Monday, November 28, 2011

EBooks 101


*** EBook Giveaway *** 
The Giveaway's over here,
but still running on my blog
until December 9, 2011.
 
I've recently gone through the process of converting one of my backlist books to an eBook. I wrote the PJ Gray series of psychological thrillers under the name Shirley Kennett. It was an interesting procedure, and I learned a lot along the way that will make the conversion of the next book in the series much easier for me. If you're interested in the process of eBook creation, whether for an original or existing book, I shared my experience in EBooks 101, complete with specific resources and lots of links. If you're a writer with a backlist or a reader who wants to tell her own stories, you might want to check out that article. If you're just interested in a free eBook, read on!


If you'd like to see how Gray Matter, book one of the PJ Gray series, turned out, I'll give away a free copy to EVERYONE who leaves a comment here by Friday, December 2nd. Let me know if you want the Kindle or Nook/iPad version (ePub). I'll be sending it to you as an email attachment, so I'll need your (disguised) email. If you prefer, you can email me at dakota @ dakota-banks dot com. Be sure to add my email to your whitelist for my response.

Happy holidays!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Time to Give Thanks

Congratulations to Michelle from Rhode Island who won both signed books! Thank you all for dropping by and leaving wonderful comments! I'll be back Dec. 25th (Merry Christmas!) with another blog and contest. Happy Holidays!

I'm writing this the day before Thanksgiving, determined that on Friday when this posts I will be thankful I didn't overeat. Ha! We'll see how that goes!

I'm always thankful for all of you readers who continue to buy the Love at Stake series. And to show my gratitude, I'm giving away two books today. Which two? Well, they were inspired by this photo.

My son's wedding occurred on 11/11/11, and we ended up dog-sitting their pet while they were busy with last minute wedding preparations and then their honeymoon. My daughter came home from college for the wedding, bringing her pet kitty, so we ended up with two animals who glared at each other for hours through the back door. It made me think of the tensions that might go on at the Dragon Nest Academy where you have were-panther kids mixed with werewolf boys. Could be a lot of hissing and growling going on!

Which side would you be on? The wolves or the cats? Can't decide? Then you'll need to read werewolf Phil's story, Forbidden Nights with a Vampire, and were-panther Carlos's story, Eat Prey Love. I'm giving away both books, signed, to one lucky winner. International entries welcome. Just leave a comment, telling me which side you're on. Good luck!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving thanks

Just four days until Thanksgiving! I have to admit, this is my favourite American holiday. I don't tend to hold with just adopting things Americans do (you're all fabulous but we Aussies have our own way of doing things) but this is one thing that I'd love for us to adopt.

A day of giving thanks - a fabulous concept. So, with this being my quasi-American home, I'm taking over the Supernatural Underground and invite you all to post what you're thankful for this year.

Me? I'm thankful for the publication of Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda. It's still something akin to a miracle to me, to know that I've got three books out on the shelves.

I'm thankful for every reader who has contacted me to tell me how much they love the books. It's a remarkable thing, to have this connection with people you have never, and probably will never, meet. A moment where we're joined. It's makes the world a nicer, less scary place.

I'm thankful that I have a wonderful husband who understands this desire of mine to disappear into imaginary worlds and encourages me to chase my dreams.

I'm thankful for my health - this body can be fragile, and must be cared for and I need to do better on that front.

I'm thankful to live in a land of peace and prosperity - there so many places in the world where life is a struggle, and death stalks the suburban streets.

I'm thankful for my fellow Supernatural Underground authors, who are fun and fabulous and supportive and inspiration in so many ways.

I'm thankful for paranormal romance, urban fantasy and things that go bump in the night: strong, sensual, wonderful women and intriguing, interesting, hot guys and overcoming danger and righting wrongs. Ah, we really do love the best genre of all!

So tell me - what are YOU thankful for this year?

As a Thanksgiving gift to you all - I've self-published a short story called How Astrid Found Her Passion - about a woman who finds herself in another land and through that, her true calling in life. It's on sale here http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/98525 but type in this code and you'll get it for free - SF75U

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Editing: How much is too much in the pursuit of perfection?


Every time I see a certain gorgeous quote from Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, I have to read it several times, savouring each and every delicious syllable.
"And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming....."

Ahhhhh, gargle, gargle, drool....
I LOVE IT!

