Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Chat With Deborah LeBlanc (and the Last Blog)

It was almost a year ago that Wicked Writers began. I remember it vividly because I missed putting my blog up on time on the second day of our existence and C.J. was not shy in letting me know it (for the record, this is where that inside joke about her ripping my arms off and beating me to death with them came from).
Now, on the eve of our move away from Wordpress over to Blogger, it looks like I’ll finally have the last word for a change.
So, I’ve decided that I’ll give some free advertising and in a subject I’m usually against – supporting vampires and werewolves as objects of affection. We all know – since I’ve been beating a certain dead horse – that my science fiction and horror writing skews to the “old school” where the vampires bite the dust in numbers reminiscent of the Battle of Verdun. Still, I have been known to make room in my coldest of hearts for a few exceptions.
Deborah LeBlanc is one of those exceptions. The author of such novels as Water Witch, A House Divided, Grave Intent and Family Inheritance is back with a new novel – The Wolven – just

Deborah LeBlanc
released Nov. 23.
The synopsis alone should get tongues wagging:
Someone—or something—is systematically murdering
the members of Danyon Stone’s werewolf pack.
As Alpha, he knows that finding and punishing the
murderous entity is his responsibility, and he’s not
about to rest until he sees justice done. But to stop
the slayings he has to accept help from the most
unlikely source—a wickedly sensual mortal woman.
Mystic-shop owner Shauna MacDonald has a special
interest in the recent string of otherworldly deaths.
As the Keeper of the werewolves, it’s her duty to
guard and protect the packs. Working by Danyon’s
side to stop an unknown killer—and trying to deny
the potency of their illicit attraction—poses a threat
to her heart unlike any she’s ever known, and if she
becomes the killer’s next target, it could be the death
of her.…
The Keepers: Three extraordinary sisters born to
balance the duty that is their birthright with the
yearnings of their hearts…
With something as scorching as this, I had to get the licensed death investigator and active member of two paranormal investigative teams back in for another interview:
* * * * * * * * * *
G: Good afternoon, Deborah, thank you for joining us. First up, I’ve read how you, Alexandra Sokoloff and Heather Graham (not the actress) started “The Keepers” series. How successful has it been for all of you?
D: Well, The Wolven (was) officially released on November 23rd, but so far the pre-release reviews have been wonderful. And, of course, Heather and Alex have received wonderful feedback on The Keepers and The Shifters. Both did a terrific job with their books.
G: What exactly was involved in starting The Keepers series?
D: Nocturne first approached Heather to headline a trilogy and asked her to recruit two friends she wanted to work with. As we all know, Heather crosses her paranormal romance with very classic traditional mystery/suspense/crime plots, and I believe that's a big reason she came to Alex and me - all three of us write cross-genre and we love the darker mystery/thriller elements.
We decided immediately we wanted to write three sisters, and we sat down and brainstormed a story. It went fabulously, except when we discovered that even though Nocturne had initially said, “Anything you guys want to write is fine,” in reality that translated to “contemporary setting with vampires and/or werewolves.”
So it was back to the drawing board, and in a short time, The Keepers was born.
G: How did you come up with The Wolven as part of the series?

D: Wolven were to be a specific breed of werewolves, sexier in my opinion, but they, too, were born from that brainstorming session.
G: Who was the inspiration for Shauna MacDonald? (I ask because we writers love to include ourselves in our characters or so I’ve been told repeatedly)
D: I have three daughters, so it was easy to fit a personality to Shauna, who is the youngest MacDonald sister, and have her interaction with her siblings ring true. All I had to do was pay attention to my kids!
G: So far, I see just three books in the series. Are there any plans for more or will this be it? If so, will you continue with Shauna et al or add a completely new book?
D: As far as I know, that’s it for The Keepers, but I am coming out with my own trilogy next year. It’s called the Grimoire Trilogy, and the heroines are master witches, and the heroes are part vampire/part human. Together they create whirlwind adventures that are hot-hot-hot!
G: Will any other writers join The Keepers or your other efforts (Pen to Press, Writers for New Orleans, etc.)?
D: Pen to Press Writers Retreat is for serious, aspiring writers. We don’t match up writers to projects, but we do try to match up writers with agents and/or editors.
G: How has it been with Harlequin’s Nocturne series?
D: Everyone at Harlequin is so wonderful to work with! I feel truly blessed to be part of their paranormal romance family.
G: For other writers hoping to get into the – no doubt – crowded market of paranormal romance, what would you recommend that they do?
D: Write the best story possible and NEVER give up!
G: On a different note, do you think America has forgotten about its commitment to rebuild New Orleans? Are you satisfied with what is being done and what has been done?
D: I don’t think America has forgotten about New Orleans, but I feel the government sure has. If they were that concerned about our city, there would be mile-high levees surrounding it now. Instead, we’ve thrown mega bucks at failing lending institutions that mismanaged their money in the first place. Arggghhh!
G: Well, thank you very much for joining us today, Deborah and good luck with The Wolven.
* * * * * * * * * *
And that will do it for us, folks. Be sure to check Amazon.com and your local book stores for The Wolven.
We thank you for reading us on Wordpress and we look forward to seeing you over our new site on Blogger.com tomorrow (Dec. 1).

Monday, November 29, 2010

We're Moving!

It's been a long time in the works - a month in fact. On December first we're jumping ship from Wordpress and heading over to Blogger. Hopefully, the transition will be smooth, but with me at the helm that's questionable at best. The look will be slightly different, and maybe we'll all add something to it once we settle in to make it more homey.

This month we've had a slew of free blog topics - much to most of the writer's dismay! Who would have thunk that most of us enjoy writing on topic and on a schedule? We'll be back on track this week in the new location, never fear.

So - what does the move mean to you?

Will there be a new address in the browser window?

