31 May 2010

Holy Moly, Batman, Print Books Have Arrived!!!


First off, let me wish you all a very loving Memorial Day. There are not enough words to express my deep, heartfelt gratitude to those men, women, mothers, fathers, lovers, friends, and children who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep the rest of safe. One day is clearly not enough.

Now if you'll plug you're ears, I am going to let out a...SQUEEEEEEE!

Sorry, that was a bit loud, and obnoxious, but oh wow. I can't believe it. On Wednesday the UPS man brought my author copies of Catch Me in Castile.

I started writing this story twenty-two years ago. I created at least four, maybe five complete rewrites. From the first draft to the last I changed the dialogue, point of view, character arcs, character motivations, character names, characters period, the title, my penname, genres, time periods, and more. Finally, finally, I hold it in my hand.

And it's so pretty!

Shiny. Colorful. Smells good, like fresh ink on pristine paper. Listen to that, the crisp sound as I flip those pages. Wow, oh wow.

I refuse to cry on those sparkly white pages.

I will.
Not.
Cry.

As I run to get a tissue, tell me what you would do to celebrate the completion of a twenty-two year project.

Kimberley Troutte

www.kimberleytroutte.com

29 May 2010

You Mean I Don’t Get a Sexy Costume?

Thursday night I discovered that I am not Wonder Woman. Nope, no truth lasso, clear airplane, or tight patriotic costume. I’m just me, a slightly off-kilter, somewhat overweight, rather lacking in common sense, human woman. How did I come by this insight? I went to Wal-Mart.

While shopping might not normally be seen as a superhuman escapade, but given the fact that I’d had spinal (neck) surgery on the 13th and just got out of a physical rehabilitation hospital on Wednesday, one mundane trip became something closer to a long-distance hike (in one of those little electric cart thingies). Not that I actually noticed anything at the time. I felt fine, my pain level was low, and I was thrilled to be out in the real world. My husband and I took our time, looked for several things (and found none), and picked up a few groceries. I was tired when I got home, but not overly.

And then bedtime arrived.

Lying down, trying to relax, change in the angle of my neck, pain level zooming out into the stratosphere, saying I didn’t sleep well Thursday night is an understatement. I managed to get a half- handful of hours in bits and pieces, but not the kind of sleep someone recovering from surgery needs in order to heal. In the wee hours of Friday morning I lay awake in my bed thinking, “I’m not Wonder Woman.”

Well duh!

What can I say? I may be intelligent, but I never claimed to know when to come in out of the Wal-Mart.

Gotta go now, I think I need a nap.

Cheryel
www.cheryelhutton.com

26 May 2010

No Regrets by John Callahan

So Sharon came to me a few days ago and said she had this blog post to write, but she was too busy what with the end of school, a deadline approaching and a vacation to plan. She asked if I could pretty please write it for her.
"Just tell your story," she said.

