Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Romance, Laughter and Debra Kayn

Romance and laughter…do they go together? Sure they do. I think this goes along the lines of being attracted to people with a great personality. We are drawn to someone who has a happy demeanor and can find joy in life where they let themselves go and laugh. Best of all, I love when a person has the ability to laugh at themselves. It takes a strong person to take an embarrassing situation and laugh about it. Times like that we find the person endearing, innocent of life’s cruelness, and most of all…human.

Margarine Butter, the main character in my book, Biker Babe in Black, is a woman who can laugh at herself. Good thing too, because with a name like that, she’s heard all the jokes. Top that off with a life long stream of bad luck, she’s either going to have to give up and cry or kick ass and laugh.

Business conglomerate, Remy Montgomery, needs some laughter in his life. He’s used to board meetings, high society parties, and women throwing themselves at him. When he meets Margarine, she brings a breath of fresh air into his life. Her carefree manners and innocence endears her to him.

Some of my favorite books are those that make me laugh. Long after the book is shelved, I still remember the character and why I fell in love with him/her. If you are the type of person who loves to laugh, I’d love for you to check out my book, Biker Babe in Black. This is the first book of the series, The Chromes and Wheels Gang. You won’t have to wait too long for Book Two, Ride Free, it is also coming soon at Red Rose Publishing.

Visit Debra Kayn at her own blog and website.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shannon K. Butcher - Love You to Death

Please join me in welcoming author Shannon K. Butcher to the Daily Dose to celebrate her newest release: Love You to Death. The novel takes Butcher fans to a new place as she explores romantic suspense. So kick back, grab your coffee and enjoy our little question and answer session.

Tell us a little about Love You To Death? Is this a paranormal romance or a nitty, gritty crime drama/romance?

LYTD is a romantic suspense, and possibly the creepiest stuff I’ve ever written. It’s about a woman whose sister has gone missing. No one believes Ashley’s disappearance is anything sinister, but Elise knows differently. With the help of hunky, ex-cop neighbor Trent, Elise will stop at nothing to discover what happened to her sister, despite the number of mutilated bodies that are piling up.

What is about the romance genre that appeals to you?

It’s the relationships between people that intrigues me most. There’s nothing more exciting to me than watching two people fall in love—whether they dive in head first or fight it every step of the way, it’s always fun to witness. Throwing in the complications of monsters, terrorists or serial killers just makes it that much more interesting.

Can you describe your writing process? Do you have a writing schedule that you maintain?

I have two modes: rough draft mode and everything else. When I’m in rough draft mode, I spend several hours a day writing—usually 2500-5000 words per day. The house gets messy, the laundry piles up and my guys are on their own for meals (which I think they secretly like). I do that for 4-6 weeks, then the book is done. After that comes everything else: revision, edits, interviews, conventions, promo, etc. When I’m doing those things, I tend to work shorter hours and catch up on all the things that went awry during rough draft mode. As my career goes forward, it seems like the line between those two modes is becoming blurry, as things like copy edits and page proofs are due and can’t wait until I’m done with a rough draft. I’m adjusting as I go along.

What was the toughest part of the publishing routine? Submitting? Editing?

Revision is the worst. As an engineer it was important that I did things right the first time, as mistakes could potentially end up hurting someone. So, the fact that the rough draft isn’t perfect feels like a failure to me every time. I KNOW that’s not the way the writing process works, but it’s still hard for me to make that mental adjustment. Plus, I just don’t like revision. I’d rather be moving on to the next story.

Each book is a learning experience, what will you take from this book forward?

This book really changed the way I see the world. I did quite a bit of research into the criminal mind and what hit me the hardest was that people who do the kinds of horrible things my villain did in this book aren’t necessarily crazy. They simply like hurting people. And they appear completely normal to people around them. So now I look at people with a lot more suspicion and mistrust. In fact, it was this book that compelled me to buy a gun and learn how to use it.

What type of books do you yourself like to read?

I mostly read paranormal romance and romantic suspense, though I do branch out to other flavors of romance and an occasional non-romance book.

You're married to Jim Butcher who is wildly popular via his Harry Dresden and Codex Alera books as well as other projects. Do you ever feel like you are competing with him?

Not at all. We’ve been married longer than we were single, so at this point we share everything. His victories are mine and vice-versa. We share ideas, help each other and try to make things as easy on the other as possible. And I’m not a competitive person at all—I’m far too stubborn for that. I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and what other people do isn’t likely to influence my decisions or actions.

Now, that being said, it’s clear that other people pit us against each other. I’ve had plenty of reviews that compared my work to Jim’s, which never fails to make me giggle. We write such different things in such different ways, I think it’s funny that people try to compare us simply because we’re married.

Writing can be such a complex and intensely personal pursuit, is it a struggle to balance family and married life against competing deadlines in a two novelist family?

I don’t think it’s any harder to do what Jim and I do than it is for any other working couple to balance their lives. In fact, because we set our own schedules, it’s easier to work in school stuff and other family obligations now than it was when I was doing the day job. Sure, things get a bit tense from time to time, but for the most part, it’s not a problem to get everything done. Of course, our son is nearly grown now, so it helps a lot that he’s self-sufficient.

What is the next big goal you have set for yourself?

I just got two more 3-book deals in June, so I set a goal to finish all 6 books and a novella I need to write in about 16 months. So far I’ve finished one book and am on schedule.

Want to know more about Shannon? Head over to her website where she hosts some great contests and keeps you in the loop. I for one am looking forward to reading Love You to Death and her future book deals. For Sentinals fans, the next novel in that trilogy will be released in November.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Favorite Witches in TV, Film and Books

People always ask why I wanted to write about the paranormal, and even more specifically a witch in my first book Charmed & Dangerous. The honest answer is I love magic and I have always wanted to have magical powers. I made my witch, Bronwyn, everything that I wanted in a witch.

I've had a long-time fascination with witches, that probably began with Bewitched. I wanted to wiggle my nose and make things happen like Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery). I didn't really catch the show until it was in reruns, as I was a bit to young the first time around, but I loved the show. I'd watch it religiously every afternoon. But even back then I remember thinking Darrin (Dick York) was a bore, and that she should just kick his butt instead of trying to please him all the time. I never understood why he couldn't simply embrace her being a witch, so that everyone could be happier.

I can't remember the first time I saw Bell, Book and Candle with Kim Novak and James Stewart. I always wanted a shop like that, but again, I couldn't understand why she felt like she had to hide her magic. Or why she considered being normal just to please a man. Still, I loved the film. And that Jack Lemmon was such a charmer.

I'm so excited about the show Eastwick, which is loosely based on the novel and the original 1987 film with Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer. Such great fun these actors had in these roles. The women, while they started out a little weak, became empowered. The producer told me the first season of the TV show is all about empowerment. I hope so.

One of my all-time favorite films is Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I love everything about the film from where it is set, to the characters and the writing. It’s one of those films I watch over and over again, so much that I wore the first DVD out and had to buy it again. That they threw in a little romance with all that magic, humor and drama, is what made it work for me.

My fellow witchy chicks on the Witchy Chicks Blog have written some of my favorite books with heroines who are witches. Oh, and I’ve always been a fan of Kim Harrison’s series, and Nora Roberts stories that include witches.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some favorites. Were you a fan of the TV show Charmed? Did you know some movies, TV or books I might want to check out? I'd like to hear about your favorite witches, and why you like them.

Candace "Candy" Havens is a best selling and award-winning author. Her novels include "Charmed & Dangerous", "Charmed &; Ready", "Charmed &; Deadly", "Like A Charm" and "The Demon King and I". She is known for writing strong female characters, who save the world, but aren't exactly perfect. She is a two-time RITA, Write Touch Reader and Holt Medallion finalist. She is also the winner of the Barbara Wilson award.

You can learn more about her at her website.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Story Matters

Author K.F. Zuzulo kicks off my anniversary week with her great blog on story and why it matters. Enjoy a wonderful week of wonderful guest bloggers, blogs and more.

Story does matter. It always has. But I’ve recently and repeatedly been reminded of this fact by the familiar tagline for the AMC (American Movie Classics) network—Story Matters. The ads are most frequently linked to promos for Mad Men and its award-winning combination of acting, characters, dialogue, and story. How does story distinguish itself from all those other elements of storytelling, such as description, narrative, grammar, characterization. Isn’t it all those things rolled into one? I don’t think so.

