I'm Ashley Ladd, new kid on this block, so aka the newest deadly vixen. My hubby could've told you I was a deadly vixen for the past thirty years. Now it's just official.
I'll be with you on Saturdays from now on. Sorry I'm a little late today, I just found the invitation. But now I'm official. :)
Several of my stories have paranormal heroes, heroines, and creatures. In fact, I'm working on an edit of a vampire romance due to be released by Ellora's Cave (hopefully) soon. It's called "Truth, Justice, and the Vampire Way" or TJVW for short.
In TJVW, the heroine, Genevieve, is an 800 year old vampire queen fighting to keep her family alive and she's looking for strong new vampires. Tony, is the MUCH YOUNGER man, and the newest vampire. At first, he rebels at the idea of his undeath, fighting dangerous werecats, and losing his immortal soul, but when he realizes it comes with super powers and a very sexy older woman, he begins to come around. It was a lot of fun to write.
Can you tell I adore super heroes? And vampires? I absolutely adore Clark Kent/Superman. My Tony wants to be the new Superman.
TJVW will be my third published vampire story. It's the sequel to "Blessed Be" also published by Ellora's Cave. At New Concepts Publishing is "Eternal Damnation".
Still, even though I adore these kind of paranormal creatures, I think witches are my favorite paranormal creature. I absolutely adore the Charmed Ones and all they can do. I thought Samantha's adventures in Bewitched with all her witchy friends and relatives were a blast, too. Even before Charmed aired, I longed to be a witch and wished I could twitch my nose or brew up a spell to make magic. Flying wouldn't be a half bad power to have, either. So yep, witches are my favorite paranormal character.
To date, I've written one story with a witch, and surprise surprise, I call it "Wishcraft". It's available at Total-E-Bound.com In it, Felicia dabbles in love potions. She also puts up with her crazy ghostly relatives who haunt the house. When her high school nemesis wants Felicia to make the man of Felicia's dreams fall in love with her, somehow the potion gets screwed up and Jeremy falls desperately head over heels for Felicia.
I love action and adventure with my romance so paranormal characters are so ready to provide it, you'll find many in my stories - the ones already published and ones still to come.
In case you don't know me, I write for Ellora's Cave, Total-E-Bound, and New Concepts Publishing. My websites are:
and of course
You can also find me blogging at:
Hitting The Hot Spot on the 5th of every month
Rom Erotica Writers on the 19th of every month
I'll be stopping in and out today to chat with anyone who leaves a comment. I'd like to hear what your favorite paranormal character is and what is your favorite paranormal story.
Stay tuned for the release date of Truth, Justice and the Vampire Way. Meanwhile, you can check out my newest releases at TEB, "Night of the Senses" and "Secret Admirer".
In the coming weeks, we'll talk more about werecats, vampires, genies, and of course ghosts and witches. However, since St. Patty's Day is soon upon us, we'll discuss all those quirky, irksome, and naughty leprechauns next week. Please join me and be ready.
I want to thank my fellow blog members for inviting me to join you. I'm so happy to be here with you.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
I'm Ashley Ladd, new kid on this block, so aka the newest deadly vixen. My hubby could've told you I was a deadly vixen for the past thirty years. Now it's just official.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Gracen: So, let me introduce to you my new characters I’m writing about. Their names are Petra and Dean. They’re currently in a neighborhood near Bir—
Dean: Hey, I should come first, Gracen. Alphabetically it sounds better.
Gracen: *gives Dean confused look*
Petra: *crosses her legs neatly* Ladies first, Dean. *smiles smugly*
Dean: *snorts and cocks his thumb at her* Don’t let her fool you, she’s no lady.
Petra: I will kick your ass.
Dean: *grinning* Kinky.
Gracen: *looking between them because I have lost control of the interview before it ever began* Are you two finished?
Petra: Can you make him behave?
Gracen: Do I have to try?
Dean: You don’t like me when I behave, darling, remember?
Petra: *grunts* See what you know.
Gracen: I really need to get on with the interview.
Dean: Duly, chastised, doll face.
Petra: Dean, seriously, women do not like for you to call them endearments.
Gracen: I don’t mind. Really. But I do need to get back to the interview.
Dean: *winks at me* See, she doesn’t mind.
Gracen: *clears throat and interrupts argument* So, what do you two do for a living? Is there an official title?
*long tense silence*
Gracen: *awkward* Either of you care to elaborate on those titles? For instance, Dean what do you hunt?
Dean: A little of this. A little of that.
Gracen: *sighs…this isn’t going as I had planned* O-kay.
Gracen: So, Petra, what exactly entails being a Nephilim?
Petra: Father…fallen angel. Mother…mortal woman.
Petra: *shrugs* Not really. It’s complicated.
Dean: It’s dangerous.
Gracen: How so?
Dean: The demons want her. *the soft look he gives Petra melts my heart* I won’t let them have her.
Petra: *she grabs Dean’s hand resting on the sofa between them*
Gracen: Does the danger ever get exciting?
Dean: She’s exciting. Keeps me guessing. The rest is another day at the job.
Petra: Don’t let him fool you, he loves sending demons back to hell.
Dean: Yeah, real big turn on. *rolls eyes*
Gracen: So, if you could be granted one wish, what would it be?
Dean: Easy one. I’d kill her demonic husband.
Petra: Can it, loud mouth! Next question.
Gracen: Wait! You’re married…to a demon? Tell us about it.
Dean: One of the Four Kings of hell actually. A real bad mofo.
Petra: *glares at Dean*
Dean: *smiles sweetly at Petra* She asked about my wish, darling. I cannot lie.
Petra: Why not? You lie about everything else. *rolls eyes* A saint he is not.
Dean: That’s not fair. Those lies keep your pretty ass alive.
Petra: True…but still. We can’t tell these mortals all my secrets. It’ll put them in danger.
Dean: Good point.
*they both turn to stare at me*
Gracen: *fidgeting uncomfortably in my chair now* What would you like for the readers to know about you?
Dean: All donations are accepted in the monetary form of cash at 1-800-deanwin.
Petra: *backhands him playfully* He’s joking. We don’t have a 1-800 number.
Okay, so that’s my new duo. They’re a bit rough around the edges. I’m still fleshing out their characters, but I’m enjoying them. Strange what you learn about your characters when you do interviews. For instance, I didn’t have a clue Petra was married to one of the Four Kings of Hell. And damn if that doesn’t give me lots of evil plots.
Have a great weekend everyone!
We have a new Vixen starting with us this Sunday, so please come out and welcome her. You'll know her as Carrie from Wisconsin!!!
For those that participate, Daylight Savings Time is March 8, 2009.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Living with Ghosts
by Roberta Beach Jacobson
The Deadly Vixens have been kind enough to let me share my words in this blog, so here goes ...
Back in the 1980s, I was a happy renter in my fifth-floor apartment located about an hour away from Frankfurt, Germany. I felt lucky to have a balcony view of a wooded area and couldn't have created cheerier bird songs if I'd used a cassette. One day I noticed my couch had been scooted over a bit. It was nearer the wall. How could that be? I hadn't moved it and was pretty sure my cat Troy hadn't either.
Another afternoon, I came home after a long day at work and saw my houseplants on the windowsill had been watered. Not by me. Troy greeted me as if nothing unusual had happened during my absence. Did my little place have ghosts?
