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 . 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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

This Summer Sucks

That picture is the personification of my Muse this summer.(and that looks a bit like my cat Matilda only without the stumpy legs and a lot thinner)  Not saying that dear old New England doesn't get hot, sticky days in the summer, but over two weeks of hot and humid?  Nah.  Except this summer.  This summer from Hell.  This loathsome, abominable, vile, odious (Sorry, I'll put the Thesaurus down) summer.  The best we can hope for at the moment is a bit of a drop in the humidity somewhere around the middle of next week.  Big Whoop.

Now before anyone starts feeling all bad for me - and there better be at least one of you who feels a pinch of sympathy right now- I have central air.  Strangely enough, that isn't helping the Muse at all.  The Muse says - Hey, it's green and warm and sunny - WTH are we doing sitting in here with all the doors and windows closed?  That's what we have to do all winter.  Hard to explain to a Muse that if I go outside it'll take approximately ten minutes before I'm sweating my glasses right off my face.  Maybe not even that long.

The Muse is now on strike.  I managed to squeeze out a paragraph yesterday.  At that rate the next book will be done some time around next summer.  That of course means there'd be two missed deadlines.  Muses don't quite grasp the concept of deadlines.

So - solution?   At the moment it's cleaning the house.  This should let everyone know just how desperate I am.  I loathe cleaning the house and will do all in my power to find an excuse not to do it.  So far I've moved all the furniture off the carpet in the office, washed said carpet, cleaned all the furniture off and moved it back onto the carpet, vacuumed off the throw pillows(and somehow managed to get my hair sucked into the vacuum which caused a great deal of yelling and hopping around) and have already organized a lovely folder with a lot of receipts in it for taxes - next year.  I'm now resting from changing the curtains before I go and clean the windows.  You can just smell the desperation here, can't you.  The hubby is starting to get worried.

The point of all this whining is basically to say that Muses are touchy things.  This, of course, comes as no surprise to writers although some newbies do need to be told just how touchy the bitches can be, if only so they don't think they've lost the knack just because they haven't written a chapter today.  Headache, family stress, tired after a trip, excited before a trip, allergies, weather...   You name it and it can make the Muse get uppity and contrary.  I think it's because so much of the writing is tied up with a writer's self, a writer's emotion.  It's not just a cerebral thing.  Whatever the part of the brain is that produces the compulsion to write is obviously the side that is touchy about when, where, and under what conditions it'll cooperate.

So my Muse(born in that touchy side of the brain) is miffed because it's too hot to go outside yet being stuck in the house at this time of year irritates it.(remember this writer lives in a part of the country where people are shut in for pretty much the entire winter)  As payback it's making this writer feel compelled to clean.(and for that you may now feel very sorry for me)  At least then I can say I've accomplished something I suppose.

I ask now for good vibes, appeals to Mother Nature, etc.  to end this heat wave and allow me to open the windows.  It's either that or I'll be reduced to cleaning out cupboards and scrubbing the kitchen floor.  Even my worst enemies could not wish such a dire fate upon me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Soon to have a normal life again..

My attempt at a pretty summer silk flower arrangement.  Thought it a hint of the type of life I lead.  Laser-eyed cats in the silk flowers - plus cook-out stuff lined up on the front hall sideboard waiting for DH to remember to put it away.  And - yes - I will leave it there until the snow is up to my neck in January rather than put it away myself because it's annoying me to see it there.  He said he would put them away and there they'll sit until he does, neither of us speaking about them.  That's one of those little silent wars that often take place in marraiges.

Conferences.  Fun.  Nice to see the readers, talk to other writers, and promote one's books.  Always take up way more time than anticipated.  For some reason I always blank on the need to get ready to go to a conference, as if I think some wonderful little magical fairy will put all my promo stuff together and decide what clothes I should take while I putter around doing other stuff.

