Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Urban Myth of Santa Claus

Luna Lindsey

Long ago, I wrote a comedic essay on the parallels between Santa Claus and Satan.  I was surprised to find quite a few things in common, though I was really only joking.  I finished the piece "...and the North Pole is as cold as hell!"

Back then, I didn't even know that "Nick" or "Old Nick" is also another word for The Devil in some parts of the world.  It is also the root of the name for several types of fairies in different regions (neck, nykk, nissie, nixsie, nyx, etc.  This itself may have come from the Roman "nymph".)  When we accept that many of our Christmas traditions have pagan roots, it's easy to see where all the confusion might have come from.

I've studied a lot of world mythologies this year.  And in doing so, I have taken a step back from my own culture's mythologies and seen it anew.  To us, we are a rational culture which has abandoned actual belief in strange tales of gnomes with funny names who spin straw into gold and gods with hammers who strike lightning out of the sky.  What silly nonsense!  Yet we have a large number of our own myths, that when viewed from outside, are just as silly.  When it comes to Christmas, those myths are borrowed from the same kinds of people who believed in giants and gods who live on Mt. Olympus.  And we find we are no different.

Think about it.  We cut down a tree and put it in the living room and place a star on top.  We hang socks from the fireplace.  Then we place cookies and milk out all night for a fat man in a red suit, who will come down the chimney at midnight and fill the socks with treats, then pull brightly colored packages (made by elves) out of his sack and place them under the tree.  But only for children he has judged worthy.  Then he will climb back up the chimney, hop on a flying snow-craft pulled by a team of reindeer, and fly back to his home in the North Pole.

If you hadn't grown up with that story, you would laugh, and say, "People really believed that crap?"  And yet parents tell the tale to their children as if it were fact, take their children to the "marketplace" to sit on his lap, then stay up on Christmas night to enact the ritual.  We put statues and images of Santa and all his followers all over our houses and marketplaces and sing songs about him.  Revealing the secret to children is taboo.

Have we really changed all that much?  In the future, when antiquities scholars will tell of our God and our Demigods, Santa will be highest on that list, akin to Thor in his second-place status next to Odin.  He will be the god associated with giving, kindness, children, winter, snow, the cardinal direction of "north", and the color "red".  The Easter Bunny and cupid and leprechauns and ghosts will be right up there, too, and academics will debate whether we held them as gods or animistic spirits.  For all our science, we haven't really left our myths behind.

Everything about the Santa myth is a fairytale.  With actual fairies.  It's so ingrained in our culture that we often miss it.  But all the elements are there:
  • Magic.
  • Elves.
  • Flying.
  • Leaving out food to appease him.
  • Inexplicable gift giving (remember the shoemakers elves?)
  • Time dilation to get around the world in one night.
Fairies themselves were a pagan belief, existing long before Christianity.  In an effort to get people to stop worshiping false gods, the Catholic church literally demonized the fae folk, turning them into devils, the very minions of Satan.  Hence, when studying fairytales, I've often seen "devil" being synonymous with "elf".  The original horned gods (often with the cloven hoofs of goats) were Pan, Puck, and the satyr.  But the devil himself, once the imageless antithesis of God, was given a makeover to resemble these formerly-benign gods, to remind people where their loyalties should lie.

Given the great distances back then, words evolved over time.  The nixies became nykks which became "Nick" (the devil), which became "to nick something" (meaning to steal).  Saint Nicholas' name is most likely a coincidence, but he was actually from Turkey waaaay back in 270CE.  He didn't wear a fur lined coat at all, but he did give things away, year round.  Most notably, he saved women from prostitution by giving them dowries and prevented children from being butchered by cannibals by raising them from the dead.  Not a very familiar image when thinking of Father Christmas...

But we are pretty sure that the Germanic peoples associated Saint Nick with the god Odin for some reason.  In Odin we see a more familiar figure: one who was celebrated at the pagan winter holiday of Yule with the practice of leaving carrots outside in boots for his flying horse to eat.  In exchange he left treats for the children.

It is easy to imagine the Church trying to re-label the pagan nykks as devils, and their god Odin as the devil, and them hearing the name Saint Nicholas, and then deciding it was ok to celebrate him during Yule, and since he was a "Nick", and so was Odin, and they both gave things away, then it was all one and the same.

Maybe.  That last bit was just a wild guess, but in seeing how Roman nymphs evolved into European fairies in the first place, it's easy to imagine how these things can happen.

We can read recently-written stories about vampires and werewolves who wander among us, but few, if any of those will achieve the status of myth: beliefs about how the world is, or how we'd like it to be, that are passed along from parent to child, slowly evolving through the ages, until no one can quite remember just exactly where it came from.  When we think of urban fantasy, we can't forget that the old stories are just as alive today as they always were; the living, breathing spirit in the body of our culture.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Indy help

One of the hardest things about deciding to become an Indy, is knowing what to do. As a writer, writing can be hard or easy. Sometimes it's a little bit of both. In the end however, because I am a writer, I write. No ands or buts about that. Still, once I finish writing and editing my work, what then? There's a great big world out there and no real road maps to follow. At least there wasn't when I started over a year ago. Today, however there are several road maps that have been put together by authors that, like me, started out when there were none.

They have cheerfully put together their experiences, both the good and the bad, and have done their utmost to help you to avoid the pitfalls that they had to learn from real world experience. If you're thinking about pursuing a career as an Indy author, but don't have a clue as to where to start after finishing that manuscript, then I would recommend three different books for you. All of them have there own merits and each one will give you a little something different. So if you're serious, then please take the time and read at least one of these, as they will surely make your trip into Indy publishing that much easier for you.

Are You Still Submitting Your Work to a Traditional Publisher?--- By Edward C. Patterson

The Newbie's Guide to Publishing (Everything A Writer Needs To Know)---JA Konrath

Becoming an Indie Author (Smart Self-Publishing)---Zoe Winters

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mind Control, Mystical Mesmerism, and Other Magical Compulsions

What is mind control?  We love watching our heroines lock eyes with the vampire and immediately come under his thrall.  Or our hero robotically stumbling to perform an act he simply cannot bear, fighting himself and the foreign voice inside his head. 

It is a common theme, these various methods through which a major or minor character is magically compelled to act against his or her will. 

In the real world, mind control takes a lot more than magic, and a lot less than a hypnotist's pocket watch.  The treatment of this topic from a scientific point of view would take much more than single blog post.  Believe me, I've tried to fit it into a couple of posts, and could only cover the basics.  In real life, psychological manipulation is not all-consuming, and it requires a long process to win trust, appeal to ideals, give the experience of group euphoria, and then slowly build a trap of fears, thought terminating cliches, and other mental tricks to keep the person from listening to reason.  As difficult as it sounds, it is also appallingly common, and of course people who have been coercively persuaded don't even know it.  That's sort of the point.

In fantasy, it's a lot easier.  And much more glamorous, if you pardon the pun.  Our villains have the advantage of magical prowess, so they can cut right to the chase.  Unlike real life, their powers are all-consuming.  They work 100% of the time, without fail, on anyone they choose.  They can make people go against core beliefs, without the messy complications, or years of preparation.

We are all familiar with the black and white celluloid of Bela Lugosi compelling Renfield to leave the window open, the nurse to remove the protective wolfbane from around Mina's neck, and of him luring Mina herself out into the garden for his final bite. His power, like that of many other vampires, is part-magic, part-seduction... there is an theme that deep down, the victim wants to succumb.  Something about the monster is irresistible.  She already craves that which is forbidden, and the vampire uses this to his advantage.

Many vampire worlds contain another form of compulsory magic: the blood bond.  Three sips of the vampire's blood, or in some cases, just one, is enough to completely take over your mind.  The vampire now has a hold of you.  He has earned your unquestioning loyalty and can command you to do anything.  Even if you started the plot as his sworn enemy, it no longer matters.  Your will is his.

The werewolf equivalent is pack dynamics.  The Alpha has the magic ability to command and control all members of his pack, whether they like it or not.  This is much less about seduction, and more about brute force.  Perhaps you want to obey, because the pack leader is admirable, or out of a sense of tradition or duty.  But when push comes to shove, none of that matters.  Pack magic trumps all.

For the human villain, spells seem to do the trick.  Themes of sympathetic magic are common in modern fiction.  A witch or wizard can obtain a personal item or make a symbolic image, and through this, gain control over the victim's body, mind, or pain centers.  These myths originate from a number of traditions, including European folk tales and the African practice of Vodun (often fictionalized as "Voodoo").  All it takes is a lock of hair, a lost button, or a captured tear to turn another human being into a puppet.

The Celtic peoples had a concept of part-oath, part-taboo, part-compulsion, called a geas or geis (pronounced something like "gesch").  A certain behavior would be proscribed or prescribed, and should that person fail, a dire consequence would ensue.  A king could demand such a geas to ensure loyality from a warrior, or an old hag could use it as a curse.  It could even be used as a means of protection, if for example, the person is compelled to never die except under very particular, supposedly impossible circumstances.  In the famous Irish tale of CĂș Chulainn, the hero is bound by geas to never eat dog meat.  He has a second geas (actually a part of Celtic culture) compelling him to always accept hospitality.  His enemies used these to create a double bind and defeat him.  He is offered dog meat, and being forced to accept it, he becomes weakened enough to be defeated in battle.

