Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How Adult Is Too Adult?

Posted by: Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka
I'm on vacation with the extended family and had an interesting talk with my (almost) thirteen-year-old niece today. She reads the YA novels I write under my other name, but tonight while we were talking books, she asked what my "Seleste deLaney" books were about.

Pretty sure I went deer in the headlights for a minute there.

You see, I'm the aunt who gets in trouble for answering questions because I believe in honesty. I strive for "age-appropriate honesty" but I don't believe in giving BS answers. For example, I took a different niece to a parent-approved movie, and the word fornication was used in a prayer. She asked me what it meant. Yeah. Rock meet hard place. Needless to say, I got in trouble over that one, even though it's what I would tell my son or daughter if they asked. Basically I said "it's something grown-ups do when they're alone" or something like that. To one parent that's perfectly acceptable. To another...not so much.


So when the thirteen-year-old asked about my "other" books, I was a little leery of answering. But I did it anyway. I didn't talk about the sex, but I did explain the plots. If her mother gets on me about it, so be it. I'll take my lumps, because I realized if I didn't answer her, the easiest way for her to find out would be to just read them.


Now, I'm all for family as fans, but if I thought explaining the plots would get me in trouble, it's nothing compared to the backlash if she read my sex scenes because I wouldn't answer. But the real question is when is a book too adult?

I read my first book with sex scenes in it (that I recognized as such) in sixth grade. Granted, it was much less descriptive than mine, but considering it was coerced sex with a teenaged prisoner for the purpose of impregnation (with an alien baby no less)...I like to think it was "worse" than the sex I write.

What about you? When did you first read books with sex and, if you are a parent, when do you expect your kids will? (And if you want, what is worse? Descriptive sex between consenting adults? Or something like I mentioned above?)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why I Love Shapeshifters

Posted by: Nicole North
I grew up on a farm and my whole life I’ve loved animals of almost any type. When I was a kid I pretended I was a cat quite often, for hours at a time. (Yes, I’m nuts about cats, large or small.) I suppose that’s why today I love writing human characters who turn into animals. To be able to shapeshift would be truly magical and amazing. Imagine soaring in the sky as an eagle or other bird and flapping your own feathered wings. Imagine swimming deep in the ocean like a seal or dolphin, no extra equipment required. Animals get to experience things humans never will. Sure, we can almost experience some of those things with the gadgets we’ve invented but it isn’t the same.

Several of my published stories feature shapeshifters, including my latest release, Blade of the Wolf, which features a werewolf or wolf shifter. Wolf shifters seem to appear in romance novels more than other types of animal shifters. I’ve come to the conclusion there has to be an ancient bond between wolves and humans, from many thousands of years ago when at times humans depended on wolves, and wolves depended on humans (for protection, help in hunting, one providing the other with food, companionship, etc). Back when man first started taming wolves and turning them into what would eventually, after eons, become dogs. Man’s (and woman’s) best friend. I can easily see how this relationship would’ve been mutually beneficial during the earliest times. Geneticists and archeologists estimate that some of the first associations between humans and wolves happened about twenty-thousand years ago. Others suggest that this relationship is far older, dating from 135,000 years ago. It appears that both humans and wolves followed herds of deer and other animals and this is probably how they first came into contact.

Wolves possess something that most of us greatly respect and admire. They live in a society structured somewhat like human societies with alphas or leaders and various other members with specific responsibilities and roles. They take care of one another, live in cooperative groups and are highly intelligent.

The natural world aside, when I wrote Blade of the Wolf, I wanted to create a whole new world with a lot of paranormal elements. A world that had existed for my characters since medieval times. I wanted to blend the ancient and the modern and see what kind of interesting concoction resulted.

My characters shapeshift from human to regular wolf at will… plus they can do other unusual things.

Since they have no human souls in their bodies because of a curse, they are immortal. These highly skilled warriors fight an endless battle against evil while protecting certain “special” humans. I could’ve written the warriors without the shifting, but their wolf halves add another dimension to their personalities and their lives that I find fascinating. They live in a pack-like, Scottish Highland clan society. The hero’s wolf side (even while he is in human form) is greatly affected by moon phases. Full moon brings on a more intensified libido and sexual cravings. This works well since the book is an erotic romance. His other wolf traits include super-senses. He can hear, smell and see as well as a wolf.

I enjoyed getting into the hero’s psyche and experiencing what he does when he’s a wolf, or simply his wolfish thoughts when he’s human.

