Sunday, May 31, 2015

Have you hugged your pet today?

Posted by: Angela Campbell
Did you know May was National Pet Month? 

I love animals, personally, and I don't need to observe a month telling me to celebrate my pet because I spoil my cat rotten 365 days a year. Heaven help me if I owned a ranch. I'd basically have a zoo — cats, dogs, rabbits, horses, foxes, unicorns, dragons, Gizmos. You name it. I'd adopt it. Except snakes. Yeah, I can't really handle even thinking about snakes, but I'm sure they'd be on my ranch whether I put them there or not, and I'd be OK with that as long as they didn't, you know, come near me or let me see them. Anywho.

Needless to say, I make a point to include pets in the stories I write. I know not everyone loves animals. Shut up. These are my stories, so I can write cats and dogs into the plot if I want. In my current series — which features sexy psychic investigators solving unique and unusual mysteries as they fall in love in oftentimes humorous situations — I have three fur balls who help play matchmaker and tend to steal the spotlight whenever they're on the page. I know what you might be thinking. Oh, no, not more pets as plot devices in a romance novel!

I can't speak for any other authors who've realized how full of awesome pets in romances can be, but having cats and dogs in my stories is probably way more fun for me than my readers. I don't think of them as plot devices, exactly. I think of them as full-fledged characters. Writing them is kind of therapeutic because nothing adds comic relief to a writer's day like writing cats and dogs, especially when your human characters' can hear their thoughts. Check out the first book of the series, "On The Scent," and you'll discover what I mean. OK. I have a confession. I stupidly tried to keep them out of the second book of my series — “Something Wicked” — it’s set in a different city, after all — but the animals weren’t having it. Nope. They found a creative way to be a part of that story, too, in the end, so I didn’t even try to keep them from wiggling to the forefront of book three’s story. Maybe that’s why “Spirited Away” seems to be everyone’s favorite book in the series so far. 

“Spirited Away” also features my favorite heroine to write so far. She’s not psychic, but she’s still 100 percent awesome sauce. She calls herself Spider because she can, and she's a total geek girl who loves technology, watches far too much sci-fi and fantasy television, plays video games, and collects action figures of superheroes. Team her up with the mischievous pets Charlie, Abbott and Costello, and hilarity ensues. Especially when the hot guy next door keeps getting involved and recruits her to help him solve the mystery of his possibly haunted house.

All right. Enough shameless promo. Let's get back to National Pet Month.

Obviously, I love pets. Do you? Please take a moment on this last day of May to pet and hug your pet kitty, doggie, rabbit, fennec fox, unicorn, dragon, or whatever cute creature you share your humble abode with. Go ahead and give 'em a few extra treats, too. They're worth it, don't you think?

Angela Campbell is the author of the psychic detectives series from Harper Impulse. Learn more about her and her books at www.AngelaCampbellOnline.com.

***
Who knew pet sitting could be so dangerous…or so sexy? 
Socially awkward Emma “Spider” Fisher prefers her laptop to people, so she’s more than happy to oblige her boss when he asks her to pet- and housesit while he honeymoons in London.

It doesn’t take long for accident-prone Spider to lose a dog, get locked out of the house, and set off the house alarm. Thankfully, her hot new neighbour is more than happy to come to her rescue.

But Noah West is a mystery to Spider—and one she intends to solve.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Are Dragons Still...Hot?

Posted by: Marie Harte
I recently held a contest where I asked my readers to tell me what they thought the current trend in romantic fiction to be.

To my surprise--since I see the current trend in the return of contemporary romance--many proclaimed paranormal romance to be the popular genre right now.  I've spent the past year or so writing contemporary romance, so I was hoping to hear that contemporary romance is hot.

I'm also pleased, because I have a new/old series coming out that's paranormal.

I don't write to trends because what's popular is ever changing. Vampire romance was HUGE a few years ago. Now shifters are the new black. But what about dragons? Demons? Angels?

It seems to me paranormal popularity goes in waves as well, especially when one particular series sparks reader attention.

So I'm glad to hear that paranormal romances are popular. But then, I wrote The Dragons' Demon back in 2007, when I was feeling demonish. I like to change up stories to keep myself interested, and when I first started my Ethereal Foes books, I was loving the thought of making perceived bad guys the good guys. I gave life to a place where dragons, demons, and other sexy if malevolent creatures lived together in the dark of the Abyss. Books one and two released, but my editor wasn't keen on a third book, so I moved to another series.

Fast forward several years, and I'm ready to release books one through four! The first two stories are re-releases with better editing. But the third and fourth books are brand new. I'm so happy to complete the series, though of course there's always room for more stories set in that world.

The return to dragons and demons has me all fired up. There's nothing quite like a dragon to stir trouble, after all.

For some fun, here are some other dragony romance books you might want to check out:

Ethereal Foes series--Marie Harte
Dragon Kin series--Shelly Laurenston
Elder Races series--Thea Harrison
Aisling Grey: Guardians series--Katie MacAlister
Master of Dragons--Angela Knight
How to Date a Dragon--Ashlyn Chase
Dragonfire series--Deborah Cooke
Dragon Knights series--Bianca D'Arc

Any other recommendations to share?

Marie
_________________________________
Marie Harte
website | blog | facebookNY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kiss the Guardian (Part Two)

Posted by: Kelly Jensen

(Read part one here


Being tricky meant choosing the game that made the best use of Felix’s talents, and that meant not trying Ring the Bell.

“Aww, c’mon, it’s just for fun.” Zed smiled his most winsome smile—or simply plucked another charmer from the collection. “And you’ll like the thing you have to do for me.” He winked. “Promise.”

