Saturday, April 30, 2011

Winner of Steampunk Week Prize Pack

Posted by: Christine Bell
The winner of our fabulous steampunk prize pack is....


Thanks so much everyone for commenting and making Steampunk Week such a great success!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Journeyman's Ride

Posted by: Marie Harte
JOURNEYMAN'S RIDE is here at Carina, and as we wrap up Steampunk week, I'd like to remind you that you still have today to get in on the contest. Note the prize pack picture to the right.

So take a look at my erotic contribution to the genre. :)

Blurb: Miranda is duty-bound to journey across the Damned Plains to rescue the Princess of York from ruination. Her selfish cousin doesn't deserve her help, but the mission offers an opportunity to escape the smothering confines of life as an indentured companion to a spoiled princess.

Danner is a journeyman, a traveler with an extraordinary gift: the ability to withstand the deadly lightning bolts sent by moody gods. Drawn by her lush beauty, he agrees to guide Miranda across the Plains if she'll let him explore her body each night.

They face danger—blood ravens, cannibals, mechanical spyders—but Danner never anticipated that the bigger risk would be from Miranda and the things she makes him feel. A journeyman's life doesn't lend itself to commitment, but if they can rescue the princess and make it out of the Plains without getting zapped or eaten, Danner might have to make an exception for one amazing woman. If she'll have him.

EXCERPT: A blood raven cackled above them, swirling overhead with sickening laughter. The thing Tina held could only have come from one place, accessible only by those like him. Danner prayed the damn thing would refuse to work as Tina caressed the tiny buttons.

Instead, it spoke to her, the odd tin of artifice there in the metallic cadence of its voice. “Welcome, User. Accessing network…”

Danner knew the kid didn’t have a prayer of making it back inside without his help. Playing with the forbidden gadgets pissed off the gods even better than he did. And Vi, the least patient of them all, loved nothing better than an excuse to screw with him, which was why the bastard had left this thing in the little girl’s favorite play spot. Danner liked Tina, and the asshole above knew it.

He sighed. “Grab her and go. I’ll hold it back.” So much for his recent pretense as a guide hard on his luck seeking a home.

Another godbolt struck near enough to let Danner feel the spark of energy wash over his skin. So much pain. So much pleasure…

Parker fiddled with a geared apparatus on his belt. “It’s suicide. No. I’ll attract the lightning with my charger. Just save Tina.”

“Go on, I said,” Danner raised his voice and glared at Parker with eyes that had seen what no normal human ever would.

Parker gasped, but he didn’t argue again, too focused on getting his daughter to safety. He picked up the little girl and tossed the small device she’d been holding far into the woods, where it exploded under a searing shock of purple lightning. He ran back into the covered shelter of the pressroom, leaving Danner alone to do what he did best.

He yelled at the nightmare in the sky, “Damn it, Vi, cut that shit out!”

As if in answer, a neon bolt struck him between the eyes and coursed through his blood like an overeager parasite. It feasted on Danner. The power behind Vi’s temper set his blood afire, burning him from the inside out. His bones melted, his blood boiled, and just when he thought this time would be the last, the unendurable agony of the godbolt receded.

Streaks of pleasure soothed the hurt. Shards of ecstasy pierced his brain and fused the whole of him together, making him so much more, a part of everything and everyone. No more loneliness, only the acceptance and utter joy of being. The need to create stirred, and his entire body lit up with emotional and carnal rapture.

The raw static heated his veins and gave him one hell of a high.

“Oh yeah. Go on, give me whatcha got.”

Three more godbolts sizzled through his scalp and jolted every muscle, bone and cell in his body. But at this point, the painful bite of godly displeasure couldn’t touch the bliss crowding his senses. A distant part of him knew he’d be thoroughly screwed once everyone witnessed what happened. Parker would never keep his mouth shut. The others in town would be all over him with prayers, demands, desperation…

Dammit. He’d have to move on.

A hiss of steam split the sudden silence and warned of a new arrival. Terrific. Some dumbass conductor who didn’t know better than to stop the locomotive during a godstorm had condemned his passengers to death.

Yep. There it went. A massive bolt sizzling through the blackened sky veered from its course toward Danner and hit the train instead. The locomotive radiated enough energy to knock Danner down. A white web of storm snaked around the black, snorting beast made of iron and steel. As the web of blazing light faded, the train stopped hissing steam and leaked rust-colored tears.

Danner slowly rose and took a few wobbly steps forward. He tried to lose the stupid ass grin he could feel stretching his face. The damned burn was so good. So thick and greedy that his cock rose thanks to the pleasure leeching his common sense.

From the direction of the locomotive, the stench of smoldering flesh and fried intestines filled the air, which wasn’t that pleasant on a good day, and he started to come down.

