Saturday, December 11, 2010

Editing - %#*!!#$

Yup.   Working on the love scenes, making sure there's enough heat in them and sexual tension and sensuality and - arrrgh!  Also doing far too much banging of my head on the desk.  This kind of work isn't usually such a pain in the rump.

I've already been through the manuscript a few times making sure names are right and you know where they are and who they are.  Will still have to do that again after this round of edits are done.  Not that I plan to move my characters around the countryside, but I miss things.  Since I wrote this stuff, the brain often sees what I meant to put there but which isn't really there.  Phantom words, if you will.

Now, as I've said before, I write most all the book out by hand and then type it into the computer, editing some as I do.  Then, since I have this little backwards problem(as they called it when I went to school) I have to go through it again and again to make sure I haven't put things the wrong way round or reversed letters, etc.   Then, to take a break from that, I do a little more 'tweaking'.  Right at the moment I'm 'tweaking' the love scenes and  the oooh-I-gotta-have-him/her scenes, etc.  And, unfortunately, right at the moment, if I get a couple of hours at a stretch without interruption, I'm lucky.  That sort of thing makes editing very hard. (And I don't care any more how nice that Verizon sales guy is, if he comes to the door one more time, I'm going to offer some suggestions of physically impossible things he can do with himself.)

What I think makes editing hard - and I'm not talking about the editing asked for by one's editor, but the stuff you do before you dare to even show it to him - is not some great, narcissistic love for one's own words that makes it impossible for you to change them, but the difficulty in messing around with what's already there.  I find that it's not easy to come up with what to say, if you've already said it one way.  I'm not talking about those obvious things like a scene that lies there, dead, lifeless, and about as exciting as a National Geographic special on the love life of slugs.  No, I'm talking about the scenes that work, that aren't bad, but somehow they just don't make you happy with them.

Of course, many writers are never fully satisfied with what's there.  You have to be careful not to slip into the trap of over-editing your stuff, playing with it so much that you actually wreck what was perfectly all right.(Looming deadlines can be a quick cure for that kind of thing)  I think we occasionally read what we wrote and think it could be better, that we want it to be more, and so we tinker, and tinker, and tinker some more.  One just has to know when to stop.  It's kind of like adding spice to a stew.  At first it's better, than a little better, and then suddenly, that one last pinch of salt(or whatever) wrecks dinner and you have to order pizza.

Then there's the problem of having read some story and that love scene was so hot it scorched the pages, and wasn't the sexual tension enough to make you sweat?  Or you could almost hear the clash of the swords in that battle.   Then there's your love scene or battle scene or whatever.  Suddenly what you thought was really good looks like crap.  Been there.  Got the t-shirt.  Took me a while to realize that I can't sound like that but it doesn't mean anything is lacking in my scene.  It's just the voice.  I hear my voice all the time in my writing so it's not going to stir me up after the eighth(or more) read-through like that other story did.  And if I tried to sound like that it'd be almost akin to plagerism for I'd be stealing that writer's voice.  Not that I think you can do that without sounding phony, but you get the idea(I hope).  I love the page after page after page of dark, desperate, angst-ridden writing like some of my favorite authors, but I accept that it's not something I can do, it's not my voice.  That's her voice.   I've learned to look at what I've written and recognize my own voice, which actually can be quite helpful in editing your own work.

So, I will go over my story and I will tweak and then I will think about it a bit, maybe tweak a little more, and then read the whole thing through once or twice more.  And - by the time I get that story off my desk - I will be doing the happy dance to see it leave.  And you know what?  After all that work, all that sweating over it, all that tweaking, I'm still not going to be sure it's 'perfect' and maybe that's a good thing.  After all, if I thought I had reached perfection, not only would I be a bit of a diva(and would probably have the strong urge to slap myself), but I'd stop trying, stop working so hard to get the story right, and that would be very bad indeed, I think.

As a final note:  If anyone happens to be in the New England area - Sunday, 12/12, from noon to 3pm - there's a multi-author booksigning in Plaistow, NH at the Well Read Books store, Elm Plaza, Rte 125, Plaistow, NH; phone #: 603-819-5116.  I'll be there with Annette Blair, Coralie Jenson, Ella Drake, Ashlyn Chase, Barbara Wallace.  Pop in if you can.  We'll have cookies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shopping, deadlines, cleaning, decorating, and contests.

Oh, yeh, that pic says it right - increasingly during this time of the year.  So much to do as one holiday leaps straight into another.  Throw in that deadline and things get really hairy.  It's always when you really need to get something done at a certain time that Murphy's Law kicks into high gear.  Interruptions that halt the flow of the story from brain to paper(like needing to get a molar yanked out on Tuesday), the characters decide to get persnickety on you and refuse to do what you need them to do in any way, shape, or form, even if you spend hours trying to figure out why they won't(tweaking plot ideas, playing with character charts, and so on), or your Muse decides she needs to go sunning in the Bahamas for a few weeks.  Bi**h.  Oh, and let's toss in a DH who has days of vacation left to use up and will only be working 1 day a week until the New Year, in the dead of winter, when he can't go busy himself outside.  I think I feel a breakdown coming on.

Now, I love the DH.  Will have been married to him for 40 years come March 23rd of next year.  But he doesn't get it.  I think that's a big problem with hubbies or wives or assorted live-ins if they aren't writers themselves.  They don't understand that when said writer is trying to sink herself deep into Medieval Scotland with guys who say lass and dinnae and aye(and have rock hard abs, muscular legs, and big - swords), a guy in a grubby tee-shirt stepping into the office to ask if she is going to be doing any laundry today is not helpful.  Yanks one right out of the story.  As do questions about which cat is outside or is she going grocery shopping any time soon because he's getting low on milk or - picture's clear, I think.  Said writer begins to entertain violent thoughts such as learning how to turn on the chainsaw so she can cut him off at the knees.  Then let's see him walk in and interrupt the flow.   Ah, and then there's the quiet pace through the office to look out the windows as if they don't look out on pretty much the same thing all the other windows do but why should that trouble me as he's being very quiet.  I bet there are a few writers out there who'd be willing right about then to hold him down as I rev up the chainsaw.

So - yes - the writing is creeping along.  When that molar with the cracked root gets yanked out of my mouth on Tuesday there's a chance it'll slow down to a snail's pace for a couple of days.  True, my contracted deadline is December 30th but who the heck wants a deadline hanging over their head right over Christmas?  Looking like it might be hanging over mine, though.  I know - cry me a river, world's tiniest violin playing, poor poor pitiful me, etc.  I know I have it good right now but I reserve the right to whine now and then. Sort of like the multi-billionaire who gets weary and bored watching his money pile up while all he has to do is contemplate his navel lint.  Or, maybe not.

Rant over.  I'll wrestle the story and recalcitrant characters into submission in time to meet deadline even if it means sitting up at the computer on Christmas.  (Boxing Day is when the family gathers so can't do it then)  And Thank God for internet shopping.  Now if I could just find a horde of minions to clean the house, put up my far too many decorations, and tidy up the basement, I'd have a big smile on my face.  Then again - maybe not.  Something tells me they'd probably interrupt me more than the DH.

