Jessa's SEDUCED BY SHADOWS was listed as a 2009 Favorite Debut at Barnes & Noble's Heart To Heart Romance blog!
Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice
Congratulations to Kim Lenox! Kim is nominated for So Still the Night under Historical Vampire/Werewolf/Shapeshifter Romance.
And, congratulations to Sharon Ashwood, who is nominated for Scorched under Vampire Romance!
Oh, yes. FEAR can really make me, Kim Lenox, write faster. As a writer, the fear comes from deadlines, but there is also a fear of letting someone down. Before you get a contract to write, you just write for yourself. You suffer your disappointments alone, with the kind support of your critique partners, family and friends. But once you have a contract, there are people depending on you to write, and to write well. You have an agent, and an editor, and the art department and the copy editors. You don’t want to be the weak link in the chain to producing a good, solid book. It’s an awesome feeling to be part of such a team, and you want to keep your place in the mix!
What else makes me write faster? I tend to take months to write my first 3-4 chapters, and then I speed (as much as a “slow” writer can speed) through the rest. Until those first couple of chapters are right, I just can’t move forward. To do so would be like taking a wrong turn, and just continuing to drive. So I guess knowing the story, and being on the right track.
When I’m in the last stages of a deadline, I also usually start doing timed writing jags. I’ll give myself 30 minutes to write two pages, then I can check email or surf the Net for five minutes. Then it’s back for another 30 minutes of writing.
Tomorrow is the day we in the US observe Memorial Day, and honor those who have fallen while serving in the Armed Forces. I’d like to send out a very heartfelt, personal thank you to all members of the services, past and present.
Sometimes it’s hard to balance the writing life with “everything else”. Writing is a very solitary activity, and it’s difficult for me, as a writer, to focus the way I need to if I feel like “everything else” is spinning out of control.
When I’m not working or writing, I’m spending time with the family, and with friends. Mundane daily events like sit-down meal time with the whole family and bedtime with the kids are precious events that keep me centered.
I also find that nature has a very balancing effect on my state of mind. I work full time, and nearly every evening the first thing I do after taking off the high heels is go plant my bare feet in the cool, green grass of the back yard. I go sit on the pier at the back of our property and throw bread (wheat, not white) to the fish. I especially love the big catfish and silvery carp that twist and turn under the surface of the water. BTW, this is where I’d hoped to insert a picture of my favorite catfish, coming up for a bite, but something is wonky with McAfee today. It’s refusing to let me visit many of my regular sites.
Back to topic - these daily habits are very comforting to me. How about you? Do you have any daily habits that, if absent, throw you off kilter?
As you know, we have weekly blog topics here at Silk & Shadows. Some of the topics are easy to blog about, and some are HARD. At least for me.
The craft topics, for example, are always difficult for me to blog about, I suspect because I don’t really want all of you to know just how imperfect my methods are.
As for pulling the book all together…
I think a lot of writing, for me, is instinct. The instinct comes from reading so much. A lot of us have the instinct, even those of you readers who don’t write. You just know when something pivotal is supposed to take place, or when the action is supposed to rise, or when something bad is bound to happen. And when those things don’t happen at the right moment, things feel a little off kilter or poorly plotted.
There are so many books written and seminars dissecting the subject of writing. I do have a couple of craft books I read, and re-read as I’m writing a book. Like GOAL, MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT by Debra Dixon. And I always enjoy attending writing workshops and seminars. I take a lot of notes that I never look at again because all in all, I tend to glean and internalize the most profound suggestions and they become part of the voice inside my head that guides me as I write. Again, it goes back to instinct.
One of the most important voices is the one that reminds me, constantly, that every word should be important. It should have purpose and meaning. I work very hard never to write “filler”. Every “brick” of my writing should be a part of my story “wall”. I don’t really want any bricks laying off to the side, unused and abandoned. That’s filler to me.
Still, at the close of each book, I always experience a sort of panic. The book is never perfect. I always want more time. I have a friend. She writes several books a year for multiple publishers and…she always turns her books in a couple of weeks early. (I love her! I do. But…can you hear the wistful envy in my words?) I have never turned in a book early. In fact, I go all Charleton Heston with my manuscripts, and yes, I have to force the manuscript from (no, not my cold, dead hands, but) my shaking, aching hands and press that SEND button.
Even then, after it’s done, and I go through the revision process with my editor and copy edits, I aways feel anxious when my ARCS (advanced reading copies) arrive. Normal writers get excited and want to share them with everyone. I eyeball them for days, never opening the cover, because I know my book is imperfect.
Fast Forward: About three months after the book releases, I’ll finally pick up a copy and … SURPRISE! Rainbows and butterflies shoot out from the pages. I read, and read, and ENJOY and see the story that I wanted to write is YES, actually there on the pages.
