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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GUEST BLOG: LINDA SWIFT

MY POV ON POV

The big issue of the day with editors, as far as I can determine, is POINT OF VIEW (POV for short) with capital letters. I've been writing a number of years and published in romance/women's fiction for fifteen years, on and off (mostly the latter). And until last year I honestly thought the two were synonymous. Then to my everlasting sorrow, I learned that some very strict guidelines apply to romance that separate it from women's fiction. And the greatest of these is (drum roll here) POINT OF VIEW.

A romance shall have no more than two points of view, those of the hero and heroine. And they shall not be in the same scene and depending on the editor's POV, maybe not even be allowed in the same chapter. If an unlearned author describes the thoughts and/or feelings of both H&H in the same scene, this unforgivable sin is labeled as head hopping. And being labeled with the derogatory term of headhopper is synonymous with being an amateur.

I must have a higher opinion than romance publishers of the intelligence of their readers. I believe them quite capable of figuring out whose thoughts the writer is revealing at any given time. And I think that most readers, like myself, can relate to the emotions of more than one character in a given scene. For me, at least, it enriches the story, to experience the scene from more than a single point of view.

Head hopping seems to have become the current buzz word for any story or article that doesn't confine itself to one subject. RWA President Diane Pershing in the April, 2009 issue of Romance Writers Report (RWR) said apologetically that she would head hop in her message to the members in that issue. And I personally found her message with varying themes interesting and easy to follow.

Apparently having more than one POV has not always been a cardinal sin. A friend loaned me The Gift by Nora Roberts last Christmas. It contained two short novels and was published in 2004 by Silhouette Books: Home for Christmas, 1986 and All I Want for Christmas, 1994. I read part way through the first story before I suddenly realized that I was hopping from one character's head to the other, often in two adjacent sentences. What a shock to learn that the undisputed Queen of Romance was a head hopper. I haven't read Nora lately so maybe she has abandoned this vice in all her latest books. But I sincerely hope not.

I thought about my discovery all through the holidays and came to this conclusion. The issue shouldn't be whether to hop or not to hop but how to hop seamlessly so that the reader is not even aware of it. For I believe if POV is used with subtle skill, it will enrich the story and involve the reader more deeply. If it's good enough for Nora, it's good enough for an amateur like me.

I have had recent editors who would not allow head hopping. I respect them as excellent editors and consider them friends. And although I didn't agree with their POV, I revised my manuscripts to fit their guidelines (when in Rome……..) because I owed that courtesy to them and the publisher. I also have had recent editors who have no problem with my head hopping scenes and I am thankful for them. Which way are my stories better? I think there may be more than one POV on the answer.

To conclude, I am going to give you two versions of the same scene from one of my recently released books. This is the most blatant scene of head hopping I've ever written. I'd really like to know which way seems best to you. So please give me your POV on POV and I may be convinced to change my own POV!

Joanna and Pete meet again after many years at their high school reunion.

Scene One: Example 1

Joanna was aware of Pete as if he were seated beside her. She went through the motions of eating while her mind absorbed the information she had just learned. Betsy had married Walt DeBolt, forsaking her dreams of moving to a big city. While she, who dreamed of always living in Greenville with Pete, had left and never returned until now. She formed and discarded a hundred ways to say hello to him. Finally as the meal ended, she simply stood and walked toward the front.

Pete was shaking hands with the minister and thanking him for coming when Joanna
approached. Leaving his sentence unfinished, he came to meet her.

“Hello, Joanna.” He reached to take her hand,paused, then bent to brush her cheek.

Warmth traveled with the speed of light from hand to cheek as flesh touched flesh for one briefmoment and left a star-struck girl longing for more.

Standing close enough to feel his breath on her forehead, Joanna answered softly, “Hello,Pete.”

“You're as pretty as you ever were.”

“Thank you, Pete.” His eyes were the same steel blue and she thought he had never looked more handsome. But she didn't know how to say that without sounding intimate.


Scene One: Example 2

The room was rapidly filling and people moving past blocked her view of the front. Then Pete was tapping the microphone and greeting the graduates and Joanna closed her eyes to shut out all distraction to the sound of his familiar voice.

"Good evening, graduates, and welcome to this final reunion in honor of the old Greenville High School." Somewhere out there in that sea of faces Joanna was watching, listening. His hands felt clammy holding the mike. "Tonight is the result of weeks of planning and work by an excellent committee who graduated in my class, and I've promised not to say how many years ago that was."

Waiting for the laughter to stop, Pete scanned the crowd. He didn't see her. What if he was looking at her and not recognizing her? When the room grew quiet, he introduced Betsy, Vada, and Thelma who were seated beside him at the table, then asked for a round of applause. He thanked the Home Ec. class and other students who had helped. He introduced the Board members and mentioned the building of the new school, all the while thinking about Joanna. Finally he asked the town's current Protestant minister to bless the food and sat down.

"Have you seen Joanna?" Betsy whispered as they were served.

He shook his head. "Have you?"

"No, but Vada saw her when she came in."

