30 August 2011

Jean Marie's Dragon*Con Schedule

One of the best things about being a writer is being able to post a convention schedule. Not only is it a measure of your achievement, it also means you’ll be seeing your long distance friends. And when the schedule happens to be for Dragon*Con, well, let the party begin!

Friday, September 1

11:30 AM: Just the Facts, Ma'am
Description: Non-fiction is a market that needs good writers. If this appeals to you, come listen to these pros tell you how to make it happen.
M Chapman, G. D. Falksen, John L. Flynn, Anya Martin, and Jean Marie Ward
Location: Manila / Singapore / Hong Kong - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

8:30 PM: New and Next Weird
Description: New weird, mash-up, slipstream, interstitial, crossover... what does the future of "genre" hold, especially for the darker fringes of fantasy?
Lou Anders, Stephen H. Segal, Ann VanderMeer, Jeff Vandermeer, and Jean Marie Ward
Location: Cairo - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

10 PM: Broad Universe Reading
Description: Quick cuts read by some by the women authors of Broad Universe
Gail Z. Martin, Jody Lynn Nye, Jean Marie Ward, Trisha Wooldridge (moderator) and many more.
Location: Greenbriar - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

Sunday, September 4

1 PM: Broad Universe Reading Part 2
Description: More great reads by the women authors of Broad Universe.
Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward and many more.
Location: Fairlie - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

Monday, September 5

11:30 AM: Win, Lose or Draw - SF and Fantasy Style
Description: A replay of our popular game show where your job is to draw sf and fantasy names and phrases to get others to guess them. Prizes available.
MC: Jean Marie Ward
Location: Fairlie - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

Hope to see you there!

Jean Marie Ward

29 August 2011

The Art of the Ensemble


Greetings, Kittens!



We had some fabulous posts this month on the characters we’re all drawn too and I appreciate you all joining in here at Beyond the Veil! For September, just in time for the introduction of the new Fall Season, we’ll be exploring the theme of television; from current guilty pleasures to the classic shows we grew up on, and everything inbetween. Here at Beyond the Veil, we cover the spectrum from those who don’t watch much TV at all, to those like me, who watch more than enough to make up for everyone else! With only three days left in the month, and having already had my chance at talking about character crushes, I thought I’d combine the topics and both introduce our next theme and speak about the television characters that move me.



First I’ll answer the obvious question. We’re authors, so why a television theme? Well, if you ignore the unscripted reality television phenomena—as I try to do all the time—you get down to the heart of television, which is the scripts. As the strike of 2008 showed us, you don’t have television without writers. The characters we love and the actors we praise, they touch us, thrill us and become our fictional friends because folks around a table put words on a page and made us fall in love. I’ll save my insights as to why television, (and movie watching), is vital insight into fiction writing until my September post, for now let’s talk about that process of falling in love...and of saying goodbye.



I have a thing for geeks, I’m unabashed in that affection and more than anything I think geek love is true love! I even have the t-shirt! *grin* A well crafted character who is brilliant instead of brawny, will get me every time; and I’ll take the Artistic Male over the Alpha Male any day of the week. But what I truly love in a show, (and what’s so hard to do on the page), is an ensemble cast that has the perfect mixture of geeks and gunmen, artists and alphas. To that end, I’d like to share two of my favorite casts of characters and their relationship to one another.




NUMB3RS is a show that I discovered just after its cancellation was announced. For every season before that, it ran in opposition to established shows I watched and I simply never got the chance to see it. Netflix, god of television that once was, gave me the opportunity to find out what I had missed all these years. I cannot say enough about how well this show was crafted and cast. The contrast of mathematician Charlie Eppes and his brother FBI agent Don Eppes, managed to show the strengths and weaknesses of their niches without ever devaluing the roles they each filled. There was true growth in the two main characters, and delightfully enough, in all of the secondary characters.



David and Colby were male friendship done right! They were independent, interdependent but never co-dependent. They trusted each other on a level incomprehensible to those of us who don’t get shot at for a living and never have to take a bullet for a friend. That friendship and trust was earned and allowed to mature over time without the rush television is known for. Like any couple, they worked through joy, despair, betrayal and forgiveness and were believable in every moment of it.



Liz and Nikki had a less specific journey to cover to reach trust. Nikki’s later addition meant earning her place with the entire unit, especially with Don. Those growing pains made her later easiness with everyone all the sweeter. With Liz in particular, they were allowed a camaraderie that women don’t get as often in ensemble shows. As women of Color, they were able to pass both the regular Bechdel test and the variant test for Characters of Color, (with the stipulation that any perceived violation of the rule was in the course of speaking about work). There was never a sense of competition between the character, or any of the women on the show and they were given equal weight to their interactions that allowed character growth to shine as each found her place in the department.



In the end, David and Colby, Nikki and Liz, Amita and Larry, each pairing played a perfect reflection of the relationship between Charlie and Don, allowing an innate understanding of what it meant to have their relationship grow from siblings to adult friendship. In turn, Charlie and Don allowed the audience to look at those six characters and to see that point where friendships become family. Genuine closeness was displayed and explored in every configuration of the cast in a way often overlooked by other shows, and the end was as satisfying as it was sad. (Despite how it ended, in my heart David, Colby and Nikki ended up together, as did Don, Robin and Liz!)




CRIMINAL MINDS has topped my favorite ensemble list for years. As with other great shows, I found this several seasons in and went back to watch every episode until I caught up. This last season upset me due to executive decisions, but the writing and portrayals have remained true and sincere throughout.



Dr. Spencer Reid is similar to the character of Professor Charlie Eppes, in that both were “baby geniuses”, excelling in their fields at ages where their peers were still picking out colleges and figuring out what they wanted to be. Reid stands out as an FBI agent not only due to his age, but his social awkwardness and obliviousness of popular culture and interaction. This is a stark contrast to his ability to profile criminals and analyze patterns to solve violent crimes. It’s a wonderful contradiction to see in a character and it’s delivered with a wonderfully nuanced performance.



