Friday, April 29, 2011

Mojo Queen event and giveaway

Monday's the day - Mojo Queen will be released. I created an event for it on Facebook and will be giving away one copy to a random attendee in the ebook format of their choice (pdf, epub, or mobi/Kindle). If you're on Facebook all you have to do is click "attending" and you've got a chance at a free book. If you're not on Facebook, I will be doing other giveaways.

Here's the link.

In case you missed it earlier in the week, I posted the first scene of the book here. You can read a different excerpt at the Lyrical Press site. All new titles are 30% off on release day only when you buy directly from Lyrical Press, and you get a DRM-free zip file with four different formats - PDF, EPUB, LIT, and PRC which is Mobi/Kindle. I'll post more buy links as I get them. It will be available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and various other digital retailers.

Y'all, I am terrified and excited. I've even tried not to think about Monday but now it's so close I can't help it. If you've never experienced a book release day, let me explain. No, it takes too long to explain, let me sum up: it feels like facing the Cliffs of Insanity, and you have to first climb the cliffs, and then you have to jump off.*  (I did a tandem skydive once, and this feels sort of like that experience. I haven't screamed loud enough to frighten cattle in three counties like I did on the jump, but Monday's not here yet.)

So go! Attend the Mojo Queen Facebook event for a chance to win a free copy, and if you don't win it then go buy it. You'll love Roxie the ghost-evicting root worker, her vampire ancestor Daniel, and Blake the Sexy Sorcerer.

* You know what - the first person who can tell me what those two movies that I linked to clips from have in common wins a copy of Mojo Queen. Other than having scenes about cliffs and being two of my favorite movies, that is. =)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mojo Queen extended excerpt

One week until Mojo Queen! You can read an excerpt at the Lyrical Press site at this link. Here is a different excerpt, the very first scene in the book.

I could feel the presence of spirits as soon as I crossed the threshold, a heaviness to the air, a tingling on the back of my neck. Telltale tracks of blood seeping out the walls also served as a big clue.

“Roxanne.” My cousin, Daniel Rambin, stood in the doorway holding a box and my messenger bag. Technically he wasn’t my cousin, actually my ancestor, but it was easier to tell people we were cousins.

I turned to help him bring in our supplies. The living room was taken up mostly with a sectional, coffee table, and television, all super-sized. I started unpacking our stuff on the coffee table.

“The blood’s not real.” Daniel stood in the middle of the living room, examining the wall. Of medium height with a slim athletic build, blue eyes and dark blond hair, a penchant for jeans and flannel shirts, he didn’t look like what he was.


“That’s what it smells like.”

I glanced up from setting out the supplies. “Ectoplasm has a smell?”

He shrugged. “Everything has a smell.” A hint of amusement shaded his voice.

I concentrated on what I was doing to help me get in the right frame of mind. Using the coffee table as an altar of sorts, I laid everything out, starting with incense. Next a white candle to represent this family and their home. I dressed it with oil and placed it on the table alongside a chunk of angelica root. Around that I emptied a packet of powder, ground-up herbs and roots, in a circle. On top of the circle I placed seven purple candles, also dressed with oil, to represent forces of protection. A black candle to signify the trouble plaguing this house came next, undressed and outside the circle. I wrote troublesome ghosts nine times on a small piece of paper, placing the black candle on top of it. Pouring a spice jar full of graveyard dirt onto a small cheap porcelain saucer, I placed the saucer next to the black candle.

The lights started flickering. First a lamp in the corner then the recessed pod lights, one at a time. “They know we’re here,” I said.

Daniel gave me a look. “They?”

I nodded. “We’re definitely in the plural here.” I walked to the kitchen, surveying the countertops. They were clear, as I’d requested. Good. I didn’t need a toaster thrown at my head, or knives from a knife block. A paranormal investigator only needs a ghost to discover the fun to be had with a knife block once before telling clients to get the things out of the house before an eviction starts. “Okay. Let’s start mapping.”

“Is there a basement or attic?”

