I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK.
They know me here...


Saturday, April 30, 2011

TOPIC: Tortured Heroes

Who can resist the appeal of a tortured hero? I certainly can't.

Every time I read a book with one of these characters it usually ends up as a keeper on my bookshelf. Why? Because there's something unbelievably attractive about a man who overcomes incredible obstacles to find himself, a soul mate and love.

Take Bren, the hero from Christina Phillips' book, CAPTIVE.

With the rape and murder of his wife at the hands Dunmacos, a Roman leader with a sadistic reputation, he's wracked by survivor guilt and torn apart with hatred for the Celtic Druids whom he believes should have saved her instead of him.

To avenge his loss, he hunts down and massacres Dunmacos then disguises himself as the soldier in order to spy on the Roman army for the Briton king. He spends three years in this role, taking on the reviled persona of the feared leader, killing anyone who ever knew Dunmacos to avoid being exposed and does what he can to sabotage Rome's efforts to conquer Britain.

With only his skills at deception and subterfuge, killing in the name of his king, and haunted by his failure to save his wife, he doesn't see himself as worth anything or having anything to offer a woman who might love him.

Irredeemable? Maybe. Tortured? Hell, yes. Irresistable. Oh, yeah...

Let's take a look at another tormented hero. Zsadist - from LOVER AWAKENED by J.R.Ward. I've worn out the spine on this book and need to get a new one, that's how many times I've reread it.

This vampire warrior is the ultimate tortured hero. The guy bears some serious, serious issues involving intimacy and any sexual relationship with a woman thanks to being kidnapped, raped and used as a blood slave when he was a young man.

His reputation as a Black Dagger Brotherhood warrior is legendary, friends and foe alike fear his anger, and his sinister deeds strike terror into them.

This is a powerful, heart-wrenching story of Zsadist's journey to come to terms with what was done to him and how he discovers that he can love and be loved. I don't know how many times I cried for Zsadist, over what was done to him and the destructive perceptions he had of himself.

Tortured character? He's at the top of the list.

Not to left out, what about Zarek from Sherrilyn Kenyon's DANCE WITH THE DEVIL?

Another man reviled for his fearsome reputation as a warrior, one believed to have gone insane. Totally misunderstood by everyone, but then Zarek was never one for sharing his past or explaining his actions. Thank goodness for Acheron and his understanding and identifying with his nature!

What a past Zarek's had - the bastard son of a Roman noble, disfigured by a lifetime of abuse, reviled for his appearance, enduring the worst sort of life after being sold as a slave then once he was made a Dark-Hunter and began taking out his anger and pain on the Daimons (the bad guys) in full view of the public, he's exiled to Alaska and shunned by other Dark-Hunters because of his actions.

This man's never had a gentle word said or kind action bestowed upon on him. So, do you think he might have some serious trust issues? Then, to top it all off, he finds himself being judged by a justice nymph who'll determine whether he lives or dies. Any wonder he has the reputation of being a cold, angry cynic?

Damned? Many seem to think so. Worth saving? Depends on your point of view - I know a few Gods who'd be glad to see him dead (Artemis, anyone)? Tortured? Well and truly.

How can you not empathise with Bren, Zsadist or Zarek? The odds are stacked against them, they're well behind the eight ball, every one's against them (cliches abound!). How can they possibly redeem themselves?

Certainly not through their own self-destructive actions, but how about the love of a good woman? Could that help? Oh, yeah, you betcha.

They have such a long way to travel but the end reward is well worth the angst, the tears, the resistant transformation. The struggle and journey these heroes are put through makes their redemption all the more satisfying.

So, you just gotta love tortured heroes. They make for one heck of a good read. For that matter, a good dozen re-reads!!!

Do you have a favourite tortured hero? And care to share? Come on, I dare you!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Anna Campbell Give-Away Winner Announced!

To everyone who shared something about the area where they lived - thank you - reading about them just showed our world is has some wonderful places!

All names were placed into the draw and Anna randomly drew one. And that name is...


Contact Anna direct - anna@annacampbell.info - and she'll arrange the specifics to get your prize sent to you.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who's That Girl? Interview - T.G.Ayer

Today, please welcome Tee, another Kiwi and RWNZ'er!

Hi Kylie, I feel honored to be in the company of such wonderful writers.

It's great to have you here, Tee! 

Name? My pen-name is T. G. Ayer aka Tee.

Where are you? I currently live in Auckland, New Zealand but I hail from Durban, South Africa.

How many years have you been a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand? March 2011 will be a full year with RWNZ. A decision I will never regret.

What genre/s do you write? I am currently writing paranormal YA, and have a YA mythological drama on the back burner. I hope to also complete a historical romance based in my home country in the 1700's.

Who are your favourite authors? For YA Melissa Marr and Cassandra Clare and Alyson Noel, Maria v Snyder. Paranormal - Nalini Singh, Marjorie Lui. I also love horror - Koontz. King and Saul. And a secret passion for crime Tess Gerritsen being my current fave.

What inspired you to write romance? I don't write specific to the romance genre BUT romance is such an integral element in any popular written work it's hardly possible to write a novel that's love-free! It's definitely a key element around which my stories grow.

Who's your dream agent and/or dream publisher? I would love to publish with Harper Teen or Walker Books. As for an agent, I'm still on the lookout for one who would love my work and me, too. :)

What's the best thing about going to conference? Conference is like injecting inspiration drive and determination straight into one's veins. My first experience was so amazing I'm still not sure when I'll come down from the high!

I'm still amped and now looking forward to the 2011 conference. It's the amazing people you meet, all the inspirational stories, being able sit side-by-side with published authors, meeting agents, editors, publishers. I've made true some fab friends out of conference too.

