Thursday, April 28, 2011

What's In A Blurb

Congratulations - the winner of the giveaway is semicircles! Please contact me at with your address and your second book choice!

For the curious: The entries were all very varied and interesting, but breaking it down, we have about 34 people who said they always or sometimes are influenced by blurbs, and 14 who said they never or rarely care about them.

It’s an interesting experience to have a first book that releases in both hardcover and paperback. With the hardcover, you get the thrill of seeing your book in print for the first time – and there’s nothing that beats that – but the second comes with all sorts of pleasant surprises, and one of the most pleasant is the presence of blurbs. In the year since the hardcover release, people have said nice things about Mistwood. And there they are on the paperback!

Blurbs make an author feel good (trust me), but the constant question in publishing is: Do they actually have any effect on the reader? What I’ve heard from some people is that the answer is age dependent – in adult publishing, the consensus is that blurbs do affect readers; in YA, probably not to a great extent; and in mid-grade, probably not at all. Of course, as with most information in publishing, this is based on a strenuous and scientific review of five pieces of anecdotal evidence. So, I’m curious: do blurbs affect your buying decisions? Will they make you look at a book more closely? Do you even notice them?

Let us know what you think in the comments, and you’ll be entered in a giveaway to win a signed copy of the Mistwood paperback – plus a copy of any book by any of my wonderful blurbers, your choice! (Yes, this is a token of appreciation. And if it gives me an excuse to list them, well, I can live with that.)

The blurbers are: Tamora Pierce, Aprilynne Pike, Megan Whalen Turner, Juliet Marillier, Sarah Rees Brennan, Sharon Shinn, and Cindy Pon. There are a LOT of awesome books to choose from there, people. Giveaway ends May 5.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Brain That Ate Manhattan

... Except I don't live anywhere near Manhattan, so I guess I should say "the brain that ate Seattle". Since I sort of feel like this, some days.

Sometimes, people ask me, "How did you know you wanted to be a writer?" Quite frankly, I didn't. But that answer is hardly the exciting kerfuffle people are looking for, so I always have to make something up. "I sent a message to myself from ten years in the future," I say, "rolled up in a wine bottle and covered in gold dust and gourmet chocolate. It says, 'Karina, you totally want to be a writer.'" If I can't trust myself, who can I trust?

But the truth of it is much less awesome. The fact is, it's not that I've known all my life that I wanted to write. More like, my brain refuses to shut up.

This actually has a point to the subject at hand.

Ever since I was a kid, my brain has always been active. Thinking, processing, getting sidetracked. On and on, in cyclical discourses with itself and imaginary voices. I was the bane of my schools, too fidgety, too active, too bored by standard busy work. I'm sure I have some form of ADHD, since my dad has it and I'm exactly like him.

But because of this constant brain noise, a chatter that followed me into adulthood and all associated slavery therein, I was a bit of a career gypsy. Just as soon as I figured out everything about the job, as soon as I could do it without thinking about it—to wit, as soon as it no longer required brain power to do it—I found something else to do.

But writing is something different. For ten years, give or take the occasional slacker delay, I was able to really direct that brain chatter into something that never, ever seemed to get easier. No matter how many books I complete, how many characters I make, how many plots I make, it never stops being hard. Good hard, the kind of hard that keeps me engaged and focused and, yes, swearing, but good.

Just not easier.

And that's the beauty of doing what I do.

So I have to ask: all of you with careers you love, or hobbies that you absolutely must do to be happy, what is it that keeps you engaged with it? What do you like that keeps you there and eagerly going for more?

Who am I? I'm a paranormal romance author for Avon Romance, with my first book coming out May 31st, 2011. What does this mean? It means there will be murder, mayhem, and some seriously sexy hijinks afoot. Don't miss it!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Addicts Anonymous

Congratulations to Johanna, who won the signed copy of The Undead Next Door! Thank you all for the very interesting comments! Please come back next month (the 25th of each month) for another chance at winning a signed book.

I'm going to make this short since I have to admit to being a bit frazzled. I have contest entries to judge, final page proofs to read, the clock running on completing my next full-length book, two interviews and a blog to write, and a speech to polish up that I'm giving next weekend at the Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon in Huntsville, Alabama (hope to see some of you there!) And as hectic as all that sounds, it's fairly normal for writers. We tend to live with an ever-constant sensation of impending doom. Why? Good question. Maybe we thrive on drama and conflict. Maybe I'm guilty of poor time management or an inability to tell people 'no.' Or maybe I'm hoping that if I stay really busy no one will realize I have no idea what I'm doing. Whatever the reasons, the underlying cause is basically this: I love books.

