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Winter or Summer Person by Natalie Anderson with MELT giveaway

Are you a winter person or a summer person?

I love both seasons – especially extreme forms of both – but if forced to choose, then I think I’d pick winter over summer. Mainly because I think it’s easier to warm up than it is to cool down – so long as you have access to electricity or a fire or… something! Yeah, we can all think of a fun way to warm up, right?!
I love a very specific kind of winter though – where it is very cold but also very dry. I live in the South Island of New Zealand and we often get winter days where there is a massive frost in the morning and it’s cold enough to freeze water pipes, but then the sun comes out. And while that sun may only be at ¼ strength, it slowly traverses a beautiful, brilliant blue sky that is so clear and sharp it lifts your heart. So much nicer than the grey-day kind of winter!
But imagine a summer where the world is still frozen – where the days stretch on endlessly beneath the bright blue sky. Where it’s freezing, but you can still be sunburnt. Remote, inaccessible, you’d be dead within hours if stuck out there alone. Is that extreme enough?
We all know Antarctica is frozen year-round, but it’s also an amazingly dry place. The snow that seems to fall in storms is actually snow that has fallen years ago being picked up and blown around by those fierce winds. Antarctica is so dry it’s actually a desert.
So how do people warm up in that kind of climate then? What if both those people are a little frozen inside themselves already? And okay, while they might get a little hot, can they truly MELT?

And what about you – does winter do it for you, or are you more of a beach-bikini lover?!

When two frozen hearts collide…

Emma Reed closed her heart to love years ago after a lifetime spent getting kicked around foster homes and bad relationships. Now she’s on a mission to prove she deserves her recent award to paint a mural for a research base in Antarctica. Nothing and no one is going to get in her way.

After months working in recovery zones around the world, Hunter Wilson planned to escape everything this holiday season by rebuilding a lab at the Kiwi Research Base. Alone. No to family, no to fun. It’s isolation not intimacy he’s aching for. But when he sees the determined artist, that ache becomes an urge – after all, shouldn’t someone show her what two people can do with twenty-four hours of brilliant sunlight?

In the coldest place on earth, even the most frozen hearts can melt.

Buy it from Amazon Buy it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

USA TODAY bestseller Natalie Anderson writes fun, frisky, feels-good contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon and Entangled. With twenty books published, she’s also been a Romantic Times Award nominee & a finalist for the R*BY (Romantic Book of the Year).

She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband, four children and what feels like a million ducks.

Find out more at her website 
On Twitter
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Picture credit: I Love Snow by Tina Phillips

Genre mash up with Tiffany Allee and BANSHEE CHARMER giveaway

Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance – Just a Way to Play in All the Genres? Growing up, I had very eclectic tastes in books. My aunt would pass along boxes—several at a time—of romance novels for me to borrow. Every brand and subgenre and heat level was included. I was also fond of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. And above all I fancied myself a fantasy connoisseur—with every volume of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance book that had been published by the early ’90’s gracing my shelves alongside Mercedes Lackey and Glen Cook.Somehow all of these swirled together to create a need for a genre that was, at that point in time, just starting to gain popularity (as far as I knew, anyway). Whether you call it urban fantasy or paranormal romance, or even contemporary fantasy, this mixture of genres is what I eventually became addicted to. I wanted everything in the books I read: fantastical elements, love and romance, a good mystery, and touches of the macabre.As a writer, I have found balancing this mixture of genres to be fun—if challenging. How much emphasis to put on solving a murder versus the romance versus the worldbuilding can be tricky, but fun.That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy reading straight romance—of any subgenre. I also still love fantasy and horror and mysteries and the occasional literary tale that defies classification. But I especially appreciate it when they are all swirled together in one story.Do you like your books to have elements from various genres?

Tiffany is generously offering an ecopy of BANSHEE CHARMER to one lucky commenter who answers her question.

Contest ends at midnight est on 1-31-12, winner will be contacted via email shortly thereafter.  Winner has three (3) days to acknowledge or alternate winner will be chosen.

 

“When she’s sent to a crime scene and finds her second dead woman in as
many weeks, half-banshee detective Kiera “Mac” McLoughlin is convinced a
serial killer is on the loose. Incubi are extinct, her boss insists. But
what else can kill a woman in the throes of pleasure? When her partner is
murdered after using witchcraft to locate the killer and Mac is thrown off
the case, her frustration turns to desperation.Certain the killer is an incubus, Mac works behind her department’s back
to chase down slim, sometimes perilous leads. While the killer eludes her,
she does discover handsome Aidan Byrne, an investigative counterpart from
the enigmatic Otherworlder Enforcement Agency. Mac typically runs her
investigations fast and hard, but with Aidan at her side, she’s running
this one “hot” as well. But Aidan knows more than he’s letting
on—something that could shatter their blazing romance and add Mac to the
killer’s growing body count…”Available at Barnes & Noble for $2.99:Available at Amazon after January 24th, 2012 

 

 

Manic Readers BANSHEE CHARMER review

About the Author:

Tiffany Allee currently lives in Phoenix, AZ, by way of Chicago and
Denver, and is happily married to a secret romantic. She spends her days working in Corporate America while daydreaming about sexy heroes, ass-kicking heroines, and interesting ways to kill people (for her books, of course). Her nights are reserved for writing and bothering her husband and cats (according to them). Her passions include reading, chocolate, travel, wine, and family.

Tiffany’s Website
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter

Awkward Heroes, Cari Quinn, and NO DRESS REQUIRED giveaway

The Awkward Hero…and why I love them!

Thank you so much for having me at Manic Readers today!
A while ago, the awesomesauce reviewer FictionVixen commented, “I’m already a fan of Cari Quinn’s writing style and the way she makes her quirky, awkward heroes transform into sexy beasts.” She pretty much nailed many of my heroes. I love making my characters quirky. I also love making my characters awkward because, seriously, who wants to read about someone with perfect hair and the utmost composure at all times? Bo-ring. My heroes, especially, often seem to get the awkward treatment. There’s something so delicious to me about a hot guy who blushes or wears glasses. Two of my biggest triggers right there.Jake from my recent Entangled Publishing Flirt novella, No Dress Required (Flirts and Ever Afters are two great, brand new novella lines at Entangled Publishing!) doesn’t wear glasses, but he does blush. And he also feels unsure of himself as often as he feels cocky. A breakup in his past – and worse, who exactly his ex left him for – has made him doubt his swagger in the bedroom…and well, everywhere, really. He’s still working on facing his insecurities when Noelle decides to rock his world, but he comes around soon enough. Inside Jake, there is definitely a sexy beast just waiting to get out. Luckily he has the perfect woman to help him!

How about you? Do you like reading about awkward heroes or do you prefer the men in your stories to be a bit more polished? I’m eager to hear what kind of fictional men push your happy buttons! Comment early and often for a chance to win an e-book copy of  NO DRESS REQUIRED!

Contest ends at midnight est 1-30-12. Winner will be contacted via email shortly thereafter.  Winner has three (3) days to acknowledge or alternate winner will be chosen.

