30 August 2012

Characters, Part Deux

I have a second post in the month of August, which means I get to follow my previous post, "Gibbs vs. Longmire" with a discussion of memorable characters.

The earliest character I can think of is Odysseus, the protagonist in Homer's Iliad. Before Homer, of course, there are the Greek playwrights, but I don't know their characters nearly as well.  I think the Iliad and the Odyssey have the greatest public recognition, particularly since Hollywood has taken an interest in them over the years.

Last year, Sela Carsen wrote a great article about mythology, in which she talks about the ancient gods and goddesses as sources of ideas for stories.  Before classical literature, stories were told of these beings and their trials and tribulations as they mirrored, and reflected back to humanity, peoples' behavior.

I think that's the point of telling stories, in many ways.  We tell stories about ourselves, to ourselves, in an effort to better understand the world around us and the people with whom we must get along.  People are confusing and stories help us make our way through the pitfalls that inevitably arise whenever more than one person gathers together or tries to accomplish something.

Then along came William Shakespeare.  Practically single-handedly, the playwright changed the face of English letters and, with it, the society and times in which they existed.  Whether or not he was one man or, as some argue, multiple people, the influence of the plays of Shakespeare is inarguable.  Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Henry the Fifth are some of history's greatest characters - memorable and lasting.  Though he wrote centuries ago, his plays are still performed, his characters are still in the public consciousness, and his stories are still relevant.

Will our modern-day poets and playwrights craft as memorable material?  Will Stars Wars still screen three hundred years from now, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer be part of the Canon?  I don't know, and no one living now does know what the future will bring.  But it's interesting to wonder whether the likes of George Lucas, Joss Whedon, and Peter Jackson will, one day, join the ranks of Homer and Shakespeare.  What do you think?

27 August 2012

Jean Marie's Dragon*Con schedule

I hope you'll forgive me for not hewing to the thematic program this month, but my mind is bouncing around like Ralphie and his brother on Christmas morning.  You see, it's the most wonderful time of the year...
No, silly, not the winter holiday season.  I'm talking about Dragon*Con, where you too can be surrounded by forty thousand of the closest friends and acquaintances you never met before--like these charmers.

I'll be doing my thing on five panels this year:

Friday, August 31, 1 p.m. (Hyatt, Fairlie Meeting Room)
Talking Cats and Clever Rats--Animals as symbols and characters in SF and fantasy.
Panelists: Lynn Abbey, Diane Hughes, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator)

Saturday, September 1, 2:30 p.m. (Hyatt, Greenbriar Meeting Room)
Good War/Bad War--How have recent conflicts shaped or influenced today's SF?
T.C. McCarthy, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), Michael Z. Williamson

Sunday, September 2, 5:30 p.m. (Hyatt, Greenbriar Meeting Room)
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading--Well-known and up-and-coming women writers read from their works.
Too many writers to count.  ;-)

Monday, September 3, 1 p.m. (Hyatt, Fairlie Meeting Room)
SF Win, Lose or Draw--The third annual Win, Lose or Draw competition comes to Dragon*Con.  Put together a team or join one when you arrive.

Monday, September 2, 2:30 p.m. (Hyatt, Embassy D-F)
Writer's Wonder Panel--Writers discuss the wonders--good and bad--of being a writer.
Lynn Abbey, Carole Nelson Douglas, Nancy Knight, Jennifer St. Giles, Jean Marie Ward, Janny Wurts

Looking forward to seeing you there!


24 August 2012

Building a Book, One World at a Time

I think any author sitting down to write fiction is automatically doing some level of world-building. Contemporary authors are creating towns or businesses or situations for their characters, historical authors are trying to decipher the past and envision how things were then so as to decide whether their characters’ situations fit. Every author who does it well, I think, deserves kudos just for maintaining cohesion in the world they’ve created from the start to the end of a book!

But when it comes to world-building, I really take my hat off to the Sci-Fi and fantasy writers who create entire worlds from the ground up, fleshing them out with people, countries or planets, customs, etc., sucking us into places so real we half-expect to look up from the book and actually be there. In the past, memories of how the masters tackled the task pretty much kept me away from dipping my toes in the romance fantasy or sci-fi pools. I just wasn’t sure I could get it right.

Then I had a visit from a Plot Monkey…

Well, it was more like a herd of the damn things, flying around in my head and making a blasted nuisance of themselves. Before I could explain to them I already had my next book started, they’d forced me to do a blurb for a Steampunk book. Putting it aside, I went back to the job at hand, almost, but not quite, forgetting about it.

And it might have stayed in stasis indefinitely if not for a pitch contest I entered with that blurb, where I kept advancing to the next round, forcing me to write first a full synopsis and one chapter, then three chapters, all on a time limit. Then the editor said she’d really like to see the full. With the hope of breaking into a new publishing house as a goad, and a self-imposed due-by date, I had no choice but to just dive right in. The end result, Beyond Prudence, was released by Ellora’s Cave in September 2011.

I think it was that sense of needing to get it done quickly, with no time to fret over overstepping my abilities, that really opened me up to taking more chances. When the Plot Monkeys came again, forcing me to outline four books set in a parallel world to ours where all the beings we humans think of as mythological live, I didn’t hesitate.

