Tuesday, June 30, 2009

RWA tips

Hi all. I'm back from Nicaragua, and finally recovered from whatever microrganism invaded my body while down there.

Got the new cover for my August Nocturne Bite, DARKNESS OF THE WOLF. I love it! This story is about a werewolf imprisoned in a demon zoo who must team with a werewolf-hating woman to rescue a little girl from evil forces.

Anyway, because I have two deadlines coming up and I'm so far behind, and trying to get ready for RWA in DC in two weeks, thought I'd post an old blog I wrote in 2006. This was after I attended RWA. I hope it helps anyone attending for the first time.

Things I learned at National 2006

1) Publishers buy what sells. If you want to write a book about a time-traveling ape who shapeshifts into a werewolf-eating cowboy vampire who falls in love with a stripper, chances are it won't sell. Then again, you might set a trend. The key is to be so good that an editor has faith enough in your book to support it through the marketing and sales team, and believe you CAN set a trend.

2) Publishers will drop you if your books have crummy sell-throughs or drop you from the schedule, but readers have power. It IS possible to launch a reader protest and get your publisher to pay attention (as long as you’re still contracted and they have a vested interest). Thus the importance of the mailing list and loyal readers.

3) Go with your gut, in everything. From writing the book, to finding an agent who is right for you, to knowing what to do next. When searching for an agent, find one who is the right fit and is enthusiastic about your work as a whole NOT just one project. The high-powered agent who gets terrific deals for Jane Doe may not work right for you. Ask friends, chapter members, get info. Trust your gut if you get to meet an agent, and read between the lines with rejection letters or requests for submissions. The same is true with publishers. There are different restrictions with different lines and publishers, and those restrictions aren’t outlined in the guidelines.

4) Be savvy about the marketplace. If you write a Civil War book with all your heart and all your passion, it probably won’t sell in a flat historical market. But if you know that sex is selling, then weave in an erotic element to give frosting to the book and an element that will attract an editor’s eye. Your chances are better. Still, if you have the choice between writing a setting/genre that is selling, and that Civil War book, write what’s selling, even if you’re more excited about the Civil War book.

5) Authors have NO control, or very very little, over some key ingredients to their book’s success. The number one frustration? Covers. A bad cover can literally cause an author’s numbers to tank. Most readers choose books by cover, back cover blurb and author recognition. Authors seldom get to choose their covers and this can bite them, severely, in the end.

6) Use decorum at a professional conference like RWA. You never know who’s watching. Dress for business because it IS a business. Use the experience to make friends, network, introduce yourself around. My biggest regret was I wasted a whole morning in pain from a sinus migraine and missed key workshops and people I really wanted to meet. But I realized also that I was in no shape to be “on” and could barely be civil when it felt like a giant railroad spike was being hammered into my head. (NOTE: I'll add an update to this important for today's social networking: Be careful of what you Tweet and update on Facebook. You don't want a rant about an author, editor, etc. to become something you'll regret tomorrow.)

7) Don’t waste time envying others’ success. Christina Dodd gave a terrific luncheon speech on how we’re all walking on the sidewalk to success…some are skateboarding and some are strolling and some lie there, crumbled after skateboarding, because they soared too high too fast. No one has it perfect. The RITA winner has faced personal setbacks and private struggles. The woman with the gadzillion book contract from Superstar Publisher can barely function due to a health problem. Christina wrote for 11 years before getting published. Susan Elizabeth Phillips at the RITA awards said she had a severe career slump 15 years ago. Rejections, setbacks, slumps. Everyone has them.

8) Cheer on your friends and those you admire when they achieve success, because it’s the right thing to do and this business can be so damn draining and hard. Be a cheerleader when you can, because tomorrow it may be your turn and there’s no better feeling in the world in publishing than reaching a longtime goal and having your friends cheer for you.

9) Everyone is different. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t pay attention to someone who says there is only ONE way to write, or get published. Find what works for you, in writing style, genre, and passion. There are authors who can switch from single title to category easily. If you’re one of them, more power to you. But if it doesn’t work for you, don’t force it. Stop wasting time and concentrate on a genre that you like.

10) Write proposals, if you’re published, and keep writing them instead of writing the whole book… except if you’re writing a book you’re very keen on.

11) Make writing your priority if you want this to be a business. Ask yourself if it’s a hobby or a business. If it’s a business for you, treat it like a business. This means sectioning off time not just for writing, but learning about the business. Know what sell-throughs are, joint accounting, the importance of shelf placement, distribution, reserves against returns, and basic contract language. Think very carefully before signing on that line. Don’t’ get locked into something that you’ll regret later, just because it means you’re getting your goals accomplished. Trust your gut.

12) I already mentioned this, but section off time for writing, business and marketing. When you become published, it means you have to market yourself if you want to stay published. Find out what works for your books and keep doing it. Haywood Smith does book talks at Junior League lunches instead of booksignings. Someone else may find doing ads in magazines works well. Test, try it out on your budget and stick with it if it works. Some booksellers hate bookmarks, others love them. I personally like bookmarks and hand them out as business cards, because they have my cover on them. You’ll forget my name, but hopefully not that cover.

I did decide I need to schedule time for writing and business and become more disciplined about it. Because I work FT in a demanding day job, this means finding time in the a.m. and p.m. Go with your natural body rhythm for the most productive use of your time. If you write better into the wee hours of night, do that.

13) People will envy you when you achieve some success. Just getting a book published means someone, somewhere, will envy you and may try to shoot you down. Ignore them. Don’t get involved in internet flame wars, fights, etc.

14) Every writer has fears, about their success, the other shoe dropping, getting published, staying published. Even someone as amazing and successful as Sherrilyn Kenyon worries about the other shoe dropping.

15) When it all comes down to it, just write the damn book and write at the pace that suits you best and will result in your best book. It’s a journey of self-discovery. Everyone has a writing pace, style and technique. Find what works right for you, and then just DO IT!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Guest Blogger Delilah Marvelle

Let's all help Delilah save her series. This is a time for you, as a reader, to let the publishers know that you will support your favorite authors. If there's a series you love and can't get enough of write the publisher directly and tell them. Then tell you friends about the awesome books you've read so they'll buy them. That's the only way we can keep on writing them for you.

When I was in high school, I had a dream. I was going to be the next Stephen King. Heh. Yeah. Stay with me. Please. I knew my ideas were fabulous and I knew all it would take is for an editor to look at it and they would offer me up the moon and the stars and best of all, a contract. I had my girlfriends read everything I wrote. And they kept telling me, “This is fabulous! It's SO funny! Hilarious!” Seeing it really wasn't supposed to BE funny, I immediately changed course realizing I actually had a better handle on being funny than scary. I also figured adding a romance into it would even make it better since that is what I loved to read.

I then entered college as an English major. I was going to be teacher and write during the summers. Even then I was a smart girl who knew I wasn't going to make jack and that I needed a job to support the “creative” one. Throughout all of college I wrote historical romances. One right after another. And kept submitting. And submitting. And submitting. And kept getting rejected and rejected and rejected. In the meantime, I got married. I had two kids. I joined RWA. I got critique partners. I did honed and honed and honed the crap out of my writing. And kept writing and getting rejected. I eventually racked up over 200 rejections and had written over 40 books in those 11 years of trying to get published.

When I finally sold my first historical romance, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, and my second book, LORD OF PLEASURE, I was beside myself. It didn't feel real. To FINALLY arrive at a destination I had been traveling toward for 11 long years seemed like a mirage. Which fortunately, I quickly snapped out of. Because after all, most of my friends are all published and unpublished writers and the stories they all have told me throughout the years made me realize I had to fight with fists up for myself every step of the way. I knew publishers did little to no promotion for their authors, so I spearheaded my own promo, ready to be more than just an author. And even though I was budgeting very well and spending countless hours networking and promoting on websites and blogs, doing tons for free, I still ended up spending $7,000 on my first book. Which was way more than my advance. But hey, every business starts in the red. Right?

Then the reviews started coming in about my series set in 1830 London England about a school that educates men on the topic of love and seduction. People loved it! Wow. It got nominated for awards. Wow. Readers are e-mailing me raving. Wow. Readers from France, Austria, Poland, South Africa and from all over the U.S and the world.. Wow. It just kept getting better and better. I was beginning to feel as if every penny I spent was all worth it (even though my family and I weren't going on any vacations and were eating out of cans). Because all that mattered was that my publisher loved me and my readers loved my series.

Come contract time, I'm ready for whatever they wanna throw at me. Or so I thought. Mistress of Pleasure, though completely sold out and unavailable anywhere (unless it's a used copy, some going for a ridiculous amount of $40.00), hadn't done as well as my publisher had hoped. So without waiting for the second book to come out to see if the series was even worth saving, I get a rejection from my own editor citing lack of sales.

I have to say this rejection felt more personal than any of the other two hundred and some rejections I'd received. Because it was no longer “Your book isn't good enough” it became “Your sales aren't good enough.” Since when is an author supposed to be a market guru AND a fabulous writer? Eck.

