Author Archives: Jill Archer

About Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, and WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE.

#Writing #Workshops for March

Below are the online workshops being offered in March by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

Balancing the Paranormal and the Romance

03/02/2015 – 03/29/2015

It’s difficult enough to write a good romance, or to write a good paranormal or fantasy novel—when you put the two together you now have an even bigger challenge. How do you structure your story so the paranormal plot doesn’t overwhelm the romance? How do you create characters that have a great romance—with paranormal elements that increase the conflict and are key to the story? This workshop looks at a process to create a really strong paranormal romance that has a romance as the main story arc, but which also uses paranormal/fantasy elements that are vital to the plot.

Lectures include:

  • What’s the difference between Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, and Paranormal Romance?
  • Blending other subgenres (such as suspense) into the mix—what can this give you and what are the dangers?
  • What’s a story arc and what are character arcs?
  • Crafting your characters for romantic conflict that includes vital paranormal elements?
  • How to balance action and romance—what are the turning points for each?
  • How to test if your story is really more of a paranormal/fantasy or a romance?
  • Do you have strong enough antagonists—and are they well developed to create maximum romantic conflicts and increase the paranormal/fantasy elements?
  • Making sure the dark moment hits both the romance and the paranormal/fantasy story line.

About the Presenter, Shannon Donnelly

Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA’s Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”

In addition to her Regency and Historical romances, she is the author of the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burnand Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the SF/Paranormal, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of Amazon.com and includes the Historical romances, The Cardros Ruby and Paths of Desire.

She is the author of several young adult horror stories, and has also written computer games and does editing work on the side. She lives in New Mexico with two horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and the one love of her life. Shannon can be found online at sd-writer.com, facebook.com/sdwriter, and twitter/sdwriter.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

The Nuances of Dialogue

03/02/2015 – 03/27/2015

Whether in prose or dramatic mediums, characters need to speak in a succinct, entertaining manner that moves the story forward. Inner character motivation and personality can be revealed through what is spoken and how. This workshop will cover diction & syntax, concepts of multi-layered meaning, the difference between speech patterns of male-female speakers, influence of age-education-culture, how to control lecturing and argument orchestration.

About the Presenter, Sally J. Walker

Sally J. Walker has taught over 35 different workshops both on-site and on-line.  An avid learner, she is always ready to change and grow her own process then pass on what she has learned in a practical manner intended to challenge participants rather than dictate end-all-be-all concepts.  She has taught for Omaha’s Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City’s Johnson County Community College, Lincoln (NE)’s Southeast Community College, several chapters of RWA including KOD and Scriptscene, a Romantic Times national conference, and the Moondance International Film Festival, as well as conducted a mini-workshop of writing and meditation for Omaha-area churches.  Sally has also been an Artist-in-Residence and motivational speaker at several Omaha area schools and conducts free weekly mentoring sessions for teens at the Ralston Baright Library.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop


Kylie Chan, Author of DEMON CHILD, on Magic, Martial Arts, Romance, #Writing a Long Series, Living in Hong Kong, and More (#Giveaway)

The author interview I was supposed to have posted Tuesday is here! It was worth the wait. Kylie Chan, bestselling author of Demon Child, discusses her characters, their relationship, and what it’s like to write a long, successful book series. She also talks about the Sidhe, or Shining Folk, who are featured in her latest novel, what it was like to live in Hong Kong, and her four favorite things about her current abode: Brisbane, Australia. She’s giving away ten print copies of Demon Child (Rafflecopter form below). Welcome, Kylie!

Kylie Chan, Demon Child, fantasy, romance, magic, martial arts, demons,

Author Interview: Kylie Chan

Your first book, WHITE TIGER, came out in 2006. Since then you’ve released seven other novels in the series, including your latest, DEMON CHILD. You’ve also written a prequel graphic novel and a couple of shorts.

That’s a lot of stories! How do you keep the series fresh and exciting?

Yes it is! It’s been a tremendous journey for me – WHITE TIGER was the first novel I’d ever written. I keep it fresh by raising the stakes. I’m enjoying myself by making things seem a little better and then take it up a notch and make everything terrible again. My characters are suffering. It’s great fun.

Did you know you when you first started writing WHITE TIGER that it would turn into a nine book series? How did the structure of the series develop? Any advice for writers who want to write a long series?

I planned for a three book series – Xuan Wu’s departure, his return, and the big final battle in three volumes. When I was halfway through enough words for a second novel and still not up to the departure bit, I realized that I had more than three books – way more than three books, and started changing the plan to three sets of three.

For writers planning to write a long series I’d suggest that they make each novel readable by itself, but still fit together into something greater. I’d do that in future if I could, so that people aren’t forced to start at the beginning with – admittedly – my weakest work.

Can DEMON CHILD be read on its own? If not, do readers need to start with WHITE TIGER?

As I said, if you want to read the series it would absolutely be best to start from WHITE TIGER. DEMON CHILD is the eighth book in a complex saga and if you try to read it alone you will probably enjoy it, but not as much as if you started at the beginning.

Your stories feature magic, martial arts, and romance.

It’s all good stuff. It’s pure escapism. Sometimes when I’m told by a man in the supermarket to ‘smile, you’ll look prettier’ or the staff at the post office call me ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’ in a terribly condescending way I just want to kick heads. This is my way of channeling that aggression!

[Jill: Lol. Yeah, it’s been awhile but I can remember times in my life when I thought, “Is that a compliment or a cut? Do I want to bloody their nose or just say ‘thank you?’” I always opted for being polite, but I’ve also had a lot of dental work done on my back molars. :-D ]

How would John describe Emma? How would Emma describe John?

Both of them would describe each other as infuriating. As one of the biggest gods in Chinese Heaven, John is accustomed to being immediately and unquestioningly obeyed by everybody around him, and Emma’s constant second-guessing and outright disagreements sometimes drive him nuts. Emma finds John’s expectation that everybody will immediately obey him similarly annoying, and sometimes disagrees with him just to see his face when he’s exasperated with her. It never descends into full-on arguments because he’s such a big softie, though.

How has their relationship changed over the course of eight novels?

It was absolutely love at first sight, but the balance of power between them has always been uneven and that’s led some serious relationship issues. It started out very inequitable – he was the employer and she was an employee. She was more willful and disobedient than he was used to, however, and he loved that. Through the books, she’s grown until they consider themselves equal in will and intelligence by the end of the second series. In this final trilogy, he’s regained his full ancient god powers and once again is much more than she is – but he turns to her when he needs a second opinion or someone to back him up when the Jade Emperor is bullying him. When they’re alone all of the ‘who’s more powerful’ business is ignored and they see themselves as equals, even if the rest of Heaven doesn’t. In the book I’m working on now, she throws him out of meetings more than once because people are so awestruck and terrified by him that it’s interfering with their ability to get things done.

How did Emma react when she found out she has demon blood?

It was a huge ‘I told you so’ for her. All along she’s suspected that she’s a demon, and that John’s been in denial about it. When the truth came out about her demon nature, she was completely unsurprised. She has something of a yell at him about it in ‘Demon Child’.

Tell us more about the Sidhe or Shining Folk.

It’s easy to do some light research into Celtic mythology and come back with a theme that’s full of nature-loving Druids, gallant fae and sparkly unicorns. I delved deeper into the original nature of the Druids as recounted by Julius Caesar when he fought the Celts and found a completely different type of theology. The real Druids were a bloodthirsty bunch who basically got off on torture and human sacrifice and collected their enemy’s heads as trophies. I really enjoyed including this into my own venture into the West. The Sidhe in my stories are noble, caring, and gone – they deserted the world just when they were most needed, in a passive-aggressive act of penitence that really helped nobody. I have to admit that I still managed to throw in a unicorn just because.

