Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The male perspective

Posted by: David Bridger
Male authors and our male leading characters are ten a penny in many genres. Men are certainly well represented in fantasy, but maybe not so much in urban fantasy, which has tended to be dominated by female authors writing strong female characters.

Great male authors whose genres include urban fantasy are Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman and Jim Butcher, and a new star dawning in a big way is Kevin Hearne, whose Hounded is simply the best fun I've had reading a book in years.

And then there's me. :)

Hey, please don't think I'm trying to place myself in company with those great names. They're famous mountaineers on top of the world, while I'm training on rock faces and hoping for greatness one day.

But I am a bloke and I do write male characters along with my female ones. Stella at Book Lovers Inc talked about this when she reviewed my new Carina Press release Quarter Square this week:

What made me pick up Quarter Square - the fact that its author was a man - didn't let me down. The difference in logic, perception and handling of events was refreshing and authentic. It was wonderful climbing inside the mind of a man and seeing and understanding why he does what he does. It was interesting to see Joe's reasoning behind his hurt of discovering his wife having an affair with his best friend and that it was mostly the sense of betrayal which infuriated him: that he doesn't begrudge his best friend for falling in love with his wife but for lying to him and making him lose his best friend. Reading a story through a man's perspective is fun and liberating: a man narrator is blunter, doesn't overanalyze things (even though he spends a fair time on exploring his emotions it definitely does not come off as mushy), and remains more realistic.
Full review here.

I'll be available to discuss The Male Perspective in an open Q&A session all day this Friday at Romance Divas. It's part of RD's wonderful week-long Not Going To Conference Conference, which is completely free and fantastic fun. Please come along (it's easy to register) and say hello.

And if you'd like to meet my urban fantasy hero Joe Walker in person, Quarter Square is available from Carina Press now.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Where's the Epic Fantasy Romance?

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart
One thing I long for as a reader is more epic fantasy blended with a strong, satisfying romance. No "fantasy lite" for this reader. I want all the things I love about epic fantasy: deep, rich worldbuilding, larger character casts, intricate story arcs that stretch over several books, and epic battles between good and evil.

But I also want more than the typical "romance lite" with a minor little love interest plot too. Yeah, I personally like my romance steamy. *sheepish* More importantly, though, I want all the emotions of a really good romance. If the book can make me cry or laugh out loud, all the better. I'm not a patient reader. I don't want to read thousands of pages of sweet longing and maybe a kiss, darn it. I want the whole glorious onslaught of seduction and pleasure, please!

Please give me a strong, formidable heroine, not a cookie-cutter medicine woman Mary Sue who only does good while taking care of Bambi in the woods. *headdesk* I want to remember this heroine, live and die through her eyes, suffer through her choices, and feel her fierce victories.

Give me dark, violent, gritty, and real scenarios. I promise I won't flinch away.

I'm more forgiving of Romancelandia no-nos in a good fantasy-romance blend. e.g. I adored the polyamorous relationships in Gail Dayton's Compass Rose series. The darker elements in Anne Bishop's The Black Jewels series didn't bother me at all. Even the death of characters -- yes, even the major ones! -- ala George RR Martin doesn't bother me, as long as I have a promise of a larger overall happy ending. If the characters are united in some way at the end -- like Arthur, Jennifer (Guinevere), and Lancelot at the end of Guy Gaveriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry -- I'll be teary-eyed and giddy and love you forever, I swear.

Can you recommend more great epic fantasy romance blends? I'd love to find them!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

South of Salem - winners

Posted by: Janni Nell
Selected by the totally untechnical method of drawing names out of a Romance Writers coffee mug, the winners of a copy of South of Salem are Maria and JenM. To claim your copy (epub or PDF) contact me at

Thanks everyone for entering :-)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Name Game

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
It's not easy being a writer. Forget the anxiety of submitting your manuscript, editing it, reading the reviews. That all comes later. Go back to the beginning and you'll face one of the first challenges -- a challenge that parents and pet owners the world over can understand -- the problem of finding the perfect name.

Does that send a shudder down your spine?

Names are often our first introduction to a person and whether we admit it or not, they influence how we see them.

Now me, despite the lovely Tony's I've met, I struggle to be fair to any guy called "Anthony". It's irrational, but for two years when I started school they put me (the goody two shoes) next to the naughtiest boy in the school (I almost said world!) and there I sat until Mum suggested, at the start of the third year, that some other child be graced with Anthony's presence. Don't get me wrong, he grew up to be a nice guy, but too late for my subconscious. Just the name "Anthony" tells me I'm about to meet someone who deserves slugs in his sandwiches -- not that Miss Goody-Two-Shoes ever served him that sandwich.

