Friday, January 28, 2011

Meet Roxie and Blake

Getting cover art is exciting! Check out what the fabulous Renee Rocco created for Mojo Queen:


Roxie can see auras and spectral energy and Blake's aura looks like a starfield to her. Here's a line from the manuscript describing what she sees: Scarlets and maroons, indigo twisting through like a swirl of paint, shooting stars of iridescent pearl, all of it shining against a velvety blackness. If you look in the top right corner behind Blake you can see the subtle hint of his aura - I LOVE that!

Mojo Queen will be out on May 2. I can't wait!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interview with author Sondrae Bennett

Today I have an interview with author Sondrae Bennett, talking about her paranormal romance Arctic Winds.


Nothing will stop a wolf once he’s found his mate…not even her own doubts.
After her skulk abandoned her four years ago, Samantha knew she would never truly be wanted. When she accidentally stumbles into a wolf town and is asked by their premier to stay, she believes it’s the novelty of an arctic fox motivating him. She knows she’ll be on her own again once he tires of her. 
Jason finds himself pulled to Samantha from the moment she faints in his arms. His wolf is calling to him, telling him he’s found their mate and the heat he feels for Samantha is impossible to resist. But his little fox is loaded down with emotional baggage and doesn't believe she’s worthy of love. Can he overcome her fears? Or will pack jealousies and the local foxes convince her she doesn't belong with him before he has a chance?


Where did the idea for Arctic Winds originate?

I love romance and I love shifters so writing a paranormal romance about shifters kind of came naturally. I found a contest asking for short stories for an anthology and I started writing Arctic Winds for that. Well, before I knew it I was over the parameters of the contest and loving the story, so I just kept going. I was so thrilled with the end product, I wanted to share it and luckily Lyrical Press liked it as much as I did and published it.

Shapeshifters are wildly popular in paranormal romance, especially wolves. What drew you to writing about wolf shifters and what made you shake things up by making your heroine an arctic fox shifter? (Learn more about the arctic fox here.)

a beautiful arctic fox
I read a book and it was mentioned that there were no bunny shifters. And there aren’t in my world either but it got me thinking, why do shifters have to be big cats and wolves and bears? I wanted to write something different and I’ve always had a fascination for foxes. Jason wasn’t actually supposed to be a wolf shifter but everything I tried on him didn’t quite fit until I stumbled onto wolf. And I’ve always believed that my characters know best when it comes to things like that.



Arctic Winds is the first in your Alpine Woods series. What can you tell us about the second book, Chasing Paradise?

Chasing Paradise is Ethan’s story, the brother of the hero in Arctic Winds. In the book he leaves Alpine Woods on vacation trying to escape a forced mating and ends up running into his true mate, Gwen. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy road for them, with Ethan still resisting mating and he inadvertently hurts Gwen with some careless words. It’s a very angsty tale and in it Ethan has to prove his love and devotion to Gwen. The book will also show more of the different shifter types. The heroine in that book is an otter shifter and runs an exclusive shifter resort where all types come to vacation.

Your bio says you began reading romance novels at the age of twelve. What draws you to the genre?

I love almost everything about the genre. One of the things in particular I love is how when everything seems hopeless and when the hero and heroine are at their lowest, they find the strength within themselves and within their love for each other to push through. They do have to go through trials but in the end, they do get their happily ever after. I think there’s a good lesson in that. Even when you’ve hit rock bottom, the only place left to go is up.

You have a feature on your blog called “Madly in Love Monday” where you share a book from your keeper shelf. What are some of your all-time favorites?

I’m so glad you mentioned this feature. It’s something I look forward to all week. Most of the books I mention are all favorites from my past. I rarely put a new favorite up there because I need to let them…stew for a bit before I proclaim them keepers. I honestly don’t know that I can pick one or two that shine above the others. The authors that pop out in my mind are Kresley Cole, Karen Marie Moning, Nora Roberts, and Dean Koontz (because I had to feature Watchers since I really am obsessed with that book).

What’s next for you on the writing front?

Well right now I’ve finished the third book in the Alpine Woods Shifter Series, currently titled The Wolf Within, which is Julie’s story, the youngest sibling. It’s still in the self-editing phase but hopefully it will be ready to submit soon. I’ve got a couple other stories I’m working on as well that aren’t in the series but I’m not sure what’s going to be my main focus after I get The Wolf Within to my editor.

