Archive for the ‘urban fantasy’ Tag
Today I’m pleased to have Bryan Fields as my guest on the blog.
SJT: Welcome back, Bryan. You last visited in January 2014 to tell us about LIFE WITH A FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON. Now the third book in the series, DRAGON’S LUCK has been released. What are David and his dragoness girlfriend Rose up to now?
BF: Since the end of the second book, ‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’, David and Rose bought a gaming studio and have been trying to get a new online role-playing game finished and onto the market. The problem is, David is good at playing games, but knows nothing about making them. The only hope they have of getting a product out the door is to get a new investor, so they go to the BuzzCon gaming convention in Las Vegas to drum up some interest and hopefully some capital.
Once there, they become embroiled a civil war between two factions of Dark Elves living on another world. The god Crom recruits David and Rose to find a weapon capable of ending the conflict once and for all. All they have to do is find it and get back to the convention before the costume contest starts.
SJT: The new book sounds like a fascinating mix of urban fantasy, gaming and Las Vegas. What was the inspiration that gave you this idea?
BF: Inspirations came from all manner of events, usually totally unconnected. I’ll give you some examples:
My wife Noelle and I took our daughter, Alissa, to her first convention a few years ago, and while we were waiting in line to get in I got an email with the contract for “Life With a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend”. That was pretty exciting, obviously. “The Land Beyond All Dreams” was almost finished, so, naturally, I was thinking about what to do with the third book. We go in to the convention, where we were surrounded by all the people in costumes and the dealers and all that, and as I watched Alissa, just, wide-eyed, taking it all in, I kept wondering how Rose would react to that environment. That idea became the background setting.
I was going to set the convention in Denver, but somewhere in there, I ran across this promo ad about vacations in Las Vegas. It said, “With money, one is a Dragon.” Great line, and I immediately moved the convention to Vegas. Really, for a Dragon, it’s the best city on Earth. I found out later that the line the ad used is only half of a Chinese proverb. The rest of it says, “Without it, a worm.” Which is pretty damn Vegas as well.
Games are a big family activity for us, and one of the games the whole family plays is World of Warcraft. One day Noelle came up with the idea of Blizzard, the game’s publisher, building a WoW-based casino in Vegas. The guild we play with in WoW actually has a bunch of game designers in it, including some from Blizzard, and she made a point of submitting it to them as an official suggestion. Well, I loved it. That idea became the Trove, the casino the story is set in.
At one point, I got stuck trying to work out the events of the story, and I wound up breaking out my box of Storymatic cards. It’s a great tool for exactly this situation. You draw a card, and you get a random event, goal, or character description. I drew about six, and one of them was ‘steal a car’. I used them all in one way or another, but that one card established most of the second half of the book, including a running battle across northern Arizona.
You don’t always need a huge, grand idea; it just has to be the right one.
SJT: Dragons are legendary creatures that have inspired many writers. Is your dragon more like a D&D dragon, or did you make up your own rules?
BF: Well, I made up the rules when I was running D&D games, so…yes to both. The dragons of Pern were a great influence, along with the movies of Hayao Miyazaki. I love the fact that people in his movies accept these wonders they discover. I didn’t want the dragons to be monsters. I wanted them to be likable and relatable, even though they are different.
The biggest influence, though, was the player community for the online game ‘Istaria’. It was and still is the only online role-playing game where you can play as a Dragon. I played for several years and eventually joined the design team as a writer. The game lore and the Dragon society created by the player community were a huge influence.
The first book I ever completed was very heavy on Dragons, and they are quite different from Rose and her people. The title, ‘True Flame’, came from the Istarian Dragon community. It means something embodying the quintessence of what it is to be a Dragon, which is a strong theme in that book. Right now, the book is up on blocks for transmission work. I have to write out a major character, and it’s not easy. One of these days… J
SJT: Are you a meticulous plotter, or more a ‘seat-of-the-pants’ sort of writer?
BF: I try to plot out the events of the main story and the major secondary stories, but I know it’s a guideline at best.
SJT: Have you ever put people you know in real life into any of your books?
BF: Yes. Russell, in the first book, was an amalgam of several people, including an idiot who decided to clean his pistol at the table during a D&D game, load it, and leave it pointing at the game master because he didn’t like how the game was going.
There are a fair number of others, but Russell is the only one I’ll give up; mostly because the people he was based on were just awful and I’m glad they are out of my life.
SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?
BF: Charles de Lint did a review of ‘Fire-Breathing Girlfriend’, which, I have to say, was one of the most awesome moments I’ve had as a writer. One of the comments he made was about the escalation of the stakes in each story. Essentially, ‘after you save the world, then what? Save the galaxy?’ Well, he was right, and I took it to heart. ‘Dragon’s Luck’ was pretty much finished by then, so I couldn’t change the stakes in that one. However, from here on out, David is not saving the world any more.
The next story, “Born With Wings”, is about David fighting for custody of his daughter Aparna, who was introduced in the first book. She’s four now, was born and raised in India, and does not know David is her father. David and Rose get to go to Mumbai for a wedding. Thirteen, the talking cat from book two, is back, and it has been a lot of fun catching up with him. David is also having some issues with the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles; he’s trying to figure out how to get a title and registration on a car he brought back from Thirteen’s world.
The biggest change in David’s world is the world itself. Noelle and I decided that it would be fun to merge the backgrounds for our books, so now we are working with a single shared world. The events Noelle covers in “Forging Day” hit at the beginning of “Born With Wings”, and the effects of the Change precipitate most of the events in the story. In some ways, having magic and non-Humans in the world makes things harder for David and Rose, because things people once dismissed out of hand are now entirely possible. They have to be more careful than they have been, which is fun for me.
I don’t know what will happen after this story, but that’s the good part about David being a Hero; there’s always someone out there who needs one.
Today I’m pleased to have fellow Muse author Noelle Meade on the blog. Welcome, Noelle!
SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?