I love to read, and that love led me to writing. I love the whole business of books so much that I get swamped. One time I was so engrossed in writing that I got a phone call from the elementary school. School had let out twenty minutes earlier, and I'd forgotten to pick up my daughter! How embarrassing! Luckily, my daughter never held it against me. She understood, because she already loved books, too. Fellow readers understand the addiction... and the consequences. Supper gets burned. You go to work after a measly two hours of sleep.

What crazy thing has happened to you because you couldn't put down a book? Leave a comment and a lucky winner will receive a signed copy of The Undead Next Door. And many thanks to all of you for your support! Vampire Mine has survived three weeks on the bestseller lists!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cons and their differences

This blog post is coming to you from Perth, Australia's most western city.

I'm at another convention - this time the Australian National Science Fiction Convention. These are the conventions that I've been attending and loving for the past seven years - a time with friends, meeting like-minded folks and have a great time.

Two weeks ago, I was at a very different convention - RT in LA. While there's a huge difference in size, the set up of the conventions isn't that different - panels and workshops during the day, social events at night, fun for all.

But there is one MAJOR difference between romance and sci fi cons - author-provided swag.

At sci fi cons, there's no overt author promotion. No posters up of upcoming books. No bookmarks or fabulous little bits and bobs to give away. You see authors on panels, you see them in the bar but they don't market the way romance authors do at romance cons. I was at a con once where one of the publishers, celebrating a milestone, did have up a display of author photographs - every one of them was graffiteed.

The first time I walked into a romance con and saw the piles of pens and postcards and paraphernalia, I was stunned - it was so beyond my experience. But the readers seem to love it. And then I go into romance specialty bookstores and I see it there as well.

This is one of the elements of the romance community that I particularly love - the pride, the preparedness to stick the chest out and say 'here we are, aren't we fabulous?'

So what do you think, friends? Do you like the author-produced swag? Let me know.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tall, dark, and handsome isn't going to cut it.

Let's face it: tastes differ. Especially when it comes to romantic leads.

I know my tastes when it comes to fictional men are a little . . . off. I'm more likely to crush on the hero's sidekick rather than the hero himself, I'll skim through thirty pages of stuff blowing up (okay, maybe I'll slow down for the explosions) to reach two pages of awkward infatuation, and I'd ditch Neo in a heartbeat for some quality time with Agent Smith. I imprinted on Tom Baker's Doctor early on, and so I've got a weakness for expressive eyes and a goofy grin. (And long coats and scarves, but that's another matter entirely.) Ten minutes with Miles Vorkosigan would probably drive me insane, though it would undoubtedly be an interesting madness.

In short, my fictional crushes are usually not the sort that would look good in a photo shoot -- or, at the very least, wouldn't express what I find so endearing about them. And that's okay.

What it means for writing is that I've learned to separate out what qualities get me interested and see where they overlap with what interests my heroine. Sure, I like a tall, skinny guy with glasses, but would Evie? What's more likely to sweep her off her feet? (Does she want to be swept off her feet?) And, more importantly, does that aspect of his character fit with everything else I've envisioned for him?

Still, I'm slowly learning that there are some common factors that I really like in romantic leads: wit without cynicism, the ability to be stoic in the face of overwhelming odds, a habit of introspection even if those thoughts are not shared. (And, for some reason, cyborgs. I just really like cyborgs. Go figure.) I don't know yet that I can adequately turn these loose associations into a character, but examining my reactions and understanding them makes it easier for me to figure out how to provoke a similar reaction.

Granted, tastes in fictional romantic leads don't necessarily translate to the outside world, nor the other way around. The darkly brooding type might be quite a draw while he's safely between the covers of a book, but off the page he's more likely to be the Darth Vader Boyfriend. (And, as Captain Awkward so succinctly states, you do not want to date this man.) Or, as Kate Beaton shows, dude watching with the Brontes has its limits. But this is fantasy -- as is, in a way, all fiction -- and so we're free to dream up a few things that can stay safely on the page.

So, what particular qualities do you like in your romantic leads? This can be as deep as "seeks to do good in an unjust world" or shallow as "pleasantly lumpy a la Daniel Craig." Action hero? Non-action hero? Wounded but steadfast? Puppy-dog enthusiasiasm? Bespectacled and shirtless?

