Archive for October, 2010



The H&W Team Talks About Dating & Relationships
by Sharon Ashwood on October 28th, 2010

One of the great things about having this blog is reading a book I like, and then having an excuse to contact the author! I just read HUNTED BY THE OTHERS and couldn’t wait to have Jess Haines visit. I got better than that–she brought the cast! Meet her characters and enter the contest at the end of her blog!

Hello there! Jess Haines here. I’m the author of the new urban fantasy HUNTED BY THE OTHERS , and its upcoming sequel TAKEN BY THE OTHERS (to be released January 4, 2011 by Kensington).

To celebrate the release of my novella, SPARK OF TEMPTATION in the NOCTURNAL anthology, the cast are here to talk about relationships. Take the floor, guys!

____________________

Sara: Okay, we’re here to talk about how Arnold and I hooked up.

Arnold: Yo.

Royce: Is there a reason we were handed these papers?

Shiarra: Yeah, someone thought it would be funny to have us answer some of the questions from one of those dating surveys like you find on those online dating websites.

Chaz: How do you know what questions they ask on online dating websites?

Shiarra: …um…. Cosmo?

Sara: Do I have to answer these? I’m already in a relationship.

Arnold: Maybe it’ll be fun.

Royce: Fun like a root canal.

Shiarra: Wait, how would you know what that’s like? You’ve been dead—undead—whatever—longer than modern dentistry has been around.

Royce: Dentistry has been around in one fashion or another longer than I have. Regardless, it wouldn’t do to pass on some infection to one of my donors due to poor hygiene.

Shiarra & Sara: Ewww!

Arnold: Yeah, how about we stop talking to the creepy vampire.

Chaz: I kind of like this. “Do you do see yourself leading others?” Yes. “Do you usually stand up for yourself?” Yes. “Do you seek adventure?” Hell yes.

Shiarra: I don’t know. Do I really have to say how much money I make?

Royce: I don’t see how some of these questions are relevant. Why am I being asked about my level of education? We did not have high schools when I was human, and I’m not about to go to night school to get a G.E.D.

Arnold: Yeah. This list of hobbies sucks. Where’s the D&D and laser tag?

Sara: If I had put on here the kind of physical attributes I was looking for in a guy, I never would have found Arnold.

Arnold: Hey!

Sara: …that’s not a bad thing.

Chaz: According to this, I’m a sexy, athletic god.

Shiarra: Yes, you are.

Royce: You left out the part where you’re a vicious, slavering monster during the full moon. Some people would consider that vital information to have about a prospective date.

Chaz: Give me a break. At least I’m normal most of the time, not a walking corpse 24-7.

Arnold: Guys, tone it down.

Royce: Quiet, spark. This has nothing to do with you.

Arnold: Oh, yeah? Come say that to my face, fangs.

Sara: Arnold, please don’t bait the vampire.

Arnold: He started it!

Shiarra: My, we’re all such bastions of maturity today.

Sara: I want to know how you answer the one about analyzing problems and dealing with stress.

Royce: Yes, how would you answer those, Ms. Waynest?

Shiarra: I don’t have to put up with this, you know.

Chaz: Don’t worry. I don’t need to see a survey to know I love you.

Shiarra: Aw! Thank you, sweetie!

Chaz: So, what should I put under the part about a perfect date? I’m not good at that romantic shi—

Shiarra: Chaz!

Chaz: …stuff.

Royce: What a surprise.

Arnold: I don’t think anyone asked for your opinion, fang-boy.

Royce: I tire of your insults, spark.

Arnold: Says the sarcastic—

Sara: Honey, please stop teasing the vamp.

Royce: Thank you, Ms. Halloway.

Sara: I wasn’t doing that for your sake.

Arnold: For me?

Sara: Yup. Seeing you turned into vamp-bait isn’t on my to-do list.

Arnold: Aw. Don’t worry, love, I could turn him into a pile of ash, no problem.

Royce: We’ll see about that, mage.

Shiarra: Are you guys done with your pissing contest yet? Yeesh. How do you manage to rub everyone you meet the wrong way like that? Seems like some specially honed skill. Can’t imagine that goes over too well with the ladies.

