Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Whew! Great Week. Great RWA Conference.

I've returned home from my first RWA National conference mega-excited to move forward with my career. The conference surpassed my expectations.

As an unpublished writer with two completed manuscripts and a third one nearing completion, I had three specific goals in mind when boarding my flight for Anaheim. Networking. Learning. Pitching.

The number of networking opportunities available at conference was astounding. During events, workshops, lunches and parties—Celtic Hearts and FF&P rocks—I met writers at all stages of their journey, with some of which I hope to maintain lasting friendships. At the book signings, I discovered new-to-me authors, from my genre and others, whose books I look forward to reading.

During the Chapter Leadership Seminar, I met with amazing chapter board members who volunteer their precious time to keep our chapters running so we have a place to network, learn and be inspired all through the year. If you belong to a RWA chapter, please consider volunteering. You'll make many new friends in addition to contributing to the future of our industry.

My education goal at this year's conference was to learn as much as I could about the industry. There were so many wonderful workshops, publisher spotlights and other events running simultaneously, it was difficult to choose what to attend. I concentrated on publisher spotlights, workshops exploring self-publishing and sessions led by a literary attorney.

I also met several published authors more than willing to share tips of the trade.

I attended editor and agent pitch sessions and received requests, and had the opportunity to introduce myself to an editor who requested my manuscript from an on-line pitch.

All and all, my first RWA conference was extremely productive.

Did you attend? What was your experience like?

Do you plan to attend in the future?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fated Mates?


Climbing Man

I grew up watching Disney movies. While I never really got the whole ‘Wait in your tower for rescue’ heroines, I loved the knights in shining armor.

As I grew older and became a teenager, romance novels became my inspiration for love. Slowly, heroines changed from the helpless princess to the woman who kicks butt in her own right. And still, both the hero and heroine just knew when they’d found their person in the world to love.

Recently I’ve seen discussions about how some romance authors write their stories, chalking up this one-person-in-the-world-I-can-love to Fate. Some people love the idea, some don’t.

Personally, I don’t see the difference, whether an author comes right out and calls it Fate, or not. All romance novels, all love stories, are about two people finding each other. These two people are right for one another, and no one else in the world.

And personally, I write love stories saying straight out its Fate.

Why?

Because in the real world, one can never be sure if their relationship is going to last or not. It takes both people and a lot of hard work. I love slipping into my fictional worlds and knowing, to the bottom of my heart, that the two characters I just lived with through their struggle now have their Happily Ever After.

Guess there’s some things those Disney movies showed me that just won’t let go.

Q4U: What’s your opinion on Fated mates?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Ruby

Rubies are my favorite gemstone.  Of course, they're my birthstone.

A ruby is really red colored corundum.  Pure corundum is coloress, a crystallized compound of aluminum and oxygen.  As a gemstone it's worth very little.  However, with a few impurities in corundum everything changes.  Impurities are what give the mineral color.  In the ruby, the impurity that makes the rich red color is a form of chromium oxide.  Large rubies, not diamonds, are the rarest and most valuable of gemstones.  That's because rubies are never very large.  The largest known ruby only weighs thirty to forty carats--about a tenth of the biggest diamond.

Rubies have been mined for thousands of eyars, but it wasn't until the late 18th century that they were appreciated as a major gemstone.  They have some interesting legends associated with them.  One is that they contain the original spark of life, a drop of the heart's blood of Mother earth.  Intense red toens are termed 'masculine' and pale tints are termed 'feminine'.  Another is that they can make water boil.  Rubies are supposed to have the ability to dissolve emotional congestion leading to an increase in self-esteem and universal love.

To dream of rubies meant that an unexpected guest would be calling.  Rubies were known to protect the wearer against unhappiness, bad dreams and lightening.  The ancients believed a ruby, because it was red, stopped or prevented bleeding.  And, wearing one blessed the wearer with health, wisdom and wealth.  Gamblers believe that they bring them luck. 

There are stories of a magnificent ruby which possessed youth giving properties.  When rubbed on the body, this miraculous gemstone would remove all visible signs of aging.

A ruby is said to pen one's heart to love.  An engagement ring with a ruby is given to express passion and promise of their heart.  Even better, rubies are capable of reconciling lovers' quarrels.

No matter what your birthstone, you can't ignore the the fiery-red color of a ruby.  It epitomizes the spark of life and light up the darkness.  If you own any rubies, wear them, appreciate them and they will glow for you.

darcy

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yehwe Zogbanu

Did you read about the "goat man" in Utah this past week? Apparently, there were sightings of a mysterious goat creature hanging out with a herd of goats in the mountains of Utah. People got excited--was this a new creature? A new Sasquatch? As it turns out, it was a hunter dressed up in a goat suit trying to get close to the goats to learn about them as he prepped for archery hunting. Okay. When I read about his costume, I had to smile: he wore a painter's uniform that he had covered with fleece and had a hood with the eyes cut out. He had also made horns.

I am not sure whether to say "bravo!" for his ingenuity, or "oh no" for his stupidity. What he did was very dangerous. He could have been shot by other hunters or attacked by another goat (hey, good looking...).

The incident got me thinking. What kind of creatures, other than Big Foot or Yeti, might one find wandering the forests? Thank goodness for Google! I ended up reading about a cool creature in African mythology (West Africa, to be exact: Dahomy) called the Yehwe Zogbanu.

This creature is a giant, of sorts. Liken him to a troll. A big, bad, and very mean troll. He is human-like (arms and legs) and  has 30 horns on his body. He roams the land, eating hunters who cross into his lands. Yeah, he isn't nice at all, and is quite feared. I saw some drawings around the web, and I wouldn't want to run into him.

Can you imagine the goat man meeting up with the Yehwe Zogbanu?

Oh, and the Yehwe Zogbanu is also a type of Pokemon. I don't think the goat man is.

Happy Friday!

Kerry


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chupacabras in Folklore


Here's another fun folklore tidbit. Today's topic is Chupacabras, so let's go ahead and dig right in.

Chupacabras means "goat sucker." Chupacabra is also used, but it is a regularized form of the original word. As you might have guessed from the sucking part up there, this guy enjoys drinking blood. This folklore originates in Puerto Rican and has roots in other Latin American folklore. That surprised me since I'd thought before it was from Mexico.

