Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dipping your toes into a new world

Well, I’ve dawdled long enough puttering with my finished books. The one I’ve selected for “first launch” in the great agent hunt is out and about making the rounds, and I’m doing another round of edits on the steam punk book.

It is time for a new book!

This week I took the plunge and started the first fledgling pages of a new novel-it’s a fantasy action adventure with my first MALE pov character! Now in most of my books, I do get “into the male character’s head” at least once or twice. But as this book is shaping up- it’s coming from the POV of one of my guys. (Yep folks before you wail and gnash your teeth- this is NOT a romance ;)). This is a tale about five military misfits (four guys one woman) who find themselves the only hope to stop a planet killing scourge. That a similar disaster was held off a few thousand years ago gives them hope and a hell of a lot more trouble.

It’s a book I started in a different form a long time ago. VERY long time ago, in a few different forms. For some reason every time the idea for this book popped up, another idea was stronger. So I’d make my notes- even wrote a few doz pages…then would set it aside.

Since then I've cannibalized a character and a few scene ideas for other projects. This caused some shuffling about of characters and situation and this is its third version ;). BUT, I think I have a good working plan now. It’s very different from that very first idea I had, but since some of that first idea lived on in another book it’s all good- more bang for my idea buck as it were ;).

I have to admit I’ve only done a few pages so far. But I’ve been kicking the ideas around, making a few notes, and preparing for this week-end. A friend and I are going to do brunch and Starbucks writing sprints- aka blazing laptops at 50 paces ;). It’s a great way to really dive into a story, but I wanted to have something started so I could just run with it.

Now, something about my writing style- I’m a pantser. I toss my characters out in the snow and see where they go. So this early stuff may be tossed aside. But I’ll save it- I re-use my own ideas fairly often so even if THIS launch of this book doesn’t work right now (or I change directions again) I know something will come of it.

As for how I feel about this new book- I have mixed feelings. It’s exciting as heck but scary too. I know all my other worlds and characters- in a very short time they have become part of my life (short in that it already feels like the books I wrote last year have been around forever ;)). Now I have to venture forth and meet some new, but not completely new characters. It’s something I hope I never grow out of.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hide Your Children - Romance Writers in da House!

I'm going to be a little ranty in my post today, just giving you all a heads up.

Big story this week was about how a woman discovered her teenage son's English teacher was an erotic romance writer. She ran to a local "news" station with a couple of friends to say how awful this was. Think of the children! In fact, one of the women interviewed went so far as to insinuate the English teacher/ erotic romance writer just might be a pedophile.

It boggles my mind, but the "news" station actually thought this was a story or something. They created a controversy where none existed, and spent 30 seconds of airtime letting this woman spout nonsense on how one can either be a teacher or a romance writer, but certainly not both.

The writer in question is Judy Mays. I never heard of her before this whole thing started, but since then I have discovered she is a fellow author at one of my publishers, Ellora's Cave. Yes, Ellora's Cave does do the naughty naughty stories, so I'm assuming Judy's stories are quite hubba hubba. Under 18, you shouldn't read them.

Still, the ridiculousness of this situation overwhelms me. Judy has been a teacher for about 25 years, and by all accounts is well thought of and respected. There was never any charges made that she wrote her stories in the classroom, talked about her stories to the students, or in any way brought together her daytime job and her writing. In fact, she wrote under a pen name.

Beyond that, there is the hypocrisy of this situation. Because this woman wrote books with sex in them, she is unfit to teach children. I'm not saying it, dimbulb who contacted the news stations said it, and by running such an asinine story, news station was tacitly agreeing with the sentiment. I don't like to play the man vs. woman game, but a comment I heard about this situation really struck true with me. If it had been a male English teacher who wrote mystery or police thrillers, books with violence and guns and probably sex of a very base nature, he would be lauded as the local celebrity author, and how cool it would be to have him for a teacher! But because she writes explicit sex scenes, she should be shunned and no decent parent would let their kids be taught by her.

This kills me because the Romance genre as a whole is a very conservative genre, sex notwithstanding. Anything marketed as a capitol 'R' romance - and this includes erotic romance - has very strict guidelines. The hero and the heroine are it for each other, and once they meet, there is no one else for either of them. Granted, in an erotic romance there may be more than two, but the same principle applies. Fighting and violence tend to be either downplayed/occur off-page, or are so over-the-top they are theatrical in nature and not realistic. Lots of feelings are discussed, bad guys get theirs in the end, good prevails, etc., etc.

If there is one thing this whole hullaballo has reminded me of, it is that I have it so good. I am surrounded by family and friends who do nothing but support my writing. I will never again wish my mother wasn't so proud of my writing that she asks me how the latest sex scene is going or worry that she is going to try to talk about my books to her 70 year old customers. I will embrace that I have such an easy time of it, and never have to worry I would ever be in the position of Judy Mays.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Upiers

Upiers, are from Eastern European folklore. Mainly from Pomerania, a region of modern Poland. These vampires, differ from the rest of their kind in a somewhat drastic way. Unlike normal vampires, upiers are awake between noon and midnight, giving it an extended period of awareness during the day and protection against mortal threats. Having an unquenchable thirst and vicious nature, the upier steals and devour the hearts, which it probably values as much, if not more, than the blood itself.

While still being vulnerable to the classic decapitation and stake through the heart method, the upier is less affected by clerical measures, and it has a degree of indifference towards charms or crosses, which is typical to Slavic tradition.

However, one can protect himself by baking bread that has vampire blood mixed in with the flour before baking. This apparently makes the person smell partially tainted or appear less desireable to the upier. To prevent a person from becoming upier, one must bury the corpse facedown with a cross of willow near major arteries, such as neck, armpits or chest.

Interesting tidbits:
  • It has a barbed tongue that allows it to pierce its victim's skin. In addition to its sharp teeth, of course.
  • They can walk in sunlight during the day.
  • The Russian version of this vampire, the Upyr, is known to be very vicious. It attacks children and then their parents.

So, what are your thoughts on Upiers? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Do You Believe In Vampires?

It used to bother me that my husband isn’t interested in the supernatural. I didn’t understand why he wasn't fascinated by vampires, witches, magic and weres. But lately, I’m starting to think that it’s a good thing he’s not a big believer because otherwise I might be in trouble. Sometimes I find myself so engulfed in my imaginary worlds, that I start to believe a little too much. This is usually around the time that I stop laughing at the “writers are crazy” references I read so often on boards and loops because I start to think… Okay, but I’m actually going a little crazy here. It’s officially not funny. But then the phase passes, and I can laugh again.

So my question for today is: Do you believe in this fantasy stuff?

I feel like people can come at this question from so many different angles. There’s a wide variety of the paranormal, such as the spirit world and ghosts. There are the vampires and weres. There are the superheroes, villains, alternate realms, made up powers, wizards, mythology, and the Greek gods. Holy cow. How do you decide what to believe? Is it a personal choice? Do you want other people to believe, too? Are you a ghost activist? A vampire rights advocate? A faerie champion? Are they out there? Are they hiding? Are they waiting? I can see how a writer’s sanity might be questioned when they start to wonder about all these things. I ask these questions because this is all worldbuilding. As authors, we have to build our worlds, realms or planets. So as we’re building, are we considering the real world applicability? Are we just being creative? Can you write a sexy vampire without believing that a sexy vampire might be out there lurking in the dark?

I think a part of me believes at least a little of what I write and read. Do I want a vampire to knock on my door and tell me he believes I’m his one true mate? No. I don’t think my husband would be very happy if a random vampire showed up and tried to get fangy. But I don’t doubt it could happen to someone. (Hopefully someone single.) It’s not so much that I believe, as that I don’t doubt.

