He Was a Real Life Shape Shifter

January 13, 2009 at 9:13 am (General)

I met a real shape shifter. Yeah, right. You’re thinking that’s the fevered dream of a writer who loves paranormal. But let me tell you about it.

I knew him for years. But I only found out who he was last month as I was staring at my laptop screen, contemplating the action climax of my WIP. Across the room, my husband startled me with a burst of laughter.

“What?”

With a strange look on his face, he handed me the front section of THE BALTIMORE SUN. The headline said, “Laurel Man an Iraqi Spy.”

An Iraqi spy in the town of Laurel, Maryland, made famous by the 1972 shooting of George Wallace? Yeah. From my husband’s reaction, I was pretty sure who it had to be. The grandfatherly guy who owned Gourmet Shish Kebab, the restaurant where we sometimes stopped for lunch or dinner. The place was decorated with artificial flowers and plastic hanging plants. The tables and chairs would have been at home in a VFW hall. Service was cafeteria-style from an open counter. But what the place lacked in ambiance, it made up with the food. Since we’re on a low-carb diet, Mr. Al-Dellemy, the proprietor, would obligingly fix us a plate of mixed kebabs–with cabbage and salad instead of rice and pita bread. He called it his “protein special.”

Gourmet Shish Kebab attracted quite a mix of people. Soldiers from nearby Fort Meade. Defense Department types from NSA. Moslem families. And groups of Middle Eastern men who turned out to be from the Iraqi Intelligence Service, stopping by for the hummus and the sensitive information collected by the proprietor, codenamed Adam. According to the SUN article, he’d been spying for the Iraqi government since 1989. Now he could spend five years in jail.

Adam, who always sat behind the cash register, was the perfect shifter. Hiding in plain sight. Starting with his nicely spiced kebabs and the easy conversation. He knew how to chat you up. To find out what you did for a living. And where you lived. He said he had a PhD in psychology. So why was he running a kebab joint? That should have been a clue there was something off kilter at Gourmet Shish Kebab.

Did I tell him anything he could pass on to Baghdad? Probably not–unless Saddam Hussein wanted my recipe for low-carb Key Lime Pie.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s ironic that the author of more than fifty suspense novels, many of them paranormal romantic suspense, couldn’t recognize a real life shape shifter when she stumbled over him. I’ll go with–his restaurant owner form was so perfect. He was the last guy I’d expect to be funneling information to a foreign power. Yet he must have been using his customers from Fort Meade and NSA as sources of information.

After reading the newspaper account of his activities, I was tempted to stop by and see how Adam is doing. Is he still sitting behind the counter, next to the cooler with the Cokes and bottled iced tea? On second thought, maybe I don’t need to have my picture snapped by the FBI agents in the parking lot.

Instead, I’m going to turn the tables and make use of the old spymaster. Of course, his name will be changed.. From Adam to Arnie? But how about a restaurant owner in one of my books who charms state secrets out of his patrons and passes them on to a hostile government on another planet. Or in the parallel universe I’ve created. Will you believe it when you read it? Or will you say–that could never happen?

And now about the Key Lime Pie. It’s one of my favorite desserts. And if you’d like to try my low-carb version, I’ve put it on my Web site (www.rebeccayork.com) under “Cookbooks.” If you don’t cook much, you probably don’t realize that one of the main flavor ingredients, in addition to key lime juice, is condensed milk, which is very high in sugar. I figured out that I could get the same taste with evaporated milk and whipped cream. Unfortunately, I’m making myself hungry now, so I may be running out of the house soon to get a bottle of key lime juice.

Rebecca York

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The shapeshifting book

January 11, 2009 at 7:23 pm (General)

reader-options2Do you read eBooks?  Do you read them on your computer or do you have a fancy schmancy eBook reader?  What do you think about this shift in shapes books have taken over the past decade or so?  eBooks are everywhere  And they’re not going away.

I first investigated ePublishing in 1998.  I’ve had a toe in that format of publishing ever since.  But I’ve never actually read eBooks until very recently.  My excuse was that I didn’t want to read a book on the computer (for pleasure) because I spent enough time as it was writing on the computer.  I didn’t want to be chained to the monitor when it came to a relaxing pastime!

But yay!  As ePublishing has evolved so have methods to read them and eReaders.  Now it’s virtually like reading a paper book, except you’re holding a small electronic device that simulates the printed page.  I got myself a Kindle in October and absolutely love it.  I use it for research books (you can highlight sentences then later print them out in one handy-dandy document), newspapers (just finished a two week free trial of the Irish Times), and yes I read fiction and nonfiction as well.  And you know, I don’t even miss the paper. 

