Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Living the Fantasy

Coyote Run T-shirt

As readers, we live fantasies by reading books.

I enjoy escaping into a great story. I also enjoy attending festivals. Ren Fests, Celtic Festivals, Scottish Highland Games and Gatherings. 

What does this have to do with books? 

Writers and readers alike can taste fantasy by attending festivals. And writers can find inspiration. 

One of my favorite festival bands is the Celtic Rock group Coyote Run. When I saw they were playing locally in a couple of weeks, I dragged out one of my old band T-shirts. Absolutely love the logo. Doesn't it make your imagination spin?

"The king of the Sidhe will not let you go,
if you follow the music that round you flows...
...and enter the mound of the fairies."
--Coyote Run

Check out my previous post: Enchanted Faerie Knolls. 

I'm feeling inspired, I think I'll work on one of my fae stories. 

Do you have a favorite festival you like to attend? A favorite festival band?

Tweet me @DawnM_Hamilton

Monday, January 30, 2012

Look Out, Monsters--Here I Come!

Hello, fellow fantasy fans! My name is Cassi Carver, and I’m so excited to be here at Castles & Guns. I write spicy urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and my debut novel, Slayer’s Kiss, will be coming out on February 14th.
I often hear from other writers that they started writing at an early age, and I was no exception. The first book I wrote was a tiny “choose your own adventure” novel, complete with crayon illustrations. But after the early novel adventures, I put down the pen and spent the next couple of decades reading anything I could get my hands on.
At first, my library contained my mom’s hand-me-down Dean Koontz collection—which I loved! It wasn’t Dean’s fault that I could barely get to sleep at night for fear that some monster from the pages was going to be reaching up from under the bed. Then, one auspicious day in my later teen years, I picked up my first romance novel—and the rest is history. After that, scary stories weren’t enough. I needed romance mixed in with all those thrills and chills, and if the hero or heroine had super powers and could kick some serious bad-guy booty—all the better!
So when I finally decided to give storytelling a shot, I didn’t debate for a minute what I would be writing. It is such a joy to bring my characters to life and create worlds where the only limitation is my own imagination. And now, instead of reading stories that scare the pants off me, I get to write about strong, fearless heroines who save the day.
Allow me to introduce one such heroine, Kara Reed, in an excerpt from my spicy urban fantasy, Slayer’s Kiss, which is now available for pre-order through Samhain Publishing…

“Just lie back and relax, asshole. I swear you won’t feel a thing.” Kara adjusted the bindings around the man’s wrists and plunged the syringe deep into his thigh. When the concoction started making its way through his veins, he bucked under Kara’s weight. She stood and put one boot heel against his throat to quiet him as the relaxant started taking effect. “How is she, Abbey?”
Abbey frowned and brushed her red hair out of her eyes. “She’s going to be all right, but I put a call in to 911. We need to hurry.”
Kara glanced at the man lying on the dirty pavement of the alley. His expensive slacks were around his ankles, and after all these years, it still struck Kara as odd that the assailants never fit a certain mold. She and Abbey had taken down everything from homeless men to men who drove hundred-thousand-dollar sports cars. Money didn’t matter, and it wasn’t for the sex. These men wanted power over others. They got off on the degradation and the pain they inflicted.
“He’s ready for you. Let’s help this gentleman get in touch with his manners.”
Abbey tucked a coat around the unconscious victim, shielding her lower half from view of the police officers who would shortly be arriving on the scene. She rose to her feet and walked to Kara. “Don’t bruise his throat, Kare-bear. The knot you gave him with your elbow is bad enough. His temple looks like he got hit with a baseball bat, and we don’t want the police thinking he was the victim here.”
Kara snorted and rubbed her aching elbow. “Yeah, poor little guy. He may need stitches on that pretty face of his. At least he can afford it.”
Abbey knelt and poised her hand above the man, then glanced at Kara. “Are the herbs working yet?”
Kara removed her boot from his throat and gave him a small kick in the head. He didn’t stir. “Yep.”
“Okay.” Abbey brought her hands together above his groin and began to chant.
Kara never tired of watching her best friend work. Abbey’s hair didn’t twirl around her head and fire didn’t shoot from her fingertips, but Kara could feel the energy in the air coalescing around the man.
Abbey’s voice was low and smooth, almost otherworldly in the quiet of the tucked-away street. “From the rod of man, pleasure ordained, but from this soul it gives only pain. Hear me tonight and take back desire. Punish this man and snuff out his fire.”
With the feeling of air being sucked from the space around them, the lust siphoned from the man’s body and lifted high above the alley, rising into the night like a cyclone of misty white light.
“It’s done,” Abbey said. “You can wake him now.”
Kara twisted the cap off Abbey’s water bottle and emptied the contents in the man’s face. He sputtered awake, then groaned and put his hand to his temple.
Kara dropped into a crouch beside him. “Listen to me.” He looked over at her and his gaze locked on her face like a possessed man awaiting a demon’s command. “You never saw us tonight, did you?”
He shook his head slowly. “I never saw you.”
“Good.” Kara reached down to untie his hands and placed the bindings in her pocket. “You’re going to wait here until the police arrive and then you’re going to admit to them you assaulted this woman. She fought back and hit you in the head, didn’t she?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “She fought back.”
“And when you get out of jail, you’re going to make a huge donation to the local women’s shelter.”
“I am,” he agreed.
The sound of sirens filtered into the alley from a distance. “Kara,” Abbey said. “That’s good enough. We have to get out of here.”
“One last thing.” Kara grinned and turned to the man. “When you get to jail, you may have the urge to wink at the really big guys and say, ‘I’m your bitch, baby.’ Got it?”
He held her gaze from behind glassy eyes. “I’m your bitch, baby.”
Kara snickered and stood, hearing the sirens drawing closer. She glanced at her watch. A quarter past midnight. Why couldn’t these perverts wriggle out from under their rocks earlier in the evening? “All finished, Abbs. Now let’s get the hell out of here. I have to work in the morning.”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A New Release

Hello everyone!!Well its been an interesting couple of weeks since I was last here. First I got the email from my editor that it seemed my newest cowboy erotic story would be released earlier than I'd thought. I write in nearly every genre out there but am published in erotic romance in westerns and paranormals. I love writing both of those topics so I'm always thrilled when I get a story ready for publication. My newest release is named Rawhide Angel. Here's the cover and a blurb about it:
With her father’s gambling debts about to ruin the family ranch, Saige Thomely is determined to do whatever or whomever it takes to cover the debts. Unfortunately for her, one man is a sure bet, the one cowboy she’s tried to ignore for six months. The same cowboy who makes her body and heart flame to life with each look. Saige is prepared to offer herself in exchange for the money to cover the debts, but what she’s not prepared for is losing her damaged heart to another cowboy.Night after night, for half a year, Chet Haskins has dreamed of having the blonde and sexy as sin Saige Thomely in his bed, writhing under him. At long last his dreams might become reality, only Chet’s heart wants more than just a few nights of steamy sex. But will the ghost of past relationships come between them? Or can Chet show the passionate Saige he’s truly the one to save her ranch and her heart?
So thats my new release. It doesn't have gun slingers or paranormal creatures in it but I'm still really excited. Besides a new release somehow the people over my daughters basketball league got it in their heads that I'd played highschool and college basketball. Well, NO. I have no idea how they got this idea but in the time they did I was drafted to coach a team. I'm not doing such a great as a coach. I know next to nothing about basketball. I need help, and lots of it!!
I hope that by the next time I post I will have a good update for you. Our first game is Feb, 7th so that following Sunday I will have either a fabulous report of well, one not so fab! Until then, wish me lots of luck with basketball! I'll need it for sure!
Thanks all,
Sayde Grace

Saturday, January 28, 2012

January Witches

Since this is my first blog about witches for the year I thought I'd start with a definition. The word Wicca comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word wicce, a witch. Today, the words Wicca, Shamanism, Witchcraft, Witch, Wise Woman, Cunning Man, Magician are often used.

