Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Goodness!!

Today, Halloween (well, it's already Halloween on the other side of Australia!!) I'm over at Eleni's Taverna as part of Eleni-Fest, where I'm chatting about Romans and Angels and Druid Princesses. There's a copy of either Foretaste of Forever or Touch of the Demon up for grabs for one lucky commenter, and the contest is open until 5th November. I'd love to see you over there!

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Contest Winner, Contest & Another Upcoming Contest!

Congratulations to Kylie Griffin who won Eleni's super cute stationery pack!

There's still time to win heaps of fab prizes over at Eleni-Fest all this week. In fact I'll be over there on Saturday, Halloween, appropriately offering a giveaway of either Touch of the Demon or Foretaste of Forever. More on that later!

A quick update on Amanda's fun Zombie book trailer. Here are the deets, shamelessly stolen direct from her blog:

To enter all people have to do is either post a copy of the trailer on their blog, link to it or even post a tweet. Then, once they've done that they just need to send me an email to:

amanda at amandaashby dot com (no spaces)

to let me know what they've done and I'll put them in the draw to win my Very Last Zombie Survival Kit.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Delicious Debuts #1

I really do need an e-reader! I think I might ask Santa for one, if I promise to be a very bad girl... what do you think...?

Today I'm highlighting two short stories available from The Wild Rose Press, both written by lovely friends and released a few months ago.

Ellie Woods is in love...with a ship. When an argument with the ship results in a bump on the head, she finds herself in the strong arms of Alastair. But who is he and where did he come from?

Alastair has loved Ellie from afar for years, but duty has kept him from revealing himself to her. When a grave threat reveals his true identity, he hopes that Ellie will choose reality over fantasy.
A wonderfully different romance, Ellie is the only female Junior Engineer on her space craft and passes the time during her solitary shifts by chatting to the ship - which has its own unique way of answering back! I was completely intrigued by the mysterious Alistair and look forward to reading more about the fascinating Mates of the Guardians series!

KILT WORTHY by Catherine Bybee
Peering at the world from behind her camera lens, "Plain Jane" Parker is stunned to see a handsome hunk wearing a kilt as he confidently strolls down a busy Seattle street. Her dormant libido roars to life even before their eyes meet. Aroused and intrigued, she tosses aside her usual caution and follows when Logan MacLaren beckons for a delightfully sinful one-night stand.

Logan is an exceptionally talented lover, wielding the abundant sword he sports beneath his plaid to deliver unparalleled pleasures. He reminds her to trust her instincts after reality proves they're a more perfect fit than either imagined.

Then Logan drops his bombshell: He's traveled through time to find her and wants her to stay with him medieval Scotland. Did Jane just have the most erotic sex of her life with a delusional crazy man, or is it truly possible for her one-night stand to last forever? 
Catherine's delicious sense of humour shines through in this steamy romance, told in first person by the self-conscious Jane. I thoroughly enjoyed how Jane and Logan (and his abundant sword... gotta love that line!!) were swept up in the exhilarating ride of finding their soul mate and falling in love, and watching how Jane discovered that she was truly... kilt worthy!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Your Friday Giggle!!!

Big thank you to Eleni for her fabulous blog post yesterday. It brought back lots of "OH MY GOD!!!" moments for me, that's for sure!! Eleni will be picking a winner for her super-cute mini pack after the weekend so be sure to drop by to see if you've won! And there's still plenty of time to leave a comment - you've got to be in it to win it!!!

Amanda Ashby has just made a new trailer for Zombie Queen of Newbury High. I laughed so hard this morning I woke my son up, who limped into my office and then of course I had to play it again (such a hardship - not!!) He also thought it hilarious! So here, just for you, is the updated version of Zombie Queen of Newbury High. I challenge you to watch this and not spit your wine at least once!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eleni-fest: I'm not a kick-butt heroine...yet!

Contest is now closed!
Thanks Christina for inviting me to bring Eleni-fest to your blog. For those who don’t know it’s a month long celebration during October where I’ve been yakking about grants, conferences, writing community and the romance and fantasy genres. And I have been lucky to have many special guests throughout the month. Christina will join me on Halloween...cue scary music.