On the other side of the equation is Special Agent Jennifer Jareau. JJ deals with the family and with the public, crafting press releases, and speaking with reporters when in the best interests of the case. She is socially receptive with a keen mind and insight that is played against a sense of innocence that seems both authentic and deceptive at once.



 



Reid and JJ are often paired together and complement each other greatly. Their individual personalities, as well as their partnership, is given contrast in the characters of ultimate alpha male Agent Derek Morgan and alpha female Agent Emily Prentiss. Morgan and Prentiss are both strong, confident, sometimes stubborn and aggressive characters that act on emotion in ways that end up to their detriment as often as to their benefit. They are as slow to trust as Reid and JJ are quick to see the best in everyone, yet all four characters integrate into a cohesive unit that doesn’t function well without all the pieces present.



This foursome is even further given a mirror image in the characters of Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner and Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia. Hotchner and Garcia are two characters meant to be all things to all people. Hotchner can work a crowd, navigate the press, console a family, profile a criminal and analyze victimology, all while coaching his son’s soccer game. That’s why his door says Chief. But despite his jack-of-all-trades skill set, Hotchner lacks JJ’s connection and empathy, Reid’s innate curiosity and philosophical way of seeing the world, Morgan’s emotional drive to save the world, and Prentiss’ ability to equally see her part in both the problem and the solution. Hotchner’s skills allow him to understand and nurture his team, but he could never replace any one of them.



Garcia, isn’t a profiler, but her connection to each character is a direct mirror of Hotchner. Everything he is technically as a leader, Garcia is emotionally as a friend, and both create a support system for the unit. Garcia’s technical expertise gives her an affinity for Reid’s awkwardness. Her intense empathy makes her a natural extension of JJ. Her desire to see the world as lighter than its darkness, allows her to be a balance and uplifting presence for Prentiss and Morgan. And her open admiration of them both pushes Prentiss and Morgan to live up to that viewpoint. The flirtation and open crush that Garcia has on Morgan remains unrequited for shallow and complex reasons alike.



Garcia is one of the few plus-sized characters on television who isn’t played for a joke. She’s a colorful, larger-than-life character, who holds the dark void of the work she does at bay, by refusing to be less than who she is. Morgan’s taste runs to the supermodel type and that’s an immediate disconnect that keeps him from taking her interest seriously. If she were the size of JJ or Prentiss, they would have consummated that attraction a long time ago—both at the fault of the character and the writers. However, there is more at work here.





Morgan’s background is one they make Lifetime movies about. His childhood abuse gives him an inability to trust completely and a need to prove his worth on a constant basis to those around him and to himself. Garcia’s attention is flattering on the surface, but beneath that is a sincerity and hero-worship that places Morgan on a pedestal he feels he neither deserves, nor could live without. No one came to rescue Derek as a child and he grew up to become Agent Morgan so the he could rescue others. When he looks around at his co-workers, he’s constantly working to prove he belongs there and he can make a difference. When he looks at Garcia, he doesn’t have to work, she’s already convinced. In her eyes he’s become everything he wanted to be and where Derek was a victim, Agent Morgan gets to be Superman and Garcia is the one that can see his cape! He doesn’t want to risk that—no matter how much the audience may want him to!



Examples like the above are the reason I love television as much as I love reading. Authors have thrilled me with lengthy, involved series, but not a single one of them will be able to write fast enough or long enough to immerse me in their world the way I truly wish to be. When I’m lucky, an author will take me back to their reality for 250 pages, every six months, most likely every twelve. Television takes me back every week for 22 episodes and then comes back and do the same next fall. I can become invested, and I can watch on the screen those things I want to capture on the page. For me, it’s not an either/or. Both reading and television recharge me and make me want to capture the ephemera of imagination and breathe into it the complexity of mass and momentum.



What more can you ask for?

Ramble Done, Kittens!

~X

28 August 2011

Superheroes and why we love them!

It's been a great summer for me and anyone who loves superheroes – and plenty of characters to fall in love all over again or for the first time. But why do we love the good guys who are so often the bad boys? Here's my thoughts!

Tony Stark – Iron Man




Okay, I know Iron Man 2 was released last year but I love Robert Downey Jr. too much to not include him on this list. It wasn't such a great year for Tony on the business front – but he went places on the personal battleground with Pepper Potts! Why do we love Tony despite his character flaws… being a borderline alcoholic, workaholic, egomaniac and smug beyond belief? Because he's such a bad boy… in hot rod red!

I'll also add Sherlock Holmes into this mix because Downey plays him so well – who wouldn't want this great detective to unravel your mysteries? The man who can figure out almost anything doesn't seem to know a whole lot about women – but there's a lineup waiting to teach him!

*snickers*




Let's move on to a real God… Thor! Rocking the silver screen this summer with his big hammer, the Norse God of Thunder made the earth move with his abs and his wonderful boyish charm – tamed by Jane Foster who brought him down to ground and taught him that Earth Girls are… Fun!






Green Lantern - now there’s a man you can’t help but love. Able to create anything he can think of using his green ring? Hmm…. the possibilities! But for a man who can do anything he can’t face up to Carol Ferris and tell her how he feels about her and make a commitment… until he finds the strength inside to do what he needs to do to save her and the world!


My own lovely Canadian, Wolverine! Okay, so he might have a bit of a problem with facial hair and nightmares but he’ll always be there to scratch those hard-to-reach spots on your back! He’s still looking for the right woman to settle down with after having his heart broken a few times but who can’t love a cigar-smoking, beer-drinking man!