Wicca is a Pagan religion of Goddess and God. With the growing environmental awareness in society, it is also considered a Nature relgiion. In Wicca Nature itself is sacred and holy.

So, what's special about witches and January? How about January 13th? It is the Irish Festival of Brewing celebrated by pre-Christian Celtic people. The day is also called Midvintershlot. It was traditionally the longest and coldest day of winter. On this day, pagans took inventory of their food stocks to make sure they could survive the second half of winter. People took stock of grain stores. If a surplus was found to exist, they celebrated and that became the Festival of Brewing.

The fun starts on January 13 with a witch grabbing a bell and waiting for darkness. Then they ritually cleanse themselves, wash their clothes, and their bell. They dedicate the sound of their bell to the banishment of evil. Open the windows and doors of your home and clang your bell in every room, while ordering any spirit with bad intentions to leave. Close the windows and doors. Next circle you rhouse three times clanging the bell. Choose to be happy.



Friday, January 27, 2012

What type of swag do you like to get at Conventions


Deviating slightly from the usual fantasy goodness to be found around here, I would like to ask everyone a question - since everyone who reads this is either a reader or a writer, it's the perfect audience.

I'll be going to the Romantic Times Convention this April to hang out and even give a panel! (Using Podcasting to Grow your Brand - stop in and say hi!)  I'll also be there as a signing author - Bravo! to RT for recognizing e-pubbed and self-pubbed authors.

One of the great things about conventions is you get lots of free stuff, and I wish to give away free stuff as well. So I'm asking you, my fellow convention goers - What types of swag do you enjoy getting at conventions?

Even more specific than that though - what do you get that would *possibly* make you check out that author? Because at the end of the day, that is what the swag is for. We want you to go home, get on your computer, and check out our website.

Is there anything that makes the likelihood of that climb?

Any help is appreciated, and thanks for any tips!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Werewolves, My Favorite!

Next week I have a new book coming out called Captive Moonlight. It holds a special place in my heart since it'll be the first story I've had published to feature my favorite paranormal creature... the werewolf!

Photo by Daniel Mott
I've had a strong love of wolves for a very long time, ever since I was a child. So it seems pretty natural that the possibility of a person being able to change into a wolf would utterly fascinate me. Mind you, I imagine werewolves not as the ugly creatures depicted in some movies, but more a lot more wolflike. Visually, I think the way the werewolves in the Twilight movies are depicted is amazing. Huge, majestic wolves... oh yeah.

Sure! I do acknowledge the half-man/half-wolf form, but I still like to think of them as being relatively attractive in that form as well. Large and very muscular, but not grotesque.

My love for them has continued to grow ever since I first started reading paranormal romance and urban fantasy. One of my favorite authors, who I think writes excellent werewolves, is Laurell K. Hamilton. For me, she really sums up how I picture them. Ilona Andrews is another author that masters shapeshifters in my opinion.

Now that I think about it, all three of the books I've read this month included werewolves. Stolen by Kelley Armstrong, Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, and Dark Lies by Vivi Anna. No, I didn't quite plan or realize that until now. *grins*

Your turn! What is your favorite paranormal creature? And which of your favorite authors do you feel sum up the being well?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meeting your characters

Hi everyone –

One of my favorite parts of being a writer is coming up with a new character and “figuring them out”. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel or a short piece of flash fiction; the characters need to be “real”. That’s our job as the writer to craft them into someone, if not relatable, then compelling enough to keep the reader turning pages.

One of my favorite quotes is from Michelangelo. He wasn’t a writer, but I think this applies to us as well…

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. – Michelangelo

Each story presents us with a new block of marble to carve out another character. We can make him or her tall or short, athletic or timid, a hero or a villain. We craft them one word at a time.

And I love meeting them!

Do you enjoy getting to know your new characters? I know everyone has their own writing process that works best for them. I happen to be a pantser. I know the opening scene and the way I see the book ending. The rest is an adventure and part of it is getting to know who I’m going to into battle with…

I tend to get a feel for who they are in the first chapter and as each chapter brings new challenges and experiences, it’s fun to see how it changes them.

In the opening of Night Walker, my hero, Calisto, was cold and bitter. He wore guilt and regret like a well-fitted Armani suit. But the night he crosses paths with Kate and recognizes her as the reincarnation of his soul-mate, two-hundred years of loneliness evaporate the moment he sees her smile. And when they part that night, he feels hope for the first time in centuries.

And it terrifies him.

I had so much fun getting in his head. And I knew him better with every page we shared. As the book moved on, I saw him gradually remember how to laugh and smile and love.

He also rips a still-beating heart from a man’s chest, but I promise that guy had it coming! LOL

So how do you get to know your characters? Do you just meet on page one and carve the marble until you set him free? Or do you interview him? Or maybe keep a notepad to jot down dreams?

Inquiring minds want to know…. :)

Lisa Kessler

PS - If you want to meet Calisto, he has an excerpt here Night Walker And next week he'll be taking part in the Twitter Hero Wars. Be sure to watch for the #HeroWars hashtag... :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guest Author Liv Rancourt

Vampires…The Life of the Party
By: Liv Rancourt
I woke up this morning, and after brushing my teeth and making the coffee, I sat down to the computer, as you do. I checked my email – all three accounts – and looked in on Facebook, then checked the hits on my blog. Throughout all this, I kept an eye on my Twitter feed, which is this strangely addicting series of short posts, sort of a mosaic of life on-line.
One post that caught my eye posed the following question: What intrigues you about vampires?
 I ended up directly emailing the person who posted it, because I couldn’t summarize all the things that I like about vampires in 140 characters, which is the limit to a Twitter post.  I like vampires because, as I approach my 50th birthday, the fantasy that I could be young and beautiful forever becomes increasingly compelling. Just looking at photos of many of the forty or fifty-somethings who make the pages of People Magazine tells me I’m not alone in that. Picture Madonna or Heather Locklear or Nicole Kidman and you’ll know what I’m talking about. My own strategy is cheaper – I find gaining weight stretches out the wrinkles, so they don’t show as much. I said cheaper, not healthier, right?
More seriously, I like vampires because reading paranormal fiction gives me the chance to work out ideas about life, but with a safety net. If I want to feel real pain, I’ll go to work at my day job in the hospital. Stories about vampires get at our fears about blood and contagion. They pose questions about what it means to be alive, what happens after we die, and what it means to have a soul. Vampires are my spoon full of sugar that helps reality go down.
Here’s a couple of examples from popular vampire series. The Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton, stretch ideas about the power of sexuality to the extreme. Each book – and there are twenty in the series – pushes the boundaries of Anita’s (and the reader’s) comfort zone. Anita has some key values that she holds on to, but the author never hesitates to test her.
One of the ongoing themes in the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris has to do with the treatment of minority groups. As all the supernaturals “come out”, the human majority has to adjust to their presence, and those adjustments frequently become causes of conflict in the stories. With all due respect to the authors of literary fiction, if you made me sit down and read a book about the harsh realities some people in this country face, I’d feel like I was back in high school. But when Charlaine comes out with a new book, I try to be first in line.
You can find vampires just about every place you look these days, and while they may be victims of overexposure, as a writer I still think they’re incredibly useful characters. They bring so much history – or so much baggage, depending on your point of view – and allow you to introduce some pretty deep thoughts in a lighthearted way. My new book, A Vampire’s Deadly Delight, is a twisted take on the vampire as seductive superpower, a Buffy meets Spiderman kind of thing. Check out the links below to learn more, and don’t be afraid to bring a little undead love to your party.
Peace, Liv