With the rush of storm suddenly over, Endville’s residents poured across the town by the dozens, skittering around and past him toward the train like sand fleas. They pulled one or two passengers free, but from all the crying and goings-on, he fully expected the need to organize a burial detail. Trying to figure out who would take charge of it, Parker or the mayor, Danner tried to gather his wits and glanced around. Already folks looked at him different, full of expectation and trust.

Crazy Lettie knelt in front of the statue again, glancing from it to him, praying and smiling. Several folks tossed their meager bits of gold at his feet and then raced away. And then Big Al, a huge bastard with a chip on his shoulder a mountain wide for anyone not born in this hellhole, nodded and tipped his hat in respect.

Shee-it. Time to go.

Danner took a step back and froze as a tall female exited the train, looking as if she’d just stepped out of an airship, untouched, unfazed. Those around her gave her a wide berth and glanced back at the statue in the middle of town. Was she godsent, or just the luckiest passenger on the locomotive?

The woman wore jet-black pants tucked into black preacher boots, a leather town coat and a slouch hat that looked a size too large for her, but which effectively shielded her eyes. She started walking in his direction.

Dopey from the energy he’d already consumed and trying hard to regain sobriety, Danner teetered on his feet and sought to catch his breath.

She stopped a few meters from him and stared, her gaze lingering on the small jagged scar in the shape of a bolt that bisected his left eyebrow. “Might you be Mister Danner?” she asked, her voice low, husky, as if the lightning had aroused her too.


“Then you’re the man I’m looking for.”

Link to Carina | Link to Amazon | Link to website

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Alchemy of Desire

Posted by: Cindy Spencer Pape

Here's a taste of another of this week's Steampunk Week books:

Alchemy of Desire 
by Christa McHugh

After winning the Civil War against the Confederate Wielders, the Union Machinists have outlawed magic to usher in a new age of steam-powered technology. Diah, an alchemist and the only non-wielder in his family, owes his brother for saving his life in the war; so when Cager is blackmailed into procuring the magical hide of the White Buffalo, Diah accompanies him to the Dakota territory.

Their guide is Oni, a half-Lakota woman with plenty of secrets to hide. She's a magic wielder with an illegal wand concealed in her knife—and she's a coyote shifter. To her people, killing the White Buffalo is not only sacrilege, it's dangerous. Oni has no intention of helping them actually achieve their mission—until she falls in love with Diah...

Diah pressed his hand against her shoulder and turned her away from the fire. “I’m going to teach Oni how to shoot a gun before it gets too dark. I don’t want her being out here without knowing how to handle one.”

Oni opened her mouth to tell him she was more than familiar with a rifle, but surely he’d know that. After all, she’d been roaming these plains alone for over a decade. Just because she didn’t own a gun now didn’t mean she couldn’t handle one. On the other hand, she wouldn’t mind some alone time with Diah. Maybe she could change his mind about what he should and shouldn’t do with her.

He led her to a spot far enough away from the camp that the fire became a distant flicker. “Hold this.” He gave her the rifle and placed a rock on a prairie dog hill about a hundred paces away.

“Let’s see if you can hit that. Or at least get close to it.”

Her lips twitched in silent laughter. She’d done this drill hundreds of time, but never with an instructor like him. “Sounds good to me.”

Diah stood behind her. “Let me show you how to hold the rifle.”

Oni kept silent as he wrapped his arms around hers and guided the rifle up to her right shoulder. If he got much closer, she might forget where she was and accidentally fire the gun before she was supposed to.

“The first thing to do is make sure the butt of the rifle sits squarely in the pocket of your shoulder.”

His breath tickled her ear, and her trousers grew damp. “I thought I would want to make sure the rifle was loaded.” She looked back to him with a teasing smile.

“Good point. Just to let you know, I always keep my rifle loaded.”

“I bet you do.”

Diah drew in a sharp breath after he caught the innuendo. Then he chuckled softly. “Let’s finish the lesson before it gets too dark to see the target.”

“If you insist.” She faced forward and waited for his next set of instructions.

“Put your right hand here near the trigger.” His hand guided hers there and covered it. “Your left hand needs to be on the barrel, like this.”

She barely listened to him. The way his broad shoulders completely encircled her distracted her from his lesson.

“Lean your cheek against the stock so you can see down the gun at your target.”

Her forehead brushed against his jaw as she followed his instructions. Her heart raced. It was torture to be this close to him and not feel his lips on hers.

“Once you have your target in sight, control your breathing. You want to be totally relaxed before you pull the trigger, or the recoil will hurt. Inhale and slowly exhale.”

She tried to breathe in and out like he suggested, but the air refused to flow properly. With him nearby, she could only manage shallow breaths.

