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

P: OH CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. Those sound so good! I agree. You can’t go wrong with cookies! Well, what do you like to do? You know, for fun?

DD: Dancing really badly to hip hop music.

P: That sounds so funny! My sister Mon can’t dance for nothing, either. Realy embarrassing, lemme tell you. Well, tell me something really funny about you!

DD: Hmmm…how about that I got sent to the principal’s office in 4th grade for jumping like a frog across the desks the second the teacher left the room? =D

P: See? SEEEEE??? Finally! A grown up that says what really happened when they were a kid? To hear my dad talk he was born and then was twenty years old! In honor of you as a 4th grader, I drew you as this:

P: I think that because you’re so quick and spry – and you jump across desks so well, ha ha ha! – you’re most definitely a jackrabbit! I love them and their big ears. The dogs never can catch them, and Jen says you have some beautiful dogs. Why, I’m looking for a dog —


JKB: Thanks, man, for having me by! I appreciate it!

Jen K. Blom writes about animals, the land, and kids, not necessarily in that order. Her debut, POSSUM SUMMER, is available March 2011.

Just the thing to give to a kid to start their summer of reading off right! (Available from your local indie, Amazon,Barnes & Noble, Borders, or Book Depository!)

Seen the book trailer yet?

Want more POSSUMS ARE AWESOME blog tour tidbits? Go here and knock yourself out!

Thanks so much for joining us, Jen–can’t wait for your book to come out! (Also, depending on the day, I’d be more than happy to hand my dogs over to P. Beautiful is as beautiful does. *glares at shredded cushions patio cushions*)

Mess? What mess?

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I have a special announcement to make. For the first time, ever, in my entire life, I’m writing a novel based on an outline.

That’s right. An outline. Something that implies organization. Pre-planning. Vision. Or perhaps more terrifyingly, something that DOES not imply pantsing my entire way through three-hundred plus pages.

No, I don’t have a fever. (Unless you’re talking about Bieber Fever, and that was totally forced upon me by Stephanie Kuehn and her Write Night avatars of death. You might be happy to know that I’ve posted so much in my private writing forum—like the kind I talk about here—that I’ve bypassed the Mr. Never Say Never avi in favor of that dude who asked his date if she likes daggers.)

Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh, right: outlines. So, I’m working from an outline. And I’m super excited. I’m super excited, until I sit down at the computer, poise my fingers over the keyboard, and realize…holy crap, I’M WRITING FROM AN OUTLINE.  That means writing my scenes in order. Or at least, I’m telling myself it does. I mean, it’s probably sacrilegious to write out of order when you have the map to your entire book right there, flashing you with those big, professional-looking chapter headings.

But I can do this. I can write my scenes in order. So, I sit down at my computer again, poise my fingers over the keyboard, and realize…holy crap, I’M WRITING ABOUT A REAL PLACE THIS TIME, not a fictional town that exists only in my brain. A fictional town where any detail I provided was exactly correct because I got to make that junk up as I went.

In fact, the very first scene takes place in a real establishment, which takes place in a real city. Cool…all except the part where I’ve never been to this particular establishment before. This could present a slight problem. What if I say the wallpaper is purple with orange Ho-Hos, when really it’s pink with lime green Twinkies?  The last thing I want to do is anger the locals because I jacked up their wallpaper in my book (though, if Neon Hostess is the wallpaper of choice there, I really think they need to direct their energy elsewhere).

How do all you writers who write about real places do it?  Do you own private Jets?  Possess super spy skills?  Have lots and lots of friends with cameras?

I will figure this out. Eventually. In the meantime, I have the oddest craving for brightly colored snack foods. Sno balls, anyone?


And also–I posted this on facebook the other day, but it makes me smile, so I’m posting it here, too.  I often type while on the bed, and this is what Fergie and Skye do next to me:

Snuggle Buddies

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…and the winner of the ANGELFIRE ARC is….

KARLA NELLENBACH!!!  Karla, send your address to houndrat at yahoo dot com  and I’ll hook you up!

For the rest of you, sorry you didn’t win. But never fear!  Your luck could change in the next ARC contest, which starts…nowish. And you really, REALLY want this one.  It’s for Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT.

I had the pleasure of reading this book before Vee got agented, and it was fabulous. I read it again once I picked up the ARC ,  and it was even better.

Divergent is the kind of book that leaves you thinking about it long after you finish, the kind of book that makes you question your own character just as Veronica’s Tris questioned hers.

It’s the kind of book that will show you a stunning, stark version of Chicago in the future, a book that grabs you from the very beginning and doesn’t let go until you finish.