I'm not sure. The plan was it would be the same, but I'm not the most technologically gifted and the finer points of "re-directing", assigning a new domain,  and "re-naming" a blog allude me. We'll give you the skinny on Dec 1st when the new site goes live.

Will all the team members be there?

Yes, that is also the goal. We're still missing George from signing up, but he's excused with all of his horrible dental nightmares lately. With any luck, he'll have a had a chance to make the jump to Blogger by the time he's scheduled to post, but if not, rest assured he has not told us he's leaving, he's just tied up with personal stuff and will be joining when he can.

Will there be anything different?

Yes! We've got another horror writer who is excited about joining the team and sharing a spot with Jimmy on Friday. Carole Gill thinks she's on track to join in January (getting her edited MS to her publisher takes precedence!). We also hope to add another suspense/mystery writer to the team to go opposite David, so if you're interested please contact me at cj_ellisson@yahoo.com

In addition, we'll be mixing things up with promo and guest spots. The promo idea is one I've had for a while and one that has worked with success on another blog I'm a part of. We're opening the doors to allow our writers to post full chapters, excerpts, shorts - anything they'd like to promote for a new or existing release. Some may be done in a serial fiction type of posting, with a new chapter each Saturday for a set period of time. Others may decide a short excerpt is all they'd like to do.

We also plan to open the doors up to other writers who'd like to promo their published work. The goal has always been to reach readers and by adding this content to the weekend we may very well introduce new readers to a story they might not otherwise have tried.

Thanks for being a part of this venture with us on Wordpress. In January we'll be hitting a year and compared to a lot of blogs out there, that's pretty darn good.

How was everyone's Thanksgiving? Did you guys eat as much as I did? May the mashed potatoes and stuffing keep coming all month long and may my elastic waistband pants be able to take the added strain!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Well, wouldn't you know it? As I pen this note it is Monday evening, and I am sick. Yes, Thanksgiving week! Can you believe it? I hope none of you are feeling under the weather. I was ill once before during this holiday, but, thankfully, it was many years ago. So, right there I guess I should be thankful and complain less. That time I had an allergic reaction which made it extremely difficult to eat. I recall wondering whether I would end up missing out on all of the great holiday food. Thankfully, the problem then began to dissipate just in time, allowing me to be able to eat relatively well.

This time it seems that my regular allergies have kicked in. I began to feel my infamous post-nasal drip begin to choke me last Friday, just as California was being hit with a nice winter storm which brought us a lot of much-needed rain. It was particularly stressing because my wife was having some elective work, which meant that I needed to be on my feet for her. I managed to get through the day, but barely. Saturday night I was hit with a fever. All weekend long I was heading for the tissue box and choking on you-know-what.

I was bummed out because I had hoped to make some headway with the edits on Dance on Fire: Flashpoint, the sequel to my novel. I had thought that by the end of that weekend I might be in great shape. Unfortunately, between going line by line and getting up seemingly every ten minutes, I really didn't get very far, and certainly nowhere near as far as I had hoped. At this writing, I am barely half way, and I have given myself a deadline of December 1st. We'll see what this cold thinks about my deadlines. It might be one thing if all that I had to do between now and then was my day job, celebrate Thanksgiving and complete editing. On top of that, however, I had this post as well as an article due for Kings River Life Magazine, a local on-line magazine that I write for.

[caption id="attachment_3885" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Garcia Men"][/caption]

Now, having written all of this, a part of me is poking me in the shoulder. I really do not have to turn around to know who it is and what it is that he want to tell me. The PG version is probably something along the lines of "Stop Your Sobbing". I say that because I'm a big Pretenders fan and that was one of their early hits. Really, I think it's something like "stop your whining". Without going back over old territory, I have way too much to be thankful for. I've been married 20 years, which is one hell of a lot longer than many these days. My boys are great and healthy and talented, and well on their way. My wife and I are both working, and we have money to do things. And finally, I have been spending this past year writing. I haven't made any money doing it, as of yet, but I can see that it's coming.

I could complain about a few things, but it would be more of a shame-on-me-thing for doing it. You know what I mean? So the doctor gave me an antibiotic, which I will start taking tonight after I eat something. I took some Advil this afternoon and now my fever has broken, and perhaps more importantly, at least mentally, they gave me another allergy shot. I say that because I swear by those shots! I'm surprised that it did not quite make it a complete year, but whatever! I feel so much better already and it's only been a few hours.

One of the other things that was bumming me out was my potentially not being well enough for Black Friday. Hold your horses! That's not what I mean. I already have to get up that early for work; why would I want to get up that early on a day off...for shopping? The day after Thanksgiving is my day for decorating the house. It will take the entire day, and I will be rearranging two rooms along with a bunch of furniture, but at the end of the afternoon Christmas will have arrived. So, if I am too sick for that, I will really be bummed.

[caption id="attachment_3886" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Our living area"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3887" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Our Dining Room (Read: my office. See trusty lap top?)"][/caption]

As I said, I am feeling better already, so I'm optimistic it will be a good week after all, and that these two photos will look completely different in a few days time. Come back in December and I'll show you the "after" photos.

How about you? Will it be a good and thankful week for you and yours? I hope so. If your year has been less than spectacular, then I hope the holidays will be a magical time that restores your optimism for 2011.

Your new friend,


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What a Writer Wants...

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and during my 15 minute break for breakfast with Regis and Kelly, I was subjected to six Christmas commercials.

Yes, it is that time of year, folks.

With the impending ‘Black Friday’ sales looming on the horizon, idiots – errr, I mean, serious bargain shoppers, are lining up in front of stores even now. Their Thanksgiving meals will be catered to them by worried relatives who fear for said shoppers’ sanity.

And people have the audacity to call me crazy.

Back on topic. What does a writer want for Christmas?

For me, all I want for Christmas is my six front teeth. Literally.

