Category Archives: romance

Heroes ‘Til Curfew: Cover Art and Latest Info on the Sequel to Hush Money

Ok, that was the longest title ever.

I’m sure that there are some of you out there who fondly remember a time when I had planned this book to be a fall release, with yet another book out before the end of the year. Let’s all get that laugh over with. Life just happened all over me this fall, and I’m still trying to recover.

Work on Heroes is back on in earnest now, in a way that makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back. At least enough to go to Robin and say: these are some things I know happen, these are some themes in story, etc. (Incidentally, I think the fact that I discuss themes with Robin, as well as characters, events, and set-pieces, might be why she’s able to come up with things that work so well. Or it could be just because she’s awesomesauce.)

So I have a cover. Here it is:

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

I’ll give you a moment.

Do you love it?

Ok, so when can we expect the rest of it? Right now I’m saying January 2011. I hope you’ll all run right out and start up some best of 2011 lists as soon as you read it. ETA Release info: Since this post gets a bunch of hits from people searching for release info, I wanted to say that Heroes ‘Til Curfew still isn’t finished (*cringe* sorry!), and I don’t have a release date right now. I’ve added a line at the top of the sidebar with it’s status for your quick reference, and recommend signing up for the newsletter. I so much want to thank everyone for your patience and support.

I know that’s a while yet, although, trust me, it doesn’t seem like so very long from my perspective. I do, however, have a beginning. Imogen Rose was kind enough to include the first scene of Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of her latest release, Quantum. That “sneak peek” excerpt is just under two thousand words.

One thing I’ll tell you about the new story: it does not pick up right after Hush Money. A little bit of time passes between the two stories. For those of you who may now be going–

But wait! What happened when Joss got home? What did her dad say?

Hey, no one wanted to know that more than I did. I’m currently working on a short story which will serve as a sort of epilogue to Hush Money. Right now, what I have is being told from Dylan’s perspective. And all I can say is, “Poor Dylan.” Heroes ‘Til Curfew is my number one priority, but I hope to get back to the epilogue while Heroes makes the rounds with the beta and proof readers. I think it would be lovely if I could have that out for you around Christmastime.

As of right now, I intend for that story to be a freebie, a gift to readers who enjoyed Hush Money enough to sign up for a newsletter that will alert them to new releases and events in the Talent Chronicles series. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter now will receive information on how to download the new story as soon as it becomes available. (And anyone who doesn’t want to receive emails about new releases will be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Did you know that Hush Money has now sold over 2500 copies, here in its fourth month of release? This blows my mind. That’s thanks to a lot of people who have written reviews, tweeted, and even hand-sold copies of the book to their friends, for which I am so grateful. And that’s a lot of people who will need to know about that sequel! If you’d like to offer help or ideas, please feel free.

Meanwhile, I gotta go write the damn thing.

ETA for PS: If any of you wants to borrow this cover image for the purpose of generating interest in the series and otherwise having something to blog about, please feel free.

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Filed under books, goals, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Guest Post: Protagonist Arizona Darley, and Quantum

When my dear friend Imogen Rose, author of the Portal Chronicles, asked me if I could help with Quantum‘s launch by hosting her and her character Arizona  on launch day, I was delighted to say yes. Let’s hear from Arizona…

A note from Arizona Darley

Once upon a time–well, a year ago now!–I suddenly woke up as Arizona Darley, a blonde California cheerleader, which, of course, I’m not. I am actually Arizona Stevens, a varsity ice hockey player from New Jersey. It was confusing to the say the least–I mean really? A blonde Barbie doll… sheesh, not! It turns out that my mom’s time travel  portal was somehow responsible. Anyhow… it’s now a year later and the portal is now active again, which means that I can go home to my real dad….

-Arizona

Book Description

Quantum Cover ArtA whole year has passed. It’s October again… or is it?

As California teen, Arizona Darley, contemplates traveling back through the portal to seek out her dad, her life is plunged into a whirlwind ride through the unknown.

But this time, she doesn’t disappear through the portal.

Has Arizona been kidnapped–again? Is Raj Sen to blame? Could Dillard have taken her?

As Kellan, David and her parents launch a frantic search with the help of the Wanderers, it becomes apparent that things are much more complex than they seem – for all of them. While investigating her daughter’s latest disappearance, Olivia faces shocking revelations about the Wanderers and her life with Rupert.

In the meantime, what’s happening in New Jersey? Are both of Arizona’s worlds about to collide?

Quantum is the third book in the Portal Chronicles. Catch the start of Arizona’s adventures in Portal and Equilibrium.

Quantum can be purchased today on Amazon.com.

Book Trailer!

For more information on the author, Imogen Rose, or to read more about the earlier books in the series, visit her website: http://imogenrose.com.

…Please visit again tomorrow when I’ll have some information for you about Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the sequel to Hush Money, including the first reveal of the cover art.

