30 April 2008

T13: RavenCon 2008

Vampires, time-travelers and Poe--oh my! RavenCon 2008 was all that and more.



Since my first panel wasn’t until 6 p.m. Friday evening, I headed for downtown Richmond and the historical canals surveyed by George Washington. Originally, the canals were all business, but these days they’re all about history and wild life. Here, turtle sun themselves on a “turtle tree” and eye the newly hatched goslings on the opposite bank.



The Poe Museum is the oldest building in Richmond. It hosted Lafayette and survived “The Great Conflagration” of 1865, but Edgar Allen Poe never lived here. However, given its history, there probably isn’t a safer location for the relics of Poe’s life.



Back at the hotel, roomie Jana Oliver shows the cover flat for her third Time Rovers novel, Madman’s Dance, slated for an October release. Her partners in crime for the “Writing Full Time” panel are (left to right) C.J. Henderson, Dennis Danvers and David B. Coe.



Con Chair Michael Pederson at the podium) amazed his audience by personally greeting over fifty of RavenCon’s guests, including Fan Guest of Honor “Filthy Pierre” (writer and filker Erwin S. Straus, shown here in the in the white shirt) and Artist Guest of Honor Stephen Hickman (in the baseball cap).



Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show editor Edmund Schubert (standing) looks impressed with Pederson’s performance. But notice the woman not looking at the stage? That’s writer Gail Z. Martin, who’s probably scoping out her next target--er, interview. Gail’s video blogs of the con are linked to her regular blog, or you can go direct to her coverage of the Wicked Game launch party by clicking here. You might even recognize some folks.




You can’t have a great con without great costumes. This wonderful gown was the height of European women’s fashion in 1537.



The con’s Saturday night parties opened with “Livers for Boobies”, a drinking contest to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The competition pitted writer Davey Beauchamp (in white, seated on the lap of artist Bryan Prindiville) against writer/editor Valerie Griswold-Ford (far right). We never did get to find out who could drink the most. Davey forfeited when he ducked out to the Wicked Game launch party once too often.



Jana photographs Jeri cutting the cake for the Wicked Game launch party. The logo on the cake was developed for WVMP, the radio station featured in the book. Wicked Game will be released May 13.



With the cake cut, the party ramped into high gear. I was sorely tempted to steal the WVMP t-shirt draped over the picture, but I was good.



Lee Gilliland, queen of the RavenCon con suite and wife of Hugo award-winning author Alexis Gilliland, goes for the gold. I didn’t even need a flash for this shot.



Whose panel is it anyway? Well, the panelists were (left to right) broadcaster Jon Stallard, writer Stuart Jaffe, Robot Battles co-creator Kelly Lockhart, Writer Guest of Honor C.S. Friedman and writer/editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail. But the audience set the topics under discussion.



Between one commitment and another, I didn’t get to attend any of fantasy icon Katherine Kurtz’s panels so I sat in on her Koffeeklatch, an informal one-on-one session held in the Crowne Plaza’s restaurant. The conversation touched on her husband, Scott, but I never twigged onto the fact her Scott was Scott Macmillan, the author and screen-writer who was also featured on my last panel of the day, “The popularity of the paranormal in both nonfiction and fiction”. Afterwards, both Scott (left) and Katherine (center) joined me for a photograph. It was the nicest possible cap to a wonderful con.

###

Contest!

Hi BtV fans!

Just a drive-by today to let you know I'm running my annual RT Booty Giveaway contest over on my web site. (I guess I could also call it The Great Mouse Hunt!)

There are pictures of the goodies on my blog. Prizes include a tote bag of RT swag, a box of free books, and a grand prize of an embroidered Samhain Publishing lap blanket and coffee mug.

Happy hunting! :)

Carolan

25 April 2008

Grilling Your Hero?

A.K.A. How to get it smoky and hot.

Winter is over, Spring is well and truly on it’s way and the pool, patio and garden beckon with tendril fingers of peace and tranquility. You simply know this is the time of year for sitting outside watching the sunset, the moonrise, your lover’s naked butt. It’s also the time to escape those regular chores of the kitchen and dump upon your hunky hunk the responsibility of providing the evening repast. Mainly through that tried and trusted method of heroic cooking passed down from manly man to manly man over centuries of masculine generations. But is he really qualified in haut BBQ cuisine? Does he know a patty from a party, a steak from a stake, or a kebab from a rehab?

Never fear, our special Agent Double D.3 has risked life, limb, food poisoning and smoke inhalation to bring you this exclusive report on how to assess your hero’s grill skill, so come on in and check it out now with Agent Double D.3’s special guide on Grilling Your Hero.