She’s a quiet, unassuming bookstore owner by day, but by night...
Kristen has a deadly secret—when she smells a vampire, she turns into Jai, a beauti-licious babe who makes vamps permanently dead. To a vamp, Jai is like ambrosia. They can’t resist her. She uses this attraction, plus her super strength and her trusty blade, Mr. Sticky, to end their undead lives. The thrill of wearing miniskirts without worrying about cellulite stifles any qualms Kristen might have about killing the undead. Being Jai is the most fun she has ever had—until they come up against the one vampire Jai can’t kill. If he and Jai have a history, as he claims, Jai can’t remember it...or him.
But when her work catches the attention of some old enemies—who won’t hesitate to destroy Kristen if it also means the end of Jai—this vampire may be their only hope. Can Kristen and Jai learn to tell the difference between good and evil in time to defeat Jai’s ancient nemesis? Or will being Jai’s hostess cost Kristen more than just her beauty sleep?

BIO: Liv Rancourt is a writer of speculative fiction and romance. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two teenagers, two cats and one wayward puppy. Writing stories that have happy endings is a good way to balance her work in the neonatal intensive care unit, and she is thrilled to be publishing her first novella with Black Opal Books. Liv can be found on-line at her website (www.livrancourt.com), her blog (www.liv-rancourt.blogspot.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter(www.twitter.com/LivRancourt).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Keep Readers Turning Pages

When we write with the intent to publish, one of the things we need to remember is that we are writing to please our readers, not ourselves.

What do readers want? To be entertained, to be transported into a story and live it with the characters, and to lose sleep because they can’t put the book down.

In order to give readers what they want, we need to create page turners and never give our readers a nice comfortable place to close the book and put it down. How do we pull that off, you ask? With different techniques. Scene and chapter endings should be crafted to make the reader need to turn the page. Have you read books where the main character is cozy and warm in their bed and drifting off to sleep at the end of a chapter? We all have. The problem with ending a chapter or scene with a snoozing character is that it gives the reader a great place to close the book and put it down and take a nap – exactly what you don’t want to do.

Instead of letting your character drift off to sleep, end the chapter or scene with something to make the reader turn the page as fast as they can. When your couple is drifting off in their post sex-bliss imagine if someone burst into the bedroom with a machete and charged shrieking toward the bed. Would your reader turn the page to see what happens? Would you?

Another great way to keep readers turning pages when they should be sleeping is with the use of tension. The force that drives your story forward is tension. You can have wonderfully developed characters but if all they do is sit on the verandah and sip sweet tea your readers are going to set the book aside and take a nap. Let them dig up buried treasure in the back yard and then try to kill each other over it.

Another story killer is perfect characters. I’ve met writers who tell me they couldn’t give their characters flaws. Their characters are perfect in every way. My response. . .yawn. Readers aren’t perfect. They have flaws and fears. They want to read about people like them. No one can relate to perfect characters. Who would you rather read about: Mr. Perfect who lives in a mansion, has the perfect career, the perfect wife, and perfect children. His idea of stress is when a bird poops on his ultra expensive car. Or Mr. Not So Perfect? He lives in a bad neighborhood with gang shootouts. He’s worried that his next door neighbors might be cooking meth in their kitchen. His teenage son is constantly in trouble with the law. He thinks his wife might be having an affair with the guy running the meth lab next door. And if all that isn’t bad enough, when he goes to the closet to get his rain coat, out tumbles a dead body. While he’s standing there about to freak out, the police show up at his door. Okay, that’s a really bad example but you get the idea.

Keep your readers happy and turning pages and they will become loyal buyers and fans of your work. How do you create page turners? Any tricks you’d like to share?

~ Nickie Asher ~

Website *** Facebook *** Twitter

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Back in 2008, I wrote a short story called Runaways. It had a companion story called Mating and the two were contracted by Freya's Bower in 2009. At the time I wrote the short stories, I had a lot more to the world and the back story of these two shorts. But, they were short stories so I had to remove a lot of stuff to come up with a hot, steamy concise short story that people would like. I think I did a good job paring them down. My editor seemed to like them a lot and they sold a lot of copies. They sold right up to the point that my contract ran out and I asked for my rights back.

When I took the stories back, I decided I really wanted to get into the world the two stories were based on. It was a world of strained relations between vampires and werewolves, but a world where the old ways of doing things were going south very quickly. Power belonged to those who no longer subscribed to pure bloodlines and matings between races became more and more common.

I offered Runaways and Matings to my editor at Ellora's Cave and I let her know I wanted to expand them. She offered me contracts if I would delve more deeply into this world and up the sex a bit. I had no problem with this and the contracts were signed.

I started out my revisions with the notion that these two shorts (each was about 7500-8000 words) would become Quickies (15K words or less.) I even got Quickie covers for them. Then I started work on Runaways. The thing with paranormal stories for me is that they become richer and richer the more thought I put into the world. The more I thought about this whole werewolf-vampire pairing and how it wasn't quite acceptable the more the true story of Runaways emerged.

The original story is M/F and centered around a werewolf who meets a vampire on a train from Prague to Paris. They discover they are mates and without thinking they actually mate and become bonded. Afterward, they try to figure out how to deal with his pack and her brothers. He also mentions a best friend whom he works with, but it's a passing reference. The upshot of the story is that they both runaway to New York City to start anew.

As I was revising and expanding this story it occurred to me that the vampire-werewolf issue was deeper than I thought...because the best friend who is left behind is also a vampire. The werewolf - Ranulf - has been best friends with a vampire - Griffin - since they were about twelve. And they've been lovers since about fifteen or sixteen.

Yep. My story turned into a menage. All because of the werewolf-vampire issue.

The more I explored the original werewolf-vampire pairing (Ranulf and Griffin), the more that I realized adding Dante (the female vampire) to the mix would really throw light onto the bonding of the different races. The next thing I knew, I had over 20K words and I'd left the Quickie format far behind. My editor was not displeased with the size, but I've yet to hear back on the changing of the story from M/F to M/M/F and what she thinks of the story as a whole. However, I'm pleased with the world I built. It gives me a very nice basis for building out the other story, Mating.

World building has often been called one of my strengths as a writer as well as my penchant for happily ever afters and the way I use words to wring emotion from readers. I sure hope Runaways has benefited from the things I've learned since I wrote the original. And I am anxious to know what my editor thinks of this expanded world. I think I'm definitely on the right track though.

Before I sign off today, I want to let you know that this is my last regular post here at Castles and Guns. Lords of Aether is beginning to take up a little more time for me as we get the serial story off the ground and learn to write steampunk. And I'm hoping to have more releases this year than last year which was a little slow for me.

I've promised to come back and guest blog on occasion and keep you all informed with my projects and releases. I love the ladies here and I've loved my time here. I'm really sorry to give up my blogging spot but things change and we all need to shift our priorities when that happens. I won't say goodbye because I'll be back, but I do want to thank the ladies who run the show here for having me and I want to thank YOU, the readers, for your support.

