Friday, March 25, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Today's INFF guest is one of the distinguished Man Cave authors, the second to volunteer to be my Friday Friend.
"Author J. Lloyd Morgan is an award winning television director. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Communications and a minor in English. Morgan has lived all over the United States, but now resides in North Carolina with his wife and four daughters. He is currently working on a sequel to The Hidden Sun."
J. Lloyd Morgan can be found on the web at, at his blog and, of course, at the Man Cave Authors blog.

SME: Welcome to INFF!

JLM: Thanks for having me!

SME: Hey, any and all the Man Cave Authors are welcome at INFF any time!!

JLM: Are you sure? Some of them are pretty scary. I'm just sayin'

SME: I'm totally up for it.

JLM: You are a brave soul.

SME: When Dan Harrington was here a few weeks back, we discussed at length the various contributions y'all would make to a man cave. What would you bring?

JLM: I'm probably the wimpiest of the manly man. It comes from having 4 daughters and no sons, I suppose. I guess I tend to balance out the testosterone in the man cave. I'm like the softer side of Sears.

SME: We're not talking doilies and needlework, are we?

JLM: Oh dear, no. Just PG-13 movies and saying "excuse me" when I burp.

SME: Phew.
I must say, if any of y'all need a man cave, the guy with three daughters definitely does!

JLM: It's 4, but I tend to lose count too

SME: *looks excessively embarrassed* I only have two kids and I lose track of them.

JLM: It helps when you tie bells around their necks. Not saying that I've done that or anything. . .

SME: Whenever we go camping our kids are equipped with whistles around their necks in case they get lost in the forest. They can blow the whistle and we can find them. That only backfired once. Much lecturing followed.

JLM: Can I use that as a sub story in a future book?

SME: So long as the acknowledgments include something about "the genius of Sarah Eden." You may, of course, use your own extremely flattering wording.

JLM: I'll have to crack open my Thesaurus

SME: You can also include this tidbit: The last time we went to Disneyland, our kids had ID badges around their necks that said "Please return me to my parents, (then our name and cell numbers), because they really need the tax write off."

JLM: OK, that is most certainly going in a book somewhere. Though it may be tough in the genre I write.

SME: Perhaps I should hold on to some of these gems for myself. What was I thinking?!

JLM: No, by all means, keep spilling your guts. Really. It's ok.

SME: I'd rather you spill yours. You have a book coming out this summer with Walnut Springs. Time to brag, my new Friday Friend!

JLM: It's actually the second edition of The Hidden Sun, re-edited and and pretty. We are looking to add the first part of my second book as part of the second edition. That's a lot of "seconds," isn't it?

SME: So give us the quick low-down on The Hidden Sun, so the readers will be desperate to get their hands on it!!

JLM: It's an action / adventure / romance story in Medieval times. It's not fantasy, as there isn't any magic in the book. People are faced with choices and can't use magic or technology to save them. I think that has really been an aspect readers have liked.
Oh! And I have gotten hate mail!

SME: Oh, dear. Hate mail, huh?

JLM: The villain is really bad--like super evil. (In a PG-13 way). I've had many people tell me how much they hate him. Some have even tried to reach into the pages and choke him.

SME: Ah, the kind of hate mail authors covet.

JLM: But by the time they finish the book, all is forgiven--not in a way you expect though.

SME: Love it! Endings that aren't run-of-the-mill are my absolute favorite!

JLM: I promise you this: you will not see what is coming in this book

SME: Excellent.
So, a traditional INFF question: What's your favorite continent?

JLM: Europe. I've never been there, but it is the only one that doesn't start with an "A" so that makes it special

SME: So you are a proponent of unique endings AND beginnings.

JLM: And all the stuff in the middle too.

SME: So, I have a few questions for you that were posed by a class of 2nd Graders I got to visit today.

JLM: Yikes! I hope I'm up to it!

SME: We'll see...
From Kaylee "If you didn't write the kind of books you write, what kind would you write?"

JLM: Probably Sci-Fi. Or maybe, how to quilt. Granted, I've never quilted before. . . (Is "quilted" a word?)

SME: I'm picturing you setting up a quilting frame in the middle of the man cave. Not sure that would go over too well.

JLM: They would tease me, but on a cold night, then who would be laughing!

SME: This question is from Joey, "Why are some books bigger than other books?"

JLM: Because sometimes authors run out of words. It's sad, but it happens.

SME: From Annabell, "If you got a grade on your book, what grade would you get?"

JLM: If I graded it myself, an A-. If my wife graded it, probably a B+. If my creative writing teacher in college were to grade it, a B-. (No one was better than a B-)

SME: Okay, one more... From Matthew "Which is more important if you want to be a writer, reading a lot or writing a lot?"

