Thursday, December 29, 2011

Meet Deb Victoroff - Author

Today it's my great pleasure to introduce my readers to a debut author who just recently signed with Musa Publishing. Say hello to Deb Victoroff. Her most recent work is being released today, and she’s managed to squeeze a bit of time in for us and this interview. So let’s get on with it.

First of all, tell us the source of your inspiration for House and Garden.

Hi Cornell, and thank you for hosting me. I know you’re busy with the release of your own novel, Lost in the Bayou, so thank you especially for this!

My inspiration came from a country house (really a shack that aspired to be a cottage) that my old boyfriend Hal and I purchased on a tiny neglected peninsula on Long Island.  Just after we bought it he got a new job, which required his working in the city (Manhattan) and meant I would be spending the first weekends alone at the house.  I looked forward to this – I was planning on gardening for the first time – making the garden pretty with lots of flowers and a little stone path – perhaps foxglove, irises, Montauk daisies.  I had big plans.  But first I had to deal with the overgrowth of a backyard that had not been touched in years.  There were vines strangling the trees, choking the rose bushes, weaving through the lawn.  It was just as I describe in the story: the lawn was like walking on a field of pencils strewn about. 

As I confidently started out with my clippers my first mission was to take care of these old vines.  But I soon learned that they were too strong for my clippers: I practically took off my thumb holding them and attempting to cut them off the trees.  They were simply too strong for my hand strength on the clippers, and the clipper blade kept slipping, always aiming for my fingers.  Bugs came out of nowhere to attack me and climb into my shirtsleeves; everything that had jaws or pinchers bit me and stung me.  I pushed a wad of weeds into a trash barrel to compact it and the thorns punched through and punctured my hands.  As evening came, and the mosquitoes started on my ankles and worked their way up to my face, I was really beginning to feel like the garden did not like me there, trying to gentrify it. 

I thought: this is something Stephen King would write about.  Maybe I should try to write it myself?

That’s very interesting and a bit spooky, for sure. Let’s switch gears here for a moment and talk a little about how you create your characters. Are they based on people you know, or do they each have a little of Deb Victoroff inside them?

Well, I can only speak to this short story regarding character creation.  Although I’ve written short plays, those characters were created out of whole cloth.  In this short story, the lead character Elise Lambert is absolutely based on me – but I am only the most skeletal of templates.  Elise is not intended to be an adorable chipper, good-natured young woman.  She’s a bit of a loner, not good at personal relationships, somewhat judgmental with a superiority complex that comes from assuming that others are going about life the wrong way, and that’s why they don’t “get” her.  These traits lead directly to her assumptions about how easy it will be to shape her garden to how she feels it SHOULD look, changing things to suit her.  She likes to be in control for sure.  She’s a film editor by trade, and the cutting and shaping of stories has given her an unrealistic sense of how life can be modified to one’s tastes. 

So I am by trade a film/video editor and although I have no illusions about the real world vs. the filmed world, I thought someone for whom those worlds blurred together would make for an interesting character.  Also, I am different from Elise in that I like people and enjoy their company, although I enjoy blocks of time alone for sure.  I hope I am slightly less of a social misfit than Elise.

I’m paraphrasing R.L. Stine, the creator of the Goosebumps series, but he said something like “There’s nothing more enjoyable than scaring children.” Perhaps he’ll leave a comment and correct me. My question for you is, do you enjoy scaring your readers?

I would be honored and flattered to scare my readers!  I would dread hearing that the story is ok, but not scary, or not scary enough.  I don’t know how people will respond to it… talk about scary: writing something and asking the public to read it is absolutely terrifying!  I am in awe of writers who can do this well.  I remember reading “The Shining” by Stephen King.  I started out in my own room reading and by the middle of the story I could not read it if I was alone.  I had to be in a room with another person.  Same with “Dracula”.  That’s a talent I would love to have!  For any writer, making the “audience” respond, in whatever way you intend, be it tears, laughter, or horror, that’s the name of the game.  A story is ultimately just typewritten symbols, shaped into words, put on paper in a certain order.  If you can make another person react emotionally to those words that you as the writer put in an order that you chose, isn’t that something?  I typically write humor and to have someone tell me they laughed at something of mine they read is worth about 30 minutes of “glow” for me.

