Thursday, December 29, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

Ever realise how the lyrics to that song/poem  don't really make sense? Oh, Robbie Burns.

How is it already the end of the year? It seems like I was just going through this process a few months ago - making a list of everything I've accomplished, things I wish I'd done, and hope to do next year. Some years that can be a pretty depressing list, but this year I've done enough to impress even myself. I've moved, changed jobs, sent out queries, received rejections, went to Europe, met loads of new friends, entered a few flash fictions contests, and written (almost) two novels.

So, Krista, how is the book coming along? Still think you'll finish before 2012? *snicker*
In your face Doubting Me - YES! It will be close, but doable. I'm sitting comfortable around 102 000 words now (roughly 14 000 words from here I was last Thursday), and only about 3 more chapters to write in as many days. It may mean I'm a bit late for some New Year's Eve plans, but I'm determined that the choir of victory will be singing come midnight.

Then what will the new year bring? Hopefully lots of exciting news. I'm submitting to a few anthologies in the next month or so, going on lots more trips, and picking up The Fenwith Trials after a year's hiatus. That will be my big goal. Even if I have to tear it to pieces and start from scratch, I'm going to finish that blasted novel. And maybe write another "Daughter of Time" somewhere along the way.

How about everyone else? Lots of resolutions planned? To all who do, I wish you the best of luck in keeping them and the determination to see them through. For those of you who don't...better come up with something. A whole new year ahead = big blank page. Make it worthwhile!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Don't mind my hat. It keeps the chipmunks away.

Wheeeehehehehe.....

I've gone a bit loonie.  Loonie? Like the coin? Yes! Mad for money! Mwhahahaha. Or just looney, either way.

In order to accomplish one more thing in the year 2011, I've decided to attempt a mad dash to the end of my novel. At 88,500 words the end is in sight so, of course, as when all things are going well, I've slipped into the hair-pulling "This is a load of garbage" phase of writing. It's all good though. I'm choosing to ignore it. That bit comes later.

My mum is helping me a lot by respecting my chosen temporary isolation - which she reminds me of during her daily telephone calls.

My father keeps trying to tell me, "But it's Christmas, a time for your family. Why don't you want to have dinner?"  My reply to him is: "No, it's crunch time, but I can see where you're getting confused."

My friends are asking me to go last minute shopping with them, but I turn that down as well - which I do feel bad about, because I haven't really done much of mine yet either ("On the 22nd of December??" Shh...it's okay. I've got it all planned out.)

So I want to thank all my family and friends for their patience. For accepting my obsessive time management, and constant scribbling on little pieces of paper during conversation; for overlooking my sudden lapses into thought in the middle of a conversation; for disappearing from all social connection.

I miss you guys, love you all, and I wouldn't be nearly this close to finishing if it weren't for you. See you all in 2012! (And Christmas dinner. I wouldn't miss that.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tis the Season

What? Two blog posts in one day? Overkill much? I know, I know. BUT! (never start a sentence with "but"; and what's with the sentence fragment?)

I wanted to send out a reminder that there are some excellent flash fiction stories to be read and voted on this month on Devin's forum. Share your thoughts, comment here, and after the winner is announced at the end of the month, expect to see my submission posted here.

Acceptance Speech: Short & Sweet

So it turns out that I have been nominated for a new blog award!  It's always nice to open ye olde inbox in the morning to find that someone has considered all of my hard work worth recognizing. Quite the lovely ego boost!

In respect of Rule 1 of this particular award, I would like to send a big thank you to Kathi L Schwengel for the nomination. Kathi is a phenomenal writer, a great person to chat to, and a source of never-ending support for me in my writing-induced madness.

Rule 2 seems to expect me to share 7 things about myself. I suppose I could try to come up with seven...

1) I strongly believe that chocolate & peanut butter is a magical combination. I am not above dropping chocolate chips into a jar of peanut butter on a really stressful day and eating it with a spoon. That's right. I am a very class lady.

2) I wish that I was allergic to lemons. I don't like the taste of them, I hate the smell of them, but apparently loathing is not enough to stop the family from offering it to you at birthday parties. At least if I were allergic, I'd have a good excuse.

3) I kill plants. I love plants, but as as soon as I try to make my home their home, they die. It makes me very sad and depressed and as I'm watching the pathetic state my only lasting plant is in, I'm thinking of giving up.

4) I'm a DVD junkie. My collection of movies is bested only by my collection of books, which basically means I have no room for anything else in my home.

5) I love fantasy RPG computer games. I rationalise playing them as much as I want, because it's not wasting time, it's research for my books...

6) Give me a small space with a blanket, a good book and a space heater and I'm the happiest person in the world.

7) Annnnd... (I'm totally reaching now. It turns out I don't know 7 facts about myself offhand) I'm a list person. I keep about ten to-do lists throughout the day; I organize my life with self-imposed schedules and items to check off. Without them, I'd feel like I never accomplished anything

That's enough of that.

Rule 3  is to pass this award on to other blogs I've discovered lately and enjoy reading. In particular order:

Angela Addams
Muffy Morrigan
Allie Burke - in the clouds
Colin F Barnes
T James
Sean Hayden 
J.G. Banks - Big Bears Den
Keri Lake
Marianne Su
Anne Michaud
Amy L Overley
Pat Hollett
Molly Greene - Worth Becoming
Julie Anne Lindsey - Musings from the Slush Pile
Kendall Grey - Life is but a dream

Rule 4 is then to contact said bloggers and let them know, which I shall proceed to do.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Writers Groups

Writers have always banded together. Byron, Shelley (his wife Mary), and Keats is one of the first to come to mind for me. And of course, the whole band of Pre-Raphaelites (Rossetti, Morris, Burnes-Jones, Hunt, and Millais, etc.) whose artwork, poetry and writing spanned decades, with many different styles, subjects, and scandals.

There's a reason writers do this: it's called like-mindedness, and it's a practice that continues to great extent today. They're even portrayed in shows like Castle, where mystery writers Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Dennis Lehane and, until his death, Stephen Cannell get together to for their poker nights and brainstorming sessions. One big difference, though, is that thanks to the joy that is the interwebs, we're no longer limited to keeping groups within easy travel distance.

I'm lucky enough to have my own wonderful group of writers scattered across the globe. It's full of people who understand me and what I'm talking about, offering endless support and encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on when the big Rs come in.

The other day I was stuck on a scene. I posted: "I have to kill two people on an empty residential street in the middle of the day. Help!" - and the response was not "Why?", or  "how horrible!", it was simply, "How."

Another exchange went along the lines of: "I burned 4 people alive today." The response: "Now that's cool."

These reactions are not what you would generally hear from people who live solely in the real world and are missing that essential writer insanity.

While I appreciate all of my the support I get from my family and friends, it's fantastic to have a group I can relax around, and say things like "wip" and "beta", and obsess about word count without being regarded as a lunatic. They understand the importance of self-induced goals, and will be there to encourage that extra cookie, or the third rye and ginger - anything that will help you get it done.

If writing is an addiction, writers groups are also the greatest enablers. When a deadline looms, non-writers would try to remind you that there's a life away from the computer, and that it's okay to get out for some fresh air, see your friends, eat; writer friends are there to tie you down to your chair and force-feed you caffeine pills until that draft is finished.

I don't know where I'd be without these guys (probably much healthier in body, but much less so in mind), so I would like to take a moment to introduce them. Check them out and be sure thank them for helping me become the slightly neurotic person I am today.

Colin Barnes, Anne Michaud, Angela Addams, Tammy Crosby, T James, Sean Hayden, Keri Lake, Jen Wylie, Aaron Booth, Pat Hollet, Ren Warom, Amy Overley and of course all the people at Devin's forum.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Research

Bad facts in literature bother me. I'm not about to claim that I'm an ultimate source of correct information - or even that I don't get things wrong a lot - but when I read about something I know well and find the info goes against everything I've read, I get very irritated. Best example (as my friends will attest to) is in The Other Boleyn Girl, where Anne is cast as the older sister. Never ceases to make me want to throw the book against the wall.

One of the perks of pure fantasy is that the need for research can be minimal. You want frying pans that can cook an egg on any surface? Pfft - you don't need science (logic, what's that?), just use magic! Anything goes, as long as it stays consistent (a subject on which I have written many an article here).