JLM: Oh! Good question! I'd say reading a lot. An author is only as good as the words he knows. I probably read ten times more than I write.

SME: I thought those kids came up with some great questions.

JLM: Amen!

SME: So, you ready for your portrait?

JLM: You betcha! I loved what you did with Dan

*draws a portrait*

JLM: It's like looking at a photo! Spooky! I think I'll use that on the back of my next book as my profile pic.

SME: You absolutely should. Again, something in the acknowledgments about my immense talent.

JLM: How about: "To Sarah. Without you, I'd be just another person on a Friday with no friends

SME: Perfect. That should be cross-stitched and hung in the man cave. Just sayin.

JLM: I'll get right on that, right after I learn how to quilt.

SME: That brings us to the final question of the interview. Top 5 reasons this is the best blog interview you've ever done. Ready. Go.

JLM: 1. Sarah will edit all my typos and mistakes.
2. I got to do the interview at home in my man cave.
3. I got a new professional photo of me and all it cost was to give Sarah a credit in my next book.
4. I'm now thinking about taking up quilting for some reason.
5. 2nd graders ask awesome questions!

SME: Fantastic! Thanks for being my Friday Friend and best of luck to you with your release this summer!

JLM: Thanks for having me! It was a blast!

SME:*cue exit music* Well, this has been "I Need Friends" Friday. Come back next week when I will make another friend!!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Éirinn go Brách!

I love St. Patrick's Day. Truly, honestly love it. I decorate the house in green. I decorate myself in green. I bake Irish soda bread. I listen to Irish folk music all day. I pretend to have an Irish accent. I turn a year older. I dance jigs intermittently. All-in-all a fabulous day.

In honor of this coolest of holidays, here is my list of some great Irish things:

1. Me! (I am allowed to include myself, right?)
I'm as American as they come, but prick me and I bleed just a bit Irish. My people come from County Donegal in the Ulster province of Ireland.
(On the map, Donegal is the bright red bit up there to the north. The brighter green is Ulster, and if you look really close, there's a thicker line running through part of Ulster. That is the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK). County Donnegal is in the Ireland part of Ulster.)

2. Irish Soda Bread!

450 g flour (about 3-3.5 cups)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
200-300 ml buttermilk (about 1-1.25 cups)

Preheat oven to 350*.
Combine all dry ingredients. Once the oven is preheated stir in buttermilk until the dough begins to hold together. (You may have to add a teeny bit more buttermilk if the dough isn't wet enough to stick together.) It won't be a smooth dough like yeast breads, but more clumpy and raggedy (like what we in America refer to as biscuits). Dump the lump onto a floured surface and knead just enough to get a ball of dough, probably no more than 15 seconds. Don't over-knead, you'll ruin it!
Shape into an ever-so-slightly domed circle. Take a really sharp knife and cut across the center of the dough twice at right angles (so you make an X). Cut deeply enough that you don't quite cut all the way through. This is important for allowing it to rise properly.
Place on a lightly floured baking sheet in preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 300* and bake an additional 35 minutes. When bread is done it will sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

[In Ulster, they make a variety of soda bread called "farl," but for the sake of simplicity, we're sticking with this recipe for now. Maybe next Holiday of Coolness!]

3. Irish music!!
Everything from upbeat, quirky music that pokes a bit of fun at themselves...

to beautiful songs sung in Gaelic...

to lovely and sentimental songs of loss, heartache and hope...

to fantastic modern music!

FYI--this is The Script, a fantastic group out of Ireland. I stumbled across them a couple years ago and have been a huge fan ever since. Love!
4. Irish Blessings!
I will likely post this every single year on the Holiday of Coolness because I absolutely love it. Here ya go. My favorite Irish Blessing:

May those who love us, love us.
And for those who don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if he can not turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we may know them by their limping.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's Wednesday. Let's go walkabout.

(I'm bringing along a few of my mates as I wander through the vast wilderness of the publishing industry, learning the ins and outs, and having a grand adventure.)

Walkabout, Week 81:

I recently had the opportunity to travel to the lovely city of Portland, Oregon to do a bit of research for a manuscript I'm working on. The trip was absolutely lovely, and I accomplished a great deal. I'll recount some of the grander moments of my adventure in a future post--things like flying in to Oregon amidst a tsunami warning, wandering around Powell's Bookstore--a store so large they give you a map to navigate the place--surviving a crazy huge windstorm and sort of falling in love with the city while I was there.

