Thursday, November 10, 2005

Something Yummy!

I just love vampires...

HIS DARK DESIRES by Jennifer St. Giles
(Pocket Books, Nov. 2005)

Can any woman resist the fire in his eyes—and the danger in his kiss? From award-winning author of The Mistress of Trevelyan (2004 National Readers Choice Award for Best Historical and Best First Book, and 2004 Maggie Award for Excellence in Historical Fiction) comes the sensual tale of a woman haunted—and a man possessed—by an all-consuming love. . . .

You are in danger. Trust no one. The terrifying words from a mysterious letter echo in Juliet Bucheron's mind. Destitute ever since her husband disappeared in the Civil War, Juliet has turned her New Orleans ancestral home into a boarding house -- despite the rumors of ghosts, the whispers of scandal, and the stain of murder. But even more unsettling is Juliet's new tenant, a handsome stranger named Stephen Trevelyan. Wealthy, educated, and seductively compelling, Stephen fills Juliet's heart with uncontrollable longing -- and her head with suspicion. Something, she senses, is lurking beneath the surface. And someone is stalking the hallways after midnight. As the danger draws nearer, Juliet wonders if she can really trust Stephen. But as he pulls her closer, she knows she cannot resist matter what the price.



A former nurse and home educator, this award winning author loves to create unforgettable heroes and heroines, who against all odds, fight and win the battle for love—the human need that drives us all. She lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and three children.

A wonderful Americana suspense thriller.. St. Giles provides a fabulous reconstruction era tale—Harriet Klausner.

Winner of Rendezvous Reviews Magazine’s Rosebud of the Month! Who cites His Dark Desires as Powerful and emotional, with complex characters…an excellent journey into the past you won’t forget.

A riveting sequel…a sexually charged romance that satisfies whether they’re seeking suspense or passion---Romantic Times Book Club.


More Nummy MaryJanice!

“Night Mares” featured in BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BE-VAMPYRED by MaryJanice Davidson
(Triskelion Press)

Welcome to Brokenoggin Falls, where the housewives are not only desperate, they’re Witches! (And one of them might be a Harpy) The spells cast by moonlight frequently go awry. And there are times when toads and Chihuahuas seem abundant as black flies in the summer, the dragons are a little touchy, the Forest Trolls are in danger of extinction from teeny-boppers, the Gryphons need help conceiving and...the scientist are crunchy and good with ketchup...

All proceeds from the sales of this book will go to the International Red Cross.

At a birthday party for the Disdaine Triplets, the little darlings decide they aren’t pleased with the party or the guests and use magic to create their own fun. That night the town and all its residents are visited by the infamous Night Mares who wreak mayhem as only giant ponies prancing through your house can. (First episode with story & characters created by Lynn Warren.)

Be on the lookout for MYSTERIA, an anthology expanding on the episode MaryJanice created in BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEVAMPYRED. MYSTERIA (Berkley) hits shelves in August 2006!


MaryJanice Davidson is the best-selling author of several romance novels, including UNDEAD AND UNWED and HELLO GORGEOUS. Her books have been on the USA Today best seller list, as well as the New York Times list. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, two children, and dog, and is secretly addicted to Peanut Buster Parfaits.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New website is up!

My new website is up at I'm a terrible perfectionist, but I actually think this one doesn't suck. :>

I'm also hard at work writing my lessons for my class on writing erotic romance for Passionate Ink, the erotic romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. The class is free to those who join PI. (Which means that though the class is free, joining PI and RWA is not.) On the other hand, I plan to come out with a paperback version of the class, so that may be something you'll be interested in.

Passionate Ink is here, by the way:

If you're interested in writing erotic romance, that's definitly the loop for you.

I'm also involved in renovating the house. This is proving to be, not surprisingly, a bigger PITA than I expected. The flooring guy is coming next Monday, Oct. 24 to install new floor, which means I have to get the walls painted before then. Which shouldn't be a problem, except I've got these flipping wallpaper borders up. I have a kit with wall paper paste removeal stuff and this claw thing and a scraper, and it's still just a huge hassle. If anyone has suggestions on how to do this without pulling my hair out by the roots, I'd love to hear it. :/

Monday, October 10, 2005

What I'm up to right now

Yes, I know my blog has been mostly a place to advertise other people's books lately. I've been racing to meet my deadline on my new Berkley book, MASTER OF WOLVES. It's finished -- with any luck, my Berkley editor is reading it this weekend. (Hope she doesn't think it sucks!) So now I can do things I've been wanting to do, like get caught up on this blog and finish the desperately needed site redesign on my site. I've been doing some artwork I really like, by the way. Hopefully the new site will be up in three or four days.

If anybody is interested in the fiction writing process, I'm currently teaching an online class on writing the Erotic Romance for the month of October. Once the class is finished, I plan to get it published by either Loose Id or Changeling, if they'll take non-fiction. So you'll be able to buy it, maybe even in paperback form.

One of the things I'm doing in the class is telling people about how to avoid some of my more boneheaded mistakes, like the ones that made MASTER OF WOLVES such a bloody nightmare. I started that book in May. I should have had it finished two months ago, but the book kept going offtrack. For one thing, I didn't think out the logistics of it.

Ok, hero is a werewolf who goes undercover as a police K-9 to investigate the murder of his best friend. He falls in love with his beautiful handler, only she thinks he's a dog. Cute idea, right? So I plotted the thing and started writing. But as I'm writing this book, I realize I'm on page 80 and the hero is still a dog, and the heroine doesn't know he's a werewolf. Well, this is a romance. Duh -- if the hero's a dog, no romance is occurring. So I gut the book, replot it, and start over from scratch, including killing a first chapter that appeared in Master of the Moon as a teaser. This time I make it to page 180 beforeI notice I'm having the devil's own time just sitting down to write the book. Deadline is fast approaching, and I don't want to write. Now, when I get like that, it's cause there's a problem in the story.

I knew the story had a problem, but I was damned if I could figure out what it was. Went to the Romance Writer's of America conference still wrestling with it. I read it, and realized I outright hated the book. NOT good. Sent the 180 pages to my agent, and she said she was in the first 100 pages and loved it. Then she called and said, "This book goes off the rails on page 103."

Which was pretty well where I thought it went off. Something had happened to the heroine, and she wasn't handling it well. In fact, she was whining. So I had to gut out 80 pages of the book, and replot it AGAIN with a big change in the heroine's personality. Between August 1 when I got back from RWA and Oct. 1, I wrote 300 pages and did two rewrites on the book. It's now MUCH better, I think -- knock wood. It's one of those rollercoaster ride books I love to write. We'll see what my editor thinks.

Cindy also gave me the new cover. Isn't it pretty? That guy is hot, IMHO. :)

Anyway, now I'm planning my next book while taking care of stuff like painting the house and putting in new flooring. You can be sure I'm going to plotting the next one a LOT more carefully!

Big Bad Werewolves

I love werewolves -- I just finished a werewolf novel. Here's another cute story by an author in my ring. And the profits go to a good cause, too.

“Candy Cox and the Big Bad (Were) Wolf” featured in BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEVAMPYRED by PC Cast
(Triskelion Press)

Welcome to Brokenoggin Falls, where the housewives are not only desperate, they’re Witches! (And one of them might be a Harpy) The spells cast by moonlight frequently go awry. And there are times when toads and Chihuahuas seem abundant as black flies in the summer, the dragons are a little touchy, the Forest Trolls are in danger of extinction from teeny-boppers, the Gryphons need help conceiving and...the scientist are crunchy and good with ketchup...

All proceeds from the sales of this book will go to the International Red Cross.

Godiva Tawdry casts a spell and shy, unassuming teacher Candy Cox finds the were-lover of her dreams; Janice’s cousin Romeo meets Joe, the veterinarian for unscheduled surgery.

Be on the lookout for MYSTERIA, an anthology expanding on the episode and characters PC created in BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEVAMPYRED. MYSTERIA (Berkley) hits shelves in August 2006!


Award-winning author PC Cast is a dynamic, entertaining orator and an extraordinary teacher. Currently, her realm is in Oklahoma, where she resides with her daughter and spoiled cat.



My antho, KICKASS is out. Besides my own story, WARFEM, there's a cool novella from my best buddy MaryJanice.

“The Misadventures of Boo and the Boy Blunder” featured in KICKASS by MaryJanice Davidson
(Berkley, September 2005)

They're sexy. They're smart. And they aren't afraid of a little danger-not even when it comes to matters of the heart... Four of today's hottest authors present a quartet of stories about bold women who take no prisoners-either in a fight or in love. Whether it's in the bedroom, in the outer limits of the galaxy, or out on the mean streets, they kick heart-stopping action to the next level. These are women who can hold their own and aren't to be trifled with. The men in their lives know that-and they love it...

A tale of a woman who knows how to save the day - and enjoy the rewards at night.
“The Incredible Misadventures of Boo and the Boy Blunder” by MaryJanice Davidson. Former police officer Gregory wonders how life can be so unfair. Recently, he was turned into a vampire and to make matters worse, he has met his soulmate (that is, if he had a soul). The problem is his beloved wants to kill him as Boo is a bona fide vampire hunter.



MaryJanice Davidson is the best-selling author of several romance novels, including UNDEAD AND UNWED and HELLO GORGEOUS. Her books have been on the USA Today best seller list, as well as the New York Times list. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, two children, and dog, and is secretly addicted to Peanut Buster Parfaits.


