Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rip, Torn...a Book is Born!

I mentioned this collage in my last post when I reminisced about Moonlight and Magnolias last year. With my head in a cloud full of craft and author chatter, I stumbled into the meeting room alone. By the schedule, pajamas were allowed. I’d decided against it since I wasn’t bolstered by a gaggle to give me strength. But I will rock my Girls Night Out DC Comics pjs at a conference yet :0)

In the room there were piles of magazines, empty folders, scissors, glue sticks and tape spread out on the tables. I perused the selections of titles trying to find something that related to the book that still hung like a nimbus cloud inside my gray matter. I had an inkling of the characters, an almost concrete conflict and yet I hadn’t decided where I needed to go.

Slowly I built layer upon layer, shaping my conglomeration until it made perfect sense. While I did that my story worked itself out. This is the magical piece I came up with:

Since I’m a visual person anyway, I think I had a bit of a head started compared to the others. My design background didn’t hurt either. But I was still touched when the coordinator wanted to show it to everyone and ooh over it like a baby.

Now I’ll interpret what this jumble of images and words means to me. Hopefully you’ll have an epiphany too while you follow along the journey of CASTING SPELLS.

The left side represents my heroine who is a witch. At the top I have the word “Magic” which defines who she is and what is most important to her. Below that is a group of girls, which represents her weekly meeting of witchly business. As a leader of her small group, she is “Driven” especially when it comes to championing her cause—stopping degradation of magic users. The bottom picture where the dark haired lady is blowing a kiss is a personification of my heroine's love of nature and of wishing to "live happily ever now”. Beside that is a sensual footnote where the coffee she drinks has froth shaped like a lady. This is also a little hint at her change from a country woman into a sophisticated lady.

On the right side we see the hero. He’s made it his life’s work to create a place bred to find anyone connected to magic and therefore a person who can cure his affliction—a curse. The drawing in the corner reminded me of an architectural sketch. The way he hand made everything is reflected in the blurb that reads: "Everyone says you should ask the experts, but guess what? Sometimes the expert is you." Below that is a castle, which is at the center of his amusement park and provides his hideaway. In the middle, there are examples of rides, which are also places the two of them go to. (Can you say turning points?) The bottom shows a bathroom, which is a place of sanctuary for the hero and where the heroine must go against her original plan to defeat him. Oh…and I’ll bet you’re wondering about that wolf and the huge shapeshifter footer. Yep, you guessed it. He’s a werewolf. And he is most definitely “an alluring mix of urban and earthy”.

And in the middle they collide and their love is formed. Everything culminates around the “aromatics elixir” at the center. With it the hero can once again be all man, and she will be able to call him hers. (Who wouldn’t want their man thanking them daily for being so gifted?) But it’s also because of their love that he realizes if the elixir can’t be found that he can be happy. Therefore, “love changes, and in change is true.” The three linked back and white pictures represent their hesitancy at first that blossoms into a closeness born from a shared secret. For both of them, the one-of-a kind relationship is “love because it’s the only true adventure.” I was immediately drawn to the intimacy of the bathroom picture, especially the line “You can’t hurry love. And why would you want to?” (What more could a reader ask for?) If you were a werewolf or the woman trying to cure him before the next full moon, you’d wish for just such a happy ending, right?

So there you have it, a little glimpse of the craziness behind the book. Now I just have to stop listening to my creative voice, which steers me off track to do mock book covers and banners.


Two of the ripped out lines were cropped off thanks to the size of the collage. The first is the heart of the book because it's all about "love, loss and transformation" literally. And the happy ending comes true because "When you love someone, all your saved-up wishes start coming out."

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Guest Blogger - Savanna Kougar

Good morning, everyone! This week we have author Savanna Kougar guesting with us. If you've been around here before, you may recognize Savanna as a frequent visitor to our blog. What you may not have known is that she's a talented writer with some very intriguing books of her own. So sit back and enjoy!

Bio: Baby boomer and redhead. Single and living on the tame cattle prairie of the midwest with my beloved doggies. My interests are eclectic, and anything creative. And my imagination has always played a huge role in my life. Think the Renaissance meets Buck Rogers. Or, imagine a wild child of the sixties dancing with a silver screen’ sex kitten. Oh yeah, I did graduate college with a B.A. in history, Suma Cum Laude.


Well, this is exciting for me, being a guest blogger, since the wonderful authors of Star-Crossed Romance write the genres that are my faves. Thank you for allowing me to be here today.

Beware, gentle and ungentle readers, you are about to enter the Twilight X-File Zone of my mind.

The Red Lioness and Mars

If you’ve never met an actual shape-shifter or were-beastie ~ darn it, I haven’t yet ~ perhaps you’ve wondered if there are such wondrous dangerous creatures residing on our Earth, in our Universe, in our quantum multiple universes. I contend, from my personal logic and from my other life-time remembrances, there are shape-shifters of every conceivable design, of every stripe and spot, from animal, insect to buckets of regenerating liquid (Star Trek).

What was one of my inspirations for creating Sun Rocket Kahoqua of the Windgrass Clan, my lioness shifter heroine in Red Lioness Tamed? It was the planet, Mars. Our next-door cosmic neighbor. The red planet named for the God of War. Since childhood, when I learned about the solar system, I’ve always been drawn to mysterious Mars. And certainly, since listening to Richard Hoagland, author of Dark Mission and genius Mars researcher, on Coast-to-Coastam with Art Bell, then with George Noory, Mars has become not only a fierce fascination, but a puzzle piece toward understanding our antediluvian civilizations, or the time of Atlantis and before.

