Sunday, June 30, 2013

Writing and Contracts

Posted by: Shawna Thomas
When a writer gets serious about his or her career, he or she begins paying attention to craft. This means polishing a manuscript, looking for other writers to critique or read and, ultimately, trying to attract the notice of the publishing world.

This is the first step away from doing something you love just because you love it. Most writers start writing because we love telling stories, but telling the story is really a very small part of the business of writing. The process is work. Hard work. You’ve heard the phrase, kill your darlings? Yeah, that means when someone you trust tells you that sentence/character/scene just doesn’t work, even though you love it. You hit the delete key. I’d like to tell you it gets easier with time. But at least for me, I still have to take a deep breath and put on my big-girl panties. I'm not even going to mention grammar or pace...well, I guess I just did, didn't I?

Once a writer gets serious about craft, it isn’t much longer before they get serious about pursuing publication. This usually means a contract. The joy of that contract is something I truly can’t convey. But of course I’ll try. I am a writer. *grin* Imagine buying a lottery ticket every day, studying the trends and the statistics faithfully to give yourself the best chance possible. Then one day they read those numbers and yup. You won. All your hard work paid off.  You’re stunned. You’re amazed. You want to call everyone and shout from the rooftops and you want to just sit and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.

Well, there is one huge flaw in my comparison.

Once you get that contract, the work starts. There are edits, deadlines and promotion. Suddenly you’re writing because you have to. Because it’s a job, not just because you love it. The pressure doesn’t lessen with subsequent contracts. You’re writing to maintain a standard; you’re writing to let your publisher and editor know they were not wrong in putting their faith in you; You’re writing so that wonderful person who gave you a glowing five star review on your last book, will give you another glowing review on your newest book.

You’re writing under pressure. A lot of pressure.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all sunshine and butterflies and bring up the coal/diamond thing... Pollyanna I am not.

But I will share something I’ve learned.

When you’re feeling the pressure. When the deadline becomes more important than the story. Stop.

I am not going to tell you to throw everything out and write for fun. Because let’s face it, this is a business and your books are your commodity. It’s not just about you any more. But there is a balance. If you’re not in love with your hero. Stop and daydream about him until you are in love with him.  If the death of your protagonist’s best friend didn’t just bring a tear to your eye. It won’t bring a tear to the reader’s eye either. Stop. Imagine what the protag is feeling. Put yourself in her or his shoes and rewrite it. There must be balance.

I honestly think maintaining this balance is the difference between a successful writer in love with his or her job and a burnt out writer.

I’ve been both.

I like the in love writer a lot better.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any writerly advice? And if you do, will you share?

And I have to take this opportunity to share my newest release, Journey of Dominion... I will never get tired of looking at this cover. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

No Slurping Tuna Juice

Posted by: Steve Vera
Somebody once told me that writing fantasy was the hardest of all genres to write. Back in the days before I knew any better, I casually dismissed such babbling nonsense and planned on writing the greatest fantasy epic in the history of the universe.  

I mean, how hard could it be? I was a freaking Dungeon Master for crying out loud; creating worlds was as natural to me as a cat slurping tuna juice from the bottom of a can. It's what I lived for. I'd spend months making a campaign--going to the library to research medieval villages and geography, pouring over blueprints of ancient cities, I'd even create personalities for the blacksmiths and tavern owners and mercenaries who would be inhabiting my world, even if my players never even brushed shoulders with them (which did aggravate me, I'll be honest). Bottom line: I was born to write fantasy. Fuggedaboutit is what I said.

Oh, the naivety of the unwritten. 

The first strike against me was starting at the mature age of twenty-one, working as a bartender in West Hollywood, CA. I had the same dilemma every night: Go home and write like a good boy, or...go out for a bit of debauchery. I'll buy you a cup of coffee if you can guess which one I chose...hence, the fourteen years to complete my first book. True story. Fortunately, I have a learning computer (my best Arnold impersonation) and it only took me ten months to write the second, but the fact remained that writing fantasy was waaaay more difficult than I thought it would be, and writing a sub-genre even more so. I write urban fantasy by the way. I didn't actually know that when I was writing Drynn, but that's what I'm told.

Be that as it may, in a nutshell, here's why fantasy, and all of its derivatives (which are plentiful), is so hard to write successfully. 

