Archive for May, 2009



She raises her hand high!
by KimLenox on May 29th, 2009

Hello, my name is Kim Lenox, and I believe in Happily Ever After.

When my husband was in grad school, we rented a little house in a little neighborhood near the university. There were a few other younger couples like ourselves, but most of our neighbors were elderly, and had lived in their little houses in that little neighborhood for their entire adult lives, and raised their families there. There was one couple that lived diagonal to us, a very quiet but obviously happy pair. We’d see him out early in the mornings, tending to his garden, and see her through the kitchen window. Sometimes on cooler evenings, they’d sit out in the yard together under the trees. I remember talking to her once, and her smiling and telling me they were going to have eggs and toast for supper. They led a very simple life, and I know they’d had a fair share of hardships, but it was clear life had bonded them deeply, and they were devoted to one another.

At Christmas, my husband and I went to visit our families for about four days, and when we came back, we saw that their entire family had come to visit. I knew they had three grown children, and lots of grandchildren. Eventually, all the cars left. It wasn’t until a few days later that another neighbor told me the family hadn’t come for Christmas–they’d come for the funerals. The husband had died one day and she’d passed two days later. I read the wonderful story of their real life romance and years together in their obituaries, as written by their children.

I think of that couple when I think of happily ever after. In romance novels, characters live through betrayals, hardships, and yes, sometimes attacks from vampires or demons (is that really so different than real life?) and they find love, and then on page 385 (or whatever that last page is!) they are granted their happily ever after. Happily ever after is a really flexible concept! The way I see it, HEA is a springboard for the reader’s individual (and subjective!) hopes and dreams about “whatever happens next”. We’ve all got different fantasies and ideas of what that should be.

“Happily Ever After” can mean the characters spend the rest of their days (kissing passionately and) riding in a yacht up and down the Riviera three months out of the year, and then heading home to Fifth Avenue for (more kissing) and parties the other nine. Or it can mean growing old together, and sitting out in the garden under the trees on cool evenings, and having eggs and toast for supper.

You can probably tell which version I prefer, but that’s me. What is your idea of happily ever after?

The Tribulations of HEA
by Our Guest on May 28th, 2009

If I didn’t believe in HEA, I couldn’t be a romance writer. It’s as simple as that. I’ve heard people say that fiction writers “tell lies for a living.” Wrong! If an author is telling lies, i.e., writing things she doesn’t believe herself, her readers will know - and stop reading. A writer has to tell the whole, honest truth, no matter how hard or how painful.

And sometimes getting those words on the page can be painful. It’s hard work and labor intensive, but we do it because we’re compelled to, because we love it.

A relationship is a lot like writing a book. In the beginning, you’re filled with energy and enthusiasm. You can’t wait to stop whatever else you’re doing and run to that keyboard. The words flow from your fingertips. The chemistry between the characters sizzles, their dialogue sparkles. It’s all wonderfully satisfying. Exhilarating. Like the adrenaline rush of new love.

Ah, but what about that saggy middle, or hitting a snag you can’t write your way out of because the plot just isn’t working? You might find that your characters stop talking, and worse, they suddenly don’t even want to have sex anymore. Yikes! What does this mean?

It means the honeymoon is over. It means you have to stop, analyze what’s gone so terribly wrong and rework, re plot, rebuild. Some days, you just want to throw up your hands and quit. “It’s too hard!” you lament. “Can’t I just start over?”

But then you wonder, how committed am I to this story? How much do I love these characters? How much a part of me are they? Depending on the answers, you’ll either toss the manuscript into the circular file, or roll up your sleeves, sit your butt back in the chair, and give everything you’re worth - your heart and soul - to make it work. Because you are committed. You do love this story and you cannot let go of these characters.