I grew up with Harry Potter, so I’ve always been fascinated by magic. Charmed was my obsession before I discovered paranormal romance novels. I like the “other” because I’m not always thrilled with the normal. But sometimes I wonder what percent of this do I believe and what percent do I accept? I have a feeling it’s not a good idea for me to say one way or the other, because my ideas and beliefs are always evolving. I’ve been caught doing more than one thing I said I’d never do. So I’ve officially obliterated that word from my vocabulary.

Sometimes I think I should write down everything I believe and tuck it away. I’ll pull it out in ten years and if I still believe it, then I can post it for all to see. This whole internet thing is crazy. Whatever I say here is out in cyberspace forever. It makes it hard for me to blog sometimes because I wonder if I’ll even believe the same thing next week. But my attraction to the paranormal has been consistent. What I believe or don’t believe isn’t really the focus for me. Rather, it’s what can I think of next?

Do you believe in vampires, werewolves and shifters? (Oh my!)

Do you like to believe that the authors who create our favorite worlds believe in them?

Or are you thinking… It’s just fiction. I use it to escape. Duh.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guest Author Paty Jager

Thank you Castles and Guns for having me here today!

Growing up in an area rich in Native American history has made me curious and empathetic to the band of Nez Perce who summered in Wallowa County many generations before Lewis and Clark entered their lives.

The Wallowa, or Lake Nimiipuu as they call themselves, are a band of the Nez Perce(Nimiipuu) who moved like nomads across the Pacific NW and into the plains with the seasons. They wintered along the Imnaha River in the lower warmer regions of Wallowa County, spent the early spring in the camas meadows of Idaho, and summered at Wallowa Lake, fishing the Columbia in the fall and returning to their winter home before the snows became too treacherous. The warriors and some of the women went out on hunting expeditions to the plains for buffalo.

They were nomadic, but they had a fierce love of the land in their hearts.

Spirit of the Mountain, the first book of the trilogy, showed their love of the lake area and how they came to carry it so deeply within them. The heroine, in this book, carries the mountain in her heart and when she falls for the spirit who looks after the mountain and its occupants, she loses her heart to him as well. You can find a full review for this book at: http://www.chanceofbooks.com/2011/03/five-umbrella-friday-giveaway-spirit-of.html

My May release, Spirit of the Lake, is the second book in the trilogy. This book deals with the Whiteman encroaching on their land and the way they are willing to look the other way to avoid being forcefully taken from their home.

The spirit entity in these books is all a figment of my imagination, but it felt real to me. My fascination with the Native American culture, their healing herbs, chants, legends, myths, and vision quest all primed my imagination when I came up with the spirit siblings who are the main characters in the books.

In the first book, I use the vision quest as the means to bring the chief's daughter to talk with a white wolf, the hero and spirit of the mountain. In her vision quest, her weyakin(the spirit who visits her) is a white wolf. So when her life is thrown upside down by her believing her vision quest means she must marry a warrior from the enemy Blackfeet tribe, she feels talking to the wounded white wolf she encounters is natural. When he turns into a handsome warrior, doing her duty becomes harder as she must leave the mountain and spirit of her heart.

The second book has Wewukiye (Bull Elk) as the hero. He is the white wolf's younger brother and a spirit as well. He lives in the lake as the antlered legend who comes out of the lake and takes bad children. Yet he is the fun loving practical joker of the three sibling spirits. In his book, he befriends a Nimiipuu maiden who has been raped by a Whiteman and becomes pregnant, but the band believes she is not telling the truth to avoid trouble and perhaps being tossed from their land because the treaty of '68 was not signed by Old Joseph, yet the government believes the other chiefs who signed spoke for all the Nez Perce.

Sa-qan (Bald Eagle) is the youngest of the three. She soars in the sky above all the Nimiipuu land watching over them. In the third book, she is desperately trying to keep the Nimiipuu from annihilation as the U.S. Army chases them from their homes on a four month, 1400 mile trek where they fall short of freedom and end up on reservations far from home. During the campaign she falls in love with a cavalry officer and together they try to save the Nimiipuu.
This spirit trilogy is my proverbial book of my heart. I spent countless hours on research to make sure the Nez Perce culture is correct in the books and the historical information is accurate.
Blurb for Spirit of the Lake:
Two generations after his brother became mortal, Wewukiye, the lake spirit, prevents a Nimiipuu maiden from drowning and becomes caught up in her sorrow and her heart. Her tribe ignores Dove's shameful accusations—a White man took her body, leaving her pregnant, and he plans to take their land.Wewukiye vows to care for her until she gives birth, to help her prove the White man is deceitful and restore her place in her tribe.

As they travel on their quest for justice, Dove reveals spiritual abilities yet unknown in her people, ensnaring Wewukiye’s respect and awe. But can love between a mortal and a spirit grow without consequences?

Excerpt

Wewukiye tugged her hand, drawing her closer. His warm breath puffed against her ear.

"You need only think of me and you will have strength."

His soft silky voice floated through her body like a hot drink.

Dove swallowed the lump in her throat and asked, "When will I see you again?" The thought of sleeping on the hard ground next to the fire in Crazy One's dwelling didn't sound near as inviting as using his lap to rest her head.

The days and nights grew colder; to be wrapped in his arms would warm her through and through.

"You will find me at the meadow every day when the sun is directly overhead." He brushed his lips against her ear.

She closed her eyes, relishing the silky feel of his lips and the heat of his touch.

"Think of me," whispered through her head.

Dove opened her eyes. She stood alone. Her palm still warm from their clasped hands, her ear ringing with his whisper.

Bio: Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently farm 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

Paty is a member of RWA, EPIC, and COWG. Wild Rose Press has published eight of her books with Spirit of the Lake to release in May 2011. Perfectly Good Nanny, won the 2008 EPPIE for Best Contemporary Romance. She edited for an e-publisher for four and a half years and teaches workshops at conferences, writers meetings, and online.

You can learn more about her at her blog; http://www.patyjager.blogspot.com/ her website; http://www.patyjager.net/ or on Facebook.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What Is It With These Genres?

Hi Everyone! I'm Mara and I'm new to Castles & Guns. This is my very first post, so I thought I'd use it to introduce myself, but also to talk a little bit about what draws writers to the fantasy/paranormal/sci-fi genres.

By way of a bit of introduction, you can see my bio in the side bar, but I live in the Northern Plains of the U.S. where there's not a whole lot to do most of the year but escape into your imagination. We're lucky if we get six months without snow around here! The weather is finally starting to turn now...all the snow is gone and it was sunny all weekend. Things are starting to turn green. Yay!

Although I write screenplays and stage plays, when it comes to fiction I write paranormal romance and science fiction. At least those are the genres in which I have active WIPs. I have a long list of other story ideas and, interestingly, most of them have some sort of magical or supernatural element to them, despite the stories all being wildly different. I found myself asking why that is? Why can't I write a good solid contemporary romance? Or maybe even an historical? Or just literary fiction? What is it about science fiction/fantasy/paranormal that has me so transfixed?

I find myself drawn to those genres for several reasons. First, I love world building and alternate worlds and bringing them together to see what happens when they collide. As a writer, it means I'm not bound by the rules of this world. I can make up my own rules and see how my characters react to them. Second, I like to think outside the box, consider what-ifs (what if magic really existed? what if mythical creatures were real? what if there were alien worlds?), and think big and I think these genres are much more accepting and open to experimentation and exploration. Third, I'm fascinated by mythology and folklore, and these genres give me the opportunity as a writer to explore those in a different context. Plus, if you throw in a really hot shapeshifter or alien of some sort, what's not to love, right?

