Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sex, Gore, and @!*&%!

**Giveaway! $25 Amazon Gift Certificate** 
The winner is Amy! Thanks to all who commented.

In the mystery genre, there are general classifications that readers assign to books based on their use of violence, sex, and language--just like rating movies. Some readers are comfortable only within the classification that appeals to them and rarely read beyond it. Others, like me, sample from all parts of the buffet table. Let's take a look at these classifications and see if they apply to paranormal books, too.

  • Fluffies. These books drip wholesomeness, except for the fact that someone is murdered. Otherwise, they couldn't be considered murder mysteries at all. But the murder is sanitized and happens off-stage. For example, someone might get a phone call from the police informing them that Aunt Helen is (gasp!) dead. There is not even a hint of foul language and the only blood in the book will be there from the paper cut you got turning the pages. Fluffies are a fairly recent invention, created as a backlash when readers of the next classification of books started noticing language creeping in that made them uncomfortable. Thus, the fluffy was born. Guaranteed no encounters of the sex, violence, and foul-mouthed varieties. G-rated movies.

  • Cozies. Light on all three aspects. These stories frequently take place in small towns, or if not, within an extended family. The emphasis on character development and especially relationships among a group of people are the controlling aspects of the story. Again, the murder usually happens off-stage and the mystery may involve something like keeping family secrets or falsifying the will. PG movies.

  • Traditional. Now we get to mysteries with real meat on their bones, literally. While the murder might or might not still happen off-stage, the reader gets to see the dead body or bodies through the eyes of the lead character. The reader may see other characters in the book killed on-stage besides the initial murder. There may be couples having sex, but in a "fadeout" manner where the door closes or the blankets are pulled up just when things are getting really interesting. No lengthy specific descriptions of what's going on under those blankets. Language has slipped into usage of common curse words, and only the f-word is off limits. Or is it? Some of these books use the f-word in non-sexual ways as a strong expletive or something that is consistent with a particular character's manner of speech. These are generally the amateur sleuth books, where a character outside law enforcement becomes involved in a murder investigation, possibly to prove herself innocent of the murder. PG-13 movies.

  • Hard-boiled. Language, violence, and sex are explicit but according the author's standards, not used for sensationalism. Subject matter such as serial killers, rape, pedophilia, human trafficking, gangs, kinkiness, drugs, the whole range of the human condition--anything goes. Language can be coarse, bloody violence is shown to the reader, and hot sex is usually part of the story. The protagonists are usually people within law enforcement in some capacity, or private investigators--in other words, a small segment of society that fights to keep the rest of us safe. R movies.

  • Splatter books or erotica--Language has no restriction in either of these books. Splatter books detail scenes of bloody violence and torture that amount to wallowing in blood, which is the purpose of the book. Erotica emphasizes explicit, frequent, unusual, whatever, sex to the point that other story elements exist to support the portrayal of sex. X-rated movies or soft porn.
As I mentioned earlier, some mystery readers are loyal to one classification. Some will read only cozies, some hard-boiled readers think cozies are a waste of time and not real mysteries. You get the idea.

What about paranormals? Do you think there are general classifications like this, and if so, do you read multiple types or are you loyal to a single type? Are there any fluffy or cozy paranormals, or does our beloved type of reading kick in at least at the traditional level? If your favorite book or series was made into a movie, what rating would you give it? My Mortal Path series is definitely hard-boiled!

Leave a comment for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate, so you can indulge your passion for paranormals of whatever type. Shh ... I won't tell. Last chance to enter is Thursday, June 2nd. If you include your email, be sure it's disguised in your post. Let me hear from you!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's the End of the World as We Know It

...So how do you feel? Fine?

I hope so! You'll need to save your energy for Tuesday, May 31st, for all those amazing books coming out. Like athletes preparing for a competition, you have to practice, practice, practice! Grab those books. Devour their contents, one page at a time!

Think you can do that?

I know I'm going to be working on the very same thing. After all, when Blood of the Wicked comes out, I'll be reading it, too. I have to! There's something I love about that new book smell. Or, for you digital readers, that new book download bar.

I think that'd be the biggest issue I'd have with any end of the world scenario, really. What are the odds that books don't survive the transition? If you think about it, they're nothing more than fragile paper. Paper is flammable. It gets wet and pulpy. It doesn't hold up well.

And I, unfortunately, need books.

In my Dark Mission series, most things in life worth reading have transitioned to the equivalent of e-readers. What paper is used is recycled again and again, and only the really decadent types waste it. After all, everything has to be imported to a closed off city, right? Which means that books are rare. More, after the cataclysms, the old stories weren't exactly high on the list of "Things We Need to Survive".

Can you imagine a life without Shakespeare? Without Jane Austen? Without romance books?

Makes you shiver, doesn't it?

So, hypothetical for you: Say it's the end of the world. If you could only pick one thing to take with you, what would it be?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's in a name?

Congratulations to Jean of Ohio for winning the signed copy of Secret Life of a Vampire! My thanks to all who left comments. Please come back June 25th for my next contest.

How do I choose names for my characters? First, there are the obvious considerations. Is the character male or female? Is he/she Scottish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, or something else? What kind of character is he/she? Macho, airhead, nerdy, etc. Sometimes, I already have a name in mind. Like Jean-Luc-- I've always loved that name from watching Capt. Picard on Star Trek. And Jack-- I've always loved that name and the name Giacomo ever since the movie, The Court Jester, where Danny Kaye plays the role of Giacomo, King of Jesters and Jester of Kings!