My landlord lived some 300 miles away and his new wife had forbidden him to go anywhere near my building, the place he'd lived with his ex-wife. So I was certain he hadn't stopped by my apartment.
The mysteries continued. Another day I found a dirty coffee mug in my kitchen sink, a cup I hated and never used. Once again, Troy appeared to be nothing but an innocent feline bystander.
Throughout the years I lived in that apartment, the haunting never let up. It became part of my routine, although I hadn't a clue as to what was going on.
I happened to locate a cheaper apartment right around the corner from my day job. I grabbed it, eager to do away with the long commute.
My landlord, whom I hadn't seen for years, stopped by to give me my security deposit back. He sheepishly admitted when he'd divided his former condo into one large and one small apartment, he'd never bothered to change the original locks. This meant my next-door neighbors had the identical front door lock as I had and could use their key to enter my place whenever the mood struck.
Mystery solved. The cat didn't do it.
Roberta Beach Jacobson is an American author and humorist who makes her home on a remote Greek island. She writes about the human-animal bond and is co-author of Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them (Enspirio House, Word Forge Books, 2008). Her Website: http://www.RobertaBeachJacobson.com.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Recently, I've been thinking of all of these awesome story ideas and how I should work on X novel for Y submission guidelines, or I thought about Z idea, which would be great to break into. And then there is my '08 Nano novel, I.V., that I need to edit, which has been set on the back burner, and the sequel to that novel that has almost 58k words. It's felt like I'm ricocheting around on my projects instead of steadfast and focused.
Today I started reading an e-book called 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer (who has worked with Jenny Crusie on a few books as well as writing his own). I got it recently for free after signing up for Writer's Digest's e-newsletter (in the green sidebar on the left). The second mistake he mentions is Not Finishing (the first being, Not Starting, if you were wondering). Now, I have totally finished the first draft of I.V., and I'm making my way--however slowly--through revising it.
But as I mentioned before, I've been bouncing around like a chicken with my head cut off with all of the new ideas and opportunities that have shown themselves. It's interesting because I've been getting in my way more than really having an external distraction like TV or anything like that since I haven't been able to make my mind up on what to work on.
There were a few key pieces of advice that he said. One was that, if you don't finish the project you're not going to get a contract for the work. And two was to not move onto another project unless you finish your current work-in-progress. Yes, I know it sounds so simple, but for me, those words were very timely. I feel like it gave me a shot in the arm to get back to work on I.V. and give it my main focus.
How about everyone else? Are you having trouble focusing on one project (or however many you're juggling)? Or are you getting pulled in too many directions like I've been?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Go visit The Countess - Elizabeth Black's blog today to support our very own Gracen Miller! Gracen is talking about Nightmares and Demons and how they influenced her writing of The Devil's Den. She's even giving away a copy of her novel.
Here's the link:
Monday, February 23, 2009
Have you ever had a character invade your mind? When you thought you were done with him, has he ever come back to haunt you, or to prove otherwise? It happened to me. When I began to write Nora’s Soul, the character of Dante was just a satellite character in my mind, a device to move the story forward. But he had other ideas and he just wouldn’t be silenced. He invaded my mind, took over my thoughts, and even tried to –
Dante: Stop, woman! You like to think you’re my creator, but we both know the truth of that, don’t we?
Margay: But I did create you.
Dante: Tell them how I came to you in a dream.
Margay: All right, so you came to me in a dream -
Dante: I love invading dreams. I don’t get to do it very often.
Margay: Can I tell the story?
Dante: Oh, yes. Please do.
Margay: Thank you. As I was about to say, it was one of the more vivid dreams I’d ever had, a fully realized scene of the two of us on the dance floor, dancing the night away.
Dante: I love dancing.
Margay: Dante, please.
Dante: Oh, sorry. Go on.
Margay: But you were something of a devil and that is how I first thought of you. But as the story came to develop, I realized that you were more of an angel, just a…misguided one. You’d lost your way somehow. You’ve been rather stingy on the details.
Dante: If I told you everything up front, what fun would that be?
Margay: Yes, I must admit it’s been more fun pulling the details out of you with a pair of tweezers. I just wish I didn’t have to go through Nora to get them.
Dante: Ah, yes, Nora. Sweet girl.
Margay: We’ve talked about this, Dante. You can’t have her. She’s not meant for you.
Dante: Can’t I have anyone? What kind of power do I have if I can’t take whomever I want?
Margay: Don’t forget free will. It’s all about free will. You see, they have to choose you. If they don’t choose you, you can’t have them.
Dante: I never did like free will. It’s always messing things up.
Margay: Dante, come on now. Maybe we should just talk about the book.
Dante: Yes, do that. Talk about the book.
Margay: At its core, Nora’s Soul is a story about one woman’s journey to rediscover her faith – in herself, in her beliefs, but along the way, she is challenged by two angels, one light and one dark. The light angel, Peter, wants to help her reconnect, but the dark angel, Dante, wants something entirely different. He wants her soul.
Dante: Nice summary.
Dante: I just hope you got the story right.
Margay: Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait until the release date to find out.
Dante: So you’re not even going to give me a little hint about how it turns out?
Margay: Nope. But if you go to my website http://margayleahjustice.com, you can read an excerpt.
Dante: And you thought I was the devil.
Margay: If you’re done, I’d like to regain some control over this article.
Dante: Oh. Sorry.
Well, there you have it. Character. You just never know when a character is going to invade your thoughts – or take them over completely and try to run your life. But what are we without the characters that populate our books, our movies, our lives?
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Hello, I'm your substitute blogger for the day, my name's Pete. Now with introductions out of the way, I'm here to talk to you about what? Hunters. The fantasy/horror class of character which seeks out and kills (or is killed by) supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves, zombies, mummies, and so on and so on. Let's get started, shall we.
Hunters have a large range of abilities (or lack thereof) and come from many different backgrounds. From your standard religious bible thumper style, to the more hedonistic likes to sleep with vampires before killing them style (special things to both Buffy and Anita Blake for bringing us that). Some are superhuman monster killing Dhampyrs (Daywalkers, half vampires), such as Blade and Vampires Hunter D, while others trust in their wit and usually a bag of neat little tricks to get by. So how do they come in so many shapes and sizes and still maintain their appeal? Because, like Terminators, they all kick ass, and they have done so throughout history.
When asked for the origin of the vampire hunter, most will point to the classic Bram Stoker character, Van Helsing. Now, be sure you understand, that's “classic” Van Helsing, not newer studly Van Helsing (think less Hugh Jackman and more Anthony Hopkins). However, in truth the genre goes back much further than that. Historically, vampire hunters are not a work of fiction at all, but a well documented profession fairly common in the eastern European states of the middle ages. As they are well known for, these countries have a history of superstitious folk. As such, the dead coming back to life to murder the living was a serious concern for them.
Therefore, there existed a professional class of people who would travel around looking for signs of vampirism such as graves with loose dirt and bodies which lay face down (to avoid looking up at god). Some would even claim to be the offspring of vampires themselves, as Dhampyrs, in many eastern European countries, were considered to be the only ones who could detect vampires for certain (due to their own vampiric heritage). These historic hunters of the past have provided a great source of inspiration for both the mild mannered style of hunter as well as the super powered type. However, if you really want source of it, you need look back further still, into that which is much more ingrained in the human soul and rooted in our nature.