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Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, interviews, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

The Facebook 15 Authors Meme

I’ve been tagged twice for this on Facebook. Maybe after I finish up here I’ll figure out how to do it there.

You’re supposed to write a list of 15 authors who have influenced you and will always stick with you. Part of the directions: “Don’t take too long to think about it…”List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

Oh no, honey. Thinking is what I do!

1. Ayn Rand- There are so many reasons her work will always stick with me. Reading her fiction, and The Romantic Manifesto…well, she changed my life in some ways. The way I think, my ability to cope with some of the crazy I see around me–I don’t want to get too into that stuff. As a writer, she helped me understand the concept of Hero in a way that reading a few hundred romance novels hadn’t quite done yet. And she helped me see the usefulness in the character arcs of secondary players. Perhaps most of all, she taught me that a great novel is more than just a story. A great novel is about something, and the concept of theme is not something that should be left behind in High School English class.

2. Johanna Lindsay- I read the few dozen of her historical romances that were available when I was a teen. At that time, Harlequin was very tame and pretty much PG. Lindsay’s books were my first exposure to the rated R world of adult romance. While I think those books probably did more for my interest in costuming, sewing, and medieval housekeeping than the writing stuff–because historical = research = OMG no–I definitely got stuff from all the Lindsays. The way she could pull out and develop secondary characters to star in later books, the humorous interactions between characters who are close to each other, ideas about what makes for likable characters and what can redeem a character or what appears to be a bad or doomed relationship, an understanding that there’s a structure beneath romances and fiction in general.

3. Nora Roberts- I came to Nora kind of late in my reading. I’m not really sure why. Some things I learned from Nora: Characters don’t always have to be orphans to be likable; sometimes family or close friends really add dimension to the story and even make some of the writing a lot easier. Which leads to the next point, the hero and heroine don’t have to exist alone together, in a vacuum, for the entire story. It’s ok to try new things: straight contemporary, suspense, girlfriend stories, family sagas, paranormal, science fiction–and still have it be romance at the heart of it. I also learned a lot about series metaplot from reading her trilogies.

4. Shannon McKenna- She’s not a big name, but man, can she write some heroes. These are probably classified as erotic romantic suspense. They’re definitely romantic suspense, but there’s a lot of sex and it’s pretty hot. McKenna’s heroes are amazing in the same way as Suzanne Brockmann’s Navy Seals–only I think they’re even better. They’re these over-the-top Alpha males on the outside, with this creamy center of insecurity and desperation when it comes to the heroines. I think I’ve understood attraction to a flawed hero from my teens and the bodice-ripper novels, but McKenna showed me how to appreciate weaknesses.

5. Linda Howard- She’s great at coming up with story concepts. In a romance, you know the characters are going to be together at the end of the story. Howard makes me want to know how. She’s also great at choosing elements that eventually come together as scenes that move me. And that’s what I want from fiction: I want to be moved.

6. JR Ward- Who doesn’t love the Black Dagger Brotherhood? Her heroes have that same ultra-Alpha on the surface, but kind of messed up and in need of TLC quality that you now know I’m into. Another thing I get from Ward: be brave. She’d gotten plenty of criticism about her use of language, her names, her creative spelling, deus ex machina endings, but hey, I’ll bet the piles of money soften the blows. This is her world, she’s running it. People claim to be annoyed with this or that, but she stays true to her world and ultimately they keep reading because she’s just that good. She makes me want to be that good.

7. Kate Forsyth- Here’s an author who just made me want to create a fantastic world, and to people it with a cast of heroic characters in an epic struggle. Fantasy isn’t always easy for me to read, but this world was just so incredibly rich, the storylines so amazing, the characters so wonderful…And as to that, the villains were so well developed. Can’t say enough about these books–certainly I shouldn’t say “so” again.

8. L. Neil Smith- The Probability Broach is an amazing book. While as a writer, this was one of the books made me want to write libertarian fiction (but for girls), I think it’s always going to stick with me as the first time I was able to read about anarchy without simply dismissing it.

9. Laurell K. Hamilton-Her early work made me want to write a kick-ass heroine, and the change in her work made me really appreciate how much I loved the early voice that she lost. Part of the delight for me in the first few Anita Blake books, was the freshness of Anita’s voice, the unexpected Dr. Seuss references, that kind of thing. She was part of waking me up to the power of voice.

10. Janet Evanovitch- Stephanie Plum: not the most kick-ass girl I’ve ever met, and she showed me the power of creating a character who had some room to grow, someone readers could identify with and really root for. Evanovitch is another one for amazing voice. So much about One for the Money makes me smile just because it reminds me of home, of people I feel I’m familiar with. She made me want to sound, not like a writer, not like an amalgamation of all the books I’ve ever read, but as the me I am in my head and with my friends.

