Friday, September 30, 2011

The Importance of Networking

You often hear, "It's who you know that matters." We may not like it, but there's a bit of truth in that statement. The key is making "who you know" work for you.

Recently, I decided to self publish a novella trilogy. It's a bit of an experiment, but so many are taking the plunge and doing it successfully that I want to give it a try. I decided to try my hand at making the covers. Though I'm not a graphic artist, I wanted to see what I could do on my own. I had a blast at designing the three covers for this series and I'm pretty happy with them. You see, I have a good friend who is a photographer, so I contacted him about using some photos. I also have a friend who is an IT expert and has a degree in graphic design. I'll get her to do a final go over my covers. Once the books are complete, I need an editor. I happen to have a friend who is an English teacher interested in freelancing as an editor. So, right there, just amongst my acquaintances, I've put together a team to take my novella from concept to publication.

Years ago, I wanted to break into Silhouette (still do for that matter) and contacted author Caridad Pineiro with some questions. She was great about answering and has become both a pal and mentor. She was giving a workshop to Latina writers and invited me. Her Silhouette editor, Stacy Boyd, attended as well. I sat next to Stacy and turned that opportunity into a request for a full on the manuscript I was working on. That story was rejected and so were others, but I've developed a relationship with Stacy. In fact, she did a Q&A on my blog last March for my March Madness event. The last time I sent her a manuscript, I had about a two-week turnaround. Okay, it was another rejection, but she clearly stuck me at the top of her queue. How cool is that?

When I was a kid, I read voraciously and I thought authors had to be the most magical people on earth. I mean they wrote these fantastic wonderful stories that transported you to different times and places. In my world, they all lived on pedestals. Then the digital revolution happened, bringing authors close to their fans. They turned out to be normal people with bigger than normal imaginations and a generosity that astounded me. Through simple conversations on the eHarlequin site, I had a well-known, award-winning author offer me out of the blue to read my first chapter and critique it. I had only begun to write, had received a couple of rejections and lived with my confidence in the toilet at that point. That author's offer and her subsequent critique kept me writing and determined.

So, how do you make these connections? In the world of the Internet, email, online forums, and even Twitter and Facebook are your friends. The easiest way to start is to drop an author an email that you liked their book. I have done that a number of times and still do. If I read an author's book and put some kind of review up on my website, I drop them a line and let them know it's there. They always run over to check and I always receive a thank you note later. Frankly, it's a lot easier to go ask an author a question when you've already established some kind of contact beforehand. You're not a nameless email amongst the many they get; you're someone they've connected to.

I'm still feeling my way around Twitter, but what I often see are authors talking to other authors and it's the same ones. Jump in the conversation with a tweet and keep on tweeting. Do it enough times and when that moment comes to contact that author, that agent or that editor, and you mention your Twitter name, you can bet they'll know who you are.

One of the reasons to attend a local RWA chapter or go to a conference is the chance to network in person. Conferences can be daunting and crowded with crazy schedules and they're a significant investment in time and money, which not everyone has. If you have the opportunity to attend, though, then meet as many people as you can. Make the most of it. But, on a smaller scale and particularly for those that are shy, chapters are a comfortable place to get to know published authors and yet-to-be-published authors over time. Remember, too, it's not always about the published authors. That person next to you may not be published, but she may have fifteen years experience with law enforcement and you're writing a mystery, and she's quite happy to answer your questions. You never know the depth and richness in experience of the people around you unless you talk to them and forge a connection.

Networking isn't easy, but if you look at it as the first day of school and a matter of putting faces to names and letting relationships develop naturally, it isn't quite as scary. And as long as you keep at it--meeting new people online and in person--you'll be surprised one day to see how many people "you know" and how many are willing to give you some advice or assistance if you need it. Don't forget to be generous with your own time and experience because you will be repaid for it down the road.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Hot in Atlanta!

By time you read this, I will be on my way to sunny Atlanta for four days of writer fun at Moonlight and Magnolias. The motto of the trip is 'Work Hard, Play Hard' and I am looking forward to a good time. Not only will I be meeting some fabulous people and leaning more about the career that I love, but my friends and I will be exploring what the destination has to offer.

This puts me in mind of some great books set in Atlanta. It's a smokin' area of the South and makes a great place for a grand adventure, a steamy romance, and some wild magic.

Here are some quick picks...

Frost Moon by Anthony Francis (Skindancer #1)

I am a sucker for a story that involves tattoos and tattoo artists. Throw in magic and a serial killer? I am there! Gimme, gimme, gimme.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels #1)

The main character/heroine wields a big sword. Need I say more?

Forsaken by Jana Oliver (The Demon Trappers #1)

The story of a seventeen year old demon trapper living in a world where both the economic crisis of humanity and the tactics of Lucifer are causing trouble.