The myths of every culture hold the true source of why Hunters are so appealing. From Perseus killing of the Medusa, to Beowulf slaying the monster Grendel and his mother, mankind has always been fascinated with the triumph of man over monster. Perhaps the answer to its origin is in fact rooted in the very name itself, Hunter. As true today as in ancient times, the human race is a species which can be both pray and predator. Is it surprising than, really, that the art of the Hunt is extended to aspects beyond merely food? Even today, modern day hunters take pride in the killing of the largest Buck. Perhaps than, that is why it appeals so much. We desire to face that which is frightening and defeat it, either by brain or by prowess, and in doing so, to protect our own.
Whatever way you want to look at the Hunter, it is a powerful image that is here to stay. Stalking the night for a pray that could easily turn into predator, the Hunter will likely remain the vigilant defender of the defenseless. In the face of all the things we fear that are beyond our vision, the Hunter stands strong, inspiring us to hold strong against the night as well, and, hopefully against the real life monsters that we fear.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
It's Saturday! Time to ignore every social responsibility possible, sit around the house in pajamas, and read my latest interview!
Today I'm interviewing Bronwyn Storm, who is no stranger to longtime DV readers. In addition to being a published author, Bronwyn is a genuinely funny, warm, caring, modest, humble person. She is also a bad influence on me; most of the dirty jokes I made in certain chatrooms were cheered on by or influenced by her, and I was pure and innocent before I began talking to her. (My apologies to any that are still offended.) Bad influence aside, her very helpful, recently-redesigned website is great fun (www.bronwynstorm.com), and she is, as the Aussies would put it, a "good giggle." Plus she's Canadian, and everybody loves Canadia.
Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present. . .Bronwyn Storm!
Bronwyn, would you please tell us a bit about you?
When I was little, there was only one thing I wanted to be when I grew up: a superhero. Sadly, this goal was made moot when I realized that being a klutz was not in fact, a super power, and my super-weakness for anything bright and shiny meant that a magpie with self-control could easily defeat me in a battle of wills. Hence, the turn to writing as an occupation. I don’t get to live on a secret space station orbiting the earth (and thank God, because I get motion sick on a merry-go-round), but I still get to wear leotards, a cape and say things like, “STAND ASIDE! THIS IS A JOB FOR WRITING-GIRL!” (Pandem's note: My attempts to locate pictures of Bronwyn in a leotard and cape were unsuccessful.)
As for my publishing history, I began writing as a career back in 2005. Since then, I've had five stories published with The Wild Rose Press: Ethan's Chase (Champagne), I Love You a Latte (Last Rose of Summer), The Genie's Curse (Faery), Shoe-In for Love (Vintage), and Love and the Leprechaun (a Free Read). (Pandem's Note: As per my promise in my blog here Wednesday, Bronwyn now has my eternal respect and admiration for writing a romance that remotely involved a leprechaun and not using the words "lucky" or "charms" in the title.)
What genre do you write?
Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Children's--anything and everything!
What makes your work different from all the other authors out there?
Oh goodness, that's a question for readers. I'd like to think they like my work because of the humor, tight plots, and depth of characters. However, there's a lot of really great books out there who share those characteristics with me. Really, I think I'd rather think that my books are like all the others out there that entertain and delight readers.
Who is your favourite author? Why?
Another hard question. I don't have a favorite author. I have loads of authors I love to read: Agatha Christie, Alicia Dean, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Perry, Johanna Melaragno, Dayana Knight, Stacy Dawn, J.K. Rowling--the list is endless.
Who are your biggest writing influences?
Really great writers, because they inspire me, and really horrible writers because they give me hope (heck, if they can be published, why not the rest of us?). (That may be the best answer to this question that I've heard yet.)
Which of your own works is your favourite, and why?
Erk. I don't have a favourite.
Which of your own characters is your favourite, and why?
Again, no favorites. I love all my characters--they're all people I'd love to know in real life.
What's your favourite book of all time?
Ha ha. Guess what my answer is? That's right--no favorites!
What's your writing method?
Other than stare at the computer screen, hyperventilating and wondering what made me think I could write? Umm...I get an idea, figure out the big plot points, draft the characters, draw up a rough sketch of how the scenes will flow (we're talking a sentence per scene), then I start writing. On average, it takes me about seven drafts before I start liking my story and feeling as though it's really going to come together.
What do you like about being a writer?
The commute, for sure, not to mention the dress code, that I get to eat at my desk...on the deeper level, I love writing because it helps me figure out my world and to some extent, myself. I don't think there's any other kind of job where you can tell people that you're listening to voices in your head and transcribing what they say, and said people actually cheer you on (as opposed to shoving pills down your throat and recommending you for both psychotherapy and exorcism).
What do you dislike about being a writer?
It's lonely because at the end of the day, all you have are the voices in your head. And while people can cheer you on, it's up to you to get those pages right, to work--and writing is work. Hard, hard work. The really great writers make it look easy, but that's because they're willing to bleed on their pages. Writing can be so frustrating because it's drafts and drafts of a manuscript and tossing away pages of work and starting all over again, but even on my worst writing day, there's nothing else I want to do as a job.
What are your goals as a writer?
To entertain. That's my job, that's my goal and my prayer.
Tell us a little about the books you have available now.
Well, Ethan's Chase is a contemporary/suspense about a man learning his heart's not always wrong and a woman figuring out that a first impression's not always right. (Pandem's note: Bronwyn somehow neglects to mention that Ethan's Chase was nominated for a 2009 CAPA Award. She didn't win, but the honour is in the nomination, according to several Oscar non-acceptance speeches, so yay for Bronwyn!)
I Love You a Latte deals with a divorcee who's going to take a chance on love and learn that men, like coffee, can come in all kinds of decadent varities.
The Genie's Curse is all about wishes and finding love in the most unexpected places.
Shoe-In for Love for Love is a comedic trip back to the 80s and a romantic take on The Elf and the Shoemaker.
Finally, Love and the Leprechaun is a fun, quick read about a woman who sees the dead (but who would much rather "see" the way into the heart of the man she loves).
What's your favourite sub-genre of paranormal romance?
I don't have a favorite (yes, yes, tell us something new, you say), but I love paranormals that tweak the 'common' myths and legends, and do it all with a dose of fun and humor.
Do you have any advice for our readers?
Not really. Just a huge thanks for reading!!
And thank you for being interviewed, Bronwyn!
For everyone else, seriously, go check out her website, it's hilarious.
That's it for this week. . .till next week, go read some good books!
Friday, February 20, 2009
TGIF! We survived the week. Now, I just have to survive the weekend with guests in my home for a fourth weekend in a row. I hate to sound ungrateful, but sheesh, I need a break from the family drama!
I’ve had sick kids this week and they’ve gotten me sick. I have done very little writing which makes me cranky as hell. Now Thursday night rolls around and I’m still sitting here wondering what do I write about for my blog today? So, I broke out my handy dandy book, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews, and the first magical creature I turned to was Selkie. The second one was Mermaid. Kind of weird since they both involve magical sea creatures, so I decided this was fate prodding me in the Selkie/Mermaid direction.
So, tell me, which sounds more romantic? Selkie or Mermaid? Which would you prefer to find on a rock in the middle of the sea? Which would you feel safer with or want to be romantically inclined with?