11. Anne McCaffrey- I don’t think you can spend any time in Pern without being touched by it.Not only did I fall hard for Lessa, kick-ass, underdog heroine, not only was I drawn in hard by the relationship between Lessa and F’Lar, but the storyline and the world-building were incredible. After the first books, going backward in time to see how it started, and then filling in the gaps in the history of the world–it just blew my mind.

12. Diana Gabaldon- Look, Outlander was the only one I could read, but it’s not going anywhere. Jamie, his capacity for bravery and sacrifice, but also the innocent sweetness of him, is always going to stick with me.

13. Harlequin- The retired Harlequin Gothic and later Harlequin Intrigue lines pumped out romantic adventures every month that even a babysitter could afford, and then dream on. These books replaced the YA I had been reading partly because they could ALWAYS be counted on to be about the romance. I guess this was when I really started to understand about commercial genres, and really started to get serious about penning my own romances. There was a lot to be learned from these, and a lot of it was about what not to do, but that’s no less important. I learned what I like in a story and in characters, what works for me as a reader and what doesn’t, and I found some authors and stories for my keeper shelf.

14. Debra Webb- is one author I found through Harlequin Intrigue. I loved her Colby series, about a private detective agency. In addition to being good stories, very well written, I learned a lot and started to get ideas about how I might one day structure books in a series. I learned about spinoffs, plots that carry over several books, using an epilogue for good (instead of to annoy me).

15. I know we all love books, but, to me, fiction is fiction. Often I think we should do a better job of learning the names of the writers behind the television and movies that really stick with and influence us. Obviously, Joss Whedon’s work is huge for me, but there’s no way he can do all that alone, and I feel like I should know more names in this category. A few random shows that have caught at my imagination: Buffy, La Femme Nikita, V, Battlestar Galactica (1978), Battle of the Planets (G-Force), Superfriends, Batman, Thundar the Barbarian, X-Men, Wonder Woman, He-Man, Dungeons and Dragons (animated, 1983), Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara, Voltron, Veronica Mars, 90210, Firefly…

So…take on the meme if you want, but I’d love it you’d share your thoughts on any of the above, or if you’d like to share one or two of your own favorites, and what they’ve meant to you.

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Filed under books, characters, ideas, love, me me me, romance, story structure, writing

Status Update, Coming Attractions, Secret Identities

Let’s just get this out of the way. I don’t think Stacey Wallace Benefiel (authoress of Glimpse, Glimmer, Day of Sacrifice) ever initiates a conversation two times in a row using the same messenger. One day it’s email, then Goodreads PM, then Facebook message, then a DM on Twitter… Is Stacey a secret agent, trying to cover her tracks? Are there coded messages I’m too blonde to see? While posing as a home-renovating mother-of-two, is she really about to drop from a helicopter onto a moving train and wondering why I haven’t rushed her plea for extraction to the agent they have planted at the local Waffle House?

These are things I ponder.

Hush Money hit a new milestone yesterday: 2000 sales. The end of October/beginning of November was freaking awesome on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

This will probably not be the last time that I mention that there’s nothing like a shiny new paperback under the tree, should you wish to consider Joss and her friends to fulfill your gift-giving needs this holiday season.

Can you believe she’s starting up with that crap already, and it’s not even freakin’ Thanksgiving yet? Damn. I know!

Ok, what else. Oooh! Right. So Quantum! Who’s a fan of the Portal Chronicles, raise your hand? (If your hand is not raised, it’s because you haven’t read yet, so go, buy Portal, start getting caught up now, ’cause…) The third book, Quantum, releases on Tuesday, November 16th. The main character, Arizona, is due to drop by here and drop off some kind of message for you on Tuesday. So make sure you’ve done the homework.

Also of possible interest, she said innocently, the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the follow-up to Hush Money, will be revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 17th. It was not at all what I expected, and really took my breath away when I saw the initial concept. Robin is awesomesauce, and I hope you’ll all like it as much as I do.

Yes, the new book is coming along better, thank you for asking. Yesterday I finally pushed through a scene that was giving me all kinds of problems. When I was finished, I just wanted to sit and write more. Dammit. Self-washing dishes, where are you?? As I was driving to Girl Scouts, I was totally seeing the inside of the record store instead of the road, Joss was yelling, stuff was flying–it was all pretty distracting. Now imagine me, having this realization: Wow, I could totally have a really bad wreck right now! and grinning from ear to ear because I’m finally getting somewhere.

Watch out you Nano peeps. Don’t count me out yet!

Did you guys know I have another identity? No, I don’t use a pen name. In the dark and dangerous manuscript critiquing underworld, I am known, by those who can find me, as Pink Hammer. My supercharged weapon of choice? The Pink Hammer of Doom, of course. Now this is all totally wrecked by Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because now even I am asking myself if the hammer is really my penis, and it pretty much makes me the laughingstock of the underworld. Thank you very much. Nevertheless, I persevere, and will be taking out these frustrations on Devil’s Eye by Kait Nolan. So if Kait seems a little jumpy this week, if you see her stocking up on adult diapers because she’s pissing herself in fear, be kind.

