Friday, July 23, 2010

My Fast Draft Journey

For the last week, I have been employing a method taught by author Candace Havens called Fast Draft. If you follow my Facebook, then chances are you have seen my daily updates. I have done this to keep myself accountable for the current work in progress. Without going into detail on the book itself, I will tell you that Fast Drafting is a method that lets you get the story you want to tell down on paper.

It is not about choosing the best words or honing the prose. It's about churning out the story and getting out of your own way by meeting a page count goal, day in and day out. The page count, in this case, is 20 pages per day, on average, about 7,000 to 8,000 word per day. 20 pages a day seems like a big number and I've had more than a few people say "I can't do that." Honestly, I was one of those naysayers too. Because 20 pages seems like such a huge number.

But last weekend, I sat down with the goal of sprinting for all I was worth for 20 minutes, then breaking, then returning to the writing sprint for 20 minutes. On average, six to seven sprints is all I need to make it to 20 pages. Some days that's definitely easier than others, if I can start sprinting early, I can get in those six to seven sprints in and around my other work. If it's later in the day, I write slower, because I am tired.

Plotting

The biggest asset to this process is the storyboard. Two weeks ago, I spent a wonderful day with two other authors and we plotted out our upcoming works in progress. This storyboard helped me chart the course the story was going to follow. I know every destination I have to reach and most of the high points. While there have been some organic changes along the way, a glance at the plot helps keep me on track.

After seven continuous days of Fast Drafting, I am at roughly page 130. I have about four chapters left to go and I hit a bit of a plot hole in today's writing when I realized one of my turning points had already been revealed (oops).

Breaking Out the Storyboard

I went back to the storyboard – as it were – and re-examined where I had been and where I was going with the information that I had. As a writer, we write all the time. Even when we are plotting, we are writing, creating, working and thinking. I've dreamt this story every night this week. I have been so invested in getting down on paper, I have gotten out the way of my creative process and just let the story flow.


So today, it was only 10 pages instead of the 20. I can accept that. Because I ran into what could have conceivably stalled me out for days before and resolved it in just a couple of hours of juggling with the storyboard.

Four Chapters from the End

The first draft completes in just four chapters – two to two and a half more days of great sprinting. So hats off to Candace Havens and her Fast Draft method. Check out Candy's website for more information about this fabulous writer, her books and her workshops including the Fast Draft method.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SciFi Summer TV is Here

I have to say that the trend to provide original programming on summer television is one that I heartily appreciate. While I think I watch too much TV from time to time, I also watch many recorded shows when I am working out. So it is great to have something new and fresh to hold my attention while I'm on the treadmill (if I'm not on the bike at the gym, reading a book).  Either way, summer TV is here to stay!  Here are few of my favorite picks for things you "should" be watching if you're not.

Let's look at the SyFy Channel first (sorry, I still hate the change from SciFi)

Eureka: Season 3.5
Visit America's zaniest small town!
Eureka

Eureka debuted four years ago with the arrival Jack Carter to the scientifically advanced (and more than a little crazy) town of Eureka where the most advanced minds come up with everything from great scientific achievement to some of the funniest foobars (turning your bowling competitors green comes to mind).  Despite the "weird" and often "zany" science, it's the people in Eureka that make the show one you have to watch from Jack to his daughter Zoe to Allison, her son Kevin to Nathan Stark to Deputy Jo, Henry Deacon (I adore Henry) and even Fargo.   Eureka doesn't shy away from the dramatic and the heart wrenching (the death of Kim, Nathan and even the loss of Jack's future with Allison are just a few that come to mind).

So when season four debuted a couple of weeks ago, I was ready for anything and I have to say, the writers not only delivered, they delivered in spades.  Thanks to Kevin's tinkering with an old device, Jack, Allison, Jo, Fargo and Henry found themselves transported to Eureka circa 1947 when it was just a military encampment. Desperate to get home, they had to find a way to "reverse" the bridge before their window of opportunity closed.  While they were able to back, they brought along time-traveling hitchhiker Dr. Grant – a man who belonged in Eureka's past and his presence in the future has irrevocably altered the microcosm of the town.

