Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Labor of Love

Hi everyone -

It's tough to keep up with all the changes in the publishing world. Sometimes it feels like it's changing daily! Yikes!

As a newly published author it's super tough for me to keep up. We hear "diverisfy", "build your brand", "backlist is everything", and the list goes on and on.

Then you plop time management and multi-tasking writing projects on top of that list and my head can start spinning! LOL

Before Night Walker sold, I had been working on my own short story anthology. It's dedicated to Ray Bradbury. He changed my life when he challenged me to write a new short story every week for a year. Not only did I fall in love with writing again, but I kept it up for over a year and half.

Needless to say, I have almost 100 short stories written now. Not all of them are masterpieces, but I learned from each and every one.

But once my Night Series sold, I found myself buried in a whirldwind of book edits and book promotion, and my short story anthology languished.

Until Now! LOL

So my editing partner & I have finished polishing, the layout is almost complete, and I just received the cover from the cover designer. (Self-Publishing is HARD! But we can blog about that another day... :)

I realize a short story anthology will never be a best-seller, but for me it's a labor of love. I'm excited to share Forgotten Treasures with you!

Here's the back cover blurb...

Spooky tales told while huddled around a campfire.
Memories of "the good old days" shared by grandparents.
Alien invasions by flashlight, under the covers, after bedtime.

Short stories are like Forgotten Treasures you find in a trunk in the attic, just waiting to be discovered.

Inside this book lurks a Christmas loving demon, a pirate ghost who becomes flesh only one night a year, and an ancient Egyptian god who longs to be a god of rock-n-roll.

These tales, and many more, are anxious for you to open the cover and dust them off.

I'll have more release information soon, but for now you can add it to your to-read list on Goodreads! Yay! :)

Thanks for all the support this year!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Author Marsha A. Moore

Am I on the trolley or is this a bunch of malarky?
My new story, Le Cirque De Magie, set in the 1920’s, allowed me to have lots of fun with slang. For a while, it had me all balled up learning the terms, but then I found out the twenties were the first decade to focus on a youth culture rather than older generations. It made sense that the popular lingo was fresh with spirit and energy. The flapper sub-culture had tremendous influence on mainstream America; newly-liberated women asserted their rights and coined many new words and phrases.
Those fiery woman of the era were given lively monikers: bearcats, dames, tomatoes, the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, flappers, shebas. Makes me visualize a Halloween costume party!
Also during that era, the automobile made its debut in society, and the two ideas comingled. A woman with a fine chassis was a catch. Although, if she turned out to be a dull-witted, disappointing date, a guy would call her a flat tire or an oilcan. Conversely, most cars were referred to as tin lizzie or “she.” In my opinion, those comparisons were all wet, but it sure does show how a man can carry a torch for his car.
In my story, the circus is leaving its winter home in Sarasota, Florida to begin a new show season. The main character, Ravi, takes on one of those bearcats when she threatens the safety of the company. However, he gets more than he bargained for when she turns out to be a demon and plays him for a sap. She transforms into shapes of a dwarf, a kite bird, and a quiff. She offers him some of her giggle water, which turns out to be coffin varnish to get him spifflicated so she can work her evils. Poor Ravi has his hands full with all of this bushwa!
I’ve beat my gums long enough. It’s been wonderful to have a chance to punch the bag with you here. Castles and Guns is the berries!
On the level, Le Cirque De Magie isn’t an orchid—it costs no mazuma and you can easily download it for free at the online stores listed below.
The circus is a blur of commotion with last minute preparations for the spring tour. Ravi, the high-wire heart throb, becomes jittery when he meets the company’s newly-hired female dwarf. Hours before departure, his magical perceptions are on fire as he witnesses her involvement in a gory bump off.

The circus manager can’t be found. Ravi is desperate to protect his sweetheart and performing partner, Alice. The train creaks away, beginning the long journey with danger stowed on board. Nicknamed the Great Birdman, Ravi steps forward and exposes his true identity—a real risk during edgy, vigilante times of prohibition. A brave move—but will his Suparna abilities be enough to snuff out this fierce demon?

Purchase links:

Author Bio:
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Her creativity also spills into watercolor painting and drawing. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transforming into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Crazy about cycling, she usually passes the 1,000 mile mark yearly. She is learning kayaking and already addicted. She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and that spiritual quest helps her explore the mystical side of fantasy. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at new stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical! She is the author of the novel, TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE, the first in a trilogy available through MuseItUp Publishing. Part two, TORTUGA TREASURE is scheduled for release in January, 2012. Look for the first of her epic fantasy romance series, SEEKING A SCRIBE: ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS ONE, to be available early 2012.

