Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jillian Dodd Has Got It Goin' On!

I first heard of and came to know Jillian Dodd in an on-line book club. She seemed so genuine, fresh, energetic and down to earth that I very quickly became enamored of her, as do most people who've had the pleasure of meeting her. (Although now that you've seen that picture of me with Jillian you can tell both that I'm totally smitten with her, and why!) And then I started reading her books!

The first one I read, That Boy, was so charming and cleverly written (love how the narrator's voice and perspective change as she grows up!), that I was immediately hooked, and from then on couldn't get enough.

But her awesome books (and gorgeous looks!) aren't the only reason I became and remain infatuated with Jillian, or the only thing about her that I want to talk about. Because another cool thing (cool almost to the point of intimidating!) is her energy, and her generosity of spirit (okay, that's two things, sue me!). For example, earlier this month (December 21st, right in the middle of Christmas preparation, which is no small undertaking in the Dodd household) Jillian launched a major marketing initiative - 99 authors, 99 EBooks for 99 cents - an idea she hatched while chatting to other writers about the best way to bring their books to the attention of the reading public.

Remember that General Waverly guy, from White Christmas?

Just like him, Jill assembled the troops, issued clear step-by-step instructions on what they needed to do, and how and when to do it. And just like in the movie, she was indefatigable in her support and her relentlessness: "We ate, and then she ate. We slept, then she slept. And when she woke up nobody slept for forty-eight hours!" (Okay, paraphrasing for rhetorical effect, but wow, she rocked - hard!) And the beautiful thing (from both an author and a reader point of view?) It worked! At the end of the 21st December, ten of the authors were in the top 100 in the Kindle store. (By this time Amazon had leapt aboard to assist in the 24hr price drop, and helped out with the Kindle Daily Deal). The majority of the authors saw their rankings soar. Many sold hundreds of books. Many were in the top five of their specific category genres! Readers were ecstatic, authors were excited and Jillian stayed up with virtually no sleep for forty-eight hours (Remember that General Waverly guy? That part I wasn't kidding about!) to make sure the whole thing went smoothly and to keep a cute and steady eye on the numbers.

So this post is partly in recognition and celebration of that event, and Jillian's amazing contribution to it.

But it's also about letting you in on Jillian's new series, The Keatyn Chronicles, an awesome reading experience I just don't want you to miss out on! What's up with that, you say?

Well, remember that first season of Gossip Girl, back when it was fun? Or Beverly Hills 90210, again in those glorious early days?

Well, if you got a kick out of those, you’re going to love the steamy Keatyn Chronicles. Readers have gone wild for Keatyn and her complicated life, never mind her even more complex love life.

Jillian’s ability to write such a fabulously drawn character has readers coming back for more again and again. Keatyn is rich, smexy and an awesome dresser and shoe-holic, who may look as if she has it all. But she's got her share of issues, too, one of which is a big ole scary stalker who haunts our girl thoughout Book One of the series, Stalk Me! It’s the sign of a great author when he/she deals honestly with a protagonist’s flaws, but still leaves us loving her. And while Keatyn has probs aplenty, she also has smarts, sex appeal (did I mention that?) and the ability to make a reader laugh out loud at times, and bring a lump to your throat, as well.

The secondary characters too, are beautifully and vividly brought to life, especially the guys. I'm lucky enough to be in a group where girls find these guys so droolworthy, that they're posting and rabidly commenting on pics of who they'd cast as these competitors for Keatyn's heart (and panties!) But don't take my word alone, Stalk Me has garnered over 138 five star reviews. That is a crapload of amazeballs right there, my friends!

Curious now? Here’s the blurb for Stalk Me:

Gossip Girl meets Hollywood in this steamy new series by That Boy author, Jillian Dodd.

Keatyn has everything she ever dreamed. Her life is following the script she wrote for the perfect high school experience. She's popular, goes to the best parties, dates the hottest guy, and sits at the most-coveted lunch table.

She's just not sure she wants it anymore.