CONTEST!!!!  It's a big one - on my website: http://www.hannahhowell.com/ .  It's a puzzle and a count-up-the hidden-pictures game.  It's hard but the prizes are worth it.  1st place: A Kindle, 2nd Place: $50 gift certificate from Amazon, 3rd place: a signed copy of HIGHLAND PROTECTOR and one other book of my own choosing.  Hope you'll pop in and give it a try.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Release Day

This is the step-back part of the cover.  Wish my back looked that good. He looks pretty spiffy, too, but being a married lady(and considering the possibility that my DH might some day see this blog) I won't express any wishes concerning him.  I'll leave those to your imagination.  Looks a bit like I thought Simon Innes would too.                                                                                                   Sir Simon Innes, the hero, showed up in 2 other Murray tales, Highland Wolf & Highland Sinner, and so I knew he needed his own story.  I always consider it a hint when that certain secondary character keeps popping up in other people's stories.  It's as if he's jumping up and down crying me, me, me.  He, or she, has obviously rooted in my mind so I begin the process of trying to come up with a tale that'll suit them.  It isn't always easy.  Sometimes I've made the character so nice and sympathetic, so good and happy, that nothing comes to mind and I am forced to ruin their lives just to get a good story out of them(cue evil laughter here).  Simon wasn't all that good.(Lucky for him)  It was clear from the start that he had 'issues'.  Good juicy ones, too.  So, as I worked on the Wherlocke trilogy, he stayed in the back of my mind, poking at me, until I began to see what I could do with him when it came time to return to the Murrays.

The heroine that would be perfect for him was a little harder.  First I had to do research into all the other Murray tales to find who could be the right age.(am working on a spreadsheet so that might be a little easier next time)  Then a name and then a problem for her that only Sir Simon could solve.  And I did rather pile it on her slim shoulders.  Treason.  Betrayal.  Murder.  Fun times.  Ilsabeth Murray Armstrong arrives at Simon's door with a really big puzzle for him to solve.

Now, naturally, they are attracted to each other.  This is a romance after all.  So throw in a few more complications - so many to choose from.  Sigh.  Anyhoo, you get the picture.  Oh, and add a couple orphans, cranky, nosy servants, interfering Murrays, and Simon's dark past and off we go. 

It was fun to revisit the Murrays.  Had to fully shake the Wherlockes and eighteenth century England from my mind first.  Took a while.  I don't know how some of these writers are able to so quickly leap from one time to another and even one genre to another.  Makes my brain hurt just to think of it.  But, the Murrays and Scotland soon began to feel like home again.  I hope any of you who read the book will feel the same.  I'm finishing up another Wherlocke tale now but have already come up with a new scenario for some Murrays for the book after that.   With a quick break to do another novella concerning those dark, dangerous MacNachtons, of course.  Have a busy year ahead of me.  Just thinking of it makes me feel like I need a nap.

Back to HIGHLAND PROTECTOR.  Simon and Ilsabeth enter the world today so give them a peek if you're so inclined.  I think you'll love them as I did.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Virgin Heroes and Experienced Heroines by Monica Burns

Before I get into my post, I’d like to thank Hannah for hosting me on her blog. It’s always a pleasure to be here. Speaking of pleasure, I’d like to invite everyone to a huge blog event starting January 17th through the 1st of March. More than 35 historical romance authors will be blogging at my blog during the Pleasure Me With Romance event. Hannah will be one of my guests, along with Sabrina Jeffries, an interview with Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick), Sarah MacLean, Jennifer Haymore, Julieanne MacLean, Lisa Valdez and many more of your favorite authors. There will be book giveaways, as well as a grand prize and other goodies up for grabs. You can visit http://monicaburns.blogspot.com/p/pleasure-me-with-romance-blog-event_28.html for more details.

Now on with the post! When it comes to romance heroes, many of us love an alpha male. We love how the heroine is strong enough to push back and eventually tame her man. Well, tame is a little bit of an overstatement. What alpha hero is ever really tame? That’s what we love about alpha heroes. It’s that raw, masculine predator wrapped up in tall, dark, and handsome that we love. A hero who’s willing to go to hell and back for his woman.

A little more than a year ago, I was getting ready to write my March 2011 release Pleasure Me. My editor and I had talked at a conference, and she’d asked me to make the hero a virgin. My initial on the outside was, umm…sure, I suppose I could. Inside I was thinking WTF? I write alpha heroes. How in the hell am I going to write an alpha male who’s never been with a woman. Who wasn’t to read a wimpy-butt hero who’s inexperienced? So I mulled it over for a few weeks. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I had to at least try and please my editor. After all, the editor is who will decide if I get another contract or not.

My initial thoughts about the hero were pretty cut and dried. I had only one requirement for a virginal hero. The reason for the hero’s virginal status had to be a logical one. I also had to have a reason that enabled me to make the hero an alpha while still keeping him untouched. So I did some research and came up with a medical reason that made my task a little easier. In the late Victorian era (just like now) it was important to the male ego that a man appeared strong, virile, manly, and above all sexual prowess in the bedroom. Any man who wasn’t these things was viewed as a possible homosexual or a weakling.

So, you can imagine what it must have been like for a man who is minus some of his private equipment. The idea of his manhood being questioned would be devastating to any man’s sense of self-worth. Baron Garrick Stratfield, my hero, is no exception to the need to appear strong and virile. But thanks to a vicious uncle Garrick is convinced that not even a whore will touch him, because he has only one testicle.

For the second piece of the puzzle, I needed an experienced woman who could teach the hero how to become a wonderful lover. My immediate choice was an older courtesan. Actually, I’d decided on an older courtesan BEFORE my editor “suggested” the virgin hero. I know there are some readers who might well balk at the idea of an older woman, younger male virgin hero. I totally understand that position. But the relationship between Ruth and Garrick might just surprise you. I know it did me.

What I loved so much about Ruth was her vulnerability and strength. Let’s face it, we all know that our looks and figures aren’t going to last forever (unless of course you’re a movie/TV star who can afford the pricey diets, plastic surgery, botox, personal trainers and exercise time). It’s tough enough being you and me, but for a woman whose livelihood is based on her looks, it’s even tougher. For me, Ruth epitomizes a woman who’s facing middle age knowing her days as a widely sought after courtesan are numbered. Suddenly, she’s forced to deal with impending retirement, and she has to do it alone.

Like most of us, Ruth doesn’t understand how time could pass so quickly. And when Garrick enters her life, things spin out of control. But spinning out of control can be a good thing if it involves a HEA. Pleasure Me is a story about two people who are convinced they’re one thing, but falling in love gives them new insight into the people they really are.

I’ve always enjoyed the dynamics of an older woman, younger man scenario, but adding in the virgin hero piece of the story made it a challenge to write. I’m really proud of the book. In fact, I just reread it for the second time in less than a month (edits), and I still love the story. Ruth and Garrick hold a special place in my heart.

So tell me, do you like older women, younger men story lines? What sort of age difference can you handle between the hero and the heroine? Do you like virgin heroes? What age do you think constitutes being over the hill?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Heating Up the Holiday Season

Hi. My name is Opal Carew and I write erotic romance. I’d like to thank Hannah for inviting me here today.

