Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mary & Dianna's Winners!

I'm delighted to announce the two names drawn to win the prizes offered by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love are Kate (who made the first comment) and Nicole Maggi. Would both of you contact me at


Satirist63! E-mail me at melhiers @ by Wednesday to receive your Fictionwise gift certificate! Congrats!

Thanks for hanging out with us, Mark! :-P

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Guest Blogger: Mark Orr

Those of us who write fantasy/paranormal/horror often come up against some unique challenges in the course of a story. My friend and crit group partner Mark Orr, author of Howling in the Park, writes about Harvey Drago, intangible detective. Harvey has the power to move through just about anything solid - walls, floors, furniture. Cool, huh?

In a draft of the sequel to Howling, Harvey has a romantic encounter with a ghost. When he talked about it in group, I wondered how the heck that was going to work, being that one of them is intangible and the other insubstantial. Although the scene ended up not being right for this particular book, Mark pulled it off beautifully! So I invited him to come talk with us today about the art and logic of creating such a love scene.

Welcome, Mark! Thanks for being here!

Contest: Comment by 12:00 a.m. Central time for a chance to win a copy of Howling in the Park via a Fictionwise gift certificate!


The Effects of Alternative Planes of Existence on the Procreative Activities of Metahumans and Supernatural Beings

Mark Orr

When Mel asked if I might be willing to write a guest blog for this space describing the process of crafting a love scene between two characters in my Harvey Drago, Intangible Private Eye novel series, my initial reaction was to jump at the opportunity to indulge in a little blatant self-promotion. My second reaction was confusion and despair, as the scene I had worked out so carefully and read aloud to our writers' group had not made it into the final version of the novel for which I wrote it, Dead Women in Love. Why get so worked up over a passage that wound up on the cutting room floor? Apparently, Mel thought more highly of it than I did.

That's not altogether true. I thought it turned out fairly well, in a grotesquely kinky sort of way, but it did not fit the context of the events occurring immediately before it. I determined to extract it and save it for a later book in the series. My editor at Renaissance EBooks has not seen it, therefore. If I decide to stay with that publisher, she may, eventually. Time will tell.

If it seems like I'm dancing around the topic, well, I am. The only thing I find more embarrassing than writing a graphic love scene is writing about writing a graphic love scene. You'd think after twenty-seven years of marriage I'd be long past coyness or shyness or any related –yness when it comes to sexual matters. Truth is, I've never found it easy to describe intimate acts in words. How much can one say about a basic physiological function? It eventually boils down to inserting tab A into slot B at some point. Most literary love scenes remind me of the 'some assembly required' projects I've wrestled with for the past twenty-four Christmas Eves. For some reason, my wife thinks this is simply more evidence of my terminal non-romanticism.

This love scene is a little different than most, I suppose. The participants are a hard-boiled private investigator with the ability to render himself insubstantial, and a very frisky ghost. He's a detective, she's a secret agent. Both can readily walk through walls, allow items like bullets and scimitars to pass through them without causing the least inconvenience or injury, and conduct clandestine operations from inside solid objects. They arrived at their arcane capabilities from different avenues; he by experiments performed on his father before he was born, she through the unpleasant expedient of being hanged for cattle rustling in 1881. Of the two methods, I personally prefer his.

They met in the first Harvey Drago novel Howling in the Park (available in e-book format here), when the late Amy Marten attempted to recruit my boy Harv for the top secret government agency she represents, the Supernatural Investigations Bureau. She re-entered his life in Dead Women in Love, while Harv was working for a vampire pimp who desperately needed to know who was leaving his ladies of the evening out after sunrise. About a third of the way through one of the myriad drafts of the books, Harv and Amy found themselves in a position neither ones' mother would approve of. I like to think the chemistry between them is right, but the timing was off, so the love scene had to go. However, that doesn't matter to Mel. She's merely interested in how I worked out the physics of the metabiology involved. How does one intangible being get jiggy with another? Can astral displacement interact with ectoplasmic non-corporality in such a way as to provide sufficient friction to achieve the intended result? Does a ghost have a g-spot? What protection is recommended, or even applicable? Can you really call having sex with a dead person necrophilia if the corpse isn't present? These are matters of clinical importance, if not literary.

Obviously, I am not insubstantial, and I've never gotten around to making love with a 127-year old ghost, so I had no first hand knowledge of how it would work. I made what I like to believe are some fairly shrewd guesses, and cobbled up the rest out of whole cloth.

The first assumption I had to make was that even a ghost has erogenous zones of some sort. Since her creation a decade ago in an online role-playing game, Amy has been a lusty sort; sex wouldn't have been one of her favorite forms of recreation for so long without her possessing the usual tickle spots. The second assumption I had to accept was that she could adapt her ectoplasm to whatever state of existence her partner enjoyed. Harv's ability to shift himself out of phase with the world we normal mortals live in should lessen her need to firm up the ghostly goop as much as she would with a regular guy, but just what would their love-making look like if you found it on one of those tapes hidden in the back room of the video store where minors are discouraged from venturing?

I would probably be more impressed with myself if I could claim that I likened it to the slow intermingling of galaxies as seen through the Hubble telescope. Nothing that elevated, I'm afraid. I compared it to something much more mundane:

"I lay there, eyes closed, and drank in the sensation of the sheets against my back and Amy fitted to me like we were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle made of gelatin. Her legs stretched past my hips and through the mattress. She put her hands on my shoulders and started to pull away, but my hands on her hips kept her in place. It was a year since Sonja, and I had some catching up to do. My ass sank down into the bed until I almost came out of her, then with a snapping curl of my whole spine, I thrust up. She met me on the stroke, sliding back and forth, bouncing up and down, loin to loin, rhythm to rhythm, taking me further and further inside her until there was no point of juncture between us, just a writhing merger of ectoplasm and sentient ethereality, a single unit pleasuring itself."

Of course, since it won't appear in the next book, nor at least the one after that (All the Damn Vampires), I have the luxury of slipping in the more elegant analogy when the time does come. Which might never have occurred to me to do if Mel hadn't badgered me into this exercise.

Thanks, Mel.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Break Into Fiction –Why Some Writers get THE CALL and Others Don't

Today we have double the pleasure. Dianna Love AND Mary Buckham are joining us, and they're offering some fun giveaways, so stayed tuned for more on that in a minute. First, I'd like to tell you a little about our guests.

Dianna is a Rita-Award winning author (WORTH EVERY RISK) who also owns her own business
( where she designs, fabricates and installs unusual outdoor marketing projects for Fortune 500 companies. She's excited about her next project, PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT (Pocket/June 10, 2008) -- a romantic suspense collaboration with #1 NYT Best-selling Author Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Mary is a popular national speaker and writing instructor who has two award-winning books to her credit (INVISIBLE RECRUIT is her latest). She is also one of the driving forces behind -- an on-line university by and for writers.

Their topic today? Breaking Into Fiction – Why Some Writers get THE CALL and Other's Don't!

As I mentioned, Dianna and Mary are offering door prizes! All you have to do is post to be entered in the drawing, both geared toward aspiring authors. The first is a drawing for a set of 5 BREAK INTO FICTION™ templates from the highly successful Break Into Fiction™ Template Teaching Series (

The second is a critique of your query or cover letter to get you one step closer to a dynamite proposal package.

And now for blog…

We often wonder what it takes for writers today to break out of the pack of hopefuls to become a published author. As relatively new authors themselves, Mary and Dianna delved into this mystery and are here to share what they’ve observed while working with hundreds of aspiring writers. And they want to hear your views on what you feel it takes to get published too.

Dianna—When I was first writing and researching what it took to sell my “to do” list started with the simplest thing – reading. Prior to selling, I sought books by new authors to see what was selling. That was how I read Mary's debut book MAKEOVER MISSION -- a fast romantic suspense -- before I ever met her in person. Finding a new author isn’t as hard as it might seem in a sea of books. The Romance Writers Report always lists new sales and most new authors already have websites – Google them. Open a book and see how many books that person has published. If there are three or less, go to their website and find out if they are newly published or just changing publishers. These new authors are a barometer of what is being published and how commercial fiction continues to CHANGE. As readers, we may not notice the changes, but as writers we have to keep up to speed on this business.