Because, really, things aren't all that perfect.
Her best friend is threatening to tell everyone her perfect relationship is a scam.
Her perfect boyfriend gets drunk at every party they go to.
It's exhausting always trying to look and act perfect.
And, deep down, she isn't sure if she has any true friends.

To add to the drama, her movie star mom has a creepy stalker.
A hot, older man flirts with her and tells her they should make a movie together.
And she's crushing on an adorable surfer. Dating him would mean committing social suicide.

So she writes a new script. One where all the pieces of her life will come together in perfect harmony.
But little does she know, there's someone who will do anything to make sure that doesn't happen.

Book two of The Keatyn Chronicles is titled Kiss Me. Since it’s release on the 26th of November, it has 157 five star reviews. And look at that cover model! If I ever get the chance, it will be super hard not to take her up on the invitation of this title, right? Who could blame me!

Here’s its blurb:

I’ve always written scripts for my perfect life.
But no way could I have ever scripted this.
My life is so far from perfect, it’s not even funny.
All because of a stalker.

I’m at a boarding school, where I have to lie about who I am.
I can’t see my family.
I’m tutoring a hottie god that tortures me with his smile.
The most popular girl already hates me.
But there’s this boy.
This hot, sweet, sexy boy.
So I’m going to stop trying to script my life and just live it.
Because who knows how long I have left.

Thanks to awesome author CC MacKenzie, for helping me with this post (although any errors are certainly mine!) And a further mega-tip of the old chapeau to extraordinary author and friend Charles Sheehan-Miles, who came with the idea for this burst of blog-thusiasm for Jillian!

Check out Jillian's wonderful books at these links!

Kiss Me

Stalk Me

Jillian Dodd's Author Website

Jillian Dodd facebook page

Jillian Dodd Goodreads page

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Of Romance and Laughter -- Author Molly Ringle Interview and Giveaway!

Molly Ringle is an author I love, and I’m delighted to welcome her to the interview chair here at the Still Seeking Allies clubhouse. Her books are both thoughtful and irrepressibly funny, literate and sweetly silly, sexy and emotional, and all around full of awesome. Molly’s been writing fiction for over twenty years (yes, she started young!), and in addition to her charming novels, she’s written several hilarious parodies (available at her website) including send ups of many YA and Romance favorites. Similarly reflecting her intense devotion to wry and witty humor, she won the grand prize(!) in the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with one (intentionally) terrible sentence, which you can read at the BLFC homepage. Her current project is a contemp take on the Persephone/Hades situation, which seems fraught with dramatic and smexy potential. Molly lives in Seattle with her husband and two charming kids, where she is a devotee of fragrances and chocolate.

You have written some very clever and terribly funny parodies – of Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings and more recently The Hunger Games and Les Mis. Your web site gives them equal billing, by identifying you as “a writer of novels and parodies.” How do you feel the two relate to each other? Does that sense of humor which reigns rampant in the parodies infuse your novels, too?

The parodies (and perhaps also the Bulwer-Lytton sentence) were where I made my biggest splash on the Internet. Some of them went viral and have still gotten way more attention than my original fiction has. (Of course, the parodies are free, which does lend to a larger readership! We all love free funny stuff.) So I figure maybe half the people who land on my website are looking for the parodies rather than my other writing, and I try to make it easy for them to find what they're after. But the success of the parodies did give me a major hint that maybe humor is something I'm good at, and it would therefore be stupid *not* to use it in my novels. I generally do include a lot of humor, which can be ridiculous or wry or subtle, depending on the scene.

Do you have to hold back sometimes in a serious part and say, whoa, this isn’t the time to be punny or playful?

Certainly, making an irreverent remark or laughing at the "wrong" time has been a problem with me both in writing and in real life--just ask my mom, who failed to prevent me from giggle attacks in church when I was a kid. And those wrong-footed moments do occur in my rough drafts too, but luckily I'm able to rein myself in and edit them out before the final galley.

Do web searches for the parodies or your awesome Bulwer-Lytton award winning entry bring new readers to your site, and hopefully to your novels? Have you had any particularly memorable responses to your water bottle/kissing analogy? Have you ever been asked about “the rest of the story?” Any offended gerbil lovers, Ricardo’s or Felicity’s who felt ill-treated?

