Friday, January 29, 2010

The Avatar Blues

Yes, yes, I know--everyone is talking about Avatar, and who wants to read another poor slob's take on it?

Sorry, folks, but this poor slob just saw it and now I see what all the fuss is about.

Yup--it IS terrific. Amazing, amazing world building. The Na'vi are gorgeous (yes, they're blue, but they're TALL and THIN!!), their world, Pandora, is beautiful, and the fantasy engrossing.

Maybe a little too engrossing.

You know the saying--how do we keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?

Just sub Pandora for Paree and you'll get my drift.

According to the London Daily Mail's online site, some viewers are having trouble coping with the real world after experiencing James Cameron's virtual one. For example, on the Avatar Forums site you can choose from hundreds of responses to the thread "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible."

Fans on other sites use words like "grey" and "meaningless" to describe the world we live in as compared to Pandora. One fan even thought suicide would be viable--if s/he could be assured of rebirth on Pandora. And one poster on the Naviblu site wants you to join him in forming his own Na'vi tribe.

Come on, guys, let's get real.

Or...let's not.

I confess I felt a bit like an avatar myself after watching the movie. In fact the entire moviegoing experience is very much like that--your body is in this world but the rest of you--mind and spirit--is submerged in the world of the film. I felt this way after seeing War of the Worlds as well as after Avatar. But, trust me, I didn't want to be reborn into the former.

As for the other critiques of the film? Yeah, the military gets short shrift. Talk about stereotypes. Then again, if Cameron had cast a subtler actor (or directed a more subtle performance) that might have been undercut. Stephen Lang, who plays the leader of the Marine security force protecting the work of the evil corporation out to destroy Pandora, does not know the meaning of nuanced.

On the other hand, I'm doing research for a new book, and after reading Peter Maas's Crude World--a book about the violent world of oil extraction--what happens on Pandora IS as real as it gets. I just wish Cameron had made the corporate stooge as prominent a villain as the soldier.

The racial issue is obvious, though I see it more as a take on first world vs third world conflict. The Chinese are just as rapacious in places like Sudan as we and other European powers are. Avatar's 'savior' may be white-skinned, but what really matters is he's a representative of the larger, more sophisticated power. We may wish for the indigenous population to "save themselves," but if you look at what actually happens on Earth, the locals enrich themselves at the expense of their own people far more than they save them. Just look at Nigeria.

No wonder everyone wants to escape to Pandora.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Interview with Author Michelle Pillow

1) Briefly, who are you as an author and what do you write?

Michelle: I’m Michelle M. Pillow, Author of All Things Romance. Like the tagline says, I write in all genres, subgenres and mixed genres of romance, from sweet to super sexy. Some of my more popular works include paranormal, futuristics, historicals, fantasies, contemporaries and several combinations thereof. I’ve contracted well over 60 books of romantic fiction. Readers can learn more about me here:

I also write articles and interviews for Paranormal Underground Magazine. Like the name implies, it’s paranormal non-romance.

2) What do you do (voluntarily) when you're not writing?

I’m an avid photographer. I’ve been doing it longer than writing, in fact. So I love taking pictures, as well as research, learning new things, experiencing new things, traveling. One of my last non-work trips was a 3000 mile drive across the USA. I think that’s why I love writing. It’s an opportunity to explore and learn.

If at home, I love movies from the old classic Hollywood to today, musicals to horror films (go zombies!).

3) What's your favorite deadline snack?

Michelle: Coffee with cream. If someone doesn’t bring me food I can forget to eat.

4) What is it about paranormal romance? How do you feel paranormal elements enhance the romance and vice versa?

Michelle: I think in our modern age a lot of the mystery is gone. Science has explained so much. But that doesn’t mean it’s explained it all. I think we, as humans, need the mysticism of the unknown. Because, for as much as science has explained, there is a lot that they haven’t. I think it’s vanity for us to believe that we have all the answers, are alone in the universe, and that supernatural things do not exist in this world. Plus, the paranormal just makes the world all that more interesting. I hope it’s out there.

