Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Poll

We have another poll from Castles & Guns!



Thank you visiting us! Please feel free to comment below with all thoughts and opinions.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

One Writer's Declaration of Independence

It's not the Fourth of July or anything, but I was on a rant yesterday and apparently it's not over. Writers are a funny lot, as Darcy noted yesterday. Not only do our families and non-writing acquaintances think we're a little nuts, but there are a lot of other authors and industry folks out there determined to steal our joy. A lot of them ganged up on me this past week, some unwittingly, and I hereby declare that life is too short and "real" rejections too many to let petty crap get us down.

So, from now on I pledge the following.

--I will no longer allow anyone to make me feel like a sellout or a neanderthal because I've chosen to seek publication by slower, traditional means rather than embrace self-publishing as a first option. I will take the power of how I feel and respond to things back into my own hands. I love the option of self-pubbing but it's my last resort, not my first.

-- I will no longer interpret slow response from any publisher, editor, author or other industry professional as anything other than what it is: a slow response. It is not indifference, antagonism, or loathing. I have no idea what's going on in their lives, and I will not be paranoid.

--I will not lose faith in a project in the face of rejection, but I also will not close my eyes to the reality of what a project might or might not need in today's marketplace. I will have faith tempered with reality-checks because, at the heart of it, this is a business. And if that makes me a sellout or a stupid person in the eyes of some folks, so be it.

--I will not let a snarky comment on an email loop from someone I've never met steal my joy and fill me with rage. I will save my rage for people who are worth the energy. And I quit your sorry-ass group, so there.

Well, that pretty much takes care of my week. Happy Sunday. How was yours?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

We're Not Crazy, We're Writers

Some times, I swear, people think I'm out of my mind when I tell them that I'm a writer. They look at me oddly and shake their heads . Then want to know where I get all my ideas. Mostly, I tell them out of thin air. It just comes. They shake their heads some more. They insist they don't have that kind of imagination.

What does it take to be a writer?

Dedication. You bet!

Perseverance. For sure!

Luck. Absolutely!

Some of my stories begin like little whispers in my head and I have no idea what to expect or where they'll go. That's okay. For me it's part of the enjoyment, part of the journey. I don't feel crazy if I talk to the screen, demand my characters say something, do something. I recently saw on Facebook that a friend of mine was starting to talk to her laundry. She wondered about her sanity. Wrong, Elizbo. You're normal.

And that's what gave me the inspiration for this blog. I welcome it when my characters take over and start jabbering away. I feel like a conduit. It's their story, their lives. Bring it on.

How many of you receive those odd looks when you tell them you're a writer? What did you do? Do you feel crazy because you're a writer? What are your experiences?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's Hot, What's Not: A Q&A with Agent Marlene Stringer

A huge welcome today to agent Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Literary Agency. Marlene founded her own agency in 2008 after many years as an agent with the Barbara Bova Literary Agency. Among her clients are urban fantasy authors Alex Bledsoe (the Eddie LaCrosse series and Memphis Vampires series); Alyxandra Harvey (the YA vampire series The Drake Chronicles); Erica Hayes (Shadowfae and Shadowglass); YA author Shari Maurer (Change of Heart); Liane Merciel (River King's Road, Heaven's Needle); and a number of others, including, well, me *Suzanne nods & waves*.

The Stringer Literary Agency is accepting submissions at its website. Please read the site for submission guidelines, and check out the Q&As below for hints about what the agency is looking for.

How many queries do you receive a week or month on average, and how have those numbers varied over the years? Are more people writing or does it seem steady?
Around 50 per day; if I’ve attended a conference or workshop it goes up quite a bit for a couple of weeks. 
What are three or four of the biggest mistakes you see writers making in their queries? What immediately makes you say “no” and set it aside? Conversely, what grabs you?
Typo-riddled, grammatically-challenged queries. Mass-emailed queries sent to every agent possible. Queries with unrealistic word counts for the genre written. Queries that include selections from a novel as sample pages or several chapters rather than the first five pages (which is requested on the submission guidelines). In fiction, queries that focus on the writer and his/her background, rather than the story. Queries written from the protagonist’s point of view. Queries for areas I don’t represent.  These are all easy no’s.
When you read ten in a row, a well-written, targeted query really stands out. One that manages to query in such a way that showcases the writer’s voice is golden. Writing a good query is a skill.
When you’re considering whether or not to take on a new client, how much do you take market into account? If you receive a great manuscript that’s not in a ‘hot’ market, do you pass on it? Or does a good story always sell?
The market comes into play in terms of how many opportunities there are available to sell a manuscript.  I might love a manuscript, but if I can’t think of at least five places to try to sell it, I have to pass.  
If a writer is writing for personal enjoyment, the writer can write anything. But if someone is writing as a business, and that’s what writing for publication is, there needs to be a market for what you write, and that means someone willing to pay for it.
There is a big difference between “hot” and marketable. Any given market only stays “hot” for a limited amount of time.  I caution writers never to write to a market to try to sell a first book. By the time that manuscript is ready, the market will have cooled.
Has the urban fantasy market died down? Paranormal romance? What about other romance genres or traditional fantasy? When will the YA bubble burst? (I guess the subtext of that is: What are the hot markets right now, and what seems to be growing?)
As far as new writers breaking in, both the paranormal romance market and urban fantasy have become a lot more competitive. A new project really has to stand out in a crowd.
My queries have always given me clues as to where the markets are headed, and lately I’ve seen a lot of historical romance, so perhaps that market will heat up.
I don’t see any signs of YA slowing down, and I hope it never does. It’s one of the most creative areas around.
 How has the fluctuating situation in publishing (both because of the economy and changing technologies) impacted how you do your job?
Things are always changing. Just a few years ago, we used the phone more than the computer, our queries and submissions were hard copy, and we photocopied manuscripts and submitted to editors by snail mail.
Now, pretty much everything is electronic, including the e-reader I use to download and read manuscripts. (The only thing that hasn’t changed is hours in the day and having only one pair of eyes!) 
Those are the good things, in that they save both time and money. The downside is that technology has made some jobs redundant, and a lot of really talented people have left publishing.
A lot of authors seem to be bypassing agents and traditional publishers, jumping to the “JA Konrath/Amazon” self-publishing model. Seems to me this is going to glut the market with some books that should never have seen daylight once the gatekeepers are removed. Any thoughts on where the “ebook revolution” is going to take us?
We are undergoing a societal change with e-books now, and the details of how it shakes out remain to be seen.  I love paper books, and I love e-books. I buy in both formats.
When a full generation has been raised on e-books, I think we’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. Can you imagine going back to a manual typewriter?  Or even a Selectric?
The market, i.e., the readers, will always demand some sort of gatekeeper, even if it comes down to reviews online. Poorly written, poorly edited books won’t thrive. 
Established authors can do well with this model as readers already know them and will seek them out. I think it’s really hard to build a career on your own, doing for oneself all the things a traditional publisher usually does. I wish them well.
What are some of the books your clients have coming out? What are you particularly excited about?
It’s a very exciting year, and I look forward to every book coming out. Four within the next couple of months are Gary Ghislain's YA, How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend; Jen K. Blom’s middle grade, Possum Summer; Alex Bledsoe’s next Eddie LaCrosse novel, Dark Jenny; and Julian Dawson’s bio of the late, great Nicky Hopkins, called …And On Piano, Nicky Hopkins.
When you’re working with an author, what traits do you look for? What’s the ideal author-agent relationship like?
I mainly look for a level of commitment to the writing. Authors expect a professional agent, and I expect a professional author, even if that author is a debut author.
I speak with potential clients beforehand to let them know how I work, and what my expectations are of them, and to learn what they expect of me and of the process. This is the part where you learn if you’re a good fit. 
Every author-agent relationship is different. At the heart of every good author-agent relationship is communication. 
I am privileged to work with amazing writers who send me wonderful manuscripts to read. 
Are you taking submissions? Anything in particular you’d love to see right now?
Yes, I’m taking submissions in the categories I represent. No specific type, just looking for really good stories.
Thank you, Marlene! In fiction, Stringer Literary Agency welcomes queries in mystery, thriller, contemporary and urban fantasy, romance, women's fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, and Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. The agency also represents select non-fiction. Click HERE for more on the agency's submission process.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Deleted Scenes

What’s the relevance between deleted scenes from movies and the writing process of authors?

