Archive for May, 2008

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Author Maggie Shayne’s trial by fire

May 30, 2008

By Maggie Shayne, author of Lover’s Bite

Dear Readers,

It’s almost overwhelming how much life has changed for me since I wrote Lover’s Bite, (on sale now) and its sequel, ANGEL’S PAIN (on sale October 1st). It was only days after I had mailed the complete manuscript of the latter to my editor, while I was out for the evening, when tragedy struck at home. It began with something electrical, something shorted or arced or sparked. It might have been the DVD/VCR player, the investigators say. That seems to be the “hot-spot.” At any rate, the spark spread and grew, and my alarm system began to scream, and the local firefighters sped into action. I was actually on my way home, only a half hour away, as all of this was happening. I was traveling through a dead zone, so my cell phone wasn’t responding to the alarm company’s frantic calls. So the firemen had no way of knowing if I was in the house or not.

I wasn’t, of course. But my dogs were. Wrinkles was nearly fifteen, an English Bulldog. And Sally, the Great Dane, was eleven. My cat, Glory, (named for Glorificus, the Demon-Goddess from the second to the last season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) was also home at the time.

I arrived home to see flashing lights and fire trucks, and thought there must be a car accident near my house. But only a few yards closer and I knew. I pulled my car into the first open spot I saw along the roadside, dove out of it, and ran across the road, jumping hoses, dodging firefighters, fumbling with my keys, and yelling, “My dogs! My dogs! My dogs!” over and over.

I got to the front door while a few firefighters noticed me among the melee of trucks and smoke. I unlocked it and raced inside, got about five feet along the narrow entry hall, before I was blinded and choking, and then a pair of strong arms lashed right around my waist and hauled me back out. Their owner, a firefighter, told me sternly that I could not go in there. And I said, my dogs are in there, and turned right around to try again, and again, he yanked me back out, and promised to go find the dogs. He went to get someone to go in with him, because they’re not allowed to go alone, I guess, and I went around back thinking I could get in that way and maybe it wouldn’t be so smoky and I could find my dogs. A fireman followed me, though, and again I was stopped.

At the front door again, I shouted guidance, knowing where the bulldog would be. She sleeps in the little ground floor bathroom. It’s really her room, not used for anything else.

So I told them where she would be as they crawled on hands and knees through the thick smoke, and in a few minutes one of the men came out again, carrying a chubby white body in his arms like he’d carry a baby, and she was clearly dead. He took off his mask after her laid her down and I still don’t know if the tears in his eyes were from the smoke, or seeing such a special dog that way.

A few minutes later, two more men came out carrying Sally, because one could never have managed it. I just sank to my knees in the snow where they laid them, and hugged them and cried. The firemen came and covered them up with blankets for me. The dogs didn’t suffer any burns. It was the carbon monoxide. Wrinkles, it seems, never even woke up from her nap (she spent most of her time sleeping these days). She was right in her usual spot. Sally had run upstairs, the worst thing to do, of course, as smoke rises. But she didn’t even make it all the way down the hall toward the bedroom. So it was fast.

I sat there sobbing in the snow, feeling like the world was ending. But then another firefighter came to me, and when I turned I saw that he had my cat in his arms, and she was alive and fighting mad. I took her and hugged her to me, and felt the first glimmer of relief. Together we went to the car, where we waited until the firefighters got the place safe enough to enter, and the investigators arrived, and allowed me to walk back through the house, while asking me endless questions. And after seeing the utter destruction of Serenity, my home, and just about everything that had been inside it, I was finally allowed to leave. Sooty, with nothing by my car, my purse, and my cat, I went to my oldest daughter’s for what was left of the night. And I knew that my life changed forever.

And, as luck would have it, two days later, I hit a deer and smashed up my Murano. Sheesh! (Luck had nothing to do with it. I was so focused on the negative that more negativity was all I could attract.)

