Friday, February 29, 2008

Top 10 Reasons you should buy Night Life on Tuesday

Caitlin Kittredge's first novel, Night Life will be released on March 4th, and on that special day, Caitlin herself will be coming here to entertain all of you!

But to prepare you for it--to give you some advance warning as to exactly hoe awesome Caitlin is--I've prepared this little list. Since Top 10 Lists seem to be sort of my thing lately. It's a phase I'm going through.

10. Her heroine, Luna Wilder, has an incredibly cool name. C'mon. Luna Wilder? And she's a werewolf? Can you taste the awesome?

9. Luna Wilder drives a 1969 Ford Fairlane. I don't know if any of you know that my family has always been a big Ford family? Oh, yes. And Fairlanes rock, too. Not flashy, but totally cool in a James-Garner-Rockford-Files kind of a way (which, if you don't think James Garner is cool, I don't really know why you're reading this blog.)(And before you say anything, yes, I know Rockford drove a Firebird. So?)

8. Bloody, mutilated corpses.

7. Irritating angst? NO!!

6. Genuinely creepy and scary? HELL yeah!!

5. She brings off one of my favorite types of heroes with panache: the guy you shouldn't like, because he's a bad man (for real, not some pseudo-bad-boy like you see so often) but damn, he's sexy as hell anyway, even if he does smoke cloves. The chemistry is amazing and the sex scene...okay, it takes some damn good sex writing to make this jaded girl reach for the hubs.

He never knew what hit him.

4. A totally original world. Nocturne City is so spooky and lovely and interesting I would glady have sat and read a plotless travelogue of the place.

3. Oooh, the writing! No lines go clunk. No similes confuse. It's all There was not one moment where I thought, "I would have worded that differently" or had to go back and read a line again.

2. Luna is an extremely appealing character. In a genre (or subgenre) where first-person female heroines can grate after a while, where so many of them are supposed to be ballsy and snarky but in reality seem like either cast-iron bitches or whiny girly-girls hiding behind leather corsets pretending to be much tougher than they actually are, Luna genuinely is funny, smart, ballsy, and real.

1. This is the first werewolf book I've read that I actually want to read again. Weres on the whole are not normally my thing; not sure why, but they just never appealed to me. But here I actually got the appeal. For real.

1 (again). IT KICKS ASS.

And if I get will too. So go buy the book! You can pre-order it here or rush down to your local bookstore Tuesday morning and wait for them to open so you can get your copy right away. Because seriously, you do not want to miss this one.

And yeah, I know. I've been recommending a few books lately. And yes, funnily enough they've all been written by my friends. Can I help it if I'm lucky enough to have such incredibly talented friends?

Seriously. I know a lot of writers, guys (as do a lot of you). So many, with so many releases, that I could probably recommend a new one every day of the year. But I don't. Because--and I certainly don't intend for this to sound like I don't like and enjoy my friends' work--I don't recommend a book unless I think everyone I know will be hugely, hugely missing out if they don't buy it. There will be a hole in your life if you miss Caitlin's first novel. So don't have that hole.

Monday I'm starting promo month, so come back and find out what I'm doing, what the contest is, how you can help, when the excerpts will be up, all that good stuff.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Few Things You Guys Should Know

1. I know it's hard to believe, and you probably wouldn't have heard about this anywhere, but my buddies (and fellow Reluctant Adults) Anton Strout and Mark Henry BOTH had books release yesterday! Because they're both so shy and retiring, I thought I'd mention it here.

This is my quickie review of Anton's book, and I'm sure you all remember when I reviewed Mark's book. So check the reviews, buy the books, have some fun! You deserve it, don't you?

2. Some serious news. Dave Kuzminski, who runs Preditors & Editors (which you all have bookmarked, right? At least all of you who write or want to write), is being sued.

From the P&E site:

Unfortunately, there are those who do not like P&E or its editor because we give out information that they would prefer remain hidden from writers. Usually, they slink away, but not this time. P&E is being sued and we are asking for donations to mount a legal defense in court. Please click on the link below and give if you can to help protect P&E so it can continue to defend writers as it has for the past eleven years.

Please donate if you can. The link is at the bottom of the "is being sued" link, or you can do it here (scroll down a little, it's just under the News Flash!)

Friday I'll have more content, and next week I'm starting my super-duper promo month for Personal Demons, with excerpts and contests and stuff. If you have a blog and want me to guest blog, let me know. If you are a reviewer and would like an ARC PDF let me know. I'll repeat all this next week, but this is your chance to make me jump through hoops and be sadistic towards poor little me in exchange for some publicity and suff, so start thinking, you devils you.

Just in case

I was actually awake when the quake happened last night and didn't even feel it. :-)

More later.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Guest Blogger: Mark Henry, author and man-whore

Saturday was the best day ever. Right up there with the Friday when I got an offer of representation and the Thursday when we sold the book. But Saturday. Oh...sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it was awesome.

Awesome (this one must be sung in your girliest falsetto)!

It started out normal enough, book release anxiety knifing into my sleep and plopping me onto the couch at the butt-crack of dawn, followed by the shuffling around a dark kitchen trying to make coffee in a machine designed for NASA scientists. This is normally accompanied by a gut wrenching stress-induced diarrhea that warbles through me bowels like bad opera. Grumbling. Curses. F-bombs.

Caroline slept in, dreading, as I was, a semi-formal charity auction that would eat away our evening. She would be at the salon for three hours and since I'd seen the book (Happy Hour of the Damned: zombies, smut, cocktails, what else do you need to know?) popping up on people's blogs and knew I'd be dwelling on that all day, I got a friend to ride along to a couple of book stores.

The first one, not so much, and I wasn't holding up a whole lot of hope about the second. So when we arrived I scanned the new trade tables and not seeing anything wandered toward the shelves. When...

"It's right here!" friend yelled.

And they weren't lying. A whole stack of 'em, sitting right next door to Lisa Lutz's THE SPELLMAN FILES--which is this totally adorable mystery, we've been reading for our book club. And there was Happy Hour, right next to hers. I got a little weak in the knees.

It wasn't like it was the first time I'd seen the book. My editor is a gracious guy and as I write this guest blog, I'm surrounded by 80 copies (which is insane, what am I doing with them?). The first time was oddly anti-climactic. I checked it over to see that the changes were made from the ARC, but that was pretty much it.

I'm certain, it's because books were meant to be seen in their natural habitat, because I was like a new father in a nursery. Even to the point of being completely flushed. I walked over to the information gal (it was a Borders so they had one of those freestanding desk areas) and told her that I kinda had a book over on the tables and I could sign them if she wanted.

I was so surprised that she actually got excited. Even enlisted the help of another book guy to gather all the books (I know, plural, can you believe that shit). They had like ten of them. I might as well have snorted a line of coke. I was high. Signing wildly. My friend taking pictures on her camera phone and sending them off. It was insane.

Then they asked me to come back to do an "Event". What? Are you kidding? What?

It was awesome. Pure and simple.

I'm almost ashamed to tell you that after the charity auction thing, a group of us stopped by another Borders and did it again.