And lastly, finish these statements...
My greatest strength as a writer is...
my imagination. It's always in control and when it wants out I have no choice but to write.
A sexy heroine needs...courage and fire. Even if she is a damsel in distress she most certainly has to have fire in her blood and a dagger in her boot!
My latest WIP (work in progress) is about...an angel who accidentally ends up as the Ruler of the Underworld. This WIP is Greek mythology meets Nephilim aimed at YA readers aka Hells Angel.
When I write I like to...listen to music anything from melody Gardot to Linkin Park! - depends on the scene.
My best writing milestone to date is...the completion of my very first novel in the space of 8 months. I also completed Nanowrimo 2010 and wrote my first draft for my Hell's Angel WIP and am hoping to complete this novel by the end of February 2011.

You can follow Tee's blog or her on Twitter (Storymage).

Tee, thanks for answering my questions. It's been great having you here!

Monday, April 25, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Anna Campbell

Please welcome, Avon historical romance author, Anna Campbell to the blog.

Hiya Kylie! Thank you so much for having me as your guest today on your blog. By the way, can’t wait for your book VENGEANCE BORN to hit the shelves! (Thanks, I can't wait either!)
For those who don't know you (the remaining few :-D ), can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a fellow Aussie. I live on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast about an hour north of the state capital Brisbane. I write historical romance full-time which is a dream come true for me. I like walks in the rain and dancing at midnight and long chats by the fireside and I’m a Virgo and… Oh, sorry, forgot where I was for a moment!

(A match making service - now there's an interesting sideline for a romance writer...hmm, I might look into that! LOL Thanks for the idea, Anna!)

OK, let's get back to the interview proper. Anna, when did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published?
I’ve always been a book addict. If you saw my TBR pile right now, you’d know that’s never changed. It seemed natural to make the transition from consumer to producer. My mother very proudly kept an essay I wrote in grade two where I said I was going to be the next Enid Blyton (the writer I obsessed about at the time – she’s had many worthy successors in my personal pantheon!).

I started my first attempt at a novel (another EB clone!) shortly afterwards. I fiddled around with various stories, not finishing anything long, until after high school, when I completed a medieval. I count my attempts to be published from that - it was 27 years after finishing that book that I was signed to Avon in New York in a three-book contract after an auction.

Are you a pantster, scener, or plotter? Is it your characters or plot that influence you most? What’s your writing process from start to finish when writing a book?
Definitely a pantser! I wish I was a plotter because I think it’s a more efficient way of writing, but I’m just not. My plot tends to arise out of the conflicts between my characters.

Generally I’ll get a germ of an idea while I’m working on something else. That sets up residence at the back of my brain and if it’s a good idea, it’s magnetic and it draws other ideas to it that start to coagulate into the seeds of a novel.

Once I finish a book, I generally don’t start the new story for a little while. I’ll write a short story or do some promo or something else to clear out the old ghosts and wait for the new people to take up residence. Then I start to write – to begin a book, I need a vivid opening scene, my hero and heroine (sometimes a villain too) and a BIG problem. The rest of the story grows organically from there.

I work on a daily page count and just keep plugging away until I get to the end. Usually at that stage, I have a sprawling, completely unreadable first draft. Then I go back and polish and polish and polish until it’s ready to go to my editor.

USA cover
This week is an excitng week for you - can you tell us about your latest release?
MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION (Avon Books/HarperCollins Australia) is out on 26th April in America and on 1st May in Australia and New Zealand. For local readers, you should find it at KMart, Big W, Target and wherever good books are sold (as they say in the classics)!

It’s the closest I’ve come to writing a classic Regency romance and has definite touches of Cinderella. The Marquess of Ranelaw is set on revenge but finds himself stymied by spirited, mysterious chaperone Antonia Smith. Both of these characters are smart and wary and bear wounds from their past, and both know better than to fall in love. But of course they do!

You can read an excerpt at: http://www.annacampbell.info/wildpassion.html

And for all your readers, I'm sure they're hanging out to know what’s next for you. What are you working on?
I’m having a wonderful time doing a very sexy, gothic take on the Beauty and the Beast story. There’s something so invigorating writing a cranky male who’s about to get his comeuppance!

I know you always have some great advice to share with unpubbed writers. Do you have any handy tips/craft skills you’d like to share?
Yes, ignore all the noise around you and WRITE!!!! It’s always easy to be distracted from your work but it’s even harder now – and believe me, I speak from experience, LOL! But you need to do the work, that always has to be paramount.

Thanks so much for answering my questions, Anna, it's been wonderful having you here today - and to top it all off, she has a bonus to finish with...Anna?

OK, guys, I’ve got a signed copy of MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION up for grabs to someone who comments today. You now know where I live. Tell me something about where you live! (Contest ends 6pm, Friday, 29th April 2011 - Aussie time). Good luck!

Anna's other books:
(including the Aust./NZ cover of MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION)

If you'd like to find out more about Anna, she has a website, and you can find her on her Facebook page.


To all our brave servicemen & women in the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces...thank you!

At the going down of the sun...
I crouched in a shallow trench on that hell of exposed beaches... steeply rising foothills bare of cover... a landscape pockmarked with war’s inevitable litter... piles of stores... equipment... ammunition... and the weird contortions of death sculptured in Australian flesh... I saw the going down of the sun on that first ANZAC Day... the chaotic maelstrom of Australia’s blooding.

I fought in the frozen mud of the Somme... in a blazing destroyer exploding on the North Sea... I fought on the perimeter at Tobruk... crashed in the flaming wreckage of a fighter in New Guinea... lived with the damned in the place cursed with the name Changi.

