Tag Archives for " writer "

Aug 20

Look, a sneak peak!

By Melinda VanLone | Thoughts

LOOK, I’m it! The lovely Debra Kristi tagged me for the Look meme traveling the blogs. (Check out her sneak peak here: http://debrakristi.wordpress.com/)

While I normally try to stay away from these sorts of things, I thought this one would be fun because it gives you a sneak peak of my debut novel. It’s just a tiny peak, but I’m excited to share it.

The rules are, search for the word “look” in your work in progress and then share the surrounding paragraphs. I’m supposed to tag people as well, but in the interest of not contributing to the chain letter I’ll simply leave it open. If you’re a writer and this sounds like fun to you, consider yourself tagged and let me know…I’ll link to you! If you’d rather not, no harm done and no pressure.

In the coming weeks, I’ll introduce these characters properly, but for now I’ll leave them as a bit of a mystery. Tarian is the protagonist and has just been attacked by something very nasty. Manny is a prison guard at the Cellar, a detention center for magical criminals, and her best friend.


“Nice look you got going there, chica. I’m liking the pants. What’s this?” Manny tugged at the torn sleeve of her jacket.

“Just a scratch. That a new shirt?” The foreign power coursing through her lurched toward Manny, as if searching for a new conquest. Tarian snatched her arm away. It throbbed, then a sharp jolting pain shot up her forearm and into her shoulder. She had to grit her teeth not to curse.

“You know me, a style magnet.” Manny modeled for her, turning his body to the side to show off. His coffee colored skin vibrated against the black T-shirt and jeans.


Yes, it’s very short. Just a tease, really. Stop back by for more about my debut novel, including an explanation of who those eyes belong to.

Now, tag! You’re it!

May 22

Creativity Is Not A Bucket

By Melinda VanLone | Photos , Thoughts

Last weekend I unplugged for awhile to attend DFWCon, a writers’ conference in Dallas. I came away exhausted, exhilarated, refreshed, energized, recharged, intimidated, and overwhelmed. That’s a lot of emotions for one short person to hold all at once. I confess the first thing I did when I got home was play World of Warcraft in my PJs. You know, to decompress. I managed to get my druid to level 83! Two more levels and I’m done with the quest grind, but that’s a topic for another blog.

If you’re a writer, this is one of the best conferences to attend. I felt like I was with 400 of my closest friends. They have the same struggles I do, and were seeking the same things I was. It was the most supportive environment I’ve ever experienced. Plus, I met some amazing people. Some I’d known only on Twitter, and some I’d never met before.

I shook hands with James Rollins (yes, THE James Rollins) and learned so much from his session. He’s charming, and funny, and a fantastic writer, plus he loves cats. And he draws skulls. You want to meet him now, right? Yes, you do.

I listened to Laurie McLean (agent), Kristen Lamb (social media ninja), and Kait Nolan (author of paranormal romance) and had an epihany about my own life and direction. It was the sort of lightbulb that is supposed to go off in college but for me, didn’t. These three amazing women managed to clear waters for me that I had muddied up in my head over the past year until I couldn’t see the bottom. Now the water is clear, and I have a plan and a direction and hope for the future. That’s not bad for an hour, wouldn’t you say?

I took a networking class with Brenna Smith, who taught us how to network at conferences. In less than 30 minutes she made me feel comfortable walking up to a group of people and joining in the conversation. You would think that I would have learned that by now but no, they don’t really teach you that in college, either.

There was so much good advice offered in this two day conference that it’s hard to cull it all down into a few paragraphs. However, one line did stand out for me. The very funny and wise Jodi Thomas said these words and they resonated so much I have to share them. Plus I think they apply to more than just a pre-published writer:

Creativity is not a bucket. It’s a river. Jump in!

Ideas won’t ever stop, or run out. When you send one out, you get more coming back. They are constantly flowing by and if you just jump into the river you’ll catch as many as you want or need. You won’t run out of stories. Ever. So stop worrying, and start writing.

Well, okay then. I think I will.

Stay tuned, exciting life decisions will be revealed in future blogs. Or photos of cats. Or both, really, you never can tell.