[Love it. Everyone could use more unicorns in their lives. :-D ]

Without giving anything away, tell us about a scene from DEMON CHILD involving magic, martial arts, or both.

Both magic and martial arts are threaded through the book and an intrinsic part of it. The first chapter has a great deal of both – without either Emma or John being involved. Katie, Number Three Daughter of the White Tiger, goes into Russia to investigate a villa owned by a demon posing as a Russian gangster. She has to use her unique abilities to defend both herself and her squad, and finds prisoners used as lab rats and a new, disturbing type of demon.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That’s a very long list. I started reading science fiction and fantasy in the 1970’s. My go-to comfort books are Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, Nalini Singh’s angel series (I’m really enjoying the power plays and politics) and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. Jim Butcher gets a shout out, as well as Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series and Nora Jemisin’s remarkable fantasies. I adored Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan books.

If your books were made into movies, who would play Emma? John? Who would direct?

Goodness, I have no idea. I don’t generally look around for actors, that’s Hollywood’s business. It’s not really something I do – when Queenie Chan did the illustrations for Small Shen we designed the characters exactly as they were in my head, so any real-life actor or actress will never match the images I have already created.

What was your favorite thing about living in Hong Kong?

Having a full-time live-in domestic helper. Edwina was part of the family, and when she left us to get married in Australia she arranged for her sister Dahlia to come look after us, because she didn’t trust anyone else. Both lovely women are now married and have settled down to raise families of their own and I am so glad I had a chance to help them start out. Having a live-in helper meant that I could work full-time without having to worry about the kids being cared for at all. It was incredibly liberating and really helped my IT career.

Least favorite?

The crowds. If we went down to the mall on a Sunday it would be like the pre-Christmas sales anywhere else. There would be so many people at the mall that there’d be a queue to enter the car park and you’d have to wait at least two hours to find a seat at yum cha. Migraine-inducing.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Brisbane?

Two things: the wonderful mild subtropical weather, and the fantastic supportive literary community. I have made friends with a magnificent group of fellow writers who regularly go out of their way to help each other. Oh, three things: the great beaches close by as well. Four things: the city’s skyline next to the lovely river, and the South Bank parklands. Okay, I’ll stop there.

Least favorite?

The forty-degree-plus weeks in summer where it’s just way too hot to even go outside. A small price to pay for all the other benefits of living in this lovely city.

More About Demon Child

Australian bestseller Kylie Chan returns with a new, fast-paced adventure of magic, martial arts, and romance.

This trilogy follows the story of John Chen and Emma Donohoe. They have just found out that Emma has Demon blood. The Sidhe – or Shining folk, who defeated the Western Shen a thousand years ago – are prepared to do battle against the Western Shen to retain their dominance.

Emma’s allegiance is torn: to fight for her kind, the Western demons she is descended from, or to stand alongside her beloved Xuan Wu.

Available at HarperCollins

Add it to Your Goodreads Shelf

Kylie Chan

Kylie Chan

More About Kylie

Kylie Chan is the bestselling author of the Dark Heavens and Journey to Wudang trilogies. She married a Hong Kong national in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony.

Kylie has studied Kung Fu and Tai Chi and is a senior belt in both forms. She has also made an intensive study of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and has brought all of these interests together into her storytelling.

She lived in Hong Kong for many years and now lives in Brisbane, Australia.

The Giveaway

As part of her blog tour, Kylie is giving away ten print copies of Demon Child. (U.S. only). To enter, click here for the Rafflecopter form. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 or older. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thanks for the great Q&A, Kylie! I enjoyed reading your answers. Good luck with your tour and best wishes for Demon Child!

Kylie Chan, Demon Child, fantasy, romance, magic, martial arts, demons


Egg Timer “Review” Challenge: 20 Stories! (Books, Movies, TV & Broadway Shows)

I was supposed to post an author interview yesterday, but I never received it. If I do, I’ll reschedule because I think her Q&A would be interesting and fun to read. In the meantime, however, I was in a bind bc I had nothing of my own ready to post. What to do?

Egg timer reviews.

What the heck are those? Well, it’s where I take a look at my bookshelf, Kindle, movie queue, etc. and see what I’ve watched and read lately (or eons ago) that I can talk about in three minutes or less. So these aren’t really reviews. They’re more like stream of consciousness goo. (I filled in some of the names via internet search later – my memory’s not that good. ;-) )

Are there spoilers? Is it still miserably cold outside!? Yes, there are some spoilers!

BOOKS

Stolen Songbird

Trolls! Trolls! TROLLS!! I always wanted to do a romance featuring a leprechaun but could never figure out how to make a leprechaun sexy. Well, Danielle Jensen found a way to make trolls sexy. When I read the back cover copy, I knew I had to read it just to see how she did it. The first part of the book is the best: the dynamic tension between Cecile and Tristan, the descriptions of Trollus and its inhabitants… good stuff. There was a bit too much coming and going in the end (it felt a little “fillerish” to me) and I worry that the trolls might really be “e—” (maybe not…? since that would take away from the Big Accomplishment here). But, if you love YA fantasy, pick this one up. You’ll love it. (Worth noting: Jensen started out with Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s now defunct YA imprint. I think Angry Robot picked this series up, but it’s still nice to support authors who end up in this situation).

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I loved this character’s transformation. You all know I love big character growth arcs and Elisa has one! At the start of the book she is clueless, overweight, and timid. By the end of the novel, she has sought forbidden knowledge, grown physically stronger, and become much more confident and assertive. The only thing that gave me pause was the almost over emphasis on the character’s weight. I’m a big “love your own body” kind of person. And yet, I can also get behind a person’s wanting to change themselves. (My own work reflects my ideological tug of war between “learn to love yourself” versus “pursue your dream to change,” especially my first novel). The bigger question is always, why does a person want to change? Is it society telling them (perhaps subtly and evilly) that they should or is their desire to change truly coming from within? – But rest assured, genre fans, Girl of Fire and Thorns is mostly an adventure story with some magic and romance.

Throne of Glass

I think I read this in a day or two. (I’m a big DNF’er so that, in and of itself, is a rec to read). Hmm… what else can I say? Cool cover. She looks really bad ass. I think there’s a love triangle, but I don’t mind them. (Ahem :-D ) Who would like this? Fans of YA female assassin characters and YA fantasy with equal emphasis on both romance and action. It’s been a long time since I read it, but this reminded me of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

It was the cover that drew me to this book. A historical romance heroine in pants! As with Jensen’s troll hero, I had to check it out. What was the story behind this heroine? I read quite a bit of historical romance. And many times the heroines run together. That doesn’t mean the books aren’t well written. They are. They’re doing exactly what they’ve promised their readers they will do: deliver a hot, sometimes witty, romance. So why egg time review this one? Well, the heroine backs up the cover and the title’s promise. There was a lot more going on with the plot than I expected. The heroine had not just one cover (aliases), but two. That’s three different personas for the author to keep track of. Sarah MacLean did a great job! (Worth noting: MacLean wrote Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I haven’t read it, but may now. MacLean was on an RWA panel last summer and discussed how hard it was to come up with titles, especially when you lock yourself into a format. She was funny. (I buy some of the recorded sessions). I’m currently trying to title Noon Onyx B4. It’s tough. Blank Blank of Blank. Left Hand of Darkness? Oops. Taken. ;-) Little Shop of Horrors? Dagnabbit. Nabbed too. :-D In any case, I thought the title to Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover was extra awesome bc it fits MacLean’s “Rules of Scoundrels” series title format, it references the heroine’s aliases, and it’s a nod to the book’s unusual genre cover.)