Zed was obviously thinking of sexy things. Felix liked sexy things. “Fine.”

Elias went first. Felix did not laugh when the captain failed to ring the bell. Nessa gave it her best, swinging the mallet against the plate with a small shriek. She did not ring the bell. Felix didn’t really care if Zed managed the feat, he simply enjoyed watching his man move—his grip on the mallet handle, the way his torso twisted, the bunch of musculature in his arms. He rang the bell.

Despite his contrary nature, Felix gave it his best shot. The holographic arrow darted up from the plate and stopped just short of the bell. The silence was deafening. Mustering a smile, he handed the mallet to Qek.

“Give it all you’ve got!” Nessa encouraged, jumping and clapping her hands like a toddler.

Qek’s forehead smoothed, a sure sign of thought. Then she swung the mallet down with surprising force. The arrow shot up the pole and slammed into the bell.

“Damn.”

“And the winner is our ashushk friend!” the barker announced, handing over a fluffy approximation of a Gentian squirrel.

Qek counted the tentacles, perhaps checking for anatomical correctness. “I have not seen a live Gentian squirrel, but in the pictures I have seen, they are not pink.”

“It’s a toy, Qek.”

“Do adults play with toys?”

Nessa cuffed the side of Felix’s head before he could instruct their pilot further in the art of human sexuality. “Hey.” He rubbed his offended curls.

“Think of it as a keepsake,” Nessa said.

Producing a wrinkled smile, Qek stuffed the squirrel under her arm. “What will we play next?”

Elias was scratching his head. “How come Qek managed to ring the bell harder than Zed?”

“I deduced it was a matter of applying the correct amount of force to exactly the right point of the plate.”

Zed laughed. “Okay, let’s see you apply science to Whac-A-Lem.”

Qek whacked the Lems that were only thinking about poking their holographic noses out of their holes. Then she bowled a perfect game of Skeeball. When all of her stupidly light ping pong balls found their way into fishbowls, Felix had to bite his lips over a pout. How was she doing this? More importantly, without any points, how could he convince Zed to help him flush the water cycler aboard the Chaos? Sexy favors be damned, that was a messy job and he wanted help with it.

The little blue ashushk bounced up and down on her toes, a move obviously borrowed from Nessa, as she collected her prize for popping the most balloons with a dart.

Felix elbowed Zed. “You were covert ops, man. How come you can’t kill six balloons with four darts?”

“Because it’s not fucking possible!”

“Qek’s green giraffe begs to differ.”

Grumbling, Zed led the way to the shooting gallery. “Okay, this is where we’ll separate the men from the ashushk.”

Nessa’s hand shot out before Zed could duck and he got his first cuff of the afternoon.

Felix leaned in to Zed’s side. “You know Qek looks after the weapons stored aboard the Chaos, right? She can break down a plasma rifle in thirty-seven seconds.”

Zed gaped and Felix wished he had a ping pong ball. His mouth formed the perfect O.

Qek won the match—passing off yet another stuffed animal to Felix—and then she met her match. “I do not understand the point of the next game.”

Felix glanced up from an intense study of the neon yellow python wrapped around his wrist. The faux fur was incredibly soft and the eyes were sort of cute. “Huh?”

“It’s a kissing booth,” Nessa explained.

“How is the game played?”

“Well, it’s not a game. You just pass over some credits for the chance to kiss someone really attractive.” Felix glanced at the booth’s occupant and frowned. “Ah, normally it’s a really good looking girl or guy. I dunno what that’s supposed to be.”

The booth’s attendant waved them over. “Want to kiss the Guardian?”

Looked like a cross between an elephant and a Berian cockroach. This was supposed to be the most technologically advanced species in the galaxy?

Zed poked a finger toward the shimmering holo. “That is not a Guardian.”

Elias nudged Zed in the middle of the back. “You should probably kiss it to make sure.”

“I wonder what the Guardians would make of this representation,” Qek mused.

“I got reliable information that this is a bona fide depiction of an actual Guardian,” the barker said.

“I think you’ve been hoodwinked,” Elias replied.

Nessa tilted her head. “I don’t know. I think it has a certain majesty.”

Zed slung an arm around Felix’s shoulders. “Well, I’m not going to kiss it. Not when I got a perfect pair of lips right beside me.”

Corny as hell, but the declaration warmed Felix’s middle. “Neither of us got any points,” he murmured, putting his mouth close enough to Zed’s for that kiss.

Zed pecked his lips. “Just as well we didn’t wager with Qek.”

“I would have asked for help flushing the water cycler,” the little ashushk said.

“I thought it was my turn to do it?”

“Perhaps you’d like to help me with it, Fixer?”

Not really, but it would be uncharitable to say no when Qek had given him his fluffy yellow snake. Felix mustered a smile. “Okay, sure.”

Zed’s lips brushed his ear. “After, I can give you another job to do. One you’ll enjoy.”

Felix’s smile spread into a grin.

“Hey, isn’t anyone going to kiss the Guardian?”

Felix gestured toward Elias. “It’s all yours, Cap’n. Go for it.”

***

Find out more about Zed, Felix, and the rest of the crew's adventures at www.chaosstation.com.

LONELY SHORE, book 2 of the Chaos Station series, is out now!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kiss the Guardian (Part One)

Posted by: Jenn Burke
To celebrate the release of LONELY SHORE, book two of the Chaos Station series, Kelly and I wanted to treat our readers to a fun short story set between books one and two. We hope you enjoy it! Stay tuned for part two tomorrow.

----

Wenchang Station, 2269

It was just an average delivery job until the clown rolled by on a unicycle.