Visit Cari Quinn 

 

About No Dress Required
After years of ho-hum dating, Noelle Gregory is tired of fooling around. There’s only ever been one guy for her—Jake Conroy, her best friend’s older brother. Now that Jake’s back in town, she’s headed to his sister’s New Year’s Eve party to make her move. Purse full of condoms? Check. Sparkly dress guaranteed to show Jake the sexy woman she’s become? Check.
Carjacker that makes off with both two hours before the party? Check.
When Jake finds Noelle stranded on the side of the road—looking sexier than ever in her striped socks and silly holiday shirt, damn it—he’s glad for the snowstorm that cancels his sister’s party. His and Noelle’s friendship has tormented him for years, and now, Jake wonders if he should dare to sample what he’s always wanted…and if he’ll be able to walk away when it’s over.
Reader Chapter One.

BANNOCKBURN BINDING, Psi, Tracy Cooper-Posey, and a BLOOD KNOT giveaway

What Would You Do To Gain Your Own Psi Talent?


Paranormal romances are currently the most popular sub-genre in romanceland.  It’s easy to understand why, if you’re a fan of paranormal, but harder to grasp, if you don’t like paranormal, or don’t get it.  And yes, there are some readers out there who don’t care for mystical stuff and don’t read it.  For them (you, perhaps), the popularity of paranormal romances is, well, mystifying.

There’s a lot of theories around for why the huge popularity of the genre both inside and outside romanceland, and some very heavy hitters have joined the debate, including academics and sociologists.

I think there isn’t one simple answer.  I think there are perhaps three or four major, interlocked answers, and a slew of minor, related reasons, that explain the phenomenal rise of paranormal and fantasy stories in our fiction and movies lately.

One of them, I believe, is that the more people feel powerless about their lot in life, the more the economy sucks, or they feel they have no control over taxes, personal debt, personal or national security, the more they turn to escapist fiction.  It’s tales of ordinary people discovering they have extraordinary talents and, sometimes, that they aren’t ordinary people afterall, and that they have the power to change worlds, that make for the most satisfying reads in times like these.  It’s a subconscious thing, but I think it’s a powerful factor in the success of paranormal and fantasy tales, both the urban and high fantasy sort.

But my point here today isn’t to take all the fun out of paranormal romance.  Not at all.  It would be fair to say, though, that if I’m right, then the getting of paranormal talents would be considered highly desirable by most people.

When you think about it on a normal, logical and practical level, having paranormal talents would be useful. Think about Ron Weasley’s mother in the Harry Potter movies, for instance, when she used magic to clean the house, cook Christmas dinner for a hoard of people and knit sweaters, all at the same time.

Sure, it’s a flippant example, but consider this one:  How useful would it be to be able to read minds when you’re in a job interview for the job of your career?  You could shape your answers to exactly what the interviewers were looking for, answer every doubt and question in their mind…you would so ace that interview.

Consider some of the psychic and paranormal talents you could select from:

Mind reading
Reading the future
(insert list).

These talents would give anyone extraordinary advantages over normal people.  Couple these desirable talents up with the extremely advanced genetic manipulation done in laboratories these days.  How far away are we from trying to deliberately induce paranormal talent via gene mutation or gene manipulation?

Yes, I’m morphing into the fictional world…just a little.  The existence of genuine psychic talent is still not something that the scientific world will admit really exists.  Primarily, there is a dearth of decent data available to prove that existence.  But when you get quantum scientists alone and with a few drinks under their belts, they will admit that at the very fringes of known science, there is some very funny stuff that happens, that they really can’t explain with understood laws and rules.

So step from reality into a semi-fictional world, and consider this:  If paranormal talents are real, it can’t be that long before genetists start selecting for pyscho-paranormal abilities.   Once geneticists can do it, how long before mums and dads to-be start shopping for ESPs along with hair and eye colour?

If paranormal talents are real, then we don’t have to actually wait around for the geneticists to figure out how to splice the necessary DNA together.  Humans have been running their own genetics lab throughout history:  it’s called natural conception.  But with a twist:  If the two parents deliberately choose each other for their unique para-abilities, what genetic traits would the children inherit?

A more interesting question, because genetic traits have a way, sometimes, of skipping generations and exaggerating themselves in the next one:  What would those childrens’ children be like?

It’s all very interesting to suppose that if paranormal talent was real (and some say it is very real indeed – that’s a whole other argument for another day…or two), humans would naturally want to acquire such talent.

But would there be a price?

There’s often a price in fiction.

In Big Bang Theory, which is one of the quirkiest and most intelligent TV comedies out there right now, frightening great intelligence, such as the character Sheldon was born with, comes at the price of not just social ineptitude, but a social disability that verges on disfunctional.

In Firestarter, by Stephen King, Charlie’s father, who acquired (he wasn`t born with it) the ability to control others with his mind, paid for that price by giving himself tiny brain embolisms every time he used the ability.  It eventually killed him.  Charlie herself could start fires, and her ability seemed to have no drawbacks at all for her…except that it was so great it frightened her.  It could “get away” on her.  Her talent controlled her — by fear.

There is a species of paranormally-gifted people in my Beloved Bloody Time series, called Psi.  They are genetically modified humans, designed in laboratories to enhance their psychic abilities, across a whole range of talents.  These psi-filers lead a most wretched and squalid life, though.  They`re shunned by humans and vampires, alike.  They rarely live beyond 30 years of age, and they have little or no social conscience, a product of being raised by state institutions and the shortened lifespan they face.   They pay for their extraordinary gifts in spades.

It would be reasonable to assume that real life tinkering with genetics to acquire paranormal talents would also have some unforeseen consequences.  Genetics is still a young science.

Would you be willing to risk it?  Would you risk your children?

___________________________

Bannockburn Binding
by Tracy Cooper-Posey
Time is theirs to keep. But it comes with a price.
MMF Urban Fantasy Futuristic Time Travel Romance Serial
In the early 23rd Century, vampires learned how to travel back in time, and created a time-tsunami that threatened life as we know it, until they corrected their mistake.  They created the Chronometric Conservation Agency, which is tasked with preserving history and therefore protecting humanity’s future.  The Touring arm of the Agency offers trips back into the real past, with vampire guides, called travellers.
When Natalia (Tally) Marta, vampire and traveller, takes her client to visit the siege of Stirling Castle in 1314, she is caught and held hostage for ransom by Robert MacKenzie, a Bruce clansman.  Rob finds himself drawn to the wilful, stubborn and very different English lady he has captured and the relationship becomes an intimate, highly-charged sexual pairing.  Swiftly, Tally and Rob realize their bond is more than sexual, that the emotions stirring their hearts are true.
Christian Lee Hamilton, vampire, one of the last true southern gentlemen, and Tally’s ex-lover, knows the 1314 time marker enough to jump back and help Tally return home. His arrival at Bannockburn adds complications, for Christian finds himself drawn to Rob MacKenzie as much as Tally is.  But neither of them can stay in the past forever.  To do so means certain death.
___
An Excerpt From: BANNOCKBURN BINDING
Copyright © TRACY COOPER-POSEY, 2012
All Rights Reserved.