Haha, no, really. It’s not like that.

Is it?

Ok, I think I’ve babbled at you guys long enough for one morning. Anyone have news? I haven’t been getting out much; feel free to tell me what’s up.

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Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Kettle chat, me me me, NaNoWriMo, progress update, PubIt, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

This, That, Stuff, and Things

I used to have this social studies teacher who absolutely hated “stuff and things.” Use either of those words in an essay question at your peril. So now I often say them, just to say them, because I’m just ornery like that.

I’m also constantly behind. Everything’s just late, crazy, and overdue.

Take the 1000 Sales Giveaway. I was supposed to draw that on Monday. Just did it now.

It has been such a week. Sales started a random upswing over the weekend and then just exploded. It was all very exciting, finally slowing back down again, but I’ve been so obnoxious this week that I’m lucky I have any friends left at all, and you’re all lucky I forgot to blog.

So I’m not going to bore you with a play by play, but I’ll just record that my highest rank in the Kindle store was #327, and at B&N, where there is less competition right now, I think the highest I got was #140. Don’t know how that happened, and I think I’m pretty much going to have to retire from trying to figure this stuff out because I haven’t got a clue.

Ok, I know, tell us the winner already. I’m just messing with you. The winner of the signed paperback of Hush Money is Marta! Because Random.org thought to itself: which number feels like international postage?? Hahaha. That’s awesome, though, and Marta, I am very excited to send this to you.

Speaking of contests, I think Robin and I have settled on a cover concept and images for Heroes ‘Til Curfew. Last night I sent her a bunch of spew, descriptions of Dylan, some recurrent themes and imagery from the new book, that kind of crap. What she came up with is pretty awesome on the first try.

It’s not ready yet. I have to buy the stock images, she has to play with the color and make some adjustments, and I apologize for just teasing you like this with nothing to show. But I’m sure we’ll have it ready for you soon. I already feel so much pressure about this sequel that, to be honest, I’m sort of afraid of the cover reveal. Because I just think Robin’s work is so awesome it’s going to make a mob come to my house and chain me to this machine until I finish the story to go with it.

Which Kait suggested might not be a bad thing.

Smartass.

Anyway, I asked Robin if she was inspired by any of the responses in the Find My Dylan contest, and it seemed that her image selection came mainly from what I told her about the story. We agreed that it’s probably best to go with random selection on that too. So when we’re 100% on everything, and ready to reveal the cover, I’ll announce the winner on that as well. Thanks to everyone who helped look for Dylan.

In other news, my husband and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. I’ve now been married half my life. Whew.

NaNoWriMo is going pretty slowly. November is always a bear for me. Just in this week I had my attention sucked away by the awesome upswing of sales, our anniversary, election day means a day of no school, I should have had my knitting day but got sick, then doll club with my mom today, and tomorrow I have a bazillion errands and a social commitment I should honor. So that’s all interfering a bit with my whole BICHOK program, but most of what interferes with that program is me. I got 1230 words today of what is mainly note-form to be turned into proper prose later (well, as proper as we get in the Talent Chronicles), which brought me up just over 4100, I guess. I forget, but I updated it at the website, so it’s probably in the sidebar. The stats tell me I’m behind. Big surprise.

How is everyone else doing?

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Filed under Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, nano, NaNoWriMo, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, word count, writing

Love and Romance: Do You Believe in Magic?

Before I get onto this, a few things:

  • Hush Money is featured today at Indie Books Blog
  • It’s doing really well. It broke into the Kindle top 1000 early last week and though it’s fallen out a few times, it’s been holding position fairly well (it’s at #888 while I’m writing this).
  • Coming up, I’m going to have a post on getting to the top 1000 within the first 8 weeks of release, talking about some things I did that I think helped and a series of posts that concentrates on those things in a bit more detail.
  • Still have the Help Me Find My Dylan contest going.
  • You know the paperback is out, right?

And now, on to the post…

When it comes to Love and Romance, I absolutely believe in magic. Here are some things I believe in:

  • Love at first sight
  • True love
  • Fate
  • The idea that there is a perfect mate for every person
  • The idea that you can fall in love in a week, in a day, in a moment

And I’m going to cut that list off there before the sweetness of it gives us all cavities.

For me, these, and similar notions found in romance lit, are true possibilities in our world. Even if some of them haven’t happened for me, I can still believe in them in the same way I can take your word for it that things are made up of molecules, or that the Earth orbits the Sun.

  • I don’t have to experience everything in the world in order for it to be true for someone out there.
  • I know that people experience different things, and experience the same things differently.
  • I WANT to believe.

And so do other people. For a lot of them, that’s why they read romance.

Some people absolutely do not believe. These things haven’t happened for them, or, if they have, they didn’t see it that way. After all, love and romance, like anything good in life, require effort, work. And when you frame love as something purely mystical (which I don’t think it is), it confuses the issue for some people. It’s doesn’t make sense for their somewhat more practical take on matters.

