Saturday, October 31, 2009

NaNoWriMo: The First Five Hundred

Happy Halloween! NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow and as a special teaser, enjoy the first five hundred words of my Nano project: The Forgotten. The Forgotten is the sequel to Remembering Ashby and was teased in the free short Forget to Remember. Be sure to check those out and stay tuned to the Daily Dose and Twitter for more Nano updates!

The Forgotten

She turned her head away from the sounds of death. Her sisters cried out to her with long, horrid sounds of pain and anguish. Xandie closed her mind to it, hardening her heart and putting one foot in front of the other. Blood spattered her face and soaked through the long strands of golden blond hair that fell in disarray around her shoulders.

Ahead, still mounted, the enemy gathered to make another fatal charge. They would run them all through, slaughtering them once and for all. In the distance, the horns of the clans signaled their approach, but they would be too late, even at full gallop. Her breaths came in short, staccato bursts through the mouth, refusing to inhale deeply through her nose less the smell of blood, bodies gutted, urine and feces choke her.

"Ahhhhh!" The shriek from ahead alerted her that her bare few moments became even fewer seconds. She closed her mind to the pain in her legs, arms, heart and soul. She closed it all out. The mind overruled the body. The body would feel nothing that the mind did not allow. She closed out the pain; she glared at the mass of men thundering towards her fallen sisters. She heard the death blows of horse hooves crushing tender flesh.

"A Thiarna, maith dom," she whispered to the morning wind. Her right hand lifted and her eyes focused on the man in the lead and his horse. The power spread from her midsection, unspooling from within like so many tentacles of darkness released from their imprisonment. The man bore down on Xandie, filthy hair streaming in the wind, the promise of her death in his eyes, his eyes which locked with hers.

She pulsed with her will, her mind lashing out at his, deep sapphire eyes glowing with incandescent light. His thoughts became her thoughts and then she heard him scream as he threw himself from the horse, only to be trampled by his own war animal. Her gaze turned to the beast and the black horse reared, screaming a battle cry and lashing out with his hooves at horses and warriors alike. The wave of bleak death broke, scrambling away from the horse and she turned her mind to another.

The younger man, boy really shrieked in terror as her mind gutted his. He turned his sword against his fellows. He struck a bloody swath down the back of his own father and she left him screaming for his own death as her mind bent to another and another.

"I am Alexandria of the Avalon, you have trespassed upon us." She spit, blood flecking her lips with each word. "We came in mercy. We came in peace. We came to mend that which was broken. You have shattered the peace. May your gods have mercy on you, for I have none."

One man lunged forward, his broadsword gripped in two hands swinging. He screamed for her death as her mind set his on fire. He fell to his knees in front of her, sword landing with a thud and began to claw at his own eyes. One by one, the band of Black Guard fell until a ring of death spiraled out from the Sorceress.

The horn sounded from the south, closer and the thunder of hooves, of safety and respite drummed behind her. She listened for it dully, watching the life leave the eyes of a boy who could not be much older than her youngest brother. He reached out a hand to her, fingers straining, a word whispering on his pain twisted mouth.

"No," The sorceress answered him, eyes burning with cold fire. "I do not forgive."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

5 Ways Readers Benefit from NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. For those of you who don’t know what that is, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writer’s Month. It’s a fun, by the seat of your pants writing challenge that began in 1999 with just 21 participants. Now a decade later, NaNoWriMo averages over a 100,000 participants in a no-hold barred, write like mad for 30 days adventure to create a book from scratch. That’s write, NaNoWriMo is all about the writing, but it’s also about the connections and relationships you make with other writers going through the same things you are.

I’ve participated officially in NaNoWriMo once, but unofficially, I’ve been following it since 2001 or thereabouts. November is the chosen month for NaNoWriMo; writing begins on the 1st and runs through the 30th with writers giving away prizes to other writers and more as a way to encourage success. For some writers, it’s also about competing with friends (friendly competition only, mind you) in order to drive word counts up. If you can successfully commit 30 days to NaNoWriMo, you can walk away with the bones of your novel or at least a solid first draft.

But How Do Readers Benefit?

As you can see, there are a lot of benefits for writers, but what about readers? Well here are five ways that you, the reader benefit from our novel writing frenzy:

You Meet New Authors

A lot of published authors birthed their first works during NaNoWriMo and return year after year to participate, partially for discipline, but also because it’s fun. Readers who are following one author that they like may discover other authors. Many NaNoWriMo participants are already published authors, so don’t be afraid to shop a writer’s name around to see what they have on their backlist.

Be Involved in the Process

Want to cheer on a favorite writer? Want to get a glimpse of what they are working on? NaNoWriMo writers responsible only to themselves, but they are just as likely to post clips, snips and excerpts – if not their entire drafting process – for feedback. While not quite the TextNovel experience, it’s definitely a way for you to get involved, let your author know what you think. You might be amazed to see new characters and old favorites come to life during the process.

Win Prizes

Writers love to run contests and November is a fantastic month for it, particularly because Christmas is right around the corner and they are writing like mad. You can win all kinds of swag.

Be Entertained

Remember that friendly competition? Well this year, Twitter will be involved and there’s already a friendly competition being waged between Sapphire Blue Publishing writers using the hashtag #SBPCageMatch where the writers will be talking smack, posting word counts and even teasing about their works throughout the month.

New Books and Possibly New Authors

Every NaNoWriMo produces new works and published authors every year. So whether you follow along or not, you'll see new works from it eventually. The first draft, in many cases, can be the hardest and with NaNoWriMo’s resources, support and structure, writers who didn’t think they could, suddenly find themselves making it.

So check out NaNoWriMo this year. Check out whether your favorite author is participating or if any author you know is. Turn out to support them and cheer them on. The actual writing process may not be a spectator sport, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the spectacle of writers gone wild.

You can check out my NaNoWriMo updates all month long on twitter (HVLong) and here at the Daily Dose. In fact, you’ll find the first 500 words of my NaNoWriMo challenge published this Saturday!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brown Paper Packages, Tied Up with String

Bookstores. New books. Amazon packages on my door step. These are just a few of my favorite things. As November is rounding the bend and the holiday swing will begin to dance its jig, I get to be excited about new books from several of my favorite authors, but I must confess to a certain wicked delight I take when I know a new In Death book is waiting in the wings. Next Tuesday, on November 3rd, J.D. Robb’s 30th In Death is released featuring homicide lieutenant Eve Dallas, her mega-billionaire husband Roarke and their entire cast of characters.

Nora Roberts is an extremely prolific writer and while I am a fan of several of her romances, I have to admit, I am completely captivated by the In Death series. Part of the affection is the cast of characters that populates these novels and fills out all the nooks and crannies of Roarke and Eve’s lives. Part of it is journeying with them into their happily ever after and honestly, part of it is the mystery that unravels in each book.

Kindred in Death

I am such a fan of these books that I rarely, if ever actually read their blurbs. But I swung by Amazon today to check out that my preorder was in place (we have a Yule Rule in this house which I will get to in a moment) and two things caught me off guard, the price and the blurb. First of all, the hardback is just $9. The price wars are in full swing and Publishers Weekly was talking about the pending lawsuits against Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target for price fixing, but a hardback at $9 seems like such a steal. I have to wonder: will it really hurt authors to have the price reduced?

As an author, I have to say I wince at the idea of a $25 book going for $9 right off the back, that’s only a dollar more than the average paperback these days. But as a fan and someone feeling the economic pinch myself, that $9 is a huge gift! I was all set to pay $20, but to get it for $9 is a cheer worthy. So now, of course, I have guilt going on. But we shall see.

The second big surprise was the full blurb that accompanied the book. I’m so used to there just being a sentence or two that I don’t worry about it, but now I have a blurb to savor over the next few days:

When the newly promoted captain of the NYPSD and his wife return a day early from their vacation, they were looking forward to spending time with their bright and vivacious sixteen-year-old daughter who had stayed behind.

Not even their worst nightmares could have prepared them for the crime scene that awaited them instead. Brutally murdered in her bedroom, Deena's body showed signs of trauma that horrified even the toughest of cops; including our own Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who was specifically requested by the captain to investigate.

When the evidence starts to pile up, Dallas and her team think they are about to arrest their perpetrator; little do they know yet that someone has gone to great lengths to tease and taunt them by using a variety of identities. Overconfidence can lead to careless mistakes. But for Dallas, one mistake might be all she needs to bring justice.

So, six days and counting. I can’t wait for my brown paper package, tied up with string!