In October, Hannah, Terri Brisbin and I were up for the Golden Leaf award in the novella category, which was awarded at the New Jersey Put Your Heart in a Book conference. Hannah won and she’s now in the hall of fame, which is so cool. I wound up winning in the single title category (thank heavens Hannah wasn’t entered in that category, too ;-P ) for FORBIDDEN HEAT. Now I have a lovely trophy sitting in my living room. Two would have been garish, right?

Other than bragging, which LeeAnn (a mutual friend) insisted I do because… well, she’s a sweetheart and likes everyone to know the good things that happen to people… anyway, other than bragging, I wondered what I should talk about today. I’m an author, so talking about my newest book makes sense. I thought I’d talk about two of my stories: PLEASURE BOUND , which comes out on December 7th, and, since it’s so near the holiday season, CHRISTMAS ANGEL, which came out on Christmas Eve last year.

PLEASURE BOUND is a story about Ty, a bad-boy turned Mr.-Nice-Guy who falls for Marie, the girl next door. Unfortunately, she falls for an ex-friend from Ty’s past. It’s a story about lasting friendship and being true to who you really are.

Here’s the blurb:

When Marie meets Zeke—a tattooed, motorcycle-riding bad boy with a body built for sin—she’s swept up in a torrid affair that rocks her world. He’s so different from the dependable Mr.-Nice-guy-types she’s always dated in the past—and after a few nights in his arms, she vows never to go back.

Little does she know that her best friend Ty, the quintessential Mr. Nice guy, is gearing up to make his move and finally admit his true feelings for her. When Ty learns that Marie thinks he’s “too nice” for her, he sets out to prove that he can be the overpowering Dominant she wants and overwhelm her senses in ways Zeke never could.

What Marie never expected to discover is that Zeke and Ty share a secret history together—one that changes everything she thought she knew about both men. A past that went far beyond the bounds of friendship…and now they’re about to take Marie beyond the bounds of pleasure…and into a world of soul-shattering ecstasy.

Sexy, eh? (Yeah, I’m Canadian.) So while PLEASURE BOUND will heat you up on a cold night (and since it hits -35 here in Ottawa, I know about cold nights), maybe you’re in the mood for a Christmas story. If so, CHRISTMAS ANGEL is short and sweet, in a hot, erotic kind of way, so it will also help keep you and your sweetie warm.

I thought I’d tell you how I came up with the idea for CHRISTMAS ANGEL. I love to collect Christmas angels which I set around the house during the holiday season. (I included some pictures in a blog last Christmas. Click here to check them out. )

A few years ago, when I was packing away my angels after the holidays, I thought about how sad it was that they are packed up in a dark box all year long, then just come out for a few precious weeks over the holidays. (Yes, I tend to anthropomorphize a little too much. I even have trouble gift wrapping a stuffed animal!) This triggered the idea for CHRISTMAS ANGEL. What if a woman had been cursed to be a Christmas treetop angel… only to see the light of day for a week or so each year. To feel emotions, but not to feel the touch of another human. To never be touched by love. The story opens when that sad, lonely woman is given a chance to recover her life, but at a terrible price.

Now, just in case you’re not convinced to run right out and read it, here’s what the reviewers had to say:

"The Christmas Angel is an enchanting story that springs with incredible emotions. [Opal Carew] weaves a delicious tale with believability, tender love and affection that laces with electric sparks. She pens a most remarkable read that will make you cry, laugh and applaud with elation while making your heart leap. I love every story that she fashions."

The Romance Studio

"This book is full of emotions… it enthralled me with the passion. All in all, THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL was a most wonderful story. It makes you believe in miracles, laugh, cry and then shout for joy. Since this is the first book I have read from [Opal Carew], I look forward to reading more of her books."

Romance Junkies

"…interesting plot twist on a Christmas story… heart wrenching… a powerful addition to the romance holiday genre and one sure to please the most avid of readers and romance enthusiasts."

Fallen Angel Reviews

If you’d like to learn more about me or my books, please visit me at http://www.opalcarew.com/, or read an excerpt of PLEASURE BOUND or CHRISTMAS ANGEL.



Thanks again to Hannah for allowing me to share with you, and I hope you have a great holiday season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Introducing Vanessa deHart author of NO MORE LIES

What can I say about myself that’s not been said before?

Let’s see… I was born a little girl (inside I’m still a little girl), I daydreamed my way through my teen years (and I still daydream), and I’m pretty well passionate about everything I do (I haven’t heard my husband complain too much about that!).

Enough said on that subject. Life is to be embraced, along with kids, puppies and grandparents.

On writing:

I write because I have to. Characters invade my daydreams and refuse to leave until I’ve told their story. End of story.

I invite you now to come along and share with me one of my many daydreams. I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

PS:

If I were to share one little nugget of wisdom that I picked up during the writing process of this particular story, it would be this – never give up. NO MORE LIES is the first novel I ever wrote, and yet it is the fourth book of mine to get published. In its original incarnation, it was poorly written and full of ‘purple prose’, but all that aside, I believed in the story and the characters who were telling it. I just had to return to it again and again, putting it through a major rewrite every time I learned something new. And learn I did. Not just about the writing process, but about life and the human condition. The people I met while researching Elora’s tragedies and triumphs taught me so much about perseverance, about never giving up. Elora is alive because of them.



NO MORE LIES is a heart-warming romance set in the small town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. It’s about a recently handicapped woman who must learn that her self worth doesn’t exist in her looks or in her performance, but rather, in the strength of her character, and that no amount of lying can hide that ultimate truth.

Elora St. James, a professional figure skater, was the world’s darling until disaster struck. Now she’s hiding from the world in a small fishing village in Nova Scotia, pretending to be someone she’s not. Maybe, if she hid behind enough lies…

Dan Barrington-Smith, the youngest son of a wealthy family, no longer wants to be associated with his influential family. He wants to be accepted for himself. Dan decides to break away and go incognito on a golfing spree. Maybe, if he hid behind enough lies…

And so the lies begin.

Elora and Dan meet in Lunenburg. She manages the hotel his family owns while he’s in town to golf. Their first two encounters seem small and inconsequential, but both times there is an instant awareness between them. Something out of the ordinary begins to happen. In every encounter the passion escalates even as the lies expand, until they’ve run out of lies to tell.

And once the lies run out, all that remains is the truth.



NO MORE LIES by Vanessa deHart



From his comment, Elora deduced that Danny was a guest at the hotel. That rendered him safe; he wouldn’t be staying for long. Just long enough for a bit of flirting, long enough to soothe her bruised spirit.

“Shall I bring a menu?” Perry asked.

Elora looked at Danny. “Have you eaten yet?” she asked.

“No.”

“Hungry?”

“Ravenous.” His wolfish grin made her stomach do a flip. Maybe dining with him wasn’t quite as safe as she’d supposed.

“Have Boris prepare two complete specials,” Elora instructed Perry. She hoped her long-time friend couldn’t see how Danny’s seemingly innocuous comment affected her. “And bring us whatever wines are recommended to accompany the various courses.” Perry gave a curt nod with his head and withdrew.