5) Authors also tend to be devoted readers. What authors do you read for inspiration and/or enjoyment?

Michelle: I read a lot of non-fiction, research type books. I love history, so anything that has to do with history, I devour it. I have a huge library of non-fiction books on subjects ranging from Gray’s Anatomy to the Encyclopedia of Hell.

Recently, I enjoyed Anna Campbell’s Untouched and Claiming the Courtesan. And, of course, there’s my partner in crime, author Mandy Roth. I love her Immortal Ops series and keep bugging her to do more.

6) What is your biggest "collection" (besides books)?

Michelle: DVDs. I love movies. They’re a perfect escape from the computer when I’ve been working all day and can’t read anymore.

7) What were your favorite childhood (as in pre-teen, even) books or movies? Can you spy the seeds of paranormal romance budding even then?

Michelle: I started writing straight historical romances, and had several done before even trying to publish. My first published book was a paranormal Victorian set ghost story romance. When I was younger, I read a lot of classic British and 18th-19th century literature but that was more in High School. When I was younger, it was more whatever genre YA fiction happened to catch my notice. Honestly, I can’t even tell you the titles of them. Though, there was a *blush* Sweet Valley High phase in there somewhere. LOL, don’t judge me!

8) What paranormal book or movie would you like to be dropped into the middle of, to experience the world if not the entire plot?

Michelle: Oh, that’s sooo hard. Just one? I tend to find a lot of worlds I’d like to visit when I’m watching, though I wouldn’t necessarily want to follow the plot line as much as have free reign to do whatever I wanted and go wherever I wanted. It would have to be supernatural based, or historical. I have access to the everyday contemporary life as it is.

9) If you had to have a lifesize standee of a character in a paranormal tv series, movie or book in your bedroom at all times, who would it be and how would other residents of your household probably feel about it?

Michelle: I wouldn’t put a lifesize standee of anything in my bedroom. It’d freak me out every time I got up in the middle of the night. Though, um, I do have a lifesize standees of both Yoda and Chewy in the movie room. It took me forever to stop jumping when I walked by.

10) If you were deprived of your computer for a year and had no looming deadline, would you write your next book in longhand anyway or keep notes and wait until you had a computer again to finish it?

Michelle: I would probably write it in longhand, Michelle-shorthand to be transcribed later…but only if the writing bug hit. Otherwise, I’d start a new project. Probably traveling around taking photos.

11) If you could have a little-known superpower, what one would you pick and why? What one would your friends and loved ones pick FOR you?

Michelle: The ability to point and instantly clean. I hate housework. My family would probably give me that and the ability to point and instantly cook.

12) Anything else you'd like to share with visitors to the Diner?

Michelle: Thank you so much for having me! I have several releases out this year and coming soon, so please check out the website! Coming Jan 1, 2010 the three book fantasy romance series, Realm Immortal, will be in bookstores (King of the Unblessed, Faery Queen and Stone Queen).

Readers are welcome to visit me at the following links:

Website –

Raven – Free story for readers, bookstore, radio show, paranormal blog – ,

Newsletter -


Jody W. *

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rediscovering Simple

I remember simple.

Simple was standing on my father's shoes while we danced to song on the radio. Simple was the smell of clean laudry pulled off the clothesline on a summer day. Simple was staring up at puffy clouds and seeing dolphins, or ships or dragons sailing above.

It wasn't about weather.

Simple was about play. It was about innocence. It was about slowing down long enough to notice the beauty around you. And who has time for that these days, right?


I do.

I'm making the time because after struggling for a year with writer's block and a near-dead muse, I've decided to clean up my act. In 2010, I am reacquainting myself with simplicity. And you know what?

It's working.

Writers stress over creating believable characters and ignore the characters of friends, family, coworkers.