I do hope you'll come by and check out my Six Sentence Sunday posts on my Lex Valentine blog or stop by on Mondays at Sunlight Sucks. Happy New Year to you all, I'll see you soon!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Difference between romance and romantic elements

Being as I think I may be the only blogger on here who is writing fantasy/sf that would not live on the romance side of the book store, I thought today I’d ramble a bit about romantic elements- aka, my world ;).

Romance is fairly easy to define, the major plot is the romance between two (or more) characters. The settings and situation may vary- my fellow bloggers on here are all UF, fantasy, or paranormal for instance. The genders may even change- but the bones, the primary motivating factor for that story, is still the same.


Good authors weave the romance into another plot, bad ones hit you over the head with it (sorry, as a romance reader, I am not a fan of some authors who have their characters looking at, touching, or thinking about the “other” person on every page. I know it’s been taught as a romance requirement- still don’t like to read it. (But that is my opinion- I know some folks love it).

RWA defines romance as:

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

In other words, no romance = no plot.

So then what is romantic elements?

We’ll start with RWA:

• Novels with Strong Romantic Elements
A work of fiction in which a romance plays a significant part in the story, but other themes or elements take the plot beyond the traditional romance boundaries.

To go a bit further, it could be stated that romantic elements referrers to those books in which there may not be a happy ending, probably won’t be in fact, even though romance is still a plot point.

Therefore, UF is technically a romantic element- thing is lots of folks think they are writing UF when in reality they have a paranormal romance.

One way to think of it- happy ending= paranormal romance= romance section in a bookstore; not necessarily a happy ending= UF= fantasy/SF side of bookstore. And yeah, if your characters are thinking about each other on each page? You’re NOT UF ;). Because Urban Fantasy is hip right now, many paranormal books are trying to fit into that category. I say be proud of being paranormal and stay on the romance side of the bookstore! LOL-bigger market there anyway ;).

Finding any other definition of romantic elements isn’t easy. There is an RWA chapter dedicated to elements, but it really doesn’t add much to the above description.

So what do I think romantic elements are? I view it as a story, in my case Fantasy/SF/Steampunk, with a traditional plot (aka non-romance plot) in which I throw a couple who end up together. Even though I don’t write romances for the most part, my books always start with two characters- a man and a woman, an adventure for them to go on, and something to screw it all up.

My books are usually series (I have some sort of mental illness caused by reading too many trilogies growing up...I group books in threes), and the goal is not to bring these two together with marriage and babies at the end of each book. At the end of the series hopefully, they’ll end up together. But my focus is on the adventure they are in as much as the romance between them. I write what I like to read (like all of us I’d hope ;))- and I love finding a fantasy book with a great characters I want to get to know better. Then, woven in and around the primary plot, is a love story. It may not be strong or fast- no love at first sight please, unless there is a spell involved ;). But it grows as I get to know the characters, and they get to know each other. There will be –gasp- whole pages where the two do not think about each other.

I guess I’d say romantic elements means I write books with romance, but they would work as a story without the romantic element- they just wouldn’t have as much heart ;).

Waving from the fantasy/sf side of the bookstore,

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Importance of Brand

Writing is my passion. Get me talking about writing and it's like a switch has been turned on. I feel alive. I can't shut up. ( : That probably why non-writers' eyes glaze over. I've been at this writing business a while now. I don't have any qualifications that verify that I conquered this point in writing or that one, but I know that over time I have grown as a writer. For one thing, I am published. And no, that doesn't mean that automatically you will be published again. Sure, your chances are higher, but there is never a guarantee. You have to work at it each and every day.

You have to stretch those writing muscles. It's possible to write the same type of story over and over, but I think most writers like to challenge themselves. Over this holiday break I decided to challenge myself. I had come up with a concept for a trilogy revolving around Greek mythology. The catch? It would be an erotica aimed at Harlequin Nocturne's Cravings line.

I have never written erotica. My stories are highly sensual, passionate, and suspenseful. Whether I write romantic suspense or paranormal romance, those qualities are consistent. That is my formula and it has worked for me.

So why erotica? Well, I wanted to stretch my wings and try something new. Harlequin is a powerhouse in the romance industry and being published with them would give an added boost to my name. This story line worked as erotica. It seemed like a natural fit and it became more of a question of why not give it a try?

Three weeks of working on this project and I've decided to shelve it for several reasons. (1) I like the story and the characters, but I really don't do dark, dark well. Try as I might, my characters have a thread of humor, of lightness that illuminates them. (2) Erotica is hard. Don't let anyone kid you. Trying to write highly erotic scenes and still maintain the emotional connection between the characters is not a five minute brain exercise. I struggled with this. (3) Most importantly, I recognized that erotica doesn't fit with my brand. My past works and future works share those qualities I mentioned above: highly sensual, passionate and suspenseful. Or as my tag line says: Excitement. Suspense. Passion.

As much as I enjoyed starting this story, once I hit the love scenes I was out of my depth and I lost enthusiasm for the project. What I was writing wasn't me.

No writing is ever a loss. I pushed myself in this story and discovered that I like where I'm at and that I'm better off tending to my roots instead of trying to start another garden. (How do you like them metaphors? LOL!) It's always possible I will change my mind and give erotica another go, but I don't think so. More than likely, this story will be reincarnated into another plot that fits with who I am as a writer. Will I still try for Harlequin? You bet. But I'll choose a line that I'm comfortable and capable of writing for.

So moral of the story: Don't be afraid to stretch your wings, but don't twist yourself in knots to write something that isn't you, either.

What about you? How have you stretched yourself as a writer? Can you identify your core strengths? What genres might now work for you?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Neverland Library

Two or three years may not seem like a big deal to us grown up readers, but I am sure we remember what it was like as kids to wait for our favorite authors to put out a new book or the next installment in a series.

(HA! What am I saying? I have no patience now. If I have to wait longer than nine months for a book, I am an unhappy person.)

Middle-grade through high school my genre of choice was Fantasy. If it had a dragon, a unicorn, or magic in the story, I would read it. I systemically devoured my local library's selection. For the record, it is very easy to 'systemically devour' everything in a particular area of a library. It's not like you have to set out a book trap and wait for the next roaming copy of Redwall to get caught in it.

Eventually the next book in a series did come out and then I would be stuck waiting for the next.... and then next... and so on and so forth until the end. But I have to admit, there are a few authors who bested me. I waited for the next book, but no book came. Alas, I outgrew the waiting period. High school turned into college and five day work weeks. I forgot about my favorite series, charmed by giving attention to 'more mature' and 'age appropriate' material.

Luckily for me there is crossover appeal and the desire to rediscover my favorite books. I have begun rereading those series I adored and waited for, meeting them again like old friends. And, guess what? Eventually those authors pulled through and published more books. The series ended and my inner child can feel complete putting those old plot ghosts and questions to rest.

Am I being melodramatic? Maybe I just love books that much.

What about you? Have you revisited your favorite books from childhood or did you never stop reading them in the first place?

-Darcy (of the Drake variety)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Joker, A Prince and Troy

I’d like you all to meet my dog, Joker. When we first named our dog he reminded me of a joker in a king’s court, since I often think in fantasy terms. But the other day, I took a picture of him, which I thought was funny.

Look at that guy. All posing and acting like a Prince. He wouldn’t look straight at me because he knew I was trying to take a picture. Obviously we named him the wrong thing.

