Monday, January 31, 2011

When in the Old West…

Posted by: Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka

A funny thing happened on the way to publication of my upcoming steampunk/alt-history romance Badlands. The biggest one? It actually became a steampunk/alt-history novella.

When I first envisioned it, the story was a space western. Somewhere I still have all the initial background for the planets and the history and the politics. Then I started writing, and I discovered that I made the “world” too big. My crew had to hit multiple planets for the storyline to work and I never felt like I did any of them justice. Plus I felt my characters got lost in the shuffle.

So I shelved it.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I loved the basic storyline, and how much I loved Ever (the heroine). So after letting it sit for a couple months, I decided to take another crack at the story…as a steampunk. When I made the shift, I didn’t realize quite how much would have to change as a result.

The setting was a given, and it was the most simple change. I knew where Ever was going to come from and quickly figured out how to make the society similar to how I had originally envisioned it (with minor tweaks). But in order for that to work, I had to re-examine the political arena. As soon as I realized that America needed to be divided in more significant ways, that moved along smoothly.

So…the big stuff was easy enough. Then I tried to start writing. I never considered changing Ever’s name or appearance. The name fit her too well and I didn’t want every woman in this world to wear corsets and bustle skirts. I wanted her as wild and untamed as the land she grew up in. And since it was a new nation with its own societal rules, I could get away with it.

Not so with everyone else. Not only did I have to severely trim my character list (certain roles no longer made sense on a dirigible instead of a spaceship), but all of them needed new names too. So out went all my cool, wacky, original names, and out came websites with 19th century monikers. As an author who has an obsession with names fitting characters, this was a big challenge since in my mind all of them fit their old names (in fact one I still think of as “Stone”).

Names took up far more time than they should have…and then I realized the gender of a key character had to change as it wouldn’t work historically to have them as female. It was a major *head-desk* moment. And then I had to think about fashion and character histories that actually, you know, fit history (I was changing many things but still wanted it to feel familiar to readers).

In the end, the story still dictated everything. I just had to work around the genre and time period a bit. It makes me wonder though, how many readers would have cringed at anachronistic names (particularly for the men: Brendan and Stone)? Would a female in a position of power in the late 19th century US have made you roll your eyes and throw the book?

As the author, it mattered to me, but basically, how much does this stuff matter to a reader?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pillow Talk

Posted by: Keri Stevens
(In bedroom a few weeks ago. Keri Stevens takes fluffy feather pillow from under Dr. Stevens's head.)KS: Gimme that. I've had a long day.

Dr. S: You? What did you do?

KS: I dragged your son and his broken ankle to two different doctors, a radiology lab and two pharmacies to get crutches.

Dr. S: (snatches pillow back and shoves over thin, threadbare, lumpy foam pillow) Well, I worked on two review articles and spent three hours staring at the microscopy results.

KS: You need me to copyedit yet? (sticks thin pillow between her knees, rolls to side)

Dr. S: Not yet. But you're a writer. (yawns). Ghost for me.

KS: Sure. You at the third sex scene yet?

Dr. S: (spooning, freezes still) The what?

KS: The resolution sex. They've got it almost figured out now. Less conflict, more fire.

Dr. S: Um. Yeah. The mossy-fiber boutons have found their place in the hippocampus.

KS: (rolls onto back, elbows him away because the room is stuffy). Good. What about the grand gesture?

Dr. S: Huh?

KS: What sacrifice will the high-fiber buttons make to ensure the hippie campers live happily ever after?

Dr. S (yawns, rolls away)...trek-bee...neuropeptide excitability...GABA...

KS: (sits up, excited) That's it! Gabba-Gabba-Hey! We'll use Ramones music as a thematic element. This'll be the best Neuron paper any scientist has ever published.

Dr. S: (snores)

KS: (Slowly tugs fluffy pillow out from under his head.)

Note: Thanks, Tia, for letting me jump in with an old favorite from my personal blog. Hope you're feeling better soon!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh My Gods