These four women live up to the title so anyone who enjoys strong women kicking butt and hog tying their beloved will enjoy this fun often amusing but always exciting anthology -- Harriet Klausner


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Here Be Dragons!

HEART OF THE DRAGON by Gena Showalter

(HQN Books, September 2005)

He’ll make you burn…

He is a Dragon, a rare breed of warriors able to transform into the legendary creature at will. Though the mighty warlord breathes fear into the minds of his enemies and fire into the blood of his women, no one has ever stirred his heart -- until he encounters Grace Carlyle of modern day Earth. He burns to possess this proud, alluring beauty . . . but he has sworn to kill her.

Journey to the mythical world of Atlantis, where the gods’ hid their greatest mistakes – the vampires, demons, dragons, and other creatures of legend – and experience white-hot passion, exciting adventure, and a love that defies the boundaries of time and magic.




Gena Showalter holds a Ph.D. in Quantum Physics (lie), is an expert in Krav Maga (bigger lie), and once worked as a body guard for the stars (the biggest lie of all). Actually, Gena Showalter is just your everyday, average girl who enjoys creating sizzling paranormal tales of kick ass women and the men who can't resist them.


"Sexy, funny and downright magical!" -- USA Today bestselling author Katie McAllister

This romantic fantasy is a magical work where dragons take on human form and have different values than the surface dwellers. Atlantis is an exotic city populated by dragons, vampires, centaurs, and other beings of myth and legend. There is plenty of action as well as romance in the storyline as the book will appeal to a wide range of readers. Gena Showalter has the magic touch to make readers believe in what she writes. -- Harriet Klausner

(In Heart of the Dragon) Showalter pens a bold and exciting new vision of both Atlantis and dragons. Lots of danger and sexy passion give lucky readers a spicy taste of adventure and romance.   RT
Bold and witty, sexy and provocative, Gena Showalter's star is rising fast! -- Carly Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author
Heart of the Dragon
is a bang-up twist to the old fairy tail with its dragon
hero. Grace's character brings a refreshing change to the damsel in distress
with her full steam ahead attitude and persistence. Ms. Showalter leads the
reader on a thrilling adventure that even the coldest heart will acknowledge
and love. – The Romance Reader’s Connection


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Really Unusual

MaryJanice Davidson is up to her hysterical ways again in REALLY UNUSUAL BAD BOYS.(Brava, September 2005)

Meet Damon, Maltese, and Shakar - three noble brothers from an enchanted kingdom where wooing and pleasuring is practically a royal commandment. They're hot. Irresistible. And just a little different. But what woman doesn't like a guy with a few surprises?



MaryJanice Davidson is the best-selling author of several romance novels, including UNDEAD AND UNWED and HELLO GORGEOUS. Her books have been on the USA Today best seller list, as well as the New York Times list. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, two children, and dog, and is secretly addicted to Peanut Buster Parfaits.


These three amusing erotic romantic fantasies are terrific fun stories starring strong females who match up well with REALLY UNUSUAL BAD BOYS. Once again nobody combines humor, romance, otherworldly elements (including that), and erotica into fabulous tales like MaryJanice Davidson. -- Harriet Klausner

REALLY UNUSUAL BAD BOYS is a sizzling fast beach read with an interesting, unique and creative plot. – Armchair Interviews


Garden of Eden

“Garden of Eden” featured in ELLORA’S CAVEMEN: LEGENDARY TAILS II by Jaci Burton
(Ellora’s Cave, June 2005)

Dr. Eden Mason has spent the past hundred years orbiting the Earth in stasis. Since a nuclear war destroyed everything, she and the other inhabitants of the space pods are the only survivors of the global meltdown.

One special passenger has joined them-Adam-an alien sent to recreate what was once a thriving, beautiful planet. But Adam needs Eden to fulfill his goal, in a way she never expected.

Adam has loved Eden since he first came to Earth, but her father refused to allow him to meet her. Instead, the brilliant scientist kept Adam secluded while they engineered a way to save some of Earth's inhabitants before the inevitable destruction. Now Adam can touch Eden, taste her, love her like he's always wanted to, at the same time fulfilling his duty to revitalize the planet.

His love for her is energizing and Eden begins to hope that life on new Earth will be a lush garden of sensual pleasures. But Adam's not telling her everything that will happen, and his secret may end up destroying them both.



Jaci Burton was born and raised in Missouri but now lives on an acre-and-a-half in Oklahoma with her husband Charlie. Jaci loves to write about passionate relationships with sometimes stormy outcomes but always a happily ever after. She’s a sucker for romance and a happy ending!

“Jaci Burton does it again! What an amazingly hot and steamy story!” -- Fallen Angel Reviews

“Garden of Eden by Jaci Burton is a yummy little taste of fantastic science-fiction romance with beautiful balance. – eCataRomance

“Garden of Eden has a very interesting plotline. Ms. Burton gives us a very imaginative not to mention fun way for Adam to get his energy to re-create a new world. Adam and Eden are well developed characters even for a short story, and the emotional bond that develops between them is very moving and believable. With steamy sex scenes a plotline with twists and turns this one was an enjoyable read." – Cupids Library Reviews


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Relief

I know a lot of us don’t have much money. But if you can afford it, please consider a donation to the Red Cross for the Hurricane Katrina victims. I made one yesterday, but I suspect it wasn’t enough after watching the heartbreaking coverage of the hurricane.

I was shocked to see so many reporters crying. I’ve never seen on-air reporters cry before, though God knows I cried plenty of times doing stories. Tells you how bad it is, when even CNN hardcases are breaking down.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

HEART CHOICE by Robin D. OwensPublisher: Berkley (July 5, 2005) Tracker Straif Blackthorn has returned to Druida City after his last rescue mission, intending to repair his home and resume the noble duties he abandoned at seventeen, when he lost his family to disease.

He's futilely searched Celta for a cure.

But he may be too late! A secret enemy schemes to claim his title, his lands, and destroy the woman he loves.

As an interior designer Mitchella Clover dreamt of someone saying "no expense spared." Unfortunately it's a wildly attractive GreatLord who offers her the chance of a lifetime - to restore an ancient showplace. She knows she can never give Straif what he truly wants, but can she resist him? The job isn't easy. Both the sentient Residence and Straif's new snobbish Fam cat have remodeling ideas, and Mitchella's ward instantly dislikes Straif.

Everyone's back! Characters from HeartMate, Heart Thief and Heart Duel appear to help renovate the Residence, solve the mystery, give advice on the perfect duel - or meddle. And the first baby of the nextgeneration is born...




Robin D. Owens has been seriously writing longer than she cares to recall, but is very happy with how her writing career is proceeding. She was named the Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers in 2004, and 2003 Writer of the Year by the Denver Area Science Fiction Association. Robin has been the librarian, contest co-chair, and President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She has given seminars at Pikes Peak Writers Conference, the Colorado Gold Writers Conference, and Romance Writers of America as well as other groups.

REVIEWS “Character-driven story, brilliant dialogue...Terrific writing with a very realistic and sensual romance, make HEART CHOICE a fantastic read” -- Jani Brooks, Romance Reviews Today "

Dara Joy fans, rejoice! Robin Owens has created a unique world of her own…fun and sexy." -- Anne Avery


Friday, August 12, 2005

Nobody does suspense like Rebecca York

Rebecca York is one of those writers other writers read just to find out how she does what she does. I'm a huge fan of her wonderful, twisty plots. She's one of the few romance authors whose work actually surprises me every time. I've been reading romance so long, usually I see it coming every time. Anything by Rebecca, however, is an exception. And this is definitely one I'm going to go out and get!

BEYOND CONTROL by Rebecca York
(Berkley, August 2005)

BEYOND CONTROL, by Rebecca York, tells the story of telepaths who discover and develop their powers only when they sexually link with another of their kind.
Jordan Walker and Lindsay Fleming meet at a Washington, D. C., cocktail party. When they touch, they experience an electric moment of psychic awareness. As they explore the unique bond forming between them, they discover that the more intimate their contact, the more their psychic powers develop.
As with York’s Moon books, Lindsay and Jordan must work out their personal relationship against a background of danger and suspense after they stumble onto his murder cover-up at a secret biological weapons lab. At the same time, two other telepaths who want all the psychic goodies for themselves set out to wipe Jordan and Lindsay from the face of the earth.
Rebecca York says that, "Publishers wouldn’t touch a story with this unique blend of suspense and sensuality 15 years ago. But the characters and the plot wouldn’t let me go, so I held onto them until the time was right."



Ever since she can remember, Ruth Glick has loved making up stories full of adventure, romance and suspense. As a child she corralled her friends into adventure games or acted out romantic suspense stories with a cast of dolls. But she never assumed she could be an author, because she couldn't spell. Her life changed, however, with the invention of the word processor and spelling checker--and the help of her husband, Norman Glick, who spots spelling errors from fifty paces away. Writing as Rebecca York, she has authored or co-authored over 45 romantic suspense novels, many for Harlequin Intrigue's very popular 43 Light Street series, set in Baltimore, and many with paranormal elements.

