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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Guest Post: Historical Romance Author Wendy Soliman

Wendy Soliman writes historical romance and intriguingly, marine mysteries. Since I’ve never read a marine mystery, I will certainly be checking them out! She has written for Robert Hale, Samhain Publishing and now, Carina Press. Wendy is a true worldwide wanderer, and currently lives in Andorra, a tiny country you never hear about except at the Olympic Games, during the opening ceremonies. (At least, that’s how I heard about it. I remember scouring the globe until I at last found it. Yeah, it was before the Internet–probably in 1980.) Wendy’s upcoming book is called OF DUKES AND DECEPTIONS, and this one is a Regency Romance.

~*~

Hi, Tia, and thanks for inviting me to visit your blog.

I grew up on the Isle of Wight in southern England, surrounded by historic buildings, Roman ruins, spooky castles and constant reminders of the Island’s rich past. I suppose a love of history seeped into me without my being aware of it, stirring my imagination, because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make up stories, often writing them down to entertain my friends. Looking back, the only things I can recall being any good at when I was a kid are riding horses and writing stories. I still do both, lots of years on. The only difference is that my stories now get published!

I made my first attempt at a full length novel when I was fifteen. Nowadays, any kid showing that sort of initiative would be sent on courses and given all sorts of encouragement. If that had happened in my day, who knows…

Anyway, my next novel came about ten years later and languished in a back of a cupboard, until I was moving house and setting up home in Andorra some eight years ago. (In case you’re wondering, that’s a small principality high up in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain). I read that novel through and it set me off again…only now I had the time to devote to it properly. Little did I know what I’d set in motion.

I was lucky enough to be successful quite quickly and had five historical romances set in the colourful Regency period published by Robert Hale in England. With those under my belt I gathered up my courage and decided to have a crack at the American market. A Reason to Rebel, published by Samhain in print and e-book form is the result. And I’m pleased to say that I have two more historicals coming out this year with Carina Press. The first, Of Dukes and Deceptions, will be released as an e-book on March 14 and Scandalous Propositions comes out on September 12.

People often ask me where I get my inspiration. It’s a difficult question to answer. I guess I simply have the gift of imagination, a bit like some people can draw, cook, make beautiful flower arrangements and stuff like that. I admire people who are able to because I can’t do any of those things.

I never plan my stories but simply ask myself that age old question, ‘what if?’ and let my characters take over. With Of Dukes and Deceptions I asked, ‘what if I create a young, single, handsome and, naturally, rich duke who’s been brought up to consider himself superior to ordinary mortals and behaves accordingly?’ What does he need to have happen to make him see there’s more to life than riding roughshod over everyone’s feelings and thinking of no one but himself?

The love of a good woman is the obvious answer but he’s swamped by those at every turn. So when he visits a stud farm he counters his boredom by striking a wager with his henchman that he’ll bed the poor relation, Alicia Woodley, before the end of his sojourn at Ravenswing Manor. But this time he’s miscalculated. Alicia is disgusted by his arrogance and wants as little as possible to do with him. But at the same time she feels herself gradually falling under his thrall and can’t help being flattered by his attentions. Will she be able to hold out against his coercive charm?

Find out when Of Dukes and Deceptions is released by Carina Press on March 14 and visit my website www.wendysoliman.com where you can read the first chapter and enter a contest that offers you the chance to win a copy of the book.

Happy reading!

~*~

Wendy twitters as @WendysWriter and also has a Facebook page. To make Wendy feel welcome, please leave a comment about either things that set your imagination on fire, or the most exotic or unusual place you’ve ever been. I’ll start!

 

Today Only – The Sevenfold Spell for Free

Want to check out my writing without paying for it? For today only, Carina Press is having a promotion for The Sevenfold Spell–use coupon code SEVENFOLDFREE at checkout to download The Sevenfold Spell for free! Remember, this works for today only!

If it’s no longer Wednesday by the time you read this, you can still get a free story in my Free Reads section. It’s called “Wish by a Hazel Tree”. Plus, the opening scene of The Sevenfold Spell is posted here. Just scroll down.

Try before you buy! 🙂

Collecting Memories

Can you guys help me? I’m collecting memories.

As I work on my works-in-progress, in the back of my mind is a time travel historical I have started. It basically takes place all throughout the 20th century. Pick a decade. Yup, I have a scene that takes place in that decade.

So what I’m doing is collecting memories. My own grandmother grew up in the 20s, and told me all sort of cool things. Much of it has made it into my story just as little snippets here and there. My dad also has helped with is recollections from the 40s and beyond.