Royce: Oh, trust me, Ms. Waynest, not everyone immediately slots me in with the devil’s minions upon finding out what I am.

Shiarra: Haven’t seen you with a girl yet…

Royce: Oh? Perhaps you have not spent enough time in my bedchamber.

Chaz: Hey! There’ll be no talk of my girlfriend anywhere near your bed!

Shiarra: Seriously. Gross.

Chaz: Wait—“enough” time?!

Shiarra: Oh, hey, look at the time! Interview’s over!!

____________________

You can learn more about Shiarra and the rest of her friends in HUNTED BY THE OTHERS and SPARK OF TEMPTATION

If you'd like a chance to win a signed copy of NOCTURNAL, leave a comment with a dating tip or question for Shia or her friends! Thanks again for having me and the gang over, Sharon!

Support groups: which one is right for you?
by Sharon Ashwood on October 27th, 2010

So you’re a fiction writer looking for a support group. Here is a short questionnaire that should help you find the kind of people you’re looking for:

1. If you go on a holiday, do you pick:

a. A convention featuring people wearing antennae
b. A Mediterranean cruise giving people the opportunity to gaze at you while sunbathe and contemplate your next best-seller
c. A convention featuring handcuffs and people in teddy bear suits
d. An African safari

2. When you go shopping for entertainment, do you visit:

a. The comic book store
b. The spa to enhance your godlike physique with a gold sparkle tan
c. The leather shop
d. The gym to watch a hand-to-hand fight to the death

3. Your typical lunch companions are:

a. Romulans
b. Your entourage
c. You think his name was Mossimo, but it was hard to tell around the gag
d. Not sure, but he drank a lot of Bushmills and talked about riding elephants

4. From friendship, you seek

a. A close and meaningful bond, kind of like a mind meld
b. Unconditional adulation
c. Benefits and occasionally pain
d. Someone willing to walk into the jungle and blow up tigers with you. It’s a guy thing.

5. In terms of writing, the kind of support you need is:

a. Someone who will undertake the translation of your latest work into Klingon in time for the Con
b. Someone who will post a five-star review on every review site, even if your book sucks
c. Someone who knows exactly what button to push to get your mind off a bad review
d. Someone willing and able to boil the reviewer in a large pot, and then eat him

If you answered mostly “a”, you might have had a great support group, but they’ve all been abducted and taken to Roswell.

If you answered “b”, remember to tip well.

If you answered “c”, you already have interesting friends. Gil Grissom will be investigating your cadre during his guest spot return to CSI next season.

If you answered “d”, you must like Hemingway a lot.

The Supporting Cast
by Annette McCleave on October 26th, 2010

A writer’s life is often described as a solitary existence. And it’s true…if you’re describing the hours spent actually writing. But most of us are far from alone, especially in the internet age where finding a group of like-minded souls is easier than ever before.

Having a support group is wonderful. When you first start out, other writers are often the only people who ‘get’ why you’re doing what you’re doing. There’s no money and no glory in the beginning, just hours of writing and rewriting. Sharing the agony of editing or the scores from a contest with another writers can make everything much more bearable.

One of the best places to start is a local writer’s group. If you have access to a chapter of the RWA (Romance Writers of America), joining can provide companionship, workshops, and expert advice. If there’s no chapter near you, you can always join and non-RWA writing group or join and online chapter.

Writing chat loops and message boards is another way to meet and find support. Or you can contact other contest entrants–I found a great friend and wonderful critique partner that way.

Beyond the companionship of other writers, there’s the home team. In the comfort of my living room, I’m able to read sections aloud, talk plotting, moan about frustrations, and celebrate successes (big or small). My home support crew includes my daughter and these two characters:

lucky-minou

Lucky, my black lab, will dance with me to celebrate the good stuff, and Minou, my tuxedo cat, will sit on the keyboard and erase all the bad stuff. Who could ask for more?

Underwire support
by Jessa Slade on October 26th, 2010

Currently working on: Scrubbing the toilet
Mood: Swirly blue

I’m done with UNDONE!  Book 4 of the Marked Souls — BY DARKNESS UNDONE — is in the hands a.k.a. inbox of my wonderful editor as of 5 a.m. today. Yeah, that’s the reason this blog post is late.

