Saturday, March 10, 2012

To Write or Not to Write

To write or not to write, that is the question! 
 Okay, maybe it is not the question, but it may be one you wrestle with. I know I did. I began writing when I was a child in sixth grade. My family had just survived a traumatic event, and my twelve year old mind was struggling to comprehend it. I couldn't understand why it had happen, and why the people involved even allowed it to happen. It took me years to finally figure that one out, by the way.

  I still remember to this day what inspired me to write the poem that came out of that mess. Highlights (for kids), remember that fun little magazines from your childhood? I was skimming through the magazine, reading my favorite sections-probably Goofus and Gallent;} I came to a selection of poems written by kids; I was mesmerized. I pulled out a pencil and began. I probably wrote a few Roses are Red type poems first knowing me, I'm not sure, but I do remember writing the poem that started it all. I wrote my feelings about what had happened, not going into detail, but more or less summarizing it in general terms like Love, and Pain and Confusion. It gave me great comfort to just write it all down. I showed it to my mom, she didn't believe I'd written it. My mother has never been big on complements, mind you, so her surprised at how well the poem had turned out gave me encouragement.

 Next, I wrote a few poems for a seventh grade English class that were well received by my peers. In college, I graduated to writing a short story about a young boy who'd commented suicide. His death troubled me so deeply I couldn't get it off my mind.  I wrote about his struggles, adding some of my own details since I didn't know everything that contributed to his ultimate surrender to death. My teacher raved about the story and encouraged me to publish.
For me, writing became a way to deal with things that weighed heavy on my mind. To this day if something bothers me, I write about it. Most of the time my writings do not enlighten me with any big revelations, or life-altering tidbits, but writing my thoughts down helps me sort through it and come to peace with whatever it is.

 So my advice: Write! If not for others, write for yourself, at least at first.  You may begin writing and before you know it, a novel is born! There just may be a Les Misérables inside of you begging to be published...then they'll make a Broadway play out of your book… then a movie starring Liam Neeson…

 You never know until you try!


Poison-heart YA fiction giveaway!! Click here!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Author Camelia Miron Skiba AND GIVEAWAY!

 I've know Cami for a short time, but have come to love her immensely. She has a beautiful soul, and is a warm and generous person. I have learned so much about her native Romania and her struggles growing up in that country. We are truly blessed to live in the the good old USA! Her new book A World Apart is like her in many ways and I highly recommend it! (FYI: This is an Adult novel NOT a YA novel). Keep a tissue near by! Here is a link to my FIVE STAR review! 
To enter the giveaway
1. Leave a comment below
2. Follow Cami's blog;
3. Want to win!!
ALSO!! Cami was part of a blog hop Charity giveaway. Click here to see the results of her efforts

Camelia Miron Skiba Interview

Could you tell us a little about growing up under communism in Romania?
Camelia: Hungry, cold and scared are the perfect words to describe my childhood. You see, Ceausescu believed hunger and fear served him as controlling tools. Without food people are weak. They can't rebel against a tyrant president and government.
Each family—depending on how many members in the household—received a certain amount of allotted food per month. Can't recall my mother to ever have enough eggs and flour to bake a pie. Luckily my mother's aunt lived in the country and had a few chicken on the farm. She made the best cheese pie ever and to these days I cannot think about it without drooling instantly. Until after the Revolution in 1989 I never knew bananas could be eaten throughout the year. They were only imported during Christmas.
To keep warm during the long winters, my sisters and I shared one bed, aligned like sardines on one side then turned on the other side at the same time so we don't breath into each other face.

How do you think your unique background influences your writing?
Camelia: Before I moved to the U.S. in September of 2003, I lived in Austria, Germany and Hungary. Love took me to Austria, work to Germany and month-long vacations to Hungary. Then I returned to Romania for about five years, before love found me again. This time it brought me here to the States. In looking back, I realize that every single place I’ve been to, people, traditions, culture and language, every memory helped me create characters with different backgrounds, mentalities and lifestyles, adding spices to the story. Aside from the romantic tone in my novels, my heroes are always coming from different countries, using English to fall in love.

I hear that English is not your first language! I think it’s awesome that you are multilingual. How hard is it for you to write books in English? Do you write books in the other languages you speak?
Camelia: I never looked at it as being hard. I just do it. I dream, think, write and speak in English. Can’t tell exactly when in happened (the transition from thinking in Romanian to English), but it feels natural. Mama asked me to write my books also in Romanian so she can read them. I told her maybe when I retire. LOL. Humor aside, I try to expand my vocabulary on a daily basis. Not only expand it, but also find antonyms and synonyms for words. Verbs are my weakness. Back home to do replaces lots of actions.
A few readers have mentioned that they feel like the book is written by someone "who was taught proper English as a second language". I definitely take it as a compliment because nothing is worse than misspelling and bad grammar. (Besides, I hated grammar in school).

