Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Years!

Last year at this time, my husband and I had just welcomed our little guy Jackson into our lives and at that point, I had no idea the amount of time and patience a baby required. Well I learned fast! I had gone into motherhood believing that I would have time to devote to my writing when the baby was sleeping. That was problematic as Jack doesn't really like to sleep and when he was sleeping, I needed to be also.

Since then, I've learned the juggle many hats and at times my writing has fallen short, but at other times, such as NaNo, I committed myself and completed my goal. So last year, while I didn't meet my initial goals/resolutions, I did manage to get a lot done. At this point I'm not a published author, but I am a good mom.

I've smartened up this year and my goals are realistic (at this point to me):
1. Learn how to use Facebook effectively! (any tips, recommendations or suggestions, let me know!)
2. Master the Twitter universe.
3. Learn how to use Tribe and find a "tribe".
4. Learn more effective time management in every aspect of my life. This will allow me to write as much as I can, even in little spurts. Writing goals this year include starting a new project and finishing the editing process on the other two.
5. Learn how to write a synopsis and query letter.
6. Be happy and less stressed about trying to do everything. Focus on the things that I can do and be happy with that.

My last resolution, is also a wish that I have for all of you. I hope that wherever you are in your life or writing journey you have a happier year!

Are there any New Year's Resolutions that you want to put out there and commit to? Shout them out? Do you set resolutions or refuse? Why?

Happy New Year to everyone and may you all have the best year of your lives!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Happy!

Not much to say other than that, today. I'm sure we are all busy doing, being, and delighting in thoughts and actions far beyond our usual. So, to keep in the season of celebration, I've got a couple of indulgences.

Whether one is religious or not, the sound of voices raised in celebration is not a bad thing.  I'm a fan of the musical flash mob myself so I present this for today's prezzie.

And, for those of us crafters out there, I found something fun to do with the kids.

A friend of mine seduced me into getting a new phone and one of the toys I indulged in was an app for identifying the bright things in the sky at night.  The other day, I found a low tech application.  Check out this post on and, if you have something suitable (who uses film these days?) try the constellations project.

No matter which hemisphere you are in, there are stars in it. And reasons to celebrate love, family, light.  Blessings on all of those, and Happy Merry to you and yours!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

So this is Christmas!

       From all the Scouts at the Salon....

                   We wish you Merry Christmas

                                   and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Travel Audiobook Playlist

I have to admit, for the longest time I dismissed audiobooks out of hand. I just never understood the appeal and sort of assumed it was something that only old people or heavy commuters got into. Even when I traveled it didn't occur to me to give them a shot. Thankfully that has changed, and looking back, I'm shocked that I ever got through a long road trip without them.

Hubs and I made our usual drive back east for Thanksgiving and spent most of the way listening to the first two Harry Dresden urban fantasy novels, written by Jim Butcher and narrated by the fabulous James Marsters. Since I'm new to audiobooks, I don't have enough comparative knowledge to judge good and bad recitation, but I thought he did a darn good job of capturing Harry's deadpan, noir detective voice and we enjoyed the experience. We're looking at twice as much driving time as we make the rounds to visit the far-off rellies for Christmas, so we've been stocking up for maximum entertainment.

Here's our list so far (all from the library):

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

The Laughing Corpse by Laurel K. Hamilton

The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman

Earth, The Book by The Daily Show with John Stewart

Our library also has a wonderful digital service where you can download ebooks and audiobooks to play or read on various devices. I've got some great stuff lined up there as well, including some Patricia Briggs, Isaac Asimov, and Kim Harrison.