The Red Lioness and Mars ~ well, there’s that enigmatic giant face on Mars, half feline and half human, if you truly study the features. Pyramids abound on the Mars surface, if you dare to study beyond what is provided for public consumption. Pyramids ~ Egypt ~ The Sphynx ~ The cat goddess, Bast ~ cat worship during the high culture of ancient Egypt. Okay and roar like the March lion, it appears like a definite connection to me, to my writer’s tale-spinning mind (or is that tail-spinning when creating Big Cat shifters?).

However, that’s where the fun begins for me. And where my logical mind leads, saying...hey, there must be feline humanoids. Not to mention there are some contactees who claim to have met feline humanoids and drawn their pictures.

Not surprisingly, the magical ‘what if’ waves in my mind like a wand. What if a feline race occupied Mars at one time? What if the ancient Egyptian civilization was partially based on that knowledge? What if the black ops scientists of today are doing their mad scientist best to breed races of human-cat hybrids? And how would that play out in the far future? When the galaxy has become nearly as small as our current world?

Red Lioness Tamed by Savanna Kougar ~
Liquid Silver Books, Molten Silver ~
If yer partial to a futuristic adventurous romp of lust and love on the high celestial seas of space...if you have a yen for those cat shifter types, lament no longer...
And watch out if yer a bad kitty shifter roaming the galactic ports, there’s a kick-ass Lioness on your fleeing furry tail.

Year 3051, the Earth calendar used on Terra-Mars, a terra-formed moon orbiting Mars, the home world of ‘Sun Rocket’ Kahoqua of the Windgrass Clan.

Blurb: What does a lioness shifter do when she's suddenly trapped in an unknown space cruiser's cargo hold? Then, despite her ability to savagely defend herself, she's trapped beneath the handsome human Captain. And next, cat-scratching ridiculously, she finds herself carnal-trapped, and meow yowl! bound by leather straps in his bed?
Answer: She fights tooth and claw. Problem: The loner Captain is nova-hot at seducing her.

First chapter excerpt:

Currently the cover art for Red Lioness Tamed created by David Burton ~ ~ is entered in two contests:
THE NEW COVEY AWARDS ~ Cover Art for Red Lioness Tamed ~
April 20. 2008 ✮

THE AUTHOR’S LOUNGE ~ Cover Art contest ~ Red Lioness Tamed ~
April 2008 ✮

All Shades of Blue Paradise ~ available from Siren Publishing ~
Tangerine Carnal Dreams ~ coming from Aspen Mountain Press
When a Good Angel Falls ~ coming from Siren-Bookstrand late in 2008.
Pleasures of Blue Lotus Oil ~ coming from Siren Publishing
American Title IV finalist ~ Murder by Hair Spray in Gardenia, New Atlantis

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview with Jenna Black

Jenna Black wears dual writing hats as the mastermind behind two hit series—Guardians of the Night for TOR & Morgan Kingsley for Bantam. Her novels have not only gotten sensational praise from peers in her genres, but also garnered her some high-ranking awards including a PEARL and finals in the Daphne du Maurier contest twice.

To what does she owe her sensational writing? Her dare to be an “experience junkie”. She got her BA in Physical Anthropology and French from Duke and has since gone on to travel all seven continents, become a life master in Bridge, sing in a barbershop chorus and…ballroom dance.

I was lucky enough to know her before Miriam Kriss and TOR came knocking. In fact, she was one of the first people who befriended me my first day at Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. She came into the coffee shop, after her pitch session with the editor who’d been our presenter, and said she feared she hadn’t done well. Of course, I struck up conversation with, “What do you write?” She said paranormals. At that moment, it was grand to be in like company with another kindred soul who was fighting to be published. Over the past few years I’ve been honored to watch her star start its climb to greatness. Though she’s still as modest and quiet as ever, her writing has finally gotten to speak for itself and set readers' hearts aflame.


I know that you’d been writing for a long time before Tor plucked up WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT. What gave you the strength to hold on to your dream?

I had indeed. WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT was my 18th completed novel over the course of a 16+ year quest for publication. To tell you the truth, I’m amazed myself that I was able to keep fighting for that long. Nothing was going to make me stop writing, but that didn’t mean I had to keep trying to get published. And yet, I did.

I put a lot of thought into why I kept going, and I think I’ve figured it out. I come from a fairly dysfunctional family, and when I was growing up, my greatest refuge from the insanity was reading. Books took me away from all the difficulties of my life and gave me some much-needed peace. I think a lot of the reason I kept writing—and trying to publish—for so long was the desire to do for other readers what authors had done for me. I wanted to be the one to take them away from it all, if just for a little while.

In your career, is there a moment that made your long fight to be published worth every hardship?

Absolutely! As I said, one of the things that kept me going was the hope that someday, my books could provide readers with an escape, just like other books had done for me. The highlight of my career (so far) was the time I received a message on MySpace from one of my readers. She was gravely ill, and in praising my books she told me, “You help make very bad days oh so much better.” I don’t know when I’ve ever been so moved by anything in my life. I think I went through an entire box of Kleenex!

When you sold the Guardians series, did you have any inkling of Morgan Kingsley’s impending “birth”?

None at all. At that time, I was just starting to read and fall in love with urban fantasies. THE DEVIL INSIDE was almost a whim—a desire to try to write a book in the “new” genre I’d discovered and loved so much. I’d never been very successful writing in first person before, so I was kind of expecting not to do so well with this. However, despite my self-doubt, once I started writing the book, there was no stopping. I was surprisingly comfortable writing in first person, and I was so obsessed with that book that I wrote it in less than two months.

I know that you often go to conferences, including RT which is taking place this month. Has there ever been an event you’ll never forget? Will you don any costumes this year?