Yeah, right. I'm not the writer here, she is. 
Needless to say, I wasn't as on board as she would have liked. What the hell am I going to write about on a romance writer's blog? But she was pretty damn insistent and when she gets to begging, well, I'm toast. So here I am.  
I guess you'd like to know about me before I go spouting off. My name is John Callahan and my story is Redemption (by Sharon Cullen). You can buy it through Samhain Publishing.   
Sharon says that's not enough information, that people want to know more.   
Hell.   
Okay.  
Here's how it started. I live in a cabin I built with my own hands high in the Smokey Mountains. I'm a Sheriff for a small department that doesn't have a lot to do in the winter but gets our ass kicked in the summer because we have a lake that people like to visit. Catawba Lake. It's quiet, it's peaceful and it's just about as damn perfect as God could make it.  
Some people would say it's boring, and ten years ago I would have probably said the same thing. But a lot of shit can happen in ten years. And that got me to thinking about how life changes.   
What, you didn't think an outdoor guy like me could think deep thoughts? Just kidding. But I do and I can and there was a time in my life when all I had to my name were deep thoughts.  
I grew up in a loud household with a sister and a great mom and dad. At eighteen I knew I needed more and I knew if I stayed in the small town I grew up in that I would slowly fade away and become that dude who ran the local garage on the street corner. You know, the one who plays poker every Tuesday night and spends his weekends warming the barstool at the pub across the street. I didn't want that. I wanted excitement and adventure. I wanted to see the world.   
You can see where this is headed, can't you?  
I was a wet dream for an army recruiter and the second I stepped into the recruiting office, they were all over my ass like white on rice. I signed up, full of dreams of traveling and dodging bullets. Yeah, dodging bullets excited me just as much as the traveling.  
I'll spare you the details and just jump to my point (yes, I have a point). I dodged the bullets, I saw Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan and just about every continent there is to see. I made buddies that ended up being closer to me than my own family (if you want to read about one, read Luke's story. Next time, Luke, it's your ass writing this!). And I was recruited into the IATT which in laymen's terms is a secret anti-terrorist organization. 
On the government books we didn't exist. I didn't exist and neither did the men and women I worked with. It was cool. It was exciting. And I was doing things I'd never imagined.  
So how did I end up in a cabin in the mountains?  It all went to hell.   
When I was 18, my signature still wet on the recruitment papers, there were a few things I'd never imagined I would do:  
1. Be taken prisoner for three months in a third world country 
2.Have my government turn against me 
3.Fall in love with the most beautiful, courageous woman I've ever met.  
I learned that sometimes what you wish for and what you get can be totally different and at the same time exactly what you need.  
I went through some deep shit and when Hope met me, I was just minutes away from ending everything. Yet, looking back, I can't make myself regret my choices or my actions because every step I've taken has led me to where I am today--living in the most beautiful part of the country God created, with the most beautiful woman God could have given me.  
It's been one hell of a rough ride but I'd weather every bump again to have what I have now.  
If you want to read my story, you can find it here for electronic and here for print.
Gotta go. It's been real and, yeah, okay, it wasn't all that bad. But Luke, you're still doing the next post.
John

24 May 2010

Waiting to Balticon--Jean Marie's Schedule

Memorial Day and Balticon—the two go together like fun and three-day weekends. Balticon is the premier Maryland regional science fiction and fantasy convention, which this year runs from May 28-31 at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn. Tanya Huff will be the Writer Guest of Honor, but that’s only the beginning, folks: Gail Carriger, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Laura Anne Gilman, Gail Z. Martin, Jeri Smith-Ready, Maria Snyder… and, well, me.
This year I snagged five fabulous panels. Hope to see you there.

Friday, 7 p.m.
Are You Sure You Want to Go There? Writing about the darker things in life: Rape. Torture. Childhood trauma. Sex with Dwarves. Sometimes it's done for a laugh. Sometimes it is done for an emotional response. Sometimes, we ask ourselves "What was THAT all about?!" So why not ask the pros who do it? When is shock essential to the story, and when is it sensational? Find out if authors add in moments of terror and extreme situations in order to surprise an audience, or as an alternative to group therapy. Jennifer Andrea, Allison Duncan, Chris Lester, Tee Morris (moderator) and Jean Marie Ward.

Friday, 10 p.m.
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading – Seven Broad Universe authors resent tasty, bite-sized readings of their work that will leave you hungry for more. Danielle Ackley McPhail, Roxanne Bland (moderator), Elaine Corvidae, Kelly A. Harmon, Gail Z. Martin, Roberta Rogow and Jean Marie Ward.

Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
The Many Faces of Fantasy or the Road to Victory – Peter Beagle once divided fantasy into High and Low categories. One web site lists more than 20 sub-genres. Let's discuss some examples of these. Can we say that Frodo Baggins and Vicky Nelson are characters from the same genre? What is urban fantasy? Is it the same as contemporary fantasy? Elwin Cotman(m), Tanya Huff, Misty Massey, Darrell Schweitzer, Jean Marie Ward

Sunday, 6 p.m.
Creating Three Dimensional Characters – When writing an adventure or a story, having characters that the readers can get into is half the battle. If the readers or players become intrigued by the characters, then the rest of the story will fall into place. Join our writers as they discuss creating compelling characters. Gail Carriger, C.J. Henderson, Kory Kaese (moderator), Bernie Mojses, and Jean Marie Ward.

