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Monday, October 31, 2011

An Interview With Lydia Dare... or is it?

In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d take this opportunity to interview our very own Lydia Dare. Now everyone knows that Lydia is the pseudonym of the writing team of Tammy Falkner and Jodie Pearson. And today we are lucky to have the Jodie ½ talking with us.

Lydia/Jodie - Thank you so much for having me here today.

Jerrica – Anytime. Anytime. So I’ve lost count, how many books do you have on the shelves these days, Lydia?

Lydia/Jodie – Our seventh book, NEVER BEEN BIT, was released this September. It finished up our Gentlemen Vampyre trilogy and was the last book featuring a Còig witch.

Jerrica – Seven? Just seven?

Lydia/Jodie – Umm. Yes. Just seven. Of course, we have three more books contracted. These will feature Dash’s three half-brothers. The first THE WOLF WHO LOVED ME will be released April 2012.

Jerrica – Uh, huh. THAT’s all you have going on, Ms. Dare? Or should I call you, Ms. Stone?

Lydia/Jodie – (spews tea across the room) Uh, I’m sorr—I beg your—What did you call me?

Jerrica – Stone – Ava Stone, isn’t it?

Lydia/Jodie – Uh…

Jerrica – Speechless? A little birdie told me you’ve been moonlighting under a different name. Is there any truth to that?

Lydia/Jodie – How in the world do you know that?

Jerrica – A good reporter never reveals her sources.

Lydia/Jodie – You’re not a reporter. You’re a Regency Romance author.

Jerrica – Maybe you’re not the only one moonlighting. So, anywhoo, Ms. Stone – anything you want to say? Perhaps you could take the opportunity to come clean… publicly.

Jodie/Ava – Well, I guess, under the circumstance I’d better. Yes, over the last year I’ve also had four books and one novella (Scandalous Series) released under the name Ava Stone. And tomorrow an anthology collection I have a short story in will be released.

Jerrica – Really? Anything I’ve heard of?

Ava – (rolls her eyes) Uh, yeah, since you’re in one of the books, AND since my heroine and your heroine are twins I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of the collection.

Check out the release of Ava and Jerrica’s short stories as well as those of ten other wonderful authors in the REGENCY CHRISTMAS SUMMONS ANTHOLOGY COLLECTION, featuring:






All four books will be available tomorrow at Amazon and B&N. Over the next 6 weeks, there will be opportunities to win all sorts of prizes. Visit Ava Stone's website for all the details - www.avastoneauthor.com

Since the Jodie 1/2 of Lydia has clearly been moonlighting as Ava Stone - have you ever worked more than one job?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Contact With the Other Side...?

Thanks to Jerrica Knight-Catania’s earlier blog this month about ghost stories and the mention of a Ouija board session she and a friend had years ago, one of my friends (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent) decided it was something we should do. However, neither of us really wanted to do so in our own homes. Yes, we’re chickens (or I’ve watched one too many “haunted” themed shows on A&E, Discovery and the Travel Channel over the years). Luckily, we were both headed to Washington DC last weekend and agreed that having a “session” at the hotel was preferable to having one where either of us live.

So we rounded up a couple friends who were also going to be in DC at the same time and planned our secret rendezvous. None of us owned a Ouija board. So the first thing we had to do was purchase one, which is easier said than done living in the Bible belt; but we persevered (even if the friend who made the purchase did get a lecture from the woman behind her in line and a dismissive once-over from the employee at the check-out register.)

I’m still a little bit of a chicken and even though I had a fairly good sized suite with a sitting room adjacent to my bedroom at the hotel, I wasn’t all that keen at having the “session” where I was going to sleep. Luckily, I had access to one of the meeting rooms at the hotel, so the six of us planned to meet there around midnight last Friday.

Yes, six women – all in our thirties. But things soon went awry. Two of our friends went to Georgetown for drinks and sent a text saying they “hoped” to make it back in time. And two of the others got in spat with each other and weren’t speaking. So we were down to only two of us who met at the appointed time and place. The meeting room we borrowed was dimly light with dark walls. Ambiance was certainly not a problem.

No. The problem was us. We’re completely silly with no idea what we’re doing. All of this was a lark more than anything else. So we unwrapped the “glow in the dark” Parker Bros. Ouija board and put the black rubber feet on the little plastic thingy. (Yes, thingy – we’re not terribly technical and I have no idea what to call the little device you put your fingers on. So “thingy” will have to suffice.)

And while we’re doing all of this… a hotel employee jiggled the handle to our borrowed space, nearly making us jump out of our skin. My friend managed to toss the box, board and thingy under the long tablecloth before the door was thrown open and exterior light poured inside the room. I made up some lame excuse for why we were sitting in the dark (I actually don’t remember what I said, but I remember my adrenaline racing). And the hotel staff shut the door to the room, leaving us alone.

Of course my friend and I then broke out in a peel of laughter and she said, “You know he thinks we’re in here making out.” And that only made us laugh harder. Finally, after bringing our levity back under control (somewhat), we actually started trying to use the board.

We were not terribly successful. It was either user error, it’s all bunk, or some other weirdness. We made contact with some entity. Maybe. Who knows? I mean what kind of name is Zazos?

Just as we were wrapping up and had decided we’d given it our best shot, our two friends who’d gone to Georgetown showed up. And we tried one more time. One of those girls made “contact” with her deceased aunt and had a very moving moment.

I don’t think anyone there moved the thingy on purpose, I truly don’t. If I was laying odds, I think it was a combination of a collective subconscious and tired arms that weren’t allowed to rest on the table that was responsible for making the thingy move across the board.

Still, my friend who had the “moment” with her aunt seemed very moved by the whole event; and if that brought her some peace, I’m glad she was able to experience it – even if she only has her own subconscious to thank/blame.

What do you think? Do you think making contact with “the other side” is bunk or reality? Have you ever experienced something other worldly that couldn’t be explained?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to Succeed in the Ever-Changing Publishing Industry

How do you succeed in this publishing business, anyhow?

Depending on who you ask, the day of the week, the phase of the moon, what new things Amazon just launched an hour ago, what the newest iProduct on the market is, and how strong the wind is blowing, you could end up with about 42,000 different answers.