But today I’ll be talking fantasy and paranormal genres – more specifically kick-butt heroines (sorry typing kick ass makes me think of a kicking donkey. I know get over it Eleni, still…my term of choice is kick-butt).

In the beginning…
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved fairy tales and stories in general, watched many cartoons, comics, TV shows (e.g. Bewitched) and movies (e.g. The Wizard of Oz) to fall in love with the whole ‘fantasy’ world whether it be set in another world or in this one with paranormal elements (super heroes). How cool! How amazing! How fantastic! And the allure of fantasy began…

I wanted to be that kick-butt super heroine – I remember dressing up as Batgirl after getting a show bag from the Royal Show that is held yearly in Adelaide. Here I was with gappy teeth, wearing a cape pretending I was oh so super heroine-ish.

There was also Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Super Girl, Wilma from Buck Rodgers…sorry big fan of Buffy but she didn’t invent kick butt. Not to mention the non-paranormal ladies like Charlie’s Angels and Police Woman (oh so cool with great hair with bangs).

See don’t you just want to be these unruffled, tough ladies, with hands on the hips saying ‘bring it on!’ (cue the ‘da da daaa’ music) then flick the hair.

Oh and one of the first romances I barracked for was Wilma and Buck. I was only young but I remember that clearly. Though I can’t remember what did happen. I’ll have to go find me a DVD of the series and find out!

Cultural influence…
But even before this there were kick butt stories. And coming from a Greek background, a big influence on my life – Greek Mythology. When I was 9, my family travelled to Greece and the stories of the Gods and the history of Greece came alive in my mind. It was then I was given a copy of a Greek Mythology book (in Greek). There were some great pictures in it that stirred up the imagination, like this one of Athena. Yes, I still have the book *grin*

Can you see why my 9-year-old self would be intrigued? The vivid colours, the scene, and what’s more, she was a warrior god that also had the owl for the symbol for wisdom. Brains, beauty and power!

I didn’t realise until much later but while the Greek Gods & Goddesses had powers and were immortal, they were not always moral. Maybe that’s why the stories fascinated me as well as kind of scared me. Who knew what you could do to displease the gods and you suffer for it?

How each god and goddess represented different parts of nature, human nature or culture fascinated me – like Gaia being Mother Earth, Artemis the huntress, Aphrodite the love goddess and so on. Stories of monsters, creatures like the Gargoyles (Medusa) and abilities like throwing lightning bolts, appearing and disappearing, freezing a person to the spot with a look, sparked stories in my mind. Adventures like Odysseus’ trek home, Jason with the Golden Fleece, and Herakles (aka Hercules) brought that quest element to life. And of course the Amazons who were warrior women standing their own against the men & other creatures.

Now I have always been an uncoordinated soul. While other kids could do cartwheels properly, I just didn’t have that ‘bend’. Mine were erratic. I played soccer in high school but the amount of injuries I had due to lack of finesse, well I ran out of fingers to count. Not only was I unco, I was and am plump and vertically challenged. Yes, that’s short for un-PC among us. No long Elle Macpherson legs for me!

So the closest thing I could come to a kick-butt heroine is by reading about them, watching them, or writing about them.

Fantasy & Paranormal influences...
Though the serious writing came many years down the track when the series The Chronicles of the Cheysuli by Jennifer Roberson changed my life – epic generational fantasy. And I was hooked. Oh yes, I’d read The Hobbit, seen bits of The Lord of the Rings (cartoon), but there were female characters in this series that were just as important as the male ones. It has been many years since I have read the series and I may view it differently now, but that can’t take away the importance it had in my life.

Then I read some more different types of books – some high fantasy, others more with paranormal elements, all with a hint of romance.