I was your mate... the kid across the street... the med. student at graduation... the mechanic in the corner garage... the baker who brought you bread... the gardener who cut your lawn... the clerk who sent your phone bill.

I was an Army private... a Naval commander... an Air Force bombardier.  no man knows me... no name marks my tomb, for I am every Australian serviceman... I am the Unknown Soldier.

I died for a cause I held just in the service of my land... that you and yours may say in freedom... I am proud to be an Australian. 

(This 60 cm x 90 cm framed message, a poignant tribute to the Australian serviceman, hangs in the offices of the Queensland State Headquarters of the RSL.)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. *

Lest we forget.

* For the Fallen, a poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon. This verse, which became the Ode for the Returned and Services League, has been used in association with commemoration services in Australia since 1921.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Few Good Books...

Today is World Book & Copyright Day so it seems appropriate to feature a few good books.

Nothing satisfies me more than recommending some of the ones I've read and thoroughly enjoyed. Some of these are old favourites I've re-read and some of them are new authors or new releases by favourite authors.

Ladies man & defense attorney
Golden-boy & beautiful nurse

The Firefighters of Station Five series (by Jo Davis) - Ever had a firefighter fantasy? These five books are hot and the romantic suspense elements to each burn up the pages, too. Well worth a read.

Die-hard bachelor & school teacher
Virgin geek & exotic dancer

Fire captain & female fire-fighter

MORNING COMES SOFTLY (by Debbie Macomber) - I've read this book at least a dozen times. It's the story of a bachelor rancher-turned-father and how he writes a personal ad looking for a wife before the Dept.of Community Service takes away his niece & nephews.
Think modern mail-order bride where rancher meets city librarian but one that tugs on your heart and brings tears to your eyes.

RAPTURE UNTAMED (by Pamela Palmer) - the 4th in the Feral Warriors paranormal romance series. I loved and hated how the hero, Jag, blackmailed the heroine, Olivia.
Both of them are tormented characters well suited to one another and their personal conflict for dominance over one another was wildly sensual.

NOWHERE MAN (by Rebecca York) - one of the few category romances on my bookshelf. A gripping mystery involving a psychologist brought in to help a covert soldier with no memory but with secrets that could get them both killed.

THE BID (by Jax) - male slave, female mistress-shapeshifter, inter-planetary politics and romance. Phew! SF erotic romance at its best.

I hope you've found a new book or two to enjoy from this list.

Happy reading!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who's That Girl? Interview - Nicky Strickland

We're back in Oz this week. Please meet a fellow Dark-Sider (from the Dark Side Down Under blog).

Name? Nicky Strickland.

Where are you? Brisbane, Australia.

How many years have you been a member of the Romance Writers' of Australia? I joined RWA 2008 (after it being mentioned to me about 2 years earlier but was too scared to join...)

What genre/s do you write? Fantasy with romantic elements. Even the historical and crime/suspense ideas I have seem to end up with something fantastical in them. I'm a speculative fiction girl through and through.

Who are your favourite authors? Oh, this is such a tough question. There are many and varied. I have so many books to read these days I rarely re-read either.

A few authors who'll I'll look at their new books regardless of what it is would be ...... Paulo Coelho, Kim Wilkins, Scott Westerfeld, Tracey O'Hara*, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Joss Whedon, Keri Arthur*, Erica Hayes*, Jim Butcher, Lilith Saintcrow & Kelley Armstrong.

(* more Dark Siders)

What inspired you to write romance? Interesting question for me this one. One of the reasons I took so long to join RWA (nearly 2yrs)  is I wasn't sure if I was a romance writer.

I've learnt so much about romance since attending the Australian Romance Readers' Association conference & joining Romance Writers' of Australia that I now comfortably use the term romantic elements. One of my favourite couple of characters are heading more and more into Buffy and Angel territory of not being able to be together (or else, you know, the planet is destroyed).

Romances are definitely strong threads in my stories, but they don't necessarily drive the book (more like they ride shotgun, or are very vocal backseat passengers) and I can't guarantee the HEA (happily ever after)...

Who's your dream agent and/or dream publisher? My dream agent would be someone who is prepared to be supportive of me and my writing over the long term. The obligatory 'love my work' plays into this and I know I have ideas that may not always fit the same line/sub-genre but it will always be 'my voice'.
So, my dream publisher may well end up being plural. I have ideas of which publishers I'd like to have books with and it will depend on who take me on first.

What's the best thing about going to conference? Undoubtedly, meeting the people I've met via the loops and chat room.

I don't care how small the world gets via the digital life humans are pack animals and we like to get together and party down. Being able to hug, and place a real life face and voice (instead of photos) to somebody's name is priceless.

And lastly, finish these statements...
My greatest strength as a writer is...telling stories. I describe myself as a storyteller every time. Oh & persistence (some may think I'm a little stubborn).
A sexy heroine needs...shades and dimensions.
My latest WIP (work in progress) is about...there are two battling for priority. One is about a mermaid coming into her powers (& arranged marriage) in our world where the elements are arguing siblings. The other is a 21st century young woman ending up living in 1st BCE Rome with Vestal Virgins during the civil wars of the Roman Republic.
When I write I like to...play music (wearing headphones) & have way too much coffee.
My best writing milestone to date is... surprising myself by semi-finalling in the RWA Emerald Award. It was done as an exercise to see if I could get a book done in a year and I went much further than I ever thought I could.

Thanks for answering my questions, Nicky!
If you'd like to find out more about Nicky then check out her blog, Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.

Monday, April 18, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Marcella Burnard

Marcella blames her father for her love of science fiction and fantasy. They watched many a late night science fiction movie together.