Agent Double D.3 reports :

1. Vampires: With this delicious hunk, grilling on the BBQ is something you need to approach cautiously. Firstly, most BBQ’s are done in the afternoon, full sunlight, bright and warm days. Something guaranteed to give your beau instant sunburn even before the first beer is popped. Then, if you go and mention you’ll be preparing stakes, I mean, steaks. Well, chances are you won’t be seeing your fella for a least a few centuries, if then. Best thing to do with this chipper lover is to go ahead and have your party while he’s hip deep in his beauty sleep. Then later, with a bottle of his favorite blood type handy, you can await, naked and smoking, for your after BBQ desserts.

2. Werewolves: We all know that werewolves are party animals, and what better way to party than to have barely cooked New York Strip while basking beside the pool in his new Hawaiian swim shorts. All you’ll need is salt, grill and loads of fresh meat, to stoke your beloved up and recharge him for a night of furrish delights. Hmm. Yes. Just one thing though. Avoid having a BBQ close to the full moon. Not that the damage would be permanent but, dammit, the only thing you want charred on the grill is the steak, and that fur is awfully flammable. Of course, if you’ve been wanting him to shave…

3. Ghosts: Mention BBQ to a ghost and he’ll probably be thinking of a five hundred pound pig slowly roasted over an open fire for, ooh, four or five days. Not that he’d think anything special about it anyway since that’s the way the kitchens always cooked in his day. Probably the best thing here is to quietly let him drone on about the banquets you know he used to hold in his old mansion, (when the French chef specially imported from Spain cooked that delicious Greek food.) Meanwhile set your brother, father, male friend up with the latest in portable gas gadgetry and get something decent on the grill. Trust me, there’s nothing more off-putting to a good pork chop than to see it staring at you with a soggy apple in its mouth.

4. Invisible men: Super scientific geniuses like invisible men are just simply terrific—except when it comes to cooking on the grill. Once they’ve managed to explain the simple processes of carbon/charcoal combustion, the increased rate of cancer forming agents in the cooked food and the resultant pollution to the atmosphere, we’ll finally get on to the relative merits of gas vs. charcoal and comprehensive design critiques as to which grill cooks best for what and where. Really, if you want a BBQ, just cook it yourself before he gets home. That way at least you’ll get to eat tonight.

5. Mermen: Overall mermen tend to be allergic to flame—something to do with having spent most of their time underwater. Still, if you throw them a good mackerel or salmon they tend to do a pretty nifty job in charring it to tender, tasty perfection. Oh, if you’re looking for a little after party teaser, don’t let them get too carried away with the water filled spray bottle. If it happens to blow in their face, well, they might have trouble getting things fin-nished…

6. Incubus: Okay I’ll only say this once. Put the Brats down and step away. I mean, it’s not like your incubus beloved has anything else on his mind, ever. So why give him ideas by presenting food to remind him of his favorite occupation. Hell, anything food-like will remind him of his favorite occupation. Just give up on it lass, take your clothes off, go to bed and wait for him there. You know you’ll end up there anyway so why waste the time? Just make sure to take a big tub of Godiva chocolate ice cream with you. You’re going to need some sustenance after all.

7. Djinn: Your Djinn lover will be the most inventive and excellent when it comes to grilling on the BBQ. Well, okay, so it won’t actually be him doing the cooking, but hey, if you can cast a spell and make a thousand servant slaves instantly appear and put on a feast fit for the Maharajah, wouldn’t you? So why complain, just pull up that gold plated chair, sit yourself down at the carved emerald table, and enjoy. Oh, make sure your hunk magics up a gas mask for you. Breathing the smoke from a hundred cooking fires can be hazardous to your health.

Agent Double D.3 report ends.

22 April 2008

Earth Day, Paranormal Style

While some were gallivanting around Pittsburgh with lusty cover models and the glittery romancelandia elite, yours truly has been cooped up inside with cranky children allergic to the blossoming spring and still yammering to get out, out, out. Never mind the itchy eyes, the dribbly noses, the sneeze after sneeze after sneeze. (Repetitive sneezing is personal pet peeve. Why isn’t one enough??) I also have to contend with an environmentalist sibling, who spends the month of April running amok with “Earth Day Every Day” tattooed on her forehead, harshing on my consumerist good times. We do pretty well at our particular ground zero, recycling like mad, taking our own shopping bags to market, driving a hybrid and eating low on the food chain. But I am sure we could always do more. Just ask my sister.

So, in honor of Earth Day and all those willing to get off their duffs to clean up this grimy planet we inhabit, I bring you…….saving the world, one paranormal romance at a time.

1. How about those aliens? What if, instead of coming to Earth to score with nubile young ladies, they were here to share awesome perpetual motion technology? They probably feel sorry for us, puttering around in our archaic combustion engines and drinking out of petrol-plastic.

2. We all know pixies have been hoarding special flying dust for ages. They could distribute it globally, you know, not just with badly-behaved hooligans who refuse to submit to parental authority. If we could fly ourselves around, we wouldn’t have gridlock or (as much) smog.

