Friday, September 28, 2007

Pwn3d!

...or...Whose Characters Are They, Anyway?

I had a draft responding to this question in a blog conversation posted over here at Smart Bitches, but I realized that after about six paragraphs, my answer no longer constituted a comment and rather constituted a blog posting in and of itself, so I figured it probably deserved a posting of its own. Not one to turn down post-fodder, especially as some weeks I skirt the edges of having that dreaded "gee, I dunno what to blog about" blog post that only serves to waste the internets, I decided to bring it over here.

Say you've written a series, or even a single book, whose characters have become beloved enough to engender community in your readers? For me, it's a dream of which I hope someday to be worthy. So whose characters are they? Whose characters do they become? By writing the book(s), you've created characters who are part of the implicit contract with the reader--you promise to do your best to entertain them and they promise to suspend their disbelief long enough to be entertained.

So what gives readers the clout to declare a series or a novel has "jumped the shark" so to speak? What gives the author the clout to declare that s/he's the one who created the "shark" in the first place, rendering it thereby un-jump-able by him/her. And WTF do sharks have to do with anything?

Rather than picking a "side" between author and reader, I'm picking the third option. Characters belong neither fully to either author or reader, yet they belong to both--author as midwife, bringing the characters into existence, and reader as the great-wide world in which they grow. But their family--what takes them home, feeds them, cares for them, raises them...it's the Story itself.

The Story is their world, their home. It's where they live, what gives them life and what they in turn give life to. More than the author and the reader, the characters belong to the story they're part of.

As an author, when I write a story, the characters have to fit the story they're in (the story has to fit the characters on the "stage" of the book). Within the story framework, the characters that play there are beholden to the story more than my idea or a reader's idea. When I write a story, my goal is to tell the best story possible. The story that carries the most profound truths about the human condition. It sounds like a lofty ideal best suited for "litrachyure" and too pretentious for something fun and genre and pop-culture-y like erotic romance. But it applies in a very important sense. It has to be a "good" story. And the only way it can be a good story (that nebulous, pornline quality of I-know-it-when-I-see-it) is if the characters, setting, events, emotions, words, all contribute their best to the story.

No matter how much I love a character, or want her to have a happy ending, if the story is made better by her dying, then bitch gotta go. It's like reading story with a deliciously horrible villain, and having the hero at the end turn the other cheek instead of slapping the dogcrap out of the villain. Unless the hero's true test is to control his temper, having the hero refrain from delivering the smackdown deflates the story. My critique partner (the lovely and talented Roxy Harte) and I call it chickenshitting when we're discussing each other's works-in-progress. Overcoming chickenshittin' to really pay attention to the story and its demands on the characters can very easily not only piss off readers, but the author herself as well. But as a very wise writer once said, "It's about the story, stupid."

None of this will preclude reader rage at an unexpected or unwelcome turn for a character, because story itself has a subjective element. Most readers, and authors, instinctively know this, so while they might be upset at the turn taken, it won't engender spittin' rage. Oftentimes, a little time and distance to digest the story as a whole will allow readers to see the story as a whole and appreciate it. But readers also possess the same instinctive feel for the story as the author does. And when the story itself changes in mid-stream, the time and distance don't help.

If anyone remembers the TV show "Moonlighting" (which made Bruce Willis's career, IMNSHO), the series seriously jumped the shark once Dave and Maddie got together. Aside from the Hollywood crap0la that went on behind the scenes and can be blamed for a good portion of the shark-jumping, the series (the story) stopped being what it was and turned into something else.

As an author, your characters are yours. As a reader, those characters speak to you in a voice you can hear and understand, but ultimately, they belong to the story.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

This See-saw Called a Writer's Life

I got home Saturday from a friend’s wedding to find a yellow envelope laying on my kitchen counter. I knew who it was from and since it was awfully skinny, I decided that I should just bite the bullet and open that puppy up. I did and it plummeted me down in the dumps…really way down there. It was a rejection letter (a personal one) from Adam Wilson at Red Dress Ink saying he’d decided to pass on BLITZ ME BABY. But atleast I didn’t cry. I really…really wanted too, but didn’t. However I did indulge in some comfort food.

Then Sunday, mail magically materialized in my box. I know it sounds strange, but I don’t know how it got there cause the USPS doesn’t deliver on Sunday. Anyhow, I looked at the return labels and expected to find Moonlight & Magnolia (M&M) conference info inside from two different volunteers. What I found was way more cool! It seems that my feedback as a Maggie judge actually helped contestants! Nicki Salcedo and Barbara Cool Lee both wrote fabulous thank you notes that lifted my spirits. (And I later found out via the FF&P Loop that one of the ladies’ is a finalist in the On the Far Side contest with the same entry I read.) This may sound corny, but this marked the first time out of judging 5 contests, I got kudos from the participants!

Then Monday I found out I wasn’t a semi-finalist in the Gather.com First Chapters Romance contest. Okay, I knew it was going to be a long shot at 400 manuscripts to 25 slots, but I still had hope. Call me crazy…I often do. :0) But I do have three people I befriended (including a local chaptermate among the lucky 25. So I’m not running over with mirth at my crummy luck, and I’m thinking “Hmmm…maybe this manuscript is hoo-ha.” But then I snap my self back to reality and recall it’s all subjective!! My manuscript simply has to click with one person…which occasionally falls into place like all the planets aligning in TMNT.

So I’m hoping that the see-saw will bounce back up, because I really can’t stay in this pit…okay, puddle…of despair and expect to rock M&M this weekend! It would help if I knew who I was pitching too, but the name of the game is learning to adapt. All the best go-getters are masters of reorganizing on the fly. (Dare I intervene to say that so far this week’s schedule hasn’t run to plan?) So I will have to prepare as best I can to make a fabulous appearance. And the scariest thing is….I’ll have to talk to people. (Yes, put me in the shy/non-small talker group!) In order to atone for missing my little brother’s wedding; I’ll have to make the most of every opportunity. How else can I justify not being there on his special day?

Since today’s the day I’m shoving off for M&M just outside of Atlanta, I decided to treat you all with another glimpse at BLITZ ME BABY (which I will hopefully be pitching successfully). Here’s page 27:

“You could stand him up.”

