Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Clubs and Readers

Book clubs remind writers why we write – for the readers. Some writers begin writing because they have a story to tell or a story that is bursting to get out. Some writers begin because they are inspired by a story they loved or, conversely, by a story they hated. Every writer begins their race down the rabbit hole from somewhere, but once we're down there, we're writing for the readers.

Discovering Your Audience

A book club meets twice a month at my local bookstore. The group is boisterous, fun and very well read. Book references bounce around the circle of their meetings like a mad game of pong. These ladies (and one gentleman) enjoy a wide range of book choices and authors. What is fascinating about visiting the group is remembering how much I love to read.

I sometimes forget how much I love to read, to invest in the characters and to debate their motivations and where they are going. As a writer, creating and exploring characters is part of the job, but readers can experience the books they love through reading and sharing with other readers. Most authors of even the most complex series can point to their readers as the subject matter experts because they can quote chapter and verse when and where something occurred.

Remembering Your Audience

As a writer, you need to remember that we're not writing for agents or editors or publishers – we're ultimately writing for the readers. Sure, we spend a lot of time honing our craft and toning up our technique, but it's the readers we want to enjoy what we write. Nothing is more satisfying to me than a note that says: the scenes in that chapter were perfect or I was so engrossed in the characters I hated when the story ended.

What this tells me is that the reader connected with the story, with the characters and that gossamer bit of connection gave them an emotional tug. Those emotional connections are the why I write.

So thank you to all the readers out there, to the DFW Tea Readers and to the Books That Bite book club – I really do appreciate you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Seven Questions with Shannon Delany

It's 13 to Life release day! After waiting forever, Shannon Delany's debut novel releases today. I know that's come out early in a few places and I was very fortunate to read it early for review, which you should read too.

In the meanwhile, I have a special treat for you. I wanted to know more about Shannon, 13 to Life, Pietr and Jess, so I asked Shannon seven questions and she graciously offered up some great answers. You'll also find a snippet of 13 to Life available at the end of the interview. Have a question or a comment? Be sure to leave it for Shannon and I'll enter you to win a copy of 13 to Life.

Seven Questions with Shannon Delany


Previously a teacher and now a farmer raising heritage livestock, Shannon lives and writes in Upstate New York and enjoys traveling to talk to people about most anything.

What drives your books? The characters or the conflict?

My characters inevitably wind up in conflict (why can't they all just get along? ;-), so I'll say characters.

If one of your characters came to visit, what would you do?

Depends on the character. Pietr I'd invite right in (and Jess). Max or Cat or Amy I'd say, "Lemme get my purse" (because I'd love to go out with them). But I've also created characters that would cause me to lock all the doors and windows and grab something to defend myself with.

When it comes to romantic moments in literature or film, what moment touched you the most?

Let's focus on film: The romance and humor in The Princess Bride and Ever After was wonderful--my husband and I each have decent sense of humor, so I relate. The passion in Dangerous Liasons (Malkovich and Close) when Close's character realizes what she's lost. Awesome. Oddly, perhaps, the moment that still brings me up short is one brief part in the animated movie The Last Unicorn when Molly recognizes the unicorn and demands, "How dare you come to me now--When I am this?!" She's gone from the hopeful dreamer to the bandits' wench and only then is confronted by what her girlish dreams held. LOVE IT.

Tell us a little bit about 13 to Life. What idea caught your imagination on fire with this tale?

I think it's been a long time coming for me--at least the Russian influence in the story. I love the Russian culture. And although the phrase which became my title sort of randomly bumped into werewolves and loss in my head, I can't imagine my werewolves being half as amazing as they are without the Russian aspect. So the concept of Russian werewolves really perked my interest.

If you could become a paranormal being, what would it be and why?

Werewolf without a doubt. Think about it: You get to be strong and wild but you can generally hide that part of your nature and act all "normal" most of the time. You have a great excuse for spending time under the moonlight and being out all night. Rare steak's definitely on the diet, no one expects you to be a morning person and the one thing most people consider a downside--the occasional wild bouts of body hair? I'm of Germanic descent. Need I say more?