Posted by: Marie Harte
Oh my gods. I can't tell you how many books I've read where the characters subscribe to polytheism--the belief in more than one god. Having grown up on Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, the original (and terrific) Clash of the Titans, and on the fringes of a Dungeons & Dragons crowd, which is steeped in different mythologies, I've always been drawn to the concept of belief and gods.
For me, escaping into ancient stories of Greek, Roman, and Norse deities was the only way to spend a decent hour in study hall, considering the library never seemed to carry the romances I wanted to read. Ancient civilizations always had a story to explain certain truths. Want to know why the seasons change? Ask Hades or Persephone, who has to spend 6 months of every year in the underworld. Ever wondered about the sun? Ask Sol, Helios, or Apollo. That lightning that strikes during a thunderstorm? Thank Odin, the father of the Norse gods.
Too bad I wasn’t the first one to combine mythology and romance, because it’s a terrific combination. The first story I read that revolved around gods and men was written by Sherrilyn Kenyon in one of her Dark Hunter books. Terrific fun and totally up my alley. Since then, there have been dozens upon dozens of books incorporating ancient gods into tales of love and adventure.
One group of gods that, in my opinion, hasn’t gotten much attention, are the Norse. Sure, they’re great when you want to talk Vikings or Valkyries (female warriors of Odin), but where the heck is Balder, Frigg, or Heimdall? How about the Vanir? We always hear about the Aesir—the warrior gods. But the Vanir, the fertility gods, lend themselves better to romance considering they’re all about propagation.
Like the Greeks and Romans, the Norse gods have foibles and flaws, much like men. They are jealous, loving, and spiteful. And most importantly, they’re not immortal. The gods come and the gods go, and at the end of the world, a new group of gods will take over for those who die in battle.
I thought I’d share a little bit about Norse mythology, just for fun.
Yggdrasil—the world tree, which connects the nine worlds of existence, separated into three levels
Midgard—where people live on the middle level
Asgard—where some of the gods live on the highest level
Niflheim—the lowest level, covered in ice, where Hel reigns. It’s also where those who don’t die in battle go
Bifrost—the rainbow bridge connecting Asgard to Midgard
Odin—Father of the gods
Frigg—Odin’s wife, Mother of the gods
Sleipnir—Odin’s eight-legged horse
Loki—the son of fire giants, sworn brother to Odin and sometime friend. Known as the Trickster
Sigyn—Loki’s wife, unshakable in her loyalty and fidelity

Angrboda—Loki’s mistress, a Giantess, who gave birth to three monstrous children who will help take the world apart at the end: Fenrir, Jormungand, and Hel
Fenrir—the wolf, Loki’s son
Jormungand—the serpent destined to destroy Thor. He's also Loki's son.
Hel—Loki’s daughter. Her top half is that of a beautiful woman, the bottom that of a rotting corpse. She’s queen of the dead in Niflheim
Thor—Odin’s eldest son, the Thunder god. He carries mjollnir, his famous hammer
Balder—the son of Odin and Frigg, beloved by everyone. Killed by his blind brother due to Loki’s trickery, his death will trigger the end of the world (Ragnarok)
Heimdall—the son of nine maidens, guardian of Bifrost (the rainbow bridge). He is watchman of the gods.
Ragnarok—the Doom of the gods and the end of the worlds as w
e know it.
I could go on and on, but that’s just a snippet of what I worked with when I wrote my story for Carina. I can’t get enough of the gods, and that’s not even the Greeks or Romans. Not to mention all the other cultures out there with fascinating mythology. And now I’d better stop and get to work. Because if I’m not careful, I’ll get swept away by stories of the past.
NOTE: If you’re curious, a great reference is Bulfinch’s Mythology, which covers Greek, Roman, Scandinavian, Oriental, and Celtic mythology.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Location, location, location. . .

Posted by: Evey Brett

Whee! Today is release day for my first Carina Press release, DEMON'S DANCE. Here's the blurb:
Desire roused the demon within him...

Wanting to live freely as a human, half-incubus Tristan flees the Wardens. Broke and starving, he accepts Cory's offer of a paid photo shoot, never dreaming he'd find a man with whom he could be aroused and erotic in his own body without having to submit to his demonic half.

Psychically sensitive Cory didn't meet Tristan by accident; he volunteered to find the beautiful, exotic man for his patron. Cory had never before been able to touch a man without discomfort and soon can't stop, but the hotter the sex gets, the more he can sense the darkness Tristan is trying desperately to escape.

Cory will do anything to keep Tristan safe, even if it means going against both his patron and the Wardens. Cory must learn how to soothe the demon—and to love the man within.

One of the things I've discovered about writing is how important setting can be. The location can add all sorts of fun complications to the plot (like if your hero takes the subway in the wrong direction during an emergency, or a hurricane bears down on the tropical isle he's vacationing on) or it can add to the mood of the story.
The location for this series is San Diego. I lived there for several years and loved it, and one of the activities I enjoyed most was playing outdoors at the beaches (Coronado beach behind the Hotel del Coronado was my favorite) or visiting some of the state parks, such as Cabrillo National Monument.
You've probably heard of Torrey Pines with regards to the famous golf course, but there is also the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. It's a gorgeous place, quiet, peaceful, stunning views and several hiking trails, one of which takes you all the way down the cliffs to the beach. It's a rather fantastical place to set a few scenes of a paranormal romance novel.
Here's one of the namesake Torrey Pines. Looks a bit like a large bonsai tree, but these are special pines that only grow in a couple of places because of the particular climate they need.