3. An elite new hazmat team is tackling the toughest environmental clean-up sites on the planet. Impervious to poisons and radioactivity and weirdly long-lived, these guys and gals are protecting our environment and seem like the ultimate heroes. There’s a catch, though: they’re vampires. And they expect to be paid in blood.

4. The ocean--the Earth’s final frontier. Long known as a renewable resource of algae and seaweed that could feed millions, it is also home to selkies, who would be the perfect seaweed and algae farmers. In fact, with their underwater instincts, a selkie scientist could probably figure out how to engineer a water-purifying algae that really puts the hurt down on aquatic pollution.

5. Powering our homes, appliances, factories, electronics and so on takes a lot of fossil and other fuels. While the aliens may or may not have shared their perpetual motion technology and the pixies eliminated our need for cars, we still have to turn on our computers. And this is where the ghosts come in. They emit special electrical fields that tend to make electricity in the vicinity to haywire, but only because we haven’t harnessed it! Employ them to hang out in reconfigured power plants and we can do away with many polluting power sources forever. Ghosts are, after all, an endless resource, as long as there are people.

6. Invasive species can play havoc with the natural order of things, such as the I-am-not-kidding feral camel in Australia (also feral goats), cane toads, wild boars or European starlings. Set the predatorial shapeshifters such as werewolves and weretigers loose with instructions to hunt! It will allow our hairy friends to get their fill of running and biting while helping out the environment. Just be wary when hunting cane toads--they may cause hallucinations.

7. Another source of energy in case the perpetual motion and ghost power plants don’t work out is geothermal. To produce electricity, one must tap extreme heat sources beneath the planet’s surface, a job demonkind is especially well suited for. Having toasted their hides (and souls) in the flames of Hades, installing and maintaining geothermal plants will be like vacations for them. We just have to convince their current boss to let them moonlight a little closer to the surface of the human dimension.

8. Despite the pixie dust allowing people to locomote without cars, it may still be necessary for some smog-producing vehicles or factories to exist. Dragons, with their fiery breath, could fly patrols that sear the smog right out of the air (such as in McCaffrey’s awesome Pern series), turning dangerous particles and pollution into harmless ash that fertilizes the forests and fields.

***

How do you think our paranormal friends could contribute to the Earth’s longevity? Aside from not continually trying to cause the end of the world, that is.

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--Available now from Samhain Publishing
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://meankittybox.blogspot.com

21 April 2008

RT Wrap Up

I spent the last week in Pittsburgh at the annual Romantic Times convention, where I got to hang out with some of my fellow BTV'ers, including Carolan Ivey, Gia Dawn, Kat Mancos, and SJ Willing. I think I'm safe in saying a good time was had by all! ;-)

I picked up a lot of great books and if I ever find time to read, I know I'll really enjoy them. LOL. I also got a chance to sign a bunch of books for folks who came by to see me at both the ebook signing and the big Saturday book fair. If you signed up to be invited to my newsletter list, I hope to get those invitations out in the next day or so. (If you want to receive my newsletter, you can always sign up to the list yourself by sending a blank email to BiancaDArcNews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com)

Speaking of which, my April newsletter is seriously overdue and will be out shortly. Just a few more finishing touches to put on it before I can release it into the wild. ;-) Which reminds me, I should be getting to work! I had a great time at RT and was happy to see so many folks there! Let's do it all again next year! :)

19 April 2008

Humming the tune from "Chicago"...

..."nobody's got no claaaaass..."

I don't normally do this, but today's blog post is over on my blog. I'm currently at RT 2008 in Pittsburgh, it's 1:30 a.m. and I'm beyond tired!

But I've got some things to say, and I couldn't sleep until I got it off my chest. Feel free to come back here and leave your thoughts in a comment. :)

G'Night!

18 April 2008

Ergot, Schmergot

Werewolves. Yummy, sexy werewolves. Unless, y’know, they’re the horrifying, monster, eat-your-face-off kind of werewolf.

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard about some of the origins of werewolves and lycanthropy. That whole moldy wheat scare in the Middle Ages that convinced some people they were wolves. Hey, did you know that Ergot is one of the base ingredients in LSD? Yeah, I’d hallucinate, too. That theory is actually pretty far out there. There’s no scientific, physiological basis for lycanthropy, which is derived from the Greek for lycos (wolf) and anthropos (man).

But aside from food poisoning or mental illness, how did the tales of men becoming wolves begin? That’s difficult to track. Humans and wolves have had intimate connections throughout history. Witness the tale of Romulus and Remus, raised by a she-wolf. Greek mythology gives us the story of Lycæon, who was cursed into a wolf’s form after serving Zeus a dish of human meat.

