Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Children of Scarabaeus – release day!

Thanks for your entries. The winner was chosen randomly (random.org) and it's Scorpio M. Congrats! I'll be contacting you for your mailing address.

Today in the US, my second book Children of Scarabaeus is released. It’s the sequel to Song of Scarabaeus, and for those of you who've read the first book, it picks up right where that story left off. Edie and Finn continue their adventures in a far-flung corner of the galaxy, attempting to bring hope to the Fringe worlds but thwarted in their plans by the dastardly Crib empire.

Edie and Finn are bound together by a “leash” – a transmitter/receiver arrangement whereby if Edie dies or goes out of range, a little bomb in Finn’s head explodes. The bad guys created the leash to force Finn, an ex-con, to become Edie’s bodyguard. Neither of them is happy about it. What makes them even more unhappy is that it’s malfunctioning. Whenever Edie feels strong emotions, Finn gets a blast of uncomfortable static directly into his brain. As you can imagine, this hinders the progression of their romantic relationship. But never fear. This couple has been through a lot together, and they don’t give up easily.

You can read the first few chapters of Children of Scarabaeus on HarperCollins’s website here. If you do read the entire book, I’d love your feedback. Tell me what you think! Email me or write a review on Amazon. If you review the book on your site, drop me a note and I'll tweet about it. Also, visit my blog this week for a chance to win a cool Finn & Edie mousemat, and follow my blog tour for other giveaways.

Giveaway time
(Happy dance!)
To celebrate the release, I'm giving away a copy of Children of Scarabaeus along with a nifty matching signed bookmark. For a chance to win, post a comment on this thread and answer this question:

What’s your favorite sci-fi romantic pairing in a book, movie or TV show?

Contest ends on Sunday 3rd April at 11:59 PM EST. I will randomly select one winner and post their name at the top of this post, so please check back after Sunday. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Readers and Authors F2F

The WINNER of the $25 Amazon Gift Certificate is
                  ~ Bethany C ~

Bethany, please get in touch with me via my website's
contact page at http://dakota-banks.com. Thanks to everyone 
who shared a comment. I enjoyed reading all of them!

They say writing's a lonely business. Whoever "they" are, they're right. There's no avoiding the application of one's butt to a chair in front of a computer for long hours in solitude. Sometimes days can slip by when my view of the world is through my office window. Happily, there's a cure for a writer's isolation: conferences! Time to get out and network with other writers, talk with readers, learn a little something, and maybe visit an interesting new city. Selling books and getting your name out there add to the benefits. For readers, it's a chance to get to know the authors of your favorite books face-to-face, to be surrounded by people who share your love of books, and to make new friendships and rejuvenate old ones. Plus, there's one element no conference should be without: fun!

Here are a couple of major conferences that fit the bill. I recommend these from personal experience, and you'll find supernatural authors at both of them!

ThrillerFest VI
July 6-9, 2011
Grand Hyatt Hotel
New York City

This is the sixth annual ThrillerFest. I've been to every one since International Thriller Writers began having them. This conference has grown roots in New York City (at least for the foreseeable future), due in part to the availability of many agents for its AgentFest event. For authors looking for agents, it is a dream come true: pitching f2f with 50+ top NY agents (all accepting new clients) in one afternoon! This is a vibrant, growing conference that showcases the thriller genre, the only one of its kind. A spectacular lineup of top thriller authors can be found here, and one of the amazing things about ThrillerFest is its intimacy. Authors are accessible, ready to sign books, have their photographs taken with you, and chat in the halls. Head for the bar when the day winds down and you'll find it filled with authors you can talk to--just walk up and join a group.

This conference offers two days oriented toward writers (CraftFest/AgentFest), followed by two days for readers and everyone else in the publishing field (ThrillerFest), followed by a glittering and glamorous Awards Banquet. You pick the events you want to attend. Headliners this year are R.L. Stine, Ken Follett, Robert Crais, Diana Gabaldon, John Lescroart, Joe McGinniss, and Karin Slaughter, plus many more. Exciting, fun, and unique. You'll be talking about this experience long after it's over. Add a new dimension to your conference experience by volunteering.

"A few years ago, I was asked, 'What is ThrillerFest?' I replied that ThrillerFest is Summer Camp for thriller readers, fans, writers and industry professionals. That definition stuck, and the truth of those words grows with each ThrillerFest, as we come together in New York to make new friends, learn, and share our love of the thriller genre." - Kathleen Antrim, International Thriller Writers, Vice President - National Events, ThrillerFest Chair

Bouchercon 2011
September 15-18, 2011
The Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel
St. Louis, Missouri

This is the 42nd annual Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. The first part of the name rhymes with voucher. The name Bouchercon and the associated Anthony Awards were named to honor the memory of Anthony Boucher, an author of mystery and science fiction novels and short stories and an influential editor. Bouchercon moves from city to city each year, and lives up to its name as the World Mystery Convention by being held abroad occasionally.

Bouchercon is a B-L-A-S-T! I have been to six of them and loved every one. This one will be in my backyard and I'll be doing a lot of volunteering, something I highly recommend. Bouchercon can seem overwhelming at first--many people and many things to do--and I'd suggest going with a friend, especially if you are a conference newbie. You'll make new friends there, too, and probably see them year after year when you return. You will love the bookroom. Dozens of independent bookstores from all over the country are represented. Authors make the rounds of the bookroom signing at the tables, plus there are designated signing periods. Panels galore! So many panels your head will be spinning and you'll wish you could be several places at once. If you register for Bouchercon, you get to vote for the recipients of the Anthony Awards, which are readers' choice awards. Bouchercon is not sponsored by a specific writers' organization. It's more of a "by the people, for the people" event. That means you'll see writers from a number of different organizations there. You'll bring home books and memories and start planning your next year's attendance.  

