Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dragons - They Exist!

Since this is my third post in a month, I decided to do something different.  I wanted tod delve into the existence of dragons.  Stories abound around the world about them  How can they not exist?

People know what dragons are.  Fairy tales tell us that they are huge creatures who can breath fire, hoard gemstones, appreciate beauty, and fly around terrorizing people.  Really? 

Okay, some have a serious attitude problem.  But that's because they are proud creatures.  They are considered well versed magic and don't reveal their true name because that is one way for a person to subdue a dragon.  Their name is supposed to symbolize their real personalities and be a record of their origin.  Dragon names are bestowed at birth or a very young age, but are modified throughout their lives. 

Dragons are divided into three groups--Earth dragons, water dragons and fire dragons. 

Earth dragons are thr commonest and most abundant species.  They grow enormous and are usually brown-green with many hued scales.  Earth dragons are fliers and gliders.  They are considered introverts and reserved.  They prefer a solitry life style, except during mating season. 

Water dragons are rarer than earth dragons.  While they can be found in either salt or fresh water, they prefer lakes.  They tend to be timid.  They cannot fly very well, taking short gliding flights that can have amazing bursts of speed.  Water dragons have soft, melodic voices that are capable of inspiring poets.  The last reported sighting of a water dragon was in 1860 by Peter Karl van Esling on a voyage to collect marine species. 

Fire dragons are the rarest dragons.  They live in extreme hot conditions.  Think active volcanoes, lava streams and in labyrinths in the earth.  Fire dragons are nocturnal.  When they venture into the outside world, it is said they scorch the everything in their path.  A fire dragons scales are iridescent and made of a type of metal and asbestos.  Their colors range from bright gold to red, copper and black.  Fire dragons are peaceful, the most gregarious and friendly. 

Do you believe in dragons? 

darcy

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Variety in the Paranormal Genre

Bran Castle - Romania (Dracula's castle)
With the paranormal and fantasy genre, there are so many different kinds of beings out there. You have faeries, elves, vampires, werewolves, werecats, magic users, dragons... the list goes on. That's one of the things I enjoy, the variety and flavor of it. You can also have those beings in the past, present, or future. It all works.

Something I've been thinking about and have seen a few posts on say an author should stick to something specific like werewolves for example and establish themselves by writing werewolf stories since you'd be appealing to certain readers who like them and wouldn't like for instance a vampire or fae story.

I think it probably has some truth to it, but I know with myself that if I enjoy a writer's stories, I'd be willing to read whatever they wrote even if I first read one story and they had something different but was in the same genre. I'd wager I'm not alone in this.

One of the things I enjoy about writing is that if a plot bunny jumps up and smacks me with a story idea, I can follow that and see if it has any merit no matter if its a werewolf, an elf, or a technomage story. I adore werewolves, they're my absolute favorite, but I think if they were all I wrote, I'd probably get tired of them.

So, what do you guys think? Do you crave variety when you're reading and/or writing, or do you think it's best to stick to one subject?


Sarah Mäkelä
www.sarahmakela.com 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Episode Two in this Glamorous Writer’s Life



Hi everyone –

Thanks for all the fun flash fiction a couple weeks ago!  I think we ended up with 3 flash fictions so I’ll be in touch to get addresses for chocolate!  YUM!  Here’s the link if you missed it… :) http://www.castlesandguns.com/2012/05/flash-fiction-fun.html

So ready for another peek into a writer’s glamorous life?

My son graduated high school last week.  I’m still reeling that he’s gotten so big so fast.  Yow!  We had lots of fun…





What’s this got to do with writing and glamour?

Socks.

Yes, my friends. The dreaded… Socks and Laundry. 

The two weeks leading up to Reno’s graduation were SOOO busy with senior awards nights, choir awards, swim team banquets, and more, that my head was spinning.

Add to the mix that I got my edits for Night Thief and we’re on a tight schedule with it… Any free moment that wasn’t devoted to picking up a cap and gown went to fixing sentences and tightening dialog.

No time went to laundry.

In the past week I have done laundry every single night, and it still looks like I’ve only made a minor dent in it!  Yikes!!!

On the bright side, I did finish my edits and I’m waiting to hear back from a beta reader before I toss it back to my editor…

Now it’s just me and the dirty laundry…  Oh the glamour! LOL

Yeesh!

So what kind of glamorous things are keeping you busy this summer?


Lisa :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Author Nancy Gideon

When Being Bad is Sooo Good!
By Nancy Gideon

Maybe it’s just me, but I always find the strength of a book or movie depends upon the depth and quality of the villain (Hello, Loki!). In fact, I’m sometimes guilty of liking that charmingly deadly bad guy even more than the hero, because they are . . . complicated. I love complicated. Something about dark and dangerous rings my bells, probably stemming back to my love affair with Barnabas Collins and wondering why on earth Scarlett could prefer wimpy Ashley Wilkes to Rhett Butler (silly girl!).

Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name . . . a hero with an unapologetic bad guy ‘tude, changed everything about how I looked at heroes. He’s a villain who can only be called the hero because all the good guys are dead, have run off or are cowering and the villains are the worst of two evils. The anti-hero was born. Tough, self-centered, ruthlessly cool, and doing good deeds only because they helped his own agenda before he rides off into the sunset. Spaghetti Westerns became my meal of choice and I filled up on them. To feed that addiction, I discovered two more favorites in Quentin Tarantino and Elmore Leonard (my Michigan homeboy!). Hero or villain is an ambiguity in their works. The ‘hero’ is a villain—a robber, a thug, a wiseguy, a hitman, but you root for them anyway and want them to succeed. They’re complicated. And I love complicated. True Romance, Get Shorty, even my can’t miss TV favorite Justified (Come on! Who doesn’t love Boyd Crowder?) are so compelling because the complexity of the characters makes you forgive them when they cross the line or like Raylan Givens, straddle it. In fact, you can’t wait until they step over that right/wrong straight and narrow. Blade, Mad Max, The Punisher . . . we’re not looking for that heart of gold in them. We’re in it for the tarnish, because they’re willing to do things that others are afraid to because it needs to be done. And who does it better than a gun toting, cuss word flipping, my way or the highway anti-hero. Oh, baby. Who am I gonna call? Not my accountant. Not Alan Alda and his Type B warm and fuzzy friends. Get me one of those guys.

The great thing about writing fiction is the ability to bend reality. I mean, who would really want to bring one of these law-breaking psycho Neanderthals home with any hope of rehabilitating them? Fiction is a wonderful thing! The reason I love writing paranormal romance is the power to take that dark, fierce anti-hero and semi-house break him into a happily-ever-after. I love writing about that complicated man (or beast) who is walking a dangerous, unredeemable bad guy tightrope until the right heroine comes along to appreciate his complexity and, if not tame him, at least put a leash on him. The heroes in my “By Moonlight” shape-shifter series have done bad things, have dark pasts, have deep scars and sometimes don’t realize how broken they are until they’re confronted by their focus-altering love for the heroine. They may break rules, break laws, break legs, but they can bear breaking that strong heroine’s heart. Ahhhh, I love fiction. It’s complicated. And the fact that it’s a romance guarantees that there’s no walking off into the sunset . . . at least not alone.

SEEKER OF SHADOWS is the sixth book in my “By Moonlight” shape-shifter series for Pocket. My hero Jacques LaRoche is, you guessed it, walking that line as a man with no past and hard choices to make because someone has to. Here’s a peek:

“Rich and complex. Gideon delivers. Enticing new dimensions to the Shifter world keep things fresh (with) well-crafted prose and page-turning tension” – Publishers Weekly

How can he trust his future to the woman who stole his past?

Shifter club owner, Jacques LaRoche is fiercely protective of his freedom. Stripped of his memories of a former life, he instinctively longs for the mate stolen from him. Until a mysterious visitor from the North stirs desire in a heart he thought belonged to another.

Pursuing an unexpected key to her research, Chosen geneticist, Susanna Duchamps risks discovery in New Orleans when her presence ignites a deadly clan confrontation. Forced to choose between the rediscovery of forbidden passion or the fate of a species, can she risk all to reclaim the love of the man she’s never forgotten? Or will she have to betray him once again in order to save the secret she protects?

If he knew the truth, would he still claim her?

"This dark and seductive story is rife with the delicious possibility of a happily-ever-after for an unlikely pair. Conflict keeps things exciting and plunging forward as the plot twists and turns. Don't blink, the book will be over before you know it." Romantic Times Book Reviews

The next installment of the series, BETRAYED BY SHADOWS comes out 12-18-12 as a Pocket e-exclusive. My current work in progress, PRINCE OF SHADOWS had me obsessed with a new anti-hero every bit as dark and dangerous and complicated as Max Savoie, so forgive me for running cuz I can’t wait to get back to it!

Nancy Gideon is the author of over fifty novels ranging from historicals and series contemporary suspense to dark paranormals (with a couple of horror screenplays on the side), all featuring, you guessed it, dark, dangerous heroes. She’s a legal assistant by day and feeds a Netflix addiction by night. Find out more about SEEKER OF SHADOWS and the “By Moonlight” series at http://nancygideon.com

Monday, June 25, 2012

Free Read for your Monday

I have been in a heavy writing mode, and cannot seem to stop. For today's blog, sit back and enjoy this (very) rough little snippet of who knows, things to come?



"That's it, Alistar. Now try the move at a diagonal angle."

Alistar gripped the sword handles lightly in each hand, feeling for the balance upon his palms as he readied to make the toss his sensei requested. Having to perform in two months time required him to have the pattern perfected.

He half-stepped, swung the swords in a tight arc, then flicked his wrist to make the first toss when the mirrors along the wall shattered. He stared in shock. The tossed sword, forgotten, bounced on the ground nearby. The blade in his left hand felt heavy as his hand gripped the handle.

Lights flashed then went out and a terrible heat enveloped him. His Master cried out and an ominous crunching sound echoed around him, as if large jaws were munching bones. The noise made the hairs on his arms stand up and a shiver to course down his spine.

