Saturday, July 30, 2011

Monsters

The Harry Potter blog a couple weeks ago got me to thinking (a scary thing). I heard once that Rawlins planned to writer a monster book after the end of Harry. It made sense to me since we all enjoy a good scare now and then. Mystery novels are popular books and horror movies frequently top the box office charts.

What is a monster? It is supposed to be any fictional creature, normally found in legends or horror films. They are somewhat hideous and their appearance scares people.

Most monster are human sized. People tend to think of Frankenstein's monster first. With the popularity of vampires, they're right up at the front of the line, too. Demons, mummies, ogres, the Golem and werewolves are human-size as well. But there are animals considered monsters, too. King Kong, dinasours, dragons, giant sea creatures, and Godzilla.

And what about those cheapy Saturday sci-fi movies? They're loaded with cheesy monsters--aliens, mutated human beings and legendary creatures.

Some researchers claim that frightening monsters are linked to human beings because they create a sense of fear because they too closely resemble us. I think it would be intereting to turn a monster into a hero in a romance book. Is that a challenge? You bet it is.

I'm sure I missed some important monsters. Which ones are your favorites?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Nostalgia

Yesterday, I walked into a Borders store.

If you haven't heard yet, Borders Bookstores are going out of business. As soon as you walk in a store, huge yellow signs declaring "Everything Must Go!", "20-40% Off!" and "Total Liquidation" meet your gaze. As much as I hoped that maybe I heard wrong - there was some mistake and no, Borders wasn't going out of business - those signs ripped that slim hope to shreds.

I checked out three areas - Writing Reference books, manga, and romance novels. It killed me that even with the store being in liquidation and prices slashed, the prices in two of those three areas were still more expensive than if I were to just go on Amazon and buy the books there.

So what should I concentrate on for this post? How Amazon is becoming a monopoly for both print and digital and what that means for a writer? Should it be about the poor business practices and bad decisions that led the first mega-bookstore to fall? How maybe there is some karmic balance in Borders fall, since the introduction of Borders is what started the decline of the independent bookstore?

I was never a customer of independent bookstores (I recognize what independent bookstores mean for the community, but looking at it from a consumers point of view, most independent bookstores treat romance novels as garbage. Sad but true.) Borders and Waldenbooks was where I got my books when I started buying my own stuff. I liked them better than B&N since they had a bigger selection of the two things I bought  - manga and romance novels.

I walked into Borders yesterday and depression that I certainly wasn't expecting slammed into me. I'm upset on a few levels. Amazon is becoming a monopoly and that scares me. I see my dreams of becoming a print author retreating a few steps further away. People who had a job last month won't have a job next month, and I feel for those employees I saw yesterday who are working until the end.

And I worry what the landscape will look like a few years from now, when my own children are old enough that they can start deciding on what to buy for themselves. Will they grow up with what I had, experience that sense of contentment that comes from wandering around books, seeing what catches their eye and feel the excitement of finding a new author? Will that even be a possibility for them? Digital is great, but digital can't replicate that.

It will all work out in the end - it always does. Still, for right now, I think I'll just be a little sad and mourn what was, saying goodbye to this end of an era and wishing it didn't have to end.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jungle Heat, excerpt

I'm really excited to share the excerpt for Jungle Heat with everyone. I'm proud to have this novella published since it was a looong time coming. I hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think! It came out this past Thursday.

Buy Link

Amazon Chronicles: Jungle Heat
Sarah Mäkelä
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2011 Sarah Mäkelä

Adara raced over the dense forest floor, trying to escape the shadow closing on her heels. Fear pumped adrenaline through her body as she ran toward her village through the darkness. Panic tangled with the sheer need to survive. If only I'd listened. What was I thinking, coming out alone?

She shot a glance over her shoulder. Her foot smacked against a tree root in the moment of distraction, pitching her body forward. The fall came in slow motion.

Cursing under her breath, she rolled onto her back. Dry leaves clung to her blonde hair. The subtle, musty scent of slow rot rose from the rich soil, mixed with something coming from behind her. The dark shadow loomed. Her gaze rose to take in her pursuer, wondering if the beast would be her doom.

The tall, broad-shouldered creature towered over her. Watching. It wasn't human or animal. The village wise woman had warned her of beings like this, but they'd seemed like fables. How could something so fantastical be real?

Even as she trembled with fear, this creature captivated her. The black and orange stripes covering his shoulders and arms evoked a distant memory, yet the design was uncommon in the Amazon.

His hair hung in straight, black strands like a human's, but his face had the nose, mouth, and eyes of a feline. His muscular, naked body reflected a splendid combination of both species. Sweat-shiny skin glistened through the inch-long fur that covered him. His white chest intrigued her, all the way to the patch of fur barely covering his groin. Leaves and branches framed his face with a lush green background. He crouched over her. His piercing golden eyes focused solely on her. His stare reminded her of a cat from her village staring at a small rodent before pouncing.

As he leaned down, she grabbed her kris from the garter on her thigh and pushed it against his stomach. She didn't want today to be the day she died. Her people needed her. She wouldn't let this beast deny them their princess.

The animal cocked his head at her. He brushed his lips over her throat, whiskers tickling her chin.

Her body stiffened. What is he doing? Bewilderment spread through her as his feline lips touched her neck. Instead of biting her, his canines grazed lightly, gently, from just below her ear down to her shoulder, almost as if exploring her flesh, instead of seeking to rip open her throat.