It still scared me spitless, but with a crap-load of research and the encouragement of one of my critique partners, Amy Ruttan, I started the series. Sending the first book out to my editor was nerve-wracking. Suppose the thought of a West African storm god and a banshee just didn’t cut it? Suppose there were gaping holes in my world?

I’m happy to report my editor contracted that book, and the next one too, which features a troll and a jinn. And a series was born. Fleeing Fate, released July 4th, 2012 as one of Ellora’s Cave’s Pricked tattoo themed books, is also Book One in my Unveiled Seductions series. Book Two, Stone-Hard Passion, was released on July 27th.

The lesson for me was not to close the door on an idea, at least until I’d given it a really good effort. While my books are short in comparison to some in the mainstream fantasy genre, and therefore aren’t as intricate, I’m finding world-building rather addictive. I think I’ll keep at it for a while, just to see where it’ll lead!

23 August 2012

Are Villains Better Than Heroes?

There are times when villains are much more fun than heroes. J.R. Ewing of Dallas is much more interesting than his good brother, Bobby. Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter Dexter of Dynasty had a much more fun life than her rival, Krystle Carrington.

And who doesn't root for Alan Rickman over Kevin Costner in 1991's Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves? Robin is wooden and boring in this movie. Rickman, however, seems like great fun!

And then it becomes tempting to turn these villains into heroes or, if not heroes, not really villains any longer.

My two favorite former villains are Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Magneto from Marvel's X-Men.

Not sure? Would you pick Xavier or Magneto from X-Men First Class? Spike or Angelus?

To me, that answer is obvious.

I think the key to creating a memorable villain is, as with all good characters, a sense of who they are.

Magneto didn't suddenly decide that humans were worthless. He saw his family destroyed in the Holocaust and then humans attacked him merely because he was a mutant. He has good reason to hate others and to impose his will on a society that doesn't understand him. His methods over the years--including his slide into mutant terrorism--left a great deal to be desired.

But such was the power of his character that he's now become a sort of mutant mentor and is more often allied with Xavier's students than not. In some alternate timelines, he's a hero.

Spike, in his first appearance, was a completely unredeemable villain. He loved being a vampire, he had no remorse for his human victims, and he had no intention whatsoever of being a good guy. But we loved him anyway because he was witty and he was fascinating to watch on-screen. His love for Drusilla took precedence over all. He didn't want to destroy the world, he only wanted Dru to be happy and he'd do whatever that took for her.

Over the years, that ability to love transformed Spike from villain to hero. Well, with a few bumps here and there.

Jennifer Crusie, when she talks about antagonists, says that no one gets up and says "I'm going to be an asshole today." No, these villains likely have very good reasons for what they do and that depth is what makes the hero's triumph at the end all the better.

I have a special fondness for two of the villains I've written. One is Lansing from Phoenix Rising. He was inspired by Magneto as he has a disdain for the human race and thinks they need to be controlled or destroyed to protect his own. But the means he uses to accomplish this is what turns him into a villain. But he's not completely dark.

The other is a villain in an unpublished paranormal story who I like to call the Gil Grissom vampire. He's a 100-year-old vampire who's lost his humanity but not his need to explore science, especially on how to reverse vampirism. So he sees the world as test subjects, not people. He's absent-mindedly evil.

I have this desire to write him as the hero in the third book of the trilogy but that will take some doing.

I consider it a challenge. :)

22 August 2012

Villians -- the best we love to hate

There are a lot of really great villains out there, in books and in TV and movies. There are a few things that make a villain a good antagonist (and they're not always the same, BTW), but I tell newer writers when they ask me that they have to remember a few things about villains.

1) Make the villain sympathetic. At least a little bit. Now that sounds weird, I know, and I'll explain in a minute. We shouldn't like him right away, of course, because we have to grow to love our protagonist and dislike our villain, but at some point we have to understand at least a little bit of why he's doing what he's doing. There are exceptions, and because they ARE exceptions, they can be insanely scary. But if your villain is just a mustache-twirling guy doing something mean for the sole purpose of being mean, well, he'll probably come across as one-dimensional and not very good.

2) One thing you must remember, the most important thing when writing a villain/antagonist:

They think they are right.

They are the hero in their own story. The story you're reading, the story the author wrote, is from the protagonist's POV. But if you were to write it from the antagonist's POV, you'd have to turn it on its head and make that villain the hero. Which is why I usually give my antagonist some kind of backstory, even if it's only in my head, because that will color everything he does. This also can help with the sympathetic bit, if the villain's backstory is kind of sad.

My top-five villains:

1) Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty): She is deliciously bad, but again, she has a reason for doing it. Revenge is a really great motivation for kicking some butt. And she turns into a dragon. Which is just awesome.

2) Voledmort: how can you not love to hate old Voldy? It takes five books to discover his back story, but it's SO GOOD. By the very end, you do feel a little bit bad for him, because he's had a bad life-- orphaned (like Harry), rejected by his birth father who was a Muggle. Who wouldn't be a little bitter against Muggles after that? He wanted to conquer death, and well, things got a little out of control. By the end of the series he's a little more pathetic than frightening, and you still want Harry to win but you still feel a little bad. Voldemort's had a sad kind of life.

