Monday, November 28, 2011

Holidays Are Different From Vacations

I don't know if I really take vacations much. (This includes weekends.) I know there are a lot of writers out there who write lots and lots every day. I'm not one of those. I have been, for a few months at a time. But in general, no.

And yet, my weekends and vacation days tend to fill very quickly. Sure, I squeeze in time for formatting, research, cover design, and even a little writing. But a lot of my time gets taken up with caring for our animals, doing dishes and laundry, and other sundry chores.

Not to complain, exactly: everyone is like this, really. But I know lots of people who are happy to do nothing on a vacation day. I actually have to schedule myself to not do things. If I'm at home, I feel like I should be doing something productive. There are always so many little projects in the back of my mind. I would love to declutter the house at some point, for instance. I've been wanting to do that for ages. But I also don't want to do it in little chunks. Therefore, it keeps getting pushed out until I can find a nice big block of time to do it in. (Like that's going to happen.)

And Facebook! Good gods. We had a day this last long weekend where we left town and deliberately stayed disconnected. I kept wanting to make a status post. Or check my email. What the hell? I did not used to be like this. I shudder to think how twitchy I'm going to be when I finally break down and get a smartphone. I might actually tweet more than once a week.

I know no one drives me to do this to myself but me, but ugh. When else am I going to to all this stuff? If I don't do it, who will? (If not me, who? If not now, when?) And yet, when the heck am I going to relax? I just got back from Photoshop class (print covers are mostly done now, just need to do the spine) after a full day of dayjob, did the Monday chores, and still feel like I'm not getting enough done today.

Anyone have some valium I can borrow? And a Quith worker to do my chores for me?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Writing and Reading

I find lately that I have less energy for reading than I used to. My to-read list is at an all-time high, but fewer books make me excited.

I've heard other authors talk about something similar, which leads me to believe that this is a phase many of us go through: when you spend so much time on your own stories, it's harder to invest the energy into someone else's. If it is a phase, I hope it passes quickly, as reading is one of the great joys of my life.

Once I find a book that does suck me in, I'll still burn through it in my usual voracious style. But without that level of interest, even books that I normally would have finished and enjoyed languish on my to-read shelf, or have to get returned to the library before I'm even a third of the way through.

What books have you read that grabbed you by the short hairs and wouldn't let go?

Image: photostock /

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank Yous, Updates, Reviews, Etc

Hey all. Kinda swapping this time: did the long post on Friday and the short post on Tuesday. But I am beat. Just spent 2.5 hours redoing the cover for Scent and Shadow so it'll look right for the print version. I more or less had to start from scratch, but fortunately I've got it just about right now. A few more tweaks and I'll be ready to dive into formatting the manuscript for print as well.

I love the creative control of self-publishing, but wow, it's a lot of work!

Lots of huge thank-yous to everyone who has liked or commented or reviewed one of my stories! Some of the reviews for Scent and Shadow nearly had me in tears! I'm so happy that it seems to be coming across exactly the way I wanted it to. SQUEE! I mean, what's a book without readers, you know?

Speaking of squee, "Not Quite Casper" finally got marked down to free in the Kindle store. As of right now, it's #174 Free in the store, and #11 in the Kindle ebooks erotica category! Check it out if you haven't, it's a fun one. (And did I mention it's free?)

Hopefully they'll mark down "A Wild Hunt" soon too. C'mon, Amazon, everbody's doing it.

I hope to have another new story for y'all this month. (I know, I'm getting down to the wire here.) Next month for sure if not this month. I should also (hopefully) have a new anthology sale to share next month too.

For all my fellow Americans, have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving! See you all on Friday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Mythology of Vampires

Funny that I should decide to do this post this week; the Dead Robots just had a conversation touching on how monsters have changed over the last few decades. (Congrats on 200 episodes, guys!)

One of the fun things about writing is that you get to make your own mythology. There are so many legends and tales, and they’ve been done so many ways over the years, that yes, even sparkly vampires with skin like rock make sense after awhile. (I kinda felt they were more gargoyle-like, but hey. Once you got into it a little bit, it was an interesting take on the mythology.)