She grew up as an Air Force brat, moving often and traveling all over the US. When the tiny base library ran out of interesting books in the kids' section, and wouldn't allow her in the adult section, she began writing her own stories.

She lives with her husband and cats aboard a sailboat on Puget Sound. (How cool is that?!?)

She recently won a Romantic Times Readers' Choice Award in the Futuristic Romance section for her book ENEMY WITHIN. Congratulations!

Please welcome fellow SFRBrigader, Marcella Burnard to my blog.

Hi, Marcella, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a geek, married to a geek, and living in one of the geek meccas.

I’m a cat person (I’d be a dog person, too, if I weren’t so allergic). I’m a tea snob and a secret foodie – meaning I love really good food, but I don’t talk about it much because I’m a tough audience. (We all like what we like, right? I figure we’re all tough audiences.)

Let’s see. I’m addicted to music. I think I support any number of record companies all on my own. We won’t discuss my book addiction. It’s…bad.

I think I'm a part of the same book club, Marcella! LOL

When did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published?
I’ve been writing to entertain myself since I was a kid. Maybe that represents part of my learning curve. Hard to say.

It wasn’t until after I was married that I began seriously trying to publish something. I began with short stories. My first rejection letter was from Marion Zimmer Bradley. I switched to novel length. Many, many more rejection letters followed.

Once I joined RWA and began learning the difference between internal and external conflict, it took me about ten years to go from rank beginner to rank published beginner.

Ahh, the winding road to publication - it's always encouraging (in a strange sort of way) to see someone else's journey and identify with them. Thanks for sharing this.

So, what sparks your creativity?
Boredom. Time alone in my own head. Walking around with no schedule just looking at stuff.

I love Port Townsend, WA – there’s a hotel there – the Palace Hotel. Seems it was an old Victorian brothel. There’s a room on the third floor that looks out over Water Street. A huge flock of starlings lives in the town. Every night at dusk, they pour out of their roosts and swoop and play between all of the buildings. It’s a great thing to watch.

Music will also spark all kinds of ideas. Car trips do the job, too, unless I’m driving.

Oh, I like car trips too - my subconscious has time to mull over problems while my conscious self dreams up more scenes in something I'm working on!

What do you think it is about your genre that readers find fascinating?
I cross two genres – romance and science fiction. Romance readers are fascinated by the interplay between two people that leads to love and commitment. Science fiction fans, I think, are interested in speculation – visions of the future whether good or bad.

Fact about Marcella: She's a member of the SFRB (that's Science Fiction Romance Brigade to the uninformed - and now that you are, any SFR junkies might like to hop on over and check out their website or blog! Yep, blatant promotion, I know...)

Are you a panster or plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influence you most? What's your writing process from start to finish when writing a book?
Both. I’m mostly a pantser. If I know what’s going to happen, why should I write the book? 

However, I did take a workshop with Mary Buckham – she did a Break Into Fiction workshop locally. I use that system of templates to map out my character arcs, motivations, and emotional drives. From there, what happens takes care of itself.

Can you tell us about your new release (see also book blurb below)?
ENEMY GAMES is Jayleia and Damen’s story. They think they know the enemy – they’re wrong. 

What was the easiest and hardest parts about writing this book?
Easiest part was I already knew who these two people were – they appeared in the first book. The hardest part of this book was the deadline. I’d never written a book in nine months and it was one major anxiety attack trying to get the book done and into a form I liked.

What’s the worst writing mistake you ever made that taught you a valuable lesson?
Bickering doesn’t equal conflict. Wrote my entire first novel on the basis of nothing more than two people arguing. It frightens me that I managed to get 100,000 words of nothing but ‘Uh uh!’ ‘Uh huh!’

Now for something slightly off topic. What’s the most unusual place you have visited?
Lived in Iceland for two years when I was a kid. Experienced my first earthquake (that I remember). A volcano erupted while we were living there (Dad even got sent to help keep a town from being buried by ash). We got to explore some of the most interesting and dynamic geology on the planet. I was 9. I will grant that I didn’t realize what I was seeing at the time, but I sure do value everything I got to see. Geysers, blue whales migrating just off shore, huge waves crashing into tall stone cliffs and shaking us where we stood all the way at the top…

Oh, how cool! And what vivid memories for a 9y.o.!

After a stint in an alien prison torpedoes her military career, Captain Ari Idylle has to wonder why she even bothered to survive. Stripped of her command and banished to her father's scientific expedition to finish a PhD she doesn't want, Ari never planned to languish quietly behind a desk. But when pirates commandeer her father's ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner.
Pirate leader Cullin Seaghdh may not be who he pretends to be but as far as Cullin is concerned, the same goes for Ari. Her past imprisonment puts her dead center in Cullin's sights and if she hasn't been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then he's convinced she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. Cullin can't afford the desire she fires within him and he'll stop at nothing, including destroying her, to uncover the truth.

What's the most unusual book you've read that's made a lasting impression on you?
Hmm. I don’t know that THE WORLD WITHOUT US by Alan Weisman is all that unusual except that it isn’t fiction. I loved that book. I suppose every scifi geek has an empty-earth fantasy. Or maybe that’s only introverts.

As for fiction, the one foremost in my mind is LORD OF LIGHT by Roger Zelany. It’s a Hugo award winning novel that’s told almost entirely in dialog. Very interesting story telling. It’s about the crew of a starship that has conquered a planet, set themselves up as gods and turned the conquered peoples into their worshippers. Need it be mentioned that few of these gods are benevolent?

Do you have a pet that keeps you company when you write?  Have they taught you anything about writing?  If so, what?
I have four. Erie is our matriarch feline. Deaf, arthritic and wobbly with age, she nevertheless insists upon a lunch break so that I can take her for a  walk.