Fortunately, the internet is overflowing with baby name sites and these are a rich hunting field for authors as well as parents. Pick a letter, any letter, then pick a name. Why do I say pick a letter first? Because I think it's less confusing for readers to have characters with different first letter names.

Then I hit Google and choose a surname appropriate to the character's ethnic background.

If I don't have a perfect name for my characters I find I can't write about them, can't make them walk, talk and live. Their names are the starting point. Get the name wrong and the character (child, pet, whatever) grows into someone quite different to what was intended.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Posted by: Janni Nell
Creating a Series

In the beginning all my manuscripts were stand-alone stories written in the third person. Then I started reading chicklit and fell in love with that humorous first person voice. Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator was my first attempt at writing in that voice. It must've been okay because the manuscript was accepted for publication. Another first. Then the panic set in. I’d planned an Allegra series – if the first book ever got published. Suddenly I had to make good on that plan.

I already had an idea for the second book, but what about the third (gulp!) and the fourth and OMG I had a vague memory of mentioning ten books in all. Hadn’t thought that one through. Ten! Chosen solely because it was a nice round number. Could I do that many?

I started to think about each book as being a chapter in Allegra’s life. What would she learn about herself in that book? How would she develop as a person? Of course there also had to be a paranormal mystery – one for each book – and the development of her relationship with Casper. It was a lot of balls to keep in the air. A lot of years of work – and okay, it’s fun too. Let’s not forget the fun – the absolute pleasure of beginning a story and seeing how it evolves. Writing is the best job in the world.

South of Salem is the second in the Allegra Fairweather series. The third book is almost ready to submit and number four is being plotted somewhere in the furthest reaches of my brain. So will I reach ten books? Who knows? But, no matter what happens, it’s a great ride. Better than I ever imagined.

I have two copies of South of Salem (epub or PDF format) to give away. Leave a comment to be in the running.

Read an excerpt from South of Salem

Visit Janni at and

Monday, June 20, 2011

Free Book Weekat Carina Press!

Posted by: Christine Bell

SO excited because it's Free Book Week at Carina Press again! Starting today, each day this week, Carina is offering a free book for download. And guess what else? Wednesday, June 22nd that book happens to be mine!!! SO, if you've been wanting to read The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale, but haven't had the chance to get it, now's your chance.

Now, when I say FREE, this isn't, like, fake free, where you have to sign up for a monthly service, or buy five books to get it free or spend $50 first. Nope, this is ACTUALLY, NO STRINGS ATTACHED free. When you check out, just enter the promo code for the book of the day.

But wait, there's more! You can retweet and win! If you retweet any tweets that mention the hashtag #CarinaFree you'll be entered to win the following fabulous prize pack:

An autographed print copy of "The Debutante's Dilemma" by Elyse Mady and an e-copy of her latest novel "Learning Curves"

My souped up RWA swag bag including "Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale" mug, magnet, romance trading cards, Carina Press coupon, and a bag of hershey kisses (cuz kisses are romantic, y'all!) and any book off my backlist.

A $25 Amazon Gift Card

Here's the lineup (make sure you bookmark this post so you can come back for the promo codes each day!):

Today’s FREE BOOK is:The Debutante’s Dilemma by Elyse Mady
Just type in the promo code DEBUTANTEFREE at checkout

Tuesday’s FREE BOOK is:Demon’s Fall by Karalynn Lee
Just type in the promo code DEMONFREE at checkout

Wednesday’s FREE BOOK is:The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
Just type in the promo code TWISTEDFREE at checkout

Thursday’s FREE BOOK is:Blue Galaxy by Diane Dooley
Just type in the promo code GALAXYFREE at checkout

Friday’s FREE BOOK is:
Friendly Fire by Megan Hart
Just type in the promo code FRIENDLYFREE at checkout

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Is Craft?

Posted by: Dee Tenorio
The other day, my Mom visited. Which is great because, you know, I loves my mom. She's an avid reader and she writes too--though she doesn't give her stories much credit. Mom is where my love of words came from. (My inability to function math as well, but that's another post.) So, you can imagine the knot in my gut when she tells me she's been reading "Tempting The Enemy".

Mom is not from the ebook generation. She doesn't have an ereader and has no interest whatsoever of getting one. So, it's taken a while to get her a hard copy and she's gotten started. And she told me she's gotten started.