Specifically, I’m looking for road trip memories. What do you remember from road trips in the past that are simply gone today? Part of the reason I like driving up and down US-1 is there are so many old buildings that trigger all these old memories. But my memories only go back as far as the early 70s. Do you have any that go back even further? They don’t have to be your memories; you can get your parents talking about the good old days, and give me a few snippets.

To get you going, here’s a snippet from that time travel story that uses my memories of old hotel rooms:

Adele opened the door and looked around in delight. “Look at that TV! And the phone! Oh, my gosh! Where’s the remote?”

Mike smiled as he kicked the door closed. He noticed with a frown that there was no deadbolt. “Del–they didn’t have remotes back then.”

She peered at the TV. “How do you turn it on?”

He looked at it. No power button. Nothing looked obvious. “I’m not sure.”

“There’s labels on the dials–here’s the volume knob. Oops–here we are!”

The image grew from a dot in the middle. A middle-aged man was reading the news into a microphone with the assistance of some handheld notes.

“Hey, that’s Walter Cronkite,” Mike said.

“Cool! Who’s president, now?”

“Ford, I think–or maybe Nixon.”

“Think they have any discos, now?”

“Del–even if they did, they probably wouldn’t in this small town.”

Adele stood up and looked around some more. “What’s that thing attached to the bed?”

Mike stared at the unfamiliar device. “Is that a coin slot?”

Adele peered at the writing. “Magic Fingers. Sounds indecent. Give me a quarter.”

Mike fished a quarter out of his pocket. Adele put it in the slot. The bed immediately began to vibrate.

“Oh my God,” Adele said. “It is indecent.” She lay down on it.

“Great. Just what I need. To be stuck in a motel room with my sister while she’s feeling indecent.”

I’m not sure if it would have cost a dime or a quarter, but I think I remember it costing a quarter. I got the news description by watching old video clips of Walter Cronkite. As I read this, I realized that I need to describe the phone and other stuff.

Did I trigger any memories for you?

Free Reads, Recent Reads and Upcoming

I’ve been reading some good books:

The Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton

This is a fun novella that combines steampunk, detective mystery and and a fun science fiction element that would make detective work infallible. Well, almost. It is a very fast read, with a bewildering, time-twisty final battle that I’m itching to reread. I hope Mr. Appleton writes more steampunk!

In Enemy Hands by K.S. Augustin

This is a science fiction romance with an unusual hero–his memory is erased every two days. And the heroine is almost as much of a mental wreck as he is, thanks to the three years she recently spent in detention, under suspicion because her old research partner went rogue. Somehow, Ms. Augustin makes you care about these two very much.

I recommend both these books–check them out!

Upcoming Guest

My guest this week will be Wendy Soliman. Wendy writes historical romance. Her most recent title is Of Dukes and Deceptions. It intrigues me because its not just a straight historical romance, but it also has some suspense in there. It is Wendy’s fourth book, and she’ll be with us on Thursday.

Free Read

My free prequel for my Cinderella retelling is now available. It’s called “Wish by a Hazel Tree” and draws on the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella. Download or read it here. I hope you enjoy it!

Adventures in Songwriting

So I’ve been writing a song.

A couple of years ago, I started this running joke with my husband that something I often say to him would make a great country music song. Last year, I decided to write that song. So I wrote out the little poem. I didn’t have any intentions of writing the music, because I’ve never done that sort of thing before. But just last month, I came up with this little tune.

I am a mediocre musician. I mean that. I can play some intermediate pieces (Fur Elise–including the hard parts), but it takes a LOT of practice and even then, I rarely give a flawless performance.

BUT, I know some music theory. I probably should learn more, but right now, I know what I know. I know what intervals are, about the Circle of Fifths, tonic, dominants, subdominants; majors and minors, and various (but not all) chord types. Is that enough? I’m sure it isn’t.

I also know what I like the sound of, and getting it onto the musical staff can be a challenge. Learning more music theory would probably help. For now, I don’t attempt to compose until I have the tune firmly in my head. I’m pretty good at transferring a tune from my head to the piano, but I’m not so good about getting the timing right on the staff. It’s getting easier.

I’ve also been looking into the songwriting scene. As in, where the heck do I start? Since I’m a writer, I know about the pitfalls of the publishing scene; about scam agents and unsavory vanity publishers. I didn’t have a clue about this with songwriting. Google “songwriting” and you get a lot of dubious sales pitches.

So, drawing on my knowledge of the publishing industry, I looked for a songwriter’s association. After all, SFWA has lots of information about getting started in publishing (God bless SFWA!), so I knew a songwriting association would have something similar. And I found the Nashville Songwriters Association International. There, I learned about things called PROs. Apparently, you are supposed to join a PRO as a serious first step. Publishing has nothing like this. PRO stands for Performance Rights Organization, and there are two open to beginners, BMI and ASCAP. I have not joined either one yet, I figured I’d better finish my song, first.