NM: I first talked about writing a book probably in 4th grade. I didn’t think of it in terms of being destined to be anything. It’s just where I ended up.
SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?
NM: That’s a tough question. As a writer, I’m influenced by my experiences, good and bad. I won’t name names for the people involved. My daughter has been a huge influence. Having a child with autism exposes you to an entire world you never knew existed. All of the groups I’ve done table top gaming with have influenced the stories I want to tell. The stories my husband, Bryan Fields, and I built together while gaming since 1990 still have elements that show up in my current writing.
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
NM: Write what pleases you. If you enjoy your story, there’s every chance someone else in the wide world just might be interested too.
SJT: Tell us about your new release, FORGING DAY.
NM: The story is something of a thought exercise. What if a mysterious event were to occur in the modern world and roughly one third of the world’s population became something other than human? What is magic becomes real? I explore how people react to these changes.
Olivia from FORGING DAY was a character I first created better than 17 years ago. The Olivia in my story isn’t quite as ruthless as her predecessor. This Olivia begins in a very bad place. She has a horrible boyfriend and no self-esteem. Through the challenges of changing relationships and fighting monsters both human and other, Olivia discovers her inner strength, and for the first time, a sense of self-worth.
I have received feedback that there’s too much sex, or not enough sex, or too much violence, I wrote from Olivia’s point of view. This is her life and her experiences. I don’t fade to black.
SJT: This is the first book in Olivia’s story. You say you’ve written the next three and are now working on the fifth. Did you know, when you started writing the first book, that this would be such an epic series, or did Olivia’s story grow as you started writing about her?
NM: At this point I’ve written five books of Olivia’s story and have an outline started for the sixth. I’m also writing a companion series from the point of view of her brother, Leo’s, military unit. When I started out I knew it had the potential for other stories. I can’t say that I knew what direction they’d go as I was writing Forging Day, but I left it open for her further adventures. Olivia, like all good adventurers, is a trouble magnet. She kind of has her happily ever after, but that doesn’t have to mean her journey ends.
SJT: You are married to a fellow writer (Bryan Fields). Do you ever work on things together, or does it work out better when you give each other separate writing space?
NM: We work in the same building so driving to and from work every day is our own little writer’s group. We have a shared world but we each write our own stories. We do use a shared calendar to help with continuity. FORGING DAY begins at roughly the same time as Dragon’s Luck, the third book in his series. It’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off of each other and so far we’ve been respectful of not stepping on each other’s toes or taking liberties with each other’s characters, at least not without asking first.
SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
NM: Along with writing, I work full time. I manage my daughter’s needs. Trust me. A teenage girl with autism is a challenge. I have two online shops on Etsy: Designs by Alladania and Alla’s Attic. I sell hand crafted and vintage jewelry in my first shop and knitted, crocheted and sewn items in my second shop. I read. I enjoy gaming – mainly World of Warcraft, Wizard 101 and Minecraft at this point. I play a few Facebook games. I watch a few shows on television: The Big Bang Theory, Survivor, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, Archer and Game of Thrones. I try to squeeze in a few hours sleep here and three – about four hours and change a night. I’ve also been teaching myself to draw. I’m reasonably pleased with my progress. I thought about taking a class, but I’m not sure when I’d squeeze it in.
Today I am pleased to have prolific and award-winning author Jami Gray on my blog. Welcome, Jami!
It’s All in the Lines
By Jami Gray
I’m a writer of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romantic Suspense, which translates to—I not only believe in the strange and unusual, I’m generally promoting it. During my first trip to New Orleans I managed to tick a few things off my bucket list. Of course I’ll be back, because there were too many things left unvisited—cemeteries, the swamp, plantations, just to name a few. However, I did make time to visit Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo (http://www.voodooneworleans.com) for a palm reading.
First to give you a sense of setting—in the French Quarter, especially the closer you get to Bourbon Street and Royal Street, the smell can knock you into the next life faster than a horse drawn carriage. Cobbled streets lined with bars, shops and art galleries crouch below balconied homes. There are relator signs letting you know if a condo comes with its own ghost or not. (Kid you not!)
People abound, on the sidewalk, in the shops and bars, and on the streets themselves. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to try forcing a car down those narrow strips. My hubby, BFF, and I made our way down the sidewalk when we saw the sign: Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo.
We stumbled up two cement steps, brushed by a couple with a stroller heading out, and found ourselves surrounded by strange masks, chicken feet, hand crafted mojo bags, gris-gris, and voodoo dolls. Any and everything designed to help you maneuver your way through the modern karmic world.
Immediately, I’m drawn to the colorful collection of candles nestled next to the beautiful, but strangely disturbing alter to the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau. There are gris-gris, cooled wax, bits and pieces of past offerings while signs stand guard and warn customers “NO TOUCHING”. Not to mention the shop’s proprietress who reiterates the point to one or two customers who somehow miss the signage.
For all the strange items cluttering the walls, shelves and ceiling (oh yes, there were things hanging from the rafters—voodoo dolls, masks, hand-made crosses), there was a quiet peacefulness to the shop.
Eventually BFF and I make it to the back, and submit our names for a palm reading. We patiently wait our turn, debating if we want to pick up some chicken feet or a decorative skull (yep, that’s me).
Our readings are individual. I slip inside to find a white haired woman who could have been any one of the many authors invading New Orleans that week. Her smile is sweet and she has the steadiest gaze I’ve ever encountered. She reads my palm, giving me some interesting insights.
Then she picks up a well-worn stack of playing cards with, of all things, playing kittens on the back. They dance through her hands. I keep my questions silent and let the cards fall where they will. She used a standard Tarot layout the first time, but with each following draw, the layout changes. It’s been awhile since I’ve dusted off my own Tarot deck, so I’m not sure which patterns she used, but what she gave me—hmmm, the future holds some interesting times.
Nope, won’t share, because I’m a firm believer readings are to be kept personal. I will tell you, I’m curious to see how much she gave me comes about.