Sometimes, a name is a joke, like the FBI director named Barker who turned out to be an Irish Wolfhound. In the case of my Japanese vampires, Kyo, Yoshi, and Yuki, I asked my daughter for help. She's a big anime/manga fan and happily supplied me with her favorite names. (Fruit Basket, anyone?) In the next Love at Stake book, Sexiest Vampire Alive (releasing Sept 27th), I'll be introducing three Vamps from Australia: Rick, Steve, and Bryan. Steve is in memory of Steve Irwin, and Bryan because Monty Python liked to name their Aussie guys Bryan. Rick--I have no idea where he came from, but there was Bleer being served, so he showed up.

Sometimes, I go to baby naming websites that give names by ethnicity and gender. When I finally find the right name, it just clicks, and I know it's the one. That works well for first names, but what about last names? Where did the names Draganesti or Veszto come from? I found them on maps. Draganesti is a small village in Romania and Veszto is another village in Hungary. Echarpe was a bit of a joke. It means scarf, because after an evening with Jean-Luc, a woman would need a scarf.

Which character names do you like the most? Or the least? Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Secret Life of a Vampire, starring Jack (one of my favorite names!)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Short Stories, Big Impact...

As a reader, I’ve always loved the idea of short stories, especially those by authors whose series I’ve read. These stories were like sneak peeks into their character’s private lives, backstories, and innermost thoughts and psyches. Something you couldn’t always get in the novel itself when the goal is to propel the action forward.

But as a writer, it was an entirely different story. Let’s just say, I was terrified of short stories. Sure I could write an 80,000 word novel. I could lay out a plot, create characters, come up with a climactic resolution…but a short story?! I was afraid it was just too…short. Too short for me to create depth. Too short to create electricity on the pages. Sure, other authors—more seasoned and more skilled ones—could do it. But me? I was just a rookie.

And then I was asked to write one, to participate in an anthology with a group of authors I literally bowed down to. And I was so flattered that I had no choice but to swallow those fears and agree to give it a shot. (I mean, seriously, who says no to an offer like that???).

The story I chose to write, SKIN CONTACT, is about Rafe from DESIRES OF THE DEAD. Turns out, I loved writing it! I loved the entire process of creating the short story. I loved having more time to spend with a character that I’d fallen in love with, but that readers had barely gotten to know. I loved giving a glimpse into his tortured backstory.

The final product, ENTHRALLED, edited by Supernatural Undergrounders Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr, also has tales by Rachel Caine, Rachel Vincent, Carrie Ryan, Claudia Gray (and a gazillion other great authors) is due out in September. Some of these stories are gritty and edgy, while others are haunting, and some are just flat-out funny. What more could you want???

Well, here’s your chance to win an advance copy of this uber-fab, superstar anthology! Just tell me what you think of short stories and/or anthologies. Leave a comment by midnight tomorrow (May 24th), and I’ll choose one random commenter to win a copy of ENTHRALLED!

Good luck, guys!!!

EDITED: CONGRATS to mromero who won the ARC of ENTHRALLED!!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Join the electronic revolution - giveaway

WINNERS: Congrats to Sharon, Alli and SandyG265! You've won digital copies of both Secret Ones and Power Unbound! Email nicole @ with your preferred format and I'll get them to you asap!

EDITED: Just had to show off the cover for the last book in the trilogy which has just been okayed. I love it!

Hello friends!

So there's just six weeks until the release of the third and last Dream of Asarlai book - Rogue Gadda - here in Australia. No news yet on if or when you'll get print copies of the trilogy overseas.

BUT I can tell you that if you've got a Kindle, Kobo or use iBooks - well, you can get Secret Ones and Power Unbound right now and you'll be able to buy Rogue Gadda come July 1.

Such is the mad, new world we live in - books can be available electronically before they become available in print.

Sorry Nook owners - not just yet. I'd love for you to have access, but this is all about the publishers, not me.

For the rest - to celebrate, I'm going to give three people the chance to read both Secret Ones and Power Unbound on the reader of their choice. Just leave a comment.

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. I'll announce the winners in a few days.

Here's a little excerpt from Secret Ones, to whet your appetite.

Lucas walked with Maggie through the science building and out into the soft twilight. She looked towards the administration block, saw a light in one of the upstairs windows, and sighed. Her grandfather was still at work. “Doesn’t he ever stop working?”

Lucas looked up and shrugged. “It’d be a big job, running a university.”

“He won’t be in any condition to run it if he works himself into the ground.” Maggie changed direction, heading towards the admin building. She wasn’t leaving until Grandpa went home.

Then she noticed a shadow pass in front of the window. A shadow that was much too large to be her grandfather’s. She quickened her step.

The front door was locked, but a simple touch of her power had it swinging open. She marched across the tiled entrance way and up the wooden staircase. At the top, she turned to walk down the corridor. A blue light flashed in her grandfather’s office and she recognised it instantly. Grandpa was using his power and he would only do that at the university if he were in danger.

“Grandpa.” She ran down the corridor and stopped at her grandfather’s open doorway. A huge beast towered over her grandfather. She recognised it as a fuiparra, a medium level beast that was deceptively strong. Seven feet tall, slender and whiplike, with pointed chin, nose and teeth. Its skin was grey, with an oily sheen, pulled tight over long muscles in its thighs and arms. The sour smell of cabbage wafted from the room. As she watched, a thin extension of an arm flicked out, hitting her grandfather and sending him flying across the room, crashing into a bookcase and cascading books down upon the crumpled old man.

She stepped into the office, lifted her hands and sent a bolt of power, energetic pink, towards the creature. The power hit the fuiparra and sent it sideways, crashing into the wall. The creature turned, saw her and screamed, the sound almost splitting her eardrums, before moving towards her.