I am a quivering pile of goo. Too much chocolate does that to me, despite years of resistance training.

You’d think with all the excuses to eat chocolate, writing would be easy. I’m here (despite the best efforts of Book 4 characters to kill me) to say, Ha! It’s long hours (in the case of Book 4, a three-day weekend of all-nighters to put on the finishing touches) and they can be lonely hours, because despite my best efforts to get my critique partners to write the damn book for me, I’m the only one who can get those words on the page. So in the end — or should I say to The End — it’s just me and my computer.

I thought I’d share a look at my post-three-day all-nighter session that ended this morning. This is how I set up my space to provide “under the wire” support when deadlines are looming:

office-post-writing

Since Thursday afternoon, I got up from that stupid chair only long enough to use the bathroom and walk the dog. If I could’ve convinced the dog to use the bathroom, I wouldn’t've even needed to walk the dog.

Here are the supportive elements of my creative space:

1. Coffee pot and coffee mug
I don’t drink coffee. XY will be very annoyed when he realizes where his coffee has gone. But desperate times call for coffee measures. Coffee measured by 1/4 cup-fulls with heaping spoonfuls of hot cocoa mix. The stainless steel French press holds warmth too, so when my numb fingers need a break, I can wrap them around the coffee pot.

2. Scrunchie
I’d be bald from pulling out all my hair as I scream at my recalcitrant characters, so a scrunchie is a good thing. Also, you can go two extra days without showering if you have a scrunchie. That’s, like, 25 extra writing minutes.

3. My computer
You’d think my computer would be number 1, but really caffeine and sugar and number 1. Sticky notes start to appear on my computer the longer the story goes on. The ones down the left side list the page numbers of each chapter. I keep track of that so that I have a physical representation of the book’s progression. The note on the top of the computer reads “Tell the Story.” Seems silly to think I need to be reminded of that since I’m already sitting in front of the freakin’ computer. But I do.

(Note the blank screen. Pretty much every day is a blank screen.)

4. Paper and pen
For some reason, I still keep a lot of my notes to myself on paper. Some of the important notes for Book 4 included: a list of everybody killed in Book 3; the quantum states of good and evil; and the word “orange juice.” I didn’t use orange juice in the story so I’m guessing I need to go to the grocery store.

5. Snacks and water glass
Many writing resources say we shouldn’t snack at our desks and we should replace snacking with drinking water. They are so right about drinking water. Having to pee means your kidneys are still working despite all the chocolate. Because, honestly, they must be kidding about the no-snacking thing. The near-empty container on my desk is dark chocolate mint creams. With minty snacks, you can go two extra days without brushing your teeth. That’s, like, five extra writing minutes.

6. Resource books
Despite (because of?) being a writer, I often run out of words. So I keep my dictionary, my thesaurus and a baby name book close at hand.

7. Cordless phone
Some writers just don’t answer the phone when they are hot on the tail of The End. I find I can more conveniently ignore people when I know whose call I’m not answering.

Now if I could just find someone to sit in that chair, my work here would be done…

Do you have a must-have element in your day to be productive and creative? What do you do if you can’t have it?

Think Before I Speak
by KimLenox on October 24th, 2010

STATUS: Enjoying a PARANORMAL STATE marathon (TV/A & E)
MOOD: Happy

Being last in the line up of bloggers here at Silk & Shadows each week, I very often want to say, “Ditto. What she said.”

This week that is especially so. I can guarantee you that each of us on the blog have specific beliefs, causes and philosophies. I know I do. I’m not ashamed of them either, but I don’t necessarily think my paranormal romance novels are the place for my soapbox issues to take center stage. Romances are supposed to be escapist fiction. Not a place to be lectured to or persuaded to change your mind about something. At the same time, sometimes “issues” make for great conflict, especially in my sub-genre, which are historicals.

I think one thing that most writers have in common is a deep appreciation for character. We as people are all very different, with different experiences, influences and beliefs. That’s what makes the world such an interesting place and characters worthy of analysis and description. Authors, in general, seem to respect those differences. As a result, at least in my experience, writers seem to be inclusive rather than exclusive, in their writing. That’s how they qualify as “mass market”. So I think that’s the line you have to draw, and hopefully be on the right side of — if you include a cause or a subject that might push buttons or raise emotions, does it fall on the side of mass market appeal?