And last, but never least, our own Captain America! Poor little Steve Rogers never had any luck with the girls until he got the super-soldier serum… then women couldn't keep their hands off of him! Good thing Peggy Carter is there to not only help him fight off the women but also to keep him close and safe! I must admit the best scene for me is where poor old Steve doesn't quite understand the meaning of the word "fondue" and has to have Howard Stark (yes, Tony's dad!) explain girls to him. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Anyone have any more superheroes to add? I bet there's quite a few more to add to the list…

26 August 2011

Writers are characters, too

Writers are characters, too. Which isn’t to say writers are their characters, though as the late Robert Asprin once said, “You always put a little piece of yourself in every character you write.” But sometimes their real life experiences turn out to be more extreme than anything they put on the page.

For example, Stephen J. Cannell reinvented the television game when in 1979, when he the created the only studio in Hollywood run "by a writer for writers." But to paraphrase the old ad, almost no one believed it when this dyslexic, former high school football player first sat down to type. No one imagined over 1,500 television scripts; over 35 Cannell-produced shows ranging from The A-Team to Profit, The Rockford Files to Wiseguy; and a healthy number of bestselling novels would result. Least of all the writer himself.

Before the Dresden Files, Jim Butcher once worked as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. But he didn’t like that job as much as rodeo stunt riding…until that time when he almost fell off his horse in the middle of a pick-up race and the closest thing to grab was a female rider’s blouse. In front of 15,000 people.

Rachel Caine, bestselling author of the Weather Warden and the Morganville Vampires series, is famously allergic to mammalian pets. That’s why she and her husband, artist R. Cat Conrad, keep lizards. Sometimes, she even brings an electronic version to cons, but I suspect that’s because she’s a true technological wizard and just thinks it’s cool. She’s also written first rate fan fiction as “Julie Fortune”—and sold franchise-approved nonfiction articles and books under her fan fiction pen name.

Ballet dancer and physicist Catherine Asaro sings rock-n-roll and has recorded a CD of songs based on her novel Diamond Star*. Linda Howard traces her fascination with men in uniform to her own desire to fly F-14s, while Anne McCaffrey used personal experiences of second sight and other psychic phenomena to extrapolate what real Talent would be like in the worlds of her Pegasus and Pern series.

Which brings us back to Bob Asprin. The “little piece” we put in isn’t always as obvious as it is with Anne McCaffrey, but it’s there. You probably won’t see Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden going into retail anytime soon, for example. But the targeted sales tactics Jim learned as a salesman chafed his personal sense of honor, and that sensitivity to injustice is Harry’s stock in trade.

Ultimately, every character in every story is the product of the writer’s life—an endless parade of Frankenstein’s monsters stitched together from fragments of memory we might not even recognize as our own. Like Frankenstein’s monster, we can’t always control our characters, either, but we can and should use what we know of ourselves and others to make them almost as interesting as the real thing.

To do any less is to sell our characters—and ourselves—short.

###

* Totally off topic but too cool not to mention: They recently found a planet that appears to be a former star compressed into a diamond planet. Shades of Catherine and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "A Diamond as Big as the Ritz".

**Photo information (since I'm not bright enough to insert captions into Blogger):
The top photo shows Rachel Caine and her electronic pet at Dragon*Con 2008.
The second photo shows Catherine Asaro in concert at RavenCon 2010.
These photos and more can be found in my Flickr galleries. I'm not a great picture taker, but I sure take a lot of them.

An author's take on characterization-Moondancer Drake


To me the people, the characters, are the heart and soul of the story. If I don't care about the characters I am reading about, the story itself cannot hope to hold my interest. Maybe this is why when I'm writing, the characters are the first thing I consider, in fact generally they are introducing themselves to me before I've even thought about writing a story.

I write about strong women, largely because those are the characters and the women that drew my attention growing up most. Women like Uhura from Star Trek, Rita Moreno on the Electric Company, Whoopi Goldberg and everything she ever did (including Guinen, be still my heart), and later on of course Xena. There have been many strong women throughout my life that taught me, that inspired me, and even impassioned me to do the activist work that I do, and to write the stories I write. Many of these women live on in part within the characters that spearhead my stories.

Characters come to me in very many ways, sometimes she’s some woman I meet that strikes me in some way, a picture I find, that sparks an idea, or even most often in dreams. These women take over my thoughts, complicating things often in the middle of writing some other story, and it's up to me to get to know them. For example…

Photobucket

This is Sage. This character began for me simply from running across this picture on the Internet. Slowly, who she was unfolded into what was supposed to be a secondary character in a YA story, now is destined to have a paranormal adventure romance of her own. She's a mother, a lesbian, an artist, and a craftswoman. She's been hurt, but is strong and does what she has to do for her family and for the people that depend on her. For many people she is the rock of the community. You see, all this and more just from a picture.

Characters touch people, shared experiences, familiar ideas for backgrounds, admiration and often times sympathy, these are the things that draw the reader into the story, then grab the imagination into the reader has no choice but to finish the story, they just have to know what happens this character they care about. I'm not missing everybody writes with this much energy into creating characters like these, but this is why I do it.

25 August 2011

Characters First?

Hi everyone,

I'm a new blogger here at Beyond the Veil! My name is Leslie Dicken and write paranormals, fantasy and historicals (gothic and steampunk). Guess I can't settle on just one subgenre! But one thing is the same no matter what type of story I'm writing: plot comes first.

I'm supposed to write about specific characters, ones I love or hate, but I'd rather talk about how creating characters comes SECOND when I'm brainstorming a story.

I hear over and over again how authors come up with their characters...THEN they figure out the plot or storyline that works for that character. I heard that J.K. Rowling came up with Harry Potter, the character, while on a train ride. She didn't think of Hogwarts or the Sorcerer's Stone, but of the boy who was a wizard and lived with his muggle aunt and uncle.