I love this series. The men in it make me laugh and it broke my heart to think that my readers will never get a chance to read about Lord Brayton, my glorious male virgin. The only alpha virgin I've ever written about. Then I realized something, why I am letting a publisher decide what is worth holding on to? Shouldn't that be a reader's job?

Ah. Herein lies the purpose of my post. I am challenging everyone, be they readers or writers to help me do something that's never been done before. Save a series from a death sentence given by a publisher. Can it be done? Who knows. But I eat challenges for breakfast and I hope you do to. Please join me in saving my series. Come August 4th, tell everyone you know (yes, even you're 72 year old grandfather) to buy the book, Lord of Pleasure. In doing so, you'll have a chance to win one of three $50 Visa Gift Cards. How? Check out my website for details at www.DelilahMarvelle.com

That said, thank you for all the support and love everyone has already shown me by allowing me to blog about this. Feel free to post and repost this to everyone under the moon and the stars. To all you readers out there, thank you for supporting us writers. To all you writers out there, don't ever give up on your writing. The moment you do, you give up on yourself. Which is why I'm not giving up on my series.

Cheers and much love,
Delilah Marvelle

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why is the Queen so Grumpy?

Back in May, my husband and I had the opportunity to go to Victoria BC and had the great privilege seeing the exhibit "Treasures: The World's Cultures from the British Museum" at the Royal BC Museum. I got to see a curiosity from Scotland that I had also seen last summer when I'd visited Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland. The Lewis Chessmen.

The chess pieces consist of elaborately worked walrus ivory and whales' teeth in the forms of seated kings and queens, mitred bishops, knights on their mounts, standing warders and pawns in the shape of obelisks. They were found in the vicinity of Uig on the Isle of Lewis buried in a drystone chamber in a sand bank. Various stories have evolved to explain why they were concealed there, and how they were discovered. All that is certain is that they were found some time before 11 April 1831, when they were exhibited at the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland.

Who knows who owned the pieces, or why they were left in a chamber in the sand. What I want to know . . . what I have been thinking about for a year now since I first saw the pieces in Edinburgh . . . is why whoever created this set would make the queen look so grumpy? The other pieces are cute little caricatures of a king, bishop, knight, etc. So why would the creator make the one female character look so solemn and downright bored?

Was this his or her impression of womanhood? If so, then I'd suggest that the creator, be they man or woman, needed a bit more historical romantic fiction in their life!

Why do you think the queen is so grumpy? I really, truly want to know.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mr. Romance 2009 ~ LORD OF DEVIL ISLE

from Emily Bryan
Those of you who went to RT in Orlando last April probably fell in love with Charles Paz, Mr. Romance 2009. Not only is this young man extremely fine to look upon, he's got personality oozing from every hunk-a-licious pore! Part of the prize for winning the Mr. Romance title is a cover contract for one of Dorchester's books. And I managed to find out which cover will be sporting Charles next year.

It's Connie Mason's LORD OF DEVIL ISLE. Romance fans may be aware that this NYTimes Best Seller decided to retire two years ago. But the fans have spoken and Connie reconsidered. A new Connie Mason book is on its way!

I have a very soft spot in my heart for Ms. Mason. She gave me a cover quote (the first one she'd ever granted!) for MAIDENSONG, my debut Diana Groe title. Of course, all of us who write for Dorchester would love to have Charles Paz on our covers, but I'm thrilled for Connie! And I'm happy for Charles. It's great to see such a genuine, likeable young man on a NYTimes Bestseller's cover!

If you'd like to see a slideshow of how a cover photo shoot happens (the pics are much bigger than the one above and more fun too!), please visit this RT BookReviews SlideShow

So,how do you like your beefcake done?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's Thursday again...

Author Nalini Singh has posted a brief interview with me on her blog. http://www.nalinisingh.blogspot.com/ Post comments to either win, ask me a question, or just to post a comment... You know the drill. :-)

I spent the last two days in Tucson and driving the back roads of Arizona. Sweating. It was hot. However, I had a great time.

I did a couple things there I've always been "meaning to do." One was to visit the lovely 18th-century mission curch of San Xavier del Bac, built in about the 1730s.

The second was to visit the Biosphere, a gynormous self-sustaining bubble in which they locked people for two years (straight), with an eye to doing something similar in space. (The team made it through the whole two years.) They have a self-sustaining ocean in there and an entire tropical forest, among other things. Did I mention it was gynormous?

Two years in a bubble. I'd get so much writing done!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer invasion...

It's official. Summer is here!

And I will cling firmly to that calendar fact, even though the weather around here has not been very summerlike. It's been rainy and unseasonably cool. But hey, that just means the sun is due to be out soon, right?

In the meantime, all the rainy weather has forced armies of ants out of the ground to invade my kids' bedrooms.

First they went to my son's room, where a few days ago he woke to find a juice glass from a couple days before (he hadn't brought it down to the kitchen) covered with ants. Thinking quickly, he killed all the ants, washed the glass, and sprayed his room with the best insect deterrent he had on hand - his Axe deodorant. (Hey, if Avon Skin So Soft can keep away mosquitoes...) Figuring I would be less than pleased about the three-day-old juice residue in his room (he was right), he didn't happen to mention the invasion to me.

The ant army, choking on Axe fumes, staggered across the hall to his sister's room - a place that has a lot in common with an archeological dig. From a culture that does not know the meaning of the words "trash can." The ants were soon happily roaming amid years of junk, hunting (and finding) various and sundry candy & gum wrappers and soda tabs. There were enough of the little critters to send my daughter fleeing to the basement to sleep. I've told her a zillion times not to leave candy and candy wrappers in her room, but since I am only her mother, she of course did not take the advice seriously.

But there's a silver lining to this rainy weather tale. The ants have managed to get my daughter to do I have tried and failed to do for the last three years - clean off her desk and dresser!!

Yay ants!!

Joy Nash


Available NOW!

A Little Light Magic

Summer at the Jersey Shore has never been so hot!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Part four of when a story doesn't work

This is where I ran into problems. Swaim wants to use Merritt as a weapon. So he's hooking her up to computers and keeping her in a dream state where she believes that he's her father. It makes it easier for him to control her and use her. Kind of useless place for a heroine. My intention was to replay Dax and Merritt's love story using her subconscious. Even though she's doped up and believes she's Swaim's daughter, subconciously she'll be remembering her life with Dax. So I would tell their story as Merritt remembered it. Meanwhile, Dax is also hooked into the super computer and somehow his subconscious connects with Merritt's, he realizes what's going on, he breaks free then goes back to free her. It turns out that I've over used that tool recently. Seperate H/H and have hero rescue heroine. So yes, it is hard to connect with a heroine who is doped and unconscious. I have to agree there. But they didn't see Merritt the way I did. Which was also my fault. I didn't write enough of the book. Its hard to do a indepth proposal when you've got a dead line looming.

Chapter Three
The Dome

There had to be something beyond the shadows. Or maybe it was just her vision that was blurry. There was always the possibility that she was dreaming. Could that be it? Merritt walked through the room with her fingers trailing over the clean lines of the plain but functional furniture. Everything was done in shades of gray, from the plush carpet that cushioned her feet to the heavy gray drapes that covered the walls. Were there windows behind the drapes? For some reason she could not recall the view. Everything around her was familiar, yet everything she saw was strange.

“There you are my dear,” a man’s voice said.

Merritt turned. A man stood before her. He was tall and slim with blond hair that held a touch of silver at the temples. His eyes shaded more towards gray than blue, but it could easily be that the room they were in made them look that way. He wore a perfectly tailored suit that was on the edge of a new trend in fashion, yet would not be considered ostentatious by his peers. How was it that knew that, or even cared?

“Father?” she asked. The word came unbidden to her lips and for some strange reason she was not sure if it was appropriate.

“Who else would it be?” He came to her and took her upper arms into his hands. He kissed her forehead. “Silly girl,” he said.

She scrunched her forehead up as he kissed it. As if she could ward off the touch of his lips. His eyes bore into her and she turned away from his intense scrutiny.

“Merritt,” he said his voice heavy with concern. “Are you all right?”

A pain shot through her temples and she pressed her hands against them.

“It hurts,” she cried out.

“What’s wrong?” Swain asked.

“She’s fighting it,” Foster replied. “Her mind is sensing the reality shift. Her consciousness senses the dream so she’s trying to wake herself up.” Foster turned from his perusal of the monitor and added. “I told you she was strong. One of the strongest I’ve ever seen.”

Swain let his head drop back against the cushion. He reclined in an ergonomic chair while Foster worked the code for Merritt’s program. His Simkey pulsed while it accepted the code and aligned the program with the matching Simkey that glowed from the admanium port Foster had inserted in Merritt’s temple.

