Archive for October, 2009



Boo!
by KimLenox on October 31st, 2009

Status: Taking a break from revisions on DARKER THAN NIGHT to get ready for friends and TRICK OR TREAT!

I love Halloween. Wait, did I tell you? I LOVE HALLOWEEN! We’ve got friends coming over. The kids are so excited. No, I don’t have a costume. I’ll probably just wear my black witch
hat with the sparkly red cobwebs on it.

Here’s the path leading up to my front door …

And my pumpkin chiminea.

And my Dia De Los Muertos Candy Bucket (named Fred!)

I love everything about Halloween, except maybe the fact of how over-marketed its become. I don’t know how old YOU are, reader, but when I was little, we went down to the store and there were boxes of costumes. You picked out the one you liked, and you pretty much wore it until you couldn’t fit into the plastic suit anymore. Lol! Yes, it makes me laugh, but that memory makes me happy. I was a yellow cat for a number of years, and then a pirate — which was a costume my mom made for me. The candy was awesome, because like Annette’s, my mom didn’t buy us a bunch of candy. So it was a really special treat to get a whole orange plastic pumpkin bucket full.

Oh, but enough of the “back in my day” talk, else you’ll think I’m some old crone (maybe with green skin, and a wart on my nose) pecking out words on my keyboard.

What are your plans for the night? Going to watch any spooky movies?

Happy Halloween to YOU!

Interview with Lori Devoti
by Sharon Ashwood on October 29th, 2009

I picked up Unbound one day and fell completely into Lori Devoti’s world. I highly recommend that experience! And how she’s got an exciting new urban fantasy series, beginning with Amazon Ink.

She graciously agreed to do an interview with Silk and Shadows and will give a commenter one her books! You get to choose.

Tell us about your recent books

My most recent book wasn’t a romance. It was my first urban fantasy novel, Amazon Ink. Like my romances though it has shapeshifters, magic and some majorly alpha males. They have to be to be paired with my Amazons.

In Amazon Ink Mel Saka, an Amazon who left her tribe a decade earlier, has had some unpleasant early morning discoveries–dead Amazon teens on her doorstep. Mel doesn’t want to be drawn back into tribe life, but she also doesn’t want girls to continue to die. She has to make some tough choices balancing her old life and her new–which includes a teen daughter of her own, a difficult mother and grandmother, a tattoo business, and two sexy men.

My most recent romance was Dark Crusade, the 4th book in my Unbound series for Nocturne. The hero in it is a garm, wolf-shapeshifter, and the heroine is a witch. They are both trapped in an “inbetween” land where the ruling group is hunting witches.

Kerr Vik thinks he’s happy in Gunngar working for the ruling group of elves until he discovers the witch he’s been called to sniff out is Heather Moore, a woman from his past. Suddenly the witch hunt going on in the land is all too personal. Kerr is faced with a decision–save Heather and give up everything he ever thought he wanted or turn her over to the elves who he know will kill her.

You write about hellhounds – what other supernatural creatures appear in your stories?

In my Unbound series I have garm (wolf-shapeshifters), hellhounds, witches, elves, dark elves, giants, dwarfs, dragons…and other beings from Norse mythology. I also had a vampire story in last year’s Holiday with a Vampire II from Nocturne. Right now what I’m working on in romance have mainly werewolves as heros.

What made you choose the hounds for your men? Describe their society a bit for us

The world in my Unbound series is based on Norse mythology. The hellhounds are shapeshifters who in the past were used by the gods and other beings to hunt down people in the Wild Hunt. The hellhounds are all very alpha and fairly solitary. If put together in a pack situation, one true alpha does emerge however. The garm, wolf shape-shifters, are my world’s protectors. They run the portals that lead to other worlds.
I’m still developing my werewolf society. I have a Nocturne Bite coming out in January 2010, and probably a full length Nocturne with a werewolf in the summer of 2010. I definitely have a Nocturne release at that time. I’m just not sure if it will be the werewolf book or my last book in the Unbound series–a dragon book. (I have a February Nocturne too. That one is a hellhound story.)

What should potential heroines know in advance about your heroes? What makes a good hero?

My heroes are alphas but not asses. They are strong, but respect heroines that are strong also. Personally, I’ve always been a sucker for an alpha hero, but not when they cross the line. Strong doesn’t mean bully.