Take a look at books written fifteen, ten and even five years ago. Compare the way the books start, the pacing, the descriptions, introspection and so on. With each new generation of writers, editors and readers – this industry changes. Adapting to these changes while keeping your voice strong in each book is important and plays into why some writers get THE CALL and some don’t. The writer who is unwilling to adjust to the world around them and accept that what they were writing a couple years ago might no longer be marketable will be passed by those paying close attention.

Mary—After working with hundreds and hundreds of writers over the last few years whether in a classroom teaching environment, working one-on-one with synopsis or query help or through the Break Into Fiction™ Power Plotting weekends there are several elements that I’ve seen that sets some writers apart and gives them that extra edge needed to break out and into the ranks of the published. The first is ATTITUDE. There’s a mind set that is loud and clear dividing those who will be published from those who’d like to be published. The first group will do what it takes, regardless of the obstacles, work or time involved. When they receive rejections they mourn, but then get right back to sending out another query, another proposal, getting more feedback if needed as they continue to press forward. They do not start their conversations with phrases such as “But I have a job…young kids…school-age kids…aging parents…no support…little time…” You fill in the blanks. Those who will be published offer no excuses.

The second issue is the willingness to take feedback and apply it. Not to say that all feedback is spot on, but those who will be published will keep pushing themselves to learn from others and apply what they learn so that their work and their process of working continues to improve. The ones who will be published continue to work at the craft of writing, whether it’s taking online classes or conference workshops, or analyzing other writers or improving what they already do well. The ones who will be published never give up, because that is a guarantee of non-publication.

Dianna – Once you’ve decided you’re “in” for the long haul, you can never, ever, ever stop learning or trying to improve your writing. I hope to still be learning something new the day I draw my last breath. I attack every story with gusto, wanting to drive my characters and plot to a new level. Mary and I often read for each other and I love the way she never fails to surprise me with the way she thinks. I want books that catch me off guard so that’s what I’m after when I write. We both analyze everything we come into contact with – novels, movies, short stories, characters, writing craft and style. If one of us finds something interesting we share it and the other will dig a little deeper for a new nugget of information. We love the time we’ve spent with all the thousands of students we’ve worked with on their stories while sharing our Break Into Fiction™ Template Teaching Series, but realized there was no way to reach everyone. That’s what led to the nonfiction book we’ve written that is coming out in Summer 2009.

Mary – The great news for writers everywhere is they have the choices daily to commit and work toward their goal of publication or not. They have the POWER. Many times as unpublished writers we think all the power is in the hands of editors or agents, but it’s not. It’s in your hands and the day you decide that nothing will stop you from being published is the day you’ll never turn back. You’ll make different choices as to how you spend your time, who you will associate with, how you will invest in your career. The greatest power to break into fiction publication rests with you and we’re here today to let you know that.

Now what about you? What do you see as the greatest obstacles to publication and what sets those whom you know have published apart?

Monday, May 26, 2008

So Many Stories, So Little Time

Like so many, dare I say most? writers, I have a day job. During the school year, I rarely have the time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard—unless it’s paid work. The good news is, unlike some, I do have the summers off. So, this is prime writing time.

But…here’s the harsh reality: three months isn’t enough. I have one manuscript I’d like to finish. Another just caught my heart and I wrote fifty pages on the new one last week (instead of the old one). If I plot ahead instead of writing, the page count isn’t there. I also feel the need to research some of my facts—again, time away from writing. Aargh!

Oh, and not to mention, my web site needs work, I should be submitting to agents and editors, and blog! Wait, I’m doing that-whew. I know all about prioritizing, and how’s that working for me? Not.

Further, even though I technically have the summer off, I do teach one night class starting tonight. My advisees need help signing up for classes. I have a meeting today at ten plus I need to prep for the class I’m teaching.

Think I’m done? NO. I have kids and a husband. Kid number one requires frequent nagging and still may fail geometry. Kid number two is in softball (almost over), swim team (just starting), chorus (just finished), student council, piano lessons, and is starting at the School of the Arts next year (so we have orientation to attend). Husband, friends, and church get leftovers.

Wait! There's also me! I do make it a priority to get enough sleep, exercise, cook halfway healthy meals, and Read.

Okay, glad to have that off my chest. In case you haven’t guessed it, this blog is about time management--and planning your writing career. The club I advise at school hasn’t won regional and national awards (end of the year report’s due next Saturday) via my lack of organizational skills—so I’ll calm myself down and organize.

I need to finish at least one manuscript—the new one has me excited and I have 350 pages to go, divided by ten weeks to go, two weeks will be shot because of vacation so eight weeks. Each week I need around 47 pages, requiring about 6.5 pages a day. I can do that, barring unforeseen circumstances (which will undoubtedly happen but at least I have a plan).

I also want to revise the other manuscript but find I can’t really work on two at the same time…so I’m going to wait until I have a first draft of the new one.

My goal is to blog every other Monday—so expect itJ Another goal will be to submit to either an agent or editor every week. That will be more difficult , but the purpose will be to have something at all times so the rejections will be offset (dream on) by the hopeful something still out there.

So, my foray into First Draft in 30 Days has been waylaid by my passion for a new project. I am combining Karen Wiesner’s approach with a need to write. The concept of keeping a folder for every idea you have---and getting those out of your system has been wonderful! Character sketches I’ve done in the past. Setting sketches, background sketches, are new to me and helpful. Doing all this plotting without writing, I can’t do!

Some of these career goals ideas also come from her book, but she gives examples from a different stage of her career. How about you? Do you write blithely along, enjoying the writing bug as it hits? Or do you have very specific goals for each area of your career—writing, revising, promotion, submitting?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Guest blogger Eden Bradley

Our guest blogger today is Eden Bradley. I met Eden through the Passionate Ink RWA group message boards where her wit makes her one of my favorite posters. Eden’s work is sizzling hot but also deeply emotional. It’s rare to find erotica that is also romantic--Eden Bradley is that rare find. Due to the adult content of the covers and this blog I recommend discretion.

Eden Bradley: Books, tattoos, and the meandering mind of an erotica author.

I've been writing dark, edgy erotica and erotic romance for years, but it was only a few years ago that I realized I might actually be able to publish something. After 3 ½ years of writing with publication in mind, and a long detour into category romance, which didn't work out so well, I sold my first e-book in 2005, and have since published five more e-books. Two are still available, Breaking Skye and Heatwave, at

In 2006, I made my first sale to Bantam. My first two novels, The Dark Garden and The Darker Side of Pleasure, are both BDSM fetish stories. I also participated in the Berkley Heat 'Exclusive' anthology with my erotic novella, Sanctuary, which is also BDSM-themed. Kink seems to be my specialty, although that's not all I write. I love to explore the psychological dynamics between people. What makes them who they are? How do they respond to sex, to falling in love? Those elements are even more interesting to me in any sort of extreme setting.

My last Bantam release, Exotica: Seven Days of Kama Sutra & Nine Days of Arabian Nights, is a contemporary erotic romance with almost no kink! I surprised even myself with this one, but I wanted to change it up a bit. I do love the exotic elements and even more, the two exotic men in this book! I explore the mysterious and sensual Kama Sutra in the first half, and there is a bit of power play in the second half--just enough to keep things exciting! This one is really more about women fulfilling their deepest fantasies, and finding love in the process.

I also love to write literary erotica--stories that are more personal journey, rather than being about a relationship, stories that push boundaries a little. My first story with Harlequin Spice Briefs, Soul Strangers, is available now, and I hope to write more for them! Meanwhile, my next erotic novel, Forbidden Fruit, will be out in October, a sensual book exploring food and sploshing fetishes. This book was fun to write--I ate tons of chocolate for inspiration!

