Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Writing Amid the Holidays - eep!

(posting for Sophie Jordan again)

This is the time of year when - before I became published - my writing faded to nonexistence. As a wife and mother … um, as a member of the human race, I was simply too busy. Too busy cooking, baking, decorating the house, sending off Christmas cards, shopping, shopping, shopping, wrapping, wrapping, wrapping. Oh, and the travel -- the fun driving across the state to events and gatherings hosted by both sides of the family.
Of course, none of this has come to an end. It still goes on as life tends to do, but this time I am a contracted author that can’t take a month off. So, I’ve come up with some survival tips. Well, really one critical survival tip. Never schedule a delivery date in December. Believe it or not I have done this very thing for the last three years! For the first time, I don’t have a book due in December this year. Whew. The relief! I didn’t know how tranquil things could be. I’ll never schedule a December delivery again if I can help it.
And yet that doesn’t mean I’m commitment free. What I’ve done is plan for the “lighter” albeit necessary writing chores this month. For example, I have an outline due. It’s something kind of fun actually. Amid the chaos, clutter and stress, I’ve got a notebook open that serves as a beacon of escape. I’ll dive into it and jot down scene notes and let the vision of the story unfold without a lot of worry about whether that word is right or wrong. Every writer needs time to breath, decompress … to just let flow what flows naturally. Basically, this month I’ve give myself permission to do that. I hope you’ll do the same … take a moment to enjoy yourself, eat a few cookies (in my case a few dozen!), relax (ahem, read a few good books) and look around yourself, take in everything that you most appreciate in life and simply exhale. That’s my plan! Happy Holidays!
Happy reading,
Sophie Jordan

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mince pies and other imaginings

Writers tend to think of ourselves as creative people (and we tend to hope that our readers agree!). The desire to share our creative spirit is usually what drives us to write in the first place. I like to think of reading as a creative process, too. Unlike watching movies, where pictures are displayed for our eyes to absorb, reading books requires us to imagine the pictures. Wouldn't it be amazing to know not only what the pictures in the writer's head were when she wrote the story, but also what the pictures in different readers' heads are when they read it? Out there in the world are thousands of readers with my spaceship in their heads! And none of them look exactly like the one I created in my head and tried to put into words on a page.

The writers I know have other creative outlets, too. From painting to scrapbooking, their imaginations find expression. Several of them seem to have an obscure obsession with knitting. I always loved to draw, although I can't say my skills have improved since I was a teenager. These days I've modified that hobby to suit the digital age, using 3D and 2D graphics programs - last week I made Christmas cards featuring our baby daughter photoshopped as a mischievous elf.

I also like to cook (although I'm not very good at it), especially at Christmas. My specialty is decorated cookies. This year I've been a bit more creative than usual by seeking out new recipes for mince pies* instead of sticking with the old family standard. By seeking out, of course, I mean googling.

When you're not exercising your imagination with the help of the latest novel you're reading, where does your creativity take you?

*Mince pies appear to be largely unknown among Americans, in my experience. They're little pastry tarts filled with mincemeat, which is a sweet concoction of spiced dried fruit and vegetable suet. Serve at Christmas time only, with brandy butter.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Congratulations to Jo-Ann Larkin for winning the signed copy of How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire! Please contact me at kerry@kerrelynsparks.com so I can get your mailing info. Many thanks to everyone for leaving such wonderful comments. I'll be back on Dec. 25th, Christmas Day, to give away more books!

When all of us Supernatural Undergrounders were picking days to blog, I randomly selected the 25th of each month, not realizing I would land on Thanksgiving. You're probably busy visiting with family and/or friends and wrestling with a turkey and mounds of food. (I am, too!) So let's keep this short and sweet--

I wish to thank all those who read my books. When the first book released in 2005, only two books were under contract, and it could have ended there. But you discovered the books and liked them! It wasn't till I started writing the third book that I realized I had an actual series going, and that was when we named it the Love at Stake series. Thanks to you, the series has continued, and the tenth book will be released next March! I am so grateful to you all! Please take time out of your busy day to leave a comment, and I'll pick someone at random to win a signed copy of the book that started it all-- How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire.

And may you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


We don’t get a lot of snow in Seattle. Wait, let me rephrase that: When we get ANY snow in Seattle, the entire city shuts down! Schools close, flights are canceled, drivers panic and freeways literally shut down.

That’s where we are right now. The city is layered in fluffy white snow, the roads are sheets of ice, and highs today are predicted to be around 20 degrees. WE ARE CLOSED FOR BUSINESS!