It’s also the kind of book that makes you think boys who use numbers for names are hot, a book that makes you wonder…does Starbucks exist in the future?

Um. Anyway.  Here’s the blurb:

One choice

One choice decides your friends, defines your beliefs, and determines your loyalties . . . forever.

Or, one choice can transform you.

In Veronica Roth’s debut novel, Divergent, a perfect society unfolds into a dystopian world of electrifying decisions, stunning consequences, heartbreaking betrayals, and unexpected romance.

And here’s the cover, this time with Fergie as the model (she was feeling left out):

Even Hounds Like Divergent!!!!

Now, here’s the contest. Most of you eager to get your hands on this book know that Tris’s choice involves picking one of the five factions that splits her society. Those factions are:

Candor (the honest)

Abnegation (the selfless)

Dauntless (the brave)

Amity (the peaceful)

Erudite (the intelligent)

Since the factions  revolve around virtues, I’d like to know:  which virtue is most important to you in a main character, and why?  (you can pick from the above or make up your own and extra kudos if you give a YA example).  Leave that in the comment section, and please, please, please, follow me on twitter by clicking the button on the top right (though again, I won’t hunt you down and blow raspberries at you if you don’t.  Probably.)

GOOD LUCK!!!  Contest ends at noon PST on Tuesday, February 1st.

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So, I mentioned on twitter awhile back that I was fortunate enough to attend one day of ALA Midwinter. Wow, am I glad I did!  Oh my gosh, you guys–the BOOKS!  Gorgeous, amazing, new-smelling books EVERYWHERE, just waiting to be fondled, er,  picked up and admired!  My only complaint?  My poor, aching shoulders! But that’s just because I saw all the books and turned into a greed monster, stuffing my red bag full of all the YA offerings as fast as I could find them.

Seriously, though, the massive amount of bookage almost overwhelmed this first timer. Luckily, I met my agent Taylor Martindale and fellow writer Kirsten Hubbard there, and they showed me the ropes. (pssst, I also picked up a copy of Kirsten’s Like Mandarin, and HOLY WOW!  Amazing!  But more on that coming soon!)

If I ever get the opportunity to attend another ALA (oooh, lookie there! New Orleans in June!), I will definitely employ a strategy.  Most of the ARCs weren’t sitting out—you have to go up and ask the reps for specific titles or authors. So, if you get a chance to go, it’s definitely worth your time to make a list of upcoming releases and their publishers, and then hang out around said publisher’s display until you can ask for the precise books you would stab someone in the eye with your swag pencil over.


Anyway, here’s a photo of a lovely model (my dog Skye—will work for kibble!) with some of the books I scored (no stabbing necessary!)

Yes, Skye looks sweet there, but in the next photo, you can tell what she’s really thinking:

ARCs taste just like chicken!

(See that tongue?  Unfortunately, Skye takes the concept of “enjoying a good book” a bit differently than I do.  Bad dog.)

And now, it’s time for ARCapalooza!  I’m going to be giving away at least one ARC a week until…well, until I’m done. (Sorry, but all my friends and family will tell you I’m not very good at scheduling. Suffice it to say that, based on the number of ARCs, the giveaway will go on for quite awhile.)

First ARC up?  ANGELFIRE by YARebel and imprint sister  Courtney Moulton.

I wouldn't eat it...REALLY!

This one is near and dear to my heart because I had the honor of knowing Courtney via a writing forum prior to her book deal with Katherine Tegen Books, and even got to read an earlier version of her story.  You want this one, you REALLY do.  Courtney’s Ellie is a kickass heroine, and the world building is both unique and So. Freaking. Cool!  Here’s the blurb:

When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers—monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell—she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie’s powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her—an assassin who has already killed her once.

To win, all you need to do is leave a comment and let me know what name you’d call yourself if you were a badass, sword-wielding slayer of the Grim.  Sure, it’d be great if you clicked the little link at the top right of my blog to follow me on twitter, but I’m not going to hunt you down or anything if you don’t. (I might pout, but since you can’t see me, so it probably won’t be all that effective).

Good luck!  Contest ends this Thursday, January 27th, at noon PST.  Winner announced that night!  (Er, note:  if even the sight of dog hair makes your airway tighten in allergic reaction, this contest is probably not the one for you.  Skye says sorry.)


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Holy crap, it’s a new blog post!