I’d have to say the event I’ll never forget is last year’s RT. Not only was it my first time going to RT, it was also my first time attending a conference as a published author. The conference itself was an absolute blast, and finding out that I had fans—who weren’t even related to me!—was almost surreal. I’m really looking forward to RT this year (which I suppose I will have returned from by the time this interview goes up), but I have no plans to don any costumes. Somehow, that seems like a little too much work—especially when I think about packing them!

Do you have a favorite/dreadful reader moment you’d like to share?

I did have a pretty funny reader moment happen when I was doing a book signing once. I was sitting right up front, with a pile of books in front of me and a nice big poster beside me. A couple of women came into the store, and one of them looked at the display and said to her friend, “That looks like just your kind of thing.”

Her friend looked at the poster and the books and said, “Oh, I’ve read her. I don’t like her.” Yes, out loud, right in front of me. But the funny thing is the other woman kept saying how much my books looked like something her friend would enjoy. Frowning, her friend asked me if mine was the book about . . . I don’t remember what exactly it was she asked, except that it bore no resemblance to my books. The best part is that when I told her this wasn’t the book she was thinking of, she ended up buying the book!

If you could write anything other that what you’re writing, what would it be?

I’ve been writing so long, I’ve tried writing practically everything in genres I enjoy reading. Paranormal romances and urban fantasies are by far my favorite right now, so I don’t think at this point in my career I have much interest in writing anything else. (Unless you count the YA urban fantasy I’ve been thinking about as a different genre.) Of course, just because this is what I want to right now doesn’t mean I won’t get hooked on something else in the future.

Since your first sale do you think you’ve changed as a person and/or a writer?

I don’t think I’ve changed much, though I do feel like my writing has gotten stronger. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s just the input from my editors, or perhaps it’s the fact that I’m now writing continuing series. Before I sold, I’d written books that were meant to be first books in series, but I was never willing to write the next book until I’d sold the first. I think the series format brings out the best in me and that my series are getting stronger as I go.

I sure do wish selling that first (and second, and third, etc.) book had given me a little more self-confidence. However, I still feel nervous and uncertain about each book as I’m writing it, and I still get nervous when each one is released.

And of course I have to ask, which of your characters (especially those heroes) do you adore the most?

It’s got to be Gabriel, the hero of SHADOWS ON THE SOUL. I’m a sucker for wounded heroes, and he’s the most wounded of all. He’s also the most alpha-male hero I’ve written, and while that’s a characteristic I would find highly annoying in a real person, in a fictional character, it’s got lots of sex appeal. Not to mention that I enjoy playing with morally ambiguous characters—good guys who have a bad streak and bad guys who have a good streak. Gabriel’s got a very wide bad streak, and I had a blast trying to turn this quasi-villain into a hero.

Lastly, what lies ahead for you and your cast in the future?

On April 29, HUNGERS OF THE HEARTS, the fourth book of the Guardians of the Night series will hit the shelves. At this point, I’m not sure whether there will be any more books in that series or not.

There will be two more Morgan Kingsley books released this year: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW in August, and THE DEVIL’S DUE in December. I’m currently working on the fourth book of that series, and there will be at least one more after that. I’m certainly keeping busy!

If you'd like to know more about Jenna's novels, check out her awesome website full of fun book trailers, games and hot guys!

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Two-fer Thursday

Good morning, everyone. I hope you did something cool for Earth Day yesterday. My employer was giving out bare root plants to anyone who wanted one so...I sashayed over to the office to get a lovely little Rose of Sharon. Then I found out that they had a whole slew of plants left over (no one wanted them?!) so I finagled a Forsythia and a Lilac to add to my collection :-) I've always been a bit of an environmentalist, preferring to plant a tree to taking it down. It's always baffled me why people prefer to have sterilized lots with no trees but my dh pointed out that no trees equals no leaves to rake in the fall. For my part, I'd rather see all my trees stay unless they become diseased and create a hazard to houses or passers-by. And generally if one has to come out, it'll be replaced. I think my husband believes I'm related to Mother Nature and would prefer to live in a forest. He might be right about the forest part, LOL

The two-fer part of the title of this post is because I really didn't have a subject for today. I did want to speak about Earth Day but didn't have a whole lot to say. And I did promise, earlier this week, to give a brief review of Cheryl Brooks' book, SLAVE, the first in The Cat Star Chronicles.

Way back when, I used to do book reviews for the Writer's Club at AOL (loved doing it though occasionally I'd get the heavy duty SF tome that had pages and pages of convoluted sentences and twenty dollar words designed to impress the reader with how brilliant the author was). I much prefer easy-to-read, fast-paced books with a high entertainment value. SLAVE fits my demands easily. So on with the review...

by Cheryl Brooks
Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 13-978-1-4022-1192-8
$5.99 US/#8.99 Canada
314 pages

Told in first person, SLAVE is the story of Jacinth's journey to find and liberate her kidnapped sister from a life of slavery. When she discovers that Ranata is on a planet where women are bound in sexual servitude to men, she realizes that she must have a man she can trust to help her find and free Ranata. She finds that man, bound in chains himself, in a slave market. Though she violently opposes slavery, she purchases the man only to free him almost immediately when he announces that it's his duty to attempt escape. She really doesn't have time to deal with issues of keeping a reluctant slave and she can't use a man in chains in her quest to find her sister. No, he has to appear to be 'in charge' and she has to appear to be the 'slave' without risking actually becoming one. That's why she needs a man she can trust.