"Bouchercon is a fan convention for people who love mysteries and crime fiction and thrillers. The beautiful thing about it is the sheer volume of fans. The St. Louis Bouchercon this year is anticipating at least 1,800 fans to show up for four days of panels and events. With over 400 authors it gives the fans an awful lot to choose from. This year's highlights include a bowling tournament for charity, a live performance by Max Allan Collins' band Cruisin', and a live auction run by Mark Billingham and Laura Lippman. Plus the guests of honor are incredible. Sara Paretsky, Charlaine Harris, Robert Crais, Val McDermid, Colin Cotteril, Robert Randisi and John Lutz and Kate Stine and Brian Skupin of Mystery Scene magazine. Bouchercon has something for EVERY mystery and crime fiction fan!" - Jon Jordan, Chair, Bouchercon 2011

I'd love to see you at either or both of these conferences. Be sure to introduce yourself! I'll be handing out free pens. Leave a comment to tell me about your past experiences with ThrillerFest, Bouchercon, or your favorite conference. If you're attending this year, what are you looking forward to most? Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered in a random drawing for a $25 Amazon gift certificate!! Start your spring off right with new books of your choice! :) Last chance to enter is Thursday, March 31st, and the winner will be announced at the top of this post on April 1st.


Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Hunt a Husband: Part Two

And the winner of a signed copy of Be Still my Vampire Heart is-- Pat Cochran! Congrats, Pat! And many thanks to everyone who stopped by. I loved all the comments! If you check the Appearances page on my website, www.kerrelynsparks.com, you will find a lot of blogs and interviews in the next few weeks with a lot more chances to win free books!

(Kerrelyn has chosen a man out of a book at a video dating service. His name is Don, and his birthday is the same as hers).

After a few days, I received a phone call from the video dating service. Don wanted to meet me. They gave me his phone number and told me that he now had my number. I paced about the house. What to do? Should I wait for him to call? No! The Husband Huntress would be brave and make the first move.

I called. He was charming and made me laugh. We decided to meet the following Saturday for breakfast, and that day just happened to be our birthday!!

That Saturday, I packed a little birthday cake in the car and drove to the restaurant. He was just as handsome as his photo. We talked and laughed. I pulled out a copy of my birth certificate so he could see it. His jaw dropped.

Don: Your father’s name is Lester?

Me: Yes.

Don: So is mine.

A moment of silence while we adjusted to this strange development.

Me: Did your father do any long-distance business trips before we were born?

Don: Yes.

We compared notes about our fathers to make sure we weren’t actually a long-lost brother and sister, in which case, we had to stop dating immediately! It turned out we weren’t related, so we laughed and the date continued.

Me: It says on my birth certificate that I was born at 7:20 in the morning. What time were you born?

Don: I don’t know, but I bet I’m older than you. (He called his mother, and she couldn’t remember the exact time. It was some time between 7 and 8 in the morning.)

We laughed over that. Then I went out to the car to fetch the cake. He was so surprised! The waiters came over and sang “Happy Birthday” to us. Weeks later, he admitted he fell for me on that first date.

Six months later, we were married. Don had a son from his first marriage just like I did (and both boys were born in May, fancy that!). You might think the story ended there, but remember the last part of my wish? I wanted another child, hopefully a little girl. My husband and I (since we’re both equally crazy!) decided we should have the baby on our birthday. We counted back nine months, then rented a hotel room in Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is a charming town in the Texas Hill Country founded by German immigrants over a hundred years ago. We ate apple strudel, wiener schnitzel, and got down to business.

A month later, the results came in. I was pregnant. My husband was very proud. And the doctor gave us the due date for the baby. Gasp!! It turns out that the gestation period for a human baby is not exactly nine months. We were ten days off our target date!

The due date arrived. The baby didn’t.

Five days later, our baby girl was born. She’d missed our birthday by four days. And her parents still didn’t know which one of them was older.

With three children to raise, I retired from teaching and became a full-time mom. But with my mind unoccupied for hours at a time, the old desire to write came back to haunt me. Finally, I gave in and started writing. When my son found out I was attempting to write a book, he ran to tell my husband. Don came into the room with a stunned look on his face.

Don: You’re writing a book?

Me: (blushing) Yes.

Don: (nods his head) Let me know when we need to go to New York to sell it.

My jaw dropped. With that one line, he had let me know that a) he believed I could write, b) he believed I could finish the book, and c) he believed the book would be good enough to sell to a publisher in New York.

My hero!!! Just like the heroines in my favorite Romance books, I had found my ‘happily ever after!”

And by the way, we eventually discovered that I’m the oldest. By twenty minutes.

Connor’s book, Vampire Mine, releases in just four days!!! To celebrate, I’m giving away a signed book that features the first kilted vampire hero, Angus MacKay. For a chance to win a signed copy of Be Still my Vampire Heart, please leave a comment and tell me who’s your favorite Scottish vampire. Please include an email address so I can contact you. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TEEN DAY AT RT! (Or the biggest thing since sliced bread)

The other day, fellow Undergrounder Nicole posted about how excited she is about RT (the upcoming Romantic Times Convention in Los Angeles). And I’m excited for all the same reasons she is…plus ONE MORE!

This year, RT has expanded to add a huge TEEN DAY Celebration. And when I say huge, I mean gi-freakin-normous!!! Yeah, it's that big.

Check it out…

On Saturday, April 9th, it’s Teen Day at the Romantic Times Convention! You can see all the haps in the lower left-hand corner there:

Come and mingle with the superstars of YA. (Oh, and I’ll be there too!)