However, most writers I know still have a healthy set of choppers, so friends and family are left to ponder what else they can get their beloved, struggling author for Christmas.

Luckily for those friends and family, I have compiled this nifty little list. It’s not the end-all or be-all of every writer’s dream present, but I feel it’s a healthy start.

Besides, this is good reading material to print out while one is standing in line at 3 AM waiting for Kohls to open. After all, Best Buy and Office Depot are the next stop, opening at 5 AM… (open, open, open…)

What to get a writer for Christmas (besides four hours added to the 24 hour day):

1. A blank journal. Preferably one without NASCAR or sparkling vampires on it.
2. A massage session to relieve all the tension in the neck and shoulders. Beaucoup points if the masseuse is really cute.
3. A one time (or more) hiring of Merry Maids or said equivalent. Nothing like a clean house to start the New Year off right.
4. Gift cards to an office supply store, a book store, an online music store or a restaurant. Believe me, your author friend will love you.
5. The current year’s copy of the Writer's Market.
6. A lap top (yeah, make that writer smile!).
7. Computer accessories.
8. Event tickets. To anything. Get that writer away from the computer and back into civilization, if even for only one evening.
9. For those single authors, consider a couple weeks worth of freezer meals. This is easy to do. Every time you make something for yourself, double the recipe and place some in a freezable container. Mark the contents and date it. All the author has to do is nuke the thing and he has a good, home cooked meal.
10. Books on writing. An author can never have too many books.
11. Subscriptions to writing journals or magazines.
12. A digital voice recorder.
13. Heck, ditch the recorder and get a cell phone that has not only a voice recorder, but a camera, a video recorder, Internet – and oh, yeah, a phone too!
14. A SUPER nice pen. You know, one that doesn’t say Bic, Papermate, or Pilot on it. Perhaps they won’t lose this one.
15. A gift certificate to a host web site for their future web site.
16. If you are good at building websites, offer your own talents to your writer friend. Give your gift on a decorated certificate, redeemable at the authors leisure.
17. A good coffee machine.
18. A variety of flavored coffees, creamers and imported sugars.
19. A great mug with something witty on the front.
20. Your writer isn’t a coffee drinker? Think about a corkscrew, wine glass and a great bottle of vino. Boone’s Farm still makes Strawberry Hill.
21. For those authors whose best ideas take place in bed (get your minds out of the gutter, folks), a bed desk is practical and multi-functional. (Hey! I said to get your minds out of the gutter!)
22. Are you the creative type? Make a pair of whimsical book ends out of children’s rain boots and cement. Or use your imagination to make any kind of bookends – out of coffee cups, old teapots, etc. Salvation Army is great for this.
23. Purchase the services of a professional editor/proofreader and have the author send in his manuscript when he is done.
24. A new lap top bag. Again, preferably one without the NASCAR logo or any reference to sparkling vampires. (D@mn it! Vampires don’t sparkle!)
25. Computer programs are especially nice if they are geared toward writers.
26. A paid registration for a writers retreat or upcoming writers convention is a great way for your writer to recharge from stressful times.
27. Coffee shop gift certificates. This gets said author out of the house and into the general public, possibly eating and drinking while typing away at a table… (or people watching for inspiration for new characters).
28. Wi-Fi cards (or pre-paid Hot Spot or similar type card) – so your author’s out-of-the-house excursions don’t limit him to the library or McDonalds.
29. Your author has a sense of humor? Try making a survival kit. Include novelty pieces, such as a giant pencil or giant eraser. Order customized notepads, with messages at the top like: "From the demented mind of Dawn” or “Tom’s Brainstorming Pad." Make a silly ‘do not disturb’ sign for a door knob and decorate it with writing paraphernalia. Add a bottle of energy pills to cover any late nights or tight deadlines the person might have. A can of an energy drink or a few single serving snacks round out the package.
30. Make a coupon book. Include such valuable items as: ‘a free beta read’, XX hours of proofreading, a free neck and shoulder rub, a one time deal to clean their bathroom (if you dare…).  You know your writer. What can you offer?
31. If all else fails, get a wastebasket and fill it up with all sorts of office/writing gadgets found in the office/stationary supply aisle of your local, all purpose department store. Don’t forget the ever popular ‘pocket notebook’ the author can carry around to jot down his observations.

Hope this list helps give you the jump start needed to make your author’s Christmas a merry one indeed.

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Take time to think about the people and the things you are most thankful for.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sell Yourself the Right Way

Since it is open topic this week, I wanted to talk about author brands. It has become a sort of obsession of mine as of late as I try to update my website, blog, and other sites to reflect my 'brand'.

Now, what is an author brand you ask? Well, to me it is the image that you present to your readers, agents, and fellow writers about who you are as a writer. Key point there. Now myself personally, I would rather have my website full of skulls and barbed wire. However, that doesn't really show my author brand as a fantasy writer does it?

So, part of creating your own author brand is to really think about what you write. What genre or what type of feelings do your stories present? If you write in multiple genres, how could you show the feel of all the genres at the same time?

This part can be a little difficult, especially if you write multiple genres under the same name. However, many people recoomend, and I agree, that if you write multiple genres, you should have a different pen name for each genre. For me that also means having a website for each name, each with the right theme.

Too much work you say? Well, think of it like this. I write High Fantasy right? My website reflects this with a marvelous fantasy theme to it. But I do have some ideas for sci-fi stories. Now, my High Fantasy readers and fans will know that my name on a book means High Fantasy. But if they pick it up and find out it's sci-fi they will be a bit dissapointed and probably feel a little misled. Sure, many fans read multiple genres. But, if they expect a certain thing from you and you change it on them, they still might feel a little jilted about it. So, consider your fans and your reader base when writing in multiple genres - and thus choosing an image or feel for your site and/or blog.