I love writing high fantasy because there’s something about the royal attitude that draws me. But the intriguing attitude is not necessarily the air of superiority you’d think would come with royal blood. I personally like the conflict inherent in royal responsibilities. I like when people who don’t expect to lead are suddenly thrown into a position of power.

But everyone reacts different when they’re given a crown. This was especially proved the other day when I watched Troy. Well, to be honest, it all started when I was trying to work through revisions, and my husband turned on Troy. He knows my weakness. Lol. Obviously, I didn’t get much work done besides the fact I tried to keep my headphones on and my attention focused on my computer screen. But you can only ignore Brad Pitt in that movie for so long.

If you haven’t seen that movie in a while, I recommend watching it again! It’s a fascinating movie. There are so many layers to the film. It’s a great study of war. Watching the differing motivations for the kings is good research for writing fantasy. Each leader had their own perspective, their own motivations, and their own lengths they were willing to travel to meet their goals. Seeing a wide variety of leaders in one movie was a great contrast.

The emotion in the movie is also well done. I want to cry a little thinking about it. That movie made me cry for an hour because I found it very powerful. I'm a sucker for romances and Troy has plenty of romantic storylines.

The type of conflict when a throne is involved is perfect for novels. I’ve enjoyed watching war movies lately because I find it a really good study for my writing. Every leader has their own flaws, their own strengths. That’s what makes them all great characters.

Is there a movie you’ve watched lately that you thought was a good study for what you write or love to read?

-Kinley Baker @kinleybaker

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Series – My Favs

With the upcoming release on March 27th of Lover Reborn, the 10th full length Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J. R. Ward, I'm re-reading the rest of the series. I read Lover Revealed this weekend—Butch and Marissa's story. Great!

I love series to the point of disliking stand-alone novels. I love the world building and the ongoing visits with characters. I love the chance to get lost in the fantasy.

Of course, my absolute favorite is the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but there are a couple of others I highly recommend.

Several years ago, I attended the NJRW Writer's conference, where J. R. Ward and Jessica Andersen presented a workshop on world building. The workshop was great, and I learned about The Final Prophecy series a.k.a. The Nightkeepers series by Jessica Andersen.

"The end of time looms, and Mayan demons have surfaced from the underworld to trigger an apocalypse. But as the final day approaches, the descendants of ancient warrior-priests prepare to fight back…" from the back cover of Night Keepers. The whole Mayan calendar countdown to the end date makes for fantastic reading.

Each time a new novel in the series is released, I re-read the previous stories. I'm looking forward to the release of Magic Unchained on April 3, and the finale set to release in November before the end date of December 21, 2012.

Another favorite series I have read and re-read is the Drake sisters Novels by Christine Feehan. There are tons of other series to discover. I can't wait.

What are your favorite series?

Tweet me at @DawnM_Hamilton

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Being Bombastic

Many times I've wondered what X#!^?+@=% was I going to blog about. I kept telling myself blogging twice a month shouldn't be hard. But it was . . . until I came up with a solution.

I love jewelry/gemstones. Those shiny baubles have meanings. People have been fascinated with gemstones since the beginning of time. They've attached meaning to nearly every stone. There are zodiac, traditional, modern, mystical and 'new' gemstones for each month. The stories associated with gemstones make nice tidbits in stories. I could mix it up, share a little bit of information once a month in the blog.

One day down, one to go.

Another thing that interests me right now are witches. Writing a series about them might play into my current interest. So that could be the second day of the month that I blog.

The Garnet is January's official birthstone, adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. It derives its name from the Latin word granatum, meaning grain. If you've ever eaten a pomegrante, you'd understand. If not, break open a pomegranate and see the tiny glossy red seeds, they'll make you think of garnets. To the ancients, garnet was a tiny glossy red gem.

Jump into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and people learned that garnets display the greatest color spectrum of any mineral, not just the deep red found in antique jewelry. For a long time, it was said garnets came in every color but blue. Recently, discoveries in Africia have disproved that theory. There are even color-changing garnets. Technically, garnets refers to a family of gemstones rather than a single gemstone.

Garnets in legends light up the night. In folk lore, it is the symbol of consistency, perseverance and good health. In earlier times, garnets were given as gifts between friends to demonstrate affection to each other and insure that they meet again, which is why it is called the Stone of Commitment.

The perfect stone to start off the new year.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reading Challenges

Hey everyone! I hope you're having a fantastic New Year so far! It seems like just yesterday it was December.

With a fresh new year here, I know I've been thinking about what I want to accomplish in it. One of those things is read more. Last year, I failed with my reading goal, so this year I'm setting a new one. Probably one that's more ambitious, but I'm hoping to stick to it. Yes, it's... 36 books (novels, more specifically). No, please don't start laughing... Yikes...

Anyways, I'm a slow-ish reader. If I don't do anything but eat, drink, use the restroom, and read, I can finish a book in one day if it sucks me in. Otherwise, a little over a week is my pace. Yes, writing, and then computer games, take up the other half of my time. *grins*

So, I've been looking at quite a few blogs recently, and I've seen a lot of people doing a wide array of reading challenges this year. The three that I'm doing are:

Goodreads' 2012 Reading Challenge: Pretty simple, all you need to do is join Goodreads, set a goal for yourself, and read those books. It keeps track by you specifying "read" and when you read the book. Their widget shows if you're ahead or behind of your goal.

Book Chick City's Horror & Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge 2012: This is a genre based challenge. To sign up, you just go to the website, fill out the linky, etc. and read the books!

Book Chick City's Speculative Romance Challenge 2012: The same as above here, except this one is for all kinds of romance like sci-fi romance, paranormal romance, fantasy romance.

Book Chick City also has other Reading Challenges. There's more here, and I'm sure if you typed in reading challenge (romance, sci-fi, etc.) that you'd find more.

So... who else has taken the dive to read more this year and joined a reading challenge? If you have, which ones?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Author Readings

Author Readings

Hi everyone –

Thanks for stopping by Castles & Guns! This is my first blog of 2012 here on Castles & Guns and look, I remembered to post it! LOL Go me! (Don’t ask how many times I forgot last year! *blush*)

Okay now that I got my cheer out of the way, I’m really curious about how you feel about author readings.

I’m not a big audiobooks listener. In fact, the only one I’ve ever listened to all the way through was Stephen King’s LT’s Theory on Pets.

I bought the tapes (ugh that makes me sound old! LOL) Because Stephen King did the reading himself, and I LOVE listening to him reading his own work. He’s passionate about it, and hearing him tell me the story always makes me eager to go read it. I guess maybe I feel closer to the book because he “told” me the story.

Does that make sense?

I attended World Fantasy Con in 2011 and was lucky enough to attend Neil Gaiman’s reading. Not only does he have a cute accent, but seeing him read his own words made the stories come alive for me. Maybe it goes back to our caveman roots? Like the author is sitting around a campfire and we’re the first souls to ever hear this tale…

What do you think? Do you enjoy author readings? Would you attend live readings?

When Night Walker was first released, my publicist scheduled me to be on a few blogtalk raido programs. One of the programs wanted me to give them a 10 minute reading from the book. OMG was I ever nervous. It surprised me because I can sing and act on stage no problem, but reading my own words out loud felt like running naked across the superbowl stadium! LOL

But when I finished the host was choked up with tears. From my words. Wow! Maybe I misjudged author readings?

My first short story anthology just released and I’ve been contemplating reading one or two of the short stories and posting the sound files on my website. Is that something readers would be interested in? Do other people love hearing a story told to them like they’re sharing the same campfire?

