Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Flash Noir of Vampire Magic - R-rated

Zhario of the Dark Server Unit

Zhario sniffed for the acrid bloom of scent that would rapidly lead him to the mutant he hunted. Hunted to extinction. He laughed inside at his own dark humor. He could hear the swine mutant’s heavy tread in a city alleyway, as he searched for prey, preferably a hapless human. But any stray would do. Covered by the night, he swiftly unfurled his great black wings, and launched from the low rooftop. The odor of the mutant had peaked, meaning he’d sighted a victim. Diving, Zhario caught a yellowish flash of the mutant’s tusk. “Cupid, come back here. Cupid, please!”

The woman’s shrill desperate voice would have cut to his heart, if he’d had one. Zhario swooped faster along the alleyway. This wouldn’t be an easy kill now. The mutant loped toward the woman, instead of feeding on her pet. Close enough to the ugly brown brute, Zhario’s fangs snapped out. The woman stood in a pool of neon light, paralyzed by fear, holding her dog tight against her bosom. Focusing on the mutant, he arrowed his flight. Landing on the brute’s back, he sank his clawed fingers into the mutant’s thick greasy hide. Rearing back, he unhinged his mouth.

The woman’s scream bounced through alleyway, eerily echoing. Zhario bit, feeling his dagger-like fangs slide deep into the flesh that served as the mutant’s neck. Greenish blood spurted from a severed vein. Infuriated by what the mutant considered a petty attack that interrupted his dinner, he bucked like a fiend, repeatedly slamming his body against the concrete walls on either side of them, and sending a dumpster flying. Zhario hung on, withdrew his fangs, then sliced them over and over into the mutant’s boar-like strength, shredding his shoulder muscles. The woman shrieked hysterically, as if she could stop their battle.

Stabbing his fangs beneath the mutant’s pig ear, Zhario found his artery, and ripped through it. Squealing horribly, the brute grabbed his neck with his pork-steak hand, trying to stop his blood from spurting like an angry fountain. Unerringly, Zhario slipped forth his enchanted knife, and dealt the death blow. The mutant disappeared beneath him. At the same time, the woman and her dog were suspended in the sorcery vortex. He had to decide what to do with her. A full mind wipe was impossible. She’d witnessed too much, and the horror was embedded in her psyche. He felt it.

Zhario stopped dead in his tracks. Funny, he thought, since he was dead to the human world. Her resemblance to his first love was uncannily similar. His loins lurched. Hellblade, his whole body lurched toward her, and wanted. Savagely wanted and tenderly wanted. His mind wanted to believe it was her, even though rational thought told him different. It was the woman’s face that reached in, grabbing his soul, and gripping his aching hungry balls. Stone-rot, he couldn’t leave her here to endure a lifetime of nightmares. She’d probably end up in a mental institution, drugged into a constant fog.

Stepping forward in a move he knew he would come to fiercely regret, especially since it was against the Dark Server code, Zhario wrapped her inside his wings. She awakened as he levitated them upwards. To halt the scream surging up her throat, he kissed her, hard at first, then more forcefully as her lips responded. He wondered if it was just her instinctive reaction to his kiss, or if she truly felt a sudden passion claim her, as he wanted to claim her. Barely, he heard her dog ferociously growl at him. Hellblood, Victoria waited for him. Now what?


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hands on the Past

I made a small pilgrimage last Monday - to London to visit the National Archive in Kew. Last time I was there it was known as the Public Record Office and there was a lot of building work going on in the grounds. All the indexes were on paper and the canteen was shared with the staff who worked there. I remember sausage and chips, after a morning peering at manuscripts, with great fondness. Now it is a huge modern building with a restaurant, coffee bar and Internet cafe, all the indexing and procedures are computerised and, with the explosion of interest in family history, the place was buzzing.

Many of the documents you need for that type of research are available on line these days - from newspapers to census returns, but there is still a lot of material that you can only get at Kew. It wasn't family history I was after, though. I wanted access to original documents relating to the Second World War for a major academic project I hope to embark upon. The object of Monday's visit was to renew my reader's ticket - with that you can order documents over the Internet, before you visit. I'm planning an intensive research campaign, during the summer.