She sent another bolt, this time trying to hold the creature. For a moment, it halted. She took advantage of the reprieve to look at her grandfather. He wasn’t moving. Blood dripped down from a wound in the side of his face and it seemed that his arm wasn’t straight.

How could that have happened? He was sixth order; taking care of a fuiparra, while challenging, shouldn’t have been a major problem for him. Had the creature surprised him, managed to injure him and thus put him on the back foot immediately?

Her concentration wavered, and the fuiparra pushed through her hold and continued towards her.

She gulped. As a second level gadda, she didn’t have the skills to fight a beast this powerful. She lifted her hands to send power out again to hold it, but the fuiparra lifted one arm and swung at her. She flew through the air, back out the door and crashed into the wall on the other side of the hall before hitting the floor.


Friday, May 20, 2011

In what world?

In a world...

The words might not start as many movie trailers as they used to, but they've become a sort of shorthand for setting up drama. And for me, they sum up one of the things I love about writing: finding that "in a world" moment and drawing it out into a real, complicated situation.

Say you have a fairly normal setting, only with magic/mythical creatures/mutant superpowers. (In a world where vampires roam the a world where deities lurk in back alleys...) Said powers can range from outright awesome (immortality! control over electricity! telekinesis!) to just above mundane (control over all shrimp no longer than one inch! olfactory invulnerability! keeping a fridge permanently clean!). The first and most important question then becomes "why aren't these magicians/vampires/mutants in charge of everything?"

One answer is "they are, we just don't know it." Okay, then. How much energy does it take to hide something that big? And why not rule openly? Or perhaps in this world, they are already visibly in charge of everything. That's going to make a lot of changes in the governance of this world, possibly even down to who's still considered a person. If vampires are in charge, are humans cattle? If magicians rule, where's the check on their power?

There are lots of fun ways to play with this character by character -- say, Mr. Electricity above can only exert his power at great personal cost, and so lives off the grid, away from civilization. Or maybe the fridge-cleaning guy works in a sterile lab, and so that just makes his life a little easier. But on a larger scale, the effects of adding magic to a world are a lot more pernicious.

For the Evie books, I skirted some of this by making my magicians dangerous only in groups -- and extraordinarily unwilling to collaborate. That worked in some ways; it appealed to a very human part of the characters, rather than some external authorhand saying "no." But there were other ways in which it didn't work, and I tried to show some of the ways that this was breaking down by the end of the third book.

More recently, I was noodling around with a world in which I've set several short stories. I knew a couple of things about it: in the present, they use what was essentially "magic rock" to fuel their machines. At some point in the past, people had used the same phlebotinum directly, since in the right proportions it could cause something akin to magic powers (and madness, and a host of other side effects...). So I had two questions: how did the world change from one state to the other, and what had life been like before that shift to industrialization?

The answer: It was bad. As the creators of Girl Genius might say, "It is a world ruled by mad science [or, in my case, magic]! Poorly!" Magic powers + emotional/mental instability caused by said powers = things go boom.

In a dramatic sense, I'm all for things going boom. But how could the world I'd originally constructed arise out of this chaos? And how would someone at the moment of that change feel?

The possibilities stayed in my head for a long time, and eventually made it out in a short story that went up just yesterday, called "Letters of Fire." In a world where the art of magic is dying under the heel of a despot...or a world where senseless slaughter by overpowered madmen might finally be at an end...perspective is changing day by day.

Now if I can just get one of the voice-overs from those movie trailers to narrate my life...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Welcome to my life. The pre-time travel version.

By Merrie Destefano

Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and you’d kinda like to travel back in time to yesterday—just so you could get more done—but then you remember that time travel hasn’t really been invented yet?

Welcome to my life. The pre-time travel version.

My second novel, Feast: Harvest of Dreams, releases in a month (on June 28—EEEEEEK!!!). The closer it gets to release day, the wilder life seems to get. Right now, I’m surprised there aren’t zebras in my backyard and that they don't have a secret conspiracy to take over the world, starting, of course, with me. Don’t all secret conspiracies focus on the person who discovers them?

So, I’m getting off my out-of-control merry-go-round long enough to share some cool things with you.

1. I have a contest going on over at Goodreads. Of course, it hasn’t actually registered yet, but in a day or so, it will be a REAL contest. I promise. I’m giving away 2 signed copies of Feast. Here's a link to the page where the contest will be.

2. I have another contest going on over at my blog. It’s called the Virtual Feast Dessert-To-Die-For Contest. Details can be found here. Also, this contest ends in a few days!

3. I’m currently working on an e-book novella called Cursed, which is a prequel to Feast. If all goes as planned, I should have that puppy up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble a few weeks before Feast releases. Please check back on my blog for more details in June. I can’t wait to show you the cover for that!

4. Meanwhile, right now you can read the first chapter from Feast! Yay! I have a snippet below, and then a link at the end that will take you to my website, where you can read the entire chapter.


FEAST: First Chapter Excerpt

Chapter one

She was just a girl—bony, pale-skinned and wild—when we stumbled upon each other in the woods, the wind shimmering through the trees around us. I remember thinking that she was nothing like her parents, both of them sleeping back in their rented cabin, the stench of rum and coke seeping out the windows and doors.

She should have been scared when she saw me, appearing suddenly in the russet shadows, but I could tell that she wasn't. Her long dark hair hung in a tangle, almost hiding her face. In that moment, I realized that she lived in a world of her own.

Just like me.

“Do you work at the inn?” she asked, her gaze running over my form curiously.