And…if you want to skip the all-day events (you know, like the SUPER COOL party!), you can just attend the signing from 11-2PM and it’s only $5.

For all the latest updates, follow RT Teen Day on Twitter

And Facebook

So if you’re in the area, I’ll totally see you there, right?

Trust me, you don't want to miss this!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Excitement building for RT Convention!

In a little over ten days, I hop on a plane in Sydney, Australia and depart it some thirteen hours later in Los Angeles!

I'm so excited - it's my first trip to America. I've been going nuts and have worked out my itinerary - I'm staying in Hollywood to start, and I'm doing a mix of geeky stuff (La Brea tar pits), sporty stuff (LA Dodgers at home v SF) and celebrity stuff (studio tour). I've organised an overnight trip to San Fransisco, where I'll be checking out Alcatraz among other things. I've got a day organised in Pasadena (where I'll not only be taking tea with Gail Carriger but then checking out Big Bang Theory mentioned places) and my last day in the region will be in Santa Monica.

However, the big reason I'm coming over is the RT Convention. I'm a little scared, I will admit - I've only been to science fiction conventions here in Australia and they're lucky to get over 300 folks (although Worldcon last year was much bigger). I'm guessing my first viewing of RT is going to make me simultaneously hyped and terrified.

But it's going to be great for a number of reasons:

a) I'll get to meet several of my fellow Supernatural Undergrounders
b) I'll get to meet some of my favourite authors
c) I'm going to learn A LOT about the state of the industry in the US (which isn't just bigger than Australia, but different in many, many ways)
d) I'll get to spend days talking romance, heroes, heroines, things that go bump in the night (both in good and bad ways) with fellow devotees.

I'm bringing a few physical copies of my books over, since they're only available electronically in the States at the moment (well, they are on Kindle - if you've got a Kobo or iPad, you should be able to get them too). I'd love to bring masses over to entice you all, but I've got to bring SOME clothes with me (although US = shopping!!!!!). If you want to get a copy of Secret Ones or Power Unbound, I'll be at Club RT at 2.15 on Wednesday, otherwise if you catch up with me ask.

I hope I get to meet lots of you readers at RT as well - we already know we share a mutual love of PR/UF, so let's see what else we have in common too.

Are you going to be there? What are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Joss Ware/Red Riding Hood Winner!

Danielle Gorman, you get your pick from any of my books (as Colleen, Joss or Colette)!

I'll be in touch via email...or you can contact me at joss at josswarebooks dot com.


Ascension: An Excerpt

Ohmigosh! I can't believe how close we are to our debut! (insert shiver of excitement and terror here.) In just a little more than a month, Ascension will hit stores and we're going to hit the pharmacies for anti-anxiety meds. But for now, we wanted to share the first scene of the book right here at the Underground. And the winner is . . . Casey H. Congratulations! Thanks everyone who entered.


St. Augustine, Florida

Despite the chaos of war around her, she couldn’t help but hum Queen’s We Are the Champions in her head. Of course, We had become I as she’d twisted it to fit her mood for the night. She had an irresistible urge to flex her muscles, or strut, or . . . Something equally tacky.

It had been a long night, but a successful one. Most of the Chosen were safely tucked Below. The one her minions, Farrel and Crag, now carried was the last of the living on her list. The rest would be found . . . And buried . . . At daybreak. But what had her feeling as smug as a pig in dog shit was not the number she’d managed to find and save, but the who.

Jordan Faye. One of the most crucial finds on the Ancients’ list of Chosen.

Kyana slipped her daggers back into the sheaths at her back and boot and reached for the flare gun tucked in its holster on her hip. Behind her, Farrel and Crag grunted and whined about the burden they carried. Every Vamp within the Order of Ancients had minions to assist with the grunt work. Sadly, Farrel and Crag were hers. One look would shut them up, but she was in too much of a hurry to bother.

When they neared what had been the Castillo de San Marcos’s pay station only a week ago, she fired the flare gun and waited for the fiery burst to explode overhead and dissolve into a flurry of white dust that would alert the sentinels manning the gate. Like tiny puffs of smoke, the name Kyana slowly formed in the night sky, and the newly-working drawbridge lowered in recognition.

The Castillo was the oldest piece of stonework in North America. That it had held up against so many attacks over the years had made it the best choice for the Order to set up headquarters in the southeastern United States the moment the war between Hell and Earth had begun seven days ago. Sentinels walked the bastions, ready to fight to the death at any sign of trouble, and in the old storerooms beneath the sentinels’ patrol, Mystics had opened a portal to Below where the Chosen were taken for safety.

The night Tartarus opened and unleashed masses of Dark Breeds onto Earth, the residents of St. Augustine and neighboring cities had flocked to the old fort. Most of the Order argued to save as many as possible, but Kyana saw the folly in such emotionally-driven suicide. Sure, she didn’t want the world wiped clean of innocents any more than the gods of Olympus did, but, there was no way they could all be saved. Wiser to focus on the Chosen first, make sure they had a safe place to lay their heads. Then the Order could see to the everyday average Joes and Janes.

Behind Kyana, wails and shrieks, both human and non, had become the city’s soundtrack. There were Dark Breeds nearby. She could smell the scent of urine emitting off the demons, feel the blighted Vamps, and taste the sulfuric, restless souls that had been uprooted from their earthly graves to become what humans called Zombies and the Order referred to as Leeches. Kyana’s body itched to return to the streets and hunt, but she couldn’t. Not until she’d safely placed her catch inside the fort.

