Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot...

So, let me apologize in advance.  For this blog, I try to avoid anything personal related to me, keeping instead to UF/Paranormal subjects or at least general writing thoughts.  However, my turn coming on New Year’s Eve it seemed too perfect for some self reflection, so please allow me this indulgence as I do the Auld Lang Syne thing.
In many ways, 2010 was a hugely challenging year for me.  I was constantly fighting illness of some sort.  I lost family members and was forcibly reminded that my parents are no longer young, and I need to deal with that fact of life going forward.  Finally, I dealt with a situation where I felt I was ill treated and made me shut down from everything that didn’t directly relate to my home life.
Yes, indeed not the happiest.  But before I cry about how horrific the year was, I also have to reflect on the other things that happened in 2010.  Most important, a new addition was added to my family, bringing a joy that almost nothing else in life can approach. 
I am beyond blessed in my family.  Not only do I now have two amazing children, I have a husband who is so supportive of my writing, there is nothing he won’t do to help me succeed.  That level of unconditional support is rare, and I can never truly express how his faith in me keeps me going when even my own doubts threaten to overwhelm me.
Speaking of writing, 2010 was the year that I decided to move from writing for fun to writing with my eye on making it my career.  While I might not have signed a multi book deal with a New York publisher, this year my writing significantly improved thanks to books and online courses given my some amazing teachers (I am now officially Mary Buckham’s Good Stalker – oh yeah, be jealous!  Seriously, Mary Buckham and Dianna Love are not only two of the most amazing and gracious ladies you’ll ever meet, but their teachings and book ‘Break Into Fiction’ has improved my craft tremendously.  Please do yourself a favor and if you ever have the chance, take their class.)
I met great people because of my pursuit of a writing career, people that I adore and find amazing in a multitude of ways.  Not only in my area, but the internet has led me to people across the country. 
And finally, I have an announcement to make.  I have sold my very first story to an epublisher.  Liquid Silver will be publishing my short story ‘Loving a Fairy Godmother’.  Release date is TBD, but with this, I am now on my way to becoming an author.  It’s only the first step in what I pray will be a long and varied career which will encompass both print and ebook, stories both short and novel length, but I’m a firm believer in the 1000 miles proverb, and I’m grateful to LSB for letting me take my first step with them beside me. 
So where am I going with all this?  Looking back on the year, day by day seemed so miserable.  There were days I hurt so bad I couldn’t even summon the strength to get on the internet.  There were days that I simply cried and complained about how unfair it all was.  But yet, as a whole, I’m so excited about how this year turned out.  Looking back on the whole, I wouldn’t change a moment of it, because those good things easily outweighed the bad.
That’s what I’m taking away from this year – not to let the day by day overwhelm me.  To remember that the while the day by day seems to take forever while you are in the moment, it will only be a blink of an eye until you are at New Year’s Eve looking back on how the year turned out and wondering where the time went.  Even if the day by day is difficult, know that on reflection you can find the whole satisfying and worth it.
I’m no longer going to let a ‘bad day’ keep me from my goals.  That is no longer an acceptable excuse, and my main learning experience from this past year.  It just goes by so quickly – good, bad, doesn’t matter.  It would be a shame to let myself forget that.
I wish you all great goals and the ability to see them through for this coming year.  I wish you all happiness and contentment in your lives, both personal and professional.  And, if like me, your year was a challenging one, I wish that you experienced the same gift as I did, to be able to look back and still find it overall a worthwhile one.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year in Review... for Me

Wow, I can't believe that the year is almost over. So much has happened this year. Although, I can say the same thing for the last couple days too. I'm finally back home and not hanging around at airports or on airplanes. Hooray!

Anyways, so much has happened this year. I've made writer friends and critique buddies. Revised a few different WIPs. Read so many books. Co-founded this awesome blog. And I wrote two books! This was also a year that I finally delved fully into the world of querying agents. I'd queried in the past, but it hadn't been anywhere close to the scale that I did this year. And okay, I haven't found an agent yet, but I'm certain that something good will be happening within the new year. So many great things have happened recently, things that have kind of been building blocks toward better and more.

Yes, years end usually brings about optimism for a more successful upcoming year, but that's great, especially when one acts and makes a plan to stick to what they want to accomplish in the new year. Form New Years Resolutions more like goals and decide what you really want to achieve in the upcoming year.

I know with my "goals list" for 2010, I wrote down quite a bit of stuff I didn't get to. Maybe because I didn't work as hard at the beginning of the year as I did at the end of it, but also because I think I made it more like the kitchen sink of deciding later what I wanted to pick out of it. The bad point about that, is that it's easy to get overwhelmed and think I'm not getting to everything I wanted to achieve.

Anyways, what's been your most satisfying achievement this year? Do you write out New Years Resolutions?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

“You Write Fantasy? I Hate that Stuff.”

I had an interesting conversation the other day. I won’t tell you when, or where, or who, but needless-to-say, because I’ve so clearly illustrated the conversation in the title of this blog, it went a little something like this:

“How’s your writing, Kinley?” This was said by someone who doesn’t understand why I want to be a writer, but I really appreciate their effort.
“Good. I’ve been submitting a fantasy romance.” –Me
“Fantasy? I hate that stuff.” –Third party observer to the conversation.

This could have been an awkward moment, but I went with…

“Yeah. It’s not for everyone.”

Still kind of awkward…

How do you handle these situations? I get this response a lot when I talk to people outside of the writer circle. Things like… Why do you write romance? Wait… so you write fantasy with romance? Why?

I feel like I don’t get offended by this because I realize that if someone told me they were writing a book on outer space (without aliens) my eyes might glaze over and I might give off what I term the look. Because that’s the exact expression that crosses the face of anyone when you tell them you write about alternate realms of existence if they don’t read the genre. There’s a market for books on planets, but personally I don’t understand why you would want to read it if there were no aliens.

So we all have our own personal preferences, I’ve outraged the outer space fanatics, and I’m still left wondering. Do you get offended? Because obviously there’s the readers. But what about the nonbelievers? It’s crazy to me, but there are actually people out there who don’t read. They don’t visit fantasy blog groups and they don’t want to read about vampires. I know… it’s crazy. But we must live with these people and I already know they think I’m slightly insane, so how do you handle it?

And what’s the deal with fantasy? It causes outrage. If someone told me they were going to make a documentary on snails, I wouldn’t want to watch it, but I also wouldn’t say anything like: “I hate snails.” It’s interesting to me because people tend to feel very strongly about it. I’ve had this occur on multiple occasions, and it’s not from mean or rude people. It’s like it is okay to hate it. Which is okay… right? It brings me back to… Are you offended as a writer or reader?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Numbers Game

Every year at this time I play the numbers game. I was pretty thorough with it last year. I'm not going to look at the numbers that closely this year. I will tell you that I had no rejections and no revise and resubmits this year. I did have a couple of reviews where the reviewer didn't like my book. However, the caveat to those is that it was obvious to me (and other people) that those reviewers did not get the point or some central theme of the story. Case in point: Insolence isn't really a BDSM story. It's a story about a man who has been burying his deepest emotions for many years and when they surface, everything in his life changes including his views on the lifestyle.

Anywho, my numbers last December at the end of my first full year doing this looked something like this:

Submissions: 17

Contracts: 17

Releases: 15

Rejections: 3

Revise and Resubmits: 2

Short Stories: 8

Novellas: 6

Novels: 2

This year, the numbers aren't even close. Here's those same categories with numbers for 2010:

Submissions: 9

Contracts: 9

Releases: 8 (The missing one is my short story for Wishing on a Blue Star due out 1/24/11)

Rejections: 0

Revise and Resubmits: 0

Short Stories: 2

Novellas: 6

Novels: 1

Now, granted the 2009 number included stuff I'd written in late 2008 that was contracted between Oct 30, 2008 and Dec 31, 2008. I had a little bit of a jump on things in 2009. This year's numbers are all about 2010. Some numbers are a little blurry too. A couple of the novellas are high word count for a novella (ie 40K+ but under 50K) so just saying I wrote six novellas doesn't tell you much. Most weren't 20K stories. In fact, I don't think any of them were. The only thing I wrote that was under 20K were the two short stories, one of which isn't due out until January.

This year's numbers disappoint me a little. I wanted to write more but real life butted its head in. I don't have a lot of time to devote to writing. I work a full-time job that is often 50 hours a week. I'm the breadwinner in my family. I seriously envy those people who can write every day or who can stay home and write. I don't get to do that so of course I'm jealous.

I try to stick to some kind of daily word count but I can't and it's frustrating. The ideas don't stop flowing but the time I need to execute them gets shorter and shorter. I don't do New Year's resolutions because I always end up failing them and being disappointed. I wish I could make them and stick with them regarding my writing, but the truth of the matter is, I can't. Too many things can (and do) happen to upset my apple cart. And I can't just call in sick and stay home to write. I have to save those days for when I'm really sick!