My BFF and I did compare notes, because you have to enter some of these readings with a dose of skepticism. Yet, there was enough individual predictions in the readings to make us both believe there may be nuggets of truth.
Now, is it a chicken and egg thing? Will our futures fall as predicted because that’s what we believe will happen? Or will it happen that way because that’s the way it’s supposed to? I’ll leave the answer up to higher powers to answer, for now I’ll keep on, keeping on and we’ll see what the future brings.
Pick up SHADOW’S EDGE for FREE for a limited time and dive into the shadows of the Kyn…
THE KYN KRONICLES (Urban Fantasy series w/Black Opal Books)
WRAPPED IN SHADOWS, Kyn Kronicles .5
(Things That Go Bump For The Holidays Anthology)
The magic of the holidays can be hell…
Celebrations abound during the holidays, but this Christmas an engagement celebration goes horrifically wrong. What appears to be a simple murder/suicide hides a vicious surprise. The type of gift Raine and Gavin, elite member of the Kyn, didn’t want humans to unwrap, because revealing the monsters in the shadows isn’t the way to spread holiday cheer.
SHADOW’S EDGE, Kyn Kronicles #1
Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…
When the supernatural lurks in the shadows of the mundane, hunting monsters requires unique skills, like those of Raine McCord. A series of deaths threatens to reveal the Kyn community and forces her to partner with the sexy Gavin Durand.
As the trail leads to the foundation haunting Raine’s childhood, she and Gavin must unravel lies and betrayals to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.
SHADOW’S SOUL, Kyn Kronicles #2
Some nightmares are born of love…
A simple assignment turns into a nightmare when Raine McCord follows Cheveyo to the Southwest on a consulting gig. When the most feared beings of the Kyn kidnaps Cheveyo and leaves Raine for dead, her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand.
Unraveling the Southwest Kyn’s web of secrets and hidden vendettas will either bring them together or tear them apart forever.
SHADOW’S MOON, Kyn Kronicles #3
Even wild hearts can be broken…
Tracker, Xander Cade, confronts an enraged Shifter in a crowded human nightclub, fraying the thin secrecy shielding the supernatural community from public scrutiny. Danger stalks the pack and she must protect her alpha and mate, Warrick Vidis, even if he doesn’t want it.
If they don’t find a way to trust each other and accept their rare bond they risk losing everything-their pack, their friends and each other.
SHADOW’S CURSE, Kyn Kronicles #4
Death and chaos can devastate even the best-laid plans…
After tragedy strikes the Northwest Kyn, leaving the houses in chaos and the Wraiths hungry for blood, the fallout threatens Natasha Bertoi’s carefully laid plans. When the Council sends Darius Abazi, the one man guaranteed to skew the odds, she faces her toughest opponent yet.
As death stalks the Northwest Kyn, can Natasha trust Darius, a man well versed in subterfuge, to uncover the truth before treachery destroys them all?
Coming Fall 2015:
A collection of Kyn shorts, including WRAPPED IN SHADOWS
Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. She can be soothed with coffee and chocolate. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.
Find Jami at:
Black Opal Books: www.BlackOpalBooks.com
Muse It Up Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JamiGrayUFWriter
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/e/B006HU3HJI
You can find all the buy links for both The Kyn Kronicles and PSY-IV Teams, in all formats at:
Today I am pleased to have urban fantasy writer Kya Phillips as my guest on the blog. Welcome, Kyla!
SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?
KP: I was in fifth grade and instead of going out to play with the other kids I sat down in a corner with pen and paper and wrote my stories. That’s when I knew that writing would be in my future at least part time.
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
KP: It is okay, no required, for your first stuff to be a bit crap. The best way to get past that is to keep writing, and writing, and writing.
SJT: Tell us about your new release.
KP: Agent of Light is the first in the Council of Light series. It’s an Urban Fantasy set in Cincinnati, Ohio about a bounty hunter team that track down the worst the supernatural world has to offer.
SJT: There are so many interesting sounding characters in this book I don’t know which one to begin asking you about. So I’ll leave it to you. Do you have a favourite, and how did he or she come into creation?
KP: I can’t say that I have one favourite because they are all so diverse and amazing. I love Vayne so much because she is strong yet has that vulnerability that shows through. She’s chaotic sometimes and very protective of those she loves. I also love writing about Donovan. He is a shapeshifter in both ability and personality. He’s often very stoic, but then he has moments of aggressive or passion and they always surprise me but never feel inauthentic. It makes for fun writing and great reading.
SJT: Your Facebook page says your fiction tends to have a message. Can you tell us what the message in ‘Agent of Light’ is (with giving away any spoilers?)
KP: The main message in Agent of Light is that vulnerability doesn’t negate strength. Vayne’s character arc follows that line. She goes through so things that prove she isn’t the impervious super-agent some might think she is but in the end proves to be stronger and more resourceful than even she guessed.
Also the story touches on the importance of relying on each other. No matter how powerful you are there are some problems that can only be overcome if you work together.
SJT: Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?
KP: I always draw a lot from people I know to fill out my characters. Vayne gets her protectiveness and chaotic nature from me. Her parents Phillip and Helena are a lot of my mom. They are a combination of who I saw my mother as in real life and who she said she wished she could be. I don’t know where Giovanni came from. He’s just a mess.
SJT: What’s next for you, writing wise?
KP: I’m currently working on a SciFi novel, ‘Refugee ship Perseverance’ which follows a group of humans who barely escaped an invaded Earth only to find the planet they took refuge on isn’t as uninhabited as it seemed.
Also I’m working on book two of the Council of Light series, ‘Pawn of Shadows’. It delves into Donovan’s background. Readers will get to learn more about what landed Don in Vayne’s care in the first place. They will see the blossoming of one relationship and the straining of another so it should be very exciting.
SJT: What do you like to do when you step away from the keyboard?
KP: I love to read and watch movies (Just saw Avengers: Age of Ultron which was awesome). I’m a simple girl. A trip to the park or to the pool and I’m happy.