Some will tell you that your social media presence is the life-or-death part of the equation. Public image is essential. Post often enough, but not too often, about the right things and never the wrong things, and cast your nets widely. Trouble is that no one can come to a consensus on what the right and wrong way to do these things might be.

Others will say you should read every book out there on writing craft, learn all of the rules, and follow them to a T. Only then will you ever write a publishable book. Then there are those who flout the rules at every turn, and yet sell thousands or even millions of books.

There's yet another group who scream at the top of their lungs that contests are the way to succeed. Gain recognition through all of your contest wins! Shout from the tops of the roofs, "I am the king of the world! I'm a finalist in the This Had Better Work, Or Else Because My Bank Account is in the Negative Contest!" They've got their naysayers, too, who say that contest scores are pointless and contest judges likely don't have the first clue about writing, let alone about judging, so what's the point? It's a waste of money.

There are those who will toil away for years, writing manuscript after manuscript, submitting them over and over again to agents and editors...all the while never getting any closer to securing either. Another group will throw a bunch of words on the page, declare it a masterpiece, and after receiving their first rejection, will publish it in any and every avenue available to them.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes, though. So for the rest of us, what are the keys to success? How do we know what to pursue, what direction to go in, when the landscape of publishing is changing faster than we can blink?

I think the keys I've found, at least for me and my personal gauge of success, are persistence, knowledge, and patience. I refuse to let any of the extremists convince me that their way is the only way, and instead persist in my current path. I do everything I can to continue learning--taking courses, reading books, going to conferences and seminars, reading good books (and analyzing what I read), and most of all, continuing to write. And I do my best to stay patient. I don't know what major changes are going to take place in the publishing world tomorrow or next week or next year. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and try not to panic whenever the announcement comes. After all, if I'm well-informed enough, the sky won't be falling. It'll just be a little rain.

What are your keys to succeeding in the publishing industry?

Winner of Lydia's Book

Congratulations to

Regina Ross!

Regina's name was picked in a random drawing for

Lydia Dare's

In the Heat of the Bite

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Casket Girls and Vampires

I’m always late to the party, both literally and figuratively, and I don’t mean fashionably late. (We won’t get into my tendency to be tardy for most everything. Otherwise, my hubby will hijack the comments.) The most recent example of my lateness is my obsession with HBO’s True Blood.

If you haven’t seen it, the show has vampires, werewolves, fairies, shapeshifters, and some kind of priestess who wore a metal bull’s head, ran funny, and thought she was marrying a bull. Shh…she was a little off her rocker. I watched three seasons in about as many weeks, and now I’m a disgruntled Charter Communications costumer because they took Season 4 off OnDemand only two weeks after the season finale. What the hey?

One of the things I like best about True Blood is the setting. Louisiana is the perfect spot for a thriving vampire community, and although the show doesn’t take place in New Orleans where it is rumored vampires first came to America, it’s still a good choice. Earlier in the year I ran two blogs on the early history of Louisiana, and I promised to write more about Casket Girls, nuns, and vampires. (This sounds like one of those SAT test questions. Which word doesn't belong?) So, here it is folks.

And as an added bonus, anyone who leaves a comment today with their email address will be entered into a drawing to win Lydia Dare’s In the Heat of the Bite from her Gentleman Vampyre Series.

Hot regency vampires! I’ve been glamoured!

I won’t rehash the early history of Louisiana except to say the French had a difficult time settling the area. (If you are interested, you can read Early New Orleans History Part Un and Early New Orleans History Part Dos.) Some of France's efforts involved “recruiting” people off the streets, such as beggars and prostitutes, and later releasing prisoners and shipping them to New France. It wasn’t exactly a successful venture, because most were not cut out for the harsh realities of settlement life.

Women, in particular, had a hard time surviving, and there just weren’t enough females to go around. France made another attempt to increase the population and make the fellas happy. They asked for reputable female volunteers of marriageable age to come to the colony.

These girls mostly came from orphanages in France, so their future prospects in their home country were not good. As an incentive, each volunteer was given a trousseau with clothing and items needed to set up a household then shipped across the ocean. The girls’ trousseaus were placed in cassettes, which some people said looked like caskets and apparently sounded pretty close to that to the untrained ear.

Just like in any small town, the outsiders drew attention. Who were these pale, thin girls, and why were they traveling with caskets? Well, wasn’t it obvious? They were vampire smugglers.

The Casket Girls, as they became to be known, resided with the Ursuline Sisters in the convent while they awaited a marriage match. (The Ursaline Sisters were the first Catholic nuns to arrive in New Orleans in 1727. Their order was founded in Italy in the 1500s primarily to educate girls and care for the sick. In New Orleans, they established a school for girls and educated African American and Native American girls as well as white Creole. The Casket Girls arrived about a year later.)

Legend has it the girls’ caskets were kept in the attic, but when someone went to retrieve them later, the caskets were empty, which proves beyond a doubt the girls carried vampires, right?

If you visit New Orleans today, you can take haunted house, ghost, and vampire tours. I didn’t know about these tours when I visited, but I’m not sure I would have gone anyway. I'm not the haunted house type. Ghosts freak me out!

What are your feelings about things that go bump in the night? Are you easily scared? Do you love haunted houses? Do you have a favorite scary creature?

Don't forget to leave a comment, even if all you say is you want to be entered into the drawing for Lydia Dare's book. And include your email address so I can contact you if you win!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Changing Gears

As I embark on the editing process with Book 2 of my Sealed With a Kiss series, I came to a rather startling conclusion two weeks ago.

I don’t want to be a pantster anymore.

Shocking, I know. I’ll give you a moment to collect yourselves. Yeah, yeah, I know—this news probably not as shocking for you as it is for me. But truly, this is a huge deal for me as a writer. It is not so much just a change in strategy, as it is an entire paradigm shift in how I approach writing.

Pantstering (wow—now I’m really making up words, lol) is how I have written since I first sat down in front of the computer to tell a story three years ago, and it is how I have identified myself for the last year and a half as I have learned how to be a professional writer. It’s what gets my blood going when I sit down in front of an empty page, the endless possibilities of which racing through my mind.

