Monday, March 31, 2008

You must remember this -

Our memories make us what we are.

But memory is a tricky thing. It doesn't behave the way you want it to. I was doing some research for a post in a few weeks time and re-read a book that I haven't looked at in years -- only to discover that the detail of the story I was checking wasn't as I remembered it. That started me thinking about the way memory operates, something that’s always fascinated me.

It's quite common, I understand, for witnesses to an event to produce wildly different accounts of what happened. And why is it that the bad memories seem to stick more than the good? You remember every detail of that hospital waiting room, but the romantic holiday blurs into a fuzzy string of sunny days. And that's the stuff that you do remember. I have boxes full of theatre programmes that contain a fair sprinkling for productions that I don't have any recollection of attending. And don't get me started on the things that I remember that didn't actually happen!

We can't always make memories. We put a lot of effort, money and hope into creating the perfect wedding, graduation, birthday party, but often it's the unscripted events that stay in your mind. That single moment when you know that this one will stay with you for the rest of your life.

I'd been playing around with the idea for this post for a while before I realised that it was directly connected to another idea that I'd had for a book -- it's only the merest glimmer at present, but the story is going to hinge on six particular memories that have shaped the hero's life. At present, I have only vague thoughts about three of them, but until I get all six together the story is never going to see the light of day. I didn't expect that making someone else's memories could be as hard as hanging on to your own.

Research is valuable for a writer. There are many stories of authors who have given realistic accounts of places they have never visited, and historical writers must always be working a little in the dark, as we can never quite know whether we have the historical 'feel' right. As a writer and a reader though, I find the things I remember, and put into my writing, the most rewarding. To create an atmosphere from somewhere I have visited, with just a quick reference, or to read in a book about a place or an event I remember adds to the experience. Writers of fantasy have a hard time with that one - the trick there is to create the world so everyone feels as if they have been there.

Hanging on to your memories for future reference? That's where the note book that every writer is supposed to carry, to jot down thoughts and impressions, comes into it's own. Provided you remember to take it with you, of course!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tall, Dark, and Sexy!!

Get ready to drool, ladies!

Every Friday we have a guest blogger here on Title Magic. However, due to circumstances, our scheduled guest blogger couldn’t make it today. So, I thought I’d do something fun for you all today instead. Today I’ll give you some inspiration for writing that perfect hero.

You often hear the phrase tall, dark, and handsome. Me, I’d go for something more along the lines of tall, dark, and sexy. Nothing is sexier than a man who oozes confidence. Sex appeal could be anything from the glint in a man’s eyes, to the shape of his lips. It could even be in the way he walks.

Here’s a treat for all you writers out there who are struggling for that perfect image of your hero. A lot of writers look to images of models or their favorite actors for inspiration in creating their perfect hero. At the top of my list would be Gerald Butler, Clive Owen, and Hugh Jackman, of course. These names are pretty much a household brand. Everyone knows these stars.

Today, however, I’d like to introduce you to a handful of men many of you may not be as familiar with. Hopefully, it’ll give you more inspiration and something new to work with.

This one’s for you, Title Magicians! Enjoy!

Oded Fehr

Antonio Sabato, Jr.

Enrique Iglesias

John Abraham

And my personal favorite, Arjun Rampal

Sorry ladies, Arjun's mine.

End Note: I want to say a special congratulations to fellow Magician Helen Scott Taylor for making the Golden Heart finals with her ATIV manuscript, The Magic Knot, in the paranormal category. I'm rooting for you, Helen!! Woohoo!!

When it March Rains ~ it pours magically, sort of...

Today is my birthday, so I’m giving myself permission to let loose on the title of this blog and anything else. I don’t know why I’ve always held birthdays as a sacred event. It wasn’t something I was taught, or even experienced – except that in my ancient fifties’ era, birthday parties for us kids had come into suburban vogue. The fun, silly stuff. Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, playing fish for dime toys, running around, the girls all in skirt-swinging dresses, until the grownups rounded us up for the grand gift opening ceremony, where the birthday princess or prince reigned, and deigned which gifts were their favorites. Then it was the off-key, loudly sung, Happy Birthday, the occasional ‘you belong in a zoo’ version. The great mystical test of blowing out all those candles. Okay, sometimes an uncle would sneak on one of those candles that couldn’t be blown out. And always cake and ice cream afterwards, marshmallow frosting mixed with ice cream, and cake – what could be better?
Fortunately for you, dear Title Magicians and precious readers, I won’t provide a running history of my past birthdays, the good, bad, beautiful and ugly. We’ll leave that to Hollywood, when they come knocking, begging for my autobiographical screen play, perfect for the hi-def silver screen – yeah (is there a bridge I can sell ya?)...just a sarcasm-funny against myself.

No, this is a look back over the past year – before being e-published and now, as a newbie author – a giant whirlwind of a journey. So, I enter American Title IV, and to my disbelief, actually final. In the meantime, I have submitted When a Good Angel Falls to Siren Publishing, which they wanted to contract, but it wasn’t heat-sizzle enough for their line. After that angst of decision, I offer them All Shades of Blue Paradise instead, now e-pubbed, and I’m writing Book II. Also, I’ve written Red Lioness Tamed to enter into a Samhain cat-prowl contest. Which doesn’t make it, however, after several long months, Liquid Silver Books offers a contract, if I make some changes – no problem, will do. And did, and the lioness lives in cyber novel space. Meow-yay!
Exact timeline aside now, but eventually I was facing my first cover art and blurb requests. Okay, basically lots of fun for me, if a highly intense process – but, being an artist type person does have it’s advantages. Then, play the theme for Darth Vader...the edits. My heart-tripping fear is engaged. Edits were not a process I had ever done before. And, at one point, after intensely slaving over the revisions for ‘Blue Paradise’, I thought I’d lost them – hair-pulling time!!! Scream at the universe!
Happily, just my ignorance about all this tech-penning stuff. Okay, being an ancient baby boomer, it’s often been trial by learning-the-computer fire – no! don’t burn up my lovely, desperately needed computer...please, I luv you. How else do I run the gamut of slashing rain and wind toward that perfect promo opportunity, always lurking somewhere up ahead? Yep, my nerves are taking a serious beating, at times, on this side of publishing business. I have made several rookie mistakes. Sheesh, just attempting to figure it all out, is a head-dizzying wild ride. Because, bottom line, how do I connect with those readers who would enjoy my stories?
So, back to the sorta timeline. Now I’m out in the first round of the American Title...and after tons o’ chocolate, and the deep down blues, after the support of my great Title Magician friends, I come up swinging, submitting to other e-pubs. All who shall remain nameless, except for Aspen Mountain Press (contracted Tangerine Carnal Dreams) – because I’ve been writing for years and years, and have full manuscripts available – especially since my health, for the last couple of years, demands I do nothing else, except write.
And then, my release days, the first two Mondays of March. Yep, magic pours through me as if I did stand beneath a pounding pouring rain. My gratitude floods through me. Not just because I am officially e-published, but also because the folks at Siren and Liquid Silver have been wonderful to work with, and, gee, I tingly adore my cover art.
The other side of the happy-dance coin. Reviews. The heart trembles with trepidation, and is there a handy rock I can hide under?
Meanwhile, Siren Publishing creates Bookstrand for book distribution and for accepting manuscripts which are not in the erotic romance genre. So now, yay-yay! When a Good Angel Falls has a new home and is due out late in 2008.
Not to mention the up and down, fast and furious winds of my daily blogging efforts at Kougar Kisses, and my forum participation with Passionate Ink, a chapter with RWA – and with the author loops. Plus, all that I have not included...this is not my diary...thank heavens, for you all.
Yep, it’s all good, but time-wise, overwhelming~ as though constantly caught in a pouring thunderstorm.
Proudly, I will say have an article in the current Passionate Ink newsletter – just really cool to see it presented there, and the pics are incredible (thank you, Francesca).
Yesterday, in the e-mail box. The cover art request form from Aspen Mountain Press for Tangerine Carnal Dreams...yay! And help! Since Pleasures of Blue Lotus Oil, book II is going so well. And who wants to interrupt the writing-flow?
To some of you, this blog may have looked like just a long promo. Nope. This is a snippet of my journey from ATIV finalist to where I am now as a newbie e-author. Offered because, ya know, it’s my birthday, a sacred time for review and a time to look forward to the future. And because it might offer insights to anyone else on this particular journey, or someone who is about to embark on this type of writer’s journey.
Yup, it’s pouring magically...sort of...and I’m standing out in it getting drenched...the good, the bad, the ugly...mostly, the beautiful.
Wowza congrats to Helen for being a Golden Heart finalist with her manuscript, The Magic Knot.
Some of the best birthday presents ever!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Golden Heart!