Story is the underlying journey that words and images travel to unveil an adventure, an emotion, a history, a tale. As a writer, I like to visualize my story sorted out before I press those first lettered keys. Of course, story will change and fluctuate, morph and undulate as you go along. But, whether you’re a writer or a filmmaker, the reason you initially decided to focus your time and imagination into the context of a book or movie is because you had a story to tell. If you’re a reader or a viewer, you’re looking for a story whose images will stay with you after the final credits roll.

Story is more important than the writing of it. Story has mattered since before humans could write. The first stories were oral tales told around the fires of nomadic trekkers. Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Beowulf, and The Arabian Nights emphasize the importance of the story because you may not be able to quote a line, but you probably can summon an image from one of these tales. Storytelling was a way to record the collective conscience of a culture; to share a history; to imprint a taboo. But they all had to be entertaining or nobody would listen.

Story matters is why The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown was so successful (in my opinion). The poor guy was plagued and pilloried for his poor writing style, sloppy structuring, etc. But he had a great story. Going back much further, most people can explain one of the many Bible stories on cue. The writing is spotty, suffers in translation, and shows little flair. But the images of a garden of paradise, a great flood, flying beasts, conquest over giants, and miracles galore will stay with us long after other, better articulated prose has faded for want of a story.

Of course, action verbs and minimally invasive adverbs are important, but they’re not going to help you tell your story if your story is lame. With so many commercial fiction books on the market today, the story matters theory is also the reason why some stories excel while others fall flat. In our ceaseless quest to be clear and proper, we sometimes forget the thundering bloodstream that must run through a novel, show, or movie. You can’t just have believable characters, vividly imagined scenes, and visual and aural cues aplenty (don’t forget to mention the smell or taste of something at least twice in a scene).

The important thing is to remember the tale: Who is Eve? Why is she doing that? What does Adam think about Eve? Why do I care? What can they hope to accomplish in this literary dance of destiny? Okay, that’s a bit much. Suffice it to say: if it’s a good story, you’ll be desperate to know what happens next. Why? Answer that, and you’ve got your story.

In the romance genre, it’s especially important to be aware of the story. Sweaty clinches and throbbing clutches are a dime a dozen. What happens between clinch and clutch is what holds our attention. In the 1942 film Casablanca, all the elements of storytelling come together beautifully. Great lines (“We’ll always have Paris”) and great acting…but what we remember best is the story: A cynical and embittered American expatriate crosses paths with the woman who broke his heart and now needs his help. Simple. Elegant. Captivating.

Know what your story is before you tell it. And if it’s well told, all the better.

What is it about a story that matters to you?

K. F. Zuzulo is the author of The Third Wish, a genie romance novella published by Sapphire Blue Publishing in June 2009. Her supernatural thriller A Genie in the House of Saud: Zubis Rises was a winner in the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. You can find out more about the author, her writing, and genies at her website.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Supernatural Saturday: Prime Evil Teaser

Prime Evil, an urban fantasy, is Heather Long's second novel due out from Sapphire Blue Publishing this Fall. Chance Monroe made her first appearance in the free short story It Happens available from All Romance eBooks. Enjoy this sneak peak at a future Chance adventure.

We pulled into Doc Martin’s place a little past six in the evening. The sun was still high in the western sky, but it would be dark within a couple of hours. That was more than enough time for me to get ready. I saw Doc coming down from the house as soon as we parked near the outer gate.

“You sure you don’t want to drive up to the house?” Jack asked as I stripped off the seatbelt and started to get out of the car.

“Nope, this is good. He always plants his early crops in the outer pastured areas. That way he can keep the cattle in close for working and turn them loose to graze on what’s left to clean up after the harvest.” I grinned at Jack. He’d followed my suggestion, dressing for comfort and practicality in the work boots, jeans and a plain cotton t-shirt.

“Hey Doc!” I waved a greeting at the grizzled old man who strolled down the drive. Doc was the image of old, spry, wiry men who’ve spent their whole lives working in the outdoors. His skin was leathery, tan and ripe, like old parchment. He possessed a pair of merry blue eyes and a cheery disposition to match. It was hard to believe that my grandmother dated Doc once when they were both much younger. I remember Gran teasing me about the man who might have been her husband.

“Hey Chancy,” Doc grunted as he near the gate. He affixed his merry blue eyes on Jack. “Finally catch yourself a man to do all that heavy lifting for you?”

I grinned and leaned over to give him a perfunctory kiss on the cheek. “How’s the Missus?”

“She’s good. Baked you some pies to take back to Betty, and you best come up to the house when you’re done to pick them up.” He smiled at my kiss and offered his weathered hand to Jack. “Doc Martin.”

“Jack Park, sir.” Jack shook his hand firmly, and I watched the two of them size each other up while I got my duffel out of the trunk. It was heavier than usual, but I brought a lot of tools with me. I closed the trunk and shook my head. The conversation between the two men was turning towards tractors. I shouldered the bag and headed off towards the first set of pastures.

The damp Earth smelled faintly of pine, oak, honeysuckle and sunshine. I swung the bag over the fence and hiked a foot up so I could swing my leg over. “Doc?” I called, interrupting the men.

“Yeah, Chancy?”

“Corn?” I pointed towards the direction I was heading. “And potatoes?” I pointed at the other side of the drive.

“Ayup, Missy. Corn’s been a bit strained this year. Potatoes are doing just fine.” Doc nodded towards me and fished a pipe out of his pocket. “I’m going to steal your boy for awhile.”

I laughed at the look on Jack’s face. “Go on,” I said and waved at him. “I’ll be fine. Besides,” I grinned as I hopped down and shouldered the duffel again, “Doc makes a mean bottle of gin.”

I did not mention that doing my job would be a lot easier without Jack looking over my shoulder. I set off towards the corn that was swaying in the breeze. It was only a little after six and the sun wouldn’t go down for another two hours at least. I squinted up at it and felt the beads of sweat already forming on my forehead. A fly buzzed past, followed by a lazily buzzing bumblebee.

I climbed over the next fence and found myself face to face with row upon row of corn. Wiping some of the dampness from my face with the back of my hand, I pushed aside an unpleasant memory of another corn field on a desultory August evening and struck out towards the center. The rows were laid out neatly, and if you didn’t mind the stalks poking and prodding and occasionally seizing a handhold on your hair and giving it a good yank, this was a most peaceful place to walk.

I was used to this, I reminded myself as I pushed my way through the corn. It was all in a day’s work, or in this case, an evening’s. I looked over the cornstalks. Several looked fat and healthy, heavy with ripening corn. But Doc was right. Other stalks didn’t look quite as firm as they should.

I stepped into something damp and the odor of rot wafted up to tickle at my nose. Glancing down, I examined what was left a rapidly decaying cornstalk. It was rotting at the base. I sniffed at it cautiously and sighed.


Looking around the field, I shook the muck off my finger and then dried it off against my jeans.

Hopefully the infestation wouldn’t be too bad. Picking up the pace, I pushed through the field and found my way to the center. I flung the bag down towards the small circle of rocks that protruded from the land. Pulling a band out of my pocket, I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.

The dirt here was rich, loamy and shaded by the thick stalks of corn. Kneeling down, I used a hand to clean off the clutter from the small stones. They’d been planted here for years.

I knelt down and pulled the duffel over and unzipped it. A pair of candles, one black and one white, took a place of prominence. Some vanilla extract, a little neat’s-foot and valerian root were each sprinkled in small portions around the stone circle. The process was like tossing salt over one shoulder and wishing for luck. My grandmother endorsed it and I wasn’t one to rock that particular boat.

Sweat pooled on my skin under the shirt and slowly soaked its way through. The smell of salt mingled with the Earth and the crisp corn to perfume the air around in a manner that was both familiar and comforting. Swiping a hand over my face again, I ignored the trail of dirt that was left behind and shook off the sweat. Settling more firmly into the circle, my legs formed a bow of their own.

I smiled as a pair of geese babbled their away across the sky overhead. Scratching the tip of my nose thoughtfully for a moment, I used a small lighter to light the candles before pocketing it.