But what I really want to talk about today is my latest release, which just came out on May 20th, and I'm very excited about it! My novella, The Art of Desire, appears in the Hot Nights, Dark Desires anthology, along with stories by Stephanie Tyler and Sydney Croft. This story is very near to my heart; it's about tattoo fetish--one I share with my heroine.

I got my first tattoo at eighteen--as soon as I legally could! I'd been fascinated with them since I was a kid and started listening to rock music and crushing on rock musicians. The artwork (a Pegasus) was poor, but I was happy to be tattooed and it was a positive experience. I had it touched up when I was twenty-one, and again, it didn't really hurt--I found the sensation interesting. But at that age I didn't understand that it was a flood of endorphins, the brain's natural opiates, that kept it from hurting, and in fact, even made it feel pretty good! And it was much later that I came to understand that my extreme fascination with body art went beyond the usual interest. I also learned that each tattoo should have some sort of lasting meaning--the design should be personal, and now, thanks to my recent cover work, all of mine are.

It was a long time before I had my next tattoo done, only a year and a half ago--Kanji symbols (Chinese writing) down the back of my neck. I love this tattoo-I think the back of the neck is a very sensual spot. And as a writer, the written word is something very powerful for me.

I knew I wanted more work done, and I also knew for years that the old Pegasus would need to be covered. It took a long time to find the perfect artist.

My friend, author Lillian Feisty, a tattoo aficionado herself, introduced me to her artist in San Francisco. I had my cover piece done, a large image of the Hindu goddess, the White Tara, in March of this year. The design is spectacular and exactly what I wanted! So far only the outline and a small portion of the color covering the old image is done. That was a four and a half hour session, which is about as much as even I can take. I was full of endorphins the whole time, trying not to giggle, and almost fell asleep a few times. I'm going back for a good five hours of color work in August, and I can't wait to see it finished!

Being tattooed is a sensual experience for me, and I tried to bring that idea into The Art of Desire, taking it to an extreme. Here's a blurb for the book:

New Orleans, a multifaceted city famous for its diverse art and people, reveals its offbeat charm and marvelous eccentricities through three stories celebrating the Big Easy and its funky culture and exotic atmosphere in an anthology from authors Eden Bradley, Sydney Croft and Stephanie Tyler. Seduce your senses… THE ART OF DESIRE, by Eden Bradley . . . silky skin, decadent sin, and decorative ink come together in a tapestry of eroticism set in the heart of steamy New Orleans' French Quarter. Sophie Fiore has always wanted to be a bad girl, but has never quite dared to take it all the way. Tristan Batiste is a tattoo artist, classic bad boy, and the image of Sophie's wildest fantasies come to life. Will she let Tristan charm her into getting the tattoo she's always yearned for--and if she does, will she become addicted to body art? Or to Tristan?

I always love to hear other people's tattoo stories, so I hope some of you will share! I'm also interested in what you find sexy about body art, and what your favorites are. Personally, I love to see a man with an armband, especially dark tribal work around the biceps. I think it's incredibly hot! So, tell me what you think--do you like tattoos on a man? On a woman? If you don't have any yourself, would you ever consider getting one?

Meanwhile, I'll hope you'll visit my website and my blog for news and updates about my books, signings and appearances, and of course, my tattoos!
You can also find me on MySpace page:

Thanks so much for having me, Anitra! (ooh, that sounded dirty…*G*)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Different Kind of Contest

Lee and Anitra posted earlier this week with two fabulous pieces on contests. I recently attended the award ceremony for a slightly different kind of competition, here in the UK. Not quite the sort of contest as those described by Lee and Anitra, but a very big event for new writers of romantic fiction over here. The Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Award brings together all those writers who have been through the RNA critique scheme that year and who have subsequently made it into publication.

The award takes place as part of the RNA Summer Party – a bit of a misnomer this year, as it was raining – I settled for a sensible pair of black trousers rather than the frothy frock I’d been hoping to wear. The venue was the beautiful library of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Doesn’t sound like a romantic location, but it is – a working library with a gallery, balconies and deep window embrasures, full of books – they do tend to be about mining and other engineer type subjects, as you might expect, but you can’t have everything. The approach, up a wide sweeping staircase, is pretty spectacular too. In fact the whole building is rather splendid, overlooking St James’s Park.

The party is a gathering for gossip, sipping champagne and making contacts – much exchanging of business cards and networking. And canapés. I chickened out of something gooey, served in a spoon with what looked like spinach, but all the others were delicious, even if I didn’t know what I was eating half the time. I particularly liked the mini sausages, served with mashed potato as a dip. Bangers and Mash, in miniature.

The serious part of the evening is the judging and presentation. This year there were five newly published writers: - Beth Elliot with The Wild Card, Monica Fairview with An Improper Suitor and Elizabeth Hanbury with The Paradise Will, all published by Robert Hale Ltd, plus Giselle Green with Pandora's Box - published by Avon (HarperCollins) and Jane Lovering with Reversing Over Liberace - published by Samhain.

The award is sponsored by Dr David Hessayon, in memory of his late wife Joan, who was a romance writer and longstanding member of the RNA. Dr Hessayon is the writer of the ‘Gardening Expert’ books. There are over 49 million copies of his works in print and 1999 he received a Guinness World Record Award as ‘Britain’s best-selling living author of the 1990s’. During his usual warm and witty speech he confided that he will shortly be celebrating 50 years of publication. His generosity, as well as providing a prize for all the finalists and the main award of £1,000, also extends to buying everyone a glass of champagne to toast the winner, a gesture always very well received. This year was no exception and everyone toasted Giselle Green, with enthusiasm.

Giselle has been trying for publication for nine years, so her message was definitely never to give up hope. Pandora’s Box was described as a brave book, which tackles the story of a mother and her fifteen year old daughter who has been diagnosed with a debilitating and fatal illness. An old diary unearths memories and the ending has a surprising twist. And the descriptions of Cornwall are, apparently, superb. Giselle is also the author of A Writer's Guide to the Zodiac - on using star signs to help build and understand characters, which sounds like something a Title Magician ought to check out!

It was an excellent party. I’m already looking forward to next year. That one really will be special, as our own Helen will be one of the line-up in contention for the award, following the publication of The Magic Knot, by Dorchester in February 2009.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is it Magical for You?

The question: How do you feel about interacting with a heroine and/or hero once you’ve read their story? Is it magical for you? Fun? Thrilling or satisfying? Do you gain more insights into them as characters? Or is it just a big ho-hum, and you’re not really interested? Of course, I assume, that partly depends on how much you resonated with the heroine/hero, and enjoyed their story.
To me, ‘interacting’, letting my heroines and heroes remain ‘alive’ so to speak, seems like an enchanting idea. Why not let my main characters speak, and answer the readers’ questions? However, this daydreamy twirling-around-my imagination idea is partially generated from the fact that I love my heroines and am always in love with my heroes. They are real to me. After all, they’ve been telling me their story. Or, more often showing me their story like a movie, and letting me feel what it is they are feeling for an x-amount of words.
For me, another appealing aspect of allowing my main characters to speak beyond their story, is that I enjoy acting, or playing a role. During my college years I had the opportunity to act in plays and take theater classes. To my ever-lasting prideful ego, I even had one major actor in my city, try to convince me to pursue an acting career. So, it’s a natural...can’t-change-my-leopard-spots natural...for me to ‘channel’ my heroines and heroes. And the villains. As if I’m playing a role.
Granted, I haven’t availed myself of the opportunity to interact, when it comes to the characters of other authors...yet. *Blush, blush* I have...*whispering now*...interacted with Lord Craven-Moore (, I must reinforce this for the sake of my reputation, interacted only in the most lady-like of ways. However, the Lord resides at the leisure and pleasure of the Lady Authors on their blog, not as a hero in any of their novels.
While I haven’t interacted, I have read a few hero ‘interviews’. One, as if the author herself interviewed her hero. Also, there are authors who devote a web page, a MySpace page, a blog page, or ~ you-tell-me pages ~ to keeping their heroine(s) and/or hero(s) alive. Sometimes, even the villains have their say. A lot of times this comes about as a clever fun way to promo a novel. Or often, by the demand of the author’s devoted readers. Personal note: Wouldn’t that be nice?
My first attempt at giving a voice to one of my main characters beyond his story...well, that dubious first honor goes to my hero in All Shades of Blue Paradise.
Wagering in the World of the Blue Pearl Moon ~ An Interview with Baron Zaggry Dhio Vettura ~ was written for my recent blog with Destiny Blaine ( Little did she realize what lieu of ‘mad scientist’...she loosed, when innocently asking, in the comment section of her blog with us Title Magicians...if betting took place on the horses featured in my story, the sport horses of the Braverth. Well, off-to-the-races absolutely. Plunk down the coins or discreetly place your wagers, ladies and gentlemen!
Currently, the Baron’s complete interview can be found on the shiny new Siren-BookStrand Author’s blog ( ~ under the topic, Hot Heroes.
The first part of the Baron’s blog is presented here...hopefully...for your entertainment.