First, you have to have all the usual suspects--larger than life characters, a kick-ass plot, pacing and rhythm, proper structure--and all the other nuggets necessary to the craft of novel-dom. And THEN, you create your world that not only must be appealing--organic and fresh--but also allows the reader to suspend their belief in reality. It's like how a figure-skater makes all those twirls and spins look effortless. It's an illusion. Any practitioner of the arts knows that that's the trick; making something really hard look easy. I'm so glad I didn't know any of this before I embarked on my epic journey. I'd like to think it wouldn't have made a difference.   

Words are inadequate to properly convey the journey from idea fragment to published novel, it's something only someone else who's done the same can feel, but lemme tell you, there's nothing like typing the words "the end" at the end of a manuscript. Except maybe for winning the Lotto Jackpot. I digress. The point is, fantasy authors are a special breed of writer, even within literary circles. So the next fantasy writer you see..hug them!  

A quick premise of the first book Drynn of my trilogy: 

The heroes of two worlds, Earth and Earth's magical twin Theia, reluctantly join forces to fight the Lord of the Underworld. 

In its essence, I blended my two favorite genres--one part horror, Stevie King style and three parts good old fashioned fantasy.

Here's a couple of reviews I've gotten:  

"Reads like vintage Dean Koontz--fast paced and suspenseful." --DD Barant, author of the Bloodhound Files series. 

"A deep gripping story that tickles the reader with This. Just. Might. Someday. Happen..."--Linnea Sinclair, author of the Dock Five Universe series. 

So the next time you have a hankering for a tuna salad...

Steve out. 

Carina Press

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Carnie in the Hand is Worth Two in the HEY LOOK, A CARNIEPUNK ARC GIVEAWAY!

Posted by: Regan Summers

Hey, you.

Yeah, you.

Do you like fantasy?

Do you like urban fantasy?

What about clowns?

No, wait – don’t run away! There aren’t any clowns, I promise.*

There, that’s better. I have for you, oh fearless lover of urban fantasy, a unique opportunity. Have you ever wanted to read the authors listed below? What about getting your hands on a collection of kick-ass short stories by them – before it hits the sales shelves? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Since I am also, secretly, the seventh author in that list, I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC (advance reading copy – not quite the final version, but still a beauty of a book) of the CARNIEPUNK anthology before it goes on sale. This trade paperback is loaded to the furry gills with stories of magic, love, corndogs, trickery, mayhem and - most importantly - carnies. And I want to give it to you.**

·                Rachel Caine
·                Jennifer Estep
·                Seanan McGuire
·                Rob Thurman
·                Delilah Dawson
·                Kelly Gay
·                Hillary Jacques
·                Kevin Hearne
·                Mark Henry
·                Jackie Kessler
·                Kelly Meding
·                Allison Pang
·                Nicole Peeler
·                Jaye Wells

This is your opportunity. Enter at your peril! Enter with dreams of sunshine and rainbows, whee! The giveaway Rafflecopter will be open for ten days, after which I’ll post the winner in the comments section and tweet the announcement. If I don’t hear from the winner within three days, I’ll select another. Please read the terms and conditions. Good luck!***

 Pre-Order from: Amazon     Barnes & Noble     iTunes     Indiebound     BAM
 or request it from your bookmonger of choice.

* There might be clowns.
** Yes, YOU! I want you to win so badly that I've given you loads of chances to enter.
*** Tell your friends, or the enemies of your enemies.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

3 is a Magic Number (Giveaway)

Posted by: Jane Kindred
Three represents the holy trinity in a number of religions, considered by some to be the perfect number. It's also the standard number of wishes one gets in a fairytale. Or the number of chances you get, if you're Little Bunny Foo Foo, to stop scooping up field mice and bopping them on their heads before you're turned into a goon by the Good Fairy. Fairies, genies, witches...they like doing things in threes.

Three is also a magic number in the construction of fiction. Trilogies are a staple of the SF/F world, especially in epic fantasy. Why do we tell epic stories in threes? It's the basis of the three-act play, dating back to the epics of ancient Greece. It's also the logical extension of the modern story arc: Beginning, Middle, End. And it certainly makes a convenient framework for an author who wants tell a long, complex story without overwhelming readers with one truly epic tome. Plus, it gets the reader to come back for more. And three also makes for a lovely multiple: the trilogy of trilogies, such as the original intent for the Star Wars saga. (Hopefully, soon to be realized. I'm looking at you, J.J. Abrams.)