A love potion can make anyone fall in love, which is quite an act of compulsion, especially since love itself is arguably a form of compulsory magic.  A love potion is created by a scorned admirer to force the object of her affection to requite.  In the typical tale, the potion backfires, causing the subject to fall in love with a squirrel, a rival, or "a cop down on 34th and Vine".

Faeries have it easy when it comes to mind control.  Whenever the mortal wanders into the faerie glen, or stumbles upon the faerie banquet in the basement, you can always bet they will be tempted into eating the fairy food.  After that, there is no escape. 

Originally, the zombie was another form of magical mind control.  While most modern zombies are dead or diseased people acting on their own with a built-in, single-minded compulsion for brains or killing, the original zombie was an undead puppet of a magical shaman.  This interpretation lives on in our metaphorical language, when we refer to TV viewers or mall shoppers as "zombies".

Demonic possession is perhaps the most terrifying form of supernatural mind control.  In this case, the monster lives inside the victim, mind and body given over entirely to the demon's will.

Resisting mind control in real life involves a constant skeptical mind and persistent mistrust of even the nicest people.  In fiction, mind control is often inescapable.  When dealing with faeries or magical tricksters, the best bet is to never agree to anything.  And never eat the fairy food!  Or drink any suspicious potions labeled "#9".  When dealing with vampires, the best bet is to immediately deploy a wooden stake.  Wards are said to combat sympathetic magic, or you can simply become OCD about never letting your possessions out of your site (lest you become one yourself).  Religion is said to combat demons, and if you never give your soul to a bokor, you probably won't become a zombie.

But when it comes to resisting mind control, magical or otherwise, perhaps Jennifer Connelly said it best when facing down the Goblin King:

For my will is as strong as yours, my kingdom as great. You have no power over me.

What are your favorite mind control powers in urban fantasy?

Luna Lindsey

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Day in the Life of an Indie Author

Today was one of those days that just didn't have enough hours - do you know those?

When I quit my day job and became an Indie Author full time back in February this year, I thought I'd finally have time to go for leisurely lunches with my friends, enjoy walks around the city, and maybe even do some volunteering.

Nope - didn't happen. As an indie author I do more than one job now.

The morning started out with doing last minute edits for my latest release, Gabriel's Mate, Book #3 in the Scanguards Vampires series. When I was finally finished with it by 11am, I started uploading the manuscript - together with the cover I changed last night - to several e-book sites including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You'd think I'd take a break after that accomplishment, but no such luck. I spent the remainder of the day formatting the manuscript for the paperback version. Of course, when I converted it to the print-ready pdf that's needed, Adobe wouldn't cooperate and inserted blank pages where I didn't need them. It took me hours to get it right (and I still don't know what I did).

I also drew winners of the free copies of Gabriel's Mate I had promised to readers, then sent emails to those readers to notify them of their win.

After spending some time on Facebook, Twitter and my own blog to announce my latest release, I continued with starting the upload for the paperback. But I'm not done yet: I still need to create the cover and finalize my book cover blurb.

To change pace a little, I started proofing an Erotica short story for my critique partner, who will soon release it on Kindle, but only got about 1/3 of the way before my eyes became too tired. No point in continuing if I won't be able to spot any more typos because I'm too tired.

Yes, being an Indie Author can be exhausting, but it's also rewarding. I got a wonderful email from one of my readers today. She wrote: "...and thank you for sharing your wonderful work with us!!  I haven't read one of your works yet that I haven't loved! :)"

Suddenly, I don't feel so tired anymore.

Tina Folsom
Author of the Scanguards Vampires series and the Out of Olympus series

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nanowrimo and what else has been going on.

So, I hope everyone is well today. Nanowrimo is over now, and I am proud to say I participated and won. It was weird holding myself to such a tight schedule. Normally I only write if I feel it. I hate to just sit down and write if the story isn’t flowing, which means it could take me some time to actually complete a book. Other times I can fly right through it, like a hot knife through butter. The problem is that it's usually the former rather then the latter when it comes to writing.

After doing Nanowrimo, I have found I can actually write even when I don't feel like it. Oh it can be a pain then, but I can do it. I'm hoping to move sometime soon, and my hope is that I can get my own writing room. One that allows me to sit in it all by myself, have my soft command chair and table/desk, my own fridge so I can have all the drink I need, and just sit back and chill, and write without being bothered. Especially, no phone or family demanding my attention. When I do get this dream I hope to write a whole lot more then I'm doing now. I think it will be great, and thanks to Nanowrimo, I will be able to write even if I don't feel it. I think that’s cool.

Tainted Blood is in editing, and I hope to God to have it done before Christmas. I wish I could say, yeah such and such a day. But edits are hell, and they take some time. I should be putting a paperback up this month for Shades of Twilight, and now to decided on my next project. I have 4 or 5 chapters done on Revenge a vampire/mystery/romance, which I need to finish. I have a novella I have some work on, that I'm not sure if I will finish. It is adult and I'm embarrassed about that one, so I'm not sure I want to finish that one. Vampire, of course.

Plus, I have a virtual tour in January for Shades of Twilight, so I'm thinking I should try to have at least its sequel mostly done. After all, it's my highest seller at the moment and has been each month. I will be releasing free ebook copies of Fallen Blood this week on the, so sign up if you want a shot at them, and I will be giving away a paperback version on Goodreads I think this month. So I think that has me all caught up for all those who are interested. I hope you had a wonderful November and are looking forward to a better December.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Indie Author’s Asset: The Writing Group

Being an author is a challenging job. Even well established, published authors have days where they stare at their computer screens (or composition notebooks) and doubt their own abilities. Writing means being able to tap into your creative side and create a worthwhile project, even when your day has been lousy or you have a headache. Independent authors have additional challenges to tackle: sticking to their own deadlines, finding willing participants to critique their work, and determining how to get their stories known. Additionally, writing is a solitary profession and one could easily find themselves feeling discouraged and isolated.

Many authors would be amazed by the power of joining a writer’s (or critique) group. In her book, Pen on Fire, Barabara DeMarco-Barrett notes that finding a writer’s group has the benefit of being able to share your ideas with people who likely see the world in a similar way. Independent authors stand to benefit incredibly from a serious writer’s group. Some examples of these benefits include:

1)Free editing: Let’s face it, no matter how many times we review books like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, or how often we scrutinize our work, we will always make mistakes. There are many errors to be made: spelling and grammar errors, plot holes, and vocabulary screw-ups to name a few. If you engage yourself in a serious writer’s group where everyone does their part, your material will be critiqued for free. Your counterparts may not be editors by trade; however, they have more knowledge on the subject than the lay person. In my writer’s group, we meet bi-monthly and bring corrections of one another’s work to discuss in each meeting. This keeps us accountable to each other and improves the quality of our work.
2)Ensuring timely completion of work: As noted above, involvement in a writer’s group brings accountability. Even on my busiest weeks, as the date of our next group nears, I find myself using my time more efficiently. I know my friends are expecting me to hand over a portion of my own project as well as provide feedback on theirs. My writer’s group has likely pushed my productivity forward two fold.
3)Hearing hard news from a soft place: Not one writer wants to hear that their work stinks. Even the most seasoned among us has failed to dazzle their audience with a scene or completely confused even their sharpest readers. Sometimes, we know something needs help, other times, we hand over a part of our work that we are sure will win awards only to hear the painful news that it needs help-and lots of it. Criticism hurts, but it’s less excruciating to hear from someone who cares about you and knows your potential than from a complete stranger who has no investment in your success as a writer.
4)Sounding board for frustrations: As a new writer, I often feel overwhelmed. Attempting to write my first novel, working full-time, and trying to have a social life has been a difficult endeavor. My writer’s group buddies truly understand the fears of failure, exhaustion, and continual roadblocks I face.
5)Learning from one another: We could spend every hour of every day for years studying the craft of writing and never exhaust all there is to learn. Spending time with other writers to share knowledge can ease this burden. For example, I learned about the opportunity to blog on this site from one of my writer’s group buddies.

I would encourage every writer to establish a group by identifying a few people that can meet regularly and appear serious about their goals. Word of caution: Keep the group small and establish some general rules (e.g. expectations of each member). My writer’s group consists of 3 people. I read and write fantasy, they are science fiction writers. All 3 of us write differently, and enjoy diverse types of stories. This is not a barrier, but adds interest and brings varying view points into our meetings. Not only have these writers helped to propel my writing goals, but they have become friends of immeasurable worth.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Toast to The Copious Cornucopia of Ancient and Modern Folktales

Before giving thanks this year, think on this: Words are an endlessly renewable resource.

