Category: Views, News and Interviews

Hello, Website!

Apr 27, 2012 by

Welcome to my brand spankin’ new website. Hopefully you were automatically shifted here from my old rowanspeedwell.wordpress.com blog, or are a new friend who came looking for me at a “real” web address. So hello!!

This site is so brand new that I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing or what’s working. If you’re a subscriber, I hope you got this as the subscriber list was supposed to copy over here. That’s part of the reason for this post–not only to introduce my new site (isn’t it pretty??) but to sort of check and make sure things are working as they are supposed to. I’d gotten pretty good at working with the WordPress blog dashboard, and while this is still built on the WordPress platform, there are things that are distinctly different. Please be patient while I work through all the details.

I’m very excited about this site–not only is it pretty (!!) but I can showcase my books better here, while still maintaining the blog presence. Maybe at some point I’ll put in a front page that’s more “me” focused. Like after I’ve won the Pulitzer or something. <snort>

Okay, if you’ve subscribed to my WP site but aren’t getting updates, please resubscribe using the link on the right. I apologize for any complications, but I hope the updated site is worth it. :)

Talk to you later!!

An interview with Shannon Valentine

Apr 20, 2012 by

Shannon Valentine does some of the most beautiful fantasy art I’ve ever seen. If you have one of my bookmarks, you’ll recognize the style; she designed and created them for me. She also did some drawings “from the notebooks of David Evans,” my artist character from Finding Zach, which I was able to give out at GayRomLit last October. I have hopes of maybe getting a cover from her one of these old days…!!

Please welcome Shannon Valentine…

[postslideshow]

Okay, since I’m a writer and I get this question all the time, I get to ask you: Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas are all around me.  I find them in books, movies, magazines and art.  I sometimes actively search for ideas by looking around me and seeing something that interests me.  Most of the time the ideas just come me.  It can be very random – ranging from a tree’s silhouette to cracks in the sidewalk to people interacting with each other.   I’ve had very casual doodles turn into finished pieces by just letting my hand keep moving and building up a drawing.  As the drawing builds, so do the ideas.  Those are the most fun.

What draws you to specific themes and ideas?  How do they reflect your dreams and personality?  What inspires you?

I’m hugely inspired by nature and fantasy. I’m both a dreamer and idealist.  The ideal world exists in fantasy.  Science fiction, fairy tales and mythology helped me become the well-rounded geek I am today.

I love watching things grow.  It’s both fascinating and beautiful.  Nature as a theme can be so broad so I search for meanings in things like flowers and animals to focus more on an idea.  For instance, butterflies have been associated with the human soul and are featured in many of my works.

The human figure is also a central theme in my art.  Since the figure is usually central in my work, the natural world around them have to relate to them somehow.  Since this world is usually some fanciful, ideal world, I include elements that would be construed as ‘fantasy’. Color is very important for establishing the mood.  Don’t ask me why, but I’ve always associated blue with ‘fantasy’.

How old were you when you decided to be an artist?  What made you think that this was what you wanted to do?

I honestly cannot recall a time when I didn’t consider myself an artist.  As a kid, I would tell people that I would grow up to be a children’s book illustrator or Disney animator.  I still have the spiral notebooks that I would fill with my fantasy drawings.  I took art classes on the weekends.  I doodled constantly.

I eventually earned my BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  And through the years, my career has led me down many diverse paths but I’ve always turned to art.  It’s just in me.

Your art is so airy and delicate.  What kinds of materials do you work in?  What makes you pick one method or another?  What is your creative process?

My current tools of the trade are watercolor and colored pencil.  I love the soft, translucent quality of watercolor and the textual qualities of pencil.  Both mediums allow me to layer color upon color and build up the surface.  I enjoy the somewhat meditative process of building up these layers.

I’ve been focusing more on watercolor this past year due to the very unforgiving nature of the paint and my need to master this medium.  On the other hand, I find pencil work to be very easy to control and less stressful.