But the End part is what I'm particularly concerned with today.

It's release day for The Armies of Heaven, the third book in my House of Arkhangel'sk trilogy. I'm excited to finally have the whole story out there, and yet sad to have come to an end of this particular story. One of the reasons I write in threes is that I have difficulty letting go, and it gives me a chance to hold on to the characters I love—whether I'm writing them or reading someone else's—without going on so long that it starts to lose its glow.

So today I say goodbye to Anazakia's journey. Begun in The Fallen Queen, and continued in The Midnight Court, The Armies of Heaven is where her journey ends. Because three is a magic number. Don't believe me? Listen to Schoolhouse Rock:

(Awesomely, it is exactly 3 minutes long.)

The giveaway

In celebration of my book release day, I'm also giving away a trilogy of prizes: three winners will be chosen at random to receive one of three prizes: a $50 gift certificate to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, a set of three signed paperback copies of The House of Arkhangel'sk trilogy, and a copy of one of my favorite books and the inspiration for this story, Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, gorgeously depicted by Ukrainian illustrator Vladyslav Yerko. Enter using the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

In Heaven, all hell has broken loose…

Full-scale war has broken out in Heaven, and Anazakia must embrace her destiny, leading an army of Virtues into battle against a Host of enemies to restore the House of Arkhangel’sk.

Furious with her for putting her trust in the angel who has done them all irreparable harm, Vasily tries to ignore his growing resentment, while Belphagor returns to the world of Man with a cadre of beautiful androgynous Virtues to restore the sundered alliance between the Fallen and the gypsy underground. Without their help in enlisting the terrestrial forces of Grigori and Nephilim, Anazakia’s Virtues are hopelessly outnumbered.

But there are more things in Heaven and Earth than any of them have dreamt of, and those they cannot see will mean the difference between victory and losing everything.

The Armies of Heaven is available now at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and more.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 24, 2013

Here Be News

Posted by: Unknown
New Releases This Week

Book two of Twilight of the Gods

Raquel Lindgren knows what her future holds. An arranged marriage. A new home in Ragnarok, Iowa, with another clan of refugees from Asgard. She should be happy. But there's a mental block preventing her from tapping in to her true abilities as a witch. And she's more attracted to the best man than she is to the groom...

Fen can't believe he's falling for his best friend's future wife. As a hound, a wolf shifter, his duty lies with the pack. He's seen too many hounds destroyed by love, and he's sworn never to take a mate, never to have children of his own. He can't deny his desire for Raquel, but she deserves more than he can offer her.

Raquel's been raised to trust in magic, her clan and her destiny. But when a vengeful demon threatens to break out of Asgard and destroy the clan, Raquel learns she must trust in love if she is to take the future into her own hands.


The final book in Jane Kindred's The House of Arkhangel'sk trilogy releases June 25:
In Heaven, all hell has broken loose…

Full-scale war has broken out in Heaven, and Anazakia must embrace her destiny, leading an army of Virtues into battle against a Host of enemies to restore the House of Arkhangel’sk. 

Furious with her for putting her trust in the angel who has done them all irreparable harm, Vasily tries to ignore his growing resentment, while Belphagor returns to the world of Man with a cadre of beautiful androgynous Virtues to restore the sundered alliance between the Fallen and the gypsy underground. Without their help in enlisting the terrestrial forces of Grigori and Nephilim, Anazakia’s Virtues are hopelessly outnumbered.

But there are more things in Heaven and Earth than any of them have dreamt of, and those they cannot see will mean the difference between victory and losing everything.


Links of Interest

Libba Bray On Writing Despair (Juicebox Mix): "YOU ARE LIVING IN A FOOL’S PARADISE! WE ARE DOOMED! DOOOOMED!!!!"

12th-century latrine still holds parasites from the crusaders' feces. Favorite part of this post? "That's very exciting for researchers who study feces, or rather, the parasites that are hidden within."

Kate Elliott on SF Civility

Regan Summers at SF Signal talking about love in the time of apocalypse: "Most dystopian, and especially post-apocalyptic, stories revolve around the reduction or elimination of choice..."

Here Be Magic Group Announcements

Check out the WITCH BOUND blog tour for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble! You can find the complete schedule here.

