30 March 2009

How Do You Feel About....


Personally, I love the idea of coming back and doing it all over again. Though I have to say, I won't be too happy to do high school all over again - let alone puberty. Of course by the time I come back again they might have pills that shoot you through the process like a Growing-Up Skipper. (Remember that doll? You twisted her arm clockwise and she grew breasts and a waistline.)

I also love to read books about lost loves finding each other again in this lifetime. All right, so call me a mush. I know I'm a sappy, sentimental fool in a tough-chick's clothing, but really I just can't help myself. There is just something so touching and beautiful about getting a second chance to get it right. Or a third, or fourth chance even.

Over the years I've studied many and various topics of parapsychology and one of them is the subject of reincarnation. I've read books by Brian Weiss and Micheal Newton, Raymond Moody and Bruce Goldberg for both research purposes and just because I find the subject so fascinating. Reading detailed accounts from the files of respected researchers only confirms my beliefs that such a fantastic thing is possible. Let's face it, energy is never destroyed, it only takes on a new form. So, why not return to the fold and wait until there is an acceptable vessel that we can inhabit? Do we learn everything we need to in one life-time? I doubt it. There is just too much information out there to make that possible.

I've had a plot and a really awful, horrible, dreck of a manuscript based on reincarnation that I've been meaning to pull out of my to-never-be-seen file and dust off and revamp. I've learned so much about not only the topic but the writing craft since I first wrote the very first draft of that book - long hand!!! The second version was actually done on a computer, but it's bad...so freaking bad I can sometimes smell it stinking up the house. A few years ago, I actually sat down with a notebook in hand and started on page one, word one and started to reoutline the novel. I changed the past from Scotland to the New Jersey Highlands. (Similar topography if you stand at the scenic overlook at the rocky cliffs down into the Delaware River which is really what I require in one scene, the rest could happen anywhere.) - I keep saying, I'll work on that one _______ (fill in the blank). However, so many other projects crop up and take importance over that one.

So, I really do hope reincarntion is real. It's going to be the only way I finish all the story ideas I have tucked away.


28 March 2009

Knowing, a movie review

Genres: Action adventure, fantasy, and science fiction.

Is life totally random and meaningless? Or is there some predestination, and purpose, behind everything?

Knowing, ponders this question. John Koestler (Nicholas Cage) is obsessed with questions of fate versus free will, because his wife died in a hotel fire.

Knowing opens in 1959, centered a time capsule. A troubled child psychic includes a sheet of paper containing what is presumably random numbers.

Fast forward to present day where we have astrophysicist and MIT professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) and his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), living together. Of course we are now at the 50th anniversary of the burial of the time capsule, and Caleb ends up with the list of numbers penned by the troubled young psychic.

John is drowning his sorrows in whiskey while trying to teach college class, work as a scientist and raise his son. A drunken John — recently widowed — discovers the meaning behind the numbers. They represent every major national tragedy of the last 50 years — the date, the number killed, and the GPS location.

Breaking it down, the numbers challenge John’s belief in the randomness of life, which he holds in contradiction to his father’s theological convictions.

Knowing starts off fairly predictable as John tries to warn people but no one believes him. Meanwhile his son starts to see eerie visions and hear whispers that are somehow connected.

There is a plot point or two that seem a little too convenient, and some familiar elements from other movies we’ve seen before, but the mystery continues to drive things forward until the big twist in the premise is revealed.

Knowing has a compelling premise that's a little suspenseful, it's also a little creepy. The special effects are great! The train and plane scene are impressive! And the spiritual endings is surprising!

It you enjoyed either The Day The Earth Stood Still, or Signs you're sure to enjoy Knowing.

27 March 2009

Heroes I just can't buy...

...In romance novels.

Among the dozens of cops, spies, cowboys and millionaires, there are just a few types of heroes that will keep me from buying a book. Yes, some of it comes from my own prejudices; my own experiences. But I think we each carry some stereotypes around -- ones that are really hard to break.

So here's a list of heroes that I, personally don't want to read about in a romance:

1. The Amish hero -- I'm sorry. I've tried, believe me. I even bought one such book a few years ago. Despite the author's diligent efforts to raise the man to hero status, it just didn't work for me.

Explanation: I live in Amish country... not in the heart of it, but close enough. In general, they are an interesting sect with high ideals and a fantastic work-ethic. But I have a hard time getting past what I've seen in real life to give any fictional Amish hero a chance. The scraggly beards, for one, just kill the idea. And then there are the stories I've heard... but suffice to say, I'm rather shallow.

2. The car salesman -- I don't like pushy, overbearing people. Car salesmen, unfortunately, have this image firmly in place.

3. The politician -- Yes, I've become very jaded over the last twenty years. Politicians are not, in my estimation, glamorous or sexy. I'd much rather have that honest, hard-working cowboy with mud on his boots.

4. The gynecologist -- Do I really have to explain this one?

5. The professional wrestler / cage fighter / boxer / etc -- I hear an uproar in cyberland! But I have a hard time appreciating any man who enjoys beating the hell out of someone else on a regular basis.

6. The pastor / Reverend / etc -- The only type of novel this hero 'works' in, IMHO, is the Inspirational romance. I don't read those very often. In sexy romances, a man of this calling should live his religion, in other words: no sex outside of marriage. Yep, I'm serious. So if he's being true to himself -- to his vocation and beliefs, then fine. I'll give the book a try. If not, he's a hypocrite and I really don't like hypocritical heroes.

Does anyone want to add to the list?

25 March 2009

13 Reasons Why Your Book Didn't Final in the RITAs

Is there anything in our little corner of the internet that evokes more angst -- and more ranting -- than RWA's Golden Heart and RITA Awards? Well, there probably is, but since the nominations were announced today (http://tinyurl.com/dmmfpl) I thought it might be a good time to summarize, in a nice, concise list, the most common reasons why manuscripts do not final in the RITA awards.

