Archive for April, 2010



Getting & vetting ideas
by Jessa Slade on April 12th, 2010

Currently working on: Brand-new project
Mood: Fightin’ words

Most writers who tell other people that they write will eventually hear some version of the following conversation:

Non-writer: Wow, you write?  I’ve always wanted to write something.  Maybe a poem.  Or a screenplay that will make more than Avatar.  Probably not a novel, because only crazy people do novels.  But I have this great idea…
Writer: Look at the time, will ya?  I have to–
Non-writer: Hey, how about I tell you the idea, you write it down, and we’ll split the profits 50-50?
Writer: My world will not be complete without your idea. Seriously, tell me now before I expire from curiosity. But hold on just a second while I get a pen. Maybe a very expensive Waterman pen to adequately capture the brilliance of your idea.  You wait right here…

I personally have only endured this conversation three times (and to be honest, I wasn’t sarcastic to the non-writer at all) but I expect to have it many times more.  Because most people think the trick to writing is having the idea.

The truth?  Ideas are like chewing gum.  Ideas are so much like chewing gum that it’s really surprising they aren’t sold at convenience stores:

Ideas, like chewing gum, are cheap and everywhere:
I’m going to pull three books from my shelf.  The three closest to hand are a dictionary, a paranormal romance novel (happens to be Sharon’s SCORCHED!) and… hmm, Aid to Bible Understanding.  I randomly choose three words.  From the dictionary I get devoir, which in addition to looking very cool (like a combination of devoid and devour) means duty or responsibility, a formal act of civility.  From SCORCHED, I find incubus (hey, get your own copy!).  And from the bible book I get the word ointment.  You can see how there’s an inkling of an idea right there, right?

Ideas, like chewing gum, need to be chewed and softened up:
I don’t necessarily talk out my ideas a lot beforehand, but I think them out.  I chew on the idea, I stretch it, I stick it on the bedpost overnight and chew it again the next morning.

A good idea, like chewing gum, sticks to the bottom of your shoe:
I find that a good idea has staying power.  I can’t get to every idea right away, so I have a file where I tuck them away.  By the time I get back to them, some of the ideas have faded.  But some are still in minty fresh condition.  That’s an idea that might actually last through 400 pages.

Ideas, like chewing gum, are only as impressive as the hot air you blow into them:
What the non-writer doesn’t understand about ideas is that the idea itself — no matter how brightly packaged — is only a dry stick of artifical color and fake sugar.  It’s not until the hard work, spit, and huffing and puffing are through that you have something the world can admire.  Right before it blows up in your face and you have to cut the chunks out of your hair and rug, but that’s a different story.

I’m betting (see, here’s another idea) that the kind of gum you liked best as a kid predicts your future personality.  Like, a Rorschach ink blot test in chicle and corn syrup.  Reveal your favorite gum here and we’ll psychoanalyze you.

Resolve to K.I.S.S.
by KimLenox on April 11th, 2010

STATUS: Working on Short Story
MOOD: **sob!!**

I do like kissing, but I’m talking about something else!

I did something really foolish today. Something I haven’t done in a long, long time and as a result, I’m GRIEVING. And kicking myself. And bonking my head on the desk.

THE CONFESSION: I wrote for about three hours today, and … I did not back up my file. I’ll spare you all the stages of idiocy on my part that led up to this tragedy, but … groan. It’s gone.

That was a lot of work. Not an enormous amount of pages, but lots of brainpower. The ideas are all still here inside my head, but it’s really hard getting them on paper the first time, let alone a second.

So, now I’m steeping my tea and getting ready to jump back in.

As I (re)write, I will remind myself of a few things:

1. Write fearless!
2. Quit thinking so much about everything. Defy analysis paralysis and trust my instincts more.
3. Have fun

Those resolutions apply to the way I live my life as well.

Keep. It. Simple. (And) Spectacular.