But… here’s the rub. As much as I love the writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing, I really hate the revising-seventeen-times-to-get-it-right thing. After all, I may have sold my first book, but after the endless edits it required, I might have well have written three more in the time it took to fix the thing.

And now, as I stare in the firebreathing face of my first professional deadline, I’ve decided I kinda want to know that all those loose ends get tied up tidily. I want to pull the reader along in a well-thought-out story arc, where the character growth is subtle but purposeful, and, quite frankly, I don’t want to be sick to death of my own story by the time I'm done.

So, thus begins my foray into becoming a plotter…er, rather a plotster. (I can’t change myself completely, after all!). After the fantastic workshop by Cherry Adair, which led to me reading the fantastic book by Debra Dixon, GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT, which led to some rather fantastic epiphanies about how I wanted my story to go, I am ready to give it the old college try.

Today, after two weeks of plotting, brainstorming, and character mapping, I am set to begin the rewrites of Book 2. My goal is to go into this revision with such a flawless gameplan, I’ll emerge on the other side with a fantabulous book.

That’s the plan anyway, lol.

I’ll keep you updated as to whether my characters cooperate or not. So tell me, are you a Plotter, a Plotster, or a Pantster? Have you ever changed your methods, changing tactics after years of using the opposite method? Will Ava Stone and Lydia Dare turn their backs on me know that I have gone to the dark side, lol? ;)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hero in Tights

One of my favorite shows on television would be Castle. A couple of weeks ago the “villain” dressed up as a comic book character. That is all I will really say as to the plot of the story because if you record shows like I do, you may not have watched it yet and I hate spoilers. I’ve also been known to be so far behind on shows that when I do sit down to watch, there could be four episodes waiting for me. Thus, all I will tell you is it involved comic book heroes. And, you really should watch it when you get a chance.
This episode also reminded me of when I first met my husband. He collected comic books. It wasn’t a minor hobby where he went to shops and picked a few up. No, my husband ordered from the catalogue and monthly a box full of comics was delivered to the door. He kept them neatly wrapped in plastic covers and stored them away when he was finished.

Frankly, I didn’t get it. I really didn’t. I am also fairly certain he didn’t get my reading material. All it took was one trip to the bookstore and I came home with an armload (or sack full) of historical romances. We were such an exciting couple with hubby lounging with the latest comic and me curled up with a yummy romance.

While my husband never did read a romance (other than the ones I’ve written) I have read a comic. One particular caught my eye and I made him order it for me whenever there was a new issue. The main character was “Groo”. I loved reading Groo the Wanderer, and he is the furthest thing from a hero in tights, saving the world or the heroes in my books (tall, dark, handsome and sexy). In fact, the best way to describe Groo is with the definition in Wikipedia:

“Groo is an ugly large-nosed buffoon of unsurpassed stupidity who constantly misunderstands his surroundings. Possessed of superlative skills in swordsmanship (the only task at which he's remotely competent) he delights in combat but otherwise is a peaceable and remarkably honest fellow who tries to make his way through life as a mercenary or by working odd jobs. Unfortunately he is also indiscriminate in the use of his battle skills (prone to joyously leaping into any fray before attempting to ascertain the reasons for the fight, or even who is on what side) and incredibly accident-prone, and despite generally good intentions causes mass destruction wherever he goes. Most of his adventures end with him walking away oblivious to the mayhem he has wrought, or fleeing an angry mob. As a result, his penchant for destruction has become so widely known and feared that just the news of Groo approaching is sometimes enough to cause chaos when the population reacts to the impending disaster. Groo occasionally meets with respect and good fortune, but it does not last. Businesses, towns, civilizations and cultures have all been unwittingly destroyed by Groo. Such is Groo's incompetence that so much as stepping onto a ship (except in Rufferto's company) will cause it to sink. In issue 100 of the Groo series, volume 2, Groo learned how to read.”

Groo is just fun to read. I think I may just have to head out to the comic book store and see if they have any issues.

Have you ever found you like something that is so completely different than what you normally gravitate to? Are you a comic book reader? If so, who is your favorite hero? More importantly, have you ever read Groo?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guest Blogger: K. Dawn Byrd

Be still my over active imagination...

Inspiration comes at the strangest times. Just the other day, one of my co-workers locked herself out of her office and I said, "You know you can open the door with a credit card." She asked how I'd know such a thing and my response was to shrug my shoulders and say, "Remember, I'm a writer." Then, there's the recent three and a half hour lunch with writer Pepper Basham where we talked about characters and how to terrorize and kill them. We're lucky someone didn't call 911 and tell dispatch that we were plotting murder.

Then, there's the conversation with another co-worker on how to plot the perfect murder and hide the body so it would never be found. He's from New Orleans and said that alligators love pork. He'd simply weight the body down, strap on some bacon, and throw it in the swamp. I don't know if this would work, but he sure thought it would.

Inspiration is everywhere. Newspapers. Magazines. The internet. The television. Movies. A news account I recently read about a homeless man being tracked down and informed that he'd inherited millions became the plot for my December 2012 romance/mystery release through Desert Breeze Publishing. Sometimes, I get so many ideas for plots that I have to push them out of my head. I already have a notebook full of plots to choose from. Where does it end?

I'm a plotter by nature and when I finally decide what I want to write, I brainstorm. I'll call a writer friend and run something by her or I'll throw out an idea to my husband during our nightly walk with our dogs. It's great to have the perspective of others and sometimes totally changes my plot, making it stronger and more suspenseful. Sometimes, I'll get an idea while researching and blend it into a scene.

My over active imagination can be down right scary, like when walking in a strange area in the dark or when something out of the ordinary happens. There have been times I've been in a creepy place and thought, "This would make a great setting for a novel." Then, my mind wanders to the bad guy watching my heroine from the shadows.

Sometimes my inspiration comes from photographs. I just finished the first book in the Zoe Mack Mystery Series and the hero is my first stab at writing a bad boy character and I've had so much fun with it. I ran across a photograph in a magazine thought he looked just like my hero. My mind began to wonder what kind of person he really was and my hero was born!