Writers stress over the pacing of their WIPS and forget to slow down to take the dog for a long walk or say hi to an elderly neighbor.

Writers stress over plot holes but don't always see the heart holes in the fabric of their life stories.

I'm done with stressing. I'm back to simple.

So grab a mug of hot cocoa, pull up a chair and let the story begin...again!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Look Inside Cobblestone Press, Liquid Silver Books and Samhain Publishing

They say a thin, but vast, veil separates the two realms.

The veil I’m talking about separates the unpublished from the published author.
Ever wonder what’s on the other side? Want to peel back the veil for a peek? Or to actually speak to someone who has crossed over?

Now you can. I’ve lined up talented friends to talk about their experiences in getting stories published.

My first authoress extraordinaire is Ella Drake. Her publishers are Samhain Publishing, Liquid Silver Books and Cobblestone Press. Whether she’s writing about ancient cursed castles or rowdy space bars, her stories have a compelling magic that will capture your imagination and hold you on the edge of your seat.
Ella has agreed to answer my publishing questions which, I’m hoping, are yours, too.

1.How did you get started as a writer? I’m one of those people who thought about writing a novel “one day”. I love to read and had been taking literature classes at night. Then, one day after I had my second baby, I started daydreaming and before I knew it, had thought up a great idea for a space opera. After managing to turn off my internal editor long enough to write more than the first sentence, I was able to keep going and not look back. It was basically a lightbulb type of moment.

2.Getting The Call is the moment many unpublished authors fantasize about. It’s that moment when authors hear that a publisher wants her work. Can you describe your experience?
After writing a few manuscripts, I realized that not only were most of them too short for a traditional print market, but I also enjoyed reading ebooks, so I targeted several ebook publishers. I sent a short story to Cobblestone Press, and when I got the email that they wanted to sign it, I stared at it. I grinned at it. Then I kept opening and re-reading to make sure I read it correctly in the first place. It was a weird mixture of happiness, terror, and the inability to believe it. The first thing I did was call my husband!

3.How long was it from the initial publisher’s request to see your manuscript until it reached published form?
My first published story was “Wolf-Bitten”, a story about a woman who fled to avoid marriage with a werewolf, and the alpha were who tracked her down. The story was in submission for about five months, but once I signed, things went quickly. It was released within six weeks. This does seem a bit short, but epubs can make that kind of quick turnaround. Most of the timing depends on the publisher and their schedule. My last release, “Firestorm on E’Terra”, a novella in the Hearts Afire: December anthology from Liquid Silver, took six months because I was slotted for a December release.

4.What steps were involved to elevate your manuscript from a submission to a published novel?In all three publishers, the steps were similar. I signed the contract and sent it in. The contracts were all easy to understand. As a new author with a publisher, I then received different directions on how to learn about the company, was given access to author forums, or email lists. All three of these companies have a good infrastructure for asking questions and getting answers.
Liquid Silver and Cobblestone then assigned me an editor. Both houses rotate editors and you’re assigned to the next available. In the case of Samhain Publishing, the editors acquire the manuscripts, so I had my editor from the beginning. All of these publishers go through a round of three edits using change control in Word, which was a relief for me since I was well versed in using it. After edits, or during, I worked on blurbs and made cover art requests. Part of the reason I choose these three publishers is because of their wonderful covers. The last step was getting final digital copies, which was like a little present in the inbox. I just received a galley for The Forbidden Chamber, from Samhain. I have to proof the final form before it goes into print, which I’m definitely looking forward to. Of the three publishers I’m with, Samhain is the only one that has print books.

5.What surprised you most about being published?How the insecurities don’t really go away, they just change. Instead of wondering if I’ll catch the eye of one acquiring editor or agent, I’m worried about how readers will like it. And there’s more pressure to get the next one finished.

6.What advice would you give other unpublished authors who hope to interest your publishing house in their manuscript?
Read. Understand what kind of stories they’re acquiring and what their readers like. I think this is the best thing anyone can do if they’re targeting a publisher.