Imagine: If an infinite number of turkeys pecked at an infinite number of computers for an infinite length of time, they would eventually type all our favorite novels, exactly word for word.  An even more exciting prospect is that they would type a great number of new novels that the world has never before seen.  The nightmare of sorting through all the random rubbish to find such gems would take an infinite number of pilgrims, and being Puritans, they may simply throw out all the best stuff for containing gratuitous witchcraft and hot inter-species sex scenes.

Obviously there is a better way.  Instead of implementing this absurd system of random word generation with a Thanksgiving-motif, society employs the humble writer, who types non-random words wracking their brains to find a combination that pleases everyone.  Everyone except the Puritans.

Word combinations are free and infinite.  Other harvests require real-world resources, such as lumber, steel, plastics, fuel, factories, fertile ground and seeds.  The harvest of Thanksgiving requires agricultural infrastructure and assembly lines to fill the cornucopia with plentiful food.  But to fill the mind with ideas and images, this takes only time.  Time, an imagination, a bit of electricity, and fast-moving fingers.  The cornucopia of fiction overflows, and will always overflow, until the sun itself stops shining, the oceans dry up, and the last human is no more.

It is a human trait, to pass on these stories, since ancient times.  One of these stories, imagined by myth-makers long ago, told of the god Zeus who grew up in a cave.  Some of our favorite urban fantasy protagonists were raised by wolves, but this one was raised by a goat.  Now there's an old twist on a new trope!  The goat's name was Amalthea.  One day, while tussling playfully with Amalthea, Zeus underestimated his strength, and broke off one of her horns.  Regretting this accident greatly, he made amends by blessing the horn with the power to grant all wishes.  Any material riches a person could want would be granted to anyone who possessed this horn of plenty.

I'm not sure how this helped Amalthea, since everyone would covet such a treasure and try to steal her horn away, but old myths often have a lot of plot holes.  Regardless, a lot of people really liked this story, and it lives on to this day.  It is where we get the cornucopia symbol, overflowing with the bounty of harvest, every Thanksgiving.  This is also where the unicorn myths originated, so it would not be too outrageous to create a new holiday mascot: The Thanksgiving Unicorn.

So here's to a wonderful holiday to you all.  May your cup overflow with books, words, beautiful ideas, far away places or strange creatures in familiar places nearby.  May your plot be twisted, your mind expanded, and may your protagonist always win in the end.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Luna Lindsey

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tainted blood preview continues

OMG. I can not believe I have been so busy I for got this. Sorry everyone, NanoWrimo is upon us this month, and I’ve been busy writing. All my non novel writing has fallen to the way side these days. I think I'm going to have to start writing these ahead of time, just so if I forget I still have something done. With that little excuse, here is a little more preview of my up coming novel Tainted Blood. Next week I will have something more original done.
“Where does she think she is going?” he mumbled as he brushed the hair from his face again. A nearby sound caught his attention as he studied the ground again. This time the prints were much fresher, the imprints from the soles of her shoes were still noticeable in these ones. They were a good sign that he was gaining on her. The sound of something moving in the nearby bushes caused him to pause and stare in their direction.

“What now?” There was no way the wolves could have already caught up to him, they weren't even on his path. They seemed to be making their own trail to hunt by. Whatever it was, Brain could make out a small shadowy figure moving about in trees to his right. It wasn't large enough to be a man, so it had to be an animal of some sort. Then again, anything was possible in this place: one had to be careful at all times. The last thing he needed was to be taken by surprise. That just wouldn't do, not to mention the delay that could cause. Day time had to be approaching soon, so that meant his time was severely limited.

“Fine, I can't take the chance.”

Launching himself as fast as he could into the nearby bush, Brian pulled out a large knife from his belt. He wasn't sure when he had put it there, but right now wasn't the time to be asking these types of questions. Right now he needed all of his senses alert and ready. A dark owl like shadow leaped into the sky just as he broke through the foliage. It's large wings flapping in the air above him as it paused and looked down at him with it's large unblinking red eyes. The entire scene was surreal and caused Brian to give pause. Had it not been so other worldly, he might have thought to leap up and try to grab the thing. As it was, he found himself staring into the things unblinking eyes as it rose up higher into the air. The last thing he noticed as it finally turned and flapped off out of view was the fact that its rather large wingspan never seemed to affect the nearby tree branches, almost as if it wasn’t really here.

The sound of wolves howling jerked him out of his trance like state.

“What the hell was that?” He wondered aloud. The sound of the wolves now came from in front of him rather than behind him. Somehow in the short time he had spent investigating the dark shape, the damned wolves had caught up and already passed him.

“I really hate that when it happens.” He shook his head as he dashed off in the direction of the sound of the pack. From the commotion that they were making, it sounded as if they had found their quarry. He couldn't help but wonder what the appearance of the dark owl like thing could mean. Its absence from his life was a happy thing. That had meant that he could live his life as if he were actually normal, well at least somewhat normal. Now however, its presence here complicated things. It was a bad omen.

A small clearing opened up as he came upon the pack. Several gray and black wolves circled two people in the center of the clearing. A blond young woman dressed in flowing almost transparent white dress that reached to the ground and would have made it almost impossible to run let alone walk in stood cringing behind a young strapping man who held a ridiculously long sword out before him. The two of them spun about in place in an attempt to keep the entire pack at bay. The young man’s shiny armor somehow looking more like metal jeans and a red letterman's coat.

“Chuck? What the hell is he doing here?”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Interview with a NaNoWriPire

Hi, this is Luna. I've got too many words to write this week for my NaNoWriMo novel, a dark fantasy about an Empire ruled by vampires. (I'm at 27,460 words!) So instead of writing a post, I'll just paste this lost transcript from the Belle Art: Ghost to Ghost podcast.

As you all know, Belle Art ran a popular late-night paranormal podcast. She disappeared last June under mysterious circumstances, along with every copy of every podcast she ever recorded. These transcripts survive. They were of a show taken exactly one year ago, today.

BELLE: Hello world! Welcome to late-night Ghost-to-Ghost with Belle Art. That's me. Tonight we have a special show. In studio with me, I have Vlad the Improbable, a vampire from our sinister city, New York. I have a ghost, Henever Mones, from his old haunts here in Seattle. We have Gary Plotter, a self-proclaimed White Warlock who flew all this way from London.
GARY: On a broom.
BELLE: Yes, purportedly on a broom.
GARY: Why won't you believe me?
BELLE: I'm skeptical about such things.
GARY: Sigh.
BELLE: And lastly, I have a werewolf on the line, calling in from Nevada, who refuses to give his name. And what do these fiends have in common? They are all participating in an annual competition called NaNoWriMo. Vlad, would you care to explain?
VLAD: Yes, and may I add that your skin is so, very... very... succulent.
BELLE: That's enough, Vlad. I'm wearing garlic, so just answer the question.
VLAD: But of course. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of people... and unpeople... sit down to write a novel in just thirty days.
BELLE: And what constitutes a novel? How do you "win" NaNoWriMo?
VLAD: Why, you must write 50,000 words between midnight November 1st and November 30th, of course!
BELLE: That seems impossible. How do you do it?
WEREWOLF: Eeennnnnnnngrrrrowww!
BELLE: Interesting, werewolf. But I'm afraid I can't understand you.
VLAD: It is a simple matter of patience, something my kind has aplenty. It is a mere 1,667 words per day.
BELLE: Yes, but if you have other things going on in your life.. or... ahem... death... like jobs, families, hobbies... Isn't it hard to write that much?
HENEVER: It is impossible to write that much, when you cannot hold a pen.
BELLE: Fascinating. Vlad, what do you do for a living?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Location, Location, Location!

In real estate the three most important things are: location, location, location. So what's real estate got to do with books?

Well, even for books location is important. Anne Rice set her vampires in New Orleans, True Blood takes place in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Gothic locations are in: Victorian London is a favorite for Gothic literature. They provide a perfect backdrop for vampires and other nocturnal creatures. The right setting creates the right mood for your book.

Paris lends itself for romance. The deep South can inspire lust and passion. New York is a favorite backdrop for gritty urban fantasy. How do other cities affect you? Would you rather read a vampire romance that takes place in a small town in the Midwest, or would a locale like Venice excite you more as a reader? Those are all questions, an author will ask herself when choosing where to set her next book.

Do you think Anne Rice's vampires would have had the same effect on the reader if the location had been a little beach town in Florida or a cold place like Alaska? Scouting out a location is paramount for movies, and it should be so for books as well. The right location can inspire a story and add nuances that would otherwise not have been possible.

My Scanguards Vampires series takes place in San Francisco: there's plenty of fog to set the right mood. But for my Out of Olympus (Greek God) series which is much more humorous, I decided on a town that for me has a much lighter feel, even though there's still something paranormal going on: Charleston, SC. We all have our favorites. Next time you read a book, look at the setting and ask yourself whether it could have been better or worse had the author chosen a different location.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fallen Blood...The sequel

Well I've gone and done it. I'm working hard on the next installment of Fallen Blood, tentatively titled Tainted Blood. It's actually shaping up pretty well. I'm surprised at how easy it's coming out so far. I'm thinking maybe I should have started this one earlier rather than the couple I'm having trouble with. Either way, this one is working out well, and I hope I'm not jinxing myself by saying how easy it is.