MARK HENRY was a psychotherapist before he did a 180 to torture minds with his fiction. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, three furry monsters that think they're children, and a waterboard, in case Goody Jeri comes a-calling. His debut novel, HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED, is a zombie comedy in urban fantasy clothing. Visit him at his website at

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Important Announcement


For reasons I cannot fathom, gmail has decided it hates me. So please, please, PLEASE. if you have emailed me recently and did not receive a reply within a day or so, resend the email. This doesn't seem to be such an issue wth the decemberquinn account but is recurring with the staciakane one. So that's something else to try, sending directly to decemberquinn.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Release Day!

Yay! It's released!

I have a little story to share today. When everything went so horribly, horribly wrong with this book's initial release, and when I realized that it wasn't going to get better and that I probably could have sold more copies had I printed the ms up myself and sold them for a pound outside the grocery store, I almost gave up. Was going to give up.

Then I got this review, from the Romance Junkies website. JT, the reviewer, said:

December Quinn spins a spell-binding story of two lonely souls fighting for a better future amidst the tempestuous and dangerous times of thirteenth century Wales.

She has been fascinated by Gruffydd ap Hywel since their first meeting six years ago. A man who stood out among all the other nobles gathered together in celebration of a royal wedding. But more than his dark good looks, his intense demeanor and timely actions left a lingering presence upon her mind.

He remembers Isabelle de Harvington as a naive inquisitive miss who is not afraid to speak her mind. And though they parted under strained circumstances all those years ago, Gruffydd's thoughts of Isabelle never ceased over the ensuing years.

Now by royal decree, they are to wed and the reality of their marriage is far different then what any of them can ever imagined. The guardian knight is a solemn stranger burdened with responsibilities, and the fascinating girl has grown to be a headstrong, beautifully bewitching woman. Will they be able to resolve their differences and build upon their feelings and affection for each other, or will these two lost hearts remain forever solitary?

Finding out how this enigmatic couple makes their marriage work despite the burdens of their past make this book an intensely riveting read. When all else seems to be lost, December Quinn reminds us that love finds a way to bring the wounded home, even larger than life legends like THE BLACK DRAGON are no exception.

That review really got to me, because it was exactly what I was trying to do. Exactly. I'd never had someone understand my work like that, and express it so beautifully. It actually brought a tear to my cynical eye.

So I decided to fight for it. I got my rights back. My EC editor loved it and wanted it. I took out some stuff and added some stuff, and now here we are. So special thanks to JT at Romance Junkies.

Here's an excerpt!

A puppy whimpered. It must be hungry, the poor thing. Why was it not downstairs with the other dogs? How had it made its way up the stairs alone? It sounded so young, so sad…if she could just get out of bed and open the chamber door…if she could just get up.
Isabelle was trying so hard to get out of bed that she was awake and sitting up before it dawned on her that she was dreaming. There was no puppy. Instead there was only darkness and the heavy sound of Gruffydd’s breathing.
It was too heavy and fast for sleep and her mind barely finished the thought when she realized someone was crying out in the room. That heartbreaking sound she’d heard was not a puppy at all, but it was real.
And it was coming from her husband.
For a moment, she was too shocked at the sight of him actually in the bed with her to react. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light from the fire’s last embers, she saw his handsome face contorted with pain. His tawny skin, now bare, glowed with sweat as he clutched the bedcovers closer.
Between moans, he spoke, the words tumbling from his mouth. Isabelle assumed it was his native tongue, for she could not understand any of it, but the sound was horrible, fear and misery transforming his voice from the deep, self-assured sound she was growing accustomed to into something almost like a child’s.
She looked around the room for a moment, hoping that someone else had heard him and would enter to render aid. But there was no one and it dawned on her that she was Gruffydd’s wife. ‘Twas her job to soothe his brow and chase away whatever demon assaulted his sleep.
“My lord,” she said softly, hoping her voice would wake him. It did not. He was still sleeping and, to her shock, she saw a tear escape from his tightly shut eye as he continued to moan. It sounded as if he was begging someone for something, his voice so plaintive and sad that her own eyes stung in sympathy.
“Lord Gruffydd.” This time she reached out to touch him tentatively on his broad, bare chest. His skin felt hot and smooth, but Isabelle had barely enough time to register it before a hand closed painfully around her wrist and an arm like steel clutched her waist and yanked her across the prostrate body of her husband. She gasped in terror and was about to scream when cold metal touched her throat.
Her husband’s face loomed above her, his ragged breath hot on her neck. It was his hand holding the blade to her throat, his body which had grasped and pinned her beneath him, and his eyes that were quickly losing the dazed look of fury and coming back to seeing the waking world.
Isabelle started to speak, but could not get the words out before Gruffydd threw the dagger aside and leaped away from her in one swift, smooth movement. He was still gasping, but even as she watched, he regained control of himself, taking one last deep, shuddering breath.
The reddish glow of the dying embers in the fireplace illuminated his gleaming chest, emphasizing the contours and planes of muscles and sinew. He looked like a demon himself as he ran a hand through his dark hair and turned away from her.
She expected him to speak, to ask if she was unharmed, but he did not. Once again she found herself in the uncomfortable position of wanting to ask him a question but feeling that her words would be unwelcome, or at least an embarrassment to her.
So she did not make a sound either, only watched as Gruffydd slid out of the bed and closed the curtains behind him. Through the madness of thoughts that swirled in her mind, Isabelle heard rustlings and quiet clickings, then the slight creak of the door as it opened and closed.
She was alone again. Alone and scared, wondering who this stranger she had married truly was.

You can buy the book here!

Ha! Ha! This is disgusting.

So, remember how we were having some problems with lice a while ago? And got rid of them?

They came back five weeks or so later. And we got rid of them again. And they've come back again.
We are constantly getting notes home from both girls' schools about this, somebody keeps reinfecting everyone else and it's extremely frustrating. So the other day I went to Boots to see what new anti-lice products might be available.

And I bought The Nitty Gritty Nit Free Comb.

If you have school-age kids, you need to buy this. I'm not sure how available it is in the US; you should pay extra for shipping. Or have it sent to me and I'll mail it to you. I'm not joking. The thing is amazing. AMAZING. Both girls were barely scratching when we caught on (one little scratch is all it takes around here these days for us to swoop down and start applying lotions) but I dragged freaking armies of lice off them. AND it actually moves more easily through their hair, which means less crying.

I also bought a lice repellent spray, we'll see how that works. But seriously. Get the comb. You need it just in case. I ran our old comb through their hair and got like one or two nits. The new one on the same lock of hair grabbed a couple of dozen. Disgusting, but fascinating too.

It's a little pricey--£10 is a little over $20--but when you consider how much you'd spend on shampoos ans treatments and stuff...just get the comb. My girls' hair is CLEAN, without chemicals.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another Day, another blank page

Well, my MIL left this morning. We actually had a very nice visit, which--if history proves anything--means the next visit will be miserable. Such is life.

Hey, don't forget to keep checking the League blog all week, for the zombies! We have a zombie quiz coming up and everything!