She tensed. Even with her weapon pressed against the beast's stomach, she still feared for her life. As an Amazon princess, she wasn't easily scared. But this feline made her heart pound. If only she had brought Rubia with her. She wouldn't be in this situation and could've stood a better chance against this feline.

Why does he persist in toying with me? Adara swallowed as a low burn started in the pit of her stomach. These feelings confused her.

A soft sniffing sounded in her ear right before his tongue scraped rough caresses on her skin. Other jungle cats marked their territory. Did this animal believe she was his? She didn't want to find out.

Without waiting for the feline's next move, Adara drove the kris deep into his stomach, meeting resistance as it plunged through flesh and muscle. She forced it further as his blood flowed onto her hands, making the hilt of the kris slick, weakening her grip.

He roared and leapt back with her kris still embedded in his abdomen.

She scrambled to her feet. His scream so near the side of her face made her ear ring. Bringing up a hand to her ear, Adara felt a trail of his wet blood drip along her cheek.

He straightened his spine and strode back to her, her kris still buried in him. It seemed as if it were nothing more than a minor annoyance to him. She clenched her hands into fists and dropped them to her sides.

The reality of what she saw struck her. She froze. How could he act so unaffected? He shouldn't have been able to move around so casually. It wasn't possible. How can I outrun something like that? This can't be happening. Her mother had always warned her to be careful when traveling through the forest. Why hadn't she listened? And how could she feel so drawn to this animal when he intimidated her?

"Who are you?" Gritting her teeth, she forced her voice to resonate with the commanding tones of an Amazon huntress, and fervently hoped it didn't betray the panic racing through her veins. Her people's beliefs restricted them from showing fear in front of strangers. Not that they saw many. But her tribeswomen were survivors in dangerous times. Their history brimmed with reminders.

The feline bared pointed white teeth. "Call me Rei." His husky voice reverberated like a deep growl.

He launched into the air and, before she could react, flattened her to the ground. Air whooshed out of her lungs. Her eyes widened and locked onto his.

He pinned her arms next to her head and pressed his feline lips to hers. His tongue scraped across her lower lip, causing nips of pain to cut through the alluring sensation.

She shook her head hard, breaking the kiss. Her breath rushed out short and quick. Never before had she kissed anyone. His mouth on hers created fiery stirrings within her body that felt almost too good. Her racing pulse only spread the warmth throughout her body that much faster.

Twice a year, her tribeswomen associated with Indian men. The younger girls were forced to stay in a hut during those visits, although Adara had snuck out once with Rubia in a fit of rebellion. She'd spotted one of her kin pressing her mouth against an Indian male's. Could this be what happens?

But men weren't to be trusted. Her kin had learned that the hard way many, many years ago.

Her mind flashed to the tales she'd heard from the wise woman. Horrible reminders assaulted her, memories of the men from long ago, enslaving her kind, killing them ruthlessly with diseases and swords.

She could imagine the cruelty of the conquering, pillaging men as vividly as if she had been there herself, so strongly had the wise woman spoken. It had taken weeks for her to sleep soundly after listening to that story.

Sudden panic swept away the lust that burned inside her. This creature could do the same. He's chased me, after all.

"What do you want from me?" Adara asked, trying to sound forceful, but instead her voice came out husky. She cleared her throat and returned his gaze.

Talking with an animal! Rubia would be jealous. Her tribeswomen would never believe this story... if she survived the encounter.

Rei smiled, warmth emanating from him. "You." His chest rumbled, and he rolled the word off his tongue like an exotic purr.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why Do We Blog?

Why do we blog?

Hi everyone! *waving*

So while I was coming up with a topic for this blog, I stopped for a moment and wondered why we blog…

I bet everyone has a different reason. Some use it as a journal, a very public journal, while others use it as a promotional tool to hype new releases. I also think there are some who use blogs as a learning tool. (Sorry in advance to those people! I hardly ever blog about “craft”… LOL)

Typically, I’ve always thought of my blog as a place to chat and meet people. I do my best to answer every single comment. I’m sure most people never check back, but some do and even comment back again. I love blog comment conversations. I have made some of the best online friends that way! :)

It’s like an online cocktail party. The blog itself is the entertainment, like a cover band trying to get people to get out there and dance. And the comments are the conversation! When there aren’t any comments, I always end up feeling like I threw a lame party! LOL

Am I the only one who feels kinda blue and loser-y when no one talks at my virtual cocktail party?

So anyway, the cover band in launching into a rockin’ version of Love Shack… Please stay and chat at the party! :) Why do you blog? And do you answer comments when people talk on your blog?

Lisa

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Author Rayne Hall

MAGICIANS IN A KNOT -  Creating Coflict for Magician Characters

Is your hero or heroine a wizard, a shaman, a miracle worker, a druid, a witch?  Their craft creates conflicts which can add tension to your story. Here are some ideas for your inspiration. Which of these suit your story best?