The meshing was seamless, like two old dancing partners finding each other in a graceful waltz. The scent of the candles allowed me a place to mark in my mind as I allowed the rest of me to seep into the Earth, twining around the roots and cascading along familiar tracings.

It was two years since this field saw a crop. Two years, barely an eye blink in the history of the world as the Earth recorded it. Slithering through the roots, I reached out to encompass the field that was filled with cornstalks. I saw them waving in the breeze that moved overhead. I felt the warmth of the sun where it touched the Earth. I felt the thickness and the deepness of the roots as they spread throughout the field.

It was as it should be, rich and verdant, but even amongst all this ripe life there were shadows. Leaving off that which needed no succor from me at the moment, I began to trace the path of the shadows that wound their way sinuously about the field and the roots below.

The grafters were a plague on a field if they became too entrenched. This field hadn’t been cleared in two years, since the last time Doc kept a crop here, but there were no hints of grafters in the late winter and early spring when I’d come to prepare the field, so this infestation couldn’t be that bad.

Difficult to explain, grafters act like a supernatural fungus and spread along the growth of natural life, feeding on the energy of the life within. When they got out of hand, they consumed whole fields. Science has yet to put a name to the fungus that is found in the remnants of the fields, but I didn’t need science to identify the symptoms. And the fungus is only a symptom. It doesn’t lie at the root of the problem. Pardon the pun.

Visible from within the Earth, the grafters moved like slithering snakes, inky shadows that wrap around the living plant life and slowly constrict, squeezing all that is alive and kinetic out of the plant. Once it has feasted, it will spread slowly onto another life form, and when two grafters meet over the same subject, they mate and from their mating two or three offspring may spread out. And so it goes, on and on, until a field is devastated.

Keep an eye out for Prime Evil, coming soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Carry On My Wayward Son

It's Supernatural Thursday and that means announcing who won the Supernatural Back in Black contest that kicked off with the return of our favorite Thursday night supernatural hunters: Dean and Sam Winchester. The boys are facing down Armageddon, but also their town troubled and dysfunctional relationship.

Last week, Sam and Dean parted company as Sam went off to find his own redemption and way leaving Dean to handle the mess that was Lucifer Rising. Tonight, we'll see Dean joined by Castiel as they continue Castiel's search for God (who may very well be running around in a human suit of his own). Will Sam cross paths with Lucifer? Will Dean figure out how to stop Lucifer without becoming a sheath for Michael? (Seriously, Kripke just had to know where that would go with the Slash fans.)

Two by Two

Sam and Dean are a pair, but they have been on very different journeys from the beginning. Dean was four going on five when their mother was killed. He has memories of her. He carried Sam to safety. He went through losing the normal home for life on the road with a father who began training him immediately. Dean acted as much parent as sibling to Sam and he never questioned or resented his journey as Sam’s protector or his father’s apprentice.

Sam on the other hand resented Dean for always obeying their father. He resented their father for his choice of lifestyles and he wanted to be far away from all of it. When Sam left them for college, he was quite content to abandon the only life and family he had ever known for life as a college kid, a girlfriend and apparently a future as a lawyer or in law enforcement.

When Dean came for Sam at the beginning of the first season, Sam didn’t want to go until he accepted that their father was in danger. Their unforgettable journey would take them to hell and back, literally. The Winchesters are men with a mission. See how it all began with the first season, their first adventures as adult hunters, learning how to work as partners and where the driver picks the music and shotgun shuts his cakehole.

Fight the Good Fight

Because it’s Supernatural and it’s Thursday and there are two Winchesters, I decided to give away two copies of season one.

So congratulations to Shannon and Leontine for winning Supernatural Season One. I’ll be in touch sometime today for your ground addresses.

Thanks to everyone who entered. I wish I could send season one to all of you! I am a proud member of Team Dean --- all the way! Are you Team Dean or Team Sam?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Character Support Makes a Story Stronger

Focal characters, viewpoint characters, foil characters and sidekicks; prose is filled with so many more people than just the protagonist or the antagonist. In fact, in most novels, television shows, films as in life, a wide variety of personalities make up the cast. Think about a book you read most recently. Think about all the characters in it beyond the main characters.

Let’s say you chose a J.D. Robb book. The books feature Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke. Eve and Roarke are undeniably the lead characters of the story, but these books also feature the lives and times of Peabody, McNab, Feeney, Commander Whitney, Mavis, Leonardo and dozens more. These books would just not be the same without this huge cast of characters.

As a writer, one of the things you recognize is that secondary and supporting characters are just as vital to the success of your story as your lead characters. In fact, I would suggest that they are even more important than the main characters.

Why, you ask?

Like anything, a story is more than the sum of its parts, but it is that sum of parts that creates the atmosphere and character of the story. Long after you finish a book, some characters just stand out as larger than life and more often than not, that character that stands out is a secondary character. In the Jim Butcher books, that character might be Michael, Harry’s friend and the former Knight of the Cross or Molly, Michael’s daughter and Harry’ s apprentice or even Morgan, Harry’s longtime nemesis.

In Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books those characters include Connie, Lula or Granny. In Julie Garwood’s contemporary novels, it was Noah Clayborne who played that colorful role. I would imagine in any series that you read or book that you pick up, the secondary characters influenced your enjoyment of it every bit as much as the leads. In long-running series this is especially important because you want to see development and interest. You want to know who had a baby and who went to college. It’s fun to revisit couples who were leads in previous books as seen in Kay Hooper’s special crimes unit books or with Nora Roberts trilogies and Kelly Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld.

Breeding Familiarity

Secondary and supporting characters are the life’s blood of a story. They provide texture, color and depth to the story. No two characters are an island and no matter how wrapped up in each other or in their own problems or even the conflict point in the story. They interact with others from the grocer to the waiter to the best friend, the relatives, the neighbors and the co-workers.

Storywise, the supporting cast provides a confidant, a guide, comic relief and more for the main characters. I can’t imagine reading or writing without some supporting characters. Colorful characters, steadfast characters and even jaded characters make for a fantastic supporting cast. I am a big fan of the supporting cast from Hodgins on Bones to Bobby on Supernatural to McGee on NCIS to Peabody in the In Death series and so many, many more.

As a writer, I find myself falling in love with my supporting characters. In my upcoming novel Prime Evil, the character that leapt out of the story for me was Sydney. Strong personality, fun attitude and wildly interesting to write about, I knew from her first words on the paper that she would be back in the next book. She had to be,

What supporting characters are your favorites?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Company of Heroes

As I sat down to watch the fourth season premiere of Heroes: Volume 5, I was struck by all the reasons I keep coming back to give this show another chance. This season is about Redemption. When the show debuted a few years ago, my husband and I were glued to every episode. We would discuss, dissect and enjoy each and every episode as the characters were inexorably drawn into each others orbits. Peter Petrelli and HRG were definitely my favorites. Both were men with personal missions and convictions. HRG began creepy, but his love and support for daughter Claire humanized him.

Heroes appeal to the need in all of us to save others or to be saved. Peter is leading a heroic crusade to save the world. Noah points out to him that he keeps track of all the people he saves, he knows all their names, and he knows where they are and how they are. Most if not all of the people he has saved have no idea who he is. Peter likes his life, he likes his life simple where he can use his abilities along with his training as a nurse to be the best paramedic he can be.

Best Heroes

The best heroes are the ones who are driven to a life of righting wrongs, saving others and fighting crime. These heroes are often representative of powerful arch types and possess a personal pain that hinders their ability to connect with others. Their method of connecting is to save others. They get an emotional boost, but reinforce their own isolation.

Heroes often seek the company of heroes because these are the only people who can understand their mission, their drive, their purpose or their isolation but another hero. In comics, television and the movies each hero’s journey is very personal. I think that’s why ‘heroes’ relunctant, borne or driven are all so appealing to the reader and to the writer.

Heroes of Earth and Sky

Superman seems like an easy hero to write for because he is so powerful, but it is that super power that makes him so difficult. Powers can actually hamper a writer because you don’t want to rely on them too much, but you can’t make your character super powerful and not use the powers. Powers need rules, heroes need villains and balance is vital to your character’s healthy development.

Some of my favorite heroes are those without any super powers at all. Batman, for example, is a fantastic example of the driven man, haunted by inner demons spurring him on to fight against the very crime that hurt others. Batman is a challenge to write because he embraces his fears and his darkness in order to save others.

