Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interview - Monica Marier, author of Must Love Dragons

Writers are artists, as well as painters, dancers etc. But you know that person who sings, dances, writes and also plays five instruments? That's an 'Artist'. Please meet Randomities' honorable guest, the multi-talented Monica Marier, author of Must Love Dragons and much more. 
Monica Marier is a caffeinated stay-at-home mom, artist, writer, composer and eccentric. Her debut novel Must Love Dragons is coming out through Hunt Press September 2010. She writes a column on obesity in America for Frum Forum and draws/writes webcomics for the company she co-created: Tangent Artists. Monica lives in the D.C. Metro area with her very supportive husband, blogs at the Attack of the Muses and is also on Twitter.


Mari: Welcome to Randomities Monica. It's a great pleasure having you here. :) Since Must Love Dragons is your first novel, it's inevitable asking how you became a writer. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? 

Monica: Pleasure to be here. My mother introduced me to Fantasy when I was around 11 when she read me the Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. I found myself wanting to create my own worlds with characters that were as enchanting as Tolkien's and Lloyd's.

I started writing my "great epic fantasy" when I was twelve and the project evolved well into my twenties. But after nearly ten years of work, I looked at what I had and realized it was crap. I had written an overly-dramatic, Mary-sue novel. I scrapped the project and it was one of the hardest things I'd ever done in my life–I'd pretty much convinced myself that was I not a writer and never would be.

I started getting into comics and began drawing those in my spare time. I didn't know it, but I was still writing. I thought was only 'creating stories' for comics and animation. I didn't think of it as writing.

Late in 2008, I decided to do a comic chronicling the events of a D&D game (which Later became CRIT!) but the problem was that the game was moving faster than I could draw and I was missing a lot of subtle things. Plus I wanted more. I wanted to know more about the characters histories and drives. Things like that wouldn't have come across so well in a comic.

One evening, I sat at the computer and wrote out as much as I could remember and after eight days, and at the end I had 30,000 words. It was the start of what became my first book. I finished it during NaNoWriMo and titled it Must Love Dragons. The process changed me, but it changed the story too. It had evolved beyond the game, and turned into something that took on a life of it's own.

Mari: What's different about Must Love Dragons from all those epic tales around there? 

Monica: I'm going to stay away from the word 'epic', first off. The word has been used by Hollywood a million times in the last few years to sell movies. Clash of the Titans, Alexander the Great, Sparta, etc. all were described as EPIC to the point where it's almost funny. ie: "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" where the tagline is, "An epic of epic epicness." My brother and I have joked that we're boycotting the word 'epic.' The other consideration is that since my book is a comedy, it's almost disqualified from use of the word epic (unless it's ironic). Some unwritten rule is that you can't be "epic" unless your story is deadly serious.

Must Love Dragons is for Fantasy fans who don't take themselves too seriously. It’s about real-life, but all painted on a traditional swords and sorcery background. It’s my world, so I can have people chasing dragons and scouring thieves dens while they deal with paperwork and credit unions. A lot of Linus Weedwhackers problems are problems anyone could face: going back to work, idiotic teammates and, of course, being a parent.

Mari: Interesting point on 'impossibility' of a humorous epic tale. You gave me something to munch on, thanks! :) 
If you got curious about Monica's book -- I certainly did -- here's the cover and blurb.

Everyone knows that Heroes slay Dragons. Not everyone knows that Heroes also change diapers.
It's the oldest story in the world; boy meets girl, boy marries girl, they have a family. 
But what happens when the girl makes more money than the boy, and he stays at home to raise the kids? What happens when pregnancy is rough on her, and he has to go back to work? And what happens when she's a dragon, he's a ranger, and a day at the office involves trolls, elves, magic, and lower back pain?
Linus Weedwhacker (shut it, he's heard 'em all) knows first hand.
Mari: Please tell us how you approached Hunt Press, or how they've approached you if that's the case. If you don't mind, could you give us some inside information about the deal closing? We're always curious about that, heh. 

Monica: Believe it or not, my deal was entirely thanks to Facebook gaming. I received a friend request from someone who wanted more neighbors for the FB ap Tiny DD and Farmville. It was Tammy Takahashi, author of Zenschooling. One day on her status feed she announced that her publisher, a micro-press called Hunt Press, was accepting submissions of Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels. I asked her about Hunt Press, (what kind of contract, how was distribution, where would the book be sold, etc.). There was no query or agents involved, I sent the completed MS in an email along w. a million prayers to every patron saint of writing/arts I could think of.