As for me? I first have an idea of a story or theme or a plot. For example, I wanted to write about a hero who learns he is not an earl, but a bastard (A TARNISHED HEART). Or an alien who dislikes humans but must find one to help his home planet (THE PRICE OF DISCOVERY). Or a society where two cultures have lived apart from one another for so long, they've evolved differently (TABOO). An isolated manor with a hero who thinks he's committed murder (BEAUTY TEMPTS THE BEAST). I've even just wanted to combine various subgenres into one story: steampunk, historical, suspense (THE IRON HEART, Feb 2012).

None of them started with the idea of central character who needed to find a story. They all started with an idea...a plot or theme or just a challenge to myself.

Hopefully, the characters I created for these stories are just as well-developed as those authors who start with character first. :-)

If you're an author, which do you come up with first: character or plot?
As a reader, what makes you feel a connection with a character in a story?

24 August 2011

Do Over

Crap. I was supposed to do a blog about characters, right? I thought I had an idea, but then I lost it, and then I forgot what I was going to write. I spent all last week in the revision cave, trying to finish up this next Library of Athena book before it's back to the daily grind at the Day Job and grad school gets back in session. I'm also trying to rewrite Talisman of Zandria for the new publisher. So I'll talk about that.

How often do we wish we had a chance for a do-over? I'm getting that chance with the Zandria books. And boy, am I glad. I appreciate everything the first publisher did for me, don't get me wrong. They were just starting out when they signed me, and we all learned a bunch of stuff together. Maybe not the best way to do things, but it's what we had to work with. Now that I'm going over this again, ten years later, I am cringing at some of the things that made it into print the first time around.

Ugh! What was I thinking? Too much narrative, not enough dialogue, a couple of tiny POV-shifts. in fact, I don't love the main character much either anymore, so I'm sprucing her up a bit. She's too young for her age.


How did this book ever make it out into the world? And yet I've had good reviews for it, and kids who read it love it. Just goes to show, I guess, that readers are really what matter in the end. I honestly don't even know if I would write a story like this now; it's cute and sweet and fun, but I've grown so much and kidlit has changed in ten years that I don't know if this quiet little story would make it. I've re-shaped it and changed it a little, but the same basic story is there at heart. It'll always be my first story, and I'll love it, if for no other reason than that.

But I'm glad for a do-over.

22 August 2011

The Tortured Hero

I am loving this month's theme on characters. Very interesting to see all the hero favs.

For me, I love the tortured hero.

You know the one, he is honor-bound by reponsibility, family, justice. He marches into battle to protect the ones he loves. He jumps in front of a speeding train to save a child, even though he will never see his own baby, or wife again. He loves with his whole heart knowing that in the end he will do what he has to do, even if it rips that heart out.

Heavy sigh.

Cain in Soul Stealer is one of my tortured characters.

His job as Death is to stand sentry as a living soul shreds from a person's body. Cain lives forever, cursed to watch as all the people he ever loved die and go to a better place without him.

His job sucks.

He performs it willingly because:
a) someone has to and
b) he sees it as punishment for the crime he committed at the dawn of time.

He plans on doing his job with dignity and compassion until the end of time.

Until one woman changes all plans. Death shouldn't fall in love with the dying. Should he?

But this is what's great about tortured heroes: they are doomed to living a troubled existence unless a special woman turns things around. She takes away the torture and makes life sweet. Love always wins.

Another heavy sigh.

Santiago, in Catch Me in Castile, has his own torture to deal with. He has his hands full protecting his sister from a dark curse and his family from a very modern-day psychotic killer. There is no way in all holy heck that he should he fall in love, even if Erin makes him happy for the first time in years. No, he needs to push her away to protect her life.
He needs to step back. So why can't he let her go?

Because best laid plans don't always work out when love is involved, do they?

Santiago is so busy saving everyone else, he doesn't realize that he needs saving. Love is the only cure. And that is sigh-worthy.

Do you love tortured heroes?

Thanks for reading!
Kimberley Troutte

www.kimberleytroutte.com

21 August 2011

The Love Triangle

I love to write about the strong, kick-ass heroine. The woman who is tough as nails on the outside and willing to do whatever it takes to protect everyone she loves at the expense of her own happiness. I call them "toasted marshmallows", crunchy on the ouside and gooey on the inside.

It challenges her man to be an even stronger character, knowing when to let his lady work out her own demons, when to stand in and defend her, and always, always willing to help her forget it all. But what really gets my writing fingers itching is when there is more than one alpha in her life.

Leah Wolfe, the main character in Nightwalker, A Leah Wolfe SINS Novel is in just such a predicament.




Leah Wolfe has retired from serious police work in favor of seeking a normal life. Her unique, yet not fully discovered supernatural abilities allow her to speak to the souls of the dead, providing vital information in the search for their killers. Her abilities have also cost her almost everyone she has ever loved including her mother, who abandoned her to fend for herself on the streets, and, most recently, her ex-fiancé Joaquín Wildhorse, Chief Detective of the Native American Reservation Police Department. But when Joaquín’s new lover is found brutally murdered on the reservation, he turns to Leah for help. The hunt for a vicious killer leads Leah to sexy Ian Nightwalker and Leah is unable to walk away from the case that may cost her her most guarded possession of all.

Her heart.


One man, Joaquin Wildhorse, embraces her heart.

Ian Nightwalker captures her soul.

Or do they both have their own agenda?

The conflict between Joaquin, Leah and Ian provides a character you 'love to love' and another that you 'love to hate'. You just have to decide which it is for you.

They do things you love...

Joaquín had changed out of his uniform and into a pale blue T-shirt accentuating the
muscles across his chest and down his rippled stomach. His tight black jeans hugged his
lean legs. Black cowboy boots completed the outfit. He took his seat across from me and
pulled a folded piece of paper out of his back pocket.

“Here. I thought you’d like this right away in case you decide to leave.”


My eyes flicked from the paper to his face. I’d never seen him look so tired, so lost. I
took the paper from his hand. Our fingers gently brushed against each other and I
shivered.

