Archive for the 'Happy Holidays!' Category

Release week!
by Jessa Slade on May 31st, 2010

First of all, today is Memorial Day here in the USA.  I hope everyone celebrating has a good BBQ, safe travels, and a chance for a quiet moment of remembrance.

Currently working on: Almost release day!
Mood: Whee!

This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is “the hardest part of writing.”  But I’m hijacking the thread, because this is a celebration week for me.   Book 2 of the Marked Souls, FORGED OF SHADOWS, comes out tomorrow, June 1, 2010!


The war between good and evil has raged for millennia, with the Marked Souls caught in the middle, but the new girl doesn’t play by old rules…

Liam Niall never meant to be a leader. Barely surviving the horrors of the Irish Potato Famine with body and soul intact, he escaped to Chicago…where he lost half his soul and gained a wayward band of demon-possessed warriors. Now, as the talyan face a morphing evil, Liam grows weary and plagued by doubt-until a new weapon falls into his hands. Her name is Jilly Chan. To save her demon-ridden soul, Liam must win her to his battle…and his bed.

Waging a one-woman war against the threats to the street kids she mentors, Jilly won’t be any man’s woman or weapon. But Liam-with his hard eyes, soft brogue and compelling hands-is a danger to her rebellious independence…and her heart.

These two halved souls sharing one fierce passion will sear a fresh scar across the city. Who’s in danger now?

“[F]or readers who love J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, the Marked Souls series will hit the spot.”
–4 Stars RT BOOKReviews

This is only my second book, but so far, it seems to me that release week  is one of the EASIEST parts of writing.  Because by the time release week rolls around, it’s too damn late.  Everything has been done.  The story is written, edited, wrapped in a manly chest — or backside, as the case may be — printed, and shipped to the stores (hopefully) to appear on shelves.  From thence to fall into book baskets everywhere (again, hopefully).

Sure, there are other things for me to do: Bite my nails, obsessively click refresh on the Amazon ranking page, self-medicate with chocolate syrup (I already ate all the cookie dough).  But the story itself is done.  All that remains is for someone, somewhere, to read it.

If YOU want to read some of it, you can:
Check out the first chapters here.
Or read the alternate beginning here.
Or even buy it.

This is the moment (okay, months) of truth for a story.  I’ve heard of writers who say they write for themselves, but I write to share.  The release of the book into the wild is my chance — finally! — to share.

I sincerely hope you like it.

To celebrate, I’m giving away a $25 bookstore gift card this week.  Just tell me which of the two beginnings to FORGED OF SHADOWS that I posted in the links above you like better, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win.  Tell a friend about this giveaway, and have the friend enter your name in her comment, and you’ll both be double entered for a chance to win.  Thanks for celebrating with me!

Women, emotions and romance
by Jessa Slade on February 8th, 2010

Currently working on: Unearthing the revised Book 3 from the rotting corpse of Book 3 — phoenix, arise!
Mood: Frankenstein-esque

It’s Valentine’s week.  If you haven’t signed up for the Silk And Shadows newsletter (look to the left side of the page) today’s the day.  Our next newsletter goes out soon and there are Valentine’s giveaways to be won.

And speaking of Valentine’s…  Will I be drummed out of the romance lovers’ league if I say aloud that I think Valentine’s Day is a crock?  In college, some women in my dorm donned black armbands on Valentine’s Day, and I wore one in solidarity.  One of my roommates (who, yes, had a boyfriend with whom she had a lovely relationship judging from the late-night noises coming from the bunk across the very tiny room) accused me of being bitter and jealous nerd.  I said, Duh.

But it seems to me that many of the traditions of Valentine’s don’t feel like any romance I’d want to have.  Roses wither in a disturbingly short period of time.  The milk chocolate bon-bons pushed on us are a poor, cheap substitute for the real deal.  At least there’re sparkly diamonds… Except now we’re told diamonds are just the blood-soaked refuse of terrible Third World conflict.

What’s a girl to do? 

Besides read a romance novel, I mean.


 What I learned from romance novels that Valentine’s Day got wrong:

1. Love is not a one-day affair.
Indeed not.  Love is at least a week-long affair with a Sicilian billionaire.  Or maybe an eternity with a vampire prince.  But definitely not a mere 24 hours in February.

2. Love means having to say… lots.
Words are the measure of the man.  Backed up with action, of course.  Lots and lots of hot action.  But I want more words than fit on 5×7 cardstock even if it has a glittered butterfly and embossed heart.  Somewhere between 200-400 pages of words should just about do it.

3. Love is sacrifice.
This one Valentine’s Day got right.  According to the story, Valentine was a saint who martyred himself for lovers.  Romance novels are all about the sacrifice the lovers make to be together.  They give up their loneliness, their distrust, their prejudices, even though sometimes giving up their lives would’ve felt easier.  And at the end, they don’t always get flowers and chocolate and sparkly jewelry, the love is a given.