Links to Marsha:

Le Cirque De Magie Excerpt:
Before the evening show, he dressed early and patrolled the grounds. Nothing appeared suspicious outside, so he stood between sets of bleachers, watching for trouble during the performances. Again, Sadie missed her cue. It seemed too easy for her to give up at his warning—demons liked to fight.
 Clowns, trained dogs, unicyclists, and fire-eaters all came and went without issue. Alice was in his sight, in the watchful company of her brother and the manager. Aromas of buttered popcorn and spun cotton candy mixed with animal odors—the typical circus smell. Nothing odd. He looked through the crowd for the dwarf. Instead of finding her, the number of children in the audience impressed him. All those smiling, young faces he must keep safe.
After a deep breath, he refocused, looking for any strange happening in the rings. Clown acts took the right and left rings. In the center, the snake charmer and his assistant wheeled out carts of large rush baskets. Three would contain his Naga friends. Upon the sweet notes of the charmer’s wooden flute, lids of the baskets opened and ropes danced up in response to his calls. Henry, Walter, and Gladys actually controlled those ropes, using their magic to extend them above their bodies. Ravi seldom watched the shows anymore. In full costume, the act came off well, a crowd-pleaser earning lots of cheers.
Tigers growled and pawed the wagon bed of their holding cage as it rolled in behind where Ravi stood. Sensing his magic, they clawed the bars nearest him, creating a spectacle.
Blocked from leaving by the animal wagon and not wanting to walk in front of the crowd, he climbed into the stands. When at last he found a seat, chaos ensued in the center ring.
The Nagas crawled in all directions, writhing and coiling. Above them a white bird with a forked, black tail swooped—a kite. It struck the snake people with both its talons and beak. The charmer, his assistant, and half a dozen other men ran around frantically. Some waved large nets on poles to catch the bird, and others yelled in various languages. How did the raptor get into the ring?
Ravi jumped to his feet, again wrestling to control his outward appearance.
Soon everyone around him stood, craning to see the ruckus.
The snakes hissed and struck, but the bird soared out of reach. In one ill-fated attempt, Henry missed and bit the shoulder of his trainer.
The men dropped their nets and kneeled beside the wounded man. They slapped his hands and cheeks. It was too late. Few knew the snake people possessed real, deadly venom.
The kite continued to torment Gladys, despite her attempts to slither under a cart. Her snake tail hung limp, wounded. Was that bird another form of the dwarf?
The tigers roared and flung themselves at their cage walls. Spectators screamed and rushed down the steps to leave. The rickety bleachers swayed with the frenzy of motion.
Ravi’s wing tips burst out of the slits in his costume at his shoulder blades. The tangle of people stopped him from getting to the ring, so he climbed atop the handrail and lifted into flight.
Someone high in the stands cried out, “Birdman!”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vampires: Please Get a Spine

I love vampire novels. I love them from different authors in different genres. I also love paranormal romance. Give me a romance featuring a good vampire and I’m all yours. Only one problem. With the exception of horror, almost every vampire I read about is missing something important—his spine. I get that romance readers aren’t looking for the kind of vampires that occupy horror stories. I don’t have a problem with that. I get that I like my heroes with a harder edge than a lot of people prefer. But come on. Vampires who are sweet as sugar and don’t want to kill if their life literally depends on it? Yes, I’ve read books with characters like this and usually I can’t finish the book. I tend to skim through the remainder to see if the vampire ever finds his spine, usually, he doesn’t.

There are exceptions, of course, Ward and Feehan come to mind and I know there are a few others. But when I read about cutesy vampires I lose interest in the book. How did the sweet natured vampire come about? Let’s examine the vampire. No matter how he becomes a vampire, becomes undead, born a vampire, a virus makes him a vampire, whatever the way, until recently, the vampire was not portrayed as a sweet natured lover boy waiting to happen. At heart, he is a predator. I want to see him as a predator. If someone threatens him, he should kill them and not think twice about it and he should not suffer guilt over it later. Predators do whatever they have to in order to survive.

But that isn’t what we see in the vast majority of vampire fiction. I’d love to see a bunch of books come out with mean-assed vampires just waiting to rip the head off the first person who bothered their woman. Give me a book where a vampire likes being a vampire, has no problem killing if he needs to, and occasionally loses his cool and just goes off the deep end and lets someone have it because he’s a bad boy. Yeah, that’s what I want to read. Deliver that and I’ll be a loyal fan as long as the books keep coming. Give me a book with a spineless vamp and I’m done.

How about you? How do you like your vampires?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

He Made Me Cry!

Crying is cathartic, something romance readers know quite well. I don't know about you, but I love a book that makes me cry. This time of year, holiday stories reign supreme and if there is one thing I love about Christmas and's holiday stories! The ones that are hot and funny and still manage to make me cry are my favorites. So today, I'm going to talk about some of the holiday stories that have captured my heart. Some are new, some are staples I've been reading for several years. But they all have one thing in common besides being holiday themed stories...they made me sob.

Now, to be honest, not a lot of books can make me cry. Going way back to my earliest days of reading romance, the two that stick out in my mind as having made me sob are Laurie McBain's Devil's Desire and Kathleen Woodiwiss's Wolf and the Dove. (No Sweet Savage Love for me!) Roll forward a little to the time period before I was published and I'll tell you Elizabeth Hoyt's Raven Prince did the job.

