31 May 2009

New Book!

Huh, how about that? My monthly posting here coincided exactly with my posting at the Samhain blog. So I'm here and there today.

Things are still crazy here at my house, but a little better. I survived the Book Fair (though my checking account is lighter), and there's only 2 and a half weeks of school left. Summer semester has started, but it's not too bad just yet. I'm nearly done applying to Grad School - just have to wrap up some loose ends, like taking the GRE's. Yanno, I don't get the reason behind that test - does it really matter if I can do 8th grade math if I'm not getting a Masters in Mathematics? Half of the battle is logically eliminating the answers that don't make sense, I guess. And there are only three baseball games left in my son's season. Almost time to relax.

In the midst of all this chaos, The Ankh of Isis has been released in paperback! I'd almost forgotten how much fun it was to write this book until the author's copies showed up on my front porch. Ankh is the second of the Library of Athena series, and life is getting better for Megan Montgomery. She's adapted to her new school, has new friends, and is looking forward to a relaxing Easter holiday. The only fly in the ointment is the arrival of her father's business associate, which means Megan has to play hostess. When the man arrives, he brings with him his handsome teenaged son, and Megan is charmed. It is only when the boy's father starts asking too many questions that she begins to be suspicious, and eventually they all wind up inside another of Sir Gregory Archibald's enchanted books.
Just as with The Crown of Zeus, I did a ton of research for this book - at some point in my life I think I wanted to be an archaeologist, and Ancient Egypt has always fascinated me. I'm glad I chose a different path, though - I hate the heat. I would never have survived digging in the desert :). It's just as much fun to write about, though!
And who knows, once I get that Masters in Library Science, maybe I can go work at a museum or something. You can read an excerpt of The Ankh of Isis here.
Hopefully next month, I'll have news about the third book in this series! It's with my fantabulous editor now, and I'm chewing my nails in anticipation!

30 May 2009

Fictional Real Life

Facing demons, uncovering long buried secrets, battling shadowy monsters that haunt childhood. No, I’m not talking about my latest novel. I’m actually talking about the emotional results of writing a novel.

It isn’t something writers talk about much, but it happens all the time. Writing fiction is a deeply personal experience that somehow draws on memories, experiences, feelings the writer may not even know are there.

When I wrote my first novel (cough, cough) years ago, I knew very little about repression. But I’m here to tell you: repressed memories are real. And not everybody recovers those memories with the help of a hypnotist with an agenda. For me, all it took was writing a novel. And those flashback-inducing events from my early childhood sure as heck aren't fiction.

You’d think, after that I’d have found something less stressful to do, like brain surgery or air traffic control. Turns out, writing fiction is an addiction. Before long I was at it again.

Over the years I wrote characters that I felt were less like me. When I wrote Shadows of Evil, I thought Kia Wolfe was the least like me of any heroine I’d ever written. I was actually quite proud of that. Then one day my husband made a comment, “You know Kia is you.” My first reaction was to laugh. “That’s ridiculous,” I told him. “There is not enough money in the world to make me move into a haunted house by myself.” But then he listed the similarities: stubbornly independent, struggling to find her place in the world, difficulty with allowing help from friends, in love with a handsome man (okay, I threw that in, but it’s true). So, I had to accept the situation.

Then there’s the manuscript I’m currently working on. The plot is unlike anything I’ve personally experienced, but I’m beginning to understand how a fictional situation can be a metaphor for the writer’s life. I eventually gave in to the inevitable and began to consciously use my experiences to bring the characters to life.

Is this a bad thing? Obviously pulling up old wounds has the potential to be harmful. Writers and other creative people are famously prone to depression, substance abuse, and even psychosis. But those are the instances we hear about, that make the news or that become part of the lore surrounding the lives of famous people.

There is the other side, though, the optimistic side. Most writers handle the emotions and memories that writing brings to the surface without benefit of alcohol, drugs, or psychiatric crisis. In fact, for a lot of writers, lessons learned from their characters are beneficial to them. For me, for instance, learning that I wasn’t showing emotion in my characters led me to the knowledge that I hid my own emotions a lot of the time. Being more open with my feelings has benefited my relationships with my friends and family.

There’s a benefit for the reader too, fiction that is grounded in real-life events and emotions is stronger and more realistic — even if the fictional events and real-life events are worlds apart.

I would like to say one more — very important — thing. If you're having a hard time emotionally, whether provoked by writing or not, please don’t be afraid to get help. I’ll be seeing a therapist next week. I want to be able to play in my fictional worlds for a long time, and if that means admitting I have problems I can’t handle alone, so be it. I go to my doctor for my high blood pressure without shame, I’ll go to my therapist the same way.