I do have some exceptions that will see me in a bookstore as opposed to surfing the web for electronic books.  I like coffee table books; those must be hardcover.  I also like any book with diagrams and colored pictures to be in actual paper book form as well.  I have a few favorite authors who have a current series going, and since I have five or six of their books already, I want to continue to get the rest in paper format.  But new authors, and those books without a must-have cover, I’m perfectly happy reading in eFormat now.

And I thought I’d never come around to reading eBooks.  You certainly can teach an old dog new tricks.  🙂  

So what about you?  Have you tried eBooks?  Do you read them exclusively, or a mix of both electronic and paper?  If you needed to convince someone to give eBooks a try, what is the one point you would use to win them over?  If you haven’t tried an eBook yet, why?

kmdsmallHere’s an early warning: On January 29th, Harlequin will start giving away 16 full-length electronic books.  One book to represent each of their series lines.  The giveaway lasts through all of 2009, so I’ll probably remind you all more than once.  And guess what?  My Nocturne, KISS ME DEADLY, has been chosen to represent that line.  So if you haven’t read it yet, wait—then pick it up for free.  Find the website, and a signup reminder page at:  http://www.HarlequinCelebrates.com

Michele

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1st Review for Destiny of the Wolf!

January 11, 2009 at 9:02 am (General)

“Praise for Terry Spear! I thoroughly enjoy werewolf books but sometimes they tend to get a little too stereotypical for me. We all know that werewolves shift with the full moon, can take human shape, and can be killed by silver bullets. What I love most about these werewolves is that they read books about werewolves and watch werewolf movies. They tend to mock the media that feeds into the werewolf stereotype and that makes the book hilarious. The thought that some werewolf out there is reading this book added a whole new dimension of delight for me.” –Reviewed by Shawn Remfrey, Armchair Reviews

I loved this review! Subtle humor works for me in all of my books. I couldn’t write slapstick if I wanted to. Mostly because I tend to write seriously also–romantic suspense. I tried to write for Flipside once, now a defunct line, but the more serious side of my writing kept slipping in.  

Still, humor comes naturally in dialogue and actions and reactions. It’s not something that is forced into the story.  My daughter says in my YA works I can’t keep the rainbows out. True, I can’t write strictly very dark works of fiction. Life is too full of dark stuff. I want to write fiction that’s seriously romantic, seriously suspenseful, and seriously fun. 🙂

One of my critique partners once said that my humor sneaked up behind her when she was least expecting it. I loved that! 🙂 I never thought of my humor as sneaky, but I’ll blame it on my dad. He was a total character and I defnitely got my sense of humor from him.

Our standard question to him when he’d tell us something he said at work was, “Did the guys laugh?”  Of course we were worried they took him seriously.

One year while he worked at the Cape (Cape Kennedy), he told his co-workers that he was growing noggas. Great money in them. Makes super noggahide and it was all the rage at the time. Unbelievably, several believed him. 🙂

For Heart of the Wolf, I had a review that said, “Normally I don’t find shape shifter stories humorous unless it is intended to be a kind of spoof, but this story has a humorous streak running through it. There is a human man who wants to rescue the wolf form of Bella and place her in a zoo for her protection and he is relentless in his pursuit to save the stray red wolf. This man keeps complicating Bella’s situation and adds some funny dilemmas for Bella and Devlyn to work around and right in the midst of all of their life threatening problems. Heart of the Wolf is full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance and is one of best werewolf stories I’ve read. 5 Angels & Recommended Read~~Fallen Angel Reviews!! Reviewed by: Stephanie B.

So if you’re looking for a sexy, serious, and fun read, Destiny of the Wolf is coming March 1!

So can the shapeshifters you read about have a little humor, or do you like the strictly serious type?

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Guest Author – Lisa Hendrix of the Immortal Brotherhood Series

January 8, 2009 at 6:44 am (General, Guest Bloggers) (, , , , , , , )

I hope you’ll all join with me in welcoming Lisa Hendrix, author of the Immortal Brothershood series.  I first met Lisa on Facebook.  We chatted about book covers and very kewl music videos, and so I put her on my “to read” list.  I am so glad we met! What an awesome book.  If you love romance with a historical twist, if you love the doomed, tortured shapeshifters, and if you love a heroine who can take both of those and tie their hero’s into knots, then this is the series for you.

So without further ado, (hanging head in shame for stealing her guest’s thunder) I  introduce Lisa Hendrix and The Immortal Brotherhood!

Well, foo.