Looking back on my writing, I think the one thing I’ve filtered into my writing is my belief in taking care of the environment.

What is your particular approach to books and even the internet? Are they a place to express/explore your beliefs and causes, or do you tend to tread more lightly and seek a more universal middle ground in your reading preferences and blog/comment posts?

Ooops, did I say that?
by Sharon Ashwood on October 20th, 2010

Ah, yes, those subjects one should never touch. They glow in the dark, radiating with a white-hot intensity, daring the author to slip them into her story. There should be a warning alarm that sounds during these moments, with an automatic computer shut-down that forces the writer to rethink her plans.

skull_n_bones

There is the risk of offending readers. There is also the risk of climbing on a soap box, where it’s all too easy to sound preachy. There’s nothing worse than being offensive AND boring.

So why not skirt the difficult questions altogether? Because fiction has a plot, and a plot has conflict. Depending on who your characters are, that will often come back to hot button issues like sex, politics, and religion. If an author doesn’t have the honesty to dig to the bottom of their character’s issues, the book will come out as compelling as cream of wheat. So what to do?

There is a trade-off when it comes to addressing “tough” subjects in fiction. I look at it like I would the spice cupboard. A teaspoon is good; dumping in the whole jar is too much. For this reason, I skirt the best-sellers dealing with chronic child abuse and head for the pulp fiction featuring demon abuse. Somehow it’s more okay in a fantasy setting.

Yes, that’s weird and perhaps hypocritical, but taking hot topics one step out of the here and now and putting them in the realm of the fantastic allows us to look at them more dispassionately. After all, much science fiction successfully deals with power struggles (often political ones), environmental issues, and ethics. That’s one of the things I love about the genre—it makes me think, engaging my mind as well as my heart, but it does so in a subtle and entertaining way.

I try to model my stories that way, and on a good day I get it right–I hope! My aim is to bring a complete world into being, with all the good and bad that goes along with it. The big difference is that all those difficult subjects, while present, are never the focus of the story. I write paranormal romance, not social commentary for vampires.

Though it would be interesting to hear what Dr. Phil would have to say about Dracula and his wives. Was locking up three wives in the castle basement the first clue that there was something funky on the domestic front?

Winner of A Twist in Time
by Sharon Ashwood on October 19th, 2010

I promised to pick a winner for an autographed copy of Susan Squires’ A Twist in Time (Vikings, time travel, woohoo!)

Cories, you’re the lucky commenter! Send me your snail mail addy via Sharon@SharonAshwood.com and I’ll send you your prize!

Dealing with Issues
by Annette McCleave on October 19th, 2010

I read novels to escape the grim realities of life, so I don’t generally buy fiction that focuses on difficult topics. Subjects like addiction, abuse, and suicide are challenging to work into a romance.

But some authors manage to pull it off, weaving difficult subjects into their storylines with such finesse that you never get the sense that it’s a lecture or a downer.

As an example, I read a Harlequin SuperRomance recently that did a great job with the topic of cancer: Mary Sullivan’s No Ordinary Cowboy. Her novel won the 2010 RomCon Reader’s Crown award for Best First Book and the 2009 RT Reviewer’s Choice award for Best First Series Romance. It’s hard not to have the bleak topic of cancer take over the romance, but Mary did an excellent job of keeping the book sweet and warm in spite of the darker undercurrent.

I think writing about difficult issues is often best handled by someone who has intimate experience with the subject matter. Or a least done a ton of research. It takes a thorough understanding of what it’s like to live through or with the issue to write about it and do it justice—without trivializing it or overstating it.

I know there are other books out there that have dealt with issues like the loss of a child or PTSD and done an excellent job. Care to share any you’ve read?

Inspiration in the impolite
by Jessa Slade on October 18th, 2010

Currently working on: Revising Book 4
Mood: Breathless

It’s been said that the Top 3 impolite topics of conversation with strangers are sex, religion and politics.  But I write about demon-possessed alpha male warriors, so…

I guess I can try to leave politics out of it.