As a reserved Brit, I was taught not to blow my own trumpet. People who drone on about their own achievements are boorish (so we're taught). It's a strange characteristic of the British that we love the underdog. But let that underdog pull him or herself up out of the mire and start doing rather nicely thank you and we get all huffy and suddenly want them to fall flat on their face.

Therefore, it is a breath of fresh air to be surrounded by Americans who far from holding back on sharing their accomplishments, shout them from the rooftops--or more aptly--broadcast them around the Internet. And generously support their fellow writers with enthusiasm.

I've had to learn one gets nowhere in life by sitting quietly in the corner hoping to be noticed.

On that note, I'm delighted to announce my American Title finaling story The Magic Knot is a finalist in the Golden Heart!

Come July, I'll be filing into the ballroom at the Marriott in San Francisco with many other hopefuls, fingers crossed, praying to win.

Wish me LUCK!

(Oh, and please forgive me the abbreviated blog today. I only had two hours sleep last night!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Second Step--Or I Say Hypothesis, You Say Premise

I introduced this concept in my last blog (just last Thursday, I’m saving up for the paper and exam-filled weeks to come—the end of the semester is approaching). As a research psychologist for the last twenty years (!) if you count graduate school, I’m writing about what I know.

The Scientific Method as a cure for what ails you. Right now, what ails me is deducing which idea I should pursue next. Last time, I wrote about Step One, Or Observing a Problem. As we all know, the second step in the scientific method is forming a hypothesis. That is, the budding scientist, or I hope, fiction writer, needs to take that amorphous problem and make it clear and precise, resulting in the hypothesis, or dare I say it, the premise?

What if I’ve been doing it all wrong so far? In case you can’t tell, writing this short series of blogs is hopefully for my benefit as well as any reader out there. Here’s my method of writing so far: dream a dream, write it down, and plot it out as if I were living it, as if I were watching a movie. Then, when I’m all done, come up with a pitch which sums up the whole novel in twenty-five words or less.

If I happened to be one of my research students, I’d fail myself. One NEVER collects data without the hypothesis fully justified and spelled out. Why have I been writing without the premise in place? Okay, I’m exaggerating…this haphazard method describes my first manuscript. My second, I began with an outline. My third, I wrote a synopsis first. My fourth, I plotted GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict). So maybe I’m a good wine.

Back to the premise. When teaching undergraduates how to form a hypothesis, we actually give them a simple formula…fill in the blanks: What is the effect of ____ on _____? The first blank is the independent variable and the second is the dependent variable. I’ve toyed with coming up with a similar formula for creating a premise.

How’s this? (Insert heroine’s name) wants _____, but can’t get it because of _______. Okay, that sounds very similar to someone else’s formula. I would add the same for a hero. And, then, hear a snide teenager’s voice asking, “And I care why?”

If the reader doesn’t care, if it’s not a problem they want to care about, then you can write it, but they won’t come. Maybe, unless they’re very famous or a wonderful storyteller. I’m not pretending fiction is science, just playing with ideas.

Other questions I ask when guiding students’ research…is the topic too broad? There are no absolutes, but I know you can’t do a single research project and try to cover all the effects of depression. Congruently, I don’t think you can write about everywoman or everyman. You need to see through a very precise set of eyes. But the topic can’t be too narrow, either. If the hero and heroine are modeled after real people, you’re too constricted unless you’re willing to go from there. Real life doesn’t always satisfy like fiction, so fiction needs to win.

The final question I ask is, do you care too much? Ah, that’s different. Can you care too much? Yes…if the pain is too new, too fresh, too harsh, you won’t be able to write the story. Yet. You won’t be able to gain enough distance to write a sympathetic villain or, if the villain has become all men, even a hero. My thought is journal the big hurts and write the ones you’ve gained some mileage on.

So, do you have a premise you can handle? That’s the question, isn’t it? Do you even need a premise or can you just write a cool story?

And Step 3, Collecting Data, yet to come…

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Mid-Life" Writing Crisis

There comes a time in every writer’s life when you have to sit back and do some serious soul-searching in regards to your writing. Where are you now? Are you happy where you are? Are you happy writing what you’re writing? Or have you discovered that your writing has taken an unexpected turn somewhere along the way?

I had one of these “mid-life” writing crises early on in my career. When I first started out writing, I wrote Regency-set historicals. Historicals were all I read; it was all I knew. I spent two years writing the infamous “book of your heart”. Then my laptop got stolen, and with it my writing and all my dreams of being a writer.

So I made the decision not to write anymore. That lasted for an entire year before I realized that I could not stop writing. If you’re a writer, it’s in your blood.

So I sat down and re-evaluated my writing. Where was I? Was I happy? I was at a crossroad and I really wasn’t happy. Two years on a book that never got completed? I couldn’t sell if I continued writing that way. I was bogged down with the research and often got lost in it because I enjoyed learning so much. So I decided to try something new. I took a jab at writing a contemporary erotica novella for a contest. Finished the novella in three months.

I learned several things from this experience. First, I had fun writing something I usually didn’t write. Secondly, I discovered I was no erotica writer, though I do classify as a “sexy” writer. Third, I found out I could actually finish a story. Yay for me! And lastly (and most importantly), I finally found my voice. I had a strong historical voice which did not fit into a contemporary.

So I sat down and did some more re-evaluating. What did I really want to write? I still wanted to do historicals, but I also wanted to write contemporaries as well because I had a lot of fun doing it. I learned I was beginning to read more paranormals and fantasy romances. I loved vampires, but didn’t think the world needed another vampire writer. I also loved alternate settings. Think Lord of the Rings. So I decided I’d try my hand at that instead. With the help of my sister who was a huge science-fiction and fantasy fanatic, I created this complete alternate world that mirrored feudal Europe. I came complete with three Fates, seven kingdoms, and loads of dark magic and things that went bump in the night. I called this alternate world of mine Zenith.

The first book, THE PROPHECY, was completed in three months. It was a full 100,000 words manuscript. It was a time travel, which satisfied my craving for dabbing in contemporary while still being able to write primarily in a historical setting that didn’t require too much research since the world was completely made-up. The Prophecy came to final in several contests and landed me my first agent.

The second book, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, was completed within another three months. It continued the Zenith series and was strictly all historical fantasy. At this point, I was learning to explore the fantasy side of my creativity and truly enjoying myself. Prince of Darkness also finaled in several contests and was responsible for my American Title finalist status.

