Archive for August, 2009



A picture to inspire a thousand words
by Jessa Slade on August 31st, 2009

Currently working on: Revising FORGED OF SHADOWS (yes, still)
Mood: Determined

I love words.  I do.  My critique partners can attest to the truth of my loving words when they force me to cut my 79-word sentences down to reasonable size.  (Which I think was unfair, since there were plenty of commas in that sentence, so it wasn’t like anybody was going to pass out from lack of oxygen if they tried to read it in one breath.)

Still, I have to acknowledge, before the Word there was the Picture.  I dabble in photography and am a graphic designer in my day job so I admire the power of imagery.  For example:

depp-water

Yeah, hot, which is inspiration enough sometimes.  But I also love the stark black and white, the balance of light and shadows, and most of all, I love the fact that this is a picture of Johnny Depp and yet for once he’s not smirking or glowering at the camera, forcing us to engage.  I think this is such a strong picture because it leaves so much to the imagination, leaves a quiet space for the viewer to feel the strong sun, the cool water, the rippling abs….

Ahem.

I like to keep images around to inspire me.  Here’s a picture of my writing altar and you can see a lot of my talismans feature images.  I have a slick of my book cover tucked in there, and on the wall behind is the collage for Book 2.

altar

My favorite (tucked away in the back right) is a card — “Feuerreifen” by Gerhard Gluck — my mom sent me when I finally sold my first book:

fire_snail

Without words, the snail’s hope (and fear) is abundantly clear.  I find it very inspiring, to the point I’m thinking of painting myself blue with white stars for my first book signing.

I keep another picture (front left) that my XY cut out of a newspaper for me.  I tend to write dark and angsty, life and death, good and evil, and this picture reminds me not to take what I write too seriously.

vamp-dog

The little terrier mutt with the cape is taking himself very seriously, and the chihuahua in the casket is trying very hard to stay in character (although he does look a bit nervous) but overall the image says to me, “Hey, it’s life and death, good and evil; have fun with it.”

chop

chop-print

On a trip to China years ago, I bought a chop — a stamp carved out of soft stone — and had it inscribed with the symbols “Tell a good tale.” 

Here are pictures of the stamp (wrapped in a bracelet with adventurine beads to promote luck, vitality and self-discipline — shuh, right) and a papyrus sheet stamped with the symbol.

Trying to explain to the carver what I wanted was an adventure in itself, and since my inability to speak Chinese is surpassed only by my inability to read it, I don’t know for sure it actually reads ”Tell a good tale.”  But as with all inspiration, as long as it inspires me, the reality doesn’t much matter.

Ideograms like Chinese characters, cuneiform and hieroglyphs appeal to me because to my eye they are a lovely melding of image and word.  And the fact that the symbol is in a language I can’t comprehend and will never master is perversely amusing since I often feel that way about the tales I tell.

I have one more inspirational image, but I won’t be keeping this one.  I commissioned an artist friend of mine whose work I admire to create an original piece based on the world of the Marked Souls.  I’m going to give it away at the end of October as a thank you to someone who helped make SEDUCED BY SHADOWS a reality, someone whose image I don’t have even though it’s been the inspiration for most of my writing life – a reader.

 You can learn more about the “Into the Shadows” Possession Prize Pack on my website.   

Do words and images inspire you in equal measure, or does your brain light up more for one than the other?  Since you are no doubt a reader yourself, I rather suspect your brain is wonderfully cross-wired.  Which authors do you find best inspire imagery in your mind?

In My Room
by KimLenox on August 29th, 2009

I love that Beach Boys song…

I’m funny about where I write. I don’t know what this means (about me) but I’m very nomadic. It depends on the day and my mood as to where I like to be creative with words.

I have an office with a desk and a view. I might sit there and write when I’m doing a lot of research and need all my books and notes around me.

Or I might sit in my writing chair.

Or I may sit on the bed, which I really like to do, but I always end up falling asleep after about 45 minutes. For some reason, on my latest deadline I wanted to sit in my son’s leather type pappasan chair. It’s like half reclining in a chair-bucket. But the chair had to be in a corner in my bedroom, under a reading lamp. Why? I don’t know. It just had to be there, or I couldn’t think. When I’m on a deadline I turn into the Princess and the Pea. Everything bothers me. The light hits my computer screen wrong. The light pierces my eye like a needle. It’s too cold. It’s too hot.

I also write in my car. Even before I went back to work full time and started spending lunch hours writing in my car, I would drive to a parking lot and write. My crit partner will text me and ask if I’m in my car office. The car office only works when the temperature isn’t 100 degrees though, so it’s a late fall and winter type option.