. . . mmm, bespectacled and shirtless . . . Sorry, got a little distracted there.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fury of the Phoenix release giveaway!

mea culpa! i totally forgot about my actual
day on the eighth because: 1. it was
spring break with
my bubs and i was trying to
keep my head on straight
2. Fury of the Phoenix had
just released and the
signing party was the next day!

but please, won't you let me make it up to you?
you look stunning today. did you get a haircut?
i love that new outfit on you. 8)

and here, have some delicious mini pastries, please.

*i had to cater from Extraordinary Desserts
as it's
my favorite place for sweets here
in san diego. so yum!

and look! i even got dressed up for you. and put in
my eyeballs--i don't even do that for my husband! ha

*debuting my lovely betsy johnson dress posing
with karaline, an awesome fan who told me she
stayed up till 3am that same day to finish Fury.

and finally, a giveaway! for my favorite undies!

i'll be giving away a SET of the Silver Phoenix paperback
and Fury of the Phoenix hardcover for every twenty
individual comments i receive. they will be signed and
shipped with swag. open international! giveaway is
open until tuesday, may 3rd. i'll announce winners on
my may 8th post.

if you tweet, fb status, or blog and link to
this giveaway post, you'll receive +3 chances
in the giveaway. please comment with that link.
good luck!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Rapidly Changing World

I was at The Romantic Times Convention two weeks ago, and all of the talk--as you might imagine--centered around the changing dynamics of the publishing business.

Ebook sales and popularity are exploding, heralds are crying that "print is dead!" and we authors are wondering if we'll ever have reason to do a booksigning again!

We're spending a lot of time as authors thinking about the future, but I'd like to get some perspective from those of you who enjoy our books, but who aren't in the thick of the industry.

So, today, I'm hoping our readers here on Supernatural Underground will weigh in on the following questions for us. We'd love to know what's going on in your mind!

1. Do you have an ereader or do you read ebooks?
2. What percentage of print books versus ebooks are you currently buying?
3. If you have an ereader and only or mostly download books to read, would you find a booksigning worth attending? If so, why?
4. Do you have any suggestions for us authors as far as how to sign/promote books for those of you who buy them electronically? (I've been asked to sign a Kindle and a nook more than once...the actual devices!)

...and any other thoughts or observations you might have!

Thanks so much for being our readers and let us know what you think.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

DARKEST MERCY and GRAVEMINDER Winners from March 6th!

(on behalf of Melissa Marr)

Melissa's been traveling a lot lately, but didn't forget that she'd promised to give away three copies of DARKEST MERCY and an ARC of GRAVEMINDER on her blog last month, so here are the winners!

1. (Stephanie)
2. (Victoria)
3. (Christina)

1. (HalsSister)

If the four of you would email Melissa's assistant (donna @ with your address, she’ll send them right out!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Final Countdown

Happy April everyone! Laura here. Does the title of this blog immediately set you to humming the 80’s tune by Europe with the same name? Not sure of the song? Ever seen the movie Tron: Legacy? It’s the song playing in the arcade right before Sam is sucked into The Grid. Got it? Great! Now that we’re all going to have that song stuck in our heads the rest of the day, what does it all mean? In ten short days, our debut book, Ascension: A Dark Breed Novel, will be on the shelves!

In honor of this monumental event, for us anyway, I thought it would be fun to list a few books that have an April release that seemed wait-worthy. These are listed in the order they were found and most were picked because, well, the titles and/or covers were cool.

10. Vampire Dragon, by Annette Blair (Berkley) Third in the Works Like Magick series.

9. Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep (Pocket) I'd rather face a dozen lethal assassins any night than deal with something as tricky, convoluted, and fragile as my feelings.

8. The Cold Kiss of Death by Suzanne McLeod (Ace) Second in the Spellcrackers series after The Sweet Scent of Blood (2010).

7.An Uninvited Ghost, by E.J. Copperman (Berkley) Second in the Haunted Guesthouse series following Night of the Living Deed (2010).

6. A Hard Day’s Fright, by Casey Daniels (Berkley) Seventh in the Pepper Martin series.

5. Deadworld, by J.N. Duncan (Kensington) Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers, but her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of.