“You don’t look like you’ve gotten much sleep,” I commented.

“It’s been a bad year. Sleep hasn’t been a priority.” He placed his hand on top of my
hand on the table, still holding the letter. “I am sorry. For everything.”


And things you hate...

Is that what this was all about? Ian jumbled my brain, made me ... what? Made me want him, kiss him? Shit. Was Joaquín right and all of these feelings for Ian were forced on me?
I stared at Ian, every ounce of anger flaring across my face. “You son of a bitch. You mind-fucked me. This whole thing is a lie.” I could barely speak; my breath came in short bursts.
“No Leah, I didn’t...”
I shook my head. “Don’t, Ian. I don’t want to hear it.”
“Leah!” The tone in Ian’s voice was more commanding than I could stand.
“Get a grave, Ian!”


And things you really, really love...

He pressed a finger to my lips. “I have wanted to touch you from the moment I saw you. I have no desire for this to end so soon.”
His words sent a shudder through me as he rolled me to my side, spooning his own body tightly behind me. His arm lay lightly over me while he caressed down my breast, my side and over the curve of my thigh. He brought us together once more as his fingers expertly aroused me. I bent forward to allow him to penetrate me deeper. We moaned in unison as each thrust filled me. My hands grasped at the sheets and as my body imploded once more, I screamed his name.


Yet unlike our heroine Leah, you don't have to choose one over the other. Although, it can be quite a delicious decision to make.

But in the end it must be Leah who makes the choice for herself.

The second book, The Order of Chaos, follows the choices that Leah Wolfe has made and adds more intriguing characters to the mix.




One man possessed her heart. The other possessed her soul.

Leah Wolfe, a federal agent for SINS, Supernatural Investigations of Non-Human Species is determined to move on with her life and master her own gifts, including the ability to speak to the souls of the dead. With a prominent member of The Marquis, the vampire ruling council, intent of coming to Leah’s hometown, the threat of Chaos touching everyone she loves brings her down a path that includes both Joaquin Wildhorse and Ian Nightwalker.


And, of course, the suspense that keeps the pages turning...

After one particularly long night, I poured myself a glass of wine and filled the tub. As I was about to ease into the rose-scented water, the bathroom light went out. I reached for the gun I had left on the counter before I realized that only the bathroom light had gone out. The hallway was still lit and I could still hear the soft music I’d left playing in the living room. The bulb had to be broken.
Making a mental note to pick up some spare light bulbs tomorrow, I pulled matches out of a drawer and lit the scented candle on the counter. I sank into the tub as the candlelight flickered and the scent of jasmine filled the room. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. That’s when I realized I was no longer alone.


So grab a book and dive into the characters that we all 'love to love' and 'love to hate'!

And check out my blog page at www.RhondaPrint.Blogspot.com for more nibbles of Nightwalker and The Order of Chaos!



20 August 2011

Characters - Write what you know?

People who know I'm an author often ask what parts of myself I put into my characters. People who know me well want to know why I'm not trying to sell my life story to Lifetime. *grins*

I'm a product of the foster care system. In a lot of ways, my life does read like a Lifetime movie. It's one of the reasons I write Paranormal Romances. I have always written to escape my reality, not embrace it. Having said that, it's impossible for my past not to bleed into my work.

When the concept for the Ladies of St. George popped into my head, I initially shelved it. I thought the idea of a bunch of damaged heroines wouldn't make good romances. And then I heard Destiny. After writing the opening scene, I talked to a friend about my concerns. Her answer? Write what you know. One of the reasons Bella is so engaging is that she's real.

So, I did. I took all the isolation, anxiety, and personal backstory into the St. George world. You see, I know what it's like to live life without a safety net; to know that every decision, good or bad, will have irrevocable consequences. I never had anyone to bail me out if I made a wrong move. In college, I worked two, sometimes three, jobs to make ends meet because not earning that degree simply wasn't an option. I had nowhere to go and no marketable skills without it. At a college filled with silver-spooners, it was hard to watch my fellow students squander Mommy and Daddy's money because they didn't care.

But I carried more than that into my St. George heroines. I don't make friends easily. Growing up, the one thing foster homes and abusive homes have in common is that friendships are discouraged. In abusive homes, it's to keep the abuse hidden. In foster homes, it's to ensure a smooth turn-over when it's time to move on to the next one, usually after you cross an age milestone or when your usefulness has ended. That teaches you to be fiercely loyal to those you have the opportunity to grow close to and to hold onto those fragile bonds as long as you possibly can.

Another thing the St. George heroines have in common is the way they value simple things. I never had a milestone celebrated: birthdays, graduations, personal accomplishments, etc. Anything that involved being valued? I was left out in the cold. The only value a foster child has is the rent they bring in. What it taught me was that small things matter, especially those that require personal attention to details.

What I like about my Ladies of St. George series is that I can fold up all the bad parts of my life and spin it into a story where all the weaknesses become strengths and there is always a happy ending.

In BLOOD AND DESTINY, I hear a lot about Yasmine and Destiny with their different life paths. When I introduced Grace in CHRISTMAS GRACE, my inbox was flooded with notes asking about her backstory.

I'm glad people like the St. George heroines because they aren't a mirror of my own life experiences. I'm not using myself as their model. I'm writing stories about how circumstances beyond our youthful control turn us into the women we are as adults. What's cool about that is how each personality morphs the same isolating childhood into a productive life. And how they turn those needs toward the men they chose to share their life with. Yasmine turned hers into a need to create a family, to give to her child the loving home she never had, and that lead her to Kale, alpha family man. Destiny flipped the other switch and became afraid of commitment, of being thrown away when her usefulness was over. So, Destiny fell in love with a vampire who would not only outlive her, but couldn't understand monogamy. Grace turned her demons into the need to put herself first. After all, if she's not going to look out for her interests, no one else is going to care enough to do it for her.