 <So hugs to fellow spec-fic writer Paul Mannering for ensuring my weekly taste of it all these years, LOL.>

Yet how many editors would leave that line alone if it came to them from a new author today? e.g. After Eddie junior's submission, it might come back:

... However, his eyes had all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming.
(From all those editors who'd advocate never starting a sentence with And)

However, his eyes had the appearance of a demon's that is dreaming.
(From those who'd advocate that modern readers wouldn't "get" the archaic literary use of seeming as a noun.)

However, his eyes held the appearance of a demon's that is dreaming.
(From those who always avoid the use/overuse of had.)

However, his eyes held the appearance of a demon who is dreaming.
(From those who'd argue the subject is human enough to be a who, not a that)

However his appearance seemed like that of a demon, dreaming.
(From those who'd argue that we'd never get close enough to see his eyes in the first place)

However his appearance seemed like that of an ogre dreaming.
(From those who prefer to remove all religious overtones.)

He looked like an ogre dreaming.
(From those who'd simplify their own deaths if they could.)

He looked like a sleeping ogre.
(From those who'd argue that ogres can't dream, because they're more like animals...)
<cough cough, like as if animals don't dream too>

She looked like a sleeping ogre.
(From those who'd prefer a female protagonist.)

She looked like a sleeping rat.
(From those who don't know what an ogre is.)

He looked like a sleeping rat.
(From those who just changed their mind about the female lead, now that s/he has more evil overtones.)

He looked like a dead rat.
(Because a sleeping rat looks like a dead one, and dead is more dramatic.)

He was a dead rat.
(From those who'd advocate that metaphors are stronger than similes.)

He is a dead rat.
(From those who advocate avoidance of passive voice.)

He's a dead rat.
(From those who advocate use of conjunctions for this genre.)

He died a rat.
(From those who avoid use of the verb to be at every opportunity.)

The bird died.
(From those who just realised what a Raven is.)

"... but he's not dead!" replies poor Eddie Junior, to which the only compromise left is:

He slept.

(Even though he wasn't really doing that either.)  

Sigh.... And how much have we lost, and continue to lose every day from every story in the pursuit of perfection?

There's a lot said about editing, and sure, virtually everyone needs it to an extreme extent at one stage or another, but gosh,  I really think more needs to be said about embracing rhythm amid the fantastical.

In my multi-award winning novel, Diamond Eyes, the sociopath was inspired in part by The Raven, and one of his seven personalities also mimics the same tone. However, I had a wench of a time getting Diamond Eyes published… until I finally found a publisher who "got it" that the sociopath needed a completely different voice to those of the other characters. (Because sound is everything to him, and to each of his sub-personas, and therefore all the rules of consistency also required a little leniency to accommodate such a quirky character.) Luckily, most readers seem to get it too.

So does anyone else have an "offbeat" character we need to stand up for? Not only in your own fiction, but also thinking of  favourite stories you’ve read or heard?

Would love to hear from you!

:))

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vampire Evolution

I’ve studied evil from every angle, monsters and ghosts, werewolves and 'Frankensteins', madmen and crazed women and most of all, vampires. One of the more intriguing aspects of this review is their changing nature over recent decades, not so much of the monsters themselves, but of our relationship to them. We don’t see evil like we used to!

Take the vampire genre for instance. Nobody dreamed of hot sex with Nosferatu, nobody I know, anyway. But Eric Northman? The Salvatore brothers? Edward? That’s a whole different story. So what happened in the scant years between Bram Stoker’s fear and loathing to our modern-day lust-love? How different now are the denizens of the night and how did they get that way?

The curious thing is, aside from increased hotness, the basic tenets of these creatures are the same. Vampires are still a blood drinking, super strong, fast and intelligent predatory species who generally find humans beneath them. They have a hunger and plenty of necks still snap. Bodies are drained of blood. Yet, we are swooning for them. What gives?

Some say that vampires have always had an erotic quality and that film and TV have simply amped this up by putting a new face on an old devil. The claim is our art and stories have changed the image of the vampire over time, from pure evil violence to dangerous erotic to heroic heartthrob. But is it really the media that is changing social concepts, or is it the other way around?

I vote for the other way around. To me, the evolution of the vampire is not simply a trend generated by contemporary literature and film. These new images aren’t responsible for the shifting views of society; rather they are a reflection of them. And here we get to the crux. As our perception of Self changes, our monsters must change as well. Ultimately, the evolution of the vampire reflects the evolution of the human soul.

Think about it. The vampire as a representation of our inner darkness was once powerful beyond control, a force of nature we could not reckon with. Now we dialog with these creatures, are intimate with them and in the case of LJ Smith, Stephenie Meyer and others, we walk with them in the sun (the symbol of consciousness).