Gradually, though, I got over the shock, and got back in touch with who I am. I’m an optimist. I’m unshakable, unflappable, unstoppable, and always have been. I got a room at a B&B nearby. I hired a crew to come in and demolish and gut my house. One room, my office, survived almost intact. The same crew cleaned that office, and helped me set it up as an apartment. A plumber got the pipes working to the attached bathroom. An electrician made sure its wiring was safe and connected. The phone company came, the Dish Network people came, the Internet people came, and after two weeks, I moved in. Because I needed to be home, even if only in a small piece of it.

Every day of that time in between, I donned safety glasses and a face mask, and joined the crew in the demo work. I worked alongside them all day, every day, (except weekends) working just as hard as anyone on the crew. It was therapeutic to be doing something.

As I write this it’s been three months since the fire. The gutting and cleaning work is done, the possessions we could save have been cleaned and stored. There weren’t a lot of them. I’m living like a college student in a dorm room, with a mini-fridge and microwave, taking my clothes to the laundromat to wash them. I’m living on Healthy Choice and Smart Ones frozen dinners, breakfast cereal with soy milk, and yogurt. Oh, and V-8 Juice to make sure I get my required servings of veggies.

And believe it or not, life is good. Today I finally got my building permit, so by the time you’re reading this, the rebuilding will have actually, finally begun! Serenity is going to be better than she ever was. Everything new, everything made over to fit my precise vision. It’s almost like starting from scratch. The loss of the dogs was the hardest to take. But besides the dogs, I really didn’t lose anything at all. I was insured. And it was just stuff. You can’t take stuff with you. Stuff isn’t who or what you are. Stuff doesn’t make you or break you. It’s just . . . stuff.

They saved some of my clothes, though many others were destroyed by the smoke. I lost three computers, a digital camera, all my John Waterhouse Prints, some of which were on canvas, every stick of furniture on the ground floor with the exception of the little round breakfast nook table and its four chairs, and countless, endless personal things almost beyond measure. But I’m covered. And that’s good. And I’m unharmed, and that’s good. My dogs didn’t suffer, and I know they’re okay, and that’s good. The frame of the house, the roof, the basement, the structure itself, is still solid, and that’s very good. Everything else can be replaced.

I have no doubt this entire episode is going to show up, somehow, in some form, in future books. But bear in mind, none of this had happened as I was writing Lover’s Bite. I was going through a more personal crisis at that point, but it resolved itself, and is better than ever now. Just as I know this latest situation will be.

The first book I will have written, post-fire, will be titled BLOODLINE. It’ll be another vampire story, and we’re looking at May of 2009 for the release.

The other major change in my life, since the fire, is a little guy by the name of Dozer. I didn’t think I was ready for another dog just yet, but my daughters encouraged me to at least go and look at this litter of newborn English Mastiff pups, only an hour away. If I really fell in love, I figured I could put down a deposit, and it would still be two months before I could take the pup home, and by then, maybe I would be ready.

But when I got to the place where the puppies lived, I was introduced to this ten-week old male from another litter. He was unspoken for, and could go home with me that very day, if I wanted. And from the minute he first licked my face, there was absolutely no way I could leave that place without him. His presence here has brightened up my life considerably. Immeasurably, really. He’s an absolute joy, like having a 4000 watt bulb installed that radiates nothing but pure positive energy. It’s amazing.

A favorite saying of mine is, “You are where you are.” The thing is, you can be miserable where you are, or you can find ways to be happy there. It’s a choice. Either way, you are where you are. Being miserable, though, tends to keep you right there, or take you somewhere worse. Finding joy, tends to move you forward, toward where you want to be. So I’m finding joy. I found joy in Dozer, in the work that’s been done so far, in making plans for the work to come, and in enjoying every minute of every day.

Something good and empowering came from this event. I’ve always been a very positive person, and I’ve kept it through some pretty tough times, but I never knew, until now, that I could lose just about everything, and still find happiness and fulfillment and peace down deep inside me. It’s good to know that I don’t need my “stuff” to be happy. I can be happy in a dorm room. Or a tent, I think.

