Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Synopsis Hell

I love every aspect of writing fiction except one. I’ll give you one guess as to what that is. Okay, so the title of the blog gave away my weakness.:) When a synopsis is complete and my critique partners give it the thumbs up, I forget what an effort it is to distil into a few pages the salient points of a story that comprises thousands of words. I suppose my mind blocks out the pain in the same way it did after giving birth. Otherwise, I’d never submit myself to the experience again. (Although after hearing about Trish's revision letter, I think I'm making a fuss!)

But I’m pleased to say I’ve wrestled the latest synopsis into submission and it’s almost ready to send out the door.

My husband’s theory is that writing a synopsis is a left-brain activity, so it’s obviously too organised and methodical for me. Anyone who’s seen my desk knows I’m neither organised nor methodical.

Now I have to decide what to cook for dinner, which has become rather difficult since my son became a vegetarian. A strange choice as he doesn’t like vegetables. He’s existing on a diet of doughnuts, pasta, and pop tarts because his latest girlfriend is a vegetarian. What young people do for love!

Monday, September 29, 2008

In the revision cave

The housework is put on the back burner. The paperwork is piling up on my desk. I'm fairly certain weeds are staging a coup on my flowerbeds. Yep, I'm eyeball deep in revisions.

A couple of weeks ago, my editor for my young adult books sent me a 24-page revision letter. I wasn't as shocked by it this time as I was for my first YA novel, which had a 23-page revision letter. That's just how they work. I remember nearly hyperventilating when I got that first letter. While I didn't require a brown paper bag this time, it's still daunting to look at revisions of that magnitude, especially when they involve the structure of the story and certain characters' relationships with each other. The only way I can handle them is to take them in small chunks and to make several passes through the book to make sure I've addressed everything in the letter and that the story still hangs together well.

Right now, I'm still on the first pass, and that of course means that I'm feeling that the new version is complete and utter crap. I told a friend this, and she reminded me that I always say that. I took some comfort in that, but I won't rest until I finish to my satisfaction and meet my Oct. 20 deadline. There's still a lot of work to be done between now and then, and this during a time when I'm doing a lot of traveling to promote my debut release, A Firefighter in the Family, out this month from Harlequin American. But I worked long and hard for this dream to come true, so I'll find a way to get everything done that needs to be done by the date required. That's just part of being a published author.

So, it's back to the revision cave I go. I'll emerge again, blinking against the light, sometime around Oct. 20.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Romance and Harleys


I'm delighted to welcome Angie Fox to Title Magic to tell us a little about the fun she had doing reasearch for her debut book The Accidental Demon Slayer--now a New York Times Bestseller!

I received a fun reader email the other day from a Harley biker who wanted to ask me a “very important question.”

Do you know your book is in the romance section?

As if Harley riding biker witches and romance are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think everyone should read (and experience) romance in their lives. It’s fun. It makes you feel good. Come to think of it, that’s kind of what it’s like to ride a Harley.

Not that I know a lot about bikes, but I did have to learn my share in order to write The Accidental Demon Slayer. When I decided to write a book about a preschool teacher forced to hit the road with a gang of geriatric biker witches, research took on a whole new meaning. At one point, I found myself on the back of a coal black Harley, behind a guy named Stone, with my helmet on backwards and an Irish Setter in tow. The dog’s name was Frankie and I can tell you right now, Frankie knew a lot more about motorcycles than I did.


But I survived the bikes, even if they made me walk like John Wayne. I learned a ton at biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink) and I risked life and limb (at least in my mind) to get my facts right. Plus, since I have a Harley riding dog in my book, I met some of the cutest biker dogs you’ve ever seen.


The book was a kick to research, and to write. And to continue the fun, I’ve developed a highly un-scientific What’s Your Biker Witch Name? quiz. Post your biker witch name below and enter to win a copy of The Accidental Demon Slayer.

To find out your Biker Witch name, check out Angie's website, then come back and tell us.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

FROM PUN TO PUBLISHED: SNAKE IN THE GLASS

FROM PUN TO PUBLISHED: SNAKE IN THE GLASS
by Pat Cunningham


Savanna’s after me to blog about my most recent story sale, so here goes. The story was written about four years ago, so this is the best I remember it. (The long interval was because it spent a horrendous amount of time on editorial desks – at least a year at one place, over a year and a half at another. And that’s just for a story. I feel for your novelists out there.)

Anyway. I know it started with a pun. I don’t know why I was thinking of the phrase "snake in the grass," but my pun muscle went into action. One altered letter later, I had a story title. That was the easy part.

The plot required a bit more thought. What kind of a glass was it, and how did the snake get in there? Why was the snake in there? I remember years ago places like Spencer Gifts used to carry glass globes/paperweights with things like scorpions and tarantulas in them. Maybe baby rattlesnakes too. So that answered the glass question, but it still didn’t give me a plot.

Luckily the subconscious mind is a wonderful ally. Pester it long enough and it’ll give you answers just to shut you up. The snake turned out to be a spirit creature, half of a shapechanger’s soul. A magician split the shapechanger in two and imprisoned his animal half in the globe. The globe was stolen by a peddler, Marchand, who tried to sell it to a witch. And then the shapechanger’s human half showed up on her doorstep, looking for the rest of him. Now we’re cooking!

Any good story needs a dollop of conflict, and I found it in the witch, Therese. A survivor of a purge that wiped out most of the magic-users in her world, she’s become adept at hiding out and keeping her head down. She never had much to do with shapechangers. Now she’s stuck with a dying one asking her for help. She can leave him to waste away, or risk exposure by helping him track down his snake-self. And she doesn’t even like snakes.

Since I’m a seat-of-the-pants type of writer, I tend to dive in and see where the story goes, discovering things as I blunder along. This method can lead up a lot of blind alleys, but sometimes you’re rewarded with pleasant surprises. The opening scene between Therese and Marchand flowed out of my pen on its own and survived basically intact from first draft to final submission. The character Yves started out as a name tossed off in dialogue and morphed into a major player. I was halfway through the story before I realized Marchand was a dwarf. I don’t know why the characters all have French names; it just seemed to fit. That tricky subconscious at work again.

And that’s where stories come from. A little wordplay and voila.
Too bad this wasn’t a romance. Imagine a love scene involving a man who can change into a python at will. I think I’ll leave that one to the erotica writers.


*****************
Snake in the Glass will be in an upcoming issue of the ezine ~
Beneath Ceaseless Skies ~ http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com ~ is a new online magazine of literary adventure fantasy, and will release its debut issue on Thursday, October 9.

The cover art for the Beneath Ceaseless Skies website before our premiere issue is
"King of Ruins" by Mats Minnhagen.
Mats Minnhagen is a digital artist living in Sweden. He has worked as Concept Artist on EA Dice and currently freelances with role-playing-game, book, and popular science illustrations.

Note: Okay, once again, synchronicity strikes like *dare I say it* a rattlesnake. The baby rattler that was sunning himself on my bedroom window sill less than a week ago. So, if I were penning this blog it could be titled ~ Snake Not In the Grass...but near the glass...okay, bad, but, there ya go...my mind isn’t always snappy happy with creativity.
p.s. The pic used above is just for show, and is not related to the blog or the ezine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Seeing my first book on the shelf

When I began seriously writing and submitting my books back in 1996, I dreamed about what it would be like to see my books on a store shelf someday. But as I found out a couple of weeks ago, none of the things I imagined compared to the actual event. I stood there in the middle of Wal-Mart, with exciting things like bananas, deodorant and grass seed for the yard in my shopping cart, and just stared at my first book surrounded by other authors’ books. There was my name on the cover, my characters represented by the artwork. I grinned like a fool and called my husband at work to share the moment.

Trish’s first book sighting

Here I am at Wal-Mart with my debut release. This photo was taken after midnight (thus the lack o’ makeup and hair product) since we were there to get the new video game, Spore, which released at midnight, for the hubby.

The past year has been full of surreal moments like that. That moment on July 24, 2007, when my agent called to tell me I’d sold my first two young adult books to Razorbill. Oct. 26, 2007, when she called me again to tell me I’d sold my first two romances to Harlequin American. Signing my first contracts. Seeing my first covers. Getting my author copies in the mail. I kept thinking I’d wake up and it would have all been a dream.

But the official release day for A Firefighter in the Family, Sept. 9, was the ultimate. It’s now real.