For all of its airiness, some of your pieces have a darker esthetic.  What are you trying to say with these darker, edgier pieces?  Are you planning more in this style, or are these inspired by something particular that speaks to you at the moment?

I’ve always been attracted to dark art.  I remember as a kid standing in the horror section of our local video store just so I could look at all the gruesome cover art.  I have a somewhat morbid sense of curiosity.  Horror fits perfectly in my fantasy world.  The ending to any horror story is always happy.  I like this.  It’s both thrilling and romantic.

The first artist to really influence me as a child was Eyvind Earle and his stylization of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.  The film’s look was must darker than any cartoon I saw at the time – very gothic.  I never outgrew my love and attraction to that very graphic, angular, gothic, dark look.

And some questions about you.  What kinds of hobbies do you have, and do they contribute to your art?  How?

I’m an active member of the SCA, a medieval recreational group.  I’ve adopted the persona of a 14th century scribe.  The scribal arts allows me to continue to create decorative, detailed work and learn a bit of history, too.  I’ve met so many wonderful and creative people in the SCA (including my husband, Jay)!

I also love working in my gardens.  I’ve been building up my flower beds with each passing year.  I can’t stand being inside the house between the months of March and October.  In the summer, I’m constantly out around the house checking up on my ‘babies’ and keeping their beds free of grass and weeks.

What is your favorite TV show or movie?  Why?

I can’t really say I have a favorite TV show or movie.  I’m currently enjoying the constant running of NCIS on TV.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seasonal runs of the following shows: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Star Trek Next Generation, Frasier, X-Files, and Miami Ink.

Favorite movies are Disney’ Sleeping Beauty, The Last Unicorn, Poltergeist, Ghostbusters, Lord of the Rings trilogy, all the Harry Potter Movies, Star Wars episodes 4-6 (to name just a few)

What kind of books do you like to read?  Do you think they influence you as well?  If so, how?

I love a good mystery!  Historical fiction and manga also take up a good portion of my shelf space.  The very visual qualities of manga definitely provides inspiration.  When I’m reading, I’m in the author’s world.  I get drawn into the story they are telling and I carry away from it a different viewpoint and a myriad of feelings.  When I’m working on my art, I’m then in my world, which has been shaped by these experiences and stories.  Did I also mention how much I love a good, happy ending?  J

Can people buy your stuff?  Where?

Yes! You can find me on Etsy:  www.ShannonValentine.etsy.com

My professional website: www.ShannonValentineArt.com

I can also be found at art shows throughout the year.  I announce upcoming shows on my Facebook Page:  www.facebook.com/ShannonValentineArt

Thanks so much, Shannon! And best of luck with your shop and shows!

The fall, she is falling.

Sep 12, 2011 by

     Bitterwood edits are done and sent back to Amber Allure and the lovely Karin Story. (That’s my editor. I haz an editor! And isn’t that a great name for an editor? Fills me with all kinds of hope!) The book is still on track for a September 25th release, because the folks at Amber, they are fast.

     Today I got the second email regarding Kindred Hearts where someone was compelled to stop reading IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK to write me and tell me how much they are enjoying it. This blows my mind (sorry, Sixties’ flashback). That someone is so moved by something I wrote just flabbergasts me.

     Work proceeds apace on my niece’s christening gown; the bodice is embroidered and I’m working on the skirt embroidery. Time is fleeting and I need it done by the first weekend in October. IN THE MEANTIME, I’m trying to work on Turbulence, a sort of spin-off of Finding Zach (although there are no cameos planned for any of the major characters in that work); thinking about Going Like Elsie, my hermit/rock star romance; thinking about my straight Regency, A Lamb for Isabel; editing Angel Voices, a Christmas story that I need to submit, um, yesterday; and get some freelance editing done too. Oh, and finish my swag for GayRomLit and do a little thrift store browsing for Victoriana for my steampunk adventure.

     And then there that little issue of the electric in my house going all wonky. I’ve lost a “leg” of the circuits or something like that, which basically boils down to the fact that my kitchen mostly doesn’t have power and I have industrial-strength extension cords snaking around my house. Ahh, the joys of homeownership.