Why can’t I see that before? I suspect it has something to do with perfectionism, and being too close to the story to be able to see clearly. I don’t think there is any way to change my process, it’s just me.
Is there anything you are a raging perfectionist about? Your checkbook? Are you a neat freak? Your job? Tell me about it! I need to know I’m not the only weirdo out there.
Before I write a book, I do a lot of gathering. I give myself a license to daydream. I listen to music. I scribble very random ideas into pretty notebooks and onto my favorite half-sized, lined note cards.
Because I write historicals, I do a lot of research. I know I’ll only use about 2% of it, but somehow all that knowledge about a given time and place makes me feel like I’m not bumping around in the dark. I let myself follow whatever tangent, and print out anything I find that’s interesting. I hole punch everything and put it into a binder. I pin pictures and inspirational art onto my bulletin board.
Once that’s done, I do a lot of writing. Usually a lot of terrible, very bad, indistinct, no good, stinky writing.
Somewhere along the way, my story emerges, and then its suddenly there, very clear in my mind. Like a movie. It’s always really startling to see how so much of my “random” research becomes the resolution to a missing puzzle piece (like Jessa was talking about, see below!). As if that important detail was just meant to be included all along.
Do you brainstorm any types of projects? Whether it’s a quilt, or a recipe? And if so, does your end result usually come out like you intended or do things tend to take a surprising direction?
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”?
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:
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.
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.
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.
STATUS: Turned in new proposal to agent. Yippee!
My kiddo had a birthday this weekend, and so we went to see HOW TO FEED YOUR DRAGON. I don’t usually love kids’ movies, but this one was fantastic - I highly recommend it, even if you don’t have kids!
So this week our “theme” is to ask you, Dear Reader, a question we’d like you to answer.
Most romance writers, and many authors who don’t even write romance, belong to Romance Writers of America. It’s a great organization with great leadership and participation, and lots of resources and benefits for its members. They also put on the RITA and GOLDEN HEART CONTESTS. This week the finalists were announced. We’ll learn who the winners are at our annual conference in Nashville in July. Congratulations to all the finalists!
If you have a moment, look over the list and see if any of your favorite authors are there! You’ll see that the names and titles represent many different types of writing, even within the more specific sub categories.
My question to you as readers would be: What do you prefer - an easy comfort read? or a complex, make-you-think read? And as an added or alternate question, what’s your put-down-the-book button? The thing you read on a book blurb or see on a cover or in the pages of a book that makes you put a book down and not pick it back up again?
I’ve never really lived in a place where we have a real winter. I can see why people who live in the Great White North or even the Sort-of Great White North would go crazy over the first signs of spring. Here in the South, we’ve seen some snow this winter, and it’s actually very chilly and windy at my place today, but beautiful and sunny. Flowers are starting to pop! But we do enjoy balmier weather all year round.
I don’t usually diet when spring comes around, but I do get myself back on the health wagon. One reason is because I know the sure terror of bathing suit weather is just around the corner. By May we’ll be visiting the beach and yes, I’ll be blighting eyeballs, young and old. It’s a horrible thought, but that’s why I’m starting now!
Here is my frienemy, Treadmill.
If you look closely, you can see the fine layer of dust all over him. Time to get my walking groove on. I do feel more clear of mind and creative when I exercise regularly and eat more healthfully. One cannot live on chips and salsa alone. Or that’s what I tell myself.
Spring is also time to get out of the house and the normal routine and do something new! I just returned last night from New Orleans. I have been there before, but not since I was a teenager.
Thank you New Orleans! I had a fantastic time. Great food, great music, great things to see. I loved riding the street car all over and seeing the city and houses of the Garden District. I’ve been trying to figure out how I can swing buying Anne Rice’s old house, which is currently on the market. I’m also determined to make some gumbo. Not just gumbo, but fantastic, awe-inspiring gumbo. Give me time. I will conquer and cook it as well as a local.
Do you plan to go on any trips soon, readers, or will you be doing all of your upcoming travel by reading books?
I write historical paranormal romance. What else would I be interested in writing? Oh, hard question! I’d love to write historical fiction. Or historical (non-paranormal) romance. Or romantic suspense. Or something futuristic, sleek, sexy and noir-y. Think Bladerunner.
OR something that can’t be classified into any existing genre description.
If only there were that many hours in day! Because unfortunately, I’m a slow creator and writer, and it takes me quite a bit of time to untangle the gob of ideas in my head.
I am in the middle of a new proposal now, and will share a bit more about it once I have some feedback on it from the powers that be.
In the meantime, I am satisfying some of my interest in other genres by READING MORE BOOKS! I read maybe 1-2 books a month.
How many books do you read on average each month? And are they always from the same genre, or do you bounce around into different types of books?