[[The Golden Hearts, for those of you who aren't part of Romancelandia, are the awards for unpublished manuscripts, and the RITAs are for published manuscripts. Both awards are judged by RWA volunteers in the initial round, and entries are not nominated from all available books. They must be placed in the contest by their authors (or publishers) along with a fee and enough copies to go around. And yes this introduction may look familiar if you also visited my post about the Golden Hearts at The Otherworld Diner. What can I say? I'm strapped for time.]]

(This list presumes your novel is a romance, btw.)

1) Your book was released from a small press or in electronic format. Those books = not allowed in RITAs.

2) Your book was not entered in the RITAs. Authors have to go out of their way to enter--books don't get nominated by other people like they do in the Hugos or the Nebulas.

3) The use of the word "f*ck" in the book caused 3 or more judges to mark it "Not a Romance."

4) The use of the word "qu*eb" in the book caused 3 or more judges to mark it "Not a Romance".

5) When the heroine died in the end but did not return as a corporeal ghost for future love noogins, several of your judges decided the "HEA" was questionable, which affected the score.

6) The hero and heroine found out 3/4 of the way through the book they have the same father.

7) Your kick-ass heroine actually continued to kick ass after the hero was introduced. Including his.

8) The judges noticed that you scribbled out the copyright date of 1997 and wrote in 2008, even though you were really careful and used a fine tip Sharpie. Your book was dinged for being "stale".

9) The meangirl internet haterz (who are also PAN members) torpedoed your score in a vast conspiracy to make sure you never final because they are jalus. (They killed my book! Those bastards!)

10) You accidentally sent in five copies of that cookbook you had printed at Lulu.com of family recipes, and judges had trouble relating to the hero and heroine.

11) The package containing your books was mailed to Rwanda instead of the RWA offices. (The Rwandans enjoyed it quite a bit but since they were not RWA PAN members, their scores didn't count.) http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/RWA

12) In order to cut postage costs, your book was not, in fact, mailed to judges at all but was instead displayed at the mall where random passers by were asked to rate the hotness of the cover on a scale of 1 to 9.

13) One of the other finalists hired a top secret contest SWAT team to break into the RWA offices the night of March 24, 2009, and switch out your scores with hers.


14) Several of your judges, intimidated by their towering stacks of RITA entries, marked your 100,001 word novel as "TL", or "Too Long".


I posted the top 10 reasons why your manuscript didn't final in the Golden Hearts at The Otherworld Diner.

Jody W.

23 March 2009

Romance at the Sci Fi Con

I spent the weekend at Lunacon - a science fiction and fanatasy convention in Rye, NY. It was just marvelous, but I arrived at a few broad conclusions that might be of interest. First, romance readers often read even more than SF/F readers do, which is quite a bit, indeed. Second, romance readers seem to embrace ebooks and their technology more readily than SF/F readers, which is the opposite of what I would have expected. And third, trying to define what "paranormal romance" is among that kind of group is not an easy thing.

As an example, I was on a vampire panel moderated by Sarah Hoyt (who is a funny and incredibly interesting woman). On this panel, the discussion mostly revolved around the origins of the vampire and it was a really hard sell to try to convince the non-romance writers and readers that vampires could be dashing, handsome heros in romance novels. They had a hard time equating the undead creature of Stoker's original tome with the super hot Alpha-male Carpathians of Christine Feehan's world, as one example. I learned quite a bit this weekend and had a great time talking with readers and other writers.

I should mention that FireDrake will be released in print on March 31st. I did a reading of the Prologe and a bit of the first chapter this weekend at the convention and it was very well received. Also, the last in the trilogy of my vampire novellas will be released in roughly 2 weeks, on April 3rd, from Samhain Publishing. It's called Phantom Desires. The three novellas: One & Only, Rare Vintage and Phantom Desires will be released in a single print volume titled Brotherhood of Blood early next year.

21 March 2009

Interview: Lee Padgett, Blurb Wizard

Please welcome today’s guest, Lee Padgett. Better known to Samhain Publishing authors as the “Blurb Wizard.” The following is a transcript from an IM interview conducted yesterday. Enjoy!

Carolan: Welcome to Beyond the Veil, Lee! Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to talk to us.

Lee: Thanks for having me!

Carolan: I trust you made it across the moat with a minimum of fuss?

Lee: My heart needed a good jump start, anyway. Thanks for warning me about the Kracken’s feeding time – that economy size bag of Snausages came in handy!

Carolan: Excellent. We try not to lose anybody. Please tell us a little about what you do for Samhain Publishing.

Lee: Well, how about if I give you the elevator speech:

I write and edit blurbs and tagline “hooks” for all of Samhain’s published books. I take the authors’ first stabs at it and massage, plump, pummel, sharpen, smooth, slice, dice and reconstruct them into palm-sized packages designed to entice potential readers into hitting the “buy this book” button.

(For the uninitiated, a “blurb” is what’s on the back of a paperback, or the inside cover flap of a hardback.)

Carolan: Could you explain what I’ve heard you call “microscopic marketing”?

Lee: It’s my job to convince the reader to part with $5.50(ish) for an ebook or $12-$15 for a paperback book in 200 words or less. Actually much less – the tagline has to hook them into reading the blurb first. That’s 20 words or MUCH less. That’s what I term “microscopic marketing”. I don’t know if it’s a term I’ve coined, but it fits what I do for Samhain.

Samhain is unique in that it gives its authors input into their blurb copy. This isn’t always the case. For the big NY houses it’s pretty unheard-of.

Carolan: I know that I, for one, was surprised to learn that blurbs aren’t normally written by the authors themselves.

Lee: Me, too! However, I’ve learned that in fact many authors hate doing it! It amazes me that authors who can leap 90k-word manuscripts in a single bound, collapse into quivering masses of insecurity with it comes to their blurbs. Not all of them, but more than I would have thought!