Trish Milburn - cover

Over the past several weeks, I’ve gotten e-mails from friends telling me they’d pre-ordered the book. I got a fan e-mail from someone who’d read it because she was in the Harlequin American book club and had gotten it early. I got a four-star review from Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine, the lovely co-sponsors of the American Title contest, which brought those of us here at Title Magic together. Beginning the week before the official release date, friends started e-mailing telling me they’d gotten their own copies at their Wal-Mart, B.Dalton or other book outlet. The friend who along with her mother started me to reading romance novels back in high school called on Saturday excited because she’d just bought two copies. Though I’ve done speaking engagements for a few years, now I’m doing them as a published author. The weekend after my release, I was the featured all-day speaker at another RWA chapter. Was I scared half to death that I’d prove a disappointment to those attending? Heck, yeah! But it’s still a wonderful feeling that I’ve finally gotten to this point. And the meeting turned out wonderfully, even if my voice was really strained by the end of the day.

It’s impossible to get to one's debut release day without looking back and reflecting on all the times it would have been so much easier to quit. It wasn’t easy to keep coming back to the computer day after day when the rejections rolled in, when a project I loved got no love from anyone else, when an editor who wanted to buy my work left the publishing house a month after I left my full-time job. The number of manuscripts I completed and the number of rejections I collected got harder with each passing year. I wondered if I was wasting all that time that I could be using to do something else I enjoy or spending more time with my husband. But he kept encouraging me. My friends told me it was only a matter of time. And you know what – they were right. I’m glad they kept pushing me and that my own stubbornness to not have all that effort be in vain brought me to that day when I made my first sale.

Because it took me eleven years to sell once I got serious about trying to get published, I’m now the queen of preaching perseverance. I know it’s hard to keep going in the face of “no, no, and more no,” but trust me. If you keep working at your craft, keep networking, keep a positive attitude, and make it known to everyone that you treat this as a serious business, you’ll get there. You will have your own first sale, your own debut book release, your own squeeful moment when you see your book on a store shelf for the first time and say to yourself that, yes, it’s all been worth it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Walking through history



My recent trip to London took me way back in history - 800 years.
I was also following in the footsteps of one of the most successful authors of recent time.


The Temple Church dates from the Crusades. It was the Headquarters of the Knights Templar, soldier monks who protected pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land. The church was consecrated in 1185 by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, probably in the presence of the king, and it houses the effigies of ten Templar knights including William Marshall Earl of Pembroke.

The epitome of chivalry in his time, he was adviser to four kings of England, which was quite a feat in those days.
If you want to learn more about William, track down Elizabeth Chadwick’s two books The Greatest Knight, and The Scarlet Lion, that bring the story of William’s career to life in vivid detail.





The other thing about the Temple Church is, of course, that it was the site of one of the clues in the Da Vinci code. Except that it wasn't. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean.
The first time I visited it, years ago, it was a beautiful sunlit morning and I had the place to myself. Now hundreds of people come to look at a site that featured in a best selling book and a block buster film.
Even so, the church still has an aura. It's a special space. But I wonder what the Templars would have made of it all.

Reaching The End

Those of you with a drawer (or box or computer file) filled with abandoned three-chapter novels, raise your hands. Yeah, I thought so. Me too. It seems like we all go through this stage at the beginning. We see a bright, shiny idea, we eagerly start to write, and then something happens. We get stuck. We have doubts. Maybe we fiddle with the opening a bit, rework the plot in our heads, scrap the whole thing and start over only to hit a brick wall. Until the next bright, shiny idea comes along.

Getting to "The End" is hard. Some of us never make it. The rest of us keep at it until we find something to get us to that finish line. For me, that something was the writing marathon.

I joined in my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2002, and had a complete blast. If you're unfamiliar with NaNo, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel, or at least the first 50,000 words of a longer novel in 30 days. For a newbie writer, this was a daunting task! I finished, though. And along the way I learned more about my own process than I ever had during the Shiny Idea phase.

I found that I do better with lots of tiny goals instead of one big one. For example, "Write 1600 words tonight" instead of "Write a book." I also work better with deadlines and tend to be more successful if I'm accountable to someone else. You have to prove to the organizers that you wrote those words. And there's a whole community of folks in the NaNo forums that you can go to for support and motivation.

I brought all of these things into my writing routine for the rest of the year, and for the most part it's worked pretty well. Now I know when something really isn't working as opposed to me falling prey to plot bunnies or the new Shiny Idea. I stick to a words-per-day schedule, I work toward a deadline, and I tell my writers' group to expect me to complete those goals.

There's one more thing, perhaps more important than all of the above, that I learned how to do during NaNoWriMo: I learned how to beat that infernal internal editor into submission during my drafting process and to accept that my first drafts aren't going to be perfect. In fact, they're going to be crap. There will be plotholes. There will be continuity errors, spelling and grammar problems, and I tend to have compound word issues. But I can't fix any of this stuff if it doesn't exist in the first place. The writing marathon forces me to create.

This year I'm going to try something new. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I'll be taking a class over at RWA Online - Fast Draft in 14 Days and their Kia Writing Marathon. This is a new challenge. I can do a first draft in a month. Can I chop that in half? Wish me luck!

So, tell me. Do you all do marathons? How do you reach the end?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Moonshadows - Meeting Melinda Hammond


Blogging with us again this Friday on Title Magic is British romance author Melinda Hammond. Last time Melinda was with us she talked about her first Regency romance. After the sell out success of More Than a Governess, she now has her first original e-book release, a contemporary/Georgian timeslip romance. That's the gorgeous cover of Moonshadows above.
She joins us today to talk about the book and share the experience of being a Brit published by US publishers Samhain. She's having quite a year, but I'll let her tell you about that.

What an exciting year this is turning out to be. My first Regency romance writing as Sarah Mallory (More Than a Governess) was published by Harlequin Historical in the spring and Lucasta, my latest Georgian adventure romance for Robert Hale Ltd is coming out at the end of September. As if this was not enough to celebrate, my very first e-book, Moonshadows, was launched by Samhain Publishing on 2nd September. Some of my earlier books have been issued as e-books by Regency Reads, but Moonshadows is the first time an original novel of mine has been published first as an e-book with the print version to follow next spring.

Samhain is one of the foremost e-publishers of original romantic fiction and they are based in the USA. I was a little nervous of submitting my manuscript to them and I wondered if the "cultural divide" might be too great. However, I need not have worried: I had a delightful email in reply saying how much they liked Moonshadows. After this, events began to move at a frantic pace. My editor came back very quickly with her thoughts on the story, and from there it was a team effort to polish my manuscript and turn it into a beautifully crafted novel. A few very minor changes were required – thankfully Aston Martin and Porsche are well known around the world (this was for the contemporary story, of course!) and no major revisions were required from me.

Moonshadows is a little different from my usual Melinda Hammond novels because it is a Georgian love story overlaid with a contemporary romance and with a little touch of the supernatural thrown in!

As Melinda Hammond I have written more than a dozen books, all Georgian or Regency romances and many with the handsome, rakish hero reformed by the love of a good woman. However, occasionally I have wondered just what would happen if the divisions between the hero and heroine were so great that they could not be resolved in one lifetime. This was my premise for writing Moonshadows, where Richard, the rakish hero meets his match in an innocent, gentle girl with an indomitable will. Sarah is convinced that if she gives in to Richard it will endanger both their souls, so she can never admit her love for him.

Their story is intertwined with a contemporary romance but by contrast my modern day heroine, Jez Skelton, is a typical career girl. She may not have the religious convictions of her distant relative but she has equally strong notions of what is right and wrong, and there is no place in her ordered life for the devastatingly attractive Piers Cordeaux.

I really enjoyed writing this book – one scene in particular was based on my own experiences: my modern heroine is unblocking a fireplace in her old cottage, something I had done in my own old Pennine farmhouse. Knocking out the first couple of bricks I could see nothing behind the wall but a black sooty cavity, and as the winter light faded my imagination ran riot thinking of all the spooky things that I might be setting loose! Of course, all I really uncovered was large stone fireplace built directly onto the earth. My heroine Jez is very proud of her efforts – just as I am proud of mine, although to date my fireplace has not provided me with any messages from the past as it does for Sarah (hopefully that's not giving too much of the story away).

The staff at Samhain could not have been more helpful to me in getting Moonshadows published: the editing was extremely thorough and I was very grateful for their help in making sure that the novel would be accessible to a North American audience without losing its essential "Englishness". One of the beauties of this technological age is the ease of transatlantic communication. I would work on my edits, on the blurb, or details for the cover art and email everything away, then, while those of us in the UK were partying or sleeping peacefully (in my case mainly the latter, I confess) the Samhain team would be working away at the day job, turning round my efforts and often sending back the finished product for my approval by the very next day.