Autolycus is our only boy cat. He’s a terror. We’ve threatened to sell him into slavery at Microsoft as a computer tester. That cat has caused more blue screens by walking across keyboards than anything else we’ve ever done.

Don’t get me started on the time I’d shut my computer down for the day, gone to dinner and yet came home to find him laying on the keyboard. He’d restarted the machine and pressed F10 – running Windows through it’s set up program. The cat was trying to reformat my box. I caught it before lasting damage was done. That and the fact that he’s cute are the only reasons he’s still alive. Needless to say, he taught me to keep backups of my work.

Cuillean is next. She’s a sweet-talking, shy girl who comes to lay across my lap and keep me company while I work. She’s never more content than when I’m sitting, intent on my story while she purrs herself to sleep. She helps keep me focused.

The baby of the bunch is Hatshepsut. She is 100% my cat and believes she has special claim on me. When she approaches me while I’m working, it’s to interrupt. She will not allow me to divide my attention. No way. She requires and deserves my full attention. If I try to keep working, she climbs into my arms and tucks her head into the curve of my shoulder and neck. She has a purr that’s as much an assault as it is expression of pleasure. I call her Little Purr. (Dumb, really. It should be BIG Purr, but she’s a little cat…). She’s the model for the heroine for book four in this series.

Oh, how gorgeous - all four of them! I suspect there's a link between SFR authors and cats. Jess Granger, yourself, me...we all own cats...hmm...

If you weren't doing what you do today, what other job would you have?
I’d likely have been committed…writing is how I stay sane. If I weren’t writing…I shudder to think.

Are there any particular settings or sorts of characters you'd like to use in a future book?
I do want to play around with Steampunk. I love the gadgets.

What's next for you? What are you working on?
Book 3 in the Enemy series. I can’t say much more without introducing spoilers.

ENEMY WITHIN is the first book. All of the subsequent books are about people you met in that first story. ENEMY GAMES (out in May, 2011) follows Jayleia and Damen.

Kidnapped while combating a devastating plague, Jayleia Durante fights to resist the attractive Major Damen Sindrivik, an officer from a rival government’s spy corps. But with her spymaster father missing, and mercenaries hot on her trail, Jayleia must join forces with the magnetic, charming and manipulative spy. She must see past her desire and remember that his single-minded agenda is for the protection of the empire - not her or her people.
Damen knows a shadowy network of traitors has allied with the violent Chekydran, and that Jayleia’s father holds the key to dismantling that web. She becomes his only lead in a circuitous round of hide and seek and despite their opposing sides, he can’t resist her. Too bad his instincts tell him Jayleia is lying to him.
Now Jayleia and Damen must find the love to match their passion and end the war or they’ll become the prey of the traitors they stalk, and one species’ civil war will consume the galaxy.

Do you have any advice/handy tips/craft skills you'd like to share with unpublished authors?
The same trite thing we’ve all heard. Never give up, never surrend…oh…wait…movie.

Uhm. The never give up part. That was good. Really. Persist. Learn everything you can. Most of it won’t work for you. Fine. But go find that out. The few things that do work for you will push you over the edge. Trust yourself, trust your story, trust your readers. 

Thanks, Marcella, for visiting. It's been great having you here!

To find out more about Marcella or her books, check out her website. She can also be found on Facebook and chatting on her blog.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

TOPIC: Do you have any ideas for your book cover?

To be asked for your thoughts and impressions on what should appear on the cover of your book is the most wonderful, exciting feeling - especially if it's your debut book!
Hair length/color (hero material!)

I experienced this process for the first time a few weeks ago. When I received the email from my editor (who mentioned she was off to a cover conference in a couple of days), my full-throated shout of delight scared my three cats silly.

What sorts of things do you submit to your editor? Well, some suggestions I made included:
  • physical descriptions of my characters (which I took straight from scenes in my book & I also included photos of models to depict their hair length/style/eye colour)
  • clothing (photos of styles of dress as well as armor, weapons, jewelry with examples of designs)
Eye color
  • tattoos/body markings/features (keep in mind I write paranormal so had to draw features of my non-human characters)
  • background settings (again I used descriptions taken from my scenes as well as photographs to depict the topography of major scenes in the book & flora)
Design on jewelry

  • diagrams (hand drawn sketch of a significant landscape within the book)
  • comments on tone of the book/colours (that need to be conveyed on the cover)
  • a 2-4 paragraph synopsis (a bit like a back cover blurb)
I put all this into a "mini-portfolio" (about 9 pages worth once I was done) in Word document then saved it as a PDF. A lot of fun and I'm happy to have had an input into this process.

Armor design
The good news is my editor had been thinking along the same lines, turns out we had similar ideas for the concept of the cover. Phew!

So, with the conference over and our ideas safely in the cover department's hands, now begins the wait to see what they come up with.


Did I mention how excited I am about this?

Rough sketch

I can't wait to see the finished product!

Gone over to the Dark Side!

Eleni Konstantine has me strapped into the Dark Side DownUnder interview chair today.

She's asking all sorts of tough questions like who my favourite authors are, how entering contests helped me, sharing some info about VENGEANCE BORN: A Novel of the Light Blade (my debut release from Berkley Sensation), what my favourite SF movie/TV show is, and do I have any hints or tips for emerging writers.

Feel free to wander over and visit.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sara Creasy Give-Away Winner Announced!

It was great to read your responses to the question posed for this giveaway - thank you for participating.

Without further ado, everyone who answered the question had their names placed into a draw and Sara drew one at random. The winner is...


