Archive for February, 2009



Out Of My Mind
by KimLenox on February 27th, 2009

Gosh, you other Silk & Shadows Writers, I am such a literal interpreter compared you yooz guys.

Favorite paranormal I didn’t write.

We’ve all been reading “paranormals” since childhood. In many ways, all of the fairy tales and magical stories we’ve enjoyed were, indeed, paranormals. As a young adult, I loved TUCK EVERLASTING, (about immortality) and everything Edgar Allan Poe.

In high school, I inhaled Anne Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. My favorite Rice book was THE WITCHING HOUR, about the Mayfair witches and Lasher. Loved it! I just … um, did not “love” all the books that came afterward … I guess even then my writer’s creativity was kicking in because I would have gone in a completely different direction with that story.

But when I think of my favorite paranormal, it would have to be Stephen King’s PET SEMATARY.

Don’t think of the movie, because that was a poor adaptation of the actual novel. I think PET CEMETERY stands out in my mind as my favorite, because the story was so enormous in context compared to anything else I’d ever read.

It’s a common fantasy for us to wish to bring a loved one back from the dead, and Mr. King started out with that kernal of a wish, and a legend about a mysterious local pet cemetery.

But then he went way out of the box and brought in Biblical references (Lazarus), and posed historical questions (Roanoke, the “Lost Colony“)…

And managed to blend “heartbreaking” and “poignant” with absolute horror.

King put images and questions in my mind that I’d never, ever forget, and in the end, forced me to do some self-examination about what I believe.

What about you — do you have a favorite paranormal that made you think outside the box?

Magic: It’s All In Your Mind…And In Mine
by Our Guest on February 26th, 2009

I’m with Sharon on this, except I’ll take it one step further and say that this week’s topic had me totally stumped! At first I started looking through my bookshelves trying to decide on my favorite paranormal story. Then I thought about ones I’ve written that never saw the light of day — and never should. By the way, Sharon, I love the idea about the frat house filled with the English poets, lol! That’s one frat party I’d attend!


College Yearbook Picture?

Then I started thinking about where all these stories come from. Paranormals especially require a huge leap of faith, both on the part of the reader and the writer. Whether its vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts, time travel — anything that takes us out of the normal, accepted world — we have to be willing to set aside our entire belief system, shed those boring chains of the reality and surrender –utterly — to the workings of imagination.

Imagination. The human mind. It’s an entire universe unto itself, with no boundaries and where ANYTHING is possible. Where you can BE anything. Kind of a paranormal concept right there, if you ask me. I mean, what CAN’T come out of the imagination? I’ve already admitted to being a Trekkie, so does anyone else remember the episode from the original series where they’re on a pleasure planet where their daydreams are instantly brought to life? Suddenly they find themselves confronted by Samurai swordmen, knights, large talking white rabbits…. OK, maybe that’s more SciFi than paranormal, but the result is similar: abandoning the ordinary world and entering a fantasy realm where thought, however weird and wacky, becomes reality.

As writers, that’s exactly what we do. We create wild, out of this world ideas and characters, bring them to life and then cunningly lure readers to venture across the threshold into a place where WE decide what’s possible. We bid them to enter the portal, if you will. :-)

Once there they never know what will happen next, which — and here’s where writers take giant leaps of faith with all the heart, sweat and tears that go into a manuscript — keeps them so spellbound their house could fall down around them and they wouldn’t notice.

Someday I might pay handsomely to keep this all quiet …
by Sharon Ashwood on February 25th, 2009

woman-with-letterThe topic “favourite paranormal stories that I didn’t write” is a bit ambiguous. Does that mean a story that someone else wrote? Or does the “I didn’t write” mean books that I wanted to write, but never got to? Too many of those to list in one blog!

The topic might also mean my problem children—books written or partially written that will never see the light of day. I have at least five ‘under the bed’ books. My earliest full-length, complete novel was written when I was 16, and it was a coming of age story which I believed worthy of common stock in Kleenex. Enough said.

During university I wrote a peculiar novel about a frat house where some of the Romantic English poets lived and attended classes. I also had John Constable and Eugene Delacroix having a torrid affair. There was a beach-at-dawn duel between John Keats and the narrator. No, I don’t know what I was thinking. Probably exam stress.

Then there was one I wrote when I was incarcerated in Secretarial College. Yes, that’s where (during the last major recession) cash-poor English majors went after graduation and there were zero jobs to be had. We weren’t allowed to wear jeans and had to sign in and out. Absences required a doctor’s note. A come down from cum laude, let me tell you.