I nodded. Somehow she had recognized me. True enough, we’d seen other often. I did work at the inn. I brought her parents fresh linens and coffee every morning. But this was my free time and I no longer wore human skin.

“You're different. Not like the other one.”

I frowned, unsure what she meant. I cocked my head and then followed her pointing finger with my gaze. She gestured toward a trail that led deep into the woods, all the way to the edge of my territory.

“Have you gone that way?” I asked, concerned when I saw her yawn.

She nodded and stretched, all of her barely as tall as my chest.

I heard him then, one of my wild cousins, calling to her. She lifted her head and listened.

“He wants me to come back.” She shifted away from me, started to head down a path that led to shadows and darkness. In that instant, a stray beam of sunlight sliced through the trees, fell upon her milky skin and set it aglow, almost like fire. That was when I saw them.

She was surrounded by imaginary playmates. Transparent as ghosts, though they were only visible occasionally. An arm here, a leg there, a laugh that echoed and followed after her.

I quickly glanced at her forearms, bare for midsummer and they bore no mark. No one had claimed her yet. She was still free.

I could have claimed her for myself right then and to this day I sometimes wonder why I didn't. I think it was because she was so small—only seven years old, much too young to harvest, though my wild cousin wouldn’t think so.

His calls were growing more plaintive, more insistent; the trees began to moan beneath his magic, and I grew angry that he would consider intruding on my land with his wanton hunt.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Astrology, Sex and Character Savvy

We all want characters that are vital and authentic. Believable. People we can fall in love with, cheer for, or shrink back from in fear. They must be ‘real’ enough to grow, change, love, shock, express ideas and have minds of their own. When all those ingredients come together, magic happens but how to get there? What makes a character come to life?

There are different ways to approach character development but my go to technique is astrology! In my novels, I’ve give my characters actual horoscopes. If I’m ever uncertain of how they might behave, I check their chart. Moon in Pisces? Disappear! Sun in Aries? Advance with sword swinging! Mercury in Libra? Discuss it with everyone for quite some time before deciding what to do. Astrology is a wonderful way to get inside a character’s head.

The horoscope tells me what makes them tick—their limiting beliefs, past patterns, core values, darkest fears and authentic goals. It answers questions about how they dress, their likes and dislikes, how they act under pressure. It can even give me hints for physical traits if I’m at a loss. Aries sun? Red hair, scar on the face. Sagittarius Moon? An old hip injury but great legs. Gemini Mercury? A stutter that only shows up under extreme duress. The horoscope can also help me see where my people, and creatures, will grow through the choices they make and the challenges they face. It also has a lot to say about their love life!

Take the ascendant, or rising sign, for example. It’s the sign that was on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth. It has long been associated with how we take action and initiate anything from journeys, fights, ideas to sex! When it comes to romance and intimacy, the rising sign gives great inspiration. Consider how each sign on the ascendant would 'make a move':

Aries — Pounce! Usually little or no warning.

Taurus — Surprisingly sensual, though ardent. They selectively fail to hear the word ‘no.’

Gemini — Much talk before action. They seduce with words—sometimes quite eloquently.

Cancer — They retreat, you follow. Not opposed to emotional manipulation and/or allure.

Leo — Beware of public places, unless you like such things! Boldness, flash and glam!

Virgo — Seduces with atmosphere, candles, music, tantric manuals. Everything just so.

Libra — Wine, dine, listen and engage until there is nothing left between you but the erotic.

Scorpio — Seduces with their eyes. Always, the eyed! Thirty seconds or less and you’re a goner.

Sagittarius — They promise the world, and usually deliver, metaphorically at least.

Capricorn — They buy you things. Excellent taste. Always first cabin.

Aquarius — They use the element of surprise—often surprisingly well. Much dialog.

Pisces — Enchantment. Their very being is an aphrodisiac. Poetry optional.

Astrology helps me write characters that ring true and that’s the sweet spot, the place where I close my eyes, watch the scenes unfold and type as fast as I can.

How about other writers? Do you have a favorite way of keeping track of character traits? Readers, who are your most 'real' characters and why? I’d love to hear about them!

* * *

Kim Falconer is a New Supernatural Underground author writing epic science fantasy novels about real people in extraordinary situations—nano-technology, witchcraft, quantum computers, fast horses, hot bards, stunning tattoos and environments on the brink of destruction.

Kim’s latest series is Quantum Encryption. Book #1, Path of the Stray, and book #2, Road to the Soul are out now. Book #3, Journey by night is out Sept 1. Currently she’s writing an entirely new series. You can find out more about her at She posts on the 16th of every month.

When Life Throws You Lemons . . .

Have you ever noticed that for every good thing that happens in life there always seems to be some bad mixed in? Negative energy has this bad habit of hanging over my head like a dark cloud. Around here, we jokingly call it Murphy’s Law—Whatever can go wrong will! Over the years, I’ve come to expect my electrically charged nightmare to be right around the corner, but lately I’ve been asking myself, Why?

I know bad things happen to good people, and I like to think of myself as good people so this is just expected right? I can live with that, but what really has me scratching my head in question is why do I live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop on my head? Is it a genetic makeup that has me questioning every positive thing that happens and standing back from the celebration looking for that dark cloud that has to be around the corner, just waiting to show itself?