Danny asked, “Are you trying to impress me?”

Elora arched an eyebrow. “Is it working?”

“What if I said yes?”

Elora felt the warmth stain her cheeks. “Good.” She saluted him with her drink. “I’d hoped we could put that first meeting behind us and start over again in a more civilized fashion.” She intentionally omitted any mention of their second meeting.

“Oh, but I liked our first meeting.” A devilish light glinted in Danny’s eyes. “I got to hold you in my arms right away.”

Elora felt a slow burn heat up her insides, and she doubted that the sip of alcohol had anything to do with it. She knew she was playing a dangerous game tonight, and she loved every minute of it. It had been so long since she’d felt desirable.

“Work all done for the day?” Danny asked.

“Yes,” she replied without offering any further explanation. “How was your game?” she asked in a blatant attempt to change the subject.

Danny laughed and took a swallow from his own drink. Playing with the glass on the table he answered, “Invigorating. It was a much more challenging course than I’d expected. Though it would have been a lot more fun with company.” The soft glow of candlelight highlighted his chiselled features and turned his eyes to molten silver.

“You’d want to share your frustration with an audience?” Elora toyed with the skewered lime in her drink.

“What frustration?”

“Are you going to tell me that the Lady of the Lake didn’t lure away any of your golf balls?”

“How did you know?” Danny leaned back looking somewhat discomfited by her comment.

Elora laughed. “That hole is infamous for stealing favourite balls. Hundreds get dredged up from there every season. Never mind the bent clubs Jackie has to try and straighten out.”

“Tell you what,” Danny said. “I’ll practice. And once I’ve perfected that hole, I’ll invite you out.”

Elora doubted very much that that would ever happen, but she raised her glass in acceptance of his chivalric invitation anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to pretend, would it?

To Purchase a copy of NO MORE LIES

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Characters - and I mean the ones on the page.

And - no - the picture has nothing to do with what I'm about to say.  It just makes me smile.  I could say that's me - plotting.  Wouldn't be that far from the truth.

Went to the New Jersey Romance Writers conference last weekend where I got the Golden Leaf Award for my novella The Beast Within from the anthology Highland Beast.  That was my third one so I'm now in the Hall of Fame. Very nice.  Thank you, New Jersey.  Also did a talk on characters.  Unfortunately, I was slated for right after Saturday's breakfast and my 45 minutes shrunk to a half hour or less.  Didn't get to talk on one part of my ideas on what to do to make your character memorable so thought I'd do it here.  Contain your excitement.  LOL.

What I didn't get to was something I read in an old article by Jack M. Bickman called the Core of Characterization(Writer's Digest, 11/89)  In it he talked about a character's self-concept.  That is - what we do in order to be consistant with who and what we think we are.  It's our total self-view.  It drives people to choose where they live, who they know, and even to pick their goals.  Even if people do something that appears contradictory to others, it will make sense to them in terms of their self-concept.  That man who rushes into a burning building to save a child might never call himself a hero or even think of himself as such but he has always thought of himself as a man who loves children or even one who will do what has to be done.  That man who sees himself as brave could suddenly be confronted by a threat so humongeous that another part of his self-concept kicks in to say - I'm brave all right, but I'm not suicidal.

The thing is that people will know their self-concept, clearly or dimly, and it's actually easily revealed.  Most of us will simply blurt it out.  A character can actually characterize himself if given a chance.  Put a little pressure on him to explain his motives and he'll blurt out his self-concept every time.  I'm a man of action. I'm a lady of quality.  I'm a CEO.  I'm an earlI'm a mother.  I'm an athlete.  I'm a writer.  I'm too sexy for my shirt.(sorry. Couldn't help myself) So - by defining your character's self-concept you now begin to define his personal setting.  A woman who sees herself as powerful and assertive will dress a certain way, drive a certain type of car, even have a certain type of job.  A woman who describes herself as a wife and mother will surround herself with things that bolster that image.  As you develop the setting to fit your character's self concept the reader will begin to see clues to her basic personality.

So - once you've done that and everything is set up to fit the character's idea of who or what she is - introduce(cue tense movie music here) CHANGE.  Put that lovely life and her views of the world under as much pressure as you can.  You want something to make her have to struggle to readjust or fight to make her environment fit her self-image again.  She'll now pick a goal meant to fix things. People aren't comfortable when their self-concept is messed with and we wouldn't want our characters to be comfortable, would we.

Paranormals are an excellent example of how that can work.  You have your nice 21st century cynic who lost all belief in those darling or dangerous fairy-tale characters by the time she was in grade school and then - slap - a vampire, shapeshifter, or some fey character strides into her life and begins to shatter all her preconceived ideas of her little world and endanger her self-concept.  You know - the one that says she is a modern rational woman who believes in science and fact.  Lots of readjusting needed there.  The single soccer mom who suddenly discovers her safe, cozy little suburb is actually crawling with denizons of the dark.  Oh, yuh, let's just mess with her head some more.

The upshot is that, if you know what your character's self-concept is, you'll know what her fight should be about, why she's in pain, or even why she's ready to fight.  A person out of her element feels pain.  Once your story gets that lovely threatening, uncomfortable change all set up, you have to keep your characters motivated by piling on more changes that threaten their self-concepts and keep them miserable.(part of the evil fun of being a writer)  Everyone will try to find some way to solve the problem that concurs with her self-concept.  That rational woman confronted with a shape-shifter will try to find some rational, scientific explanation to the problems he brings into her life.  The most interesting plot developments arise when you confront your character with problems in which her usual methods of operation simply won't work.  Even as she tries new things that old self-concept will be very slow to change.  Ex.:  That big, strong knight who sees himself as a skilled warrior and a man of honor finds himself in a bind where his sword won't help him and he just might have to bruise his extreme rules of honor to get out alive or save the woman he loves.

A character's self-concept provides you with two paths to finding and building that all important inner conflict - 1.  when you make the character's environment change, he'll be unhappy and stressed and struggle to right things
-2.  A person's self-concept isn't always a reflection of present reality.  We love our self-concept so much and cling to it so tightly, we may change without even realizing it.  When you confront your character with continuous proof that he's no longer who he kept insisting he was - you have tremendous internal conflict. (yummy)

Such moments of self-seeing are the times of profound character change.(getting tingly just thinking of it.)  It may even be that your character hasn't been aware of parts of his self-concept.  Until story developments push him into a corner, he never has to call upon those deeper aspects of his self-concept.  Here you give your character some important revelations.  You can then end by showing the ultimate face-off in which the character either reestablishes the equilibrium between his self-concept and his environmemnt or he fails to do so.  Or, play out a final scene in which your (exhausted, emotionally battered) character finally realizes that his self-concept is no longer congruent with reality and he begins to make some livesaving changes in that self-concept.  In the first case your character changes the story situation and the environment and harmony is restored. (said single soccer mom and her allies slaughter all the dark denizons in the burbs and plant roses)  In the second case - your character is forced to change and begin reestablishing the same kind of harmony with his new self-concept.(said single soccer mom marries the were-tiger and takes self-defense courses)

Once you clearly define your character's self-concept, you're well on your way to knowing exactly how to make that character act consistantly yet with a capacity to surprise.  And that's what'll keep the reader glued to the pages.