This post, however, is all about:
Tips when Traveling for Research

1. Plan ahead
  • Know what you need to find out. Do enough thinking ahead of time about what you need for your manuscript, what you'd like to find out. Make a list! You'd hate to go all that way only to realize you forgot to do something essential.
  • Do your homework about the place you are visiting. Gather addresses, street maps, etc. so you know where you're headed. If you are visiting a business, a school, a museum, etc. know their hours, prices of admission, all the essentials.
  • Work out a schedule, but be flexible. Figure out which of your destinations are near each other and could possibly be visited on the same day. Decide how long you want to spend at each location. Determine which stops are the most crucial and make sure those are on the list. But know that you might be slowed down by weather or traffic or simply want to stay in one place longer than you'd anticipated.
2. For heaven's sake, document what you see and do
  • Bring something to record what you're doing--a voice recorder, a pen and paper--whatever works best for you. I wouldn't recommend lugging a laptop around while you're out and about, ave that for transferring notes at the end of the day in your hotel room. A camera is also a great idea, though bear in mind you don't need pictures of every single building you pass.
  • As much as we'd all like to think our memories are good, you won't be able to recall all your impressions weeks and months after the fact, so take good notes.

3. Focus on those things you can only do or experience in-person
  • Again, this is a matter of doing the legwork ahead of time. You can find maps and pictures of landmarks, etc. online or in books or travel guides. See if you can find this information elsewhere--this will save you time and money during your trip.
  • Spend time experiencing "the feel" of the places you visit. This is probably the single most valuable bit of information you will gather during your research travels. Guide books, videos, maps and postcards cannot offer the same insight into the aura of location.
  • Watch the people--How do they dress? How do they hold themselves? Do they interact with each other, or are they more isolated? Are they ethnically diverse or does one ethnicity noticeably dominate? Do they generally seem well-off or poor or middle class?
  • How does the city or town run--Public transit or bumper-to-bumper traffic? Huge parking lots or streets lined with parking meters? Is it chaotic or excessively organized? Shopping malls or street vendors?
  • Engage your senses! -- Colorful or monochromatic? Historic buildings or brand new? Are there unique smells? How's the weather? Lush green plant life or only a few trees here and there? Is it noisy or eerily quiet?
4. Think like a local
  • If your character lives in the city you are researching, seeing that city as a tourist would won't give you an authentic feel. See where the locals hang out, where they eat, what they do. You want to experience their town as they experience it.
  • Don't underestimate the value of a local showing you around! I was fortunate enough to have a native Portland-er (shout out to the wonderful Tony Meyer!) drive me around the city and answer my questions. He knew where everything was and how to get there. He answered every question I had without sugar coating it the way a tour guide or someone working for the visitor's bureau might have. I explained to him why I wanted to see different places, the type of scene it would be part of, and he actually suggested a couple other options. I ended up changing a location based on his recommendations and it has turned out to be a great thing for my book! If you have a local at your disposal--ask questions, get recommendations. [And take them to lunch or dinner while you're out, both as a thank you and as a way of sampling local cuisine. They could probably even recommend a great place to eat.] If you don't know anyone who lives there, ask before you go. Twitter is a fabulous place to get in touch with people from diverse locations and backgrounds. Pose questions there before you leave and see where their advice might take you.
5. Take time to enjoy the trip
  • I firmly believe that anytime a writer travels for research, they should leave the place just a little bit in love with it. Take time to simply enjoy yourself. If you are so rushed that you spend your entire trip under a cloud of stress, that will change your perception of the place and color your writing of it. Most people, despite the inevitable difficulties of life, feel a connection to the place where they live, loyalty and pride and, to differing degrees, a love for it. Give yourself the opportunity to simply sit back and discover what inspires them to feel that way.
  • While your writing research shouldn't be overly-touristy, don't forget to hit the sights for your own sake.
  • Have fun!

Don't forget to check out the newest episode of The Appendix: a podcast for writers!

Friday, March 11, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Today's INFF guest is the fantabulous Melanie Jacobson. I am super excited to have Melanie here today because, quite frankly, she's hilarious--and, as an added bonus, she's hilarious in that witty, sometimes sassy way that I particularly enjoy. She has a brand new book out this month, a romantic comedy, entitled "The List." Go check out her website and blog and a first-chapter excerpt and then come back and thank me for the invaluable tip.

Let's get to know Melanie!
SME: Welcome to INFF!

Melanie: Thanks, glad to be here!

SME: There is a longstanding tradition here at INFF to open an interview by discussing food. I support this tradition. Heck, I started this tradition. So.. do you have a favorite flavor of cake?