“Oni, why aren’t you relaxing? Are you scared of the gun?”

“No, I…” She lifted her cheek off the stock and turned to him. His lips were inches from hers and she couldn’t resist them anymore.

His muscles tensed as she kissed him, and she wondered if she had made a mistake. When she tried to back away, he cupped her cheek and steered her face back to his. Now it was his turn to kiss her. The heat of it almost caused her to drop the rifle. His tongue filled her mouth, teasing the recesses and pulling back to trace the edge of her lips.

She sighed as his other hand slid along her back and cradled her buttocks, pulling her closer. There was no hiding the evidence of his desire. She rubbed against the growing bulge in his pants and he moaned. His kiss became more urgent, more needful, more selfish.

Then someone cleared his throat behind them.

Diah broke away, and Oni whirled around to see Cager standing a few feet away with his arms crossed and a very amused expression on his face. “Were you teaching her how to shoot a rifle or how to handle another type of loaded weapon?”

Her gaze fell on the erection that strained against the buttons of Diah’s trousers. What she wouldn’t give to have that inside her right now. Instead, Cager’s interruption had ruined the moment. Homicidal thoughts flittered through her mind. Her grip tightened on the rifle.
Diah ran his hand through his hair. “I was—I mean, we were—”

“It was quite obvious what you were doing, little brother.” His grin grew less playful as he came closer. “Perhaps you should go back, tend to the cooking and leave the shooting lessons to a more skilled marksman.” His gaze focused on her lips.

She’d rather kiss a buffalo than Cager.

The heat of Diah’s temper rolled off him in waves. His hand balled up into a fist and he took a step toward him. “That won’t be necessary.”

Stars above, was there anything they didn’t want to come to blows over? “I think I understand how to shoot a rifle now.” Two sets of blue eyes turned to her and she lifted the rifle to her shoulder. As she exhaled, she squeezed the trigger. The rock on the prairie dog hill flew up into the air.

When Oni looked back, they both wore matching expression of shock. Perhaps there was some sort of family resemblance, after all. She giggled as she returned Diah’s rifle and walked back to the camp. He probably wouldn’t offer her any more shooting lessons in the future, but maybe she could find another reason to get Diah alone.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Photographs and Phantoms

Posted by: Cindy Spencer Pape
When Carina Press asked me to write a novella to be given away free during steampunk week, I was thrilled and enormously honored. I knew it had to tie into my Order of the Round Table from Steam & Sorcery, but I didn't want to skip all the way ahead to when Merrick and Caroline's children are grown. So I decided to bridge the gap with family friend Kendall, Marquess Lake. He's not in book 1, but his grandparents are, and so is Lord Drood, the great-uncle of our heroine, Amy. On the web, I've seen a couple reviewers call it "Gaslight Chronicles book 1.5." That's probably pretty accurate. I do promise, though, you'll get to see glimpses of Caroline, Merrick, and the whole Hadrian clan as well as meet some new characters.

Something else I want to mention. My Gaslight stories are romantic, which seems to have come as a surprise to one or two readers, though I'd thought the blurbs and covers made that pretty clear. They may have SF or Mystery listed as their primary genre, but the romance is at the core of the story. So here's a little something steamy from Photographs & Phantoms:

* * * * *

“Kendall, can you tell me? Why did you kiss me? Surely if you were simply in need of a woman, you could find someone to…sate your appetites.”

Now he was the one squirming in his chair. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, knowing the posture would hide his body’s reaction to this line of discussion. This was the last thing he wanted to talk about, but he supposed she deserved some sort of explanation. “It was a spur-of-the-moment impulse,” he began carefully. “It had nothing to do with me being ‘in need’ and everything to do with you.”

“There’s no need to sugarcoat things, Kendall.” She shook her head. “I know I’m nothing spectacular to look at.”

“You’re not the perfect fashion plate,” he admitted, smiling when her eyes flew open at his bluntness. “A bit more curvy than is strictly the thing, but most men tend to prefer that. And your freckles are enchanting. Surely you know you’re a damned appealing woman?”

“Thank you.” Even in the dim light, he saw her flush and she once again nibbled on her lower lip. “Was it a momentary thing, then? Or do you still find me attractive?”

Kendall groaned. “Far too much for my peace of mind. In fact, we really shouldn’t be having this conversation, especially in your bedroom. I’m trying to remain a gentleman, but it’s difficult when you’re sitting there in your nightclothes.”

“Truly?” Her broad smile nearly lit up the room.

“Truly.” How could she not realize her appeal to the male sex? He was tempted to stand up and let her see the effect she had on him.