Give us a couple of names. Who are your favorite authors?

Well, the Big Kahuna for horror writers is of course Stephen King. (I know you’re a fan as well!) There’s that perpetual argument about whether his books are “worthy” – most people consider his stuff as pulp or like they do pop music.  It causes a reaction but that reaction is elicited by cheap tricks.  I can’t join this argument.  I have read horror that’s considered “literature”: “Dracula”, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, “The Monkey’s Paw”, “The Telltale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado” by Poe, and many others, and I can say that they all frightened me.  What is really difficult I think is to keep horror and suspense up for the length of a novel.  That’s why there are so many great short horror stories and not so many great horror novels. 

“Playboy Magazine” which I actually used to read (I had 4 brothers so believe me there were plenty around the house) used to have great short stories – good horror in particular.  One of the best I ever read was by the cartoonist Gahan Wilson.  Titled “The Manuscript of Dr. Arness”, I think it’s an example of a perfect short horror story.  It’s brilliant.  I also like Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Peter Straub.  Charles Dickens is my favorite all-around writer and I would count “A Christmas Carol” as a wonderful paranormal story!

Of course I also like chick lit (Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher), and spy novels (Le Carre, Ian Fleming, Ken Follet), everything really.  I must say a book that I read as young kid and which I will never forget is Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”.  That story had everything.  I was frightened in the middle, and sad and sentimental at the end.  I wonder if kids still read that?

Let’s talk a little about your publisher, Musa. I’ve been reading about them on Absolute Write and some other blogs. I understand they’re concentrating their publishing efforts entirely in the digital format realm at the present time. Personally, I think that’s a great idea because the eBook market is exploding and should continue to do well in the future. Did you have any reservations about being solely digital when you signed with them?

At first I approached the idea of digital publication with trepidation. I was one of those who thought I would never, ever give up three-dimensional paper books.  But then I downloaded one (“And Here’s the Kicker” – great by the way) and I was hooked.  Now I see that it is a perfectly legitimate way to purchase and read books and stories.  In fact, I think the digital form may save short stories.  There are so few places to publish and read them. And I am very pleased that Musa and I found each other.  They are a tremendously hard-working group – a small operation with four cornerstones and several freelancers.  I like the choices they are making and also the fact that they represent so many different genres, but not scattershot.  They show great respect to the authors and all their books.

Tell us a little about the chronology. What steps led up to the contract?

Musa has a good system.  You send them a synopsis and if they like it, they ask to see the first 15 pages.  Nail biting ensues.  If they like the first 15 pages, then they ask for the manuscript (digitally).  More nail biting.  If they like the book/story, they send you a contract.  Jumping up and down follows. 

I’m looking at your cover and wondering if you had to furnish that or did Musa create it for you?

Musa has as one of their cornerstones the artist Kelly Shorten who designs the cover against a template of the Musa logo.  She did my cover; I’m not sure if Musa has other artists as well.  She read my story to get a feel for what my piece was about and came up with the most perfect image; I couldn’t believe it.  It was as if I gave her a photo of the wetlands behind my old house.  It had exactly the elements of mystery and bayside growth I imagined.  We tried adding an insect to the picture (I have some angry insects in the story) – it didn’t work.  Too obvious.  We got rid of it.  The only issue I had with the image was that it seemed as if it was daytime – Kelly darkened the photo and added shadows under the boardwalk.  Then it was perfect.

Okay, let’s stay with House and Garden for a little longer. Give us a teaser and quote your favorite passage from it. Make it something scary if you’d like, but not a spoiler.

Here’s a bit from the beginning.

"We’re home, Solo," Elise smiled, as Solo lifted a leg and peed on a bush, then trotted around the side of the house and disappeared.

Elise unpacked the car and walked up the porch stairs to the front of the house.  As she put her key into the door, she felt a wispy touch on her cheek.  She reflexively stroked at it, and saw tangled in her sweater cuff, an enormous black spider.  She screamed and backed against the screen shaking her hand as if it were on fire. 

“Get off, get off, get off!” she cried.

Her heart raced, she twisted and jumped back.  She looked again at her sleeve, her eyes wide with fear.  Nothing.  It must’ve fallen off.  She looked down at her feet but saw nothing.  Sighing, she said aloud, “My God, what a baby I am.”  Her heart slowed a little as she reached for the doorknob.