Most heartbreaking moment: Jo rushes to accept Zane's proposal only to find out in the new future, she and Zane are not together and he never proposed.


Warehouse 13
Warehouse 13: Season One
It's bigger on the inside!
 
Warehouse 13 is yet another action adventure dramedy that takes involves two agents: Myka and Pete who are shanghaied by Warehouse supervisor Artie to help him track down troublesome artifacts. The Warehouse itself is home to some of the crazier man made and beyond objects of all time, each catalogued, stored and hopefully neutralized although the characters have as many adventures in the Warehouse as they do out of it.
Season one introduced us to the great cast of characters including CCH Pounder's incomparable Mrs. Fredericks and the wonderful rascal that is Claudia.  Claudia has a long history with Artie whom she blamed for the loss of her brother for so many years.  But now Claudia is part of the fold and she is unquestionably Artie's favorite as the two bicker constantly, but he is a great father figure to her.  With enemies from within and without, the team needs to rely on each other as much as possible.  Season two debuted with more Warehouse secrets coming to light including the release of H.G. Wells (who turned out to be a woman) and now the operatives have to not only find her, they have to figure out what her brilliant, if twisted scientific mind is up to.

While the series is delightfully tongue in cheek, it's again the characters that you root for in a family dynamic that has you cheering them on. 

By the way, if you missed it – Eureka and Warehouse 13 will have a couple of crossover episodes this summer with Claudia heading to Eureka and Fargo in the Warehouse.  Can you say disaster? I thought you could.


Are you watching these fun shows?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tracey Devlyn - Don't Miss This Author

Romancing history!  Love it!
In May, I traveled to Colorado with good friend Nikki Duncan for a Margie Lawson immersion weekend. Besides being a fabulous fun trip at a gorgeous location, I met seven terrific ladies including author Tracey Devlyn. Beginning in 2011, Tracey will have three books coming out from Sourcebooks. She writes some of the most gorgeous historical prose you've ever read and she just launched her new website. So go check it out and add Tracey to your to buy list.

I insist!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Smackdown: Valkyrie vs. Harpy

Dark Desires After Dusk (The Immortals After Dark, Book 5)Today's smackdown should hardly come as any surprise after my devouring of both Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter over the last few weeks. But I wanted to have some fun with the two series. As you know, there are a multiple types of Immortals in Showalter's series along with Greek gods, titans and more. In Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark incorporate a rich tapestry of mythology and monsters with her Lore kind.

The Valkyrie

One of my favorites among the Lore are the Valkyrie. These small, fey like women, are the products of three parents: their warrior mothers, Freya and Woden. When a warrior maiden dies on the battlefield, if she's been particularly valorious, Woden and Freya will offer her a place in Valhalla. Their children are Immortal and become the Valkyrie. Thus, the Valkyrie can come from all the different species of Lorekind and their children may or may not be Valkyrie – particularly considering how many are marrying off to different factions of the Lore.

Strong, wily, determined and unstoppable are just some of the words one might describe the Valkyrie. They are also highly acquisitive and definitely flawed by their need for "shineys!" In fact, the one weakness you might be able to exploit in a Valkyrie is their love of shiney things – as well as their addictions to X-Box and video games. Cole has written about several of the Valkyrie from Emmaline the half-Valkyrie, half-Vampire to Lucia the Archer to Kaderin the Cold Hearted, Nucking Fut Nix the All Seeing, Myst the Coveted and Holly the Bright just to name a few.

These Valkyrie are popular heroines in her novels and even the Valkyrie who are not fully trained or in their element, like Holly, make formidable and dangerous opponents.

The Harpy
 The Darkest Night 
(Lords of the Underworld, Book 1)
Gena Showalter's Harpy are definitely different from the atypical image of them. For one, they are not birdlike women with monstrous bodies and faces, although, admittedly - they are wicked strong and fast.  The harpy are born, raised and must learn to fight. They are also immortal.  Harpies who do not embrace their darker sides often have troubles -- like Gwen the Timid. She was trapped because her wings were bound - a secret weakness the harpies experience.


