Friday, November 27, 2009

Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview with Kristin Cast


At 19, Kristin Cast found herself as part of a duo (with her mom, P.C. Cast) that had a NY Times and USA Today Bestselling series on their hands with The House of Night.  Since the kick start of the series, Kristin has embarked on her college career at the University of Tulsa as a Communications major. She's also won several awards, had the chance to write for anthologies like IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, and has editorial credits to her name. In her down time she's working to make her dream of creating a no-kill dog rescue/shelter in Tulsa a reality.

If you're interested in learning more about Kristin, her mom, or The House of Night check out http://pccast.net and  http://houseofnightseries.com!


I've had the pleasure of meeting P.C. Cast a couple of times, and each time I got to hear plenty of anecdotes about Kristin. In Atlanta, Kristin couldn't make it due to school, but as a consolation Gena Showalter filled in. The duo has come a long way since then, and I'd love the chance to meet Kristin in the future. If her sense of humor is anything like P.C.'s, I think a presentation by them would be top-notch. 

Back then, MARKED was about to hit shelves, and now The House of Night has got a following to match even the biggest "vampire" series. I believe having Kristin on the ground floor to plan and "fact check" the series is the reason it strikes a chord with tweens, teens and possibly even twenty somethings everywhere. By the growing number of titles, as well as media types available, it's clear to see that P.C. and Kristin aren't giving up without a fight in the sea of vamp novels. Plucky is an understatement for P.C., and from what I've heard Kristin is a chip off the block!  With publishing credits of her own, I think Kristin has a bright future as an author indeed!


Since MARKED hit shelves and started the House of Night following, do you think the upsurge in vampire novels have helped or hurt the series popularity? 

There have always been a plethora of vamp novels and I am a firm believer that the success of others can only help my mom and me.




What makes your fans different?

I think that are fans are beyond loyal! They span a wide age range: from about 11 years old to grandparents. Also, because our novels empower women I like to believe that our fan base is composed of strong, independent ladies.



As part of a collaborative team, what founding piece of info--boarding "school", rules, characters, etc.--did you insist had to be included? 

Well Mom and I pretty much agreed on this, but my main thing is that they have to be real. The books must depict high school life and teenage behavior accurately and I'm happy that we've accomplished that.



When the intensity shifted in CHOSEN, did you have a particular subplot you enjoyed setting up for future releases? Overall, do you and your mom have an overarching plotline to weave multiple elements into that keeps you on track?

Because I serve as mainly an editor, I don't know the overarching plot line or subplots. I normally don't see the book until it's complete, but I know that Mom has an ending planned for the series and I'm so not going to tell you what it is! Heehee!


If you hadn't ended up being instrumental in the creation of MARKED and House of Night, would you have become an author? Is there something else you'd rather be doing or a hobby you enjoy when you aren't "fact checking" your mom?

I probably would have never become as involved in the writing field as I am now.

Currently, I am in school and when I graduate next year I will be opening a no kill dog shelter in Tulsa. That's what I'm really passionate about doing. I've also recently gotten really involved in editing and am really excited about the 2010 release of a YA that I helped to edit by the amazingly talented Jana Oliver.


Out of all your travels and signings, is there any one moment that stands out from the rest? And when you sign do you have any must-haves--chocolate, bottled water, M&Ms?

On our TEMPTED tour when we were signing in Maryland I got really car sick and I know that I was a super weird green color and no fun at all but there was a cutie straight male fan (who are normally nervous to come to our signings but we heart us some male readers!!) who came up to me and was all shaky and he kept telling me how beautiful I am in person! We took a picture together and he totally made my night and made me feel better! Thank you cutie male fan!!!

My only diva must have thing is unsweetened, black iced tea. Gotta have it!!!!


With a slew of tasty morsels available at Thanksgiving what is your favorite comfort food?

STUFFING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will eat stuffing everyday. It's one of the only things that I can actually cook. Ha!

Recall that one lucky person who comments or asks a question below will win a copy of TEMPTED! If you don't have an e-mail associated with your profile or blog, please include you addie so we can contact you!





Monday, November 23, 2009

Guest - Judi Fennell

Good morning everyone! We have a great article about world building from Judi Fennell who has, as we all know, created a fantastic world both on land and in the water. Make sure you read all the way to the Lynda Again section for a special offer.

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Thanks so much for having me back to chat about the second book in my Mer series, Wild Blue Under. In In Over Her Head, Erica, a Human who’s afraid of the ocean finds herself in it at gunpoint. Then she gets shot, a shark arrives, she gets rescued by sexy Merman Reel, and off they go to find the diamonds, defeat the sea monster and live happily ever after. A Human-in-the-sea story.