A bit longer than I thought.  Hope you stayed awake until you reached this point.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Have you embraced your inner pink?

Well fall has arrived here in Ottawa Canada. The trees are changing colors and the weather is getting colder. That can only mean one thing, October is here. I have to say I love October. Why? Well its perfect weather for runs, but also because its Breast Cancer month. Yep I’m wearing my pink quite proudly this month.


Some of you might not know this but my debut release DEADLY SECRETS is an official sponsor of the American Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF). This is a fantastic organization. They do so much for women who are fighting breast cancer and their families. Also they provide free mammograms for women who couldn’t otherwise get them, and as we all know early detection is the best way to kick this disease to the curb. Check them out at http://abcf.org/

Now the reason why I chose to become a sponsor for the ABCF even though I’m not American is because of a good friend of mine and fellow LBF Books author, AB Wallace. She fought the disease twice. She one the first battle, but miserably lost the second one this past spring. We used to have long email discussions about her battle and treatments. I was her cheerleader and an ear when she needed to vent. She often mentioned that the medication and treatments she needed to take were really expensive. She didn’t know what she would have done had she not been able to get the mammogram that found the cancer in the first place.

Last year when I ran the Run For The Cure in my home town, AB had just been diagnosed with a relapse. So I found that run to be hard and tears made their way down my face as I ran among other runners. This year I ran in AB’s memory. I feared I would cry the whole time, but I didn’t. I felt as though we were doing the run together. What an amazing feeling.

When my book was released nearly two years ago I decided I wanted to do something. Getting published has been a dream of mine for many years. So I decided I wanted to do something to help others with it. That’s the reason I decided to donate all my royalties to breast cancer and to get my book a sponsor for the ABCF. Do I think my royalties will make a difference? Help find a cure? Probably not, but if it helps one woman find her cancer in its early stages then it was well worth it.

Want to know about DEADLY SECRETS? Well it’s a romantic suspense that takes place in Canada. Here is the blurb,

PHILIPPE LAFRANCE is a well known reclusive writer whose life is suddenly thrown upside down. The grandfather he never knew existed dies. Throughout his own investigation, Philippe learns that his family has kept secrets from him, deep, ugly secrets. A killer is murdering the men in his family. First his father then his grandfather have succumbed at the hands of another. This murderer is trying his utmost to keep secrets buried. Bereft, Roxanne St-Clair is left to manage a restaurant when the only person who ever mattered to her, her foster parent and mentor, is murdered. She puts her life on hold to find his killer and bring him to justice. Thrown together by circumstance and a mutual goal, Philippe and Roxanne fight their attraction and team up to find the killer, bring him to justice and unearth the truth. To stay alive, they must keep one step ahead of the assassin in order to prevent him from killing his next target, Philippe. Will they succeed in bringing to justice this killer before Philippe becomes his next victim? Will they be able to deal with the truth behind all the secrets?

If you’d like to read an excerpt or view my trailer check my home on the net, http://www.leeannburke.com/books.html

If you want to help me, the ABCF and help fight breast cancer pick up a print copy or ebook. If you want to make a direct donation to the cause please think of donating to the ABCF directly http://abcf.org/ .

If you can't afford to donate this year, that's fine, just think about wearing something pink in honor of all these warrior ladies.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

She's Back

That's pretty much how I've been for the last month - although maybe without the glowing eyes.  At least the hubby hasn't mentioned them.  Allergies or a cold that won't die.  Can't figure out which.  Both equal massive foggy brain troubles.  Good thing I'm not a surgeon.  Who knows what I'd accidently cut off.   I doubt a patient would accept  - oh, well, you didn't need two of those anyway.  Especially if it was a guy.

(And hope I'm allowed to use that pic on my blog.  They were all there for downloading and I see them on FB all the time.  But - if you read about a little aging writer being dragged off to jail for misusing pix on the net, pray for me.)

That's only one reason I haven't blogged recently.  Lost my little book with all my passwords.  Yes, I know I could've changed my password and got on here but I didn't think of that.  Nor did it occur to me to call Leeann who handles the guest bloggers and has the password.  No.  I got fixated on finding the *!#* book.  Took a couple of weeks.  It was in a box.  See, when I'm writing, or running off to conferences or talks or meetings as I've been for the last few months, I tend to let things slide around the house.  Then, of course, company decides to come.  Cleaning up for company usually means stuffing a lot of things in a bag or a box and putting it in the basement so that things look tidy upstairs and I can actually see a few surfaces to dust.  Little password book got stuffed in a box.  Still, upside is I found a lot of things in my search for it.  The old - Oh, so that's where that went - happened a lot.

But I have accomplished a few things in the last few months.  Got my next Murray (HIGHLAND PROTECTOR) tale into my editor, the copy-edits done, and the page proofs back to them. Came up with ideas for the next vamp tale and the Wherlocke one.  Now supposed to be working on that next Wherlocke tale.  Found the conferences fun but exhausting, as always.  Also found that the more expensive a hotel the more expensive the internet hookup and the worse it works.   Put a lot of miles on the little HHR.  Drove a lot of places.  Saw a lot of the country and not always the prettiest parts.  Survived the heat wave that locked itself over the NE for so long this summer.  Barely.  Have almost finished organizing my library.  Half the stuff in the basement has been sorted out - thanks to losing the password book.

And now I should be hard at work on that Wherlocke tale.  But - there's that foggy brain issue still.  So I'm doing up spreadsheets of all the charcaters in the stories, plus the ones in the Murray books, plus the ones in the vampire novella ones.  It's got to the point I can't just go back and look through the books in the series - most certainly not the Murray one - easily.  And the little character card I write up for each book doesn't have the info I'm always looking for.  So going to get it all on the computer.  Listing the important stuff like appearance, psychic gifts, relation to main character, age, etc.  Should make life easier.  Make for fewer oopsies, too, that one then has to spend time fixing.

Yet, Sir Argus Wherlocke is calling to me.  I've got him stuck in a prison with the heroine 'thinking' about looking for him to save him.  Think he's getting really tired of being tied naked to a cold bed in a basement.  Keep hearing him saying - "Excuse me!  Naked, cold, tied up.  Want to do something about this, woman?"  Now that fall is here(with it's beautifully cooler weather) and a little of the foggy is easing in the brain, I will have to answer that call.  That and the fact that my deadline is in December.  If he calls me 'woman' again, however, think I might allow the bad guys to pound on him a little before he gets rescued.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Five Things I Learned about Love and Life from Bethany M’Doro by Teri Barnett


Every writer has heard about characters that come to life. You know, the ones who take over your novel and dictate what should be going on with them? I honestly never believed that stuff. Of course, when I was first told this, I was also a sporadic storyteller, flitting from one project to the next.


And then I found my focus and started writing. I mean, seriously writing. No longer toying with words here and there, but really digging in. And that’s when it happened. They actually did start informing me about who they were and what they wanted. This is where Bethany M’Doro comes in. She’s the heroine of my latest publication by LBF Books, Shadow Dreams.