27 May 2009

New Release!

I'm thrilled to announce my 4th release with Samhain. Obsession is a romantic suspense but its more about two people finding their way back to each other. I really love reunion stories, how about you?

I must post the warning about this story though: This book does not come with a box of Kleenex, so please grab one before you start reading. Contains two people struggling to learn to love again along with graphic sex, explicit violence and realistic language. And some very hot cops.

Here's the blurb:

A killer’s obsession could destroy their second chance for love.

Only a year ago, Officer Alex Juran and his wife Tess had it all. Love, a solid marriage and a baby on the way. Then in one heartbeat they lost everything.

Now, Tess is doing her best to move on. She has a thriving business and while she may be lonely at times, she’s proud of the new life she’s built without Alex.

Two days before their divorce is final, Alex is shot in the line of duty and left for dead. He faces a difficult recovery so Tess finds herself postponing the divorce and offering to care for him until he can live alone again.

At first, cohabitation is little more than combat. Alex’s incapacitating injuries, the looming divorce, and his inability to remember who shot him have him lashing out at the nearest target: Tess. When someone begins stalking her, he suspects his shooter has returned. Convinced that Tess is in danger, Alex becomes desperate to recover his strength.

Because no matter how much she’s hurt him in the past, they’ve been given a second chance—and he’ll do anything to protect his wife.


Alex opened his eyes and blinked several times, but nothing came into focus except the woman standing at the foot of the bed.

At first he thought he was dreaming. Why would Tess be here? And why was she crying? Then he saw his leg hanging in the air and wrapped in bandages. Something beeped behind his head and the memory of being shot came racing back, yet strangely he seemed disconnected from it.
Against his will his eyes closed, the exhaustion pulling him under.

When he awakened again he had no idea how much time had passed. He looked for Tess, but couldn’t find her. Had she been just a dream? Was this his hell, seeing Tess but not being able to touch her? If so, he’d been living it for months.

Something tickled his arm but he couldn’t move his head to look, so he shifted his gaze to the right. She was sitting in a chair beside him, her cheek resting on the sheets, her bright red hair trailing over the bed to touch his arm. His hand was curled in hers and she was caressing the back of it with her thumb.

“Mrs. Juran?”

Tess turned her head to look behind her and the ends of her hair grazed his hand. His fingers moved—slightly at first, then with more strength. He stared hard at them, willing them to move, and soon he was clutching her hair.

“We need you to step out for a moment,” someone said.

The words dragged his attention to Tess’s face.
Her hand slid from his but when she tried to stand, his hold on her hair pulled her back. She tugged it free. He forced his fingers to close over the few strands that remained.

“Can I stay a little longer?” she asked.

“I’m sorry, but no.”

Tess turned back and kissed his temple. Her hair fell in his eyes and the strawberry scent of her shampoo surrounded him. “I’ll be back,” she whispered in his ear.

He tried to reach for her, to grab her hand, but she disappeared before he could get his muscles to work.

Buy link

25 May 2009

New Release - Scythe by MK Mancos

What started out as a short intro for a creative writing class I took back in 2003 ended up being the jumping-off point for a novel. This happens to me quite often. I'll sit down and start riffing on something that's just so eager o pound its way out of my head and the next thing I know it's a fully realized book with a contract and kick-ass cover.

The original short story was done in first person narrative and titled, My New Career. What a cleary suckworthy titled, and first person? What was up with that? But I loved the idea and knew somewhere in the character's future was a love interest rife with complications. Because I mean, let's face it - it ain't easy dating someone so directly related to the Agent of Death. And where else but a dark paranormal comedy could I introduce two of New Jersey's biggest sci-fi geeks in a hot romance and have it make complete sense?

In all honesty, I have to say this book was a kick to write, because I did pour my love for sci-fi, comic books and wisecracks onto the page with relatively few filters.

*sigh* Sometimes ya just gotta love being a writer.

Here's some blurbage for your reading pleasure.

A hot chick. A golden blade. Dead bodies. It’s enough to make a cop crazy.

Keely Montgomery doesn’t spend much time thinking about death. She’s too busy working toward a Ph.D. in social work—her ticket out of a low-rent apartment in a New Jersey urban center. Until an angelic courier delivers a scroll from the Office of Death and Dismemberment that could take her career down a new path—as one of Heaven’s Holy Assassins.

Her? Become a Scythe? No thanks, not interested. But she underestimates how persistent Heaven can be.

Detective Josiah Adler has seen a lot of weird things during his time on the force. A hot blonde wielding a golden blade, standing over a string of dead bodies? That’s a new one. So is the fact that her grisly deeds leave no blood or marks on the bodies.