Sunday, 7 p.m.
The Legendary Triple LaunchBad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory, Dragon's Lure, and New Blood. Faeries, dragons and vampires; a little bit of something for everyone. See writers in costume try to read their works. There will be too many of us to name. And yes, I will be wearing wings. Be afraid, be very afraid.

###

Private Negotiations by Kathleen Scott Releases Today


This is my first title by Liquid Silver Books and I'm very excited to announce its release today - it will be available on their website at 7pm, EST. (So, if you go there this morning or afternoon to look, it won't be up.)

Anyhoo, this was a story I actually started writing about 2 years ago and then put on a file and stopped writing on it for some reason or another. I don't even remember what new and shiney had distracted me. About six months ago, I found myself going back to the file and rereading it again and again. I thought it needed some restructuring, the heroine forgave the hero too quickly, so I added about 20K to the middle of the story and this wild world and intricate details began to emerge. I loved the story before, but now I fell in love with the entire world. Or worlds, I should say, since this is a sci-fi with courtly overtones of a bygone era. I loved the worlds so much so that three other books grew from this one. The more I wrote the more conspiracies began to surface and I realized this little novella and her characters, had more stories to tell.

Here's some blurbage for your reading pleasure.

~~~~~~~~~~~

For the past ten years, war has ravaged the planet of Scicia. The countries of Telesia and Vanden have painted the land with the blood of their people, neither side coming out the clear victor. The recent death of the Vanden Regent has brought his heir to the throne and with it a new chance for peace. That is, if the memories of an illicit love and a false identity do not derail the process first.

Vanden Regent, Loden Espacian has waited a long time to claim Rinalda D’Aubry as his bride. Four years before, on a mission to Presari Station, Loden attempted to seduce secrets from the Telesian Chancellor’s beautiful daughter. His quest failed when she did not divulge even so much as her family ties and Loden fell helplessly in love. Now, the war has taken a terrible toll on Vanden’s resources. With his country on the verge of collapse, Rinalda is within the walls of his palace as the Telesian peace emissary. The only chance for Loden to save his country is to find a way back to Rinalda’s good graces and once again win her heart.

When Sergeant Rinalda D’Aubry agreed with her father’s plan of going to Vanden as the emissary in a peace envoy, she had no idea she’d come face to face with the man she thought was lost to a wartime romance. Dreams of him have sustained her during some of her worst days and nights, fighting in a bloody war of her father’s making. The man she remembers was a common foot soldier, not the heir to the Vanden throne. Betrayed and humiliated, Rinalda vows to rise above her broken heart to save both countries from destruction, before it’s too late. But memories of their passionate love making threaten to ignite the air between them, and burn all who stand in the way.

~~~~~~~

Private Negotiations by Kathleen Scott, from Liquid Silver Books

I'm busily working on the second book in the series, Intimate Weapons. Funny, but I don't think I'll put the other books on hold. I'm having too much fun complicating my characters' lives and traveling the galaxies looking for trouble to cause them.

Enjoy!

-Kat

22 May 2010

Poetically Prosaic

Not much to say on this chilly Saturday morning so I've posted a few poems for you. The first one is what I call poetic prose. Written like a normal story, but filled with poetic rhythm and imagery.

I hope you enjoy.

S.J.