Angela Highland is running a giveaway for her novel Valor of the Healer until the end of June! Two copies of the ebook and one copy of the audiobook edition are up for potential grabs. Details on the giveaway can be found at Angela's blog.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Now Available: A Pixie's Tale

Posted by: Jody W. and Meankitty
Starting on Halloween 2012, a number of the Here Be Magic authors worked on a round robin involving a pixie, a hot vampire who might not be a vampire, and the craziest night of their life. After June 2013, the results of this story were compiled, edited for coherency and market expectations, and formatted it for easier reading. Price? FREE.

Editing & Formatting: Jody Wallace
Cover: Angela Campbell
Proofreading: Angela Campbell, Eilis Flynn

If you followed alng with Delphie's adventures between 2012-2013, there were enough changes in the finished manuscript that you will find new materials and subplots to enjoy. The rough draft definitely got some big revisions!

You can find A Pixie's Tale currently at and


In an attempt to sway human voters—for a totally legitimate cause—Delphie the pixie targets a college neighborhood on Halloween. College students are notoriously liberal anyway, and the neighborhood is a human-only zone. She shouldn’t run into any other supernaturals to interfere with her important mission.

But instead of drunken students, she mistakenly bespells a mysterious, sexy fellow supernatural who doesn’t appreciate the fact her defective fairy dust causes him to be invisible. In retaliation, he curses her, too. She almost escapes, but he’s determined to enact the cure—a taste of her delicious blood, blood that may also give him a yen for her dainty body.

If only Delphie can resist her yen for his body, too, she might just survive the craziest night of her life.

Contains mild profanity, drug and alcohol references, dimensional travel, stressful situations, sexy situations, unicorns, evil kittens and characters making not so great decisions.

Participating authors include:

Angela Campbell
Cindy Spencer Pape
Janni Nell
Jax Garren
Jody Wallace
Nicole Luiken
PG Forte
Rebecca York
RL Naquin
Shawna Thomas
Veronica Scott
Enjoy, readers, and be sure to let us know what you think! Fulsome praise would definitely be the necessary inspiration for us to offer more free stories :)

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist *

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Kingdom for a Title

Posted by: Nicole Luiken

I admit it, I obsess a little about the titles of my novels.

Why?  Because they are so dang important.  Titles are an author’s first chance to hook the reader--or before the reader, to hook an editor or agent.  (Yes, there’s also the cover art, but in many cases the author had absolutely NO control over the cover of their book.)

In addition to hooking the reader, a title should indicate the book’s genre (or even subgenre).  That’s a lot to cram into a single phrase or word.  Is it any wonder we authors angst about it?

Each genre had its own cadre of power words.  Murder mysteries often contain words like Murder, Death, Die, Kill.  Like Wendy Roberts’ Grounds to Kill.

Fantasy loves words like King, Sword, and Magic.  Think A Game of Thrones or Angela Highland’s Valor of the Healer.

Romance favors titles with words like Heart, Love, and Kiss.  Paranormal romance tends to mix words from the romance pool with those from the horror pool resulting in titles like Loribelle Hunt’s Kiss of Twilight.

A good title can also indicate mood.  Consider J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover and MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and Unwed.  Both paranormal romances featuring vampires, but they are VERY different in tone, one intense, one light-hearted and the titles reflect that.  R.L. Naquin’s Monster in My Closet indicates a light-hearted urban fantasy.

And then, as if that isn’t enough, we’re expected to come up with titles that match with the next title in your series.  That way your audience can tell at a glance if your new novel belongs to the series or is something new.  This can simply mean using the same word in each subsequent title like Natasha Hoar’s Lost Souls series (The Stubborn Dead, The Ravenous Dead) or it can be a more complicated pattern like Glen Cook’s Adjective Metal Noun—sorry, Garrett P.I.--series (Sweet Silver Blues, Red Iron Nights, Petty Pewter Gods…) or Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles (Steam & Sorcery, Photograph  Phantoms, Moonlight & Mechanicals, Cards & Caravans)

Once upon a time I used to be good at titles.  My early books were all published under my own titles: Unlocking the Doors, The Catalyst, Escape to the Overworld, Violet Eyes, Running on Instinct, Silver Eyes, Frost.  When writer friends were angsting over a title, I was often able to suggest a title, often a phrase from the story that I particularly liked.

Alas, I seem to have lost my Title Mojo. *sob*.

My two latest YA novels, When Dreams Come True and its sequel Walpurgisnacht were published as Dreamfire and Dreamline.  My fantasy romance novels, Sacrifice and its sequel Soulless were published as Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith.