She wet her lips with her tongue and his problem grew even larger. “Then, since you’re not attached, and you are attracted…” Her deeply indrawn breath pressed her full, unbound breasts against the fabric of her dressing gown, and Kendall swallowed hard. “I wonder if I can ask you a favor.”

“Go ahead.” His voice came out thick, nearly choked.

“I’m twenty-six and likely to never marry,” she said in a low, husky voice. “I was wondering if, perhaps, you could teach me a thing or two, about…sexual relations.”

  * * * *
If you're intrigued by this little snippet, remember, the full novella is available for FREE! Click here to download your copy in e-pub format or here for the Kindle version. If you love it, don't forget to go get your copy of Steam and Sorcery, book 1 in the Gaslight Chronicles.  Meanwhile, stop back by each day this week for more chances to win and to read a little more about the other fabulous Steampunk Week releases!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale!

Posted by: Christine Bell

Today I'm doing a giveaway! Comment between now and midnight EST Tuesday and one person will win a copy of my steampunk romance novella The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale! And don't forget, everyone who comments this week is also entered into our grand prize drawing for the steampunk prize pack (pictured to the right and also in more detail in yesterday's post here!)
Just leave a comment with your email address so we can reach you, and you're entered to win! We will be picking our winner on Saturday!

Now, for a little about Stormy...

As a young girl in 19th century London, Stormy spent her time on the streets. Discarded by her family, she and the other Fenchurch Street urchins struggled every day just to get enough to eat. Then, Professor Gilly Green blew into town and swept Stormy and her brother Bacon away on a journey through time, to the 20th century where he raised them as his own.

Sixteen years later, she is grown and has embraced a life of adventure. She’s a time pirate, a modern day Robin Hood hell-bent on righting the wrongs in the world. When she embarks on yet another escapade through time, things don’t go according to plan. She finds herself in 1836 New England running an ill-conceived con on a madman in order to get back what is rightfully hers. Her adventure lands her in hot water as she winds up shackled to a bed in The Loony Duke of Leister’s torture chambers. Little does she know that the Loony Duke is someone from her past, who is going to turn her life upside down.

Want to read the first chapter? You can check it out here.

Stop back by each day this week for a chance to win and to read a little more about the other fabulous Steampunk Week releases!

It's STEAMPUNK WEEK at Carina Press and we have PRIZES GALORE!

Posted by: Christine Bell

Forget Shark Week. It's STEAMPUNK WEEK at Carina Press and we've got prizes coming out of our...well, wherever one might think to hide a lot of prizes.

For those of of you not familiar with steampunk, I really like this description at

I'll wait here while you check it out.

Okay, get it? Now add to that an intangible *feeling* of adventure and invention but with grit and grime. If steampunk were a movie, I like to think that Tim Burton would direct it, Danny Elfman would do the score and it would star Helena Bonham Carter. It has that kind of feel.

I think steampunk (in all its forms) is going to be as popular as vamps have been over the last couple of years. Because this exciting sub-genre is really just coming into its own, I'm thrilled to claim a tiny piece of it. Carina has wrangled some great authors and the selection this week offers something for everyone!

The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale is a time travel romance that incorporates my favorite elements of steampunk with a dash of adventure and a ton of fun.

Cindy Spencer Pape has a FREE read up this week (yes, I said the F- word!) called Photographs & Phantoms, a companion story to her recent release, Steam & Sorcery. If you like your steampunk romantic with an aura of mystery around it, then this is the one for you! Packed with paranormal beings, magic and romance, you can't beat it. Did I mention it's FREE?!

Like your steampunk especially steamy and packed with adventure? Marie Harte's Journeyman's Ride is an erotic romance that will leave you breathless. Blood ravens, mechanical spider and cannibals, oh my! Dorothy never had it so rough.

And to round out the collection, Crista McHugh offers The Alchemy of Desire. A steampunk romance set in the Wild West, McHugh takes us inside the world of shape shifter and magic.

If you've never tried steampunk before, I hope the Carina Press collection gives you a little taste of what it's all about.

We at Here Be Magic will be doing a new giveaway every day this week starting tomorrow, when I will be posting an excerpt from The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale and one commenter will win a copy of the book! Then, check back Wednesday and Thursday when our other steampunk week authors will post excerpts and giveaways!

Finally, on Friday, Cindy Spencer Pape, Marie Harte and I are giving away the awesome, steampunk inspired prize pack pictured above! It includes a gorgeous rose ring, a pair of Marie Harte bookmarks, a signed Cindy Spencer Pape Gaslight Chronicles postcard, A Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale mug and a set of Twisted Tale signed romance trading cards! Comment any day, now through Friday, leave your email address so we can contact you if you win, and you're automatically entered. Friday's prize pack giveaway is open to commenters located in the U.S. Daily giveaways will be open to ALL.