That’s how we as writers progress from opening hook to HEA. And in life, that’s how people progress from that first “I love you” to their own particular HEA, whatever that may be. It’s not easy, it’s not always pretty, and some days you want to throw up your hands and scream, I quit! That’s when you have to take a breath and ask yourself the above questions (insert “relationship” in place of “story” and “spouse/significant other” in place of “character”). So yes, I believe in HEA. Oh, not the magical, “bells are ringing and birds are singing” version - well, sometimes - but mostly the “we’re in this together and are committed to making it work because damn it all, we really do love each other” version.

love2

What do you think? Is love worth working for - fighting for? Or do you believe that when the happy bells stop ringing, it’s a sign that it’s time to move on?

Blood Deep Winner!
by Annette McCleave on May 28th, 2009

Sharon Page has selected a winner of a copy of her new release, Blood Deep, from Tuesday’s commenters … and the winner is JODY F. Jody, please email Annette with your shipping info. Congratulations!

Dystopias ‘R’ Us
by Sharon Ashwood on May 27th, 2009

800starscape3
This weekend I went to Star Trek with a friend and we both thoroughly enjoyed the film. Yeah, there’s plenty to pick at, but it was a nice mix of the familiar with updated sensibilities. Gone were the bright white sanitized, futuristic landscapes. The concrete looked like concrete and the villains seriously needed a makeover. The grungy bits made me believe in it more.

As my friend and I dissected all of the above, we hit on an interesting point. The old Trek, as much as we adore it, is very dated. One of the things that makes it that way is the boundless Sixties optimism that gave it much of its innocent charm. Today, we don’t want to go where no one has gone before unless Starbucks got there first. Plus, who believes in the technological utopia the old Trek promised? If the Federation existed today, it would contract the ship-building to the lowest bidder and the Enterprise would never make it to the next Starbase. Either that, or the tech would go evil and eat our brains.

I’m such a child of my generation. Welcome to the cynical, morbid, suspicious twenty-first century. We can’t even feel chipper about a starship, so what about everlasting love?

Ah, the HEA–there’s more to it than meets the eye. Cutting through all the philosophical preamble, belief in a HEA is arguably belief that we are lovable and have the capacity for love, that we are worthy and can find what is worthy in others, and that we’re capable of pursuing joy. Somewhere in there is an assumption about human goodness, redemption, and capacity for forgiveness. It speaks to our basic attitude about our right and ability to be happy. In otherwords, if we think we deserve a HEA, we think we don’t suck.

What do I believe? That we need to have faith in the HEA—however we define it—unless we want to slide into a permanent nihilistic funk. If we stop looking for happiness, what have we got left? A world that looks like A Clockwork Orange? Libraries filled with nothing but financial reports and copies of Kafka’s greatest hits? Or maybe just a strange societal obsession with overpriced shoes?

Nope, sappy or not, I’ll stick with the lollipops and rainbows. I need to believe things will turn out okay. The alternative is just too ugly to contemplate.

It’s true that HEA is hard to measure. In real life, houses where the HEA lives fade into the landscape. It’s really about people believing enough in themselves and each other to build a life, that tomorrow is worth planning for, and that trust in the future is not tragically naive. It’s optimism—perhaps tempered by the day-to-day, but it’s there.

Hm. Sounds a bit like the cheery old Star Trek. Come to think of it, even Spock, cold-blooded Vulcan that he was, was big on the old “live long and prosper”. Isn’t that kind of like wishing us a happy ending?

Maybe Trek classic is not as outdated as I thought.

Do I believe in Happily Ever After?
by Our Guest on May 26th, 2009

This week’s guest is Sharon Page. Sharon is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Club. She writes for Dell (Random House), Kensington, and Ellora’s Cave, and writes both very sensual and erotic romance. Her stories feature seductive regency rakes or sexy tortured vampires from both the past and the present.

Sharon has graciously agreed to give away a copy of Blood Deep to one lucky Silk and Shadows haunter, so be sure to get your comments in today!

***

sharonpagesmallerauthorphoto

Thanks so much to all the Silk and Shadows authors for having me here, especially to Annette McCleave for the invitation. Annette and I belong to the same RWA chapter and when she announced her first sale last year, I was beyond thrilled.