With its newsletters, author chat-loops and marketing groups Samhain provides its authors with a great deal of support. Their design team produced this wonderful cover for Moonshadows, and I am delighted with the finished product: this is a book I am very proud of (oh, and I hope readers will enjoy it, too!)

Thanks to Melinda for being with us.

You can find her at: www.melindahammond.com

The Testing


First, let me apologize for posting this blog so late in the day. The reason for my tardiness is actually the subject of today’s blog.

In my “day” job, I am a professor. I placed day in quotation marks because being a professor is one of those jobs that is in no way limited to the daylight hours. I may sometimes have a more flexible schedule and get the summers mostly off (hey, I’m not complaining, just tired), but one definitely doesn’t leave this work at the office. This weekend, for instance, I’ll be caught up in the grading department (unlike last week) but will be supervising students on several service projects.

Ah, the title of the blog…these past two weeks have encompassed the dreaded days you remember from school. You know, the ones where all of your teachers seem to have had a meeting and decided to give you a test in every single subject? Hee, hee, okay, we don’t actually get together, it’s just there’s a certain amount of material where it’s not too much to test and not too little. So I have been writing, giving, and grading tests until I have to peel my eyes open.

What does this have to do with writing you might well ask? Well, in my writing life, I am co-president of my local RWA chapter and, as such, I receive the nationwide Chaplink for presidents of local RWA chapters. Recently, a president wrote in on behalf of published chapter members. Her question was, should you kick out/encourage to leave those unpublished members who don’t seem to be making any progress toward publishing?

Hear the outrage I didn’t express on the other loop? Part of the discussion in response centered on the idea you should keep us unpubs around so we can do the work of the chapter since pubs don’t have as much time. Okay, I’ve not been published, so I don’t know the pressure of those particular demands, but I’m not swimming in time. I felt the little spurt of anger at those defending us!

Life shouldn’t be a test. I know, because I’m not judging my students with a 40 anymore than I do the ones with a 95. Hmm… maybe not a good analogy because we do fail students who don’t pass, but my point is writing isn’t like that. It’s a passion, not just a career, a part of who we are, and if I don’t publish in this arena (by the way, my research is cited in a parenting expert’s book in Barnes & Noble—students have been coming up to me telling me how excited they are to see their professor’s name), my journey AND my time are just as valuable.

P.S. I’m not actually that upset, don’t feel the need to comfort me, let’s just rant.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Magic of My Flash Fiction

Or another title ~ I’ve been bitten by the Flash-ing bug.
As I enter my seventh month of Flash-ing, the snowball only grows, roll by faster roll. And currently? Serial Flash-ing, or continuing the story flash-by-flash, is a new passion I find myself devoting more time to and spending my precious energy on.
Heck, will I eventually need a War and Peace-type literary intervention, since I’ve succumbed to this cyber bite-sized writerly addiction, which only gets bigger and longer in its creative scope.
Aahhh, there’s nothing like getting ‘some notice’ for your heart and soul efforts at creativity. I recently realized there was a definite rise in views for my blog on MySpace, whenever I added more installments to one of my first serial flashes, Blocking My Sun ~ Nope, I won’t be posting that torrid flash here. There is no over 18 warning.
Hey! I thought *insert lightbulb here* why not give the audience what they seem to want, and enjoy doing it? Yep, I still have brain cells that fire up, even without caffeine. However, chocolate is an absolute must.
But wait! I’m way ahead of my story.
How did it all begin?
Hmmm...picture a blurry fade back to the beginning...before the hundred word obsession...er...fun began...back to February of this year.
I’m a newbie about-to-be-author, and not only that, I’m all new-penny shiny to the cyber world of e-authors. Okay, I have no idea what flash fiction is...yes, I’ve seen the term used in my internet venturing. Now, I discover one my publishers, Liquid Silver Books, has what they call Flash Fiction Sunday on their blog ~ yep, you can catch it every Sunday.
Then, I get the invitation to join in, from Nina Pierce, new author of The Healer’s Garden at the time. Currently, Nina has The Tilling Sister’s series and a new novella, Blue Moon Rising in the anthology Flurry, Fluffy & Wild (shifter lovers rejoice) available from Liquid Silver Books...yeppers, I know this sounds like a promo for Nina. In truth, even though she deserves it, I merely wanted to introduce Nina as a flasher extraordinaire, who gave me my first shot (like a drink?) at penning Flash Fiction.
Yeah, I know you just can’t wait to enjoy and superbly entertain yourselves with my first Flash...but, I have to tell you, it was like stepping out into the ocean while not knowing how to swim...for me.
So, ta-da...


Sherrana

She inspected the splendidly muscled racing stallion, sliding her experienced hands all over his sculpted sleek body. The more she stroked over him, the more the blood bay stallion she thought to use for her mare, arched his neck and stood at attention. "You’re perfect," she softly crooned, her breath touching his cheek. "Where’s your master? – So, I can make arrangements for your services."
She frowned, impatiently shaking her long diva-red hair. Her favorite mare had come into heat. Where...?
"He’s mine...Sherrana."
That deep unforgettable voice.
She whirled toward the man who had abandoned her on their wedding night.

***
Yesterday on my blog, just for my own *writing kicks*, I wrote the next flash for Sherrana. Yes, as I observe my own psychology, I think part of my *fun* is the challenge of creating the story, one hundred words at a time, in a way that will, hopefully, captivate me and the reader.
Because honestly, once I’ve finished the flash, it’s complete in that moment, and I usually don’t know where the story is going next. Or, if I do know, it ends in the following two or three flashes. And I’m at blank again. Or staring at the blank page, the blank canvass.
Then, when I return to add to my serial flash, the challenge, the creative excitement is to continue what I’ve begun from a stopping point, without having a clue about how I’m going to do that.
There’s magic in the moment, for me, as the next flash comes forth in the art of one hundred words. No matter if my brain is smoking like the back tires of a drag racer by the time I’ve finally triumphed.
And here’s one example ~
Cruelty...

ONE
Cruelty can take many forms. I sit in the dark. In the back. In the corner farthest away from the gorgeous young women strutting their stuff beneath the pink-shimmering illumination inside the intimate private ballroom of a Caribbean mansion, belonging to a mysterious man everyone called the Vampire.
The lingerie designs they model not only excite the libido to a painful level, but each one is exquisitely unique and incomparably beautiful. I lust over most of them, my breath hitching ridiculously. God, I wanted to wear them. As I could have once. But, I’m too old. Too ugly. Too fat.


TWO
"May I offer you a drink, madam?" The man’s voice behind me was deep, impossibly deep, and definitely amused. I had no idea why he would find me amusing. Unless he found old and fat some sort of sick private joke? Yeah, mess with the fat woman and tempt the oldie into believing a man found her ‘interesting’. That’s a good one. Haha. Only I’m not laughing, creep.
"I believe you will find the mango sangria particularly refreshing."
"Mango sangria?" Stupid, stupid! Why take the bait? I should just ignore him. Damn.
"A sip. I wish you to try it."

THREE
"Wish all you want. No thanks." Go away. Go find another victim. Irritated, my cheeks flushing...thank god, it’s dark...I return my attention to the filmy glamor negligees. I wish I could feel the silk and lace, the sheer whirl of color as it swishes and slinks over my hourglass curves, as they once were. Not so many years ago. I want to look in the mirror again, admire my own beauty. Maybe be admired. If it’s the right man. Passion untamed...god, yes.
"Please, I need your opinion."
Suddenly, he’s sitting beside me. I blink like an owl.

FOUR
"My opinion," I nearly stutter. No man can soundlessly move that fast, can he? His voice had come from my left. Now he sat on my right, his gaze focused on me as if he intended to feast on my face. Maybe he was, in a way. Maybe it was my blood he was after. I stifled a shiver, and chastised myself. The Vampire. I only recognized him because the magazine I freelanced for on the island, often featured him on the society pages. "Oh, I get it. For the magazine’s drink recommendations."
"If that pleases you, then, yes, Sapphira."

