Those Low-Down, Not Goin’ to RT, Blues

We’re entering that magical time of year: the RT Booklovers Convention. And you’d best believe we’re talking about big, big one-of-a-kind fun.

Being held in Kansas City, MO, at the Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center, May 1 - May 5, this year’s RT convention is going to have to go on without me. Although it boggles the mind, my guess is they’re going to be able to manage just fine.

But will I be able to manage without them? That is the question.

I didn’t attend last year, either. But for the three years prior I was on-hand and working hard throughout the conference. For me, as someone who showed up in order to assist writer clients with events and general PR efforts, I was on schedule and on task the entire time.

Still, the Booklovers Convention was always undeniably interesting and fun . . . truly a mind-boggling series of experiences not to be duplicated anywhere else.

I’m talking about things like the Faery Ball Costume Competition, in addition to other mixers, soirees and parties held morning, noon and night.

One new addition to the program since I’ve attended is the American Idol - Writer Edition Competition. Those who are participating in this second-annual competition had to submit at least three chapters of their work, which could be from any genre, for review by April 1, 2013.

In its first related workshop (Thursday, 2:45 - 3:45 pm) the panelists, industry professionals all, will offer advice on how authors can make their work stand out. After these presentations, workshop attendees, whether entered in the writing competition or not, can ask questions.

Finalists in the competition will be chosen prior to the convention but won’t be announced until the end of the first workshop.

During the second workshop (Friday, 5:00 - 6:00 pm) the panelists will read page one of each finalist’s submission. These will then be judged by the agents and editors on the panel. But, audience participants will also be able to vote for their favorites. Those submissions that receive the most audience votes will receive extra bonus points, which will be added to the judges’ tallies.

At the end of the second workshop all votes will be counted and the winner announced. The first-place winner will receive a one-year mentorship from two top-selling literary agenciess and automatic full consideration from Avon for possible publication in their Impulse line.

As for the conference in general, over 400 published authors will be present and convention attendees, along with the general public, will be welcome to attend two major book signing events. On Thursday, e-book, indie and graphic novelists and illustrators will hold a massive booksigning. Then on Saturday hundreds of published authors will be available to sign their books at the giant book fair.

A list of attending authors, along with other info about the convention, can be found at www.rtconvention.com.

So, if you’re at all close to Kansas City, MO, this week and have an interest in reading or writing or both, I definitely recommend that you consider attending one or more days of this intriguing event. You’re likely to learn a lot and to meet some fascinating folks.

HAVE YOU EVER ATTENDED THE RT BOOKLOVERS CONVENTION? DOES THE WRITERS COMPETITION SOUND LIKE SOMETHING YOU’D LIKE TO ATTEND? A FREE COPY OF MRS. GOODFELLER WILL BE RANDOMLY AWARDED TO ONE PERSON WHO LEAVES A COMMENT BELOW BEFORE THE NEXT WRITERSPACE BLOG IS POSTED.

Jaycie Cash blogs on a regular basis for Writerspace.com Her debut novel, Mrs. Goodfeller, is available through most major e-Book outlets, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’d love for you to like her Facebook Author page.

 

A Cast of Thousands…

A cast of thousands - well, yes, that happens when you write a series. LOL

Characters keep popping up and demand an appearance in a story, sometimes they come out of nowhere. There's been at least one in every book in my Light Blade series.

Today, I'd like to share with you the main characters and influential secondary characters who've impacted the series so far. And, as a bonus, I'm going to introduce you to a couple of new ones who appear in ALLEGIANCE SWORN (Light Blade #3)!

Let's start with the hero and heroine who appear in ALLEGIANCE SWORN, my latest release from Berkley Sensation...

Arek Barial - a human Light Blade warrior. Kalan's Second and childhood best friend to both Kalan and Kymora. Arek never knew his parents and was raised by Davyn, his embittered grandfather. When he was three years old, his mother was kidnapped and raped by the demon king Savyr (although he never found this out until much later in life) and this led to his father taking his own life. Hating all thing demon, and encouraged by Davyn, Arek excelled in his career as a Light Blade warrior. During a patrol, he ended up wounded and captured by Na'Reish slavers. His journey to meet Imhara Kaal begins in ALLEGIANCE SWORN (Bk#3). (Arek & Imhara jpeg)

Imhara Kaal - full-blooded demon and leader of the Kaal Clan. She assumed leadership of her Clan shortly after her family were murdered, spoiling Savyr's plans to claim her territory and people. Tired of living a doule-life of a demon leader and an advocate of the Old Ways - accepting half-bloods and not enslaving humans - she hatches a plan to approach the human Blade Council and petition a truce in return for helping them defend their border against Savyr and the other Clans. In ALLEGIANCE SWORN she rescues Arek from the slavers who captured him and begins the task of convincing him her cause needs his help.