I’ve also got my favorite writing places outside of the house, and a lot of times will meet other authors just to park in comfy coffee house chairs and co-exist as we type away.

So I guess all in all my “room” is in my head, and I just relocate wherever my compulsions lead me. My new Acer netbook lets me do that. I love that little guy.

I’ve enjoyed this week! I love to see where other authors work, and what their process is. What about you, reader? Do you enjoy hearing about that kind of thing, and having a glimpse into a writer’s life?

Head office
by Sharon Ashwood on August 26th, 2009

In the quest for peace and quiet, I’ve heard stories of authors who wrote in all kinds of places. One apparently hid in the broom closet with a typewriter balanced on their knees. I understand the instinct. I’m not one of those people who can write in coffee shops or even with a radio on. A hedge trimmer three blocks down will drive me crazy, and the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness has come close to taking a one-way trip to the nearest storm drain. I need quiet!

Consequently, I write on a laptop so I can hunt out the “right” spot to commune with the muse. I may roam from spot to spot like a bird looking for the right tree to nest in. Most often I just go for the kitchen table, as it’s the biggest surface around. Since it’s on the second floor, it has a nice view of trees, squirrels, and chickadees. Also handy to the fridge and the coffee pot.

dlkb

The downside of this system is that I lose things. I don’t have a proper place to do all the admin work that comes with writing. Believe me, there’s a ton—contest prizes to send out, promotion to organize, contracts, letters, schedules, blah, blah, blah. One accumulates stationery at a furious rate—bookmarks, mailing envelopes, author copies, and so on. The writing detritus is advancing like a slow tide across my living room.

Solution? I have a small, bright sewing room that I’m eyeing for an office. Someday I’ll get organized enough to move my piles of paper, printers, fax machine, and stacks o’ stuff around. I’d do it now except I know it’s a job that will take longer than I think, and I have a book due. November is looking good …. I might get my new digs set up in time to decorate for Christmas.

Creative Spelunking
by Annette McCleave on August 25th, 2009

Although I write at a desk that’s in my living room, my working space is far more like a cave than an office. When I’m in full writing mode, my desk is piled high on either side with research books, notes, calendars, incoming mail that doesn’t need drastic attention, receipts I haven’t logged yet, snacks, snack wrappers, and a coffee mug. The only two things that remain perpetually clear and center are my monitor and keyboard. When I’m writing, the rest of the world falls into the shadows and the only thing that exists is the world I’m trying to create.

cave

The cave analogy works for me. The light is always behind me (that’s where the big picture window is), I’ve got the professional tools I need, and I’m venturing into the great unknown with only a small flashlight of an idea on in my head. Writing is creative cave diving, so it makes sense that my writing area resembles a cavern.

Come to think of it, I even have a cave scene in my September release, Drawn into Darkness. Write what you know, as they say. :wink:

The only advantage I have over a real spelunker is the proximity of a coffee pot. Oh, and there’s no bats or bat droppings in my house. My family can groan all they want about my housekeeping skills, but even they would acknowledge I haven’t gone that far.

Here’s a pic of my actual workspace. I cleaned up the wrappers for you, but couldn’t quite summon the energy to tackle that little table under my color inkjet printer. That’s where I stuff paper, printing supplies, old research, and heck, just about everything I don’t look at until I need it. Stuff. Yup, that about sums it up.

where-i-write

As you can see, my office does not follow good feng shui guidelines. But it’s comfortable, inspiring, accessible, and close to the kitchen. I could always add a soothing little water fountain, I suppose. The dripping sounds would be suitably cave-like.

Which do you prefer–a neat, tidy desk or a busy, cluttered desk? If we took a picture of your workspace right this minute, which would it be?

A room of her own
by Jessa Slade on August 24th, 2009

Currently working on: Teaser prequel for SEDUCED BY SHADOWS
Mood: Ahead of myself

I am now contracted for four novels of the Marked Souls, so I am booked until 2011 and I’ll be writing like a fiend for most of that time.  Plus, the first book is coming out in October, and I’m get ready to knuckle down to the next two months of intense non-writing writing life stuff like promotions, book signings, and inventing new ways to avoid vacuuming.  So I’ve been thinking about whether my writing space serves me as well now that I’m a working writer.