In the third book in the series, LEGACY OF THE HIGHLANDER, I went back to my time-traveling and historical roots. Something else I enjoyed immensely was reading Scottish medievals, so I gave that a shot with the third book. Finished Legacy of the Highlander in three months. That book also finaled in several contests. I enjoyed writing Scottish historical so much that I took a break from the Zenith series with my fourth book and wrote, HEART OF THE HIGHLANDER, a completed Scottish time-travel paranormal.

This was two years ago and several books later. Looking back, I can now say that was able to write three full 100,000 words books in a year because I kept it fun and continued to explore and add in new layers/elements to my writing. I was never bored with the process and made it enjoyable. And I took risks. I realized I was not happy where I was and needed a change, and I stepped outside of my comfort zone and allowed myself to explore all the different aspects of my creativity.

I’m hitting another “mid-life” crisis at the moment. I’m discovering that my writing is veering more towards the literary and women’s fiction side than actual romance. At the moment, I’m not certain where I’ll be a year from now in regards to my writing. What I do know is that I’ll explore this new channel and see what develops from it. For anyone facing their own “mid-life” writing crisis, my suggestion is to not dampen your creativity by ignoring what it’s trying to tell you. Listen to it. Know yourself, what makes you happy, and follow your intuition.

Hope this has been of help. Happy writing!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Guest Blogger Susan Macatee

Today our guest blogger is Susan Macatee. I met Susan during a contest. I read and loved her enchanting story, Erin’s Rebel. I was so disappointed when she didn’t final but Susan just dusted herself off and moved on to the next phase of her writing career. When I found out she’d been picked up by The Wild Rose Press, I was thrilled and asked her to please share with us her journey from contests to publication. So put your fingers to the keyboard and welcome Susan Macatee!

Believe In Your Story

First off, Anitra, I'd like to thank you for inviting me to talk about my book sale on your lovely blog.

I signed the contract for my full-length Civil War time travel romance, Erin's Rebel, on February 7th with The Wild Rose Press. And this just after I'd sold them a short vampire story, Eternity Waits, also set during the American Civil War, in December.

I first started submitting Erin's Rebel five years ago. I wrote the story after completing my young adult historical, Under the Guns. I'd written UTG in a writer's workshop under the guidance of two published authors. Erin's Rebel was the first book I'd written entirely on my own. I didn't join RWA until after I'd completed the manuscript.

At the time I began submitting ER, I was also entering the opening chapters and synopsis in RWA's many chapter contests. Although I had a couple of initial wins, the judge's comments I was getting made me realize I had a lot of work to do to make this story marketable. I dove into RWA and other on-line workshops and learned all I could. I decided ER needed a major revision if I was ever going to sell it.

I started at plot level. I'd written the story by the seat of my pants and, since I'd taken workshops on plotting, I went back and re-plotted the story, then discarded half the manuscript, because it no longer fit the new plot. I moved chapters around and wrote a whole lot of new material. After this major revision, I tried a few more contests, but couldn't win or final to save my life. I always seemed to get one judge who loved it and one who hated everything about it. In one contest, I had a judge give me a perfect score, while another one treated me like an amateur and seemed to hate everything about the story. After that I stopped entering it in contests, although I still have that perfect score sheet.

I also consider myself lucky to have found a great critique group. They're all members of my group blog, Slip Into Something Victorian. They helped me through all the negative judges' comments and the 'thanks but no thanks' rejections I was getting from publishers. My latest rejection was just last fall after I'd gotten a request for the full. This happened after I'd added material to make the publisher's minimum word count. When I decided to submit to The Wild Rose Press, I realized it was now too long, so I had to cut 20 pages before querying.

But now after a five year wait, everyone will be able to read Erin and Will's story and I am thrilled.

Thanks again, Anitra, for letting me share my story of perseverance. And for all of you out there, if you love your story, never give up on it. Do whatever you have to do to make it the best story ever and you, too, will find that editor who loves it as much as you.

For more on me and my books visit my website:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Science and Fiction--OR What Can I Contribute?

This time, after having written several blogs, I struggled with finding that special topic. I knew I wanted to write about the writing process, particularly about the choosing the original germ of an idea, but what could I write that hadn’t already been written?

Some say write about what you know, others argue you don’t have to know yet—as long as you care, you can learn. So, I questioned myself—what do I know? In my other life, I am a professor and a mother. The mother part I might leave until later since there are so many wonderful women writers out there who also happen to be mothers.

There may not be as many professors, particularly research scientists, who also aspire to be romance novelists. In several of my classes, I teach the scientific method, pretty basic stuff, but in my senior capstone course, we analyze just how realistic the method is. We also apply the method to a variety of problems, not just research ideas. Thus, I concluded—why not apply this universal approach to picking the perfect premise (no guarantees here, maybe fiction isn’t a science, we’ll see…)?

The first step in the scientific method is to observe a problem. I actually want to focus this blog on said first step. When I ask my students to write down everything they’ve observed before arriving in class (as historian Karl Popper did), they observe a bunch of pretty boring stuff. Out of a class of 25, we may come up with one potential study. Moral for writing: in the morning, when you rise (okay, that’s a gospel song), write down your dreams. When you read the newspaper and a story strikes you as intriguing, write it down—same notebook as the dreams. When a friend’s life takes an interesting turn, write it down. Otherwise, you may come up with nada.

As your Mom and/or Dad probably told you, you’re going to need to kiss a lot of frogs to find that prince, um, premise.

Another thing about observing a problem—not just any problem will do. In science, before you even arrive at a hypothesis, you conduct a literature review. Why should writers take the easy way out (um, because it’s easy)? The hard way, and therefore it must be the right way, is to read what’s already out there. You knew that already. But here’s where I may contribute…analyze each section. Okay, that’s already been said. I meant analyze it BEFORE you read it. Huh? Here’s how it works. Read the cover blurb. In your notebook, jot down thoughts about how you might write this book. What might your hero and heroine be like? You’re not cheating, these are your ideas. How would your people meet? Then, read a section of the book. How would you do things differently? What kind of a twist could you give it (we’re not into replication here)? Then, read another section. Stop. What would you do next? Twist it. Did anything seem like a misstep? When you’re done, put your notebook aside. Relax, then come back and writeJ.

That’s how science progresses. A step at a time. And then big jumps when someone has a creative outburst. Both are crucial—and fun.
So, what do you think? How do you choose the idea for your next book? How do you narrow down from the million little problems/premises that come your way?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Are two heroes better than one?

No, this isn’t an entry about favorite erotica themes :). The title refers to a dilemma that more and more heroines of popular mainstream romance face: they must choose between two equally fascinating men in order to achieve their happily-ever-after. Ah, we should all have such problems.

This trend appears particularly popular in continuing series.

Before Anita Blake decided to just sleep with everyone, Laurell K. Hamilton had us arguing the merits of master vampire Jean-Claude versus alpha werewolf Richard.

For thirteen books (and counting) Stephanie Plum has been waffling between Joe and Ranger. Loyal readers everywhere debate who is the better man for our Steph. Of course, some readers are ready to tie Stephanie (or Janet Evanovich) to a chair until she decides between the two. Other readers have simply given up on waiting for the romance pay-off.

And there lies the balance that must be kept in such books: to keep the reader engaged in the choice the heroine has to make without frustrating her to the point that she takes great joy in pitching the book against a wall.

Some authors walk that line by limiting the amount of time that their characters (and readers) struggle with the choice.

Patricia Briggs decided three books of angst was enough, and let her heroine, Mercy Thompson, choose between two equally strong alpha werewolves, Adam and Samuel, at the end of the third book of her series.

