Thursday, November 27, 2008

Incredible Magical Dream...

Thanksgiving Day, 2013 ~ after Winter 2012 in WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS
Her gaze riveted by the serene beauty, Sedona stood in front of the rustic lodge’s old-fashioned pane window. Blankets of snow covered most of the high elevation terrain, rising and falling majestically around them. The white frosting of snow had already melted from the trees, the stubbornly clinging leaves fluttering a dance in the brisk winds. Where the sun shone directly, piles of leaves and dried stems looked like the autumn she remembered from living in the midwest.
Feeling the touch of Aru’s wet nose on the back of her calf, she turned, looking down at her doggie baby, almost grown up now. His dark eyes asked, yet were bright with expectation. "Come on," she sang lovingly to him, and offered her open arms. Instantly, Aru leapt straight up, and landed perfectly in her arms. "Do you want to see? Or do you just want a cuddle?"
Sedona hugged him to her bosom, nuzzling the slick silky fur of his neck as he snuggled against her. After she pressed a smooch on the elegant curve of his neck, he settled in her embrace, and pricked his ears watching the tiny brown birds flit and forage for food.
"It doesn’t feel totally real, does it?" she murmured. "Being here now. After everything I’ve been through in my life."
Aru answered with a little whine.
"Last year I was cold and hungry and so horribly desperate I couldn’t even describe it. You were probably just born." Sedona brushed her lips on the top of Aru’s head. "How did you survive? Yes, I know you had angelic help too."
As she remembered the previous year’s Thanksgiving day, a tide of emotions overwhelmed her, and tears pricked at her eyes. She’d been able to stay in the rundown isolated house for longer than she’d anticipated, before intuitively knowing she had to leave or be captured by the Nazerazzi forces. That, and her food supply had dwindled down to a few raw shriveled potatoes.
Rocking Aru, she listened to the tiny flames crackling in the cozy fireplace behind her. Volcano had just started it with a point of his finger. Then he had possessively swept her against him, gazed into her eyes with an intensity that always made her become molten desire for him. "Rest," he had ordered, his lips a breath away from her own. "I’ll whip up our Thanksgiving day dinner."
"You’ll put too much cloud in it," she’d teased him.
"How can there be too much cloud?" His eyes had glittered like a thousand purple jewels, while his hands passionately roved over her body.
"But I want to cook," she’d protested, feeling the need to do what she hadn’t been able to enjoy doing for several years. And to make up for what she’d lost, even though she knew it wasn’t possible. It would never be possible.
"I’ll make egg nog with so much cloud in it, you’ll be intoxicated enough to kiss me wherever I want."
"I already kiss you wherever you want, you bad decadent cherub."
"Not the way you’ll kiss me after extra helpings of cloud in your pumpkin pie and whipped cream."
Before she could protest again, he had claimed her mouth, kissing her senseless. Ultimately, he had embraced her tightly against him, and fused their mouths, then brought them both to a heady bliss. Their prolonged pleasure had swirled around them like fiery golden sequins.
Once they both descended, and she could understand his words, he’d whispered in her ear that it was time for him to leave briefly. He’d already told her he’d been divinely instructed to meet another carnal cherub, arriving direct from the heavenly ethers. Kissing the tip of her nose, he’d gradually changed his body to smoke and mist, then vanished.
"Warm," she murmured down to Aru, feeling the hearth’s flames on her back. "I never thought I’d be this warm again during winter." Just as her emotions had surged remembering the year before, now the strength of her gratitude soared beyond the thin layer of clouds stretched over the distant mountaintops.
In truth, Sedona was fearful about knowing the depth of her gratitude. What if it was all a dream...and she woke up surrounded by the horror of her past existence? What if she lost everyone and everything again? She squeezed her eyelids closed for a moment, then squeezed Aru tenderly. She’d come a long way toward healing...still, it wasn’t long enough.
Opening her eyes, she nearly let go of Aru. A small puffy cloud scudded toward her in the part of the hazy blue sky she could see. It’s underside gleamed with a rosy pink color. Feeling like an enchanted princess, she watched the fairytale cloud sail closer and closer, and slowly lower to the tree tops.
"Oh, Aru, how could I forget?"
"You were supposed to forget, my angel woman."
She whirled around. At the same time Aru leapt from her arms to greet Volcano.
"That was you." She moved toward him, her feet cushioned by air, or so it felt. She glanced downward, seeing only the floor. "I thought it was just an incredible magical dream."
Scooping Aru up, Volcano woggled him for a few moments, his face radiant with love and affection. Then he set him down, and gazed at her, his expression more radiant. The love glowing in his eyes seared her down to her soul.
She ached to touch him. Yet, she didn’t reach out, but merely waited for him to come to her.
"I look good in rosefire light, don’t I?" A grin tugged at the corner of his mouth.
"Mr. Cocky Cherub, what don’t you look good in?"
His eyes darkened to utter passion entrancing her as he stepped closer and closer. He didn’t touch her. His gaze touched her. Sedona’s breath deserted her and her heart thumped wildly. She let her head drop back, her face beneath his.
"I look best in you...Sedona, my woman."
WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS ~ Where angels fear to tread, 2012 Earth...Is a stranger on a superspeed motorcycle her savior from the brutal endtimes? ~ available from BookStrand ~ ~ ~ An Author Discovery by Lindsay Townsend ~

MIDNIGHT SEDUCTIONS **Endless Romance Writing Contest** ~
For my entry ~ WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS ~ and all the entries ~ ~


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ ~

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Muse Maintenance

By the time this posts, I'll be sitting in the mechanic's lobby with a few chapters of manuscript to work on while the nice man in the blue jumper flushes my transmission. Any car owner knows that maintenance is important. If you don't change your oil on time, it strains the engine, shortening its life. If you neglect your belts, you could find yourself stranded on the side of the road.

Any machine needs regular checkups. I think this goes for muses, too. Lately, mine's been feeling a bit stale and neglected. I show up every day for butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard time, but I can't seem to shake that listless uninspired feeling.

I can usually satisfy Mr. Muse with some music and a daily walk. But I've learned that sometimes these things aren't always enough to keep him running at peak efficiency. Just as my Metro needs some TLC by way of a tune up or a transmission flush, so does Mr. Muse.

How does one tune up ones muse? Mine's responded to several things over the years:

  • Day tripping. Seeing new sights and hearing new sounds works wonders on the psyche of a muse.
  • Visiting museums, state parks, concert halls, or other beautiful, artistic places can be very nutritional!
  • Being creative in non-writing ways exercises different muse muscles. I'll crochet a scarf, make some jewelry, or learn a new craft like paper making or tie dying.
  • Working the logic muscle. Something as simple as a crossword or as complicated as a computer role playing or puzzle game can bring that spark back.
I think I'm going to take a little time over the upcoming holiday to take care of my muse. I fully expect him to be healthy and ready to work when we return.

It's your turn How do you maintain your muse?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top 10 Countdown to Beating the Rejection Letter Blues

Any writer out there actively submitting has probably received a rejection letter at some point in their career. Or should I say hundreds of rejection letters?

With every rejection letter received, it's difficult not to feel discouraged. So how do you beat the rejection letter blues? Here is my top ten countdown to beating the rejection letter blues.

10. Ignore it. Rejection letter? What rejection letter?

9. Toss it. Shred it. Ball it. Rip it. Burn it. Scribble over it.... Whatever will help get that frustration out and make you feel better.

8. Gorge yourself on a pint of double chocolate fudge ice cream. It's cliché, but it's been known to help.

7. Cry. Hey, sometimes a good cry is all it takes.

6. Curse the editor/agent (to yourself or to an empty room, of course). Their loss for not realizing what a wonderful writer you are. They'll eat their words when you make the NY Times Bestseller.

5. Call up your best friend/writing partner/critique partner/spouse/mother and let them remind you what a wonderful writer you are. The pep talk does wonders for a wounded ego.

4. Stash the rejection letter with all the others you've been collecting. They'll make a great bonfire when you do sell. The bigger the collection, the closer you are to your goal. That collection is validation that you are doing your job and pursuing your dreams. Have you heard about the size of Stephen King's collection of rejection letters?

3. Realize that each person is entitled to his/her own opinion. Getting published is about more than having good quality writing and a stellar story. It's about being at the right place, at the right time, and finding that one editor/agent who "gets" your writing and is enthusiastic enough to stand behind you 110% percent. There are hundreds of editors and agents out there. You're bound to find one that's a good fit for you. Scratch this editor/agent off your list and move on to the next one.

