Monday, October 31, 2011

Negatives Can Be Positive Drivers

Writers face plenty of negatives throughout their career before and after being published. Everything from rejections from agents and editors, feedback from critiques that sometimes go overboard, reviews, and even on occasion, less than stellar behavior from another author.

Negatives can drag you down or you can take them and turn them into something positive. I got my first taste of the painful side of writing when I put some of my work on a forum for critique. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did and they let me know it. Did it sting? Yes, but I decided to read the feedback carefully and learn from it. And I did. That wasn’t the last time I put work up that site for review either.

Two years into my writing journey I won a critique in a charity auction with a well known editor. I shelled out a considerable amount of money for the winning bid and I was thrilled when I sent off my first 50 pages and the synopsis to the editor. I waited in eager anticipation for her comments on my masterpiece. And then I got them. By two years in I thought I had it down. Yeah, I know. She set me straight by pointing out more problems than I wanted to count. How did that go over? I cried for two hours straight. Then I pulled up the file and read it again. I noted everything she told me was wrong and set out correcting my problems. I’ve taken a couple of workshops with that editor since. Her painful critique made me a better writer and other than those initial two hours, I’ve never regretted the money I spent to win that critique.

More recently I experienced something quite different. Without going into gory detail, I had someone on another author’s site ask me some questions. I answered without going into detail about my own writing. I have always been quiet about being a writer but a few people have noticed that my name is the same name on the book cover in my profile picture. A few hours later, the posts asking about my book had been deleted. I probably stared into the screen with my mouth hanging open at what I saw (and still see) as blatant disrespect from an author who is a consistent NYT bestseller to another author. After a few hours had passed my reaction had morphed into an attitude. I had learned something valuable: how never to treat a fan if ever I had the good fortune to have just a tiny bit of that kind of success.

Any negative that can fuel a positive outcome of some sort isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it takes some work to find the positive but when you do, you’ll probably be stronger for it.

How about you? Have you turned negatives into positives?

Sunday, October 30, 2011


There's nothing like the satisfaction of turning in a completed manuscript to your editor. I just did that a couple nights ago and I'm still basking in the glow. It wasn't a paranormal, just a regular contemporary Christmas short story, a sequel to my Don't Ask, Don't Tell novella Afterburner.

My flyboys are having a rather tragic Christmas and I wonder what readers will think. They do manage to turn it all around because I'm all about the HEA. However, it's not the kind of Christmas story fans of Afterburner might expect. There's some hot sex but nothing like what I dished out in Afterburner. This story is startlingly sweet and family oriented. I'll admit, my mushy side is showing with this one.

So my point is, will readers and fans of Afterburner be satisfied with my flyboys going in a less hot direction with Breath of Heaven?

On the one hand, I do care what my readers think. On the other, I have to write what I have to write and I always have to be true to my characters. So I'm hoping readers understand that Bas and Ryder's lives are moving in a new direction and therefore this story is different than the tone and sensuality of the first story. I hope they feel all warm and fuzzy when they get to the end.

My next project is yet another Christmas story, probably the last of my Christmas Cowboys stories for Pink Petal Books. This is also a gay rom Christmas story, but it's a little darker and a lot more sexy than Breath of Heaven. My two heroes are star-crossed lovers in a sense, parted by the ambition and immaturity of one of them. Of course, it's Christmas and he's learned his lesson and is all about apologizing for breaking the other hero's heart. And much hot sex ensues.

That pretty much does it for me for holiday stories this year. Just the two. Which is just as well because I have a super sekrit project that is feeding my satisfaction level these days. I'm winding up some research and polishing up my synopsis and then it's on to my first three chapters which I will then send off with a query letter to a publisher that isn't one of my usual publishers. After that, I cross my fingers and begin chanting, "Please, please, please..."

I'll be glad to have these other two projects sent off though because I have a number of other projects waiting in the wings. Four re-writes of old material, all of which are already sold, and then some new stuff that I've had on my schedule for some time. One good thing about being a writer, your work is never done! It's good to be wanted!

While I'm basking in my satisfaction, let me pass on some information for you. Monday is Halloween and my birthday. On my blog Sunlight Sucks, I'll be talking about something special I did last week and I'll be giving away a book to a lucky commenter. It will be my birthday present to you! I'll also be over at Flirty Author Bitches talking about some of the odd coincidences of my life. And if you want a taste of the Tales series, hop on over to my author website and check out the Six Sentence Sunday post I have on my blog there.