Kyla became a SciFi/Fantasy addict at age three watching Doctor Who on late nights up with her mom. She discovered her love of reading and writing in the third grade reading Robert A. Heinlein and Piers Anthony and trying to create stories like her heroes.
Currently she lives in Ohio with her grandmother and her dog, Mya – named after a SciFi character. She is inspired by the musing of her fellow writers in the Entropy writing group and hanging out at Barberton Public Library.
Today my guest is urban fantasy author Akaria Gale. Welcome, Akaria!
Horror + Romance = Perfection?
By Akaria Gale
I didn’t watch a truly good horror movie until 1999. Audition completely changed my mind of what the genre could be and it was love at first scream. Oh, sure. I’d seen a Friday the 13th here, or a Nightmare on Elm Street there. None of them struck me as good. They were silly, trivial things; forgotten as soon as I shut off the TV. Audition opened a whole new world of foreign cinema. It was thrilling to see what Japanese, Korean, French or Norwegian filmmakers used to terrify their audiences.
After gorging on foreign films for a few years, I returned to American horror and was happy to see the genre had grown up a lot. Slashers and torture porn like the Saw movies still ruled the screen, but a few ambitious tidbits stood out. The VHS and ABCs of Death anthologies showcased the power of short form horror. The Possession explored a willingness to terrify through a different religious lens than Christianity. Also, more women in the genre gave me two of my favorite movies in 2014, American Mary and The Babadook.
So what in the everloving hell does this have to do with writing romance? Well, I tried to carry my love of horror over to book form, but the heavy hitters did nothing for me. Neither did the unknowns. I tried traditionally and self published books. Something was missing. Finally, I turned to urban fantasy and found kindred spirits. Here were mysterious worlds filled with horrible creatures and brave men and women who fought them. But it wasn’t all about the struggle. The protagonists also fell in love. That’s what struck the spark. The light switched on. Bells rang. Angels sang. It felt like coming home. From urban fantasy it was a quick jump to paranormal romance. I’ve never looked back.
In 2010, with dozens of urban fantasy and paranormal romance books under my belt, I knew I wanted to add my voice to the crowd and so began the first outlines for the Awakening series. Last year, the first book in the series, Angel’s Awakening released. Book two is in the works.
I continue to watch a boatload of horror with a generous sprinkling of true crime for seasoning. It’s a type of therapy. There’s comfort in knowing nothing in my head ever quite reaches the twisted nature of humanity. At the end of the day, who would you rather have as a neighbor? Tabasco & milk swigging demons or Gary Ridgway?
Special thanks to Sara for allowing me to share my journey from horror to romance. I’ll see you in my dreams…and nightmares!
Akaria Gale lives in Brooklyn with her husband, children and a disgruntled cat. She is a native New Yorker, slow cooker enthusiast, hard cider advocate who occasionally finds time to write about the secret world right underneath our noses. One day she hopes to give winter the middle finger and become a beach bum.
After a disgraceful two thousand year demotion, Charouth is a heartbeat away from regaining her status as one of Heaven’s Elite angels. Her final mission: to retrieve five rare artifacts and prevent Satan’s escape from Hell. A formidable task that becomes nearly impossible when Azazel, Satan’s top relic hunter and her ex-lover, joins the quest.
Bloody confrontations with the worst the Netherworld has to offer, land her further away from redemption than ever, forced to choose between duty or desire. Two thousand years ago, their passion defied Heaven and Hell. Will love blossom again, or will ancient allegiances tear them apart forever?
Buy now on Amazon Kindle.
Today I am interviewing once more the uber-talented Sonya Clark, following the release of her latest novel TRANCEHACK. Welcome, Sonya!
SJT: TRANCEHACK is a bit more sci-fi and romance than your previous works have been. What was the inspiration behind it?
SC: For starters, I wanted to do something different. I’ve always been as big a fan of sci-fi as I am of paranormal, but I’d never gotten close to writing it before. I had the idea to blend cyberpunk and magic, which is there the book’s title comes from. Trancehacking refers to the particular magical skill in the book of using astral projection to enter cyberspace. I drew inspiration from Neuromancer by William Gibson, and also the classic sci-fi noir film Blade Runner. I wanted to blend magic and technology in a futuristic noirish dystopia.
I also wanted the Magic Born trilogy to be more romance-oriented than the urban fantasy I’d written before. I love reading romance, and loved writing the romantic elements in my urban fantasy. It wasn’t a stretch to put the romance on an equal footing with the rest of the plot.
SJT: Do you have any little rituals that are part of your writing routine?
SC: The closest thing I have to a writing ritual is putting together a playlist for the world and characters. Music is my way into a story. Once I know what a story “sounds” like, I can start writing. Figuring out what a story set in the future sounded like was a bit daunting at first, but I found music that worked for me. I listened to a lot of Depeche Mode and a lot of house music while writing this.
SJT: If you were going away for a year and could only take one book, what would it be?
SC: This question makes me all panicky. Can I take my Kindle instead? 🙂 I have no idea. Some of my favourite books are part of a series, so if I could only take one series, I might choose The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I’d due for a re-read of that one, anyway.
SJT: All your books feature magic in some form. What do you think attracts you to writing about magic?
SC: I find it inspiring. There’s a possibility for endless creativity there, and so much to explore. As much as I know, I could not name *all* of the magical systems practiced in the world. In writing about magic, you’re never going to run out of things to learn and explore.
SJT: When you set up the magical rules of your world, do you draw from the magic of myths and legend, or do you set up your own system, with your own rules?
SC: Usually I start with established rules, then make my own to suit the story and my own curiosity. That’s where the combination of magic and technology in the Magic Born series came from. I wanted to explore these ideas and possibilities. For this I didn’t really do any research. I just sat down and made a list of things in city life that might correspond with the traditional magical elements. For example: Fire = neon and streetlight. Earth = concrete and steel. Air = cyberspace and computers. Water = music and crowds. Then I just went from there and figured out how to develop spells and things as needed.