But don't piss her off. You wouldn't like her when she was angry. In fact, you would probably be dead if you were the one that pissed her off. In full fighting form, the harpies are stronger, faster and more efficient than most of the Lords of the Underworld themselves.  They are stronger, move swiftly and make terrific mercenaries.  As Gwen is still learning to attune herself to her harpy side, she is getting more powerful each day.  Her sisters including Bianka and Kaia are also a part of the cause after spending years raising and protecting her - even from herself because Gwen is also the child of Galen - the Keeper of Hope - which adds to her strength.

I like the harpies, they have weaknesses too. They must steal or earn their food, cursed by the gods to never enjoy food they prepare for themselves.  One could argue they like shinies too, but not with quite the same obsessive need that the Valkyrie have.  Still -- one on one -- the Valkyrie versus the Harpy would be a battle for the ages.

So now it's up to you -- which are your favorites? And why? Who do you think would win a smackdown? You can pick a specific valkyrie versus a specific harpy if you wish!  All comments will automatically be entered to win a $10 gift certificate to Amazon or Barnes and Noble (your choice!)


So let the smackdown begin!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tell Me Sweet Little Lies - Gideon and Scarlet

The Darkest Lie (Hqn)The Darkest Lie by Gena Showalter is her latest entry into the Lords of the Underworld series. I just recently began reading this terrific series by Showalter thanks in part to the recommendations of several wonderful readers at my local Barnes and Noble's Books that Bite club. As I said in Showalter's Mad About Romance entry, Gideon and Scarlet's story needed more space to discuss – so let's discuss.

The Darkest Lie

Forced to his knees in agony whenever he speaks the truth, Gideon can recognize any lie—until he captures Scarlet, a demon-possessed immortal who claims to be his long-lost wife. He doesn't remember the beautiful female, much less wedding—or bedding—her. But he wants to…almost as much as he wants her.

But Scarlet is keeper of Nightmares, too dangerous to roam free. A future with her might mean ultimate ruin. Especially as Gideon's enemies draw closer—and the truth threatens to destroy all he's come to love….

Scarlet

Scarlet is the daughter of the Titan Rhea and a human lover. Rhea was carrying the child when she was incarcerated in Tartarus along with the rest of the Titans. Needless to say, Rhea doesn't win any mother of the year awards. While in Tartarus, Scarlet suffered tremendously at the hands of her jealous family members including her mother, her aunt and her stepfather. As it turns out, a seer told Cronus and Rhea that Scarlet would be the death of them. So – like all good power trippers, they tortured the girl mercilessly until their attacks on her made them age.

When the Lords of the Underworld released the demons in Pandora's box, the demon Nightmares was placed inside of Scarlet. In many ways, he became her ally as they worked together to torment those that needed it and seek a little revenge on those that hurt Scarlet.

Gideon

As the keeper of Lies, Gideon cannot say the truth without experiencing excruciating pain. But when Aeron and Olivia capture Scarlet and bring her to the dungeon of the Keep, he is inextricably drawn to her. She visits him in a nightmare and orders him to come and see her. There, he discovers that Scarlet is his wife and that he's apparently forgotten all about her and more.

Intrigued, despite himself, Gideon takes Scarlet away from their Budapest Keep to try and get to know her better and discover the truth. She frustrates him by deliberately misinterpreting his "lies" - but the two begin to learn more and more about each other, becoming lovers once more and eventually confronting the Titan Mnemosyne about Gideon's memory loss.


The Lie Story

First and foremost, my hat is off to Showalter for the way she managed to write Gideon in this novel. I cannot for the life of me imagine how tough it was to write a character who cannot speak a truthful word. If someone is beautiful, he calls them ugly. If he loves someone, he must say he hates them. Worse, if he hates them, he tells them how much he loves them. It's enough to give even a sane person a headache or a Titan to demand how anyone puts up with him (one of the funniest moments in the book, personally).