“I can’t.” Afra sighed. “It’s not good business. Maybe if I hold up my end this whole snafu will stalemate.”

Missy snorted. “And I’ll fall madly in love with a spider.”

That’d never happen. Arachnophobia should’ve been Misha’s middle name. “I can take care of myself.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Missy tutted, retreating to her office. “And it’s no problem about me staying.” The black cloud of worry lifted, her face brightening at another chance to earn her wings quicker. Missy exuded heady with responsibility the way her head cocked to the side and her eyes fixated far off in the distant If-I-Were-Boss dreamland.

It triggered the cold sprinkle reminder. “Just remember…”

“Answer only the situations I can handle. Gotcha!” Missy called from behind her desk, poised with her headset in hand. With the roving mic she could be anywhere and stay connected, including downstairs glued to her favorite weeknight game shows.

She’d let Eric’s shock-jock rumors speed in one ear then out the other and gotten seared well-done. Next go-round she’d be packing self-checked facts. Wiggling her mouse, Afra grinned at her anime-styled wallpaper. Her scantily robed namesake pinned her with a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately stare that summed up all her vixen glory in a nutshell. This visual call to arms always got her psyched in a heartbeat.

Her first stop was Shot With An Arrow—E. Ross’s fan club website. From memory she punched in the website emblazoned on his followers t-shirts.

A digitize cupid launched a golden arrow that landed with a midi thunk through a heart. Cute, but not exactly what she’d expected. A flurry of pixels fluttered across the screen, firming into a picture.

Oh my God! Make that demi-god.

Eric offered every plus or minus eighteen-year-old visitor a come-hither stare, his golden curls boyishly disheveled to fall deliberately over one eye. A slick, sweaty sheen covered his rock hard torso making his tanned six-pack glow. One streaming moisture bead had been frozen in time and its suggestive path drew an imaginary beeline for his barely-there jock strap.

Her mouth watered.

Unable to resist, she traced the elastic strap’s line over a firm bun bearing a playful football tattoo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is that a vampire in your pocket?

I've been bitten by the vampire bug. In just over a week I devoured all of Lynn Viehl's Darkyn series to date, and J.R. Ward's Dark Lover. I'll admit that they started off as 'let's see what everyone's talking about them' reads. Simple curiosity, if you will. I bought the first, Lyn Viehl's If Angels Burn, in this frame of mind. Dark Lover was on my TBR pile for almost a year with barely a glimmer of interest from me. Until last week.

I'm not really big on vampire books.

It wasn't always this way. I was a huge fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula and especially all it's film incarnations starring Christopher Lee as The Count. I read a novel called Nosferatu when I was a teenager (I still remember the Latino party going on next door as I stayed up all night to read it), but that was probably it. I could only get halfway through Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, which probably jump-started the whole erotic paranormal vampire genre. The whole Lestat series has been on my TBR pile for about 10 years. Not once have I had any desire to read it. I thought it was the vampire thing, but I've decided it just may have been an Anne Rice thing. Maybe, as the Brits say, she's just not my cup of tea.

But I read If Angels Burn and devoured it in a day, then quickly ordered the whole series on Amazon. When I was through, I was literally twitching with withdrawal symptoms. Dark Lover was the methadone to the heroine-like effects of the Darkyn, a mere substitue to fill the void. And that hooked me too.

I am now officially a vampire junkie.

I'm still bewildered by how easily I fell from grace. For years I've been rolling my eyes at the fang-baring, night-hunting, angst-ridden, 'ooh look what a horrible thing I did making a child into a vampire' cliches of the horror vampire genre. I'll admit it: I was a vampire genre snob.

I'm not quite sure why these two writers hooked me. I'd say it was the plot in the Darkyn series, and my imagination running riot over the big, leather-clad guys in Dark Lover. However, it might just might be that these two are definitely romances with lots of sex.

Or maybe it was just my time to fall in love with them.

Anyone else love the vamps? And why did you fall in love with them (or not)?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No Subject at all...

I don't really have a subject for today's blog (hence it's late arrival on the board) so bear with me.

First, I'm writing a novella, a paranormal of course, set in a fictional world of magic users and, gasp, written in 1st person. This is somewhat experimental for me since I've not written in that POV before but it's been interesting. The only real difficulty I'm finding is making sure that I show how the hero is feeling or what he's thinking. While I'm not a POV purist, I'm not a 'head hopper' either. Sticking to one POV seems to be stretching, maybe improving, my writing. Writing in 1st has definitely been educational for me :D though, to be honest, I do prefer getting into the hero's head and letting the readers see what he's really like.

Second, an old story idea has been creeping into my mind...usually in the period just before I fall asleep (don't laugh now...a lot of my ideas flesh themselves out when my mind is relaxing for the day). The hero is tall, blond or red haired, and handsome. He's classy but with a dangerous edge. And that edge clashes wonderfully with our heroine who's just inherited the only worldly object that can end his immortal life. My main problem right now is finding a suitable picture of the hero so if any of you wonderful people have a picture of a tall, blond or red haired man, feel free to point me in his direction :D

Last, I just wanted to mention a book I just read -- Beyond the Dark from Silhouette. It's a collection of shorts, which I rarely read since I just get really enamored of the couple and, wham! the story is done. This one, however, has paranormal stories so that held my attention pretty well. Still, the one story that stands out is the second in the book - Haunt Me. Here's the blurb, taken from the back of the book:

David Fields is on life support when his spirit leaves his body...only to encounter an evil presence that's gripping the hospital...and heading straingt for his estranged wife, Charis.Can David haunt the woman he still loves and protect her from a danger only he can see?


Now that's as dry a story description as I've read in many a long year BUT this story is wonderfully written, full of depth and characterization, honest emotions that touch you right from the start. Even though you know this is a romance and even though you know romance always promises a happy ending, you're left to wonder how this couple will resolve their problems and David's severe, life threatening injuries. Evelyn Vaughn is the author and believe me, I will be looking for more of her books.

That's it from me. Hope everyone has a great hump day tomorrow (and don't forget the handsome blond or red haired man, lol, I still need a picture to cement his image in my mind).