Annika Gannec - the much maligned, half-blood Na'Chi who has the Gift of healing. Her demon father raped her mother to hatch his plan of vengeance against Davyn, a Light Blade warrior who killed his son nearly 30 years ago. She's Davyn's granddaughter and Arek's half-sister. Her heart-tugging story is told in VENGEANCE BORN (Bk#1) (Annika jpeg)

Kalan Tayn - the Light Blade warrior & leader of the human Blade Council. Annika rescued him from her father's dungeon. This action set in motion a series of startling events and revelations that shook the demon and human worlds. Kalan and Arek have been best friends since childhood and they went through Light Blade training together. In VENGEANCE BORN, Kalan overcame his prejudice and joined with Annika, who is now his wife.

Kymora Tayn - Kalan's sister who served as the Temple Elect, the leader of the humans religious order. Blinded by an illness at a young age, she learned to compensate using her Gift of reading the auras of those around her. Devoted to serving their deity she was the catalyst for integrating the half-blood Na'Chi into the human world and instrumental in helping them form an alliance with the Blade Council. She gave up her position as Temple Elect to continue helping the Na'Chi. She and Varian found love by the end of ALLIANCE FORGED (Bk#2).

Varian - is the leader of a small group of half-blood Na'Chi who were raised by a human slave called Hesia in Gannec Fortress, the same place Annika grew up in, although their presence was kept a secret from her all her life. Varian led his people into human territory, following Annika and Kalan after they escaped from her father's fortress. He asked Kymora for sanctuary at Sacred Lake then, with her help, established an alliance with the Blade Council. He and Arek became friends and helped the Light Blade warrior start his journey to accepting the Na'Chi and their shared demon-human history. (Varian jpeg)

Na'Rei Savyr Gannec - the demon king and Annika's father. He believes compassion is for fools, a sign of weakness, and that to get anywhere in life you have take what you want. He's determined to see all humans either dead or enslaved to the Na'Reish. In the first two books of the series he is preparing to go to war with the humans and in ALLEGIANCE SWORN the war begins.

Davyn Barial - once a Light Blade warrior and Blade Councillor. He is Arek and Annika's grandfather, although he won't acknowledge his relationship with Annika as he lost his only daughter to Na'Rei Savyr. He's a man of many secrets, some which were revealed in VENGEANCE BORN. He very nearly succeeded in killing Annika and his fanatical followers kidnapped Kymora in an attempt to destroy the human and Na'Chi alliance. Had he succeeded in his plans, the unrest and division he caused threatened not only the alliance between the humans and Na’Chi but almost caused civil war among the humans.

Rassan Kaal - is a three-quarter blood Na'Chi and Imhara Kaal's Second-in-Command. Unswervingly loyal, Rassan is Imhara's closest friend and moral compass. Instead of playing a less prominent role to avoid detection (remember full-blooded demons despised half-bloods and would kill them to keep the bloodline pure), he ignored the risk to his life to accompany Imhara to the annual Enclave in Gannec territory and participated in the Clan Games, and earned himself the title of Clan Champion.

Rissa - the young human child Annika befriended in VENGEANCE BORN. She is Gifted with the remarkable skill of being able to sense and heal pain on an emotional as well as physical level.

Candra - Master Healer and councilor on the Blade Council. She overseas the Healers Guild and is a prominent supporter of Kalan. She calls a spade a spade, tending to be quite outspoken in Council meetings and isn't afraid to share her opinion publicly.

Zaune - one of the half-blood Na'Chi who fled demon territory to seek sanctuary at Sacred Lake. An exceptional scout, he uses his Gift as a blood-tracker to help Varian and Kalan find Kymora after Light Blade rebels kidnap her. Like Varian though, he is struggling to control the darker impulses of his Na'Reish side.

Writing the series has been a lot of fun, especially pairing up the lead couples and watching the sparks fly! And there’s nothing like fantasy world-building - creatures, paranormal powers, a deity, a brewing war, secrets unveiled and political machinations - or a twist of intrigue and mystery, loads of action - avalanches, sword fights, an assassination, a chase scene - and a hot romance. I hope you enjoy the Light Blade world!

So, do you have a favorite fictional fantasy world you enjoy disappearing into? A series or cast of characters you love returning to time and again?