So for those who are looking for the next in the series, fear not, it's being worked on as we speak. I'm going to be releasing sample chapters as the days progress. I hope you enjoy them. For those who have not read the first one, I suggest you check it out before trying to read the new one.

Here's a quick clip from chapter one.

The sky was still overcast and the forest seemed to go on forever. Brian absently brushed back the errant black hair that dropped down over his right eye as he knelt down to examine the fading tracks. Birds squawked and screeched all around him, making it hard to hear anything in the distance. The prints were old, but still fresh enough for him to follow. They had to, otherwise this entire trip would be for nothing. He wasn't too sure how far ahead she was, or for that matter, how long ago it had been since she passed by this place. Tracking was something new for him, something he hadn't thought he would ever be able to learn. This place was full of surprises however, least of all the fact that he could track.

Twigs showed the path she had taken. The sheer number of them that were snapped and hanging indicated how quickly she'd been moving as she passed by this place. He was going to have to move faster if he hoped to catch up to her. That shouldn't be a problem. This place lent itself to his unnatural strength and speed. With just a little exertion he would be able to catch up to his prey before she got too much further ahead. He had to admit, however, part of the fun of doing it was never knowing what could happen or what was around the next bend in the trail. The adventure was always new, and he had to admit, it would always bring him back for more.

The forest around him passed quickly by him as he picked up the pace and ran as fast as he dared to. He barely felt the broken twigs and branches as they tried to grab and hold onto him or his clothes. His outfit of choice for tonight seemed to be a green leather woodsman's outfit. It was something he was sure he once saw on some old classic movie somewhere. If he had a bow and some arrows on his back he was sure someone would take him for Robin Hood, if they could actually see him blurring by. The sound of dogs, no, wolves yapping made him pause for a moment to get his bearings.

“Figures,” he said under his breath. “It's never easy is it?”

The fact that they were heading in the same direction he was, albeit a bit further off to the north, made it a good bet they were hunting the same quarry he was. Very little in this forest seemed to happen by coincidence. Most of it was under the control of one consciousness; he was the sole exception to that. He was free to make his own decisions, and to play whatever part he chose. Whatever forces that were at work here, he was not a part of it, and yet he did shape and mold the events by his own actions as well.

“I suppose I need to try and head them off first.”

The thought was an irritant. All he really wanted to do was catch up to his quarry. He hadn't seen her at all tonight. Everything seemed to be working against him catching her, and yet there were obvious signs like the trial he was following that said she wanted to be found. Perhaps she was toying with him. It was always possible that she knew he was out here, stalking her, and she was baiting him, maybe even daring him to continue. Maybe he should just leave the wolves. They couldn’t be faster than him, and after all, wasn't she already so far ahead of him that the wolves didn't stand a chance of catching up to her?

He wasn't entirely sure if that was true. Things changed without warning in here. He had to be on his toes at all times, otherwise he could be taken unawares, and that wouldn't do. After a quick decision, Brian decided to move on and trust his own speed. He was sure he could easily outdistance the hunting pack. If he couldn't, then he would just have to deal with it when the time arrived. Miles passed beneath his feet over the next few minutes, yet strangely the forest seemed to continue without pause. The wolves had definitely been left behind. He could still hear them, but now only as a faint annoyance.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Paranormal Celebration

It’s officially my favorite time of year. The oppressive and humid heat of the great state of Louisiana is finally relenting. Mums are on every porch and fall wreaths adorn front doors. Even though this season is technically bringing the end of a year to a close, fall always feels like a new beginning to me. It’s also the time of year that hosts my favorite holiday—Halloween!

I’m not exactly sure why I so look forward to Halloween. There are no days off work and I have no more courage to watch a scary movie than I did when I was a kid. I still have memories of visiting a haunted house when I was 6 years old with my Dad and his friend. Much to the friend’s surprise, while climbing down some “haunted” stairs, I somehow managed to scale his long leather jacket and latch onto his back. I still remember being pried off of him in the parking lot. Despite my inability to handle scary events, there is just something super fun about this day. For one thing, very little wasted money and/or ill-spent personal time is involved. There are no expensive shopping trips or long drives in a car to see family members. Nope, I get to stay at home, make wassail and cookies for my friends, and open the front door to cute kids dressed up to be even cuter, and some way-too-old to be Trick or Treating (and scary in that they are bigger than me) teenagers.

I’ve never really bothered to find out why we celebrate Halloween. I’ve been happy to simply join society in the eating candy free-for-all that is October 31st. As you can imagine, when I typed “Origins of Halloween” into the search engine, there was no shortage of information. From Halloween dedicated sites to National Geographic articles, much of the information I saw told a consistent story; therefore, I decided it was to be trusted.

In summary, Halloween originates from a Celtic festival known as Samhain. The belief was that on this night, spirits walked the earth and caused havoc for the living. It was also believed that paranormal creatures, such as fairies, were out and about. On this night, the Celtics often wore costumes to ward off any such scariness. During the 1600’s, Samhain eventually morphed into a Christian holiday and became known as “All Saints Day” or “All Hallow’s Day”. According to a National Geographic article, the earliest Halloween celebration in America may have taken place in Anoka, Minnesota (1920) in an attempt to occupy the community and prevent troublesome pranks.

Today’s Halloween continues to be celebrated by children, adults, and pets. If it sounds silly to dress up an animal for Halloween, then you’ve not been lucky enough yet to see a miniature Rat Terrier dressed as a pumpkin. That was just a little piece of wonderful. Popular adult costumes continue to be witches, vampires, nurses, and fairies. Children’s costumes seem to always adhere to princesses for girls and some type of superhero for boys. My favorite childhood Halloween costume had an inflated lime colored bug that sat on the top of my head and came with green face paint. I’ve never looked more ridiculous, but at the time, I thought I looked awesome and trusted my parent’s judgment completely.

This Halloween will be pretty tame for me. My critique group thinks they are coming over to talk about our stories, but I’m planning to distract them with pumpkin shaped brownies and one of my favorite movies for this time of year: A Nightmare Before Christmas. I may even try and talk them into watching the Ghost Hunters live filming at the Buffalo Central Terminal.

As this blog is dedicated to those who love all things paranormal in nature, I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this holiday rocks. I would love to hear from some of you about how you plan to spend the evening, whether it’s trick or treating with your kids, watching freaky movies, carefully dipping punch around chunks of dry ice, or simply relaxing with a bowl of candy on your lap. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Argentina Gnome - Creepy Reality? Or Just a Hoax?

Ghosts get all the press.  Every paranormal show on Discovery Channel is poltergeist this, and haunted that.

We like to read about vampires, werewolves, and witches.  Some of us even like to pretend that they're real.  So when evidence of non-ghostly supernatural folklore appears in the media, it catches my attention.

In 2008, the small town of Guemes, Argentina gained notoriety when The Sun (UK) reported that a gnome had been captured on film. According to The Sun, locals had been plagued by this little gnome for some time.  The boys who captured this video were minding their own business when they heard a sound, as if someone where throwing rocks.  When Jose Alvarez, who had been playing around with his phone camera, saw a movement in the grass, he pointed it towards the sound.  And that's when he captured the gnome:

Now The Sun is not always known for its reliable reporting.  It's sort of a mix between an American celebrity tabloid and a real newspaper, focusing on real news and politics, alongside gossip.  It is also the 10th highest circulated paper in the world.  This makes it, as a source, somewhat questionable... but also potentially reliable. So I did a little more digging.

You might be wondering why they believe in gnomes, traditionally a Norse myth, halfway across the world in Argentina.  Well they don't believe in gnomes exactly -- that's The Sun's choice of translation.  Their word for fairy or goblin is "duende", which combines Mayan, Portuguese,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Have fun!

Happy Halloween, everyone. I hope your weekend is a fun time. I'm kinda busy at the moment so I thought I'd just tell everyone to be safe and have fun. Don't eat too much candy, and if you have kids don't raid their candy too hard. Till next week. See ya later!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

HP Mallory Interviews Toni LoTempio

HP: Hello to everyone and welcome to this month's author interview! Today we have with us Toni LoTempio, author of the new release, No Rest for the Wicca. Now, Toni and I go way back because we both used to have the same agent. Sigh...LOL So, welcome Toni!

Toni: Hey, HP. Thanks for having me! Who'd have ever thought we'd be "indies" together :)

HP: Okay, for your first question, tell us about the title of No Rest. I love that title and I know you've had lots of people who have loved it. How did you come up with it?

Toni: I took it from a phrase I heard my mother say a lot: "There's no rest for the wicked." Since Morgan in the story is a half-Wiccan, witch, I thought it was cute.

HP: Now, tell us about the book. What is the book about?