In the television show, Peter has his own issues, he resents the actions of his family and the Company. He is a dreamer, he wants to save the world, but he is driven by his own inner demons. His empathic abilities to absorb other powers puts him in Superman's league, but HRG who is driven by the desire to save the world from rogue powered beings relies on his wits and his skills, much like Batman. I really do love the darker heroes.

Which heroes are your favorite and why?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Percy Jackson Series

I picked up the Percy Jackson series a little over a year ago for my nephew. The author Rick Riordan was going to be at the local Barnes and Noble, so they were promoting the books pretty heavily. I really liked the blurb about the first book and having been more than a little Harry Potter'd out, I thought it would be a nice change of pace.

In Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, we meet young sixth grader Percy Jackson on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York. He ends up vamporizing his math teacher when she wigs out and attacks him, His step-father is a jerk and his mom is overworked, but loving. The two escape to Long Island Sound for a vacation where everything that can go wrong does and Percy soon learns that he's a demi-god, but more than that, Percy is a demi-god with a mission because a minotaur tries to kill his mother and the Gods think he stole Zeus' lightning bolt.

What makes the Percy Jackson series so appealing is the way it embraces Greek mythology, the ethos and the pathos of it. You see, I have a passion for the Greek myths. One of the first books my parents gave me that I can remember having was a Greek mythology pop-up book. The gods and their intrinsically human flaws appealed to me on a visceral level.

The film Clash of the Titans sealed the deal as I watched Laurence Olivier glare down upon the world of mortals and Ursula Andress look like a fabled beauty as the goddess Aphrodite. Over the years, we've seen many incarnations of the Greek gods in different shows including Hercules and Xena. Ares was definitely a popular favorite. Hera was the villainess in the Hercules films, murdering his wife and children out of spite for his existence.

No matter how they are portayed, the gods of Greek mythology are painted very much in human colors. They are humanity's greatest and worst qualities magnified. Riordan embraces that concept in his novels. While these books are definitely written for children, they are not written down at all. They embrace Greek mythology and the concept of human weakness and heroic behavior. They also feature quests, responsibility and fantastic storytelling. All the right ingredients for a great story!

What god in Greek mythology is your favorite?

Percy Jackson Movie Trailer

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Snips and Clips: Contests, Witches, Anniversaries and More

Can it be Sunday already? This is my favorite blog of the week. It lets me catch up on a little bit of everything that doesn’t really fill a full blog on its own. This week’s snips and clips is also important because I will be out of town next Sunday, driving to Florida for our anniversary vacation at Disney World! So my week of guest bloggers will begin on that Sunday and run for the next week!

Guest Blogs, Interviews and Prizes Oh My!

What can you look forward to while I am away? We have a special guest to kick off our week on Sunday followed by the fun, charming Candace Havens on Monday September 28th. Candace shares some of her favorite television witches with you. On Tuesday, September 29th, help me celebrate Shannon K. Butcher’s latest release Love You to Death with a short interview.

Debra Kayn pays us a visit on the 30th and you just might win a free copy of her book Biker Babe in Black. Sabrina from Cheeky Reads helps me kick off October with her reflections on the magical storytelling of witches and more. D.D. Scott is our guest on Friday October 2nd with a look at her Muse Therapy. This is a must read for readers and writers alike. Nikki Duncan shares an excerpt of her Sounds to Die By as she explored romantic suspense and that’s another can’t be missed on October 3rd. Finally, October 4th will bookend with another special guest as I’ll be heading home and back with more fun on October 5th.

Eastwick Bound and Down

I really love this time of year as all my favorite shows return from summer hiatus and new shows make their first appearance. We’ve already seen the first couple episodes of The Vampire Diaries and I am definitely intrigued enough to keep watching. Supernatural continues to be powerfully, engaging. I’ll have to grab the anniversary week episode from iTunes because I don’t want to miss it. Bones was adorably, quirky as ever, but I have a feeling the do I love her or don’t I is going to drive me mad long before they resolve it.

Up this week on my DVR recording list: Castle, Heroes (not certain about this one, but I’ll give it one more chance), Eastwick, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Warehouse 13 (season finale, sad to see that go so soon), The Mentalist and Smallville, as well as all the other aforementioned shows above. I know I don’t have everything listed here because I just DVR way too much. It’s one way to keep me on the treadmill in the morning!

I mention Eastwick because it features Jamie Ray Newman who I loved on General Hospital (she played Alexis’ sister Kristina) and in all her appearances on genre shows like Stargate: Atlantis, Leverage, Supernatural and of course, most recently, on Eureka. Eastwick is based on the film The Witches of Eastwick (love, love, love that movie) which of course was based on a novel. So Eastwick is definitely on my check it out list!

Dan Brown and The Lost Symbol

I picked up my copy this week. I’ll be packing it for the trip. I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code as well as Angels and Demons before all the hype and ridiculous conspiracy theories and insanity that occurred about them. So I was happy to hear that Robert Langdon would be returning. The movies are okay, but that’s because I love Tom Hanks.

Hell Week

I picked up Rosemary Clement-Moore’s The Splendor Falls and the first book in her Hell Week trilogy Prom Dates from Hell. I started reading Prom Dates from Hell before I went to bed last night and just couldn’t put it down. I was laughing so hard that my daughter came in and wanted to know what was so funny. Now she wants to read the book. Thank you Rosemary, I definitely needed that laugh! Speaking of Rosemary Clement-Moore, she has graciously agreed to join us for the October Spotlight On feature!

Spotlight On in October

Speaking of October’s Spotlight On, we have authors Michele Bardsley, Dakota Cassidy, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Patricia Briggs and one more special guest for our Spotlight On fantasy authors. Our Spotlight On week is a great time to go in depth with our guests and I hope you have as much fun with it as I do.

Trick or Treat

Since October is such a great month, I will be creating a special Trick or Treat prize bag for the entire month that one lucky follower of this blog will win. To win the prize, you have to follow the blog and comment on the blogs with the phrase ‘trick or treat’ in it. Just keep an eye out for it.

Other Contests

We’ll be giving away other prizes throughout the month in individual blogs. Also, at the end of every month, I will draw a random commentator out of the hat and send a Daily Dose mug. September’s mug winner will be announced October 5 after I get back from Disney World. Sorry for the delay on that! Don’t forget to enter the Supernatural Back in Black contest in order to win the first season of Supernatural on DVD.

Okay, I think that’s all for now. How is your week going?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Books Turned Television Series

Sookie Stackhouse, Temperance Brennan, Serena va der Woodsen, Aaron Corbet, Richard Cypher, Vicki Nelson, Elena Gilbert and Harry Dresden all have something in common. They were characters in books long before they came to life on television. You'll find that many of the characters we love on television and in the movies, we loved in books first. Seeking inspiration from the written word is hardly new.

Great writing involves powerful visuals and emotional investment. Books also have a built in audience that is likely to tune into the television show. That same audience has preconceived notions about their characters, their storylines and how things should go. Sometimes what translates from book to screen is not the same. In fact, most of the time the television series is going to be different. It can never be exactly faithful to the author’s storytelling even if it can capture their creative vision.


I’d never read a Kathy Reichs book before this series began. It was a total fluke that I started watching it. There’s a tongue in cheek storyline in the show about the books that Bones writes featuring a character named Kathy Reichs. Reichs, herself, has also appeared on the show. It’s a wonderfully fun and funny dramedy pairing Dr. Temperance Brennan with Seeley Booth as they solve some of the most puzzling crimes.

The books, however, are vastly different from the series. A friend of mine who adores the books doesn’t like the series because it’s so counter to the images of the characters she’s conceived, not to mention the Tempe in the books is an older woman with a child and not a socially dysfunctional genius. Both definitely have their merits, but since I saw the series first, it’s the TV series I lean towards.

The Fallen

Aaron Corbet is a teenager struggling with all the things that a teenager struggles with. Only Aaron has bigger problems. Long before Dean and Sam got caught up between the war in Heaven, Aaron found himself in the middle of it. An angelic child, he’s hunted on all sides and loses his foster family. The series is really incredible. The books were made into a limited series on ABC Family. I enjoyed that outing and would love to have seen it go further, but the story was just as compelling on scre3en as it had been in the book. (Learn more about The Fallen author in our interview with Thomas E. Sniegoski).