Coming even more forward to the present day, I've got a really long list of books that make me cry. Liz Fielding's The Bride's Baby. Yes, I know it's a Harlequin. Yes, I know it's a secret baby sort of story. But dammit. She did a great job of pulling my emotions. Beth Williamson's On His Knees. Like Fielding's book, this one gets me because of the depth of the hero's love. Mina Carter's Playing With Fyre. Again, a hero who learns to love as is Lorelei James's All Jacked Up. Then there's Dee Carney's Keeping Pace. Hell, I beta read this for her and sobbed and sobbed. But I love it. Str8te Boys by Evangeline Anderson. What do you do when the person you love can't accept that both of you are gay? And Chris Owens's Bareback. Geez. Hot man sex and an emotional wrenching like you've never had before.

Those are just a few of the contemporary books that get me going. Still, the holiday ones do it better than anything else. Here's the ones that open the flood gates for me.

Josh Lanyon's The Dickens With Love. I can never say enough good things about this story. Both heroes are flawed, but the love they discover in just a few days is about as rare and wonderful as snow in Los Angeles.
DH Starr's Someone To Give Thanks For. This is new at MLR Press. Got it yesterday. Read it twice. Sobbed and laughed both times. Friends to lovers. Misery to ecstasy. Mine kind of story.

Z.A. Maxfield's Secret Light. This isn't out yet but it's due out at Loose Id. I read the galley proofs in order to do the trailer for it. The trailer is done and it's the most beautiful thing I've ever made. As soon as ZAM has a cover we'll post the trailer. Meanwhile, you all have an amazing bittersweet story coming atcha from an author who truly knows what it means to pull your heartstrings.
Shelby Reed's Holiday Inn. Talk about your second chance stories. Two people who are essentially lost find each other in a freak snow storm created by the guy in the red suit. It's a tear jerker you'll smile through.

Flesa Black's Joey To the World. Sam is the perfect hero. He says all the right stuff in the end even though he doesn't say - or do - the right in the beginning. And the middle. And the almost end. But the end is tissue worthy.

AJ Hardcourt's Ten Inches. Not exactly a holiday story but it's a snow storm. And hot sex. And best friends who've fallen in love with each other. Gah. Makes me cry and sweat. It's awesome.

Stephanie Julian's Size Matters. Love with Sasquatch. Sort of. And about accepting people as they are. It's another one that isn't exactly a holiday story but has the snow storm element as well as being hot and making you cry.

Joanne Kells's Half of the Other. Co-workers stuck on each other. A lovely gay rom set during the holidays. One hero's mom is amazing. The two heroes together...definitely had me reaching for the tissues. Oh, and they were amazingly funny too!

Jennifer Leeland's The Christmas She Rules. This one, like Dickens With Love is one I have to read again and again and again and again even when it isn't the holidays. I love Jen's writing and this story is so very touching and heart wrenching. And it has a HEA so my sniffles turn to smiles.

Now, you don't have to take my word for it that these are Kleenex worthy. But they worked for me. Had me tearing right up! Of course, a couple of my own stories make me do that including A Very Cougar Christmas and Christmas Wishes. This year I've got Breath of Heaven and Cupid Christmas. Both may make you cry.

My most recent read was DH Starr's Someone To Give Thanks For. I've already read it twice just for the sniffle-factor. Every time the hero teared up, I did. So I hope that you all have a very happy holiday season filled with sniffles and heart warming stories. Maybe my little list here will get you started. In fact, you can even hop over to my blog where I'm giving away books this holiday season. I'm giving away a book on my Six Sentence Sunday post and Black Friday was the kick off of my 30 Days of Christmas giveaway. More than 30 authors, dozens of books, and my entire backlist. Yup. Lots of holiday cheer for you.

So give those books on the list a try and do drop me a line and let me know if they made you cry!

The final countdown---I’m not ready! Or am I?

Ok, so we are in the final stretch for NaNo, and while it feels in some regards like it’s been going on forever, it also feels like it just started. (Depending upon whether I am in the middle of fighting for more words, or just thinking about it from the safe confines of work where I can’t write.)

At this point more things have popped up to throw me off track than I expected, or that I seem to recall from previous years. Of course time dulls pain- so I might just be recalling what I want to recall ;).

But I’ve also been less invested in it this time- and as such have been less driven. In the past I would grab food and sit down to write as soon as I got home. This time around I’ve been lolling about, telling myself to rest a bit after work, that I have plenty of time.

I really don’t know where this mind set is coming from, but it’s not helping!

I think the first time I did NaNo, it was a bigger deal. I really only had one completed book under my belt, and I’d never faced such a challenge before, so fear lit a fire under my butt.

This time I got cocky, I’ve got five books in various stages-I can do this one easy peasy.

Ummmm. No.

In the last few months I’ve lost my writing MoJo. Oh, I’d tell myself I was editing- and I was- but nowhere near where I needed to be. And I’ve shown myself that I can edit one book AND be writing a new one. Yet, I wasn’t doing any writing.

So while, yes, I am a mistress of the writing sprint, without regular training the sprinting muscles get rusty and it’s taken a good chunk of NaNo month to get it back.

And it’s still not back completely. I have to face the facts I may not make it this year. I still have lots of hope, and I’ll be pushing to the end- but I might not make it.