"Wagering is a way of life in Baron Vettura’s aristocratic world, especially on any horse sport. And with the revival of the war horse sport of Braverth, all bets are definitely on, amid the swirling dangers of plots and constant intrigues.
Today, I thought I’d let my hero in All Shades of Blue Paradise, Book I & Pleasures of Blue Lotus Oil, Book II ~ speak for himself on the subject of wagering in the World of the Blue Pearl Moon."

An interview with Baron Zaggry Dhio Vettura ~
Wagering in the World of the Blue Pearl Moon

Baron Zaggry Dhio Vettura entered the Regent’s extravagantly appointed reception chamber. Immediately he strode toward the woman comfortably seated on an elegant chair designed for her small, curve-flowing body. The Emissary from the green-water world of Vhesphia, the planet residing in the inner orbit next to his world, had arrived requesting to interview him.
Bowing over her slender four-fingered hand, Baron Zaggry briefly pressed his lips upon her dolphin-like skin. Rising, he offered her the warmth of his grin, and the admiring flash of his gaze. "Emissary Gjylish, may I compliment your slim loveliness and the jade-sheen beauty of your complexion?"
"Baron Vettura, you may...of course." Her natural throat-deep voice held feminine giggles, surfacing like bubbles. "And may I compliment the promptness of your appearance. My request to interview you must have caused your personal schedule some strain. I can only apologize, however, the people of my world have been devouring news of the Braverth, and are particularly fascinated with the idea of wagering on sport events. A cultural way we do not possess. Please..." She floated her delicate arm toward the chair facing her.
Pivoting, Baron Zaggry seated himself. Lounging back like the golden cougar his Sheridan called him, he steepled his fingers and focused his full attention on the bright-eyed Vhesphian. "Your command of our formal language is most superior, Emissary Gjylish. What question would you ask first?"
"In our culture wagering occurs on games of chance and intuitive skill. Certainly not with the level of zeal your culture displays. How did high-coin wagering become such a passionate past time?"
Zag smiled suavely, lacing his fingers...

For the purpose of keeping this blog ‘not too long’, the Baron’s interview is continued at ~ ~
Is this idea magical for you? Or should the spell-waving wand for this idea remain unused? Authors, aspiring authors, readers...what say you?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Promise Of Spring

Springtime always fills me with enthusiasm. My creative energies flow and new stories bubble through my mind vying for prominence. In the UK, spring can last a long time. The days lengthen with lighter evenings, and warmer weather promises summer around the corner. The energy at this time of year, when the trees are bright with pink and white blossom and lush with fresh leaves, is ripe with promise. Anything seems possible.

This is the time of year when fairies emerge from their winter retreats to catch the sun and play among the thick foliage, hidden from human eyes. (You’d better believe it!)

Spring has traditionally been celebrated as a time of birth and renewal. Many folk tales and myths celebrate entities such as the Green Man who embody rebirth, new growth, fertility, and all kinds of things that make my blood buzz with story possibilities. The spirit of nature emerging from his winter hibernation with flowing hair, lean muscles and an appetite honed by abstinence, eager to demonstrate he’s the god of fertility.

Okay, give me a moment…ahem.

Fall, or autumn as we call it in the UK, has a fascination of a different kind. The cycle of death and renewal once again dips toward the barren period of winter when nature retreats into itself and the nights draw in. Long cosy evenings before a roaring log fire, wood smoke, shadowy trysts. Death itself is endlessly intriguing and the subject of speculation through the ages. As the herald of winter, fall promises darkness and all that lives in the dark, vampires, demons, the wicked desires of the night.

I admit, there is something seductive about fall, but I’m still a spring person. Which season fires your imagination and why?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Everything I learned about contests I learned the hard way

Today I would like to share with you my tips on entering the myriad forms of RWA sponsored contests. Please keep in mind these are my personal impressions, thoughts, and experiences--your results may vary. :)

First of all when you enter a contest you have to meet the basics. Pay attention to the type of contest. Is it the first chapter, the first line, the first 50 pages? You need to follow the contest guidelines. If you are unsure, contact the contest coordinator for details. Like Lee Duncan, this person can answer your basic questions with kindness, care, and wonderful wit.

Money is always an issue so check the price per page. A 30 dollar entry fee for 15 pages is very high. A 30 dollar entry fee for 55 pages is a bargain if the score sheet is detailed. Remember too that you have to pay postage and this can really add up. Electronically submitted entries can save you a lot in postage, but I’ve discovered most judges make minimal comments on the manuscript because it is more time consuming.

Beside cost, the next thing to look for is at least three judges with the lowest score dropped. This is good because you will inevitably get at least one judge who doesn’t connect with your work. Some contests essentially do the same thing with a discrepancy judge stepping in if there are more than X points between the two scores.

Also, look for contests that post the score sheet they use. That can give you a good idea of the kind of feedback you’ll get.

Another thing to watch: how to format. If a contest says “standard manuscript format” that is usually: 1" margins all around, drop down 1/3 page to start a chapter, 25 lines per page, and a non-proportional font like Courier New. However, you should always follow the contest guidelines. If they say use a certain font, then use it. If you are not sure, contact the contest coordinator--she is there to help you.

The other thing to look at is the final judge. Don’t bother entering if you don’t think that judge is looking for what you write. If you are only entering for feedback, then don’t worry about the final judge.

And now for the feedback. Most people who judge are writers and readers just like us. They genuinely want to help and can offer great advice but beware the snarky judge. It happens to everyone at some point. Nasty comments have a tendency to stick with us far longer than nice ones. Take the comments in stride but if a judge has crossed a line, contact the contest coordinator. No, they won’t change the score but they won’t ask that judge back next year. Abusive judges have no place in an RWA sponsored contest.

One other thing I learned is to have more than one manuscript. Entering can be a lot of fun and it can become addictive (hence the term contest ho or contest diva) but you don’t want to stop working on new stuff.

Feel free to ask any questions about contests or share your own stories.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Guest Blogger Lee Duncan

Our guest blogger today is Lee Duncan. I met Lee through the Launching a Star contest where I also met and signed with agent Roberta Brown. I will never forget the day that Lee called to tell me that I not only finaled, but Roberta wanted my phone number. I have to commend Lee for dealing with my questions and excitement in a most professional manner. Now I have never been a contest coordinator but I've always made a point of thanking them for undertaking such a challenge. If you think it's easy, check out the picture of Lee surrounded by all of the hopeful entries. So please, put your hands to the keyboard and welcome Lee Duncan!


When I was asked to serve on the Board or run my chapter's contest, Launching A Star, my reasoning went something like, ‘A Board position involves two meetings a month. I'll take the contest.' Talk about colossal misjudgments. I had no idea how much time it took to coordinate a writing contest. I do now. By checking out Anne-Marie Carroll's column on "Running A Successful Contest" (, you can, too. Suffice it to say that Launching A Star eats up waaay more of my time than any Board position ever could. Unless it was Treasurer. Given my ‘so long as it's close' approach to checkbooks, balancing the chapter accounts to the penny would involve antidepressants and copious pots of coffee. High test. Not decaf.