-- Lynda

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Conference Season

Over the last few days I've been trying to compile a list of local RWA chapter conferences to put on my calendar for next year. Being in a job where I have to give the powers-that-be my schedule almost three months in advance (yes, we've already completed the schedule through Thanksgiving, thank you very much) - I have to know waaayyy ahead of time in order to shuffle my schedule enough to fit not just the big conferences, but the smaller ones in as well.

A lot can be said for the smaller more intimate conferences. Less competition for editor and agent slots, greater opportunity to network, a chance to perfect a workshop you may want to submit to Nationals or RT the next year. I could go on, but in the interest of space, I won't.

Also, while looking into conferences, I've been putting smaller sci-fi/fantasy cons on the roster. Not necessarily for their workshops and siminars, but for the promotional opportunities. The thought is to get a table in the dealers' room and sell copies of my books and do promotional giveaways. And why not? Just because my sci-fi and fantasy has a good deal of romance and some really hot sex, doesn't mean that I have to regulate my books to romance conferences and signings only, right?

For big cons in '08 I'm already planning on RT in Pittsburgh, and a return trip to Atlanta for DragonCon. I might try the Mid-South Con in Memphis and a few smaller ones in NY State and Connectitcut. Of course, NJ in Oct.

Let me know if you hear of any small cons in the Mid-Atlantic to Ohio Valley states that would only take me a day to drive. I'll check 'em out and put 'em on the list.

-Kat

Friday, September 21, 2007

man Enough to Show Feelings

A man who shows his feelings. We know them - the ones who will shed a tear at the sight of their newborn baby, who will openly admit to smelling the roses and loving it, who love to play with kittens and puppies or spend time with an old pet, who will watch a drama movie and not scoff. They are out there, ladies!!

When I wrote Soul of a Hunter, I never once imagined that my hero, Cam, a big, tough Daamen trader, would ever show so much emotion. He took even me by surprise during one scene, and to this day, I still wonder how I wrote it. LOL I admit, he's a favourite hero of mine, and for his lady love, he will do anything and stand up against anyone, even his own leaders. He loves her that much. And he's not ashamed to show her how much...

Here is the excerpt - enjoy!