FIVE
"What else?" Damn, why had I said that? I’d just opened the door...
"I wish to know your palate." Leaning back, he suavely crooked one finger.
I swallowed as if my life depended on it. I’d never heard of the Vampire interacting with anyone at his fantasy fashion shows. Yes, he attended the island’s elite social events, a stunning woman attached to his side, cleavage down to her navel. But not...
With debonair precision, a waiter from out of nowhere, it seemed, deposited two tall shapely glasses. The Vampire lifted his while I stared.
"To your health, Sapphira. Please taste."
SIX
Okay, Cici, the mag’s owner would kill me if she found out I hadn’t ‘tasted’. Besides, it would be a coup of a society story, even though I’d only agreed to write up the fashion show because her usual reporter retched with morning sickness.
I pick up the cool curvy glass, then convince my hand not to shake as I slightly raise it. "To your health, Mr. Vorragozi."
"Tell me what you think," he encourages.
Are his eyes sparkling strangely? It’s not real blood, is it? Sangria...doesn’t that mean blood? God help me, if I’m remembering right, it does.
SEVEN
I sip. It’s so perfectly yummy-mango, I sip again. And again. Four sips. Five. I force myself to set the glass down. "Amazing. Very amazing, Mr. Vorragozi."
"I prepared it just for you."
"Why?" My head begins a pleasant swim. I smile.
"Tell me, what’s your favorite lingerie?"
"Baby dolls," I blurt out as if I can’t contain myself. "Truth serum?" I ask, and hold up the glass.
"What would be your favorite color to wear?" His eyes glisten like black pearls.
"Red." My tongue is utterly disobedient.
"Yes, I must have you in red."
"Blood-red! What kind of cruelty..."
CONTINUED ON AUGUST 31, 2008 ~
EIGHT
"Cruelty?" He inquires a moment after I’d firmed my lips, despite the maddening urge to blab like a chic lit heroine. I think his eyebrow is raised, but the darkness makes me wonder. Still, his tone is cool as his restaurant’s giant freezer. I know I’ve been in it, writing an article for Cici.
He waits with a patience I admire, or perhaps, he simply enjoys my mouse-like torture as I scurry in my mind to think of a way to escape.
"My age. I think it’s cruel." So there, Vampire. Maybe that will turn you ice cold with revulsion.

NINE
"How old are you, Sapphira?"
Do I hear the faint drumming of his fingertips? God, I’d love to take another drink. The glass taunted me like a singing Siren.
"Please tell me," he coaxed. Very persuasively.
It was either grab the glass and sip...or..."Fifty-eight." I harden my jaw, then avert my face. "Satisfied? Happy?" I slice my tone quite effectively, I believe.
"Would you care to guess my age?"
Neutral, his voice, yet tempting, a caress of black velvet. Oh yes, there’s that underlying amusement.
I gage my chances at shutting him down. Not damn likely, I realize.

TEN
Still...I’m a sucker for the right challenge.
"Forty something," I fling at him, tightly gripping my hands together. The Mango Sangria beckons and my mouth begs to taste ambrosia again.
He laughs...melodic and deep. Frissons of ecstatic pleasure seize my nerve endings. I sit paralyzed. Wishing I could move. But I couldn’t. I truly couldn’t.
I couldn’t even blink.
"I’ve been told thirty-five. Often." He made no attempt to hide his amusement. The hypnotic glitter of his eyes danced in the dimness, and felt like a gentle stroke on my face. Odd.
"Actually, I’m one thousand and forty-one."

ELEVEN
What the hell kind of drug had he put in that drink?
Maybe, it was blood. His blood? Vampire addictive blood. Hadn’t I read that somewhere? Some romance novel from years ago...however my brain is too fuzzy to remember, as if I’d indulged in drinking a Fuzzy Navel. Damn.
I finally blink. "Forty-one?"
"You’ll enjoy the dark side, my pretty Sapphira," he promises.
"The dark side," I mumble. Straightening my spine, I announce, "I don’t do the dark side."
"Do?" He leans forward slightly. "I believe you’ll enjoy ‘doing’ me. As much as I will passionately enjoy ‘doing’ you."
September 7, 2008
TWELVE
Shocked to my core...wherever that was, I scoot my chair back, then attempt to stand. It wasn’t happening. My legs have transformed to rubber. "I am leaving." My chin high, I press down on the table to shove myself upwards.
Instantly...before I can even think about blinking, he is beside me, his hand on my arm as if he intends to escort me somewhere.
"Go away," I snap, only able to raise myself part way. My temper emerging, I confront the devil vampire, "What drug did you put in my drink?"
"No drug. Merely a special flower essence."

THIRTEEN
"What? The flower of Bloodroot?" I emphasize ‘blood’ while trying to pull my arm out of his gentlemanly grip. And why the hell does he smell like patchouli and expensive cigar smoke, some exotic mixture of the two which intrigues me more than it should.
"Several blooms from our local flora," he calmly purrs. Again amusement hides in his voice, highly irritating me.
"Let go." I stiffen.
"My Sapphira." His tone humors me. "I will not have you harmed."
"And spiking my drink with ‘special’ essences won’t harm me?" My tone goes for his jugular.
"It will only enhance our risque’ pleasures."
September 14, 2008
FOURTEEN
"I’m not risque’ pleasuring with you," I storm.
I would have tried jerking my arm away. But damn, I knew he wasn’t letting go. The horrid, overly sexy man.
"Yes, you will." He’s leaned down to my ear, his tone intimate dark bait I yearn to leap for like a silly fish.
"No, I won’t." Righteous temper is not confined to youth. "I don’t care what ‘special essence’ you put in my drink."
"My Sapphira," he vampire purrs. "Yes, you will."
In a fit of temper I stomp on his foot. Though, really, I’m not wearing tramp chic spiked heels.

FIFTEEN
Yeah, my marshmallow-sole sandals are going to skewer his foot. He laughs, a low chuckle, just for my ear.
Damnit, I like the virile sound. My insides turn all buttery fluttery.
So what.
"I’ll scream," I warn.
"I’ll kiss you," he warns.
Kiss...it skitters through me like a thousand landing butterflies, their wings flapping.
I wiggle my arm in his grip, a useless exercise. Useless like me trying to run on the beach every morning. The only thing it got me was severely sore knees.
"Do you drink blood?"
The words dare their freedom before sanity claims them back.

TO BE CONTINUED...

What do you think?
Do I have to hear the once popular Susan Powder say, stop the flash addiction!
Then again, maybe, I’m just having fun.


Liquid Silver SEx blog ~ http://liquidsilverbooks.com/blog ~

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ http://savannakougar.com ~

Monday, September 15, 2008

Everything in the garden



I was going to post today about ten things I learned in last year's American Title final that I was going to apply to this year's, but I could only think of one.


So I'm going to talk about flowers and ancient buildings instead.


I snuck off to London for the day last week, to go to a Royal Horticultural Society flower show. This one was a bit special, as it was held in the Inner Temple Garden.

The Chelsea Flower Show is probably the biggest and most famous horticultural show in the world, but before it got celebrity status and moved along the river, it was held for almost 100 years at the Inner Temple.

The Temple is part of the Inns of Court, which is where barristers and judges have their offices, or chambers. It is a wonderful complex of old buildings, courtyards and gardens with fountains, statues and very old trees. King James 1st made over the land for the construction in 1608. At the centre of the complex is the Temple Church, which dates back to the 12th century.

The show was interesting, if a bit soggy underfoot, but the highlight for me was visiting the church, and one of the other garden courts that was not used in the show.


The Temple Church was the venue for a display of spectacular flower arranging, as you can see, but it appealed to me for more literary reasons as well, that I plan to talk about in my next blog. Some of the detailing of the stone work of the church is visible in the background to the pictures.


The other place I wanted to see, for sentimental reasons, was the Middle Temple garden. This is the place in Shakespeare’s Henry VI where the leaders of the houses of Lancaster and York pick the roses that become their emblems in the Wars of the Roses.

This event has no historical basis whatsoever. Like all writers, when they need something interesting to happen, and history hasn't obliged, Shakespeare made it up. But the garden itself is lovely and the sort of place where something like that might have happened.






This blog does have some sort of connection to American Title V, because the heroine of my book is a garden designer, who has twice won gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Oh - and what was the thing that I learned from last year's contest? To have a shorter title, so it's easier for people to type in the e-mail when they want to vote for me. And I have. Never Coming Home.

How Often Do You Update Your Website?

Last week, I had a friend mention about my website. She commented that it was far past time I had a new layout, and she was surprised I haven't changed my website yet.

Alright, so I could be a little better with updating the information on the website. I haven't done any major updates to it since the end of ATIV. But what she really meant was that it was time for a new look.

Maybe I should begin first by saying that as a web and graphic designer, I used to change the look of my website every year. I get tired real fast of looking at the same thing for a long time.

I had been meaning to revamp it . . . Especially since the layout now has a contemporary feel and I'm trying to get back to a historical, magical feel.

So taking her suggestion to heart, I've been working diligently -- if you can call for the past 36 hours diligently -- on a new look. Here's a sneak peek.



So, who often do you change your website layout? One a year? Every other year? Every ten years???