Justin returned, a pixie-like woman with him. The woman looked to be barely out of childhood, with coffee-cream skin, a mane of wild black hair that had been treated to shine different colors depending on how she moved in the light. Her eyes were enormous, innocent jewels of blue. Her hair and eyes were the most substantial thing about her and overpowered her petite and fragile frame.

She seemed to bounce right up to Charbonneau, crackling with energy. “Monsieur Villeneuve! Ooooh, but you are such a pretty one! Just like they said!” She walked right around him, inspecting, and made a sighing sound. “Too much for my little body to bear. Vous serez la mienne ce soir, oui?” And she smiled up at him, her chin dipped coyly, the big eyes staring at him.

“Pritti, give the man chance to draw breath before you proposition him,” Brenden growled.

“This is Pritti,” Justin explained. “She—” and he stopped with his hand in mid-air, clearly looking for a way to explain Pritti.

She slapped gently at Justin’s arm. “You didn’t introduce me properly!” she accused in her child-like voice. She spun on her toe to face Charbonneau again. “My name—my real name—is Volume 89345, File P3445.” She thrust out her hand in the old-fashioned way. “I’m so pleased to make your acquaintance, Constant Charbonneau Villeneuve, the Fourth.”

He found himself shaking her tiny hand in a knee-jerk response left over from centuries before. “You’re….” He, like Justin, couldn’t finish the sentence.

“I’m a Psi-File,” she said, in her high voice, and smiled at him. “Want to withdraw your hand now, Monsieur?” Then, before he could respond, she let go of his hand and spun on her feet again. “Oh, a demonstration! Please, please?”

Christos rolled his eyes. He seemed to be used to Pritti’s swift changes of direction.

Justin scratched his head. “Well, I dunno…we’re supposed to be seeing to yer training, mate. A demo wouldn’t be out of place.”

Pritti put her hands together and gave a little squeal. “Oooh, goody!” She bounced on the spot and turned to face Charbonneau.

“Before he meets Ryan or Nayara?” Christos asked.

“What’s he got in his pocketses, yes, hmm?” Pritti asked, sliding up against Charbonneau and looking up at him with her wide eyes.

“Something important to you,” Justin added. “Something that you know is there. Touch it. You can even curl your hand around it, if you want. And tell us what it is.”

“A watch,” Charbonneau said. “It’s been in the family for generations.” He saw a fleeting expression cross Christos’s face, and added, “I suppose I should say, I’ve owned it for generations. There is clearly much I must re learn, now.”

Christos thumped his shoulder. “You’re amongst friends here,” he added encouragingly. “Well, Pritti, whenever you’re ready.”

She gave a little wriggle of excitement, spun like a ballet-dancer doing a pirouette, and disappeared.

Charbonneau hid his surprise. “Where did she go?” he asked calmly enough. “She’s a teleporter?”

“Teleporter, mind-reader, amongst a few other minor talents. Pritti has an extended DNA profile.”

And just as suddenly, she was back. She stood with her hands behind her back, smiling coyly at them all. Charbonneau almost expected her to toe the dirt.

“Go ahead, Pritti,” Justin said. It sounded a lot like he was trying not to laugh.

“Wait for the wave,” she said. “It’s almost here.”

Charbonneau didn’t have enough information to puzzle her comment out, but even as he wondered, he was hit with a wave of dizziness so intense, it was disorienting. The sensation was very much like one he’d suffered once, when he’d been caught in a minor avalanche while skiing in Switzerland. He’d been rolled and tossed about by the roiling snow, unsure of which way was up, or where the surface might be. It had taken all his hundreds of years of experience in self-preservation to remember to hold his arms around his head, to give himself the air pocket he’d need to dig his way out, when he finally came to rest.

This time, the sensation was much briefer and less intense, and he came back to his senses to find himself on his knees, one hand on the floor before him, propping himself up. The other was still in his pocket. Justin’s hand under his arm helped him back to his feet.

“What was that?” he asked, shaking his head to clear it.

“A time wave,” Christos said, crossing his arms. “Care to show us your watch, now?”

Charbonneau felt around in his pocket, but it was empty.

“Is this what you’re looking for?” Pritti asked, holding up her hand. Hanging from its chain, his watch slowly turned, glinting dull gold in the light.

“That…looks like my watch,” he said cautiously.

She held it out to him. “Check. See that it is yours.”

He checked the outside, then looked inside. It was his watch.

“Check what time it reads,” Pritti said.

“It’s almost four hours slow.”

“It’s actually showing the right time. That’s the time when Pritti took the watch from you,” Justin explained.

“Four hours ago, we were on Half-way station. I did not give my watch to anyone.”

“But you did!” Pritti said, bouncing with suppressed excitement or pleasure, or some emotion that she could barely contain. “I went back to when you arrived at Halfway, and as you and Justin were heading for the ferry, I introduced myself to you. Justin confirmed who I was, and I asked you for your watch, as a demonstration that would make sense much later.” She gave a tiny peal of laughter. “You were sooo reluctant to give it to me. I promised on my life I would take care of it. And I have!” The excitement in her face abruptly changed to fright. “I did, didn’t it?” she asked quickly. “I have returned it to you.”

Charbonneau shook his head. “I do not remember this. It didn’t happen.”

“Not that you remember, no,” Christos agreed. “When you start re-arranging time, things get very confused, very quickly. My job is to make sure those confusions don’t happen. The Agency’s primary charter is the preservation of history and now you can see why.”

___

  • Erotic MMF romance, time travel, urban fantasy story line, on-going serial storylines.
  • This is the first book in the BELOVED BLOODY TIME series.
  • Futuristic settings:  Australia, near-planetary space.  Historical settings: Medieval Scotland, France.
  • Vampires and other fantasy species.
  • Available at Amazon: Kindle format.  Print format.
  • Available at All Romance ebooks: Adobe Acrobat, Palm DOC/iSolo, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket (.prc and Mobi), Rocket, ePub
  • Pages: 162 in PDF, including front matter. (Short novel-length story)
  • $2.99 in all electronic formats, and at all retailers.
  • $8.97 in print.
Tracy is generously offering an ecopy of BLOOD KNOT,  the first in an erotic MMF Urban Fantasy Romance. Here’s a bit about BLOOD KNOT.

Winter, a professional thief who can manipulate others’ biologies by touch, accidentally “healed” her former partner—and former vampire—Sebastian, whom she secretly loves. Her healing created a symbiot pairing between them that neither of them wants.

Nathanial, a sexy thousand-year-old vampire and Sebastian’s ex-lover, talks Sebastian and Winter into stealing evidence that will expose all vampires to the world. But Nathanial is a puppet-master who doesn’t believe in falling in love with humans, leaving Winter unsure of his real feelings for her once he seduces her, or how he feels about Sebastian, the former vampire-now-human whose life he has turned upside down once more.

But the evidence they steal is hot property. The future of all vampires is on the line and others will stop at nothing to get it, leaving Sebastian, Winter and Nathanial with no allies but each other. They must trust each other to survive. Only…can they?

So, what do you think of genetic engineering, paranormal abilities, and the costs they often entail?  Worth it or not?’ Tell us & be entered to win. Contest ends @ midnight January 27th with the winner announced soon thereafter.