Has anyone else checked out these hot magic reads? If anyone else is going to be at the conference this week, I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yes, I do have a superpower & for the first time I’m telling you what it is

Sometimes people ask me how I can believe in the supernatural. And sometimes, I tell them the story of my own superpower. This isn’t a secret I tell a lot of people, but I’ve decided to finally reveal the truth in this blog. I am . . . a spider-whisperer. Yes, indeed it’s true.

When my husband and I first married, we lived in an apartment on the second floor. We had a huge spider, insect problem. It wasn’t really that huge, but I DO NOT like things crawling around inside my home with their own agendas. How am I supposed to feel comfortable knowing someone is skittering across the floor, mocking me because they are using my apartment to escape the rain and don’t even bother to chip in for rent?

Needless-to-say this was a problem for weeks. Then I ran into another issue. I felt guilty about harming spiders and insects. I don’t like to do it. But I will . . . if you pass the threshold of my doorway. Because I don’t like you, spiders and insects. You creep me out. I’d rather have a vampire living under my bed then a spider web come down from the ceiling and land on my face.

EEEK. This blog is grossing me out. Anyway, on with the story. I found myself in a conundrum. I don’t like killing the spiders. I don’t want them in my house . . . so what could I do? Well, that’s when I discovered my powers. I decided that if I didn’t see the spiders, I wouldn’t have to kill them. Sure, they could come hang out. I wouldn’t wish anyone out into the rain. But they needed to be respectful and at least attempt to hide better.

I went from room to room in that apartment, telling the spiders and insects the deal. I literally said out loud, “Listen up, spiders and insects and anything else crawly, I don’t like your attitude. I don’t want to have to kill you, but I will if I see you. Please don’t let me see you.”

By this point I think you’ve all realized my husband married a crazy lady. He wasn’t too thrilled with my display because I suppose it could be argued that going room to room and talking to yourself is essentially crazy. But guess who had the last laugh?

I never saw another spider or insect again in that apartment! I swear to you, from that day forward, until the day we moved, I had no problem. Obviously, that’s when I discovered my spider-whispering abilities.

Sometimes reality makes a better fantasy. Watch out for that book I’m working on with the spider-whisperer. Then at the beginning, I can write: Inspired by a true story.

Do you have a strange, mystical ability or talent that inspired your writing?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Fachan—Creatures to Avoid

In search of a topic for my post today, I opened to what-ever-page of one of my favorite coffee table books, Faeries, illustrated by Brian Froud and Alan Lee…

A fachan stared at me through his single eyeball positioned in the center of his forehead like that of a cyclops. The reddish-purple iris surrounded by blood-shot white seemed to watch me as I paced about the room. My spine tingled with shivers.

Good thing I have a strong heart since reports claim his grotesque appearance can cause a heart attack.

He stands erect on his only muscular leg at about three feet of height. He covers his egg-shaped body with a loose shirt made from blue-green feathers. Although I can't smell him, others allege his stench is worse than that of an ordinary ogre.

I'm imagining rotten eggs or a science project gone wrong. Must be awful.

A single short arm with a big hand protrudes from under his chin. I certainly don't want to get close to his claw-like fingernails or the sharp teeth visible when he opens his wide mouth.

Most of his skin is a dirty tan—except for the mottled green of his lips, his bulbous nose and the tips of his large pointed ears. A few strands of wiry black hair top his head, matching the hair at the tips of his ears.

Rumors abound that the unusual creature is extremely agile with its flat-footed hop. I cautiously approach the table and snap the book closed. My neighbors probably hear my sigh of relief.

Many believe fachans live in the depths of caves in the West Highlands of Scotland. Since known to dislike humans, wise men and women are prudent to stay away.

Are there fantasy creatures you try to avoid? Tell us about them.

For another take on the fachan, check out the post at Blue Men, Green Women:


Have you joined in the fun yet?

Castles & Guns is a sponsor for Night Owl Reviews' Halloween Full Moon Web Hunt from September 1st though October 31st. Join us. Win cool prizes! Be sure to enter here.

Read excerpts of Dawn Marie's fantasy and paranormal romance manuscripts from the Garden Gate series and the Crimson Storm series at

Twitter: @DawnM_Hamilton

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thick Skin Required

I’m already having the conversation with myself about book reviews, even though the galleys for my first book don’t go out for another month or so. You’re going to have to develop thick skin, I say. You’re going to have to resist the urge to try and explain to people who don’t “get” your book. You’re going to have to turn the other cheek when some people hate it, because there will be people who hate it. If you’re lucky, there will be more who love it than hate it, but there are no guarantees.

No whining, no moaning, no crying. Well, okay, at least not much.