But this is what it looks like:

At our house that means hot cocoa for the kids…and for the grown-ups (Bailey’s included):

It also means a little something we like to call The Alex Express, in which our dog becomes a reindeer, pulling the kids around the neighborhood on their sled. (Usually the kids are done before the dog!)

And because I’m feeling festive and cheerful (and possibly a tad frostbitten), I’ve decided to do an ARC giveaway for my upcoming release DESIRES OF THE DEAD!

All you have to do is leave me a comment about your favorite (or least favorite) thing about the snowy weather, or tell me if you’re one of those folks who don’t get snow where you live, by midnight Pacific time November 25th (that’s Thanksgiving if you’re in the US). One commenter will win a signed copy of DESIRES OF THE DEAD. This one's open to International entrants too!

And be sure to check back to see if you’ve won.

*** Contest is now closed ***

*** And the winner (chosen by random.org) is: A.J. ***


Happy Snow, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reading for stress relief

Greetings from Downunder.

This time of year in the US seems a little weird to us in Australia. Holidays galore! I mean, you have Halloween which is massive, then just around the corner is Thanksgiving and then blammo there’s Christmas. And that doesn’t even begin to go into other celebrations – Ramadan, Hannukah, Festivus…

From festivuspoles.com Why yes, I do love Seinfeld :)

While we also have the main religious festivals, we don’t have Thanksgiving (our major national holiday is Australia Day, in late January) and Halloween is starting to take off here but it’s no where near as massive as it is in the States.

So three major celebratory holidays within two months. I can’t say I envy you. Just thinking about Christmas and all the organising involved in that is enough to give me the shivers. Having to do it two more times between October and December – right now, I’m very happy to be Australian.

So I guess the thing to think about now is – how to deal with that stress? People will recommend a lot of things – eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, meditation, chamomile tea…

For me, one of the things I do when I’m stressed is reach for a book. Not just any book – generally you won’t find me reading a new book at this time. No, I grab the books that I love – books that make me feel good, books that require not a lot of work, books that I can sink into and forget about the world.

My all-time favourite for stress relief is Warrior’s Woman, by Johanna Lindsey. It was the first book I’d ever come across that combined my two favourite genres – romance and speculative fiction. I know the story really well and it holds no surprises for me. I can grab it, open it and I’m there with Tedra fighting the barbarians and then falling in love.

Other oldies but goodies include pretty much anything written by Judith Garwood and Amanda Quick.

There’s a few other books that I’ve read this year that I think will fall into the re-read for stress relief category. Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate are a fun read, and I'm in love with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon Lexicon series.

What about you? As you go through the stressful times of preparing for the holiday season, what are the books that you can grab that will save you – if only for a short time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

NaNoWriMo Madness

by Merrie Destefano


The WINNERS are Sullivan McPig—who will receive a signed copy of AFTERLIFE, and Kimberly B—who will get to choose a book of her choice, as long as it was written by a Supernatural Underground author. CONGRATULATIONS!

I have your e-mail addresses, so I will be contacting the winners shortly.

Meanwhile, thanks to ALL of you who commented. And a BIG CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who has been participating in NaNoWriMo. You still have time to get in some words today!

Just an FYI, I ran everything through a randomizer program to find the winner.

I had my first exposure with NaNoWriMo [the National Novel Writing Month] a few years ago, when one of my dear friends decided to participate. We were also members of the same writing group, so I heard about her preparation and progress on a regular basis. I thought she was nuts. Write a novel in one month? 50,000 words?

Since then, I’ve heard more about NaNo and I guess I got used to the craziness. Lots of times as writers we do things that border on insane. Rewrite manuscripts. Kill off characters. Change an entire book from third person to first. Forget to pay the electricity bill because we’re so immersed in our story, which just so happens to need that pesky thing called electricity to write. I hate it when that happens.

And so, I had been toying with the idea of joining NaNo this year when fellow Supernatural Underground alumni, Tera Lynn Childs, tossed down the gauntlet. I mean, she very sweetly and politely invited me to join. So I did.


Now, mind you, I still need to pay the bills and do copyedits on my second novel and edit a freelance book. My dogs need to be walked, my house needs to be cleaned, and my husband would like it if at least once a day I came out of my office and talked to him.

And I am bending the traditional NaNo rules a bit. I decided to use this 30-day period to resurrect a book project I started over the summer. Back in June I was waiting for the editorial letter for my second novel, so I had a little bit of free time. In 24 days I got 100 pages written. So, I’m working on that project, with the hopes that I will get another 100 pages finished by the end of November and then finish the novel by the end of December.