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Find out more about Sondrae Bennett at her blog, Sondrae's Corner, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. Arctic Winds can be purchased from Lyrical Press as well as other digital retailers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ghost stories and murder ballads

Despite being some of the most unsettling songs you'll ever hear, I like a good murder ballad. The best ones sound like an invocation to the murdered ghost, an invitation to share their grief and exact vengeance. There's no random killing in murder ballads, it's always someone the victim loved. The dead is usually a woman, though not always. A woman who gives her heart and her trust to the wrong man is a woman not long for this world in the landscape of the murder ballad.

Johnny Cash's voice haunted me so in his version of Delia's Gone, I named a character after poor dead Delia. This song and Pretty Polly by Dock Boggs are both story songs that have mutated over the years, like a game of telephone across time. The lineage of Delia's Gone can be traced to a true crime in Savannah, Georgia, in 1900, though that true story bears very little resemblance to the tale told by Cash. Pretty Polly is one of the great Appalachian murder ballads. Polly allows her lover to lead her deep into the woods, where they eventually come upon the grave he has dug for her. The song's genealogy is traced to a similar ballad from England in the 1700s, in which the murdered girl is also pregnant. The Gosport Tragedy allows for revenge by the two ghosts and although there is nothing inherently supernatural about the lyrics of Pretty Polly, the version by Dock Boggs recorded in the 1920s sounds very much to me like his banjo is conjuring up the dead.



Where the Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue is a modern ballad, though it fits in musically and lyrically with older songs in the tradition. Two things strike me about this song. One is the fact that it's a duet, so we hear from both the murderer and the murdered. The blending of two such disparate voices as Cave and Minogue is perfect to tell this story. The other thing that strikes me is the murdered girl's refrain: "They call me The Wild Rose / But my name was Elisa Day / Why they call me it I do not know / For my name was Elisa Day." Murder is the ultimate act of destruction, killers don't even see their victims as people. Elisa Day could not comprehend why her lover, and possibly others, did not see her as a person, as a woman with a heart and a soul and life of her own to live. That simple insistence - "my name was Elisa Day" - feels like a quiet demand that she not be denied her identity, her humanity. Surely emotion that strong would mark the land and haunt the place she died.



Furnace Room Lullaby by Neko Case - just put this one on repeat and see how long it takes you to get twitchy. If I had any skill with editing mash-ups I would pair Neko's voice with Dock's banjo and probably never sleep again. Such a pairing would bring forth every bloody ghost between the Delta and Appalachia, floating past my vision on their way to whatever vengeance they could find.



So much of music seems like conjure work to me, calling up energy, filling it with intention, then casting it loose to do its work. I don't pretend to know what work murder ballads do. Calling them Southern gothic memorials to domestic violence feels too flippant. They are musical ghost stories, and I like a good ghost story. Sometimes when I'm up long past midnight and I can't sleep, a good ghost story is just what I feel like.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with author L.K. Below

This week author L.K. Below is here to talk about her new historical romance Unveiling His Princess.



When Natalia’s dreadful stepsister locks her in a closet, steals her identity, and sets out to marry Prince Bennett in her place, Natalia nearly gives up hope. Luckily, she has a fairy godmother willing to guide her. Dressed in nothing but a fur, and assured that Bennett will recognize her even though they’ve never met, she sets out for his palace.
Prince Bennett knows that he must marry his princess, but when he meets her something seems amiss. He cannot reconcile the lively, veiled beauty he consorts with at night with the waspish princess he meets during the day. And to make matters worse, he can barely fight off his attraction to a fur-clad scullery maid. Whatever will he do?



Where did the idea for Unveiling His Princess originate?

Unveiling His Princess is based off of the Brothers Grimm fairytale titled “Princess Mouseskin.” When I read that tale, it intrigued me. My mind kept spinning and when I sat down to write, Natalia’s voice poured out. Now, she led me astray of the tale somewhat, but ultimately, I feel it was worth it.

Was it meant to be a sort of grown up fairy tale?

I’m not so certain I meant it to be anything of the sort. Yes, it is based on a famous fairytale, but when I wrote it, I was channeling Natalia’s voice and story. If my readers can lose themselves in the tale in reading it half as much as I did writing it, I will consider my task achieved.

But as this is based on a fairytale, I suppose it could be seen as one. Several parts of it do mirror the original tale, while the characters and situation differ somewhat. And of course this has a happily ever after. No romance -- or fairytale -- is complete without one, in my opinion.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book, without giving too much away of course.