This week’s topic is terrific. What a great idea to explore how authors really feel about ‘happily ever after’.

I love writing happy endings which, of course, lead up to the phrase, ‘and they lived happily ever after’. (I don’t write that, but it’s implied.) Do I think it can come true? I suppose that depends on how you define ‘happily ever after’.

I’ve been fortunate in many ways. My husband and I have been together for twenty years. I love spending time with him. We both work from home, so often behave, as a friend of mine described it, like two kids talking and laughing at the back of a high school class. My parents have been together for more than fifty years—of course, they’ve had ups and downs, bad times and good. But they’ve faced all those things together. My husband’s parents had also been married for almost fifty years, and it was only his father’s death that parted them.

My writing career has been chugging toward a happy ending. I’ve realized my dream of becoming published in 2004, I will have 10 books in print by the end of this year, and I made the USA Today Bestseller list this spring with The Club. The Club is the story of Lady Jane Beaumont, who on a desperate search for her missing friend Del, enters London’s most secretive Gentleman’s Club—only to encounter a sinful, notorious rake on a rescue mission of his own.

theclub180x270

Does ‘happily ever after’ mean you’ll realized all your dreams? I believe it involves discovering which dreams are the really important ones.

When my husband’s father was diagnosed with cancer, doctors told him he wouldn’t have long to go (in the end, he lived for 6 years longer than expected). He sat down to make a list of all the things he should do while he had time. Then he realized he would be happiest if he was doing exactly what he was already doing—working around the house and on his garden, enjoying his hobbies, spending his time with family and friends. World travel or other exotic things were not what he really wanted.

‘And they lived happily ever after’ is the reward for all the trials and tribulations in the story—it implies that everything from then on is peaceful for the hero and heroine. There’s no more stress or fear. In paranormals, where the hero and heroine have risked their lives and possibly saved the world, the idea of never having to do battle again is appealing. Obviously real life can’t be like that. We know life will involve sickness, death, sorrow, fear, or financial problems, along with the good times. But how can those be a part of a ‘happily ever after’?

I love reading and writing happy endings because of the emotional rush they give me—I cry poignant tears, I laugh with joy, I sigh with pleasure. As a writer, I want my readers to believe my characters will have a happy ending because they will last for the long haul. They will weather those bad times together. Each one will be the other’s support. What makes readers buy into that? They’ve seen each character go through pain and fear, battles and suffering, and survive. But mainly they’ve seen the hero and heroine grow, change, and become stronger people who are able to embrace love.

On a lighter note, I have a ‘happy ending’ of myself coming up—I’m sending the revisions in for my upcoming sensual historical from Dell, The Last Seduction, tomorrow.

thelastseduction180x270

Today, I’m celebrating the release day of my newest erotic vampire romance, Blood Deep, from Kensington Aphrodisia, set in Regency England. This story completely fed my addiction to write happy endings.

My heroes were the villains from the two previous books of the series (yes, there are two heroes in Blood Deep as it’s a menage story). Zayan is a former Roman General who has suffered with guilt and pain over the murders of his children for two thousand years. Lukos is a former Saxon warrior who had to sacrifice his life to enter the mysterious Scholomance, the School of the Devil, so he could learn dark magic to save his people. He escaped imprisonment after a thousand years—and learned his sister was given to Lucifer as a prisoner too. The heroine, Miranda has discovered she has the power to resurrect the dead, and a society of vampire slayers wants to kill her to destroy her magic. ‘Happily ever after’ for Miranda, Zayan, and Lukos is definitely hard won.

blooddeep180x270

How about you—do you believe in happily ever after? Have you read any romances that left you feeling the hero and heroine wouldn’t survive life’s tough times?

“…And they lived Happily Ever After. The end. Until tomorrow.”
by Jessa Slade on May 25th, 2009

memorial_day
Cheers for the living; tears for the dead ~ Memorial Day 2009

Currently working on: Sledgehammering
Mood: Sledgehammery

My XY wanted to know how I could write a post about believing in Happily Ever Afters.  “In real life, everybody dies,” he said.