He chewed, swallowed, drank, spoke when spoken to and was totally oblivious to everything but the certain knowledge that Joanna was in this room.

Joanna had not been able to see Pete since he sat down but she was as much aware of him as if he were seated beside her. She went through the motions of eating while her mind formed and discarded a hundred ways to say hello. Finally as the meal ended, she simply stood up and walked toward the front. Betsy saw her weaving between clusters of classmates forming and rushed to meet her.

Hugging her fiercely, she said, laughing, "Oh, God, Joanna Flemming. You're really here. I can't believe it."

"I can't believe it either, Bets. We must be dreaming."

Pete was shaking hands with the minister and thanking him for coming when he saw Betsy rush through the crowd and knew she had found Joanna even before he saw her. Leaving his sentence unfinished, he walked toward her. She looked up as he approached and he would have walked a thousand miles for the smile that lighted her face.

"Hello, Joanna." What else was he going to say? He took her hand and knew it wasn't enough. With an oddly awkward gesture, he pulled her closer and brushed her cheek.

Still standing close enough to feel his breath on her forehead, Joanna answered softly, "Hello, Pete."

He looked into her uplifted face, her warm brown eyes, and his tongue seemed to stick to the roof of his mouth. Finally he croaked like a lovestruck adolescent, "You're as pretty as you ever were."

"Thank you, Pete." His eyes were the same steel blue and his suit reflected the color in them and she thought he had never looked more handsome but she didn't know how to say that without sounding too intimate.


Later in the evening, they finally have a chance to be together:

Scene Two: Example 1

The song ended and the band segued into a slower beat.

“Will you dance with me, Joanna?” Pete asked, from behind her.

Wordlessly, she turned and accepted his hand. He put his arm around her waist, her arm slid automatically to his broad shoulder and time and place became meaningless.

“I like your dress. Reminds me of what you were wearing the night of our graduation.” He smiled at her.

She smiled back. “I'm surprised you remembered. That was a long time ago.”

“I've never forgotten...anything about that night.”

“Nor I,” she told him truthfully.

They danced in silence, each acutely aware of the other in every step they took together, in every place their bodies touched.

“I've missed you, Joanna.” Her name was a caress on his tongue.

“Don't,” she said, feeling the pleasure-pain in every cell in her body.

“Have you missed me?”

“I've missed you.”

“Why didn't you answer my letters?”

She drew a quick breath as she thought of finding Pete's letters in a locked drawer in her father's study after his sudden death. Letters with a familiar looped scrawl that bore foreign stamps,now faded with time. She felt again the sharp pain his words of love and promise had brought.

The frustration that caused her to pound her father's immaculate desk in a screaming rage that bruised her doubled fists.

“It doesn't matter now.”

“Maybe not.” His words sounded unconvinced.

The night, the music, the man who held her seemed unreal to Joanna but the intense aching inside was very real.

The band began to play a haunting tune.

“Joanna.” His voice was muffled against her ear. She looked at him and saw his longing. “Let's get out of here.”

She nodded wordlessly. Yesterday was gone and who could know what tomorrow would hold?

But she had tonight. She was here with Pete again and there was magic between them as there had always been. She wouldn't think about consequences now. Just for tonight, she would listen to her heart instead of her head.

“Come on.” Still holding her hand, he led her across the crowded floor and out to the dark lot where his car was parked.

In the shadows of the gnarled pear tree, he gathered her into his arms and kissed her without restraint.

It was graduation night all over again. Blooms of silver-white formed a scented canopy that enclosed their moonlit world. Tomorrow Pete would be gone; there was only tonight. How could she tell him how much she loved him when words were not enough? Of its own volition her body found a way.

The long kiss ended. In the awed silence that followed, they held each other once again, the long undreamed of separation over.


Scene two: Example 2

He met Boyd and Joanna on their way back to the table. "Will you dance with me, Joanna?"

Wordlessly, she accepted his hand and he led her back into the crowd. He put his arms around her waist, her arms slid automatically to encircle his neck. They began to move together and time and place became as meaningless as all the other faces in the room.

"I like your dress. Reminds me of what you were wearing the night of our graduation." He smiled at her.

She smiled back. "I'm surprised you remembered. That was a long time ago."

"I've never forgotten . . . anything about that night."

"Nor I," she told him truthfully.

They danced in silence, each acutely aware of the other in every step they took together, in every place their bodies touched. The music changed to the Beatles and LET IT BE and Pete unconsciously pulled her closer.

"I've missed you, Joanna." Her name was a caress on his tongue.

"Don't," she said, feeling the pleasure-pain in every cell in her body.

"Have you missed me?" He couldn't have stopped the words if he'd wanted to.

Their eyes met and he knew the answer before she spoke. "I've missed you."

"Why didn't you answer my letters?" he asked the question that had haunted him all these years.

Why hadn't she realized he would want to know? "It doesn't matter now."

"Maybe not." His words sounded unconvinced but he let it go and concentrated on the way it felt to hold Joanna in his arms again. What mattered was that right now he was feeling the strongest desire he had ever known for a woman.