To celebrate the April dual release of ALLEGIANCE SWORN and VENGEANCE BORN (mass market), there’s a signed copy of ALLEGIANCE SWORN as a giveaway for someone who answers my question and leaves their contact email address. Open internationally.

I look forward to reading your answers!

****

Kylie Griffin’s obsession with all things paranormal/fantasy started at an early age, when she used to imagine the jacaranda tree in her front yard was a spaceship used to defend the world from invading enemies. Writing stories seemed a natural extension to her childhood adventures.

Today, she’s a primary school teacher sharing her love for the written word with young children. In her spare time, she writes and reads all things paranormal.

Kylie lives in a small rural village in outback New South Wales, Australia, where she volunteers in a number of emergency service organizations in her local community. Visit her website at www.kyliegriffin.com.

 

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Self-Publishing: Learn Before You Leap

Imagine this. The Dallas Cowboys organization has made an announcement: Every single person is now eligible to become a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. Anyone, young or old, skinny or rotund, toned or flabby, come on down and suit up! Who needs those pesky requirements anyways when anyone can jiggle around in support of the team? I’ll admit it would make for some fascinating Sunday television!

You see where I’m going with this. A few short years ago, who would’ve thought the publishing industry would someday undergo the same change? Thanks to the rise of the digital industry, coupled with e-publishers offering authors a place to easily sell their books, self-publishing is now feasible and profitable for all involved-the authors, publishers, and readers.

This is where I must say that I’m not here today to debate the ins and outs of this new industry and whether this is a good or bad thing. The change has arrived, and no doubt more changes are on the horizon. What I am going to say is that something very important has NOT changed:

The readers still expect a top-notch, quality read, whether the book is traditionally published or self-published. As consumers who’ve spent their hard-earned dollars to enjoy authors’ books, they deserve no less than the best possible work. So, if you’re new to self-publishing or you’re a new author still in the stages of examining your options and are thinking of self-publishing, I have a few words of advice.

1) JOIN YOUR LOCAL WRITING CHAPTER. You know the saying-if you don’t soar with the eagles, you’ll flop around on the ground with the turkeys. Get to know fellow authors and learn from them. The lessons are invaluable!

2) ATTEND WRITING CONFERENCES. After you’ve joined your local chapter and have decided writing is definitely your passion, attend professional conferences. Attend workshops and learn your craft! Yes, you have a voice and you’ll learn to channel it. But almost all aspects of writing (hero and heroine’s characterizations, motivation, conflict, black moment, etc.) are subject to improvement. Learn what your areas of improvement are, and then work on them. Again and again.

3) GET A GOOD CRITIQUE PARTNER. If you’ve followed the above steps in order, then chances are you’ve already gotten to know some authors you’ll trust to read your work. If not, members of your chapter can help you find a good partner. Be open to advice. No, you don’t have to accept changes to your work-but if several people are honing in on the same problems in your book, you might want to listen.

4) ENTER CONTESTS. This is another good way to get valuable feedback about your manuscript. Again, you’ll start to see a pattern in what readers/judges are saying you need to work on. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn. And you might even get a request from an agent or editor to see your book, another good avenue you can take in publishing.

5) LEARN THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS. Yes, it IS a business. Assuming you’ve followed the above steps, you’re learning more and more every day about how the publishing industry works and how hard and time-consuming it really is to put out a good book. Know all of your options before you decide whether to self-publish or go with landing a traditional house. Still want to self-publish?

6) HIRE AN EDITOR, COVER ARTIST, AND HAVE A PROFESSIONAL-LOOKING WEBSITE. There are no substitutes for these expenses, the exception being if you are fortunate enough to have a friend or family member who actually does one of these for their job, and is damned good at it. A professional editing job on your book, along with a wonderful story, will sell the NEXT book to your readers. A professional look to your covers and website subtly states you take your career seriously and care about your product.

7) DON’T ABUSE YOUR CONTACTS. Yes, I did say to make contacts and network. Learn the business. But there’s a fine line between learning from and abusing those in the industry who would help your career. I recently read an agent’s post about an aspiring author who submitted a manuscript for representation. The agent was excited about the work and requested the full book, and in response the author withdrew the submission, outright stating that she/he only wished to know whether an agent thought the book was worthy. Since the agent thought it was worth taking a look at for representation, the author would just self-publish. This, folks, is unprofessional. Pure and simple. Industry professionals have VERY long memories, and they talk about you. Don’t be the subject of this sort of conversation. It could seriously hurt your career should you ever need these people down the road.

Remember-you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Self-publishing is no different. Have pride in learning your craft and resist the lure of a fast buck, putting out a product before you’ve taken time to make it the best it can be.