SJT: Because I know you’re as big a Buffy fan as I am, and that you are re-watching the series, I have to ask this question. How would you explain Buffy to those people who have never seen it and say, “isn’t it like Twilight? Girl in love with vampire?” (let’s assume we can’t hit them over the head…)
SC: Are you sure we can’t hit them over the head?
SJT: Let’s pretend we can’t!
SC: Ha ha. I would start by saying, Buffy is actually more like “vampire in love with a girl.” This is very much her story, she is the central character and the character with the most strength. She is the one pursued by her vampire lovers Angel and Spike. She is the one in both of those relationships with the power. I know it doesn’t always seem that way, but I’ve thought this for a while and now that I’m rewatching the series from the beginning, I still think this.
There are lots of other differences, too. Buffy never lets her romantic life rule her like Bella did. She still has her friends and family. Of course the biggest difference is that Buffy has purpose to her life. I could understand how the first couple of Twilight books could be found compelling, but the fact that Bella didn’t seem to want anything out of life, that she seemed directionless and purposeless without a boyfriend – at first blush I found that weird, and then the more I thought about it, I found it disturbing. Buffy always struggles for normalcy in her life, but she never shies away from her calling as a slayer, either. She knows that this is the greatest purpose in her life, for better or worse.
SJT: It’s been a rather busy year for you. What’s next for you, writing-wise?
SC: The second Magic Born book is in edits right now and scheduled for release next summer, and I’ll soon be starting the last book in the trilogy. I’ve got some other irons in the fire, as well. Mostly my goal is to just keep telling stories. 🙂
A high-profile murder brings Detective Nathan Perez to Magic Born Zone 13. He’s had little experience with the Magic Born and isn’t sure what to expect during his first encounter with a witch, but he never thought he’d be so drawn to her.
Trancehacker Calla Vesper uses magic to break into computers and aid the Magic Born underground. She has no interest in helping a cop, even if he is smoking-hot, but money’s tight and Nate offers a tidy amount for help navigating the Zone. Calla’s determined to keep it all business, but sparks start flying before the investigation even gets started.
When Calla’s trancehacking and Nathan’s investigation uncover a conspiracy, Calla becomes a target. Nate can protect her by keeping her role a secret—but then who will protect Nate?
About Sonya Clark:
Sonya Clark grew up a military brat and now lives in Tennessee with her husband and daughter. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance with a heavy helping of magic and lots of music for inspiration. Learn more at http://www.sonyaclark.net. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Today I’m pleased to welcome Barton Paul Levenson to the blog, who wants to pass on a few tips about writing dialogue.
Writing Dialog–The Concept of “Voice”
By Barton Paul Levenson
To minimize the use of speech tags, it helps in writing good dialog if each character can be told apart just by the way they speak. Do you get any impression of what each person is like in this scene?
“Coming up on Alpha Centauri B III,” Parker said.
“Any readings?” Captain Cohn asked. “Anybody?”
Lee said, “Captain, I see lines of free oxygen in the spectrograph.”
Do you get any sense of Cohn, Lee, or Parker? I don’t. Let’s try this again:
“Coming up on Alpha Centauri B III, Big Mama,” Parker said.
Captain Cohn said, “If you call me that again, Ted, this coffee is going down the back of your shirt. Anybody, any readings?”
Lee said, “Captain, I see lines of free oxygen in the spectrograph. The captain has lost weight, Edward, have you not noticed? There is no call for personal comments.”
See the difference? Parker is either a flirt or a troublemaker. The captain puts up with no nonsense. Lee is formal and polite, and cares about proper conduct.
Here’s a simple exercise to develop a unique “voice” for each of your characters:
1. Write down something they might say.
2. Now write down something they would never say.
As an example of #2, consider an old Bloom Country comic strip from the ’80s. The guys (Opus, Hodge-Podge, a squirrel) are with Cutter John on his wheelchair, playing Star Trek. Opus is Spock, and on encountering an enemy, blurts out, “A POX ON YOUR FIRST BORN, YOU UGLY WART ON A SALAMANDER’S TONGUE!” The guys look at him. “Or was that out of character?”
“No! No! That was just *@#?! Spiffy!” the squirrel says.
You see the point. We all know Spock doesn’t talk like that. Voice helps characterization, it smoothes out dialog, and it can even be a crucial plot point–you might clue in the reader that something is wrong with a character if he suddenly “doesn’t sound like himself.” Is Princess Sylvie depressed? Is Thornpicker having second thoughts? Is Alicia possessed by a demon? Voice is one way to show it.
Barton Paul Levenson has a degree in physics. Happily married to poet Elizabeth Penrose, he confuses everybody by being both a born-again Christian and a liberal Democrat. His work has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, ChiZine, Cricket, Cicada, the New York Review of Science Fiction and many small press markets. His novel “Max and Me” can be downloaded now from Lyrical Press or amazon.com. “Year of the Human” is available from Solstice Publishing or amazon. Barton was banned from entering the Confluence Short Story Contest again after winning first prize two years in a row. His latest novel, THE CELIBATE SUCCUBUS, a YA urban fantasy, is due out later this month from Barking Rain Press.
Blurb for THE CELIBATE SUCCUBUS
“Team Packer” is a covert Catholic strike team against supernatural evil with a secret weapon in its arsenal: 16-year-old Delilah Vincentio—the world’s only Christian succubus. Trained by demons to despise humanity and lead them into sin, her unprecedented capacity for mercy caused her to renounce her place in Hell—and gain an angelic referral to Team Packer.
Delilah is assigned to infiltrate the Order of the Lightbringer, a Satanic cult that plans to make Pittsburgh a test site for the Apocalypse. After Delilah’s identity is almost discovered, Team Packer sends her to high school to hide out until things cool down.
But while Delilah may be reformed from her beguiling ways, she’s still very much a demon—and she hasn’t learned how to play well with others. In fact, trying to fit in and keep a low profile at high school may prove to be a tougher battle than bringing down the Order of the Lightbringer.