The night, the music, the man who held her seemed unreal to Joanna but the intense aching inside her was very real. She felt as if she were going to suffocate.

The band began to play ARE YOU LONESOME TONGIHT?" and Pete listened to the words Elvis was singing, really listened. "Joanna," his voice was muffled against her ear. She raised her head and looked at him and he saw his longing mirrored. "Let's get out of here."

As he guided her toward the back door of the gym they bumped into other people but no one in the raucous crowd seemed to notice. "Come on." He led her around the old school and to the dark lot where his car was parked.

In the shadows of the gnarled pear tree, he gathered her into his arms and kissed her without restraint.

It was graduation night all over again and he was leaving the girl he loved, the girl he intended one day to marry. His mouth imprinted that promise on hers as he pulled her close, memorizing every line of her body pressed against him.

Blooms of silver-white formed a scented canopy that enclosed their moonlit world. Tomorrow Pete would be gone; there was only tonight. How could she tell him how much she loved him when words were not enough? Of its own volition her body found a way.

The long kiss ended. In the awed silence that followed, they held each other once again, the long undreamed of separation over.


Linda Swift divides her time between her native state of Kentucky and Florida. She has been writing since she was ten and is an award winning author of published poetry, articles, short stories, and a TV play. Her first two books were published by Kensington. Linda's current books include Circle of Love, available as an e-book and in print and Let Nothing You Dismay, an ebook, both available from The Wild Rose Press.

Linda's Awe-Struck Publishing books include Single Status, available as an e-book and in print and The Twelve Days of Christmas, an ebook. Her first published historical will be available in 2010.

Monday, January 25, 2010

GUEST BLOG: GLENYS O'CONNELL

The More Things Change……

I was thinking the other day that being a romance writer has more than its share of good points. For example, you get all the highs and lows and excitement that go with falling falling in love, and (almost) always a happy ending. You know where you are with a romance.

One of the things that I love about writing romance is the variety of sub genres. I write romantic suspense and romantic comedy, but there's teen romance, 'autumn' romance, inspirational romance, gay & lesbian romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, fantasy and futuristic romance – the list goes on. Something to suit every reader – and writer!

Even though the fashions have changed and storylines that would have brought on a fainting attack for our grannies and a flush to the cheeks of our moms are now not only acceptable but often bestsellers. Romance novels reflect social mores and the role that woman play in society with increasing openness. Once upon a time, relationships were only between a man and a woman, only the same cultural background, the woman was a virgin and there was no 'hanky panky' until he'd slipped a ring on her finger.

Today, romance writing has opened up to reflect the many different variations on love experienced between consenting adults, skillfully woven with tenderness by some great writers. Romance writers encompass the vivid colors of love that stripe through our world.

And as the sales figures show, romance sells in huge numbers to people in all walks of life, professional and educational status. I think this is because love is such a central part of our lives – and I know lots of happily-in-a-relationship women (and men) who avidly read romantic novels.

I write romantic suspense, usually with a strong touch of comedy, and I know my leading characters reflect the modern world while respecting the essence of romantic love. They recognize a deep bond and commitment but there's no waiting for that gold ring before expressing the physical side of their love! And certainly, the heroines aren't wilting wallflowers waiting to be rescued. The heroine in my novel Resort to Murder, Ellie Fitzpatrick, is an ambitious police detective prepared to face down thugs & a serial killer while she battles the glass ceiling in her profession. In Winters & Somers, Irish private detective CĂ­ara Somers is struggling to make her way in a chauvinistic man's world and fights tooth and nail to stop the hero, Jonathon Winters, taking over her business. And in Judgement by Fire, Canadian wildlife artist Lauren Stephens hits the protest lines when developers threaten her beloved rural landscape. Oh, and she faces down a homicidal stalker and saves the life of the man she loves, as well!

There's an old saying that 'The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same."

This is certainly true of writing, where there is no substitute for doing the hard work – most overnight successes have been honing their craft for years before hitting the limelight.

At the same time, the whole game is whimsical – who knows why one book gets published and another, equally as good, languishes on a shelf gathering dust?

I've done lots of different work – journalism. teaching at all levels, counseling, coaching, working in a candy store (speaking of dream jobs!) but writing beats them all.

But no-one should remain static, so in the spirit of change I was thinking that perhaps I should experiment by widening my scope. I thought I'd have a crack at some of the more erotic writings that sell so well. Sure, I love royalties as much as the next writer!

So I started writing one of those m/m (male/male romances, for those of you who’ve lived sheltered lives!) but I didn’t get very far. Not because I'm prissy, not because I don’t know any guys who love each other dearly, but because……well, okay, I admit it – I fell madly in love with both the heroes and was too jealous to let them have each other.

How sad is that?