Have you ever seen a deleted scene in the extras of a movie and thought to yourself: OH come on! This should have been in the movie. Or have you applied this to a book? A critique partner says you don’t need a specific scene. And you think to yourself: OH come on! This should BE in the movie… I mean book… Err… now I’m one of those jerks who thinks about their book as a movie before it sells… I’m not supposed to admit that out loud. But it’s all good because these are my thoughts.

Too bad for writers that they tend to write their thoughts down and often put them into books. Or in this case… blogs :-)

I think we can learn a lot by watching movies, including the deleted scenes because it’s the same process we go through as writers. I recently deleted 4,000 words from a novel. It was hard to watch the word count shrink, but the pacing of the story was greatly improved. I never would have accomplished that without taking a step back and evaluating what each scene added to the overall goal of the plot.

My movie example is Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I don’t know if any of you caught it, but they had a special edition on television where they spent hours showing footage and behind-the-scenes clips. If you’ve never seen this movie, I recommend it. It’s definitely for mature audiences but we’re “dark and sexy fantasy” here, right? So we’re all good. The great thing about this movie is the writing. There are so many clever lines and hidden jokes. I didn’t start to appreciate this movie until I saw it more than once. It’s impossible to catch everything in one viewing. At least, for me.

But watching the deleted scenes is very interesting. Some of the scenes were hilarious. Some… not so much. It was hard to see the funny scenes and understand how they didn’t make it into the film. Impossible, until you began to analyze how they would have fit into the movie. There wasn’t room for them. They didn’t fit.

The hardest thing I’ve had to do as a writer is admitting when something I liked didn’t fit. It’s almost torture to delete the words, sometimes scenes. But it makes everything so much better. Removing sentences can smooth over problem sections in the blink of an eye. It’s just finding the courage to do it. Ouch. I feel pain just thinking about it. I don’t think you can find success until you’ve deleted a great scene. Perhaps it just didn’t fit in the overall picture. You can love the phrase, description or paragraph, but if it doesn’t work in the story, then it’s going to be a distraction to the reader.

I’m still continuing to struggle with this. It’s easier for me to write new now because I think I have a better sense of what kinds of scenes work, rather than going back and revising older work. What do you think? How do you handle deleting scenes you love?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guest Blogger Amber Kallyn

Manly Men

I think one of the biggest reasons I love to read (and write) paranormal is the Alpha Male. Only, in paranormal, the Alpha is almost always a true Alpha of the pack.

He’s strong, able to protect the heroine (not that she needs his help, ‘cause she’s perfectly capable of kicking butt in her own right).

Sometimes he’s stubborn, and sometimes a jerk, but the best Alpha males, to me, never cross that line into becoming a controlling asshole.

He can’t, the heroine would demolish him.

What is it about a strong, sexy male that is so attractive? I can take care of myself in every way. Yet, still, the thought of a big, tough man gives me the shivers.

Maybe it’s a primal thing, from way back when. Men were the defenders, the protectors.

In today’s world, we don’t need that anymore. But maybe, it’s still nice to have.

My husband is an Alpha. He’s a gunsmith, reloads his own ammo, hunts, traps, fishes... Hey, he kind of reminds me of my mountain man dad :) Sure, he does this for fun and as a hobby, but I know if the world ever jumped into that handbasket making its way to Hell, my husband could easily protect me and our kids.

Relieving to know? Yes.

Could I do it myself? Certainly.

But I’d rather have a sexy alpha male by my side :)

Q4U:

What do you find sexy about Alpha Males?


Book: Dragos 2: Scorched

(Available 1/28/11)

Cover:


Buy Link: http://www.changelingpress.com/product.php?&upt=book&ubid=1537

Blurb:

A rare Argentinean dragon shifter, Cynthianna "Anna" Hernandez has never known trust, peace or safety, not even by fleeing to the deepest wilds of Canada. When bounty hunter Garreth Dragos shows up during a blizzard, things get complicated as their inner dragons decide they're perfect for each other. Things get worse when the dark mage hunting Anna finds them, sending his creatures to return her to his evil clutches. He's willing to sacrifice anything and anybody to further his quest for power. Together, Anna and Garreth must trust in each other or all will be lost to evil.

Excerpt:

Wolf yelped and trotted into the snow. Anna followed. He ranged ahead, doubling back every few minutes to point her the right way. Ten minutes later, the cold had bitten deep, crawling beneath her jacket trying to freeze her. She called to her dragon magic. Soon, warmth surrounded her, pushing back the cold.

The wind shifted, opening a slim curtain in the white. In front of her, Wolf stood over a body-shaped lump. He growled, snapping at three mangy, starved wolves. Their eyes glowed yellow, reflecting moonlight.

“Regresar,” Anna commanded the wild beasts to leave.

The three strange wolves turned their glares to her.

“Regresar,” she repeated, a low growl of her own escaping with the word.

One wolf barked, then as one, they turned and fled. Anna’s wolf faced her, tongue lolling from the side of his sly grin. Then he began digging snow from the body.

“Whoever it is, they’re surely dead by now.” But she knelt down and pushed a thin layer of snow from the person’s face.

Only to catch her breath. The hard, chiseled face seemed familiar. Black eyebrows framed slightly tilted eyes. She dusted off his tangled black hair, then moved to his broad chest. He breathed. Surprise almost made her jerk away.

Brushing a strand of her own long, dark hair from her eyes, she stared at his wide mouth, the square jaw, the dimple in his chin.

This couldn’t be… No. Not her dream warrior. Just because he looked so like the few flashes she’d seen didn’t mean anything. Her dream warrior was merely a figment of her imagination. This man was real.

And yet, heat spread through her body as she remembered her dream from the night before. How her warrior had loved her. Her gaze kept drawing to this man’s mouth. Her breasts ached, wanting his touch.

With a snort, Anna ignored her growing desire for the half-dead stranger. At least he wasn’t the master. Then again, if she ever caught that $bastardo in such a vulnerable position, she’d be able to finish him off for good.

But neither was this man human. She bent near his ear, sniffing deeply. Shock coursed through her and she jerked back. Dragon. What was a dragon doing here?

When he was mostly uncovered, Anna rocked back on her heels, surveying his body. At least a foot taller than her own five-foot-six, he was pure muscle.

It was clear even through all his bulky clothes.

So how the hells would she get him home?



www.AmberKallyn.com
Dragos: Burned out now. Whipped Cream Reviews gives it 5 Cherries
"...intense and incendiary..."
12/10 Sugarplum: Mistletoe by Changeling Press
Available Jan 2011 Dragos 2: Scorched

Monday, January 24, 2011

Character Models

I’m always fascinated to hear about how other writers create their characters. Especially ones I become invested in when the characters really stand out. I’ve never had a character just pop into being, fully formed, as I have read sometimes happens for authors. For me, fleshing out a character is a layered process. An idea forms first, a setting and a situation. Then the hero pops up. Always the hero first because I prefer writing males. I have a folder stuffed full of questionnaire sheets to quiz my bad boy with though I have narrowed them down to three questionnaires that when combined give me just about everything I need. From there, I have to spend some time with him to see what secrets he’s keeping from me. And sooner or later, I find out what he is really about.

Once I get through the character questionnaires, I fill out GMC charts and conflict grids. After five and a half years of writing, I have this down. Add to this my recent adoption and love for W plotting and it’s fairly easy to get a good foundation before the real fun begins.

But I still need to “see” my characters. I always look for pictures that match what I envision as my hero and his lady. When I find the perfect model, I download the pictures and add them to my project folder.