And here's the rock where my protagonists--well, I'm sure you can guess what they might get up to when they find themselves alone on a gorgeous beach. . .

And here's the view from the top of the cliffs. How could one not be inspired by such an awesome view?

So now I'm curious--I've shown you one of the places that inspired me. What locations, real or not, have you put in your books, and why? Or what setting have you read about that you will always remember?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I am a Magician

Posted by: Keri Stevens
I am a Magician.

As you read this, I am looking across a room full of virtual strangers. I will speak a two-word invocation—and each and every one of them will go down on all fours and stick their butts in the air.

All week we’ve been debating in this country the power of words. From the role of rhetoric in the tragic shootings near my old grocery store in Tucson, to the role a mother’s words play in crafting her child’s future, we ask, “Is the speaker responsible for how his speech influence the actions of others?”

My first reaction is, "Well, duh. That's the whole POINT of language." My more reasoned, analytical conclusion is still a limited “Yes.”  Sure I’ve been misread. I’ve been misunderstood. I’ve been mistaken (and spread my error like a disease to others). And yet, when I ask someone to please pass me the butter, he generally does.

Language is magic. We use it to change the minds and behaviors of others. We want them to love us. We want them to serve us. We want them to leave us. We want them to fear us.  We want them to pass the butter. We want them to stick their butts in the air.

Words cross time and unfathomable distances—my signature has gone to Mars, but I certainly never will. The wishes of a dead woman written in a will have power and authority far beyond the requests she made when she was alive.

People I’ve never met are emailing me that they’ve begun talking to inanimate objects in their house and yard since they’ve read Stone Kissed (in which the statues talk). Did I anticipate or intend such an effect? No. But I’ve changed their behavior, nevertheless.

In my faith tradition, words go beyond a magic tool or weapon we wield. I’ve been taught, quite simply, “…the word was God.” It doesn’t get much more powerful than that.

So I write romance. If I’m going to put ideas in people’s heads, I want them to be good ones. I want to convince someone (anyone, everyone) we are each worthy of and able to find love, in spite of the most horrible things that happen to us. Love survives and triumphs in the face of everything from abandonment to the zombie apocalypse.

Through romance novels, I sneak into that space just over your left ear and secretly sway you to my way perspective. Through the stealthy application of romantic fiction, I will change the world.

I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Do you?

And can you guess my magic phrase?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Here Be Magic, Indeed!

Posted by: Christine Bell

Today is a super magical week for me for a few reasons. I'm going to list them now, but make sure, even if I'm boring you to tears, you stick around to read #6. It is the most epic, magical giveaway evah! Reasons I'm having a super magical week, in no particular order:

1. I'm flying to Florida tonight for a trip to the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. We LURVE us some Harry Potter in my family, and my hubby and I are as excited as the kids! What's more magical than Harry-friggin-Potter?!

2. My son, Sean, and my husband share a birthday, Jan. 13th, so that's definitely a magical day, and we'll be spending it at Hogwarts!

3. My paranormal erotic romance Naughty Godmother is out today at Ellora's Cave! It's about a Tooth Fairy named Holly Tucket who is up for a big promotion to Naughty Godmother. She meets her charge, Alex, and finds she may have bitten off more than she can chew. It's definitely a sexy bit of magical fun! You can check out the (PG) excerpt here. I am doing a blog tour today with a ton of giveaways, so feel free to stop by my author blog for more details.

4. This one is the best one. So, Sunday afternoon, I found a duffel bag that was empty save three little video tapes. After much searching, I found the old video camera they fit into, hooked it up to the tv (well, hubby did, I can't even change the channel half the time) and pressed play. Lo and behold, the face of my son Sean as a baby filled the screen. For the next two hours, I sat and smiled and cried at his utter and total sweetness. He'll be 15 the day after tomorrow, and although I have pictures, I had no video of him (or so I thought, the memory is pathetic at almost 40). I can't even tell you how much joy I took in hearing his voice at that age and watching him wrap his chubby arms so tight around my neck and laugh that uninhibited laughter. I could have sat there for a week and watched him show me how he could float in the tub and sing itsy bitsy spider. At one point, he's about two in this section, he says "Mommy, is that a cheese camera?" and I say "What do you mean, baby?" and he says "You know, the kind it makes you say cheeeeese!"
It was absolute magic and I am tearing up even now. I am so unbearably grateful I found those tapes.