The Yule Rule

For those of you who might be curious about the aforementioned Yule rule, in our family we are not allowed to shop for ourselves after November 1st. There are very few to no exceptions to this rule. This allows everyone plenty of time to pick out presents for the holiday season, particularly because great favorites like J.D. Robb come out at this time of year. So how did I dodge the rule? I pre-ordered the book back in April with a gift card I got for my birthday.

According to my husband, that’s stretching the rule mighty thin. But I’m good with that. What rules do you observe around the holidays and what books are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blind Casting Characters

Blind casting is a practice in the film industry of casting for a television show or film without considering the actor or actress’s ethnicity. For example, when originally casting the roles of Grey’s Anatomy, the producers didn’t look for any specific ethnicities, rather they took the best actors or actresses who auditioned and then let them become the role. Can you imagine anyone else playing Cristina or Bailey or Meredith for that matter?

Blind Casting Icons

I bring up blind casting today because of a conversation revolving around loving an actor or an actress even if you hate the role they are playing and more. Gina Torres, for example, is a brilliant actress who’s played everything from a browncoat (Firefly) to an Eastern bloc spy/assassin (Alias) to a Goddess (Angel) and more. There was a rumor for a while that she might be cast as Wonder Woman.

Now the question is: would she make a good Wonder Woman or a bad one? Acting wise, I think she could nail it with both hands tied behind her back. Physicality? She’s got the look, the build and the athleticism to carry it off. Depth of character? Could she be a woman, given life by the breath of the gods and the love of an Amazon Queen, absolutely! But is her ethnicity wrong?

For nearly seven decades Wonder Woman has traditionally been featured as a dark haired, blue eyed, woman of Caucasian descent, although arguably she has Greek and Turkish blood in her as well. For an example of what that would look like, just check out Melina Kanakaredes on CSI:NY. Her Greek heritage gives her a patrician face, which is both aristocratic and arresting. Arguably, Gina Torres can pull it off as well.

But would some people object? Oh, probably. But then people objected to Keanu Reeves playing John Constantine because Keanu was young, American and dark haired when Constantine is late 40s, early 50s, very blonde and extremely British. But Keanu captured the spirit of Constantine and I don’t doubt for an instant that Torres couldn’t do the same with Wonder Woman.

Best Man or Woman for the Job

Until recently, I never thought about the fact that that we don’t typically see men and women of ethnicity cast in the roles that are cast ‘white’ in books, but one does leap to mind:

Denzel Washington in The Pelican Brief. He plays Gray Grantham, a character described as an older, white male in the books, but Denzel was definitely not older, white or flirting with a receding hairline. In fact, he was tone, smart and fit, with a fantastic smile and he nailed the reporter who didn’t let go of a story and who was willing to die to protect his sources. Washington and Julia Roberts also shared a fantastic chemistry that was reflective of the chemistry in the book and I list this film as one of my all time favorite book to film adaptations.

Arresting Mental Images

We all form mental images of characters, some are arguably set in stone because of the format in which we met them: comics, novels, television and more. But soap operas have proven for years that you can change ethnicities (One Life to Live’s Blair was Asian first and then later played by Kassie DePaiva), get taller, get shorter, have any shade of hair, get older overnight and even be de-aged (one CBS soap casting took an ‘older’ brother and made him a much ‘younger’ brother when it was recast). So why can’t we go with blind casting to get the right actor for the job? I would rather see a role played well and be invested and engaged in the character than in the ethnicity.

For me, it’s a question of quality, not color. What about you?

Monday, October 26, 2009

First Kiss, This Kiss

First kisses are vital to a relationship. They are vital to a relationship, the first blush and the first breath and the first heartbeat of the passion between two people or two characters. I love first kisses, metaphorically and realistically. Someone once said that finding the person you love is bittersweet, because it means your first kiss is the last first kiss. I would argue that every day begins with a first kiss, but that’s the romantic in me.

Best First Kisses

In books and in movies, first kisses should just blow the roof off. I didn’t like the first kiss shared by Booth and Brennan on Bones, some fans may disagree with me, but it felt forced and awkward and whatever passion may have been simmering between them was doused by the set-up of the mistletoe and the Carolyn’s dare. While some first kisses should be awkward, it was more suited to two teenagers than two well-developed and sexually aware adults. Better examples of first kisses include:

Luke and Lorelei, Gilmore Girls

After years of dancing around their mutual attraction, their first kiss was as startling to them as it was welcome. They were always waiting for the other one to make the first move, but the desperate passion, the tingles of fear and the shivers of excitement boiled off the screen and set this couple on fire.

Sadly, the breakup of Luke and Lorelei was as pointless and painful as their first kiss was welcome and passionate.

Sydney and Vaughn, Alias
The first two years of Alias was just sublime. Vaughn’s affection for Sydney and her dependence on him grew through the first season and into the second. The intimacy of working undercover and the confidences shared in stolen moments added to the attraction. When they finally took down SD-6, there is a moment where their eyes meet and all the roadblocks of Vaughn being her handler and Sydney’s desire to end SD-6 before all else, not to mention her mourning of her fiancĂ©, culminated in a wildly passionate kiss.

That kiss, in the middle of the destruction of the Sydney’s double-life would mark an explosive turn in the series and allow Sydney to join the CIA officially. Of course, it also led to more lies, more deception and even more confusion down the road.

Veronica and Logan, Veronica Mars
The first season of this show is arguably the absolute best. Veronica Mars and Logan Echols really don’t like each other and from their first moment on screen they are always needling each other in hateful ways. Once upon a time, Veronica and Logan were friends through Lily (Logan’s girlfriend and Veronica’s best friend). But Lily’s murder changed everything for everyone.

Gradually, the reveals of Lily’s actions and Veronica helping Logan find out about his mother led to a deeper connection. When Logan heard the Veronica in trouble on the phone, he rushed to save her, in a way he couldn’t save Lily. The moment, littered with no words as Veronica leaned up to kiss his cheek, awkwardly thanking him for his Galahad-esque maneuver led to his grabbing her and laying a kiss on her that blew off their socks. I don’t know who was more startled: Logan, Veronica or the fans. Their on-again, off-again tempestuous relationship would be one for the books, sadly the series faltered, but that moment remains one of my all time favorites.

What first kiss is your favorite?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Snips and Clips: Fences, Fairies and Wildlife Funds

It’s Sunday again and what a brutal way to kick it off. A few minutes before midnight, a car crashed through our fence into the backyard. We heard the smash and bang, but the car pulled out and drove away before we made it outside. We were up till 1:30 in the morning with the police who are investigating it and looking for the culprit. Sadly, no catch yet. 16 feet of fence are ripped out, along with one of the metal posts and the concrete base of the metal post.

So today I get to call our insurance company and begin the process of getting our claim filed. I also have to get a hold of the guy who built our fence and we have to walk all the dogs because our yard is open to the world. Yes, I am grumpy and surly about the whole thing. The complete lack of skid marks suggests that our culprit was drunk as a skunk or really stupid because they turned off the road right into our fence (which is not next to any kind of turn).

Growing Readership
I am proud to announce that we broke the 1500 visitor mark this month at the Daily Dose. I’m pretty proud of our growth, we had such a great group of interviews for Spotlight On week, along with plenty of contests this month and fun giveaways. We’ve got November in the hopper so stay tuned for details on that next Sunday in our post-Halloween snips and clips edition.

The Proposal
I finally got to see the film this week. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds were wonderful and it reminded me of an old time romance novel, where business becomes love and what you thought you know and what is reality collide. It was so totally worth the watching and adding to my collection of chick flicks.

Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
My daughter is excited about the release of the second Tinker Bell this movie featuring the fairies of Pixie Hollow and sparrow man (male fairy) Terrence. Terrence is a popular fixture in the novels, so she loves that he will be making the leap into the films. I admire the quality of the Tinker Bell films and while it may have taken Disney decades to find Tinker Bell’s voice, they are not being shy about using it.

Trick or Treat
Our Trick or Treat grab bag ends officially on October 31. Some of the items in our Trick or Treat giveaway includes copies of : Rosemary Clement –Moore’s The Splendor Falls, Shannon K Butcher’s Love You to Death, Patricia Briggs Hunting Ground and more. So be sure to comment on a Trick or Treat post for your opportunity to win a treat! We’ll be drawing late on Halloween after the last trick or treater comes to the door and I’ll announce in next week’s Snips and Clips.

Dakota Cassidy and the Amazon Gift Certificate

Dakota Cassidy is giving away a $15 gift certificate to Amazon to one lucky commentator. Pay a call on her Spotlight On visit mid-October and be sure to comment for a chance to win. We’ll be drawing the winner on Halloween and announcing in next Sunday’s Snips and Clips.