Pen names are important to a writer's brand also. My real name as you know is Anastasia V. Pergakis. I went by the pen name Harley D. Palmer for years! But, when I really became serious about getting published, I had to sit down and think what name to use. A friend of mine told me that my real name would look awesome on a fantasy cover and I agreed. So, began the process to change everything in  "Harley's" name to "Anastasia". Will I ever use Harley again? Of course! I plan to use it later when I start to write in genres other than high fantasy. At that time, I will create another brand name and slogan to go with those stories.

And that is point here people. Create an image, a feel, and a name that all goes together. Put out there a "slogan" of a sort that people will remember and recognize. It's all about getting people to remember you and find you when they want. If they put your name into a google search, they should find YOU (the way you are on the cover of your book) all over the place. Website, blog, twitter, facebook, whatever.

For my blog, I went with a theme and layout that fit with me as a person rather than my writings. This is because that blog will be used as a central point for every thing I do under any name. So, I chose a theme that will cover all topics I ever decide to talk about. Some might tell me that my blog should match my website, or match the "fantasy" brand. However, since on my blog I talk about more than just my fantasy works, I don't think including the blog into my 'image' would fit very well. Others might feel differently and wouldn't do this the way I did. That's fine too. The main point here is to create your brand however you see fit - but just do it.

So I challenge you to sit down and really think about your 'brand' if you haven't already. Think about the future and where you want to be and how you want people to see and remember you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Research: A short Postscript!

A tricky place...

I sat, contemplating.

Sat in consideration;

sat thinking, mulling and pondering

– just why?


Just why, you say.

Why should I deviate

from fictional play

to reality?


He spoke not a word today.

Just a wave to beckon me on,

then, carelessly tossed away,

my identity drifted aside.


I wait; contemplate.

Did I offend?

Some transgression; even fate?

No. Idle curiosity satisfied, I move on.


The old man, sprang from stasis.

His weathered features, grey,

like the dried bed of a dead oasis.

Taxi? he called.

No. No taxi, I plead.

First, I seek the help of others,

a money changing need.

Taxi? The old man reappears.


But, where is this he leads?

Steel: a crumbling, decaying fragility,

we mount the old man’s wheeled steed.

Darkness embraces us.


Again, where is this he leads?

Sand: it gives place to concrete.

As lights flash by, time pays no head.

The old man smiles in my darkness.


I sat, contemplating.

Sat in consideration;

sat thinking, mulling and pondering

– just: why?


Steel: the crumbling, decaying fragility;

the old man’s wheeled steed creaks.

Through darkness my taxi’s ability,

once denounced, now championed.


Paper: the folded bills demanded;

the old man’s smile fades…

…his extortion plans now interrupted.

The old man turns away; I smile.


Just why, you say.

Why should I deviate

from fictional play

to reality?

I stand at the foot

of seven star luxury, contemplating.

Stand again, as considerations put

the breath of life in words I write.


Later, as I continue a stand,

more darkness envelopes our ground

as wind rustles and whips at sand.

Yellow dust coats my parched throat.

And, later still, I breath again,

as sand no longer troubles,

replaced by simple generosity, plain

– hands  full, I smile.

The paradox of the unreal real

stands, now bare, before me.

Yet again, in my existence, I feel

what I have known.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giving Some Thanks -- the Write Way

As I sit here at the computer, still digesting that fantastic meal from Golden Corral, I found myself reflecting on the topic of being thankful.

Now, this isn’t because it’s almost Thanksgiving, but more about why I was digesting the “wonderful” meal from Golden Corral. See, it was Military Appreciation Day and good old GC was treating veterans to a free meal (in case you’ve never heard of Golden Corral, it’s a buffet-style restaurant; a meal is whatever number of trips through the buffet line your stomach can handle).

Last Thursday was Veterans Day and a bunch of restaurants treated vets to an array of freebies, ranging from a free appetizer (like the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse) to an entire menu (Applebee’s). I can only imagine what would happen if Hooters joined the movement.

Being solo on these jaunts, I ended up sharing tables with others and got to hear their “war” stories and military tales. It made me wonder about these future generations are going to cope. I could remember all the discipline that military life had introduced into the lives of us veterans.

It made us productive citizens (most of us, anyway). The kind who built this great nation, brick by brick, girder by girder and X chromosome by Y chromosome.

Alas, it seemed as if the veterans’ appreciation is destined to become like Christmas – that once-a-year event where we all suddenly remember to be good to our fellow human beings, though even that is disappearing fast in an age of disaffectedness and political correctness.

For all the wonderful bits of technology we have available to us – cell phones, iPhones, Internet, laptops – we still seem not to know that there are wars going on. The news is reduced to “NATO servicemembers killed” yada yada yada.

Unfortunately, we’ve been going down that road for awhile. In Vietnam, protesters spit on returning veterans. While I’m glad no one is spitting now, we’re doing something almost as bad – we are gleefully and naively asking young men and women “did you kill anyone over there” or, even worse “how did it feel?”

Talk about disrespect. And everyone is asking, from little kids to adults.

I don’t know anymore.

As for what this topic has to do with writing, such a culture change appears in our books. Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (Mark Bowden), The Hurt Locker(Mark Boal) and Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead have showed us a war fought by the brave while the disaffected back home don’t seem to   notice. Boal appears here again with “Death  and Dishonor,” a piece that led to the movie In the Valley of Elah, a movie based on actual events in which soldiers suffering from PTSD because of Iraq kill and dismember one of their own.

Maybe we should either start writing about the bravery of our men and women in uniform and stop focusing on all the negative stuff. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen didn’t ask to go to war, but they performed their duties nonetheless. They certainly don’t need the people they’re safeguarding to paint them all with the same brush.

And maybe we can help with a few strokes of a pen instead of a paint brush.