The woman’s effect on his libido is another new development. One that leaves him no choice but to nail her before she kills again. And before his heart no longer stands a chance…

Warning: Contains wise-cracking heavenly bodies, sci-fi geekery and a bulldog named Pugsly.

Scythe by MK Mancos available now from Samhain Publishing.


22 May 2009

Another cliffhanger!?!?

It seems to be part of the television industry code for writers: "If you create a cliffhanger, they will return."

Honestly, it's true, but the initial reaction I've been having lately is one of extreme annoyance. TWO of my favorite show have ended their seasons with an unfinished storyline. Possibly more since I've missed a few episodes of others and we don't TiVo.

For SUPERNATURAL it was the tantalizing picture of Dean and Sam standing there, watching as the supreme evil being rose from the earth. For CRIMINAL MINDS it was when one of its leads came face-to-face with a masked gunman. Final sound: a gunshot, then fade to black. A very effective device, btw, and one I was not expecting in the least.

Besides wanting to throw the remote, a part of me wondered if the television industry thinks we are really that fickle? Do they really believe we won't return to a program unless there's a mystery we have to solve? At first I think 'NOT!'...but then the writer in me overcomes the viewer. Um, yeah, I do see the value in keeping fans on the edges of their seats. Doesn't mean I have to like it. ;)

Back to SUPERNATURAL, which is somewhat my guilty pleasure. Both Jared Padalecki (Sam) and Jensen Ackles (Dean) are extremely good-looking -- and much-younger-than-me guys. My favorite character? Dean. Definitely. Add to that the entire realm of supernatural boogeymen (and women), a rockin' soundtrack, and lots of gore... It's not a show I watch with the family. My kids don't like the blood and my dh isn't a big paranormal buff. So this show is mom's time. My little escape. And now I have to wait months to find out just how these two characters will defeat Satan? Ugh!

Well... let's keep this in perspective. As a writer I do understand the inclination to leave people hanging. You want to keep them reading; to keep them watching; to keep them wanting and needing more. I suppose part of my annoyance comes from distant past and such moments as when DALLAS fans raced to their televisions for that first season episode after another season explored who killed Bobby Ewing... only to see Pamela waking up to find Bobby in the shower... alive and well once again. A dream? Are you freaking serious?!?!?

But a cliffhanger done well is a whole other animal. For television, it works -- it annoys, but it works. However, I'm sure I would never use such a device at the end of a book. That just seems too cruel.

Hmmmm, then again...

21 May 2009

Anyone Want Some Free Reads?

Long, long ago, before blogs were a twinkle in any author's eye, I maintained a genre fanzine called the Science Fiction Romance Newsletter. In that fanzine, I attempted to start a pick-a-path science fiction romance story, but it didn't get very far off the ground. The germ for that story has since been transformed into a book named MEGAN'S CHOICE (http://www.jodywallace.com/books/meganschoice.htm), still with the interactive structure, and is for sale at Red Sage--but that's not what I’m here to talk about today.

A few of the BTV authors were discussing the lapses in motivation and creativity that can strike authors on occasion. We came up with the idea to attempt a pick-a-path here at BTV. Authors like Jess Granger are having great fun with similar writings (check out her Ethel the Space Pirate: http://www.jessgranger.com/fun-stuff/ethel-1), and there is always the excellent Choose Your Own Romantic Adventure by author Christina Crooks: http://www.christinacrooks.net/cyora.html. In 2008 I participated in a Round Robin with a group called the Manuscript Mavens: http://www.ericaridley.com/download_rr-08-valentine-romance.php and I could have sworn there was a zombie round robin floating around somewhere, but Google isn't cooperating for me right now so I can't link to it.

To initiate the pick a path, I think we'll start by introducing you to our female protagonist, but the rest is up in the air, including the subgenre. What would you, the BTV readers, like to see as additional elements in our serial fiction? Here are some paranormal staples to consider:

Epic fantasy
Magic users
Immortals (like Highlander!)
Futuristic setting/technology
Time travel
Superheroes/Mutants/Genetic alterations

It may be that several BTV authors participate in the round robin, and it may be that only one or two of us post chapters on a regular basis. Either way, at the end of each new scene, you'll have a chance to select one of three directions for the next scene in a poll in the sidebar. After a preset time, the poll will be taken down and someone will compose the next scene. We have worked together before as writers when we put together the free anthology DUNVEGAS (http://carolanivey.com/dunvegas/), and I look forward to the creative experiences to come!

Please voice your preferences in the comments (including potential authors) or there's no telling what I'll pick.