“Take her in,” she said, waiting impatiently for Farrel and Crag to adjust the weight of the woman they carried and shuffle up the walk toward the gate. Her gaze didn’t waiver from the unconscious body they toted. Other tracers had declared Jordan’s trail cold days ago, but Kyana had been too stubborn to admit defeat. There was a reason she was the best at her job. She had something other tracers lacked—the ability to hold onto a scent for days without it losing its potency. Jordan hadn’t been home in days, her trail had grown cold . . . For the others. But Kyana didn’t rely on tracking perfumes and other unstable, common odors. She clung to a particular pheromone and could follow it to Hell and back, no problem. One tiny trace of left-over fear in Jordan’s bed had led Kyana all around St. Augustine, and finally, to the damned garbage bin behind St. George Street that had smelled so foul it had nearly tripped Kyana up.

Though there was no tangible reward for doing their duty, competition among the tracers to find those at the top of the lists was high. Only one other tracer had ever come close to besting Kyana. But not tonight. She couldn’t wait to see Geoffrey’s face when he learned she’d been the one to find and rescue Jordan Faye.

As though summoned by her smug anticipation, Geoff stepped into Kyana’s path at the gate and cast a glance at the body in Farrel’s and Crag’s arms. “Another wee Mystic, I’m guessing?”

The spotlights bordering the walls of the fort cast him in an eerie glow. His small fangs glinted like freshly sharpened daggers and his dark blue eyes danced in the moonlight. At well over six feet, and broad enough to strain the threads of his black t-shirt, Geoffrey oozed danger. Her hormones kicked into overdrive. He reminded her of those exotic dancers at an all male revue she’d stumbled across once while on the hunt—hot and ready to deliver on a girl’s fantasies. As usual, Kyana was torn between strangling him and shoving him against the wall to see if he was just as thrilling naked as he was clothed. But sadly, Vamp-on-Vamp action was forbidden by the Order.

Geoff might be off limits for her sexually, but taunting him was its own form of entertainment.

“Actually, it’s Jordan Faye,” she said, keeping her gaze on him to watch his reaction.

His pale face strained with shock.

Kyana smiled, offered him a sarcastic salute, and followed her quarry down the stone steps and into a hollowed room. Jordan’s new quarters looked more like an ancient jail cell sans the bars, but the cauldron of glowing blue ointment glittering in the corner smelled bad enough to make any prison piss pot proud. Farrel and Crag clumsily placed Jordan’s limp body atop a dusty blanket spread out on the floor. She was a pretty thing with an elegant, long pale neck that brought a hollow ache to Kyana’s belly. Eighty years since she’d fed on fresh blood, yet the desire was no less than it had ever been.

When Farrel and Crag left the room, Kyana addressed the Mystic kneeling at Jordan’s side. “Looks like she’s been shot. Tend that wound first.”

Too many of the Chosen they’d found had been shot by the very police they’d hoped would save them. Cops had been ordered to kill on sight, not taking the time to make certain those they targeted weren’t human.

Kyana forced her gaze away from Jordan’s throat and settled it upon something far more interesting. At first, Kyana thought it merely a shadow falling on the white breasts hidden beneath Jordan’s lacey black bra, but as she stepped in for a closer look, her night’s victory took on a whole new level of triumph.

“I’ll be damned.” She knelt and pushed down the bra to get a better look.

“Please don’t disrespect my patient.” With a slight shove of her hip, the Mystic scooted Kyana away from Jordan.

Kyana growled. Rather than cower, the Mystic glowered right back. Slightly impressed by the lack of fear, she readjusted Jordan’s bra and stood. “Someone stays with her at all times, understood? I’ll be back shortly.”

In long, determined strides, she made her way around the plaza courtyard to a larger room where war memorabilia from colonial times were stored for peppy little tourists to examine. Two sentinels stood on either side of yet another hole cut into the coquina walls, but rather than lead to another cell, this one was hollow. Should someone try to enter without permission, they would spend eternity spiraling through a black void.
“Let me through,” Kyana said, staring up at the towering men. They stubbornly blocked her passage.

“Hands, please,” the sentinel on the right said, holding out his own hairy fingers in her direction.

She grumbled and placed her right hand in his, offering her left to his partner. “I’m in the bloody fort. How could I be in the bloody fort if I’m not already cleared?”

“It’s the law, Dark Breed.

She gritted her teeth. Yes, technically, she was a Dark Breed. But her decades of loyalty to the Order should have earned her the respect not to be addressed so degradingly.

Kyana snatched her hands away from the sentinels and sneered. “Are you done? You smell like cow shit.”

The sentinel’s cheeks grew as pink as his bald head. “It’s a poultice for my stomach pains.”

“Whatever. Am I clear or not?”

The one on the left stepped aside. “Go. I hope you linger on the other side, Dark Breed. The lot of you should never have been brought into our circle.”

She jerked her head toward him and flicked her tongue over her fangs. She leaned toward him, flaring her nostrils as she breathed in the scent of him. “You don’t smell like cow shit. You smell like dinner.”

He stumbled backward and clasped his hands over his thick neck. “It’s forbidden by our laws!”

Kyana smiled and straightened. “Lucky for you I’m not in the mood to break the laws. Who knows how I’ll feel when I return, hmm?”

She fanned her fingers in a silent farewell and stepped through the portal.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Red Riding Hood

I had great hopes for this haunting, dark version of the fairy tale, so I went to see it on Friday night.

While I thought the film was beautifully shot, the costuming lovely and the set gorgeous and dark and stark...I felt that the story didn't quite work.

The resolution wasn't what I hoped and/or expected, considering the seeds that were planted throughout. I'm trying to be careful about spoilers, but let's just say that there was an obvious person who was the Wolf...and I felt that that person should have been so. It made more sense than the final resolution, so much so that I felt not only misled, but also as if the writers changed the ending just to make it different.