__________

Tracy Cooper-Posey is a national award winning author, with more than 35 romance titles published since 1999. She writes mainly romantic suspense and paranormal romance, with brief forays into other romantic genres here and there. She has been nominated for three CAPA’s for best paranormal romance, one CAPA for best historical romance, and the CAPA for Favourite Author, and has won the Emma Darcy Award.

…an author I’ll pick up simply because her name is on the cover.
Kristi Ahlers, Amazon.com

…reminded me of why I fell in love with reading in the first place.
M.M. Gwynn, eBookConnections

…touches the heart and makes you feel everything.
Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance

…writes books which deserve a place on keeper shelves everywhere!
Julie Bonello, ECataRomance Reviews
Connect directly with Tracy at her siteFacebookTwitterGoogle+AmazonAll Romance eBooksMMF Romance Novels (Tracy’s Facebook Group).
Sign up for her newsletter and get two free romances.
And check out some of the 100+ articles on her site, too!

HYBRID and HYBRID FORCED VENGEANCE with Greg Ballan

Greg, thank you for taking the time to visit with Manic Readers today.
Can you please tell us a bit about HYBRID and HYBRID – FORCED VENGENCE, your two books featuring Erik Knight, P.I.

 

Sure, HYBRID is set the small town of Hopedale, and revolves around a Private Detective, Erik Knight.  Erik’s possesses unusual abilities that set him apart from everyone else and have caused him to build a wall around himself to keep people away.  Erik accepts an assignment to find a child, Lisa Reynolds, who was abducted from the Hopedale Town Park.  The Reynolds’ are not happy with the pace of the police investigation and want someone solely dedicated to finding their daughter.  As the detective reviews the available evidence he realizes children that were in the park during the time of the abduction have a vastly different story to tell than the adults.  Child accounts resemble creepy ghost stories while adults report seeing or experiencing nothing unusual.  During his investigation, Erik is forced to use his inhuman talents to find clues to solve the missing person’s case.  The evidence he discovers in his investigation leads to a full scale manhunt in the desolate wilderness of the Hopedale Mountain, a vast sloping wilderness area.

During the manhunt Erik has an encounter with a being he’s convinced isn’t human.  His story is mocked by other investigators until another detective is hideously murdered in the woodlands and the death is recorded through the victim’s communications link.  Erik, the Hopedale Police and a professional investigative agency soon realize that there is something lurking in the desolate Hopedale Mountain, something that seems to have an appetite for children and the ability to kill, then vanish at will.

Erik is eventually forced to come to terms with the inherent power he’s been hiding and use that power to its full potential when his own daughter is abducted from a school playground.  The investigation has become more than just a missing person’s case for Erik Knight; it’s now become a matter of life or death.  Something dark and foreboding has stolen the only thing of value he has left in the world; his daughter, and Erik Knight is prepared to go to any length to save her.

HYBRID: FORCED VENGEANCE picks up a few years after the end of HYBRID.  Erik is now working, albeit somewhat reluctantly, for the feds.  Erik is in full control over his superhuman abilities, the government uses him to diffuse terrorist cells, narcotics dealers and weapons traders where the United States has political involvement or interest but doesn’t wish to deploy any forces that will draw undue attention to US covert activities.  

During one overseas op Erik feels a disturbance in his mind and loses the mental link he shares with his new wife.  Erik is told that his wife has been killed in a fiery accident and her body has been completely incinerated.  Even though he had a service for her, he can still feel a trace of her presence, a tiny sparkle that has him doubting her death.  

Erik is convinced by his superiors to take another assignment overseas after the daughter of the President of France receives several death threats from radical terrorists.  Erik foils two attempts on the young girl’s life and wreaks havoc on two terrorist strongholds in retaliation before learning that the intelligence data regarding the radicals was phony. At the urging of the French President, he reluctantly joins forces with the charismatic and charming radical leader to protect the young girl’s life and discover the real source of danger.  To the detectives horror, he learns that the orders to eliminate the young girl have come from somewhere within the confines of Washington DC. Upon further investigation Erik discovers that the threats against the French President’s daughter are somehow linked to the death of his wife and both incidents have connections to a clandestine, rogue government and an unseen enemy poised to destroy all of mankind.

That’s a quick “Back Cover” synopsis of both novels.   

What I enjoyed most about writing “Hybrid”, above creating the nail biting suspense scenes, was to be able to have an entire novel to build and develop a character, define his relationships to other characters within a setting and have them all interact in a believable manner to unbelievable events.  “Hybrid” is a tale of suspense/horror but it’s also a sort of “Coming to terms with yourself” story of one man rising up to meet a challenge when the odds are overwhelmingly against him.  I’m a sucker for an underdog!

“Hybrid: Forced Vengeance” allowed me take the same main character, more seasoned and confident, and develop him even further and explore what makes him tick on a much deeper level.   “Forced Vengeance” is a darker tale with multiple plot lines that intertwine and spiral together until they collide in an explosive conclusion when the embattled detective finally takes matters into his own hands .  In addition to exploring Erik Knight, I was able to dig deeper into the roles of the detective’s major adversaries.  As strong as a main character needs to be, a story isn’t complete without believable “bad guys”.  Forced Vengeance gave me the opportunity to really explore what motivates Erik’s foils and build believable characters who misbehave not simply because they’re bad people, but because they’re pursuing goals due to blatant self interest, an overzealous sense of duty or simply trying to survive and come out of a bad situation unscathed.  My goal was to make each character and personal motivation believable, thereby making the story itself more believable.  When I read for entertainment I like to subconsciously find myself rooting for the hero because I genuinely like the character. I also want to be able to understand what events make the protagonist behave badly.  It makes going through the story that much more enjoyable.  

My goals with both of these novels was to create interesting, believable characters and place them in fantastic events while spinning a tale that will hook and keep a reader up well past midnight or make them miss their favorite television show.

I read you were working on a new story, LOST SONS OF ATLANTIS.  What is this about and how is it coming along?

LOST SONS OF ATLANTIS is my most ambitious project yet.  This is the tale of two men; Duncan Kord and Sagahr, both kings and warriors in their time, and both sworn enemies.  The plot is quite detailed but here’s a “back cover” synopsis.
‘‘Duncan Kord is an immortal. In his day, he was a Nordic King, and last Lord of the Dragons. Now, he’s done his best to put the tragedy of his past behind him and live out a quiet existence in solitude, simply observing history as an innocent bystander in Caribou Point, Alaska.  While sitting at a local tavern, Kord breaks up a fight and puts several men in the intensive care unit.   He learns that these brutal men are working for a new oil company called Plestex Industries, and that they’re poised to decimate and take control of the tiny port town.

Kord learns more about Plestex from a newspaper article and discovers that the man responsible for all the tragedy in his life, Sagahr, is now a millionaire businessman and CEO of Plestex.  Kord decides that it’s time to settle old scores with his immortal brother and begins destroying Plestex property, hoping to draw his enemy out and force a final, decisive confrontation.

Thousands of miles away, in a New York Penthouse, Sagahr has read the troubling reports and studied the lab analysis of the destruction of his Alaskan assets, and knows who is behind the destruction and why.  Sagahr can’t reveal the truth to his staff of executives and investors.  No one in their right, 21st century, mind would believe the harsh, violent lengthy past both men share.   Kord’s continued attacks will impact his company’s stock and they need to be stopped, and Sagahr knows that the destruction won’t end unless he personally answers his ancient enemy’s unorthodox challenge.