When I first started writing about Gabriel and Amanda, I had to decide very quickly what some of the basic tenets of my vampires were going to be. Some things changed over time, and the biology got more and more refined, but there were two basic things that I knew I wanted to define my vampires: no sunlight, and the need to kill.

Long before Twilight, there were stories about vampires that could go out in the day. Some, like My Best Friend is a Vampire (and, more recently, the Kim Harrison novels), differentiated between “living” vampires and “dead” or “undead” vampires. Other authors went for a special talisman approach (LJ Smith’s Vampire Diaries) or a special condition, such as being able to be in sunlight if the vampire had fed recently (Kindred: The Embraced).

While I enjoyed all of those versions (yes, even Kindred: the Embarrassed), I decided it made things too easy. Vampires can be hugely powerful. The thing that keeps them in check more than anything else is the problem with sunlight. It’s also instant conflict. Things getting boring? Just add sunlight! (Fortunately, I’ve never had to fall back on that one yet.)

There were also a lot of stories where vampires didn’t have to kill, or even feed on humans (again, long before Twilight). Heck, I used to roleplay a vegetarian Gangrel. (Yes, White Wolf used vegetarian for animal-only vampires long before Twilight did.) But I wanted my vampires to be monsters. Even back then (daydreamer that I am) I had intellectual property aspirations, and I wanted to make sure that no one playing in my universe later on could pussify my vampires. So not only do my vampires have to drink human blood, they have to kill. In fact, they have to kill a lot. Every night for the first ten years or so, and they usually don’t learn enough control to feed without killing the human until they’ve been a vampire for close to fifty years.

After that, it got down to the details. Hypnosis? Heck yeah, it’s too much fun to leave out. But then I decided I needed a foil for the charismatic vamps, which is where the skinshifters’ psychic immunity came from. (And then I needed to explain it, but I’ll get to that in another post.) Mirrors? Not having a reflection struck me as very silly, although it’s been done well (the Vampire Files spring to mind), and I couldn’t think of a good reason that made sense physics-wise, so my vampires have reflections. Ditto for garlic and running water, although I could certainly see a river spirit refusing to let a vampire pass, for some reason. (Running water is still good for screwing up a scent trail, and my vamps are big on scent.)

Originally, my vampires could change shape. I eventually did away with that, as it was too convenient, and I couldn’t see why, mythologically and physically speaking, they should have that ability. (Note: Empusa is not a vampire. She’s what the vampires were modeled after.)

To me, retractable fangs make sense. My vampires are supposed to be able to live among humans. This is also why they aren’t preternaturally beautiful. They have abilities which allow them to charm and attract and fascinate, but they also want to be able to not attract attention. Especially once I decided they were territorial, it made huge amounts of sense for them to blend in as much as possible, because otherwise people will start wondering why that gorgeous hunk they keep seeing around town never seems to get older.

The territorial thing was a later addition. As I started thinking beyond Gabriel to vampires in general, I had to decide whether they had communities. Was there structure, government, laws and consequences? If so, what kept the vampires from taking over Lumley-like? If not, then why not?

I eventually decided against organized vampires. I hate politics, and it was another way to put limits on creatures that were already pretty darn powerful. I took some lessons from nature: predators who marked out a territory, protected their food sources, and only allowed interlopers for reproductive purposes--in this case, keeping the young around long enough that they can learn to take care of themselves. And then I had to explain why and how, and got caught up in world-builder's disease again. (I'm going to assume no one but me cares about the cellular biology of vampires.)

What are your favorite bits of vampire lore? What conventions do you hate? Which version of vampires is your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thank You!

Wow, that was a fabulous tour! Over 150 comments! That's a heck of a lot of free books! I'm really touched and proud of the online book community. I got home from the day job and my Photoshop class Monday night to a stuffed inbox. It was great! If you haven't scanned through the comments, there were some really neat stories shared. Thank you all again for making the tour such a great success! And please check back with the Indie Book Collective next Memorial Day to see if they do another tour.

I have answered all the comments/emails as of 7am CST this morning. IF YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED A RESPONSE, PLEASE EMAIL ME! There were a few people who didn't leave email addresses, and a few that bounced for various reasons. Your comments should still be counted, but I want to make sure you get your free book too!