Do you enjoy shapeshifter books? If so, what do you like best about them and why? Are you a fan of wolf shifters or some other type of shifter or “were”?
Thanks!
Nicole
www.nicolenorth.com

Ronan, immortal werewolf and Scottish Sgian Dubh Guardian, faces his most challenging, yet enticing, mission in centuries. He must protect sexy clairvoyant medium Syrena Ellis from an evil incubus intent on stealing her powerful life force. She awakens a raging arousal in Ronan, but if he gives in to temptation, he will be punished.

Dark and edgy, Ronan captivates Syrena. He is hot, hard and in control, yet his scorching glances and sinful kisses tell her he yearns for her. Even though she’s only a job, she finds a way past his iron-willed resistance. She’s determined to explore the depths of erotic passion with him. They’re unaware that their explosive sexual encounters are providing the enemy incubus with heightened energy, making him almost impossible to defeat.

Syrena’s forbidden desire and scorching lust for Ronan could destroy them both.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's in a Name?

Posted by: J.K. Coi
I once saw this very old movie called Amelia and the Angel, for a class. It’s a very amateurish movie by a photographer named Ken Russell that was made by the BBC in 1958. There really wasn’t anything extra special about it except that the photography was really good, and the name-Amelia and the Angel-kind of stuck with me.

It was about a young girl who has gotten the part of an angel in her school play, but her wings are broken and she needs to find a new pair. She sees a woman, an angel, and follows her into a dark building, upstairs into the attic where Amelia finally gets the wings she's been looking for.

When I sat down to write FALLING HARD (which is available TODAY by the way!) this movie came back to me and I knew my angel’s name had to be Amelia. It’s funny how names come to you sometimes and just fit perfectly with the world you’re trying to create. Even the opening of the book was originally a scene with Amelia ascending a set of stairs in an old apartment building, her black leather trench coat flaring out behind her. At the top of the stairs she finds herself walking a dark and dingy corridor, approaching a room at the end of the hall.

This scene represented the beginning of my Angel’s journey to find herself and really earn her wings. (Yes, she technically has wings already, but there’s a metaphor there, I promise.)

Sadly, I cut the scene from the final version (it was really more of a Prologue, and we all know how editors feel about those), but as a special treat for Release Day you’ll be able to find it as an extra on my website, here.

Gabriel was another story. Traditionally, the Archangel Gabriel is known as the Messenger of God, and in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, he was the angel set to guard Paradise and when he found Satan there, he ordered him to leave. In Falling Hard, my hero carries Lucifer’s soul, and that was such a great burden to bear that I wanted him to have the name Gabriel as a counterpoint to the darkness inside him.

As a reader, how often do you read a book and really think about what the characters names mean? Have you ever thought the character in something you’re reading doesn’t suit the name he or she was given? As an author, do you put a lot of thought into naming characters and do you really think your readers notice?

To celebrate Release Day, I’ll be giving away a copy of FALLING HARD to a randomly chosen commenter here, but I’m also blogging at The Vauxhall Vixens, Maria Zannini’s blog, Julia Knight’s blog and the Romance Writers Revenge, and there will be chances to win on Twitter and Facebook.

Come Celebrate with me!

FALLING HARD

After a life filled with tragedy, rocker Gabriel Gunn thinks he's finally getting the better of his personal demons. Then he's attacked after a concert—and rescued by a warrior goddess brandishing a sword and white wings. As hard as it is to believe in an angelic bodyguard, Gabriel must face an even more impossible truth: he carries the devil's soul within him.

Amelia has been watching over Gabriel for years, using her angelic powers to prevent Lucifer's return. Now she must also protect him from warring angel factions with their own agendas. Amelia would do anything to avert another angelic war, even sacrifice her own emotions to avoid temptation. Yet with Gabriel she feels things she no longer wants to deny, and pleasure she never imagined.

But the closer Gabriel and Amelia get, the stronger Lucifer becomes. Will Amelia be forced to kill the man she's come to love to stop the war she's always feared?

J.K. Coi is a multi-published, award winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She makes her home in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and son and a feisty black cat who is the uncontested head of the household. While she spends her days immersed in the litigious world of insurance law, she is very happy to spend her nights writing dark and sexy characters who leap off the page and into readers’ hearts.

Website: www.jkcoi.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jkcoi

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shifting Priorities as a New Author

Posted by: Tia Nevitt
Wow; once upon a time, I would have had this post up at 6:00 AM. I would have scheduled it two days ago. Now, it's almost 8, and I'm writing it now, hoping people will at least get a chance to see it over the weekend. Why am I such a deadbeat blogger? Because my priorities have shifted.