Who was the best villain you’ve written?

I really like the villain in my dragon book–which will be out either summer 2010 or early in 2011. He’s a bit unusual–a blood-drinking dwarf. My most popular villain though would have to be Lusse, an immortal witch from the first book in my Unbound series (also titled Unbound). She was completely over the top evil.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m finishing up the werewolf book I mentioned earlier. There’s a bit of a twist to it, but I don’t think I’m supposed to mention it yet–so I’ll just say it isn’t only about werewolves. I have a hero who chose to become a werewolf because of some the special skills being one gave him–for a very particular job.

If your favourite hero arrived at your door to take you on a date, what would the PG13 part of the evening be like?

I love writing my heros and I could telll you what someone else’s evening with them might be like, but I can’t quite put myself into the equation. And honestly, my heroes aren’t really the “dating” type. ;-) I just can’t imagine them showing up on someone’s door with a box of chocolates or a bouquet of roses…they’re more the type to storm into the middle of someone else’s date with the heroine and drag her out of the restaurant.

Descent to the dark
by Sharon Ashwood on October 27th, 2009

Around Hallowe’en we get that real bite in the air that says the gentle, golden autumn is going to get tough any minute now. There’s a moodiness I love—something at once poignant and primal, celebratory and subdued. The seasons are changing. Winter is on the move. Legend has it that the veils between our world and other worlds—the Afterlife, or perhaps Faery—are thinnest on All Hallow’s Eve. From the electric feel in the air, I could believe it.

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One of my favourite things is watching the elementary school down the street on Hallowe’en. The kids parade in their costumes—jubilant little pirates and zombies on the prowl for treats. I have to enjoy them there because, sadly, trick or treating is a dying art in my neighbourhood. Not too many come to my door, which is a shame because I’m a total pushover when it comes to passing out candy.

Mixed in with the sugar and costumes is, for me, a time of reflection. This is also the Celtic New Year and Day of the Dead. I remember those who have passed, the things I want to keep in my life and those I want to let go, and the many blessings for which I am grateful. It’s the beginning of the dark season, of rest and rebuilding before that great extroverted burst of energy we call spring. It’s a time to take stock and make sure I’m on the right path.

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And I revel in the great outpouring of horror films and plastic skulls and miniature Wunderbars. There’s plenty of room for reflection AND celebration. We need to balance darkness and light, and the Hallowe’en bonfire is the ideal image for me. We embrace both, we honour both, and find the proper equilibrium to move forward.

With a fist full of candy bars. Hey, life is a journey. Better take provisions.

Cobwebs and Candy
by Annette McCleave on October 27th, 2009

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. My mother rarely bought candy, so bringing home a pillowcase full of goodies was a dream come true. Yeah, those little pumpkin containers with handles are for weenies. Pillowcases are the best.

Eventually the lure of the candy faded, though.

Halloween became a holiday for kids…until I got my own place. Then, I began to notice the aisles and aisles dedicated to Halloween in my local hardware store. In Canada, where I live, any holiday celebrated before the ice and snow arrive has an edge over Christmas. You can put up lights without freezing your a** off, and because of that, the guys are much more willing to help.

I started small—just a few cobwebs and signs planted in the garden saying Beware! But as I really got into it, I added rats with bloody teeth, Frankenstein coming out of the ground, and a vulture on the front porch. I put flickering orange lights in the windows, warning tape across the porch railings, and a motion-activated ghost that shook and wailed when people came to the door.

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graveyard

But by far the best addition to my spookfest was the sound track. I bought the Martha Stewart CD of Spooky Scary Sounds for Halloween. As the heartbeats and eerie cackles wafted out into the night, it actually stopped a few people from walking up the driveway to the door. Their loss. I always give lots of candy. :-) Honestly, though, I try not to scare the little kiddies too badly. They are my favorite part of Halloween–seeing them all dressed up in their costumes.

Some folks really get into the spook factor and compete to make their houses the scariest on the block. Smoke creeping along the ground, ghoulish figures that rock in a chair on the porch, spiders or flagstones that move. As a bystander, I love them for it–who doesn’t enjoy walking by a detailed haunted house display? Do you enjoy the decorating aspect of Halloween? How far do you go?