And right now, its not high on my priority list. This little tunes in my head will just have to stay there until I can scrawl them out on a hand-drawn staff, or sit at the computer with Finale Songwriter. The joy of writing music is I can do it with my daughter right beside me, who sits there and sings my song as I tweak it. I can’t do that with writing prose.

Speaking of prose, I’ve also been packaging my free prequel, which is finished. I am determined to post it this weekend, which will be our first free weekend in a while.

Does anyone know any songwriters, or anyone in the music industry? I know John Anealio, who knows I dabble in music, and I’ll probably hit him up for a critique.

10 Blurb Elements that Work for Me

I was reading a Carina Press blurb–or, excuse me, the back cover copy–when I experienced a burning desire to read the book. And that inspired a post about blurbs that work for me.

If these elements are in the blurb, it’s pretty much an auto-buy for me.

Warrior Women. I even bought a nonfiction book once called Warrior Women. It was all about various fierce women in history, mostly vicious backstabbers and poisoners, but with a fair share of actual warriors. You put a woman with a sword on the cover and I’m half-sold already. I have not read any warrior women books lately. Any recs? (Other than urban fantasies?)

Ancient Historical Setting. Doesn’t matter the culture. If it’s BC, I’m all over it. I’m dying to read a book about the ancient Phoenicians. One book I have on my nook is Stephanie Draven’s Lily of the Nile.

The Word “Epic”. Epic fantasy, epic historicals, epic  family sagas–they all work for me. My current favorite epic is David Anthony Durham’s Acacia series.

Secrets. Hint at a secret in the blurb and right then and there, I experience a burning desire to know what that secret is. The book I was looking at over at Carina Press was of this sort, but there are actually two on the front page right now, River Time by Rae Renzi and Dangerous Secrets by Katie Reus. Dangerous Secrets also has the added allure of a Character in Disguise (see below).

Clash of Cultures. Whether it’s a time travel romance or Shogun, I love clashes of cultures. Or at least, I like reading about them. Especially when a romance is involved.

Here are some auto-buys, with caveats:

Dystopian. Not quite an auto-buy if I feel it’s going to be too gritty. But I just love near-future dystopian novels. But near-past is good as well. My perennial favorite is Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank.

Mythology. I enjoy reading about made-up mythologies and interactions between deities and humans. I don’t really like reading about actual mythologies. I like to be able to fully suspend disbelief and if its an actual belief system I have a little trouble. Dare I mention Dragonlance as my favorite example? Holly Lisle’s Hawkspar is also good.

Recent Historical Setting. I love stories that take place in the 20s through the 50s. Really, I like any period, but recent historical periods are of especial interest for me at present. Jacqueline Winspear writes an excellent mystery series set in the 30s, and it begins with Maisie Dobbs.

Characters in Disguise. This goes along with secrets. If the blurb mentions someone who is hiding their identity for any reason from superhero identity to hiding from the Mob, I’m all over it. I’m overdue for a novel of this sort.

Vastly Different Cultures. I’d love to read a romance that takes place in India right now. With Indian characters. Preferably by an Indian author. Any recommendations?

What blurb elements work for you?

Guest Post – Author Julie Moffett

JulieMoffett

Julie Moffett is the author of No One Lives Twice, a hilarious spy adventure novel. She’s also the author of eight other novels. I loved No One Lived Twice; as I recall, during one scene I was laughing so hard that I got chest pains. It must have been muscle spasms because I’m still here. I can’t say reading her novels is hazardous to your health, but it did have me worried there for a while as I gasped for breath and clutched my chest. The second novel in the Lexie Carmichael series (No One to Trust) is due out in June, plus Her Kilt-Clad Rogue is coming out in August. Read more about Julie and her books at her website, and be sure to catch  her on Facebook and Twitter.

Research Anyone?

Right from the start I’ll make a confession and admit I got the idea for this blog from Tia. She’s read my Carina Press novel, a humorous techno-spy mystery titled NO ONE LIVES TWICE, and told me she’s curious about the technical research required for the book.  Did I do exhaustive research or did I make it up?