I do make resolutions in the springtime. It’s always a great time to renew and recommit. But this week, events in the news also inspired me to self-evaluate myself. How about you. Do world events affect your mood and mindset, or are you like a couple of my best pals, who prefer to remain blissfully unaware of all that goes on in the big “out there”?

Resolve–or was that dissolve?
by Sharon Ashwood on April 7th, 2010

I remember making resolutions. A lot of stuff about maintaining my personal blog, writing every day, flossing, exercise, and on and on.

pileofmanuscript

Resolutions are typically a sign of dissatisfaction. There’s something you want to improve. But, unless you fix the cause underlying the behaviour, chances of a resolution sticking are slim.

So, as one watches one’s self-improvement plan fall to pieces, there are two options:

1. Quit the day job so there’s more time to address the underlying reasons why there’s no time to, say, exercise, or
2. Make more attainable resolutions.

Sadly, my bank account strongly suggests the latter.

As deadlines begin to squeeze one into a smaller and smaller space (I always think of those rooms with moving walls, like in the old Get Smart TV shows), it’s time to prioritize. Focus on the stuff you really have to do. Get rid of extraneous ambitions until the crisis is past.

My 2010 resolutions (revised) are as follows:

1. I promise to get out of bed at least once a day.

sleepy_puppy

I like it. Short. Simple. The rest of my energy is going to be spent writing my book–since making my deadlines had better be a resolution I don’t break!

What’s your non-negotiable resolution?

Renewal
by Annette McCleave on April 6th, 2010

Spring is a great time to re-evaluate. As the buds sprout into leaves on the trees and the birds chirp as they build nests, I almost always get a wonderful sense of impending … something. Call it promise, call it potential, call it what you will, but the days ahead are brimming with it. And I love that feeling.

I get inspired to eat better, exercise more, and generally savor life. Maybe it’s as easy to explain as the additional light in every day, but whatever the reason, spring creates the inspiration to renew myself. You know–turn the sod, sharpen the saw, water the garden. Mentally, of course.

flower

How? I look for ways to improve my writing craft. Obviously, there’s plenty of ways to do that, but here are a few I’m actively doing:

1) Online workshops. I signed up for one because I’ll never know everything here is to know about the craft of writing, no matter how long I’ve been doing it.

2) Reading. I’m doing lots, in several different genres. Reading other people’s prose reminds me of the art, not the struggle. Words can be so beautiful … when they’re not my own. Well, some of mine are beautiful, too, but it’s much harder to appreciate my own work than it is to appreciate someone else’s.

3) Idea hatching. I’m thinking ahead to my next book, and I’ve got some very definite ideas about it. But before I commit myself, I like to brainstorm. Sometimes, it’s whatever comes into my head. Wild and crazy stuff. Sometimes, it’s expanding on an idea that occurred to me while I was wrapped up in my previous manuscript. Fodder for a next series, perhaps.

So many of us have challenges and issues and crises to deal with. It’s hard to hit the refresh button on ourselves, because we’re so engaged in supporting others. Do you take time out of your busy life to renew yourself, even if it’s only once a year? What sort of thing do you do?

Starting over again & again
by Jessa Slade on April 5th, 2010

Currently working on: Marked Souls Book 4
Mood: Excited

It’s spring!  I have lilacs blooming and sunlight clearing the north fence and temptation to run around outside without seven layers of clothes on (tank top, long underwear, short-sleeve T-shirt, long-sleeve T-shirt, sweatshirt, fleece, waterproof shell)!  Six layers are entirely enough!

It’s spring!  The beginning of new life, a.k.a. the death of New Year’s Resolutions.

Or maybe that’s just me.  But something about that first quarter of the new year seems so full of possibility.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m stuck inside, which makes it easy to focus on my goals.  But when the sun returns, I’m lured to all sorts of anti-resolution activities:

  • Strawberry season – there goes the diet!  I know strawberries seem like good diet food, except that fresh strawberries must be eaten with ice cream and whipped cream on a thick, soft bed of pound cake, sponge cake, short cake or — who am I kidding? — any cake at all.
  • Nicer weather outside — there goes the exercise!  Can’t do sit-ups and push-ups outside without the whole neighborhood pointing and laughing. (Although I admit I’m thinking about adding a jump rope and hula hoop to my routine and I can’t do that IN the house without busting out a wall.)
  • Sun doesn’t go down until almost quarter to eight at night — there goes half my evening writing session!