Moonlight

I watch the moonlight on your face. Tonight, this night. The curtains cracked open, no more than an inch and you lie, beside me, before me.
Huddled like spoons your warmth and mine, together. Your face framed in the ray of silver light, enhancing, glowing. I lay my arm around you pulling you near to a soft, sweet murmur of delight. Yet you sleep, enamoured in your dreams. I watch you. Feeling in my heart, no other could be here like this, no other could be the one, the thing I need. You are my life. As you breathe, each breath a pleasure, guarantees your nearness. The apex of my love, founded in you, soft, warm.
Your hair, silver in the glistening corona, shines, frames and wanders tenderly about your face. Soft face, so calm, so sweet. Pure as the purest stream and refreshing my life, my love, each night as I lie awake and watch. Watch you, love you. Though I too should sleep I yearn each day for this moment of tenderness, when your trust and vulnerability are left to me to protect, to shield.
I will love you, I will love you to the last of my breath, though they take my soul, my body, my mind. I will love you. Whilst there is spirit within me, none shall take that away. And even from the depths of hell or the heights of heaven I will love you then. Even more so for you are that which most enlivens me. My life, my love.
Softly, softly in your sleep you turn. Eyes, still closed in tender dream to snuggle closer, warmer, feeling my arms wrap strongly about you, protecting, caring. I watch.
And as the moonlight moves and fades so still I watch, for there are many days when even pleasure like this is not mine to share, for you are not here. I am not there. But in my mind I watch. In my dreams I lie with you whilst silver light and fairy streams are woven, taut, about you. Holding you, loving you.
I watch. I watch and long for that moment, that time when love again can rise and glow within your eyes, when the dawning sun is dimmed by the passion within, the love, the need, the you.
And then, I know, as I watch now, so too will you.



Renewed

Waiting,
with silence, lying near, to see
the breath of love
that speaks
that makes you close.
Thrills me.
I touch your cheek, feel your sigh
with tender, tender touch.
Within a fire the longing burns
a cavalcade of need,
the yearning, wanting
hope and love
the tenderness, suceeds.
Soft lips tremble with soft embrace
two come together to kiss,
the warmth and wet,
esquisitely brushed
the heart skips o'er a beat
Soft touch trailing, from cheek and down
soft the neck where kisses
are stewn,
and more, for loves
most intimate pulse
there lies, there beats.
To feel much more
my hand would wander to
cup, to hold you near
Each kiss, I kiss, to bring your fervour near.
And more, much more for soft rising flesh
the touch of breast, I meet
to brush against with
chastened lips,
to taste a joy
so sweet.
More, much more, hands that try
to find a love to meet.
to kiss and follow, love's only touch
to love and hold and keep,
Yet further more my lips will search,
Seeking the more your joy
until the stars of heaven burst
with gently licks employ.
Such tender touch with hands and tongue
will wake afresh, renew,
the womanhood, once thought was lost
once thought,
but now
is you



The moment


Candle light, glimmer,
Soft,
Soft in her eyes.
Feel it together, a passion
will rise,
and so
it goes until lovers begin.
The song, never ending, never
begin.
Sweet touch,
that softens, walks with the beat
of breathless, desire,
a longing to meet
that moment, when higher
the spirits, love soars
flesh glowing,
love growing
more, cries more.
Lips, tender, parted.
Moistened anew
felt, then restarted the
passion
regrew.
Together, sensations that
both had thought lost
began moving,
flowing,
as he entered
her trust.
Soft, glowing, the candlelight glimmers
soft touching, moving
the passion now simmers
deeper, stronger
the movements
increase,
such moments, forever, like these
must not cease.
yet soon,
pleasure,
control, out of mind
brings tormentous moments
of lust that is blind
of needing, clasping,
drawing, him in
bursting,
exploding
from showers within.
Such love, now tender
with moments of peace
Will never, forever,
never cease.


Copyright S.J. Willing.

www.sjwilling.com

21 May 2010

Piecing it together


I will be the first to admit that I can be a bit scattered. Just one look around my house will tell you that .... um, wait, on second thought. Don't. The cleaning bug hasn't hit me in a while and our maid has been out sick.

Anyway, I can normally deal with my personal quirks except at this point, it's affecting my writing. You see, my mind bounces from scene to scene, and things rarely wind up in the order originally written.

Honestly, I do know most of the story from beginning to end before I sit down to type. However, like all pesky imaginary people, my characters tend to have minds -- and agendas -- all of their own. Sometimes I'm not told everything until it comes pouring out mid-scene.

"Your father was a what?!?!"

Ahem. You get the point.

So now that I'm nearing the end of the current story, I have to go back and double check: Is everything where it belongs?