For a second, Zed thought he’d hallucinated it. Alien poison was flowing through his veins, after all, and God knew what form his mental degeneration would eventually take. Hallucinations were a definite possibility. He’d never had a particular thing for clowns—good or bad—but hallucinations didn’t care, right?

He breathed a sigh of relief when Flick muttered, “What the fuck.”

“I…do not know.” Qek clicked, her broad, blue face smoothing as she tried to understand what had just moved past them. “That…I have never seen such a thing before.”

“Oh my God, is the carnival today?” Ness grabbed Elias’s arm, as if she were trying to stop herself from bouncing. Her wild red curls vibrated with the aborted movement as the captain looked at her with an expression stuck somewhere between amusement and confusion. “We’ve got to check it out.”

Flick narrowed his eyes. “Wait, what carnival?”

The carnival.” Ness waited for them to clue in, but even Zed was drawing a blank. “You guys seriously need to absorb some culture at some point,” she said on a huff. “Wenchang Carnival. It’s a big deal, used to happen twice a year? Ring a bell?”

That sort of did tickle a memory, actually. “Before the war, right?”

“Yeah, and this is the first one since the war ended. And we’re here while it’s on! I always wanted to check it out.” Still holding Elias’s arm with one hand, she gripped Qek’s with the other. “C’mon, Captain, you’re going to win Qek and I some stuffed animals.”

“Oh…great.” Though Elias’s voice was dry, his expression had slipped fully into the amused side of things.

Zed looked at Flick. Flick looked back. He couldn’t quite read his lover’s expression. Were his brows lowered because he thought the carnival was stupid or because he was trying to figure out how the ship’s doctor could be reduced to an excited schoolgirl by the promise of cheap toys?

“You, uh…” Zed shrugged as they trailed after the rest of the Chaos’s crew. “You want to check it out? I could try winning something for you.”

“Or maybe I’ll win something for you.”

“I have better aim.”

“I figure out angles.”

“I’m stronger.”

“I’m trickier.”

“Are we seriously arguing about who’s going to win what?”

“Maybe.” Flick eyed the colorful stalls that came into view as they rounded a corner. “Want to make it interesting?”

Zed couldn’t stop the smile that bloomed on his lips. He had a flash of what they’d been like back at the Academy—always up for fun and games. “What, we’re competing now?”

“Whoever wins the most challenges—”

“Gets the most toys?”

Flick glared at him. “No. Whoever wins the most challenges gets to have the other person do one thing for them.”

“Just one?”

“Greedy bastard. You in or out?”

Zed’s grin widened. “Oh, I’m in.”

***

Catch Part Two of “Kiss the Guardian” tomorrow on Here Be Magic!


Find out more about Zed, Felix, and the rest of the crew's adventures at www.chaosstation.com.


LONELY SHORE, book 2 of the Chaos Station series, is out now!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Loving the Superheroine

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy
When I first saw this amazing cover, I felt an actual, physical chill.

It was everything I could have hoped for - my warrior princess's thousand-yard stare, the golden glow and a great big freaking sword.

OMG YES YES YES.

I was so thrilled, I called in my guy, David, and bounced happily as I showed him. He said, "there's no way she could swing a sword that big."

Oh, yeah - that annoyed me no end.

I should caveat at this point and say that David is a wonderful man. We've been together nearly 25 years and there's a reason I always put him in my Acknowledgements as the one who makes everything possible. He's a nurturing person, fair-minded and always supportive of everything I do. He also studied Kung Fu alongside me for 15 years and has decidedly strong opinions on the topic of what women fighters can and cannot do.

Which is all fair enough. A lot of Ursula's perspective on fighting and training is informed by those same considerations. I have a pretty good idea of what I can and can't do physically, especially if confronted by a male opponent.

Except this is fiction. And yes, I did tartly ask, "Does it help to know she's not fully human?"

Of course he backpedaled and felt bad for raining on my cover parade. He also doesn't read my books - or really any fiction - and I'm good with that. I also forgave him because I know that what he said was his knee-jerk, programmed response and not how he came to think about it after some discussion.

But it's salient that this is so culturally ingrained in us. We see male action heroes accomplishing the impossible ALL THE TIME. We expect it. Of course Indiana Jones can outrun a boulder despite all laws of physics! Can David Banner become a giant green monster that busts all clothing except his short pants? Why yes! Can Bruce Wayne pour bucket loads of money into technology to make himself a superhero with no supernatural abilities? SAVE US, BATMAN!!

Sure, we can pick apart the ways that our disbelief isn't *entirely* suspended. The Hulk's pants, right? Still, I'd lay money down that David would not have looked at a cover with a man holding a great big sword and immediately assessed whether he thought the guy could swing it. Because men are completely accustomed to fantasizing themselves as superheroes. Which usually includes saving the beautiful princess and winning her body, if not her love.

In this case, I wanted the fantasy of the superheroine. She's not screaming shrilly waiting for Indy to come save her. She's supernaturally fast and strong.

She has a big freaking sword and she knows how to use it.

The Talon of the Hawk

A HEAVY CROWN
Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.
Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior’s spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other-that soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead…

Request a digital review copy

Available May 26, 2015

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone

New Releases


Lonely Shore (Book two of Chaos Station)

All they can do is live day to day…

Felix Ingesson has returned to his duties as the Chaos's engineer with Zander Anatolius, his ex-boyfriend-turned-broken-super-soldier, at his side. Hope means something again. But there's nothing Felix can do to battle the alien poison flowing through Zander's veins, or his imminent mental decline. With each passing day, the side effects of Zander's experimental training are becoming more difficult to ignore.