Stories of werewolves abound primarily in Europe and most of them are evil. No. Not just evil, but eeeeeeeeeevil. Malevolent witchcraft and grave mortal sin surround those who succumb to the wolf. For some, the change is involuntary, the result of a curse laid on them. For some, however, it’s a perfect cover for serial murder.

Not quite a werewolf tale because there’s no hint of human transformation, the story of the Beast of GĂ©vaudan tells of over 80 deaths in south-central France during the 18th century. The attacks are attributed to a monstrous wolf-like creature.

Seventh sons, sorcerers, drinking water from a wolf’s paw print, or wearing a belt made from a wolf’s hide are often noted as methods of becoming a werewolf. Also being a Christmas Eve baby in Russia, or certainly having parents who are werewolves will increase your chances of turning furry in the moonlight. Being bitten by a werewolf is a modern-day fiction, rarely found in older, more traditional legends.

The one exception in the old stories where werewolves aren’t pure evil comes from a 1692 trial of an elderly Livonian man named Thiess. Almost all the references I’ve found to this story seem to be direct copies of the information on Wikipedia, so take it with a gigantic salt lick. Anyway, Thiess claimed that werewolves were actually the “Hounds of God” – warriors who went down into Hell and did battle with the Devil and his minions. When they died, they were welcomed into Heaven for their services. He got ten lashes from the Inquisition for idolatry and superstition.

There are two medieval stories, both from around the same period, one French, one from Breton. The original story is probably Bisclavret, written by Marie de France in the 12th century, one of a dozen lais she wrote that were transformed into other tales. The Lay of Melion is Breton and relates to Arthur. In an earlier blog, I mentioned that Brittany has closer ties to Cornwall than France.

Bisclavret/Melion tells of a valiant and good knight who is married to a treacherous woman. The knight goes to hunt and the wife tricks him into revealing his secret. He’s actually a werewolf. From what I read, the stories don’t go into detail of how he became a lycanthrope. In Bisclavret, he needs to keep his clothing in a safe place or he can’t become human again. In Melion, there’s a magical ring that transforms him. As soon as the knight becomes a wolf and goes off to hunt, the wife steals the clothing (and in Melion, the ring, as well) and disappears. For years, then, the knight is condemned to wander as a beast of the forest.

Eventually, the king (Arthur, in Melion) goes out hunting and encounters this wolf. Melion/Bisclavret had been a friend of the king and goes to him in friendship. The king recognizes the strangeness of this and decides to keep the wolf as a companion. After some time, however, the estranged wife and her lover show up at the king’s court. The wolf goes mad, attacking the couple. In Bisclavret, he actually tears off her nose. The king, knowing that the wolf has never acted like this with anyone else, investigates and the evil-doers confess and tell where they’ve hidden the knight’s belongings. The wolf puts on his clothes and becomes human again. The wife and her lover are banished and in Bisclavret, all the wife’s children are born without noses.

The history of werewolves throughout the world is a gigantic study. Tales of lycanthropy differ from culture to culture and the modern version of werewolves differ significantly from the old horror stories. We’ve anthropomorphized them, made them more human and accessible. Indeed, we’ve made them heroes, but who can blame us? The ultimate alpha, that touch of animal lust. The shape shifter in all his forms is a romantic mystery we love to unravel.

16 April 2008

What to say?

Normally, I don't have a problem with finding something to say. My phone bill can attest to it, in fact, as can...well, anyone who's ever spoken to me.

Only...I'm finding it hard to know what to say today.

Part of my brain is still in Mama-mode...having a three week old will do that to you. I'll be sitting on the phone, and he'll do something...like, say...breathe...and I'll say "Oooh! Tha'ts the cutest thing ever."

Part of my brain is in writer-mode. I have a story this close to being finished, and it's writing itself in my head. I'm finding it hard to ignore the nattering of the characters as they clamour for their happily ever after.

Part of my brain is distracted by the springtime happening right outside my window. It's beautiful outside - sunny and shiny and...it even smells new and shiny out there.

And part of me is thinking "I have loads of laundry to do, and dishes, and I need to sweep the front step and..."

As a result, I have nothing really to say...except maybe I need to set myself some sort of schedule so each part of my brain can have a chance to do what it needs to get done...and

...oooh look...he smiled! I have to go stare at him awhile now...

Are You Hooked on Daytime Drama?

Go ahead. Admit it. You’re a daytime drama diva, aren’t you? Me? Not so much. At least not any longer. But I can understand the obsession.

Many women and, yes, some men are hooked on at least one daytime drama. Whether you enjoy watching a wealthy California family suffering through the pitfalls and scandals of the fashion industry (The Bold and The Beautiful) or following the never-ending marriages of Erica Cane (All My Children), you know the mesmerizing power of a soap opera.