Daily Dose Coffee Mug
Don’t forget, one lucky winner will win the Daily Dose coffee mug for October. All you have to do is comment on one October post at the Daily Dose for a chance to win. Winner will be announced in next week’s Snips and Clips.

Think Green: Blog Tour

The Prime Evil blog tour is progressing slowly, I have four blogs signed up and working on lining up a few more. I’ll be posting full details the first week of November. During the blog tour for November and December $ 0.25 of each Prime Evil book sale will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund and their conservation efforts to protect the planet. E-books reduce our carbon footprint and help preserve our planet. Chance would approve, so please participate and help protect the planet with a purchase (and apparently help me fix my fence!)

How was your week?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

5 Reasons to Watch FlashForward

Having finally caught up on my shows after our vacation last month (yes it took four weeks to catch up), I am totally hooked on the new ABC drama FlashForward, in part because I finally connected it in my mind with the novel by Robert J. Sawyer that I read more than a decade ago. Eerily enough, the novel is set in 2009, so the series launching this year is highly appropriate. While purists will point out all the ways the book and the television series are different (and yes, they are tremendously different), it is the reasons they are alike that intrigue me about the show.

Themes, Beautiful Themes

Thematically, FlashForward echoes the book. In the Sawyer’s work, the theme of free will versus predestination was heavily favored. It was also an argument of hope versus reality. Unlike the television series, the flash forward in the book took characters 21 years into the future. Those who saw no future were believed to be dead. While the flash forward created worldwide disaster with plane crashes, car wrecks and more (as seen in the television show) it also instigated depression in many of the characters who saw futures they didn’t want or futures where their dreams and aspirations weren’t panning out.

Were those futures set? Particularly when the suicide rate increased among those depressed skyrocketed. Can you imagine seeing 21 years into your own future and seeing a bleak future? What would you do? Would you work to change it? Can you change it? These are the challenges confronting the characters in both the television series and the book.

Fatalism versus Mutability

In the television series, Doctor Olivia Benford saw herself with another man in six months while her husband FBI Special Agent Mark Benford saw himself drinking, obsessed with the case about the flash forward while armed gunmen came to get him. Neither Olivia nor Mark is happy about the future they saw. Both are determined to avoid it, particularly Olivia who cannot image that she would cheat on Mark. But Mark is already becoming obsessed with understanding the flash forwards and using his own memories of his investigative board to pursue leads. So are they leads? Predestination? Is it fatalism? Can they change it?

Reality versus Hope

In the television series, Director Wedeck suggests that people are no longer motivated by what might happen, but by what will happen. For those who saw a bleaker future, such as baby sitter Nicole who saw herself being drowned, it is leading to questions of faith and effect. For FBI agent Demetri who saw nothing in his flashforward, it is a question of why not and what happened? He learns, through the Mosaic website connect with a stranger around the world, that he is murdered on March 15th. With very little to go on, can he solve or prevent his own murder before it happens?

For FBI Agent Janis, she saw herself pregnant and getting a sonogram – it’s a girl. But Janis is a lesbian and currently only lightly attached, not in a deep relationship. Then there’s the doctor who stood on a pier ready to kill himself just as the flashforward struck. When he came out of it, he is completely changed – he’s discovered that his future is not as bad as he thought and he is obsessing over that and using flashforwards to diagnose patients medical issues.

This is drama at its finest.

The Actors

I adore every cast member of the show. Joseph Fiennes and John Cho are phenomenal, but arguably so are, Courtney B. Vance, Christine Woods, Gabrielle Union (love her), Gina Torres (adore her) Peyton List, Jack Davenport, Zachary Knighton, Sonya Walger and coming soon: Genevieve Cortese (Supernatural's Ruby) and Dominic Monaghan (Lost).

I wanted to see the show for Joseph Fiennes before I realized the book connection, but truth be told, I am engaged in every storyline, every interaction and between the friendships, the bromances, the lovers, the fathers, the missing children and the heady combination of grief, determination and love – what is there not to love?

What Would You Do?

To be successful, any fictional enterprise – science fiction or otherwise – demands that you put yourself in the place of the characters. What would you do? What would you do if you saw your future? What would you do if you saw something terrible? Something wonderful? Or simply something you didn’t understand? What would you do if you saw nothing?

That’s why I am watching FlashForward. Are you?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Words Actually

I was so tempted to post that I have nothing today. Some days you get up and there's just no pith. Today is a day that is 'pith'-less. But then what is pith? Pith is substantial, it is the core -- the meat of the subject. Without pith, I am just issuing forth a bunch of meaningless babble -- well, maybe not meaningless. Now I am just randomly babbling. I like words like pith and irony, provided they are used correctly.

Words and the Meaning of Words

I like the television show Castle and in a recent episode, Castle (Nathan Fillion) thanks Beckett (Stana Katic) for using the word irony correctly. He complains that since the Alanis Morrisette song came out, too many people use irony when they mean coincidence. Irony is an incongruous result -- meaning the result is unexpected, a death in the family that makes you feel better or the criminal who gets caught because he was trying to suppress a piece of evidence that would never have been noticed otherwise. Irony is a powerful element in writing, when used correctly.

Words are powerful things. As a writer, I often confess to having a love affair with words. I can probably use 10 words, where one would suffice. I also appreciate the power of using just two words to convey a wealth of meaning. Some phrases are common in all forms of writing because like facial expressions, they convey a singular meaning, but may have multiple sources.

She trembled with ....
Shivers of .... ran up her spine...
His stomach jerked at the thought...
Her fingernails tapped a staccato rhythm...
His mouth hardened into a thin line...

Each of those phrases can be used during a fight, during sex, during conversation in a book and the reader is given this very direct, mental image that they can relate to. All because those words have meaning. We all know what trembling is. We know that trembling with desire is different from trembling in fear, but the physical action itself as the body expresses it isn't that much different.

Beauty of Words

That's the beauty of words and the danger of them. Because some phrases are commonly accepted, you have to beware using them in a way that flouts the expected -- unless of course you are being ironic. For example, the anger reacton to being aroused is a typical one in romance novels. It builds tension and drama between a couple, particularly if one or the other is furious at their inability to control their own emotional reactions.

Irony works when dealing with great confrontational scenes between villain and hero, particularly if one is being threatening or trying to intimidate. I love a hint of snark, particularly if you go for the off the wall response:

“No,” I replied with conviction, and I meant it. “I’m nobody’s victim.”

“She means it,” Callanport suddenly spoke again and where before he’d seemed completely devoid of emotion, his expression filled with a kind of regretful sadness. “She isn’t a victim. She has no intentions of being one either.”

“I thought you couldn’t read me?” I asked carefully, aware enough of my own hesitation to try to keep it out of my immediate response.

“I can’t,” Callanport confessed. “But I know if someone’s telling the truth or not. I can read the meanings in your words.”

“You’re an asshole.”

“You believe that, too.” He gave me another small, regretful smile. “And for that I am deeply sorry.”

- Excerpt from Prime Evil, releasing on November 8, 2009.

And now I am feeling charged and ready to take on the writing challenges of today. What do you love about words?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Harry Dresden Broke my CD Player

You know the adage; sometimes life is stranger than fiction? Well, I have a little story to share that continues to support this idea. Since early September, I have been working on a contract that takes me to downtown. The drive from my house to my contract is roughly 50 minutes without traffic and closer to an hour and fifteen and sometimes over 90 minutes in traffic. I pass the time with books on CD or books on my iPod. Both are effective entertainment and are helping me whittle down my TBR list (well not really, but I am enjoying some great books this way.)

So What Does Harry Dresden Have to Do With It?

The first week and a half, I listened to Storm Front on CD. It is read by James Marsters. I picked up this CD set years ago at a Shore Leave convention when it was first released and I even have Jim’s autograph on the front. I love listening to James as Harry almost as much as I love reading the books themselves. My daughter fell in love with the story enough to want to read Jim’s first book, which is a fun step up for us. Anyway, I finished Storm Front and promptly loaded up Fool Moon, which is book two also read by James. (By the way, if you've never listened to the audio versions, you're really missing out. James does an amazing array of voices and his Chicago accent is almost as delish as his Brit.)

Three lines in, there’s a pop, a fizz, a hiss and the CD player stops working. Now, if you are at all familiar with the Harry Dresden books, you’ll appreciate the irony. Harry and technology do not get along. According to the service department, my radio head is completely fried and I need a new unit in the dash entirely. They will have to completely disassemble the removed player in order to even retrieve the CD – if they can, because it looks like the CD player crunched it.


