Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What To Do If You're Not Going to RWA Nationals

A funny thing happened on the way to this week. I decided not to go to New York City. Are you back? Hope that fall off your chair didn't hurt too much.

Here's a list of things I'll be doing this week while I'm not in New York City, braving crowds, a big huge hotel with iffy Internet access, and interesting people on Times Square. Will you join me?

1) Final edits. On two books. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. The woman who ran around Orlando last year with boundless energy, sporting a bright orange First Timer ribbon on that RWA badge (and who would have been sporting her bright pink First Sale ribbon this year), has gone from secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) whining "When is it my turn to be published????" to "Holy Semi-Colons, Batman! Two proof copies due the same weekend!!!"

I'm pleased to tell you I can actually cross this one off the list. Final edits are finished on both Haunted Heart, due out this Friday from Etopia Press and Hunted, due next month from Evernight Publishing. I went through over 100,000 words in 24 hours. NOT recommended, even when you aren't trying to buy shoes and pack for an upcoming trip to NYC.

2) Prepare for a blog hop extravaganza. Not only did we start an Evernight Reader's Group on Facebook recently (like yesterday, or was it the day before? See? I have no idea where I am or what I'm doing! How did I expect to get on a plane this morning???) but we also are in the throes of organizing a blog hop to promote the publisher and our own websites. Fun stuff, but for this technophobe it also gives me hives just thinking about it.

3) Revamp my website. It's too messy and cluttered. I don't like messy and cluttered. But again we have that whole technophobe issue to deal with so something like this takes me more time than the average bear. Or even the average writer.

4) Read and review books. Yeah. Right. My TBR pile is getting so tall I've heard from Rutherford County they're thinking of renaming it the tallest structure in the county. Ha-ha. Those County dudes and dudettes are a laugh a minute. But seriously, I'm woefully behind. Hey, can I help it if I have ultra-talented friends who release books at warp speed?

5) Six Sentence Sunday. Yes, I know it's Tuesday, but I still haven't gone through last week's blog list!!

6) Finish Redemption. This will be the third book in my current series with Evernight Publishing. Did I mention it's only at 12K right now?

7) Pimp Haunted Heart. Yeah, baby. Major pimpage coming up. You might as well get ready for it.

8) Family time. Oh yeah. There are other people living in this house. I have a daughter who's home from college and a hubby who is really, really patient. Would be nice to see them more than once a day when I emerge from my writing room to eat.

9) RITA party! Friday night! With other MCRW chapter mates who aren't going to NYC! Our dear friend and chapter mate Annie Solomon is up for a RITA for Two Lethal Lies!!

10) Sleep. Yeah. Okay. That one's meant to be a joke. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Mystical Calendar

The mystical calendar of festivals throughout the year celebrate the never-ending cycle of life in our world, and has done so since ancient times.

The eight festivals are:
Yule - Winter solstice (around December 21st) marking the shortest day of the year, which marks the crowning of the Holly King. Evergreen decorations are magically protective, alive in the deadest part of the year.

Imbolc - February 1st heralds the potential of spring, so it centers on light and purification as the life cycle begins again. Candles mark the return of the sun and healing.

Ostara - Vernal equinox (around March 21st) marks the turn from the dark half of the year to the light half. It celebrates the triumph of light over dark and portends rebirth and regeneration in the world.

Beltane - May 1st calls the beginning of summer, the brightest part of the year, a joyful celebration of growth. In ancient times, nine sacred woods were used to light a fire both people and animals leapt through for purification.

Litha - Summer solstice (around June 21st), the opposite of Yule, marks the longest day of the year, a midsummer magic brought to life by the crowning of the Oak King.

Lughnasadh - August 1st marks the ending of the summer cycle and the surrender to the darker side of the year. Harvesting is celebrated, along with winnowing seed to plant in the spring when the sun comes back into its own.

Mabon - Autumnal equinox (around September 21st) is the midpoint of autumn, when days and nights are of equal length, a balance to make the final harvest and prepare for winter.

Samhain - November 1st marks the start of winter, beginning on October 31st when the souls of the dead walk the night. This night also calls the Wild Hunt from Faerie to gather the souls of those who wander in the darkness without protection.