My current project isn't as forgiving, and it's a bit of a challenge. Falling solidly in the category of urban fantasy, my Daughter of Time series takes place in multiple cities across the present day world, as well as in pivotal events in history. I spend hours these days on Google Maps and official city web pages, picking spots for things to happen, and then doing a breakdown of how long it would take my characters to run in a mad chase from the cafe on the corner (which I choose very specifically), to the ravine that's usually a favourite tourist spot, but at this moment is conveniently quiet. My biggest concern for the present is that readers from one of the cities I choose will get to that chapter and go "Pfft, well of course they get in trouble. I wouldn't go into that area if I had my own personal militia." At least I'll know I've done the best I can.

In the past I get bogged down with other details in my crazy attempt to avoid anachronisms. I research the food they'd eat, the clothes, the styles of the inn, the family structure, to the point where I despair of ever getting it right and offending the ghosts of centuries ago by making the peasants eat ham, when the poor never would have eaten ham because it was too expensive (but I could be getting that confused. Again).

Eventually, mid-way through a chapter, I will give up this frantic desire to be right, and stick with "close enough". The truth of the matter is that, while wanting it to be realistic, the ingredients in the evening stew do not have a bearing on the plot. I write fantasy, and while history plays a major element in my story,  I do not write historical fiction.

When research starts to take away the pleasure of the writing, it's time to rethink what you really should be researching, or why you chose to use the subject in the first place. Sometimes its just a case of getting hung up on the details, and losing focus on the important part of writing: the story.

Google Maps I will continue to play with. But just because it's fun.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jocelyn A. Fox's The Iron Sword - A review

When Tess O'Connor is invited to spend Thanksgiving in Texas with her best friend, Molly, she doesn't anticipate more than a quiet holiday in the middle of nowhere. However, things are not always as they seem. Sometimes dreams speak the truth and Tess discovers that Molly has been hiding a secret from everyone for years. 

Molly has been summoned to the Unseelie Court of the Sidhe and before she knows it, Tess is drawn into the mystical and dangerous world of the Fae. For there is darkness rising beyond the veil, and even though Tess knows she is no match for the evil stalking the Sidhe, she has no intention of leaving her best friend to face it alone...



Writing good fantasy is challenging - especially when it involves fairies. Let's face it, the world is so overwhelmed with zombies lately that little people who flutter around and glow just aren't getting the attention they once did when Peter Pan was new and Tinkerbell was a sex symbol (...really?). 


Fox's The Iron Sword reminds me why the fae once had such an important place in fantasy literature. 
I'm finding it hard to narrow down what I best liked about the novel for this review. Whenever I settle on one aspect, I realise there's another one I like more, and then another. What I'll start with is that I couldn't put the book down. Self-set curfews lost their meaning, morning bus schedules disappeared from my head - I just had to know what was coming next. And the worst part (best part) is that the chapters are shorter, all of them ending on a suspenseful note - so when I did manage to put it down to go to work, I was plagued for the rest of the day with the desire to know what happened.


Faeortalam, the fae world Fox has created, is also magnificent. It is a true utopia, crafted partly with ideas from our own world, partly with the fantastic and marvellous, with a very dark underlying structure, Faeortalam is a great place to lose yourself for an hour or ten. These Sidhe are not sweetness and rainbows and magic dust - they're stuck with the same flaws, conflicts of character, and dark sides as any human. And it's about to cause a lot of trouble in their world. 


While there is a wide array of characters - even the weapons having minds of their own - my favourite are the Glasidhe or the Small Folk. These guys are more like the Tinkerbells of this world. They're small, they glow, they flit around and deliver messages, and can kill things 5x their size. You know those times when you're reading a book and think, "Man, I wish that was real? I want one as a friend"? Yeah, that's the Glasidhe for me.


The Iron Sword has been described as "epic adventure" genre, and I would have to support that claim. It's fast-paced, fun, quest-driven, fun, beautifully written and fun. The first in a series, all I can say is that I wish Fox would take the time off work she needed to finish the next one. Please? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Characters on Strike?!

I was brainstorming the current section of my work in progress the other day when a horrifying thought occurred to me - what if all the characters currently being written went on strike? I don't mean writer's block, I mean the utter refusal of your characters to do what you ask them to.

Think about it. It's not impossible.

Look at what we put these people though. We hurt them, kill them, kill the people they love, torture them in incredibly imaginative ways, give them blissful happiness only to strip it all away in one great traumatic moment that leaves them nothing but a shriveled husk on the inside that we then expect them to find a way out of - why on earth do they put up with it? What if one day they didn't?

What if one morning, you go to open for your manuscript and instead of sending your hero into battle, or your heroine into the dragon's cave they're siting around in a nice warm conflict-free inn reading a book and drinking tea? You tell them: "All right, suit up. It's time to get going." And they look at you, shrug and say, "You do it. I'm busy."

Novels wouldn't get finished! They would all stop abruptly in an anticlimactic, safe and drama-less disaster where the plot is never resolved, no lessons are learned, no villain slain...and there would be nothing you could do about it.

It's dangerous to take characters for granted. They put a lot of trust in us that no matter how much pain we bring to them, they will always get a satisfying ending, whether it's a glorious or brilliantly gruesome death, or love, a family, and a peaceful rest-of-life. They cooperate with us because they know as well as we do that they are needed. That they have a role in protecting the world, or someone they care about.

This morning I present a toast of my morning tea to thank the many, many, many people wandering around in my head for always being there when I need them, and for taking me on great journeys I had never outlined or anticipated, and for warning me when I'm about to do something stupid. Cheers! (and don't leave me)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Flash Fiction - November

November flash is finished, and I came in second place - thanks to all who voted! For those of you who didn't get a chance to read it: voila! I'd love to hear your thoughts.


I’ve been called the Angel of Death, but I am no angel – just Lucy, a failed science experiment. Since the day I was released I have clung to the night for its protection, it’s warmth. To avoid the looks of people who can’t understand. The night has taken care of me and I’ve sworn to return the favour.
Tonight I sit upon the highest building in the city, watching the odd red and white car lights flicker like gems through the web of streets. The weather is warm, the stars in full force, a mirror of the streetlights below. The moon is full; my strange shadow keeps me company.
A sharp scream echoes from one of the alleyways twenty stories below and I sigh. Lovely weather always brings the loonies out to play. Scanning the dark side-street with sharp eyes, I see movement and focus my aim. Then I jump.
As I fall, two great black wings stretch out from between my shoulder blades, a fourteen-foot wingspan of inky feathers that look like satin in the moonlight. The effect of human-animal genome splicing, these wings are my burden and my blessing. I accept what I am.
I blink jet black eyes to refocus on my target. I see him now, running towards the busy main road, a woman’s purse tight in his hands. I have to catch him before he hits the street or he’ll be lost to the real world, away from the shadows that hide me. I beat my wings, twice, three times, the gust of each flap scattering waves of dust beneath me. He’s directly in front of me, almost at his goal.
I let out a shriek and extend talon-sharp nails. He looks over his shoulder but has no time to scream, to react. I drop lower and tear into his neck. The purse falls from his hands and his body slumps.
Without a glance backwards, I beat my wings once more to return to my perch.
The night belongs to me.
I do what I can to protect it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Q&A with Devin O'Branagan

When I first joined Devin's forum in September, I had no idea that it would become such an integral part of my life. I sometimes wondered if I should get out and find a writing group like this in the real world, but with this group it didn't really matter. I grew to know them, to appreciate their support and their individual talent, and in process Devin became a very good friend.

Now that I've finished reading Threshold and Witch Hunt (expect a review soon), I'm very excited to share this Q&A with you. Enjoy!

Devin O'Branagan - author


1) The classic: Tell me a bit about yourself. I know a bit from your forum and your bio, but for those who don't - spill the beans!

I’ve been writing fiction since I was five years old—my first story was a ghost story. My first two published novels, also paranormal fiction, were released by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books in English and by Heyne in German. I have since published six more novels in a variety of genres including paranormal thrillers, paranormal chick lit, comic chick lit, canine chick lit, and young adult urban fantasy. In addition, I write a humor column for TAILS Magazine.

2) I always like to find out about a fellow writer's routine while they work - still trying to master my own. What would you say are your "needs" when you sit down to write?

