Monday, April 30, 2012

My Virgin Blog with Possibilities

Hello out there! I'm Ayla, and I'm thrilled to be a part of this great blog! Yes, today is my first post for Castles & Guns, and I am so excited! *happy dance* Okay, okay - enough already with the exclamation points, jeesh. I've calmed down now. Enough, to tell you a little story...

There once was a little girl (okay, me) who was terrified at night of things under the bed. Actually, it was one thing. A creepy old woman with no face, only hair, who would snatch the little girl by the ankle and pull her under the bed. This girl, if caught, would never been seen or heard from again. When sent to bed at night, she would huddle in the middle of her bed, under a ton of blankets, and should she have to get out - read: bathroom run - she would jump out of the bed, easily landing three feet away from the side.

To this day, you will not find my feet hanging over the edge of the bed when I sleep at night.

Why is this? As an adult, I know there's no one under my bed. Heck, even my cat can't fit under my bed with the stuff I've put there. Logically, I know the creepy old woman is not real. But...there's a part of me that says "hey, it could be possible, right?" I mean, who's to say what lives in our imagination couldn't be reality? Somewhere...Somehow...

You see, I am a firm believer in Possibilities. You will never hear me say something isn't real (unless my littlest one is terrified of his monsters). In truth, when asked if I believe in vampires, shifters, things that go "bump" in the night, my answer is invariably yes. Just because I've never personally met any of these entities - well, I don't think I have - doesn't mean they don't exist. Furthermore, to say these don't exist, honestly, is pure opinion.

This realm of Possibility is why I love writing paranormal. Yes, real-life writing is fun, and I've written some contemporary stories, but pushing the envelope with the "what if" is an excitement like no other. So far, I've written about futuristic-soulless-shifting aliens, Doppelgangers, Wraiths, Elves, the twisted goings-on of an occult, and up my immediate writing sleeve I have cursed frogs and Demons in store. Then, who knows what else? It's great.

Now, confession time from you: what do you believe is possible? Meaning, what things have scared you, and still grab you by the throat today?

~ Ayla

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction

Today's blog is more of a mini informercial, although not as boring, and much shorter.  :)

In a few days, the best deal of the year for writers readers, and diabetics will open up- Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction.

For those of you unfamiliar with the annual month long auction- here's the scoop:  Brenda gets some amazing and generous folks, writers, editors, agents, crafters, etc to donate wonderful things to the cause of beating diabetes (a cause near and dear to me personally).

Each year there is an astounding amount of items up for auction ranging from once in a life time trips, to ARCS, to full critiques of your work by a professional editor, agent, or writer.  PLUS lots of things in between!

Go check it out now, stake out what you want to bid on, and go forth!

This is a great chance to help others as you're helping yourself to some cool stuff!

Thanks for coming by! (If you know of any other cool charity writer/reader auctions, please shout them out!)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lady Jane's Salon Raleigh

I did it... I survived reading. Yes, out loud. With a microphone. To real people. I didn't faint, though all my blood pooled in my feet and legs, I think. Most of it is back in full circulation--though this blog post may read a little light-headed.

Have you heard of Lady Jane's Salon? The original is in New York and opened in 2009.  From their web site: "NYC's only reading series devoted to romance fiction"

There are several satellite Lady Jane's now, including one here in my hometown, Raleigh. (ok, technically, the salon is Raleigh/Durham) The local directors are: Claudia Dain, Lydia Dare, and Deb Marlowe. I'd say we local gals are pretty darn lucky!

Once a month, we gather at the Hibernian Pub (where we get this fabulous room with roll-up shades to the outdoors). We order dinner, drinks, and socialize. The directors line up three authors to read excerpts--anything from contemporary to paranormal to Regency. You name it, we get to hear it. All PG rated, mind you.

The evening is always fun (unless you are reading, then it is a little scary). The Salon supports the local library and Heather McCollum's "Shout Against the Whisper" crusade against Ovarian Cancer, which is an added awesomeness.

So last night, I read a ten minute section from Senator, Mine. I had to read a PG section. It was difficult to find a ten minute section of this short piece that was PG rated--especially one that was after the hero and heroine had met. I had to *bleep* parts--even in the section I read.

Although I was nervous about reading (I think there were probably 35-40 people there), the experience was a great one. Everyone was so welcoming (except my writing group guys--they videoed and made faces and all sort of things...just kidding. I really appreciate their support. The guys even had to wear pink name tags and they didn't seem to mind) and supportive. The other ladies who read were terrific (Lydia Dare (Tammy Falkner) and Qwillia Rain). The directors were helpful and super nice. It was a really fun experience! I look forward to heading back next month to hear the readers.

Here is the Lady Jane's blog. You can see pics and get info:

Have you ever done a public reading? If so--were you nervous? If not, would you?

have a great day!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Accountability Agony!

Here I am! Back from the mountains and ready to go... kind of.

As an unpublished writer fueled by hopes, dreams, and gathering as much knowledge as I can, there are certain mysteries of published writers that leave me in awe. Maybe 'mystery' is a misleading word choice... or not?

Lately my life in general has turned ten times more chaotic than usual. All of our lives are chaotic, oui? But we have all experienced those periods when suddenly it's more of an, er, adventure than others. During these times and with my current epic daily routine, I find it near impossible to write. I try to escape into my writing, but end up being pulled back by real life.

When I consult blog posts dealing with this issue, the advice seems more like a slogan for the armed forces. "DETERMINATION! PRESS FORWARD! PRIORITIES! DEADLINES!"

Okay, maybe not quite like that, but you get the general idea.