Having produced the necessary identification - and my old reader's ticket - the officials were suitably impressed. "Don't see one of those very often these days." Well it was nearly 20 years old! I got my new swipe card, complete with picture. Less said about that, the better.

The arrangements for viewing actual manuscripts are stringent - no bags, pens, anything that might cause damage and the rooms that are set aside are cool and quiet - in contrast to the bustle of the rest of the building.

I called up a few old friends - documents that I'd used all that time ago for my thesis - and waited for them to arrive. It's a bit like Xmas, the larger files are parcelled up with string. I unwrapped them and that was it - a direct link with the past. The documents were typed and hand written, they were fragile, they had that distinctive smell of old paper - I was reading and handling records produced over sixty years ago. It's a very strange feeling and one that I find addictive. I can't wait for my next visit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009



By Pat Cunningham

I realize I’m being wayyy premature here, when I only just got picked for the quarterfinals in Amazon.com’s Breakthrough Novel contest and there are still at least three more rounds of judging and 499 other books between me and #1. However, I could be out by this time next month, so I thought it best to dole out the thank you’s now while I still had something to give thanks for. After all, I didn’t fare so well the last time I entered a writing contest …

That said, kudos to –

The Absolute Write website (
www.absolutewrite.com), where I do my most serious lurking. That’s where I learned about the ABNA contest to begin with. They’ve got forums on just about everything related to writing, from genre to sharing leads to market lists to how to write screenplays and greeting cards to which publishers and agents to avoid to how much money you can make writing for Harlequin to what happened on Lost last night. Pick any forum at random, read the posts, and I guarantee you’ll come away learning something, even if it’s just the words to The Andy Griffith Show theme song. Highly recommended.

World Wrestling EntertainmentHellblood is actually a spinoff of sorts from another book I wrote. That book was born when I started watching WWE pro wrestling and fell in love with one of the characters. I did a book to give him a better deal than he was getting on TV. The storyline had mutated drastically by the time I was finished and none of the “borrowed” WWE characters were recognizable any more, but most of the ideas, concepts and themes in Hellblood first appeared in that other book. I didn’t have to spend much time on world building because the heavy lifting was already done. Just goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere, and no writing is ever wasted. (For the record, there are no wrestlers, disguised or otherwise, in Hellblood. Maybe I can work Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into a sequel or something.)

The ABNA contest rules, for setting the minimum word count at 50,000 words. When American Title contacted me my manuscript was still in longhand. It wasn’t until I typed it up that I discovered I was nowhere near their minimum. Even if I hadn’t been voted off, I still would have been disqualified. After several rewrites, tweaks and padding it’s still barely 60,000 words. Will brevity hurt my chances? We’ll find out.

You guys, for cheerleading and providing the emotional support I don’t always get from my jealous writer friends. Yes, I’m going to drop them all when I’m rich and famous. But not you guys. You rule.

Finally, to the Chinese buffet where I’m going to celebrate selling my first novel, whether it’s this one or another one (I need the advance to pay the check). It would probably help if I wrote another one. Or several.

Oops, there’s the music cue, time to get off the stage and get back to work. The next cut, down to the top 100, is scheduled for April 15. I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, here’s how the top 500 broke down by category:

213 general literature
78 thriller/suspense
54 historical fiction
53 fantasy
46 mystery
35 science fiction
18 romance
3 Western

Best of luck to everyone, especially the authors of the Westerns. It’s not a very commercial genre right now.

Note: Pat, I read your entry. Hard-boiled Urban Fantasy ~ I thoroughly enjoyed, since I luv Buffy and I've always gotten a kick out of hard-boiled detective shows/movies.
And, there were some fascinating little synchronicities. Your Hellblood might not care for my Carnal Cherub, Volcano... uh-oh, the heavenly and hellish sparks might just fly. We'll have to keep them apart.
Okay, Andy Griffith is big in Gardenia, New Atlantis, a local hero, in fact.
Believe it or not, as I'm writing this I'm listening to Coast-to-Coast am, nighttime paranormal radio, and the bumper song was ~ Devil or angel... love me or leave me... whichever you are ... I need you, I need you...
Now, it's The Devil Went Down to Georgia... give the devil his due... Hell's broke loose in Georgia... maybe that's Hellblood broke loose and won on Amazon... ?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Who was that masked man?