5. I got my Carina Press cover on Monday for my steampunk romance, The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale, and it is STUNNING, as you can see in the picture above. Just staring at it should hold me until it comes out in the spring.

6. This one is for you all! I AM DOING A SUPER DUPER MAGICAL GIVEAWAY to celebrate my awesomely magical week!

Two prizes will be given away. The first is a copy of my first Ellora's Cave release, Unwrapping Lily, which is getting really great reviews and is the perfect winter read for those of you stuck in the cold whilst I lavish on the beaches of Florida. ;op If you already own Lily, you can choose anything else off my backlist.

The second prize is the one I am SO HOPPED UP about! drumroll please....

A thirty minute psychic reading via telephone with my sister, Nicole!

Now, if she was just any old lame sister, it wouldn't be a cool prize. But my sister is actually a practicing, professional psychic, reiki master and artist and she can intuit her ass off, so whoever wins can expect to have their mind BLOWN!

Here's how you enter: Leave a comment here between now and Thursday night, 9pm EST, and follow this blog. If you do not want to be considered for the psychic reading, just note on your comment "book only". Then, blammo! You're entered into the contest. Make sure to check back tomorrow here and see if you won. I'll get your email info, and send one person the book and the other my sister's phone number for the reading (you just have to promise not to write it on the men's room wall at your local bar. Actually, she might be okay with that. Lemme check with her...)

So tell me, bloggy friends, have you ever had a week (or even a day) that is just so sublime, you feel like it was sprinkled with fairy dust?

Monday, January 10, 2011

What makes a good heroine for you?

Posted by: Julia Knight
I love a good heroine, don't you?

Of course, writing one is easier said than done. Especially as what makes a good heroine is so personal to each reader and it's so easy to do one wrong thing and then *poof* there goes the reader's sympathy.

I've had a few different types myself - the young, trying to find out what it's all about, Alfie, heroine, the older I'll use my wiles to get what I want heroine and a I won't be told, damn you heroine. My latest heroine is my favourite though. Josie is--well she's a lot of things; smart, sassy, sexy, hard to catch and a danger to anyone who crosses her. She was also a complete blast to write.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about where I got my ideas for heroines, my influences. I can remember the first female character that really made an impression on me. Servalan. Which may seem a little odd because she was actually the Bad Guy, er, Girl. Supreme Commander of the Terran Federation no less. Pretty impressive for the Seventies. What impressed me most at that tender age was that she wasn't just the Bad Girl - she did what she wanted, when she wanted to, and she had fun doing it. Blake's 7 was pretty good to its female characters. Jenna was second for me-smuggler and one of the best space pilots in the galaxy, she had a cool head in a crisis and in fact the only one who could fly the ship when the computer conked out. Dayna was a weapons expert and famous dissident, and sexy as hell.

In fact the whole series made a big impression on me (not just that it gave me my love of snarky anti-heroes in Avon *swoon*) despite the wobbly sets and shabby special effects. I grew up watching these women, seeing that they were as capable (or more so sometimes) than the men, but were still sexy. I think it's safe to say that those women helped shape who I am, because all of a sudden it seemed possible for women to be like that in real life too. It never occurred to me to be anything else.

So, who were your heroines growing up? What influence did they have on you?

Julia Knight writes fantasy with excitement, adventure and dollops of romance. Her latest release, Ten Ruby Trick, is out today from Carina, and is a tale of pirates, magic and mayhem. You can find out more about Julia here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Series Fatigue

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart
I still remember the day when I was first introduced to Robert Jordan, author of the phenomenal Wheel of Time series now continued by Brandon Sanderson since RJ's passing. It was Christmas 1991 in College Station, TX. A friend asked me to go to the mall with her so she could pick up the latest Jordan book. I was a heavy duty reader myself, but I was stunned when she paid hardcover price. Until then, I couldn't remember ever buying hardcover. I mean, we were poor college students working as Teaching Assistants for $10k/year. I didn't have money for hardcover!

But she insisted he was worth it. To prove it to me, she lent me her copies of the first three books in the series.

Within a few days, I was back at that bookstore myself, buying my first hardcover.