What do you think? I’m really interested to hear your opinion, and if you have reader friends, will you send them over here too? Inquiring minds want to know…. LOL

Happy 2012!!!

Lisa Kessler

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hello everyone. Wow, I must admit that going into Monday night I wasn’t sure who would walk off with the BCS National Championship. I really thought Alabama had a chance but that LSU would be after blood, big time. What did I learn? Team effort is the key to success. A few weeks back I read an article(yes, I read the sports page first and then the cartoons) on Nick Saban. The author had taken offense to the fan base in Alabama saying that Saban was a genius and nearly worshiping him. The author went on to talk about how someone like Nick Saban hadn’t gotten to where he is just by being himself. He’d had help. I admit I kinda got irritated with the author here, yet I kept reading. I mean, Saban is a good coach no matter what but I wanted to see what the author had to say.

Turns out the author just felt that Saban’s staff and their staff and the people who coached him through the years weren’t getting recognized the way they should. The article’s author pointed out how someone in Saban’s position had a staff behind him that was just as well-organized and coached as the football team they helped. So, compare that to a Best Selling author. Most authors have mentors and peers who have helped them in some way. I myself am no Best Selling Author, yet. However I have a fantastic support system with authors, editors, and friends as well as readers.

Where did I acquire such fantastic support people? In writers associations. I have spent a great deal of my time with the RWA and my local RWA group. In those associations I found people who help me in ways I can’t even describe, from critiquing my work to just a friendly email to see how I’m doing. I met many of these people at conferences and one especially, the Silken Sands Conference.
March is fastly approaching us and it’s time to register for the 2012 Silken Sands Conference. Please take a moment to head over to the site and read over the fantastic line up. If you’ve ever wanted to go to a conference but are scared, Silken Sands is a very easy-going, informative and eye-opening conference.


Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone and remember success is often a team effort, don’t count your team out.
Sayde Grace

Monday, January 9, 2012

Readers, Writing, and Emotion

When I began writing my goal was to create horror stories that would frighten readers. This wasn’t a surprise for anyone who knew my years long love affair with reading Stephen King’s work. I discovered King when I was about thirteen years old. When other little girls were reading Judy Blume, I was reading King. By the time I’d read Salem’s Lot, I knew I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to write horror.

For the next six years my writing consisted of journaling and the occasional short story. I still wanted to be a writer but I wasn’t doing anything to pursue my desire. Then one day I decided to give it a try. I cracked out the typewriter I’d used through high school and wrote a very bad vampire novel of about sixty thousand words. It was everything that’s bad about a first novel and by the time I’d made it to The End, I knew how hard writing on a typewriter was. That put a serious damper on my desire to be a writer. None the less, I kept tinkering with stories and soon after that I got my hands on a word processor.

After concluding that my horror story wasn’t that horrifying – outside of the writing itself – I decided to try my hand at a historical romance. This novel was almost as bad except I discovered I had scenes that were downright heart wrenching. I learned the power of emotion in the written word. Not that I hadn’t read many excellent books by that time, but it was completely different when I learned I could create powerful emotion in my writing.

Flash forward past another ten years of writing limbo; I became serious about writing and wanted to make it my career. I went back to horror and took it to the extreme. Fortunately, before long I started reading paranormal romance and the power of love overtook the power of fear. I still like to dish up a good scare, but it’s more important to let my characters fall in love, survive the plot, and live happily ever after.

It’s all about emotion - for the characters and the readers. It’s why we read in the first place. We want to be transported through the emotions of the characters we’re reading about. We want to be afraid with them and we want to love with them. If you can deliver emotion, you’ll find an audience. Emotion is what writing is all about and it’s why I love to write.

Why do you love to write? Is it the emotion or something else?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Market Experiment

I did mention in my last post that I had some freebies coming, didn't I? Well, even if I forgot, I'm about to tell you all about them. You see, the two freebies cover a lot of bases for me. For one, they are a thank you to my readers. For another, they are an experiment in the romance market.

Finding Your Heart I and II don't have a lot of differences between them. It's basically the same story. However, one is told in a M/F conventional contemporary romance style while the other is a M/M gay romance. Both are erotic, but not erotica because there is the happily ever after (HEA) in the end. I get tagged with the erotica appellation a lot but I don't think I deserve it because I pretty much always end with a HEA, something erotica doesn't do. Erotica is all about the sex. Erotic romance is all about the romance and the sex that goes with it is just that, a side dish.

Anyway, enough of my sidetrack through definitions. My experiment was to see which type of story got the most downloads/sales. There's a fuckton of authors who have decided to write M/M because they think that's where the money is and I don't agree with that. I don't agree with it on principle (I think people who write that genre just to write it don't write it as well as those of us who are creatively drawn to write it because it's a genre we adore) and I don't agree with the notion that the M/M genre sells better.

Rather than argue the point, I decided to go the scientific route and see what happened. I put out two versions of basically the same story. I put it at three venues. My idea is to track the sales/downloads to see if one genre does better than the other and if any of the venues has more M/M sales than the others.

After a week, I'm finding the results fascinating. I'm not going to trot out the specific numbers yet because at this point the books were at Smashwords a day longer than they were at Amazon which had them a day longer than All Romance eBooks. That doesn't translate to too many days. I see what appears to be a trend emerging, but it's really too early to give numbers. However, I will give you an idea of where things are heading. I think it's interesting to authors and readers alike to know what's selling where.

So here's the scoop. At Smashwords, the M/F version of Finding Your Heart (I) is downloaded almost twice as often as the M/M version of Finding Your Heart (II.) At ARe, I've got no numbers thus far but my het and gay rom have always run neck and neck there. At Amazon, the M/M version has sold twice as much as the M/F.

Pretty interesting stats, wouldn't you say?

It is early days - just about a week from the first upload at Smashwords - so things could dramatically change. But the trend at the moment just fascinates me! And even though the Amazon M/M version sells more than the M/F, overall, the M/F is still way in the lead in downloads. Almost shoots that theory of M/M outselling M/F in the foot, doesn't it?

Now, don't get me wrong. I love writing M/M and I love reading it. I'm not trying to put it down at all. I'm just curious as to why some authors think they should write this in order to make more money. Thus far, if you look at what Finding Your Heart is doing, if you do het right, it should outsell gay rom.

My logic here could be way off in the long run. But it sure looks to me as if this is where this book is going. And if you want to argue with me that maybe this book is poorly done and that's why it's garnering skewed numbers...I'm going to post the quotes from inside the two books to show that I didn't pull any punches when I handed these puppies out to be read by other authors for an endorsement. I gave the book to people whom I knew would not be swayed by the fact that wrote it. If they didn't like the story, they would have said so and not written a positive quote.

Finding Your Heart I - M/F version

“What a perfect story to start the new year! I loved this—sweet and sexy and so appealing to my hopelessly romantic side. I love a story that leaves me smiling, and this one’s got ‘happily ever after’ written all over it!” Kate Douglas, bestselling author of Wolf Tales.

"Lex Valentine offers a unique story of love that lasts through life's trials and tribulations. No one gives a better happy ending than she does." Jennifer Leeland, erotic romance author.

“No one writes characters with more emotional depth or who have hotter sex than Lex! This story will leave you with a smile on your face and a belief in a fresh new year and happily ever after.” Mary Winter, bestselling romance author.

“Lex Valentine is magic, and so is FINDING YOUR HEART. A penetrating look at love lost and love found, FINDING YOUR HEART stimulates and satisfies on many levels. Definitely recommended!” Janis Susan May, romance author.