Does it mean I failed?

Heck no! I will end up with a great pile of messy words and ideas from which to craft my next work. After the legally required two month cooling off period anyway- ok, it’s not legally required, but it should be! Also- I PUSHED myself. Yes, there were days I just opted out, or too many things came up, or I didn’t feel good. But I TRIED. I put myself out there, told everyone I knew, then cranked out more words (already) than a normal writer would do in a month.

And more importantly, I reminded myself of what I can do- I think I’ve got my writing MoJo back ;).

What about you? NaNoing? Not? What else have you pushed through this month?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Anticipation: Does it Matter?

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all my readers!

Wednesday my son had the second game in the Junior High first year competitions (ie, the 7th graders). I hadn't expected them to win the first game on the previous Sunday, but they did. I attended this game with some trepidation. My son is new to baseball and while he's made a lot of progress, I saw in the first game that he's still building his confidence in the sport. There are only 7 boys in the first year on the team, so the coach had to borrow two boys from the basketball club who had previous baseball experience to fill out the team. All I hoped for in the first game was for my son to have fun and not to be responsible for some major flub. Fingers crossed, I watched and to my surprise, the team won the second game.

I went home and had lunch. The third game was scheduled to start at 1pm. I met up with another mom whom I've known a very long time, and we sat together and cheered the boys on. The opponents seemed stronger, better fielders and hitters. Our stomachs rolled as we watched each swing of the bat. We wanted our side to win, even as we worried the other side would score. Anxiety remained our constant companion.

Here in Japan, the baseball game at the junior high level only goes to 5 innings. At the end of the 5th inning it was 0-0. I knew they would go into extra innings. What I didn't know was how it would occur.

I saw my son put on his batting helmet and run onto the field. He planted himself at second base. As I looked, all the bases filled up. I realized that they start the extra inning with bases full. Talk about heart in your throat. The first batter was one of our team's strongest players. The count went three to two and then he was walked, sending the boy on third home. We scored! The next batter hit it enough for my son, who was now on 3rd, to bring it home again. Two runs and one out. The next batter popped it up. Two outs. We wanted more of a safety cushion before the next team took the field. Up came the following batter. He hit a ground ball between second and first. Another runner crossed home, right before the batter was thrown out on first. Three to zero.

The other team came to bat. Same situation--bases loaded from the start. The first batter popped out. The next batter hit a line drive. One runner came home and one person forced out. Only one more out to go. All of us were on edge as we watched. The next batter hit and it was scooped up by the second baseman, tossed to first and game over! We won! Now there are two more games left to go and if we win, it's on to the prefecture championship. I don't know if my heart will be able to take it.

As nerve wracking as it was from start to finish, I wouldn't have wanted to know the outcome from the start. Sure, knowing that we were going to win might have lowered my anxiety levels, but what if we were supposed to have lost? Having that knowledge would not only have detracted from the enjoyment but would I have even wanted to stay and watch? In sports, in particular, a great deal of excitement comes from the fact that anything can happen at any time and it's not always the strongest team or player that wins.

But is it the same in reading? Would you continue to read a story if you knew what was going to happen? How about a movie? I have dozens of novels on my bookshelf that I have read more than once, in fact so many times that the spines are pretty creased. I know the story and the ending but that doesn't stop me from reading them over and over again. The same can be said for certain favorite movies. I have to admit that when the tension and suspense are really high, I feel like I'm in such a rush to get to the end that I don't always reading as carefully as I should. Sometimes, I think I actually enjoy the story more that second time because I can relax as I read, knowing what comes ahead.

There's an interesting article at ( titled, Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything. Apparently, researchers at UC San Diego conducted a study in which they measured enjoyment if people knew the ending of a story vs. if they didn't. It appears, that by a slight margin, readers enjoyed the story more when they knew what was going to happen. Surprised? I have to admit I was a little. Although, I stick with certain genres and maintain certain expectations in the stories and authors I read, I don't want to know how it all ends the first time I pick up a book, other than it ends happily for the main characters.

What about you? Do you read the ending before the beginning? Do spoilers destroy your enjoyment in a story? What do you think of the study's conclusion?

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving from Castles & Guns!

I had every intention of my post today being a cute little holiday post with no concrete material. All good wishes and cheer rather than a topic as meaty as that ham my aunt likes to cook for those who hate turkey. Possibly even with a little graphic or two that would have no doubt included a dancing fowl or some such seasonal thing, with apologies to those who do not live in the States that they have to put up turkeys who can inexplicably talk in cartoons.

Instead when I turned on my computer (on Wednesday), my intent to not only write but also prepare this blog post, I was met with sad news in an email. I learned that Anne McCaffrey, one of the great writers of the Fantasy genre and a must on anyone's reading list, had passed away.

To me this holiday has always been about giving thanks. So today, on this Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks for Anne McCaffrey's life. Her books are timeless. I am sure many generations to come will enjoy Dragonriders of Pern and all of her other works. Not only was she an amazing writer, but a good person with a strong voice. She will be missed and anything but forgotten.