I haven’t overlooked the fact, that, on the night of the fire, those firefighters didn’t know if I was in the house or not. Therefore, they were doing everything they could to get in there and rescue anyone who might be inside. And even with all that, they didn’t get in fast enough to save the dogs. So if I had been there, and unable to get myself out, they wouldn’t have been able to save me. Clearly, that wasn’t meant to be just yet. But it sure does make me appreciate being alive even more. I don’t have even the slightest fear of crossing over. But there’s a whole lot here to enjoy in the meantime, and I intend to do so! I’m so not done yet.

Spring is here, at last in upstate N.Y. I have flowers growing in my gardens, and I just love spending time working on the flower beds and the lawn. I’m able to go running outside again, and that just makes me giddy with joy. Not to mention healthy! I picked the perfect time to train a dog, because I have nothing nice for him to ruin, and by the time I get anything nice, he should be pretty well trained. Now if that’s not a silver lining, I don’t know what is. And Glory is even starting to make friends. (She’s great with dogs—was best pals with Wrinkles and even loved Sally up every now and then.)

Lots of really good things are happening for me. I got the Murano fixed after hitting the deer, and the damage was covered, and the body shop threw in a free detailing, so it seems just like a brand new car.

Oh, and bigger than any of that, I was nominated for the RITA Award for DEMON’S KISS. This is my fifteenth nomination. I have one win under my belt, and I’d love another one, so those gorgeous golden statues can stand on either end of my mantle–once I get my mantle replaced, I mean. At least that golden statue, my prized possession, survived the fire. Thank goodness! And that has to be a good sign, right?

Lover’s Bite might be even better than its Rita-nominated predecessor. Topaz’s heartbroken scenes were real, as I was going through a breakup of my own while I wrote them. The joy of the ending was real, because I was kind of writing my own ending—the one I wanted–and almost as soon as I finished those pages, that was the ending I got. It manifested just the way I had imagined it and wanted it to, and I just love when magic like that happens. This is probably the most personal book I’ve ever written, though the details of the plot, naturally, are far different from what happened to me. It’s the emotion that came straight from my veins onto the page like never before. The romance, the intensity of it, the breakup, the reunion. Very personal stuff.

Next, comes ANGEL’S PAIN in October of this year, followed by BLOODLINE in May 2009.

Maggie’s Website www.maggieshayne.com
Maggie’s Group Blogs: www.storybroads.com
http://witchychicks.blogspot.com

Demon’s Kiss: 12/07
Lover’s Bite: 5/08
Angel’s Pain: 10/08
Bloodline: 5/09

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Gena Showalter’s Second Life Virtual Book Launch!

May 29, 2008

Gena Showalter‘s The Darkest Night is a phenomenon everywhere – even in Second Life! On Memorial Day weekend a book launch was held in the online virtual world to celebrate Gena’s Lords of the Underworld series. Here are some screenshots of the event:

Cover art for Gena Showalter\'s The Darkest Night -- Second Life

The Darkest Night on display outside the event venue

Gena Showalter\'s The Darkest Night, on display in Second Life

You can read the book if you click on it!

Gena Showalter\'s The Darkest Night Second Life Party

Lots of fun was had by all…

Gena Showalter\'s Avatar in Second Life

Including Gena herself, via her avatar (on the left)!

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Is author Laura Anne Gilman a romance novelist?

May 26, 2008

Our guest blogger Laura Anne Gilman explains how writing contemporary urban fantasy for Luna and paranormal romance for Silhouette Nocturne led her to understand that the two are not so very different after all…

By Laura Anne Gilman, author of Free Fall

This month, the fifth book of the Retrievers series, Free Fall, hit the stores.

When Luna first acquired the Retrievers series, I was very surprised, since I had envisioned the world of the Cosa Nostradamus, the magic-using community, as a contemporary fantasy, not a romantic one. Yes, the hero and the heroine had a relationship that would grow and develop, but did that make it romance? Did that make me a romance writer? After all, my previous novels were dark fantasy/horror, and despite my many jokes that dating = horror, there usually isn’t all that much crossover.

And then, when my proposals for Silhouette Nocturne were accepted (the first, THE NIGHT SERPENT, will be out under the name Anna Leonard this year) I had to address the question again. Was I a romance writer? Or were the collected masses going to discover that I was, in fact, a fantasy writer under semi-false pretenses, and toss me out on my ear?