     Finally, I just ordered some Blue Stop for my fibromyalgia. Heidi Cullinan gave me some and it’s wonderful, especially for my hands, which hurt quite a lot, to the point where I can’t lean on them or rest my head on them, or anything like that. But I ran out and the weather is getting cooler, and that’s when the fibromyalgia kicks in. I got the two small jars so I can carry one in my purse and leave one at home. I have a feeling it will become like my Excedrin and my inhaler—one in every place I spend any time: car, office, bedroom. But if it takes the pain away, it will all be worthwhile!

I’m all over the place, talkin’ my fool head off.

May 24, 2011 by

Okay, the A&S Junkie podcast has been… um… podcasted?  Not quite sure what the verb form of podcast is.  To podcast?  Casting pods? (I have the image of someone blithely flinging milkweed seed pods hither and yon, willy-nilly.)  Unfortunately, I had to record it over the phone, with the result that it’s rather fuzzy. *sads* I’ll have to figure out a way of recording it directly and then sending Verena the MP3 file.  In my browsing today I see that you can record Skype calls, but I’m not sure how that would work. If anyone has any ideas what I can do, short of spending a hundred bucks on a half-way decent MP3 recorder, let me know. I’m spending all my disposable cash for the next few weeks (months…) on travel.

The guest blog post I wrote for Farida Mestek’s blog Regency Sketches is also up. There, at least, is clarity!!  It’s on doing historical research in the age of Google. The title is Historical Research in the Age of Google. (See, there are capitals. That makes it Official.) http://faridamestek.blogspot.com/2011/05/guest-blog-with-rowan-speedwell.html is the link.  (My blog link thingy is apparently broken.)  Many thanks to Farida for letting me pimp, I mean promote myself on her blog!! 

Kindred Hearts has been getting some pretty good reviews, or at least the only people who are posting them are the ones who like it.  I luv you all. Mwha!

Okay, this weekend it’s off to MediaWest, a large fandom convention in Lansing, Michigan.  I’ll be manning Dreamspinner’s booth along with Marguerite Labbe, Ashlyn Kane, Bethany Brown and Morgan James. If you’re there, stop by and say hi!!

Then in two weeks I’m off to Des Moines for their Pride Parade, again manning a booth, this time with Heidi Cullinan, Marie Sexton, M.L. Rhodes and Catherine Lundoff. This time the booth is sponsored by both Dreamspinner Press and Amber Allure (I think…?  Pretty sure, anyway).  It should be interesting, and if you’re in Des Moines that weekend, again stop by! 

I’m not doing a booth at the Chicago Gay Pride Festival, because it’s ENORMOUS, but a bunch of us from the Goodreads M/M Group will be hanging out watching the parade and stuff.  Then after that, it will be all SCA, all the time until October and GayRomLit in New Orleans.

And on a personal note, may I say hello and welcome to the world to my beautiful niece Grace?  Congrats, Matt & Amy!!

A & S Junkie

May 11, 2011 by

No, that’s not some new kind of drug. Well, maybe it is. Because there are an awful lot of us addicted to it.

A & S stands for Arts and Sciences. In the SCA, it’s one of the ministries, and it’s where Laurels come from.  Laurels are one of the three types of Peers:  Laurels for arts and sciences, Pelicans for service, and Knights for fighting and knightly behavior. People are chosen for these honors by the existing Knights, Pelicans or Laurel. If you’re really dedicated to one of those things, someday you, too, might aspire to the position. But not too hard – humility is one of the peerage virtues. Supposedly. ANYWAY.

Arts and sciences includes everything from armoring to archery, leatherworking to cooking (have you TASTED my cooking?). If it’s a craft, it probably has an equivalent one in the SCA. After all, the Middle Ages is where modern Western culture was born, and we’re not so awfully far from them as we think.

