Thursday, August 29, 2013

Listening to characters

Posted by: Shona Husk
I had to crowd surf for a topic.  So this blog is about...(drum roll)….”When the characters 'talk' to you...do you talk back?

I think this question is related to “Where do you get your ideas?”

I was asked this by an editor I wanted to impress recently and I had to say "I have no idea the heroes just wander into my mind". Yeah, that sounded cool. It is however the truth. The hero, usually, just appears and starts dropping enticing hints about his world or his problem.

Seriously when Haidyn from Dark Secrets turned up in his lovely red coat and said he was a whore I just went, na-ah I can’t write that. Needless to say he stuck around until I did.

When the Goblin King arrived I just knew he had dreadlocks. Random, yes, but it was so much a part of the story in the end that I couldn’t imagine him any other way. (I know he doesn't have dreads on the cover but trust me by the end you will get it).

I guess I see and hear the characters in my mind, but most of the story is impressions that I give voice to, sometimes it like watching a film without sound—some scenes are so clear there is sound.

Other times I'm running around in the dark wondering who turned out the light and where is this story going, only to pop out on the other side with total understanding and a new appreciation for the hell I put my characters through (it’s for their own good, really, and not one has complained yet).

Once their story is written that is it, they leave me in peace and new people populate my mind.
 
I'm pretty sure non writers don't get it. When I get asked what I'm thinking about there's a dozen different things going on, like the heroine's backstory, how does the magic in this world work? Is the hero good at sport? Should I have another piece of chocolate? The heroine seems a little lost...is this about her self discovery? That is a very cool scar Mr. Hero, how did you get that? Oooh *shiny new hero walks past and flashes a grin* who are you? He brought wine! Plotting party in my head! I should totally have another piece of chocolate.
 
Where was I...I listen to my characters and they tell me stuff, yes I know it's my subconscious but it's kind of cool that all of that is in there just waiting to come out.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Turning Points

Posted by: Loribelle Hunt
The last time I blogged I had just lost my grandmother. After that I came across this in her house. Trip right down Memory Lane! Being a Southern girl who loves romance and history, I've always been a Gone With the Wind fan. Well, as it turns out Alexandra Ripley wrote a sequel and I was an assistant manager at B. Dalton Booksellers in Atlanta when that book released. We got to start selling the book at midnight on release date. I sold the first copy. That's me on the left, selling the very first copy of Scarlet, the sequel to Gone With the Wind. Poofy pink dress and all lol.

My grandmother kept this clipping all these years. I think I was 19, and I know I wanted to be the next great Southern writer. I wanted to be Faulkner or Welty or O'Conner. I wanted to write books people wanted to read and would remember. Books that were dark yet humble, ya know?

I wrote two books like that and they depressed the crap out of me, the writer. They aren't under the bed. They're under the house! After that, for a lot of years, I stuck to romance. My brand of romance tends to be dark, populated by alpha males, have a Southern accent or two, and some mystery. It fits in the pnr market pretty well, I think. And I am happy being there.

But seeing my grandmother kept this clipping was kind of a kick in the ass. Because I wrote this other book. It is a romance and it is paranormal and it does have a mystery but it is very, very Southern. And I have spent years doing nothing with it because I just have no idea how to market it. And do romance readers even like funny? I don't know. But I finally sent it out and it will be published next year. I will do the official announcement soon. Still figuring out pen names lol.

So, I'm left with this burning question lol! Do you follow your fave authors when they totally change their voice and name? Or do you stick with what is familiar?


Monday, August 26, 2013

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone
New Release
“Escape From Zulaire” by Veronica Scott:

Andi Markriss hasn’t exactly enjoyed being the houseguest of the planetary high-lord, but her company sent her to represent them at a political wedding. When hotshot Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane barges in on the night of the biggest social event of the summer, Andi isn’t about to offend her high-ranking host on Deverane’s say-so—no matter how sexy he is, or how much he believes they need to leave now.

Deverane was thinking about how to spend his retirement bonus when HQ assigned him one last mission: rescue a civilian woman stranded on a planet on the verge of civil war. Someone has pulled some serious strings to get her plucked out of the hot zone. Deverane’s never met anyone so hard-headed—or so appealing. Suddenly his mission to protect this one woman has become more than just mere orders.

That mission proves more dangerous than he expected when rebel fighters attack the village and raze it to the ground. Deverane escapes with Andi, and on their hazardous journey through the wilderness, Andi finds herself fighting her uncomfortable attraction to the gallant and courageous captain. But Deverane’s not the type to settle down, and running for one’s life doesn’t leave much time to explore a romance.