When the ruthless Agrius Cartel seeks their revenge—including an ambush and an attempt to kidnap the Chaos's crew—Zander is pushed over the edge. He can no longer hide his symptoms, nor does he want to. But hurting Felix when he's not in control of himself is Zander's worst nightmare—when it nearly happens, he agrees to seek help. Even if that means trusting the unknown.

As Zander places his life in alien hands, Felix appoints himself his lover's keeper. And though he tries to be strong, he can't ignore the fact that he might lose Zander…forever this time.

Buy Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Carina Press

The Talon of the Hawk (Book three of The Twelve Kingdoms)



A HEAVY CROWN

Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.

Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior’s spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other—that soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead...


Buy links: Amazon - Barnes & Nobles - Bookdepository

One Cut Deeper 
Her needs are dark. His are dangerous.

Charlie MacNiall has been bringing his beautiful king shepherd to the vet clinic where Ranay Killian works for the better part of a year. She doesn't realize he's been slowly wooing her. She certainly has no idea that he picked her deliberately--that she is to become his. A broken heart and a desperate desire to be dominated make her the perfect victim.

His perfect victim.

Charlie fixes Ranay, testing her emotional limits while pushing her sexual boundaries past anything she'd imagined possible. Pain is their shared pleasure...until Charlie disappears and Ranay is all but destroyed.

The FBI says the man she loves is a serial killer. Ranay can't deny there's a darkness in Charlie, a monstrous hunger that drives him to the brink. She even believes he could kill. But Charlie's hunger is what bonds them--it's the foundation of their love. Would he actually kill her?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

What's in a Name?

Posted by: Janni Nell

Shakespeare said it first, but was Romeo and Juliet’s dilemma any greater than the dilemma of a modern writer working in more than one genre? I don’t think so.

I’ve reach a kind of crossroads in my writing. After releasing five humorous paranormal mysteries under the Janni Nell name, I published three humorous chick lit mysteries—yep, you guessed it—under the same name. I can still see the look on horror on the face of a fellow writer, when I told her I’d published both paranormal and chick lit under the same name.

Of course I’d considered using a different name, but because the two series were similar in voice and humor, I decided they had enough in common to be published under the same name. With the benefit of hindsight that seems like a big mistake. The differences between the genres were too great. All I ended up doing was confusing readers and messing with my brand.

Now I’m a month or two away from publishing another paranormal. This is a more serious story and, although there is a mystery to solve, I wouldn’t place it in the mystery genre. So I’m considering a name change. Am I crazy? Maybe. If I do change my name, in some ways, it’ll mean starting from scratch. But…and it’s a big but, I won’t confuse readers further by publishing something that is different from what I’ve published in the past.

I’m interested in how other writers have handled this situation, but also how readers feel when their favorite authors switch genres.

So, what should I do? Change my name? Keep the same name? Or maybe hedge my bets with “Janni Nell writing as…”?


In the meantime you can see what all the fuss is about by checking out the Allegra Fairweather series of paranormal mysteries and the Sassy Chance series of chick lit mysteries.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cosy Mysteries

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
Bird on a lanternA few years back, I devoured cosy mysteries. Carolyn G Hart's Death on Demand series, Joan Hess's Murder in Maggody, Margaret Maron's books -- all of them! There were ones with a harder edge, like Dana Stabenow's Alaskan mysteries. And ones which played up the cutesy humour, like Donna Andrews.

And then, suddenly, I stopped reading them. I can't even put a finger on why. From haunting the library for the latest releases, abruptly I didn't care.

I have some favourites that I re-read, like Marion Babson's classic British cosies, but generally the cutesy cosies and I have parted ways, and frankly, now that I think about it, I miss them.

I miss the gentle humour and sense of family or community that they celebrated. I miss the clear sense of right and wrong, and evil being punished. I even miss the puzzle solving (although for some, the puzzle was never very puzzling).

All of which leads me to the point of this post ... I think cosy mysteries are set for a resurgence, but in a slightly different guise. I think they're going to have a paranormal edge.

Mystery solving elves sound good to me :)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Archives: Cheat A Cheater? DANCER OF THE NILE

Posted by: Veronica Scott
Veronica sez: In about two weeks I'll be releasing GHOST OF THE NILE so I thought today I'd revisit this excerpt from one of my earlier Gods of Egypt stories.