Toni: Morgan Hawkes is a paranormal investigator who's a half-wiccan witch. She's got the ability to connect with ghosts, but her father was a voodoo bokor, so she's got that bit of dark knowledge deep within her, and it scares her, particularly after what happened in her past. When she's approached by an undercover agency to help them regarding a rash of murdering witches that appear to have a voodoo slant, she's a bit reluctant at first - until she meets the lead on the case, Cole St. John, a dashing Inheritor Vampire. (cue romantic music). So you get the idea :) sort of a "Moonlighting meets Dark Shadows" deal.

HP: So, you know I have to ask you about our agent. Without mentioning names, can you give us a little info as to how you ended up with her and your story about becoming an indie?

Toni: Aha, I knew you were going to ask this (big grin). Well, I like yourself, had Agent Z for almost two years. My book (not this current one) went on submission, and almost got picked up by NAL - it went all the way to the acquisition board, but got turned down because someone else had something similar coming out first (timing is everything, make no mistake about it!). Said Agent Z seemed to lose interest after that, would not return phonecalls, emails, the book never went out on another round, so...eventually I had to part ways with Agent Z. then I started shopping a rewrite of that book around - a few nibbles, but no real interest. The market had tanked by that point. I decided to take a little break from writing, and you, my dear friend, HP Mallory, came up with the brilliant suggestion to me - GO INDIE. Most publishing houses change your original book anyway so you can barely recognize it, so I did. :)

HP: As you know, Halloween is around the corner. Any fun traditions you do on Halloween?

Toni: I used to give an annual Halloween party - it's my favorite holiday after Christmas - and I love to dress up! Unfortunately, the economy has curtailed my party giving efforts, so...I'll probably just dress the cats up instead. (grin)

HP: Do you believe in ghosts? If so, ever seen one?

Toni: I do, most emphatically, believe in ghosts, or angels. I've had too many close calls (particularly while driving) not to. I believe definitely that there is something - don’t know just what - but there is something after death. And honestly, I'm not in a hurry to find out :)

HP: So, is No Rest your first book? Is it a series? If it is a series, when will the next one be out?

Toni: NO REST FOR THE WICCA is my first indie, but definitely not my first book. I had originally planned a sequel, even have the outline written, so maybe when I get time after all my other projects I'll sit down and write it.

HP: Of all your books you've written, which of your male characters do you think is the hunkiest and why?

Toni: I'm assuming you mean of the books that are published? Or unpublished? Of published, I'd say definitely Cole St. John in Wicca, although one editor called him "flat and one dimensional". I beg to differ. The guy is hot! Of the unpublished works, I'd say Logan Slade, my other vampiric detective. Hopefully someday the world will know him (grins)

HP: What is your favorite supernatural creature?

Toni: Hm...that's a toughie. Probably a vampire. I know they're overdone as hell, but...they're all HOT! And when I was young(er) I had a terrific crush on Barnabas Collins from the soap, DARK SHADOWS. I even went down to the studio and met Jonathan Frid! I cannot wait for the Johnny Depp remake of that!

HP: Where can we find out more about you and your books? What about links to where we can purchase your books?

Toni: You can find most of my books at Barnes and Noble, the Whiskey Creek site, Echelon Press, Amazon. Some are available in paperback as well as e-books. You can get info from my website,
I also do a blog over at Fallout Entertainment:

Here are some purchase Links:
Whiskey Creek Press:

Barnes and Noble:


HP: What are your most favorite urban fantasy/ paranormal romance books?

Toni: I like Caitlin Kittredge's Night Life series. Her Black London, not so much. And I like Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse series, Kimberley Raye's Dead End Dating Series, and Victoria Laurie's two series. Also the earlier works of Stephen King. I like a lot, actually :) I also am fond of the Maggie O'Dell series by Alex Kava, although that's not paranormal.

HP: What are you reading now?

Toni: Oddly, something that's not paranormal (grin) My other passion is writing thrillers, and right now I'm reading the Rizzoli and Isles series by Tess Gerritsen. Excellent! If you havne't read them, I strongly advise you do!

HP: Thanks so much for chatting with me today, Toni. We all wish you much success with your book! Until next time, this is HP signing off! Happy Halloween!

Toni: And you too, HP, and all your readers!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Indy publishing and you.

Writing today is the easiest thing to get into. A lot of people write, but think they would never have a chance at getting published. Most people confine themselves to just being published traditionally. I admit, when I first started writing seriously several tears ago, I heard the story about how it was near impossible to break into this business. I heard the horror stories about self publishing, and how it costs thousands of dollars to get your book in print, and there's almost no chance to sell more than a few copies to friends and family.

That may have been true five or maybe six years ago. It was darn near impossible to do anything without getting a publishing contract. Today, with the advent of E-readers, as well as Amazon opening their doors to Indies, those days have all but gone away. Barnes and Noble as well as other book stores are now opening their doors to independent authors in the form of ebooks. Create-a-space and a few other smaller POD publishers are now quite affordable if you want your book to be in more than just ebook format.

I'd have to say that ebooks, however, are the wave of the future. Millions of people are picking up Kindles and Nooks to mention a couple, and finding the almost limitless libraries of books out there. Ebooks are usually way cheaper than traditional paper books, not to mention, you don't have to kill trees to print all those millions of books. Today, it's never been easier to be self published and actually have a chance to find readers who you may never have met before.

I think this will also help those people that are still looking for traditional publishing contracts as well. As more and more successful authors start to publish themselves, more spots are going to open up for newer authors. I'm not saying it's happening yet, but it could. Why should someone like Stephen King settle for 18% royalty, when he already has a name and following for himself? Why shouldn’t he self publish and get 70+%? Sooner or later, top authors are going to realize this. Why wouldn't they? Don't be surprised when they do. And personally I think it will be soon. So if you're thinking about publishing those vampire romances, or maybe that zombie story, now is one of the best times ever to do it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Magical Effect of a Writer’s Favorite Author

Lots of people like to read. They read newspapers, fashion magazines, video game manuals, and self-help books. Some will read fiction, and a smaller group reaches for genre fiction. There is a big difference, however, between how the average Jane reads and how someone destined to be an author chooses their stories. A pre-destined author doesn’t just haul a few books in a bag when they go on vacation or suddenly pick up reading as a hobby when they lose interest in television. No, a person born to be an author knows from an early age that stories are one of the best things on this Earth. They were the kid who found themselves spending Saturdays at the public library, exhausting the shelves of its inventory, then starting over again. They have memories of chastisements received in school for reading during class time, or for daydreaming about that new book during P.E. Someone born to be an author can recall in an instant the scent of a book’s pages.

I am only beginning my writer’s journey, but it feels like something I’ve prepared for my entire life. Although I have friends who like to read, the writers are not only the most passionate about their favorite stories, but they can always vividly articulate what their favorite authors mean to them. They can recall the details of the settings, the author’s particular use of language, and even where they were sitting the first time they read a favorite scene.

There is something special about the feeling we get when we melt into the world of another’s imagination. After a marathon of critiquing two of my writer friends’ work, I soon discovered that their worlds were swirling in my head. This made me think of the most essential goal of an author—to successfully transplant their created world into the imaginations of their readers. Grabbing and maintaining their interest is certainly essential, but the ultimate goal is to stay with them long after the book is finished. What is it exactly that these authors have mastered? What skills can both new and seasoned writers learn to exemplify?

There are many authors with a special place on my bookshelf, but there are only two that are truly favored. C.S. Lewis and Jeffrey Overstreet created characters and worlds that remain clearly in my imagination almost as strong as the day I read about them. From C.S. Lewis’ Magician’s Nephew, I can still see the narrow attic walkway that Polly and Digory traveled. In Jeffrey Overstreet’s Cyndere’s Midnight, I can still feel the anguish I felt for Cyndere when her best friend and husband was killed and she was left to grieve in a world that couldn’t keep up with her advanced nature.

Both authors have touched my spirit and mind in different ways. Lewis has a way of taking the reader on a magical journey that is as palpable as it is fanciful. His settings are the most grounding for me. He must have been familiar with even the scents of his world as he wrote. Overstreet creates characters that are so well-rounded, you become immersed in their struggles and care about their happiness from the very beginning. The worlds these authors create contain rich culture, diverse people, and stories that stay in the reader’s heart for years to come.

What is it about your favorite author that has you returning again and again? What is it about him/her that is different, even from other authors you admire? As a writer, this is so important because it tells us about who we are and may be a literary roadmap to who we are going to become not only as a story teller, but as a person.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What Men Can Learn From Romantic Fiction (link post)

I don't talk about my book much here, because my book isn't urban fantasy. But my book was just released about a week and a half ago, and I'm doing a month long blog tour and having lots of people at my blog guest posting.

Which is not an excuse, but it does explain why I keep forgetting to post my post here. The good news is, in a fortnight, it'll all be over, and I'll have to find another reason; no, I will do better, or I'll be replaced as a guest blogger.

Anyway, this week I thought I'd bring you something different, from a different blogger. I'm going to link to it in a bit, but first I thought I'd tell you about my friend David. David is the best writer I've ever known. His short stories are fantastic, but sadly he has no interest in writing novels.