To her surprise, Cat follows her back to her ship; he has no where to go, he's still in chains and he feels a debt of gratitude to her for his freedom. That's not why he stays, however, his attraction for Jacinth, and hers for him, is apparent from the beginning. And his being an alien with distinctly feline characteristics makes him a very interesting character. Who doesn't love a guy who can purr?

Their journey to the planet Statzeel, where her sister is supposedly located, takes place in what seems a single day. And therein lies my single fault with the story and that's due no doubt to my SF background). Jacinth has spent 6 years trying to find her sister, visiting a score of planets as she follows Ranata's trail. A journey from one star system to another in a single day just doesn't seem...reasonable to me. HOWEVER, this is a fault that I easily overlooked as the story progressed because the world building, in general, was so fresh and vibrant. And Cat was so darned...well, Cat!

SLAVE is a wonderful blend of humor (Jacinth's habit of using slang taken from ancient Earth and Cat's blank confusion when she uses it is marvelous), passion and adventure. There's a touch of eroticism but while it's a sexy read, it isn't what I call an erotic romance...which is fine since I don't believe that it's intended to be erotic. SLAVE is a great way to spend your down time, which is my way of a copy. I think you'll like it.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Guest -- Cheryl Brooks

I've had the opportunity to read Cheryl Brooks' first book and can say it's a delightful futuristic blend of humor, adventure and romance (with just a touch of erotica). I'll do a review of it on my personal sites this week so do watch for it but I will say here, you don't want to miss this one. In the meantime, please join us in welcoming this week's guest.

Cheryl Brooks is a critical care nurse by night and a romance writer by day. She is a member of the RWA and lives in Bloomfield, Indiana. The Cat Chronicles: Slave is her first novel.



My name is Cheryl Brooks, author of The Cat Star Chronicles: Slave.
My inspiration for this story actually came from another book about a woman who had to pose as a slave, and I thought, Hey, I'm tired of women always being the slaves! Men are dominating enough without being encouraged! I want a male slave!

I made my heroine, Jacinth “Jack” Rutland a pretty tough cookie, basing her on several male characters—she has a touch of Dirty Harry's ruthlessness, Han Solo's casual heroism, and John Crichton's (Farscape) brash sense of humor.

For my hero, I began with a real person as a template and then started tacking on the alien characteristics. I wanted him to be honest, steadfast, loving, and above all, to have a sense of humor! That done, I worked on his sexuality, enhancing the types of characteristics that I believe already exist in human males. The result was one very sexy Cat!

The story takes place in our own Milky Way galaxy, but in the far distant future. I've never felt that science fiction writers have given mankind enough time to reach the levels of technology required for space travel between star systems, so I gave us a thousand years to accomplish it!

The different planets came from my own imagination which has been influenced by other writers as well as my own experiences. The “desert planet” setting of Orpheseus Prime can be traced back to Dune or Star Wars. The lush, tropical planet of Statzeel is based on Hawaii.

When it came to creating characters and new species, if you're into sci-fi at all, you’ll get to know a lot of aliens! Most of them came from my own imagination, but since Mr. Spock was my first alien love, Cat had to have his pointed ears and eyebrows!

I made the attraction between Jacinth and Cat a very strong, almost instinctual connection because I think that anytime two people meet, they either click, or they don't. I still remember the first time ever I saw my husband—I thought he was completely adorable, and he later told me that he said to himself: “I'll probably marry her someday. . .”

While having an incredibly sexy slave ready for anything seems like it would be any woman’s dream, I wanted Jack to be reluctant at first because I enjoy the sexual tension. It makes for more explosive fireworks when the deed is finally done, and I also like the idea of meeting someone who makes you fall in love despite your best intentions and even though the timing is terrible!

For some characters, it works to have them be intimate early in the story, but to look at it from Jack's perspective, she's a tough businesswoman on a mission to rescue her sister, and she is not looking for love!

I’ve come to realize that it’s impossible to please everyone: some readers are turned off if the hot stuff occurs too soon, and others will stop reading if there isn't any sex in the first three chapters! The next book in the series, Warrior, should appeal to those who don't like to wait.

Having grown up watching Star Trek and later staring in awe as that huge space cruiser flew in over my head at the beginning of Star Wars, writing science fiction romance has come very naturally to me. But, let's face it; we ladies all love a good romance along with our technobabble! For me, the best part of Star Wars is the romance between Han and Leia.

When I first began writing—a very long time ago!—the sci-fi was the main theme, rather than the romance, and the sci-fi romance genre as we know it didn't exist. But that was what I wanted to read, so that was what I wrote. My first novel was never finished, but Jack had her origins with that original heroine.

With respect to my writing process, I rarely start with an outline. I begin with an idea and write until it takes me somewhere. My characters take on lives and personalities of their own and I simply let them talk and discover what happens next. Whenever I get stuck, I just keep writing and invariably one of my characters will say something that sends me off in another direction.

I prefer to write in first person. Some of my favorite authors—Mary Stewart and Daphne Du Maurier—wrote from that point of view, and I believe it's more realistic because it's the way we all see the world—I don't know what you're thinking, and you don't know what I'm thinking—and I believe it's more suspenseful, too.

I seem to do my best writing in the evening, but since I live out in the country and it's a long drive to just about anywhere, I've hit on the solution to a number of problems while behind the wheel!

I am currently reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Like everyone else, I've been infected with Pottermania, and I'm reading the series through again—for probably the third or fourth time! It's the best stress-reliever I know of. I’m also reading the books of our other Sourcebooks Casablanca authors, which I am enjoying very much!