I know even though I don't have "official" deadlines, I do need to hold myself accountable. No one is going to write for me, I know. I know. I know. I know!

My question I am putting out is about accountability. What are some tricks to better hold myself accountable to make my weekly writing goals?

-Darcy (of the Drake variety)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Serious, Funny, or Both?

I think one of the things that all of us who visit or write for this blog have in common is that we love to read. I know I do. Specifically, I love fantasy stories with magical powers. It doesn’t really matter if it’s this world, or an alternate realm. I’m flexible as long as the author sucks me in from page one. But one thing that I really love, love, love about books is when they make me laugh out loud.

Now, my husband doesn’t like this. He usually ends up glaring over at me when I sit on the couch and randomly burst out laughing. Apparently, it's distracting. He also doesn’t think what I’m laughing at is very funny. Trust me, I’ve tried to read him excerpts and he NEVER laughs. Personally, I think he lacks book humor. But I’m currently reading a funny book, and I’m not going to tell the title because I’m working my way very slowly through it, and I don’t think it’s the book’s fault. I think I’m in a reading funk. It happened after I finished Ruined and it was ready to publish. And I think it’s happening now after finishing Denied.

But while I was reading, and I should say that while this book didn’t grab me like the other ten or more by this author that I’ve read, I still didn’t want to put down the book to write this blog post. *smiles innocently* But I got to wondering what the readers of Castles & Guns enjoy most.

Do you like funny books? Do books ever make you laugh? I know some books make me smirk, but the true l-o-l- factor is a little harder to achieve.

Sometimes people call funny books lighter reads, and I kind of disagree with that. There are plenty of books out there that are dark, gritty, emotional and also have their funny moments. These are my favorite kinds! I love reading books that make me cry. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the story, living the moments, and I love experiencing that emotional rollercoaster. Then there are the sweet moments that make me go, “Awww.” Without being too sweet. But the parts that make me smile and laugh are the parts that assure me everything will be okay. And I always have to end a book knowing everything will be okay.

Have you run into this? Do comedic moments ruin the pacing of darker books for you? Or do they serve to relieve the tension as a nice break?

I’d love to hear from you!

Kinley Baker

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Character's Home is His/Her Castle…

Inspiration for a "character home" in a WIP.

Castle, mansion, cottage, sailboat—often portrayed in books as characters in their own right.

In J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, the Brotherhood's mansion plays an essential role in the novels. The Gothic mansion with its training center and Pit, hidden within mhis, is the perfect command center—opulent and functional—for the Blind King and his Brothers and their Shellans.

In Christine Feehan's Drake Sisters series, the magical family home, Cliff House, situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific plays a starring role. A house capable of protecting the sisters ultimately by devouring their enemies. Cool! Right? According to Ms Feehan's website, she used a French hotel as inspiration.

In my unpublished Garden Gate time travel series, a Victorian B&B nestled amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is the center of community activity, and the nearby cottage and garden with its enchanted gate is pivotal. In 16th century Scotland, Castle Lachlan—a ruin now, but not in my stories—and its garden play a prime role.

In Sea Panther, the first book in my unpublished Crimson Storm series, the hero's home is a 90-foot sailing yacht.

What are your favorite "character" homes?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Power Of Excerpts

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I was hoping you could help me with some research... I was wondering how many of you read an excerpt before you buy a book. How far into the book do you like the excerpt to start and what are some keys things you look for?

If you comment below, you will be entered to win a free digital copy of my debut erotic urban fantasy, Slayer's Kiss. And in case you're curious, I included an excerpt below. ;)



She kept her gaze trained on the door, even while mixing two martinis and a rum and Coke, otherwise she never would have glimpsed Gavin Cross appear on the other side of the glass, head bowed, talking through something serious with a striking man with shiny black hair and a body almost as massive as Gavin’s.

After a quick handshake, just a fleeting grasp of one wrist to another, Gavin broke away from the other man and came through the door. His gaze arrowed through the crush of bodies and landed squarely on Kara.

Her mouth went dry. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. Her heart throttled from zero to sixty in one glance, hammering as if she’d run a hundred miles through the desert.

But he was the oasis she’d been waiting for.

Gavin reached the bar, pulled out a stool and settled himself on the brown vinyl perch.

“Miss Reed.” He tipped his chin in greeting. His suit jacket was draped across one knee, leaving him in slacks and a white-collared shirt with the first button undone. With the way the fabric stretched around his biceps, he didn’t look like any businessman she’d ever met.

Her mind raced. Maybe he’d thought through her unspoken offer. Maybe she wasn’t the only one who’d felt the connection. Her body flushed, but not in embarrassment this time—this was simply blood rushing to all her important parts.

She nodded back and smiled, trying not to look as smug as she felt. “You found me.”

“I did. It must be nice working so close to home.”

“Yeah. It’s not a bad gig.” She wanted to laugh. It was clear he had something to say, and she already knew what it was going to be. Mutual attraction this strong couldn’t be denied. She wasn’t going to play hard to get just to get even with him. He might deserve it, but that wasn’t her style. She rarely wanted a man, but when she did, she let him know flat-out. “I’m glad you rethought my offer.”

He clasped his hands on the bar before him. “It’s the key.”

She put down the bottle in her hand and cocked her head. “What’s the key?”

“The reason I’m here.”

“Huh? I’m confused.” Confused and sinking like that rock in the pit of her stomach.

Gavin looked like he’d swallowed a bug. “The key doesn’t work.”