Maybe one of these seasons and the stories associated with it - and I don't mean just Halloween - will give you some exciting story ideas.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Look Inside: Ellen Connor--The Writing Partnership of Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty

The first book NIGHTFALL in the “DARK AGE DAWNING” trilogy has just been released. It’s written by Ellen Connor, the pseudonym belonging to the dynamic writing team of Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty. We’re lucky enough to have them as guests this week.

goofy girl designs

  1. Ann, please tell us a little about yourself.
    I was born in the Midwest and I studied English Literature in college. I moved to Mexico with my family six years ago. Life as an ex-pat is often interesting and complicated, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it. Life outside the US has definitely broadened my worldview. I write all kinds of things, and I’ve been writing stories since I was eight years old. It took a bit longer for me to go pro.

  2. Your turn, Carrie. Would you share a short biography?
    I was born in California and raised in the Midwest, but I had to travel to England to find the love of my life. Since then I’ve studied history and literature, so maybe writing historical romance was the natural choice. As for paranormal romance...that took a little bit more time!

  3. How did you two meet?
    We met online through a romance website and eventually attended Nationals together in 2007. Because there’s a lot of mileage between Wisconsin and Mexico, annually is about best we can manage in person. But IM(Instant Messager) is our friend!

  4. How did your partnership start?
    Ann had a kick-ass dream about a girl who transforms into a Doberman, and she gave it to me--just for fun. I decided to write the hero’s chapter just for kicks. I’d never done anything like that before! Then we were off and running. We draft very fast, so the whole thing felt like a rollercoaster.

  5. What is your system for writing together?
    We take turns with chapters, with one point of view in each--for the most part. But the point is that once we start with a character, we stick with it. I wrote the hero in Nightfall, for example. And then it’s like playing ping-pong. Or tag! You’re it!

  6. How long did the creation of NIGHTFALL take? Is it quicker or more time-consuming to generate a story as a team?
    We write quickly on our own. Together...well, together we’re pretty darn fast. IM takes care of plotting issues, but then we get momentum going that propels us to the finish.

  7. How is writing as a team different from penning a book alone?
    Communication is critical, of course, and so is compromise. The key thing to remember is that you’re writing a book that must please two people. We both need to feel proud and satisfied when the work is done. It’s double the creative input, however, but it’s awesome. When you’re working alone, you answer to nobody else. You’re in complete control. Writing with someone else gives them equal say in the end product.

  8. What are some of the benefits of your partnership? What’s your favorite part of working with each other?

    Carrie: I love the shared creativity. Most of the time writing is such a solo effort. With a partner, we get near-instant feedback on new material. That intangible spark is really unique to co-writing. We just have a blast!

    Ann: Yes, the instant feedback is amazing. When you write a chapter you just love on your own, there’s nobody to say, Wow, way to go! But if you’re working with a partner, he or she gets to see the writing straightaway and can really juice your enthusiasm. It certainly makes it easier to go on when you’re weary or flagging -- having someone else’s constant support and investment.

  9. Were there any unexpected or amusing problems that occurred in your work on NIGHTFALL because you wrote together?
    Not so much other than worldbuilding details. That required timelines and lots of IM conversations.

  10. Would you share an excerpt from NIGHTFALL?

    Ten minutes later, with Jenna trailing like a sleepwalker, they stood in a small clearing just north of the cabin. Mason didn’t trust her compliance. She was still thinking, doubting his word, and that would get them both killed.
    God, he didn’t want to get rough with her, but she wasn’t getting away from him. She couldn’t. Her life depended on him—his will, his cool, his knowledge. But his survival depended on her too.
    “C’mere,” he said quietly.
    She didn’t move.
    So he went to her instead. Something good and calm opened in his chest when she didn’t shy away.
    “Listen, Jenna.”
    “What now? More stories?”
    “No, listen. Listen to the forest.”
    The stillness enveloped them, a dark and unnatural stillness that gnawed at bones and wore away at the mind like a drip, drip, drip of water. No moon shone through the quiet leaves. No animals moved among the foliage. Although they stood in the trees, among those countless living plants, breathing each other’s poison air, there wasn’t a single noise to indicate life.
    Jenna stood at his side. He could barely see her in the thick black soup of night, but he heard her frantic breathing.
    “Where is everything?” she whispered.
    “Mitch took you camping, right? When you were younger?”
    “It creeps me out, you knowing stuff like that.”
    “Did he or didn’t he?”
    “Yeah, when I was a kid. And you were right. He never hit the bottle out here. For him, being in the woods was normal.” She inhaled deeply, unsteadily. “But this…this isn’t normal.”
    He took her hand, the only solid, real, warm thing in the forest.
    “Everything I’ve said is God’s honest truth.”
    She tightened her fingers as a shiver worked down her arm. “There’s no God here.”