2. Learn from the rejection. Now we're talking! Did the editor/agent point out anything they liked and disliked? Did they give any pointers on your strengths/weaknesses? How can you make your proposal better so that the next time, it won't be a rejection letter but an acceptance letter waiting for you?

1. Send out 5 more queries for every rejection letter. Everyone knows you have to go through 100 No's before you can get to your first Yes. Each No is a step closer to a Yes. Get submitting!

Monday, November 24, 2008

American Title V

Voting has now closed in Round One.

Thanks to everyone who cast a vote.

To see who survived, and vote in Round Two - favourite description of hero and heroine, visit the Romantic Times site from 15 December.

Before that, the three remaining finalists will be appearing, one each week, on the blog of author Sylvia Day, talking about their finaling manuscript on Monday and interviewing a character from their book on Thursday. Fun and prizes.

I'll be there on 1 and 4 December. Hope you'll drop by.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

American Title V - Last Chance to Vote

Voting in round one ends at midnight on Sunday 23rd November.

We wrote them - now it's all down to you.

Don't miss your chance to vote for the book with your favourite first line.

Of course, I hope it's mine:

Never Coming Home

See the entries at

Vote at with the favourite title in the subject line.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Magic or Murder by Edit...

Hi everyone, what is the magic or murder of editing my manuscript for its release?
The magical part is the usual for any author, the opportunity to improve my novel in spell-binding and more meaningful ways, which will hopefully resonate with the readers. In my case, it seems my novel is dense with dialogue and a bit short on narration. No problem, actually, except for the tire-burning like fumes emerging from my brain, now. And, of course, the looming deadline.
Nope, no problem...except...I want it perfect! I tell you! Perfect! I shout toward the heavens, while wishing lightning strikes of brilliant inspiration will light me up like a Christmas Tree in Times Square. Yes...all the Christmas promo-ing on the chat loops is getting to me, already...argh!
Okay, that kind of perfection won’t happen, realistically. So, what can I hope to achieve? Only, my very best effort, and the reward of having another chance to pen my story more powerfully by using the skills I’ve learned, thus far. Yes, instead of the flame-ethereal sunset on the far horizon, I can now expand Kalypso and Zryphus’ love story to the panoramic vista of the land and sky...which feels mighty darn good.
What is the murder part? When I’m stuck on a freakin’ word. Good grief, my shoulders turn into rocks, and my eyes threaten to spin out of control. Another murderous part of editing, is when I’m just darn stuck, so stuck I feel like I’m madly spinning my wheels in the mud, and it’s flying splat! splat! all over the I’ve actually done far too many times in my life.
But, guess what? The real magical joy of editing ~ I have a great excuse to spend time in Gardenia, New Atlantis with my heroine and hero, which is why I wrote story in the first place.

An exclusive first, Title Magicians ~ the preview of a new narrative section added to Murder by Hair Spray in Gardenia, New Atlantis ~

Entranced, her spirit soaring with new hope, she’d watched the antediluvian lands emerge from the hurricane-whipped ocean, while hidden in the shadow of a New York City tenement building. Despite the last days of the Conflicts, everyone who could, had paused and stared up at one of the mammoth plasma screens, used for propaganda and mind control.
The whispers of what occurred, had turned to wildfire, and couldn’t be stopped.
Atlantis had risen again.
While she watched, the ground beneath her feet had shuddered, as if the planet was a giant dog shaking off fleas. To prove it was not another shower of buster bombs shaking the remaining cities on the East Coast, the three-day miracle had been shown as updates, at first.
On the third day, the full land of Atlantis had roared from the seas like Poseidon seeking his former empire. From the islands of Cuba, north to Savannah, Georgia, the antediluvian land shone beneath the breaking sun as a new Atlantis.
At the first glimpse of sun rays touching one peak, and while leviathan waves crashed, spewing enormous sprays of mist, the shudders of destiny had stormed through Kalypso, with all the strength of the spinning rainstorm that still raged over most of the renewed land.
Before any other groups dared to explore, she and her militia, and several other friendly rebel militias, had colonized, agreeing to begin a new country, based on their shared ideals.

MURDER BY HAIR SPRAY IN GARDENIA, NEW ATLANTIS ~ 2051 mystery-suspense futuristic ~ coming from Siren-BookStrand ~


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ ~ for your fave American Title V entry online at Romantic Times!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In touch with Shakespeare?

Stratford-upon-Avon -- the place where possibly the world's most well-known playwright was born, and where he died. Those are two of the very few 'facts', we have about Shakespeare's life. The man was a mystery.

How did the son of a glover become a sought-after playwright? Did he ever travel abroad, to the places where the plays are set? Did he love his wife, even though they spent so long apart? And why does his grave bear such an enigmatic inscription?

Many buildings in Stratford still look more or less as they would have in Shakespeare's time. It's not hard to imagine yourself back then.

But the most tangible connection we have is through the Holy Trinity Church, and the poet’s grave. Shakespeare is buried before the altar, along with several other members of his family, including Anne, his wife.

It's the almost eroded words on the stone that provide the mystery.
Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbeare
To digg the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

Why did he choose them -- to prevent any attempt to remove his body to a grander setting, such as Westminster Abbey? The last dramatic gesture of stagecraft, from the master? Because the grave doesn't actually contain a body -- Shakespeare never existed -- he was Marlow, Bacon, a shadowy nobleman, a woman?

Unless someone is brave enough to dig him up, we'll never know. Renovators in the church earlier this year took care not to disturb the grave site, just in case.

It’s an actual physical link to the playwright, something that you can touch.
And if a small shudder runs up your spine when you read the words, isn't that exactly what he would have wanted?


(Don't forget that voting in American Title V goes on until midnight on 23 November. If you haven't checked out the entries yet you can find the contest on )

Monday, November 17, 2008

Top Ten Things That Brighten My World

Top 10 Things That Brighten My World

By Pat Cunningham

Face it: it’s a werewolf-eat-vampire world out there (at least for us paranormal fans), but there are plenty of great things to brighten your day. Here are some of my favorites:

10. Bravo’s reality lineup – Project Runway and Top Chef in particular. Any show that promotes talent, creativity and imagination gets thumbs up in my book. You have to admire somebody who can create a wearable dress out of Twizzlers. And who doesn’t love Tim Gunn?

9. Barnes & Noble bookstores – mainly for providing all those armchairs and sofas for the financially challenged among us. It’s like the library, but with a bigger selection.

8. Rail trails – I don’t know about you, but I live in a hilly area, which makes walks and bike riding a challenge. Rail trails are level. You can go five miles without breaking a sweat. Ditto for New Jersey’s boardwalks. Just watch out for bikers if you’re on foot and vice versa.

7. The Mummy Returns – I can’t name another movie that has so many cute guys in it. Brendan Fraser. Arnold Vosloo. Oded Fehr. And, for about 10 minutes or so, The Rock. (The part at the end doesn’t count because he’s CGI.) Oh yeah, and I like the story, too.

6. Stephen King – for keeping me from sound sleep for 30 years. Thanks a lot, fellah.

5. Computers – technology couldn’t eliminate typing, but it did away with retyping. Nothing beats a computer when revision time rolls around. And with email, I not only save postage, I don’t find thick manila envelopes rolled up and jammed into my mailbox any more. Now I can delete rejection letters, which allows for a measure of satisfaction.

4. Harrison Ford – the reason I saw Star Wars 47 times. He’s gotten a bit craggy, but oh that sexy smile. (Excuse me, have to go watch the Raiders trilogy again.)

3. Caffeine – my drug of choice, the chemical without which no writer can function. If I don’t think I’ll make it to midnight on New Year’s, I have a cheesesteak and a Coke around 5, then wait for the carbs and caffeine to hit my system. Try this, it really works.

2. Checks from publishers – the best kind of validation there is. Not only do you have a physical object to wave in the faces of family members who told you to go get a job, but you can spend it on –

1. Chocolate – need I elaborate?

That’s my Top 10 list. What’s yours?


Pat’s short story the ‘SNAKE IN THE GLASS’ will be featured in the #7 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, NEW YEAR’S DAY edition.
How wintery cool is that for all those hibernating serpents? And kewl for all the humans who want to curl up with a great story this winter.

Pat, Harrison Ford and chocolate...I couldn’t agree more!!! Computers, yeah, okay...lots of good there...but, I’m waiting for the really good Star Trek and beyond ones.


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ ~

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

American Title V - Did you vote yet?

I've just come back from Stratford upon Avon, where Shakespeare was born, and died. This blog was meant to be about the man and the place. But - guess what - the pictures are still in the camera and my brain is totally focused on something else entirely.

Voting has started in American Title V.

That's it. The judges have made their first comments, the contestants have winced, cursed and picked themselves up off the floor, where necessary - not the floor mentioned in Qaey's first line, I hasten to add, and now everyone is getting on with the job. And that job is --- getting people to vote.

American Title is a reality contest. Each and every finalist is in the hands of the voters. You have the power, people. Please use it.

Support is vital, and I have no hesitation is speaking for all my fellow finalists here. Each and every vote is deeply appreciated. That someone has taken the time and trouble to read, chose and e-mail means a lot.

Saying thank you is important, because none of us is able to do this alone.

Now I've made the contest sound like hard work. It is - but it's also a lot of fun. Who wouldn't enjoy all that attention? Right now I have featured in my local paper - the Barry and District News, am getting e-mails from old friends to say they voted and I am appearing on the website of Academi - the book promotion Agency for Wales - and if you want to see that one click here: (A big thanks to Bronwen Price for all her work on that, while also deep in the work for Welsh Book of the Year.) Next Monday I am meant to be interviewed on BBC Wales morning programme. Anyone within listening distance welcome. You may be able to hear my knees knocking, over the airwaves.

All this is fun, and great practice for if/when I am ever a published author.

But it still comes back to the vote. So please check out the contest at

And vote by e mailing with your chosen title in the subject line.

My title is Never Coming Home, in case you were wondering.

And I promise to talk about Shakespeare next time

Guest Blogger, Karin Tabke!

Today I'm very happy to welcome our guest blogger, my good friend, the wonderful, talented, and gracious Karin Tabke, to Title Magic.

It’s Never Too Early For Christmas!

(before I go further, thank you, Mai and all the ladies here at Title Magic for having me as your guest today!)

Hah! I have always been one of those people who roll their eyes and cringe at any mention of the holidays, especially before Thanksgiving! But I have to be honest and say this year is an exception, and I have my heroine, Kimberly Michaels, in HAVE YOURSELF A NAUGHTY LITTLE SANTA, to thank! You see, she too has always been a Grinch who actually does try and steal Christmas! I’ve never gone so far as to take anyone’s Christmas from them, but I have always been a most unwilling participant in all of the hype that goes with it. I hate, hate, HATE! To shop. Hate. It.

I detest the commercialism of the season. I detest the forced quarters with family members I see only once a year (and for good reason!) I detest the burden of expectation, and I really detest those two-ton fruitcakes.

I have always tried to see through the commercialism that has become the reason for the season to the true reason. But I have always fallen short. Maybe it was just easier to complain and rush to put my house back in order in record time on New Year’s Day, or since my kids are now adults I used the excuse that I didn’t need to be cheerful and bright, but grumpy and dull, because darn it, Christmas is a lot of work. No one wants to lug the boxes down from the rafters, or hang the lights outside or god forbid, trim the tree! The only beings in my house who are remotely interested in the tree are my two cats!

But this year, this year when my author copies of HAVE YOURSELF A NAUGHTY LITTLE SANTA showed up on my doorstep I couldn’t help but open the pages, and in no time at all I found myself smiling. Before I knew it, I had read the entire book and as I did when I wrote it, I cried.

You see, Kimberly Michaels has it tough. She’s been married a couple of times, dumped a few times, let down by her parents, and basically always felt like she was the girl in the corner no one was interested in. So she sets out to take the world by the balls and discovers she gets lots of attention as a powerful land broker. But alas, something’s missing. She finds it in the Christmas themed town of Evergreen, California, a town she is trying to buy out from under the good folks who live and die for the holidays, and even when it looks like all will be lost they still gather in the town square on Christmas Eve and rejoice. It is then she realizes that her tiny heart has the capacity to grow. Of course hunky naughty Santa Ricco Maza helps her come to other realizations, but the bottom line for me is this: The reason for the season means many things to many people, and for some it’s the glitz and the prezzies, but for me it’s realizing what really matters; Heart, home and the simple gift of giving of myself, not shopping until I drop to fork over a wrapped present. So instead of feeling put upon by all of the work that goes into creating a warm cozy holiday hearth and home, I have called all four of my children and their significant others to report for duty the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving.

With Christmas carols serenading us, out will come the boxes, up will go the lights and the tree, and together we will trim it, then sit down to Sunday dinner as families should and give blessings that for one more year we are fortunate to be together.

Yep, it’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas around here…how about you? What special holiday traditions do you have? And for a lucky commenter I’ll be giving away a copy of one of my hot cop books, your choice of GOOD GIRL GONE BAD, SKIN, or JADED, or for you historical lovers out there a copy of my historical debut MASTER OF SURRENDER! All you have to do is comment!

Karin Tabke isn't just another author with steamy stories to tell, but a cop's wife who has "seen it all and heard it all." Some of the hottest stories come from behind the blue wall of law enforcement rather than from in front. Married to a street cop, now retired, Karin is intimate with both and proves it with her sizzling tales and hot cops. You can find Karin online at or visit her blog here.

If you haven't read a Karin Tabke book, you're missing out! I encourage everyone to run to the nearest bookstore and pick up one of her books!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Characters Who Live

Last week, I was privileged to attend the LowCountry Romance Writer’s Master Class—and Retreat. I’ve been going to the Retreat for years, so I didn’t actually realize the retreat is more focused on inspiration rather than craft. Now that I’ve been to the Master Class, I know the difference. The Master Class lasted a week and each day had a two hour morning session, two hour-long afternoon sessions, and a night critique session.


So, I thought I’d share a little about my experience. First, did I say it was on the beach? Did I say I got my own room for the first time ever? With my own balcony? Yum.

Okay, to work. There were several sessions about making your characters real. Some people suggested giving your characters a horoscope—and sticking to the characteristics that fit within the sign’s parameters. Another gentleman spent quite some time talking about the Myers-Briggs. Now, I’m a psychologist so some one without any real professional training delving into my field bothered me so I can’t see me using this technique. Plus, I know as a psychologist real people don’t fit neatly even into a serious diagnosis, much less a personality test with questionable validity. Sorry, a bit of territorial professionalism there. I will say one of the authors there recommended using these “boxes” for secondary characters—characters you don’t have much time to develop so your readers will need a box they can easily put them into.

More useful tips came from C.J. Lyons, a previous guest blogger with us. While I’ve certainly heard and read about inner and outer conflict, she made the concepts come alive for me. Perhaps the words are too nebulous and I needed them to be made concrete. Basically, she boiled them down to the character’s default action. I translate that to mean (in psych terms), when the individual goes through some trauma, no matter how great or small, what or who do they turn to? Do they turn to family? Do they turn to what’s right in an objective way or honor? Do they turn inward and escape from the rest of the world?

Whatever that default action is, it can’t work for them anymore. And that’s the real conflict.

Another author demonstrated the age-old interview your character technique. But, she made it work. She didn’t just interview. In an interview, you can’t dig too deep because the person can shut down and walk out. In therapy, you can ask the uncomfortable questions because the person wants you to, they want to know why they do things. They themselves don’t even know until you ask.

I guess it goes back to write what you know. Long, long ago, I chose my college major—psychology, believe it or not—to become a better writer. I thought if I really knew about people, I could really get to know my characters. Maybe I knew what I was doing (other than the no time to write thing because I’m a psychologist).

Did I mention I spent a week at the beach?

A Magical Trip Around the Writer’s Block

Yeppers, Title Magicians, a magical trip around the writer’s block on Monday, November 10 ~ Yours truly will be interviewed by the awesome erotic romance author, Nina Pierce, on her blog ~ Around the Writer’s Block ~ ~

And, since Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner ~ what if you could travel into the future? This is Sedona’s experience.
Warning! Not for the faint-hearted.
Another warning: please excuse any mistakes. This was just written, and unedited.

Thanksgiving Day, 2012

~ Prelude Scene to WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS ~

Sedona clutched her knees, and willed herself to stop trembling inside. Beneath her, the ground trembled with wave after wave of aftershocks from the massive earthquake along part of the New Madris fault. It felt like the land had been transformed into a new type of mud-sliding ocean. Sighing, she suppressed her fear and shoved away the sadness threatening to overwhelm her.
At least, she had one thing to be thankful for. The weather hadn’t turned cold yet, whether by manipulation or not. The few blankets she wrapped around herself, at night, kept her warm enough. For now.
Thanksgiving...she’d heard it was Thanksgiving day on the crystal-run shortwave radio she carried with her. Given her situation, Sedona had laughed at the grisly joke, as loud as she dared. Who knew where the monitoring micro waves for sound, were aimed.
Resting her chin on top of her knees, she tightened her arms, and rocked herself, an automatic motion. At least, if she gained no comfort, it kept her blood circulation going. Glancing at her long-expired canister of raisins, she ignored her hunger pangs. She’d found someone’s stash of food, a few items still salvageable. That someone had probably died, already. She’d blessed them, and traveled on, driving her old van on the back roads. Fortunately, she’d found enough water for her converted engine to run on. Staying in one place was never a good idea these days.
Except now, she had no choice. When the earthquake tremors shook the ground viciously, splitting and shredding the road like so much ribbon, she’d crept around the pockets of devastation, searching for a place to hide and hunker down in, until the worst was over. If it was ever over.
Unexpectedly, the taste of past Thanksgiving day dinners filled her mouth. She savored the rare moment of bliss, asking no questions. Closing her eyes, she indulged in the flavors of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. Green beans with bits of bacon. Pumpkin pie topped with generous amounts of real whipped cream. And french silk pie, a family favorite. With the memories flooding her mind, tears gathered in the corner of her eyes at the loss of her family. Still, they resided in a far better place than she did, now. Heaven.
The strong taste of buttered yeasty rolls distracted her, and halted her tears. Even though it was the same as a desert mirage, her mouth watered ridiculously. As she remembered the good times at Thanksgiving, Sedona sent her gratitude back in time. Why not pile on her gratefulness? Since everything existed simultaneously in time, maybe she would enjoy that part of her life even more. Then.
The delicious taste fading, she opened her eyes. A split second later, Sedona shivered as the small, out of the way house she’d discovered, creaked and rattled around her. The ground rocked from another aftershock, moving like a drunken sailor, as the old saying went. Or, for all she knew, another earthquake. Hell, if it collapsed on her, so what! The only thing she anguished over was how long she’d be in pain.
“Damn!” Sedona tossed off the worn ragged blanket. Her hot flash burned horribly. Seizing her body, it was a wildfire completely out of control, for long torturing minutes. She cursed again. “I might as well be in hell. Straight to hell. No trial. No get-of-jail-free card. Just the devil, his fiery pitchfork pointing the way. Well hell, it’s better than a FEMA-stalag camp.”
You’re not going to hell yet...wait, a familiar voice whispered, then chuckled as if everything was just fine.
Thoroughly annoyed, Sedona scowled, not knowing if whoever had been speaking to her for the past few weeks, similar to a spirit from the Other Side, was divine friend or evil foe. She couldn’t tell, her psychic sense of it, remained clear as an acre of mud. Common now.
“Go away,” she commanded.
For now, the voice answered.
Sedona shook herself, attempting to shake away ‘the voice’. She trembled violently. If she was lucky, an earthquake would rip the ground apart beneath her right now, and she’d be swallowed up whole. If she was lucky...okay, hell, that wouldn’t happen.
Eyeing the raisin canister again, she decided to wait, since her hunger hadn’t caused a headache yet. The longer she put off eating anything, the longer her little food stash would last. Unbidden, a loud sigh burst from between her severely chapped lips, and she wondered for the zillionth time why she was still alive.
Noticing the aftershock tremors seemed to have ceased, for awhile...maybe...who knew...Sedona shrugged a shoulder, and yawned. If she could fall asleep, that would be better than anything. However, a thin stream of color caught her eye, cutting through the dusty air and the dimness of the room.
Entranced by the rose-pink neon ray, shooting through the tiny dirty window, she pretended for a moment that life was okay, again–that everything was going to be all right. That, once again, she would see sunsets instead of hideous skies, overcast with ugly chemical clouds, and a haze of volcanic ash. That flaming asteroids would no longer pierce the soupy-looking mass.
Rising from the bare mattress, one that had been over-used, Sedona crept forward, her knees creaking from age, and staying in the same position too long. As she dared a peek through the grime-covered window, her heart pounded to beat any band.
Still, sunlight, a real ray from the setting sun, beyond priceless.
Glimpsing the rim of the sun, sheer giddiness danced through Sedona. Well over the murky barely-seen horizon, the rim gleamed weakly, a sliver of yellowish white light. She smiled.
Damn though, if any of the aerial drone cameras caught her, even her reflection, only God knew how fast a team of black-coated Bounty Hunters would arrive. Collecting people like her was good money in these times.
Telling herself to move away, Sedona stared at the lone brazen shaft of light, originating from the sun, then striking the window pane. Tears gathered in her throat at the remarkable site, choking her for an instant. Good Lord, the rose-hued shaft looked like an invitation from heaven. If only...
Forcing herself to take a step back, Sedona knew her only chance for escape would be the van, and out-running the fuel capacity of the Bounty Hunters. For some reason she didn’t understand, their transport vehicles hadn’t been converted to use water, and spent power quickly. True, good water wasn’t all that plentiful in a lot of areas. Whatever...she shrugged, thankful she possessed that advantage. At least.
Sedona took another step back, pivoting toward the interior of the dank room, before she was tempted to stay at the window. Feeling enchanted, she followed the ray with her eyes. A gasp escaped her. Magically, the tiny beam shimmered more brightly, and changed to an amazing rose-pink color.
“My God,” she whispered.
Not daring to move, Sedona watched the sun ray slowly expand. Soon, the entire room glowed, bathed in a deep rose luminosity. Her heart tripped rapidly at the sheer beauty of the light, then soared on ephemeral wings.
The feeling of dread always with her, Sedona hoped like hell, this was a mystical event–one not seen by the ubiquitous monitoring grid of the New World Order.
This is your future, the unknown voice interrupted her thought, gentle as a caress.
“Yeah, yeah,” she murmured, disbelieving.
Even as she spoke the words, an image formed. A shadow-like figure of a man gradually emerged. Yet, not a shadow. It was a jet black transparency of color. As the shape of the man’s wings became more clearly outlined, her jaw dropped.
Utterly captivated, with hardly a breath left in her body, Sedona stared at the man’s gorgeous, languidly flapping wings.
Moments later, darkness claimed the room again, as if the black angel, hovering in the halo of rosefire light, had never existed.
Where angels fear to tread, 2012 Earth ~
Is a stranger on a superspeed motorcycle her savior from the brutal endtimes?

Blurb: Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012 – The end of the Mayan Calendar
What happens when a world weary, worn out incarnated angel, Sedona, who believes she is merely human has three choices after her old van breaks down? ...more

Author Discovery by Lindsay Townsend, BookStrand author of FLAVIA’S SECRET and A SECRET TREASURE ~

WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS ~ adventure fantasy erotic romance ~ available from BookStrand ~ ~

Volcano’s Angelic Forecast for this week ~ ~


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ ~

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Writer's Guide to the Zodiac - Meet Giselle Green

In May this year, Giselle Green won the coveted Joan Hessayon Award, given by the Romantic Novelists' Association, here in the UK, for the best debut novel of the year from a newly published member. That book, Pandora's Box, is the thought provoking story of a mother and daughter coming to terms with the past, and the future. Comparisons have been made to Jodi Picoult, so you can understand why Giselle was a winner. Now she is looking forward to her second book coming out. Little Miracles will be available from Avon in February.

But before her sparkling fiction debut, Giselle self-published a writers' guide that might just give other authors a slightly different perspective on their characters.
Title Magic welcomes Giselle to talk about The Writer's Guide to the Zodiac.
Hello everyone and thanks Evonne for inviting me to talk about The Writer’s guide to the Zodiac – it’s a pleasure to be here.

First off, you may wonder why indeed a writer would NEED such a thing, since writing and astrology seem like very separate pursuits. Speaking as someone who has practiced astrology for 12 years now, and as an author, I can attest to the fact that they are indeed very similar. They are both about the same two things; (1)characters (2) what happens to them.

As writers we intuitively understand that what ‘happens’ to our characters arises very much from what their personalities are like. To put it another way, in fiction, people draw life-situations onto themselves that reflect a particular facet of their personality; greedy people may be tempted to over-indulge, timid people may be challenged to step up to the mark and become brave etc. So; life-challenges are set for our fictional characters, and by their ACTIONS (made as a result of decisions they make, realisations they come to) – their fate is sealed. In astrology, there is also this understanding that ‘Fate follows from character’, BUT – and here is the key bit – to quote one of my favourite bits of wisdom from American Astrologer Zipporah Dobbins, ‘we are not fated to EVENTS but to what events MEAN by happening’.

What’s all that about? It really boils down to our deepest soul-level motivations which we - or our fictional characters – may have very little inkling about at the outset. We all know about Scrooge, whose deepest desire was to earn as much as possible and give very little of it away. His mean actions and outlook activate the ghost of his former partner. The ghost reconnects him with (1) the love he once knew as a boy (2) the horrible end he will come to if he carries on being so mean. The message is that the FATE he is heading towards is only because he hasn’t learned yet to be loving to those around him. He learns the lesson, pronto and his awful fate is averted. What Scrooge needed to learn about was LOVE – but another character in a similar position might have an entirely different lesson to learn, and a different fate.

In ‘The Writer’s Guide to the Zodiac’ I set out to do two things. Firstly, I wanted to show how all the apparently random lists of ‘character traits’ ascribed to the 12 signs of the zodiac are not random at all. After you have understood the premise on which they stand, you should be able to work any Zodiac sign’s traits out for yourself. Secondly, I wanted to help writers who have trouble with characterisation. If you have a core idea in your head about what sun sign your hero/heroine is, it can be a great aid in knowing HOW they will react in any given circumstance.

This is because the 12 zodiac signs are based on the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Earthy signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) give you people who relate to the senses; these are people who are very much rooted in the ‘here and now’, the present.
Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) give you people who relate best to the mind, to thoughts; thoughts transcend time, and can relate to past, future or present.
Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) relate best to creativity, imagination, and projections and to the future and Water signs relate best to feelings and emotions. Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) is the element that clings onto and remembers the past.

We have twelve signs and not four, because each of the elements is sub-divided into three, which I explain further in the book. But already you can see how friction and tension might arise as a character entrenched in one particular element – say Air - might totally ‘not get’ a person who is coming from (say) a Water perspective. This would be your classic ‘I’m being reasonable and logical and you’re being over-emotional’ (Air perspective) scenario as opposed to ‘you’re being totally analytical and dry and unfeeling, how could you?’ (Water perspective).

Understanding the motivations and driving forces behind each of the elements shows us more than how our characters will react with each other. It indicates the kinds of ACTIONS they are likely to take in response to external stimuli ( which appears as ‘Fate’). A fiery type in a car prang might get out and have an argument with the other driver. An airy type will take down the other’s details (information). An earthy type will assess the damage and take whatever practical steps are needed whilst a watery type might burst into tears.
Before you think, ‘That’s sounds like stereotyping’, let me add that in real life, we are all mixtures of all these traits, that’s a given. And in your astrological chart, you won’t just have your Sun in Aries, you’ll have your Moon somewhere too and ‘your’ Mars, Venus etc. will all be in certain signs.

The value of a really in-depth look at the Sun sign of your characters is that it can give you a really solid core, or springboard, from which to hang all their other traits or quirks. When you think of a character like Inspector Morse – an airy sign if there ever was one, with his love of intellectual pursuits like crosswords etc, there was also his extreme squeamishness ( he couldn’t bear to look at a dead body) – which we could put down to a ‘lack of earth’ in his chart, maybe. He was a romantic, and an intellectual but he never managed to accrue much in terms of worldly goods, or have a long-term physical relationship because he wasn’t anchored enough in ‘earth’. Just speculation of course! But you see how you can use different mixtures of the elements to make your characters consistent? If we accept that a character like Morse has a ‘lack of earth’ in his chart – we can’t then go and make him ‘good with banking investments’ – because this wouldn’t be consistent.

To go back to one of my original reasons for writing the book – character traits are not random, they have an innate ‘energy’ or purpose to them. They ‘come from’ somewhere. If you understand where that is, the chances are your characters will feel more real and congruent and believable – which is what we’re all aiming for in our writing. Hope this helps, and – Evonne – thanks once again for asking me!

Definitely a different way of looking at the writing process. And who can resist a book with twelve pairs of shoes on the cover?

If you'd like to own a copy of the Writer's Guide, which Giselle self published, you can order it direct from her, and she will sign it for you
Contact her via her website at

I know I certainly want one. Thanks to Giselle for being with us, and good luck with Little Miracles in February 2009.

PS Over the last two weeks, Title Magic has met all the finalists in American Title V. Scroll back to see any interviews you may have missed. And don't forget that voting begins on 10 November.

Meet Evonne Wareham: American Title V Finalist!

Hello! It's Magical Mel (Thanks for the moniker, Sav!)And I'm here to welcome you to our last ATV interview. I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the finalists for spending some of their precious time with us over the past two weeks. It was wonderful to meet all of you! Or in some cases, it was wonderful to see you again. :-) Good luck, ladies. Enjoy the ride!

Since we all met each other at the beginning of ATIV, we've had lots to cheer about. ATIV itself; Trish, Savanna, and Anitra's sales; Anitra and Evonne's Launching a Star contest finals. (I'm sure I'm forgetting something. You may apply the wet noodle in comments!) I think it's appropriate, however, that as we approach our first anniversary here at Title Magic, we get to celebrate by watching one of our own compete in the same contest in which we met. Congrats, Evonne! We're so proud of you!

All righty, enough squishy stuff. Evonne! Who are you and where are you from?

I’m Evonne, and I come from Barry, which is a large town on the South Wales coast, not far from the Welsh capital city, Cardiff. Those who are into the cult series Doctor Who and Torchwood would recognize landmarks from the area, as it's where they are both filmed.

Mel: Last year, we all competed with paranormal manuscripts, but this year's contest is a genre free-for-all. What's your book's title, and subgenre?

Evonne: My manuscript is called Never Coming Home. It's a contemporary romantic thriller. I seem to have tuned into my dark side while I was writing it, as it has a very high body count and a number of characters meet rather gruesome ends. Not all of them the bad guys.

Mel: Sounds like one of those dangerous books! Can you tell us a little more?

Evonne: Kaz Elmore’s four-year-old daughter died in a car crash while on holiday in the States with her father. Now, six months later, Kaz gets a visit from a guy called Devlin. His account of what happened that day is very different from the one Kaz got from her ex-husband. She needs to find out the truth, and Devlin seems to be the only person who is willing to help her. But can she trust him?

Mel: When we talked about the book earlier, you mentioned that it opens in the U.S., but then it moves to London, and then to Florence. Why were those locations important to you?

Evonne: They were significant for me and for the book. I needed the car crash involving Kaz's daughter to be somewhere that was a long way from home, so that she knows very little about what happened, and is too overcome with grief to ask. Also Devlin is living in the States. Hiding out, if you like. Everyone thinks that he is an American, but he's not, he was born in Hackney, in London. He used to work for a very secret branch of the security services, which I invented for the purpose. When the book opens he is 'retired' and living under a new name.

London and Florence are two of my favorite cities. I lived for a long time in London, and I'd love to live in Italy. I hope that the atmosphere of both comes across in the book. There are also brief trips to France, Lake Garda, also in Italy, and Cardiff, in a short but vital scene at the end of the book. I always like to put a small glimpse of Wales into everything I write.

Mel: To this small-town Midwestern girl, that all sounds so exotic and beautiful! I can't wait to read your excerpts when voting starts. Can you tell us more about the conflicts in Never Coming Home?

Evonne: The book has quite a complex plot, so I had to weave the progress of the love affair and the emotional development of the characters in amongst the parts where I’m throwing people off high buildings. Both Devlin and Kaz are carrying baggage and have a lot of internal conflict. For some reason that she doesn't understand, Kaz trusts Devlin from the beginning. Everyone is telling her that she is wrong to do this and that is also what her brain is telling her, but her instinct is pushing her in the opposite direction. She is afraid that she is making a mistake, which she has made before, relying on a man to solve her problems, when she could and should be doing it for herself. She has no idea how strong she really is, or how much that attracts a man like Devlin, who admires her independence.

Kaz’s mother, Suzanne, was a wild child in the swinging 60s, and her lifestyle has given Kaz an insecure background that she is trying to repair. A lot of my books have an older woman in them, who has an influence on the heroine. I had a lot of fun imagining Suzanne's life as a model and party girl in London in the late 1960s. I will be interviewing Suzanne on author Sylvia Day's blog on 4 December. If everybody would like to drop in then you can find out more about her life.

Devlin’s got his own problems – he’s done some pretty bad things in his past, but now something inside him is changing. It looks like it may be his conscience coming to life. Meeting Kaz makes the whole situation a lot worse, because she seems to be able to push all the wrong buttons. He finds himself volunteering to help her, and it’s all downhill from there. Plus they both think that the other is hot. They don't actually managed to resist each other all that long -- my willpower wasn't strong enough – but, of course, they think that it's only a casual affair. I have news for them …

Mel: Sylvia has been so supportive of American Title. I'll be there with bells on! When you wrote NCH, did you do a lot of plotting, or are you more of a pantser?

Evonne: I’ve never been able to decide about this, because I do both. Never Coming Home was quite heavily plotted in parts, because I had to be sure that all the layers pulled together while Kaz is searching for her daughter. I had bits of plot written on cards which I kept shuffling to get them in the right order. By the sort of nasty coincidence that we evil writers like to throw into the mix, something from Devlin's past also comes back to haunt him. There was even more shuffling then, to ensure that everyone was in the right place, and even in the right country, to be doing what they were supposed to be doing.

In other parts of the book, particularly in the developing relationship between Kaz and Devlin, I often sat down to write with no idea of what was going to happen. I just let them tell me what came next. It took a bit of double checking and sorting out at the editing stage, but it all hangs together now -- I think! Now I just have to see what the readers of Romantic Times make of it.

Mel: I have to know - how did you react this time around when you heard the news you'd finaled?

Evonne: Getting the e-mail from Romantic Times was a very weird experience because, of course, I'm one of the Title Magicians who were finalists last year. So I was thrilled and excited, and also had a strange sense of déjà vu. When I sent off three chapters and the synopsis of Never Coming Home, I really didn't know if I could do it again, or even if they'd accept another entry from a previous finalist. As you know, I didn't even tell the rest of the ladies on Title Magic, not even when I got the request from Dorchester in July for the full manuscript. Only my mum and two close friends knew. They'd all encouraged me to have another try, but I didn't know what to expect. So – I’m living proof that you can have a dream come true more than once.

Mel: Well, you must be doing something right, Evonne. Dream big, and dream often! I'm looking forward to cheering you on!

Voting starts November 10th at the Romantic Times Website. These talented, yet still unpublished ladies are the future of romantic fiction. And you, reader, get to tell a major review magazine and a leading publisher exactly what you want that future to look like. YOU get to tell them what you like and what you want to read with one quick monthly e-mail.

So if you don't vote, you don't get to whine later that you can't find anything good to read. At least not to me. :-P

Thanks again ATV finalists! Good luck!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Welcome American Title V Finalist ~ Michelle Lauren

SK ~ Welcome to Title Magic, Michelle. Thanks for joining us today, and major congratulations on being a finalist in the Romantic Times’ American Title V contest, sponsored by Dorchester Publishing. That is a huge accomplishment.
To start out, why don’t you give us a blurb about yourself and tell us where you hail from?

ML ~ My name is Michelle Lauren. I'm a former editor, a current freelance writer and a certified workaholic. Although I love traveling, I’m a Southern gal at heart and my favorite place is my home state of Virginia. I enjoy incorporating the natural beauty of its landscape into my stories.

SK ~ Oh, I know what you mean about incorporating the beauty of a landscape into your story. And, I once had an opportunity to drive through part of Virginia. It is a beautiful scenic state.
But now, for the good stuff. What is the title of your finaling manuscript? And what sub-genre is it?

ML ~ HOW TO TAME A HARPY is an urban fantasy.

SK ~ Oh, I think I’m in love with your story already. The Title is definitely titillating for a paranormal junkie like me. And urban, all the possibilities. Can you give us a quick 100 words or so blurb about the story?

ML ~ Welcome to Poseidon, Virginia, where things that go bump in the night come to play and where passion and danger collide.
Siren Jones is no stranger to trouble. As a harpy, her unpredictable powers often land her in trouble. When she is implicated in the death of a high-profile ex, she turns to an unlikely protector whose touch sparks her passion but whose past threatens to destroy them both.
Genetically-enhanced human Daniel Smith is a creature of the shadows, considered an outcast by humans and supernatural creatures alike. Jaded by past betrayals, he's sworn off love. But when Siren seeks his protection, he cannot deny their attraction. With time running out, can they catch the real killer before he strikes again?

SK ~ Poseidon, perfect for a Harpy! Passion and danger colliding, just my cup-of-reading tea. And I have a yen for those genetically-enhanced heroes, I have to tell you...*inserting a pause to fan myself here* ...
Michelle, do you have a website?

ML ~ My main site is I also blog at The Naughty Girls Next Door ( )

SK ~ Michelle, oh my, the ‘naughty girls’. I’ll have to check that blog out.
What kind of books do you like to read? And, who are your auto-buy authors?

ML ~ Sadly, I haven't had much time for pleasure reading lately. When I do get free time, I have very eclectic tastes. Some of my favorite authors by genre are:

Multicultural and contemporary romance: Francis Ray, Emma Petersen and Shelli Stevens
Urban fantasy/paranormal: Minx Malone, Loribelle Hunt, Sunny and Kate Douglas
Futuristic: Crystal Jordan
Historical: Beverly Jenkins, Amanda Quick and Sarah McCarty

SK ~ Hmmm, we have a lot of fave authors in common. And, sadly, I’m rowing in the same boat of too busy, right now. But, tell me, what was your biggest inspiration for HOW TO TAME A HARPY? Everyone wants to know. I know, I do!

ML ~ I'm a huge fan of comics and fairy tales. How to Tame a Harpy allowed me to combine the elements I loved from both — fantastical, somewhat dark elements and lots of action with romance and universal themes of love conquering all — into one story.

SK ~ Michelle, I’m so excited about your story. Blending or fusing all those elements together makes for the best romance novels, IMHO. What is it you like most and admire about your heroine?

ML ~ Siren is a survivor. She has been through a lot of drama (getting accused of murder definitely puts a girl through the ringer!) but refuses to accept defeat. She is a creative problem solver and is not afraid to break a few rules to get her way. Although she has suffered a lot of heartbreak, Siren is willing to risk her heart for the right guy. I find that courage endearing.

SK ~ Siren, I adore your heroine’s name. Does she have an alluring singing voice...oops, never mind. That’s for the readers to find out...eventually, right?
As a reader, courage is one thing I’m very partial to in a heroine.
Now.. *my heart is tripping enthusiastically here* ...Michelle, tell us what it is you like most and admire about your hero?

ML ~ Daniel is a gamma hero: dangerous, a bit jaded and extremely loyal and protective of those he loves. He doesn’t back down from challenges. He is willing to risk anything to protect Siren—and to win her heart. Plus, he’s gorgeous. :D

SK ~ *Le sigh*...a man who willing to protect his woman, no matter what. Now, that’s a hero my heart can fall for, anytime and anywhere. Give us some more info about your story, Michelle. What is the major conflict?

ML ~ The plot revolves around a series of murders that implicate Siren, whose trigger-happy temper and super powers make her the obvious suspect. How to Tame a Harpy has action, suspense, an ongoing mystery and lots of passion as Siren and Daniel join forces to clear her name.

SK ~ Okay, I have to read your story now. For one thing, I love it when the heroine and the hero come together, and ‘join forces’. To me, that’s best kind of romance.
So, we’re at the close of the interview. One more question, Michelle. Who is your muse?

ML ~ The Red Queen. She can be a bit of a nag and tends to pick apart my plots, but she has an excellent eye for details and plot lines. I can always count on her to nudge me out of a writing slump. I wouldn't have gotten this far without her. So R.Q., I love ya, girl!

SK ~ I might have to ask my Muse to take some lessons from your ‘Red Queen’! Thank you, for being with us today, Michelle, and for sharing your entry, HOW TO TAME A HARPY with us. Tons o’ luck...and, maybe, Siren could sing a little song in all those voters’ ears...with, you know, that special magical invitation to vote for her, for Daniel, and for their love story.

Note: Tomorrow our own, magical Mel, will interview our own, enchanting Evonne, on her American Title V entry. Don’t miss this one! Or any of the finalists’ interviews. And, remember, voting for the first round begins on November 10.

Dream-big kisses from the Kougar...

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ ~

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

American Title V -- Jessica Darago

1. What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Jessica Darago, and I'm originally from Long Island. As of this August, however, I've officially spent half of my life in the Washington DC area, where I first came for college and just stayed.

2. What is the title of your manuscript? What sub-genre is it?

It's called The Serpent's Tooth, and it's a Victorian historical set in America, England, and Scotland. It's a sort of in the style of Philippa Gregory or Jennifer Donnelly, in that the plot is moved by the political and social forces of the day as well as the relationship between the hero and heroine.

3. Can you give us a quick 100 words or so blurb about the story?

All Reba MacKenzie ever wanted was to live the life of a country doctress, learning the art at her beloved Uncle Toby's side. But Toby insists she needs a formal education--and on sending her to Scotland to get it. But when Toby is killed and Reba is left destitute, all their careful plans fall to ruin, and Reba ends up in the last place she expected: in the employ of her parents' killer, and in the arms of his son.

4. What was your reaction when you found out you've finaled?

I was in my office when I got the news, so the first thing I did was squeal at my office mate. Then my boss arrived (no doubt searching for the source of the squealing), and the three of us squealed together for a while. Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of work done that day.

5. Is this your first completed book? Fifth?

The Serpent's Tooth is the first novel-length submission-ready draft I've produced. I've written two novellas, one a historical suspense that desperately needs to be a longer book and the other a comedy of manners about knitting fanatics. I have a few other projects at different stages of development as well, from nearly finished first draft to still inside my head. I always have more ideas than time.

6. Do you have a website?

My LiveJournal blog, is my online home. I have a website advertising my freelance editing services (, and I belong to two critique groups with online forums (Dreaming in Ink and The Circle of Trust, the latter of which is currently closed to new members), but the place I talk about The Serpent's Tooth and other writing projects--and now about American Title--is the blog.

7. What kind of books do you like to read? Who are your auto-buy authors?

I'm mainly a science fiction and fantasy reader and have been for as long as I can remember. My absolute auto-buys are Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis. I've recently discovered Susanna Clarke, whose historical-fantasy world building knocked my socks not just off but straight into next Tuesday. Oddly enough, I don't read the same sort of books that I tend to write, probably out of some subconscious fear of "poisoning the well"--of either imitating instead of innovating or of being intimidated instead of inspired. These days, I spend a lot of my reading time reading my critique partners' manuscripts. Lucky for me, they're all a pleasure to read.

8. What was your biggest inspiration for the story?

About 14 years ago, on a long drive, my old roommate and I decided "Plot a Romance Novel" would be a fun road-trip game. She was a history major and I was an English major focusing on medieval and early modern lit, so of course it had to be historical. And we'd both recently been to Scotland and loved it, so of course it had to take place in Scotland. And we're American, so of course the heroine had to be American…. And so on. Not a lot survives from that original conversation beyond those three facts, except for the heroine's name: Reba, named for a Phish song we were listening to at the time.

Over the next decade and a half, I picked the idea up and put it back down maybe a half-dozen times. I'm a pure pantser, so most of my drafting happens in my head. I never know when an idea is going to hit me. I sometimes ended up scrawling lines on the back of a receipt or a piece of junk mail. My research notes look like the aftermath of a tornado through a bookstore. I'd never be able to reconstruct the individual twists and turns that made The Serpent's Tooth the story that it is, but I do remember that chapter 3--the hero and heroine's first fight, which leads to their first kiss--is almost exactly as I first imagined it years and years ago.

9. What is it you like most and admire about your heroine(s)?

Reba feels very deeply, and she has enormous courage and an iron will. In combination, these are what make her an ideal physician. But they also get her into trouble. She leaps to conclusions. She's stubborn as hell. Ultimately, she makes a number of bad decisions despite her good intentions. I think that's one of the best ways to create conflict in drama (or comedy, for that matter)--the protagonist's greatest assets are also her greatest flaws.

10. What is you like most and admire about your hero(s)?

Nate makes me laugh. Even when his heart is breaking or his life is on the line, he's able to crack jokes about his circumstances, even if only to himself. All clichés aside, there's nothing more attractive to me than a great sense of humor. But what I most admire is his fierce loyalty. He spends the better part of the book trying to negotiate among conflicting duties. Again, strength becomes vulnerability, which becomes conflict.

11. How did you come up with one of your secondary characters?

My favorite secondary character is Gladys, the Baxters' ladies' maid. Given the time and the place and the social class of the people around Reba, there simply had to be a ladies' maid, and I could have written her as practically part of the furniture. I decided instead that she should help Reba and Nate conduct their clandestine relationship. Somewhere along the line, one of my critique partners asked me why she'd risk her position for them. I thought, "That's a really good question." So I gave her a reason. And suddenly she had a whole life, a whole world behind her faithful servant act, and it was awesome. Sadly, I could only hint at it in The Serpent's Tooth. Hopefully one day I'll get to write the book where she steals Mrs. Baxter's identity and goes on a romp through the British expat community in Italy in the 1860s. She deserves a novel of her very own. Alas, for now only I know how interesting she is.

12. What is the major conflict in your story?

The initial conflict between Nate and Reba is that Nate's father, many years earlier, evicted Reba's family from their lands in Scotland and forced them to immigrate to America, which led through the appalling shipboard conditions to the death of both her parents. As the story progresses it becomes less about the past and more about who each of them is in the present-Reba's inability to trust people, her need to control her environment, her fear of letting go; Nate's competitive streak, his need to "win" her, his sense of duty as his father's heir and how that clashes with his feelings for Reba and his sense of right and wrong. Reba can't let go of the past but is forced to face her future, while Nate can't seize his future until he faces his family's past.

13. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I have tried--oh how I've tried--to be a plotter, but it just isn't in me. I've read all the books and tried all the systems, from index cards to specialized software and everything in between. By my haphazard system seems to be the one that allows me the most creativity, the most productivity, so I'm learning to embrace it. Meanwhile, I just bought myself a PDA, so at least I have a central place to write down those sudden bursts of inspiration.

14. Do you write to silence, or do you prefer a little noise?

It took me a long time to realize it, but what I like best is white noise. The better part of The Serpent's Tooth was written in restaurants and fast-food joints during my lunch hours. The combination of clashing voices and half-heard music puts my head in the right place. I come by it honestly, too. In school, I used to keep half an ear on the teacher while scribbling stories in a notebook hidden under my textbook. It's the same effect.

15. Who is your muse?

When you're a pantser, anything and everything can spark an idea--a good song, a bad pun, a scent, a slant of light. The people who have really changed me as a writer are the members of my critique group. I've learned so much from their examples: how to set goals and stick with them, how to handle the rough spots with grace and strength, and of course how to be a better writer. None of that's easy, for anyone, so if we're going for the mythological reference, they're not so much muses as Valkyries.

16. What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I love to knit, crochet, and bead, though I have less time for them than I'd like. I used to be an avid hiker, and I'm trying to get back into that again. I travel as much as I can find the time and money for, and I keep an eye out for story inspiration wherever I go.

17. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Is time management a superpower? Like everyone else in 21st-century America, I'm stretched pretty thin. If I could manipulate time, I could give all the people and things in my life the attention and care they deserve, and then I wouldn't have to be super-anything-else.

18. If you could do something crazy/dangerous/or insane what would it be and why?

My sister recently took up skydiving, and she's trying to convince me to do it, too. I've made a counteroffer of trekking to Everest base camp. At this point, negotiations are at a standstill.

19. Why do you write?

Because if I didn't, my head would explode. Because words are my favorite playthings. Because it's something to do with my hands. Because the pleasure is worth the pain.

20. If you had a 2 weeks to live, what would you do?

I'd gather my friends and family around me and go back to Great Britain one last time. I'd will--or is that curse?--my unfinished manuscripts to various writer friends. I'd drink a lot of good wine, eat a lot of good food, and kiss a lot of good people.

21. What is your favorite research tool?

My favorite tool isn't a tool, it's a community. I belong to the little_details LiveJournal community. It began, long before my time, as a group of fanfiction writers, but it's expanded to writers of all sorts. The idea is writers helping out writers. Pose a question, and soon you'll have a whole list of useful links, book recommendations, and personal anecdotes from other community members. It's like having an entire regiment of over-caffeinated specialist librarians at your fingertips. For example, during my 3-Day Novel marathon in 2006, I asked if anyone knew of a work of satire or humor that was available in English in 1665 or earlier, was legal for sale in England at that time, and mocked scientists (that is, "natural philosophers"). I had an answer about two hours later (Hudibras, by Samuel Butler, for the record). It's a fabulous resource. And answering questions is just as much fun.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Meet Marie-Claude Bourque: American Title V Finalist!

You may have thought the treats were over now that Halloween is past, but we’ve still got a lot of good stuff in store for you this week at Title Magic. And the best part is you can sit back, enjoy, and not even worry about calories.

Last week you had a chance to meet four of this year’s American Title V finalists: Edie Ramer, Qaey Williams, Tamara Hughes and Barbara Longley. This week we’re going to introduce you to the remaining four finalists. Today I’ll be interviewing Marie-Claude Bourque.
Tuesday, Anitra will introduce us to Jessica Drago. Wednesday, Savanna talks with Michelle Lauren. And on Thursday, Mel will spotlight our very own Evonne Wareham, a finalist for the second year in a row!

So without further ado, let me introduce you to today’s talented American Title V finalist …

HB: Marie-Claude, congratulations and welcome to Title Magic! Please tell us your name and where you’re from.
MCB: I’m Marie-Claude Bourque and I am from Québec.

HB: What is the title of your finaling manuscript? What sub-genre is it?
MCB: My manuscript is titled ANCIENT WHISPERS and is a dark paranormal.

HB: I love that title! Can you give us a quick 100 words or so blurb about the story?
MCB: Inspired by the poem Evangeline (Longfellow, 1847), Ancient Whispers tells the story of a bold immortal sorcerer and his obsession to be reunited with the fiancée he lost centuries ago.
Gabriel Callan is the youngest member of the Priory of Callan, an ancient Celtic brotherhood of thirteen cursed sorcerers and alchemists, each deadly, each haunted by a tragic past.
Still tortured by the devastating events of the Acadian deportation in 1755, Gabriel wants nothing more than to reunite with his lost soulmate, now reborn to this century as the cool-headed and practical Lily Bellefontaine.
Pediatric nurse Lily, yearns for a peaceful life in her own dream home. She seeks an existence far different from the experiences of her unstable childhood and purposefully ignores her latent psychic abilities.
Will she ever be able to accept her fate? And can Gabriel let go of his tragic past to live fully in the present?

HB:The story sounds fascinating. What was your reaction when you found out you finaled?
MCB: I jumped on the phone to call my husband. I tried a few times but the battery of his cell phone was dead. I tried to call my mom, but the batteries in our portable home phone were now dead too (we have a pretty disorganized household). I ended up crossing the street to tell my neighbor who was thrilled for me! The best was to tell my two boys in the car an hour later when I went to pick them up from school. Their smiles were precious. They are big believers in their mom’s writing.

HB: I totally empathize about the cell phone batteries. That sounds a lot like our household. Is this your first completed book? Fifth?
MCB: Ancient Whispers is my first attempt at writing fiction.

HB: Wow. This final is a wonderful confirmation that you’ve chosen the right path. Do you have a website?
MCB: Yes,

HB: Very nice website! I particularly like that you’re willing to help other writer’s with any French phrases they may have in their manuscripts. What kind of books do you like to read? Who are your auto-buy authors?
MCB: I read anything I can get my hands on, fiction (literary and commercial) and non-fiction. I’d read a cereal box if left in front of me!! My auto-buy would be Robert B. Parker, Janet Evanovich, Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor, Christine Feehan (The Drake Sister series), Margaret Weis (her Dragonlance stuff) and dark fantasy author Caitlin R. Kiernan whose books I am currently obsessed with.

HB: What was your biggest inspiration for ANCIENT WHISPERS?
MCB: I was inspired by a heart-breaking poem called Evangeline, written years ago by Henri Wadsworth Longfellow. It relates the plight of French Acadians who were deported from Canada by English soldiers in the mid seventeen century. Some Acadians ended up in Quebec others in Louisiana (the Cajuns).
In the poem, Gabriel and Evangeline are put on separate ships during the deportation and spend their life looking for each others. I wanted to give Gabriel another chance. So in my story, he becomes immortal and meets Evangeline’s reincarnation in modern time.
I’ve known about this all my life because my grand-father told me how the Bourque family was deported from Port-Royal to Quebec, in the same way as depicted in the poem Evangeline. So the story has stayed with me for decades until I was inspired to reunite these two tragic lovers on paper. In fact, all the sorcerers in ANCIENT WHISPERS are inspired by tragic lovers and I plan to give them all a second chance at happiness.

HB: I like the idea of giving tragic lovers a second chance. What is it you like most and admire about your heroine?
MCB: My heroine, Lily Bellefontaine, is a pediatric nurse in Providence, RI. She is very solid, responsible, no-nonsense. She is not your typical kick-ass heroine you may see in the newer paranormal. She could be my best friend, anyone can relate to her. She knows who she is. She is financially secure because she works hard and thinks of her future. She takes care of the great-aunt who raised her. I admire her a lot, in fact I wish I was more like that ☺. It’s nice in the story how she starts as a regular strong woman and then become even stronger as she embraces her magical abilities and is able to dig deeper into her motives to learn more about herself. I love her spiritual journey in the story.

HB: What is you like most and admire about your hero?
MCB: What’s not to love about Gabriel Callan? First, he is very sexy, in a bad boy kind of way. ☺ And he is very tortured by his past, which makes me him tough and somewhat dark. Yet he is very bold. He walks right into action and is fiercely protective of Lily. He also resent being bound to the Priory of sorcerers. He hates being told what to do, a free-spirit. He also has a playful side and loves using magic spells on Lily when they make love together. I just love that he has so many sides to him.

HB: How did you come up with one of your secondary characters?
MCB: Let’s talk about Morag Callan, the High Priestess leading the Priory of sorcerers and mentor to Lily. She is an interesting character. Not completely good or evil. Her goal is to reunite Gabriel and Lily because they are lost souls that were torn apart in an ancient battle, centuries ago in the Scottish Highlands. She is also very much in love with her consort, an old alchemist, which is nice in the story because I show an enduring love between two people of another generation.
She is a very powerful priestess who, as a High Priestess, can summon Celtic Goddesses in witchcraft ritual to perform spells of her choice. I have based her character on my knowledge of Neo-Paganism spirituality. The ritual witchcraft in ANCIENT WHISPERS is more a spiritual journey then simple spell casting. I have both, of course, but the spell casting is left to the sorcerers.

HB: What is the major conflict in your story?
MCB: Well, there is a villain, of course, who wants to prevent Gabriel and Lily to join, because he wants Gabriel’s soul. But the major conflict is between Gabriel and Lily. It is very hard for Gabriel to let go of the idea of Evangeline and he treats Lily as if she was his lost fiancée. Lily is not so keen in being someone else reborn. She doesn’t remember her past life and she wants to be loved for who she is. So even though they fall for each other early in the story, the conflict slowly creeps up on them, kind of like real life, don’t you think?

HB: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
MCB: I am a total plotter. I’ve been called anal, OCD and scary! My plots tend to follow the mythical hero’s journey and each element of my stories has an arc to it. I usually will have a list of plots/subplots and make sure that each scenes advance one or more of my plots. I tweak the plots as I go along, but it is usually very detailed and thought through.

HB: As the ultimate pantser, I hold writers like you in awe. Do you write to silence, or do you prefer a little noise?
MCB: I usually write with music. Music drives the strong imageries that I translate in my writing. I have a playlist for each of my projects. Ancient Whispers was written to Nine Inch Nails and Loreena McKennitt

HB: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
MCB: As a mom of two boys, I am pretty busy taking care of them. I like to hang out with my husband watching action movies or discussing politics. I am also an avid knitter and I love to go to the gym to lift weights.

Marie-Claude, thank you so much for joining us today on Title Magic. It’s been a pleasure meeting you and learning about ANCIENT WHISPERS. Here’s wishing you the best of luck in both the contest and your writing career!

Don’t forget everyone - Voting for American Title V begins on Monday, November 10th!