The blood drained from Kara’s face. “Oh…you’re not here to see…me.” She was the world’s biggest jackass. Such an ass, in fact, she was surprised she hadn’t brayed the soft, mortified words from between big blocky teeth.

“Technically, I am here to see you. The key doesn’t fit. I can’t move in my things until you open the door.”

She turned her back on him under the pretense of getting another bottle of tequila from the low storage cupboard, but she needed a minute to get herself under control. She rummaged around, shifting bottles, until she thought she could speak without her lips quivering.

“Take this for your trouble.” She handed him a shot of their best tequila. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what could have happened—they’re all numbered. But don’t worry. I have a set of master keys. As soon as I get off, I can let you in.” She swabbed the counter near him with shaking hands.

“Kara.” He reached out and covered her hand with his. “It’s all right. I waited weeks for that apartment. A couple more hours aren’t going to kill me.”

She froze, glancing at his hand as a small current ran between them. She desperately wanted to say something cool, flippant even, but she’d never met anyone like Gavin. Having him touch her like this… She couldn’t form words.

When the silence stretched too long, she pulled away. The other bartender at the far end of the bar was filling twice as many orders as Kara, and if she didn’t step it up, he’d be taking home twice the money. “Don’t you drink?” She pointed to Gavin’s untouched tequila.

“Sometimes.” He smiled and leaned forward on his stool. “Why, are you trying to get me drunk?”

Kara snickered, flushing from her cheeks to the roots of her hair. “Is that what it takes to loosen you up?” Just to taunt him, she put another shot next to the first.

“I can’t afford to be too loose. I’m on call tonight.” He met her eyes and threw back one shot followed by the other.

Kara took a written order from a server and got to work mixing the drinks. She raised her voice over the sound of ice sloshing against the side of the cocktail shaker. “You’re on call tonight? What do you do?”

He picked up his shot glass and rolled it in his fingers, watching as one drop trailed around the bottom of the glass. “I have a private security company.”

“Why do you have to go in tonight?”

“I can’t discuss my clients,” he said, then he grinned. “You’ll have to give me a lot more tequila if you want to know my secrets.”

A couple sat in the two remaining stools at Kara’s end of the bar. She took their orders, but her eyes never left Gavin as he rested his chin in his hand. “Hmm. This stuff isn’t cheap.” She slapped a third drink down and cleared away his empty glasses. “Are your secrets worth it?”

He gulped the third shot and chuckled. “I bet I have stories you’d like to hear, princess. I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”

She smiled, leaning her elbows on the dark wood surface across from him. “Princess, huh? Are you sure you aren’t feeling those drinks yet, big guy?”

He reached out and cupped her elbows in his thick hands. “I’m feeling something, but I think it has less to do with the alcohol and more to do with you.” He wasn’t slurring, but the tension had melted from his shoulders and he looked quite content just to stare into her eyes.

Her pulse beat in all the wrong places. “Is that right?”

“I didn’t expect you to be so disarming.”

The sounds of the bar swallowed up her burst of laughter. “You don’t have high expectations of apartment managers in general, or are you talking about me, specifically?”

“You, specifically, are a beautiful woman, Kara Reed.”

She rolled her eyes at the irony and shook her head. “Thanks. I’ve been told I get prettier with every shot.”

“That’s not what I meant.” He released her elbows to rub his fingers over his eyes. “I don’t seem to be holding my liquor as well as I used to. Your turn to talk now, princess. How long have you worked here?”

She snorted at his change in subject and lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Not long enough to get regular hours, but I’m working on it. And that’s all you’re getting out of me.”

“You owe me a secret.” He narrowed his eyes, but they still sparkled in the dim light. “What does it take to make you talk? Name your poison.”

She bent over to put the grenadine in the fridge, giving him a nice shot of her ass, then turned back to him. “Nothing you can find in a bottle. But I have my weaknesses.” Like tall blonds whose bodies deserve small countries named after them.

With a groan, Gavin tugged at his collar and unfastened another button. His cheeks were flushed from the tequila. “I need some fresh air.”

She frowned. “Are you okay, Gavin? If you’re really not used to drinking, I shouldn’t have given you that third shot.” She didn’t figure he’d feel it so fast.

Burying his face in his hands, he laughed, deep in his belly, then scrubbed his palms across his cheeks. “You’re right. It must be the tequila.” But the way his gaze raked over her body said otherwise.

He threw a fifty-dollar bill on the counter then rose from the stool, the jacket in the crook of his elbow covering his middle. “I’ll see you when you get off, princess. I may still wring some secrets from you yet.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Diamonds for April

Anyone born in the month of April knows that diamonds are their birthstone. Diamonds are the King of Gems, sometimes called the Philosopher's Stone for their ability to determine guilt or innocence. The test is smple. If the accused is guilty, the diamond will grow dark. But, in the presence of innocence, it will glow with increased brilliance.

There are many legends attached to diamonds. The sparkling and flashing nature of the gemstone is regarded as a stone of protection and symbolizes invincibility and good fortune. Cleopatra used a diamond to win Mark Anthony's love and devotion. Ancient Greeks believed diamonds were splinters from stars fallen to earth. A very ancient belief is that for a diamond to exercise its full power, the stone must be worn on the left side of the body, the so-called heart side. That's where the custom of wearing a diamond engagement ring on the left hand came from. Hindu physicians believed diamonds had six flavors--sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and acrid.

One of my favorite myths about diamonds are that the finest diamonds can have sexual relations and reproduce. Supposedly these special stones are set in a ring, moistened with morning dew and left in the dark, then they will multiply. Nice thought. Too bad it doesn't work.