The truth is probably somewhere between, as truth often is.

No, I am not a romance writer, in the classic sense of the term. I do, however, write about people who are in love, in all the stages of that love – beginning, ending, and all the bits in-between. Why? Not because I like a happy-ever-after ending (fans will know that my endings are bittersweet, as a rule). No, I write about love because I believe that’s the crucible where humans – and non-humans – show their true selves. The selves they want, the selves they are, and the selves they can become. And sometimes, those selves don’t get a traditional Happily-ever-after, no matter how much they might deserve one.

In Free Fall, Wren and Sergei have been through hell – self-doubts and doubts about each other, external violence and loss, and the immense burden of trying to do the right thing, no matter how badly it hurts. They’re not doing it because they’re heroes, or because they have a Destiny. They’re doing it to make a life they can share, in a world, however flawed, that can accept and support them and their friends. Love isn’t all you need, in the worlds I write. It’s not the answer, it’s not the cure. Love – romantic and fraternal, the love between partners and between friends, and even, yes, between species, since the Cosa Nostradamus is not just humans – is the reason, the purpose, and the weapon they carry, even if none of them would ever willingly admit it.

There’s no happily-ever-after guaranteed in the Cosa Nostradamus. But there is a reason to strive, to get up every morning – or night – and do it again. And that, to me, is the perfect ending.

~Laura Anne

 

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Are Vampires Dead or Just Mainstream?

May 26, 2008

By Jenny B, digital content manager

From Smart Bitches and Dear Author, another salvo in the debate about whether the paranormal romance reading community is ready to move on from reading about vampires.  This time, a different take in that vampires are not “over”, just moved into the mainstream.

It’s an interesting point, but for me personally, I will never tire of reading about vampires.  I love a dark, brooding vampire hero, and the vampire heroines I’ve read tend to be of the kick-butt, take-charge variety, which I also like in heroines generally.  If they’ve gone mainstream, so much the better — that just means more books for me to sink my teeth into!  (Sorry, I never could resist a bad pun!)

What do you think? Are vampires dead? Have they become mainstream? Are you finished with them?

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Blog for a cause: online auction for diabetes research

May 20, 2008

By Jenny B, Digital Content Manager

Want to win some great prizes from some of your favorite authors and the chance to have your name in a book? Visit Brenda Novak’s 4th Annual On-line Auction for Diabetes Research.

I copied this from Brenda’s website: “Welcome to my 4th Annual On-line Auction for Diabetes Research. Thank you for supporting my efforts to make a difference to my son and all those battling diabetes. In the first three events, we raised over $250,000. Our goal for this 4th auction is $300,000!

“Once again I’ll be offering a fabulous prize package to the person who places the highest number of bids over all (even if that person doesn’t win a single item). This year it will be a brand new Camcorder (retail value of at least $1,000), Your Name In My Next Book, an autographed copy of TRUST ME (on sale 5/27/08), and chocolate (lots of chocolate)!”

It’s a great cause and there are lots of good prizes including a weekend getaway at Susan Wigg’s guesthouse, mentoring and more! Visit: http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/

 

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Author Toni Andrews’ Urban Fantasy Setting

May 20, 2008

Toni Andrews, author of the Mercy Hollings series of urban fantasy books (available now from MIRA), shares her real-life inspiration for the setting of her two Mercy Hollings novels, Beg For Mercy and Angel of Mercy

By Toni Andrews, author of Angel of Mercy

Real Balboa Tales and Fantasy Intertwine in the Mercy Hollings Series

This morning, while listening to public radio, I heard a discussion with three very famous novelists about revealing private stories to the public, and whether or not that’s a good or a bad thing. I listened, fascinated, because it’s a topic near and dear to my heart!

I write “Urban Fantasy,” which is generally defined as supernatural things happening to regular people living in an everyday environment. It goes without saying that the supernatural occurrences need to be extraordinary. But I have always loved novels that really convey a sense of place, like James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, set in Southern Louisiana. So I wanted the setting to be at least as special as the paranormal elements.