  11. (Note: My formatting difficulties prevent indenting for the paragraphs. Sorry.)

  12. Are the same characters featured in all three novels?
    Yup! The heroes of Midnight and Daybreak are both introduced in Nightfall. We hope readers will want to stay with us to make sure those deserving men find their happy endings.

  13. When will the next book in the DARK AGE DAWNING trilogy be released?
    Midnight comes out in September and Daybreak in December.

  14. Where can readers find out more about your books?
    Our website is http://ellenconnor.com. Stop by for the covers and blurbs for the rest of the trilogy, or just to say hello!

    We hope you’ve enjoyed this interview. If you have any questions about writing partnerships or the DARK AGE DAWNING trilogy, please feel free to ask. We’re giving away one free copy to a commenter in the continental US. Good luck!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Rebecca Zanetti

Kensington Brava
March 2011

Book Blurb:


Cara Paulsen does not give up easily. A scientist and a single mother, she’s used to doing whatever it takes to protect her daughter. But “Whatever it takes” has never before included a shotgun wedding to a dangerous stranger with an attitude problem…


Sure, the mysterious Talen says that he’s there to protect Cara and her daughter. He also says that he’s a three-hundred-year-old vampire. Of course, the way he touches her, Cara might actually believe he’s had that long to practice…

First, I’m going to take you on an interesting side trip. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to read this book. I had it on my Amazon Wish List for a while but kept cringing at the thought of paying nearly $9.00 for an e-book. Something about spending more for an electronic book than a standard paperback just seems wrong to me. Anywho, when it came time to pick a book for this week’s blog, I couldn’t decide so I downloaded sample chapters from several, including FATED. I got no further than the first page before I said, “I know this book. I’ve read this before.” Sure enough, as I continued on, the storyline was very familiar to me. I knew without a doubt I had judged the opening of this book in one of many contests throughout the years. That sealed it. I had to read this one. After I was done reading it, I searched my files and found it (it was an electronic entry so it was still on my computer). I’ll admit as a contest judge, I tend to be a bit heavy-handed with the comments and I made a lot on this entry. I noted that the author did a great job with the action and sexual tension but her craft needed work. She used way too many sentence fragments, making the entry very choppy. She would often have a character finally react to something that occurred several paragraphs earlier. She also had a problem with the sequence of events flowing in a natural manner. I made lots of suggestions, even going so far as to rearrange many of her problem sentences for her. Imagine my surprise to discover that she used probably 90% of my suggestions word for word in the published book. Do I think I helped her get it published? Heck no. After all, I only critiqued the first 20 pages. But it warms my heart to know that she trusted my comments enough to use them. It makes the time I put into judging these contests seem worth it. Now, on to my review…

The Beginning:

The opening hits the ground running. Craft problems aside, I liked it a lot when I read it as a contest entry, enough that it stuck in my memory. I liked it just as much or maybe more reading it in published form. There’s plenty of action and sexual tension right from the start, which I love. I couldn’t put the book down until I got to chapter 12.

The Middle:

Sagged a bit for me. I’m not sure why Talen and Cara chose to stay with the cougar pride for so long. Sure, the cougar shifters helped them out when they needed it but the good vamps are at war with the bad vamps, so Talen should be eager to get back to his own people to help defend them. Plus, I’m a mom. You’d have to weld my feet to the ground to keep me away from my 4-year-old daughter for 5 weeks. This is where the book fell into the territory of the hero rescuing the heroine, hiding her away at a compound/safe house while he goes out and saves the world. A lot of paranormals with groups of supernatural beings living together do this and I’m not a huge fan of it. I like the heroine to be active in her own destiny, not sitting home doing a lot of nothing, waiting for the hero to return each night for a booty call.

The main thing that kept me going in the middle were the scenes with Cara’s 4-year-old psychic daughter. She charms her big, bad vampire babysitters to no end and she has a very intriguing relationship with a boy in her dreams. I’d love to read more about how they come together when they grow up.

The End:

Picked up the pace nicely. Cara finally becomes an active participant and puts her life on the line for her sister. Is it a wise choice? Maybe not, but she’s desperate and can’t wait for Talen to come to the rescue. I believed her motives and actions at this point.