*********************
“As for we planet leaders, send word to your planets to be on guard. Keep close vigilance on the skies for intruders. Rally your planet troops to search the settlements for anyone alien to your planet and have them also taken into custody. Until we get to the bottom of this, strict security law will apply to every planet under the Intergalactic Peace Council. Once you have done this, remain in your individual cabins under close guard with your personal guards only. Contact will be maintained through the viscomm.”
“Do you think this is really necessary?” one member queried.
“We can’t risk being together. If we are being infiltrated, once it becomes known that we’re onto them, our lives may be in danger. It’ll be harder to reach us separately.”
“He’s right.” Sabra folded her arms. “‘Tis easier to kill a flock.”
Within minutes the chamber was empty of all except Davan, Grezel, the hulking Daamen guards, Sabra, Cam, and Meekta and his black-clad guards.
Meekta’s intense gaze settled on Sabra. “Your suspicions prove correct, hunter.”
“This isn’t over yet,” she returned. “My instincts tell me ‘tis just the beginning.”
Hmm.” His attention switched to Grezel. “I will be in touch.”
Grezel nodded and watched the black-robed man sweep from the room surrounded by his guards, their cloaks billowing around booted feet.
“At last,” Sabra muttered.
Cam glanced down at her in amusement. “You mean now there’s some action?”
“I can’t stand this waiting.” She started to move off.
“Where are you going?”
“To search the ship.”
“Oh, nay, you’re not!” He strode after her rapidly.
Without a word needing to be said, two of the Daamen guards blocked the doorway.
“Move it,” she said.
“Sorry, lass,” the big redhead replied.
“I’m not the outlaw, Daamen. Now let me pass.”
He eyed her calmly.
Anger started to burn. Turning, she beheld Cam approaching determinedly. “Tell them to move.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” he returned.
“What?”
“Sabra, we’ve been ordered to our cabins--”
“You might have been but I intend to search this ship.”
“Nay, ‘tis too dangerous.”
“Oh for... I’m a bounty hunter, Cam!”
“The soldiers will take no notice of that, Sabra. Their orders come from the IPS Council. Everyone is to be confined to their cabins under safe guard until given the all-clear. That includes you.”
“No one gives me orders, least of all you!”
He came up close but she stood her ground. Gazing down into her furious face, he said firmly, “I won’t risk you being hurt. Those soldiers will toss you into a holding cell if you so much as stick that pretty little nose into the corridor.”
“I’ve been in worse situations and lived to tell the tale, and those soldiers will be in for a nasty surprise if they touch me. Besides which,” her eyes narrowed, “you don’t own me and have no right to order me around.”
Muscles bunched as he folded his arms across his chest. Gone was the tender, playful lover and in his place stood a determined man. Unmoving and protective. Extremely protective.
A Daamen male with his wench. She recognized the signs and unwittingly her mouth went dry.
Until now, he’d not shown any indication of anything other than that of a man courting a lass, affable and easygoing. Supportive. But this side was one she’d seldom seen--in regards to herself, anyway. The square jaw was set, eyes steady. His bearing was almost one of... dominance.
When he didn’t reply, she tossed her head and turned back to the impassive guards. “Get out of my way.”
They didn’t move, simply gazed down at her.
Grezel, order them to move.”
“Nay.”
Incensed, she spun around once more to glare past Cam at the Daamen leader. “Trust you to be on Cam’s side! How dare you presume to keep me prisoner! Who do you think you are?”
The reply was mild. “Your leader.”
“I have no leader!”
“You are a Daamen and come under the Daamen law.”
“I’m a bounty hunter, not--”
“Makes no difference. You bear the Daamen mark, you are a Daamen, and at this moment come under our law. That, wench, will never change, no matter where you are or what you do. Now you will return with us to our cabins and remain under safe guard as ordered by the IPS Council.”
Rage and indignation boiled up inside her. “You can’t make me, Grezel. No one can. I’ll obey no man, no one!”
“For your safety, I will make you. As leader of our planet, it would be negligent of me.” Grezel nodded to the guards behind her and immediately big hands wrapped around her upper arms. “Take her to our cabins.”
“Let go!” She started to struggle.
“Unhand her,” Cam growled.
Looking up, Sabra saw him eyeing the guards warningly, his big hands fisted.
“Cam, she can’t be allowed to wander the ship,” Grezel said.
“Tell your guards to take their hands off her.” Dark eyes remained fixed on the guards.
They returned his look calmly but she could feel their tension. Daamens they all were, but these guards obeyed Grezel only. Behind Cam, she saw four other Daamen guards move closer. He wouldn’t have a chance. But why was he so angry when they were making her do what he wanted?
Totally puzzled, she stared up at him.
“She won’t be harmed, Cam.”
The dark-haired trader moved one threatening step closer and Sabra felt the guards’ hands tighten in preparation to pull her back.
“Cam, what are you doing?” she demanded, heart starting to thump. This was crazy! What was going on?
Motioning the guards nearing from behind to wait, Grezel stepped in front of the angry trader. “Mayhaps you should tell me what this is about.”
“Sabra’s my lass, Grezel. No one is to touch her, do you understand?” Cam bit out angrily. “I will take her to our cabins. Now tell them to unhand her, for I won’t ask again.”
“Ah.” Now he understood. One brow arched in fleeting amusement and he moved aside. “Release the little Daamen hunter, guards.”
No sooner did they obey than Sabra found her wrist grasped and she was pulled forward and tucked into Cam’s side, one brawny arm holding her securely around her shoulders.
A brief twinkle lit Grezel’s eyes and he exchanged a wink with one of his guards. “Now are we ready?”
“Aye.”
Bewildered by the rapid change of events and fearing any threat to Cam, Sabra allowed him to steer her from the chamber, Grezel following. The Daamen guards fell in around them, a formidable protection.
Entering the Daamen chambers, Grezel indicated a small hall with doors on either side. “The cabin at the end is empty. Make yourselves at home until we hear further news.”
With a grim nod, Cam maneuvered Sabra down the hall and into the cabin, closing the door behind him and cutting off Grezel’s chuckle of amusement. His leader’s quirky sense of humor he didn’t need right now.
“What the hell was all that about?” Sabra demanded. “I don’t understand you, Cam.”
There was no answer. Instead, he turned her to face him and held out her arms, his gaze running across her upper arms. Gently he ran his fingers around the softness.
“What are you doing?” She pulled back.
“Did they hurt you?”
“What?”
“They had no right to grab you.” Jaw tight, he drew a deep, calming breath.
“No right? Grezel ordered them to, that’s why. Hell, Cam, you had no intention of letting me go, so why the big to-do about him doing the same?”
“Because only I have the right to touch you.” With a sudden movement, he wrapped a powerful arm around her waist and pulled her against his chest. “No one but me.”
The possessiveness stamped on the handsome face made her nervous... and something else. There was a ruthlessness about him that added to his dangerous appeal. His demeanor was as unyielding as the strength in the arms holding her firmly. This was the untamed side of him. His actions had been that of claiming her, openly challenging any other who dared touch what he considered his. He’d been ready to fight to the death for her.
In that instance, Sabra knew without a doubt that Cam would never let her go.
In that instance, Cam knew he would never let her go.
He watched the awareness dawn in the cobalt eyes, waited for it to fully strike home, and still he watched as her eyes widened, the soft lips parting slightly, the sudden tremble that shivered through her at the knowledge.
He held her gaze captive, slowly lowering his head until his lips hovered above that soft mouth. Then with a whispered, “You’re mine,” he took her mouth. Captured her with lips and arms, crushing her close as he plundered her mouth, demanding entrance, sweeping in to stake his claim, leaving his essence branded inside her even as he took her flavor into himself.
When he finally released her mouth, he pressed his face into the curve of her neck, lips and breath hot against her skin. “I’ll kill anyone who ever dares to hurt you. One finger laid on you, Sabra, and their lives will be forfeit.”
His passion scared her. “Cam, please--”
“Nay. You know, Sabra. The depths of my love for you are fathomless and can only get deeper.” Firm lips pressed hotly to the pulse fluttering wildly in the slim throat. “I won’t lose you again. Ever.”
The convictions in his words both alarmed and thrilled her. His protectiveness made her feel cherished. Loved as no one had ever loved her before in her life. A whirlwind of emotions tumbled through her.
“I make no excuses for whatever I need to do to keep you safe.” Lifting his head, he cupped her cheeks in calloused palms. “I’d die for you, Sabra. I love you that much.”
Tears filled her eyes. “Don’t say that, Cam. Please.”
“‘Tis the truth. I would never lie to you, Sabra. Don’t ask me to now.”
“It scares me.”
“I scare you?”
“Nay. The thought that...”
“What?”
“God, Cam. Why did you have to come back into my life?” A tear slid down her cheek.
He caught it with his thumb, speaking with quiet conviction. “Because we were meant to be together.”
“But when I leave--”
“You won’t be leaving me.”
“You’d keep me prisoner?”
“Nay. Never. Where you go, I go.”
The proclamation seared through her. Go with her? “You--you can’t! ‘Tis too dangerous, too--”
“I won’t leave you.”
“You’re a trader, Cam. You’d never survive in my world.”
“I’d never survive without you.” The conviction in his voice, in his eyes, in the words, pierced her to her very soul. “I love you that much.”
“I--I don’t know what to say. I...”
His smile was one of tenderness tinged with a touch of sadness. “You don’t have to say anything, lass.”
Releasing her, he crossed the cabin to sit sideways on the window seat by the large porthole, gazing out into the infinite space, blackness pricked by starlight. Placing one booted foot on the cushion, he leaned forward, resting his arm on his bent knee.
He loved her that much. Enough to give up the trading life he enjoyed, the family he loved, his home world and friends. Enough to live dangerously with her, to live with grim-faced men with hard hearts that he could never hope to understand. Whom she knew instinctively would never befriend him, for they would never understand him in turn. How could he possibly stomach the hangings, watching her hunt and kill? It wasn’t in him. But he loved her enough to do it. He loved her that much.
Had she loved anyone enough to do that? Did she love him enough to give up her life? Her friends? To return to Daamen and live as his wife, waiting for him to return from his trading trips?
But he would return. That was the difference. In her life, she could be killed. He could be. Would be, for she knew without a doubt that he wouldn’t allow her to go on a hunt without him. Nay, he’d come, too. And be killed. Protecting her.
The thought of life without him, of his being killed made her heart ache and throat burn. Slowly she moved across the floor, stopping close behind him. “Why didn’t you say this before?”
“I didn’t know before.” He didn’t turn his head to look at her.
“Why now?”
“I didn’t know until the outlaws were actually here. Until the guards laid their hands on you.”
Silence descended once more and he continued to gaze out the porthole.
Standing behind him, Sabra felt his determination--and his sadness. The longing to comfort him swept through her and bending down, she looped her furthest arm around his shoulder while her nearest hand reached around to rub soothingly along the hard swell of muscles, bare between the open vest he wore. Resting her chin on his broad shoulder, she waited silently.
One large hand reached up to cover her smaller one, squeezing it gently before he brought it to his lips and pressed a soft kiss into her palm.
“I never meant to hurt you, Cam,” she whispered. “I would shift heaven and earth to remove it if I could.”
“You never hurt me, lass. The only way you could do so would be if...”
“If what?”
He turned his head, looking directly at her, and her breath caught at the brilliance of tears reflected unashamedly in their depths. “I love you, Sabra. Don’t leave me. Don’t ever leave me.”
The soft plea wrung her heart as nothing else could ever have done. This man who feared no one and nothing, this man full of laughter and passion, was literally brought to his knees by his love for her. Not a possessive, clinging love, but protective and wholesome, fully given with every fiber of his noble being. In that instance she knew that only she held the power to destroy him. If she turned away and left him, he would never be the same man. It was doubtful he’d even survive it. His love for her was that deep, that true. That strong.
“What did I ever do to deserve you?” she whispered brokenly.
“That should be my question but ‘tis one I don’t ask.” He kissed her so tenderly it touched her to her soul. “I just thank God every hour for you.”
The tears were still in his eyes and the need to hold him close was more than she could bear. Slipping onto the window seat behind him, she bent her furthest leg up alongside his and sitting back against the wall, gave him a gentle tug.
Cam needed no second bidding. He leaned back into her, his head resting on her shoulder, back nestled comfortably against soft breasts. Catching her hand that lay upon his chest, he threaded their fingers together.
“Am I too heavy for you, lass?”
“Nay. You’re just right.”
Resting her cheek against the glossy black curls, she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Immediately his unique, masculine scent filled her senses and the warmth of his body seeped into hers. Tunneling her hand into the thick curls, she massaged his scalp and smiled as he relaxed fully against her.
His heavy weight was more than welcome.
Peace stole over her. For the first time she could remember, she felt right. And it was because of the man in her arms, the man who rested trustingly against her, accepting her administrations and comfort without protest, who showed his feelings without shame. The man who would stand beside her against everyone and anything.
“Cam?”
“Aye?”
“I love you.”
His hand squeezed hers gently.
“I’ll never leave you.”
The man she couldn’t live without.
Tilting his head back, Cam gazed deeply into her cobalt eyes, seeing the love that softened the depths. He couldn’t speak. There was no words for what he felt. Instead, he lifted his hand to cup her cheek tenderly.
Instinctively she knew what he wanted. She wanted. They both needed. Dipping her head, she placed her lips against his.
The kiss wasn’t hard, nor urgent. Slow and tender, conveying the love they both felt but couldn’t put into words.
When she lifted her lips, she smiled back at him, then straightened to rest her cheek once more atop his head. This time she encircled both arms around him, cradling him close.
Closing his eyes, Cam gave himself up to her warm embrace as he’d given his heart into her keeping. And he knew without a doubt she’d keep his heart safe.