One last thing about diamonds is that they are said to increase personal clarity. One such tale is that it helps one see things clearly as well as be straight forrward and honest. Supposedly, the higher the quality of the diamond, the better one can do these these.

So, for those of you born in the month of April, enjoy your special gemstone.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Another blogger...

...stumbling in from RT...

wow! who kept the secret from me that the RT convention was so much fun?

I saw the agenda with the classes, and workshops, and social events--but nothing could really prepare me for the enormity that is RT. WOW.

I knew from going to RWA Nationals that I would need shoes (lots), but costumes? fun! I pulled together some sort-of costumes for the Scottish Fling, and the Gangster Party, added several pairs of shoes and mailed them to the hotel ahead of me.

Packing was an obstacle. Seven days. That is more than a carry-on--especially when you need business casual and T-shirts and such. I knew I'd have to check a bag--and I made sure I had underwear in both my checked bag and my carry-on just in case one bag got lost! Be prepared! lol

My roommate, Ann Mayburn, was awesome. I swear we got along swimmingly. We pretty much kept the same schedule and had a ton of laughs all week. She was definitely one of the highlights of RT for me.

So I went to RT in three capacities: Industry Professional (Editor, Entangled Publishing), Author, and Reader. So little time to see everything.

I did get to the panel on Science Fiction: Popular Tropes and Themes with Linnea Sinclair, Beth Revis, Cindy Holby, Isabo Kelly, and Cindy Spencer Pape. This session was the best (bar NONE) information session I have ever been to at a convention. The ladies were open and honest and answered all sorts of questions on writing and publishing science fiction and science fiction romance. AMAZING.

The books! The swag! I have tons! Between that and shoes I sent home, I ended up shipping 89lbs of stuff. I plan to share it with some friends, an intern that helps me out a lot, my students, and etc. Believe me, if you go to RT, you'd better plan on shipping stuff home. Lots of it.

I took pitches for Entangled and met some great people! I loved the stories people told me about and the passion behind the pitches. Authors are amazing! Pitchapalooza was fun and kind of crazy. For those who don't know what Pitchapalooza is, well, it is speed dating for writers. In three minutes, you pitch your story then you move on! I was so glad to be on the receiving end of the pitches because it was really hectic. In between, I think I met a million people who came up to me because I work with Entangled. I never tire of talking about editing and the awesome peeps I work with.

I entered the American Idol/American Voice contest where you sent in three chapters of a manuscript before the conference then went to a session on submitting/publishing. At the end of the session they named twenty or twenty-five finalists. The next day, various authors read the first two pages of those (anonymous)manuscripts aloud and two judges made comments (constructive) and all the judges (editors from Kensington, Tor, Entangled, Sourcebooks; and agents from The Seymour Agency and Lori Perkins Agency) voted. The audience also got to vote. Let me tell you--even though the submissions were anonymous--it was SCARY to have your own pages read aloud. After mine was read, Alicia Condon said something to the effect of, "I see all sorts of problems with this manuscript," (I was trying to vaporize or spontaneously combust) then, she smiled and said she was doing her Simon Cowell impersonation. Ha. Ha. lol. Then she said she liked mine. whew. The experience was fun, overall. I did end up as first runner-up, which was really cool and totally unexpected. The winner's entry was amazingly cool--and she was a sweetheart. I wish I had given her my card. lol

Sunday, when many had gone home, I was still at RT. The pace had slowed, and it was actually a fun day. We played games (like bananagrams and word search) and that evening we watched a movie and had popcorn and candy. It truly was a great way to end a great conference.

I hope I can go again next year.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Soundtracks for Books

I don't know about you, but I'm almost always listening to music, especially when it comes to writing. There have been several times where I'll listen to a song over and over while writing a scene because it has a certain feel to it that totally fits what I'm working on. Other times, the music is there just as a way to enjoy myself and block out other noises.

All that said, I've seen a quite a few people with imagined soundtracks to their books which fit a certain scene or match a character's personality. I'm always intrigued to see what other people like listening to and happy when their choice of song is something I've heard and like. I've never created an "official" book soundtrack and posted it. I've thought about it though.

So... what the heck! Here's my unveiling of songs of interesting from my Hacked Investigations series. I don't quite have set music per novella like I sometimes tend to do with full-length novels. These songs just tend to fit with in one form or another with either the characters, the world building/setting, or some aspect of the plot (which I'll explain what I can with the listings of the songs). These are in no particular order.

  • Technophobia by Progression - Love the name of the song. It has a very electronic and cyber-ish sound, which fits since the series is cyberpunk.
  • Intensify (Blind Faith Remix) by Way Out West - Again, it's electronic and fits with feel of the world, but it kind of also defines the world the hero and heroine live in (which has a fix for any imperfection with their implants and high-tech science), and it also reminds me of their relationship with each other.
  • Help, I'm Alive by Metric - The overall story arc is on Ian and Hannah's (the hero and heroine) struggle against MAX Home Security (the main villain), and this song is reminiscent of how I imagine they feel when they're trying to come out alive and on top. lol
  • Clubbed to Death by Rob Dougan - And when things aren't going so well for Ian and Hannah... *grins* This is a great song to write to. It makes me want to dance. Yes, I admit, I've written a love scene to it too. My husband thought I was weird.
  • Singular Destructible Droid by Papa Roach - This one actually is one of the few that I can narrow down to a particular-ish person in the story. This song was the influence for the villain in Savage Bytes (book 2) who I had envisioned like a cyborg, and while there are aspects of that, the villain changed a little from what I'd anticipated while writing, so I may have used some of that inspiration in book 3, Blacklist Rogue. ;-)
  • Just Say It by Sleepthief - This is a beautiful song, and it fits some of the hardships Ian and Hannah go through both before the series begins, since they were a couple but they had a bad break up, and during a few rough patches in their relationship during the series. But this is a romance after all, they wouldn't be "tear[ing] down the bridge and build[ing] a divide" in this series.
Do you like the idea of "soundtracks" for books? If you're an author, have you made one before?