With Little Women and Werewolves, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- what classic would you twist to add a bit of paranormal funk to?

How about we go with redoing a classic play? Romeo and Juliet Meet the Jabberwock. Pietr would appreciate the probable outcome of that one.

What's next for you?

I'm still working on the 13 to Life series (Secrets and Shadows--the second novel--comes out February 2011). But I'm also working on some other things tha keep crawling around my brain and demanding attention. Mainly YA, mainly with a solid dose of fantasy and a historical influence.

13 to Life: Chapter 4, part A (used with the author’s permission)

I zipped into the classroom, nearly sliding into my seat. Mr. Miles gave me a curious look. I chuckled. I had covered a vast and winding route to get to the proper Social Studies class. I pulled out my notebook and fumbled for a pencil. Hadn’t I organized them in math? Yeah, and dropped one at lunch… I promised myself next time I’d actually zip up the compartment I put them in as I continued rooting around. Anyhow, I was victorious! Pietr surely would learn a lesson in humility by getting lost, and now I just needed a pencil…

Author Shannon Delany can be found online at her website and blog you can explore Junction (and watch as it grows over the next months).

Don't forget to leave any questions or comments to be automatically entered in a drawing for Shannon's debut novel 13 to Life. The winner will be drawn on July 1st.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beautifully Broken

I could have lived my whole life without the horrific opening moments of Bill Compton holding that bloodied wolf ear in his mouth. Can you say ewww? And note to Russell, King of Mississippi (dude that never stops being funny) needs to learn how to issue an invitation. Of course, Bill's not a guest. He's a captive.

Last night's episode delivered a much more even episode than last week's premiere with stellar moments including Franklin Mott's introduction, meeting Lafayette's mother and Eric and Sookie's interactions just to name a few. I adore Alfre Woodard and the scene she shared with Nelsan Ellis and Rutina Wesley was outstanding. I have to say, one of Alan Ball's absolute best creative decisions was to keep Lafayette alive after the first season.


They Said What?
Alan Ball's dialogue rocks and there were just so many fine moments last night.


  • "Let's go to the ladies' room and stare at ourselves in the mirror." -Pam
  • "…you are likely to run through the streets screaming werewolf bait." - Eric
  • "I think about crying children with soggy diapers and also maggots." – Pam in response to Jessica's question about how she stops feeding.
  • "Bill Compton is no Godric!" – Eric
  • "Please don't do that. It makes me feel disturbingly human." – Eric to Sookie when she starts to cry.
  • "Bigfoot is he real too? Santa?" – Jason on learning about werewolves
  • "Jason. Focus." – Sookie
  • "Which is it? Don't move or get out of the car." – Sam
  • "I've always liked you. I would miss you if you got killed. Just so you know." – Terry
  • "Excuse me gentlemen, I need to drain the second course." – Russell's squeeze
  • "You're prettier than most girls." – Andy to Jason
  • "You're going to invite me in so I can protect you or have passionate primal sex with you – how about both?" – Eric
  • "I have a diploma from anger management where I learned that talking about your feelings is a manly thing to do." – Terry

Funniest Moment All Night
"I keep expecting Bill to walk through that door and say, Sookie!" Kudos to Anna Paquin for nailing fiancé Stephen Moyer's voice.

Creepiest Moment
Franklin searched Bill's house and finding his serial killer wall of death stalk box of Sookie and her family tree.

Off the Wall Moments
Jessica dealing with her corpse and finally heading out to get a chainsaw.

Powerhouse Scene
Lafayette informing Tara that her ass will be planted in the room next to his mother if she tries anything like killing herself again.