One of my favorite character models is the one I used for Julian Wilkes. Tell me this guy isn’t smoking hot!



What process do you use to build a character? Do you collect photos for your characters? Any favorite place to photo shop?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Next Series

I'm in the middle of writing Breathe Me In which is book 6.5 of my ten book Tales of the Darkworld. I'm past the middle point in the series and looking forward to the end of the series already. And I've had readers ask me what is next. The most common comment I get is "How can you leave this world behind after you spent so much time creating it?"

Well, the fact of the matter is that I won't be leaving this world behind when I embark on the next series about the Darkworld and the Five Dark Realms. I'm going to zip myself and my readers back in time several centuries to a time when the dragon clans were not unified. It's swords and sorcery and dragon shifters galore. My plot for the first book is almost written. An outline for part of the series is written. And I'm working on characters in my head because to me, the underpinnings of the best stories are the characters.

With series, I like to have characters that carry over from book to book. They help keep the series running smoothly. Their depth increases with each book and they become what drives the series. They endear themselves to readers and get easier to write the longer I do them. One of the reasons I write series is because I can't let the characters go. I have to continue growing them and telling their stories.

In this next series, which doesn't have a title yet, I take a step into fantasy rather than paranormal, although it's still the same Darkworld so there are dragons, vampires, werewolves, the fae, demons, Fallen Angels, the Magia, and other shifters and creatures. It's just going back in time to another era where political strife kept dragon clans from uniting and where they fought with swords rather than guns.

Back then, the clans still had royalty and my first heroine is a warrior who is a princess and never knew it until her mother is condemned to death as a traitor. Subsequent books will be about a hero of the resistance (the group that is pro unification), an albino dragon, a female Magia who helps the resistance, and a secret society. There will be a lot more action in these books and none of the boardroom and modern antics of the Tales series.

I've always wanted to write fantasy and now I've got my chance. Telling the story of the history of the dragons of the Darkworld seems like a perfect move to me. If I had continued with the same modern day world and different characters it would just be Tales of the Darkworld, Round Two. I don't want to do that. I can't do that. Even if readers would want it (and trust me there will be someone who does despite the fact that more of the same will just ruin me) to continue writing the same world repeatedly is to remain stagnant and die. Let's just say that I prefer to remain fresh and give my readers something new and amazing to read.

So I'm prepared to have my series end. I've another waiting in the wings. The good thing about writing about the history of the dragon clans is that it should enhance the world when I return to the modern era. I'll have details I never went into before and that can only be a good thing, right?

One way or the other, we'll find out once Tales of the Darkworld, Book Ten comes out and I begin to create the first of the dragon history stories. I know that readers of paranormal romance don't always read fantasy but I hope readers will stick around to see how it all comes out!

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It’s all about embracing rejections

Ok, so most of us don’t want to be rejected on any level. It hurts. It’s embarrassing. And it’s just not a lot of fun. Unfortunately, everyone gets rejected.

Webster’s is very brief in its definition- in part, it is assumed, because everyone knows what rejection is:

Definition of REJECTION
1
a : the action of rejecting : the state of being rejected b : an immune response in which foreign tissue (as of a skin graft or transplanted organ) is attacked by immune system components of the recipient organism
2
: something rejected

First Known Use of REJECTION
circa 1552

Yet as authors, we spend huge chunks of our lives working alone in our rooms, creating something that is designed to be rejected by the vast majority of folks who see it. Note, I don’t say might- WILL- let’s face it, if you know someone who has never been rejected they are either lying or aren’t writing for anyone other than themselves. We are spending our own blood, sweat, and tears to create products for the sole purpose of getting rejected.

Now, to be fair, we aren’t creating them with the thought of, “Ooooh, I can’t wait for this to be rejected a few dozen times!” But we are working in a field (like all artists, musicians, and actors) where we are going to get shot down. A lot.

But the savvy writer knows that all it takes is the right person to say yes. Once. Then we have someone else on our books’ side. An agent who loves our work and will charge forth to face…more rejections.

As authors (especially those of us currently in the “pre-agented” zone ;)) we don’t think about all the levels of rejections our work can go through if it’s lucky.

First- we need that one magical person to say yes they want to represent our beloved bouncing baby book (which most likely cost us an obscene number of soul mangling rejections while heading to the happy phone call).

Second- the agent is going to be facing some rejections (hopefully not a lot) in her search to find the right publisher for the book.

Third- the editor who wants to buy the book might face rejections from those above her.

Fourth- Book sales reps might reject the book.

Now in theory, the higher you make it up this chain, the less likely for massive numbers of soul sucking rejections. The idea being that in order to get past all of these rejecting forces, the author has crafted work that can stand up under fire.

But still, that’s a lot of rejectionability out there.

So, aside from being slightly mentally deranged, where does that leave us and our relationship to rejection? If we’re smart, it leaves us willing to embrace it. The rejections we get mean we’re on the path. We’re pulling ourselves up the ladder to publication success, and each rejection is another notch on our laptop case showing we’re serious, we’re in the game, and we are not giving up.

So next time one of those lovely little, “Thanks but no thanks” emails comes flinging at your head, smile, pat yourself on the back, and maybe send the rejector a thank you (a real one folks- no sarcasm). That bit of email just reaffirmed that you are a writer. Embrace it.

I'll be diving back into the rejection circuit very soon-anyone have some great tales to share?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why it's Good to be Otaku

First, this:



Tee hee.  What can I say, I revel in my geekness. 

Speaking of geekness, I am what is known as an otaku.  In simple speak, this means I am almost unnaturally attached to media that comes from Japan, most especially their cartoons (anime) and graphic novels (manga) but also movies and tv, music, clothing, and toys.  Always the toys.

Now, granted, my introduction to Japanese society and mythos started while watching cartoons, but as someone who is naturally fascinated by mythology and history, it didn't take me long before I was researching the legends and creatures that inhabit Japan.

Let me make the assumption that most people reading are probably familiar with the Western mythologies such as Greek, Roman, Romanian vampires and Irish Fae, but not so much of the Eastern legends that inhabit Japan, China, or Korea.  Let me use this post and a few in the future to start changing that, and let you know about some of the cool, the kooky, and the just plain out there myths and mythical creatures that you will find in Japan.  Today, we begin with some of the most common, the ones you find over and over in media:

Youkai (yo-kie) - this has been lately translated to 'demon', but youkai is sort of a catch all term that almost every supernatural creature falls under.  Youkai are not necessarily evil.  What follows are some of the more famous youkai, ones you will see often in either anime or manga.

Yuki-Onna "Snow Woman" - the ghost of a woman who died in the snow, she is very beautiful, pale skin and red lips.  She lures those lost in storms to their deaths, either actively killing them with her wintry breath or more passively by making sure they stay lost.  While originally portrayed as evil, lately her image has been given a makeover, and she is portrayed as more tragic than anything.

Kitsune "Fox Demon" - These creatures are very popular in Japanese media.  They are fox spirits who are intelligent, magical, and have the ability to assume human form.  They are tricksters, either because of mischievious or malicious motives.  They get more powerful the older they get, and grow additional tails through their lives.  The most powerful Kitsune have nine tails.

Oni - a Japanese Troll or Ogre.  Evil, with wild hair, claws, and two horns growing out from their head.  They have various skin colors, but red or blue are probably the most common.  Often are portrayed carrying a club.

Kappa "Water Sprite" - Humanoid, reptilian creatures about the size of a tiny child.  They are not necessarily evil, more portrayed as troublemakers, but they like wrestling with humans in the river and it results in the occasional drowning.  Also, they tend to like raping women.  Yeah, troublemakers.  Glad they aren't considered evil.

OK, there is about a billion other things I could mention, but I'll stop for now.  We'll get a little more into the Japanese origin myth and how their religion Shinto has shaped their mythology next week.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interview with Christina Brashear, Publisher of Samhain Publishing

Hello everyone! Today we have Christina Brashear, the Publisher of Samhain Publishing with us. Thank you for interviewing with us.