Sarah Mäkelä

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Glamorous Writer’s Life - Episode 1

Hi everyone –

I just got home late Sunday night from 5 days at the Romantic Times Booklover’s Conference in Chicago…

Sounds glamorous, right? LOL

We should back up for a second…

A couple of days before I left for RT, I got my first round edits back for my Night Thief novella. I need to have them turned back in by May 1st or sooner!

So going away for 5 days left me immediately behind.

Plus, I needed to post my pictures and blog from RT before I couldn’t remember what all the pictures were about. So that ate up last night, and tonight I opened my edits to jump back in again.

My playlist is filling my headphones, I’m ready to tweak and rewrite a couple sections, when I get a google calendar alert that my Castles & Guns blog needs to go up for Wednesday…


Add to that I have no idea what to write. So I mess on Pinterest for a couple minutes, hoping for inspiration. I twitter to Sarah inside the Castle, confessing I have no idea what to blog about.

Then I realize, I know… I’ll take you behind the scenes!

I’m pounding the keyboard, headphones blaring music, chomping my gum and trying to make headway on edits.

I’ve also been busy scheduling my May calendar. Night Walker will be released in mass-market paperback on May 15th, so my blog calendar is filling up again… Another reason I need to get these edits turned back in before the blog tour madness kicks back in! LOL


But don’t let my craziness fool you… I love every minute of it all. Sharing my stories with readers and hearing from people who were touched by something I wrote makes every single gum-chomping-minute worth it!

During RT I set a big goal to reach by next year’s RT. I’m inspired and fired up to reach for the brass ring and write full time… Yikes! So I’ve got lots of work to do…

But when you love what you’re doing, it makes all the difference in the world, right? :)

If you’re curious about the RT Conference, you can take a peek at my pictures here…

I’m going to lower the curtain now and get back to work on these edits….

So what glamorous things are you all working on right now? :)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Guest Author Suzanne Johnson

Hello everyone! If you've read the blog for a while, you might recognize today's guest author, Suzanne Johnson. We're very happy to have her as a guest today, so let's give her a hearty welcome!

A Newbie on the Road

The last week has been a whirlwind of firsts, as my debut novel was released on Tuesday—an urban fantasy called Royal Street, first in a new series. The same day, I kicked off a book tour that will take me from Atlanta to San Diego to Portland, with a few stops in between to hold down a full-time Evil Day Job.

I guess debut week is always a flurry of highs and lows.

The highs for me….Seeing my book on the shelves of a bookstore for the first time. I almost tripped over my own feet as I rounded a corner and saw a display and stack of books…Realizing, after being so ridiculously nervous, that the people who showed up for the launch party and book signing were all friends. I finally relaxed and enjoyed myself….Staying in a much nicer class of hotels along the book tour route than is my usual Days Inn fare (thank you to my publisher)….Getting emails from friends in different cities who’ve seen the book or, better yet, haven’t seen the book because it’s sold out…Enjoying some amazing reviews (a veteran reviewer for the Barnes & Noble SF/F blog called it a contender for “debut fantasy of the year”)…having people show up for the signing in Houston on Friday night who had read the book and were enthusiastic about it—and who weren’t actually related to me or former coworkers :-)…Being asked to sign a book for Charlaine Harris (OMG), who is coming to Murder by the Book in Houston in May.

Then there were a few lows…The book blogger who not only hated the book but has seen fit to spread the venom (“don’t waste your money on this”) around every site she can find, which starts to feel personal after a while...Realizing as the novelty wears off, that I do still have another book to proof by the 20th, still another by the 23rd, and a new (unfinished) manuscript due to my editor on May 1, and that I will pay dearly in stress and sleep for taking this time off…The queasies over the signing tomorrow in Dallas as bad weather moves in and I don’t have a cadre of former coworkers and relatives to fill the chairs.

Yeah, a LOT more highs than lows as I head home on Monday for a few days before hitting the road again. If you’re in Atlanta, Birmingham, San Diego or Portland, hope you’ll come by and see me as I continue the traveling road show. For all of you much farther along in your publishing careers than me, are these fairly typical highs and lows? Do other books rival the first, or will it all seem blasé after a while? Inquiring minds need to know!

BIO: Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, in addition to a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities. She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis' birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.

ABOUT ROYAL STREET: As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond. Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux.

Available from
Read an Enhanced Excerpt from Royal Street.
Suzanne's website.

Monday, April 16, 2012

We're Wondering...

Behind the scenes in our gorgeous and slightly intimidating castle, we've been plotting ways to make things as interesting and fun here as magically possible. ;-) So while we strategize, we'd love your input by answering these two questions.

1.) Are you an author or a reader (or both)?

2.) What kinds of things would you like to see more of at Castles & Guns?

Here's a list of a few possible ideas, but feel free to leave your own too:
  • Character interviews (given by the character to the author)
  • Character interviews (given by the author to the character)
  • More contests
  • Interviews with editors and/or agents
  • Pitch sessions with editors and/or agents
  • Behind the scenes looks at how glamorous our lives as authors (and editor) are
  • Question and answer day where you can ask us any kind of craft or reader questions
Thank you!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why Readers Walk Away...