I poke around a lot in the world’s religions, looking for intriguing factoids on demons, monsters and evil in general. (For the new villain in Book 4, I’m reading about the demons of various North American Indian tribes. There’s even a wilderness area that I’m thinking might deserve a camping trip since it was allegedly home to a Nez Perce demon.) As for sex, well, that’s everywhere. From the talkshow host forced to apologize for the religious slur to the inappropriately dressed starlet, it’s always fascinating to see what makes people angry. And what passes our internal censors without a twitch.

The end of last month was the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series made the list for objections to its religious viewpoint and sexual explicitness. Yay, sex and religion! I guess her politics were okay. I just finished reading Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES (yes, I know I’m still in the foothills of my To Be Read mountain) and my next thought after ”Great book!” was “Ooh, politics!”

I think most writers don’t go out of their way to get banned. (Although I’m sure the publicity is nice.) Offensiveness, like beauty, is in the eye — and mind — of the beholder. But I have to admit, I’m thrilled people believe enough in the power of stories that the author’s take on sex, religion, politics, and all the rest might drive someone to — oh, I don’t know — think or even act.

Here are my favorite impolite inspirations:

southparkSouth Park
While it’s true I adore South Park mostly for its cursing children (Team Cartman!) I also like that they willingly skewer… everything. Sex, religion, politics. No topic is sacred.

That harsh light is rarely flattering but it can be strangely illuminating. One of my favorite episodes is “Tsst,” where the Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan comes to South Park to rehabilitate Cartman. It was stupidly funny, it was wrong… and at the end — spoiler alert! — when Cartman’s mom undoes Cesar’s good training and Cartman reverts to type, we get an “ohh” moment of actual insight, not only about Cartman’s character but about how we act in our own relationships.

Not bad for a show that prominently features fart jokes.

Jackass Pictures, Images and PhotosJackass
Speaking of stupidly funny… Jackass 3D is out! This is going to be my Finish Book 4 or Get Whalloped By A Giant Hand inspiration. I’m gonna go see it when I’m done writing.

Jackass is definitely wrong. It inspires stupid kids to do stupider stunts. And yet…

I honestly think the reason some people hate Jackass is because they can’t believe other people can just be stupid and have fun and… and that’s it.

But if you live with a dog, you know that this is not necessarily a bad life plan. In fact, I find it very inspiring. Although I’d like to find a way to live more simply (not simplemindedly) with my spine intact.

Also, Johnny Knoxville is weirdly compelling to me.

Okay, the last two examples of impolite inspiration make me seem like a cretin. So I’ll return to writing.

onionThe Onion
Yes, The Onion is probably the written lovechild of the illicit romance between South Park and Jackass, but at least it requires literacy.

As a reader, I love The Onion for their scalpel-like humor: small and sharp. As a writer and former newspaper reporter, I appreciate anyone who can riff for 15 column inches on “Congress Sets Sail In Search Of Fabled Sword Of Bipartisanship.”

Oops, politics again.  

Life is full of hard topics. Harder in the case of Jackass when you miss the landing mattress. But I don’t think a writer can always live by the adage “If you can’t say something nice….”

Do you have topics you determinedly try to avoid at holiday family gatherings? Or do you like to throw conversational grenades for the sake of spirited debate?

Pleased To Meet You
by KimLenox on October 17th, 2010

STATUS: Just home from Texans game
MOOD: Exhilarated (WIN!)

Book signings! I love them. I missed posting last week because I was out of town for a long weekend that involved a fantastic book signing — the Buns & Roses Tea for Literacy in Richardson, Texas. I met a lot of readers, and signed a lot of books, supported a wonderful cause and I can’t say enough about the event.

As a writer, it’s thrilling and flattering for a reader to come to my table and say, “I’ve read all your books. I loved them.” Or even, “I’ve heard about your books, and have been wanting to try them.”

And I feel like Angelina Jolie or even ELVIS when you ask if you can have your friend take our picture together. Or if you ask me to sign your event program, or a book, your book bag or a picture frame.

It’s a enormous honor to be published, to have you read my books and for you to take the time to meet me at any book signing or event. And I feel the same way about those of you who visit the Silk & Shadows blogs, whether you just read our posts, or leave a comment.

So a big THANK YOU to all of you!