Do you have a Valentine’s tradition that you adore?  Feel free to create one.  We write our own stories here.

Ready… Set… Resolve!
by Jessa Slade on January 4th, 2010

Currently working on: The race to The End
Mood: High on naturally induced painkillers

Last week, I talked about how at the end of the year, I like to look back and see what I learned (if anything).  So of course the start of the new year is a time to look forward.

Because I’m looking forward and see mostly a monstrous looming deadline, I was gonna totally cheat and review last year’s resolutions… maybe cut’n'paste since I never keep my New Year’s Resolutions anyway…  Imagine my horror when I scrolled back and realized I totally cheated last year and didn’t actually write down any resolutions at all!

Who’s in charge of these things?

So, okay, fine, this year, I resolved to make real resolutions.  But I decided resolutions aren’t enough, since we all hear stories (I think I might have just mentioned one) about how nobody keeps their New Year’s Resolutions.  This year, each resolution (a “how”) is backed up by a goal (a “what”) and a dream (a “why”).  That way, whenever I’m tempted to not keep my resolution, I’ll be able to see what I was trying to accomplish and — more importantly — why.

Add 10 minutes to my daily workout.  (Since my daily workout is currently zero if I don’t count the dog walks, this should be achievable, even for a slug like me.)
Goal: Stave off the cookie-induced metabolic collapse I’m told is in my near future.
Dream: Touch my toes with my head on my knees — Literally, I’ve had this dream, like, a half dozen times in the last two years, and I’ve never been able to bend completely in half like that.

First attempt: I’m typing this while sitting on an exercise ball.  My 1950s office chair (complete with cigarette burns!) is the antithesis of ergonomic, and I can’t splurge on a real chair right now.  I read that people stuck for long hours on computers can benefit from rolling around on a ball.  It’s definitely more fun than a chair. 

Increase my writing pace by 500 words every night by June; increase by another 500 words by this time nex year.
Goal: Write faster.  (This is my eternal goal; I should just say that now.)
Dream: Sneak a new book into my writing schedule.

First attempt: In the rush to The End of Book 3, I have to actually meet my old resolution on word count.  I figure that’s a place to start before stretching forward.

 Say once nice thing about my achievements aloud every day week.
Goal: Transition my Eeyore mindset to a more Piglet philosophy.
Dream: Learn to assess my fears and wishes in alignment with the truth of the challenges that face me.

First attempt: I haven’t fallen off my balance ball.  Yet. 

I’m off to a great start!  Update coming next year!

Guest Author - Donna Grant
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?


donna_grantFirst, 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.

dangeroushighlander_300x186In 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


Merry Christmas!
by Jessa Slade on December 21st, 2009

xmas-treeOr 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!

Release the hounds… I mean, books!
by Jessa Slade on November 30th, 2009

Currently working on: Racing deadlines
(Have you looked at a calendar lately?!)
Mood: Arriba, arriba!

Congratulations to fellow Silk And Shadows author Sharon Ashwood on the release of SCORCHED tomorrow!  Happy almost-Release Day, Sharon!

The writing life might be mostly (okay, by percentages, pretty much only) hours at a computer – just writer and words and weird, echoy voices in your head — but there are a few highlights, and the release of a new book is definitely one of them.  It’s been two whole months since my first book came out, and I’m still having tons of fun with it.

For example, I just attended my first book club meeting with the Cheeky Pages Romance Book Club at Powells Books in Beaverton.  Kind of scary, since they were readers who’d actually read SEDUCED BY SHADOWS.  To ward off any potential scariness in the form of literary criticism, I bribed them with brought two cakes from His Bakery, arguably (and yes, I’m happy to argue this point with you if it means a taste-testing tour) one of the best bakeries in Portland.


(Pictured from left: Raspberry Revel in White and Chocolate Indulgence — Comfortably serves 18 romance-reading ladies with enough left over for XY and breakfast. I can also vouch for their chocolate chip cookies and breads.  Yum.)

jessa-chicagoEarlier this month, I also went to Chicago for a stock book signing tour.  Stock signing is a guerrilla book tour where the author hits as many bookstores as she can, signing the books in stock (hence “stock signing”) and putting a cute “Signed by author” sticker on the front.  Every copy of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS I could find in every Borders and Barnes & Noble and Anderson’s in the Chicagoland area now has my awkward scrawl plus a bookmark plus a custom @1 temporary tattoo (inside joke from the story). 

(Pictured: Jessa Slade, somewhat chilly author who needs another haircut, on the new bridge to the Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing (don’t get me started on the “string of lightbulbs” installation) with Millenium Park in the background.)