Did anyone else see the movie? What did you think? Spoilers are okay in the comments section--just give a warning so readers can skip it if they want.

Now that the Red Riding Hood movie is out...what other fairy tale do you think would be fun to be done in such a dark, gothic and twisted setting?

Weigh in on your thoughts and be entered to win your choice of any of my books as Colleen Gleason, Colette Gale, or of course Joss Ware, including my upcoming release The Vampire Voss (coming at the end of March). I'll pick a winner tomorrow.

**Due to cost of postage, entrants are limited to those with a US or Canadian address.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let It Go

Most writers are familiar with the phrase, "Kill your darlings". The actual quote, however, is this:
“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings." - Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, 1916
I just took Sir Arthur's advice and killed one of my "darlings", an entire scene that I'd worked on for days. I LOVED this scene - it had some affectionate reminiscing on my main character's part, introduced a new character and added some local flavor, and the dialogue was fantastic, if I do say so myself. :-) But last night, I decided to do a total read-thru of the novel so far, and you know what? The scene didn't work. It was a beautiful in a stand-alone kind of way, but it did absolutely nothing to move the story forward. The new character was unnecessary, and so was the reminiscing. In fact, the scene slowed the pacing of the overall novel, which led me to take a deep breath, put my finger on the Delete key, and KILL IT.

The inability to kill your darlings has killed many a writer's career, in my humble opinion. We get so attached to the words we put on paper that we'll do anything to keep them; a tweak here, a move there, use this bit of dialogue somewhere else... when really, a clean break would be best for all concerned. We justify keeping it, thinking of all the time and effort that went into creating it in the first place, and not wanting to waste our prose or our time. But a good book is worth the time, and perfect prose may not always be perfect in the bigger sense - the BOOK is what's important, not the scene.

It's a tough lesson to learn, but liberating in its own way.  As a writer, I believe that nothing I've ever written has been wasted, even if no one ever reads it, because -- just like in life -- learning to let go is a lesson in itself.

Take a minute and think of something that you need to let go of, whether it's bad feelings toward a certain someone, or that pair of jeans you haven't fit into for at least five years.  :)  Go ahead and remember all the reasons why you're hanging onto to it (or them), then take a deep breath and LET IT GO.

Better yet, tell us all what it is you're willing to let go of, and you'll have a chance to get something in return:  some awesome bookmarks from Supernatural Underground authors like Pamela Palmer, Kerrelyn Sparks, Jeaniene Frost and Tera Lynn Childs, and a uber-cool "I Read Books That Go Bump In The Night" button.

Go ahead, kill a darling or two.  You'll feel better, I promise!  :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What's in a Name?

Congratulations to Tiffany K for winning the signed copy of DESIRE UNTAMED. Tiffany, please contact me at pamela@pamelapalmer.net with your mailing address. Thanks, everyone, for joining in!

I always thought that picking the names of my characters would be easy. Just thumb through a baby name book, find a few names I liked, and that would be it, right? Maybe it works like that for some authors. Not for me. I have to like the name, of course, but it's so much more complicated than that. The name has to, in some way, capture the essence of the character for me. It becomes an important vehicle for understanding that character.

In comparison, naming kids is easy. And I can say that because I've named two of them and it wasn't easy at all. My husband's and my tastes in names were poles apart. The thing with naming babies is, you don't know them. You're trying to give them a name they'll be happy with for a lifetime, but unlike naming characters, you're not trying to fit their name with their personality, because you don't know them yet.

Before I choose a name for a character, I have to understand her (or him). I knew that Kara (the heroine of Desire Untamed) was a sweet, spunky, girl-next-door type long before I knew her name. I knew Delaney (the heroine of Obsession Untamed) was a tough human FBI agent and Skye (Passion Untamed) was a sweet Mage witch with a pure heart. Their names came later, and not easily. I tried several names each before I found the one that clicked for me. In Kara's case, I went through at least six before finding the one that fit.

So how do I decide which name fits? Like so many things having to do with the writing process, I look inside myself for the answer. When I hit on the element, in this case the name, that feels right, I know it. I feel it in my gut. But I don't always feel it instantly. With names, in particular, I have to live with them a little while before I know, although this 'living with them' usually takes place during the plotting process, before I ever start writing the book. Rarely will I change a name after the book is underway any more, though that used to happen all the time.

As I plot and work out the key aspects of my story, I try out different names until I find the ones that feel right.

Okay, so I have this D.C. cop named Jeff. I'll work out the story a bit using Jeff as the hero until I know one way or the other. Nope. Not Jeff. Jeremy. A quick Find/Replace and all the Jeffs become Jeremys and I continue working out the story. Jeremy is on the trail of a serial killer. Nope, not Jeremy. Jack. Jack is on the trail of a serial killer. Find/Replace, continue working, gut check...? Yes. Yes, Jack is the right name for my hero.

A human character generally gets a fairly common name (Kara, who at least thinks she human), Delaney (okay, not that common, but I like it), Natalie, Christy, Charlie, Harrison, Larsen (yes, I admit that I have a thing about surnames as first names). The immortal races get names that sound a little more old-fashioned to me, more romantic, since most have been alive for centuries (Melisande, Olivia, Julianne, Ariana). I make up names for a lot of the immortals (Inir, Birik, Satanan, Baleris). I've found a couple of excellent fantasy name generators on-line to help with creating these new names.

Once I know the key pieces of the story, and my characters have come fully to life for me, names included, I'm ready to start writing the book. Ultimately, although I want names that please my ear and that fit the characters, all that really matters is that, for whatever reason, those names help bring the characters to life for me.