3) The Master (Doctor Who): Many people have played The Master over the 50 years the series has been on the air, but the latest reincarnation--oops, I mean regeneration-- was by far the best. I loved to hate that guy! He was bad, evil, mean, and just plain silly. He was a little bit psychotic, but he was driven mad by looking into the Time Vortex when he was a boy. Hey, it happens. And all he wanted was a planet to call his own, since Gallifrey went teets-up. Who doesn't want that? His humor made all the killing and Earth taking-overing just seem a little more fun.

4) The Joker (Heath Ledger version): this is the exception to the rule of the sympathetic villain. You never really know The Joker's backstory, not really. There's no motivation for his behavior that we ever know. And this is why he's so great, so terrifying, because he's one of the very few villains who just wants to watch the world burn.

5) You tell me. Who do you think should fill this spot, and why? What villains do you love to hate?

20 August 2012

Why We Hate AND Love You, Dr. House

One of my favorite characters on television is one that I would personally hate to be in the same room with. Dr. House (played exquisitely by Hugh Laurie) is, well, a perfect a$$. I’m not the only one who thinks so either, his co-workers, friends and patients call him that nearly every episode. They could put his picture next to the word “jacka$$” in the Dictionary and we’d all nod our heads in agreement.

Dr. House’s faults? How much time do you have?

Let’s start with his attitude. He’s gruff, downright mean sometimes, arrogant, egotistical and NOT always right.

He’s a drug addict who lifts his addiction above his family, friends, lovers, and personal safety.

Disconnected from society, Dr. House chooses to be a spectator in life, rather than a true participant. He picks apart every aspect of humanity as if he isn’t one of us.

He likes mind games, enjoying pitting people against one another for sport. He will press personal “hot buttons” just to see what will happen next.

There’s so much to not like about the guy, so why in the world would we love Dr. House?

Because the show’s writers are brilliant.

First off, they created this inherently unlovable guy and made us feel sorry him. It is no easy feat to feel sorry for a perfect donkey butt. But we do, right? Why?

1)  The man walks with a cane. That image alone tugs on our heartstrings a bit. It’s hard to want to punch a guy in the nose if he has a terrible limp and walks with a cane.

2)  But the writer’s went deeper than that. Dr. House walks with a cane and is in terrible agonizing pain every day of his life. I can’t imagine living with constant pain and this softens my heart toward House even more.

3) The only way he can deal with pain is to take drugs. Now wait a minute! That was one of the reasons I don’t like Dr. House, because he’s a drug addict who puts his addiction above his friends and such. But, but…if he’s hurting that bad how else can he survive? And how terribly sad that he has lost his loved ones because of the drugs that are reducing his pain.

4) He is disconnected from others because it is too painful for him to get too close. People die on him all the time. Or they disappoint him. He erects walls to protect his heart.

5) The mind game stuff is his way of trying to learn the truth. He is so sure that everyone lies or has a selfish motive for actions, that he is completely intrigued when someone is unselfish. Or acts out of love. Or to protect a loved one. Dr. House learns lessons in humanity every episode.

Beyond feeling sorry for Dr. House, we respect him. The writer’s made Dr. House:

A) The best at what he does. Period. No one is better.
B)  Loved by at least one friend and one lover. If these highly successful smart people love him, he must have some redeeming qualities.
C) Admitter of mistakes—remember he is NOT always right, but he does admit when he is wrong and moves forward to fix his mistakes.
D)  Say it like it is. Dr. House may twist the truth to his advantage but says exactly what we would want to say if we could. Bold, frank and to the point.
E) A life saver. He doesn’t make excuses, doesn’t quit or waver until he has done everything in his power to save the patient when no one else can.

Like I said, the writers are brilliant. I may not want to be in the same room with such a man, but if I was dying, I wouldn’t care if the doctor was an a$$. I’d want him to save me. End of story.

How about you? Do you hate, love or both Dr. House?


19 August 2012

Writing vs. Work vs. the World

What is it about summer that makes a writer think she can get more done?  Or is that just me?  Everytime summer comes around I feel like I'm finally going to finish a novella in three months.  I really should but Work - that thing that pays the bills until I get my big contract, and Word - vacations, running a kid to college, etc. seem to get in the way.  What's up with that.

I teach this class called "Overcoming your FEARS to getting published?" FEARS is an acronym for:

  1. Finish the Manuscript
  2. Edit the Manuscript
  3. Analyze the Market
  4. Research Publishers
  5. Submit the Manuscript
I'm having some real problems with step number one.  I think the biggest thing for me is finding that little niche of time.  Balance between everything: Writing, Work & the World.  It's a tall order. 

I'm not like other writers in the sense that I have to write.  I know Writers who have to write, not necessarily even a project, but they write because they truly love it.  These are the writers who don't even care if they ever sell.  I envy these artists.  Writing is something that comes from the heart for them and they eagerly approach their keyboard or pen & paper.

My life is all about balance and routine.  When I worked 4 days a week, Friday was writing day - I would write for 4 hours, do promo for 2, check my e-mail and other non-essentials for about an hour. 
It was a very productive day and it balanced me fairly well. Writing wasn't something I had to squeeze in over a wknd and spend away from my family.  It was done and I was happier for it.