Marion Zimmer Bradley – The Mists of Avalon
David & Leigh Eddings – The Belgariad
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (Cross Stitch) – Jamie is my all time fave hero.
Barbara Erskine – The Lady of Hay
Robert Jordon’s – The Wheel of Time
Sara Douglass’ – The Axis Trilogy
Traci Harding’s – The Ancient Future trilogy

Still I had always read widely and continued to do so (including horror, detective, mysteries, different types of romances). But I’ve really come to terms that I really haven’t as an extensive reading experience in the fantasy genre as you might expect. I had been slowly getting behind with my reading and with catching up reading the greats because of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).

I looked at this list of the Top 100 Fantasy Novels (speculative fiction) and worked out that I have only read about 18 of the titles and/or series. Sad state of affairs *sad face*. In my down years, I did however rely on TV and movies to get me through and the visual medium is great when you are too tired to read. So I score a lot higher with these. (Top 100 Fantasy Films and Top 100 Fantasy TV series for your interest).

Holy Cow - Paranormal Romance!
In the years where I had not been reading so much, the market of paranormal romance has ‘kapowed’. Aha, that’s my Batman reference all right.

And that is the direction my reading has taken recently. I’m enjoying reading these stories because even though they had been around, the stories have flourished adding different elements to old legends and tales. And special guests that I have this month on Eleni-fest who write in this and the urban fantasy genre – my gracious hostess Christina of course, Mel Teshco, Anna Hackett, Tracey O’hara, Eric Hayes, Keri Arthur, and Denise Rossetti (more fantasy but I’ll add to this list).

I’ve only recently found the Goodreads lists and they are a great way of introducing you to any genre you are not familiar with.

Actually in Heart & Craft, author Kelly Ethan has a great chapter about Fantasy Romance (this is the book that is part of my website competition). Where a fantasy romance focuses on the romance, the romantic fantasy has romantic elements.

I’ve also recently started reading Graphic Novels (aka formerly known as comics but with longer length from what I gather). And that has given me another layer to this whole paranormal/graphic world. It goes hand in hand with urban fantasy and horror I believe. Fascinating!

Still while I may not be as widely read as others, I love the fantasy and paranormal worlds and it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of them. Unfortunately there’s no ‘time stop’ button so I can catch up on my reading, and the last thing I want is for reading to feel like a chore. I want to read…actually I have to read, just like I have to write. It’s good for the soul.

My stories and world building...
The sense of discovery, of needing to obtain a goal, of watching characters grow and learn is what I love about fantasy including the quest fantasies. It’s probably why my yet to be published book -Healer’s Destiny- is one. And why I have more waiting in the wings for me to write. I love the middle ages type world with dragons, magic, and the journey of discovery. I love a Greek mythological type worlds also ;)

But since I’ve always loved paranormal elements, and had written a few short stories with this aspect, I’ve also started to delve the paranormal fiction world with longer fiction (novella and novel) and I’m having fun blending our world with another layer of magic.

In university a friend dubbed me the appendix queen because I had so much research in my assignments that needed add appendices to be pointed to, as it would not fit in the 2000-5000 word essays.

So yes, I can go on and on with research. I now take the ‘research when I need’ approach otherwise I will never get to the writing.

A couple of books I use extensively are:

The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference: an indispensible compendium of myth and magic

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday life in the Middle Ages: The British Isles from 500 to 1500 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

There are plenty more including books on mythology, costumes, and history, but these are a great starting off point.

And more and more, there are plenty of online references. Here are just a few:

RWAus has had a paranormal group off and on for a number of years now. Before the conference and since the loop is buzzing with more activity, which is great to see. Writers get each other, still those who read or write Paranormal (we include all speculative fiction in this), get why we love this genre that touch more. So it’s good to bounce thoughts and ideas with each other, discuss books, TV programs (yes, Supernatural is high on the list - ), movies.

I also follow blogs and twitter (you can follow other social media if you are so inclined) and it can help you feel part of the broader community of fantasy/paranormal romantic elements (big or small) enthusiast (say that quickly 3 times!). It actually has been a blast getting to know people via cyberspace. That’s how I got to know Christina (& our mutual love for BSG!)

So while I myself am not a kick-butt heroine, my aim is to create those them, give them vulnerabilities, battles and obstacles to overcome, and to make the story sing!

How about you?