When you're going to spend close to forty hours in the car during a week-long period, it helps to have a plenty of choices for every mood. Got any audiobooks you'd like to recommend? Which readers have impressed you the most? Let me know if you'll be listening to stories on your travels this holiday season.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review of Christine Palmer's Shadow Play

After a whirlwind month of NaNoWriMo, I was so pleased to be able to take a break from my writing and read. I was even more pleased when I received an advanced copy of the first book in the Others series, Shadow Tracker by Christine Palmer.
To be honest when I first picked up the book, I wasn’t too sure what to expect as the paranormal world is very different from the vamps and shifters that I normally read, but I instantly connected with the tough as nails heroine, Kyra. And then there was the hero. Whew! It was love at first description for Ryder. I also enjoyed the aspect Kyra and Ryder weren’t instantly attracted to each other. Both with strong romance hang ups and that truly were avoided the big “L”.

Each of the lead characters practically jumped off the pages. The emotional connect was strong and the backstory wonderfully weaved together. While the romance is strong and sexy, the plot was as equally drawing.
Shadow Tracker had me feeling all the emotions as we travel down through Kyra’s adventure physically and emotionally. The story was strong and it had suspense, romance and a surprise ending.

I would definitely continue reading the series and will be looking for it! If I had a star rating book system, I would give Shadow Track four sparkling Christmas stars.

 Shadow Tracker Description:
A small town in the mountains of Marshall, Montana is being plagued by an unknown entity. It’s mutilating and killing the women of the town. At his wits end the Sheriff of Marshall has nowhere to turn but to a friend. A friend, with the abilities to track and kill any prey.

Ryder doesn’t normally do mortal issues. However, he can’t turn his back on a friend. Besides he is the best at what he does. After all he is a Tracker, an ancient race with unparalleled abilities to track down any prey. With one of the three essential elements: Taste, Touch or Smell. Heartless and cold, Ryder knows what needs to be done and performs his duty without feeling.
Kyra, an Air Element and the only female Elemental Enforcer, is sent on a fact finding mission to Marshall, by the Druid Council. She needs to find out exactly what is happening in Montana before the Tribunal goes in and kills everyone.
The last thing she expects to find is a Tracker, and is even more surprised to find out that he is on her side. But can they get past their initial feelings upon meeting and the sexual tension? Or will the evil that is living in the mountain kill them both.

Ryder and Kyra must learn to work together to destroy the shadow and save Kyra from a fate worse than death. When pure evil is involved is love enough?
Author Bio
Christie was born and raised in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Ut. She lives less than a mile from the home she grew up in. World traveler she is not. But what she lacked in travel she more than made up for in her imagination. Within her vivid imagination she has traveled the world over as well as different worlds and different times.
She works a full time day job to pay the bills but loses herself in books and her writing whenever possible.
She is a loving mother of two wonderful children that she admits she is obsessed with. She has been married for 18 years to a very tolerant man that is grounded in reality in order for her to fly to the heights of her own imagination.
She started writing when she was a teenager after reading a book that she didn't like the ending too. Took a hiatus to raise her wonderful children but has dedicated herself to becoming a published writer for the last several years.
Twitter: @christieauthor
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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Familiar Journey

Today is opening day for Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The journey begins again for those of us who love the world J.R.R Tolkien’s created many, many years ago. I’ll be watching it this weekend so I have no spoilers for you guys yet. It’ll come in two weeks after I digested the film and the awesome visual presence on the big screen.

It reminds me when the first film of Lord of the Rings came out. I didn’t realize until after the film I treated myself to a great birthday present for that year and the next two. There were so many people I converted to the film version of the book. I myself can’t read the book, as much as I tried to push through the details of the world Tolkien spend so much time with.

I experienced each Lord of the Rings films on the big screen and the Hobbit movies won’t be any different. I may not be watching the movie with the same people but I know they will be watching it as well. No popcorn or a drink if I don’t want to rush to the restroom in the middle of the movie. Movie popcorn is the best but I don’t want to miss any moment of it.

If anyone wants to come and leave a comment after I post my review, please do so. I enjoy reading reviews since everyone shreds new light on the same material. Please leave a comment today and let us know at the Salon you will be joining us for review day.   

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Numerology makes Holiday Shopping a Snap!

I found a fun way to take the stress out of holiday shopping that might appeal to fantasy lovers and metaphysical devotees alike. A simple understanding of numerology could really aide your gift giving!