We still have a couple of guest bloggers coming up, too. Mr. Anton Strout was supposed to be here Monday but he is apparently too busy and important for the likes of me. By way of apology I'm trying to get him to make his blog topic any one of the following:
*Why Stacia is the Best
*Why Stacia is so much sexier than Angelina Jolie
*Why I Secretly Love Stacia

But I think he's shy.

And, sometime in the next week or so we're going to start all the Personal Demons contesting and promoing. More excerpts! More prizes! More fun! More silly tasks for everyone to do in order to win! So don't miss all that stuff.

And, tomorrow Black Dragon is released from Cerridwen, so I'll be posting an excerpt and link here as soon as it's available.

Meanwhile...working. Working on a novella for EC, which Caitlin cleverly titled The Hellvella, which it is. I am having a bitch of a time getting it done. It's coming very slowly. I suspect the Merc retrograde had something to do with it. Now that's over and I want to get the Hellvella over too. Fingers crossed.

Once that's done I can start my new project, which has been slowly taking shape in my head for some time now. It involves a lot of research, which is one reason for the slowness. Also, the Hellvella is sitting there in front of me like an enormous toad, which makes it hard to think past. But things are falling into place, and I'm slowly getting over that OMG-I'll-never-have-a-good-idea-or-be-able-to-write-another-book-again feeling. I hate that feeling.

And I guess that's it. I wore myself out a bit last week putting so much work and time into the Heroes series, so apologies for not having a whole bunch to say.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Find out why zombies are better than men

Over at The League of Reluctant Adults blog. And keep checking for more Zombie fun all week!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Weekend Updates (Ribbed for her pleasure)

**My guest blog on epublishing is up at Plot Monkeys, so stop by and say hi!

**I am about to post my interview with the absolutely amazing Tananarive Due over at the League of Reluctant Adults blog. Tananarive is a hell of an author and an fascinating woman. You don't want to miss it. (Plus she knows Blair Underwood. Rowr!)

Friday, February 15, 2008

What Makes A Hero, Part 4: A Hero Should be Heroic

Since I started this little series I've been lucky enough to have some very interesting discussions about the qualities of a hero, and what people look for, and how characters you might not think of as being a hero or posessing heroic qualities still do have them.

But the essence of a hero is, he is heroic. Above all.

He may not see himself that way. He may not even want to be so (from Personal Demons):

She let him help her up and watched while he extinguished the fire. “Thanks,” she said. “For helping me shield, and bringing me here. It was…thanks.”
“Always happy to help.”
“My hero.”
His fingertips brushed her cheek, so softly she would have doubted the touch if she hadn’t seen his hand move. “I’m not interested in being a hero,” he said.

But somehow, at some point, he is.

For an example, I've decided to stop quoting myself here and go with a character from Richelle Mead's Succubus Blues, Seth Mortensen. (Hope you don't mind being my guinea pig, Richelle!)Because Seth is such a quiet hero, shy and unassuming, and it's easy to see him as something less than the dynamic type I've been discussing.

He's not, though. His introduction to the MC, Georgina, is a classic example of a character standing out by not standing out. And yet he is so skillfully written we are still intrigued, by his caffeine-free drinks, his mild manner, his interest in Georgina. And throughout the book, although Seth never gets flashy or loud, and isn't really presented with any sort of life-or-death intrigue until the end, he still exhibits every heroic quality I listed. He just goes about them a different way, which is the essence of characterization.

See, heroic deeds mean different things to different people. In some books the hero must slay an army to be heroic; in others, he simply has to take dancing lessons or accept the unbelievable. The point is, he's risking something. He's taking a chance, whether it's on love or saving the world.

We hear so much about characterization, and the need to make your characters larger-than-life if you want to pull in readers. This is true. But larger-than-life means different things to different people, and that's where your particular characterization and writing skill comes in. Everyday acts can be heroic if the character needs to overcome something to do them (again, look at Adrian Monk. Leaving the house is a heroic deed for him.)

But there must be risk. There must be a sense of obstacles overcome. In short, there must be conflict. On every page, in every scene. Something has to be happening to keep that reader turning those pages. Something has to appeal to them so strongly they wait eagerly for the next book. Something in those characters has to make them yearn for what they could be or sympathise with what they aren't.

Otherwise, what's the point?

What do you think? Can you think of a heroic act performed by a character that was heroic for them, but perhaps not by others? How are your characters heroic? What sort of response do your characters give to danger or fear?

Thanks so much to everyone who commented!

**A few endnotes:

*I'll be at the Plot Monkeys blog again this weekend, for the epublisher portion of the publishing series;

*We have several guest bloggers coming up in the next few weeks, both here and at the League, so stay tuned!

*It's cold here, and my feet are cold;

*Actually had a good Valentine's Day! Ate fast food, watched Ratatouille, ate chocolate. No fights. Also, got the Sweeney Todd soundtrack as a gift. Very low-key, but good.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What Makes A Hero, Part 3: What do we notice about him?

(Otherwise known as Creating Chemistry).

Now we get to the really fun parts (hopefully).

A while ago I read what I still think is one of the best pieces of writing advice I've ever heard (and if anyone knows where it came from please tell me). I don't recall the exact wording of it, but the essence was this:

Whenever you introduce a character, you must show us something special about them within the first five paragraphs.

Now, that doesn't mean you have to introduce your hero by having him, say, saunter into a bar, where every eye is on him, then immediately get into a fight with a bad guy (and win handily), kiss a baby and impregnate a woman all within those paragraphs. But it does mean you need to show something different, something unusual, about him right away. Something that sets him apart, that causes the reader to take notice. (And we'll do more about this tomorrow, too, specifically about heroic acts and how they may not be what you think.)

Because I'm all about plugging Personal Demons these days, I'm going to copy an introduction from it:

Someone waited on her porch.
Megan froze in the middle of the walkway, her fast-food bag still clutched in her hand, and lowered her shields. Better to have some idea what was in store. Her free hand twisted the little cap on her pepper spray keychain. If he planned to slit her throat and run, at least she’d have a fighting chance.
She opened the shields more. Surely something would come through. She almost always managed to get some glimpse of the other person’s character or motives.
Still nothing. Perhaps she was more drained than she thought.
The figure in the shadows moved. “Hello, Dr. Chase.” A man’s voice, smooth as glass against silk. “I enjoyed your show very much.”

Technically that's six paragraphs, but as one of them is only one word long I don't think it counts. And I didn't actually write it with the above rule in mind, at all. But what have we learned about the man in just those five paragraphs, when he haven't seen his face or even heard his name?

* We know there's something particularly unusual about him, in that our psychic heroine cannot read him as she can just about everyone else. Given that we've already had a little evidence of something spooky going on, we (hopefully!) start wondering if this man is a villain or not, or if he's even human, or what.
* We know his reason for speaking with Megan is important enough that he shows up at her house to do it.
* We know he probably has something of a flair for the dramatic, hiding in the shadows like that.
* We know he's got some kind of juice, because he was able to get her home address.
* We know he's dominant, perhaps (probably) a bit arrogant. He hasn't come to see her through proper channels; he's staged this confrontation at her house. This is obviously someone who likes and usually gets the upper hand, which immediately sets up all sorts of fun possibilities for a romantic plot or subplot.