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Guest ~ Lindsay Townsend ~ The Magic of 'A Secret Treasure'


It's Saturday! Normally we don't do a lot of posting on Saturday here at Title Magic. However, I asked Lindsay to share her blurb, her fab five review and an excerpt from A SECRET TREASURE ~ simply because this is a lovely, lyrically written novella about an intriguing and suspenseful time in our history, and her story reflects those themes of intrigue and suspense. Yet, love triumphs, despite the danger and the odds. Hey, the location is on a Greek island. One of my fave locations.

Hi,
Many thanks to Savanna and to Title Magic for inviting me today to talk about my romantic suspense title, A SECRET TREASURE.

This is now out, on the Bookstrand Bestseller list and has been given 5 Stars by Ecataromance. (Many thanks, Donna!)

Here's is Donna's review, plus the blurb and excerpt of the novella.
5 Stars: "Historical novelist Lindsay Townsend spirits her readers to the Island of Rhodes, painting a gorgeous setting with words, among the ancient streets and rolling countryside during the fascist Mussolini's pre-WWII reign. A Secret Treasure has a solid well-researched background that brings this time and place to life.
As the suspenseful plot unfolds, we are treated to well-defined characters, smart dialog, thrilling escapades, and a beautiful developing romance between unlikely participants. I guarantee that readers will not be able to put down Lindsay Townsend's engrossing A Secret Treasure until the last entertaining page is read." —Donna, Ecataromance

Even more precious to me was a comment a reader made on the Beth Wylde chat group. She had read and enjoyed the novel and she said: "This is a romantic suspense set in 1937 Rhodes. A very interesting plot, great characters, but best of all, I'm been to Rhodes and it is SO clear the author has also. Lindsay Townsend knows the island. So if you're looking for an armchair vacation..."
And here is the blurb and an excerpt where the heroine Eve realises that the hero is following her in Rhodes Old Town.

A SECRET TREASURE
ISBN: 1-60601-105-7
BOOKSTRAND
Here's the blurb:
A Secret Treasure
The Greek island of Rhodes: luxurious and hot, beloved haunt of the Sun God, steeped in the mysteries of the past. In the late 1930s during the gathering storm-clouds of war, it is a dangerous place to fall in love.
When pretty, passionate Eve Burnett meets the darkly intriguing Julio Falcone, she is torn. As a man, Julio is powerfully attractive. As a policeman, he is bound to be a Fascist. Her brother, David, who is missing, is connected to the Greek Partisans who wish to liberate Rhodes from their Italian overlords.
Now, as David appears at their parents' house soon after Julio makes Eve's acquaintance, Eve is compelled to hide her brother and a mysterious gold statuette. The Fascists are looking for him and this secret treasure. Soon, Eve realizes that she may be forced to choose between the man she loves and the ultimate safety of her family.

Here's the excerpt from my romantic suspense, A SECRET TREASURE. In this section, the heroine Eve realizes that the Italian policeman Julio Falcone has been following her.
Excerpt.
Weaving round the wooden jetty of one of the overhanging balconies, Eve heard a sharp cry behind her. She looked back, ready to help, and saw an old woman sweeping her whitewashed step with a twiggy broom.
Under the widow's black headsquare, the wrinkled eyes were bright and aware, motioning towards a deeply shadowed archway.
Eve saw him then, the Italian policeman Julio Falcone. He had failed to duck under one of the many carpets hung out to air from the ancient wooden balconies, and had dragged a striped hearth-rug down over his broad shoulders. He must have been trying to extract himself from the heavy wool folds, but now he was utterly still, frozen in the shadow of the arch. Only because her eyes were good and she'd had the old woman's warning did Eve know the man was there at all.
The shock that Falcone was actually following her—and trying to disguise it—made Eve light-headed with alarm, but then her natural instinct for self-preservation stirred into action. Whatever this man suspected her of, she wasn't going to make it easy for him. She certainly wasn't going to bring Falcone within a hundred yards of Andreas' house. She would pick up her meat order and talk to the butcher later, when she had lost her irritating `shadow' and could be sure of not being watched, or overheard. Mr. Falcone might well be fluent in Greek, as well as English.
Curiously exhilarated as well as uneasy, Eve marched back the way she had come, towards her unwanted escort, smiling to herself as she imagined his consternation. Just at the last moment, she stepped beneath a wooden-reinforced, half-ruined gate into Sophocles Street.
Darting down the ochre steps, she made for the noisy road junction beside the Ibrahim Pasha mosque, whose dome and scaffolding-enclosed new minaret she could now see clearly. Swinging her shopping basket and increasing her pace as the flagged street opened out, she dropped towards the long bazaar. Eve thought she heard a drumming of footsteps in the road behind her. Disgusted by her own nervous giggle, she stopped by a leatherworkers' shop, pretending to be mesmerized by the workers' busy treadling of sewing machines.
Think! Eve told herself. Her parents said she was an intellectual light-weight, a bit of a fool, ready to be seduced by any beggar or hard-luck story. This time she had to do better than that: she had to lose Julio Falcone.
Above her head she heard a light breeze shifting in the plane tree close to the mosque, an eerie sound which made her shiver, despite standing in full sun. From the street of the long bazaar, she caught the badgering chant of one of the Turkish residents selling hibiscus flowers, and she wished fiercely that Falcone would go away. She knew she ought to confront him but shrank from the encounter, shy of accosting a virtual stranger.
I must, she thought. Think of David. Do it for his sake.
She turned and, as before, walked straight towards the Italian. `Are you lost?' she demanded.
He stalked out of the shadows, his face showing a perfect surprise. `Why should you think that?'
`If you aren't lost, why are you following me?'
`Am I? Perhaps we are merely going in the same direction.' He pointed further along the street. `Shall we go together?'
Infuriated by his obvious lie, Eve stayed where she was. `Admit it. You were following me.'
`So? Perhaps it is my job to follow you.'
`I thought you said you were on holiday.'
`And also to help Signor Grassi with the case of your missing brother.'
`So what about David? Why are you not looking for him?'
He shook his dark head. `Do you not think I can do more than one thing at once?'
`Why are you following me?'
`Because you interest me.' He looked her up and down and smiled. `Why do you think?'
His frank admission made her forget altogether that he was a stranger, or a threat. At that moment all she wanted to do was beat him at his own game.
`Fine!' she snapped. `Then see if you can keep up with me!'
She spun round, catching him off-guard and walking so swiftly that she was almost running. Ignoring his warning, `Wait!' she moved even faster, clutching her basket tightly and chanting in her mind, think!
Think!
Then she saw a way out. Darting into a nearby shuttered alley, full of musty shops and strutting pigeons, she saw a gaggle of boys crouching over a game of marbles. She called to them softly.
`Have you got a ball?' she asked the eldest urchin in the sing-song Rhodian dialect.
`For sure!' came the reply.
Careful that the coins did not catch the by now glaring light, she showed the boys a handful of change. `Yours—if you play ball along by the mosque steps.'
`For sure!' The eldest boy snatched the coins and roared off in the direction of the washing fountain of the Ibrahim Pasha mosque, his gang in rapid pursuit. Moments later, kicking a ball about the paved street, their yelling, boisterous figures soon surrounded the tall, light-suited foreigner, who could not move or see past them for several vital seconds.
Seconds were all she needed. Eve pelted down the dingy street where the boys had been playing. Soon she was hidden amongst the bustle of crowds, motorbikes and donkeys moving along Socrates Street, home of the long bazaar and, more importantly to her, one of the roads leading out of the Old City.
I've done it, she thought. I've beaten him. She grinned and swung her basket, telling herself she was glad, while part of her wondered when she would see him again.
Many thanks, again, Savanna, for having me along today at Title Magic! It's always a blast!
Best wishes and happy reading and writing.
Lindsay?
Please visit my website at www.lindsaytownsend.com
and my blog at http://lindsaysbookchat.blogspot.com

P.S. Don't you just adore all our across-the-pond authors featured on Title Magic, especially thanks to Helen and Evonne, our own Title Magicians from Britain and Wales, respectively.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Long Live The Difference!


Today I'd like to welcome British author Lynne Connolly to Title Magic. After writing sensual paranormal and historical romances for the American market for many years, Lynne has plenty of experience on the differences between the book markets of our two countries.

Like Helen and Evonne, I live in the UK. Unlike Helen and Evonne, I’ve never finalled in American Title, so my hat is well and truly off to those of you who have.
Working in the UK and being published in the USA is a humbling and exhilarating experience. My contemporaries benefit from the none-too-gentle hands of my editors who pounce on every “Britishism” my American characters dare to utter. How on earth some American authors manage to write authentic sounding British set historicals astounds me.