NoOneLivesTwiceWell, the answer is (drum roll)…I researched. A lot. Since my heroine is a hacker and her closest friends are brilliant computer nerds, I knew I had to get it right. Lucky for me, my immediate family is full of geeks. I bounced ideas off of them once I had an overall plot in place. I asked dozens of questions about computers, networks, hardware and software. Not only did I need to know the types of computers my geeks would use, but how they would use them. Moreover, my characters couldn’t just act like nerds, they had to talk like nerds, too. So I listened, eavesdropped and made mental notes when members of my family discussed computers and technology issues. I purchased the New Hacker’s Dictionary (yes, there really is such a book!) and read it so my characters could speak in actual geek lingo. In terms of the technology, I knew where I wanted to go and had tons of ideas, but alas, many of my hopeful scenarios were squashed because they weren’t technologically feasible. But I didn’t give up. I quizzed my family ad nauseam until I found something that worked.

But the research wasn’t all about computers and technology. NO ONE LIVES TWICE also has some intricate scientific elements that needed to be as accurate as possible. I spent several weeks studying a particular aspect of the novel (sorry, can’t be more specific here without giving away the plot). I had piles of notes, papers and online sites bookmarked for reference and I even interviewed a medical doctor. Okay, I’ll confess again and admit I’m a former journalist.

In terms of the spy stuff, well, I almost joined the CIA right out of college. (I opted instead for international journalism.) I got an M.A. in international affairs with a specialty in Russian language from George Washington University in Washington, DC. I attended a year of grad school at the University of Warsaw in Poland behind the Iron Curtain when it was still the Cold War. As a student, I smuggled out Solidarity pamphlets and letters to officials in the West. Eventually, I worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and disseminated information that helped topple the Berlin Wall. So, yeah, I really, really dig the spy stuff!

Did I make things up for my novel? Um, yeah. Some. The novel is fiction, after all. But the devil is in the details and I really did try to make it as plausible and accurate as I could while providing a fun, light and entertaining read.

To sum it up, I’d say less than one-fourth of the research I did made it into the story. There were many fascinating tidbits I wanted to slip in, but I had to restrain myself. Plot, pace, humor and characterization were paramount. But I do love to research!

So, how about you? How important is accurate research in making a story both believable and enjoyable? Can you tell when an author hasn’t done his/her homework? If you are an author, how much emphasis do you put on your research?

What I Learned From Elizabeth Moon

Longtime readers of my blog(s) know that one of my favorite books of all time is The Deed of Paksennarion, which I think of as one book because I read it in an omnibus edition. I have reread the entire series more times than I can count. And without a doubt, what I learned from it was point of view.

The execution wasn’t perfect, especially in the first book. The few times Moon shifted out of Paks point-of-view was quite a jolt to me as a reader. But the reason why is clear–I was so immersed in Paks point-of-view that to shift out of it required a bit of an effort.

The book begins as Paks runs away from home to join a mercenary company. A mercenary company is simply an army-for-hire. It starts with Paks as absolutely green–she has only held a sword before. She is taller than most women, but no stronger, and no better at the warrior arts than anyone else. In other words, she is an ordinary soldier.

The series is about her journey from being ordinary to extraordinary, from soldier to paladin. When you think of a paladin, think of an idealized knight, like Lancelot or Galahad.

Here’s a random quote from the opening chapters, with deep point-of-view passages bolded:

Paksenarrion lay quietly as Maia cleaned and poulticed her thighs; a large, cool poultice already covered the swollen half of her face. She’s been given a mug of beef broth and a half-mug of numbwine, and she felt as if she were floating a handspan above her head. She heard the door open, and saw Maia glance up.

Notice the point-of-view stays on Paks even when it is Maia who takes the action. Here’s another selection, a few lines down.

Paks swallowed and tried to speak. Not much sound came out. She tried to look at Kolya, but found she couldn’t turn her head. Kolya suddenly appeared beside the bed. Paks blinked her good eye. She had not really looked at the witness before. Now she noticed black hair streaked with gray, black eyes, dark brows angled across a tan, weathered face. She blinked again, her eyes dropping to Kolya’s broad shoulders, her arm–the sleeve of her robe covered the stump of her left arm.

See how we become Paks? Everything is told through her eyeballs, except for very infrequent POV breaks. To prove it, I opened the book to the second volume, and my eye landed on this paragraph:

Paks tried to hide her feelings, tried to argue herself into calm. She had spoken out once–that was enough for any private. As long as she wore her Duke’s colors, she owed him obedience. He was a good man; had always been honorable … she thought of the High Marshal and wished she had never met him.  He had raised questions she didn’t want to answer. Surely the Duke’s service was worth a little discomfort, even this unease.

Not only are we still in Paks head, but the language remains completely transparent. It never calls attention to itself. You don’t spend much time thinking of the author’s writing, even to admire her prose. You are simply lost in the story. Here, in the simplest language possible, we feel Paks moral ambiguousness. You know, even though she argued herself into putting up with the unease, that it is not over yet. And indeed, this is the beginning of Book 2, where many more quandaries of right vs. wrong presents itself.