The Legend of the Seeker

I am absolutely nuts about this series from the folks that brought you Xena and Hercules. Richard, Kahlan and Zed are gorgeous characters. The series is only loosely based on The Sword of Truth books by Terry Goodkind. Fans of the book series can and do have a lot of trouble with the television series. However, I can accept that these are just two very different interpretations of the same tale. It really helps that Richard and Kahlan have such gorgeous chemistry that makes them a delight to watch.

Gossip Girl

No, I have not read these books either, but the rather wild and trashy series on the CW is like a train wreck you can’t turn away from. Like Dynasty and Dallas of the early 80s, Gossip Girl is very much the extreme of society, the rich and the powerful doing only what the rich and the powerful do and being unhappy about it despite their millions, great hair, great clothes and more. I also like actress Blake Lively who plays Serena van der Woodsen.

Blood Ties

Oh, how I wished this television series had gone on. I found it to be a really beautiful symmetry between the books by Tanya Huff and the television show. The characters were damn near perfect. Christina Cox’s Vicki was not drop dead gorgeous, but she was very beautiful and very much a real woman. She was determined, but she struggled with her feelings for two very different men. Kyle Schmid as Henry Fitzroy was exquisitely sensuous and dangerous while Dylan Neal as Mike Celluci was trapped between his inherent skepticism and his need to support Vicki. The storylines were close enough to the books to pay them true homage. Sadly, the series only went one full season and a handful of second season episodes, but definitely worth watching in my humble opinion.

The Dresden Files

This show had so much potential. I really cursed at Sci Fi when they canceled it. The series was based on Jim Butcher’s enormously popular Harry Dresden novels. It stared Paul Blackthorne as Harry who would not have been my first pick, but he definitely worked for me after I got to see him in action. Murphy wasn’t blonde, but the actress really nailed her attitude. Morgan wasn’t old, but damn if he wasn’t hot. Sure there were lots of differences --- hell, Bob was a ghost that moved around (and I adored what they did with Bob), but it was a wonderful series all the same. I was so eager to see their versions of John Marcone, Michael, Mouse and so many other characters. But alas, the series was ended after just 12 episodes.

At least we still have the books!

The Vampire Diaries

This series just started and I’ll reserve opinion for a few more episodes. It’s been years since I read the books (I actually read them years ago when they first came out), but I remembered loving them. After I heard about the series, I ransacked the bookshelves and there they were. There are a lot of differences on the surface between the book and the series, but I have hope that the darker themes will be explored.

True Blood

The HBO series is based on Charlaine Harris’ novels. Now, I love these books. I am crazy about the southern gothic atmosphere and the entire realm of the supernatural that has been formed. So I was a little leery of the series. I liked the first season, but I got really tired of Jason having sex every five minutes (no matter how true to character that was). Second season has been remarkably better. I think in large part due to the fact that the characters outside of Sookie have enjoyed greater development beyond the Sookie centric books. So I am rather enjoying both now.

With so many books and series to choose from, it’s hardly surprising that some are better than others. Do I want to see some of my other favorite book series as television shows? Sure I do. But I want to see it done right. I want to enjoy the nuances that television can explore. I want to see the stories and the characters enhanced.

What is your favorite book turned television series?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Angst for the Memories

In German and Dutch, angst means fear or anxiety. In English, angst has come to mean emotional strife. It is most keenly associated with teenagers (teenage angst). But angst itself is a powerful motivator in fiction whether we are talking about teenagers, adults, fantasy or romance.

For a writer, angst is the obstacle to be overcome in their hero or heroine’s journey. For the reader, angst generates empathy and sympathy. You want the characters you are rooting for to overcome their angst whether it is coming from an internal or external source.

In the Buffy episode Lover’s Walk, all the characters are confronted with their romantic and relationship angst. Boundaries are shifted and truths are faced. Spike acts as an external catalyst (to fantastic effect):

Buffy and Angel are still completely in love with each other and inching closer and closer to being reunited despite their protests to just being friends. They are on a collision course to releasing Angelus once more. Spike is not gentle about pointing it out: they love each other so much it hurts, they’ll love and they’ll shag and then they’ll bleed.

Xander and Willow are still engaging in their behind their backs kissing sessions. Neither is sure why they can’t stop and neither is willing to fess up to their significant others. It seems clear that they love their partners, but they want it all. When Spike snags them, they give into their passion (albeit briefly) and are caught lip to lip by Cordy and Oz.

Adding insult to injury, Cordelia is badly injured. The physical metal rebar going through her abdomen is a powerful metaphor for the stake Xander has driven through her heart. Despite all her faults, Cordy really was in love with Xander and he broke her heart.
Meanwhile Giles is still struggling to reconcile his feelings about Buffy and Angel seeing each other again after Angelus’ torture of him and the murder of Jenny.

As for Spike, the catalyst? He’s stinking drunk and desperate to get Drusilla back after she dumped him. At the end of the episode, he realizes that he’s going about it all the wrong way; he just needs to kidnap and torture her until she takes him back. Twisted, but then he is a demon!

Collectively all of these moments are very powerful. They are all love’s bitch. Love tears you up inside, it empowers you; it’s a passion that can consume, destroy, build up and so much more. Love is a driving organic force in storytelling that cannot be discounted.

In Legend of the Seeker Richard cipher is in love with Kaylan, his Confessor. She loves him. Yet their love must forever remain chaste, because if they were to consummate their passion physically, her power would Confess him. For those that don’t follow the series, that means Kaylan would make Richard her slave whether she wanted to or not and the essence of who he is would be gone forever.

Harry Potter mourns his murdered parents and seeks to understand his past. That, combined with Voldemort’s negative influence all contribute to Harry’s social isolation. That social isolation is enough for angst all by itself, but Harry’s heroic journey is filled to the brim with angst for the character to wade through.

Another Harry, Harry Dresden, faces the Doom of Damocles when we first meet him in Jim Butcher’s Storm Front. The Doom is a result of his killing with magic, albeit in self-defense. In other words, even one screw up on his part can have the White Council ready to take off his head.

Angst drives all of these stories. From Sam and Dean’s loss of their mother, Jessica, their father and more on Supernatural to the anxiety of Sookie’s mind-reading on True Blood. Angst is an organic part of a character’s life, it drives them, it evolves with them and it makes for a great tale.

Even the greatest comedies have their elements of angst. Despite the bad rap that angst is given, we couldn’t have great stories without great angst. What do you think?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spotlight On: Sherin Nicole, Artist

Sherin Nicole's art came to my attention with this little cover here on the right. The gorgeous work speaks for itself. I enjoyed getting to pick her professional brain for ideas, insights and of course, art. So grab your coffee and enjoy a morning conversation with Sherin Nicole as our Spotlight On week draws to a close. I hope you've enjoyed these wonderful cover artists as much as I have.

Are you a solo artist, or are there other artists working with you or for you?

It depends or the project. Sometimes I work with an illustrator or photographer to capture concepts I wouldn’t be able to achieve on my own or to enrich the representation of theme.

Are you making a living pretty exclusively doing illustration, or do you have another gig?

My secret identity [read day job] is a graphic artist. I do a variety of things from logos to invitations to web sites. I love the mix and problem solving involved in various projects and the way they allow me to explore many different styles.

Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all hand work?

Most of my work is digital but I’ll also draw certain elements, scan them and layer them into a piece.

Who owns your cover art? (i.e. Owned by you and licensed for use?)

I usually bill the job so the publisher owns the artwork free and clear. It’d be crazy time consuming to hunt down the royalties on licensed work and I already feel like I need an assistant or at least to have my mother come stay for a while. (She’s very organized and I still do whatever she tells me to, which means I’d get more done.)

Can you walk my readers through the process you use to create a cover? Do you read the book? Do you just go from the author feedback or the blurb?

For me the whole concept starts with reading the book. It’s important to me to invoke the same feeling and theme. The cover should be a tasty tidbit that whets your appetite for the read.

Reading the book tends to speak to a style and I get started brainstorming a concept to communicate it. Sometimes I’ll search stock photography to see if anything strikes me. Other times I’ll call the illustrator I want to work with or start figuring out how to create the illustration myself.