Sometimes inspiration comes from people watching. The hero in my recent release, Mistaken Identity, is a sweet all-around good guy and he's so cute! Eden thinks he's perfect for her in every way. The idea for this book came to me while watching the youth interact at church. I wondered what would happen if a sweet Christian girl and her wild, gorgeous best friend fell in love with the same guy. Who would he choose? The girl who was trying her best to live for Christ or the most popular girl in school who would do anything he asked?

My overactive imagination is inspired by many things and sometimes runs wild, but I'm glad. It gives me lots of fodder for future novels. So, I'll keep on jotting down ideas as they come. For a chance to win a free download of This Time for Keeps, tell me where you get your best ideas for novels.

This Time for Keeps

India McGuire's peaceful life is shattered when on the night of her engagement to David Richards, she comes face to face with Chase Porter, a long lost love. India must come to terms with her overpowering feelings for Chase and choose between David, the neighbor who says he loves her, and Chase, the man who broke her heart.

Chase's plans of leaving quietly turn to disaster when he finds that it's impossible to disappear without seeing India one last time. Feelings begin to surface that he believed buried forever and he finds himself fighting to win her back even as David struggles to hold onto her.

India longs to follow her heart, but she's been hurt too deeply. Who will she choose? The neighbor who can provide stability or the man she vowed to love forever who may once again heed to the call of the open road?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

“Within Every Brand is a Product”

My crit group and I had a blast this week by coming up with some of the member’s brands who hadn’t as yet created one. It was a lot of fun but more than that, I think with the group of us working together we really nailed a few of them. I don’t think you can ask someone who’s only read one of your books (or even worse, only write one book yourself) and expect that person / yourself to know what your brand is.

Branding is much more complicated than just coming up with a catchy slogan. It’s your voice, your tone, what makes you unique in your writing, and the best thing is, it develops over time. It evolves and changes. Which is a good thing. I know that I do not write the same way or the same things that I wrote fifteen years ago when I started. At the time I had very little idea what I wanted to convey to my reader or even that I needed to convey something to the reader. If you’re just starting on your writing journey, my best advice to you is to write more books. One just doesn’t cut it. It’s your practice run. You learn and grow over the course of writing the book. You find a pattern and learn how to cope with being a writer in general (which is not easy by anyone’s standards.)

But if you’ve been writing for a while and you’re looking to query agents or even self publish. Before you do either, I recommend finding your brand. It gives you a much better understanding of who you are as a writer as well as where you want to go with your writing years down the road.  

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

It’s important to know the definition of something you’re trying to incorporate into your career. The reason why this is important is because of these last little words here: to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

Your brand will mark you and the products you’re selling as unique. Interesting. Individual. Think of the popular brands and their slogans:

Have It Your Way - Burger King

I’m Lovin’ It - McDonald’s

Just Do It – Nike

Melt’s in your Mouth, not in your hands – M&M’s

Spending time on your brand is as important as the time you take writing your book. There are several things to consider.

What message do you wish to convey to your reader?

When readers put your book down for the last time, what do you want them to remember about you and your book?

What is your target audience?

Here are a few tips for you: Identify your strengths. Whatever you’re good at is what you want to push. For example my strengths are definitely my action scenes. If your strengths are love scenes, or perhaps it’s dialogue, either of these should be considered during your process of creating a brand.

Look at more than one project as well. What is your genre? Are all your books regency? Or only two? Perhaps they’re all historical. These are things you’ll want to consider, because you don’t want to have a regency brand when you also write Victorian Steampunk as well. Look at the broader spectrum when identifying your brand.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Instead focus your energy on your target audience. A regency writer doesn’t want to waste time on a reader who’s never read a regency before. Narrow the camera lens and focus on a brand that calls out to the readers of YOUR genre.

And then when all is said and done, stick with your brand. That’s not saying that it can’t evolve because it can. But you can’t go from a historical writer to a contemporary all in one day. It doesn’t work that way. Take the time to build one platform first. Then once you’re on solid ground, cross over to the next world to conquer. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither will your brand.

Now think of your favorite author(s) and try to nail down their brand for them. Let’s test to see how much you know about them. Give me an example of your favorite author(s) and what you think their brand is. You don’t have to use their exact brand and remember this is all in fun. Good luck!

Btw check out my website and see if you can distiquinsh my own brand here www.suziegrantauthor.com and while you’re there be sure to check out the half off sale for Wrong Kind of Paradise. Pick up the coupon code and download from Smashwords. You can also check out my free short story on Smashwords as well. Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Birthdays, Babbles and World Domination

Today is my fortieth birthday, and believe it or not, I woke up this morning with an old Bangles song in my head. You know the one that goes something like this:

Time, time, time see what’s become of me, as I look around for the possibilities, I was so hard to please…hang on to your hopes my friends, that’s an easy thing to say, but if your hopes should pass away, simply pretend that you can build them againwww.youtube.com/watch?v=NFRx4PkXeVM (you can watch the video here if you feel so inclined)

This song conjured two distinct thoughts in my head about blogging.

Thank God, because when I went to bed last night I was still undecided on what to talk about. First, I feel lucky that my hopes for writing are intact. I had set a goal for myself that by forty I would have sold my first novel. Though I’m not quite there, one of my dearest friends reminded me, while we were jogging on the treadmill on Monday, that I’m so close and have come so far. My agent, who I really adore, called me Sunday to impart some bittersweet news. He’d spoken with the editor of one of my dream NY houses who has my first novel. They passed on the novel, but the good news is the editor loved the characters and my voice and she wants to see the next book.

I was happy about this, but I can honestly say I didn’t find it something to really celebrate until I ran into my friend, and she reminded me of where I started with writing and how far I’ve come. I will say, though I don’t have a novel sold yet, I am part of an amazing novella that will be released November 1st, and I’m pretty darn stoked about that. I’m also more than hopeful that my biggest dream, to see one of my novels on the shelf of Barnes and Nobles, Books a Million or even in the airport terminal, will come true this year. This leads me to the next thing I woke up thinking about – Amazon.