Apr 06

Cactus, Bluebonnets and Prickly Things

By Melinda VanLone | Photos , Thoughts


I don’t like cactus. I grew up in New Mexico, in the part of the state full of cactus and tumbleweeds. Have you ever fallen into a bed of cactus? It’s not a good time, let me tell you. Brushing up against one of them hurts. Even glancing at one might poke your eye out. Stepping on a nail is less painful than those prickly things.

When I was out hunting bluebonnets last weekend, I came across a batch of them and made sure to tiptoe around it. I don’t even like making noise near them in case it angers them. I took shot after shot of the surrounding countryside. Barn…check. Bluebonnets…check. Old fence…check. Just when I figured I’d captured all there was to see, I looked down.

“Look at me, I’m beautiful too!”

There was the cactus I’d been so careful to avoid, right at my feet. I’d drifted in my search for the right photo and nearly walked right into them. Something about it said “take a closer look”, so I did. I knelt down and clicked. I didn’t even think much of it, just clicked a few shots off. That’s when Biker Dude stopped by (Monday’s post, in case you missed it). I forgot all about the cactus and went on about my day.

Today I was looking back through the photos I took that day, and found this. Other than an awesome shot of my parents, this is probably the best one I took. The cactus that I tiptoed around and ignored turned out to be the coolest photo.

I love how the prickles of the cactus create a mosaic type pattern against the green background. I love the twig mixing with the cactus thorns. I love the bluebonnets splashing their color through the scene. I love the mix of hard and soft. And I love that something I usually think of as horrible and a nuisance, gave me such a smile this morning.

As I focus on the revisions for my current work in progress, I’m going to try to remember this lesson. When I struggle with a scene, and its thorns are poking me in the face and making me think I should just give the whole thing up…maybe that’s just because it’ll turn out to be the most beautiful scene in the end.

I hope so!



Feb 23

Author Interview: Alica McKenna-Johnson

By Melinda VanLone | Book Review , Interview

Instead of my normal 50/50 update, today I have something special: an interview! I’ve asked Alica McKenna-Johnson to join me in my little corner of the intrawebs to talk about her new book, Phoenix Child, which debuted on Amazon a few days ago. In case you haven’t read it: Sara’s dream is to find her family, but she doesn’t count on discovering magical creatures or catching on fire. On her fourteenth birthday a surprise inheritance changes her appearance, abilities, and identity. Welcomed into the family of the Phoenix, she is taught to use her new powers. Will Sara embrace being a Child of Fire, or will the evil that killed her parents destroy her as well?

First line: “Alien abduction? Extreme makeover? Witch’s spell?

Something had to explain the changes that had happened to me overnight. Even the doctor Melanie dragged me to had no idea what happened to me, but apparently I was in perfect health. I barely managed to stop myself from demanding to see his diploma. How was it possible to wake up looking completely different and be in perfect health? I looked down at the coppery tint which appeared this morning on my tanned skin. Stupid doctor.”

Imagine waking up looking completely different! This was enough to keep me reading, for sure. I’m curious about stuff like that. Maybe even a little jealous. Let’s face it, I’ve probably dreamed of having something out-of-this-world-magical happen to me. It’s why I like reading so much.

OK, enough stalling. It’s time to get to know the author!

First, thank you so much for stopping by to talk about Phoenix Child. You must be so excited! It looks like the cover is original artwork. How did the cover come to be?

The lovely Alica McKenna-Johnson, author of Phoenix Child

My hubby designed and painted the cover. He’s of course spent countless hours listening to me plot, vent, and re-revise my book so he had a clear image in his head.

What made you start writing stories down after so long in other careers? (30 years…that’s a long time to deny a passion.)

Honestly I had no idea I was creating stories. As long as I can remember I would day dream—while walking, doing chores, falling asleep, etc. It never affected my school work, so I’m not even sure anyone else ever knew I went around with stories fluttering through my head.

It wasn’t until my sister introduced me to fan fiction that I ever thought about writing anything down. Then one day a ‘what if’ popped into my head and just didn’t go away until I wrote it down, then another chapter, and another, and 83 chapters and over 2000 reviews later I was hooked on writing and started working on Phoenix Child.

What was your inspiration for this particular story?

I wish I could say it was some magical mystical moment, but really I think I was reading a story about Selkie, and how the men would go and seduce human women and then couldn’t come back for seven years. And I thought “I bet that’s a lie, I bet they can come and go as they please, they just say that so they don’t have to commit.” It got me wondering what if  (doesn’t every book start with a what if question) other magical creatures could turn into humans, and what if they had children with human women? Would the babies have powers? I just played with that for a long time until I came up with the premise for Phoenix Child: 4000 years ago the Phoenix King married a human woman, and Sarah is their most powerful descendant.