Numerology, the ancient science of numbers helps you to “see” personalities by analyzing a person’s birth name and birth date. However, unless you are very close to the person, you probably won’t have that data. But, even if you don’t know their full name or birth date, even knowing the first letter of their first name and the first vowel will give you insight into their personality. 

Three ways to use numerology to determine that perfect gift:

1. To find someone’s birth number, simply add together their month, day and year of birth and then reduce to a single digit. Example: May 21, 1971     5 (May is the fifth month) + 2 + 1 (day of the month) + 1 + 9 + 7 + 1 (year) = 26.

Next, add the 2 & 6 numbers together:  2 + 6 = 8.

The ‘birth path’ number for this person is “8”

2. Alternately, to find someone’s number from the first letter and first vowel of their given name, use the following Alphabet Chart *.
#1- A, J, S    
#5 – N, E, W   
#9 – R, I
#2- B, K, T    
#6 – F, O, X
#3- C, L, U   
 #7 – G, Y, P
#4- D, M, V   
#8 – H, Q, Z

For example, if someone’s name is “Jenna,” her first letter would be “J” with a number value of “1” and her first vowel would be  “E” with a number value of “5.” Refer to both numbers for insight into their personality (*) 

3. Additionally, if you know the person’s full name at birth, just refer to the Alphabet Chart above and add together all the number values for each letter of their entire name. Then add together the final total, just as we did with the birth date, until you reach a single digit.

Example:  M A R Y    S  M  I  T  H (M)   (A)   (R)   (Y)      (S)   (M)    (I)   (T)   (H) 4  +   1  +   9  +   7    +   1 +  4  +    9  +  2  +   8 =45 (4 + 5) = 9

The final number for interpretation for Mary Smith would be the number 9.

Check below for a list of gift ideas based upon a person’s number. Remember that numbers are dual in nature, representing both earthly and spiritual tendencies. For that reason, the list is divided into what a person with that number wants and what they need.

I turned out to be a #3, which suits me perfectly, except I don’t care much for the color yellow. So, any gifts of meditation CDs, small pieces of art, or books would be wonderful!

Does your number match your personal preferences for gifts you’d like to receive? 

Give this a try for those folks on your list you struggle to buy for.

Gifts for the numbers 1-9:

#1   What they want: These people are unique and would enjoy any one-of-a kind gift. They like simple designs, angles and clean lines. Anything new, different or avant-garde would please them. Perhaps, the latest ipod – or try searching out places like Brookstones or the Sharper Image for some new gadget.  What they need: One’s (1) usually need calming, so a miniature Zen garden would be a good idea. Colors for 1 are all different shades of red.

#2   What they want: “Two’s are sentimental and love receiving gifts that are personal and have a lot of thought behind them. A poem you’ve written or something that can be shared, like tickets for a show, are sure to please. If you were close friends, they would cherish a lovely framed picture of the two of you together. Many 2’s like to collect things.  What they need: a day to pamper themselves, free from worry about other things and other people. Colors for 2 are all shades of orange.

#3   What they want: This is a person who likes to be entertained and pampered. They would love a day at the spa, a comfy robe and slippers, scented bath oils and soaps. They love words, so books or CD’s are always a good choice. They also love artsy-crafty things, trinkets and baubles. Just be sure to make a big fuss over them- they love to be the center of attention. What they need: 3’s are similar to the number 1 and need to settle down a bit. Try some meditation CD’s. Colors for a 3 are all shades of yellow.

#4   What they want:  Fours are sensible and down to earth. Anything practical or of the earth, will make them happy. They like organizers or a suitcase with lots of compartments. They also like to make bank deposits… so plain old cash or a savings bond would be a hit or perhaps a subscription to “Smart Money.” Make sure whatever it is, it is made to last. What they need: a ride on a roller coaster or something adventuresome to free their spirit. Colors for a 4 are all shades of brown and green.