In fiction, a disconnect between author and reader often comes about when the story falls too close to one end of this magic to pragmatic continuum.

You have that story where two characters meet, they feel this immediate, overwhelming attraction, connection, and even things like devotion and intimacy, which possibly should grow and evolve out of what they experience with each other, just kind of magically exist between them. This kind of romantic setup will be accepted by readers far at the magical end of that spectrum, but you won’t go far along the line before readers are finding this weak, thinking the author was a bit lazy in supporting the romantic elements, and the pragmatists are throwing the book at the wall and using words like “tripe.”

For me, the incredibly logical characters can be just as maddening. These are characters who are SO practical, who need everything proven to them, everything spelled out. They can be so unwilling to just feel. To take leaps of faith. Isn’t love worth taking a leap? Sometimes they come across, to magical me, as so ungrateful of the gift they’re being offered in the story. They’re so unwilling to allow themselves to feel within a context that (to me) is supposed to be about feeling.

Just because there are two people with relationship potential, doesn’t make it a romance.

What I’m getting at here, is that there’s a middle ground. A good romance finds it, finds a way to please the widest range of readers. Showing the evolution of a relationship, supporting the True Love and Fate angles with moments that allow the readers to say “this is when she fell for him” (and “oops, I just fell for him too”), deepens the experience of the romance even for the reader who would have accepted the magic of it. Allowing the characters to just feel things because they feel them, even if they need to question those feelings, allowing them to sometimes act on things they don’t quite understand yet, and to just go with the flow once in a while, can create and ebb and flow of tension, rather than frustration for the reader. It can make the characters seem more real, since sometimes people have unguarded moments, sometimes they do take chances, just because they want to, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Romantic elements, unsupported, can seem ridiculous. Characters who approach love like Mr. Spock can be maddeningly unromantic and frustrating.

But in the middle ground, between the ridiculously love-struck and the frustratingly logical, there’s room to create something special, something more than just magical.

Romance.

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Filed under books, characters, love, romance, tips, what not to do, writing

Setups, Flawed Characters, Ginger or Maryann?

Last night I finally got my files uploaded for the print version. They’ve been reviewed, and I had a problem with my title page, so I have to get that fixed this morning, and then upload the interior file again. But it seems like that was the only issue, so I might be able to order a proof copy tonight.

This morning I’m doing some thinking about first acts, how I understand them, and how I approach them. What follows may be a lot of me talking to myself, so don’t let all the yous get to you.

For me, the first part of a book is all setup. The actual story, the thing your characters are going to have to work through—you’re not into that yet. In fact, the point where you actually get into that doesn’t even happen until the end of this section.

Now, you can’t just do nothing here. You can’t just go about describing the characters, their environs, their backstories, etc, and not having anything going on to engage the reader. That’s about as much fun as watching someone else play Barbies. There should be something going on, something the reader is going to want to know more about.

So you’ve got a character (or characters) and a something going on. And part of what the reader wants to know is: how is this something going to affect the character? When is she going to a) either become aware of what’s really going on, and/or b) have to deal with this? And then what’s going to happen? While she’s reading on, to get to that moment when things come together and you come to that point of shoving your character through the door into the story world, you’re feeding her lots of important information about the world and the people in it, you’re planting seeds, doing a little foreshadowing, but, most importantly to me, you’re setting up your character arc.

The stories I love best are those in which a character learns and grows, is changed by the events of the story. I think I probably especially love characters who seem a little hard to love when they’re first introduced.

Take Lost’s Sawyer as an example. (Oh, I’d like to.) He’s not a nice man. In fact, he’s a criminal. Not only is he nasty to everyone on the island with the name-calling and the constant lashing out, he also does things like gathering up and “claiming” as many supplies as he can so that he can profit from everyone’s plight. I think there’s a part of Sawyer that remains inherently selfish at the core, which keeps his character consistent. But in a show in which the challenges presented by the island transform many characters, helping them find the inner hero that may lie within all of us, I think Sawyer is the one whose change is the most dramatic, and therefore the most moving. (Or I could be just blinded by the dimple. It happens.)

Spike is another example of this kind of character. Someone who starts off really enjoying the killing, especially of slayers. Until he falls in love with one, and is changed by that love, and by his story into someone who ultimately—does something spoilery that’s pretty selfless. You know what I’m talking about.

So yeah, I guess I’m into that. Characters need to have a starting off point in which they are somehow less that they’re going to be at the end point. And in a series, in which they’re going to appear in more than one story, that means they’ll need even more room to grow.

They have got to be likable in some way, and often, with flawed characters, that’s a matter of empathy. When a reader talks about characters that seem real, what they’re saying is that they felt empathy, they recognized something that they’ve felt, or at least something that they understand, in something that your character feels. There has to be something they connect to. This is why they tell us to make the character care about something.