For a chance at a signed copy of Desire Untamed, book 1 in my Feral Warriors series, tell me a few names that you think are great romance hero/heroine names. I'm always looking for ideas!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Writer's Paradox

Writers are crazy. There's no getting around the fact that (at times) we're completely neurotic, insecure, and borderline bat$#!%; crazy. I used to think that writing attracted unstable personalities, but now I'm pretty sure the Writer's Paradox is to blame.
You have to think you suck, otherwise you will.
When I started writing I thought I was a fairly sane person. I thought I was in control of my own emotions, at least as much as anyone is, and there was no way I would be as crazy as those writers on TV and in movies. Guess what? I was wrong.

Crazy Frog
This is what happens when you search for crazy on Flickr.

Over the course of writing and publishing a book, I go through stages of elation where I think, Woohoo, this is going to be the best book ever! (Note: This stage usually occurs before a single word has been written.) I go through meh stages where I think, The book is pretty crappy but I can fix it in revisions. (This is the most common stage.)

And finally I go through stages where I think, I'm a fraud who can't write, I'll never get this book under control, I'll never write anything as good as [fill in name of amazingly talented bestselling author here] and I'll never get another contract again!

This sounds crazy, right? Mood fluctuations, bi-polar schizophrenia, with Charlie Sheen (WINNING!) tendencies. Most definitely.

The sad thing is--and as writers we kind of just have to accept this as fact--we need that fear. We need to worry about writing the worst piece of dog poo ever to hit a page to protect ourselves from ever letting that happen. An actor needs stage fright to bring energy to their performance. A writer needs neurosis to maintain quality, to keep learning and improving and bettering their craft. The moment we start thinking we've got this thing figured out is the moment the writing goes downhill.

I used to think crazy people became writers, but now I know better.

Writing makes people crazy.



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mish Mash and all that....

Well Happy March to all of you. I'm a little miffed as the damn groundhog said you know, only 6 more weeks of winter but here in the land of Canuk we've had nothing but snow, snow and more freaking snow! Hopefully in like a lion and out like a lamb holds up because this Canuk bird is just about ready to fly the coop!

Anyhoodle, a few things....I can happily confirm that I've accepted a third contract with Harper Collins and I will be writing a new series, League of Guardians! It's an offshoot of my Jaguar Warrior Trilogy but Declan's book, Wicked Road to Hell kickstarts this new series. I'm very, very excited and pleased! I'm also going to be writing 2 ebook originals to be published under Avon's new Impluse imprint. These are going to be novella's and the first one will be out next February. This book will bridge the gap between His Darkest Salvation and Declan's book. (which is a May 2012 release) There will be another ebook in September of 2012 followed by the second book in my new series which has a tentative release date of December 2012! So, lots going on!

Here is a blurb about my new series....

For millennia the struggle between light and dark, the upper and lower realms, has been policed by a secret group of warriors culled from every fabric of existence. They are both otherworld and human, male and female. They are light and dark themselves, known to each other as the League of Guardians. Their pledge, to protect the line between the two realms and make sure neither side grows too powerful. If they fall, so shall the earth, the heavens and hell. And there will be no more.

Weeeeeeeeeeee! What do you think? I can't wait to write this series.

So, this is pretty much what is going on in my universe. I've finished a contemporary romance that is with my agent and now need to get my head back in to the paranormal world. The male spawn is keeping me busy as a mom groupie. He's an awesome guitar player and well I love watching him play. Here is a shot of him that I absolutely love.

I also saw I am Number Four and really liked it, though, this is the movie I want to see desperately....

So, what are you all looking forward to seeing? And what are you reading? I have some time and need some new recommends!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

there's a hole in my head!

why you ask? because my sequel, Fury of the Phoenix,
is releasing THIS month, in 21 days to
be exact.
i'm so excited, yet a little overwhelmed
by everything that needs to be done before, after
and the rest of this year. i'm being an ambitious
author you see, and have quite a few signings and
major conventions set up. so exciting! but a little
intimidating, while trying to be a mother to a 6
and 7 year old at the same time!

since it's Fury release month, it also means i'm
in full on self-promotion mode. self-promotion
can be challenging. and what i've learned in my
brief time as a published author is this:
only do what you enjoy doing when it comes
to publicity.

because really, life is too short. if you don't like
blogging, don't blog. if you don't like twitter,
don't tweet!! i happen to love social networking,
(i met my husband online after all, back in 1994,
when there was barely an "online") and dressing
up in silly costumes like chun li at comic con.

exhibit A:

(it was awesome. i actually knew what it felt
like to be almost-famous. they were calling my
name! and how cute is this little bub clinging to
me? too cute!! lots of parents were chun li fans!)

i also love to spend money on pretty trailers.
this is the one for Fury of the Phoenix, and i hope
you enjoy it!

exhibit B:

and finally, thanks to all 61 of you who
entered to win a copy of Silver Phoenix in
paper back. the winners are:

valia lind
debra s

i've sent an email to all three winners.
congratulations, i hope you enjoy the read!!

cindy on twitter

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tax Day Is Coming

It was a dark day in the Drake household. Preparing to complete my taxes is a two-part plan and today I started my journey down the perilous twists and turns of the first leg. I opened a certain cabinet that is reserved for all my notes and receipts throughout the year. It was a mess. There was no attempt at organization this year. I emptied the last of the postal receipts out of my purse and even printed off a handful of receipts saved on my computer.

With everything “compiled”, I went through the tedious task of breaking everything down into categories and then making the calculations for each category. Are you excited yet? I know by this point, I was ready to beat my head against the wall because despite my care to keep all my receipts some were missing!