Strong and mine…

She really was quite lovely with her silvery blonde hair and clear blue eyes which were closed. It was a shame really that he could not look at them. They reminded him of the wildflowers that grew outside the dome. They were the dominant feature of her heart shaped face and quite an exquisite color of blue with black flecks around the edge of the irises. It was as if he possessed a valuable piece of art that he had to keep behind lock and key. He well remembered the sparks in those eyes as she attacked him in the real. It would be nice to see the life in them again. That, however, would not be conducive to achieving his goal.

She wore a silver rehab suit that stretched from her toes up to her neck. It would aid in the prevention of sores on her body from being in the same position for so long. It would also stimulate her muscles and enhance her circulation as she stayed suspended in the simlife. It clung to her like a second skin and showed the healthy vitality of her body which would soon fade away with enforced inactivity. Various tubes and wires were attached each one there to serve a purpose in keeping her alive for as long as he needed her.

To Swain, she looked like a princess from one of the ancient fairy tales as she lay reclined in a chair similar to his. Her brow seemed troubled and was drawn sternly down, marring the porcelain like complexion of her skin.

“Sleeping Beauty,” he said as he recalled the ancient fairytale she brought to mind.

“Sir?” Foster inquired.

“I noticed that you cut her hair.” No need to let Foster know where his musings led him. The man was bright enough as it was. Bright enough that he bore watching.

“Yes sir,” Foster did not turn away from his keypad.

No excuse or reason was given. When she arrived her hair hung to her waist. Now it was cropped close to her head and the ends of it curled up around her face.

Why did he care?

“It would have been a nuisance to care for,” Foster added after a moment.

Swain had to agree. Still it was a shame.

“I sold it,” Foster said as he swiveled his chair around to face him. “To the sonaspa.”

Swain resisted the urge to roll his eyes in disgust. The pursuit of eternal youth in their society was not unlike a cult. Someone would pay dearly for those hair enhancements. He wondered if he would recognize the color if he came across it in his social circle.

“I assume you deposited the credits in my account,” Swain said.

“Yes,” Foster said. “We can try again whenever you are ready. I added a head injury to her history which will help explain her confusion and I also gave her a pet for distraction.”

“A pet?”

“A fluffy white kitten,” Foster said with a smile that seemed insincere at best. “A gift from her father.”

Swain nodded his approval as he settled back into his chair and closed his eyes.

“Have I told you how relieved I am?” He said.

Merritt touched her temple once again. “About what?”

“About your recovery of course.” The look he gave her was full of concern. “The Doctor said your periods of memory loss would eventually fade.”

She pushed her fingers against her temple as if there was a switch there that needed to be on. If only she could remember…anything…There was nothing that was familiar. The walls seemed distant yet suffocating. She wanted to see the sky and feel the breeze on her face.

“I was hurt?” she asked. That would explain much. It would explain everything. She looked at her father hopefully. Why couldn’t she remember him?

“Yes,” he said calmly. Patiently. As if she was a small child. “You fell. You hurt your head. You have only recently come home from the Medcen.”

“Is that why it hurts?” she asked as she rubbed her right hand over her forehead. She scrunched up her eyes and then opened them in hopes that things would appear clearer to her. Her left hand caught her attention and she looked at it, spreading the fingers wide as she turned it over to examine it.

“I lost it,” she said. “I lost my ring. Did I leave it at the Medcen?”

“What ring?” he asked.

Merritt held her hand out. “My ring.” She twisted the fingers of her right hand around the base of the ring finger on her left hand.

“What did it look like?”

She continued to rub her finger as she tried to remember. She could see it in her mind. Silver and gold twisted together in a never ending circle. She recalled the weight of it. How it slid down the length of her finger and settled at the base as if it were a part of her flesh. She could almost feel a hand close over hers as if holding it in place. A strong hand with blunt fingers that were heavily calloused at the tips. To whom did it belong? “It was silver…and gold…It was both?” she said in hope that he would offer her some confirmation.

“I’m sure it will turn up,” he said a trifle bit too indulgently. How could something that felt so real and now so lost be a figment of her imagination?

It was apparent that her father thought she was imaging it. She turned away. She could not stand to see the indulgence in his pale eyes. Her eyes darted back and forth looking for the way out. She felt claustrophobic, as if the walls were closing in around her. The only door was behind him. Even with her back turned she knew she would not make it past him.

As if he knew what she was thinking he came up behind her and placed his hands firmly on her shoulders. Perhaps he meant to offer comfort. Instead she felt as if he’d captured her and there was no escape.
If he was her father then why couldn’t she remember his name?

“I have a gift for you,” he said. “Something to help you with your recovery. The doctor’s said if you didn’t try to remember so much then it would be easier.”

“They did?” She had a vague recollection of some sort of medical procedure. Of bright lights over head, the sterile smell of recycled air and strange faces hovering over her. She also felt a strange sense of loss, as if with the accident and what followed she lost a part of herself.

It was all so strange yet she could not say what was different. Only that it was.
The man who was her father walked to the plush gray sofa that curved around two sides of the room. He returned with a white box tied with a bright pink bow. It was strange that she had not noticed it earlier when she first walked into the room. Certainly the brightness of the bow would have stood out against all the misty gray that surrounded her.

“Open it,” he said encouragingly as he held it out to her. She had no choice but to take it. She pulled on the ribbon and it fell away as if it were nothing. She opened the box and a black kitten with deep blue eyes poked its head up and stared at her inquisitively.

“Oh,” Merritt exclaimed. She scooped the kitten out and dropped the box to the floor. “He’s adorable.”

Her father seemed confused. He chucked a finger under the kitten’s chin and it turned its head into her neck as if trying to escape from his attention. “You shall have to give it a name,” he said.

Merritt held the kitten up before her face and looked into its deep blue eyes. They were such a strange color for a cat, but somewhere she had heard that kittens were born with blue eyes and then they turned green or gold. Perhaps his just hadn’t changed yet. He let out a tiny meow as she looked at him and she smiled in delight as she clutched him back to her breast.

“I shall name him Dax,” she said.

“Dax?” Her fathered seemed to disapprove. “Isn’t that a strange name for a cat? Where ever did you come up with that name?”

Merritt turned halfway away from him. She felt as if the kitten was in jeopardy. “I don’t know where it came from,” she said as she rubbed the silky fur. “I just know that I like it and it seems to fit him.”

“Are you even sure that it is a him?” he asked.

Merritt held up the kitten once more and looked beneath its tiny round belly. It was hard to say one way or another at this young age but for some reason, she just knew it was a he. “I’m sure,” she said.

“I’m glad you are pleased,” her father said. “Now come, the Doctor’s said you must rest.” He took her arm and guided her to a door. “Go in and lie down. Snuggle up with your kitty,” he added as he opened the door.

Merritt looked around the space, hoping for something that was familiar, but all she saw was the same misty grayness around the walls and a gray cover upon the bed that was the only piece of furniture in the room. She heard the door close firmly behind her and knew without checking that it was locked. It didn’t matter one way or the other however as she found herself suddenly very tired. Her eyes closed the moment she lay down on the bed but before she drifted off to sleep her finger tips grazed the base of her ring finger.
er last thought as the darkness overcame her was of her ring. She must find it.

“I thought you told me the kitten was white,” Swain exclaimed as he disconnected his Simkey and slid it into the pocket inside of his coat. He positioned his chair for easy rising and stalked to where Merritt lay in her dream like state. Her hands were clutched together with the fingers of her right hand holding onto the base of her left ring finger and her forehead was drawn down as if she were heavily troubled.

“I programmed it white,” Foster said. “What did you see?”

“A black cat with blue eyes,” Swain said. “She named it Dax.”

“Dax?” Foster asked.

“The man with her,” Swain exclaimed. “His name was Dax. At least that’s what she was screaming if I remember correctly.”

Foster raised his eyebrows. “How interesting,” he said. “Her subconscious is compensating for the absence of familiarity. It also appears that it is rewriting the program to adapt to her longings.”

“Fix it,” Swain said in disgust. “I need her to be fully operational as soon as possible.”

“I’ll get right on it,” Foster said. But instead of turning back to his desk, he studied Merritt intently. “Perhaps we should give her a mother,” he mused aloud.

“No,” Swain said. “The simpler the program, the better it will run. She has to trust me. Only me,” he added as he turned to go. He had a council meeting to attend. “Have it working by the time I return,” he snapped as he left.
He walked through his luxurious apartment that covered the entire top floor of one of the most prominent buildings inside the dome. Above him was a rooftop garden full of plants that at one time grew in the Caribbean islands which were now rumored to be nothing more than desolate peaks. No one knew for certain. No one who ventured out to travel what remained of the world ever returned.

The best part about his garden was that he could stand upon a chair and touch the skin that sheltered them from the outside. It felt fragile, as if it could be sliced with a knife, yet it withstood pounding rain and hail and the freezing rains that pelted it in the winter. When he was younger and full of idealism he imagined he was touching the sky. Now he knew better.

Swain entered the lift that only stopped on his floor and the main floor many stories below. It was open on three sides and from it he could survey the city. He saw the many storied buildings, the green areas, the elevated trains that encircled the dome and the moving sidewalks that created a spider web effect from the center of the city to the edge. Everywhere he looked he saw the vid screens. The screens that gave their society all their information, from the latest news to the latest in the celebrity gossip. Screens that were present on every corner, in every office, in every apartment, in every classroom.