7.What reasons would you give an unpublished author for sending his or her manuscript to Samhain Publishing, Liquid Silver Books or Cobblestone Press? In other words, what do you particularly like about your publishers?
I love being able to write what I want, even if it’s out of the box, because epublishers and small press can take a chance on something out of the ordinary. I also really like the short turnaround time and the responsiveness of all of the people involved with these publishers.

8.How has your life changed since being published?(see number 5 above) Ha! For the most part what’s changed is that I have different stressors. But I love it! Wouldn’t change a moment of it.

9.Typically, how long does it take you to write a book? What’s your writing schedule?This varies widely for me depending on what time of the year it is. School schedules play havoc on my writing time. This year, I have a few hours every school day to write. Before now, I had to take the moments when I could grab them. It took me seven months to write The Forbidden Chamber (category novel length) and two months to write “Firestorm on E’Terra” (novella). My short story, “Scent of Cin” took a little over a month. Still, I have a full novel-length I’ve been working on for three years, so the time it takes varies widely.

10.How do you generate ideas for your stories? They come from everywhere. Little ideas that pop in my head and sit back there and grow. “Scent of Cin” came from a weird flash of a woman wearing a red teddy. (No, it’s not usual for me to daydream about women in teddies). I’ve also sat down to purposely brainstorm around an idea that came from reading a magazine article.

11.What excites you about your current work in progress?It’s unusual. The type of characters I’m putting together, I’ve never seen before. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m doing something different, I’m trying to write a series of connected, stand-alone novellas.

12.Could you share an excerpt from your books?
This is a short snippet from The Forbidden Chamber, a gothic/historical paranormal available from Samhain Publishing (link). Rukh cannot marry because his family’s curse leads to the death of his wives, but he wants Isabel for his own. This scene is a turning point in his denial:

Isabel did not see him when he slipped into the ballroom. Her back to him, she stood behind her mother who faced the dancers and chatted with her other daughters. Isabel studied a framed canvas of a windswept moor’s leafless trees filled with Ravens standing guard over a swaddled babe lost in the woods. The dreary scene had been a favorite of his as a child. The graceful curve of Isabel’s neck begged to be kissed when she cocked her head to the side and leaned forward for a closer view. That damned crescent birthmark made his mouth water.
Her intent posture captivated him. With her lush curves tempting his fingers to explore, he had at first overlooked her intelligence. He moved to the side to bypass the guests trying to garner his time and attention. Able to see her profile after agonizing minutes cutting through the crowded room, he smiled at her earnest expression and the critical slant to her lips.
What would she say if he told her the painting was by his father? And that the babe was him?
He started forward to ask but stopped in his tracks several feet away when a hand cupped beneath her elbow.
Rukh growled at the offending grip on Isabel and startled a nearby missus. The portly woman’s skirts nearly tangled her legs in her haste to move away.
A young man spoke in Isabel’s ear. She half turned and smiled at the boy.
Directed at another, her smile played havoc on Rukh. His hands clenched. The young couple moved to join the music starting anew. She danced with a Hayle, a nephew, Christopher. Of the same age, they fit together in a way he could never hope to achieve. He choked on a surge of red haze. A primal instinct to claim her and pull her from the boy bubbled from within. Perhaps for a taste of her, he could demand her sacrifice on his doomed altar of marriage.
Curse be damned.

13.Where can readers find you on the Web? (Twitter, blog, Facebook, Website)? Ella Drake is a Dark Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance author published with Cobblestone Press, Liquid Silver Books, and Samhain Publishing. Sometimes she dabbles in Weird SF stories (free read on her website). To learn more about Ella, visit her on her webpage at Ella can also be found on facebook and twitter.