Over the last two years, I’ve really been trying to hold onto the positive things and ignore that tingling of negative energy hiding in the shadows. But it’s not easy. I’ve tried to stop looking at the glass as half-empty—after all, if there’s still tequila in the glass, life can’t be all bad, right? This works for awhile, but those old feelings kick in and soon I’m wondering if that’s really Patron, or did someone replace it with dirty water? I’ve discovered I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to negative energy. I have a latent masochistic gene or something that refuses to accept the good things in life—and they far out way the bad things that tend to creep up in life. I know life isn’t always a bed of roses or rainbows and sunny skies. I know to enjoy the rainbows in life I have to endure a little rain. But what I don’t understand is why do some of us—okay, I’m generalizing here because I can’t be the only one who does this!—revert to self-sabotage when nothing bad happens on its own. You know what I’m talking about. You want to lose weight and have made it halfway to your goal, then just as the jeans are starting to fit again you go back to bad habits and seek out your old friend Cheetos? Or the writing is going great and you take a week off making the getting back into the routine a struggle. Or you get up in a rotten mood just because your dreams have all been pleasant this week.

So how do you break the habit? How do you latch onto the good energy and ignore the bad—even though you can feel it lurking in the shadows?

. . . Make Lemon Shooters!

Stop rolling your eyes. I know this might not be the best way to kick Murphy’s butt, but come on, can you really be upset and angry and depressed when there’s a party going on? Nope, so slide up on a barstool, have a couple shots and share your ways to deal with negative energy and find the positives in life when the dark cloud’s parked its ugly self over your head.

Sable Grace

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction: Of Rock Stars and Romance

**WINNER ALERT** Congratulations to Casey H., who won an e-ARC of DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE! Thanks to everyone who left comments, and hope you enjoy the read, Casey!

My newest novel, DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE, hits the stores in just over two weeks, and today I thought I'd give you a little background on just how this story came to be. (Let me warn you, you're going to think I made it up, because the truth is definitely stranger than fiction!)

Back in 2007, the first book in my Nicki Styx series, DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY was released. The basic premise of that story was this: a so-called "goth girl" has a near-death experience, and comes back from the other side with the ability to see and hear the dead. (It was a bit of a take on the "be careful what you wish for" idea, in that someone who was drawn to the dark side ended up with lot more darkness in her life than she ever expected.)

Fast forward two years and two books later, when I was helping my husband set up a website for his business (I used to be a computer techie before I was a writer). I was coordinating things with the web designer, and just happened to include my official "author signature" in one of my emails, which showed my own website address. He clicked on it, visited my website and said, "Hey, I didn't know you liked that dark stuff, but since you do, here's a link to a cool band I think you'll really like." Hence, I was introduced to the goth n' roll artistry of gold-record selling Finnish band, The 69 Eyes, also known as the Helsinki Vampires. Do yourself a favor, and check out their video for a song called "Perfect Skin" for a taste of their particular brand of dark deliciousness:

Anyway, I was hooked, and casually ended up "friending" the band on MySpace.

To my surprise, I got a personal response to that friend request, from none other than lead singer, Jyrki Linnankivi, also known as Jyrki69. He told me that the band was working on a new album, and that one of the songs had been inspired by one of my books! I'll be quite honest with you - my initial response was a bit skeptical, both that a hot lead singer of a rock n' roll band would email me personally, or that he'd ever even heard of my books. :) But, in true "stranger than fiction" fashion, Jyrki kept in touch, although he kept secret which book he was referring to (Helsinki vampires are nothing if not mysterious). Then, in the summer of 2009, their new album was released, featuring a lead single entitled "Dead Girls Are Easy", the video of which debuted on, of all things, . I'll warn you, it's a bit racier than the book , but you can watch the video and hear the song here:

Later that year, a dream came true when I got to meet the band in person when they toured in the US. Here's a pic of Jyrki and me, after each member of the band signed a copy of my book (do I look happy or what? ) Story and more pics here.

Anyway, I decided to return the artistic favor. The band's medium is music, but mine is writing. I'd been toying with the idea for a new series featuring a diabolically handsome character of Sammy Divine, who'd was a recurring character from appeared in my first (Nicki Styx) series. Sammy's the Devil, you see, and there's a long-time legend about extremely talented musicians who GOT that talent by making a deal with the Devil. Enter the character of Finn Payne, the rock n' roll bad boy who sold his soul for rock n' roll, and now wants it back. Throw in a young single mother with a very sick child who makes her own deal with the Devil, and you've got DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE, which releases May 31st, 2011.

Art inspires art, hot guys inspire more hot guys, and so on, and so on. :) C'mon now... who could make up a story like that??

Leave me a comment to tell me what inspires YOU, and you'll be entered into a drawing to get an Advance Reader Copy of DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Yep, you can get an early look at what happens when art inspires art!

Sorry I can't throw in a hot rock star in real life, but after all, what are the odds of that happening? :p

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's Up?

Well, I'm back into my page frenzy, which means I'm back to writing. Not that I haven't been working, mind you. Just not 'writing'. My process is what it is and I've found that it takes me as long or longer to figure out the story as it does to write it. Or at least to first draft it. I can generally first draft a novel in four to six weeks if I don't take any serious wrong turns. But figure it out? That's another matter. At least a month, often two or three, depending on the book. The sixth Feral Warrior book, Ecstasy Untamed, took longer because...well, there's stuff happening in this one, me laddies. As if there hasn't been in the others. I'm just saying, it took some figuring. And, no, I can't say more. You'll find out when the book comes out the end of October.

But Ecstasy Untamed is in the page layout state at the publishers, the book written, revised and copyedited. Soon I'll have the final version of the cover to show you. And I'm deep into the writing of the next book. Which is interesting since this next one isn't technically under contract yet. The terms have been agree upon and the contract is currently in someone's contracts and/or legal department. My agent's, I think. And until it's in my hands and I've signed it, I can't announce anything officially. But I am going to spill, just a little.

