Fiction School

Fiction School
Check out the podcast I host with two other writing professors

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Feed Your Addiction Amazon Giveaway!

I'm guessing lots of lucky folks out there found an iPad, Kindle, Nook or some other ereader under the tree this Christmas. Of course, some old fashioned bibliophiles out there still cling to print books, which I totally respect. Though I've become addicted to ebooks, I curled up with a pulpy paperback from the 1950s last week and it was delicious--so nostalgic and cozy! It was an old dog-eared copy of The Build-Up Boys, about Public Relations; it had some serious Mad Men style going on, which I can't get enough of lately. Oh, and it's not really quite so trashy as the cover makes it look.

However you prefer to consume books, whatever your tastes, I'd like to enable your literary addictions with a little token of my love...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft FREE!

In order to celebrate the Day of the Dead, I'm offering AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT  FREE: November 1-2 

Here's the Amazon Teaser: 
From the award-winning author of Babe in Boyland comes a Young Adult paranormal romance about witchcraft, black magic, and the pleasures of paranormal chocolate...

Falling in love, baking a magical cake, fighting an evil necromancer—it’s all in a day’s work for Audrey Oliver, seventeen-year-old witch-in-training. When her mother goes missing and her mysterious "cousin" shows up out of the blue, Audrey knows something’s gone horribly, dangerously wrong. Now it’s up to her to get her own magical powers up to speed before everyone she loves is destroyed by the sorcerer intricately connected to her mother’s secret past. 

And links to some new reviews from wonderful bloggers:

"This is an absolutely amazing book, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves books about witchcraft. A little heads up for Harry Potter fans, there is an HP reference! I can't wait to see what happens next in this series."      Melissa's Midnight Musings

"I enjoyed watching Audrey develop and embrace her powers. The romance was just perfect to fit the tone of the story, and the ending was very dramatic."  The Bookish Babe

"The chapter with the chocolate cake tasting scene is so well done that you can practically taste the chocolate melting on your tongue. If nothing else it will leave you craving chocolate cake!  Thankfully, Ms. Gehrman provides us with the delectable recipe." 
Rainy Day Ramblings Review and Giveaway!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview with Natasha Yim

Today I have my good friend and children's book author extraordinaire Natasha Yim in for an interview. She's been touring all month promoting her newest title, Sacajawea of the Shoshone. She writes nonfiction for kids, picture books, plays, and more. Check out her lovely web site to learn more about this extraordinary writer.

Q: Can you tell us briefly what Sacajawea of the Shoshone is about and who it's aimed at?

A: Sacajawea of the Shoshone is an addition to Goosebottom Books’ first series, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses. It tells the amazing story of Sacajawea, the Shoshone teenager who traveled the west with Lewis and Clark and her amazing adventure on this expedition. The series is targeted for ages 9 - 13, although younger kids will enjoy the beautiful combination of illustrations and real-life photographs and interesting sidebars such as “What She Ate”, “What She Wore” and “Where She Lived”.
Q: Did you discover anything surprising about Sacajawea or this period in history while writing/researching this book?

A: Sacajawea made a significant and invaluable contribution to the Lewis and Clark expedition. She gathered food, firewood, made and repaired moccasins, set up and broke down camp, interpreted and negotiated for horses with her people so the Corps of Discovery could make it across the Rocky Mountains, prevented the Corps from being attacked by other tribes (no war party would travel with a woman and a baby!), and saved Lewis and Clark’s important instruments and documents, including their journals, when the boat she was riding in almost capsized. Yet her people, the Lemhi-Shoshone are still fighting for Federal Recognition.

Q: Do you listen to music while writing? If so what? Tell us about the atmosphere in your writing space.

A: I don’t generally write with music on. I find it too distracting, and I seem to concentrate better when I have total silence when I’m writing. On the rare occasion I do write with music on, I prefer classical which has a profound calming effect on my brain. I tend to favor Mozart, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, and Beethoven, although with the latter, at least for writing, I like his softer, lyrical pieces like Moonlight Sonata or the Pathétique Sonata to the more dramatic symphonic pieces like Beethoven’s 5th.

Q: How do you develop your books? Do you have any set process, habits or rituals?