All I need is my laptop computer. I have no special routine—I just sit down in my favorite easy chair and write. I have a big basket next to the chair, and it is filled with haphazard notes I’ve made on plot, characters, dialogue and research. I also have a dictionary and thesaurus at the ready. Otherwise I’m a fly-by-the seat-of my-pants kind of writer.

Moving onto THRESHOLD!

3) I've often heard you say that this book is your "favourite baby". What is it about THRESHOLD that makes it stand out from all the novels you've written?

I believe it’s my best-written novel. It is also my most inspirational. For me, writing isn’t just about telling a good story, but also about moving people’s hearts.

4) What was your inspiration behind THRESHOLD? Not only the NDE, but all of it - the shamans, the bit "art" themes, etc. 

THRESHOLD was inspired by a near-death experience of my own, which fueled my lifelong spiritual journey. That journey took me through the study of many religions and metaphysical paths, including shamanism. Other themes in the book, from art to quantum physics, are areas of personal interest to me. Everything in my life is grist for the mill of my writing.

5) She wasn't there very much, but I really loved Quinn "Queen B". She's strong, assertive, sometimes brash and rude, but still understanding, compassionate, and not blind to her own fault. I'd love to know more about her. 

Throughout my life I have met people of true power, and people with imagined power. I wanted to explore that dichotomy and did so via Branwen and her mother, Quinn. It’s interesting how many people have claimed Quinn as their favorite character in THRESHOLD. I think it’s because she is representative of a woman who is truly powerful.

6) More importantly, tell us a bit about YOUR favourite character in THRESHOLD. 

The primary protagonist, Cole, is my favorite character. He is amazing. Prior to his NDE he was not a nice child, and even though the reasons for that are explained, he never justifies his bad behavior. He owns it, tries to change, and seeks redemption. He has such courage, even if reckless at times. And he has genuine compassion. I loved working with him.

7) Other works:

My first novel, now out of print, was SPIRIT WARRIORS, a paranormal thriller about the end-times as prophesied by the Hopi Indians. While researching it, I lived in a log cabin near the Hopi reservation and studied with the spokesman for the Hopi Elders. I may update and rerelease it when time allows.

WITCH HUNT was my second novel, published by Pocket Books in English and Heyne in German. It is a paranormal thriller about three hundred years in the history of a family of witches, from the days of the Salem trials through to a modern, fundamentalist-inspired witch hunt. It went out of print as well, so I had the rights reverted to me and in 2010 released an updated version of it. It spent much of 2011 on Amazon’s Metaphysical Fiction Bestsellers List and was recently picked up by Turkish publisher, Dogan Egmont.

GLORY was released last year and is the first in my planned young adult urban fantasy series, THE LEGEND OF GLORY. In GLORY, a seventeen-year-old girl’s blood holds the cure for a deadly pandemic plague, and a witch, an angel, and a vampire are assigned to be her bodyguards. It, too, was on Amazon’s Metaphysical Fiction Bestsellers List and was also nominated for the 2011 Best Popular Paperback for Young Adults List, sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association.

And then there are THE RED HOT NOVELS, a chick lit series that includes the suspenseful comedy, RED HOT PROPERTY, the paranormal chick lit sequel, RED HOT LIBERTY, and the canine chick lit spinoff, SHOW DOG SINGS THE BLUES. These books are comedic, but include a depth uncommon to traditional chick lit. I like to deal with issues in my fiction: gay rights, animal welfare, taking a stand for what is right in life no matter what the cost, rising above one’s limitations, etc. Even the delightful SHOW DOG SINGS THE BLUES—which is told from the dog’s perspective—has a message. When a pampered show dog is mistaken for a cowdog and has to work on a ranch for the day, she discovers she is much more than just another pretty face. The main characters in the RED HOT series (human and canine) grow, learn, and become more than they imagine is possible.

SHOW DOG SINGS THE BLUES hit the #1 spot on Amazon’s Hot New Releases and spent time on the bestsellers list for books about dogs. I donate a portion of the proceeds to Australian Shepherd Rescue.

8) I'm currently reading WITCH HUNT and so far I'm loving it. It seems you and I share an interest in historical intolerance. What is it about the Salem Witch Trials that sparked your imagination for this novel?

In 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwā—a death sentence—against author Salman Rushdie for writing a novel offensive to the Islamic faith. I was horrified, and my first thought was, “That couldn’t happen in America!” My second thought was to remember the Salem trials. Because of the strong influence groups like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition were having in the 1980’s, I grew concerned that history might repeat itself, and so I wrote WITCH HUNT as a cautionary tale.

9) Care to tell us about any new projects in the works? You're hardly the time to stay idle for long.

I am working on the sequel to GLORY, titled PRETTY SACRIFICES. I am also working on THE TWILIGHT BONE, which is the prequel to SHOW DOG SINGS THE BLUES. The third book in the RED HOT series, RED HOT VAMPYRE, is in the planning stage.

10) I love that you're so interactive with your readers. What made you decide to create your forum? 

Following the release of my first young adult novel, GLORY, I made a lot of public appearances. Most of the teens who attended my programs had writing ambitions, and I felt the need to encourage their talent. I originally started the forum simply as a place to hold flash fiction contests for new writers. Over time it grew into the wonderful writers’ forum it is today. Our international membership now includes people of all ages and all experience levels, from beginning writers to professional authors. We also have members who are not writers, but are artists, publishing professionals, as well as people interested in animals, metaphysics, and reading. The forum allows me to interact with fans in a personal way that I find most rewarding.

11) Any parting words? The rest is up to you!

One of the things I’m most proud of is how I’ve found ways to use my writing to support animal rescue. I’ve held two major raffles to raise money for Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for homeless, abused, and abandoned animals. The prizes I offered were to feature the winners’ pets as characters in my novels. Through sales of my books and plush toys related to the themes of my writing, I also support Australian Shepherd Rescue, Border Collie Rescue, and cat rescue groups.

If anyone would like to learn more about my books, animal rescue projects, and forum, please visit my website at www.DevinWrites.com



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Devin O'Branagan's Witch Hunt - A Review




Leigh has been married to a Hawthorne for a decade, but never knew the family secret: the Hawthornes are witches. When the dynamic Preacher Cody instigates a new, world-wide witch hunt, Leigh must choose sides. Will she stand with her husband and children, or will she run? 

This isn't the first witch hunt the Hawthornes have faced, but it could be their last. Will anyone survive?

The first book I picked up after finishing O'Branagan's Threshold, was Witch Hunt, her second published novel, recently updated and reprinted.

The title goes a long way to explain what drew me to this book. The "Burning Times" is a particular passion of mine, and as a result is the basis of many of my own works. I was excited and intrigued to see what another author would do with similar material. I wasn't disappointed. I was angry. Just as the author intended I would be.

The structure of Witch Hunt is an effective flip-flop from the past to the present as it follows the history of the Hawthorne family from their persecution during the Salem witch trials to the present-day hounding by a local televised and zealous Preacher. With stops along the way in Ireland and Denver, the novel offers a wide net of faiths, rituals, local cultures, and local prejudices.

While at times seeming far-fetched and over-the-top, it's sobering to remember that many of the most bizarre, cruel events in the novel are solidly based on well-researched fact. The trials in Salem, for example, are almost completely based on anecdotes from the time. I can attest to that, having done a lot of research myself. What Devin does, though, is add the human element back into the history. It's easy to become dissociated with deaths that happened over centuries ago, but Witch Hunt reminds us that the victims of such radical purging had personalities, families, loves of their lives.

This is a book the will spark your rage against the injustice created by prejudice, and how easily the masses can be lead to believe the ridiculous if there's someone charismatic enough in the big chair. At the same time, it's a story that inspires courage and hope that it is possible to stand up and do something about it. To pick a side and show support and change the world for someone else. In that way, Witch Hunt is similar to Threshold, in that it's a lesson in stepping up; in making difficult choices and learning to accept the consequences.

This book needs to get more attention; not just for the important reminder it offers, but also for it's well-crafted story, wonderful characters, and let's not forget that always-needed touch of magic ;)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weather Patterns

It seems I want what I don't have. Although this applies to many aspects of my life, it also pertains to writing - and never more so than in my choice of seasons for a given novel. 

I woke up this morning to find the first bit of snow on the ground. I like winter. I don't like the driving, or when the snow gets all mucky and brown (or yellow), and I don't particularly enjoy that it goes on as long as it does in my neck of the woods, but I like the first heavy snowfall of the year, and I love how the sky gets orange at night when it snows. It makes me feel like I'm wrapped up in a big fleecy towel. 