A year and a half ago, I was an avid blogger. I ran a review blog called Debuts & Reviews, where I aspired to be THE source of new debut novels. Five months after my first publication, The Sevenfold Spell, I realized I couldn't run Debuts & Reviews anymore. And with great reluctance--I loved doing it--I converted D&R to a personal blog. Happily, I didn't take a huge hit in apparent follower numbers. But the number of posts at my blog are now very sporadic. I used to blog daily. Now I wonder where I found the time.

Actually, that's obvious. The time I once spent blogging, I now spend writing fiction.

My priority now has to be my fiction readers. I'm working very hard on my next story, and every evening, the hour or so I have for writing flies by, leaving little time for anything other than some minimal (very minimal) social networking.

Another thing that's changed is my agent search. It ended the day I got the call from Angela. Don't get me wrong; I'd love to find an agent. But I don't have anything novel-length to query right now (that hasn't already been seen by dozens of agents) and I'm focused on working on new stuff rather than fixing up the old.

Also, I no longer set aside works as easily as I once did. I'm writing through writer's block now--or at least I'm trying. Why? Because I need to finish another story. But it still has to be a good story. And as I write, I keep asking myself, will readers of The Sevenfold Spell be disappointed by this story? It's daunting. I do think that if you liked Talia, you will probably like Gretchen, the main character in my next retelling. But it's hard to be sure.  I will only know when I finish it and see what my publisher thinks. And even if they like it, I won't be certain until it has faced the ultimate test ... the readers.

I hoped and worked toward the goal of getting published for many years. But in many ways, I wasn't prepared when it happened. I love it, but wow. It sure is a different mindset.

Have you ever worked toward a goal, only to find that everything changed once you reached it?

Tia Nevitt

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why I write M/M

Posted by: Evey Brett
So, really, I had this all written before Tara Stevens wrote about why she likes to read M/M on the Carina blog, but it makes a nice companion piece to why I write M/M.

Recently I was a bit surprised when I read another blog someone stating something to the effect of, "M/M is written by straight women for the enjoyment of other straight women."

I've heard sentiments like that before. There are plenty of reasons--and myths--about why women in particular write M/M, anything from two hunky guys in bed must be better than one, right? to getting a chance to see guys be emotionally vulnerable to seeing a relationship without the built-in differences an M/F couple has. But--only by straight women for straight women? I don't think so.


I'm a bit of an exception to the stereotypical M/M writer. I'm not straight. Big, hunky alpha males don't do a thing for me. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a fine male figure, but more as a piece of art than an object of desire. Modern dancers? Those guys from Cirque du Soleil? Oh yeah. I could watch them all day. So why write about guys if they're not my thing?

I've always liked to say I blame Mercedes Lackey for getting me started on M/M. I picked up her books in college after a long period of reading nothing at all and was hooked. And then I found Vanyel and finally understood what a gay relationship really was. Then gay characters started showing up in my fiction and never went away.

So that's one reason I write M/M. The other reason is because it's the type of relationship that makes the most sense to me. It's what comes naturally when I write, though I do have some M/F relationships in my work.

And since I don't have the requisite parts or, um, access to them, I do research. I have this nice deck of cards with all sorts of gay sex positions, including threesomes. (They have one for girls, too.) There's a fun site that uses those wooden art mannequins to show all sorts of combinations. (Sadly, I can't find the link at the moment, but if I do I'll update this.)

So what does this have to do with fantasy? One reason is that we can write characters that are gay or bi or trans or omnisexual without having to deal with the constraints forced on us by society. We can create worlds where being queer isn't a point of conflict; it's just a part of who the character is. The conflict can be the relationship, or saving the world, or rescuing a child, or whatever without having to focus on the character's need to come to terms with his/her own sexual orientation, which is what happens in a lot of mainstream books.

Besides--as SF/F writers, we get to play with magic and science when it comes to sexuality. Enter Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex. This is an awesomely cool book written in the manner of anything from protozoa to bats asking sex advice Dear Abby style. It shows a huge range of sex and procreation techniques, all of which are natural and "normal," and provides some lovely story ideas.


So, for me, M/M is not about all the hot mansex (though it's certainly fun to write.) It's got story. It's got the same human issues as "straight" romance, fantasy, mystery, whatever--not just gay issues. When the sex comes, there are reasons for it other than pure lust. And while I understand why M/M is so often a separate "genre," there's a large part of me wishing it didn't have to be differentiated. It ought to belong in the romance section, because it's romance, just with two guys instead of a guy and a girl. M/M has the same diversity within the "genre" as any M/F book, and is equally well-written.


So if straight women like my work, great, but I hope it reaches out to a vaster audience and that I write something everyone can relate to on one level or another.