Um, no. Of course not -- that would be way too easy and why should anything about this job be easy? :P

That's okay. That's what all the cut/copy/paste options are for, right? Yeah... I'm learning that editing with a track pad is a whole new challenge unto itself. (SIGH)

Now I'm at the re-plotting stage of my writing. I sit down and write... with an actual pen or pencil... what happens from start to finish. I may even include the timeline so I know how many days are passing for my characters. Just to make sure the pace is correct. Once I'm finished, I'll go through the document and tweak. Oh, and fill in a missing transition or two, as well.

For me, the whole process of crafting a story is much like making a quilt -- and yes, I have one of those in progress, too. When I quilt, I figure out my pattern first. That's my plot. Then I pick out the fabrics -- my characters, for instance. Now that I have a general idea where I'm going with it, I cut out the pieces; carefully pin them in place; adjust; sew them together; add the actual quilting stitches; and then bind it all together.

Like many quilts, it often takes the help of others to really polish it up. A beta reader to help point out glaring flaws; my editor to help rearrange a piece or two; a line-editor to make sure each stitch is in place. A quilting-bee of words. :)

But for now... I'm back to piecing. I think I almost have this one in place -- and that's the best part. Putting it all together in one whole, seamless story... wish me luck!

~~Meg

20 May 2010

13 Things Editors and Agents Want When You Query

Is it time to throw your spaghetti against the wall and see if it sticks? If you're in the process of submitting your work to editors and agents, I'm sure you've heard the advice about checking -- and following -- each agency's or publisher's guidelines before you submit. That being said, here are 13 things you're likely to find that editors and agents want when you query, so be prepared!

1) No attachments

2) An attachment of your first 30 pages and maybe even another of your synopsis

3) 5 pages pasted on the bottom of your query

4) 20 pages pasted on the bottom of your query

5) 1-2 page synopsis

6) Chapter by chapter outline

7) Your sales history

8) New writers welcome

9) No emails--please query only on paper

10) No paper--please query only via email

11) Where you see this book fitting into the market; what authors are you "like"?

12) For the writer not to compare herself to other writers

13) Most importantly -- a fresh voice!

***

Though guidelines are often contradictory, the fact is, it's almost as easy to follow each set of guidelines as it is to disregard them and piss people off. Sure, they'll possibly remember you if you 'forge your own path' (eg ditch their stupid rules because they don't apply to your awesomeness), but they won't remember you fondly and they won't remember you with an eye to acquistion.

Sincerely,

Jody W.
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com

10 May 2010

Mother's Day Perspective


Thirteen months ago My Sweetie’s nephew came to live with us. Suddenly having a fifteen year old spring up in our lives in just our mid-thirties was an unexpected surprise to say the least. There have been a great deal of ups and down in the time period concerning the circumstances that led him to live with us along with all the turmoil that’s part of the puberty package. Despite all of that I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Safe and driving me crazy or off in parts unknown—not even a contest.

I have strong maternal feelings but I haven’t given a second thought to waiting to have a baby. It’s been the right decision for us and our plan of starting next year is right on track. “The Plan” and 2011 is what I think of when motherhood comes to mind. So imagine my surprise when I began my rounds of calls yesterday morning and my “Happy Mother’s Day” greetings were met with “Happy Mother’s Day to you too!” What? Me? A mother? Already?

There were other people’s children in my house from the age of 8 to 18. I’ve had a hand, (sometimes miniscule other times significant) in raising more than my fair share of children and thought nothing of extending that yet again as an adult. But I realized it meant something different this time around. This time I’m directly responsible for the outcome of another beings sense-of-self and part of how they turn out as an adult. Before I was peripheral to the grown-ups around us, now I AM the grown-up, doing the hard job day in and day out that somehow always seems worth it.