While I may not have to write.  Writing does make me happy, I enjoy it.  It's an opportunity for me to escape from where I am and I have something to show for it afterwards.  I have a day off this week, maybe I'll write instead of packing the child up for college. :)

14 August 2012

Characters we love to/and hate

I realized when someone said that the theme for this month should be "Characters we love or hate..." that I pretty much love TO hate characters. I like having an outlet for that emotion, because I don't exercise it in real life very much. I'm a pretty hardcore pacifist, really, and the core of that, for me, is remembering that people are people, even when they do/say/believe things that I don't. So hatred? I reserve it for fictional things. With that in mind, two characters I love to hate: Vernon Shillinger - from the TV show OZ. Racist, homophobic, and just an all-round guy I don't want to know or be around. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118421/ (warning: this show is so not suitable for work. Further warning: Luke Perry shows up naked in an episode. I still don't quite know how to feel about that...) Ivy - from the TV show Smash. I adore the actress, Megan Hilty, but her character makes me want to throw rotten tomatoes at her. And I love that about her. I love that the character has a 'tell' for when her smiles are fake v. real. I love that she's manipulative, and you-the-viewer know that. I love that she's not evil . She's just...not-nice. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1825133/ It's funny that these two are my examples. Vern doesn't really have much redeeming him. oh, he's humanized, all right, but he's not ever going to be confused for a Nice Guy. Ivy, on the other hand, at least at the start of the season, had moments where she might be likeable. It was a very interesting moment, as a writer, to see two equal women vying for a role, and realizing I wasn't sure which one I wanted to win. Eventually, the writers made it easier on me...but it took me a long time to find the theme. Once I did, I was sort of surprised. The constant theme in the show SMASH is one of rewarding genuineness. Any time someone is real, any time they are true to themselves, they get some sort of reward. Any time they're not, things go awry. I'm pretty good with this, not just as a lesson for writers: how to make your good guy the good guy, even when your bad guy isn't evil... but also as a life lesson. Being true to yourself is always good.

13 August 2012

Shaping-shifting kangaroos? Most likely...

Heya, Everyone,

I'm new here. Some of you may have heard of me before, some may be thinking "shape-shifting kangaroos? Is that possible?"


Let me introduce myself. I'm Lexxie Couper. I've been writing forever. At six I wrote my first "book", a massive two page tome that took me a week of frantic writing every night after dinner, using the piano stool as a table. It was about a young girl and her pet dragon, Sandy. One day some "bad men" took Sandy away and the little girl went on a quest to rescue her stolen pet. When she found the "bad men" she saved her dragon and the dragon incinerated the villains. It was at that point my parents knew I wasn't going to be the gentle, sweet little daughter they'd hoped for. It didn't help, I guess that I was already addicted to Doctor Who and Star Trek.

So that was the beginning of my writer journey. A journey that has led me on many an adventure, most involving some alien, demonic beings or paranormal creature. Aaand, because I'm a proud Aussie, I tend to live those adventures in some part of Down Under. There's the Irish werewolf in Sydney, the shape-shifting dire wolf in Tasmania, the dragon-shifters all over the country, the winged demon-assassins who spend their down-time surfing at Bondi Beach...


Of late, I've been sucked into the contemporary erotic romance world, without a shifter, vamp or alien to be seen. You know what? I miss the shifters, vamps and vamps. There's an itch inside me that won't be soothed (I suspect it's my muse, an arrogant sod who sounds like Mr. Darcy and looks like Colin Firth, complaining about what I've been writing). Becoming a part of Beyond the Veil is not only an honour (have you seen the authors here? Fair dinkum, they are amazing!!) but also a way for me to return to my first love of writing: the NOT contemporary. The NOT reality.

Who knows, there may very well be a shape-shifting kangaroo in my future. I can see him now: 6ft 5, sandy-brown hair, lean and very muscular, with a sardonic wit and the abilty to beat the crap out of just about anyone. I think I'll call him Skippy...

Want to know more about me? Here's my website. There's all sorts of interesting things you can discover about me over there :)

And here's a snippet of Death, The Vamp and his Brother. Just because...