Wild Blue Under, however, is the classic (and literal) fish-out-of-water story. Merman Rod, Heir to the throne, must come onto land to retrieve the lost half-Mer princess who lives in Kansas and doesn’t have a clue that she’s A) a princess, B) lost, and C) half-Mer. She thinks she’s allergic to the ocean.

Readers have embraced my undersea world, but now we’re on land. Will they embrace this one? But wait—the books are about a Mer world and yet it’s on land? What world am I creating in Kansas?

World-building isn’t just topography and buildings. It’s the rules of the world, its inhabitants, their situations, and their history.

So, for this story, I added some busybody sparrows who have a feather in saving the day, a mercenary albatross who isn’t quite what he seems, some dive-bombing peregrines, a murder of crows—in every sense of that phrase—and a bad guy who might just have reason. And many of the characters from In Over Her Head show up—not on land, of course—because what would a Mer story be without the sea?

When I wrote Wild Blue Under, I purposely set out not to write the same story I’d already done because how many times can you have a Human end up in the ocean, discover Mers and Atlantis, and make their reaction fresh and new? Most would freak out then find it interesting, so I covered that in the first book. Therefore, I had to change the venue. Voila! The Mer heads to land. And now I get to see another side of their world.

I had no idea when I wrote In Over Her Head that Mers had an Air Security Agency. If I’d thought about it, I probably would have, but it wasn’t a necessary element then. Wild Blue Under? Whole different story. (Pun intended.)

Did I know there’s a special oil from the gods for Mers who go on land to keep their legs for more than the two-sunset stipulation I’d already created? Nope. Not until I got to the point that Rod needed it and a little birdy whispered in my ear—probably Maybelle. She knew a lot about the story that I didn’t, including her existence. I remember when her introduction just appeared on my screen. I had no idea what her purpose was, who she was, or why she was there. I kept writing, though, and allowed her her vignettes. Then, all of a sudden, there was her purpose. She’d known it all along and, yes, she did crow about it when it finally happened.
Here’s a little snippet from Maybelle:

“Hello, boys.” Maybelle tried to put as much tail action into her swagger as her sparrow’s body would allow. At times like this, she wouldn’t mind being as svelte as those doves who had come in from out of town last year for a Human wedding.

The cowbirds stopped pacing along the church’s verdigris roof. “Ma’am?”

She hated that. Made her feel like someone’s doting old auntie.

“Oh, please,” she twittered, affecting the same pose she’d seen that pristine (prissy, actually) dove do that had gotten all the males fluttering after her. “Do call me Maybelle.” She added a little blinking action, going for the dumb and wide-eyed look—also courtesy of that dove.
Either she’d done it right, or these cowbirds hadn’t seen a female in, like, forever. One of the cow-boys strutted past her, leaving the package he’d been guarding unattended.
Success.

“Hello there, Maybelle,” said the avian, “you’re looking quite pretty. Did you just molt?”

Maybelle restrained herself from laughing. Molt. Sheesh. No wonder this guy was ripe for her ploy—no way was he getting any action with that line.

But she played along, hoping the other would find her just as irresistible.

Oh, not for anything remotely physical. No, she needed the cowbirds distracted from the bags of metal tacks they were guarding so Adele could switch them out with the replacement washers and nuts they’d collected. She knew what sharp metal would do to car tires. Valerie and the Mer prince didn’t deserve that and the albatross didn’t deserve to win.

And wouldn’t she be the heroine when the girls on the park bench heard about this? They’d be a-twitter for seasons to come.

© Judi Fennell, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2009

You can see excerpts and deleted scenes, as well as register to win one of my two remaining Romantic Beach Getaway Weekends on my website, www.JudiFennell.com.

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-- Lynda Again,
Judi and Sourcebooks, her publisher, have generously offered TWO prizes for our readers. To qualify, leave a comment AND send me an email lyndak.scott@gmail.com with 1) Wild Blue Under in the subject line 2) and your name and address in the body of the email by Friday. Sorry, the contest is open only to those who live in the USA or Canada. I'll announce the winners then. Good luck to all!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview Special Edition


We'll be having a special edition of the Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview on Wednesday, November 25th. Now I bet you're wondering who our guest will be! None other than half of the House of Night duo...Kristin Cast! If you're into vampyres, warriors, priestesses; boarding school series; or urban fantasy, then stop by for a chance to win one of their novels!