The chupacabras is most commonly described as a reptile-like creature with scaly skin and sharp spines running along its back. It supposedly hops like a kangaroo and has sharp fangs, a forked tongue, and stands about 3-4 feet tall. It's also described as smelling like sulfur. A less common description of the chupacabras is a hairless wild dog with a pronounced spine, fangs, and claws. It is supposed to look like a dog-reptile hybrid.

When it bites it drains out the victim's blood (like a vampire) and even their organs sometimes. The bite mark is said to be either three holes in the shape of an upside-down triangle, two holes, or one, which isn't a very definite answer. *grin*

Interesting Facts: Chupacabras received its name from the fact that it has a habit of attacking livestock, and particularly goats. It was first reportedly spotted in 1995 in Puerto Rico. Biologists and others who have researched it conclude that the chupacabras are merely coyotes, or dogs, with mange, which explains the less common description of the vampire-like beast. It's been featured in many books, video games, TV shows, and movies.

Have you heard of the Chupacabras before? If so, where did you learn about it?


Sarah Mäkelä
www.sarahmakela.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

RWA National Convention Here I Come!

Hi Everyone - 


So if you're on twitter for the next few days you're likely to see the hashtag #RWA12 flying around....


It's time for the Romance Writer's of America National Convention.  It's in Anaheim, CA this year, right across the street from my favorite place on earth, Disneyland!  How will I concentrate???  LOL


I've promised myself that I'll sneak out at some point and visit with Mickey Mouse...  We'll see!


Tonight is the big book signing to raise money for Literacy...  I'll be there signing with hundreds of romance authors, hoping I won't be all alone! LOL  So if you're in the area or at the convention, please stop by Table 603 and say Hi! :)


Here is all the important info...


http://www.rwa.org/cs/literacy_autographing 


I'll also be posting pics on facebook, so if you didn't get to make the trip this year, hopefully you'll feel like you were there... :)


I promise to bring the Castle a wrap up of RWA National next time...


So if you're a reader, have you ever been to a book conference?  And if you're a writer, what are your favorite writing conferences to attend?

Lisa :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guest Author Judi Phillips

First off, I'd like to thank Castles & Guns for inviting me to post. I really enjoy your blogs.

Periodically, one of my publishers, Whispers Publishing, issues calls for submission. Silly me, I usually can't resist reading them. So, near the end of last year, they issued several for relatively unknown holidays. Of course, one caught my eye (this would be the fourth one my muse has kicked me in the butt about). It was a request for a short novella to celebrate Culinarians Day. What's that, you ask. A day to celebrate people who cook. Hmmmm. I like to cook. I can do this.

Putting aside my WIP (previously abandoned several times to answer calls), I started writing Wishes and Dreams. I decided it would be a neat idea to use some of my ancestors on Mum’s side. She was a great cook and should have been a food critic.

The ghost in the story is named after my great-grandfather, Charles Frazier, who was a sea captain sailing the China Run.

I had lots of fun writing it, remembering my mother and stories she told about my great-grandfather.

Wishes and Dreams releases July 25 (which, coincidentally is my father’s birthday and he would be 97). So both my parents are celebrated with this story.

Here's a teaser:

Can a grumpy old ghost stand in the way of a woman's wishes and dreams?



What can go wrong for Dakota Bucklin in one morning? Everything, when her great-great-great grandfather is meddling and her long-time friend, Will Graham, is distractingly attractive.

And a short excerpt:
Dakota stood to one side holding a flat pan in her hand, her sherry-colored eyes wide open as she surveyed the mess. A few wisps of her dark brown hair peeked from under a crooked red bandana.

Will stepped into the room, the door swinging shut behind him. "You doing some heavy-duty redecorating?" He regretted his teasing in case she'd been hit by one of the falling pans. "Seriously, are you okay? Did you get hurt?"

Dakota shifted her gaze to his chest. Her eyes widened even further.

At that moment, Will realized he wore only his pajama bottoms. In his haste to discover what had happened, he had neglected to slip into his jeans and pull on a T-shirt.

"No, I'm fine. It's just… I don't know what happened."

Her voice sounded dazed, worrying Will that she had indeed been injured in spite of her assurance she wasn't. He didn't see any blood or bruising, so he had to assume she was okay.

"I reached for this," she waved the flat pan she held, "and everything came tumbling down."
Hope you enjoyed this little taste. Groan, I know, pun intended. It should be available tomorrow at Whispers Publishing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I Deviate from Romance

Since I was a teen, most every book I read has been a romance in some form or another. But my reading tastes are not exclusive to romance. I love fantasy, mystery, horror, to name some other genres. Recently, to celebrate the completion of a WIP of mine, I cracked open a novel by James Rollins. I highly recommend his books, if you haven't read him before.

I first heard about him from a short article written by Eloisa James several years ago. She spoke highly of his works, and I decided to give him a try. I read one, then went back and gobbled up his backlist. Now I eagerly await every new release. I can't get enough of his stories. He's written several stand-alones, some young adult books and the highly popular Sigma series. Spies, scientists, ex-military men and women who kick ass and go back for more. Beyond the great characters, I love to read Rollins because he delves into seemingly impossible topics and makes them believable. The blink-of-an-eye natural destruction of the Earth; super intelligent animals; horrific hidden mysteries beneath the ice. When I start one of his books, it's impossible to put down!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered he cut his writing teeth not on adventure/thriller, which is what he's know for, but fantasy under the pen name James Clemens. He wrote several stories under this pen, and I highly recommend them, especially Shadow Fall and Hinterland.

So as this summer heats on, click on over to see if any of these stories call out to you.

James Rollins website: http://www.jamesrollins.com/site

James Clemens website: http://www.jamesclemens.com/index.htm

Happy Reading!
~Ayla

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Inspiration


Like most of you, I wear a lot of hats when it comes to how I fill up my time. I am lucky enough that everything I do is something I love having to do with books but like I am sure all of you have experiences, sometimes the thing you want to do the most gets put aside so you can make a living. I work as an editor and I review books on a book review site, but my dream has always been writing. Lately however writing has been put on the back burner, mostly because of lack of time to do it but also because I have been lacking inspiration lately.