According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selkie), a Selkie is a seal like creature with the ability to shed its seal shape and take human form when it comes to land. They are typically depicted in romantic stories where the human isn’t aware that their lover is a Selkie, but when they wake their lover is gone. There is also the legend of a human hiding the Selkie’s skin so that the Selkie cannot return to the sea and turn back into seal form. To further complicate things, Selkies can have contact with one person for only a short period of time before it becomes necessary for them to return to the sea. After that, they cannot have human contact for seven years. With one exception, a human may betray them by stealing their Selkie skin and hiding or burning it (this just seems exceptionally cruel to me), thereby forcing the Selkie to remain here on earth since they cannot return to the sea without their skin.
Call me crazy, but I immediately thought of the Charmed episode, A Witch’s Tail, where the Mermaid was given one month by the sea hag, an evil witch, to find true love. Of course, the sea hag had ulterior motives. Don’t they always! LOL If the Mermaid couldn’t get her lover to admit his true love for her within one month, then she would have to give the sea hag her immortality. Maybe that’s a little farfetched in the comparison between Selkies and the Charmed episode, but both have a short period of time unless: 1) the Selkie’s skin is hidden from them; or 2) the Mermaid is able to find true love and her lover admits it. My opinion, the Selkie version isn’t all that romantic. Sounds a little too much like kidnapping to me.
Selkies also brought to mind the 1984 movie, Splash, with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. Daryl Hannah plays a mermaid in this movie, but she’s also able to shed her tail for various periods of time while on land. And in Splash, the Mermaid and human fell in love, so it had its romantic theme. Kind of like a Selkie, right? ;-) Okay, maybe another long stretch, but my brain saw the similarity with the way she was able to take human form on land. Seeing this movie as an impressionable kid, I loved the romantic mermaid aspect of it.
I didn’t forget Ariel and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid, just chose not to discuss it since it was so similar to the Charmed version in The Witch’s Tail.
Okay, none of these movies/shows have anything do with Selkies really, but rather Mermaids, right? Or, maybe…well, let’s see what The Element Encylopedia of Magical Creatures, by John & Caitlin Matthews, has to say about Mermaids. In folklore, Mermaids have a dark side and were kind of scary actually, nothing at all like the above romantic elements. Mermaids were responsible for luring young men to their death. The appearance of a Mermaid presaged storms and disasters, not only bringing about misfortunes, but also provoking them. Legend has them enthusiastically seeking human lives by either drowning or consuming men. Yowza! Talk about a black widows death ala Mermaid style. Suddenly, instead of having the beautiful Ariel image in my head, I'm picturing a sea hag type monster with piranha teeth. It was said, Mermaids were born without a soul and the only way they could obtain a soul was by marrying a human.
These aspects of Mermaid folklore had very little deviations from The Celts, Irish, Scotts, British, Dutch, and Asian regions. In fact, the character of a Mermaid differs very little between the nations of the world, signifying that belief in these odd creatures has been around for an extremely long time and that they are all similar and frightening. And to tie in Mermaids with Selkies, one of the many regional names of a Mermaid is Selkie. Neat, huh? I thought so anyway. =)
I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Despite my time as an editor for a romance novel publisher, I haven't read a lot of romance novels in my time. I have paid some attention to popular themes in the industry, particularly paranormal (because I really like paranormal writing of all types), and, with the aid of Google searches, that's what I'm going to talk about today.
So, let's say you want to write paranormal romance. Ideally, you'll already have a story in mind, but for the purposes of this exercise, let's say that you don't. How do you decide what paranormal element (or elements) should be in your story?
Vampires are a popular choice. . .extremely popular, with nearly 5 million Google hits in my search (the number dropped only slightly when I narrowed it to include books and movies only). Given that one can't throw a sharpened stake in the paranormal romance world without hitting 8 vampires and a couple Goth kids, it's a pretty crowded field. Perhaps the popularity is understandable; vampires are immortal creatures, cursed never again to walk in daylight and to live on theblood of the innocent to sustain their own miserable existence. . .except that they generally seem to have accumulated great wealth after living for centuries, never have to deal with rush-hour traffic, and have no problem landing insanely hot women. Any sympathy I might have had for a vampire just went out the window. Anyway, an author would have to have either a unique, appealing slant on the vampire mythos or one hell of a story to tell in order to stand out in the field, especially with the current popularity of Twilight no doubt inspiring many people out there to put vampiric-minded pen to innocent paper.
Ghost romances were second most popular in my search. Something about the ethreal nature of them, I suppose; maybe the thrill of a lover that can't make a mess because he can only become solid on rare occasion? There's a lot of room for good storytelling with ghosts, which may also explain it. Who among us has not felt haunted by love at some point? How much better is it to have some actual haunting going?
Witches came up third most popular in my search, falling from broomsticks and landing smack-dab between ghosts and werewolves. While the powers and abilities are admittedly fantastic (and make for great plot devices when things go wrong), bringing originality to the field can be difficult. That said, though, there's a lot of fun to be had with them. Fantastic powers, wacky abilities, misunderstandings and mixups galore - how could hijinks not ensue? It's almost too easy. . .which, for me, is a reason not to write them unless absoultely needed. Plus, they're not underused.
Werewolves aren't as common (I only got 1/3 as many hits for "romance about werewolves" on Google as I did "romance about vampires," but both were still over 1 million), so there's more breathing room in that market. Werewolves have the allure of being just as tortured and cursed as their vampiric counterparts, but they only have to deal with it once a month, as opposed to you know, constantly. Maybe these mythic creatures symbolize the repressed primal nature of all mankind, released in one monthly-ish burst, and the taming of that nature through love is what makes them such popular characters. Or maybe there are a lot of women out there that like really hairy men. Either way, my topic today is "Underused Paranormals," and we can't say that they've been underused at all, so let's move on.
Mermaids are surprisingly popular as well, though not nearly so much as the first three on the list, at least outside of Disney. I blame The Little Mermaid for them being so popular. Less popular (barely 100,000 hits, by Google search) are mermen, for some reason. So, if you're a paranormal author looking for something a little unusual to include in your work, a merman isn't a bad idea. Try not to make too many "longest flipper" jokes and this idea could turn out great. Also, your merman hero should not wear an orange shirt and green pants, unless you're a fan of copyright infringement.
So what's underused?
I haven't seen many paranormal books involving, say, old mythological figures. Aside from Greek and Roman mythologies, there's a plethora of interesting characters from around the world that would fit into romance novels. Take, for example, Amaterasu, the Shinto (Japanese) sun goddess who hid in a cave from her domestically violent spouse (and starred in the cool draw-your-way-to-victory video game Okami) and had to be lured out with a mirror. She's got a bad relationship history and deep vanity as a personality flaw right there, so she's prime heroine material. There's also Celtic goddess Ceridwen, who had a very ugly child. Change "ugly" to "ill-mannered" and you've got a single-mother heroine, with the added conflict of a difficult child, set up right there.
Let's not forget psychics. The first paranormal romances that I remember reading were Kay Hooper's Shadows Trilogy, and they still stand out in my mind for being something I hadn't read much fiction about before. Psychic romances produced around half a million hits on Google before I filtered out psychics advertising readings, and there's plenty of powers to play with: telekinesis, telepathy, precognition, pyrokinesis, remote viewing, even hydrokinesis (thanks, DC Comics!), so there's a lot of toys to play with there.
Zombies. If Simon Pegg can do it in Shaun Of The Dead, you can do it (and that was indeed a romantic comedy with zombies). Not saying one of your main characters has to be a zombie, but the threat of them can certainly throw people together.