I wrote, during the particular hell known as typing class, a comic adventure about a vampire, a werewolf, and a tiger’s eye ring. Writing was my means of mental survival and, what the heck, I was typing, wasn’t I? It was a very hot summer, I was stuck in a room with about forty IBM Selectrics all going at once, and the roof next door was being tarred. Blargh!

While I was clerking at the mall part-time, I wrote another historical involving a consumptive poet, an opera-singing count, devil-worship, a secret baby, sorcery and, oh, a few other odds and sods. It had (she says with a sentimental quaver) my first ritual sacrifice scene.

There were others, plus a boatload of fragments, bright ideas and things that puzzled my editor. Yes, I’ve become much more aware of the demands of the commercial market, but I’m glad I wrote for a long time with no eye to sales potential. I had amazing adventures, made mistakes with gusto, and plumbed the depths of cheesy plots—all with no one (except teachers and employers) looking over my shoulder. Now I can settle down and proceed with more method, less hysteria, and a snowball’s chance of getting another human to read it.

Those old manuscripts had better stay buried, though. Good thing I’m too poor to be worth blackmailing!

Lying around
by Annette McCleave on February 24th, 2009

I once planned to write a book about a woman who could tell when people were lying. Of course, that, in and of itself, is not a paranormal story; if you happen to catch the new Fox series, LIE TO ME, you’ll know that a few unique human beings already possess that skill.

The heroine of my story lived in a world where everyone was born with obvious gifts. These gifts fell into certain categories: natural, technological, artistic, etc. Within the categories, the depth of the gift varied–some had the ability to shift fully into animals, others simply had a supremely enhanced sense of smell. My heroine’s gift was called Lie Divining and only one percent of the population was blessed with that gift.

But my heroine also possessed a second gift, called Truth Seeing, which was extremely rare and very highly prized. With a handshake and a couple of quick questions, a truth seer could ‘feel’ a person’s inner thoughts and motivations. It’s the kind of gift some leaders might kill to control, and that was the crux of my story.

I wrote fifty pages or so, then put the manuscript aside. I don’t remember why. My research notes and that rough start are still lying around somewhere, so I could have another go at it some day, but I doubt it. Some stories come alive for me, and some don’t. This one didn’t.

lie_to_me

Fox clearly found the lie divining concept fascinating enough to create a series based on it, and I must say I’m really enjoying LIE TO ME so far. Anyone else liking it?

p.s. If you visit the Fox site, they have some neat info about the scientist who inspired the show and the curious places where lying shows up in real life.

Da Vinci’s Notebook of Failures
by Jessa Slade on February 23rd, 2009

Currently working on: The End of the World…
I mean, book
Mood: Apocalyptic

Most writers — if forced — will mention, in hushed tones, the existence of The Manuscript That Must Never See The Light of Day under their beds. Sometimes ideas don’t pan out. Sometimes imagination can’t overcome cold, hard reality. Sometimes the Muse was just smoking crack.

Happens to the all of us. Even Da Vinci, though his publicist fought tooth and nail to prevent the distribution of the following pages for fear of torpedoing the sequel to the best-selling The Da Vinci Code — The Da Vinci Diet.

Da Vinci’s Notebook of Failures was discovered in the back of his closet, which — after under the bed — is the third favorite hiding place for failed creative works. The most popular locale for spectacular failures continues to be YouTube.

Plate 17
downhill-hibachi

Eating on the run has been an issue for the ages, but Da Vinci’s “downhill hibachi” never caught on. Perhaps because it caught fire with disturbing frequency. Though never deciphered, the text in the upper left hand corner is believed to finally resolve the identity of the Mona Lisa.

Plate 32
chicken-coop-hat

Prior to the downhill hibachi debacle, Da Vinci had toyed with the “chicken coop hat” . Beta testers weren’t too psyched with the inevitable deposits, although Da Vinci attempted to repurpose the streaking as “racing stripes.” The concept was eventually abandoned when adding fire to the hat in an attempt to hard-boil the chicken’s eggs proved disastrous. Rumor has it, the design had military applications, which seems unlikely at best.

Plate 119
beer-bong

Although he later decried the invention and attempted to destory all extant prototypes, a ancient secret cadre of assassin/nun/snackfood makers apparently escaped with the plans. Recreations of Da Vinci’s “gravity beer bong” now resurge cyclically around the completion of final exams at institutions of higher learning. Proof that even bad ideas can have their time to shine.