I have no proof that the Bulwer-Lytton win actually increased my book sales, but it did make people laugh, which was the important thing. My favorite responses have been the people who say I captured their early kissing experiences perfectly with that disgusting description. (Hah! Yeah, most of us have had such unfortunate encounters...) One or two of the journalists did ask what happened to the couple, and I admit I haven't really planned it out; but I can't help feeling their affair is somewhat doomed. So far no gerbil owners, Ricardos, or Felicitys have complained personally to me, but I do feel bad for surely causing some teasing for those with such names (or pets).

Have you ever chatted with any other BLFC winners? Kind of a select and exalted company, right? You guys should get together for one of those “Dark and Stormy Night,” cocktails!

As soon as I won that contest, I started getting emails from previous winners, and in the subsequent years I've emailed the grand prize winners to congratulate them too. So far everyone is wonderfully nice, and droll, and modest, as you'd have to be to write an intentionally horrible, awkward sentence and then endure headlines like "World's Worst Writer" for a month or so afterward. (Um, no, headline writers, that isn't quite what the contest means.) And Scott Rice, the organizer of the contest, must be one of the kindest and most patient people out there. He's run the contest almost singlehandedly for over twenty years, getting terrible sentences in his inbox every day, and still comes across as good-humored and thoughtful in his messages.

Part of the premise of your sexy and sweet Adult Romance "Summer Term" is that protagonist Paige is a doctoral candidate in linguistics. Your knowledge of and background in linguistics make that element of the story feel believable and unforced. Same with your experiences in Edinburgh in "What Scotland Taught Me," and the city of Seattle in "The Ghost Downstairs." Have you had experiences that make your ghost-agonists (in TGD and "Of Ghosts and Geeks") more real and relatable to you? Does your world view have room for real life ghosts, or is that just a literary device?

I have no personal history with ghosts, but some of my trusted friends and relatives swear they've had ghostly experiences, so I like to think it's possible. I might just lack the sixth sense, or maybe ghosts aren't interested in showing off for me. Mostly I lean toward ghosts for my paranormal devices because I think they're the scariest of the supernatural beings, and therefore the most interesting. They also have the capacity for a deeply sad story, or a surprisingly funny one if you twist things.

Your followers on Facebook and readers of your blog know that you love the rain, which seems like a good thing for a Seattle-ite. How about elaborating on that for us Midwesterners who see that more as a bug than a feature? I know it ties in to your sensitive and sophisticated sniffer, is that right?

It's true that the air usually smells good in the rain. And around here the rain tends to smell somewhat like the ocean, which is beautiful. But I also like that the rain waters my garden so I don't have to, and that it makes the world quieter and cozier. Plus you don't have to wear sunscreen, a substance I find greasy and itchy. Incidentally, little-known fact about Seattle: it doesn't rain as much as people think (it drizzles often, but pours rarely), and hardly rains in the summer at all. While the Midwest and South and East Coast are getting their humid summer downpours, we're drying out on the West Coast. A summer drought is the norm here. Our grass usually turns brown by mid-August. So the return of the rain at the end of summer is especially a treat for me, because I've missed it!

Is music a big part of your writing life? I know you were at one time a lover of Robert Smith and The Cure, Nick Drake (right?) and other lovely, angsty Ur-emo. Still like that kind of thing? I’ve seen you liking The Lumineers lately, what else fills out your playlist these days? Do you listen to or imagine music in your head while you are writing?

I rarely have music in my head, or even playing, while actually writing. My focus is on the story then. But I definitely form attachments to certain songs that have the right mood for a particular story, and I listen to them while daydreaming about the characters. I have a playlist right now for my work-in-progress, including The Lumineers and some other hipster groups like Of Monsters and Men, and Florence and the Machine. I do still love my Goth-ish New Wave stuff (Cure, Pet Shop Boys, New Order...), and also atmospheric, beautiful, sometimes eerie music like Dead Can Dance and Loreena McKennitt.