That all being said, what do I tentatively have planned for 2011? Well, let's take a look at my WIPs.

Partials: 10
Plot Outlines: 13

There are no shortage of ideas in my head. These 23 either have been started or have a plot written out with scenes and character lists. From those WIPs come my To Do List for 2010 (not in chronological deadline order):

1. Fire Storm, Tales of the Darkworld Book 7 (novel)
2. Thunder and Myth, Tales of the Darkworld Book 8 (novel)
3. Breathe Me In, Tales of the Darkworld Book 6.5 (novella)
4. Primal Fear, Guardians #1 (novella)
5. Primal Urges, Guardians #2 (novella)
6. One Hot Number (EC Quickie and Rock My World sequel)
7. Untitled sequel 1 to Unbreak Me (novella)
8. Untitled sequel 2 to Unbreak Me (novella)
9. Christmas Heat (Holiday short story)
10. Security Risk, Firewire #3 (Rock My World and One Hot Number sequel)
11. Downbeat, Firewire #4
12. A Heart to Match

I'm looking at a nice dozen works for 2011. Not sure I'll make it, but I hope to. I want to be more disciplined this year and not let my home life and my day job interfere to the extent that I can't turn out these books. They don't have deadlines, except the ones I give them and baby, do I give them deadlines. Everything has a deadline in my head.

I guess you could say I did alright in 2010. I had no rejections and no R&R's. That's saying something. So I didn't turn out as much work. Meh. I didn't have as much free time to write either and I still managed nine manuscripts. I think my dozen for 2011 is doable if I focus.

Focus is key to the numbers game. The more focused and driven I am, the faster I write. So for 2011, I'm laying off building websites and some of the other time sucks I've done in the past. I'm going to try to put my focus on the manuscripts I need to finish. Sure, I'll probably still do some cover art work, but again, the focus will be back on the manuscripts. Only four of the twelve WIPs on that list have more than a plot. That means there is a lot of writing to do. And if I work a lot quicker than I think, then I'll pick up one of the WIPs that didn't make the list for 2011.

If I manage to forgo all distractions (and aren't they a nice distraction!) and surpass this years numbers by meeting or exceeding my goals for the year, I'll be a happy camper. It would be great to play the numbers game and come out ahead, surpassing my To Do List.

Now, all I have to do is...focus. Well, and ask you to cross your fingers for me! ;)

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Year End Assessment

The end of the year is almost here. That means it’s time to do the yearly assessment. Where have I been? How far have I progressed? Or not. What projects linger? What successes have I had? Or not. And of course, it’s time to decide on next year’s plan.

This year has given me success and failure. Failure came in the form of rejection from my dream agent. Please note, I have pledged to make her regret that. Seriously. Though she did point out nothing but positives she still didn’t think my project was a good fit. Okay, so be it. My manuscript will be a good fit for someone else and then she will be sorry.

Success came in ways I never expected and not the way I pictured. I am published. And hey, that is the shining ring we strive for. But it happened under the wrong pen name. I never planned to do anything under the name Nickie Asher except garner a few small publishing credits.

Then Nickie found a home with a lovely group of talented writers who took on a venture called Everything Erotic, a Kindle subscription project. Nickie and the project are doing well. Because I was having such fun with Everything Erotic, I then decided to join another group venture. Still writing as Nickie, I’m involved with an exciting publishing experiment. A group of seven writers are releasing one half of one manuscript for free. Each writer posts one chapter per week on the Free Fantastical Fiction blog. After the halfway point is reached, each writer will publish their book and the slot will open up for another writer to join in. I’m so on board with this idea.

So as Nickie, things are moving along for me. I’m pleased about that. If nothing else, the next six months are going to keep me busy and be a lot of fun.

Now there are things that I haven’t accomplished. I’m still putting off writing a synopsis for Blood Judgment, and I really have put this off way too long. Synopsis fail. I also failed to keep good documentation on the series I’m working on. I know this is going to come back to bite me on the ass if I’m not careful. Documentation fail. I’ve also learned that I’m not too hot at promotion. And that isn’t good. Promotion fail.

So after reviewing where I am, my plan for next year is all about getting things completed. First order of business is that stinkin synopsis. That has to happen. I’m stuck solid with Blood Judgment until that document is completed…in several versions.
I know what’s behind me, and I know what’s before me. I have a schedule and a plan. I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished but I have to keep moving forward. The publishing game isn’t for the faint of heart or the impatient.

How about you? Do you review the past year before seeing in the new one? Are you happy with where you are? Do you have a plan for the year ahead?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reader Expectations, Happy Endings & Lover Unbound

According to my favorite Word Meter (which was created for NaNoWriMo but I use it for all manuscripts), I'm at the 82% mark in completing a major revision to my WIP. "Major," in this case, means skewing the whole focus of the book, writing new scenes, deleting old scenes (I've deleted more than 10,000 words so far), shifting some scenes around, and rethinking the overarching theme of the book.

I might feel better about that 82% completion if I didn't know what was coming: the ending. That final scene which, according to editing guru James Scott Bell, should do the following:
--End the novel in a way that isn't predictable yet is satisfying to the reader;
--Tie up loose threads;
--Contain resonance, that "perfect last note in a symphony that leaves the reader with something beyond the ending."

Sure, no problem.

There's more pressure. "Your first chapter sells your book," Mickey Spillane once said. "Your last chapter sells your next book." I don't even want to go there.

I wrote the ending to my first book in my head before I'd finished the third chapter. In the second book, a series followup to the first, I had three outlined chapters to go when I wrote a line and said, "This is where the book needs to end." So I ended it.

This book is my problem child, my Terrible Three, unrelated to the first two. Problem Child has, to date, had four different endings. It's about to have a fifth. (I need a fifth of whiskey, now that I think about it, or at least that bottle of Gluhwein that's sitting downstairs on my kitchen counter.)

Endings are important because readers have long memories. In one of my favorite series, JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood, I still haven't forgiven her for the ending to Vishous' book, Lover Unbound. She wrapped up the loose threads. It was certainly unpredictable. It had a reasonable expectation of a happy ending, although certainly not the one I wanted. But that resonance of satisfaction was missing.

I lost trust in her for a couple of books after that one--not enough to quit reading the series, but enough that I approached subsequent endings fearfully, without confidence I'd finish the book with that resonance of satisfaction.

And that's the problem I understand now, but that I didn't when I read Lover Unbound. We can't write to reader expectation. A few years after Lover Unbound was released, JR Ward said she was surprised by reader reaction to the book. She expected folks to be unhappy about Vishous' sexual quirks (trying not to write spoilers here). Readers accepted that. What upset them was the ending. I was not alone.

Here's what she said about it. "Even if I had realied it was going to be a problem..I wouldn't have changed the ending...I don't write to market and never have--the stories in my head are in charge, and even I don't get to see what I want to happen in the world occur. That being said, if I were writing the book again, I'd put in another ten pages or so at the end with V and Jane interacting to show the happiness they both felt--so readers were superclear that in the couple's minds things ended up just fine."

And so, as a writer, I had to forgive her as a reader--because she stayed true to her vision for the story. It's all we can do as writers, to create endings that feel honest to us and true to our characters. But I still wish she'd given me the extra ten pages.

How do you write your endings? And have you ever had a strong negative reaction to a book's ending?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Forget Goals, Let’s Party

I wrote an inspiring blog about goals and a personal reflection on the past year. Okay… Fine… It wasn’t really that inspiring. I admit it. But it was a personal reflection, which was about as boring as it sounds.


I wrote a pretty downer blog last week. I think it was the best thing I could have done. Since then I finished Draft 1 of my new paranormal romance series, revised 80 pages and created a new Realm.

I started a short story. I’m pretty much in love with the hero. It doesn’t really matter that he’s gay, I’m married, and he lives in another Realm. His mate can’t figure out how to make his move. It’s very awkward. I guess I shouldn't blame it on the guy. I should say that I can't figure out how to make him make his first move.

So I’ve decided I want to hear about your hero’s best moves. How did your hero snag your heroine’s interest the first time?

I never realized how important this moment is in a story until I started writing this one and couldn’t figure out a good way for them to officially meet. Do they first speak in a bar? When he comes to the station for his assignment? Is it intense, awkward, heated?

In my current story I’m revising, the hero first meets the heroine after she’s killed a murderer in cold blood. I know… romantic.

Perhaps I’ve taken for granted this initial meeting. It can set the pace for the romance, which in my current story is accurate. After all, it’s a story about battling to save her decaying soul. Lots of blood and guts.

What’s the best meeting you’ve read in a story? Do you have one in your own work you’re particularly fond of?