It's also when I start writing about summer. 

Some of my best thunderstorm and sunny-day descriptions take place in the dead of winter, and likewise I can come up with some fantastic winter-plots during a heat-wave in August. 

I suppose in a way it makes sense. Once more it's writing as a part of escapism - avoiding reality by creating my own. When I'm writing these scenes it removes me from the time of year, the tedium of heavy winter coats or the discomfort of humid-nothing-works-except-nudity-and-air-conditioning afternoons, and brings me somewhere I want to be. That's what all writing is, right? I guess I just notice the season contradiction because it's really the only aspect that keeps with reality. 

Oh, I can imagine that I'm in a world with magic, where a dragon could land on the building where I work, smash in the window with a heavy spiked tail and whisk me far away from the day-to-day routine...but I'm nearly 100% certain that's not going to happen. Probably. 

With the weather, I know that what I write will come true. I know the eventually the snow will melt (hopefully, although come April I begin to doubt it), and some of those days I've written about will actually happen. What sort of concerns me, though, is that I'm never happy with "what is", always looking forward to the next phase. But I guess it's a balance. Looking forward to the future, and expressing it through writing, while at the same time appreciating what's outside my window now. 

So I'm going to switch to my winter boots today, and maybe write a good old-fashioned snowman-building,  snowball-fighting scene. Just because. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

November Flash Fiction

It's the middle of the month, and you know what that means! Time to vote for your favourite flash fiction submission at Devin's Forum!

The difference this month? I maaayyyy have entered a submission of my own. Want to guess which one?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

C.J. Duarte's The Dash - A review








The only thing more difficult than trying to find time for great book in a busy schedule? Trying to find time for two. As I was reading O'Branagan's Threshold, I was also making my way through Volume I of The Dash - and both authors succeeded in sucking me into their worlds - Devin onto a ranch in Montana, and C.J. into the black-and-white world of Cloak Valley.

And I don't mean black-and-white in a rational, logical sort of way. I mean literally.

Claire Bead is a twenty-three-year-old Canadian woman with dreams of becoming a successful author, at the turn of the first decade of the twenty-first century. When she cuts work one day in a fit of desperation, Claire suddenly finds herself thrust into a dangerous bind, one from which she expects no escape. Just as suddenly, however, she feels her body disappear into thin air. 

What follows is an epic mystery unlike any other, as Claire wakes up to discover herself in a whole other world: the picturesque, whimsical, black-and-white town of Cloak Valley, Monochrome. Crippled by an imperfect memory and by the fleeting uncertainty of whether she is alive and dreaming, or dead and dreaming, Claire, with the help of others, tries to make sense of the muddled existence in which she finds herself; to make sense of recurring visions, which may or may not be dreams within greater dreams; and above all, to make sense of her own fractured identity and intangible history. As she becomes more and more comfortable in a strange land, she prepares for a future that might be either some form of an afterlife, or the last rush of unconscious desires that fly through Claire's mind, before she meets her demise.

A sprawling tale of spiritual self-discovery, misadventure, terror, intrigue and romance, The Dash also provides its readers with an invaluable capacity for personal interactions, at the least expected moments. It is not only a story to be read, but a story to be experienced. Just as Claire must eventually find the answers to life's most profound questions, in an increasingly-formless world, so can the reader be thrust directly into Claire's viewpoint, and embark on an enchanting ride sure to both heighten the senses and nurture the heart.



There are some crazy fans out there. Fans of films, books, shows, and graphic novels that stand outside the lines of genre. Fans who are proud of themselves for their own unique tastes, and passionate about the often overlooked, but usually exceptional "cult classic". If you are one of these people, then you must pick up this book.

The story begins when Claire - for reasons yet to be explained - jumps out of a window. It just gets more bizarre from there. After she wakes up, she begins her exploration of a town full of fascinatingly odd characters, in a setting that very quickly takes the reader out of their own reality and plops them down unceremoniously into one that is, although very similar in many ways, a little skewed.

For me, stepping into Cloak Valley was a bit like stepping into a graphic novel. It's a world where everyone's reactions and emotions are exaggerated and where people's flaws and quirks become the focus-point of who they are, like walking caricatures. Not a single character fit the mould for a typical human being, and yet somehow could be related to, attached to. This is what I loved most about this book,and it is also what marks The Dash as something new and unique.

The plot follows multiple story-lines and multiple characters, but everything comes back to Claire as she tries to figure out what's going on around her. Another aspect I love about the book is the very deep feeling of metadrama that pops up occasionally through out. As a writer, it seems that Claire has the worst case of writer's block ever experienced. As a writer reading this book, I can appreciate that.

A project nearly a decade in the making, the dedication Duarte shows in crafting this piece shows in every vivid (if colourless) description and every character with a signature accessory. It is not only a novel, it is a craft piece of art, and, if you are prepared and willing to try something new and different, then I recommend you order the book here. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Coming up...

I'm hoping that my next couple of posts will really catch the fancy of my readers. This Wednesday, look for a review of CJ Duarte's The Dash, and following that, an exciting new author Q&A! Well, I'm excited about it anyway.

After reading Devin O'Branagan's Threshold, I'm really looking forward to getting deeper into her head with a few pointed questions, and to give her a chance to promote the new book! Intrigued by what you've read so far? Click here to read another writer's perspective on all of Devin's books to date. It's a really great website with some really great insight! Check it out.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Devin O'Branagan's Threshold - A Review

Cole Dillon drowns in Deer Lake shortly before his thirteenth birthday. Elijah Thunderbird, a Native American shaman, travels between the worlds to bring Cole back from death. Unfortunately, Cole isn’t supposed to survive, and with the natural order disrupted, dark spirits follow them home.

During Cole’s near-death experience, he is assigned an important mission that involves saving the lives of many other children. However, when he is revived, he can’t remember the details and undertakes a challenging quest of discovery.

Meanwhile, the dark spirits begin to manifest in the lives of the local town residents, bringing hatred and death. When shamanic visions reveal that many young lives are indeed in imminent danger, Elijah has to help Cole find the courage to do what is required of him before it is too late.

As Elijah tries to help Cole, he struggles with his own personal demons, and both men—one young, one old—must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice in order to save others.

A moving paranormal thriller about courage, faith, and the transformative power of love.


Whatever you're doing right now, stop it. Making dinner? Let it burn. Sleeping? WAKE UP, sleep can wait. Instead, you must all hurry and buy this book. You will not regret it.

I fell in love with the main character of Threshold within the first two pages of this novel. A budding attorney, Cole is clever, funny, and a (at first) typical thirteen year old boy. The novel begins as Cole, his older sister Leah, and his younger sister, Rachel, hold a trial condemning the new member of their household: their stepmother. In this brief scene, I already learn so much about the characters I will grow to love.

The setting is divided between a cattle ranch, the Indian reservation, and the small town of Deer Lake in Montana, and the imagery of each is unique and beautiful, the characters rich and interesting, and the themes moving, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking.

An intense look at near-death experiences and the lessons we can learn from them, Threshold deals with  personal demons, actual demons, and everything in between. It's a commentary of prejudice, on acceptance, on coming-of-age, on the destructive nature of hate and the healing power of love.

These may be themes that have been touched on ad nauseum over the years, but O'Branagan's light touch, with her mix of humour and believable and, more importantly, relateable experiences, manages to steer Threshold away from being trite to a beautiful and touching narrative.

If I had to pick one flaw, it's only that it ended too soon. I would have been happy with a lot more.

I highly recommend this book, and after you've read it, come and meet Devin for yourself at her forum! It's a great place for writers, readers, or people just looking for a good chat.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action!

I cast movies in my head. Not just any movies, of course: book adaptations - especially my own. No, no, I'm not getting ahead of myself with fantasies of big movie deals, and premieres, and pretty dresses (dreams are the food that keep me going *sniff*), it's just something I find happens while I write. 

Scenes play in my head like a movie reel. There's dialogue, camera angles for the action scenes, close-ups and wide shots, and while it can get a bit distracting sometimes, it's a great way to get the words down. I'm not so much creating as describing what I'm seeing. This turns out to be a huge help with seeing subtle details. With character it can be facial expressions or movement. People aren't stiff, or permanently stoic (unless you're Barret), and adding the little details like a smirk, or a blink, can add to the character. With setting, it's the difference between a silent, backdrop forest, and one the reader can get immersed in, filled with the sound of birds, and twigs cracking, and the wind blowing through the trees.