Hearing “Happy Mother’s Day” Sunday—well before I thought it would apply—gave me only a single acceptable topic for today. For all of you out there who are moms, moms-to-be or who non-traditionally mother someone but who didn’t hear the words yesterday I want to say HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO YOU TOO.
Whether you have grown, forgetful children, young children who didn’t understand, are pregnant, in the process of adopting, are a foster parent, a guardian, a maternal friend to a young person, a mother-sister-friend to an adult, feel like a mom but are recognized as dad, or all your children are of the four-legged furry variety; if you nurture and grow another living, thriving life and it makes them or you a better person for it, you are everything we mean when we say the word mother and I salute you and tell you thank you for all those who forgot or simply didn’t see it. May we always have you to count on.
~X

08 May 2010

Two Cons, One Reading and a Book Signing

So it isn’t Four Weddings and a Funeral. We have pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. And Charlaine Harris. And Rachel Caine. And Roxanne St. Claire. And…



My 2010 convention season got off on a splendid start at RavenCon, April 9-11 in Richmond, Virginia. Two of this year’s guests of honor were artist R. Cat (left) and Rachel Caine, his wife and bestselling author of the Weather Warden and Morganville Vampire series. In addition to being totally great people, they’re totally into great clothes. Here Rachel works a wonderful, burn-out velvet top, while R. Cat displays his leather coat, vest and spiffy watch chain.



Last RavenCon, DragonMoon writer and editor Valerie Griswold-Ford (left, raising shooter glass) asked me to contribute a story to her magic pirate anthology. I did…four months late. Gulp. (What can I say? It was a really busy year.) Needless to say, I missed my deadline, big time. But Val let me attend the Rum and Runestones RavenCon launch party anyway. Lifting a skull to toast the new anthology is fellow writer/editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail. My story for Dani’s Dragon’s Lure, “Lord Bai’s Discovery”, did make the deadline and will be available in June. And all is not lost for that pirate story. If Rum and Runestones does well, Val is up for a sequel.



In addition to the rum (There must be rum!) the Rum and Runestones party featured filking by Danny Birt (right), a writer who made the deadline.



This year’s RavenCon did not host a Masquerade, though there numerous costume panels and wonderful hall costumes. My favorite was the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater…even if I’m not too sure about that tongue.



Conventions and conferences aren’t just tribal gatherings; they’re also an opportunity to do good, often through charity auctions such as the one held at this year’s RavenCon. Radio personality and fan favorite Kelly Lockhart (in the beret) and writer/editor Lee Martindale (seated, in brown) whipped the fans into a bidding frenzy. Together they raised $1000 for the Virginia Aviation Museum.



For me, the panel highlight was “Unusual Occurrences…Even for a Convention” late Saturday night, April 10. (From left to right) Master costumer and publisher Anita Allen, Artist Guest of Honor R. Cat, writer/editor Davey Beauchamp and writer Patrick A. Vanner recounted tales of con fans and guests behaving so badly, I couldn’t stop laughing, even when it hurt. Lesson to remember: try to behave at a conference. If you don’t, somebody will be taking notes.



The day after I returned from Richmond, I headed to Washington, D.C., for a Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading at the Library of Congress hosted by the Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum. I was so excited, it was hard to stand still enough to read “Lord Bai’s Discovery”. I mean, the Library of Congress—the high temple of writers everywhere. After the reading, we enjoyed a personalized tour of the Library’s Jefferson Building, the oldest of the Library of Congress buildings and, bar none, the most beautiful building in our nation’s capital. Here you see our hostess and tour guide Colleen Cahill (second from left), Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Samhain Publishing author Christine Norris (right). (I’m the one on the left in the hat.) Fellow reader Sarah Avery left before this photo was taken in the Library’s Map Reading Room. I chose this picture to highlight of one of the room’s Map Ladies—the other figure wearing a hat. Her clothes are made entirely of maps.



Here it’s just me—providing the proof I signed at the April 16 Turn the Page Bookstore CafĂ© mega-signing featuring Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris and Roxanne St. Claire. My outpost of commerce was right in front of a bookcase loaded with jewelry and bath products, all lovely and all likely to tip over whenever I wriggled in my chair. Eep! But both With Nine You Get Vanyr and Fantasy Art Templates profited from the occasion.



The Washington Romance Writers 2010 Retreat, held in Leesburg, Virginia, April 16-18, had great panels. But some of my best photos happened when I turned the camera away from the main event. Here I surprised featured guests Roxanne St. Claire (center) and Charlaine Harris (right) telling fortunes with the Sugar Packet Tarot during the Editor/Agent Panel, the evening of April 16. According to Rocki: “Your past tastes bitter, but your future has an equal chance of being sweet.”