At the very least, don’t wait until Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day to say thanks to those who served our country faithfully and with honor.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Change Is Good

I've been absent from the Wicked, Write in the Shadows and Everything Erotic roster for a few weeks. My life has been changing, which, from what I understand, is a good thing. To never change is to lie dormant, to lie dormant is to decay... and that is the beginning of the downward spiral into death.

I liked Jimmy's post on Friday - made me think about where I was a year ago. I entered a huge contest, never thinking I'd get to the semi-finals, only to find out I did. I had to drop out of participating in NaNo to do a final polish on my MS for the requested submission. It was an exhilarating time to say the least.

I begged everyone I knew, and everyone remotely connected to me on Facebook, to vote for my book in the contest. They did. Readers hold a power within them, one they are mostly unaware of. Their energy and sheer dogged determination catapulted Vampire Vacation to the Fan Favorite spot in the contest, for which I'm still grateful.

While my title ultimately did not win, but achieved second place, it turned out to be a gift in disguise. The publisher holding the contest has since gone to an ebook model (Dorchester) and lost almost all of their authors, including the third and first place winners from the contest whom were under contract.

During the contest I conceived the idea for Wicked Writers and approached some fellow writers. Only two still remain from the original group of five; the others joined other blogs, blog on their own, or dropped out of blogging to focus on writing. We launched in January and it's been a grand ride all around.

The year has held more personal and business ups and downs for me than any other time in my life. I turned the big 4-0 last week and I'm at peace with myself and my life right now. I never thought I'd be here. I never thought I'd be a writer. I never thought the crap I spew daily would be interesting in the least.

But here I am.

Published in under two years of writing "Chapter One". Owner of a publishing company with a mostly empty website (stop by for a laugh on the Submissions & Reviewers tab: www.rhpublishing1.com), but we've published two books with one more due out this month and one more before the end of the year.

Change is good...

... but belief is better.

Did I think I'd be here a year ago? No.

Did I naively think once I landed an agent my book would have a contract lickety-split? Yes.

Have I learned more about this changing industry in the past six months than I thought was humanly possible? Yes.

This is the time. If you market the heck out of yourself, social network until your fingers and brain go numb, and work your ass off to produce a damn good book, then (and only then) are you ready for this new time in publishing.

Above all, your work must be good. I cannot stress this enough. And no, I couldn't have done it on my own. Which is why a community of writers is key to success. There will always be readers if you spin a good tale, but you will never be able to produce a work worthy of being read unless you spend hours and hours on it.

Are you ready for change? Or are you still hoping an editor in a publishing house will believe in your work and help you perfect it?

Wake up - times are changing.

Right Now.

Are you?

You must believe in your work first and foremost. Then you need to get a thick skin so other writers can tell you what's wrong with it and you can fix it. I'm not saying they are always right - I had a ton who hated my style. But you will eventually find ones that work well with you and can help you improve your work.

Listen to your readers. They will never steer you wrong and they will tell it to you straight.

Change with the times or get left behind. Take a risk. The worst that can happen is you fail and that's something we've all survived before.

I believe in you and your work.

If I can do it, you can too-- you just have to be willing to evolve.

Have any questions about publishing, self-publishing, starting a publishing house, or how the industry works? Just ask. I'll answer to the best of my abilities.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


[caption id="attachment_3815" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="I love to read. I used to have time for that."][/caption]

Some of you may know this, some may not, but one year ago at this time I had just found a publisher. Vamplit Publishing had my debut novel about vampires with a Christian twist, and I was simply waiting for the editor to send back my carved-up manuscript. At that time, I had one MySpace account which was gathering dust (for spying on my teenager, don't you know), as well as one Facebook account. With that, however, all that I was doing was looking for old friends and playing Vampire Wars. Other than checking my e-mail multiple times per day for my edits which would ultimately not come in until Christmas Eve day, I had nothing to do in terms of writing.

     Oh, what a difference a year can make.

     Why am I telling you this, you ask? Some may be wondering why I am retelling it. Faithful readers of this hallowed page may have noticed that what was once fairly regimented has grown, shall we say: loose. There’s a reason for that and our hope here is it will be temporary. You see, many of us have gotten busy at quite the same time with regards to writing projects becoming published novels, and blogging evolving into PR campaigns and book tours.

     For me, 2010 transitioned from checking my e-mail every day, waiting for my novel to be published - to being published nearly every week. First came the blog. I didn’t design that. My publisher handed me the keys, but it was certainly up to me to fill it with stuff. I posted information about my novel, as well as film and music reviews and the occasional rant or editorial. A guest post on Wicked Writers transitioned over to a regular spot every other Friday. A review in a local magazine brought me to the attention of an editor who had just launched her own on-line magazine. I had never written articles before, nor did I have any kind of experience in Journalism; however, I have now been writing articles for her since the summer. I now have a second Facebook page (The Official James Garcia... You get the idea) as well as a Twitter Account.

     The point I’m attempting to make is, we spent a lot of time dreaming that these days might come; that we might be writing. Little did we realize, perhaps, just what form that might take; or how it might all come together. I think many of you have probably gone through the same things. Notice how I’ve mentioned nothing at all about us having houses to maintain, or children or grandchildren to parent. Or day jobs! Many of you are writing and running blogs; others are reading, reviewing and running blogs; and a whole bunch of us are trying like heck to do it all. Busy, huh?

[caption id="attachment_3816" align="alignright" width="225" caption="There's a few DVDs there I still haven't seen yet."][/caption]

 This brings me to the heart of the matter: please hang in there if we suddenly seem to have neglected to post on our day; or if we fail to update the poll or go a while without offering another contest. I think everyone here would agree that this site is very special to us, as well as all of the interaction with you fine people. Many of us are simply coping with transitioning at the moment. C.J.’s flying about the country on the Wicked Writer’s corporate jet, doing lectures and signings. NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) has claimed a few of us braver ones who are endeavoring to write a complete novel in one month (Anastasia and J.D.), Greg can’t hardly get any work done with Hollywood pleading with him to save some blockbuster project of their's by taking the lead role. And for me, between writing posts and articles, I’m supposed to be overseeing the PR machine as it figures out new and improved ways to get the information out about my positively reviewed novel that few know about. I am also supposed to be polishing up its sequel and getting it ready for the moment that my trusty publisher asks for it.