And for you? What parts of your personal backstory lead you down the road you traveled? What part of your own deep needs can you pinpoint to an incident in your past? Me? Well, the reason Yasmine doesn't have a book is because I share her needs. After having a childhood where there were no celebrations, I wanted to give my children everything I had been denied. So far, I'm doing all right.

16 August 2011

Guest Blog Gabriella Hewitt on Doctor Who

Greetings, Kittens!

Xakara here, and today I bring you Gabriella Hewitt who joins us to share a few of her favorite characters and inspirations. Please welcome her aboard and be sure to catch details about her blog tour at the end!




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Doctor Who?

My favorite character of all time is one who repeatedly changes, Doctor Who. The 4th and 10th Dr. fascinate me the most but there are many in-between and a new Doctor introduced recently.

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My father hooked me on the British import television show in the early 80’s. Now mind you that Doctor Who had been floating around in outer space and time traveling since the 1960’s! Nothing was cooler to me than getting into a police box named TARDIS and being whisked off to another dimension in time or some other planet where robotic humanoids ruled.


It has been years since I sat down and enjoyed a good edition of the Doctor. But I came across a Doctor Who marathon being played on BBC America. I screamed with joy. I invited my two sons, both younglings to sit with me and watch. They were a bit confused as to why The Doctor kept changing. My little one could have cared less about a regenerating Time Lord, he was all about the giant robot attacking London. My eldest son wanted to figure out who really was Who. Eventually he declared that he didn’t get it but then we watched another episode and he liked it better. This was because of the flying stingray with outer shells and he was hollering for the Doctor to figure out how to get through the wormhole and close the hole before the aliens got through. Seriously, this was my conversation with my 7 year old. It was fun and fantastic. And I realized that it didn’t matter who the next Doctor was going to be as long as he continued to transfix me with brilliant ideas and irrational thought and creatures from other universes, other dimensions and portal and wormholes to other realms.


Yes, The Doctor is my favorite character, no matter who is playing him.The best part is I guess I put my childhood fondness for the wondrous worlds and enemies of The Doctor into my writings. You can see some of those dimensions, portals and other worldly beings found throughout my stories.

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In OUT OF THE SHADOWS, there are evil creatures that come from the celestial heavens to destroy humanity much like the Cybermen on Doctor Who. The cybermen were once human but replaced their weak mortal flesh with plastic and metal and lost their emotions and controlled by a powerful computer. Which is similar to my evil creatures called the tzitzimime. They were once evil humans who were consumed by their own evilness and taken over by much more powerful beings to do their dirty work. Both creatures have one thing in common, they are bent on destroying humanity and reshaping the world into their own. 

Alas, fear not there are good guys like Doctor Who and Shadow Warriors who are willing to risk it all and beat them before they can cause havoc.

OUT OF THE SHADOWS releases August 16th. You can pre-order it now at Samhain Publishing


In celebration of the 1st book in the SHADOW WARRIOR series, I am holding a contest. Follow me & the tzitzimime (celestial demon and nemesis of Shadow Warriors) on the blog tour and leave a comment to be entered to win a $25 gift certificate from Samhain Publishing. It’s that easy!

All entries must be in by August 24th. The winner will be declared on www.gabriellahewitt.com/blog/ August 26th. Contest starts June 5th and ends midnight August 24th (EST).One winner will be chosen at random.

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About the author:

Gabriella Hewitt is the pen name of creative writing talents Sasha Tomaszycki and Patrizia M.J. Hayashi. Together they weave tales of romantic suspense and dangerously sensual paranormals. Check out the website www.GabriellaHewitt.com to find out about upcoming releases and events on her blog.

15 August 2011

Odd, Quirky, and Off The Wall--Like Me!

The dirty little secret is that I’m not the one who tells the stories. The truth is that I’m the typist. The real crafters of my stories are my characters. But then, I’m attracted to characters. I love watching odd people, or people doing odd things, in real life and in movies and on TV. I hope to capture some of that oddity when I write my stories.


One of my all time favorite is the baby from the TV show Dinosaurs. Baby and his family still make me smile, and the depth of the storylines, hidden under the cute surface, amazed me. It was truly a show for all ages.


Who doesn’t like the TV show Monk? The strange and wonderful Adrian Monk is a pleasure to watch. The actor, Tony Shalhoub, studied people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder and translated the reality into an over the top, quirky character.


I’m not much of a reality TV girl, but I make an exception in the case of Pitboss. There are dogs, okay? The cast of Pitboss: Shorty, Ashley, Sebastian, and Ronald (plus the dogs!) are the quirkiest, most fun group of folks on the little screen. I will warn you, is there is some foul language, though most of it is bleeped out.

There are many other wonderful characters on TV, movies, the mall, and, of course, in books. Who are some of your favorites? What makes a character memorable? Have you ever done something just because it was odd?

Happy Monday, and have a great week!

Cheryel
www.cheryelhutton.com





14 August 2011

Bad Boys, My Favorite Guilty Pleasure


Oh how I love a bad boy. Those delicious men who we know are wrong for us, who will just leave behind a trail of broken hearts, who won’t call us in the morning....but give such pleasure between the sheets that we’ll never forget it. He usually puts himself first and does what he wants whenever he wants. They can be the dangerous man on the motorcycle, the arrogant fighter jet pilot, or the evil mastermind that we just know would give up his nefarious ways if only he had the right woman at his side.


And of course, we all think we’re that one woman who can change him. Who can make him finally see the light and become our one and only. Unfortunately that rarely happens in real life. In real life the super good looking douche bag continues to be a super good looking douche bag and that night with him that rocked our world is just another notch on his bed post. Or, even worse, we end up on Maury Povich doing a paternity test to prove that he is your babies daddy. :P


However, in the world of romance love conquers all and we soon find out that our bad boy wasn’t really all that bad. Within his soul was a place untouched by evil, that flourishes under out love. There is nothing that he won’t do for us, and once he realizes that we are the center of his world he will destroy anyone that tries to harm us. Having all of that wonderful, deadly power wrapped around us like a protective shield is a very seductive image. 