What was your favorite part of Beautifully Broken?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hidden Girls and Gems

Hidden WivesLast weekend I attended the Fresh Fiction Boas and Tiaras tea. I enjoy this large and diverse group of readers. The annual tea featured multiple authors, some I knew, some I did not, but all who were fascinating. One of the new authors I met was Claire Avery, now Claire Avery is a pseudonym for sisters Mari Hillburn and Michelle Poche who collaborated to write their debut novel: Hidden Wives.

Hidden Wives by Claire Avery

I want to preface my review with two small warnings, this book is not for the faint of heart, but don't be turned away by the material. As tragic as moments are in this story and as painful and brutal as it was to read what happens to the characters, the writing is truly first class and you become so involved and care so damn much about Rachel, Sara, Irvin, Esther and Luke, that it really becomes impossible to put the book down.

Hidden Wives follows the story of fifteen-year-old Sara and her beautiful sister, Rachel. The sisters are too young to legally drive a car—but are approaching spinsterhood in Utah’s secret polygamist Blood of the Lamb community. Having long since reached the “age of preparedness,” they will soon be married off to much older men chosen by the hidden sect’s revered Prophet.

As Sara, chosen to become her uncle’s fifth wife, grows more distraught over her impending incestuous marriage, she begins to scrutinize the faith she has followed blindly her entire life. But for Rachel, who will be married to one of the many powerful community leaders vying for her hand, disobeying the Prophet means eternal damnation. Her friendship with the newest member of the community, the young and handsome Luke, starts as an attempt to save his agnostic soul, but ends with the pair falling helplessly in love. When Rachel is forbidden to see him, her absolute faith in the Prophet is severely tested.

When Rachel’s future husband is finally announced, violence erupts, and the girls must find the strength to escape the only life they have ever know…before it’s too late.

Review

I picked up this book because I found the authors fascinating and after reading the blurb on the back of the book at the tea, I was definitely curious. We're all aware of extreme religious sects and we see the stories in the news. We're always genuinely horrified when we learn just how bad things were for the women and children in the sect or cult, so don't be surprised by just how horrible life seems to be for Rachel and Sara. It is so far beyond my own personal experience that I was clenching my fists at times and wishing I could tear into the pages to help them.

This book is not for the faint of heart. The violence can be insidious and intense, although scenes of utter brutality are in direct opposition to wild moments of compassion, concern and caring. We spent a lot of time in the heads of both Sara and Rachel. We see this world through their eyes. We share their pain as they fight against the conditioning and teachings they've had drummed into them their whole lives.

While I wish to give nothing away, there are two moments, so spectacularly emotional, that I was driven to tears. I wanted to stand up and shout, "Swing it again" at times and I wanted to just pull them close and give them a hug. When I was done with this book, I was torn between laughter and tears; tears for all the pain and laughter for the triumph.

When I was done, I went into the next room and gave my daughter the fiercest hug, so grateful for so many things. I honestly do not think I would have picked up this book if I hadn't met these lovely authors, which would have been a true tragedy.

Over the last few days, I've had time to absorb the story and share my feelings about reading it with a few friends. Recovered from the emotional journey, I am tremendously glad I read it.

I would recommend this book with only the warning that it will get brutal, it will get hard and you will feel your insides curdle, but hang in there – because you will also experience gratitude, genuine relief and fierce pride in these wonderful sisters.

Meet the Authors


Check out the authors in this video and learn more about them at their website.



Have you had a chance to read Hidden Wives?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Smackdown: Sookie Stackhouse versus Elena Gilbert

Okay, you had to know this was coming. If we were talking the novels straight up, I'd have to go for Sookie all the way. But in their respective series Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Elena (Nina Dobrev) are different enough to make this an interesting match up.

So let's break it down. Comment on your pick for this week's smackdown and remember, everyone who comments is entered in a drawing for a $10 gift certificate to Amazon this week!

Sookie Stackhouse

True Blood's Sookie has not had an easy time of it. She's been stalked by a serial killer, nearly burned alive by a religious cult and now her vampire lover, Bill has gone missing and that's just in the last couple of years. Before that, Sookie's gift for hearing the thoughts of others kept her isolated, but vampires are a real gift for her because she can't hear them. Of course, since dating Bill, she's fended off vamp drainers, found out her boss is a shapeshifter and caught the eye of a certain sexy sheriff named Eric.