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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review - Wild Blue Under

Wild Blue Under
By
Judi Fennell
November 2009
Sourcebooks, Casablanca

Wild Blue Under is the second book in Judi Fennell’s fantastic series with the hottie Mer prince, Rod Tritone, coming ashore to find love. Not that he was looking for love in Kansas. No, he was there on Council business – to bring back half-Mer Valerie Dumere and satisfy the Prophecy ‘to find that which is lost’. Valerie is convinced that she’s allergic to salt water, ie the ocean. And she’s not going anywhere near the ocean. That’s why she has her nautical gift shop located in the middle of Kansas.

But the gift shop is broke and she desperately needs the inheritance Rod promises her to keep it going. So, with a great deal of trepidation, Valerie sets off with Rod and a most peculiar seagull, toward the east coast.

Neither of them realize that forces have combined to keep them, especially Rod, away from the ocean though it becomes obvious that something is happening as Valerie’s car is pelted with fish and assorted ‘guided missiles’ from the air. When they finally make it to the ocean, Rod faces another, even greater, problem. He’s fallen in love with a woman who’s afraid of the sea.

Wild Blue Under is even better than the delightful In Over Her Head. The situations are both comical, endearing and heart pounding as Rod and Valerie travel the width of the United States and in doing so, learn to love each other. Ms. Fennell has created a believable and imaginative world of eco-friendly Mer people and sentient animal and avian life, but she’s also explored the question – How far will you go to keep the love of your life?

Rod and Valerie will answer that question for you.

Make sure you read the book to discover the answer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Guest - Janet Lane Walters

Good morning, everyone! We had an interesting day yesterday...a day without electricity! I found and burned a multitude of candles, got the flashlights out and the old emergency crank radio so we'd have something to listen to other than the creak of an empty house, lol. Then I indulged in my favorite past time - reading!

But you don't care about that, LOL. You want to know who we have visiting us today. Today's guest is multipublished author, Janet Lane Walters. Ms. Walters has a very interesting article on using the senses in our writing. And she's offering a giveaway, so read to the end to find out how you can win.

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Using the Senses

During the past few months, I've been busy judging writing contests and one thing I've noted is the absence of senses in other than a pedestrian way. In the world of fantasy, a writer faces an additional challenge. I'm not speaking of the sixth sense. That would take an entire article. The usual five senses are the ones I find either missing or being glossed over. Sight, Sound, taste, smell and touch can be used to bring a person, an object or place come alive.

When a writer of fantasy uses other than sight or sound when describing their world they face a challenge. Sight and sound are easy but there can be a missed opportunity here. Let's look at an example or two of the way senses are used in a fantasy.

Sound
His voice sounded mean. While this evokes a picture, how much more does this sentence show the reader what the writer means. His steely tones sliced her composure. Or this rendition. Like icicles, his words stabbed.

She heard footsteps. That's okay but Scuffling sounds on the concrete raises a different and more visit picture.

Sight
Clouds drifted across the sky. Try this. Like the sails of phantom ships, clouds sailed the sea colored sky.

He had a large nose. Or. His nose protruded with the sharpness of a hawk's beak.

Taste
Now this is a difficult thing to take from one world to another. One way is to coin words to convey the taste.

She tasted the kafene and wrinkled her nose at the bitter taste. Why did the aroma seem more tempting that the flavor. The word kafene evokes coffee.

I once coined a word for one of my books as a spice called gingar to show the flavor was a combination of ginger and garlic.

Smells
Here a fantasy writer can run into problems or not. For example if the animals are used, even if they have a different name are like the ones in this world the aromas surrounding them would remain the same. I used coursers for horses in one of my books but retained the smells surrounding them.

But I was jolted out of a read when an author described a flower as resembling the lacy wings of a butterfly and smelled like roses. My head yelled. "If they smell like roses, there must be roses on this world so why not just have roses."

Touch
I think this is one of the neglected senses except when one is writing love scenes. Woolen shirts, leather breeches all feel different on the skin. Touching an other world creature also would have a specific sort of touch.

While these examples are short and sweet, using the senses is often neglected, even by me, a writer has to think of the senses when writing for this brings the story to life. Using the senses can lure the reader into any world you choose to create.




Blurb
We’ve been betrayed." Those words spoken by the Dom and Doma of the Wesren henge awaken their four children—two sets of male-female twins.

Each child has an affinity for one of the four elements—earth, air, fire and earth. In secret, the young teens flee their home to seek a place of safety and teachers to hone their control. They use their emerging talents in ways they never imagined.

Will their quest succeed or will they become pawns of He Who Walks In Darkness?
This book is part 1 of the The Henge Betrayed series

Other books Fantasy only Coming Soon -- The Henge Betrayed -- Refuge. Available now from DiskUs Publishing The Jewels trilogy, The Quest For The White Jewel, The Brotherhood of Mages and The Secret of the Jewels All are suitable for YA or adults. Adults, The Temple of Fyre and The Dragons of Fyre.