Originally, the vampire had no soul—‘In this chest beats no heart,’ Bram Stoker’s Dracula says, but now that’s changing. We are learning compassion for the beast within, and because of that, the beast is free, sometimes, to love us back. In this way, our new relationship with the vampire reflects the growth of human consciousness and our ability to love the darker aspects of ourselves and others.

What do you think? How have vampires changed for you as readers and writers? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing epic science fantasy novels set in the worlds of Earth and Gaela. Kim’s latest series is Quantum Encryption. You can find out more about her at kim.falconer.com. She posts on the 16th of every month.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Giveaway!

(EDIT**** Congratulations to VanillaOrchid! Contest is now closed. Thanks to all who commented. You were all brilliant! )

Happy Tuesday everyone!

The Heather half of Sable here, and as I'm recovering from deadline, this will be a short, but sweet, post. To celebrate the release of our first e-novella, BEFORE THE FALL, I'm giving away a signed ARC of our December release, BEDEVILED: A Dark Breed Novel -- the book that picks up where Ascension left off.


Interested? Answer this question and you're entered to win. Simple. And sweet!

Question: Aside from people and pets... if Hell was opening up outside your door, what's the one thing you couldn't leave town without?

Please include your email address in your comment so we can contact if you if you win.









BEFORE THE FALL: A Dark Breed Novella
Zach was once the Order of Ancients' most feared warrior, beating back the hounds of hell to protect the unsuspecting human race. But since he left the Order ten years ago, he'd been living as a mortal...until now. The gates of the underworld are breaking open, and Zach is needed once again in the fight. But before he can answer his summons, there's one person he refuses to leave behind. Shanna may think Zach has screw loose, spouting all this "hounds of hell" nonsense, but he has to get her to safety. The journey to the Order's headquarters is a dangerous one, and even a warrior like Zach might not be strong enough to keep the darkness at bay.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Carving a Path Through the Story Jungle

Every writer has her own way of writing a novel. One will plot out the story in meticulous detail before she writes the first word. Another starts by typing CHAPTER 1, then dives in and lets the words flow.

I envy them both.

When I start a new story, I feel like I've been dropped into the middle of a thick jungle with no compass, no clue where I am or how to get out. All I have is a small machete to hack my way through. The story is there all around me--the characters, the conflicts. I can feel them and I catch glimpses of them peeking through the growth. But when I first start, they're not clear. I know there's a strong logical path somewhere, too, but I can't see that clearly, either. All I can do is start swinging my blade and hope that things become clear sooner rather than later.

I'm deep in that jungle at the moment with book 7 of my Feral Warriors series. I won't tell you who this book is about (I'm saving that announcement for my personal blog on Dec. 1st). But I will tell you that the two main characters have revealed themselves to me pretty thoroughly, though I'm sure I'll continue to learn more about them as we travel the story together. But the story's path is another matter. I climbed one of the thicker trees to get a good view and I'm pretty sure I glimpsed it, way up ahead. It's a lovely path--wide and clear--at least it appears that way from here. It may look entirely different once I get there.

And that's the problem at the moment. How do I get there? I'm surrounded by dense, swampy jungle on all sides. As I pace, swinging my machete, and worrying that I won't find a way through, I remind myself over and over that this happens every time. Every story looks impenetrable at first. And I've ultimately conquered every one. More than a dozen of them, now.

I'll keep swinging, keep sweating it out. But the muse will come through, as she always does, and ultimately, together, we'll conquer this one, too.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

8 for 8

Hi everyone!

A quick intro as this is my first ever Supernatural Underground blog post.  I'm Leigh Fallon *waves* I'm Irish, and I write books. I'm currently writing paranormal romance for teens. My debut novel, Carrier of the Mark, has been making book shelves all over the world that little bit pretty for the past five weeks. It's the first book in a trilogy. The second will be out early 2013. 


On the 8th of the month I'll be posting my 8 for 8.  Each month I'll be chucking random paranormal / supernatural questions out on Twitter and FB. I'm going to be finding out what's hot, what's not. What's beautiful,  and what's down write ugly. What makes our spines tingle, and what makes our toes curl..  So join me here on the 8th for your 8 for 8. Be warned, I don't take life too seriously *wink* There will be fun.  So follow the Supernatural Underground on Twitter and click 'like' on Facebook and join in the fun.

See you here in December for a cracking 8 for 8.

All the very best and talk soon.