A sudden force from behind thrust Alistar forward, toward the void that had once been the mirrors of the studio. He stumbled and fell into the yawning hole. Moments later, he landed on solid ground, his feet hitting hard, making his teeth snap. Trying not to panic, he closed his eyes against the darkness. The smooth ground beneath his bare feet felt slick, like glass, but beach-sand hot to the touch. He stepped lightly, but if he didn't find a cool spot soon, the soles of his feet would burn.

The heat made his whole body sweat and choked the airways of his throat. He slowed his breaths, but even this was agonizing.

The silence around him seemed deceiving. He wanted to call out, but kept silent. Something, or someone, waited for him to speak, to move, to attack. He kept up his guard, ready to strike at the first hint of trouble.

"Master," he called softly, testing his surroundings as well as needing to find his sensei.

Nothing answered.

Out of mercy for his feet, Alistar continued to move. He progressed slowly and always alternated the direction of his steps. The pain in his feet grew, but he pushed away the sensations to focus on his sightless surroundings. He almost jumped when his little toe brushed a soft edge. Not sure if he had touched a different kind of ground or an attacker, he made as if he were continuing his same easy steps, but reached out with his foot and brushed against the edge again. Becoming bold, even as his heart thundered in his ears, he stepped closer, then directly onto the soft surface.

Immediately, his foot encountered the blessed coolness of dewy morning grass. He firmed his step and eased his other foot onto the soothing surface, but it was hard not to let down his guard. All he wanted to do was lay on the wet grass and roll around.

"Go ahead," a soft feminine voice whispered against his ear. "Lay down."

His body went still and alert. 

"Who are you?" he asked, matching her whisper. He could hear his heart rushing through his body. Damn it, should he have attacked instead of spoke?

"I am who you need me to be, Alistar. I can be your enemy, or I can be your savior. It will be your decision to make."

"I don't understand."

A soft kiss landed on his lips. The kiss mesmerized him, consumed him. He leaned forward, wanting more, but met nothing.

"I don't need you to understand, Alistar. When I come to you next, you will tell me."

He shook his head, upset that a mere kiss could distract him. His damn sword arm hung loose by his side, his hand about to lose his grip. "Wait," he said a little louder. "Who are you? What do you mean you'll tell me later? Let me see-"

Alistar's words were cut off as his body was again thrust, this time backward. He stumbled, confused and disoriented. When he regained his footing, he found himself back in the studio, as if the past moments never happened. His sensei walked out of his office and stopped when he spied Alistar.

"Where in God's name have you been, Alistar? I've been worried about you. You walked out in the middle of our lesson a month ago and no one's seen you since. Are you okay?"

Alistar let his body sink to the mat beneath his bare feet.

He'd been gone a month? No. He didn't think he'd ever be okay again.   


Have a great week everyone!
~Ayla
http://www.aylaruse.com

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Purging

Ok, so that title sort of sounds like someone with a book eating disorder, and come to think of it, it kinda fits.  Only I buy too many books, rather than eating them J.

I’m going through a sort, re-sort, give away, and clean phase right now.  I’ll always be a packrat, I like having walls filled with shelves of books.  But I’ve realized that as of late it’s gotten out of hand.  WAY out of hand.  As in piles of books lurking just about everywhere in the house.  Now let me clarify, I have enough shelves to hold probably a 1,000 books in my house.  So the fact that they are having to camp out on the floor huddled against the walls for support is not a good sign.

And even worse is that over half are TBR (aka bought them, haven’t read them).  I have a tendency to go crazy when I get into used book stores, or at an event (still recovering from the RT convention of three years ago!), or if I win them (won two huge piles of books a while ago….haven’t read most of them). I love obtaining books.
 
I LOVE books.  Even when I make that jump into ebook readers, I will always be a hard copy book junkie.  But right now I’m a few steps away from becoming a “very special episode of Hoarders”.  So, I’m wadding through my “babies” and pulling out the ones I’ve read, enjoyed, but probably won’t read again.  I’m also taking a hard look at my TBR collection.  Many were bought just on cover, title, and back copy blurb alone.  The first page has been a bit of a shock on a few already.  It’s not that they’re bad, it’s simply they aren’t my type- or not what I thought they were based on the back copy.

I’m just starting my book purge, and I know it’ll be hard.  But I’m planning on making donations to the military through my local RWA chapter, and maybe other good sources as well.  Knowing the books will make someone very happy makes it easier to let them go J.
 
I’m also using this opportunity to see WHY I’m walking away from certain books to make sure that I’m not doing the same thing in my own writing.  So hopefully at the end of things I’ll have a neater house, a tighter book collection, and a new view of things not to do ;).
 
What about you?  How do you decide to keep a book or set it free?


Friday, June 22, 2012

Druid, Mine



I am happy to announce that the second in my All Mine series from Decadent Publishing (in the 1Night Stand series) released this week. Druid, Mine released on solstice eve--the same day the story takes place. I'd like to share the blurb and excerpt with you. Thanks for reading!

Blurb:

Anya’s wish for a normal date—away from the old man she is caretaker for—comes true in unexpected ways when she finds herself whisked to an ancient Irish stone circle on solstice eve.