I’ve always been a craftaholic. I get totally into a craft once I start, and get obsessed with it, including having all possible materials to do the craft. At one point my shrink said my hobby isn’t crafts, it’s buying craft supplies. I usually go about 5 years per craft; then I lose interest and have to find a new one. With the SCA, I have more crafts than I know what to do with, so that old scale has to be tossed out. (What? Wait! I know I can use that old scale for SOMETHING…)

Crafts + imagination + pack-rat tendencies = Not Good.

So when Lady Verena Entenwirt told me about her podcast, I had to volunteer. (One day I’ll do a whole post on Helium Hand.)  I will be recording the podcast tonight, along with an interview that Lady Verena will conduct. I think the actual podcast will go out on Friday. The subject is on medieval writing materials, as much as we can squeeze into 3 minutes. Although I suspect my presentation is longer than that…

The A & S Junkie website is www.aandsjunkie.com. I admit to doing the banner header. It sucks. But I think her site won’t.

Over Does It

Mar 21, 2011 by

http://www.queermagazineonline.com/author-interviews/author-interviews

J.P. Barnaby has posted an interview with yours truly on Queer Magazine Online. It’s… long. But she asked some really good questions, not the usual boilerplate stuff. So it was fun to do. And she was very flattering in her intro, and I’m grateful!

I was on the phone with my mother this weekend and gave her a quick rundown of my scheduled activities for the next couple of months (actually, through November…!). Her first question was “why the Des Moines Gay Pride Parade?” (That would be Capital City Pride, the weekend of June 10th through June 13th.) I wasn’t sure if she was asking “why Des Moines” or “why Gay Pride.” Fact is, I think my newfound activism has thrown her for a bit of a loop, particularly the subject, since I’ve never claimed to be anything but straight. She doesn’t quite get the interest I have in gay issues. I’ve never been politically active; I vote, but that’s about it. Despite her attempts in my youth to get me involved; she once asked me if I wouldn’t love to run for political office—and instead I ran screaming. Not a politician here, and I think it was disappointing for her, who grew up in an era when women didn’t run for office, that I wasn’t interested in taking advantage of the fact that I could. But given what I write, and what I’ve learned in the process, I feel that I need to give back to the community by supporting it however I can. As for why Des Moines—well, Heidi asked, and I answered. And it should be fun. I’ve never done anything like this before.

I’m doing MediaWest two weekends previous—Memorial Day Weekend, to be specific, when all my friends will be in Kentucky at Spring Crown Tournament. I’ve been to cons before, but I’ve never worked one. Again, hopefully will be fun.

Mom, of course, brought up the thing that is the gorilla in the corner:  “But love, you don’t do well with crowds.”  Oh, too true. And I think that that is going to be the tricky thing. I don’t do well with crowds. As in:  Panic Attacks?  I Haz Them. So I will need to get to Lansing Friday night and have a quiet evening in the hotel and then show up on Saturday after a pleasant restful breakfast ready to work. Yeah. Cuz that’s gonna work… 

I think I’m overbooked.

That’s not unusual. I tend to overdo in a lot of aspects of my life, which is kind of funny, because I’m a lazy good-for-nothing most of the time. But I overbuy (two of everything? Really?) and overbook, and overeat, and over everything. Which leaves me cluttered, busy, and fat. Yep. That’s me. But it’s the enthusiasm that does it. I get excited about things, and then jump in feet first, not really thinking about whether or not it’s good for me, or in my best interests. I’m a slave to my enthusiasms (“ooh, look! a new hobby! Let’s buy everything I could possibly need if I were going to go into this professionally!!”).  Overbooking is part of that. Because you see, not only am I booking book-related events, I’m also booking SCA related events, and family events, and personal events. And while the majority of them are fun and things I’m looking forward to, in the back of my head there’s this voice going “um… ‘scuse me? Time for me?” and reminding me that not enough rest means the fibromyalgia flares up, and too much socializing means the panic attacks flare up, and not enough downtime means the ulcer flares up. 

And then I mentally shoot the little voice in my head and say heartily “It’ll be FINE.” Which it will. Eventually.