We hope you’ve found Ella’s interview interesting. We appreciate your questions or comments.
-- Brenda Nelson-Davis.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Readers Want

I’m running the published author contest for my home chapter this year. For the contest, the books are judged by avid romance readers (no writers or industry professionals allowed) and we ask the prospective judges to rank their top five genre preferences. As the applications come in, I’m finding it interesting to see what the readers out there really want. Here’s a current ranking of their first choices:

Paranormal - 30
Historical - 29
Romantic Suspense - 23
Romantic Comedy - 12
Long Contemporary - 9
Long Inspirational - 8
Erotica - 8
Short Contemporary - 4
Best First Book - 4
Short Inspirational - 3
Single Title - 3
Southern Theme - 2

The applications are still coming in, so the data could change. But running this contest has given me an interesting feel for the current marketplace. As a paranormal writer, I’m thrilled to see Paranormal at the top of the list. My paranormals also tend to be historical (I have a thing for time travels) so seeing Historical in 2nd place bodes well for me too. And since I write with a good deal of humor, Romantic Comedy in 4th place is a good sign too. Looks like I’m aiming for the right market. Now, if I could just figure out how to cram some suspense in there, I could have a quadfecta (is there even such a word?).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interview with Author NJ Walters

1) Briefly, who are you as an author and what do you write?

Who am I as an author? That’s a loaded question. I’ve been a published author for five years (Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, Pocket Books) and have been writing full time for about 4 ½ years. I write romance, primarily erotic or hot and spicy romance of all genres: contemporary, ménage a trois, fantasy, paranormal, vampire, werewolf… I like to keep things interesting.

My newest book, from Samhain Publishing, is Alexandra’s Legacy, my first werewolf book. I had so much fun with this book, I’m looking forward to writing the next one in the series.

2) What do you do (voluntarily) when you're not writing?

Like most writers, my favorite hobby is reading. Other than that, I like to go to movies or hang out with my hubby and family.

3) What's your favorite deadline snack?

I really don’t have a deadline snack. Although, you can never have enough dark chocolate.

4) What is it about paranormal romance? How do you feel paranormal elements enhance the romance and vice versa?

I think both readers and writers love paranormal romance because there are no boundaries. Whether you write about vampires, ghosts, werewolves, ancient curses, or whatever, you can tailor your characters and their world to be whatever you want it to be. There are no limitations.

Plus, these kinds of characters deal with the dark side of life and human nature, which is always intriguing. They live by their own rules and their elemental natures. There is a life and death aspect to the storyline, which always adds spice and urgency to any romantic situation. The tortured hero/heroine is also a favorite in the paranormal genre. Perfect for raising the tension. Plus, the paranormal always allows you to have a really bad villain, which ups the danger factor for the hero and heroine.

5) Authors also tend to be devoted readers. What authors do you read for inspiration and/or enjoyment?

I read a lot, but not as much as I did before I started writing myself. Less time now. I read a lot of favorite authors like: Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Linda Howard, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lori Foster, Sharon Sala, Christine Feehan… The list is endless. I’m always checking out new (or at least new to me) authors. Jennifer Lyon, Alexis Morgan, Shannon K. Butcher and Gena Showalter are new favs for me.

6) What is your biggest "collection" (besides books)?

That would be beach glass. I love walking on the beach, and especially love beaches where I can find beach glass. I’ve got a great tea light holder that is the base of an old Coca Cola bottle. Very cool. I have several glass vases filled with beach glass that I display. It’s free artwork!

7) What were your favorite childhood (as in pre-teen, even) books or movies? Can you spy the seeds of paranormal romance budding even then?

As a kid, I read the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon books. My dad read westerns and I read a bunch of his Louie L’amour books. I was also a huge S.E. Hinton fan. Loved the Outsider. Not much paranormal there. But I’ve always been interested in ghosts and the paranormal. When I discovered romance (not until my mid-twenties), I discovered paranormal romance and just fell in love with it!

8) What paranormal book or movie would you like to be dropped into the middle of, to experience the world if not the entire plot?