So I thought I would talk about how to get inspired in today's post. For me I have always been most inspired by reading. I am one of those readers who gets tunnel vision though, if I read a book I love about werewolves, I seek out and buy a ton of books about werewolves. I love the compare and contrast of how each other does something a little different (or a lot different) than the last. I have yet to read a book where an author has the exact same version of supernatural as another book. After I get my fill of whatever supernatural element that has me entranced, well that's when the inspiration kicks into high gear. I start thinking about all the ways other people did it, what I liked and what I didn't like. Would the elements I like fit with the characters in my book (these elements are almost always broad strokes elements like being on the run or love triangles)? Then normally the crazed lady begins to write like the energizer bunny. I have notebooks filled with random thoughts, mini-outlines on fast food napkins, and thousands of words entered into my Scrivener program. And then eventually I run out of steam, and writer's block kicks in.

Reading books is probably where most of my inspiration comes from, but hear lately I have really been enjoying taking inspiration from people I know. Some of my best friends have some amazing qualities, and I couldn't help but think to myself, if I amplified some of those qualities I would have an amazing heroine, or a fabulous side kick. My favorites are the inspiration I get for villains. Let's face it not everyone gets along with everyone, and often during girls night I get to hear about the mean girl at work, or the boss that's a hard ass. Those elements can all be incorporated too, in fact when my book is done I'm almost positive all of my villains will be named after jerk bosses that employ my friends.

I never used to incorporate my real life with my writing, never thought to take inspiration from it. I used to figure that I write about worlds that don't exist so I should take inspiration from things that don't exist. But lately I have really begun to realize how fun it is to incorporate every day life into my writing. It makes the writing more real, and the banter is just so much funnier, plus it makes my characters more real. I love having a character that I feel like I could sit down and have a beer with. If anything my search for inspiration just means more real life fun experiences, and who couldn't use more of those.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Editing

Most of you know I am an associate editor at Entangled Publishing. I recently became managing editor for our new line--Covet. (yay!) Covet publishes paranormal category romance--and I think the launch books are spectacular. The concept of the line is pretty interesting--paranormal, but set in contemporary times and with a category sensibility. I hope you will check out the new books (launching later today!) and see what you think about the combination of paranormal and category. And I really hope to see some fabulous submissions to the line!

I've been really super busy editing--and it got me thinking. I think it would be fun to have an editing Q&A. I've learned so much behind the scenes (yes, I understand why it takes so long to hear about a submission--no, everyone isn't just ignoring it) and I'd love to share.

Does anyone have any questions about the editing process? If you haven't been through an edit with a publisher, it can be a real shocker. I know it was for me! Who knew that so many people would look over the book and help make it shine? Who knew that my words could be read in such a different way than I intended? lol If you are interested in learning more--please ask a question in the comments and I will address them in a future post.

I'd also like to know if anyone is interested in an Entangled pitch contest here on Castles and Guns. If you think that is something you might like to do--tell me!  I'll work on setting it up.

Also, I'd love to know which type of paranormal character you most love to read about--and if you have a least favorite, I'd like to know that too. I like reading about vamps (especially sexy ones).  I like witches, too. And fairies. I think my least favorite might be angels. Not because I have anything against angels, but I think I just have such preconceived notions that it makes it difficult to read about them or get into their stories.

I'd appreciate any feedback and questions!

Kerry

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Man, So Hipster! I Read That Book Before It was Even Written.

Last time I blogged about helpful phone apps for writers and one of three was Agent Obvious by Laurie Abkemeier. Today while brainstorming the subject for my blog this time around (or semi-subject that may involve some rambling) I spotted something else from Laurie Abkemeier. In my Twitter feed was a link to her blog post about literary agencies and Amazon.

If you haven't yet, I'd definitely give it a read. Several key points I found were valuable as they made me look at linking to sellers and book sales in general in a different light.

"...there are many literary agencies that are linking solely to Amazon. Some have even set up affiliate programs to earn money on sales made after clicking through from their sites. These agencies represent thousands of authors—authors who make appearances at struggling brick-and-mortar stores and who depend on a healthy, vibrant book-selling industry."
Since jumping into this business to learn everything I possibly could (a never ending quest, of course) I have bought a few books from browsing agency websites. It's still rare. I would never have thought to do it as a reader only, but I'm sure those referrals add up.

Buying books in brick-and-mortar stores only is near impossible. Limited space and selection means that not everyone's needs can be met in their entirety. But there is something magical about walking the aisles of a bookstore and the tangible feedback to all of the senses. I especially love independent bookstores that stock both new and used titles. If I enjoy these spots as I claim, then it makes sense to support them, yeah?

In that spirit, check out IndieBound! Besides full of useful information and fun resources, the site has a search engine tool to find independent bookstores in your area. One of my favorites in Charlotte is Julia's Cafe & Books, which is a Habitat for Humanity program and connected to a ReStore. I love that! Books, coffee, and a great program.

Do you have a favorite indie bookstore nearby? Or, if you buy your reading material mainly online, which is your favorite seller? :)

Oh, and the reason for the blog title is that it made me giggle as I was typing it. Wink!

-Darcy (of the Drake variety)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Release: Freed - A Shadowed Love Story & Excerpt


I can hardly believe I get to announce two releases in one month, but I got lucky! I am super excited about this one, too, because it's available for less than a dollar, and I adore Falon and Ella. If you like this excerpt, there is an excellent chance you'll like the novella.

Freed, a Shadowed Love novella, is 99 cents at Amazon and it's the story of how the Shadow Shifters discovered the Realm of Shadows. And it's also the love story of King Falon and Queen Ella, the royals who find a way to save the Well of Souls. Please scroll down to read.
*crosses fingers that you like it*

Thank you!
BLURB:
After mortal invaders slay a Shadow Shifter woman, Queen Ella knows there is more blood on the horizon. As the most powerful Sensitive in the village, Ella has always known she’s destined to save the kingdom. But her task seems impossible. She must move the Well of Souls to a new realm to save her people or risk failing the Ancestor gods.

The woman King Falon loves will never love him back, despite a binding marriage built on regal decorum. Falon’s first duty is to his people, and he only wants to provide the Shadow Shifters with a safe future. He must assert his power to gain the respect of the warriors.