She looked at her screen.  She’d put an elbow clean through it; it looked like a mesh blossom blooming on one side of the door.   Her elbow was bleeding.

Well she was a homeowner now, she thought, and this would be the first of many small injuries and home repairs.   She blamed it on the spider.  Spiders had always frightened Elise; the multiple legs, those horrific faces, and the way they appeared out of nowhere… 

“Get used to it, kiddo,” she said to herself,  “you’re on their turf now.”   Solo came around the corner, inquisitive, and Elise let him sweep by her into the house.  “Good boy,” she said.  “Let’s get inside.”  She followed Solo into the house, turning once more to scan the porch, and closed the door.

Tell our readers one unusual thing about you that we would never suspect.

I love banjo music.  I love Bluegrass and banjo specifically.  I was the music editor on the HBO show “Sex and the City” for one season (and the assistant for 4).  I do not find Brad Pitt attractive at all.  That insurance commercial where everyone is “paying it forward” makes me tear up every time.  Ridiculous.

Speaking of banjo music, I’m guessing you liked the movie, Deliverance. But we won’t go there this time. Instead, tell us where we can get a copy of House and Garden. Also, will it work for Kindle and Nook and all of those other eReaders out there?

As of Friday December 30th it will be available for download on  24 hours later (I think) it will be up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites.  And yes, there are several formats available so it shouldn’t be too hard to download onto your smart phone, or iPad, or computer, or Kindle/Nook.  (sounds like Brundle/Fly)

Well, I’m certain I speak for all of our readers when I say thank you for taking the time for the interview. I know everyone wishes you the best for House and Garden and all your future works.

Monday, December 19, 2011

And the Winner is...

The field wasn't overly full (we only had ten entries) but the winner has been determined. After taking all correct entries and generating a winning number from a random number generator online, the name associated with that winning position is... (drum roll)


Sharon wins the beautiful coffee mug with the dramatic graphic of the Lost in the Bayou cover. Let's hope she enjoys her beverage of choice and thinks of us as she's drinking it. Actually, she may end up using it as a pencil holder on  her desk, but that's fine, too. It's now hers to do with as she pleases.

Congratulations, Sharon! Thanks for participating.

Now, moving on. I'm currently in the process of creating a new contest for our readers. So check back later today and see what the great prize will be this time. It's going to be exciting, I assure you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Trailer

The contest for the beautiful coffee mug is over! I will announce the winner tomorrow, so check back to get the scoop on that. Meanwhile, take a look at the video that's just been released for Lost in the Bayou. Naturally, we would like to get as many viewers as possible, so feel free to pass it along, share it, or link to it. And thanks. By the way, if you need a trailer for your own book, I would be happy to share the contact info of the company who created this one. Their prices are totally reasonable. Just leave a comment and I'll get back with you.

Also, I will be announcing a fabulous new contest Monday or Tuesday. So check back for that, too! Also, if the embedded video is playing too slowly and not loading properly, go to the direct connect at You Tube. HERE.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Time for a Contest! And a prize!


In case you haven't been following along and anxiously counting the days with the rest of us, this is the magical day when Lost in the Bayou is being released through Musa Publishing

Since we haven't given anything away to our dear readers in some time, I thought it seemed appropriate to give away something related to that milestone event.

And that's exactly what we've decided to do. I'm confident that most of you take in some liquids on a daily basis. What's your pleasure? Coffee? Tea? Water? Milk? Cola? Or how about a nice warm mug of cocoa on the coming winter mornings. Well, whatever you like to drink, we've got just the mug to hold it. Check out that photo.

That's the mug we're giving away. A beautiful white ceramic cylindrical contemporary coffee mug with a handy handle (it's a mug) and a striking high resolution image of the Lost in the Bayou cover so artfully created by Lisa Lingenfelter Dovichi (of the Musa Publishing Art Department) and beautifully reproduced in all its splendid and colorful glory. Who could ask for anything more?

I'm sure it's going to be at about this point when the reader is sitting, eyes wide and lower jaw dropped in awe, saying, "Wow! I want that. What do I have to do to get it?" Well, hang onto your saddle horn because I'm about to tell you. And it's so very simple you won't believe it. All that's required is that you leave a comment below this post that contains the answers to the following three questions:

1. What is Robin Sherwood's age at the time the story is written?
2. What are the objects on Andy's tie?
3. What radio program is Uncle Conrad obsessed with?