So now I am in mourning for my Fool Moon CD and my CD player. I blame Harry. I need to remember that my VW bug is a little too modern for his wizard sensibilities. Do you have a story that is stranger than fiction?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trick or Treat: Five Great Halloween Episodes

I love Halloween. It is my second favorite holiday of the year. I love it for a variety of reasons for the dressing up in costumes to the pranks to the decorating of jack-o’-lanterns to candy corn and trick or treaters coming to your door. I love Halloween. I love the holiday of Samhain and the roots of pagan traditions and I love the modern secular holiday too.

It’s the turning of the wheel, the cooling off of the year and the marking of the final harvest. It’s the last hoorah before the winter months set in and we begin the mad dash towards Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s an excuse to be silly and to have fun. At my daughter’s school, they celebrate Great American Day so that’s another added bonus to the mix. This year, my daughter will be Amelia Earhart at school and Batgirl at home. Seriously, does it get any better?

But my other favorite part of this time of year is the fun that television programs have with Halloween. Now I’m not into slasher flicks or horror porn. I tend to be an old fashioned girl where Halloween is concerned. I love a great prank. So in no particular order, here are my top five Halloween episodes over the last couple of decades:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In 1997, during Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s second season, the episode Halloween was added to the annals of my favorite Halloween episodes of all time. Buffy and Angel are trying to untangle their feelings for each other and Buffy’s not feeling very feminine. Willow wants to break out of her shell, but she’s still too shy and Xander’s masculinity takes a hit when Buffy saves him from the football team bullies.

Enter Ethan Rayne, an old college buddy of Giles. Ethan uses Janus, the two faced Roman god to cast a spell on all the costumes in his shop, whatever a person is wearing – that’s what they become. Children become monsters, Willow becomes a ghost, Xander becomes special ops guy and Buffy becomes a delicate flower of a woman who gets vapors at the first sign of trouble. It’s an episode filled with mayhem and hilarity – Spike gets great lines, but it’s a classic and I end up watching this episode every year.

My next favorite episode, oddly enough, also features David Boreanaz, but in a very different role. In the episode The Mummy in the Maze, Booth and Bones have to solve the crime of a real life murder victim turning up as a mummy. They find a pattern and realize that more girls could be out there. The clincher comes at the end when Booth (dressed up as a Squint) and Bones (dressed as Wonder Woman) go to rescue the remaining victim and rats swarm out, leading Bones to jump onto Booth’s back and scream like a little girl – a rare enough occasion. They eventually catch their guy and get filthy, but the imagery of Wonder Woman and Clark Kent is stuck forever.

In an episode called Witch Hunt, the team is working to solve the mystery of a stabbed marine and a missing girl on Halloween. Tony hates Halloween because it’s always a freaky night for cops. The best moments in the episode come in two places: the first is the interrogation of one suspect who is dressed up as a Klingon. Gibbs spends a lot of time studying the guy, because it’s hard to read a Klingon. The second is lab tech Abby done up to the nines as Marilyn Monroe. The guys about trip over their tongues when they see her and it’s so white bread for the Goth, making it a perfect Halloween costume.

Quantum Leap
Sam leaps into a horror novelist in Maine named Joshua Raye. Odd things keep happening in the town, people die inexplicably, Sam sees people that aren’t there, Al behaves strangely and although Ziggy keeps saying they are there to save a deacon, it gets stranger and stranger. When Sam finally jumps out, Al says that he and Ziggy haven’t been able to find Sam for days – making this one of the screwiest episodes ever. What was real and what wasn’t? And was Sam afflicted by the oddness of the horror novelist’s mind? Muhahahaha!

And finally, the best Halloween television ever:

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

No matter how many times I see it, it just doesn’t get old.

What are you favorite Halloween television moments?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Save the Date: Prime Evil Releases November 8

Prime Evil, the highly anticipated urban fantasy novel from author Heather Long, will be released as an e-book November 8, 2009. Prime Evil explores the charms and intrigues of hedge witch Chance Monroe. In her first full-length novel, Heather Long takes readers to the farm rich countryside of Northern Virginia as hedge witch Chance Monroe fights for her way of life when serial killer Randall Oakes returns from the dead. Chance must confront a troubled past, a supernatural adversary and a sizzling passion that’s lain dormant for years. Prime Evil will be published by Sapphire Blue Publishing, Heather will donate $.25 of every sale towards the World Wildlife Fund which is dedicated to conserving our planet and its inhabitants.

Save the date and remember, death has deep roots....

Check out the cover art after the jump!

Hats off to my beautiful cover artist Kendra. Chance looks smokin'!

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Top 5 Fantasy Books of All Time

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for about 30 years now. In that time, I’ve fallen in love with more than a few stories that I return to, time and time again. Some of the books made my top 5 fantasy books of all time because they are classics that never fail to entertain and some made the list because I have such deep affection for the stories. You may agree with me, you may disagree with me and you may have a few suggestions of your own.
Please note that I’m not putting these books in any particular ranking order in some cases, I love them so much I would never be able to choose between them.

The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown - Thing, a young girl who hides beneath a mask, and her handicapped companions--a crow, a toad, a goldfish, and a kitten--set off on a desperate quest to find the Dragon of the Black Mountain. The premise sold me on the book, but the tale transported me. I’ve had this book for 23 years and I still read it from time to time.

Daughter of Witches by Patricia C. Wrede - Come .. enter the city of Drinn, if you dare. The entering is easy during Festival time; no guard will stop you, no priest will question you as you shuffle through the gates among the crowds, hiding the glow of forbidden magic beneath your brown pilgrim robes. Yes, entering is easy. The hard part is getting out again. This is the second book in the Drinn series and while I loved all of them, this one really gets to me.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – I was never a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings series because it was hard to read when I was younger. I had to be older to really appreciate it. But I loved the Hobbit. The hobbit-hole in question belongs to one Bilbo Baggins, an upstanding member of a "little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves." He is, like most of his kind, well off, well fed, and best pleased when sitting by his own fire with a pipe, a glass of good beer, and a meal to look forward to. Certainly this particular hobbit is the last person one would expect to see set off on a hazardous journey; indeed, when Gandalf the Grey stops by one morning, "looking for someone to share in an adventure," Baggins fervently wishes the wizard elsewhere. No such luck, however; soon 13 fortune-seeking dwarves have arrived on the hobbit's doorstep in search of a burglar, and before he can even grab his hat or an umbrella, Bilbo Baggins is swept out his door and into a dangerous adventure.

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander – When Disney made this one into a movie, I was all excited. Sadly, it hardly lived up to the tale that was told in this series, but I still love the books and my daughter is now enjoying them too. In the Black Cauldron, Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper of Prydain. Taran, with a band of warriors and friends, is called upon to find and destroy the Black Cauldron, which is being used by the evil Arawn, Lord of the Land of Death, to produce deathless warriors from the bodies of his fallen enemies. Throughout this quest, Taran and his companions learn about sacrifice, honor, and courage.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – I remember the first time I read this book. I was 11 years old. I was catapulted into a world of dragons, elves, half-elves, kender, dwarves, dark mages and loving warriors. I fell in love with Flint, Tanis, Tasselhoff, Caramon and Raistlin. I even hoped fervently for Kitiara to be saved. No fantasy book comes close to the affection I feel for the original trilogy which I read annually, returning to the Inn of the Last Home for a brief sojourn.

What are you favorite fantasy novels?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Snips and Clips: Cylons, Seekers and Sounds

Can it really be Sunday already? Lesigh, the weeks seem to fly by faster and faster. It was Spotlight On week here at the Daily Dose where we interviewed: Michele Bardsley, Dakota Cassidy, Patricia Briggs, Rosemary Clement-Moore and Heather Long. You'll find a work from each of them in our big Trick or Treat grab bag at the end of the month. So be sure to comment for a chance to win.

Battlestar Galactica: The Plan

When they announced they were remaking Battlestar Galactica in 2004, I was leery of it. I am a fan of the original and actually owned the whole series on tape and then later on DVD. I grew up watching the show. I didn't want to see a part of my childhood raped for ratings. I thought the mini-series was interesting and a fascinating take on the ruthlessness of the attacks and the hard decisions that had to be made afterwards.

From the outset, Boomer was my favorite character and I mourned with her when we left Helo behind on Caprica. The twist at the end, revealing that Sharon "Boomer" Valerii was a cylon was one of the best parts. The series continued that thread, adding Athena (another Sharon) to the mix. Athena and Helo fell in love and conceived a child, something no other humanoid cylon had managed. Despite learning she was a cylon, Helo remained devoted to Athena and that devotion paid off in the end. Throughout the series, this is the storyline that brought me back time and again, even when I found other aspects annoying or frustrating. I found the Cylons to be fascinating.