He's also the first person to read everything I write, and he is (hopefully) going to guest post on my blog this month.

This was a post he wrote about ten years ago, but it hasn't dated, and if you write or read paranormal romance you'll probably get a kick out of this. I did...

What men can learn from Romantic Fiction...

At the end of his post, he asks for comments, but the post has been moved from its original home, and as far as I can tell, the new location doesn't accept comments. Feel free to post them here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Urban Fantasy is the New Folktale

by Luna Lindsey

Folktales in the past did not always begin "Once upon a time, in a land far away". When medieval German mothers told their children tales, they often began, "Just down the road by the old church, there lives a witch", or "When I was as old as you, I met a dwarf in the woods."

The tales were told about the surrounding region, and often involved people you knew. Your church might have been built by a giant, who made a deal with a Saint, who had to guess the giant's name or be taken to hell. The weird child that lived at the neighbor's farm might be a changeling. Your own father might have seen his cows milk run dry because he hadn't shown proper hospitality to the "Good People".

It's only been in the times of skepticism, the days of science and technology, when everything demands an explanation, that the fairytales have become about bygone eras. And fantasy, which inherited the tradition of the fairytale, has become about bygone days on distant worlds or in alternate universes, where the horse is the most common mode of transportation, and people never ask the question, "How does it work?"

Urban fantasy puts the magic back into familiar settings -- but this time, those settings are familiar to us, here in 2010, not to the farmers and weavers of hundreds of years ago. It puts the dwarf in the parking garage, the elf in the sewer, the werewolf in the mall.

It lets us ask the questions (hopefully all in good fun), is that guy a vampire? Is there a troll in that dumpster? Can I become a witch?

This genre puts a new spin on an ancient tradition. The message is: there are horrors and wonders all around us, in spite of technology (or maybe because of it). In spite of the fact that science tells us it cannot be so.

And the authors have to work hard (and usually do a good job) of making us suspend disbelief, of explaining the unexplainable, just enough that we buy it. Just enough that we never ask, "But... how does it work?"

Just like 200 years ago, we might have believed a story that the magic beans Jack traded for a miserable cow had grown into a beanstalk, without asking the same question.

Luna Lindsey 

Contest: Become a character in H.P. Mallory's next book!

So, who hasn't wished to be in a romantic novel? Well, here's your chance! I want to write you into my next book, Toil and Trouble which is due to release on Jan 1, 2011!

I'm about 2/3 finished with Toil and Trouble, the follow up book to Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble, the first book in the Jolie Wilkins series.

And, I got this crazy idea...what if I hold a contest on my blog whereby the winner becomes a character in my book? Pretty fun, right? So, I'm doing it!

Here are the contest parameters:

Enter to be written as a character in my book, Toil and Trouble. I'll create your character using your name, description and personality (I'll have to send over a questionnaire, etc. to find out all about you!)

I already know which character you'll be and without giving away too much, this character is:

* integral to the storyline
* mentioned in Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble
* will play a part in all future books in the Jolie Wilkins series

The winner will get:

* A written part in Toil and Trouble and future Jolie Wilkins books
* The ability to read Toil and Trouble before it's released to the public
* Added to the Acknowledgments page of Toil and Trouble
* Interviewed on my blog
* A signed (with dedication) paperback copy of Toil and Trouble
* A signed paperback copy of Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble and To Kill A Warlock

To learn more and to enter, please visit my blog:

Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Blood Approves

Sorry for this being so late in the day. Been pretty busy, and to be honest I forgot it was Wednesday. So here I am. Better late than never, right? =) Today I want to talk about a book I didn't write. Unless you have been living under a log somewhere, by now you should have heard of Amanda Hocking's book series My Blood Approves. If you haven't, then it's my pleasure to introduce you to it. I'm not going to do a review here, just a recommendation. If you look on Amazon, you will see my full review of her book.

To be honest, I wasn't into vampire romance as whole. It just didn't seem my cup of tea. After all, I grew up reading Lord of the Rings. I moved onto the Shannara series, Conan, and eventually Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin. So when it came to vampire romance... I didn't think it was in the cards.

Yet. I have always had an open mind. After all, reading is all about experiencing new things isn’t it? So when I started to hear about Amanda's books, I couldn't help but think, maybe I should see what's all the hoopla about. So with just a little trepidation, I went and bought her first book, My Blood Approves. I wasn't really expecting much. I am such a picky reader. You know the people that are so picky about the food they will eat? I have a couple of friends that wont try anything. They eat like five different kinds of food, and that’s it. Really crazy stuff.

Well, I'm like that when it comes to reading. It's hard as hell to get me to read anything. I just can't do it. I get bored and fall asleep to almost anything. So I figured what the heck, lets give her a try. Now for the record, I didn't expect to like it at all. I went in biased against it. In fact, a friend had just loaned me the entire Twilight series, and I was just a few chapters into it. Anyways I opened her book and started reading. Somewhere near the ending, I remembered I was not supposed to like this book. I found myself reading it with every free moment I had. I wasn't writing or doing anything else. I'm a slow reader, I mean really slow. I'm all about relishing the story, and watching it play out in my mind. Yet I read her entire book in two days.

To say I liked it was an understatement. I had gone into this expecting to hate it, and not to ever finish the first book. Instead, I found myself buying all the rest of the series at that time, and reading it in less than two weeks, and then re-reading them. They hooked me so bad, that being a creative person, I had to start writing them. I had to, I was just lost in the possibilities. So, if you haven't looked at Amanda's series yet, I highly recommend them. They just might be the best vampire paranormal romance series ever written, I kid you not.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Plot Thickens II - Premise

I just returned from a short getaway with my two critique partners. We decided to spend a night away from our husbands and concentrate on plotting our next books.

What was really interesting is how our processes differ from each other. Now, I'm a total plotter with scene cards and the like and I start each book with the premise. My critique partner who writes historical romance always starts from the characters and their conflicts. And my third critique partner does something in between: she looks at the characters' backstory, at motivation and conflict and then at the overriding premise.

So, back to premise. What is a premise? Basically it's a sentence about what happens in your book. If you can describe your book in one sentence, you often have a big concept book. Here are some books/movies described in one sentence. See if you can guess what they are:

  1. Archeology professor tries to find the Holy Grail while battling the Nazis
  2. Introvert high school girl in the Pacific Northwest falls in love with a Vampire
  3. Archer steals from the rich and gives to the poor
  4. Vampire with an erection problem finds human female to cure him
  5. Man with amnesia discovers he's an assassin and has to battle against his former employer
Did you get all of them?

  1. Indiana Jones (movie)
  2. Twilight (Stephenie Meyer)
  3. Robin Hood (movie)
  4. Samson's Lovely Mortal (Tina Folsom)
  5. Bourne Identity (movie)
Premise is often how you first hear about a book or a movie, so it's important to make sure there's some hook that makes readers want to know more. I generally start my books from this point. I try to find an interesting concept and then I build everything else around it. Sometimes it's merely a scene in my mind that I think might be interesting, and it morphs into a concept and then a book.

Our plotting getaway was a great success for all three of us. I finished plotting the second book in my new Out of Olympus series (about Greek Gods). I knew I had a few issues in the third act about the motivation of the heroine. I knew what scenes I wanted, but something wasn't working with the motivation behind it. That's where my two critique partners helped. We dissected the heroine and figured out what makes her tick. Suddenly everything fell into place, I changed some of the scenes in Act III around and bada bing bada bang - the plot now works and the actions of the heroine are believable.

On a board with approximately forty scenes over three acts I now have my road map. In December, once I've released Book #3 in my Scanguards Vampires series, I'll start writing.

See you next month,

Tina Folsom
Author of the Scanguards Vampires series and the Out of Olympus series

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Whats been going on with me.

So what you think? Story seem to be off to a good start? There's more to chapter one, but I don't want to bore all of you! =) Vampires can be so fun to write about. They're like the modern Superman, you can almost do anything with them. Raymond, my current vampire hero, he will have a leading lady as well. It won't be all mean ol' vampire series.

I know readers are torn these days between the two types of vampires. The Count Dracula type, evil I'm going to eat you, or the Superman and Louis type. I tend to like the hero/lover type over the killing machine. If I wrote the killing machines, I think I would have to include my own Winchester brothers to hunt and kill the bastards. It would be hard to let the injustice of a murdering fiend get away with what he was doing.

For those who don't get the Winchester name, it's in reference to the Supernatural TV series, which is one of my all-time favorite shows. Don't think I've missed an episode since it came into existence. Hopefully, I will get this book done as soon as possible. Writing has been as hard as possible these days. Not sure why that is, but it's been like trying to pull teeth. Scratch that, more like trying to pull a vampire's teeth.