They’re poised to take over the world. Just kidding. But seriously, my dream to sale to a big NY house better come true soon because if this article I read about Amazon http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/technology/amazon-rewrites-the-rules-of-book-publishing.html?_r=1&bl yesterday is close to being right, they’re at the obliteration starting gate and the first people they’ll be taking out are the NY publishers. Next are agents and editors. This article and the song in my head started me wondering if the young writers, I’m talking the twenty-something writers and the even younger writers who will be coming down the pipeline, even care or will care if they get a big NY publishing deal. Maybe their dream is to be the next internet runaway hit. I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind being the next big internet hit so long as I can buy one of my books in the bookstore as well.

One of my children wants to be a writer, amongst other things, and I do really wonder if he pursues this dream will he someday be whining about how getting the attention of NY publishers is so hard or will he be moaning that competing on Amazon in a flooded writer’s market is so difficult.

So I’d like to part with two questions. What song did you wake up with in your head this morning? And do you think the younger generation of writers will give a flip about the big NY publishers in five to ten years?

Have a wonderful day!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Country

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

~ excerpt from My Country (1904) by Dorothea Mackellar

It’s been brought to my attention that I live in a dangerous place. I’m an Aussie and apparently I don’t pay enough attention to the dangers around me. In a recent conversation with my crit partners someone laughed because I emphatically stated I would NOT be going anywhere near Alligator’s. Someone else mentioned that everything here in Australia could kill me and if faced with an Alligator I just needed to run faster than the person next to me.

I had to think about it a while. I mean, come on, it’s not like the scary stuff is circling my house. Most of the creepies and bities are way out in the bush. At a readers conference in Melbourne two years ago I heard an American author mention that she hears wolves around her house at night. That to me is utterly terrifying.

But it did get me thinking about what might not be people friendly around here. I’ll start with the process of elimination.

Koala - don’t be fooled by their teddy bear appearance and leaf eating habits. Sharp claws and unfriendly.

Kangaroo - another deceptive animal. Cute to look at but read the signs. You don’t want to stand in their way when there is food involved. Dangerous hind claws.

Wombat - Ok, so these little guy (and not so little guys) might simply bite your ankle if you get too close. But they have other skills, hole digging being the main, and the unwary bushwalker needs to watch where he puts his feet unless he wants a broken leg.

Tasmanian Devil - are an endangered carnivorous animal, Tasmania and in zoos. They stand maybe a foot high, their ears flush with red when excited. More scavenger than predator but have a strong jaw to bite through bones and will bite a human if threatened. For all that, I find them kinda cute.

Platypus -- Ooh, a friendly one finally. Oops. Research had revealed this description: egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal, venomous. Get anywhere near the male platypus hind foot and the spur he has there contains a venom that can cause severe pain to humans.

Dingo - as dangerous as any wild dog. Lock up the food stores and keep an eye on your young kids if they are around in a pack. Luckily, there are none around me.

Crocodiles - found in the north of Australia, a place I’m unlikely to go for that reason, and in zoos and reptile parks within driving distance of my house. Did you see that scene in the movie Crocodile Dundee at the edge of the water-hole? Crocodile snaps up its dinner, drags it under the water and tumbles around until the thing in its grip stops moving. That is not going to be my fate. I’m happy in my croc free zone.

Red-bellied black snake
Snakes - I left these till late because I know I will have major problems. Australia has six of the ten most deadly snakes in the world. At the top of our list, in order of medical importance is:

              Brown, Tiger, Taipan, Fierce, Black, Death Adders

But the chances of running into these creatures, and getting bitten inside built up areas is pretty rare. We have a very low snake-bit rate when compared to other countries like India, Vietnam and Mexico.

Spider - So, this is a tough one for me because I’m spider phobic and can't even stand looking at the pictures long enough to add them to my post. The following link (from a pest control company) has a nice long list of dangerous Aussie spiders if you are braver than me. (Reaching for my bug spray)

I could go on and on I’m afraid, but these seem to be the most noteworthy. However, in every new situation you have to consider your personal safety. Even a fluffy white sheep can hurt you if they’re in a bad enough mood. So, just because the wildlife isn’t all warm and cuddly you needn’t remove Australia from your ‘places to travel’ list. Not everything in Aus wants to test its venom out on you. Just make some noise and pay attention to where you put your hands and feet. You’ll be fine just like me.

Till next time. Heather Boyd ~ Lady Wicked

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ghost Stories!

If there's one thing I love, it's a good ghost story, and this time of year really brings that out in me. There's something so thrilling about having the crap scared out of you, whether you know it's real or not.

I love movies like The Others or The Ring...the kind of movies that send chills up your spine and make it a little difficult to fall asleep at night. But while those movies are great, they're not nearly as great as making contact in real life with "the other side."

In honor of Halloween, I'm going to share some of my favorite ghost stories with you, and I hope you'll share your own, too!

2001, New York City, Pre-War Apartment

My husband is kind of a chicken when it comes to "making contact" so one night while he was at work, I had my friend over to play with me and my Ouija Board. We lit some candles, "crossed" the board, and then lightly touched our fingers to the pointer thingy (and yes, that's the technical term for it.) It wasn't long before we made contact with a little boy. We asked him questions like, "Did you live here?" "How old are you?"...nothing very interesting. But when we asked about his parents, it was pretty much the end of the evening. He wouldn't say anything except "Mama" the rest of the night. It broke my heart, and both my friend and I ended up in tears. And no, I did not sleep for a week!

2006, Columbus, GA

My hubby and I landed a gig at the Springer Opera House performing as Aldonza and Sancho in Man of La Mancha. It was a couple hours from home, so they put us up in their actor housing, which was in the theater -- a 30,000 square foot facility that is a well-known and well-documented haunted facility. And after 7pm most nights, we were the only ones in the entire place. As you can probably imagine, we had trouble sleeping the first few nights, wondering if ghosts were going to mess with us while we were in dreamland. But they didn't. Ever. Other than a few random cold spots throughout the theater, nothing ever really happened. The ghost stories there really belong to the costumer...

However, we did pile into a car with some friends and head over to the famous Cry Baby Bridge. Legend has it that a woman drowned her children in the river under this bridge, and if you sit on the bridge and listen, you can hear a baby crying. Or if you put dirt on the bumper, you'll see baby finger prints. Some people even report having seen the woman herself walking down the long, dirt road in the dark.