Right now, I’m at 38,000 words and 158 pages. This NaNo thing seems to be working for me. Although I must confess that I need special tools to help me from time to time. Flying monkeys always seem to work best.

I decided to share a couple of things that I’ve used during NaNo. Mainly these help me write quickly and more efficiently when I’m short on time, like I have been this month. Here they are:

This technique was adapted from chapter four of the book, Novel Shortcuts by Laura Whitcomb. In my version, I create a separate Word document and quickly—the key is in doing this quickly—write down everything that I want to take place in my next scene. I include dialogue, emotions, setting, anything I can think of. Then when I finish, I use this as rough material to create my scene. The weird thing is, many times this fast, quick overview of what is supposed to happen ends up being dead on, almost perfect. This also really helps to break through writer’s block, something I have suffered with more often than I’d like to confess.

I just discovered this program about a week or so ago and it’s killer. I love it! You can use the free version of Write or Die online or you purchase the program (that’s what I did) for $10 and download it onto your computer. You write inside this program, instead of Word or Scrivener. You get to set the parameters, which I really like. So you decide how many words you need to write and set the timer. Then you write. If you stop for too long, your screen will darken from white to red, and then a dialogue box pops up and reminds you to start writing. Meanwhile, as all this is going on, you can see a red bar on the top. It grows longer as you run out of time. I hate that red bar! But it gets my adrenaline flowing. The first day I got Write or Die, I tested it. Here are my results: I wrote 8 pages in 62 minutes. For me, that’s just unbelievable.

So, for those of you who knee-deep in NaNo, don’t give up! Keep going. I heard that the novel, Water For Elephants was a NaNo book.

Here’s my question for the day:
Who’s doing NaNo and what are you writing?
If you’re not doing NaNo, have you ever heard of it before? And if so, do you think all of us NaNoites are nuts? (We kinda are, but we seem to be enjoying ourselves.)

Tell me about your NaNo adventures in the comment section below and I will give away two prizes to two different people this month. One will get a signed copy of AFTERLIFE: THE RESURRECTION CHRONICLES and one will get a copy of A BOOK OF THEIR CHOICE WRITTEN BY A SUPERNATURAL UNDERGROUND AUTHOR.

Game Rules:
To enter to win, please post a comment below and include your e-mail address. Entries without e-mail addresses won’t be included in the giveaway. You can earn points by:

+1 Posting in the comments section
+1 Linking to this post on Twitter
+1 Linking to this post on Facebook
+1 Linking to the Supernatural Underground blog on your own blog/website
+3 Following me on Twitter
+3 Following me on Facebook

Just post the total number of points that you’ve earned in your comment. Contest ends Tuesday, November 30, at midnight. Winners to be announced in this post Wednesday, December 1.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Time of Tradition

Happy November! Laura here, and with Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I thought now would be a good time to talk about giving thanks.

For most people, this time of year is a time of traditions. A time to gather with friends and family, share some awesome food, and maybe--if you're really lucky (or not so much so depending on your likes) a day watching television and taking football naps. Our household is no exception, allowing me to pass down those traditions my parents shared with me when I was little.

When our children were small, we started a new tradition. After all the food was on the table and before anyone got to take a bite, we go around the table and share what happened throughout the year that we're most thankful for. Usually, for them it was, and still is, that they've survived to see their latest birthday. Okay, good kids, but yeah, not the brightest bunch with their decision making sometimes. For me, it's usually giving thanks for my husband. Awesome guy who has helped me achieve my goals and given me those children I sometimes want to smack upside the head for their poor decision making skills :)

This year, my most thankful moments are split. Professionally, we've had so much to be thankful for. Two books already written and two more now under contract. An awesome cover (no, sorry, still haven't been given the okay to share this but believe me, as soon as we can, we'll post it!). An amazing agent and editor and a writing partner who without her, none of this would have been possible. And, in a little over five months our first book will hit the shelves. That's a lot of good happening to one person, or in our case, two. So how can anyone be thankful for anything more?

Well, for me, it's on the family side. In May, that great man I'm always thankful for suffered some sudden health issues. One minute, he was having a routine test run, the next he was scheduled for open heart surgery. Thankfully, he came through the operation, but that horrible moment of learning that my hero isn't Superman after all, even though he always tries to be, taught me something very important. One tick of the clock can really change your entire life. Traditions are great, but why does it have to be a set day on a calendar to make us appreciate and give thanks for the things we have?