Melanie: I can't lie. I'm not a huge cake fun. It's so often dry. However, the spectacular exception to this is carrot cake. I love, adore, and would marry carrot cake. Except my husband is awesome, so I'll just love and adore carrot cake.

SME: My husband would also swear his life-long allegiance to carrot cake. Luckily I am far cuter than some sorry slice of cake.
So if you're not a cake person, what do you have on your birthday?

Melanie: Oh, Cold Stone ice cream cake. And actually, my birthday is Christmas Eve, so I have ice cream cake PLUS whatever eight thousand Christmas treats are lying around. I like to spend my birthday being fat. Actually, I like to spend all of December that way.

SME: See, and I don't limit myself to December. I believe in being thicker than I should be all year long!

Melanie: Well, I try to rein it in. I have a great December and then a really depressing January. Then in February, I pull out some exercise videos.
My husband today said, "Your pants are too big." I kissed him.

SME: I once asked my husband if he thought my wedding dress would still fit me. He said, "It's probably too big for you now."

Melanie: And that's how you know you married a keeper.

SME: When I first read that, I thought it said, "you married a leper." I thought, "What does that mean?"

Melanie: That means you're super biblical. Somehow.

SME: Apparently.
Speaking of books (wow, that was a really lame transition), you have a new one out!!! Tell us about it!

Melanie: It's called The List, and I have to say in the interest of full disclosure, that if it improves your mind at all, I've failed utterly. However, if it makes you laugh and pass a great Friday night, we're more on the right track.
It's about a girl with a list of 25 things to do before she gets married . . .
And then, a boy comes along. They do that, sometimes.
There is much surfing and flirting and sassiness.

SME: I think that is the new subtitle of my autobiography: "There was much surfing and flirting and sassiness."
Although there would probably need to be an asterisk and a footnote explaining that I have never surfed in my entire life.

Melanie: Me, either. But my husband does and so do a ton of my friends. I got to ask lots and lots of questions about surfing and while away many hours watching the surfers in Huntington Beach from the pier.

SME: Tough gig, Melanie.

Melanie: It's the life of an artist. Or someone smart enough to write about beaches and surfing.

SME: On the day this interview posts, I will be on my way to Portland, OR in the name of research. This research will involve eating Italian food and wandering around a 60,000+ square foot bookstore. I'll try to endure it somehow.

Melanie: Powell's? That's on my personal bucket list.

SME: Yes! Powells!

Melanie: I'm officially jealous.

SME: I'm jealous of myself!
So do you have something new you're working on?

Melanie: I'm actually in revisions on my fourth manuscript. Love it. The manuscript. Hate revisions.

SME: Do you have a teaser for us on that manuscript, or is it top secret?

Melanie: Well, let's start with book #2.

SME: Sounds good to me.

Melanie: That comes out in the fall and it's about a girl whose roommate sets her up with an online dating profile without telling her. But before Jessie can kill her roommate Sandy, a cute guy emails her. And then hilarity ensues.

SME: I love hilarity!

Melanie: I believe in it whole-heartedly. It's like a personal article of faith. "I believe the whole world is improved by hilarity."

SME: I have another book coming out this fall, as well. We should throw ourselves a party!

Melanie: Yay! Which one is it? Persephone?

SME: It is Seeking Persephone!!!

Melanie: Yay again! I read it when it was up for the Whitney and loved it. That's great news.

SME: Speaking of which, both your books should be eligible for a 2011 Whitney, right?

Melanie: I think so. I hope they're Whitney-worthy. Now that would be a kick in the pants. Except it wouldn't hurt. So I guess it would be something besides a kick in the pants.

SME: We'll have to work on that metaphor.
So, another traditional question: What's your favorite continent?

Melanie: North America. Europe is a close second. Or a very distant one, if we're being literal and geographical. But um, America rocks, and all that. Specifically, I like the United States part of America.

SME: I too am a fan of the United States part of America. We are very patriotic, you and I.

Melanie: Well, my eyes are blue, I'm very, very pale, and uh . . . my blood is red. I'm SUPER patriotic.

SME: You know, I actually heard the distant strains of "America, the Beautiful" when you said that. Wow.

Melanie: Right? I even vote.

SME: And at our house we have instituted a dictatorship just so our children can grow up to appreciate living in a free country.

Melanie: It's the only way, really. That's just good parenting.

SME: So... you wanna play a game?

Melanie: Always. They call me the "Mad Game Player of the OC." They totally don't. It would be weird if they did.

SME: But they could.

Melanie: They could. And I probably wouldn't punch "them."

SME: But would you punch "me"?

Melanie: No. I mean no disrespect by this, but it would require a deep knee bend to do that, and I'm lazy.