     John Lennon is famous for a great many things, but in the Beatles’ song, “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, he sang, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy…”. It isn’t one of my favorite Beatle’s songs. In fact, I typically skip it. However, being motivated by music, it was the one lyric to leap into my head as I was crafting the paragraph. You may also notice one of these days that the blog appears a bit different. Potentially, we’re moving. I’m told it will be seamless and you will not have to be redirected or find one of those notices that we’ve moved. You will not have to pick up our mail or kick the pile of newspapers out of your way while walking to the front door. Nothing like that.

[caption id="attachment_3817" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Jones is waiting for someone to come play with him! "][/caption]

     Just please hang in there (like my cat), because that’s all that we are attempting to do as well, amongst all of the stuff.

     As I like to say over on my blog…

     …We’ll talk soon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Dentist made me do it.

This Wednesday, I am submitting something I wrote for a contest (and won a free magazine subscription.)


Because I'm still in some MAJOR pain from the dentist office.

It seems the new alloy used to produce bone in my mouth partially worked. I have 2 out of 6 screws in, and no teeth yet. So, back to square one, where they cut me open and stuffed my gum line with more alloy, then stitched me up (which I felt ever d@mn piercing of the suture as it crisscrossed across my mouth.) Needless to say, I am on three pain meds and none of them are working. I am NOT in a mood to write anything dashingly exciting or even clever at this moment.

On a side note: I am closing in on 20,000 words in Nanowrimo. And I have threaten to place my dentist in the role of the demented, sadistic villain. I can do that you know; I am a writer!

Anyway, without further adieu, here is my little snip of a post for open topic.


In moments of self-doubt, I’m haunted by her words.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Under my nose, my fifth grade teacher shook my original, handwritten, 125 loose leaf page story, bound together with scraps of scarlet yarn.

“Children your age don’t possess the ability to understand adult ideas.” Her acidic glare through dark framed glasses pinned me against a cabinet. “Where did you learn this?”

Before I could defend myself, the woman pinched her lips tight and examined me as an exterminator does a cockroach. “You’re an impertinent student and a deviant freak of nature. You’ll never possess the discipline to be successful author.”

Although I felt stung by the sharpness of her words, the tears came after hearing the hollow echo of my beautiful first book, tossed in to the old metal wastebasket.

So went my first experience as a writer.

Without a doubt, my muse raised its rebellious spirit to confront her challenge.

I will be a published author. My stories will be read, enjoyed, and cherished by others who feel alone. Different from everybody else.

Different. Like me.

I continued to write. I imagined how my stories would touch someone’s life with words of encouragement, to believe in ones self. It’s hard to survive in a world where you’re alone, afraid to hope or love because you believe yourself a deviant freak of nature.

For you see, the things that break an author’s heart are tools used to discover the passion within. This creates a voice conspicuous enough to whisper aloud from the printed words, thus seducing the reader’s soul.

In order for my dream to breathe, however, depended upon how well I learned life lessons through trials of angst, sorrow, and raw hardship. The adversity which I endured while in pursuit of my goal came in many forms:

*My decision to remain faithful to my personal morals forced me to give up my Journalism scholarship.

*I wailed as the jealousy of an abusive ex destroyed 10 years of written tales, cursing me with the prophecy that I’d never become an author because I was a loser.

*With misplaced trust, I fell for deception, believing my stories to be equivalent to a blasphemy. For over a decade, I ceased all writing, my sacrifice to purge the deviant, freakish sins.

Each tribulation added a flux of personal strength, an extra dose of tenacity, and a greater determination to my declaration of who I am, what I write, and why I write it.

And I know, upon the authenticity of publication, my life will change. To accomplish my goals and achieve my dream, I will feel the sweet satisfaction of vindication.

As for the people who swore I’d never succeed, I will let my freak flag fly in victory.

I’ll have greater self-confidence, increased faith in my abilities and announce with pride:

“I am a published author. My stories are read, enjoyed, and cherished by others who feel alone. Different from everybody else.

Different. Like me.”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Research: the write stuff – a tale of big words?

OK, a free blog topic! So, is it really true? I really don’t have to write more about horror, Halloween, and other ghouly stuff? (At least not for another year!)

But I have gotten so used to this place… writing about stuff I haven’t really a clue about! What am I to do now? Go back to mundane thrillers and financial crime? And, me being so late with this post… What will you readers be looking for now?
If in doubt… write from experience! Write what you know and can feel!

Yes, all well and good, I say… but there is an existential paradox here (big words #1 & #2) Oooo! I love it when I get philosophical! (Big word #3) Again I digress…

The Existential Paradox of Fiction

[caption id="attachment_3794" align="alignright" width="144" caption="A paradox..."][/caption]

Write what you know and can feel? But I write fiction. Fiction is not real. I cannot KNOW it; neither can I actually FEEL it! I cannot therefore write fiction based on what I know and feel. I cannot write what I cannot know. QED!

Existentially, if in doubt… what the h*** do I do now? How can I effectively write fiction if writing is best based on knowledge and experience and I have neither?

Research, I hear you say. (Well I might, if I could get the hang of this auto-suggestion malarkey!)

Research is a search for knowledge – perhaps the knowledge I need to write the fiction I am planning. But research implies a systematic investigation to establish facts and it usually also implies a scientific (not existential) method. What good is research to me? I am trying to write about stuff that does not exist – it is FICTION!
I repeat: F I C T I O N ! ! !

What about applied research, though? Surely that is different?