“No, but we will need to make sure we get the garage.” Unlike that one time…

We started at the front door and walked through every room clockwise, making sure we knew the layout and the location of every closet. I didn’t draw a physical map but I liked to have a walkthrough before getting down to business. The place wasn’t big enough to be called a McMansion. It was a standard boxy subdivision house with a crappy floor plan, lots of neutral colors, toys for small children and Thomas Kinkaid on the walls. It had taken a lot for these nice conservative Stepford Borg to call someone like me. As we walked through the house I started to open my senses further, slowly. Like taking your time to get the radio dial on the right frequency and volume, so you don’t get blasted with feedback. Not the best explanation for it, I know, but it was the best I could come up with when I tried explaining it to people. Basically, by going slowly I could make sure I didn’t get overloaded, which was a damn good thing in this house. I was picking up waves of anger, a big swirling froth of it, but there was more underneath. A great sadness tugged at me, even stronger than the anger. They weren’t haunting this place for kicks.

Back at the starting point, I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the coffee table, my hands flat on the carpet. I closed my eyes, slowed my breathing, reaching with my senses through the plain brown carpet and the cheap subflooring, drilling a hole through the layer of negative energy wrapped around the house, straight to the earth underneath. I was long past needing a chant to help ground and center myself. Now it was automatic as breathing. Energy built inside me in a slow, steady rising cone. I exhaled, opening my eyes in time to see the cloud of my breath. The temperature had dropped.

Daniel knelt on the opposite side of the table, his lighter in one hand. He hadn’t done this with me very many times, but he knew his part. His mouth curled in a grim smile. “Ready?”

I nodded. I produced my own lighter and lit the candles--first the purple, then the white, then the black--as Daniel took care of the incense.

“We petition for the protection of this family and ask that their home be rid of troublesome ghosts.” A clear calm voice, a voice of authority, just as I’d been taught, even if I had to fake it. I picked up the black candle and placed the paper in the dish of graveyard dirt. Setting the paper on fire, I said, “Intruders, be gone from this house.”

Protection spell started and statement of intention completed, now it was time for the actual eviction. We turned our attention to the rest of the supplies. A small black-lacquered tray held a white round three-inch pillar candle, a smudge stick of white sage incense and a small brass bell. That was for Daniel. For me waited a bowl, a bottle of rainwater and a container of salt. I poured water in the bowl, added a generous amount of salt and stirred it with my fingers. I stood and started toward the door. Daniel lit the candle then the sage.

I stood in front of the door for a moment, the bowl of saltwater in my left hand. A gilt mirror hung on the wall closest to the door, next to a coat rack. I caught my own reflection in the mirror. Tipping my head down, I looked over the tops of my glasses. Faint blue light seemed to swirl around me, several shades of blue but mostly a dark indigo. It turned my green eyes the color of swamp mud and gave my auburn hair punkish highlights.

I don’t necessarily have to take my glasses off to see a person’s aura. Using my glasses as a filter is something I trained myself to do, and taking them off was part of my ritual of focusing my concentration so I can see the auric field. We’re all made up of energy. Electromagnetic energy is what forms the etheric, first layer of energy surrounding our bodies. When you hear someone talk about being able to “see” a person’s aura, this is the energy field they’re talking about. It’s an ebbing, flowing shimmer of light and color radiating several inches out from the physical body.

Reading an aura means interpreting what all those colors mean. The colors can refer to a person’s physical health, their personality, their emotional state. Different “readers” might see different colors. What’s red to me might look orange to someone else, but our interpretation will pretty much be the same. It’s a little like reading tarot cards, more about intuition than hard-and-fast rules.

There are some things that seem fairly universal in my experience. If a color is more of a glow, it’s positive. If it has more of a smoky look to it, it’s a negative emotion. There’s a difference between seeing the aura of a person and catching sight of a ghost’s aura. It’s about like trying to catch soap bubbles and keep them intact, and I do have to take my glasses off for that. I folded them closed, setting the bowl on the floor long enough to get the glasses in their case and the case back in the pocket of my hoodie. One last glance at Daniel to make sure he was ready then I turned to face the door.

I dipped my fingers in the bowl and splashed salt water around the door frame. Speaking in a clear, loud voice, I said, “You are not welcome here, and you need to leave.”

The bell rang behind me. I stepped out of Daniel’s way so he could pass the incense around the door then I repeated myself. “You are not welcome here, and you need to leave.” Not a plea, not a threat either, just a clear statement.