Colleen Gleason’s regency vampire slayer, Victoria Gardella, is currently caught between the brooding Max and bad boy Sebastian. Colleen has promised an end to the madness when Victoria makes her choice in book five.

Do you think two heroes are better than one? What are some of your favorite books that have multiple heroes? And, if you’re a Stephanie Plum fan - Joe or Ranger? (I’ve always been a Ranger girl – I think Steph needs someone with an unlimited supply of cars!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

First Magic Kiss of Spring

Ah, yes, yesterday, the wearing of the green ~ and the first magic kiss of spring for me. The wee leprechauns are dancing jigs around their pots o’ gold, laughing like naughty fiends as the humans greedily seek them out, following the proverbial rainbow. Call it too much corn beef and cabbage, or the misty enchantment of St. Patty’s day still coiling around all those snakes chased off the emerald isle...but the fanciful lore of the Irish, of Shamrocks has always tickled and teased my imagination. Having some Irish roots doesn’t hurt, either.
For a deeper perspective, the wearing of the green, or the wearing of Spring, signals the emergence of new growth, a revitalization of the land for planting. And signals for all of us ~ it is time to revitalize our lives, to begin anew. This theme is continued by our traditional celebration of Easter. Eggs, new life. Bunnies, chocolate or the little furry hopping critters ~ quite happy to regenerate their kind with nests full of baby bunnies. *If only chocolate would magically renew.*

In the spirit of new beginnings, and in the spirit of kissing, definitely a favorite romantic activity of mine, I asked Renee Lyons, founder of the new e-publishing company, Lyrical Press, Inc., to blog with us today.
Hello everyone. Savanna was kind enough to allow me the privilege of hijacking Title Magic and write a bit about mine and my husband's venture, Lyrical Press, Inc. I think, coming from the other end of the pen, so to speak, we have a fairly good idea about what authors want in a publishing house (I write under the name Rene Lyons, although I have recently retired from writing to devote more time to Lyrical). A solid and fair contract. To be treated with respect. Good and hard-working editors and publishers who are personable and professional and willing
to work just as hard as our authors to turn out quality books. Appealing covers an author can be proud to 'show off'. And most of all, on-time payment of royalties. These things can be banked on at Lyrical. We want
everyone to have an amazing experience with us and will work ourselves
to the bone to deliver on that promise.
Frank, Emma (our Editor-In-Chief) and I are shameless fans of American
Idol. One morning Emma and I were brainstorming about a contest. We were
also chatting about the previous night's Idol show. Next thing we knew,
Lyrical Idol materialized. Okay, so it was more the brainchild of
Emma...but I was at least part of that conversation! What came of
bouncing ideas back and forth was Lyrical Idol: Season One. Best First
Kiss Contest.
Each entry must be limited to a 350 or less word count, contain a 3 word
tag to describe the characters and a slight alteration to set the scene
up. All entries must be sent in by April 5th. The best entries (think
first-round judging done by Simon, Paula and Randy) will be posted
unedited on the Lyrical Press, Inc. blog, where we will open judging to
the readers on April 15th. Yes. The readers. *insert evil laughter here*
The winner will receive a contract with Lyrical Press, Inc!
Savanna asked what appeals to me in a paranormal romance. That's simple. We'd love a Gothic/dark ghost or vampire story to get lost in. Something that will shut out the 'real' world and transport the reader to a different world. We'd love richly fleshed out characters and a detailed world that leaps off the page. We'd also love anything that has to do with faeries or elves. Yes, elves. If we're going paranormal, why not shift to the side a bit and go magical as well! My husband has an aunt from Ireland and her accent captivates me. To get a submission set on the Emerald Isle that involves some of their amazing folklore would be a dream come true. Oh! And did I mention selkies? Yes. We'd love to get a story about those Scottish creatures as well, as you rarely come across them.
We're also set to host a second contest. This one involves a cover I created that has no book to go with it. It's a Gothic/Medieval cover and we'd love to get our hands on a book to fit it. So, if anyone is writing an historical set in the medieval age.... ;)
Savanna, and all the ladies at Title Magic, thank you for allowing me to talk a while with your readers.

Thank you, Renee, for blogging with us. I'm excited about what Lyrical Press, Inc. has to offer. And I love that cover! The details are below for the ‘first kiss’ contest. This could be your big chance at that first contract.

Official Rules for Lyrical Idol
Contest Guidelines:
· Entries must be 350 words or less.
· Entries must include a three-or-less-word "tag" introducing the hero and heroine. For example, Rhett: Southern rake, Scarlett: Headstrong diva.
· Entrants will be allowed some editing of lead-in to set the scene if necessary, but any alterations must be included in the 350 words.
· Entries must be pulled from an original, completed manuscript not currently under contract or consideration by any other publisher, agent or entity.
· Entries must be sent no later than April 5, 2008 to editor AT lyricalpress@com, subject: LYRICAL IDOL ENTRY.
· Entrants must remember that the blog is a public forum - Lyrical Press reserves the right to exclude entries containing overly explicit language.
· Entries will not be altered in any way by the staff of Lyrical Press, Inc, so please edit your work carefully.
Received entries will be considered by our editorial staff, then narrowed down to sixteen contestants. The "sweet sixteen" will then be revealed on the Lyrical Press, Inc Blog on April 15, 2008. First round blog-reader voting will proceed, and the "great eight" revealed April 21, 2008. Second round blog-reader voting will continue until the "final four" are announced April 28, 2008.
The final round of blog-reader voting will end May 4, 2008. Our first Lyrical Idol will be announced on Lyrical Press's Launch Date, May 5, 2008.
The first Lyrical Idol wins a publication contract with Lyrical Press, Inc!
Contest Rules:
· Entrants must be 18 years of age or older
· Entrants must not currently be under contract with Lyrical Press, Inc
· All entries must be pulled from completed works of 12,000 words or longer
· The aforementioned completed works must meet all other Lyrical Press, Inc's guidelines for publication
· Entries received after April 5, 2008 will not be considered
· The winning entry will be subject to all due legal and editing obligations
· Entries must be pulled from an original, completed manuscript not currently under contract or consideration by any other publisher, agent, or entity.
· Submission of entry to the Lyrical Idol contest implies a request for publication. Works submitted to the contest may not be submitted for consideration to any other publisher until entry has been eliminated from the running.
· Entrants may enter up to three entries.
Sample Entry:
Simon: Jaded, acid-tongued judge
Paula: Kinder, gentler judge
"Do you have to be so mean?" she asked.
"I'm honest. Not mean."
"No, you're honestly mean."
He raised an eyebrow, moving closer.
Stunned, she asked, "What… the bloody hell… was that?"

On a personal magical note (Thank you, Sparkles, our fairy resident), I just learned my futuristic 2012 romance, When a Good Angel Falls, is scheduled to be released late in 2008 by Siren-Bookstrand Publishing. Wahooo! Now there’s a good Spring beginning.
Red Lioness Tamed by Savanna Kougar ~ available at Liquid Silver Books
All Shades of Blue Paradise by Savanna Kougar ~ available at Siren Publishing

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day--Or How the Irish Saved Literature

For the majority of my life, I, like most people on this planet, knew only that St.
Patrick was the patron saint of the Irish and green beer. Being a good mother, I even once dyed my kids’ eggs and bacon green to start a tradition—which I never repeated since, being sensible kids, they wouldn’t touch the disgusting stuff.