He’s fun at parties, I swear.

Yes, I explained, people die.  But if they lived a full, satisfying life, reaching their potential and connecting with the people they loved, that counts as an HEA (Happily Ever After).  Most books don’t follow that entire progression, because we can’t all be turn-of-the-century Russian novelists (they didn’t believe in HEAs anyway) burning through paper pulp like weak vodka Jello shots.  The best we can do is show — in 400 pages or less — that our characters met and overcame their roadblocks, and walked away with the skills to continue down that path, whatever else might come along — whether we see that in the next book in the series or just imagine it.

I read a thread in an online romance reading community that asked whether the readers felt that romance skewed their perception of what “real” relationships should be like.  I was shocked at the number that said, yes, reading romances made it harder to maintain a real-world relationship because their expectations were too high.  HEA was one of the alleged culprits.

Which made me think those readers had my XY’s interpretation of HEA:  That somehow HEA meant you’d never have another fight, always orgasm simultaneously (in his defense, I’m extrapolating my XY’s beliefs a bit) and never die.  Whether you’re a vampire or not.

Instead, I think an HEA is built on three elements, and all of them have real-world applications, not just in our romantic relationships but elsewhere too.

1. Communication
Romance novels are a uniquely female pleasure, I think, because of all the words that go into building the relationship,  culminating in the “I love you” moment. As anyone with a Y chromosome in the vicinity knows, relationship words aren’t always the easiest for the male persuasion to muster.  But romances also understand the value of the gesture — grand or small — that reveals the truth behind words unspoken.  Whether with words or action, romances teach that only by reaching beyond the confines of themselves can our characters begin to seek their HEA.

2. Compromise
Half of communicating is receiving what the other person reveals.  With that new understanding, our characters — female and male — are able to progress past the prejudices and limitations that have held them back. Compromise gets a bad name because it sounds like giving up, giving in.  But anybody whose read about the bad boy alpha hero oh-so reluctantly giving his woman a place on the mission team — only to discover that she’s crucial to his success — knows that compromise is the heart of the HEA.

3. Commitment
Whether it’s an HEA or HFN (happy for now) the dedication to the cause completes the Ever After.  Or should we say Even After?  Because that decision to stay the course – regardless of annoyances, tribulations and assorted escalating bad guys — means we can believe that our hero and heroine remain true to each other and themselves.

hea3

How would you describe Happily Ever After?  Is it reserved for fairy tales?  Or does everyone deserve it?  Would HEA be better described as Hopefully Ever After?

Surfin’ USA
by KimLenox on May 23rd, 2009

Oh, gosh, the Internet is so dangerous for me. I can tell myself I have 10 minutes of fun time to surf around to my favorite sites, and zeeeerrrrppp! Suddenly two hours have passed.

One big time drain for me is the news. I’m a current events junkie. I think part of it is that I don’t want to be oblivious or ignorant about what’s going on in the world around me, good or bad. So I tend to bounce around between CNN, MSNBC, FOXNews and my local Houston Chron.

I also love to do research for my books, so much so that a lot of times I’m researching points if interest that I know will never even be used. I just find them interesting.

Like Allison, I make use of Google, and in my case, it’s Google Books. It’s really my only possible source for some primary research sources, like an 1886 copy of Cleopatra’s Needle; a history of the London Obelisk.

I also love Lee Jackson’s The Victorian Dictionary.

For shopping temptation I love QVC, where I recently bought my new ravishing red Acer AspireOne netbook, and a awesome pair of sheets. And Zazzle. Where else can you buy a cool pair of Dia De Los Muertos shoes?

And last of all, I love to cook (translate = EAT!), but given a lack of time to devote to the hobby, most everything I cook is simple and fast. I visit Allrecipes several times a week and print off recipes that catch my eye.

I could go on and on (and on and on) but I’ll stop there! What about you? Keep sharing your favorites with us as well!