MOVIES

Belle

A period romance with a great hero and heroine, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer who was raised by her rich great-uncle. The film divides its time between the romance and the hero’s quest for social justice (he’s an aspiring lawyer attempting to change the law on slavery, albeit through a fairly narrow ruling). Gugu Mbatha-Raw was excellent.

Begin Again

I actually thought this would be awful. Like some sort of weird Juno [aging music aficionado has unrequited feelings for someone who’s totally inappropriate for him… am I remembering that movie right?] meets Love Actually [clichéd romance]. But it was better than that. My worst case scenario plot prediction did not come true. Instead this was a cool, little story about a down-on-his-luck music exec with zippo money who helps a talented, young up-and-comer. The story’s take on how imagination can be used to see a person’s potential and creatively solve funding problems was fun. I liked that the exec fixed his unhealthy family dynamics (he has a teenage daughter and estranged wife) instead of having a romance with his music mentee.

Chef

The shame of this movie is that it’s rated R but the best part about it was the story of how the character reconnected with his son. Minus a few parts, I’d love to watch this with my kids. What’s it about? A chef (duh) who is fired from his job bc he wants to create exotic dishes versus tried-and-true. When he gets panned by a food critic for his boring menu, he lashes out at his boss and gets the pink slip. After some soul searching, he decides to take it on the road. He gets a food truck and goes cross country. With the help of his social media savvy son, he draws crowds wherever he goes. It ends well. For foodie movie fans, road trip movie fans, Jon Favreau fans, food truck fans, fans of movies where characters reinvent themselves, tell their boss to shove it, and/or tell a critic to shove it (and then make up w them later).

Annie

Saw this over the holidays with my daughters. They loved it. And I did too. It was cute. Quvenzhane Wallis was wonderful. I was less taken with Jamie Foxx. Cameron Diaz as a reimagined Ms. Hannigan was ok, as was Rose Byrne. Who should see this? Quvenzhane Wallis fans and anyone who liked any of the other eighteen million Annies.

Box Trolls

We actually bought this, which meant we were able to watch the extras. And they were pretty neat. There was a featurette on how the filmmakers created characters that live in boxes and the world they inhabit and some cast member interviews, but my favorite was the one where Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum talk about how they came up with the Box Troll language. Oh, and I loved Winnie and Eggs! :-)

Magic in the Moonlight

My recollection is that this was not a huge success but I enjoyed it. I like Emma Stone and Colin Firth. I’m not familiar with Woody Allen’s work (although I liked Midnight in Paris). Magic in the Moonlight is for anyone who likes the idea of a stage magician and would-be clairvoyant falling in love against the backdrop of the 1920s French Riviera.

Maze Runner

I had heard so much about this, and it had been hyped so much, before I watched it, that I’m amazed I wasn’t disappointed. That said, it didn’t make me think very much (not like Into the Woods or Predestination did) and that’s the main reason why it’s getting an egg timer review. I thought it was good. Definitely worth two hours of your time. None of the actors really wowed me, but I’d happily watch them again. The sets were visually interesting but not stunning. In fairness, maybe part of my mehness is bc I didn’t read the book so watching this didn’t give me the pleasure of seeing a favorite novel successfully adapted.

Lucy

Finally!! I had been wanting to watch this since the summer when I’d mistakenly assumed it was based on Laurence Gonzales’ book. It isn’t, but (as I’d suspected; it’s not like the reference was subtle) it is based on Lucy, the Australopithecus, and a “what if” evolution scenario. Bottom line: Scarlett Johansson is a good action heroine. I’d watch her in a similar role again. As for Lucy? Read Gonzales’ book instead. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was better.

Showrunners (documentary)

Featuring J.J. Abrams, Steven DeKnight, Jane Espenson, Michelle King, Damon Lindelhof, Janet Tamaro, Joss Whedon, and a gazillion other people, this is a full length documentary on showrunners – the head writers/creators of a show. If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside a writer’s room, or if you’d enjoy hearing behind-the-scenes interviews of some of the most well-known and/or interesting TV show wranglers, this doc is for you.

World without End (miniseries)

I’ve read the book (and read and watched Pillars of the Earth) so when I saw this was available for streaming, I had to see it. I loved the books (although Pillars was my favorite; I liked Aliena and Jack better than Caris and Merthin). Even though I utterly despised her (I was supposed to), the best part of World was Cynthia Nixon’s Petranilla. Conniving, deceitful, murderous, immoral… she was just Jaw Droppingly Awful. Which made the scene where Caris forgives her sins just before her death that much more powerful. If you’ve read the book, like TV miniseries set in the Middle Ages, or just want to see Nixon’s range, rent it.

TV

Finding a TV show that I love enough to watch every single episode is extremely rare. Ones I’ve enjoyed start to finish in the past: Alias, Lost, and Battlestar Gallactica. Shows I’m currently addicted to: Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge’s, and Outlander. So I wanted to find a new addiction. Below, my candidates.

Reign

I streamed 10 episodes of this before I couldn’t do it anymore. At first, it was amazingly addictive. Definitely a guilty pleasure type of show. Beautiful kids playing monarchs-to-be with friends who have names like Kenna. (Is that historically accurate? Do I care? Does anyone who watches a show like Reign? No! :-D ) BUT the problem was exactly that. History. I know where this story is going. There wasn’t enough tension in the story questions. Will Mary wed Francis? Will Mary become Queen of France? Will Mary live happily ever after? I know the answers to those questions already.

Vikings

I watched 2 episodes before moving on, but may return. I like Lagertha. And kudos to the writer/director/showrunners/whoever for moving the story along at breakneck speed! I remember saying to my husband, “Wow! They’re already going to England.” I thought it would take Ragnar all season to gear up, find men, etc. And then – in that same episode – saying: “WOW! They’re going back home!” After they’d landed in England, I’d just assumed they’d spend all season there. And I liked that it’s based on real Norse mythological characters. But… it didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped.

Arrow

I wanted to like it. The pilot opened well. It captured my attention… but couldn’t hold it. (My husband hated it, although we often differ on TV shows.) As with Vikings, I’m hard pressed to say exactly why. I might return to this. But would choose Vikings over Arrow.

House of Cards

Streamed 2 episodes so far and am very much looking forward to the next one. I had to talk my husband into this one (he watched Vikings and Arrow with me, not Reign; lol). He’s in DC a lot for work and I think he thought the show would be one big cerebral snooze fest. And the opening credits! Geesh, sorry, but horrible. They’d make anyone who works in DC feel like they’re commuting in instead of lounging on their couch getting ready to watch an entertaining show. (Although maybe that’s the feeling the credits hope to evoke…?) But the show itself – terrific! We’re hooked. Kevin Spacey! Robin Wright! My only worry is that the show may end up like The Newsroom, which I stopped watching midway through the first season.

SHOWS

Matilda at the Shubert

Saw this just this past weekend. Fantastic! If you are looking for an entertaining, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately happy, family show – see Matilda. The whimsical, bright, colorful sets seemed custom-designed for book lovers. The letter tiles surrounding the proscenium and incorporated into the many sets were decidedly Scrabble-esque. Bookshelves, libraries, classrooms… not to mention swings, scooters, lasers, confetti, strobe lights, helium balloons, a story-in-story told partially through a vintage paper doll/shadow puppet-like presentation. But the best part (as it should be with live shows) was the singing and acting: Brooklyn Shuck as Matilda! So expressive, sweet, sympathetic, and adorable… So confident, bold, and fearless. Also loved Mrs. Wormwood and Rudolpho. And Christopher Sieber as Miss Trunchbull!! (10.0 for the vault number. :-D )

The Illusionists at the Marquis

Saw this a few months ago. Seven magicians, each with completely different acts. There’s an escape artist, an archer, an inventor, a Vegas style comedian “trickster,” a truly phenomenal card manipulator, an Edward Scissorhands type “anti-conjuror,” and a dance performer “futurist.” It was fun trying to figure out the magicians’ tricks. (I’m no magician and lots of their acts stumped me). Watching audience members (who may have been pre-selected?) become part of the act was hilarious (glad it wasn’t me!). Who should see this? Anyone who likes top-notch stage magic and illusionists who can put on a diverse, spellbinding show.