But I wasn’t quite prepared for spam-hate. Yes, Goodreads witch, I mean you. In this case, I’m talking to a chick from Down Under who registered on Goodreads, picked what seems like a couple of dozen paranormal romance and urban fantasy books, and gave them all one-star ratings.

So, what’s up with that? I know she hasn’t read my book, because the freakin’ galleys haven’t even gone out yet. So I assume she hasn’t read the others she one-starred as well. Just someone who gets their kicks tormenting authors, I guess.

For a few minutes, I thought about trying to get her at least chastised by Goodreads. Do people take those ratings seriously? Will it tank preorders of my book?

And, of course, I realize that the only one who comes out looking bad if I complain is, unfortunately, me.

So, here I am, taking the high road. But I might be grumbling along the way. My consolation? This might be the closest I ever get to the brilliant JR Ward—Mistress Spamalot gave her Black Dagger Brotherhood books one stars as well. At least I’m in good company!

What do you try to take away from negative reviews or spam-hate? Is there anything to be learned from it?

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Since I'm writing a series on witches, I thought maybe I should blog about them. Contrary to what people think, to live the Wiccan life or the Way of the Craft is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of life. It is not ugly old hags flying through the air on broomsticks or standing before a bubbling cauldron. Witchcraft is simply a contemporary spirtiual religion based on the ancient pre-Christian religion with its followers known as Witches or Wiccans. As a matter of fact, it is one of the fatest growing religions in the world.

The word Witchcraft comes from the Old Anglo-Saxon word wicce-craeft, meaning 'the craft of the wise'.

A lot of people confuse Wiccans and witches. They are not the same. Wiccan is someone who believes in a neo-Christian religion. A witch is anyone (male or female) who practices witchcraft. Confused yet?

So, yes, both use magic. Wiccans and witches practice magic, cast spells and make charms, but a person doesn't have to be a witch to do this. The thing to remember is that witchcraft is a religion and magic is a practice. There are many types of magic--high magic, low magic, sympathetic magic, folk magic, ceremonial magic, healing magic, and more.

Sympathetic magic is also called imitative magic. Burning candles are a form of sympathetic magic.

Image magic is using dolls or poppets to represent a person or persons is form of sympathetic magic.

Ceremonial magic is the belief in spirits, entities or whatever you wish to call them.

Folk magic is extremely simple low magic, using ordinary items.

Healing magic is a type of magic that can be done is various forms. The aim, of course, is to heal someone sick.

Placket magic is the use of small plackets or pockets to heal or other processes.

Magic is not meant to be used willy-nilly or on a whim. It is a tool that should be used with care.

Cord magic is meant for storing up energy before the full moon and then for that magic to be released during the waning phase.

Poppet magic is a form of imitative or sympathetic magic, using figures to represent the people to be affected.

It'll take more than one blog to explain Wicca and Witchcraft because most of the time they're just normal people.

Anyone know any witches?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Myths - Updates and Re-Imaginings

I've just sent my editor a proposal for a series - basically, it's an updated take on the ancient Greek gods (think Aphrodite, Zeus, Cupid, etc.)

While I'm waiting to get her feedback, I'm wondering why these old mythologies still speak to us - so much so that these names still mean something to those raised in Western households though the religion they represented died over 2,000 years ago.

My opinion is this - in ancient mythologies, the gods were not perfect. They were jealous, prone to dramatics, overly-generous, would give and take with equal abandon... in short, they represented the best and worst that humanity had to offer in an over-the-top package that no matter how exaggerated their exploits, you couldn't even start to do them justice.

These type of characters are a writer's dream. All that passion and power without the slightest worry that you will overstate either their strengths or weaknesses.

I hope my series gets picked up - I'm giddy over the thoughts of how much trouble I could get characters like these into.

So, what are your favorite mythologies and why?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Do’s and Don’ts of Caring for Gnomes

I wrote a fun guest post a few months ago for my release of Techno Crazed that I'd like to share today. It's appropriate I guess since my new book Savage Bytes just came out. I have to say that the secondary characters in my Hacked Investigations series sincerely have a soft spot in my heart. Let me give you some tips on one of them. ;-)

My release is a cyberpunk romance, so why am I writing about gnomes you ask? Meet Bernard, a fantastically funny and obnoxious sidekick to my technomage hero, Ian Bradley. He can be helpful or he can be a pain in the butt. Here are a few tips Ian’s learned.

• DO keep the house full of good fruits and vegetables since gnomes tend to be herbivores. Side note: make sure you don’t forget to bring him his favorite sweets too. Yes, they can have a sweet tooth.

• DON’T keep alcohol anywhere near the house. The gnome will drink himself silly and be grumpy from the nasty hangover that ensues.