Carrick’s decision to follow the path to become an Ovate druid has not come lightly, and he plans to spend the solstice eve in meditation unless fairies or evil spirits disrupt the circle. When a feisty girl walks right up to the fire, more than sparks fly.

They each seek healing and a connection, but the darkness of summer is short, and once the solstice sun breaks through the circle at dawn, the magic of the night will be over. Even Madame Eve can’t stop the day from rising.


Excerpt:
Maybe I’m the first person Madame Eve can’t find a match for. And how was it any better than just picking someone up from one of the dozen bars along the street?
Bile filled her throat. Being caretaker for the old man had filled her days but left her empty inside. I’m lonely. I need this 1Night Stand. She stifled a sob. Crying wouldn’t help anything. She had chosen her path knowing full well what the consequences would be. Maybe she hadn’t foreseen how deeply alone she’d feel, but she’d known what she was getting into, work-wise. She used to be a risk taker, impulsive and willing to try new things. Why was she so willing to settle for security now?
The town’s few buildings rose in shadowed relief in the dusky twilight around the city center like tall stones. Guardians, perhaps. Behind them lay the mountains, the wild unknown. She sat straight and leaned into the faint spray from the fountain. The cool mist spread across the back of her arms. Closing her eyes, she lifted her long hair so the moisture could reach the back of her neck.
“Aine?”
Anya dropped her hair.
“Hello?” No one.
“Aine. Let’s go.” The voice floated on drops of water and fell through the air.
“What?” No one was near.
“I’m here.” The voice settled softly like dew on her skin. The air wavered over the fountain and the water slowed.
I only had one beer.
“Come. He awaits.”
For the briefest moment, a golden light eclipsed the edge of Anya’s vision then darkness slid over her.




Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bang, Bang!

I may be preaching to the choir here since this is a blog called Castles & Guns, but today I want chat a little about firearms.

I’m a believer that if you write about guns, you need to shoot one at least once in your life. I’m not saying you need to pack heat 24/7 and have your Concealed Weapons Permit. I’m saying if you’re going to write about the weight and feel of a gun, the smell, and the recoil – you need to at least visit a gun range one time. Even if you write about fantastical or Sci-Fi guns, there should still be a touch of the basic truths of firearms so the reader isn’t thrown out of the story.

Everyone has their pet peeves in writing. One of mine is reading about some character firing a revolver and the spent shells spilling out everywhere as he/she unloads on a baddy about two dozen times.

NO! Don’t be that writer!

No revolver does that. That’s why Deputy Rick Grimes has to up end his Colt Python .357 and dump the shells after killing six zombies, before he reloads to kill six more.

On that same note, if your hero/heroine has a Glock or a Browning .380 or some super sci-fi awesome futuristic semi-automatic, make sure there’s a mess of shells all over the place from their shoot out.

If your heroine is shooting the equivalent of a .357 Dirty Harry Magnum, make sure she feels the recoil too (unless she’s got preternatural strength). Because trust me, that puppy packs a wallop and will recoil over your head. Two words: Hand. Canon.

If your hero has a fully automatic machine gun type weapon, he will not be able to walk around with the d*mn thing a la Rambo. Movie lie! A machine gun comes with a stand for a reason and you need your full body weight pressed against the butt with your foot leveraged against, oh I don’t know, the back of a fox hole, to keep it from bouncing you back into next week. Even Sly would need to lay down with that thing.

Some writers have no desire to learn all of this first hand and that’s okay. Guns are scary and very dangerous. If hands-on isn’t your thing, you can learn all you need to know by talking to a guns expert. You need never touch one if you don’t want. Go to your local gun range and ask the people there. If you tell them you’re writing about a space cowboy packing a collector’s Walther PPK and you want to get the details right, I promise they will tell you all you need to know and then some. You’ll be lucky to get out of there without half a day’s lesson on firearms and safety. They want you to get it right.

If that doesn’t appeal to you either, check out internet blogs from retired policeman and the like. They’re a well of information and there’s normally a contact email addy for specific questions. Whatever you do, for the love of all that’s metallic and loud, do your homework.

Finally, even if you’re writing about weapons of the year 2520 or a fantasy world of your creating, I suggest grounding the weapons in some reality. Your laser gun should still have some punch. I imagine a really powerful laser might require both hands to steady the weapon. Or maybe not … I don’t know so much about lasers. =) Maybe it fires smooth as silk but smells funny afterward? What does it sound like when you fire? What does the handler feel?

Details like this will draw your readers into the scene. Then, no matter how far away you take them, they’ll be “in” the story and follow you anywhere.

This is my last post as a fill in at Castles & Guns, but I’ve had an absolute blast! I hope you’ll have me back any time someone else goes on leave/sabbatical/vacation. Happy Writing!!!

Heather McGovern
@HeatherMcGovern
www.ourmshelf.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Restrictions on Fantasy

With Harry Potter, Twilight and Avatar, I think we've proven fantasy-ish stories can trend mainstream. Sometimes I wonder why more people aren't embracing the fantasy genre, but I think the reason is because all three of these stories are relatable.