Taking a break . . . but still working

Feb 14, 2011 by

I’m clipping along on a short—either a short story or a novella—and am enjoying the break from the novel that is my current official Work In Progress. I’ve found that occasionally doing a short while in the process of writing The Novel helps with the pacing; I did two while working on Kindred Hearts, and while Going Like Elsie (working title) isn’t as complex as KH, it’s still a novel, and complicated.  Breaking it up with a short piece hopefully will get the creative juices running again. I have more ideas for novels, but I refuse to start them until I get this one done. Harrumph.

I actually started Going Like Elsie during the writing of KH as my secondary project; after Finding Zach came out, I started getting anxious that people would want another contemporary rather than the historical, and so I came up with the premise of GLE.  It’s a lot more chatty and a lot less angsty than Zach, and I’m hoping to have it done by May, and submitted to Dreamspinner around then, with hopes of getting it released (if accepted!) by the time I go to New Orleans for the GayRomLit retreat. That would be awesome. That’s if Adam and Miles cooperate; neither of them right at this point is eager to make any sort of decision as to their relationship, and getting them to voice an opinion is tricksy. They tend to be smartasses and clever, and what drives me nuts is a too clever character. They’re slippery. They’re not as uncooperative as Tristan was, though. There were times I wanted to smack that boy.

The short is a fantasy story, set in a world I built some time ago for an epic straight fantasy that I never finished (sorry, Shannon!). That book was over 100,000 words when I fizzled out and not even half done with the story. (Someday I’ll go back and review it and see if it’s worth revising, maybe as a duology or trilogy. It has something like fourteen main characters…) Anyway, the short is set in a neighboring country in the dead of winter, inspired by the beastly snowstorm Chicago had two weeks ago. Two gay romances in the story, one an older couple, and one a younger. There’s also a mysterious wizardy person, a legendary monster, and some magic, of course. I’ve got the story line roughed out, including the climax and the ending, which tells me right there it’s a short piece. I never know what’s going to happen in a novel. Right now the working title is “Duty and the Beast,” but I know I’m going to want to change that!!

I’m really looking forward to going to New Orleans in October. My SCA friend and beta-reader Philippa is going with me, mostly because she likes New Orleans, and less so because she likes m/m (mine is the only stuff she reads). But it will be fun. It will also be confusing, because she tends to call my by my SCA name, Isabel, which is not the same as my real name or my pen name (obviously!). So people will be calling me Rowan or Isabel, and seeing as how just with Dreamspinner there is another Rowan, AND an Isabelle Rowan…  I can just visualize an incident with Philippa calling “Isabel!… uh, Rowan!!” and the real Isabelle Rowan turning around and going “What? Who are you??”

I’ll let you know if that happens. I’m hoping she has a good sense of humor about it… eek.

I was planning on posting today, anyway, really . . .

Jan 7, 2011 by

I was determined to post something today anyway, since it’s been a while and I’ve been wanting to, and was thinking about Douglas Adams and maybe doing something philosophical about his Hitchhiker’s series (not like anyone’s EVER done that before).  But when I opened my email this morning and saw one from Elizabeth, the publisher at Dreamspinner Press…  well, let’s just say everything I had thunk out about Hitchhiker’s suddenly went *poof* in a spate of “SQUEE!!”

Kindred Hearts has been accepted!!!  And will be released sometime in May.  ‘Scuse me while I go stand in a corner and scream quietly.

KH is a nervewracking book for me.  For one thing, it’s much more ambitious than Zach was.  There was a LOT more research to be done, and of course, I just did what I wanted to with Zach, since I pretty much didn’t know what I was doing anyway.  I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I have a better idea of what I SHOULD do, which freaks me out quite a bit.  Plus I have *fans* now (2 or 3 at least) so now I have to worry about whether they like it.  Didn’t I write something about expectations a while ago? 