Two men with a violent, mysterious past and a long mutual hatred will settle their differences in a final battle that will forever change a small port town, and escalate into a conflict that will threaten the entire city of New York and all its seven million inhabitants.

LOST SONS OF ATLANTIS is a departure from your Erik Knight books.  Do you have any plans to go back to Erik or would you like to keep branching out? 

I already have the third Erik Knight tale outlined, “HYBRID – Armageddon’s Son.”  To be honest, I can’t wait to get back to the fictional town of Hopedale and bring this tale to life.   Erik Knight is such a great character and has so much potential; I hope to have at least four books in the HYBRID series.   I have a few other stories in mind that veer away from my normal genre of SciencevFiction/Suspense and I’ll be tackling those projects later in 2012 and 2013.  I love the challenge of branching out into new areas and deeloping new characters.  ‘Lost Sons’ allows me the opportunity to explore different elements that make up the human psyche and play with the history of mankind a bit.   I’m really pleased with how this novel is shaping up.

What do you find to be hardest to do as a writer?

Easy, I have difficulty editing.  I’ll start the editing process and wind up rewriting scenes that were perfectly fine just because I don’t like a few words here or there then get caught up in re writing something I was happy with rather than simply looking for typos, poor sentence structure and spelling (another weakness of mine.)

The easiest?

The easiest part of writing for me is creating the first draft of a story.  I LOVE throwing the ideas out on paper and the whole creative process of spinning a great story and building characters and obstacles for them to overcome.  For me, writing is like a motion picture going on inside my head… I just need to get it out on the computer screen via keyboard as the story happens in my mind.

Who is in control, you or the characters? 

I like to think I’m in control, but often times I’ve felt like the ideas and characters are simply flowing from me to the keyboard with no thought required.  I call this phenomenon “In the Zone”; when a story and dialogue just flow and I’m merely a conduit from my characters to my keyboard.  To me, that is the ultimate feeling as a writer.

Do you plan out each detail or just go with the flow?I like to outline a scene and honestly plan to stick to the outline… the finished product seldom resembles the outline though.  I do like outlining a scene and a plot as a guideline but have no problems changing the storyline as I go along provided the changes really punch up the story.  

Have you ever had a story or character go in a direction that surprised you?

Yes.  A few years ago I attempted to write a Romance short story, just to see if I could do it.  After about seven pages in it turned into a Romance/Horror short with forces of light and dark etc.  I just lost control of the characters and the idea and went with “it”.  What came out was “The Lincoln Hawk Chronicle”, one of the best shorts I’ve ever written.  It is “Romance” in a weird way, but nothing anyone into that genre would keep by her nightstand.

Sounds intriguing, have to look for that now…
Do you have a writing routine/word quota?

No, no real routine or quota.  I have a hectic job that requires long hours plus I love coaching my daughter, Christie’s, basketball and softball teams.  Those always come first with me.  I do my best to make time to knock out a chapter or just a few pages when I have some down time.  When I do sit down, because I have so much going on in my head regarding a particular story, I’ll make the time to get a several pages done just to get the ideas out and then go back and refine those ideas when I can really dedicate some quality time and polish them.

Do you have to write or just enjoy it?

I have to write, not for any need to make a living or any life or death situation.  The simple truth is if I don’t get all my crazy ideas out I’m afraid my head will pop and I love telling a tale whether it’s just a ten page short story, a children’s tale I can read to my youngest daughter or a full length novel.  I would love to see and do all kinds of exciting things that Greg Ballan; responsible parent/adult simply can’t do.  Writing lets me get the chance to imagine and experience all the wild things I could never do and share those wild ideas with other people.

As a reader do you prefer a physical book, ebook or a combination?

I’m old school, I prefer a physical book… I love the tactile sensation of flipping a page and feeling the paper on my fingertips.  

As a writer?

Now I get to contradict myself.  I’m excited about all the new venues that allow writers and publishers to get stories out.  I have had great success on Kindles and other types of electronic book formats.  HYBRID and HYBRID FORCED VENGEANCE were top sellers at Fictionwise for several weeks.  I was very pleased when my publisher informed me.  Anything that allows writers and publishers and readers MORE options to obtain reading material I enthusiastically support.

What, creatively speaking, would you still like to accomplish?

My son, Thomas, is an artist and a really great cartoonist.  I would love to collaborate with him on a graphic novel or have him take one of my books and turn it into a comic.  The thrill in seeing both our names on something would be a cherished keepsake.  Plus I can’t think of a bigger thrill than working on a project and bouncing ideas around with my greatest supporter and most honest critic.

Did you have a favorite book as a child?

Oh yes; ‘Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel’ by Virginia Lee Burton.  To me that was the classic tale of friendship and a wonderful ending.

Teen?

The ‘Elric of Melnibone’ series by Michael Moorcock.  I remember borrowing the first book from a friend in a study hall in junior high; I was mesmerized by the characters.  Michael Moorcock has a magical way of reaching out and pulling a reader into his world.  His descriptive style and storytelling are still a benchmark I try to emulate in my writing.  I read the entire Elric series in under a week, no television, no homework!  I simply could not stop until I finished the entire series.  

Now?

I’m a huge David Eddings fan.   My favorite character of Edding’s is the Pandion Knight, Sparhawk, a cranky middle aged warrior.  I see a great deal of myself in that fictional character.  Eddings has a masterful way of blending fantasy and humor.  Sitting down with a David Eddings ‘Sparhawk’ novel is like getting reacquainted with old friends.

 

What, if anything, are you currently reading?

I just finished ‘Hitman’ by Howie Carr, a local columnist in Massachusetts.  Carr’s look at the Boston underworld and the characters that were involved in the Boston Mob are incredible. What makes this book even more fascinating is that everything Carr writes about in this book actually happened.

I also re-read “Batman: The Stone King” by Alan Grant.  Yes… Batman. The novel is well written and the action sequences are fantastic.  

What’s your favorite way to relax and unwind?

I like to work out, whether its weight training, kick boxing or just a long hike in the woods.  Any type of physical exercise (with the exception of yard work) is great way for me to unwind and ‘de-stress’.

If I just need to relax, I’ll simply sit in my favorite chair, grab a bag of chips, Doritos or whatever’s at hand and some cola and watch a few Science Fiction movies on television or on cable.  

Thanks so much for stopping by today Greg, it’s been fun chatting with you.

We're all Warriors with Shea Berkley and giveaway

Thank you Manic Readers for allowing me to crash on your imaginary couch and chat with your readers. Since I’m fairly talkative, let me cut the chit chat and get to the bone of my post.
Did anyone see the movie Warrior? It’s not a chick movie (though Tom Hardy had my mouth falling open, his body is that impressive), no gooey center, but it is a movie where even women can appreciate the emotional dynamics of the characters relationships. In other words, it has a great plot and emotional depth that so many movies aim for but never achieve in under two hours.
Here’s my overview of the movie.