Now the end of Jordan's great series is almost here. The last book is supposed to come out late this year, all of them heavy, meaty fantasy tomes. Once upon a time, I read the ENTIRE series again before his latest book was released - and then usually read them AGAIN after reading the latest to tie all the events and people together. [I did this through book seven, can you believe it?!?] I even had a notebook at one time for notes because I was trying to figure out who the Forsaken were in the Tower.

I look back now and I can only laugh at myself. I still love the series, definitely, and I can't wait for the whole journey to be complete -- but I don't read long meaty series like that any longer. Maybe I'm just getting old -- or I'm busy with children, a full-time job, not to mention this writing gig. But I can't remember characters and events. They blend together into the dreamscape in my mind, even getting confused with my own stories and other authors' until it's a wonderfully convoluted mess.

[I was discussing Legend of the Black Scorpion the other day on Twitter and guessing about who killed a major character at the end of the movie. I was sure it was this one guy -- and felt like a complete fool when my friend pointed out that the same guy had died in the previous scene. Oops. In *my* version he was still alive!]

I can't keep up any longer. I haven't read Jordan since book 10. I haven't read George RR Martin since book 3 of his latest trilogy. I quit reading Kim Harrison's series around book 3 or 4 too. I loved the stories....I just couldn't. Keep. Reading. I couldn't remember what happened in book 1. The characters got mixed up. Sigh. So I've sworn to wait until the last book comes out -- and then I'll read the series straight through one last time.

I guess I have series fatigue. So tell me, am I alone in dreading the heft of book 17 in an neverending series? Can you recommend a fantastic standalone fantasy that doesn't take years and years to release?

For me, I've loved Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana and Sharon Shinn's Summers at Castle Auburn.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Feeding the Imagination

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
“Where do you get your inspiration?”

It’s a question that triggers sarcastic responses from many a writer.

Well, dear. I walk down the garden, dip in the well, fish out the odd newt and what’s left, I throw at the computer.

But it’s a valid question. Where do ideas come from? And is there a secret to generating them?

I think there is.

I think ideas come from engagement with life. I’m a cowardly introvert, so when I talk about engaging with life I’m not advocating loud parties, bungee jumping and introducing yourself to ten strangers a day. I’m talking about making a mental shift from “observer” status to “interrogator”.

Liberate your inner toddler and ask “Why?”

“Why is that woman smiling although her shoe is caught in a stormwater grate?”
“Why do ants wave their antennas?”
“Why is this painting blue with pink polka dots? Why dots?”

Forget the old aphorism, “curiosity killed the cat”. Curiosity is vital to inspiration. Cultivate it, then let it loose on a range of inputs.

Because this is the bottomline: You have to feed your imagination.

Books, paintings, music, people, blogs, movies, changes of scene, food, moods, new skills.

Of course, your enemy here is time and all the demands competing to eat yours up. I cheat and use the internet to broaden my mental horizons with quick, shallow brushstrokes. When something interests me, then I delve deeper.

Inspiration doesn’t require you to be an expert, but it does require curiosity.

If you’re curious, I recommend:

Tumblr. My personal page of favourite images is here.

I also have a copy of my latest paranormal romance novella, Angel Thief, to give away. If you’d like an angel and sexy djinni in your life, leave a comment and I’ll draw a random winner in a week’s time. 

So, where do you get your inspiration?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Paranormal - Do You Believe?

Posted by: Janni Nell

People often ask me whether I believe in the paranormal. The answer is yes and no. Let me explain.

I write about mythical creatures and, much as I’d like to believe in fairies, mermaids etc, I don’t really think they exist. Mind you I’d be happy to be proved wrong.

As for ghosts, I’m not sure. Certainly there are places that feel haunted. I once stayed in an old hotel that had a strange atmosphere. Later I learned that several workers had been killed during construction of the building. Then there’s Port Arthur, an old penal settlement in Tasmania. Some of the former cells have a seriously creepy atmosphere as does the school house.

But the paranormal isn’t limited to ghosts and mythical creatures. I’m very open to believing in things like telepathy and clairvoyance. My grandmother-in-law had premonitions. Like the time she knew her daughter was going to have a horse-riding accident and begged her not to ride that day. How often do teenage girls listen to their mothers? Yep, daughter was thrown. Luckily her injuries weren’t too serious.

And then there was the time my grandmother-in-law entered hospital for a routine operation. She was fit and much too young to die but she predicted she would die while in hospital. She survived the operation but afterward she got an infection and passed away.

My husband has inherited her ability to some degree. If ever he gets a “gut feeling” about anything. I take notice. He’s usually right.

Have you had any paranormal experiences? I’d love to hear about them.

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