As the scene continues we get a stronger sense of him and who he is, and of course throughout the rest of the book we come to know him better. But we never learn everything about him, and (again, if I've done my job properly) that lack of knowledge intrigues us.

Now, the "special/unusual" thing in an introduction doesn't even have to be this dramatic or obvious (although hopefully mine isn't terribly obvious). It could simply be that we see him and he makes a joke, or is studying something so industriously we wonder why. But something about him grabs our attention--some action of his grabs our attention--and makes us curious. Intrigues us. And a good hero should intrigue, above all.

The one thing you absolutely don't want to do (ever, but especially here) is tell instead of show. It's very easy to get carried away with a hero, and instantly set him up as the most handsome, most desireable, smartest and bestest at everything, with a paragraph something like this:

Brock Landers (2 points if you get that one) walked into the bar like he owned it. Heads turned to watch. Everyone knew who Brock was, especially after his picture had been all over the papers lately because of the incredible success of his business. Brock was now one of the richest men in the world, and rumor had it he deserved every penny, especially after doing so much charity work and setting up a shelter for battered women, and winning sports and poker tournaments in his free time. The women especially watched Brock, every one of them thinking they'd never seen such a gorgeous man in person. He was six foot two, perfectly muscled, dressed in an expensive but casual suit. The lights hit his emerald eyes and made them almost glow. He smiled at everyone and walked to the bar, pushing his way through the crowd of gawkers.
"I'll have a Grey Goose," he said to the bartender. "And your phone number."
Lissie the bartender giggled, unable to believe her luck. "Wow," she said. "You really are Brock Landers."
And so on and so on.

The thing is, it's possible Brock could be a good character. But as he's presented above, he's dull, and the writing is dull. Nobody wants to read long paragraphs of description about the hero's stupid emerald eyes or how wonderful he is. It's not believable; he's not a real person.

And most importantly, he has no secrets, at least not as he's presented here. We have very little in his character to guess about at this point. There's not much to intrigue us. And with Lissie the lovestruck bartender, there's zero chemistry. He crooks his finger, she giggles and squeals. Wow. That's fun. Or, um, not.

Chemistry isn't about fighting, though. I love a good fight as much as the next girl, I really do. I think an argument can be a very effective way to show how well the characters know each other, how they deal with their differences, how they feel about each other (all sorts of things pop out in a fight that never would have come out otherwise), and how they feel about themselves. Fights are always about dominance and self-image, at their heart (at least in my experience.) Who's in charge, and how they feel about it. Which is a great thing to get into. So I'm not putting down fights (I especially love writing angry sex scenes, but that's another series.) But while chemistry is in large part also about dominance and self-image, it needs to be more subtle than that.

More from Personal Demons (I've cut out basically everything but dialogue, as this is part of the larger introduction scene I quoted above):

“My name is Greyson Dante,” he said, reaching into the interior pocket of his suit coat and pulling out a card so white it glowed. He held it out to her. She didn’t step forward.
“And what are you doing here?”
He lowered his hand to his side without a trace of embarrassment. Was he a lawyer? She’d never met anyone who enjoyed being rebuffed as much as attorneys seemed to. “I came to speak to you about your show. I have a client who is very interested in your concept.”
“If it’s about the show, your client should call the station.”
“It’s not an offer for the station. It’s for you, personally.”
She sighed. “Then he or she should call me at my office, not send a lawyer to lie in wait at my home.”
“Did I say I was a lawyer?”
He waited for her to continue, smiling when she remained silent.

“Listen, Mr…?”
“Dante.” His voice was a perfect blank. It wasn’t just a bland accent, it was accentless, as if he’d spent years removing any identifying trace from his speech.
“Yes. This is all very pleasant, but it’s late and I’m hungry and tired. You can leave a message at my office tomorrow if there’s something you need to discuss. I may even have time to call you back.”

“Dr. Chase.” She could almost see him switch gears from “slick and sophisticated” to “your good friend who wants to help you” mode. “I don’t think I’m making myself very clear. My client wants only to aid you and possibly come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. If you would just give me ten minutes of your time, I could explain—”
“I’m sorry, but I have a lot to do this evening. I don’t have time to sit here and talk.”
“We’re standing.”
“I don’t have time to sit or stand with you.” She crossed her arms over her chest. The paper bag full of fries flopped against her stomach.

Now, I'm not saying this dialogue is The Greatest Ever Written, or anything like that. I'm not trying to hold myself up as Master Writer. But if I've done my job properly, again, we should see and feel something between these two people, even if it's just wary attraction or a subconscious sense of ease. We should enjoy reading their dialogue and get the feeling they enjoy saying it. That no matter how they might feel about each other, there's respect there. A sense of familiarity. Which brings me to my favorite, most important guideline for creating chemistry:

The hero should know something about the heroine that nobody else knows, and vice versa.

This doesn't have to be a big dark secret. It doesn't have to be anything important at all; it can be that he's noticed she says she only takes one sugar in her coffee but really she always takes two. It could be that she bites her lip when she's nervous or that when she's particularly happy she wiggles her toes or that she likes her job but it isn't her dream, or any other thing you can come up with. And all of these can be things other people have seen. It can even be a negative trait, something he feels is holding her back from what she could be. But the hero notices them. He comments on it. He notices her in a way no one else has.

And the same goes for her. She may know how he'll react to something, and be right. She may also notice about him any of the things I listed above or any other thing you can think of. But the point is, we have two people who are, without really admitting it, paying a lot of attention to each other. And liking what they see, despite the power struggles and disagreements or whatever. They have a connection, one the reader can see.

And yes, you can create chemistry by having sparks fly when they touch, or whatever. It works. But be careful with it. You don't want warmth seeping and energy leaping about every time they have some sort of physical contact (unless that's the basis of the story or one of the subplots.) It's easy to overdo that sort of thing, and it feels cheap. But of course people who are attracted to each other like touching each other. Just don't forget how many subtle touches there are. Pats on arms, casual hand-holding (I just watched The Village and was totally struck by the use of hand-holding in that film), a hand in the small of the back to guide the lady through a crowd, or the good old Removing of Lint or Eyelashes.

How do you create chemistry? How do you introduce characters? What are your "Rules of Attraction"?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Makes A Hero, Part 2: Rounding him out

So on Monday I posted a short list of characteristics most of my heroes have, and which I've noticed in a lot of other heroes. Today I'll show how those basic characteristics (or whichever ones you like and feel comfortable with) can be modified and added to in order to create distinct characters.

To refresh, here are the Ten Basic Qualities I listed:

1. He's smart.
2. He knows who he is.
3. He knows what he wants.
4. He is fearless.
5. He's got a plan.
6. He is observant.
7. He is complex/he has secrets.
8. He has faith in the heroine.
9. He is honorable.
10. He is generous.