Oh, yes! Discovery and interpretation – all designed to advance human knowledge. But, knowledge as the basis of the unreal – of fiction? The paradox again. There are no facts concerning what is not real.

Now here’s one! Artistic research… Debatable! Art as an alternative in the search for knowledge and truth? Dubious, surely… but we are still digressing from the paradox! There are no facts concerning what is not real.

The existential paradox suggests: “why should we bother to develop our individual knowledge-bases as an aid to writing fiction – developing untrue narratives for the purpose of entertainment, not the advancement of human knowledge – why?
Why bother with research? We can just make stuff up, surely!

[caption id="attachment_3791" align="alignright" width="114" caption="A tricky place..."][/caption]

Case in point! A short time ago, I posted the opening chapter of my work in progress – the sequel to River of Judgement – in which I set the villain of the peace in a tricky situation in Libya. What do I know of Libya, or what an encounter with a criminal master-mind would be like? I know nothing. It’s fiction. I just made it up!

I created a social situation in a country that I have never visited, in a world (of crime) that I have never witnessed, about people that are wholly fictitious! If I was to gather facts – research, if you like – to develop the knowledge to write that scene on the basis of what I knew to be the case, I could end up in a pretty dicey situation myself. That is, assuming that such a reality actually existed somewhere, and didn’t mind being exposed in a real narrative. But then, that would not be fiction… ;)

I have missed a point here (deliberately so, in the hope that I could find enough to write about, lol)
The paradox of the unreal real is simply solved.

The answer lies in counterfactual analysis (big word #4). Assume the fiction is real, as we write about it. We research for facts that would support our fictional reality (if it was real). We research to support the narrative, not to provide it.

We want our readers to believe in the worlds we create. But the great thing is, these worlds we create don’t actually have to BE real. The world of our fictional narrative merely has to give the impression of a reality, long enough to engage our readers.

Fictional worlds, the places and characters that exist within them and the lives and actions we portray as fiction writers, form what can be described as socio-cultural contexts of systems of meaning, action, and/or beliefs.

These contexts of systems are basic to the world they describe. They are “plausibility structures”, and are a dialectic (given up counting big words now). Our fictional world should comprise a plausible structure, one that supports the fictional narrative. It does not replace it. And the fictional narrative, drawing on the plausible structure, in turn, suggests that structure is wholly real! The narrative acts to make the fictional world self-evident.

So research becomes a necessity if we do not have the knowledge to create and write about plausible structures.

And where does that leave the opening of my sequel set in Libya? Is my reality plausible? (Not factual.) Well, lucky me, this weekend I am about to set foot on Libyan soil for the first time in my life. I shall take full advantage of gaining experiences that will help me develop the structure of my fictional world – but I shall not worry a jot about the narrative! :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

CJ's First Full Speaking Engagement

The flier posted around campus. Way cool.
Yes, I'm a nerd.

Or... otherwise known as "Can You Shut Her Up, Please?"

All kidding aside, I think I did pretty good. I worry I talk too much when answering a question. And yes, there are times I start in one direction (because I'm so sure the background to my answer is key) and I wind up forgetting what the eff someone asked me because I took too long to get to the answer.

The Jacksonville folks rolled out the red carpet for me and really made me feel like a superstar. I never had to lift a finger. Shelly Howard was really the driving force behind getting me there and it was a joy to speak with her and hear the enthusiasm pour from her.

Dr. Brannon dressed as Sookie and me
with my big cheesy grin

The day started with Dr.Brannon and I talking in her office, getting to know each other better. Or, as I like to think of it, someone in charge making sure I wasn't a complete whack-job who might embarrass the school. She and I are near the same age and it was a joy to see a professor so excited about the topics she teaches. I only hope my own kids are as lucky to have teachers like her when they go to college.

Next, I went to the auditorium to meet with someone from the school paper. Only they weren't there and decided it would be best to take notes on the question and answer session with the students and base the article on what we covered. Pretty smart way to kill two birds with one stone.

Lauren and Dr.Brannon

Lauren, as I later found out, will be writing the article. As soon as I get a link I'll post it for you. Someone took pictures of me slouching up on the small carpeted stage while I was yaking, so be prepared, they are probably not flattering pictures. Every time the flash went off my only thought was "Crap, I think my mouth was open again."

We had somewhere between 30 and 40 people show up -- no one fell asleep and the yawns were more a result of the pizza served for lunch (I hope), so I think that means I kept everyone's attention.

There were a gamut of questions asked, from "What is urban fantasy?" "How did you become a writer?" "How did you get published?" to "Why do you think female authors write about vampires?" There were many more, after all, it did last about 40-45 minutes, but it went by in a blur.

Hopefully Lauren was paying attention because I'm not sure what all my answers were. Think it was the adrenaline rush ;-)

Shelly and I at the Halloween Festival.

Next, we went right to the Vampire Lit class and I wolfed down some french fires and diet coke as politely as possible while answering more questions in class. The students directed the way the class progressed and I think the professor would have been happier if we covered more scholarly on-topic questions, but overall, any participation was great.

Again, I don't remember most of what I said. Funny how the mind works. I can't be the only speaker who gets up and talks on the fly and can't recall all the ins and outs afterwards, right? People laughed when I tried to joke and no one laughed at me, I'm sure I would have recognized such behavior from my youth, so I'm guessing it went well.

I went back to the hotel for a bit after the class, caught up on phone calls and emails and then BAM, I was back at school for the Halloween Festival. It was a small turnout according to the organizers, but I enjoyed it. I got to speak with lots of students one on one and really had a nice time.

Ryan working his plastic fangs to snag an apple!

They had lots of food, bobbing for apples (while wearing vamp fangs, which was a hoot), wiffle ball aka Twilight-inspired baseball (clever!), a pinata filled with candy and a costume contest.