4. Hidden Embers, by Tessa Adams (NAL) In the New Mexico desert there is a secret race on the brink of extinction.

3. Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend by Linda Wisdom (Sourcebooks Casablanca) Feisty witch Maggie enjoys her work as a paranormal law enforcement officer—that is, until she’s assigned to protect a teenager with major attitude and a sleazy boyfriend.

2. Hush by Cherry Adair (Pocket Star) National bestselling author Cherry Adair introduces an edgy, sexy new suspense series with this exhilarating international tale of hide and seek.

1. Ascension: A Dark Breed Novel by Sable Grace (Avon) The gates of hell have opened, and one woman will stand in the crossfire as the Dark Breed—vampyre, demons, shape shifters—and mankind fight their last battle for survival.

Okay, so I know everyone saw the number one spot coming from the instant you saw the (10), but hey, it is my most sought after book of April. Now that you see what books I'm waiting for--or currently reading--what book has your fingers itching with the need to hold it in your hot little hands?

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Tax Man Cometh

Today’s the day we fear all year long. April 15th. Otherwise known as The Day You Wonder Where Your Money Went. Strangely enough, this year’s process of gathering up baskets of receipts and scraps of paper forced me to evaluate how I spend money on one of my favorite items: Books.

Apparently I spend quite a bit on books—$780.97 to be exact.

What was really interesting to me, however, was how and where I spent the money.

Here’s my breakdown:

Amazon: $272.
Borders: $205.
Barnes & Noble: $162.
E-books: $62.
Independent bookstores: $58.
Used bookstores: $18.

You can see I don’t care for e-books all that much. They’re nice in principal. I love the immediacy—I can buy what I want and start reading right away. The problem is, I almost never finishing reading an e-book. For awhile I even lost interest in reading altogether because I was buying all my books in digital formats. Then I stopped and went back to paper books. They just happen to be my preference.

However, there was one really cool thing that I discovered as I rooted through my receipts. I found the actual slips of paper that listed the books I purchased. And with each title, I went on a mini journey, remembering my impressions of each book. Honestly, I didn’t finish very many of them. If a book doesn’t hold my interest, I usually stop reading and give it away to someone who might enjoy it more than I did.

But there were four books that stood out from all the others. They almost glowed. I ran my fingers over those slips of paper like I was holding treasure. These were moments when I’d discovered new best friends. Three were books by authors I’d never read before, one was a sequel to a book I’d read during the previous year.

What were the books that stood out amidst of my towering TBR stacks?

1. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

2. Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett

3. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

4. Origin: A Novel by Diana Abu-Jaber

For me, these were all five-star books. Heck, I’d give them all ten stars, I enjoyed them that much. Sometimes I’ll go back and reread sections, just to get caught up in the characters and the worlds all over again.

So, what I’d like to know on this Dreaded Day of Taxation is this:

What book did you read last year that you would give ten stars to and why?

And just a quick note, I’m giving away a tote-bag from the Romantic Times Convention over at my blog. All the rules are over there. The bag has been signed by Kimberly Derting, Kami Garcia, Melissa Marr, Rachel Vincent, Margaret Stohl, Carrie Ryan, Sophie Jordan, Tera Lynn Childs, Pamela Palmer, Kerrlyn Sparks, Virna DePaul, and me, Merrie Destefano.

I'm looking forward to reading your answers!

And, just to whet your appetite. Below is the trailer for my next novel, FEAST. Release date is June 28. SQUEEEE! I'm getting so excited!!! If you'd like to read the first chapter and some deleted scenes, then please sign up for my newsletter on the right side of my blog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Devil Made Me Do It

Congratulations to Kyra (Comment #22), LorettaLynn (Comment #24), and Meggerfly (Comment #43), for winning a packet of Supernatural Underground goodies and Limited Edition DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE beaded bookmarks!  You should all be getting an email requesting your mailing address, or you can send one to me first at!  Congratulations, you little devils!  :)

Not really, I made the Devil do it. :) Author's prerogative, see? (Oh, the power!!) Yep, when you're the author, you get to make your characters do anything they want, including making the Devil play guardian angel for a change.

In DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE, Sammy Divine (a/k/a Samael, the Great Shaitan, Son of Morning, Prince of Darkness and Ruler of the Underworld) has lost the only woman he ever loved to a mere mortal, and finds himself dealing with some very old issues: abandonment, loneliness, anger and pain.  When visited by an old friend, the Archangel Gabriel, and offered a possible shot at redemption by helping a young mother whose child has cancer, he decides to take the offer and see where it leads, never knowing it will lead him to discover some deep, dark secrets about himself.