I’ve posted this picture before, but let’s review.  Here is my office as it is today:

pets_dog

With the exception of the large mammal who isn’t me sitting at on the desk, overall this is a serviceable space.  It has all the key writerly pieces: A computer and a chair.  And Super Glue in the top front drawer.  Plus, it has a few extras: A cabinet to hold my junk, stacking cubbies to hold my more immediately necessary junk (dictionary, thesaurus, my writer’s altar, more Super Glue), inspirational art, and various writing buddies like my dog and geckos.

I know many writers crammed into closets and carving out chunks of the kitchen table every night who would be happy to have my space (with the possible exception of the dog) and so I am profoundly grateful to have it.

However…

I’m thinking I might need something more inspirational, considering all the pressure I’m under.  Maybe I need a satellite office.  Maybe somewhere warm and sunny…

ofc_trpc

Okay, maybe not.  The potential for distraction — not to mention a serious sunburn, always a consideration for the pasty, stuck-at-the-desk types – is too high.  And I need something with a little more discipline.  Maybe someplace like…

ofc_frtrs

Right.  Those walls are kind of helpful, holding in all the good ideas, concentrating my concentration.  But there’s still something a little off about this set up…

ofc_prsn

Ah, there we go.  Now the walls are on the right side.  The perfect office for the working writer.

Except somebody left the door open…

How about you?  Whether you are a writer, a quilter, a mom, or whatever, do you need freedom or discipline to get your work done?  Does the view out your window inspire you or distract you?  Or is it all a matter of balance?

Last week’s winner & another chance to win!
by Jessa Slade on August 20th, 2009

As winner of last week’s drawing for a signed copy of Jessica Andersen’s DAWN KEEEPERS, the ever random Random.org has chosen…  Terri W at hotmail! 

Thanks, everyone, for commenting.  Keep reading for another chance to win either NIGHT KEEPERS or DAWN KEEPERS from Doc Jess herself!

Summer BBQ and Book Giveaway!
by Sharon Ashwood on August 20th, 2009

First off, a big shout-out to Sharon, Jessa and the rest of the Silk and Shadowers … thanks so much for inviting me to hang out with you guys today!

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but up here in New England, we’re sweltering through our first official heat wave of the summer. We’re staying as cool as we can get, laying low midday and getting our physical stuff done early in the morning and late at night. Yesterday it was even almost (but not quite) too hot for me to face firing up the BBQ for dinner!

When Sharon pinged me to say that this week was “Summer Pleasures” week at Silk and Shadows, the first thing that came to my mind was the summer tradition of cooking (or, as often occurs in my case when I get caught up in something else and lose track, burning) food over an open fire. We’re old school- we’ve got an open kettle grill that requires charcoal, lots of lighter fluid, a lit match, and the occasional whoop of surprise (and singed eyebrows) when we get the timing wrong. And pretty much whatever we might cook inside during the rest of the year, we find a way to cook it outdoors now!

Interestingly, my new release, SKYKEEPERS, has a strong foodie thread running through it. The heroine and reluctant mage, Sasha, is a chef who (whether she likes it or not) gravitates toward the Mayan flavors that remind her of her father. She’s highly sensual, and experiences the world through its textures and flavors. The hero, Michael, is also very sensual, albeit in a hotter, earthier way. The two of them together … can you say HAWT???

Well, how about I show you what I’m talking about?

skykeepers.MECH.indd

Here’s the blurb, so we’re all on the same page:

Ancient prophecy holds that 12/21/2012 will bring a global cataclysm. Mankind’s only hope lies with the Nightkeepers, modern magic-wielding warriors who must find their destined mates and fulfill the legends to defeat the rise of terrible Mayan demons. Now, check out this short excerpt:

In Skykeepers, Michael Stone is a man with a dark secret that has skewed his magical abilities dangerously toward the underworld. Seeking redemption, he sets out on a perilous mission to save the daughter of Ambrose Ledbetter, a renowned Mayanist who died before he could reveal the location of a hidden library. The Nightkeepers must find the library before their enemies gain access to its valuable cache of spells and prophecies.

Sasha Ledbetter grew up hearing heroic tales of an ancient group of powerful magi who were destined to save the world from destruction. She never expected that her bedtime stories would come to life in the form of Nightkeeper Michael Stone, or that she’d hold the key to the warrior’s survival. As Sasha and Michael join forces to prevent the imminent battle, sparks of attraction ignite between them, and they’re forced to confront the unexpected passion that brings them together … and also tears them apart.

