Archive for December, 2009
by Annette McCleave on December 31st, 2009
I’d like to welcome guest blogger Donna Grant to the Silk and Shadows site today. Donna is celebrating the December 29th release of Dangerous Highlander, the first book in her brand new series from St. Martin’s. Her Dark Sword series smoothly blends together magic, history, and hawt Highland heroes–who could ask for anything more?*****
First, thanks to the ladies of Silk and Shadows for having me!
I get asked a lot why I chose Druids for my new Dark Sword series. I find the legend of the Druids fascinating. There are so many conflicting accounts. Some records show the Druids to be spiritual leaders who helped heal the sick and gave counsel to kings and other leaders.
The Romans would have us believe they were the basest of humans who routinely sacrificed humans and animals in order to appease their pagan gods.
So who’s right? I don’t think we’ll ever know. We all know that whoever writes history controls history, so I think it’s safe to say Rome may have exaggerated a bit. Or maybe not.
It was the knowledge that the Druids could have been a mixture of any number of things that led me into more research into them. I find their culture fascinating, especially how it continues to this day.
In DANGEROUS HIGHLANDER, there are two different sects of Druids. I have the mies, or the good Druids who keep to their pure magic. They are one with nature. They heal, share their wisdom, and protect the innocent.
Then there are the droughs. The droughs are Druids who, upon their eighteenth year, undergo a ceremony where they give their blood and soul to evil thereby forfeiting all the good inside them. The evil takes over, and in doing so gives them a more powerful magic – black magic.
So how can the mies combat the droughs if the droughs have more powerful magic? That is a good question, and one I visit with every book of this series I write.
I’ll be giving away a signed copy of either MUTUAL DESIRE or THE PLEASURE OF HIS BED to a commenter. Happy Reading!
To find out more about me or my Dark Sword series, please visit my website at www.donnagrant.com.
by Sharon Ashwood on December 30th, 2009
This was a crazy year.
There were amazingly wonderful things. The Dark Forgotten series came out in February with RAVENOUS. SCORCHED came out the first of this month and actually registered on the B&N mass market romance bestseller list. For me, that’s huge. RAVENOUS was a bit of a last-throw-of-the-dice book, even though I wasn’t really admitting that to myself. Let’s just say I was so ready for some external validation.
I also finished school, ended up doing two jobs instead of one, and pretty much wore myself out. I’ve spent the weekend making like a couch potato. For all those people who say, “How can you possibly do so much?” the answer is that I can’t. Not really.
Of course, sitting around reassembling one’s splattered brains into a thinking organism is a great time to wax philosophical.
Annette mentioned the importance of the little victories we have along the way. I heartily concur. We can’t live by great achievements alone, nor should we. This is important because we need to remember we’re not just good writers, but good citizens, business persons, family members and individuals. Working in the arts is hard on self-esteem for a thousand reasons. It’s vital to have something besides sales numbers to measure yourself by.
And if we need to know that, so do other people. At the end of the day, it’s the good business relationships, the kindnesses, and the solid foundation of right action that gives us integrity. That’s what makes people turn and help when we falter, and what gives us the balance we need to keep moving forward. Some days it may not seem like it, but hard work and a good reputation still counts.
What did I do this year that I’m proud of? I finished commitments when I wanted to walk away so bad it gagged me. I helped a friend try something she was interested in, and for once didn’t help too much. I tried to be a good team player on several fronts. I made sure I was a good listener even when I had no brain cells to speak of. I took good care of my pets.
On the other hand, I get a failing grade in the domestic arts. I see some vacuuming in my future, because I’m doing New Year’s at my place. Despite the crazy year, I still have friends. That’s one blessing I’m counting for sure.
Resolutions? To make a little time to look after myself.
by Annette McCleave on December 29th, 2009
As we usher out the old year and prepare to greet the new, it’s a natural time to reflect. Were our goals fulfilled? Our dreams met? Did we prosper as we’d hoped, or merely survive? Did we stay true to ourselves? Did we live our roles as citizens, children, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, and bosses in a way that makes us proud?
I believe in the power of goals and dreams—and I believe that without them, I would not have accomplished half the things I have.