Spike had Drusilla, for example, showing that he was capable of some kind of love, even if it wasn’t the nicest relationship to watch. Later, he formed the same kind of obsessive attachment to Buffy. And we really got to see how it hurt him, to be so constantly rejected by her, to feel that she was so unattainable, because he was so unworthy. To feel the hopelessness of that obsession, even if one hasn’t been a vampire obsessed with a slayer who won’t have them–a lot of people can still relate to, and be moved by, those kinds of feelings. And that’s what keeps them tied to Spike as he waits for his moment, his opportunities for growth (internal, not always conscious), and to win the Slayer’s affections (external).

But be advised, it doesn’t work for all readers all the time. If you present flawed characters, not everyone is going to connect, empathize, or wait around for them to get better. Sometimes a reader will be so turned off by something your flawed character did or said that, not only will she give up on them, but the book, and you as an author. Our different tastes, experiences, the issues that can pull us in or make us throw the book at the wall, that’s all part of what it is to be human and sentient, and makes all these varied stories possible.

After all, it’s this variation in taste that makes possible questions like:

  • Angel or Spike?
  • Sawyer/Kate or Sawyer/Juliette?
  • Marvel or DC?
  • Ginger or Maryann?

And where would the internet be without that?

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Filed under books, characters, Hush Money, ideas, love, romance, story structure, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing

Angel or Spike?

Look, I know this topic seems a little past its freshness date. However, I also know that you know that I know that you still want to talk about it.

Obviously, this will be spoilery, so if you haven’t watched the Buffy series, get the heck out of here and go watch it, for goodness sake!! What have you been waiting for! What if the world ended tomorrow? Priorities.

When Angel showed up with his brooding and his shoulders, hey, I was an instant fan. The impossible relationship of a vampire and a vampire slayer was a brilliance that pushed all my buttons. I was captivated by this romance. When Angel turned, I was devastated. Again with the brilliance. Watching them on opposite sides, her guilt, the subtle sense and hope that the real Angel was still in there somewhere, struggling to get back to Buffy… :sighs: And then he fought his way back from Hell to be with her. That’s hot.

And then he left.

And that really wasn’t. Nope. That pissed me off. I quit watching the show at the end of season 3. The Angel series started, making it obvious that Angel wasn’t coming back, but then the first crossover episode gave me a ray of hope. Made me think that, maybe, there was some greater plan. So I watched. Watched Angel throw away a chance to be with Buffy again because, what? He didn’t trust the slayer to be able to take care of herself, and, ultimately, his own quest for redemption was more important than love. (I should probably mention that I still haven’t watched all of Angel because the show was a little too comedic for me. Someday…)

It was 7 years before I went back to Buffy to watch seasons 4-7. (Hold a grudge much. Oh yeah.) One of my best decisions ever. Because there was Spike. (If you’re hearing ‘Til There Was You right now, it’s just my head. Try to ignore it.)

Maybe part of what I love about Spike is his capacity for obsession. And not obsession with his broody redemption (although, generally, I’m into that), but obsession with the woman. I loved the way the series showed the darker side of Buffy, showed how similar these two opposites were, how they needed each other. I loved the way too outwardly strong characters were shown to have internal elements that were so susceptible to injury by others, and by each other.

There was an openness to Spike’s character that I never felt from Angel. Something that allowed him to be hurt, and for me, as a fan of the fiction, to also experience that, in a way that Angel never did for me.

Spike comes across as more selfish, while Angel can be all broodingly selfless and off to save the world. And that seems very heroic. But in terms of the romance, Spike’s selfishness felt like the you and I are all that matters and screw the rest of the world variety, with a bit of well, ok, I’ll face horrific demons, torture, etc., but only because it’s important to you, sweetie.

Really, I think that’s all any of us can ask from a mate.

So, how about you. Is it Spike or Angel? And why?

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Filed under love, romance, tv

Interview: Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Today I’ve got an interview with indie author Stacey Wallace Benefiel, creator of the Zellie Wells trilogy. But before we start talking to Stacey about Glimpse, Glimmer, and Glow, I’m going to tell you how I met Stacey.

Having heard a buzz about Glimpse, I took myself over to Smashwords to buy a copy. There, in the spirit of supporting a fellow indie, I decided to try out the little tweet button on the side there that tells the world, “I’m looking at such-and-such by so-and-so on #Smashwords [link].” I’d never done that before.

Well, next thing you know, @Christel42 tells me that she followed my link and thinks this author is a long-lost friend from college. Christel is a friend I had only “met” a few weeks before when @kaitnolan suggested she might be willing to beta read Hush Money for me. And that was why she was following me, to see the link, to Google the friend, to get back in touch…and then we all lived happily ever after.

I was happy too because I got a great read and a cool new friend.