That’s a tough question. I wouldn’t mind meeting Acheron and some of the Dark Hunters from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s series. Then there are those brooding Carpathians from Christine Feehan and the deadly Black Dagger Brotherhood from J.R. Ward. Any of those would do just fine.

9) If you had to have a lifesize standee of a character in a paranormal tv series, movie or book in your bedroom at all times, who would it be and how would other residents of your household probably feel about it?

LOL That’s not something I would really want in my house or my bedroom. And I’m sure my husband would be glad to hear that. *g* BUT…if I had to pick one character, it would probably be Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Acheron. He’s the ultimate tortured hero, but he has so much honor and compassion in him, he’s irresistable.

10) What is some of the most unusual research you've done for your fiction?

I don’t know that any of the research I’ve done could be considered unusual. The Internet is a great source of info of all kinds. I did a lot of research on knives for my book Beyond Shadows. I’ve researched mastabas—ancient Egyptian burial chambers, which predate the pyramids (for Amethyst Moon and Amethyst Dreams). I’ve delved into the occult and the paranormal for my Dalakis series, Shadows series, and my new Legacy series.

Each book is different. I find I always learn something new with each book, whether it’s the setting or some skill a character needs.

11) If you were deprived of your computer for a year and had no looming deadline, would you write your next book in longhand anyway or keep notes and wait until you had a computer again to finish it?

Now that’s a tough question. I’d probably start out saying I’d just make notes and end up writing the darn thing. It would drive me crazy though. I can think a lot faster than I can write longhand. That’s what I love about my computer. I can almost keep up with my thoughts. Almost *g* That allows me to keep my train of thought going when I’m on a roll.

12) If you could have a little-known superpower, what one would you pick and why? What one would your friends and loved ones pick FOR you?

It would be very cool and extremely scary to have a superpower. As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I think it would be amazing to be immortal. There would be time to learn and do anything you ever wanted to. The drawback, of course, would be loneliness. Watching your friends and family die.

What my friends and loved ones would pick for me…I asked hubby and he replied, “You mean one you don’t already have?” LOL He thinks I can already read minds. He thought about it and said he’d give me the ability to make the world slow down and be a little kinder to one another. I often wish I could do that. The world is moving way too fast for me most days.

13) Anything else you'd like to share with visitors to the Diner?

Thank you for inviting me to the Diner. It’s been a blast!

Visitors to the Diner can check out any and all of my books on my website at . They can also check out my blog at .


Jody W. *

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Worldbuilding woes

I'm toying with the idea of creating a fantasy world in which to write some of my stories. I've always loved science fiction and fantasy stories (J.R.R. Tolkein, Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey and David/Leigh Eddings rock!). I was so into it that I was involved in the Pern fanfic world for a number of years.

So, creating a world of my own isn't outside the realm of possibility but it means coming up with names. Country and town names. Names of species of animals. Gods and Goddesses. Even more, you have to create maps. Climate. To write one short little novella set in that world, you have to create the world in the first place so that future stories remain consistent. Needless to say, I'm finding this a little daunting.

I've posted on the FF&P loop asking for some assistance and they've been great. What's FF&P you ask? It's an online chapter of the Romance Writers of America specifically for writers who create Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal stories.

One of the FF&P writers suggested I start with which was indeed very helpful. It's mostly for gamers but it works for authors too. While on that site, I found an interesting link for a place name generator at . Lots of good ideas there. I'm still having some trouble creating the names of some animal species though. Do I stick with tried and true "earth" type names or do I make something up. And if I make something up - how do I start with that?

Also, I like to know where I am so I want to try to create a map. I've actually done this in the past - and I hand drew it. But I really don't want to sit down and try to hand draw a map anymore. I want something quick and easy - so sue me. :-) I think I may have found something.