But our expectations of ourselves seem to grow larger every year, and it’s all too easy to assess our performance and come up short. Perhaps the sting of our failures lasts longer than the pride in our accomplishments, but it’s often easier to remember the New Year’s Resolutions we didn’t keep than the successes we logged. Or to berate ourselves for the mistakes we made, rather than tally the all the smart decisions we made along the way.
I journal, and at this time of year, I’m especially grateful that I do. Because many of my successes are small—tiny steps taken toward a larger goal—and when I look back using only my memory, I don’t see them. So, I spend a few moments every December re-reading my journal entries for the past year, refreshing my memory about the small things.
Yes, I published my first book this year, and I’m very, very proud of that. (I haven’t stopped smiling). But I also attended all of my daughter’s band concerts. I helped an old man who’d fallen on the ice and couldn’t get back up. I successfully wrapped up my father’s estate. I designed my own online ads for Drawn into Darkness. I turned in Bound by Darkness on time. I stuck to my budget. I gave generously to the Salvation Army. I baked gingerbread men for the first time in years.
Little things, but important things. Things that shouldn’t be forgotten.
What “little” things are you proud of accomplishing this year?
by Jessa Slade on December 28th, 2009
Currently working on: Digging out from under the holidays
Mood: Eager for daylight
I have a friend who’s experienced more than her fair share of life’s hard knocks. (I’m not sure how much a fair share would be, exactly, but I’m pretty sure she got hosed.) One of her favorite sayings is “The universe gives you the chance to make the same mistake over and over. Until you don’t.”
Oh, I could look at it as tough love, I suppose, one of those “learning moments.” But sometimes it’s hard to tell what the lesson is. So at the end of every year, I like to look back, give the universe a long, hard stare, and try to figure out what it was thinking (and what it was trying to make me think about) while it stares back at me.
Because I dabble in the Tarot, I like to use my cards to give some narrative to the year that has passed. I have a deck based on Greek mythology, because those were some of my favorite stories when I was a kid. I draw a three-card spread, which is often used in understanding influences at play before taking any particular path, which seems to me useful in looking back at paths chosen.
So what exactly was the universe trying to teach me? Did I get it? Can I move on from this lesson to the next?
I pulled Temperance, The Chariot and the Knight of Swords:
Temperance (Iris, goddess of the rainbow): Iris was a kind and merciful goddess who represents the fluid adjustment of feeling and emotion with the ultimate goal of harmony. She was also a message bearer of the gods.
The Chariot (Ares, god of war): With his two horses pulling in opposite directions, Ares represents aggressive instincts guided by the will of consciousness, and suggests conflict and struggle can result in a stronger personality when faced with strength and containment.
Knight of Swords (the Warrior Twins, Castor and Polydeuces, one mortal and one divine): An augury of sudden change and mercurial energy which breaks apart the ordinary patterns of life, often with callous disregard for common sense or kindness.
Oh, I love it when my cards tell me what I already know. It was a crazy year for me. (Duh.) I saw my dream of publication come true when I finally got to hold a printed copy of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS. At the same time, I suffered through the flailing death throes of my day job. (Luckily I’m good at imagining the living dead, so I’ve managed to keep my job lumbering along — minus some body parts — in a gruesome caricature of employment.) I’ve stretched my personal boundaries from painfully introverted bookworm to painfully social bookworm-becoming-butterfly. I started — and failed at — a weight-lifting regimen. (Yeah, yeah, I actually started it again tonight; stupid New Years resolutions.)
Clearly, it’s been a year of more uproar than balance, which is obvious if you weigh the three warrior boys and their three wild horses against the pretty Iris. Still, I think I did a reasonable job of adjusting on the fly and keeping my feet under me. So I’ll keep the reminder of steady Iris going forward (kindness, mercy, balance) since I bet when I pull my full Celtic Cross spread for the new year, I think I’ll be seeing more of those conflict cards.
Besides, in the pitcher she carried, Iris also held the waters that filled storm clouds. She could dump a bucket of cold water on those hot-headed boys at any time — if she decided to stop playing nice. That’s a good reminder too.
How about you? Did you come away with a lesson from 2009 you’d like to share? If you want a three-card draw from my Greek mythology deck, just ask and we’ll see what the cards have to say to you.
by Jessa Slade on December 21st, 2009
Or whichever holiday you celebrate! Hannukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Winter Solstice, the first pretty snow, ANY pretty snow!