Sookie's feisty and tough, but she does have a bit of a whiny quality where Bill is concerned. Sookie's determined to find her man and isn't afraid to confront 1,000+ year old vampires to do it. This season, Sookie gets to add some werewolves to her acquaintance and Snoop Dogg even wrote a song just about her.





Elena Gilbert

The Vampire Diaries Elena Gilbert has had a rough year of her own. The sixteen year old is mourning the loss of her parents as the school year begins. She becomes fascinated with the new kid in town, Stefan Salvatore who turns out to be a vampire. As she copes with that, she must also cope with his more dangeorus brother Damon and the fact that best friend Bonnie is a witch. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Elena is a dead ringer for Katherine, the vampire who made both Damon and Stefan. Despite her love for Stefan, their road isn't easy and she and Damon begin to bond as true friends, even teaming up to save Stefan from a houseful of vengeful vampires. Elena discovered she was adopted and that her biological mother, Isobel, is a vampire as well. At the end of the season, she's at odds with brother Jeremy over her actions, the object of Damon's intensifying emotions and seemingly on the verge of coming face to face with Katherine who was murdering Elena's bio dad "Uncle" John. Elena's tough, loyal and resourceful. She's also not afraid of her own decisions.




Heroines with Spunk

Elena and Sookie are both heroines with spunk, in love with one vampire and pursued by another. They've both faced down death, fighting back and not relying on their "heroes" to get them out of trouble. I love them both.

Who do you choose: Miss Stackhouse or Miss Gilbert?

Last Week's Winner

It was a tough showdown between the bad boy vamps, but it looks like Eric Northman is Sheriff for a reason as the older vamp takes home the prize, although many of you were not willing to kick either out of bed. Check back tomorrow as I draw the winner for the $10 Barnes and Noble Gift Certificate.

Don't forget to leave a comment on who you pick for this week and "why".

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday Smackdown - Heroes That Bite

It feels like forever since we hosted a really good Saturday Smackdown and this week -- well, we've got two very, hot and powerful contenders.  Both contenders leave me with chills -- and I mean the good kind.  But don't believe me. Just check out who we have this week..

Saturday Smackdown - Pick Your Favorites  
 



Damon Salvatore versus Eric Northman

They are both smoking hot vampires with an attitude. They've got that bad boy vibe down, but Eric's got more than a few centuries under his belt compared to Damon. They both want the girl and they're both willing to do anything for her. There's an intensity in their gaze that you can't get away from and really -- who doesn't get chills when they stroll into the scene and own it?


The Best of Eric Northman



The Best of Damon Salvatore



You Decide

It's up to you. Who wins this week's smackdown? Eric? Damon? One lucky commentator who lists their pick and says why will have a chance to win a $10 Gift Certificate to Barnes and Noble -- where you could pick up a copy of my book or any other great read for download or purchase.

So tell me -- which one of these bad boys do you pick?

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Friday Hot Five Reads

Looking for something great to read? I'm always shopping for new books even though I never seem to have as much time to read as I would like. But with the hot days of summer here, that means time at the pool and if I'm not writing on the laptop, I have books in my tote that go everywhere with me. What are my hot five books this week?

Let's dig in the bag and see what we have:



13 to Life by Shannon Delany

I was lucky enough to get to read this early and I emphasize lucky because I really enjoyed the book. It makes it into the tote this week because the daughter wanted to read it too. It releases June 22. You should check it out. It's very much suitable for mid-grade and young adult readers, but adults will likely enjoy it just as much.

Blood Game by Iris Johansen

I picked up a copy of Eight Days to Live (also by Johansen) and really enjoyed the tense story that focused on Jane and the uber sexy Seth Caleb as well as the sweet, yet very deadly Jock Gavin. I was really enjoying it until I realized I'd missed a previous book -- hence Blood Game, which features Seth Caleb's first appearance. These are all in the Eve Duncan Forensics Thrillers universe.

Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson

I've seen her books plenty of times, but I've never had a chance to dig in. I recently visited the Books that Bite book club at my local Barnes and Noble (a great group) and this is the book they are reading for their next meeting. So I grabbed it up for reading as I have time.

The Chief: A Highland Guard Novel by Monica McCarty

Picked this up on the recommendation of one the aforementioned book club members. This is the book blurb: While Robert the Bruce attempts to consolidate the clans against the king, clan chief Tormod MacLeod hopes to remain above suspicion as he begins a special ops force, but his allegiance looks questionable after he's tricked into marrying Christina Fraser, the daughter of a nobleman once imprisoned for supporting William Wallace. Tor faces internal conflict as his growing feelings for his wife battle his warrior code. Sounds sexy eh?

Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur

I picked this up on the recommendation of another friend who said it was a fun and interesting twist because Riley Jensen is a vampire and a werewolf -- so she plays for both teams (heh heh). Here's the blurb: Australian author Arthur's fast-paced fantasy-romance, the first in a new series, introduces part vampire, part werewolf Riley Jenson, who works for Melbourne's Directorate of Other Races, as does her twin brother, Rhoan. When Rhoan goes missing, a naked yet powerful vampire, Quinn, appears on Riley's doorstep and asks for her aid. Riley and Quinn team up to find Rhoan, investigate the mysterious deaths of Directorate agents and determine who's been creating vampire and werewolf clones. Despite their mutual attraction, Quinn—once heartbroken by a werewolf lover—will never fully trust another werewolf, but that doesn't stop him from helping Riley through the lust that engulfs werewolves in the days leading up to the full moon.


What's in your summer tote this week? Oh and be sure to head back over tomorrow as our Saturday Smackdown returns for some serious summer hotness!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

True Blood Returns Sunday

True Blood: The Complete Second Season (HBO Series)That southern spicy fair that we like to call True Blood will kick off its third season this Sunday and you can already feel the tension in the air when talking to other fans.  Alan Ball has been dribbling out the teasing bits and bytes of what will happen when we return to Bon Temps, Louisiana.   So let's take a quick peek back at where we left our favorite residents:

  • Tara cradled a dead Eggs in her arms
  • Jason shot Eggs and Andy covered for him
  • Bill proposed to Sookie and then vanished when she was in the restroom
  • Sam made some choices about his future
  • Most of Bon Temps began to recover from Maryann's madness


What Happens Next?
 So what will happen next?  The third season will likely follow the outline of events in Charlaine Harris' third book Club Dead with more than a few additions from the creative mind of Alan Ball and his writers. Preview scenes are already teasing that Sam will reconnect with his biological family (and it may not be a s positive as he hoped) while Sookie will meet Alcide and if the fever pitch fans are working themselves up into over that isn't enough, go check out TrueBlood Net for more tantalizing teasers.




I've been avoiding spoilers for the most part, because I find that without them – the show is just that much better.

My Top Five True Blood Moments


Sookie learns Sam is a Shapeshifter.



The Death of Godric



Sookie Dreams of Eric



Eric Tricks Sookie into Drinking his Blood



Sookie and Bill Meet Maryann



What are your favorite moments?

Season 3 premieres Sunday, June 13 on HBO.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: 13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale

13 to Life13 to Life is that rare novel that captures your attention from the first page to the last and leaves you flipping the last page repeatedly looking for more words. It is a sinking feeling in your stomach when you realize there are no more words and you have to wait for the next book. Splendidly, there is a second book in the works! So that is something to look forward too.

The Author

Shannon Delany is a charming woman that I made the acquaintance over the Winchester brothers. Yes, I hooked her on Supernatural and I am proud of it. In the months since we first started talking, I knew she had a book coming out and I knew it was about werewolves. But until last week, I had yet to read it. You'll see more of my review below. The neat part about this book though is that Shannon's novel is the first ever winner of a cell phone novel contest hosted through Textnovel.com. She wrote the abbreviated version in just five weeks.