Everyone can relate to a kid who lives under the stairs. Who hasn't felt like they're just trying to survive their circumstances? Harry is completely relatable and his accomplishments and mistakes are so well done, it's no wonder a lot of us fell in love.

It's the same thing with Twilight. Who can't relate to high school? I honestly never need to read another story about high school, but Twilight sucked me in.

Avatar is the best movie of all time and what I take away from it is a man learning that everything he's been told is important, isn't. What's most important? Love, family, faith. The core of that story is so raw and powerful, no wonder people connected. They think it was the graphics. I guess we won't tell them Avatar is a romance.

The point is that people will continue to be unsure of words like "fantasy" or "romance" but if we write stories people connect with, the genre won't matter. People will read it.

Kinley

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Finding Magic in Nature



Last month Kinley asked what we do when we're not writing. As I thought about her question, I realized most of my hobbies, other than reading, revolve around getting out into nature or using its bounty—camping, hiking, bicycling rail and canal trails, gardening, cooking. Why? Magic.

Recently my husband purchased a canoe. I wasn't sure I wanted to add another hobby to an already long list, but we've spent the last several weekends paddling local creeks and estuaries. I love it. So much nature. So much magic.

We've seen too many ospreys to count, their loud kyews whistling overhead. We glided around a bend one afternoon and discovered a noisy great blue heron colony. I'd never seen so many of the large birds. They almost looked prehistoric. I managed to catch several birds, including this small heron, with my camera, but not the bald eagle that flew off too quick. Nor could I catch the river otters before they dove into the water on our approach, leaving me focusing my camera in vain. Just seeing them in their natural habitat was magic.


Today is Tuesday. I'm at my desk, writing. My muse is energized by the magic.


Where do you find magic?


~Dawn Marie

Friday, June 15, 2012

Take another look...

I got a new car a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, pretty exciting. My hubby encouraged me to throw practicality to the wind and get what I wanted. So I did. I bought a pretty little mini cooper. His name is Sheldon. Here is his baby pic:

Isn't he cute? I ordered his name tag--it will be here soon.

What does this have to do with writing? Lots, actually.

Since I got Sheldon, the kids and I have been driving around town. Lots. I think I have put almost a thousand miles on him in two weeks. Top down, as much as possible. I've got a fabulous farmer's tan now. And probably some spectacular wrinkles starting!

Back to writing. On the way home from our overnight road trip across the state today, it occurred to me how much Sheldon was helping me with my writing. Sure--I relax when I drive him, and I love blasting Green Day and singing along (my kids have given up trying to feign embarrassment about my Green Day obsession). So all of that stuff is good for my mental health and therefore good for my writing. But what has *really* happened is that I have noticed lots of things I had not BC (before convertible).

For one thing, did you know that if you drive on a road under a bridge at night, you can feel the heat radiating from the underside of the bridge? Not just a little--it is pretty warm--and it feels great to zoom through.

Also, when a big rig passes your car, just before the nose of the truck passes, you get a blast of air. A whopper of a blast. Yes, it happens every time--and it changes if the truck is bigger, or going faster. I realize a lot of this is the nerd in me, but my point is--

How many times have these events happened around me and I have just been oblivious? I know I have probably driven under ten thousand bridges in my life--and been passed by half a million trucks (perhaps that is an exaggeration, perhaps not.). I've never noticed that warmth under a bridge or that current of air just ahead of a speeding truck.

As writers--we must be observant, or else we stagnate--and our writing stagnates. You've all had "stop to smell the roses" drilled into you. I surely did.

It took one major change in perspective to really open the work up around me. As a writer--I am stoked! As a human being--well, I saw some milkweed growing on the side of the road. I know if I keep my eye on those plants, I'll see some monarch butterflies later in the season.

So, writers! Put your virtual top down, grab your favorite sunglasses and music and head out on the road. Shake up your perspective and see if you notice something new and exciting that you haven't ever seen--around your home or      close by. I'll bet there are a ton of new experiences just waiting. Put them on paper in your next book so we can all catch a glimpse.

Take another look!

Kerry

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blacklist Rogue by Sarah Mäkelä

Hey everyone! Last week I had a new release, so I thought I'd share the bookish love! *grins* I hope you enjoy the excerpt. The first two are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Changeling Press.

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Blacklist Rogue, click here.


Hacked Investigations 3: Blacklist Rogue
by Sarah Mäkelä
Genres: Futuristic, Paranormal, Action Adventure/ Suspense, Cyber-Punk, Erotic Romance
Length: Novella
Buy now: http://changelingpress.com/product.php?&upt=book&ubid=1821

Blurb:

When MAX Home Security tries to hire their private investigation firm to prove the corruption the company is on trial for occurred without the knowledge of the upper management, Ian and Hannah are reluctant to help.

Unfortunately, MAX's legal team thinks it looks good for their PR to have Hacked Investigations involved, forcing Ian and Hannah's hand. But Ian's headaches are getting worse, and Hannah and Ian will have to rely on each other even more if they stand a chance of getting out of this mess alive.