Now, before I head off, let me remind you that writing is fun but it's still work. The satisfaction of completing a manuscript can't be beat but what's even better is the knowledge that I continue to grow with each book I write. I try not to sit on my laurels and bask. I try to make sure that I'm learning something with every manuscript completed. If my super sekrit project gets contracted I will be ecstatic. When you don't have deadlines and your editors take everything you throw at them, having a little resistance is a good thing. Becoming complacent is a bad thing.

And with that, I am off to work on the super sekrit project! I wish you all a wonderful Halloween and I hope you're looking forward to the holidays and all the wonderful Christmas stories I know will be coming out. Happy Sunday!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween & NaNo!

Ahh- there's a nip in the air (ok, in some places- sunny San Diego is in the 80's- kinda ruins my fall vibe) and sounds of terror everywhere!

Is it ghosts? Goblins? The scream of a someone who just totalled the calories of all the halloween candy they "sampled"?

No- it's writers!

It's NaNo time! For those of you who are unaware of NaNoWriMo- aka National Novel Writer's Month- it's when 200,000 slightly insane writers from all over the globe commit to completing 50,000 words in a month.

Why you ask? Why would otherwise perfectly sane (debatable since we ARE writers after all) people want to inflict such a horrific torture on themselves?

Good question-LOL. It’s not something one can really brag about to non-writers…try it. They don’t get 50,000 words, so for me I say about 170 pages. Their eyes glaze over, they start to look down, a little foam forms at their lips (ok only those who were traumatized by English classes in school). Then they shake their heads and quickly change the subject.

When you tell them you can’t go out when they want – they tilt their heads,and narrow their eyes-

“Because you have to write 1667 words?”

“Yeah- or more, see I need to build a cushion-“

“Wait, so you get paid for this?”

“No, but see-“

“Is someone forcing you to do this? You signed a contract?”

“We’ll no. I signed up, but no one is forcing me…”

At that point it’s better to just walk away- if your friend hasn’t already.

So why do we do it? NaNo is a great chance to train your internal editor to SHUT UP. Trust me, cranking out those kind of numbers (especially for us “day job” folks) is NOT easy. Madness often ensues. And you can’t afford to lose a single word to editing. For many writers learning this skill alone is worth all of the heartache of NaNo.

Getting a down and dirty draft of something means you have something to work with verses a blank page- which means you have nothing.

But even after that first year, when the lesson of stuffing a rag in your internal editor's mouth has been learned- people come back. This is their 13th year and there are folks who have been at it for all if not most.

So why?

Because it’s a unique challenge for a writer. Actually it’s two- completing 50,000 words in one month AND making those words actually become a book afterwards ;). Trust me- my books have gone places I never would have thought of if not for NaNo.

So the screams you hear may or may not be from Halloween- they may be writers everywhere preparing for the Big One.

Happy Halloween! Happy Samhain! And Happy NaNoing!

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Was Your First Paranormal Romance?

Not too long ago I rewatched the classic Abbott and Costello film, Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula. The comedic duo were a favorite of mine growing up and they still make me laugh. Their take on Dracula, Frankenstein and the werewolf are as stereotypical as you can get. As far as Abbott and Costello are concerned, the three are all monsters out to get you when the moon comes out.

Then Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed up kicking vampire butt. We loved watching her do it until we got a good look at Angel. The guy was too gorgeous to want to see deader than dead. And after Angel we had Spike. Instead of hating the baddies we were crushing on them. Vampires were cute, cool and somebody you might want to take home to the parents (just don't pass the garlic and be sure to hide the sharp utensils).

For all that, though, I still had never bothered with paranormal romances. I was a romantic-suspense-kinda girl with a bit of cozy mystery and a side of historical regencies thrown in. Then one of my bestest gal pals sent me Christine Feehan's Dark Guardian. It went on my TBR pile and sat there and sat there and sat there until my pile dwindled to nothing. Given the choice between suffering reading withdrawal or reading something I wasn't really interested in, I gave in and picked it up--only I couldn't put it back down. Oooh, I was hooked. Almost as good as chocolate.

I got on Amazon and ordered the previous seven or eight books in Feehan's Dark series and then ordered whatever books came after. I devoured them. Paranormal romances rocked and I wanted more. I discovered a whole new genre that ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to dark and gritty. I probably read as many paranormal romances today as I do mysteries and romantic suspense. The heroes in a paranormal romance are literally out of this world. Vampires, werewolves, shifters are no longer simply frightening, they're now frighteningly sexy. I not only love to read this genre, I love to write it.

Here are some of my favorite paranormal romance authors:

Christine Feehan

Linda Wisdom

Caridad Pineiro

Laurel K. Hamilton

Amanda Stevens

What was the first ever paranormal romance novel you read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rags to Riches: Sleeping Beauty

Two weeks ago I confessed my love of film retellings of fairy tales and folklore. The cheesier the better. If it aired on the Disney Channel in the early nineties, I've watched it. After rewatching and writing about The Polar Bear King, I decided to revisit another of my old favorites.