I wasn't sure how I'd go over at the school - some nobody newbie-writer coming in to speak, but the students were so warm and inviting I never felt awkward. Yes, I will probably talk to a wall if left to my own devices long enough, but no one blatantly walked away and snubbed me, so I'm calling it a success.

Hey, you have to realize I'm used to cold calling and selling myself for work in potentially  negative environments. This was a breeze in comparison.

Kids from one of the adult students
and Mandi to the right.

Oh - I almost forgot the best part - giving away my books! The first person who won, Mandi, was incredible. I think she unwittingly set the tone for everyone else. When her ticket number was called she jumped from her seat like a cattle prod zapped her and shouted "Oh my god, I won! I won!" and came running down the side isle.

Of course, I said the only witty thing that popped into my mind "Come on down! You're the next contestant on The Price is Right!" Her reaction made the whole thing worth while.  I felt worthy. I felt like my book was a real prize and she was beyond happy to receive it. The other winners were all gracious and every one of them wanted me to sign their copy.

Shelly and the losing pinata.

Some enterprising young men opted for me not to personalize it and I joked it may be worth something in ten years and they could sell it on ebay (or give it as a gift). A few students stayed and talked with me after the speaking part in the auditorium and I was told if anyone wants to talk with you rather than running for the door then you did a good job.

We gave away more copies at the festival later and again, Mandi won another prize (not my book this time). I think her good karma came back to her that day - she gave me a gift with her positive energy and was a winner again only hours later.

Alissa and Leann? Forgot a lot of
names, someone help me out.

I went back to my hotel wrung out and tired. It was a fabulous day and I couldn't have asked for anything more. I'm still shocked at how fast it all went by. I soaked in the tub and talked to hubby for a bit before winding down enough by 11 to get to sleep. Incredible how the rush keeps you going even when you're more than ready for bed.

The next day Shelly picked me up and drove me to the airport. We chatted some more about writing and she shared something with me: after our brainstorming at the restaurant on the night of my arrival, she had so many ideas churning she sat down and started to write. How exciting!

I'm really enjoying this new career. Being able to reach out and encourage others is an aspect I never expected when I started writing last year. I'm still awkward when it comes to accepting praise or being told I inspire someone, but be patient with me. I still don't think what I've done is extraordinary and I still think everyone can write if they want to.

Thought this one was funny, had to share.

It takes drive and dedication to improve your craft. And a thick skin to realize not everyone will like your work. No worries. I'm proof enough that if you write it, they will enjoy it.

Someone out there will, I guarantee it. The odds are with ya ;-)

Wishing you all a great week,


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's My Duty to Inform You That...It's NaNoWriMo Time!

I don't know how this fell to me, but I'm going to leave the humor aside for one week (and I know many of you are saying "what humor?") so I can remind faithful readers about the one time of year we all really enjoy...besides Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day, July 4th and Halloween -- namely NaNoWriMo

For those not familiar with this event, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and was started by Chris Baty back in 1999. The challenge is to write a coherent novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. It began yesterday (Nov. 1) and runs through 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30.

By that date, you'll either be beaming with a new novel or still pissed at the results of the Grambling State-Southern Bayou Classic.

Anyway, there is no actual prize associated with being a winner. Writing 50,000 words in a month and making them fit into a novel is prize enough. You do get a little banner that you can paste to your writing.com account (if you have one).

And who knows? You may find your novel getting picked up by a publisher. Think it doesn't happen? Ask Sara Gruen and her novel Water for Elephants, which hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. For a list of NaNoWriMo participants whose novels got picked up for publication, check this out.

If you should decide to participate, here's how to get started:

1) Sign on to the Internet

2) Go to www.nanowrimo.org

3) Sign up

Note: If you're one of the 60,000-plus who did this last year or the year before, use your old sign-in name, please. Otherwise, they won't remember you. They have the means to help you if you've forgotten user name and password. Also, remember that the word count will appear on your WDC page.

[caption id="attachment_3767" align="alignright" width="251" caption="Want to be the next A.M. Homes? Join NaNoWriMo"][/caption]

And don't worry if you've never written a novel before. A friend of mine wrote something about vampires, vacations and Alaska and it got published. And the writer was from Jersey, no less. So, it's not that difficult.

Anyway, here are a few helpful hints for writing 50,000 words in one month:

A) Be loose. Set aside time to write. Say about an hour a day. It can be morning, noon, night or late night. Especially a time with no distraction like kids or snoring spouses (hey, husbands can snore, too). Most importantly, write every day because, if you don't, it's like missing a day of exercise. You'll suddenly miss more and more and it will be Nov. 30 before you know it.

B) Have some flexibility. You might find yourself wanting to change directions with your novel. It might start out as a memoir of how you met your husband and then change into how you met and married husband no. 5.

C) Set goals. Now, NaNoWriMo suggests writing at least 1,667 words a day, but that's mathematical. Write what you can. You'll have days when you don't feel like writing much of anything and then there will be days when your significant other can't pry you loose from the computer. Go with the flow and just write something.

D) Wait until the end to edit if you must. Trust me, I've fallen into this trap too many times in the past. Think of NaNoWriMo like the SATs. With tests, you answer all the questions and, if you have time left, you go back over them. With your novel, write until it's done. Then, if it's not quite 11:59 p.m. on the 30th, go back and browse through it. (one exception to this hint: please use Spellcheck and Grammarcheck).

Also, here are a couple of books, including one by Chris Baty himself, on how to write a novel in 30 days (both available on Amazon.com):

[caption id="attachment_3764" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="By Chris Baty"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3765" align="alignright" width="150" caption="by Victoria Lynn Schmidt"][/caption]

Special note: The winner of the Halloween novel contest is Kris M. Kris, if you would please review my last blog and pick a title from the list, I will have that sent to you post-haste. Just leave a comment on this week's blog when you decide and then we'll go about exchanging info offline so I can order it.