And before I go, here are a few of my favorite print fantasy authors who feature LGBT characters: Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series with Deborah J. Ross continuing it, Nicola Griffith, Kelley Eskridge, Samuel R. Delany, Lynn Flewelling, Sherwood Smith, Steven Leigh/S.L. Farrell, Pearl North and Steven Harper.

So why do or don't you read M/M? Why do you write it if you do?



Evey Brett

Friday, July 8, 2011

This One Time...at Book Camp (#RWA11 pt. 1)

Posted by: Keri Stevens
Last week, I lost my Romance Writers of America national conference virginity in a hotel on Times Square.

This was the second trip to Manhattan I’d made in my entire life. During the first, I sprouted the seed of an idea that became Stone Kissed, so I knew chances were I’d get lucky in Manhattan. 
Lindsey,  me, Toni. The people behind us are fascinated by the singer passing plates with one hand while he belts into the mike with the other.

My first bit off luck was tagging along with Toni Blake and Lindsey Faber as we had dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. Broadway hopefuls sang standards while we attempted to carry on meaningful conversation. At least I think it was meaningful. After a less-than-stellar ride from the airport, I had a more than my fair share of the wine on the table, so while I’m sure we solved the world’s problems and saved publishing, I can’t impart any wisdom to you.

Yes, the songstress is standing on the bench behind Toni. Things like this make it difficult to save publishing.
My roommate-extraordinaire and source of my Prize-Winning Hot Rollers (it will make sense in part two) was Gabriella Edwards, author of Until Emie. We worked Monday. We worked hard. I mean…HARD. Our first stop: The Museum of Sex. In the words of Jenn Spiller, we learned things that day we cannot unlearn.

Notice how I have no photos of this outing? None? That's because my three compatriots flat-out refused to let me get pictures of their smiling faces peeking out from behind the antlers of a life-sized statue of three stags engaged in sweet loving. It would have been the Brady-Bunchest photo of the conference, I'm telling you. But no!

Jenn, a recovering New Yorker, devoted herself to training Gabriella and me in the art of hailing a cab. That evening, I poured myself into my first round of spanx and we hailed our way to a special edition of Lady Jane’s Salon, which was a mad crush. Beatrice.com’s Ron Hogan was master of ceremonies, and we listened to readings from six amazing new and established paranormal and historical romance authors. I admit it. I was tired. That museum had drained me (insert your own joke here) so when I settled into the leopard-print bean bag to listen, it took the entire crew from Romance University to pull me back out.

Bordello-style decorating at Madame X, home of Lady Jane's Salon. Yeah. I could work here.


Tuesday morning, Gabriella and I decided to take a leisurely stroll through Central Park.  This is what happened:

                                                                       
Tuesday afternoon, we registered for the conference proper. From that moment on, the Name Tag Phenomenon began. Instead of making eye contact, strangers in the elevator stared at our chests. If they knew our names, they smiled and introduced themselves. If not…their eyes slid away. Which brings me to my first (and perhaps only) Advice to Future Conferees: 1. Make eye contact FIRST. 2. Smile. Then, and only then 3. Look at the name tag as you introduce yourself.

It takes practice. I had a hard time with it, myself (and yes, I managed at one point to re-introduce myself to someone I'd met only an hour earlier because I didn't not tag-skim first.)

But squinting at chests and then turning away is rude. Tired, cranky, introverted writers don’t want to give each other the impression that we’re not worth one another’s time, do we? Of course we don’t.

Wednesday, the conference began in earnest. 

Did you go? What advice do you have for Future Conferees?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Working Vacation (Is there Any Other Kind?)

Posted by: Marie Harte

I always have the hardest time in the summer writing. The kids are off their daily schedule, and so am I. But when I'm traveling, it's even harder. I want to have fun and vacation. I'm away from my desktop computer, dealing with my trusty (and old) laptop. And I don't have the familiar stuff around--the chaos of my desk, my favorite pens--to put me in that writerly mode.

I'm spending the summer with my mother out West with the kids. We started here (see picture below), in Bend, Oregon. Yeah, snow in the summer. Cool.


Then we traveled by bus to Portland, where we caught the train at Union Station.


All on our way to reach Seattle, Washington, where I've been staying for two weeks. I've been to the Gay Pride parade, seen fireworks over Gas Works Park, and walked all over the place, from Queen Anne to Freemont and then some.


I told myself I'd start working come the 1st of July. And I did. Edits, a new manuscript, more edits and proofs. I have to work at night, when the kids are asleep. It's challenging trying to find the magic to write when I'm exhausted and want nothing more than to fall into bed. But I've already finished the first chapter on a new project, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping I continue to work at a steady rate. Even though we're heading back to Bend this weekend. But at least we'll settle there for the rest of the summer. And hopefully I'll get my stuff done. How's your summer going? Productive? Lazy? Or just plain tired? :)

Marie
www.marieharte.com

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When the Dog Days of Summer Come Early

Posted by: Cindy Spencer Pape
Yes, the title is a reference to a Gordon Lightfoot song. Yes, I'm that old.