Then Andi is captured by the rebel fighters, but Deverane has discovered that Zulaire’s so-called civil war is part of a terrifying alien race’s attempt to subjugate the entire Sector. If he pushes on to the capitol Andi will die. Deverane must decide whether to save the woman he loves, or sacrifice her to save Zulaire.

Buy Links: Amazon   Nook  (Kobo, iTunes, paperback etc. coming soon!)

***WINNERS***

The five lucky winners from last Thursday's giveaway (via Random.org) are:

Kevin
Sandra
A.J.
Laura Athena
Rebe

CONGRATULATIONS!! Please contact Jeffe at JeffeKennedy dot com with your preferred E-format and email addy/!



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Inspirational Muse-ings

Posted by: Joshua Roots

“O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that engraved the things I saw,
Here shall your worth be manifest to all!”

- Dante Alighieri, in Canto II of The Inferno

"And so, have them for yourself, whatever kind of book it is,
and whatever sort, oh patron Muse
let it last for more than one generation, eternally."

- Catullus in Carmen I*


I’ve always been a big fan of the Muses: Greek goddesses of inspiration in music, literature, science, and art. According to mythology, the nine goddesses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, each of which had a specialization like Comedy (Thalia), Tragedy (Melpomene), Epic Poetry (Calliope), and so on.  The ancient writers often prayed for inspiration from the Muses and credited them with their success.

As modern-day writers, we often joke that our Muses give us too many plot ideas or, on occasion, leave us hanging in the wind. But the reality is that our stories, whether inspired by a Greek deity or by personal experiences, require effort on our part in order to actually breathe life. Inspiration is the spark to create, but we are the ones who must then stoke the fire, fanning the flames until we’re ready to present our words to the world. We’re creatures of art that must sweat and toil in order to translate our vision from an ethereal idea into a tangible product.

Writing is a hard journey. It’s a long, uphill climb to take a concept, mold it, then polish it until it shines. Along the way, there are plenty of speed bumps. Real life, work, kids, and any number of distractions that threaten to slow us down. But eventually, if we’re tenacious, we can create something great. Something that, like Catullus wrote, will leave a lasting impression.

And the entire trip is one that starts with just a little inspiration.

So, what inspires you?


-Josh





*Note: Both quotes are courtesy of Wikipedia 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Discovering the Power of the Disabled Protagonist

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy
This is a very fun new anthology, Thunder on the Battlefield, edited by urban fantasy author James R. Tuck. There are two volumes: Sword (v.1) and Sorcery (v.2). I have a story, Negotiation, in the Sorcery volume, shown here.

Negotiation: A Story of the Twelve Kingdoms
A wounded warrior trapped by the sorceress who knows him better than he does himself…
General Uorsin escapes the last devastating battle, only to find himself alone on a mountain, feverish and no closer to finding the paradise that drives him on. Salena, greatest shapeshifter and magic-worker of her people, springs the trap she’s set to protect her land—and to prevent the ravager Uorsin from ever reaching it.
Together, they spend a night setting the terms that will determine not only the rest of their lives, but the fates of the peoples of the Twelve Kingdoms—and the thirteenth.

 This is a bit of a prequel to the trilogy coming out starting next June, with The Mark of the Tala. It's not necessary to read the prequel as the trilogy stands alone, but it's a nice little taste of things to come!

I've started reading Westlake Soul by Rio Youers. It's a bit of a departure for me in my recent reading, because it's by a male author about a male protagonist. I don't think I was deliberately reading female authors and female POV, but I'd definitely gotten into a nearly exclusive pattern. The other interesting thing about this book is the protagonist is completely disabled. He was paralyzed in a surfing accident and is unable to move or communicate - except through the power of his mind.

I'm not very far in, but it's a fascinating premise. It also dovetails with conversations I've been having online, most notably with my friend, Sassy Outwater. For those who don't know Sassy, she's blind and has a guide dog companion named Kodak. You might have seen them at the RT Convention in spring of 2013, for example.

Sassy is on a quest for recommendations particularly of disabled heroines in romance novels. She's planning to do a full rant and review, so if you have suggestions, she's looking for any and all. Her site is being developed here. I'll be interested to see what kind of list she gets. After all, the romance tropes usually call for the feisty, nubile and always perfectly lovely heroine. That's been changing up in recent years, which is all to the good in my mind.

Speculative fiction, it seems, better lends itself to the disabled protagonist or otherwise "handicapped" hero. I'm using that word in the traditional sense - that some sort of weight is added to make the hero's journey that much more difficult. One famous example is Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant, who suffers from - of all the horrible diseases - leprosy. Superhero stories are notable for the crippling burdens - usually emotional - that the hero carries. Think Batman with his haunted, traumatic past.