We are all familiar with the story of The Sleeping Beauty, from the classic Disney film to Tchaikovsky's ballet to numerous books and paintings. This Sleeping Beauty is part of the Cannon Movie Tales, which aired on the Disney Channel as 'Storybook Cinema.' In this retelling, a mischievous little elf trying to do some good is responsible for giving the Queen (played by the stunning Morgan Fairchild) the magic drink to help her have a child.

The King and Queen throw a party to celebrate the birth of Princess Rosebud. Due to their number of golden plates (I guess fairies can only dine with gold dishes) they do not invite one fairy, the Fairy of Red. Calamity and curses ensue! What I enjoy about this version is that instead of sending their daughter away, the King and Queen decide to remove the implement itself. They burn all the spindles/spinning wheels and forbid anyone to own or use one. As trade doesn't seem to exist and online shopping hasn't been invented yet, the entire kingdom is reduced to rags.

It's kind of funny. You have to admit, a little bit.

What is your favorite retelling of this classic tale? Book or film?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Is Fantasy Trending Mainstream?

With shows like Once Upon A Time (which rocked), Terra Nova (which I love) and Grimm (which I haven’t seen yet), is fantasy trending mainstream? We’ve always had fantasy and sci-fi in movies and books, but is it starting to gather steam in Hollywood? Obviously, we’ve seen the Superhero thing catch fire, and I can’t complain because I love those Superhero stories.

Lord of the Rings was a huge movie production and a lot of people saw those movies. Does this mean that the mainstream audience is looking for more?

Is everyone in general a little tired of reality? Could they possibly be looking for the escape into magic that I’ve craved most of my life?

I’m just wondering what this means for fantasy fans. Are we ready to share? I am. But I also don’t consider myself a hardcore fantasy fan. I suppose I’ve never clung to a niche market enough to consider myself diehard. Although, I am re-watching the Harry Potter movies at this very moment, so maybe I am a little diehard.

Avatar is the ultimate fantasy. Harry Potter proved we’re all willing to take a wizard seriously and give magic our attention. So does it need to be the right story? Or is Hollywood starting to see it could be any story that’s well-written with compelling characters?

I have to say I was a little confused by Once Upon A Time’s premise before I watched the show. I understood that fairytales were real in some way, but the commercials confused me a little. I was pleasantly surprised by the premise and the writing. I cried a little and ended the episode with a smile on my face.

Is mainstream ready for more? Or do we still need to be careful what we dole out. I’d love for sci-fi romance and fantasy with romantic subplots to catch on. Television and movies can be quite the escape from writing and reading. I love reading, but having Terra Nova and dinosaurs to look forward to on Mondays has definitely improved my week.

What do you think? Is Fantasy trending mainstream? What do you see this meaning for the fantasy and sci-fi markets?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween: Horror or Fantasy?

When I came across this picture a few days ago, I felt inspired to write a Halloween fantasy story. However, as Halloween approaches, I've been reading blog posts and social network messages filled with Halloween horror—zombies, demons, characters like disfigured dream stalker, Freddy Krueger.

Which do you prefer around Halloween time: horror or fantasy?

What is your favorite Halloween costume?


Other happenings:

Less than one-week left to join in the fun. Castles & Guns is a sponsor for Night Owl Reviews' Halloween Full Moon Web Hunt though October 31st. Join us. Win cool prizes! Be sure to enter here.

My Scottish time travel fantasy manuscript from my Garden Gate series, Just Once in a Very Blue Moon, is a finalist in the Passionate Reads pitch contest. Chapter 1 is posted with only a few days remaining to vote. Voting ends on October 28. I could sure use your help. Read and vote here.

Tweet me at @DawnM_Hamilton

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Disappointing Climax

So you thought this was about sex, eh?

Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not writing about that today (maybe later, though). I'm talking about those other climaxes -- the ones in a story where our hearts are beating like crazy, our nails are digging into our palms (or the seat cushion), and our emotions are taken on such a roller-coaster ride that we're left both drained and sated at the end. (OK, so maybe you could describe great sex that way, but I digress...)

A climax shouldn't come out of left field. It should have a slow build, from the very beginning of the story, each detail enhancing the previous until you reach that critical point of no return.

A climax should be on the same scale as the build-up, gratifyingly appropriate. Nothing is worse than a tease. If the story is hinting at something huge, then the climax should fit the foreshadowing, the tension, the stakes.

A climax shouldn't be over in a few seconds or resolved with a simple conversation. No wham-bam-thank-you-ma'ams. It should be meaty, juicy, fulfilling.