My favorite scene in the book is probably when Bennett leads Natalia out into the portico. He shows her the gorgeous gardens (which she dearly loves) but in doing so, secludes the both of them from prying eyes. This scene is my favorite because they’re both so attuned to each other, so determined that everything will work itself out and they’ll end up together. The perfect moment, even if Natalia grants him liberties she shouldn’t have. :)

What draws you to writing romance?

I love to read and write a variety of genres. But when life really brings me down, the books I lose myself in are romances. In romances, I’m guaranteed a happy ending. I’m guaranteed that the hero and heroine will overcome whatever obstacles are in their path. When I’m feeling down, even just a little bit, these books help to uplift my spirit. I hope to provide that same escape and happiness through my romances.

You’re very prolific and write in a variety of genres. What kind of challenge does that pose for you?

I think of it more as a boon than a challenge. After all, the very fact that I write such different things often helps me to purge writer’s blocks (by momentarily moving on to something completely different). But at the same time, it is a challenge. Because I write in so many genres, I feel that I’m disloyal to some if I start writing (for instance) many romances at one time, or many young adult stories. I try to keep a balance between them.

Not only that, but some genres demand a full-length novel as opposed to a novella or shorter story. Fantasy, for instance, is one such genre. Rarely do my fantasy ideas fall short of a (long!) novel, or even at times several novels. I do wish I would find more time to finish them, but when novella-length romances come so easily to my fingertips, I often switch and write those instead.

2010 saw a lot of submissions and acceptances for you – what are your plans for 2011?

Well I haven’t counted how many submissions I sent out (a lot!), I was lucky to have received a total of ten acceptances in a variety of genres. Most of these will be released in 2011, so foremost on my agenda is promoting them. Be sure to check my blog for exciting contests and giveaways!

And, of course, I can’t stop writing, so I’ll be working hard to bring many more exciting things for 2012 and beyond!

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Learn more about L.K. Below at her website and blog, and find her on Twitter and Facebook. Unveiling His Princess can be purchased at this link.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Interview with author Pamela Turner

Today author Pamela Turner is here to talk about her new urban fantasy release, Death Sword.



The only thing more dangerous than an angel of death is one obsessed with vengeance.
Karla Black has always known she’s different from other people. She learns just how different after she's fatally stabbed and brought back to life as a half-human angel of death.
With newfound power comes a newfound boss.
Samael despises her. He considers Karla impure and resents her relationship with her partner Xariel…who also happens to be Samael's ex-lover. When he takes that hatred to a higher level, Karla vows vengeance - a task easier said than done. 
With the loss of their angelic powers, Karla and Xariel face a dilemma – how will they defeat an unstoppable Samael, whose poisoned rapier can kill human and angel alike? 
If Karla doesn’t awaken to her true identity, both heaven and earth are in danger of annihilation.

Where did the idea for Death Sword originate?

First, thank you, Sonya, for interviewing me. As for where I got the idea for Death Sword, I wish I could remember. LOL I wrote Death Sword for National Novel Writing Month in 2008. Ultimately, I wanted to write a story about a complicated relationship. It didn’t start out that way. In the NaNo draft there was no relationship between Xariel and Samael. But then I started thinking what if Samael had lost Xariel and determined to get him back, despite the fact Xariel couldn’t be with another male because of his sex curse. Add to that Samael’s curse – Xariel unwittingly kills every woman he sleeps with – and the situation is made worse. Throw in the arrival of Karla Black, a half-human angel, and Xariel finds himself caught between his young charge and his vengeance-obsessed boss.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the story, without giving too much away, of course.

When Xariel and Gabriel enter Xariel’s house and Karla’s not there. Xariel knows something’s wrong and his first reaction is to grab a bottle of whiskey and start downing shots like there’s no tomorrow. Gabriel’s more pragmatic. He knows they need to get back to Metatron and find a way to rescue her. So he slugs Xariel because it’s the only way he can think of to get the archangel to act rather than react.

What draws you to writing urban fantasy, and about angels specifically?

I grew up reading horror, mystery, and fantasy so I think the move to paranormal and urban fantasy was a logical progression. It took me a little longer to realize if I enjoyed reading these kinds of stories why not write them? Angels fascinate me because of their power and we tend to downplay that aspect. We “humanize” them when their true appearance would undoubtedly unnerve us. So I like challenging people’s preconceived notions about angels.
   