Jody W.
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Now In Paper, Samhain Publishing
LIAM'S GOLD--In Electrons, Samhain Publishing

19 May 2009

Shameless Balticon Promotion

I’m going back on con time this weekend. From Friday to Monday, May 22-25, you’ll find me at Balticon, Baltimore’s premier science fiction and fantasy con, held over the Memorial Day Weekend at the Hunt Valley Marriott. I hope you’ll check it out. And if you’re looking for me in particular, here’s where you’ll find me:

Friday, 6 p.m.
Humor in Science Fiction and Fantasy - Panelists will help you see the humor you may have missed in the work of Charles Stross and others. They will also look at the history of humor in the genres from Feghoots to the present. Panelists: Tom Doyle, Grig Larson, James Daniel Ross and Jean Marie Ward.

Saturday, 3 p.m.
Television Science Fiction and Fantasy – Admit it, you love it. But it makes you feel so guilty in the morning. Panelists: Dale Arnold, Brenda Clough, Thomas Horman, Elaine Stiles and Jean Marie Ward.

Saturday, 7 p.m.
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading – Six of Balticon’s featured women writers bring you into their worlds with six-minute readings from their newest fiction. (I plan to read my latest, “Lord Bai’s Discovery of Bacon”. The editor who asked for it will be in the audience. Be afraid. Be very afraid.) Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Roxanne Bland, Kelly A. Harmon, Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward and Trisha J. Woolridge.

Sunday, 4 p.m.
Reading as Exploration - Tell us about books you have explored recently or those you remember from the past. Panelists: David Glenn Anderson, Robert R. Chase, Darrell Schweitzer, Jean Marie Ward and Martin Morse Wooster.

18 May 2009

Big News & New Releases!

First, I have some really good news: It looks like I'll be writing for Kensington! I've been offered a spot in an upcoming anthology. The book will feature two stories - one by me and one by the lovely and talented Zoe Archer. The kicker? Both of the stories feature zombies! Yes, you heard that right. Zombie romance stories.

In my case, my hero is not a zombie. He's the spec ops warrior they call in to hunt the zombies. ;-) So my story is set in the contemporary world. Zoe's is an historical zombie romance. Cool, huh? The anthology will be coming out from Kensington's Brava line in January 2010. When I know more, I'll be sure to pass it on.

In the meantime, I'd like to mention my new releases. In print this month, we have Jaci's Experiment. It's part of my futuristic menage Resonance Mates series and it seems to be available now on Amazon. (Though technically, it wasn't supposed to be out until June. Oh, well.) Here's a little bit about it:

Love... the grandest experiment of all.

As a young Alvian lab tech, Jaci knows her place in the orderly, emotionless society her race has established on the planet Earth. While preparing a batch of experimental skin patches, she is accidentally exposed to a gene-altering agent. In a matter of days, she's assaulted with raw, primitive, forbidden emotions she has no clue how to handle. If her superiors find out, she's a dead woman. Her only hope is to seek help from the human test subjects held captive in pens below the city.

Before the aliens came, cousins Mike and Dave used their psychic abilities to their advantage in business dealings. Now they use them to stay alive, keeping a sharp telepathic eye out for ways to help themselves and others improve their lot.or escape. Their friendship with Jaci has always been more than simply captives and caretaker. Now that her DNA has changed, their shared resonance is the stuff of legend. Inevitably, Jaci's emotions expose her to deadly Alvian justice. Suddenly she's in the race of her life, seeking the only safety she's ever known... in the arms of her human Resonance Mates.

Next, I'd like to share a little about my upcoming ebook title, Inferno. This book will be available in print in 2010, but you can read the ebook version on June 30th. It's the long-awaited sequel to Lords of the Were and tells the vampire Dante's story.

Don't you just love that cover? It's another Anne Cain masterpiece! The story is mostly a menage, though it ends up as a devoted m/f couple at the conclusion, so be forewarned. It picks up where Lords of the Were ended, following Dante and the fey knight Duncan's progress. They've gone to New York to enjoy some nightlife and then a lone wolf bitch enters their sphere.

She's been sent to spy on Dante, but even more foul attempts to kill him are afoot. When hellfire and magefire start flying in their direction, the three must work together to stave off evil from entering this realm.The book will be out in eformats from Samhain Publishing on June 30th. For more information as it becomes available and to read the full blurb, visit my website at http://www.biancadarc.com/.

Until next time,

15 May 2009


Snake haired, fanged furies of Greek myth. Popular mythology concentrates on Medusa, but there’s much more to these ladies than we learn from monster movies.

In fact, there’s some doubt as to whether there are one or three of them. And if there are three, why are two immortal (Sthenno and Euryale) and poor Medusa the only mortal?