Angels and demons are good, but they're approaching "overused" territory. Still, a good twist on the whole angel/demon mythology can make for an excellent read, so why not give it a shot? Bonus points if you can somehow manage to offend a major religion - controversy always generates better sales. Just don't make focus on the controversial aspects too much, lest the book come off feeling like something written specifically to offend an organized religion and the trick will backfire.
Superpowers are always fun (for me). What could more romantic than some person randomly given great power and, therefore, great responsibility? (Okay, so it's more sci-fi than paranormal, unless you have an osbcure god grant the powers.) Remember, for every Clark Kent, there's a Lois Lane, and for every Wonder Woman, there's a legion of drooling fanboys wondering if they can get a Wonder Woman costume onto their spouse/girlfriend/blow-up doll. (The lazy ones just harass Lynda Carter.)
And finally. . .leprechauns. If you can make a romantic story that even remotely involves leprechauns work, I bow to you. If the title doesn't involve the words "lucky," "charms," or any combination of the two, you might earn my unending respect for pulling this one off.
Any other ideas for underused paranormal themes?
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Sorry to post this today, Sarah, when it's your blog day. But I was unaware until just recently that our interview had been posted at Keta's Keep, so I wanted to spread the word as quickly as possible.
So, you heard it right. Sarah Makela and Gracen Miller were interviewed by Keta Diablo at Keta's Keep today. Anyone that leaves a comment will be entered to win a copy of our books, Melody of Love (Sarah's book) and The Devil's Den (Gracen's book).
Who do you think has blonde moments between us? That is revealed in the interview.
Look forward to answering your questions and reading your comments.
EDIT: Make sure to go check out an interview that Gracen and I did with Keta Diablo. http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com/2009/02/aint-they-sweet-see-them-walking-down.html We're giving away copies of our books, so stop by for your chance to win. =)
So! Last week I discussed Fylgja and delved into my topic of this week a little bit of how Fylgja seem to resemble Valkyries (Valkyrjur). Fylgja are guardian spirits that take shape in either the form of an animal or a woman and watch over a certain person or family. If the person sees their Fylgja, it’s a sign that their death is immediate. Interestingly enough, the Fylgja takes on the features of the person it is assigned to protect.
Valkyries are warrior women who brought the souls of their chosen slain heroes to Valhalla, which is the “hall of the slain” (aka Norse afterlife) that the Norse god Odin ruled. They did protect the chosen warrior as well as well as They associated themselves with swans and had the ability to shapeshift into one. They could also appear as women in the form of the heroes’ lovers or another mortal.
According to one source, valkyries and fylgjur are “Fates, who direct a man’s destiny from birth to death.” One part of the source seems to lump them together as if they are one spiritual guardian that changes roles as the person’s life progress, but other sources oppose the idea, proving that they are two different types of guardians with their own role. I lean in favor of this explanation since it seems like they seem specialized and not run of the mill guardians.
Overall, this was a very fun topic to learn about. Links to a few of the different sources I visited are listed below if you’d like to research the topic further for a story idea, or if you’re like me, just for fun even. It’s always great to find new things to write about in the paranormal genre. And I hope you all have enjoyed this as much as I. Give me your thoughts and opinions about this topic. Or let me know what other kinds of paranormal creatures you’d like me to discuss! *smiles*
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It’s a question that most writers get at one time or another. Sometimes it has the undertone, of “How did somebody like YOU ever get published?” I have two answers to that question, the one I give depending on my mood and who’s asking. There’s this: “Okay, here’s what you do. Go to Harvard. Arrange to room with someone whose Father/Mother/favorite Uncle owns or runs a major publishing house. Then spend the next four years sucking up to your roomie, big time, while you write your novel.”
Monday, February 16, 2009
Hello, everyone, my name is Margay Leah Justice and I am the author of Nora's Soul. As dedicated readers of The Deadly Vixens blog, some of you might already be familiar with me as I am a frequent commenter here and had the honor of having my book reviewed by the Vixens. So when the opportunity presented itself to become a Vixen myself, of course I jumped at it! For those of you who don't know me, here's a little background.
I won't bore you with the details about how I came to be a writer but I will tell you that I took a somewhat unconventional route to get published. After a few half-hearted attempts at getting published when my daughters were younger, I finally decided about five years ago to really invest the time and the effort to seek publication. Still, I wondered if my writing was good enough, so I decided to submit it to some contests first, to test the waters. Well, the waters were welcoming and I met several kindred souls who shared the same goals and ambitions and we created a critique group in an effort to help each other achieve our dreams. Somewhere along the way, someone suggested that we start our own publishing company so we could see our books in print and, well, one of us took that idea and ran with it. Thus, Second Wind Publishing, LLC was created by Mike Simpson who single-handedly granted the dreams of every author in that group and thensome. Second Wind has grown by leaps and bounds in the past several months and new authors are joining up every month.
So that is my professional story, for the moment. I am still writing the next novel and planning several others, all while promoting myself online and taking care of my daughters at home. Although balancing homelife with the business of writing and getting published can sometimes be challenging and in conflict with one another, both are very rewarding endeavors. My philosophy is, if you really want something you will find a way to achieve it.
I welcome any comments or questions, so if there's anything you want to know, please feel free to ask. I will answer everything to the best of my abilities. I can't wait to get to know you all!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Hi! Did you survive Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day? *laughs* I enjoyed both.
I have a couple of things to announce, but first I’d like to let you all know that we have a new Deadly Vixen joining us tomorrow (Monday). Her name is Margay! You’ve probably seen her comments throughout the site! Margay has published, NORA’S SOUL, and Sierra reviewed her book back in January. Here’s the link if you’re interested in reading it: http://www.thedeadlyvixens.com/2009/01/book-of-week-noras-soul.html
So, please join us tomorrow in welcoming her as a new Vixen!!!
The winners from the contest on Friday the 13th are:
Learning Charity by Summer Devon -- DEBBY
Dragon's Mate by Beth Caudill - CARRIE FROM WISCONSIN
Informally Yours by Beth Caudill - CONNIE NORTHROP
The winners from the Valentine’s Day contest are:
Portrait of a Kiss by T.D. McKinney -- MACBEANER
The Chosen by C.A. Milson -- JUDY
Painted Soul by Mary Quast -- JULIE ROBINSON
Also, if you commented on Keta Diablo's blog this past Tuesday, she would like to send you a free book as a thank you. Please email us, so we can forward your information on to her.All winners please contact us at email@example.com in order to claim their winning book. If we have not claimed your winning book within one week of the contest date, then a new winner will be picked from the remaining contestants. There are no exceptions.
We are still seeking one more Deadly Vixen to blog on Sunday. If you are interested in joining us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Serious inquiries only please.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Happy Valentine's Day, all!
Today's interview is a long one, so I'll just get right to it!
Please joining me in a giving a warm welcome to. . .Christina Brashear!
Tell us a little about yourself, please.
Okay, seriously now. First and foremost, I am a reader and I love romance the most. I’ve been in love with reading since I was old enough to hold a book. I’ve lived in Mississippi, the Philippines, New Jersey, Ohio (multiple locations), Alabama and now Georgia. Through all the moves, I’ve kept my favorite books with me, and bought more along the way. My husband, and the Air Force, can attest to this! I’m a mom and I trained my child well, she loves to read too. My husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary in a couple months; he’s my real-life hero. (I can’t believe it’s been that long. I seems just like yesterday we got married.)
Tell us a bit about Samhain Publishing.