A number of you commented in emails on the tagline I used in my signature: "No soulmates. No love triangles. No sparkles." Thanks for the feedback! I've added the tagline to the product descriptions on the various distributor sites.

To new followers, welcome! I normally post on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I try not to talk your ear off. (Sometimes I fail.) Please check out the list on the left for more of my work, especially the free stuff. I love free stuff.

Here's where I beg: I would be ever so grateful for any likes, ratings, comments, or reviews that you feel appropriate, at Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Smashwords or iTunes or Goodreads or whereever. (If you do a review on your blog, let me know and I'll pimp it! I'm also happy to do interviews and stuff.) PLEASE be honest! No one's writing is for everyone, and as you can see from the awesome reviews linked in my last post, there are some things in Scent and Shadow that are disturbing. Honest reviews help the readers who will enjoy the book regardless find it, and keep me from damaging the more gentle readers. :) (They should read A Wild Hunt. That one's probably as tame as I get.)

Ok, enough of that! The Bulldog needs his walk. I hope you all enjoy the book, and check back here on Friday for a little inside info on the vampires of the Aether Vitalis universe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stories of Service - Blog Tour de Troops

“I was in World War II.”

I don’t spend a lot of time on the phone at my day job, but sometimes it does involve some lengthy phone conversations, especially when walking people through our website or our paperwork.

This was a new one. “Really?”

He certainly sounded the right age. “Yep. I was there for the Normandy invasion.”

Goddamn, I thought. My mind immediately filled with images from documentaries, supplimented by my own rather vivid imagination. Which beach? I wanted to ask. What was it like? Did they shoot at you? Were you scared? How on Earth did you find the courage? Of course, my writer’s mind wanted the little details, the parts that make it seem real. How cold was the water? How deep was it where you had to jump in? How long was it before you got dry again? How long before you got a chance to eat? Or were you even hungry?

But I couldn’t ask any of those things. Even if I hadn’t been on the job, what if those memories were painful? Wouldn’t it be rude to ask?

All I could think to do was thank him for his service. Which is nice, I suppose, but seems hollow to me.

That man was much more than “service.” He was a story. A hero story. Even if no one ever shot at him and he never shot at anyone else. He was there. He went and served. And he managed to come home again, when so many others didn’t.

My dad was in Vietnam. When I was little, I was sort of obsessed with the idea that my daddy was a soldier. I was very proud of him. (I still am!) But he never liked to talk about it. I think the longest conversation I’ve ever heard him have about the Army was a few sentences traded with my husband regarding combat boots.

A couple years ago, my dad’s mom gave my nephew a little ivory Buddha. “Your grandpa brought me that from Vietnam,” she told my nephew, who shares my dad’s name.

“I found it in a field we were walking through,” was all Dad said about it.

My mind reels. I want to know. Was he in enemy territory, or friendly? Was the field mined? How hot was it? Was Vietnam as pretty as they say? What did he think when he found the statue? Were there lots of bugs there? Did anyone shoot at him? But I can’t ask. Look up “stoic” in the dictionary, and there’s a picture of my dad. When he doesn’t want to talk about something, he doesn’t talk about it.

But it makes me wonder – what about the vets who do want to talk about it?

I can imagine someone coming home, fresh from the field since we don’t really let the troops decompress first anymore (I agree with Lt. Col. Grossman, there was definitely something to be said for the long voyage home with the rest of your unit), and here’s this poor soldier who wants to work through all this craziness, and everyone at home is like me: too “polite” to ask.

Is it consideration, or cowardice on our parts? We don’t want to be rude. We don’t want to seem morbid or bloodthirsty or insensitive by asking all the questions that we have in our heads. And so we ignore what we feel we can’t talk about.

Everyone’s life is a story. With luck, mine won’t be very interesting. It saddens me to think of so many stories – people whose lives have been cursed (or blessed) with interesting times – going quietly into the long night, untold.

How can we get it right if we don’t ask? How else can we learn?

On Veteran's Day, in addition to saying a big Thank You to our veterans, I hope we can also take a moment to learn a story or two.