Carolan. Ahem, we’ll just forget about that little incident surrounding my last blurb, shall we?

Lee: I am a professional and my lips are sealed. Thanks for the chocolate, by the way. Having it delivered by a kilted Highlander was a nice touch.

Carolan: *cough* You’re welcome. Now, where were we?

Lee: Quivering masses…

Carolan: Oh, yes. How did you get started wizarding blurbs for Samhain?

Lee: Funny story, that. It all started when I met Christine Brashear at a bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and we got to talking over a couple of Hurricanes. I mentioned that among the many types of writing I do, I especially enjoy creating sharp, snappy, hooky marketing copy. She smiled, bought me another Hurricane, and I woke up three days later chained to a desk in Samhain’s corporate office.

Carolan: Really?

Lee: Swear to god.

Okay, not really. I mentioned that I enjoy the challenge of writing marketing copy, and her ears perked up. “We could really use a hand with…would you be interested in…” I said sure, I’d give it a try. She was happy with my initial efforts and I’ve been working the blurbs ever since.

Apparently the editors at Samhain were grateful to turn the bulk of the blurbing process over to me. When an editor has 20+ authors, and each blurb could take several rounds of back-and-forth, you can see how it can eat into an editor’s time. And sanity.

Carolan: What’s the general process?

Lee: Sometime during the final stages of manuscript editing, the editor will, ahem, strongly encourage the author to write a first draft of their blurb and tagline. These are passed on to me along with the synopsis for the book, and I take it from there.

Carolan: Why the synopsis?

Lee: It’s difficult to capture the essence of the book, and the author’s unique voice, within the confines of 200 words or less. The author is often too close to the work to see the forest for the trees – IOW, pick out the defining details. More often than not, the synopsis is gold mine of information – tone, time period, location, etc. – anything that makes the book different from the rest. Once in a great while, if I’m just not feelin’ it, I’ll ask for the first chapter or two of the manuscript itself.

Carolan: How do you decide what goes into the blurb?

Lee: Pretty much every romance boils down to: 1) What does the hero want? 2) What does the heroine want? 3) What’s the major conflict? Of course, there’s variations for a gay romance or ménage, but it’s basically the same process. The trick is to package these three questions into a compact, fast-reading blurb that will entice the reader to click the buy button.

Let me just take a second here to insert an opinion: Any author who can’t easily answer these three questions about their book (the classic trapped-in-an-elevator-with-an-editor speech), needs to rethink the book. Not that Samhain authors have any problem with this – that’s why they’re Samhain authors, after all!

Carolan: We aim to please!

Lee: Okay, moving on. Next comes the tagline. I generally do these last, after I have an idea what the book is about and the general tone of the blurb. While I'm working, I jot down key phrases and words that pop into my mind. Taglines are not mini-synopses. These are the one-line hooks that attract the reader to click to read the blurb. Think, “Where’s the beef?”, not “What is the location of my two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun?”

Many authors are pretty good at these, and most of the time all I need to do is tweak them. Punch them up a little bit, trim off a couple extraneous words.

Carolan: Which brings me to a question from one of our BtV authors, Jody Wallace. “How do you balance the need to get the idea across in the shortest possible time (with buzz words or pop culture reference or what have you) with general cliché avoidance?”

Lee: Great question! It gets tough sometimes not to fall into the cliché trap, especially if yours is the fourth or fifth blurb I’ve done that day. Also, after doing, what, over 500 of these for Samhain, the real challenge is not to repeat a tagline!

What I try to do, if I find my brain glomming onto a cliché, is to take it and turn it on its ear. Play with the words and come up with something that sounds kind of familiar, but not quite.

One thing that in my opinion is a cop-out (and makes me crazy when I see it in a romance blurb), is a tagline and/or final line of a blurb that’s phrased as a question. Come on. These are romances. We know “twu wuv” (yes, I read the BtV blog regularly) will win the day. What I want to know is how high is the mountain the H&H have to climb to get there. And if can you make me as a reader want to climb that mountain with them.

Carolan: Sounds like fun!

Lee: It’s not always! What makes my job fun is the authors! I look at this as a collaborative process. There are times when a blurb and/or tagline will fight us every step of the way. When I’m fresh out of ideas and the author is so sick of looking at that damned manuscript she wants to scream!

In those cases it is the brainstorming, the bouncing of random ideas back and forth among me, the editor and the author that invariably leads to that elusive combination of words that makes magic. Some off-the-wall idea from me will spark the author to say, “Hmm, what about…” then the editor to cry, “Yeah! And if we do this…”, and finally I’ll finish with, “Let’s trim this word or substitute that word…” and voila. We have lift-off.

Carolan: Do you ever have to get rough with an author?

Lee: No, I rarely have to break out the stompy boots. LOL The editors, I suspect, bear the brunt the authors’ reactions to my first pass at a blurb. I look at it like this: We have less than ten seconds to capture a reader’s attention, and convince them to spend the next 30-45 seconds of her life finding out what your book is about. Then, if we’re lucky, the next few minutes after that reading the excerpt or first chapter. I figure if we can get the reader that far, we've upped the odds that the reader will buy.

Carolan: [gulp] Ten seconds?

Lee: Ten seconds. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. Competition out there is brutal. Readers have literally thousands of books to choose from every day, and even a great book won’t get a second look if the first impression isn’t spot on. Look at me as your first reader. If my attention is wandering in the first paragraph of the blurb, that’s a problem I’m going to try to fix for you. :)

Carolan: Any closing thoughts?

Lee: I have the best job in the world. I get to work with some of the best authors and editors in the indie publishing business. I get to take their amazing stories and focus them, with laser precision, into a bite-sized morsel that will leave potential readers hungry for more. The cover is the first crumb in the bread trail; the tagline is the tantalizing aroma; the blurb is the first bite; the excerpt is the appetizer. The reward: The book jumps off the menu and into the reader’s hands or e-reader.