So did anything happen to us that night? Well, we sat on the bridge, car turned off and windows down, for a good 20 minutes, but we never heard anything. We got out of the car and mopped off the back bumper, then put fresh dirt on it in hopes of fingerprints. But finally, we gave up and headed back. At the end of the road, we stopped at the corner gas station, and when we got out of the car, VOILA! All the dirt was gone from the bumper, but in its dust, there were three tiny, very defined fingerprints smeared downward, as if the ghost had tried to grab on just as we were driving away. Were we all thoroughly creeped out? You betcha!!

So those are my most interesting ghost stories. What about you? Have you ever made contact with the other side? I love a good ghost story, so feel free to scare the poop out of me in the comments :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

And Once Upon a Time...

My nephew, AKA the Nephew Monster, is becoming quite independent. He'll be four years old in a few weeks, and he is determined that he can--and should, no must--do everything himself.

That includes reading. Now, don't get me wrong. He's still not reading words, even though he knows the alphabet and will gladly recite it for anyone who asks. But the Monster has his "fravrite" books, the ones that he insists on reading every day, if not more often than that. And I can promise you, he knows these books.

He knows exactly what happens and to whom on each page. And since he knows, he likes to do the "reading."

He'll take one of his "fravrites" from me and say, "No, Aunt Cat. I'm gonna read to you, today." That leaves me with no option but to laugh with pride and listen as he reads me the story.

The Monster then turns to a page...not necessarily the first page, but whichever page his little toddler fingers manage to flip to...and starts his recitation. "And once upon a time, there was Sam."

Then it is time to turn the page again. He'll flip in one direction or another. "And once upon a time, there was green eggs and ham." Another page flip. "And once upon a time, there was a fox in a box." Flip. "And once upon a time, there was a choo-choo-train. And once upon a time, the choo-choo-train drove in the dark!" Flip. "Oops, not this page." Flip again. "This is better. And once upon a time, Sam ate green eggs and ham." He slams the book closed. "And once upon a time, the end!!! Want to read it again, Aunt Cat?"

I love reading with the Monster, precisely because of his "And once upon a time" story telling ability. He tends to get all the important details in (or at least the details which are important to his almost-four-year-old mind), without the fluff. More than anything, though, I love that he loves these stories enough to read them until they're engrained in his little mind, and yet still wants to read them again.

Are there any books that, even though you know them backwards and forwards and twice on Sundays, you still find yourself reading them again and again?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Love Scenes: Just Say No/Yes

Every romance writer must face the decision as to how to handle intimacy between the hero and heroine. Lovemaking is a major part of most romantic relationships. Therefore, authors can't ignore it. Much like finger nails against a chalkboard. While some authors choose to hint at intimate relations occurring between the hero and heroine off the page, others throw the door wide open.

If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I’ve always envied people who embrace their sexuality. Growing up in a conservative part of the US, I learned to shy away from acknowledging that part of myself. But sexuality is an integral part of who each person is, just as important as our intellectual, spiritual, social, and emotional selves. Still, that doesn’t mean everyone wants to read or write love scenes, and I respect everyone’s feelings on this topic.

When I first started writing, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to handle that aspect of relationships. I had heard publishers wanted hot, hot, hot, and my writing was not, not, not. It was hard to write those scenes without imagining an authority figure looking over my shoulder and judging me. I would procrastinate for days when it was time to write one of these scenes, and I had to be alone so there was no chance of anyone catching a glimpse of the screen. It was a bit painful, really. And then there was the dreaded posting of said scenes for critique.
(This is like having judges in your bedroom rating your skills. MORTIFYING! A 5.5?!? What the-!)

About a year and a half into my writing, I took a step back and asked myself if I was writing to trend, or writing what I felt was important to tell the best story. I considered writing sweet, but the more I learned about storytelling, the less I felt that was the correct path for me. I would never consider having an action scene take place off the page. Who doesn’t want to experience the heart-pounding danger of the protagonist running from the bad guy, or the thrill of a good sword fight? So why would I have a love scene occur off the page?

Some craft books I've read state that avoiding action by having it happen off the stage is a fear response. The fear of the emotions involved. The fear of offending. The fear of rejection. Well, I can tell you this. Right before I started writing, I made up my mind that fear would no longer be making decisions for me. It had held me back from following my dreams long enough. So if fear was my motive for avoiding intimate scenes, I was kicking it to the curb.

Since intimacy is a very real part of a loving relationship, it felt disingenuous of me to pretended it wasn’t. Emotional authenticity is important, in my opiniion. It is one of the main things I look for in stories. I want to feel the connection is real and based on something more meaningful than surface qualities, and while love scenes can be based on nothing but physical attraction, they can also more adequately express deeper feelings than a mere conversation.

In the end, I decided throwing the door open in my books was a way for me to grow as a writer and as a person. I don’t think it’s the path for everyone, and would never suggest I know the right way for anyone else. I only know what’s right for me.

I would love to hear your thoughts on love scenes in books, either writing them or how you feel about them as a reader. (Please remember this can be a very sensitive topic for a lot of people, and follow the Lady Scribes’ golden rule: Be honest, but be kind.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vampires, Demons and Werewolves...Oh, My!

The hardest part about writing a blog (for me) is the beginning. And it's why I scour the internet, searching for just the right picture.

Mr. Right Image

Before Twilight, True Blood,The Vampire Diaries and even Buffy The Vampire Slayer, scary movies with blood sucking monsters were just that--MONSTERS. They were crypt-keeper old, creeptastically stalkery and wielded chainsaws.

They didn't twinkle in the sunlight or brood with their perfectly mussed hair. And they sure as heck didn't try to protect you from the bad guys; they were the bad guys. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at the evolution of a monster. 

Bram Stoker's Dracula was more like this:

Nosferatu: German for bad teeth.

Then this:

This movie scared the beejaysus out of me!

Werewolves were campy (okay, so this may only be scary to me):

Who wouldn't have the hots for a werewolf  playing air guitar on top of a van?

Then cool :

Alcide from True Blood

Demons were ravenous soul stealers:

Are the ginormous horns trying to make up for something?