Bethany is a strong woman, fiercely protective of her daughter and the people she loves. She’s also a healer and takes special care of those who hurt. Here’s what she taught me about love and life during the course of writing her story in Shadow Dreams:

1. Be Strong

I suspect this will sound like a cliché, but there truly is beauty in strength. A woman who carries herself with confidence and the knowledge that she really is ‘all that’ is infinitely sexy. Ask any guy. They’ll tell you the same.

2. Go after what you want

Having dreams is great. As a matter of fact, I find it’s essential to my very existence. And one of my dreams is living a life in love. Bethany has taught me that if this is what I want, then I need to go after it. After all, no one owns my life but me.

3. Take a Risk

Love isn’t for sissies. If you really care for someone, suck it up and let them know. Yes, there’s always the chance they may not return the feeling, but how are you going to know if you don’t put yourself out there?

4. Follow your Instincts

There’s an old saying, the heart knows what it wants. For Bethany, it’s her gut that tells her when something is right or wrong. She feels it deep in the very essence of her being. She makes her decisions and goes forward without looking back. She does not second guess herself. If ever there was a lesson I needed to learn, it’s this one.

5. Open your Heart

Keeping an open heart is perhaps the hardest – and greatest - lesson for me. When the heart is closed, there’s no way for love to find its way in. Believe me, I know this from experience. So what did Bethany teach me? To stand tall with my shoulders back and face the world head on. When you lead with your heart, everything else falls into place.

Teri Barnett is a writer, artist, and designer currently living in Indiana. Her publications include Through the Mists of Time (a historical time travel romance) and Shadow Dreams (a paranormal historical romance), both published by LBF Books/Lachesis Publishing. For more information, including where to find her novels, please visit her on the web at http://www.teribarnett.com/.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hero – You’ve met your match!

I’ve written a historical romance anthology for Berkley. It’s rather scandalous. My summer debut, AWAKENED BY A KISS, is a Fiery Tales collection – steamy retellings of three classic fairy tales in the one book. I love it when historical heroes are sinfully seductive bad boys.

In AWAKENED BY A KISS, I’ve created three of them.

There is something about seeing an unrepentant rake fall hopelessly in love with the heroine that I find downright delicious. And in AWAKENED BY A KISS they do fall for them – hard.

Yet, what kind of woman can totally turn a seasoned roué and steal his heart? I paired off very different women with each of the men in these three Fiery Tales. Three women with different backgrounds and personalities, yet their impact on these rakes is the same. Poor heroes, they didn’t stand a chance. These lovely ladies are unlike anyone these gorgeous men have ever met – and much to their surprise, they’ve found their perfect match.

In the first Fiery Tale in AWAKENED BY A KISS, Sleeping Beau, the hero is rather an infamous rake – the handsome bastard son of the King. Legitimized by His Majesty, Adrien is treated like royalty. A night of raw passion with a mysterious woman has haunted him for five years. When at last he spots his mysterious seductress, he wants to know everything about her. Heck, he just plain wants her. It was supposed to be simply a torrid affair. But it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. Everything about Catherine de Villecourt inspires tender feelings as well as hot desire. This beautiful woman is a widow. Born into the wealthy middle class, she was married off to a Count and trapped in an unhappy marriage until the scandalous death of her husband.

It’s not just Catherine’s beauty that affects our hero Adrien, but her quiet strength, too. And the problems she’s had with her father are something that Adrien understands all too well. He’s had nothing but difficulties with his own powerful sire. She is a painter, a sexual soulmate and his one and only heart’s desire.

The second Fiery Tale, Little Red Writing, has a very passionate heroine. Anne de Vignon is a writer. A woman who feels strongly about the telltale stories she writes about powerful courtiers under the nom de plume Gilbert Leduc. Born into

minor nobility, she doesn’t have much by way of social influence or financial means. What she lacks in social standing and wealth, she makes up for in her drive to seek justice for women against the powerful men who inflict suffering on them. Without recourse, these women were forced to endure whatever hardship, humiliation or heartbreak came their way at the hands of these men. The ambitious Count of Lambelle, Nicolas de Savignac, is a member of the King’s private guard and eager for promotion. His investigation into the identity of the mystery writer is supposed to be the means to his promotion in the Guard. He never expected passionate Anne would move him or touch his heart and leave him torn between love and duty.

Imagine being the favorite daughter of the King. It’s an enviable position to be in, right? Wrong. In the Fiery tale, Bewitching in Boots, Elisabeth must be vigilant at court. She sees the constant intrigue, the dishonesty and corruption as men and women vie for the King’s favor, willing to use her, or worse, harm her younger sister, if she isn’t careful. The only man who is honest and true is the former commander of the King’s private Guard. When Tristan is forced to spend time with the smart, strong Elisabeth, he sees her not as a spoiled royal brat, or a coquette, but as a sensuous woman whose loyalty is as great as her love.




AWAKENED BY A KISS – A Fiery Tales Collection
Berkley Sensation
BY Lila DiPasqua
ISBN: 978 - 0425235560
AUGUST 3RD, 2010

Three classic fairytales—“Sleeping Beauty,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Little Red Riding Hood”—cleverly retold with enough sensual twists to prove wickedly ever after does exist…

Author’s website: www.LilaDiPasqua.com

Excerpt of AWAKENED BY A KISS – http://www.liladipasqua.com/awakenExcerpt.htm

QUESTION: What’s your favorite fairy tale heroine? One random commenter will win a signed copy of AWAKENED BY A KISS. The contest will end Aug 20th and the winner must live within US or Canada.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Editor/Author Relationship, a first-timer’s perspective by Lexie Craig

First thing I think any author needs to do is to actually have a conversation with your editor. Face-to-face or over the phone, I think it is important that you, as a writer have a voice conversation with the person in charge of helping you to shape your masterpiece. You just need to find a connection with them because the next few weeks, you’re going to be spending a lot of time together, and like most partnerships, it works a lot better if you don’t want to kill each other.


Next thing I suggest is to be prompt, but thorough, in your responses to them, though I don’t think this will be a hardship. You want this to go as smoothly as possible for both of you, so they do the work and then you do, making sure to look it over with an eye towards perfection.

I cannot overstate this part: THE EDITOR IS NOT OUT TO GET YOU. THE THINGS THEY SUGGEST, THEY HAVE REASONS, AND INDEED ARE PAID, TO DO SO. YOU ARE MARRIED TO THE CONTENT AND THE SPIRIT, BUT NOT EACH INDIVIDUAL WORD. Pick your battles and fight it out accordingly. The editor is not out to hurt your feelings or make you feel inferior. The editor is just as invested in putting out a good product as you are, because, and this is a big one, if the piece produced looks shoddy or haphazard, they look bad. THE OVERALL CONTENT OF THE BOOK IS THE PRODUCT OF BOTH OF YOUR WORK AND REFLECTS ON BOTH OF YOU, EITHER WELL OR POORLY ACCORDINGLY.

A brief note, you will get tired of looking at your work. By the time it goes to the editor, you’ll have looked it over several times and be pretty confident of your work. You will be surprised by what the editor finds in terms of missed typos, unclear thoughts (or things that are clear in your mind but not on the page), and incomplete plot-points. This is an exercise in ‘stand and deliver’, and you can do this, so long as you realize that the end result will be awesome.