Costumes & candy: A holiday to sink your teeth into
by Jessa Slade on October 26th, 2009

Currently working on: Book 3 of The Marked Souls
Mood: Eager

I’m not sure my household can top last Halloweens high point.  We always decorate the front porch for trick-or-treaters.  I put out luminaria along the driveway plus a couple hollowed gourds or a pumpkin on the porch railing.  We have a strobe light kicking, and a nice severed arm pointing to the door bell.

We also have a 3-foot plaster voodoo mask that I don for answering the door, and the chorus girl scream from “The Phantom of the Opera” soundtrack is cued up on the stereo with my XY’s finger on the play button.

pumpkinLast year, about midway through the evening, the bell rang, I picked up the mask and opened the door, XY hit play… and the seven-year-old boy on the porch dropped his plastic pumpkin full of candy and ran as if all the demons of hell were after him — and could be bought off by a fairly impressive haul of Hershey’s products.

Well, I chased him down to return his candy (probably could have caught him quicker if I’d taken off the mask) and gave him a big double handful of Twix, Milky Ways, Pixie Stix, Smarties, and Reese’s PB cups (no off-brand candy bars from me) to make up for my burst of cruel delighted laughter.

In our defense, I think we taught him a valuable lesson about thinking even free candy comes without potential risk.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because, honestly, it’s low prep and high payout.  I can recycle a costume from a previous year, and nobody expects a freakin’ turkey with multiple side dishes and baked goods, yet I get a monster truckload of candy at the end of the night.  (Admittedly, this is because I over-purchase for the children who for some reason don’t come to our house anymore.)

But pragmatic reasons aside, I love Halloween because of the costumes.  I wish more days of the year involved pretending to be something we’re not — and somehow, through that disguise, revealing something deeper about ourselves. 

(I always wondered what it revealed about the studly jocks in high school that they seemed to gravitate to costumes involving pantyhose and high heels.)

I’ve been a princess, an alien, an overdosed starlet, a peacock, the planet Saturn, the last-minute ghost (who hasn’t?).  So often, it seems like we’re hiding who we are anyway.  At the day job, in front of the in-laws, around the neighbors.  Wouldn’t it just be more fun if we were always wearing costumes?

My boss:  Jessa, can I see you in my office?
Me:  Argh, sorry, matey.  A pirate can’t be constrained by four walls.  I’m off to plunder the treasures in the office supply room!

With enough candy bars, we’d all have the high fructose courage to be ourselves — or anyway, be the ourselves we were meant to be.

If you were picking a costume to reveal the real you, who would you be?

A two-way street
by Sharon Ashwood on October 21st, 2009

The traffic of ideas between TV and popular fiction is a two-way street. Who started the vampire craze? There’s a perfect opportunity for a big ol’ chicken and egg argument.

My theory is that books are usually a bit ahead in terms of creative exploration because, basically, books are cheaper to produce. Plus, there are more of them, so the odds of a trend-setting dark horse are greater. A publisher can gamble on a book that costs thousands in hopes of another Laurell K. Hamilton among the thousands of books published in a year. A TV pilot costs millions, and there are only a handful of prime time spots available. Really, innovation has become part of a numbers game. There are, of course, brilliant exceptions—Jessa and Annette both mention Buffy—but the vast majority of new shows stay within a fairly narrow creative bandwidth. Those that stray tend to die fairly quickly, especially if I like them.

Of course, if a hot new thing gets legs, the replicas follow. It’s a miracle if the tender new shoot of an idea survives the flood of imitations, which often aren’t as good as the original. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality TV, but the early examples had some novelty value. Pioneer House was actually pretty interesting and Mad Mad House was a guilty pleasure. What was on this summer—not so much.

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But how does TV influence popular fiction? TV has the advantage of speed—especially news magazines and entertainment shows—to pick up on what’s on the public mind from one day to the next. Because of the time lag between writing and publication, ripped from the headlines is a little more leisurely for the novelist.