On Saturday we will choose our grand prize winner!

Now, for a little bit of fun, check out this AWESOME video the Carina Press team did in celebration of Steampunk Week!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Dreaded Sequel

Posted by: Julia Knight

Well dreaded by me, writing it, that is. I don’t know what it is about sequels—sometimes I don’t even like to read them myself because the first book was sooo great, and then the second in the series disappoints. I remember a book I really liked—it had cool assassins and mysterious mages, fair damsels and murderous wenches and magic swords and, really, I liked it. A lot. Hero got the girl at the end, naturally. So I bought the second book, only to be utterly disappointed that instead of all of the above, the sequel started with fifty pages of previously non-whiny bad-ass Hero waffling on about his virgin girlfriend not putting out. It was not what I expected.

And that’s the trick, isn’t it? The second book has to meet the expectations brought by the first book—in this case I was expecting mucho swords and intrigue and what I got was an emo. But it can’t be the first book all over again either. In romance, it’s slightly different I suppose—a character from the first book maybe gets his/her HEA, which is your basis. But when it’s not exactly romance, then you need an ongoing story, and there are those expectations and…..and that’s when I start tearing my hair out.

At this rate I could be bald by summer. The plot needs to be of a similar level to the first. Which means I’m confusing myself! The characters need to be changed/have learned from the events of the first book—but not too much, because they have to be the characters that people liked the first time round. Etc. etc. ad infinitum.

So what do you look for in a sequel? Do you want a reprise of what went before, or are you happy for something a little different, or even totally different? What turns you off, and what turns you on?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Barbarians Do It Doggie Style

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart
Please note I'm an avid fan of George RR Martin's Fire and Ice series. I wouldn't miss a second of the new HBO series Game of Thrones that just began this past weekend. I loved it. I loved the series on which it's based. Looking back at my formulative years of writing, I credit Martin and Robert Jordan with giving me the desire to write stories as wonderfully epic and sweeping as theirs.

So while this is a complaint of the series, it's done tongue in cheek.

There was a big stink in the NYT about how all the sex must have been thrown in "as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise." Lots of people tweeted and commented and blogged about all the women who love fantasy in general (self included), Martin's series in particular (ditto), and anyway, the criticism that the sex was "thrown in" for HBO audiences is ridiculous to anyone who's actually read the books. (The sex was already there!)

But that's not what I'm riled up about.

I'm simply so offended for barbarians everywhere because of their treatment in this series that I couldn't remain silent. I can't even blame it on HBO, because this dastardly failure to accurately convey barbaric sensuality occurs in the books too.

Seriously, who could possibly believe that barbarians *only* know how to perform sex in the doggie style position?

Of course, I can see the foundational thought process. If they're barbarians, they must be around livestock or wildlife a great deal, so naturally they emulate the creatures about them in their bedchambers. Wait a second, though. Doesn't that mean they should have animal dens instead of tents? Or why not just doze standing up out in the pasture?

In the book, Khal Drogo is seriously befuddled when Daenerys gently proposes that she turn around and face him during their nightly intimacies. Yes, a fourteen-year-old girl comes up with the idea to face each other during sex, but not her much older (and presumably experienced, thanks to all the public affection displayed by the Dothraki) barbarian husband. I guess all those battles he'd won seriously damaged his... Oh, never mind, I won't even go there.

Poor Drogo. I know several barbarian warriors who are laughing at him.

On the other hand, royalty in the Fire and Ice world tend to indulge in incest to keep the bloodlines pure. Maybe it's not so bad being a barbarian!

If you watched Game of Thrones this week, what did you think?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Shadows on a Cave Wall

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz

Aren’t you just the littlest bit curious about what lurks in your unconscious? Dark secrets, fragile dreams, absurd self-portraits,...

Fantasy stories let the unconscious out to play; that’s why they’ve been popular since humans sat around campfires and told stories with shadow puppets on cave walls.

We know we can’t explain everything in the world. We can’t even explain our own actions and secrets of the mind. But with fantasy, we can explore and celebrate the mysteries. We can tell each other great truths by cloaking them in fantastical garb.

I’ve mentioned before my love for Terry Pratchett’s satirical fantasies, but I’m talking now about something less tangible than explicit social commentary. I’m talking about aspects of our unconscious playing out in the stories we share.

Maybe I’m wrong: I’m no psychologist. I’m simply a writer intrigued by the perils and monsters each generation imagines, the fads that rise and fall in fantasy media (books, movies, games), and how these changes might reflect and shape wider social and personal concerns.