Although it took me a little while to come around—having a publisher rename your book feels a little like having your child suddenly campaign to be called Bobby Joe—I now like the new titles better than the old ones.

My current title-wrestling dilemma is for an alternate history series based on the question What if aliens invaded in 1200 AD?  My first title was Dark Reflection (because one of the characters, Mirror considered herself the dark reflection of her twin Owl).  It then became Razor House (named after a level of the Mayan Underworld) until someone pointed out the title was more fitting for a horror novel.  It’s most recent incarnation is Besieged by Demons, but I’m having difficulty with the title for book two, tentatively Ruled by Gods.  It may change yet again.

Anyone else wrestling with titles?  What are your favourite titles?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Don't give up on the Lady

Posted by: Unknown
I couldn't have been more than six when I became enchanted with Lady Lovely Locks. I wasn't alone, of course - every little girl I knew adored her, along with her best friends and handmaidens, Maiden FairHair and CurlyCrown. Even the villain, Duchess Ravenwaves, had a certain charm.

And oh, how I coveted the toy line that went with the show! I had one friend who had a Lady doll, another who had the Duchess. My younger sister had Lady's faithful steed, Silky Mane. It felt like everyone was sporting pixietails or comb gnomes...

Except me.

Santa never did get the memo that I was the only one missing out on the Lady Lovely Locks craze. (He also misplaced the letter I sent asking for the Little Mermaid set that included Ariel's day dress, and Flounder, but that's another story.) But for some reason, I never quite gave up on wanting a Lady or Duchess doll.

Skip forward twenty or so years. I was having a bad day. One of those days where I probably shouldn't have been allowed around civilized society. But hey, a girl's gotta earn a living, so off to the office I went. Lunch time rolled around, and I decided to go for a drive to get some air. A gut feel told me to head for the local Value Village. I'd developed a habit of scouring the local thrift stores for retro My Little Ponies, and I'd picked that particular store clean a few days before. Still, the feeling persisted.

"But there won't be any ponies!" I whined. "They won't restock so quickly!"

The feeling refused to budge.

Grouching like a bear with a sore head, I went against 'common sense', and headed for the store. Twenty minutes later, I was about to walk out empty handed, when that dang gut feel resurfaced. This time it became more specific. Go look at the doll racks. I doubled back to the toy section, and began pawing through the mostly naked, all well-used dolls hanging in plastic baggies from the back wall display.

And there, towards the back, was a Lady Lovely Locks doll. Her hair was immaculate, her dress untouched by age or play wear. All she was missing was her shoes, and her pixietails.

I silently walked her to the cashier, paid for her, went and sat in my car, and cried. When I got home, I managed to find a collector on a My Little Pony forum who happened to be selling spare pixietails she had collected in her childhood, and yes, she just so happened to have a pair of shoes she was willing to sell, too.

This is my Lady today, perched on the bookcase in my writing office:

I know what you're thinking - Natasha, there'd better be a bloody good point to this story.

The point is that dreams don't always arrive on your schedule. Don't give up, just because your dream hasn't manifested yet. If it's too hard to keep holding out for that book deal, career opportunity, or special someone, it's okay to tuck that image away for a bit, and to focus on something else that will help you feel happier in the now. But don't give up hope. Never give up hope.

Wishing you all the best in your adventures and endeavours! And if you have a story of dreams showing up when you least expected them to, I'd love to hear about it!

Natasha is the author of the Lost Souls Series - available at Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Audible.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Here Be News

Posted by: Unknown
New releases this week

In an attempt to sway human voters—for a totally legitimate cause—Delphie the pixie targets a college neighborhood on Halloween. College students are notoriously liberal anyway, and the neighborhood is a human-only zone. She shouldn’t run into any other supernaturals to interfere with her important mission.

But instead of drunken students, she mistakenly bespells a mysterious, sexy fellow supernatural who doesn’t appreciate the fact her defective fairy dust turns him invisible. In retaliation, he curses her, too. She almost escapes, but he’s determined to enact the cure—a taste of her delicious blood, blood that may also give him a yen for her dainty body.

If only Delphie can resist her yen for his body, too, she might just survive the craziest night of her life.

-This story started as a round robin on the blog and can now be downloaded for free here.