Excerpt:


Ian Bradley hit send on an email to one of Hacked Investigations' frequent customers. This time, the business owner had needed him to check on his future partner to make sure there wouldn't be trouble if he signed the partnership agreement. Ian had the potential business partner's email hacked in no time, and within five minutes, he'd completed his task.

Easy.

The client was paranoid, and, even if Ian thought those types of assignments were frivolous, he had a paycheck on its way.

Slender, feminine arms wrapped around his chest as Hannah hugged him from behind. Her lips brushed his earlobe, and her velvety tongue slid along the edge of it. "Now that we've wrapped another case, how about we celebrate?" Her voice was a low purr.

He shivered and placed his hands over hers. "I'll be right there. Let me lock down the computer. Bernard has been surfing some nasty porn sites. I'm not chancing that he'll get another virus on my machine."

Hannah nibbled his neck, and he groaned. She pulled away, trailing her fingertips over his chest and shoulder.

Swiveling in his chair, he watched her saunter toward the bedroom. Once she got to the doorway of the bedroom, she looked back at him, giving him a seductive smile.

Ian grinned and then spun around to face the computer. He changed the password again, tweaking the system's safety features, and shut it down.

From the living room, he heard Bernard, the pint-sized gnome, talking in hushed tones entirely different from his usual loud, obnoxious demeanor.

The urge to see what mischief Bernard was getting into nearly drove him toward the living room, but Hannah's sexy smile won out. He headed toward the bedroom, thinking of the things he'd like to do to her. His hand was hovering over the doorknob when the phone rang.

Sighing, he walked to the office phone, but it fell silent. From the other room, Bernard spoke in an annoyed, yet strangely husky voice. "Uh huh. Well, buster, I don't care who you are. There's someone important on the other line giving me some, uh, juicy details about something," Bernard said. He had a slight manic pitch that always grated on Ian's nerves.

Reaching for the phone and fearing the worst, Ian hoped whoever had called their business line wasn't already completely insulted by Bernard's behavior. He mentally made a note to keep Bernard caged when at all possible.

"Oh, stop your whining. You can call back later." Impatience picked up in the gnome's voice as did his volume.

Ian barely managed to pick up the office phone as he heard the other phone slam onto the receiver in the living room. "Hello? Anyone there?"

"Ah, Ian, hello. It's been a while." Senator Kendall's voice came through clearly.

Buy link: http://changelingpress.com/product.php?&upt=book&ubid=1821

Thanks everyone!

Sarah Mäkelä
www.sarahmakela.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Heroines are Tricky



Hi everyone! 

Have you ever cracked open a book and by page 5 you can't stand the heroine?  I hate when that happens, but I do feel for the writer.

I’m not sure readers realize how tough it is to write a good heroine.

First off, if you’re writing romance novels, most of your readership is going to be female.  That said; you can’t fake us out.  We know what it’s like to be a girl in love.  We’ve all been there.  Most of us have had our hearts broken, lost jobs, made love, got married, etc.

So how do you give the reader a fresh take on a heroine and still make her believable?

That’s where the tricky part comes in.  She has to be relatable to all of us on some level.  If you make her too kick-ass and/or snarky, she can lean into the bitch arena.  But if you make her too nice and naïve, she can stumble over the line into too stupid to live territory.

What’s a romance writer to do?

We try to balance a heroine on a thin, relatable, tight-rope and hope for the best.  Our heroines will resonate with some readers, while others will wish she was tougher or more loving, snarkier or more caring, smarter or more street smart, more beautiful or less beautiful, etc.  

A writer can drive herself crazy trying to mold a heroine into all those things! LOL

So we muddle through and try to create a balanced heroine, and we hope you’ll come on her journey with her…

So who are some of your favorite fictional heroines?  What drives you crazy when you read about a heroine?

Lisa

Monday, June 11, 2012

Books versus Movies

I don't mean this in a clash of which is better. Rather, I'm curious about your take of what you will tolerate in each. Let me explain...

For me, I love to read books and I love to watch movies. But, I have my limits. Do you? In which of the following groups would you classify yourself?

1) Are there people/scenes/graphics/descriptions you can read without issue, but not tolerate on screen?

2) Or the opposite - are there things you can watch on screen but will bore you on paper?

3) Then again, maybe you fall into a third category - there are things you refuse to both watch and read.

I am of the first party. If the story is engaging, I can read every last word. I don't care if it's a gruesome murder, graphic sex, a kidnapping or a terror-hungry maniac. Gunfights and sword fights, fistfights and throw-downs don't phase me in the least if it's just me and my book. Now, put most of this stuff on-screen, and it makes me nervous. I can't handle what I see. 

There are some things I refuse to watch in a movie (but I can read about it fine). For example, I cannot watch a rape in a movie. There was a movie with Jodi Foster in it (I can't remember the name off-hand) where she's gang raped. I literally got sick watching it. Similarly, if someone's being abused, it will make me upset to the point I have to leave. Another movie no-no for me is gory-gross stuff. I can't watch it. Or, I close my eyes until the gratuitous bloody parts have passed. Remember Hellraiser? The movie didn't do squat for me because I spent most of the time with my head facing the opposite direction. But put the same in a book, and I'll read every freakin' word. And the Saw movies - never seen them, never will. I have heard, though, that they have a psychological bent to them, so one day I'll probably read one. Hmm, go figure.