OUTER CONFLICTS

- The government or the dominant religion persecutes magicians (e.g. witch-hunts), so if she is discovered, she may be tortured or killed. Therefore, she must practice her craft in secret.
- Magic is illegal, so by practising magic, the magician commits a crime and is at conflict with the law.
- Society believes that all magicians are evil, or devil worshippers, or sacrificing children in their rituals, so people shun the magician.
- Many people are frightened of the magician's abilities and don't trust her; this makes it difficult to make true friends.
- Some may seek to ingratiate themselves with the magician in the hope of gaining benefits; the magician may realise that the person she thought was a friend was just taking advantage.
- Friends expect the magician to solve their problems magically. They may not accept that the magician is unable to, or that ethic considerations prevent her.
- Whenever something bad happens in the neighbourhood, the magician gets the blame ('she put the curse on my cow!'  'She gave my son the measles by looking at him')
- Family, friends, a spouse or a lover exerts pressure on the magician to switch to a different form of magic (from secular to religious magic, or from an exotic form to mainstream, or from a minority religion to the dominant religion).
- Family, friends, a spouse or a lover exerts pressure to give up magic altogether.
- The professional organisation to which the magician belongs is using magic in ways  the magician considers unethical (e.g. production of magical weapons of mass destruction) and exerts pressure on the magician to get involved.
- The professional organisation disapproves of the magician's work and threatens to expel her, to withdraw her licence, or to punish her.
- Two magicians are competition: perhaps there's only enough business for one witch in the village, or only one can get and keep the job of magical advisor to the king
- A rival magician spreads rumours and lies about her in order to undermine her position
- She gets accused of being a charlatan or a fake
- In order to move up in the hierarchy of magicians and attain a prestigious post, she must learn new skills and pass challenges which are beyond her current abilities
- The ruler of the land is a magician and has to use magic to defend the land
- Unscrupulous people try force the magician to work evil magic on their behalf


INNER CONFLICTS

- The magician may not want to be a magician because she considers it morally wrong, but she has natural ability which manifests itself .
- The magician lives in a magic-phobic society and wonders whether to come out of the closet.
- She feels a strong calling to be a magician, but she is devoutly religious, and her religion forbids magic.
- Her needs could be fulfilled with magic, but they clash with her ethics (e.g. the man she loves doesn't requite her feelings. With a spell, she could make him love hers. But interfering with another person's free will is unethical).
- She could alleviate another person's suffering with magic, but only if she breaks an oath and uses magic the way it's not meant to be used. (e.g. An unemployed person desperately needs a job, and would get one if the rival dropped out. The magician could make the rival sick on interview day, so the needy person gets the job. But causing harm to someone is against magical ethics.)


I recommend choosing at least one inner and one or two outer conflicts. These can be in addition to non-magical conflicts your story explores.  Choose conflicts which suit your story, your genre, your period, and your character. If possible, select conflicts which illustrate or enhance your novel's theme.


If you have questions about putting your magician character in conflict, or if you want advice for your WiP,  leave a comment. I'll be around for a week and will respond.


Online Workshop  'Writing about Magic and Magicians ' with Rayne Hall

Create believable magicians (good and evil), fictional spells which work, and plot complications when the magic goes wrong. Learn about high and low magic, witches and wizards, circle-casting and power-raising, initiation and training, tools and costumes, science and religion, conflicts and secrecy, and apply them to your novel.
This is a one-month class with twelve lessons, practical assignments, and plenty of feedback. If you wish, you may submit a scene for critique at the end of the class.

October at Celtic Hearts RWA  www.celtichearts.org/workshops.html  - Registration now open
March 2012 at Lowcountry RWA www.lowcountryrwa.com/online-workshops/  


Bio

Rayne Hall writes dark fantasy and horror. She has published more than twenty books under different pen names in different genres, and her stories have earned Honorable Mentions in 'The Years' Best Fantasy and Horror'. She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing, and teaches online classes. For a list of upcoming workshops, see  sites.google.com/site/writingworkshopswithraynehall/

Monday, July 25, 2011

Writing: There’s More To It Than The Fun Stuff


First, this isn’t a negative post. Just a realistic one. I love writing, but I don’t love everything about writing for publication. I know I’m not alone. First the good. I love building a story from the first word to The End. I love fleshing out characters and working through the plot. I even love filling out character questionnaires, conflict sheets, and a W plot married with Larry Brooks’ structuring. I love seeing it come together before I write the opening sentence…and boy do I love a great opening hook. I love seeing the sentences and paragraphs on the screen and page. I love reading passages and thinking they are just right. I love finding a better, stronger word. I love getting the perfect description. I love snappy dialogue. I love it when it works in every form. And then comes the rest.

I like revision until it gets to the point of being overkill, which I am frequently guilty of. After a while, editing gets old and I not only want to stop, I want to kill my characters because I have become sick of them. I have reached this point of editing saturation with a current work. All I want to do is spend time with my new love (my new wip), and the old one is wearing on my nerves.

After editing overkill, comes the synopsis. Now, frankly, I think I would almost prefer that someone shove sticks in my eyes than write a synopsis. The idea of getting a six hundred plus page novel condensed into one or two pages? Uh, yeah. Not my idea of a good time. And no matter how many workshops I take on writing the perfect synopsis… they are never perfect. Not even close.

Not quite as painful as the synopsis is the query letter. Over the years my query letter skill has improved somewhat. But I still don’t like writing the little buggers. But I would write ten queries before tackling one synopsis if I had the choice.

Next comes the last part of the process. Promotion. Who would have thought about all the time that would have to be spent focused on promotion instead of writing? Again, uh, yeah. Sometimes I feel like a two-bit whore peddling my wares. But that’s how it is if you want to sell books. These days it’s on the author to sell their work.

I’m sure I have plenty of company in bemoaning these aspects of writing. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t give up my chosen path as an author because of the few parts I don’t like. Writing is the only thing, career wise, that feels right to me. And when you find what’s right, you don’t give it up because of a few things that are less than perfect. 

What parts of the process are your personal pain? What do you wish you could avoid forever?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Of Bunnies and Cover Art

This past week my mind has been dominated by plot bunnies and cover art. When I work on tough covers in Photoshop, my mind seems to automatically fall into a pattern where it takes some random thought or idea and tosses it around until it gels into a plot. I get some of my best plotlines from doing cover art but it creates a backlog of stuff I need to write!