A month later, I got a response saying that after some “substantial editing,” they wanted to publish my book and I did a happy dance in the living room for 20 minutes.

Mari: Who'll say Farmville is a waste of time after that, eh? lol In my view, you asked the right questions in your first contact with your publisher-to-be. Very wise of you! Now, I see that Hunt Press has a particular submission process. Are there other aspects on their practice that diverge from what we generally see on the publishing market? 

Monica: Well, Hunt Press is a micro-press so there’s not as much pressure and protocol as a huge publishing house. Hunt Press takes care of the copyright and ISBN fees and helps with the printing and marketing (they gave me my spiffy cover, for example). They also have experts in layout and editing to make sure my novel is at it’s best. I’ve been working really closely with my awesome editor and publisher, over the months, and we worked on a proper schedule. While distribution and marketing are smaller, and I’m responsible for a lot of my own promotion, they have my back and are always ready with help and advice.

That being said, a lot of the success of the project depends on pre-orders. The more money we have in advance, the more money we have to spend on the launch. In addition, Must Love Dragons will have online distribution in both digital and paperback versions through pretty much all the world, but it won’t appear in your local store unless you ask for it. I have to ask people to go to their local Barnes & Noble and WHSmiths and ask if they could carry “Must Love Dragons” by Monica Marier.

Mari: Must Love Dragons can be pre-ordered at the Hunt Press website dear reader. ;)
Now, I hear you not only write books, but you have other artistic inclinations as well. Can you tell me more about Tangent Artists and your other projects?

Skeleton Crew
Monica: One of my projects is Frum Forum’s. “The Fat Diaries.” Danielle Frum, (who encouraged me to publish my book in the first place) read an essay I wrote for my friends about my fight with obesity. I recently lost about 70lbs after being morbidly obese for 3 years. She then asked me to do an article for them every Friday about America and its nutrition problems (1 in 5 Americans is obese). I started doing a cartoon to follow each article, for the hell of it, and I ended up doing one every week.

Donuts for Looking
Tangent Artists is a webcomics company I cofounded in 2006. We have 3 series running, “CRIT!”, “Donuts for Looking” and “Skeleton Crew,” I do some writing and artwork for all three. We’ve been on local TV, appeared at East Coast conventions, and we’re starting to get pockets of following all over the English-speaking world.

In the future, I’m looking to publish my sequel to Must Love Dragons, and my story Madame Bluestocking’s Pennyhorrid will be hosted at Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders

Mari: You were on TV? So I'm interviewing a local celebrity? *grinz* 
Don't be shy, tell us about your musical aptitudes. ;)

Madame Bluestocking's
Monica: I’ve been playing piano since I was six and composing music since I was nine. I was a complete dunce at reading music, I still am–can barely read a note­– but I constantly heard music in my head, usually underscoring my life or my stories. Most of my compositions were “soundtracks” to whatever I was writing/drawing at the time. When I was 13, my parents decided to switch from piano lessons to composition lessons where I learned to write my compositions on the computer. Right now, I write scores in a midi program and then mix them in Garage Band. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m not composing as much as I used to since I started writing, but I like to practice when I can.

My music will be showcased along with Madame Bluestocking’s Pennyhorrid.

Mari: Thank you Monica for your lovely visit and best luck with your book and your many interesting projects! 
*heads off to read Madame Bluestocking’s Pennyhorrid
Oh wait, before I go, I leave you with an excerpt of  Must Love Dragons. You can follow the audio with the text below. Have fun! 