Are vampires our fascination with destructive relationships? Cinderella our martyr complex? Superman our powerlessness? More positively, is steampunk active nostalgia, the belief that once (and maybe again) all things were possible? Shifters our capacity to re-engage with the natural world, draw strength from it and renew it? Is magic wish fulfilment, and the twist in its tail, our acceptance that choices have consequences?

Friday, April 15, 2011

What American Idol Taught Me About Writing.

Posted by: Janni Nell
My name is Janni Nell and I watch American Idol.

Okay let's be honest, I love American Idol. Especially with this season's nicer judges. Steven Tyler's love of music is a joy to see - his expression when listening to a great singer is just gorgeous.

So what does American Idol have to do with writing?

If you've watched AI (yes, I realize that also stands for artificial intelligence), you've probably heard the judges telling contestants things like: "I don't get you. I don't know who you are." Those judges are talking about branding. About sticking to one genre. In music terms, if you bring out a country album, don't make your next album rock. People will get confused. Those, who liked your country album and came back for more, will be disappointed.

It's the same with writing. I began writing fun mysteries, but the wicked muse is always tempting me. "Why not write a fantasy? How about tackling suspense?" Some days I have to block my ears and hum. Not easy to do when you're sitting at the computer trying to type. Of course, I could write a different genre under another name. Maybe one day I will. But for now I'll ignore the muse and stick with the mysteries.

How do you feel when writers switch genres? Is it disappointing? Confusing? More to the point, do you watch American Idol? Who's going to win?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Building a House of Cards

Posted by: Jane Kindred
Yesterday on my blog, I talked about worldbuilding for my series-in-progress. Like certain characters, elements in a fantasy world have a tendency to come out of nowhere and demand to be written. Sometimes the genesis of the idea is obvious, but the rest of it, the "why this?" is anybody's guess.

The idea for the demon hero in my world began to form while I was watching an episode of Firefly called "The Message," about a thief who got in over his head on a risky deal. Next thing I knew, I had an unknown person in my own head who was part Malcolm Reynolds and part Tracey (the overreaching thief), and he was playing poker in a smoky den with an angel.

Like the other players in that celestial den of iniquity, I never stood a chance against Belphagor. He soon had me researching Russian prison tattoos, train schedules on the Trans-Siberian Railway (they're complicated—and everything is listed in Moscow time, despite the fact that the route extends across ten time zones), and poker.

I figured it would be hard to find poker decks in Heaven (and I didn't want to give away my own ignorance about the game), so I found myself designing a card and dice game to go along with my demon. As things progressed, this impossible game turned into a divination deck as well—one that was capable of sending messages from the celestial plane to email accounts in obscure Internet cafes in Russia to be read by a computer-geek gypsy named Love.

Right around the same time the divination deck developed, I got stuck in a plot hole. The Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg was lying on top of my research books after I'd been looking up card equivalents to assign meanings to those in my divination deck. I thought, hell, the tarot's as good as anything to figure out this mess, so I threw down a spread. Strangely, it made perfect sense. Which, is, I suppose, how the tarot really works: we assign meaning to the archetypal images and make associations with things already in our subconscious.

This was the first time I'd used the tarot for plotting, but I've been consulting the tarot to help myself think through problems for most of my adult life. It never quite works as well for me, though, as it does when I read for others; I've been told that my readings are spot on. It's the way of such things, since it's difficult to be objective about your own future. But since a character is an "other," it seems to work well.

The tarot spread I use is a modified "Celtic cross," similar to the one below, with one additional card in the center.

The initial card, or the "querent," stands in for the character whose course I need to plot. Then I use a covering card and a crossing card, representing the element having an immediate impact on my character, and any outside influence that may be there to help or hinder (this third card crossing the first two isn't shown in the image above). Surrounding those cards, "the heart of the matter," are the overarching and underlying issues, and events of the immediate past and future.

It was surprising how much the character was able to tell me about herself from that familiar structure. Once I figured out the "heart" of her "matter," I read the final four card positions: Self, Home, Hopes and Fears, and the Outcome. My character was literally heading home, but didn't know what she was going to find there. To her (and my) surprise, the tarot told her that her man had a heart of gold and he would sacrifice everything to be there with her so they could face the outcome together.

I was so pleased with the reading, I had another character in the story who was using the cards to send a message give my character this reading instead. It was an unexpected bonding moment between characters who previously hadn't liked each other that would carry over into later books.

Care to try it yourself? The deck shown in the Celtic cross layout above, "The Mythic Tarot," is a great one for the beginning tarot reader, and perfectly suited to plotting, since it's based on the familiar archetypes of Greek mythology and the hero's journey. It comes with a detailed book that gives a history of the card along with the divinatory meaning.

So tell me, have you ever used "magical" assistance to get your characters out of a jam?
The Devil's Garden, June 27, 2011, Carina Press

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Winners of Pitch Session!