WOW! This was certainly one very hot, steamy, mind boggling and exciting suspense thriller. . . an absolutely riveting tale of suspense . . . with well-developed characters, stunning sensuality and some clever twists. A truly dynamite read! --Romance Designs

BEYOND CONTROL . . . plays out on two interwoven levels. The storyline is action-packed from the opening sequence at Maple Creek and never slows down until the lead couple learns what happened there. The tale also contains a delightful romance between Jordan and Lindsay that starts off with A Strangers in the Night encounter . . . and plays out on physical and paranormal planes. .. . a strong suspense-laden romantic tale. --Harriet Klausner

Four plus, Top Pick --RT Book club


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Moon Magnetism

“Moon Magnetism” featured in STAR QUALITY by Lucy Monroe
(Kensington Brava, May 2005)

Ivy Kendall dreads the full moon. For generations, women in her family have been extremely magnetic on that day—which was fine fifty years ago but not in the age of hard drives and cell phones. That’s why the hotel manager has resisted the technological improvements her boss wants her to implement. Now, the sexy, dynamic Blake Hawthorne is coming to insist on the upgrades in person. Shoot, he’ll probably fire her. Being around Blake makes her body go as haywire as a full moon, maybe even more. And as long as she’s going to be out of a job soon, there’s no reason not to use a little of that magnetism to her advantage, luring him into an elevator where the only electricity that will work is the kind they generate themselves…



Award winning author Lucy Monroe sold her first book in September of 2002. Since then she has sold more than 30 books to three publishers and hit national bestsellers lists in the US and England. Her highly charged, sensual stories touch on the realities of life while giving the reader a fantasy story not easily forgotten. Whether it's a passionate Harlequin Presents, a sexy single title for Kensington or a steamy historical or paranormal for Berkley, Lucy's books transport her readers to a special place where the heart rules and love conquers all.

"Monroe creates a sassy heroine and gives her a delectable rogue to help solve her unusual dilemma." 4 Stars - Romantic Times
"Their [Blake & Ivy in Moon Magnetism] dialog is priceless and will keep the reader smiling throughout this wonderful tale." Reader to Reader Reviews
"Star Quality is a delightfully funny read. The common full-moon theme is pulled together masterfully by three "quality stars" of the romance genre." - Sensual Romance Reviews


Thursday, July 21, 2005

MaryJanice Does it Again!!

The blog tour continues with this one by my friend, MaryJanice Davidson. Let me say I ADORED this book. MJD just gets better and better. And Sinclair is SOOOOo freaking hot!

I have been a huge MaryJanice fan since I read her first novella in SECRETS 6. She seriously rocks, and Betsy is one of my favorite heroines.

I think you guys will love this one.

(Berkley, July 2005)

Most women would love to live as royalty, but Betsy Taylor has found that being vampire queen has more problems than perks, except for always being awake for Midnight Madness sales. It may be easy to find blood (yuck) in the dark of night, but try finding a strawberry smoothie. And employees at her nightclub Scratch have been giving her nothing but grief since she killed their former boss. Some people...

But Betsy's "life" takes an interesting turn at a baby shower for her wicked stepmother, who lets it slip that Betsy has a long-last half sister. Now twenty years old, this woman just so happens to be the devil's daughter...and destined to rule the world.



MaryJanice Davidson has written in a variety of different genres, including contemporary romance, paranormal romance, erotica, and nonfiction.

MJ is the best-selling author of several romance novels, including UNDEAD AND UNWED and HELLO GORGEOUS. Her first hardcover, UNDEAD AND UNAPPRECIATED, will be out in July. Her books have been on the USA Today best seller list, as well as the New York Times list. Starting in July, she has a release every month through February. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, two children, and dog, and is secretly addicted to Peanut Buster Parfaits.

An amusing vampiric chick lit amateur sleuth tale worth sinking your teeth into. – Midwest Book Review

Davidson's witty dialogue, fast pacing, smart plotting, laugh-out-loud humor, and sexy relationships make this a joy to read. – Booklist

A hilarious rompful of goofy twists and turns, great fun for fans of humorous vampire romance. – Locus

MaryJanice Davidson is at her humorous biting best with this devilish tale of our favorite vampiress since Vampirella started seeking a blood relation. -- Harriet Klausner,
Entertaining, wicked and delightful -- Romance Reviews Today
Chick lit meets vampire action in this creative, sophisticated, sexy and wonderfully witty book. -- Catherine Spangler


Friday, July 15, 2005

A Bite to Remember

This book is seriously hot. You should check it out!

CRIMSON CITY by Liz Maverick
(Love Spell, July 2005)

Once, this was the City of Angels. The angels are no longer in charge.

From the extravagant appetites of the vampire world above, to the gritty defiance of the werewolves below, the specter of darkness lives around every corner, the hope of paradise in every heart. All walk freely with humans in a tentative peace, but to live in Los Angeles is to balance on the edge of a knife. One woman knows better than most that death lurks here in nights of bliss or hails of UV bullets. She’s about to be tested, to taste true thirst. She’s about to regain the power she’s long been denied. And Fleur Dumont is about to meet the one man who may understand her: a tormented protector who’s lost his way and all he loved.

Theirs is one tale of many. This is Crimson City, where desire meets danger and more than just the stars come out at night.

Liz Maverick created and developed Crimson City as a series for Dorchester. The full slate of rockin’ authors and their books is as follows:

Book #1: Crimson City, by Liz MaverickBook #2: A Taste of Crimson, by Marjorie M. LiuBook #3: Through a Crimson Veil, by Patti O'SheaBook #4: A Darker Crimson, by Carolyn JewelBook #5: Seduced by Crimson, by Jade LeeBook #6: Crimson Rogue, by Liz Maverick



Photo of Liz’s smiling mug:

Other links:

Liz’s blog full of Assorted Misadventures and Photographic Whimsy

Crimson City Hub

Crimson City city resident’s blog

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I LOVE Julie Kenner!

I really enjoy Julie Kenner's stuff, and this one looks like a winner. This is definitely on my TBR pile!

CARPE DEMON: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner
(Berkley, July 2005)

Carpools. Crabgrass. Creatures from the depths of hell. Suburbia has its problems too...
Lots of women put their careers aside once the kids come along. Kate Connor, for instance, hasn't hunted a demon in ages...
That must be why she missed the one wandering through the pet food aisle of the San Diablo Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, he managed to catch her attention an hour later-when he crashed into the Connor house, intent on killing her.
Now Kate has to clean up the mess in her kitchen, dispose of a dead demon, and pull together a dinner party that will get her husband elected to County Attorney-all without arousing her family's suspicion. Worse yet, it seems the dead demon didn't come alone. He was accompanied by a High Demon named Goramesh who, for some unknown reason, intends to kill off the entire population of San Diablo.
It's time for Kate Connor to go back to work.



CARPE DEMON: ADVENTURES OF A DEMON-HUNTING SOCCER MOM has been optioned for film by Warner Brothers & 1492 Pictures, and is scheduled for release as an audiobook from BBC America Audiobooks.

In addition, CARPE DEMON was recently honored by being selected by BOOKSENSE as a Summer 2005 Paperback Pick.

Julie Kenner is a USA Today bestselling author. She is also a former attorney who lives with her husband and daughter.

"I loved CARPE DEMON! It was great fun; wonderfully clever... ninety-nine percent of the wives and moms in the country will identify with this heroine. I mean, like who hasn't had to battle demons between car-pools and play-dates?" -- Jayne Ann Krentz, New York Times bestselling author of Falling Awake
"As if having a teenager and a toddler weren't challenge enough, Kate Connor has other problems, too. Take kids to best friend's house, check. Clean house for budding politician husband's party, check. Kill the demon coming in through the window, check. Then hide the body and put on a little black dress...This book, as crammed with events as any suburban mom's calendar, shows you what would happen if Buffy got married and kept her past a secret. It's a hoot." --Charlaine Harris, USA Today bestselling author of Dead to the World
"Smart, fast-paced, unique--a blend of sophistication and wit that has you laughing outloud!" --Christine Feehan, New York Times bestselling author of Oceans of Fire

"[A] sprightly, fast-paced ode to kick-ass housewives..." – Publishers Weekly


Friday, June 24, 2005

Seriously hot...

Gang, this is a really yummy story. Take a look...

UNMASKED by C. J. Barry
Love Spell (Dorchester Publishing), June 7 2005

To the merchants he plunders, he's the Ghost Rider of the Dead Zone. To sector law enforcement, he's a wanted pirate. To the slaves he rescues, he's the savior, laghato. To one determined female, Qaade Deter is serious trouble. Torrie Masters had heard of the legendary raider, but she'd never expected to encounter him. Nor would she have expected that beneath his black mask lurked an enticing man destined to challenge her in ways she couldn't shoot her way out of. But a great threat has emerged-one that's left no choice but for them to join forces. Entrusted with the fate of thousands, Torrie has discovered Qaade's impossible dream. Only she has the power to help him. Only she has the power to see him UNMASKED.


About C. J. Barry

"Wow! What a story! Bravo!" -Best-selling Author Robin D. Owens

"Applause for this gutsy tale that steals your heart. Barry's best, simply her best!" -Deborah MacGillivray, The Best Reviews 4 1/2 STARS!!

"This awesome book roars out of the starting gates and never looks back. Along with telling social commentary, it is chock-full of danger, adventure, and romance-a terrific keeper!" -Romantic Times Magazine


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Awaken Me Darkly

This one sounds like real fun. Take a look, gang!