Please contact Sara - saracreasy(at)gmail(dot)com - and she'll arrange to get your prize to you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Who's That Girl? Interview - Gracie O'Neil

Let's zip across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand today to meet one of RWNZ's Heart to Heart magazine editors, high concept pitch goddess, one half of a website design team, good friend and conference roommate...
Name? Hi, I’m Gracie O’Neil.

Where are you? I live in the central North Island of New Zealand.

How many years have you been a member of RWNZ? I joined RWNZ in 2004, so it’s a little while now. (Gracie was the first RWNZ'er I met at my first RWNZ conference! and we've been friends ever since)

What genre/s do you write? I write both paranormal romantic suspense and romantic suspense.

Who are your favourite authors? There are so many, but the ones on my bedside table at the moment are Karen Rose, J. D. Robb, Terry Pratchett, Robin Owens, and Karina Bliss.

What inspired you to write romance? I never thought of writing romance. I thought of writing a story. If it happened to contain romance—and every good story did, didn’t it?--then that was a part of the deal. It wasn’t until I had contact with RWNZ that I learned there were elements required for and nuances to a good romance, and by incorporating those things into any genre I could make every story I wrote stronger.

Who's your dream agent and/or dream publisher? I’m lucky enough to have my dream agent—Nephele Tempest at The Knight Agency. Dream publisher? That’s a hard one, but I think either Berkley or St Martin’s Press. (It was sooo exciting to phone Gracie last year to share the good news with her that I was now not only her conference roomie but an agency-buddy as well - we're both represented by TKA )

What's the best thing about going to conference? Learning something new, confirming where I’m headed, and meeting up in person with the girls I correspond with every day via our BILD (Book in 50 Days) loop. Oh, and sharing a room with you, of course, Kylie!! :-) (Not a lot of sleep happens during conference...so much talking and catching up to do!!!)

And lastly, finish these statements...
My greatest strength as a writer...
is dialogue.
A sexy hero needs...dark hair. Sorry all you blond guys. In my personal universe every sexy man has dark hair.
My latest WIP (work in progress) is about...an ex-CIA operative who is hiding her new career on the gray edge of the law, and who becomes the target of an assassin’s vendetta when her current job goes bad. Now her life--and heart--lie in the hands of a man who has already betrayed her once. Can she trust him to help her expose the past when he has more secrets to hide than she does?
When I write I like to...use a timer to keep me on track. Nose down, tail up for fifteen minutes at a time.
My best writing milestone to date is...probably...well, again, that’s difficult too. Finishing the first, second, and third books. Getting my dream agent. Finaling and winning in competitions. But there’s no point in looking back at past milestones. For me, the best writing milestone is always the next one, which in my case would be a sale. (Oh yeah. Please, let there be a sale!!)

Gracie, it's been great having you here, thanks for answering my questions. If you'd like to check out Gracie's website, feel free.

She also has a fant-abulous writing website called Romance She Wrote, with lots of helpful tips on the craft of writing.

Monday, April 11, 2011


This author grew up in the West Midlands of the UK, moved to Australia as a teen, and spent most of her life either reading fantasy or science fiction books or acting out scenes from them.

She's worked as a textbook editor, project editor, has one science degree and in 2005 married an American (and subsequently moved there) but has since returned DownUnder and is now living in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and baby daughter.

She's a 2010 Aurealis Award finalist (for Best SF Book), a Phillip K.Dick Award nominee, and a member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and the Supernatural Underground blog. She is represented by Kristin Nelson from the Nelson Literary Agency.

Here's what Publishers Weekly (starred review) had to say about her first book, SONGS OF SCARABAEUS - "This brilliantly conceived debut heralds a significant new talent... Creasy's convincing scientific speculation, appealing characterizations, and eerie alien landscapes make this science fiction romance deeply satisfying."
Please welcome Sara Creasy as she shares some interesting facts about herself and talks about CHILDREN OF SCARABAEUS, the second novel in her SFR series.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you write?
I write science fiction romance and my second book, CHILDREN OF SCARABAEUS, is just out from Harper Voyager. The prequel, SONG OF SCARABAEUS, has been nominated for an Aurealis Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.

I live in Melbourne, Australia, but was born in the UK and recently lived for 5 years in Arizona. I’m married to an American who also writes (sci-fi and fantasy), and we have a beautiful 10-month-old daughter. I worked in publishing for many years, and have also worked for a bank, a private detective, a computer shop, a curtain shop, an online company and the Commonwealth government.

How’s that for “a little bit”?!

What sparks your creativity?
All sorts of things. Images, especially of exotic places or things. Orchestral music. Certain scenes or visuals or even actors’ performances in movies. Sometimes, just thinking, letting my mind wander, usually just as I’m falling asleep. I love researching, and the internet makes it quick and easy and cheap. One idea leads to another and I end up with all sorts of largely irrelevant bits and pieces, but you never know which insignificant detail will generate a whole new character or setting or plot.

For anyone who hasn't read Sara's first book (not only should you get it ASAP), here's the blurb:

The best cypherteck in the galaxy, Edie can reinvent planets with little more than a thought. Trained since childhood in advanced biocyph seed technology by the all-powerful Crib empire, her mission is to terraform alien worlds while her masters bleed the outlawed Fringe populations dry. When renegade mercenaries kidnap Edie, she's not entirely sure it's a bad thing... until they leash her to a bodyguard, Finn - a former freedom fighter-turned-slave, beaten down but never broken. If Edie strays from Finn's side, he dies. If she doesn't cooperate, the pirates will kill them both.

But Edie's abilities far surpass anything her enemies imagine. And now, with Finn her only ally as the merciless Crib closes in, she'll have to prove it or die on the site of her only failure... a world called Scarabaeus.