Posted by: Nicole North
From Gina Bernal:
Thanks to all the writers who participated in the pitch. It was tough to narrow down the choices to just one, so I've selected the following 5:
SHADOWWALKERS by Jennifer Povey
MAN HUNTER by Carrie Spencer
Instructions to winners: Congratulations! Please email your full ms in an .rtf file, along with a short synopsis, to Address your query to Gina Bernal and indicate in your first sentence that you are enclosing requested material from the Here Be Magic Pitch. In the subject line of your email, please type the manuscript's title, your pen name and the genre. All submissions will receive an auto-response acknowledging receipt of submission. Please allow up to 16 weeks for an editorial response to your submission.

If your pitch was not selected by Gina, it’s possible that another one of Carina Press’s editors might be interested in your story, so you may still submit your manuscript to Carina Press by following the submission guidelines at

Woohoo! Congratulations winners!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gina Bernal - Editor Interview & Pitches!

Posted by: Nicole North
Hi everyone, today I'm excited that Gina Bernal, my editor at Carina, has agreed to tell us what she is looking for and take pitches from you. She will select at least one pitch and request more material from the author. Please keep your pitches brief, a one paragraph blurb with pertinent details (title, genre, word count.) Also please leave your email so we can contact you if you are the winner. Thanks!
About Gina:
Gina Bernal is a freelance acquisitions editor for Carina Press. She comes to Carina with over seven years of publishing experience, having started her career at the Berkley Publishing Group and most recently serving as the editor of the Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs. She holds a B.A. in History and Literature from Harvard University and currently resides in the Boston area. You can follow her on Twitter @GinaBernal
Welcome, Gina! Thanks for agreeing to visit with us today and take pitches. My book, Laird of Darkness, was recently released from Carina Press. I'm curious, what was it about my story that caught your attention?

Thanks, Nicole, for inviting me to Here Be Magic… Now let me be a gushy editor and brag on you for a bit.  Laird of Darkness combined many favorite themes and elements (the Scottish setting, a laird hero, kidnapped brides, a family feud) with an old folktale, and then gave them a fresh spin. Duncan isn’t only metaphorically tormented by his past, he’s quite literally plagued by demons. The heroine, Alana, is no simpering miss and a good match for him. I loved that she was not a virgin but wasn’t ashamed of the fact. She recognizes not only his lust for her but her desire as well…and isn’t afraid to indulge. You told their story with a sly humor that made it a pleasure to watch them fall in love.
Thanks so much! Naturally I'm thrilled you enjoyed it. :) How do you feel about Scottish/ Celtic stories?
I’ve always been a sucker for a man in a kilt—blame it on Braveheart or Highlander: The Series. Plus, I’m a huge Celtophile. Despite the fact that my ancestry is actually Spanish, I was a part of my college’s Celtic Society (a social/musical club) and can belt out an Irish lament, a Scots ballad and a variety of drinking songs with the best. I studied abroad in Ireland and have travelled through Wales and Scotland. And, though I’m very rusty, if you ask nicely I might play my bodhrán for you. In other words… Celtic stories? Yes, please!
Wow, I'd love to hear you sing and play. Which other recent Carina Press projects are you excited about?
So far 2011 has been good to me with the variety of projects I’ve been able to work on and see published. The Bartered Virgin by Chevon Gael is a turn-of-the-century historical that’s funny and packs a little heat. Seleste de Laney’s Badlands is an adventure-filled alternate history steampunk with one of the toughest heroines I’ve seen. I’m super excited about the back-to-back April/May publication of Carol Stephenson’s Courting Disaster and Courting Death, which round out the Legal Weapons series she started back in Silhouette’s old Bombshell imprint. This summer you’ll also be seeing a sexy contemporary with a stripper-with-smarts hero, romantic suspense debuts by two talented new authors, and a fun western historical about a bounty hunter and his troublesome bounty.
Those sound wonderful. What kinds of stories are you looking for currently?
I love character-driven books, so I’m looking for stories with strong central protagonists that make me care for them from page one.  I love a tortured hero or a crazy-as-a-fox villain, but I’m equally enchanted by characters who have a sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. Basically, I’m an emotional reader—if you can make me laugh or cry, you’ve got me.
What are your favorite subgenres?
I’m a big history buff and always on the lookout for new historical romances, fiction and mysteries. Unusual settings or characters are a plus. I’m seeking paranormal romance and urban fantasy featuring strong and original worldbuilding, and, like Laird of Darkness, stories that combine history and the supernatural. I’m also actively looking for more contemporary romances that are not romantic suspense and focus on the hero/heroine’s emotional journey. Outside of the romance genre, women’s fiction with family drama at its heart (a la Jodi Picoult) is a favorite of mine, as are creepy psychological thrillers.
Thanks again for being our guest here today. Okay, writers, it's your turn. Feel free to post your pitches in the comments. Gina will be reading them but not critiquing or commenting on them. She will select one, and the winner will receive a request for more. Please keep your pitches brief, a one paragraph blurb with pertinent details (title, genre, word count.) Also please leave your email so we can contact you if you are the winner.
Thanks! :)