So this past week, I created a Regency cover for Pink Petal Books, my first Regency ever. I've done a couple of historicals for MLR Press, but no Regencies. Finding photos for a Regency can be difficult. In this instance, I found the couple almost right away but had trouble with an English manor house. In the end, I found what I needed and the cover is beautiful. The publisher said the authors love it. Nothing feels better to a cover artist than when the author loves their cover.

The other cover I made was for Tales of the Darkworld Volume Two, my next print book. This book contains Sunstroked and Breathe Me In, the most recent two books in the Tales series. Since neither one of them was long enough to go to print, they'll be combined as Tales Volume Two. For those of you who are familiar with my work, you'll recall that Tales Volume One is Shifting Winds and Hot Water together. All the other books in the series were long enough to go to print on their own.

Tales of the Darkworld Volume Two is 80,000+ words of M/M erotic paranormal romance. Both digital editions had hot covers so the creation of the print cover became a daunting task. How could I come up with something that incorporated both of those covers? Or even the best of the two covers? Especially when Sunstroked's cover had been an Ariana Award finalist.

I must have tried at least four different layouts before I realized I was going at this cover all wrong. I wanted a photo to represent Gargoyle Lodge where the bulk of Sunstroked takes place. Not a good idea. For one, every photo I found of lodges that looked like I envisioned Gargoyle...had snow. Since Gargoyle is in California and the book doesn't take place in winter...no snow. For another, I just couldn't blend a lodge with the Eiffel Tower from the Breathe Me In cover.

Once I nixed the lodge idea, I went back to Sunstroked and decided I needed the guy who is the main part of the cover. I found a different pose with the same guy and voila! My cover bloomed in my imagination! I took that pose along with the Eiffel Tower from Breathe Me In and layered them. A luscious bit of cover art began to unfold. I got another image of the model who was on the cover of Breathe Me In, a different pose. Instead of the tribal wolf from Sunstroked, I went with an actual photo of a wolf. The layers came together and...OMG. A hot, hot cover was born. I'm totally in love with it and can't wait for this print book to be in my greedy hands!

All the while I'd been working on these covers, my brain had been whirling with an idea for a cougar story. Now, first of all, you have to understand that I AM a cougar. So for me to make my heroes younger than my heroines is natural. But the idea I had rolling around in my head came about because of my daughter and her roommate who is male. He's kind of the protective sort and he looks out for Nikki, something I appreciate.

I started thinking about a woman who has had to take care of everything and everyone her entire life. Her daughter is in college now and her younger husband decides he wants a divorce. So she's suffering from empty nest syndrome, going through a divorce, and just tired of having to take care of everything. For once in her life, she'd like someone else to deal with all the crap of life. Enter her daughter's roomie's father who, while he is younger than her, is the type of guy who is used to taking charge. He's a widower, a hot fireman, and definitely interested in his son's roomie's mom. Sparks fly. Vulnerabilities are uncovered. Lust rises. Love grows. Perfect combination!

Damned plot bunnies. I've no time to write this story much as I'd like to. I have a plethora of other projects that must come first. But no matter what I have on my plate, the plot bunnies always come to life in my head when I'm working on the toughest cover art. I'm not sure what the correlation is or why this always happens to me, but it does. So I write up a quick plotline or synopsis and file the plot bunny away until I actually have to time to write it. I suppose I should be grateful that I do have ideas. I've seen plenty of authors on the loops bemoaning a lack of them. I don't ever have that problem thanks to my cover art.

Plot bunnies and cover art are forever linked for me. If I'm stressing over a cover you can bet that I'm hatching a plot for a book at the same time! Odd, but true!

If you want a glimpse of what I'm writing currently, stop over at my author blog for my Six Sentence Sunday offering. Hope you all keep it cool this Sunday!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Do You Trust Your Writing?

The other night I was watching one of my TV guilty pleasures. There was a scene where the lead character, acting upon knowledge sent to him by a future him from the past (don’t ask) is charging his truck towards what looks to him like an open gorge (but isn't). The entire time he’s muttering, “I trust me.” “I trust me.” However, when he gets to the edge he yells, “I don’t trust me!” However, even as he yelled it, he kept going and thusly saved the day.

That got me to thinking, how many times as writers do we not trust ourselves? Self doubt is sadly a major component of what we do. It’s not like in graduate school where you wrote a paper then received a grade and a detailed list of what worked and what didn’t. Here you write and write, never really knowing if you’re good enough. The reasons for rejection are huge, unlimited, and may have nothing to do with your ability. Unless you get a revision letter you will never really know. Sometimes it feels we are screaming into a dark abyss and the only answer back is our own echo.

So what do we do? Do we scream, “I trust me!” and barrel forth into what looks like a certain death? Or do we let the lack of trust in our own skills and thought processes make us hover on the edge?

Now while barreling forward does sound more heroic, it could be argued that nothing will be lost by hovering. Less risk after all.

Here’s why writers have to trust themselves. Lack of trust can destroy the writing. We’ve all seen it, the story where the same point is brought up time and again. Where within three pages the same concepts have been stated and restated numerous times. Those are signs of a writer hovering on the edge. They worry that the reader may not get it. They don’t trust in their own writing enough to take that leap that their craft is strong enough to carry the reader safely to the other side.
Self doubt can affect the writer in other ways as well. If the writer has too many self doubts, they may constantly search for validation. To the point of getting too much feedback on their work and changing it each time. Now don’t get me wrong, I love feedback. There have been many times when someone reading my work has caught things I was too close to see. Or suggested a better way to put something. But for the writer with not enough trust in themselves, this can be devastating to the work.