Two estranged brothers who are Mixed Martial Arts fighters prepare to battle in the ring. Tommy Conlon, an ex-Marine, is running form his past that includes a drunken father and an older brother who let him down when he needed him the most. Hearing about a massive MMA tournament, Tommy recruits his father, former wrestling coach and now a recovering alcoholic. While Tommy begins to make a name for himself, his brother, Brendan, a former MMA fighter turned public school physics teacher, struggles to keep the bank from repossessing his home by sneaking out at night and participating in local fights. He wins time and again and becomes a favorite. In a last ditch effort to save his family, Brendan talks a promoter into putting his name in the MMA tournament. In the end, and against all odds, the brothers’ fight their way to the top of the competition and wind up facing each other for the last winner-take-all round. Though the fight in the ring is expected to be fierce, the real fight bloodies each of the men’s hearts and asks the question, can brothers forgive not only themselves, but each other?


I love this movie for two reasons.
One: Like I said, it has deep emotion I crave in a plot. These guys are damaged. Seriously damaged. One (Brendan) is trying to move forward in his life despite the trials that keep pushing him down, the other (Tommy) can’t find it in himself to move at all unless it is to beat the “Winnie” out of someone, in a sort of sick transference of his pain onto someone else.
Two: The action is intense. I’m a kickboxer—no professional aspirations on my part. (grin) I’m purely in it for the fun. My trainers are all active MMA dudes that love a good fight. I love my boys. They have heart. I don’t like seeing them fight, though. I’m too attached to their pretty faces, and I don’t like seeing someone hurt them even though they’re the ones typically delivering the pain. But when I look at that movie, I understand how the body moves in a fight. In that sense, movies like Warrior help me write better fight scenes.
Writers are in the entertainment business. They have to construct a story that keeps the reader involved and turning the pages. Emotion is the glue that holds all stories together. If not for the emotional story line, Warrior would just be a bunch of guys slugging it out in the ring. It would be interesting (if you’re into MMA), but not gripping entertainment. It behooves writers to research certain aspects of life in order to recreate a believable scenario. Writers don’t have to live the experience, they just have to understand it. Although movies aren’t reality, they’re a good way writers can see what they’re trying to recreate, and for them to judge the finished product, examining what works well and what doesn’t.
In my Fantasy story, The Marked Son, Dylan has to throw himself into life and death experiences almost on a daily basis. He gets to kick up some dust, but also gets his hinny kicked a few times.

The Marked Son by Shea Berkley

Easing back, I press my spine into the prickly bark and rub my hands through my hair. It’s obvious they don’t know I’m in their world. According to Navar, I’m not even real. Granel is a problem. He believes in my existence and has enough sway over Navar that he’s gotten him to at least consider the possibility I’m real and a threat.

After seeing what I’ve just seen, I’ve got to get back home now more than ever.

Before I can move, the guard appears, dangling upside-down from the branch above me with a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “Hello, mutt.”

He cartwheels out of the tree, lands on his feet, and swings his sword in one fluid motion. I dodge the blade and spring to my feet, calling on the tree branches to capture him. The man is quickly tangled, yet with a heavy blow, his sword slices neatly through the wood. He drops to the ground unfazed.

With eyes glittering, he stalks me.

I fumble for the sword Bodog gave me as real fear begins to grow. This guy is a hardened soldier. I don’t stand a chance.

I dodge his blade time and again, feeling the whistle of cold steel every time it passes. I manage to pull out my sword and then something unexpected happens. The blade ripples to life with a flash of fire. I thrust the sword in front of me and gape. Holy flaming fire!

The soldier stops and smiles. “Well, well, well. You’re full of surprises.”

“Just wait. I’ve got more,” I say and shrug with a confidence I don’t exactly feel. Hopefully my act has him thinking I’m used to a good flaming sword fight. To back up my false confidence, I find myself lunging forward, my flaming sword slicing toward his head. He spins away and the battle begins in earnest.

I must be crazy. I’ve never fought with a sword. He acts like he was born with it in his hand. His blade comes frighteningly close to my head and cuts off a few strands of my hair before I push him away. Trees are used as vaulting points. Branches as obstacles. Forest debris whirls. We tussle and my sword flies out of my hand.

Desperate for cover, I duck behind a tree, breathless and sore. I’m at my wit’s end. How long can I postpone the inevitable? I duck as his blade swipes at me again. I don’t want to die. Not like this. Not here. Not now.

In my latest book, Epic Fantasy Torrein: Age of Fear, I have so many fight scenes, it’s hard to pick my favorite, but here’s one that makes me smile every time.

Torrein: Age of Fear by Shea Berkley

The morning sword lesson wound its way through the courtyard, over the fence and into the horse pasture. Loralis kicked at a clump of wet dung and set it flying toward Torrein. He dodged to the left, and when he did, a horrendous horn-blast rent the air followed by terrified screaming until the whole world seemed to be in pain and misery.

The pair turned and saw a troll, its shoulders hunched, its muscular arms rippling like water over boulders. Its thick legs moved up and down, hammering the hardened clay ground into clouds of choking dust. The troll’s spiked club swiped at anyone and anything in its path. In its wake lay the ruins of its rampage—farms lay crumpled and sagging as they resettled into heaps of timber—and the deformed monstrosity was headed straight for them.

Loralis turned and ran, but the drooling, odiferous beast blocked Torrein’s escape. One would think after tearing through a collection of farms, the creature would be more compliant than cantankerous. Not this troll. Upon spying Torrein, it went berserk, as if he were its worst enemy.

Torrein’s heart, already beating frantically, sped up. He avoided the swing of the club time and again. All his months of training, of dodging Loralis’s blade, of lightning attacks and quick retreats finally paid off. He played the gnat, darting in and out, striking at the troll with his sword, piercing its thick hide here and there.

Standing back and panting, Torrein assessed his success. It wasn’t what he’d expected. No serious damage inflicted… but he had managed to aggravate the creature into an even higher frenzy.

As the troll lunged forward, Torrein rolled between its legs and pivoted to the right. A terrible misjudgment. The club came crashing down and clipped Torrein’s shoulder, hurtling him to the ground. His sword went flying in the opposite direction. He rolled to the right, then to the left as the club slammed the earth with ground-shaking thwacks.

He couldn’t play this game all day. Tucking his hands together, he dove and rolled toward his dropped sword. Just as he reached for the hilt, he looked up and saw the spike-studded club heading toward his head.

As you can see, I really love reading and writing fight scenes. Sinking into that kind of action makes me all giddy and flushed. Whether it’s a book or a movie, I adore a good fight scene, and because of that, I’d love to add more to my collection.

So let me ask, what are some of your favorite stories that have some knuckle-busting going on?

Answer Shea’s question and you’re entered for a chance to win an ecopy of THE MARKED SON.  Contest ends at midnight (est)  1-25-12.  Winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

The Marked Son, a Fantasy from Entangled Publishing is out now. Book two, The Lost Prince, is coming out in the fall of 2012. Also, just released, Torrein: Age of Fear, an Epic Fantasy from Variance Publishing. Hurry and get your copies today and have a great time living the adventures!