Finding Your Heart II - M/M version

“Once again, Lex Valentine expertly mines the emotional lives of her characters while providing a hot, hot tale of longtime lovers who finally get it right. A perfect New Year's Eve short story, grab a glass of champagne and enjoy!” Bestselling gay romance author, Z.A. Maxfield.

“The heart is a fragile creation; a combination of human frailty and emotional sensitivity. Lex Valentine’s Finding Your Heart is more than the exploration of the human heart or two men in love, it is a journey of loss, longing, regret and the redemption found in the mending of a heart in need. Finding Your Heart is a wonderful story of two separated lovers who rediscover their physical passions and the emotional home they inhabit within each other’s lives. Finding Your Heart is a poignant and sexy way to ring in the hopeful New Year.” Xavier Axelson, erotica author and advice columnist.

So you see, I put together a carefully crafted book. Edited it carefully. Gave it a striking cover. And then I asked some "tell it like it is" authors to read it and comment. The acid test. And it came back glowing in a positive way. So I'm pretty sure that for a short story, this is a well done product. And I think my one week numbers bear this out too.

I will keep you posted on the experiment as it goes on. I'm confident that reader trends will be obvious in the downloads/sales of these two nearly identical books. And I'm sure as readers and authors you're all curious too.

If you'd like to download the two books they are available at Smashwords, All Romance eBooks and Amazon, although the Amazon price matching hasn't kicked in yet. The links are at the end of the post. Everyone have a wonderful Sunday!

Finding Your Heart I, A Contemporary Romance Happily Ever After
Download for free at Smashwords and All Romance eBooks

Finding Your Heart II, A Gay Romance Happily Ever After
Download for free at Smashwords and All Romance eBooks

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guest Blogger: Melissa Cutler- The Call

Today is my normal blogging day here at Castles and Guns, but instead I’ve brought a special guest. As writers, we are all waiting for the day of The Call. Today I’d like to introduce you all to a writer who is off to an amazing start- and who I think will be a major star soon.

I’m very proud to introduce my friend and RWA San Diego buddy, Melissa Cutler :).

Getting the Call, and Other Glittery Unicorns-Melissa Cutler

So I got the call. The Call. Actually, I got two calls, five days apart. I got the first call after I'd spent months moaning to my writer friends about how painful it was to keep banging my head against the brick wall that was traditional publishing. I didn't understand how my perception of my own abilities as a writer were so far off from industry professionals' perceptions of my abilities. I thought my writing was awesome. I thought my manuscripts sparkled like glittery unicorns. Every time I'd finish a book, I'd think, This is the one that gets me through the brick wall. Months later, I'd emerge from the querying process battered and bruised, my ego turned to ground beef. (Cue the lamenting to my writer friends.)

I'd write another book and start the whole process over again. And every time I ran the pitching and querying gauntlet, I thought, Why the hell am I doing this to myself? Even though I already knew the answer—because I'm a writer and I have a dream for myself. And I wouldn't like the way quitting would feel.

You know how we've all heard stories of women who give up trying to have a baby, and the minute they stop trying, they get pregnant? Getting The Call was kind of like that for me. I'd decided to take a six month hiatus from trying to get publish. I planned to spend the first half of 2012 writing for the sheer pleasure of it.

One morning in early December, I took a pad of paper and a pen on a nature hike. I hiked to a beautiful bench, then spent hours writing in the sunshine as hawks circled in the distance. It was a wonderful, contented morning. Smiling at how at peace I was with my new plan to take a manuscript submission break, I drove home to eat lunch.

Fifteen minutes after I got home, Harlequin editor Shana Smith called. She was offering me a contract for my romantic suspense manuscript that Harlequin had been considering for nearly a year. I can't remember all that she said, my mind was spinning so fast. All I remember is that I kept chanting, "Thank you, thank you," into the phone.

The next morning, I contacted two agents who currently had another of my manuscripts under consideration. The debate over whether or not a writer needs an agent is fodder for a different blog post, but suffice it to say, by ten-thirty that morning, I'd contracted with one of my dream agents. Four days later, it was my agent who called. An editor from Kensington Books whom I'd queried in November was offering me a three book deal. That's when it finally hit me that this was really happening. My dream for myself was coming true. I spent the next several days giggling uncontrollably. I stood in front of the Romance Book section at Target and wept with happiness while suspicious mothers hustled their children away from me.

THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS debuts in September of this year. My Harlequin Romantic Suspense debuts in December. I've learned a lot in the past month since I received that first call. But I learned even more in the four years it took me to get to this point. Here's what I've learned: don't give up. If you have to take a break to let your wounds heal, do it. But don't lose your love of writing, and don't give up on your dream. Remember: it's a blessing in itself to know what your passion is. So many people never even get that far in life. And to be part of a writing community, embraced by people who share the same dream? That is priceless, my friends. That is the glittery unicorn.

Find out more about Melissa and her books on her website, www.melissacutler.net, or connect with her on Facebook or twitter (@m_cutler).

Friday, January 6, 2012

How Are You Making 2012 "The Year of Awesome"

Two posts down, Kinley Baker declares 2012 "The Year of Awesome." I like that attitude. If attitude was all that is needed, I'd say she has it nailed down.

Attitude is only one thing you'll need to make your year sparkle. I thought I'd list five qualities that can help you achieve a successful year.

1. Forget Your Fears--So often we're held back by insecurities: What if people don't like it? What if they laugh or reject me? What if this really sucks? I'll tell you a little secret. The first time, even the second or maybe the third that you do something, it often does suck. It takes practice to succeed in any skill. We preach it to our children but have the hardest time believing it in ourselves. Don't let your fears keep you from moving forward. Make mistakes, learn and move on. Without forward momentum, you'll never reach that brass ring.

2. Set Realistic Goals--Sure it's important to aim high, but often there are tiny steps we need to take first before we can make that giant leap. Work on those smaller steps so that you feel a sense of accomplishment. Reward yourself every now and then as a reminder that you are sticking to your goal.

3. Hang on to the Positive, Throw Out the Negative--You are a your biggest cheerleader. If you're lucky enough to have a squad of people behind you cheering you on, then thank them, hug them and recognize how fortunate you are. If, on the other hand, you have voices telling you that you're wasting your time, have no talent, etc. TUNE THEM OUT! Change the dial, walk away, do whatever you have to, but don't listen to that kind of negativity. Maybe you have talent, maybe you don't, but if it makes you happy then it's worth pursuing.

4. Stretch Yourself--It's very easy to get caught in a rut, to stick with the tried and true. Now, that can be a formula of success for some and in that case, it's understandable that you don't want to rock the boat. But if you've reached a wall or are close it giving up, then maybe it's time to try something new. Take a different route, travel by different means, visit a different place. Shake up your world a little and see what happens.

5. Lend a Helping Hand--Our lives are busy and in some cases keeping a roof over our heads and food on the tables takes up most of our energy. But we are part of a tapestry that is bigger than just our tiny part. Take the time to be aware of the people around you whether in your neighborhood, your school, your workplace or online. Being part of a community means something. When we reach out to others it comes back to us in unexpected ways. So when assistance or guidance is given to you, use it wisely, and someday pass it forward to another.

I had a great year in 2011 and building on that I expect 2012 to be even more awesome. I will be doing everything on the list above. Perhaps the most challenging will be to stretch myself as I attempt an erotica novella for the first time. We'll see how it goes. Staying positive, staying positive! ( :

Make 2012 "The Year of Awesome" for you. Which of the above points do you think will be most challenging for you?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

India Black and the Widow of Windsor: Darcy's Review ('Twas Fate!)