So what keeps you coming back to paranormal/fantasy/science fiction? Why do you read it and/or write it?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Publishing Blues: Is Paranormal Fiction Dead (or Undead)?

I subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace, just to keep up with what's going on in the publishing industry during this time of transition--and to answer those popular questions: What's selling? And who's buying?

Lately, if you're looking at speculative fiction (paranormal romance, urban fantasy, fantasy, science fiction, and their subgenres) the answers have been "not much" and "almost no one."

Over the past four months, 31 speculative fiction books sold to major publishers. That's pretty low, right? But January's just after the winter break and sales pick up in the spring, so maybe 31 is a reasonable number. Let's break those 31 sales down a bit more, however. Let's remove authors who don't have the word "bestselling" in front of their names--meaning they're already proven commodities. Now, we're down to 12 deals. Yikes. Let's go farther, and remove the authors who sold books continuing existing series. Now we have 8 deals. In four months.

That's freaking depressing if you're a spec fiction writer. So what's the solution?

One, you could change genres from the one you love just to try and play the market. It's risky, though. Ghost stories and cozy mysteries with a slight paranormal feel are hot right now. But will they be hot a year from now when your new manuscript is ready to sell? Is your heart really engaged in writing an inspirational romance or a thriller? And if your heart isn't engaged, will your writing be any good?

Two, you could sit back and wait for things to settle down--because they will, eventually. There will always be a core speculative-fiction market. This might be a reasonable tactic for a twenty-something with lots of writing years ahead. Those of us who are, uh, late bloomers? Well, I don't see waiting ten years for the market to figure itself out. On the other hand, if I retire from Ye Olde Day Jobbe, I'll have a lot more time to write, God willing and the creek don't rise, as my hillbilly ancestors used to say. Actually, I think the current relatives still say it.

Three, you can start looking harder at the small publishers who don't pay author advances but offer a bigger percentage of royalties. Many, many authors--especially of paranormal romance--are going this route, which is why small publishers seem to be thriving, and why the new startup Entangled Publishing is creating such a buzz. This is so very, very tempting.

Four, do it yourself. Also something a lot of authors are doing. I think this is the riskiest venture of all for a newish author without an established following and a reasonably sized backlist. Sure, you start getting ROI faster, but in a market already glutted with poorly edited self-pubbed books--and more coming out every minute--how in the world can you make yours stand out? You've paid for professional editing and had a cover designed that looks straight off Madison Avenue, but you're in the crowded mass digital grave with Aunt Betty's little story about ghosts she wrote for her grandkids. "JA Konrath!" you shout. Hey. JA Konrath has a book coming out in May--a print book--with a Big Six publisher, under a pseudonym. JA Konrath already had a following. JA Konrath didn't quit publishing with New York. JA Konrath is the exception. And JA Konrath isn't writing paranormals.

So that's where we are, my friends. I'm fortunate to have a couple of books under contract that are keeping me busy, but I'm already pondering what I want to do next. I'm looking down the road, thinking about the ideas that are crying to be put on paper but can I sell them? Feeding the muse is all well and good, but I'm not the type who'll write just to entertain myself. I can watch TV and do that with a lot less angst.

Rant over. What's your take on it? Which road are you taking?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Beta Reader

I had two people read the manuscript I just finished editing. One was a writer and long-time, dear friend. The other was a quasi-family member and avid reader. It's been an interesting experience. Both liked the story. The fact that both found tiny typos was no problem. What has put me in a quandary is that the writer didn't care for the long discussions. She felt that the conversations covered the same territory over and over. She believes it needs to be mentioned once, scrutinized and then move along. The clues about the villain she thinks are obvious. Now, I have to add here, that she has seen this story in critique over the weeks, sometimes several scenes again and again. The avid reader made no comment regarding the villain or the discussions between hero/heroine. She focused on basic errors, but got right into the story and went for the ride. She told me it was like going for a Sunday drive to a new place--exciting and fun. I asked both of these people for honest opinions, no kid gloves. I'm seriously considering asking for a third Beta read to see if I get the same comments. Soooo, I have a couple questions regarding this matter. Should I get a third read? Does any one know Beta readers? How do I contact one? Help, please.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Big, Buff, & Blond - What's not to love about the old Norse gods?

To satisfy my inner geek which is giddy over the release of the upcoming movie release of "Thor" (opening May 6, for anyone who will be joining me in watching it) I wish to do do two things.  One, look at this picture:

(sigh)

And two, talk just a tad about Norse mythology, at least the major players thereof.

Thor - Probably the greatest warrior of the gods, Thor was the god of thunder, son of Odin.  He carries a hammer called mjollnir, which is so powerful that it can level mountains.

Odin - Leader of the gods, associated with wisdom war, battle, and victory.  Odin had only one eye (he sacrificed one to gain the wisdom of the ages).  Amongst his magical artifacts was the spear Gungnir said to cause war if it was thrown.  He also had two ravens who flew around the world every day and came back to him every night to let him know what was happening in the world, and he rode an 8 legged horse, Sleipnir.

Valkyrie - Warrior women who were favored by Odin, the collected the souls of great warriors who fell in battle and brought them to Odin's hall, Valhalla.  There, the men feasted and made merry, waiting until Odin called upon them for battle.

Loki - the trickster god, and caused a lot of problems, including causing the death of one of Odin's sons, Baldr.  He is eventually punished for this by being bound with the entrails of one of his sons and have acid dripped on him from a poisonous snake overhead.

Freya - goddess of love, beauty, and fertility.  While Odin lords over Valhalla, the part of 'heaven' where warriors go, Freya rules over a field where deserving people who are not warriors go after death.

Ragnarok - the end of all.  Everything will die, including the gods.  The world will be covered in water, which will eventually recede, leaving the world lush and new.  At this time, new gods will be born, and in turn will create two humans who will repopulate the world.

Norse mythology, though not my favorite, is rather awesome.  The vikings were a harsh people who lived in a harsh land, and their mythology certainly reflects this.  Norse mythology doesn't have the carefree feeling of Greek mythology nor the elegance of Japanese mythology, but it is fascinating nonetheless.  Destiny and fate are also very important within this mythology.  Not even the gods can escape their fate.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kraken

The sea with its vast size has always created stories and lore of its own, ranging from whirlpools the size of small islands to magical creatures and even stories about the ends of the earth. However, few things strike seafarers with as much fear as the Kraken.

It is a massive squid capable of sinking warships and dragging them to the bottom of the sea, meanwhile creating a whirlpool that sucks down other nearby ships for miles around.

Kraken is viewed as an intelligent force of nature and the embodiment of the raging sea. It is one of the oldest and most often referred sea monsters throughout history. Its origins are tied to the Norway and Iceland, but similar stories of Kraken exists throughout seafaring cultures.

Sure, Kraken sounds like it could merely be a legend of old, but not so, there have been multiple sightings of giant squid across the globe, particularly throughout northern hemisphere and trade routes once used by Vikings. An even larger subspecies of squid, the colossal squid, has been found in the wild and reaches 33ft and possibly longer.

These recent findings suggest that there is something more to this mythological creature than meets the eye, or tentacle. Harr... harr... *grins*

Interesting Tidbits:

  • It has been the inspiration for a variety of books and movies. Here's a link to some of those. 
  • It is usually described as being the size of a floating island and has a flotilla of smaller fish accompanying it, which makes it attractive to fishermen despite the danger. A common saying when one has great catches is, "You must have fished on Kraken."
  • Seaworld Orlando has a roller coaster ride called Kraken. Although, their version is of a huge "dragon eel." Regardless, it's very fun!
So, how about you? Have you read a book, seen a movie, or been on a roller coaster ride based off the Kraken?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Series – The Paranormal Phenomenon

I’ll be the first to admit that I go flipping crazy over series. I love them! I love when we get to meet a cast of characters, and then they all fall in love. Aww… Especially the surly, tormented guys who fall to a puddle at the feet of their heroine. Yep, the author can hook me with a group of Warriors and a compelling character. Readers are eating it up!