I’m off to party. I hope you all have safe and happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Blogger Paige Tyler

 Thanks so much for letting me guest blog today!

Readers often ask me how I come up with ideas for my books, so I thought I'd give you a little behind-the-scenes peek at how I came up with my new release, a paranormal erotic romance from Ellora's Cave called DEAD SEXY.

Before I say anything else though, isn't that cover too hot for words?! When the art department sent it to me, I probably gazed at it for a good ten minutes in mouth-drooling appreciation before I could email them back telling the artist it not only rocked, but totally fit the book. The hero is "Dead Sexy," after all!

Okay, back to the story and how I came up with it. First, to set the stage, I need to share a little something with you about myself. Well, about my hubby and me, actually. We love zombie movies, from the George Romero gems to Shaun of the Dead and everything in between, including "Walking Dead," the new series on AMC. You just can't go wrong with a movie full of walking dead people, can you? Well, if you've ever seen a zombie movie (or even you haven't), then you know the creatures aren't the heroes of the film. I mean, how can they be, right? They're all dead and decayed and downright unattractive, not to mention pretty damn scary. Which was why you can imagine my surprise when my hubby suggested I write an erotic romance about a zombie hero. I was like, you're kidding, right? What woman in her right mind would fall in love with a dead guy? No way could that possibly work, or so I thought.

Turns out, my hubby wasn't kidding. In fact, he started working up ideas for the story.

"The hero didn't have to be a zombie all the time," he told me. "Think outside the box - take a little literary license!"

Okay, I thought. I suppose I could be open minded.

My hubby told me that in his out-of-the-box world, the hunky hero got cursed by an evil Voodoo priestess and only turns into a zombie sometimes.

"I'm listening," I said.

"And when he does go zombie, he doesn't have to be like the kind in the movies," my hubby added. "Well, he has to look like one, you know all dead and stuff, but he doesn't have to be a mindless creature or attack humans or eat anything gross."

So, brains are completely out, thanks goodness!

"Think Jensen Ackles or Jared Padelecki, with a really, really, really dark tan - (yes, my hubby knows I've got a thing for the Supernatural hunks!) - well, maybe more gray and black than tan, but you get the idea."

I thought about that for a minute. "So, the hero's dead, but he's still sexy, is that what you're saying?"

"Exactly," he said, giving me a grin as my eyes lit up with understanding.

By that point, my hubby had pretty much sold me on the idea. Of course, I knew if I ran with it, I was going to have to sell it to a publisher, and I knew that could be tough since the hero is a zombie. But I ran with it anyway and ended up with a full-length novel. And it came out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself! I still had to find a publisher for it, though.

About this same time, It just so happens that several of my other books were in the process of being picked up by Ellora's Cave and I thought what the heck? Why not pitch it to my editor there and see what she thinks? So I did, and she told me to send it to her. She was interested to see how I handled the whole zombie-thing. Well, long story, short, she liked it. A lot! My zombie romance with it's dead-sexy hero had a home! I was thrilled and my hubby walked around for a week with a smug, "I-told-you-so" look on his face.

I've been getting the word out there about DEAD SEXY ever since I signed the contract for it and I'm thrilled with the interest from readers who can't wait to get their hands on it! I can't wait for them to read it, too!

Now that I've revealed the story behind the story, I thought I'd share the blurb and an excerpt just to whet your appetite for more!

Romance author Simone Kent thinks she might just have found the most perfect guy in all of New York City - in bed and out. But Drake Parrish is about as far from perfect as any man can get. Eight years ago, he was cursed by an evil Voodoo priestess to live part of his life as a zombie. Since then, he has lived like a recluse on New York’s Upper East Side, afraid to go out for fear he’ll suddenly turn into one of the walking dead.

The sex if the hottest either of them has ever experienced and Simone discovers just how naughty she can be with Drake, while he finds himself feeling things for her that he hasn’t felt in a very long time. When the Voodoo priestess learns of their relationship, however, she comes after him again. She is determined to make sure he won’t have a future with Simone, even if that means killing both him and the woman he loves.

 As she led him up the steps to the second floor, Drake found himself wondering if she would ask him in. And wondering what he’d say if she did. When they came to a stop outside the door to her apartment, Simone turned to give him a smile.

“I had a great time tonight.”

“Me, too.”

She caught her bottom lip between her perfect white teeth and chewed on it thoughtfully as if unsure what she wanted to say next. It was probably an unconscious gesture, something she did whenever she was thinking, but to him, it was sexy as hell and all he could think about was kissing her.

Surely, one kiss couldn’t hurt. He desperately wanted to. He hadn’t kissed a woman in so long. It would be nice to see if he still remembered how.

Before he could stop himself, Drake tilted Simone’s face up to his and pressed his mouth to hers.

She tasted just as sweet and delicious as he thought she would. Her lips were soft and pliant under his as she kissed him back, her tongue eagerly seeking his out.

Drake groaned and slid his hand into her hair, deepening the kiss. Simone sighed into his mouth, running her hands up the front of his shirt to grasp his shoulders. The feel of her touch was like a tonic to his deprived soul and he let out another groan, deeper this time.

He ran his free hand up her side and around to her breast, cupping it through the soft material of her dress. He couldn’t stop himself and apparently, Simone didn’t want him to. She moaned and arched against him. He could feel the heat of her pussy through their clothes as she pressed up against his hard cock. Damn, she felt good.

Drake drew her bottom lip into his mouth and gently suckled on it before slowly kissing his way along the delicate curve of her jaw. Simone clutched his shoulders and tilted her head back. He eagerly trailed a path of hot kisses down her neck, then back up, his mouth finding hers again. Simone looped her arms around his neck, pulling him in even closer as their tongues met.

Down the hall, a door slammed, reminding him where they were.

Drake dragged his mouth away from hers, his breathing ragged as he tried to regain control. He had to get it together because he was about five seconds away from doing something really stupid. Like taking her to bed. “I should go.”

Her lips curved into a sexy, flirtatious smile. “Or you could stay.”

God, how he wanted to. But as much as he’d love to spend the rest of the night exploring every inch of her body, he couldn’t take the chance he might go zombie on her right in the middle of sex. Talk about coitus interruptus, And it had already been almost four days since he last turned, which meant he was already pushing his luck.

“You don’t know how much I want to,” he groaned. “But I can’t.”

Simone looked up at him with those big, blue eyes. “Why not?”

“Because I…” He hesitated, trying to come up with something that would sound believable. “I have a column due in the morning and I haven’t even started on it yet.” She knew all about deadlines, so she would understand that. Besides, he did have a column to write, it just wasn’t due until next week. “Rain check?”

She looked disappointed, but she smiled anyway. “Absolutely. How does coming over for dinner tomorrow night sound?”

It would be crazy to agree when he could be so close to having an episode, but he couldn’t say no. Not when she asked in that soft, sultry voice. “Sounds great.”

“Good. Be here at seven.”

“Seven it is.”

She pulled him down for another long, slow kiss on the mouth. “Don’t be late.”

His mouth twitched. “I won’t.” He bent his head to kiss her again, then groaned. “If I don’t go now, I’ll be here all night.”

Simone laughed. “Would that be such a bad thing?”

“Not to me, but my editor at Money Issues might not be too understanding when he doesn’t find my column sitting in his inbox tomorrow.”

She sighed. “Deadlines can be a real pain in the butt sometimes. Okay, go home and write your column. I’ll cuddle up with a bowl of ice cream instead.”

He chuckled. “Sounds better than taking a cold shower, which is what I’m going to be doing when I get home.” He closed his mouth over hers once more. “See you tomorrow night, beautiful.”

Resisting the urge to pull her into his arms again, Drake turned and walked down the hallway toward the stairwell. At the top of the steps, he glanced over his shoulder to see Simone standing where he’d left her, a sexy curve to her lips.

It took every ounce of strength he possessed not to go back and pin her against the door for one more long, lingering kiss. God, what he wouldn’t give to spend the night with her. Man, it was going to take more than a cold shower to get her out of his head.

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and that you can't wait to read more! You can get DEAD SEXY from Ellora's Cave at

You can also check out the trailer here!

If you decide to pick up DEAD SEXY, let me know how you like it!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice Day

Greetings and well met! Today is the official first day of winter. I always feel like it’s more the middle of winter, since from this day forward the days lengthen and we march with deliberation toward spring. But that’s just me.

I do find that when I’m writing, I want to argue with the distances and seasons of planet earth. Though most of my books are based on A earth. Not this earth, but an alternate. I don’t care to keep to the celebrations I know. It’s much more fun to make up new celebrations, new seasons and reasons to gather.

This may be my natural tendency to avoid discussions that involve any standard religion, I’m not really certain. For The Kraken’s Mirror, I invented the Winter Ball for my pirate Tortuga and am considering the addition of a Summer Beach Party (it is the Caribbean, after all!)