So what’s your best bad idea? Or maybe you had a “friend” with a bad idea you’d like to ridicule… er, revise here. And remember, there is no bad idea that lighter fluid, a match and a video camera can’t make even worse.

Then we snuggle
by KimLenox on February 20th, 2009

Oooh! Winter holiday!

Some of my favorite vacations have been to colder climes. I love being out all day, hiking or snow skiing. When you return back to your cabin or condo, or wherever you’re staying, hot chocolate and food has never tasted so good. Warm, soft clothes have never felt so luxurious! And a blazing fireplace has never been so welcome.

So when I think of sending my characters away for a winter holiday, I want them to have a good time too. They need a few days off from fighting all the nasty, evil beings of the world. They need time to focus on each other. So I think I’d send them off to some old Bavarian lodge, nestled in the woods.

There would be snow, and wine, and lots of thick, soft blankets.

I’d certainly give them …

Yes, a sleigh ride! Then they’d come back to bundle up together beside the fire.

Other than location, that’s a pretty simple vacation. What can I say? I’m a simple woman, and those kinds of things would make me happy. What about your — if you had the chance to take a vacation in the mountains and snow, or one on an island with a great beach — which would you choose?

Maybe Dorothy Was Right
by Our Guest on February 19th, 2009

When I first broached the subject of a winter vacation, my two sets of heroes and heroiones were beside themselves with excitement and their houses were thrown into uproars. Traveling outfits had to be aired, the trunks hauled down from the attic, the carriages cleaned and waxed and the horses readied. Then they all scurried into their respective libraries to pore over the maps. Hmm, where to go? Bearing in mind all the possible hot spots of war, disease and famine, the British Empire in the 1830s offered a veritable world of choices. India, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, the West Indies, Austrialia….the possibilities were endless…

And then reality set in. Whether they chose the spicy streets of Bombay, the tent-shrouded deserts of Arabia, or the relaxation of a balmy, breezy Caribbean plantation, how the devil would they get there? Cause baby, trains, planes and automobiles were just not an option in 1830! It would take another decade plus before trains became an accepted mode of transportation and forget about cushy cruise lines. Travel by ship meant hitching a ride on a commercial sailing vessel — crowded and uncomfortable and you want to talk about the rigors of a winter crossing? Not to mention another thing not invented in 1830: Dramamine!!!


Look like fun? Blurfff!

You know, there’s a reason people tended to stay tucked away on their country estates during the winter, and holing up in Cornwall is beginning to look a whole lot more attractive to Chad, Sophie, Grayson and Nora. I mean, they’re already ahead of the game being in the warmest part of England, and there’s a lot to be said for cuddling and sipping hot port by a roaring fire while the ocean tosses and the snow flies. I think there are times when Dorothy was right, there’s no place like home. Besides, in just a few short weeks the quality folk will start pouring back into London for another exciting, fun-filled, scandal-ridden Season. And as another old saying goes, when you’ve grown tired of London, you’ve grown tired of life. So why go anywhere else?

I have to say it’s a toss up for me between London and New York. What city do you think is the most exciting in the world?

Hotel Dracula - nice, but does it take Aeroplan?
by Sharon Ashwood on February 18th, 2009

luggageI can see my characters getting into vacations. My werewolves would do the whole extreme outdoorsy thing, Holly would want to go to a shopping mecca, and the vampires would opt for a tour of the Paris catacombs. Monsters need vacations as much as anyone else does, and one of the huge benefits of integration into human society would be freedom of movement—also known as the right to rack up humungous, over-inflated hotel bills and deal with snippy concierges.

Tour agencies catering to the bump-in-the-night crowd would soon spring up. Transylvania package tours (Visit the homeland! See where it all began!) would quickly outnumber the Mexican sun fun vacations. Specialized airline carriers (sun-proof windows, no flights during the full moon, in-flight catering best left unexplained) would rapidly emerge.

Yet there would surely be glitches. Dealing with the passport office is a challenge at the best of times. Imagine trying to provide proof of identity when you were a peasant born in a mud-floored hut back in the middle ages. Then there’s airport security. No one but an idiot would try packing a broadsword in carry-on, but what about the fangs and claws? Are werebeasts subject to classification and quarantine as live animal cargo, or will a rabies tag suffice? Can a witch only pack mini-potions that fit in those stupid baggies?