I attended one of my occasional day schools last week – this one was about Outlaws – men with a tendency, we realized, during the course of the day, towards masks and hoods. Folk heroes like Zorro and Robin Hood, and the masked highwaymen who feature frequently in poetry and historical romance.

If you encountered any kind of masked figure in real life, other than at a carnival or masquerade, it would be a terrifying experience, so why the eternal fascination with heroes whose faces are disguised? It must be this playing with identity that is so intriguing. Maybe it’s the illusion of freedom created by a mask? Historically the beautiful and traditional masks of the Venice Carnival, in Italy, hid the identity of the wearer and allowed all classes to mingle with a license that was not available at any other time. The masked ball is the traditional meeting place for lovers in countless historical romances. But why is the masked hero such a source of attraction? The eternal bad boy – with a black horse rather than a motor bike?

The study day was a fascinating look at the ‘fact’ behind fictional heroes – there have been mentions of a figure of “Robin Hood” in documents since 1370. What is now the accepted story of a freedom fighter in the time of the Crusades – the time of Richard the Lionheart and King John - was actually created by Walter Scott in the novel Ivanhoe. It's this story that has been transferred so regularly to the cinema and TV screen.
It was a lot of fun looking at the various film incarnations of "men in tights". When the current vogue for pirates palls, are we due for a resurgence of land-based swashbucklers? High escapism for difficult times?

Fictional masked heroes are often men who have been wronged, or falsely imprisoned, who have a secret identity, and a reputation for defending the weak, or fighting for a cause. An irresistible combination in a hero.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Golden Magic of St. Patrick’s Day

~~~ Unicorn Art by Sabra Scherer
Volcano’s Angelic Forecast

Angelic Forecast ~ XXVIII

“It’s time for the wearin’ of the green,” I greet the Heavenly One. He approaches, the sky brightening around him, the grass greening vibrantly before he walks upon it, like his own personal pathway.
“The green carpet instead of the red carpet,” he jokes.
“Follow the green grass road, instead of the yellow brick road,” I joke back, badly.
“You look disappointed. Were you hoping for fairies and leprechauns?” His purply eyes twinkle, yet hold an infinity of compassion.
“I was. I’m spoiled seeing you every week.”
“You’re not spoiled,” he counters, his expression amused and jovial. “The wee ones are readying themselves for St. Patrick’s day appearances and miracles. It requires huge amounts of energy. Especially creating all those rainbows.”
I nod my understanding. “Do you have a shamrock-lucky message for us this week?” I ask.
“The gold falls from the heavens this year. It holds all the energies of the angels, combined as One vibration. Wear this gift of golden light as you would a fine garment. Envision a sheer layer of gold wrapping you. Let it swirl and dance around you, gleaming and gorgeous and glorious.”
I let my imagination follow the Cherub’s words. As I open my eyes, I see a mist of sparkling gold. The sparkles seem to sink into my arm while I behold them.
“Perfect,” the Heavenly One enthuses. “There is someone here to visit you.”
I glance up. A stunning alabaster unicorn stands at his side. Her wise eyes are dark and velvety.
“I know you,” I whisper, enthralled beyond words. “Where?”
“I await you... in another world, a dimension that flows from Ireland.” She speaks, yet it does not feel telepathic... exactly.
“Shimmeria,” I utter softly. A vague memory tugs at me.

The following week is crucial in several ways. It is a time to accept the golden energies, to open your spirit to their gifts. It is also a time to take a close realistic look at the world around you. What do you see? What do you really see? Is it to your liking? If not, begin making plans to change your physical surroundings, a move perhaps. Now is the time change your location, whether it is a matter of business, or a personal move. This week is all about movement. Look for ways to move your career forward. Look for ways to move your relationships forward. Move... this week. It will work to your advantage in every way.


Angelic blessings from Volcano & Sedona

Leprechauns, do they show themselves in 2013 ~


Where angels fear to tread, 2012 Earth ~
Is a stranger on a superspeed motorcycle her savior from the brutal endtimes?

Blurb: Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012 – The end of the Mayan Calendar
What happens when a world weary, worn out incarnated angel, Sedona, who believes she is merely human has three choices after her old van breaks down? ...more