I'm getting there it's just taking time. Funny thing is, I can usually pump out a first draft of at least a chapter a day when it's just feeling normal. A good day I can pump out two or three chapters. I'm not sure how other authors do it, but that’s my speed. Because I'm an impatient brat, I cant wait till the first draft is done, so I send each chapter to my editor as soon as it's finished. Once they're done with it, it then goes to my proofreaders to see what they think, and to catch any errors my editor missed. After that it comes back with their suggestions, and any rewrites that need to be done, or errors that need to be fixed. Then back to the editor to make sure it's written up nicely.

She's my real hero! Without her I'm not too sure I would ever get anything actually written. So while I'm writing, all these things are going on, and with any luck the final product is close to finishing by the time I actually finish the first draft. Works for me. I sometimes think I can put out a book in a month or less, but that’s never been the truth yet. Usually I take several months. I know, it's sad. I recently got the chance to go to Forks, Washington, and actually sign up for a tour to see the places of Twilight. It was a birthday present for myself.

Sadly, things didn't go as planned. My son decided to bring home the plague a few days before, then the trip took longer then we thought to get there. I was sick as a dog, but no refunds. In the end we got there late, but they held the bus for us. I got on and thankfully got my own seat, (didn't want to get anyone else sick.) The music started up and the tour guide began to ask who was team Jacob etc and the heater came on. Unfortunately for me, I had the seat that the floor heater blew right smack into. Why was that bad? Well I was dehydrated and didn't know it. My body went into an instant fit, and I thought I was dying. I had to immediately jump off the bus, and not thinking too clearly at the time, I wasn't going back on.

The Forks air outside made me feel a lot better, at least temporarily. I started to shake not long after I got out, but a bottle of water fixed that. My daughter was the only one to go on the trip. She got some nice pictures, but it was a bit disappointing to miss out on the tour as it was my birthday treat! Oh well, maybe another time.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ask the readers: why urban fantasy?

My second favourite blog has an Ask the Readers post once a month. As I only post twice a month this isn't going to be anywhere near so regular. However, today is a great day to start an ask the reader discussion (mostly because I forgot it was my blog posting day - where has the past fortnight gone?)

So, I figured I'd start with: why urban fantasy?

Why do you like urban fantasy, and if you prefer it to other types of fantasy, what in your mind makes it seem better?

In My Opinion:

I enjoy epic fantasy (I like the Wheel of Time, for example) and I enjoy comic fantasy (big Terry Pratchett fan) but I do seem to set urban fantasy above them. I love the Dresden Files, for example.

It could be that because not everything is made up, it becomes somewhat easier to relate to, and I can connect to it on more levels. It could be because the hero can often be any Jack or Jim (or Jane) off the street, (I think part of the Harry Potter appeal was that any of the readers could have been Hermione, the greatest witch of her generation) I can more easily picture myself as the hero (you do that, right? Please, if you do, admit to doing it in the comments, or I'm going to look really, really weird).

Most likely, it is a combination of both.

Over to you:

My last post had 12 comments. So today's challenge is to beat that. Come on, let's get a real discussion going. Is urban fantasy your favourite? Why is it /not your favourite?

Tell us all...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Science of Faeries (Part III)

In The Science of Faeries Parts I and II I discussed the historical background of the science of faeries, recounted a fairy sighting of my own, and listed a number of theories about what faeries really are, be they hoaxes, folk memories of long-lost tribes, or real creatures.

In this final part, I will discuss what Evans-Wentz called the "Psychological Theory", and what I prefer to call the "Psychic Theory" to avoid confusion with theories that discuss the subconscious mind.  At the time "The Fairy Faith of Celtic Countries" was written, the words "psychic" and "psychological" were often synonymous.

Evans-Wentz spent many years traveling the Celtic countries and cataloging their beliefs and fairy sightings.  He noted the similarities between them all, and concluded that there is another world, a forth dimension.  Beings who exist in that world cannot be seen with physical eyes, but can be seen with psychical eyes.  Seers, those who practice the art of seeing, or who have a natural talent for it, can easily see these forms.  Non-seers, in the presence of such a being, may sense it in some way, beyond sight.  Seeking some explanations for this, our imaginations will go to work.  Our minds will offer up some vision, based on our context, our cultural frame of reference, and thus we will "see" a fairy without truly seeing it.  According to Evans-Wentz:
The visualization of the non-seer is a makeshift, a psycho-physical reaction to a purely psychical stimulus.
It is that all such apparitional appearances ... are equally due to a telepathic force exerted by an agency independent of the percipent.  This outside force to whom it is thus transmitted, and causes him to project out of some part of his own consciousness (which part may have passed over into the subconsciousness) a visualized image already impressed there.  The image has natural affinity or correspondence with the outside stimulus which arouses it.
Thus the creature you see will be based in large part upon the culture of the region you were raised, but may also have something to do with the nature of the creature itself.  While looking at the same fairy, a Scottsman would see a redcap.  A troll for the Norwegians.  The Welsh would see a coblynau, and in Brittany (an area of northern France) would rank higher in corrigan sightings.  Leaving the Celtic countries, an Arab might see a djinn, an Inuit may see an ijiraq, and in Japan, they would see a kappa.

All of these creatures, and many hundreds more, look and act very different from one another, and yet ofttimes their behaviors are described as the same: Capricious, likely to steal away children and replace them with one of their own, likely to mess with your sense of time, equally able to curse or bless you on a whim, and so on.

In some cases, Evans-Wentz concludes that these are nature's memories, an energy residue of some past event, that can be re-witnessed or sensed and seen in our own way.  But he is quick to point out that most fairy sightings seem to be of autonomous beings.  On this, he states:
Fairies exist, because in all essentials they appear to be the same as the intelligent forces now recognized by psychical researchers, be they thus collective units of consciousness like what William James has called 'soul-stuff', or more individual units.
And given the ubiquitous fairyland stories, he concludes that "fairyland exists as a super-normal state of consciousness into which men and women may enter temporarily in dreams, trances, or in various ecstatic conditions."  Our eye for dreams and religious experiences is thus the same as our eye for fairies.

I began this series by stating that I am a skeptic.  I still am.  It is more likely that fairies are a folk-memory of a long forgotten tribe that is sometimes perpetuated by hoaxes and hallucination.  I am as willing to believe that my own fairy-sighting was the product of an overactive imagination as it was a projection of my mind onto a being of energy to explain what I could sense but could not see.

Nevertheless, the latter explanation holds a certain magic, a meaning that goes beyond the happy accident that is evolved human life.  Part of me wants to believe... Do you?

Luna Lindsey 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Part 2 of chapter 1 preview

Here's part two of my current project, chapter 1 still.

Tonight, however, angels were not what I hunted. There was something less pure than that walked the streets below me. A group of men dressed in sweats, colored completely in red. I had been following them for the last twenty minutes. Six of them walked as one down the side of the street. I knew they were armed as I watched them emerge from a car several miles back, hiding pistols under their shirts as they did so.

Trouble is what they sought, and like me, they were on the hunt. Predators looking for prey. I couldn't help but notice in the back of my mind the similarities the men shared with me. I could almost understand their desires, their drives. It was a part of me that I submersed and refused to acknowledge its existence. It was that part that I hated and despised, the part that drew me to them.

I followed as close as I dared, my path leading me above them along the empty roof tops. I paused and waited for them to catch up to me whenever I pulled too far ahead of them. My dead heart pumped in anticipation when I caught sight of the group's quarry. A lone man, maybe in his forties had his car's hood lifted up as he himself poked and prodded at the thing's innards. He wasn't aware of his danger until it was too late. The first one to confront the man posed as if he were there to help him.

The lone man was startled at first, and the smell of his fear rose up to my perch as I watched, drawing the hunger and the need to hunt just that much more out of control. Yet the time was not right, at least not yet. Soon it would be, but not now.

The man's apprehension did not entirely pass away at the sight of the other's obvious gang colors, but the one who first approached him had a way with words, and quickly got him off his guard as he leaned into the cars maw and began to poke around as well. I wondered how much longer they would keep this charade up. It wouldn't be long, I knew. Even now several of the youth were looking up and down the street, verifying that the coast was clear. Their victim, not realizing his danger or refusing to believe it even existed, began to accept the lie, and leaned into the car's engine compartment to poke around with the first youth.

A part of me felt a bit amused at the victim's shock when the other gang members struck. They were quick and efficient. A few quick blows targeting soft and vulnerable parts of the man’s body sent him reeling to the ground, defenseless and easy pickings. They drug him quickly out of sight into a nearby alley where they could take their time with him. I really had no idea what their plans for him were. Perhaps they intended on just robbing him and maybe having just a little bit of sport with him. The desires and the doings of mortals have slowly slipped away from my psyche. Sure, I remember the mechanics, of course. I just don't quite understand the motivations anymore. As time goes by, these things seem to slip away, little by little.

The stronger ones I can still understand, at least I think I can, and the ones that go along with my nature. Those I have found a new understanding of, an enlightening that I doubt any human could possibly understand. A depth of illumination that scares me and at times sickens me. The others, like love, and loyalty, I struggle almost daily to persevere and protect from the darkness.

What I fear above all else is the loss of everything that I once was.