However, because I read primarily female-driven stories, it seems I rarely encounter the truly disabled heroine. Even if she's emotionally troubled, she's still physically attractive. And her psychic scars don't get in the way of relationships, like Batman's do - or they are temporary obstacles that increase sexual tension, but are easily overcome in the end.

I'm looking at my spec fic bookshelf, racking my brain for exceptions - much as I've been looking at my romance shelves (and yes, the twain do meet and mix it up) for ideas for Sassy's project. It could be my filter bias for the Happily Ever After, but I'm not coming up with much.

So, I'm throwing this out to you all. Examples of heroines in speculative fiction (I'm deliberately using that umbrella term to cover all genres of paranormal, urban fantasy, science fiction, fantasy, sword & sorcery, etc.) that are "handicapped" in some way. Bonus points for disfiguring disabilities.

And, because today just happens to be my birthday, I will give away digital copies of Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery to five commenters - international entries welcome! Even if you can't think of any heroines who meet these criteria (frankly I'm not expecting much, which is too bad), wish me a happy birthday and you're in. I'll choose a random five at midnight ET on Sunday, August 25 and we'll announce the winners in Monday's weekly Here Be News post.

Bring it on!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Evolution - 5 Common Questions of Aspiring Authors

Posted by: Regan Summers
This is a post aimed at writers. Readers may find it interesting. Hell, anybody who does or makes anything may find it interesting.

I’m often asked by aspiring authors at the beginning of their journey how I do things.


How did you finish your first book?

How do you keep going when life realizes you’ve been stealing time from it and starts locking it up?

How do you get back into it when the story/muse/characters aren’t speaking to you?

How do you develop a voice?

How do I know if it’s going to be worth it?

J


How did you finish your first book?
In the glorious frenzy of the ignorant. It was 98,000 words, a derivative story full all my favorite urban fantasy tropes – the daughter of a mysterious father who turns out to an exceedingly powerful half-vampire who falls in love with her protector and has to fight her way through a vampire power struggle and establish her place in the world. I think the only original elements were a Funyuns joke and an adorable fight between the heroine and her bestie in the bathroom.

But I had fun writing it. I didn’t know what a query letter was or why it was important. I didn’t stare, wide-eyed and fearful, as Twitter streamed along with news of the glutted marketplace or the “death of publishing”. I’m pro-education, but I think it’s easy for newer writers to get caught up in bad news or jealousy over others’ successes. If I were starting now, knowing what I do now about the state of publishing, I would write more fearfully. But I would keep writing because I love to read and I know there are a lot of people like me in the world.

How do you keep going when life realizes you’ve been stealing time from it and starts locking it up?
This struggle isn’t specific to the writer. A lot of us have demanding day jobs and/or demanding families and/or other conditions which slow us down. Nobody ever said you had to write 5,000 words a day every day. Or, if they did, they weren’t talking to you.

Writing isn’t a race. The best stories aren’t those fastest told.

That being said, I have found that I work best when I write consistently. I do try to write every day, making exceptions for family illness and socializing (everybody loses if you don’t engage with other humans in a focused way at least occasionally). This summer was terrible for my writing productivity. The weather was fantastic so I was trying to get the family out as much as possible, and I had a massive amount of additional work dumped on me at the day job. I was managing a scattered hour of writing time a day, when I prefer at least two. I like to re-read what I’ve previously written, both to ease me out of my daylight mindset and get me back into the voice and cadence of my story.

But an hour is better than nothing, and maintaining the routine allowed me to slip more quickly into the mindset I needed to write something, even if it was only a couple hundred words. There are very few days in which I cannot find or make an hour’s space.

Did I mention that I watch almost no TV? That helps me to find the time.

How do you get back into it when the story/muse/characters aren’t speaking to you?
I conspire and scheme in a way that I rarely do in my regular life. Seriously, it's like I've become a Borgia or a de Medici, or a member of some other powerful Renaissance family. I’ve never been a high drama person. But if I lose my story’s attention, if I find myself rewriting the same scene for a week with no idea where to go next, oh – the claws come out.

I leave that document up where it can see me and I slip into the brightest, sexiest thing I can find – a shiny new idea. Just because you’ve temporarily misplaced your motivation or direction for a work in progress doesn’t mean you aren’t ready to be productive. And, often, focusing on the upfront creativity required to start a new story will jumpstart the creativity required to get past a plot hole or dead end in your first work.

If that fails, I take a shower or do the dishes. Something about the water and the mindlessness tends to get the mental juices flowing.