I want to welcome everyone who is stopping by today as part of the Blog Tour de Troops! You should be joining me from Brian Jeffreys's blog. The next stop on the tour will be at Dianne Venetta's blog. Please leave a comment – every comment wins a free eBook of Scent and Shadow for you and a soldier! (Make sure to include your email in your comment so I can contact you.)

In addition, we're also collecting donations toward Kindles for our troops! The Memorial Day blog tour raised enough funds for seven Kindles. If you'd like to donate money toward those Kindles for our soldiers, simply use Paypal and as the address to send money to. Please note on your payment that it's a Troops donation.

Huge thank-yous to my review sponsors! Check out the links for reviews of my novel Scent and Shadow:
The Romanceaholic
Alisha Robinson
From Me to You
Diary of a Bibliophile

Image: Damian Brandon /

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How Do You E-Read?

I was not a big fan of ereaders in the beginning. I love print books, like so many other bibliophiles. I hate reading books on my computer, regardless of whether it's on the laptop or the desktop or the giant TV.

I hadn't really planned on getting a dedicated ereader, but I knew if I did get one, I wanted a Nook. I wanted e-ink, and I wanted EPUB. This was because many of the books I wanted to read were ones I found from Project Gutenberg or Google Books, and most of those were available as EPUB, but not as PRC or MOBI.

The Husband bought me a Nook when I was getting ready to start self-pubbing, so I could make sure my files worked and stuff. I very quickly grew to love it. The e-ink was everything I thought it would be, and a Ziploc baggie helped allay my fears about bathtub reading. Plus I could put so many books on it! All those books! With me, whenever I wanted! Joy!

Unfortunately, my Nook doesn't display PDFs for crap. All my contributor copies were in PDF. I was very sad.

However, we already had an iPod Touch. The iPod displays PDFs just fine. Yeay!

Except the screen is, of course, very small. Page-turning is kinda a pain--for some reason, I usually have to swipe twice. Although, and I have no idea why, reading on the iPod's screen doesn't bother me like reading on the computer screens. Maybe because I can control how close to my face I hold the iPod.

My Nook and my iPod are old, technology-wise. So I have no idea what the newest models are like. I've never tried reading on a Kindle or a color tablet of any flavor.

What is your favorite way to read ebooks? What devices do you love/hate? Are you picking up a Kindle Fire or a Nook tablet?

Don't forget to stop back on Friday for free books and Blog Tour de Troops!

Image: Maggie Smith /

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free Books Next Friday

Make sure to check the blog next Friday. I'll be participating in Blog Tour de Troops, by the Indie Book Collective. Everyone who leaves a comment with their email address will get a free digital copy of Scent and Shadow, AND a copy will be donated to our troops! Plus there are a bunch of other authors doing the same thing all weekend long!

On top of that, one lucky commenter at this blog will receive an additional prize from me, which will be announced next week, and one really lucky commenter will win a Kindle from the Indie Book collective!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Music and Writing

I know a lot of writers who will make soundtracks for different projects, or who have particular songs or albums that inspire them as they write. For the most part, I can't have music on while I'm writing. It's too distracting. But I definitely will use music in other ways in regards to my writing.

I Burn For You is an example of music inspiring a story idea. I forget what finally prompted me to write the story down, but that was one time where I had the song playing as I wrote, trying to get the rhythm into the prose a little.

My short story "Good Neighbors" was inspired by a scene from the movie The Wicker Man. (The original version, not the remake.) There's a scene where a woman is trying to seduce the hero by singing to him through the wall of his room and tapping on the walls, and it's hot, hot, hot. (And has a catchy song too!)

Scent and Shadow took me a long time to write, so there was a lot of music that helped keep me in the mood. While I didn't listen to anything while actually writing it, I would play particular songs in the car or before I started writing to try and capture the feeling I wanted. A few favorites from the playlist are:

"Poison" by Alice Cooper
"Voodoo" by Godsmack
"Wulf" and "Slave to Evil" by :wumpscut:
"Ribbons" by Sisters of Mercy

As well as large sections of Pretty Hate Machine by NIN, Violet by The Birthday Massacre, and The Lost Boys Soundtrack.

One late addition was "Beg Steal or Borrow" by Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs. Although it was a bit of a switch-up from the rest of the playlist, the song very quickly became Amanda's theme.

Image: anankkml /