Samhain is a company that is taking the Madonna approach; we are constantly looking at how to reinvent ourselves and be fresh and innovative so our readers don’t get bored. But, not change too much too quickly and annoy people.
We recently acquired the Linden Bay Romance publishing house and we are in the process of integrating it into the Samhain way. We aren’t ready to make any announcements about what is going to become of the imprint, we are still deciding what direction best serves the readers, the authors, and the house. We are also in the process of developing some additional lines, but they are nowhere near ready for unveiling. Our target date for having things settled is November 1, 2009.
Angela James is the Samhain Executive Editor, a position that oversees all of the editing throughout the house and its lines. She’s been with Samhain the longest, after Amanda and Donna (my sister), and is the spokesperson for Samhain. She gives great panel. Sasha Knight is the Managing Editor for Linden Bay. She’s a long time editor for Samhain and will continue to edit, but will also be instrumental in helping craft the new place in Samhain for LB. Donna Holland is our print production coordinator. She takes care of scheduling the title for print release, formatting and launching them. She’s doing a great job. Amanda Brashear is our accounting person. Everyone loves her; she’s the one who pays us.
We hired some new, in-house employees this past year. Tiffany, Jacob and Jelon. They help keep things running!
The romance genre, in addition to being the best-selling literary genre, is also one of the most crowded markets. How do you make sure that Samhain books stand out and get sales in such a heavily competitive field?
We work hard to get our name and links into places where people are going to see us and be curious enough to follow the link back. Our editors work hard to find the best of the best in submissions, stories that readers are attracted to. The Art Department works hard to make the first glimpse the reader sees is one that will compel them to at least click and read the blurb.
The best advertising though, is word of mouth. Not every story will work for every person, tastes are too diverse for that, but readers can count on a Samhain to offer well-written, well-edited books that are chosen because the story is compelling—not because it’s the trend of the week. Our reader base is growing steadily because of this.
About how many new titles does Samhain put out per month?
Roughly between twenty and twenty-six, I believe. We average between four to six a week plus having the first Friday for releasing previously published works.
What does Samhain Publishing look for in a manuscript, in terms of content and presentation?
Content. We look for a good story that engages the reader and makes them want to keep reading. We look for a well-written story that the author has taken the time to self-edit and polish. We don’t expect perfection, but basic grammar flaws and typos do stand out and mar the editor’s impression of the author’s professionalism. We look for authors who write well, but are also dedicated to building their writing career and promoting their work. It’s a joint effort.
Presentation. We have a submissions page that is pretty detailed in what the editors are looking for. We do take notice if a slush pile submission doesn’t follow the guidelines. The guidelines are there to help the author present their work in a professional manner that speaks to being serious about their writing career, and to help the editor give the work a fair reading. When a budding author doesn’t take the time to read these guidelines and follow them, it does make the editor question how well the author will be at taking direction and proposed changes to improve the manuscript.
One big mistake that happens at least once a month and makes me shake my head is this. An author will somehow dig up my email address—which isn’t anywhere on the submissions page—and email to me a query letter and sample chapters all in the body of the email for a book whose subject matter we don’t print, like a biography or something. Clearly indicates they didn’t even take the time to look at our site and see how we roll.
Our requirements aren’t impossible to meet, I promise. Take a look!
What does Samhain do for its authors in terms of marketing their work?
We have newsletters, Yahoo! groups, co-op ads in RT, and a marketing department spreading the work far and wide throughout the internet.
The marketing department is awesome. We have a Yahoo! group dedicated to teaching authors how to self promote and they are always listing free promotional opportunities for authors to participate in. Lisa will have guest lecturers come in and teach a class here and there.
We all know we're living in pretty rough times economically. Have you noticed a difference in of sales or submissions since this recession started?
We had a bit of a dip last fall, but we seem to have recovered from that. Submissions, on the other hand, have dropped off. Many authors have told us that they have had to go back to work or cut back in areas to make ends meet; they just no longer have the time they once did for writing. They still write, but it takes longer because they can only do it in snatches. And stress is not conducive to creativity.
The jury is still out on how print is going sell. It has dropped a bit, but as we gear up for the Fall '09 Season, the early numbers the sales team predicts are higher than I would have guessed. I’ll reserve judgment until the buys come in as to whether things are truly looking up. The bookselling industry has seen lulls before and people just don’t stop reading. They may cut back, but they come back and pick up what they missed if the titles are still available. That’s the great thing about POD/PTO, we don’t have to take books out of print as soon as the booksellers pull them from the shelves. With the internet, you can order them anytime you’re able.
In my opinion, the companies that survive this year will be better off for the crunch. They will have gotten back to basics and are running tighter cleaner ship.
According to a recent article in Publishers' Weekly, HarperCollins has begun doing "video books." What are your feelings about video books, and is this something you could see Samhain doing a few months or years down the line?
I read books, I don’t watch them. I certainly am not going to pay for an advertisement about a book. I won’t say that I have completely ruled it out, but from what I understand as it is being presented today, I have no interest. We could have brainstorm and think of a cool way to modify it into something a customer would find worth paying for, but I haven’t any ideas right now.
Has the popularity of devices like Amazon's Kindle and Sony's eReader helped sales for Samhain?
Yes. I believe that we have new readers to ebooks because of cool new gadgets. Especially because of the Kindle’s Whisper Net making buying so easy. People just discovering Samhain write asking about titles missing from the Kindle store (which are only missing because there is a glitch in the Kindle acquisition system, that’s why some books are missing or have cover art missing, the system isn’t picking them up as it should. They are working on it). I take the opportunity to educate the reader on how they can get DRM (Digital Rights Management)-Free books from MBaM (MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, made by BrotherSoft) and how to put them on their Kindle. I never waste an opportunity to show people that you can get great books DRM-free and at a great price!
I love gadgets. I used to think a phone was just for making calls. Now I play video games, something I never did when I was young. So the iPhone has helped the video game industry acquire a new customer. Kindle and Sony and the iPhone are breeding a whole new group of customers.
Also gaining popularity in the US are books for cellphones, which have been popular for years in Japan but are just now catching on here. Will Samhain be getting into that market as well?
Our titles have always been available for smartphones, or phones that can contain content such as Palm or Blackberry. Mobipocket has been offering it for years. But I do see the potential for expanding that into other cellphone arenas. We are always open to new sales channels.
Where do you see Samhain Publishing, 5 years from now?
I see us still here, that’s for sure! LOL!
In five years, I plan to have at least one title out in mass-market if not more. I see us with more lines, besides romance. Samhain began as a general publisher, I intend to work us back to that. eBooks are the future, I don’t want to limit us to one genre only.
Where do you see the romance novel industry, as a whole, 5 years from now? Where would you like to see the industry go?
I see romance just rolling on through the times of our lives, reflecting society through each year, as it always has. I would like to see it being more accepting of all genres and relationship types. The thing that makes the US so great is the pluralism of our society; why restrict romance to just contemporary and historical man/woman relationships. If it’s not your cup of tea, you don’t have to buy it and you don’t have to read it. Skip on over to the genre of your choice!
I’d like to see a movement among the companies dedicated to e-publishing to work together to raise awareness and build the industry, rather than treating each other as competition and an enemy. That’d be nice.
Yes, I am a Pollyanna.
Do you have any advice you'd like to share with our readers?