More information about THE CELIBATE SUCCUBUS here.
Today I am pleased to welcome friend and fellow Lyrical Press author Sonya Clark to the blog. Sonya’s third book with Lyrical Press, RED HOUSE, has just been released. It’s the second book featuring the wonderful Roxie Mathis, and I took the opportunity to chat to Sonya about the book and writing in general.
SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?
SC: I always told stories. Every child does while playing with their Barbies or GI Joes, it’s just part of the play. But I took it beyond that and recognized fairly early on it was something I could do, something I enjoyed more than the actual play itself. At thirteen I read Ray Bradbury’s DEATH IS A LONELY BUSINESS, his valentine to noir with an unnamed protagonist who was a writer. Something clicked and I knew, I could do that. I could be writer. Well, actually I already was writing, little stories and even (ack) poems. But that was the first time I took the idea seriously.
SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?
SC: Ray Bradbury, obviously. I read a lot of his work at just the right age. Anne Rice and Stephen King too. Back then once you made your way through all the Judy Blume and Madeleine L’Engle you could get your hands on, it was pretty much time to start going through the adult section of the library. The Young Adult genre that is currently thriving is a great thing, a nice bridge that I would have enjoyed having access to when I was a pre-teen and teenager. I still would have read the adult stuff, though.
Once I was an adult myself I read a lot of mystery novels, a lot of thrillers. Then I found urban fantasy and never looked back. There is one category of non-fiction that has been a big influence: books about music. Biographies, histories, criticism – I have dozens of books about music and those stories and music itself has been a huge influence.
SJT: RED HOUSE is your third published novel with Lyrical Press. What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started out?
SC: RED HOUSE is my third published novel but my seventh work of novella or novel length. It took until number eight for me to learn how to outline. There are a lot of different ways to outline and I tried probably all of them at one time or another, but it took a long time to develop a method that works for me. I wish I’d been able to do that sooner.
SJT: Tell us about RED HOUSE.
SC: RED HOUSE is about home. Roxie has lost hers in a flood. Let me go back – MOJO QUEEN is set in Nashville. In May of 2010 there was a catastrophic flood in Middle and West Tennessee, with Nashville being particularly hard hit. When I set out to write a second Mojo book I knew I didn’t want to ignore what happened. I wanted to know two things: how did my characters deal with the natural disaster, and how did the ghosts Roxie deals with in her capacity as a paranormal investigator and hoodoo practitioner weather the massive storm on the spirit plane? I decided it made sense that if mortals were dealing with chaos, displacement, and upheaval, so would ghosts and spirits.
So this book is about Roxie dealing with the aftermath of losing her home. The flood waters took it and there’s no magic spell or rite that will change that. But when a woman hires her to clear a bed and breakfast called Maple Hill of a malevolent spirit that seems to have taken up residence since the flood, Roxie is determined to save somebody’s home, since she couldn’t save her own.
There’s also Roxie’s complicated relationship with a shady but sexy sorcerer, as well as the friendship that serves as a bedrock for her – her vampire ancestor Daniel.
SJT: This is the second book featuring Hoodoo Queen Roxie Mathis. How did the character of Roxie come about?
SC: In the very first version of what eventually became MOJO QUEEN, Roxie was a guy named Larry. He still wore glasses and used them as a sort of shield to help him filter out the colors of the aura that his magical abilities allowed him to see. At some point early on I changed the character’s gender and name, then I changed a bunch more stuff. The biggest change was moving Roxie away from a more traditional magical practice. I gave her my love of blues, which led to her practicing hoodoo folk magic. That’s given her, and the series itself, a bit different flavor from a lot of urban fantasy.
SJT: Music is a big part of your life, and you talk about your musical influences on your blog. How does music inform your writing?
SC: If I didn’t love the blues it never would have occurred to me to use hoodoo in these books. It’s not an unheard of form of folk magic but it’s not terribly common either, and a lot of people confuse it with Voodoo. Voodoo is its own religion. Hoodoo is folk magic. Most of the old practitioners of it you’ll read about were Christian and used the Psalms and other Bible verses in their spells and rites, along with roots and herbs and candles and other items. Roxie is not at all religious because I didn’t want to get into all that. The connection between blues and hoodoo is a strong one and goes back decades. Artists like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and scores of others frequently made hoodoo references in their lyrics. I chose it because it felt like a natural fit with the musical influences of that first book (that set the tone for the series), it helped emphasize the Southern setting, and it wasn’t something found in a lot of other urban fantasy books.
SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’
SC: Neither. I used to pants everything but RED HOUSE broke me of that. This was a very hard book to write and when I finished I swore I’d find a better way to do things. For the next book I wrote I experimented with different types of outlining, finally developing a system that works for me. I would not describe it as remotely meticulous, ha. More like a road map with plenty of room for excursions and course changes. I create a basic document that covers the beginning, middle, and end. Along with that I create a list of story questions – why does this happen, what about this, that needs to happen so how do I work it in? A truly meticulous planner would probably object to calling this an outline but it works for me. It helps me figure out a lot of the whys before getting into the meat of the manuscript – why is this happening, why is this character behaving this way, what is really going on underneath the paranormal plot? Figuring out the book’s theme before I’ve got half the book written is tremendously helpful.
Another thing I do is start a playlist right away. What does this story sound like is one of my questions. I know a lot of writers use character charts and I have tried that but it’s not all that helpful to me. Sure, I need to keep everybody’s eye color consistent so charts are handy for that sort of thing, but filling out goal, motivation, and conflict charts have not been helpful to me. Figuring out what the character listens to, what music really resonates with them, is the best way for me to get to know them. There’s a difference between a character whose theme song, if you will, is Nine Inch Nails or something similar, and a guy who plays Eric Clapton’s Old Love over and over late at night when he can’t stop thinking about that one woman that got away.
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginning writers?