For my current series, I chose a place where I once lived: Balboa, California. This is the older, funkier section of Newport Beach, and has little in common with the glittering environs portrayed on shows like The O.C.

The second novel in my series, Angel of Mercy, was released May 1st, and I had a launch party at the Newport Landing, a very real restaurant that appears often in the series. I got to town a few days early and spent a lot of time walking around, investigating my old watering holes and haunts, and inviting everyone I ran into from the old days to come to the launch event.

At the party, a couple of things happened that were very relevant to the topic of private stories being revealed in public. First, almost everyone who had read the first book in the series (Beg For Mercy , Mira, September 2007) started to speculate on which character was based on them. In some cases, they weren’t that far off, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I tried to be vague and mysterious. A few others were annoyed that, so far, they couldn’t find themselves in the series, and they demanded that I put them in!

The second thing that happened was that people started to recount old stories that are simply too good not to include in the books, and I found myself jotting down notes. In some cases, I’m going to have to tread a fine line to avoid liability. But I don’t think I can leave out the local bartender who was a nudist, and often hosted large barbecues at his place, during which he was known for standing way too close to the hot grill with nothing to protect his…well, you get the picture. Or the older lady who owned the diner where she was famous for loudly and profanely insulting her customers, a behavior that did not do a thing to shorten the line to get in on most mornings.

Most of the stories are fairly light anecdotes and, in some cases, the recognizable characters have passed away in the intervening years. But there are some more serious tales, too. I probably will use them because these real stories add so much authenticity. I think it’s often the authentic frame that makes the fantasy believable.

And, I love Balboa. I get fan mail from readers who say that, after reading the Mercy Hollings books, they plan to visit this unique and eclectic hamlet. I hope they’ll think of me while they ride the Balboa Island Ferry, munch on a frozen banana, and try to figure out which of the local “dives” most resembles Jimbo’s Bar!

-Toni

Toni’s Links:

Watch the Book Trailer for Angel of Mercy 

Toni Andrews’ website

Toni Andrews’ blog

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Author Gena Showalter’s Great Beginnings

May 15, 2008

How do you write a great opening to your paranormal romance novel? NYT author Gena Showalter shares what has worked for her Lords of the Underworld series…

By Gena Showalter, author of The Darkest Fire, The Darkest Night, The Darkest Kiss, The Darkest Pleasure, and many more!

The opening paragraph of a book is, perhaps, a writer’s one and only chance to hook her reader into the story. Perhaps that’s why I went back and forth with the beginning pages of The Darkest Night, The Darkest Kiss and The Darkest Pleasure. I love these dark, seductive books, the world and characters I’ve created, the mythology I’ve played with, and wanted my readers to love them, too. But sometimes it’s hard to paint a scene, show a bit of characterization, and convey a sense of what’s to come with only a few words. Hopefully, after all my vacillating, I’ve done that! Here’s a peek at the first paragraph of chapter one in each of the books mentioned above:

The Darkest Night — May 1, 2008

Every night Death came, slowly, painfully, and every morning Maddox awoke in bed, knowing he’d have to die again later. That was his greatest curse and his eternal punishment.

The Darkest Kiss — June 1, 2008

Anya, goddess of Anarchy, daughter of Lawlessness, and dealer of disorder, stood on the edge of a crowded dance floor. All of the dancers were human females, beautiful and nearly naked, chosen specifically by the Lords of the Underworld to provide the night’s entertainment. Both vertical and horizontal.

The Darkest Pleasure — July 1, 2008

Reyes stood on the roof of his Budapest fortress, five stories up, his feet balanced precariously on the highest ledge. Above him, moonlight seeped red and yellow from the sky, blood mixed with fickle gold, dark mixed with light, wounds freshly cut in the endless expanse of black velvet.

I hope you enjoy reading about these Lords of the Underworld, immortal warriors who opened Pandora’s box and found themselves cursed to carry a demon inside themselves, as I enjoyed writing about them!

For more information, you can visit http://www.lordsoftheunderworld.net

-Gena