If you could make up a celebration, what would you do? What would be the theme? The name? What traditions would you create?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Killing Characters Is Better Than Therapy

This really isn’t fantasy related other than indulging in fantasies of payback through character development.

Have you ever created a character, based on a particular individual, just so you could torture it then kill it in some horrible way? Sing out if you have. I have.

Once upon a time, I worked for a less than charming individual who I referred to as Satan’s brother. Yes, he really was that bad. After a few years of suffering under this prize of a boss, I finally had enough and walked.

My festering dislike kept right on festering after my departure. By then I’d been writing for a while and I still had lingering hopes that he might fall into a wood chipper or get lost in a cattle pasture and be gored to death by a big angry bull, or maybe fall under a Metro bus and be dragged for three miles before he expired.

That last thought had real potential and I went to work. I created a character that was suspiciously like my dear old tormentor and another character, because I needed him to shove my fantasy character at the opportune moment. Then I wrote in the Metro bus.

As you might imagine, it wasn’t pretty. Not only did he get shoved in front of the bus, the driver stopped and backed up, unfortunately for him, he got hit a second time.

I wasn’t going for well edited prose. I wasn’t hoping for a sale to a horror mag. I wanted revenge on the person who’d made my life suck for a very long time. And I got it. Big time. Of course, it wasn’t real revenge. I hadn’t harmed a hair on his ugly little head. But it didn’t matter. Because that act freed me from his lingering black cloud. The simple act of writing a short story and slaughtering the character that represented years of torment was liberating, wonderful. It was better than anything six months of therapy could have delivered.

Happily, no one has angered me to the point of killing their literary likeness, though it’s come close a time or two. But if it does happen again, I know how I will deal with the person who offended me.

How about you? Have you based a character on someone who did you wrong just so you could get the satisfaction of killing the character so you could “get them” by proxy? Did you feel better after the deed?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Character Interview--It Might Surprise You!

Have you ever interviewed your characters? I tried this recently, and learned a few things about the hero in my WIP. Oh, I'd already done the usual character sheets, and five defining events in his life and all that pre-planning stuff. I thought I knew him really well. Then I decided to interview him, using some questions I'd gotten in a workshop. 
Here's the short pitch for the book, Redemption: A pandemic vaccine has left human blood poisonous to vampires, and the vampire world is fighting to protect its way of life. Immune at first is Penton, a small ghost town in the South repopulated by peace-loving master vampire Aidan Murphy, his scathe of vampires, and their unvaccinated, willingly bonded human familiars. His community is shattered by a series of brutal attacks perpetrated by his hated brother Owen and the Vampire Tribunal, and he's forced to take a human doctor hostage in order to have medical care for his people. He doesn't know that he, and his damaged heart, will be the one Dr. Krystal Harris tries to save.
And here's my interview with Aidan: 
Aidan arrives on time, greets me briskly, then plonks himself in a chair on the other side of my desk and stares at me in silence. He isn't going to make this easy. I sigh, and dig out my questions. 
What are you most ashamed of?
Damn, you don't waste time with the small talk, do you? I'm ashamed of what I am. There, is that what you want to hear? I don't want to be a bloody monster. I want to be a man, a husband, a father. I want to be who I was before I was turned into a predator. I'm ashamed that I can't get past it and move on, that I can't just accept what I am and be happy. 
What are you most afraid of?
Getting someone else I love killed. Nuff said. 
What beliefs would you die for?
I'd die before I let anyone else I love get hurt, but we don't usually get that chance, do we? They always get hurt. It's better just not to love. 
What three things do you value most?
Things I haven't already lost? 'Cause otherwise it would have been my wife Abby and son Cavan, and my life in Ireland. But that's long gone--all of it. Now, I guess I'd say Penton and the life I've built there for my people. My friendships with Mirren and Will and Hannah. My human familiars, Mark and Melissa. It's the people who matter, not the things. 
What emotional pain are you afraid to express?
Shit, if I'm afraid to express it, what makes you think I want to, like, EXPRESS it? Good God, woman. (I sit and stare at him.) Fine. Whatever. I don't like to talk about losing Abby, okay? It's not the anger at Owen, it's the anger at myself for second-guessing my decision to let her die. I can't forgive myself for it. (Clams up and gives me what his familiar Melissa calls his Irish pig-farmer stare.) 
What do you do for a living and why?
I'm a master vampire. That's pretty much what I do for a living. I have a scathe of 75 vampires and 125 humans, and through money I've made over the years in investments I've bought up all of a virtually abandoned mill town in rural Alabama. We all live together there. I guess I'm the mayor (chuckles). The Mayor of Penton. 
What makes you vulnerable?
(Sits a long time and stares at the floor.) Getting emotionally involved. I have people I care about, but Mirren's the only one who really knows me well. Krystal Harris is pushing all of my buttons, I have to tell you. She's breaking through some walls I've spent a long time building up, and I'm not liking it. Couldn't you have gotten me a male doctor to kidnap? 
What kind of family do you come from?
My human family was a simple Irish farm family in County Cork, Ireland, but I've been in America for more than 300 years. My human brother, Owen, was turned vampire at the same time as me. He is NOT my family, you got that? He lost that right a long time ago. My family now are my lieutenants--Mirren, Will, and Hannah, and my fam Melissa and her husband Mark. 
What are three defining moments from your past that have made you who you are today?

Well, that's pretty damned easy, yes? When I was made vampire. When I chose to let my wife die rather than be turned into a monster like me. When I took on responsibility for this scathe and moved it to Penton. 
Do you have any unusual skills or talents?
I always worked the soil, and it's still what I do. Sounds pretty damned stupid, but I have a greenhouse that I putter in at night--mostly growing night-blooming flowers. It still makes me feel a part of the world of sunlight. Shit, that's pathetic. 
In what ways do you label yourself?
I'm a predator, always fighting to keep the monster inside under control. I hurt the people I love. I don't feed from the same people I have sex with--that's an intimacy I just don't do. It's better for everybody that way. 
What's the one thing you regret most?
That I didn't kill my brother Owen when I had the chance. 
What is the one thing you desire most?
Peace. As normal a life as I can have. Making a good place for my people to live. Doesn't look like that's happening, does it? I'm outta here. (Stalks out of the room.)
What I learned about Aidan from this is how angry he is. I knew he was frustrated and tortured, but not how deep the anger went. As I revise now, I'm working more of than anger into his scenes. 
How about you?  How do you get into your characters' heads? Have you tried the interview?

Saturday, December 18, 2010


This blog has nothing to do with fantasy or paranormal. Unless it's my own expectations. We'll see.

First, I must begin with a caveat. I am on the Board of Pacific Northwest Writers Association, a 55+ year old non-profit writing organization. My main duty is the Contest Chair for our annual literary contest. This contest is huge and I invite any and all to enter. The contest is open to published and unpublished. If published, you CANNOT enter in that category. Let me explain . . . if you are published in paranormal romance, you are disqualified from entering the romance categrory, but you could enter screenwriting or mystery. You can go to for the rules and entry forms. We have twelve different categories: Mainstream, Historical, romance, Mystery/Thriller, Science-Fiction/Fantasry, Young Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir, Screenwriting, Poetry, Adult Short Story, Children's Chapter/Picture Book and Adult Short Topics: Article/Essary/Short Memoir. Last year we had over 1,000 entries. This year romance submission are electronic only. Each category is critiqued by two readers and the final judge is an editor or agent. Each year our finalists find agents and get their manuscripts before editors.

The contest is currently underway and because of that, my job is kicking into high gear because the time is fast approaching for the call for readers. If you decide not to enter the contest, but would still like to participate, please send me your credentials at, so I can consider you for a reader. There really are benefits to being a reader--you get a feeling of community. For those unpublished, reading other people's work is a great way to improve your own writing. It's amazing how you can find someone's else faults much easier. Which, in my case, then I check to see if I've done the same thing. If already published, you are helping someone else achieve their goal. Remember when someone helped you? Maybe it's time to give back.

But, hey. Maybe I'm dreaming . . . That's why I'm blogging about contests this time. I've been told I live in my own little world. Consider entering the contest. Or, become a reader. Let me know your thoughts.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Guest Blogger Terry Spear - Winner Announced

Contest Note: Terry Spear is giving away a copy of a book today, reader's choice. US or Canada winners only. Please post a comment to enter.

Winner Announced: We've picked the winner through CONGRATS to Jena Lang for winning! Please e-mail us your address at by Wednesday. We will pick another winner if the prize is not claimed by then. Thank you, Terry, for the contest, and thank you to everyone who commented!