Fred walked away from the lifeguard, the stiletto heels of her boots not even remotely sinking into the soft white sand. The coastal breeze caressed her face and arms and she pulled in a long breath, enjoying its heat even as the blazing midday sun sucked the moisture from the flesh of the humans—oblivious to her existence—around her. Summer in Australia. Hot. Hotter. Hottest. She was glad she’d ditched the stifling cloak.
Adjusting the sunglasses on her face, she sidestepped a teenage couple making out on a beach towel, casting them a detached yet curious look. He would live for another sixty-five years before dying in a car accident, she would die in five years of advanced skin cancer. Fred tsked, noting the gleaming oil smeared over the girl’s bare flesh. As if humans didn’t have enough to deal with in their short time, they had to go and seek her out any chance they could, all in the name of beauty.
She shook her head, following the waterline away from the commotion still unfolding behind her. The paramedics would not revive the drowned man, no matter how skilled or tenacious they were. All she’d left them was an empty skin-wrapped lump of meat and bones.
The icy tingle in the pit of her belly she experienced after every claiming whispered through her, feeding her magic. It nourished her power, sated the demon within. Today however, it also felt wrong. Not because the soul she’d removed from the mortal coil—Richard Michael Peabody—was a closet pedophile who deserved to die. That very morning he’d raped—for the tenth time—his six-year-old niece while his twin sister attended a doctor’s appointment. Fred felt no remorse for Peabody. The human male deserved to have his life extinguished. He most definitely deserved the eternal damnation awaiting him. When it came to mortal monsters like Peabody, Fred enjoyed her job. But today, even with the tingle in her core and the sure knowledge of just punishment about to be met, she felt conflicted.
Every soul she claimed, every life thread she severed she did with pride. Her purpose was ultimate. Life could not exist without Death. If she didn’t do what she did, humanity would pay the price. That didn’t mean however, that she was emotionless. She felt no pity for Peabody, really, who would? But she couldn’t help feel sorry for the lifeguard who’d tried so hard to save him.
She’d seen many EMOs at work, but none were as aggressively determined to thwart her work as the lifeguard. It was as though the very idea of losing Peabody assaulted him. Wounded him. Raw energy had poured from him in intoxicating waves as he’d fought to save the vile man’s life, almost as powerful and energizing as the sun above.
Uninvited, an image of the lifeguard filled Fred’s head and she pulled in a soft, appreciative breath. Now there was a tenacious son of a bitch. Not just tenacious, but damn fine to look at as well. Tall, lean and sinewy with smooth skin kissed bronze by the sun and shaggy blonde hair bleached golden by its solar rays. His eyes were a fierce, piercing green, his nose strong and hawkish, his lips totally kissable even when clenched together in stubborn denial.
A soft beat pulsed between Fred’s thighs and she took another swift breath, surprised at the reaction. It had been a long time since she’d been aroused by a mortal. The last—an arrogant but brilliant Roman general with a nose just like her lifeguard and a succinct way with words—had dumped her for a snooty Egyptian queen with an asp fetish.
She turned her mind back to the Australian, remembering the way he looked as he ran from the sea with water streaming over his lean, muscular body, the sun highlighting broad, strong shoulders, snug blue swimming shorts hugging narrow hips. It was a good memory. A potent memory.
The heat between Fred’s thighs pulsed again and, despite the warm breezes blowing across the ocean, her nipples pinched into tight peaks. Something about the lifeguard intrigued her. Not just his fierce battle to deny her, but something else. Something different.
She strode along the sand, a detached, professional part of her mind marking those around her for their time, and thought of Peabody’s failed rescue. Like the lifeguard, something about it had felt…what? Wrong? No, wrong wasn’t the correct word, especially to describe the lifeguard. Yummy. That was a good word to describe the lean Australian with the messy blonde hair. Sexy as sin another one. Well, another three, actually. Unusual however, was the word she was looking for to describe his rescue attempt.
But why?
What was it about the sequence of events?
The lifeguard works on the drowning man’s body, pounding against the man’s fleshy chest with his palms, the sun turning his smooth muscular back to a bronzed sheen. The subtle heat of the day kisses her arms and neck and cheeks as she watches him battle the inevitable. The sound of the pedophile’s perverted, weakening heartbeat vibrates through her core, feeding the familiar tingle in her gut as she prepares to sever his life thread… She leans over the lifeguard to touch Peabody and the salty bite of the lifeguard’s sweat threads into her being like mist. She turns her head, for some reason wanting to see his eyes, wanting see if they burn with the same fierce determination she feels radiating from him. She looks at him…and he looks at her, his soft breath fanning her face.
Fred froze, the sounds of the beach—seagulls screeching, swimmers splashing, people laughing—sucked away by stunned shock.
He looked at her.
He could see her.
That’s impossible, Fred. The living can’t see you until the very moment you claim them. Not unless you choose for them to do so and you sure as hell didn’t choose for this guy to see you today.
But he had seen her. He’d looked straight at her, and it was only now, with the post- claiming buzz fading to a soft tingle, that she realized it. He’d seen her.
How in all the levels of hell could he see you?
No, he couldn’t. The living didn’t see her. She prevented it. The Powers prevented it.
Wishful thinking? Maybe your starved libido is making you see things?
Before she could stop herself, she turned and gave the lifeguard a long, hard inspection from across the sand.
He sat beside Peabody’s inert body, head buried in his hands, broad shoulders slumped. She’d seen this very pose before. The position of a defeated human. But unlike others in this situation, anger radiated from the man. Anger. Not misery, or self-centered contemplation. Anger. Simmering, tangible anger.
Fred cocked an eyebrow, her sex squeezing in base appreciation. Who are you, Mr. Tall, Bronzed and Brooding?
Stare locked on the increasingly intriguing man, she tapped into the List of the Living threaded into her very existence, seeking the answer.
But all that surfaced from the never-ending database was a name and date of birth. Patrick Anthony Watkins. Born February 29th 1972.
Fred frowned. “That can’t be right. Where’s his date of death?”
From the moment of conception, the time and cause of death of every living creature with a soul was predetermined. The Order of Actuality demanded it. From the smallest baby to the leader of the free world, their lifespan was locked in a fixed time frame, imprinted on their very genetic fiber.
All, it seemed, except Patrick Watkins. Which made him a…
Fred narrowed her eyes, regarding him across the busy beach. The sun beat down on those around her, drawing moisture from their pores, turning the heavily populated strip of sand to a wavering shimmer of silver light and color, yet Patrick Watkins remained sharp in clarity. Just Patrick. Filling her vision and her core.
She studied him closely and then shook her head. Well, whatever he was he wasn’t a demon. He possessed a soul. She could feel its pure, spiritual presence pouring from him, even from this distance. A blazing white essence of life and humanity so strong it made her blood sing and her skin tingle. Frowning, she tilted her head to the side, looking at him through the darkness of her sunglasses. It didn’t make sense. If he had a soul, he should have a date of death. So why was she drawing a complete blank?
And why, in the name of the Powers, was she so damned turned on? Did the man’s ambiguity have anything to do with it? Or was it just because he was smolderingly sexy?
Fred shook her head again. She needed answers. And another closer look.
Because you want answers, or because you want to check him out again?
The unbidden and way-too-close-to-the-bone thought made her sex constrict in a firm, warm pulse of eager anticipation. She couldn’t touch him, but she could look. She could look a lot. She could take her visual fill of him because the living could not see her. No matter what her foolish mind insisted it saw.
A tense pressure welled in her chest and, turning away from the sight of Patrick kneeling beside the empty pedophile’s body, she released a long, dragged out sigh.
It was a sad fact of her existence she could no longer ignore. She, Death, the Grim Reaper, El Muerte, Cronus, Azreal, the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse, had become a Peeping freakin’ Tom.
Gritting her teeth, Fred stormed along the high-tide line, fighting like hell to ignore the damp tightness between her thighs. “Fantastic.”