A climax should wrap loose ends and be relevant to the story. Don't leave me dangling. It shouldn't leave me going, "Well, that's nice, but what about XYZ?"

Why am I harping on climaxes today? Maybe it's because I recently read a book where I become emotionally involved with the characters and was left decidedly disappointed by the climax. Yes, reading can be like sex in that way. No matter how tempting a story seems at first, if it's disappointing where it counts, then I'm left feeling hurt, betrayed, and less likely to invite that author into my bedroom again.

Think about the climax of the book you last read or the last movie you last saw. Was it good for you? Did you immediately need a cigarette? Or were you ready to hit the shower and wash the memory away?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Those People Inside Our Heads: Creating Character

Last night, I dreamt that Mirren and I were driving near Tuscaloosa, a city in west-central Alabama for those of you living in faraway places like L.A. (lower Alabama). We were in his beat-up old Bronco that he just won’t get rid of. It’s become a hobby of his, keeping that thing running. Drives everybody crazy, no pun intended.

We were on Highway 69 (no, that isn’t symbolic…or is it?), and we spotted a beautiful house set on a hill with a lake behind it and lots of forested land around it. Just over the ridge, though, was the entrance to a new subdivision, and we were debating whether the charms of the house outweighed the traffic that might build up around that subdivision.

Now, this is all well and good. Not a nightmare, you say. What’s the big deal?

Here’s the problem. Mirren is a vampire. In a novel. That I wrote. He lives only in my head. And he’s really not very good house-buying material. And he’s not even in the novel I’m working on, I might add.

It’s a weird thing with writers and characters. Eventually, if we’re lucky, our characters become real to us. They talk without us putting words in their mouths, or so we think. My characters have made me cry. They’ve sure made me laugh. They’ve made me feel like the cleverest person to ever sit at a keyboard, and they’ve made me feel like a sadistic creep.

In Nancy Kress’ Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, she says there are four sources authors use to develop characters:

1) Ourselves. “In once sense, every character you create will be yourself,” she says. “You’ve never murdered, but your murderer’s rage will be drawn from memories of your own most extreme anger…Unless telepathy is common, our own emotions are the only ones we’ve intimately experienced. They’re our default setting.” I think this is true, and is one reason I have the most trouble with deep, emotional scenes—I’m a pretty even-tempered person, and I’ve worked forever in journalism and public relations, where lack of emotion is a must for success. It’s a bane for a writer, however.

2) People we know. “Like characters based on yourself, fictional creations based on others seem to most effective when they’re cannibalized,” Kress notes. She suggests taking a temperament from Uncle Bob, the looks of some hot male model, a pinch of this person, a pinch of that person. Plus, cannibalizing can help you avoid lawsuits.

3) Strangers as characters. This is when we create characters out of people we read about in news stories or see on TV. I tend to use this method a lot because, frankly, my own friends and relatives would recognize themselves and such a road is fraught with peril. 

4) Character invented of whole cloth. I think this is a lot less common that one might think, and one option Kress doesn’t really talk about is “all of the above.” Take Mirren. I based his looks on a mixed martial arts dude I saw on TV. His personal quirks I made up. His tendency to tell people to shove it (in not such nice language) is from me, because anger and belligerence are, sadly, two of my easier emotions to channel. His tendency to keep people at arm's length also comes from me. Okay, I don’t know any Irish vampires who worked as mercenaries in South America in the early 1800s, so that part of Mirren is invented as well.

This was an interesting exercise for me because I think we create these character on some subconscious level, and after a while they take on a life of their own and become real to us—to the point where we might dream about them.

Take one of your own characters. Can you spot where you’ve cannibalized and where you’ve invented?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Psychic Abilities

Do you believe in psychic abilities? We've all heard about psychic powers, telepathy, clairvoyance and many more. Supposedly, all humans possess a certain amount of psychic ability, though a lot of people would never lay claim to such a thing.

Well, mine is a stream over my head. I can pluck information out of it. Once, a friend's husband needed a job, and I got them into contact with a person at the company I worked for at the time. Then I was out of the picture. I had no influence on the hiring. It was up the 'husband' and his credentials. But, like most people, he desperately wanted to know . . . anything. I went up to the stream and came back with numbers. They didn't make sense to me, but lo and behold, they were the exact dates that he was hired.

Another time, a friend asked about a missing cat. I could see the cat near water, trees, wet, cold, shivering, feeling lost. She went out looking in an area that I described and found her missing cat. Yeah. Because of that, another friend asked me to search my stream for any information about her cat that dashed out her door. I got nothing. It was like the cat didn't exist. Guess what? He never came back.