1550 BCE
Nima’s beauty and skill as a dancer leads an infatuated enemy to kidnap her after destroying an Egyptian border town. However, she’s not the only hostage in the enemy camp: Kamin, an Egyptian soldier on a secret mission for Pharaoh, has been taken as well. Working together to escape, the two of them embark on a desperate quest across the desert to carry word of the enemy’s invasion plans to Pharaoh’s people.
As they flee for their lives, these two strangers thrown together by misfortune have to trust in each other to survive.  Nima suspects Kamin is more than the simple soldier he seems, but she finds it hard to resist the effect he has on her heart.  Kamin has a duty to his Pharaoh to see his mission completed, but this clever and courageous dancer is claiming more of his loyalty and love by the moment. Kamin starts to worry, if it comes to a choice between saving Egypt or saving Nima’s life…what will he do?
Aided by the Egyptian god Horus and the Snake Goddess Renenutet, beset by the enemy’s black magic, can Nima and Kamin evade the enemy and reach the safety of the Nile in time to foil the planned attack?
Can there ever be a happy future together for the humble dancer and the brave Egyptian soldier who is so much more than he seems?
The excerpt:
(Trying to escape the enemy, Nima and Kamin have been taken by a caravan master who's determined to have a profit from the encounter.)
 Please, Great Ones, let him follow my lead now. “Either we’re going to be your guests or your prisoners.”
           “You can’t have it both ways, sir,” she said when the laughter quieted, laying one hand on Kamin’s arm as a calming gesture.
                “Good point.” Ptahnetamun poured himself another round of the wine before sitting down. “It seems we’re on the horns of a dilemma.”
                He likes toying with us. Hoping she’d found a way out of the situation, Nima took a chance. “Are you a gambling man?” She pointed at the object taking up most of the table beside him. “Do I see a senet board?”
                He rubbed his hand across the game board inlaid atop the gleaming container. “Indeed it is. You play?”
                As if she had all the time in the world, Nima walked to the game box, deliberately making her stride slow and sensuous, like the opening steps of a dance. Bending to give him a good view of her shapely bottom outlined by the dress pulled tight as she leaned over, Nima opened the bottom drawer of the case and plucked a shiny black pawn at random from inside. With an elegant gesture, she turned and extended her hand to the caravan master, the pawn sitting on her flat palm. “I challenge you to a game.”
                He stroked his bearded chin, leaned back as he braced one foot on a trunk and made a show of considering. “For what stakes?”
                “If I win, you give us shelter for the night, and we go our separate ways in the morning.” She set the pawn on the board in the starting square. “If you win, we’re yours to do with as you please.”
                “Nima—” Kamin’s protest was instant and angry. In two steps he was at her side, yanking her to face him. “What are you—”
                Wrenching herself loose, she ignored him, facing Ptahnetamun again. “I’ve lived in border towns all my life, so I’ve heard of the honor code governing caravan masters. I want your word you’ll abide by the outcome of the game.” She held up one hand before he could speak. “No, I want your blood oath on it.”
                Jaw dropping, Ptahnetamun stared at her while his men muttered and even the serving girl looked impressed by Nima’s boldness.
                “Well? Do you agree to my terms or don’t you?” Nima drew herself to her full height and tried to feel impressive, despite her dusty clothes and tired body. He can’t back down from this challenge in front of his crew. I hope. Since he hesitated, she taunted him, paraphrasing a saying she’d often heard in the taverns where she danced. Be aware I’ll pass you by as one who sails with the breeze, blessed by the Sun. I’ll be entering the House of Repeating Life while you, my opponent, will be stopped.”
                Next minute, Ptahnetamun threw back his head, roaring with laughter. “Spoken like a true gambler. I like your spirit, woman.” He pointed at Kamin. “Does your warrior agree to what you propose? The deal must include you both.”
                “Will you give us a moment?” Pulling Kamin aside, Nima turned so the gawking caravan crew couldn’t see their faces. Kamin’s cheeks were red, and his frown was truly impressive.
                Putting both hands on her shoulders, he gave her a little shake. “What in the seven hells are you doing? “
                She laid her hand gently over his mouth, leaning close as she whispered, “Trust me, please, Kamin? If he swears me a blood oath—”
                Shoving her hand away, he rolled his eyes. “And if you win,” he said furiously. “The throwing sticks are bound to be false-weighted somehow. It won’t be a fair game, not some friendly match in the tavern for mugs of beer.”
                “I’m hoping the sticks are false.” She smiled mischievously, letting her smile fade as he continued to glare at her. “Please? I know the stakes are high, but we’re not getting out of here otherwise. You’re one man surrounded by dozens, and he sees profit in selling us. This is the only way we stand a chance of escaping.”
                “You’re asking me to risk the success of my mission for Pharaoh, for Egypt, on how well you can cheat a cheater?” He closed his eyes for a moment, rubbing his brow.




Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ever Been to a Book Signing? If You Haven't, You're Missing Out!

Posted by: Linda Mooney

This weekend I'll be at the Austin Author Affair. A whole slew of authors will be there to sell and autograph their books. Check the list above to see how many of your favorites are attending.

If you've never made it to a book signing, either a multi-author one like the Austin Author Affair, or even one put on by a single author, you're missing out. Authors love to schmooze with readers, whether you read their books or not.

Going to book signings is the author's chance to get out of their writing caves and meet the public. And this is the reader's chance to put a face to the name on the books they love. It's a win-win for both parties!

Better, authors use this time to recharge their batteries. Get fresh story ideas. Trade info with fellow authors. But the best part is that readers reaffirm the authors, giving them the impetus to write more.


And what could be better for a reader than to chat with a favorite author, and walk away with a personalized autograph? At the AAA this weekend, if you're in the area, admittance is FREE for readers! Plus, you might get to have drinks or dinner with your favorite author after the signing is over. You never know!

Come by and say, "Hi!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

From the Archives: Hope (or, What I Learned From Watching Way Too Much Voyager)

Posted by: Joshua Roots
Veronica sez =>Posting one from the Archives, written by our Josh Roots, because all things Star Trek are timeless, right?:

I've been watching a lot of Star Trek: Voyager recently*. During a marathon viewing, I had two big revelations about the show:

1) Captain Janeway might just be favorite captain**. That in no way diminishes my ardent worship of Picard, my adoration for Sisko, my utmost respect for Archer, or my admiration for the original Space Cowboy, Kirk. But Janeway? She's my kind of leader. Brash, bold, honorable, but also willing to put a photon torpedo between your eyes if the situation calls for it.

2) Voyager is, at its core, extremely hopeful.

The latter fact is what really struck me. Here you have a ship that is pulled to the other side of the galaxy, well beyond where anyone has gone before. At the end of the pilot episode, they are 75 years away from Earth and desperate to return home. Their journey is wrought with danger and the fear of the unknown. The crew should be despondent. There should be more pessimism, more angst.

But there's not. Even during its darkest moments, there's a sense of hope that runs throughout the show. Optimism that, despite it all, they will get home.