The tales of one Gorgo come from the oldest myths, told by the poet Homer. The head of the Gorgo was taken to form the aegis of the shield of Athena. Even Euripides believed in only one monster. It’s Hesiod who transformed the tale to include three sisters, the daughters of Phorkys and Keta. He portrayed them with snakes and fangs, but Aeschylus gave them wings.

The early Classical poets agreed on one thing. The Gorgons were horrible to observe. Some of the images were incredibly creepy. It wasn’t until the later Classical period that poets and artists humanized Medusa from a monster to a beautiful, but cursed woman.

So back to my original question. How do you end up with two out of three immortal daughters? Wicked bad luck, is what I’m thinking.

Mortal Medusa was a beauty, the stories say. Some believe that she compared her beauty to that of Athena. We’ve already seen how that works out. *cough*Arachne*cough* But others feel that her fate can be laid at the feet of another god. One who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Medusa was a servant of Athena, but the great sea god Poseidon was enchanted by her beauty, so he seduced her in Athena’s temple. The virgin goddess turned her eyes away in horror, then punished Medusa by turning her lovely hair to snakes.

WTH?!? Girl has sex, so you turn her into a monster? Wow. That’s some seriously messed up logic (as well as a seriously uptight and repressed goddess), but Medusa’s tragedy doesn’t end there.

Now she’s even more super special than just being the gorgeous daughter of gods. No. Now she can turn men to stone with a glance because they’re so filled with dread at her hideous appearance.

See, now she’s a weapon, and we know how gods and warriors and heroes get all excited about new weapons. King Polydektes had challenged Perseus to bring him the head of the Gorgon, so he set off on his heroic quest, aided by Hermes, Athena (traitor!) and Hades.

The Graiaie guarded the cave where the Gorgons slept, but they had only one eye between them. Perseus stole the eye and bargained it for entrance to the cave. He used the reflection of his polished shield to find Medusa and cut off her head with one stroke.

However, in her death, Medusa gave birth to new life. The winged horse Pegasus and the giant Khrysaor sprang from her death-wound.

Perseus then brought her head back to his enemies, flying over Libya to get home. As he flew, drops of the Gorgon’s blood fell to the sand, creating fatally poisonous vipers in the desert there.

Medusa’s head was used to vanquish armies as well as the odious Polydektes, then turned over to Athena as the centerpiece for her aegis.

The End. *sniffle* She picked the wrong guy and died for it. No HEA for our girl Medusa.

But...could there be? I’ll let you know when I finish writing my current story, inspired by Medusa’s tale.

13 May 2009

Killing off Mom

Mother’s Day was this past Sunday - Happy (belated) Mothers Day, to all the moms!

Instead of writing this morning, I started to think about mothers in the books I write. I was chagrined to realize there aren’t any.

In Hunting the Huntress, my first release, the heroine’s mother was not in the book. In my next release, Flawed, coming out June 30th (shameless plug) the mother is dead, and the father has remarried to a pretty horrible woman.

In the Christmas novella I just finished, the heroine is an orphan. Sorry Dad, looks like you got to die this time too. She spent several years in the foster care system, so may have had some decent mother figures, but if she did they didn’t make it onto the page.

My current work in progress? You probably saw this coming – the mother is dead. She died before the first page, and rather painfully. It may have made her death a bit easier to know her daughter tried desperately to save her life.

Even in the first book I ever finished, the wretched space opera I’ve since re-titled Cliche on Planet Nine, the mother was dead.

So what does this all say about me, and my mother? Nothing at all, I hope! My mother is a remarkable woman, who I love very much. I think we have a pretty normal mother-daughter relationship. She has supported me in pretty much everything I’ve ever done. I can’t remember that she has even once tried to tell me to play it safe, even though I know some of my ideas and efforts must have made her clench her teeth as she looked the other way.

And she always, always encouraged me to go for my dreams. Her quiet support gave me the confidence I needed to take chances and try things even when the odds were long for success. Things like writing.

So why have I killed off all the mothers in my books? It wasn’t ever a conscious decision. In three years of writing I never thought about it until this morning. As a writer I look for ways to give my characters hard times to learn from, tragedy to overcome, situations that force them to question everything they know and come out a better, stronger person. I guess maybe it speaks to some dark, hidden corner of my mind that I think losing a mother would be one of the hardest losses to face, and not one I want to even think about in my own real life journey.

So to all the moms I have killed of in writing, I am sorry. I’ll have to find a new source of pain to inflict on my heroines, since I sure don’t want to become predictable. And the next mother I write? I’ll try to make sure she is every bit as wonderful , loving, and alive as my own.