A few years ago, that changed when my historian husband introduced me to the relatively short and utterly fascinating book, How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. I truly recommend all his books, even though I don’t always agree with everything he says. But, to the point…

In this book, there is the true story of St. Patrick. You can also click over to Wikipedia and so on to find the same thing, but who takes the time? Here’s the basics…Patrick was the son of a high-ranked Roman and a well-to-do woman Gaul, the French to us. He was captured in a raid and made a slave, but not before a servant imparted the rudiments of a Christian faith. If he’d grown up privileged and comfortable, we would most likely never have heard of him and corned beef and cabbage would remain just another ethnic dish.

Instead, he became the slave of a Druid High Priest. Set to tend his master’s sheep (who knew Druids kept sheep?), Patrick was isolated and miserable, and mistreated. He turned to God and the Spirit lifted him up. He fled six years later.

Ireland didn’t leave him, however. He traveled around Europe, became a priest, was sanctioned by the Pope, and went back to the people he’d learned to love. He converted the whole country. Oh, the Druids set out in force against him, one in particular employing magic against him while flying through the air, but Patrick prevailed.

Rome fell. Barbarian hordes overthrew the government, killed many, and torched libraries. Well, dang them, why did they have to do that? In fact, if Patrick hadn’t converted Ireland, brought them peace, and created monasteries and abbeys where the great literature of antiquity would be copied and hidden—very little would remain. Of course, mummified crocodiles have been found with pages and pages of papyrus, but that is only recently. What we had between the 400s and the 1800s can be credited, at least to some extent, to the Irish on their remote island that escaped notice for long enough.

So, raise a glass of green beer (nasty stuff) with me and thank St. Patrick! Otherwise, The Eddy Complex couldn’t have been based on Oedipus Rex and so very much more.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Creating Your Hero's Fatal Flaw

I'm delighted to welcome as our guest blogger this Friday a talanted lady most of you will know, either through her novels or classes.

Laurie Schnebly Campbell has spent 20 years writing advertising copy, her Master's in Counseling thesis, and romance novels for Silhouette Special Edition -- including one that beat out Nora Roberts for "Best of the Year." Now she writes about finding the best traits of a product (or person) and balancing them with traits that'll create conflict...not only BETWEEN credible characters, but also WITHIN them. Her classes range from from synopsis-as-advertising to writers-block-busting, and you can see them at . Today she's going to share techniques for creating your hero's (or any other character's) fatal flaw.

What fun to be with a bunch of great writers -- and readers!

A few weeks ago a friend asked me why her hero NEEDED a fatal flaw. Wouldn't an ordinary flaw be good enough?

And I realized that it's misleading to call these flaws fatal...because how often, at least in a happy-ending book, does the hero wind up dead?

(Okay, we won't count the gorgeous vampires.)

But unless we're writing about James Bond or someone else where the action matters more than the character, every single person we write about will have some kind of flaw.

Why? Because real-life people HAVE flaws. And it's those defects, or the desire to overcome them, which can lead to our characters' motivation.


The fact is, virtually everyone -- in fiction as well as in real life -- is doing the best they can with what they've got.

A serial killer? Yep. A cheating spouse? Yep. A compulsive spender? Yep.

As writers, we can make those people every bit as easy to understand as the tax-paying, lawn-mowing, child-loving characters. (Maybe they're one and the same.)

That doesn't surprise anyone who knows that even the darkest villains have some plausible motivation for whatever they do.

It's only natural. After all, none of us ever does ANYthing without a reason.

(If you just crossed your legs, you had a reason: your body was uncomfortable in the old position. If you move to Antarctica, you have a reason: maybe you got a job there, or someone you love got a job there and you'd rather be with this person in Antarctica than without them somewhere else. We don't always think about our reasons for whatever we do, but no matter what we do, there's a reason.)

So every character, just like every real-life person, is doing whatever they think will work best for them at this point in their life. Holing up in an ivory tower. Partying all night. Nurturing everyone they can get their hands on. Worrying about terrorism. Everyone picks what seems like the best way of getting along in the world.

And what they pick is a clue to their personality type. Which, again, is something that EVERYONE has.

We don't care much about the cabbie who drives our hero to the train station, so that cabbie doesn't need any special personality type or motivation...nor any fatal flaws. He doesn't need to overcome any problems in his life or his personality.

But every major character has to overcome something in order to evolve during the course of the book. And that's why we writers need to know our characters' fatal flaws.


It's handy that enneagram theorists have already identified a flaw for each of the nine personality types. "Ennea" (ANY-uh) is the Greek word for nine, and enneagrams are handy for counselors and personnel managers who want to understand the people they're dealing with. Which makes them handy for writers as well!

Of course each type has its own special strengths as well as its own particular weakness. And our characters -- just like all of us -- manage to overcome their flaws most of the time.

But stress can bring out the worst in people. Just as we've seen in these characters from the American Title books. :)

We already know that stress, or conflict, is what keeps a story interesting. So our characters are going to come up against situations that reveal the worst of their flaws...which will give them the opportunity for a triumphant change.

No matter which type they are.

Each type's name gives a clue to their strength, and their flaw is what happens when that strength is taken to extremes:

Perfectionist One: Anger when they (or anything else) isn't perfect
Nurturer Two: Pride in being needed by everyone around them
Achiever Three: Deception to keep up their outstanding facade
Romantic Four: Envy because other's lives seem MORE glorious
Observer Five: Avarice for more privacy and greater knowledge
Skeptic Six: Fear of possible danger to their loved ones (or self)
Adventurer Seven: Gluttony for every possible new experience
Leader Eight: Lust for power, to be in control of their surroundings Peacemaker Nine: Sloth, keeping life comfortable and decision-free

See the possibilities? That's only the beginning!


I've talked enough, here, but if there's anything you'd like to know about your characters or their types -- or the types of anyone else in your life -- I'll be checking back for questions all day.

And anyone who speaks up will go into an end-of-the-day drawing to win still MORE enneagram info...with an autographed copy of my "Believable Characters: Creating With Enneagrams" book.

So I'm rolling up my sleeves and hoping like crazy I won't be the only person at the party today!

Laurie, who'd love it if you already KNOW your own (or your character's) enneagram type -- what is it?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Care and Feeding of Your Local Librarian

"The Linebaugh Public Library System's purpose is to provide you the freedom to discover and the resources to explore a lifelong love of reading and learning."

I love my library's mission statement. It really gets to the heart of why most of us enter the profession, either as a librarian or a paraprofessional. A lifelong love of reading and learning is something library folks treasure and we want to share that with our communities.

I had planned on covering all of the useful things libraries can do for working writers. But as I wrote about our thoughtfully constructed collections and our database subscriptions and the knowledgeable staff who provides premium research and readers' services, I had an epiphany: writers and librarians are kindred spirits, dedicated to words and information. Most of you already utilize and celebrate library resources in the creation of your work. If you're published, you've probably made some appearances at branches in your area. But did you realize that there are library-based promotion opportunities beyond the book signing?

Your secret weapon for local promotion is the desk clerk.

Okay, I have to admit, I'm a little biased. I work the front lines every day, and perhaps sometimes I feel that what I do is more important than it really is. But let's think strategically for a minute. We come in contact with almost every patron who walks in the door, even if only offer a greeting. Branches in my system can service anywhere from 300-1,500 people (sometimes more during the summer) every day. That's a lot of people.

Let's take this a little bit further. Even though some of these people come in for internet access, faxing, general research, etc, a goodly number of them are fiction readers and most of them like to book talk. These patrons want to know what we're reading and what we think about what they're reading. They request books, they recommend books, and solicit recommendations from us. Library staff handsells as much as booksellers do. For example, one of my favorite fantasy writers is Kristen Britain. I handsell Green Rider to my fantasy patrons when they come to me for recommendations or during a conversation, and the circulation numbers, when compared to similar titles released around the same time, reflect our effectiveness.