When I lived in the United Kingdom for two years, I became addicted to The Young and The Restless. Why? I think the main reason was that I was often alone─the hubby was traveling and the kiddo was in school─and I had no other outlet. (This was before I started writing.) Also, I couldn’t find employment because I didn’t have a work visa. But then again, I have to admit that maybe I was hooked because I missed my home in America. The funny thing was…the dramas were a year behind, but I didn’t even realize it. Having never watched them back in the States, I had no idea that the shows I waited to see each day were old. But who cared, right? Right.

Here’s why. If I watched an episode of my favorite show today and one from over a year earlier, I’d bet the plotline would remain basically the same. We all know what I’m talking about. One of the leading ladies is in love with one of the leading men. That same man or woman will, no doubt, have had, or will have, a fling with one of the other leading characters. Isn’t it a well-known joke that, if the show is on the air long enough, every character will eventually marry almost every other character on the show? Although that used to mean every man with every woman, with the introduction of gay characters, now everyone can hook up.

Is this the main attraction of daytime dramas? To see who will get involved with whom? You know how it is. Since elementary school, the gossip of who likes what boy or girl has been one of our primary attractions. Even the reality shows are cashing in on our fixation with shows like High School Reunion. The thing about daytime dramas is simple. They realized this long ago and beat everyone else on to the punch.

Yep, I think I’m right on this one. What do you think? In fact, I’d go on with this theory except...my soap is on.





Beverly - http://www.beverlyrae.com/


Giggle, Gasp & Sigh with a Beverly Rae Romance



WAILING FOR LOVE - http://tinyurl.com/35hfxf

TOUCH ME - eBook at http://tinyurl.com/397k8j
In Paperback at http://tinyurl.com/2zand4 (Amazon.com)

14 April 2008

The Curse of Cancellation...and the Potential Cure


Nearly all of us have said it, “I don’t want to get attached to any show this season because the moment I do, they’ll cancel it” and with a great many shows that turns out to be true. First, it begs the question that if we’re all saying it, then we must all be losing the same shows, and if so many of us are watching, why are they going south? Second, short of sending the GNP of a small country to a network exec’s office, how do we stop it?

The elephant in the room on this issue is that Nielson Ratings aren’t an exact science and in truth aren’t being accurately interpreted to the desires of the viewing public. Studios and ad execs knew this for a fact the moment DVD sales reflected greater interest in shows than the weekly ratings would indicate. Viewers knew the fact of it when thriving online communities and all manor of fandom sprung up around shows the studios said were failing. But in the end no one can say it as billions in advertising are decided each year based on those weekly numbers nestled in your TV guide. The dollar speaks louder than the people, unless the people with the dollars step up and start a campaign to save a show and prove it’s marketable.

Jericho fans managed it by sending tons of peanuts to CBS demanding their show back. And it worked. The execs figured that anyone willing to spend so much on demonstrating their loyalty to the show would be the type of audience that advertisers would jump to get their hands on. Ad people jumped, studio people filmed and Jericho returned…for a single season. Where the fan support was obviously there, the Nielson numbers weren’t and ultimately that meant advertisers didn’t want to spend their money to support the (high) expense of the apocalyptic drama. Fans had the satisfaction of at least seeing a close to the chapter of Jericho we were introduced to in the pilot, but it was a short story where what we wanted was a series of novels. Fortunately, the future is on our side.

The recent writer’s strike covered many things, but the biggest point of contention was the internet. With shows available for direct download or to be viewed on the studio’s website, it has created an entirely new area of revenue. Writers wanted their fair share of web-based revenue the same way they get television and dvd revenue, and they should. Billions are being made with online advertising and the content of the shows were provided by the writers—a no-brainer from the outside huh? But there’s more to online content than the strike.

Web viewing and direct downloads come with commercials you can’t fast-forward over, making the online viewer a guaranteed set of eyes on the product. That means each and every download or site viewing is being closely monitored to help track sales increase. For the first time a real number, representing real people instead of a demographic is being used to determine how well a show is doing. For the first time, they’re actually paying attention to what we’re really watching. That doesn’t mean the target demographics game won’t continue. Soon the only way you’ll be able to view a show online will be by providing demographic information that’s fed directly back to advertisers. But I see that as a good thing. Because what it does mean is that for the first time the demographics will be truthful.

That information will enlighten advertisers that women of all ages watch sci-fi, so the extraneous breast shots meant to appeal to men 18-35 aren’t as necessary. Nor is the bombardment of video game and sporting ads. Women like these things to be sure, but the greater number of advertisers you can have for a show, the better the show will do, and if ad execs are targeting women, men, teens, viewers of color and the elderly all within the same show, studios can set prices that support shows for the long haul. On top of that more shows that are outside the box have a chance because they will seem less risky with real numbers of real viewers guiding ad decisions.