10 August 2012

Down, but never out

Someone recently asked me how long it takes me to write a book. My daughters, who were sitting with us at that moment, laughed. :\

Yes, that reveals a lot about my particular writing method -- I'm as slow as molasses in winter. Life interferes; disappointment throws up a writer's block; health problems last year put my muse in a coma; and I tend to get distracted by other things easily.

Actually, I've had a particular story 'done' for quite a while. But it was rejected -- hence one writer's I-really-must-suck-after-all block. The editor seemed to think my readers wouldn't like it because it's a prequel. This story is part of my Sentinels world, but chronologically it takes place before the first book. Yes, I did it that way on purpose -- there's method to my madness. But the editor didn't agree, and that's fine. That's the way of the business, after all.

So, along comes the Indie-pubbing revolution. Hmmmm, I have this finished book with nowhere to go -- no one wants to publish just one book of a series. I wonder...

This weekend, I'm taking my career in hand as I make another part of my dream come true. I'm releasing the novel myself, complete with a hot cover model. ;)  It's a paranormal romantic suspense and gives readers a better insight into my Sentinels world.

As soon as it's live, I'll post the links. Until then, enjoy a short excerpt:

(a Sentinel's novel)

(c)2012 Meg Allison

“I’m tired,” she murmured and turned her face into his chest. “I want to sleep now.”

Her head fell forward and her breath became much too shallow. Something was wrong. She was slipping away from him, fading like a wisp of smoke. At first glance, her injuries were minor. She shouldn’t be dying, yet she was doing just that.

He cursed as he hadn’t cursed in many years. Then he reached deep inside and found the last thread of his strength. He lifted the energy, focusing it with a thought, and directed it through his body to his hands. One arm supported her as he passed the other over her head.

There, a small lesion in her temporal lobe was letting blood seep into her skull. He concentrated his power there as he imagined the jagged edges of the flesh knitting back together. He continued to focus his power onward through her neck, shoulders, and torso. Near her lungs he found a small rupture that had also begun to bleed internally. In his minds’ eye he could see it close and heal as if it had never been. He directed his power onward once again.

Heat and power poured from his fingertips, lighting the night with a soft white light as it penetrated her battered body. It may have taken five minutes or five hours, he couldn’t be sure as he slowly worked down her frame, inch by inch, until he was sure she was no long in danger.

He relaxed a bit, once again aware of the cold ground beneath him. Weakness permeated every cell, yet he knew he had to get her indoors. She might be safe from the internal bleeding, but the cold could still kill her. She stirred slightly in his arms and opened her eyes. A cold rush of mountain air caught in his throat and burned his windpipe as he stared into her dark eyes. A reflection of his own fears stared back at him. But something else lingered in those eyes—something familiar. Gabriel had no idea what he glimpsed. In that moment he knew he couldn’t rest until he found out.

* * * *


Indulge your senses...

08 August 2012

Ten Typical Summer Activities for Write-At-Home Parents

Ten Typical Summer Activities (for romance writer parents with kids at home)

1) Answering questions! Like: Can we spray paint in the house? Can we jump on the bed? Why does the cat's skin look so funny when you cut the hair off it? Where are my shoes? Why can't I have candy? Why is it SO HOT outside? Are you done writing yet? Why do we have to take a bath? What's for dinner? What's that? EWWWW! (Not a question, but still requires an answer)

2) Cleaning up after kids! Like: spray paint in the house, beds that look like buffalos stampeded them, cat hair all over the carpet, shoes mysteriously behind the washing machine, candy stuck in hair, bathrooms with an inch of water in the floor and a bunch of towels, dirty dishes, etc.

3) Researching your book! Including: No, don't come look at my computer. I know it made noise, but DO NOT come look. Get out of my room. What do you mean, why do those men have no clothes on? It's a movie trailer. About men. No, I don't know if there are any princesses in it. No, it's not Disney. It's called Magic Mike. No, there are no wizards. No, that isn't Harry Potter. Well, it's very hot where they work and they took their clothes off. Yes, like I do when I get a hot flash. Look, you really need to go spray paint the cat now so I can get back to work.