Carolan: Um, that paragraph was riddled with clichés.

Lee: Sue me.


Lee Padgett’s parents knew something was afoot when they discovered their infant daughter’s favorite teething object was a pen. Since that prophetic beginning, she has made her living with words. A bachelor’s degree in natural resources with an emphasis in communications led to a career in journalism, which she left behind in 1991 to switch to freelancing. This versatile writer works all sides of her brain, gleefully tackling everything from technical documentation to marketing copy to web content to fiction and beyond. She will, literally, write just about anything for food.


20 March 2009

Spring is in the air!

Today is the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, so it’s time to celebrate spring in mythology.

Let’s start with the Classical mythology of Greece and Rome. Okay, who remembers the word “chthonic”? It’s a Greek word that means “of the earth.” As in, the actual soil and interior of the earth. Many deities associated with spring and growth are chthonic, as they were worshipped in relation to agriculture, i.e. digging around in the dirt.

Gaia, for in stance, was a primal goddess in Greek mythology. She is the mother who bore the Sky and the Sea and all the Titans. She came before them all and was the embodiment of the Earth.

Cybele is also a Greek mother goddess, but her origins are slightly different. She springs from Phrygia, which is now part of Turkey. Another goddess, Rhea, fulfills a similar position, but she is Minoan.

One of Gaia’s offspring is Demeter, the Greek goddess of growing things, grain and fertility. Her Romance equivalent is Ceres. Demeter is a more Olympian goddess, though. While she is concerned with the bounty of the earth, she is also subject to the arrogance and thoughtlessness that characterized Olympian deities.

Demeter’s daughter Persephone, however, is more earth-based than Olympian. The myth of her abduction by Hades is something called an “origin story” or a story devised to explain earthly mysteries, such as the seasons. She spends six months of the year above ground with her mother, Demeter, helping things grow, then she returns to the Underworld for six months as the earth lies fallow.

Flora is a minor Roman goddess, one of many associated with fertility, but she has the distinction of a festival in her honor. Floralia was held at the conjunction of April and May and was celebrated with offerings of milk and honey. It was also a celebration that Rome’s prostitutes claimed as their own, so Floralia got pretty bawdy!

Moving on from the Classical world, the Germanic goddess Ostara or Eostre is in many ways the basis of our current Easter celebration. She is the goddess of dawn light and was celebrated with many items associated with fertility and fresh growth, such as hares and eggs.

Freya, the Norse goddess of fertility has associations with spring, but she’s more about the sensual than the agricultural.

Brigid is a Celtic goddess and her dealings with spring are specific to her role as a bringer of light because she rules over sacred flames. At the festival of Imbolc, traditionally celebrated on Feb 2 (Groundhog Day), she is said to bring the first light to the turning of the year.

Whichever mythology you prefer, though, there is a unique way to celebrate the warming of the earth and the fresh, renewing spirit of spring!

19 March 2009

Wuv, Tru Wuv

Let me start by saying that I am by no means down on love. I love love, that’s why I read and write paranormal romance. What I’ve come to cringe at is the One True Love story line. A love so strong and so fated that it’s enough to even save the very soul of the hero, (whether it’s a matter of keeping him from losing his soul, or getting it back from whence it has gone.)

My first issue with the repetition of this storyline is that it’s always the hero whose soul needs to be saved by the true, (and often fast won), love of the heroine. Thus far, this is always because he’s some sort of supernatural creature and the human heroine who loves him anyway breaks his curse. Urban Fantasy may have its problems with angsty and tortured females, but at least the heroines get to be in the thick of things and just as non-human as the ill-fated hero in Paranormal Romance.

Second issue, no matter what curse/circumstance/whathaveyou the hero is suffering under, it’s always a woman that’s supposed to get him out of it. I’m not saying that it’s a surprise that mainstream paranormal romance is nearly 100% heterosexual; I’m saying that even a background acknowledgement would be nice. Inevitably, the history of the lost soul and how it can be recovered is revealed in reference to a friend, or friend of a friend. Said friend has yet to be part of a same-sex pairing on a noteable scale. (Personally, I can’t find it on a miniscule scale, if you know of a story that touches on this, please let me know, I’d love to read it and support it so we get more on the market).

Third issue, the concept that on a planet of more than six billion people, that there’s only one single individual meant for the hero and heroine, even if hundreds or thousands of years separate their births. Now it’s wonderful to explore the concept of two people meeting who are “perfect” for each other, or darn close to it. But the idea that only a single person in all existence will have the right mix of traits and interests to be a meaningful companion to any other person…That a thousand years of life, meeting people from all walks and stratum of society, will yield no one else until the appointed time…do I need to go on?

I love love and I love love stories, but I think there are twists and turns the modern romance reader is ready to see done with even the oldest archetype. What happens if the hero is straight and his soul mate, (note, I don’t say true love), is also male? Wouldn’t it be a soul mate’s job to help you find a true love? Soul mate as wing man, brother, best friend; a different kind of relationship that lets the heroine learn about the hero through an intimate secondary interaction? You sometimes see the secondary male, but never with the intensity between soul mates.

I won’t even go into the need for same-sex mainstream romance. What about meeting two people who are both soul mates/true love options? How do you resolve that when there’s no wrong choice? (Not that I necessarily feel there needs to be a choice, but as a poly romance writer I’m biased and admit that). And for goodness sake, can we have a male with the sincerity and “purity” to save the heroine? (Or another hero, wait, I mentioned that already, nevermind).

I know that here at Samhain and other e-presses, we’re putting these storylines out there, but they aren’t what I’m seeing on the shelves in abundance and I know there’s an audience out there for them, our readers prove that. I just want more options and variation to the broody untouchable paranormal hero saving the life of the independent but self-conscious and vulnerable human heroine, who saves his soul/is his soul mate, against all odds.