There are more Feral Warriors books in the works. Yay! But the one I'm writing now, the first book due per this new contract, isn't one of them. (I should be able to tell you more soon!)

Meanwhile, I'm creating a new world, all new characters, a new story. I'm having so much fun and at the same time tearing my hair out because while I love it, it's also HARD. Which is a big part of the reason I'm doing it instead of concentrating solely on my Ferals. For a couple of years, I wrote three series simultaneously (the Feral Warriors, the Esri series, and the Jewels of Time time travels). Switching from world to world was a huge challenge, but it was great exercise for my imagination. I had to look in a different direction for my plots and conflicts and ideas with each book and in doing so often unearthed things that I probably never would have thought of.

Now that the Esri series is complete (books 3 and 4 are scheduled for release in early 2012) and I'm not currently writing more time travels, it's time to add something new to the mix. Especially since I've had a story tugging at me for ages. I adore my Feral Warriors and plan to write many more of their books...the entire series. But I'm every bit as excited about this new project. And excitement fuels my imagination like nothing else.

So, that's what's up in my world. Writing away and unable to discuss any of it. Soon. I'll tell you more when I can!

Let the Bidding Begin

Every year, author Brenda Novak hosts an auction to raise money for juvenile diabetes research. The auction has raised ridiculous amounts of money (over $300,000 last year and $1,000,000 over all) because authors, agents, editors, and tons of other people donate fabulous prizes. This year, I've contributed two lots to the frenzy.

A complete set of my three published books: Oh. My. Gods. (winner of the 2009 RITA Award for Best First Book) and Goddess Boot Camp, about a cross-country-running California girl struggling to find her place at a school for the descendants of Greek gods. Forgive My Fins, about a half-mermaid princess who goes to high school on the mainland and who accidentally bestows her magical first kiss on the wrong boy.

Critique of a YA book proposal: Get your project ready for a contest or an agent or editor submission. Winner will receive an in depth critique of the query letter, synopsis, and first 25 pages of a YA/Teen book proposal by 2009 RITA Award winner for Best First Book, Tera Lynn Childs. Critique will include both inline notes and general, bigger picture thoughts and suggestions. Also includes a follow-up email to answer any questions raised by the critique.

If you're interested in either of the above, have some spare cash lying around, and want to give money to a great cause, please consider bidding. And be sure to check out all the other fabulous items up for bidding. There's truly something for everyone.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Sneak Peek at Burn The Night

Burn the Night: The Final Dark Days Series book is due out in less than 52 days (due out June 28) and I wanted to celebrate my count down until the big day with an excerpt from the book. I have to admit that I had a hard time finding a good selection that didn’t give away important events that happened in the other books and was still understandable to readers who hadn’t picked up the series.

If you haven’t read the Dark Days series yet, please click here to read the first several chapters of Nightwalker: The First Dark Days Book.

If you haven’t read the series yet, but would still like to read a bit of Burn the Night, click here for a non-spoilery excerpt.

Warning: If you haven’t read the series yet, the excerpt below (which has been edited due to length) has some big spoilers below. If you have been enjoying the series, I hope you enjoy the excerpt.

Burn the Night description: The Great Awakening approaches…

After eons in exile, the naturi have broken their chains and now roam the Earth bent on revenge. It is the sworn duty of Mira, the Fire Starter, to protect the Nightwalker race—though even she may be powerless to withstand the horrific onslaught. As Mira and her brave lover, the vampire slayer Danaus, stand ready to do battle, thousands of winged shapeshifters darken the skies. The war of ultimate extermination has begun, and the battleground is Mira’s home turf.

The humans don’t yet recognize the doom descending upon them. And the Nightwalkers will surely perish unless they unite with outcast naturi who claim to want peace. But these unexpected “allies” are the same demons who have long worked for Mira’s destruction—and in these darkest of days the lines between friend and foe will blur treacherously before the bloody end of all things.

Danaus found me seated on the floor in the sunny yellow bedroom at my house the next night. A shaft of thick moonlight cut through the open curtains, cutting a square on the ground and glazing the furniture in an ethereal silver glow. After Lily’s death, Danaus and I had personally pulled the sheets and blankets off the bed and washed them. We opened the windows, welcoming in a chilly early spring breeze in hopes of the fresh air washing out her scent. But no matter what we did to cleanse the room, I swore I could still smell her presence in there, even after the past few months. I closed my eyes and drew in a slow deep breath so that the air filled my useless lungs. I held it, picking apart the scents of dust, laundry detergent, lemon-scent cleaning product, and finally Lily.

She had been so briefly in our lives. A child of the street with an amazing gift to see the auras of the people around her, Lily had been special to me. She had spirit and courage. She was quick and resourceful. She should have survived. At that moment, she should have been safely ensconced at the Themis Compound, being taught by the paranormal researchers in a positive environment. Instead, she now lay in a cold grave in a distant cemetery because a bori had used her to get to Danaus and me. We had failed her.

But then Lily wasn’t the only one haunting me. Just down the hall, Tristan’s room remained completely untouched from when he was last in there. When I returned home from Venice in December, I had locked the door to that room and allowed no one to touch his things. I didn’t even go inside, but I could imagine the unused bed slightly rumpled from where he would lay on it as he read. The computer on his desk would be sitting in sleep mode, waiting for its master to return home so he could resume his search for new music. Books and magazines were haphazardly scattered about the room while a pile of laundry lay in one corner, waiting to hit the washing machine. I knew his unique scent would be thick in the air. If I entered his private domain, I would be lost to the horror of our past.