• DO treat him nicely. If you don’t, chances are he’ll pay you back in mischievous ways.

• DON’T keep your eyes off him for a second when things start to go wrong. He might bring more trouble on your head.

• DO encourage him to plant his own garden, if you like to keep a roof over your head. He eats a lot.

• And finally, DON’T bring home a girl you’re interested in romantically, he’ll probably make lots of lewd innuendos that you wouldn’t want her to hear.

Savage Bytes Excerpt:

Hannah Franklin froze in the doorway of Ian Bradley's weight room. Ian lay shirtless on the bench as he pressed the bar into the air over his muscular chest. With each rep he did, the muscles in his chest rippled deliciously. She licked her suddenly dry lips and cleared her throat.

His gaze caught hers, and he smiled. He rested the weight on the stand. "Hey, is everything okay?" He sat up and wiped his palms on his khaki cargo shorts.

"Yeah, we just received a call about a new case." She still found it hard to believe how many people had wanted to hire them after going against MAX Home Security. Sometimes, they actually had to turn people away. What a feeling.

Ian raised an eyebrow at her. "Tell me more. What is it about?"

"It's Leon. He wants to meet with us at St. Gregory's hospital in a little over an hour. He seemed pretty stressed." She leaned her shoulder against the doorframe, and a frown tugged at the corners of her lips.

Ian stood and then crossed the room to her. His hands cradled her neck, and he pulled her in for a warm kiss. His lips brushed hers, and she opened her mouth to him, allowing his tongue to stroke hers and fan the burning flames within her body.

Hannah gently pushed away after a moment. "I said we would be on our way." She raked her gaze over his firm, sweat-slick torso. "Besides, I think you need a break from working out."

Ian grinned and reached for his white towel. "I'll go hop in the shower real quick." He wiped off his face and hung the towel around his shoulders as he sauntered away.

Hannah's life had been a roller coaster after reuniting with Ian, her once ex-boyfriend. Now he was her partner in their private investigation company, Hacked Investigations, which specialized in technology-related crimes. The clientele so far had kept them busy, with common requests that involved backtracking various network intrusions to their point of origin and leaving the rest to the customers. Others required mundane tasks such as verifying the authenticity of gray-market implants and other upgrades not sold in broad daylight.

Up until recently, they'd been financially stable. The last two weeks had been slower, and their bills this month were a lot higher than expected. It didn't help that the silly gnome was as ravenous as ever.

She sighed and returned to Ian's small home office to retrieve her jacket. The weather outside was fine, but it could change so quickly, especially this time of year.

"Hey, if you're going out anyway, bring me back a bag of those chocolates I like! We can't all live on coffee, pasta, and CONDOMS, you know?" An obnoxious voice came from the kitchen before she had an opportunity to see the loud-mouthed gnome it belonged to.

"Nice to see you too, Bernard. Finished with the garden so soon?" Hannah forced a smile. "We're heading out to interview a client. Leon called, and we're going to see if we can help him," she said.

Bernard wore classic lederhosen and had a maniacal grin on his face. "Well, the garden can take care of itself for a while. So, why are you heading out to see that flamboyant rainbow-licking nurse? Unless, of course, he wants to trade make-up tips," Bernard said. A devious glint lit his eyes.

Hannah sighed. She could only take so much from the gnome today. Ignoring the other foul comments, she shrugged into her jacket and walked by him. Water sounded from the shower behind the bathroom door. She'd love to join Ian, but they'd be going nowhere fast if she did.

Instead, she sat in Ian's favorite recliner. A quick glance proved the gnome had vanished, giving her a moment's peace.

During their struggle against MAX Home Security, Leon had played a crucial role in getting past security guards and helping them talk with Senator Kendall, who cleared their names after the police had suspected them of attacking the senator. Leon lost his boyfriend, Rich Granger, due to MAX's overeager employee termination program, and he'd been more than willing to help them take MAX Home Security down.

The lack of background noise alerted her to the fact Ian was done in the shower and would be ready to go soon. She glanced in the mirror to reassure herself that she looked professional enough, and then she crossed the room to her safety box for her gun and a clip of ammo. The streets were more dangerous than ever now that MAX Home Security had restrictions placed on them by the legal system. Despite their corruption, MAX held low-level criminals under better control than what the police were capable of.

Ian entered the doorway, dressed in jeans and a polo shirt that revealed enough of his build to make her gaze linger over his toned body.

"Shall we?"

For more information:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blog Hops

Blog Hops

Hi everyone –

When I first joined the Castles & Guns blog, I warned Kinley and Sarah that I’m not a good “craft” blogger. I know lots of people who are, but I just sit around worrying that every sentence I type is boring and second-guessing if the advice I just offered even makes sense! LOL

So I’m not going to have a great tip for you about point of view or recognizing clichés, etc. Instead, what about Blog Hops? :)

If you haven’t heard the term, blog hops are basically a group of bloggers who band together to offer prizes and link up their blogs for a week. Everyone promotes their blog and at the end, the blog reader “hops” to the next blog.