*****************

Soul of a Hunter is available from Wings ePress http://www.wings-press.com/ in ebook and trade paperback.

cheers!
Angela

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What's That I Smell? The Salt-Air o'th' Sea?



Arrrr!

What is it about pirates? Why do we love them so? The rebels, outside the law, but with codes of their own. I'll tell you why I love 'em. Because if it weren't for Johnny Depp, my daughter would never have eaten corn flakes. Or as she calls 'em, "Pirate Flakes." So yeah...Pirates 1; Mom 0.

Perhaps it's the excitement of playing nautical cat-and-mouse games in Caribbean seas, or thumbing your nose at authority in the pursuit of booty and gain (and calling yourself a "privateer" if your government quietly sanctioned it). The excitement and romance of lawlessness on the open waves, and one of the few careers with equal opportunity employment options.

Or maybe it's the hundred and some-odd verses of the Good Ship Venus that bring a serious appreciation to the freedom of the open seas. ;)

Regardless, the long scurvy tradition carries on today. Hoist yer petards and have fun with it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"How to Publish Your Manuscript"

This headline caught my aunt’s attention and she called me on the spot to tell me about the class. Admittedly, I was nervous about going, because honestly outside of RWA chapters and affiliated groups romance can get a bad rap. I hoped I wouldn’t have to stand up in front of everyone and say, “I’m Skylar. I write romance.” In my neck of the woods, you get THAT look. The one that says, “Oh, you write smut.” (In retrospect this is funny because the business center is a block away from 3 adult stores.)

I went to the class intrigued to learn the ins and outs of using author devices on Amazon.com and an insider’s advice on booksignings. (True I don’t have a book out, but it’s always good to be prepared for the “what ifs”.)

I walked into class, and just as I’d guessed, it was dominated by women (and a couple unlucky bfs/hubbies that got dragged along). The presenter was dressed nicer than anyone in a crisp pinstripe business suit. I thought it was a little bit of overkill, but when he started talking I knew why. He’s a businessman…not necessarily a writer, so upper most in his mind was setting a good image. Plus projecting that polished kind of look made him appear credible.