My new tradition is making sure each day I give thanks for the things in my life. It doesn't matter if it's something little like I wrote 3 pages that didn't need a massive amount of editing. Could be that an entire day went by and I didn't have to dance on my head to get my toddlers to listen and stay out of the bathroom unless they have business to attend to--and that does not mean cleaning cars in the toilet! Some days it's simply that I got dinner cooked on time, baths given without flooding, and bedtime arrived while I still liked them all :). On tough days, it might even be nothing more than that in all the chaos, I found one thing to laugh about. Regardless of how big or small the event is, it's worth a nightly mention to let them know I'm proud of them, love them, and yeah still want to smack them.

So what are your traditions for this time of year? What special things do you and yours share that you'd like to be passed down for generations to come?

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Today is my birthday, and I've been busy enjoying it. :-) I'm not sure why, but this year seems different than the *cough, cough* or so years before it - this year I'm really focusing on how lucky I am to be *cough, cough* years old, and doing what I love to do.

Writing is a dream for many people, but it's a dream that came true for me. Not only do I get to make up stories for a living, I get the chance to live out loud by sharing those stories with the world. I've met so many interesting and fascinating people in my role as an author; I've made many new friends and reconnected with some old ones, and I've been countlessly touched by the kindness of strangers who write to tell me how I've touched them, too.

Look at this cool birthday graphic sent to me by Justine, one of my readers; it makes me smile every time I look at it, because I know it was designed with my particular brand of quirkiness in mind!  This graphic would never have been made if Justine weren't a reader and I weren't a writer, and what a shame that would be!  (Thanks, Justine - it's adorable.)

Bottom line, I'm a very lucky woman, and today I'm making sure that I savor it, and appreciate it.  Life isn't always kind; I've had my share of tragedies and heartaches.  But today, on my birthday, I want to say "thank you" to those who make me smile, to those who helped me along the way, to those who let me into their lives through words on a page.

Take a minute and think about what gifts you have in your life, whether it's friends, family or just the astounding ability to cook, clean, work and multi-task without losing your mind.  :)

Today's my birthday, and that's what I'm doing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting the Romance Right

***And the winners are: Marie, Melanie, and Stephanie

Please email me at: pamela @ pamelapalmer.net (no spaces)

Thanks for all the great comments!

I'm a romance addict, I admit it. So it frustrates me when writers, or Hollywood, get the romance wrong. Of course, what I consider 'wrong' might strike you as perfectly right and vice versa, but that's the nature of art. That said...

One of the t.v. shows I've been watching (and otherwise enjoying) has two characters who are supposedly intimate, supposedly in love. They're regularly shown in bed together on their backs, both looking up at the ceiling with the sheet up to their armpits. Not touching. Not looking at each other. When they're shown together in other scenes, their body language screams 'Never even kissed!' Even in the big emotional scenes between them they act like awkward strangers. No way can I believe these two have been in an intimate relationship, let alone that they love one another. I get that in the story maybe they don't want to flaunt their relationship, but it's not a secret. And an intimacy like that, especially if there are real feelings involved, is going to show.

How? In soft glances or hungry looks. In touches that are so natural between them they might not even be aware of them. The slide of his hand along the nape of her neck. The stroke of his back as she passes him. Tenderness. Awareness. And when the loved one is in danger or hurt, that tenderness ratchets high, along with fear and concern that can't be entirely hidden no matter how hard he or she tries. It bleeds through. You see it. you feel it.

Or you should.

Sometimes Hollywood does get it right. Vampire Diaries is a good example. It's easy to believe that Stephen and Elena are in love, or at least that they think they're in love. But the one I truly adore is Damon. Because he loves Elena, too, and I knew it long before he admitted it. I see it in the way he looks at her, in the things he says, in the things he does. He's a dark, deadly vampire, yet he loves this girl and it's changing him.

Sometimes the words and actions are right, but there's no chemistry between the actors. Most romantic comedies don't work for me because they're designed too much for the laughs, not the emotion. Two that did work: 10 Things I Hate About You and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. (Ha. A couple of perfect tens.)

Dramas where I've loved the romance: Ever After with Drew Barrymore. Avatar. Underworld. Speed. There's a brilliantly romantic moment at the end of Speed (Spoiler Alert!) when they're on a runaway train, she's chained up, and though he tries and tries to free her, he can't. But he can still escape. She tells him to go. He gives her one of those to-die-for looks and slowly wraps his arms around her instead, pulling her close, making it clear he's not going anywhere without her. THAT'S romance.