Michael thought he’d steeled himself for the familiar kick of attraction, the lust that hadn’t faded with their becoming lovers. But need hit him hard the moment he saw her stretched on her tiptoes to return a bowl to a high shelf, her midriff-cropped tee riding up, yoga pants riding down, the two exposing a strip of her taut, strong abdomen, with the soft lines of muscle on either side of her navel, where a trio of freckles drew his eye.***

She turned slowly, and when she met his eyes, he saw a reflection of the burning heat that churned in his gut. “Well?” she said softly.

His body moved almost without conscious volition around the pass-through and into the kitchen, where he stopped close enough to catch her light scent over the cooking smells, close enough to distinguish the heat of her body from that of the stove. “What’s cooking?”

She handed over the mug she’d been sipping from. “It’s something I’ve been playing with.”

He knew she had magic in the kitchen, knew she wielded flavors with the deftness of a trained chef and the inspiration of a mage, but still he was unprepared for what hit his taste buds the moment he took a sip. Sensations exploded across his neurons in a blaze of heat, texture, and taste that had him sucking in a breath. There was chocolate, yes, but it was more savory than sweet, taken away from the realm of dessert by a mix of peppers and salt, and things he wouldn’t even begin to match with chocolate, but that somehow matched perfectly. He sucked in a breath. “Holy crap.” Took another sip and rolled it around in his mouth, closing his eyes briefly as the flavors changed subtly, the peppers mellowing to something else. “Nice,” he said, and this time his tone was one of reverence. “Very nice.”

“That,” she said with evident satisfaction, “was exactly what I was going for.”

Eyes still closed, he felt her trying to take the mug back, and tightened his fingers on it. “Leave it,” he said. “I’m at your mercy. Anything you want. Just ask.”

He’d said it partly in play, but also because he remembered what she’d told him back in the beginning, on her first day at Skywatch. I cook when I’m happy or sad, when I’m celebrating with friends or all alone with my thoughts. Which of those things applied now?

He felt the air shift, felt her indrawn breath as his own, but instead of “we need to talk” or any of the female warning signs experience had taught him to expect, she surprised him by leaning in and touching her lips to his.

The kiss was as unexpected as the hint of pepper and spice he tasted amidst the chocolate on her lips, in her mouth. Setting aside his mug, he deepened the kiss, relieved to let it be easy even though a small part of him said it shouldn’t be so easy, that he was skimming the surface of something he needed to be diving into. But then she shifted her hands, sliding them up his chest to link behind his neck and tug him closer, pressing her body to his, and the vibe went true, singing inside his skull with the warm sparkle of red-gold magic.

“Come back to bed,” he said against her mouth. “We’ve got a few more hours to burn.”

(Smiles.) Can you tell I love these two together?? For other excerpts, more info on the books, and some really cool animation, please check out www.JessicaAndersen.com. To check out the video trailer for Skykeepers, go to: www.youtube.com/user/DocJess1!

Anyway, back to barbecuing … What do you say we have a virtual cookout here today? All commenters will be eligible to win a copy of either Nightkeepers or Dawnkeepers (the first two books in the series). To enter, tell us what you’re going to bring and/or barbecue today! Extra (imaginary and intangible) points for managing to relate it back to the Maya, Nightkeepers, or end of the world!

To get us started, I’ll start pouring the drinks. Who else wants a Virgin Sacrifice??

Supermarket of the Gods
by Sharon Ashwood on August 19th, 2009

I’m not a true hot weather person. Fortunate, because we get about five minutes of it on Vancouver Island. Away from the ocean it can be hot enough to grow a satisfactory tomato, but where I live the air is one shade off chilly almost all year.

Because of the cool temperature and the lack of rain we’ve had over the past few summers, I’ve given up on growing vegetables and have been stocking my freezer from the farmers’ markets. My summer pleasure? This year it’s been spending Sunday afternoons visiting the organic farms and loading up on produce. As well as freezing berries of all kinds, I made a huge batch of spaghetti sauce from all-organic veggies and froze that, too. I’ve eaten enough blueberries and blackberries that I’ll be turning a light purple soon. I can’t wait for the apple crop to come in.

strawberries

There are market days in my own neighbourhood, but I prefer the country drive. In half an hour, I can be at the small, family-run farms north of town. The old road winds too much to go really fast, so I can appreciate the view. Cows. Horses. Deer. Sheep. Other people doing hard work when I’m not.