Why did the reader turn the page? To get to the other side.

As readers, we all want books that grab a hold and won’t let go. I’ve found that the older I’m less likely to keep reading a book if I feel it lets me down. When I was younger, I felt a responsibility to the book, as if I was letting the author down if I didn’t finish it. Especially if I bought it (less likely to keep reading with a library book if I became annoyed ;)).

Now, in my crabby old age, I’ll walk away from a book in a heartbeat if I don’t get what I want.

I feel that life is too short and there are way too many books out there for me to waste my time. So what will make me dump a book?

Not starting in the right spot. Now if I picked the book up in a book store I’m more likely to have read the first page. But if I didn’t, and it’s boring (started too soon), confusing (started too late), or filled with back story – I’m outta there. Now, unlike agents and editors, I usually will keep reading past page one, but sometimes not far. Is it harsh, yup- but it’s reality. I need to know the author has great characters, a great plot, and will take me on a fun ride.

Too much focus on boring stuff. Don’t zero in on the uniforms of a bunch of guards if it’s not important. Don’t feed me all the history about your world in one lump because it’s “cool”. Authors should always know way more about their world than even makes it to page.

Those are my two big “and this book is outta here” markers-what are yours?


Friday, April 13, 2012

Giveaway from the Castle Vault - Winners Announced

Hey everyone! You know what today is, right? Friday the 13th. In honor of this spooky day filled with superstitious tales, we're doing our first Giveaway from the Castle Vault! We've got several fun prizes, so make sure to enter below and tell your friends! The winners will be announced on Sunday.

EDIT: Congrats to the winners, Tiffany, Jannine, and Rachel! We'd also like to thank everyone that took the time to enter our first Giveaway from the Castle Vault! We really enjoyed reading all of your answers. :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Off to the mountains!

For another fun round of Writers in the Woods with the rest of the CRWbadgirlz! Four days of mountain air, greenery, workshops, and... no internet.

...No internet....


Withdrawal symptoms, here I come! See you guys on the other side.

-Darcy (of the Drake variety)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Do You Like to Read Series?

Fantasy has been famous for series for a while. We’ve seen the eight book series, which sometimes stretch into more for high fantasy. But it’s only recently that we’ve seen the trend catch on in other genres. I’m wondering about your favorite kind of series.

There are the trilogies, which usually focus on the same characters and have an overarching plot.

There are the series, which have the same characters and an overarching plot that goes for more than four or five books.

There are also the series that are currently the trend in paranormal romance. You take a group of six people, and each gets a story. Personally, I love this kind of story. I love reading the first book and wondering who will get the second book! I love reading the characters and wondering what they will be like in their own book.

It’s not always as straightforward as taking six people and giving them each a story. Sometimes, it’s just giving favorite secondary characters their own story. I love this, also. I form an emotional attachment to side characters and then I immediately want to know when their book is coming out.

What is your favorite kind of series?

My other question is if you like to buy series from book one. Or if you like to wait until several come out to purchase them. As a reader, I used to wait until several came out so I didn’t have to wait. But now I realize there are at least four series that are up past the ninth book, and I dutifully wait for each one to release.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shifters: Who are your favorites?

The other morning while listening to NPR, I heard a news story about bears waking early from hibernation and invading a town in MassachusettsBears Stuffing Themselves Near Massachusetts Homes. Reminded me of the above picture taken in NJ in my nephew's backyard.

Aren’t they sweet?

They'll grow up to be BIG black bears.

It occurred to me, I've never read a book with a bear-shifter. Have you?

There are wolves and jaguars on my shelf. Maybe a dragon or two. And I can't forget the vampire-shifters who change into birds or mice or, more often, big wild cats depending on their moods.

Who are your favorite shapeshifters?

~Dawn Marie Hamilton

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Break

For some of us, today is the end of Spring break. The kids returning to school used to mean I could sit down with a good book and squeeze in a little “me” time, but now that I’m writing full time, it means it’s time to sit down at the computer and get serious on the work-in-progress or the next project.

Being a writer is a different sort of career. It’s something you take with you everywhere you go. For a writer on vacation, sitting around the campfire with the family can be a time of secretly plotting the next book. It’s hard to clock out at the end of the day, because the characters go with you when you turn off the computer.

As a writer, you have to be open to inspiration and opportunity. Even plotters may find themselves pulling the car over to jot down an idea that popped into their head, so they don’t risk forgetting an important point that will help their characters out of an impossible predicament.

Closing a computer is easy, but shutting down a story that’s swirling in your brain is another thing altogether. We try to be present in the moment, for the sake of family and friends and our important relationships, but the story is never truly silent.

Of course, that’s what being a reader feels like to me, too. When a good urban fantasy series gets its hooks into me, I’m a goner. What happens when duty calls, whether it’s the day job or a diaper change, and you have to set your book down when it’s just getting good? Does the story stay in your head and beckon you back?

Ah, the end of Spring break. It’s time to take a deep breath, embrace the voices in my head, and plunge back into the story. The computer is on, open for business.

Hugs, my friends.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Release day ~Senator, Mine

Today is the release day for my little time travel baby, SENATOR, MINE--part of Decadent Publishing's 1Night Stand line. The novella is set both in current day Rome and in ancient times and is the story of a Roman senato

r and a modern day scholar--both unhappy with their life's path. If you are familiar with the 1Night Stand series, you know that regardless of the issues the individuals face, they will find their happily-ever-after.