This year Romance Writers of America president Michelle Monkou (center) received the chapter’s Nancy Richards-Akers Mentoring Award, April 17. Aptly enough Michelle, shown here as the award citation is read, was WRW president when the award was created. This is one of those times when con synchronicity cannot be ignored. Exactly one week before, I was sitting in the audience of a panel where fantasy writer Lawrence Watt-Evans praised the career-nurturing efforts of RWA and its local chapters.



Of course, sometimes the main event should not be ignored, especially when it’s Romance Jeopardy, which is NOT FAIR. This ringleaders of this year’s game were Cathy Maxwell (Scarecrow), Karen Smith (Glinda the Good Witch) and Kathleen Gilles-Seidel (Cowardly Lion), who led contestants down the Yellow Brick Road and encouraged them to “Surrender, Dorothy!”



This year fellow Retreat photographer Julie Ray Stewart and I couldn’t resist capping the event by photographing each other. Julie has been recording Retreats since the conference was held in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

That's it...for April. If you want to see the rest of the photos--and the rest of my con galleries--feel free to check out my Flickr page. You never know what mischief my camera will get into next.

05 May 2010

What's your Cheesecake?

In my family, when we have a party - and we have a fair few, between birthdays, graduations, showers, holidays, and the odd Pig Roast - it's a pot-luck affair. Everyone in my family has something that they are asked to bring to every gathering, because it's what they do best. My aunt's potato salad. My step-mother's coleslaw. My brother-in-law's ribs. A veritable feast of deliciousness (leading to the expansion of waistlines).

For me, it's cheesecake. I am always asked to make a cheesecake, because supposedly it's one of the best ever tasted. I've had good and bad ones, but usually the best are when I use five blocks of real cream cheese and a tub of sour cream. I have a stand mixer that I use to pulverize the cream cheese, making sure it's smooth before I add the rest of the ingredients. Baking it without it cracking has become an art form. I've taken a good thing and learned how to make it better, and people ALWAYS ask for it.

It's a lot like writing.

By that I mean that every writer has their own strength. For me it's YA fantasy. I've tried writing picture books, short stories, and realistic tween and YA books, really I have. They all fall flat as a bad souffle. I just don't get it and can't seem to wrap my head around how to write it . Kind of like my aunt's potato salad--I can get close, but there's always something missing. But I have become a master of cheesecake. Relatively speaking. There's always something new to learn about writing. And cheesecake. (can you tell I like cheesecake?)

Does that mean I stop trying to make new dishes or write outside of my comfort zone? Of course not. Like cooking, I can try out new recipes and see what happens. No one has to eat the burnt sweet potato pie or read the terrible poetry I try to put down. I'll always learn something. But YA and tween fantasy is like my cheesecake: I've been making it for years, so now I play around with it and feel confident in the results.

What's your cheesecake?

Christine Norris
www.christine-norris.com

03 May 2010

Angels Amongst Us—Scary Event Came Too Close To Home

Warning: This is a true crime story about good and evil.

Two weeks ago at 1:30 in the afternoon, when all the children were in their classrooms, a twenty year-old man wandered onto my children’s elementary school, opened the first door he came to, and attacked. Luckily, there were no children in that classroom. Unluckily for the child psychologist, she was alone.

A man with wild crazy eyes bashed the psychologist across the head with his skateboard, leaving an open gash across her forehead, then he destroyed her computer, and thrashed her room.

And that was only the beginning.

My son was in the classroom two doors down. A few minutes earlier, he’d been working out math problems when a sixteen year-old high school student, who had graduated from the elementary school, just happened to drop by to visit. (I’ll call this sixteen year-old boy Angel 1).

My son heard Angel 1 say he was going next door to visit the history teacher. That’s when when the screaming started. The psychologist was being beaten. Both Angel 1 and the history teacher went running to help. The history teacher is a very petite, very sweet woman who came face-to-face with a madman. With a brutal viciousness the guy attacked her, knocking her to the ground. Angel 1 stood his ground. Although he was only a boy, he fought off the over six-foot tall man, protecting the two female teachers, possibly saving their lives. Angel 1 had blood pouring from his lip and was covered with scratches. He was saying, “Save the kids!” by the time the next angels appeared.