Happy Thanksgiving!

With love and thanks,


Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you grateful for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holidays in Fantasy

The holidays are upon us! With Thanksgiving just behind us, we’ll all be even busier than usual through the New Year. It has me thinking about the holidays. And reminded me of something kind of funny. I wanted to write a short story for Jessa and Vale, my heroine and hero from Ruined. So I was going to write a Christmas story. Yeah! Right? Um, no. Jessa and Vale don’t celebrate Christmas because they live in the Realm of Shadows! They believe in their Ancestor gods, which are powerful beings from the past which do not show to them in corporeal form. They are basically spirits.

I remembered that realization today so I thought I would write a post about world building. We can use holidays and celebrations to add depth to our fantasy worlds.

When building a fantasy world there are a lot of things to consider. Their belief system is fundamental to the story being told. The tough part about fantasy is that we have to create a whole world and then not talk about it in our novel! This whole no backstory trend probably isn’t going away and while we can get away with a little more in fantasy, the world building has to stay in the background. But it’s still good to know because it will change the story we write and give more strength to the foundation of the world.

There isn’t a holiday celebrated in Ruined although they do have a ball to celebrate Vale’s accession. Do you have a holiday in your fantasy world that reflects the beliefs of your fictional people?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ghillie Dhu—Scottish Forest Faeries

The Ghillie Dhu or Ghillie Dubh are solitary faeries believed to reside within Scottish forests, especially near Gairloch in Ross-shire, though one account claims many emigrated to forests in Northern America after following Scottish fur trappers to French Canada in the late 1700's.

Imagine a wee man of about three feet tall, dressed in garments made from leaves and moss, with hair black as a moonless night and eyes the deepest brown of a hazel nut. 'Tis said his skin color changes from green to brown to green with the seasons. He lives in the trees, preferring birch, and protects the woodland. He seems to be kind to children, with a nature both wild and shy. In Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend Donald Alexander Mackenzie tells the tale of young Jessie Macrae who upon getting lost in the forest is directed home by a Ghillie Dhu.

Some accounts claim him to be a harmless sprite, while others recount a darker side. His name means dark servant to match his dark hair and dark eyes and darker temperament. Be wary of venturing into the forest at night when the Ghillie Dhu are known to be most active, for if offended by an adult human the wee man will reach out with thin, long arms and crush him in his angry embrace, leaving the human to rot into earthy compost. Alternatively, a Ghillie Dhu might kidnap the human and drag him into faerieland to be enslaved.

An excellent depiction of a Ghille Dhu illustrated by Brian Froud can be found in the wonderful book, Faeries.

Are you afraid to walk in the forest alone at night?

Other Scottish fae creatures:
The Fachan—Creatures to Avoid
Brùnaidh—The Scottish Brownie

Tweet me at @DawnM_Hamilton

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hello Everyone!!!

Hello everyone! First let me say I am so sorry for being late today. I had written down the wrong date! Yes, I admit up front I have some off moments, actually a great deal of them. But I'm here and beyond excited to be on the blog. For those of you who have no idea who I am let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Sayde Grace and I have been writing for about three years now. I have four epublished books with The Wild Rose Press and Siren Publishing. My fifth release, the third and final in my Built Cowgirl Tough series will be released in mid January. I love to explore writing in different generes, but erotic romance seems to be the one that works best for me, although I have two paranormal suspense's released.
Besides writing I enjoy to riding horses, reading books, and relaxing. Yes, I'm a bit lazy :) I have lived in the South my entire life and currently love enjoying the best of the south, Alabama. I actually live just north of Mobile which means I'm close to rivers and the beach, can't beat that. And any given Saturday during college football season you can find me glued to my television watching any and every football game I can find.
Ok, I'm not really sure what else to say but I'm very open to questions. If anyone has a question for me please ask. In honor of joining the group I'll give away a copy of each of my books, remember these will be digital.
thanks so much for having me today!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tarot Cards

Do you own tarot cards? I do. As a matter of fact, I have three different decks--Rider-Waite, a dragon one, and a gemstone one. All three decks are special to me.

When I first started dabbling with them my middle son happened to have stopped by the house and I was practicing, so I have him a reading. He wasn't happy that the cards told me he was moving in with his girlfriend when he hadn't planned on telling us of his intentions.

One of the funniest times was when my youngest son was still in high school and a bunch of his friends were going out Saturday night. One of his friends wanted a reading. The cards said he was going out with a girl and--bluntly--that he was going to get a little. The other boys were hooting and laughing, but the kid getting the reading was absolutely fascinated because he was a virgin and he was going out with the girl with the worst reputation at school. Both these readings sort of spooked me. I put the cards away for a while.

Another friend uses her cards to figure out her characters! I never thought of that. When she's having a problem with one of them, she pulls out the cards and starts asking questions. Believe it or not, but she claims the answers to their problems come.