Along the way he takes on an entirely different Prince of Darkness, the hard-rocking Finn Payne, who made his own deal with with Devil long ago, but isn't ready to give up his soul without a fight. A cursed ring, a sick child, and two people who've made their own separate deals with the Devil... you know the sparks are gonna fly!!

I'm not giving away any spoilers, but you can read quite a bit more about the story in this awesome review just released by GeekSpeakBlog, or read a couple of excerpts on my website, HERE or HERE.  What I will give away, as the release date of May 31, 2011 approaches, is three of these Limited Edition Beaded bookmarks AND three gigantic prize packets full of cover flats, postcards and bookmarks from a host of other Supernatural Underground authors like Kerrelyn Sparks, Pamela Palmer, Sophie Jordan, Tera Lynn Childs, Helen Lowe and Leah Cypess.  I'll even throw in three of our super-cute "I Read Books That Go Bump In The Night" buttons!  Winners will be chosen by on Friday, April 15th.

(Sorry for the picture quality, but take a closer look at the beaded bookmark... it has the most diabolically cute little handmade devil bead on the end!)

Leave me a comment and tell me whether you consider yourself a devil or an angel :), and you'll be entered in the drawing to win!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

RT Booklovers Convention Recap

This past weekend's RT convention was fabulous, though it will probably take me several more days to recover from the late nights and jet-lag. All worth it, though.

The Westin Bonaventure is a huge hotel, perfect for a convention like this. It never felt crowded, yet I never had to walk far for anything. There was always a seat at the bar, always an elevator when I needed one, always a table at any of the restaurants.

(At left, me, Lynsay Sands, Merrie Destefano at Avon's Dusk to Dark Mixer)

I flew to LA from DC on Wednesday morning and arrived at the hotel early afternoon, a couple of hours before the panel I was scheduled to present with Kerrelyn Sparks and L.A. Banks on the Care and Feeding of a Paranormal Series. With all three of us flying in that morning, I kept my fingers crossed for on-time flights. Everything went off without a hitch. That evening, Kerrelyn and I had dinner together at a great little pub in the hotel and celebrated Vampire Mine hitting the New York Times Bestseller list.

Thursday I was on a second panel with Angela Knight, Shannon K. Butcher, and Rebecca York titled The Plot Thickens: Plotting the Paranormal. Afterward I met fellow Supernatural Undergrounders Nicole Murphy, Jaime Rush, and Colleen Gleason for lunch in the Lake View Bistro in the large lobby/bar area of the hotel. I never did figure out where it came by its name. Lake View? The closest thing I saw to water were a couple of dry fountains in the lobby nearby.

Friday morning I had the rare pleasure of attending a talk by thriller icon Dean Koontz as he shared some of his own entertaining experiences in publishing, then signed books. Sophie Jordan, Tera Lynn Childs, and I grabbed lunch at the Border Grill, a fabulous Mexican restaurant across the street from the hotel. Then it was time to start getting ready for Avon's Dusk to Dark Mixer. Avon publicity guru Pamela Spengler-Jaffee put together the event of the convention, in my opinion. The food was outrageously fun--caramel apples, corn dogs, Cracker Jacks, along with more standard mixer fare, lemonade in carafes, and margaritas passed around by waiters with trays. Around the edges of the small ballroom sat beautifully decorated tables strewn with flower petals, adorned with floating candles and twin bottles of wine (Vampire wine from the Vampire Vineyards and Werewolf wine, a product of Romania, both of which are now sitting on the sideboard in my dining room). Hanging from the front of each table was a huge poster-sized cover of a book and behind each table sat the author, ready to sign two hundred free copies for book-hungry fans. Signing, in order of the picture above, were Tera Lynn Childs, Jaime Rush, Kerrelyn Sparks, me, Lynsay Sands, Merrie Destefano, Kimberly Derting, Syrie James, Kelley Armstrong, Sophie Jordan, Melissa Marr, and Joss Ware/Colleen Gleason (not pictured). SO much fun.

That evening, Avon hosted a lovely dinner for all the Avon, Voyager, and Harper Teen authors attending RT. Roy's Los Angeles was lively and interesting with excellent Hawaiian fusion cuisine. Saturday was the big multi-author book fair with over 300 authors signing. I loved meeting the many readers who stopped by to have me sign books for them!