What are your interests outside of writing?
Camelia: Reading. If a book pulls me in I stay up all night and finish it. I also love comedies and historical dramas. I recently discovered a few on NetFlix and I stayed up all night to watch them. Pat Tilman’s Run is the annual sporting event I train for. I also love to travel.

Your novel, ‘A World Apart’, involves both military personnel and surgeons. Do you have any experience in either of these two fields, or did you have to research them in order to make the story realistic?
Camelia: I once said that researching for this book took me longer than it took me to write it. And this is the plain truth. I had no training, or experience in the medical or military field whatsoever. But both Cass and David the main characters entered my brain as officers and doctors. I couldn’t change their professions without losing who they were. And they wanted their story told, adamant about it as they were narrating and no other way. Sometimes as an author you just have to do what your characters want. Compromise somewhere else so you feel you have somewhat control.
My absolute luck was that all my critique partners have at one point or another worked in both fields. Jeff (Jeffery Moore, Author of the trilogy The Keepers, and Jericho Solus) was a pilot for the US Air Force. You (Sherry Gammon, Author of Unlovable) were a nurse for US Air Force. And Cindy (Cindy C Bennett, Author of Geek Girl, Heart on a Chain and Immortal Mine) used to be a nurse for the ER. I relied on everyone's experience to tell me if what I wrote was realistic or not. One of Cindy’s sons was deployed to Iraq twice and, with his input I was able to capture the life on a military base, so essential for the background of my story. I doubt my book would’ve been done as well as it is without your tremendous help.

Please tell us a bit about your inspiration for ‘A World Apart’.
Camelia: The Iraq War. The story goes back to the end of 2002. It all started with some headlines in a Romanian newspaper announcing the Romanian government signed an agreement with the US government to grant complete access to one of the airbases at the Black Sea. The base was strategic in the war against Iraq starting several months later, in March of 2003. The news kind of leaked into the media because at the time there was no official announcement that the US prepared for an invasion, and so the Romanians were quite confused with the agreement.
Without knowing what was the real reason Americans were on our soil, I began making up stories... Enter Romanian Dr. Lt. Cassandra Toma deployed at the Black Sea to work with American Dr. Maj. David Hunt. She's too outspoken and rebellious to be in the army, or as David sees her, "the mother of all mules." She's in the army for all the wrong reasons, which eventually will determine her actions later on. David on the other hand is the quintessence of the American soldier, who takes pride in his rank and work. That and more is about to change the minute he lays eyes on Cassandra.
I've never lost anyone at war. I can't imagine how a family left behind goes on with their life after losing a loved one on the front line, be it in Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else our soldiers fight the enemy. Yet, they do it, and because of that I need to do my part and give back, keeping alive our soldiers' memory.
A World Apart is my dedication to all men and women in uniform serving in the army. I can't bring back the ones we lost, but I can give them life through my story. Their story. A World Apart.

In ‘A World Apart’, the heroine Cassandra is very feisty and determined. Is this at all reflective of your personality?
Camelia:  I try not to identify myself with my characters. Yet everyone that knows me would say, I’m both. I guess as authors some of our qualities (or flaws) come out stronger than others.

If ‘A World Apart’ were made into a Hollywood blockbuster film, what actor and actress would you choose to play your main characters David and Cassandra?
Camelia: For David’s role Andy Withfield would’ve been my first pick. He’d know how to handle rebellious Cassandra. Too bad I didn’t finish the book before he passed away. My second choice would be Paul Walker.
For Cassandra’s role I’d choose Charlize Theron. That’s something controversial and vulnerable about her yet the walls surrounding her taller than Burj Khalifa, exactly like my heroine.  I can only wish Paul good luck trying to take them down—quite a challenge.

Are there any new projects in the works that you’d like to tell us about?
Camelia: I’m working now on a novel I plan to release in December. It’s Chiara’s story, Tessa’s sister from my debut novel 'Hidden Heart'. She's actually dark and distrustful, unlike any other characters I’ve dealt before with. She’s quiet, sitting in an obscure corner, arms wrapped around her knees and not saying a damn word. Not going anywhere, not letting anyone (other characters) coming closer. Such a troubled heroine scares me since I thought I could handle whoever comes into my head. Can't lure her with cookies or ice cream, can't make her talk, but she took full residence in my brain.

In a war that’s not hers, she loses everything.
Everything she loses is because of him.
Forgiveness is not an option.
Or maybe...

Lieutenant Cassandra Toma, trauma surgeon in the Romanian National Army starts her deployment at a joint-unit air base on a wrong foot, clashing on her first day with her new commander, Major David Hunt. Her rebellious nature and sassiness rival her excellent performance in the operating room—the only reason why she's not reprimanded, or maybe not the only reason.