So, what are tarot cards? Originally they were called triumph cards. The deck consists of seventy-eight cards--four suits of fourteen cards called the minor arcane that are similar to a regular playing deck and a major arcane of twenty-two cards that have names such as the Fool, the Devil, Temperance, the Sun, the Lovers, the Hermit, the the Juggler, the Hanged Man, and Death. They've been around for hundreds of years. No one knows who invented them, some say the gypsies who were forced out of India did (maybe because many people refer to them as 'the book of divination of the gypsies), others claim the Egyptians, others say the Devil. You pick.

In reality, tarot cards themselves are rather benign, their power is the belief we place in them. You don't have to have psychic powers to read tarot cards. Learning the meanings associated with cards will help you figure out the answer to your questions. There are no hard and fast rules for using tarot cards.

Do you own any tarot cards? Do you use them? How do you use them?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Branding 101

I was asked by a fellow C&Ger to write a little more about branding. I don't pretend to be an expert or the last source you'll ever need on it, but it is something I've been doing a lot of research on lately, so I'm happy to share what I've learned and hopefully something will be useful to all of you out there.

So, what is a brand? It's simplest explanation is - A Brand is a Promise.

Think about IHOP. What if I told you, IHOP is not selling pancakes anymore? You'd laugh at me, and rightly so. What if I told you Nike is no longer selling shoes?

Let's take that a littler further. Think about McDonald's. McDonald's is Big Mac's, Fries, Happy Meals, etc. So, what happened when, bowing to pressure from outside nutritional watchdogs, McDonald's began adding salads and more 'healthy' fare to their menu? I'll tell you - all the salads and healthy items just don't sell well.

Why? After all, there was this National gnashing of teeth that McDonald's dared not have anything healthy on its menu. So why are they such poor sellers?

Because they are not part of McDonald's brand, that's why. If I'm in the mood for a Big Mac, I head for McDonald's. If I'm in the mood for something a little healthier, does the word McDonald's even enter my mind? No, not even for a split second.

So even though McDonald's spent a ton of money on launching the salads and promoting them, the reaction to it is 'eh'.

Brands extend to people as well. "Weird Al" Yankovic. Bill Nye "The Science Guy". Dear Abby.

Going into the writing realm - Stephen King, James Patterson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Laura Kinsale, Tom Clancy.

The common theme in all these Brands (Corporation or People) is that the moment you hear the name, an image comes to your head of what they offer, their "Promise", if you will. You know exactly what to expect from any of them, and as soon as you enter the restaurant (or listen to the CD, or crack open the book, or...) you expect that promise to be fulfilled.

So how does this affect you, the newbie writer?

My best advice for this - what I've heard from several others and what I've come to believe myself from all of my studying - is that you should only write in one genre, at least at first.

I know, I know, I hear the groans already. But that's one of the reasons I love publishing digitally, the freedom to write any story that comes to my head.

It does suck, I agree. Like all of you, my plot bunnies multiply in many genre fields. Why can't I chase after all of them equally? The key to what I'm saying is AT FIRST. Pick the genre you really love and honestly, that's the genre most of your stories would come from anyway. Build up a following in that area, EARN your writer props. After that, you can do anything you want.

For example, I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman. He could rewrite a phone book and I'd probably buy it, because the guy has earned my trust. I know I'm going to get something from reading his version of the phone book, because he's proven to me over and over that following him through his works has always given something back to me, so even though at first glance I think it's a ridiculous idea, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Do you have to write in only one genre? No, there are certainly examples of those that write anything they desire and have become successful - Maya Banks springs immediately to mind. However, usually these writers are also prolific as heck. How prolific are you?

Anyway, I hope I've given you at least the beginnings of understanding Branding. I'll stop here for now and do a couple more posts on it in the coming months. Any questions at all, please give me a shout and I'll do my best to answer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo & You

So as you know from my previous post this month, I'm doing NaNoWriMo. I'll skip explaining it since I'm pretty sure you probably know what it is by now if you've visited Castles & Guns this month. I'm working steadily toward reaching my word count goal of 50k words (and in later the full 80k words).

I've accomplished the word count each year since I started (this is my 7th year). It's almost a need these days. I can't let myself down. Some of those manuscripts I haven't edited yet, but not because they aren't any good, just that I have other projects to work on.

Here's what I love most about NaNoWriMo. None of my words are wasted. I know that first off, I'm getting my story down on paper... errr... screen. I can't edit what's not there. Some of my first drafts have sucked a lot, but as Nora Roberts and many other writers say, shitty first drafts. You don't have to get it perfect the first time around. With NaNo, yes, some people are going to take that to an extreme. I've noticed prompts that throw out random things, but that's their thing (and who says it doesn't work for their stories? I read a pep talk where it did for the author to the tune of a publishing contract). Anyways, I digress...

Writing is like a muscle where to get better at it, you have to do it. Albeit, only doing NaNo wouldn't be the best way to accomplish that if you're looking to be a career author, but it's good for some people because (#2) it gives people an excuse to write. Some people don't give themselves that aside from NaNo. I didn't for the first few years.

Lastly, it's been a way that I've really learned about myself and my process. I've experimented and been able to decide how I work best, and really, when you have 30 days to do 50k words, you need to know that.