1. What are three things everyone should know about you?

I'm a straight-talker, no hidden meanings, the words I speak are exactly what I mean, and I try to choose them as carefully as possible. I seriously dislike double-speak and the "corporate" language that confuses. Probably due to all the contracts I have to go through, those are the worst for dancing around a basic statement.

I abuse our editors sorely. I can't self-edit, I'm a terrible speller and I get your and you're switched around as well as it's and its. I know the difference, I'm just desperate to keep up with how fast my thoughts are flowing. I must reach for the closest spelling and move on. And then when I'm self-editing, it's for meaning and content arrangement not grammar and spelling. I guess that makes me a bad publisher.

And, I collect Kitties. I don't want a real one right now because I travel so much, so I have this collection of kitties in various mediums that I've found through-out the world. The top two shelves in my office are filled with them, and not in a pretty way. I keep buying them, but I never get around to setting up the display in an aesthetically pleasing way. It was always something I was going to do, and here we are three years after the move-in, we're getting ready to pack! Maybe #3 should be I dither rather than I collect kitties.


2. Tell us about Samhain Publishing.

Samhain is evolving so much faster than anticipated. It's growing by leaps and bounds, though I try to pull in the reins somewhat, so the growth is more steady. We are going to launch our first non-Romance line this fall, Horror, being developed and headed by Don D'Auria, formerly of Dorchester/Leisure. We are really excited about branching out into a new genre market, and the timing is perfect. There are more and more people coming to digital with the advent of the Kindle, Nook and now the iPad. They are going to want more than Romance where it's all about the story.

Our Romance line is our flagship, and we'll always be dedicated to it and the authors and readers who cherish romance as much as we do. We continue to publish all the sub-genres of Romance, which are basically any genre out there if it has romance as its focus. We are working on enhancements for the line. Now that we have the base website launched, we can build onward and upward from there.

Recently we underwent a major website change. Samhain has been rebranded into a more fresh and, dare I say, "green" look as well as attitude. We have absorbed My Bookstore and More, acquired the shopping cart software, and migrated the client data so there is continuity for the customers, and they get to keep their bookshelf of previous purchases.

This is the first time in the five year history of Samhain that we are directly selling our titles to consumers. It's a big step for us. I have always had, and still do, the philosophy that publishers publish the books and booksellers sell the books and that each should maintain their focus. We are a publisher first, hence the reason why the home page is not the storefront. The home page is for our authors to blog about writing their books, and give readers a peek behind the scenes, so to speak. Providing social interaction while also providing information about the titles available. We have a "marquee" at the top of the page where we can unobtrusively advertise, so readers who like to socialize don't feel as though we're hitting them over the head with a buy-buy-buy attitude. Buy where you like, on Samhain, on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders, where ever, we want you to be happy with your retailer. Though, Samhain does offer some nice perks for buying direct and going to the trouble to transfer the book files onto the reading device of choice.

•We have a permanent bookself, where you can go and download any of the file types we offer at will anytime you want. So if you change from a Palm, to a Blackberry, to a Sony, you can get the file you need to read the BOOK you bought. We feel you are buying the book, not the format file type.
•A new feature on the store's change to Samhain, you can preorder books!
•Increased discount! The MBaM discount for the first week of a new release was 15%, Samhain has doubled it to give 30% off not only that first week after publication, but also the first thirty days before the release.
•The bestseller list is alive and well and changes based on the genre category the customer is browsing.
•If you like to just get down to it and skip the social aspect of our site, instead of typing www, type store. You can bookmark store.samhainpublishing.com and get there faster--to the store, that is.
There are more enhancements to come, as the developers work through our wishlist. I could go on and on, but people will get bored. ;)


3. What genre is currently most popular at Samhain?

It's a mix, I am proud to say. Customers peruse our shelves, read the blurbs and pick the books that appeal to them based on the marketing material. Used to be you could say it was, specifically, erotic romance, or bdsm, or menages, but the tastes of the customers have evolved beyond that and these sub-genres have become more mainstreamed into the romance market. It's all about the story, not the genre, it seems.


4. From your perspective, which is more important voice or publishing experience?

Voice. You can have published a hundred books, but if I don't like your voice I'm not going to buy your book. I am assuming you are asking in terms of the author's experience and not the publisher's. I'm not a writer, I'm a publisher, but foremost, I am a reader. For me to buy and read your book, I need to like what you write and the way you write. As a reader, before I got into publishing, I never looked at the resume of a writer, never cared which house from which the book was published, or if there was any awards attached, I only cared about the story.


5. Does being a debut author lessen the likelihood of publication?

Not at all. We have debut authors almost weekly now, I think. I'd have to check with editorial to be sure. I don't have much to do with the schedule any more, but I do work with the royalties and at the close of each monthly cycle, there are always some authors getting their first statement. I don't how many of those equate to never having been published before or just not with us.


6. What have eReaders done for epublishing in terms of accessibility?

Blown the doors wide open. The surge in readership of digital books has been a joy to watch. I've been reading ebooks since the turn of the century (ha, I feel like an old-timer saying that), was an early adopter and been in love with the idea of carrying hundreds of books with me on one little device. I love that I can have access to thousands of new voices in publishing, voices that would not have been available through the traditional means of publishing, due to limited shelf space, limited publication slots, etc. The cottage-industry publishers are giving readers so many choices! To see people embrace the form and grow the industry is amazing. I feel like we're the pioneers and we're seeing the Star-Trek future unfold and begin. Someday, a lot of trees are going to thank us for not killing them. Even though I hate pine tree needles and pollen, I don't really want them all to die.


7. Recently you've hired Heather Osborn and Don D'Auria, formerly of Tor Books and Dorchester Publishing respectively, how do you see them impacting the future of Samhain Publishing?

They are going to keep the forward momentum going, expand and develop new infrastructure and ultimately grow the company. They are smart, savvy and know what they are doing. I am thrilled I was able to hire Heather away from Tor, and Don before someone realized what a solid gold he is for the horror community. The staff of Samhain is the best.


8. Where do you see Samhain in five years?

I don't see us going public, but I expect in five years to have at least doubled in size and to have expanded and added more lines as the time is right to do so reveals itself. I see more and more people converting to the digital way of reading and Samhain being a go-to for good books with solid writing, great story-telling and excellent editing. Our art department ain't too shabby neither! You'll definitely be seeing more advertising from us as we expand and broaden our advertorial scope.


9. What new releases can we look forward to from Samhain?
Go to www.samhainpublishing.com/coming_soon.php and see! We are working on having three months forward available to see.


10. What advice do you have for authors wanting to be published with Samhain Publishing?

First, finish the book, and then go back and edit. Then, edit again. Then, send it to a friend/colleague who will tell you when you are great and most importantly tell you when you totally suck and let them tear into it. Then edit it again. Write your synposis and draft your query letter. Go to the site, read the submissions page information and faqs thoroughly and follow the instructions. There's information there on how we want to receive the book. Remember many people send in submissions, so following the steps will only help us get through them quickly.

I hear the groaning about having to write a synopsis and query letter, and I feel your pain. But I'm not a writer so it is suppose to intimidate and awe me. You know your book, who better to explain what happens in each chapter than you? And the query letter? We just want to know a tiny bit about you, what you've done before or not, and a small blurb about the content of the submission. Easy-peasy.

Samhain Publishing website: http://www.samhainpublishing.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/samhainpub

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I’m the Heroine in a Romance Novel

My favorite kind of heroine is the quirky type. I love when the women aren’t “model-thin” or “beautiful”. I like when the hero first sees the woman and immediately sees something different than average. His perception is warped by his attraction. Another man may not see perfection when he looks at the heroine, but in the hero’s perspective, she’s something special.