Ms. Walters lives in the scenic Hudson Valley, across the river from Washington Irving's home. She's been published since 1968 but the call of a career as a nurse and the need to educate four children made writing a sporadic affair until she retired. Since then She's had nearly 30 books published ranging from YA fantasy, adult fantasy, romance from sweet to spicy, paranormal, mysteries and non fiction. She's finaled in the EPIC contest, won one with her writing buddy Jane Toombs for Becoming Your Own Critique Partner, and finaled twice in the Dream Realm awards. She has five grandchildren and enjoys being with them but writing is her passion.


Janet Lane Walters
Contact Information Eclectic writer http://www.bookswelove.net/walters.php http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/jewels10.html
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-- Lynda Again
Ms. Walters would like to give away either an ebook of any of her available fantasies or a print copy of those in print. To win a copy, leave a comment here AND email her at ShadyL717@aol.com by Friday. Good luck!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Name Game

One of the most important things to consider in writing is your name. Many use their own name, but some also choose a pseudonym. Some decide to make this move because of the romance stigma, others because of their erotic pennings, many just don't have marketable names (like my given moniker) and others try to compete in a traditionally male sub-genre. And others go for the marketability of where their name falls on the shelf...close enough to those big names, but far enough away not to get knocked down to calf level. 

I chose my pen name based on my grandparents name and the name of a character my favorite actress played. I also chose it because it was different (but not too much) and could work well in different genres. With a name in mind, I set up my website, made business cards, and even had it made my DBA on a bank account so I'd be prepared for payments after selling my novel. 

Now, as a married person, I also have a new name and dealing with the legalities has been a comedy of errors. After the wedding, I had to wait to make things legal because the preacher forgot to fill out the license and then turned it in a week late. So everything that had to trickle down got set back. It's safe to say the bank really wants confirmation of a new name, while other things shouldn't take as many checks and balances. I logged online to my various service sites--power, water, gas, etc.--and was surprised to find only one could be updated online.  And eventhough I had to "walk in" to have a couple changed, they didn't ask for proof (certificate, new license, etc.) before they tweaked their info. With a phone call or two I was able to change things on more accounts with bare snippets of info. And I guess there was a reason I ended up writing this a day late...so I could share my banking story. 

I went to my primary bank in person with all my documents in hand (remember how I said they required proof that I was who I said I was). I took out my marriage certificate, my new license info, and social security papers. The banking administrator looked over my documents, made copies, and even looked at them while typing in my new name. I took a trip to the mail box today, and then came in the house grumbling to husband what I'd waited two weeks for. Not only did the new name on my account (and new debit card) have my old middle name and maiden name, but also a different last name that wasn't my new married name!! So now, I get to make another trip to the bank. *sigh* 

Having a pseudonym was soooo much easier! Though now my initials really are SM :0)

How about you? Have you had any naming issues?


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Monday, November 09, 2009

Guest - Victoria Janssen

Good morning everyone! Grab your coffee and cinnomon bun because we've got a great post on world building today from author Victoria Janssen.

Victoria Janssen's second novel, The Moonlight Mistress, is set during the early days of WWI and includes paranormal elements. It's due out December 2009 from Harlequin Spice, a trade paperback line of erotic novels. She's recently sold two more novels to Spice. Find out more at http://www.victoriajanssen.com.

She blogs on writing, reading, and genre here: http://victoriajanssen.blogspot.com/ and twitters here: http://twitter.com/victoriajanssen.

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Multi-Purpose Worldbuilding
By Victoria Janssen

In The Moonlight Mistress, werewolves are an important element. However, the world they live in is much like our world; the werewolves exist as "secret history." Though several of the characters know about the existence of werewolves, and one finds out about them in the course of the novel, for the most part they exist out of sight.

The setting of the novel is World War One Europe, so the primary worldbuilding for the novel consists of historical detail. Also, it's an erotic novel, so sexual relationships are also very important. But I wanted the paranormal elements to be inextricable from the rest. If any one of the three elements was removed -- history, erotica, werewolves -- the story would collapse.

I've always been told that every detail of a story should be relevant in more than one aspect, and that's even more important in speculative fiction, where so many more details are required. For example, a particular song and its topic tell the reader something about the world as well as something about the character who's chosen that song to sing. If the character is singing too loudly, he might alert his enemies and thus propel the plot forward. I tried to use duplicate or triplicate relevance whenever the werewolves appeared in the story.