Not ravishers with smoldering eyes:

Cole from Charmed

What's your favorite scream worthy monster from the silver screen or television? One randomly chosen commentor will receive Lydia Dare's trilogy of Gentlemen Vampyres, including their latest release NEVER BEEN BIT. Don't forget to leave your email address!

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 10, 2011

And the Year Was. . . 1492

"In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." We are all familiar with this rhyme, and I am fairly certain it helped most of us get that question correct on any history exam. Though Columbus Day is celebrated today, the anniversary is actually October 12th.

I also know there are several people who are against celebrating Columbus Day (though I am farily certain only a small precentage of American kids who are not sitting in a classroom today are among them). There has been outrage over the way the Native Americans were treated by Columbus and his men, as well as the diseases they brought to America. Then there are arguments that Columbus wasn’t the one who discovered America. It was the Vikings. But, that isn’t what this blog post is about because frankly, I hate arguing. I am the type of person who would rather agree to disagree and move on to more pleasant topics.

What I do love, however, is history. In honor of this holiday (though I must work) I delved into the archives of the internet to find out what else was happening in 1492. I checked on several websites, and they all seemed to have the same list so I won’t reference anyone individually.

So, while Columbus was preparing for his adventure and sailing around on the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, this is what else was happening in the world:

1/16 The first grammar of a modern language, in the Spanish language, is presented to Queen Isabella.

1/23 “Pentateuch”(Jewish holy book) 1st printed
3/4 King James IV of Scotland concludes an alliance with France againstEngland

4/30 Spain announces it will expel all Jews

5/15 Cheese and Bread rebellion: German mercenaries kill 232 Alkmaarse

8/11 Rodrigo de Borja becomes Pope Alexander VI

10/2 King Henry VII of England invades France

10/12 Flemish rebel leader Philip von Kleef surrenders

10/13 English admiral Poynings fleet occupies Lock

10/24 Twenty four Jews are burned at stake in Mecklenburg Germany

10/26 Lead pencils first used

11/7 The Ensisheim Meteorite, the oldest meteorite with a known date of impact, strikes the earth in France

11/9 Peace of Etaples (Henry VII & Charles VIII)

12/31 100,000 Jews expelled from Sicily.

There is a reason Lead Pencils is bolded. I happened to reference a lead pencil in Compromised for Christmas, my short story to appear in Summons from His Grace, Book 4 of the Regency Christmas Summons (to be released November 1st), and I was questioned about the use of the pencil in 1812. They were used, but at that time the English pencil was far superior to the German one, and France was not yet producing them, or there was a reason there were none in France, which I can’t remember exactly why. I am sure it had something to do with Napoleon ;). I would be able to tell you if I had I kept my research. But, I can tell you, that wooden pencils were being used in America in 1812.

Hi, I am Jane Charles, and I am the latest Lady Scribes blogger, and I absolutely love history.

How do you feel about history? Is there a special era, country, topic that you like best? Or, do you only delve into history when forced to?

Jane Charles
Countess of Content

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Writing as a Battle Strategy

It’s no secret I’m a planner while many of my crit partners are pansters, and while I’m not the most organized person in the world, inside my little world of writing...I am. When I take on a new project, I have several strategies in mind before I even write the first word.

And yes, I’m just weird enough to think of writing as a battle plan. The first thing I want to do is organize my troops and battle plans. I set out to get to know my characters with questionnaires, and I insert a basic outline. I utilize, create, and procure all kinds of maps: maps of the state or country, maps of the town. Then I get down to the nitty gritty and draw my own maps of the lay of the land and the setting where a majority of the story takes place. I use a dry, erase board to plot and index cards to outline. I don’t do anything more than write a basic sentence for each index cards. I want my outline as loose as I can get it, because at this point I know it will change. Several times.

I’ve always felt that knowledge is power and I can’t see myself going into battle without first preparing myself. But once I get most of the paperwork out of the way, I feel like I need to write the first chapter (or three), or at least what I perceive as the first chapter, because it often changes and gets tossed out. But it allows me to get a feel for the story, set the tone, and it introduces me to my main characters. The first goal I have is to strategically set my reader up in my world with as little words as possible.

Once I’ve done this, I need to set my battle plan into motion by invoking change in my character’s world. This, as you may know, is your first plot point. Your point of change where you characters' world gets thrown into chaos. They need to react to the change and begin to build their own strategies.

If you’re using the three act structure, this is the point of your battle plan where your characters attempt to fix everything and fail. Several times in fact. This is the slow, steady climb to the black moment. And this is where I often stall out, stray from my outline, or just get plain bored. So in order to get myself back on track, my strategy often includes a re-outline. More than likely, this is where I will include a more detailed outline. I can insert characterization hints into scenes and know exactly when the hero reveals to the heroine that he loves her because I insert the many stages of the love affair into my outline. By the end of a finished product I’ll often have at least three outlines. The current WIP, The Devil’s Defiance, has three and we’re only on chapter nine. I have half the book to go. Lucky me.

Once I’ve re-outlined, then I realize that I need up the stakes and increase the conflict until I reached the black moment. By this time, the tension should be wound so tight the reader can’t bear to take a single breath for fear of missing something. Not only should my outer conflict be moving along nicely, my characters have usually pinpointed and attempted to face their inner conflict at least once without success. It’s an intricate woven web of inner and outer conflict that makes a story work. It’s hard to determine which moves the story along more because they’re so intertwined. And THAT, my friends, makes good storytelling.

Setting up my black moment can often take me several days. I can often see this set of scenes in my head but getting them on paper takes work. My battle strategy is to get my outline down on paper where I can see, more than likely I’ll use index cards. I’ve been known to switch scenes, take them out, put more in and completely re-do the last half of my story before. But I can see the finish line from here so it usually isn’t that difficult to completely rewrite my outline here.

I also bring out my maps. I have a very detailed battle scene in a story that will be released next year called The Valkyrie’s Vengeance. It’s an epic battle and probably the largest in-scale scene I’ve ever written. It was very difficult just to see it all played out in my mind, much less put in on paper. So I broke out my maps. I drew map after map, and many of them looked like the scribbling of a football play. This guy runs over here, this guy catches the ball lol. It was a unique learning experience, to say the least, but it also taught me my biggest lesson in writing. Because I am so disorganized in real life, I needed to be organized in my writing life. Otherwise I had no clue how to get where I was going. So drawing these sketches, maps and outlines through my writing process helps me organize my thoughts into something I could see. Apparently, I am a very visual person, and this is what helps me get the words on paper.