Can you tell us about your latest release?
The Scarabaeus books take place in a far-future, somewhat dystopian universe, with a governing bureaucracy called the Crib ruling the central planets, surrounded by the outlawed Fringe worlds that are struggling to survive under Crib oppression.

The science part of the story involves using genetic engineering to terraform alien planets, which is what my heroine Edie does for a living. In the first book she is kidnapped by rovers (pirates) who need her help on the Fringe. They leash her to an unwilling bodyguard, Finn, who will die if she dies or goes out of range.

In the second book she and Finn are back in the hands of the Crib, and Edie is forced to work on a new project she predicts will be highly destructive to hundreds of planets across the galaxy. The Crib is using talented children on the project, and she feels compelled to help them as well as to help Finn escape.

There is a strong attraction between Edie and Finn, whose relationship is complicated not only by the leash but by their stressful situation that doesn’t leave much room for your typical romance. Still, the relationship moves up a few notches in the new book. There is definitely a stronger romance angle this time around.


Edie Sha'nim believes she and her bodyguard lover, Finn, could find refuge from the tyranny of the Crib empire by fleeing to the Fringe worlds. But Edie's extraordinary cypherteck ability to manipulate the ecology of evolving planets makes her far too valuable to lose. Recaptured and forced to cooperate - or else she will watch Finn die - Edie is shocked to discover the Crib's new breed of cypherteck: children. She cannot stand by while the oppressors enslave the innocent, nor can she resist the lure of Scarabaeus, the first world she tried to save, when researchers discover what appears to be an evolving intelligence.

But escape - for Edie, for Finn, and for the exploited young - will require the ultimate sacrifice... and a shocking act of rebellion.

What was the easiest and hardest parts about writing the book?
The hardest part was the final rewrites for my editor. I was doing them just before and just after my baby daughter was born last year. I was not really in the best physical or emotional state to be creative or technical – both of which are needed at that stage of the process. The easiest part was writing the scenes between Edie and Finn. I know them so well now that their scenes flowed onto the page without any problems.

Do you have a pet that keeps you company when you write?
I don’t, but I really wish I did. I would love to be one of those writers who has a few cats lying around the place, rubbing against my legs or walking over my keyboard. But I’m allergic to cats. Until recently we had dogs, and I love dogs too, but they take a lot more work and I don’t have time with a baby.

What’s next for you? What are you working on?
I’m writing a new book, possibly a series. There’s more romance and a bit more fun planned for this story, although it does get quite dark.

My heroine is captain of a mapping ship. She navigates unknown wormholes in order to map them for future safe travel. The universe I’ve developed is a bit different this time – there are aliens, for a start. It’s great fun thinking up histories and cultures and biologies for alien races.

Do you have any advice/handy tips/craft skills you’d like to share with unpublished authors?
Here’s just a small piece of advice for those writing genre fiction who aren’t yet published: know your market.

Book sellers, and therefore editors, and therefore agents, want to know where to shelve your book. They want to know how to describe it in terms of its niche. So if you’re writing a historical gladiator murder mystery with space aliens and magic crystals and fourteen explicit sex scenes, you’re just confusing everyone. I’m not saying that book can’t be written and sold, but if you’re trying to attract attention for your first book you’ll increase your odds by sticking to established subgenres.

Sara, thank you so much for visiting today! It's been a pleasure having you here. And to keep the good times rolling, folks, there's a giveaway!

To celebrate the release of Sara's CHILDREN OF SCARABAEUS and keeping with the SFR theme, which alien culture in a movie, TV series or book really appealed to you when you saw or read about it?

Answer this by Friday, April 15th (Aussie time) and you'll go into draw for this great giveaway!

Check out Sara's website to learn more about her or her books.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

REVIEW: Invitation to Ruin (historical romance)

Most of my friends know I love, live and breathe paranormal romance. My bookshelves are full of series and favourite authors who write in this genre - Nalini Singh, Larissa Ione, Joss Ware, Jacqueline Frank, Angela Knight, J.R.Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Joey W.Hill, Denise Rossetti...the list goes on and on...

So, when I tell you I can count the number of historical romance authors I've read and enjoyed on one hand, you'll understand why I'm posting a review about this debut author's book.

I read Bronwen Evans' debut historical romance, INVITATION TO RUIN, in a day. I'd only intended reading a few chapters during my lunch break, but I ended up reading it well into the afternoon and then evening. What did I find so appealing about it?

It wasn't the story line, although I did enjoy the grittier, darker elements within it.

It wasn't the historical period; I'm afraid I wouldn't know if Ms.Evans portrayed her world accurately or not simply because I'm not an aficionado of that time period.

It wasn't the style of her writing, although I certainly enjoyed it and going back over sections of it (after I finished it) to analyse how she constructed various scenes.

Quite simply, it was the characters. They engaged me.

The Lord of Wicked - Anthony Craven - is a true tortured hero. I loved that he wasn't an overbearing alpha character. Without giving away any spoilers, this hero's tormented childhood left him determined not to care about anyone, to hide his emotion from everyone and to ease the pain of his past through the pursuit of pleasure rather than love. No emotion, no connection, no advantage given.

He was taught that to show any of the softer emotions was a weakness. So, watching his transformation from a hard, cold, almost ruthless rake into one who recognises that love strengthens instead of weakens was an experience that, as a reader, left me very satisfied. It was extremely well done and entirely believable.

I also found Miss Melissa Goodly a refreshing heroine, not quite what I expected in an historical heroine (you can probably blame my ignorance and instinctive stereotypical mind-set for that). She's a woman of strong convictions, opinionated, worldly-wise in some ways and innocent in others, passionate and vulnerable without being over the top. A lovely balance of conflicting qualities.