Shopping, Sightseeing & House Hunting on the Web
by Our Guest on May 21st, 2009

Sorry to be posting so late today! I was all ready to post early this morning only to discover that our phones and internet were out, dead, nada, zip…and stayed that way all day. I love when the phone company says, “Yes, we’re aware of the problem. We should have it fixed by 6pm.”

Excuse me, 6pm??? Um, what am I supposed to do in the meantime??? Not their problem, apparently.

Problem finally fixed, so in between driving my daughter to work, picking her up, then driving her to the event she performed at with her chamber quartet, I finally managed to post.

I don’t do tons of web surfing these days, I just don’t. Between email, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and actual writing, who has time to surf?

But when I do play, one thing I truly love are costume sites. I’m addicted to historical fashion, and since I never really outgrew wanting to play dress up, I have to satisfy my obsession by perusing all the amazing gowns and things I would own if I just had a place to wear them.
The Fashion Era
A Visual Dictionary of Fashion
The History of Costume
or for the Ren Faire nerd in me, there are “shopping” sites:
Sophie’s Stitches
The Tudor Shoppe
The Renaissance Store

You’ll also catch me playing around various castle and historical sites, even when they don’t fit into any of my current research categories. The Castles of Wales is a particularly nice one. No, I’m not setting anything in Wales or the Middle Ages. I just want to live in a castle someday, so I tend to think of these as real estate sites.

I may be slow, but I only realized the value of this one a few months ago. In Google Maps, you can click on satellite and get aerial views of just about anywhere in the world. My current WIP is set in Bath, England, which I’ve never visited, so imagine my wild delight at being able to zoom in on places like the Royal Crescent, the Circus, Pump Room, etc. Holy crap! (Sorry, but stuff like this really excites me.)

Along those lines, England 360 is a fun site featuring panoramic views of various, absolutely gorgeous in England. Good for research, even better for dreaming.

Speaking of dreaming, here’s a great movie site: The Young Victoria. I would like to incorporate myself into this site - is that technologically possible yet? I also wish I could find this movie playing somewhere. Anybody heard anything about it?

As you can see, there’s a theme here. Even with modern technology, I tend to live in the past. Healthy? Probably not. But that’s me.

Special guest: Lynda Hilburn
by Sharon Ashwood on May 20th, 2009

Okay, we’ve already established that I have a huge soft spot for vampires and LOVE a good vamp series. So, it’s with great pleasure that I introduce today’s special guest, Lynda Hilburn. Her Kismet Knight series combines steamy romance, dry humour, and a fascinating look at the dark paranormal underground–all through the eyes of a psychologist. And, yeah, since she’s often gazing at ubervamp Devereux, I don’t mind the view at all.

For a taste of the series, the second book has a really fun trailer here.

And if that isn’t enough of a treat, leave a comment today, and win a copy of your choice of The Vampire Shrink or Dark Harvest!

Your “vampire shrink” novels feature Kismet Knight, a psychologist. How does your own life experience tie into these books?

My main character, Psychologist Kismet Knight, is an idealized version of me. She’s younger, prettier, thinner and having LOTS more fun with all the great men she encounters in the dark world she discovers. I get to live vicariously through her. I’m still hoping I’ll find a gorgeous vampire sitting in my waiting room one evening.

lynda-april-09

The supernatural world you build for these books is very unique. Would you share a little bit about that?

In my books, the hidden world of the vampires exists alongside the everyday, contemporary world we humans know. I wanted to make the books as realistic as possible, so the only truly fictional/fantasy characters are the vampires. All the other characters (ghosts, psychics, witches, wizards) inhabit the “real” world I’m familiar with. Because I wanted to retain a sense of mystery and an edge of fear about the bloodsuckers in Kismet’s life, they’re separate from the mortals they feed upon (vampires don’t need to kill the humans they drink from, but some choose to). Humans might be able to sense their presence in an unconscious way – the same instinctual reactions triggered by any predator – but Kismet’s clients haven’t “come out of the coffin.” My vampires don’t feel bad or shameful about being the undead. They enjoy drinking blood and, since it isn’t easy to become a vampire, many of them feel superior to mortals. Being shadowy creatures of the night, my vampires can’t go out in the sunlight, but they do have reflections in mirrors and they aren’t affected by religion or religious objects in any way. Many of them have used their long lives to gain wisdom and knowledge of all kinds. I have a strong interest in higher consciousness topics and the metaphysical, so my vampires can use their minds to control and mesmerize, and since they don’t share human limiting beliefs about the nature of time and space, they can move through both freely.