I’m giving away a mini-pack to one commenter.
Comments will be open until end 27th October.

For more information on Eleni-fest, check out my website.

Thanks again Christina for having me on your blog. I hope I've been a good house-guest *wink*


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spring & Shivers

It looks like Spring might finally arrived here in WA (and about time too!) We've had a few days of sunshine and I actually took two blankets off the bed a couple of nights ago (this is Major). I can't get over the fact that four nights ago I had the heater on in the bedroom, and the following night it was so hot we switched to the air con. Crazy or what!!!

In writing news I've dived back into ancient history and am half way through chapter two of Druid 2. As the heroine in this one is the best friend of the heroine from book 1, I already know her pretty well, but the hero is all new, all dark and all brooding. *shivers* Just the way I love them!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shadowfae ~ Erica Hayes

Please welcome my special guest today, urban fantasy author Erica Hayes, whose debut book Shadowfae hit the shelves this week! Erica is another Aussie author and I met up with her at the New Zealand conference earlier this year. OK Erica, over to you!

Re: InterviewBio stuff: I write full time, which is the perfect job for me, because (apart from the fact that dreaming about hot paranormal guys for a living rocks!) we move around a lot and it’s portable. Once, I had ‘real jobs’, and they weren’t much fun. I was an editorial assistant (yeah baby) and a telephone fundraiser (you know that person that rings while you’re trying to have dinner and trips your guilt about starving African children? Yeah. That was me). Once, I was even in the air force, which didn’t turn out well :)

Now, I write erotic urban fantasy... Hmmm. Ever get the feeling you’ve been travelling in the wrong direction? But I had the opportunity to give up ‘real work’ a couple of years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

Can you tell us a little about your book?

Why, certainly :) SHADOWFAE is released on October 13 from St Martin’s Press, and it’s a sexy urban fantasy/romance. Here’s the blurb:

Imagine a secret world veiled in fairy glamour and brimming with unearthly delights. A city swarming with half-mad fairies, where thieving spriggans rob you blind, beautiful banshees mesmerize you with their song, and big green trolls bust heads at nightclubs. And once you’re in, there’s no escape…

Enslaved by a demon lord, Jade is forced to spend her nights seducing vampire gangsters and shapeshifting thugs. After two hundred years as a succubus, she burns for freedom and longs to escape her brutal life as a trophy girl for hell’s minions. Then she meets Rajah, an incubus who touches her heart and intoxicates her senses. Rajah shares the same bleak fate as she, and yearns just as desperately for freedom. But the only way for Jade to break her bonds is to betray Rajah—and doom the only man she’s ever loved to a lifetime in hell.

Fun, huh? Go watch the trailer!

Or watch it here!~

And there’s an excerpt on my site:

I was hooked the second I discovered there were half mad fairies and demon lords! How did the idea for the plot come about?

Well, I knew I wanted to write about a succubus — a demon who seduces men and sucks out their souls! yum yum! — so I got all the novels I could find about succubi to make sure I wasn’t covering the same old ground.

And you know what? All the succubi I read about, I figured they had it too easy. They’re demons, with magical powers, so they can shapeshift into whatever sexy form they like. Seduce whoever they want without effort, and then just switch it off and walk away when they’re done. No angst, no consequences.

So I thought: what if the succubus wasn’t a demon, but a human forced into hell’s servitude? What if she couldn’t shapeshift, but had to use foul demon magic she couldn’t properly control to seduce her victims? What if the demon’s power over her meant she couldn’t refuse, no matter how grotesque the victim? And once she’s (ahem) swallowed the guy’s soul, then what?

So my heroine, Jade, was born. She’s a human in thrall to a demon for a thousand years, and she’s sick of being forced to have sex with men she doesn’t want. She’s looking for a way out, an end to her thousand years of misery, and she discovers an ancient ritual that just might break her demon thrall and let her die. And then, she meets a guy she does want — a sexy 400-year-old incubus named Rajah — and sparks fly. Oh boy, do they fly :) Only he’s seeking his freedom too, and there’s only enough ritual for one...

I love sale stories (ok I am just nosy!!) so can you tell us about your road to publication - and your call story?