The Steamy Stuff:

Talen and Cara go at it pretty quick. The first sex scene is borderline forced seduction and some readers might have a problem with this, but I chalked it up to the mate bonding thing with a little vamp glamour/persuasion thrown in. And speaking of mates. Talen calls Cara that a lot. “You will submit, mate.” It got to the point where I was hearing an Australian accent in my head every time he spoke. Then there’s the submitting thing. Talen is very arrogant and forceful, using sex to exert his dominance and sometimes as punishment with Cara. They definitely took on dominant/submissive roles in the bedroom. If that’s your thing, you’ll like this pair. My only problem is Talen never seemed to learn and grow in his relationship with Cara. He was always trying to make her do things his way. He never learned the meaning of the word compromise, at least not until the very end and by then it was a little too late. I would have liked to see him change as the story progressed, from viewing Cara as a sexual mate to seeing her as an equal.

Major Speed Bump:

I never quite understood the whole Treaty thing between the bad vamps and the good vamps where they both agreed to stay away from the human population. In Zanetti’s world, vamps (good and bad) can only mate and produce children with an enhanced (i.e. psychic) human female. What male in his right mind would agree to stay away from humans for 300 years, knowing full well that his destined mate is going to be a human woman? She could be born, grow old and die and he’d never meet her. A truce to not fight and kill each other? I got that. A truce to not interact with human women? I didn’t understand the reasoning there.

The ‘IT’ Factor:

What sold this book is the first 11 chapters or so, where the sexual tension is high and the hero and heroine are on the run. Very action packed. And of course, vampires and shifters are hot sellers right now, and Zanetti has a whole cast of them she can write spin off books for.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer Movies

We have a guest blogger today - author J.P. Edwards, talking about characters and movies.

One of the things I do for 'research' when I'm writing is go to the movies. I like lots of different kinds of movies and every summer, it seems there's many to choose from in many categories. Most recently, I have watched Thor, Super 8, Green Lantern, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Just Go With It, Pirates of the Caribbean, Bridesmaids, and I can't tell you how many others.

These movies have had varying degrees of success, several time periods, and lots of different characters. In movies, I take note of how the characters are developed, why we love or hate them ... or are just 'meh' about them. And when I write, I actually 'see' my story in my head - much like a movie. Which I suppose is a good thing, yes?

Have you thought about 'casting' your book, choosing what actress or actor you would pick for each character? For example, in my current WIP, I have a character who I have chosen Emeril to play. Is this character a cook? No, he's not. But he has the same ebullient personality and larger than life persona Emeril has. He's perfect for what I need him to do in the story.

So who are your favorite celebrities? Could any of them star in your books?

Think about how you might have cast Twilight differently, or what kind of 'alien' or 'monster' you might put in Super 8 or Green Lantern, or Thor, for that matter. Did you agree with the casting choices made in the movie you liked?

My favorite example is Sherlock Holmes. I didn't know if Robert Downey, although he is one of my favorite actors, could play the Holmes I'd read about all my life. And Jude Law was SO not my choice for Watson. I'd always seen Watson as an older man, rotund and fatherly. Definitely not Jude Law. But you know what? Law was great as Watson, and after discussing it with other Holmes fans, we decided the casting had been a brilliant choice! They took someone who could show he'd had an injury in the war, but was still otherwise fit and brave. And he looked good next to Downey, right? They both looked great!

So think about character casting and you might find yourself thinking outside the box. Maybe you've seen a bit part actor you think could carry a story - I personally like the "Mayhem" guy on the insurance commercial. I'd like to put him in a story, because he's perfect for the character in my head.

Have fun casting your characters and see if giving them faces in your mind helps you get to know them better. I'm betting it will.

Any movies you can think of you'd have casted differently?
Tell me about it :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Year isThis?

I have to be honest, it’s been a while since the last time I read the novel 1984. I’m not sure I want to read it again either. Why? Because it’s a little too close to 21st century reality. Think I’m kidding? I’m not, and I’ll tell you my reasons.