vs-cover-11

How does your hero, Devereux, fit into this world?

Devereux is one of the oldest vampires on Earth. His ancestry consists of wizards, witches and seers, so he brought a lot of skills, abilities and talents to the table (to the coffin? LOL) when he became a vampire 800 years ago. He’s a powerful leader in the parallel world of the undead, and for most of his existence he has preferred the past to the present – which is why he uses antiquated words and has a humorous grasp of contemporary English. He owns a huge club in downtown Denver called The Crypt (based on a real club called The Church), and humans mingle freely there, unaware that the individuals serving those bloody Marys really are what they appear to be. Devereux has visions, and he’s been waiting for a particular human woman with long dark hair and blue eyes for centuries. Now if he would only tell her why . . .

high-res-dark_harvest

What is it about Kismet that attracts the attention of the vampires?

Kismet has special meaning to Devereux, a powerful leader in the hidden vampire world. Most of the bloodsuckers have no idea why this human woman is significant, they just know not to cross Devereux.

What’s upcoming from the pen of Lynda Hilburn?

I’m working on the third book in the Kismet Knight, Vampire Psychologist series as well as expanding a separate vampire novella into a novel, and brainstorming an outline for a story about a couple of psychics who live in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado.

Where can we find you on the web?

http://www.lyndahilburnauthor.com
http://paranormalityuniverse.blogspot.com
http://www.myspace.com/lyndahilburn

If you had a vampire show up at your doorstep asking for a romantic encounter, what would he bring as a gift, and what would be the PG13 part of his evening plans?

This is my favorite fantasy! Every time I open my office door, there’s a brief moment of hope that a mysterious stranger will be there, smiling with a hint of fangs! He’d be very much like Devereux – gorgeous and shimmering with power. He’d know about my love of antique necklaces, so he’d gift me with one that matches my eyes. Then he’d whisk me off to London (in the blink of an eye) to a private club in a castle, where we’d dance until dawn. Okay. Now I won’t be able to get that out of my brain . . . Kismet will have to live that experience for me.

Minutes? Ha! More Like Hours.
by Annette McCleave on May 19th, 2009

To be honest, if you were to look in my most-visited web sites list, you’d see the places I frequent most often are community/book review sites, such as All About Romance, Dear Author and Smart Bitches. I live for books, both writing them and reading them, so reviews and discussions about books draw me like a moth to flame.

I do, occasionally, venture further afield. I watch a lot of YouTube stuff that people have linked to, and I also visit a few sites on the pretext of research:

Seventh Sanctum. Need a name for a character or a spell? Seeking a dash of inspiration? How about a chuckle? This place is totally awesome.

The Online Etymology Dictionary. Again, maybe it’s because I’m a writer, or maybe because I love historical stuff, but if you want to know when a word originated, or what the root language is, this is your place. Crazy me, I sometimes do this just for fun.

Then, there are the sites I visit when I’m not making any excuses, just wasting time:

Popcap Games. The makers of that internet favorite, Bejeweled. I have unfortunately discovered Peggle, and have lost many an hour watching a ball bounce around.

Make-a-Flake. More of a winter activity, but strangely addictive, even in the summer. Ever make paper snowflakes as a kid? Well, this is way easier and the results are hugely better than anything I could produce with a real pair of scissors.

I also Twitter, post on Facebook, and blog hop. Darn, where do those hours go? Anyone want to give me some more ways to avoid working?