Then Saturday afternoon I attended my first Mr. Romance competition with Pamela Spengler-Jaffee and Avon editor Erika Tsang. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. My favorite, Len G, won. (His pic at right.) I can totally see him on the cover of a book. Maybe one of mine!

Monday, April 11, 2011

In RT Recovery Mode (Almost)

Last week, several members of the Supernatural Underground and I descended upon Los Angeles for the Romantic Time Booklovers Convention. I'm sure I will forget at least one person (thank goodness for edit) but the members in attendance were:

Kimberly Derting
Merrie Destefano
Sophie Jordan
Melissa Marr
Nicole Murphy (all the way from Australia)
Pamela Palmer
Kerrelyn Sparks
Joss Ware

I'd met most of these ladies already, and knew them all from our online fun, but it was especially great to finally meet Kimberly, Merrie, and Nicole.

I'm sure there will be pictures to come from those ladies and somewhere there are videos from the Avon Dusk to Dawn mixer and the RT Teen Day party (look for the video from me, Sophie Jordan, and Rosemary Clement-Moore because I think it probably turned out hilarious). And be sure to check out the Avon Romance blog for reports on some of the great events at RT.

Thank you RT (and Melissa Marr) for a fabulous Teen Day, and thank you Avon for including this humble YA author in all your general fabulousness. I'm still on the road until next Monday (heading to the Texas Library Association conference this week) so I'm still only halfway to recovery time.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me....

Hey all! It's Saturday and the sun is shining in the land of Canuk--it's gorgeous out there! A nice omen condsidering it's my BIRTHDAY!!! weeeeeeeeeee! I've got much to celebrate and be thankful for. First off this is my new cover for the last book in my Jaguar Warriors trilogy...HIS DARKEST SALVATION...what think you?

I also found out Harpercollins loves the title for Declan's book, which will be the first in League of Guardians series....Wicked Road to Hell....weeeeeeeee!!!

And it's my one of the reasons for this short post but my son shared this with me and I thought I'd share it with you!!!!

So,another year has passed and goals have been met...books written...good times with family and friends. Last year was huge for me....I released my first books EVER and it was an experience I'll never forget. But with each accomplishment, another goal is set. For me? I'd love to sell a contemporary romance. I want this. That is my goal this year.....

So, what are your goals? What dream do you have that you've either not attempted or are afraid to? What do you want to accomplish in the next year? Tell me!!!!!!! I wanna know!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Paper vs. Plastic

Well, it feels as if the entire writing world has gone to Los Angeles, California for the RomanticTimes convention. I know it’s not the entire writing world, but it is the majority of my writing friends that is there. I chose to stay home this year as I have an extremely busy writing schedule for 2011, so I am remaining locked to my computer in hopes of getting some work done. For those following the Dark Days series, Burn the Night (the final book in the series) will be out on June 28 and I have begun work on a new series. Unfortunately, I can’t give any more details just yet, but stay tuned for more news when I’m finally free to speak.

In the meantime, I thought I would ramble today about an anomaly I noticed while I was working on my current book: the battle between paper and plastic (as in the plastic keys of my keyboard). You see, I spend the vast majority of my writing day sitting behind my desktop in my office. I have a nice big monitor, a comfortable chair, a view of the subdivision, and quiet to work. I’m a relatively fast typist after years of practice and I can get through a few thousand words in just a couple hours. When my mind is locked in the world of my creation, the keyboard is just an extension of my fingers and I don’t think about the typing. There’s just the magic of watching the words appear on the screen.

However, when I come to a scene that is just stuck in my head and my fingers stop moving, I find myself attracted to my yellow legal pad and lovely collection of pens. It’s something of a homecoming to work on paper again. I started my path to being an author sitting on my bed with a battered notebook in my lap, writing out my stories longhand – this was long before the days when computers were found in every household. I have stacks of old notebooks and legal pads filled with idle daydreams and fantasies that have yet and may never turn into books.

There are times I prefer paper as it seems like my mind is finally forced to slow down and choose each word more deliberately. Writing on paper has always had a knack of getting me through rough sections of a book when I’m less sure of where I’m headed or how a scene needs to be handled. In my mind, it’s as if being on paper allows it to be only practice where the computer takes on a feeling of permanence, particularly since I wrote so many practice scenes on paper.