It could be the creation of the Kindle. I know I’ve spent $100 in a week on books and then wondered where all that money went. But when you’re reading eight books in a series, and you have instant access, you can just click a button and the next one is there! No wonder I end up spending so much money. At the book store, I have to think about how much money I’m spending. On the Kindle, it just charges to my debit card and I never have to see it, until I come out of my reading cave… but by then… it’s too late. I’ve already read them all.


What it is about the paranormal genre and series that make the two go so well together? Personally, I love reading stories about characters with small roles from previous books. It’s to the point where I read a book that isn’t part of a series and I wonder why the author didn’t write a love story for the brother! So it makes me want to stay with series so that I know… say… HAWKE will get his flipping story. Has anyone else been waiting as long as me for Hawke’s story (Kiss of Snow) to come out by Nalini Singh? Because it comes out (May 31) the week after my birthday this year and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited. :-) I get emotionally attached to characters from series because I’ve already read several books with them lurking around the edges of the story and I just want to read about their happy ending.


I like to see the POV of a character that intrigued me all along, but we didn’t really get to know him/her. The more I think about it, the more it has to do with the characters and finally seeing someone’s POV. The author did such a great job of showing us a glimpse of a character that I’m dying to know… What is that character thinking?! Just wondering this will make me purchase the next book because I’m too curious for the good of my wallet. But the book usually ends up being fantastic so I win anyway.


Do you like series? What keeps you coming back for more?


And if you like series, what are your favorites? I have my favorites. I consider the following the basics for paranormal romance series fanatics:


*I took the liberty of starring my favorite books from the series :-D Although... I highly encourage you all to start at the beginning if you haven't read a specific series yet. I'm a stickler for order following.


The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward *Lover Awakened


The Midnight Breed by Lara Adrian


The Demonica Series by Larissa Ione *Sin Undone (Seriously read this one in order. There are five in the series and they need to be read in order. And immediately.)


Psy/Changeling by Nalini Singh *Caressed by Ice


Immortals After Dark by Kresley Cole *All of them


Lords of the Underworld by Gena Showalter


I’m sure I’m missing some! Tell me your must-read authors! What makes you keep coming back for more in paranormal series?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to Refill the Well

As most of you are aware, I spent the first full week of April in Los Angeles at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. I really did have a wonderful time. First times are always memorable, good, bad or even mediocre.

Because they are first times. I can happily report that my first time selling my book to the public was good. Handing out my pins, bookmarks…all good. Seeing the items on my promotional spot disappear…good. My first panel, with Cherry Adair and Katharine Ashe…good. Actually, that was great.

Yup. All good. All fascinating and wonderful and exhilarating. And really, really cool.

The realms of romance that RT embraces are many. I saw a werewolf on a leash wandering around. There was the Fairy Court and the different ways that theme was interpreted by the attendees. (I, btw, was a selected finalist in the costume contest. We all lost to a miniature yorkie puppy with wings strapped to its back. Trembling. In the hand of last year’s Mr. Romance. Sigh.)

I think it is a tribute to the genre that everyone is welcome and celebrated. Steampunk? Check. Vampires? Check. Mysteries? Check. Readers? Check. Librarians? Check. Booksellers? Authors? Check. Check. Lovely men wandering around? Check. Happy women, drunken women, sedate and calm women…everyone is there. Everyone is welcome. Even pirates.

Good for me!

Now I’m back home. And struggling to get back on that bandwagon of writing. I met my publisher, editors and fellow Decadent authors and was inspired. Am inspired. Also really tired.

I need to get doing on the third in the Kraken’s Caribbean book. The second is already with my agent. I need to edit my Caribbean Spell series and get it into shape for submission at the end of the year. My editor wants another short from me. Two actually. All good news. All exhausting to contemplate as well as exhilarating.

How do you get back into the groove after a major distraction? (A good distraction, but it was a distraction!) And how do you get over the niggling worry that I’m going to run dry? How many worlds do I have within me? And how do I re-energize myself amidst the pull in so many directions? Promote? Write? Family demands? And wow, do I need a vacation!

My well is feeling a bit dry. Months of promotion for the first book, planning for RT, blogging and blogging and blogging. Marketing there, promote here...find time to write? Find time to remember to write? Today is my last regularly scheduled blog with Castles and Guns. I just find myself stretched too thin. But I hope to revisit often and look for me in the comments section.

Meanhile, how do you refill the well?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Terrible Thing Happened – World Building

My apologies, but it seems that all of my links didn't post. I've added them back in but now they aren't click-able.

A while back I took a wonderful workshop on writing a series. Naturally, world building reared its ugly head. But at that point, well into the second book of my series, I was sure my world was solid. Think again. While the first book has been read by several people and not one had an issue with the world building, I’ve discovered that I’ve neglected many areas that could add more depth to the story. It all started with an innocent visit to a site the instructor gave us. www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/

Boy was that an eye opener. I have spent hours hashing out the answers to those questions. I will never tackle another series without answering these questions and putting them in my series bible. I will never use all that information in my books, but I know what the answers are and that’s just as important as they pieces that will be included because even if it isn’t mentioned, those answers will color information that is included.

Instantly smitten with this site, I did some digging and found another treasure trove. If you world build, you must visit this site. www.squidoo.com/fantasyworldbuilding From there, I found a site full of generators. I won’t even admit how much time I spent here www.seventhsanctum.com/ playing with the generators. I found name generators, language generators, even weapons generators. Some of the generators are sill and just fun, but the bulk come up with some really cool stuff. Big fun folks. Don’t click any of these links if you don’t have plenty of time because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be hooked instantly. Kind of like world building crack. There are tons of links that go to sites with tons more links. World building paradise.

I still have to go back and weave some of these wonderful details into my first ms but it should go fairly fast. And I still have tons of links to click and explore and who knows what that might inspire. I know one thing, I’ll enjoy exploring and finding out.

What about you? Do you have any great world building resources?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Feeling New

These days, I don't think of myself as a new author. I got my first contract pretty much out of the gate three years ago in 2008. However, I walked into the Bonaventure Hotel last week and felt so very new as an author. Even the readers at the Romantic Times Convention were more experienced than I. I swear I was googly eyed the whole time I was there. What an experience!

Of course, it didn't help my sense of being oh so new that I was hanging around with veterans like Kate Douglas, Faye Hughes, Lynn Lorenz, Z.A. Maxfield, Desiree Holt and Belinda McBride. They all knew how to go on at RT and I just followed their cues. So I had a blast despite feeling like an utter newb again.

One of the things that helped take off the edge of feeling so new was something else that was new. A new release! Breathe Me In was released just a few days before RT and Jessewave was kind enough to give it 4.75 stars and labeled it a recommended read. Every reader I talked to at the convention pretty much walked away from me with a set of Breathe Me In romance trading cards or a signed cover flat in their hand. I proudly handed out my promo items with that hot, hot cover on it. And I think I may have gotten myself some new readers.

I carefully watched myself to ensure I wasn't coming off as a salesman. Authors who come off as salesmen or carnival barkers turn me off. And believe me, there were a number of those kinds of authors at RT. I just shook my head. They didn't make me want to buy their books at all. I just wanted to run away from them. Being a walking billboard for five days wasn't my idea of a good time or effective promo. I spent my time soaking up information to help me be a better author and steer my career down the right path. And I wanted a chance to meet readers and give something back to them in the form of signed goodies. I appreciate my readers greatly.