This book required a certain intensity to read, because it was so damned tough in places, yet it made it all the more magical for those moments of true connection and understanding when after a while, I didn't just have to read and translate, I was actually understanding Gideon speak. More than that, this love story was different in many ways from all the others before it – adding a depth of darkness to the passion.

The Continuing Tale

As with all the other Lords novels, this book continues to delve into the war that the Lords are fighting against Galen's hunters and more. The pairings the Lords are making continue to strengthen their cause, bringing new allies into the fight while eliciting new wounds and new injuries. There are so many unanswered questions and tempting moments of speculation – including Sienna Blackstone's bond with Wrath and will she ever be able to reunite with Paris? Are Galen and Legion truly a match made in hell? What will happen when Ashlyn gives birth? (Poor girl has been pregnant for six books already!)

The next novel in the Lords of the Underworld series is The Darkest Secret, Amun's story, due to be released in March 2011.

What did you think of Gideon and Scarlet's story?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mad About Romance: Gena Showalter

I was recently introduced to Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series.   If you aren't familiar with it, let me introduce you to the rich world filled with Greek Gods, mad Titans, immortal warriors, demon lords and angelic beings – just to name a few.The Darkest Lie (Hqn) 

Opening Pandora's Box

Ages ago, the Greek gods trapped the wild and furious demon lords of Violence, Pain, Disease, Misery, Wrath and more in a box created from the bones of the Greek Goddess of Oppression. She'd died in their escape from imprisonment, but her bones contained enough of her essence to keep the demon lords contained.  Zeus entrusted the protection and care of the box to one of his immortal warriors – a woman named Pandora.  In doing so, he irked many of his other elite guard who felt they had been slighted by Pandora's selection (okay, seriously, they were all just pissed and had an Immortal sized temper tantrum about it).


So, in the truest application of team spirit, the group strategized together and set out to sabotage Pandora by seducing her, stealing the box and opening it and thus releasing all of the demon lords trapped within.  The Gods retaliated by imprisoning the individual demons in the immortal warriors themselves, driving them mad for a long time – eventually, the men came back to themselves, but they were cursed to Earth, bound to their demons and their curses.



The Darkest Night

This is where the story begins.   The first novel, The Darkest Night, is set thousands of years after the Immortal warriors have begun to come to terms with their demons.   A human named Ashlyn Darrow travels to Budapest, to the stronghold of the Lords for help with her preternatural ability to hear echoes of conversations.   When Maddox, Keeper of Violence, encounters her, he is not sure whether she is human bait (used by humans who want to kill them) or some other form of trouble, but he can't stay away from her.  In turn, Ashlyn is a combination of enamored and terrified of the warriors within the keep, but Maddox's presence silences the voices for the first time in her life.

This is but the first journey for the Lords of the Underworld that continues throughout a series of novels with the most recent was released just a few weeks ago.  There are many Lords of the Underworld, so there will likely be many more novels to come.  I admit, I have my favorites among the Lords, as I am sure many of Showalter's readers would. 

In Showalter's second LoU novel, we learn the tale of Lucien, Keeper of Death and Anya, (minor) Goddess of Anarchy.   Anya is easily, my favorite character in the whole series. She is just so much fun.   Writing gods and goddesses is always a challenge to an author. How do you make them deified without losing what makes them interesting – thankfully, the Greek gods and the Titans are full of flaws and imperfections.

Anya is fascinated by Lucien and actually does want to help him.  Although tempted by Anya, Lucien is cursed by Cronus, King of the Gods, who orders the Keeper of Death to slay Anya.  It is definitely rock and a hard place. However, Anya is no shrinking violet and nearly kills Lucien more than once, but is willing to surrender everything to keep him safe – in her own unique fashion.

While I adore Lucien and Anya's story, the others are just as intriguing from Sabin and Gwen to Aeron and Olivia to the most recent outing of Gideon and Scarlet (which deserves a blog all its own, so I'll be talking about that tomorrow).