Wandering through the fruit stands gives me the summer fix I need: warm sun, the smell of earth, the buzz of a dragonfly zooming past. I have to slow down and relax to really take in all that sensory input. I have to use something besides the madly whirring left brain. This is where I reconnect with my basic instincts about what is wholesome, good for me, and right. The sheer energy pouring off that much fresh, organic food must be the karmic equivalent of a spa scrub.

carrots

The few hours I spend playing with the beans and potatoes, stopping for tea, admiring a craft fair, and then wandering home with my loot is cheap and effective therapy. Better than therapy—I can eat it afterward. As a bonus, I can walk along the ocean after dinner, watching the herons hunt the silver water, otters playing, and the lights of the marina growing brighter as daylight fades.

With long summer days, there’s so much beauty to enjoy. The trick is to remember to take the time to do it. Sure, zooming through a grocery store is fast, but it’s not nearly as fun.

Flipflops and Fresh Fruit
by Annette McCleave on August 18th, 2009

I can’t believe summer is almost over. I swear I blinked and missed most of it. It rained a large portion of July here—our wettest on record. The mosquitoes are big enough to compete for nesting spots in the trees, and the humidity is killing every attempt I make to curl my ultra-straight hair.

Despite the uncooperative weather, I did manage to sneak in a few of my favorite rituals of summer, though. Namely, the wearing of flipflops and the eating of fresh fruit.

Maybe it’s because I live in a climate that requires mukluks that can withstand minus 40 degree weather, but I sooo look forward to the day I get to forgo the socks and simply slip my feet into shapeless, barely definable-as-shoes flipflops.

flipflops

Me, the gal who bitterly resents having to shave her legs in the winter, giddily applies polish to the toenails and steps out into the bright sunny world. Wiggling my toes. Heaven. I live in the city where grass is at a premium, or I’d probably go barefoot like Jessa does.

In the park near my house (no grass, but lots of trees and bushes and a big pond), raspberry bushes line the pathway in huge arching swathes, and for the past month or so, I’ve been able to pluck dozens of fat, red berries from between the thorns. Yes, I forage. Picking the ones near the path is dangerous because the park is a popular place to walk dogs…if you catch my meaning.

At the grocery store, I’ve recently filled my cart up with ripe yellow plums, cherries, cantaloupe, and strawberries. The local blueberries are just starting to show up now. Pour a little cream over them and … sigh. Summer.

raspberries

What about you? When summer gives its last gasp and passes the torch to fall, what will you miss the most? The weather? Time off work? A favorite pastime?

Summer lovin’
by Jessa Slade on August 17th, 2009

Currently working on: A mental breakdown
Mood: Ecstatic

I didn’t get as much writing done last night as I wanted to.  I blame summer.  Actually, I blame the cucumber-basil martinis, but those are definitely a taste of summer.

  1. Pour crushed ice into a martini glass.  Set aside to chill.
  2. Mix a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of hot water into a syrup.
  3. Chop a chunk of cucumber (about 3 inches, peeled and seed-free) into small cubes
  4. In a shaker, crush the cucumber together with 2-3 torn basil leaves along with the syrup.
  5. Add vodka, a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, and ice.
  6. Shake well.
  7. Empty the ice from the chilled martini glass. Garnish with a rim of sugar and a cucumber slice.
  8. Strain the cuke-basil mixture into your glass.  Eat the cucumber slice and count it as a serving of vegetables.
  9. Relax and savor summer.

martiniBecause it’s almost gone!!!  A few days ago, I overheard the phrase “late summer” referring to where we are in the calendar.

Late summer?!  But I don’t even have a tan yet.  Well, okay, I don’t tan, but I haven’t converted my full year’s supply of Vitamin D from sunlight.  Late summer?  Noooooo!

Long days, warm nights, gardening, hiking, camping, lazing…  All play havoc with my writing schedule.  If August is late summer in the Pacific Northwest, then July is the only summer we have.  Winter is November through May.  June we just ignore because it’s too embarrassing.  (I won’t go into September/October; those are a well-kept secret ’round here.)

Knowing the pleasures of summer are so fleeting makes indulging in them seem almost… necessary.  I eat too many blueberries.  I walk barefoot until my feet are permanently filthy.  I stay up too late and get up too early because the sun is out there and it’s calling my name.  Those are good memories to conjure against a dark and stormy Oregon afternoon.

Although I have to admit, I’m sort of looking forward to autumn this year.  Not only does my first book come out, but I’ll be working on Books 3 and 4 of the Marked Souls which sold last week to NAL Signet Eclipse!  Hence the breakdown mentioned in the status update above.  And now I think about it, that might also explain the martinis ;)

What’s your definitive taste of summer?  It doesn’t have to be an actual taste.  Smells and sounds are good too.  In fact, anything sensual will do just fine.