I'm curious how many other writers do the same, because I know I'm not unique in this way. Most of my characters are the ones I've made up in my head that I can't match to anyone real, but I have faces of all kinds of famous people in mind while I write, attached to one character or another. Sometimes it's a post-writing match just for fun, but I find that choosing someone to play the role of my lead, for example, helps me to stay consistent in her description. I always have a general idea of what she looks like, but what if in one scene I describe her hair as wavy and in another it's straight? 

Same with setting. Picturing it like a movie set helps me remember where all the doors are to which rooms (bathroom second door on the left), and how to reach that secret stairwell that brings you down to the second room in the basement that can't be reached any other way. Since consistency is one of the key elements in keeping a story real and allowing the reader to get lost, I'm willing to use whatever tricks or cues I can to help me remember that Barret likes to drive blue cars, not yellow. 

I'm a DVD junkie. I love movies for the same reasons I love books - they're great stories, with interesting characters - and I watch so many of them that I guess it's not surprising I would use mental films to help me write. Is it a nice thought that one day I may see these films come to life? Maybe. For now, though, I'm content to keep them all in my head - it will never be more perfect than how I see it ;)


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Good luck!

It seems I've come down with a touch of the flu. It's wonderful actually. We've become very close friends. On the downside, I'm a bit out of it for a full blog post.

BUT I do want to send a huuuuuuuuge vote of confidence to all writers participating in Nanowrimo2011.

Not sure what it is, but intrigued by how fun it is to say? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Just as it sounds: over November, the goal is to write an entire novel. No pressure.

I haven't participated yet, but many of my friends are this year. My role will be to do my best to offer support, indulge them with coffee and chocolate to help them maintain some degree of sanity, and be there to listen to their wails of frustration.

Honestly, it's a great challenge, and ultimately it's meant to be fun. Sound like something you'd be interested in? There's always next year - and I encourage you to try!

GOOD LUCK PARTICIPANTS OF NANOWRIMO 2011!

And the post isn't over yet! The beginning of November also means a new flash fiction contest at Devin O'Branagan's forum. This month's prompt: dark angel.  Check it out and submit a story OR if you're more the reading type, check it out on November 16 to read all the entries and vote!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plotting

Mwhahahahaha!!!!!!!!

No? All right, not that kind of plotting then. So when I do I mean when I use the word? I mean structure, brainstorming, preparing the guide to get from point A to point B. I kind of touched on this before with my Brainstorming post, but the way I see it, there's a difference between initial ideas, and structure once you get started.

After that first word, even (sometimes especially) with a whole lot of ideas in mind, it's very easy to to get sidetracked and end up in the middle of nowhere without any idea how to get back to the main road. And on that note, I'm going to try to stop with the metaphors.

There are hundreds of different ways to structure a good outline. Just like with the brainstorming, some people don't bother with them at all, but I would be completely lost. Sometimes it consists of a few loose notes, sometimes a very rigid and specific point form list, it all depends on my state of mind on any given day.

There are days when my brain works only to outline. I have no creative insight, but I'm able to see the story progress in a linear way. I take advantage of those days. It takes me back to the days of essay writing in university where I would do all of my research, prepare all of my supporting quotations, jot down ideas for all opening and concluding sentences and make a list of questions I want answered. After that, it's just a game of fill in the blanks.

I also find it gets more intense the further into the story I get. On days when I hit the Wall (you remember that wonderful moment, right? The one where you want to bang your head against something hard), I turn to my outlines like a life raft (and there I go with my similes. Apologies.) my final chapters are usually plotted out scene for scene with the occasional bit of dialogue thrown in to make it just shy of an actual draft.

If you can't tell, I'm currently going through one of these phases at the moment. I have at least five pages of notes in my journal, full of questions I don't know the answer to and need to mull over, dialogue snippets, new character introductions, and a series of plot points I need to hit. If you feel like you're adrift on a sea of indecision and incoherence (more similes!) I highly recommend you take the time to pause, assess, and jot notes before moving on. It may be the difference between a strong novel and this rambling blog post.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Release: The Dash

As you may know, I've been following the development of C.J. Duarte's debut novel The Dash for some time now. Well, today is the BIG DAY. Head over to his website to reach various links where you can order!

And definitely expect a review up by yours truly as soon as I finish it.

Congrats to the author on this big achievement!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Commenting Tips and an Invitation!

I know some people have been having trouble posting comments here, and I apologise for any frustration! I don't know if this will help, but if you don't have a Google account, try using the name/url profile selection. Try adding that profile before writing your comment, and then once you submit, the security word should pop up. I know with some people it's a one-shot sign up, and the next time you're good to go - with others, you need to keep doing it. But I hope that works for those of you that want to leave me a message.

ALSO:

It's Halloween! You know what that means? Ghost story time!!
Check out the Flash Fiction contest on author Devin O'Branagan's forum, take a read-through, and be sure to VOTE! This month's prompt: No one believed the curse was real......
http://forum.devinwrites.com/post/October-Flash-Fiction-Contest-5517125

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adrian

There are many types of vampires on the market right now. Young and sexy, young and...sparkly, young and terrifying, old and terrifying, but how about: old and responsible? Old and financially savvy? They may not exactly fill a niche market, but guess what? These vampires deserve our attention and respect as well.
"Why?" you may ask. "What does he have to offer me?"
And to you I reply: "Because there may be more to them then what appears on the surface."

Adrian, over two thousand years old, was not a young man when he was turned, so when I arrived to meet with him, it was to find a man who appears to be in his 60s, with grey hair and a neatly trimmed beard. Blue eyes twinkle in a subtly lined face. His suit is classic, brown tweed, complete with elbow patches and a silver pocket watch hanging from his waistcoat.

He leans over to kiss my hand in greeting and invites me to a brown leather wing-back chair in front of a large mahogany desk. A wall of windows overlooking a flawless lake in Switzerland is the offered view behind him, but my attention never strays from the vampire in the chair across from me.

A French serving girl he calls Jeanne brings in a tray of tea and biscuits for one. He thanks her and she leaves with a smile.

"Can I just start by asking what it's like to be a vampire?" I begin. "We've all read the stories, seen the movies. but here you are able to give me a real answer."

"You've read the stories, you've seen the movies. What else is there to know?" Adrian's voice is smooth as butter, a low rumble that's almost a purr. I need to give my head a shake and focus on his words before I get lost in the spell of it. "Ms. Walsh, being a vampire is like nothing you could imagine. You get to experience so much, have time to accomplish everything you've ever dreamed. And it can be dreadfully dull. It would be unbearable if it weren't for the lovely people who come to ask me questions from time to time."

I giggle and my cheeks turn red. "I've met with everyone else over the last couple of weeks. I hope you don't feel too left out or ignored."

Adrian grinned, an interesting smile that kept his elongated canines cleverly hidden. "Not at all, my dear. It's perfectly understandable you would start with the key players in Katerina's intrigue."

"I think you're underestimating yourself. From what I hear you're Katerina's oldest ally and friend. How did you two meet?"

Adrian taps his finger against his top lip. "That was a long time ago. I'm afraid our sorceress had got herself into quite a dangerous situation. A girl like Katerina, it's best to help her when you're able, to stay on her good side. Not that I begrudge helping her. When one has accumulated as much wealth as myself, it's best when one can put it to good use."

"Are you as well off as this beautiful home suggests?"

Another smile. "I've been fortunate."

"Is it true that you act as Katerina's accountant, as well?"

"I manage accounts for a number of people. I have an interest in stock trends and watching the figures climb. Playing with them is a relaxing way to pass the time."

I glance around the large office. Floor to ceiling bookshelves line the wall to my left, and to my right a great fireplace, dark tonight with the mild temperature.

"How else do you pass your time. What would you consider 'Adrian time'?"

He chuckles. "My dear, after you've been around as long as I have, it becomes a matter of finding chores to keep you busy, not how to relax."

"There must be someone else to keep you company when Katerina is away?"

"Very few with her conversational skills," Adrian answers.

I smile. "What about Barret? I've had the pleasure of speaking--well, sitting in the same room with him. Most of what I know is guess-work though. He's in your employ, can you tell me anything about him?"