I try to get across the Atlantic at least once a year, usually for Romantic Times Convention and this week has been fraught with booking flights, hotels and wincing at my bank balance, which is currently not a happy thing to see. But I’m consoled with the thought that I get to meet people who love to read, and who know how to party, as well as connecting with the industry professionals that make my career possible.

I also try to get to the Romantic Novelists Association Conference once a year, and nothing points up the differences and similarities like the way these two conferences are arranged and held. The RNA one is a much smaller affair, geared to authors and booksellers rather than readers, but if you asked me to choose between the two, I don’t think I could.

The contrasts are fascinating. In the UK, until relatively recently sagas ruled. They never caught on in the States, or were never allowed to, I don’t know which is the truth, because when I talk about them in the States, readers are fascinated by the idea of one woman’s struggles to survive in the often harsh world of the Lancashire mills, or the backstreets of London. In the US, sagas wouldn’t be considered romances, since the core of the story isn’t about a romance at all, but about the development of character and survival in a hard world.



The big news in the States, and has been for a few years now, is the paranormal romance. I write historical romance and paranormal romance, and the paranormal is just getting bigger and bigger. Where in the US my books are part of the huge flood of paranormals, in the UK, paranormal romance is a very small sector and often shelved with horror. Although there are signs that it will get bigger, given a chance.



UK bookstores don’t always have a romance section, and when they do, it’s often another word for Mills and Boon/Harlequin. Not that I don’t love a well-written category romance, but in the States, the romance market is around 50% of all paperback fiction sold every year, and even stronger in electronic sales. I write the American idea of romance – a story with a relationship at its centre, and with a happy ending. I write about lords and ladies, vampires and shape-shifters. And I write sexy.

Sexy is probably where the two sides of the Atlantic join together. In the UK, Black Lace has been an established imprint for years, and books by the likes of Jilly Cooper show a frankness that has only recently reached the American mainstream. I love it, and I love the opportunity to share every part of my characters’ lives with the readers. Defences are often down in bed, and if they aren’t, that’s a story in itself. And female readers, whether American or British understand that the sexiest organ in the body is the mind. Show real people making love, and you’ve achieved a high level of storytelling. Show a Tab A goes into Slot B scene, and meh. Most women will shrug and walk away.

Lynne Connolly writes historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense, for Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing and Loose-Id Publishing. Her website is http://www.lynneconnolly.com Her email is lynneconnollyuk@yahoo.co.uk

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pets In Prose


I had no idea what to blog about today as I’m so wrapped up in my new story there’s not room for anything else in my brain. So I looked up at the wall in front of me for inspiration. I have a cute photo of a puppy and kitten cuddled together above my computer and it made me think about using pets in stories.

The heroine in my current wip has a pet cat, although as she’s a fairy witch the cat is more than a pet. She’s psychically bound to her cat and can see through its eyes. So it’s also a witch’s familiar. But it is also a very dear pet that satisfies her need for company until she meets the hero.

This is the first time I’ve used a pet in a story, although I love reading book that include pets, especially when the pet has a distinctive character that adds to the story. I always think people who like animals must be nice people, (very naive of me I expect) so I instinctively like characters who have pets.

Some of the memorable fictional pets for me are Stephanie Plum’s hamster Rex from Janet Evanovich’s books and Kate’s dog Newton in The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn.

Do you have any favourite fictional pets?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Impossible Dream? And doing it twice?


Last Thursday, I was standing on a cliff top, watching a perfect rainbow that began in England and ended in Wales. I didn't make a wish. That was done in May, when I sent off a new manuscript to Dorchester Publishing. My entry for American Title V. On Friday, the names went up on the Romantic Times’ blog. I'm a finalist. For the second time. It seems even more unbelievable this time than it was last time. To do it once was amazing. To do it twice...

Regulars on Title Magic already know a little about the book. Never Coming Home is a romantic thriller, much darker than anything I've ever written before, straying into Lisa Gardner and Jilliane Hoffman territory. I had a lot of fun, and a few tears, while I was writing it, and a couple of nights when I was definitely tempted to sleep with the light on.

The book is set in London and Florence, two of my favourite cities. Research involved long discussions with friends over the practicalities of murdering someone in broad daylight in St James's Park, and exactly what would be the best place from which to drop a body onto the main rail line between London and Swansea. After all that talk I knew, more or less, the locations I wanted to use -- I sorted out exactly where on a damp morning in May, the day following the Romantic Novelists’ Association summer party. And got a few strange looks, prowling around derelict buildings.

The Italian scenes are warmer and lighter. Mostly. Sadly I had to rely on notes, memory, guidebooks and the Internet for research on those, but there's nothing like imagining a walk at dusk across the Ponte Vecchio to get a girl in the mood for ... Well, I'll leave that bit to your imagination.

I have a horrible habit of beginning books with an older woman who isn’t the heroine and getting into trouble for doing it. I almost did it again in Never Coming Home, but caught myself just in time and put Kaz right up front, in the prologue, when a quiet evening turns into the most traumatic moment of her life. Even so, my hero, Devlin, meets her mother, Suzanne, before he meets her. He also learns a lot about Kaz, by seeing her home, inside and out, before she makes her entrance. I enjoyed the gradual unpeeling, through his eyes, before Kaz walks in to find Mr Sex-on-Legs standing on her hearthrug.

I did have a reason for Kaz’s mother appearing first. Suzanne's lifestyle choice, in the past, have had a lot of bearing on shaping her daughter's character. Suzanne was a wild child/hippy of the 60s and 70s. I had in mind all those impossibly beautiful and bohemian actresses and models who were the glamorous girlfriends and sometimes wives to rock stars and musicians in those decades. They had songs written about them, they had careers, they had their pictures in the papers in a more innocent era. They grabbed experience with both hands.
In Suzanne's case, the man in her life was a famous painter, and although she was Olivier’s muse for over 15 years, they never married. Kaz, my heroine, is now carrying the baggage of illegitimacy and a rootless, nomadic childhood as the overlooked daughter of a charismatic, charming, but self obsessed man. It's given her a longing for stability and order that sends her into the arms of the first man who proposes to her, another feckless charmer in the same mould as her father. When the book opens, after the tragic death of her young daughter in a car accident, Kaz is divorced and alone. She isn’t looking for romance, but maybe she could shed her inhibitions for some memorable, no-strings sex?

When I think of Kaz, I have a very clear picture of her in my mind. She has long black hair, a tumble of gypsy curls, and vivid dark eyes, and there is a sense of brilliant, barely suppressed energy about her. And she has a trowel in her hand. Probably ready to dig out Devlin's heart, if he double-crosses her. It's a pity I didn't think of that one in time to include it in the book. Kaz is an award-winning garden designer, and you don't want to mess with her, because she has plenty of places she can bury the bodies.

But of course Devlin does mess with her, and it gets them both in no end of trouble, in bed and out.

I had so much fun creating my hero Devlin. I wanted a man with a past so murky that no one would ever know all the details. There are some things even he isn't sure about. His career chose him -- his words -- when he was too young and stupid to know any better. Once he was trained, by a secret government agency that didn't even have a name, he stayed because he was good at what he did. All that is behind him now. He’s “retired”, with a whole new life.

Physically, Devlin -- no first name, no Mr -- is a bit of a departure for me because he‘s a blond. I don't normally do blond heroes. I’m strictly a TDH girl. Devlin started out somewhere between Daniel Craig and Steve McQueen, though now he doesn't look like either of them. He's trying to forget his shady past, but something inside him seems to be shifting uncomfortably. And it's irritating the hell out of him.

When Kaz comes on the scene, everything gets a whole lot worse. She seems to be able to push all the wrong buttons in his psyche. He's horribly afraid she’s tapping into something that shouldn't exist -- his better nature. His mouth is promising her help, before his brain gets in gear to stop it. And she is hot. She's hired him, so she's a client. He can't end up in her bed. Oh yeah?

All this gave me a recipe for one very edgy hero. And this before a bit of Devlin's past comes unburied. Unwittingly, Kaz is the key that makes this happen. And then the blood begins to flow, and all Devlin’s old skills are needed to keep them both alive.

So that’s a taster. You’ll find out more when extracts from Never Coming Home are revealed on the RT website and printed in Romantic Times, as voting begins on ATV. And of course, if you want to keep reading the extracts, then you’ll have to keep voting to keep me in the contest.

It is all entirely down to you.

I Can Haz Website!

The last website I had was in 1996, when all the "cool" kids had free Angelfire pages full of...well, pretty much all the junk we add to our Myspace pages now. It didn't last long. Maybe six months before the "Hey, lookie! I can haz website!" feeling wore off and I realize the thing didn't actually serve any other purpose.