I’ll do some basic sketches, show samples or do a write up of the concept for the client—to confirm I’m headed in the right direction. From there the possibilities diverge so greatly I can’t write them all. The finished piece is usually so organic that even I’m surprised by where it ends up.

Do you think that book cover art is actually art? Can it be consider something beyond selling the book?

Great illustration, typography or design is art. Among artist circles and in design magazines they give awards for cover art because other artists understand how much craft and talent it takes to create a truly great book cover. That’s part of the reason I’m so in awe of Chip Kidd. He designs the most amazing covers, seemingly, as easily as having his morning tea. I also love James Jean. His illustrations transport me. And lately I’ve been a fan of, fellow Daily Dose guest, Dan Dos Santos. Beautiful stuff.

James Jean
Chip Kidd

What is the single most important element about book cover art?

Cover art must draw the reader in. It’s gotta have a hook.

Are you trained as an artist? Did you go to art school? Do you have a degree in graphic design or something in the fine arts?

It’s like I’ve been studying art since I was child. After I won my first contest—for an eight year-old’s vision of the Easter Bunny—there was no doubt I’d be ‘artsy’ . Plus I got a five-pound, solid, milk chocolate bunny in the deal.

Experiences like that and studying photography, batik, drawing, etc. from then on, at places like the Sawtooth Center and Art-Is-House, in my hometown Winston-Salem NC, eventually led me to get my BFA.

Sawtooth Center

What is the difference between hardback and paperback book covers?

You know, I haven’t done a book jacket yet. That’s funny. But I would image the only difference is in the two flaps that wrap around the cover to hold it in place. Otherwise you still have to design for a cohesive front, back and spine.

Are you an in-house book cover artist? What process did you have to go through to get that job or any job as a cover artist?

My first cover artist job was for a small publisher out of Baltimore. They’d seen my company’s work and had gotten a referral to us. Each cover seemed to bring about another and I’ve been doing them ever since.

Have you ever done a book cover and thought, I really hate it?

Yep, but I’ll never tell which ones and you def won’t find links to them here.

Have you ever done a book cover for a book you didn't like? (You don't have to name names)

Not really but I’ve often been forced to complete a design I didn’t like because the client was adamant. One invitation looked like the precursor to an Easter Egg hunt, the pinks and lavenders they chose were so bright. Made me think of a word my grandmother used to use—garish.

Is there a book cover that another book cover artist that you admire or want to emulate? Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?

I absolutely love most anything from James Jean or Chip Kidd. They both have such amazing approaches.

Is there one you have done and really love?

Vibrating with Silence is probably my favorite although I really dig Tell Tales 4: The Global Village because of its ‘fractured fairytale meets the internet as worldwide circus’ vibe. The freakiness of it appeals to me.

Do you think book covers sometimes hurt the sales of a book?

Covers could definitely affect sales when the feeling of the story or theme is not well communicated or if it sends the wrong message. For example a cookbook with a garbage can on it.

Do you think that a lot of people stay away from romances because they are too embarrassed by some book covers?

Possibly. I hear a lot about women camouflaging romance covers behind book sleeves or going so far as to disguise them on eReaders. I haven’t had that problem though. I’m more likely to ‘sneak-read’ something from Garth Ennis while on the Metro so unsuspecting passengers don’t run screaming from visions of pure depravity.

If someone was interested in getting into book covers, do you have any suggestions about how they can go about doing so?

I’m not sure but I’m excited to read the answers from your other guests. I’d like to do a lot more covers.

Do you have any upcoming books coming out?

Not at the moment. Most of my projects have been branding and web design recently. It’d be great to get back to cover and invitation design because they’re so much fun and don’t have as many rules.

Do you feel that a cover should accurately reflect the characters inside the book? Based on the recent controversy over the American cover for the book Liar, how do you feel about covers that may be viewed as inaccurate representations?

Definitely. I actually went on a mini-rant on the subject of the original Liar cover and I’m happy they’ve made the change…as a reader. As a designer the original cover was so much more compelling. Of course, then we have to get into why they didn’t reshoot the original concept and just swap out the model.

So, let’s stick to question at hand. I get a little miffed when I feel the cover artist hasn’t taken the time to understand the characters or the motivations behind the story. It’s laziness or arrogance and it’s disrespectful to the author’s work. The cover artist is the secondary storyteller and they should be working to bring out the best in the book. When that happens the results are so much more beautiful.

Last question, what sets your covers apart from other artists?

Hmm, perhaps it’s my drive to create a snapshot of the book and to do something visually interesting each time. I also think designs become little snippets of visual DNA. Most time you can tell who created a piece just by looking at it—my designs are distinctly me. If that makes any sense.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spotlight On: Dan Dos Santos, Artist

As Spotlight On week continues, we turn to Dan Dos Santos, one of my personal favorite cover artists. Dan's covers are easily recognizable to fans of Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson and Alpha and Omega series. Dan's body of work, however, is even more impressive than these gorgeous covers. So kick back, grab a cup and enjoy Dan Dos Santos.

Are you a solo artist, or are there other artists working with you / for you?

I am solo. I used to share a studio with a friend, but we never shared commissions. Part of why I like this job is that I get to work by myself.

Are you making a living pretty exclusively doing illustration, or do you have another gig?

Exclusively illustration.

Do you have any kids’ books in you?

Actually, I am in the process of working on a children's book. It is a personal project, and I just need to find the time to work on it.

Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogue?

All traditional oil paints. On occasion a client will ask for revisions, these I do digitally.

Who owns your cover art? (i.e. Owned by you and licensed for use?)
I own the original art. The client usually purchases first-time printing rights, and on rare occasions purchases the copyright. But I always get to keep the original.

Can you walk my readers through the process you use to create a cover? Do you read the book? Do you just go from the author feedback or the blurb?

If I had to define it, I would say vibrant colors, pretty girls, iconic compositions, and a youthful sentiment. I always read the book (provided it has been written already). There are several very thorough tutorials on my site that walk you through the process of making a cover. They can all be found here.

Do you think that book cover art is actually art? Can it be consider something beyond selling the book?
I sure hope so!

What is the single most important element about book cover art?

Are you trained as an artist? Did you go to art school? Do you have a degree in graphic design or something in the fine arts?
I went to the School of Visual Arts, NYC for 4 years and earned my Bachelor's Degree in Illustration.

What is the difference between hardback and paperback book covers?
Aside from the obvious, the dimensions are slightly different. Hard covers give the Artist a lot more space to work with. That added space really helps to show a picture at it's best.

Are you an in-house book cover artist? What process did you have to go through to get that job or any job as a cover artist?
Nope. I am strictly freelance.

Have you ever done a book cover and thought, I really hate it?
I hate pretty much every cover I do. In fact, it's a rare occasion when I actually LIKE something I painted and feel that I achieved it's potential.

Have you ever done a book cover for a book you didn't like? (You don't have to name names)

Is there an book cover that another book cover artist that you admire or want to emulate? Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?

Zillions. I really love the work of Michael Whelan, Donato Giancola, Sam Weber, and MANY more. If I had to pick a single picture that I am really envious of at the moment, it would probably be this piece by Sam Weber.

Is there one you have done and really love?
It's a toss up between these two:

Poison Sleep
Butcher Bird

Do you think book covers sometimes hurt the sales of a book?
It would never hurt sales, it simply wouldn't reap sales. Though, a good cover really does help a LOT.

Do you feel that a cover should accurately reflect the characters inside the book? Based on the recent controversy over the American cover for the book Liar, how do you feel about covers that may be viewed as inaccurate representations?
Personally, I strive for accuracy. Though, if a little bit of inaccuracy means make a MUCH better cover, I think it's more than justified.

Do you think that a lot of people stay away from romances because they are too embarrassed by some book covers?
I don't think the covers are any more embarrassing than the content within.

If someone was interested in getting into book covers, do you have any suggestions about how they can go about doing so?

Have a good portfolio and start showing it around. Go to the book store, and find a book that you think stylistically matches your work. Look inside for the publisher and Art Director's name. Then, just mail that person some samples. Easy as that. If your work is good, the rest will happen on it's own.

Do you have any upcoming books coming out? Upcoming covers?
Absolutely. I have already painted half a dozen covers that won't even hit the shelves until 2010.

Last question, what sets your covers apart from other artists?
Hopefully, a personal sense of style.