But I love coordinating our contest. For one thing, it provides an outlet for all those anal organizational skills I used in my previous life as a Configuration Manager. Better still, it's an opportunity to give back to my fabulous home chapter, the SpacecoasT Authors of Romance (STAR). I've learned more from this fantastic group than from all my college writing classes. Working with the contest also allows me to chat via email and, occasionally, on the phone with literally hundreds of my fellow aspiring authors. (Be honest – who among us has entered a contest without asking the coordinator at least one question?)

Not me. I want to be sure because – let's face it – entering can be an expensive proposition. In both time and money. Entrance fees for chapter-length submissions average thirty dollars. With the price of stamps rising like spring flowers each May, this year's postage and SASE will set me back an additional nine dollars and twenty cents. Tack on another dollar or two for paper, ink and envelopes, and pretty soon I've invested nearly fifty bucks.

Then there's the time factor. Not only do I have to write something – always the most difficult part – there's the time it takes to format and print and run to the office supply store for sturdy envelopes. Don't forget a trip – or two – to the Post Office. Roxanne St. Claire, author of the best selling Bullet Catcher series, attributes her initial success to her practice of always keeping ten manuscript packages in circulation. Some to editors and agents. The rest to contests. Multiply ten times fifty and you're not talking incidentals anymore. You're talking a budget item. So, why do it? Why enter contests? Since taking over Launching A Star, I've had plenty of chances to ask our contestants that same question. Here are my five favorite answers:

1. To test out new material. Okay, so this has never applied to me personally, but I've had contestants tell me they wanted to switch genres and, for one reason or another, were afraid to share that tidbit with their critique groups. Instead, they entered the new material in a contest to see how it played out. To me, that's a little like going on Dr. Phil and admitting you had an affair with your husband's best friend – I mean, aren't your cp's going to find out when you WIN? Yet some amazing entries come from authors who find their true voice only when they switch to a new sub-genre. (I suspect their critique partners forgive them.)

2. For feedback from peers. Some of us don't work with critique partners and don't belong to on-line critique groups. Others need to see how their work plays outside the safety net of people who have grown accustomed to their voice. By entering contests we get anonymous feedback. Okay, so sometimes we wish we hadn't. Most of the time, though, it's a winning situation. By the time our work hits an editor's or agent's desk, it is better for the suggestions we've received.

3. Contests are cheaper than conferences. If, along with your basic black outfits and spiffy red heels, you pack an intense desire to get trapped in an elevator with your fav editor next weekend, consider this. Going to a conference is – whew! – way expensive. Registration fees, hotel rooms, transportation and meals add up. To say nothing of those absolute necessities – clothes, jewelry, and, did I mention new shoes? A much less expensive approach is to identify a contest where that very same editor is judging, write your very best work, and enter.

4. For feedback from a targeted house or agency. Nearly every contest calls on the big guns – the industry's editors and agents – to judge its final round. Smaller ones increase the odds that these professionals will review your material. In larger contests, the odds of finaling might shrink, but the satisfaction quotient is higher. No matter where you final, it means you've honed your craft and polished that diamond until it gleams.

5. To be discovered. Who doesn't want to become the literary equivalent of Lana Turner in Schwab's Drug Store? Who doesn't long for the moment when an editor or agent picks up their manuscript and says, "THIS is what I've been waiting for!" Like the Lana Turner story, there's more to it than simply ordering a coke at the neighborhood lunch counter, but it happens. Take this year's Launching A Star contest for example. Our wonderful slate of editors and agents requested fifteen full manuscripts from our finalists. Before the shouting was over, two of them signed with their dream agents.

We've all heard that the odds of making it as a writer aren't that great. In a speech to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers', Barbara Samuel once said, "For every aspiring writer, only one in a thousand – or less – will ever be published." I want to be that one in a thousand. To improve my odds, I enter contests where I get valuable feedback and the opportunity to have my work reviewed by the best in the industry. That's why I enter.

To help others become that one in a thousand, I coordinate Launching A Star. That's what works for me. What works for you?

And the winner is...

Using the geeky D&D Die of Doom, I have randomly determined the winner to be...


Send an e-mail to melhiers at with your choice of book from this month's list. Everybody, thanks for visiting!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Abusing the TBR Pile: Readers' Advisory For Writers - The Vampire Edition!

It's the inaugural Abusing the TBR Pile series post! Woot! I suspect I'm probably the only person really excited about it. Which is why I'm giving away a copy of one of these books to one lucky TM reader who comments before 11:59 p.m. central time today! I'll announce the winner, who will then squee, and directly afterward e-mail his or her choice to me. If you choose an e-book, your prize will be in the form of Fictionwise micropay credits/publisher gift certificate for the amount of the book. Violating e-book copyrights is bad, m'kay?

So, what's up with the AtTBRP book lists? Back in February I posted an entry called "Books that Suck and the Readers Who Love Them." We discussed how performing peer critiques and analyzing some of the published work we read can help us improve our own writing.

I decided to use my Librarian Readers' Advisory Superpowers to make balanced lists of books for writers who are analyzing genre markets.

We'll abuse our TBR piles every month with a different genre and giveaway, as close to the 15th as we can get.

Two caveats:

These lists are by no means comprehensive. Omission or inclusion of a title makes no statement about the its quality. I will, more than likely, repeat genres as older titles go out of print and new ones get published.

AtTBRP book lists aren't just for writers! Bibliophiles of all flavors can use them to discover new authors and expand their reading.

Ready? Since we Title Magicians all write paranormal (among other things, of course!), I figured it would be appropriate to start with a paranormal subgenre. This month? It's all about vampires.

Blood Ties: The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout
Nocturne by Elizabeth Donald
Evermore by Lynn Viehl

Kiss Me Forever/Love Me Forever by Rosemary Laurey
Lord of the Night by Robin T. Popp
Tall, Dark, and Dead by Tate Halloway
Sweeter than Wine by Bianca D'Arc (E-book)
Night Rising by Chris Marie Green
Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready
Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward

So, tell me. What genres are you most interested in?

*Today's list was compiled with the help of Gale Group's "What do I Read Next" database , AquaBrowser's Fiction Connection, LibraryThing, Vampire Romance Books and the book Genreflecting: a guide to popular reading interests by Diana Tixier Herald

**Edited for clarity. Never let me post pre-caffeine again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tips On Promotion For American Title V

Following on from Mai’s excellent advice yesterday, other members of Title Magic have come up with the best advice we have for this year’s American Title V contestants on how we promoted ourselves and what worked best. Different tactics seem to have worked for each of us, so the contacts you currently have, your personality and what you’re comfortable doing, and the area in which you live will all influence your choice of promotion.


Well, what really worked for me was contacting my local library. The community coordinator helped me send fliers to all the libraries in Utah. I also distributed those fliers to bookstores and western wear shops (since I was using the whole Wanted Poster idea). I also printed homemade business cards that I could hand out to people wherever I went. I think doing the web page didn't help much but it is something I will need in the future. Oh, and sending out the press releases was almost a total waste of time. I sent out about 40 and only got two bites that ended up going nowhere. My dad and step mom took out an ad in their local paper that got me a lot of votes but my family name is very well known in Moab.I do think what helped the most was interviews on blogs--that drove people to my website and hopefully to vote.


I was very conscious of the fact that I sold my first book after the contest began, so I was very careful not to be obnoxious about promo efforts. Other than e-mailing family and friends and posting to my various e-mail loops each time a new round started, I really only did two other things:

1. During the first round, I did a blog tour. I guest blogged on a different person's/group's blog every day during the two-week voting period.