Harder still, King Falon must accept the salvation of his people lies with his own Queen Ella, a woman who speaks madness... a woman he’s always loved, but hardly knows.

EXCERPT

Chapter One

The Mortal Realm, 657

King Falon looked up at the darkening sky, and a heavy burden settled inside his chest. Where were their Ancestor gods?
From his castle balcony, he stared over the hills of his homeland in Northern Britain, the place the Shadow Shifters had always called home. Their history and their hearts were embedded in these lands.
The mortals had always been a danger, but his people had escaped their persecution. That was no longer the case. The martyrs wanted to annihilate the Shadow Shifters, a race who thrived in the darkness, who thrived in the shadows, who thrived in the night.
Holy believers were coming for them, without any understanding of what they attempted to fight. The Shadow Shifter village had remained protected on these hills, with their Ancestor gods watching over them. Now, their existence was threatened.
“It isn’t your fault.” The sound of Pavel’s voice came from behind him.
Falon couldn’t bear to face his oldest friend and advisor. “Then whose is it?”
“We knew we couldn’t stay hidden here forever.”
“Why must they attack during my reign? Why must this fall to me?” He sighed. “For centuries, peace existed for our people.”
 New to the throne, newly wed, newly orphaned. Too many firsts weighed on his shoulders. He didn’t know how to handle the burden.
Pavel seemed to read his mind. “The Ancestors would never give you this challenge if they didn’t believe you capable of discovering a way to provide for our people.”
His friend had so much faith in bodiless apparitions. As the Spirit Teacher, perhaps Pavel had to have faith. But Falon struggled. He’d always struggled.
“That girl--” He couldn’t finish. Seeing the mutilated body of one of his people had made bile rise to his throat. His people had looked to him for answers, and he’d nearly crumbled in front of them.
“You did your duty per our traditions and honored her family.”
Falon had done his duty, but the young girl’s face. He’d never forget it.
“When do you think they’ll come?”
Pavel sighed. “After their savagery, it could be this night, it could be a fortnight. I do not have the answers.”
“We must prepare the Warriors.” To stop his people from being destroyed.
“Then you’ll fight?”
“What other choice do I have?” He glared at his friend, freeing his frustration.
“None that you see.”
“I don’t have time for riddles.”
Pavel smiled. “You never did.”
“I’ll do whatever’s necessary to protect our lands and the Well of Souls. We can’t afford to allow the mortals access to our sacred power source.”
“I trust you’ll do what you must.”
His friend might have too much faith. Falon studied their lands for another long moment, watching the sun fall into the lure of the mountains.
“Of course I will.” But when he glanced back again, Pavel was gone. He had a way of disappearing.
Falon knew he couldn’t dwell on the events of the past week. A young girl was gone, killed by bloodthirsty strangers, but the rest of his people remained. He could not allow her tragic death to befall the whole.
He strode through his private chambers to an adjoining room, deciding not to use the shadows to shift so he could take a deep breath and collect himself. After passing through the doorway, he came to an abrupt halt.
His breath caught at the sight before him. A woman of supreme elegance stood in the last flickers of light, staring out at the disappearing sun from her balcony.
Heavy, thick robes lined her luscious form. Beautiful velvet in a rich blue color fit snugly to her curves. A crown of entwined flowers sat proud atop her head. Her delicate profile showed her true regal magnificence.
Light hair curled down long and brushed against the fabric of her dress. She stood, ethereal, like an Ancestor goddess in his midst. Perfect. Untouchable. Supposedly his.
She didn’t turn to look at him, although he knew she always knew when he entered the room. This was a woman of ultimate power, the strongest Sensitive in the kingdom. And one of only a few in the village who seemed to glow with magic.
So soft. So kind. So distant.
She was his wife. His queen.
And so far out of reach. He wanted her with a desperation that made him ache. But he often thought his wanting of her would be the death of him. He couldn’t allow it to be the death of his kingdom.
“We’re expected for the evening meal.” His tone was rigid.
Her stance remained the same, as if she couldn’t hear him.
“Ella,” he said.
She didn’t move.
Ella made him question himself in a way no one ever had. As a royal and now a king, he wasn’t used to scrutiny. No one seemed able to read his shortcomings as easily as his wife.
His patience frayed. Defiance was not a battle he needed to wage this day. Especially against the one woman who was supposed to stand by him always. Newly married and he’d already learned. The wife he’d married for love would never love him back. And she’d never be on his side.

***

War. Ella’s blood boiled with the truth. The scent of blood drifted on the horizon. As the sun faded behind the mountains, her people’s safety faded with it. She felt this truth as surely as she felt her nails curling into her palms.
Loss. The wind swirled with it. Inevitable sacrifices lingered in their future, but she couldn’t define what they risked. Everything inside her yearned to place the pieces into a discernible pattern, something she could give to the king to use. But for the first time in her life, answers eluded her.
Were the Ancestors punishing her? She stared into the angry gray clouds and questioned. Something she’d rarely had to do. As a Sensitive, she’d always known the truth. Not now. Everything was changing, evolving, yielding, one day into the next, a whirlwind she couldn’t stop.
Despair. She could feel the pain in the air, like a blade suspended in time, destined to kill through the ages, destined to harm. A tear slid down her cheek. She was supposed to save her people. She’d always known it. But how?

***
Thank you for reading the excerpt! If you'd like to read more, Freed is available on Amazon for 99 cents!
Buy Freed at Amazon
Kinley Baker
@kinleybaker

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Frog or Prince?

On Friday the 13th a frog climbed my balcony, reminding me of an old saying...
You'll have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince.

How many times have you heard that comment? I don't know about you, but it never encouraged me in my pursuit of true love.

Frogs are amphibians, not very prince like, and many people find them disgusting. In contrast, in Scotland, the frog is an item of luck and decorative items portraying frogs are often given as house warming gifts. I actually find frogs kind of cute. A frog scat rug lays on the floor in my kitchen and little frogs sit atop the drain baskets in the double sinks.

Most frogs have squat bodies, webbed digits, protruding eyes, bifid tongue and no tail. I wonder what it is about the small creatures that garner them fame through folklore and faerie tales.