For example, I love it when the hero makes the observation that the heroine looks like she chopped off her own hair with scissors. I’ve read this countless times by different authors, and every time I fall for it. I LOVE it! So naturally, I went through a phase where I hacked my hair with a pair of kitchen shears. That’s when I realized that I was a heroine in a romance novel. And perhaps the appeal of heroines is that you can live vicariously through the lives of interesting women in fiction and don’t have to scare your hairstylist in real life.

I like the strong heroines who know how to kill like assassins. If I wasn’t so terrified of guns, I’d totally want to be a superspy. Don’t worry. I’ve already decided not to try that occupation out in real life. Talk about dangerous. And I don't mean just for me. I mean for everyone else. I try to write formidable women who kick ass because it’s what I love to read. It’s easy to go too far, but I think I’ve been really lucky to read heroines that never cross the line.

What kind of heroine holds the most appeal for you? Have you ever taken an idea from a book and applied it to real life? Perhaps only to realize that some things are better left in romance novels…

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On The Verge

I’m really close to seeing The Kraken’s Mirror released and it’s pretty exciting. I think back to when the idea for this book rose in me. After numerous discussions on other blogs about what would sell and what wouldn’t…and my continual insistence that if I wanted to read about hot sex and romantic adventure with someone not in their twenties as the main character…then others did, too!

I simply didn’t think of myself as someone so unusual that what I wanted wasn’t echoed in the hearts of other readers. I know I’m not necessarily the norm, but after decades of working as a bookseller at numerous bookstores…I also know that the norm isn’t the only buyer out there.

And so I started with a 53 year old widow. And since I loved to write about pirates, I threw her into the pirate haven of Tortuga. But since I’m not big on historical fact, I toyed with history and threw in some magic because it opens the plot up to tinkering. I wanted her to fall for a man her own age or even older, so her hero became a 65 year old pirate captain. He needed a conflict, so I cursed him with good luck. (Because I’m twisted and bad luck would be easy.)

Her conflict? She thinks she’s insane and everything she’s experiencing is a massive delusion. (Hee, hee.) Plus, being 53 and from our era, she has bought into the idea that she is unattractive and too old for a passionate anything, let alone a fiery hot relationship. (Hero has fun changing her mind.)

Throw in a nearly omnipotent, huge, ancient and intelligent albino kraken, affectionately known as the Old Monster and a pirate ship led by women from many times and places…and we’re off!

I’m asked sometimes if I’m a pantser or a plotter…and the paragraphs above are about the extent of my plotting. As Darcy Carson mentioned in last Saturday’s blog, ‘so what’ is the new catch phrase in the New York publishing world… Well, I’m an ‘and then’ sort of writer.

Seems to me, the ‘so what’ goes with plotting… ‘and then’ goes with pantsing. One takes some thinking, one takes a sort of frenzied story-telling and hurried breathing between jumping off cliffs.

I’m not a real thinking writer. I just write. The thinking comes into it when I edit, but even then…I’m not thinking so much as reacting and reflecting. But I do it by instinct. Ask me about this method or that method and I’ll stare at you blankly. Explain it to me and I might discover, “Oh, yeah! I do that, too!”

I know a great many pansters end up eventually plotting. And maybe I’ll go from ‘and then’ to ‘so what’ one day. But when you read The Kraken’s Mirror, and I hope you will, I hope you’ll find my instincts did the trick.

Am I the only one seeing a correlation between ‘so what’ and plotting…and pantsing and ‘and then’?

Monday, January 17, 2011

What's Your Favorite Genre? Poll

Hey everyone! We have another poll to find out what everyone enjoys, so that we can provide you all with a greater experience here at Castles & Guns. Please make sure to fill the poll out. Also, don't forget, you still have time to answer our Fresh Ideas for 2011 poll on the sidebar!

Thanks!

Castles & Guns

Sunday, January 16, 2011

POV: The Death of First-Person?

I had an interesting discussion going on over at my Preternatura blog on Friday. Guest author Kerri Nelson asked readers what they wanted to read. We didn't get thousands of responses or anything, but the ones we got did show some patterns.

--Vampires aren't completely dead (would that make them undead?)--answers ran about half and half with the "are you tired of vampires" question. I found this reassuring since I just finished a vampire book that I'd like to see the light of day (and I'm in search of fast beta readers, by the way, if you know of any).

-- Whiny female leads are right up there with "too stupid to live" women for heroines. Kickass is still good, apparently.

--Alpha males are sexy (hey, did anyone doubt this?).

--People are tired of first-person point of view. (Sound of screeching tires.) This surprised me. I personally enjoy first-person as a reader. Some of my favorite urban fantasy series are written in first. My upcoming series set in New Orleans is written in first (uh-oh). But the manuscript I just finished (did I mention I need a couple of betas?) is written in close-third POV with multiple POV characters.

Initially, after writing two books in first-person, I found third-person limiting. Then I finally got in the swing of it and found the ability to offer multiple POVs (not by head-hopping, however, which I abhor) enlightening. Now it's time to start the third NOLA book and I find myself grumbling at having to go back to first-person.

What about you--do you like to write in first-person? Do you like to READ first-person, or does it not matter?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The 'So What' Factor

Have you heard of the 'so what' factor? I hadn't . . . until recently. Since then I've learned it's a new phrase making the rounds in the publishing industry. The first time came from a NYC editor being interviewed for a Pacific Northwest Writer's Association article in the Author Magazine. She was asked what was the single thing she looks for in a new writer's work.

Then just recently an agent was asked a similiar question and responded with, 'what's the story's so what factor?'.

Let's follow this explanation of the 'so what' factor.

Zoombies take over New York.

So what?

Youngest zoombie is a teenager.

So what?

He/she hates the taste of blood.

So what?

He has to hide the fact that he's turning back into a human.

You see where this is going. Look for the the 'so what' in your story. I had to stop and ask myself some hard questions. Was there one is my story? Thank heaven I found it.

What's the 'so what' factor in your story?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Why You Should Always Know Your Family Tree

One of the reasons I am so drawn to the world of myths and fantasy is that I have a rather unique personal connection to the reality one such modern myth was spawned from.

In my personal family tree, you will find both Countess Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler).  For those that look at those names and go "Huh?", they are the two historical figures that inspired Bram Stoker's vampire interpretation, which ultimately led to the novel DRACULA.

I have written about this before.  Let's face it, it's just too cool a story to let go to waste.  I wrote about how learning this fact in those late tween/teen years shaped my life as a writer.  It was certainly a defining moment in my life, and odds are, I would have taken a very different path, especially as it concerns my writing, without this knowledge.

While not perhaps as life altering these days, this info still manages to shape me.  Now that I'm older, I can't just see the 'cool vampire myth' aspect to these two beings.  Perhaps I would be able to if I didn't have a personal connection, but when the 'Blood Countess' is on the same level of your family tree as your fifth cousin twice removed Gretchen the Dairy Maid, who was renowned for being the fastest milker in the town... yeah, for some reason it brings them down from myth to mere mortal.

And who were these mortals?  Well, as with any historical figure, especially the ones with lots of press, you'll find tons of interpretations.  Elizabeth was anything from female scapegoat to misunderstood feminist to batsh*t crazy. Vlad was anything from cruel tyrant to great warlord to batsh*t crazy.  Yes, I have noticed a possible thread in my family tree, you don't need to point it out to me.

I'm no historian, I have no opinion on the truth of who these beings were.  What I do know is I'm grateful for my unique perspective as one who both enjoys the myth and can see the reality behind it because I'm connected to it.  This way of seeing things has infused every facet of my learning, which in turn feeds into my writing.

So, out of curiosity, who do you have in your family tree?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writing Sex Scenes... Not All About "The Mood" for Writers

This week's blog wasn't very hard for me to figure out. As everyone probably knows, I'm currently working on a cyberpunk romance. And with any romance novel (or novella, in my case), there's got to be romance! Some people who don't read or write romance might think romance writers sit at our desks with candles aglow and massage oil on hand when writing sex scenes. Some might, and that's cool if it works for them. Although, when it comes down to it, most writers I've heard talk (or seen write) about this say they tend to either skip over them leaving **insert sex scene here** or they muscle through them even if they're not "in the mood."