We'll call Hero #1 Trent Bacon, a name I just pulled out of my--um, head. Trent is CEO of a multi-national corporation, which he built from a small paper-manufacturing firm into the cash-cow behemoth it is today (1). He has a reputation for being absolutely ruthless both in business matters (3) and in his personal life. He spends weekends racing cars or skiing (4)--basically he's a thrill-seeker, and he's proud of his prowess in every area (2). What no one knows is that Trent is overcompensating for a poverty-stricken childhood (7), driven by haunting memories of hunger and dirt to remake himself as the man he always wanted to be.
When Trent meets attorney Amy Brown, he immediately knows that she's more than just an attractive woman with a law degree. As they discuss business over a meal, he surprises her by asking what good books she's read lately. Having noticed the paperback in her briefcase, and seeing how smart she is (6), he genuinely wants her recommendation (8).
But all is not well in corporate land. Trent--and by association, Amy--become targets of a killer bent on revenge (okay, it's a character outline, not a real book, so give me a break.) Trent and Amy are in danger, and Trent does whatever he can to keep her safe, including holing her up in an expensive resort (10). When Trent realizes one of his employees has been doing shady deals behind his back he sets out to put it right (9)--risking his own life and trusting Amy to get the documents to the police (5,8).

Hero #2, Mike Grant, is a fireman, a churchgoer and all-around nice guy (4,9,10). He decided to become a fireman after witnessing a tragic fire as a child, in which several people died (7--yes, I know, that's two childhood traumas in a row. Stay with me.) More than anything Mike wants to do whatever he can to keep other people safe, the way his loving parents always made him feel (3, 7, 9, 10.) He knows he's too obsessed with work (2), but he can't help it.
Mike spends two evenings a week teaching illiterate adults to read (1, 10). It's here he meets fellow volunteer teacher Debbie Barnes. Mike isn't really interested in a relationship, but Debbie makes him think differently, especially when he notices how kind she is when she thinks no one is looking, or how longingly she looks at the babies of the women in their classes (6). In her he sees someone he could spend his life with, and he sets out to make her his, talking for hours, cooking her romantic meals, taking her to amusement parks, whatever he can afford (3, 10). But along the way he discovers Debbie is on the City Council, and they're planning to cut funding for important fire-safety programs. Mike tries to convince Debbie how important the programs are, knowing that if she understands she'll be on his side and help him convince the Council not to cut the funding (5, 8). He needs her, in more ways than one, but he won't let innocent people die just so he can be in a relationship (4).

For #3 we have Viktor Rubenska, a wealthy vampire (7) and successful club owner(1). Viktor is getting lonely in his old age, after losing his "mate" (or whatever) years ago. He's a very private man (7) who knows exactly what he needs from a woman (2,3)--and usually gets it from a series of casual dates.
One night werewolves invade his nightclub and start slicing people up. Viktor and his friends attack (4), managing to defeat most of the weres, but a few escape.
One of the surviving victims is Abby Louis, an event planner there on a first date. Unfortunately, her date is dead. Feeling responsible, Viktor takes her back to his place (9,10), intending to use his vampire mojo to make her forget the awful events (5). But Abby charms him, and he finds he can't bring himself to erase her mind. He senses in her need to make every occasion special a woman who never had that kind of happiness in her youth (6). He also sees that ability as a gift (6,8), and realizes she makes him feel a warmth he thought his lonely, cold heart could never feel again (2,3,6,7,8).
Of course, Abby is kidnapped by Viktor's enemy, the wereprince (or whatever), and Viktor must risk everything to protect her (3,4,5). Knowing Abby will trust that he's coming for her and that she'll create a distraction when she sees him (8), he invades the were complex and kills his enemy (3,4,5 again). Together he and Abby fight their way free, knowing they will be together forever.

Last we have Leaf Tinselhead (oh come on. Remember, this is supposed to entertain too.) Leaf is a professional assassin known only as The Whisper, and he's the best in the Elf Kingdom. Leaf's trademark is an absolute coldness, a willingness to do whatever it takes to get a job done (1,3,4,5,6,7). Once he's accepted payment for a job, that's it--there is no going back (9). So when he slips into a private party with the intent to kill Lochinvar Greaseman, and ends up dancing with Greaseman's beautiful daughter Eubella, he's at war with his own ethics. He wants Eubella (3) more than he's ever wanted anything. Recognizing this emotional weakness in himself upsets him (2,7) as he's always been taught that to be a man means having no weaknesses, but he can't seem to stop. Meanwhile, Eubella simply thinks he's rather cold and strange, insisting that until he shows her he has true emotions she wants nothing to do with him, despite how he's encouraged her to finally leave her boring day job and become a nightclub singer like she always dreamed (8).
Figuring that if he turns the tables on the people who hired him to kill Lochinvar, he can win Eubella's heart and keep his reputation (4,5), Leaf goes undercover in a local school (don't ask. Hey, it's late here.) He realizes that working with children is fun--he can teach them all the self-defense techniques he wishes he's learned as a kid, and somehow, he feels less lonely when they're around (7).
In the process he also realizes he wants to save Lochinvar not just to make Eubella like him, but to make her happy (10). But when the people who hired Leaf decide to take matters into their own hands and come after Leaf, Lochinvar, and Eubella, Leaf and Eubella must work together (8) to save the day.

Okay, that last one got a little silly. But you see my point. None of these men are particularly similar in background or occupation. You can clearly see how differently they might react to anything from bad service at a restaurant to a gunfight breaking out on the street. Those qualities I listed don't make a character, they're simply aspects of a character. Even these basic sketches leave a lot of room for interpretation--is Mike the fireman shy and stuttering when he first meets Debbie, or is he funny and outgoing and casual her? Does Viktor think Abby is the bee's knees the minute he lays eyes on her, or does it happen after they talk for a while, or when he sees how kind she is to his cat (or something)? Do the men seduce with smooth moves and wicked grins, or with worshipful, shaking tenderness as if they can't believe their luck? Are they funny or serious? Do they like dogs or cats? Beer or wine? We don't necessarily know, just based on what's above. That all has to be filled in as you get deeper into your characters. It depends on you, yes; but it also depends on what kind of woman your heroine is.

(By the way, the plots above are deliberately straight romance plots, simply because those seemed the strongest way to showcase character above all else. Hopefully you'll see lots of other types of stories these characters could be in, keeping their same qualities.)

So taking the lists you (may or may not have) made in your head, how many different types of characters can you come up with using those same traits? Do you find yourself needing to add more? Is it hard to use all of them? Is there an important one you left out (like I forgot vulnerability, which I came close to covering in several of mine but never flat-out said)? And as I asked on Monday, how many of your "favorite" traits can you remove and still have a character you feel comfortable with? What would happen if you added a trait you've never found appealing to the mix--how would that challenge you, or would it?

I may do more tomorrow.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What Makes A Hero, Part 1: Who Is He?

Okay, first. I'm sure a lot of you know already that author Caitlin R. Kiernan is having a bit of difficulty with her health these days, and could use some help. This livejournal post tells how you can help, and links to what's going on. So if you can, do.