We went through every room in the house like this, clockwise, paying special attention to corners, windows, doorways, and closets, and not forgetting the garage. Holy water as announcement, a bell to get their attention, incense to carry the message and cleanse the place, followed by my simple commandment to leave. Not flashy but it generally gets the job done. Not that they don’t fight back. Oh hell yeah, they can fight back, and the ones in this house were starting to.

Every light bulb we passed exploded, tiny pieces catching in my hair. Everything not nailed down began to tremble, knickknacks sliding off shelves. The temperature continued to drop and the air pressure pushed against the inside of my head painfully. As we reached the back of the house, the voices started. Nothing so distinct as words, more like murky ripples of sound rising and falling. And, like what I’d sensed earlier, anger and pain and sadness. Unintelligible shouts, crying moans.

I’m near-sighted, so I didn’t have too much trouble in the close confines. My auric vision, as Daniel called it, wasn’t picking up much of anything but faint residue from the family who lived here, brief splashes of color, overlaid with a dark, smoky haze.

I kept repeating my command for the ghosts to leave, trying to watch for changes in that haze, evidence the banishing was working, or not.

As we entered one of the children’s rooms I got a big not upside the head. I cried out in surprise more than pain, though it certainly hurt.

Daniel picked up what hit me, holding it up for me to examine before tossing it back on the floor. “Toy truck,” he said. “At least it’s not one of the big old metal ones.”

I rubbed the side of my head then went back to sprinkling salt water. “You are not welcome here.” My voice sounded more forceful now. “And you need to leave!”

The bedroom door slammed shut. Toy soldiers and children’s books became missiles aimed at our heads. Curtains and blinds in the room’s only window shook, snapping at me as I tried to spread my salt water. Toy cars zipped out from under the bed, nearly tripping Daniel. The indistinct screaming became louder, more focused around us, as if we were surrounded by invisible forces, which, actually, we were. Except I could see them; pockets of swirling gray haze, appearing and disappearing throughout the room. I spotted some of it by the bed again, right before it was lifted off the floor and flung at Daniel.

It caught him square in the back and knocked him down, his head cracking against a corner of a chest of drawers, the tray and its implements lost in the mess. With luck the candle was snuffed. A bright splash of blood shone through the auric murk and that small cone of energy in me expanded. It twisted through me and out of me, until I could see a wave of yellow crash into the gray haze. “Get out!”

My body jerked, sending the bowl of salt water to the floor. I dropped to my knees, placing my palms flat on the ground, reaching for something to hold on to while my head spun so much I thought I might vomit. Ground and center, ground and center, pretend you’re a tree with roots and shit that never works.

Something cold came close to my face, so close I wasn’t sure if it was touching my skin. I raised my eyes from the floor, looking deep into the gray. No faces, no forms, but definitely a presence. I spoke to that presence, but without shouting this time.

“This is not your home.” My voice was barely above a whisper. “You need to leave. You can leave. You’re free to go.” I sat back on my haunches, glancing around at the smoke-like ribbons curling around the room. “You’re free to go. You’re free.” I kept repeating it until it was almost a chant.

The spinning in my head slowed to a crawl as I watched them leave, energy dissolving into emptiness. The temperature returned to normal with a rush. I fumbled my glasses out and put them on, hands shaking. I felt exhausted, much more so than after a normal ghost eviction. My guess was it had to do with all that energy I’d used.

Daniel sat up, dabbing at his forehead with his fingers. The cut was deep enough to need stitches, if he were human, but since he was a vampire, the torn skin had already begun to knit, blood soaking back into his flesh. It grossed me out a little but fascinated me at the same time.

“Did I just get my ass handed to me by a ghost?”

I shrugged. “Kinda, yeah.”

He came to his feet, taking my hands to pull me up. “I can honestly say that’s a new one for me.”

“Cool.” I offered him a weak grin. “Something you can blog about.”

He laughed, but got serious again real quick. “So what was that?”

“I did some research on the property. The land, I mean. I know the house is just a couple of years old, but sometimes spirits will hang around a piece of land.” I started to pick through the toy debris for our supplies. “There was a plantation here, before the Civil War. Right where this house and a few of the neighbors are now was the slave cemetery. I thought that might have something to do with the haunting.”