SC: I think Stephen King said it best: read a lot and write a lot. If you can’t or won’t do both of those things, you might want to think about what it is you’re looking for by wanting to write. Other than that, learn as much as you can about craft, especially point of view. Figure out which works best for you, pantsing or outlining. And most of all, finish the book. Don’t get so bogged down in making it perfect the first time and never finish – that’s what revision is for.
SJT: Any other projects in the works?
SC: Later this year I have a futuristic/dystopian paranormal romance coming out from Carina Press. Right now I’m writing the next Mojo book. I have some other things I’d like to work on, it’s just getting the time to do it. I have a six month old baby and she takes a lot of my attention. That made learning to outline even more important! 🙂
Blurb for RED HOUSE:
There’s high water everywhere and she’s about to drown on dry land.
Roxie Mathis lost her home and her livelihood to a devastating flood. She’s lucky to be staying with her vampire ancestor Daniel but she wants to put the pieces of her life back together. Trouble is, Roxie’s lost her mojo. The trauma of almost drowning and losing her home left a deep mark on her.
Blake Harvill left a mark on her too and she’s been missing him in the four months since he left town. Now he’s back with plans to stay. Roxie wants him like she’s never wanted anyone else but can she trust the sexy sorcerer with her guarded heart?
Hired to evict ghosts from the bed and breakfast called Maple Hill, her confidence takes another hit when she encounters a violent spirit she’s crossed paths with in the past. When the spirit traps innocent people in the house Roxie’s going to have to tap reservoirs of magic she’s never touched before. Like physics, everything in magic has an equal and opposite reaction, and Roxie can only hope her desperate spellwork won’t kill her–or conjure up something even more dangerous.
I didn’t have to wonder long if he’d use the shotgun. The blast echoed in the hallway, followed by him pounding on the door.
“Okay, okay.” With my boot I cleared the salt out of the way as I quickly rolled down my sleeve, wrapping the door knob in cloth to protect my hand from burning as I twisted it.
Daniel burst in the room and I slammed the door behind him. “Are you hurt?” A letter opener stuck out of his left shoulder at an odd angle. Blood on his face was the only evidence of cuts that had already healed. More blood stained his shirt.
“One of them chased me, the same one that ran me out yesterday. What did you see?”
He shook his head as if he didn’t want to tell me. “I don’t think everything here wants to be here.”
That tracked with the emotions I was picking up. There was as much fear as anger in the house. “Yeah, that’s what I’m getting. I can feel it. How can you tell?”
He yanked out the letter opener, letting it fall to the floor with a clang. “Ever seen one ghost hurt another ghost?”
Sickening dread leached through my veins. “No, but I’ve heard stories about ones that can.” Sweat slicked my skin as my nerves jangled. We had to get out, fast.
The spirits pressing through the wallpaper became more agitated, shaking pictures off the walls and tearing the paper. Their moans filled the room with a terrible racket. A chill shook me as the temperature dropped. Everything not nailed down began to move, rattling like a violent earthquake. Suddenly the spirits disappeared, leaving a taste of fear in their wake.
The door boomed open, a ghost I recognized filling the frame, one bad enough to make me wish for the soldier. He wore hand-sewn clothes from another time, washed out in that gray murky way of incorporeal beings. Except for the splashes of scarlet on his shirt and coat, his sallow face. The bloodstains shone like liquid rubies and leached out of his form to blend with the haze that covered the entire house. Malevolent energy flowed from him in a noxious wave.
The ghost’s form took on a more solid appearance, his familiar flat black eyes freight-training terror through my blood. My heart slammed out of control as I began to hyperventilate. I may have whispered no, or maybe it was a prayer that passed my lips. The ghost stretched his thin lips into a smile and I screamed.
Daniel erupted in flames.
Sonya Clark writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance with a heavy dose of magic, strongly influenced by her love of music. She lives in Tennessee with her family.
Today I am pleased to welcome new Lyrical Press writer Renita Pizzitola to the blog.
Writing YA for an Adult Audience
By Renita Pizzitola
With the ever growing population of adult YA readers, how do writers appeal to both the young adult and adult readers? For the most part, I’d say don’t change a thing. Isn’t that the appeal behind YA?
Teens view their world from a unique perspective and, often, I think it’s this sense of nostalgia that hooks adult readers. After all, we (adults) will always have one thing in common with YA books…surviving the teen years. And though at the time, life may have seemed doomed by the smallest inconvenience, as adults, we can now look back on those memories fondly. Not to mention, reliving youth vicariously through a fictional hero or heroine (that’s probably a whole lot cooler than you were at that age…or any teen is for that matter) is the kind of escape from reality readers look for.
But, while these aspects can be fun, sweet, even comical at times, I think some readers want more from YA. Specifically, more romance…and not just hand holding. And it’s not only the adult readers looking for this change. Older teens and twenty-somethings crave their own niche of books. They may feel too old for some YA but not ready to move into the adult romance genre and stories about issues that aren’t really relevant to them yet such as marriage, kids or jobs. They need transitional books about life after high school but before the responsibilities of true adulthood. A good middle ground is upper YA (sometimes referred to as Mature YA or New Adult). This genre combines the elements readers love—carefree lives, first love, self-discovery—with more adult content. Eighteen-and-up characters are, typically, considered old enough to make their own decisions. Thus allowing writers more freedom to push the limits on relationships, life events, actions and consequences. And for me, I feel writing upper YA combines the perfect amount of adult appeal with the sweet side of youth and first love. It’s a story I love to tell and hopefully something both teens and adults alike will love to read.
Blurb for GOSSAMER:
Kyla Ashbury is nearing her eighteenth birthday when a mysterious boy appears at school. Her instant attraction to him inexplicably awakens something inside her and she discovers her true identity.
Now, armed with the knowledge of her past, she is forced to leave behind the life she has always known for a new one filled with temptation, faery charm and magic, and a future she wasn’t prepared for.