About this time of year, I have to rededicate myself to my resolutions.  Because I do WANT to keep up with my diet and exercise… Well, no, not really, but I NEED to.  And I most certainly LOVE my writing.

But evenwhat I love isn’t always easy.  Like diets and exercise, sometimes I need inspiration or castigation to keep writing.  So for the next six weeks here at Silk And Shadows, we’ll be writing about writing.  If you’re a writer, we hope you’ll chime in and share what works for you, from the start of the process to the final polish.

I just started the next book in the Marked Souls series.  Book 4 adds new twists, new characters, new evils.  That’s the inspiration part.  For the castigation side of the equation, I’m chief cheerleader of the April writing challenge through my local writing group.  A bunch of us have sworn blood oaths (or was that chocolate syrup?) to write 25,000 words in the next 25 days.  Huge raspberries (not sweet strawberries with whipped cream) will be blown at anyone who falters.

The start of a new book.  The start of a new season.  The start of a new challenge.  The start of every day offers opportunity to start again.  C’mere, day, I’m going to seize you.

Have you let any resolutions lapse?  Do you want to rededicate to them, or have you refocused?  How do you stay inspired in the presence of distraction?

Happy Easter!
by KimLenox on April 4th, 2010

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter! We had an early visit from the Easter Bunny, and then attended Easter services. The weekend was spent with family, and I always look forward to that.

And just a few days ago … April Fools Day! Did anyone have any jokes played on them? I lucked out – no foolin’ around this year, so no stories to tell.

Speaking of April Fools, in the days after I sold the first book in the series, NIGHT FALLS DARKLY, I kept imagining that I’d get a call from my editor saying, “Ooops! You know, when I said I wanted to buy your book, I actually meant a DIFFERENT manuscript from a DIFFERENT author. Somehow I got them mixed up! So sorry!”

(Anyone else do that?)

So it’s always a joy to hold the REAL FINISHED PRODUCT in my hands!

This week the third book in my SHADOW GUARD series, DARKER THAN NIGHT, releases!

Here’s the back cover blurb:

SLEEPING BEAUTY

Countess Selene is the Shadow Guard’s only female member. It has taken her centuries to prove herself worthy of the Order. She sacrificed herself to save the people of London, and she’s now under a sleeping spell in the Tower of London, guarded by Raven warriors.

DANGEROUS BEAUTY

When Selene awakens on a dark street with a blade in her hand and a dead prostitute at her feet, everything changes. She loses her power and authority, and is held under surveillance by Lord Avenage, England’s Ravenmaster, a reclusive and seductive immortal warrior whose past is shrouded in secrets. But what they don’t realize is that evil is watching. Cut off from the protective ranks of their fellow Shadow Guards, Selene and Avenage find themselves face-to-face with an ancient enemy, with only each other to trust …

And here’s the PROLOGUE:

He awoke to darkness, his limbs twisted in linen sheets, his hands seizing at nothing. Perspiration bathed his skin.

Her taste lingered on his tongue. The scent of lotus flowers clouded his nostrils, a seductive tease. He ached—oh, God, how he ached, the intensity of his unsatisfied need leaving him almost sickened.

Groaning, he rolled to his side and curled inward upon himself, alone in his room save for the blinking raven perched on a brass stand beside the window. A gust of wind rattled the shutters and Big Ben tolled three o’clock. Male voices, drunken sailors from St. Katharine’s Docks, volleyed curses at one another. Bells rang softly on barges which were anchored on the nearby Thames.

The bird shifted and rustled its wings.