Did you ever see the kiss between Lancelot and Guinevere (Richard Gere and Julia Ormond) in the movie First Knight? My t.v. screen was smoking. Can I believe those two have a thing for one another? Oh, yeah.

Real romance requires chemistry. And tenderness. And often sacrifice. It requires understanding one another, really getting him/her on a soul-deep level. Seeing the other as they truly are and loving them anyway. It's a look, a touch, a hesitation, a gleam in the eye. A hunger. It's nuance and passion, and when it's done right, it's powerful and moving and wonderful.

So, what movie or t.v. show has the best romance, in your opinion? I'm giving away three signed copies of my latest Feral Warriors novel, Rapture Untamed, so please share! I'm always hungry for another great screen romance.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Trends Are Like Worms

Robin by cruadinx
Last night, thunderstorms rolled through the area, pouring down rain that drew all the earthworms to the surface. Early this morning, the yard is full of robins, eager to eat up all the worms. A few hours later, they were gone, along with all the worms.

This reminded me of trends in publishing. Something new and different and exciting bursts onto the scene, usually because an editor and a publisher took a chance on something unconventional, and suddenly everyone wants one. Every house wants a big [insert latest trend here] in their lineup. The eat them up like worms after a rain and then, suddenly, the feeding frenzy dries up.

In my brief time in this industry, I've seen it happen a few times. First it was chick lit. Bridget Jones' Diary and Sex and the City threw the door open, and everyone (myself included) rushed in. Only I was too late, and all the worms were gone. The same thing happened with vampires, thank you Twilight (I avoided that one), and now dystopian YA (in the wake of The Hunger Games).

The hard part about this for a writer is that sometimes (oftentimes) something about a trend is born of a common experience, a common inspiration that speaks to a lot of us at the same time. But, as the old saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. You need to be ahead of the trend, you need to start the trend, or you'll be late to the yard and all the worms will be gone.

My question for everyone today is:
Have any thoughts on upcoming trends? What do you see on the horizon in fiction? What do you want to see there?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Do authors have favorites?

Hello to everyone out there in the Underground. We're well into November now and feck, where has the time gone? Is it really and truly that close to Christmas? Oy...the time she is a flying by. I've been busy though and have had a great excuse! The second book in my jaguar warrior series, His Darkest Embrace, released a few weeks ago so they were pretty much a blur. (if you click on the title you can read an excerpt)

Releases are always crazy times, filled with blogs and more blogs and book signings etc. There's almost not enough time to just enjoy...almost...I did manage to sneak in some...Holy Crap I wrote a book time and celebrate with my friends and family.

I also got a sneek peek at my next cover and well, HOT is the only word that comes to mind. I shall share as soon as I can!

But as is the way of it I'm busy at work on the next project. I thought I'd share a bit of what I'm working on!

Book three, His Darkest Salvation comes out in July of 2011. You can read an excerpt of it HERE. It's the oldest Castille's story, Julian's, and I had such a great time writing it. I think because as a character he went through a lot and changed the most out of the brothers. Plus because this story ties up a lot of the plot points of the three book story arc, we get to see Jaxon and Libby again, as well as Skye, Jagger, Cracker and of course that smart ass Declan plays a major role.

Declan's book was the most fun I've had. A friend of mine told me that she thinks authors have characters that are favorites and she thinks Declan might be mine. She says its in the way I've written him. I'm not so sure, but he does seem to stand out a bit. To date I've gotten a lot of emails asking if I was going to write Declan's book and I'm happy to say YES!!! Wicked Road to Hell is scheduled to release next November and I can't wait for everyone to read it!

Here is a little snippet. In this scene Nico, a jaguar warrior introduced in book 2 arrives on scene. He and Declan are partners of a sort and Declan is trying to convince Nico to aid him in a mission that's going to change his world.

Nico glanced his way and Declan winced at the fury that coloured the jaguar's eyes. Shit here we go. With his newly shorn Mohawk the dude looked like a deranged serial killer. “One word,” the warrior hissed, “purgatory.”
Declan clenched his hands into fists, at the ready, just in case. He was never going to live down the Church of the Holy fiasco. “Look the whole purgatory thing was a mistake but can we please move on? How the hell was I supposed to know the ladies were pure? That they’d been chosen to serve?”
Nico was disgusted. “They were living in a fucking convent. That might have been your first clue.”

Oh my lovely Declan, always in trouble it seems! As I read back over this manuscript I'm not convinced he's my favorite, but, he's certainly struck a chord with my readers.