First, I have to thank you all for having me here today!!! And I have to say I love your blog title of Castles and Guns… Well, actually castles and swords. You’ll have to have me back when HEART OF THE HIGHLAND WOLF, book 7, comes out in June 2011, as a castle and swords and teeth are big parts of the story. That’s what happens when the Highlanders are also a wolf pack and though it’s a contemporary story, they’re filming a historical movie, which is the reason swords come into play.

But today, I’m here to talk about WOLF FEVER, book 6, in the stand alone werewolf series.

Have you ever had the flu and didn’t think you’d ever get over it? One Thanksgiving, I had the worst flu ever. I had fevers and chills and my 14-year-old son made the turkey dinner while my daughter prepared the stuffing, potatoes, carrots and gravy and I lay on the couch with a throbbing head, buried in blankets, and grateful that my “wolf pack” was there to make the holiday special. Another time, it was Christmas and we were living in Florida and my parents and I were deathly ill.

Everyone has had the flu sometime or another and sometimes it feels as though you’ll never get any better. So when the topic of the flu season was being discussed in the news last winter, I wondered just how it could affect a werewolf pack. It’s a race against time to find a cure and a vaccine though.

It’s like the warnings the World Health Organization gives about an impending epidemic, except in the wolf pack’s case, it’s a psychic that sees some catastrophe befall the pack.

But it’s not just an ordinary case of the flu either. Wolf Fever is coming your way, so be prepared!

If you’re strictly human, you’ll be fine. But if you have any werewolf genetics at all, watch out!

Have you had your flu shot already? But the real question is will it keep you safe? If you still get the flu, don’t let anyone know or the word might get around that you’re one of the pack.

Enjoy the newest release, and good luck on the drawing!

She may be his destiny, but she's not his first choice…

Hospital nurse and newly turned red werewolf Carol Woods is being pressured by her pack leader to find a mate, but he's the only guy in the pack who remotely attracts her… Why is he playing so hard to get?

The fate of the pack rests on his shoulders…

Gray pack leader Ryan McKinley doesn't want anything to do with Carol unless she's willing to embrace her wolf nature—no matter how beautiful she is.

But when a virus infects the local lupus garou pack, Ryan realizes just how wrong he's been not to seize the moment with the woman he's come to love. And now, it may be too late…

Praise for Terry Spear's To Tempt the Wolf:

“Ms. Spear's has spun a web of drama that pulled me in... Get it; read it; you'll love it!”
—Romance Reader at Heart

“A paranormal romp that sizzles! Action-packed romance and suspense-filled plot add up to pure magic. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Terry Spear is a great addition to the paranormal genre!”
—Armchair Interviews

With over 71,000 copies sold, Terry Spear is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. She received her MBA from Monmouth University. An eclectic writer, she dabbles in the paranormal as well as writing historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Spear lives in Crawford, Texas. For more information, please visit

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Within the past few months, I've had all of these awesome story ideas floating around in my head. Should I work on novel X or novel Y? Should I revise novel X or re-revise novel Z? But wait! Look at the shiny new idea C! That would be great to break into. And, of course, there's some old faithfuls A, B, and D waiting on the back burner for their chance at revision too. But the worst is actually writing my current WIP and feeling the pull so fiercely for another novel that it tugs me out of the one I'm working on.

What to get submission ready has been ricocheting around in my head, instead of leaving me alone to be steadfast and focused. Argh!

I previously read an e-book called 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer. I got it some months ago for free after signing up for Writer's Digest's e-newsletter, and the second mistake he mentions is Not Finishing (the first being, Not Starting, if you were wondering). Now, I've totally been waddling through this WIP since about half-way through November (when the other story idea kicked my feet out from under me), and I feel like I'm so close to nearing the story's end (although, not necessarily the word count I want). Yet even saying that, in some ways, it still feels so far away. Especially considering all of the thorough revising and patching of plot holes to be done.

But as I mentioned before, I've been bouncing around like a chicken with my head cut off having all of the new ideas and thoughts of what to revise next. It's interesting since I've gotten in my way more than having an external distraction like TV.

A couple key pieces of advice he said: 1.) If you don't finish the project, you're not going to get a contract for the work. 2.) Don't move onto another project unless you finish your current work-in-progress. That sounds simple, but those words are timely for me. It gives me a shot in the arm to help me regain focus.

How about everyone else? Have you had trouble focusing on one project (or however many you're juggling)? If not, what tips do you have to staying with it to The End?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hello, Nightmare. I'm Older Now, But You're Still Scary

When I was a kid, I used to have this one particular nightmare. Of course, I dreamed of monsters, demons, goblins, the world ending. Yeah… the world ending thing might not be your average fear for an eight-year-old, but TA-DA! I’ve always been crazy.

With all of that and the inevitable tears that accompanied terror, there was the dream that scared me more than all the others.

The dream:

I’m sitting in a room, and it slowly starts to spin. Then it goes faster… and faster… the room is spinning so fast it’s all a blur and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop it. It’s just going and going and nothing will STOP IT!

Until finally I wake up. But it was only after long minutes of yelling stop it, knowing that it’s NOT stopping. And it feels SO real.

I’m not sure when the spinning started. I finished the novel I used to submit this past year, Ruined, in December. Now it’s been a whole year. I’ve written three books since then. Ruined wasn’t my first manuscript, but it was the first one I had other people revise. It’s been writing, learning, revising, learning, plotting, revising, revising... The spinning has probably been faster at some times more than others.

But lately… it’s going really fast. I’m an adult now, right? So I can STOP.

I just need some time. Few days passed the last year when I wasn’t actively writing, revising, plotting. I’m going to go reacquaint myself with my couch and leave my computer alone. It’s very strange, but I have a feeling I need it.

Have you ever felt like you needed to stop the “spinning”? Please tell me it helped…

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I freely admit that I'm a pack rat. Although, I like to call it stockpiling. I horde ideas. I squirrel them away in my brain and pull one out on demand whenever I need to. When I was writing Unbreak Me, I had a lot of ideas. I could have left the novella as it stood with the vague knowledge that Tait and Marcus hadn't found all the people who had sabotaged their lives. Somehow, I couldn't do that. And that ended up coupled to my editor swooning over Branson, a secondary character and best friend to the hero.

Well, hell. Now, I'd mentally committed myself to a sequel.

So I sifted through the stockpile of ideas in my head and came upon one about twins. Ah ha! my brain said. You have this vague person who lurks in the shadows, who provides Branson and Tait's father the general with information. You allude to this in Unbreak Me. What if that vague person is actually Branson's twin? What if he's in the shadows and no one knows about him for a reason? What if the secret of his existence somehow dovetails with this conspiracy that led to Marcus and Branson becoming POWs while Tait was locked away in a prison? What if, what if, what if...

I kept the twin idea. I kept the secret existence. And I pulled out another idea. Something about Branson's family and their past. I pulled out an artifact, an heirloom piece of jewelry belonging to Branson's family's history. I used it as a catalyst. And voila! I had me a plot involving this very secretive twin.

Still, that left me with needing a plot for Branson's story and a culmination to the conspiracy. I wondered about him, this secondary character with so much hero in him that he screamed for his own piece of this world. And then it came to me. The big Alpha hero was a sexual submissive. This would give me a chance to expand this world a little and show off its facets.

Every piece of plot I used to create this trilogy came from my stockpile. I usually can't even say I'm hording ideas because it sounds so horribly reality TV-ish. But so much good comes from the stockpiling of ideas in my head that I can't discount the process. And really, it also means I'm never at a loss for a plot point.

When authors are interviewed, they are more often than not asked where they get their ideas from. Most authors say, "Everywhere." We can turn the most mundane stuff into a book, fueled solely by our imaginations and some crazy plot bunny. I know authors who say they forget far more ideas than they ever use. I try not to forget them. I just stockpile them at the back of my head and every now and again I take one out and stroke it a bit even though I'm not ready to work with it yet.

The world I built for Unbreak Me will reveal itself further for the readers when I commit Benedict's story to paper. It will grow more detailed and expansive when move on to Branson's story. It may even be a world I won't want to leave behind after just three novellas. Lord knows I'm already having separation anxiety over Tales of the Darkworld coming to an end 4.5 books from now.

For a fan of sci fi rom, this step into futuristic worlds has meant a lot. Delving into the world of the Pythian Elite warriors has been fun and the exoticness of it has given me a taste of what it would be like to write sci fi rom. Now, I'm eager to step further into this world because I know it will continue to spawn ideas for me to sock away in my head for the day I eventually do decide to write that sci fi rom!