SME: Oh. I know. This is one of the many advantages of being teeny tiny.

Melanie: Maybe I could kick you?

SME: The kicking... not such an advantage.

Melanie: Well, I just won't kick you. How's that?

SME: Perfect. Especially since games are so much more fun than kicking.

Melanie: All right. I'm game. For the game.

SME: We are going to play one of my favorites: "Rapid Fire Q&A." I will ask you a series of questions and you give me the first answer you think of -- no explanations allowed!

Melanie: Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Maybe I'll need Steven Tyler's new American Idol anti-swear shield but I'll do my best.

SME: Perhaps I should put this interview on a 5-second delay.

Melanie: I'll just put my brain on a 5-second delay. We'll be okay.

SME: Alright. Here we go... Favorite literary genre?

Melanie: Contemporary American fiction. Or chick lit. Or YA. Uh . . .

SME: A Saturday-morning cartoon from your childhood?

Melanie: Thundercats? Ooooh! SMURFS! Yes!

SME: The last restaurant you ate at?

Melanie: An international tapas place in Santa Monica called Naresh's.

SME: An international destination you want to visit before you die?

Melanie: Africa.

SME: A country you can trace your ancestry back to?

Melanie: Ireland. Oh, and France. Big time. My family is Cajun. Sorry. Explaining.

SME: A favorite teacher?

Melanie: Mrs. Herring, 11th grade American Lit. A great old broad.

SME: Favorite color?

Melanie: Blue, today. Sometimes green.

SME: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Melanie: An African or European swallow?

SME: YES!!!! We are now officially Bestest Friends!!!

Melanie: Whoo hoo!

SME: That brings us to the portrait portion of the interview!

*draws a portrait*

Melanie: It's all about the shoes! Deadly high heels. Lethal! Four inches! Please? Or else flip flops. We wear a lot of those around here, too.

SME: I went with ballet flats. I hope that's okay. (But there are flipflops on the cover of the book you're holding)

Melanie: Now I have to go buy my very first ballet flats so it will be a true portrait. My husband will not be happy. I, however, am thrilled. Field trip to the mall, kids!
LOVE the book in the pic. Great portrait.

SME: Awesome. Any time you "need" to buy a new pair of shoes, let me know what you're looking for, I'll draw a portrait with you wearing them and then you'll have no choice but to go get them.

Melanie: Ahahahaha! Finally, a way around my limited shoe budget!

SME: I'm here for you.

Melanie: This made it totally worth doing the interview. Who knew it would end in more shoes?

SME: We have now reached the final question of the interview: Top 5 reasons this is the best blog interview you've ever done. Ready. Go.

Melanie: Well, for sure 1) I get to buy more shoes now.
2) Your husband indirectly validated my love for carrot cake.
3) I discovered a new layer of my own patriotism.
4) We talked Monty Python. Love that.
5) Being on INFF because I have an actual book out has long been a dream of mine. (How long have you been doing INFF? That's how long the dream has been.) *Sniff.

SME: I have been at it for just over 18 months now. Not too shabby.

Melanie: You need to throw you blog a toddler party! Or no, that's in kid years. 18 months in blog years is like, Happy 21st! Or something.

SME: Thanks for joining us at INFF. I'll think of you as I peruse the aisles at Powells!

Melanie: Yay! Thanks for having me for the interview.

SME:*cue exit music* Well, this has been "I Need Friends" Friday. Come back next week when I will make another friend!!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Friday, March 4, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Okay. I had an interview all set up for today. Then my interviewee got spectacularly sick and couldn't do the interview. I wish her a very speedy recovery. I, sadly, do not have an extra interview transcript just sitting around. (I probably should consider doing that, just in case this sort of thing happens again.)

So, for today, here's a fun look into the group I spent last night with... (they didn't sing this particular song, but you get the idea--it was a lot of fun!)

I already have next week's interview ready to go, so that one will be posted for sure. Thanks for not staging an international boycott out of sheer disappointment over today's lack of an INFF interview. You guys are the best!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Theodor Seuss Geisel,
better known as "Dr. Seuss,"
was born on March 2, 1904.
He published
44 children's books,
which are beloved and cherished by
generations of new readers and
not-so-new readers.

In honor of his birthday,
here are five of my
favorite quotes from the works
of this amazing author!

"There is no one alive who is Youer than You." -- from Happy Birthday to You

"It is fun to have fun but you have to know how." -- from The Cat in the Hat

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." -- from I Can Read with My Eyes Shut

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." -- from Oh, the Places You'll Go!

and my favorite...

"A person's a person, no matter how small." -- from Horton Hears a Who

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!


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