First, the werewolves served a plot purpose. The main romantic couple in the story meet because the hero is trying to gain information about a secret laboratory studying werewolves; later, when he shares this with the heroine, it demonstrates that a level of trust has been established between them. Her reaction shows how she's come to feel about him. When they take action together (deepening their relationship) to save the werewolves, again the werewolves are propelling the plot. At the same time, the personal relationship between two werewolves comments on the relationship between the main couple; both couples are thrown together because of the war, and both pairs discover they have something powerful in common.

One of the soldier characters is a werewolf. He has werewolf problems which draw in his human friends and have consequences for them. Each time he acts like a werewolf, the plot is moving, his character is being reinforced, and the reader is being reminded that they're reading a fantasy.

I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have!




Blurb:

As World War One begins, English chemist Lucilla Osbourne finds herself trapped on German soil. She and a French scientist, Pascal Fournier, escape and share a brief, intense affair.

They are reunited as Pascal investigates rumors of werewolves and the rogue scientist who abducts and tortures them.

Meanwhile, a group of soldiers, including Lucilla's brother, deal with forbidden relationships, little knowing that one of their own is also a werewolf.
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-- Lynda Again
Excellent article! WWI isn't a huge 'romantic' period in our genre so it's great to see the boundaries of our genre being stretched to include it. The era held heartbreak and courage for many. It shouldn't be neglected. And since we here in the USA are honoring our vets this Wednesday, this is the perfect time to say Thank You for your service to us and the country.



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Friday, November 06, 2009

From Pages to Panoramic View

Is it just me or are they making movies out of tons of books? It seems everywhere I turn I keep seeing the words "based on a novel". In fact, the movie I watched tonight had a little note that said "based on a short story", but I had no idea until the film's closing credits.

I know the issue of turning romances...or any book for that matter, into a film has been going around since I was a teenager. Back then I was positive Johanna Lindsey's novels would end up on the big screen. Just as books can be good or bad depending on how strong they are in characters, plot, and setting, so can movies. Plus they have something larger to overcome, showing those monologue moments of inner speak on the big screen as more than an actor or actress thinking to him/herself. Though with the current trend to write more like tv or a movie, part of those long asides have been clipped or tossed out completely.     

From the movies you've seen made from the written word, which have you liked? Is there a book you wish could come to the big screen? Is there a movie that you hoped would be fabulous, but the translation flopped? 

Personally, I read Eragon after seeing the movie, and I felt jipped. Though I truthfully had issues with the movie even before I picked up the book. I loved the base story, and enjoyed seeing Jeremy Irons but some of the cinematography took me out of the world. And I've felt the same more than once from Harry Potter "installments". 

No matter how I feel when the movie fades to black, I applaud everyone who had a hand in the movies and spend those big bucks for fantasy and paranormal movies! It's not an easy task to create another world here on Earth, brainstorm costumes into fruition from a scant description, and speak a language without any sounds bites. As evidenced by Peter Jackson's tenacity for LOTR, magic can happen...even if people can point their finger at issues.   

As writers, we're constantly graded on our work from the moment the words hit the page, even from ourselves. It's no different in movies, when they're relying on a script for instructions. One oversight can work it's way into the frame only to be tweaked during those final edits before the project makes it's public debut. Sound familiar? 

Maybe there isn't much difference between the two, except the vehicle they're released in, but in the end it all comes down to how it makes the audience feel. Whether it's a "wow" moment, love at first "eewk", or an "Ohh" for sweetness....the most important thing is that the audience feels connected eventhough they're snug in their seats. 


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Monday, November 02, 2009

Guest - Elaine Corvidae

Good morning everyone! Today's guest, author Elaine Corvidae has been telling stories about faeries, elves, and dragons since she was a small child. Her dark fantasy novels have won numerous awards, including multiple Eppie Awards and Dream Realm Awards for Best Fantasy Novel. When she isn’t wandering the worlds of her imagination, she lives in Harrisburg, NC, with her husband and several cats. You can visit her on the web at www.onecrow.net, or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ElaineCorvidae.

She's also given us a terrific excerpt from her new book to enjoy AND she's offering a free copy of a book from her backlist so read all the way down to find out how you can be the lucky reader.

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Sympathy for the Devil

I'm very much a character-driven writer. If I know the characters well enough, and if I know the starting point of the book, then the rest of the plot should basically unfold itself based on what those characters would do in a given situation.

But sometimes I find myself stuck. I go back and re-think things, trying to figure out where I've gone wrong. Have I got a good handle on the heroine? Check. Hero? Check. So what's the problem?

Ah. There's one more important character, and I've forgotten all about him. I'm talking, of course, about the villain.