I did all the usual things: wrote manuscripts, queried agents, got rejected, tried again. My SHADOWFAE query got rejected I think fourteen times before the lady who’s now my agent picked it up. And then the manuscript got rejected by four or five editors before it sold, for being either too romancy, or not romancy enough, depending on the imprint. SHADOWFAE was my fourth completed manuscript, and the third I sent out queries for, but really it was the first one I seriously put out there with any idea of what the genre was or what the market was like. It’s a learning process, and sadly it means that a lot of first manuscripts will never get looked at, just because it takes us writers a while to figure out what’s required.

But I like to focus more on what I *didn’t* do. I didn’t meet an agent or an editor at a conference and knock her socks off with my ‘elevator pitch’, whatever that is. I didn’t know any bestselling authors from whom to get a glowing referral to their agent. I didn’t learn some secret magic formula to write my query letter so it’d immediately get noticed. I didn’t final in the Golden Heart — hell, I didn’t even get it together to enter the Golden Heart, and in each of the RWAmerica contests I did enter this MS, it totally bombed.

I’d heard all these myths about what you need to do to get published, folks, and they ain’t true :) though they do work for some people. I got there because I kept writing while I waited, and because I didn’t give up. And those are the only reasons.

As for call stories, mine’s kinda subdued. I was home alone, and I woke up to two emails from my agent in Florida, who’d been patiently waiting for me to get out of bed. The first one’s subject said ‘Offer! Yay!!!’. The second one said ‘Wake up, already!’ :)

I think I stared at it, and giggled. I’m still giggling, really :)

LOL on the giggling! It's actually great to hear authors do sign with fab agents through the slush pile querying process. So onto the nuts and bolts. Do you write every day? Do you give yourself daily/weekly goals?

Definitely. My deadlines are currently six months apart, so at the pace I write, I wouldn’t get the books finished if I didn’t do a little every day. I aim for 2,000 words a day, or 10,000 a week, which means I get the occasional day off if I’ve been good :)

Great plan! Panster or plotter?

Plotter. Plotter, plotter, plotter. Obsessive, perfectionist, figure-every-last-detail-out-before-I-begin plotter. I can’t operate any other way. I need to know exactly where each character in each scene is going, or I just waffle and end up cutting it out later. For me, plotting saves time in the end. That doesn’t mean I don’t get creative as I go :) but my stories tend to turn out pretty much as I planned them.

What keeps you motivated when the writing gets tough?

Deadlines? Sheer stubbornness? :) No, really, I think part of it is stubbornness — ‘I’m not going to let this problem beat me’. But adaptability also helps. There’s always a solution to every story problem, even if it means that your characters aren’t exactly who you wanted them to be, or don’t do the things you imagined they’d do in the beginning. You have to be prepared to change your mind. When I get stuck on a scene, I try to go back to first principles: who is this character? What is she trying to achieve *right at this moment*? Does she achieve it? What needs to have changed for her before the scene is over?

And, of course, I love spending time with my characters. Even when I’m in the deepest, darkest, most depressing ‘this-book-sucks-and-I’ll-never-write-anything-good-again’ hole, they always lure me back :)

Is there any advice or light bulb moment you'd like to share about getting/being published?

Don’t stop writing. Ever. Publishers don’t buy a single book -- they buy an author, and they want you to keep producing, the same but different. This is what they mean by an author’s ‘brand’ -- a string of books that are the same, but different. Start thinking about series arcs, connected characters such as brothers or families or clans, plots that can tie in with future books. The editor loved your original idea, or they wouldn’t have bought it. So feed off that idea, expand it, play with it, and capitalise on that editorial enthusiasm as much as you can.

Fantastic advice, Erica. Do you have critique partners (CPs)? If so can you tell us how you met up and your process?