Things don't pop into my head. I have to reach up into this stream high over my head and accept whatever it gives me. There is no control. Sometimes I can visual it sort of sparkling with different colors, like faceted gemstones.

I'm not sure how I feel about this ability. Am I psychic? I honestly don't know. I'm a great believer in denying these abilities. Call me Queen of Denial. Can I do anything with my stream? Not sure. I've always had it. I like to think that I'm a really good guesser. Is that denial rearing its head. Maybe. When I use the stream a lot, it seems to get stronger and I don't partially like the feeling. Am I nuts? I hope not.

I supposed I just have to be honest with myself, and be happy that once in a while I can help people.

What about you? Anyone have psychic abilities that they'd like to share with the rest of us?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Become the Brand

We've had so many great author-centric blogs from my fellow Castles & Guns posters lately that I just felt inspired to share my own.

Then I had to really think about what I knew well enough I could blog about it with a straight face.


Okay, there is one area that while I won't claim any sort of mastery over, I have studied enough and have starting walking the path that I do feel comfortable to start talking about.

That is Branding.

Yes, I hear the groans now from my beloved author compatriots. I just want to write, that's what I hear them say. Leave me alone and stick your branding where-

Whoa, whoa, whoa, let's not get too hasty peoples. Yes, you are sick of the word and everything it stands for, I get that. Doesn't change the facts though. You need a brand. You need it now. And you need to live it.

Your brand is how people will find you. People - as in, your readers. This is a highly important thing for an author.

Let me give a few examples.

Delilah Marvelle is an especially naughty historical romance writer (not quite erotica, but very steamy.) She is charming, ribald, and an overall delight. She blogs about the history of sex. Her taglines include, "I don't write bodice rippers. I write trouser rippers." and "Respectable society, your days are numbered!"

You have no doubt from the above about who she is as an author or what she writes, and if that interests you then you as reader are going to be making a beeline for her. She also doesn't make the mistake of mucking up her brand. Everything she does online is connected somehow to what she writes.

You could also do a group branding. The Smutketeers are a wonderful group of ladies who write erotica, with the tagline "All for smut and smut for all." Again, you as reader know exactly what you are going to find when you stumble upon their site.

What do you write? Distill it down and give yourself a tagline, just like you do for your books. And then everything you write - whether it be book or blog or twitter post - build upon that brand. This is what's going to make it easier for your readers to find you.

Remember, you need to be consistent in your message. I seem to recall somewhere that it takes 7 exposures to something before you start to remember it. Well, if every time someone is exposed to you they are seeing yet another message, then you'll never even hit that magic 7 number.

So my friends, any other branding tips you wish to share?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Learning Your Limits

Lex Valentine did an awesome blog post in August called Overexposure where she talked about the downside of doing lots of new releases and not pacing yourself. I totally agreed with her post, but for the newly published author who wants to go, go, go, it might be a little hard to grasp something like that. But it's really important.

Look at it like this. Why are you a writer? You (hopefully) enjoy writing books. What happens if you push yourself too hard and think you're superwoman in disguise? You begin lacking that desire and lose what makes it all so fun and great because you're stressed out and worn out.

It's really important to learn the words focus and no. If you're not sure about taking on a certain project because you know you're needing some rest, it's okay to say no. If you already have things going on, but that place you've been wanting to submit to has a call for submission, focus! Don't do it unless you know without a shadow of a doubt that you can make the time to accomplish everything! Just because they're having it now, doesn't mean you'll miss out by waiting a little until your schedule eases up.

Anyways, writers should be ambitious, and a little crazy when it comes to writing, but it's so important to learn your limits. Stretching is good. Overestimating is bad.

How about you guys? Have you learned your limits? Do you know how to say no?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Frustrated eBook Reader

Frustrations from an eBook reader

Hi everyone –

I'm a generally a happy, optimistic person. It takes a lot to rile me up...

But my friends... I am RILED!

I’ll do my best to keep this little rant short…

I’ve blogged here before about my love for my Kindle and my newfound love of eBooks. I find hands-free, larger font, never-lose-your-place reading to be a gift from the gods.

I have bought about 3 times more books since I got my Kindle. It’s SO easy to go snatch up an author’s entire backlist! Wow! Instead of having to remember the author’s name next time I’m in the bookstore, only to find they don’t carry any of the older backlist books, I can now buy an author’s entire series and have it in my kindle in less than 5 minutes!

We live in amazing times!!!

My Mom owns a Nook. I asked her about the book buying phenomenon and she confirmed that she too, is buying at least 3 times as many books now…

So what is New York Publishing’s problem???

I finally got around to reading Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. (Love it!) Anyway, each eBook was $7.99 the same cost as the mass market paperback. Annoying since I’m not buying a physical product, but I can stomach it.