Love is more abundant than that. Its stories should be too.

18 March 2009

Growing up with Fantasy

I grew up with Fantasy. Even before I read my first romance (thank you Louisville Public Library for not stifling the curiousity of a 12 year old when she first found the clench cover) I had fallen in love with Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and Tolkein.

the white dragon

Anne McCaffrey had the most wonderful dragon stories, and opened a world to me I never knew existed. When I first laid eyes on "The White Dragon", I was a goner. I quickly searched out Dragonsong and Dragonsinger, and went looking for more tales of fantasy.

 a spell for chameleon

I'm not sure how I got from McCaffrey to Anthony, but when I read Piers Anthony's tales of Xanth they took my breath away. I spent many long hours happily lost in a very non-Mundane world.


Less than a year later I finally moved on to Tolkein. I thought myself more than a little in love with Frodo, and dreamed great dreams of going on his adventures. Before we had Orlando Bloom in pointy ears and tights, Frodo was my hero.

It was pretty soon after that I found those clench covers on the library racks. For a while, my love for fantasy was forgotten, and I moved on to more romantic reading. Through middle school and most of high school, I was very happy with my romance novels and "required" literature reading.

Then one day at Books-A-Million during my junior year of high school, I came across this :


I still remember standing there in the bookstore reading the first two chapters.  Buying it, then racing home and staying up until late into the night reading about Tanis and Sturm, Caramon and Raistlin.  It was love from first sight, and the Dragonlance Chronicles became some of my favorite reads as I left high school and went to college.

I’ve read a lot of good fantasy, and more than a little great fantasy, in the years since.  But these 4 series have been some of my most passionate book loves for many years now.  Even today I can reread them and be amazed by the stories these authors could weave, the worlds they could bring to vibrant, captivating life

Every book we love should leave a bit of itself behind after you close the cover.  So it isn’t surprising that I’ve written my first fantasy.  And if you’ve read my previous Samhain release, you won’t be shocked to find that my fantasy world is a bit more sensual – ok, much much more sensual – than the worlds of the authors I read as a preteen and teen. 

Do you still reread the books that you loved when all books were new to you?  And how did they shape the books you love today?

Look for Flawed, by Ember Case, coming June 30th from Samhain Publishing

13 March 2009

I See Dead...Coffee Cups?

I don’t normally steal blog ideas from The Colbert Report, but this was too perfect: Too much caffeine will make you see ghosts.

Finally! A magic potion to make me psychic like the cool kids! And it’s legal. In fact, it’s already in my kitchen.

Wait a minute, it’s in my kitchen, I already drink enough tea (not to mention eat enough chocolate) to qualify for my own wing in the Caffeine Hall of Fame, and so far it hasn’t done anything except let me squeeze out a few more words on my project of the minute and inspire the name of the spouse person’s latest cartoon blog. It’s never helped me see any ghosts. I want my money back!

But I’m not going to get it. Turns out the original study never made a direct connection between caffeine and ghosts. What it said was caffeine seems to exaggerate the effects of cortisol, one of the brain chemicals associated with stress—and stress predisposes folks to visual hallucinations.

Dangerous stuff that. The ghosts I know wouldn’t take kindly to being called hallucinations. They’re people too, you know. Well, most of them. Among the various corporeally challenged critters in our neighborhood is a little gray and white ghost cat. Yes, people are more likely to catch sight of it when they’re tired or stressed, but that doesn’t appear to be a requirement.

Then there’s the whole visual thing. Just because I almost never see ghosts doesn’t mean they don’t interact with me. Take the ghost cat, for example. Occasionally, it jumps up on the bed and curls up on the comforter, just like our flesh and blood fur ball, except they never share. Believe me, there is very little quite as unnerving as waking in the dim pre-dawn to the press and pad of little cat feet atop the covers, only to realize our Lord of the Litterbox is sitting in the doorway, watching.

And cat—the real one—doesn’t use caffeine. Or get stressed. That's not how he rolls.

Sigh. Back to the drawing board.

Superstitious Shadows...

*Cues JAWS music*

The full moon is waning...and it's the second Friday the 13th in a row. Superstitious people are stepping lightly...but is it just us? Even people not plagued by superstition are being extra careful today. Take my husband for example. *grins* No, I don't mean literally. I think I'll keep him. But figuratively... He is the least superstitious person I know and even he rearranged his schedule so nothing big fell on today.

While walking the dog this morning, I noticed every shadow had eyes. The deer lurking in the trees really were going to jump out and eat us. Now, my dog's nickname is the Cowardly Lion. Lacy tends to think ANY shadow is out to get her, and I laugh normally. Today? Today we cut our walk short and came up to lurk around the street lamp...and not just because I've been working on another shifter book.

Enjoying the crisp warmer air of the coming spring and the bright light of the moon is one thing. Standing around waiting to be eaten is another thing entirely. The dog had her long walk after the sun came up.

Crazy? Cautious? Or just plain smart? Uhm...makes ya wonder, doesn't it?

On a brighter note, the box of books I ordered came this week. I was so excited! It was better than Christmas to my five-year olds. There's just something about having the smell of new books...and the reality that it's yours that validates the hours we spend pounding out the words.

And this brings me to a story...of my first official book signing to a stranger. On Valentine's Day, my husband and I packed up the kids and zipped to the only store that I knew stocked ON THE PROWL. It was in Macon, forty-five minutes away.

When we got there, Josie and I went straight to the shelves and started looking. I didn't see it on my first glance under "C". A closer look showed it - there was only one copy left (but they've restocked it) - and I thought my heart was going to stop right there! We had our little happy dance moment and then took some pictures for my scrapbook. I was on cloud nine. The moment couldn't get better, right?