Green Rider by Kristen Britain- 76
Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind - 42
Firebird by Mercedes Lackey - 25
Acorna: the unicorn girl by Anne McCaffrey - 34

During readers' advisory sessions and book talk conversations, we introduce our patrons to writers they might not have picked up on their own and, frequently, that turns into later sales. A good number of my regulars try before they buy. They'll only borrow what they're not sure about and buy the authors they know they're going to like. Once they find you, they'll buy you if they deem you worthy for their shelves at home.

The bottom line is, if we know you and we like your books, we're going to tell people about them. It's our job. We'll recommend anything to a patron if we think they'll like it, but we can't shut up about the authors we know and like. And with the advent of Web 2.0 - blogs, podcasts, wikis, LibraryThing, social networking sites and all that fun stuff - we have the opportunity to reach so many more people both in our communities and outside of them. Just google Nancy Pearl or Wendy Crutcher to see the potential for web-wide readers' advisory.

So, how do you get our attention? How do you get on our recommendation lists? How do you get us to handsell you? To talk about you? To book you for panels and signings? Well, you have to seduce us.

  • Get to know us better. I have a core group of regulars that I see at least once a week. I know who likes to cook, whose taste in historicals runs to regency, and which woman prefers law enforcement heroes in her romantic suspense as opposed to military men. I also know my writers, published and non. The ones I see regularly, the ones I have positive encounters with every week are in the forefront of my mind and are frequently the first ones I think of when a patron is looking for something in the genre in which they write.
  • Spend some quality time with us. A couple of volunteer hours a week is frequently worth more to a library than money. Library staff is doing more with less these days, and having someone reliable to help the pages shelfread, notify patrons about available holds, and doing other odd jobs really helps. When you regularly volunteer, you form relationships with the staff - you become a part of the library family. And it's difficult to find a more loyal, enthusiastic group of people than library people.
  • Make us feel special. Libraries are always in need of supplies. Sponsoring an activity or providing programming will get you a huge public thank you and some warm squishy feelings from the staff (who will, more than likely be more than willing to talk about how nifty you are!). And not only will your kindness be noticed by the staff, it will draw attention from the storytime moms whose children benefit from the crafts you provided or the patrons who check out the books you donated to the collection.

Don't forget to see other people once in a while, though. It's difficult to forge relationships with staff in every library. But we all travel. Planning a book tour? Include some library stops. Going on vacation or to a convention? Pop in and say hi. Sign copies of your books. Maybe leave some bookmarks with the desk staff (because the patrons go through bookmarks like crazy!) A ten-minute visit can go a long way.

Now it's your turn. I'd love to know about your favorite library. Are you a regular patron, or do you just visit once in a while while you're in town? What makes it special?

Reading for Writers series:

Series Coming Soon: Abusing the TBR Pile

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Magic of Awards

Welcome, Title Magicians. Welcome, one and all. Anna Campbell has graciously returned to blog with us once again. This 'lady' and author is on a terrific roll, a magic carpet ride of awards and recognition. Of course, what is most important is how much readers adore her novels, the enchanted play of her pen or her fingers on the keyboard.

It’s Awards Season Again!
By Anna Campbell

The first quarter of every year seems to be chockablock full of awards for movies, books, music, TV shows, etc, etc. It makes sense, I suppose – when else would you pick the best of 2007 except at the start of 2008? Of course, there’s the biggies like the Oscars and the Golden Globes – sadly, a bit of a fizzer this year. Then there’s a myriad of popular vote and reviewers and peer choice awards. A girl could get confused by all the glitter!
Recently I was lucky enough to win a couple of awards in Michelle Buonfiglio’s Lifetime TV Romance: B(u)y the Book Hottest Romance Books of 2007.
To my delight, my first book CLAIMING THE COURTESAN was chosen not only as best debut of last year but also as book of the year. Happy dancing and squeals of excitement down in Australia, as you can imagine. When Savanna congratulated me and invited me onto Title Magic to talk about the award, I jumped at the chance. Great to see you again, Title Magicians! Thanks for having me back!
Romancelandia is brimming with awards. There’s the big daddy of them all, the RITA which Romance Writers of America present at their conference. Although it seems rather odd to call Rita a Daddy! There’s the RWA Golden Heart, the most prestigious prize for an unpublished romance writer and often a major step towards a publishing contract. Many review sites run readers or reviewers choice awards – All About Romance’s annual reader poll - springs to mind.
Romantic Times have their annual Reviewers Choice Awards (would it sound like boasting if I said the CLAIMING THE COURTESAN has been nominated as Best First Historical there? It’s lovely knowing my debut book has been singled out like this!). RT announce these at a gala event during their convention which sadly, because I live so far away, I won’t be able to attend. Sigh.
RT’s American Title Awards have become a fixture on the calendar and offer the ultimate prize of a publishing contract, not to mention priceless experience in promotion. Of course, the Title Magic girls know more than anyone else about AT as their entries were chosen as the best of the best in the fourth contest. Congratulations again! I know it sounds banal, but really you’re all winners.
So do awards have any influence on whether you’ll buy a book or not? What’s your favorite award show (I’ve got to say I love the Golden Globes!)? And if you won an Oscar, who would you thank?
And the award goes to…
P.S. As one of the finalists I have it on the best witchy authority, the American Title IV winner is hard at work helping to create her cover art. Hopefully she'll share with us as soon as possible. Blowing award kisses...Savanna

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Open the Door to Blue Paradise

Enter the World of the Blue Pearl Moon on March 10, Monday. All Shades of Blue Paradise will be available from Siren Publishing.
An invitation ~ Open the door to Blue Paradise...
Excerpt from All Shades of Blue Paradise ~ Savanna Kougar
~ "Lady Sheridan Kayla Woadeir," Clarence intoned in his best aristocratic voice. A broad smile broke over his face, brightening his countenance to near jolly. He widened the door, inviting her entrance.
She stepped into the cobalt and pearl foyer, smiling in return. "How are you, Clarence?"
"Sunny azure days ahead now, Lady Sheridan. He’s up in the grand office. Go on. I’ll ring up your arrival."
Her high heels clicking on the alabaster brilliant floor, Sheridan watched her image in the nouveau shimmer panels. The panels reflected the immense entry room’s light creating a crystalline ambiance.
Sheridan had resorted to dressing in the way he used to passion smolder over. She had no idea if that was still true.
Sapphire blue, gleaming sapphire. The luxury satin dress fit her curves, bared her arms, bared her legs from the knee down to her matching high heels. The pearls around her throat matched the moon’s color of last evening and provided a tiny touch of comfort.
Sliding her fingers along her pearls, Sheridan moved up the long curving sweep of stairs, low steps designed for a woman. Butterflies battled to escape her stomach once she stood at the top on the wine red carpet.
Keeping her feet moving, she glided toward the open office door, as if she moved inside a pocket of air. Reality seemed a horizon away.
He didn’t speak when she entered. He casually leaned back on his chair, one foot propped up on the dark shining wood of his enormous desk. Potent power and grace, he stood, silently moving to one side.
He motioned to a swivel cushioned chair before his desk. His presence had always made her feel sultry. Once his sultry woman. It was no different now. Her whole body was a sultry sizzle rhythm. She felt it to her core as she approached the chair and sat.
Her legs crossed, she steepled her fingers, watching him pivot. Lithe, powerful as a cougar, he returned to his chair. She’d seen the media’s view of him, unavoidable in her ‘horse show’ circle. Confronted with him, her breath demanded freedom from her body.
Like a cougar, the way he moved, his fierce intense nature, that was how she’d always seen him. Cougar in male beautiful form. Cougar spirit incarnated to man.
Goddess behold! She had loved him.
Sheridan didn’t blame the women who wanted him, not just for his status or his wealth but for the primal and the aristocratic blend he was as a man, as a lover, the way he made a woman feel. Pure sensual desire. Pure sensual need. Pure ferocious passion for him.
She waited, knowing that was his cougar-and-prey game with her. She waited, her gaze fondling the burnished waves of his dark mahogany hair, streaked with wild sunlight.
The rough grazing purr of his voice made her shiver inside. She met his gaze boldly. Never flee before a cougar. Always stand your ground, even if faced with the most gorgeous eyes she’d ever seen.
Pale emerald, so ice crystalline, his eyes were always startling, always stunning.
"Baron Vettura," she returned, her tone icy cordiality. Sheridan knew her eyes glowed hot. She felt it. She shook back her hair. "It has been a while." ~

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Other Side of the (Austen) Romance

Today Title Magic welcomes UK author Amanda Grange, talking to Evonne Wareham about her books.