So, please, go forth and purchase, rent, stream, read, or watch. Support creativity… and stories… and egg timer reviews!

What have you read or watched lately that’s worth mentioning? Come on, sharing only takes three minutes or less…


PREDESTINATION: Does happiness require a deep connection with another?

If I was a blogger with a good sense of timing I would have posted this on Valentine’s Day but instead of writing this post, I had lunch with a close friend and, later, played poker with my family. Romantic? Not really, but it was one of the best Valentine’s Days I’ve had in a while. The experience seemed to underscore the meaning of the movie I watched just a few days prior to the holiday – PREDESTINATION.

Predestination, Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, time travel, science fiction,  Spierig  brothers, Robert A. Heinlein, All You Zombies

As with Into the Woods, I knew I’d likely do a blog post about Predestination because I kept thinking about it long after I watched it. But Predestination is no fairy tale, not even a subversive one. Its themes are mature and provocative and written with an adult audience in mind. My post is tame but not spoiler free. If you haven’t read the source material or watched the movie, skip the orange section below.

I’ve mentioned before how plague movies never get old with me. But time travel movies… eh. I have to admit, when I first saw the description for Predestination my response was, “another time travel movie?!” But then my husband suggested we watch it AND pointed out its Rotten Tomatoes rating (81%) and I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Predestination is the story of a time traveling agent who is trying to stop a mass murderer – the “Fizzle Bomber.” It stars Ethan Hawke (who I loved in Gattaca but haven’t seen much of since; I haven’t seen the Before Midnight/Before Sunrise/Before Sunset movies… yeah, I know, I should see them too…) and Sarah Snook (who I’ve never seen before, but hope to see more of in the future).

The movie starts in medias res with a mysterious figure trying to stop a bomb. The bomb fizzles but the stunted explosion is still powerful enough to completely disfigure the person. They then travel back to the “future” (1992) where the story’s basic premise is established.

The injured mystery man is a Temporal Agent who works for the Temporal Bureau, a government agency that sends people back in time to prevent crimes before they happen. That part felt very “PreCrime”/Minority Report-ish to me, which, combined with the fact that time travel was discovered in 1981 [would we have traded MTV or the IBM PC for time travel?] gave the story a slightly dated feel, but it wasn’t until later in the movie, when Space Corps (and its ridiculous “female companions for male astronauts” search) appeared in the plot that the story’s 1959 origins became fully apparent.

(I found out later that the movie is based on Robert A. Heinlein’s “ ‘—All You Zombies—’ ”. And my gripes about Space Corps’ dubious side mission are relatively minor. All I’m sayin’ is that it felt laughable to me that a contemporary non-dystopian sf story would feature a would-be respectable space program that disallowed female astronauts while searching for women streetspacewalkers. And yet… I came to see that searching for companionship, as well as what happens when you find it and lose it, was one of the themes of the story.)

So back in futuristic 1992 the injured agent tells us part of his story as his face is reconstructed. When he’s finally healed enough for his bandages to be removed, he looks in the mirror and declares, “I’ve changed so much, I doubt my own mother would recognize me.”

He’s then sent on another mission – NYC in 1975 – to stop the Fizzle Bomber from killing 11,000 people. He goes undercover as a barkeep and one of his customers insists he tell him a joke. After first refusing, the barkeep opens the next part of the story with, “A man walks into a bar…”

Maybe it’s that I love tricky, trippy plots. Maybe it’s that I know storytellers love to leave clues for people who are paying attention. Maybe it’s because I’d made a late afternoon Starbucks run that day so I was working with more late night caffeine than I’m used to. All I know is that about halfway into it, my husband and I both shared our theories about what was really going on. Both theories were interesting and backed up by story clues but I thought, “it would be impossible for us both to be right.” And that’s when I knew… We were both right. And that’s when the story got really interesting. And heartbreaking.

But this is not a heartbreaking post, I promise. In fact, now would be a good time for those of you who don’t like spoilers, or dark tales about transformative journeys, to jump ahead to my warm and fuzzy closing.

~

If you’re sticking around to read this part of the post it means you’ve read the story or watched the movie…

And so you know that the story revolves around the identities of the barkeep/agent, his customer, the customer’s past/future lover, and the Fizzle Bomber.

Due to the aforementioned mid-afternoon mocha and my husband’s alternative theory of Who Was Really Who, we got it all sorted out pretty early on. But that doesn’t mean the movie was predictable. Seeing a snake eat its own tail isn’t going to be boring even if you know it’s going to happen. I thought the movie’s use of the ouroboros symbol was well done. The movie’s not just about identity, it’s also about reinvention and transformation. Yet that transformation isn’t always welcome or good. Unlike the symbol of the mighty phoenix, which rises triumphantly out of the ashes to begin its life anew, the ouroboros consumes itself. It isn’t kind to itself. It is its own worst enemy.

I condemned and hated the final iteration of the main character. Who wouldn’t? But, oh, how I sympathized with the young, uncannibalized version.

But cannibalized by what is the question. What ultimately destroyed Jane and created the Fizzle Bomber?

Too many time jumps? Maybe. There were all sorts of references to the fact that too many jumps could wreak havoc on one’s mind.

But I think it was loneliness (exacerbated by the character’s repeatedly betraying him/herself) that ultimately destroyed Jane. In the end, the Fizzle Bomber says something like “by killing me, you become me.” So sad. Honestly, I, like everyone else, was blown away by Sarah Snook. Her portrayal made me want to give Jane a huge hug and kick the crap out of everyone who was giving her so much grief. But then I also kind of knew Jane wouldn’t thank me for it. Because this was the same character who willingly admitted (if only to herself) that she was better than everyone else.

Ah, Jane. How could I fix your story? How could I give you an HEA? Leaving aside the perilousness of attempting to tinker with Heinlein, it’s still interesting to contemplate. Reunite her with her parents? Nope. Let her grow old with her one true love? Nope. All the horrible things that happened to her storywise had to happen in order for her to be born, have the childhood she had, live the life she had, etc., etc. because taking away any one of those things would jeopardize her very existence.

~

So, yep, Predestination is a very good time travel movie. Definitely better than a Plain Jane plague movie.

My final thoughts? One day a year isn’t enough. And it doesn’t always have to be about hearts, chocolate, and roses. It can be about tapas or sushi, poker or pedicures, a walk in the woods, a trip to your local animal shelter, complimenting a stranger, or simply smiling at them. You can and should deepen your connections to other living things every day throughout the year and you should be kind to yourself. That doesn’t mean be egotistical or narcissistic. It just means, don’t be your own worst enemy.

Want to read more about Predestination?

Did you do anything fun for Valentine’s Day? Are you doing anything fun for President’s Day today? We’re headed to see Jupiter Ascending later. Tomorrow? Gah!! Looks like it might be another snow day…!? At least my commute is short. Lol. Stay safe and warm, people. Here’s wishing you more than romance – I wish each of you HAPPINESS. :-)


Gracie Madison, author of SING FOR ME, on Magic, Music, Song, and Emotion (#angel #fiction)

Today’s guest blogger is NA PNR author Gracie Madison, whose novel SING FOR ME, came out a few weeks ago. When I saw that she was doing a BBT tour to help get the word out about her release, I asked if she’d be willing to share her thoughts on adding music to her stories and/or the idea of mixing magic, emotion, and voice. As part of her tour, she’s giving away a $25 Amazon eGC and one signed copy of her book. The Rafflecopter link is below. Welcome, Gracie!