What do you like to read for pleasure?
Reading all the manuscripts takes a lot of time. So when I do get a chance to read for pleasure, I usually read comic books.

A man after my own heart!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spotlight On: Judy York, Artist

Judy York's soft, exquisite style creates some erotic and memorable cover art. As Spotlight On week continues, we invite you to join cover artist Judy York for a morning cup of coffee and some great visuals here at the Daily Dose.

Are you a solo artist, or are there other artists working with you / for you?


Are you making a living pretty exclusively doing illustration, or do you have another gig?

This is it!

Do you have any kids’ books in you?

Certainly. You always think: "When I have time".....

Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogue?

It's all digital and has been for many years. Before that I worked in oils.

Who owns your cover art? (i.e. Owned by you and licensed for use?)

That depends on the client.

Can you walk my readers through the process you use to create a cover? Do you read the book? Do you just go from the author feedback or the blurb?

Sometimes I'm given a manuscript, sometimes a fact sheet or concept. After researching background reference I select models and book time with my photographer for a photo shoot. The photographer matches the lighting and camera angle of my background reference and photographs the models in a variety of poses. I'm given a CD of the shoot, from which I chose an image to incorporate into the background. After that I use digital brushes to create artwork.

Do you think that book cover art is actually art? Can it be consider something beyond selling the book?

Definitely, though some move than others.

What is the single most important element about book cover art?

It should be beautiful of course, but more importantly it should stand out in some positive manner on the shelves. After all, the point is to attract the reader.

Are you trained as an artist? Did you go to art school? Do you have a degree in graphic design or something in the fine arts?

My B.A. is in art history. Afterwards I studied illustration at Pratt Institute in New York.

What is the difference between hardback and paperback book covers?

Sometimes only the cropping of the art (hard and soft-covered jackets have different proportions). Sometimes the hard cover is more "literary" in appearance, which contribute to a "softer sell".

Are you an in-house book cover artist?

No, I'm strictly freelance at this time.

Have you ever done a book cover and thought, I really hate it?

Sure. I'm willing to bet that everyone has. But sometimes you see it again months later and find you like it after all.

Have you ever done a book cover for a book you didn't like? (You don't have to name names)

Of course, but that never stands in the way of trying to create an excellent cover.

Is there an book cover that another book cover artist that you admire or want to emulate? Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?

Yes. Inspiration comes from many sources.

Is there one you have done and really love?

Yes, but it's hard to single one out. I'm fond of quite a few of my images, each for different reasons--which is why I have them in rotation on my Homepage.

Do you think book covers sometimes hurt the sales of a book?

I suppose.....but NEVER mine! :)

Do you feel that a cover should accurately reflect the characters inside the book? Based on the recent controversy over the American cover for the book Liar, how do you feel about covers that may be viewed as inaccurate representations?

Yes I do, but sometimes we have to work around that. Plain "Jane Eyre" type heroines are often shown from behind or in lost profile. A protagonist with a disability or disfigurement is shown with that feature disguised. Thankfully, I've never had to deal with Liar-level issues.

Do you think that a lot of people stay away from romances because they are too embarrassed by some book covers?

I have no idea, but perhaps covers featuring landscapes and still life vignettes are attempting to address this issue.

If someone was interested in getting into book covers, do you have any suggestions about how they can go about doing so?

First, get both traditional and digital schooling. Assemble a portfolio and show it to artists' representatives for consideration. If you choose to (or must) go it alone, put up a website and contact art departments to find out how they prefer to see new work.

Do you have any upcoming books coming out?

As I do a number of books each month, there's always something coming out. I don't know specific pub dates.

Last question, what sets your covers apart from other artists?

Any answer I give to this might sound as if I'm putting down other artists, which I don't like to do. So I leave this for you to decide after viewing my work!

You can visit Judy York's website to learn more about this fabulous artist and her covers.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spotlight On: Kendra Egert, Artist

I'm so excited to be kicking off another week of Spotlight On interviews! This month, we turn our spotlight on cover artists. Cover artists create the first impression many of us have of the books we buy. We can be so intrigued by a cover that we pick up the book and by equal measure, we can be so turned off by one that we just don't look at it. Covers can reveal a great deal about a story and they can reveal nothing.

Covers are the ultimate tease and we love every inch of them. This week, it is my pleasure to present interviews with four great cover artists. First up is Kendra Egert. Kendra did the cover for Remembering Ashby my debut book and we went through a little back and forth to get that cover into shape. I'm biased, of course, but I love her work. Kendra's also the cover artist for many of my fellow authors at Sapphire Blue Publishing. So it is my very great pleasure to introduce you to this week's very first spotlight on cover artist: Kendra Egert.

Are you a solo artist, or are there other artists working with you or for you?

I am a solo artist.

Are you making a living pretty exclusively doing illustration, or do you have another gig?

I have my own business. I do covers, websites and promo materials.

Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all hand work?

All of my work is photo manipulation / digital art. I would not classify myself as a traditional artist.

Who owns your cover art? (i.e. Owned by you and licensed for use?)

Some of the covers are purchased out right, but some of them will revert back to me once the books are out of contract. It really depends on the publisher. However I am credited whenever the art is used, because I am the copyright holder.

Can you walk my readers through the process you use to create a cover? Do you read the book? Do you just go from the author feedback or the blurb?

I use the Cover Art Form the author fills out. I will look for pictures to match the characters and the genre of the book. After that it’s just adding colors and textures. Colors and textures help define the mood and tone of the book. Sometimes they come together quickly sometimes it’s harder.

Do you think that book cover art is actually art? Can it be consider something beyond selling the book?

Some of my covers I consider art, but the whole point of a book covers is to entice the reader to buy the book. One of the current trends for the hotter books is to have a hunky man on the cover. Why? Because it sells better than having just a woman. In the urban fantasy market, you have a woman on the cover(Think Patrica Briggs, Kelley Armstrong)

In YA, it a girl and colored flowers. So as an artist you have to knowledge about what can catch a readers eye.

What is the single most important element about book cover art?

You have to be able to read the title and the name, even when tiny. You want the cover to stand out when it’s reduced to web size.

Are you trained as an artist? Did you go to art school? Do you have an degree in graphic design or something in the fine arts?

Nope, I have a Bachelors Degree in information Technology. I have been do graphic work for about 3 years now. I started out working on my grandmothers old pictures restoring them and making picture books for her.

What is the difference between hardback and paperback book covers?

I don’t have any experience with hardback covers.

Are you an in-house book cover artist? What process did you have to go through to get that job or any job as a cover artist?

I am a freelance cover artist for a several publishers. I contacted a couple of them, but a couple came to me. So it just depends. I’ve also had a couple of authors come to me to have covers created.

Have you ever done a book cover and thought, I really hate it?

Yes, then I will scrap it and start over. I do know if I work on a cover for too long whether it’s beautiful or not I will begin to hate it and just want to be done with it. I have a couple like that. There was also one cover that I had to use a picture that the author purchased. I didn’t like it, but didn’t have a choice on using it.

Have you ever done a book cover for a book you didn't like? (You don't have to name names)

I haven’t read all of the books I’ve done covers for. So, I don’t know.

Is there an book cover that another book cover artist that you admire or want to emulate? Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?

I want to be Anne Caine, Mandy Roth and April Martinez. They have so much talent and represent the books so well.

Is there one you have done and really love?

There are several of mine that I love. Mostly for sentimental reasons. Gracie and the Bad Hat is one of my absolute favorites, because of the work it took to create the cover. Deep Obsessions is special because it was my first commercial cover.

Do you think book covers sometimes hurt the sales of a book?

Yes, there are book I will not buy because of the cover and there are book I buy just because of the cover. I have seen books that have horrible covers become best sellers. I have no idea why it happens, but it does.

Do you think that a lot of people stay away from romances because they are too embarrassed by some book covers?

Yes I do, but romance is over 70% of overall book sales so they are still being purchased.

If someone was interested in getting into book covers, do you have any suggestions about how they can go about doing so?

I would practice making covers, look at the covers you see on shelves and from Samhain Publishing, Loose-Id and Liquid Silver. Also scroll through the covers are All Romance eBooks and see what is out there.

Do you have any upcoming books coming out?