Then again, I think that goes back to the fact that writing, while fun, is work. If someone wants to get published, and stay published, they have to produce novels, and that means writing even when they're not in the mood. There's no waiting for the muse to strike before getting to the computer or notepad to write. And back to the topic of sex scenes!

I've been trying to muscle through a sex scene this week, and I have to admit, it's been... kind of... blah. Yep, both the scene and the writing of it. I know I'm going to need to go back through it and revise it heavily. And no, I haven't been "in the mood," but then again, after writing a few sex scenes, it's a little more go in, write it down, and get out.

I will concede that some sex scenes still are fun, especially when they're in a new and crazy place. Or maybe the characters are totally out there. Or maybe I'm just really into the writing that day, but on average, they're another scene that needs to get down on the page for revising for me. But! Sexual tension, that's another beast altogether. I love that.

So what do you think? Do you enjoy writing sex scenes? Why or why not? What are your ways of dealing with them?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In My Fantasy World… Things Get Complicated

In every Realm, World and Series, world building can be the make or break key factor that sells the book. Sure, characters are important, but let’s not forget about the value of the setting. It took me a long time to realize that in three sentences I can be engrossed in a world, and that fascination will carry me through the whole book. The author hooked me.

Of course reading about these worlds is a lot easier than creating them. When the details start to add up it can cause a long lasting headache.

Okay, confession time. I have a secret love affair, and I’m coming out with it. I’m a little obsessed with charts. I have a white board and I like to diagram my worlds. Character tables for series, Color coded Court structure charts for fantasies… It’s actually a little sad how much I look forward to this.

In my new paranormal series, I can’t wait until the point in my revisions where I reach the chapter that details the whole power structure of the world. I’m going to be charting it up, pulling out my colored markers.

Since I once plotted a book by Post-Its, I’m always willing to try new things. I don’t think I’ll find anything as exciting as my colored markers, but never say never, right?

How do you keep track of your world? I bet it’s not as fun as coloring…

Monday, January 10, 2011

10 Answers from Agent Saritza Hernandez

Saritza Hernandez is my agent. Let me say that right up front! I pitched to her and Lori Perkins at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in April of 2010. She requested a full and I sent it. ( Lori had introduced her as the agency’s new electric first agent. I found the idea intriguing and very ahead of the times.) I sent Saritza the full MS on May 7th. On May 27th, she asked me to sign with her. We worked on revisions and polishing before she sent it out on query. On September 28th, she told me she had an offer from Decadent Publishing. And now my book is in final line edits, soon to be released and will be available to sign, in print, at the 2010 RT convention in Los Angeles. And in electronic format before that!

Oh, me? I’m Maureen O. Betita, author of The Kraken’s Mirror!

This woman works her ass off for her clients!

Without further ado! Take it away, Saritza!


1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, let's see, I married my junior high school sweetheart at the age of 20 and by 25 had three amazing children who teach me something new every day. Have worked in the textbook publishing industry for 10 years doing everything from editing text to technical support and worked in print media prior to that.

2. Why did you become an agent?
My passion has always been in representing the interests of the authors whose works I admire, shortly after finishing my college degree, I started looking for a way to do that. I helped a few friends get their first manuscripts submitted, helped them negotiate their contracts and found that while I like to write, I LOVE the business of writing. I dove headfirst into learning more about rights and contracts and found a great mentor in Lori Perkins who brought me into her agency to help authors in digital publishing retain the rights and obtain the best deals they can for their talent.

3. What do you represent?
Primarily romance. I'm currently representing all sorts of romance with a special interest in GLBT-themed erotic romance such as male/male but I also represent gay fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal suspense. I have several clients whose works straddle genres, but erotic romance is my favorite and what I love to work with the most.

4. What is an e-agent? How is that different than a traditional agent?
There really is no difference between an e-agent and a traditional agent, especially as the lines between the traditional and digital publishing industry have begun to blur. But because I focus on the digital market, I ensure e-Rights are secure for my clients and help them navigate through the complex maze of contracts, subrights and royalty rates with the various digital publishers.

5. What is something you'd really like to find and represent now?
I suppose saying the next big thing is too general a statement, right? I'd love to find a great high fantasy male/male erotic romance set in Ancient Egypt.

6. What about the digital market appeals to you?
As a consumer? Ease of use and portability of my library. I love that I can carry all of my books in my purse and dive into any book on my "shelf" without carrying a ton of books with me. As an agent, I love the nuance and innovation of it all. Love being part of a digital renaissance.

7. How do you see the industry changing?
I think we've already seen the industry's changes as traditional publishers shift gears to have their products available to the digital consumer. But, I do see the decrease of the printed page as the years go by and the children whose books are stored in their Nookcolors, Kindles and iPads grow into the Teen and Young Adult market.

8. What do you like to read for fun?
Male/male erotic romance is my guilty pleasure but I love paranormal romance and urban fantasy/paranormal suspense series too. Right now I'm reading the Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews and am completely in love with it!

9. What is a project you've represented recently that you're really excited about?
Hmm... well, apart from Maureen's The Kraken's Mirror, you mean? Because that is one project I've been excited about since she pitched it to Lori and I at RT last year (2010). My clients have some really amazing projects in the works but one I've recently received that I'm extremely excited about is a paranormal/urban fantasy series that has kept me awake more nights than I can mention.

10. What are some tips for writers trying to gain your attention?
Read my submission guidelines. Seriously. I can tell when you've read them because your query will include tidbits I include there to get my attention. Make sure your query is engaging and your manuscript clean before submitting it and don't be afraid to approach me via Twitter or Facebook with questions about what I'm currently shopping for. I'm very approachable and I swear I don't bite... well... not too hard!

Skill or Story

So what is more important…a writer’s skill with craft, or the story itself?

While it’s certainly true that a writer needs enough skill that they can do a decent job, I’ve found myself drawn into stories that weren’t crafted that well but the story totally hooked me.

I’ve also read work by some of my favorite writer’s who have craft down well, or at least their sales figures would make one assume they know craft well, but not only did I not get into the story, I wasn’t able to finish reading it. At least not in the proper way to read a book. This has happened more times than I want to think about.

For me, story trumps author skill. Every time.

So what happens when I pick up a book that doesn’t have enough story to keep me reading? I’m not a book-wall person. I’m a skip through it to see if anything interesting develops kind of person.

Each time I find myself reading one of these books my reaction follows a set pattern. First I get bored though there may be one character I’m somewhat invested in. I’ll skip ahead a few pages and read a couple paragraphs to see if anything interesting is happening with this character. If so I’ll keep reading till it craps out again. If not, I jump ahead a few more pages and try again with a couple more paragraphs.

Unless the story kicks in and takes off, I’ll continue skipping pages and test reading until I get all the way to the last page. Usually by the time I hit the last page I’m sorry that I parted with my money for the book. Sometimes I’m okay with whatever happens to the one character that caught my interest, but not always. And those are the books that really annoy me.

How about you? What happens when you hit that moment when you know you’re holding a dud? Do you sling it across the room (do many people really do that)? Do you just put it down and leave it there? Drop it in the donate box? Trade it in at the local used book store? Or do you give it a look through just in case it redeems itself in later chapters?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Turnips and Treasures

If you're an author reading this, you're going to know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're a reader, well, here's a glimpse into the head of an author.

I've had a few reviews in the last few weeks. Two for Honorable Silence which is a DADT anthology from MLR Press with my story Afterburner as the opening act of the four stories inside. One for Unbreak Me which just came out at Pink Petal Books in December. The reviews for Honorable Silence weren't bad. Neither were they good IMO. And they snatched away my breathless anticipation of the review, leaving me like a partially deflated balloon. I anticipated a treasure and got a turnip.