                “Listen, Quince, I appreciate you wanting help, I really do. It’s downright decent of you. But here in the northwest provinces, the UUGA is in control of contractual rules and guidelines.”
                “And what is that... the yooga.?”
                “Well, that stands for the United Union/Guild Association. They consist of the five main nomadic trades, generally people who patrol several towns or provinces and cover a wide range of tasks. Members of said organizations are all licensed to carry weapons, and wield authority... of a sort. It all depends, really. All the trades have their own union or guild. Each union, in turn, answers to the UUGA which governs all activity...”
                Quince’s vacant stare, was beginning to worry Linus. How much of this was he really taking in?
                “It’s like a big club, alright?” he said slowly.
                Quince nodded thoughtfully, or perhaps he was trying to see his own eyebrows. It was hard to tell.
                “What is it you do Quince?”
                “I can hit stuff with my axe!” answered Quince, pointing to a double-headed monstrosity the size of a lamppost.
                “Okaaaaay, Warrior,” said Linus weakly. Figures, he thought. “Well, you need to know that there’s a Warriors Union. Their job is to make sure that all Warriors are given good pay and treated well by towns and cities. They want to see that the Warriors are happy so they’ll go to meetings and pay lots of dues.”
                “They’re the good guys?” asked Quince with infuriating density.
                “Sort of,” agreed Linus with reluctance, “But what the Union also wants is for ALL Warriors to be in the Union. They don’t like Warriors who aren’t in the Union to do jobs for less money or for harder terms. Do you follow?”
                Quince pondered this for a moment. Linus couldn’t help noticing that when Quince had to mull something over he had to stop walking to do it. Apparently he couldn’t handle more than one command to the brain at a time.
                “They want all the Warriors to be in the Warrior’s Union so they can protect them, then?” asked Quince slowly.
                Linus was about to debate this fact; about how non-Union Warriors could charge less because they didn’t have to give the Union a percentage of their fees, and pay monthly dues, but Quince was obviously not up to the stimulation. He decided to take the easy way out.
                “That’s right. So I’m afraid you can’t be a Warrior around here without a membership, do you understand?”
                “That’s okay,” said Quince. “I don’t need any protection!”
                Yes, but whos going to protect me when the Warriors Union wants to know who collaborated with a non-member with no contract? Theyre gonna break my damn legs, he thought glumly. He hadn’t dealt personally with the UUGA in a good while, but he knew enough about the nature of people to suspect that they hadn’t changed much. Quince was going to be trouble; Linus decided to shift tactics.
                “If you don’t have a contract, Quince, you’re not entitled to any of our payment.”
                “Oh, I don’t want any money. I’m only here to stop those nasty Kobolds.”
                The blood drained from Linus’ face. A non-member with no contract working gratis? Forget about the broken legs, they’d never find his body.
                MORRRRRFFF? he called in a panicked voice. He’d need backup on this one.
                “What?” asked Morf running up. Linus motioned him in closer so as not to be overheard. He needn’t have worried. Quince was a good two feet in the air from their bowed heads.
                “The silly bastard’s not affiliated with anyone–no contract, no license, nothing–and insists on helping us…” Linus choked a little, “…free of charge.”
                Linus suspected that Morfindel’s face probably looked like his had a second ago, his slack jaw practically banging against his chest plate.
                “Can he do that?” he asked, stunned.
                “No one’s been stupid enough to try! He says he doesn’t want any money, he just wants to help out!”
                “It could be a trap, Linus,”
                “What, like he was sent by the UUGA?”
                “Yeah, to see who’s hiring outsiders.”
                “Good point,” said Linus, casting a calculating glance at Quince. Maybe he was just pretending to be thick. The big ox was in conversation with Wendria right now in a battle of the blondes.
                “I’m trying to remember what kind of fruit a quince is,” said Wendria thoughtfully. “Is it the small orange fruit that has a peel like a citrus or is that a kumquat?”
                “Woah! They named a fruit after me?!” said Quince agog.
                Linus relaxed a little.
                “I’m guessing he’s just a moron,” he said flatly to Morfindel.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

B-day Giveaway - Winner Announced

That's it folks. My birthday has passed, I'm officially one year older now and all remains the same. As expected, eh? heh

For reasons different than getting older -- I soon found out -- I needed humor, and you provided me lots of it. I was particularly entertained by the appearance of some characters on my party to which creators I'd like to give a special thanks:

>> Laura Eno, for bringing Jezebel to the party, who behaved almost perfectly by not eating the guests, although she scared the birthday girl, knowing that I'm terrified of her. uh 
>> Grace Crone, for bringing her dragon Aurmid to the party, who made a crusty roasted goat  with the help(?) of my trolls Kratan and Kutril. 
>> Jodi MacArthur, for offering her beloved Carnivorous Pony as a gift and giving me some amazing intergalactic coffee. I tried to put the Pony together with Jezebel for a chat but it seems it didn't work. Too bad, heh. 
>> Lexx Clarke, for zombifying his artist to my entertainment. 
>> Angie Capozello, for the moisted donuts Nox and Grimm brought me. I didn't even notice the dog drool in them, see? heh
>> Sam Adamson, for Botchett's and Swazzle's sneaky visit. The only prank they've played on me was stealing some ice cream; since it was delicious I understand them, heh. 