Want to know more about Shea and her righteously-awesome stories? Connect with her at: Facebook / SheaBerkley.com / Goodreads / RubySlipperedSisterhood.com / Twitter

Emailing My Cover Star by Lucy Felthouse

In my role as an erotica/erotic romance writer, I often find myself bemused at some of the emails I send and receive. They’re not all of a naughty nature, of course, but some of them are completely bizarre. And that’s before I even go into some of the conversations I become involved with on Twitter!
So, when I found myself exchanging emails with an ex TV star (from a show that was big in the UK), I found myself shaking my head in disbelief. The emails weren’t about the TV show, but about the fact that said star was my cover star on my latest release, Susie White and the Right Hand Man. I’d emailed Sam Bond via his website to let him know that he featured on my cover as I’d noticed he included book covers in his online gallery.
It wasn’t until I got a response that it occurred to me how strange (and yet cool) it was. The show that Sam appeared in was Gladiators – though as he’s not much older than me, it was the second iteration of the show that aired in 2009, rather than the classic version from the 90s. And I absolutely adored the 90s version, so was pretty impressed to think that I had a Gladiator on one of my book covers. Plus, when I thought about it, it was even more cool to think that a body-builder who’d appeared on a show I enjoyed was also a romance cover model. That certainly wouldn’t have crossed my mind back in the 90s when I had no idea about this kind of thing, let alone that I’d end up writing it!
A claim to fame for my book, eh? How exciting is that!?
*****
A wedding, an evil plan, a love story and a sacrifice are the order of the day in this modern retelling of Snow White and the Huntsman.

Susie White and her stepmother-to-be have never seen eye to eye, despite all of Susie’s best efforts to be friendly. Eager not to spoil her father’s happiness, Susie still agrees to be bridesmaid at their wedding. When the big day comes, she meets Louise’s right hand man, Scott. Susie had never believed in love at first sight until that moment. The pair hit it off, sharing a mutual dislike of Louise and her wicked ways. Their camaraderie quickly develops into something more, and they date in secret until it’s time for Susie to leave for University – and freedom. Unfortunately, Scott has an earth-shattering revelation, which means the two of them of them must work together to unravel Louise’s evil plan, before it’s too late.

Lucy is a graduate of the University of Derby, where she studied Creative Writing. During her first year, she was dared to write an erotic story – so she did. It went down a storm and she’s never looked back. Lucy has had stories published by Cleis Press, Constable and Robinson, House of Erotica, Noble Romance, Ravenous Romance, Resplendence Publishing, Summerhouse Publishing, Sweetmeats Press and Xcite Books. She is also the editor of Uniform Behaviour and Seducing the Myth. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

5 Awesome Things About Co-Writing

AMAZON HEAT by Melinda Leigh and Rayna Vause, started out as a way to pass the time on a long carpool. Writers can’t help themselves. They like to invent stories. Melinda and Rayna came up with this story, and a great partnership, entirely by accident. They both learned some things about writing, stories, and friendship along the way.
5 Awesome Things about Co-Writing
  1. There’s always someone to brainstorm with who’s just as immersed in the manuscript as you are. Scene driving you crazy? Character not behaving? What on earth happens next?  Help is but a phone call or email away.
  2. Laughing by yourself is nuts. Laughing with a friend is perfectly acceptable. And honestly, the story can go in directions you never thought possible when two people are collaborating.
  3. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. When you’re out of ideas, totally sick of the story, or momentarily overrun by everything-I-write-is-crap-itis, pass the project back to your co-writer like a game of literary hot-potato.
  4. You have a built in critique partner. You have an immediate answer to: does this scene I just wrote totally suck wind?
  5. It’s fun to learn from another writer’s process. No two writers plot or write exactly the same way.  Maybe you limit yourself by sticking to an outline as if your life depended on it. Conversely, maybe you write yourself into too many corners and could use a little more planning. Writing with a partner may help you improve or streamline your own process.


AMAZON HEAT, released January 9th from Carina Press, is the product of an accidental collaboration between Melinda Leigh and Rayna Vause. They’re both hooked on co-writing and have already begun working on the sequel.
Two years ago, ethnobotanist Dr. Elizabeth DeMarco, driven by grief to find a cure for cancer, left her lover mid-proposal to accept a position on a research expedition to the Amazon Rainforest. Kidnapped by guerrillas, she was saved by warriors from the secret all-female civilization of the ancient Amazons. She has been kept prisoner since in the Amazon’s supernaturally hidden valley.
Despite Elizabeth’s rejection, anthropologist Logan Spencer never stopped searching for her.  While consulting on a mass grave uncovered in the remote Brazilian interior near the place Elizabeth was kidnapped, Logan falls from a cliff.  On the brink of death, he is collected by the Amazons and magically healed. When Logan wakes, the first person he sees is his beloved Elizabeth.  Unfortunately, their reunion is less than joyful. The mystical medicine is changing Logan.  But there’s no time to study the side-effects. The Amazons plan to steal Logan’s DNA, then kill him.  Logan and Elizabeth must escape before dawn or Logan is doomed.  Getting him out of the hidden valley won’t be easy.  The Amazon’s supernatural powers make the task all but impossible.
Buy it at: Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | All Romance EBooks
Melinda Leigh is a mom, a dog lover, and a second degree black belt in kenpo karate. In addition to writing paranormal romance for Carina Press, she is also the author of She Can Run, a kindle bestselling romantic suspense released in November 2011 from Montlake Romance. Find out more Melinda: website / facebook / twitter

Rayna Vause is fascinated by the paranormal and she loves a good romance as well, which probably explains why these two elements perpetually crop up in her writing. When she takes off her writer hat she is a martial artist, video game lover, Disney enthusiast, and a Pop Tart aficionado.  Find out more about Rayna:  website / facebook / twitter

Melinda and Rayna blog together at http://AttackingThePage.com

Buy Links:

Carina Press: http://ebooks.carinapress.com/AEF49215-E978-469F-B6BC-D8CA8098ADB3/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=C620BF6A-0836-4749-825E-7E8EE74E7BC1
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Heat-ebook/dp/B00699QQCM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324577256&sr=8-1
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/amazon-heat-melinda-leigh/1107412439?ean=9781426893025&itm=1&usri=amazon+heat
All Romance eBooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-amazonheat-656634-140.html

Melinda’s Links:
Website: http://MelindaLeighAuthor.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MelindaLeigh1
Facebook:  http://facebook.com/MelindaLeighAuthorPage

Rayna’s links:
Website:  http://RaynaVause.com
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/Rayna_Vause
Facebook: http://facebook.com/RaynaVauseAuthor

Ideas, missing keys, and THE CANVAS THIEF with P.Kirby and giveaway

“Where do you get your ideas?” asks the person who’s just found out I’ve written two books. The question–as most writers know–is probably rhetorical and code for, “Honestly? I’m just making idle conversation … Look, a flying pig!”

(As questions go, it beats, “Oh, really? So when are you going to get a real job?”)

My usual response is, “From two tequila shots and a whole lot of weed.”

My ideas’ genesis is sort of Biblical in nature. Not in any religious sense; more like “This idea begat this idea, which begat another idea, which begat another, and then I realized that my creations were a failure and I rearranged the universe and began again.”