Second. I want to reiterate (geez, I'm really nervous about this, I totally feel like I'm overstepping myself) that this post isn't intended to say how everyone should write heroes, or that my way is the only way or the best way or that this is a foolproof way. It's just my own feelings, how I do it, and what I've learned from several years of writing. (And several years of reading advice about writing.) So please, don't take my word as gospel--it's simply intended to A) Make you think about your own process; B) Help you distill that process; and C) Entertain.

Third, I should make clear that by "Hero" I mean Hero as he relates to heroine, not Hero as main character. I'm talking about romantic heroes and love interests, in any genre where there's a romantic plot or subplot. Of course these traits are gender-neutral and are generally found in main characters as well, but this is about building chemistry and romance in your books specifically.

So...what makes a man a hero? Who is a hero? How is he different from other characters?

Well. In a lot of ways he's no different. Obviously the reader will learn more about him than about secondary characters, because our heroine and thus we as readers and writers will likely be spending more time with him than with others.

But in some ways...he's worlds apart. So what separates him? Who is he, that he's so special? Why does the heroine--and (hopefully) especially the reader--fall for him? (Remember, this is the first post of several, so this is simply an overview. The next posts will cover how to express these traits, when to do so, and what makes a hero perfect for that particular heroine.)

1. He's smart. A hero cannot be stupid. We need to respect people in order to fall in love with them, plain and simple, and it's hard to respect people who we see doing dumb things. Making mistakes is okay. Everybody makes mistakes. But a hero's mistakes should never come from lack of forethought, whereas a secondary character's mistakes can come from anything.

(Example: Julian in Blood Will Tell keeps a secret from Cecelia, the woman he's falling in love with. It's a secret he knows could destroy everything he's trying to build with her, and he knows it's a mistake to keep it. But he does. Why? Because he's gambling on being able to fix it. This of course becomes more and more of a problem the longer he keeps it secret, until telling seems impossible. His mistake comes from his heart, not his head, and the heart is almost always a hero's downfall.)

2. He knows who he is. A hero is self-aware. He may see himself as less than he is (a hallmark of tortured heroes), but he never has delusions of grandeur. His faults may cause him pain or they may amuse him, but he knows they're there, just as clearly as he's aware of his strengths. And he'll generally admit to both, although he often won't admit his fears or insecurities until much later in the book because he's being manly and stoic and all that good stuff.

(Example: This is a snippet of dialogue from Personal Demons, between Greyson Dante and Megan Chase.

“One thing I’m not,” he said, in a voice cold enough to make her shiver, “is a liar.”

She stared at him. He relented. “Not about stuff like this, anyway.”)

3. He knows what he wants. And he'll generally do whatever it takes to get it. Whether it's money or power or love or a cause, or even a sandwich, a hero doesn't waffle. He sees, he wants, he takes. It may take him a while to get there, but he never wavers.

(Example: Julian in Blood Will Tell starts a war and kills someone he once saw as a father figure in order to save Cecelia's life.)

4. He is fearless. Or at least, he never lets his fears stand in his way. There is of course a class of heroes--usually in comedies or more lighthearted romances--who have hearty senses of self-preservation and can be afraid of all sorts of things (snakes, anyone?) But when it comes down to it, a hero will face those fears and work through them in order to accomplish his goal. Where secondary characters decide to head for home, a hero always gets the job done--even if it means sacrificing himself.

(Example: Gruffydd in Black Dragon is on a spying mission when the woman he loves is captured. Despite her begging him not to give himself up, he does, knowing full well he'll probably be killed--and more importantly, that his death will be meaningless, coming not in battle but by an executioner's axe. But protecting the woman he loves is his goal, so there's no choice to make.)

5. He's got a plan. Always. Even when he doesn't have a plan, or even when his plan is simply Get There, Kill Everybody, he's got a plan. He's got it covered. He's working something out in that head of his. The hero is always a half-step ahead.

(My best example here is spoilery, so I'm not posting it. But Gruffydd in Black Dragon has studied the enemy's movements and castles well enough to quickly formulate an escape plan. Julian in Blood Will Tell sets up an elaborate distraction on the highway to outrun the bad guys.)

6. He is observant. It's not just brains that make him capable of dealing with whatever life and the plot throw at him. The hero pays attention, above all else. He pays attention to the heroine (and I'll be covering this in a lot more depth later in the week, as I actually think this is one of the most important traits of a hero) and he pays attention to the villains, and to anyone else who pops up too. Because he knows himself so well, he's able to understand other people too, and this is always useful. He's also good at noticing details others miss (it's not an example from my work, but look at how observent Adrian Monk is.)

(Example from Personal Demons: Scene in a nightclub.

“Keep your voice down. Ugh, we can’t talk in here. Let’s go.” He slid out of the booth and stood, slipping on his jacket and nodding to Malleus, Maleficarum, and Spud, who sat in the booth next to theirs downing oceans of beer.
Was he going to fit her with some cement boots? “Maybe I don’t want to go.”
“Yes, you do. You hate these places.”
Damn it, was she that obvious? “Maybe tonight I like them.”)

7. He is complex/he has secrets. Obviously this is part of simply building good characters, no matter who they are or what their relation is to the protagonists or plot. One of the most noticeable amateur mistakes is to create characters who are all good or all bad (although I admit it doesn't bother me when villains are evil simply because they're evil; I don't always need them to have Big Motivations, although I'm happy when they do). We all know what a Mary Sue heroine is; the same can be said for Gary Sues, heroes so perfect, handsome and charming and rich and instantly in love with the heroine, that there's no conflict. These characters are difficult (at best) to identify with. They're essentially bland. And worst of all they provide no conflict, and conflict is what keeps a relationship and a story interesting. You can create secondary characters who are less complex, and that's fine. But for sparks to fly you need to make sure there's a lot under the surface of your characters. Secrets they want to keep, memories that shame them, insecurities they're aware of but do their best to hide. They may get defensive or prickly, or simply change the subject, but the reader feels that reaction, and both identifies with and becomes more curious about the character.

(Example, again from Personal Demons:
He glanced at her. “...We are who and what we are, Meg, and there’s no point wasting time wondering how it might be if things were different.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You were raised with demons. You were never different from everyone around you.”
“Don’t make assumptions. You should know better.”
“Sorry.” He was right, and worse, Megan hadn’t even thought of it. Without being able to read him, she didn’t know anything about what went on under his skin other than what he told her and what she learned by observation. “You’re so self-assured. Most people with your confidence had very nurturing upbringings. Overcompensators read more like arrogance. But you—”
“I’m not one of your patients. Please don’t analyze me.”
“I’m sorry,” she said again. His withdrawal upset her more than she would have thought. Sometimes it was hard to remember that just because she couldn’t read someone didn’t mean they didn’t have depths, or secrets to keep.)

8. He has faith in the heroine. First and foremost. He believes in her and her abilities to solve her own problems, however much he might like to solve them for her. He knows she's a great partner for him, and a partner is what he wants--even if he's a dyed-in-the-wool Dom, he wants a woman who can take care of herself too, who can stand up to him when it counts.