Aside from writing, I look after my husband, two sons (aged 18 and 21), five horses that I don't ride nearly enough, five cats, and a dog. Professionally, I'm a full-time critical care nurse, and have been working the night shift in ICU for more than thirty years—I've been at it so long that I've been nicknamed Yoda! I enjoy gardening, love to cook, but HATE to clean! I've been singing and playing guitar longer than I've been watching Star Trek, and my greatest ambition is to be a rockstar! Don't think I'll ever make it, though. Guess I'll just have to write about it!

My advice to other aspiring writers would be to keep at it. You never know when that chance will come. I'd been rejected a lot of times before Slave was sold: Agents were too busy to take on another client; some publishers took almost a year to reject me, or never responded at all. I'd never sent this particular manuscript to anyone before, but when I saw that Sourcebooks was newly recognized by the Romance Writers of America and that they were taking erotic paranormals, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I sent it off—and almost forgot about it! Slave was originally a 72,000 word novel called The Rescue, and, unfortunately, Sourcebooks only publishes single-title novels of 90,000 words or more, which was something I didn't realize at the time. If I'd known about the length requirement, I doubt that I would have ever submitted it, but fate must have taken a hand, because the editor liked it anyway, gave me some suggestions for expanding it, and here we are!

I am currently working on Warrior, Brothers, and Lover in the Cat Star Chronicles series, with Fugitive and Hero to come after that. I've also written a number of contemporary erotic romances that I'd like to see published at some point.

I’ve enjoyed sharing this experience with you and look forward to your comments!


Cheryl Brooks

The next novel in the series is Warrior, which is a story is about Tisana, a witch/healer on the planet Utopia. Like all witches on that world, she has been brought up and trained to serve those in her domain for life, but Tisana longs to spread her wings and fly. Unfortunately, Utopia isn’t a paradise for everyone—especially the slaves! When Tisana’s former lover brings Leo, his Zetithian slave, to her for healing, a sizzling romance ensues, culminating in a dangerous adventure. Will Tisana find a way to keep her alien lover and escape her own fate? Find out in the next exciting chapter of The Cat Star Chronicles!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Time to Remember

My first con was the 2004 NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. I’d been weighing going or not, but when I got the call from Anita Sugden that I was a finalist in the “Other” (Paranormal/Futuristic Category) I was determined to scrape up the money somehow. Thankfully my birthday soon followed (and I’d told everyone my good news) so my family and friends helped bankroll my trip and the registration. I had a blast!! And I got to meet my friend Kathleen Nance in person, though I forgot the camera to mark the memorable event. (I’m still kicking myself.) NJ marked the first time I had to shuffle between programs, making pitch appointments and also got treated as a “star”. Let’s just say I could get used to the later. Lol!

I went to NJ in 2005 as well and was surprised by the growth. It seemed like the number in attendance had doubled. And the roster of talented presenters as well as editors/agents for pitch appointments had gotten even better. I got to meet Kelly Harms and thought we hit it off, since she asked to keep my pitch card. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. The constant rain and a car mishap (hopping along the NJ Turnpike) did put a damper on my working getaway. But I got to see NY (as an adult)! Let me just say that hoofing it everywhere in the wrong shoes can cause big problems! After our adventure taking NJ Transit and winding through NYC in search of places I’d seen on TV, we arrived back at the room to frantic calls from home. That day was one of the times when there had been threats of subway bombing, so my mom was definitely glad when I gave her the all clear :0) I’m saving Subway hopping for my next NYC visit.

I thought these two conferences had worked out the kinks for trying out the big-time of RWA Nationals in Atlanta. Boy was I wrong!! Sure I’d heard the horror stories, including those poor hapless writers who’d been trapped in elevators by droves of Mary Kay consultants. Let’s just say, I’m glad I had a color-coded, daily schedule mapped out for Nationals or else I wouldn’t have known which way was up (partially due to wardrobe changes). And once again I had a shoe mishap. I’m hoping no one outside my room could tell I was battling major blisters that covered the entire soles of both my feet. They were so painful I teared up more than once and didn’t even want to walk! Not to mention sleeping with my legs elevated to see if I could ease the pain. Since I’d brought my bf along for the adventure, this wasn’t exactly romantic. To add to the hectic whirl of Nationals, we got propositioned by a homeless man, my bf almost got taken out by an SUV and when I picked up my car from the parking garage it was full of ants. I was smacking them every time they poked their little heads out on the way to FL for our family vacation. One of the funniest times during this week was when my bf was the lone guy with a gaggle of HCRW/CRW chaptermates and a few of our friends for dinner at PittyPat’s Porch. Let’s just say, he came away from conference feeling like beefcake. (I told him next time he’d have to wear the 100% Beefcake shirt I got him for V-day.) And he told me that he got to ride in the elevator with a big-time author who was relieved he didn’t recognize her. I’d pin that person as NR, who I got to see across the lobby. Other notables I got to meet were P.C. Cast, the infamous Chris Keeslar, Gena Showalter (bow down), Tracy Farrell from HQN and Lucienne Diver! You wouldn’t believe who you can rub elbows with when the stars align (with the occasional help)!

I know I’m definitely looking forward to DC next year. And I think it’s a hoot that the hotel is right next to the zoo, since that’s what the week will seem like in the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

If any writers out there would like to start out on a smaller scale, I’d also recommend Moonlight and Magnolias. Last year the conference was chaired by Diana Love Snell, and I’ll just say everything was stellar. Though what caught my eye off the bat were the names of published authors and agents/editors that would be in attendance. And who doesn’t love to put a buck in for a raffle when the prize is a critique or communication with said fabulous people. I will admit my head did get a little loopy, but I grounded myself by doing a night class on collage. The instructor liked mine so much she showed it off to everyone. And eventhough we got goodie bags to rival Nationals, I made sure my bf didn’t forget my collage and handled it with care. (BTW, you’ll get to see this in a later post.) That definitely helped calm me down for my one-on-one pitch with industry icon, Kate Duffy. Just as I’ll never forget that momentous occasion, I’ll never forget the way we all scattered to watch the season finales of Grey’s Anatomy, CSI (to see if Sarah died) and Ugly Betty.