What about you? Does it matter if the situation is on paper or on screen? Go ahead, 'fess up.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Ray Bradbury

I daresay that most of us paused on Tuesday when the news spread across the Internet that the icon of science fiction authors, Ray Bradbury had passed away. I know my heart paused with the weight of the news.

Who doesn't remember reading one of his books in school? The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man... Did you know he wrote over 500 titles? I remember reading, and re-reading his stories--losing myself in his worlds and pondering his questions.

I'll never forget The Veldt, *shudder*. *There Will Come Soft Rains* has stuck with me for thirty years--the social commentary is astounding and I still recall the empty and total loss I felt the first time I read it. No! It couldn't happen, could it?

I could go on and on about how this one author changed my world view--and that of many, many other people, but I will leave you with this one selection.


 When I was a boy my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands. And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands? He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.
-Fahrenheit 451


RIP, Mr. Bradbury, and thank you for touching so many...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alphas, Betas, Gammas and Antis – A Hero for Everyone

You know those heroes you love? The ones that make you stand up and cheer or make your heart do giddy back flips? Why do we love them? What is it that makes us connect and root for them? I won’t attempt to give a lengthy answer (everyone would answer differently anyway), but I will divide these heroes up into 4 main subgroups so we can see what works.

I’m including the women here too, by the way. Heroines - though some prefer to call them heroes as well. Whichever term you prefer, the fact remains that the hero is no longer a cookie cutter image of the male town sheriff with a white hat and a handsome steed. Particularly in paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy fiction, our heroes are all over the spectrum.

I won’t drone on in long hand about the characteristics of each, but instead sum them up in short lists. (Remember, I love lists! And parenthesis.)

The Alpha Hero:
Confident
Leader
Dominate
Competitive
Deliberate
Powerful
Aggressive
Often physically heroic

Examples:
Erik and Alcide from the Sookie Stackhouse Series/True Blood
Iceman, Maverick, and Charlie (Kelly McGillis) from Top Gun
Thor
Buffy (from BtVS)

The Beta Hero:
Caring
Comforting
Easy going
The “nice guy/gal”
Clever
Practical
Responsible
Often intellectually heroic

Examples:
Bill Pullman in While You Were Sleeping
Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping
Goose from Top Gun
Willow and Xander (early seasons of BtVS)

More recently there’s been an emergence of a third hero type: The Gamma Hero. In short, it’s a mix of both Alpha and Beta, with the best characteristics of both. This mix has been around forever, but now it has a name. Think Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park. Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean. Jack Ryan from the Tom Clancy novels and movies (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, etc.). Often using their wits and taking a back seat to the person in the limelight, they will step up to action if that’s what it takes. There can be a big gray area on who’s a Gamma, but the judgment call really lies in the eye of the beholder.

Finally, there’s a type of hero that falls outside of all three. He/She may have characteristics of any of the above, yet they will always remain outside the lines. The Anti Hero. (A personal fave!)

The Anti Hero:
Has traits contrary to the traditional hero, but still has heroic qualities
Sometimes does bad things that aren’t “evil”
Doesn’t fight for justice, but is motivated by personal desires/set of rules
Isn’t always friendly or caring to those except an inner circle (if even then)
Is loyal to few people (if any)
Doesn’t want limelight or attention
Often ends up doing something heroic as secondary to his/her primary goal

Examples:
Severus Snape
Wolverine
The Punisher
Spike (from BtVS)
Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

Which do you prefer? Why? Do you love the Alpha because of the promise of strength and justice? Do you favor the Beta’s wit and easy going ways? Are you drawn to the Anti-Hero’s blurred lines of right and wrong, justice and punishment? Or do you like to mix it up?

Share your hero favorites with us. There’s a little something for everyone!

Heather McGovern
@HeatherMcGovern
www.ourmshelf.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Characters Are So Much Stronger Than Me.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some experiences that made me realize that reality is tough. Making it through everyday can sometimes be more difficult than making it through a fictional story where the world might end. It makes me a little jealous of my characters.

Sometimes I sit and think . . .

I wish I had Tabitha’s determination.

I wish I had Caleb’s loyalty.

I wish I had Jessa’s compassion.

I wish I had Vale’s valor.

I wish I had Ari’s gall.

I wish I had Kon’s sense of humor.

I wish I had Reid’s devotion.

I wish I had so many things that I don’t. At the end of the day, all I think is that my characters have so much more strength than I ever could. I think that sometimes when I’m writing I’m not even sure where their goodness comes from, but somehow it comes out. Somehow they find the strength within themselves, and I get a little jealous. It’s not always easy to do in reality.