"Summer Term" and "Of Ghosts and Geeks" were quite a bit sexier than most of your other stories. Was it awkward or fun writing “those parts?” I like that they are sweet and tender as well as toe-curling, was it hard to achieve that tone?

Thank you! Those can be difficult to write, because it's easier for readers to find fault with love scenes than with other types of scenes--we all delight in heckling such things. It's more important than ever not to use clich├ęs or over-sappy dialogue, or weird inventive metaphors that'll yank the readers out of the moment and make them snicker. On the other hand, love (or at least romantic attraction) is one of the two main pillars of my writing (the other being humor), so I'm always happy to get to those scenes and decide how best to tackle them. I think a bit of human awkwardness makes them more realistic, and therefore more endearing.

Many authors draw people to their Facebook page by offering to publish teasers, swag, cover reveals or other prizes when a threshold number is achieved. Any chance of us seeing you in that Princess Leia costume when your fb page hits 1,000 likes? (Okay, just threw this one in to make you laugh, but think about it!)

Haha! I doubt there's a lot of demand for such a photo, and in any case I'd have to acquire the costume. I don't actually own one. But 1,000 likes would be awesome, and will surely require some kind of celebration. I'll consider all suggestions!
[Ed. Note - Amazon carries them, just sayin]

Last I heard the Persephone story was really kicking into gear, and you were thinking about making it a series, or at least a two parter. Is that still an option? This is a genre that has seen a lot of activity in the last couple of years. Your fans know you will make it fresh, funny, and emotional; can you share anything with us about the project and how it’s seen through the prism of Molly-o-vision?

At this point it looks like it'll have to be at least two volumes. Turns out I have a lot of adventures to relate. Additional books are quite possible, whether in the series or more like companion books or spin-offs. Basing a YA romance on the Persephone/Hades myth has been done lots of times in the last decade alone, but that means it's a myth a lot of us love. I did a fair amount of world-building to explain how the Underworld works and what the gods can and can't do, and plenty of that is my own creation. The current novel is about a present-day girl learning she's the reincarnation of Persephone, and becoming attracted to the modern reincarnation of Hades. I go back and forth between prehistoric Greece and modern day to piece it all together. Having two storylines is probably why I'm going to require two volumes (or more).

But I use the original mythology as inspiration: Underworld pomegranates with magical properties, strange otherworldly animals (beasts are everywhere in the myths), Demeter and Persephone being plant experts, Hades driving a chariot drawn by supernaturally fast horses. However, in my modern-day section, it's now an old bus that he's harnessed to the horses. No chariots left over from the old days, you know. Also, I did include a human sacrifice, which I'm pretty sure is a first for me. (Don't worry, it's not too graphic.) In any case, I'm hoping to be ready to share that book with the world sometime next year!

(I kinda love this picture of Molly relaxing in the wild, near Puget Sound, not gonna lie!)

The Molly-verse, a go to guide!
Goodreads Author Page (Molly has posted the first chapter of all her books on their Goodreads’ pages, check them in depth!)
Facebook page
Twitter (@MollyRingle)

Gigantic Free Giveaway!!!
Now that you've heard a bit about and from Molly, here's a chance to win a copy of one her her wonderful books! With none of that silly Rafflecopter nonsense to deal with, either (more for my benefit than yours, lol)! Just leave a comment on this post (be sure to include an email where I can contact you). One commenter will be chosen at random, and the giveaway will take place a week from today, Saturday December 8th at 9:00am-ish CST, and I'll notify the lucky winner by e-mail at or around that time!

What’s the prize? Well none other than one of Molly Ringle’s great novels. Courtesy of Molly's awesome small press indie publisher Central Avenue Publishing, the winner will choose between an e-book of Molly's clever and twisty contemp NA "Relatively Honest" and or an e-book of "What Scotland Taught Me." Man, these are both so sweet! Hard to choose between them! Fortunately, you can't go wrong with either!
Here's my review of Relatively Honest on Goodreads!
And my review of What Scotland Taught Me, as well!