I tried my first Author Blog Hop in June. The theme for the Hop was parties… I chose a Vampire Ball.

I got hundreds of blog hits every day for the first 4 days and over 50 hits a day for the rest of the blog hop week. At the end of the blog hop I had over 900 blog views and over 125 comments! I also doubled my blog subscribers and newsletter subscribers! WOOT!!!

So now I’m participating in my 3rd blog hop… You can check it out here…

You can offer lots of little promo prizes. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s fun for readers to enter and fun for winners if you offer lots of prizes.

The cool thing is, the more authors that join the Blog Hop, the more new readers come by your blog. Everyone who promotes the Hop brings in their readership, which hopefully will also Hop by your Blog and become one of your readers too!

It’s a fun, inexpensive easy way to build an online following of readers and for them to get to know you too! So after 3 Blog Hops, I can say if you haven’t yet tried one, get involved! :) I think you’ll be glad you did…

Have questions? Leave me a comment here and I’ll do my best to find answers…

Thanks for reading and Hopping! :)


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guest Author Sherry Soule

Why I love the Paranormal Romance Genre
Author, Sherry Soule
I have had a long-term love affair with all things dark in fiction. Paranormal Romance in both Young Adult and adult is my favorite genre. Nostalgia consistently shows up in most Paranormal-Romance novels and it’s easy to connect with for most of us. That’s why the main character returns to his/her hometown, and why these novels are always the most popular among readers.
So, why else do I love this genre? It makes me feel. It excites stronger emotion in me than any other genre. Not that I don’t love reading other genres, I do, but none have the same effect as Paranormal-Romance.
The coolest part for me as a writer is that you can do things in the paranormal genre that are not acceptable in other novels. You can step out of the ordinary world where everything is predictable and you can step into a world that is mysterious and unexplainable. Whether we step into that world willingly, or we are dragged in there kicking and screaming—we are always in for a series of thrills, scares, anticipation, and surprises.
Hmmm, what does that say about me? :-D
In my novels, I mix several different genres. I love getting my heroine into scary situations where I’m not even sure how she’s going to get out of them. And in my stories, the hero doesn’t suddenly show up and save her—she saves herself. I also love building sexual tension between the two main characters. Adding in the passion, the heat, the lust, and the budding romance…then throw in a demon or supernatural element and mingle in a dash of romance throughout, and that makes for some damn good reading.
I like creating suspense and frightening situations—I like the feeling that comes from stretching my imagination to include ghosts, demons, and other paranormals. It’s that continual “what if.”
What if you saw ghosts?
What if a demon gave you his blood?
What if an opening to Hell was directly under your house?
What if you found out you were born into a family of witches and inherited magickal powers?
Synopsis of Beautifully Broken (YA paranormal romance):
They say every town has its secrets, but that doesn’t even begin to describe Whispering Pines. The townsfolk are a superstitious lot and the mystical disappearance of a local teen has everyone murmuring about a centuries old witch’s curse.
Sixteen-year-old Shiloh Ravenwolf is a heritage witch from the Broussard family, a family both destined and cursed. When she takes a summer job at Ravenhurst Manor, she discovers a ghost with an agenda. That’s where she meets the new town hottie, Trent Donovan, and immediately becomes spellbound by his charms.
Finally, Shiloh's met someone who is supercute and totally into her, but Trent may be the next victim on the supernatural hit list. And Shiloh is the only person with the power to save him. Complicated much?
It sucks to have a destiny, especially since Shiloh would rather spend her summer being a normal girl who worries about clothes and boys, not the supernatural. But she’s never been normal, and the stranger things become the more her own magical senses awaken.
With cryptic messages from a pesky wraith, she will begin to understand the mysterious significance of the strange mark branded on her wrist and decide how much she's willing to sacrifice to protect the other teenagers in town.
Unfortunately, for Shiloh, not all ghosts want help crossing over. Some want vengeance.

Where you can find Sherry Soule online:
Official website:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Taking Risks

I’ve never been shy about writing whatever pops into my imagination. I’m not sure if that is always a good thing. The jury is still out though I’ve had more positive than negative feedback on some of the more, shall we say, elements that have pushed the envelope.

I do not fear to go where editors frown. My first trip to the far side included graphic violence and torture. And did I stop there? Heck no. From there it was a short hop to include male on male rape. I can hear the gasps.