He nodded. “That’s why you kept using the word free. Okay, I get that. But what I meant was what did you do? I can’t see things the way you can, but I can feel it when somebody cracks open a can of magic whoop ass. I didn’t know you could do that.”

I didn’t say anything for a long moment. He was talking about the yellow light, of course, the energy that had come out of me and knocked those angry ghosts around like a strike through bowling pins. Not just knocked them around, but subdued them enough to finally listen to me. I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t known I could do that, or how I did it, or if I could do it again. His surprise had nothing on my shock.

The home owner came to my rescue and kept me from having to answer by flinging the door to his son’s room open and greeting us with a baseball bat held high. “I know you said to wait outside but it sounded like World War Three breaking out.” The poor guy looked terrified, but I had to give him props for being brave enough to come back in.

I held out my hands in a relaxed gesture. “It’s okay, Mr. Newman. It’s all over now.”

He lowered the bat, eyes cutting back and forth between us. “You mean, uh, the house is, uh, clean?”

I gave him my best don’t worry, I’m a professional smile. “Yes sir, it is.”

His shoulders slumped. “Oh, that’s…that’s great. That is so great.” He took in the chaotic condition of his child’s room then noticed the blood on Daniel’s shirt. “Hey, are you okay?”

Daniel gave him a dazzling smile and a little bit of vampy mind fog. “I’m fine, just fine. Sorry about the mess.”

Mr. Newman seemed to forget where he was for a moment, a bland smile on his face. Then he shook his head and looked at me. “Uh, the Toomeys.”

I gave him a questioning look.

“Our neighbors. We were talking to them about all this.” He gave an embarrassed laugh. “Well, it’s just that ...”

Was I going to have to pull it out of him, whatever he was trying to say?

After a moment he stopped hemming and hawing and got to the point. “It’s happening at their house, too. They’d like you to help them. If you can.”

All I wanted to do was go home and go to bed. It must have shown on my face, because Mr. Newman decided to get sneaky with me. “I told them you’ll take a check but you prefer cash. He should be back from the ATM any time now.”

Daniel and I exchanged a look. He raised an eyebrow, as if to say, it’s up to you. My bank account made the decision. I smiled at Mr. Newman. “Let’s go meet the Toomeys.”

Friday, April 22, 2011

Escalation, or why you really need to torture your characters

Cross-posted from Write Club.

There are three lines you braid together to create a compelling plot. One is conflict, one is motivation, and the third is escalation.

Conflict: somebody wants something, and someone or something stands in their way.

Motivation: why do they want it?

Escalation: This is where you make your characters work to get what they want, and make them face just how far they will go to get it.

There's a great analogy about putting your character up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them. That's exactly how you need to think of escalation. The stakes have get to get higher and your protagonist has got to walk through the flames of Hell to reach their goal. Okay, maybe not literally, unless you're writing a paranormal and your protagonist does in fact walk through the flames of Hell. ;) The point is, you have to make it harder and harder for your protagonist to reach their goal. You have to torture them, you have to ratchet up the tension and the stakes higher and higher until your protagonist is standing on the edge of a cliff, staring into an abyss and thinking all is lost. And then you have to push them off the cliff.

I know you don't want to. Believe me, it's something I struggle with. I love my characters and I want them all to be happy and spending their days doing whatever they think of as fun. In Mojo Queen, I would have been very happy to have Daniel float through the book with a drink in one hand, always on the verge of bursting into song. (A really cheesy off-key rendition of some classic country song, maybe in a small town bar on karaoke night - like this song perhaps.) But that would have been too easy and it would have lacked the tension needed to escalate the plot. So I had to be mean to Daniel. I had to torture him. There were snakes. *shudder* But when it was over I was really proud of myself for having had the fortitude to put such a beloved character through something like that. Writing is the only place where its acceptable to hurt the ones you love. You may love your characters, but you can't just hand them a happy ending on a silver platter. For the sake of the story, they have to work for it. They have to struggle and sweat and take their lumps and have all manner of obstacles put in their way. It has to be this way because in the end it makes the payoff - the characters getting what they want - all the sweeter.