How do you develop a voice?
I think that newer writers are often confused about what this means. Either they’re trying – whether consciously or not – to write in a style they enjoy reading, which is actually in conflict with their natural voice, or they believe that a voice has to beat the reader over the head. Voice is, in part, your natural style – the rhythm of sentences and the tone in which the characters experience their world. And, in part, it’s stylistic. Some writers have tremendous lyrical qualities to their writing, so that their prose sounds poetic. Others write short, concise sentences and include very little description but, in that, develop a voice of their own.

My advice to newer writers is, if you’re struggling with grammar or tense or how to write beyond ten pages or ten thousand words, forget about voice. Practice the craft. Educate yourself on the fundamentals until you’re no longer focused on them. Complete writing exercises until you can stretch your mind out and see a full story or character arc. Then, simply write. Your individual voice will develop and, with more practice, it will grow stronger.

Some people have more innate talent for writing than others. A few are amazing writers from the get-go, requiring little practice or guidance. The rest of us need to practice.

How do I know if it’s going to be worth it?
Ah. Well, that depends. What, to you, makes it “worth it”? Is finishing a book a success? Yes, yes it is. For every 30 people who tell me they’d like to write a book one day, I think I know of person who’s actually done it.

Is seeing your book for sale online and on bookstore shelves a success? Yes. But I also think the pile of unsold manuscripts in the closet or the dusty files on the hard drive are successes, testaments to your creativity and perseverance, your passion and delight in the process.


So, while your metrics for success may evolve, just as your process and ability will evolve, there are many aspects to writing that make it worthwhile.

***
About the Author

Regan Summers lives in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband and alien-monkey hybrid of a child. She is a huge fan of the low profile. She likes books, ottomans with concealed storage, small plate dining, libraries, Corporal Hicks, some aspects of pre-revolutionary France, most aspects of current Italy, and books.

Her Night Runner series, including Don’t Bite the Messenger and Running in the Dark, is available wherever e-books are sold.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another Rant About Kickass Heroines

Posted by: Jane Kindred

In keeping with the post Evey Brett wrote on Sunday, I’m still on my own kick about the problem with kickass heroines. This is something I’ve been grousing about since before my House of Arkhangel'sk trilogy came out. My Anazakia is not what I’d call a kickass heroine. She’s just a girl. She’s not a victim or a damsel in distress, and she’s not a badass who knows martial arts, who can wield a mean sword or a Browning, or whose ability to conjure up powerful magic through sexual ritual blows more than minds. Ahem. Like I said, she’s just a girl—one whom I tossed into a really shitty situation and made her find her way.

On my regular post on the Paranormal Romantics blog a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Buffy marathon I’ve been having this month, and how it’s made me think about the kickass heroine problem all over again. I used to think it was Buffy’s “fault,” that everyone was emulating this successful formula in urban fantasy, but as I’ve been watching it through from the beginning, I realized that she’s just a girl. Yes, she has special enhanced strength as the Chosen One and trains hard to be a fighting machine, but she’s a well-rounded female character with wonderful flaws, who gets beaten down again and again, but gets back up because she has to. She makes dumb decisions in relationships with guys. She makes the hard decisions, too. She tries to make it through college while raising her kid sister and fighting demons, and has to deal with crushing debt from medical bills after her mother’s death. She has a bratty sister and she’s mean to her as often as not, like sisters are.

My favorite Buffy character, though, is Anya. A former vengeance demon demoted to being human, she has to make her way through the confusing world she’s found herself in after a millennium of having unlimited power. What I love most about her is her blunt speech, which rather than being rude and abrasive, is actually painfully real and honest in a way that exposes her heart.

Watching the episode “The Body”—one of the most brilliant hours of television-making ever, which should have won every award there is, but was never nominated, because, y’know, it’s just spec-fic, and “girl” spec-fic at that (grrr, argh)—in which Buffy’s mother is found dead of an aneurism, it’s Anya who reduces me to desperate, wracking sobs every single time I see it. There are “feels” all the way through the episode, but Anya’s blunt statements about not understanding what’s expected of her in the face of her friend’s mother’s death are utterly heartbreaking. At first, everyone is appalled at her, wishing she’d shut up and do the polite thing, because they don’t know what’s expected either. But she responds with the most heart-wrenchingly honest speech I’ve ever seen about death and loss on television.