SENATOR, MINE is book#1 in the ALL MINE series and book#2 (DRUID, MINE) will release around summer solstice 2012. I love the men of ancient times--at least my imaginary versions of them. Here's the blurb and an excerpt. Thanks for reading!


Eleanor’s dream of a romantic tour of Italy shatters when her long-time boyfriend breaks up with her in Pompeii. Determined to enjoy the once in a lifetime vacation, she enlists the 1NS service. She conti

nues her trip, stopping to buy a small golden signet in a mysterious antiquities shop in Rome.

Darius, a hard-working Senator in Ancient Rome, is puzzled by the Sibyl’s words:You will not find love in your lifetime.

Hoping to find a measure of happiness, he agrees to the Sibyl’s quest. In the olive grove, he spots Eleanor, a barbarian wearing his stolen senator’s ring.

A night spent together may be just what they both need to break down the columns of time that stand between them.


“What is it?” She moved closer to examine the object he held.

“A senator’s ring from the time of Augustus.” He waved the item with a flourish. “A rare and beautiful find, for a deserving young woman.”

The golden circle sparkled in the half-light like the wedding band that shone in her dreams. She tried to control her sharp intake of breath.

“A rather personal memento, wouldn’t you say?”

“It’s beautiful.”


“Which senator?” Gorgeous. What a find. Was it legal to take it out of the country? Surely it held historical significance.

“Yes, it can be exported,” the shopkeeper said. “We don’t know who owned the signet, as many records of the Senate at that time were lost, but it has been cleared by the Antiquities Commission.”

She hadn’t mentioned exporting it aloud. Had he read her mind? No, that wasn’t possible. She squirmed. Nothing about the shop or its contents felt normal. One thing was certain. The ring was amazing. And perfect.

“What does the engraving say?” she asked.


She drew in a quick breath, as a gasp of warm air breezed across her neck, making the hairs stand. She shuddered. I’ve been watching too many old movies.

“As common as the name was at the time, no senators named Darius are on any rolls.” The shopkeeper pushed it closer to her face. “And Madame Eve recommends it. What do you say?”

“How much?” Eleanor whispered.

“Ah.” The shopkeeper grinned. “What price would you pay for a little ring that will change your life forever?”

Buy links:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Guest Author Dawn Chartier + Giveaway

Please welcome today's guest, Dawn Chartier! Make sure to read to the end because she's kindly giving away one copy, reader's choice, of either Diamonds or Not an Angel to one lucky winner.

1. Tell us about yourself.
I hope you don’t mind, but here is a little bio:

Dawn Chartier never knew she wanted to be a writer while growing up. Sure her parents owned a book shop, and she was surrounded by bookworms, but she wasn’t one of “those” writers who started early. No, Dawn was inspired by strange events in her life, one was a bitch named, Katrina. Yes, that hur-ricane. But a few months before the storm, Dawn read an article on Marie Laveau in the New Orleans local newspaper and it sparked an idea. She began researching the voodoo priestess, and then Katrina hit. Out of destruction, ideas formed, characters spoke and plots twisted. One thing lead to another and an author was born. (Must have been something in the air, because a few authors were born out of Katrina’s wrath.)

Dawn Chartier sold her first paranormal romance book, (Not An Angel) to The Wild Rose Press, and her second book, a contemporary erotic romance (Diamonds) to Siren BookStrand. Dawn is a member of RWA, Sola-Writers, FF&P and Savvy Authors. You can find her chatting on Twitter and Facebook when she’s not buried inside of a book or writing her next one.

She now lives near New Orleans with her husband, two daughters, two golden retrievers, and plenty of wildlife.

2. How long did it take you to get published?

I’d would say it took me four years once I seriously started writing. Most of those four years it was learning the craft, and I’m still learning so much.

3. How long does it take for you to write a book?

That depends on the book size, and if the book is a series or not. Some series are harder to write than others depending the Arc.

4. Tell us about your new release.

Sure. My latest release is a contemporary erotic romance. More along the lines of a fun quick beach read with a little suspense thrown in. (See blurb below)

Self-made millionaire Holly Charleston has come a long way since her homeless days. Sometimes, she believes life would have been simpler before fortune and fame. With every man she meets imagining dollar signs, she yearns for the one man who sees the real Holly. A mysterious wealthy stranger may be the one, but she must control her sexsomnia and trust issues if she hopes for a real chance at love.

Professional thief Drake Davenport is ready to begin an honest life. However, his last assignment leads him to steal the heart diamond necklace from a woman known as Ms. Frost. But Holly guards her heart close and her assets closer. Once Holly thaws to Drake's seduction attempts, he finds himself in a position of protecting her from a hired mercenary or living the life he believes he earned. Drake realizes the challenge of stealing the diamond is nothing compared to the challenge of stealing Holly's heart.

5. What inspired your new release?

Well my husband and I were riding around Florida looking to purchase a condo. We stumbled upon a very exclusive neighborhood on the beach, and my mind started taken me on that “What if?” road. That’s how all my stories start. “What if those millionaire people in those homes were miserable? What if a lonely millionaire woman fell in love with the guy who robbed her? See how that works. lol

6. What do you have in the works next?

There are a few books in the works. The book that is driving me most insane right now is Buried Magic, a paranormal romance witch series. I’m also working on the next in the Stiletto Millionaire Club series book, called Pearls. And when I can, I work on the second novel in the Poryria Vampire series. Yes. Lots on my plate.