#5   What they want: Fives are the adventurers and would love a trip! ( You can hook them up with a number “4” to help the  4 loosen up!) Or, you could take them someplace local (and different) that they’ve never been to before. They are also sensual beings, so something with texture or anything they can taste, touch or feel would be a hit. What they need: “tranquilizers”! …no.. no… just kidding, but they do need something to ground them a bit, maybe a stress reduction CD. Colors for a 5 are any shade of the lighter blues.

#6   What they want: Most 6’s really enjoy music and food or something cuddly. The most obvious combo would be: dinner and tickets for a concert. A CD of their favorite performer, in a basket filled with gourmet foods (and perhaps wine) would also be a hit. Sixes are also “nesters.” They love flowers and anything for their home, so something comfy and cozy will delight a six. What they need: to let someone else make all the decisions for them for a day! Colors for a 6 are darker shades of blue

#7   What they want: A seven can be quite fussy about what they like and want. They’re deep thinkers, like to acquire knowledge, can be mysterious and enjoy spending time alone. Go to the Discovery channel store. Educational books or CD’s or mysteries are great idea. They also like gift certificates, and many like antiques, because of their interest in history. Whatever it is, make sure it is of quality. What they need: to stop thinking, watch a silly movie with friends and laugh out loud. Colors for a 7 are shades of violet.

#8   What they want:  Eights love gifts – period. They especially like cash. If it’s a brand name, they’ll love it. A piece of jewelry, big or small, from Tiffany’s would definitely impress them. A signed piece of artwork from a local artist is also a great idea. Like their number  4  counterpart, 8’s also like to make bank deposits. (They love to make withdrawals too!)  Try a gift card or a subscription to “Inc.”  What they need:  a weekend at a spiritual retreat, where they can get in touch with their inner self. Colors for an 8 are: tan & gray. Some say rose.

#9   What they want: sentimental and sensitive, nines want to know you care. Something personalized, whether it is engraved or handmade, just for them, will touch their heart.  Nine’s are dramatic and enjoy the theater or a concert. They are humanitarians and interested in worldly affairs. A book or CD on either of these subjects would make a great gift. What they need:  similar to the number 2, 9’s need a day free of worry and stress about things they cannot control. Colors for a 9 are: gold or red-gold

Reference: Michelle Landers, OM Times Magazine, December 1, 2012.
~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Read her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous epic fantasy romance: Book One, SEEKING A SCRIBE, Book Two, HERITAGE AVENGED, and Book Three, LOST VOLUMES. She has also authored the Ciel's Legacy series, with fast action mermaid/pirate storylines: TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE and TORTUGA TREASURE.  For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cleaning Out the Shelves

Have you ever opened up a book that you've been holding on to for a very long time, then when you finally get around to reading it discover it's just not your cup of tea? I absolutely hate that, and unfortunately it's been happening to me a lot lately.

With another possible move looming on the horizon, I'm making an effort to try to weed out as much filler as I can from our little library. Some titles are easier to discard than others, but I try to make a real effort to read every book that comes into my possession. It doesn't always happen, so at this point I'll settle for a thorough skimming (yes, that's a thing).

I've come across science-y books that are almost a decade old, crafting manuals I'll probably never explore, and, of course, novels that have been knocked down the TBR list indefinitely in favor of juicier options. It seems many of them will never win my full attention, so as much as it pains me it's time to pass them on so they may find someone who will appreciate them more.

Movers hate me. Boxes of books are heavy. Hopefully I'll lighten the load somewhat and the rellies will get some new reading material for the holidays.

Step two is sorting the comic books. Prepare for some world-class whining.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Fairy Tales and a Giveaway with Author Jes Young

A jubilant Salon welcome to author Jes Young, who just released book two of her Princess of Light and Dawn series. Leave a comment by midnight on Friday (14th) and one lucky person will win an ebook set of Tab Bennett and the Inbetween and Underneath. US and Canada only, please leave an email address where we can notify the winner.