So, oops, I was supposed to post yesterday. I've been doing this lately--forgetting to blog on my various groups. Which is a shame, really, because I find the group blogs a lot more fun than my personal one. Yesterday was a holiday here in the US, of course, and my husband and I went off to a local Renaissance Faire, so I have some sort of excuse, but really? I just plain forgot.

It's been that kind of summer for me. And it's only July. I really need to kick my butt back into gear. I got very little written last month, and I've got deadlines approaching. Also, when I don't write I tend to get cranky, and well...let's just say my family wants me to get back to work as well.

I think I see my brain laughing and sticking its tongue out at me from under my desk.

The problem with a creative career, like writing, is sometimes the ideas just don't want to flow, for any number of reasons. Sometimes it's when I have submissions out, and the waiting-to-hear nerves get the best of me, or right after a disappointing rejection. Sometimes it's because I'm stressed about something else in my life, like my husband's job or my kids. Other times it's seasonal, the heat of summer or doldrums of winter, but not usually this early in the summer. No matter which it is this time, (and truthfully, it's a little of each) I don't like it, and I definitely need to kick it.

My usual approach to this has been, 1) if I'm not on a tight deadline, work on another project. Sometimes switching gears will re-ignite the fuse. 2) MAKE myself sit in the chair, give myself a minimum number of words, and keep going until I hit that word count even if it's dreck. Often just the process of writing will get me jazzed to continue. My third strategy? That one seems to be sit and play minesweeper and whine.

Yeah, that's not such a good one. Bad author, no biscuit!

I think today it's going to be, "no fun for you until you hit 1K." And we'll see where it goes from there.

I'd love to hear how you manage to beat the writer's block blues. Leave a message below. If you're a reader who doesn't have to worry about that, just tell me how you're enjoying your summer. I'll pick one commenter at random by midnight tonight to receive a free download of one of my short stories (Ellora's Cave Quickies, TEB Lust Bites, or Wild Rose Press Mini-Roses.) Meanwhile, I'm off to get back to work.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Divine Magic

Posted by: Jane Kindred
A system of magic is one of the things that makes fantasy fantasy. When I begin writing a story, I rarely have the magic in mind. It's usually the characters who come first for me; they show up and I have to find a place to put them. And in my writing, that place is usually of a wholly imaginary variety. (I say "usually" because my latest series decided it wanted to be set in Russia, and who was I to argue with the voices in my head?) A magical system is something I generally thread in later, which causes me no end of frustration trying to make sure everything works together logically and believably.

When I started the book that became the world of my recent release The Devil's Garden, however, I barely had the character on the page before she started conjuring things. She was very determined to do things her way, and she insisted that to speak was to create. I got to thinking about that phrase and realized it was very godlike. Coincidentally, this was also a character who told me her name right off, and it happened to be the name of a male Egyptian god. By that point, I was pretty much under her thumb.

That character didn't end up in The Devil's Garden, though hopefully you'll get to meet her in the future. What did end up there was the system of magic, and a world in which each city-state along a vast, Nile-like river was ruled over by the god who spoke it into being. The god in this story is only a secondary character. It's the human heroine Ume Sky who is "magical" here, and it's a very ordinary magic: the power to seduce.

Ume is a courtesan at the temple of the god, and she gives her body to her patrons as an act of sacred sex; as a temple courtesan she is the human embodiment of the divine.

It's this concept of the divine in all of us that interests me more, the magic that each of us creates in the world every day simply by being alive—and always with the power of our words. A certain friend of mine would say this is a little "woo-woo." He's an atheist and a very pragmatic person. The thing is, so am I—perhaps a somewhat animistic atheist with pagan leanings, but an atheist nonetheless. I have a concept of the "divine" that has nothing to do with any external deity. (Yes, I realize this is a contradiction in terms, but I've always been difficult.)

But as Orson Scott Card says in How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy (a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants to write speculative fiction), every system of magic must have a price. And the price the gods pay in The Devil's Garden is losing their own humanity. Like Ume, they give a little bit of themselves with every act of magic, until they no longer have the power even to rule their own lives.

If you could speak things into being, what kind of trouble would you get up to? Tell me in the comments and I'll choose one commenter at random to win a copy of The Devil's Garden. (Don't forget to provide an email address where I can notify you or to check back on Saturday to find out if you're the winner!)

Jane Kindred
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