Here at Silk And Shadows, we celebrate with books! So share one of your favorite holiday memories in comments anytime this week and you’ll be entered to win a book from each of us, suitable for a night of relaxation after your busy holiday season.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
by Our Guest on December 17th, 2009
Conflict. It’s an inescapable part of life—especially when you’re a character in my stories. In TIES THAT BIND, a second-chance story released this week by The Wild Rose Press, the conflict between my hero and heroine isn’t so much about what happened in the past but how they each dealt with it.
In TIES THAT BIND, AEDAN ap OWEN and TESS, LADY OF BRIDSWELL each deal with their anger in hot and cold ways, respectively. This difference means each approaches conflict differently and often at odds with one another.
My heroine is icy in her fury, more likely to walk away from conflict than resolve it. In a prequel to this book, when Tess learned about Aedan’s misuse of his magical abilities, she appeared calm on the outside, as if the hurt didn’t quite touch her, and she told him to go away rather than deal with the hurt and anger of his betrayal.
Aedan, on the other hand, acts on his anger. When he learned Tess had married within a few months of his leaving, the drinking, fighting, whoring binge that followed kept medieval gossips talking for years.
For both characters, how they handled this conflict changed the course of their lives, and when they meet up five years later, they are both very different people from when they first met—a fact they both recognize immediately.
Tess stiffened at his words, and another gust of cold air blew between them, tangling a fine lace of curls that had escaped her braid. Her hair was darker now—a deep reddish auburn highlighted by strands the color of cinnamon. A memory of twining one of those curls around his finger pushed forward. The ache that followed surprised him.
“My lady.” Aedan bowed low, suddenly, keenly aware that neither of them was the raw youth who had loved so carelessly years before. “How do you fare?”
She tucked away the beckoning curl. The movement set a row of tiny copper bells along her sleeve ringing. “Well enough.”
“Who is this, Tess?” The dark-haired woman at William’s side sounded as suspicious as she looked. When Aedan gave her his best grin, her dark blue eyes glinted like the sharp edge of broken sapphire.
“I am Aedan ap Owen.”
“The king’s minstrel?” Excitement and disgust warred in her expression. “We have heard about you.”
Aedan flashed his most innocent smile. “Have you?”
“Yes.” Tess looked at him as if he’d run down her dog. “The gossips say you are rich in coin and women.”
“Do they?” Her inflection carried a challenge. “They also say the Duchess of Burgundy measured your sword with both hands and found it sturdy. Now the duke’s weapon no longer leaves its sheath.”
I had fun exploring how Aedan and Tess’ core personalities would influence the way they handle conflict—although I must admit, Tess’ reaction surprised me. She’s very outspoken except when it counts most.
In your writing or reading, have you come across any interesting ways characters handle anger and conflict? How does it affect their story?
Keena Kincaid, the author of three historical romance novels with The Wild Rose Press, is celebrating the release of TIES THAT BIND, the second of her Druids of Duncarnoch series. To learn more about her or her stories, go to: http://www.keenakincaid.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
by Sharon Ashwood on December 16th, 2009
I blogged recently about my first sale experience at Dear Reader. The piece can be summed up by saying: lightning struck and I was grateful and really surprised.
Since that moment, my writing career has been a thrill ride along a steep learning curve. There have been spills and moping, but happy dances, too.
Jessa’s right when she observes that success is accompanied by a lot of hard work. One also needs a solid support network, professionally and personally. Omit luck, sweat, or support, and the going gets very tough indeed.
But what am I saying? Any author can write a piece that reads like a cautionary tale. I’d like to catalogue some of the nifty things I’ve done since getting published:
• Used the phrase, “Excuse me, I’ve got my agent on the line.”
• Spent time wondering about the logistics of sex with werewolves—legitimately.
• Had a great excuse for littering my living room with little plastic gravestones. Dioramas! Have to plot those battle scenes …
• Actually found a use for an English degree after 50,000 people sneered and said, “Why don’t you study something useful?”
• Had the money to pay the vet when it was absolutely needed.
Those were all good moments. It’s nice to have concrete reminders of what’s been achieved, because it’s easy to lose sight of all that water under the bridge.
On the other hand, those moments aren’t everything. Success is only as good as what’s going on between an author and her work in progress. Reviews, promotion, conferences, contests, and the like will orbit her writing life, but the gravitational pull is always the battle with the blank page. That does not change.