A: My last two books were non-fiction that fell under two different series released by Goosebottom Books. Cixi, The Dragon Empress, was part of The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames and Sacajawea of the Shoshone was part of  The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses. With Cixi, she was one of six dames already selected by the publisher to be featured and I picked to write about her because I was interested in Chinese culture and history. The publisher wanted to add a Native American and an African woman to the cultural mix and asked if I wanted to write one of the books. Of course I did! I selected the Native American woman because I have some Native American ancestry in my background and was very much interested in the culture. I’ve always been fascinated with Sacajawea’s amazing story and we decided that this was the one I should tell. Over the last few years, I’ve been more interested in incorporating my cultural roots (I’m Chinese) into my writing so my current projects and my upcoming book (Goldy Luck and The Three Pandas, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014) all either have a Chinese protagonist or a Chinese theme. I try to write every day. In general, I’ll get up between 5:00 and 5:30 in the morning and write till 7 am. when I have to get the kids up for school. Then, I’ll write for 3 - 5 hours while they’re in school.

Q: Say your fairy godmother has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book; where would you want to go and why?

A: Anywhere in the Caribbean, but preferably at Cape Santa Maria on Long Island. I went there with my family several years ago and there’s not much there besides some bungalows overlooking a brilliantly calm, blue sea and a stretch of very unpopulated beach with sand as fine as talculm powder. The setting will have nothing to do with my project(s) because I don’t have any stories set in the Caribbean, but it’d just be a really cool, tranquil place to write.

Q: How long did it take you to write Sacajawea?

A: Goosebottom Books has an extremely aggressive publishing timeline so the turnaround time is pretty tight. Once, I get the assignment, I’ll get about two and a half months to do all my research and complete the first draft. The editor and I will then spend the next month or so revising. There could be anywhere from 3 to 7 drafts in that time. Cixi had many more revisions than Sacajawea did. The upside of all this stress and hard work to meet these deadlines is that I get to see my book in print in about a year and a half which is amazing for a picture book!

Q: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

A: Hmmm...I never thought I had a writing quirk, except that I can’t write without a hot drink close by be it coffee or tea. Even when it’s 100 degrees outside.

Q: Do you ever experience writer's block and if so, how to you overcome it?

A: I haven’t had writer’s block in years. I have way too many ideas and not enough time hence I’m always flitting from project to project. That’s probably the reason it takes me forever to complete my projects! I do though, have moments within a project or scenes that I get a little stuck on from time to time. What works for me is to use a different approach or change the pace. For example, if I’ve been trying to write through a difficult narrative, I’ll try to storyboard the scene so I can see things more visually or I’ll go work on a different project for awhile.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a published children's book author?

A: Accept that rejection is part of the process, learn from it, and don’t give up. My latest book, Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, has been rejected by several publishers, went through 4 or 5 editors, was signed by Random House/Tricycle Press then unsigned by them when RH decided to shutter the imprint. By the time it hits bookshelves, it would have been an 8 year journey for this book! Believe in yourself and in your writing, and it will happen.

Q: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

A: David Sedaris. I think he’s hilarious! I love his sense of humor and his quirky way of looking at his world. I think we’re very similar in that sense. I have a feeling that dinner with him would be quite entertaining.

Q: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

A: Morning. After the kids are in bed, I’m usually too beat to do much else then to veg out in front of the T.V.

Q:What are you passionate about these days?

A: Chocolate, coffee, writing, writing, writing, and promoting whatever book I have out at the moment. Right now, it’s Sacajawea of the Shoshone.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Cookies, Cocktails and Candy Apples

Well, it's almost time for the big Halloween party weekend. My costume's still in progress, which makes me kind of nervous, but I guess it's more fun to put it off a bit, right? Spookier, anyway.

Thought I'd pass on a couple of the cool Halloween treat ideas floating out there in the blogosphere. To get the party started, check out this video on making Halloween cocktails with Martha Stewart and the lovely Christina Hendricks.

One of my favorite Halloween party finger foods (buah-ha!) is the spooky witch's finger recipe. This is a particularly lazy version, and not the coolest looking, but if you're in a hurry it will totally work. 

Lastly, here's a how-to guide for making perfect candy apples. I just adore the color of these. I think they're way too pretty to eat.

Now go out there and party like a witch!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Author Interview: Stacey Jay

I'm thrilled to feature an interview today with my friend and fellow platypus enthusiast Stacey Jay. She's got a brand new YA novel out, Romeo Redeemed,  the sequel to her bestseller Juliet Immortal. Without further ado...