At this point the badly shaken history teacher, the whole time thinking that the guy was still coming after her to kill her, crawled on her bloody knees into my son’s classroom. She asked the math teacher to call the police and get the school locked down. She told all the kids in the class to get under their desks while she held onto the door handle to keep the madman from getting in. My son said his teacher shook like a leaf and looked like she was playing tug-o-war with the door handle. This teacher is, without a doubt, Angel 2.

Outside, Angel 3 (Mr. H) and Angel 4 (Mr. M) were forcing the madman off the campus. While he scratched at them, swung at them, hurt them, they tried reasoning with him. They made it into the parking lot. This is where the guy lunged at Mr. H, trapped him up against a car, and wailed on him. Mr. H is a little dapper white-haired guy. Mr H is also a very wise guy. He used a rolled up magazine to jab his attacker under the ribs. The guy doubled over and fell back. Um, yeah, Mr H rocks.

The guy threatened to get a gun and kill them all. He opened the trunk. Mr M, thinking the gun was inside, put himself between the guy and the path to the kids. He had no doubt that the guy would shoot him if he had a gun. No one knew that he did not. Mr M rocks big time.

The guy jumped in the car (he’d stolen the car keys from the psychologist) and took the police on a wild 120 mph chase down a dangerous two-laned mountain pass. One of my friends was coming up the pass and was shocked to see all the cop cars including helicopters flying past her. The guy sideswiped a woman’s car and hit an 86 year old man’s truck head-on. The woman was injured, not critically, and the man in the head-on crash was fine!

As the police put the guy in the back of the squad car, reporters asked him what his name was. He said, “Satan.” and bent over to lick the hood of the police car. Truth be told, he was a local guy, who is in a whole world of trouble. Hopefully, so is his drug-dealer.

I am grateful for miracles. Things would have been different if Satan’s choice of weaponary had been something other than a skateboard. I’m grateful no children were hurt, especially mine. Those teachers risked their lives to protect them as did a sixteen year-old boy who just happened to show up at the right time.

Evil came to my children’s school. But in this case the Lord sent four angels to bar his way.

Kiss your children and hold them tight. I’m off to kiss mine.

Oh, and make sure your schools have a safety plan in place. It never hurts to be prepared.

Kimberley Troutte
www.kimberleytroutte.com

01 May 2010

Vampires: Evil, Tortured, and Heroic

Vampire.
 
What do you feel when you hear the word? Readers of traditional horror tend to see a predator; a dark, evil force that cares not at all for humans except for amusement and food.
 
The traditional mythology of the vampire fits this idea. Vampires were seen as evil, demonic. In the time Bram Stoker lived and wrote his masterpiece Dracula, people believed in vampires and took precautions to prevent their loved ones from coming back from the grave.
 
Only in the 20th Century did vampires begin to take on a more dignified, less horrifying persona. In the 1970’s, the soap opera Dark Shadows brought a vampire with a conscience into homes. Barnabas likely wasn’t the first fictional vampire who hated what he was, but Jonathan Frid’s portrayal of the tortured fanged-one introduced the idea of the tortured vampire to the masses. Things were changing.
 
It took a while for the trend to catch on. Books and movies with more sympathetic vamps didn’t do well for a long time, but eventually the spark flared into a roaring flame that continues to today with the vampire as hero. There continues to be talk that the vampire is…well…dying. But that never seems to happen. With the Twilight craze in full bloom, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Or at all. Personally, I think the vampire is immortal — at least in fiction.
 
Many writers write about vampires, and these days vamps can be anything from scary to sexy to sweet (well, sort of). What I have discovered, is that they still need an edge. After a manuscript was rejected for the third time, I began to rethink my vampire hero. Finally I figured it out: I’d made him too human. I’m getting ready to do a take it down to the studs (figuratively speaking) rewrite. This time I’m giving my hero more darkness, more depth, more scary and unpredictable.
 
And I plan to enjoy myself thoroughly while I do it.
 
Have a great weekend!
 
Cheryel
www.cheryelhutton.com