Amanda Grange has a string of successful historical romances to her credit, including The Silverton Scandal and The Six Month Marriage. While continuing to write adventurous historicals, such as Lord Deverill’s Secret, in 2005 she added another dimension to her work, when Mr Darcy's Diary was published -- the story of Pride and Prejudice re-told from the male viewpoint. The book has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic and has led to a series of diaries from other Jane Austen heroes.

Welcome Amanda to Title Magic.
Thank you!

You wrote a number of historicals before the diaries -- what gave you the idea for the change?
I was reading Pride and Prejudice again and I found myself thinking that one of the reasons for the book's continuing appeal is that the hero and heroine both have to make a journey before they can be together. Darcy's struggle to overcome his pride is just as compelling as Elizabeth's struggle to overcome her prejudice, and I found myself wanting to know more about his transformation. As part of that, I found myself wanting to know more about the 'missing scenes', and I started imagining what it could have been like when he followed Lydia to London etc. The idea really grew from there.

The diary format works well - did the idea come to you in the form of a diary or did that decision come later?
It came to me in the form of a diary. I'd drawn up a calendar to work out the key dates in the novel as I wanted to find out when it was set. As I filled in the calendar, my thoughts about the 'missing scenes' came back to me and the idea of writing Mr Darcy's diary popped into my head.

I know that you're now known as something of an expert on Austen. How much of a challenge were the books - how much research did you need to do?
I'd been writing Regency romances for years so I'd already done a great deal of research on costume, transport etc and I knew a lot about the manners and customs of the era. The research was therefore more a question of reading the books again very carefully, firstly to reacquaint myself with the characters and events; then to work out the timeline; then to make detailed notes on character names, places, relationships etc and then to think myself into the head of the heroes, using all the information Austen had given us about them.

The re-telling of the story has allowed you to fill out scenes that are only reported in the books. A classic case of show not tell -- could you explain a little about your approach?
I don't start writing the books until I feel I know the characters inside out and until I've absorbed the events and timeline thoroughly, so that by the time I sit down at the computer I simply think myself into the heroes' heads and write.

Jane Austen is at the top of so many lists of favourite authors. What sort of reaction did you get to the idea that you were re-writing her?
The reaction has been very positive. I think it's clear from my books that I love Austen's novels and that I've put a lot of effort into my diaries, and I think that readers respond to that.

Darcy has been something of a slow burn -- the paperback version coming out in 2007. Now, suddenly you're featured in Romantic Times, and mentioned in the Washington Post - has reaction to the book been a surprise?
Yes, it has, a huge surprise!

You've since turned your attention to other Jane Austen heroes – were they more of a challenge than Darcy? I have to admit that Mr Knightley felt to me rather a dry stick when I first read Emma. You made him immensely human and approachable, in his slow realisation that he is in love with Emma – I wondered, did you actually enjoy writing the lesser known heroes more than Darcy? Do you have a favourite?
I love them all for different reasons. I'd always felt that Darcy was the ideal man to fall in love with and that Mr Knightley was ideal husband material. Then, when I wrote Cpt Wentworth's Diary, I was amazed that I hadn't been in love with him for years, because he can do everything! He can captain a ship, and yet he can also say to Anne, 'You pierce my soul.' That's an incredible combination of toughness and tenderness. What a man! Then again, Edmund Bertram really grew on my whilst writing his diary. But perhaps the most surprising hero for me has been Col Brandon. In Sense and Sensibility he comes over as silent and grave, until he tells Elinor his history, and suddenly this dry stick of a man is revealed as a passionate romantic who is the survivor of a tragic love affair. I loved bringing his history to life, and I hope readers will see him as I do, as an excellent hero who has a second chance of love - one of the themes of the novel - and who has the courage to take it.

The diaries have given you the opportunity to write from the male perspective - was that part of the appeal?
I think of the heroes as people rather than men, because men are so different, one from another, that I don't think it's possible to lump them all together. As for the appeal, it was more curiosity that anything else. I found myself thinking: 'I wonder what happened when . . . I wonder why he felt like that . . . I wonder why he said that . . .' etc

What's next for Amanda Grange?
I'll be writing Henry Tilney's Diary, after which I can perhaps get back to the half-finished Regency which is languishing on my hard drive!

Many thanks to Amanda for sharing her insight into Jane Austen's world and the minds of her heroes.

Find out more about Amanda's work on

Thursday, March 6, 2008

March Madness and Magic

Red Lioness Magic – with the release of my first e-novel, a perfect description for the month of March for me. And we have a winner, a new Dorchester author. American Title IV has been decided, the readers' choice to be announced in Romantic Times magazine. Congratulations to both finalists. Opportunity is blowing your way, fast and ferocious as a March wind.
Okay, okay, I confess. Heaving an enormous sigh, I cross my arms over my heaving bosom (insert your favorite bodice ripper heroine here)...okay, this picture, the God of War from Xena, Warrior Princess – and this blog is a gift to myself, not a picture of a hero from one of my novels.
I’m an Aries, and soon good ole’ Sol will leave the dreaming-creative sign of Pisces, to shine it’s radiance in the pioneering-innovative sign of Aries, ruled by Mars energy. Think of the Spring Equinox as the portal. Yep, the sun will explode on top of my natal sun, or where the sun was at the time of my birth. So, why wouldn’t I, being a red-blooded, ‘Mars Red’ woman, be hankerin’ over that smoldering hunk o’ fiery lust and love, the God of War – the Greek Ares or the Roman Mars. Or, better yet, the actor, Kevin Tod Smith, tragically no longer with us (March 16, 1963–February 15, 2002).
Hmmm...March 16...the month of March being named after the Roman god, Mars...a bit of cosmic coincidence? I dare think not. More like the Fates wove those gold and silver threads in a destiny realized, a depiction of the god Ares for modern times. A gift for the modern TV audience. For those of us starving, soul-desperate for more than the god technology has become in our world. Yes, a gift from the grand cosmos.
But...confession time again, most bad boys don’t do it for me, but then, neither do most ‘good guys’. Just a few bad boys light my passionate fires, spin me to wildfire, then blaze me up to wanton breathlessness. And that’s quite enough to get a gal into real serious up-in-smoke trouble (all confessions deleted here).
Trouble, yep. Thank the goddesses and gods, this is only a picture. March madness is upon me. No, not basketball. Unless, I was star-blinked onto Mt. Olympus, and found myself suddenly engaged in court-dribbling, battle-of-the-sexes combat with that very bad boy in black leather pictured above.
Talk about and swoon over power, power as an aphrodisiac. The power of a god is pure sexual ambrosia.
Yet, like Xena, my fantasy attraction was also a love-hate breathlessness. There was just something about Ares, the god of war, that held me utterly desire-entranced at times, something ‘that did it’. Dark and dangerous, the ability to scorch a woman to such desire, the top of Mr. Olympus would be as nothing in comparison. And...the desire to love a man-god who obviously needed real love, the bad boy redeemed – in fierce conflict with my hatred, a savage hate for the god’s careless arrogant brutality against mere mortals, against humanity.
So, in the end, like Xena, I would be saying ‘no’, more than ‘yes’ to this gorgeous god of war – the love of humanity triumphant in my heart as it was for Xena, Warrior Princess.
So, would you succumb to the god of war? As Xena was tempted, as I was tempted...?
Draxen Z of the Venture, my hero in Red Lioness Tamed, is not the dark god of war, unless he fights to save his woman, or his family. Yep, he possesses that irresistible, take-charge charm and he’s enough of a ‘bad boy’ to captivate the heroine, despite herself and her fate-ridiculous predicament.
Available from Liquid Silver Books.