2. I ordered special business cards from VistaPrint that said, "I NEED YOUR VOTE! To get my book published," then my name, American Title Contest finalist with Out of Sight, Online voting at" and then the dates for each voting period. Several of my friends took batches of these cards and handed them out to potential voters."


My contribution to this would be what I picked up from the contest - the desirability of having a track record of success in other contests, so that your name is known, plus an excellent supporters' network, to keep you in the race until the momentum from readers of RT fully kicks in. I didn't have either, which I was well aware of before the thing even started, but it was still a wonderful experience and one I would not have missed.


Everything I know about self-promotion, I learned from American Title IV. And, like just about everything else I've ever had to learn, I got more out of the many mistakes I made than the few things I managed to get right. Most of it boils down to these things: Don't freak out. (Well, every finalist is allowed a little freak out at first. But keep it to a couple of hours, tops.) Get yourself a posse to help get out the vote. In my case, word of mouth/keyboard was MUCH more effective than offline media. Don't be shy! Talk in loops and message boards. Comment on blogs. Contribute. Not just to say,"Hey, vote for me!" But to meet people. Make friends. And make sure to tap into all of your sources - not just the obvious ones. It didn't occur to me that it might be a good idea to put something on the Tennessee Library Association loop until after I was eliminated. (I mean, I work in a Tennessee library. Duh, right?) I made a lot of mistakes. But I feel that ATIV gave me an opportunity to make those mistakes without having to worry about sales, earning out my advance, etc. And, when I do make my first novel sale, I'll be much more prepared than I would have been without the American Title experience.


What do you do now? You've just won a coveted position as one of the American Title V finalists. Yay! How do you round up those all-important votes? Okay, you spread the word like a were-mad thing loosed beneath the full moon. But then, *boohoo* you're eliminated in the first round. Like me. Why? Well, perhaps, you don't have major networks of voting support, like I didn't. Or, perhaps, your cherished manuscript just doesn't have that special appeal needed to win. Who knows why? What you do have as an American Title finalist, is an all-important entry card with publishers, especially with small print and e-publishers. Use that card. If you have other manuscripts to offer a publisher, whether you only want that NY contract or prefer the current e-opportunities. Now is the prime season to get that writer's foot in the door, and keep it stuck there.Using myself as an example, `cause that's all I've got. I had submitted to an e-publisher who advertises in Romantic Times magazine and announced they were open for submissions prior to my finalist status. Siren publishing offered me a contract. From there everything snowballed, granted in slow motion, yet the avalanche continues. Because I kept submitting the manuscripts I did have (yep, there were rejections), I now have two current e-novel releases. And three other manuscripts under contract. And I am crazed-busier than a bee in a blooming clover field. Moral of the American Title story. Use every opportunity there is as a finalist to make your dreams come true as a published author, regardless of when your entry is eliminated. If you go all the way, winning the contract from Dorchester Publishing, that's just yummy-huge creamy-sweet icing on the cake of your career as an author.
All Shades of Blue Paradise ~ available at Siren Publishing. Red Lioness Tamed ~ available at Liquid Silver Books. When a Good Angel Falls ~ coming from Siren-BookStrand Publishing late 2008. Tangerine Carnal Dreams ~ coming from Aspen Mountain Press. Pleasures of Blue Lotus Oil ~ coming from Siren Publishing.


I have so little to add...I basically considered every avenue where I have contacts and then emailed and/or sent flyers. I couldn't, however, contact people having to do with my work so that severely limited me! My church, my neighborhood, my sisters and their co-workers, their co-worker’s friends and family, my daughter's swim team, local libraries and bookstores, and, of course, my local writing chapter. I would also state that I have joined more writing groups because of this contest. I learned more about networking than I actually networked at the time!
I would also ditto Savanna's comments about moving quickly and sending queries--while I haven't had the call, I have gotten some nibbles where no one nibbled before--interest in my writing, keep those minds on track, people:)


Finally, let me tell you what worked best for me. :)

Obviously, I emailed all my writing loops and writing friends with the news I was a finalist. During the years I’ve been writing I’ve made a reasonable number of contacts, but I was certain that alone would not be enough to get me far. Primarily, I looked outside the writing community for my votes. Lucky for me, I have a whiz of a salesman for a husband and he runs his own business. During each voting period he promoted me to everyone he met. We also mailed or emailed all our customers and asked them to vote for me in the final two rounds. The rest of my family also promoted me to their friends and business contacts. I think each round the number of people who knew about my involvement in the contest grew. Friends told friends who told friends! Unlike Anitra, I found sending out press releases useful. Two local newspapers ran articles on me and I was interviewed on the local BBC radio station. These contacts will now be useful to me in promoting The Magic Knot when it’s published by Dorchester next February.

And my top tip: have a gorgeous half-naked man pictured on your promo material. (I am not joking!)

Good luck to everyone entering American Title V. This final year of the contest should prove the most interesting yet with the mix of genres. We’re looking forward to reading the finalists entries and casting our votes!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Self-Promotion Journey Through American Title

Since learning I was a finalist in the American Title Contest, I definitely had to take a crash course in marketing and self-promotion. Luckily for me, I was already on that track prior to finaling. The contest just pushed me to speed the process up some.

The biggest promotional tool a writer should have is a website. It needs to be something that is clean, professional, and reflects your style and writing. It also needs to be kept up to date and should have all the necessary information: who you are, your writing, any writing accomplishments, and contact information. Being a web designer, I already had a website up that had enough content and readership to put me on the top of Google’s web search if you type in my name, “Mai Christy Thao”. That’s very important, by the way. You need to make sure you’re easily found on Google. Your website should make the number one slot – as mine does.

Another huge promotional tool a writer should have is either a blog or social networking page – or both – just something so you can easily connect and interact with your (potential) readers. I had to create a myspace page. In the spans of a month (the amount of time I had before voting started), I had up to 800 friends, I believe. These weren’t just any friend I accepted. These were targeted people who read and/or write books – and a few of my personal friends. Currently I’m at 4746 friends. It’s slowed down a great deal since the beginning of the year because I haven’t been as active on myspace as I was during the height of the competition. Again, this page needs to be professional, clean, and reflect your writing style.

The “secret tool” of my marketing strategy though has be the network of friends and writing acquaintances I’ve made over the course of my writing. This is something that can’t be achieved overnight. I spent years actively participating in workshops, chapters, writing loops, forums, contests, conferences – you name it, I did it. I met anyone I could meet and made it a point to really get to know them. I made friends and acquired name recognition because of the amount of time I spent helping out, volunteering, holding chapter positions, and mentoring newbies. This made it easier for me when the time came for me to ask for votes.

Some of the votes I received came from places I would have never considered before. My mom’s entire workplace gave me votes. My realtor sent out emails asking for votes to her network of friends and realtors in the Carolinas. I got in touch with former co-workers and they helped out with votes. I also had relatives I’ve never known before casting votes for me. Oh, I had an entire church vote for me, courtesy of my aunt who attends there.

One of the biggest promotions I did for the contest was the Sylvia Day blog. All it took was an email to Sylvia. She listened to my idea, proposed something I would have never dared propose, and promoted the heck out of the contest for all the finalists. The interviews conducted on her blog even made it into The Romantic Times Magazine! She is just one of the many writers and authors who’ve gone out of their way to help promote the contest. Pat Rice also was very gracious to host a dialogue chat on her blog for me. If I continued naming names, this post will never end.

One of the more unique approaches I took with promoting myself was contacting Asian forums and Asian magazines. I had two featured articles written about me as a rising Asian star. That was very exciting.

I’ve learned a couple of very valuable things from this process. Here, I’ll list the top ten.

1. It never hurts to ask. In fact, asking will only open more doors and create/strengthen relationships.
2. Always be gracious.
3. Remember and repay even the smallest of gestures.
4. No one said self-promotion was easy.
5. Develop the mantra, “It’s all about me.” – But be humble about it.
6. When there is no time, make time. Make time to write; make time to promote; make time to network; make time to learn; make time to help others.
7. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Grow thicker skin.
8. Having your work ripped to shreds in front of millions of viewers isn’t the end of the world. You pick yourself back up and come back stronger than before.
9. Don’t be afraid to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. Only then will you be able to grow.
10. Winning isn’t important.