In the meantime, tomorrow I must call to complete the second portion of this illustrious journey where I will to see the wizard (aka my tax accountant). At that time, the wizard will shake her head at me and tell me that I have been a bad girl and have not acquired enough deductions. At her office, there will be more instances of me hitting my head against her desk as I wrack my brain to think of more instances in which we can deduct more stuff to bring down my payment to the government.

By the end, she will pat me on the shoulder and tell me to do a better job next year about deductions while I write my checks to the government.

This is my fourth year of visiting the wizard. I keep expecting this to get easier, but I get taxes aren’t supposed to be easy.

But I don’t want to finish this post on a sour note. Taxes are a gray part of everyone’s life and result in much *headdesking* during the process. So my final goal is to leave you with a little bit of something that brings a grin to your face or a reluctant shake to your head. If you haven’t seen them before, I am absolutely addicted to the series called Simon’s Cat. Here is a favorite for you to enjoy!

Have a good night!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Conquering Goals (& creating them)

One of the things that I’ve been pondering lately is reaching goals or destination points. This year, I finished my first series (YAY! Darkest Mercy just released) and I have the release of my first adult book (Graveminder, May 17th) and my first anthology (Enthralled, co-edited with Kelley Armstrong, releases 20 Sept 2011). A friend of mine just reached a lifelong goal. I leave for NY tomorrow to see him sing and act in a musical theatre production. There’s something very satisfying about reaching goals . . . and in creating them.

I’m a planner. When I was in high school, I had a Life Plan:
• degree (B.A.),
• degree (M.A.),
• job,
• adopt child,
• possibly another degree?
• Start to write a book at 40.

I had no plans to marry, and a number of doctors told me I couldn’t have a child biologically.
After my M.A., I paused, unsure if I should go for another degree or teach for a while.

Finances and general burn-out on being a student made the decision clearer, and I opted to teach. . . and make a Revised Life Plan:
• Teach for 2-4 years.
• Another degree or
• Adopt (i.e. get to be a mother by mid-30s)
• Start to write novel at 40

But the following year (1998), I got pregnant, miscarried, got pregnant again. I decided to get married. Suddenly, I had two children (a 4 yr old and an infant). I was teaching. All that was left on my goals list was to write a book. With only one of my major goals left, I was stricken by fear. Dreams are delicate things. I had reached two of the biggies (motherhood & teaching), but my schedule was all sorts of off.

I clung to the notion that I wouldn’t write until 40. . . then my husband deployed, and I was suddenly alone in a new state (CA) and had to decide between daycare so I could start my new teaching job or be a stay-at-home-mom for a year. Being a SAHM was never on my schedule. I’d always planned to be a single mom.

I stayed home.

Six months in, I also started teaching part-time because really, I’m not as good at being a SAHM as I hoped to be. The house was orderly; I homeschooled; I wrote. We went to the library weekly. Museums, beach, gymnastics (2X/week for each child, plus open gym), swim lessons, hiking, camping, making paper from scratch, working out, beach . . . I was still bat-shit crazy half the time. Too much freaking time! Must. Find. Tasks.

I had that one big goal/dream/item on the list. I was NOT 40 though. Friends, family, and spouse all gently suggested that my “must be 40” rule was a little unbalanced. So . . . in 2003, I started Revised Life Plan C:
  • Write book or get another degree
I applied to another degree program, and then I started to write, allowing myself 3 years to do so. I got into the program—and I finished a book. I weighed writing (which could possibly earn me a dollar or two) or a degree (costs money). While debating, I wrote Wicked Lovely. The day after I finished it, I started another book. I declined admission to the university, and I queried more agents (late 2005).

Somehow over the past 5 years, I’ve written 5 more books. I turn 39 this year. I’ve hit the key items on the Life Plans, as well as a few random ones (mostly travel related) and . . . I suddenly need to come up with new plans.

Of course, I have general writing goals:
• Co-author a book
• Write in a new genre (middle-grade, contemporary, or historical)
• Write a screenplay
• Create a dual story narrative with story intersection (a la Faulkner’s Wild Palms)
• Write a straight-up horror novel

But I need other possibilities too. I’m pondering starting a business, learning rock climbing, or . . . beginning to plan for getting another degree. Maybe that will be my turning 50 goal. It could work, right? We’ll see. The goal is to create the new goal list before I hit 40, so I have 16 months to make the newest Life Plan.

I think the idea of striving for things is a compelling force. I like goals of all sorts. It’s kinda satisfying to conquer them. So . . . reply here & tell me some of your goals. I’ll send 3 copies of Darkest Mercy and 1 ARC of Graveminder out to randomly selected winners on April 6th.

+1 for each tweet, FB, blog this blog post (up to 4 extra entries).

Find me online:
• My Twitter
• Wicked Lovely FB Fan Page
• Wicked Lovely Mobile

PS HUGE thanks to you all for making the 5th/final Wicked Lovely book a USA Today bestseller list & putting the WL series on the NY Times bestseller list again! *sends you all many hugs!!!*

Moving House

I am in the process of packing up the house my family and I have been living for the last seven years. Do you have any idea how much junk is accumulated in seven years? I am starting too. Because I am moving, my entire schedule has been thrown out of kilter. My promo tour has be resheduled for April so I will be back then to run the tour contest.

While you are here check out my new favorite video.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Giveaway and thanks

***WINNERS! Congrats to Cara Cummings, Shadow Girl, and LinGeorge. Since all of you left your email addresses in your comments, I will email you to get your shipping info.

Thanks, everyone, for commenting! Lots of great paranormal creatures in fiction, aren't there? :).