In contrast to the dark brutal rule of Ares over the mortal realm, Baron Zaggry Dhio Vettura, my hero in All Shades of Blue Paradise, is golden cougar in his fierce-ruling nature, as he battles the court intrigues designed to gain ultimate power in the Realm, and ruin him by destroying his heart.
Available March 10 from Siren Publishing.

Heroes, sometimes you can’t live with them, or without them? Hey! When is Heroes returning? To TV fantasy land?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Daily Cup of Inspiration

The weather’s a funny thing. All of last week here in the Carolinas was cold and windy. The weekend saw a high of 71 before dropping back down to mid-thirties. Yesterday the sky was dark and it rained pellets for the majority of the day. And today—well, you guessed it. Sunshine.

I watched the much-needed rainfall all day yesterday and listened to the pitter patter of the raindrops. There’d been a hint of gloom alongside the grey clouds, overshadowing the day. It made me feel very “blah” and left me uninspired.

This morning, however, I watched the sun rise over the horizon—something I can do because I live in the middle of nowhere, on top of a hill, and surrounded by trees behind me and the most incredible view of rolling hills as far as the eye can see before me. But I watched the sun rise, the sky glow orange with the changing color of day, felt already the warmth of the coming day and listened to the chirping of birds and crowing of chickens (yes, we have chickens—lots of them), and I thought, “Wow.”

That feeling I had at roughly 7am this morning I wish I could bottle to pull out for later use. The feeling is inspiration.

Oftentimes, we as writers lose our way and our beliefs in ourselves and our writing. We no longer find the joy in writing, are tired of our characters and/or stories, lose sight of the reason we want to be writers, and a million other problems.

But because we are affected by these on a daily level, it is extremely important to take a moment out of each of your day (I’d recommend early in the morning or late in the afternoon), to allow yourself to just soak up your surroundings and find that must-have daily dose of inspiration. Stand on the porch and feel the breeze in your face, smell the crisp scent of the early morning or late afternoon sky, watch the thin red glow on the horizon grow stronger and change colors as the day progresses, listen to the tranquility to be had in stealing this one small moment for yours, and savor the contentment that seeps deep into the pores of your body .

Today I’ve been inspired to write more, to be a better person, and to live life with meaning and purpose. I challenge each of you to be inspired every day and see what a different it’ll make in your writing!

Happy writings and enjoy this gorgeous, awe-inspiring day!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sitting in Pictures.

The book on writing I’m reading this week is Skip Press’s How to Write What You Want and Sell what You Write. I’d never heard of Skip before this week (found the book on sale at a large chain book store not to be named unless kickbacks are in order), but at least one of his ideas resonated with me. Also, it follows along with a thread fellow titler Evonne started a few weeks ago.

Sitting in Pictures. Skip Press gives credit to the Hopi tribe for this idea, but I’ve been doing something close since I was a child. Okay, since the tribe has been in existence for centuries, they still might have done it first.

So, in order to sit in pictures…make sure your writing space is blank and boring. No, really. If you have a beautiful office with windows, close most of the blinds. If you have created a collage to represent your work in progress, stare at it for awhile. Just as I tell my students in order to avoid plagiarism—read the article, understand it, then put it away. Take the pictures you chose for the collage and absorb them, then put them away. Stare at a blank wall. Watch the movie your brain makes as it unfolds until you get stuck. Or until you get to the point you start feeling like an idiot for staring at a blank wall.

Then write.

That’s the basic idea. My actual mode of operations is to lie in bed and dream while awake. Or ride my bike and let the story happen in my head (I’ve only wrecked once in five years, so it may be legal—and, I only ride on trails not on roads with traffic). Or walk the dog. Or walk period. I see the story happen. And I talk the part of the main female character, make her gestures, feel her emotions (when absolutely no one's around).

Then I go back to my computer and write. I’m not published yet (hence, my entry into the contest) so I’m not making any grand claims to this being a fantastic technique. But, I am only able to write in the summers because of my job and I have been able to finish a manuscript each summer for the last four years.

Who knows? Maybe it will help you if you hit a writer’s block. Or it could be just plain fun to let yourself go that much—even if you never write a word.

I imagine a Hopi girl, sitting on some boulder in the New Mexican desert and staring at a sky just past sunset. When there’s enough light to see, but not enough to know what’s real anymore and what’s not. She sees her future, a strong warrior, a baby with fat, brown cheeks, and days so stable she can sleep where she is, leaning against a scrub pine. It’s a good place to be, sitting in pictures.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Addicted to Love

One of my dear friends mentioned to me the other day that she owns a book by a favorite author, Barbara Michaels, that she hasn’t read. The book has been sitting on her shelf for a while now. She’s saving it for a time when she really needs a sure-fire comfort read. Another friend chimed in that she, too, has a book by a favorite author that she’s saving until she has time to savor it.

I was astounded by these two comments. I mean, I know all about delayed gratification. I eat my vegetables before my dessert (mostly) and I save money now for next summer’s vacation (mostly), but I’d never, ever considered applying the concept to my reading material.

If you put the new Christine Feehan, Nalini Singh, or Colleen Gleason book in front of me, I’m not sure I’d be able resist reading it. Even the thought of doing so makes me twitchy.

Unfortunately, I’d probably enjoy these books on a whole different level if I didn’t snatch my reading time late at night or when I really should be doing something else. Some enterprising mental health professional is going to start a 12 step Reader’s Anonymous group one day for people like me…but I won’t be going.

How about you – do you wait for the time or the right moment to savor those highly anticipated books by favorite authors, or, like me, do you devour them as quickly as possible?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Day of the Red Lioness

Hi all, March 3 is the launch day in the magical month of March for my e-novel, Red Lioness Tamed, published by Liquid Silver Books, a Molten Silver release.
If yer partial to a futuristic adventurous romp of lust and love on the high celestial seas of space...if you have a yen for those cat shifter types, this might be the read for you.

Year 3051, the Earth calendar used on Terra-Mars, a terra-formed moon orbiting Mars, the home world of my heroine, Sun Rocket.

Blurb: What does a lioness shifter do when she's suddenly trapped in an unknown space cruiser's cargo hold? Then, despite her ability to savagely defend herself, she's trapped beneath the handsome human Captain. And next, cat-scratching ridiculously, she finds herself carnal-trapped, and meow yowl! bound by leather straps in his bed?
Answer: She fights tooth and claw. Problem: The loner Captain is nova-hot at seducing her.