Anya isn’t kickass either, even though she’s been a vengeance demon for a thousand years. She’s just a girl (or woman, as the show goes on, lest anyone think I’m infantilizing adult women with the “girl” term). She isn’t overly sexualized, or hyper-masculinized, or imbued with impossible strength or improbable weakness. She isn’t ridiculously smart, or annoyingly stupid. She’s human. That was the true brilliance of Joss Whedon’s series: human characters, with human strengths and weaknesses. And a nearly 5:1 ratio of female to male characters, just for a change. ;)

It’s frustrating that so many years later, it seems like we have less screen time for women, let alone realistic women, than ever. It’s frustrating that the response to that inequity for many seems to have been to create impossible women, just to compete with the complete lack of normal ones. But it’s heartening that this is a discussion that doesn’t seem to be going away lately, despite the lack of support for equality that seems to permeate the SFF world in particular. I just wonder if those in the Old Guard of both film and publishing have noticed that a female-centric and female-positive show like Buffy, ten years after it left the stage, still has a huge number of male fans. Because the excuse is usually that “girl stuff” doesn’t sell. Maybe it just hasn’t occurred to them that “people stuff” does, and girls and women are actually people. So let’s keep telling them until they get it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone
No new releases this week. I know! That almost never happens, but I do have a group announcement and some links for you.

Group announcements:
Shawna Reppert's book The Stolen Luck took a silver in the Global Ebook awards in the category of Fantasy/Other World. Congratulations, Shawna!

Links of interest:
There's new promo art for The Hobbit - Desolation of Smaug movie coming December 13.

Lot's of talk about small presses.

For fun, check out 7 Scifi Literary and Journalistic Hoaxes that Readers Believed. I particularly like the one about the man-eating tree of Madagascar.

The Actress Who Plays Sansa Stark On ‘Game Of Thrones’ Adopted Her Direwolf

Since we don't have any new books for you, what have you been reading lately? I just finished The Deepest Night by Shana Abe. It's YA, but I love her writing and DRAGONS! Very good. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Looking for Ms. Right

Posted by: Evey Brett

So there's an article making the rounds recently called, "I Hate Strong Female Characters." There are several good points, including how many princesses now know "kung fu" and prove their strength by beating up the bad guys and/or their love interest. It also points out via three movie posters--Smurfs 2, Inception, and Avengers--how the groupings seem to be a ratio of five guys for every girl--and that girl better not be weak in any way, shape or form, but has to be a total badass and keep up with the boys.

It got me thinking as to why I write so few female characters. Part of it relates to the article mentioned above--I'm tired of the kickass women, and the women who are there only to be rescued, and the ones there just to be a sexy sidekick, love interest or one-nighter for the hero. I don't want her there to be sexualized (although, since I write erotic romance, the sex is going to be there at some point.) I want her to have brains, and a life, and to be something other than the stereotypical female we so often see in movies, TV and books. 

I'm not a girly girl. I don't relate to fancy clothes and make-up and gossip magazines. I think I'm looking for a female protagonist that can simply be human without being subjected to the stereotypes of what women are and have to be. Equal footing with her counterparts, whether male or female, without having to sacrifice who she is because of what she is. I don't want her to have to learn kung fu or be a braniac to keep up with a guy just because he's a guy and automatically gets the deference due.

I suppose that's why I write gay fiction. It's not because I find men sexy. I don't, usually (though I'll make an exception for dancers and performance artists.) But as a lot of other authors have said, gay fiction is a means to explore gender and sexuality without having to worry about the usual gender inequalities.

Looking at my book Eliana, which has one of my few female protagonists, I think for parts of it I fell into the same trap--girl has to be tough. I gave her a painful, chronic injury, put her through a lot of bad stuff, gave her a willingness to hurt people if she had to and gave her the roots of becoming a Mistress--but she has very few moments of weakness while I gave the guys plenty.  

I suppose I don't know exactly what I'm looking for in a female protagonist. If I did, I'd be writing her. I just know that, like the article's author, I'm tired of "leading" ladies and sidekicks that have to be kickass and surrounded by guys, carrying guns and black belts just to be equal to their male counterparts. Talented, yes. Brains, wit, personality, yes (although overplaying high intelligence isn't necessary.)

How about you? What trends and stereotypes in your leading ladies and female sidekicks are you tired of?

Evey Brett

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mind games: How psychic are YOU?

Posted by: Angela Campbell
I always have a hard time deciding what to write when I blog here, so I decided to play it safe and pick a topic related to my most current release, which just happens to be about psychics.

Wait, haven’t I done that already?

Facepalm. Yep. Actually, almost one year ago I blogged at Here Be Magic about what I was going to blog about today — my personal experiences with psychics. Instead of rehashing it, I’ll just redirect you back to that post if you’re interested, and I’ll try to be a little more creative today.

My newest book is On the Scent, which is about a hot private detective protecting a nurse and her snarky cat and goofy dog after they inherit millions, and all kinds of hijinks that happen as a result. The idea for this story came to me after I read an article about an Italian heiress who left her entire fortune of £10 million to a stray black cat she fed regularly, and her nurse was left in charge of the cat. I’m a huge animal lover, but even I thought, “That’s craaazy!” But as my writer's mind has a tendency to do, it started pinging off ideas for a story in different directions. What if this happened to a nurse in America? She might need protection. Oooh, hunky bodyguard! What if he was more than a bodyguard? What if he had psychic abilities and could communicate with the animals? What if the heiress wasn’t who she’d claimed to be? Ooooh.