1.   Without giving too much away, can you tell us briefly what Romeo Redeemed is about?

Romeo Redeemed is a “bad boy meets bad girl and finds true love and renewed faith in humanity” story. There are plenty of supernatural twists and turns, but at its core it’s a love story and one of my favorite that I’ve written to date. I really hope my readers enjoy it!

2.  Did you discover anything surprising about yourself or your characters while writing Romeo Redeemed?

I had to let Romeo be bad. In my early drafts, I kept trying to make him more likable from the start, but the scenes weren’t reading true. When I went back and let him be transformed more gradually, the book finally started to “click” for me.

3.   How do you develop your books? Do you have any set process, habits or rituals?

I start with an in-depth synopsis (10-15 pages) and then move on to a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. I usually end up keeping a little over half of those chapters by the time I’m done with all of my rewrites.
4.   Say your fairy godmother has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book; where would you want to go and why?

To Palmorola Island off the coast of Italy. I’m writing a book that is set (in part) on the island and I would love to spend a few weeks there basking in the sun and making words. *sigh* Now you’ve got me daydreaming, Jody…

5.   How long did it take you to write Romeo Redeemed?

It took about three months to write the rough draft and about the same amount of time to revise. I used to do both more quickly, but I’m slowing down in my old age.

6.  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I don’t like to talk about my work in progress until it is finished and/or I place it with a publisher. I’m afraid if I do that the idea will enter the collective unconscious and someone else will write it before I can.

7.   Do you ever experience writer's block and if so, how to you overcome it?

Yes, I do, and I tend to muscle through it, hating myself the entire way. But looking back on finished books, I’ve learned that those scenes I write when I’m feeling “blocked” and hating myself aren’t any better or worse than what I write when I’m feeling awesome-sauce about my work. So I just keep going, like Dory from “Finding Nemo.” I just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

8.   What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a published author?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Revise, revise, revise. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

And if you ever get to the point that you’re feeling frustrated with it all, take a week off to go refill your creative well. Go for long walks, spend the day at a museum, go on an adventure and do something you’ve never done before—all of these things have helped me become inspired about writing again after a grumpy, frustrated patch.

9.  What genre do you find the most difficult to write and why?

Serious, contemporary teen books. I’ve tried a few times, but the gritty contemporary stuff always makes me very sad and I have to stop before I spiral into a despair pit. Reality is harsh. I prefer to torture my characters in a fantasy-laced world.

10.   Is there anything that you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Right now…focusing on one project. I’m all over the place and can’t seem to hone in and finish anything. It’s a problem, but I’m sure I’ll overcome it as soon as the deadline for my next book gets a little closer…

11.  If you had to have one word or phrase tattooed on your forehead for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Breathe, love, repeat.

12.   If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

My dad. He passed away when I was 19 and I never got to have a conversation with him as a full-fledged adult. I’d love to spend a dinner chatting with him about life and showing him pictures of the two beautiful grandsons he never had the chance to meet.

13.  If you could travel into the past or future, where would you want to go? Why?

Well, I’d definitely choose the past. I’m afraid of the future. I’m afraid of what humanity is doing to our planet, and the suffering we’re going to bring upon ourselves and the rest of the creatures on Earth if we don’t pull out heads out of our bums and make some big changes in the way we live and do business. As far as how far back in the past…maybe the late 1960’s? I’d love to hang out and be part of the flower power generation for awhile.

14.  If you had to compare yourself to an animal, which one would it be? Why?

A platypus. Because I often feel like the last remaining member of an extinct genus. And I’d really like to be a mammal that lays eggs rather than giving live birth. (I’d have at least two more children if that were the case.)

15.    Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I’m a morning person. I do my best work when I can get up early and go straight to my desk without talking to anyone except the coffee pot.

Witchy Costume Ideas: From Pinup to Voodoo Priestess

I was intrigued by a recent article in the LA times about popular Halloween costumes. This statement in particular caught my eye: "Almost 6 million adults are masquerading as a witch — black hats, warts and all."

It got me thinking about the huge variety of possible witch costumes, from vintage pinup witches to voodoo priestesses

Here are a few witch costume subcategories I came up with. Tell me if there are gaping holes in my witchy imaginings!

Vintage Witches (these are some of my favs!)

Voodoo Priestess-Inspired Witches

Movie and Book-Inspired Witches

Sea Witches

Witches That Defy Categories

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft FREE on Amazon

In order to celebrate the spookiest Dark of the Moon of the year, I'm offering AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT  FREE:

October 14-16 

Here's the Amazon Teaser: 
From the award-winning author of Babe in Boyland comes a Young Adult paranormal romance about witchcraft, black magic, and the pleasures of paranormal chocolate...