I replayed that night in Venice and doubts ate at me. I couldn’t convince myself that I had done the right thing. Macaire had shattered his mind, so that Tristan would look straight through me, never seeing my loving face or the tears that were streaming down my cheeks as my heart broke in bitter shards. I should have found a way to save him. If I had taken another minute and not been consumed by rage and despair, I might have been able to come up with a way to save him. Vainly I reminded myself that his mind was broken: he had been locked in a world of perpetual torment and it had been my responsibility to set him free. Killing Tristan may have been the kindest thing I could have done for him, but it was slowly destroying me.

Heavy footsteps creaking on the wooden stairs helped to break my destructive train of thought, but it didn’t completely free me of the two ghosts that seemed to be clinging to me. I had come into Lily’s room to hide from the rest of the world as I tried to think about the chaos that was swirling around me. Instead, my thoughts were stuck on my two dead companions.
I didn’t need to reach out with my powers -- I could feel Danaus’s energy swirling up the stairs like the tentacles of a sea creature to search me out. Warm and comforting, they wrapped around me, beating back my demons before he leaned against the doorframe to stare down at me with a frown marring his handsome face.

“What are you doing?” he demanded as I looked up at him.


“I can’t imagine that any productive thinking can be done in here.”

“I never said it was productive thinking. I’m just thinking.”

“About what?”

“All the ways in which I went wrong.”


“No, Danaus, think about it. I mishandled things and now Michael, Thorne, Lily, and Tristan …”
I took another deep breath and slowly released it as I stared straight ahead into the room, trying to force some of the tension out of my shoulders. My ass was getting sore from sitting on the floor for the past couple of hours and my back was stiff.

“Why does it feel as if the world is falling into chaos?” I murmured, talking mostly to myself.

“The Daylight Coalition has decided to strike now, endangering countless nightwalkers and lycanthropes in my own domain. I can’t shake the feeling that they have been drawn to this city because of me. As a result, Daniel has been put into an extremely dangerous situation in hopes of garnering information. To make matters worse, Cynnia comes to me with a plan to get rid of her sister by teaming up with Rowe and the rest of the naturi. It’s the very thing that I swore that I would never do! Ally with the naturi!”

“Enough,” Danaus growled. Pushing away from the door frame, he stepped into the room and stood before me with his feet wide apart and his fists on his hips. “Stop the whining. Stop the complaining. Stop the self-pity.” Grabbing my left upper arm, he hauled me to my feet and then bent low enough to drop me over his shoulder while wrapping his free hand around my legs.

“Danaus!” I shouted, struggling to get into an upright position as he walked out of the room and headed for the stairs. He bounced me once, causing me to lose my balance. I flopped back down so that I was lying over his shoulder. My hair felt forward, partially obscuring my view of his nice ass as we slowly and steadily descended the stairs.

“You need some distraction. Clear your mind.”

“If you want to distract me, we could have stayed upstairs and used one of the other bedrooms,” I suggested.

“This is better,” he firmly said as he hit the ground floor and made a sharp turn around the banister. He paused long enough to open the door under the stairs that led down the basement.

“Better than sex? I really doubt that,” I replied, pushing some hair out of my face as he started to descend yet another set of stairs.

Danaus said nothing in reply. He just silently continued down into the basement. Once in the center of the room, he none too gently dropped me on my ass on a thin mat. I gazed around the room in the bright overhead lighting.

In place of the items of leisure, Danaus and I had ripped up the carpet and replaced it with a covering of thin sparring mats. The walls were covered in a wide variety of weapons and sparring shields. The room was now a big open space for us to practice our fighting techniques. In here, blood was spilled and bones broken, but since we healed so quickly, the wounds were only a temporary distraction before we were back at it again.

As I sat in the middle of the mat, I watched Danaus walk over to the far wall containing the various staves and other blunt objects, all arranged according to discipline. I frowned as he paused, looking over the broad selection.

“What are you in the mood for?” he called out, as his hand passed over a quarterstaff and headed toward the Far Eastern fighting style weapons. As I watched him, I kicked off my shoes and pulled off my socks, preferring to be barefoot on the mat to give me better grip.

“For beating your skull in? Give me the jō staff,” I replied. My aikido was far stronger than some of my other training, giving me what I was hoping was an edge. Danaus picked the jō staff off the wall and threw it at me as I pushed to my feet. I caught it over my head and frowned as Danaus pulled down a pair of eskrima sticks, as I expected. His kali training had proven to be much better than mine when we had both fought with the medium-sized rattan sticks in the past, leaving me with more than a few welts and a broken forearm.

“What? No kalis or bankow?” I mocked, referring to the wavy blade and the spear that were commonly matched with one of the eskrima sticks in a traditional kali fight.

“Just blunt objects tonight. We’re playing a slightly different game,” he said with a smirk.

“Different scoring system? We going to twenty points instead of ten?”

“Better. If a hit is scored, the loser takes off an article of clothing.”

My eyebrows jumped and my mouth fell open as I stared at him for a second. “Strip sparring?”

“You needed a distraction and a way to burn off some steam.”

I gave a small chuckle and shook my head at him as I turned my jō staff over in my hands, getting ready for his attack. “Grand Masters are rolling over in their graves right now.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. I’ll be back next month with a look at the new series that I am working on focusing on magic and tattoos.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Travel Blurs & Graveminder

Sometimes I think the greatest illusion that writers create is not in the ones we write, but in what we tell ourselves: once I get past this to do list, I’ll slow down. I suspect we all create that illusion for ourselves though. Part of life is being busy. We all are. When I taught part-time and homeschooled, I was schedule-mad, convinced I was the busiest I'd ever been. Now, I look back & think how relaxed it was. I think we all do that, and to cope, we say "soon! I'll be less chaotic!" (Note: This would also be why vacations are such joy, right?)