In the Brothers Grimm original version of the tale The Frog Prince, a spoiled princess meets a frog. When she throws it at the wall in disgust, the spell is broken and the frog transforms into a handsome prince. A more violent means of undoing transformation magic is told in The Well of the World's End where the frog must be beheaded to transform into a prince. In our vanilla world, later versions of The Frog Prince has the princess kissing the frog to transform him into a prince.

In medieval Europe, frogs were seen as the symbol of the devil due to their association with witchcraft and potions. In one episode of the BBC's popular series Merlin, a man is thought to be a sorcerer when a woman claims to have seen frogs jumping from his mouth.

What is your take on frogs? Have you read stories with frogs? Used them in stories?

~ Dawn Marie Hamilton

Monday, July 16, 2012

Guest author Jami Gray & Giveaway

Please welcome urban fantasy author Jami Gray to the blog today : )

The path not taken...

As a writer you are constantly bombarded with advice on how to improve your writing skills.  There is so much out there that sometimes it sweeps across your radar with only a soft ping buried among all the other great ideas pinging their little hearts out.  Yet every now and again that little noise turns into a blaring teeth jarring alarm.  I had one of those a few weeks ago.
My current work in progress (WIP) is Shadow’s Moon, is the third installment of the Kyn Kronicles.  Unlike my first two books where we tag along with Raine McCord and Gavin Durand, this time we’re leaving those two alone for a little bonding time and sticking with Xander Cade and Warrick Vidis.  I did not expect this particular couple to be such tough customers.  I’ve spent enough time with Raine and Gavin to understand they can be downright brutal, but quirky Xander and quietly dangerous Warrick are turning out to be as frustrating as a Rubik’s Cube. (Yes, I know how dated that makes me!)
A few weeks ago I was stuck on a scene.  For those who write, it was one of those scenes which appeared great on paper, but just wasn’t …right.  I walked away from my computer screen, drank some coffee, cleaned out a file cabinet, drank more coffee, helped my youngest create another world dominating weapon from duct tape, came back and stared at the screen some more.  Nothing.  I was stuck.  So being the diligent writer I am I headed out to the writer chat loops where others could kick my butt back in action.
Wandering about, I stumbled upon a conversation about being true to your characters and their world. Opinions were expressed, advice dispensed, an examples of all kinds were held up for evisceration.  When I finally managed to find my way back, my mind was busy whirling away and sliding all those pings into their proper places. 
It wasn’t until the next day when I was once again in front of my screen that I realized why my scene wasn’t working.  Let me share my simplistic eureka moment.
Let me set the scene:  A rogue werewolf heads into a human nightclub to confront his human ex-girlfriend while our heroine, Xander, is tracking his furry butt down to make sure he doesn’t clue in the humans that the wild and furry exist.  Rogue boy looks up, sees Xander and…
This was our initial continuation of the scene:  Rogue boy bolts for the exit door leading to the alley. Xander follows him out, blocks the door to make sure no one drops in unannounced to their little “discussion”.  A fight ensues, no humans involved.
Umm…yeah…let’s be honest here.  If you have a ticked off werewolf in a human club, I think the last thing he’s going to do is politely hold open the exit door and do the “Shall we take this outside?” routine.
All those pings from my little foray into the chat rooms came to brain piercing attention.  My Muse whapped me across the head and informed me, “That no damn werewolf would ever be that polite. Stop being a wuss and write it right!”
I don’t argue with my Muse, not if I want to keep breathing.  I bent to my task and violá, the new and improved scene: Rogue boy sees Xander and proceeds to throw a temper tantrum, littering the club with various body parts of the security guards before Xander can push through the now screaming, hysterical mob of the club.  Plus by the time the fight’s over with, the cops are on their way and that thin veil of secrecy hiding the monsters in our midst…yeah, it’s in shreds. 
However, the best part of this whole experience was discovering the twists and turns with my characters. As scary as it can be as a writer, you have to stay true to your world and characters. Every decision, every action causes another link in your story to appear.  So next time a scene just isn’t clicking, be real with your characters and make sure their decisions and actions are what would really happen, regardless of how many tangles they’ll make of your story.  You might be surprised at what you find once you untangle those lines.
Shadow’s Edge: Book 1 of the Kyn Kronicles and Shadow’s Soul: Book 2 of the Kyn Kronicles are available now in paperback and ebook format.

BUY LINKS:
Shadow’s Edge: Bk 1 of Kyn Kronicles
Black Opal Books      Amazon     Nook     ARe
Shadow’s Soul:Bk 2 of the Kyn Kronicles
Black Opal Books      Amazon     Nook     ARe
Blurb for Shadow’s Soul:
Some nightmares are born of love…
Raine McCord has no problem taking down the monsters of the world, it’s one of the reasons she’s so good at her job.  So playing bodyguard to Cheveyo, head Magi of the Northwest, as he consults with the Southwest Kyn should be an easy assignment. Unfortunately, simple task turns into a nightmare when Cheveyo is kidnapped and Raine is left for dead by one of the Kyn’s most feared beings, a Soul Stealer.
The Stealer’s attack leaves lasting wounds, undermining Raine’s confidence as a warrior and damaging her unruly magic. Her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand.  Compelled to face the emotions raging between them, they must embrace not only their stormy relationship but their evolving magic to escape the twisted threads of murder and betrayal to find Cheveyo.
As Raine and Gavin come together and begin to unravel the complex web of secrets and hidden vendettas haunting the Southwest Kyn, they discover unsettling new truths that threaten their very existence.

Bio:
Growing up on the Arizona-Mexico border, Jami Gray was adopted at the age of 14 and suddenly became the fifth eldest of 37 children. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and three minors-History, English, and Theater.  Shortly after marrying her techie-geek hubby (who moonlighted as her best friend in high school) she completed a Masters in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix Oregon.

Now, years later, she’s back in the Southwest where  she’s outnumbered in her own home by two Star Wars obsessed boys, one Star Wars obsessed husband, and an overly-friendly, 105-pound male lab.  Writing is what saves her sanity.

Giveaway:

The Prize: a $10 Amazon gift card, to be chosen by next Sunday!

In the comments, please say hi, and tell us what your favorite supernatural creature is.
Don't forget to leave your email address so you can be contacted if you win :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What Do Witches Do In July

The days of July through August can get scorching.  So what does a witch do in those sweat-inducing days?  Believe it or not, they go to Witches Camp.  For a witch it can be a clearing in the woods or near a lake.  It is a place equipped with cabins, tents and modern amentities.  It is a place of respite where they leave the burdens of everyday life, put aside their responsibilities to soak up the peace and weave magic, share skills and stories and reaffirm their beliefs. 

All witches are welcome, no matter their skill level.  They usually stay for a week.  During that time, witches learn new skills, how to use tools and offer inspiration.  Camp is a place to connect with friends, mentors and make new acquaintances. 

What does a witch do at camp?  Opportunities abound.  They help create public rituals, join study groups, learn new techniques, deepen skill level, and develop group and leadership techniques.  Even with all the activities, there is quiet time for solitude to absorb everything they have learned in order to absorb the information and transform themselves and their lives.

Afternoons are spent in shorter workshops, meetings and sessions.  In the evening, the community gathers in a large group to perform colelctive rituals based on the tales of old.  They will storytell, chant, dance, do vision work.  They open themselves up to expand their energies and be transformed.

Witches camp is a place for relaxation and renewal . . . not so different from vacation. 

darcy

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chaahk, God of Rain

We are finally getting rain this week--after last week's record-setting 100+ degrees temperatures. I've enjoyed the change in the weather (though not the migraine)--and we need the rain.

We've all heard of "rain dances" and rituals for appealing to the gods, mother nature, etc for rain, but one of the more interesting myths, to me, is that of the Mayan god, Chaahk.

The Mayans had more than 165 gods in their pantheon--most all of them nature gods. They even had a god of chocolate! (Chokola'j). They believed that the earth and sky were connected by a large tree--the branches were in the heavens and the roots in a watery underworld. After death, most people went to the underworld. Heaven was only for those who were sacrificed or for those who died in childbirth.

Chaahk was the Mayan god that represented rain and thunder. Like most of the Mayan gods, he had four faces--one for each ordinal direction. He is sort of reptilian in features--with tangled hair and a long snout. Tears flow from his eyes--and become rain. He wields a hammer that represents lightning--he hits the clouds with his hammer to make lightning and thunder. He was considered a benevolent god--he helped farmers in particular.

Chaahk

I thought it was pretty interesting, and I am looking forward to finding out more about the Mayan gods--I only knew of a few of them. I especially want to know more about the Chocolate god--I am wondering about the sacrifices to him. But today, I am really thankful for the rain.

Kerry

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pixie Folklore

Illustration from Among Pixies and 
Trolls, a children's anthology
Hey everyone! I hope you're having a great week. Today's topic is... pixies, which also are known as pixy, pixi, pizkie, piskies and pigsies. lol

Pixies are a fairy or sprite-like being from Cornish folklore.

They are very small beings that live mostly in the high moorland areas near Devon and Cornwall. They're also associated with exploring ocean caves.

Usually, they are naked or scantly clothed and possess pointed ears and a pointed hat. Some say that pixies have wings, and others say they are without wings. One thing they especially enjoy is riding horses. While doing so, they make ringlets in the manes of the horses they ride.

As for their demeanor, sometimes they kidnap children or mislead travelers (the cure for being pixie-led is to turn your coat inside out), but they not thought to be malevolent. They've been said to be help out widows and those in need at times.

Interesting Facts: Pixies lore predates Christianity in Britain, and the people in Cornwall and Devon took them quite seriously. To this day, there is a Pixie Day from an old tradition re-enacted annually on the Saturday in June nearest Mid-Summer's Day in Ottery St. Mary, England.

Have you heard of Pixies? What TV, movies, books, etc. have you seen them in?


Sarah Mäkelä
www.sarahmakela.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Comic-Con Here I Come!

Hi everyone -

This is going to be a brief blog, but I'll supplement with pics of Comic-Cons gone by and hopefully that'll make up for the lack of words! LOL

If you've never heard of Comic-Con, it's the largest convention celebrating popular arts...  Comics, movies, television, cosplayers, authors, actors, and all sorts of artists and collectors gather in San Diego once a year for a weekend of fun and craziness...

And it starts on Thursday!!!!  SQUEE!!!!








And we've seen Dean Koontz speak about his Odd Thomas series that became a graphic novel series...
I  get to meet famous people like Bender from Futurama!!! LOL 

And where else in the world do you get to witness Skeletor interviewing Darth Vader??? :)



 Sherrilyn Kenyon has a booth every year, and she's SO sweet!  I've met her a few times...
Tim Burton came to visit one year...

He's just as cool and weird as you would expect!  Loved him! :)









And even my favorite Disney Villain shows up around the exhibition floor!!!


 My good pal, Barbara Vey, from Publisher's Weekly is also a regular attendee!!!  Last year I got to be her videographer!!  We had a blast... My first movie star crush ever was Sylvester Stallone and last year he was on an Expendables panel... Yes I squeeeeeeed out loud.... Many times! LOL


And then there are the "cosplayers"...  These are people who love characters enough that they slave over costumes and wigs and... Wings! :)  This is my daughter, Panda.  She dresses up in her own costumes she designs and makes from scratch!


And last year I was a witness to Ecto 1 getting a parking ticket!!!
Say it ain't so!!! LOL

And finally, the True Blood panels are amazing!!!


So I'll be busy tweeting and facebooking pics this weekend...  Can't wait!

Have you been to Comic-Con?  Maybe another fan convention somewhere close to you?  I'd love to hear your stories! :)

Lisa


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guest Author Nancy Lee Badger

When the Guns went Silent
by Nancy Lee Badger


I might have mentioned in passing that the idea for a book set in Charleston, South Carolina on the brink of war came to me when I visited Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The fledgling Federal Government built the fort to guard against invading British forces and pirates. Constructed on a man-made island of piled rocks and dirt, Fort Sumter is surrounded by water. The idea of a dragon as a character—one who could easily visit another character stationed at the fort—turned into my story.


One aspect of the fort is the guns, also referred to by visitors to the National Monument as cannons. At the eve of war, when the Southern Secessionist Army shelled the fort, only a small selection of guns were in residence. I took advantage of this knowledge and added it by using my shero’s observations. It helps that she is a misplaced Scottish dragon:

Like a grand Scottish castle overlooking a strategic headland, Fort Sumter appeared destined to turn into a great fortress. The thick walls and armory would protect Charleston from any invaders. She’d seen the cannons off-loading on the dock beside the fort’s main gate.

A pamphlet I picked up at the fort listed the timetable surrounding the fort’s construction. Considering the time period of early 19th century, this was was a feat in itself. One thing Fort Sumter had that surpassed other forts along the harbor were the high walls. Five stories stood in a pentagon shape. Cannon mounts were spread along the sides, though most faced the sea. The high walls were the main reason federal soldiers departed Ft. Moultrie in the early hours of December 26, 1860 and moved to the safer—though incomplete—Fort Sumter. Here is a scene that includes actual historical facts added to dialog between Shaw, my hero, and his commanding officer:


Shaw inhaled sharply and turned to face his commanding officer. “Yes, sir. We have nearly finished filling the boats. The men have orders to be up before dawn.”
“Make sure we spike the cannons before we leave.”
“Sir?”
“We cannot leave weapons for the enemy. They would use them against us.”
“Understood.” Shaw sighed. War loomed. Back in Charleston, townspeople he drank with would just as soon shoot him in the head, now.
“Set fire to the wooden gun carriages once most of the boats have departed. No sense signaling, and bringing attention to our transfer to Fort Sumter.”


When the officer instructed Shaw to ‘spike the cannons’ this meant that the soldiers were to drive long metal rods into the holes where sparks would normally fire the gun powder charge. Gun carriages carried ammunition and smaller cannons. They meant to leave nothing useful behind since they assumed war loomed.

Various cannons had arrived at Fort Sumter before the blockades began about four months before the first shots of the American Civil War. One such gun is the Rodman gun and I saw many of these at Fort Sumter during my visit, and used it in a scene when my shero, Dru Little, has revealed her true nature to Shaw Stenhouse:

Safe below the upper wall, he leaned against the huge, bottle-shaped Rodman gun, but his heart rate refused to slow. He felt nauseated.
“Must be the potato soup.” Shaw laughed, then burped. What had he spied flying above him? Shaw gave his head a shake, closed his eyes, then sat on the cannon’s low base.


Rodman guns came in various sizes but they all were nearly identical in design and shape. They looked like bottles on their sides. I added several scenes where cannons fired back and forth. One such cannon ball caused the death of a specific character (who shall go unnamed). Though I based my story on the Civil War, and include battle scenes and descriptions of forts, this is primarily a paranormal romance. There is the magic of love at first sight when Shaw saves Dru from drunken sailors. There is spicy lovemaking after they succumb to desire. There is also fear and longing when war separates two lovers on April 13, 1861 when the guns went silent.

Title: SOUTHERN FRIED DRAGON
Author: Nancy Lee Badger
Genre: Paranormal Historical
E book: $2.99
Amazon Buy Link http://amzn.to/zgv30B
NOOK Buy Link http://bit.ly/M0vNXP
AllRomanceEBooks http://bit.ly/JPBLi9
Smashwords http://bit.ly/LWjB06
 
More about Nancy Lee Badger
After growing up in Huntington, New York, and raising two handsome sons in New Hampshire, Nancy moved to North Carolina where she writes full-time. Due to a Scottish heritage, she and her family continue to volunteer at the New Hampshire Highland Games each fall. Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, and Celtic Heart Romance Writers. Nancy also writes romantic suspense and is a proud Army Mom.

Website: http://www.nancyleebadger.com
Blog: http://www.RescuingRomance.nancyleebadger.com
Twitter: @NLBadger
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/v12gxG

CONTEST: One lucky person will win an e-book copy of SOUTHERN FRIED DRAGON simply by leaving a comment!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Breaking Boundries

When we read books we enjoy with themes of meyhem, murder, paranormal beings and activities, we cannot help but be amazed. We may close the book with thoughts such as, "I never knew someone could commit murder in such a way," or "I wonder what'd it be like if that kind of vampire were real." As readers, we allow ourselves to be drawn into the fantasy. We feel safe and secure, knowing it's only fiction.

What goes through the writer's mind, however, when he or she is creating such a scene? I can't speak for others, but from my own experience, I can tell you the safety net of fantasy falters.

I don't care if what I'm writing is erotic or bloody, when I'm at my computer, and words and scenes come flying out, I am the one amazed. Where in the world did I come up with that idea? I wonder. Then I push myself. How descriptive can I make the sound of a leg breaking? How can I relay the frantic actions of the character? 

Yes, this is something all writers do, else there wouldn't be anything fascinating to read. But to be that writer, to be the one coming up with the details of the story...can be scary.


Why? Because we have to break the boundaries of what is socially acceptable. We have to challenge ourselves to dig deep and tap that part of our minds that others keep hidden away.

We would never actually commit a murder, and even though the fantasy of meeting a vampire is exciting, we'd probably wet our pants should it ever occur. That's part of our reality.

What most don't realize is that we make these episodes a part of our reality when we write about them. We have to go beyond the obvious and ask, for example, how would a murder be committed, in detail?

I don't know about you, but I have multiple muses to assist when I break my boundaries. I have the one who directs my fingers to fly across the keyboard and put down every word zooming through my head. Then there's the second one, jumping and hollering, "that's gross," or, "I can't believe you had that thought, much less put it on paper!" Last is the third muse; the stoic. He stands off to the side and nods his head as I write. He hears the outrage of the one in the audience, but approves of what is written nonetheless.

Okay, call me crazy, but as I wrote down the above description, the first thought that popped into my head was "Freud." Didn't he write about our psyche: id, ego and super-ego? Hmm, perhaps I tap into all three when I write?

What about you? When you write - or when you read, do you find yourself amazed at what's on the page?  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Blogger Here!

Hi everyone! I am so happy to be here on Castles & Guns! My name is Kathryn Koller and I am first a foremost a reader just like most of you. But my day job is editing books, and I am so grateful to work in editing for the genre I love! I am also a writer working on my first novel, so basically I live and breathe books all day everyday!

Since you will be hearing from me every other Saturday I thought I would take this time to introduce myself to you all. I have pretty much lived all over the country, from NYC, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and a few more in between. But at the end of the day I am a Texas girl through and through. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading, I used to read anything and everything I could get my hands on. My older sister used to read me Shakespeare as bedtime stories. So when it came time for me to go to college I majored in Literature.

I don’t know how I managed to never read a fantasy book growing up but I did! I don’t remember who introduced me to Urban Fantasy but I do know I feel in love with the genre in my sophomore year in college. I loved it more than any other genre of books I had read before and after graduation I decided I wanted to spend my life as immersed in the genre as I could be.

So now I work with several small presses as an editor, and it is probably the most fulfilling job I have ever had. I love working with authors to make their visions make it to the masses. I am lucky enough to work with one of the other writers here on this site, Kinley Baker, and I love her work not just as a reader but I love being her editor. And if you haven’t read her books yet, you totally should. I think the hardest part of my job is not being able to tell everyone I know about the books I get to read until they come out, because when I read a book I fall in love with I want to tell the world, and then I realize, it’s not out yet!

As I mentioned I don’t just edit, I write too, and I also write in the urban fantasy genre. I chose to write urban fantasy because I believe they have some of the greatest heroines and not because they are strong women, but because they are flawed women too. No one is perfect and I think urban fantasy is one of those genres were the average reader can find something in any one of the characters that they can identify with. The heroines are people you would want to bump into in the street and you could actually have a conversation with. Plus who doesn’t love the idea of some kind of magical world existing in the world we live in?

I can’t wait to get to talk to you guys and get to explore the world of urban fantasy, writing, and editing with you during my time here! Thank you so much for having me, I'll be back on the 21st with another post!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Blog hops...

I'd love to get some feedback on blog hops. I've participated in a few lately, and I totally enjoy giving away prizes and meeting new people. Sometimes, I hope along on the hops. I enjoy going to different blogs and checking out the different authors' posts and details on their releases. I often will go buy the releases that are profiled--and sometimes it is the only chance I get to see the new books. Sometimes the author's funny post will make me buy the book just to see the writing.

I am doing a blog op now, which I will give a link to at the end of the post. Lots of great prizes--even a Kindle. It's only the first day and I am having a ton of fun. Check it out if you want a chance to win. (shameless promo here).

So I started thinking. Are blog hops worth the work? It takes a lot of work to round up a bunch of bloggers, schedule the hop, make sure there are great prizes, then make sure all the participants are posting as they should. Often, the organizer has to go through the blogs and gather entries to put in a drawing for the grand prize(s). Lots of work! A blog will get a lot of comments (hopefully), and theoretically, lots of people will be exposed to your work, blog post, whatever.

Do you like blog hops? As an author, do you participate? As a reader, do you clamor for the chance to win prizes? Are hops worth it? Do you like to hop along? Do you enjoy reading the posts, and do you comment? What prize makes a hop worth hopping for? Any feedback would be really appreciated. :)

The hop I am doing now is the 1NS blog hop. 1NS is a series from Decadent Publishing--I have two releases in the line with a third upcoming this fall. If you want to go hop and possibly win a prize, here is the link!  http://www.markofthestars.com/wp/?page_id=10037

Naps and Apps

Many thanks to Heather McGovern for standing in for me! I enjoyed my little holiday and am feeling all better, but I did miss everyone here at Castles and Guns. It's good to be back.


Now, raise your hand if you have a smartphone...


Smartphones, like cellphones as a whole before them, are quickly becoming a necessity. A busy mom on the go has just as much a need for one as the entrepreneur. Or, the busy mom is also an entrepreneur! More and more hats are being added to those already worn. A smartphone can be essential to making everything work.

First a Droid and now an iPhone 4s, I would be lost without my smartphone! I admit I'm a little bit of an app addict, but I have discovered some cool ones for writers and readers. 

Agent Obvious by Laurie Abkemeier

The idea for this app started off in @LaurieAbkemeier's Twitter feed where she posted daily tips. This app is great for any writer aspiring to be published and those already in the industry. My favorite feature is being able to click a button and share the tips. The downside is having to resist sharing everything!

Find out more and download here.


Literary Agents and Publishers Database by BookCaps

This app is a database of agents and publishers, as it states in the name. You can search, save, and mark as queried. How cool is that?! There are already tons of databases, but this is perfect for searching for your dream agent and editor while you wait in the carpool line or for that date who is ten minutes late.

Find out more and download here.



Facebook Pages Manager by Facebook, Inc.

I'm terrible about updating my page, even though I can update it from HootSuite (another app I love!) on my browser or on my phone. This app is great for adjusting the little details to make your page shine while on the go.

Find out more and download here.


And if you are like me and would be lost without your iPhone, there's an app for that too... ;)

-Darcy (of the Drake variety)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New Release: Denied (Shadowed Love Book Two) by Kinley Baker

My first book, Ruined, told the tale of Vale and Jessa. Thank you to all who supported the first book. I appreciate everyone who read the story, and I'm excited to announce a new release. 

Do you remember Caleb, the tortured and devoted leader of the Varner? He has his own story now. Denied is the second story in the Shadowed Love Series, and it's a sensual battle to the very finish. Is finish too suggestive? Maybe I should say "until the very end".

This is Denied's release week. I hope you'll help me celebrate by downloading a free preview at Amazon :-) If you need more convincing, allow me to introduce Caleb, who finally agreed to pose for the cover. His muscles aren't just for show, so I had to convince him that we'd all like to see them:


BLURB

When invaders brutally massacred the women and children of the Varner, Caleb witnessed loss and destruction on a scale few can comprehend. As the leader of a race on the brink of extinction, his only hope for survival is gaining acceptance into the Shadow Shifter Kingdom. Struggling with new customs, he meets Tabitha, a woman who challenges his limits.

Refused the right to join the king's guard because of her gender, Tabitha must be stronger than the men to prove she deserves to be the first accepted female Warrior in the kingdom. She believes Caleb will help improve her abilities, until she learns her goals conflict with the foundation of his culture.

When the realm is attacked, Tabitha and Caleb must come together not only to fight, but to find the strength to win against an evil with the potential to destroy everything they revere most--including each other.

BUY LINKS

Kinley Baker
@kinleybaker