Now, tell me...I'm not really alone, am I? I'm not the only one who hordes ideas, right? Some of you do this too, don't you? My stockpile currently has about fifty plots and more bare bones ideas than I can even count ranging from historical to contemporary to futuristic to that sci fi rom I want so badly to be able to do. So, c'mon. Tell me true...What's in your stockpile?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Things We Don’t Like To Do

No matter how much we love a thing there always seems to be a negative somewhere. For me, it’s writing a synopsis. I am the queen of procrastination when it comes to writing this dreaded document. Suddenly, cleaning horse stalls or cat boxes seems like a pleasant diversion in comparison. Doing the dishes takes on new importance and gee, I better clean the house from top to bottom. After all, the MIL is coming for Christmas and I need the place to look nice.

Yeah, you get the idea.

I’ve written short versions and long versions. I’ve taken workshops, visited websites, read articles, looked at samples, and nothing helps. I still stink at writing the blasted things.

I know I’m not alone in synopsis writing hell, but that gives me little comfort. I still need to write one and damn soon. I’m very aware that an agent isn’t going to come along and tap on my door then fall at my feet, hoping that I will let them represent my book. Oh, if only that were so. But no. I have to do this. And quite frankly, I’d rather someone shove bamboo under my fingernails.

The synopsis is my personal writing related boogieman, and at this point, I’m not sure which one of us will win the battle. Yesterday, I wrote the first paragraph of my latest attempt. It reeks. So I found something else to do. What can I say... The Christmas tree had to be put up and decorated. You’d be surprised how long that can take. Now the tree is up, my writing obligations for the week have been completed, and I don’t have to turn anything in for two weeks. I have zero legitimate excuses to put this off.

So this is my call for help. What resources have helped you with this horrid process? Any great workshops? Websites? Advice? Throw me a bone here. If you haven’t walked this walk yet, what part of the writing process has been your personal boogieman?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Things I'm Not Good At, Number 1,375

Okay, yeah, I picked that number at random.

My lacking skill-set of the day is multitasking! I don't do it well, and it's frustrating me right now. I'm the kind of person who has to start a project, plow through it, finish it, then move on to the next project. I can juggle two if I must, but it makes me nervous and jittery and irritable.

Three is out of the question. Four is an invitation to lunacy.

So, what's the problem?  1) I am trying to revise a short story to either offer as a free Kindle piece or publish on my website for the New Year--it's set in the world of my New Orleans novels and I can't quite figure out how to wrap it up. 2) I still have 250 pages of the WIP to revise. (I don't know--is it a WIP if the first hundred pages are on a publisher's desk awaiting judgment day?) 3) I have a 12,000-word outline for a third book in the New Orleans series, but there's no rush on it since the publisher won't decide if they want it till we see how the first two do--except that scenes keep playing out in my head and I'm afraid I'll lose them. 4) And an unrelated story keeps knocking on my door, to the point where I finally had to let it in and write the opening scene yesterday.

I can't work on four projects at once, or my head will explode. Any tips for keeping odd projects at bay? Opiates, perhaps?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

NOT a copy cat

I wasn’t sure what to post about today- then I got a brutal rejection from an agent (I didn’t submit to her, if was from a contest I entered).

She nailed me pretty hard, with no positive comments really at all (she was supposed to do a critique as part of my prize). One of the things hit harder than the others though- she all but accused me of copying another author in the genre.

Now, I had already started on my book when this other book came out. And to avoid contamination, I still haven’t read the other author.

And now I’m accused of trying to write a book like hers.

I’m not blaming the agent, she just called it like she saw it. But it’s rattled me BIG TIME. Did I cause more harm to my story by NOT reading that other author’s book than I would have had I done so?

I remember a friend of mine being heartbroken when Heroes first came out- she’d just finished a rough draft with super heroes in a realistic situation that was alarmingly like the TV show. As far as I know she never submitted the book anywhere since she knew it would be shot down for being a “heroes rip off”.

Now I’m facing a similar thing. I’m going to take a few deep breaths, crack open that other author’s book (something I’ve wanted to do for a while since it looks great) and hope the agent saw more similarities than are actually there. But part of me is screaming in fear that this book may never even get out on the submission junket for fear of being seen as a copy-cat.

What about you folks- anyone out there find yourself in a similar situation?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Birthing a Story

As soon as someone knows you are a writer, the second question they ask (after, "What do you write?") is, "Where do you get your ideas from?"

I can understand the question. Me looking at creative endeavors outside my own skill set - painting, for example - I find myself wanting to ask the exact same question, especially modern art. Man, I'll never get that.

Still, my answer is the exact same answer as every other writer I've ever heard from. It boils down to, they just appear. There is no rhyme or reason to them: sometimes they pop into our head fully formed out of nowhere; sometimes we might see a picture or a snippet of dialogue and something about that random connection will stop us, have us mull over it, and over minutes or hours (heck, maybe even years) a story will eventually form from it.

Sometimes we are working on our own demons (whether consciously or not). Sometimes we are just having a blast with some weird thought and running with it. Sometimes we deliberately try to make a point or give commentary; sometimes we want to tell a story that was inspired by events, only we want to tell the story 'right' or give it our own twist - meaning with romance authors, we want to give it a happily ever after!

Whatever the source, most authors would agree the final product is usually light years away from that original spark that inspired us to create the story. The revision process is brutal, and a coherent story is much different from having a random "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" thought.

Still, I look forward to the day where someone comes up to me, someone who enjoys my stories (when they are published) and tells me that they enjoy my work, and asks where do I get my ideas from. Not only is it the ultimate compliment, it will remind me to never take for granted that ability, however it forms, for ideas for stories to come to me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Guest Blogger Heather Long

Good morning and thanks to my lovely hosts here at Castles and Guns. I was supposed to blog last week but in the confluence of holiday chaos, I totally forgot. Fortunately, I was given a second chance. I am rather fond of second chances in life and in fiction. Second chances give you an opportunity to repair an earlier mistake or to achieve a missed goal.

Darian’s Second Chance

In my soon to be released novella, 13th Night, Darian Barnes was a broker and investments manager in 1929. Darian genuinely felt bad for the people who lost their life savings and more. He struggled with how to tell them and how he could help them. But unfortunately for Darian, one of his clients came for him before he could commit to any plan of action.

That client was a witch who’d warned him of an impending disaster. He’d tried to soothe her fears and refused her advice, basing his faith on the economics of the situation and not her visions. After the market crashed, the witch came after him and cursed him to endure seeing everything he loved be destroyed and feel her helplessness at stopping it.

For nearly a century, Darian has endured a miserable existence as a ghost. He can see the world. The world can’t see him. He can barely interact with other ghosts and he watches, unable to do anything, as his wife and later his only child pass away.

Darian discovers his second chance in a young girl named Tara Conroy. He discovers the young girl with mediumistic abilities can communicate with him, but even better, he can communicate with her. When she is tormented by spirit after spirit, controlling her auto writing, he intervenes and gives her the gift of a normal day for her birthday.

As the years progress, Darian stays close to Tara, protecting her from spirits and forcing them to talk to him rather than her, acting as a filter. But when a serial killer’s spirit comes for her, Darian may be unable to save the woman he has grown to love from a century old curse.

Spirited Romance

Writing 13th Night was a true joy for me, even as it became one of the most challenging tales I’ve ever told. I knew Darian needed his second chance, his chance to do the right thing that the witch’s curse prevented him from doing in 1929. But I also knew that his existence as a spirit would make his interactions with others difficult, at best.

How can you communicate romance and affection when the hero and heroine cannot see each other? When all they have to communicate with are words? It took me back to the 1940s film The Shop Around the Corner and the 1990s reimagining You’ve Got Mail. Those films taught us how we can fall in love with people we’ve never seen, never spoken to and only interacted with through words– whether it was letters, email or instant messages. So why not auto writing? Why couldn’t Darian and Tara fall in love as they lived in parallel, communicating through one hand – hers – and a pen on a piece of paper? It was a chance I couldn’t pass up.

In its own way, 13th Night is a tribute to those word-filled romances and second chances. It challenged me to convey emotion without facial expressions or affection without the joy of the simplest touch. It made touching that much more intimate and made me stretch beyond what I know in a traditional romance to create one that not only did I feel, but that I could show to others.

13th Night is a part of the Seven Souls-a-Leaping anthology due from Sapphire Blue Publishing ( in December 2010. Be sure to visit Heather’s website ( for release dates, announcements and excerpts.

What is the most challenging aspect of romance you’ve ever had to portray or read about in a story? What magical moment leapt off the page for you?

About Heather Long

Heather Long lives in North Texas with her husband, daughter and their menagerie of animals. As a child, Heather skipped picture books and enjoyed the Harlequin romance novels by Penny Jordan and Nora Roberts that her grandmother read to her. Heather believes that laughter is as important to life as breathing and that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are very real. In the meanwhile, she is hard at work on her next novel.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Line-Editing is Like Snorkeling, Revision is Like Deep Sea Diving

I don’t know anyone who would dive forty feet without snorkeling first. Snorkeling is the first step. You graze the top, get a feel for the water temperature. You’re only on the surface, so it’s a great time to understand if you vibe with the ocean, or not, without truly committing.