Plus, I really wanted to have a cat and dog’s thoughts in my story. How do I do that? Duh. One of my characters had to be psychic! That also allowed me to bring in a paranormal element to my series, which gets larger with each book (I promise). Honestly, I didn't even attempt to get into much more world building than "my hero is psychic" until I hit the second book, and that was mainly because I conned the wonderfully talented Jody Wallace into helping me do so. Hugs Jody. And I also have to give props to Jane Kindred who beta read On the Scent for me. High fives Jane. Can I just say how awesome all of the authors at Here Be Magic are? Cause they are. Awesome.

Now that I've dragged you through the scatter-brained writing processes of my mind, please don't leave yet. That's right. I saw your cursor moving toward that X in the corner.

This should be the part where I explain that every writer is different, but I was trained and have worked for many years as a journalist. That means that even when I’m writing fiction, I start with research into the topic I’m writing about and try to find the truth of the matter, no matter how ridiculous the premise might seem. Sometimes I’ll interview people—in this case, I asked questions of a psychic in my area who had a good reputation—and try to get a feel for the characters and circumstances I’m writing about. I can start with the most kooky idea ever, but I always try to ground it in reality by using what I've learned.

Well, I probably shouldn't admit this in a public setting, but I bought a book off Amazon while writing On the Scent called Psychic Development for Beginners. Its summary promised me "You possess a secret power that is just waiting to be harnessed—your natural psychic sense." Fabulous, I thought. Show me what to do. Let's see if this psychic stuff is for real. Bring it on. Well, I've tried some of the "44 fun and simple activities" offered in the book, and guess what? I'm still a poor struggling writer with a sad love life who has no clue how to win the lottery. Nope, I can't even communicate with my cat...or at least, I don't think I can. She's a cat so she could just be ignoring me, but still.

I seem to have the psychic abilities of a dishrag. What about you? Ever had a weird psychic experience you can't explain? If so, I'd love to hear about it. You know, for research purposes and all.

Author's note: I'm such a crazy pet fanatic that I've pledged to donate half of my proceeds from this book to my local animal shelter. You can learn more my pledge, and the animals in my book, by visiting my website: www.AngelaCampbellOnline.com.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Breaking Bad

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart
It figures that as soon as I get hooked on a show, I hear that it's ending.  I'm late to Breaking Bad -- I just started watching it Tuesday.  It was the kids' first day back to school and after I ran all over town dropping them off, I had a headache when I got home.  I've been working (Evil Day Job) and writing a ton lately, so I figured it was eye strain.  I took a break from all computer and reading, and decided to go to Netflix.

On Twitter, I'd seen several people threaten to shut down their access to avoid Breaking Bad spoilers.  I was like, huh, it must be pretty intense if people are willing to avoid Twitter!  So I started the first episode.  And haven't looked back yet.

If you're not familiar with the show as I was just a few days ago, you might be surprised that the protagonist is a drug lord.  He cooks meth.  Yeah.  Let that soak in.  A whole TV show spanning several years' worth of episodes about a meth head?  But he's not a meth head (that's his partner, snerk). 

What I find so interesting is they SHOW how a normal, average nice man -- Walt was a Chemistry teacher -- could become a "bad" man.  A criminal.  What choices he makes.  How one choice leads to another dangerous situation.  How easy it could be to rationalize being "bad."  And it all hinges on one key question.  WHY?  Why would he do this?  Why should I care about someone making drugs? 

The show doesn't flinch away from the consequences of drug use.  The meth heads are desperate and crazed by their addiction, one woman willing to drop an ATM on her husband's head because he called her a skank while they were fighting over the last hit.

We buy Walt's motivation because it makes sense.  We understand why Walt would make these choices.  That makes all the difference.

You see, he was diagnosed with stage III lung cancer in the very first episode.  They're already barely making ends meet.  His wife doesn't work, he's a teacher and not some fancy chemist working for a pharmaceutical company.  He's got a handicapped teenaged son and a baby on the way.  Now his life is about to end and he's going to leave his family with nothing.

No savings.  Huge medical bills.  No nice life insurance policy.  Nothing.

He doesn't know what he's going to do, until he sees his brother-in-law -- who just happens to be a DEA agent -- on TV with a huge stack of cash on the table from a drug bust.  That gives him the idea.  He's a chemist.  He could certainly learn how to make meth.