AWAKEN ME DARKLY by Gena Showalter
(Pocket Books, June 2005)
In a time and place not too far away, Mia Snow is an alien huntress for the New Chicago Police Department, using her psychic abilities and deadly fighting skills to catch her prey. Heading up her expert team of Alien Investigation and Removal agents, Mia is unmatched at battling the elusive enemy among us, and she’s the perfect girl for the job. She’s seen her brother die at the hands of aliens. She’s earned each of her scars. And she’ll never, ever give up. Now, a series of killings have Mia and her partner Dallas tracking alien suspects – but a sudden blast of violence leaves Dallas fighting for his life.
The chance to save Dallas appears in the form of a tall, erotic stranger. An alien. A murder suspect. Kyrin en Arr, of the deadly Arcadian species, holds the power to heal the injured agent but not without a price. For Mia Snow, that price is surrendering to Kyrin’s forbidden seduction…and embracing their electric attraction. She’s walking a knife’s edge, risking her badge and even her life. The closer she gets to Kyrin, the more Mia learns about her own heart, her human needs – and the shocking secret that will shatter everything she’s ever believed.

Gena Showalter holds a Ph.D. in Quantum Physics (lie), is an expert in Krav Maga (bigger lie), and once worked as a body guard for the stars (the biggest lie of all). Actually, Gena Showalter is just your everyday, average girl who enjoys creating sizzling paranormal tales of kick ass women and the men who can't resist them.

"A brilliantly written, fast-paced novel, AWAKEN ME DARKLY sizzles…Similar to Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, (Awaken Me Darkly) takes various steps to transcend the genres of the supernatural, mystery and science fiction" Fresh Fiction
“Fans of TV’s Alias will find this book especially appealing” RT
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Alien Nation in this action-packed adventure, and Mia Snow is perfect as the alien hunter with a secret.” Booklist


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Knightly adventures

As long as I was posting something for the Blog tour, I thought I'd fill you all in on my current adventures.

Right now I'm hard at work on MASTER OF WOLVES, which has been giving me a throbbing pain in the butt. I have found that sometimes you can start off down the wrong path on a book and not figure it out until you've wasted WAY too much time.

In this case, I got this cute idea - Hero is a werewolf who goes undercover as a police K-9 to investigate a small town police department. Sounds fun, right? Only thing is, I just spent the past month writing the first four chapters and ripping them out when I realized they weren't working. I only now figured out what was wrong:

I wasn't writing a romance. Don't you hate when that happens?

I was actually trying to write a cute story about a girl and her dog, who happend to be a guy. Only AK does not do cute. She does sarcastic, but not cute. So, having come to that realization, I had to throw out all four completed chapters and start all over again for the third time. This time, it's definitely a romance, and I'm feeling good about it. The tone is completely different than my previous shaggy dog attempts -- brooding and mysterious instead of mildly goofy.

What WAS I thinking?

There's a moral there. I swear to God, I wasn't trying to pants the book. I plotted it out completely -- TWICE. Both times, the plot just wasn't right.

In between that, I'm also working on a new design for my website. And I'm running a contest through Writer's Space for a signed copy of my latest book, MASTER OF THE MOON. You'll find the contest here:

Speaking of MOM, it did very well. It spent three weeks at Number 1 on the Waldens Romance List, and another three weeks on the USA Today list. Then, of course, Nora Robert's lastest came out, and that was the end of THAT.

I love Nora. Really, she's wonderful. She's the head goddess in my pantheon.

Anyway, I'm going to start doing this blog on a weekly basis instead of whenver the mood takes me. Stop by next week and find out what I'm up to. Thanks!

Angela Knight

Be enchanted!

The Paranormal authors blog tour continues. Next up is ENCHANTED, INC, by Shanna Swenson. Come take a look....

ENCHANTED, INC. by Shanna Swendson
(Ballantine Books), May 31, 2005
Shanna Swendson’s debut mainstream novel, ENCHANTED, INC. is a magical story featuring Katie Chandler, a 20something, small-town Texas girl, who finds that being average in New York City is anything but. Katie loves the energy of Manhattan, and if she finds some of the people odd, well, that¹s New York, right? Where else would you see a person on the subway wearing fairy wings? In fact, if Katie wasn’t completely sure those wings must be a costume, she’d think they were real, the way they flutter in the breeze. Certainly the gargoyle that perches above the door of the church she passes on the way to and from work isn’t real. Its eyes seem to follow her, and she could have sworn it winked at her once, but now that she thinks about it, it was really hot that day, and she hadn¹t eaten lunch.... Katie is still adjusting to life in the big city while working a for a nightmare boss, when she gets a fantastic offer to work for a mysterious company, MSI, Inc. Through her new job and the magical folk she meets, Katie comes to find out she isn¹t quite as average as she thought; and the fairytale life she has longed for begins to come true in surprising ways. What Katie doesn’t realize is how rare and important being ordinary can be. In fact, it is her ordinary characteristics that make her the perfect secret weapon for MSI, Inc. Suddenly the very qualities she thought made her average are what make her special! Now she has magicians and fairies meddling in her attempted romances, a secret life she needs to keep hidden from her non-magical friends, not to mention that dangerous pull she feels for Owen, an attractive but shy wizard who might be the most powerful magic man since Merlin.



ABOUT SHANNA SWENDSONWith ENCHANTED, INC. Shanna Swendson offers a new twist on chick lit for the-now-grown-up fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In addition to writing fiction, Shanna is a freelance marketing consultant and writer specializing in technology and telecommunications. She is single and lives in Irving, Texas, with her many pet plants, including a vicious attack bougainvillea and a Christmas cactus that has outlasted three homes, three jobs and three boyfriends, yet still faithfully blooms every Christmas and Easter. She’s looking for a man that reliable.

REVIEWS“A totally captivating, hilarious and clever look on the magical kingdom of Manhattan, where kissing frogs has never been this fun.” -- Melissa de la Cruz, author of The Au Pairs and The Fashionista Files “With its clever premise and utterly engaging heroine, Shanna Swendson has penned a real treat! Enchanted, Inc. is loads of fun!” -- Julie Kenner, author of Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom and The Givenchy Code ³I am giddy! I found an enchanting (pardon the reference) book and therefore, have a new author to read. Bridget Jones, move over. Shanna Swendson is offering up fantasy for the Buffy, Sabrina and Bewitched crowd. This is a delightful romp through the world of magic with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. There are characters you¹ll love and remember. If you want to escape the stress and busyness of life, join Katie for an enjoyable frolic into the world of make believe.” --


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Fashionistas, Unite!

I just wanted to share a little about a book by a friend of mine, Marianne Mancusi. It's definitely on my TBR Pile. King Arthur and Designer Shoes -- What's not to love?

A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur's Court (Dorchester Love Spell)

Once upon a time there lived an outspoken fashion editor named Kat, who certainly was not your typical damsel in distress. But when a gypsy curse sent her back in time to the days of King Arthur, she found she'd need every ounce of her 21st century wits (and pop culture references) to navigate the legend. After all, surviving a magical plot, an evil prince, and a case of mistaken identity--all without changing history or scuffing your Manolos--takes some doing!

Luckily, she's got her very own knight in shining armor, Lancelot du Lac, on her side. The honorable-to-a-fault and devastatingly handsome champion insists on helping her out, even though she's not quite sure she wants him to. After all, shouldn't he be off romancing Queen Guenevere or something? Will Kat manage to stay out of trouble long enough to get back to her beloved café lattes, cosmopolitans and cashmere? And what will Lancelot's forbidden love mean for the kingdom of Camelot?


Book Cover JPG:




Imagine a Bridget Jones like character spiraling back in time to the days of Camelot. That’s the unique premise behind the latest chick lit offering from Dorchester Publishing. "A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court" (May 2005) combines, for the first time ever, chick lit attitude with a time travel plot. Debut author Marianne Mancusi, an Emmy Award winning television news producer for the NBC affiliate in Boston, pens a sexy, magical, laugh-out-loud romp through the legend you only thought you knew.

"I love the voice of Chick Lit," says Mancusi. "But I felt the same old plotlines about a girl in the city with a bad boss and good shoes were getting old. I wanted to do something a little different."
Connecticut Fashionista features an outspoken fashion editor named Kat, who’s certainly not your typical damsel in distress. But when a gypsy curse sends her back in time to the days of King Arthur, she’ll need every ounce of her 21st century wits (and pop culture references) to navigate the legend. After all, surviving a magical plot, an evil prince, and a case of mistaken identity--all without changing history or scuffing your Manolos--takes some doing!
So slip on your stilettos and clutch your Cosmos tight, as Dorchester Publishing and Marianne Mancusi send you on a wild, wacky, and oh-so-fashionable trip back in time.

About Marianne Mancusi

Marianne Mancusi is a multiple Emmy Award winning television news producer for WHDH-TV in Boston, Massachusetts. She has worked for news stations in Orlando and San Diego. A Massachusetts native, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her British husband Aaron and their dog Molly. She has six other adult and teen chick lit novels under contract with Dorchester and Berkley.