First, for those who don’t know, Nineteen Eighty-Four ( or 1984) is a novel set in the title year. It was written in 1948 by George Orwell, and is a dystopian novel—or the opposite of utopia. The world of 1984 is not a good place to be, and in my, not all that humble opinion,  our world definitely resembles it. And now, my reasoning:

Ubiquitous televisions. This was a huge deal in the book. Though written in 1948—at the very beginning of television’s popularity—the book accurately predicted TV’s in every home and many public places. Oddly, or maybe not, in 1981, the US Supreme court allowed TV in courtrooms. Been to a doctor’s office lately, or a  McDonalds? There was likely a TV  screen or two there. I have to admit, my heart took a bit of a bump when I first saw the Times Square TV broadcast in New York City. Think you can escape? Not a chance, TV has invaded the Internet!

Interactive TV. Another thing Orwell wrote about that has come to pass, if not exactly like he described it. For instance, I can push a button and pull up the local weather, news, messages from the cable provider. Another button  a list of shows with all the info I’d have had to buy a TVGuide for just a few years ago. I also have a DVR that records my favorite shows on a regular basis, no more forgetting to tape something. Amazing stuff. And TV on the Internet, even more so. Speaking of TV and the Internet, a recently saw a Criminal Minds rerun in which a person’s webcam was turned on by remote means. Not at all impossible, I’d think. And makes me leery to leave the computer and Net hooked up when I’m not using it.  OK, I admit it, I’ve considered putting something over the webcam on my laptop. Paranoid? Maybe. Maybe not so much.

Then there is the changing of history. This actually is the issue that triggered this post. In one of my writing groups, there was a big discussion about language. It started out as a discussion on sexist language, then branched out into how politically correct our language has become. I was surprised when someone mentioned editorial pressure to “PC” historical manuscripts. For example, saying Native American instead of Indian in a novel that takes place in the 1800’s. Um, Native American is a recent term. There’s no way that could be historically correct. But what really got to me was that there is now pressure to revise Mark Twain’s novels to take out the “N word” and put “slave” in its place. Mark Twain wasn’t a racist. He used language to make his point. That’s what good writing is all about. Twain’s books are classics, and somebody wants to change them to fit our culture as it stands right now. Isn’t that an attempt to change history?  And trying to change history is a big part of what 1984 is all about.

I’m sure there are other similarities between Orwell’s fictional world and now, but I’ve had enough chills for the moment. What do you think?

And if you haven’t read 1984, maybe you should. Or not.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

13 Reasons to Enter the Melody of Love 2011

So many writing contests, so little ... money. Hopefully the following 13 reasons will help you decide to enter the romance novel contest I coordinate every year. You can find out more about the Melody of Love at http://www.mcrw.com/index.php/2010-melody-of-love-contest/

So why enter our contest?

1) We have awesome final round judges! This year:

Historical: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Contemporary: Latoya C. Smith, Grand Central Publishing
Paranormal: Angela James, Carina Press
YA: Leah Hultenschmidt, Sourcebooks Fire

2) I'm the coordinator, and at least one person thought I did a good job: http://isisrushdan.blogspot.com/2011/06/not-all-are-created-equal-part-2.html

3) We give the winners money. Cashola. Buckage. That you can use to buy chocolate. Or pay your water bill. Or buy gas to drive to a writer's conference.

4) We instated a YA category since it seems like half of you are writing YA now.

5) We offer finalists a chance to polish their manuscripts before they go to the final round judges and a proofread by yours truly. I have some skills in that area.

6) Finalists are also offered a one year membership to our chapter if they're RWA members so the love, support and late night email exchanges can continue.

7) BUT you don't have to be an RWA member to enter the contest (though RWA regulations do prevent us from letting you join the chapter unless you're in RWA National.) You can also enter if you are already published as long as you're not published in the category entered. (For specifics, check out the rules at http://www.mcrw.com/index.php/2010-melody-of-love-contest/)

8) We've been doing this for 13 years, so we're pretty good at it. Also, I sometimes use my contestant email list to forward hilarious jokes and our chapter's latest career news. Ok, not really. I mean, we're good at this contest stuff, but we won't spam you, I promise. Not even late at night.

9) Lots of our first-round judges are published authors. And all of them know what will happen to them if they're hateful on the contest entries. It isn't pretty.

10) So your feedback will probably be varied, and some might be negative, but the judges and the coordinators take pains to make sure it's constructive.

11) We get a discrepancy judge when the first round scores are far apart. Then you'll get three viewpoints to help you decide if you want to do any revisions.

12) You can enter electronically, so no trips to the Post Office or hassles with your printer. [[Can you tell I hate my printer??]] This comes in especially handy for contestants from overseas.