So overall, start small if you want to ease into the waters of a conference. Also, make a schedule if you can get your hands on the programs and events beforehand. Making goals for what to accomplish is also a must, since you want to make the most of your time! Keep all your receipts so you can take off those tax deductions and socialize with others. Just make sure you look professional (no jeans please, unless you’re Suzanne Brockman) and are always polite!


I’d hoped to go to RT this year, but alas the funds didn’t materialize. So it’s on my list of future cons to do along with DragonCon and the Chesapeake Romance Writers’ Fantasies by the Sea Conference!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Missing the Con

Every time the subject of Cons come up, I get the feeling I’m going to be trotting out my I-first-started-writing-when-I-went-to-the-RT-Convention-in-2005 story for the rest of my life. Yes, I did go to my first con as a reader, where I discovered the existence of epublishers and soon after started writing again for the first time in about 10 years. But the reason I’m scared that this is going to be my only Con story is because I live so far away from it all (on the other side of the pond) and the possibility of making another RT seems remote on my budget.

So it was with a cry and a banging of head to desk that I realised I had missed out on on the nearest convention to me EVAH. Not a romance con this time, but a good ol’ British science fiction con: Orbital 2008. This took place a mere half an hour’s drive from my place. Just half an hour and I could have seen my favourite author, Tanith Lee, and a host of other fantabulous SF authors. No spending over a thousand pounds sterling in travel in accommodation. Just half an hour’s drive.

Half an hour. And I missed it.

Let me get all fan-girlish for a moment. Tanith Lee was the first writer who made me realise romance and science fiction/fantasy could go together. Before that, I thought sci-fi was all about boy-geeks arguing about rocket science and artifical intelligence (ie Asimov and Clarke). Then there was Ursula K Le Guin, my other favourite author, who was all about the sociological and political aspects of science fiction, and I dug that. But Tanith was the only one who (I believed) really got the romance. My favourite all-time book of hers was Drinking Sapphire Wine, followed by The Silver Metal Lover, and then The Storm Lord. I loved those stories with the deep, abiding passion only possible from a romantic, idealistic teenager with an over-active imagination and melancholic disposition awaiting adventure and the appearance of the love of her life. That teenager is long gone but I remember her with fondness.

But I digress. The thing is, there was a science fiction con held a couple of years back in Dublin and I was considering going over because Tanith Lee was the Guest of Honour. I couldn’t make it then, but I swore that NEXT TIME I heard Ms Lee was appearing at a con I’d be there with bells on.

All I can say is - *sob* half an hour away...

Any one else miss their favourite author at a con?

- Cassandra

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Monday, April 14, 2008


I know, what a tantalizing title! But I bet what I'm going to say might be the opposite to what some of you are thinking

I know I've veered off the subject for the week, but that's because I've only been to 2 conferences and I'm still a newbie at it. And because I've been through some major problems with my current work-in-progress.

Which brings me back to my title - how long do you go for?

To put it simply, I had 48,000 words written and a deadline of June. But things just weren't working. I couldn't put my finger on it. For the first time ever, I didn't want to write. I didn't want to do this book. I didn't want to go near it. I couldn't figure it out. What was wrong with me? I've fought with characters before, but never lost my desire to write about them.

But I continued to battle on, and with every page my dissatisfaction grew more and more. The word count was there, the increasing pages, things were happening...but it was all so bland. So forced. The characters were colourless. I'd started them off all right, but something had changed. Something had happened. The story was bland, the plot wasn't going anywhere, I was jumping whole days to fit things in.

Then I twigged. After days of agonizing over it (yes, literally agonizing), I finally woke up to the problem. It hit me like the proverbial brick.

My problem was that I was trying to, for the first time ever, incorporate two separate couples in the story, have two romances going at once. This was the problem. I was living through four different characters instead of two. I was jumping through four different POVs and characteristics instead of two. This isn't even counting the villains. But the main characters are what I live through the most.

And the major problem? I couldn't build up the relationship between the two couples. I've always set stories around one couple only, with a mention or bringing in of other characters for support, but my concentration has always been on one main couple. I have time and space to establish and nurture their relationship, to build them up. But when I was trying to do it with two couples at once, it was interfering with the story.

And to be honest, I found it really hard going, trying to establish the relationship with one couple, then establish the other couple's relationship, and still weave the story in between.

I admit that it blocked me. I'd set myself a situation which I find difficult to work in. It was blocking my creativity, blocking the flow of thoughts, blocking the 'living' of my characters.

Once I realized it, I went back and made another copy of my WIP, then reworked the copy, ruthlessly deleting main parts of the second couple. That couple will have their own book later. For now, this WIP was dealing with the first couple only. I mean, the second couple are supporting characters, they're not gone for good in this story! They are needed. But the main story is focused around one couple only.

It was the best decision I've ever made. The words are flowing again, ideas are coming, the characters are taking on a life of their own. Their relationship is building, things are happening. I am back on track!

Some people might say I took a step back, that I should perhaps continue and beat into submission the two couples in the story. I don't feel I've stepped back. I believe I've learned a valuable lesson. I know how I write, and no matter how much I have daydreamed this story, dreams aren't always the same on paper (or computer LOL), and there are times as a writer when you have to be ruthless and know how you work. I work with one couple at a time. I introduce potential new couples, but each has their own story later.