My recipe for escalation is pretty simple: Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Lather, rinse, repeat. When everything seems darkest, push them off a cliff and let them fly into Thunderdome. With a strong enough motivation leading their actions it will make perfect sense for the character to wind up there. After all, they've come this far, been through the worst the world could throw at them, and clearly they want to achieve their goal bad enough that they haven't called it quits and gone home. The stakes are high and they are in it to win it. Once you've put them through a gauntlet, you can let them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Author Spotlight: Rosalie Stanton

Author Rosalie Stanton is here today to talk about her hot new paranormal romance Lost Wages of Sin.

Sin's work is never done... 
Ava should know. For nearly two thousand years, she’s worked for Lucifer himself, infecting the heart of man with greed wherever she goes. She wasn't prepared to fall in love, certainly not with an angel. And she definitely wasn't ready to experience her first broken heart after he breaks things off in the form of a Dear Jane letter. 
Now Ava has a problem. Lucifer believes she might have shared some of Hell’s secrets with her former lover, and her siblings face the possibility of being out of a job due to her indiscretion. Ava flees to the American South, hoping to slip off the radar, and is met by a longtime friend, a vampire named Dante. Granted, Ava doesn’t know he has been in love with her for centuries, and doesn’t understand why he won’t leave her alone no matter what comes after her. 
With Hell on her trail, Ava’s running short on friends. Meanwhile, she can’t ignore the suggestive looks Dante keeps sending her way. Something tells her it doesn’t take Hell to get things hot…

There’s a lot of chemistry between Ava and Dante in this excerpt from Lost Wages of Sin. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for the book and the characters?

This story took off from the get-go and somewhat fell together as I got closer to the end. I obviously have a vampire complex but I am interested in expanding my horizons in terms of other creatures that go bump in the night. I also have a minor in religious studies and have entertained a slew of interesting ideas of stories over the past few years.

Ava was definitely a trickier character to form than Dante. I knew I wanted her to be from Hell, but something more elite than your run of the mill demon. Somehow, I landed on the concept of The Seven Deadly Sins and began forming my own mythology surrounding them, Hell, Lucifer, the full shebang. As for Dante, I love cocky vamps, so he was easy to visualize. I just needed to fill in the gaps regarding his relationship with Ava.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

A little over halfway through the book, Ava leads Dante to a remote location to summon an angel, and has to call on a friend from Hell for instructions on how to do it. This scene was a blast to write, namely because I wasn’t writing the dialogue so much as keeping up with the characters as they spoke. It was more a fast-paced conversation I was told to dictate.

Lost Wages of Sin is the first book in your series Sinners and Saints. Give us a hint about your plans for future installments.

I didn’t set out to write a series. This was supposed to be a standalone book. However, the more I wrote, the more attached I became to the world. I also introduced a variety of supporting characters, many of whom would make entertaining subjects for their own story.

I’m a good ways through Book 2. It follows Ava’s sister, Luxi: the Sin of Lust. The tone is very different from Lost Wages of Sin, as the female leads of either book are in very different situations at the start. Ava is on the run in her story; Luxi is placed on an assignment she doesn’t understand. I’m doing my best to make it as independent a novel as possible. It’s a lot of fun, particularly as the world grows and more characters are thrown in. At the moment, I have three more books planned following this one, with the possibility of more thrown in. I don’t necessarily want to go through each of the Sins, but some of them lend themselves to more obvious use than others.

What draws you to writing paranormal romance?

When your world is set outside the box, when you have control over the rules, up to and including laws of death and annihilation, everything seems set on a much larger stage. At the same time, while the world is falling down around your characters, the core story concerns very familiar struggles: love, hope, desire, fear, anger, uncertainty, et cetera. I like worlds that defy explanation, where creativity is pushed to the limit. I like discovering my world as I write it, learning some of its rules through the eyes of my characters. I like being surprised.

As a kid, I was always fascinated with the “larger than life” stories. Star Wars was my first passion. Then I discovered Batman, Buffy, Harry Potter, the Sookie Stackhouse series, and though I love reading stories set in this world, exploring the unknown brings out in me a sense of adventure. I just love doing it.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy writing other things. I actually thought I’d write more contemporary romances than anything once I began exploring publishing options. It seems, though, my muse is more content to stick with contemporary pieces as settings for novellas, but demands a larger scale for the longer stories.

In your bio you say you have a massive bad boy complex and love alpha males. What is it about bad boy alphas that makes you love to write about them?