© Glenys O'Connell, January 2010

Winters & Somers is Glenys O'Connell's second novel. She became interested in crime & criminal psychology when covering the crime beat as a journalist for a large daily newspaper. This led to a degree in psychology and qualifications as a counselor - but writing is her first love and she says romantic suspense satisfies her cravings for both romance and crime! Her other novels include romantic suspense stories Judgement by Fire & Resort to Murder, and romantic comedy Marrying Money. She is also published as a children's author, and has written two non-fiction books, one on Irish culture and another on coping with depression. Glenys also has had two one-act plays produced. She also teaches a creative writing course named Naked Writing on Absolutewrite.com

Born in the UK, she has lived and worked in Ireland and Canada - all countries which provide excellent settings for novels. She's currently living in very rural Ontario, Canada, where she can watch bears, deer and raccoons at play and is planning a new novel set in Italy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

GUEST BLOG: HYWELA LYN

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about Wales, where I grew up and spent most of my adult life. When I had the privilege of being one of the authors in the Wild Rose Press’s Song Of The Muses anthology I set my story, ‘Dancing With Fate’ in 5th Century Wales and used much of the wild scenery, with its mountains and lakes as background to that story. My first full length futuristic novel Starquest had several chapters set on the planet Niflheim, and again the inspiration for that planet came from memories of the Welsh mountains, and was reflected in the sequel, Children Of The Mist, published last year,

When thinking about my post for this blog, I decided to talk about one of the many old Welsh traditions, the love spoon. First of all, what is a ‘lovespoon’ exactly. Well, in the words of David Western, a very talented hand carver of these items: “Welsh lovespoons trace their roots back to the 1600s. They are hand carved tokens of love or esteem, each an extraordinary work of art... Originally, it was a handmade spoon given by its maker to the girl who had captivated his heart in the hopes its acceptance would lead to the beginnings of a courtship. The custom was known throughout Wales and was known to exist in Sweden, the Alpine regions and even down to Hungary; it is even reputed to have occured in areas of Spain, France, Italy and Greece. It is in Wales however, that the lovespoon has survived the industrial revolution and it is the only country where it has survived in a notable fashion."

David was born in Cardiff and now lives in Victoria, BC. He is not only highly skilled, but very passionate about his craft. The picture is of a love spoon formed tor represent the Welsh dragon for the Portland ‘West Coast Eisteddford’ 2009. I think it is exquisite.

This is what he says about one of the other spoons he was commissioned to craft.

“What really makes this spoon special is something that you can't see. Rather than putting together a series of symbols or meaningful images, this spoon was designed to capture a feeling. For the couple who commissioned it, the spoon is a remembrance of a single significant event in a lifetime of memories. For you and I, it is a nice walnut spoon with a cheerful yellow cedar inlay and some nice Celtic knotwork. For them, it is the memory of a long-ago walk on a wintery moonlit night when the promises of a life-long love were made…The heart shaped bowl signifies the unity and strength of their love joined as one. Even to those of us unaware of the true meaning hidden in the spoon, the heart lets us know this spoon is about love.”

I can imagine a young Welsh man after a hard day’s work, returning to his family home and spending the long evenings carving a piece of wood into the shape of a wooden spoon, with an ornately decorated handle. The more complicated and difficult the design, the more it would symbolize the depth of his love and desire to labour on behalf of the woman he yearned for.

The young carver would probably have been shy and unwilling to show his emotions, and would attempt to convey his true feelings through the use of various symbols and motifs. Over the centuries, many more such symbols have been added and as the love spoons became more elaborate and decorative, they have become valued as collectibles. Many of the symbols used are familiar throughout Europe. For instance, a chain or a Celtic knot would mean a wish to be together forever, a diamond would mean wealth or good fortune and the richness of a life filled with love, a cross would mean faith, a flower would mean affection, or a dragon for protection, or to symbolize Wales itself.

How romantic is that?, There has to be a wealth of romance tales in this one love token, alone! No amount of machine made, mass-produced trinkets could convey half the emotion of a single wooden spoon ornately carved by hand and made with love.

Excerpts reprinted with permission from David Western's blog, all material © 2009, David Western --http://davidwestern.blogspot.com/

David is a regular contributer to Americymru, a blog specifically aimed at People with Welsh roots, living and working in the USA: http://americymru.blogspot.com/

BIO: Hywela Lyn lives in a small village in England although her heart remains in her native rural Wales, which inspired so much of her writing.

Although most her writing tends to be futuristic, the worlds she creates are usually untainted by crowded cities and technology, embracing the beauty and wildness of nature. Her characters often have to fight the elements and the terrain itself. Her heroes are strong and courageous, but chivalrous and honorable - and of course, handsome and hunky. Her heroines are also strong and courageous, but retain their femininity and charm. However difficult the journey, love will always win in the end.

Her latest book 'Children Of The mist' was released by The Wild Rose Press on 19th June 2009 and is a sequel to her debut novel, 'Starquest'. She is currently working on the third book in the series. Her novella 'Dancing With Fate' is included in Book II of The Wild Rose Press's anthology, 'Song Of The Muses'.
She also has a fantasy 'free read', entitled 'A Bargain With Death'.