Here’s a great little blurb:

Zellie Wells has a devastating crush on Avery Adams. At her sixteenth birthday party, held in the basement of her dad’s church, she finally finds the courage to talk to him. Turns out, the devastating crush is mutual. As Avery takes her hand and leads her out onto the dance floor, Zellie is overwhelmed by her first vision of his death.

Here’s what I had to say about it:

This was a very enjoyable read. I enjoyed the two different character viewpoints, and seeing their mutual attraction. The author has an authentic teen voice which manages to create a vibe between the main characters that is undeniably sensual, and yet layered with a kind of young and clueless innocence that’s very sweet. The psychic concept on which the story is based felt fresh and had some nice surprises (nice for me, not always for the characters). I look forward to continuing reads in this series.

And now, on to the interview…

Glimpse, Glimmer, and Glow

Part of what I think is awesome about the Zellie Wells trilogy, is that, within the realm of paranormal romance, Zellie has an unusual ability which is portrayed in a way that’s very unique and refreshing. Do you remember what got you started in that direction and how you developed Zellie and her family?

You know, I don’t remember exactly how Zellie’s abilities came about.  It’s been five years since I finished the first draft of Glimpse and it has been through a lot of edits since.  My goal was to write a paranormal that didn’t have vamps, werewolves, faeries…any of that stuff because I’m not good at research (Okay, I’m super lazy) and I didn’t want to piss people off by not getting mythology right.  It had to be completely made up from my own brain.  I started off with something I thought was cool and a little bit controversial for a pastor’s daughter to have-visions of the future.  The rest of the abilities materialized as I wrote.  I tend to get myself in the weeds and then just write myself out of it.

Have these books be long in the making, or was this sudden inspiration?

Glimpse was a long time in the making-I had two kids between the time I wrote it and when I published it!  Glimmer and Glow-I’ve always had an endgame.  I may be crappy at plotting, but I always know how they are going to begin and end.  Compared to Glimpse, Glimmer and Glow have happened in a blip.

When you started with Glimpse, did you know that you had a trilogy on your hands?

Glimpse was originally much shorter and I sort of had a plan to write six short novels-like Gossip Girl sized.  However, when I started submitting it to agents I got slapped on the hand for trying to pitch novellas.  So, Glimpse became twice as long and I figured I could tell the whole story in three 50K-ish books.

Are there any spin-offs planned, more books about the Society?

Because Glimpse started out as more of a Family Saga type novel than strictly YA, I have lots and lots of backstory on Grace, Mike, Becky, Paul, Grandma Rachel, and Aunt Hazel.  At this point I feel like the Grace/Mike story has sort of played out through Zellie and Avery.  I do have some straight up crazy notes for a Rachel/Hazel prequel set in the 60’s that I might do something with.  I would love to do a Ben spin-off, but maybe more episodic novellas.  Ack-I just can’t give too much away on that one! J

Glimpse is out, Glimmer is in the latter stages of editing now, and Glow is on the horizon. Do you have projected release dates for the second two books in the trilogy?

Glimmer will be out in e-book and print November 1, 2010.  I’d like to be done with Glow by April and release it in June 2011.

What are your post-Glow writing plans?

Deep depression? J  I’ve got a bunch of beginnings of things on my hard drive.  A PNR novella series about human sacrifices and their guardian angels- although I’m going to start working more on that in the next couple of weeks.  I started writing a very dark, very adult novel when I was having a hard time getting Glimmer to cooperate.  I’m kind of skeeved that those characters live in my head, but I feel like it could be really good if I could get over myself.  It’s called The Perv and it’s about sex offenders.  Yeah.

I also want to try my hand at writing a YA romance about completely normal kids.  Daring, I know.

Like me, you didn’t set out to be a YA author on purpose. What happened?

Zellie wasn’t always the main character of Glimpse.  The original version paralleled her mom and Mike’s story along with her own.  So, they were all teenagers, but in two different times, obviously.  One publisher I sent it too told me there was too much stuff about adults in it for it to be YA, but that was what she thought it should be.  I Googled just what the hell constituted a YA novel and I mostly agreed.  I cut, OMG, I cut sooooo much.  And voila!  Glimpse became YA.  Since then I’ve realized that half the books I like to read are YA, so I think I’m in good company.

Tell me about your self-publishing experience…

My self-publishing experience has been very positive.  Getting to be involved in every aspect of the work is amazing and I’ve met so many awesome people!  I’m super cheerleadery about it.

You recently wrote a blog post on why you went indie. Are do you fall into one of the indie camps: I’m hoping to be picked up by NY vs. I’m indie forever? Or are you more of a put it out there and you’ll decide what happens if it happens?

When I first published Glimpse it was because I just wanted to do something with it.  I thought it was good and didn’t see the sense in letting it live on my computer.  My plan was to see what happened and then try and sell Glimmer and a newly revamped Glimpse together to NY.  That is not how I feel anymore.  I’ve had a great response to Glimpse and thoroughly enjoyed writing Glimmer.  I don’t want anyone to come along and eff that up.  I’m doing just fine on my own, thank you.  Now, foreign rights, tv or film rights, those are different.  I’ve always thought Glimpse would make a great television show.  They can use the old Everwood sets.