It began with Han Solo. I don’t know what it is, to be honest. I suppose I just like the idea of the guy who’s damaged or dark or someone other than who you should want, and finding that one woman who gets under their skin. Han and Leia were my first truly obsessive relationship pairing. The same thing happened in Veronica Mars in the epic Veronica+Duncan or Veronica+Logan ‘ship wars. Me? Logan all the way, baby. He was damaged, entitled, ego-driven, a huge jackass, but throw Veronica into the picture and he melted like hot wax. I loved him. It’s a sickness.

To be fair, though, this only extends to the realm of fiction. My husband, Aaron, is the sweetest, nerdiest guy you’ll ever meet. He’s also my best friend. His dark side entails little more than going to a movie rated below 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. My mother heaved a huge sigh of relief with that one. She feared I’d run off with some hairy biker dude.

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

There have been many, but let’s see if I can narrow it down. Aaron Sorkin continues to be a huge inspiration—his dialogue is brilliant. Anyone who has seen Social Network only caught a glimpse of his genius. Really, go watch any episode of the first four seasons of The West Wing. He is amazing.

When I was younger, I grabbed every Stephen King novel I could find. I also love Greg Iles (who lives in Natchez, MS, the setting of Lost Wages of Sin). JK Rowling is an obvious pick, not just for her world-building but in how she writes dialogue and infuses humor into her books. Writers who really inspire me now and make me think, “This makes me want to write!” as I’m reading their works are JA Saare, Sarah Ballance, Madelyn Ford, Mary Abshire, Marguerite Butler, and Lori Green.

The number one influence, though, has to be my aunt, Pamela Smith Hill. She has been encouraging me to write since I was little. Her books, Ghost Horses and A Voice From the Border, were among my favorites growing up.

One last question: Angel or Spike?

I’m honestly stunned you’d even ask.    

Note: I knew the answer, but who can resist any opportunity to post a pic of Spike? :)

Learn more about Rosalie Stanton at her website and blog

Friday, April 15, 2011

Character motivation

Cross-posted from Write Club.

Let's say you've come up with some characters. Heroine, hero, villain. Protagonist, antagonist. Sexy vampire sidekick. Whatever. You give them names, hopefully ones that are pronounceable. Hair color, eye color, height, body type, all that kind of stuff. Or maybe you pick an actor to serve as the model for your character's physical description. (If anyone knows of any smokin' hot alpha werewolves modeled after Tahmoh Penikett please send me the Kindle buy link.*) Next you start working on their personality and all the little details that make up who they are. Maybe you give them a birth date and consult astrology charts. Maybe you do a tarot spread. Maybe you just throw a bunch of random stuff together. "Likes Mexican food, Miles Davis, and manga." The character's history includes a bad childhood, a spouse murdered by a serial killer, or even a charmed life until Page One. Whatever, it doesn't matter. Well okay, those these do matter, but none of them mean as much to your story as one thing:


What does your character want and why do they want it?

Last week I talked about conflict; motivation ties in directly with conflict. They are some of the most essential building blocks to a compelling story. Your character wants something, otherwise there's not much point. But why do they want it? Their reasons for wanting to reach their goal will tell you how far they are willing to go to get it. Motivation raises the stakes, which supplies conflict. You've got to know why your character is so invested in their goal. If your portrayal of a character's motivation is too nebulous and unformed, your reader will find it unconvincing and will soon cease to care. You may not need to share every single detail of a character's back story in the narrative, but writers need to know it all even if readers don't. Especially anything related to their motivation.

The answer to the question why is at the heart of any story. Find the why, the motivation, and a huge chunk of your story will fall into place.

*I was just going to link to a pic of the actor but figured I might as well post it. Battlestar Galactica is the latest thing I've been watching on Netflix Instant. Ah, Helo...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Begin with conflict

Cross-posted from Write Club.

The heart of any story is always going to be conflict. Somebody wants something, and someone or something stands in their way.

The object of a character's desire can be just about anything. A person in particular, love in general, a career goal, some sort of treasure, revenge, power, money - all sorts of things can function in this role. It can be a positive or a negative thing. That will depend on which character wants it.

It could be that your hero wants something and the villain is standing in their way. Or you could turn it around the other way and have a villain who wants something - something that will make them powerful and give them the ability to hurt people, for instance - and the only thing standing in their way is the hero. Either way you set up your plot it comes down to: somebody wants something, and someone or something stands in their way.