Phillip Drake is the quintessential villain. You were pretty much rooting for his demise from the first scene you witnessed him in. What I found fascinating about him was his past. I kept wanting to know what made this man like he was. Again without giving away any spoilers, Evans' explains this in snippets throughout the book. The tie between the hero and the villain deepens the connection I felt for these characters - good, bad and ugly.

The way she explained what made each man who he is left me thinking about how the events of our pasts shape what we are now and how we act or conduct ourselves, and this was especially true of Craven and Drake.

I put down the book knowing that I'd just spent several hours reading something that left me feeling satisfied and entertained.

Everything a good book should do.

One Good Lady is About to Go Bad...

The only thing Miss Melissa Goodly has ever wanted out of a marriage is love. But any hope of that dissolves one wild night, when she loses herself in the arms of the most irresistible-and unobtainable-man in all of England. For when they are discovered in a position as compromising as it is pleasurable, she has no choice but to accept his proposal.

Avowed bachelor Anthony Craven, Earl of Wickham, never meant to seduce an innocent like Melissa. Yet now that the damage is done, it does seem like she'd make a very convenient wife. After all, she is so naive he won't have to worry about ever being tempted. Or so he thinks, until the vows are spoken and they are left alone-and his new bride reveals a streak just as brazen and unrestrained as his own...

TOPIC: The tough world of contest feedback...


No, this is not some strange chemical formula or a new classification for attention deficit disorder. It's the acronym for the emotional fallout we all experience from contest feedback (and the same can be said of rejection letters if truth be known - ask me how I know!).

So, you've entered a writing contest with your work. You've put your baby out there and spent the last few months eagerly awaiting the results and feedback from the judges. You get it. You read it.

Some of it's positive. Some of it's mediocre. Some of it rips the rug out from under your feet - cuts you off at the knees and leaves you bleeding - makes you want to crawl under the bed and chew on your knuckles for the next hundred years.

The myriad of emotions sparked by this sort of feedback is what I want to address in this post. Firstly though, what does the acronym stand for?

A - anger.
(And at this point in time, I'm going to share your pain by baring some of the most gut wrenching comments I've received from judges over the last eight years, so you know you're not alone.) Here are some examples, some ranging from inappropriate to "constructive-but-I-felt-the-need-to-disagree-with-them" comments.

Example 1. (judging 3 chapters) "Heroine seems to be a plaster saint. Hero a lout with unreasonable expectations. They don't talk like people. Their names have a real '70's fantasy ring to them. 
Voice: stop using $10 words you don't know how to use well and talk naturally. Get deeper into your characters' heads and your POV problems will clear up. Five spaces begin a paragraph, not two. Don't worry about the premise. Fix the voice. Premises are cheap. Voice is golden. 
I feel this entry has been critiqued to death. You have the basic skills to tell a story and keep it interesting. That is ALL IT TAKES to get published, so screw your critique group!"

Example 2. (judging 3 chapters & synopsis) "The hook is pretty generic."

Example 3. (judging a synopsis) "To be honest, you can probably cut most of the first three paragraphs. I can see you're trying to hook the reader with the first para, but character introductions and action can do that as well as or better than a tag line. I'd recommend you get your world-building/setting out there, and then get straight to the characters."

OK, now that you've read them, can you imagine feeling angry? With maybe all three in varying degrees? Hmm-mm. I did.

So, there I am brewing with anger. The next stage of this cycle:
D&D - disbelief & denial, and these comes in varying forms as well.
  • After reading the first judge's comment I was spitting chips and hurling the score sheets across the room.
  • The second made me wonder how the judge got past judge training school - where was the follow up advice? What suggestions could they have offered to improve a "generic" hook?
  • The last one drew out a knee-jerk reaction. I was attached to that synopsis beginning, do you know how much time I spent slaving over them, how dare they suggest I cut out the opening paragraphs! etc.etc.etc.
Moving on to:
D - despair.
Admittedly the first two comment examples came at a stage in my contest career when I'd developed a pretty thick-skin, and after the initial shocking read I could relegate these judges comments to the "Disregard" file.
Very little of what they had to say was going to help me develop my skills as a writer other than to infuriate me on behalf of the beginning writer who did take their comments to heart and decided never to write again.

All that aside, there have been times I've read comments and begun to doubt my abilities as a writer. Am I good enough? Why do I bother to put myself through this? Will I ever reach a standard acceptable to be published? I thought I had this entry pretty well nailed, where did I go wrong? You ask yourself all these sorts of questions in this stage. You've got to push through, analyse your feedback objectively - see the gold amidst the debris - and come out more analytical & tougher on the other side.

And the last stage is:
A - acceptance.
The good thing about the last comment example is that the judge offered constructive advice. And once I'd cooled off and gone back to look I could see the value in what they'd suggested.

I reworked the synopsis, wrote a couple of alternate beginnings, used the advice and came up with something that incorporated some of what the judge said and something I could live with.

Some of those knee-jerk reactions you have to the judges comments are probably the ones that strike a resonating chord within you and subconsciously you know they're right. Also if more than one judge point out the same thing then you need to look seriously at that feedback with a view to editing your work.

Most judges volunteer to help you improve your skills and craft. They're not in it to belittle your ability or scoff at your plot or characters. If you take anything away from this post, and listen to some hard learned wisdom from a contest diva, remember this...you WILL go through every stage of the process I've outlined. Many, many, many, many times and at difference points in your career as a writer.

A last word on the issue - get used to it or (as one of my more shoot-straight-from-the-hip writing buddies says) get out of the game. Harsh advice. Yep. This business is tough.

But if you manage to stick it, develop that tough-skin and improve your craft, then the rewards will outweigh the hard times. Guaranteed. :-)