So back to the new release...I did spend some time touting Breathe Me In at RT. Mostly because it has an uber hot cover and it's a hot story. For those who don't read gay romances, I talked about Ride the Lighting. For those who don't read BDSM, I talked about Shifting Winds and Hot Water. My series has a little of everything in it. If they didn't read paranormal, I had Rock My World magnets. But people were very drawn to Breathe Me In. There's something about a new book that peaks everyone's interest.

One thing I want to note before I show off Breathe Me In is a fan whose name I didn't get. However, she walked up to me with a little half smile and a wrinkle between her brows. She said, "I read something of yours and I don't remember the name. It was a free Christmas story."

I grinned. I knew just what she'd read. "That's Christmas Hookup. It's one of the first things I ever gave Pink Petal Books."

She brightened instantly. "That's it! I loved that story! It was so hot and just when I thought it was erotica you threw in a twist and turned it into in a beautiful love story. I just loved that! Now, I have to read more of your stuff."

Definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me. A story written back when I was just learning the publishing ropes that drew a reader in and made her happy and even better, made her want to read more of my work. It just doesn't get any better than that, does it?

I had a great time. I learned a lot. And I'm not a conference virgin anymore! Yay!

Now, before I head off into my busy Sunday, I'll leave you with a bit of my new release so you can get a sense of this crazy paranormal world I spend so much time in. This isn't an official excerpt. It's a bit I snagged just for the Castles and Guns readers. Enjoy!





Breathe Me In, Tales of the Darkworld Book 6.5

BUY LINK

Blurb:

Life is good for vampire Wilson North. His family left him well off. His job as an estate attorney is prestigious, well paying, and non-demanding. He’s gay and out and never had any issues being either. In fact, until the day he ended up beneath his car, bleeding out and only a few pints of blood from a sure trip to the Afterworld, life had never been a challenge.

When Will meets his destiny in the form of an enigmatic Magia named Garrick Forrester he finds the challenge of his life. Garrick’s gay but doesn’t live an openly gay life. Instead, he hides his nature behind his ownership of a BDSM club. The two men instantly know they are mates, but that doesn’t smooth the path to their bonding. Garrick wants Will but threats from his past convince him that the only way to protect his lover is to leave him. Shocked by Garrick’s ability to walk away, Will struggles to understand why his mate doesn’t want him. For the first time in Will’s life, something isn’t easy and he must fight for what he needs or give up his chance for happiness.

Drawn together by destiny. Torn apart by self-doubts and fear. Two men on the cusp of a dream must set aside the lives they’ve always lived for a chance at a new and brilliant future.

Warning: This book contains virgin sex between a sexy self-sacrificing wizard who’s never been catcher and an angelic-faced vampire who’s never pitched, a BDSM bad guy with dark magic, a mysterious royal Acerbian, and a host of characters from previous Tales books who do everything from implode buildings to change diapers…all to help two reluctant heroes find true love.

Excerpt:

With a muted roar, Guerlain leaped toward Dave. At the same moment, Xeven bolted toward Emily. For a moment, Will didn’t know which way to turn his head. He saw Emily’s long slender fingers sinking into the black flesh of the demon’s throat as she lifted him from his feet. His tail had wound around her upper arm, the barb embedded in her flesh leaving the white silk torn and stained with blood. Her forearms flexed, red scales replacing the smooth skin as she used the power of her dragon against Xeven.

To Will’s left, Dave and Guerlain grappled, both wizards muttering incantations while bolts of energy wrapped around them. The acolytes had begun to search for ways out of the room that wouldn’t take them past the black dragon that now filled the shattered doorway and wall. A haze of plaster filled the air from Vahid’s shift and his huge dragon head had broken a hole in the ceiling. He roared and the building shuddered. Another wave of plaster dust mixed with dragon smoke filled the air and Will stepped back trying to see through the chaos.

Emily had shifted and her serpentine dragon held Xeven in a huge mouth filled with razor sharp teeth. The vermilion of her scales shone like a beacon in the dusty air. She shook Xeven like a terrier shaking a rat. Then she tossed him aside. His demon form flew through the air to land limply near Vahid’s clawed feet. Will marveled at the sheer power a dragon wielded, even against some of the fiercest beings of the Five Dark Realms.

Hands gripped his biceps, dragging him backward. Will stumbled in the debris of the room. Emily roared, her tail coiling like a snake’s as she advanced on Guerlain and Dave. With the flick of one claw, she thrust Dave toward Vahid who caught him with his tail. Then she advanced on a retreating Guerlain, her fangs gleaming, her golden eyes like flames, her nostrils spewing coils of smoke. Growls emerged from her throat, growing louder and louder as she followed Guerlain across the shattered room.

Blood fever gripped Will in that moment, the feral beast inside him clamoring for Guerlain’s blood, cramping his stomach and nearly sending him to his knees. He stumbled again and the hands on his biceps tightened.

“Not now. Don’t give in now. Hang on, brother. Fight the beast. I’ll get you out of here.” The prince spoke directly into Will’s ear as the vampire pulled him through the rubble of the room.

Crippling pain tightened Will’s guts into a knot. The fever had gone on too long. Without his mate’s blood, the fever would overcome him and he could die. Still, all he truly cared about was whether Guerlain died. The curse had to be broken and the only way to do it was to take the dark wizard’s life.

He glanced back over his shoulder to find Guerlain’s magic glancing off Emily’s huge scaled shoulder before her jaws closed over his torso. The wizard screamed as blood drenched his shirt. A blow on Will’s thigh nearly buckled his leg then and he looked down to see a broken beam lying beside him. It had brushed against him as it fell from the crumbling wall. Finally, he noticed the screams and panic of the patrons of the club as they scrambled to find an exit. The building shuddered unnaturally and the air was thick with plaster dust. Walls and chunks of ceiling fell around them.

Aiden’s hands still gripped Will. “We have to get out of here. The foundation of the building has been compromised. It’s collapsing.”

Despite Garrick’s near perfect healing of Will’s injured leg, the blow from the beam had weakened it. Limping, he picked his way over the growing rubble, letting Aiden guide him through the maze of the crumbling club and out a side door into the cool, damp Parisian night. Aiden pulled him down the street a few buildings over from the club and then shoved him to the curb. Will sat and rubbed his thigh, knowing it was bruised and not really caring because the blood fever hurt miles worse.

Aiden thumped down beside him. Will could hear the vampire’s labored breathing. A muscular wrist bumped his nose.

“Drink.”

Will shoved Aiden’s arm away. “You’re not my mate. I can’t.”

The prince made a rude sound. “You’re not mated. My blood is pure. Drink, asshole, so the fever doesn’t cripple you any more than it already has.”

The scent of Aiden’s blood made Will’s mouth water. The next thing he knew, his fangs had dropped and he’d sunk them into Aiden’s wrist. The other vampire hissed and the cool flavor of pure Acerbian blood flowed over Will’s tongue and down his parched throat. He moaned low, unable to release his lips and mouth from Aiden’s wrist. After a few moments, Aiden gripped the back of his head.

“Enough.”

Will moved his mouth, lifting his fangs from Aiden’s vein. He licked across the wound, sealing it shut with his saliva. He raised his head and stared into the vampire prince’s green eyes.

“Who are you?”

Aiden’s mouth tilted up in a crooked smile. “Aiden Swann, Garrick’s guardian. And please, no jokes about popular books and my last name. I don’t fucking sparkle and neither do you.”

Just then a huge ripping, tearing roar shook the neighborhood and they looked up to see two dragons coming toward them, one red, one black. Behind them Perdition imploded, filling the air with debris. Between the dragons, Dave Forrester strode along triumphantly, dust covered, blood streaked, but grinning from ear to ear.