About Dorchester Publishing
Dorchester Publishing has been involved in the publishing of mass market books since 1971, making Dorchester the oldest independent mass market publisher in America. From its founding, we have strived to bring the freshest authors to millions of fans. Although mostly known for Romance, Dorchester also publishes world-class Horror, Westerns, and Thrillers under its Leisure Books imprint. For more information:

"Sparkling debut...A nice twist on the modern girl's search for prince charming." --
Publisher's Weekly

"Talented author Mancusi clearly knows her Arthurian lore. She vividly depicts the customs of a bygone era, and the wry, witty ending is perfectly Kat." --
Romantic Times Magazine - 4 Star Review

"It might sound like a strange premise for a chick lit novel, but once you pick it up, you won't be able to put A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur's Court down." --
Kristin Harmel, The Daily Buzz, WB Morning Show

"Excellent writing, biting wit, and a slew of familiar characters will have readers of chick lit laughing and wanting more." --
Jani Brooks - Romance Reviews Today

Sunday, May 15, 2005

No Sex Please, we're Romance Novelists

The two hottest selling romance sub genres right now are inspirationals and erotic romance. I’m not sure exactly what this says about our country, other than we’ve got a collective split personality.

Inspirationals, of course, have no sex whatsoever – even kissing is iffy – whereas in erotic romance, we happily do whatever our editors and readers will let us get away with.

Now, being a Southerner, I understand the religious belief that sex is emotional nuclear waste, to be avoided at all cost unless wearing certain protective gear – namely a wedding ring. If that’s where your faith leads you, that’s cool.

What I have a serious problem with is the attitude expressed by certain letters to RWA Magazine lately suggesting in veiled terms that everybody who writes erotic romance is a slut who is only doing it for the money. It’s not just inspirational authors expressing this attitude, either – it’s the middle-of-the-road, no-sex-until-chapter-seven set.

THAT I have a problem with. It’s as though they’re saying it’s okay to write love scenes, but they must be sufficiently bland and mechanical as to avoid arousing either the writer or the reader. In other words, sex should be treated as a bout of diarrhea – a disgusting business that should be glossed over as much as possible.

Wait a minute – what are we writing, people? These are romance novels. Like it or not, the core of a romance is the formation of a profound emotional and sexual relationship between a man and a woman.

Sex, particularly sex between two people who are falling in love, is a profoundly powerful experience. In the act of making love, the characters express to one another and to us what their feelings are at that particular time. Stripping a scene like that of any hint of true sexual heat is the equivalent of having your hero and villain have their climatic fight off-camera.
Any act which is important to the characters and the plot arc needs to be shown on camera at its maximum impact. That includes the sex. Otherwise, you’re cheating the readers, the characters, and yourself.

Women read romance because they want to experience what it’s like to love this magnificent hero, and be loved by him. As a writer, I spend an great deal of effort setting him up in all his beauty and heroism, and detailing his journey to love with the woman of his dreams.

Yet I’m supposed to shortchange the ultimate physical expression of that journey because it’s somehow dirty? I don’t think so.

The standard argument for censoring sexual content is to protect children. But romances are in no way marketed or intended for children, and children do not read them. True, teenage girls have been known to get their hands on them, which is why we need to write sexually responsible characters. But it’s safe to say the vast majority of our readers are over 21.

Thus, there is no good reason to censor our work, other than the belief that "good" girls don’t like sex, and that if we write hot sex well, we are somehow "bad" girls. Well, I am not a girl of any kind. My primary responsibility is to my characters and the reader who plunks down her $7.50 for my book. My mother, my family members and any easily scandalized neighbors will have to fend for themselves.

If you don’t care to write sexual content for religious reasons, I respect that. If you are not comfortable writing sexual content because you are shy, that’s fine too. But if you do write sex scenes, don’t blast me because I don’t choose to hold back.

And given the current market, you might want to rethink whether holding back is a good move, either artistically or from a commercial standpoint.

For me personally, writing erotic romance has paid off handsomely. My new book, MASTER OF THE MOON is in its second week on the USA Today bestseller, list, having jumped 19 spaces from 87 to 68.

Angela Knight

Monday, March 07, 2005

Putting Punch in Your Prose

This is a workshop I gave a few years back. Hope it's helpful.

If you want to grab your reader by the throat, mug her in the first chapter. Don’t open with a sunset. Make your reader start worrying on the first page. To do that, you must answer a very important question: “WHY SHOULD SHE CARE?”

(1) Establish the characters in the first few pages, and show why the readers should care if they achieve their goals. To do this:

(A) Show the character doing something admirable and likeable. We want admirable people to succeed.

(B) Show that the character loves someone or something, and he is loved by others and is important to them. The biggest jerk in the world is more likeable if he loves his dog.

(C) MOST IMPORTANT: Show the depth of the character’s problem, what its impact is on his life, and how his life will change once he’s solved it. Please note the problem must have great personal impact, or the reader will not care. One reason saving the rainforest is not a good plot for a romance is that failure doesn’t affect the character personally. Doing something because it’s good for the planet is noble, but it doesn’t have the personal punch of trying to escape a serial killer. That is not to say that all problems must be a matter of life and death, but NOTHING else has as much raw emotional power as survival.
i.) To show the problem, put the protagonist in a situation where he is dealing with it. Don’t just write a scene in which he tells another character it’s bad.

(D) When designing a conflict for a character, try to come up with a particular problem that would really hit that character where he lives. What’s his greatest strength? Hit him there. Lois McMaster Bujold has a character called Miles Vorkosigan, who is an incredibly brilliant con-man who is a genius at combat strategy, even though he’s small and physically weak. In one book, she had Miles get hit by a grenade and killed, but this being SF, he’s brought back to life. But like a stroke victim, he can’t talk. Miles’ survival has always depended on his ability to convince people to do what he wants, so this is particularly desperate for him. His struggle to recover his ability is totally absorbing.

In the book I’m doing now, Midnight’s Master (later renamed FOREVER KISS), my heroine is haunted by memories of her parent’s murder by vampires. Then she’s captured by one of those vampires, the hero. (He didn’t participate in the murder, but he wasn’t able to save her parents either. He did, however, save her and her baby sister.) My hero tells her that to stop the killer, she has to become a vampire herself. That’s a choice she doesn’t want to make, but he argues that if she doesn’t do it, she will effectively be responsible for the killer’s later crimes. She also fears that she’ll become just as much a monster as the man she wants to kill. It’s a problem she can see no good solution for, and she agonizes over it through most of the book. And because she holds off making a decision, she makes the situation even worse.

My hero is an honorable man. But to stop the villain, he’s got to do things he considers dishonorable, such as endangering the heroine. He constantly fights a battle between what he has to do and what he knows is right.

E.) To set up a conflict like this, think about what you want to have happen, then chose as your protagonist the person who’d have the most trouble handling it – and who could grow the most from the experience. You can also approach it from the other direction. Create a character with a lot of strength, and then put him in a situation where his strength becomes a weakness.

(2) Don’t make it too easy.

(A.) Quickly establish the forces working against the hero, and make them stronger than he is. The villain has to be able to kick his butt without working up a sweat, and the hero has to be worried. Please note that all conflicts are not physical. Your protagonist could be a school teacher who’s afraid that the school board is going to fire her. However, also realize that she can always find another job. Why is THIS job so important to her – and the reader? There has to be something this job gives her that another wouldn’t – perhaps a connection to a particular student who needs her desperately.
(i) You also need to establish that the hero is not a wimp, either. Wimps are not admirable. Show your hero or heroine in action. That’s particularly useful if you have a supernatural or larger-than-life hero, or just a hero with unusual skills. You need to establish what he can do, and why, so the reader will know she’s in for a good time. The trick is the hero must both be capable and in danger of losing. In an early version of my book, I had the hero get his butt kicked by the villain, but I had to rewrite the scene because he looked too weak. I solved this by giving him a less powerful opponent he could best, a vampire flunky. He and that vampire go at it through most of the book, until the hero finally kills the flunky. The advantage of this is that I was able to save the main villain, spinning the story out and building the villain up. In the school teacher example, we could show her dealing with a really nasty kid, a big teenager with an attitude problem she manages to back down.

(B.) Pair your external problem with a powerful internal conflict. A purely external conflict for a character who doesn’t doubt himself doesn’t have as much power. When the hero questions and doubts what he’s doing, that has more punch. It’s also more believable. When the stakes are high, we don’t want to get it wrong. And when the character doubts himself, the reader doubts too, and that keeps her turning pages.

(C.)Try to build a conflict so strong that if your characters are anywhere in the same area code, they’ll feel compelled to find each other and argue. This makes the book very easy to write.

D.Make the characters work for it. Throw a series of conflicts at them, each worse than the last, which they survive with greater and greater difficulty. The escalating threat builds tension.

E. However, your final resolution scene must be even more powerful. If the characters aren’t in more danger in that scene than they were in the ones before it, the reader will feel cheated. So don’t avert a nuclear war in Chapter 5, because you’re not going to be able to top it in Chapter 15.


The first thing to keep in mind is: you’ve got to feel it first. Writing is like any other form of recording. You have to feel it inside yourself before you can make the reader feel it. When you’re trying to create a scene with strong emotion, spend time getting into it. Imagine it in detail. For example, say you want to create a scene of menace and building tension. What combinations of details would make you feel menaced? There’s the weather -- the old, “It was a dark and stormy night,” though obviously you wouldn’t use those words. Avoid cliche, because cliches have been used until all the power is sucked out of them.