I was going to write about brainstorming/where we author-types get our ideas, but Teresa beat me to it. Bad hostess. Bad. No cookie. 😉

So…hmm. ‘Scuse me while I //ahem// brainstorm a moment.

Ah. I know. I can talk about the other place some of us get ideas. The Idea Store. You know, the one where you go in, browse the section on— immwarlarge-186x3001What’s that? You don’t know the place? Well, it’s on the corner of Third and— Huh? What do you mean you don’t believe me. I am highly offended. Taking umbrage, even [Aside: Doesn’t taking umbrage sound like something you do at the cloak rack in dark restaurant? “I got confused and took his umbrage instead of my own.”] I’ll have you know, I’ve spent good coin at the Idea Store and…

Still not fooling you, eh.

Okay, I admit it. There is no idea store. But that is an answer I’ve used when a particular annoying sort of “wanna-be-but-doesn’t-want-to-be-bothered-with-the-work” writer starts pestering me. You know, the one who has “this great idea” and wants you to write it so s/he can collect half the royalties.

Usually, I kindly redirect them. If I’m slightly grumpy, I tell them to sit down and write it all out in detail and then we’ll talk—knowing, of course, that they never will, because it they wanted to write it they wouldn’t be soliciting strangers to do it for them.

If I’m utterly out of patience, however, I’ve been known to say something like, “No, I’m sorry. I have an exclusive subscription with the Idea Store, and I’m not allowed to accept ideas from anywhere else.” Then I step back and wait for the wheels to start turning. You can see them: “Idea Store? Maybe I can just sell the idea to them and they’ll find someone who wants to write about Great Aunt Ethel’s encounter with the ghost of Charles Dickens’ bear012secretary and I’ll still make a million dollars.” Then reality hits. “Oh.” And then I’m like, “Excuse me, I have to go pick up my dog at the groomer,” and I’m out of there. (A secret: I don’t have a dog.)

But that’s only when I’m utterly out of patience. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Getting a little more serious, most of my ideas get worked out in exactly the sort of brainstorming Teresa was talking about. You have a kernel of something—a news clipping, a song title that you think could be turned into a good story, a specter of a scene stuck to the inside of your skull like the scum in an old coffee cup—and you start trying to turn it into something bigger and more useful.

But that’s still begging the question, because what people really want to know when they ask where you get your ideas, is: where does that first kernel come from?

The answer: Anywhere. Everywhere. People who don’t write, especially those who don’t write fiction, think there’s something magic about the idea gathering process. Nope. In reality, they have the ideas, too. They just don’t recognize them as such. They hear that same song title, and may even imagine two lovers dancing to the music. But then they drop it, a passing thought lost forever.


A writer’s mind, however, grabs onto those dancing lovers and twiddles with them. How did they end up dancing? Did she ask him or did he ask her? Who are they? Rewind tape. Ah, I see: she’s older and a bit plain, and she’s surprised that such a young, hunky fox would even talk to her, much less dance with her. How did he learn to dance so well, anyway? Something fishy about that, for sure. And why is that other man watching them so intently. Is he her husband? Her ex? A government agent who thinks she’s about to be assassinated by the dancing hunk? What happens next? And then? And then? A writer scribbles it on paper or mumbles it into a digital voice recorder or texts themselves with the thought, and then keeps churning it over.

IMMORTAL OUTLAW MECH-1


Literally, we can’t leave the kernel alone, sometimes playing the idea out in our heads over and over until it has to come out on paper. (I’ve asked other writers about this and found almost unanimous recognition of the problem/gift.) Undoubtedly, if a shrink ever got hold of us not knowing we were writers, we’d be labelled obsessive. A note in our files would say “Subject suffers from uncontrolled fantasy life, hears voices, and imagines she’s going to make a living from them.”

The idea for The Immortal Brotherhood series landed in my mind as a dream. Now, I’ve long been one to lay in bed half-awake, thinking things through, but this was a case of waking up from a sound sleep with a crystal clear image in my head: a huge, blond man in formal evening wear. I knew only two things about him: he was a bear during daylight hours. And he was a thousand years old. (Those of you who’ve read IMMORTAL WARRIOR will recognize Brand, except for the clothing.) Naturally, my brain couldn’t turn loose of something that juicy, so over the next days and weeks, my imagination ran with questions: How had he gotten turned into a bear? (cursed by a witch) Why was he immortal? (same, part of the curse, so the torture would go on and on) Was he alone? (No. He had this raven on his shoulder, who had once been his best friend) Were there others besides those two?