If you haven't read Showalter's series, it's definitely a fascinating tapestry of character flaws, intrigues and wildness.   Don't worry about falling in love with characters and not seeing them again. Although each story is a romance, it also doubles as another entry in the ongoing saga.  The Lords of the Underworld are in a war on multiple fronts and fighting to survive as even the Titans maneuver them like chess pieces.

Who is your favorite Lord of the Underworld?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mad About Romance: Lynsay Sands

Vampire, Interrupted (Argeneau Vampires, Book 9)Author Lynsay Sands isn't "just another vampire" author, in fact, in her Argeneau series, despite vampiric tendencies, the characters will remind you that they are not vampires at all. In fact, in a fun twist, they are the children of Atlantis, descendents of the final survivors who used nano technology to ward off disease and extend their lives – making them immortal.

Another great thing about Sands' books is she's not above poking fun at the 'stereotype'. Vampires are old world and don't change? Her hero runs the number one online game about vampires. Vampires can turn anyone? Not these guys, they only can turn one in a lifetime. Vampires instinctively recognize their mates. Not the Argeneau, they hope they get it right, but if they turn the man or the woman they love, they have the same set of chances the rest of us do.


And that's what is so bloody appealing about Sands' books. The characters are sappy, sane, crazy and lovable with the same quirks and flaws as the rest of us. It helps that her writing fills us with emotion for the tempestuous events these characters face as the brothers and eventually the rest begin to connect with their mates.

Top picks in her Argeneau series include:

Love Bites

Etienne Argeneau's three hundred years of bachelorhood were at an end. Either that, or he'd be forever alone. He could only "turn" one human in his lifetime, and most of his kind reserved that power for creating a life mate. If he turned the wrong woman . . . But what choice did he have? He had to save Rachel Garrett. He didn't know her very well, but the beautiful coroner had saved his life. To save hers he would make her immortal.

Tall, Dark and Hungry

It bit: New York hotels cost an arm and a leg, and Terri had flown from England to help plan her cousin's wedding. The new in-laws offered lodging. But they were a weird bunch. There was the sometimes-chipper-sometimes-brooding Lucern, and the wacky stage-actor, Vincent. (She couldn't imagine Broadway casting a hungrier singing-and-dancing Dracula.). And then there was Bastien. Just looking into his eyes, Terri had to admit she was falling for him - someone even taller, darker and hungrier than the other two. She was feeling a mite peckish herself. And if she stayed with him, those bloodsucking hotel owners wouldn't get her!

Vampire Interrupted

After seven hundred years of life, Marguerite Argeneau finally has a career. Well, the start of one, anyway. She’s training to be a private investigator, and her first assignment is to find an immortal’s mother. It seemed simple enough, until Marguerite wakes up one evening to find herself at the wrong end of a sword. Now she realizes she’s in way over her head.

Julius Notte wants to protect Marguerite, and not because someone just tried to take her head off. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s his lifemate and he’s determined to woo her. It’s been over five hundred years since he last courted a woman, but surely the techniques haven’t changed. Now if only he can keep her alive – so to speak – so they can have that happily-ever-after.

Check out more of Sands book and the "reading order" of her Argeanau series.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mad About Romance: Shayla Black

We're mad about romance this month at the Daily Dose and today I want to talk about Shayla Black and the Doomsday Brethren. The series focuses on the magickind that live, love and war even as they live in parallel to today's world of technology, science and reason. The Doomsday Brethren is a brotherhood of some of magickind's fiercest warriors, magic users and heroes who have banded together to defeat a great evil.

In the first novel Tempt Me with Darkness, we meet the nearly 1500 year old Marrok, a warrior who served with King Arthur. Marrok was cursed by the Morgana La Fey when he refused to sleep with her. His curse – to live forever. Marrok is one of the greatest warriors, but he is not magic kind, although he moves among them. When he discovers a witch about to come into her power, he believes that she is Morgana herself and he's desperate to be free of his curse.