Torn between agony and shame, he threw off the linens and abandoned his bed. Wrenching the door open he took to the dark hallway, his hands skimming over ancient stone. The stairs. One flight. Two. Fevered blood pulsed inside his head. Closing his eyes, he drew upon his inner power to change, to become a shadow. A different sort of heat consumed him, one that seared his bone, muscle and flesh from the center of his solar plexus, out. Unnoticed he slipped past the two brothers who had been assigned to night duty.

A large brass cage hung from above, higher even than the large circular candelabrum that provided the room with a comfortable light. The cage contained six of the Tower’s seven resident ravens—all but his, which remained in his room below.

Tres, silent and serious, sat at a long desk, his pale head bent in concentration, transcribing the day’s surveillances and communications into a leather bound tome. His younger brother, Shrew, mumbled the words to a tune and crouched beside the fire. With a curl of his muscles, he wrenched a length of chain and from inside the flames, out clattered a narrow brass cage onto the stone floor. Inside would be a stack of sealed envelopes, unmarred by the incinerating heat—the night’s communiqués from the Primordial Council and others within the immortals’ protected Inner Realm, the pure-aired paradise that existed as an alternate plane, over the same landed space as the mortal world.

As part of their nightly duties, the two Raven warriors also guarded over …

Wood-plank doors, bound by studded metal bands hung open on massive hinges, granting him entry to the shadowy chamber.

Over her.

Wind rushed through the shutters, to awaken his skin and incite the purple curtains into a rippling dance. A gilt statue of Hecate hung over the bed, carved to appear as if the goddess was bursting through the wall. Beautiful, bare breasted and arms outspread, in each hand she wielded a lantern in the shape of a blazing torch.

But he was a Shadow Guard, gifted with the ability to see through the most fathomless dark. He didn’t need her light to see the woman below.

This night, as in each night past, her dark hair spilled in a glossy river across the pale linens. Raven’s wing lashes lay against her cheekbones, concealing the dark eyes that tormented his dreams. Her skin, golden rather than alabaster, shone with the inner light of vivacity and health. With each breath, her breasts rose and fell, the intricate lace of her undergarments faintly visible beneath the fine lawn gown she wore. A garnet the size of an Egyptian scarab glimmered on her finger. A narrow gold band in the shape of a serpent encircled her wrist.

Careful not to touch her skin, not a single strand of her hair, he pressed his fists to the mattress at either side of her face. He leaned down until his nose was aligned just beside hers so that their lips nearly touched.

A moment later, and he escaped the White Tower through the window and descended the cool surface of Caen stone. Once on Postern Road he traveled quickly—in a rage of speed and power. He skimmed and turned against brick, wood and cobblestone, leaving behind the Tower of London , the wharfside warehouses and the tenements. Everything—the dead fish stench of Ratcliffe Highway and the granite arches of the Bridge of Sighs —dissolved into a blur as he hurtled past.

At last there were the green parks, high stone walls and rows of palatial white town houses. The shadowy figures of well dressed gentlemen hovered on horseback and doorstep as they returned home, discreetly and quietly, from private clubs, gambling houses or from within the arms of their mistresses.

He found the numbers imprinted onto a bronze plaque and hissed under the black lacquered door, and past the slack-faced doorman asleep on a bench. Cool marble. Blue silk. Rich gilt. He mounted the stairs and entered her room by way of the crack beneath the door. The power of his arrival snuffed the candle in the lamp and sent the crystal teardrops of the unlit chandelier to jangling. He materialized at the foot of her bed, his chest heaving, still barefoot and wearing only his loose linen trousers.

She pushed up, white satin hugging every curve.

“I knew you’d come,” she whispered.

She beckoned, arms outstretched. He didn’t look at her face—only at her hair, which was the precise shade of blonde to make him remember.

To make him forget.

If you’d like to read more about the SHADOW GUARDS, swing by my website for a visit. I’ve got excerpts, and even a contest posted on my blog.

Have a great week all!

Heather Webber guest blogs
by Sharon Ashwood on April 1st, 2010

Be sure to check out Heather’s AMAZING contest at the end of this post!!