I was very lucky in that I had a very experience editor in Karen Adams. What I write is not a genre she reads, and so her entirely fresh perspective made me work harder to make it make sense. She was super thorough, and as such, I felt pretty confident when I sent my MS back to the publisher after 1 major and 2 (or was it 3?) line edits.

Now that Imminent Danger is finally out, I’m happy and excited about it, but most of all, I’m confident about the presentation of it, because I know that a lot of time and effort was expended in making it the best possible story in the best possible condition it could be.

Armed with this knowledge, I’m pressing on with my second novel and, like always, hoping for the best and working hard to make it so.

For more information about Lexie and her books click here

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Top Ten Author Promotion Missteps by Marcia James

To paraphrase an advertising adage, "Only 50 percent of promotion works, but no one knows which 50 percent." So it pays to understand your PR options, as well as how to avoid undermining your promotional efforts. The following is my personal list of author promotion missteps.

10. Sending too many book excerpts -- or the same excerpt too many times -- to reader loops. Also "drive-by promoting" on reader loops.

Even in promotion, there can be "too much of a good thing", so be aware of how many excerpts and blurbs you send to reader loops. You want readers to say, "Oh, look, another fun book excerpt from Anne Author!" vs. "Oh, no, not another book excerpt from Anne Author!" Also, readers enjoy interacting with authors vs. being treated as a target market. So if you don't have time to participate on these loops beyond posting book excerpts and blurbs, consider picking just one loop and developing reader friendships on it while promoting your books.

9. Bad-mouthing people (especially those in the publishing industry) and other authors' books.

Snark might seem popular on certain blogs, but what you say online can haunt you forever. It's best to follow the old saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

8. Making things difficult for readers: a hard-to-navigate website, hard-to-read text, no printable book list, no purchase link by your website's book blurb/excerpt, etc.

Readers appreciate being able to easily find information about your books and how to buy them. Is your website simple to navigate and read? If you have a reader e-newsletter, can they see how to sign up to receive it? If you have a book series, does your website list the books and their order, so readers can read them in sequence? Is there a clear "purchase link" next to your website's book blurbs and excerpts?

7.Not using an email signature -- and not putting title CAPS in URLs.

Making things easy for readers pertains to more than just websites. Do you use an email signature? Most email programs make it simple to set up a signature. It should include your website URL as an active link, so readers don't need to copy-and-paste your URL into their web browser. The email signature can also include things like your tagline, the title of your current or next release, contest wins, etc. But check the loops you're on to see if they restrict email signatures to three lines. And remember that other writers are readers too, so use email signatures on your writer and reader loops.

URLs aren't case sensitive, so reinforce your pen name within your URL by using title CAPS. For example, it's easier to see my pen name in my URL if I type it www.MarciaJames.net vs. www.marciajames.net. And sometimes title CAPS can avoid unintentional connotations. An example of this is a consignment store named Children's Exchange, whose URL was www.childrensexchange.com. Title CAPS would have prevented any misunderstandings in that example.

6. Treating readers, bookstore personnel, librarians, etc poorly.

I'm always amazed when I hear of authors pulling diva acts at booksignings or snubbing other writers at conferences. Successful marketing includes positive word-of-mouth, so why give the people you meet a reason to tell their friends and family how unkind you were? Booksellers don't hand-sell the books of authors who were a pain at a booksigning. And librarians don't recommend books by someone who was difficult when doing a library presentation. Years ago, I attended the booksigning of a New York Times bestselling mystery author. He was so abrupt (read "rude") to readers, I never bought another one of his books.

5. Discounting the importance of networking.

Power-schmoozing can pay off with contacts who can introduce you to their agent or editor, give you a cover quote, join you in co-promotion efforts (like a group blog), include you in multi-author booksignings, etc. The phrase, "It's who you know" is as pertinent in publishing as it is in every industry. Obviously, extroverts enjoy networking more than introverts, but shy authors can network online through reader and writer email loops.

4. Not Googling pen names and taglines before using them; and spending more on logoed PR items because you're buying them to promote one book vs. your brand.

These two seemingly different missteps are connected under one concept: originality. Obviously, if you Google the pen name and tagline you'd like to use, you'll be able to determine whether or not another author has the same or similar name and tagline. Years ago, when I decided on the pen name "Marcia James", I did a search to see if there were other romance authors with similar names. I found Eloisa James and Stephanie James, who wrote very different stories than I did. So I locked in my domain name. Now, almost ten years later, there are so many authors with James in their names, I made lemonade out of the lemons by interviewing a different one each month for my James Gang feature (http://www.MarciaJames.net/James_Gang.html). ;-) So while you can't predict who might have a similar pen name or tagline in the future, you can try to make yours as unique as possible today.

Uniqueness is also a good thing when it comes to your logoed promotional items. For example, I give away thumbcuff keychains (over 7,000 and counting) as part of my "Hot, Humorous Romances" author brand. The keychains represent both my law enforcement protagonists and the racy sex in my stories. Because I'm promoting my brand and not a single title with these thumbcuffs, I can order over 1,000 thumbcuffs at a time and save a lot on the bulk order. Last summer at the national Romance Writers of America conference, three people came up to me to tell me they were sorry they hadn't gotten any of the thumbcuffs I'd put in the Goody Room. Why is that important? Because I hadn't put any thumbcuffs in the Goody Room. Another author had bought them to promote a single book that had handcuffs on the cover, but a number of the people who noticed the thumbcuffs thought they were from me. So it would have been more cost-effective and memorable for that author to purchase in bulk a PR giveaway that would become associated with her brand.

3. Choosing to do PR options you hate or are ill-suited for.

No one author can possibly take advantage of every promotional opportunity available -- even with the help of a publicist or a PR site, such as AuthorIsland. So why choose to do those things that are outside your comfort zone or areas of expertise? Instead, use criteria such as your personality, skills, and book specifics to determine your best PR options. This is a core element in my online promotional workshops (including the one I'm presenting August 15-28: http://www.MarciaJames.net/Schedule.html). For example, I'm an extrovert and love power schmoozing, so networking is one of my chosen promotional options. I'm also a technophobe who would hate learning how to design a website, so I hired a Webmistress (Karen McCullough, http://www.KarensWebWorks.com/) to create mine. I'm not saying, for example, that a shy author shouldn't try to develop networking skills; I'm simply saying that authors have limited time and resources, and it pays to use them wisely.

2. Not having a professional, often-updated website.

A website is often considered an author's #1 one promotional tool. Make yours as professional as possible, with interesting, new content to entice readers to visit often. Like many authors, I have a website contest that draws readers to my site. You can also offer free reads, interviews, a blog, book plates and other giveaways, recipes, games, photos, etc.

1. Spending all your free time on promotion vs. writing your next book.

Each book you write brings you new readers, so prioritize your time to allow for more writing than promotion. Social media sites, like Facebook, can be fun but incredible time drains. Protect your writing time so you'll have products (your books) to market during those times you allot for promotion.