I read a blog not too long ago where the author said how her agent hated the first three chapters. The ones that had been in contests, crit groups, and polished until they gleamed. All rubbish. The author didn’t trust herself enough to not re-work those chapters after each contact with another person. It turned out fine for her; the agent loved the rest of the book. But the point is that lack of trust could have been fatal for that book.

So the next time you find yourself doubting your skills- find a way to charge forward instead. Find ways to improve your craft through books, conferences, workshops. Don’t give into the mindset of dwelling on a concept or idea repeatedly. Do it once, do it well, and move on.

Be willing to charge your truck into the abyss, you might just save the day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why the Triangle is my Favorite Shape

I have a confession to make: I love a love triangle. Love it! There are simply few things that perk my interest faster than that hint of multiple possibilities for the love interest.

That's probably one of the first things that made me check out UF to begin with, outside of the kick-butt heroines and snappy dialogue. Sure, not every UF story has a triangle, but enough do that it's more a surprise when there isn't one than when there is.

How great is it when our heroine has this incredible chemistry with not one but two equally amazing but completely different guys? Seeing the push-pull of the relationship between the three of them, or the torture of her having to choose and watching her agonize over the decision? It's awesome stuff, both reading and writing it.

Yes, it is heady stuff, but triangles are also tough to pull off. A really great love triangle is a fragile thing.

The reality of a love triangle is that by its very nature, it can't last a long time. It takes very little to push a triangle from being swoon-worthy to being really annoying, a sign of immaturity and lack of principals by the characters involved - and who wants to read about annoying, immature people who can't get their lives together? Not me.

I'm sure you've heard the cries around some of your favorite series as well, be it from television or from books. People go from excited about talking about the love interests, to taking sides and staking positions, to rolling their eyes and going, "Just pick one already!" 

Oh well. I still love me a good triangle, and actively search new stories that contain them. What do you think about love triangles, and any suggestions on some books with them?


Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Book Doesn't End

The lovely Kinley Baker's recent post saluting Harry Potter sent me thinking about inspiration from books in general. With the final Harry Potter movie out in theaters, causing audiences to begin sobbing as soon as the music begins, it makes me remember other great Middle Grade/Young Adult series. Stories that have influenced me in one way or another. Not necessarily ones that have made it to the big screen or even bestseller lists. Sometimes the most obscure titles can be beloved or influence our growing up into adults.

Just ask Bastian from The Neverending Story. What a little hipster! 'This book doesn't end. You've probably never heard of it.' I am sure I cannot be the only one who has had the experience of finding a copy of that book in a used bookstore or library and being really excited for about ten seconds.

The best books simultaneously celebrate youth and the path to adulthood, don't they? In reading them, loving them, they help us transverse the murky waters of growing up. So, other than the tales of The Boy Who Lived, I am sending this shout out to the books that changed my life. Similar to an Oscar or Rita speech, I am sure, I will leave out important names (or, in this case, titles) but I will buy them a drink later. Oh, right, they are MG/YA series. I will buy them a chocolate milk.

Redwall by Brian Jacques – This man was not afraid to give his stories and characters heart. His characters always managed to find their courage and defeat the multi-layered villains after great struggle and sacrifice. Even though they were talking mice and warrior badgers, Jacques did not use them to create the illusion that life wasn't hard. Life is tough, but worth it!

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – Because every girl gets her bosom friend accidentally drunk on homemade wine...

Adventures with the Heroes by Catharine F. Sellew aka “Random Collection of Norse Mythology for Middle-Graders” – I am pretty sure this paved the way for my great Lord of the Rings obsession of '01 – 05'... Oh, who am I kidding? Still obsessed.

Animorphs by K. A. Applegate – I checked these books out of the library when my mom wasn't looking. I did this mainly because I didn't want her to know how addicted I was to them. Mind-controlling aliens? Shapeshifters? Secret fight for humanity's freedom? Thank goodness there were dozens of them!

I sense a pattern of my liking books where the main characters suffered a lot before the end. Morbid kid, much? What were your favorite MG/YA books and have you reread them since then?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter, I Love You

My post today is a salute to inspiration. I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books since shortly after the first book released in 1997. I wouldn’t write if I wasn’t passionate about fiction. I wouldn’t write fantasy if it wasn’t for the world of Harry Potter. I’ve been quite emotional this whole week, which some people think is ridiculous. But really, thinking of the end of this era makes me cry a little (even now). The story itself is a battle of good vs. evil, but Harry has his triumphs and his downfalls, his successes and his failures. All of the layering factors and characters make this series, and the movies, a phenomenon I’ll never forget.
It’s not just the story who inspired me. The author inspired, as well. JK Rowling proved each initial rejection can just be one more tally closer to yes. And that brilliance may never get a chance to shine without perseverance.
I’m not much of a fan of trends. But I’ve decided the world of books is an exception. I’m so glad I picked up Harry Potter. I’m so glad I read the series as each book was released. It made the world a little brighter and life a little easier. There’s a generation out there who is thankful for Harry Potter. A generation inspired by the concept of a wizard at magic school, but more importantly a generation who fell in love with the characters of Harry, Ron and Hermione (And Neville. He’s my favorite).
Harry Potter proved one woman can write a story of magic and make the rest of us believe. I felt compelled to write this post because Harry Potter did a lot for me. This was the first series that proved when reality sucks, there’s always fantasy, and there’s nothing more brilliant than that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Full Moon and Winged Creatures

Flames leapt and danced, devouring logs in the fire pit. Leaves rustled in the breeze. The fine hairs on my arms stood on end, sending chills tingling along my spine. Shadows ghosted over swaying branches.