The thing is, having watched and read a great deal of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, that optimism is completely striking. So many of my favorite genre tales are ones where humanity is on the brink. Death, destruction, and doing whatever is necessary to survive. Sometimes at the cost of a main character's own code of ethics. Sometimes at the cost of others.

And many times, any sense of hope has long since been purged from their minds.

Now don't get me wrong, I love pretty much all Sci-Fi/Fant. Dark, light, happy, sad, I read and watch it all. But there's something about Star Trek, and Voyager in particular, that speaks to me. I like the world where humanity is driven by the love of science and wonderment. I soak up the stories where the brash and bold leader encourages a sense of determiation among her people. And I am inspired by the thought that no matter what the odds, our species can overcome internal and external crises with a sense of pride and honor.

Heck, I want to live in that kind of world.

Granted, Voyager is a work of fiction. A pretend universe with fake characters. It is, after all, just a story.

Then again, imaginary worlds and the make-believe people who populate them are the bread and butter for many writers. We use them as tools to tell our tale. But sometimes, if we're lucky, we touch the lives of our readers. Maybe even influence them in some way.

It certainly was the case for the writers on Stark Trek who believed that our future was one of optimism, not despair. Because of them, I am filled with hope.

For fake worlds and for our real one.


-Josh


Books:

Undead Chaos:




iTunes

Kobo




Summoned Chaos: July 2014

Bio:



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 and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.












*It's been a slow month.

**Or, at least, tied with Picard. Because, come on. It's Picard!






Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Seven Things About My Writing

Posted by: Angela Korra'ti
There was a writing meme going around Facebook not too long ago, and fellow writer and NIWA member M.M. Justus tagged me on it. So since this is a question that deserves longer consideration than I can easily give on a Facebook post, I'm putting this here instead. Here, therefore, is my response to the Seven Things About Your Writing Meme, courtesy of answering questions from a couple friends, readers, and fellow writers, as well as some hopefully interesting general commentary!

1. First and foremost, from Nienna on Facebook:
"What drew you toward fantasy as a genre in which to write?"
An excellent question to get this started. I discovered pretty early on that fairy tales are awesome, and likewise, science fiction and fantasy. My earliest memories of favorite books are ones that involve the fantastic—particularly once I discovered Tolkien in my sixth grade English class.

I also knew pretty early on that I wanted to tell stories. The very first one I ever wrote was when I was about eight, about a girl who got spirited away by leprechauns to be their queen for a day. Even at age eight, I knew I wanted to write about the supernatural.

2. Related to the previous item: I do not plan to restrict myself to fantasy, epic, urban, or otherwise. At least two of my current works in progress are science fiction.

I've occasionally considered whether I'll ever write a romance novel, as well. This has come up my scale of probability after regularly interacting with romance novelists, as well as developing a much clearer idea of my own tastes in the genre. It's certainly possible that at some point I might write something that tilts harder into science fiction romance or fantasy romance than I currently do.

For now, though, I'm sticking with fantasy and SF, with a strong side helping of love story. Or, as they say in the parlance, "SF/F with romantic elements".

Next, a two-fer from my friend and reader Pauline!

3. First, Pauline wanted to know about the motivations and inspiration for the Warder universe—not how the first two books are set in Seattle, but rather, how I decided to make everything fit together the way it does.

The overall structure of the universe is pretty easy to trace through my own reading habits. There are Sidhe because I've always loved elves and stories about them. There are Warders because they are the main way I'm giving human characters a chance at holding their own against non-human characters, in magical terms—and because a lot of people relate better to human characters than they do to non-human ones.

Kendis is a heroine of color because a) I wanted to do my own small part to contributing to getting people of color into protagonist positions, and b) I love Elfquest, and I loved how an entire tribe of elves in that comic are dark-skinned.

Kendis and Christopher being a multi-racial couple—in more ways than one—is directly traceable to my love of Tolkien, and how the "elf female, human male" pairings Tolkien sets up are amongst my favorite parts of his lore. I.e., Luthien and Beren, and Arwen and Aragorn. (I was always rather disappointed that Idril and Tuor didn’t get nearly as developed a story—or so it's always seemed to me on prior readings of The Silmarillion. A reread may be called for!)

The Warders being magically constrained to never leave the cities they protect draws a lot on old myths about kings having to sacrifice themselves for the good of their lands—something which Christopher directly references in Faerie Blood. But I’ll also cheerfully own up to some connection to my favorite line of the Genie’s in Disney’s Aladdin:



4. Pauline also asks:
"How do you manage to keep your various multiverses encapsulated into their own works without having bleed through?"
To date, at least with my published stuff, this hasn't been much of a problem. It helps that the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy is set in its own world, while the Free Court of Seattle is set in the world that's ostensibly our own.

Admittedly, both of these series have elves, so I've run into a couple of challenges making sure that elf names in one don't sound too much like elf names in the other. Fortunately, my editor at Carina helped me intercept some of the early drafts of character names in the Rebels of Adalonia books, and advised me to change them. This helped them not be too obviously similar to the names in the Free Court of Seattle books.

Once I finally release Queen of Souls, that'll be a bit more of a challenge as well since that's also a story set in the Seattle area. It's probably not the same universe as the Warder universe, though. I'm pretty damn sure that Millicent would have noticed if Greek gods crossed the Wards of Seattle!

(But don't hold me to that. I may change my mind once I start editing Queen of Souls in earnest.)

As to other things I do to keep my universes separate, it also helps to keep copious notes on my worldbuilding, so that I can have things available to cross-check as necessary.