Posted by houndrat on Sunday Apr 5, 2009 Under Ridgebacks, writing

No, this is not a figment of your imagination.? I’m actually writing a blog post.? Finally, I’ve finished editing, tweaking, and pretty much hashing to bits my manuscript, and I’ve entered the truly terrifying portion of the entire process–querying agents.? Eek.? There’s loads more research involved than I ever anticipated.? Like, some agents? love chicklit, while others think it’s the root of all evil.? Some dig paranormal, while others prefer the term “urban fantasy”? (yeah, I’m not really sure what that means, either) or supernatural.? So basically, I have to tailor? my query letter to each individual agent.? Luckily, I found this amazing author through Kristen Nelson’s blog posts on query letters who actually responded to my shameless begging via email and assessed mine.? She even responded the next day, if you can believe it, and was unbelievably supportive.? Her name is Sherry Thomas, and her book Delicious is supposed to be great—hopefully she won’t mind me posting a link to it here.

So, anyway, while I wait for my rejection letters to pile up, I’ll probably have more time for the little things.? You know, stuff like feeding the children, letting the dogs out, saying “hi” to my husband? on at least a weekly basis.? ? And, oh yeah, writing in my blog.

? Speaking of doggage, Fergie and her crazy brother Leo are off pretending to be show dogs in Texas right now, but never fear.? Since our home obviously isn’t complete without more dogs than we can possibly manage, we have two geezer Ridgeback fosters right now, Cooper and Sara.? ? They’re 12 and 14 and apparently, just got to be too much for their owner to handle.? Um, yeah–I can see how all of that sunning and sleeping might? pose a challenge.? ? Grrrrrr………

Anyway, hopefully I’ll post photos of them here soon, and I’ll post a link to Ridgeback Rescue once their photos are up there.

More soon……

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Ridgebacks and noses don’t mix

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Feb 10, 2009 Under Buffy the Vampire Slayer, dogs, Ridgebacks

Buffy quote of the day:

Evil Swimming Coach–Boy, when they started handing out school spirit, you never even got in line, did you?

Buffy–No, I was in line for ‘shred of sanity’.

In non-Buffy related news, I’m making pretty good progress on the manuscript.? Well, all except for the part where, in? her frantic? attempt to? purge the? two minuscule raindrops from her coat (because she might have melted otherwise), Skye proceeded to burrow the comforter? right into the back of my laptop.? Which would have been fine, had I not been peering closely at the screen at that exact moment, looking for a file.? The end result?? Said laptop crashed down and nearly severed my nose from my head.? ? There was blood and everything.? I’m okay today, but my nose seriously is still a little crooked.? And painful.? And I have to laugh at the irony.? Skye is, like, the only halfway well-mannered Ridgeback I own.? If she ends up being the one to have broken my nose, which survived? countless alteration attempts from Seger, Sunni, Fergie, et al., it’s going to be pretty darn funny.? All except the part where I look like I went two rounds with Mike Tyson, that is.? I guess on the plus side, my ears are intact.


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Fergie’s new tanning bed

Posted by houndrat on Sunday Nov 2, 2008 Under dogs, family life, Ridgebacks, Uncategorized

I’m sipping a? glass of water (yes, exciting beverages abound when you’re trying to de-caffeinate yourself), and just happen to glance out the window.? And there she is, in all her patio table hogging glory.?

I realize that Ridgebacks love to sun, but surely there should be some boundaries involved?? Like, say,? no putting your stinky hound dog body on the same surface where I might eat my lunch?? I mean, God forbid she has to be in the yard for even a millisecond without at least a drop of sunshine.

Next she’ll be demanding I actually polish the sucker before I let her out in the morning.

You’d better watch it, hound dog.? Or else I’m moving your sun-lovin’ tushy to Seattle, home of the dreary gray drizzle.? Nothing like trying to? satisfy that UVA jones? on some? damp chilly glass.


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Ridgebacks and napping

Posted by houndrat on Monday Oct 27, 2008 Under dogs, family life, husbands, Ridgebacks, Uncategorized

You’ve gotta love a girl who’s okay with her? station in life…….

….of course, it’s easy to be okay when your station is Queen.

At least? Her? Royal Fergieness? was gracious enough to? allow hubby a blankie while he broke his back on the floor.? Perhaps in the future I can persuade her to toss him a pillow as well.? And while she’s at it, maybe pass a decree mandating the use of matching socks.

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Zag and Dimond at play

Posted by houndrat on Sunday Oct 12, 2008 Under dogs, Ridgebacks, Uncategorized

Just had to post this photo my aunt sent me from Colorado of Zag (Fergie’s? ONLY black? nosed show littermate out of seven show puppies) playing with Dimond.

From my angle, it’s hard to tell if we’re looking at Ridgebacks or kangaroos.? Although, I bet kangaroos inflict less damage on remotes and shoes.? (Yes, Zag, I’m talking about you.? Even if you are a black nose.)


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