And the scariest concept of all? Readers will be able to directly influence the types of shows non-readers are watching. *Nod* Yep, we’re finally coming into power these next five to ten years.

The 21st century is when it all changes. And we have to be ready. (No, I couldn’t pass up the chance to quote Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood. A show whose DVD sales of the first season and online viewing may be what got it its third season and guarantees it a fourth.)

The Future Is Now Ramble Done

~X

11 April 2008

Dances With Cherry Blossoms


There’s no place like home--when your home happens to be Washington, DC. For all its faults--and they are legion, especially when the world’s most beautiful spring gives way to the world’s nastiest summer--there’s seldom a good reason to leave. Pick a spot, stand still long enough, and sooner or later the whole world will pass your way.

And you don’t have to pay a nickel for the show.

This time of year we indulge in a passion Washingtonians share with the Japanese: cherry blossoms. Our National Cherry Blossom Festival--the biggest outside Japan--features a parade with beauty queens and Muppets, cultural performances at the Tidal Basin, and a street fair with food, arts and crafts, and live performances (including J-Pop).

But that’s not all. Thanks to the Japanese Information and Culture Center (JICC), an office of the Japanese embassy, you can get up close and personal with some of the more unique featured performers.

On April 11, the JICC hosted two programs of traditional geisha dance and music from Tokyo’s Shimbashi district in their small auditorium. To honor the performers and please their American audience, the organizers allowed the singers and instrumentalists to share the stage with the four dancers. But in all other respects the dances followed geisha tradition, including the use of women to play men’s roles--the opposite of Kabuki.

The performers played two sets, each preceded by an introduction which shared such interesting trivia as how to tell the “boys” from the “girls” (the women playing men wore shorter kimono and fewer pins in their hair) and a little bit about each dance. Since I don’t understand Japanese, I couldn’t always connect the introduction and the individual dances. But it didn’t matter. I was perfectly happy to drool over the visuals. Their fan work was particularly dazzling, and I may be one of the three people on this side of the Pacific who actually likes shamisen music.

Afterwards, the performers posed for photos with audience members who were bright enough to bring cameras and camera phones. I didn’t, and I’ll be kicking myself for years. Americans seldom get the opportunity to see a full performance of traditional geisha dance performed in an intimate setting, and it’s not just a matter of mileage.

Because so few geisha remain (Wikipedia estimates their number between at under two thousand), their performances are usually limited to ozashiki parties, where the entertainment alone costs $350 per guest. And it’s just entertainment folks. Forget the World War II idea that geisha girl equals prostitute. Geisha are the top of the line as far as party entertainment goes. The ability to hire a geisha for your party is a mark of status more likely to earn you a polite thank you from the governor’s wife than a mention in Drudge Report.

I’d love to go to Japan and see geisha perform after a traditional kaiseki meal, while I sip the sake equivalent of single malt Scotch. But short of winning the lottery, I don’t see that happening any time soon. So I’m very grateful for the bennies that come from living a cosmopolitan city like Washington.

I’m also intrigued by the possibilities they present to a writer of fantasy. Are dancers, singers and shamisen players the only imports attending our Cherry Blossom Festival? What about the yokai and other supernatural creatures stowed away in their luggage? They don’t necessarily register on airport scanners. And who’s to say that all of them went home after the party’s over?
Not me, that’s for sure.



Art: Kitagawa Utamaro, The Flowers of Edo

Photo: Andrew Bossi, Cherry Blossoms in the Tidal Basin, 2006


10 April 2008

The Fallow Time

First of all, let me apologize to my fellow authors for not being as active on the blog as I should, but then again, that is the very reason I am writing this particular post.

I have turned off my chat-loops, cut out most of my e-mail, and have done the barest minimum I could get by with for several weeks now. I have been a virtual hermit (get it), taking a very much needed break from anything that even remotely resembles writing or promotion. I have hit the fallow time, that point in any endeavor when progress is slowed to a halt, the creative fields are iced under, and the seeds to be planted in the future wait dry and lifeless until the proper time.

As with all things, even our lives have differing seasons. The trick is to know what they are, and how to honor the gift each season brings--a difficult thing to do in this modern world of go, go, go, go, go. But to fight the seasons is to fight nature herself, a thing that even our most advanced technologies have yet to master. Nature will win in the end. She always has, she always will.

I haven't written a word for nearly two months. After the first week, I quite bashing myself over the head, let go of my guilt, and looked around for something to fill the time. Then I saw my poor neglected house. Sad, doesn't begin to describe the state of my humble abode. The floor tiles were cracked, the curtains and bookcases covered with dust, the laundry baskets filled to overflowing--and I hate to admit it, but when I reached the bottom of them, I found clothes I hadn't seen in over a year. Gah!