All her books can be purchased here:
http://www.thewildrosepress.com/hywela-lyn-m-138.html

Website: www.hywelalyn.co.uk
Blog: www.hywelalyn.blogspot.com

Monday, January 18, 2010

GUEST BLOG: JASON KAHN

Inspiration, Free of Charge

In my normal job, I run a daily news service for doctors. In addition to writing, I’m assigning all the stories, which means I have to go through a veritable mountain of information every day, sifting through press releases and medical journals for appropriate stories to write up. Some of these are very dry and scientific, others are downright whacky.

As a writer of science fiction/fantasy, I recognize that at least some of these should serve as perfect launching points for my imagination in coming up with interesting stories.

But they don’t.

Not a single time has an item I reviewed at work spurred my imagination to write a story. I don’t know why, but my brain just doesn’t work that way. All of my ideas, all of the What If questions, have come from non-work related stimuli.

However, that doesn’t mean others can’t benefit from my experience. I did a little experiment. For a few months, in the course of my normal daily work routine, I collected what I thought might be the best story-starter items. Not for me, but somebody, anybody else.

Here they are, with links for further information, and every one of them is a real press release:

Gladstone scientists find first genetic link between reptile and human heart evolution

Turtles and other reptiles offer clues to the development of 4 chambers and to congenital heart disease

Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) have traced the evolution of the four-chambered human heart to a common genetic factor linked to the development of hearts in turtles and other reptiles.

"This is the first genetic link to the evolution of two, rather than one, pumping chamber in the heart, which is a key event in the evolution of becoming warm-blooded," said Gladstone investigator Benoit Bruneau, PhD, who led the study. From an evolutionary standpoint, the reptiles occupy a critical point in heart evolution…. Click for more info.


So somehow over the course of human evolution, our hearts evolved from reptilian to what we have today. Fascinating. Just think about that. What if because of some genetic throwback, people started reverting back into reptiles? First in their hearts, and then elsewhere, even became cold blooded, forked tongues and all? I can see a slow panic as the “condition” spreads, and some previously discredited scientist stumbles across the answer and races to find a cure before he himself succumbs.

Here’s another one:

Extinct, Giant Eagle Was a Fearsome Predator

Before humans colonized New Zealand about 750 years ago, the largest inhabitants of the islands were birds unlike those anywhere else in the world. Giant, flightless birds known as moa were the main plant-eaters. The role of predator, according to a study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, was filled by a giant, extinct raptor known as Haast’s eagle (Harpagornis moorei).

Although the bones of Haast’s eagle have been known for well over a century, the behavior of these giants has been a point of debate. These eagles weighed up to 40 lbs., larger than any modern eagle.

The results indicated not only that Haast’s eagle was a fearsome predator that probably swooped on its prey from a high mountain perch, but also that it evolved over a relatively short period of time. Haast’s eagle became extinct a mere 500 years ago.….Click for more info.


Whoa, giant eagles like this really existed? Forty pounds is about the size of a 6-year old. What if there were ones that were even bigger? And men used to ride them? That would be a cool idea to write about, a group of eagle riders. Would they be conquerors? Or benevolent? What was the cataclysmic event that caused them to vanish off the earth? Remember, they disappeared only 500 years ago, not some mass dinosaur extinction. Something must’ve happened, right…?

This one’s more fun:

Insectapalooza 2009 Crawls Up Your Sleeve

Dance with dragonflies and tango with tarantulas: It's Insectapalooza 2009 at Comstock Hall on the Cornell University campus, Saturday, Oct. 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is free and fun for all ages.

Flutter away in the Butterfly Room. Tour the world-class Cornell Insect Collection and see samples of the more than 5 million specimens. Enjoy tropical creatures like the rhinoceros, Hercules and harlequin beetles, and giant Goliath beetles from equatorial Africa. And for the “pepsis” generation: View tarantula hawks, which are giant wasps the size of a man’s hand! They paralyze tarantulas and then use their bodies to raise babies…Click for more info.

I like this as a more YA story. Let’s say you go to Insectapalooza on a high school trip, the insects get loose, naturally. But controlled by a hive mind, they start behaving in a way that no one can figure out. They’re all acting as one, so they clearly have a purpose. It’s up to a small group of high school students and their intrepid science teacher to decipher what the insects are after…The rest writes itself!

And finally, this one:

Scientists cure color blindness in monkeys

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Florida used gene therapy to cure two squirrel monkeys of color blindness — the most common genetic disorder in people.

"We've added red sensitivity to cone cells in animals that are born with a condition that is exactly like human color blindness," said William W. Hauswirth, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmic molecular genetics at the UF College of Medicine and a member of the UF Genetics Institute and the Powell Gene Therapy Center. "That's extremely encouraging for the development of therapies for human cone diseases that really are blinding."

The finding is also likely to intrigue millions of people around the world who are colorblind, including about 3.5 million people in the United States….Click for more info.


First of all, this was just funny. Monkeys get color blindness? Who knew? But what if after curing color blindness in monkeys, scientists tried it in humans. Maybe it works so perfectly it becomes routine. Until years later when (queue creepy music) a boy starts seeing things, weird creatures and dark, scary places. He’s sent “away” and only a young psychiatrist comes to understand that the boy is actually seeing into a parallel universe, one which is about to…you guessed it…invade!