I personally like to think of the cliche, and look for a way to do the opposite and still get the effect. Maybe the heroine feels uneasy for some reason she can’t put her finger on; it’s a gorgeous day, sunny and bright, with kids out playing in the neighbor’s yard. Their voices sound shrill and cutting, though normally she enjoys their laughter. When one of them screams, she jumps a foot and runs to the porch, only to see that the child is just playing. As she stands there, two dogs begin to fight as they run across her yard, snarling viciously and snapping at one another.

Then she sees a hulking man standing out on the sidewalk looking at her house with his fists in his pockets and a look of flat, black anticipation in his eyes. He meets her stare for a long moment, smiles slowly and walks away, while she watches with her heart in her throat. He looks familiar. She suddenly realizes he’s been following her.

Think of what would scare you, make you tense, get on your nerves. And use it.

That goes double for love scenes. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I skip over the love scenes.” There are two possible reasons for that. A.) They’re not comfortable with reading love scenes, which is something the writer has no control over. Or B.) The writer did not do her job. It’s easy to do a generic loves scene, with all the same cliches everybody else uses. But why bother? They’re boring. The very worst sin a writer can commit is to be boring, because that sin will make the reader drop the book every time. I’ll overlook a clunky writing style when the writer excites me.

Writing good love scenes is like writing everything else: it takes work and a willingness to be unflinchingly honest. Look for the idea or the image that does something for you, that makes you squirm in your chair. I’m not saying you have to have your h/h hanging from the chandelier, because that’s not believable either. People who are just falling in love don’t need a lot of kinky fireworks to have a good time.

But you need to set the scene up in a way that captures your imagination, makes you feel what it would be like to be there, doing those things.

That can be a special problem for us as women. We’re taught we’re not supposed to like sex. And if you write something really hot, you’re revealing a lot of yourself. You’re admitting you like sex, and you’re admitting what kind of sex you like. That can be terrifying.
But good writing does not pull punches. If you’re going to write a sex scene, write a sex scene. Don’t worry about what Mother or the kids will think. Don’t give Mother or the kids the book. My mother and I have an agreement: I don’t give her the Secrets books, and she doesn’t disown me.

Tips for writing sex and other action scenes:

This may surprise you, but I think love scenes and fight scenes have a lot in common. Not that I write violent sex, but both are physical action, and they have some things in common when it comes to the way you write them.

1.) You have to build the tension for them. If you’re writing a climactic fight scene – or a climactic love scene – build the reader’s anticipation. Let the characters stew. Have smaller confrontations/ love scenes where the emotion sparks but doesn’t quite go off. Every time you do that, you tell the reader, “When this happens, it’s gonna be good.” She’ll keep reading because she wants to see the explosion.

Deliver on your promises! When you get to that climactic scene, take your time. Don’t do it in four paragraphs. I’ve been known to spin a love scene out over 10 pages. Fights run about the same. If you’ve been spending the past 100 pages building to that scene, let your reader savor every second.

Details, details, details. You want the reader firmly in your viewpoint character’s shoes. Tell her how things smell, sound, taste, look. Keep the sentences short, because often we experience intense feelings in bursts. Quick strokes – the taste of blood in the hero’s mouth from that cut lip. The hot male-and-leather smell of his skin when the heroine kisses him. Pay particular attention to smell and taste. Those are the most evocative, the most primitive senses, and they’re the most vivid when it comes to generating emotion. I’ve read you should try to use one of the vivid senses on every page, and I pay particular attention to that in rewrites.

Remember that action is a chain. One character makes a move, and the other responds to it. There is a logic in fight scenes and love scenes. In fights, if one character attacks, the other will have to block and counter. If he fails to block, he gets hit. Break down every move and mentally choreograph it. How do they look when they move together? What are they feeling – fear, rage, desperation? What’s the final blow? How does it feel? (Remember that the final blow is a climax of its own. It has to be something harder and more devastating than what came before. Do not make it anticlimactic.)

In a love scene, when he touches her, how does she respond? What does she do? Don’t allow her to be a passive recipient. She should be active, giving as much as she gets. Again, what are the sensory impressions? Try to describe what you’ve felt yourself.
Make sure the emotion you describe is in character. This can be tricky. Remember, people react differently. Your butch male hero may not react the same way you would in the same situation.

For example, I wrote a scene where my heroine had been shot. The hero was agonizing over the fact that she was dying. But I read the scene, and it just didn’t work. It finally dawned on me that here was a man who fights for a living. He’s seen mortal wounds before. He’s not going to panic. He’s going to get in there and work his butt off to save her. He will control that fear. So in the rewrite, he’s got his hands on the wound, clamping it off, methodically doing everything he can think of as fast as he can. His actions communicate his desperation to save her, making the scene much more powerful.

Action is always more powerful than dialogue, because we don’t stand around talking when things are really, really bad.

Brevity is the soul of wit

(A) Shorter is stronger. I first called this handout, “Achieving maximum impact in your fiction.” You’ll notice it’s now “Putting Punch in Your Prose.” On the other hand, I wouldn’t use that much alliteration in fiction writing. It’s too showy and drags the reader out of the story. However, that does not mean you should write like a machine gun. Don’t use the same sentence structure over and over, because that’s boring. You do need those longer, complex sentences for variety, but they’re best for descriptive passages when the urgency isn’t as great. I also use them at times when I’m doing a fight scene, and I want to show a complex, fluid motion.

This paragraph is a scene from Midnight’s Master:

“Ridgemont exploded at McKinnon, swinging his sword like a scythe in a blow calculated to slice through his helm and take off the top of his head. McKinnon danced back and blocked. The shield jolted on his arms with a sound like a cannon shot, and the world pinwheeled.”

The sentence lengths there are 27 words, 5 and 17. The 27-word sentence pushes the limit of length. Looking at that sentence, it would read better as “Ridgemont lunged, scything his sword right for McKinnon’s head.” 7 words. So I cut 20 words out of that sentence. Not only is it shorter, it’s more sharply visual.

Looking at word choice: I used “exploded” as a metaphor, but it didn’t really work; people don’t explode. “Swinging his sword like a scythe” became “scything” – I wanted to keep that visual image, but the phrase was too long.

As to “slice through his helm and take off the top of his head;” if you slice through the helm, you’re going to take off the top of the guy’s head, so that could go. I still didn’t like “calculated,” so I killed that whole phrase. The idea is to create a threat. If he’s swinging the sword at McKinnon’s head, the threat is there. The reader knows what will happen if that sword connects. Anyway, look for ways to collapse the sentence, paying particular attention to redundancy. But keep in mind the effect you’re trying to create. Don’t cut a sentence until it becomes weak.

I did have some good sensory detail in that paragraph. I think the sound the shield makes is good, but I wonder if it reads just right. It looks as though the jolt makes the cannon shot sound, but it should be the sword. “The blade slammed into his shield with a sound like a cannon shot. The world pinwheeled as he went flying.”

Putting that last phrase in its own sentence draws attention to the image and clarifies the action. What I’m trying to do there is catch the feeling of being in combat. “Spun” would be shorter than “pinwheeled,” but “pinwheeled” creates a particular image that “spun” doesn’t. It’s a longer, dizzier word, which goes with the sensation of everything spinning around you. Also, about the cannon shot – though they’re fighting with sword and shield, this is a contemporary story. If it had been set around the 1100s or so, I wouldn’t have used the cannon metaphor, because that’s too early for cannon. Now, looking at the entire paragraph, you have:

“Ridgemont lunged, scything his sword right for McKinnon’s head. McKinnon danced back and blocked. The blade slammed into his shield with a sound like a cannon shot, and his arm went numb to the shoulder. The world pinwheeled as he went flying.”

Notice I added a phrase, “his arm went numb to the shoulder.” That’s because I needed a longer sentence there; too many short sentences in a row set up a machine gun rhythm. I had his arm go numb because I wanted to show the force of the blow and work in one of the five senses. It bothers me that I used McKinnon twice close together, but if I changed one of them to “him” or “he,” it would no longer be clear whether I was talking about McKinnon or Ridgemont. Sometimes you have to accept repetition to avoid confusion.

Keep in mind the implications of words. I have an e-mail list, and I was taking a poll on titles for Midnight’s Master. I don’t like that title; sounds too ‘80s. Somebody wrote in suggesting “Nocturnal Phantasm.” I got a couple of e-mails back saying, “No, that sounds like bed-wetting,” and another that said, “Sounds like something teenage boys do.” I thanked the lady for her suggestion and said only that my problem with it was that the words were too long. Hope we didn’t hurt her feelings.

(B.) In general, shorter words and shorter sentences bite harder. However, words that have a lot of possible meanings do not. “Hit,” for example, is less effective than “slam” because “hit” can mean any degree of force from a pencil hitting a table to a freight train hitting a pickup truck. “Slam” carries the implication of great force and noise. Use vivid words. “Scything,” “danced,” “jolted,” are all words that have a visual meaning, that make you see a particular kind of movement. You see how calculated all this is.

Don’t rewrite the book to death

By the way, when you’re writing a first draft, don’t start rewriting like this. If you stop to noodle over every word the way I did over that paragraph just now, you’ll never finish the book. I’ve killed more novels that way. Got up to 250 pages on one of them, about two thirds of the way through, but I sucked all the life right out of it by rewriting it endlessly before I finished. Don’t do that. Don’t rewrite at all until you finish the whole first draft. Don’t even look at the previous day's work unless you can’t remember what you did. Finish it. Then do two more drafts and send it out the door to the editor. Make copy edits when it comes back, and that’s it.