Then there’s the danger of layovers and delays, when vampires go from tourist to luggage. As the sun comes up, the airline officials walk the winding line-ups of disgruntled travellers, issuing complimentary body bags for the vamps and coffee for their human companions. Not a pretty sight.

Still, the world holds plenty of surprises and mysteries, even if you’re millennia old, and what’s the point of an extra-long life if you can’t explore? In a world where magic literally lives next door, there’d be even more to see. Of course, this new wave of tourism would bring consequences, including publicity and endorsement deals for The Loch Ness Monster and Ogopogo. They’ve already noticed Sasquatch has his own beer commercials.

kokanee_xing

Even in Paradise…
by Annette McCleave on February 17th, 2009

A sultry island breeze wafts in the window, billowing the curtain. The room is dark, except for the silver wash of moonlight that spills across the terracotta floor tiles. Under the swath of mosquito netting covering the double bed, Lachlan pulls Rachel a little tighter against his chest … and waits. After four hundred years of soul gathering, he’s developed an uncanny ability to sense impending messages from Death.

Sure enough, the Blackberry on the nightstand begins to vibrate.

He snatches it, doing his best not to disturb the woman whose long legs are entwined with his, whose soft breaths stir the hairs on his chest. They had a full day—walking along the beach, hunting for souvenirs in the village marketplace, windsurfing in the cove, and dining on fresh sea bass. Unlike him, Rachel is human. She needs her sleep.

A glance at the electronic screen confirms what he already knows: a Gatherer doesn’t get vacations. In an alley behind the local rum bar, a drunken tourist is about to be mugged. Judgment impaired by alcohol, the sunburned Canadian accountant will foolishly fight to keep his wallet and end up losing his life. Lachlan used to try to save such men, but Death is ruthless and persevering. When she marks a human, they die.

He kisses the top of Rachel’s head, then carefully untangles himself and rolls off the bed. He dresses quickly, donning black jeans and a black long-sleeved shirt. With an ease that speaks to his experience, he straps a leather baldric across his broad shoulders and slides his claidheamh mòr into the sheath. Warded by ancient Romany magic, the weapon immediately vanishes from sight. Ready, he crosses to the window, then pauses to look back at Rachel.

His job is not to save the tourist’s life, but to save his soul. For every soul destined for heaven, there’s a demon thief determined to waylay it into hell, and with every gather, there’s a chance the Gatherer won’t return.

A faint smile curves Lachlan’s lips.

He promised to take Rachel scuba-diving on the reef in the morning. Even if he’s ambushed tonight by a horde of vicious martial demons, there’s no way he’ll disappoint her.

He leaps out the window, drops soundlessly to the hotel lawn thirty feet below, and merges with the shadows.

********

This is a little scene I wrote to imagine my characters from Drawn into Darkness on ‘vacation’. It’s written in present tense, but don’t worry, the book is standard past tense. Enjoy!

Run away!
by Jessa Slade on February 16th, 2009

holygrail

Currently working on: Nothing!
Mood: Somewhat guilty, actually

With winter still firmly plunked on the Pacific Northwest in the form of gray skies, gray water and gray moods, this week’s topic about imagining our characters on winter holiday is particularly fun. What makes it even more fun for me, is that I’m not here! I’m in Chicago on break.

Yeah, the Windy City in February. Okay, so it’s not where most people — or characters — dream of spending a few free winter days. But I have a bit of research to do. As I mentioned once before, Liam and Jilly, the leads from Book 2, get into a spot of trouble on the ‘L,’ the elevated train tracks downtown. I also need to make a run through Chinatown, go dancing at a cool nightclub, and hit up this supposedly awesome bra boutique, which are all things my hero and heroine do. Yes, even the underwear shopping. Although the hero did that, so you know it’s fiction. I would PAY my hero to go bra shopping for me.

But I digress. That’s what happens when you’re slacking on vacation.

Actually, my heroes don’t get much time off. Saving the world, blah blah. Their version of downtime is sharpening their weapons. If Sera and Archer from Book 1 were contemplating glossy four-color brochures of potential holidays away, their conversation might go something like this:

Sera: You’d look fantastic in that Speedo, love.

Archer: Where would I keep my bad-ass recurved demon-slaying ax? Would that count as a carry-on or personal item?

And that would be the end of Sera and Archer’s Caribbean adventure. So until they rid the world of evil, they’re stuck in Chicago. And I’m with them for a long weekend.

If you could put aside your saving of the world for a weekend, where would you want to go right now?