Villains don't often get much respect. By definition, the villain is the character who is going to fail in the end (most of the time, anyway), the one that the reader will spend the entire book rooting against, the one who does horrible things and causes no end of trouble for the hero and heroine. At the same time, however, the villain is generally the character who drives most of the action―he (or she) creates the problem the heroine and hero must solve, puts up roadblocks and complications throughout the plot, and gives the protagonists something to overcome. In most books, the hero and heroine spend a great deal of time reacting while the villain acts. Which makes the villain a darn important part of the story.

So it's no wonder that, when things stall or fall apart while I'm writing, it's inevitably because I don't understand the villain well enough. As you might have guessed, I'm not a big fan of the Snidely Whiplash school of villainy, where the antagonist is nothing but a cardboard cutout twirling his mustache as he ties the heroine to the train tracks. Give me a villain who is a complete person, someone who, although evil and wrong, has a real motivation outside of just “being evil.”

If I had to guess, I would say that some writers neglect this aspect of character development because it isn't always fun. Spending a lot of time in the head of a character who may be an extremely unpleasant person isn't generally a barrel of laughs. But for me, it's a critical part that I can't skip, at least without causing myself a major headache.

The best example is probably my Moon, Sun, Star series. The first book, Tyrant Moon, was a dream to write. Long before I typed out the opening sentence, I had a full understanding not just of the hero and heroine, but of the two main villains as well. Both of them had long and nuanced histories with the protagonists, and both of them had real human motivations for doing the things they did. It didn't make them any less wrong or evil, but it made them real enough to me that I knew what their next move would be throughout the story, without even having to think about it.

In contrast, the final book, Sorceress Star, was a nightmare to write. I kept getting stuck, kept having to do rewrites that still didn't work...until I hit upon the idea of writing the flashback scenes from the point of view of the novel's villain, the sorceress Melilandra. You see, I knew she and the hero, Thraxis, had grown up together, that Melilandra's mother had been in charge of raising both of them from the time Thraxis was five, and that they absolutely hated each other. But I didn't know why Melilandra hated Thraxis so much that she'd spent a great deal of time and effort tormenting him, until I realized that she felt he'd stolen her mother's affection when they were children. (The irony being that her mother didn't have any affection to give anyone, so Thraxis was just as miserable as she was.) In a roundabout way, everything Melilandra does is an attempt to prove that she's better than Thraxis, that she's the one who deserved her mother's love and attention. On some level, I think she believes that if she can just destroy him it will somehow ease her inner pain. Once I understood that, once I realized Melilandra's deepest motivation, the entire book opened up to me, and I flew through the rest of it.

So writers, don't neglect your villains in favor of characters you actually like. And readers, let's have a little appreciation for those dastardly villains, without whom the story would be about a pair of perfectly happy people with no obstacles to overcome. And who wants to read about that?

Elaine

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Tyrant Moon tells the story of a dying mage who must help a barbarian warrior in her quest to save her people. Thraxis is an Athraskani wizard who created a magic jewel that would gift any mage with enormous power. A rogue wizard stole the jewel, using it to cast a death curse on Thraxis before fleeing to hide among the barbarian tribes.

The Arrow that Flies the Farthest is the Champion of her clan--its most skilled warrior, whose ritual combats with other Champions were meant to prevent war among the clans. But war is unleashed nevertheless when her ambitious chieftain joins forces with the rogue Athraskani. Arrow's only hope of stopping the war seems to lie with Thraxis, who alone knows how to destroy the jewel he created. But can a pacifist wizard and a woman born to kill find the common ground needed to work together...before time runs out for them both?

Excerpt:

Thraxis drew a deep breath, then let it out slowly. The fire made strange shadows on his gaunt face. "You know," he said at length, "I had some doubts about this journey at first. But, really, this isn't so bad."

Nightwing let out a snort and lifted his head. Stalker looked up as well, suddenly tense. Even Shadow Lord left off grazing the tender leaves off the trees and tried to back away, hobbled as he was. Arrow let out a hiss of warning and drew her sword, motioning for her companion to get away from the fire.

"What are you doing?" Thraxis asked irritably. "And why on earth are you waving at me like that?"

Then the familiar thrum of an arrow in flight went past her ear, ending in an equally-familiar thok as it met flesh. Thraxis let out a wild yell and fell backwards, even as four shapes surged out of the dark wood.

Bandits, Arrow thought as she ran to meet them. And not ones that were doing very well as outlaws, by the look of them. Their clothing was a jumble of crudely-stitched hides, uncured furs, finely-dyed cottons, and silks. Hunger had thinned their faces behind thick beards, and she smelled the stink of malnutrition on their breath.

Arrow's heart sped and her body tried to kick into motion. Cursing mentally, she forced herself to hold back, fighting the instincts of a lifetime and praying that she could maintain her disguise of normality, yet still keep herself and Thraxis from getting killed.

Two of the bandits ran past, one made for the horses, and the other faced her. Surprise showed on his hollow features. "This one's a woman!" he shouted.

"Keep her alive," ordered another, presumably the leader.

The first fixed his eyes on Arrow, and she caught a glimpse of desperation and despair that bordered on madness. Whoever he was, she doubted that he had chosen this life willingly. It was even possible that he had done nothing to deserve it but had succumbed instead to bad luck or the ill will of others. For an instant, she wondered if her victims had seen something similar in her eyes.

Thrusting the thought away, she whipped her sword around in sudden fury. Her opponent clumsily lifted a blade green with corrosion, only to have it shatter as she met it with her own. For a moment he seemed confused, clearly having not expected such resistance from a woman. Then her sword clove his heart, and his eyes glazed over with death.

She turned as he fell, caught a glimpse of Shadow Lord rearing wildly, hobbles cut. "Nightwing! Stalker! Kill!" she shouted automatically, although the cousins probably didn't need her encouragement by now. Stalker whinnied shrilly, spun, and lashed out with his rear hooves at a shadowy form. The outlaw let out a strangled scream and tried to flail away, only to be knocked over by Nightwing's broad shoulder.

Satisfied that the horses would not be lost, Arrow completed her turn and saw that the other two bandits had cornered Thraxis. The Athraskani cowered back against a tree trunk, his hands half-raised as if he would cast a spell. One of the bandits laughed incredulously, bent over, and seized a handful of robe. "What the hell is this? A scribe? You should have stayed with your books, ink-eater."

A crude bone knife caught the firelight. Arrow swore and leapt over the fire, certain that Thraxis was beyond noticing whether or not her jump was inhumanly high. She came down lightly behind the one with the knife, her sword sliding through his kidney and up into his lungs. He made an odd, gurgling sound, then fell to the ground, vomiting blood. Putting her back to him, she prepared to face his companion, only to discover that the man had already fled.

The camp was a wreck, their dinner scattered into the fire and on the ground. The stench of blood and entrails fouled the night air. Stalker and Nightwing were too well trained to run, but their nostrils were flared and their eyes rimmed with white. Of Shadow Lord, there was no sign.

Fury slammed through Arrow, and she spun around and marched over to Thraxis. "Lady of Beasts curse you!" she shouted. "Why didn't you do something? You have magic--by the gods, use it, don't just sit there and wait to get killed!"

Thraxis lay propped against the tree, his skin pale as chalk. An arrow stood out from his left shoulder, and the front of his robe was dark with blood. The last bandit lay at Thraxis's feet, still moaning and blowing bubbles of blood from his nostrils. With a grunt of annoyance, Arrow leaned over and dealt the dying man a mercy stroke. Thraxis turned his head away from the sight.

"I'm hurt," he said at last. His voice was thin and weak.

Arrow sighed and knelt beside him. Her fingers probed gingerly at the protruding shaft. Thraxis winced and went even paler.

"I'm going to have to cut away your robe," she said, reaching for the knife sheathed on her left thigh.

"No."

Frustration went through her--couldn't he see that she was trying to help? "Fine," she said, gripped the arrow, and snapped off the haft. Thraxis yelped and tried to jerk away.

"Are you trying to kill me?"

"I'm trying to save your life, you ass!" Batting away his hands, she reached for the front of his robe. Although she found a seam, there appeared to be no laces or buttons anywhere. "Damn it, doesn't this thing open?"

Thraxis looked as though he was going to argue. She aimed a harsh glare at him, and he glanced down, glowering and muttering something about magic. At the touch of his good hand, the robe parted enough to allow her to pull it off over the broken haft. He wore a black shirt beneath, which she cut through quickly.

After a moment of examining the wound, she bit her lip grimly. "Can you use your magic to heal yourself?"

He looked at her warily. "Why?"

"Because the arrow severed the great artery going to the arm. You're bleeding a river, and it won't get any better after I pull the arrowhead out."

Thraxis closed his eyes in an odd gesture of defeat. "Are you certain that you can't stop it by more ordinary means?"

She sat back on her heels, staring at him. His reluctance this time went beyond simple pig-headedness. "Why don't you want to use your magic?" she asked. "You started to at the inn that night, but then dropped the spell. Tonight, you almost got your throat slit, but you didn't raise a hand. And now you want me to staunch the bleeding without your help. Why?"

Thraxis met her eyes for a moment, and then turned away. Something seemed to go out of him, like a man surrendering to an enemy. "BecauseI can't."

Arrow froze. "Can't what?"

