Archive for the 'Research' Category

History in the remaking
by Jessa Slade on November 16th, 2009

Currently working on: Replotting Book 3
Mood: Annoyed (who plotted Book 3 the first time ’round?)

I love a good story.  I am less enthused about “real life.”  Real life is too often poorly plotted, with slow pacing, wimpy motivation and murky conflict.  And a lot of times there are too many coincidences.  And not enough sex.

For those reasons, I don’t read a lot of biographies.  They just aren’t as engaging to me as a well-crafted, entirely fictional story.  The parts I like of the “based on the true story” movies are the not-true parts.  Although I make a few exceptions.

The movie GRIZZLY MAN is one of those exceptions.  Not only is Werner Herzog an intriguing storyteller, his subject — an obsessed man and the unrelenting power of nature — was too engrossing to need fictionalizing.

But as anyone who has tried to convince a 9-year-0ld why he has to do his American history homework can tell you, history poorly told can be dry, disconnected and booooring.  So I don’t usually feature a lot of real-life historical events or people in my stories.

Which was a bit of a problem when I decided to have immortal heroes in my Marked Souls series, many of whom were born in long-gone eras. 

Even in a contemporary story, characters are influenced by historical events, whether from their own personal history or the times through which they lived.  Having characters who have existed for a couple hundred years — experiencing times outside my personal knowledge and, really, my interest — was daunting.

And kind of fascinating.  I started poking around in past events, looking for times when circumstances might have been such that the demons of my storyworld — repentant and otherwise — would have found plenty of vulnerable souls to possess.

Ferris Archer, the hero of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS (October 2009), was merely a farmer’s son — but a Southern farmer during the Civil War.  One of the heartbreaking aspects of that particular war was the way it pitted brother against brother.  Obviously, when better to rebirth a man pitted against himself?

In Book 2 of the series, FORGED OF SHADOWS (June 2010), Liam Niall’s soul was winnowed down to rotting pulp during the Irish Potato Famine.  Though he has honed himself to a fighting edge when we meet him, that hunger is still inside and makes him vulnerable not just to the demon that took him but — decades later — to his heroine.

All through history, we’ve had times when men were challenged… and found wanting.  I like this oppportunity to give them a second chance in my stories.   Not that it’ll be easy, of course.  It never is.  And that’s true of fiction and real life both.

Which time period in history do you think created the most lost souls?

Crosstown traffic
by Jessa Slade on October 5th, 2009

Currently working on: Biting nails for tomorrow’s official release!
Mood: Thinking about buying nail polish

Ever since I read a review of the first season of 24 and the reviewer complained how nobody could travel around congested LA and still have time to save the world, I’ve been conscious of my characters’ modes of transportation.  What would a demon-possessed immortal warrior clan keep in their company fleet?


In Book 1 of The Marked Souls, the Chicago league has done well for itself over the centuries, and has invested in a sturdy collection of decent towncars and SUVs.  Nothing flashy, of course — wouldn’t want to draw attention to the end of the world, or anything – just need a few big trunks to haul the bodies around after a particularly grim night of demon-slaying.

Due to some unfortunate circumstances in Book 1, however (totally not my fault!) by Book 2, they are reduced to rougher rides.

I admit, part of the downgrading has to do with my own travel methods.  As long as all wheels spin in approximately the same direction, I don’t much care about style.  My car shows the dings of many a camping adventure (who knew a pot hole could get so big in a desert?), and my bike’s not much better — a no-speed cruiser with rust patches.  But, hey, it gets me to the dog park.

If our vehicles say something about us, my rides better keep their mouths shut.

And while we’re on the topic of movin’ movin’ movin’,  I have a little movie I’d like to share as I move one step closer to release day!


Just a minute
by Jessa Slade on May 18th, 2009

Currently working on: Breaking Book 2 of The Marked Souls
Mood: Remember Stitch from Lilo & Stitch? Yeah, that

Who has free time anymore?  Not me.  And yet somehow I manage to eke out a few minutes every so often to visit a few websites that amuse or inspire me.  This is for my mental health, you understand.