So does this mean I will never attempt two couples in one book again? Not necessarily. If an idea comes, I'll go with it, but I won't be afraid to stop if it's not working.

So my title - how long do you go for? Well, with 48,000 words already written, and my books usually between 80,000 and 145,000 words, and a deadline, I was really reluctant to delete so much work. But then again, there was no way I was going to turn in a manuscript that I knew wasn't up to scratch and that I wasn't satisfied with. I believe my readers deserve the best I can give them, and that's why I knew when I'd gone far enough. It was time to revise and regroup!

So, all, there is my thoughts for the week. Thanks for listening!


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Workspace - The Final Frontier

Yeah, yeah, I know we've moved on from the "what's my writing space look like" theme, but I'm not quite ready to let it go yet.

Now even if my meatspace doesn't seem like the ideal to anyone with a sense of aesthetics outside of an aerobically-obsessed MC Escher, my virtual workspace is where I compensate. Or overcompensate. I may be hunched on the floor in a corner with a five year old laptop perched on my knees, but my virtual office has never been larger.

Based on what other writers I've talked to say, every writer needs at least a word processing program to put story to pixels. Most, however, find that a little more than your basic word processor can increase productivity while simultaneously feeding the creative, needing-to-play parts of the writer's brain. Let's take a look at 'em now:

Multitasking has gone from a talent to a necessity, and productivity software apps have followed the trend. While a simple word processor is all you need to create manuscripts electronically, it doesn't much help out your creative process. Twelve years ago when I started actively pursuing publication, I could sift through back articles of the RWR or Writer's Digest and find all sorts of nuggets on making notecards work as a plotting tool, using large rolls of meat paper to chart out timelines, or using post-it notes to create visual storyboards of your story's plot. Fantabulous tools and techniques, all, but when it came to translating those into an electronic medium, not even the electronic version of sticky notes could do much to compare with good ol' meatspace tools.

But over in the business world, tools like Visio were coming into greater use. Powerpoint has been ubiquitous for some time and the notion that visual tools had a place in a writer's arsenal began to seep into the ether, and now you can find classes on using graphics applications to create digital collages and tap into your visual brain for novel fodder. Spreadsheets have served us well in tracking the numbers for the local RWA chapter's incomes and outgoes, and some enterprising souls started using them to track manuscript incomes and outgoes as well--this is a business, after all, as well as an art. Spreadsheets continue to pop up on the radar as tools to keep track of story elements as well. We writers are an enterprising lot when it comes to turning anything we can find into a writing tool we can't live without.

But the enterprising writer being the social animal she is, even in her reclusivity, she attracts some of the other symbiotic life forms around the internet, namely that of the software coder. Invariably there would be the merging of the two at some point, in some individual, or some close group, and the Writer's Software Package would be born.

Imagine a software app that did all the things you do in the course of your writing without forcing you to use hammed-together hacks, and monkeying about with apps so that you can use them for exactly what they weren't intended for. A word processor, visual thought organizer, graphics capability, and tracking functions. Maybe even an easter egg or two to relax you or amuse you for a few minutes while you break from the sea of words.

Yeah. I'm talking about the Writing Software App. The one that understands why you want to apply all the weird style formatting to every page, and why you're obsessed with fitting exactly 250 words onto 25 lines in a page, and why blank lines, lines with three asterisks or hash marks, and widows and orphans make you want to grind your teeth down to dust on the back of your tongue. The app that lets you open a pop-up and log a title, an editor's name, and the date you mailed it, and will spit back out the times and editors you previously logged for the manuscript. The one that handles digital scrapbooking jpegs and understands that you want to layer them as objects. The one that handles tiny files for scraps and snippets of information including stream of consciousness ramblings, obscure web links, and maybe even snippets of song and will cheerfully provide a friendly, speedy interface with which you can arrange them, fling them from one side of the screen to the other, draw lines between them, tag them, and transfer them from one snippet to the other. And the app that, after all this is done, will spit to your printer a perfectly dull, courier 12 pt, black and white text document that goes through ink and paper with the same destructive cheer as Godzilla passing through Tokyo.

I might be on the floor in the corner, covered in toys and play-doh, but my desktop--it's a streamlined panther of writing-app power, mixing right-brain and left-brain tasks into one glorious jumble of creativity that barely restrains the awesome power of Workspace--The Final Frontier.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Patting Others on the Back

I decided it was time for some good news...other than mine. I have two friends who've reached the memorable milestone of having their first books out!! I've been close and know what an elated feeling it can be, because seeing these books on the shelf made me catch my breath. Lol.

Mary Margaret Daughtridge, has been a fellow Heart of Carolina chaptermate for years. We've talked often, because we both tried to tread water in the business. Then we started getting to know each other better at Triad Coffee, an informal meeting of fellow authors to indulge in Starbucks and talk to other writers. We shared our troubles, some triumphs and discussed those contest that we'd both signed up in duplicate to judge. So of course I was elated when she landed a contract with SourceBooks Casablanca line for SEALED WITH A KISS.

He can handle just about anything, except this...

Jax Graham is a member of an elite military team, but when it comes to taking care of his four-year-old son after his ex-wife dies, he's completely clueless.

One person can help him, if he'll let her...

Family therapist Pickett Sessoms knows just how to help a rough, tough Navy SEAL deal with a scared and lonely little boy, but not if he insists on going it alone.

When Jax and his young son Tyler get trapped by a hurricane, Pickett takes them in against her better judgment. Jax figures Pickett's high maintenance, just like all the women he knows, and she figures he's not commitment material. But when an outing turns deadly, Pickett discovers what it means to be a SEAL, and Jax discovers that even a hero needs
help sometimes...