Screens that controlled the populace with suggestions made by the Paranormal Research Instruments of Sublimal Messaging called Prisms by those on the council. There were nearly one hundred of them, all kept in simsleep, all heavily guarded and behind locked doors on a floor of the government building. Each Prism was connected to the main frame and each was given instructions which they, in turn, passed on to the populace. Buy this, eat here, avoid this, all suggested to keep the peace within.

Swain allowed himself the luxury of a smile as he quickly descended to the streets below. Now he had his own Prism. One who was programmed to do his bidding and spread his will.

Soon everything he beheld before him would be his.

“All mine,” he said with a smile.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

And the winner is . . .

Thanks so much for all for your fabulous writing and your comments on "Your Turn Saturday". The winner of the Starbucks card is:


Congratulations. I'll be sending your prize along to you ASAP! Enjoy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Book Buyers Best Award!

from Emily Bryan . . .

Writing contests have led to some important milestones in my writing career.

I entered my first contest with sky high hopes, but of course I didn't win. However it gave me some valuable feedback. The judges let me know, very gently, that my tone was not that of a romance at all. I was writing a straight historical and didn't know it! I needed to become a student of the romance genre and hone my craft.

Then I started finaling in contests and even winning a few. (I'll never forget my first win! It was the MELODY OF LOVE contest with Music City RWA. Thanks, ladies!)The day I saw my name in RWR for the first time was the day I felt like a real writer. And because my contest wins proved a few folks liked what I wrote, it gave my first agent and later my editor just the nudge they needed to take a chance on me.

Now as a published author, I still enter contests. And I just learned I finaled in one! DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS is a finalist in the Book Buyers Best! This contest is very encouraging to me because it's judged by the likes of Sue Grimshaw (Border's Romance Buyer!) and Pam Nelson (from Levy, a major book distributor).

Contests are fun. We get cool little badges to flash on our websites. Maybe a few more people will hear about my books and get curious enough to pick one up, but of course, the real judges' panel all authors must answer to is YOU, the reader. Thank you to everyone who's plunked down their hard earned cash to buy one of my books, especially in these times. I appreciate you very much.

If you're a writer, have you found contests valuable? As a reader, are you more likely to pick up a contest winner's book? What's the weirdest contest you ever won? (I personally was the JUMP & REACH Champion of my 6th grade class! LOL! Don't ask.)

After you leave a comment to let me know you were here, if you're up for a little adventure (Hey! It's Friday! Start your weekend with a little webcrawling!), let me invite you over to my blog where I'm hosting JK Coi, paranormal author with a new release. And then please join me, Down Under at the Aussie blog Royal Reviews. They've been celebrating (I kid you not!) EMILY BRYAN WEEK since June 14th. Today I'm talking about THE IMPORTANCE OF GREAT SEX! Please leave a comment there for the Queen of Happy Endings, the Empress of Good and Evil, the Fussy Princess and me for a chance to win one of my backlist! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

books to win...

Days 'till the Summer Solstice: 4

I can't believe summer is almost here and that my Countdown to Summer blog party on www.joynash.blogspot.com is in its final days.

Come on over for the VERY FIRST SNEAK PEEKS
of my upcoming fall releases:

  • October - my humorous contemp novella "Christmas Unplugged" joins novellas by Sandra Hill and Kate Angell in the Dorchester Christmas Anthology SANTA HONEY.
  • November - SILVER SILENCE - a Druids of Avalon novel (Rhys and Breena's story!) - hits the shelves.

I'll also be giving away three prizes this week: Winner's choice of any book from my backlist, including small press. Join the fun! :-)

Joy Nash

Available NOW!

A Little Light Magic

Summer at the Jersey Shore has never been so hot!

Monday, June 15, 2009

When a story doesn't work. Part 3

This is chapter two of my proposal. I was fascinated with the thought of a mech hero so here was my chance to have one. Dax as a human was something of an artist, he played the guitar, he was just a genuinely nice guy, trying to get by, who had the good fortune to have an exceptional woman fall in love with him. If you watch American Idol imagine him as Kris Allen. So then this horrible thing happens to him. On his wedding day he's captured, blown apart, tortured and forced into this life that he does not what. I feel like I really put the screws to this guy in this chapter. The response I got from two editors was we just could not empathize with the characters. What? I write strong characters that people love. So maybe it was just my delivery. I was trying to suck the reader into the story. I'll explain more on that process later on. So here's Dax and chapter two.

The Real

Dax slumped between the two mechs that held him by the arms. They seemed frozen in place but there was nothing he could do about it and it didn’t last long enough for him to react, even if it could. They were still one moment and moving the next. A med-tech that emerged from the waiting transport attached an ion ring to his thigh. His leg was gone. He didn’t care about the leg other than the fact that it kept him from running after the thopter that held Merritt captive inside.


Why? Why did they take her? Where were they taking her? What would they do to her? He watched the thopter disappear into the darkness then saw it again when it rose over the treetops and headed towards the dome. How would he ever find her in there?

Merritt…He knew why they took her. There was something about her. Something that could not be defined but he had always known it was there. Every since she came to them in the real there was something about her that made her different from the rest of them.

Dax closed the fist of his left hand to secure the ring she had slipped on his finger not more than an hour before. It was their wedding day. A day that he had longed for since he first met her. Now she was gone. He jumped as he felt a sting in his neck. The med-tech stepped away.

The pain in his thigh stopped as the ion ring took hold. He was still helpless. Still at the mercy of the mechs. Dax looked up at the mech who stood before him. “Where is he taking her?” he asked. He felt weak. Exhausted. Beaten.

The mech looked over his shoulder at the thopter that with the distance looked no larger than a bat before the full moon. He turned back and cocked his head to the side. Dax heard a strange chirp and then the mech spoke. “There is no her,” he said. “Accepted.”

“No her?” Dax exploded but it was an empty rage. His arms were stretched out and firmly held, he was propped on one knee and the numbness from the prick to his neck spread into his arms from his spine. “You saw her,” he gasped as the numb feeling seemed to press against his lunges. “You….saw…her…”

“Accepted,” he heard as the world went black.

The Dome

The light from above burned through his eyes. He wanted to close them but found that simple task impossible. Dax felt strange and disconnected from his body. He was aware of everything but could feel nothing physical. Yet there was pain. Pain in his heart and soul. Pain that throbbed and burned with an unyielding agony.


He remembered what happened. He remembered waking up this morning, was it this morning? He remembered thinking it was the happiest day of his life. He remembered talking to his father. He remembered his sister’s gentle teasing. He remembered how beautiful Merritt looked as she walked to him in the dress that had been his mother’s and her mother’s before and so on through more generations that he could count. He remembered exchanging vows with her. He remembered the terror when they realized that the mech’s from the dome were attacking and how they scattered in several directions. He remembered that he never let go of Merritt’s hand as they ran and tried to hide because there were no weapons. Who brought weapons to a wedding? He remembered that they took her away. The memory of it tore at his insides with a pain so intense that he wanted to scream in frustration, yet he could not move, he could not make a sound; he could not even close his eyes.

Dax knew that he was strapped down on a steel table and he was naked. He felt the straps over his chest, his upper arms, his hips, his thighs, his one ankle and his wrists. He felt the cold metal against his shoulders and buttocks. He felt cold air blow over his skin and goosebumps popped up. He needed to shiver, yet his body was not responding to even the most basic and simple commands. Shivering should just happen, or it would have before his world had been turned upside down.
If only he could turn his head away from the light that felt as if it would burn into his brain.


He heard voices, chatting and laughing, as if nothing was wrong. Everything was wrong. He had to get away, yet how could he? His leg was gone. And he’d give the other one to get Merritt back.

If only he knew where she was. If she was unharmed. If she was frightened. If only he could go back to the hours before and stop it. If only he had done a better job of protecting her.

“Oh, he’s a nice one,” a feminine voice said. “The ones from outside are always so much bigger.”

“They’re nothing more than savages,” a male voice said. “And don’t get distracted. You’re here to learn, not play.”

The light suddenly was gone and Dax realized that it was a body blocking it. He couldn’t blink to refocus but he thought it was the woman. A musky scent drifted over him. She wore perfume, something meant to entice the opposite sex. It seemed strangely out of place among the sterile smells of the room.

“Should his eyes be open?” The woman asked. “I feel like he’s looking at me.”
She looked down at him. “I wish I had lashes like that.” Her face was inches from his. Dax was able to make out a sharp nose on an ordinary face. But all faces were ordinary compared to Merritt’s.

“He’s not looking at you,” the man’s voice said. Dax felt a sharp prick on the bottom of his foot. “He’s unresponsive.”

I can feel everything…The realization hit him….He was paralyzed but not numbed. And he was strapped down to a table. A table with a bright light over it. What were they planning to do to him? He looked in earnest at the woman, trying to make her see, to realize, that he was conscious of everything that was happening around him.
Her hand trailed down his chest. Her nails scraped his skin.