“One for the good guys,” Aiden murmured.

“It’s about fucking time,” Will growled, then bent double as the blood fever attacked him again. “Oh, shit!”

The dragons and Dave wavered as stars spun before his eyes. And then for only the second time in his life, Wilson North passed out.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Never stop learning

Today I’d like to talk about a few things, but mostly it’s about continuing education for writers.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go up to LA for the recent RT conference. One of the great things about this conference- and others of its ilk- is the mingling with other writers in all stages of their careers- Folks ranging from Dean Koontz to the newest of the new – a reader who has just decided to take that step into writing.

Listening in on what your fellow writers say can be very enlightening. Or scary.

While in a panel, I overheard one author say, “I have an agent- so I don’t really need to be here.” (And no, this was NOT at the agent panel, or any panel directly related to agents). I’m sure had that author turned my direction she would have seen a huge “WTF?!” look on my face.

She didn’t need to learn more about writing since she had an agent- she was there just to network.

Say it with me folks- OMG. Then smack your forehead.

Getting an agent isn’t the end all be all of our profession. An agent helps us get our books to the readers. They help us build our careers.

But for any author to say, “I know all there is to know about writing”- FOR any reason is insane! That level of hubris is really scary. If I were that author’s agent I would personally be terrified by the statement and the mindset behind it.

We have to keep learning. This is true in darn near all fields, but especially a world like publishing. I would be horrified if the book I wrote five years ago is no different than one I just finished. As authors we have to keep pushing the envelope, learning new skills, trying new approaches- EVEN if we don’t stick with them. Try them, keep what works, then move on.

A few years ago I volunteered at a local writing conference setting up the microphones for taping the speakers. We had to pick one room and stick in it. I chose one with almost all screenwriters. Now I have no plans of ever becoming a screenwriter, nor had I sat in on a workshop for them before.

The workshops were amazing! Screenwriters view story in a more pure way than novelists. They break things down in beats which to this wild child (read: pantser to an extreme) writer is nothing short of magical.

After those panels, I picked up a few screenwriting books- Save the Cat was one that really struck me. I devoured the information. This year at RT I got a chance to expand my screenwriter education by a great workshop by Michael Hague (if you get a chance to see him DO IT!!). I immediately went out and bought both of his books in the RT bookstore and can’t wait to have time to dive in.

I still have no intention of jumping into the madness that is screenwriting-and some of the info really has no transfer to novel writing- but so much of it does! As authors we need to be constantly finding ways to improve our craft. We need to look outside our little area, examine other fields of writing, other styles, techniques. If we don’t keep improving we die as writers.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A History of Fairy Godmothers

Fairy Godmothers are so familiar to us (Thank you Disney!) that I was shocked they have a relatively short history.  Early fairy tales have almost no mention of those popular fairy godmothers - also early fairy tales usually had the women dying or being raped, but hey, let's not go too far here, not the point of the post.

Fairy Godmothers started becoming part of fairy tales around the 17th century in France.  Wealthy women gathered together in salons and started retelling stories in a more romantic way - yes, they were some of the first romance novels!  They took all those old folk tales and redid them in a way that would make any modern romance writer proud.  The heroes all were royal or noble or wealthy.  Heroines were beautiful and pure.  Love became the focus of the story, and magic would happen if that's what it took to get them together.

Magic you say?  Enter the Fairy Godmother.

Fairy Godmothers are a combination of two elements.  In their magic, they are inspired by the Fates, those women from Ancient Greek who controlled the destiny of everyone and spun the threads of fate.  The other source is right in the name, Godmothers.  Traditionally, a Godmother is a mentor, someone who is to be respected as they advise their Godchild what steps to take and who they should make friends with.

While there was the occasional wicked Fairy Godmother (think Sleeping Beauty, though Maleficent is my favorite Disney Villian) mostly these beings worked behind the scenes, making sure their charges ended up happy and in love by the end of the story.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Incubus

An Incubus is a male demon that comes upon a woman when they're asleep and has intercourse with them, usually with the purpose of trying to impregnate her with his child. According to religious beliefs, continued visits by an incubus lead to the deterioration of one's health and eventually death. It also corrupts both the moral and mental aspects of the female.

These nighttime visitors were the embodiments of sexual seduction during the medieval times. They were often used to explain pregnancies out of wedlock as well as rape inflicted on the sleeping woman by someone close to the victim. The latter used it as a way to escape punishment for their actions.

The most well-known offspring of an incubus and woman, known as a cambion, is Merlin the powerful wizard from Arthurian legend. Cambion typically grown up to be powerful magic users or evildoers.

Interesting Tidbits:
  • The word incubus comes from the Latin "incubus," which means "nightmare."
  • Some consider succubi and incubi to be a single demon capable of lying with both genders, while others declare that they are two separate entities.
  • The earliest mention of incubi and succubi are from 2400 BC in ancient Mesopotamian manuscript Sumerian King List. The hero Gilgamesh's father is a "Lilu," which shares the same attributes as an incubus in that they both seduce women while they sleep.
What are your thoughts on the Incubi (or Succubi)? Have you experienced any books, movies, or games with them in it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Hate My Hero Because You Don’t Know Him Like I Do…

I'm hoping today's blog will be interactive and we'll learn something from the comments.


Over a year ago when I first started revising RUINED, I realized very quickly that I wasn’t writing my characters like I saw them in my head. My heroine cried too often and one person couldn’t even tell which man in the opening was my hero. Several drafts later, I worked and worked and still, people yelled at me in my critiques and said my heroine needed to stand up for herself! They told me to stop making the hero so mean! In my head I’m thinking, the heroine IS strong… the hero IS a good guy. It took me a while to realize that my hero and heroine remained the same in my head all along. What changed was my ability to write them.


I think it's so important to engage the reader right off the bat. In today's market, you have to. There are so many great, talent authors out there right now, that you have to form an emotional connection with the reader from the first paragraph. This makes characterization key in the opening. We should be engaged from the first three sentences.


Since I struggle so much with characterization, I wanted to come up with a solution. So I’ve formed five questions writers could ask a random beta reader to answer based on the writer’s first paragraph of their WIP.


1.) Who is the POV character in this opening?


2.) Is this character the Hero? Heroine? Villain? A random straggler on the street?


3.) What is the character’s conflict?


4.) What is the character’s setting?


5.) Describe the POV character using three adjectives.


After the beta reader or critique partner responds to these questions, we should know if we’re representing our characters as we envision. At least, in theory. I haven’t actually tested this out. So let’s do it. I’m throwing myself under the bus. I’ve provided the opening of my WIP. 


UNEDITED Opening of WIP:


Luce raised her hand to shield her eyes from the reflection of the sun off the guillotine blade. Her estranged husband’s death loomed in front of her like a portal opening to a dark realm. If she could have loved him like a proper wife he may not have committed treason against their people.