What have you learned about yourself through NaNoWriMo?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Author Natalie Damschroder

One of the things authors do to create believable, unique characters is give them some quirky trait. It's especially effective if it ties in somehow to the storyline and starts out innocent but becomes important.

I've been thinking a lot about this because a friend pointed out some quirks in people we both know. If I'm sitting at a table talking to people to the side of me, or at a desk twisted to talk to someone standing, I play with my hair or earring. No exceptions, every time. A friend makes interlocking circles with her thumb and forefinger. My older daughter pokes at her lower lip when she's lost in thought. When she was little, she liked touching the bubbles when her lips were dry, and never outgrew the trait. Number Two, her sister, just never stops moving. She's been a wiggler since she was in the womb.

We've been watching Unforgettable, and every time Carrie puts herself into her memory, she plays with the ring on one hand, so her hands are semi-clasped at her waist, elbows bent. I wonder if that's an affectation of the actress, or something she chose for the character. Since it's fiction, we know there's a good chance there's something important about that ring.

Just like Dean's necklace on Supernatural. At first, it was just something he always wore. We see how important it is when he takes it back from a shapeshifter who stole it. Eventually, we learn his little brother gave it to him, and it was highly symbolic: Sam acknowledging that Dean was more important in his life than their absentee father. When Dean throws it away at a moment of utmost despair, it breaks all of our hearts.

Now that I've been thinking about this, I realize I need to incorporate it into my writing more. An affectation is what leads Kennedy to the real enemy in my recent release Behind the Scenes. In this week's paranormal romance, Under the Moon, Quinn's ability to know exactly how much time has passed, no matter the circumstances, is kind of a quirk.

Quicks and affectations can be symbolic and tied to important plot points in fiction. In real life, they're often just sources of affection and amusement, or even annoyance.

Do you have any quirks you know about? How about people around you? What makes you laugh or drives you absolutely insane?


Natalie J. Damschroder's current releases:

Behind the Scenes October 31, 2011
Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Kennedy Smyth's firm provides security for companies and charities in seriously dangerous countries. She doesn't usually take on "frivolous" jobs, but when an old friend asks her to protect his son's movie shoot, she finds it hard to refuse. Also hard to resist is the film's charismatic star, Rogan St. James. The handsome actor piques her interest, while the strange actions of the terrorist threatening the set raise her suspicions.

Even though he's a successful actor, Rogan wants more—a real woman to love, the type he doesn't think exists...until he meets Kennedy. She intrigues him with her confidence and passion for her work, and frustrates him with her refusal to let him get close.

But Kennedy finds herself in a vulnerable position when she discovers that the terrorist isn't actually out to derail the film. She's the real target—and if he finds out how much Rogan means to her, he could be next...

Under the Moon November 15, 2011
Entangled Publishing | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Their power gives them strength…and makes them targets.

Quinn Caldwell is the epitome of a modern goddess. Her power source is the moon, her abilities restricted only by physical resources and lunar phase. She runs a consulting business and her father’s bar, serves on the board of the ancient Society for Goddess Education and Defense, and yearns for Nick Jarrett, professional goddess protector and the soul mate she can never have.

But someone has developed the rare and difficult ability to drain a goddess of her powers, and Quinn is a target. With the world thinking Nick has gone rogue (whatever that means) and that Quinn is influenced by “family ties” she didn’t know she had, keeping themselves safe while working to find the enemy proves harder each day.

But not as hard as denying their hearts…

You can learn more about Natalie and her books at her website, eHarlequin, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. She blogs with four other obsessed passionate Supernatural fans at Supernatural Sisters, with a number of fantastic romance authors at Everybody Needs a Little Romance, and just to hear herself talk at Indulge Yourself.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nanowrimo and What Winning Means To Me

Who out there is participating in Nanowrimo this month? This year marks my fifth time. Today I passed 25,000 words so I’m doing okay. Last year I began a Nano project but didn’t finish. I stopped after about two weeks. No 50,000 words, no win. The year before I wrote three-fourths of a first draft which I have never finished. I passed 50,000 words. Was that a win? The year before I wrote an entire first draft which wasn’t too bad but I’ve never edited it. Again I passed 50k. And my first year, I ruined what started out as a good idea but turned into a pile of crap because I pantsed my way through it. Yet, I won because I passed 50,000 words.

This year I began Nano with a plan. I decided to totally rewrite the second Judgment ms because the original first draft, written a while back, didn’t cut it. I wrote a seventeen page outline and ten pages of series notes. I keep my outline beside me while I write and I’m sticking to it.

So is simply throwing down 50,000 words winning? I suppose if you just want to see if you can actually come up with that many words in a month, if you don’t take it seriously, then yes you’ve won. But if you’re a writer and you spend a month producing something that is never finished because it’s work that can’t or won’t be fixed at some point, then I don’t think you’ve won anything beyond the experience of slapping down some words under a time limit.

In the previous years that I’ve done this I haven’t walked away with anything I can use. This year will be different even if I don’t finish because I already have 25,000 words of usable work. I’m pleased with what I’ve written. Unless life throws something unexpected at me I should hit the 50k count without much difficulty. That will put me at about the mid-point of the ms. I’ll take half of a first draft and consider it winning. Yes, I will.