Oh God…

He was so vulnerable. Exposed.

Her fingertips grazed his groin and then moved between his legs and grasped his sac. She enclosed it in her hand and gave a slight squeeze. “Looks like he’s responsive to me,” she said.

“Hmmm,” the man said. “Must be purely reactive.”

“Did you ever consider that maybe I’m that good?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” the man said. “Even I could do that.”

“You want too don’t you?” the woman teased. “I’ve heard that about you.”

“Are you here to learn or are you here to play?” the man asked impatiently.

“They also said you were no fun at all,” the woman said in a pouting tone. She removed her hand from between his legs. If he could have sighed in relief he would have. He felt strangely tense even though he knew his body, except for one significant part, was only lying there. If he could will his muscles to do anything he would.

“He’s wearing a ring,” the woman said as she picked up his left hand.

“Really?” the man replied. “They should have stripped him.”

“Well obviously they missed it,” she said. “Can I?”

“I don’t see why not,” the man said. “It’s not as if he’s going to need it.”

NO! He willed his hand to close, his fist to clench, anything to keep the ring on. Instead it slipped off his finger easily.

“Ohhh,” she said. “It’s very pretty. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Its mine…I made it…them…for us…He could see the pattern, silver and gold twisted together in an unending circle. No beginning, no end, just together, forever, the way he and Merritt were meant to be. One for him, one for her…not for this woman’s thieving hand.

“Lucky you,” the man said. “Consider it a bonus.”

“Oh look, it fits,” she said. “On my thumb,” she added.

I will cut all your fingers off to get it back…

“Quit playing around,” the man said. “We have to take off the other leg.”

“Why?” the woman asked.


“He’ll be unbalanced,” the man replied. Dax heard the sounds. The clink of instruments. The movement of a table. The hum of sonics. “The admanium enhancements will be stronger than his normal leg.”

So if we just gave him one he’d constantly walk in circles?” the woman joked.

The man let out a barking laugh. “Something like that,” he said.
God…they’re making jokes…

“We best have him prepped before the Doc shows up or he’ll be taking off our legs,” the man said. “Put an ion ring on his thigh,” he instructed.

He felt her hands on his thigh, felt the ring go around, felt the pads of her fingers as she fumbled with the catch.

“Here?” she asked.

“Yes, like the other,” the man said. “The Ionizer will keep everything fluid so the admanium can meld.”

“The legs are ready made?” she asked.

“Yes, although it takes a while for the connections to format. Usually a week or so. We use that time for the reprogramming.” The man rattled the table and Dax heard the hum of a sonic saw.

Reprogramming? What did that mean?

The mechs…The mechs raided the Real. They took the men they captured. They were never heard from again after they disappeared into the Dome. Were they reprogrammed? Would reprogramming mean he would not be himself anymore? The mech’s certainly acted like machines, even though they were men. Or were they?
What were they doing?

“The Ionizer will also help cut down on the blood loss,” the man said.

Dax knew what was coming. If only they knew he could still feel. How could they not know? Or maybe they just didn’t care. He wanted to scream, kick, yell, anything to get their attention. He couldn’t even grit his teeth against the coming pain. Nausea rolled through his stomach and it occurred to him that he would probably puke and then choke on it.
hat would be better. Better to be dead than reprogrammed.

But dead meant leaving Merritt…He must find Merritt.

Pain more agonizing than he could imagine tore through his leg. The sonic blade connected with the tissue and it cut through, slowly, severing blood vessels, muscle, and bone. The hum grew louder as it descended into the bone.
God…I’m dying… There was nothing he could do. His body screamed with every molecule yet he was silent and unmoving. Dax felt his eyes well and then tears tracked down his face. Merritt…

How could they not know?

The noise from the sonic blade died away but the pain remained.

“Turn on the ion ring,” the man said. The woman must have complied because the pain suddenly faded away.

He could not even swallow back the bile that threatened to rise in his throat.

“What will you do with his leg?” the woman asked.

“Throw it in the incinerator,” the man replied. “It’s of no use to anyone now.”

He was nothing to them. A project. A learning experience. Dax wanted to see their faces. He wanted to remember them, before he was “reprogrammed”. He wanted to know his torturers because knowledge would fuel his hatred, hatred that gathered in the pit of his stomach and fed off the acid of his pain.

He heard the woosh of a door opening, heard a thump, and realized that it was his leg, gone to vapor, just like the other one. Another door opened.

“Has the subject been prepped?” another man’s voice said.

“Yes sir,” the first man replied. “His legs are ready. I left the rest for you.”

“Who is this?” the man asked.

“I’m Coral sir,” the woman said.

“Nice to meet you Coral,” the second man replied is a voice that implied something more than work.

If he could have rolled his eyes he would have. He was nothing to them. Nothing but a slab on a table to be talked over while whoever was in charge tried to connect with the woman who was probably more than willing. And the other guy watched.
He heard a table move and shadows moved between the light and his eyes. Dax tried to focus. He wanted to remember them.

“Now let’s try not to get these one backwards,” the second man said and the other two laughed. Dax felt heat on his thighs as the second man talked. “This softens the structure,” the man explained,” and enables the bonding. A tingling moved up his nerve endings into his spine. “Complete melding of the tissue, vessels, and nerves,” the man went on. “Amazing. It still astounds me, every time I see it. Of course it takes a while for it to sustain the density of the bone. It even takes on the genetic code so he’ll be the same height as before.”

“Can that be changed Doctor Everts?” the woman asked. So he was a Doctor. Did that justify what he was doing?

“There was some testing done with that some years back,” Everts replied. “But it was all destroyed in the great fire. All lost.”

“I remember that,” the first man said. “It was a great tragedy. Didn’t the head scientist die in that fire?”

“Yes,” Everts said. “Simskin please.”
Dax heard a sound like paper being torn.

“He didn’t back up his work. He was paranoid that way,” Everts continued as Dax felt a pinching around his thigh. “So not only was he lost, but all his work. No one has been able to replicate it.”

“What a shame,” the woman said. “That’s amazing. It looks so real.”

“Unfortunately it’s unable to grow hair,” Everts said.

“It’s not as if he needs it,” the first man said.

“True,” Everts said. “But it makes it unpractical for youth enhancement as if it’s almost too perfect. There’s no color change or glow that would be natural on a face.”

“As in no one wants anyone to know they had work done,” the woman said.

“Exactly,” Everts agreed. Dax felt the pinching again on his other thigh. “The sim skin will meld over the admanium and in a weeks time he’ll be good as new.” Dax heard the clatter of instruments. “Now for the reprogramming.”
The light disappeared again as the Doctor’s head came between Dax and the light. “What the hell?”

“What’s wrong?” the woman asked.

“Where you two idiots not aware that he is conscious?” A face hovered over his, close enough that they were almost nose to nose.

Remember this…Remember…

“I did a reaction test,” the first man said.

“There’s a difference you moron,” Everts exclaimed. “Look at his eyes.”
Another face appeared before Dax. He gathered in the details as best he could, square jaw, light brown hair cut extremely short. Small brown eyes, thin lips and an upturned nose.

Remember him…

“Unconscious men don’t cry,” Everts said. “Those are tears. The med techs paralyzed him for transport. It was up to you to put him out.”

“Do you mean he felt everything?” the woman asked.

“He felt everything and he heard everything,” Everts said angrily. “Poor bastard,” he added.

Thank you so much, Dax said silently. I’ll remember that when I kill all of you.
Dax heard the noise of a drill.

“Will somebody put this guy out of his misery?” Everts said impatiently. Dax felt a sting in his arm and the light began to fade.

It still was not black when he felt the drill go into his temple.


“*blip* 14:29/09/09/2202 Dallas Five-five on line. Acknowledge. *blip*” The symbols trailed across the plastigrid that covered his eyes. Pain shot through his temples and he gave his head a quick shake as he tried to focus on the words.
“*blip* Acknowledge. *blip*” the voice repeated.

“Accepted,” he replied.

“Five-five respond to my command,” the man before him said.

He turned his head to look at the voice. It belonged to a man in uniform who stood before a table containing a holi-vid and keyboard. A simkey was inserted in the man’s temple and it glowed with a green light. His scanner moved and the identity moved across his screen. Baker. Techno. Dallas Squadron. “Acknowledge,” he said.

“Stand,” Baker said.

“Accepted,” he said and stood.

“Walk to me,” Baker said.

He looked down at his legs. He was conscious of the fact that he was nude except for the visor that went across his eyes and was somehow connected to his head at the temples. He wanted to reach up and touch his head. He felt a strange pressure around his skull He moved his hands and stared down at them. He turned them over, palms up.

There was something missing.

“*blip* Acknowledge walk to me. *blip*

His head snapped up. “Accepted,” he said and walked to Baker.

“I’m guessing your momma thought you were stubborn Five-five,” Baker said. “We’ll have to make a few adjustments to your programming.”