These are just a few of the items I run across all the time. It’s a shame they don’t do anything for me creativity wise, but that shouldn’t stop you. Go forth, write, take these little nuggets and invent fantastical stories. Let inspiration be your guide.

Jason Kahn lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with all the other young families who fled Manhattan for more space. By day, he runs a news service for a New York-based cardiology research foundation. Jason's hobbies include rooting for his University of Michigan Wolverines and chasing after two mischievous gnomes who claim to be his children.

Jason's most recent fiction, The Dark InSpectre series, is currently running courtesy of Abandoned Towers Magazine, and his short story, "The Killer Within", was just released as an e-book by Damnation Books. Other stories of his can be found in various places including Baen’s Universe, Gryphonwood, the anthology Strange Stories of Sand and Sea, and Abandoned Towers Magazine (May, 2010).


Feel free to check out his website, blog, or facebook page for more info., or just to say hi.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

GUEST BLOG: HELEN SCOTT TAYLOR

Dangerous Fairies

When someone mentions monsters, the first thing to come to mind is not fairies. But during the research I’ve done for my Magic Knot Fairies series, I’ve discovered plenty of monstrous creatures in fairy myth and legend. Every country seems to have its own folk law about fairies. During my research, I’ve concentrated mainly on Celtic mythology as much of the mythology covering the UK and Ireland where my books are set has its roots in Celtic myth.

I’ve even created some of my own monsters for my series. A main secondary character in The Magic Knot and The Phoenix Charm is a nightstalker—a creature I created. (Although I suspect the name nightstalker has been used before.) My nightstalker is called Nightshade and he starts off as one of the bad guys. He is a beautiful black vampiric fairy with wings and a lot of attitude. The name Nightshade gives a clue to one of his powers. He can shift into a shadow form to move fast—great in a fight.

I love writing about paranormal creatures who go against type—monsters who are good. In The Phoenix Charm, I introduce a character who is a shadow elemental—a djinn otherwise known as a demon. Although he is powerful and dangerous, he defies his breeding to be an honorable character with a good heart.

The classic monsters such as vampires and demons can be scary, but I find some of the most frightening monsters look deceptively normal, so they give the characters a false sense of security before they try to kill them. For me the scariest monsters are not supernatural at all, but humans who may be possessed or just plain evil.

The latest book in The Magic Knot Fairies series is THE PHOENIX CHARM, recently given a Best Book rating by LASR. Read the review here. http://longandshortreviews.blogspot.com/2009/11/phoenix-charm-by-helen-scott-taylor.html

BAck Cover Copy: The Phoenix Charm

He’s Pure Temptation.

Cordelia has sworn she’ll abstain from looking into Michael’s future—particularly when the image in the gilded smoke of her divination mirror shows him half naked. Yet she can’t resist watching the sexy rascal slowly running his hand down his ribs, over his abdomen, flicking open the button on his jeans with a little flourish like a magician performing a trick.

She’s Trying To Resist.

Respectable wise woman Cordelia restrains her secret water nymph sensuality with the Celtic symbols painted on her skin. But Michael’s powerful fairy glamour leaves her breathless, off balance, struggling for control. When Gwyn ap Nudd, the Welsh King of the Underworld, steals away Michael’s infant nephew, Cordelia must work with him to save the child. But how can she trust her instincts with Michael tempting her to explore the hidden elemental depths of her nature and insisting that she believe in the power of…The Phoenix Charm.

I also have a novella—THE FEAST OF BEAUTY— in The Mammoth Book of Irish Romance due out January 26.

Kate’s grandmother’s dying wish is that she should return her pearl pendant to the tiny fishing village in Ireland where she was born. At the village’s Midsummer Feast of Beauty, the unearthly silver hair and emerald eyes of Esras, the wealthy local landowner, mesmerize Kate. But how can she trust her heart to a man who claims to be a sea fairy king?

Helen Scott Taylor

Adventure Fantasy Romance

Visit me at www.HelenScottTaylor.com for more information, and to read book excerpts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

GUEST BLOG: CELIA YEARY

In Defense of the Romance Novel

On a recent trip to the library, an acquaintance walked up to me and said, “I heard you write romance novels. Do you really read that stuff?”

Mmm, I mused, how often have I heard that question?

Taking my usual bold stance—on quivering legs—I replied, “Sure, I do. Why not?”

I’ve learned one important thing in my mature years. If I don’t particularly like the question, I’ll ask one of my own. It’ll throw the person off track every time. Well, usually.

“Why not?” my casual friend asked. “Well, for one thing,” she stammered, “they’re…trite, with the same plot in every single book. A learned person wouldn’t waste time on them.”

Of course, by the time I arrived home, my busy brain had made a list of “why I read that stuff, and particularly why I write it.”