That said, there are times we get crazier than others. Releasing two books within three months is going to rank up there on my "yep, it's busy" scale. Case in point, I think I missed April. I mean, technically, I know it happened. I have the photographs and the receipts to prove it, but I can't tell you when March became April became May. I went from departing in March for Italian tour event and the Bologna Book Fair to heading to Los Angeles for the RT Booklovers Convention less than 40 hrs after touching down in the US to a few days away hiking with my family to locked-in-my-chair writing window 12 hours after that. It feels like it was March last night, but it’s already May according to the calendar. If not for the days hiking, I'd be a muttering mess. (I still might be, but let me keep the illusion of focus, please.)

I'm home now, and I've been home for a week so I finally slept with no light on last night. One lesson I learned in travels is that I run into things if I don't know where I am, so unless I've been in the same spot for 5-8 days, I'm not turning off all the lights . . . unless I want to have bruised shins, elbows, etc, from running into doors or walls in the wee hours. That's been a catch phrase for "settled at home" in my house. "Did you turn the light off yet?"

Aside from the joy of travel--and yes, I do love a lot of it (not the jetlag part)--the biggest upside of my blur, of course, is that the waiting for release window has mostly passed. My Graveminder is out in less than two weeks. [Note: If you want to read a chunk of the book, go here.] The downside is that it’s almost time to re-pack the suitcase and those flower beds aren't going to plant themselves. That's my Mother's Day present: planting flowers with my kids and if my oh-so-subtle hints work, a good action movie. I might not be a big film person, but over-the-top movies where stuff blows up/more bullets fire than make sense . . . yeah. Add flowers, and that's quality mom time.

--interrupting myself to say "Happy slightly early Mother's Day, all!" I hope your day is lovely.----

Once I get the flowers planted, I’ll be headed off to NY; Boston; San Francisco; Houston; Decatur (outside Atlanta), Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; & Oregon in the next 6 weeks—as well as doing an event in Virginia. Most of those are events for Graveminder. . . which is about dead folks, live folks, falling in love, and a murderer in a small town.

Rather than try to write a proper overview of the book, I'll plug in a video of me talking about it.

If you want to find me out & about, I'll be here:

NYC (Book Expo & Bryant Park)
May 25
11-12 Book Expo America, Javits Center NYC-Signing
12:30-2 p.m Bryant Park, NYC-Interviewing Charlaine Harris
3:30 p.m Book Expo America, Javits Center NYC-- Panel with Melissa de la Cruz and Ellen Hopkins.

May 26
10:30 Book Expo America, Javits Center NYC-Signing Darkest Mercy/Enthralled

Graveminder Tour
• 5/27EVENT -Brookline Booksmith in Boston
• 6/3 EVENT-Keplers, Menlo Park, CA
• 6/4 EVENT-Murder By The Book, Houston, TX
• 6/8 EVENT-Eagle Eye Bookshop (pairing with Oakland Cemetery) in Decatur, GA
• 6/9 EVENT-B&N in Columbia, SC
• 6/11 EVENT-Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA

June 17-19 Eugene, Oregon

If you want to find me online, I'll be here:

• Twitter

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lost in Translation

I have been so swamped lately that I have had little time for anything. I have recently done one of the most stressful things in a person’s life, buying my first home. Then there was the moving and the never ends. So far this year has been horrendous for me, but it looks like it’s about to settle coming into the second half.
So now I’m settled into my house - I can go back the important things, like reading and writing. Especially the latter. But the former is equally important too. I find my imagination fires and words flow more freely when I read. Usually when I am working on a story, I don’t read in the genre I write. I don’t want to be inadvertently influenced by what I am reading.
So at the moment I am re-reading an old favourite - Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I love this book. It has everything, sex, greed, deceit, betrayal, intrigue, love AND dragons. But what I really love about this book is the characters. And now there is a TV series. Unfortunately I live in Australia, so I will have to wait a little while before we get it down here. 

However it got me thinking how they could translate this story to another medium. From all that I heard and the snippets and sneak peaks that I have seen – it looks like they are doing it very well. Book to TV series adaptions I have seen like Dexter and True Blood do not really follow the books. And it’s okay. It’s like they take the essence of the series and the character and create slightly to downright different story lines. But it doesn’t detract from the books at all even if they are different.
Me and George R.R. Martin at Aussiecon 4 2010
The Game of Thrones is a different beasty. The story is so intricately woven and has complexities in the plot that could take the story on an entirely different path if not followed. The story is still unfolding in book form, theories abound about where it will go. Questions still lie unanswered like who is Jon Snow’s mother (I have my own theories on this) that one slip could bring the story undone.
The other thing I am worried about are how my beloved characters are betrayed. Including some of my favourites which include:

Jon Snow - the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell (or is he???) with his constant companion the silent white direwolf called Ghost.

Tyrion Lannister - the Imp - the very cunning and extremely intelligent son of a brutish lord and brother-in-law to the King.

Arya Stark - the plucky and courageous daughter of Lord Stark and Jon Snow's half sister (maybe), who goes on a perilous adventure

Daenerys Targaryen - the khaleesi of the Dothraki and mother of dragons.

There are so many more characters - so many more that I love and hate and sometimes even both. For now I will not worry about how the TV series will play out. I will just enjoy being lost in the world of Ice and Snow. 

Winter is coming...