Further on in book 2, Paks has a minor mission to fulfill, a delivery to make. Paks is told to deliver a message to a certain person, and the reader knows who it is. Later, however, she is bespelled, and her memory is replaced with another mission. The reader is not told that she is bespelled; simply Paks goes to do something else instead of the original mission. I, the reader, of course, still have my memories, and when she is going to someone else to deliver messages, I was frantically back-paging to see if I remembered it right. And I did. I wondered if the author had screwed up. I was left as clueless as Paks was–even worse, because I knew what should have happened, but Paks just thought this was what she was supposed to do.

But I trusted the author, so I read on. Hundreds of pages went by, and I forgot the incident as I was caught up in the story. Then, toward the end of Book 2, I reached this little scene.

This next example contains a minor but awe-inspiring spoiler, so if you want to read the novels, you might not want to highlight the following text. I would hate to ruin this moment for you. If you’ve read it, or don’t think you’ll read the story, go ahead and highlight this:

Paks is captured by an enemy that she hardly knows exists. A dark elf is taunting her:

“… Perhaps, also, you have been used by those you think your friends. Certainly the elves have not treated you fairly, stealing from you and clouding your memory.” He reached out quickly and laid a cold, dry hand along her brow. As suddenly as light springs into a dark closet, she remembered the Halveric’s scroll that she had sworn to take to his wife in Lyonya–and remembered the elves who had sent her instead to Brewersbridge, to take their messages, while they took the scroll. The iynisi smiled and nodded.

Not a word, not a hint in all this time that anything was amiss, and the author even taking upon herself the risk of looking incompetent, all so she could deliver this gem late in that book. It’s fabulous.

If you’re struggling with point-of-view, I highly recommend this series. It begins with Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, then goes on to Divided Allegiance, and concludes with Oath of Gold. Recently, Elizabeth Moon came out with another book in this series, Oath of Fealty, which is from the point-of-view of a minor character in The Deed. I’ll mention it here when I start reading it. You can read more about Elizabeth Moon at her website, where I see she has another book out this March.

Up This Week!

I scheduled another “What I learned from …” post for tomorrow morning, this one on point-of-view. I’m especially happy with this post–I think you’ll like it. I really think I’m going to like this blog series!

You also don’t want to miss my guest for this week, Julie Moffett, who wrote the fabulous No One Lives Twice, a James Bond-esque spy adventure story featuring a geeky computer chick. I loved it! Julie’s scheduled to be here on Thursday.

I hope everyone has been well! It’s been very rainy in my neck of the woods–I swear I have not seen the sun for an entire week, and I am NOT exaggerating.

Went Nuts Buying Books

Now that I’m not reviewing books anymore, I kinda went nuts buying books because, you know, I just don’t have enough books here. So here’s what I bought. First, I went on a shopping spree at Carina Press (where I linked because I get a generous affiliate fee with each purchase – CARINAEXTRA10 for an extra 10% off).

I whisked by Drollerie Press and bought:

  • Faerie Blood by Angela Korra’ti (contemporary fantasy)

Oh, and a few months ago, I bought, these, which are still in my To Read file:

  • Sugar Rush by Kimber An (YA science fiction romance)
  • Steamside Chronicles by Ciar Cullen (steampunk fantasy)

Back to last week. Just a few days ago, I went and bought the entire Millenium Trilogy as an ebook bundle from Diesel Ebooks, my new favorite ebook store: (not sure I have them listed in the proper order):

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
  • The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson
  • The Girl who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson

Plus, I bought a book in hardcopy:

  • Mistborn (epic fantasy)

Plus, I want a few:

  • The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney (YA contemporary fantasy)
  • Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (which she sent to me in an early ebook form, but which I want to buy in hardcopy or in a better ebook form) (historical fantasy)
  • Badlands by Seleste deLaney (steampunk fantasy western (!))

Note all the steampunk. If I’ve heard of it lately and it’s steampunk, there was a good chance that I bought it. I went through a historical romance phase a few months ago and it’s sort of morphed into a steampunk phase. Can’t wait to get into all these steampunk books.

But then again, I have Steig Larsson books. All my friends and sisters are talking about Steig Larsson. So far, I’ve been ignoring them and reading Jennifer Estep instead (Venom–oh, and she just sent me Tangled Threads as well).

Why the book buying spree? Mostly because I got a 50 dollar giftcard and I was determined to spend it all online on ebooks. I still have seven bucks left, too. Hopefully, I’ll have time to read all of this one day soon.