"He can be challenging," the vampire agrees. "But he's a loyal man, and most competent as my head of security."

I sigh. "All right, I have to ask. Are there many other vampires? If so, what fictional type are they most like?"

"I could as soon do that as summarize humankind in one person. It cannot be done."

I sense a wrap-up of our conversation and stand up. "Thank you for meeting with me," I say. He smiles broadly - that small flash of teeth - and bids me a good night. Jeanne returns to lead me to the front door. It's not until I walk out of the office and into a lovely foyer that I realise Adrian hadn't answered one of my questions.
___

Adrian is a very private man, but despite the ruthless and dangerous nature you can sense beneath the gentleman-y veneer, he will always try to make a guest feel welcome in his home. His servants think highly of him, and Barret has been with him for years, which leads me to believe he keeps his vampirism safely tucked away when not needed. But I still wouldn't try to get him angry.

And so ends my character profiles for Playing with Fire. With luck and good fortune you'll be able to read more about the people and their story one day!

Still to come: Katerina will be returning to the spotlight, but this time I won't be shining the light!

Previous Profiles:

Rhys Byrne
"Sally Wagner" 
Barret
Katerina

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Q&A with Muffy Morrigan

I've been looking forward to this Q&A for a while now, and I thank Muffy for her patience! Muffy Morrigan is the author of the Custodes Noctis series, which so far consists of The Legacy and The Hunt. She is a fascinating person. with a great sense of humour, a wonderful imagination, and is friends with a Giant Spider who lives in her office. I hope you enjoy reading her answers to my questions as much as I did!

Muffy Morrigan - The Legacy, The Hunt

Unlike the subjects of my last two inquisitions *cough* er, interviews, I don't actually know too much about you. Since I managed to get you to agree to answer any questions I want (mwhahaha), shall we start there?

1. What is your writing history? What point was it that you picked up a pen and realised people would have to wrestle it out of your hand to get you to stop?

My writing history? I first figured out I could tell stories long before I picked up a pen, I know that, or at least my parents and grandparents have told me that! I do know that I was six when I “penned” my first novel, carefully copying out several copies on lined paper and going door to door selling them to the neighbors for ten cents. I was in my teens when I finished my first actual novel, a science fiction adventure, although I had written many short stories by then. I had the chance to attend an amazing writer's workshop when I was sixteen with some of the major science fiction writers in the country—luckily many of them live in the Northwest. In college I took writing-heavy majors including history and so churned out a lot of words. I knew my academic dreams were nothing but dreams when I was labeled (at an academic conference) as colorful and flamboyant. Oh well. After that, I set off to write—news mostly and covered the gauntlet in the news world from obituaries and news briefs to reporting and finally to the height of reviews and a weekly column. Um, that was a really long answer, sorry...

2. You have two books out currently, and I believe it was with two different publishers? What was the process like for you?

Nerve-wracking! It always is, no matter how sure you are of yourself, there is always that little tick of doubt that is there the whole time. I love working with a good editor, though. They help tighten the writing so much!

3. I noticed a big change of writing style between The Legacy and The Hunt. Do you accredit it to something? Were there things you were watching out for?

It does show doesn't it? The Legacy was a novel I had been poking at for many years, haul it out poke, put it back, and over the years my style has altered. I think The Hunt is much tighter. I am tempted to go back in and rewrite The Legacy, believe me. I can see where I want it to change! It's hard...

4. Do you have a favourite story/novel that you've written so far?

Hmm, that's hard. My favorite novel that is all the way written is The Hunt, although The Berserkers (book three) is shaping up really well. I do have a couple of favorite stories I've written for fanfic, Apocalypse Now! I think is one of my all time favorites.

5. Tell us about your characters. I refuse to accept a short answer on this one ;-) You have so many intriguing characters that I would love to know more about them and what makes them tick.

Okay, I won't answer short! My characters in general are the Custodes Noctis a group of people who fight “the darkness that even the night fears”. Founded back in antiquity they deal with all the things that can throw the world out of balance. Each “Keeper” has personal Gifts as well as sharing a bond with their brother,

Specifically: Galen Emrys, the elder brother of my main characters. He is Gifted with healing. Unlike many Keepers in the past, Galen has more power and is more like the Keepers that fought back in the days when “darkness” walked the earth more frequently. He owns the Emrys Apothecary and had a PhD. He also plays guitar in a local band The Urban Werewolves

Rob Emrys: the younger brother. He is Gifted with the Sight. Rob is also a gifted linguist and researcher. He is more steeped in the Traditions of the Custodes Noctis than Galen and regularly cites the Sagas to prove his point.

Flash Lynch: Galen's best friend and bassist/vocalist for The Urban Werewolves. He started out as a minor character, but he has quite a following and I have to admit, he has really pushed his way to the front of the stories. He will play an even larger roll in The Berserkers.

Parry and Bobby Emrys: Galen and Rob's Father and Uncle. They're technically dead, but deceased Keepers can be called to serve by a living Keeper, and once they were called, they decided to “hang around” a bit.

Other Characters that are regulars are Rhiannon Ross: Galen met her when he was eighteen, her daughter had been killed by the Old One of the Legacy (though they didn't realize that at the time) and after that she became a killer of things that took children. I see her as hunting demonic forces that specifically target children, although she is always willing to join a fight.

Mike Silva: An ER doc and close friend of Galen

Greg Alexander: Kinda of a mystery, but he will play a bigger roll in the next book.

Stephan Blake: A Fae, he helped create the Hunt, and is currently living under the radar as a monk.

6. Time for the difficult question (although I think I might be able to guess the answer): do you have a favourite written character?
Of my own? Probably Galen or Rob, but maybe Tristan (upcoming project)

Another author? That's easy Elizabeth Peter's Ramses Emerson. I'd marry him if I could.

7. You've developped a good reputation for yourself with your fanfiction, a subject which you discussed very well on your blog post. Do you want to add anything to that? Where do you develop your ideas for characters who have already existed for seven years?

Well this will sound a little crazy, but they tend to tell me “hey, this would make a great story.” My Current fanfic “The Hunting of A Snark, with apologies to Lewis Carroll” has been brewing for a long time and suddenly it was ready. Other times the story just pops out whole, like with Apocalypse Now! Or my two most recent one shots. They just happen.

8. Do you have any other projects in the works?

I actually have two, one is still nebulous, but the other is in the writing stage. It's a fantasy/sci fi crossover called The Sail Weaver and I am very, very excited about it. The character Tristan I mentioned above is part of that story. I almost can't wait to get to that one. As soon as the novella and the Berserkers are finished... Oh! There will be a Custodes Noctis Novella out this month!

9. Finally, in one sentence - what advice would you give to all the aspiring writers out there?

I can do it in one word. Write. That sounds trite, but I don't mean it that way. Writing is like music, and you have to practice every day to move forward. I have pages of things that will never see the light of day that I have written just to write. I set challenges for myself and write. Maybe I do have a sentence: Write from your heart, write for yourself and make sure what you write is what you love.
_____

Review:

I'm going to review both of the Custodes Noctis books together, which I feel I can do safely because Muffy fit them together so seamlessly.

The Legacy begins the tale of Galen and Rob Emrys, Keepers who have been prevented from doing their duty because of an attempt on the younger brother's life that has forced the older into hiding. Five years later, events are set into motion that make it imperative the brothers reunite to stop an old god from returning to our world. The Hunt picks up shortly after as the brothers must face the consequences of having denied their role as Keepers while they were separated. Long considered a punishment for Keepers who turn their backs on their duty, the Hunt attempts to claim the brothers, but when millenia old evil try to break through the Between World, Rob and Galen have no choice but to use the Hunt to their advantage.

A simple summary for two novels full of fascinating complexities and a whole spectrum of great characters. In a world that beautifully blends a magical world with our reality, the Custodes Noctis series focuses on the importance of strong partnership, family bonds, and how annoying our friends can be when they go against what we've asked them to do only to get themselves in trouble and as a result end up saving our lives (Flash, I'm looking at you!)

What I really enjoyed about these novels? How well-developped the legends are; how Rob's insatiable desire for knowledge and research, and the sources he quotes, actually seem possible in our mundane world. It's easy to believe that Galen's apothecary shop is right down the corner, that discussing ancient sacrificial rituals really is coffee shop talk among friends. I was sucked into a world similar to mine in every detail, but full of the magic I wish really existed -- and I believed for a time that it did. Isn't that the ultimate sign of a fantastic story?