What at first appeared to be a lump on a gnarled limb, took flight, swooped over my head, and landed on a neighboring tree to hunt for prey. I crept closer to get a better look. Bats darted by, chasing insects. A feathery silhouette against a sky lit by the full moon, the barred owl twisted its head and ignored my presence.

The perfect setting to inspire a paranormal story. Full moon, owls, bats. What if one of the bats is a vampire stalking the campers? He spies a lone woman having trouble lighting her campfire. With a flick of his wings, he shape shifts and materializes behind a nearby tree trunk. He offers the woman assistance and begins his game of seduction.

Hoohoo-hoo-hoo, hoohoo-hoo-hoo-aw. The barred owl cried.

Let your imagination run wild.

What real life settings have inspired a story for you?


The Full Buck Moon shone bright over Lewis Mountain Campground in Shenandoah National Park on Friday, June 15th.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Story or Structure?

As writers we all strive to create the best story we can, and craft it as perfectly as possible, but is one element more important than the other? Is it more important to have an intriguing story with irresistible characters, or is it more important that it be well written?

For example: I recently purchased a Kindle and I've been going nuts downloading all kinds of books. As you well know, there are plenty of self-published novels available for very low cost on Amazon, so I've downloaded some. A couple of them have been really good stories that have sucked me in and I couldn't put them down, despite certain structural or craft flaws. There are the inevitable spelling and grammar errors with self-published work, along with places an editor could have helped clean up the repetitiveness, redundancy, or unnecessary bits that would help the story flow smoother and faster. But even with those problems, I still enjoyed the journey of the story itself.

On the other hand, some of the books I've downloaded had stories that were so dull or wooden that despite perfect spelling and grammar I just couldn't get past the first chapter.

Both these issues happen with traditional publishing, as well, though you don't as often find the spelling and grammar problems. Usually the issue is that the story just isn't very appealing. I'm always disappointed when I buy a book and start reading, but just can't sink into the story. (Interestingly, in traditional publishing I'll occasionally find problems with story with authors who are extremely successful and have a long history of best-selling publishing. I suspect it's because they get to a point where they think they're so good they don't need to be edited. As a result their stories can sometimes be rambling and pointless)

As far as I'm concerned, story is more important, but only by a nose. I can forgive some spelling and grammar errors (though I get a little twitchy when I see them), and even some minor plot problems are okay if the overall story is good. There's something magical about a tantalizing tale and engaging characters that makes it possible get lost in the story regardless of a few structural bumps along the way.

So what do you think? Does story trump structure for you? Or do misspellings and grammar issues trip you up and pull you out of the story? Which is more important for you?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tokyo International Book Fair


Last Saturday I attended the Tokyo International Book Fair. Though this was the 18th time for this fair to be held, I had never been before and really had no idea what to expect.

When I arrived at Tokyo Big Sight, Japan’s largest exhibition center, I got in line to hand in my ticket. I had pre-registered and since I was involved with publishing, I only had to turn over two business cards and my reserved ticket slip, and I was given a badge to enter. It appeared to me that the general publish had to pay an entrance fee.
As soon as I entered, I saw booths with tablets and smart phones available for people to try. Moving from booth to booth, it seemed that the presenters were trying to promote their particular software or app. I also noticed that they were focused on Android-based tablets rather than the iPad.
As I moved away from the software end, I entered the area reserved for the publishers. I stopped and spoke with a few of them. From what I understood they were for the most part, start-ups, in some cases a new arm of a company already involved in Internet retail. They really didn’t have much you could look at to evaluate their performance. It seemed to be about PR and for some, a way to encourage wannabe writers to allow them to put their books on the market. But the editing, cover work, much of the marketing seemed to be left to the author.
I walked away from the e-book portion of the fair, feeling that ebooks as we know them in the US, Canada, UK, Australian, and so on are still in their infancy here. Yet, there is a recognition that this is a potentially huge market, if only vendors can develop a viable business model and readers become aware of how and where to buy these books.
Asia, and I can really only speak for Japan and only from my own experience, is somewhat of a different animal. Cell phone penetration is deep here, with smart phones growing in popularity. Young people are used to reading short works on their cell phones (don’t ask me how, because the small screen would give me a headache after a while.) In fact, people do everything on their cell phone. When I asked my university students if they would like an iPad, many of them, although they thought it was cool, really weren’t interested because it was too heavy to carry around. Their cell phone is indispensable. I think for digital publishers to get a real foothold on the market, they are going to have to encourage readers to buy books to read on their cell phones and from there try to build interest in larger e-reader platforms. Mangas have already proven to be successful and I believe currently dominate the e-book market. I see no reason other books can’t be successful with the right marketing for the Japanese reading public.
I wasn’t able to attend any of the panels. If you’d like more information read this article on Cultivating Japan’s E-book Market.
< http://publishingperspectives.com/2011/07/cultivating-japanese-ebook-market/ >
The rest of the fair had various print book publishers, many geared to children, or booths with book-related products. Several Ministries of Culture from various embassies had booths showcasing their respective countries’ publishers’ works: Italy, Spain, Finland, Brazil, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. I have to say the covers on the Italian books were gorgeous. I wanted to buy a few of the children books only to be told they were samples. The point of the booth was to connect up with Japanese agents who might like to translate and sell the books in Japan.
All in all, I’m glad I made the time to attend. Though I wasn’t able to meet up with publishers as I had hoped, I did get a sense of where things stand in the Japanese market. In terms of gaining insight into this developing industry, it was a day well spent.
P.S. I'm having font problems. My apologies if the print is tiny. ) :
P.S.S. I forgot to add that this is my last post on Sundays. Suzanne Johnson will be back to her regular posting schedule. I want to thank her and all the great ladies at Castles & Guns for inviting us to fill in. I hope you enjoyed my posts. But, you don't have to say good-bye. I will be back with a regular blog post every other Friday, starting August 5th! I am so excited to be joining the Castles & Guns team.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What'cha Reading