In my opinion, where the influence of TV really comes in is as a testing ground for subject matter. Lots of stuff comes and goes—it won’t be long before we forget all about the boy in the balloon—but the media stories that persist iron themselves into our collective social consciousness. You can start counting backward when you see a big news story, a super-hot trend, or the emergence of a new archetype (a slayer like Buffy, or a hot spy like Jennifer Garner in Alias). In six months to a year, you’ll see their reflection on the bestseller racks.

jennifer-garner-alias

In fact, I take a paranoia poll every so often. Walk up to any bestseller wall in a bookstore and read the back covers. What are people worried about today? Terrorists? Epidemics? Greedy entrepreneurs? What are they hoping for? Rags to riches, love, justice? Our hopes, fears, and aspirations are all there. Popular fiction is a mirror into our day-to-day minds—sometimes profound, sometimes banal, but I think more true than anything coming out of an academic think tank.

What do you think will be the hot topics a year from now?

Darkly Dreaming
by Annette McCleave on October 20th, 2009

I’m a DVD-aholic. My life just doesn’t allow me to faithfully watch a TV show once per week at a certain hour. Ok, maybe one (Defying Gravity). But more than that? Nope. As a result, I was very late to the Buffy party. So late in fact that the show had been canceled before I saw my first episode—I picked up the Season 1 DVDs in a bargain bin at a local electronics store.

My daughter and I glommed the first season in a couple of days, and promptly ran out and bought Seasons 2 & 3. There’s nothing like watching back to back episodes in order, on your own sofa, with lots of popcorn. As went Buffy, so went Angel—we watched ‘em all in rapid fashion. Because I was late adopting Buffy, it’s hard for me to know whether TV influenced the popularity of vampire novels, or whether the emergence of vamp books inspired Joss Whedon. (Though, my bet would be on the former).

Other shows I’ve DVD’d: LOST…I got bored after Season 3. Grey’s Anatomy…I’m falling behind, so I’d say my interest is dwindling. Battlestar Galactica (the re-imagined series)…I loved it, but didn’t enjoy the ending.

showtime-dexter-season-1-dvd-set

My current faves are Dexter and True Blood. Because I don’t get the cable package that includes HBO and Showtime, I have no choice but to impatiently await the DVD releases. But I’m loving both right now. Is my addiction influenced by the knowledge that both are based on popular book series? Not really; I’ve never read either series. But it does make me more interested in reading the books—because I’m one of those people who believes the book is almost always better than the ‘movie’. Judging by the current reign on Sookie books on the bestseller lists, I’d venture a guess that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I think TV has influenced popular fiction—and vice versa—but not always in terms of storyline. Even before the internet, TV began to increase our need for gripping conflict and quick resolution. Some TV shows are only half and hour, and others, while technically an hour long, are chewed up by twenty minutes of commercials. We’ve grown accustomed to having conflict thrown at us from the opening line, reversals and reveals coming fast and furious, and endings delivered with drama and satisfaction—all in the space of an hour. Genre fiction, in order to compete, has had to do the same. Readers no longer have the patience to wait for the story to gently roll out.

It’s too simple to blame TV completely for this trend, but I think it had a profound influence. What do you think?

Blame it on Buffy
by Jessa Slade on October 19th, 2009

Currently working on: Arm wrestling Book 3
Mood: Sore but unbowed

Powerful women.  Hot men.  Zinging dialogue.  Fate of the world and the human heart at stake.  If you’ve enjoyed those elements in a paranormal romance, I believe you can blame Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a good chunk of it.  Oh sure, brooding bad boys existed before Spike and definitely high school was hell all along, but when it came to mixing big paranormal love with big paranormal problems, Buffy was in a class by herself.

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In previous posts, I’ve betrayed my adoration — which is not to say weird stalkeryness — for Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and the equally wonderful spin-off Angel and the even more wonderful Firefly plus the wacky Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.  So why keep reliving the glory days?  Because I don’t think they’ve been done better since.

Lost lost me.  Heroes had a few too many to keep track of.  Smallville felt that way to me.  Supernatural… okay, that one has the hot guys.  Still, the lack of a compelling-t0-me romance in most of today’s paranormal themed television shows leaves me cold.  I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t have cable; maybe True Blood would have been ”my show”?

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So many of the things I love about a paranormal story can be done so well on screen:  Claustrophic close-ups to heighten the tension of what’s sneaking up behind; creepy fog-filled settings with obligatory search-light backlighting; eerie music to heighten the tension of what’s sneaking up behind; high action quick-cut edits to make you feel like you’re really there; terrific gore-ific special effects to release the tension of what was sneaking up behind.