Monday, April 4, 2011


Posted by: Barbara Longley


A well known NYT bestseller spoke to our RWA chapter about what happened to her career when she switched genres. She had a well established brand writing historicals, which she did successfully for a lot of years. She wanted to expand, grow as a writer and try something new, so she wrote a few contemporary women's fiction novels. Her sales plummeted, and her fans went elsewhere for their historical fix. She says now that if she had it to do over, she'd have published the contemporaries under a different name. Hmmm.

Then there are authors like Christina Dodd, who successfully hops from historical, to romantic suspense, then paranormal, and everything sells. There are well known authors who write different genres under different names. Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick and Jane Castle) come to mind, so does Nora Roberts. But, hey, we all know who they are no matter what name they use, right?

I don't know about you, but I don't read just one genre. I also want to write more than one. I have ideas for historicals, contemporaries, westerns, and yes, more paranormals. What's a writer to do? Why can one author, like Christina Dodd or Julie Garwood, be successful with the jump, while genre hopping puts other's careers in a slump? I know Susan Elizabeth Phillips had to reinvent herself after a few of her books didn't sell well, but she kept her name the same throughout. Yikes! What's a writer to do?

Should a writer create a different brand for each genre? Is it better to write under different names, or is it better to stick to one name fits all? I don't want to be limited, so can a brand be all encompassing? I spend hours coming up with pseudonyms for my contemporaries, historicals and westerns. What if I'm at a book signing, and I forget who I am at the moment? (Sadly, it could happen.)

Then there's this tiny little ego thing inside me whispering, "Hey, I want credit for all of my books! Why would I change my name to one nobody knows is me?" Yeah, yeah, it's a business, but still, my blood sweat and tears went into creating the characters and their story. It takes a bit of ego to put your work out there, right?

Do you genre jump? Do you use the one-name-fits-all approach, or do you feel it's better to suit-up under a different nom de plume for each? Enquiring minds want to know . . .

-Barbara Longley, aka Kailyn Reilly, aka Noell LaPrairie, aka Bunny Hopsalot.

Friday, April 1, 2011

All the news worth knowing

Posted by: Unknown
I had trouble picking just one topic to talk about this week so I didn't. Instead, I thought I’d do a rundown on some of the news I’ve found interesting lately in publishing, romance and fantasy circles. So maybe not all the news worth knowing but it's what's been bumping around inside my scattered head.

(Just a note: I know it’s April Fool’s Day but so far as I’m aware all of the info below is legit. HATE April Fool’s Day and I would not do that to you.)

There are a few special calls open right now for spec fiction writers:

Samhain is looking for Superhero Romance It’s up, up and away we go, to a world of superheroes and supervillains, where heroes and/or heroines with special abilities and crime-fighting prowess protect the public…and fall in love.”

Carina Press is looking for "steampunk novellas with a winter or winter holiday theme" for a Steampunk Holiday collection.

Avon introduced a new digital imprint, Avon Impulse.

In general publishing news, Amanda Hocking accepted a $2 million advance from St. Martin’s press for a new series and Barry Eisler rejected a $500,000 contract in order to self-publish.

Also, Connie Brockway announced she’s “…going rogue” and self-publishing her next two historical romance novels.

What I think is interesting is that they’re weighing the same factors—time, money, creative control—and coming to different decisions. As a writer I can understand why an author might decide to self-publish one project and contract another with a publishing house. I think as self-publishing goes more mainstream it's just going to be one more thing in a writer's bag o' tricks. I know as a reader, I’m far more open to buying a self-pub book today than I was even a year ago. Any thoughts?

In entertainment news…

Stop. 'S Hammertime.

The movie Thor releases on May 6.

I love Norse mythology (have a book on submission right now based on it). Looking forward to this movie and not just because of that picture. Alright, maybe a lil' bit because of that picture.

Fringe got picked up for another season (Yay!) Love that quirky show. The writers are so unpredictable and it has the best mad scientist I've ever seen on TV. (Sorry, Dr. Doofenschmirtz.)

Game of Thrones premieres on HBO April 17th. I've only read the first book of this series, really liked it but decided to hold off on the rest until it was finished. That said, I like what HBO has done with TrueBlood and I’ve been looking forward to seeing what they do with this one.

That's the news that registered in my brain. So what did I miss?

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