So… how’d I do? Please feel free to answer the questions in the comments. I’ll let you know if your response was what I was going for :-) Then we’ll know if this works, or if I’m just crazy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Guest Author Anita Clenney


Hello everyone. I’m Anita Clenney. I write paranormal romantic suspense and mysteries, and I have a lot to be excited about, besides the fact that the Castles and Guns crew has invited me to blog today.  In about two weeks, the first book in my paranormal series will be released. Can you give me a YAY!
Awaken the Highland Warrior is about a group of secret warriors charged by Michael the Archangel with protecting humanity from demons. This story deals with the Scottish branch of the warriors. Enter Faelan Connor, known to his friends and enemies as the Mighty Faelan because of his prowess at protecting the human race from the demons disguised among them. But even Faelan isn’t infallible. On the trail of a demon trying to destroy the world, Faelan is betrayed and locked in a time vault that was created to stop time, imprisoning a demon until Judgment. Devastated, his family spends decades searching for the missing key that will open the time vault, but eventually they die and Faelan’s story becomes nothing more than a legend. For 150 years Faelan sleeps.
Bree Kirkland isn’t an ordinary historian. She’s more of an Indiana Jones type of girl. Haunted by longings she can’t describe, she immerses herself in history and lost treasure, but after a lifetime of wild goose chases and mishaps, she gives up, determined to settle down to an ordinary, boring life. When she finds a treasure map in her great, great grandmother’s attic, Bree promises herself one more treasure hunt, then she’ll stop. Come on, don’t we all say that? One more cookie. One more donut. One more bowl of ice cream. But Bree’s map leads to the graveyard behind her house, where she finds an elaborate chest inside the old crypt that she’d been so drawn to as a child. When she opens the chest, Bree discovers something far more shocking than hidden treasure, and there’s no going back to her normal life.
The book has gotten really good reviews from PW and RT. It has romance, adventure, and suspense. I honestly hope readers have as much fun reading this story as I did writing it. Thanks so much for having me at Castles and Guns. I’ll give away one autographed copy to a randomly chosen commenter.
Awaken the Highland Warrior will be released May 3rd but is available now for preorder at all major bookstores.
For more information on my writing, check out www.anitaclenney.com.

AWAKEN THE HIGHLAND WARRIOR

EXCERPT

Bree’s fingers tightened around the metal disk as she ran through the graveyard, zigzagging past leaning headstones. Her lantern swayed, throwing shadows on the crypt looming before her, its stone walls the color of bones. Thick vines crept over it, sealing in cracks left by time, while gnarled branches from the twisted oak hovered like outstretched arms. Protecting… or threatening?

An owl screeched overhead as she scurried up the crumbling steps, wishing night hadn’t fallen, when shadows twisted into monsters and spirits came out to play. The burial vault lay open near the back of the crypt, waiting. Blood rushed past her ears, a sound like all the angels’ wings beating in unison. She moved closer and peered at the chest inside. It was ornate, made of metal and wood, with green gemstones embedded in each corner. It looked ancient, like it belonged in a museum or a pyramid, or perhaps Solomon’s Temple. The beauty of it struck her again, as it had when she’d first discovered it.

She set the lantern on the edge of the burial vault and studied the markings on the chest. Swirls and shapes like writing shifted in the amber glow. Stretching out a finger, she touched the surface. Warm? She yanked her hand back and hit the lantern. It crashed to the floor, throwing the top of the crypt into darkness. Dropping to her knees, she scrambled for the light. A sound cut through the silence, scraping, like fingernails against stone. She grabbed the lantern, not daring to blink, then remembered the wind outside and the claw-like branches of the old tree.

She placed the lantern securely on the vault cover she’d pushed onto the alcove and unfolded her hand. The metal disk she held was three inches in diameter and appeared to be made from the same metal as the chest, not silver, not gold. One side had deep grooves; the other was etched with symbols. With trembling fingers, she lined up the disk with the matching grooves on top of the chest and pushed. There was a series of clicks as the notched edges retracted.

A voice rushed through her head. What lies within cannot be, until time has passed with the key.

Bree whirled, but she was alone. Only stone walls stood watch, their secrets hidden for centuries. It was sleep deprivation, not ghosts.

She pulled in a slow, steadying breath and tried to turn the disk. Nothing. Again, this time counterclockwise, and it began to move under her hand. She jerked her fingers back. A loud pop sounded and colors flashed… blue, orange, and green, swirling for seconds, and then they were gone. Great, hallucinations to go with the voices in her head.

Her body trembled as she gripped the lid. This was it. All her dreams held on a single pinpoint of time. If this ended up another wild goose chase, she was done. No more treasure hunts, no more mysteries, no more playing Indiana Jones. She’d settle down to a nice, ordinary, boring life. She counted.

One.

Two.

Three.

She heaved open the chest.

Terror clawed its way to her throat, killing her scream.

The man inhaled one harsh breath and his eyes flew open, locking on Bree. A battle cry worthy of Braveheart echoed off the walls. Bree jumped back as metal flashed and a rush of air kissed her face. Petrified, she watched him crawl out of the burial vault, a wicked-looking dagger in his hand. Her scream tore loose as she turned and fled.

Fingers grazed her shoulder, and she glanced back. The last thing she saw before her feet tangled with the shovel was the dead man reaching for her.

Bio
Anita Clenney grew up an avid reader, devouring Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books before moving on to mysteries and romance. After working as a secretary, a Realtor, teacher’s assistant, booking agent for Aztec Fire Dancers, and a brief stint in a pickle factory (picture Lucy and Ethel--lasted half a day)…she realized she'd missed the fork in the road that led to her destiny. Now she spends her days writing mysteries and paranormal romantic suspense  about Secret Warriors, Ancient Evil and Destined Love. Anita lives in suburban Virginia, outside Washington DC, with her husband and two kids. You can learn more about her writing at www.anitaclenney.com

Monday, April 11, 2011

Q&A With Heather Howland, Managing Editor, Entangled Publishing

Today Castles & Guns is pleased to welcome Heather Howland, managing editor for a new publisher that's causing a lot of good buzz around the industry. Entangled Publishing is staffed and already signing both published and debut authors. Entangled is getting ready to launch its first print and digital books in August 2011. Heather will be dropping by during the day when she can, so post questions in the comments section.

C&G: Welcome, Heather! What’s different about Entangled Publishing? What does it offer an author beyond just another publishing options?

HH: The biggest difference is definitely that Entangled assigns a publicist to each author. The publicist's job is not only to get the author's books into as many hands as possible, but to increase the author's web presence, build a "tribe" of readers and fans, and arrange ample opportunities for the author—and his or her book—to catch a reader's eye. We're talking print advertising campaigns, video interviews, blog tours, book clubs, and reviews. All organized and paid for by us, of course.
      Beyond that, we offer one of the highest royalty rates out there (40 percent of cover price, no matter where the book is sold), a dedicated marketing budget for each book, simultaneous print and electronic releases, NY-style covers, and top-notch editing. We're also working diligently to make sure our print books find homes on the shelves of brick and mortar bookstores.

C&G: Tell us about some of the authors/books that you already know will be coming out with Entangled?

HH: We've signed so many exciting books and have quite a few deals in progress! Here is a small sampling…
     Theresa Meyers' dark fae SHADOW SISTERS series follows four gifted sisters as they break all the rules their family lives by to stop the dark fae of Shadowland from reclaiming the human world. Theresa's books have the best hero/heroine combinations I've ever read, hands down. So unexpected and so much chemistry!
      Dawn McClure is bringing kickass sexy back with INDUCTION, the first book in her dangerous and swoon-worthy urban fantasy vampire series with overtones of JR Ward. 
      We also have Patricia Eimer's hilarious romantic comedy LUCK OF THE DEVIL, which will have readers giggling their way through the family reunion from Hell (literally), at which the Devil and God hold a Wii Mario Kart marathon.
      Sarah Gilman's OUT IN BLUE introduces readers to a world in which demons guard angels from humans who believe angels (fallen or otherwise) are evil and hunt them for their plumage, while Lisa Kessler pairs a different twist on vampire shapeshifters with reincarnation in her book NIGHT WALKER.
      Our first upper-YA crossover novel comes courtesy of Melanie Card. WARD AGAINST DEATH is a historical-feeling fantasy about a bumbling twenty-year-old necromancer who gets more than he bargained for when he wakes a beautiful girl, only to realize she's an assassin. Oh, and she needs him to keep her alive long enough to hunt down her murderer. I'm in love with poor, sweet Ward. Seeing him come into his own is a beautiful thing.
      We're also working with a multi-published contemporary author who has a fantastic series that revolves around the children of a wealthy, albeit dysfunctional, Texas ranching family. Hot, hot, hot!