Sure, turnips aren't bad. They taste pretty good with sea salt and real butter on em. At the same time, to make them awesome you have to doctor them up otherwise they're...MEH. Give me a day or even a half a day and that meh review doesn't have the same affect on me that it had in those initial first minutes of discovery. The fact that one reviewer said I was trying too hard now has me at the eye rolling stage. In part, I'll be honest, because a gay man told me my story gave him wood. How much better of a review can you get than that? Still, my first reaction to the reviewer's remark was a definite sense of outrage. It didn't last above a few minutes and certainly by the end of the day I figured, what the hell, not every book I write is going to get a great review. I've been a little spoiled in that regard so I expect mediocre and bad reviews should hit me a little harder because of my rose colored glasses.

When the second review for Honorable Silence only got a slightly better review, I scratched my head in surprise. And I heaved a huge sigh, trying to remember the email about the wood. At the moment, it's the salt and butter on my turnips.

Last night, I got a Google Alert for a review of Unbreak Me. I eyed the link a bit like one would eye a sleeping cobra. After all, the heroine of Unbreak Me is an assassin. She's not pretty. She's covered in scars. The hero's not much better. This isn't a pretty love story and I expected that a lot of people wouldn't "get" it. Yet, when I finally clicked the link, instead of a turnip, I found a treasure.

I gasped. My heart soared. Tears sprang to my eyes.

The reviewer got me. She got the book. She liked my scarred, tremor wracked heroine.

I felt as if I'd gone digging in the garden for turnips and found a chest full of gold coins. It was amazing.

The whole sticks and stones will never hurt me thing isn't true. Words can hurt. Sure, bad or mediocre reviews don't hurt that much. They sting a bit, like when you bump your knee and end up with a bruise later. The remembered pain lingers a little. Eventually, it doesn't mean all that much to you, but in the moment it can. And to me the worst of it is anticipating the best and only receiving turnips. I can be lackadaisical about the review after the initial disappointment, but I can't stop hoping for the best so I can't ever take the less than stellar reviews in stride. They always cause a hitch in my step.

There are people who believe that the turnip reviews have their place, that they force writers to reassess so that next time they avoid the things the reviewers didn't like. I don't think reviewers force authors to change. Too many review sites have agendas and authors just don't believe many of them any more. Like me, other authors are probably disappointed with a meh review, but in the end they slough it off, forget about it and it ends up not affecting them. Readers probably forget the mediocre reviews too. However, the treasures? Most people remember those.

In 2009 I had the most awesome review of my career to date. (Granted, I've only been doing this since late 2008. LOL) Jessewave gave Fire Season a 5+ and put it on her Top Ten Books of 2009 list. I've gotten far more mileage and new readers out of that glowing review than I ever did from the one review that did a snark-thrash on it. This new review is glowing in much the same manner. So it truly is a treasure to me.

Really, turnips aren't bad. They have their places. If I hadn't had a couple of turnips I wouldn't have thought that treasure shone so brightly, right?

Nah. Who am I kidding? I still woulda done the Snoopy dance. I might be an optimist but words of praise still catch me by surprise. I bet I'm not alone in this either.

And now, for a bit of shameless self promotion. If you'd like to see the review that "got" Unbreak Me, click HERE. Just remember, it's glowing so wear your shades! ;)

Before I go, just a note of thanks to the Castles & Guns ladies for taking me on here on a regular basis starting today. I'll be here every other Sunday now.

Ciao darlins!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fresh Ideas for 2011

We hope you are all having a fantastic new year. This year we’ll be doing a few new things on the site. Every other Mondays we’ll be posting polls, reviewing books we find “Must Reads”, and encouraging more active participation from Authors, Editors and Agents. We’ll have Guest Bloggers visiting us every other Tuesdays, and we can’t wait to hear about the new releases coming up.
Our first poll of the year can be found on the right-hand task bar. Please tell us what you’re looking forward to this year at Castles & Guns, and we’ll do our best to bring it to you.
Thank you! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

D&D & ME

I blog today to ask you to set aside any prejudices you may have about roleplaying games and the people who play them.

Sure, I know the stereotype.  Skinny geek guys who live in their parents basement, too shy and awkward to have any other kind of social life, getting together for hours at a time to argue over imaginary people and events.

(Hey, that almost sounds like a writers group!)

A little more seriously, roleplayers are some of the most imaginative and intelligent people I know.  You have to be.  What is a roleplayer, but someone who takes this fictional world, then has to make it come alive?  As any writer can tell you, world building is tough.  You have to think about all the details that come into your daily life - the laws, the infrastructure, the government, as well as things as how people shop and people relax and what would they do if a dragon flew overhead?  Then you take all these details and make it come alive.  Next time you meet your favorite writer who you think does world building well, take a moment to pat them on the back, because they spent uber amounts of time creating that world for you.

My husband introduced me to D&D.  Heck, my husband says one of the reasons he proposed to me is that I became a roleplayer myself, and that we can game together.  This was a few years ago, before the explosion of the online roleplaying games that made roleplaying a little more socially acceptable, and even now girls playing - while not an anomaly - is still a slight double take.  All his fellow roleplaying friends congratulated him on his find  :)

I am a proud geek girl, and one of the geek things I love is roleplaying.  How could I not?  As a writer, roleplaying is right up my alley, playing to all my strengths.  I get to create great characters and live them, make insane decisions, fight baddies with magic or sword.  All in all, awesome!

If you should ever get a chance to try the roleplaying experience, give it a whirl.  If nothing else, it will help keep your writing skills sharp.

Oh, and piece of trivia.  Vin Diesel (action movie star) is on record saying he is a roleplayer and one of his favorite ways to relax is to find a game.  So, become a roleplayer = meeting guys who look like Vin Diesel.  Win/Win!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Importance of Trying New Things

Okay, so it's kind of a given, and it's good to do in all aspects of life. How does skydiving sound? How about taking a pottery class? Having hobbies and exploring things you haven't tried before can bring new excitement and happiness. How does this relate to writing?

Well, I recently delved into the genre of cyberpunk romance. It's new for me, and something I've been wanting to try for a while. On January 1st, I jumped right on in and I've loved it so far. Last month as well, I tried my hand at post-apocalyptic paranormal romance. I've done paranormal romance, but the post-apoc part made it feel like such an experiment. That novel was a lot of fun to write too. It gave me a chance to try something new and exciting.

Of course, I've heard that you need to stick with one genre and go-go-go. Practice your craft and hone your skills. I agree with that. I've written 2.5 urban fantasy novels, 3+ paranormal romances, a sweet contemporary. I can definitely say that sweet contemporary isn't my best genre, or one I'd retry in the future. I also have enough experience with urban fantasy and paranormal romance to know that I love it, but it's good to try new things, especially if you're starting to feel blah. Maybe you'll find your new favorite genre, or maybe you'll be able to say you've tried it and it's not for you. Although, by no means, should you go chasing the newest trend, but who knows? There's always something to learn and maybe it'll just click.

So have you tried a new genre or different kind of project that really excited you recently? Are you planning on it?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Age Appropriate

I’m keeping it short and sweet today. Not that I ever go particularly long. But it will start with a Christmas story. This year we had three kids under the age of four at Christmas. It was the first time I’d been surrounded by so many children since back when the young cousins on my side of the family were under four. Now that they are graduating high school, it’s been a while.

I was trying to figure out how to keep the children entertained, and the little girl wanted me to make up a story. I should be able to do that, right? In theory…

But unfortunately when she spread the blanket on the ground and didn’t want to touch it, I said “Careful. You don’t want to touch the blanket or it will transport you to the land of no return.” The little girl giggled, and lost interest in our conversation. My sister-in-law looked at me in horror: “What kind of story is that?”

I admit it wasn’t my brightest moment. I’m reasonably sure I didn’t scare the child for life, but it became a joke. From then on throughout the night whenever I saw my sister-in-law it was usually followed with something like “Beware, you don’t want to fall into the cave of ultimate doom.”