When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do? 

It seems like all I ever do is write, but when I get away and I’m not working I love to watch movies with my hubby and kids. Go for hikes. I have a friend I go to the gym with. And of course reading—especially if I’m alone in the house.

What’s your favorite movie? 

ACK!!! I could never pick just one! Sci-fi: The Fifth Element. Rom-Com: Love Actually. Horror: The Lost Boys. Muppet: Muppet Treasure Island. Bollywood: Om Shante Om. Anime: Spirited Away.  Those are what popped into my head first.

What’s your favorite book and why?

Are you trying to kill me?

No, of course not *looks away with shifty eyes*

A favorite book. There are so many! I love classics like Tom Sawyer; books from my Childhood like Island of the Blue Dolphins; ones that made me cry like Harry Potter (especially the last ones); ones that hurt my brain like Wicked. Anything by Janet Evanovich will have me cracking up in public. I love Sherrilyn Kenyon but I prefer to read those alone because it’s steamy stuff. The newest one I’m obsessed over is one that’s not out yet. My friend, Mary, is writing the most amazing story. I can answer questions about the previous chapter faster then she can—it’s a bit scary.

I love them because I can get lost in them. I fall into the books and into the characters. I know what they are going through and I go through it with them. That’s what I need from any book, to get sucked into a new world.

I will admit, because I have so many writer friends that I purposely picked authors I don’t know, so no one would get mad at me that I left them off my list.

Probably a wise choice. I don’t want to be responsible for starting any writer feuds! So, what book are you reading now?

I’m reading Treasure Island to the kids and The Stream: Discovery by Bill Jones JR, for me.

You say in your bio that you (or your characters) eat exotic foods. What’s the strangest food you’ve/they’ve ever eaten, and how did it taste?

Oh, I can’t get too strange because I’m a vegetarian, as are most of my characters, so no intestines or tongue. I have drunk wheat grass juice. Is that weird? It tasted like fresh cut grass smells. It’s supposed to be super good for you, but yuck! I love ethnic foods and my characters rarely eat the same thing twice in a book because there are so many wonderful things to try (or have them try.)

Here’s something fun: in the next book they are in Argentina and Peru. I couldn’t find an Argentinian restaurant, but I did find a Peruvian one and went to eat there. It was fun. They eat lots of potatoes and they have this fruit and corn drink called Chicha; very yummy.

What do you mean by “diverse characters”?

I love colorful, interesting people. And I try to make each character as unique and individual as I can. Honestly, I’m a pervy middle-aged woman, and  I adore looking at beautiful people of all nationalities. I tend to have characters from different ethnic backgrounds, frequently from the country themselves. In Phoenix Child, I have a first generation Korean boy, a boy from Zimbabwe, a woman from India, and characters of Mexican and African American and Native American decent.

I also have people with different religious backgrounds, and gay/lesbian characters. I’ll try different backgrounds or lifestyles as long as I feel like I can do enough research to create an honest, strong, realistic character.

Is there a specific message you hope readers will get from reading this story?

I want them to know being unique is beautiful, that they aren’t alone, that life sometimes really sucks, but if they hang in there and accept and fight for who they really are they will be all right. I want my readers to see themselves in my characters and feel inspired.

That’s a great message, and one that bears repeating as many times as it takes for it to sink in. So, what’s next?

I have finished book 2 (no title yet). It’s going through my critique group, then editing and revisions (sobs).  I’m working on an adult Paranormal Romance: Poltergeist meets Ghosts Adventurers with romance. And I’m plotting out the rest of the Phoenix Child series. So far it looks like 8, possibly 9, books. I better get to typing!

Sounds like it! Thank you so much for stopping by, Alica!

If you haven’t already downloaded Phoenix Child, click here. If you have, and you loved it, please let her know by leaving a review on Amazon. A sentence or two is all it takes to show you care and make an author’s day. It won’t hurt, I promise. 

For more information on Alica, or just to check up on her and see what she’s up to, please visit her website: http://alicamckennajohnson.wordpress.com/

Every author needs a little love!