[Quick note before Gracie’s post… remember how much I loved the cover for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE? Well, I entered it in the JABBIC (the Judge A Book By Its Cover contest). I’ve never entered before and didn’t realize it’s one of those contests where EVERYONE can vote. So, if you have a minute, it would be awesome if you could check out all the entries and cast your vote. Today is the last day to vote. There are some great covers! Click here for the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal category link. For new followers who like reading about covers, check out the “For Cover Lovers” links below.]

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

“Because music is so universal and so many people have their own special relationship with it, music became a natural way to introduce the plot and characters.”

I should preface this blog post…I love music and the theater, but I am a writer for good reason. The only thing worse than my trumpet playing in high school and college was my singing. I earned a scholarship out of pity, and they probably would’ve paid me more to stop. Music always fascinated me, but it doesn’t come easily to me.  It’s brimming with theory and compositions and its own language, and it blends an almost mathematical precision with creativity. It utterly fascinating to me, and Sing For Me utilizes that mysterious quality and blends it with the paranormal and divine to create the romance.

Sing For Me is a paranormal romance novel set within an opera house. The main character, Madeline, is the supporting soprano for the Eden theater company’s production of The Magic Flute. She also happens to be a specific breed of angel called a Choir, which, in the mythology of Sing For Me, means she is a creature created specifically for music and the entertainment of the angelic realm. Her magic exists within her songs and the power of her voice. In Sing For Me, music doesn’t soothe the savage beast, it is the only way to survive it.

So much of Sing For Me is influenced by music—from the Opera production, to the everyday life of the characters, to the very purpose of their creation. Music is not only emotional, it’s a sensual expression, a weapon, and a way to escape the horrors of the darkness chasing Madeline.

But it is hard to write about music, especially opera. Without hearing the songs or seeing the productions, the narrative relies on the feelings created by the music. The characters each have their own emotional connection to what they sing or to music itself. Madeline is actually forbidden to indulge in any emotions as they fuel the power in her voice, rendering it uncontrollable. Natalie, the director’s assistant, is not a singer or star, but she is a songwriter, and the theater offered her a sanctuary from an abusive upbringing. And the prima donna, Danielle, is a feisty diva who lives, breathes, and is her role in the production. Because music is so universal and so many people have their own special relationship with it, music became a natural way to introduce the plot and characters.

Angels are so often portrayed as strumming harps and singing hymns, so it was really fun to re-envision them in a modern way. But let’s face it, opera has a bad reputation. People envision the horned ladies in golden breastplates wailing at the top their lungs. However, there’s a tremendous amount of power and talent and skill involved within the productions, and there’s just as much hierarchy within the theaters as there is within the orders angels in religious mythology. Though Madeline’s attempts to hide within the crew, her natural talent and beautiful voice take center stage. Everything she seems, experiences, or knows is because of music and related through music.

Magic and music are intertwined within the novel, as are song and emotion. The only thing more powerful than a song is the love of the main characters and the promise that Madeline makes to Damascus throughout the story—she always sings for him.

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

More About Sing For Me

Madeline Noel fled war-torn Heaven to hide within the mortal world, but the blessing that could protect her from evil is the holy realm’s forbidden power.

As a talented soprano for the Eden Theatre Company, Madeline hides among prima donnas and tone-deaf flutists. Her perfect voice may entertain audiences, but a careless laugh may shatter glass, and her greatest scream can kill. To control her unrestrained voice, the angels forbid Madeline from embracing the emotions that strengthen her song. Anger. Fear.

Love.

The demon-hunter Damascus vows to defend Madeline from Hell’s relentless evil, but he cannot protect her from her own feelings. Though they deny their dangerous attraction, her guardian becomes her greatest temptation.

Surrendering to desire may awaken the gift suppressed within Madeline’s soul, and neither Heaven nor Hell will allow such absolute power to exist.

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

Gracie Madison

Gracie Madison

More About Gracie

Gracie Madison would spend every day, all day writing…if it were socially acceptable.  Ever since she was a little girl scribbling with a crayon, Gracie’s dedicated herself to her books and all the supernatural and paranormal, creepy and beautiful stories and characters born within the pages. Now Gracie is committed to finally sharing those books with the world.  When the laptop is pried from her hands, Gracie is probably working her day job, rooting on the Steelers, or out with her husband searching for Pittsburgh’s best sushi.

More About the Giveaway

Gracie is giving away a $25 Amazon eGift Certificate (international) and one signed paperback of SING FOR ME (U.S. only). To enter the giveaway, click here for the Rafflecopter form. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 and over. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Sing for Me Banner

So how about you? Do you like stories with angels and demons? I hope so!  ;-) How about music, magic, love, and emotion? Do you think Gracie’s cover is as pretty as I do?

Thank you, Gracie, for guest blogging today!

FOR COVER LOVERS

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover artA fun discussion of the Noon Onyx Covers at The Reading Cafe

Goodreads List: Best Books with Jason Chan Cover Art (Fiery Edge of Steel is on there; White Heart of Justice isn’t?!)

The Qwillery: Dark Light of Day‘s Sept 2012 Debut Author Cover War Challenge win – woohoo! (I was a little better about getting the vote out for that contest than I have been for the JABBIC. If you vote over there today, THANK YOU!!)


Monday Morning Diversion: A Young Feline Huntress Stalks Her Prey

cats, kittens, monday morning

cats, kittens, monday morning quarterbacking

WHERE’S KITTY PURRY?!
TOM BRADY, BLAH BLAH BLAH
BRING ON THE GOLD LION/TIGER!!

Nutmeg also wants to know why everyone was talking about Puppy Bowl. Don’t they know there was also a Kitten Bowl? (“The Kitten Bowl is undoubtedly silly, but it’s a great cause—all 92 participating kittens have already been adopted” — Bleacher Report)


WHAT’S UP WITH ME FOR 2015 (#Writing Life and #Reader Appreciation)

Enough of you have checked in about what’s next for Noon (and possibly Night) that I figured I’d just do a post that I could refer to when answering.

My 2015 plans are still somewhat in play. But here are a few things I’m working on:

A SUPER SECRET NEW PROJECT

Ok, it’s not 100% secret bc I mentioned it when I did my release day party for White Heart of Justice. This project is my YA duology. It’s a two book “series” – no more, no less. I’ve got the whole thing plotted out, start to finish, and am currently slogging my way through the first draft of book #1. I think it’s a really cool, fun, creative, amazing project, but I’m admittedly biased. :-) Ideally, I’d like to find a traditional publishing partner for it. So that’s why I can’t say much else about it now.

THE NOON ONYX SERIES

There will be at least two more books. In a perfect world, I would release the fourth book myself sometime in 2015 – and that’s my goal. If I’m lucky enough to find a home for my YA deuce, however, then I’ll need to prioritize that. While this might be disappointing to some Noon fans, I’m hoping you/they will understand why I would prioritize “guaranteed money in” (an advance) versus “initial money out” (self-pub).

That said, Noon fans are owed a bit more news than this. So what else can I share?

When I finished WHOJ, I was at a crossroads. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to continue the series. Some of you suggested that I write a novella to wrap things up. And this was a great suggestion. I love hearing from readers, especially readers who care enough about the series to share specific thoughts. But in for a penny, in for a pound and all that. When I started writing the series, I envisioned seven books. I’m not sure it will end up being as long as that, but a novella won’t give me enough room to tell what’s left to tell. So… my intent for now is to write two more.