11 May 2009

Everything Old is New Again

Star Trek was the number one movie in the country this weekend, raking in 76.5 million domestically, according to box office mojo. I think that warrents yet one more weigh-in on the subject. :)

In the new film, J. J. Abrams breathes new life into the long standing Trek Universe, taking us back to glimpses of Kirk and Spock as children and the paths that led them to Starfleet Academy. The reimagining efforts of Abrams balances making the franchise fresh and exhilarating while still remaining true to the characters and kind of stories that Star Trek has always tried to tell.

Like Batman Begins, Superman Returns and The Incredible Hulk before it, the setting and players in Star Trek are familiar yet wholly updated and relevant to the moment, engaging the audience completely, introducing the new viewer in a roller coaster of action, drama, comedy and emotion, while still being a comfortable fit and enduring new legacy for the avid trekker.

Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk, lived up to the name without becoming the caricature of the original, but the show clearly belonged to Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban as Commander Spock and Chief Medical Officer “Bones” McCoy respectively. Where Pine in part had to make Kirk his own in order to shed the shadow of Shatner, both Quinto and Urban needed to remain faithful to the delicate balance of personalities that made up Spock and Bones both in the original series and the big screen excursions of the original cast. The stepped up to the challenge beautifully!

Zachary Quinto was a fearless combination of logical, almost smug, Vulcan, and vulnerable yet extremely confident and competent human, while Karl Urban was a flawless blend of the ever grumbling, yet loveable curmudgeon and still grumbling fiercely loyal friend. There was not a single misstep from first line to last, and for every second I believed it.

But this is more than an uber-positive (yet non-spoiler-y) review for the new Star Trek, it’s a celebration of the possibilities to come.

In the last decade nearly everything from my childhood and young adulthood has been placed on the storyboard to come to the big or small screen again, much of it in the next three years alone. G.I. Joe will be out soon, so will V, (you all remember V right?), and Wonderwoman is still greenlit but without a title character confirmed last I heard. After that, everything from Misfits of Science to Manimal has been pitched and had someone say, “let me think about it”.

Will we see everything again? Surely not, (I’m still in denial that a few shows ever existed), but we will see a great deal. What favorite are you hoping will come to screen soon and what do you hope forever rest-in-peace?

P.S. I did not overlook the performance of Zoe Saldana as Lt. Uhura. She was strong, brilliant and genuinely likeable in a way that I hope made Nichelle Nichols proud. John Cho was an enduring and crush-worthy Sulu, while Anton Yelchin was an adorable and instantly likeable Chekov. As for Simon Pegg's Scotty...I smiled from the first moment he was on screen to the last. I simply can’t say everything I’d like about their performances without throwing in spoilery bits on character interaction, and I wouldn’t do that to you guys. *grin*

"Star Trek is Full of WIN Ramble" Done


09 May 2009

Uppity Women: Mongolian-Style

Some days I just love my job.

I’m currently writing the text for a how-to art book featuring the wonderful art of Rafi Adrian Zulkarnain. The process is a little different than I’ve used before. Instead of writing the text all at once, like I did for Illumina: The Art of J.P. Targete, the editor feeds me a batch of roughly thirty paintings at a time. This time, she also asked me to come up with names for four characters: two armored knights on horseback, a Persian horse soldier and a Mongolian horsewoman.

Naming the knights was pretty straightforward. Every fantasy writer whose ever lived has a “McAncient McEurope” Tolkien rip-off buried in the basement somewhere. This was the perfect opportunity to squeeze something useful out of mine before consigning it to the recycle pile.

The Persian horseman was a little more challenging, but taking one name from the Wikipedia list of usual suffixes and another from a linked list of common Farsi names did the trick. History International’s Ancient Discoveries program on Persia added enough back story for an interesting commentary, and voila, another completed caption.

Then I came to the Mongolian horsewoman. I thought I knew where this was going. One of the short stories I’m working on involves a young Mongolian woman, a dragon and a very bad man (who’s not bad in a good way) in Genghis Khan’s Mongolia. Seemed like a perfect way to snag a little free advertising. But Setseg, the name I’d chosen for my heroine, wasn’t enough. It would’ve been like stopping at Firouz for the Persian horseman. The horsewoman needed a family name.

So back to Wikipedia I went in search of Mongolian women’s names. The names of the modern Mongolian women listed were either too distinctive or borrowed from their non-Mongolian spouses.