And yet portraying that compelling-t0-me love story is apparently really hard.  Maybe because the course of many months — years, if the show is lucky and good — is a tough timeframe.  A two-hour movie can get away with a kiss, some witty banter, and a soft-focus love scene.  But a television show has the opportunity to build a romance from first glance to true love with all the stages in between.  And maybe that’s not easy at all.

So maybe that’s why I read romance novels while my 11-year-old TV sits in the basement with dust on the screen and the picture slowly blowing out into strange flares of red and blue.

But could be I’m missing something.  I’m watching Whedon’s newest show Dollhouse in its second season.  No love story, except my love for Whedon himself.  So perhaps I have room for another show, one with a romance I can sink my teeth into, although I don’t demand vampires necessarily.  Enlighten me, those of you with a working television set — Any worthy successors to Buffy?

Heaven and Hell
by KimLenox on October 18th, 2009

Status: Writing
Mood: Happy

“Hell is a city much like London - A populous and a smoky city.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

My books are set in Victorian London during the years 1888 and 1889. I don’t really feel like I chose the setting. The setting chose me. Unlike choosing the location of the Olympics, there just weren’t any other locations in the running. One reason is because early on I determined that the villain in my first book would be Jack the Ripper. But there were other reasons.

One of the themes you’ll hear from me over and over again in my writing is that “light shines most brightly in the dark”. There was so much poverty, despair and darkness in the crowded, dangerous Whitechapel (and other) district(s), while across town there was light, opulence and splendor in Mayfair and Belgravia. I wanted to play upon those two very different realities, and through my plot, have them bleed together and show that “light” and the opportunity for love and happiness comes from within, wherever you are, and perhaps most brilliantly during the most difficult times in life.

Okay, but besides all that deep stuff … there are just so many COOL PLACES in and around London, like Highgate Cemetery.

If you won the LOTTO (whoop!) where’s the first place you’d go?

Embracing the wet coast
by Sharon Ashwood on October 15th, 2009

One piece of advice I got when starting out was that no one wanted to read about the Pacific Northwest. I love blanket statements like that, because they seem to exist to be disproven. Once Twilight came along, it was clear vampires rather liked the gloom and rain. Their readers—and the readers of a whole lot of other paranormal romance and urban fantasy set in the PNW—shared the Cullen clan’s enthusiasm for the Great Northwet.

Much to my relief. To be blunt, I’d rather write about what I know well. I’d do a poor job of writing about someplace I’ve only seen as a tourist. I could never convey the true vibe of my adopted locale unless I stayed for a while—I’m not that quick to pick up on the thousand minute nuanaces that make a place unique. I’d sound like an actor doing a bad job with an accent.

Every city has an energy that seems to seep out of the concrete. For instance, downtown Vancouver always strikes me as a very go-get-’em place. High fashion, high finance, and high energy abound. Victoria, aka fictional Fairview, kind of stretches and thinks about going and getting ‘em. Eventually. After yoga and a latte.

What we do have here is that mysterious/foggy/gloomy scenery which is perfect for supernatural tales, lots of bookstores, and unique alleyways. This one I used as the inspiration for the entrance to the Castle.

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Victoria/Fairview is also fairly ordinary, with lots of burbs. Because my books deal with non-human creatures trying to adapt to the modern world, the two-natured setting fits. But it’s more than just the look of the place. The way this city thinks is the main reason I chose to keep it as my primary setting. If anywhere would bend over backward to accommodate non-humans, this would be it. As a community, we’re politically correct and inclusive to a fault. It makes us good people but a little weird sometimes.

Case in point: the heated debate over the thousands of rabbits swarming the university and hospital grounds. Besides the damage to the vegetation, authorities fear disease because the rabbits are overcrowded. Like some Monty Python outtake, the attack of the vorpal bunnies is on.

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Of course no one wants to kill them, but now the ethics of sterilization is under the microscope. Do we have the right to invade bunny privacy that deeply? Efforts to contain the neighborhood-munching plague dribble to a halt while we consult the Constitution and ponder what Dumbledore would do.

Yes, my city is a perfect place if you’re a werewolf just trying to get by. We’ll have a choice of support groups for you before you can say, “lunarly challenged.”