Until I got to the most recent release.

River Marked just came out in March of this year from Ace. On Amazon the hardcover goes for $16.00, the paperback for $7.99 and the eBook version…



This is like a slap in the face to faithful eBook readers. We like our digital device. We pay our money and no trees are harmed.

And yet we have to pay more for a digital version than for a printed paperback book that also has to be shipped across the country??? *boggle*

Who does this math?

I refuse to pay it. I refuse! Give me a break New York! I’m not paying $12.99 for an eBook and I won’t be bullied into buying the paperback when I wanted to download to my Kindle.

So I won’t get to see Mercy and Adam get married for now. I’m so annoyed and irritated I might not get the book even after the price finally comes down… Although I like Patricia Briggs and it’s not her fault they jacked up the eBook price so…

How long does traditional publishing think they can do this to readers? More Kindles and Kindle Fires will be under the Christmas trees this year. More people will discover the joy of hands-free reading…

And will traditional publishers still try to strong arm readers into buying a paper book?

What are your thoughts?

*frustrated eBook lover*

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interview with Nancy Holzner

Please help us welcome Nancy Holzner to Castles & Guns today!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in the Finger Lakes region of New York with my husband, Steve. We're both writers, although he writes technical books. I grew up in Massachusetts, studied English until I ran out of degrees I could earn, and have worked as an English professor, high school teacher, corporate trainer, editor, and full-time writer.

2. When/how did you know you wanted to write?
I started writing when I was a kid. At that age, I didn't even think about “wanting” to write; I just did it.  In college, I decided I was going to go to graduate school and earn a PhD, and I switched my focus from creative writing to the academic kind. I didn't start writing creatively again until my daughter was in high school. The urge to tell stories was always there, but it got to a point where I could no longer ignore that urge. I don't know what flipped the switch; maybe I simply spent too long suppressing it, writing stories in my head but never jotting them down. For whatever reason, the dam broke, and I started writing like crazy.

3. Tell us about your newest release, Bloodstone.
Bloodstone is the third book in my Deadtown urban fantasy series. The series is set in Boston, after a plague has turned two thousand citizens into zombies. The former quarantine zone is now Deadtown, the paranormal district. (Deadtown's zombies aren't exactly the kind you see in horror movies; they can talk and think, and they retain their human personalities.) In Bloodstone, a series of ritual killings has Boston on edge, and tensions are high between the human and paranormal communities.
Vicky Vaughn is a shapeshifter who kills other people's personal demons for a living. She thinks her biggest problems are tracking down her missing vampire roommate and introducing her werewolf boyfriend to her sister's suburban family. Then the killer targets Vicky, and she becomes drawn into an ancient feud that could change the fate of the world. And her problems are only beginning...

4. How long did it take you to write the book?
About six months to write the manuscript I sent to my editor. After I got her editorial notes, I spent another month revising.

5. What inspired you to write Bloodstone?
In my series, Bloodstone follows Hellforged (book 2). I used the events of Hellforged as a springboard into the next book, asking myself what might happen next.

6. Bloodstone is part of the Deadtown series. Do you recommend readers read the books in order, or are they standalone?
I think the books in any series, including mine, are best read in order. When you start with book 1 and move forward from there, you can follow the development of the characters and the overarching story arc. That said, I realize that not all readers begin a series with book 1. So I try to write each book in a way that gets new readers oriented in the story and its world, but without boring existing readers with a big info dump.

7. What’s the most important thing you’d like readers to take away when reading your books?
A good time. I have lots of fun writing urban fantasy, and most of all I want my readers to be entertained.

8. What two things do you want readers to associate with your stories?
A lot of readers have told me that they'll never look at Boston the same away again after reading my books. So that's one thing. For the other, I'd say Welsh mythology, which forms the foundation for the series. Vicky, my protagonist, is a shapeshifter who's part of the Cerddorion race—descendents of the Welsh goddess Ceridwen. I take a lot of license with the background mythology, but it's still an important part of my series' world.

9. What are you working on next?
I'm finishing up the manuscript for book 4 in the series, Darklands, which will be out next summer. In it, Vicky travels to Annwn, the Welsh realm of the dead, to prevent an old enemy from returning. I'm also working on some short stories set in Deadtown's world and the second book in a mystery series, which I'll release as an ebook.

10. What’s one thing you’d tell an aspiring author?
I like the saying “There's a word for writers who don't give up: published.” Write every day (even if it's  just a few words), read widely, don't take rejection personally, and keep trying. Persistence is key.