Then, somehow, I landed on a page discussing the female relations of Genghis Khan. It seems his niece Khutulun was such a great warrior, she could “ride into enemy ranks and snatch a captive as easily as a hawk snatches a chicken”. She amassed a personal fortune of over ten thousand horses by challenging all prospective suitors to a wrestling match. The loser had to pay the winner a hundred of their finest horses. She never lost. She never married either, though throwing a match wouldn’t have been hard if she’d had a mind to.

Not only had I'd found the right name for Rafi's painting, I'd found an inspiration. If ever there was a woman tailor-made for a butt-kicking chick, Khutulun is it. What endears her to me even more is I suspect she’s the reason Mongolian wrestling matches are conducted in the semi-nude. In a National Geographic special on Mongolia I saw in January, anthropologist Wade Davis noted the custom of men displaying their muscles in shirtless bolero-style jackets and wrestling bare to the waist originated in the 12th century, when a woman snuck onto the lists undetected. Yep, it’s the right time period, and knowing Khutulun, I suspect she whupped their butts.

But this isn’t enough. I have to know more. With any luck, at least part of what I discover will make its way into a story. But even if it doesn’t, what other profession would spring for the initial research?

Like I said, some days I just love my job.

08 May 2009

The Final Frontier - Star Trek...Is it worth the hype?

First star to the right...

Or maybe not. This isn't your mother's or grandmother's Star Trek. No, it's the Star Trek for the technological generation. No, I'm not going to talk about the plot because I don't want to spoil it for everyone who plans to see it tonight. But...

Remember those old favorites with the cheesy one-liners? They're still there...younger, more innocent...but every bit as dynamic with the characteristics those of us who watched the original Captain Kirk loved.

The acting is OMG!! The sheer scope of taking original Star Trek characters and bringing them to life while being true to the essence of them is daunting, but they managed it. Oh yes, they did. Of course, I could be biased. I've had Chris Pines as the face of one of my heroes for years and always told my friends he was under-estimated. He certainly pulled out all the stops on this one!!

Anyway, how do you top the original? Simply put, you don't...and the writers here knew that. You can't improve upon an iconic show, but you can remake it for another age. Transformers, Terminator, Witch Mountain...and countless others. It seems to be the thing for Hollywood these days. But this time, I think they really did it right.

Now is the time to impart a little tiny bit of advice. Yes, grab that popcorn and soda - but don't guzzle it down lest you find yourself waiting for that inevitable lull in the middle where you can excuse yourself without missing anything pertinent for a quick potty break. Simply put, it isn't there.

The movie starts out with heroic action and keeps right on rolling.

I will admit to a few misgivings. I bought my ticket in advance on the net and squeezed time out of the day to stop by the theater to pick it up using the WILL CALL option on the theater kiosk. I just knew the show would be sold out and there would be utter chaos trying to get in.

Well, I arrived 30 minutes early to an empty parking lot. Walked straight in, grabbed my popcorn and soda (and no, I didn't guzzle it) and strolled into the theatre to have my choice of seating. There were a few people already there, but not very many. In fact, when the show started, the theater was about 1/3 full.

All I have to say is this...If you're a Star Trek fan, go see this movie. If you're NOT a Star Trek fan, go see it anyway. It's a SciFi film written to an action film template.

You will not be disappointed.

And...if this is what you like, Samhain has posted a new Call for Submissions that might be right up your alley.

07 May 2009

Women and the Ebook Revolution

Thanks to Angela James for the link.

Angela (Samhain Publishing), Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Malle Vallik of Harlequin and Kassia Krozser of Booksquare, and their panel "Smart Bitches Women Read Ebooks" at the recent Tools of Change conference.

06 May 2009


I have a new book on sale. There are actually a number of great books now available at My Bookstore and More, including a cowboy anthology featuring, among others, Lorelei James, and a historical m/m romance by Charlie Cochrane.

Feral is a shifter romance, two men, one a cougar shifter, one a wolf. So one's a loner and one's used to being part of pack.

Here's the blurb:

Seduction is his only chance for freedom…and love is a death sentence.

Even among shifters, Ethan is a rare breed. So rare, he’s spent the last eight years in hiding from the werewolves who once captured and tortured him. Now a tranq dart has cut short his feral existence. Waking in human form in a locked room is more than a living nightmare…it’s reliving his worst one.

Yet in the troubled eyes of one of his captors, he senses a weak link. One he can use to escape—by seducing his jailer.

Bram’s life as pack omega isn’t easy. As long as he obeys his alpha he is protected. However, there are some things he just can’t bring himself to do. Keeping a precious cougar shifter prisoner is one of them, especially one who has somehow managed to capture his heart.

Setting Ethan free could be a death sentence for both of them, for Bram’s pack doesn’t take betrayal lightly. And the alpha is set on revenge.

Read an excerpt here.