The authors are: Angela Campbell, Cindy Spencer Pape, Jax Garren, Janni Nell, Jody Wallace, Nicole Luiken, PG Forte, Rebecca York, RL Naquin, & Veronica Scott.

Links of Interest

The New Jersey Romance Writers 2013 Put Your Heart in a Book Contest for unpublished authors is open for entries. Contest runs the month of June. For details, go to

I love these kinds of stories: See how a lost city was rediscovered with lasers from the sky

This short and sweet post on Building tension helped me work through something that was bugging me in my current manuscript. Passing it along with the hope it'll help you too.

Here Be Magic Group Announcements

Coming Soon...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Call to the Fathers of the World

Posted by: Angela Korra'ti
Those of you who follow the SF/F genre may be aware that SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America, has had quite the explosive last couple of weeks with controversies surrounding sexism in the genre--and some authors who've been particularly virulent in expressing their opinions. I've been following the explosions with interest, and have even had to put on my rantypants about what's been going on. And I'm here to tell you, people, rantypants are not particularly pleasant to have to wear. I'd much rather be breaking out the comfypants, myself.

A lot of this, too, is going to sound very familiar to romance writers who're used to having their work sneered at and dismissed as "chick books", particularly writers who have one foot in SF and the other foot in romance. Because hi yeah, that'd be me. And it'd be several others at Carina, including several who post right here on this very blog.

Since I've been posting about this in depth over on my own site, I'm not going to repeat myself too much here. Instead, since it's Father's Day, I'd like to come at this from another angle: i.e., a call to the fathers of the world.

Gentlemen, I'd like to challenge you to read a book written by a woman. Maybe even a romance novel. Go in with an open mind, and who knows, you may actually enjoy it. If you're feeling particularly ambitious, post about it! I commend to your attention the efforts of DocTurtle and Patrick, as featured over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books in the category of Dudes Reading Romance.

But if you're not up to tackling a romance novel, try an SF/F one. Try one of those urban fantasies with a badassed or grim-looking woman on the cover, or something steampunk, or how about epic fantasy? Kat Richardson, C.E. Murphy, Cherie Priest, Martha Wells, and N.K. Jemisin are some names that can get you started.

Or how about some books that have a foot in romance, and another in SF/F, and another in mystery/police procedurals? (Yes, that's three feet.) I first discovered Nora Roberts in her guise as J.D. Robb, and the long-running Eve Dallas series has plenty of action in a futuristic setting. It also stands out for me as one of the best examples of a long-running married relationship between the two lead characters, as well as the developing relationships of all the supporting cast. Some of the best books in the series raise questions that would be absolutely at home in any SF novel--like Born in Death, which features cloning.

If you have sons, encourage them to follow your example. Teach them not only that reading is awesome, but also that reading books about people who aren't exactly like them, written by people who aren't exactly like them, can be fun too.

If you have daughters, teach them the same--but I'd like to ask you as well to be ready to show your daughters that you support what they like to read. Especially if that means books with a woman on the cover, books where a woman is the main character, and books that are written by women.

Far too much of the publishing world is oriented around the idea of books by and about women--"chick books"--being inferior. Changing this starts with you. Thank you.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Writer Brain

Posted by: Kathleen Collins
So it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to write about this time. I mean my book's not out yet so it's hard to talk about that. And I have some other news but I can't share that yet. I started running through possible topics in my head and I'm not even going to tell you what all I thought about. And then it dawned on me, one of my favorite topics: Writer Brain.

Now for those of you who don't write, you have no idea what I'm talking about but you will in a moment. And fellow writers may not have heard it called that but you'll understand.

Writer brain is the condition with which all authors are afflicted and it works something like this. Scenario: I am driving down the road with a steep hill on one side. A car approaches from the other direction. No big deal, happens everyday.

Only my brain does this: what if that car swerved into my lane? If I swerved to miss him I'd go down the embankment. I wonder if it's steep enough that my van would roll. Is my phone charged so someone could find my husband's number? And then the car passes harmlessly by me and my brain is on to something else.

This translates into writing like this: So my heroine is driving in her car at night listening to the radio. But what if it was raining? And what if it was the middle of no where? And two o'clock in the morning. And the car dies. And her cell phone is dead. And then while she's sitting there a car pulls up behind her. And it's being driving by the idiot at work who stole her promotion and made a lewd pass at her. Or maybe she sees a UFO. Or a giant wolf.