I get jealous of their problems. An evil demon seems easier to deal with than a random grumpy mood that you can’t really trace back to anything in particular. At least if a character is grumpy, it’s strongly motivated. Or at least, we hope it is. Sometimes when I’m in a bad mood, I think, it would be nice to know why I’m feeling this way. But at the same time, in my upcoming release, Tabitha is training to be a Warrior and is constantly denied because of her gender. That woman has real problems. Me? Not so much.

What do you think? Is it easier to escape into a high stakes world than deal with the issues that plague us in reality?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ravens—Fodder for Romance Novels

A powerful symbol and subject of mythology and folklore, the highly intelligent Common Raven, Corvus corax, is large at 24 inches in length with a 50-inch wingspan on average, and weighing in at about 2.6 pounds. They seem to live about 10 to 15 years in the wild, although some ravens are reported to have lifespans up to 40 years. The iridescent black bird's most common call is a low, drawn-out croak.

Apart from its greater size, the raven differs from its cousins, the crows, by having a larger and thicker black beak, shaggier throat feathers and nasal bristles extending onto the beak, and a wedge-shaped tail.

When young, ravens often travel in flocks, but later mate for life, which makes them, for me, fodder for romance novels. An added romance twist: instances of non-monogamy behavior have been observed with some ravens. On occasion, males visit a female's nest while her mate is away. Damn your cheating heart.

The midnight visit by a mysterious raven to the narrator of the poem, The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe, caught my fascination as a young girl. No wonder when I crafted my characters for my vampire-shifter series, Crimson Storm, I created a female character who shifts from a vampire to a raven.

Marion MacLachlan, a.k.a. Raven, is a secondary character in Sea Panther, the first book of the series, and sister to the hero. She is turned into a vampire-shifter by an ancient vampire unleashed on the world when a voodoo curse goes very wrong.

Raven will star in the second book, just as soon as I find time to write her story.

I was really excited to photograph this raven during a recent camping trip to Shenandoah National Park.


Have you read books featuring ravens?

~Dawn Marie Hamilton

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Birds & Witches

Birds are considered Kings of the heavens because they are linked to the air element, and they make wonderful familiars because they can be attracted in great numbers.  They are associated with death, renewal, the wind, the sky, the spirit and various Moon goddesses.  Through birds, witches express their magical desires to the sky and to the spiritual underworld. 

Spells are created by using feathers infused with magical energy of the air element and are used to create movement, speed and change in direction.  To speed a spell along, witches put feathers in charm bags and potions, place on them on their altars or put them into their ritual wear.  To remove a stagnant situation, witches place feathers between their fingers and envision an activity to charge the feather.  Once charged, they keep it as a talisman or cast it into the wind.  For fast acting magic, they tie a feather onto their wand for casting. 

Dark birds such as crows, ravens, pigeons, owls are associated with the underworld.  They make excellent allies in spells intended to banish unwanted energies or entities. 

Witches use birds to bring a burst of magic into their day, anytime, anywhere.  If they are feeling stressed, tired, they look around and notice the birds.  They'll focus on a single bird, make eye contact (yes, that is possible), feel the bird's essence and let it surround them.  They direct their emotional energy outward, letting the anxiety flow out of them and the bird will carry it away.

Bird magic is powerful and vibrant.  Even if you don't practice magic like witches, it's fun listening to birds and relaxing in their company.

Enjoy.

darcy

Friday, June 1, 2012

Books on Writing

I think most writers have books on writing. I don't know about you, but I seem to accumulate them--and then they reproduce. I think I have six or seven copies of Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. Yeah. 

I'd like to share a pair of books that I love. They aren't on writing craft, per se, but they are very useful. They are *whispers, lest I scare you away* grammar books.


How many different grammar books do you have? I likely have about six, but I usually refer to this set:

The Transitive Vampire (A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed)  and The Well-Tempered Sentence (A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed). Both books are by Karen Elizabeth Gordon and both are in new editions on Amazon.

These books are not only useful--they are a riot to read (and there are awesome illustrations...). A sample from the introduction (from Transitive Vampire) should give you an example of the cheekiness:

This is a dangerous game I'm playing, smuggling the injunctions of grammar into your cognizance through a menage of revolving lunatics kidnapped into this book.  Their stories are digressions toward understanding, a pantomime of raucous intentions in the linguistic labyrinth. By following them through this rough and twisting terrain you will be beguiled into compliance with the rules, however confounding those rules may appear to be...

Both books illustrate the rules of grammar in absurd sentences that really do illuminate the actual grammar. No dull stuff. For example, here are a couple of examples for "nouns in plural form but with singular intentions--that may take plural verbs":
The pliers were used to open her mouth, which was refusing to speak.
The scissors had made a mess of the heavens' geometry, and were preparing to swoop down on Earth. 
The books aren't too long--and they are great for reference and for a few laughs. I highly recommend them to anyone who writes or reads fantasy or paranormal--or anyone who just likes a different kind of grammar book.

In the coming months, I'll occasionally share some more of the books I have used over the years while teaching fiction writing.

I'd love to hear what recommendations any of you have for grammar books, especially. How do you resolve grammar questions? (And please don't say you leave it for your editor...lol)

Kerry