Five-five stared at Baker. He needed a definition of the word “momma” but none was forthcoming so he waited.

A pain shot through his temple but he made no move in response to it. He was incapable of it.

“That should do it,” Baker said. “Get dressed Five-five.”

“Accepted,” he said and walked to the clothing that lay on a table.

Just a side note. I loved the *blips* Will have to find a way to use them someday.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Your turn Saturday!

Life has been hectic around the Russell Castle this week with my two sons finishing up finals at college and settling back into their "home" digs for the summer and my daughter graduating from high school soon. We've been dashing hither and yon which hasn't left a whole lot of time for writing or sleeping or blogging. So I decided that today, it was your turn to pull out your creativity and let us here at the Chatelaines see what you've got.

I'm posting three pictures. Which is the most evocative for you? And can you come up with a short "blurb" maybe 100 words or so that tells us all a story. Be as creative as you like . . .
Picture #1: In a land long ago and far, far away . . .

This picture feels like mystery and magic to me . . . what's it saying to you?

Picture #2: I could have danced all night . . .

Dancing with the Stars, anyone?

Picture #3: The Touch of Midas . . .

Futuristic or a Madri Gras parade?

Now, it's your turn to wrtie your blurb in the comments section. The winner of the most "creative" blurb, as judged by a nonpartial panel of judges (or a random number drawn), will receive a $10 Starbucks card to celebrate your brilliance.
Have fun, and good luck!

Friday, June 12, 2009

How will You Celebrate EB Week?

from Emily Bryan . . .
Different parts of the country have different holidays. We learned this by accident when we failed to take our kids to school on Memorial Day in North Carolina. And tried to send them on Easter Monday!

When we lived in Park City, Utah, one of the grocery clerks wished me a "Happy 24th!" I almost said, "Merry Thursday to you, too," not having a clue what she was talking about. Apparently July 24th was the momentus day when Brigham Young looked out over the Great Salt Lake and told the weary Mormon settlers, "This is the place." It is celebrated with far more hoopla in Utah than the 4th of July is in other states.

Other countries have their own special holidays as well. Our Canadian friends celebrate Boxing Day, the day after Christmas (which we celebrate here in the States by boxing up our unwanted Christmas gifts and taking them back to the store for exchange!).

The Aussies have a charming holiday called Picnic Day, a thoroughly civilized stress-reliever to my mind. And now the good folk Down Under are launching a whole new celebration this Sunday called EB WEEK . . . Emily Bryan Week!

Ok, not everyone in Australia will celebrate Emily Bryan Week.

In fact, it's mostly just my good friends at Royal Reviews, the Queen of Happy Endings, the Empress of Good and Evil and her Highness, the Fussy Princess. And ok, the parade will be virtual and the only fireworks you'll see are on the top of this post, but I promise a good time will be had by all! Each day, we'll be talking about a different one of my books. Wednesday is our day for Hunky Heroes and don't miss Loved Up Friday! There'll be reviews and excerpts (and not chosen by me, so I can't wait to see what the Royal Court has decided to share!)

And every day, I'll be giving away a free book to someone who leaves a comment at Royal Reviews. They've promised me "royal accomodations," (I believe this means a jacuzzi tub, a king sized bed with 700 threadcount sheets, and a koala in the gum tree of my private garden) so I'll be popping in to answer questions and swap comments all week.

Throw a few shrimp on the barbie, pour yourself a glass of Yellow Tail and join me each day Down Under for EMILY BRYAN WEEK at Royal Reviews June 14th-June 21st.

Of course, the Aussies are a day a head of us here in the States because of the International Dateline. Or is it a day behind? Hmmm. Maybe we all better visit Royal Reviews every day just to make sure.

And please pop over to my blog tomorrow when my guest will be paranormal and romantic suspense author Kerri Nelson. She'll be giving away a Summer Survival Kit!

So, to get the virtual conversation started today . . . what's YOUR favorite holiday?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Interview/Giveawy with the Wonderful Virginia Kantra

I’d like to welcome the fabulous Virginia Kantra to the Chatelaines. Her current release Sea Lord is the third in her Children of the Sea series. If you haven’t checked out this lush paranormal series yet...why the heck not? They’re some of the best-written books I’ve read in a long time.

JA: Virginia: Thanks so much for talking to me here, and congratulations on the release of Sea Lord!

VK: Thank you for inviting me to the castle!

JA: For those unfamiliar with the Children of the Sea series, can you give us a little setup?

VK: Sure. In the time before time, when the domains of earth, sea, and sky were formed and fire was called into being, the elementals took shape, each with their element: the children of earth, the children of the sea, the children of air, and the children of fire.

After earth had flowered and life crawled from the sea, humankind was born.

Not all of the elementals were pleased with this new creation. The children of fire rebelled, declaring war on the children of the air and humankind. The others, forced to cohabit with the mortals, withdrew--the fair folk to the hills and wild places of earth and the merfolk to the depths of the sea.

Yet there are still encounters between the elementals and humankind. Of such meetings, souls are redeemed and lost, wars are waged, great art is created, empires are raised. Of such meetings legends—and children—are born.

For more about that whole world building thing, see my interview with Romance Novel TV here

JA: I found the world in your books...well, way cool!

The first book, Sea Witch, is about Caleb and Maggie. Book two, Sea Fever, features Caleb’s brother Dylan, and local islander Regina. Book three (Sea Lord) is about Conn and Caleb’s sister Lucy. Tell us a little bit about who Conn is, and about Lucy, and how they're related to the other characters.

VK: The series is based on the haunting Orkney ballads about the selkie. But I used another sea shanty from the 1700s to connect the stories:

My father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light
And he married a mermaid one fine night.
Of that union there came three . . .

The father in my series is a lobsterman in contemporary Maine. The mermaid is the sea witch Atargatis. And the “three” are the grown up Children of the Sea:

Steady, responsible Caleb, the human police chief of the island, who returns from war in the desert to fall in love with a woman from the sea (Sea Witch);

Dylan, the selkie, the loner, who must choose between the freedom of his mother’s kind and the bonds of mortal love (Sea Fever);

and finally, their younger sister Lucy, the quiet, dutiful schoolteacher, who's spent the previous two books being underestimated by everybody including herself (Sea Lord).

The whaleyn sing of a prophecy, that a daughter of the sea witch Atargatis will one day alter the balance of power between the elements. Over the centuries, the children of fire have grown strong, while the children of the sea have declined in numbers and in magic. The daughter of the prophecy could prove their salvation. Or the weapon of their destruction...

The prophecy is introduced in the earlier books. But it isn't until the sea lord Conn sees visions of the very ordinary human Lucy that he believes she might be key to the prophecy. And that of course leads to all kinds of problems.

JA: "All kinds of problems" is good! The fun of reading and writing romance--don't make it easy for them. :-)

One reason I was drawn to your books was because your shape shifters are so different. Instead of werewolves or were-cats, you chose…seals! What attracted you to write about Selkies? Please tell us a little bit about Selkies and their powers.

VK: I know, I know... Other authors are writing tall, dark, and dentally adept or big black beasts prowling through moonlit jungles and I'm in...Sea World. What was I thinking?

Except, you know, I've always loved the sea.

And the myths and fairy tales I grew up on - not only Beauty and the Beast, but all those god kings turning into all those animals to carry off and ravish the daughters of men, the seven swans, the white hart, even the frog prince, were full of unlikely romantic leads. I can't even take credit for making up the whole "seals who come ashore as beautiful naked men and women to have hot anonymous sex with human lovers" idea.

The Orkney ballads about the selkie (literally, in Orkney, seal) are haunting, beautiful, and nearly always tragic. The lonely sailor. The woman who loses her love to the sea. The selkie lover who knocks up and then abandons his human wife. The selkie woman who abandons her husband and child. You can always feel the pull of the sea and the very human reality of those stories. There’s a palpable, poignant conflict between their day-to-day experience and their yearning for something more.

That was my inspiration. That's where I wanted to set my books - that place between earth and sea, that tension between everyday human experience and longings and the mystical, magical world of the Children of the Sea.

JA: I got sucked into the Children of the Sea series by the novella in the Shifter anthology. For that one you wrote about the Selkies in the past. Why is that story important to the rest of the series set in the modern day?

VK: "Sucked in" is good.

I wanted to tell one very traditional selkie tale for readers who might not be familiar with the legend, and the historical setting really worked for me. (I described it to my editor as Anne of Green Gables sails on the Titanic, but with hot sex.)

You definitely don't need to read the novella before the novels; but the sea lord Conn makes a brief appearance, as do two other important secondary characters., Griff and Iestyn.

JA: I also adored your setting, the isolated island off the coast of Maine. What attracted you to this setting?

VK: The people. Their lives are shaped by the sea. They live very close to the elements, in that place between the land and the sea where you can imagine that myths and magic come true. I had a wonderful research trip up there.

In prehistory, the highlands of Scotland and the mountains of Maine were part of one great mountain range. The Celts settled whole areas of that coast. So it made sense to bring my Celtic legends to that part of the new world.