Read. Read for fun, read because you enjoy it, read to alter your mood. Try something new every once in a while, you never know what you might like if you don’t experiment. I grew up reading historical and category romances. Who knew I’d love space operas and cat shifters so much! I am really enjoying some of our m/m books too. I don’t get to read as often as I like. I plan to read K.A. Mitchell’s latest book this weekend. I really enjoyed her title Regularly Scheduled Life. I am also going to read J. L. Langley’s regency space-opera The Englor Affair. I had fun reading the first one, My Fair Captain.
What’s great about being the publisher is, when the books are finalized and come in for formatting well in advance of the release date, I can sneak out there and load them onto my Sony. *g* Since it’s Valentine’s weekend. I think I’ll go out and snag Shelli Stevens’ Theirs to Capture, it looks really hot! And, Dominique Adair’s final Jane Porter book is in too.
It’s good to be the publisher!
And it's good to be an interviewer, too! Thank you sooooo soooooo much for interviewing with us, Christina!
As always if you have any questions or comments for me or for Christina, please post them in the comments!
And for one special Beauty. . .she knows who she is:
Happy Valentine's Day to my closest, dearest friend, the greatest lady I have ever known. . .there is no one like you in the world, and I'm grateful beyond words for knowing you, for the magic and wonder you bring to my life, and for the honour of being in your life.
Everyone else, have a happy Valentine's Day and spread the love!
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we will be giving away a copy of two e-books and one paperback book, so be sure to leave a comment here in order to be eligible to win!
PORTRAIT OF A KISS by T.D. McKinney (e-book)
THE CHOSEN by C.A. Milson (e-book)
PAINTED SOUL by Mary Quast (paperback book)
Image was copied from photobucket and is not the property of The Deadly Vixens or any of its members.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Before I forget, we are having a contest today and tomorrow in honor of Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day, so be sure to leave comments today and tomorrow for your chance to win! The books being given away are listed at the end of this blog!
Anyway, I thought I’d give you some interesting facts about Friday the 13th and just the number 13 in general.
On Friday, October 13, 1307, the Knights Templar’s were arrested and damned in the predawn hours. The presumption is that the Templar’s followed the guideline that the number 13 played a prominent role in sacred traditions. Additionally, Friday was considered a holy day by many traditions. Therefore, it is significant that the Church had the Templar’s arrested and condemned on a not just a holy day, but also on what would have been considered sacred date—the 13th. In essence, the Church’s final way of saying, “screw you, hurrah” to a group that it both feared and envied. I found this terribly interesting and it was something I had never heard before.
Architects omit the 13th floor from hotels and other high-rise structures. I find this comical, seriously, I do. What makes the floor that was skipped not number 13 just because it is labeled 14 instead of 13? It’s still the 13th floor unless a 13th floor is built and bypassed altogether.
The number 13 was vital to certain customs of sacred geometry, simply because it represented a blueprint which could be present in nature, humanity, and the heavens. For example, the body has 13 major joints. In a solar year, there are 13 lunar cycles. Each day the moon traverses across the sky 13 degrees. Christ and his 12 disciples equaled 13. Likewise, King Arthur and his 12 knights equaled 13. Furthermore, there are 12 major constellations in correlation to our sun.
The Aztec calendar is known as the “13 Cane” and it represents both the start and end of a cycle, symbolizing the death of one cycle and the rebirth of another. This is similar to what the Northern European mythos called the 13th rune, which represented the equilibrium linking the heavens and the Underworld. But at the same time it is also Alpha and Omega, signifying death and eternal life.
In the tarot deck, Death is the 13th card, but it doesn’t represent just death, but also rebirth and renewal.
The first culture to create a superstition for the number 13 was the Egyptians, but to them it was a number that brought good luck. The Egyptians believed there were 12 steps to eternal life and when they took the 13th step, they would then be going all the way through death and into eternal life. The number 13 represented immortality to the Egyptians.
The Romans associated the number 13 with ill omens, in particular those that brought death and destruction.
For the Christians, the number brought bad luck because Judas Iscariot was the 13th diner at the Last Supper and he later betrayed Jesus, culminating in his crucifixion. It is still considered bad luck for 13 people to dine together because it is believed that it will result in the death of one dinner guest within the year. Norse mythology has a similar bad luck superstition regarding 13 dining together.
How unlucky do you think Friday the 13th is? Do you think the number 13 is a magical number or one that should be associated with the occult? Or is it just another day in the year? How do YOU feel about Friday the 13th or the number in general?
FRIDAY THE 13TH CONTEST!!!!!
In honor of Friday 13th, we will be giving away a copy of three e-books, so make sure you leave a comment today to be entered for your chance to win! I will announce the winners sometime later this evening. The books up for grabs today, Friday 13th, are the following:
LEARNING CHARITY by Summer Devon
DRAGON'S MATE by Beth Caudill
INFORMALLY YOURS by Beth Caudill
Don’t miss the VALENTINE’S DAY CONTEST!!!!!
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we will be giving away a copy of two e-books and one paperback book, so be sure to check back tomorrow. The books up for grabs tomorrow are the following:
PORTRAIT OF A KISS by T.D. McKinney (e-book)
THE CHOSEN by C.A. Milson (e-book)
All images were copied from Photobucket and are not the property of The Deadly Vixens or its members.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
by Vaughan Williams ©2009
I thought I'd write this article from the viewpoint of the author about one of the most crucial aspects of storytelling: characterization. It's the process of creating characters for one's story, and it can be very difficult, simply because coming up with unique, yet realistic, people for a piece of fiction is something that most authors either do with too much or not enough elaboration.
Give too much detail, and it begins to feel like a psychological evaluation (and distracts the reader from the actual plot); too little, and the character is more of a cardboard cut-out than a person to whom the reader can relate. Finding the balance is the trick, and it requires the author to constantly keep in mind how to include the various quirks and traits of an individual during the course of the story.
For example, your character smokes. Overdoing it would be to write a full-page description of how the character (let's call him Bob) came to be a smoker; in his teens, dared by pressuring peers, Bob succumbed and became addicted, though he now regrets the habit and wishes he could quit. Even if you feel this step back in time delineates how vulnerable Bob was as a teen, how he longed for acceptance and affection, and now how he wants to improve himself and shrug off the yoke of an addiction, it's a case of telling rather than showing, which most people will agree is poor storytelling.
Underdoing it would be to mention, in scant passing, how as Bob had a discussion with someone, he took out a cigarette, lit it, and inhaled (or didn't inhale, if you're a Clinton). And? You can say so much about Bob's personality, his history, even his aspirations, from how he does it. From where does he take the cigarette: the breast pocket of an Armani suit, the back pocket of threadbare jeans, a beaded clutch purse? Is the pack crumpled or freshly opened, or are the cigs contained in a 24-carat gold case? Does Bob dig for the cigarettes frantically, on the verge of a nicotine fit, or so languidly that the reader knows it's being done for effect rather than any actual urge to smoke?
Once you give a trait to a character, don't just do it once, to hint toward his personality and hidden depths, and then never mention it again. Consistency is the key to creating a story that doesn't feel flimsy and slapped-together, because ultimately it will leave the reader dissatisfied and disappointed, as if they'd eaten a meringue when they'd expected cheesecake.
It's tempting, especially for first-time authors, to write a protagonist who is more of an avatar of themselves than to create someone with whom they do not personally identify. And there's nothing wrong with that, especially when someone lacks the experience or “comfort zone” to work outside their frame of reference. We're always being told to “write what we know”, after all. The trick to it is keeping the character realistic, to not idealize her to the point of making the reader nauseous.