The release of The Plan is something I've looked forward to since they announced it. It's the story of the mini-series and those first few weeks completely from the Cylon perspective.

Sounds to Die By

Not every novel I am dying to read lives up to the teases I get hyped up by. Fortunately, Sounds to Die By not only lives up to my internal hype, it exceeds it.

"Every place has a distinct soundtrack." Ian tells Kieralyn during their first encounter. "Those soundtracks are stored in my brain."

Sounds to Die By has a pulsing, rhythmic beat that mixes Boston sensibility with Miami sound machine to create a passionate movement that sustains throughout the novel. From Ian and Kieralyn's first encounter to the last, this is an emotiontrack that I won't forget anytime soon. Nikki Duncan mixes romance and suspense brilliantly.

I only have one question for the author: "May I have some more, please?"


Remaking the 'Witches of Eastwick' as a television series? Is Hollywood that desperate for fresh ideas that they have to keep remaking all the great movies and shows of the late 70s and 80s? Despite being in developmental hell for so long, I am so glad the producers kept driving the project forward. Rebecca Romjin is a powerhouse as Roxie: she's sexy, she's earthy and she's more woman than most of those men could handle. She's not a size zero, either. She's a real woman with real curves.

Then there's Kat, the earth mother, the nurturer with five kids and a sub-zero loser of a husband that she still loves, but isn't willing to bend over for anymore. As much as you want to see Kat hit her husband with lightning (and who didn't cheer when that happened?), you are also proud of her taking the high road even if it is hard on her. Seriously though, I am troubled that she would trust Raymond with the kids on a week in and out basis, she must know something we don't about loser boy.

Finally, Joanna - oy vey Joanna. Her best friend says she is going to get Joanna a muzzle and she's right, Joanna needs one. Most of us have a filter that keeps every inane thought we have from spilling out our mouths, but whenever testosterone assaults her senses, Joanna just can't shut up. Talk about taking truthsaying to the farthest degree.

After three episodes, I have to say, this show continues to bat it out of the park and refuses to be predictably categorized (as you may have noted yesterday, I like it when stuff avoids predictability).

Who is your favorite character?

Legend of the Seeker Returns
Saturday, November 7th, the second season of Legend of the Seeker kicks off and after watching this trailer -- va-va-voom! I am literally on the edge of my seat waiting:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Predictable Storytelling

On this week's Flash Forward they mention a Sufi parable about a man and a boy in a room with a candle. The man asks the boy where the light comes from. The boy blows out the candle and says, "if you tell me where the light went, I will tell you where it came from." Sufism is defined as a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God. It is a Zen like mysticism associated with Islam. Until that episode, I'd never heard of it before. I like it when stories, whether they are on television shows or in books introduce me to new ideas, new concepts and avoid the same predictable elements.

Predictability in Romance

Don't get me wrong. Some stories are meant to be at least a little predictable. If you are going to read a romance novel then you know that in the end, the central couple is going to end up together. That's the point of the story. Man meets woman. Man and woman share attraction. Man and woman share passion and overcome obstacles. They might have a misunderstanding, but then they come together and resolve their issues. It's a very classical story and it is classic for a reason. That's what people want to read. Different twists along the way and interesting characters are what bring people back again and again with regard to the genre.

Mixing it Up

But not all genres should be predictable. Mysteries, for example, by their nature have certain expected elements: a crime, a crime solver, a red herring (or three) and the big reveal. These elements are expected. But what if the main character is the murderer? What if the lover is the enemy? These types of unsettling twists are what keep us invested in the game. The producers of Lost dragged out the mystery to epic proportions spoon feeding dribbles of information here and there to keep their viewers hooked. Some people tune in for the characters, but a lot of people are tuning in for explanations. What is the island? Why these people? Why this place? It's not just about what will happen next, it's about the reveals, the understanding and in its own way - the truth of the show's mythology.

Angelic Interventions

Other works of fiction struggle against the predictable, some with success, and some without. Supernatural is one that keeps you guessing. While it may seem predictable that Sam was being groomed as Lucifer's vessel now, it was hardly the 'end game' one might have expected when they began their journey five years ago. If Sam is Lucifer's vessel and Dean is Michael's, does that mean that Daddy John is going to make an appearance as a vessel for God? That takes the Biblical twists to epic proportion. After all, John is the one who gave Dean (Michael) the mission to save Sam (Lucifer) or kill him.

Perhaps the end game here is not to defeat the fallen angel Lucifer, but to save him and restore him to grace once more.

Three's Company

The British series Being Human defied all predictable conventions. I kept thinking the show was heading in one direction and then it would go somewhere else completely. It was an amazing journey of watching. After the third episode, I stopped trying to guess what would happen based on previous conventions and just went with it. The same can be said for the new The Vampire Diaries, I have read the novels so I know how that version of the story goes. But every episode, I 'expect' certain things because – well those would be the predictable events to occur – and the writers aren't going there. They are going beyond the predictable and that is what is keeping the story engaging.

Most of the time, I don't know what is going to happen next. I can guess. But I don't know. I avoid spoilers like the plague because they give you an expectation of the future. In the second episode of Flash Forward, people aren't making decisions based on what might happen, they are making decisions based on what will happen.

Writers whether they are writing for novels or television are magicians and masters of illusion. They set the stage and sometimes it's not about the rabbit coming out of the hat, but how the rabbit shows up. I want to read books or watch shows and enjoy the reveals of the story, not predict or second guess them. What have you seen or read lately that surprised you?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spotlight On: Heather Long

Wrapping up our Spotlight On week with a little bit of a twist. Lisa Pietsch, author of the fabulous A Path to Freedom, serves as guest host as the spotlight shines behind the scenes on blog creator and author Heather Long.

I first met Heather Long when we were both hired to write blogs at back in December 2005. I’m proud to call her a good friend of mine, although I’ve never laid eyes on her, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve been a huge fan of Heather’s since the moment we met. I started out reading her non-fiction and loving it. Now that she’s writing fiction, I love it even more. I’d like to think I had something to do with Heather getting her first book, Remembering Ashby, published but I know my only contribution was suggesting she take it to my publisher before any other. (The fact is any publisher would have jumped at that story.)

You know that friend you have that is just the coolest of cool - the one who always has something interesting to say and the one the party never starts without? Well, that’s Heather. I could keep going on about her but, if I did, she’d know I have a little bit of a girl crush on her. (She may already know.)

No matter what she writes, you’ll want to read it. I know I certainly do! I’m waiting on pins & needles for the release of Prime Evil.

What is the premise for Prime Evil?

In Prime Evil, Chance Monroe (introduced in my free short story over at All Romance eBooks It Happens) has her life turned upside down when a serial killer from her past returns to target her. She is reunited with ex-lover and dear friend Jack who also works with the FBI. The tale is an urban fantasy with a little suspense thrown in for good measure.

We know it is a fantasy but is there a romance involved? What is the main relationship in this story?

The main relationship is Chance’s with Jack. There are numerous romantic elements coming to the fore throughout the story. Jack’s obviously rekindling his interest in Chance and Chance adores him. Whether it survives the test of time, we’ll have to wait and see. As the story is in first person, it’s all about how characters tie into Chance.

How long have you known the Prime Evil characters and how long did it take to write the story?

The very first draft of Prime Evil was written in 2001 after my daughter was born. So I’ve known them for about eight years now. Chance is one of my more vivid characters and she has such personality when I am writing it is hard to hear the others in the story. It helps that she is super snarky.

Which character is most like you?

Chance definitely gets her snarkiness from me. We have a lot of attitude in common and the entire area she lives in is where I lived for over a decade. So I feel very much at home in her skin.

Tell us about the antagonist. Is there a bad guy?

Yes, for Prime Evil the bad guy is a serial killer by the name of Randall Oakes. He likes to stab his victims, typically in secluded parking lots on college campuses. Chance has four vicious scars from an attack that should have killed her eight years ago. He’s dark, he’s mysterious and apparently risen from the grave.

What character was the easiest to write?

Chance was easy most of the time, even when she was being stubborn. But I think the easiest character to write outside of Chance was her best friend Sydney. I really wanted a lot more Sydney in the book than I was able to put in there. Sydney definitely makes an appearance in the first fifty pages of Seismos which is the second Chance Monroe Adventure.

What character was the most difficult?

That’s at toss-up between Jack and Callanport. I don’t want to give too many details here, but you’ll see as you read that Jack and Chance have a great relationship, but they don’t share everything and some of those pieces – which are big pieces – are supplied by Callanport, which really frustrated me at times.

When can we expect to see Prime Evil available and where?