Even more importantly, he makes mistakes.  Huge mistakes that could get him killed.  He doesn't think like a criminal at first, and that totally makes sense.  We're slowly lured into the underworld just like he his, and more importantly, we're rooting for him.  We're hoping he can beat cancer.  We're hoping he doesn't lose his family if they find out the truth.  We're as desperate as he is.

I'm not ready to "break bad" and turn into a drug lord, but I *am* pushing the envelope with some of my characters.  I've always been interested in antiheroes.  Assassins.  (I've written two so far.)  Then there's this other story cooking in the back of my brain.  A dangerous story, about a killer.  I just have to figure out the most important question.  Why?  Why is he the way he is?  Can I make it serious and real enough that you'll care whether or not he lives or dies?  No matter how many "wrong" things he's done?

Breaking Bad is definitely giving me ideas!

Do you watch the show?  What do you find interesting about it?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why I Want to Write Steampunk.

Posted by: Shawna Thomas
First a confession. I’ve never read steampunk. I know you can beat me with your manuscripts later. I am honestly ashamed of that fact. It’s not a deliberate omission. It’s just that my reading time has been so limited lately— not to mention the financial resources to buy books—that my reading has suffered. A lot.

But I am determined to jump into the genre with both feet. I know I’ll love it. I follow authors such as Cindy Spencer Pape, Seleste DeLaney and PG Forte closely. Here be Magic’s recent Steampunk week just wet my appetite even more.

Okay so that’s why I want to read it. Here is why I want to write it:

  1. It looks fun. Every cover I’ve seen for Steampunk is gorgeous. Every excerpt intriguing. I mean I know there is bad writing in every genre but so far what I’ve read about steampunk seems light, fun, adventurous, tongue-in-cheek fun
  2. The  costumes! I mean come on! Corsets, flowing skirts, ankle boots. And the jewelry! A mixture of punk, Victorian and tech. It’s awesome. I want a good reason to go to a Steampunk convention and dress up. I mean walking into the grocery store in full steampunk costume might generate some attention, but that’s not really the kind of attention I like. ; 0 ) I might even be convinced to dress up at RT or some other fantasy convention...but then how to explain that I actually write epic fantasy... Yeah.
  3. The concept is brilliant. I love Victorians. Throw in steam, gadgets and an entirely different way of looking at history. I’m all in!
  4. The company. See above. Cindy, Seleste, PG... and more! There are so many talented writers in this genre.

I’m sure I’ll add many more reasons I love it after I’ve read it. Just for fun, here is the corset that I’m lusting for.

http://www.corsets-uk.com/cd-231-brown-steampunk-style-overbust-corset-with-chain-and-stud-detail.html

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Magic, Intrigue and Paranormal Romance in Ancient Egypt

Posted by: Veronica Scott
I'm really excited about my upcoming new release from Carina Press - WARRIOR OF THE NILE, set in 1550 BCE. This is my second novel in the Gods of Egypt paranormal romance series, and is available for preorder at Amazon now. The ebook will be released on September 16th and here's the story:

Lady Tiya is bound to the service of the goddess Nephthys, who plans to sacrifice Tiya’s body to protect Egypt from an ancient terror. She embarks to meet her grim fate alone but for the hardened warrior Khenet, who is fated to die at her side. Tiya’s dreams of love and family now seem impossible, and Khenet, who is the last of his line, knows his culture will die with him. Struggling with the high cost of Nephthys’s demands, both resolve to remain loyal.
Neither expects the passion that flowers when Tiya’s quiet courage and ethereal beauty meet Khenet’s firm strength and resolve. On a boat down the Nile, their two lonely souls find in each other a reason to live. But time is short and trust elusive.
Without the willing sacrifice of Tiya and Khenet, a great evil will return to Egypt. How could the gods demand their deaths when they’ve only just begun to live?
*******************************************************
The book is set in the same time time frame as last year's PRIESTESS OF THE NILE, but the two books are standalone stories. I also have DANCER OF THE NILE coming in October, which is another adventure about the involvement of the Egyptian gods in the problems facing Pharaoh and his people.
Here's an excerpt from Chapter One to tempt you:
Khenet waited in Pharaoh’s private chambers eyeing the gilded chairs close by, pulled up to Pharaoh’s ebony table, but no one, not even him, would dare sit without the ruler’s express permission.
His head ached dully from the oppressive weather cursing the city. Unseasonal thunderstorms rumbling all night long had made sleep virtually impossible. And I had that damn dream again. Rubbing his forehead, he sighed. Talk about bad omens. The palace summons had come to the barracks that morning before he had even had time for breakfast. His stomach growled at him and he stiffened his spine. Whatever Pharaoh Nat-re-akhte needed him for, he was ready.  Too much leisure between battles wore on his nerves. 
            The door flew open and Pharaoh strode into the room, approaching Khenet. The ruler’s face was more care worn than it had been a year ago, a few gray strands prematurely darkening his short black hair, but the unusual green eyes were bright and sparkling as always. “My brother, it’s been too long since we spent time together.” They clasped arms, leaning in for a quick hug.
            “Not since we harried those Hyksos raiders from the neighboring province,” Khenet said, stepping back, eyeing the physical changes in Pharaoh’s appearance. The cares of ruling Egypt are starting to weigh on him, clearly.
Pharaoh picked a handful of dates from a golden platter and sank into his favorite lion-footed, ebony chair. Propping his bare feet on an ivory stool, he gestured at the ample spread of food on the table. “Will you have anything? Wine or beer, perhaps?”
            “Early for beer, my lord.” Reaching for a meat roll, Khenet shook his head.
            Pharaoh poured himself a goblet full and, perhaps sensing Khenet’s disapproval said, “Trust me, it’s necessary today. Sit.”
            Khenet glanced at the closed door across from him. Unusual informality, given that he sent for me. This is no casual chat.
            “We won’t be disturbed, don’t worry. But we also don’t have much time.” Having made the declaration, Pharaoh fell silent. As he sipped at the beer he frowned, as if the taste failed to please him. Sighing, he rubbed his forehead with one hand.
            One did not speak unless spoken to in the presence of the Living God, but everything else had been unusual today. Khenet and his pharaoh did not stand on much ceremony when they were alone. Time to find out what’s going on. “Your family is well?”
            “Fine. The queen and my boy are healthy, praise the gods.”  Pharaoh set the goblet down with a thump, splashing beer on the table, and leaned forward, green eyes narrowed. “I need a personal favor. A dangerous, complicated task lies before me and only the right man can carry it out.”
            Action at last. Khenet straightened. “My brother has but to name the thing, and I will undertake it.”
            Pharaoh shook his head, holding up one hand to forestall him. “Not so fast, I’m seeking a volunteer, not giving orders today. The fact that I’ve started my quest with you doesn’t mean you are required to accept the task. I had the Chief Scribe summon two other candidates, should you choose to pass on the assignment, but I won’t lie – you’re my first choice.” The monarch waited until Khenet nodded, then leaned forward over the table, lowering his voice. “What we speak of must not go beyond these walls because the Great Ones are involved.”
            A rush of adrenalin coursed through Khenet’s body and set his heart to racing. Becoming involved in anything directly related to the gods daunted even him. Pulling the nearest chair closer, he sat opposite Pharaoh then reached for the beer, suddenly needing a drink himself. “I give you my oath. No one’s hearing a word from me.”
            Nodding, Pharaoh took another long pull from his mug. “Let me set out the terms of the mission. The goddess Nephthys wants a woman escorted south to the Viper Nome, to marry the provincial ruler, Smenkhotep. The journey is to be by boat and chariot. I’m to supply a single bodyguard. No other soldiers, no retainers. Nephthys decrees that the man must be from my personal guard, must be someone close to me.”
            Considering the information, Khenet raised his mug and took a long drink. Odd indeed, from many aspects. He swallowed. “The Nome is not loyal to you. Yet you will do the Nomarch honor by sending him a bride?”
            Pharaoh grunted and toyed with a knife on the table, spinning it in lazy circles. “From what the goddess Nephthys told me last night, the Nomarch is as treacherous as the snakes which give his province its name. He worships the god of our enemies, Balal, and seeks to provide our foes a new foothold in Egypt. Apparently when the Usurper occupied my throne, she struck a deal with Smenkhotep, to send him a girl from one of the ancient Houses of Egypt, to help him somehow. I overthrew her before this wedding plan could go forward so no candidate was ever identified.”
            “And why is this issue arising now? The Usurper is dead. You’ve been on the throne for a year.”
            “According to the goddess, Smenkhotep practices black magic so powerful even the Great Ones can’t enter his realm. His plans are reaching some kind of climax and he still wants a Theban noblewoman of one particular lineage to marry. Nephthys intends to take over this girl’s body at the right moment and cross the border in secret, in human form.” Pharaoh frowned, his worry clear as he raked a hand through his hair.
            Khenet was shocked at the very notion of a goddess taking the body of even a willing priestess. Poor girl, loss of a home for one’s soul is worse than death. “To what purpose?”
            “It’s part of a larger plan ending in the Nomarch’s death…and the girl’s.” Staring across the table at Khenet, Pharaoh lifted the dagger and pointed the blade at him. “And the death of my envoy as well.” 

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