Some of my favorite bad boys are:

Ann Rice’s Lestat. Can’t get much more self-centered and brooding, but he tries to do the right thing. 


Ice from Top Gun. Arrogant, hot, and I’d bet oh so good in bed. 


And Wolverine. Tormented, sarcastic, just waiting for the right woman.



I hope you’ve enjoyed my bad boys, that guilty pleasure that’s sure to break our heart but we just can’t resist. Who’s yours?

13 August 2011



I was a rotten kid. As a child I loved to torment my brothers and boss around the other kids on my block. As a result, I didn’t have many friends. (Yeah, I know. Sad, but I deserved it.)

That’s when I started making up my imaginary playmates. My first playmate was a boy named Larry. I adored Larry and took him everywhere I went. He would sleep in the imaginary bed across from mine. He would sit next to me at the dinner table. Heck, he even played softball, standing right next to me, although he was never a very good player.

Best of all, Larry was as rotten as I was. Larry was the culprit whenever my hand developed a mind of its own and thumped my brother in the head. Larry took the blame whenever I “accidentally” bumped a bowl full of vegetables off the table to scatter awful-tasting peas across the floor. Larry was with me, egging me on when I dropped water balloons off the roof onto unsuspecting neighbors. Larry was the one who made me stay up late and miss the school bus. Larry was, for all the wrong reasons, the perfect playmate.

Then I grew up and Larry went away. Or did he?

I love writing all the characters in my books, both good and bad. Heroes and heroines alike find a place in my heart. But I have to admit that the bad boys claim a special corner. Why? Perhaps it’s because each of my bad boys, whether or not they turn out to be the villain or the hero, has a part of Larry in him.

For instance, the three Cannon brothers in my Cannon Pack werewolf series are different, but they all have a bit of Larry thrown into their personalities. Jason Cannon has Larry’s uninhibited streak. Devlin Cannon has Larry’s witty sarcasm and Daniel Cannon is the guy who acts more calloused than he really is. In my latest book, CLAWED (Wild Things, Book 3), Conan is a bear (literally) of a man who takes on Larry’s habit of one-word answers. Like Larry, he’s stoic, aloof and sometimes downright rude. But in the end, Conan─again like Larry─will do anything for his girl.

So you see, Larry continues to live. Sure, he went away while I grew up and developed other interests. But when I wanted him again, when I became a writer and needed a bad boy, Larry came back to stay.

Now here’s the question for you. Since most of us have had an imaginary friend at one time or another, does your friend still live on in you? Is your friend by your side whenever you shake your head and answer, “I don’t know who did it”? If no, don’t you wish you had your imaginary friend back in your life?

12 August 2011

The character crush...

I first began reading romance novels when I was about twelve/thirteen years old. I'd wander over to a little drugstore near our home and plunk down my month's allowance for every Harlequin Presents novel they had in stock. Ah, the thrill of those crisp, white covers still brings back a fluttery feeling. :)

Those were the days when falling in love seemed simple enough. A little attraction... a little conflict... always a big misunderstanding... followed by declarations of undying love. Believable? Um, probably not. But I devoured the stories as if they were true-to-life guide books to adulthood.

Recently, one of those stories -- a particular favorite of mine -- came to mind, along with the strong desire to read it again. Problem is it's been out of print for quite a while and my dog-eared copy had long ago disappeared on some cleaning spree or other.

Thank heaven's for the Internet and used book sellers everywhere. ;)

It wasn't the story itself, so much, but the characters that captured my imagination. Some heroes have the ability to stay with you over time, imprinted on your heart/mind like an old friend. I still think of Mr. Rochester... Mr. Darcy... Dr. Neil MacNeill (in the book, Christy)... among others. All of them strong, yet vulnerable, men who captured my heart.


Yes, I have periodically developed full-blown character crushes on very Alpha-type men. The kind I would likely smack or run from if I met any of them in real life... Okay, maybe not Mr. Darcy. ;) Books feel ever so much safer, after all. ;)

So, why do some fictional characters appeal to us despite their obvious flaws? Why can we accept actions -- particularly in a hero -- that would disgust us in reality? Yes, it's all subjective and have a lot to do with our own experiences in life, but in this case, I think it mostly has to do with that part of me which thrills at the 'bad boy' personality. At least, as he's portrayed in fiction. Like I said, in life, it probably wouldn't stay so appealing.

Really, how sexy is it when a woman can bring a tough guy like that to his knees?

Today, I do groan inwardly at the 'punishing kisses' of old Presents novels. My first instinct would be to firmly plant a knee to the man's groin. An action I do believe any of my heroines would mimic. So much for romance after that. And yet...

Yes, I've had a bit of a nostalgia trip this week as I skimmed through my 'new' book. I know the story well, so I don't have to read it from cover to cover to fresh my memory on the rather simplistic plot. While I did cringe at the bruising first kisses, I did wind up sighing with pleasure at the end. Yes, it's a guilty pleasure. So sue me.

However, I still wish we could 'see' the story through the hero's eyes as well as the heroines'. I wish I could have really seen him fall in love -- in his own mind -- instead of trying to interpret his feelings from the naive heroine's point of view. That would probably have sent my teen crush into overdrive.

Do you have any crushes you consider a guilty pleasure? A character you hate to love?

~~Meg Allison
Indulge your senses...
http://www.megallisonauthor.com















10 August 2011

13 Links about Characters and Characterization

This month at Beyond the Veil we've been posting about characters. Here's a quick round-up:

1) We started out with Xakara talking about Character Crushes (http://paranormalauthors.blogspot.com/2011/08/characters-welcome-and-readers-too.html)  and she kindly included photos of Michael Shanks, Vin Diesel and Nathan Fillion.