I’m not saying the talk wasn’t good, but I could tell by the gallery’s questions that we had some serious beginners in the ranks. And I didn’t feel at ease with the prof’s spin that an author who’s tired of getting rejected, should self-publish. That gave me a cold chill. These people (of which only 3 including myself had finished a manuscript) sat out there seeing $ because of his example on how real publishing royalties and advances stack up side-by-side with self-publishing payoffs. Sure the $4,000 difference in the self-published author’s pocket (and the idea of controlling everything) seemed nice, but he completely glossed over the work it would take to make a self-published book successful. In order to get those greenbacks in the author’s pocket he’d have to sell constantly to push that same number (as well as sell every single copy). And hawking a Kinko-ed copy from the trunk of your car doesn’t exactly exude the same image as signing stock at a B&N (unless you’re lucky to break in with the chain’s distributor).

In the instructor’s case, he’d decided to write a non-fiction entrepreneur how-to and ended up self-publishing because he couldn’t get a publisher to bite. When an agent did reply with interest, he already had the book out. So she passed on representation. As a businessman, he was able to take his book to meetings, panels, etc. to promote. By following up on a real professor’s tip he managed to get his book picked up by a small publisher. (Because they published the same book, he had to trash the extra copies of his self-published book, which he’d paid out of pocket for.) So he had seen both sides of the coin to an extent…and decided to self-publish his second book.

Eventhough he’d seemed to walk the walk, his answers for some of the questions still didn’t sit easy with me. And I made sure to pipe up about those “agents” who snipe needy authors like true vanity presses. Heck, I’d seen Chaptermates fall for those ploys, so I new these students wouldn’t know the difference.

In the end, I came home shaking my head, almost glad the 3 hour class had wrapped in 2. Especially since the instructor had glossed over all the points I’d wanted to learn about by saying, just go to Amazon.com and you’ll see a link for a bunch of author stuff. Then he’d shared more personal anecdotes about his booksignings.

I still frown thinking about his overall “take home” message…no not the pep talk of how a down-and-out English teacher and divorced, welfare mom can be household named bestsellers…but that self-publishing just might be the way to go.

I’ve heard more buzz lately from new romance authors wanting to self-publish. I know cases like this instructor’s can turn into big success (just look at Christopher Paolini and ERAGON), but for most it never seems to be a winning situation or even a wash. In most of the cases I’ve heard about and from what I’ve read it seems self-publishing for fiction writers is the kiss of death.

What do you think about self-publishing? Is it a good thing or bad thing for a writer’s career? And should a “newbie” really give it a shot to break into the business?

___________________________

The one saving grace that I enjoyed in the seminar was that the instructor pushed “On Writing” by Stephen King. If you’re a writer and haven’t read it, please do. You won’t be sorry!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ode to Hunkiness

Ode To Hunkiness by Kat

Bodies so hot they melt the computer screen on contact,
Tension filled pages pregnant with desire,
Oh, how women have dreamed of you!
Your muscles rippling, sweaty from the exertions of saving your true love's life.
A love you're afraid to confront.

You come to us from writers' dreams,
Hands uplifted beckoning us to share the fantasy,
Wanting us to care, to feel, to want as we haven't before.
Your eyes in blue, or gray, green or dark as night, hide your secret pain,
The heart you dare not show.

Why do we follow?
What can you teach that we don't yet know?
That even a bad boy can be redeemed?
That a pure heart can sometimes be hidden behind troubled veils.

We cheer for you as you struggle to find love.
Find meaning.
Something to live for.
You draw us into your world with your pain.

We want to hold you.
Rock you like a babe in arms.
Hold you to our breasts and tell you love will prevail.
And you believe.

So we read. We dream. We desire.
That which we cannot have.
Cannot touch.
But feel with all our hearts.


(Hey, I never claimed to be a poet...and it's been a very long time since I've tried. I'll admit, I'm a little rusty.)

-Kat

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sexy heroes

Sexy heroes are what sells our books. It’s been proven over the past...well, however long we’ve had romance type stories. They’re tall, well-built, good looking (if not downright handsome). They have a keen sense of honor, probably a good bit of cunning, a healthy sense of humor and intense loyalty. Of course, there are other traits. But the one that will almost immediately draw a reader to pick up the book is a handsome, sexy hero on the cover.

I’m not sure how others do it but I usually have a good idea of what the hero in my book will look like. Finding a picture (or fair resemblance of him) is a bit more difficult because he is a true figment of my imagination (or someone I’ve plucked from an alternate world – truly, sometimes they seem that real to me). But lately I’ve come to see a picture or photo of a guy and said – Lynda, he’d make a great (fill in the blank) and would be fantastic as the hero of (story idea).

Here’s a pic of Gerard Butler from Beowulf and Grendel. Now isn’t he perfect as a medieval type? Rugged, yes. A little unkempt. Needing a woman’s loving touch. Makes me want to go out and find him. NOW. LOL

But Gerard isn’t bad all dressed up in contemporary clothes either. He’d make a great ‘alien’ come to Earth for...well, whatever reasons that lend themselves to a good SFR story.

Then there’s someone like Anthony Catanzaro who is a male model and fitness consultant. Hottie is too mild a word, don’t you think? He’d be perfect as a fellow maybe kidnapped by alien women and put to good use.

Or the late Rob Ashton. I’m sure a lot of readers found him exceedingly drool worthy (and I’ve heard he was a very nice person – something you don’t always find in combination with Very Good Looks.

We'll miss you Rob.

It’s a whole lot easier to develop a character if you already know what he looks like. And it isn’t always bulging biceps and 6 pack abs. Sometimes it’s the expression in the eyes that speaks to you. Or the way he holds his head. Sometimes it's just pure synergy.

Whatever it is, today’s woman doesn’t have to ignore a man’s good looks any more than men have ever ignored a woman’s good looks. So drool away, girls. Just do it in a lady-like way :D

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sexy men...what are they?

Sexy men. Mmmm. I unashamedly admit my heroes are sexy. Even some of my villains are sexy . I LIKE sexy men!

But what is sexy? is it just good looks and a great body? Or is it something more? I believe it's something more. I believe the the so-called 'plainest bloke' can be the sexiest. Why? it's all to do with what beats within, what hides behind the picture perfect facade.

My heroes seem to have it all - good looks and fab bodies, be they big and muscular or lean and strong. But they all have inner values they make them so much more sexy, in my eyes. They are loyal to their friends and family, kind to animals (that's always a must LOL), and nothing can shake their faith in what they believe. They don't give up - or if they have, they soon pick up their kit and forge onwards.