In short, don’t be the flabby cheerleader on the Jumbotron. You’ll be very glad you didn’t take shortcuts when you’re a fully connected, professional, well-rounded, confident author with a flourishing career.

Now get busy and write!

National Bestselling author Jo Davis is best known for her popular Firefighters of Station Five series written as Jo Davis, and her dark, sexy paranormal series Alpha Pack, written as J.D. Tyler. PRIMAL LAW, the first book in her Alpha Pack series, is the winner of the National Reader's Choice Award in Paranormal. She's also been a multiple finalist in the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence, a finalist for the Bookseller's Best Award, has captured the HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, and has been a two-time nominee for the Australian Romance Readers Award in romantic suspense.

Jo's books regularly appear on the Neilson Bookscan, Barnes and Noble, BooksOnBoard, and Amazon bestseller lists, among others.

Jo is currently at work on a new contemporary romance series titled SUGARLAND BLUE for NAL/Signet Eclipse, a spin-off of her Firefighters of Station Five series scheduled to debut in April 2013 with the kick-off novella ARMED AND DANGEROUS. Book 1, SWORN TO PROTECT, is being released May 7, 2013. She's also publishing a new FBI series, ARMED AND DEADLY, set to debut in April 2013 with ONE LAST KISS. Jo lives in Texas with her two kids and a cute Boston terrier.

jodavis.net

 

THE ADVANTAGE OF NOT BEING A NATIVE

Richard Godwin author of Apostle Rising and Mr. Glamour, who has a new novel out this June, One Lost Summer, interviewed me on his website in his Chin Wags at The Slaughterhouse series, and also wrote the accompanying review of Helsinki Blood.

THE ADVANTAGE OF NOT BEING A NATIVE:
REVIEW OF HELSINKI BLOOD BY JAMES THOMPSON.
(Putnam New York, 2013.)

Helsinki Blood begins with Inspector Kari Vaara recovering from severe injuries that occurred in his previous case in Helsinki White, and recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumour. Avoiding company, he has a haircut that:

"...revealed the scar that runs four inches across the left center of my head to the hairline over my eye. The ugly gunshot wound on my face was no longer bandaged but not healed."

And so it begins, a raw sense of one man’s struggle against improbable odds, some of which are historical. There is an implicit narrative sense of factors weighing against the protagonist, suitably so, since this is a Nordic novel. There is something elemental to Thompson’s writing, a brackish taste of the Sagas and Eddas beneath the tight prose. The acute visceral physical details the author weaves into his descriptions of his protagonist evoke a sense of inner scarring beneath the Inspector’s tough persona as Vaara battles his own demons. He also struggles to deal with his abandonment by his wife, who is suffering from PTSD, as he is left to care for their infant.

Vaara embodies the paradox that the best detectives have strong criminal shadows. Many decisions he makes are a way of ensuring he stays on the right side of a criminal world in which he is an unwanted and belongs. There is nothing safe about the depiction of crime here. There is an immediate sense of its impact on Vaara’s life and that of his wife. And while the first person narrative delivers an intimate portrait, at the same time Thompson delves into the wider picture, exploring the political and economic factors that may aid and abet criminal syndicates.

Vaara’s situation is complex. He is a wealthy man. He is also a target for criminals who want his money. Thompson has written his protagonist into a tight squeeze. He takes on a missing-persons case. As he hunts for a 19 year old girl who has Down syndrome and who may have been kidnapped and sold into a sexual underworld, Vaara finds himself at the centre of a political web. Thompson’s exploration of the implications of prostitution rackets raises questions about the economics behind it.

It is interesting to note that some of Thompsons’ characters are thinly veiled portraits of politicians and businessmen. He has absorbed Helsinki, he has digested it, and he has expressed it as a microcosm in his fictions. He adeptly balances the feel of Finland with a tight muscular American style of storytelling. He is an author who conveys the private lives of his characters while allowing them to reflect on the wider political implications of the dilemmas they face.

"Helsinki is crawling with prostitutes, awash with them. Girls working their way through the university, seasoned pros, sex slaves, and everything in between.... Pimping is a serious matter, but as long as prostitution isn’t organized, there’s no law against it."

Vaara explores a world in which young women go to capitals promised jobs and end up being raped by the clients of criminal syndicates playing the political odds.

"It’s like her mum said, she was promised a job in Helsinki. Then, when she got here, the men who brought her talked about her owing the money for arranging her work and the cost of the trip over, and took her passport. They locked her in this apartment."