If you turn on your mental editor on a first draft, you’ll slit the book’s throat. Editing is key, but remember that it is a completely different brain function than raw creativity.

(C.) In dialogue, the more angry the character is, the shorter his sentences are going to be. Adrenalin cuts off higher brain functions. You literally can’t manage elaborate sentence structures when you’re furious. That’s why people become incoherent with rage. That’s also true of any other powerful emotion, including desire. So in a love scene, don’t have the hero prosing on about the heroine’s “amethyst eyes” when he’s making love to her. For one thing, most of his blood supply has moved south of his belt buckle, and he probably can’t even pronounce “amethyst.” If he can, he’s not that hot. Which is probably why most sex words have less than five letters.

(D.) When two characters are talking, short, tight dialogue has more impact. Keep it to two lines or less if possible, then have the other character respond. It sounds more natural. For example, here’s an excerpt from “A Candidate for the Kiss,” in Secrets Volume 6. In this scene, a reporter is trying to interview a federal agent she’s just discovered is a vampire.

“Just how many vampires does the FBI have on the payroll?” Dana asked, sounding as cool as Sam Donaldson grilling the President. A real feat considering the rapid heartbeat he could hear slamming out her terror.
The question startled an admiring laugh out of him. “Damn, you’ve got guts. No brains to speak of, but guts to spare.”
“Just doing my job, Agent. And you didn’t answer the question.”
“I’m not with the FBI. It’s another federal agency all together.”
“I could tell you.” Archer smiled slowly as he put his own spin on the old spook joke. “But then I’d have to bite you.”
“I could guess, and you could nod,” Dana suggested boldly. “The Bureau of Vampire Intelligence? The Central Vampire Agency?” Her full mouth twitched in an impish smile. “Fangs ‘R’ Us?”
“The Federal Office of Inquiry and Analysis.” She wouldn’t remember it in ten minutes anyway.
“Never heard of it.”
“I’d be worried if you had.”
“Sounds more like accountants than vampires.”
“That’s the idea.”

You can take it too far, though. I love this kind of dialogue, but it can also sound artificial if you’re not careful. People generally tend to speak in longer sentences than that. But those two characters are playing with each other, so it works. I think.

(D) Remember that you can’t do a technical discussion for the purposes of exposition and keep the emotion immediate. If you have to explain something, you’re going to back off the emotion whether you want to or not. And impassioned characters aren’t going to be interested in an intellectual discussion anyway. It’s best to use that. Time your exposition for a period when nothing’s much is going on and you need to back off the mood temporarily.

(E) Put the word you want to punch at the end of the sentence for maximum impact. Don’t let the sentence trial off by tacking on a name or a phrase that draws attention from your meaning. “Hit him with the axe!” is better than “Hit him with the axe, John!” The punch should be on axe, not “John.”

(E) Sensory details add to emotional impact. Describe how things feel, smell and taste, particularly in love scenes. The more sense detail you use, the more you put the reader in the character’s head. And the more the reader cares about the character.

Debra Dixon has a great book out on this you should order called GOAL, MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT. I recommend it highly. She says you should give your characters GMCs that are in diametric opposition. That keeps the conflict sharp and gives them a lot of emotion to angst over.

I think doing this chart is more effective than all the little questionnaires about hair and eye color and favorite foods they tell you to fill out on characters.

In Midnight’s Master, not only did the GMC for the hero and heroine conflict, but so did the one for the villain and his flunky. This was great, because everybody in the book was in opposition to everybody else. It was the easiest book I’ve ever written because the conflicts were so strong. I’d just sit down at my computer, get the characters in a room, and watch the fur fly.

At any rate, these are a few techniques I use. I hope you’ll find then effective. But it’s also true that everybody writes differently, and you may have a very different style and subject matter than I do. Even if you don’t, my suggestions may not work for you. The best way to judge is to try them and see. If they don’t, throw ‘em out.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Making a long story short

My entire romance career has been based on novellas. If you look at the 20 or so published works on my website,, all but about four or five of them are novellas or short stories.

Now, you'd think writing 25,000 words would be a lot easier than writing 100,000 words. Like, a fourth the work, right? Wellllll... it ain't necessarily so, particularly when it comes to romance. Getting a man and a woman from "hello" to "I love you" in 100 pages is a tricky bit of business.

But I do have some suggestions, if you're tackling a novella.

Everything I know about romance I learned from writing comic books.

My first published work back in the late 1980s were actually comics. Now, before you sneer, I think that there is no better way to learn how to write than writing comics.

Oh, I'd taken college courses on writing, and I'd been trying to write fiction from the time I was nine. Yet I only really learned how to tell a story from my comic book editor, Dwight Zimmerman. He taught me more about the nuts and bolts of storytelling in six months than I'd learned in all the previous years from everybody else. I still use the concepts Dwight taught me in my novels.

That's because the underlying principals of telling a good story are the same, no matter what genre you're working in.

Writing comics also taught me how to write tight, clean copy. Before that, I tended toward purple prose, but in comics, I found out I had to cut the deadwood. There's only room for about 22 words in a good-sized word balloon, and you can only fit one or two big balloons in a panel. Probably less.

So when the artwork would come from the artist, and I'd sit down to figure out where to place the balloons, I would quickly discover that much of my artsy dialogue wouldn't fit. I'd have to cut the daylights out of it. I soon learned not to use six long words where one or two short ones would do, and I learned to GET TO THE POINT.

Later, as a fiction writer, I discovered that my short, punchy comic book dialogue was much stronger than my long, flabby prose dialogue. Even now I rarely let one of my characters talk more than a couple of lines before another one cuts in. Fact is, bright, bouncy ping-pong dialogue is a lot more lively and interesting. That's particularly true in short fiction, where you don't have room for characters that drone.

First rule of writing short: PLAN.

The second major thing I learned from comics is the importance of planning ahead.

Okay, I know that lots of people are pantsers -- they start on page one, and they write until they hit page 400. And somehow, a plot grows out of that. I admire people like that. Lots of really good novelists work that way.

But I've gotta tell you -- DON'T try to write a novella that way. You'll make yourself crazy, and you'll end up with something that has a very good chance of being dreck.

I strongly suspect that some of the really bad novellas I've read are the product of people who tried to write them by the seat of the pants. They might do a good set up, but then they start wandering around like they would in a novel, and they never address the major plot point they established up front. So the reader is left growling in frustration.

Here's a good rule of thumb: the shorter the piece of fiction you're writing, the more tightly you have to plot it. A comic book is 22 pages long. Period. You have to know what goes on every single page, and you CANNOT run over, because the presses are set up for 22 pages. You create a longer book, and it will cost your publisher money in additional paper, ink and setup.

So as a comic book writer, I would sit down with a piece of paper, and I'd write something like this:

Page 1 -- Hero and villain square off to fight a duel as a hundred people look on.

Page 2-4-- Duel.

Page 6 -- hero's friends confront him about the woman he fought the duel over.

Page 7 -8 -- Commanding officer interrupts to tell them they have to go hunt an assassin...

Note, I don't have the major details of exactly what happens yet, but I need to know what major scenes I need and how long I can let each scene run. (Though for a novel or short story, each scene will run for 3 to 10 pages rather than a page or two. I'm told you just don't get enough emotional punch with a scene less than two pages long, and I believe it.)

This is a kind of plot skeleton -- the equivalent of the rough sketch an artist does before he puts down the detailed lines. I do that in all my fiction, including novels. Because I plan this way, I usually don't have a problem with a book running really long or really short.

In novels and prose fiction, I leave it a little looser than I do in comics, because it gives my characters more room to develop and change as the story goes without seriously screwing up my plans. I may not know exactly HOW the hero defeats the villain, but I need to know the approximate steps leading up to that event. This technique -- which isn't as detailed as the outline some plotters do, but isn't as loose as a pantser's approach -- seems to work very well for me.

By the way, in novellas, as opposed to novels, I go with short, 10-page chapters, because they seem to break the action better. Gives the reader the feeling the book really flies. For novels, I write 20 page chapters.

Keep it Simple, Stupid.

The KISS rule is one a novella writer can never afford to forget. You don't have room in 100 pages to get too complicated.

Keep your external and internal conflict simple -- something you can actually solve in 100 pages. Don't try to bring international terrorism to an end, for example. You can, however, finish off one particular group of terrorists.

Keep your cast of characters small. Hero, heroine, and villain. The smaller the cast, the better the novella seems to work. I've done big casts in a novella, but the focus must remain primarily on the hero and heroine. They need to be on stage and interacting with one another almost continuously. If you can figure out a plot event that puts them in the same place and keeps them there to bounce off one another, that's good too.

Here's a biggie: The first chapter or two of a novella is setup. You set up your characters and your major conflict. (In a novella, you've usually only got ONE major external conflict. There just isn't room for more.) Readers expect you to resolve that conflict with THOSE characters by the end of the book. That means, don't just forget your conflict and wander off to have sex or a romance or whatever. Resolve the conflict by the end of the book, or you're going to seriously frustrate your readers. They want closure on the external conflict.

By the way, don't introduce a studly male alpha in the first chapter unless he's damn well your hero. You'll get in trouble every time, because readers will assume he's the hero, and they're going to be ticked if he's not.