Who doesn't like browsing through a bookstore? All those lovely, tempting reads, just sitting there waiting to be picked up and purchased. Back in the middle of November, I was out and about with friends and we had some time to kill before a movie ('Immortals,' don't judge) so we decided to do just that. Walk around Barnes and Noble and make mental wishlists for the coming holidays.

When I saw the cover of this book, I knew I wanted it. I didn't even know what it was about! I knew I wanted it before I had even read the back of it. Funny thing? I didn't get a chance. We had to leave the store before I could pick it up, let alone buy it. Then several weeks later I was shopping with my grandmother for Christmas and I found it! The book! The book was calling to me, saying, 'Darcy... buy me... read me... write a review on Castles & Guns about me...'

Maybe I exaggerate a little. Truthfully it was the name that got me. India Black. I am a sucker for a heroine/hero/main character with a great name. Eve Dallas, Melrose Plant and Richard Jury, India Black... Names are important.

So, finally I had the book!

I adore mysteries. No, I really do. From 'Scooby-Doo' to Agatha Christie, 'Wire in the Blood' to Martha Grimes, I cannot get enough of mystery fiction, both in film and the written word. I especially love unforgettable female characters, which is exactly the impression India Black leaves with the reader. Unfortunately she has the same effect on people, which makes her a less than perfect undercover spy. Still, that's the fun of the story.

India Black and the Widow of Windsor is a wicked little romp filled with sizzling commentary from a madam (a mistress of a whore house) as she helps to stop a plot to assassinate Queen Victoria. To read more about this book and the other A Madam of Espionage Mystery, you can visit Carol K. Carr's website.

This book entertained me to no end! It is the second in the series and I am happy to report I now have my hands on the first. Normally I am a stickler for reading a series in order, but I found starting with the second did not leave me lost or clueless about the characters and backstory. Sign me up for the third already!

Happy reading!

-Darcy (of the Drake variety)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

May I Pronounce 2012 “The Year of Awesome”?

First of all, I wanted to tell you about an amazing Blog Hop going on today only! You have up to 65 chances to win a FREE Kindle Fire or an $80 Gift Card to Amazon. All you have to do is go comment on each of the 65 sites participating. Or comment on one site for one chance to win if you’re short on time. You never know! Plus, each stop is giving away an additional prize. Head over for a chance to win! (One comment per person per site please.) This is a great opportunity to grab that Kindle Fire you didn’t get over the holidays.


If you scroll down to the end of the post you’ll see a list of the participating authors. Look for your favorites, and check out new names!


Secondly, may I pronounce this the year of awesome? I started 2012 ready to go! And I want to keep that upbeat attitude. I didn’t have a chance to post about goals or accomplishments at Castles & Guns toward the end of last year. I think goals are important. But this year I want to focus on attitude. I want to give writing my all and put in the effort that will produce such a good book no one can turn it down. The only way I can do that is by having the right attitude.

I started this year in a good place! It’s four days in and I’ve already run into issues, received several rejections, and fallen back into my old pattern. I know . . . I can hear the crowd booing and catcalling. The crowd is disappointed. But the difference between resolutions and attitudes is that you can fail at resolutions. You might not lose those twenty pounds. You might not sell that book. These could be seen as types of failures when you make the resolution a yes or no question. Did you sell the book? No. Did you lose the twenty pounds? No. But with attitude, we are in complete control. I had a choice today whether I was going to wallow, or pick myself back up and keep working on my current story. Luckily, I recognized the error of my ways and got in my word count instead of focusing on things that didn’t work out.

A hard working attitude is going to be my plan for this year. I realized through my first year of selling a book and the last six months of being published, that I started complaining a lot. Despite the fact we see every day how hard this business is, I started feeling like it was more than I could handle. A person doesn’t have to be on Twitter for very long before they have enough information to be overwhelmed. How we handle all the pressures and stresses, which a lot of the time are self-inflicted, is up to us.

My attitude is something I can control. I will be positive, work hard and stop complaining. So, I pronounce this year “The Year of Awesome”. More disappointments than awesomeness have happened so far, but that doesn’t matter because in my head I can still view the trials and tribulations as a certain kind of success. We’re all building toward something in this business. The “something” is the only thing that changes.

So in a few days, when I’m complaining, I’m going to come back and read this post. (Lol.) If you see me down or complaining this year at Castles & Guns, I give you permission to post the link to this post in the comments. I’ll shake an angry fist in the air on the other side of the screen, but hopefully I’ll come to my senses.

What kind of attitude do you want to attack 2012 with? And I do mean attack . . . you can’t use a lesser word for “The Year of Awesome”.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Do Mermaids Have Fangs?

After watching Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, I wondered whether a basis existed for mermaids with fangs. Do any of the mermaid legends mention fangs? Then I thought about Scottish mythology. Could a mermaid with fangs be drawn from the merging of two mythical fae creatures?

The first, the ceasg or maighdean na tuinne (maiden of the wave), a Scottish mermaid of the Highlands. Appearing as a half-human woman and half-grilse (salmon), the ceasg were said to lure young men into the sea's depths. Other accounts describe love affairs between the mermaids and human males with the offspring of these relationships becoming great sailors and sea captains. Some tales attribute the mermaids with the ability to grant three wishes if captured. Of course, to force such action, the mermaid's soul must be destroyed.

The second, the baobhan sith, is a vampiric faerie known to be dangerous and evil. Although sometimes taking the form of a crow or raven, the baohan sith more often appears as a beautiful young woman, wearing a long green gown to hide her hoofed-feet. On a single evening each year, she rises from her grave to seduce a young man into dancing with her until he is tired and weak from the drinking of his blood.

At first, I believed the combining of these two creatures would produce a mermaid with fangs. Then I read an account stating the baobhan sith use long fingernails to draw the blood of their victims.

So what do you think? Do mermaids have fangs?

Other Scottish fae creatures:
Ghillie Dhu—Scottish Forest Faeries
The Fachan—Creatures to Avoid
Brùnaidh—The Scottish Brownie

Tweet me at @DawnM_Hamilton

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Hello everyone! Wow, another year has gone by. I stopped doing new years resolutions a long time ago so I can't say whether I met any new goals this year or not but I've had a good year. For me the year was filled with new friends, new books, contracts, and a new job. Also my baby started pre-k at the elementary school where I ended up working at. Now both of my children are in school and it finally hit me, I don't have babies anymore. I mean, yeah they're still small, 6 and 4, but not infants. And ya know, that's just fine. I'm so proud of their accomplishments this year too.

Looking back over my year, I've gotta say, I'm finally an adult. I turned thirty in July and while that didn't bother me or anything I did find myself watching one of the Twilight movies and thinking, "Wow, Bella's dad would be hot without that weird mustache." It hit me then that I'd gone from checking out the young guys on the screen to checking out the middle aged guys. That was my "holy crap I'm getting old moment".

Other things that happened, I joined this blog. I probably haven't said it, but I'm really thrilled to be part of the blog and am working very hard to get my calender set so I don't miss my blog dates. For some reason it boggles my mind to set events on my droid. I need that iphone woman to tell me what to do!

So as we celebrate a new year what was a pivotal moment in the past year for you? I swear I haven't gotten over the Twilight moment and may never.

thanks everyone and please have a safe and happy new year!
Sayde Grace

Happy New Year!