Bloodstone, the third novel in Nancy Holzner's Deadtown series, is now available. For information on Nancy and her books, visit her website. You can also find Nancy on Facebook and Twitter, and blogging with other fantasy authors at Dark Central Station.


By Nancy Holzner
Book 3 Deadtown Series
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Ace
Release date: September 27, 2011
ISBN-10: 044102100X
ISBN-13: 978-0441021000
Boston’s diverse South End is known for its architecture and great restaurants, not its body count. So when mutilated human corpses begin turning up in the area, the entire city takes notice. The killer—dubbed the South End Reaper—uses a curved blade for his grisly work. And even though there’s no real evidence pointing to a paranormal culprit, the deaths are straining the already-tense relations between Boston’s human and inhuman residents.
As the bodies pile up, Vicky, her formidable aunt Mab, and her werewolf boyfriend Kane investigate, only to find that the creature behind the carnage is after something much more than blood…

About Nancy

Nancy Holzner grew up in western Massachusetts with her nose stuck in a book. This meant that she tended to walk into things, wore glasses before she was out of elementary school, and forced her parents to institute a “no reading at the dinner table” rule. It was probably inevitable that she majored in English in college and then, because there were still a lot of books she wanted to read, continued her studies long enough to earn a masters degree and a PhD.
She began her career as a medievalist, then jumped off the tenure track to try some other things. Besides teaching English and philosophy, she’s worked as a technical writer, freelance editor and instructional designer, college admissions counselor, and corporate trainer. Most of her nonfiction books are published under the name Nancy Conner.
Nancy lives in upstate New York with her husband Steve, where they both work from home without getting on each other’s nerves. She enjoys visiting local wineries and listening obsessively to opera. There are still a lot of books she wants to read.!/NancyHolzner

Nancy is holding a tour-wide contest for your chance to win your choice of a signed copy of Deadtown, Hellforged, or Bloodstone. The giveaway is open to the US only. Click here to enter.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Juggling And Other Skills You Need

Six years into my writing “career”, admittedly a good chunk of that time was spent on learning craft instead of having the remotest resemblance of a career, I’ve discovered that this doesn’t get easier. Just the opposite, it becomes more time consuming, there are more demands coming at me from every direction, and craft can always be improved.

I’ve reached the point where I can juggle writing projects both short and novel length. I currently have four novels in the works as well as a constant carousel of short stories. Which brings in the need for my inner marketing ho. I’ve learned a few marketing tricks with short stories that are starting to bear fruit.

Along with the day to day writing and marketing, there are other things like helping other writers who aren’t as far down the road and helping other writers who are on occasion. Many people have helped me over the past six years and I want to pay it forward. I believe what you put out in the world comes back to you eventually.  (At least, I hope so.)

I’m also a workshop ho. I love workshops though I’ve reached the point where I don’t take as many classes. I still find at least one each month to sign up for. Workshops are such a great way to sharpen skills and help out the teaching writer at the same time. In the past I would sometimes take as many as five workshops in a single month.

Then there is organization. Files, papers, physical and virtual folders. I still have issues in this area. I have notebooks of ideas, post it notes, scraps of paper, word processing files. If you can write on it, I probably have notes on it. I know I could turn out work faster if I was better organized so this is a big item on my goal list (remember I’m big on goals)

What do you juggle? What do you find hardest to manage?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lords of Aether

Have you ever had an idea you thought was just impossible? I had one recently. I had been thinking of the serial story I used to write in, The Bar. I miss it. I miss the writers and the camaraderie. While I was pouting, an idea sprang to life in my head. In the next instant, I had the depressing thought that there was no way this could work.

A few weeks back, author Jason Edding and I had been talking about collaborating on something to do with the world his characters Jack and Edge inhabit. We couldn't figure out how to do this and puzzled, we tabled the idea for the present. Then I got this impossible idea. The more I thought about it the more I wondered if it wasn't as impossible as I thought. So I emailed Jason, who loved the idea.

The next thing I knew, I'd emailed some of my very favorite author pals and tossed this impossible idea at them. None of them thought it was impossible even though some of them turned down the opportunity to bring it to fruition because of time issues. Well, time was one of the reasons I thought it might be impossible, but with more than four authors participating, the do-ability of the project became probable rather than impossible.

The idea was to create a serial story written by several multi-published gay rom authors. And not just any serial would be a steampunk gay serial with weekly story posts free to the public. If the project got off the ground and began to grow a fan base, we could then take this little freebie world and story and grow it into novels and novellas published by the authors on Amazon and B&N.