Can you believe it's that easy? It is! Simply leave a comment below that includes the answers to those three questions and, if you correctly answer all three, you will be entered into a random drawing to get the beautiful coffee / tea / water / milk / cola / cocoa / whatever mug with the book cover image imprinted thereon. It will last forever provided it is not dropped or allowed to come into abrupt contact with a force greater than the tensile strength of its material composition.

A word of warning. Be wary of simply copying the answers contained in the other comments. I have several sneaky author friends who will be leaving comments containing BOGUS and INCORRECT information just to throw you off track. Remember, if your answers are wrong, you won't be entered. Nuff said?

The answers may be found at the Musa website by clicking HERE. Or they can be found when you visit the mini website by clicking HERE. To make certain you come up with the right answers, you can order the book by clicking HERE. And even if you don't win, you will have had an exciting adventure.

This contest will run from now until midnight, CST on December 16th, 2011. Winner will be announced on Monday, December 19th, 2012. Be sure to include in your comment a means of contacting you if you're declared the lucky winner. Contest is open only to entrants with a shipping address in the continental United States.

Best of luck to everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Coffee Mug Giveaway

I've decided to change the rules. This contest was originally scheduled to run until 12/31. However, I have something else I want to do before the end of the month, so I'm shortening the contest entry window to 12/16. If you've already entered, you're golden. If not, you need to get with the program and get your entry posted post haste and no later than midnight CST on 12/16.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A special thanks to this reviewer -

What a wonderful surprise to find this review on my book site this morning. It comes from a fellow author, a Mr. Joe Perrone, Jr. This is the kind of review an author lives for. Thanks Joe.

Glad I "found" Lost in the Bayou -

Cornell DeVille is not exactly a household name, but if this talented author continues to turn out books like this one, he soon will be. I stumbled across his work on an authors website that I frequent, and was intrigued by its title and description. I downloaded a free sample and was immediately captivated by the opening scene (which, unfortunately, was also the extent of the "free" part). "Oh, what the heck?" I thought, "For $3.99 how can I go wrong?"

So, I purchased it. Big mistake! Now it's two-thirty in the AM, and I've just finished reading what is technically a YA mystery, but qualifies, in my opinion, as a book suited for all age groups - it's that good!

Lost In The Bayou (don't you just love the title?) tells the tale of two young children, trapped in a battle with a crazed uncle who is intent upon acquiring their father's estate at any cost, even if means killing his niece and nephew to accomplish his goal. Along the way we are treated to scenarios painted with a brush that is virtually dripping with descriptive adjectives of every color and hue. Set in the Sixties, Lost In The Bayou is replete with vivid images of that historic era, including references to hit songs and automobiles popular at the time.

Then, there's the antagonist's obsession with The Lone Ranger, a theme that runs throughout the book, serving as a metaphor for the battle between good and evil. The characters are as varied and three dimensional as any of those created by the likes of Twain, and just as endearing. I especially enjoyed meeting Mrs. Deffenbaugh, the housekeeper.

Lost In The Bayou is a story that will definitely suck you in - much like the quicksand that surrounds the big cypress tree - but to find out how it's done, you'll just have to buy the book and read it! Great job, Mr. DeVille. Keep 'em coming!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What readers are saying...

It was only a week ago that Lost in the Bayou was released through the Euterpe imprint at Musa Publishing. It's been a slow start so far, but the momentum is building and it's most encouraging to read the wonderful reviews that are coming in. I wanted to reprint a few of them for you in this post.

Let's start with Jenn from Jenn's Book Blog.

This book was amazing. Your attention is grabbed on the first page and it's a roller coaster ride through the rest of the book. The words paint such a picture in your head you feel like you are right there with the characters. Alternately throughout this book i found myself with goosebumps, my heart racing, and almost crying from imagining what the characters are experiencing and feeling. I read the entire book in a matter of hours because i couldn't tear myself away. I can't wait to read more of DeVille's stories.