A Fairy Tale Life

When I was a little girl, I wanted a fairy tale life – a handsome prince, an enchanted castle, gourds that would turn into inexpensive and convenient modes of transportation. I watched the Disney versions of the classic fairy tales without knowing that the Little Mermaid traded her tongue to get on land and then ended up dying alone because the prince didn’t love her or that Rapunzel’s real parents traded her to the witch in exchange for a head of lettuce. Blissfully unaware, I danced around the backyard singing “Someday my prince will come.” I waited for the shiny apple that would bring true love’s kiss running to revive me as I lay – surrounded by extremely short men and deeply asleep – in my very own glass coffin.

When I was a teenager, I was surly and angry and much too smart to believe in happy endings. Fairy tales were stupid – especially the Disney versions. Cinderella and Rapunzel were chumps for cheerfully putting up with everyone’s crap. The Little Mermaid was a fool for giving up her life for a man. Snow “I take candy from strangers” White was too dumb to live. I didn’t want to be like any of those stupid, useless princesses. I wasn’t going to waste my time trying to catch the eye of some guy who wore more lip gloss than I did just because his father owned a castle.

Now I am a grown up and although I am no longer quite so keen on eating poisoned apples, neither am I in such a hurry to discount the appeal of an eager to please handsome prince. I find I want fairy tales again – stories about magic, about destiny, about the power of true love and the triumph of good over evil. That’s what draws me to urban fantasy; the genre takes the best elements of the fairy tales I grew up on, shakes them, and makes them into something better. Maybe the princess has a knife collection and a snarky attitude but she is loyal and brave. And maybe the prince has traded in his too-red lips for a facial scar and a past he’s not proud of, but he’s loyal and brave too. Together they’ll win and lose and bleed. They’ll find danger, fight the bad guy, and ultimately save the world. And when they get to their happily ever after, they’ll have earned it.

Where do you stand on the issue of fairy tales? Are they little girl soul crushers or imagination builders? Do you favor the sweetened versions or do you prefer your stories bitter and dark? If anybody has any comments or questions, I’d love to hear them! I’ll check in to reply throughout the day.

Princess of Twilight and Dawn Book Two
By Jes Young

Six months ago, when her long-hidden heritage came to light, Tab Bennett reluctantly let go of her past and embraced her future as an Elvish princess on the cusp of her gifts and the edge of her destiny. She never wanted a fairy tale life, but as the daughter of the Dark King and the Light Queen, that’s exactly what she got.

Raised in exile away from the kingdom of the Inbetween, Tab has never even met the parents who ruined her life. Her mother is dead, but Tab’s father, Daniel, is alive and well, the mad ruler of the kingdom of the Underneath. He’s made it clear he wants to meet her and now that she knows all the sadness and heartache in her life can be traced directly to the Dark king’s door, Tab wants to meet him too. After all, it's because of him that the first twenty-five years of her life were a lie. It’s his fault she gave her heart to Robbin when she should have been saving it for Alex, the prince who is destined to be her Homecoming. But, most importantly, King Daniel is the one responsible for her mother’s suicide and her sisters’ murders.

Now Tab wants justice – but she’ll settle for revenge and Finnegan Blackthorn, an Elvish warrior with secrets of his own, is going to help her get it. Together, they’ll embark on the dangerous journey to her father’s stronghold in the kingdom Underneath. Once she's there, far away from the Light in which she was raised, Tab will be forced to confront the seductive nature of Darkness and her own potential to truly become her father’s daughter.

About the Author:

After graduating from Emerson College with a BFA in creative writing, Jes Young was a copywriter at Random House (Ballantine Books and Crown Publishing Group) for nearly ten years. Currently she is the development manager of a small non-profit and the mother of two children under the age of ten. Her writing is done primarily between the hours of 11 p.m and 3 a.m.

My blog:
Twitter: @JesYoungWrites

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Magic & Music With Fantasy Author Emma Woodcock

We're so pleased to welcome fantasy author Emma Woodcock. Her novel, Darklands, is available now in both paperback and ebook versions.