5. Some writers periodically get asked what tools they use, so for general reference, I'll note mine here.

I do the vast majority of my writing in Mac Word 2008 on my laptop. And I am aware that there are more recent versions of Office—but I hate the ribbon in later versions of the software, and Mac Word 2008 was the last ribbon-free version. So I haven't bothered to update from there. Word 2008 still does the job, after all.

If I’m trying to write on one of my mobile devices, I turn to Docs To Go, an app I have installed on both my iPad and iPhone. Docs To Go talks Office format, and lets me save stuff out to Dropbox as long as I have wifi handy.

If I'm taking world building or outline notes, I fire up TextEdit on OS X and save out my stuff to straight text files. What kinds of notes I usually take: one file per character for character sketches (often in similar structures to how I used to apply to play feature characters on MUSHes, when I had to write character applications for them), and one file pertaining to the story outline. I'll often also do files on specific other topics, such as Language, Technology, Cast Lists, Culture Notes, and such. I've got plenty of data I could use to whip up a wiki about the universes I write, if I so chose.

6. From friend and reader Cynthia:
"You should talk some about how your first book needed words (mostly adverbs) cut, rather than added. In particular, finding the right words, and the right sentence structure to convey your vision, rather than as many words as possible."
Ooh, good call. Funny story: the original draft of the book that eventually turned into Valor of the Healer clocked in at a whomping 167,000 words. This is because when I wrote that draft, I was coming out of a long history of roleplaying on MUSHes, and that had a big impact on how I worded things at the time. I was used to having to juggle multiple characters at once in a scene, and verbosity was my superpower. In one scene I was starting on a game, one in which my wife was also participating, she took one look at my opening pose and promptly announced that she would be responding in poses of three words each.

Verbosity is still my superpower. However, after sending five novels through editing cycles, particularly the ones I have with Carina Press, I’ve learned how to tighten things up considerably. I lay this squarely at the feet of my awesome Carina editor, and will now call out a few of the things I've learned from her:

  • In an action scene, do not use semi-colons. They drag down the pace.
  • Don't get overly fancy with your dialogue tags. Yes, it's a nice change of pace every so often to use a verb besides “said”. But on the other hand, while “said” is usually invisible, you also don't need to use that nearly as much as you think you do. You can leave out dialogue tags entirely if it's clear in any given paragraph who's speaking.
  • For the love of all that's holy, lay off the adverbs. Yes, even that one you think is critical.
  • I have a really bad habit of saying things like "Kendis felt the prickle of magic along her skin", as opposed to the much tighter "Magic prickled along Kendis’ skin". I look out for wording like that whenever I do an edit pass through my own stuff.
  • I'm usually pretty solid on both spelling and grammar, but I'm not infallible. One of my biggest offenses is swapping an incorrect—but correctly spelled, mind you—word for the word I actually meant. Another is when I leave out a word that I thought was actually there, because my brain got ahead of my fingers. Neither of these get flagged by spellcheckers. Which is why beta readers, my children, are your friends.
  • I will grudgingly put up with style guides if I'm working with a specific publisher, but if left to my own devices, I will not give up my Oxford comma. And I will STET the hell out of any suggestions that I should.
For general reference, Valor of the Healer's final word count was about 118,000. I lost over 50,000 words between the first draft and the last. That's an entire Nanowrimo right there, people.


7. Last but not least, fellow NIWA member Lee French wants to know:
"How do you manage to be so awesome without hurting yourself?"
There's really only one way I can answer that.




I think it's safe to say that Mal Reynolds will never abuse his adverbs.

--
Angela writes as both as Angela Korra'ti and Angela Highland, and you can find her on angelahighland.com, Facebook, and Twitter. She is also, as you might guess, a devout Browncoat.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Getting lost in a good book

Posted by: Kathleen Collins
I've been reading more lately than I have in a long time. I usually find excuses as to why I should be doing something else, but the truth is that a good book revitalizes me. It helps my own creativity flow better and just in general relaxes me.

I read across multiple genres, being drawn in more by a good story and enticing characters than by the world or time they occur in. Just this week I've read a couple of eroticas, a contemporary romance, an historical romance and part of a fantasy. I tend not to read in whatever genre I'm currently writing, so I've got several urban fantasy and paranormal books sitting on the back burner waiting for me to finish this book and start on the next project I have in mind.

I was always that kid that had her nose in a book. I annoyed my friends on more than one occasion by sitting under a tree on the playground to finish whatever tale I'd started reading instead of playing with them. I'm still that way to some extent when we go camping or to the lake, I've always got at least one book on my person.

One of my favorite things is to get so completely immersed in a book that I lose track of time, that I can't stand to put it down because I have to know what happens to the characters. Even if I know they'll get their happily ever after, I have to know how they get there. And absolutely nothing makes me happier than someone writing to tell me they were up until the wee hours reading my book because they couldn't put it down or telling me they have book hangover because the story's over.

So what are your favorite books to get lost in? What author's always seem to suck you in and leave you wanting more?

****
Kathleen Collins is author of the Realm Walker series. She is currently at work on the next book and can be found at her website or, more commonly, on facebook

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Declaration of Indie-pendence

Posted by: Shawna Reppert


For some reason, significant events in my life always seem to happen to me on the pagan high holidays.  My divorce was finalized on Samhain, 2002.  My beloved wolf died on the Winter Solstice of the same year.  And this year, Beltane marked the end of my relationship with my last publisher and my transition from a hybrid author to full-on indie.