But does a story really need conflict, you might wonder. The short answer: YES. Think about the last book you read, or movie you watched. Did the plot revolve around some sort of conflict? Of course it did. Even romance novels. Especially romance novels. There's always some reason why that couple can't get together right away, something that keeps them apart for three hundred pages. Maybe it's something tangible, but a lot of times in romance novels its an internal conflict. One or both of the characters has been hurt in the past and they're trying desperately to protect their heart and not fall in love. You know they'll get their Happily Ever After by the last page but in the meantime the author keeps you on the ropes with that conflict and the tension it creates.

And that is why stories need conflict: tension. There's got to be something at stake for these characters, otherwise there's not much point. With nothing at stake you get a boring story and boring characters that readers don't feel invested in.

Conflict and tension are things that are not welcome in real life, but in fiction they are essential. They are your starting point. When I begin outlining, or even just random notes about a new story idea, the first big thing I have to figure out is what's the conflict, what's at stake? A great deal of the rest of the story and characterization flow from that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Interview with author India Drummond

Author India Drummond is here to talk about her new release Ordinary Angels.

An angel is about to fall… 
Although most of Zoe Pendergraft's friends are dead, that means nothing to her. After all, they died long before she meet them. What does matter is the angel who took her dancing and turned her world upside down. 
But grim reality intrudes when she finds a body, and the Higher Angels accuse her of the murder.
Knowing she's the only one who can stand against the Higher Angels, Zoe uses any means necessary to save her friend…all the while, wondering if the tempestuous love she's feeling is real.  
The blood on her hands forces Zoe to question herself, and her angel to question her.


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

I have a couple of favourite moments in the book. There’s one that springs to mind where Zoe, a human medium, is having dinner with Alexander, an angel. He is rather openly staring at another couple in the cafĂ©. Zoe thinks he’s being rude, so she kicks him under the table. I think what cracks me up about that moment is that it captures a part of the character that I didn’t set out to write--it just showed up. She’s never intimidated by his supernatural status. She treats him like a regular person, which is one of the things that turned out to be important in their relationship.

What draws you to writing urban fantasy?

The paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi—all of these types of stories have always drawn me in. I read other genre as well, but these are the stories that most capture my imagination. I like the limitlessness of it. Anything is possible.

Zoe, your female main character, sees ghosts, and your male main character is an angel. What drew you to those types of paranormal characters?

I think it has to do with how mediums and angels are usually portrayed. I just haven’t read anything that rang true to me. So when I first got the idea for writing about angels, I asked myself what they would *really* be like. I also tried to veer away from the typical television ‘psychic’ and think about what it would be like to live with the ability to see ghosts.

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 used to be a pantser, but I realised one day I was spending way too much time writing myself out of an impossible corner or, worse yet, abandoning a project I’d gotten 20,000 words into because I couldn’t see what should happen next. So I developed a Word Template in which I ask myself a series of questions, sketch out plot goals, details character motivation. Then I use that information to build my outline in the second part of the template—the chapter by chapter outline. By spending a few days on this process, I save myself weeks later on. I’ve even gone back and used my Template to fix previously abandoned projects. It’s been a real plot-saver!

A lot of authors feel nervous and even reluctant about promoting their work but you seem fearless about it. Tell us about your promo strategy. What advice would you give that nervous author about promoting their book?

I don’t look at it as promoting my book as much as connecting with people. I truly enjoy that. I always have it in my mind that most of the people I talk to every day love books. So I would say that authors should see every reader, fellow author, and reviewer as a person. And don’t be afraid to share something about your book. If you’re excited, that excitement will be contagious and you won’t have to “sell” yourself or your book.

Tell us about yourself. Do you have a day job? Do you have any hobbies and interests outside of writing, and if so, do they ever find their way into your writing?

I’ve spent most of my professional life working as a programmer. I liked aspects of it, but it didn’t give me the same kind of fulfilment I found when writing. After a few heart-to-heart talks with my husband, I decided to take the leap into writing full-time. Even though it could be considered a risk, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I love every moment of it.
Thank you India!

Learn more about India Drummond at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Ordinary Angels can be purchased at this link as well as other digital book retailers.