Romancing the Novella

It may be a good idea to give your heroine and hero a romantic history. It's a lot easier to get them to love in 100 pages if they're halfway there before the book starts. Now, I've done it with them as strangers, but there's a certain amount of suspension of disbelief involved. Often a novella takes place in the span of a day or two, and it's hard to convince people the h/h fell in love that fast. You can do them as strangers, but I think it works better if at some point they acknowledge how odd it is: "I can't believe I've only known you two days, and I already love you."

I also think it works better if you throw so much at them, and they have such an intense experience running from bad guys and having sex, that it seems they've known each other longer than they actually have. It makes the reader believe a longer span of time has passed, and they know each other better. If they're just trapped in an elevator or Not gonna work. Anyway, not without a magic spell in there somewhere.

So -- Give the hero and heroine ONE concrete goal they can accomplish in 100 pages: Get rescued. Escape from the villain. Catch the villain. Find the magic whatsit.

Minimize the number of supporting characters, and maximize the amount of time the hero and heroine are together. Trapped on an alien planet running from monsters/villains? Ohhh, yeah. Done it many times. Always works.

Give them a preexisting romantic history, or else keep the romantic conflict between them simple enough that they can overcome it in 100 pages. Preferably both.

You do need a romantic conflict, by the way -- some reason these two people will fight between bouts of hot, steamy sex. Keeps things interesting.

Anyway, these are just a few techniques I use in writing novellas and short stories. Hope the ideas helped!


Monday, February 07, 2005

The Care and Writing of Alpha Males

Anybody who has ever read anything of mine knows I love Alpha Males. There's nothing like a guy with a wolfish gleam in his eyes and a confident grin to make me melt -- or maybe it's the broad shoulders and abs to die for.

Either way, he knows what's best, and he's supremely confident in himself and his abilities. He's protective, he's intelligent, and sometimes he can be more than a little ruthless in the pursuit of his goals.

The one thing he is NOT is politically correct. He can make any self-respecting feminist grind her teeth even as she gives serious thought to tripping him and beating him to the floor.

In other words, he can be a bear to write, because hot as he is, he's easy to get wrong. And no character can make you slam a book against a wall quicker than an alpha male gone bad. There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, protectiveness and condescension. And woe betide the writer who gets it wrong, because readers and reviewers alike will rake her over the coals for creating a sexist pig hero.

The best clue about how to do alphas right is look at the way they were done wrong in the bad old days of bodice rippers, back in the 1970s and 80s.

Now, I will readily admit I was hooked on bodice rippers. I loved every politically incorrect word, including those OH-so-bad forcible seductions that sometimes edged into outright violence. In retrospect, I'm not sure what I was thinking.

Except that some of those guys were seriously HOT.

I've been thinking about those books lately -- about why they seemed to work then when now they make my skin crawl. I remember one hero in a book I must have read five or six times who outright beat the heroine. He threw her down the stairs, broke her ribs and locked her in a dungeon to starve when she was pregnant with his baby. In the end, of course, he realizes He Done Her Wrong, but only after the villain cut off one of his testicles and he gets beaten to a pulp and shot three or four times. The heroine, of course, saves him. At the moment, I can't imagine why. Personally, I think she should have done the shooting.

Why did I READ that thing? And who in their right mind could imagine it qualified as a romance?

Part of the reason those old heroes were such ring-tailed bastards is they were actually the book's villains. The focus of the novel had to be almost entirely on the romance, so to have any conflict at all, the hero had to supply it. (If we have a romance where the hero is a Nice Man who behaves like a total gentleman -- and there is no other major external conflict -- you'd have something like a 400-page Hallmark Card. Not only would it bore the snot out of you, it would be so sweet, it would give you cavities.)

Then you add in a lingering attitude that Good Girls Didn't, and you had a recipe for rape as a courting technique. If he took her by force, she could remain saintly and long-suffering while discretely enjoying the sex. Never mind that in real life, nobody has a good time in rape except the rapist -- and HIS real objective is violence, power and abuse, not sex.

So what does this tell us about writing an alpha hero NOW?

First off, a modern alpha male romance hero has to be a hero before he's anything else. Yes, he can also be a ruthless stone killer who can snap a man's neck with his bare hands -- but he's still got to have a heroic core. He needs a set of bedrock values he won't violate, period. He doesn't abuse those smaller and weaker than he is, especially women and kids. His sense of honor does not permit it.

That was not true of the bodice ripper alphas. They were more than happy to abuse the heroine, sometimes simply to revenge themselves on some relative or family member of hers.

Now, I'm not saying a modern alpha can't have some serious dark spots in his character. Everybody loves a rogue, a bad boy -- or even a plain ol' badass. For one thing, they're sexy. But you have to set them up right.

If we're setting up a really nasty alpha -- the stone killer I mentioned -- we need to establish some positive characteristics up front, along with all the lethal skills. We need to see his loyalty to his friends and comrades at arms. We need to show him dealing with somebody he cares about, so the reader can be reasonably confident This Guy Is Not A Creep. Maybe we can start out with a scene showing him with the buddies from his unit, joking and carrying on. Maybe one of them teases him about his cat. Maybe he's got pictures of his brother's kid in his locker, next to his box of ammo.

I remember years ago, there was an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in which he played a Russian agent. He had his watch set to go off to remind him to feed his parakeet. He loved that bird. You need to give your stone killer the equivalent, because it will humanize him.

Robots are not sexy.

But the single most important characteristic we must give him is respect for the heroine. It may start out slowly and grudgingly -- he may think she's a ditz at first. But over time, he must learn that she's smart and capable, and that she can take care of herself. Even though he'd much rather protect her himself.

Prime examples of this are Eve and Roarke from J.D. Robb's IN DEATH series. Both Eve and Roarke are alphas (if there is a more kickass romance heroine on the planet than Eve Dallas, I have yet to meet her). In fact, one of the reasons Roarke falls so hard for Eve from the first is because she's so smart and so capable.

Which stands to reason. Think about it: if you're brilliant, capable, and strong, are you really going to want a clinging dishrag for a lover? I don't think so. You may bang somebody like that, but you're not going to fall in love with her.

So if you're going to create an alpha hero, he needs an alpha heroine -- or at least a heroine who will fight him toe to toe when she thinks he's in the wrong. For one thing, those kinds of characters are more interesting. Good conflict comes from strong people disagreeing. And you won't have a good romance without good conflict.

I also think the reverse is true, which is something you may want to consider if you're writing a kickass heroine. If you pair an alpha heroine with a beta hero, you're going to have a very hard time getting the romance to work. I'm not sure the readers will go for it, either. They're going to feel that the heroine will walk all over the hero, and they're going to give the relationship about six months before it falls apart.

So ideally, your hero and heroine need to be equals. I'm not talking about physical equals, but equals in the sense that both play a role in solving the external conflict. They have to work together (at least as soon as they quit fighting long enough).

Which means you should never have one or the other character stand back during the final fight to the death with the villain. You used to see this all the time in movies: the heroine stands around wringing her hands while her hero fights for his life. Don't DO that. Have her grow a spine. Hit the bad guy with a lamp. Do SOMETHING, even if it fails.

And for CRYING out loud, NEVER have an alpha stand by while the heroine fights the villain. I've seen people do this, and it's just a bad idea. Forget feminism -- any self respecting alpha is NOT going to stand there while the woman he loves is in danger. Not happening. You do that to him, you've turned him into a piece of cardboard and the readers will not respect him.

If necessary, use multiple bad guys to keep both parties busy.

Now for the good part: Sex.

Sex is a big part of what alphas are all about, particularly in erotic romance. But it's in the bedroom that you really have to be most careful with your alpha.

Unless she's a werewolf or a vampire or something, he's probably going to be stronger than his heroine. And he's got to be very aware of that. He needs to be careful of his strength, and deeply concerned that he's not forcing something on her she doesn't want.

We need to establish up front that the attraction between them goes both ways -- AND HE KNOWS IT. Particularly if you're doing a captor/captive romance where consent can get a little gray. You must establish that whatever sex games they're playing, he's not a rapist and has no interest in become one.

If she says no, he stops. Period. None of this, "But you really want it." Uh uh. That's the oldest rapist line in the book, and readers know it. Nothing will creep them out faster. If your hero uses that line, HE IS NO LONGER A HERO. It's the third rail of romance, ladies.

So there must be a moment in the sexual encounter where he gives her a choice -- and she chooses to have sex with him. It needs to be really clear to the hero, the heroine and the reader.

One trick I've used is have him stop. Have him say, "I'm not hearing yes, so I'm out the door." At that point, the heroine, who REALLY wants him, says, "All right, dammit!" And we're off.

A good alpha must also, obviously, be really good in bed. His focus is not on his own pleasure: it's on hers, on making sure she's aroused and ready before he gets down to the good stuff.

In romance the heroine, like the customer, always comes first. And our hero, leader of men or not, definitely follows her lead.

Also -- and I see this all the time -- do not make your alpha a jackrabbit. Two thrusts and he's done? Please. No woman is that quick on the trigger. She's going to be lying there plotting to kill him from sheer frustration. He may be holding on to control by his fingernails, but he's got to keep going for her.

Otherwise, what kind of hero is he?

Well, that's all I can think of at the moment. If there's anything else you'd like me to discuss on this topic, feel free to drop by my website for my e-mail addy. Plus there's lots of yummy eyecandy there too.