I will admit that the rape thing bothered me. Not because of the way it was written, but because I really liked my male lead and I felt as if I had pushed him further than he deserved. Though if he hadn’t been in the bad part of town…it wouldn’t have happened to him. So I rationalized that, yes, he asked for it. Okay, I didn’t buy it and after about six months of feeling that I had done him wrong, I rewrote the scene and stopped things before they got that far. I did not change it because I was afraid to have people read it, on the contrary, several people read it and not one of them thought I should change it. It was the feeling that I had wronged a character I loved that made me change the scene.

Back to the torture thing. I’ve never had a problem sticking it to my characters in graphic detail. Not just once either. I don’t mind raking them over the coals as many times as necessary or taking away the things they hold dear. I’ve met writers who have told me they hate to hurt their characters or give them flaws. I can’t understand this kind of thinking. Why not push the boundaries and go for broke?

In my first Judgment book, I went down another road where many fear to go. Actually it just kind of grew out of the character’s behavior. It was only natural to go there based on the male character’s actions to that point. I can’t disclose this one without blowing a major scene in Blood Judgment, but trust me. I went out on a limb with this one. No one who has read it has been totally repulsed because the characters aren’t human, and I have constructed the backstory to show it as something that happens on occasion. Did I have fun with this? You bet your backside. And considering that one of the lead male character’s quirks caused more reader reaction, I think I am safe with letting a secondary character go where no vampire should.

How about you? Do you go where others fear?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oh, The Joy!

There is nothing like the feel of a nice book in your hands. Being an ereader techie sort of person, I don't hold books in my hands too often. This week it was different though. These books were different.

No, I didn't go to Borders and pick up some romance novels at a discounted price. Instead, I received a package in the mail. A hefty little box with eight (yes, EIGHT!) books in it. The books were by a favorite author of!

That's right, folks, the author copies for Tales of the Darkworld Volume Two arrived!

Oh, that beautiful cover! Oh, the silky feel of the heavy paper! Oh, the smell of the ink! And the heft of the trade sized paperback in my hand was substantial. If I threw it and hit you on the back of the head with it, you would see stars, that's how heavy the little sucker is. LOL

This book is something I'm very proud of. Both of the novellas within garnered awesome reviews. Both are M/M stories that have sold very well indeed. They are hot, sexy love stories and I'm so happy to finally hold them in my hand.

I'm so excited about the release of this book, I'm going to hold a little contest. Everyone who comments on this post is eligible to win a beautiful print copy of Tales of the Darkworld Volume Two. (If I were you, I'd want it solely for the gorgeous Brooks Johnson who is on the cover!) I've got one copy to give away and entries are open until the next blogger posts here at Castles and Guns.

I have to admit that right now, despite being a techie who loves all gadgets, I love holding this paperback way more than I love holding my ereader. And now, I think I'll go read my own book! ;)

Don't forget to comment for a chance to win! Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo ain't for sisses

It’s getting to be that time of year when nights grow shorter, weather grows cooler (ok, not here in So.Cal…but in SOME places), and writers across the land think of what they will do for National Novel Writing Month- aka NaNoWriMo- aka NaNo.
Granted, it’s a month and a half away, but now is the time to start planning (and storing easy to fix food and supplies ;))

For those of you who don’t know, NaNo is a month (November) when writers decide to announce to the cyberspace world their intention of completing 50,000 words in a new manuscript.

Now there are guidelines, and while they aren’t enforced, why do it if you’re not going to follow them? It should be a new work and it should be a book. Not a collection of short stories- a book. Like they say if you think you’re writing a book, they will also.

There’s no cost, you just go to their site and sign up. Then you look for folks you know and add them to your “buddy” list so that you can egg each other on. There are local groups for most areas, so even if you don’t know someone- you can meet some like minded folks.

Why would thousands of people, for the most part semi-sane, choose to inflict 50,000 words upon themselves like that? Why do people run marathons? Climb mountains? To have the experience. NaNo is like Mt. Kilimanjaro for writers. My sister travels and hikes. She’s been up Mt. Kilimanjaro, up Mt. Whitney, down to Antarctica. She does that- I do NaNo. Same motivation really, just one is free and keeps me near a real bathroom ;).

And it’s a great learning tool. Most writers, even we seat of the pants type folks- have some inner censor going on when we write. Some little voice that makes us stop and question ourselves mid-chapter. That editing self that just doesn’t know when to quit.

You can’t do that during NaNo. In pure self-defense you have to take that little voice, stick a gag in his mouth and ship him off to Siberia. When you’re cranking out 50,000 words (page count of 170-200 pages depending on the writer) in one month- you are writing CRAP. Lots, and lots, of crap. And you don’t care! Your only goal is to fill up those pages. You can’t listen to any inner voice no matter how loud- because you simply don’t have time.