Leigh

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trading Ink for Dreams


A popular question that has been posed to be time and time again is how I get my ideas for books?  The Dark Days series started as nothing more than a short story that didn’t know when to end.  Mira, my nightwalker, stepped forward with a wicked grin, a wheelbarrow filled with attitude, and a story to tell.  I was just lucky that I found a publisher so I could tell her tale of danger, betrayal, heartbreak, and a love that transcends fear and common sense.

As books flow from my keyboard, I’ve noticed that a number of stories have run parallel to my own life, and sometimes vice versa.  No, I haven’t taken to running on rooftops, sucking blood, or dismemberment. (Though, I can appreciate a good fire.)  When I started taking some mixed martial arts training, I found that Mira’s fighting skills became more complicated and diverse (See the sparing scene between Mira and Danaus in Burn the Night).  When I got a new car, Mira started driving a spirited little sports car (See the car Mira drives in the short story for the Unbound anthology).  And when I discovered karaoke for the first time, so did Mira (See a mini-story I wrote about vampires and werewolves singing karaoke at the Dark Room)

 And then a few years back, I got my first tattoo.  That was the start of an addiction that I was not expecting.  I had tossed the idea around for years, but it took a final decision on a design and a little burst of impulsive energy to finally have it done.  I love the beauty of the art, the permanence, the little image that instantly proclaims to the world something that is integral to my personality or even belief system.  I love the buzz of the tattoo machine and the sweet mix of pleasure/pain as the tattoo is being done.

Unexpectedly, I became friends with my tattoo artist and his co-worker in the shop.  I’ve had four tattoos completed and spent more hours sitting around the quaint, interesting shop, hearing some of the crudest jokes on the face of the planet and some “true” stories that have turned my stomach.  There are times that the little tattoo parlor feels like a sweet niche hidden away from the world where I can kick back.

It was during my second visit that I revealed my career and that I had vampire novels published.  After some jokes, one of the artists declared that I next needed to write an urban fantasy novel about a tattoo artist.  He was joking, but the suggestion stuck with me like a tick buried under the skin.   There were plenty of other books on the market already that focused on magical tattoos that came to life or bound someone to another person.  I was more interested in the tattoo artist for this new series and what kind of a world would a tattoo artist live in if his skin art did have magical properties.

So after a lot of research, brainstorming, and some of the usual staring at the wall as I turned over strange ideas, I developed a new series centered on a tattoo artist in a world inhabited by more than just your garden-variety human.  When vampires are your next door neighbor, werewolves wave to you on your morning jog, elves are running your favorite coffee shop, and your boss at work is an ogre, literally, you might need a little bit of an edge to get ahead.  This is where your local tattoo artist comes in handy.  Mix a potion into your ink, and your dreams could come true – for a price.   Good luck, a love potion, or maybe you’ve got a nasty ex that needs hexing – you don’t seek out a witch or warlock (NEVER that) – you head over to your local tattoo artist.

The Tattoo Artist series focuses on Gage Powell, a tattoo artist with a past he has to hide if he wants to live, and his two employees: Trixie, an elf on the run, and Bronx, a troll with his own secrets.    The first book, Angel Wings, is set to come out in June 2012 and is about how Gage’s good intentions blow up in his face when he tries to help a dying young woman.  Before that, two stories will be hitting e-readers, giving a teasing look into this new world and the adventures that wait.

Come on over to Low Town and stop by The Asylum Tattoo Parlor.  They’re open late Tuesday through Saturday, and the artists are happy to help all types achieve their dreams. 

My questions to readers are: would you be willing to brave the needle if you could get amazingly good luck?  Would you get a little ink if it meant achieving fame?  Or do you have an ex that you’d like to curse with uncontrollable flatulence?  Would that be worth some ink?  And if you did get ink, what dream would you chase after?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Research? I don't need no stinking research!

In case your wondering if I think that's true, its TOTALLY not. I did more research for my book than I did for my Masters Thesis (which is what I'm currently polishing up right now). Where my thesis is about school reentry for children with chronic illness (yeah, my day job is a little weird too), the research for my book was about much more mundane things that I had taken for granted. Researching got me up and out from behind my computer and out into my city.

For example, did you know that guns were some of the earliest products to use fully machined parts that intermatched and their production helped jump start the Industrial Revolution?

Did you know that Jeet Kun Do was created by Bruce Lee and focuses on kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling?

Did you know that some of Dallas's earliest settlers were French Utopians?

Is all of this information in my first book? No. Did it help in the writing of my book? Of course. The more I learned about things that my characters were interacting with, the easier it was for me to write. Even though I was researching completely mundane things I am surrounded by constantly (I live in Dallas with a man who things he's a ninja), the more Violet's Dallas came alive for me.