There is a reason some people say there is a thin line between crazy and genius. While my brain working overtime can drive me a little nuts sometimes, it sure makes writing fun. So what about you? If you're a writer do you share this quirk? If you're a reader, what quirks do you have in your thought processes?

Kathleen Collins is sitting in her corner going slowly insane while waiting for her first book to be released in October. You should go visit and keep her company at

Friday, June 14, 2013

Author Interview: STOLEN LUCK by Shawna Reppert

Posted by: Veronica Scott
Note from Shawna: This interview was originally posted at the interviewer’s own author website .  Maggie is such a fabulous interviewer that I asked her permission to share over here at Here Be Magic.  Enjoy!

MSW: Hi, Shawna! What's the story about your new book? 

Shawna Reppert: How far will even a good man go to save the home and the people he loves? In The Stolen Luck, Lord James Dupree has to answer that very question when he embarks on a perilous journey with an elven slave. 

The ancient elven talisman known as the Dupree Luck once made the Dupree wine prized above all else, and that wine made the family’s fortune. Bur James’s father has been murdered and the Luck stolen, and both the thief and the Luck have disappeared into the Lands Between. The vineyard is failing and creditors are closing in; James’ only hope to recover the Luck is Loren, an elven slave he risked much to win in a card game.

Despite his abhorrence of slavery, James cannot free Loren until the elf has helped him cross over to the elven lands to recover the Luck, and so James violates ancestor’s beliefs and traditions in an attempt to save his ancestral home. But James finds owning another person changes him in subtle ways. A friendship grows between Loren during the desperate journey that may kill them both before they can reclaim the Luck. James need to command Loren is at odds with that friendship. Worse, James finds himself falling for Loren. The crisis of conscience escalates when a hidden enemy moves against them. James must choose between the Luck he needs and the elf he has come to love. He was prepared to gamble his honor for the Luck, but his heart and his soul are really what’s at stake.

MSW: What would you say inspired you the most when you were developing this story line? What kept you going?

Shawna Reppert: It all started with a comment a friend of mine had made. I can’t even remember the context, but she said that the tragedy of imbalance of power is not just what it does to the powerless, but also what it does to the soul of the one in power. I tucked it away in the back of my mind as a theme I wanted to explore in fiction.

Shortly after, I got to talking with another friend about tropes that are too often badly handled in fiction. We both agreed that the master/slave relationship came near the top of the list of badly done plot devices. If someone is a slave owner raised in a culture where slavery is the norm, that person is unlikely to have moral qualms about treating another person as property. Someone who doesn’t believe in slavery is unlikely to have a slave. Of course, being a writer, I instantly challenged myself to find a way to make the trope work as realistic and interesting fiction. I realized I could take a character adamantly opposed to slavery and give him a compelling reason to acquire and keep a slave. The moral stakes that drive him have to be high enough to equal the immorality of owning another person.

The obvious question is why? And what does the character in this dilemma do? And what effect does the decision have on them?

The earlier comment about imbalance of power came to mind. At this point, the whole thing remained an intellectual exercise.

But a few months later, I was stuck in a hotel room because the pipes had frozen in my home. There was about six inches of layered snow and ice on the roads with more falling, and I couldn’t get back to check on my house. Daytime television couldn’t keep my mind off the possibility of disaster.

I was working on another novel at the time, but kept getting blocked. So I dug the idea about slavery and imbalance of power out of the dusty recesses of my mind and started writing.

I soon found myself absolutely hooked on the characters and world I had created. There was no turning back.

MSW: The motif of slavery is a very chancy one and likely to make many readers uncomfortable. Can you talk a little about that? Your choices, decisions, intentions, and so on?

Shawna Reppert: I realized from the beginning that the book was going to be a tough sell because of the slavery motif. Not that I had any qualms about my approach as described above, but I was afraid editors and readers would find the topic so unsettling that they wouldn’t see past the word ‘slave’ to look at how I was exploring the theme. It’s absolutely not your typical master-slave trope story, but rather the antidote. Unfortunately, when you try to turn a trope inside out, it’s hard to pitch it without everyone seeing the original trope.

I actually abandoned the novel several times because I was so uncomfortable with the idea of taking it through the pitch process once it was complete, but the novel kept riding me and demanding to be written.