I hauled out my entire wardrobe, sifted through the piles, and sent half of it to the yard sale to benefit the local animal shelter. I can't tell you how many items I found with the tags still on that I had never even worn...you know, the things you buy on sale, well, because they were on sale. I ordered new carpet and had it installed...which required me having to pack up everything in the living room, again, quite a few items made it into giveaway boxes. I painted my front door a hot shade of Feng Shui red and added brand new gold curtains!

I cleaned out the pantry (you do not want to know how old some of the cans of food were), and bought a new comforter for the bed. I have read wildly and madly, book after book after book, replacing the well of imagination that I have recently let shamefully run dry.

And I have come to the conclusion that I am OK. I am well, and whole, and nearly ready to start anew. My house hums with its new-found elegance, my sons smile and invite all their friends over to see, and I feel as if I have cleaned out a part of myself along with the bulging closets.

Fallow times happen as the wheel turns round its axis. But there is beauty waiting, if one can slow down enough to find it.

Gia

09 April 2008

In print!

So my book The Strength of the Pack is now in print. I'm in Canada, so I haven't seen it here yet. But there have been reports here and there of sightings in bookstores, both Barnes and Nobles and Borders, in the States. I can't tell you how exciting that is for me!

And thank you, everyone, who has taken the time to let me know the book is out there. An especially big thank you to the one who took pictures of The Strength of the Pack in a bookstore. Needless to say, I had to post those photos on my blog!

Here's the blurb:

Seth Kolski, a werewolf, hides his heritage and passes for normal. Until he meets Jamie.

Book One of the Strength series.

Since his sister disappeared two years ago, Seth’s solitude has intensified. Despite his deep need to be part of a pack, he sets himself apart, wary of humans who fear the wolf in him.

When Seth hooks up with a crush from his past, loneliness and physical desire overcome his distrust. Jamie welcomes his attentions, albeit a little shyly, and Seth rationalizes they can have one night together before they part.

For Seth can never be part of a regular family. No normal woman is going to accept his freakish nature, nor his past violence. Especially a single mother determined to protect her family. However, Seth and Jamie’s bond runs deeper than he knows. He cannot return to the shadows. Yet exposure may bring danger to them all.

If you're interested, you can read an excerpt here.

06 April 2008

Editing!

This month's blog snuck up on me. Totally. I had nothing prepared and was stressing about it all week. I'm swamped with schoolwork, writing, work. Trying to find a permanent teaching job. Signing kidlet up for kindergarten, and remembering to call the doctor so I can get a copy of his shot records. There aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done, and I'm not one of those people who can give up sleep. I need my eight hours or I'm crabby all the next day.

Then my wonderful editor dropped the first round edits for The Ankh of Isis into my lap. It's okay, I'll just work on them during my scheduled writing time. And I figured I'd blog about editing.

Some writers hate editing. They hate revising, or rewriting, or whatever they call it. But I love it. I can't explain why, but I get a thrill out of taking something written and making it better. Polishing is what I live for. Maybe it's why I also like doing English Adaptations of translated books.

I think it's that once I have the whole first draft done, I have the whole picture in front of me. I can see where the mistakes are, and what needs to be put in focus. First drafts, on the other hand, are sometimes reminiscent of dental surgery without benefit of anesthesia. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. But they are slow, and long, and I can never get to the end quick enough, so that I can go back to the beginning.

And there's nothing more satisfying than finishing up with those last bits and finally being satisfied. I learn something new with each successive draft, and each successive book.

Of course, once you submit it, your editor comes back with their editoral letter, and you have to do it all over again, but hey, it's all good, right?

How I'd better get back to those edits so you all can read the book in July instead of August. ^_^

Make every day magical!

Christine

05 April 2008

Sprung. And a giveaway. (Updated with winner!)

Spring finally roared in last night, with rain, thunder, and an off-on-the-horizon light show that was beautiful to see. This morning the world is sparkly and clean, still cool enough that all the moisture hasn't turned to mugginess, and the sun has come out to shine.

We'll have more storms later today, but then that's what spring is about. Mercurial changes from cold to hot, dry to wet, shine to clouds. And at the end, the sun will always come out again.

This winter seems like it has been a long wait-for-the-sun. The house has needed one repair after another, my daughter seems like she's been sick more than well, and there've been too many days when the clouds of worry about this or that hovered overhead. Books I feel should be finished are not, and ones I want to start keep getting pushed back on the schedule.

But with spring everything seems fresh and possible again. The roof is finally replaced, the enless bathroom remodels almost done. It's been almost a week since someone sneezed or coughed, and I had time to sit and write every day for that same week.

And did I mention that outside, the sun is shining, and everything is sparkly, clean, and fresh?

So to celebrate this springing of spring, I'm giving away a copy of Hunting the Huntress. Comment here, or email me at ember @ embercase . com between now and 9am Monday to win.

Goodbye winter, and hello spring!