I can understand why some authors get a few books into their career and decide it’s not for them. I think it takes a certain personality to face the fact that the hard part never stops. But then, there are moments when the story just works, and I fall in love with it all over again.
That’s when a person knows that they’re doing the right thing – when “success” is really an excuse to support their writing habit. I must write, the same way musicians must play, or true gardeners aren’t happy unless there is dirt beneath their nails. The same way real readers won’t be caught without a book somewhere on their person. You just gotta do it.
Readers: what’s the oddest place you’ve taken a book?
by Sharon Ashwood on December 15th, 2009
by Jessa Slade on December 14th, 2009
Currently working on: Word wrestling
Mood: WWF Smackdown
I love when cheesy rock anthems — the kind that demand a lighter held high overhead — seem to speak directly to me. One that came at a particularly needful time of my life was Creed’s 1999 angsty tune “Higher.” The part I liked to sing along with — very angstily and with marginal tunefulness — went a little something like this:
When dreaming I’m guided through another world
Time and time again
At sunrise I fight to stay asleep
…’Cause there’s a hunger, a longing to escape
From the life I live when I’m awake
…But, my friend, I’d sacrifice all those nights
If I could make the Earth and my dreams the same…
I thought I’d sacrifice anything to make my dream come true. My dream, essentially forever, was to be a published author. I’d been writing for a long time, and I felt like I was stuck in one of those running dreams, going nowhere. I admit, my authoring dream may have been slightly misinformed early on by a particular heroine of mine:
As a kid, I’d read an article about Dame Barbara Cartland that talked about how she wrote a $#!+load of books while reclining on a pink divan, reciting the stories in her head to a secretary, whilst caressing her dogs. For some reason, in my memory, the article said the dogs were pink too, although this picture I found doesn’t corroborate.
Regardless, based on that article, my dream went a little something like this:
Have a dog
Write all day long…
So, turns out, the third one is doable and the last part is a must. Here are a few lessons I learned in between dreaming of being a published author and waking up as one:
1. Dreams take work.
And not the kind of work I normally do in dreams. In a high percentage of my night-time dreams, I’m some sort of super-spy skulking around. Which is cool. Unlike my second most common dream occupation which is hiding from monsters. Actually, now that I think about it, my night-time dreams are sort of decent practice for my day dreams. But really, the work of dreams requires more sweat and less flying than the dream of dreams.
2. Dreams can be as surreal in real life as they are in dreams.
The funny thing about dreams is — Creed’s wishes aside — they don’t always look the same in real life. The Earth and my dreams will never be the same — for which my black labrador is very grateful, since making her Cartland pink would actually be a nightmare.
3. Dreams need more dreams.
At my writers’ group holiday party this weekend, one of the other writers, who I hadn’t seen in awhile, said to me, “You did it!” As if “it” was ever done. The dream doesn’t end when you wake up. The dream-come-true is very much like the endless rooms dream, where every door leads someplace new.
Speaking of doors, sometimes The Doors got a little trippy, but I always liked this line from “Awake”:
Shake dreams from your hair
My pretty child, my sweet one.
Choose the day…
If you were going to choose the next step toward making your dream a reality, where would the path take you?
by KimLenox on December 13th, 2009
I’ve been really thrilled with the covers for my Shadow Guard series. One thing that happened that I really didn’t expect, was that I actually got some input. For example, the cover for NIGHT FALLS DARKLY is based on an actual scene for the book where Archer, Lord Black, is standing at the base of St. Botolph’s steeple, looking out over London’s Whitchapel district. I submitted the scene with my ideas for my book’s cover conference.
A cover conference is where your editor asks you to send in some character and plot information, and some ideas for artwork, and then they go in and meet whoever from the art department. Mystery Art Department Person/People.
I also received a really nice e-mail from the historical costumers who costumed the model, Nathan Kamp. They asked what Archer might be wearing. I also got to specify the weapon he’d be holding.
When I saw the final result, I was truly speechless. It’s really amazing to see something you’ve created in words, come to life as a vision.
For my upcoming April release, DARKER THAN NIGHT, one of my ideas was that my hero be shown with dark raven’s wings, because he’s the Ravenmaster of the Tower of London. The wings got nixed — instead (see below), I just got “yummy”. Hey, I can’t complain!