When I finaled ATIV, I suddenly had a purpose, but no website. So I found a web host, pretended I sort of knew what I was doing, and slapped something up. It was simple, but it did its job - gave basic information about me and my book to people who were following the contest. That's really all I needed. Now that purpose has skewed a bit. And like my jeans from 1996, the website no longer fits well.

I've been poking and prodding the thing, trying to get it to shape up but I finally decided to start from scratch. New design, new color scheme, new content. It's a little too early to even think about hiring a professional, but I can take the time now to construct something that actually reflects my work and myself as a writer.

I started with aesthetics, and after much searching on free stock photo sites, found a black and white picture of a wheat field with a storm rolling in over it that I could use for a background. It's perfect. My books to date have all been set in rural areas, so the field is appropriate. (Hey, is there actually a rule that says contemporary fantasy has to be urban?) And the storm adds this sense of ominous, unstoppable, primal danger that I really like. So the easy part is done!

Now it's time for content.

Hmm.

What the heck does an unpublished writer PUT on her website anyway?

Well, the way I figure it, an unpubbed's web presence needs to do two things: create awareness of herself and her work through networking and provide information about herself and her work for industry professionals during the networking and submissions process. The former you can do without a website. The latter, I think, would work best with one.

I'm still working on it, but here is what I have so far:

Links to my social networking sites and blogs. LJ, Myspace, LibraryThing, Title Magic, etc.
  • A little biographical information.
  • Completed work that I'm shopping.
  • A brief overview of current WIPs and their statuses.
  • A space for interesting blog posts and essays.
  • And because I'm a book geek, a place for book talk and my Wanna Read List

So, what do you all think? Is it worth it for an unpublished writer to have a website? What do like to see on an unpubbed's page?

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Strange Magic of Books Reviews

NOTE ~ Pic is just for fun. Ain't that a whole lotta Bull?
Love ‘em or hate ‘em...or love ‘em and leave ‘em. But, nope, it’s not as though you can totally divorce yourself from those reviews which are less than flattering to your latest greatest effort at writing that spectacular novel, which you hope a lot of readers will love. Especially, once as an author, you've read the review.
Well, at least, I can’t. But I’ve never claimed to have elephant-hide psyche.
Reviews of your book are obviously a double-edged sword, at best. Even if you garner that prized TOP PICK in Romantic Times magazine, that in and of itself does not guarantee wonderful sales. On more than one occasion I’ve been told by authors that their other books actually sold better with a lesser review.
Yes, a good review will draw some readers. On the other hand, there are readers who live to rebel and intentionally choose books which have poor reviews. And then, there are the readers who have been burned before, and they aren’t going to ‘buy’ that good review.
Actually, from what I can determine, knowing myself and reading the experienced wisdom of other authors, the meat or story outline provided by the reviewer is often what determines whether or not a reader will buy that specific book, or try out a new author. If it’s a story which appeals or hooks them, then it goes in the cart, whether shopping or e-buy.
No question, the more your book(s) are reviewed, no matter the rating, the more name recognition you will gain as an author, and that is usually a good thing. It’s the ole’ idea that any publicity is good publicity.
As an author, of course, I tingly-happy love a five, and that top notch review. It’s a high. And feels like a reward. But, will it actually sell more of my precious baby novel?
Heck, I’ve had a couple of reviews...and actually I don’t have that many reviews yet...where the criticism of the reviewer would have caused me to purchase the book. Thus, one reason I named this blog ~ The Strange Magic of Book Reviews.
Another reason: Hey, there are just too many books for the limited number of reviewers out there in booklandia, which means, of course, your book might not get a review, or it might not be a timely one. Just last week on the Liquid Silver forum there were three new reviews for books two and three years old.
And another reason: Also last week, on the Passionate Ink forum a new author was worried about her *4* review from Fallen Angels Reviews, for a novella which hasn’t even been released yet. Well, of course, we all reassured her, and explained how good that was. And I pointed out no one at Fallen Angels wants to review my novels...yet. And Fallen Angels is not the only review site, nor am I the only author experiencing *the great review lack*. So there ya go.
Then! If your heart-prized and soul-driven novel is reviewed...well, does the reviewer *get* your story? If not, well perhaps, you would have been better off not receiving that particular review. It’s a matter of damned if you do get a review, and damned if you don’t. Often.
So, how do you make lemonade out of that not-so-good review? Okay, if you’re me, one thing you do is write this blog outlining your thus-far learned experience as a new author. And hope it provides insights for those newer authors.
And the real fun, as many authors confess, they turn those reviewers into villains, and perform all sorts of horrific ‘endings’ on them. Me? No, not villains yet, but, hey a minor character role, why not?
The specific review which inspired today’s blog? Read below. However, a comment first. For the sake of honesty, yes, I figured this would be the reaction/feelings of some people, which I totally respect and understand.

When A Good Angel Falls
Winter Solstice 2012
Savanna Kougar
Bookstrand, 2008
ISBN: 1606010611
Reviewed by Anne Boling for ReviewYourBook.com, 08/08
3 Stars
Sedona was a 63-year-old angel living in North America Union, 2012. She had witnessed many changes in her life. When she had car trouble, a mysterious person arrives offering her assistance. He had been sent in answer to her prayers for protection.
Volcano knew she was the answer to defeating the evil that possessed the Earth. For an angel, she seemed to have a very active libido. This is an unusual story. I'm not truly comfortable with the idea of a horny angel; I'm definitely not comfortable with the word goddess being used repeatedly. Savanna Kougar is a talented author. Whether you like the subject manner or not, you must recognize her active imagination.
***
What was my first response after reading this review? Below is what I said in the return e-mail, which was not sent from the reviewer.
~ Ah, those naughty libidinous angels, just can't keep 'em in heaven and away from Earth. ~
Not a bad line for Book II in the Winter 2012 series, methinks.

Wow, when it rains, and it is raining as I add this latest 3 Cup review from Coffee Time ~ it pours another review.


WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS: WINTER SOLSTICE 2012
SAVANNA KOUGAR
ISBN: 1-60601-061-1
August 2008
BookStrand, Inc.
www.BookStrand.com
E-book
$5.50
168 Pages
Erotic Futuristic Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3 Cups
Sedona Khali is a survivor. Using her psychic abilities, she stays one-step ahead of the military trying to destroy all good beings on planet earth. Constantly traveling, Sedona has no hope left and is ready to give up the fight for her life when a fellow rebel steps in her path.
Zerr Dann, better known as Volcano, came from another dimension with one goal in mind. He is there to protect Sedona from The Dark Masters killing off angelic ones. Volcano must use his seductive touch to bring her powers forth. But he is not expecting her to be afraid of intimacy.
As their travels continue through the wastelands of earth, Sedona continues to fight the attraction she feels for Volcano. Meanwhile, he is using all of his carnal knowledge to seduce this angelic one. And the war of good versus evil continues as The Dark Masters try to eliminate these two rebels forever.
Ms. Kougar has a vivid imagination. If you mix the movie Waterworld and the movie Mad Max, you will get a picture of what earth is described as in this book. The overwhelming conflicts and hurtles the two main characters must face have an edge of your seat feel until the very end. The erotic love scenes are both sensual and romantic, bringing reality into the description. Sedona grows throughout the story, aided by a strong-willed Volcano. For me, though, this tale was just all right. Some of the storyline was lost in translation as I did not understand much of the futuristic dialogue used.
Danielle
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance
Reviewer for Karen Find Out About New Books

***
Ah, dear Danielle, was not happy having to read my futuristic dialogue novel. Of course, given it is in the future one might assume that language has done some amount of changing, as it’s always done throughout history.
In truth, I feel sad that she read a book she obviously did not enjoy. Too bad for her and too bad for me. Since some of her outline of the story is incorrect. But, there ya go, that’s the way the ole’ review ball bounces.
Isn’t that what we face as authors, though? Those readers who don’t purchase because of a review, but would have loved the book.
On the opposite end ~ what about the reader who does purchase because of a review, then doesn’t care for your book?
The bottom line, consider all the opportunities lost out there in Readers’ Realm. The readers who would have loved a book, but didn’t read it. And, the readers who could have read a book they enjoyed, but instead utilized their time reading one they didn’t like. All based on reviews.
To the contrary, of course ~ what about all the readers who discovered that special ‘keeper’ book because of a review? That author who is now on their auto-buy list?
My curiosity demands I wonder from a cosmic perspective how it all balances out? Even though, I have no way of knowing that.
Of course, since this is a Coffee Time review, I could change the title of the blog to: The Strange Magic Brew of Book Reviews.