I've had a couple of heroes that some people wouldn't agree fit this profile, but I say they do . One who comes to mind is Shaque, a space bounty hunter. Cold, calculating, and happy to slit the throat of any man or woman with a price on his/her head, if that's what it takes to bring the prey back home. But he has his story, and when things boil right down to the bare bones, he is loyal to friends and family, kind to animals (though it's never revealed, but trust me, he is - I know, I made him LOL), and nothing can shake his faith in what he believes in and sets out to do.

His story, BTW, is in Soul of a Predator, out Dec 2007.

I've read stories where the hero has been a bit tubby, or balding, or older, a nerd, plain of features, or thin. But he's sexy because of his attitude to life and people and the way he does things.

Sexy is nice to look at, but sexy is as sexy does . Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and I personally would rather spend time with a man who may not look so hot, but is a fabulous and fun and reliable person to be around, than an empty-headed, vain hot bod and fab face.

Personality and the inner man will win me over every time!

cheers!
Angela

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Darling Asshole

I know, you're thinking, "WTF?" Well, this week's theme is about sexy men. And I thought I'd talk about assholes, since they can be one and the same.

Now personally, I don't tolerate assholes. Most of the uber-alpha males found between the covers of the romance genre would not make it anywhere near the covers of my bed, unless they were there to help move it or something. But I'm not talking about those guys, either. We all know they're marshmallows underneath the sandpaper exterior.

I'm talking about the rare creature that can only be described as the "man-bitch." This is the guy who's got morals so flexible that they might as well be made of rubber. He lives by his own code of honor, and damned if the rest of the world can figure out just what the hell it is, because he's not going to bother telling them.

This guy, also, would end up with my boot in his arse in real life. But I love to read about him. Why? Is it the sea change? Is it the prevailing theme that no one is irredeemable? Is it watching this guy get his come-uppance (preferably from someone self-confident and with attitude)? Or is it picking him apart by the guts just to see how they work, all the better without anesthesia?

I'm one of those sad people that Dr. Phil would probably thwap upside the head, if he judged me by my reading material. Unpredictable heroes--heroes who leave you scratching your head and wondering if he's really the hero...or maybe the villain, and checking the spine to make sure you got a romance, and not a horror novel. I'm the one who looks at the bad guy and wonders what he'd be like as the hero of his own story. Assholes need love, too, and my imagination just churns when I see the villain of the piece and wonder what story has him cast as the hero, and why?

That part of me is the part that keeps asking, "why?" Why is he such a bastard? What makes him tick? What would hurt him, and why? And what could save him?

Monday, September 10, 2007

You Sexy Brute!

As it's Sexy Men week, I thought I'd pay a little homage to that ignored, if not much-maligned, member (ha!) of the male species: The Brute. I'm talking the guy who's more brawn than brain, more body than mind; that muscle-bound, sword-wielding, street-smart, mono-syllabic grunter who's more into action than thought. Sound familiar?

We've seen him in countless action stories and movies but he's rarely seen in romantic fiction because ... well, he's not romantic. He's a man's man. When he's not knocking off his enemies in frenzied bloodlusting revenge, he's likely to drag his love-interest to the nearest cave by the hair and have his wicked way with her.
The stereotypical brute? Conan the Barbarian, aptly played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. You may be thinking Ewwww! but I dare anyone not to want to run their fingers down his abs and test out his biceps - if only to see if they're real.

The Brute is a mixture of the fantasy action hero and the Beast of Beauty and the Beast mythology. He's big, he's ugly, but underneath he's yearning for love and a little TLC, just like the rest of us. The prize for the heroine putting up with his lack of communication is his utter devotion. He'll defend you, he'll fight for you, he'll hack off your enemy's head and hand it to you on a platter. And you better have the stomach to take it and say thank you!
A lot of The Brute's attraction is his rampant physicality. He's utterly masculine. He plays into our female fears of being physically overpowered even as we're thrilling to his touch. He's all about about the sex, baby. Perfect fodder for the erotic romance writer. It's a wonder more of us haven't taken advantage of him! *g*

I have no idea whether I'm in the minority in liking The Brute, but I suspect not if the hoopla over Gerard Butler's abs in 300 The Movie was anything to go by. I suppose there's something infinitely comforting about The Brute. You know he'll defend your babies to the death. And even if he's not one for conversation, you can delude yourself his silence means he's listening to your troubles.
And then there's always those abs to play with.

Sex-piration

This week the ladies and I will be sharing secrets of inspiration...namely sexy men that provided us a physical package for our heroes (and tons to ogle at our leisure).

I thought I'd start of with Awyn Shandar, the first real manly hero I'd concocted. He's a man's man and a sword-weilder as well as a prince. So who inspired his physicality? See below.


Yep. That's right, the King of Romance Covers...Fabio. I will admit I was caught up in the Fabio fascination when I was younger. I had all his products and even went to meet him in person. Of course I also tried to get most of the books with him gracing the covers. My favorites are still the ones by Elaine Duillo such as the one on the left from SURRENDER, MY LOVE by Johanna Lindsey.


Now are you wondering what my current flavor in men runs too? In answer, I give you Samson--a prince who wronged an ancient witch and ended up living for 1000 years as a feline named Smudge. But when he meets Carey Maeve he transforms.

Admittedly, I didn't have an image of him in mind, but knew I needed to find one fast so the heroine could salivate at the sight of him. It just so happened that around that time I was friend-ed by a male model named Julian on MySpace. Turns out he was Julian Fantechi...and I thought he was fantastic at first glance. Especially when I saw this picture:


For me it epitomized the grace of a cat and the turn of Julian's head made me think this could be Samson right after transformation. Then of course there is the lean physique that could quantify with a feline who didn't have any extra meat.

Here's an excerpt from CRASH INTO YOU (and a peek at part of my entry to Harlequin's Secrets Contest):

I shoved the Women’s door open with my foot, not sure I wanted to use the knob. Who knew what bacteria lurked there?

Light from a lone weak bulb hit a person inside. I saw butt cleavage. But it wasn’t female.

The man turned to look back over his shoulder with a wince. Long dark bangs fell to cover one eye.