Oh, and most importantly – Have fun and enjoy the ride!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Flying through the Fog

I will immediately give credit to the many writers who have come before me and let you know—I did not create that phrase. But I love it.

This past weekend, one of my sisters (the third of us is very pregnant and opted out) and I, our daughters, and our mother traveled to the Biltmore for Mother’s Day weekend. The Biltmore, for those of you who don’t know (forgive the excessive detail, for those of you who do), was built in the late 1890s by George Vanderbilt. George’s grandfather, Cornelius, made all the money and his son, George’s father, doubled the fortune. From what I can tell, George did nothing other than spend.

And he did that very well. He traveled to the Blue Ridge mountains, fell in love with the mountains, and built a 250 room house—99 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, indoor pool, bowling alley, all for a family of 3. He purchased 100,000 surrounding acres and shipped in artisans, housing them in a nearby village—which he also purchased. The house is beautiful, the gardens lovely, but I am still drawn to what drew him—the land.

All of this is an aside to the point I want to make. Driving from one side of South Carolina to the other, and then into North Carolina, took me through the mountains. Going up was breathtaking—the fresh spring green white oaks and poplars blooming. Coming back Sunday, through the morning fog, held mystery, and an illusion—that you could drive right off the side of a mountain and the clouds would hold you up.

I think that’s how I’ve approached writing in the past. I love the thrill of just putting my bottom in a chair and flying. Wherever the stories take me, whatever the characters want to reveal, I’m game.

Flying through the fog works sometimes, particularly if you’re actually in an airplane and have good directional instrumentation.

But, sometimes it doesn’t. I have a manuscript from three years ago,--223 pages into it, I quit. I hate to say I flew over the edge, but I think I did. It’s not too painful, thank goodness, because, unlike in the real world, we have tools to get back on track. I’ve picked up a book by Karen Weisner, First Draft in 30 Days, and am re-plotting to see where I drove off the cliff, if the car is totaled, and so on. I think it’s working.

One final but, however. There’s not the thrill of fog flying here. I have to push myself to go back and edit. I have a million and one things to do around the house—unpacking, for one. So, this fog flier is going to allow myself to work on another manuscript for fun while being a plotter the rest of the day.

So, question—do others find a combination works best—or are there strict plotters and pantsers out there?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Guest Blogger ~ Ariana Dupre'

Hi Title Magicians all. Today we have an amazing lady and author with us. I first heard her, yes, ‘heard’ because I listened to her blog radio show. There was a link on the Passionate Ink forum, and being a radio fan (not to mention curious) I tuned in. Impressively, Ariana Dupre’/Melissa Alvarez interviewed authors and publishers. She also gave a ‘psychic’ reading or two, which, personally, I find even more impressive. Having dabbled in that arena myself and listened to several outstanding psychics over the years, I kinda know what rings true.
Ms. Dupre’ also rings true as a superb author. She is a paranormal author with Cerridwen, and her current novel, the Talgorian Prophecy, is receiving outstanding reviews. One after another! So many it makes my head spin. And, nope, I’m not possessed by an earthbound spirit! Contrary to popular opinion.
Without further adieu...

To Be Or Not To Be…..
That really is the question isn’t it? As authors we can be ourselves or we can be someone else and use a pen name. Since I write under a pen name I thought this would be interesting topic for today but before I start I’d like to thank ya’ll (yep, I’m a Southerner) for having me here today. I thoroughly enjoy your blog and am honored that Savanna asked me to participate as a guest blogger.
I saw that Mai posted about pen names not too long ago (so go check the archives because it’s a great post) and I’d like to add my experience to the mix. Why would an author decide to use a pen name? Well, there are a couple of reasons that I know of:
A) They want to protect their privacy.
B) They don’t want anyone to know what they write because it could adversely affect their day jobs.
C) They are so prolific that no one would believe they could write that many books in a year.
D) They write in multiple genres and don’t want the two confused.
E) And this list could go on and on and on and on like that little pink bunny.
I decided to use a pen name for several reasons. First, I’d worked as the guide to for over a year and a half and I knew a lot of people in the industry. I was also the owner of a publishing company. I wanted my work to stand on its own – to either fail miserably or do well – based solely on the writing and not on my name. As in every industry some people may like you and some may not and I didn’t want the book to be given great reviews because someone liked me or poor reviews because they didn’t so I used a pen name that I’d come up with years earlier. I was fortunate in that the book received rave reviews and won awards – all without anyone knowing my identity. But having a secret pen name is crazy hard! Here’s an example. In 2004 with the original release of Night Visions, I was invited to the Cataromance Reviewer’s Choice Awards chat where they revealed all of the winners. Since I have quite a few authors with New Age Dimensions, I was pretty sure that one of our books was going to receive an award – I just didn’t know which one. So here I am sitting in the chat as Melissa Alvarez, owner of and publisher at New Age Dimensions, when they announced the winner of the Winner of the Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Single Title Paranormal Romance 2004 – it was Night Visions by Ariana Dupré. I was so shocked that I couldn’t even type for a minute and then when I was able to answer I had to accept on Ariana’s behalf because she wasn’t there. But I really was! LOL Can you imagine – accepting a book of the year award on for yourself and not being able to tell everyone? After that I decided that it was just too hard having a secret identity so I held a contest (which was tons of fun) to reveal Ariana’s true identity. If you decide to go with a secret pen name you have to be prepared to celebrate successes by yourself unless everyone knows you only by that name.
I also write in multiple genres so that was another consideration for me to write under a pen name. I actually have a few. I write paranormal romantic suspense as Ariana Dupre, nonfiction as Melissa Alvarez and am self publishing two children’s books as Jara Jordan. By having multiple pen names people know exactly what they can expect from each of my names (engaging romantic suspense, eye opening nonfiction or fun and educational children’s books) even though it’s not a secret they all of those names belong to me.
When you’re thinking about the pen name that you’d like to use consider why you need one to begin with. Then take advice from Mai’s post and look at the importance of the type of name you choose and it’s marketability. Keeping a pen name secret is hard but it can be done.
Thanks again for having me here today! It’s been great fun.
Melissa Alvarez/Ariana Dupre
Talgorian Prophecy On Sale Now ,

What would you do if you were a famous psychic and your son was just kidnapped by a ruthless serial killer? Go the police? I think not, especially when they don’t believe a word you say. You head off to find him, and that’s just what Megan Cassidy does in Talgorian Prophecy.
No one believes she can find her son but she knows she can, her visions become more and more haunting and she has no choice but to ask for the help of her ex-fiancé Brody Phelps. She has never stopped loving him but he has never forgiven her for the loss of his parents seven years ago.
But Megan has a secret she’s kept from Brody and when he finds out and agrees to help her find Robbie they learn even more unbelievable truths as they hike through the mountains of Virginia.
What is the Talgorian Prophecy? Well you’ll have to read this fast paced, hold on to the edge of your chair book by Ariana Dupré to find out. I’m not going to spoil one word of this excellent story. Can you say "what a twist?" You will and more as you hike along with Megan and Brody on their desperate search for Robbie before time runs out.
I really loved this book, it had a couple of really great surprises and it was never slow. The characters were well rounded from the obnoxious police officer (I swear I wanted to kick his butt myself) to Megan, our heroine, who loved her son so deeply nothing not even the threat of death would keep her from rescuing him. One warning, make sure when you start Talgorian Prophecy you have plenty of time to read because you won’t want to put it down until you have turned the last page. I can’t wait to read more by this very talented author. ~Reviewed by Lynda
p.s. She has horses. Beautiful gorgeous horses. Check out

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Stones that dance?