2) Then from A. Catherine Noon, we had an analysis of characters from several science fiction franchises (http://paranormalauthors.blogspot.com/2011/08/characters-i-love.html).

3) Sela Carsen ackled mythological characters (http://paranormalauthors.blogspot.com/2011/08/characters-from-mythology.html)  and archetypes, encouraging us to look around as less common mythologies for story research.

4) Characters who cause conflicting emotions (http://paranormalauthors.blogspot.com/2011/08/characters-you-love-to-hateor-hate-to.html)  were the topic of Carolan Ivey's post--a prime example being Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.

5) Amy/AC Ruttan talked to us a little bit about a favorite historical character, Boudicca (http://paranormalauthors.blogspot.com/2011/08/most-memorable.html),  the spelling of which I had to check several times because nothing looked right.

6) Bianca D'Arc talked about how she is turning HERSELF into a steampunk character (http://paranormalauthors.blogspot.com/2011/08/convention-time-again.html)  for a conference.

7) I am going to continue the listmania I've already started by sharing some links to writerly articles about characterization or characters. First, from my own blog, here is the first entry that came up when I typed in characterization that wasn't one of Meankitty's interviews: http://blog.jodywallace.com/2011/06/whats-up-with-larry.html  This short article is an examination of the character of "Larry" from the Young MC song "Bust A Move". Yes, characterization can occur in works of fiction as short as songs and poems! Let's just say it's succinct characterization (as long as you're not J. Alfred Prufrock).

8) Here's some tips about making character's lovable: http://www.netplaces.com/writing-a-romance-novel/the-nuts-and-bolts-of-characterization/making-characters-lovable.htm

9) Here is a list of deaf characters in romantic fiction: http://www.myshelf.com/deaf/romance.htm  which is more than a little awesome.

10) Author Gabi Stevens talks about writing romance novel protagonists: http://gabistevens.blogspot.com/2009/09/how-to-write-romance-novel-characters.html

11) A slightly older essay from Jennie Crusie about learning tricks from television to use in your romance fiction, including for characterization: http://www.jennycrusie.com/for-writers/essays/the-five-things-ive-learned-about-writing-romance-from-tv/

12) For some snarkier fun (yes, snarkier than Crusie!), here's a look at historical male character (stereotypes) from a website called Literary Dilettantes: http://literarydilettantes.com/2011/03/15/deconstructing-the-romance-novel-characters-edition-part-2/

13) Last but not least -- because (nearly) every character needs a name, here's some character naming tips from Anne Marble with a special section for speculative romance authors: http://www.writing-world.com/romance/names.shtml

It's in character for me to do a Thursday Thirteen at the last minute but I'm actually posting this on Wednesday night! That's slightly OOC (editorial shorthand for out of character) for me but I put not one but 3 reminders on my computer this week so I wouldn’t forget.

Happy reading!

Jody Wallace
So much cyberspace, so little time!
www.jodywallace.com  / www.meankitty.com

08 August 2011

Convention Time Again

This time, I'm heading out for the Authors After Dark convention with a few of my fellow Beyond the Veil friends. In fact, Carolan Ivey, Dana Marie Bell, JC Wilder and I are hosting a "Dark & Dangerous Wine & Cheese" during the convention where we'll be giving away a Nook eReader. If you plan to attend the AAD con, please make sure to come to our event!

If you can't come to the con, never fear, we'll catch you up on the goings on in our next blog posts, I'm sure. The convention grew out of another blog I have been part of for a number of years. I don't have much to do with the planning of the con anymore, but I still like to go and show my support. This year, I'm sponsoring the Steampunk Ball (even though I haven't been published in the Steampunk genre yet) and was forced to get a costume because I'm on the "Steam Court."

Those of you who know me may understand that I HATE costumes at this point in my life. Once upon a time, I was really into it. I worked at a Renaissance Faire and all summer I was a mercenary wench (one of the only female fighters the men let into the mercenary guild!) and dressed and talked the part while on the Faire grounds. It was a lot of fun and I loved dressing up. Now... older and fatter, I really HATE dressing up.

But because I'm on the court, I HAVE TO wear a costume. I agonized over this for months and bought and discarded a few different outfits. Finally, I think I have arrived at a solution and if it works out, I will try to post a pic. First, I'm going to be wearing a wig! I've never worn a wig in my life, but I thought if I was supposed to be Victorian, I needed ringlets and I'm just not that good a hairdresser. LOL. So I bought a wig that has ringlets and a giant hat that will sit on top that I've dressed up with ostrich plumes, netting and the requisite Steampunk goggles. (Mine are actually Harry Potter Quidich goggles, but I don't think anyone will notice. LOL)

The hat matches the costume, which is actually a commercially made lady pirate costume that I've altered with a netting bustle and an added long skirt and boots. I think it'll work. (I HOPE it'll work!) I'll let you all know how it works out after the con, which is next week. Carolan may update you sooner (since my turn to blog probably won't roll around again for a while).

In the meantime, please go out and get your copy of DEAD ALERT, my newest (and last in the series) zombie action/adventure book. Funnily enough, if you look right now, the previous book in the series, A DARKER SHADE OF DEAD, seems to have taken a place on the Kindle SF Best Seller List. Wow! I'm really happy about that and hope all of you will check out the books. The complete series is:

1. SIMON SAYS novella in the HALF PAST DEAD anthology
2. ONCE BITTEN, TWICE DEAD
3. A DARKER SHADE OF DEAD
4. SMOKE ON THE WATER novella in THE BEAST WITHIN anthology (which will be released in mass market paperback next month! It's already available in trade paperback and ebook.)
5. DEAD ALERT

Wish me luck with my costume and happy reading!

B.
Bianca D'Arc
Come over to The D'Arc Side... www.biancadarc.com