Kyla is left with a difficult decision…but no matter which path she chooses, someone will get hurt.
Renita Pizzitola writes Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. An avid reader herself, she has always enjoyed stories with witty humor, romance, and fascinating characters. Renita lives in Texas with her husband and two children. When not writing, she enjoys reading everything she can get her hands on, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and playing referee to her two typically adorable children.
Visit www.renitapizzitola.com for more information.
Today I am pleased to welcome Lee Mather to my blog. I connected with Lee through social media some while ago, before he joined the Lyrical Press family. The writing world can be very small sometimes.
The Music Of First Kiss, Last Breath
By Lee Mather
I’m not the sort of person who gets bored easily. I read a lot. I watch too much film and television if I’m honest, and I have a passion for a whole host of music. I’ve been the same since I was a kid, both fascinated and inspired by such creative works.
I think it started out as escapism, when I discovered the unbridled joy you could get in losing yourself in a good book, or being swept away by a pulsating film, or ‘feeling’ a great song for the first time. Books, and film and music became important to me as I grew up.
As I aged, I realised that these interests and the worth I placed on them could be both creative and destructive forces in my life. I became aware that these influences could bring people together but they could also drive people apart.
I remember one occasion when my class at primary school were asked to vote on our favourite songs. To a person, the other children voted for The Key, The Secret, by Urban Cookie Collective which was riding high in the charts at the time (a nice bit of UK Old Skool nostalgia as it happens!). Brought up on a diet of Motown and being a stubborn little chap, I stood my ground and voted for Tracks Of My Tears, by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I recall the episode ending with fisticuffs in the playground after an afternoon of jibes.
Having said that, I think, more often than not, I’ve been drawn to people with similar interests. Some of my closest relationships have been based, certainly in their infancy, on a love of some collective passion. It’s a great feeling being able to share your thoughts and opinions on the things you love.
College and university were times in my life when I relied on my interests to meet new people. I was in an environment when I didn’t know anyone and I was forced to make new friends. Moreover, I was immersed in an entirely new culture. I could go to concerts, get served alcohol, go out to clubs. I was no longer confined to the suburbs of Stockport. The world was my oyster and many a burgeoning relationship was formed on the back of a “Are you a fan of the Stone Roses?” or something along those lines.
It found it amazing how people from a variety of different backgrounds – geography, class, ethnicity, sexuality – could be brought together by a special song, or a good book, or a great film.
It’s not surprising that my influences spill over into my writing. There are glimpses of me in most things I write – whether this is stylistic, or the way I develop plots, or even pieces of the story itself. Some of this, as you would expect, is driven by the authors that have inspired me most, but music and film also creep into my writing on many an occasion.
This isn’t a new thing. How many of your favourite writers reference a musical artist or a film director in their writing? For example, John Avijde Lindqvist is a big fan of The Smiths, something reflected in the title and central theme of his bestselling vampire book, Let The Right One In (a title taken from Morrisey’s song Let The Right One Slip In) and Joe Hill’s love of cinema is clearly apparent in his excellent collection of shorts, Twentieth Century Ghosts. The title story features Stephen Spielberg, and there is another short, Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead, based on the set of what we are led to believe is George Romero’s “Dawn Of The Dead”.
October sees the release of my novella, FIRST KISS, LAST BREATH from Lyrical Press and some of my musical influences have sneaked in there.
Set in 1996, FIRST KISS, LAST BREATH is an urban fantasy about a teenage artist who believes he may have brought a demon into the world through his painting. At the heart of the plot is the relationship between the lead character, Andy, and a girl he meets, Nor. One of the things they bond over is music.
There was a certain nostalgia in writing a coming of age story and I purposely set it in a period when I was a teenager. I wanted to tap into the uncertainties of forming new relationships at that age. I wanted to show the thrill and the fear of chasing a kiss from that girl. I wanted my description of the concert in the story to match the feelings of euphoria I experienced, huddled in the dark with a few thousand people, singing and dancing together with a beer in our hands.
So in this blog, I wanted to divulge the musical influences that feature in FIRST KISS, LAST BREATH and also explain myself a little.
Here are some links to the songs, and why they are in there:
Somewhere Beyond The Sea – Frank Sinatra. I love this song, one of my favourites from the rat pack era. I felt it was a perfect fit for the music collection of Andy’s grandfather.
Octopus’s Garden – The Beatles. I got into The Beatles at University. Mum was always a fan. There was an old record shop in Broomhill in Sheffield that stank of musk and was crammed with students every day. I bought the Red and Blue albums there.
Made of Stone – The Stone Roses. My uncle bought me the eponymous first album when I was fifteen. I remember lying on my bed, revising for my GCSEs, with the album playing in the background. It barely registered until the final song, but when the revolving drumbeat of “I Am the Resurrection” kicked in I stopped working immediately and listened to the song again and again on repeat. This was the beginning of my love affair with “Indie” music that is still going strong today.
Supersonic, Live Forever and The Masterplan by Oasis. The band was massive in the UK when I was at college. I made sure I possessed every song they released back then. I even had bootleg copies of rare radio interviews Oasis gave. The concert at Maine Road that is referenced in First Kiss, Last Breath was one of the highlights of my final year at college.
Rebel, Rebel by David Bowie. David Bowie had to feature. Enough said.
Find out more about Lee and his writing at www.leemather.org.uk
Or follow Lee on Twitter, where he yaps about the things he loves.
“First Kiss, Last Breath” is available from October 8th from Lyrical Press.
“Bloody Parchment“, featuring Lee’s story, “Masks”, is available now from Amazon.
“Fading Light“, featuring Lee’s story, “Wrath”, is available now from Angelic Knight Press.
Lee Mather is a 34 year old writer from Manchester, England. His short, “The Green Man” was published as a standalone in December 2010 by Damnation Books, and he has stories featuring in the anthologies, “Corrupts Absolutely?”, “Fading Light” and “Bloody Parchment: Hidden Things, Lost Things”. Lee is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association.