There is a dual culture at work in Thompson’s fictions which makes him unique among the Nordic writers. Thompson made a smart career move when he settled in Helsinki, for he is perhaps its predominant chronicler, and he does it through a reflective consciousness which embodies all the virtues of great American storytelling, while adding a particularly Nordic flavour that avoids a sense of bleakness through the sheer resilience of his central character and the prose. This is Nordic literature in the elemental sense of order overcoming the chaos that is crime. Vaara may just be that element, a scarred fighter for justice in a world where too many are denied it. He would fit in Njals Saga or Hrafnkels Saga, and yet he is being penned by an American from Kentucky who may have the necessary angle of detachment to observe a society that carries its own denial of the burden of its past.

Yet at the same time the novel is highly contemporary. Vaara is up against the mafia. And given the extent of brutality existing in crime and enforced prostitution it takes a man like Vaara to combat it. Thompson lures the reader into Helsinki’s dark heart. But it is Vaara, troubled, ill at ease, but redemptive and worthy, who acts as a central focus for the novel’s action. He is its scarred conscience. He is its beating heart. Hard as a knuckleduster and utterly human, this is a book that does not pull punches. Thompson has painted a starkly realistic picture of the criminal underbelly of Helsinki and he has redeemed it with a great and unlikely hero. For Vaara is not a saccharine saviour, he is an ambiguous character who is also moral.

"Whatever happened to the concept of duty, that sacrifice for the good of others is not only laudable, but expected, especially when it comes to family? I’m scared for Kate, because of the psychological dangers that lie within her, and the psychical dangers that loom from without."

If you want to read crime fiction that is distinctive, read this. There have been many comparisons of Thompson’s style to other Nordic writers, but I think the analogies fall short and miss something that has emerged from the dual culture at work in his novels. He is not a native of Finland and that gives him an edge. Thompson has carved his own particular niche out of the first rate writing coming out of the Nordic countries, and it is one that leaves you thirsty for more. There is a combination here of a precise cold scalpel and humanity. Thompson is an inheritor of Gothic Noir, and creator of the detached and involved, the ruined and redeemed Vaara, an Inspector who embodies all the contradictions that inhabit a life. I highly recommend this.

jamesthompsonauthor.com

With his first internationally published novel, Snow Angels, James Thompson proved himself Finland’s best and most popular representative in the rise of Nordic noir. It was selected as one of Booklist’ s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, and a Strand Critics Award. His novel, Lucifer’s Tears, has received critical acclaim from all quarters, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and was selected as one of the best novels of the year by Kirkus. Helsinki White was released to critical acclaim in 2012. The fourth book in the series, Helsinki Blood, was published in March, 2013 to rave reviews. He is also a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books and holds a Master’s degree from The University of Helsinki. The first three books in his Inspector Vaara series have been optioned for film.

 

A Reader First

Every writer is a reader first. We all have our stories of how we got started and who our first, favorite writers were. It never goes the other way around, just as the seasons all stay in line and the sun comes up each day.

I read everything when I was a kid. When I discovered books it was as though the world tilted slightly and a new world began. It was a world of Sherlock Holmes, Captain Nemo, journeys to Africa and Mars with Edgar Rice Burroughs and into the weird spaces with H.P Lovecraft.

I think that might be why I also like to write a little bit of everything. I’ve written dozens of romances-my first published novel was a romance, A Family for the Sheriff. I’ve written some science fiction and fantasy. I’ve written countless newspaper and magazine articles about countless subjects. It seems for now that I’ve chosen mystery. My newest novel is THAT OLD FLAME OF MINE, A Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mystery.

What do all of these things have in common? For me, it’s always the characters-the people you can’t forget. I love when their names bring faces to my imagination. Writing is a lot like reading in that way. The characters come to life in your mind-their names, the way they walk and talk. I’m always surprised when an author tells me how they meant a character’s name to be pronounced, and I’ve been wrong about it. I feel like I know them better than that!

Reading and writing are interchangeable in my brain. I think about characters I’ve read for a long time after reading a good book. I think about characters I write every day. They become members of the family, following me when I’m shopping and when I’m having the oil changed in my car. You have to live in their world to write them as much as you do to enjoy reading a book.

They call it 'suspending disbelief'. A writer has to be able to convince a reader that a character, and sometimes a place, is real. As a reader, I enjoy that magic that takes place when an author has done a good job of making me believe. As a writer, nothing makes me happier than when a reader tells me how real one of my books is to them.

The magic is reciprocal, and we all enjoy it!