Death Sword is the first of a four part series called Angels of Death. Can you tell us anything about the rest of the series?

Samael plays a significant role in the series. Each book focuses on a particular angel of death introduced in Death Sword. The second book, Serpent Fire, introduces new characters, including Uriel and Lilith. They join with the angels of death to fight against the Seraphim. Xariel’s sex curse and subsequent relationships are also woven throughout. I won’t tell you who he ends up with, though. Rest assured, everyone will have a happy ending. Well, almost everyone.
 
The setting for Death Sword is Louisville, Kentucky. What made you choose Louisville as the story’s location?

I want to share the city with my readers. Even though I’m from Wisconsin, Louisville has become home to me. The places mentioned in Death Sword – Highlands and Old Louisville – those are neighborhoods I love to visit. If you go to my Flickr account, you can see photos taken throughout Louisville, including locations used in my book.

Your bio at Lyrical Press says you’re a member of the Romance Writers of America and several chapters. How can a membership in the RWA help a writer who is just starting out?

The RWA offers networking opportunities and a supportive environment for writers. I first got involved with the RWA by taking workshops from a couple of chapters. (You don’t always need to be a RWA member to take workshops.) Soon I was networking with other writers and decided to check out my local chapter. You have to have a national RWA membership before you can join any local or special interest chapter. But when you do, you have access to the Romance Writers Report (publication), contests (including the prestigious Golden Heart & RITA), the aforementioned workshops, an annual conference with chances to pitch to agents and editors, etc.  If you’d like to learn more, visit RWA.org.

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Pamela Turner blames her warped imagination on all the coffee she’s consumed since age 10. A former freelance writer, Death Sword is her first book. Find her online at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. Death Sword can be purchased at Lyrical Press, for Kindle, Nook, and other digital retailers.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Smeagol Brings on the Night

Yesterday I called my new Kindle "The Precious" and wrote this: "Let's pretend for a moment I have the skill to photoshop a picture of Gollum holding a Kindle. Sadly I don't, which is too bad because that would be an awesome picture." 


Look at what awesomeness fellow blogger and writer Melissa Walker sent me:




Isn't that awesome?! I love it! Thank you Melissa!


Melissa has two great blogs you should check out. Edge of Forever is her personal blog/writing blog/all things vampires blog. The Vampire Chronicles Art Gallery is a collection of the classical art mentioned in various passages of Anne Rice's vampire novels. And here's a great tidbit about Melissa: she named her iPad Barnabas, after the Dark Shadows vampire Barnabas Collins. She's just awesome all around!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Interview with author Sarah Ballance

Author Sarah Ballance is here to talk about her new romantic suspense novel Run To You.



Mattie James can't pinpoint exactly when she lost control of her life, but the moment she decided to take it back made the front page of the local paper. Desperate to dodge the fallout— and the tabloids—she jumps at the chance to spend an off-season week in a tiny resort community by the sea. Making the trip with her ex-lover is a complication she can live with; coming face to face with a dead woman is not.


The last thing Sheriff Wyatt Reed expected to find on the storm-ravaged beach was a beautiful blonde with a jealous sidekick, but one look at Mattie left him wanting more. Their first date takes an ominous turn when he gets the call that a woman was found murdered. With a killer on the loose and a troubling lack of suspects or motive, Wyatt has to put his feelings aside to focus on the case. But his vow not to become personally involved is shattered when he discovers Mattie's life is on the line, and this time the truth leaves her with a deadly choice ...  and nowhere to run.



Tell us about Run To You.

Who hasn't dreamed of heading to the beach to get away from it all?  That's where the story begins.  After a nasty breakup literally makes the papers, Mattie takes her ex-lover turned closest friend up on  his offer to spend a week at the beach.  She figures it’s the perfect way to put her not-so-distant past behind her, and if she can find a fling to pass the time, all the better.  Unfortunately, her ex-lover had his own set of intentions which didn't include a threesome, and Mattie's own plans didn't include coming face to face with a murder victim … or becoming the killer's next target.


Share with us your favorite scene in the story, without giving too much away, of course.