Sharon from Missouri writes:

I started reading this book when I went to bed the other night, thinking that I would read a chapter or two, get drowsy and fall asleep. It didn't quite turn out that way. By around 3:00am I had finished the last page. It was definitely a page turner. I simply couldn't put it down. I kept thinking, "okay this chapter won't leave me wanting more. I'll turn out the light and go to sleep as soon as I finish it." But each chapter did leave me wondering what would happen next. The deeper into the book I got the faster my heart would race and I found myself reading even faster. I would recommend this to any young reader or older reader (like myself) who enjoys a good read. It is such a good story that everyone will enjoy it. I would love to see this come out as a movie. The characters jump out of the pages and come to life so easily. I think this author will go far and I certainly plan to read everything I can that he has written. Mr. DeVille, thank you for letting your imagination take me somewhere I've never been. Please continue your wonderful writing, many young people will enjoy this for years to come. You are truly a gifted writer.

All the way from Australia, Vonnie comments:

Such a great novel for the YAs. A bit of gruesome, a bit of mystery, a bit of pathos, even an alligator or two. What's not to like? I defy anyone to put this book down once they've started, not even for fire, flood or famine. DeVille has crafted an intriguing tale of two kids whose parents have supposedly died in a plane crash. Their nearest relative is an uncle straight out of the original Grimm fairy tales. Of course he's nutty as a fruitcake but dangerous - very dangerous. So the kids escape to the bayou. Hobson's choice. Great storytelling where problem is piled upon problem. Always good to see enterprising kids outwit evil adults.

Kerry from Colorado says:

Cornell DeVille has done an amazing job in this YA suspense/thriller! I had plans of reading this book slowly, taking my time to savor the Bayou, get to know the characters and enjoy the read. Well, Cornell, in the BEST way possible, you grabbed my plans, wadded them up and threw them into the flaming oil lantern! Each chapter had me wanting to delve deeper into the bayou (I've never been there, but my mind was taking me all over the swamp!) and I could not get enough of the words on each page. If you are looking for a thrill, for the unexpected, take a trip with the kids in Lost In The Bayou. You won't be disappointed!

Katherine from the Show-Me State writes:

Cornell Deville is an expert at making the mundane terrifying. Uncle Conrad lost a hand in Korea, which would normally inspire compassion, but the way he uses his metal prosthesis--to threaten children with--is scary. Deville does that with other things, too...blueberries, for instance, and the Lone Ranger. He is also an expert at evoking mood in every scene. His heroine, Robin, is a completely believable 14-year-old girl, especially when it comes to her relationship with her younger brother. Most importantly, the book is just the right amount of scary for middle grade teen readers--it doesn't baby them by softpedalling the danger, but it stops short of traumatizing them. I highly recommend Lost in the Bayou.

Dannyboy from Kansas tells us:

I don't read YA, but my daughter wanted this book for her Kindle. I was out of reading material, so decided to scan the first few pages. Then I didn't stop. That Conrad character was such a slimy piece of work. I knew those kids were in trouble from the get-go. This is exactly the kind of book I craved as a kid. I would read it under the covers with my flashlight, scaring myself spitless. Then I'd eventually drop off to sleep with every light in my room on, the blankets pulled up to my chin, and waiting for the bedroom doorknob to turn. Reminds me of the old Alfred Hitchcock shows I used to watch with my dad. My daughter's going to love it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Supporting Characters

Novels typically contain our main characters--the hero and the villain. However, except for the rare instance, these characters can’t perform their play on a stage totally devoid of other actors. Just like the leading men and women in the Hollywood films, our supporting characters, though sometimes underappreciated, are really a vital requirement.

In Lost in the Bayou, one supporting actress who gets a minimal amount of screen time is Mrs. Deffenbaugh. But even though she didn’t have to memorize a lot of lines (for which she is terribly grateful), she delivers the ones she’s been given with star quality and in one take.

The Euterpe Blog over at Musa Publishing has printed an article this morning about our dear Mrs. Deffenbaugh. Let's mosey on over there and read the rest of the story.

Click HERE.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Press Release Published!

Yes! The Kansas City Star published a press release on Lost in the Bayou today. I don't want to take up a ton of space here, because I want people to see the contest below, but feel free to visit my website and give the release a read. Click HERE.

And don't forget to enter our contest. That mug would look great on your desk!