Prime Evil is being published by Sapphire Blue Publishing as an e-book and it is due out this October. So stay tuned! I’m kind of hoping for a Halloween launch date myself. You’ll be able to find it at multiple online e-sellers including Amazon.

What can we expect to see from you next?

NaNoWriMo is probably my next big challenge. I have the first draft of Hel’s Belle done, but I am not ready to go back there. While I was working on final edits for Prime Evil, I couldn’t get The Forgotten out of my head which is the sequel to Remembering Ashby. I also have a YA urban fantasy that is in very rough draft form. Yes, I am aware that is not a direct answer.

How cool is Lisa Pietsch? (Because you know it is all about me ;-)

She is so cool I get chills just thinking about her.

Get a sneak peak at Prime Evil! Feel free to post any questions, comments or kudos you have! One lucky commentator will win a free copy of Prime Evil. So get those comments going! The winner will be drawn on October 31st! You’ll also find a copy of Prime Evil included in this month’s Trick or Treat prize bag!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Prime Evil Holiday Blog Tour

I'll be on the virtual road for the next few weeks, stopping in to visit and play at some blogs along the way. Keep track of my journey right here and feel free to come along.

Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings
Guest Post & Giveaway: Never Judge a Witch by Her Leather

Nikki Duncan's Blog
Au Natural in the Digital Age

Book Obsessed - All Books All The Time

Interview and Giveaway with Heather Long

Cafe of Dreams

Interview with Author Heather Long

Book Lovers Inc

Guest Blog - What Books Mean to Me

Leah Braemel's Romance Beyond Your Imagination

Rigor Me This with Heather Long

Upcoming stops include:

Cafe of Dreams
Cheeky Reads
Over the Edge

Want me to stop by? Feel free to drop me a note!

Spotlight On: Patricia Briggs

Spotlight On week is some of the best times of the month. This month, we're talking to fantasy authors including Rosemary Clement Moore, Dakota Cassidy and Michele Bardsley. I am delighted to cap off a great week with one of my all time favorite authors: Patricia Briggs.

Patty writes the Mercedes Thompson and Alpha and Omega series. I reviewed her most recent release Hunting Ground last month. I have read and re-read and re-read again her Mercy books. In fact, I had to buy a new copy of Moon Called because I made mine fall apart. This interview actually runs pretty long, but I couldn't bring myself to cut any of it.

Did you know from the outset how things would turn out with Sam and Adam? (I heard somewhere that you were asked to add the romantic triangle).

When I agreed to do the series, I was asked to give Mercy a "complicated" love life. The genre was young, and that was one of the common aspects of the genre at the time. The most obvious way to complicate her love life was to introduce two suitors and involve her in the classic love triangle. So, I sketched out a couple of men, and gave both of them some desirable characteristics and figured I'd torment Mercy with them for a while, and eventually one of them would win. It was a good plan, except for two little things.

First, I can't stand women who vacillate between lovers. Love is precious, and hearts are fragile. Any heroine worth her salt knows that, so Mercy needed to make a choice, and behave honorably toward both men. Of course, by throwing her into a couple of life-threatening adventures it's possible to delay such decisions for a while.

The second problem was that as I wrote the early adventures, I came to really like both Samuel and Adam as characters, and the love triangle was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I needed to end it. The final solution came as a surprise to me, and wasn't as dramatic as some readers had hoped for, but it allows me to continue the story with both of these strong characters. Also, I think Sam deserves a happier ending than cast-off suitor. . .

What is the first element of the character that comes clear to you? (i.e. If you had to describe what you remember about meeting Mercy or Charles or any of your characters for the first time, what would it be?)

I usually start by imagining, in broad strokes, what sort of character I want to play a certain role. Let's say I'm looking for an innkeeper - what comes first to mind? Maybe someone large and cheerful . .

Bang! Spider Robinson's quintessential innkeeper Mike Callahan is sitting behind the bar with a broad smile on his face. But of course, I don't want to steal Spider's creation. So I start mentally tweaking the archetype. Small and taciturn? Nope, too much tweaking. Maybe a little less congenial? OK. I kind of play around until I've got a ghost of a character sketched out. Each time I make a decision, the ghost gets a little more solid. Then I ask the magical questions: Where'd he come from? What's he doing here? If I gave him three wishes, what would he wish for?

By the time I've got those figured out, the character is no longer a ghost; he's real to me. Now I know he really wanted to be a dancer, but damaged his knee. The limp is barely noticeable, but I understand why he sometimes spits in the glasses when nobody's looking, and when he tells patrons to "Follow their dreams" there may be a acerbic edge to his voice. I'll still need to assign eye and hair color, clothing and mannerisms, but that's just adding detail to a character I already know.

Rumors suggest that Sam takes center stage in Silver Borne. can you share any teasers or tidbits about the book and the story?

I mentioned that one of the pitfalls of creating two possible suitors for Mercy was they both needed to be good, solid, nice guys. I've come to really like Sam. However, a werewolf's long life is not without it's drawbacks, the biggest of which is watching everything you love die around you. Sam is in a very dark, painful place. Silver Borne isn't really about Samuel; the central character is still Mercy. However, Samuel can't stay as he is, and this story will encompass some major events in his life. Old wolves may go a little crazy, but they don't stay there. They either tend to choose oblivion, go crazy enough that the pack is forced to eliminate them, or find a reason to embrace life again. The problem is figuring out which way Sam's going to jump.

It really bugs me when authors say they don't control their characters; that the character chose to do this or refused to do that. They're not real people after all. However, once you've given a character enough history and set their personalities in stone, you sometimes find that the character you've created isn't pliable enough to easily bend into doing your bidding. I'm at that point with Samuel. I don't know, for sure, where his story goes. I want a happy ending for him, and I'm pretty sure that true love would solve his problem. I'm not sure that merely dangling a pretty young thing in front of someone as jaded as Sam is going to work. At this point, I'm as interested in the outcome as any of the readers.

As much as I love the main characters in your books, the secondary characters are just as (if not more) provocative at times. Will we see more of Warren's personal story? Or Ben?

Actually, I get letters all the time reminding me that some reader somewhere really wants to hear more about one character or another: the little werewolf girl who was sent to Bran's pack, or the Austrian omega (who is in the Italian pack). It's flattering that people identify with these characters, and want to know more about them. Warren and Kyle are personal favorites of mine, and Ben is evolving into someone very interesting. We'll definitely see a little of all of them is Silver Borne. However, since I'm writing chapter four, I can't give any more details!

I have to admit I love that Mercy is the one woman that Ben seems to really respect and love. Despite their antipathy, Ben accepts Mercy as Adam's mate. Was Mercy joining the pack a planned event or did it catch you as off guard as it did them?

I'm often asked some variant of: "Do you actually plan your books?" Obviously, some authors know exactly where they're taking the series, and others (like me) kind of muddle around without a real clear vision of the future. Actually, I usually have a hazy idea of where I'd like the overall story to move, but the details and the timing aren't clear. I knew that for Mercy and Adam to be mates she'd have to become pack. It's simply too much a part of who and what Adam is for her not to be able to share it. I also knew that given Mercy's issues with control that being part of a pack will be problematical. She's fiercely independent, and the pack is all about being part of something bigger. Adam's smart enough to know that as well, and would normally have been reluctant to ask any more of Mercy. So, I'd planned for this event to take place, but in my hazy crystal ball it was going to happen further in the future.

However, when the fairy goblet and Tim conspired to make Mercy feel worthless and suicidal, I suddenly knew what Adam would do. How do you make someone feel loved and accepted, how do you convince them that they're part of something bigger? How do you anchor them to life? Adam is alpha, and can offer more than milk and cookies. My fuzzy plans for a future formal ceremony got thrown in the circular file. Adam wasn't waiting.

Author to Author

What do you enjoy reading?

When I die I want to be able to write half as well as Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkorsigan books, of course, but also her fantasy) -- or Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden) -- or Lynn Flewelling (anything she writes). Linda Howard (romance/thrillers) has a wicked sense of humor that sneaks out in odd ways. So many awesome books to read, so little time . . .

Are you a pantser (someone who writes from the seat of your pants) or a plotter (someone who outlines and plots out all the details ahead of time)?

I'd never heard those terms before, but I'm definitely a panster!

Do you ever experience writer's block? If so, how do you cope with it or negate it?

There's an article somewhere on my website about writers block. Personally, I think it's a myth. The writers who hang out at Starbucks wearing a beret, fidget with a pencil, and talk to folks about the angst and suffering an author must endure to create art need to have a reason why they've been on the same novel for five years. Hollywood uses it to add drama to an author's life. I'm busy telling stories and trying to put food on my table. Writer's block is a luxury I can't afford, and I think most professionals will say something similar. Sure, there's days when the writing doesn't come easy. Do you think accountants, plumbers or salesmen don't have tough days? Just like every other working person, you just need to roll up your sleeves and work through it.