Before I announce the winner, I'd like to thank everyone who took the time comment and made an effort to be funny, entertaining or simply wished me a happy birthday. I did, and it was thanks to you

One final thanks goes for Monica Marier, who graciously gave an ARC of her debut novel Must Love Dragons, which I read in one sit. I had a very quiet and entertaining birthday, which is precisely what I wanted. Besides, I had the coolest party here at Randomities that I'll never forget. Thank you all from my heart! <3

Now, my gift card was of $20. Since most books you asked as a present cost much less, and you all were so successful in amusing me, I've decided to giveaway two books, which will go to:

1) Maria A.Kelly, for drawing the first chuckle of the day, and a good one, with fingers and all! She chose Laura Eno's new book, Prophecy Moon

2) Angie Capozello, for bringing be donuts in the most funny way possible. Besides I'm a drooler over Nox and Grimm! (pun intended, heh) She chose Sara Ash's Children of the Serpent Gate, book 3 of the Tears of Artamon. 

Maria and Angie, please send your physical addresses to: mari dot juniper at gmail dot com. I hope you girls will enjoy your presents. Please let me know what you think once you finish reading them.  

Thanks everyone for playing and have a great weekend! :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Sweetest Trolls #6: Getting Acquainted -- #FridayFlash

This is the sixth installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments click here.


Bloody mouth, sharp teeth, bulged eyes; this was Aimee's first contact with Kutril. As any dutiful lady would do, she promptly fainted. 

Kratan and Kutril looked at each other and screamed their lungs out. Kutril started pacing and Kratan crouched, covering his head with his own arms. Kutril accelerated, stomping the ground below them and rescuing Kratan from the dark place he was heading to. 

"Watch out!"

Kutril held his foot a few inches from Aimee's leg. Still on one foot, he turned his head to Kratan and said, "We should go back to the fire and think what to do when she wakes up."

Kratan nodded. Kutril took Aimee ever so gently; he found a flat stone with rounded edges to use as a pillow and joined Kratan on the other side of the fire with his back to the stone wall. They sat in silence for a few moments watching Aimee's peaceful countenance, then joined their heads to discuss what to do. They had never had direct contact with a human before, except for being hunted down and the eventual fighting they avoided at all costs. 

Eventually they silenced, unable to reach a conclusion. Shortly after, Kutril started banging the back of his head against the wall in a cadenced movement, which woke Aimee up. 

Kutril stopped mid-movement; Kratan's jaw fell to his chest; Aimee jolted up and sat facing them, shoulders tense and hands tightly closed into fists. They stared at each other, Katran's mouth still opened becoming a drooling cascade. 

Eying his mouth sideways, Aimee asked, "Are you... Are you going to eat me?"

This put the troll's brains into action; Kutril sat upright and Kratan closed his mouth with a clank, leaving a trace of watery goo on his chin. 

It was Kratan who reacted first, "No, no," he said waving with both his hands, "we don't eat humans as people say. Humans taste bad."

Aimee's horrified face prompted Kutril to intervene. He looked straight to Kratan, punched him in the ribs and said, "Don't scare the girl you idiot."

A single tear slid down Kratan's cheek and he said to the girl, who cocked her head, "We brought you food, didn't we?"

Aimee's eyebrows shot up, "Oh, it was you? How did you manage to get my mother's pie?"

"Is it your mother who makes this thing?" asked Kutril with a disgusted face, pointing to the bundle. 

"It was at the window. All we had to do was take it," said Kratan.

"Yes," said Aimee shooting a dark look at Kutril, "it's my mother who makes it. Her meat pie is famous, you see? The fine people's servants travel for hours to buy them." She lifted her chin and straightened her back. 

"What a great waste of time," said Kutril to Kratan's ears, poking his sour rib. 

Kratan glared at him, massaging his side.

"Thank you for the food, and for not eating me alive," she said, letting her shoulders fall. 

They grinned ear to ear, showing their sharped teeth; she smiled forcefully, not wanting to offend them.