A Kind of Magic

At fifteen I was 5'8'', all knees and elbows, with a big mane of dyed red hair and army boots half way up my calf. I had started to learn the cello only a couple of years earlier. I was 12th (last) cello in the county youth orchestra, sandwiched awkwardly between the double basses and a gaggle of tiny eight year old cellists all far more accomplished players than me.

Consequently I felt ever so slightly conspicuous as I guessed at tuning my instrument, struggled to find my place in the score, and fudged my way through rehearsal after rehearsal. Despite a week's intense practice I didn't get much better, and my confidence plummeted. I was so worried about playing the wrong thing and ruining the piece, that when it came to the eventual performance at Buxton Opera House I mimed through most of it.

I gave up the cello shortly after that. I have grudgingly had to accept that I am just not a musical person. No one in my family is musical. Words are our thing. And food.

The Power To Mesmerise

Music seems a kind of magic to me. It has the power to mesmerise; to alter moods; to bring exultation or despair, or unlock hidden memories. It is wreathed in a strange coded language that I don't understand. Allegro con molto means as much to me as Abracadabra.

Those who are musically gifted seem very mysterious. I view them with a mixture of admiration, envy, and a sort of distrust – they must be witches! How else could they control and harness that amazing power, and bend it to their will?*

I feel it as a terrible loss in my life that I'm not musical. I love music – all kinds of music. But I don't understand it in the least. What is a fugue? A partita? A canon? A gigue? What is the difference between a rhapsody and a fantasy? A concerto and a symphony? What makes something a prelude? Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun always confused me. I expected there to be a longer piece called 'The Afternoon of a Faun.' There isn't.

When I used to sit at the back of the orchestra I couldn't hear myself play. I had no idea how to pick my own sound out from the multitude of sounds around me. I had no idea if I was in tune, or if I was in time...

The ability to make music; to create one beautiful sound and then to weave it around other sounds, and to build a coherent, wonderful whole seems hardly less astonishing to me than the ability to move objects with the power of the mind.

Given this wonder and envy, it is perhaps not surprising that I have allied music with magic in much of my writing. In Darklands, Inkling is a powerful magician with a particular affinity for music. But he doesn't play a violin, a flute or a piano. He plays the wind. He plays the dry grasses and the branches of trees. He sends the wind whistling around sculpted rocks, creating fluttering arpeggios. He conjures a soft, shushing rhythm from the treetops, and a mournful, clattering tune from living bamboo.

In my work in progress, a musician unwittingly exerts power over the ghostly protagonist, Kikimora. Her magical powers weaken whenever she hears him play, and she becomes visible to humans – which causes problems for them both.

His Inhuman Skill

Music has a long history of association with the uncanny, the fae, the devilish. One of the best known and most evocative examples must be the Pied Piper bewitching the children of Hamlin with his playing, and leading them astray. Celtic lore has fairies closely tied with musicians, particularly pipers. Musicians are far more likely than other mortals to be taken to fairy land.

Some, such as the blind 17th century harpist, Turlough O'Carolan, were said to acquire their musical prowess after spending a night on the fairy knoll.

This echoes the story of the violinist, Nicolo Paganini, widely believed to have sold his soul to the devil in return for his inhuman skill and virtuosity. Early Blues musician Robert Johnson was similarly said to have sold his soul to the Devil – down at the Crossroads.

Both of these musicians knew a good story when they heard one, and they played up the unearthly aspect of their personas – Paganini by growing long wings of hair, and dressing all in black, Robert Johnson by singing such songs as Hellhound on my Trail, Me and the Devil, and Crossroads Blues.

And let's not forget the role music has played in religion down the ages, from Gregorian chants, via plainsong, liturgy and mass, to American gospel music and beyond. Would religion grip the hearts and souls of so many without the uncanny power of music in its arsenal?