Joyce Lavene
Writing as J.J. Cook
THAT OLD FLAME OF MINE, Book 1
Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, best-selling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at www.jjcook.net and www.joyceandjimlavene.com

 

Talking Old Japan

Way back in the day I was one of the many millions who loved the epic novel Shogun by James Clavell. Like plenty of other folks, I also became caught up in the miniseries a few years later.

Nothing has tempted me back to that time and place since... until now.

Finally, through my addiction to audio books, I’ve stumbled across another book set in ancient Japan that I’ve found just as engrossing. Child of Vengeance, released March 12 by Doubleday and written by David Kirk, tells the story of Musashi Miyamoto, a real-life character. Miyamoto wrote the enduring and legendary samurai treatise, The Book of the Five Rings. A 17th-century swordsman, he also was eventually acknowledged as Japan’s greatest warrior.

However, the book starts long before he received any recognition or respect. Let’s just say his struggles were many and not in the least bit small.

Now, since I mentioned Shogun early on, there’s something I need to make very clear: Child of Vengeance is NOT a romance.

It is, however, a very well written novel (and an extremely well narrated audio book), that provides a fascinating glimpse into the mind-set, traditions and lifestyles of Japan four hundred years in the past.

This is not a tale for those who steer clear of violence or bloodshed. For, as Publisher’s Weekly noted in its review of Child, the book clearly shows "...feudal Japan as a complex culture in which cunning and poetry are indispensable, and death and vengeance unavoidable."

The author, David Kirk, is 27 and lives in Japan. He has clearly done his research, in between writing such children’s fare as the Miss Spider books and Oh So Tiny Bunny.

Talk about a writer being capable of telling the most diverse stories possible!

I bow to you, most honorable Kirk-san. You do all writers proud! Keep up the oh-so impressive work.

WERE YOU A FAN OF SHOGUN? WHAT BOOKS SET IN OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE YOU ENJOYED? ARE THERE ANY FOREIGN CULTURES YOU FIND FASCINATING? A FREE COPY OF MY DEBUT NOVEL, MRS. GOODFELLER WILL BE RANDOMLY AWARDED TO ONE PERSON WHO LEAVES A COMMENT BELOW BEFORE THE NEXT WRITERSPACE BLOG IS POSTED.

Jaycie Cash blogs on a regular basis for Writerspace.com. Her debut novel, Mrs. Goodfeller, is available through most major e-Book outlets, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’d love for you to like her Facebook Author page.

 

Relief for Downton Abbey Withdrawal

Going through Downton Abbey withdrawal? I am. So when Jessica Fellowes, bestselling author of The World of Downton Abbey and Julian Fellowes’ niece, came to the Tangerine Theatre on Jupiter Island FL to lecture, I arrived early to nab a front row seat. Luckily for me, it was storming on our little island, so the crowd was sparse. That gave me a wonderful opportunity during the question and answer session after her lecture to ask Jessica what she thought of the Downton Abbey Paper Dolls.

"Paper dolls?" she said in her very proper English accent. "I didn’t know there were such things!"

Ah, she might have been unaware, but those of us who love Downton have been happily printing, cutting, and snipping away. In fact, one fan-obviously deep in the throes of Downton withdrawal-even created a Downton Abbey Paper Doll video!

And here I thought I was the only paper doll freak in the universe. Huh-uh. Guess not. In fact, when I Googled "paper dolls" (and dragged my cursor past the porn sites, yikes!), I discovered an entire society of paper doll lovers, the Original Paper Doll Artists Guild.

Who knew?

Actually, I should have been all over that. It makes perfect sense. As a little girl growing up in Southern Indiana, I created my own Twiggy paper doll and happily dressed her for hours, pretending to take her up and down Carnaby Street. That was as close to London as I thought I’d ever get. Oh, I dreamed of one day visited England, but I never guessed that I would actually live there for a year!

Discovering the Downton Abbey Paper Dolls has given me permission to revisit a long lost passion. For the past few weeks, I’ve been happily rediscovering my love for the art. In fact, I’ve even created my own paper dolls to accompany my new historical mystery series, The Jane Eyre Chronicles. You can see Jane Eyre, and her growing wardrobe, on my board at Pinterest. The outfits are taken directly from my books Death of a Schoolgirl and Death of a Dowager. Although Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre is set in the Regency period, I’ve taken advantage of creative license to give my doll both Regency and Victorian clothes. By the way, Edward is waiting in the wings. I’ve drawn him, too, but I must admit that I like drawing clothes for female paper dolls better. And who knows? Maybe I’ll produce my own Death of a Dowager video starring my paper versions of Jane and Edward. After all, what is the world of an author except a universe created on paper?