I pulled up a trusty search engine and typed in fantasy mapping software. What came up was Profantasy Software. I'm not endorsing these guys as yet, but I am considering a purchase. Their Campaign Cartographer 3 looks really awesome! I downloaded a demo of the Fractal Terrains. It was really fascinating - but I think it might be a bit more advanced than I am. CC3 looks like it might be manageable. I just wish there was a demo of that software to download. It would be really great to test drive it to see if it will work for me. Someone has created some YouTube vids of how to create a map using the software and what I watched looks pretty darn cool. So, if I buy it. I'll let you know. And the cool thing is—aside from being fun—this is a business purchase.

So when you're creating worlds? How do you do it? When you're reading fantasy, do the maps and naming skills help or hinder your reading enjoyment? Let me know what you think!

Friday, January 8, 2010

How far is too far?

I have some odd fixations.

There, I admitted it. Even if I didn’t want to admit it, my darling friends would be quick to rat me out, so it’s far easier to be forthcoming. Perhaps because of my own propensity for weird, I tend to afford others a great deal of slack in the area of peculiar obsessions and obsession manifestation. After all, when it comes to any trend, there are fans, there are super fans, and then there are those who go beyond even super fan territory into the land of “fanmania.”

Ever since vampires poked their pale little heads out of the coffin to become the next pop culture “it” creatures, vampire-centric tales of paranormal romance of been booming and the number of vampire fanmaniacs have been on the rise. These fanmaniacs have taken their passion for vamp love far beyond the normal books, movies, and TV shows. Clothing lines, furniture manufacturers, even energy drinks companies have all recently jumped on the bandwagon with bite, hoping to secure a bit of the vamp craze for themselves. A veritable vampire inspired culture has emerged and fanmaniacs are invited to take their obsession to the extreme with the aid of vampire contact lenses, piercings, tattoos, and even tooth modification procedures like fang implants.

So where do you draw the line? When does a healthy interest turn into something more sinister? Is there such a point and who gets to decide?

I don’t have any answers to these questions, I’m just interested in the opinions of those reading. If there is a line (and I'm sure there is), I’ve probably already crossed it. I’ve had a pair of vampire bats tattooed on my right shoulder for awhile now.

While this design horrifies my poor grandmother, it received nothing but compliments at the midnight release of Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn at my local bookstore, so I guess obsession is all in the eye of the beholder. And I’m not the only one of my friends to sport a bat tattoo. I’m not even the first. My dear friend Kristen, who writes under the name Helena Sparrow over at the Vamps R Us blog, has a very colorful bat tattoo on the back of her neck mirrored after the cover of Lynsay Sands' Love Bites. It even has the red rose clasped in its little fangs. I think it's adorable. (Book cover pictured to the right, tattoo photo below).

At the same time, I tend to think the vampire bite piercings I’ve seen around a bit extreme. No, the hypocrisy of this is not lost on me, since piercings are temporary and tattoos, unless lasered, are not. Maybe it's just because they look so darn painful. Maybe it's because I've had a surface piercing before and can say for a fact that they are painful, at least until they heal. Don't even get me started about the fang implants. The concept of optional dental surgery is just not something I can wrap my head around. I'm only mildly okay with non-optional dental surgery, and not if it's being performed on me.

Although these practices just aren't from me, I'd love to hear from someone who's actually gotten the piercing or braved the dentist's chair for a little tooth lengthening procedure. What prompted you to take that step? Any regrets after the fact?

It looks like I've drawn my line at cutesy tattoos. No contacts, coffin couches, or energy drinks packaged in blood bags for this girl. Definitely no vampire bite piercings or fang implants (ouch!). Where is your line?

~Gretchen Stull

What does paranormal mean to you?

We originally started this blog to talk about funny paranormal romance, sort of, but it has grown to encompass everything paranormal. I've noticed that there are more and more television shows, movies and books with paranormal elements. And today I talked to two well-known editors who say paranormal is still going strong and selling well.

So I'd like a bit of discussion - what does paranormal mean to you? Are you stuck on ghosts, werewolves, vampires - or is there something else entirely?