I still get raised eyebrows when I try to tell people about the novel, and I find myself talking fast to convince my audience that no, it’s not one of those novels. One of the few bad reviews I got on Goodreads was from someone who was looking for BDSM and didn’t find any (what my one friend called ‘a bad review that’s actually a good review’)

MSW:      The Stolen Luck is essentially an adventure, which is also a love story not only between two men, but between master and slave. Was that part of your original intention, or did the characters surprise you?

Shawna Reppert: That was very much not part of the original plan. When the story started moving that way, I knew it was going to make the dynamic even more uncomfortable for everyone, including myself. But at the end of the day, the best books are the ones that aren’t ‘safe’ but take us beyond our comfort zone and make us think.

The attraction between James and Loren arises very organically out of who the characters are. I actually fought writing it at first, nearly as hard as the characters fought the attraction itself, but in the end the story not only demanded to be written, it demanded to be written in a certain way.

And from the rules-of-writing standpoint, the attraction between them is a very powerful dynamic. As a writer, you always ask yourself how you can make your protagonist’s situation even worse. James is honorable down to the core. He tells Loren that he would take no one against their will, not elf nor maid nor mortal man, and a slave cannot consent because a slave cannot refuse. He means what he says, and when he finds himself more and more in love with Loren, his heart is breaking with the things he cannot, in conscience, express, and his original dilemma takes on even more depth.

For Loren, it’s hard enough to come to terms with the fact that he has learned to like and respect his new master. He senses James’s feelings before he acknowledges his own, and his fondness for the man makes him hurt for his heartache.

When he finally realizes his own feelings, he knows he must keep them hidden. In his view, no good can come between love between a slave and his master, nor between an elf and a mortal man.

I realized I had set up the ultimate impossible love, and though I consider myself a fantasy writer, not a romance writer, it was just too good to pass up.
MSW: When I’m writing, I sometimes enjoy the research even more than the writing, and sometimes stumble over amazingly useful details quite by accident. Did you have to do any research for this book? If so, what kind of topics did you pursue and what sort of places did they take you?

Shawna Reppert: Oh, I had a lot of fun researching this book. I live in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, probably the reason my subconscious gave me a vintner protagonist. The year I started the first draft, local wineries had gotten together and offered Wineology 101, a self-guided wine tour with tastings and lectures on various topics about wine and winemaking at each stop.

Usually when a writer goes out to research, she comes home with an armload of books, not half a case of wine.

 More important, I learned about the risky nature of the vintner’s life, which gave me a nice thematic pairing with James’s skill with cards. I learned how to talk about wines, and sampled a port that was pure ambrosia and became the inspiration for the fortified wine James shares with Loren on their first night at Dupree Manor. I learned about some of the technical growing decisions that made the basis for James’s conversations with elven vintners in the Lands Between. I learned about the importance of timing the harvest (‘the crush’ as winemakers call it), which gave me a ticking clock where I needed one to ratchet up the tension.

And I saw and heard firsthand the passion of vintners for their wines and for their vineyards, which allowed me to imbue James with that very passion.

MSW: What can we look for from you in future books?

Shawna Reppert
: I am preparing to indie-publish an urban fantasy, Ravensblood, set in a parallel-universe version of Portland, Oregon. It’s a world of impossible choices, where sometimes death magic is the lesser of the evils and a dark mage struggles to save the Three Communities and his own soul. 

Corwyn Ravenscroft, last scion of a family of dark mages, struggles to save the Three Communities and his own soul. He turns spy against his master, who would overturn the democratically elected Council in favor of the ancient system where the most powerful mage ruled. His contact with the Council is Cassandra, a former apprentice and former lover, whom he once betrayed. Cass is a Guardian now, trying to live down her dark past until that past

came to her door, begging for help.

Ravensblood has gotten rave reviews from all my preliminary readers, including a woman from France who liked it so much that she came out to the Pacific Northwest on vacation so I could take her on the Ravensblood tour of Portland and surrounding areas.

Hopefully that will keep readers satisfied while I finish and market my newest work-in-progress, a steampunk/Victorian detective novel. Sort of like Sherlock Holmes if Holmes was a reluctantly-involved werewolf, Watson was a woman alchemist with attitude and Lestrade wasn’t and idiot.

There’s also a medieval fantasy making the marketing rounds and trying to find a home with traditional publishers, a sequel to Ravensblood outlined and awaiting my attention, and plans for a series of novels to follow the steampunk/Victorian detective novel.
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