No, I think all of them have been released. I am working on one for Sapphire Blue Publishing now. You can take a look at some of my covers here

Last question, what sets your covers apart from other artists?

Wow, that is a tough question. I’d like to think that I am versatile. That I can produce a good cover for any genre.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Snips and Clips: Emmys, Ritas and More

Dr Horrible wins Emmy for Short-format Live-Action Special Class. Nathan Fillion was tweeting away and posting pics like this one to the right. Always a fun thing to see for the fans!

I have to confess, I've never actually seen Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog. I've heard tremendous things about it, but it's just never been my cup of tea. Now, being a fan of Mr. Fillion and Mr. Whedon, I shall surely check this out at some point.

I rather hope after looking at the picture to the right that Mr. Fillion gets another Emmy someday. He's such a talented actor and I say that as someone who's enjoyed his work since his days on One Life to Live.

Rosemary Clement Moore and The Splendor Falls

Headed out to the mid-cities with friends of DFWTea and Fresh Fiction to enjoy an afternoon of chatting about books, authors, television shows (hello The Vampire Diaries) and also to attend a book signing at the Barnes and Noble. Local author Rosemary Clement Moore was signing her latest book The Splendor Falls.

Rosemary won a Rita for her Hell Week books. She had the Rita proudly on display and she really is quite lovely to look at. The neat thing for me was not only meeting a new author who's going to be featured in an interview here in October, but also getting the opportunity to meet new worlds and new characters. I made sure to pick up the first Hell Week after giggling at the blurb on the back. If you haven't had a chance to check out these books out. Also, keep an eye out for the giveaway of The Splendor Falls in October.

Percy Jackson and the New Olympians

I've been listening to Rick Riordan's book on iPhone because work has me commuting nearly two hours every day. I have to say, I've really, really enjoyed this book. Did you know that Riordan finished this book in the early 90s and it was a long and spotty road to getting the book published? For parents out there, this is a wonderful urban fantasy for kids to read - I love the use of Greek mythology. Definitely need to borrow the rest of the series from my nephew (I gave them to him last year.)


The return of Supernatural on Thursday was so worth the wait. I enjoyed the interaction between Sam and Dean. But what I enjoyed even more was the attention to detail that Kripke is paying with his reminders that Lucifer is an angel, not a demon. He needed the permission of his vessel unlike all of his minions, he could not force a possession. That was elegantly done. This season is packed full of potential. Don't forget that we're having a giveaway of season one in a couple of weeks, just check out on Supernatural: Back in Black for the rules.

True Blood

Tonight is the True Blood season finale. Will Mary Ann get her comeuppance? Will Sam survive? Will Jason be the hero? Will Bill and Eric stop strutting at each other long enough to be really effective? What will happen? I for one, can hardly wait!

Spotlight On ... Cover Artists

Be sure to check back this week as we turn out Spotlight On cover artists: Judy York, Dan Dos Santos, Kendra Egert and Sherin Nicole. It's a great week packed with artistic insights and some absolutely stunning examples of beauty. I hope you enjoy the interviews as much as I do.

Prime Evil: The Edits

I am nearly done with the first round of edits from the publisher. I will be sending Prime Evil off later today, so I should have a release date for you soon.

What are you up to this Sunday?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Supernatural is Back in Black

Break out the beer, Supernatural debuts for its fifth and reportedly final season tonight at 9 EST on the CW. When we last saw the Winchesters all hell was breaking loose, literally, as Lilith died, Dean finally got to take out Ruby and Lucifer rose.

Crystal Rain Love, author of The Fire Still Burns and Moonlight Dreams counted down the days to Supernatural's return. She describes Dean Winchester as the perfect romance novel hero. "A bad boy with a heart of gold, a tortured hero you want to hold, even if you have to go to hell with him to do so. He's shown as a womanizer, but there's something about him that lets u know once he finds his soulmate, he'll be eternally faithful."

Dark angels and Winchester boys is a heady combination for some fans, among them Rachel Caine, author of the Morganville Vampires, Weather Warden and many other projects is looking forward to tonight's return. "I adore Supernatural. Hmmm, I think what I've loved lately is the great, dark take on angels. And Padalecki. And Ackles."

Tune in an hour early and check out the new Vampire Diaries series that is taking over Smallville's old timeslot. The series is based on LJ Smith's really great books of the same name. Teenagers, angst and vampires are definitely back in these days.

To celebrate the return of Supernatural for its fifth and perhaps final season, the Daily Dose is going to give away one free copy of Season One of Supernatural on DVD. That's right, the first full season of the Winchesters with Dean, Sammy and Dad. Season one introduces John and Mary Winchester with their boys in the early 80s living a seemingly idyllic life until a demon pins mom to the ceiling, disembowels her and then bursts her into flames. Thus beginning a vendetta that will consume John Winchester and by extension both of his sons as they become Hunters.

So, how do you win this first season? Here are the ways you can enter:

+1 Leave a comment to this blog detailing what you are looking forward to most in the fifth season or any season of the Winchesters.
+2 Follow this blog or leave me a note saying you already follow.
+3 Post a link to this contest on your blog and let me know where to find it in a comment.

That's six possible chances for one really incredible season. The winner will be announced September 24th before I go on vacation. So be sure to enter.

Oh and speaking of winners

Winners of our Snips and Clips: Charmed and Demonic

Winner of Dakota Cassidy's Kiss and Hell: Wendy!

Winner of Candace Havens' Charmed and Dangerous: SaturnMoonie!

Congratulations to both! I'll be in touch shortly to get your books sent out to you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Quick Red Edit Jumps Over the Lazy Verb

What is a lazy verb? Can a verb really be lazy? As a writer, would you let a lazy verb sit on its ass or would you give a good kick in the tush? Editors love to highlight these in your manuscript and like the proverbial show, don’t tell, the lazy verb is the bane of a writer’s editing existence. So what exactly is a lazy verb?

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A lazy verb tells you what someone or something is doing, but it doesn’t show the action. It doesn’t give the action flavor, texture or imagery. The rain came down. Yes, absolutely, rain comes down. Obviously gravity works.

But rain does more than just come down. Rain splashes. Rain squelches. Rain cascades down in sheets. Rain strikes like tiny wet bullets. Rain is a lot more active than just come down. Even when rain is lazy, rain drizzles or spatters. It can drip, drop, mist, mizzle, shower, spit, spray and sprinkle. These are all actionable verbs, actionable and descriptive.

They are not lazy verbs.


Did you know that when a character walks from one room to another or even from one scene to another that just to walk is a lazy verb?

He walked in the room.

Okay, the character walked in. But how did he walk in? Did he strut? Did he advance, amble, ambulate, canter, lumber, march, meander, pace, pad, parade, patrol, perambulate, plod, prance, promenade, race, roam, rove, run, saunter, scuff, shamble, shuffle, slog, stalk, step, stride, stroll, strut, stump, toddle, tour, traipse, tramp, troop, trudge or wander?

Each of these verbs gives you more insight into the action and into the character. It adds depth and layers to the story. It’s also, not lazy.


Characters look at each other all the time, right? Chance looks at Jack. Jack looks at Chance. Marsha looks at Greg. Greg looks at Marsha. John Boy looks at Martha. Martha looks at the Doctor. The Doctor looks at Jack.

You get the point.

To look at something is just that – it’s an action. It’s nothing more than a stage direction. It doesn’t convey emotion, depth or texture.

So when Jack looked at Chance, did he admire, attend, behold, beware, consider, contemplate, eye, feast his eyes, flash, focus, gape, gawk, gaze, get a load of, glance, glower, goggle, heed, inspect, mark, mind, note, notice, observe, ogle, peep, peer, pore over, read, regard, rubberneck, scan, scout, scrutinize, see, spot, spy, stare, study, survey, take a gander, take in the sights, tend, view or did he simply watch?

Verbs Denote Action

Basic understanding of the parts of grammar indicates that your verbs denote action. They describe what your character is doing and if they aren’t lazy, they show how your character is doing it. A man who shambles into the room inspecting the carpet at his feet is a potent and colorful mental image versus the man who walks in looking at his feet.

During the re-reading, proofreading and rewriting stages you can highlight these lazy verbs and go back to punch them up. The use of lazy verbs is the difference between a good read and a great experience.

What are you favorite, action verbs?