Joanna Campbell Slan is the award-winning author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries (an Agatha Award Finalist); The Jane Eyre Chronicles; and one other mystery series. In her past life, Joanna was a television talk show host, an adjunct professor of public relations, a sought-after motivational speaker, and a corporate speechwriter. After having lived a year in England, the Slans and their two dogs now make their home on Jupiter Island, Florida. Visit Joanna’s website at www.JoannaSlan.com or at www.tinyurl.com/JCSlan. To see the entire list of Joanna’s books go to www.tinyurl.com/JoannaSlan.

 

There’s a Spy in the White House Gardens!

In the latest addition to the White House Gardener Mysteries, White House organic gardener Casey Calhoun and her friends embark on an adventure that takes them into the shadowy world of spies and secrets.

While gardening hints and tips are peppered throughout all three of my White House Gardener Mysteries, these books have never been exclusively about organic gardening. My goal in writing them was to provide a lighthearted getaway for both readers who love getting dirt under her nails and readers who would much rather be inside tucked under a blanket with a book in hand.

With OAK AND DAGGER, I was able to combine my love of history, spy thrillers, romance, and gardening. At first I worried if I could pull it off. I mean, this is a cozy mystery, not an international spy thriller.

As a child, I memorized lines from the James Bond movies and dreamed of owning some of those fabulous gadgets and sleek cars. I would often imagine that a super-spy like Scarecrow (from Scarecrow and Mrs. King) would stumble into my life and whisk me off into a harrowing adventure where the future of the free world depended upon our success.

I watched and read so many spy thrillers during my tender years that I think cloaks and daggers became entwined in my DNA. So it seemed natural that Casey Calhoun should stumble over a spy or two as she tended the gardens at the White House.

After all, haven’t popular books and movies taught us that at least half the population in the D.C. area is actively involved in the high-stakes spy business?

Adding a spy element to the book, sometimes felt like I was juggling prickly balls of nettles while trying to type. After all, I wanted the book to stay true to the tone and feel of a lighthearted cozy mystery. Luckily, the spy thriller genre is as varied as the cozy mystery genre. So instead of the gritty edge of the Bourne Identity, OAK AND DAGGER comes across with the playfulness of Get Smart.

There’s still the same cast of quirky characters keeping Casey on her toes. And the President’s naughty puppy, Milo, is back digging up trouble in the White House lawn.

And yes, the romance is back as well, turning up the heat with Casey’s favorite (albeit reluctant) sidekick, Secret Service Special Agent Jack Turner.

Do you love spy thrillers as much as I do? What are some of your favorites?

* * * * *

OAK AND DAGGER by Dorothy St. James
Available April 2, 2013 from Berkley Prime Crime

Despite cooler fall temperatures in Washington, D.C., tempers flare at the White House when important historical documents go missing from the curator’s office and the gardeners are blamed. As if that isn’t bad enough, Casey has started receiving death threats, the president’s pooch is digging unsightly holes all over the South Lawn, and the curator has been found dead. All evidence for the murder points to Gordon Sims, the chief gardener. His fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and witnesses saw him arguing with the curator shortly before her death.

With the help of Special Agent Jack Turner, her reluctant sidekick, Casey works to clear Gordon’s name. Along the way she finds herself in a deadly race against time to discover if there’s a link between the stolen papers, the dog’s holes in the South Lawn, and a rumored two-hundred-year-old treasure-before the killer strikes again...

Praise for OAK AND DAGGER:
"...another nail-biter from St. James, who combines a dandy whodunit, a courageous heroine, a budding romance and a rich dose of White House history and horticulture in this clever outing. And she continues to reveal more about Casey's troubled family history, all of which makes "Oak and Dagger" a treasure for readers." - Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Hang on tight! This story is a wild ride! I loved it!" - Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book Blog

 

Mystery author Dorothy St. James was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, two crazy dogs, and a fat cat (she’s all fluff!). Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization. You can read more about Dorothy and her work at her website: www.DorothyStJames.com

 

 

What—Me, Focus? I Don’t Know How

I write mysteries and romances, but all of my books have elements of both genres - the mysteries have romantic subplots and the romances have suspense subplots. I know that is confusing to booksellers, and I've been told by marketing experts that I need to focus and create only one brand. They're probably right. The trouble is: I don't know how.

Besides, I believe most readers are not simple-minded; they like rich stories, too. I like books that seem like they could be real life stories, and my life is a patchwork quilt. It's my own fault. I have always preferred to try a hundred different things rather than become an expert at any one. So my current hobbies are hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, scuba diving, western line dancing, and painting. My current professions are contract writer/editor, private investigator, and author. My past jobs include doing translations, extracting fossils in geology labs, and drawing mechanical and architectural blueprints. Obviously I don't have children, which is probably a good thing - I might have misplaced them somewhere on the zigs and zags of my life road.