Before all that, there’s an important first step. Writing the book! I often see people write in posts that you’ve typed “the end”. I don’t actually type those words in my initial drafts, but I’ll go with it in the interest of this blog. You’ve typed “the end”! You succeeded when no one thought you would. And I relate this to putting your toe in the water. This of course causes outrage. “I wrote 80,000 words and that’s only a toe in the water?” I know… it’s a scary thought. Then I think of line-editing as snorkeling. In most cases this is the initial impression of editing. Then you figure out that your manuscript needs more than line-edits. It has plot holes. And your characters need to have goals and motivations. What?!

This is where revisions come in. Snorkeling is nice, but it’s not deep sea diving. Deep sea diving is where all the action hangs out. Diving also takes training. You have to know what you’re doing. And there’s danger. You have to weed out the good feedback from the bad. Because sometimes, there are sharks. Watch out for them, who in the writing world I think of as naysayers.

While diving takes a lot more time, effort and energy, it’s worth it. You’ve dove forty feet below and now you’re really living. It’s exciting, there’s danger, you’re out of your element, and there’s always a chance something will go wrong. But if you love it, it’s worth it.

Life is all about choices. And I think you have to really love writing to make this commitment. Because it’s quite an accomplishment to write a book. But writing a book that sees publication is a whole other ordeal of learning, giving, taking, rejection, rejection, rejection, “you’re a good writer, but you’re book isn’t for us”, rejection, rejection. Heart ache, heart break. It’s a whole other league. And to survive it all and come out victorious is chaos and bliss in one. You have to decide if you really want to live this way, because you don’t have to. You don’t have to continue to have people reject your work. It’s not necessary to living or breathing. Maybe to some people it is, and those are the people that will see publication.

Sometimes it feels like drowning, but that’s only because we’re so invested in our worlds, characters and stories. The point is not to drown and still manage to see the incredible life at the bottom on the sea. Because it’s worth watching, but no one ever said the worthwhile was easy, natural or given.

I’ve read a lot of blogs about editing lately. They’ve been really great and offered insight that has stopped and made me think. What have you learned?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Steampunk Convention Report

Back in November, the weekend before Thanksgiving, I flew to Seattle, WA and attended SteamConII, where the theme was Weird Weird West. This was a spectacular convention and my only complaint was the distance between the two hotels. It was a steep uphill walk to the Marriott and wow, it was cold!

(Plus I’d been sick so my energy levels were really low, that hike wiped me out each time I had to make it. And I had new shoes that looked really cool, but were tough on the feet.) But the parts of the event that I managed were just wonderful.

This particular convention had a very obvious writing track and I thoroughly enjoyed every speaker, every subject. I very much appreciated the lack of contempt toward the romance genre, something I heard at a local steampunk convention I attended, San Francisco, last March. This convention literally had several authors who spanned the genres and included romance on panels.

(Them California convention has relocated to the San Jose area and I’m hoping to see a lessening of that anti-romance attitude come March of 2011. With luck, the organizers will have paid attention to the reception given every offshoot of the new genre in Seattle and tempered the disdain. Not a way to win over the public, people!)

I very much fell in love with the tern Neo-Victorian Retro-future and have enjoyed using the term when asked exactly what steampunk is. I like the way eyes slightly glaze over as the questioner moves into overdrive. Just about when people seem to think they have it, I throw in the bit about how sometimes it moves off-planet or might involve werewolves or vampires.

God, I can be such a brat!

I do enjoy how the genre seems to display a bit of the anarchist in its make-up. Again and again at panels, I heard speakers attempt to define the genre, or set limits. They’d come up with something and then the next group of ‘experts’ on the following panel would set new limits. I just wanted to chuckle about it all.
I love a good fuzzy argument and definition.

Do I write steampunk? Even after all the discussions on what it is and what it isn’t, I have to say ‘no, I don’t write steampunk.’ I do, on occasion write stories with touches of steampunk about them.

How do you define steampunk? Or have had it defined to you? Do you understand it? ;-) Or think you do?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Wrong Way To Edit

When I first decided to wander down the road that would hopefully lead to publication, I made a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately one of them was in the editing department. After a lot of reading on loops and blogs I know I’m far from the only newb who made this mistake.

After I plowed through my first serious attempt at a manuscript and typed the magical words “The End”, I went to page one, read the first sentence, then proceeded to make it a much better sentence. Then I did the same for the second sentence and soon I had a beautiful first paragraph. And so on. Yeah. I did it. I edited a nice big chunk of the manuscript and then a terrible thing happened. A plot hole. Uh oh. What to do? So I fixed the plot hole—after major revision. Revision that branched back into sections that I had already painstakingly edited. No problem. Just edit it again.

So I worked further through the manuscript and guess what. Yeah, another plot hole that required revision back through previously edited work. Somewhere after about the twelfth edit I fixed all of the structural problems with the manuscript, but I hadn’t yet learned my lesson. And it really pains me to own up to that one. Because when I started my second novel I made the same mistake again. (Okay these weren’t really my first and second novels… There are three trunk novels that I don’t like to talk about that I wrote a very long time ago just to see if I could stick with it and produce novel length work. Those stinkers were never edited. And never will be.)

And this isn’t the only sin I committed that made editing all the more difficult. I have a bad habit (I still do this one…can’t seem to stop myself) of reading back through previous work and editing a bit as I go. Total freakin waste of time, but I do it anyway.

This is small picture editing. Don’t do it. Save yourself before it’s too late. Fix subplots first. When those are correct, work on the structure of the main story line. When the story is correct, when the plot is solid from beginning to end, then go back and make the line edits to make your sentences pretty and correct. Otherwise, you may never finish, and if you do finish you are going to spend a huge amount of time on editing to get to the point that you have a story and pretty sentences.

What are your editing mistakes? What have you learned to make it easier on yourself?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What a Long, Strange Year It's Been

I'm an impatient person. The lure of instant gratification means I buy too much I can't afford. I eat things that should be limited to special occasions. I even sneak peeks at Christmas presents. I don't like to wait. I've been known to walk out of doctors' offices with the lofty pronouncement that my time is as important as the doctor's and I'd just spent 45 minutes reading year-old copies of People magazine--45 minutes of my life I'd never get back.

Man, did I pick the wrong second career.

I had a big anniversary recently. A year ago, I got THE CALL. The one we dream about. My first two books were being bought by a major New York publisher. The announcement appeared in Publisher's Marketplace. Revisions on the first book would be due March 31. I had all the time in the world to do them. Life was sweet.

Then I wait. Six weeks later, the contracts arrive. OMG. The fine print. They go on for pages and pages, and I understand little. I thank God for agents, sign them, and send them back.

Then I wait. On March 1, the editor's revision letter arrives. She says a lot of nice things. She also wants a lot of changes. You know, things like rethink this major plot point and change the ending. My deadline is still March 31. I arrange to take hurried vacation time from the day job and work from sixteen to twenty hours a day. I make my deadline. And wait.

In April, a few more revisions. No problem. I wait.

In June, revisions are done--yay! We start talking back cover blurbs. We talk bio. We talk about what I don't want to see on the cover (which is likely all the input I'll get). We talk about sending out copies to other authors for cover blurbs. I wrangle up a couple of folks, and the publisher gets five more. Some of them are Big Names. I wait.

OMG. Really awesome cover blurbs start coming in from authors I've followed for years. I'm on cloud nine.

Then I realize one thing hasn't cropped up in all these discussions: a release date. I ask the question. I wait. And wait.

I won't go into all the reasons--on the surface at least, they sound good for me in the long run--but the date I'm given is April. Cool.

2012. Not so cool. Two-plus years from offer to launch?

So I wait. I build my "platform," which is more tiring and time-consuming than writing a book. I write a few short stories. I write a whole new novel unrelated to the first two. I'm excited about it. A big publisher (different one this time) wants to look at it. So I'm waiting again.

The moral of the story: this is not a fast business, especially when the Big Boys get involved. It's downright glacial. And I wouldn't trade a minute of it.

I have a feeling that the coming year, at some point, will get ridiculously busy as the first book gears up for release and the second one heads into revision. And then I'll look back on this post and wish I had a little more time to spend waiting.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Significance of Color

Recently a friend asked me about the color of her new website. She called me her color expert. I was thrilled. I didn't pick the one she expected (or maybe hoped). Most of us have a favorite color. Red is probably mine. My whole house is done in red. Before you say, "Oh, that explains it." Let me tell you about red.