Although I'm kind of partial to the banter in the opening scene between Mattie and her ex, Hutch, I have to say my favorite scene is when Mattie and Wyatt (he's the fling) consummate things.  I actually wrote that scene last – for months it sat as "insert sex here," LOL.  Although I can read explicit sex day long, I'm not comfortable with the usual flinging, heaving body parts in my own writing.  Making the scene hot and sensual and sexy without using the typical "dirty words" represented a huge challenge for me, but I'm thrilled with how it turned out.  Their lovemaking is a deeply emotional journey for Mattie, it ties in with the story in tremendous ways, and the scene ends with a significant acknowledgement of doubt and uncertainty.  As hard as it was for me to write, the sex between them now stands as one of my greatest personal writing victories.

What draws you to writing romantic suspense? 

I love to read it.  As a kid, I read the Nancy Drew Case Files and remember telling myself I'd stop at the end of a given chapter and never could close the book.  For years thereafter I traded romance books for parenting magazines, but fell in love again with Harlequin Intrigues.  The sense of danger sends the romantic tension to a whole new level, and my math brain loves the puzzle of crafting a story around the clues without giving too much away.  My goal is to build toward a really gritty suspense, and my next work-in-progress is definitely a step above.  I spent a full day researching what ended up being a single typewritten page, but it's an accurate page, dang it!

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. For instance, are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’re a plotter, what method do you like to use?

I'm a little bit of each.  I summarize my story in one paragraph, or in five to ten plot points.  That's the extent of my outline, and it might change every day, but it gives me a thread of direction. Beyond it – in spite of it, for that matter – my characters do what they like.  I tweak for them, but they seldom give me an inch, LOL.  My stories are quite vivid and real to me, however, and writing is almost like jotting down what I see in my mind.  They tell me what they're about, and I merely take notes.  *grin*

What are some of the writers and books that have inspired you?

I think I find a little more of myself in every book I read in the sense that I'll see things I like – or even don't like – that further shape my own words.  In terms of writing style, however, I've got to give another plug to Rosalie Stanton.  Her book "Ripples Through Time" blew me away.  What I found between the covers was pure brilliance.  Every page is full of clever quips, one-liners, and the kind of wit I can only aspire to write, and I'm currently clamoring all over myself to own her entire backlist.

Your bio says you have six homeschooled children – where in the world do you find the time to write?

I don't find it – I demand it.  I HAVE to write.  Writing gives me a sense of accomplishment because – unlike the schooling, cooking, cleaning, and laundry – it's something I can finish.  I am so very blessed by being able to spend all day with my kids and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but if they don't leave me alone for an hour or so each morning I just glare at them until they go away, LOL.  The key, I think, is keeping up my end of the deal.  I always stop writing when I say I will and I give them my full attention from that point on.  As such, there is a great deal of mutual respect.  (That, and as soon as I close the computer it's time for math drills, so heaven forbid they bug me until I stop ahead of schedule.  *cackles*)

What’s on the horizon for you – any works in progress you can tease readers about?

I had been working on a romance, but the aforementioned suspense really bullied its way to the front of the line.  It's a gritty, bullets-flying kind of story full of sexual tension stemming from a broken past between the two main characters.  The romance it edged out combines a taste of the forbidden with an encounter with the unexplained, and the result is a bit disconcerting at times.  The story actually makes me uncomfortable, and I think that's what I love most about it.  I hope both novels will be finished by spring.

Thank you so very much for allowing me to hang out with you for the day!  It's been an absolute pleasure to get to know you, and I'll be around to answer any questions your readers may have – even the personal ones.  ;-)
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Thank you Sarah!

Find Sarah Ballance online at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Run To You can be purchased at Noble Romance, where you can also read an excerpt, and Amazon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Every Breaking Wave



Every Breaking Wave - U2

I found this video some time ago and go back to listen to it fairly often. The song has not yet been on a U2 album but I'm hoping it will be included on whatever their next release turns out to be. I've been a U2 fan for a very long time. Stuck with them through massive change (Achtung Baby), less than stellar albums (Pop), terrible side projects (the Spider-Man musical), and dodgy financial practices I don't want to know too much about. In addition to probably every one of their albums I also have several concert DVDs since I've never had a chance to see them live. That will change later this year. Despite being big cities and such important places in the history of American music, not a lot of big acts come to Memphis or Nashville. Neither city was on the list for U2's latest tour but after they had to postpone part of it for a year while Bono recovered from back surgery, they started adding dates. Nashville made the list, July 2 at Vanderbilt stadium. We got our tickets the day they went on sale. I'm pretty excited - this will be my first and probably only chance to see them live in concert. And I probably will be talking about it again in these Music Monday posts. :)