Today is my blog day, and let me start off by apologizing, because you won’t find eloquent content here. See, I got back from tour Saturday night* and had the inbox from hell waiting for me. Nine days of travel (trains take longer than flights getting me to and fro) also meant lots of laundry that needed immediate attention, plus the usual business issues that I put off while I was out of town. On top of all that was my I’m-excited-but-I-think-I’m-gonna-puke nerves while I waited to see how readers received my latest novel, This Side of the Grave. I’ll let you in on a secret that I hope my editor doesn’t see, heh: I can never write during the two weeks leading up to that night writers often refer to as Doom Wednesday, which is when authors get their first week sales numbers. All my tried and true tricks to break writer’s block fail me during that window. Music playlists, mental pep talks, friend pep talks, mental slapping, friends slapping me (just kidding) and even looming deadlines can’t make a dent in my inability to produce words. You’d think that seven books in, I’d be less manic about a new release, but it appears not. If anything, I’m probably more batty than I was with my first book, which begs the age-old question: does publishing make people crazy, or do only crazy people attempt a career in publishing? *wink*

On Wednesday, however, I received the amazing news that readers had not lost their appetite for more Cat and Bones stories, because This Side of the Grave hit # 2 on the New York Times and # 16 on the USA Today bestseller lists. Cue me wanting to hug and kiss everyone who went out and got the book! What made that news even better was hearing that Melissa Marr’s Darkest Mercy hit # 7 on the New York Times Children’s Series list, Pamela Palmer’s Hunger Untamed hit #21 on the adult NYT, and Lynsay Sands The Heiress hit # 19 on the adult NYT. Go team Supernatural Underground! :).

So with that passing of Doom Wednesday, it was no surprise that yesterday, I was finally able to produce words again. Not a moment too soon, either, as I have an anthology story to finish. The next two weeks will see me putting in very long days, but I’ll be doing it with a smile thanks to you, readers.

And what better way to say thanks than to give away books, right? I might not have eloquence today, but I have three signed copies of This Side of the Grave to offer up. If you want to be entered in the drawing, just leave a comment telling me what your favorite paranormal creature is. Vampires, werewolves, faeries, ghosts, demons, shape shifters, dragons…which one rings your bell? Contest is open to international readers and ends tonight at 11:59pm EST. The three winners will be chosen by Randomizer and announced on this same blog post tomorrow at the top, so be sure to check back and see if you won.

Want to know more about the book before you decide to enter the contest? I have the summary, book trailer, and first 20% available to read here.

Good luck, and thanks again!

- Jeaniene Frost

* If you want the recap of me and fellow Supernatural Underground author Pamela Palmer’s adventures – including video! – go here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Out of the Rubble, Mud, and Dust

Just one week ago, at 12.51 pm on Tuesday 22 February, I was working hard on editing the manuscript of The Gathering of the Lost (The Wall of Night Book Two) and calculating how many pages I would need to complete per day to meet deadline. At the same time, I was also looking forward to the UK launch of The Heir of Night on 3 March.

And then the world began to shake.

The world had been shaking a lot since 4 September when the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand, with nearly 5000 aftershocks recorded, but this was different. I felt the difference immediately and made it to the sturdy, timber doorway of my study. From there it was just a matter of riding out the 6.3 magnitude quake that was to wreak so much devastation throughout the city.

I was fortunate in that I did manage to ride it out, braced in my doorframe, and that after it was over, my 90-year old wooden house was still standing. Or maybe it wasn’t luck, because although old masonry buildings generally did not survive this earthquake, timber houses are lightweight and flexible, so better able to withstand the shaking. Timber houses of this vintage also tend to have heart wood frames, i.e. both flexible and strong, as well as the traditional NZ corrugated steel roof, which is also lightweight, which—unlike tiles all over town—did not go flying off.

I knew a quake of such severity in the middle of the day was going to be bad in terms of death and injury, but there was no time to think about that, because as soon as the shaking stopped the liquefaction began. Liquefaction is when subsurface sand gets forced up by groundwater and flows everywhere as a mix of black “mud” and water. In this case, it burst through the ground like a fountain and half my house was surrounded by it in less than a minute. Very scary—because of course you don’t know whether the tide is going to stop or keep on coming until it’s inside your house.

Fortunately, it did stop, although it was still up to a foot deep in places along the driveway and around the garage. Very shortly afterward, the sirens began to wail, and if there are sounds that characterise that day, it is the constant sirens, the sound of helicopters overhead and the intermittent drone of airforce planes coming in to land—as well as the sounds of gridlocked traffic and frustrated drivers along our street, which was the only one still passable for north-south traffic in this immediate area of the city.

My earthquake aftermath, besides being without power, water and sewer for some days (we’re still without sewer), has been digging out the liquefacted material for the past 6 days. I’ve done reports on my blog, while aware that my personal story pales into insignificance with that has been taking place in the cordoned-off central city. One quarter to one third of the buildings in that area have collapsed or partially collapsed, with one major fire and over 300 people missing.

My personal experience has been one of tremendous help and support from neighbours, friends and passing strangers—although I’ve heard less positive stories—and I have also been deeply moved by the level of international support. We have emergency teams on the ground from Australia, China, Japan, Taiwan, the UK and the USA, additional policing support from Australia, military support from Singapore, and a specialist body identification team from Thailand. And the really amazing thing in this too often fractious and bloody-handed world of ours: apparently they have equipment that is designed, and they are all trained, so that they can work together effectively. A ray of hope in a dark time.

Given we don’t have a postal service up and running yet, I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t do a giveaway this time. I’d love it though, if you felt able to comment to show your support. And donations, whether small or large, to appeal funds such as the Red Cross NZ Earthquake Appeal will be very gratefully received.