I first got into the idea of stone circles when I was a child. There was a small park near where I lived -- climbable trees, with the added attraction of a ring of tall grey stones in the centre. We always called them the Druid Stones and imagined that they had been there for centuries. It was years before I discovered the proper name of the park. I know now that the circle was a modern Gorsedd -- not ancient and not much to do with druids, but erected to commemorate the holding of an eisteddfod -- a traditional Welsh celebration of music and poetry.

In due course, I visited the ultimate UK stone circle -- Stonehenge. In those days you could still walk amongst the megaliths. They were huge, and imposing, but I found them disappointingly un-atmospheric. That part of the country is strewn with stones and circles and I have to say that I found other, less well-known sites, often come upon unannounced in the middle of a field, to have more magic. Particularly if you happened on them when the sun was beginning to set…

Wales has a number of sites with standing stones -- including two near where I live, which I've never visited, but are on my list for this summer, though not at midnight! The Tinkinswood Burial Chamber dates from 3,500 BC and the capstone is thought to be the largest in Europe. Like most circles, they have their own share of creepy stories attached to them. The St Lythan’s site, which has never been excavated, has a saddled horse that cannot be ridden, which appears on moonlit nights. On Midsummer Eve the capstone is reputed to twirl around three times, while the stones go to the river to bathe, and at Halloween wishes whispered to the stones are granted.

The magical stories about the origins of stone circles usually involve giants being caught by the first rays of the rising sun, or groups of women turned to stone while dancing. The historical reality, to me, is no less fascinating. Massive structures that are thousands of years old, put in place at a time when the only way of maneuvering them would have been by manual labour. Created for purposes we don't really understand, frequently associated with significant events in the calendar, such as the summer or winter solstice, many containing old burial chambers -- I think that this ‘history in the mists of time’ element attracts me, as a writer, more than the myths and ghost stories.

I am not the only one who finds these stones intriguing. Standing stones and stone circles occur in some of my favourite reading. I think that it was Mary Stewart's fictional account of Merlin bringing the stones from Ireland to create Stonehenge, told in her book The Crystal Cave, that first made me want to visit. In Nora Robert’s Circle trilogy a stone dance is the portal into Geall. The work of British thriller writer Robert Goddard, often set in the West Country, draws on the atmosphere of the Avebury stones in Sight Unseen, a story that begins with the disappearance of a child. I’d be interested to hear if anyone knows of any more examples.

As far as I'm aware, standing stones are a particularly European phenomena, appearing most significantly in a swathe from Scotland to Brittany, on the French coast -- but I'd love to know if there are any similar or comparable sites elsewhere in the world.

I suspect that at some stage a book will come to me that has a stone circle in it -- and it will probably be one out of my imagination, so that I can give it all the characteristics and atmosphere that I want. Tall stone pillars, looming out of a chilly mist, waiting for the first thin, pale touch of the rising sun. Or maybe silent and watchful, bathed in bloody light as the sun dips down over the horizon. Or under a new moon, or a single star. Or maybe just sitting in a field, grey, sleek and dripping, on a typically wet Welsh morning …

Image of Stonehenge:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cover Art Magic ~ Mooncusser Cove

Hi Title Magicians and all magicians, cover art magic continues. Today, my guest blogger, Darragha Foster, Liquid Silver author, couldn't be with us. Family always comes first! So, I thought I would present one of her covers because, for one thing it's entered in the Cover Cafe's cover art contest ~ ~ and for another thing I think it's absolutely dreamy beautiful. And yes, I spent time voting in all the different categories, which was a blast. Especially the Worst Cover entries.

Beware before you read the blurbage this story. And unglue those eyeballs if you're under 18.

Mooncusser Cove ~ available from Liquid Silver Books ~ ~
Darragha Foster
ISBN 978-1-59578-383-7
Born in 1864 to a wealthy coastal family, Vesper Highgate-Adaire was well on her way to becoming a first-rate stripper just like her mother. A stripper of boots and brass off the bodies of wrecked sailors, in accordance with family traditions—the traditions of the Mooncusser clan. Traditions that changed after the wrecking of a ship befouled by an accursed sea captain—who in his twisted rage, shared his curse with the clan.
They became Shadow Lovers, the lot of them, for all time, cursed to feed upon those energies best expended only between husband and wife. Or upon blood. And only on the dark of the moon.
Forced to leave their beloved beach so as not to saturate the land with their poison, only Vesper remained behind to care for the family estate, and wait for the unholy captain’s return.
But time and tide and the feverish nightmares left behind in her victims after her embrace do not wait for dark nights to move in their unstoppable, mysterious ways. A juggernaut of hellish proportions is coming to the beach—and there’s only one way to stop it. Hard-headed and proud, Vesper won’t accept that fact. She’d rather die fighting than flee and live. Good thing the only person alive able to control a Mooncusser’s daughter has returned to the cove. And his blood-ties to the beach are just as thick as hers.
Mooncusser Cove -- a modern day retelling of Frankenstein with a Brigadoon twist. Ghost ships! Curses! Land pirates! Vampires who feed on sexual energy! The persecution of witches! Just another day at Vespers by the Sea bed-and-breakfast at Mooncusser Cove.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Magical Invitation of Cover Art

One of the best things about walking into a bookstore for me, besides all of those fantastic books just begging to be read, is the magical invitation of cover art. Yes, there’s also the wonderful smell of all those books, tempting and teasing all of us bookaholics. There they sit on their shelves and endcaps, in the bargain bins, waiting to find their right homes, ready to be ensconced in our shopping bags.
But before I choose which ones to buy, whether it’s an adventurous escape into romance or my eclectic appetite for non-fiction, anything from travel to building that next deck, I look at the pictures, those amazing displays of graphic art.
I saunter around the shrine of reading and indulge in all those rows of cover art. Today, more than ever, it’s a kaleidoscopic feast of styles, meant to tempt you to pick up that book and buy, buy, buy. Usually, I don’t unless the accompanying blurb and a quick peek inside convince me...yep, this read is for me. Once in awhile, I’ll succumb and purchase just for the cover art, if it resonates at such a deep level I can’t resist.
Yup, even as a kidlet before kindergarten I wanted the irresistible eye candy of those big picture books as much as I wanted to hear my mom or dad read the story. What could be better than living the tale and seeing it unfold as the artist imagined the story? All at the same time? That has never changed or me. Growing up, I was usually as excited over the cover art and pictures as I was eager to read the story waiting for me, the one that would wisk me away to another time, another place.
Now, in the age of cyber cover art, I’m in a beautiful-color paradise of images designed to catch my eye and lure me to the click-buy button. From the lovely sensual romance cover art of our Friday guest blogger, Sarah Mallory – to the exquisite sizzling beauty of the vampire slayer on Colleen Gleason’s cover art – or the more traditional oh-be-still-my-beating-heart covers on Anna Campbell’s novels (I always feel like swooning into the hero’s hard, but tender embrace) – to our Helen’s cover art for The Magic Knot. Which, I swear, grabs me more each time I look at it. Perhaps, it’s the celtic lyrical magic of the images combined with the realism of the entwined couple. That feel of mythos brought forward into modern times, which has an enchantment-appeal all its own to our psyches, where archetypes live and constantly weave their spells inside us. Hey, think Xena, Warrior Princess or Hercules with Kevin Sorbo, where the gods and goddesses were on their worst behavior and their best behavior.
Okay, why a blog about cover art? Gee, I dunno...could it be? Could it?
Yeah, big surprise, I’m showing off my cover art for When a Good Angel Falls, coming from Siren-BookStrand late in 2008, and currently featured on the new BookStrand site. Jinger Heaston is the cover artist and I think she beautifully captured my story. I couldn’t be happier. Kudos, Jinger!
Blurb for When a Good Angel Falls ~ 2012 futuristic ~
A world-weary, worn-out, incarnated angel who believes she is merely human has three choices: let the Nazerazzi of the North American Union capture her, walk out into the desert night and let the wildlife have a meal, or trust a mysterious stranger on a black motorcycle...More ~