To Muddle And Misplace

Some music is so evocative of a certain time, mood or place that just hearing a short passage transports you instantly back there. Much of our unconscious musical associations come from film and TV. There is a certain type of English romantic music (typified by Vaughn-Williams' The Lark Ascending) which never fails to make me yearn for an idyllic rural past that probably never existed. This is thanks to its use in countless period dramas on TV: Tess of the D'urbervilles; the Mill on the Floss, Precious Bane.

Another well used piece is the thrillingly dramatic Carmina Burana, which conjures everything from King Arthur's knights riding into battle (Excaliber) to demonic murder (The Omen) to sexual ecstacy (The Doors).

Powerful music has the ability to imprint a mood into your soul; a mood which can be instantly recalled by hearing the music again. On a more humdrum level this is demonstrated when we hear music from our youth and become misty eyed over all the memories and associations it brings back – even music you didn't like at the time.

When I was sixteen Brit-pop was all the rage; everyone loved Oasis - but I thought they were boring and whiny and not a patch on Sonic Youth or Pixies. I hear Oasis now and I don't remember how I used to complain about them and groan and roll my eyes. I remember how it felt to be sixteen, and think that the world was my oyster; to not wake up every morning with back ache; to be full of hope and dreams and chutzpah that hadn't yet been tempered by dusty reality...

But hang on – is that really what it was like? Or is the music fooling me? Didn't I spend much of my teenage years paranoid and miserable? Didn't I spend long hours obsessing about my intense ugliness, the dullness of my life, and dreaming that one day things would be better?

Music can deceive. It can muddle and misplace, and convince you of things that never were.

It can also inspire. Artists of every sort find inspiration in music. Marcus Sedgwick has described how Midwinter Blood is based on Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. My above-mentioned work in progress, Kikimora, was directly inspired by a 'fairytale for orchestra' of the same name by Anatoly Lyadov.


Music can be mind-altering, reality-altering. It can affect the listener mentally, physically and spiritually. It can transport you through time and space. It can unlock memories long forgotten; it can sometimes trick us into believing things that never happened.

If that's not magic, I don't know what is.

* Just prior to submitting this post I noticed a previous post on this site from only a week ago, saying, “Cecilia Bartoli does things with her voice that must have come from some kind of witchcraft.” See? It's not just me.

Emma Woodcock is the author of young adult fantasy, Darklands:

When 15 year old Sophie finds herself mysteriously transported to a parallel world she can barely believe her luck. The sun always shines, the people thinks she's fantastic, and their impossibly handsome King dotes on her. But as the seemingly idyllic Darklands reveals its grim secrets, the fate of both worlds relies on Sophie escaping the despotic King and finding her way back home.
Twitter: @elwoodcock

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cover Reveal: Fiery Edge of Steel, Noon Onyx Book 2

I'm feeling some serious cover love for Fiery Edge of Steel, the next installment of the Noon Onyx series by Jill Archer. Tell us what you think of it, and be sure to enter the fabulous giveaway at the end of the post. Check it out -

Fiery Edge of Steel
Noon Onyx Book Two
Jill Archer

Cover Artist: Jason Chan
Genre: Fantasy, with elements of mystery and romance (Note: Fiery Edge of Steel is not UF, although it would appeal to many UF readers)
Publisher: Ace
Date of Publication: May 28, 2013
ISBN-10: 0425257169
ISBN-13: 978-0425257166
Pre-Order links: Amazon BN Goodreads "Want to Read"

Book description:

Lucifer and his army triumphed at Armageddon, leaving humans and demons living in uncertain peace based on sacrifice and strict laws. It is up to those with mixed demon and human blood, the Host, to prevent society from falling into anarchy.

Noon Onyx is the first female Host in memory to wield the destructive waning magic that is used to maintain order among the demons. Her unique abilities, paired with a lack of control and reluctance to kill, have branded her as an outsider from her peers. Only her powerful lover, Ari Carmine, and a roguish and mysterious Angel, Rafe Sinclair, support her unconventional ways.