4) Writing your book! (see items 1-3 for potential interruptions)

5) Writing your book some more!
DAY ONE: The first line. No, honey, Mommy is working today. The first page. Seriously, honey, we all talked about this. I have to work today. The first line again. Kids, I'm really serious now. If you come in here again, no more TV all day. The first chapter. Yes, I know it's lunchtime...fix some cereal. Remember, we had an agreement. If you two want to go to the pool, you have to leave me alone today. The first paragraph of the second chapter. Yes, you can turn on the TV. I was just kidding about no TV. But seriously. Let me work in peace. The next two pages of the second chapter. YOU DID WHAT??? *clean, clean, clean.* The first chapter again, adding a murder on the second page. The first line again. The first paragraph again to foreshadow the murder. The first page again. God, I'm tired of this chapter. Why can't I get focused on it? I suck. I think I'll just skip ahead. The third chapter. No, I'm not taking you to the pool right now. The agreement was to leave me alone ALL DAY, and you haven't exactly kept up your end of the bargain. Oh, quit crying. Guys, quit crying. DO NOT EAT THAT.
DAY TWO: DELETE DOCUMENT. Start again. The first line....

6) Editing your manuscript! Tips include: how to increase the heat in your love scenes when the kids are fighting over action figures behind your recliner; deepening character motivation when the only thing you want to do is hide in your bathroom; and what to do when your little kids get big enough...to read your manuscript over your shoulder.

7) Reading for research and pleasure! Note: since your little kids are big enough to read over your shoulder, you will need to purchase an ebook reader or fancy phone. Note 2: since your little kids also like to play with electronics, you will need to keep your ebook reader or fancy phone out of their reach. Note 3: This will mean your ebook reader and fancy phone can only come out after the kids go to bed. Note 4: Which, in the summer, is hellishly late. Note 5: But you can still crawl into bed after a fun day of writing and fighting and do your pleasure reading then! Note 6: Take out a warranty on your ebook reader or fancy phone, because it may not turn on after the 8th time it slides off the bed while you sleep and into the floor, to be stepped on by the child who gets up at 2 AM to let you know "she's just going to pee...she's not puking...don't worry, Mom."

8) Book shopping! On the list: the next book in your favorite urban fantasy series, that hot NYT bestseller... Hm, what, honey? Yes, there's a nice tie on my book. What's it about? Oh, um, art. You know, all the different versions of grey. No, you can't read it. Yes, I agree, you're a great artist, that's why you don't need to read it. Can you sit down right here and look at...Mommy's fancy phone while I... No, wait, not my Kindle app! Play this game. Yes. Now, where was I?
A debut author's book I heard about on Twitter, an ebook reader clip-on light, a book about dinosaur poop... Hey! Who wrote this on my list? Dad did? Oh, really? I guess we can get it. It is a book. Where was I? Oh.

The latest romance from... No, you can't have that. Put that back. If you break it... Yes, I guess we're buying it. Because it's broken. No, I'm not going to get the one that isn't broken. Yes, I know it's broken, but you broke it. What good will it be for the next kid who wants one? They don't want a broken one either. No, I'm not taking it out of your allowance. You already lost your allowance because you... Oh, Dad gave it to you? Oh, really? Well, maybe he doesn't get this shit book then, because I told him not to. Hush, I know I cussed. Because I'm a grown up and grown ups get to cuss. No, you can't... Stop saying that. Because it's ugly. Look, can you just get the one that isn't broken so we can go?

9) Fun outdoor water activities! Including: Somebody go water the plants. Did you turn off the hose? Somebody go back out there and turn off the hose. There's a what on the handle? A spider? You turned it on, didn't you? Was it there when you turned it on? Just spray it off with the hose...seeing as you left it on and all. How did you get so wet? You're dripping on the hardwood floor, take off your... Yes, I see that, you're Magic Mike. Uh-huh, it was very hot outside, except for the cold water you used to spray yourself and that spider. Did you turn off the hose? Why didn't you... NO NO NO DO NOT GO OUTSIDE NAKED! Come back here!

10) Invigorating family vacations! Favorite location: Grandma's house. I know we went to the beach last year, but this year we're going to Grandma's. Oh, your friend went to Disneyworld? We'll go when you're older. Old enough to drive, probably. And get a job. Ok, I'm kidding, the real answer is never. Why? No, we aren't poor. Because we like having a small house, it's easier to clean. Because you two kids never help Mommy and Daddy clean it, is why it stays dirty. No, it's not because I'm always on the computer. How can I always be on the computer when I'm constantly getting off the computer to do things for you? Grandma has a computer. And a hose. Oh, I think Grandma would love that. It's probably not quite as hot at Grandma's house as it is at our house. No, I don't think Grandma knows who Magic Mike is. Probably. But you never know with Grandma.

Any other writer parents out there with exciting summer stories to share?

School starts in 3 days.

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com

PS: latest release, Stalking Evan! There is some Magic Miking going on in here too. http://www.jodywallace.com/fiction/stalkingevan.htm

05 August 2012

I'm baaaaack

Last time I posted I was heading on a road trip. Ten thousand kilometres round trip in total.

It was long, tiring and AMAZING!

Since we're speaking about characters, I can say NOW that I've visited the home of one my childhood heroes. The character Laura Ingalls from the Little House of the Prairie books, only she wasn't fictional. Far from it!

Though, she was quite small in her adult hood. Four foot one to be exact. The same height as my 9 year old daughter. I'm 5'11", so yeah, Laura was quite smaller.