Answer Number One: Defending romance novels falls in the same category as defending myself. If I probe for a real answer, the person might say, “A reader of romance usually doesn’t have a life of her own, or a poor love life at best, or she reads to live vicariously through a character.” My reply might be, “Statistics show that 75 million people read at least one romance novel last year. So, you’re saying you know how all these readers feel?”

Answer Number Two: Some romance novels are better than others. True, the first romance novels were written differently from those today, but one might say that about all fiction in general. Advice to my friend-of-the-moment: “Try a romance novel. Begin with a few of the tried and true authors: LaVyrle Spencer (my all-time favorite), Susan Wiggs, Penelope Williamson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Eagle, and Karen Robards. Neither you nor anyone else needs to waste time on any bad book. That applies to romance novels, as well.”

Answer Number Three: Perhaps readers and writers of romance are actually readers….period. To my detractor, I might reply: “Oh, by the way, if you’re looking for a good book, you might want to try Guns, Germs, and Steel:The Fates of Societies; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; Plainsong; or The Dust Bowl Years. I highly recommend them.” Would that be tacky of me?

Answer Number Four: A simple statement. Reading and writing romance novels are my inalienable rights under the constitution. After all, this is a free country.

Answer Number Five: I’m easily entertained. When I choose a movie, I do not need to select one that has garnered critically acclaimed praise over the entire globe. The same is true with my reading material.

Answer Number Six: In response to the statement “Romance novels are just fairy tales, stories that never happen in real life.” Maybe, maybe not, but I might reply, “Sometimes, I just like to escape reality.”

I’m not the first writer to pen an article titled “In Defense of the Romance Novel.” I Googled the title and found quite a few. By the time I finished reading several, I realized the question, “You don’t read that stuff, do you?” has been repeated many times.

Thank you, LASR, for the opportunity to write a blog for your guest spot.
Celia Yeary-Proud to be a Romance Author



Celia Yeary is a eighth-generation Texan, and her life revolves around family and friends—and writing. San Marcos has been her home for thirty-five years. She has written three romance novels for a small press, essays for the Texas Co-op Power magazine, and several different topics for her weekly blog. She also writes women’s fiction and hopes a publisher comes along who likes these stories, too.

The author is a former science teacher, graduate of Texas Tech University and Texas State, mother of two, grandmother of three, and wife of a wonderful, supportive Texan. Celia and her husband enjoy traveling, involvement in their church, the community, and the university as retired faculty.

celiayeary@yahoo.com
www.celiayeary.com
www.celiayeary.blogspot.com
New: Texas Blue, a Western Historical set in Texas. Date of Release: January 29, 2010
The Wild Rose Press

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

GUEST BLOG: ANGELA STEED

A Romantic…Horror?

Someone asked me the other day what my favorite genre is to read. I told them I love horror and romance. But when they asked me to choose only one, I found it difficult to answer.

I’m a big fan of horror. I love Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, as well as a handful of others, including Whitley Strieber’s The Wolfen, one of the first books I’d ever read in that genre. It didn’t disappoint and I immediately fell in love with gruesome tales of paranormal murder and mayhem.

I also love romance, obviously. Jude Deveraux, M. Jean Pike, and Kimberly Adkins are some of my favorite authors. I find inspiration in their wonderful tales of love and paranormal.

The truth is I can’t choose horror over romance or romance over horror. It’s like having bacon without eggs, brushing your teeth without toothpaste, playing hopscotch without the rock, or possibly playing music without the volume. So realizing this, I decided to do what I really love and write a split genre about a vampire. I call it a horror love story.

Never to speak his last words, Death would never lay eyes on him.

Never to witness the color of life, he’d remain in darkness forever.

As immortal he shall always be alive.

As vampire he shall forever be dead.

And among the night, he will be in an everlasting embrace.



After I finished, I began to wonder if I’d overstepped the boundaries of what a publisher wants. My book is dark, dreary, and gory during the first few chapters. Then after it’s about Mr. Dark and Dreary turns to the woman he loves. Gore on the side, I found someone who likes it. I’m not the only one out there with the same cross-genre ideas. And thank God for that! *grin*

What is your favorite genre? And do you like mixing them?

Angela is a traveler, romantic, mother, and chauffeur. She finds enlightenment in the most unusual places and summons story ideas with just a simple word. She now resides in West Virginia with her husband and daughters. Her second novel, a paranormal entitled THE SEA'S EMBRACE was released 11.1.08. Her third Black Lyon release, ASSASSIN'S FALL, was released in June 2009.

Monday, January 4, 2010

GUEST BLOG: MASHA HOLL

A Happy (past) New Year and a Merry (upcoming) Christmas!

What?? Why are you looking at me like that? Did I say something weird?

Oh, my greeting?

Well, it's very seasonal, if you're Russian. Yes, I guess it sounds a little strange in English, but around major holidays, Russians add a greeting with the upcoming and the recently-past holiday.

No, it wasn't that?

What? You mean Christmas? No, I don't have it wrong. It's in three days.

That's right. January 7th. Orthodox (Eastern Christian) Russians date their holidays according to the Julian calendar (Western Churches and the secular world go by the Gregorian). As a result, Russian Christmas (and all major holidays) are 13 days late.