The Powers That Be

I grew up on reruns of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, two of my all-time favorite shows. Every morning before school, I’d happily watch back to back episodes of the classic TV shows, then spend the entire time I walked to school (up hill, both ways) twitching my nose and blinking my eyes, convinced—absolutely convinced—I had powers.

Unfortunately, unless those powers include a weakness for Dr Pepper and the inability to keep up with the paperwork on my desk, I was sadly mistaken.

So it’s really no wonder that I ended up writing novels with paranormal elements. If I couldn’t have powers, at least my characters would. My very first book featured an angel (that manuscript is currently in the closet collecting dust), and one of my very first short stories published with a now-defunct romance magazine (surely a coincidence) featured a man who showed up on the doorstep of my heroine after a mysterious plane crash…

After that, I tried my best to stay on the straight and narrow. I wrote three historical romance novels, and then five cozy mystery novels. I found I couldn’t keep the mystery out of the romance, and I couldn’t keep the romance out of the mystery. And through all that, my TV viewing habits had switched to John Edward’s Crossing Over and Psychic Detectives. I was utterly fascinated with psychics. So I really had no other choice—I ended up combining the three genres, in Truly, Madly, my current release.

webbertrulymadly

Enter Lucy Valentine, the black sheep of her psychic matchmaking family. Generations ago, the Valentines had been blessed and cursed by Cupid himself. The blessing includes the ability to see auras and match people according to their colors. The curse precludes any Valentine from finding their own true love.

However, an electrical accident when Lucy was fourteen scrambled her ability to see auras, transforming her gift into one of finding lost objects. Not so helpful in the matchmaking biz—or so she thinks. To complicate matters, when she has to take over the family business, she starts to suspect one of her clients might have more than love on his mind—murder. Then there’s the whole situation with sexy PI Sean Donahue who works upstairs… A quick glimpse:

An excerpt from Truly, Madly:

I knew myself well enough not to embark alone on this journey to find out what happened to the body buried in the woods. I needed help, and Sean was more than qualified. But if I brought him into this, he would have questions.

Ones I wasn’t sure I could answer.

“What have you gotten yourself into, Lucy?” he asked.

“Nothing that’s going to turn out well.”

“Are you in over your head?”

“It’s complicated,” I repeated. “But it’s not something I want to do alone.”

“You can trust me,” he said in a voice heavy with sincerity.

I looked deep into his eyes, fought the urge to run my finger over the bump on his nose, and said, “Even if that’s true, can you trust me?”

webberheather-webber

I suppose I do have some power after all—the ability to control people on paper, but fortunately, there’s no mistaking Lucy’s powers, but she has other pressing concerns (namely hot PI Sean, who has a few secrets of his own). But I can’t help wishing (twitching, blinking) that she could help me with all that paperwork on my desk…

What psychic power do you wish you had?

~Heather

PS: It may be April Fool’s Day, but I’m not fooling! Today is the LAST DAY to enter my Lucy Valentine Giveaway contest for a double heart Tiffany pendant and necklace. Winner will be drawn at nine PM tonight. Hurry and enter. www.lucyvalentine.blogspot.com.

PPS: Full first chapter of Truly, Madly on my website: www.heatherwebber.com.

Praise for Truly, Madly:

“Lucy is a charming and lovable enough character to guide the reader through Webber’s unbelievably zany but truly irresistible mix of clever romance and a wildly inventive mystery.”
–Booklist

“Truly, Madly is a divine combination of paranormal romance, suspense and a fun contemporary heartwarmer. With more than enough charm and a twisty-turny plot that’s not too complicated to follow, yet keeps you guessing until the end, this novel is great fun. And the lovely Lucy is a delightful character!”
–Romantic Times 4 1/2 Stars

“A FASCINATING TALE OF MURDER AND ROMANCE BLENDED WITH A BIT OF PARANORMAL CREATES A DELIGHTFUL NOVEL.”
–Fresh Fiction