So I was thinking about this today and it made me wonder about what’s age appropriate. Often, I go to author websites and they say something like “Do you agree you are above the age of eighteen”… or something like that. And I know that’s for the steamier variety. I wonder how to handle this stuff. I wonder in fantasy if we should say “Do you agree you are aware you will be reading something about swords, death and witches?” It seems like now-a-days there should be some type of warning.

I think it’s about what the parents allow. It seems fair to me that an author should be upfront about the content, and then it gives the parents the facts so they can make an informed decision. In theory I could have asked, “So what do you think of the land of no return?” to the mother and then she could have told me it probably wasn’t appropriate. Then I wouldn’t have said it, and may not be feeling quite so guilty.

Just a thought. What do you think? Do you think about these things while writing? Because I write for "adults" but that seems vague to me when there are so many different perspectives out there. In today's world, sometimes I have a really hard time figuring out what's appropriate. I wonder how it effects me as an author and reader.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Where the Laughs Are

Sorry I'm late, mates!

I was sitting on New Year’s Eve, watching last year’s Christmas gift. (No, I really mean last years…like in 2009.) My DH bought me the first four seasons of Robot Chicken. I never watch this show when at home, but for some reason, every time we board a cruise ship this show comes on as we’re preparing for bed and I watch and I laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

I’d checked it out now and then through the year, but this time I got the DH to sit with me and we watched the first half of the first season. And I giggled now and then. Until the last sketch, a short on sport bloopers.

For those who don’t know Robot Chicken, it’s a wicked little show that uses cartoons, action figures, clay and whatever they can throw together in little skits where they skewer just about anything. Nothing is sacred and there’s a lot of really, really, really sick humor.

I love it.

This sport blooper finished with a pole vault blooper, the vaulter slipped at the top of the vault and ended up impaled on his pole and slowly slid down, spinning. I laughed until I cried.

Why? I have no idea. (It was late at night, I was taking cold medication…but what’s the excuses for other times when I titter hysterically at black humor? The scene with the black knight in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail nearly saw me pee my pants.)

It made me think about the whole idea of humor. Humor plays a vital role in the urban fantasy I read and watch. If tasked to name a favorite episode of Buffy, I’ll name one with humor. The musical episode ended on a very serious note, but at first? Wonderful! The one where Giles ate that candy and took on his adolescent persona? Wonderful! Or when Xander was cursed and every plague and bodily function mishap that could occur, did occur…fab.

The battle of bands episode of Xena, yes! Tribbles on Star Trek. More! More!

With books? I love the humor in The Dresden Files. Same thing with the Nightside series.

I especially love the inside joke. Or the wink at the reader/watcher. There’s something about the cleverness a good wink takes that simply tickles me. A good wink, mind you. Nothing too obvious. (All the locals in Santa Cruz adore the tip of the hat to UCSC that Joss Whedon used to insert into Buffy.)

I know a great deal of urban fantasy lovers want the darker, more angst ridden plots. Not me. Twist it, turn it, make me grin. Make a woman with a shoe fixation a vampire queen. A suburban mother a demon slayer. Turn the world sideways and make tomatoes a vegetable that nearly brought about the end of humanity.

I never thought I was a dark humor woman. I’m still not the cynical humor woman, but twist it? Yup, twist me and I’ll laugh until I cry.

How do you feel about humor in urban fantasy?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Heroes and Villains

Have you ever read a book where the hero and possibly the hero’s buddies were so tough that seemingly no one or nothing could defeat them? Or how about the villain who is so evil that they don’t have one redeeming quality? If you haven’t, count yourself lucky.

I’ve read more than one series were a tank could run over the hero and he could jump up and defeat an army, make mad passionate love all night, save the universe, then get up and do it again the next day. Uh yeah. I’m buying it. Not.

I suppose if you like your heroes as iron men on steroids this would be enjoyable reading. But I like my heroes, even the tough paranormal boys, to have real weaknesses. I want to see them go up against a villain who sees himself as a hero in his own right and who is battling the story hero to win the day in his world because he sees himself as the hero battling a villain.

Another wall banger is the story featuring the hero with all the above tank busting traits who somehow does manage to get injured. But you know it isn’t a big deal because he also has souped-up healing abilities. Get an arm torn off? No problem! Grow a new one fifteen minutes later. Okay, maybe that’s an extreme example but you get my drift.

Give me a hero who can be whipped soundly. Show me some blood and pain. Lots of pain. Make him suffer physically and emotionally and you’ll have a hero I want to read about.

And that villain? Give him some good qualities. Make me like something about him even when I don’t want to. He’ll work harder for you with a few good qualities sprinkled in because he’ll seem more real and not flat.

What about you? How do you like your heroes and villains? Off the chart strong men and bad guys or toned down with real weaknesses that cause them trouble?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Who Wrote This Crap?

Joan and I are both signed up over at Savvy Authors (a great site, by the way) for "Editpalooza," a month-long complete-book revision workshop with input from a book editor. Assignment No. 1 was posted yesterday: a one-sitting, complete read of the manuscript you'll be editing in January. Approach it like a reader, we were told. Don't tinker. Don't edit. Pretend it's your favorite author whose book just came out and you can't put it down. Just make a few general notes on the side about when it drags, what doesn't seem to work, when it gets boring.

Sigh.

Well, my manuscript finished up at 98,750 words. Between one thing and another, I finally emailed it to my Kindle, so it would look like a real book, and began reading at 10 p.m. I made it till 2 a.m. Needless to say, I haven't finished yet. I can't do that many words in one sitting, no matter who the author is. But it has been an interesting exercise.

I had to set aside my real favorite author, Patricia Briggs, in order to read my book. I've been ignoring the big hot mess that is my TBR pile and re-reading her Mercy Thompson series.

Boy, do we have different styles. That's good, I guess, although her "voice" sure sounds more poetic than mine. I'm still unhappy with my opening but have no idea what it needs. I found a couple of places where the pacing needs a picker-upper (you know...those spots where you want to start skimming). I wonder if my hero is too emo and boring. Most of the questions I'm asking in my notes, I have no answers for. I'm still too close to the manuscript and my beta readers are tired of reading it.

But overall, I'm kinda torn between liking it, and thinking it's total crap. Have you ever tried a "reader-style" complete read of a manuscript? Did it teach you anything?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

I feel honored (and lucky) to start off 2011's blogs. Look at the date--1/1/11. Do you know what the number one represents? The number one is the god figure, the number of the Creator. This destiny number indicates you are destined to a position of leadership. Nora Roberts both are number ones! A coincidence? I don't think so. A number one person uses his/her ability to think and act for themself. Character traits associated with it are power and dominateering. You are individualistic, an original thinker and creative (in an intellectual sense). You aren't afraid to stray from the safe path and try new things or new methods of approaching problems. On the negative side, number one people have one track minds. Be careful or you'll end up with feelings of superiority. You can be either remarkable or a crashing bore.

Let's backtrack a bit. 1/1/11. How many made New Year's resolutiions? Raise your hands. Com'on, don't be shy. I know you're out there. What goals have you set for yourself? Finish a book, submit to an editor or agent? Try a new genre? Enter a contest? Setting goals means you have the motivation to do things. It's the difference between waking up and doing something and laying on the couch all day. You have to figure out what you want, the determination to power through the obtacles life will set in front of you and start doing what you want.

There's more to being a writer than meets the eye . . . It takes goals. Goals can be short or long. Set your's. Specifiy what you want. Say it aloud. Define it. You decide what you want to do and figure out what you need to do to achieve it -- that means you need to assign responsibility. Make plans. Constantly assess and manage your writing. Follow-through. Be realistic. Deal with raodblocks. Don't be negative. It'll only prohibit you from achieving what you want. Anticipate changes. Prioritize needs. Recognize deadlines (family and publishing). Complete the goal. Celebrate success.

What do goals have to do with 1/1/11? It's the start of a new year. What are your goals for this year?