9. He is honorable. No matter what he is or what he does, whether he's a pastor or a hired killer, he has honor of some kind. He may kill, steal for a living, lie to get out of whatever problem there is, break into homes, hack computers, whatever he has to do, but a hero never cheats at cards. NEVER.

10. He is generous. Whether it's money or time, the hero will give, even begrudgingly (depending on him or the situation), once he's found his heroine. A man who forces his ladylove to count pennies while he takes expensive vacations is not a hero. A man who forces the heroine to beg for his attention or time is not a hero.

Okay. Notice there are several things I didn't mention there:
1. Looks. Yes, heroes tend to be handsome, but they don't have to be. The only thing they have to be is physically attractive to the heroine, and that can happen over time (again, we'll discuss chemistry later).

2. Wealth. Again, heroes tend to have money, but they don't have to. A poor artist can be just as clever, dominant, and appealing as a robber baron, if he's written properly.

3. Morality, as it differs from honor. This is a matter of personal taste. My heroes tend to be criminals, often fairly violent ones too. Usually they've killed people and it doesn't bother them. They often kill more people as the story goes on, and sleep just fine. Other people would never stomach a hero who didn't go to church every week, or who stole, or killed, or whatever. The only things a hero does NOT do, not ever, are hurting animals or babies and cheating at cards (see above). A hero who cheats at cards or kicks puppies or hits babies is irredeemable in my eyes. Any hero, no matter if he's a fireman or a rabbi or an international jewel thief, can be sexy and appealing if he's written properly.

What are your rules for heroes? What do you look for, and what is unimportant? Do the heroes you write or the heroes you like to read tend to have certain traits in common, and what are they? How many of those must-have traits do you think you could eliminate from a character and still have him be appealing to readers and your heroine?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

*fans self*

This is the uncensored version of the cover for Marvel's Ultimates #3, done by Frank Cho. (In the newer version, one of several variants, there's a sheet or something covering the Scarlet Witch's butt).

Oooh, this is nice. It's probably as close to posting scantily clad man photos here as I'll ever get, but I couldn't help it. It's gorgeous. And it's hot. So, so, so hot.

Okay. Scroll down one and read my review of Mark's book now if you haven't already. :-)

Friday, February 08, 2008

In which I plant a big wet slickery kiss on Mark Henry

There are certain things in this world that make me feel...well, bad about myself. Like when some hot young twentysomething guy ignores me because I'm a thirtysomething Mommy with two kids in tow. Or when one of the girls wants me to play with them, and I can't because I'm making dinner or something, and they cry. That's bad.

But the big one is when I read a book that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, is so much better than something I ever could have written in a million years. When I'm in the presence of a talent so large, a mind so twisted and original and fascinating, that there is no way I could hope to match it.

So yeah, Happy Hour of the Damned made me feel kind of bad about myself.

But the thing is, it's almost impossible to feel bad about yourself when you're laughing so hard tears pour out of your eyes and your three-year-old is patting your knee and saying, "What's wrong, Mommy? It's okay, Mommy. Take a deep breath."

If I were as talented as Mark, I could probably come up with a dozen analogies as to how much I loved this book, each more clever and amusing than the last. But I'm not. So all I can say is I loved it. It's the most fun book I've read in years. Not just fun as in a fun story or fun characters (although it has both), but fun all-around. It's the kind of book you race through like a NASCAR driver, then when you're done realize you should have slowed down and savored it, so you turn right back to the beginning and start it again, but you can't make yourself slow down even the second time because it's just too involving. It's the kind of book you take into the shower with you and read one-handed (while you wash your hair with the other, get your minds out of the gutter.) Where you beg your husband to go to McDonald's for dinner because cooking would mean you might have to put the book down for even one minute.

And it has recipes! And footnotes! I love footnotes. And these are hilarious footnotes. Pratchett-esque footnotes (yeah, I'm comparing him to Pratchett. You will too once you've read it.) All of which serve to make Henry's heroine, Amanda Feral--who would, let's face it, be the villain in a lot of books--into someone we love and identify with so much we want to snuggle up to her and hope some of the glamour-glitter rubs off. Except she would probably eat us if we did.

I've heard it described as "Sex and the City with zombies". And that's kind of true, or would be if Sex and the City was more about characters like the woman who only allowed white food and drink in her home because of the carpet, or that guy in the first season who only had sex with models and secretly videotaped them, and less about Carrie and her endless emotional whining. (And, okay, yes, I LOVE Sex and the City. But even I have to admit Carrie got on my nerves sometimes.)

I know this isn't the greatest review in the world. I haven't even told you what the book is about, really. But so what. If you're that curious you can look at the Amazon listing or head over to Mark's blog or website. I'm just telling you to buy the book. Because if you don't you'll regret it.

I start my "Writing heroes" series next week, so make sure you don't miss it!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Some exciting things!

Oooh! I'm so excited about some stuff, and you get to hear all about it, isn't that great?

1. I have a tentative release dats for The Demon Inside, the sequel to Personal Demons! Paula and I have edited the first three chapters to excerpt in the back of Personal Demons (not sure if the entire first three will be excerpted or just the first one, but I suspect all three) and we're looking at a January 2009 release! It's not set in stone, but I don't think it will be released any later than that, so that's good. I'm just hoping that the time-setting of the book--one week before Christmas--doesn't turn people off right after the holidays. :-)

2. This is very exciting! We're focusing on spec-fic written by African-American authors this month over at the League of Reluctant Adults, and have some great guest bloggers and interviews lined up. Tomorrow be sure to check the blog for Carole McDonnell, author of Wind Follower. Wind Follower is a Carl Brandon Society Recommendation, and if you are interested in speculative fiction and don't know who the Carl Brandon Society are, you should check them out.

We will also be doing an interview with--and I am so excited about this--Tananarive Due, a multi-published, award winning author who, if she wasn't impressive enough already, has also shown her great taste and style by being a fervent Dolfan. Tananarive's book My Soul to Keep is also a Carl Brandon recommendation. (She also contributed to the awesomely funny Naked Came the Manatee, which I think is required reading if you live in South Florida. Really. It's on a list somewhere, I swear, along with Edna Buchanan's Never Let Them See You Cry.

And, last but certainly not least, Seressia Glass will be blogging for us! Seressia is a multi-published author of African-American paranormal and interracial romance, and a really, really cool chick to boot. I can't wait to see what she has to say!

In addition, we have some great Book Club stuff planned with the fantastic Mark del Franco, and guest blogs by Jim Hines and John Levitt!

So please, everyone, make sure you're stopping by the League and making all of our guests feel welcome. In fact, maybe I'll give out some prizes or something to the person who makes the best comment. Maybe. :-)

(And if any of you ever know of any authors--AA, Hispanic, Asian, anything--who aren't getting the exposure they deserve, please let me know. We're always looking for interviewees and guests.)

I guess that's about it. The hubs and I watched Zodiac over the weekend, and it was FANTASTIC. I'm stunned it didn't get any Oscar nods. What an amazing, gripping film.