The Canvas Thief is ultimately the hodgepodge, Frankenstein’s-monster-style conglomeration of hundreds of influences. Of those, two stand out in my memory, having somehow survived my brain’s daily habit of self-erasing.

BRAIN: “What’s this? ‘mAdw3asels’? *Delete.*”

ME: “Dude, that was the password to our bank account.”

 

The Canvas Thief is based on this initial premise: For humans, the only time they possess magical ability is childhood, and that power is their imagination. The collective imagination of children is so powerful that it has created a world, NeoVerse, where imaginary friends and fictional characters live.

My concept of a world fashioned by belief and imagination was inspired in part by Charles de Lint’s Onion Girl. I love de Lint’s Newford stories; lyrical urban fantasy that is quieter and more character-centered than, ahem, the current trend in UF. (If we are just talking influences, then Emma Bull’s War for Oaks also looms large.)

But the whole story started to fall into place when I saw Benjamin in the lovely watercolor paintings of Jenny Dolfen. The funny thing is, redheaded guys aren’t my type. But I took one look at a painting of Maedhros, a Silmarillion elf, and said, “that’s him, my hero. Except without the pointy ears.”

Now, with a crystal clear picture of the hero in my head, I could deal with the questions: “Who is he? What or who brought him from the land of imagination to the real world? And where the hell are my car keys?”

In answer to the first and second questions, Benjamin is a thief, the antagonist in Maya Stephenson’s unpublished graphic novels. Maya is a gifted artist, but until Benjamin breaks into her house, she never realized just how gifted.  Unlike most people, Maya never outgrew her magic and she somehow, accidentally brought Benjamin and his nemesis, Adam the cop, into the real world. Maya soon finds that “magicking” up a couple of cute guys isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

As for my keys? Still haven’t found them. Maybe they’re hanging out with my sock’s lost mates?

 

Maya opened her front door carefully and listened before entering. She didn’t know what she expected. That an intruder would jump out and announce his presence? But her paranoia gave her a sense of control.

 

Nothing was amiss in the house, as far as she could tell. Delilah swirled her tail and darted back and forth in anticipation of dinner. The air that brushed Maya’s face was warm and inviting, so she stepped through the doorway, closing the door behind her.

 

She set the pizza down on the coffee table and then fed Delilah. The fish slurped down four orange nuggets and remained near the top of the aquarium, her stare fixed on Maya.

 

My fish likes him. Maya sighed, thinking of the new  pair of pink flannel pajamas. She should at least thank him, she reasoned, and then headed for her studio. The notepaper with his number was still pinned to the corkboard. Before she could change her mind, she quickly punched the number into her phone.

 

It rang four times and she was about to hang up when he answered.

 

“Hi.” Maya paused, and then forged on. “This is Maya. I—”

 

“Maya. Hi.” Benjamin’s surprise was obvious.

 

“I wanted to thank you. For the pajamas. I couldn’t get the blood out, they were my favorite pajamas.” Oh, good grief, girl. Stop babbling. “Thank you.”

 

“No problem.”

 

Maya looked around her studio, gaze landing on the easel. She couldn’t figure out how to dispose of it, so it stood there in a state of charred ignominy. If Benjamin didn’t set the fire, who did? Did he know who? If he did, would he tell her?

 

Her stomach growled. “Have you had dinner?”

 

“No, not yet.”

 

“I got a pizza from Tenorio’s. A large.” The words sprang from her mouth before she could stop them. “I can’t eat the whole thing; I’ll probably eat too much. You could save me from myself and…”

 

There was a cavernous silence on the phone.

 

“You’re inviting me over?”

 

“Well, I’m not mailing half a pizza to you.”

 

He let out a low laugh. “Okay. Sure.”

 

Connect with P. Kirby at: But It’s a Dry Heat, Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook.

 

If you could bring a fictional character to life, who would it be? Leave your answer in the comments for a chance to win a copy of The Canvas Thief. Contest ends midnight (EST) on 1-15-12. Winner announced shortly thereafter.

Wendi Zwaduk talks researching for writing

Research!

For my post for the month, I thought I’d tackle something I am very bad at. Research. Okay, that’s not the whole truth. I am good at researching but it depends on what the research is for. Hot scenes? I’m on it. Music to underscore a scene? I’m so there. Making sure the last little detail about regencyEnglandis correct? Bo-ring. Sorry. I can’t do it.

It’s funny to think I am not into research. When it’s a topic I like, say Ancient Greece, the Civil War,Vietnam, I’m all over it. Yes, I was one of those geeky kids who actually read the books about the Ancient Greeks and not because there were naked statues. Way back when, in those hazy crazy high school days, I actually though I’d become a history teacher. Yes, I loved to do research back them. Loved to learn about how things were. And then I realized how tedious some of that research can be.

Now don’t get me wrong. If it’s a difference between a character in Ancient Greece saying “Yo,Adrian” and “Good eve my dearest wife” then yes, the research should be done. I have a dear friend who actually knows when certain words came into usage. Go figure I can’t remember any of the particulars, but she can tell me when say ‘pussy’ came into everyday usage. To me, it’s a word used frequently. But that’s our society. Apparently back in the day, the word ‘pussy’ was a term of endearment for a child. Don’t quote me on that, as I didn’t do the research. Just sayin’. It wouldn’t occur to me to even ask when that word would’ve come into popularity.

As of the writing of this post, I’m working on a short story about a Vietnam vet.  It’s set in 1970’s Ohio. You guessed it, I have to do research for this story. Why? First, I wasn’t born before the Vietnam War concluded. Sorry. You’d have to wait a few years. Second, I might know some of the music of that era, I don’t know when most of it came out, just that it was around that time. Third, I’m sure there was vernacular used at the time that hasn’t made it down to modern day. Then again, as I’ve done some research, there’s quite a bit of vernacular that’s made it to today. Cool. You know. Chill. They made it down. I might sound foolish to say, who knew, but I didn’t know.

And that’s the fun of the dreaded research. You learn something new and in my case, find that even though the time period is a little over forty years ago, there’s not much that’s changed. Fashion has, and thank the industry for that, but a lot is the same. So even if research isn’t my favorite thing to do, it does have its purpose. What do you think? Let me know! I love to chatter with commenters.

And here’s a little bit about my latest work, Somewhere I Belong.

Sullavan Tanner walked away from Jarvis, Ohio, afraid to give his heart to the woman he loved. He lived the rock and roll lifestyle, but never quite made it to the big time. Fifteen years later, he’s back and ready to claim what’s his—if she’ll accept his help.

Marley Lockwood’s done asking for help. The family farm is more than she can handle, but if she can survive a cancer scare, the loss of her parents, the abandonment by her first love, and a messy divorce, she can handle anything.

Until Sully shows up.

Although she’s not interested in rekindling the love affair, she’s not above accepting Sully’s hands on the farm. What’s the worst that could happen? They get the farm out of the red and into the black? That’s her plan. They actually fall in love?  The past says it won’t work, so she’s not hedging her bets.

Too bad Sully’s not giving up this time.

Want a copy? You can get yours at Liquid Silver Books, Amazon or All Romance Ebooks!