PLEASE NOTE: The above reviews are for educational purposes only. Not for the purpose of promo-ing my book.

Now this is a review...
WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS ~ link to Lindsay Townsend’s review
http://sirenbookstrand.blogspot.com/2008/08/author-discovery-savanna-kougars-when.html

Friday, September 5, 2008

When to Change Tactics

When do you decide something just isn’t working and change course?

For years, I’ve dreamed of NY publishing houses and getting that dream agent who will automatically make sales and open doors for you. Hasn’t everyone? Considering 90% of NY publishing houses only accept agented submissions, I always thought that getting an agent first was the way to go.

Sure, we’ve all heard it’s harder to get an agent than an editor. But that was the way of things and so that was the direction I took.

I got my agent. She made my submissions. And I waited for the sales to come in.

One year and two different book submissions later, and still no sales. In fact, the editors’ responses (and response times) left much to desired. Alright, so there was a lot of things that happened in between as well, but we won’t get into that.

Needless to say, I left my agent and took a year off when it seemed my writing career was just about to peak. I was so close – I already had my foot in the door and my manuscripts sitting on some top editors’ desks.

Now that I’ve picked myself up and decided to give it another shot, I thought, “You know what, I’ve chased getting an agent for four years and have nothing to show for it, nor have I made any progress.”

This time, I decided to change tactics. Instead of going the traditional route of getting the agent before the editor, I’ve decided I’ll try to get the editor before the agent.

I just finished polishing up a book that has made the rounds yet to any agents or editors. Last night, I sent out two query letters to two EDITORS. And wonder of wonders, I get an email this morning – only 13 hours later! – that says, “Please send the complete manuscript via snail mail. My response time is 12-16 weeks.”

That’s the fastest response time I’ve had ever!

I won’t give any details yet. Without a doubt, I’ll be spending this weekend going over that manuscript with a fine-tooth comb and shipping it out Monday.

12-16 weeks! I’m already starting to count the days. =)

Looks like I’m liking this changing tactic stuff.

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hook'em Horns--or at Least Hook 'em Fast


Raised in the South, married to a Southerner and in possession of a male child in the South, I can’t help but hear about football. My son was in the process of watching Clemson get trounced by Alabama last Saturday when he couldn’t take it anymore, he
got up and left the room. We had friend over for dinner on Saturday and they had the
same reaction—they got disgusted and stopped watching at halftime.

It struck me that’s how I felt about a book I started this past week. I hate not finishing a book and I can actually recall the few books over my lifetime I haven’t finished—because they are so few. It’s sort of like cleaning my plate, I hate to not finish what I’ve
Started. So, in this blog, I want to discuss two things—what hooks me from the beginning and what loses me sometime soon after that.

And, I’m going to go in the opposite order—just because I was also taught to end on a positive note. Actually, I was taught “If you can’t say something, good, don’t say anything at all,” but I can’t seem to follow orders very well.

So, what I don’t like…one of the first books I can remember not finishing was Ulysses by James Joyce. I read on another blog that some people absolutely loved this book, but I couldn’t stand the lack of structure. I like a plot, and I appreciate proper grammar and so on. Another book in my rush to read the classics in high school that I didn’t finish was Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Contrary to the popular theme of dark nowadays, I’ve had a long trend of preferring light. Or at least some light mixed in with the dark so the reader doesn’t suffocate. More recently, and I realize this may be seen as a hit against erotica but it’s more a comment about stories that compress the plot too much and have people fall into bed within a day and in everlasting love within a few hours after that. I lose interest if I can’t respect the characters in the morning.

Now, the hooks…in an online course I took recently (I moderated two and paid for two this summer), the instructor Lois Winston finally helped me get the hook ‘em in the first sentence concept. I’d heard this for years, been taught about the seven basic story lines, but still didn’t have a measuring stick for judging—does my first sentence have a hook? And voila, she simply boiled it down to the same idea of a hook anywhere in the book. Will your first sentence force the reader to read the next sentence?

Or will your reader get up off the couch and give your team up as a lost cause?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Pure Magical Fun of It

Ever just want to write something for the pure magical fun of it? And also, for the creative challenge?
To me that’s freedom, as I used to feel when I galloped on my horse with the wind.
No, not because you have to write it, or are expected to write it...but only because you’re feeling that compelling urge to pen. And so it’s been the past several days.
It began with a blog at ShapeShifter Romance by Teresa D’Amario, author of
SheWolf & Tigress by the Tail ~ Ten ways to know your lover is a shape shifter!
Well, the lightbulb went on in my brain, and I thought: how fun would it be to create that kind of tongue-in-cheek list for my upcoming novella, Black Cat Beauty? Okay, that naughty black cat girl inspired a much too risque top ten to post here. I’ll have to tame it down.
Then, I thought about how fiercely fond of disco dancing Volcano is, my hero in When a Good Angel Falls. In fact, all his cherubic kind adore Saturday Night Fever beneath the disco ball on Earth and at the Cloud Nine Club. Thus was born my Monday blog.
Okay, since I had a blog scheduled for today, I just couldn’t leave out my galactic world in Tangerine Carnal Dreams. Hmmm...how do you know when that sexy man who looks all too human is also a shapeshifter? Or, in this instance an equine shifter. Well, keep on reading to find out.


****
So, you’re relaxing, hanging out at the local bar and dance club near the Heroux spaceport, before you head out on the next passenger transport, and return to your home world. Your assignment has been a rough one, but the intel you’ve gathered will stop one of the galactic crime syndicates from corrupting your government.
Leaning on one hip against the bar, an immense sleek structure that gradually curves along the shape of the dome structure itself, you sip on a red scorpion ale...bitter, potent, yet spiced deliciously...while watching the local inhabitants gregariously interact and dance with an eclectic mixture of other races. Given this is a sea water planet-moon, the humanoids are evolved from squid and dolphin genes. Their indigo shades of skin are covered with pearlescent hues of every color.
You’ve seen similar scenes, at least, a hundred times before. Yet it never loses its appeal or its fascination to your eye. Besides, there’s always something to learn that could save your hide in the cosmic badlands, or wherever you’re on assignment.
It’s no surprise when a handsome, looking-for-a-ride man saunters toward you, the wicked gleam in his eyes shooting toward you like a pulse weapon. From the looks of him he could be from your home world, except for his taller height, and his thick long mane of hair. And well, if your gaze lowers...there’s that obvious size difference.
However, is he an equine shapeshifter? Notorious for chasing a woman through the gates of any hell to possess her...like the powerful stallion he is...

Here it is, the help you need: The top ten reasons he might be a stallion shapeshifter.

10. As he approaches, his gait subtly alters to a studly prance, as if you’re a filly he’s scented.

9. He flashes his gaze over you, then slowly turns the corners of his mouth up in a bold you-want-me flirtation. And strangely, he seems to arch his neck in a demonstration of prowess.

8. When you glare a fierce warning that you’re not in the least interested, he grins with confident charm, leans against the bar and arrogantly props himself up on one elbow, just out of reach of your kick, as if you had hooves.

7. After ordering an oat molasses brew, he tosses his mane of hair magnificently, then flares his nostril in your direction.

6. When you pointedly ignore him, yet keep a watch from the corner of your eye because he could be an assassin on your trail, or a slaver after you for the sex market, he idly quaffs his brew, and keeps his own protective watch. Not to mention his entire posture is a warning to every male ~ stay away, or risk a savage kick to the groin.

5. Irritation firing through your veins, you hiss a loud sigh, and partially face him, then scowl like a reptoid demoness. He takes that as an invitation to join you, his demeanor utterly virile as he moves beside you.

4. When you demand he leave in galactic vernacular, he merely leans closer and it suddenly feels like he’s snuffling your face. Gently.

3. As you reach for your side weapon, disguised as a tiny payment clip, he nuzzles along your neck, and involuntarily your fingers let go. Then while blushing wildly, you try to contain your silly heaving breaths.

2. In an effort to save yourself from his seduction you begin to shove away from the bar, but he nips your shoulder sending frissons of pleasure to your core.

1. When you protest in your own language, murmuring, No ... he nuzzles the rim of your ear passionately, and whispers, Want to take me for a ride?

While this is not an actual scene in my novella, Tangerine Carnal Dreams, it was certainly inspired by my stallion shapeshifting hero, and my kickassitude heroine.

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ http://savannakougar.com ~
Tangerine Carnal Dreams...a fire-shooting fierce woman...a shapeshifting prince of a stallion...and the tangerine aphrodisiac winds on a world far away...Available from Aspen Mountain Press ~
http://aspenmountainpress.com ~