I have some background with the Zodiac Killer anyway, odd as it sounds. See, my ex-boyfriend was really into true crime (well, we both were. I like true crime, especially Ann Rule. Anyway.) He got a copy of Robert Graysmith's book Zodiac, and became semi-obsessed. Not in a "This guy is cool" way; he was pretty freaked out, actually. Because the Zodiac was never caught. Anyway, in a couple of the letters the Zodiac sent to the papers, he suggested people have buttons made for him and he wouldn't kill anyone wearing a Zodiac button. So, um, yeah. We all wore Zodiac buttons for a while. And there was a creepy picture of the Zodiac, a police artist's sketch, that hung on the back of our bedroom door. So I slept every night with the Zodiac Killer pointing a gun at me. I am not joking. (And no, the ex was not a freak, he was a nice, normal guy and still is.)

So certain bits of the movie were almost amusing to me, as I'd worn the buttons and seen the sketch. But seriously, this is not an amusing movie. There are a couple of edge-of-your-seat scary moments. It's a very dark film. A quiet film, with outstanding performances. Seriously, the lack of Oscar noms is inconceivable to me, especially for Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo. But anyway. Definitely worth a watch.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I am so Meta

I've blogged about blogging over at the League of Reluctant Adults blog.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cover and stuff

This is my newest cover, for my novella Day of the Dead, coming March 28 from Ellora's Cave. Nice, huh? (And blogger is still not letting me upload photos! The little upload window comes up but there's no "Upload" button in the lower right, is anyone else having this problem?)

Here's the blurb:

Seventy two years ago Santos Diaz's fiancee died two weeks before their wedding--two weeks before he could turn her into a vampire like him. Now, on the Day of the Dead, Santos has a plan to bring her back. He'll sacrifice his honor to Baron Samedi, the voudou guardian of the land of the dead, in exchange for his love's return.

Yelina heads for the cemetery to honor her father's memory and finds herself in a passionate clinch with her handsome boss, Santos, with whom she's been in love for two years. She's never experienced passion like this before, but when a few vampires threaten to turn the day of the dead into the last day of her life and it looks like Santos himself might be a vampire too--one who still carries a torch for a dead woman--she thinks her happy ending may vanish into the darkness of the grave.

And an excerpt, which is mostly worksafe but honestly, it's hard to find an excerpt for this one that's fully, um, clean:

Chapter One

The scent of rose petals hung heavy in the air as Santos lit the final black candle. The altar was ready. It was as perfect as he could make it.
From outside came the sounds of the neighborhood in celebration. Normally Santos would be there too. Dia de los Muertos wasn’t a big celebration in Miami, not like the Calle Ocho Festival or even Three Kings Day. Not too many people bothered to honor their dead in the old way.
Even fewer chose to do it the way Santos Diaz had planned.
He wasn’t simply going to honor his dead love. He was going to bring her back.
He hit “play” on the tape player behind the altar. The voudou Lwa would only appear if you played the correct drumbeats, had the correct sacrifices. Tonight he was going past the Lwa. He was going to the Baron Samedi himself. The god guarding the gate between life and death. The Baron could bring Esperanza back.
Naked, Santos knelt and picked up the bottle of peppered rum. The first sacrifice. He poured it carefully into the bowl.
“El baron,” he muttered. “El baron, acepte for favor mi sacrificio.” The words felt alien on his tongue. He hadn’t practiced his own religion in years, let alone tried a ritual as exotic as this one.
And yet…the two worlds were not so very different. They practiced Dia de los Muertos in Haiti too, just as they had in the Mexico of his youth. Wasn’t that how he’d met Jean-Baptiste? How he’d learned of the Baron and how willing he was to aid those whose sacrifices were worthy?
The cool stone floor made his knees ache a little, He shifted position, aware with every bit of tingling skin and vampire sense that the atmosphere in the room had already changed. The Lwa were listening, the Gede was listening.
He stared at the cross on the altar, at the dried flowers and the doll he made from straw and cloth. Skulls adorned the cross, their eyes shadowy hollows in the flickering candle light.
In the center was the Baron in his top hat and coat, his face stretched in a skeletal grin. Santos had pasted a photograph of Esperanza’s grave in his hand.
Don’t think about her grave. Think about her alive, about her body warm against yours, her smile, the spicy sweet taste of her lips. Think about her wet flesh, about her body made just for you. The scent of her skin.
His cock didn’t need more than that and neither did Santos. He lost himself in the memories, his mind calling her back with such clarity that he wondered if his prayer-spell wasn’t working already.
When he slips his fingers between her legs, he finds she is wet, ready for him, even though he’s just walked in the door. “I couldn’t wait for you, papucho,” she whispers against his lips, her hips lifting, encouraging him to delve deeper, to rub soft circles over her clit the way she likes. “I can’t wait now.”
“El Baron,” he said again. “Acepte por favor mi sacrificio.”
The handle of the blade was rough in his palm as he held his other wrist over the bowl, but he barely felt when the sharp blade slipped through his skin. Blood dripped from the wound, falling into the bowl, blossoming red in the pool of spicy rum. The air around him grew, shrank back. The Lwa were greedy tonight, the dead wanted their due.
Leaving the wound to heal on its own, Santos ran his hand down the flat muscles of his stomach, his heart already pounding. The air around him seemed to whisper and move as he found his cock, thick and hard, jutting out from its nest of soft black hair. A shot of pure electricity ran through him as he slid his fingertips over the top to the end, then back down the bottom. Air hissed between his teeth.
“El baron, acepto por favor mi sacrificio.” He gripped his cock in his fist, sealing the bargain.
Seventy-two years ago, Esperanza died. Santos had not touched himself, or allowed any other woman to touch him, since that day. It was his vow to her, his last gift. Now he broke it, broke it as an offering. To get her back, he would break any promise, commit any sin. He would turn to el Diablo himself if it would ease the ache in his heart.



Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ohmygod, Sweeney Todd

Okay, well, I was going to show off my new cover, for Day of the Dead, but Blogger isn't letting me. And I was going to write about Sweeney Todd, but honestly? I loved it too much to even write about it. Just go see it. I can't even elucidate how much I loved it, or itemize what I loved about it, because nothing stands out, if you know what I mean. It was all so good. Perfect. Every scene, every performance, every shot, perfect. I was freaking out by the end. You know how, when you get really into a mocie, and you're bouncing in your seat and clenching your fists because you so want things to happen and you so want it all to work out and you so want to see what's going to happen but you're afraid to see, too? That's what I was doing. Then I freaked out some more at the end.

I always love Helena Bonham-Carter but I especially loved her here, like on the level of Fight Club love. She was...beautiful. Johnny Depp... You see from the ellipses how at a loss for words I am. And you know how rare that is for me, ha ha. The thing is, you have two people who you shouldn't root for, particularly Carter. You root for Depp's motive, but when things change, you shouldn't be still gleefully cheering him on and wanting to throw him down on the floor and tear off his clothes. But you do, anyway. Completely. You love them both. You want this crazy bloodsoaked world to become permanent.

Go see it. SO good. So good I want to see it every day.