Your character (let's call her Belle) is a professional singer, because you've always wanted to be a singer. That's fine, but how do you describe her? Does Belle have a problem keeping her vibrato even, or a tendency to go flat on the high A's, and perhaps there's a coach or instructor who critiques her after her performances? Maybe Belle's getting up in years, and after a decade or two of partying, all the smoking and drinking is taking its toll on her voice? Or do you say she has the “voice of an angel” and that every member of the audience is “spellbound” by her miraculous talent, and they all “applaud with reverence” once she's done?
In the first example, she's got to cope with criticism from an authority figure, and in the second, Belle must deal with the repercussions of her own mistakes, and learn to carry on in spite of a challenge. Even if we're not sharing in the specifics of being a singer with problems, we can relate to those general issues, and find a connection with the character.
But the third example poses a problem: being too reverential to one's character, making her too perfect, can lead the reader to a sense of distaste and even outright loathing, and that's the exact opposite of what a good story does. A good story wants to engage the reader, and have the reader connect and empathize with the protagonist, not wish she'd die in a fire.
“Ha!” you say, exultant, “but I have given my delightful character flaws! She sings so well that she's got all these enemies and they want to do her dirt! And she's too beautiful! All the men are after her, they kidnap her and force jewelery on her to get her to love them and--”
Or, “Ha!” you exclaim, triumphant, “my character is flawed, damn you! She sang so well it broke the king's heart and he banished her, and she's shunned because, though stunning, she's the only brunette when the fashion is to be blonde, and her eyes are two different colors (one the turquoise-green of the Caribbean, the other the cerulean blue of the Aegean), and she has a limp from falling from a horse while heroically rescuing an orphanage full of despondent cherubs at the age of nine!”
Such a paragon might be the epitome of wish-fulfillment, but she certainly won't be winning any awards for connecting with the readership. The name of the game is balance, and to do that, you must look at your work with a critical eye. How does one obtain this critical eye?
That, my friend, is the topic for another day.
P.S. How do you decide which traits to include? My favourite way to flesh out a character is to employ astrology. There are many websites that allow you to input certain facts (like date and place of birth) and receive a full personality profile (http://www.chaosastrology.net creates extremely detailed and accurate charts, for example). Simply decide when and where your characters were born, pop the info into the generator, and you've got a full characterization plan that tells you precisely how your characters will act during almost any given situation.
Or you can go the more traditional route of using actual books: Love Signs and Sun Signs by Linda Goodman were written decades ago, but are still absolutely wonderful sources of information for creating layered, textured, realistic-feeling characters. Love Signs in particular is valuable because it tells how two different people will interact, depending on their horoscopes. Want harmony between two characters? Choose signs that trine. Looking for conflict? Go for signs that are opposed or squared. It can give an element so realistic that you'll be amazed.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Hello everyone! I hope you all have been enjoying the fabulous guest bloggers we’ve been having this week. We still have more to come with Vaughan Williams tomorrow and then Friday is the 13th… Spooky! I know that Gracen has a great blog planned for you all then, and I’d also like to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day since that’ll be on Saturday. Wow! Such a busy week.
Today, I’ll be discussing a mythological being I found out about a while back when we had Elizabeth Black with us. It is called the Fylgja. The Fylgja is a guardian spirit of Norse mythology. They carry a connection to a person or sometimes family and protect or prevent harm from befalling its human. Fylgjur usually appear to their person in the shape of a woman or an animal. While researching this, I read that they are most often seen in the animal form during sleep; although, they could be awake, but if one were to see their fylgja, it is an omen of their encroaching death. Though, when the fylgjur appear as women, they are looked on as guardians, which is fascinating since valkyrjur (valkyries) were also females that would appear to the Vikings in female shape and lead the men to Valhalla. Valkyrjur were also connected with animals.
I’ve been very intrigued by this subject ever since Elizabeth Black guest blogged with us about different mythological creatures that are out there for paranormal authors to partake in that step outside the norms of vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, which I love so much. I couldn’t imagine not writing about these more common mythological creatures, but I’ve decided to eventually write a novel on the fylgja. I definitely plan on dipping into how the fylgjur and valkyrjur’s similarities, but that’ll have to wait until next week! I can’t give too much away so soon, can I?
Some great links to find out more about fylgja are:
What do you think about this topic regarding fylgja? Are you interested in me doing another blog on the relationship with the Viking and the fylgja and valkyrja? What are some mythological creatures that you’ve heard about recently that delve outside of the normal of the paranormal genre that you really enjoy or that you’d like to find more information about? Let me know! I’d love to discuss this. =)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Thank you Deadly Vixens for hosting me on your blog. I'm so very happy to be here.
With three new releases in two months, I'm at my wits' end marketing and promoting. In fact, laterly, I've been suffering writer withdrawal and can't wait to get back to a new novel or two.
I write for Ravenous Romance, Phaze, Siren Publishing and Noble Romance. I'd love it if you'd stop by my web site (http:.//www.ketadiablo.com) because . . . I love to hear from readers and friends. You can also reach me at email@example.com any ol' time.
Here's a little information on my latest books:
Decadent Deceptions, an erotica historical was a 2008 Molly Contest Finalist, released by Noble Romance, http://www.nobleromance.com.
Daring and desperate to win Morgan’s love, Olivia Breedlove embarks on a reckless folly. But everything backfires when Morgan remains one step ahead of her and the game ventures down a path of duplicity and murder.A decade ago, Morgan was a heartbeat away from taking Olivia’s virginity. Her father, Thaddeus, intervened and threatened to meet him over pistols if he so much as looked at his daughter again. But now, Thaddeus is dead and Morgan has no intention of ignoring the ravenous hunger he’s harbored for the blasted woman for ten years. One way or the other, he will quench this burning desire and make her his forever.
Dust and Moonlight, my erotica fantasy/time-travel through Siren Publishing (http://www.sirenpublishing.com).
Balion, Prince of Locke Cress, waited a long time for the forest nymph with lavender eyes to come to him. The dreams told him it was just a matter of time. What they hadn't told him was that he'd lose his heart to the strange creature from another world.
After the serial killer attacked Kira, she awoke in a strange land. Now, she's running for her life from wild boars, wizards, and sorcerers, not to mention a Prince that makes her body melt in all the wrong places. Facing extraordinary circumstances as the evil plots unfold, Kira fights for her life, and for a love that neither time nor distance can ever dispel from her soul.
Land of Falling Stars, erotica historical has made the best sellers' list at Ravenous Romance. (http://www.ravenosromance.com)
Penniless, her parents and brother dead, Sophia Whitfield struggles to save her beloved childhood home during the Civil War. Another bluecoat is staggering down the hill, but before Sophia allows him to rob and pilfer like the others, she shoots him. How was she to know it was Gavin, the dark knight of her youth, carrying secrets too horrific to imagine and a passion that ignites her deepest desires?
As Sophia gradually discovers Gavin's secret and falls under his seductive charms, she struggles to know her own heart. Can she survive in the Land of Falling Stars, or will she lose it all to the horrors of the War and Reconstruction? And will the Southern lady and the Yankee soldier be able to recapture the bliss of their youth - this time in each other's arms?
ps: Send me an e-mail and put in the subject "Deadly Vixens". I'll draw three winners to receive one copy of the above books by February 15th. Thanks for joining me today.