Falling in love, baking a magical cake, fighting an evil necromancer—it’s all in a day’s work for Audrey Oliver, seventeen-year-old witch-in-training. When her mother goes missing and her mysterious "cousin" shows up out of the blue, Audrey knows something’s gone horribly, dangerously wrong. Now it’s up to her to get her own magical powers up to speed before everyone she loves is destroyed by the sorcerer intricately connected to her mother’s secret past. 

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft is more than just a novel; it's a book of spells, a collection of easy recipes, a charming coming-of-age story, an enchanting romance, and an action-packed adventure. As Audrey overcomes her insecurities and learns to protect herself against the wicked black magic of her nemesis, she grows into a heroine we can root for—a witch who knows that true power comes from deep within.

"This novel was brilliant! It kept my attention, had me laughing...I was thoroughly invested in the sparkling dialogue between Audrey, her friends, and her love interest. I can’t wait for the sequel to release...I’d highly recommend this to anyone looking for a new paranormal read or, at any rate, some sizzling romance because trust me, Julian is swoooon-worthy!"
                                                                                                       ~Ivy Book Bindings

"Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft is a laugh out loud type novel.  It was straight up hilarious even if Audrey does end up with brains in her hair.  I would recommend this novel to fans of the YA supernatural, readers who enjoy humorous reads, and people who want a novel that is full of mystery, secrets, action and romance.  With a main character who is practically Dark Phoenix...from the X-men, what isn’t to love?"

                                                                                    ~Chapter by Chapter Reviews

"Since Audrey has a talent for preparing delicious mouth watering desserts, there's also some recipes thrown in that readers may want to try. This is certainly a light and amusing story filled with so many likeable characters that I had a hard time putting it down."
                                                                                    ~Primrose Musings

"Audrey is a believable protagonist...Snarky. Intelligent. Fierce. Funny."

                                                                        ~Unsociable Rabbit's Rants and Reviews

"If you like a fun read involving witches and sort-of zombies, with well rounded characters and a horrific high school enemy, then pick this one up for sure."
                                                                                    ~I Am Alive Book Blog

"Overall this one is a must read, must obtain for your high school library. Everything you need to know is in the first sentence of the synopsis: Love + Baking + Fighting = super fun read! Gehrman makes writing look easy but we all know it's no simple feat to develop an interesting character with witty dialogue who has magical powers. As Audrey writes her guide she includes everything from Creme Brulee recipes to Protection Spells to How to be a Boy Repeller lists!   If you liked Meg Cabot's Jinx, you will enjoy this one!"

                                                                                    ~Reviews of Young Adult Literature    

Monday, October 8, 2012

Halloween Costume Ideas!

It's my favorite time of year...October! The weather's getting crisper and the leaves have just started to drift along on smoke-scented breezes. We're gearing up for the most glorious holiday ever, Halloween! I’m all about playing dress-up. I love wigs and crazy shoes, feather boas, anything with sequins. Every single time I go to a costume party I ask myself why all parties can’t involve false eyelashes and boys in drag and the undead getting down with rivulets of blood dripping from their fangs.

This year, in honor of the best holiday EVER, I've decided to gather some great ideas for costumes. Check out these images, and let your creative juices flow. Some are spooky, some cute, some sexy, but they're all creative and fully into the spirit of things!

 Lastly, I couldn't resist adding a couple of my husband and I in my favorite costumes from Halloweens past:


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bozeman's Haufbrau Open Mic Highlights

Here are the video clips and photos from our Montana Open Mic Adventure, as promised. Viva the vibrant Montana music scene! Granted, the lighting is low and these really don't do the performers justice, but you can get a tiny taste anyway...

We Heart Montana Musicians!

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."
                                                                                                         --George Harrison

Our random open mic journey continues; we're now hitting the home stretch. We've splashed out on a hotel in Pocatello, Idaho after five days of camping in gradually colder and colder weather. Grungy showers and chilly winds finally got the better of us, and we're luxuriating in the Best Western (thank you, Yelp, for your awesome roadside guidance!) While we've got internet access and a cozy haven to hang in, we wanted to post a quick blog. Stay tuned for roadside pictures and videos of our favorite performers.