Now, however, is the time to let that beast out. Not completely, lest I lose myself and never find my way back, yet, as much as I hate what I have become, the need to feed must have its time. The choice of locale for the robbery was perfect for me. The darkness was deep, and with my help it became much deeper. The first guard died under my hands, his neck bones splintering as I twisted his head

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Clip preview from my up coming book

Well today's my birthday and I actually forgot that I had a blog to do today. Bad me. So I'm going to take the easy way out and just give you a preview clip from my up coming book. Here's part of chapter one.

How many years has it been since my days became nights and my nights became days? More than three, but less than eight I would guess. Time was different for me since I changed. Nothing had escaped that horrid night that seemed so long ago, and yet the memory was as fresh as if it had been the night before. I often wonder what my life would be like had I stayed at home rather than wandering the town in search of entertainment. Pointless the thought, yet very much important to me. It was a piece of my humanity that still clung on in the face of a dark immortality. A piece that I myself found necessary if I were to survive, and the thing I had become were to remain in check.

Tonight like every night since the first one, it was dark. It befitted someone like me, a creature of the night and a man in utter torment. I would have happily stayed in hiding, avoiding the nightly hunt that plagued me with an endless stream of memories. With faces that were no more thanks to an endless thirst that seemed to fill me and drive me ever outward when the sun would set. Tonight was no different than all the others.

I sought to end my existence at the start. The idea of a noble death to finish what I had become had ended as quickly as it had come into existence. A makeshift stake driven into my beating heart only found that what I thought would be an end, only became more agony. The stake failed to do anything but cause me the second most agonizing pain I had ever felt. The most agonizing was my second attempt. I trapped myself in an area I thought I could not escape and watched as the morning sun rose into the sky.

Both attempts ended in exactly the same way. The pain became more than I could bear, and then I lost my awareness. When it returned in both instances, a fresh corpse sat at my feet, drained completely of its life blood. My injuries were gone and what was left of my sanity was restored. Somehow my body refused to die, and in the process took another. The shame I felt at both of those failures was only dwarfed by repulsion at what I became. A vampire, sure and true.

How it had happened, even I was not sure. One moment I was human, lost in revelry and wine. The next was darkness and the cold that only the dead can feel. I awoke several days later, sprawled out in the back alley of an unknown place, the full moon at its zenith. The shine of it had just touched my weakened form, and smoke and pain erupted where the moon's kiss touched. To say I had been confused that night was an understatement. An aggressive dog had saved me that night from the rays of the moon, its blood giving me the strength to resist the sun's reflection off that great orb in the sky.

Without its donation, I'm sure that night would have been my last. The weakness of that new birth was too much without the aid of fresh blood. I found that I could never go without it for very long, or madness would take me. A madness I feared I would never wake up from.

So it was this fear that brought me out tonight, as it did every night. To hunt while I still had the choice. So long as I was in control and not the hunger, then it was my choice who would live and who would die. Vampire I may have become, yet the evils that name held I refuse to become.

Los Angeles. The city of angels, or so it was called. In the years that I wandered its streets searching for what I needed to keep me whole, I never ran into one of these. Perhaps they existed, after all, I did. If something so foul as what I became were here, then why not something so pure? It seemed reasonable to me, at least partly so. The logic was sound. Who knew what existed in this world if vampires were real? Anything could be possible.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Banned Book Week

Banned Book Week!

The week of September 25th - October 2nd has been announced by The American Library Association as being Banned Book week! In which they are encouraging readers to read banned books as an expression of freedom in reading. There are a ton of books on the banned books list, along with the reasons that they were banned. Some of the reasons are down right ridiculous. For example P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast's House of Night books have been banned in Texas for sexual content... That's not the part that grinds my gears, its the fact that they have banned all of their future books, without knowing what they are about or what they contain. Its narrow mindedness like this that is beginning to dictate what we can and cannot read! I personally don't want my reading range to be dictated by someone who has A: never read the books and B: can't open their minds to new things.

      I was also noticing that some of our most loved classics are being banned as well, books that I was required to read in school, is no longer acceptable reading material in some places. Like Lord of The Flies... Yes I see its thematic plot, but the reason it was banned is because it makes man look like animals. Well some people are animals, and being put in the same situation as those boys are, I am sure we would probably adapt the same way that William Golding wrote it.

   The American Library Association are promoting that you read these banned books and many more, so that people can't tell you want you can and cannot read. So that people will realize that these books, once deemed to be classic literature, aren't accepted everywhere.And that we are lucky that we have the freedom to choose which books we wish to read, banned or not. This week I will be picking up some of these titles named unfit to read, because no one is going to tell me which books I am ALLOWED to read. What will you be reading this week?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Urban Fantasy Versus Paranormal Romance, Cont.

During my last post, I explored the differences between Urban Fantasy (UF) and Paranormal Romance (PR) as these two genres are often mistaken to be one in the same. While researching this topic, I thought of the people I know who like to read from both genres and decided to get their opinion with two purposes in mind: 1) What is it about these genres that appeals to them and 2) What suggestions would they like to share with the writers?

I interviewed two friends, one teenager and one adult. Both are avid readers and have experience with UF and PR. Although I provided them with structured questions, each provided additional information that could be helpful not only to any reader new to these genres, but to the writers themselves.

1) Do you prefer urban fantasy or paranormal romance over the other? If so, what makes you more drawn to the genre of your choice?
Adult: Distinguishing the difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy was a little difficult for me, being that an urban fantasy book could also be considered a paranormal romance. However, to answer this question I am drawn more toward the urban fantasy genre than the paranormal romance. The reason is that I consider a paranormal romance to focus strongly on the romantic aspects of the story. Although the romance involvement of any story is almost a must for me, I prefer focus on other elements as well.
Teen: I really like them both. There are things I like about the Twilight Saga (by Stephanie Meyer) and things I like about the Mortal Instruments series (by Cassandra Clare), and then I like the similarities. I like the fact that both are not just about "normal" people, but pull in different creatures to mix in "normal". I like the romance of Twilight with a hint of action. With the Mortal Instruments, I loved how the author pulled in all types of mythical creatures and created for each one a unique world.

2) What about your favorite genre draws you in (or both if you don't have a favorite) as opposed to say, general fiction stories?
Adult: I enjoy a good book that has plenty of action, twists and turns throughout the plot, sex, and romance. On the flip side of the coin, if a read in either genre has too much detail of a scene I will put the book down. There are many authors that write in this genre, or any genre for that matter, that put so much detail to set up a scene that it becomes boring to me. Although, there has to be enough detail included to set up the scene, it is not necessary to go overboard and I see this mistake often. When I read a book and find myself holding my breath waiting to see how the scene is going to end just to find out that I am clenching my teeth in the next scene, then I know it is a great book. However, when I finish a book or series that is truly intense, it is nice to relax with a slower paced more romantic book with a little less thrill.
Teen: I like that they are NOT normal. When I read, I want to be somewhere NOT in the norm. I like to picture mythical places and creatures in my mind.

3) What do you relate to the most in these stories?
Adult: It may be sad to say, but I do not relate too much in any of the stories. Some of the characters have traits that I would like to possess; but my purpose in reading them is to escape my own reality.
Teen: In the series that I have read, both of the main characters are teenage girls that are, in a way, finding out who they are and what they are supposed to be in their world. I don't have to fight demons, or run from vampires, but I do have to face challenges in my life, and hopefully, like the heroines in the books, when I overcome them, I will have a better understanding of who I am in this word.

4) Do you prefer stories where there are many creatures, or just a few?
Adult: In a series, I prefer to have many creatures because there is time to build characters and explain the paranormal aspects of each creature. However, it seems that in a single issue book it would be better to limit the number of characters and creatures. In past experience, I found that too many types of creatures in a single issue book become clutter with explanations and the plot thins.
Teen: I like the Shadow Hunters (from the Mortal Instrument series) best. To me, they are the perfect mix of human and mythical! They are able to have all human experiences, but with a greater sense of awareness of what is going on around them.

5) Are there any stories that you would like to see written, but haven’t come across yet, or some that you would like to see more of? If so, why?
Adult: There have been so many types of paranormal creatures that I have read about that it is difficult to determine what I have missed or what I would like to see more of. I have read of vampires, witches, succubus, faeries, weres, demons, angels, and zombies; I am not sure what is left. I have enjoyed the police investigative approach in some of the urban fantasy along with a more political approach in the same genre. One thing I would like to see more of in the genre is equality with the male and female (or female and female) characters. Many tend to create a strong male character, however the male character doesn’t ever really do anything fantastic and often the heroine is saving the so called “strong” male character. I would prefer to see the two to save each other and work closely together as they work through the complications set out before them.
Teen: I don't have any original ideas, but both of my series could use MORE books!

Thank you, J. and M. for your well thought out answers! For my writer friends of these two genres, I hope you found this interesting, and maybe even helpful. I know there is some rumor that these types of stories could just be a modern fad; however, their level of popularity does not seem to be waning in the least. There is still a wide audience, both new and seasoned, waiting to snatch up your stories!