The answer to that last was a resounding YES, and thus the brotherhood was born. Then I had to work out who all these guys were (Vikings), how many there were (nine—a number goldeneaglesignificant to the Norse gods), and what animals they were (ever try coming up with nine animals that Vikings would have known about in 850 AD that are sexy enough to be romance heroes? I mean, really, a were-boar? Eew.) I had to figure out who’d cursed them and why, and how the curse would play out, and something to make each story different, and an over-arching story that would carry through all nine books, and…

Somewhere in the middle of this, I realized that to get to the guy in evening clothes, the full story would have to cover the thousand-plus years he’d been under the curse. That the other men’s stories would each play out in a different century. That the captain of the crew (my dream guy) would be the last of the warriors to break the curse, and that his friend would stick with him the whole time, even if they never saw each other in human form all those thousands years.

Well, thank goodness for critique partners, the internet, a husband who’s willing to listen to me ramble through scenes aloud even when he has no clue what I’m talking about and who’s also pretty good at asking the kind of question that makes me come up with answers.

And that’s why we (mostly) don’t end up in front of that shrink, because we take that obsessive and uncontrolled fantasy life to a critique partner and talk about it and realizes there’s a whole story, not in the hero and villain, but in the hero’s horndog sidekick and the woman who sets out to seduce him.

Just like Teresa said. (Good hostess. You can have your cookie now.)

Every time I hear this song now, I think Of Lisa’s books ~ Teresa, who is happily eating her cookie now!

—-

Lisa Hendrix is the author of IMMORTAL WARRIOR and the upcoming IMMORTAL OUTLAW (June ’09, Available for Preorder at Amazon and other online sellers), the wife of a patient man, the mother of two impatient children, and a long-time patron of the Idea Store. You can find out more about were-bears, were-ravens, were-eagles, and the other beasts of the Immortal Brotherhood at her website, where her January Jumpstart contest is also live right now.

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The art of brainstorming – Research? Or Magic?

January 7, 2009 at 9:41 am (Teresa D'Amario)

Hi all.  Sorry to be a little late today with the post, but I was up verrrry late last night, and I thought I’d share with you a little of what made me late.  Every author gets the question “Where do you get your ideas?”  We get the question in almost every interview.  Invairabley I tell people I get ideas from movies, tv, books, things my dogs do, or anything along those lines.  These things are true, but rarely is life so simple.

We write the complicated, each shifter author.  We write about worlds that exist only in our minds.  But those authors who tell you a world comes to them fully formed is… well, I won’t say they’re misleading you, but maybe misleading themselves.  Each detail an author ads to their paranormal world comes from somewhere.  Sometimes we don’t know where it comes from, but it does have an origin.

Last nite I was busy brainstorming for a non-shifter paranormal.  I Don’t want to give too many details, but I thought I’d share the actual process with you.  First, there are two characters in this play.  Real characters.  Me.  And my Friend.  My friend has a knack.  She asks the questions that send my mind spinning into the world of the beyond, into places never before trudged by man, woman or beast.  How she knows what to ask, I have no clue, but she does.

Me:  I’m stuck.  I have a scene I wrote before and it is just anti climatic.

Friend:  Tell me the scene.

Me:  Hero takes initiative to go stop the villain, but when he gets there, the villain isn’t there.  Instead, he finds himself battling villain’s little cult of followers, all human, so it’s an easy battle. I need something better.

Friend:  Maybe you could have another of villain’s people there?  A 2nd in command.

Me:  I tried that, only he turned out to be a wimp.  Guess I could make him stronger.

Friend:  Maybe you could make the 2nd a woman.  Maybe have the woman try to seduce the hero?

Me:  Hmm, Maybe.  Hero is unseduceable though.  It would fall flat…. Oh wait.  Hero is unseduceable but his friend isn’t.  His friend is a ladies man.  He’ll fall for anything in a skirt.  I could have him be the one, and the hero ends up having to save his butt too.  It would lead right into his book. Hey, that would be absolutely awesome!

Friend:  That could work, she could be a sorcerer (Magick is involved in this story).

Me:  No, not a sorcerer, she’s the priestess of the cult.  She’s taking this friend BECAUSE of is virility (sorry you have to be there to understand that), to cast a spell to steal that part of him for the villain, who well, for all intents and purposes is a bit distressed in that area.  This is perfect.  I can see it now, the priestess having him tied up, preparing her destructive spell.  Hero will have to come in at just the right time.

Friend:  That could work.