It came out April 1st and eventhough I was sick, and it was pouring outside, I had to make a run to the local B&N. I think it's also interesting to note that as a newbie published author Mary Margaret has already experienced an unexpected cover change. (One of those strange things that happens without an author's input.) I'm convinced it had something to do with her 4.5 star review from Romantic Times. Here's the first cover. Which one do you like?

A fellow Carolina Romance Writer, Dana Lyons, sold her first book to Black Lyon Publishing. And low and behold they made her the lead author for their Ancient Times Romances! I got to read a copy of her first release a year ago. I can't recall if it was spurned by 1-on-1 critiques or a plea on our loop. I just know after I got done making a few suggestions, I was afraid Dana wouldn't ever speak to me again. I have to admit after three days of not hearing back from her that I might've been too harsh. Then she sent me a wonderful e-mail saying the comments had taken her aback a bit, but that she admired my show don't tell teachings :0) So of course I was ecstatic when she sold!

HEART OF A DRUAE came out April 1st and is available in e-book and paperback format.
He longed for someone he’d never even met.

For lone wolf archaeologist Eric Beck, love has always been out of reach—something he’s been searching for since the day he was born, never knowing where to look. But on an unexplored hill near Stonehenge, something calls to him. Someone calls to him. And on the day of the summer solstice, his entire existence is about to change …

To love him would set an unthinkable destiny in motion.

She was Aydyn. Powerful. Beautiful. Druae. Living long before Eric’s time and bound by sacred duty to see through a prophecy that could mean the end of her people. With Eric’s arrival through the stone circle, a passion is unleashed—a love written in the stars and designed to reveal the fate of the Druae.

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Guest - Terry Spear

Please join us in welcoming Sourcebook author Terry Spear to this week's Star-Crossed Romance guest spot. An award-winning author of urban fantasy and medieval historical romantic suspense, Terry Spear also writes true stories for adult and young adult audiences. She’s a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and has an MBA from Monmouth College. She also creates award-winning teddy bears, Wilde & Woolly Bears, to include personalized bears designed to commemorate authors’ books. When she’s not writing or making bears, she’s teaching online writing courses. Originally from California, she’s lived in eight states and now resides in the heart of Texas. She is the author of Heart of the Wolf, Don’t Cry Wolf, Winning the Highlander’s Heart, Deadly Liaisons, Relative Danger, The Vampire…In My Dreams (young adult) and numerous articles and short stories for magazines.


Immortal Seduction—with Bite!

Or maybe I should say, semi-immortal seduction—with bite! Because perfect people are boring. Not that an immortal is completely perfect—usually, they have miserable psychological problems, but just that they’re unbeatable, unkillable, truly unstoppable—and what’s the fun in that?

So I prefer semi-immortals with some physical vulnerability in addition to the emotional insecurity. After all, without flaws, the characters are just not—human enough.

In Heart of the Wolf, Devlyn is a gray lupus garou, and Bella is a red, which is based on real red and gray wolf packs. With each successive story—Don’t Cry Wolf is coming Spring ’09—I add more about real wolf behavior. I’ve just finished writing Betrayal of the Wolf and had a lot of fun adding even more real wolf details to the mix.

I love doing research and can get lost in it for hours, but most of all, I love to create a world that even though it’s not real, seems it could be. What’s not to like about falling into an alternate reality and really feeling you are there?

Heart of the Wolf is available on April 1.

Here are some snippets about what reviewers think of the world I’ve created:

“The vulpine couple's chemistry crackles off the page, but the real strength of the book lies in Spear's depiction of pack power dynamics, as well as in the details of human−wolf interaction. Her wolf world feels at once palpable and even plausible.” ~~Publisher’s Weekly

“…she has painstakingly researched the behavior of real wolves in the wild to add realism to the behavior of the werewolves in their wolf form and pack behavior.” –Recommended Read, 5 Angels, FAR, Stephanie B

4 Star, HOT, Romantic Times~~“A solidly crafted werewolf story, this tale centers on pack problems in a refreshingly straightforward way. The characters are well drawn and believable, which makes the contemporary plotline of this story of love and life among the lupus garou seem, well, realistic.” ~~(SOURCEBOOKS, Apr.,417pp.,S6.99) Bunny Callahan

“I love how Ms. Spear has intertwined true attributes of wolves to make the werewolf world come alive.” Karen Michelle Nutt, author for ParaNormal Romance Reviews

“Enchanting romance with a unique twist! The characters were so well developed and the writing so superior that it felt real to me, my reactions were as if I was a part of the story. If that’s not a sign of a good book, what is?” ~~The Romance Studio

And to me, that’s the fun of writing an urban fantasy, paranormal romantic suspense where readers can suspend belief and fall into the world of make-believe.

As a kid, I loved to get lost in other worlds from ancient fables and the paranormal to real life Native American Indian stories and other true adventures. Reading and making up my own stories is what made my writing what it is today.

When I need a break from my own writing, in between books, just as a reward to myself, I delve into the worlds of other writers, get lost, and live the characters’ hopes and dreams, stumble through their conflicts, and suffer anything, just to be with the one love of their life. And then I’m back to creating my own world, complete with hunky heroes—the semi-immortal kind—and their spunky matches…send them on a whirlwind of an adventure that can only have one outcome: Right the wrong, and live happily, or mostly, happily ever after.

Join Devlyn and Bella in their sensual romantic suspense in Heart of the Wolf and drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you! And friend me on Myspace or Facebook! The more friends, the merrier!

Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf, Don’t Cry Wolf

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