13) This year I'm thinking about putting an actual shiny gold star on...no, wait, entries are electronic. Scratch that.

13 part deux) We don't have any entries yet, so basically, I'm begging here. Load us up!


Jody Wallace
2011 Melody of Love Contest Coordinator
www.mcrw.com  * www.jodywallace.com  * www.meankitty.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where Do You Hide Your Heart?

One of the reasons millions read romance novels is to enjoy the journey of two people falling in love. It's also the reason so many of us write them. Love is that elusive emotion scientists argue over, psychologists try to define, and about which philosophers write. Skeptics say it doesn't exist, and poets claim it conquers all. It can run the gamut from affection toward a stray dog, lost and wandering at the side of the road, all the way to crazed obsession with another human being.

The ways in which we write about the many faces of love in romance novels are as varied as species of flowers on the planet. Sweet, bedroom-door-closed inspirationals to menage a-as-many-as-you-can-fit-on-the-floor-with-the-heroine erotic novels. Ah, but Carolyn, you say, sex isn't love and love isn't sex. True, but in a romance novel, the two are intertwined. Unless you're writing straight erotica, a romance novel has a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now ending. After all, isn't sex the most intimate act you can perform with another human being?

Some of the sexiest scenes are the ones in which the author has written hot kissing and implied sex. Kristan Higgins, I'm talking to you. Her heros are yummy with awesome names like Callahan O'Shea or Ian McFarland, and even though you never see it between the pages, they always leave their lady loves satisfied.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I finished reading my first menage-a-cinq romance last night. It's the most risque romance I've read to date. Well, okay, it was risque for me. I realize it's pretty mainstream for some. But what struck me in this book was the emotion. It surprised me. I admit I expected all sex, sex, sex. Oh, there's plenty of that, but the affection between the shifter heroine and her four shifter lovers/mates drew me in and kept me there. I have profound respect for authors who can sustain one relationship in a book let alone four.

For me, it's all about the characters and their emotion. Hey, I love reading a steamy sex scene as much as the next girl, but if there's no passion, or at least genuine affection, underneath those sheets, the sex falls flat. You think it's not a challenge to write more than one sex scene in a novel and make each unique, with passion and love in the mix? Try it. You'll see what I mean.

Where do you hide your heart? How do you prefer your romance? Talk to me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Look Inside: the 2011 Wisconsin RWA Write Touch Conference

Have you ever attended a writing conference? If you enjoy telling stories or putting pen to paper, I highly recommend you do. Last weekend I was privileged to attend the Write Touch Conference at Brookfield Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Header courtesy of samulli
Please bear with me as I share 13 of my favorite moments and events.

1. I found the workshop of New Year Times best-selling author Susan Wiggs on "How NOT to Get Published," both humorous and inspiring. She graciously made herself available before and after her workshop to answer questions and to allow fans to snap photos.

2. Angela James, Carina Press executive editor, helped us trace the evolution of e-publishing and digital downloads.

3. I attended a gourmet dessert reception with the added bonus of deep-fried cheese. All weekend, hotel staff offered mouth-watering food. What a treat!

4. A panel of experts -- Brenda Novak, New York Times best-selling author; Paula Eykelhof, executive editor with Harlequin and MIRA Books; and Kathleen Ortiz, an agent with Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation -- read queries from audience members and gave us helpful suggestions.

5. Simone Elkeles presented an enlightening workshop entitled “Secrets of a Marketing Queen.” Most of us jotted down lots of good tips.

6. One room was full of raffle baskets and each was filled with enticing or useful prizes.

7. At lunch on Saturday, people won the baskets.

8. I got to pitch my manuscripts to Carina's Angela James and Holly Blanck, an assistant editor at St. Martin’s Press.
9. I connected with romance-writing friends.

10. Lots of deserving writers received honors, awards and certificates.

11. My friends shared their books with me and I picked up a number of good reads.

12. Brenda Novak spoke on how to engage a reader in her workshop on "Emotion: The Heart of the Novel." I took notes like crazy, trying to catch her insights on dialogue, characterization, plot, subtext and metaphors.

13. Carrie Lofty helped us hone our three-line pitches in her class "The Tiny Art of Elevator Pitches."

Wish I could share the entire experience I had at the conference, but then this post would be unwieldy.