Me:  Great!  You’ve done it again!  I owe you a bouquet of flowers if this works!  (By now my mind is spinning in full living color, shapes and images no longer blurred.  An entire scene is growing in my mind, begging to escape. )

So the next thing of course is to write, and I was up until three am and am still not finished with the series of scenes required to set this up and carry it through.  It’s alot of work, for just a few moments in time.  I spent the rest of the night going through the ins and outs of the scene, how the hero finds the cult headquarters, how he discovers the new character with his friend, how he has to save him, the friend’s reaction to all this mess, and what this had to do with the overall plot.  I had to download google earth (New computer) to determine the distance from point A to point B in the story.  I had to research the powers of said priestess.  And I had to sleep?? sleep?  Yeah, the sleep of the damned…. dreams invaded by images of magick and danger. LOL.

The thing is, none of this would have worked if I hadn’t made my husband have dinner to another boring National Geographic special on ancient Egypt earlier in the night.  LOL.  He just shakes his head and takes it in stride, then the instant it was over, changed the TV to NCIS.  LOL.   I’ve seen them all.  Not a single one has offered me any new and surprising tidbits for more than a year, yet still I find myself drawn to them, seeing life as it was once, skewing it to my own personal brand of fiction.

As you see, Brainstorming for an author is not the simple act of a word or phrase, and image or an action creating a scene.  Yet at the same time it is.  My friend offered two pieces of advice that guided me to the creation of this scene:  Make the 2nd in command female, and a sorceress. Combined with my previous research and my previous knowledge on the subject, an entire event was created off those two pieces of advice.  Oh, and don’t forget the magic.  The real magic of the author’s mind.

So the real bit of brainstorming isn’t the simple phrases suggested by my friend. It was the back research. The knowledge already sitting in my brain of how the world really worked, how it works for this story, and what affect the actions of the priestess and the hero’s friends will have on the overall concept of the book.  These things work in tangent, creating a beautiful picture to be read and enjoyed by the masses.

So pick up that next shifter book – and when you read the turning point, the one scene that the entire crux of the plot sits upon, think about it.  How did that author do that???

Yes, well, some things still have to remain secret, or everyone would do it, right? It’s magic!

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What a Paranormal Year It’s Been

January 5, 2009 at 8:00 am (Authors & Titles, Marcia Colette)

When I look back on this year, it’s been an amazing one for some of my friends. Many of these guys I bumped into during conventions or conferences and haven’t forgotten their faces.  Heck, I’ve even worked with one or two at a previous place of employment.  But my lips are sealed on that subject.  Said person(s) have enough blackmail material to earn me a tar-and-feather sentence.  😆  Anyway, I wanted to share some of their exciting 2008 moments with you because they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with this coming year.

My first highlight is the lovely Elisabeth Naughton who I met at RWA Dallas. At the time, she was a Golden Heart finalist with an amazing, magnetic smile. Her romantic adventure debut Stolen Fury came out on December 30th. Being that we’re geared more toward the paranormal side of things, I’m highlighting her because she also landed a two-book deal with Dorchester for a paranormal romance.  In a little over a year’s time, Elisabeth has five books coming to market.

Another sweetie I want to single out is my buddy and fellow rabbit-lover Leanna Renee Hieber. Talk about an cool chick. I’m telling you, she will blow you away with her wonderful sense of humor and outgoing personality. This amazing lady scored a contract with Dorchester for her Victorian, Ghost Buster debut The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.  If you’re curious, check out the promo video on her blog.

Some other people who’ve scored high this year, Jenna Black sold an YA urban fantasy to St. Martin. By the way, this chick is on fire and I’m not just talking about her Morgan Kinsley demon exorcist series, but she writes vampire romances, too. My dearest friend Edie Ramer has made it as a finalist in the American Title V Contest with her dead-people-talking novel Dead People.  And last, though certainly not least, is another fabulous paranormal author you guys need to keep your eyes on.  The wonderful Nancy Haddock rocked 2008 with her paranormal mystery debut La Vida Vampire and earned the title of National Bestseller. 

Hmmmmm.  I smell several guest spots in our future.

Of course, these are only some who’ve rocked last year in some paranormal way, shape, and form.  As for your blog hostesses, everyone here is in a great position for a wonderful repeat performance in 2009.  I say bring it on, baby!  Bring.  It.  On.  😉

Have you or someone one you know set their own paranormal stage for 2009?  Feel free to share anything to your heart’s desire. 

~Marcia Colette

www.marciacolette.com

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Winner of THE DEVIL TO PAY…

January 2, 2009 at 11:02 am (General)

….Lea!

 

Lea, please email Michele your snailmail address: toastfaery@gmail.com

Congrats!

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