“You’re supposed to lock the door. And by the way, you’re in the wrong john.”

“Couldn’t…take…the…chance.” His words came out punctuated by shivers.

My gaze zipped to the mirror where his shaking hand held the front of his shirt lifted. I let out a low wolf whistle. “That’s a shiner.” I took a step closer, my eyes zeroing in on the injury that seemed recent by the aggravated redness.

He turned toward me, his face set in a cold mask, his chiseled jaw clenched hard. The lone sapphire eye still visible radiated pain and plenty of fear. Animal was the best way to describe his stance. Ready to pounce with about two hundred pounds of toned muscle made from running wild. But both hands weren’t at the ready to rip her to shreds. One had raised palm out to stave me off. The other still cradled his severely bruised abdomen.

And how far could he get with unbuttoned jeans? One slip of the zipper and they’d fall to the floor like a makeshift denim lariat around his ankles. If things got too touch and go, I could manage pulling that off.

But could I leave with the rest of him on show?

If you want to see the picture that inspired this scene, click here. I was afraid it might be too hot to post in the full. (Though these days some book covers on the shelves are hot, hot, hotter than this.) Call me modest. ;0) Though I do like to enjoy a six-pack (and no I'm not talking about beer) from time to time.

_______________________

If you want to check out which character I snuggle up with at night click here. :0)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Dragon Anthology Release Week.

There's something new hatching over at Samhain Publishing. The "I Dream Of Dragons" Anthology will be available for individual download starting Sept. 11th.

Here's a little trailer tease to peak your interest.



Here's a blurb for your enjoyment:

On the tropical island of Cambry, a ghastly, flesh-eating blight is killing the dragons and threatening prime hatching grounds. It's up to hatching ground director, Darion Archer and IFM agent Serrah Gayle to stop the disease before it's too late.

Dragon Tamer by Kathleen Scott. Copywrite 2007. From Samhain Publishing.

-Kat

Thursday, September 06, 2007

If life, or vacations, give you lemons, make lemonade

I took the week off work, hoping my dh and I could do a few day trips since long distance trips are financially out of reach right now. I also planned on getting my routine annual physical which was a year overdue, lol. The physical went fine, even the dreaded mammogram. One of the places we wanted to go was Bronners in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It's a great Christmas store (if you're ever in the area, check it out. You won't be disappointed.)

BUT my new 8 month old dishwasher sprang a leak so we had to set a day aside to wait for the repairman who discovered that the original installers had -- you guessed it -- installed it wrong. That was no surprise since the original installers did a LOT of things wrong and have since had to repair them. I won’t even go into the number of times I went around and around with these folk. By the way, they were contractors for Home Depot. If you’re getting a remodel job done, don’t go there. Trust me on this.

Last week we had a severe thunderstorm which took out our ATT phone line. When we called they gave us a 5 day wait before they would look at it and said if the problem was inside, we’d have to pay $71 dollars for a service call. Well, we checked the outside network box and weren’t getting a dial tone so we were pretty confident the problem was in the network box. Of course, the ATT repairman came out when we weren’t home and he checked the network box. Correction. He checked one side of the network box.

Did you know there are two sides of the network box? One side is accessible by the customer and is used to determine if the problem is in the network or in the residence. If the customer gets a dial tone on that side, the problem is in the house. It says so right on the instructions on the box. The ATT repairman checked his side of the box and said the problem was in the house. He never checked the other side. Just left a note saying that someone would call and set up a time for him to come back to check inside. No one called. We ended up calling them and they told us they’d have someone out in two days. No one came out.

By this time, I’m starting to check out alternative phone services and my dh is getting hot. It takes a lot to rile him up but when he gets going -- look out! He called them today, told them our service had been down for 11 days and why wasn’t someone out to fix the phones? Mind you, they don’t make it easy to talk to a living human being with the phone menu they have but he persevered until he got something other than the obnoxiously nice voice telling him to press 1 if he wanted English. They again reminded him about the charge if the problem was in the house but also promised someone would be out today.

The ATT repairman came out. Checked his side of the network box. It was working (still). My dh said ‘But the residential side of your box isn’t working. There’s no dialtone.’ The repairman’s eyebrows went up and he checked it. Sure enough, there was a problem there, not inside the house. He had it fixed in less than 15 minutes. Too bad ATT doesn't make checking BOTH sides of the network box mandatory. It would have saved us a lot of grief and time. And, of course, now we have to contact the business office on Monday to let them know not to charge us the $71 that the first guy put down...and he didn't even come in the house. Sigh.

So...my planned day trips kind of evaporated under the wait for repairmen and doctor visits. The plus side is that while waiting for these gents, I managed to clean most of our two bedroom closets, a task that was long overdue. Maybe tomorrow we can do something closer in. I'm thinking a visit to our favorite apple orchard.

Have a great week, everyone!

-- Lynda

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Reincarnationist by MJ Rose

Here’s a book you need to run out and buy.

Photojournalist Josh Ryder is injured in during a terrorist bombing in Rome but the real repercussions of the explosion begin after he recovers. Josh begins to experience uncontrollable flashbacks to a previous life, where he lived as a pagan priest and as the priest, Julius, he has a tragic love affair with the Vestal Virgin, Sabina.

These flashbacks lead Josh to the Phoenix Foundation where he hopes to get proof that he’s reliving past lives and not going insane. But when he and researcher Malachai Samuels return to Rome to interview professors who have unearthed a 1600-year-old burial tomb, his personal mystery deepens, one of the professors is murdered and a fabled relic, the Memory Stones, are stolen. These pagan stones will reputedly incite past-life experiences and will, by proving the existence of reincarnation, challenge the tenets of the major religions.

As we see Josh’s past lives unfold, we see that these Stones has touched on all of his lives, not necessarily for the good. We also see that Josh isn’t the only person whose past and present lives intersect with the Memory Stones.

Amid murders, the theft of the fabled Memory Stones, heart-wrenching flashbacks to Julius and the other lives Josh has previously had, author M.J. Rose has penned a riveting book. Rich descriptive narrative subtly embedded in the text and an engrossing plot draws the reader in and holds her attention from the first page to the very last.

Lynda