Mind you, this doesn't apply to Easter. Easter has its own table of date computations, but that's another story entirely.

So what else is different?

Modern Russian Christmas has its tree, but it's a fairly new tradition, imported in the 19th century from Germany by the fashionable nobility. When my mother was a child, in the early 20th century, there was no Christmas tree tradition in her village.

So what did they do?

Well, they didn't do a pile of presents on Christmas day. They didn't really do presents at all.

Her village was in the far south of Russia, almost on top of the Ukraine border. Winters were cold and snowy, nights were long and dark (still are, I'm sure). The whole of Yuletide was a time of celebrations, from early-to-mid December all the way to Epiphany (also called Theophany, that's the feast of Christ's Baptism in the Jordan river), on January 19 by the Julian calendar (January 6 for the West). There were games and songs and meetings and divinations.

I could write a book on everything that went on, especially if I started adding Yuletide recipes like poppyseed rolls and other good stuff.

Let me just tell you about some of the divinations.

Since the majority of the fortune-telling was about marriage, children, and length of life, you can imagine that it was mostly girls and women who were involved.

Divinations were dangerous. You had to divest yourself of the protective items you wore every day, like belts and ties, and of course crosses, and you had to turn holy objects face-down to allow spirits to come in and reveal hidden secrets. Naturally, these spirits were tricksters and you could never fully trust them, and there were rituals not only to summon them, read the omens, but also to discern the truth of the telling (and of course to protect yourself and send the spirits back where they belong).

Predicting the future involved dripping melted wax into cold water and reading the shapes; listening for names heard on the wind; watching for shadows in candle-lit mirrors; offering treats to chickens and watching whose offering would be chosen. And many other rituals and variations on them.

Spirits were not the only ones playing tricks on the women assembled to read the future. Boys tried very hard to be the “predictors” of their fate by whispering things into eager ears and trying to touch uncovered skin. Rival girls tried to disrupt the sessions. Yuletide was both a propitious and a dangerous time, both in the spirit, and the mundane realm.

And when Christmas Eve came, no one ate until the first star appeared in the sky. The church service was a special Christmas vespers (evening) service, and the celebration began afterward. Late at night, groups of children and youth roamed through the village singing songs of praise and blessings in exchange for rewards of food, ribbons, or money. The loot was collected in a common bag and shared later at a picnic in a warm, borrowed barn (remember, it was cold outside, and snowdrifts were piled high against the houses).

Whoever didn't give at least a token gift to the singers would be subjected to jeering, ribald, and cursing verses describing them as scrooges, tight-purses, and promising them a befitting year or poor harvest and worse luck.

Thus the Christmas singing was not quite as decorous as the caroling we know, but more like trick-or-treating (with actual food rather than candy).

My own kids are quite lucky. We celebrate Western Christmas in my Midwestern husband's tradition, and I bake my mother-in-law's cookies. We have eggnog and hot cider. Then we still mark Russian Christmas with token presents, Russian food (or at least a Russian treat), and tales of Russian traditions. Our tree goes up shortly after Thanksgiving and stays up until Orthodox Epiphany (or at least until after Russian Christmas, if we don't have the patience to wait that long).

[bio]

Masha Holl was raised on magic tales, Russian literature, Mozart, Verdi, and French cuisine. Today, she writes romantic science fiction and fantasy—that's spaceships, alien universes, and very close encounters—to the sounds of Metal Rock. Romance brought her to America, and here she stayed, so expect love and happy endings in her stories.

She studied language and literature first in Paris (France, that is), and then at the University of Wisconsin, where she was awarded a Master's degree. She has taught Russian and French language and culture both to bored and to excited college students, and she is always eager to share her love of the writing craft with whoever will listen to her speeches. And don't even get her started on myths and folklore.

Her novella The Brightest Heaven, and her short story The Joining, are available from The Wild Rose Press. You can find excerpts on her website at MashaHoll.com.

Friday, January 1, 2010

GUEST BLOG: MJ FREDERICK

The holidays are almost over, and the doldrums of January are about to set in. I’m not a fan of January, though I like it better than August (I live in South Texas AND I’m a teacher, so…). I need something to look forward to in the following weeks. My dad chides me for wishing my life away, but I need lights at the end of certain tunnels, you know?

So, some things I’m looking forward to:

1. My 23rd wedding anniversary on Sunday. Yes, I married when I was ten ;)
2. My fourth book’s release on Tuesday (Breaking Daylight from Samhain. Isn’t the cover stunning?)

MJ Fredrick

3. The return of first-run TV shows, particularly Supernatural and Glee. (Boy, a psychiatrist might have a field day with the spectrum those choices encompass!)
4. The possibility of a snow day. Or ice day. (Again, I’m in South Texas. I think we’ve had 4 bad weather days in my 21 years of teaching.)



I’ll savor the time in between, enjoying the chance to wear my fuzzy socks and cozy pjs and drink coffee and hot tea and hot cocoa without overheating. But at least I’ll have some highlights along the way!