~~~ NOW IN PRINT ~~~

Author Discovery by Lindsay Townsend, BookStrand author of FLAVIA’S SECRET and A SECRET TREASURE ~
http://sirenbookstrand.blogspot.com/2008/08/author-discovery-savanna-kougars-when.html ~

WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS ~ adventure fantasy erotic romance ~ available from BookStrand ~
http://www.bookstrand.com/authors/savannakougar/wagaf.asp ~ http://www.bookstrand.com/ ~

Kiss from Savanna Kougar...

~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance

Monday, March 16, 2009

Smoke gets in your eyes?

I’ve been reading a few old favourites in the last couple of months – books from 1950s and 60s - and one of the things that really makes an impact are the references to cigarette smoking, often used, I think, to make the characters look modern and sophisticated. Now it really hits you that this is a book from another time period.

It's the same on stage and screen, with plays and films from an earlier era. If you go to a play by Noel Coward or Terrance Ratttigan the characters are always reaching for a cigarette. And what about that heart rending romantic trick with the two cigarettes in Now Voyager?

Cigarettes now having a bad press, what has taken their place as the yardstick of glamour? Alcohol? Do we have more scenes set in pubs, clubs and bars? I suspect we might. Is sipping a mean Margarita the height of sophistication? It will be interesting to see if a time comes when booze also goes out of fashion.

Cars, shoes and consumer goods also have their place in setting a scene, and it's not all product placement. Maybe they will also fall away in cash strapped times.

I'd be interest in other opinions. What things in a book date it for you?

Before you leave - American Title V begins the last round to day. If you want to know who made it to the final and read the love scenes - rumour has it that they are hot, hot, hot - drop in to the Romantic Times site to cast your vote.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Writer's High

I’m taking a break from writing about attraction today, mainly because I forgot to look up an article and because I just felt the need to write about writing.

I’m on Spring Break. While a younger me might have traveled (never to any place
Too fun, but friends’ houses in places like Ohio and Alabama, interesting nevertheless), this me is thrilled to be able to stay home and get caught up. And write. When I was in New Orleans, I lugged my laptop through airport security hell just so I could find snippets of time to write. After one such bout of merely revising the current WIP, I joined my colleagues/friends for dinner and was still on a writer’s high. For some unknown reason, I couldn’t help sharing what I was feeling with a friend who has never written a fictional word in her life.

The only way she could make sense of what I was saying was to compare what I was saying to other friends she’d known who were runners.

Yesterday, I decided to take the analogy further. Several people I know have talked about getting stuck in the writing process. One local friend said she hadn’t finished a project for almost two years. She just couldn’t get going.

So here are the ways runners and writers might be alike. If you haven’t jogged before, and you start, you’re going to be clumsy. You may forget to stretch. You may suffer from sore ligaments. More experienced runners may give you hints, if they’re kind, or they may laugh behind your back, if they’re unkind.

But here’s the rub, if you just put one front in the other, you’re going to get somewhere. If you read books about the sport, all the better. If you learn to stretch, it won’t hurt so much. If you just keep pushing, you’ll reach this place where it’s joyful.

I compare the joy to a mystical experience (one writer at a conference called it the woo-woo effect, I’m more traditional and call it a gift). You get stuck. That’s the problem. You try to solve it the way you’ve always done things and maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you’re in step one of the problem-solving process—preparation. If you get to the point where you just give up, that’s okay. That’s step two of the process-incubation. In this step, you need to let it go. You need to relax. Do something that totally takes your mind off the problem. Focus entirely on what you are doing, and don’t think of your writing.