"What I don't understand," she continued, looking at the fire, "is how you managed to steal it. I appreciate what you did, don't get me wrong, but she's very protective of her pies." Not only the pies, she thought grimly. "She wouldn't leave it at the window by itself."

"Well, the village was empty. It was even easy to get our goats and yours. I whish Kutril was with me instead of taking this stinky thing with him. I could have used his help so we'd get more goats. I can't believe we lost the baby one. They're so soft and tasty," babbled Kratan almost to himself. He sighed and licked his lips.

Kutril watched Aimee's face close as Katran's speech progressed. Not knowing what to do, he looked at him and her repeatedly. 

Hold your temper girl. It's obvious that they are not ill intended. I must try to understand what's happening.

She took a deep breath and smoothed her face. 

"Are you sure the village was empty? That's odd."

"Yes," replied a relieved Kutril, "your window was the only one with light on it. It was all dark and quiet." Turning to Kratan he added, "Now I understand why you arrived before me."

Kratan shrugged. 

Aimee stood up. "They must be hunting you down! My father was really angry because of the missing goats, and they believe the children and the women are in danger." 

"What I don't understand is why the women were absent too," she added.

Aimee paced, making two trolls very happy with the view. She halted, startling her dreamy eyed companions. Kutril farted; she looked indignantly at him getting a puzzled look in response. 

Shaking her head she said leaning forward, "Look, it's possible that the empty village was a trap to ki--catch you both." She paused and straightened her back, "Are you sure you weren't followed?"

"No, no 'demoiselle," said Kratan, "no human can follow us here. We're too fast for them and we make many twists and turns on our way up." He shook his head as to reinforce his point.

She was about to say something when they heard the loud whinny of a horse and saw the frontal hoofs belonging to the animal kicking in mid-air. 

Note 1: Kutril's venting was inspired by  Maria Protopapadaki-Smith's funny and bad smelling story, Booty Call. Thanks for the inspirational boot Maria! ;) 

Note2: Katran and Kutril are featured at the b-day giveaway, where they meet Gracie Crone's dragon. Lexx Clarke also put one of my zombies together with his scary MC, and I'm trying to pull off a date (sort of) between Laura Eno's Jezebel and Jodi MacArthur's Carnivorous Pony. Plus, there's prosecco and gelatto at will, and pssst, there's a gift waiting for you. Check it out! :) 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

B-day Giveaway!

Soo, the 27th is going to be my birthday. Yay! 

You see, since I'm a very nice girl, almost as nice as my trolls, I'm giving you a present. And, you can choose whatever you want! 

Well, within certain boundaries, of course. :P

The idea started out because I was lucky enough to win Jamie DeBree's contest, thanks to another lucky call from Johanna Harness' #amwriting buttons. Jamie is a very generous author who gave me not only the eletronic and paper copy of her book, Tempest, but also an Amazon gift card of $20. Wow! 

So, you can choose any book you want, whichever genre or author suits your humor, and I'll send it to you as long as it doesn't cost more than those 20 bucks. 

All you have to do is leave a comment. But hey, not any comment will do. Since I'm getting inevitably older, I need to have some laughs. Haha, getting old is not fun. So the trick is, I'll give a b-day present to the person who posts the most creative comment that contains the fundamental element of humor until midnight GMT+1 of August 27th, 2010. (Italy time)

A b-day without a party is lame, so I'm offering you some Italian goodies in the attempt to bribe you to stick around for a while longer, heh. 

Over there at the buffet you can find prosecco, white and red wine, several types of bruschettas, prosciutto with melon, and of course water and non alcoholic beverages at will. To sweeten your mouth there are many flavors of gelatto, like the famous amarena, dark chocolate, mint-choc, lemon, strawberry and one of my favorites, yogurt with wild berries. 

Yumm, grab your spoon and dig in! 

Don't be shy. If this is your first visit, hang around and meet the fantastic people that frequent Randomities. You might make some new friends. ;)

To my regular visitors, a HUGE thank you! Meeting you guys is the best birthday present I could ever ask for.

Now, almost everyone knows by now that I'm a dog person. So I'm counter balancing the cat picture up there with this one. Happy my-birthday to you! :D

Note: The following links lead to where I've found each image: cake, girl, cat, gelatto, spoons, doggie

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