The project is Lords of Aether and the current author line-up is myself, Jason Edding, KC Burn, Stephani Hecht, Jaime Samms, and Charlie Cochrane. We're working on an overall storyline/plot, world building, and characters and hope to launch before the end of the year. Eventually, in 2012 we hope to get other authors involved if only on a guest author basis for short term sub plots. With steampunk growing as a genre, this would be our chance to test the waters. Working as a group, we can help each other overcome issues with writing in a completely new genre. And I think the idea of a gay steampunk serial is just hot, hot, hot.

When I discussed the idea with my pal Z.A. Maxfield, she thought it definitely had possibilities for growing the kind of fan base that spawns fanfic. The funny thing about that is the whole serial story idea came from my love of The Bar which had it's roots in fanfic.

I think some of the richness of this serial will come from the fact that we're experimenting and trying new things. It's my sense that we're approaching this with the same mindset as those who write fanfic. This is a new genre for us, but it's one that we are intrigued by and enjoy. We want to see how we can put our spin on it. Eventually, if it takes off, the idea of novels and novellas that the fans can purchase should translate to a means of supporting the world and growing the fan bases of every author involved in the project.

The potential for success is high as is the potential for failure. However, I am positive that the experience will enrich us all as authors. I'm looking forward to hammering out the plot and world and characters with my friends. And I'm really looking forward to giving this story (whatever it may be!) to the readers.

You can follow the progress of our start at Nothing much to see there now, but...there will be.

Have a great Sunday!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Soul Mate, Life Mate, Spirit Mate -- Does it really matter?

I just finished Christine Feehan's latest release, Dark Predator. Her Dark series revolves around the premise that each male must find his lifemate before he becomes vampire or faces the dawn. Of course, there is only one woman destined for each male and so, they wait hundreds, more than a thousand years to find that one lifemate.

A lot of paranormal romances seem to follow this path. It doesn't matter what you call it, the bottom line is there is one woman for one man. But it goes deeper because generally the future they face if they do not find that soul mate or other half, is beyond bleak--it can have deadly consequences.

When I look at others of my must buy authors in this genre like Kresley Cole, Lynsay Sands or Jennifer Lyons they all go with some variation of that theme. Interestingly in Sands case, finding a life mate has to do with not being able to read that person's mind, among other things, and it is possible to have more than one life mate over the course of a lifetime. Even so, since it can take centuries or more to find that one impossible-to-read mate, it still comes down to a kind of destiny.

I have to say that I am a sucker for that gob-smacking moment when the hero realizes "she" is the one. I have been known to go back and re-read those parts where that realization hits. No laughing, please. ( : Seriously, the tension that builds to that moment and the emotions that rain down when it happens are the stuff of great, can't-put-down fiction.

I had a discussion with a friend who felt the whole life mate, soul mate, etc. was overdone. I argued that a lot of readers enjoy it, and that includes me. (See above about re-reading those scenes.)

Is it necessary for the genre? Not really. Linda Wisdom's Hex series doesn't follow this pattern. Yet, it's clear that the mates they end up with are the catch of a very long lifetime. At the end of the story there is that feeling of "this was meant to be." And really, for any reader, ultimately you are looking for a great love story. If an author delivers on that point, whether the hero or heroine is "the only one" or simply "the one," won't make a difference.

What do you think? Do you like having a one and only soul mate? Do you think this pattern within the paranormal romance genre is cliched and overdone?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Princely Polar Bears and... Stuff?

I have a confession to make! I have a penchant for cheesy retellings of fairytales in films. If it was a cheesy fairytale retelling that aired on the Disney Channel in the 90's, you can believe that I watched it many times. I always seemed to catch the last half hour, so while the endings are cemented in my memory, the beginnings are pretty fuzzy.

Oh, the trials and tribulations before DVR.

One of my favorites was 'The Polar Bear King' and recently it was added to the selection of Instant Netflix. Naturally, nostalgia made me rewatch it. (Technically, this is folklore, not a fairy tale, but work with me here!) If I was looking for a cheesy retelling, I was not disappointed.

The Polar Bear King is the story of a prince turned into a polar bear by an evil witch for turning down her hand in marriage. He has to find a bride and his journey takes him north. He finds a beautiful and kind princess and carries her on his back to his home. There they marry and every night he visits her at midnight when he is human again.

This film is loosely based on a Norwegian fairy tale 'White Bear King Valemon.' Does the story sound familiar? Try the myth/legend of Cupid and Psyche. The search for a lost husband is type 425A on the Aarne-Thompson classification system and there are many more stories on that list. Also known as, 'Oh no! I messed up, Honey! Let me go through awful ordeals to prove how sorry I am.'

My favorite cheesy moment in the movie...

For some reason, the princess' father, the King of Winterland, considers the wild animals as his subjects and can talk to them. At one point he yells for everyone to be quiet because the wolves are calling to him. ...Sure they are.