You know what happens when you tell your brain not to do something? It can’t help rebelling. The brain is the ultimate adolescent.

This moment of insight is analogous to a mystical experience. Afterwards, you feel this thrill of wonder. Everything is fresh and new. You change, or at least your manuscript does….

The last step in the problem-solving process is verification. You need to double-check and make sure it works.

I still feel awkward writing about the process without having been published. But I know I feel content and thrilled. It could also be the beautiful spring weather.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back to the Past?

Whenever groups of romance authors in the UK get together and the conversation turns to favourite writers from the past, a name that almost invariably comes up is that of Mary Stewart – particularly if the writers concerned are penning romantic suspense. Her books – contemporary in the immediate post war period - are still loved and enjoyed today. Her first lines are legendary and are still quoted in seminars and workshops for aspiring writers. Her titles, many lifted from myths, or Shakespeare, including The Moonspinners, Airs Above the Ground, Wildfire at Midnight, This Rough Magic and Touch Not the Cat, are evocative of the magic world she managed to create. Often there is a supernatural tinge to the story that puts them alongside the paranormal romance of the present day.

Frequently set in what would then have been exotic locations in mainland Europe and particularly in Greece and her islands, they must have provided a window onto a very different world in the grey days of the late 1940s and 50s. Her heroines were modern and independent and possibly rather daring in the standards of the time.

But – when you read the novels now they are definitely period pieces. Often they contain lengthy and elegiac descriptions of places and scenery that these days would end on the cutting room floor, but which contribute vastly to the atmosphere of the story.

Contemporary novels are expected to move at a much faster pace. I presume this is dictated by the pace of the ‘real world’. But have we lost something along the way? How often have you opened a book that starts with a frantic action scene that leaves you confused? And possibly, quite cold towards the protagonists? You’ve had no time to make an emotional connection to these people, so why should you care about them?

Where do we go from here? Can the pace of novels get faster? Is flash fiction the way forward - literature, sound-bite size? Or could a more leisurely style of writing ever make a comeback?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Confessions of a Publishing Noob - the 30,000 Word Freak Out

Well, the historical fantasy rough draft is on track so far. I have a cast, a plot for the most part, and a very familiar knot of terror in the pit of my stomach. Oh, yes. It's the 30,000 word freak out.

It took me a few novels to realize what was going on. At the same point in the process, every single time, my productivity decreases. I become convinced that everything I've written so far is complete crap and I need to go back and change everything right now or I'll never be able to save the book.

It's irrational, I know. And I still haven't really figured out how to deal with it. Most of the time I just plow through, but I've gotten different results each time. The two before Bard were so flawed in other ways that it didn't much matter. Those were my training books. The try and fail books from which I learned the very basics about my process. Don't get me wrong. I'm still learning, and will always be learning, changing, and growing.

With Bard, things weren't as bad as they seemed at the time. Just putting my head down and digging in seemed to get me by. I think it helped that I had a better idea of where I was going. I had an ending and a list of bullet point scenes for an outline. Its sequels are pretty much ready to go, too. The planning strategy worked so well, I tried it with the next book, confident I could beat that freak out down.

With Gravedigger, though, the book really DID fall apart. I ended up with six chapters of great and fifteen chapters of epic fail. I know I've blogged about it before - just sticking it in the drawer and chalking it up to a learning experience. But I really do love the damn thing. Maybe in a few years I'll have enough experience to know how to fix it.

All of that leads up to now and Boss Lady. Being that I'm deep in the throes of the 30,000 word freak out, I'm not sure how things will turn out. Already, this has been a different book than the others - a different book than I'd planned, actually - and I'm writing it in a different way than I did the previous four. I have to frequently stop and fill holes in my research. Dialogue is harder and comes out more stilted than it did in my contemporaries. So far, all the flaws I see I can fix later. I think that this time, I'm most afraid of the flaws I can't see yet. I hope that I'll be able to turn that off and just get those words down.