JA: Will there be more books in the series, or have you wrapped it up at this point? What’s next for you?

VK: Thanks for asking! I love this world and I'm definitely not ready to leave yet.

This story arc definitely wraps up with Sea Lord, but I deliberately left a few loose threads to pick up.

The next story, a novella, develops another aspect of Orkney folklore, the finfolk. It's sort of a "Lady of the Lake" story set in Regency Scotland with a finfolk heroine and a soldier returning from the Peninsular War. Very lush, very romantic, very fun to write. It's out next summer in an anthology with Angela Knight and Nalini Singh, which I'm excited about.

Then I'll go back to the contemporary island of World's End where the island's new doctor tangles with Morgan of the finfolk, warden of the northern deeps. It's a reunion story with a twist. Scheduled for October 2010, I believe.

Iestyn's story is after that. There's an arc between the three new stories, but I can't give it away yet.

JA: Thank you so much! I thoroughly enjoyed The Children of the Sea series and highly recommend it to everyone.

VK: Yay! Thank you!!!

JA: For much more about Virginia’s series, backlist, and upcoming books, see her website: http://www.virginiakantra.com/

And be sure to comment below to enter a drawing for Sea Lord!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

When a story doesn't work part 2

More on the journey of my proposal. Below is chapter one. When I envisioned this story, the world was a dark and dreary place. I cannot imagine one part of this story taking place in the sunshine although I'm sure I would have worked some in. Its just the overall concept is just dark.

While I usually am pretty regualr at writing stories from the H/H pov, (unless in first person like Twist) I decided that I needed to do some pov of the antagoist. You will noticed the tone is omnipotent, which is how Swaim sees himself.

Also adding, I am dyslexic and horrible at grammer. The follow has not been edited.

The Real

They were like insects scurrying to their holes. Vile creatures. If only they could be exterminated. But even insects served their purpose and these would serve his. He watched them move from his position fifty feet up in the air, safe on his thoptor as the LED’s tracked back and forth on the uneven ground below.

“We’re locked.”

Swain turned from the view port to the console where a young techno, fresh out of academy, stood over a holi-vid. His nostrils flared as he approached the younger. Only purebloods were allowed to be near him. He smelled the usual array of bodily odors, more so since the younger was nervous. But no admanium. There was not any mechanized enhancements on this techno as there would be none on anyone else aboard this craft.

“Here,” the techno said. His finger trembled as he pointed to the ruins of a building. It cut through the blue line of the three dimensional representation that hovered over the surface. Inside the building a lavender blob could be seen, accompanied by a smaller red blob. They moved quickly through the ruins on the surface as if they knew where they were going.

Luckily so did he. Swain allowed himself a small smile.

“We’ll take them here,” he said and pointed to a place where three paths converged upon the ruins. The techno tapped the screen of his vid and the image was transferred to the terrain transport below along with an image of his finger, pointing out the places where he planned to lay his trap. “Place your men,” he said to the land unit below, as usual being proper in his address even though his skin crawled at the thought of referring to the hybrids awaiting their orders below as men. But even one of the members of the Protectorate must obey the chosen guidelines of society so that no grievances may be filed against him. “Here and here,” he continued.

“Command accepted,” the ground commander said as if he had a choice in the matter.

“These readings are off the chart,” his assistant, Foster, hissed in his ear. “I’ve never seen anything like it except for…”

Swain turned quickly less Foster give something away. “Show me,” he said and Foster turned his scanner so the screen was visible. The lavender blob covered most of the screen, greatly overshadowing the companion red blob. “Any way of knowing which one it is?”

“Not until we’re on the ground and I can separate the scans.”

“Make sure they are not harmed,” Swain said.

“Ground.” Foster tapped his earpiece. “Both are to be taken unharmed.”

“Accepted,” ground came back.

“Get me down there,” Swain barked. “And quickly.” He didn’t trust the hybrids with his find. Especially if there was a new one among them. There had been occasions when their programming was faulty. There had been occasions when the “Kill” order was the only thing they could comprehend. He was not one to trust others to do something when he was capable of doing it himself. It was the only way he could be assured that it was done the correct way. His way.

The thopter moved quickly, arcing up then quickly down to a wide empty space among the ruins of the former metropolis. At one time it had more than likely been a parking lot. Now it was simply a flat place covered with a thick and cloying grass that encroached upon the pavement instead of sprouting from it. Not that it mattered to him what was beneath his feet beyond the fact that his shoes would have to be destroyed upon his return. The Real was dirty, unkempt and wild. Swain preferred the orderliness and cleanliness of the Dome.

“Savages,” he spit out as the thopter settled. Yet they did have their uses. Where else would they find workers for the lesser jobs since those on the inside had long ago learned the consequences of going against the gentle reminders of how life should be inside? Peace must be maintained. Those who did not maintain the flow of peace would be assigned a better way to serve the general populace.

The truth be told, they needed them as a barrier between the Dome and the droves of bandits called Scrabbers that roared down from the mountains every time the full moon came round. They needed them to replenish the army that was the only barrier between civilization and chaos.

The same army that awaited his orders as he stepped out of the thopter. He looked right and left. The squads had better be in place and waiting to ambush the two that would be coming this way or there would be a reckoning.
The commander of the ground forces stood well away from the thopter blades with his expressionless face turned towards him. Swain saw the thin red beam cross over his goggles which meant the commander was scanning him for proper identification. The lights from the ground transport shone across the area and cast distorted shadows upon the cushion of sprawling grass.

He would have to make sure that all records of his actions here tonight were erased. There was nothing to worry about. Foster would see to it. He could feel him on his heels even now.

“Squad Four and Five is still in pursuit sir,” the commander of the troop said. The voice sounded familiar to Swain and he spared a look at the square jaw and mobile mouth that showed beneath the visor. He must have come across the hybrid at sometime. Possibly in his youth before the soldier was adapted. The society in the dome was such that it was possible. The hybrid had been in the service long enough to rise to commander.

Why are you even thinking of this metal remnant? He is not important.

“You are positive that all other escapes routes are covered?” Swain snapped.

“As you ordered,” the commander said without a sound of emotion in his voice.

“Foster,” Swain said. “As soon as you are sure.”

“I will let you know,” Foster said. Was there a note of surliness in his voice? Swain refused to turn and look at his assistant. If there was, he would rout it out later. What was about to happen was too important. “The only way to tell is to separate them.”

Swain motioned upwards with a finger, casually turning it in the air and the thopter lifted off to hover above and await his next order.

“This way sir,” the commander said and turned to lead them to a safe place to watch the proceedings. Four men closed ranks around them. The transport backed away and turned off its lights. The only sound to be heard was the soft thump-thump of the thopter’s blades.

The commander was one of twenty-five in a squadron which consisted of five five man squads. Each member was designated as a number depending upon seniority and each squad was numbered. The commander was known as One-one, if he needed to be called by name which Swain was disinclined to do. The Squadrons all had different codes to discern them from the others. There were 100 squadrons in all, each one named after cities from the old world order. This squadron was called Dallas. Something he needed to remember for later, when their work was done for the night.

“Reissue the no-kill order,” Swain said. If Squad Five was in pursuit then it was the least experienced squad and the most likely to make a mistake.

“Accepted,” One-one replied. “No kill,” he said into his mouthpiece. “Repeat. No kill. Acknowledge.”

Swain heard the strange chirps that signified a response as a litany of Accepteds coming in through One-one’s earpiece. Foster’s echoed the same, only without the chirp. It was something in the hybrids programming. Something he found strangely annoying as if they were privy to some sort of secrets. Perhaps he should look into it upon his return.

There was nothing to do now but wait. He stood off to the side with the five mechs surrounding him with their Lasters charged and ready. Foster squirmed in anticipation beside him and kept up a running monologue with his scanner as if it would reveal more about the two that would soon fall into his hands. They had too. There was no place else for them to go.

Swain studied the layout once more. The ruined buildings that surrounded him seemed strangely elegant in the dim glow that shone from the dome in the distance. Almost as if they could come to life at any minute. Ivy twisted around columns that arched over broken steps and the trees that grew against the buildings swayed gently in the breeze created by the thopter that hovered above. Generations ago this had more than likely been a center of learning for the old world order. A college or university of some sort. Now it was nothing more than a haven for the rebels that roamed the real and tried to eke out a life among the ruins.

A strange shiver ran up his spine and he felt as if he were being watched. As if the buildings around him stared him down and whispered threats into his ear.

Nonsense. It was more than likely there were people inside, hiding in fear, watching and waiting, just as he was. He would order the area purged when this was over. When he found what he wanted.

One-one turned to him, his face strangely vacant beneath the visor.

What does he see? Does he see what I see or an image translated onto a screen? What was behind the visor? Would One-one’s eyes look upon him with respect or contempt for what society made him? What he made himself…Swain corrected his train of thought One-one chose his path. He knew the consequences of breaking the laws.