The Blurb

Jessica's life seemed difficult enough since the sudden loss of her mother, but meeting Pietr Rusakova turns her world upside down again. The newest member of Junction High, Pietr is a first generation Russian-American, a fact that by itself makes him different enough to get lots of attention in the small town. Add a police escort to school and a mysterious tattoo and Jessica starts to realize Pietr is far more than good looks and an interesting accent.

Pietr has sects to hide – secrets including the dramatic changes he's undergoing that will surely end his life early. His secrets date back to the Cold War and will get the better of Jessica's journalistic curiosity, leading her into an exciting and dangerous world where her understanding of reality will be challenged. Knowing Pietr makes Jessica question, what makes someone a man or a monster?

The Review

Werewolf tales are very popular, but 13 to Life adds a new twist on a very old tale that adds more style and flash than a junior does on her first day of school. Set in the small town of Junction, the reader travels through the tale on the shoulder of Jessica. Her mother died just a few months before in a horrific crash that Jessica witnessed. When Jessica's reflections take you back to the day her mother died, your throat will tighten and your heart will squeeze.

We meet Pietr when Jessica does. His odd behavior and intensity is fascinating to both the reader and to Jessica. You know there is a story there and so does Jessica, but it takes a while to put all the pieces together. Without giving anything away, this tale is as much about the journey as the revelations along the way. Jessica is a splendid character with tremendous class, strength and presence of mind. Pietr is an exotic butterfly in a cast of the ordinary high school characters including the too sweet best friend, the practical best friend, the hot jock who seems to have a sweet side and the mean girls who enjoy tormenting the lesser peons.

But don't be fooled – as with any high school, these roles just skim the surface of these characters whose layers you peel away gradually throughout the tale. The author mixes a healthy dose of suspense, teenage angst and surprisingly sweet romance into a dynamite tale that everyone needs to read.

Don't miss it. 13 to Life releases on June 22, 2010.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We're Back Baby!

First up, thanks for all the inquiries into how this project was proceeding. I honestly didn't expect two weeks to go before I got back on track with the posts, but I'll reveal a little secret – planning to write a book in 10 days should not occur when everything around you is transitioning from the end of the school year to summer schedules. I've spent more time running, adjusting and balancing than anything else.

But enough about that, let's talk writing.

Book Progress

At the end of the initial 10 days, I was only about halfway through the book. I call that an accomplishment because:

  • I wrote every day.
  • This is a whole new genre for me and it was fun.
  • See above about juggling the transitioning schedules.

I'll be hosting another Write a Book in 10 Days at the beginning of July. So get ready for that. I'll share all the tips and tricks and things I learned this time around and we're going to get those fingers churning. In the meanwhile, we've got a lot to chat about here in the Daily Dose over the next couple of weeks including:

  • A new CW series called Nikita
  • A new werewolf book called 13 to Life
  • A returning vampire series called True Blood
  • And much, much more

Let me leave you with a little blurb for the book to give you a taste of what I've been working on:


Bal des Sauvages

Diana Kant likes to win. She has made a career out of taking the hardest-to-obtain from the best, thriving on the competition. But when a high tech camera captures her red-handed in the act, she has only two choices – put back the priceless mask or cut her losses and most of her savings and run – she's not the running kind.

Maxwell Sauvage loves the game. He has made a hobby out of pursuing the hardest to obtain from the best and pursued this vixen from continent to continent. On a fateful New Year's Eve, Diana strolls right into his arms at the ambassador's dinner party, he has only two choices – help her or cut his losses – he is not the cutting kind.

One stolen mask and years of game play come to head as Max makes his move. Diana thinks she has it all under control until she realizes that the biggest game of all is Max himself. Max knows he has it under control, but Diana takes the game to no limits and he realizes that winning may not be everything.