What about Nightshade?

I haven’t forgotten about him and I hope you haven’t either. I’ve mentioned doing something with him for years. He is a great character with lots of potential. In 2015, readers will get either a short story or a novella, depending on how long it is when it’s done. Here’s the blurb:


 

PORTENT OF LOVE… AND DANGER

SCARLET AUGUR

A NIGHTSHADE NOVELLA

Nocturo “Nightshade” Onyx has the sinister looks of a Maegester but the soft, healing magic of a Mederi. Eighteen months ago he joined the progressive Demeter Tribe so that he could hone his skills. He now wields surgical scalpels, defensive daggers, and waxing magic with ease. But his greatest challenges are still to come: trapping an injured demon and capturing a young woman’s heart.

Aceraceae “Acer” Feldspar’s healing magic only works on one person: her. Losing her mother at the age of seven to a disease she couldn’t cure, she was determined to find a way to use her magic to help others. Now, at nineteen, Acer protects her tribe’s perimeter. But the intrusion of a scarlet augur – demon harbinger of passion, pain, and tumultuous change – threatens far more than Acer’s pride.

 HE WANTS TO HEAL IT; SHE WANTS TO KILL IT

ONLY ONE THING IS CERTAIN:

WORKING TOGETHER WON’T BE EASY


 

From SCARLET AUGUR, Chapter 1:

The blackbird lilies were well and truly black instead of their natural brilliant red. Every part of the flowers – leaves, stems, calyces, and corollas – seemed to thrum with dark waves of infrasound. But Night knew it was just the absence of color he was sensing rather than sound. These plants looked dead, which was extraordinary considering where they’d been cultivated: Demeter’s third largest greenhouse. Frowning, he set his watering can down amongst some martagons and crouched down for a closer look.

Nightshade’s given name – Nocturo Onyx – and his grim, foreboding looks belied his medic profession. Kneeling in the dirt between two wooden tables loaded with zinnias and orchids, he looked like a Haljan impossibility: the love child of bloodthirsty Bellona, Patron Demoness of War, and virile Vervactor, Patron Demon of the Plough. He wore a loose linen shirt, soiled with fresh dirt and rolled up at the sleeves, with a puce-colored kilt and filthy, steel-toed, worn leather boots. Strapped to his left arm and right leg were two small knives: the short, but deadly sharp, pugiones that many of Demeter’s Mederies carried.

The sun had barely begun to rise, but under the glass, it felt like midday. Night rubbed the back of his neck, which was already wet with sweat – Luck, how he hated the greenhouse! – and thought about what the blackening might mean.

The sweltering summer heat ruled out a furnace failure or frost as the cause.

Mold?

Maybe. But if so, it was unlike any mold that Night had ever seen.

This was no mottled splash of sage, smoke, ochre, or ink. Instead, the blackening was preternaturally uniform, as if the lilies had been carved out of lead, dipped in nacreous pitch… or brushed with waning magic.

Nightshade reached out toward the closest lily, catching the tip of one of its black petals between his thumb and index finger. Immediately, his first impression – that the blackened greenery was giving off some sort of subsonic hum – intensified. His arm throbbed but instead of pulling his hand back, he sent a pulse of waxing magic from his fingers into the petal in an attempt to coax any latent life back to an active, healthy state. But Night’s waxing magic pulse instantly mirrored telling him that the plant’s organic compounds had already begun to break down. His magic was powerful enough to bring simple organisms back from the brink of death, but even he couldn’t bring something back to life after it had passed into its next stage of existence: decay.

He sighed and stood, glancing around the humid interior of the greenhouse. Though the possible causes of death were few, it was still hard to accept that waning magic had killed the lilies. There were only two kinds of waning magic users in Halja: Maegesters and demons. The former were human, the latter were shapeshifting beasts, but neither of them were often seen in Maize.

Night pulled a small wooden box out of the sporran hanging from his waist. He withdrew his shorter pugio from its sheath, deadheaded one of the lilies, and placed its top in the box. Later, he would prepare a few slides for his microscope. If some new type of fungus killed these plants, Linnaea, the tribe’s monarch, would want to know.

And if it had been a demon… well, the best that could be said was that it hadn’t been intentional. Otherwise, every single plant in the greenhouse would be dead.


Nocturo Onyx, Nightshade, Scarlet Augur, Jill Archer

“She had only one vulnerability – and it wasn’t demons.
It was Nocturo Onyx.”
– Acer Feldspar

Acer Feldspar, Scarlet Augur, Jill Archer

“Pretty as a milkmaid, but instead of carrying a pail,
Acer wore mail.”
– Nocturo Onyx

DREAM, INTERRUPTED

Yes, I can understand if you’re just a wee bit tired of hearing about this project. It’s only 13,500 words and yet I’ve done at least a few posts about it. Why? Well, I never did a blog tour for it bc it’s just a short story/novelette and yet I had things to share and say. In fact, you’ve likely not heard the last about it because I hope to make an audio version of it. I think it’s a story that would be well suited to that medium so it’s something I want to explore. For now, all I can say is working with my cover designer to create a cover for it has been FUN.

book cover, mock-up, Dream Interrupted, Jill Archer, dark fantasy, Corelei Neverest, gothic romance, mystery

MOCK-UP COVER FOR
STAND-ALONE VERSION OF
DREAM, INTERRUPTED

OTHER STUFF

There’s more?! Well, not in 2015. But I’ve got two other adult fantasy series ideas that I haven’t yet developed into proposals. Depending on how the first half of 2015 goes, I may move them forward. I’d love to work with my Ace editor from the Noon Onyx series again. I’m committed to trying to be a hybrid author.

So let the juggling of projects begin! Thank you to each and every one of you who have contacted me via various channels to inquire about what’s next. Stay tuned…


#Writing #Workshops for February

Below are the online workshops being offered in February by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

Monster Revision:

From “Draft Zero” to “Done”

02/02/2015 – 03/01/2015

Learn the steps of a two-pass “monster revision” method that will take your shambling, shuffling zombie of a manuscript and make it sparkle like a teenage vampire in sunlight. (Well, you know what I mean.) This is a hands-on workshop; be prepared to dig deep and get those manuscripts ready to submit! Participants can work on their own WIPs, or can use one of their completed manuscripts. Don’t have one finished? Use the methods to “deconstruct” a favorite novel off your keeper shelf. We’ll look at ways to spot plot holes and inconsistencies, construct a timeline, examine pacing, and then take it deep to make sure the whole manuscript shines. Each workshop participant will receive individual feedback through a series of weekly assignments.

About the Presenter, Suzanne Johnson

Suzanne Johnson writes the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series for Tor Books, with book four, Pirate’s Alley, releasing in April 2015. Under the name Susannah Sandlin, she writes the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series for Montlake Romance. A longtime New Orleanian now living in bucolic Auburn, Alabama, she has a fondness for SEC football, Cajun accents, and redneck reality shows. In her “spare time” (laughs manically) she does multi-media art and collects alligators…as long as they’re not breathing.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Click here to register for this workshop.

Water Beasties Through the Seven Seas

02/02/2015 – 02/15/2015

Our planet’s been explored pretty thoroughly since mankind’s been around, from the top of Mt. Everest all the way down to…okay, not so much the seven seas. Every time we turn around, we hear about sea life thought to have been extinct for tens of thousands of years being caught by a fisherman right here in the present day, and even fish not thought to ever having been native to the area it was caught. The oceans are the final undiscovered country of Earth, and they’ve been feared and respected in perhaps equal parts as long as mankind has been around, spinning tales around what dwells down below. From the sinister kappa that wait in the rivers to attack the unsuspecting human in Japan to the water ghosts of the Nordic countries, join Eilis Flynn and Jacquie Rogers as they take a trip around the world in a glass-bottomed boat and see what awaits under the sea if you dare.