When you win (and even if you don’t I would think- I’ve won both times I did it ;)) you really feel like you’ve done something amazing. You wrote, created, and slaved over a damn good sized chunk of a book that didn’t exist until Nov 1. Does it need work? Hell yes- probably lots of it. But you did it.

It also teaches you to write through any blocks that come your way. You just bowl right over them. So when you return to your more normal level of writing, you’re not the same person. You’re faster, leaner, more stubborn.

I know since Dec 2008 (my first NaNo) my writing style has changed for the better. Dec 2009 (NaNo two)saw the launch of multiple projects at the same time. This September I did my own NaNo trying to finish a project under a tight deadline. I did about 15-20,000 words in ONE WEEK. I could never have done that without two years of NaNoWriMo under my belt. I write faster, and I focus tighter now than I did before NaNo and I think every writer needs to try it at least once. You may not finish, but you still tried something way outside your normal everyday life. And its fun trying to explain to non-writers what you’re doing ;).

I’m looking forward to another round of madness- this year I may even go into it with an outline *cue sounds of shock here*.

What about you? Ever do Nano? Other writing challenges? If you sign up- look for me! (I’m listed as mandreas).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Expand Your Name Recognition

Okay, I have been on a bender trying to think up new ideas to drum up sales and get my name out there. It is much harder I think now then ever before to grab readers' attention. You have to slog through the thousand or more authors out there to get noticed by the big NYC publishing houses. It doesn't matter if you are self-published or small press, you still have to garner an audience and you have to be seen and heard.

No more is it just a quality product and damn good writing that will win the masses over. Hey, I get that you have to pay your dues and work hard and produce to get to the top, but you also have to prove that you have what it takes to make the NYC houses even look at you. And that won't happen by just writing an excellent story.

Crazy but true.

So I have done some research and figured I'd try some new avenues to get people interested in my name enough to look at my current titles and the next two coming out in 2012 from Samhain Publishing.

Some ideas that may help boost sales:

Strategy #1 -MEME
Talked with another author who suggested joining a meme group. I did this long ago with Thursday Thirteen and it was so much work and trouble that I gave up. She said to keep it up and a loyal following will come. She suggested another meme that is simpler and less stress.

Six Sentence Sunday. -- 6 sentences from your book or a book you are reading or writing. Post it up on Sunday but make sure to sign up on Tues at the main website. Simple and easy. More instructions here.

I will be starting this week -- a total virgin so it will be interesting to see how this orgy goes.

Strategy #2 - FREE BOOK
I have offered my book to every reviewer I can think of and more. Most have accepted the book and emailed me by now. The book has been received well and I am happy. The reviewers are terrific and post up on Amazon, Goodreads, and their blogs. It is great to get word out about Out of the Shadows but the next Shadow Warrior title won't be released until 2012. So now what?

According to Livia Blackburne, writers should consider putting a free read up on booksites to offer to readers. More is in her article here:

So, that is excatly what I am going to do. I have a free read recipe book that will release in December and a novella for a new series that will hit the shelves in time for Christmas.

Want to see the cool cover and see who is contributing recipes? Check out my Free Reads section.

Strategy #3 - PODCAST
Make a podcast. Put that free book on the web and record an audiobook version too. This way iTune fans can also get a taste of your book and download it too!
Check out this article for more details:

Strategy #4 - FREELANCE
If you are the cerebral type and like to do the research like I do, you may want to consider writing an essay for a magazine or paper to get your name out there. Here is a call for a romance journal

Can't say any of these methods work, but it is worth a shot. Who knows where your next reader will come from or how you will grab their attention? Still to sit and do nothing is worse. So, remember my motto: THINK BIG!

Good luck and I would love to hear your comments and learn if you have used any of these strategies, and whether they worked for you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Little Love Triangle of Doom

Call me weird, but if I hear the term 'love triangle' used, I actually expect there to be some question as to who the hero/heroine ends up with in the end. My favorite books are plagued with love triangles that, in my humble opinion, didn't leave enough room for doubt.

Let's start with one of my favorites – Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. If you are at all familiar with this fandom (fanbase or fan community), then you know that everything in the Harry Potter series is shipped together. This varies between the popular ships of Harry/Hermione and Ron/Hermione to Draco/Apple. Draco Malfoy does have a thing for green apples.

Ship – Short for romantic relationship. To endorse a romantic relationship. i.e. 'I ship Harry/Luna.'

Crazy Drapple ships aside, the point is that this fan community enjoys speculating on the romantic relationships, especially the three friends. Would Hermione end up with Harry or Ron? While this question was technically up in the air, creating a little love triangle, I do not believe many genuinely believed that Hermione would end up with anyone other than Ron. Not because they necessarily wanted Hermione and Ron to get married and have pretty babies, but that it was so... obvious. Stepping back from the books, you could easily draw a line through the romantic arc of these two characters.