Update -
There ended up being 3 entries here on the blog, and another 8 via email.
The magic of the random number generator choose number 8 as the winner, and that was Tracy, who emailed in her entry.
Tracy I'm emailing you to ask your format preference - please check your inbox!

03 April 2008

The Wolf's Heart is available in print!



When a nosy reporter reunites with a werewolf in tycoon’s clothing, sparks fly and passions ignite. The burning question is, who’s taming who?


Investigative Reporter Elaine Westerbrook is determined to find the answers to the questions that haunt her. Plagued all her life by dreams of creatures that can’t possibly exist, she’ll do anything to get the information she needs, up to and including reigniting a fire with the deliciously mysterious Marcus Bei—a fire she thought extinguished long ago.


Marcus Bei fought tooth and claw to be an Alpha in the corporate world but it’s nothing compared to being Alpha of his pack. It’s lonely at the top as the Lupin of the Arizona werewolf pack, but that’s the price he’ll pay to keep his pack safe from his father and others like him. So when childhood sweetheart Elaine walks back into his life, his first instinct is to shove her right back out again. But Marcus can’t find the strength to push away the very thing his other half has been waiting for so long—his mate.


Together, Marcus and Elaine search for the truth and find out if they have a future in spite of a past threatening to tear them apart. Will Elaine run when she discovers what Marcus really is, or will she accept The Wolf’s Heart?





If you can't find it at your local bookstore, not to worry, just look for at one of the cyberplaces like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, which is what I usually have to do, seeing how I live in BFE, Louisiana. That part out of the way.. SQUEEEEE! I actually, saw it here at the book store in my home town, which is something of a minor miracle! Yes, I did the happy dance, and yes, they looked at me like I was nuts. Which is fine, because nuts are best when covered with chocolate.



I hope everyone has a good Friday and a wonderful weekend. And to those who've emailed me saying how much they like The Wolf's Heart, thanks so much! It means the world to me!



Jenna

02 April 2008

Puppies and Sensitive Tummies

(WARNING: Not for readers with sensitive tummies.)


I’m a dog person. I’ve always had at least one dog in my life since I can remember. I don’t really care what kind of dog I have as long as it has a good personality. However, having had dogs in my life, I know that, like people, they have their own idiosyncrasies. But I have to say shih-tzus are the worst.

I’ve owned three shih-tzus and each one has eaten anything and everything in sight. The first one, Wiggles, ate nuts and bolts. Not the edible fruit, mind you, but actual steel nuts. Did this bother his stomach? Not a chance. Instead, he’d simply consumed whatever pen we mistakenly left lying at the edge of the coffee table. Wiggles finally passed away from arthritis-related problems, but his stomach was as solid as ever.

Maxie, our next shih-tzu, joined us about two years ago. Unlike Wiggles, Maxie had a less refined pallet. Instead of hardware, his taste ran toward─how shall I say this politely?─the excrement of others as well as his own. We tried all the vet’s recommendations, but none turned him off the stuff. Instead, we simply resigned ourselves to following him around whenever he went outside and picking it up before he had a chance to ingest it. But did his odd craving upset his tummy? Not on your life.

Then came the latest shih-tzu, Sammy. Sammy is a recent addition to our home and he fits right in with Maxie and our poodle, Lady. After seeing what Wiggles and Maxie had consumed, we weren’t worried when Sammy began eating sticks, leaves and even the bark off the trees. We figured his stomach was as lead-lined as his “brother’s” tummies.

Boy, were we wrong. When everything Sammy ate started coming out the other end─and not in a good way, if you get my drift─we headed to the vet. As predicted, they told us to keep him from enjoying nature so much. We tried, but the pup simply persisted in putting something in his mouth whenever he explored the backyard. And the problem on the opposite end kept on coming─again, if you know what I mean.

As the problem continued, the vet began looking for other causes. Medicines for parasites and symptom relief were prescribed. And, for awhile, it looked as those actually worked. But then the problem came back.

At last, the vet decided tests were in order. Blood was drawn and stools examined. The vet warned me. Sammy could have a vitamin or protein deficiency. Further tests might be required. After sending the blood work out for testing, the highly anticipated results came in. Sammy was perfectly healthy. The diagnosis? The puppy has a sensitive tummy. Can he eat regular dog food? Nope. Can he eat the premium dog foods sold in the pet stores for those canines with stomach ailments? Uh-uh. Instead, Sammy has to live on a prescription dog food diet. Which, as you can probably guess, ain’t cheap. Hey, I love Sammy. I do. And he’s totally worth it. But prescription dog food? Oh, my.

So what’s the point of my story? Simple. If you ever buy a shih-tzu, be prepared for that one-in-a-million pup who isn’t a four-legged garbage disposal. Instead of putting aside money for your child’s college education, start putting aside enough for fancy food.

Beverly
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Beverly Rae
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