Wrong. Cheryl, a reader who was browsing the aisle, saw the commotion and came over and asked if it was my book. When I said yes, she immediately asked if I would sign it for her. Talk about making my day! I was so excited my hand was shaking. And of course, she had to pose for pictures for my scrapbook, too. It was a really grand moment for me.

Thank you, Cheryl, for making the book day complete.

But, I digress. Back to the original topic - superstitions. Are you guilty of throwing salt over your shoulder? Avoiding black cats? Cracks on the sidewalk?

What is the one thing that makes your heart pound when it happens to you?

12 March 2009

Four Ladies, A Bottle of Charaz, and one Motorhead

I admit it. I have a deep and abiding love for muscle cars. It can’t be helped. I like to joke that I was probably conceived in the back seat of a 1957 Ford Farelane although my dad disputed that. He insisted I was planned, but there was the twinkle in his eye and the twitch of his lip that made me think that although I may have been planned, they had a great deal of fun doing it.
And I’m sure my dad’s favorite car in the world was somehow involved.

But my dad and I did share a love for cars and when my old 1968 Chevy Impala’s cam shaft twisted off, he presented me with the car of my old dreams.

A 1974 Mercury Cougar XR-7 350 v8 engine and 4 barrel carb.

I get car orgasms just thinking about it.
I put my foot in that motor and kept it there until he found out. He then sweet talked me out of it in favor of a 1982 Monte Carlo that looked nice but didn’t have the vice.
I still don’t know how he did that.
So it stands to reason, that with my fondness for muscle cars that I would at some point write about one.
And this is how Marilyn came to be.
Although Marilyn hasn’t been out since June, it did cause a brief flutter of controversy in the world of horror fiction writers. Some, though never having read the book at all, concluded it was a k-mart version of Stephen King’s Christine and was thus not worthy of a read.
I don’t think that effected the sales any. I think what has effected sales is because nobody really knows about the book. And I guarantee, Christine never gave anyone a happy ending.
So I’d like to correct that by telling you how Marilyn came to be and where you can purchase a copy of your vary own.
It happened a couple of years ago, on a warm spring day much like today, where I and three of my dearest friends were hanging out at my best friend’s house. She’s of Italian descent and her house always smells wonderfully of fresh baked bread and olive oil. We were drinking cheraz, enjoying the soft warm air wafting from the kitchen window, scented by her rosemary hedge just beyond. Outside our husbands were preparing grills and dutch ovens for a cookout we were planning later on that evening.
After about the third bottle of cheraz went around, the conversation went from common everyday things, such as work and children and what craft project we were on, to the men in our lives. And men who, in the past walked in and out of our lives.
I started thinking about that time back in 1983, when my husband to be and I were dating, and we were cuddled up in the back seat of my beloved Cougar, watching Krull at the drive in theater. And I got an unexpected flareup of the giggles.
My friends wanted in on the private joke and so I told them, which set off another round of giggles from everyone. So with the wine flowing and bread baking and the men grilling outside, a story started forming in my mind.
About cars.
And about the people who love them.
And love in them.
And what would happen if all these elements came together and you came up with a car that loves its driver so much it gives happy endings.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain that.
And so Marilyn was conceived in the back seat of my imagination.
Marilyn is a 1958 Edsel Citation named after the actress, was top of the line for it’s time, and far ahead of its time in terms of technology. Unfortunately a recession killed off this model as well as the appearance of the horse collar grill. And nobody liked the tele touch transmission.
But I digress.
And so I give to you today a touch of the magic that is Marilyn. She’s a wonderful car. Every teenager’s dream. I love her. I think you’ll love her too.
Bobby made it to the Arizona-New Mexico border before his last cup of coffee gave out and he had to stop for the night. It was well past two a.m. and he’d been driving along the cool desert stretch of highway, admiring the immense cascade of stars, the lopsided moon shining down at him just before it slid past the Dos Cabeza Mountains and out of sight.
He loved the very feel of the car, took pleasure in the smoothness of the ride, the hypnotic hum of the engine. Bobby was enjoying it so much that he hadn’t realized he was beginning to doze off. Marilyn’s horn blared, jarring him awake just in time to see he was sliding off the highway and onto the shoulder. He jerked the car back onto the road. He pulled over by a long and seemingly purposeless guardrail and stopped, his heart hammering in his chest.
That was close, he thought. I need to find a hotel for the night, or at least another truck stop so I can get more coffee. Bobby turned on the overhead light and rummaged for his map. After studying it in the dim light and finding no town in sight, he drove until he came to a nearby rest stop about five miles from where he stopped earlier. He killed the engine, locked the doors, slid back to and dozed.
Soft desert breezes invaded the partially open windows and caressed his face as he made that luxurious slide into sleep. Moments later Bobby found himself floating just above the car parked next to the creepy Joshua trees that crouched in the sodium-drenched lights of the rest stop. Then he settled back into himself. A scent, strong, profound and old, like the perfume his grandmother used to wear, filled the car. A faint mumbling filled the car. Bobby strained to hear.
You know what this looks like? It looks just like that place where those kids went parking, and you know what happened next? Have you heard the story, Vinnie?
Bobby felt the seat slide further back. He rested on the cusp of sleep, aware that something strange but exciting was happening around his groin area, yet was not convinced it wasn’t a dream.
The radio switched on, playing a throaty saxophone infested instrumental that sounded familiar but couldn’t quite place. Damn, he thought dimly. The dial must be stuck on the oldie’s channel. That’s all I’ve been able to get all day. I’ll have to get that fixed when I get back to Austin. Eminem beats the hell out of
Did you know? How did you hear about?
He couldn’t complete the thought because something very interesting was happening between his legs. He opened his eyes and looked down, astonished, as his fly unzipped—slowly and sensually, no zipper faux pas is this, he realized—Bobby found he couldn’t quite think of anything else. The noise on the radio was no longer important. What was happening between his legs was all consuming.
Even with the window partly rolled down, the scent of perfume was so thick he couldn’t breathe. He tried to slide his face near the window to get some air, but an invisible force was holding him down. Jesus, Marilyn, what are you doing to me? He wondered as a heavy but unseen entity climbed onto his lap and began a slow, undulating movement that forced his penis to vacate his tidy whities and stand at attention.
Did you hear about it Vinnie? How did you know?
Bobby couldn’t help it. He hit his mental snooze button, and slid deeper into the seat while the thing on his lap rubbed and gyrated against his groin.
Did you hear? Did you know?