This tempestuous romance is just one example of the powerful force that drives these fabulous books.

Blood and Brotherhood

Unlike other "brotherhoods", the Doomsday Brethren are not driven by innate loyalty to each other. Blood feuds, old wounds and decades of animosity can drive these powerful men to clash. What they agree on most is the defeat the most ruthless wizard to ever live – but to do that, they will need help and one by one, they are discovering the women who will prove to be their salvation or their ultimate undoing.

Of the heroes that Black has created, Caden is my favorite so far. In many ways, Caden is the youngest, just barely 30 and achieving the transition to magical maturation. Caden wants nothing to do with magickind , he enjoyed his time as a mortal marine. But when his brother Lucan's mate bond is shattered by the ruthless wizard, he is driven to do everything he can to save him. In Seduce Me in Shadow, he meets a reporter named Sydney who is learning far too much about magickind to be healthy for her – and worse, he wants to claim her as his own.

The Mating Twist

One twist that is both delicious and painful is the mating call of a wizard. If a wizard says the magical words of binding to another and that call is denied, then they are unable to perform with another until the one they called passes. It's a dangerous situation for these magickind to be in, particularly because they recharge their power through sexual activity. I like to think of it as nature's way of achieving a balance.

In the third and most recent installment, Possess Me at Midnight, we saw how Ice and Sabine forged their connection despite the upheaval in their world and the animosity that Sabine's brother Bran holds for Ice personally. Sabine has spent so much time with Caden's brother Lucan, trying to keep him alive that there is a conflict between Lucan and Ice for Sabine as well.

Next up is Duke's story and let me tell you, it's a fun and dangerous romp that definitely lives up to the title: Entice Me at Twilight.

If you've not had a chance to check out the wonder that is Shayla Black's Doomsday Brethren, you can read a free novella on her website called Fated.

Do you like the Doomsday Brethren? Do you have a favorite wizard or warrior? What about their lady loves? Comment and you'll automatically be entered to win a copy of Entice Me at Twilight, to be released in November, 2010. Winner to be drawn after August 1.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mad About Romance: Kresley Cole

Pleasure of a Dark
 Prince (Immortals After Dark)July is mad about romance month here at the Daily Dose. We should have kicked this off three days ago but an unexpected migraine decided to pay court to me and nothing I did would dissuade this ardent lover's advances. So that being said, let's kick off Mad About Romance as we celebrate the Romance Writers of America's National Convention which kicks off at the end of the month in Orlando, Florida.

This is my first year to attend so I wanted to celebrate it up right. Today, I want to focus my mad about romance attention on paranormal romance author: Kresley Cole.


But this heroine who should have been so unlikeable was anything but. Sure, it was fun to see Rydstrom get the upper hand with her. Yet there were times when his behavior bordered on the abusive even when we, the reader, understood it. I think the best line in the entire book came near the end, so I won't spoil that for you.

Kiss of a Demon is one of the many novels in Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series and it contains a fun reference to Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld. I've not read all of the Immortals After Dark, but I can say that every time I think I've found my favorite heroine, another comes along to take her place. 


Currently from the books that I've read, I'd rank my heroines as:

  • Sabine
  • Lucia
  • Mariketa
  • Emmaline
Yes, that's only four of the nine available, so I can only assume that the heroine love I feel will change as I meet the rest. As for the heroes – well, what else do we do with a bunch of alpha type immortals? We love them too, but they are in a different order:

  • Garreth
  • Bowen
  • Rydstrom
  • Lachlain

I think I like Garreth so much more than the others because he endured so much to win Lucia, not only in effort, but in the time he spent and Bowen will always be close to my heart for the pain he went through.

Do you have a favorite Immortal after Dark? Who is your favorite heroine? What is your favorite tale? If you could only use one word to convince someone to read Cole, what would that word be?

Be sure to comment and I'll enter you to win Kresley Cole's upcoming release: Demon from the Dark. It's due to be released in August and I'll leave the comments open until August 1.