So my writing process sounds very complicated but it works for me. It took me fifteen years to come up with and then perfect my writing battle strategy. I know many of you are pantsers, but do you do anything before you write the story or do you just sit down and write? What is your process and how complicated does it get?    

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eleven Dresses and Counting

You know that movie 27 Dresses? Well, I’m giving the heroine in the movie a run for her money. This weekend I got up at the bleary-eyed hour of 4:00 a.m., packed my two sleeping children into my SUV, and drove—with my husband—thirteen hours to Columbus Grove, Ohio to be a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding.

Let me put this in perspective for you. I will be forty on October 19, and before this weekend, I had been a bridesmaid in ten weddings. I may be forgetting someone, as my old brain has gotten fuzzy! The last wedding I was a bridesmaid in was three years ago, and I sincerely thought I had hung up my bridesmaid armor.

I adore each and every person I have been a bridesmaid for, but let’s face it, I thought every bridesmaid must eventually retire. When at 36, my great friend decided to get re-married and asked me to be a bridesmaid, I was thrilled. I thought to myself, this is definitely the last wedding I will ever be in, until that is I am the mother of the grooms. Shudder! My children are far to young to think about that.

However, a year ago my sweet cousin called and told me she was getting married, then asked me to be in her wedding. I was honored, but I have to admit that old thrill that being a bridesmaid used to give me did not immediately spark its coiffed head. Instead, I thought I’m too old to be a bridesmaid. I don’t know the other women/girls in the wedding party. They really do things MUCH differently in Columbus Grove, Ohio than we do them in deep South Alabama.

Being in my cousin’s wedding this weekend taught me a huge life lesson. First, all my worries were not valid, even if somewhat based in truth. I may be close to forty, but I’m definitely not to old to be in a wedding. I can still don a bridesmaid’s dress and glide down the isle with the best of them. I can also, do the “fist pumping” dance that is traditional in Grove for the wedding party to do in the CENTER of the reception, just as well as the twenty-two year old bridesmaid who was beside me.

I did not really “know” the other women in the wedding party, but I got to know them. My other cousin, who I’ve never had the opportunity to really get to know, was also in the wedding, and we really got to talk and bond. She’s wonderful, and I am so glad that we had the chance to spend the day with each other and open up our relationship to a new, closer level.

They really do approach weddings much differently in Columbus Grove than we do here in Alabama, but once I got over the initial shock of the difference, I had a blast. No, the groom and bride don’t go bar-hopping here in Alabama before they actually go to their own reception, but I’ve decided maybe those Grovians have stumbled onto something with that tradition. Instead of the bride and groom going straight to their reception, they get to spend time with their most intimate friends, drinking, reminiscing, and having a good time before they have to spend hours having three minute conversations with their hundreds of guests at the big reception.

I may suggest the tradition for here the next time I’m asked to be in a wedding, though I suspect, I’d get a pat on the knee, a shake of the head, and a “You’re so funny, Julie.”

I doubt most of my fellow southern sister’s are ready to trade in their limousines and antique convertible cars they usually ride to their receptions in for a hand built, hay-bale-packing open trailer. I must say, they don’t know what they’re missing. There’s nothing quite like riding in an open trailer—from bar to bar—in forty degree weather with the radio blaring, a cold Bush beer in hand—yes, I actually drank Bush beer—and having all the townsfolk’s honk at you because the wedding sign tells them to do so!

So, now I have been a bridesmaid in eleven weddings, that I can remember, and I’ve learned, I’ve still got it! If you need a bridesmaid, I’m open for business!

Have a great day,

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What might life be like without ... kids

From the outset, I must stress that I am in no way annoyed with my rugrats. I have two boys—one now an adult, one who sounds like he is. They are great children, fun to talk to and they still give their boring mum hugs (when no one can see them do it, of course).

But I got to thinking about what my life might have been like if I’d ignored the clucky urge all those years ago. At the time, the decision to have kids seemed a natural, normal thing but not everyone thinks so. A few my friends chose not to have kids and I swear the looks I used to get as I was turning from career-minded woman to mother of one annoyed me no end.

So what exciting stuff would I have missed out on without kids in my life?

Boy stuff: teenage hormones, temper tantrums, Pokemon, cubby houses, Ben 10, Thomas the Tank Engine (movies and train set play), freezing my butt off at Saturday morning soccer.

Life stuff: Parent teacher interviews, school plays, unbelievable reasons for detention, pocket money, the big Christmas, Easter Egg Hunts, School formals, the sex talk, revisiting the smurfs!

The gross stuff: Can boys ever get their wee in the toilet bowl? Nappies, nappies, milky vomit, runny noses, sweaty boy hugs, teething and temperatures. Midnight hospital visits (Oh, wait. Nope. Those midnight trips were ALL for my husband)

The best stuff: hugs for no reason, hugs morning and night, chasing them round the house (even when they are 18), talking in the kitchen, kitchen disasters, watching them fall asleep, unwrapping presents together on Christmas morning, bouncing on THEIR beds, making mad voices and having them look at you like you’re insane.

As I sat at dinner tonight, cracking enough jokes that my eldest had to leave the table because he was laughing far too hard (and still had food in his mouth) I concluded that I might have made the right decision to have kids. I mean, what other job can you do in this world where you take a small spark of life and mould it into something you can be incredibly proud of?

Oh, yeah – that’s right. I do that in my day job too. I’m also a full-time writer. Today I achieved another milestone in my life, my ninth ebook published, my second regency gay romance (Barely a Master) is unleashed upon the world. But how exactly did I celebrate? I told my family, the people that matter most. I got hugs from hubby, double thumbs up from the eldest boy and a huge grin from the smallest one. And while my cat rubbed around my ankles, I tossed another load of washing on. There really is nothing like being a parent to keep your ego in check, is there? What do you do to celebrate those big moments in your life?

~ Lady Wicked ~