One of the best things about having an eclectic past and present is that my experiences provide great fodder for my books. From my work as a private investigator, I've learned how hard it is to defend yourself after being accused. That became the basis for my romantic suspense SHAKEN, where a young woman's business is the target of vandalism and arson, but it looks to the hunky investigator like she's trying to pull off an insurance scam. And of course, being me, interweaving romance and investigation threads weren't enough - I also made the protagonist Elisa Langston half-Guatemalan, half-Anglo and conflicted about her heritage and her place in the world. One publisher turned the book down because she said she didn't know any heroines of mixed race. (Really, woman? Do we live on different planets?)

Also from my private investigation work came the idea for my suspense novel THE ONLY WITNESS, in which only a signing gorilla can provide the vital clues to a baby's disappearance. I've worked on cases where very young children gave (questionable and coached) evidence. I've always been fascinated by animal intelligence, so I wondered: Could an ape that has the intelligence of a five-year-old do the same thing?

My outdoor experiences (many of those hobbies I listed above) are the basis of my Summer Westin mystery series: ENDANGERED, BEAR BAIT, and the most recent, UNDERCURRENTS, which was inspired by a true event. When I was touring the Galapagos Islands by boat, I picked up a local newspaper. (Remember the translation jobs I mentioned? I read Spanish.) The local headline was "Fishermen Threaten to Sink Tour Boat." Naturally I found that pretty interesting, so I immediately started doing research and I decided to put my character in jeopardy in an exotic destination where she didn't understand the language or the dangerous political undercurrents swirling behind the pretty tourism façade.

Focus? Me? Why? I enjoy the twists and turns and richness of life too much to follow only one path. Something wonderful might be around the next corner and I'd hate to miss it. I hope my readers feel that way, too.

Pamela Beason lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes novels and screenplays and works as a private investigator. When she’s not on the job, she explores the natural world on foot or cross-country skis, in her kayak, and underwater as a scuba diver. Pam is a recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award.

 

pamelabeason.com

 

 

Photographs vs Imagination

There's nothing we like better than to post pictures on either our Twitter or Facebook pages, along with steamy, titillating quotes from our new series, Bayou Heat.

"I warned you, Miss Burel," he said, halting her progress. "I don't follow rules."
-Jean-Baptiste

Pictures of very sexy men with any of the following: bulging muscle, sweat trickling down that muscle, tattoos, piercings, intense gazes, long hair, short hair, wicked grins or predatory stares.

She could hardly breathe as they stared at one another. Dark hair fell over his cheekbones, a few stray wisps brushing against the two hoops in his lower lip. Her eyes traveled down to the full, lush flesh. What would it be like to kiss him? How would she do it? Would it hurt him if she tried to get the tip of her tongue inside, spear one of those small rings? Tug on it? Ease him closer?
-Jean-Baptiste

The pictures we choose are how we see our characters, maybe even how we see those characters in the scenes or snippets we're posting.

He lowered his head until his face was buried against the curve of her neck, his lips teasing her silken skin.
"Let me in, honey."
-Bayon

But we wonder... does that interfere with the readers' fantasy? Is what we see in our head, what you see in yours? Should we, as authors, just put up snippets and leave it at that?

"I let you keep me at a distance for too long." He peered deep into her eyes. "I'm not letting you do it again."
-Bayon

You decide and let us know.

 

 

Giveaway Details:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Alexandra and Laura are giving away the following prizes on their tour:

Grand Prize: $50.00 gift Card to Amazon or B&N
Runners-Up: FIVE Runners-Up will receive an eBook of Bayon/Jean-Baptiste and a Bayou Heat SWAG Pack
(If you haven't read the first book Raphael/Parish you can substitute for that book)

Author of the Bestselling Mark of the Vampire series, Laura Wright spent the early years of her life immersed in the worlds of singing, acting and competitive ballroom dancing. But when she started writing, she knew she’d found her true calling. Laura lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband, two children, three dogs, two frogs and two fish. She’s been thrice nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, and loves hearing from her readers.

Connect with Laura:

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Alexandra Ivy is the New York Times bestselling author of the Guardians of Eternity series, the Immortal Rogues series and the Sentinels. Alexandra graduated from Truman University with a degree in theatre before deciding she preferred to bring her characters to life on paper rather than stage. She currently lives in Missouri with her extraordinarily patient husband and teenage sons.

Connect with Alexandra:

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