You can purchase a copy at http://www.whispershome.com/

10 March 2009

Poison in print

This month I have a new print release, Poison. It will be released at the end of the month at Amazon and other places, but it's already available at Barnes and Noble, Books-a-million and Powells, which is very cool.

Anne Cain did this absolutely lovely cover, and I adore it. Here's the blurb:

In this world, trust is hard to find…and the one thing they need to survive.

Tobias Smator lives down his late father’s execution by avoiding the spotlight—and responsibility. He doesn’t mind what people think of him as long as they leave him alone. Still, in this unremarkable half-life he’s fashioned for himself on deceptively low-tech Rimania, he’s not safe from political intrigue. Someone wants him dead.

Alliance operative Geln Marac’s orders for his first assignment were simple: Stay uninvolved. Those orders go out the window, however, when he delivers an antidote to save Tobias from death by poisoning. His reward? Possible betrayal that lands him in the hands of police interrogators. To protect the Alliance, Geln resorts to a temporary mindwipe.

Tobias is fascinated by the amnesiac man who saved his life. But Geln has attracted the attention of the high-powered Lord Eberly, who would use him as a pawn. Rather than sacrifice Geln to the political wolves, Tobias chooses to embrace his heritage.

Geln’s memory reawakens to a precarious situation with no source of protection—except Tobias. There’s only one way forward for both of them.

Trust—or die.

You can read an excerpt here.

09 March 2009

Read an E-Book Week!

March 8-14 is Read an E-Book Week!

To celebrate, head over to the Samhain Cafe for Reader Appreciation Week and comment to win free e-books!

Times and technology are changing -- and changing quickly. While e-books have been around for several years, it took the marketing savvy of the folks at Amazon to really bring the idea to the public marketplace.

Now the big debate isn't paper or plastic, it's Kindle or Sony. The ladies at Dear Author regularly post about e-reading technology and their most recent post, How to Decide Between the Sony and the Kindle eInk Readers, is merely the latest in an ongoing debate.

If the nifty gadgets don't convince you, how about this article from EPublishers Weekly called 30 Benefits of EBooks. Top of the list? Ebooks promote reading at a time when people spend more time in front of screens, than in front of books. Also, they're environmentally friendly.

John Siracuse of Ars Technica gives a clear-eyed view of the changing face of e-book technology over the years with The once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age.

For writers debating the merits of e-book vs traditional publishing, please keep in mind that, as Angela James notes in this article, A Different Way Isn't the Wrong Way.

However you choose to read, remember that the platform isn't the most important thing. It's All About the Story.

ETA: Head over the Barbaray Vey's Beyond Her Book blog at Publisher's Weekly. It's her 2nd anniversary bash and she'll be giving away a ton of books every day this week! Today is Paranormal Romance day, so you'll see lots of familiar names.

08 March 2009

Memo From the Universe: Be Patient

If I've learned anything over the years, it's that when things don't go my way, despite my best laid plans (sans mice and men) that there's a reason for it, and if I wait long enough, I'll figure out what it is.

Sounds silly? This theory has proven itself time and again over the years. In the strangest ways. The reason may not come around for a year, or even longer, and I get impatient and do stupid things in the meantime that I look back and go "Duh! Why did I do that when THIS was supposed to happen?"

When The Crown of Zeus was being shopped, I had it with a publisher who had plans for it if he liked it. It fell through, and I was sad. Then I found Samhain, and my editor(s) - my first editor had to leave due to health issues - were so enthusiastic about it I couldn't have asked for anything better. Just an example of this Universe talking to me.

The latest episode has gone something like this: I've been working my arse off getting certifications to be able to teach, to have a full time job. Last year I went job hunting, found what I thought was the perfect job. Didn't get it. I was disheartened - where would I find another school I liked so much?

So this year I went with my plan B and added my home school district to my substitute list. (I'm still finishing up my second Bachelor's degree too, and I'm kind of glad I didn't have a full time job now, since it would have been nearly impossible, time-wise.) I've really enjoyed being there, more than the other district I work for. They give me work almost every day. And this week they've offered me a long-term sub job, as long as there's no certification issues with the state:

It's in the library.

I get to be paid to be surrounded by an elementary school library for three months! Whoo Hoo! And if I HAD gotten what I thought was that dream job, I wouldn't have been here to take it. It'll look great on my resume. And I may be taking an adjunct position for next year, which is how I've heard several teachers got their full time jobs...Son will be in school full-time next year, and I'll be finished that degree, which will make things even easier.

It's been nearly a year since I started the job search. I'll be hitting the teacher job fair again this year, but if I don't get an offer, I'll know it's because the job I'm supposed to have hasn't found me yet.

The Universe speaks, I just have to remember to listen.

07 March 2009

Grandma Goes to the Con

What’s a nice grandma like you doing in a crazy place like this?

No, I’m not talking about Beyond the Veil. I have way too much respect for the authors who blog here to say that—not yet anyway. To be in the company of the awesome people who hang out here is an honor. I just hope I can live up to the challenge. I’m new to this author gig, and I’m still having some culture shock.

No, the crazy I’m talking about is the world of fantasy/science fiction conventions. It’s a world I’d ventured into a few times prior to getting published, but it had been a few years. When a friend of mine pointed out that since I write fantasy and horror romance, the Con scene was a place I should be. It sounded like a good idea, so granny went to the Cons.