What advice would you give an indie author on the fence?

My first inclination is to say, “Stop being a big fat chicken. The world will not explode if you put something up on Smashwords.”  But, some people are delicate flowers.  To them, I would say, it makes me happy.  Don’t you want to stop getting rejection letters from interns and let the readers decide if they like your work or not?  Adjust the dreams you think you’re supposed to have.  Make your own way, you won’t regret it.

Did you format your own work for Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and your CreateSpace print release? How was that experience?

I do format my own work.  I’m not a very computery person, but I at the very least can format so that it’s readable.  There were many tantrums the first go around. It will be much easier with Glimmer. I’m particularly proud of the print layout.  I think it looks lovely.

About Stacey

I’m a Midwestern chick.  I was born in Indiana, but grew up in Columbia, Missouri.  I’ve always written and done theatre.  I have degrees in English, Theatre, Culinary Arts, and floral design.  I’m still trying to pass my medical transcription final so I can work from home as an MT. I don’t embarrass easily and will perform a kick ass interpretive dance to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” whether drunk or sober.

Your Twitter moniker is @MomJeans1975. What’s that about?

That is me being a smartass and thinking I’m pretty dang funny.  It just makes me laugh.  I have a collection of “mommy” essays that is tentatively titled, “Bury Me in My Mom Jeans When I Die.”  It’s not professional and people don’t know it’s me half the time, but y’know, live a little peeps.

Vital stats:

Married, how long, how met or any interesting tidbit you’d like to offer, or not

Rob and I have been married for eight years, together for eleven.  We met while working at Tower Records in Marina Del Rey, CA.  He’d published a book of poetry that we sold at the store and I read it and pretty much decided that he’d be the guy I would marry.  We moved in together after dating for three weeks and that’s that.

Kids?

We have two kids.  Our oldest, Gus, will be 4 in November.  Our daughter, Arlo, will be 2 in December.

Pets?

We have two dogs-Ophelia and Chief and two cats-Simon and Willis.  Ophelia, Simon, and Willis have been with me since I was 20.  They are all on the verge of dying any day now and I am in denial.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

When I was in college one of my roommates and I were maids at a Ramada Inn in Eugene, OR.  This was the early ‘90s and The Grateful Dead toured in Eugene.  Cleaning rooms that 12 hippies and all of their assorted dogs and drugs had stayed in was just about the least fun ever.  I’ve also been a cook in an Alzheimer’s facility.

What are your non-writing interests? Any on-going projects? Play any musical instruments? Dance a mean tango or sew a fine seam?

My non-writing interests are community theatre, cooking, and reading.  I am the most terrible seamstress in the world.  I got a D+ on the apron I made in Home Ec.  I can play the piano, clarinet, and oboe.  I’ve always wanted to play the drums, though.  For my 40th birthday I’m considering going to Rock n Roll camp to fulfill that dream.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Stacey. I did! She’s funny and fun to hang out with, and so are her characters. Buy Glimpse, and go follow Stacey all over the place.

Glimpse is available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats and on Smashwords in a variety of ebooks formats.

Stacey can be found at her website, on her blog, on Twitter, and Facebook.

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Filed under author blog, book review, books, Guests, interviews, romance, self-publishing, writing

Holding Pattern

The good news: I’m publishing today.

The not as good news: I’m not totally sure about being live today, and won’t be until I have it all buyable right in front of me.

I’m very anxious/hyper/nervous/excited today, so please bear with me.

Kait, who actually said the other day “I love Adobe Acrobat!”, offered to do the PDF and whatever headers and stuff I need to file for copyright. (Actually, she’s ranting today about how formatting is not hard. Check it out.) But she had real work to do this morning so I must wait until after lunch for her awesomeness to finish doing my work for me.

After that, it’s upload city, baby, and I get to see if it’s really as no hard as she says. So far, everything I’ve done is really…not that hard. I just have to wait to see if it all blows up before I can actually talk about it.

While we’re waiting, if you would consider liking my new Facebook author page, that would really help me look less losery, thanks so much.

I should be doing more productive stuff. I have a list, but I haven’t opened it today. I’ve been thinking about printing with Createspace, doing some reading on that, asking for some experiences and opinions and stuff. My biggest obstacle really is that I have to go back to Robin for the rest of the cover since I only bought a front. Her price for that is really reasonable, I just don’t have a lot of money right now. I wonder if she’d accept this slightly used puppy who ripped through two skeins of pricey yarn this morning… Likely not, and I couldn’t blame her.

Anyway, see, this is the thing with the hyper. I get really rambly. I’ve got to go do something while I wait. I’ll get those links out to you soon!

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Filed under books, Hush Money, knitting, links, me me me, progress update, rant, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing