Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Power of Music

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

In The Silmarillion, Iluvatar sang the world into being.  In The Odyssey, the siren’s song beguiled sailors to their deaths.  In the original Welsh versions of the Arthurian tales, Merlin is a bard as well as a wizard, and throughout Celtic traditions, bards are attributed with magical powers.  The titular character of R. A. MacAvoy’s Damiano is a lutist, and musicians of all stripes populate Charles de Lint’s work.
What is this fascination with music?

That question has no easy answers, exactly because music speaks to us in ways that words cannot (and I say this as a huge fan of the written word.)  There have been studies on the effects of music on human brain wave patterns, but I’ll leave that to the scientists.  From my own experience, I can tell you that singing will calm an anxious horse.  Whether the root cause is the song itself, or the way it changes the breathing rate of the rider so that she is not contributing to the horse’s anxiety with her own nerves, I can’t say.

On several occasions, I have found my writing mind unstuck after a session of Irish dance.  Since many of my friends are musicians, I often take my laptop out and write at Irish music night at pubs and Irish trad sessions at a friend’s home.  Does it affect the writing?  Well, since I started the practice, one of the most frequent comments I get on my writing is ‘lyrical prose.’

Music influenced my writing quite directly in the trio of ‘flash’ (short-short) stories that I titled The Three Tunes after an Irish social dance done to a medley of, you guess it, three traditional tunes.  I find music creeping in to fiction that isn’t directly about the music at all.  What started out as a throwaway line in Ravensblood (This was too close to her long-forgotten dreams of reconciliation to be real. He knew her too well, was all. He knew how to play her like he knew how to play the baby grand that stood in the sitting room of his manor.) became a way to have a very closed-off character express emotion, and eventually a way for him to connect with individuals outside his immediate circle.

In my new novel, Where LightMeets Shadow, I give full rein to my love for music and my belief in its power to transform, and I do my very best to express the inexpressible:
He passed from playing the harp to being played by it.

Kieran’s heart swelled to bursting.  He could scarcely feel his own fingers on the strings, and yet the music they pulled from his heart and his harp was everywhere, everything, permeating even the air in his lungs until he thought he would die of it. Yet he felt no fear, only awe.  His life would be perfect if he could die so, if he could never come back from this music into the tawdry world.  The universe was his at that moment. He felt no common drive to control, only to bask, to join, and most of all to play, to keep playing.

What about you?  What impact does music have on your life?

About Where Light Meets Shadow (official release 8/8):

 The Scathlan elf Kieran journeys through mortal lands in search of new songs and tales to renew his people’s dying culture. His most cherished, most impossible hope is to rediscover the powers of bards from legend in order to wake the queen, in a stupor since the end of the war between his own people and the Leas elves. 

Kieran accidentally wanders into Leas lands, and a fall from his horse leaves him injured and at the mercy of his enemies. 

He discovers that the Leas are not entirely as he believed them to be. He develops a friendship with the Leas healer-prince, and the two work together to recreate an ancient technique for melding bardic and healing magic, a technique he secretly hopes will wake his queen. 

As friendship deepens into love, will they find a way to heal the rift between Leas and Scathlan, or will the old enmity destroy them?

The author's debut novel, The Stolen Luck, won a silver medal in the Global Ebook Awards in the category of Other World Fantasy and an Eppie in the category of Fantasy Romance. The first book of her Ravensblood series won a gold medal in the Global Ebook Awards in the category of Contemporary Fantasy.

About the author:

Shawna Reppert is an award-winning author of fantasy and steampunk who keeps her readers up all night and makes them miss work deadlines.  Her fiction asks questions for which there are no easy answers while taking readers on a fine adventure that grips them heart and soul.  You can find her work on Amazon and follow her blog on her website (  You can friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts an amazing array of geekery.  Shawna can also sometimes be found in medieval garb on a caparisoned horse, throwing javelins into innocent hay bales that never did anything to her.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Erotic Phantom of the Opera Anyone?

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy
Once upon a time, I wrote a serial novel. It came out in six episodes from January to March, 2014, and was available in digital only and only in pieces.

Those of you who've waited (nearly forever!) for a consolidated version, it starts shipping from Books a Million today. It's in paper only and only from them for the next two months, in an exclusive deal. If you want to read it digitally, you still have to by each of the six episodes separately. Good news is that the first episode is FREE. So you can try it out and see if you like the story - then go for digital or paper, as you please.

Here's the blurb:

An aria for lost souls
Fresh out of college, Christine Davis is thrilled to begin a summer internship at the prestigious Santa Fe Opera House. But on her first day, she discovers that her dream job has a dark side. Beneath the theater, ghostly music echoes through a sprawling maze of passageways. At first, Christy thinks she’s hearing things. But when a tall masked man steps out of the shadows—and into her arms—she knows he’s not a phantom of her imagination. What she can’t deny is that he is the master of her desire. But when her predecessor—a missing intern—is found dead, Christy wonders if she’s playing with fire…

Friday, July 31, 2015

He Said, She Said

Posted by: Joshua Roots

That’s how many times the word “said” appears in the first draft of my latest book.

Sweet baby rays, that’s a lot of repetition. Granted, this is still the rough draft and my editor and I are in the early stages of de-suckifying things, but still. 530.


By comparison, the next closest offender in Paranormal Chaos is “turn”, which pops up a whopping 262 times. “Nod” is used 186 times and “look” 179 times.

What’s interesting is that my use of the Mega Offending Word is actually an improvement. The first book in the Shifter Chronicles, Undead Chaos, clocked in with 748 “said”s. So Paranormal Chaos is a significant improvement by comparison.

Mathematically, however, both numbers shouldn’t be a big deal. At the moment, Paranormal Chaos is a little over 97,000 words, of which 530 are “said”. That means that 96,470 words aren’t. That’s a decent number of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.

Yet “said” still reads repetitive.

By all standards, I like to think of myself as a fairly imaginative guy. An author almost has to be to write in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre and all its many sub-genres. You’d think that, by now, I’d have learned new and exciting ways to say “said” without actually saying it.

On the other hand, if I start using semi-synonyms like “counter-postulated”, my writing will sound ludicrous.

So, what’s a writer to do?

To answer this dilemma, I turned to the principles learned from my chorus. There is a surprising amount of repetition in singing because many folks believe that to make a song more interesting, more exciting, you need more notes. What we’ve learned over the last 67 years, however, is that, at certain levels, it’s not about adding elements, it’s about removing distractions. You don’t need more 7th chords or bigger dance moves, you need a beautifully streamlined song that ebbs and flows with emotion.

Writing is no different. Many writers feel the need to toss in a lot of “stuff” to make a story. Sub-plots, backstory, metaphors, you name it. But sometimes what’s called for is less distraction. Sometimes we simply need to trim words so the plot flows.

A first draft isn’t the place where that normally happens. First drafts are where we toss in the over-emotions, the pages of backstory, the epic monologues. It’s getting words on paper so that we have a completed product ready for the chopping block.

And that, gang, is the beauty and agony of editing. It’s taking something in a raw, unpasteurized state and refining it over and over again. It’s smoothing the rough edges and removing the repetition. It's molding a square box into something sleek and aerodynamic. Because in the end, it’s not a question of he said, she said, it’s a question of whether or not those 530 “saids” help or distract from the story.

You know mine, so what are your Mega Offending Words?


Joshua Roots is a car collector, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jody Wallace Is Back In The Maelstrom with TRAITOR!

Posted by: Veronica Scott
Author Jody Wallace just released her new book TRAITOR (MAELSTROM CHRONICLES BOOK 2) from the Entangled Select Otherworld line. I had the pelasure of interviewing her on my blog this week and here's what she had to say about her influences:
Veronica: What was your biggest influence in writing this book?  
Jody: My recliner. It really shaped me during the book-writing process.
In more intellectual areas, I wanted to take the relatively common trope in paranormals and science fiction romances where a hero or heroine has some chemical, biological or other reason that they simply MUST have the sex and wring it out like a wet washrag. I also became intrigued by the idea of a sentient space ship considering its crew as its charges and how that type of personality might develop. And of course there is always a fascination with what would happen on our planet and how our people would behave if aliens invaded.
(For the rest of our interview you can hop over to my blog....)
The Story for TRAITOR:
Captain Nikolas EstherVorn is a traitor. Or so it was decreed after Niko disobeyed protocol while trying to save Earth from other-dimensional creatures. Stuck in a prison cell, the last thing he needs is to be in close proximity to sexy-as-sin Dr. Sarah CallenJoseph. Not with him damn near ready to break out just to get to her.
Niko’s desire isn’t quite his own…and Sarah can prove it. He—along with the other soldiers on the disastrous mission—were drugged with some kind of toxin. Niko has no clue how the drug got into his body or why, but Sarah suspects there’s a link between the toxin and the fertility crisis of Shipborn humans.
To investigate is forbidden. But as lust becomes something deeper, binding them together in a way neither expected, Niko and Sarah must battle time—and their superiors—to uncover the secret that could save humanity…or destroy it.
Nook      Amazon     Kobo     iTunes      Goodreads
Jody’s website with the whole first chapter —

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RWA 2015 Round Up

Posted by: Jax Garren
Me at one of the (many) book signings
I had the joy of spending a week in New York City at the 2015 Romance Writers of America conference. I love the annual RWA con. It's a great time to catch up with friends I only see once a year (including my annual roommate, the amazing Jessica Scott--if you like military romance you must read her stuff!). This year, as always, I had the greatest intention of attending a zillion workshops and learning SO MUCH. And, like always, I totally started out doing that...and slowly morphed into hanging out with people I only see once a year and, this time anyway, wandering around the amazing city that is New York.

Even with my irresponsible behavior, I did pick up on quite a few things that are buzzing about the industry, and I thought I'd share three of the most interesting panels I attended.

One panel I found particularly cool was on diversity in romance, and not just diversity on the page, but diversity in authors. One thing that that that was pointed out is that authors of color are still being relegated to a separate section inside bookstores. Another amazing author, Farrah Rochon (who's also a lovely lady in person) called it a remaining bastion of segregation. She's tired of being shelved in the "black" section and wants to see her books where they belong, right along side all the other romances. Next time I'm in a bookstore, I'm going to look and see how they're shelving things and point it out to management if they're segregating by race. The whole panel was an eye-opening experience, and I only made it to one of the three diversity panels RWA hosted!

I went to another fascinating panel on writing with ADHD. I've never been diagnosed with it--I've never talked to a doctor in an attempt to be diagnosed--but I share a lot of traits with the ADHD brain, like fidgeting, easy distractability, finding large tasks overwhelming, and trouble making decisions and setting priorities (I've nearly broken down crying in the grocery store over which can of tuna to buy; it's pretty hilarious to watch me shop). But regardless of my condition or lack thereof, the suggestions were super helpful. My favorites were (1) write a Post-It note of whatever you're (supposed to be) working on at the moment, so that when you get distracted you know what to get back to (2) create transition plans for changing activities so that your brain doesn't have to quick-switch from one thing to the next and (3) break larger tasks down into miniature goals so each success gives you a burst of serotonin, the happy hormone, making it more likely you'll accomplish more.

Finally, I made it to a panel in romance trends. Contemporary still seems to be ruling the market, particularly sports heroes and motorcycle clubs. Billionaires as still big but possibly on the downslide. They think Romantic Suspense is coming back, at least somewhat. In e-books, novellas are gaining popularity as more people are looking for quick reads. They mentioned that diversity is on the rise, but not like a trend, more like more people are getting a voice, which made a nice dovetail with the first panel I went to.

Overall, it was a great conference and I had a wonderful time! Do you think they were right on current trends? Did any of you go to RWA and pick up any other interesting nuggets?
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