05 May 2009

AAR Cover Contest

Okay, obviously they're too modest to toot their own horns, so somebody has to do it! *exasperated sigh*

Our own Jody Wallace and Bianca D'Arc have covers nominated in the annual All About Romance Cover Contest.

Click here to vote for your favorites!

03 May 2009

What's new?

Since I really don't have a specific topic this week, I thought I'd talk about what's going on in the world (mine and the larger one) a little.

* Swine Flu - it all sounds like something from a novel, huh? We just got word the first school in our area will be closed in Delaware (I'm in NJ). While it sounds extreme, it also makes sense. They just want to santitize the school. If you've ever worked in a school setting, you're wishing they do this EVERY year, for EVERY flu. Bugs run rampant in school. This flu is apparently mild, even milder than the seasonal flu, so I don't know why the panic, but better safe than sorry though. I mean, if everyone would just wash their hands and not cough on each other (in other words, use common sense), it wouldn't be any big deal.

Feel bad for those poor students, though. The school in Delaware will be closed for 1-2 weeks. They'll be going to school until July!

*Susan Boyle - I know this is kind of old, but what a great story! Of course I watched the video. Once, but it was enough. Fairy tale makings in there, I think.

*Economy. Wow. I'm personally not feeling the effects of this recession, but I feel so badly for those who are. Things I've seen lately: watching a Phillies/Marlins baseball game, half the seats were empty; larger crowds at Wal-mart, smaller ones at the mall.

My world:

*Writing; Actually, I DO have some news. My author copies of the paperback edition of The Ankh of Isis came this week! I wasn't expecting it - officially the book comes out the end of May (but Amazon, etc, are already selling them) - so it was a welcome surprise! The other great thing is that Samhain will be starting a YA line sometime soon! (um...soon is a relative term in publishing.) The first books will be out in 2011. I have to start working on the steampunk YA I've been wanting to write!

I'm on a break from writing while I catch up on school and work. Once the school year is over (maybe a little sooner) I'll be back to it. I'm still waiting to hear from my editor about the third LoA book, so this is a good time for a break. I haven't really had one in years.

*Work. It's going well, though busy. I LOVE working in the library. Week after next is our Spring Book Fair. I'm bracing myself. It's Buy One, Get One free too! I went to the one at my son's school last week, and had to stop myself from buying all the books I wanted. I have to save some for my own fair, right? LOL. I have a huge pile of books to read this summer.

* School. Almost done the spring semester. Need to write final papers and take finals. One more semester to go! Then... graduate school! Yes, I finally decided to just go to grad school and get the Masters in Libray Science. I like my job too much to give it up. I mean, I have to give up this particular job in June, but I want one like it. Shame I couldn't have figured this out ten years ago, huh. Or even two.

That's pretty much it. I have to get back to writing my paper on postcolonialism and Chinua Achebe. Yeah, I'd rather be writing about dragons and steam-driven pumpkins, but what can you do?

02 May 2009

Getting Into Character

I tend to read many different types of books and watch a wide variety of movies and TV shows. No matter the genre, the books, movies, and TV shows that I absolutely love have something in common: off-the-wall characters.

To take examples from the TV world: the sassy quips of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, the gruff charm of Gregory House, the over-the-top-obsessive yet brilliant Adrian Monk, scientific and quirky Gil Grissom (CSI); there is something special about all of them, something unlike all the thousands of other characters out there. Unique. Just like flesh and blood human beings are unique.

How does a writer get into a character? Well, every writer has a different technique; some do character journals, some fill out long, involved forms or checklists, and some simply write the story and allow the character to flesh out along with the plot. The technique isn’t important. In my opinion, the important thing is that the writer crosses a line, the line where the character becomes real to the writer.

Notice that I didn’t say the writer should believe the character is real—that way lies insanity. No, what I’m talking about is the writer’s ability to see the character in their head as a fully-formed person. Let’s invent a character to illustrate. How about the heroine’s father? Male, middle aged, businessman, about 6 feet tall. That may be enough for a walk-on character the reader sees for one scene. But let’s say he’s going to play a bigger part in the story. Now what? Is he warm or cold in his relationship to his daughter? Did he spend time with her as a child? Now? Is he still protective of his, now grown up, little girl. How does he feel about his wife? Still married? Let’s say he plays a round of golf during the story, and one hole proves to be quite problematic. You could write the scene very straightforward, or you could let a huge portion of personality come out. Maybe like this:

You can’t make that stuff up. Well, yes you can, but you have to think outside the box — pretty far outside the box.

The next time you encounter an amazing character in a book or movie, you know the writer reached deep into the deep dark recesses of — reality.