So I'm curious, why do you think certain characters stand out? And which one character could you just not wait to read his/her story?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Change of Scenery

I have to admit that I think this blog posting is going to be a bit short today because I honestly thought of my topic last night while I was sitting in a busy coffee shop last night working on my latest project. Yes, I am one of those NaNoWriMo'ers, where I am attempting to pump out 50,000 words in less than a month. It would equate to roughly less than half of a novel, but it would give me a nice head start on a potential book that could interest my editor. (Yay!)

But I digress from my main point of writing this morning/afternoon. A couple months ago I wrote about my private lair (aka office) where I get most of my writing done. I stressed the importance of having things around you to stimulate the senses and the imagination as well as things that immediately set you at ease. I still stand by all these arguments.

However, there are times when you need to leave the sanctity of your private lair and venture out into the real world (shudder) with your laptop and get some work done at another location. One of my favorite little spots is a Panera Bread Company not too far from my house. It has free wi-fi, excellent cafe mochas, and if you're lucky, access to a electrical outlet.

I will admit that I bring along my MP3 player to block out the excessive noise and conversation that is flowing around me, but for the most part I have to admit that I am a people watcher. After typing a few hundred words, I'll gaze up from my computer as I think about a turn in the scene and I will watch the people shuffling about me. My mind will wander for a second as I think about what they could be saying or thinking. I wonder why one woman is eating alone or why another couple is eating breakfast together but are both hiding behind parts of the newspaper instead of talking to each other... The world around me starts to take on shape again.

Sometimes, my word count for the time frame isn't as high as it might have been if I had stayed home and worked in my office, but I don't mind. I feel as if I took a moment to refill my creative well. If you spend too much time locked in an office, I think there is a fear of losing contact with humanity and that is generally what we are all writing about. Of course, it could be just me and my introverted nature. It may sound strange, but sometimes me going to a coffee house reminds my vampires what it means to be human.

Do you have a favorite space in the real world? Are you a people watcher too?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

YA, MG, or Adult?

On the heels of my last blog (no boxes), I’m kinda amused by this topic, but it’s on my mind tonight, so here we are . . .

What’s the difference between YA, MG, & adult?

As a mother, I’ve been co-reading* with my kids since they were hatched. Daughter is 17 this year; Son is 12. This means a few things:
  • I’ve read a lot of adventure books. Daughter was a lot more HARRY POTTER than princess. We had the rare girl-book, but she mostly went from POTTER to John Green to Nietzsche and Iron Age History in Scotland. Son, well, no princess books cross his shelves, but his transition was non-fic to Rick Riordan to mythology to SCI-FI PHYSICS—but still some Riordan in there. (Dear Rick, I sorta love you. No, really, I used to have to bargain with my son. ME: “I’ll read 2 educational books, if you let me read this story about—” HIM: “3 and we have a deal.” Then came PERCY, and fiction was suddenly cooler. You are a god to me.)
  • I have had perfectly plausible reasons to buy myself picturebooks, MG, & YA for a lot of years.
  • My daughter now goes to the grown-up shelves while I clutch son and say “Look! These are all ours now!!!” (NOTE: Any eye-rolling by Son is obviously a result of dust or allergies.)
So, with the massive tower of children’s and teen books I’ve read, it’s not a big surprise that I ended up writing a few of them. That particularly journey means that I get asked to answer some version of this next question a lot.

“What’s makes a book YA as opposed to Middle-Grade(children’s) or adult?”
I have some theories:
  • Character
  • Character’s Journey
  • Character’s Struggles
  • Character’s Experience
  • Did I mention character?
It’s not simply age. Being ten to twelve doesn’t mean the character is a middle-grade character. In As I Lay Dying (bc really, all things tie to Faulkner in my head), Vardaman is under 12. AILD is very much not a children’s book. Vardaman is one of a plethora of narrators, and his journey—quite literally—is dealing with his mother’s death. That didn’t make AILD a kids’ book, though. Is it teen accessible? Oh, yes. It’s prob the most teen-friendly Faulkner book (& possibly the darkest).

Likewise, older characters doesn’t mean adult. My WICKED LOVELY books have at their focus four characters—Ash, 17 at the start of the series, not yet 19 by the end; Donia, fey for not quite a century; Keenan—a bit over centuries; and Seth—18 at the start of the series. It is, however, primarily a YA series. The characters are struggling with their place in the world, parental baggage (dead mom, evil mom, unknown dad, dead dad, absentee parents, semi-adopted mom who’s calculating), and deciding their futures. Is it adult-friendly? Yes. Germany re-pubbed it as an adult novel.

So the answer really is less about age than about character. I may have mentioned that.