The word red has been part of the English language since about A.D. 900. Red is viewed as the color of health. In olden days red wool was applied to relieve sprains in Scotland, sore throats in Ireland, and to prevent fevers in Macedonia. In China, it was worn to promote long life and even today is the preferred color of a wedding dress. The Aztecs regarded red as the symbol of wisdom. In early Britain, commoners weren't allowed to eat red food like lobster, red berries, or fruit except at feasts to honor the dead. Red is an energy color and symbolies the color of passion, anger. Red is NOT the color of love--that's green! However, red does excite (think high blood pressure). People who love red act--sometimes without thinking--on immediate desires.

There are seven basic colors of the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. But people can see about 1000 levels of light-dark, 100 levels of red-green, and 100 levels of yellow-blue. That means there are thousands of colors in the sprectrum.

The color black, literally absorbs all light and does not reflect any of its rays. In China and Japan black represents luck and power while in other cultures (such as ours), it is associated with evil. Both in art and religion black signifies despair and sin. The practice of wearing black dates back to an ancient semitic custom of blackening the face with dirt or ashes to make it unrecognizable to the dead, as well as a mark of grief. To wear black on a job interview means you don't want to reveal too much about yourself. It's considered a mask to hide behind, yet black is a popular color on a date (think little black dress). On the other hand, it tags the wearer as a 'play it safe person'. and despite the many negative associations, in heraldry black, called sable, stands for constancy, prudence and wisdome.

The complete opposite of black is white. It means the absence of all color. Or rather, it is the 'color' produced by reflecting almost all kinds of light found in the visible spectrum. This is why white colothing is considered cooler than all other colors on a hot summer day (since it reflects back sunlight and heat), rather than absorbing it. White represents goodness, light, and innocence (think traditional bridal dress). If worn on a date, it is considered a 'touch me not' color. The color white projects feelings of calmness, relaxation and an inner peace (think doctors, nurses). People who like white are probably clean and orderly.

Look at color. What do you feel? In writing, as you create those moving pictures for your readers, allow color to move them from one place to an entirely new one. Imagine. Experience. Transcend. Change the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Oh, and my friend . . . after we finished discussing her choices, she figured out why she was hesitant about using her favorite color. I can hardly wait to see what she ended up with.

What's your favorite color? What color do you want to know about?

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Hate Mash-ups

First, let me congratulate everyone who did NaNo, and especial congratulations to those of you who surpassed the 50,000 word mark. Now, get to editing!

So forgive me, but I'm feeling a little ranty this evening (yeah, being sick for months on end will do that to a person). So I thought I'd talk a little about something that's been irritating me for awhile.

The Mash-up.

Or more importantly, Who the Heck Thought This was a Good Idea?!?

For those who are asking what a mash-up is, think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Taking classic books and throwing in (usually) paranormal elements, making a new story along the way.

Oh, how I loathe these things.

I hate them because of the assumption that kids (maybe adults) are too lazy and/or stupid to get classic books without throwing in some crazy element. I hate them because they take literary works of art and toss waste on them (I'd like to see how popular a person would be if they drew a Groucho mustache on the Mona Lisa). I hate them because they are what fourteen year olds would come up with when goofing off on their English assignment.

I admit to not really being a classics reader - outside of Romance and a few select other books, mostly what I read is graphic novels. Go figure. That doesn't mean I don't understand or appreciate the power of the classics.

Take Pride And Prejudice. First time I read it in my early teens, I had no idea what was going on. Then someone kindly explained to me, it's a comedy and this woman is making fun of almost everyone. Wow, talk about the blinders being thrown off with that second reading. I devoured that book. Yes, very different from 99% of my reading library, but the characters and the wit and the language, what a new and amazing world to step into.

I'm sure most are like me. They'll never become devoted exclusively to the classics, but they'll find those one or two writers who really speak to them, and because of that their appreciation of books and stories and even maybe history will be immeasurably broadened.

I can't help but think this mash-up thing is taking that experience away from everyone, but especially from younger readers.

Women in Regency England battling Zombies. Sure, sounds like a great video game. Please though, leave the literary works alone and Jane Austen out of it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pantsing... What NOT To Do

So, it's the beginning of a new month. National Novel Writing Month is now beyond us, and I have at least thirty thousand more words to write on my novel. A novel that I can't wait to finish, and not because I'm overjoyed with it. This past NaNoWriMo threatened to do me in at certain points. If it wasn't for the encouragement of my husband and critique partner, I might not have finished. Part of the reason was burning out toward the middle of the month, another reason was not preparing myself since I had company coming into town, and the biggest reason was Not Having a Single Stinking Clue Where the Story is Going.

*Takes a deep breath*

I did have a premise and an idea for it. An idea that covered a four thousand word short story. Last year, I novelized a different short story, and I didn't have much of a problem plot-wise. Then again, I think the plot in that story was more defined than the one in this current story. There was a goal pushing my characters forward instead of just the romance as plot. Needless to say, I'm only realizing that now. Which is another reason why I've probably been agonizing over this story more than I have pretty much any other story I have written.

So, that's another tip for everyone to take away as well. Romance is not plot. Romance needs to be there, but there needs to be bad guys that fight your good guys. And that goes for all genres, not just urban fantasy/romantic fantasy/paranormal romance, etc. There should be something other than whatever is stopping your hero and heroine from falling in love and getting their deserved happy ending. Anyways, I'm digressing.

One of the main things that I've learned with my current book is that it doesn't matter whether you're writing as a pantser or not, it is important to have an idea of where the story needs to go, even if it's only a vague possibility. If you don't, you're just going to cause yourself (and your critique partner *grins*) a lot of stress and frustration.

What about you? Have you had any pantsing mishaps? For plotters and anyone else, what things have you figured out about your process that you need before getting started to write?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Can I Help it if I Have a Thing for Space Cowboys?

I’m not going to say anything profound here. I think everyone knows the industry is evolving. But I’m taking a stand. Genres suck. Like a hungry vampire on True Blood. *Shout out to sexy Eric* Isn’t he dreamy? Off topic…

I don’t like genres. This is why… I read a paranormal romance last weekend and the couple didn’t end up together! *Gasp* I know! Can I feel some outrage from the devoted paranormal peeps? I was devastated. It was a long book, too. It wasn’t always enjoyable, and I held out until the end. And then bam… I was shot in my romance-reading heart. No happy ending…

I know what the naysayers will argue. “Not every book has to have a happy ending.” I completely agree! But Romances should have a happy ending. That’s why I read them. What’s the point in reading something that doesn’t end with the hero and heroine in each other’s arms (preferably with an unplanned pregnancy they are both thrilled about)? The millions of people who read other genres will tell you. But that’s the whole point. If you don’t want to write a happy ending, there are genres willing to embrace you.

I appreciate other genres. I read all kinds of things. But I wonder if it’s too much to ask Romance writers to write happy endings? I understand some people want to write different stuff. I support that. I encourage it. But can there just be Paranormal? And if either the hero or heroine dies can it be called Paranormal Drama? So I know not to read it if I’m in the mood for happy.

I guess that’s my biggest complaint in all this. Last weekend I wanted to read a feel good book. Not a heartbreaking or heart wrenching one. Just a happy book. And I read three and they weren’t good. Not because they were bad, but because I wanted to read something happy! Not ending up together isn’t full of glee. In this case it gave me a serious case of pissed off.

It reminds me of my college experience. I wrote a short fiction piece and I had the hero and heroine end up together. My professor wrote that it was too predictable. So I ended up having the heroine wander off into the distance (Yes, I mean that literally… if I remember correctly there was fog and she disappears), which meant there was very little resolution. And looking back on it now I question what the point of the story was. This is probably a bad example because it was a horrible story, but my professor pushed me to do something different. Maybe some of us aren’t built for different. And thank goodness.

I watched a Christmas movie this weekend and it made me bawl. The Ultimate Gift. It’s the best Christmas movie I’ve ever seen! If you don’t have a thing for Drew Fuller, you should. I wouldn’t call it a Romance really. So it’s not as though I can’t take non-romances. I just want to know what to expect when I pick up a book. All I’d like is a disclaimer: This author does not write happy endings. Some people will say “Finally!” and pick it up. Others won’t. But the people who won’t pick it up aren’t going to be won over. There’s no point in tricking these readers into buying it. I’m never going to like a Romance without a happy ending.

To me, love is too realistic. We see it start and end every day. I get depressed enough that no one in Hollywood can keep a marriage together and then I get taunted by it in line at the grocery store. I’m a hopeless romantic.

So what does this post have to do with the title of this blog? It relates back to genres. If the genre was Romance I’d read paranormal, fantasy, horror, YA, suspense, historical or a tale of two space cowboys. It doesn’t matter to me. Just give me a compelling tale about two hearts that meld as one. Is that too much to ask?

What do you think about genre? Are you villagers with burning torches, or do you see where I’m going with this?