7. What is your advice to aspiring authors?

That’s easy. Don’t write too many series at once. Lol It’s really hard to give advice because every author has to find her own path that works for her/him. A few books that helped me though are Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon, and also Writing The Breakout novel by Donald Maas. Sometimes critique groups help, and attending writer meetings and conferences could help too. Most important out of all advice though is to never give up. Rejections are a part of the process. If you get rejected send it to someone else, and so on. Never. Give. Up.

Visit Dawn's website. Buy Diamonds. Buy Not an Angel.

Leave a comment telling us which book you'd want to read of Dawn's (and include your email address) before Friday at noon EST for your chance to win. The winner will be announced Friday and contacted through email. Good luck everyone, and thanks once again for visiting, Dawn!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Writers are also Readers… Right?

Hi everyone –

Recently, deep in the heart of our Blog Castle, seated around the gargantuan library, the writers of the Castles & Guns blog discussed the focus of the blog. Were we blogging for writers or readers?
(Nice castle huh? :) It's actually my picture from my son's choir trip last year. It's Mont St. Michel in France. You should go someday! Super cool! Okay back to the story... )

One of our wise leaders (aka Sarah) stood and declared that we should be appealing to both camps, and besides, writers also read…

This led me back to a recent conversation I had with a fellow writer while we walked through the darkened forest. (aka the well-lit track at the local high school) We were chatting about how important it is to make time to read even when you’re working on writing your own novel. Too often I’ve heard writers admit they no longer had time to read. *gasp*

In the immortal words of Stephen King -- 'If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.'

But why? What tools do you gain by reading?

I think it’s different for everyone.

I know that I try to read some things out of my genre just to keep my brain working in another direction, but mostly I read within my genre because I want to know what is happening within my writing community. What’s selling, and what’s not, is super important when you need to sell your book. You need to let the publisher know you understand how to market your work.

And on a creative level, I find that when I don’t make time to back away from the keyboard and read, that I start repeating myself in my writing. I don’t stretch and try something new, or I forget to bring out all the senses. When I’m reading, I notice techniques I really like and it encourages me to get creative with my own work. Maybe a reminder about dialog tags, or using emotion...

Sometimes you also find things in someone else’s book that doesn’t work for you as a reader and you can make a mental note not to let your writing wander down that path.

Reading let’s your imagination engage in a way that it can’t while you write, and if you cut off that escape I think it can really hamper your writing. Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs and many other best-selling authors read daily. Most of them even have a section on their website or blog to post books they enjoyed.

So I’m curious… If you’re a writer reading this blog… Do you still make time to read even if it’s just an hour a day?

And if you’re a reader, do you find it interesting to see what your favorite authors are reading? (I love checking up on Charlaine Harris’ blog! I’ve found lots of great books there… )

Last thing… If you are reading, share your favorite recent reads! I love chatting up books! LOL

Thanks for stopping by!

Lisa :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

It’s All About Him

Okay, maybe not for every reader. For some it’s all about the kick-ass heroine, but for me it’s all about him – the hero. Give me a tortured hero with a pain filled backstory and I’m there. Why do we love these men, whether they are human or paranormal? Do we want to make it all better for them? Save them? Show them someone cares? Maybe a little of each plus whatever the individual reader brings to the story.

I love tortured heroes. They make the best bad boys. I love to see the tortured bad boy find redemption and love with the heroine. I love their happy ever after. It’s no secret that people, mostly women, love a good romance where the characters struggle and fight to overcome obstacles to find happiness in the end because it gives us hope for our own happiness.

Hope for love. Hope for redemption. Hope for something better than the mundane routine of our everyday lives is part of the fantasy of reading a good novel – and for me the hero is who the story is really about. Sure, I want the heroine to have a good outcome as well, but she is secondary to the male character. If the hero doesn’t measure up, I’m not reading the book.

Give me a hero who can fight his way out of almost anything, make love like there’s no tomorrow, and treat his woman like she’s the most important thing in his world. That’s what I want to read. Throw in danger, well written villains, and good subplots and you’ll be on my auto buy list.

But first and foremost, it’s all about him. The heroine might be beautiful and wonderful in most ways, but I’m reading for the hero. Make him take my breath away.

What about you? Do you prefer the kick-butt female or the tough guy hero or do you prefer something different?

~ Nickie Asher ~

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

RT Booklover's Convention...

RT is just around the anyone else going? I've never been to this particular convention--but most people say it is pretty fun (and huge). I like the idea that it is both a readers' convention and a writers' convention. I like that they cater to teens (teen day)--though I admit that I like to escape my teens many days (TODAY). I certainly like to promote reading for teens.

This year, RT is offering a self-publishing track. I may go to a session on that track since, as an attendant, you can go to any class in any track. I don't ever plan to self-publish--but I think it is a really interesting option. I admire those who are confident enough in the process to tackle it all!

I am looking forward to taking pitches for Entangled Publishing--can't wait to find the next great book (or three!). Pitchapalooza is going to be a ton of fun--kind of like speed dating for pitching. I'll be taking pitches there, too. And I'll actually be pitching one of my own speculative fiction manuscripts during the regular pitch sessions. It is going to be a wild ride...

I don't look forward to having to ship all the goodies home. The shipping surcharges are so excessive at conferences. Hotels tack on $10-$25 by weight when they set up those little shipping "convenience booths". This Hyatt has a FedEx Kinkos in the hotel--it also charges a surcharge. Boo. I located a post office 1.2 miles away and I may just take a taxi there and use flat rate boxes (where it doesn't matter the weight--since it is mostly books that get shipped home, lol) to ship stuff. I don't know. That is my main gripe about conferences, in general. I feel trapped by shipping. :)

Kerry Vail