I am very much waiting for both the novella and the next installment, The Berserkers, to add to my shelves. If they're anything like what I've read so far, it'll be worth the read.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rhys Byrne

As far as character interviews go, I can now boast a delightful one. I am currently sitting in a comfortable cottage-like farmhouse in Killarney, Ireland with Rhys Byrne, the son of Katerina's housekeeper, Maera. She's in the kitchen cleaning up after an incredible meal and although she's allowing Rhys and I to chat in private, I can hear her rich voice humming a song through the door. Rhys and I are set up by the fireplace, after-dinner tea set up on the table between us, a warm fire crackling and popping in front of us. The fire isn't only for warmth and comfort in the damp autumn evening; it's also the subject of Rhys's sketch as he lazily runs a pencil over his sketchbook to take in the dancing flames. A mop of blond hair falls over green eyes as he stretches out his long legs.

Me: You're a pretty good artist. 

Rhys: [clears throat] This? This is just a doodle, really. I like watching for stories in the fire, seeing what comes up. It's fun practice when I don't have anything else to work on. 

Me: Is that want you wanted to do? Be an artist?

Rhys: [shrugs] I enjoy it, but I don't think so. I really like computers, networking, that sort of thing.

Me: Do you have any experience with computers?

Rhys: I've taken a course or two, but most of what I know has been self taught. Kat only just agreed to get a computer a few years ago, so it's not something I grew up with. She still refuses to go near the damn thing, but it gives me the chance to play with it.

Me: I'm sure your familiarity with computers helps her out a lot.

Rhys: [laughs] I'm sure it does! Do you have any idea how long it took her to find people before? Ah well, she is who she is. I've known her since I was five years old, so I've just learned to accept it. I'd like to go to university and get a degree in computer technology or something. Adrian, an old friend of Kat's, he's offered to pay for it. It's just a matter of finding the time.

Me: What keeps you so busy?

Rhys: Mam for one. She doesn't like the thought of my going anywhere, even to school. To be honest, though, what keeps me here is that I like helping Kat. As great as university would be, I think I'd get more out of helping her do what she does. Mam'd kill me to hear me say it, though.

Me: You're able to give Katerina information in other ways as well, are you not? I hear you have quite a talent.
Rhys: My Sight, you mean? I'd hardly call it a talent. I can't do anything with it. Kind of hits me over the head like a bag of wool from time to time is all. But it's true it's been useful in the past. One day I'd like to find someone that can help me develop it, so it's more than just random visions. 

Me: So where do you see yourself in the future? [Rhys laughs] No pun intended, but you seem to have a lot of prospects. What do you want to do?

Rhys: I want to learn how to fight. There are some crazy things out there in the world and Kat could use the support. That's what I'd like to do, in one way or another.

[The sound of a pot crashing to the floor interrupts the conversation and Rhys's face turns a deep red. He clears his throat, shifts again in his chair, and that line of conversation is done.]
_____

Rhys is about as close to a puppy as a human being can get. He's eager, he's loyal, and he tends to jump around with too much energy when he sees people heading for the door. Maera worries for him, and with good reason, but he's tougher than he seems and can usually hold his own. Of all my characters, I look forward to getting to know Rhys the most - even if he can't, I see some great things in his future!

Other profiles:

"Sally Wagner"
Barret
Katerina


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Sally Wagner"

For today's character profile, I'm introducing a bubbly and fun woman who also knows how to explore the darker side of magic. Due to her relationship with Katerina, she has requested that her name not be posted here so out of respect for her--

Sally: Yeah it's because I'm a snitch.

Me: Ah, Sally, welcome.

Sally: My name isn't Sally. Trust me, I wish it were.

Me: No, you asked that...

Sally: Oh, right. Really? You went with Sally?

Me: Anyway. Thank you very much for volunteering to answer a few questions. Shall we get started? Why don't you start by telling me a little about yourself?

Sally: Big question. Do you have a couple of hours? I grew up in Queens with my hippie parents and an older sister. I went to school at--

Me: How about just what you're up to these days?

Sally: Well, I'm twenty-six years old, single (you're real cute by the way) and I run a very successful occult shop. I'm not one to brag, but  I mean very successful. Spread the word, it's located--

Me: Sorry to interrupt, but you did emphasise the importance of keeping your head down. Can you tell us why that is?

Sally: Like I said, I'm a snitch. I like that word, ya know? It makes me sound like a character in a gangster film.

Me: Is that who you snitch for? The mob?

Sally: Gods no! What do you take me for, an idiot? I work for Kat.

Me: How do you know Katerina?

Sally: Fun story! Mind if I smoke? [she lights a cigarette and inhales deeply] She tried to kill me once. Yeah, it was a few years ago, I got mixed up with the really nasty crowd, and even though she, ya know, executed everyone else, she let me live in exchange for being her ear in the underground. I still have a lot of contacts that don't really want to be noticed. Especially by Kat.

Me: She has a reputation in those groups, does she?

Sally: You don't get her mad, no siree. She will destroy you. Literally.

Me: So what did crowd did you run with that turned her attention onto you? You must feel pretty lucky to have got on her good side?

Sally: Good side? Honey, Kat doesn't have a good side. I just lucked out and ran into her on a less violent day. As for what I did...probably best if I don't mention it. Don't want to summon the wrath of our dear sorceress.

Me: Thank you so much for meeting with me, Sally. I can't wait to see you in action in Playing with Fire.

Sally: Oh you'll see me all right. I'll be the one in the red silk nightie [she winks]
____

"Sally Wagner" is an off-the-wall character to write. An artificial blonde who definitely knows how to have fun, she's very high-energy and full to the brim with bad habits. Conversations I have with her always cheer me up and if I'd let her, this Q&A could have become an 18-parter.

I can't wait for you to meet her, but until then please keep this quiet. We don't want her getting into trouble.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Setting (Revisited)

My earlier ramble/rant about the setting in my own story made me realise that it's a good premise for a post in general: The Importance of Setting.

Broadly speaking: it's not important. The microcosmic world of Golding's Lord of the Flies is a perfect example. A reflection of society as a whole, the same themes could have been shared in a cut-throat office building or a generic overlook of a whole community. While I'm choosing to set my "past" segments in the late 12th century, I should be able to write the same conversation between the same characters in any time, place, or galaxy, and still have their relationship develop along a similar path.


Consistency, however, is crucial. Unless your character gets abducted from 12th century England into outer-space, the setting should be predictable. Fictional world or otherwise, once you make the rules, you have to stick by them. For more on this particular subject, please read the wise words of author Muffy Morrigan on World Building.

Moving from the general to the specific, the same rules hold true. Setting the scene is important, but you shouldn't include anything that isn't relevant. If you try to include too many details about, for example, the room your character is in, then you take away from the description as a whole. The reader will get lost in the colour of the divan with the purple upholstery and gold fringes. Unless it's a commentary on the host's interesting taste, then specific, intricate details aren't necessary.

In a lot of cases, readers prefer to develop ideas for themselves about what a particular scene might look like. I try to allow them the courtesy of doing that, by pointing out the general lay of the land, or what's important for the scene. Sometimes it's nice to go a little overboard and describe a whole room, and you know what? Go for it. It's fun to know what's in a writer's head. It's just important to remember that we're not living in early the 19th century with Dickens getting paid by the word, leading to 35 volume serials that enter into the minutest details about the various blend of colours in the tertiary character's wallpaper choice.

Everything in moderation.

Greetings October! And Detail Overload.

And we've moved into yet another month. Not only a change of season, but a lot to look forward to! Not least, of course, is Halloween. Love to hear if anyone has any crazy costume ideas going on! Me? Not sure yet, although I've always wanted to go as Sally from Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Anyone have a patched dress they could lend me?

So I've hit an interesting point in my writing. It's a challenge I've come across in the past and have usually been able to work around it by, well, making things up, but that's not going to work this time around. As I describe on my Daughter of Time page, the story is split between the present day and the past.

The present is all fine and dandy thanks to the wonderful tool that is the interwebs. It lets me know flight schedules, and shows me houses in certain areas that I use to describe some of my settings. It cannot, however, show me what life was like 800 years ago. Therein lies my difficulty.