Okay, I admit it, I’m a grandma. I used to try to hide the fact that I have a few gray hairs, but I’ve decided it’s not necessarily a bad thing. 1. It shows all you young people that we ain’t dead yet. 2. It shows that older people need love too. 3. It proves that paranormal knows no age limits. 4. Now you know that grannies can cook up scary stories right along with the rest of y’all (yeah, I’m Southern too, and so are my stories).

As for the convention scene, it’s definitely crazy. But it’s also an amazing experience. And to go as an author was fantastic. To give you an idea of the pros of Cons (insert snort), here are a few of the highlights for me. 1. The Con goers know what Samhain is. Most of the time, when I tell people Shadows of Evil is through Samhain Publishing, I generally get a blank expression, or the person says, “What kind of word is that?” At a Con, it’s much more likely the person’s eyes will light up and they’ll say, “Oh, how cool!” And since Shadows features Wiccan-type witches, it was the perfect house for the story. Which brings me to the next point. 2. They know what Wicca is. The story centers on a haunted house. No problem. 3. People at Cons think haunted houses are good things. Related to that, people who go to Cons like scary, as a general rule. 4. Con goers tend to love dragons. I have a novella out called Keepers of Legend. You guessed it, Keepers features a dragon. And lastly, and in my opinion, the most important characteristic of Con-goers is that the vast majority love to read. And whether or not they ever read any of my books, it does my heart good to see so many people who love to read. Very encouraging.

So the Con experience has been a good one for this Southern granny. And as for my first Beyond the Veil experience, it was pretty dang awesome. Thanks for having me.

06 March 2009

Animals/Pets in Romance Stories

Let me start by saying - YEAH! It's Friday! Also, here in southern Indiana it is going to be in the 70's today and tomorow, woohoo, so I plan to take a shopping trip to celebrate.

Now that I have that out of my system, on to the topic. I am working on a contemporary romance that includes a lot of comedy, at least I think so. In the story the heroine has a dog - actually a chocolate lab named Charlie Brown. The dog makes several appearances throughout the story.

So, here is my question:
When there a story includes a pet/animal, do you think it takes away from the story or makes it more interesting?

Personally, I am an animal lover and have two small house dogs. Sadie is a shitzu/cocker mix and Princess is a bischon. To me, they are part of the family. To the heroine of the story, Charlie is her best friend.

Tell me what you think. I'd like to hear about stories you have read that either added interest to/or had taken away from the story.

Diane McEntire
The first two novels of my vampire romance series, The Watchers are available in ebook at www.mybookstoreandmore.
Midnight Reborn - Print Release on 3/31/09
Midnight Rose

04 March 2009

Eye Candy

Writers never work on one book at a time. We always have several books in several different stages going on. Right now I'm actually, physically writing Absolution. I just finished the edits on Obsession and the galleys on Deception and Redemption.

And of course, as happens a lot, this new character unexpectedly pops up in Absolution and suddenly he's the hero in my next book. A book I didn't even know I was going to write until he showed up. That book even has a title. Salvation. Do you see a trend?

Anyway, I was looking on the internet for some photos of Shane (the new hero) because I like to be able to "see" my characters and I thought I'd share a few of ideas of what I think he looks like. Because, you know, we all need some eye candy now and again (especially on a Wednesday). So drool away.

I love his eyes.

But I love this guy's face. So I think I might combine the two.
Are his eyes really this blue? Sigh. He's not what I have in mind for Shane, but he's darn good looking isn't he?

If you've read Deception and Redemption then you've already met Eric. Eric is the hero in Absolution, the story I'm now writing and the story that's giving me fits because Eric and his heroine are not cooperating one bit. Here is the inspiration for Eric. Again, I love the eyes. I must have a thing for bright blue eyes.
I could show you my heroines but lets face it, the heroines aren't as fun to look at as the heroes .

02 March 2009

Pushing Your Writing Boundaries

We all have our personal bugaboos or sqwick factors. It's just the nature of being readers and writers. There are certain professions I won't let my hero and heroines have because I find them rather sleazy, and I don't want sleazy main characters (for villains, everything's a go). There are certain sexual situations you'll never find my characters engaged in either because I don't see the point when I read it in other books. (Please notice I am not mentioning the ones I avoid, as I will be the first to congratulate someone who writes and sells these same things I find aren't for me.)

However - NEVER SAY NEVER!!!

Please reread the following paragraph substituting the word "never" for the phrase "most likely not." - That gives a bit more latitude creatively.

Which brings me to today's topic.

Over the past few months, I've gotten some pretty darn good ideas featuring some of the situations that were formerly on my squwick list. Though somewhat tempered to work within my personal comfort zone - or at least to make the situations more palatable to me - I have still seen a way to push my writing boundaries a little further out. This is really quite the step for me.

It wasn't so long ago I struggled with a red face and shaky hands while I wrote my first full-on erotic romance. Sometimes just getting the words on the page required several cups of chamomile tea and a bevy of cold showers. I was a mess. But I got it completed, submitted to a pub, and sold on the first go. That was a very important lesson for me. One that validated for me that moving away from our writing comfort zones can sometimes produce very good results. It also helped to push my writing in a new direction.

I never want to be a stagnant writer. To keep pumping out the same kinds of books over and over. I want to grow and change and find new creative avenues for my ideas. I want to blend genres and create my own sub-sub-genre that becomes the next big thing. But to accomplish that, I have to get over the hang-ups....somewhat. Hey, I said I wanted to push my own comfort zone, not totally obliterate it.

Conversely, I've also started targeting specific category romance lines. Talk about having to learn to color within the lines. Being someone who has always written her books the way I've wanted to, I'm finding it a very stimulating challenge to have to write according to someone else's rules. It's an odd combination, to push out in some areas, while pulling back in others.

So, if you were to plot my current wips on a graph - they would look like - a donut.