What is wrong with you? For some strange reason he felt morbid tonight. He was seeing motives that could not possibly exist; he was assigning emotions where there could be none. Why did he feel so unsettled when he was on the verge of finding the very thing he’d been searching for?

“The target will be acquired in mark ten, nine, eight…One-one intoned.

Swain kept his eyes locked on the building before him. From his peripheral could see the two squads on either side move up on the building. He saw lights flashing across the black holes that at one time were windows. The squads were herding them out, right into the trap. One-one motioned his squad forward.

Swain stopped when Foster touched his arm. He looked down at the offending hand and his lip curled in contempt.

“Shouldn’t we stay back?” Foster asked. “In case they are armed?”

Swain swallowed his temper. He was too anxious. Too excited. This was too important. “Of course,” he said. He allowed Foster a reassuring nod to let him know he was forgiven for encroaching upon his personal space and moved to the side to wait.

He heard a crash. Swain willed his eyes to pierce the darkness and was suddenly blinded as the transport and the thopter lit up the area at the same time. He squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them.

Two figures ran across the front of the building. A man and a woman. The man held the woman’s hand, keeping her close to his side. She seemed ethereal against the dark color of the building. The light shining upon her enhanced the white of her dress along with the shimmering silver of her hair. Both flew about her body as the thopter hovered overhead.

“Anything?” Swain had to raise his voice to be heard over the thopter.

“Still too close,” Foster said.

The three squads converged upon the duo. The man feinted one way, turned to run the other. He kept hold of the woman’s hand until he realized there was no escape. He pushed her behind his body and backed her to the wall. Swain willed his body to stay at a walk as he and Foster moved toward the two who were now surrounded. At least twenty Laster’s were aimed at the two.

“Metals!” Swain spat out curse in disgust. “We’ll be lucky if they don’t kill both of them.”

“Stand down,” Foster yelled into his earpiece. “They’re not going anywhere.”

The Laster’s were lowered as he walked into the circle of mech’s. As one they stepped back with their weapons pointed safely upward.

The man stood tall and strong. His chest moved with the exertion of his flight but his dark eyes betrayed no fear as they moved back and forth across the mechs, seeking an escape route. There was none, still his hands curled into fists as if he would fight his way through. Swain saw a spark of hatred as he stepped forward. The man knew Swain was the one responsible. He knew the mechs were just following orders. He knew where to direct his frustration.

“What do you want?” the man said. The woman peered over his shoulder, her eyes wide and pale in the light. They shone with something… not fear… was it anger? She had spirit. He felt something he had not felt for a long time. A challenge? How extraordinary. His loins tightened suddenly. The feeling was a pleasant surprise because it was not something that happened for him, at least not this easily and never without a certain type of outside stimulation.

Which one? No matter which, he would keep the woman. If it was her it would certainly simplify things.

Swain kept his eyes on the man but he spoke to Foster. “Anything?”

“We must separate them,” Foster said.

“Do it,” Swain ordered.

“Two-one, Three-one,” One-one said. “Take the male without regret.”

“Accepted.” Swain watched as two of the mechs from either side of the circle handed their weapons off and moved to take the man.

They approached him from both sides. He watched them warily with his eyes darting back and forth between the two. Suddenly he moved. He dropped into a leg sweep and with his shoulder shoved the falling man into the other one while removing the stunner from the mech’s hip. Before Swain could blink the man fired and rolled. He came up beside another mech and caught the Laster before the hybrid hit the ground.

“It’s her,” Foster hissed as the woman moved after him.

“Are you sure?”

The man leveled the Laster on another mech and fired. The proton blast hit the man square in the chest plate and he fell backwards and shook violently. A scream tore from his throat as the admanium in his system exploded from the minute nuclear blast and he was torn apart from the inside out. It happened so fast that there was no time for the mechs to react as they had not received new orders from One-one. They were still on stand down mode. Held in place by the No-kill warning.
The man handed the downed mechs Laster to the woman.

“I’m sure,” Foster said. He ducked as a Laster blast went off over their heads, aimed toward the thopter. The thopter pulled up and away as another blast followed it.

“Take out the man,” Swain said.

“Revoke kill on male subject,” One-one said calmly. Instantly weapons were leveled. “Take the female unharmed. Repeat. Kill male subject. Take female subject.”

“No!” the woman screamed.

The man shoved the woman forward and swung the Laster in a wide arc, firing the entire time. Swain and Foster both dropped with their hands over their heads as if that would protect them from the blatant destruction of body that the Laster would cause. One-one and the rest of his squad took up defensive positions around them.

“Dax!” She screamed it. As if she were the one dying.

If they hurt her I will tear each one of them apart bit by bit…
Swain looked up. The woman was on the ground, cradling the man against her chest. The man’s face was twisted in agony and Swain realized the man’s right leg was gone, blasted away by a Laster at mid-thigh. Still he was able to reach for his Laster and he held it steadily in his hands as the mechs approached.

“Merritt,” he said. “Go. I’ll hold them off.”

“No,” she cried out.

Swain approached the group.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Foster said from behind. “Her PNA is off the charts.

“Excellent,” Swain said.

“GO!” the man roared.

“If you move we will kill him,” Swain said calmly to the woman.

“I’m dead anyway,” the man spat out. How could he talk? His leg was gone, nothing but a bloody and charred stump remained. The front of the woman’s dress was covered with blood. It showed black against the pristine white of her long white dress. The LED’s from the thopter shone down upon them and she stared up at him with eyes that flashed with silver.

“What do you want with us?” the woman asked.

Swain looked at her and smiled. “Why Merritt,” he said. “Didn’t you know? I want you.”

She looked at him curiously and he saw the realization settle over her face. “If I go with you, will you let him go?” she said.

“Merritt,” the man ground out between clenched teeth. “You can’t trust him.”

“Will you get him help?” she continued. “Make sure he lives?”

“Of course I will,” Swain said. He held out his hand in what he hoped was encouragement.

She looked at the weapons leveled on them. The building was at her back. There was no place for her to go and no hope of help coming from any direction. She bent her head and gently kissed the man. “I love you Dax,” she said. “Never forget it.” She slid from beneath him and lowered his head to the ground.

“Merritt!” he yelled as she stood and straighten her dress. He struggled, bracing himself up with is arms. It was if he could stand up with determination and stubbornness. Neither was a sufficient replacement for a leg.

Swain shook his head in surprise as he looked at the woman. If he didn’t know better he would swear it was a wedding dress she wore. It resembled the ones that he’d seen in the vids from the past. She stepped away and was instantly flanked by two mechs. As they walked her to him a team of mechs yanked the Laster from the man, Dax, she’d called him and trained their weapons upon him.

“Merritt,” Swain said when she stood before him. “I am most happy to meet you.”
She punched him. Hard. His head snapped back and he felt a crack in his jaw along with the coppery taste of his own blood. He swiped a hand over his face as he tongued the inside of his cheek. Was that a tooth? He spit it into his hand. Anger swelled over him and he clenched his fist over the tooth as he felt his cock harden. It took every bit of his will not to strike her.

She had no fear in her eyes. Only anger. Her white blonde hair tumbled around her shoulders and her bosom heaved with emotion. Her pale blue eyes bore into him, daring him to strike her.

“Orders?” One-one asked him.

Swain looked beyond Merritt to the man who obviously wanted to kill him. If he could do it with a look then he would most certainly be a dead man. A smile moved over his face as he realized that he could strike out at her, without actually lowering himself to show violence in front of his men.

“He’s yours,” Swain said. “To replace the one you lost.”

“No!” Merritt said. “You bastard!” She lunged for him. She sunk her nails into his cheek and raked them down. Swain staggered back with his hand over his cheek. He realized that he lost his tooth.

“Do something about her,” Swain said as he stumbled toward the thopter that had settled behind him.

“Stun her,” Foster said. Swain heard the charge of the stunner. He heard her fall and he heard the man, Dax struggle and calling her name. A hand reached out to help him into the thopter but he slapped it away and settled into a seat. A medic was there, waiting. He sprayed steriskin on his cheek and the burning immediately went away.

One-one stepped inside with Merritt in his arms. He placed her in the chair beside him and turned away without a word. Foster climbed in after One-one stepped out. Swain arched an eyebrow at him in silent communication. Foster handed him the port key.

Swain pushed the key into the admanium simport that was buried in his temple. The LED on the end glowed green to show it was communicating with the computer on board. As the thopter took off, Swain saw the mechs freeze in place as they received their orders to forget everything they’d seen tonight. When questioned about their activities Dallas squadron would report that they had captured a thief and rehabilitated him. “Make sure there are no witnesses,” Swain said to Foster. Foster immediately tapped his earpiece and ordered another squadron out to sweep the area.

Swain looked at the woman that slumped in the chair next to him. She was young, he realized, younger than the fight she’d shown. She was also exquisitely beautiful and once again he felt his cock harden. He would have to make sure the pleaser he used tonight had the same silvery blonde hair and pale blue eyes.
Not that it would matter what she looked like when he was done with her.

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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