I tend to get distracted by historical details that really don't impact my story. I am not a writer of historical fiction. I admire those that can manage it, but the near impossibility of getting correct all the little details is pressure I don't want to deal with at this point in my writing career. While there are some facts I'm doing a lot of research into, a few specifically chosen events, for the most part I'm aiming for the "feel" of time.

The images on Google's street views does not include what France would have looked like in 1203 and, alas, as good as medieval architecture was, there aren't many structures that still date that far back aside from the breathtakingly impressive Churches. So what's a girl to do?

Edit: Would like to send a big thank you to writer Fran Terminiello for her vast medieval knowledge and help

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"The Dash" Release Date!

Great news!

C.J. Duarte's debut novel has an official release date! Look for it on October 24, 2011 (will post links when available).

Who is C.J. Duarte? Check out his Q&A here.

Barret

I recently managed to corner Barret to try to learn more about him and while I had really hoped to share his Q&A with everyone, the whole conversation consisted of the following.

Q: So, Barret, can you tell me about yourself?
A:

Q: You're from Germany, isn't that right?
A: Yes.

Q: And you were a part of the German federal police for a number of years before you met Adrian, where you had earned an impressive reputation. What can you tell us about that experience?
A: Yes.

And so it continued. Instead of Barret telling you in his own words, of which he is a man of few, allow me to enlighten you on his character.

Barret is a man of unknown first names. He was indeed a sergeant in the German federal police and, therefore, is trained to be strict, disciplined and terrifying. He is very tall. And wide. And tends to loom over everything in his path, which is very useful for Katerina, who is about the height of a pre-teen. He also has a sweet tooth.

Barret is the thrall of a thousand year old vampire, and old friend of Kat's, named Adrian. By chance Adrian was there to save Barret's life in a moment of crisis, and in return for future protection from magical influence and supernatural villains, Barret has sworn his allegiance to the vampire and now heads his household security.

He and Kat are not the best of friends, both of them stubborn, and mistrustful of others' abilities. Thrown together into the mystery that is Playing with Fire, they have to learn how to deal with each other, or perish of animosity.
____

Most people who've read all or part of my various drafts really enjoy Barret's character. I don't blame them! He's a blast to write even if he says all of 150 words throughout the book. The tension between him and Kat is just one of the many conflicts, but it's one that (I hope) draws out a chuckle in my readers from time to time.

Questions for Barret? Feel free to ask, but don't expect an answer...


Friday, September 23, 2011

Like Free Stuff?

Here's an opportunity for you!!

A very supportive, wonderful friend of mine in the Twitterverse is having a giveaway on her blog. Anne Michaud, blogger and horror writer extraordinaire, is offering a copy of her horror anthology, Tattered Souls, Volume 2.

Check it out here! You're in competition with me ;)


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Katerina

In honour of Kat's 884th birthday today, I invited her to sit down and have a chat with me about her life and all the exciting things she's been up to the last near-millennium. She told me she didn't have the time. Fine.

For now , please allow me to offer some insight into the woman that is Katerina; Kat to her current acquaintances and Kate to people long since dead.

Kate was born in the village of Palonia, a community of galderas, or sorcerers, a breed now extinct. The shooting-fire-from-the-fingertips kind of sorcerers. The village was located in the hills of northern England near the current town of Ambleside and had a population of maybe one hundred and fifty.  Palonia no longer exists, unfortunately. If you went there now you would see nothing but a lovely view of the Lake District.

Due to a magical accident, she has been trapped in the body of a twenty-one year old for just shy of nine hundred years. While she has hardened over time, she still retains a love of laughter (admittedly more out of cynicism and sarcasm than a joy of life) and has developped a passion for corsets and ankle-length skirts.

Thanks to her immortality, Kat doesn't have many relationships with the short-lived, but is loyal and protective to the ones she does have. On the other hand, she won't shy away from throwing them into a fight if it comes to it. Her only purpose in life is to take down and destroy any supernatural beings that threaten her privacy or way of life, and she loves her job. Perhaps too much.
___

I've loved Katerina since the moment she walked into my head. Right from the start I mistrusted that small smile and the wicked glint in her dark blue eyes, but I never doubted that we would have a great working relationship. She's fascinating to write because of everything she's gone through, and some of it I don't even know yet.

Playing with Fire covers one year of her past and only a few months of her present. Everything in between is still a tale yet to be told, and in some cases a mystery still needing to be explained, but all of those experiences have to reflect in her personality now, in this book. It's one of the challenges of writing a character like hers, but I'm very excited to find out more.

Do you have questions for Kat? Sweet mother of mercy don't ask her directly, but feel free to post them in the comments and I'll see if I get her to answer. I mean, really. She's been around 900 years and doesn't have time to answer questions?

No, sorry, I didn't say that! I don't judge, I sw--



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Character Outlines

A buddy just gave me a really great idea for some posts, so over the next couple of weeks, keep an eye out for some character sketches (written, not drawn. Sorry folks!). Some will be from Fenwith, some from PwF, and some from the next series I hope to start. The challenge will be not giving too much away...

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Dreaded "WB"

Some writers strongly believe that writer's block doesn't exist. I'm not about to start arguing this point, but I can say that for the last few weeks my brain turns to static whenever I try to get creative, like snow on a bad TV channel, or a weak radio frequency.

Fortunately this time around I know the cause of it, and it's the same problem I had throughout my four years of university: I find it very difficult to switch my brain from analytical to creative. My default setting is creative, something my more logical friends find frustrating. Once the writing is done and I begin the editing phase, there's a huge overhaul to change my thinking, but I move in that direction easily enough. The trouble seems to come when I need to switch back.

So far there is only one solution I've been able to find: push through. For the last four days I've made myself sit down and stab away at the keyboard to create words. I string those words together into a vaguely coherent combination, and then I throw in some punctuation and move on to the next sentence.

For now, I don't care about the quality (and I don't know if I'm a fair judge. In my mind, it's very choppy and disjointed, but based on a beta comment, it's just as good as the rest...and hopefully that's a good thing?), it's just about getting the words out and letting my creative side get back in the game.

It's the best advice I can give anyone in this position. Don't sit around and expect the inspiration to come back to you in a great revelation. You can try it that way if you want, but if you're serious about writing as a career then you have to work at it. Persevere!

In the meantime, however, I also indulge in comfort food and warm blankets, because it's difficult, and frustrating and can make life a temporarily grey and bleak place. *sniff*

Friday, September 16, 2011

Writing Update #4

I should probably come up with some more creative titles for my writing updates, eh? Titles have never been my strong point, so I welcome suggestions!

I do have a few updates to offer you *waits for the fanfare to end*.

Last week, I finished my final (for now) read-through of Playing with Fire, and I'm thrilled to say that I had many "Man, I don't entirely suck!" moments. I'm actually very proud of the product as it stands right now and my fingers are very crossed that somewhere out there a publisher or an agent will be similarly impressed.

I have been sending out queries, and so far I've received 3 rejections (unsarcastic cheer!), but unfortunately (though not unexpectedly) no solid feedback in terms of writing quality or anything. S'all good!

On an even more positive side *deep breath*, I have heard back from a publishing house I've had my eye on for a while. Sent in my query and prologue, and within days had a request for the next 3 chapters! I'm very nervous, very anxious, and very obsessively checking my e-mail hoping they'll be interested in the rest of the manuscript. Either way, this is the furthest point I've reached in the process so I'm excited and happy.

And that's not even the end of my news! With Playing with Fire edited, read, sent out, and pending, I've officially moved on to Bitter Cold, the next book in my Daughter of Time series. The prologue and first chapter are done, and I'm busy planning out chapters 2, 3, and 4. Thanks to my wonderful sounding board, I've been introduced to 2 new characters and the knowledge that a 3rd will be coming to me over the next couple of months.

As for upcoming blog posts, I'll admit I'm a bit stymied for subjects, so I'm open to requests and suggestions if you want to comment, e-mail, poke, tweet, etc. I do know that I'll be having another Q&A session soon with the lovely Muffy Morrigan, author of the Custodes Noctis series I'm currently enjoying. Hope you'll all come back to take a look!



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thank you!

I was checking out my stats this morning and I noticed two exciting updates: 1) I recently hit 1500 views since I rebooted my blog four months ago and 2) there are some recurring visitors from all sorts of far away places. As a little blogger on the big, busy interwebs, I want to thank you for the interest and support!