Likewise, books that fit naturally into a bracket aren’t exclusively for that group. There’s a difference between accessible and “what’s the dominant readership?” Frex, I’m pretty sure that I’m not the dominant readership of BRAVE MARGARET, but it’s one of my favourite books—and I bought myself a copy of that picturebook when I was waaaay past elem school age.

So I wanna write a YA or MG book . . .

Part two of the question is usually as it relates to writing for said age. I don’t have The Truth on this or anything, but again, I have theories.

The best bit of advice I have heard on the topic is that one should write for the teen (YA) or younger (MG) person you were. We don’t write YA or MG to teach our children any more than we write adult books to teach friends or parents.

Do we have a responsibility to embed “morals”** in the books? That’s a topic I don’t think we can decide unanimously. I don’t intend to do so in the YA any more than the manga (which is rated for “all ages”) or the adult. Do some leak in? Yep. If, however, you want to write YA or MG to preach, I’m going to suggest that this isn’t going to lead to the sort of story your target readers will love.

On the other hand, writing MG or YA is more than slapping a YA label on a book that is not really a story in which the character is experiencing struggles that are young adult (or younger if it’s a MG book).

Look at your child-self or teen-self. No, look at yourself without the comfort of age. That’s your entry into writing for that age . . .

Off to do a bit of said writing myself.

  • Nymfaux—Ink Exchange
  • Raven99—Eat Prey Love
  • Bella@Beguile --The Body Finder
  • And since I feel weird abt one of the winners winning my book, I had the Random Number Gen pick a 4th winner: April X--Firelight
If the 4 of you would email my assistant (donna @ melissa-marr.com) with your address, I’ll go book shopping for you.

Melissa Marr
My Twitter Feed

- - - - -
*Co-reading just means we have our own very exclusive bookclub. It means that there are no awkward conversations bc books lead naturally to all of those topics that stereotypically are “Well, Son/Daughter . . .” conversations.

** Morals being a not-writ-in-stone thing. In my house, frex, anti-equality messages are a lot less acceptable than, say, swearing. Say “damn” & I’m not too concerned; tell me that you love that one

Friday, November 5, 2010

eARC goodness

***  This contest is now closed ***

*** And the winners are:

1. Crystal
2. Leilani @ Leilani Loves Books
3. Amy

Please email me at contact [at] traceyohara [dot] com


Thank you all for entering 



just add a comment on 

1) why you would like to win a copy of DEATH'S SWEET EMBRACE eARC 


2) your favorite paranormal/Urban Fantasy series. 

You can earn points (i.e. the number of times your name goes into the draw) by:

+1 Posting in the comments section
+1 Linking to this post on Twitter
+1 Linking to this post on Facebook
+1 Linking to the Supernatural Underground blog on your own blog/website.

Post the total number of points you’ve earned in your comment. Eligibility will close at midnight, 6 November, US EST. (Do remember to check back after, or to post your email with your comment so that I can get in touch.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Worth a thousand words?

Hi everyone. This is going to be a shorter post than normal because I am in the final 30 day window before my book is due - otherwise known as Deadline Hell :). Yesterday I had a nice conversation with my editor about the cover for my sixth Night Huntress novel. The cover process differs from author to author and from publisher to publisher. Some authors have no input on their covers. Some have a lot of input. I'm fortunate to have an editor who always asks what I do - or don't - want, and a wonderful cover artist who combines my suggestions with his ideas to create something far better than I originally imagined. Since this is another Cat and Bones book, some things are already decided. Like, it will feature only Cat on the cover, but will have both her and Bones on the stepback. The word "grave" will be in the title, and the background will have some hint of spookiness to convey that this is a paranormal novel. With luck, it will also have the same model for Cat as in the previous five books. May that lovely lady never retire until my series is over, lol.

Other parts of the cover, I'm not sure about. I requested that either Cat have a weapon on her, or be wearing her silver-heeled boots, but we'll see which one the cover artist goes with. Because ghosts play a bigger role in this novel than in previous ones, I'm also hoping for a hazy silhouette or other otherworldly image in the background. And I had one request that made my editor laugh - please no more pink font. Pink is my least favorite color (probably due to my annoyance at how it's assumed that since I'm female I automatically must love it) but it's taken me until now to admit to my editor that I'd prefer any other color for my books. Here's hoping my cover artist didn't have his heart set on some soft rosy hues for this novel ;-).

Although we all know it's the content that matters most, I'll be honest - I've picked up books before because of a pretty or striking cover. Sometimes I've lucked out and the story was equally amazing, and sometimes the cover was the best part of the novel. What about you? Ever bought a book solely because the cover drew you in? And if so, which book?