Luckily, I was picking something off the floor behind the couch at the time, so she had no idea my knees were knocking. "Y-you have?"

A laser stare and a slow nod.

*gulp* "How far have you gotten?" A slight duck so only my eyes are over the top of the couch. Yes, I immediately turned 4 years old at the prospect of Mommy a) not liking the book b) noticing there's a lot of bad words in it and c) disliking that the couple gets hot pretty quick.

"Oh, they're still in the police station." A loooooong pause until she says, her eyes going ever so slightly soft. "I had no idea you could write like that. You're amazing." (She said more, but I won't bore you with that. Just be happy, like I was, she didn't smack me for using the f-word. A lot.)

My sigh of relief probably moved a giant mountain in India. Then she said something that I'm still not sure I've recovered from.

"I'll never be able to write like that." She went on to detail the way the story opens, that it was so clear to her how the characters felt, how real they came across, the way they talked being believable. "You have so much talent."

You have no idea how great it was to hear that from the woman I have the most respect for on the entire planet. And while I'll take the Talent compliment--dude, I'm totally a greedy cow for remarks like that one--I had to tell her the truth. Talent is needed, no doubt, if you plan to make writing your life, but so is one other thing and it's something that everyone who picks up a pen can and SHOULD learn. Craft.

Craft, in anything, smooths out the rough edges. Even Leonardo Da Vinci had to learn the best way to hold a brush, how to angle the strokes and work layer by layer to make the shadows come through the lighter paints. He'd always have talent, but it's nothing without learning to better apply his skills. Writing is much the same. To write a good book, a writer must be a student at all times. Learning about the best use of dialogue and exposition, avoiding repetition, applying theme, weaving subplots, adding a red herring or two and of course, when to use a smoking gun.

As I explained to Mom, she's got the hard part--the drive and desire to write. The ability to see an entire story or world or relationship out of thin air. She's even got the patience to put it all to the page. Craft, though, isn't outside anyone's reach. She may not write just like me and she shouldn't want to. She's got her own voice and talent and viewpoint that's awesome. It's just about polishing the lines until she's happy. Until you're happy.

So, if you're interested in writing and you read your favorite authors, don't let their awesomeness make you feel like you're not doing something right. Ask yourself what you're enjoying most and see if your favorites can teach you a little craft as well as giving you a story to enjoy.

Would love to hear thoughts on what you may have learned for writers you love!

Monday, June 6, 2011

When characters take over

Posted by: Julia Knight

I never mean for it to happen. It just does. The secondary character that I popped in for only one purpose decides to stay. Then he starts wanting to do things his way. Then he tries to take over the book. And oddly, it’s (almost) always the characters that are supposed to be Bad.

In my first book, the character Ilfayne was never supposed to be around for more than a chapter or two to throw a spanner in the works. But he was such a snide—and fun—whatsit that I kept him around. Then he kept telling me more about himself, and besides, his ego insisted I write about him! In the end, the book was more about him than anyone else.

In Ten Ruby Trick, Skrymir kept looking at me, doleful and proud, wondering why he wasn’t more part of the action. He may yet get his own book. Holden started out being the Bad Dude, but as soon as I started writing him I realised that he didn’t like what he was doing and was actually not a bad guy at heart at all. In a recently finished MS, the secondary Bad Dude refused to be all bad and insisted he had very good reasons for what he was doing. I caved, and gave him a bit of redemption.

Now, once again, a character is trying to take over. He really is the Bad Dude. He’s not nice at all. He is making my protagonists’ lives a living hell. This is possibly why I like him so much. He started off just being a guy doing his job. Not even a bad job, depending on how you look at it. But then he began whispering all his plans to me, all his devious heart’s wishes. He’s silver-tongued someone into helping him, and is a downright two-faced whatsit, never saying what he’s really thinking. Which is often along the lines of saying 'Of course, sir' while thinking ‘Fat old toad, I’ll be glad when you’re dead’. I keep wondering what he’s going to come up with next. If it weren’t for the fact I know what’s going to happen in the next scene, I’d write a book just about him.

Maybe it’s just me and bad guys, but the best part of writing a book for me is when it starts to breathe on its own, and especially those characters who just turned up originally as ‘Man who does this’ and then run rampant over my plot. Although it seems it makes me hell to watch films with, because I’m always making up little backstories to explain why X would behave like that.

So, which characters—either reading or writing them—surprised you when they came alive?

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