The only difference with writing is that sometimes you need to engage the creative part of your mind -- the part that comes out to play; sometimes working means staring out the window and playing with story ideas for a few hours. If the story isn't working, I'll give myself a day or so to just play with things. Quite often I find I made a stupid decision five pages back, and I need to go fix it before I continue writing. However, if a few hours of play-therapy doesn't break things loose, then it's time to sit down at the keyboard and just start writing. Maybe I'll write five pages of dreck, but by hang I'm going to write five pages of something and at the end of the day, I won't be facing a blank screen.

Would you describe a typical working/writing day? What routines or rituals do you observe to get your writing done?

When I come into my office, my laptop gets stuck on the docking station. This ritual is important, because it lets me use the big monitor and comfortable keyboard on my desk (authors need good peripherals!). I turn on heating or air conditioning as needed, and usually turn on some music for the day. I like music, and it helps drown out the traffic noises. I don't have internet access in the office, as it's too much of a distraction. I usually lock the door -- because my little office looks looks like a business and folks are always walking in. If it's hot I'll grab a soda from the fridge, and if it's cold I'll brew a cup of cocoa, and then it's time to work. I'm usually working within ten minutes of opening the door. I write until I'm done for the day, whether that's two hours or ten, then leave the office. For me, it's important that mentally, the office is a place to work, not a spa.

I have candles in the office, and sometimes I'll light one or two. I have lots of good books, and sometimes I'll read for a while to capture a particular mood or feeling. Much like writer's block, I sometimes think authors make far too much of ambiance and setting the stage. It is helpful to have a nice environment to get the creative ideas moving, but it's far too easy to waste time with scented candles and rose-petal baths. My advice for aspiring authors is to come up with whatever rituals you like, as long as you can complete them before you're computer is finished booting.

As a writer, what's the most difficult part of the process for you? The creating? The editing? The submitting?

The synopsis. At some point in an author's career, you quit writing the books and submitting them to editors and start writing "on specification". You write a brief description your next novel and sell that. The synopsis is basically just a book report of your unwritten book. My ideas for novels are fuzzy anyway, and it takes me months to distill a seething cauldron of ideas into a single coherent story. I'm also a novelist. I've never met a story that could be told in less than four hundred pages. I once spent five months writing the synopsis for a novel that I wrote in four months. Remember what I said about writer's block? It doesn't apply to writing a synopsis.

After that, my editor has taken pity on me, for which I will be eternally grateful. Given my utter inability to craft a decent synopsis, and the sheer terror they inspire, my editor lets me get away with murder. Instead of the detailed summary and formal presentation expected of a professional author, I usually get away with some vague arm-waving and a paragraph that says it will be a book, probably urban fantasy, and I promise it will be be good. How my editor gets it past the bean counters will forever remain a mystery.

For the record, I'm also terrible with titles. Like Rachmaninoff, I spend most of my time working on "Untitled Opus X". Fortunately, my editor has shown a remarkable facility with titles. Thank you Anne!

Another portion of this interview ran on Love To Know's Science Fiction channel (where I am site editor) so be sure to check that out too. Learn more about Patricia Briggs at her website. I will also be including her books Cry Wolf and Hunting Ground in our October Trick or Treat giveaway on the 31st!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Spotlight On: Rosemary Clement Moore

Spotlight On week continues with Rosemary Clement-Moore. I met her at a signing in Hurst, Texas a little over a month ago and picked up both her most recent release and her RITA winning Prom Dates are Hell. So totally worth the investment of time, let me tell you. I invited Rosemary to our spotlight on paranormal romance and fantasy authors week. She is such a great lady. If you haven't read her books, be sure to check them out after this fun and funny interview.

Prom Dates from Hell is just laugh out loud funny from the first page. I was plunged right back into that awkward high school hell. Congratulations on your RITA win, by the way. Did you find it challenging to plunge back into the mind of a teenager?

Thanks and thanks! PDFH was just such a fun book to write, and wining the RITA was amazingly cool.

It was surprisingly (or maybe embarrassingly) easy to get into character as a teenager. But then, I spent years teaching drama to teens (as if they needed lessons in being dramatic), so it was a very natural voice to slip into. It helps that Maggie Quinn (my narrator) and her friends aren't bubblegum smacking pubescents. I think it's easier for me to get into the head of an eighteen year old than a fourteen year old--though there are others who do it very well.

Rather than thinking "teenager," I think of the characters as individuals who are still becoming who they're going to be. That makes it easier to avoid cliches and condescension, which is a danger when adults to set out to write "for kids."

Actually, the most challenging thing is to let them make mistakes that, as an adult, I see the danger in that I didn't then. I want to protect them. But making mistakes is how we become who we are. Plus it makes a better story, and more authentic characters.

Do you find that your audience is equal parts adult and young readers

Definitely. I even got a letter from someone who had passed the books to her daughter AND her mother. That was awesome, knowing I had three generations of fans. I really try and write books that will have universal appeal, that anyone can identify with, whether it's because the characters are trying to save the world from literal demons or vanquish their more figurative ones.

Plus, I don't limit myself to only current literary or pop culture references. You're as likely to find a joke about Jonathan Swift or Alfred Hitchcock or original Star Wars as you are about Project Runway or Paris Hilton. (More likely, actually. Because classics stay, well, classic, and too current references get dated quickly.)

What sets The Splendor Falls apart from Hell Week?

The Splendor Falls is a gothic novel, so it's got a more romantic sensibility. It's got a spookier setting, lots of buried secrets and dark family mystery. Plus it's got more actual romance, which I love. (Though relationships play a part in all my books, it's integral to the plot here.) Hell Week, and all the Maggie Quinn novels, are a little more action oriented. If Hell Week is the second cousin to Buffy and Supernatural, The Splendor Falls is the cheeky and modern descendent of Jane Eyre and Rebecca (with more sarcasm and kissing).

The heroines are probably the biggest difference. Maggie is a plucky and sassy girl detective type. Sylvie is a little darker, and she's got more of an edge. But they both solve their problems with strength and humor.

How hard is it to bring the funny to your writing? Do you have to 'think' about it or is that how the words flow?

I try not to force the funny. Sometimes the humor is inherent to the scene, sometimes it's not. Because I see the humor in things, my character tend to do so as well. That comes through most in the dialogue, whether internal or external. That generally does flow fairly naturally. And of course, the great advantage to fiction over real life is that you can give your characters great set up lines for their witty comebacks. And if you think of some wonderful zinger after the fact (which always happens to me in real life), you can go back and add it!

What is the most challenging part of writing the relationship dynamics of your characters?

It goes along with letting my characters make mistakes. I have to let them sometimes get their feelings hurt, or push someone away out of fear or pride. I'm a peacemaker, and I just want everyone to get along. But that makes a boring story and stagnant characters. Characters have to hurt they can come out better for it, individually, and as a pair, whether friends or lovers. Better in a novel than in real life, I guess.

What is the first element of the character that comes clear to you?

Usually the first thing that comes to me is the thing that's going to drive the character through the story. For Maggie Quinn, I knew before I ever put fingers to keyboard that she was going to be the "resourceful girl detective" type. (Think Nancy Drew, Lois Lane, Brenda Starr.) Her snarky sense of humor was a surprise; I had no idea that was her "voice" until I started writing her narration. But what drives her from point to point is definitely her crusader, solve-the-mystery, fix-the-problem personality. This is the unalterable part of her character, the thing that if I veer from it, it rings false with the reader. So it's a good thing to start with.

What do you enjoy reading?

My tastes are all over the place, but my bookshelves are full of historical novels, fantasy (from epic to contemporary), mystery, romance. My favorite books blend genres together in unique ways. Probably the most common thread is a strong, likable protagonist (I'm not big on the anti-hero), and good dialogue. I love snappy repartee! (As you can probably tell from my own books.)

Would you describe a typical working/writing day? What routines or rituals do you observe to get your writing done?

My "typical" day, if there is such a thing, is to do my chores/errands/personal stuff in the morning, then after lunch I do edits, revisions and research. Then a break for some dinner and sometimes some TV (or some Rock Band), then back to work until late at night. I don't know why I work so much better when the rest of the world is asleep, but I do. I can get more written in the 4 hours between 10 pm and 2 am than I can in eight hours during the daytime. I'm sure it's purely psychological, but that's how it is, so I go with it.

To write I need: music without lyrics (I'm partial to soundtracks and classical music), coffee or tea, my dogs sleeping on my couch, and my dad's old sweater. I always write better when I have it on.