I also signed up for too many conferences, workshops, retreats this year.  Going back to the three major ones & a few little ones rule.  As I said - I like them, but too many really eat into the writing time and no matter how much I think I'll get some work in at a conference, it never happens.  Too many mean I'm also leaving things for the hubby to do like mail out prize packages - which he forgets to do as the man hasn't had to mail anything since we got married.  So back from a conference, getting letters saying where's my prize?  DH? What packages is his reply?  He thinks he moved something down cellar when he was looking for the hose attachment.  Yup.  There they are and now they have to be repackaged and sent out.  He is a bit of a failure as a minion.  Either that or he had one of those GUY moments where you told him something and he nodded and replied but his brain really wasn't in gear.

So I now have a big calendar pinned to the wall and am writing everything on it, from time to give old cat her flea meds to when the next book is due.  I hate it as it feels, well, confining, too much like I have a 9 - 5 job, but it's either that or continued utter chaos and things needing to be done that keep getting piled up and late or forgotten.  I've discovered that, while I'm not a very organized person and am happy with that, utter chaos is a little disturbing.

Thus begins two weeks of cleaning house since I just sent in the manuscript for the next Murray tale.  Amazing how much mess one can make and not see while writing.  But have 2 weeks to make a dent and then it's off to the big Romance Writers of America's National conference in Orlando, FL. It was going to be in Nashville and I was doing the happy dance about that, but the floods ended that plan.  Two weeks will not get rid of all the chaos as somewhere in there I have to pack, put the promo stuff together, and arrange for food, cat food, litter, etc. to leave with the DH for the week I'm gone, - get the picture?  Big, big time suck.

So, for now there'll continue to be laser-eyed kitties in the silk flower arrangements, late packages, piles of books on the library floor(I'm reorganizing the shelves - uh huh, that's my story and I'm sticking to it), folders of stuff I need to make a copy of because it was a really interesting article or recipe or exercise tip(which will turn yellow in the folder before I finally accept I'll never do it and throw it away), and so on and so on.  Because I need to get started on the next Wherlocke tale and pack for Florida.  Maybe that normal life I want won't be coming along too soon after all.   And, yet, maybe when I get back from Florida all that cookout stuff will be put back where it belongs.  Anyone dare to make a bet on it?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Love Triangles in YA by Kim Baccellia

I love reading a book where the main character is involved in a love triangle. In these stories there always seems to have the boy who’s too good to be true. He’s faithful, loving, and looks out for the heroine. Of course she’s either oblivious to him or doesn’t know he exists.

Then there’s the bad boy. You know him as the mysterious guy who waltzes into the heroine’s life and steals her heart. If he’s written well, he’s not just dark and bad. No, he’s also vulnerable enough that we love him too.

Some examples:

Elena, Stefan, and Damon from VAMPIRE DIARIES:

Stefan is sensitive, loving, and only drinks animal’s blood. Sure later he reveals that he has his own dark secret but for a vampire he’s basically pretty good. Elena is in love with him but then his brother Damon shows up. Dark, mysterious, and yes, he has a history of being blood thirsty. He’s totally a bad boy but there’s times when his mask slips and we’re drawn to him. There’s one dance scene where Damon steps in for Stefan. Neither Elena or Damon touch but the chemistry between the two sizzles.

Buffy, Angel, and Spike from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER:

At the beginning, it was all about Angel. He’s brooding but caring and loving with Buffy. Well, until he sleeps with her which unleashing a curse that turns him back into a murderous vampire. Spike at the beginning of the show was totally bad. Then later, he changed. Maybe it was that forced chip in his head but somehow he looked at Buffy differently. And he fell hard for this vampire slayer. I think Buffy also loved him. It’s like Buffy told Giles, “Spike can be good, now that he has a soul.”