I got to travel some of the route the Ingalls family travelled. I can say now I've been in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, though most of the big woods have been levelled for farm land, as you can see ...though some woods remain.

Then it was onto Minnesota. Walnut Grove, Minnesota where Laura and her family lived On the Banks of Plum Creek:

Then we came to De Smet, South Dakota. The final home of the Ingalls, where Laura married Almanzo Wilder. A very emotional moment for me. I was also sick as a dog, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. Heck NO. I've dreamed of coming here my whole life. So I drugged myself up and moved on!

Above is the last house Pa Ingalls built. Sadly, he only lived in it a couple years before he died of heart failure. Ma & Mary lived here for twenty years further until they passed.

The final resting place of Carrie, Mary, Laura's infant son, Ma and Pa. Grace is buried a few feet away with her husband Nathan Dow. Laura, Almanzo & their daughter Rose are in Missouri where the Wilder's finally settled.

I read all of the Little House books when I was 8. I devoured them and their the first "novels" I ever read so whole heartedly. Laura, started my love of reading and writing. When I was 8 I wanted to be a writer, like Laura.

This was a dream come true. I saw so many amazing sights on my trip. I have over 600 pictures. LOL! But De Smet, South Dakota was so much more, a dream come true. Lots of happy tears will spilled and the tears started about Walnut Grove, Minnesota and they didn't stop until we were leaving De Smet on Monday June 25, 2012 heading toward Rapid City, South Dakota.

I'm still recovering from my trip, but my creative well is really full and as much as I enjoyed it. I'm glad to be back.

04 August 2012

My life is a bad movie...

Ever watch soap operas? Did you ever wonder how many times the old "amnesiac" ploy was used as a convenient plot device? Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I turned up my nose at a book, TV, or movie that used it.

Well, now I can say I know what it's like.

A couple weeks ago, it was the day before a long-planned vacation was to begin. I spent the day finishing up work, running last minute errands, and packing. In the rush I forgot to eat, and didn't drink much of anything other than a diet Coke. Temperatures hit close to 100 degrees that day.

That night, after dinner, I was watching TV and chatting with my son's girlfriend. As I stood up to run take a potty break, the world tilted dangerously and I sat back down, afraid to move.

That's pretty much the last thing I remember until I woke up in my own bed late the next morning, wondering why no one had awakened me to catch the plane.

As my haggard, pale-faced family filled me in on the details, my mouth dropped open in disbelief.

I began to throw up. And I didn't stop for eight hours.

I was transported by ambulance to the closest hospital.

I was given several bags of IV fluids to combat severe dehydration, brought on by not drinking in the heat, then throwing up for several hours. They took an MRI and a CAT scan of my head and neck, fearing a stroke or blood clot. Both were negative.

The ER staff couldn't get enough blood out of me to do thorough tests.I was given eight doses of an anti-nausea medication to no avail. Finally they tried an anti-anxiety medicine called Atavan.

That's when things got really interesting.

Atavan apparently unleashed a variety of latent personalities that lurk in my subconscious. The stubborn, whiny three-year-old. The hippie free spirit who abhors clothing. The over-dramatic diva. Oh, and let's not forget the foul-mouthed biker bitch.

I'm told I did everything but make my head spin around. Only my husband and daughter (a nurse) witnessed the personality deconstruction. Her boyfriend, my son and his girlfriend were out of the room at the time. Thank God for small mercies.

We still don't know the exact cause. It was probably dehydration, exacerbated by food poisoning from something I ate at dinner.

The weirdest thing? I don't remember any of it.

The funniest? One of my fellow BtV buddies said, "There's a book in there somewhere."

If I had a nickel...


Post script: The vacation went off without a hitch, with only a one-day delay. I feel fine and all seems to be well, though I do plan to visit my doctor for follow up blood tests.


02 August 2012

Gibbs vs. Longmire

Our theme for the month centers around characters and threw me straight into the horns of a dilemma.  Who is my favorite character on television right now, Gibbs or Longmire?

Well, let's see.  Mark Harmon plays Gibbs as quiet, reserved, dedicated, intense.  Robert Taylor plays Longmire as quiet, reserved, dedicated, intense.

I guess it's a good thing they're not on television at the same time.  NCIS was voted "America's Favorite TV Show" and has just been renewed for the 10th season starting September 25, 2012.  (Wikipedia article "NCIS", accessed 08/01/2012.)  It airs on Tuesdays nights on CBS.  Longmire is a new show on A&E and airs on Sunday nights; episodes are available on the A&E website.  

Shows that I really love (Firefly, Dollhouse, Alcatraz) don't seem to stay around on television very long.  It's rare that I fall in love with a "popular" show (I loathed Seinfeld, for example).  I'm pleased that NCIS is being renewed and am enjoying going through the episodes through Netflix.  The season finale of last season was a doozie (I won't type the spoiler here, but fans who saw it will be with me when I say I'm on the edge of my seat to find out what happens).  

Longmire is a little different.  It centers around a small-town sheriff who lost his wife and his focus, but is now getting the focus back.  Set in rural Wyoming, it involves the local Cheyenne tribe as well as encroaching Mexican drug cartels and Amish families.  I like its twist on the traditional police procedural and how it portrays different cultures with a penetrating and more realistic eye than I've seen done previously.

What about you?  What's your favorite characters to watch this season?