About the Presenters, Elizabeth Flynn and Jacquie Rogers

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at emsflynn.com and reached at emsflynn@aol.com. In any case, she can be reached at eilisflynn@aol.com. With Jacquie Rogers, she’s explored the myths and legends around the world, including faeries and dragons and vampires and werewolves and ghosts, and more!

Jacquie Rogers’ first burning desire was to be a baseball announcer, but that didn’t work out so she decided to write romance novels. She has several novels out, the latest of which is the third in the Much Ado western romance series, Much Ado About Miners. Faery Merry Christmas is her latest fantasy release. She also writes nonfiction with Ann Charles, including Nail It! The Secret to Building an Effective Fiction Writer’s Platform, and Growing Your Audience. Jacquie is owner of Romancing The West, a popular western blog, and teaches online classes on various writing topics.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Click here to register for this workshop.

Plant Magic in England during the Dark Ages

2/16/2015 – 3/2/2015

Fantasy writers, this workshop is for you. MM Pollard will bring enchanted England to you through her lively lectures on Plant Magic.

MM uses information on Celts and Anglo-Saxons as the basis for this workshop because these people believed magic could be found in common plants and trees.

At the end of the workshop, MM hopes students will feel the same sense of the magical world around them that the Celts and Anglo-Saxons experienced more than a millennium ago. With the knowledge her students will gain in this workshop, they will be able to add touches of the magical to their fantasy characters and worlds.

About the Presenter, MM Pollard

MM Pollard puts her teaching skills as English teacher extraordinaire and her experience as editor with Black Velvet Seductions to good use in presenting workshops for writers. She has helped many writers improve their language and writing skills through her fun workshops sponsored by Savvy Authors, Writers Online Classes, many RWA chapters, and in her own virtual classroom. MM is sure she can help you, too, master the fundamentals of English.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Click here to register for this workshop.


#Writing: Transitions and Taking Chances

Is 2015 gonna be the year of audio? Who knows? This is a post about transitions, not predictions… :-)

What are transitions? Well, for purposes of this post, I’m defining them as those passages that take a reader from one scene to another.

So what’s so important about them? And how do you write them?

I think of transition paragraphs as mortar and the action/dialog scenes as bricks (taking this building analogy one step further, your mid-point crisis is like an arch’s keystone and your setpieces are like friezes). Transition paragraphs connect scenes and smooth the transition from one scene to another.

Transition passages should:

Anchor the reader in time and space

Readers like to know where and when they are. No one likes to be lost. It’s frustrating and distracting. If you wait too long to tell readers when and where they are, their attention will be on that instead of on the story.

If a scene occurs immediately following the last, your transition can be as short as a phrase. But if some time has occurred in between scenes, or if the scene takes place in a different location, then a longer transition may be required.

Contribute to worldbuilding and/or characterization

Really any piece of a novel is an opportunity to create or support the reader’s experience of the world through the characters that inhabit it – dialog, description, metaphors – all are parts of a manuscript where a writer can add character and/or world-specific details that bolster verisimilitude.

Be written in an interesting voice

There is character voice and there is author voice. Character voice is, obviously, specific to a character. It’s much more than how they speak. It’s how they think – their internal thoughts, how they process things, how they view their world. It’s a verbal and psychological manifestation of their being.

Author voice is similar, but different. It encompasses things like writing style, syntax, favored themes and motifs. Voice is one of those things that’s difficult to describe but easy to recognize. It’s one of those “you know it when you see it” kind of things.

This isn’t a post on voice, but if you’re a beginning writer and are still wondering what I’m talking about, one of the best pieces of advice I heard about how to develop your own voice is: Tell the story only you can tell. Tell it in a way that’s unique to you. The best author voices are unapologetic and full of personality.

Examples

From DARK LIGHT OF DAY, Chapter 12:

Tuesday dawned brighter and colder, reminding me that, though the Yule greens would be burned this week, winter was far from over. Ivy and I scarfed down stale pastries and coffee laced with sugar and headed to meet Fitz for a crack-of-dawn Sin and Sanction cram. Later, we suffered through Meginnis’ meandering morning lecture on esoteric Evil Deed remedies like detinue, replevin, and trover and howled over Fitz’s one-man skit about demon conflicts of interest in Council Procedure. I’d avoided looking in Ari’s direction throughout the morning’s classes, but couldn’t help noticing that Fitz’s antics made even him laugh. Dorio, never one to condemn a clown, gave Fitz extra class participation points. More than a few students were outraged. Neither Fitz nor Dorio cared. By late afternoon, it was time for Manipulation again.

Unlike A&A, Manipulation was held every day of the week. It was grossly unfair. If the demons didn’t kill us, the workload would. As Fitz and Ivy headed home, I tromped up to the fourth floor of Rickard, bracing myself for another brutal round with Rochester.

When I entered the classroom, only Rochester, Ari, and Mercator were there. In contrast to the day before, the environment was almost welcoming. I nodded to Rochester and Mercator and slipped into my seat beside Ari.

From FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, Chapter 5:

Wednesday morning I woke cranky and irritated. It wasn’t that it was still dark out when I woke (although who in their right mind would make plans before daylight in a country ruled by demons?); it was that it wasn’t dark, at least not in my room. After one hundred eighty-one days of successfully ignoring the nearly all consuming urge to set my morning alarm bell on fire, I’d finally gone and done it. And in spectacular fashion too. In those few seconds between sleeping and waking, I’d torched the whole thing into a mini mountain of melted copper and bronze that glowed like a night lamp and smoked like a volcano belching toxic fumes. I was so ticked off; I left it there to harden, uncaring of whether I would later be able to remove it from my desktop.

Ivy had left a note:

Noon—

Went to get coffee and biscuits. Meet Fitz and me in Timothy’s Square at dawn to discuss Angel candidates.

Ivy

p.s. Wear something sexy. I heard Holden Pierce is a hottie!

I groaned. I’m surprised they didn’t make an exception to the “Future Maegesters Only” rule for Manipulation for Ivy. She was a master manipulator, even if she didn’t have waning magic. This was her m.o., always dropping very unsubtle hints about my need to bare my demon mark. As if the whole world didn’t know already I was the Host’s version of a Hyrke strong girl in a carnie sideshow. Despite Ivy’s postscript, I made sure I wore something that covered my mark, but I amped up the vamp more than I would have otherwise. It wasn’t to attract whoever this Holden Pierce was (I had my own hottie and was more than happy with him); it was to bolster my own confidence with superficial gloss.

From WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, Chapter 14:

As we had last semester when we’d worked together during our first field assignment, Rafe and I quickly established a routine. We rose before dawn, roused the barghests and let them hunt for food. Sometimes they brought back freshly killed herons and hares, other times a mouthful of maggots (those days, I was even more insistent about my “no licking” policy; barghest breath was bad enough, saliva laced with chewed up bits of grubs was not to be borne). Around sunrise, Rafe and I would heat water for tea and washing up. After breakfast, we’d pack up our tent, poles, pots, pans, and plates, douse the fire, and harness the beasts. From then on, it would usually take us all day to travel just ten miles because all manner of mundane things seemed to impede us: rocks, stumps, and other debris getting caught on the sledge’s runners, ice forming between the pads of Brisaya’s or Telesto’s paws, as well as soft patches of snow or crackling ice that had to be given a wide berth. Yet . . . despite the body-numbing coldness of the environment and the mind-numbing banality of the everyday hazards, those early barghest sledging days were almost fun.