I know the feeling of permanence comes from lugging my parents’ old typewriter around the house. Clunky and heavy, the typewriter was a monstrosity with sticky, hard keys. When I fell in love with a particular story that I had written, I stole my parents’ typewriter away to my room and slowly typed out the story so I could see it in the beautiful, neat and tidy, typed print. There were no quick changes to paragraphs once they were typed. There was no going back. Once a word was typed, there were no changes that could be made. But, as a kid, this was as close as I could get to having my own books printed and it was glorious.

Fast forward more years than I care to admit and I now find myself attached to a keyboard, pouring out scenes for my publisher and readers. And yet, I don’t think I will ever shake my love for writing out my stories longhand. Sometimes, I just need to get back to basics and nothing reminds me faster why I started writing than having a pen in hand and a stack of blank pages before me.

For other writers, I would love to know if you write strictly on the computer or do you write out scenes longhand as well? For readers, are you still in love with printed books or has your heart been lost to your electronic readers?

Friday, April 1, 2011

1 April & Three Fabulous Moms of SFF

1 April is my own private Mother’s Day—i.e. it’s my mother's birthday—and being Supernatural Underground day as well, that of course got me thinking about mothers in SFF.

By which I mean, SFF stories that are about women specifically as mothers: that maybe capture, just a little, what it means to be a Mom? And not just a bit part, but as a central character in a novel-length work?

What story immediately springs to mind for you?

The first Mom I thought of was in Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Wars—specifically, the Mom who ripped off a zombie’s head when it was about to take out her kids. Very “tigress defending her young”—but because there are so many “survivors” “interviewed” in World War Z, she doesn’t fit my “novel length work” criterion.

The most obvious contender, just because it’s recent, has to be Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, which tells the tale of steampunk heroine, Briar Wilkes. Briar risks all to enter—via dirigible, of course!—the zombie-infested precinct of alternate 19th century Seattle, all to rescue her teenage son, Zeke, who has foolishly ventured there in a quest to find his missing father. Briar is a feisty steampunk heroine, but most importantly, the raison d’etre behind her adventure is first and foremost about being a Mom.

Francesca Annis as Jessica
My second example was easy, too, and drawn from amongst my first forays into SFF. Yup, I’m talking about Frank Herbert’s Dune, where although the main character may officially be Paul Muad’dib, his mother, the Bene Gesserit, Jessica, gets almost as much air time. What a character she is: strong, resourceful, smart—and a Mom who is determined that her son’s going to survive against extreme odds, even if this means that she has to deny thousands of years of the Bene Gesserit tradition to which she belongs. I still recall how much I loved Jessica as a teen reader—her vulnerability and strength, her toughness and love for her son. A Mom and a mover-and-shaker at the same time: way to go, Jessica, I thought. I think that was my single greatest disappointment with the David Lynch movie version of Dune. OK, let’s be honest, there were a lot of disappointments, but the sharpest one was Jessica—I thought actress Francesca Annis was superbly cast in terms of her “look”, but her character was almost unrecognizable. Instead of being a Mom who was saving and protecting her son, they made her into a woman who needed her son to save and protect her.

My first and second choices may have been easy, but my third was more difficult. I considered Signe Barbentain in Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Song for Arbonne, but decided that her primary role in the story is not really that of Mom. (She’s more “Grandmother-of-the-country”—and fantastic with it!) Mara of the Acoma from Janny Wurts and Raymond E Feist’s Empire series is also a strong contender—but in the end I went for the wizard, Jenny Waynest, in Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane. The thing about Jenny is that she’s struggling with what it means to be a wizard and yet also be a Mom and a partner to her kids’ father, John Aversin. In that sense she’s “everywoman”, wanting to love her kids and be a good Mom, yet still realise herself at the same time.

So in celebration of my own Mom’s birthday, these are my three great Moms of SFF: Briar Wilkes (Boneshaker), Jessica (Dune), and Jenny Waynest (Dragonsbane.)

How about you, Supe readers—what’s your favorite Mom-based story? Or just a favorite story about your Mom?


Supernatural Underground author Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet and interviewer. Her latest novel, The Heir of Night, the first of THE WALL OF NIGHT quartet, is recently published in the USA, UK, Australia & NZ. Her first novel, Thornspell, (Knopf, 2008) won the 2009 Sir Julius Vogel Award for “Best Novel, Young Adult.” Helen blogs every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really site and on the 1st of every month right here on the Supernatural Underground.