- Jeaniene Frost

Monday, November 1, 2010

About Romance, Then . . .

** The giveaway winners are (ta-ran-ta-ra!):

The Heir of Night: Lea U.
Thornspell: Cath's Chatter

Congratulations to you both--& thank you everyone for participating with such fun insightful comments!

[Cath, I have your email & will be in touch ; LeaU, if you could email me via contact[at]helenlowe.info with your postal address for Heir, that would be grand.]

Yesterday being October 31, I blogged on “ … Anything Really” about my favorite Halloween story, which is Tam Lin—and in particular the re-telling that appears as a Halloween story in Rosemary Sutcliff’s kids’ book, The Armorer’s House (Oxford Children’s Library, 1951.) This story is clearly a romantic as well as a supernatural tale–and the retelling in the Sutcliff version is no less romantic (in my opinion, anyway) for being told in a way that is suitable for younger readers. (The Armorer’s House is definitely junior, not teen fiction.) And this got me thinking about what does make a story romantic—and satisfyingly romantic at that!

Although I had been thinking about it anyway, in a low key, background kind of way, ever since Worldcon as a result of my reading there. Each author had a thirty minute reading slot, which is a good amount of time, so in addition to some of the more action-orientated sequences from both Thornspell and The Heir of Night, I also read from the chapter titled Woman of Winter. This chapter is told from the point of view of Rowan Birchmoon, the Earl of Night’s lover, and includes a brief account of the beginning of their love—I’ll include just a brief excerpt of the excerpt here, to give you the ‘feel’ of it:

… It had happened that quickly. Between one moment and the next, between the silence and the spoken word, she was in love and recognized that he loved her in return. Yet for all its strength and intensity, the wonder and the joy, Rowan had assumed in her heart that theirs was a winter love: light and warmth for the months of snow and dark that would dissipate with the returning spring. But when spring finally came and the Derai prepared to depart, the Earl had asked her to go with him.

They had walked together in woods that were faintly misted with green, the first shy flowers peeping above the snowdrifts. He had stood, bare headed beneath the birch buds, dragging his leather gloves through his hands, and asked her to leave her home and her kin and her beloved Winter Country. He had not spared her the truth of what a Derai keep was, or the Wall and the surrounding Gray Lands in all their grimness, but he had still asked that she come and live with him there.

And she—she had stood in the midst of her own world and looked up into the infinite layers of the sky and wondered if she could bear to leave, or bear to forgo his love, one or the other …”

There was more (I had those thirty minutes to fill, after all)—but what happened after the reading was that one of the audience members said (as best I can recall): “That was one of the most romantic things I’ve ever heard; I had tears in my eyes listening to it.”

Initially I was really pleased—what author wouldn’t be?—but then I grew a little worried, because after all, The Heir of Night is epic fantasy, and epic fantasy is very much the tradition of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings—which as we all know, is practically “romance free.” (Okay, there’s Faramir and Eowyn and I do think theirs is a romance, but it is a very small part of a large book.) Had I broken with tradition, I wondered? And if I had, was that ok? Clearly, at least one listener thought that it was, but still . . . tradition!

And then of course I forgot all about it until Halloween and the Rosemary Sutcliff retelling of Tam Lin very much got me thinking about what actually makes a story romantic. Knowing that November 1 was also my Supernatural Underground day, I also wondered what you all thought—what makes a story truly romantic for you? What is the X-factor that makes you sigh and reach for the tissues, or the chocolates, or the champagne? I am really interested to know!


It’s still only a month from the release of The Heir of Night in the USA/Canada so I have another copy to give away—for readers from anywhere this time!

And because it is a retelling of
Sleeping Beauty—which must at least give some pretensions to romantic elements!—I’m also including a copy of Thornspell as a separate giveaway. (Also for readers ‘from anywhere’—although as writer of fantasy-scifi I’m tempted to add, “with a postal service, of course!”)

So just add a comment on what makes a story truly romantic for you to this post. As always, you can earn points (i.e. the number of times your name goes into the draw) by:

+1 Posting in the comments section
+1 Linking to this post on Twitter
+1 Linking to this post on Facebook
+1 Linking to the Supernatural Underground blog or Helen Lowe on Anything Really on your own blog/website.

Just post the total number of points that you’ve earned in your comment. Eligibility will close at midnight, 1 November,
US EST. (Do remember to check back after, or to post your email with your comment so that I can get in touch.)