Sure, we knew that greater dangers lay ahead. We’d only been warned a half dozen times or more about them. (Heck, I’d already survived one possible attempt on my life). But last semester’s assignment had taught us how short life could be. How one moment a person on your team could be alive and the next moment . . . not be. So we weren’t going to waste a single second of the time we weren’t under attack—from demons, beasts, the weather, our opponents, or Luck himself if he thought to end our lives earlier than we wanted him to—on feelings of fear, dread, or anxiety. Carpe viam! Seize the road! became our motto and our mantra. We headed for Corterra with near reckless abandon.

From “Dream, Interrupted“:

10:00

There’s an old song by a band called the Black Crowes titled “She Talks to Angels.” At first blush, the woman in the song is a liar. She talks about being an orphan but she has a family. She’s also an addict and a lunatic. She smiles when she’s in pain and she rings her eyes with more kohl than any one woman has a right to use. You may not like her, but if so, it’s because you don’t really know her. Because a third cousin twice removed whom you see only once every five years doesn’t count as “family.” And sometimes, addictions are the only thing you have left. I’m an addict.

What’s my addiction?

Sleep aids. Oh, you know, zaleplon and zolpidem, diphenhydramine and doxylamine, tryptophan and turkey legs. Forget about coffee; it’s chamomile tea for me. Lately, I’ve even traded in my nasal strips for a full on CPAP mask. How’s that for laughs?

Well, don’t. Because my addiction is more deadly than you’ll ever guess.

Breaking the Rules

Like anything in writing, once you know how to do it, you can play around with it. My transitions in Dream, Interrupted break two of the “rules” above.

They do not smooth the transition from one scene to another. Rather the opposite. They break the story up into a countdown of sorts, interrupting it in an arguably annoying way (like someone shaking you awake one too many times when you’re tired and just want to sleep).

They also do not anchor the reader in time and space. Instead, they jump around, discussing songs from our real world that add to the story’s meaning and complexity but in an admittedly disjointed, intrusive, jarring way. I think it works because it supports the story’s conceit – that Corelei’s world is a shifty one. Neither she, nor the reader, will ever be anchored. Instead, Corelei drifts from one scene/dream/reality to the next.

Did I pull it off?

Who knows? Readers will be the ones to say. All I can say for sure is that I was happy with how it turned out. Creatively, I feel the story did what I wanted it to. And if I attempted techniques that were/are slightly beyond my abilities, well, I’ll never apologize about being an ambitious writer. :-D

I hope this post encourages some of you to take chances.

Read outside your comfort zone. Push yourself as a writer. Have fun!

Anyone have any questions about transitions? Has anyone read any transition passages recently that made you smile, laugh, cry, or think? Any that were unusual, unique, or particularly creative? Lemme know in the comments!


SilkWords: Branched Fiction Grows Up

My next guest is Sharon Lynn Fisher, author of the steampunk romance, A Heart for Copper, which is a “branched fiction” story — a “pick your path” sweet romance featuring the automaton Copper.

Along with being intrigued by the premise, I was interested in the story structure of branched fiction and how that might work with e-books, as well as the publisher’s two online interactive storytelling formats (Pick Your Path versus Reader Vote), and I was just the tiniest bit curious about what it was like to work with Boyd Multerer, “Xbox’s father of invention”  so I asked if Sharon would be willing to come talk about any of those things. Happily, she agreed. (SilkWords also publishes erotica and this post briefly discusses some of those stories; recommended reading age 18+).

As part of her blog tour, Sharon is also giving away 5 e-copies of A Heart for Copper and a boxed set of other stories. The Rafflecopter form and other giveaway info is below. Welcome, Sharon! 

A Heart for Copper

Have you ever read a romance where you wished the heroine had made a different choice?

Lots of us have memories of reading the old Choose Your Own Adventure stories as kids. Branched fiction has been around a long time, but telling adult stories this way is a more recent development.

Technology has made this style of storytelling a more seamless experience for the reader — hyperlinks have taken the place of page-flipping — and it’s become part of the growing genre of interactive fiction.

SilkWords was born of the conviction that romance/erotica and branched storytelling were made for each other. Have you ever read a romance where you wished the heroine had made a different choice?

In my Pick Your Path story A HEART FOR COPPER, the heroine is an automaton who has just been animated by her inventor. For the alchemy to stick, she must choose whether she wants to stay with the inventor — a charming young man she’s known her whole life — or find her own way in the world. Both choices lead to interesting outcomes. The reader is free to follow one path, in the style of a linear story, or explore the possibilities by reading them all.

COPPER is a sweet romance, but the majority of SilkWords stories are hot romances, erotic romances, and erotica. We’ve weighted more heavily in favor of these stories because that’s the type of content our readers prefer. Pick Your Path works beautifully in stories of erotic adventure, where choices are often about sexual partners, flavors of erotic activity (spanking? bondage?), and devices. It’s a lot like choosing a flavor of ice cream.

We were having so much fun with Pick Your Path that we started thinking about new ways to tell choice-based stories. We liked the way some authors were collaborating with readers on Wattpad, so we decided to create a similar experience on SilkWords.

For our Reader Vote stories, authors write an introduction with a selection of choices at the end. Readers vote for how they’d like to see the story proceed, and the author writes a new installment with a new set of choices. The story wraps up in about four installments.

We’ve got a lot of big plans for the site going forward! In a couple months (coinciding with our one-year anniversary) we’ll be launching a major site update that will introduce a game currency (hearts, of course) to boost interaction with and between readers. This was cooked up by our dev guy and co-founder Boyd Multerer, who founded Microsoft Xbox Live and was director of development for Xbox One.

We’re also looking at developing a shared world for SilkWords, where our authors can create a series of stories with the same setting and potentially the same characters.

If you’re interested in staying up to date, visit www.silkwords.com and sign up for our newsletter. You can also check out some of our content for free!

More About A Heart for Copper

An automaton created by an inventor’s son, Copper has finally been given a heart by her young master. Her choice of whether to keep the key or give it to him will determine what happens next in this “pick your path” steampunk fairy tale.

Will she join his family in their English country manor, where she’ll be forced to consider the question of whether she’s really human? Or will she search out the quirky alchemist responsible for giving her life?

Will her master hold onto her heart, or will she be tempted by the charms of an automaton man?

Sharon Lynn Fisher

Sharon Lynn Fisher

More About Sharon

An RWA RITA Award finalist and a three-time RWA Golden Heart Award finalist, Sharon Lynn Fisher writes stories for the geeky at heart — meaty mash-ups of sci-fi, suspense, and romance, with no apology for the latter. She lives where it rains nine months of the year. And she has a strange obsession with gingers (down to her freaky orange cat).

Sharon has written three science fiction romance novels for Tor Books — Ghost Planet (2012), The Ophelia Prophecy (2014), and Echo 8(2015) — and she’s indie publishing her erotica series Fantasies in Color.

She’s also the editorial director for (and a partner in) SilkWords!

The Giveaway

Sharon is giving away 5 ecopies A Heart for Copper and an ebox set of The Harem Club, Storm at SEA, and Fetish Fair. For the Rafflecopter form, click here. For my official giveaway rules, click here.

A Heart for Copper Banner

Thank you, Sharon, for guest blogging today!

p.s. tell your cat my cat, Ginger, says hello! (Mine is super sweet, not freaky :-) )

EVERY CAT WANTS CONTROL "We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious."

EVERY CAT WANTS CONTROL
“We wants it. We needs it.
Must have the precious.”


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