Let’s face it, Zach was an experiment for me–can I finish a book and get it published–and now I have to put on my big girl pants and accept the responsibility of being a Real Life Author.  NOT THAT I AM COMPLAINING!!  God, no.  This whole thing has been a total thrill ride.  But I am so much more AWARE of things than I was a year ago at this time.  And I am not quite as confident about KH as I was about Finding Zach.

Oh, who am I bullshitting?  I wasn’t confident about Zach, either!  I was nervous as hell.  Just like now.  I wonder if it will ever wear off?

So anyway, here’s to Dreamspinner Press and the awesome staff there, and here’s to my beta readers Patrice and Shannon for being my number one fans, and Lynda, to whom I owe not only beta-reading assistance but research assistance and editorial assistance–she is Captain Awesome and I want to be her when I grow up–and to my best friend Vic for the years of phone calls beginning “Write anything lately” and ending “Keep writing!”

I will.  Keep writing, that is.  But for now, I’m going to sit on my laurels (I know several Laurels–SCA in-joke) and bask in the momentary pleasure of being psychologically affirmed, once again.  Then it will be back to the hairy task of edits and promotion while trying to finish the next book…

I’m kidding.  I LOVE THIS LIFE.  Giggle.  Squee.

The December Birthday Party is now beginning in the kitchen . . .

Dec 15, 2010 by

And while my coworkers eat pizza and cake, I, who am trying to Be Good, will take a brief break to update this blog that has not been updated in far too long…

I’m sort of floaty today. I got a B+ (!!!) review for Finding Zach on Dear Author, one of my daily blogs (I finish pulling headline RSS feeds and updating headlines, then go straight to first, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, then I Can Has Cheezburger, then Dear Author, then Neil Gaiman’s Journal, then Goodreads and Amazon to see if Finding Zach has any new reviews. Then I go back to work). The order is just how I happened to discover them.
I sort of accidentally finagled the review for Zach, not really on purpose. I mean, it came out six months ago and I figured if it was going to get reviewed, it would have been by now. I sometimes forget that some people actually READ this blog (okay, not many, but some) and that it gets picked up in Google Alerts and whatnot. So I was musing about how I wanted SarahF from Dear Author to like Kindred Hearts, cuz she had mentioned that she liked Regencies, and is a literature professor, and all, and KH is much more “literary” than Zach ever was, and she sent me a response! I was so excited it was embarrassing. I mean, I am a grown-up, sorta. I really should be past the squee thing. (Heidi Cullinan responded to a post the same day. My cup runneth over.)

So anyway, Sarah said for me to send her a copy of KH when it comes out, and by the way, send her Zach, too. And I did, and she reviewed it, and you can see it here.  The short story in question is the followup to Zach that I wrote for the Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar and she didn’t like it as well.  It isn’t as good as Zach, but I wrote it in two weeks, so I don’t expect it to be liked as well!!

A B+ is a really good rating from Dear Author, as they are quite tough customers.  I was really, really hoping for a B, so a B+ is icing on the cake!  And the best part of the review?  She GOT it.  A bunch of people have commented that they thought Zach “recovered” too quickly, and I would headdesk, because Zach isn’t recovered at all.  He’s still messed up, even four years later, after he graduates.  In part, I kind of wanted the followup (Hopes and Fears, for those who have not been paying attention) to make that point, too.  He’s made progress, that’s all.  His parents are paying bundles for him to make progress, so he does.  But he’s still far from “normal” and probably won’t ever get there.  So thank you, Sarah, for seeing that. 

She liked it!  She really liked it!  (okay, that is ENOUGH with the squeeing, girl…!!)

On another note, I went on Lulu.com and built myself a little book.  Mom had actually read “Night and Day,” the short story in the DSP anthology, and liked it.  She asked for a copy that she could show her friends (I know she didn’t want to show them the book, since even though Night and Day isn’t explicit, some of the other stories ARE).  So I made a little book version of Night and Day and bought five copies.  One of them will go to her, and I’ll give the rest to a few other people.  It was pretty easy.  I’ll have to do it again sometime for my beta readers.