I have a few favorite authors, books, stories, movies, etc. Tell me yours and I'll tell you mine.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy 2010!

Wow! A new year -- and a whole new decade -- has started. To commiserate or commemorate, depending on your mood, I’d like to share some of my favorite New Year quotes.

Header by Samulli

1. May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions! -- Joey Adams
2. We spend Jan. 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential. -- Ellen Goodman
3. One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things. -- John Burroughs
4. An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. -- Bill Vaughan
5. I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. -- Anais Nin
6. Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God it can go. -- Brooks Atkinson
7. From New Year's on, the outlook brightens, good humor lost in a mood of failure returns. I resolve to stop complaining. -- Leonard Bernstein
8. Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle. -- Eric Zorn
9. We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. -- Edith Lovejoy Pierce
10. It wouldn't be New Year's if I didn't have regrets. -- William Thomas
11. Happiness is too many things these days for anyone to wish it on anyone lightly. So let's just wish each other a bile-less New Year and leave it at that. --Judith Crist
12. Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account. -- Oscar Wilde
13. Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right. -- Oprah Winfrey

May 2010 find you well and be kind to you!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Santa Brought Me a Kindle!

OK, so it wasn’t really from Santa. My husband surprised me with this little baby for Christmas. I can always tell when he waits until the last minute to get me a present – it tends to be something I didn’t ask for and usually pretty expensive. What can I say? When the man gets desperate, he has no concept of bargain shopping. One year it was a high end digital camera, another year it was a new laptop. So this year, it’s a Kindle. Not that I’m complaining. *G*

Now, I’ll fess up that I was not a big e-book reader before. Since I’m a writer, I spend way too much time tied to the computer reading my own stuff as it is. I don’t want to read somebody else’s 400 page book on it. However, in an effort to support my writer friends who are e-book published, I have purchased many of their books and they’ve been sitting patiently on my laptop, waiting to be read. So now I can read them, right? Well, turns out not yet. Most of them I purchased in Microsoft Reader format and I soon discovered Kindle won’t read that. But a little Google research turned up this little gem: the ABC Amber LIT Converter. It’s a freeware utility ( that converts Microsoft Reader LIT files to any format (PDF, HTML, CHM, RTF, HLP, DOC, and many more). I chose to go with PDF, since the Kindle supports it without having to pay Amazon to convert it to Kindle format. Lightning fast, I was able to do a batch conversion and all my LIT files became PDF files within seconds. A quick drag-and-drop and all my e-books are now on my new Kindle. However, reading a PDF file on this device leaves a little to be desired. If you open it vertically, it presents the entire page on the screen (can you say teeny, tiny text?). Unfortunately, you can’t enlarge the text with the Text Key like you can with a Kindle book. Instead, you have to rotate the book to landscape format so that it presents the page horizontally, giving you only about half the page and widening it on the screen so the text appears larger. Good enough form me.

So once I cleared that minor hurdle, I’ve had a good old time playing with my new toy. One thing I never knew is you can serf the web with it. Granted, it’s not very web graphic friendly but it works in a pinch if you have to Wikipedia or Google something right away.

Have I been converted over to e-book land? Maybe. I can already tell it’s going to be great when I finish a book and just can’t wait to read the next one in the series. No more jumping in the car to run to B&N at 10pm to buy it or waiting until it comes into the library. Speaking of which, my hubby told me he never wanted to see me with a paper book in my hands again. Then I pointed out that I get most of my books from the library *for free* so he said in that case he didn't want to see me with a newly purchased, non-library book in my hands again. I can live with that.

So far, it's been fun to use and I can definitely see the benefit of carrying numerous books on long trips (not to mention freeing up much needed shelf space in the home office – an ulterior motive on my hubby’s part, I’m sure). I’m not sure I'll risk taking it on the beach though -- I doubt these things are very sand resistant. For that, I'll still need the good, old fashioned paperback for my beach reads.