The Onion

I was introduced to The Onion — which bills itself as America’s Finest News Source — when I picked up a huge bound version of their fake newspapers.  Several hundred pages of fake (and yet strangely true) news later, I was numb from laughter.  Their online edition is much gentler.  Not because they water down their stinging, biting, bitterly absurd view of the world, but at least you have a chance to recover from your aching belly (from laughing) and your watering eyes (hey, it’s an onion, after all.)

One of their videos went viral recently.  Perhaps you saw it:

Video »
Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As ‘Fun, Watchable’
Star Trek Long time fans of the Star Trek franchise say JJ Abrams’ enjoyable, engaging prequel betrays what Star Trek is all about….more»

Some of their other recent headlines:
Paranoid Optimist Just Knows Someone Is Out To Get Him A Present
Misbuttoned Coat Makes Perfectly Sane Woman Look Like Raving Lunatic

What I love most about The Onion is their ability to fill 18-36 column inches of ridiculousness and keep a straight face the entire time.  I feel that way somedays; who doesn’t?

Etsy Dark Side

I busted a co-worker guiltily blanking her monitor one day.  When I forced her to confess, she introduced me to Etsy, the small designer arts and crafts site.  Thus, she got her revenge.  From Etsy, I discovered Etsy Dark Side, which showcases works dark and dreamy.

Even when I’m not in a position to buy (this thrice-blasted economy) I enjoy looking at the twisted brilliance that goes into some of these efforts.  Consider this gorgeous necklace, perfect for a steampunk heroine, or this… ?!:

The freaky little head is a pirate treasure box from The Pink Pirate shop, made of Fimo clay and glass eyeballs (only where needed, of course). 

I dabble in beading, painting, sculpting, etc. myself, so I am constantly amazed by the imagination and craftsmanship I find on Etsy Dark Side.  Plus, it pleases me to know that for every porcelain Lladro of a slender shepherdess with her adorable flock, on Etsy Dark Side there is a riotgrrl statuette with a battle axe.

Lastly, although I am not a huge fan of reality television (because I have my own dramas, thank you very much) I am drawn to PostSecret.  There’s a series of books based on the premise of anonymously sending a postcard of your deepest secret to a stranger who, priest-like, collects them without judgment and — not priest-like — posts them for other strangers to read. 

Since Frank, the creator, gets 1000 postcards a week, obviously a lot of people have secrets to share.  Every Sunday, a few more secrets appear on the blog.  Most of them would make suitably tortured characters in a romance novel.  Some of the secrets are funny, and some have lessons, including one that made a reader wake up and leave her abusvie boyfriend:

Those 3×5 postcards — like the scraps of information that float around the interwebs — might just be time wasters — or life savers.

Have you ever discovered something on the internet that changed your life, or just tweaked it a bit?  And remember, lives change in small ways too.

Run away!
by Jessa Slade on February 16th, 2009


Currently working on: Nothing!
Mood: Somewhat guilty, actually

With winter still firmly plunked on the Pacific Northwest in the form of gray skies, gray water and gray moods, this week’s topic about imagining our characters on winter holiday is particularly fun. What makes it even more fun for me, is that I’m not here! I’m in Chicago on break.

Yeah, the Windy City in February. Okay, so it’s not where most people — or characters — dream of spending a few free winter days. But I have a bit of research to do. As I mentioned once before, Liam and Jilly, the leads from Book 2, get into a spot of trouble on the ‘L,’ the elevated train tracks downtown. I also need to make a run through Chinatown, go dancing at a cool nightclub, and hit up this supposedly awesome bra boutique, which are all things my hero and heroine do. Yes, even the underwear shopping. Although the hero did that, so you know it’s fiction. I would PAY my hero to go bra shopping for me.

But I digress. That’s what happens when you’re slacking on vacation.

Actually, my heroes don’t get much time off. Saving the world, blah blah. Their version of downtime is sharpening their weapons. If Sera and Archer from Book 1 were contemplating glossy four-color brochures of potential holidays away, their conversation might go something like this:

Sera: You’d look fantastic in that Speedo, love.

Archer: Where would I keep my bad-ass recurved demon-slaying ax? Would that count as a carry-on or personal item?

And that would be the end of Sera and Archer’s Caribbean adventure. So until they rid the world of evil, they’re stuck in Chicago. And I’m with them for a long weekend.

If you could put aside your saving of the world for a weekend, where would you want to go right now?