"I can't use my magic," he snapped, as though she were being willfully obtuse. "I'm under a curse. When Balthazar turned renegade and fled, he left behind a trap on one of the spell books that I was studying. The moment I touched it, it unleashed a fatal curse. Anyone else, it would have killed instantly, but I was the greatest among the Athraskani, and my magic was enough to hold it at bay. Temporarily." He sighed and shook his head. "It takes every bit of my magic to keep the curse from killing me outright. But even my power isn't great enough to break the curse, only to slow it. It has been eating away at me for some time now. My hair fell out, I've lost weight, and my joints hurt like hot coals at the end of the day."

Arrow stiffened. "You're dying."

His mouth twisted wryly. "Yes. When we left the Sanctum, I thought that I might have six months left--but only if I retained my full power to battle the curse. Every time I cast another spell, though, I divert some of that power away. Essentially, my choice now is to either risk dying tonight if you can't staunch the wound, or else use my magic to heal myself. By saving my life today, I remove several other days from the end of my span."

Arrow winced, pity stirring her heart unexpectedly. "Not much of a choice."

His face closed to her, like a mask clicking into place. "I have no need for sympathy."

"Don't need it--or have never had it?"

TYRANT MOON is available in ebook, trade paperback, and hardcover here:
http://www.mundania.com/book.php?title=Tyrant+Moon
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-- Lynda Again

Elaine is offering one lucky reader a PDF version of any book from her backlist who leaves a comment and emails her at elainecorvidae@gmail.com (be sure to put Star-Crossed Romance in the Subject Line). Make sure you get your entry in by Friday when she draws the lucky reader's name.

Readers can find a complete list of her books here:
http://www.onecrow.net/Books.htm

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Too Connected?

Since I didn't post on Friday, my assigned day, because life has been crazy post-honeymoon, I decided to post a little something today. Though it doesn't compare to Lynda's fabulous Halloween digital memo!

Yesterday and today, I pondered if we are too connected. As in we constantly have to have the latest updates on everything. I mean just think of the two hottest website--Facebook and Twitter. All they do is give members real time info on what their friends are doing. Did anyone stop to think what that info could be used for? Especially since it's not just individuals. Lately I've been seeing more and more corporations and large entities getting their cyber feet wet to gain customers.

In fact, the other night I saw a special on a company that only sales space to advertisers on buses in China. They make billions and have tons of clamoring clients, because the advertisers have a captive audience to sell their wares too. Plus it's cheaper than print or other forms of ad space. I was also astounded by a radio show that announced one minute long commercial on the hottest TV show (Sunday Night Football) cost over half a million dollars. That's 250,000! That's a lot of zeroes! Are you pondering, like me, what else someone could do with that kind of loot?

Make several of those annoying blinking ads on the bars of Facebook, lol. But you also have to wonder why are they going to tv? Because it's become society's babysitter? Because it's how the majority of us unwind at night, unless of course some of us are reading. Yet even that has gone hi-tech. Just yesterday I got to touch a Sony Reader. Yes it was cool, being able to whizz over text and store tons of titles in the space taken up by a paperback and a half. But there was no comparison to the feel of a real book, nor did the clicking ease my nerves like the little clack of sporadically turning pages.

At present I'm listening to the clickity-click of my fingers on my 10 year old laptop who can't compare with today's standards and is beginning to show years of dedicated wear and tear. But I love the feel of her keys, and can see the shine of where my fingers have tapped out text. Though now we (my hubby and I) have a new PC baby...a netbook. Sure he's cute--black with cute little curly Q's on his top, his keyboard is almost standard, he's fast and a lot lighter than my dear old standby. But it begs the question--why the need? So we can take them along on planes, trains and automobiles? So we can walk into a restaurant and be accosted by YouTube videos and music streaming from someone's speakers while they surf without courtesy on wi-fi?

Don't get me wrong, I delighted in having access during my honeymoon to look at pictures, check my e-mail and look up directions. But when you have bevies of people who can't use etiquette while on their cellphones, are they really going to on their minis? I don't believe anything has irked me so much of late than a man at the local hospital who brought in his laptop and Blackberry, then turned a section of the waiting area into his office. Then people he was with also pulled out their phones to text...inside the hospital where there are rules about using the devices! I sat there thinking about my sister having surgery and how I had work to do, but had the loving decency to leave my laptop at home because I needed to be there for her. I know people have deadlines and jobs, but really? Does the man have to make sales calls in the waiting room for everyone to hear and then turn our soap opera off so he can check the latest Money Market news?

Sure technology is terrific when you're stuck and need to call a hero, but I think people should stop and look at the flipside. Would we talk more, would we really look and listen to what's around us? Better yet, would we have less stress if we weren't always connected? And if we're this connected now, what will the next wave in the future hold?



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