As a writer, what's the most difficult part of the process for you? The creating? The editing? The submitting?

The first draft. Getting my ideas to the page without second guessing myself. Sometimes I "see" it very clearly when I'm chewing it over in my head, but then I freeze up when it's time to go forward in the manuscript. Should I do path "A" or "B"? Which will be better? What if I choose the wrong path? Argh!!! It's almost like stage fright. I'm so worried about doing it "wrong" I stare at the blank page all day. *Not* productive.

I won't say that editing is much easier, since I tend to change things, then change them back. The most difficult thing for me is definitely trusting my instincts and going forward instead of trying it fifteen different ways then going back to the first draft.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Yeesh. I just confessed my horrible struggle with second guessing myself, and you ask me this? :-D Of course. I would tweak and edit things until doomsday. Every time I see a review that mentions something (which, by the way, will drive you crazy), I want to fix it. But then the next review will like what the first one didn't, and not like something the first one DID, so I would have to just change it back.

So, the answer is no. :-D

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My parents always encouraged me to make up stories, whether it was around the campfire, or playing with my Barbies, or just in my head as I was drifting off to sleep. I love to play spies or detectives with my girlfriends, and come up with elaborate storylines. I think I started writing the stories down when I was still in grade school, but it was always something I did for my own entertainment--and my close circle of friends. It took me a long time to get from "I enjoy writing" to "I want to sell my work and be published." But I've always loved to make up stories, the weirder the better, and that's totally on my parents' heads.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

[The calf] took off, and I took off after it, running across the pasture like William Wallace in Braveheart. Except in a panties and a bra, which sounded like a Monty Python sketch, but had become my life, thanks to my sister, who had obviously left the gate open, not to mention gotten me here in the first place and don’t think I wasn’t going to let her hear about it.

Stupid cow. Waving my arms, I chased the animal almost to the barbed wire fence, where I realized it wasn’t alone. The calf wasn’t half-grown at all. It was more like one quarter grown, and its mother was big. Big and pissed that I was yelling at her baby. She lowered her head and mooed at me, swishing her tail to punctuate the long, aggressive, foghorn of a call.

“Don’t yell at me, you stupid cow!” My hand flailed emphatically toward her offspring. Its expression looked closer to “Nyah nyah nyah” than I ever thought a bovine could get. “Keep your juvenile delinquent calf away from my car!”
She stamped her hoof and arched her neck and let out another throaty bellow of complaint.

“No. You shut up. This is my side of the fence.” I waved my arms, gesturing vaguely gate-ward. “Get your fat ass and your miscreant offspring back on your side of the barbed wire.”

“Hey! You!”

I turned and found the source of the shout. Well, heck. There was a horse, and a guy on the horse, and he was sitting there with one fist on the reins and one on his hip, looking at me like I was insane.

“What the hell are you doing to that cow?” he said.

“Me?” My voice went in to the stratosphere of outrage. “That cow, that calf, I mean, was violating my Mini Cooper.”

He turned his horse in a circle, scanning the field, but there was no car nearby. I really had run quite a ways from the house. The cowboy shaded his eyes to peer in that direction.

“You mean that blue toy parked in front of Ms. Goodnight’s place?”

“Goodnight Farm. Yes.” About this time I realized that I was standing in the pasture in a state of highly questionable decency. Maybe if I pretended I meant to be out here half naked, he would think it was a bathing suit. I swatted at a fly and squinted toward him, noticing he was keeping his distance the way people did from crazy folk. Even his horse was looking at me like I was nuts.

You can keep up with Rosemary at her website, so be sure to check in with her latest projects.

Rosemary Clement-Moore's The Splendor Falls is included in the Daily Dose's Trick or Treat drawing at the end of the month. So be sure to comment for a chance to win.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Spotlight On: Dakota Cassidy

Today, the Daily Dose shines our Spotlight On on accidental author Dakota Cassidy. She's smart, she's sassy and she's so much fun to talk to. I've had the pleasure of meeting Dakota, Michele and Rosemary (all featured authors this week) and I've really enjoyed getting to know them. Dakota lives right around the corner from me, so that really adds to the fun because we can actually complain about the weather and more. I was tickled when she agreed to this interview and you will soon find out why.

Dakota has what I like to call a wealth of personality and it really shows in her answers. If you have never read her books, I think you'll want to after our Spotlight On because frankly, her sense of humor shines so brightly. So without further ado, Dakota Cassidy.

What inspired the Accidental Werewolf? I remember laughing out loud at the back cover blurb. It was a new and it was fresh and it was funny.

I attended (unofficially) the Dallas RWA in 2004. I was due to meet my agent in person for the first time, and when I pulled up to the hotel, there were all these women wearing tiaras and brightly colored biz suits. Imagine my shock that somehow, MY PEOPLE existed somewhere other than my head. LOLLOL.

Actually, it was the lovely ladies of Mary-Kay, and are they a dedicated bunch. I don't know why I put the two together, but after a weekend with them all running around, hearing their pitches etc, I thought, wouldn't it be funny IF one of them was a werewolf. The rest is history :) Also, were's look like dogs to me. So I thought, what happened if one bit you when you were doing the "Aw, cute doggie" thing or what if it was an accident. Somehow, in my nutty mind, the two collided and here we are :)

How hard is it to bring the funny to your writing? Do you have to 'think' about it or is that how the words flow?

I don't think I'm funny at all. I say that all the time, and it's true. I don't set out to be funny. Nowadays, I kinda know I have to be because that's what I'm paid or, but I'm blissfully ignorant to "how" it happens. It just does, and most of the stuff I think is a giggle, no one else pays attention to or even mentions. That'll show me, huh? LOL

What is the most challenging part of writing the relationship dynamics of your characters?

Crap, tension. I have such trouble keeping things dark that my conflicts are always mostly internal. There are external factors, but I blow chunks and making people angry with each other.

What is the first element of the character that comes clear to you?

Their fashion sense... no, I kid. Usually, it's a name, or a quirk they have that I can blow all out of proportion :)

What do you enjoy reading?

Anything that isn't mine. LOL. Mark Henry, Michele Bardsley, Jaye Wells, Nina Bangs, Sandra Hill, SEP, Stephen King and lurve me some Koontz.

Would you describe a typical working/writing day? What routines or rituals do you observe to get your writing done?

I take all day to prep to write, and most of that has to do with the slugs who live with me. Tee hee. I get up, answer email, Tweet, FB, shower, dress, run errands, vacuum, do household stuff, cook (IhatetocookIhatetocook) set the coffee pot, turn the dishwasher on, watch a little TV and then I'm in my office by 10 p.m. and I don't leave until I'm sure someone's eyeballs will bleed :) Usually, that's like 5-6 in the morning.

As a writer, what's the most difficult part of the process for you? The creating? The editing? The submitting?

The submitting. I don't care how well a series has done or not, I panic. It makes me want to curl up in a ball and not communicate with anyone until I have an answer one way or the other.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I can't recall my last book... Snort. I can't say for sure because I'd have to go read it again, but I'm sure there'd be stuff I want to add or subtract because I'm a tweak-fiend. So thanks for making me nuts :)

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Nope. I swear, it just happened. I was an online reviewer, read a ton of e-books, had a thought one day, and BAM. Though I will say, I never even considered submitting to NY. I didn't even know what that meant. I sent it to another friend who was an e-author, she said I was funny. I sent it in. Here I am. I know. I don't get it either :)

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Right now I'm working on a straight contemporary called Suck It Up, Princess. Sweet mutha--I just gotta say, it's been work. Without a paranormal element to hook people with, I've really had to work on that whole conflict thing a lot. I'm exhausted. Who has spa day coupons?

Author to Author

Is it difficult to keep the ideas fresh from story to story? Any tips or insights for upping the freshness factor?

Not so far. What is hard to keep fresh is the same old snark--the same metaphorically funny comparisons. But my humor is pop-culture related much of the time and there's always a new name floating around to slam someone with. So I'm good. LOLLOL

Bonus Question:
Rock Band vs Guitar Hero - which is better?

Ohhhhhh, I haz a sad, but RB. Better choice of downloads for new music, from what I hear, closer to actually playing the song. Plus, GH has a ton of metal stuff that I just can't lose an ovary trying to get right.

Win a Gift Certificate for Amazon
Win a trick of book spending money to go with the fabulous treat that is Dakota. Dakota Cassidy is offering a $15 gift certificate to Amazon for one lucky commentator! All you have to do is comment to be entered. The lucky winner will be announced on All Hallows Eve: October 31st.

Keep up with the fabulous Dakota Cassidy at her website.