They meet. They clash. A forbidden passion consumes them with the intensity of an erupting volcano, leaving her heartbroken and him with tarnished honor and pride as an officer. The only way out for David is disappearing into the dangerous warzone in Iraq. Their flame was supposed to be over when destiny brings them back under the same roof, this time with a common goal—to find Cassandra's brother, Maj. Robert Toma, kidnapped by insurgents while on patrol.

To rescue Robert, Cassandra and David put aside their resentments, uniting forces against a common enemy. Trying to forget the painful past, Cassandra opens up to give David—and their love—another chance. What she doesn’t realize is that her anguish is the result of David’s impetuous action—one reckless choice he made for which she may never forgive him.

His mistake, his secret, could cost them both the love they've finally found.

“You need to calm down,” David inched closer to Cassandra, fixing her with such intensity her face caught fire.
“Calm down? You want me to calm down?” she snorted, jutting her chin up, hands on her hips.
“Yes. You need to calm down. What was that all about? Why are you so furious?”
 “You want to know why I am so furious?” Cassandra grounded her feet apart and pushed her chin forward.  “You really want to know? I’ll tell you why. I’m so sick of your bigheaded attitude, of your ‘I’m an American—I do whatever I want’ arrogance!” She shoved a finger at David’s chest, poking it and leaning forward. Her gaze locked on his, their faces close. “You act like some god on our grounds, like you’re doing us a big favor, honoring us with your royal presence as if we are a bunch of idiots you cannot stand. Anything that comes your way that is Romanian, you dismiss with such vehemence one might think it’s poisonous. Nothing we do or have is good enough for your nose.
“But let me tell you something, my friend. My people might not have everything so technical and so advanced, but they are good and hard-working people. They have good hearts and above all, they have dignity. When you live for generations under communism and are treated the way we were, maybe only then you can understand what it means to be so ‘primitive’. To be given nothing and be expected to work wonders. Your standards and ours obviously don’t match, but who are you to judge us? What do you know about us that gives you the right to treat us this way? Huh?
“And for your information, in case nobody had the courage to tell you, this is not our war.” She made a large circle with her arms. “We haven’t asked for it and we are doing you a favor allowing all of you to be on our soil. And not vice versa.” Cassandra straightened her back, pushed away a curl that fell on her face and held her arms up. “Here you have it, I said it.”
She walked around David, opened the door and before leaving, said without looking back, “And don’t forget to write me up.”

David shook his head, scrunching his eyebrows. “Have you looked around, Cassandra? Do you have the smallest idea where we are?”
“Yes,” she jutted her chin up, her voice a rasp, “in a rat’s hole I don’t give a damn about. I could care less about the people here, nor want anything to do with them. This is not my war. I said it before, I’ll say it again. The only reason I’m here is for Robert, and Robert only.” She inhaled deeply, squeezing dreadful tears between her eyelids. “If you don’t want to help, that’s fine. But don’t try to stop me.” She turned to walk away, but David caught her wrist. “What—”
“Look around you. I get it you don't care about being here, or about the people, but you have a choice—the choice of staying alive and safe, here on the base. They,” he pointed at the beds, “didn't.”
Three soldiers occupied the room, one without an arm, another without a leg. The third one had bandages around his head, half of his face disfigured with burns.
Her stomach twisted, a strong taste of bile rising in her throat.
“And what am I supposed to do, David? Just sit around and wait?” She glanced at Laura who, standing in the doorway, waved a nurse not to enter. Grateful that Laura spared her the embarrassment of being heard by others, she turned to David and said, “I have to at least try to find him, I have to.” Her eyes burned with tears, her voice choked up. “He is somewhere out there, and must be found, alive...” Her stomach turned to a fire pit, pain forcing her to bend forward.
David grabbed her by the shoulders and for a moment, Cassandra thought he’d embrace her. Instead, he blinked quickly, pushed her slightly away and rubbed her upper arms, shaking his head, his voice heavy. “Cass ... You won’t be allowed to go anywhere. If your assignment is here on the base, in the hospital, then you'll follow orders. This is not Romania.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but David raised a hand. “There's no point in arguing, trust me.” He limped around the first bed, put gloves and a mask on and added, “Come, let's finish the rounds.”


I’m Chris’ wife, Patrick’s mom and Bella’s owner. During the day, I’m the assistant to the Director at SESE at Arizona State University, and romance’s slave at night.
I moved to the U.S eight years ago, following my heart and the man who stole it. I love comedies, historical dramas and happily-ever-after stories. English is not my native, not my second, but my third language.
Some fun facts about me:
Each year I participate in one big event that requires me to physically train. My biggest sportive accomplishment was the 3-day 60-mile Susan G. Komen Walk.
Annually I pick a color I decree my favorite (this year it’s salmon).
I refused to text until 2010, always preferring to hear voices rather than sending emotionless messages. Politic bores me to death and I have no tolerance for arrogance.
“A World Apart” is my second book. My debut novel “Hidden Heart” came out March 2011.