Recently I was asked about what I was reading and realized I was reading two really good books--Nalini Singh's Archanel's Kiss, the second in her archangel series and Anita Blake's Cruelian Skies, the eleveth in her vampire hunter series. They're both older books, but a good book is a good book.

I have to admit that I read the first in Nalini's series, so I was right there with her characters. Not the case with Anita's, but it didn't matter. The book stood on it's own merits, and you can bet that I'll be going hunting for those other ten. Not that I don't have enough books to read now as it is. What person doesn't?

I've got to finish Terry Goodkinds' series. Need to find out what happens to Richard and Kahlan. I also realized that I started but never finished Jacwueline Carey's Kushiel series. Bad me.

Each one of these four series contains something compelling for me, the reader. I am thoroughly engaged in the characters and their lives. I guess that's what good writing is all about. Is it alright to be jealous? I wish my pinkie had the talent that these writers have.

I'm sure this question has been asked before, but what are you reading right now? What do you want to read?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Post Conference Wrap-up

I did not go to a single workshop at the 2011 RWA National Conference.

That is not a comment on the quality of workshops presented at the conference. It's just that I didn't have the time. Everyone goes for something different at conference and my main focus was networking - meeting people and making contacts.

To that end, I did a lot of volunteering (if you noticed the loud-mouthed redhead working either the booksigning or during the editor/agent appointments - yeah, that was me.) I like volunteering. It's a lot easier to talk to people when you have a job backing the talking up. An easy intro, if you will.

But I also talked to people in lines, in the halls, at the table during lunch. Whenever and wherever I could.

Not every conversation was the beginning of a life-long friendship, of course. But I met so many interesting women that it makes me almost giddy to recall the wonderful conversations and laugh out loud moments I've had.

I met some people I've only known through social media, and I gotta say they were just as nifty in person as they are on twitter. I met a NY Times Bestseller just by wandering the halls, and was given a lesson in twang by a fellow epubbed author and native Texan.

I met people at all stages of their career, and all of them were more than willing to share their journey and their advice. I don't believe there exists more generous people than my fellow RWA members. Every single woman I met wanted to help out their fellow romance writers.

So, I did not go to a single workshop, but I learned a ton at conference. I've said it before, but I really want to repeat and stress this - if you go to a conference, make sure you mingle. Get out there. Talk to people you don't know and have no idea who they are. You will have the greatest time imaginable if you expand your comfort zone a little.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Easiest Part of Writing...?

Hey everyone, my topic for today is "the easiest part of writing." There really isn't an easiest part when it comes to writing. It doesn't matter how long you've been writing because while there are areas where I feel I've come a long way in, I don't necessarily consider them easy.

There's a saying that, "writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration." I tried to find out where that came from, but only found what Thomas Edison's thoughts on genius, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." So I guess writers have it made. *laughs*

I agree with the writing quote since I have several ideas for novels and novellas, yet getting them down and then revising them -- let alone finding publication -- can be much more challenging. Why? It involves that large dose of perspiration. Some days it's a concentrated effort to sit down and write, yet it's easy to lean back, daydream for a moment, and get  the greatest idea for a new story.

So, what do I feel most comfortable with? That's probably a better term than "easy." I enjoy coming up with new story and character ideas. Meeting new and intriguing people and figuring out what odds are against them and what they want is always really exciting for me.

There's also dialogue. I enjoy writing dialogue because that allows the characters the opportunity to show their personalities through the words they say, or don't say. I've met people who have a hard time writing dialogue, but I just think of it as if I'm watching my hero and heroine talk like I'm watching them on the movie screen in my head. Basically, just listen to the voices in your head. No, you're not crazy. You're a writer!

What about you? What do you feel most comfortable with when it comes to writing? I'd love to hear what y'all have to say.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Welcome to Tumblr

Welcome to Tumblr

Hi everyone –

I survived RWA National and didn’t even get lost in New York City!!! YAY!!! Thanks for all the good thoughts…

Now I need to get my pics and write-up done, but instead, my daughter got me set up on Tumblr. I had heard of the site, but I’ve never tried it. Until now!

I feel like I did the first time I tried Twitter. I just don’t get it. You post pictures, videos, news clips, anything you like, and hope that people “reblog” it.

I’ve been using it for a couple weeks now and I think I’m starting to have fun there…
With my first novel coming out next month, I’ve got my eye out for ways to promote the release, and I think Tumblr could help.

So do any of you out there play on Tumblr? If so, can you share some cool Tumblr tips with this newbie?

And let’s get connected there too… I’m at http://LisaKessler.tumblr.com

Looking forward to tumblin’ with you!