Before we go any further we need to give a quick shout-out to Montana, home of a seriously rocking open mic scene! If you ever find yourself in the mood for eclectic music, zero pretense, and an amazingly good time, wander your way to big sky country and check out Sean Kelly's in Missoula or the Haufbrau in Bozeman. We've cruised through five states now, and man, Montana really knows how to make the musical traveler feel welcome. As soon as we get to a speedier internet connection we'll add a few clips of Montana-style bad assery from dive bar extraordinaire, the Haufbrau. We especially loved Thom, a heartbreakingly authentic cowboy guitar guy; The Awesome Awesomes, a one man drum and trumpet band; and Eric, a metal-head with a heart of gold who grew up playing country music with his dad right here in Pocatello. Oh, and lurking in the shadows of several video clips you might spot Dean, the host of the open mic, a professional country-western drummer, and (incidentally) a fine brewer of kombucha, which he let us sample. Mmmm...basil-gingery deliciousness!

Tonight we'll join an acoustic jam session at Portneuf Valley Brewing in Old Town Pocatello, a place we explored a bit today. I have to say this was the first time I've ordered a mocha in a store that sells secondhand baby gear, but that's exactly what we did at Tiny Treasures Baby Boutique, also the home of Deja Brew. Just one of the many novel experiences one encounters on the road. Stay tuned for videos, pics, and more...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Open Mic Tour 2012: Jody and Dave do the Weird States

After twelve years playing music in our living room, my partner Dave and I have blasted out on the road to play our songs for a wider audience—meaning someone besides our cats. Max and Fang show precious little appreciation for what we do, and even have the nerve to yowl in bitchy protest when we experiment with dissonant harmonies. We’ve been traveling for a week now, and have hit the following venues:

1)    College of the Redwoods, Crescent City, California: Played one song at the culmination of the Redwood Coast Writers Conference. It’s a little awkward singing a honky-tonk song in a library, but everyone was very supportive and sweet.

2)    Wild Goose Cafe & Bar, Ashland, Oregon: Had a great time playing with a small group of very accomplished singer-songwriters as well as a motley crew of poets displaying a wide range of mental health conditions. Check out the video of Michael Jackson Montgomery, country singer satirist who made up for somewhat primitive guitar skills with serious bravado. His showstopper? A song he claimed was scientifically proven to be the ideal pop country song; its only words were “ice cold beer and a pickup truck.” 

3)    Pub at the End of the Universe, Portland, Oregon: Um…wow. This place was dank, stinky, depressing and filthy, but we heard some talented, eclectic musicians. Also in the lineup: two jugglers and an autistic rapper. Awesome.

4)    Station Bistro, Auburn, Washington: This was a first; when we mentioned our tour, the enthusiastic host proceeded to interview us like we were on the Today Show, in spite of the fact that the place was virtually empty. Very surreal. There were literally five people there in addition to us: some young, adorable teen musicians, two aging hippie guys on electric guitar, and our host, Tim, who did some gospel tunes and then surprised us by reading a few poems in a British accent. Check out the video. Definitely memorable.

5)    Sean Kelly’s, Missoula, Montana: This Irish pub in downtown Missoula hosted a vibrant, well-attended open mic filled with wholesome, college-aged music lovers. In fact, despite showing up an hour early, we almost didn’t get to play because performing here is so popular. Our waitress told us the sign-up sheet goes up at 10 a.m. and fills by 10:15. Only by begging the host with a desperate story about traveling hundreds of miles just to be there were we able to secure a spot. Hooray to Mike Avery for his kindness! Highlights of this gig: a brother-sister band from North Carolina doing kind of a White Stripes thing with her on drums, him on guitar; this was the only other male-female duet we’ve seen so far—actually, the only chick we’ve seen perform at all! They were very hip, complete with ironic aviator sunglasses and hints of southern attitude. Another major perk of this venue: we had a long talk with a Choctaw-Swedish-Gypsy “minstrel” in his seventies who’s been playing Flamenco guitar for fifty-eight years. His favorite phrase? “I’m an asshole, not an idiot.”

6)    Zootown Brew: This spacious, well-lit gallery-turned-coffee shop became the location of our first full-on gig. When we called to see if they planned to host an open mic they said, “No, but you’re welcome to audition.” Voila! We played for a full hour to an almost empty room. Our audience included a couple watching YouTube videos, a guy with headphones on, and James, our very sweet and accommodating barista. Oh, and a guy in a bandanna we thought was drawn by our dulcet tones, but it turns out he just wanted to use the bathroom. Aw, the glamourous life of touring rock stars!