Bella, Jacob, Edward in THE TWILIGHT SERIES:

Whether you’re team Edward, team Jacob, or team Switzerland, you have to admit the love triangle makes this story. I’m totally team Jacob. I loved his character in all the books which carries over into the films. Edward is the caring, loving vampire that Bella decides to be with. Personally, I think she should have chosen Jacob. But that’s just me!

Veronica Mars, Duncan Kane, and Logan Echolls

Poor Veronica. The love of her life Duncan Kane ends up dumping her. She can’t seem to get over him. Then her BF Lily, sister of Duncan is murdered. She tries to solve the mystery. Bad boy Logan Echolls, Lily’s boyfriend, blames Veronica for the death and harasses her. But there’s chemistry between both Veronica and Logan which in the later season boils over. I still kind of wished Veronica and Logan could have worked out their issues. But the show got canceled.

Stephanie, Dylan, and Mark in CROSSED OUT:

ephanie is best friends with Dylan. She senses he wants more than just friendship though. She starts feeling emotions toward him that she brushes off.

Then Mark shows up. He’s mysterious, dark, and is the gossip of Sutter High. Even Cura, Stephanie’s best friend, thinks he’s hot. Stephanie is fascinated by him. She can’t get him out of her head.

To find out whom Stephanie chooses and what the consequences are of her choice check out my YA paranormal CROSSED OUT
Also available at Amazon:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Who is V.K. Sykes?

V.K. Sykes is actually two people—Vanessa Kelly and Randy Sykes. We’re one of a handful of couples, married or otherwise, who write romance fiction together. Some people might call what we do writing by committee; we prefer to think of it as doubling the horsepower.

Usually the first question people ask when they find out we’re a writing team is, “How do you work together?” This is often followed up immediately by “Vanessa writes the female POV and Randall the male POV, right?” That’s a totally understandable guess, and that method seems to work for some writing partnerships. But we’ve taken a different approach.

We start by spending a lot of time just throwing out ideas—brainstorming concepts, characters and plot basics—until something feels right to both of us. Then Randy takes over and fleshes out a story outline. This leads to more discussion, brainstorming and fine-tuning, after which Randy writes a full first draft. He then exhales a sigh of relief, as it’s time for Vanessa to roll up her sleeves and get out her big red pen. She massages the draft, fleshing out characters and scenes, and does most of the emotional heavy-lifting that separates romance from...well, non-romance.

As V.K. Sykes, we write both contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Our Carina Press release, CaddyGirls, is a sexy contemporary set in Las Vegas. Our works in progress include another Vegas-set contemporary, as well as two romantic suspense novels. The latter are set in Florida, where we spend part of the winter.

We’re convinced that writing as a partnership, especially when one of the partners is a guy, creates some advantages for us. We’re able to draw on the strengths of both authors, getting deep inside the heads of the female and male characters with equal facility. That makes for more fully developed and believable characters. In CaddyGirls, for example, four male friends have a number of interesting scenes as a group, doing and saying the kinds of things a bunch of guys do when they’re out for a good time in Vegas. It helps if the author’s “been there.” And we don’t mean Vegas!

Here’s the blurb for CaddyGirls:

Torrey Green once had a promising golf career, now she's stuck caddying for butt-pinching businessmen. She doesn't mind playing dumb while hauling clubs if it means she can get her golf career back on track, and she's going to need an influx of cash to focus on the pro circuit. A booking from video game mogul Julian Grant could be Torrey's cash-flow solution.

In town for a business deal, Julian's partners plan for a little action on the greens. They're looking for some fun with their rent-a-caddy girls and have a lot riding on who can score, on the course and off. This type of gamble isn't Julian's style, but he'll do whatever it takes to keep his partners happy—even if that includes breaking a few hearts along the way.

Julian soon discovers that Torrey is more than just a caddy girl, and they spark an intriguing attraction—but if Torrey discovers the truth behind his foolish wager, all bets are off...

For more information about V.K. and to read an excerpt, you can visit them on the web at . Vanessa also writes Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra. You can visit her at