On one level, it was an easy decision to make.  I won’t name the publisher out of professionalism, other than to say that it wasn’t Carina.  I feel that has to be stated, since this is a group blog of current and former Carina authors.  My experience with Carina was a good one and I might still be with them if we could have come to an agreement on my next project after my debut with The Stolen Luck.  My relationship with Unnamed Small Press started out bad and got worse.  They saddled me with an editor that didn’t understand the basics of POV, let alone the use of deep POV in modern fiction.  She made changes that seemed to be simply arbitrary.   (‘The horse nickered’ as opposed to ‘the horse whickered.’) She made suggestions that reminded me of the sort of mistakes that rookie critique groups make, like wanting to move all the backstory to the first chapter, preferably the first paragraph.  She made errors that were just bizarre, like wanting to change ‘the tea was chamomile’ to ‘the tea was chamomiles’. 

‘Stet’ means reject the proposed change and let stand as is.  I ‘stet’-ed more changes on this manuscript than I have in my last three books combined.  By a generous margin.  And that’s even with me swallowing and accepting minor changes I didn’t like just to keep the peace.

Lest I come off as an uneditable prima donna, I got along great with both my editor with Carina and the indie editor I hired for the Ravensblood series, and both praised me for being easy to work with.

In the midst of all this, the cover came in.  Now, you have to realize that, like The Stolen Luck, Where Light Meets Shadow is more fantasy than romance.  I joked that it had three times the sex of The Stolen Luck, meaning it had three sex scenes.   And I don’t write graphic sex scenes.  There is no naming of the parts.  I personally find you can raise the temperature a few degrees by well-written prose, by careful use of slow build-up, and by involving the readers in the character’s emotions.  The Stolen Luck was a book that my sixty-year-old Catholic dressage instructor described as very tasteful,  and that my friends’ straight teenage sons found readable, while still being deemed ‘squee-worthy’ by habitual readers of male/male fantasy romance, so I must have done something right.

Not that I have anything against erotica.  It’s just not what I write.

So having waist-up shots of mostly naked elves is not a good idea for a cover for this book.  It promises the reader a lot more sex than they’re going to find between the covers, and reader disappointment leads to bad word-of-mouth leads to bad sales.  And, given that this is very much high fantasy, why in the world does the blond elf’s hair look like David Bowie in Labyrinth?  And what’s with the tribal jewelry?  And what’s that on the dark-haired elf’s wrist?  Oh, sweet gods, a friendship bracelet?!?

Do I even need to mention the tinted lip gloss, or the fact that apparently these elves had discovered peroxide because the blond elf’s eyebrows didn’t match his hair.

I showed it to a friend, hoping to have her tell me it wasn’t as bad as I thought. 

The first words out of her mouth were “Oh, sweetie.  I’m so sorry.”  

And then she went out to the kitchen and came back with a bottle of Jameson’s and a shot glass, and set them in front of me.

I considered breaking the contract then and there.  But lots of writers have been stuck with crappy covers, and have lived to tell about it.

So I soldiered on, muttering about how I could do a better cover for myself.  And dredged my way through more incompetent edits from an editor apparently not sophisticated enough to recognize sarcasm and irony in dialogue.  Those of you who have read my fiction will understand how much of a strain this put on our working relationship.  

By this point, I had given up writing essays on modern fiction techniques in the margins and simply started sending her grammar links and recommendations for books on fiction writing. 

Now, Mary Rosenblum, the editor I use for my Ravensblood series, doesn’t come cheap, (although she’s worth every penny three times over, and more.)  But I quickly realized that the copyeditor I use, a friend who works for rum, is a better editor than the idiot the publisher saddled with me.  And for certain I could come up with a better cover even if I had to do it myself.  This was the point when I decided that the next novel I had planned for the genre was going to be indie, but I was still committed to seeing the contract through.

And then I got the galleys.

For those of you who are not from the publishing the world, the galleys are basically ‘this is the book as we intend to publish it.  Look it over and see if you find any typos we missed.’  The galleys are supposed to be as close to perfect as any human endeavor can be.

These galleys had clearly not been proofed, or even copyedited.  There were multiple, glaring formatting errors and far more typos resulting from the editing process than should be at this stage.

Worst of all, the editor had ignored many of my stets, without warning or discussion, causing POV violations and weakening my dialogue.  And she had made several large edits that had not appeared in the line-edit stage, editing in errors that a grade-schooler would have been ashamed of.

At this point, I wanted to walk.  But I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I was a professional, and sent her a carefully worded email.

I got back a snotty reply that she was going to do what she wanted and that, if I refused to comply with the changes, Unnamed Small Press would either delay publication or else refuse to publish and declare the contract forfeit.

At that point, I had no choice but to walk.  I could not let my work be butchered, and especially I could not let my name be associated with such shoddy work.

I won’t bore you with the flurry of emails back and forth, the negotiation and the posturing.  The point is, I got me rights back, restored my manuscript, and sent it and a bottle of rum off to my friend for editing.  I have another friend working on the cover.  The indie release date is set for August 8th.

It’s funny, though.  I have every confidence that the book I put out will be a far, far better product than what would have come out of that publishing house.  Certainly, it will be more profitable for me, as I am no longer giving up the lion’s share of my profits to people who were going to make my book less salable, not more.
And yet, there’s still that tiny voice that says that real writers have publishers.  That tiny voice came out of the publishing world I grew up in as a writer, and is encouraged by publishers who want biddable writers who feel that they have no choice but to let the publishing house work its will on their words.

Now, I’m not against traditional publishing per se.  If New York comes calling, I’d certainly entertain their offers.  But let me tell you, it had better be a damned good advance and publicity package to tempt me into the stress of book serfdom once again.  And any editor who takes me on had best remember that I expect quality, I expect fairness, and I know that I have a choice.

Read my blog and find out more about my books at www.Shawna-Reppert.com

Also look for Where Light Meets Shadow available on Amazon August 8th!



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?


 











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