If you happen to live in Chicago and manage to find a book that I didn’t tag, I’m sorry.  I did a terrible job Googlemapping the tour — hey, it was my first! — and might have missed a store or two.  Especially if it was located next to a creepy alley or other potential demon fighting location, since I took a bunch of notes while I was there and might have gotten distracted.  Just email me and I’ll mail you the bookmark and tattoo plus a signed bookplate.

The best part of finally having a book out is forcing my entire family to read it.


(Pictured above: Entire family reading SEDUCED BY SHADOWS — with certain pages excised for a certain person under 4′ tall.  Note the crazy pyramid of books on the tabletop behind us.)

Favorite stories from my first release — so far:

  • A co-worker of my dad’s sent him home with her copy for me to sign.  She attempted to give him the book in her office and he explained how he really, really wasn’t going to walk across the truckyard with Archer’s bare chest shining in the sun.  So the book came to me in plain, brown paper wrapping.  Archer as contraband!
  • Walking into a random Chicago bookstore to sign stock, finding a random salesperson to let her know I wasn’t defacing their property — honestly – and her saying, “Jessa Slade?  I know you!”  Really?!
  • My grandmother went to dinner at the retirement center the other night to find her fellow nonagenarians gleefully discussing “Page 100.”  Yes, my work here is done.

Have you ever attended a book signing or other author event?  What was your favorite part?  If — purely hypothetically — an author was going to bribe you with bring a cake, what flavor would you prefer and how many slices would ensure a six-star Amazon review?

Talking Turkey
by Annette McCleave on November 24th, 2009

As the end of 2009 draws near, it’s a natural time to reflect. The old year is settling back on its heels, and the new year is bright and shiny and just visible around the corner. Sometimes it’s hard to see that brightness, especially when things have been particularly dark, but the light is always there if you look for it.

I’m grateful for many things this year…

1. The roof over my head and the food on my table. So many people, especially now, are going without. I’m lucky, and I know it.

2. My health and the health of my loved ones. Having been hit hard by cancer, my family is particularly conscious of how short life can be. We’ve learned to make every minute last.

3. My family. The product of a military life of the move, my family has always been tightly knit, but amazingly, as the years pass, we seem to grow even closer.

4. My dreams. Two years ago, my dream of becoming a published author was just that, a dream. This year, it’s reality. If I had never dared to dream, if I had never pursued that dream with passion, my reality would be very different.

5. The people who inspire me. The world news delivered to our door each day can be harsh and cruel and dispiriting. But time and time again, I’ve been blessed to see and hear stories of courage and selflessness that make me proud to be human. Sometimes those stories come from people I don’t know, sometimes from my friends and neighbors. Sometimes they’re about little things, sometimes large and wondrous things. Many times the inspiration comes from unexpected sources, including honest and heartfelt comments on blogs like this one.

6. My readers. This one is new, and absolutely amazing. I’ve received wonderful letters from readers who’ve connected with my characters. That they’ve taken time out of their busy lives to write me and tell me so has repeatedly put a huge smile on my face.

I hope all of you have a terrific Thanksgiving holiday. Stay safe, eat well, and be loved.

Giving thanks
by Jessa Slade on November 23rd, 2009

Currently working on: National Novel Writing Month (which, in order to meet my deadline, is actually National Novel Writing Quarter)
Mood: Is there an adjective for ‘hip waders’?

This is a thoughtful time of year for me.  The combination of the calendar’s end, the long hours of darkness, the overconsumption of carbohydrates, and those crazy “family newsletters” tucked into Christmas cards from people I haven’t heard from since last year — all contribute to a general feeling of contemplative consideration.

This year has been particularly noteworthy because my first book came out.


As a dream come true, “the year of the book” as my mom calls it also lent itself to multiple opportunities to fall on my knees in heartfelt, gleeful thanks.  I gave thanks for the sexy hero who made my lady friends go “ooh”; I gave thanks for my spectacular editor and agent who walked me through the maze; I gave a big sigh of relieved thanks when the book actually showed up on bookstore shelves last month and I could hold the dream in my hands…

I’m thankful for my writer friends who came out in White Russian-fueled giddiness to my first official booksigning; I’m thankful for the new reader friends who’ve sent me emails saying they liked the story and are waiting for the next one (me too!); I’m thankful for the idea butterflies (actually, some of them are dragons) that keep coming at me when I’m trying to sleep.

It’s been a difficult year too, with some of the world’s financial troubles echoed in my circle and in my home.  But I’m thankful it’s not worse, and I’m thankful those aforementioned idea dragons will always burn their way to the heart of a happy ending.  Hey, I’m thankful I write romance!

In the midst of my gratitude, of course, I also see all the ways I could’ve been/done/had better.  But that’s for New Year’s Resolutions.  For now…


(And you all can be thankful that my attempt to Photoshop a turkey under Archer’s arm was a miserable failure.)

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.


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?