C&G: What have you not seen submitted—but would like to see?

HH: You might've noticed from that sampling, our catalog is heavy on paranormal and fantasy. We have three acquisitions in the works which will fill our demon and vamp quota for the next year or two. We've also been swamped with historicals, which isn't a genre we plan to publish much of, if any.
      To that end, I'd love to see a lot more sci-fi and contemporary romance submissions, be it a dystopian biopunk, a space opera, or lighthearted chicklit. 
      As for paranormal/fantasy, we love psychics, gods/goddesses, fairytale retellings, and fae. Gritty and steamy urban fantasy is always welcome, though it must feature something other than vamps or demons. I'd also love a good time travel book that doesn't focus on the past. I'd love a solid military/special ops contemporary romantic thriller series!

C&G: What goes into your decision on whether or not to request a full manuscript? And then to offer a contract?

HH: Voice, fresh writing, and an intriguing conflict are the main factors in whether I request and then offer on a manuscript. If I fall in love with your voice or your fresh turns of phrase, I'll forgive just about anything.   
     Conflict is equally important. We won't request the full if your conflict isn't apparent in the query, doesn't feel strong enough to carry the whole story, or reads like a knockoff of another popular book. 
      Additionally, your submission must be clean if you want to compete with the caliber of authors we're dealing with, so make sure you and your critique partners have proofread the manuscript before sending it to me. I won't pass because of a misplaced comma here or there, but I need to see that you care enough about your craft to put forth an effort.

C&G: What is the biggest mistake you see in queries that cross your desk?

HH: Luckily for us, most of our submissions have been extremely professional, but I do still see a few suffering from the "mass-query" effect. Please read submission guidelines and research who you're submitting to before clicking send. When querying Entangled, attaching sample pages when the guidelines specifically request them to be pasted into the body of the email, not including a blurb about your book or links to your web presence in the query, and addressing the whole thing to "Dear Potential Representation" aren't flattering. The likelihood I'll request something of this quality is low.

 C&G: Are you working with both agented and unagented authors? Will an unagented author get equal consideration?

HH: Entangled works primarily with previously published authors, though we do devote a handful of slots in our catalog for compelling new voices. Agented and unagented authors are both welcome to submit and, yes, equal consideration is given to all manuscripts I request.

C&G: When will we see the first Entangled books available, and where can we find them?

HH: The first Entangled books will be available August 22, our official launch date, though I'm told our catalog will likely be available for preorder in July. We work with Ingrams, which is one of the largest book distributors in the world, so you'll be able to find our titles in all the major online venues like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as smaller retailers like Powell's and Books on Board. Entangled books will be available in print and several electronic formats, so there's something for everyone!

C&G: Tell us how to submit.

HH: Here's a snippet from our Call for Submissions:
We are seeking novels and novellas in the following subgenres of romantic fiction for publication in August 2011 and beyond:
  • Paranormal and Urban Fantasy
  • Contemporary
  • Romantic Thrillers
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Upper “YA” (17-22 yo protags) that will appeal to crossover audiences
Guidelines:
  • All submissions must have strong romantic elements.
  • Novels should be 70k to 120k words in length, novellas should be 20k to 40k words in length
  • We consider all heat levels, however erotic elements should not be the focus of the story.
  • Revised backlist titles will be considered on a case by case basis.
To submit a manuscript for consideration, please paste the following into an email:
  • one-page query letter containing your genre, title, wordcount, a brief blurb about the book, and any pertinent writing credentials
  • The first five (5) double-spaced pages
  • Where we can find you on the web (links will do)
  • Established authors are welcome to query with a standard proposal package.
Send your email to Heather Howland at submissions@entangledpublishing.com.

Thanks, Heather! If you have questions for Heather about submissions or about Entangled, please leave a comment!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Overpolishing the Prose

tinker tinker tinker....word out, word in...tinker more...look for passive verbs...tinker tinker tinker
That's the sound of me editing a manuscript after I've gone over it so many times I'm simply fiddling with the words. I think as authors we often reach a point in our manuscript where we aren't sure where to go next. Maybe we've been too close to it for too long. Maybe we don't want to send it out because we know something's off but we're not sure what it is, so we'll tinker with the things we can see. Or maybe we've read that adage that the manuscript needs to be perfect before it's submitted, so we are determined to make it perfect.
Guess what? It can be too perfect! If it's "perfect," according to all the rules we read, it might have lost its soul or that nebulous thing called "voice."
Agent Marlene Stringer was over at my Preternatura blog on Friday, talking about this very thing in the submissions she's receiving. She's always frustrated when she gets a fantastic query from an author, requests a full manuscript, and then finds it doesn't live up to the query.

Maybe the author just learned how to write a great query but hasn't gotten the novel-writing knack yet--two different skill-sets.

But sometimes, she finds, the manuscripts are simply edited to death. "The [problem] that saddens me most is also the one that reflects the most work on a novel: the over-polishing to a point where there is no voice left whatsoever," she says. "The story is there, but it is sterile and flat. It is written in monotone, with the same emotional impact as reading directions. In a quest to get it right, the writer goes over the edge and eviscerates the writing."
I've heard this overpolishing problem called "critique group syndrome," and I had it at one time. I like a flag in the breeze with my first book. I had friends read it, entered it in contests, had an online crit group read it. Every piece of advice, every comma, every passive verb someone pointed out, I felt obligated to change. Everyone knew more than me, after all. I didn't know how to write a novel.  Thankfully, with subsequent manuscripts I learned to take the advice that made sense to me and leave the rest.

"A writer seeking publication cannot write in a vacuum," agent Marlene acknowledges.  "Feedback is essential, but it needs to be educated feedback.  Taking advice from the wrong source can hurt a lot more than it helps. And the hardest part: each writer has to learn when it’s time to step away and let the work go. Nothing is ever perfect, but it’s impossible to fix what isn’t there."

Writing rules are good, but they aren't gospel. Sometimes, an inactive verb works better. Sometimes, fragments help give voice and tone. Voice is a nebulous-enough thing for writers to grasp. Scary to think we can work so hard that we lose it!

For me, a good yardstick to know it's time to step away is when I've reached the point in my editing where I'm just tweaking words, looking at comma placement, second-guessing things I originally thought worked just fine.

Any of you ever have the "overpolishing" problem? How do you recognize when to let your manuscript go?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Don't Argue With The Reviewer

This either will be interesting or stir up a hornet's nest. I'm hoping for interesting. I recently heard about a review of a book that was not exactly what the author hoped. But, instead of thanking the reviewer, the author blasted back a reply, telling the reviewer to download another, improved version. No, no, no. The battle of words has practically gone viral. And, no I'm not going to mention names.

I will talk about Marcella Burnard because she gave me permission to use her as an example. Marcella's first book, Enemy Within, have received reviews from a one star to five star on Amazon. But she is going to have the last laugh on the one star reviewer, because she is now a finalist in not one, but two categories--Best New Book and Paranormal for Romance Writers of America, the primo romance organization. And she's already won Romantic Times Best Futuristic 2010. Reviews are just one person's opinion. Think free speech. If you start to argue with a reviewer, especially on-line, no editor or agent will want to work with you. Be professional--thank them and nothing else. You can rant at your significant other or critique group, they'll understand and love you no matter what.

After that, anyone want to comment about their reviews? How have you handled them?