I am a steadfast Harry/Luna shipper myself.

Back in the early 2000's, I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. I had to read them before I saw the first film you understand. I was quite a young teen at the time, but I did not get the sense of an Aragorn/Arwen/Eowyn love triangle at all. When such a thing appeared in the films, I was quite surprised. Who would believe that Aragorn and Arwen wouldn't defy all odds for love and happiness? I was appalled at the suggestion that such a thing as an Aragorn and Eowyn match would happen. Although, I do have to say that they were cute together and I adore Eowyn. I love her more than Arwen, but still, Faramir and Eowyn forever!

Moving on to another love triangle. How about... Bella/Edward/Jacob? I will not go into details here, save to ask the question of... Did anyone think that Bella and Jacob would end up together? I honestly would love to hear opinions of this in the comments. This isn't a love triangle I am as familiar with in reading, so I would like to hear some thoughts.

The final love triangle I will mention is from The Hunger Games. This one I loved the setup and it actually inspired this blog post. Drumroll please... Katniss/Gale/Peeta from The Hunger Games. Why do I love and hate this little love triangle of doom? I love that it starts with Katniss and Gale, which builds a believable platform that they will end up together. As the story continues, Katniss and Peeta have this life-changing experience together, which left no doubt in my mind that they were endgame. Even when Katniss and Gale were reunited, there was nothing they could overcome together (and did they ever try) that would trump surviving the games.

I find this infuriating.

Still, out of all of these examples, I believe The Hunger Games has the best love triangle... even if it is a little love triangle of doom.

How do you feel about love triangles in stories? Do you have a favorite ship?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who Is Your Favorite Fantasy Hero?

Oh man, there are so many. Several studs immediately come to mind. Harry Potter. Frodo. The Doctor. I’m lumping everything supernatural, paranormal, sci-fi and fantasy under one umbrella. There should be a genre that’s simple “not reality”. I don’t know who I’d choose as my favorite hero. The guy who played Thor was pretty hot. I think I’ll always have a slight obsession with Robert Pattinson. Something about his vampire aloofness appealed to me in the movie, Twilight. And this is from a girl who didn’t even fall into the boy band fanaticism craze when the guys were at their prime.

What makes a hero appealing to you? Is it their good looks? If I’m being honest, that helps, but that’s definitely not what makes a man interesting. A hero to me is more handsome for being attractive in his own way. It could be the scar that slashes over his cheek, or a crooked nose from where he broke it in a fight. My father always told me to look for character, and perhaps that bleeds over into what I want for a fantasy hero. A scar always has a story. I’m interested in people for their stories, experiences and feelings.

One of my favorite fictional guys is Ron from Harry Potter. He’s kind of a quirky guy, but he comes into his own. It’s that elusive “it” factor that draws me in.

Recently I filled out an interview that asked which actors I would have play my main characters in Ruined. For my hero, Vale, I chose Joe Manganiello, the man who plays Alcide on True Blood. Now, Alcide is a hero. Hot, sexy, troubled and kind-hearted. I just imagine him with long hair and a crown, and he would make a good Vale.

Who am I missing? Who is your favorite hero and what novel, movie or television show is he from?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Enchanted Faerie Knolls

On fine evenings lit by a silvery full moon, the faerie court travels abroad, halting to camp on a favored grassy knoll. At times, beneath a hawthorn tree. They frolic to the sweet strains of faerie harps, performing skillful dance steps, whirling ever faster in a circle with wild abandon until the grass beneath their feet is worn and an enchanted faerie ring remains forever after. Mushrooms tend to grow where graceful feet once pranced.

Mortals need be wary of the allure of these seductive places. Traps exist for the incautious. When the veil between the human realm and that of the fae thins, unsuspecting mortals may be wrenched below into a faerie dwelling. Although royally entertained, guests of the fae have little hope of returning above ground with their sanity intact.

Instead, a mortal might be spirited away to Tir-nan-óg—Land of Heart's Desire—to luxuriate in all that is new and sparkly and sensuous, never to return to the mortal realm.

Although the lure of the faerie knoll is hidden to most, those with pure hearts may hear melodious music so mesmerizing they become deaf, and observe light displays so spectacular they become blind to all else.

On rare occasions, a mortal is hurled through time and space.

Such a knoll exists in the uncontracted manuscripts of my Garden Gate series—nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, outside a cottage, just beyond the garden gate.

Another such knoll, also featured in the Garden Gate tales, can be found in Scotland. The Sithean Sluaigh (faerie knoll) is located in the northern part of the parish of Strathlachlan on the Cowal peninsula.

Do you believe in faerie magic?

You can read excerpts from the Garden Gate series at