In fact, one of my favorite scenes in Diaries of an Urban Panther actually happened while I was researching how to shoot a gun. When Chaz teaches Violet how to shoot a gun, it was pretty spot on of how it really happened. There may have been more giggling.

In the second installment, Claws and Effect: Diaries of an Urban Panther (comes out in December), I had the basics down: Dallas, ninja moves, guns. The second book required more research about animals and coffee.

Did you know that a warthogs major predators are humans and large cats?

Did you know that espresso is 15 times more concentrated that coffee?

Did you know that a German Short-haired Pointer will tend towards destruction if not properly challenged by their masters?

I'm not saying that those are possible spoilers for the second book, but they were all interesting facts that I had to learn to make sure that Violet's second adventure was just as lush and alive as the first installment.

If you'd like to do a little research before the second installment of Diaries of an Urban Panther comes out, you can pick her up for only 99 cents at
--------
Amanda Arista
Claws and Effect- out December 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Importance of Buddies (Plus Give-away!)

Giveaway Result:

Now I "think", if I've got this right, that Ilona is the only commenter eligible for the giveaway (since it would be just a tad naff if we Supe authors started giving the swag to each other. ;-) )

So that, Ilona, makes you the lucky winner--i
f you email me through my website, contact[at]helenlowe[dot]info I'll arrange to get your winnings in the post to you!

And otherwise--see you all again next month! :)


---



The Supernatural Underground is about books. Statement of the obvious, huh? Which means that it’s also about storytelling, which is cool—well, I think so anyways! :)

But the Supernatural Underground is also about buddies. We’re a whole bunch of writers who hang out here because we all love what we do, and also love the opportunity to spend time with you—other folk who love paranormal/fantasy/SF as much as we do.

So because it’s Halloween, and because her hot new title Feast is about Halloween, I’ve been delighted to have my Supe buddy, Merrie Destefano, guesting on my “ … on Anything, Really” blog about how she personally gets in the mood for the 31 October festivities. It’s a fun post, so I hope you’ll head on over and check it out, here.

Here’s the thing though, reading Merrie’s post and generally being in October 31st mode made me think about what my favourite Halloween show might be. And because I’m predictable (I know, sad, isn’t it?) I decided that it really had to be the “Halloween” ep of Buffy, Season 2. Which got me thinking about Buffy and why I like the show—what is the magic, really? I wondered. Because, if I’m honest, a lot of the shows are kinda silly. A lot of fun, too, of course, but still …

The fun and vampyre slayage are both definitely important, but I don’t think they’d have kept me viewing for seven seasons. When I reflected some more on what did, I decided it was mainly about the buddies—the friends around the central Buffy character and the ups and downs of all their stories. That was the bit that was like real life—and maybe what kept my disbelief suspended and me watching the show.

Of course this got me thinking about all the other stories where the buddies are part of what makes the story rock. Star Wars is an obvious—with Artoo Detoo and See-Threepio, the wookie Chewbacca, and even Han Solo originally appears as the ‘lovable rogue’ sidekick to the na├»ve hero, Luke Skywalker. Friendship is the heart of another Joss Whedon series, Firefly, with the war buddy team of Captain Mal and Sophie forming the core of the ragtag crew. In another SF series, Babylon 5, friendship—both within the human crew and across species—is the tie that binds the show’s 5 seasons together. Again, in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson shapeshifter series, it is Mercy’s friendships within the paranormal world, as much as her lovers, that empower her—and the same could be said of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse.

We love buddy stories and buddies are a big part of what makes paranormal/fantasy/SF stories rock—just, I suspect, as they are a big part of what makes life rock.

So how about you? What do you think? Have a favourite buddy story, from a book or real life, to tell?

Give-away
And because we’re all HarperCollins authors here, I’ve got some HC swag to giveaway to a lucky commenter: a Voyager Worldcon bag with a matching HarperVoyager keyring, lanyard and 15th anniversary badge.

Just post your buddy comment here to go in the draw. You can earn points by

+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
+1 for also commenting on Merrie Destefano’s post on my Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog, here.

(Don’t forget to post the total number of points that you’ve earned in your comment!)

Eligibility will close at midnight, US Eastern Standard Time, September 2—just before my next Super(-natural) colleague is due to post. I will then post the result here so don’t forget to check back. And have fun!

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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 published in the USA, UK, and internationally and recently won the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2011 for Best Novel. Her first novel, Thornspell, is published in the US by Knopf. Helen blogs every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really site and on the first day of every month right here on the Supernatural Underground.