How about you? Are you participating? What do you considering “winning”?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do I Suck or Not?

I'm a tad tired and before you ask, no. I'm not NaNo-ing. I work too many hours at the EDJ to be able to handle NaNoWriMo. My writing pace is all over the place and if I can just finish the projects I have due this month, I'll be a happy camper.

Anyway, I'm not much in a blogging mood due to said pooped-ness. So I thought I'd just mention what all I've got going on and show you the fruits of my labors. You can decide for yourself if I Suck as a blogger today. Or Not as the case may be.

First off, I have writing obligations. One is a short story I need to finish and get to my Pink Petal Books editor. It's the last of my Christmas Cowboys stories entitled Cupid Christmas. Next, I need to finish the first three chapters of a super sekrit project. Then, I need to finish my inaugural post for the gay steampunk serial Lords of Aether. And finally, I have to beef up my two werewolf short stories for my editor at EC.

On the non-writing front, I've got about half a dozen book trailers to do. I recently finished one for Karenna Colcroft and one for Francesca Hawley. Both turned out nicely and I was happy with them as were the authors. The other authors on my plate are Z.A. Maxfield, Melissa Mayhew, Elizabeth Lister, Jianne Carlo, and me!

I only have a couple of cover art commissions still unfinished but I did finish some really lovely stuff recently. Take a look:

And finally, I've done some website work for Shoshanna Evers, Sandra Bunino, and Safe Reading Zone. For Sandra I made her a Twitter background, some banners, and an avatar that all match her website. The set came out quite nicely.

So as you can see, between being sick and all this work, it's no wonder I'm kind of tired and not much of a blogger today. If the cough is still kicking my behind next week, I need to see the doc though. Nothing worse than being an asthmatic with a lingering cough. Ugh.

I'm hoping that by the end of November I can take a little bit of a breath and maybe rejuvenate myself over Thanksgiving with some turkey and crab salad. YUM.

So good luck to all you NaNo-ers. I wish I could join you, but at the rate I'm getting things done, better that I should refrain from taking the challenge only to be disappointed daily! ;)

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Writing tricks

Today I’d like to talk about writing tricks. We all have them, whether they be for getting the work to flow, or jump starting a character or goosing a sagging plot. And what works for one writer may work for others- so please play along!

I’d have to say my biggest “trick” is writing sprints, with NaNoWriMo being the biggest sprint of them all. Ok, in reality it’s a marathon, but it’s a series of sprints or it won’t work ;).

Sprints are my way of working past whatever part of my daily mundane life is interfering with my writing. You can do them alone, or with friends. I’ve seen pro writers shout out writing sprints on the hour or half hour on twitter. Folks join in, then report their count when the time is up. Sometimes the stuff produced is amazing- other times, not so much- but it’s SOMETHING- and it usually gets the juices flowing. Besides, everyone loves a little competition!

Another “trick” is jumping. Sometimes I’ll just have images for amazing scenes pop in my head- of course they are often nowhere near where I am in the story at hand. I usually follow through on writing them though- then during editing piece things together. It’s a great trick for when you feel like you’re stuck or the story is feeling blah. (And probably would give most plotters the hives, so if you’re one of them- don’t do it ;)).

Lastly, if I have a difficult character I try to take them out of the context of my story and find out what they like in our world. What music would they like? How would they dance? What foods? Since pretty much I write characters not of our world, seeing them in our settings (in my head) often helps me get a better grasp on my otherworldly folks (besides it’s fun ;).

What about you? We have some amazing writers on here as guests, followers, and members- what are your tricks to keep the writing fresh and flowing?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Into the Fantasy

I love fantasy and for as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with faeries, elves, gnomes and other magical creatures of the woodlands.

Most likely this was ensured by my mother taking me to the opera at an early age and opening my eyes and mind to the magical and wondrous performances of Mozart's The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) and watching the pan-like creatures of Papageno and Papagena. Their humor, mischief and sweetness bubbled over, filling the story with a lovely whimsical feeling that left me dancing on air.

But it was the awe-inspiring Queen of the Night, her voice raising up above all others that truly made me think of darkness and light, magic and power. (Side note: At the tender age of 8, I learned to sing the entire aria in German, and back then could hit all the notes. Not so much the case today. *sigh*)

I also fell in love with sugar plum faeries in Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite.

Knights and fair damsels in my most favorite movie, The Princess Bride.

So I guess it is no wonder that I am stuck on all things fantasy and fairytale.

My latest series, Every After, is a romantic fantasy with a dash of comedy and mystery, set in two worlds -- the modern world and in fairyland. It has been so much fun to weave in big bad werewolves, faeries, evil queens, princes and princesses, gnomes, brownies, and one very off-the-wall fairy-godmother.

Charmed Ever After is the first novella in the series and will be coming out in December. It is my first foray into self-publishing, and every step as mystical and fascinating as entering into an enchanted forest. I’m not sure what I will find but I am sure it will be absolutely marvelous and fantastical.