I’m in a group of five, a subset of Canberra Romance Writers, which is an RWA group. I just turned up there and they adopted me. Eighteen months later, they’re sorry, but it’s too late to get rid of me now :)

We bounce initial story ideas about — I still remember ringing up my friend AJ and demanding to know whether she thought I could get away with a fairy serial killer for a hero — and swap manuscripts, or large chunks thereof. We’re kind of harsh with each other, I guess :) but we’re all at that stage of development as writers where we need to know what doesn’t work, not how great everyone thinks it is. I think that’s the most important thing in a crit group — you all have to want the same thing out of it.

The answer was yes, by the way. To the fairy serial killer, that is. That book’s called SHADOWGLASS, and it’s coming out in March next year :) in fantasy you can do anything! And yes, it’s got a happy ending!

Re: InterviewThis gorgeous hunk of man is Bollywood actor Dino Morea, and he looks a lot like Jade’s hero, Rajah, from my book. Not quite sure what he’s doing with the bike and the gas pump, but who cares?

Ha! No, I sure don't care (especially since it shows off his biceps so perfectly!)

How to catch up with Erica:
Re: Interview

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fractured Toes & Opening Scenes

I opened a blank document this morning and was all set to type DRUID II at the top... when suddenly the most perfect title popped into my head! It's a play on HIS FORBIDDEN PRINCESS and I don't know whether it will fly or not but at the moment it captures exactly the feel I'm searching for. Not only that but I managed a whole page! And after all my angsting on trying to figure out what the hero was up to in the opening scene, it's my heroine who walked onto the page. *Typical*

Anyway, back to that one page. The reason I didn't do any more is because last night my son, for reasons known only to himself, decided to use the family room as a skating rink, bent his big toe under and then fell, crushing said toe with his entire body weight. So most of today was taken up with the doctor and getting x-rays (he fractured the top section of his toe) and now he's on crutches. What fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fear of the Blank Page

Well I spent most of Friday and the weekend sorting out the tangles my CPs found and now my angel is with my agent. I need to get back into the ancient Roman mindset and I'm very excited about the second book except I have a fear of starting it! That dreaded blank page is sitting there mocking me. Plus I don't have a title, so it looks like it's going to be Druid II until I can figure out something a lot more enticing!!

I've no idea where the last week's got to and I swear Sunday bypassed me entirely. The fabulous Eleni-Fest is still going strong, with lots of amazing prizes up for grabs, so if you get a moment pop over and join in the fun!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hot Books Up for Grabs!

The book that would not end has ended! Hooray! It's polished and with my CPs, so now I just need to write the blurb and synopsis and what not and I'll send it off to my agent. It's a very weird thing but the minute I got to the end of my edits, my throat started to hurt. Now my throat is killing me and my head hurts like hell so I think this is my body's way of telling me to get away from the computer and rest!!

But before I do I want to share some goodies around, as some friends are giving away free books today yay! As part of the fabulous Eleni-Fest during October, the lovely Anna Campbell is over at Eleni's Taverna having a very rowdy party and a copy of Tempt the Devil is up for grabs for one lucky person who leaves a comment. And Erica Hayes, whose debut urban fantasy Shadowfae is out next week (and Erica will be here next Friday answering my hard hitting questions!!) wants to know what paranormal power you'd choose to take on for a day. For the chance to win a copy of her book, pop over to Literary Escapism!

And for all you zombie lovers (and I know you're out there!) head on over to the weloveya blog where my lovely CP Amanda Ashby is giving away a copy of Zombie Queen of Newbury High!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Thank You! xoxo

Thank you all so much for all your congratulations and good wishes on my recent sale to Berkley Heat! You helped make a special time even more fabulous and I'm very lucky to have so many wonderful friends in the writing community.

So, what have I been up to this last week. Mainly, I'm writing like a crazy woman trying to finish my current book. Today I hit 82k, so it's been a good week for me word count wise but ack! Still have lots to go before I get to the end.

But I love reaching this stage of the book, as I gallop toward the finishing line. I find it so exciting and can't think of anything but my characters and their world and the problems they have yet to overcome to find their Happy Ever After (and I'm still hoping like mad my muse knows how that's going to pull together). I forget to buy bread and milk when I go shopping, but I recall obscure details of my hero and heroine's life while poking around the frozen food section so it all balances out in the end!!!