That's my list. ;-) As I mentioned earlier, it pays to understand your PR options so you can make educated choices. I have a 300-page Microsoft WORD file on Promotional Options that I give away free to any writer who would like it. To request this file, go to my website's "Contact Me" page and email me. I'll attach the file to my reply email.

Thanks for having me as a guest-blogger today! Happy promoting!

-- Marcia James

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wait – I Dropped my Weapon by R Scott Mitchell

Some find it curious that I should pen a book or two about swordplay and heroes conquering those little nasties that lurk in the corners when I keep a collection of swords myself. It’s not at all that I fancy myself a hero or anything; I simply have an appreciation for the complex dance involved in really good swordplay. A hero can wield his sword with great flair and talent, filling the air with the hum and hiss of razor-steel. A non-hero? Well, they might just drop the damn thing. Or cut themselves. Or worse.


I had intended Black Pawn to be a simple fantasy piece set in a fictional pseudo-medieval era, ripe with castles and war, triumph and tragedy. I could have spun a spell or two here and there but I steered clear of that (well, not entirely). I am always very leery about touching on the ‘pixie shit’ fantasy that so saturates our culture today. (Michael Moorcock used the term ‘pixie shit’ to describe those fantasy elements almost considered cliché now: belching dwarves, elves in the trees and a dragon curled around a pile of gold). Don’t get me wrong – I love that kind of stuff. I enjoy it and I appreciate the contributions that genre made to modern literature. But it is not what I tend to write.

In so much of my writing, I find myself exploring the complex relationships between brothers: the growth and rivalry, the competition, the bonds and the betrayals. I know that this has particular relevance to me as my own brother was born with profound physical and developmental disabilities. The connection that he and I share is an enigmatic one and one that I explore through writing.

This exploration continues in Black Pawn and its forthcoming sequel: one brother is raised in a glorious, wealthy upbringing; the other grows to immeasurable power alone and squandering in the darkness. What draws them together is a combination of the changes in the physical and political landscapes of the continent they inhabit. Both are caught on the tides of war inexorably destined to collide, for the better of one over the other.

I make no claims that what I write is innovative or new in the genre of heroic fantasy. Mine is a new recipe using common ingredients: a new texture and experience on very familiar elements. In Black Pawn, the heroes are those who depend solely on wit and skill to circumvent tragedy and emerge alive and victorious. The villains are those who have access to a dirtier bowl of tricks. They can harness a twisted spiritual power, a quicker fix to get the job done. For I believe this to be true: it is easier to be irresponsible, lazy and downright mean than it is to remain governed by good moral values. Far easier to hit a puppy than to teach it. Basically, it is less of a challenge to be a villain than a hero; hence, my villains have access to a power the others don’t have. Yes, that is magic of a sort. I broke my rule, didn’t I. Oh well.

I continue to write heroic fantasy and historical fiction (I think Joan of Arc is due for an epic retelling worthy of the woman). Writing is my own catharsis and affirmation to examine what could have been, where things are now and where they might go. I write because I have a story to tell, more than one in fact. I draw upon any number of resources: reading, music, discussions and arguments. I am encouraged by those people I know and those I wish I could have known. Even the odd video game has inspired a chapter or two from me.

The landscape of fantasy and speculative fiction is expanding daily. Perhaps as more and more people feel constricted in their own lives, they crave a healthier type of escape. JRR Tolkien, arguably the father of fantasy fiction, might be quite surprised to see how far we’ve come. He might even be a little embarrassed considering he had originally intended his own work to entertain children. Better to remain young and impulsive than to grow up too fast and too bitter, I suppose.

As for my heroes? In Black Pawn, the characters of Windiin, Shander, Kia and Lycien are all heroes of their own. What better defines heroism than the characteristics of fighting for what you believe and compromising for no one? This also means there really is nothing special about a hero since each and every one of us radiates these characteristics from time to time.

Now, just let me pick up my weapon here … there we go.

For a teaser of the novel and other little tidbits I have written, check my website at http://www.rscottmitchell.com/ . Thank you for the opportunity, Ms. Howell – I appreciate it.

R. Scott Mitchell

Monday, July 19, 2010

Going Back to Horror's Roots


A good case can be made that science fiction and horror were born together during a retreat in May 1816 and two of Britain's great poets were there for the occasion. The poets were Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Lord Byron's doctor, John William Polidori, and Mary Godwin, who later married Percy Shelley, accompanied them. During the course of the retreat, a challenge was issued to create the scariest story possible. Mary Godwin's story was Frankenstein, which has elements of both horror and science fiction. In fact, many see Frankenstein as the very first science fiction novel. Another story that came out of that retreat was The Vampyre by John Polidori. Though it's not as famous as Frankenstein, The Vampyre strongly influenced Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula.



My own writing owes a lot to that retreat in 1816. I've been a fan of vampires since I first read Dracula when I was ten years old. My interest grew in the 90s, when I first worked at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Several of us who operated telescopes called ourselves the "vampires of the mountain" because we were only seen at night. I discovered such writers as Anne Rice and Suzy McKee Charnas around that time. A few years later, a friend of mine, Janni Lee Simner, was visiting me at my home in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Las Cruces literally means the city of the crosses and Janni pondered what a vampire would do in a town where there were crosses absolutely everywhere. She wasn't interested in writing a vampire story at the time, but said if I came up with a story to go with the idea, I was welcome to it. A few weeks later, I wrote the story "Vampire in the City of Crosses", which sold soon after to Margaret Carter's magazine, The Vampire's Crypt.

In Mary Shelley's novel, the central problem is that Dr. Frankenstein has created new life without fully understanding the consequences. As my vampire stories evolved, I began exploring that same idea and ultimately, the novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order was born. In the novel, a group of vampire mercenaries go up against scientists who are trying to create a new breed of vampires that can be used as super soldiers. I'm currently working on a new novel that tells how the vampires of the Scarlet Order came together called Dragon's Fall. It will be coming soon from Sinful Moments Press. Keep an eye on my blog at for news about this project.

Just as Mary Shelley benefited from the company of Lord Byron and her husband Percy Shelley I have benefited from working with other writers. One in particular, is Lee Clark Zumpe, who shares my passion for vampires. Over the years, Lee and I admired each other's works in magazines such as The Vampire's Crypt, Night to Dawn, and Blood Samples. About a year ago, Lee and I pulled several of our vampire flash fiction pieces together into a collection called Blood Sampler: Subtle Sips and Spicy Shots and the book is now available from Sam's Dot Publishing. It can be purchased at http://www.genremall.com/anthologiesr.htm#bloodsampler

Since science fiction and horror were born together, it seems fitting to publish them side-by-side. When artist Nick Rose suggested that LBF Books publish a horror magazine and recommended me as editor, I couldn't help but suggest that the magazine also include science fiction and fantasy. That magazine is Tales of the Talisman and even though it's no longer owned by LBF Books, it's still thriving six years later. You can learn more about the magazine at http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/

I hope you've enjoyed this sampling of things I'm doing and how they are tied to one of the great moments in science fiction and horror history. I hope you'll take time to visit me at http://dlsummers.wordpress.com/

Thanks for having me, Hannah. I enjoyed stopping by to visit you and your readers.