If you’d like to see more pictures you can find them at this link.

Please leave a comment or say hi. I always appreciate hearing from you.

By the way, I'd like to thank Betsy and all the people who volunteered their time to make The Write Touch Conference a wonderful experience.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Virna DePaul

Chosen by Blood
May 2011

Book Blurb:
United by fate. Bound by desire.

Five years after the Second Civil War ends, humans and otherborn— humanlike creatures with superhuman DNA—still struggle for peace. To ensure the continued rights of both, the FBI forms a Para-Ops team with a unique set of skills.

Leader of an Otherborn clan, half-breed vampire Knox Devereaux would do anything to find a cure for the anti-vamp vaccine slowly starving his people into extinction. When the FBI contacts him about leading a team of hand-selected Others on a mission to reclaim the stolen antidote, Knox accepts. His new assignment places him in direct contact with Special Agent Felicia Locke, the beautiful human he’s craved since their very first meeting.

Technically, Chosen by Blood is not DePaul’s debut book. But it is her debut traditionally published book. Prior to its release, she self-published 2 erotic novellas and co-wrote and self-published a guide to writing romance book. In these changing times when it seems like a lot of unpublished authors are jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon, I was eager to see what brought this self-published author to the attention of not one, but two different publishers (she also has a romantic suspense coming out from Harlequin in September.)

The Plot:
I like the idea that humans have taken a vaccine that makes their blood virtually useless to vampires. While they can’t starve to death, the vamps are getting weaker and losing their powers. This makes them very vulnerable and they are desperate to find a cure.

The Romance:
Like many paranormal romances, this book uses the soul mate plot device. I have nothing against it as long as the author doesn’t use it as an excuse to have the characters fall immediately in love and in bed. DePaul does a good job with this. Knox recognizes Felicia for what she is and pursues her against her wishes. It seems the vampire race has a very medieval outlook on love and marriage. Marriages are made for political alliances and to propagate the vampire species (vamps in DePaul’s world cannot be made without killing the one who does the turning, therefore they need to be born). In vamp society, affairs are accepted. Human Felicia has a big problem with this, especially since Knox is the husband of her best friend. She feels the pull of their attraction but fights him every step of the way. And even after her best friend dies, her loyalty and the realization that she’s human and he’s not keep them apart and the sexual tension high (for a while).

Secondary Characters:
DePaul does a great job of developing the secondary characters of the team. There’s a wraith, were, mage, and a human psychic with healing powers. This is good and bad. Good because they are interesting, well-rounded and we care enough about them that we want to read their stories in future books. Bad in that it can take away from the main characters. I found myself caring more for some of the secondary characters than I did for the hero and heroine. This was especially true with Felicia. She’s the only human on the team with no paranormal ability. At times she seems to only serve as a placeholder -- Knox’s bed buddy and blood supply. While she is supposedly a trained agent, because she was “protected” from some of the danger on the mission, she came across as weak. Compared to the others, she was flat and uninteresting. I was much more intrigued by dynamics between the others.

The Nit Picks:
Pacing -- There’s a lot of attention paid to the team building and skills training of the team. The book is half over before they actually go on the mission. I know this makes it more realistic but most of the time authors skim over this stuff to get to the fast action. I wish DePaul had done a bit more skimming in this area.

Consistency -- I like my paranormal beings to behave like paranormal beings. Knox and Wraith are, for all intents and purposes, dead. Still, they seem to have a need to breathe and sensitivity to cold. That bothered me. They’re dead. If a high velocity impact and an exploding bomb can’t kill them, then lack of oxygen and low temperatures shouldn’t affect them as much as it did.

Believability – *spoiler alert* Knox has drunk from Felicia several times but couldn’t tell that she had pure blood when other vamps can tell from a nose bleed? I didn’t buy it. The excuse that he was caught up in the moment didn’t fly.

The Sexometer:
Hot. Very hot. You can tell this author has an erotica background and she’s not afraid to use it. De Paul doesn’t hold back in the graphic description department when Knox and Felicia finally decide to get down and dirty.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
This book follows the same basic formula of many paranormals before it where you have a group of supernatural beings joining together to fight the bad guys and protect both human and the not-so-human alike. Where this one deviates a bit is that this group acts more like an elite special forces team than a group of immortal guardians who’ve been protecting humanity for centuries. It has a very X-men feel with the different types of paranormal beings coming together and clashing.