Lisa

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guest Author Marsha A. Moore

The Memories in my Collection of Sea Glass

When my father was still living, we spent many hours on vacations searching for and collecting sea glass. I still have our jar full of weathered “gems” sitting on my writing desk. The title of my latest release, Sea Glass and Sand Memories came quickly, when I had only a shred of the plot and setting in mind. It has a double meaning. To me, the title is all about the memories of those family trips, the wonderful times I had with my father who I miss a lot. The second meaning of the title comes with the ending. When my main character, young woman named Kate, returns to a familiar location in search of sea glass, she finds a surprise in store for her.

Sea glass is glass found on beaches of oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes that has been tumbled smooth by the action of waves, water, and sand. The results are pieces of broken glass, frosted and smooth like gems. In a rainbow of colors, the original source determines the color and texture. The most common are Kelly green, brown, and colorless, mostly from bottles used to sell beer, juices and soft drinks. Less common colors include jade and amber (from whiskey and medicine bottles), lime green, forest green, and soft blues (from soda bottles during the 1960s or earlier). The rarest colors are purple, cobalt/cornflower (Milk of Magnesia and Vick’s VapoRub bottles) and aqua (Ball Mason canning jars).

Dad and I aimed for any color other than clear with equal delight. Many great pieces of our collection came from the setting of my story, the western coastline of Lake Michigan, the dunes area. That area of shore has a relaxed, time-stands-still feeling I think made a good setting to harbor a mysterious ghost story. It’s a quaint artsy area, a quiet place where unusual happenings could pass unnoticed for years…until the right person stumbled in like Kate.

Sea Glass and Sand Memories - Blurb:
Looking forward to a relaxing week at a Lake Michigan coastal resort, Kate finds much more than the picturesque dunes she intended to paint. Adventures start when her requested room is switched beside an unusual couple – a witch and her lover, a ghost.

During her stay, the handsome ghost, Anson, tries to ensnare her into helping him escape the witch who killed him and then enslaved his spirit. That witch holds him captive on the property of his mother’s resort. Anson wins Kate’s heart and loyalty, but is that enough to set him free?

Warning: This story contains paranormal sex, pagan abuse of a ghost spirit, nightmares, and happy family memories.

Excerpt:

A loud knock on my door made us hush.

I held my breath.

I heard metal scraping, as though the door bolt slide open. A shadow moved across the rug in the main room.

My pulse rang in my ears.

Zandra stood in the bedroom doorway, her face ashen. “Lover, you and I have something to discuss. Leave her!” she commanded.

Anson gathered his clothes and left obediently. With only a chilling look cast at me, she turned and followed him.

What would she do to him? I dressed quickly and quietly, moving to a position under their sitting room window, listening to every noise. Soon, they argued.

“I own your soul,” Zandra pronounced.

“You possess me only by your black deeds.”

“You are my lover. What do you think you’re doing with that girl?”

“I will never love you.” His voice remained composed and assertive.

She declared, “Then, you will never love her.”

I rose up just enough to peer through a slat in the blind.

She stomped across the room, snatched an amber-colored bottle from a shelf, and yanked out the stopper. She turned toward Anson. Her face looked like a corpse, drawn and white. She proclaimed, “Captus anima!”

My mouth dropped open as his form vaporized into smoke sucked in by the bottle. When all his matter entered the vessel, she quickly replaced the stopper.

Her lips curled. “You will never love again.” Then, she looked directly at me.

Horrified, I dropped down. My heart thumped in my chest. Had she seen me? I waited. Nothing happened. Then I heard her footsteps, but they sounded from farther in the apartment. I crept back to my room. I sat on the floor, completely still, listening. Still nothing. A faint glow of dawn shone through the window. What should I do?

Author Bio:
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Her creativity also spills into watercolor painting and drawing. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transforming into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Crazy about cycling, she usually passes the 1,000 mile mark yearly. She is learning kayaking and already addicted. She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and that spiritual quest helps her explore the mystical side of fantasy. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at new stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical!

Links to Marsha and her books:
Website http://marshaamoore.com/
Blog http://marshaamoore.blogspot.com/
Twitter http://twitter.com/MarshaAMoore
Facebook http://facebook.com/marshaamooreauthorpage
Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/marshaamoore
Sea Glass and Sand Memories purchase link
https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=139&category_id=69&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing Space


I can write anywhere, even in places I shouldn’t. I’ve read about writers who have a certain place with particular items that they seem to need in order to trigger their muse to kick into gear and work. Not me. Anywhere, baby. I can slap words down on a scrap of paper while waiting for an elevator. I’ve even scribbled words down while driving and not looking at my notebook.

But I do have my writer’s space and oh how I love it. Like the others, it instantly triggers writer mode. I have a blue glider parked near a huge window. I like to burn Yankee candles and scented oils. I like to have the TV on very low or music from the constantly growing stack of movie scores I collect. Movie scores make wonderful writer’s music. I love them. I like a beverage, coffee or tea or soda within easy reach. I like to have notebooks and my favorite pen and my chapstick…yes, chapstick, can’t function without it, nearby. And reference material, need that, too.

But the very best is my sweet view out the window. Sometimes, I stop for a moment and look outside. It’s good for the eyes and good for the muse. I’m convinced of this. I’ve lived in my house for a little over ten years. Looking out that window, I have a view of the flowers we planted and a water feature in the middle of them. Over the years, the plants have spread and thickened and it’s starting to look like a cottage garden. I love it very much.

While I can write anywhere, no place pleases me as much as my glider by that window. I’ve written thousands and thousands of words in that chair. I’ve made revision after revision. And no other place measures up.

How about you? Do you have a writer’s spot? A favorite place? Do you have to be in that spot for the muse to cooperate or are you like me, a word warrior who can engage anywhere?