When Noon is shipped off to a remote outpost to investigate several unusual disappearances, a task which will most likely involve trying and killing the patron demon of that area, it seems Luck is not on her side. But when the outpost settlers claim that an ancient and evil foe has stepped out of legend to commit the crimes, Noon realizes that she could be facing something much worse than she ever imagined…

Dark Light of Day
Noon Onyx Book One
Jill Archer

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
ISBN: 978-0-425-25715-9
Number of pages: 384
Word Count: 123,000

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Book Description:

Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret—she was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of and some will consider her an abomination.

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.

Praise for Dark Light of Day: 

"Spectacular debut novel by a soon-to-be-star."—USA Today bestselling author Faith Hunter

"There is a fresh new voice in urban fantasy, and she has a unique take on Armageddon...With her unusual heroine, Noon Onyx, Archer has created a brilliant character who struggles against fate to find her place in the world. Set against the backdrop of university life, there is an abundance of adventure, mystery and passion!"—Romantic Times (four stars)

About the Author:

Jill Archer is the author of Dark Light of Day, the first book in the Noon Onyx series. Raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jill now lives in rural Maryland with her two children and her husband, who is a recreational pilot. She blogs about books, movies, interesting people, and various weekend adventures.

twitter: @archer_jill 
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Paper Play!

Now that Nanowrimo is over, I'm back. Mostly.

One of the first things someone tells you as a writer, besides just keep writing, is write what you know.  That doesn't always mean writing from your history. For me it meant using my favorite part of the trip: getting to visit the house that Rembrandt von Rijn lived and worked in.  It's a museum and, unlike most museums, you can take all the pictures you want.  And I did.


I also did something else that I didn't know I could: I bought a paper model of the house.  I left it for the month of November while I built my story and relived as much of the house and it's environment as I could, through my characters.  Today, though, I got to relax and play.  No tape or glue needed.  It was also an exercise in memory.

The studio with the stretched canvases and easel. that was where we got a demonstration of how Rembrandt would have ground the pigments to make his paints. It's still done by some painters today. There is a model of the printing press that Rembrandt made his etchings on.  There are the box beds that I have loved since I first saw them ages ago.  I've got paintings, furniture, people and a dog.

Turns out that I can also people my house with three-dimensional figures.  I've got cowboys and indians and was delighted to discover that they are the right scale!.

One of the things I was hoping to find in Europe was a toy theater. The house is not the same thing but it is filling the place the theater would have taken.  Still want a theater, though.  I might have to just build my own.  Watch this space.  There is more paper coming.

When I am not drooling over fabric, I am hoarding paper.  The delight of a toy theater is that, being paper and a stage, I can build sets and characters for my stories.  Think paper dolls meets doll house.  I'm sure I have talked about toy theater before and if I haven't, I'm sorry.  I'm not just talking about puppet stages (which do count) but whole theaters printed to look like small versions of the real thing, complete with audience and orchestra, sometimes!.  Just as the Rembrandt house looks like its original.

 Hmmm. there's a thought. Now that I have the house set up, maybe it's time to start making the paper dolls of the people in my story and building sets.  I've got some cardboard around here somewhere...

Monday, December 3, 2012

I wrote, I conquered, but never again...

I took this weekend to recharge my batteries after a very crazy, tension-filled November. I participated in NaNo again, and thankfully I managed another win. I battled the flu that spread through my family and even managed to return to work from my maternity leave in the middle of the month, but even that didn't stop me. Through sleepy eyes and lots of chocolate covered raisins, I pulled off a win.

I had a formal outline that I worked and reworked with the help of two wonderful associate editors from Entangled Publishing, the Covet line. With their help I whipped my story into better shape and although it was like pulling out teeth getting everything down on paper, it did help me to write it faster (not necessarily better as I haven't given it a glance, I'm afraid!)

Looking back at the experience, while my competitive spirit and wonderful Magik Muchachas cheered me along, with the wonderful help of Entangled Publishing and Savvy Authors, I can't help but hope that next year I will be smarter and opt out. Don't get me wrong, I have a first draft and it did force me to write every day, but I think next year I will avoid the November stress and just sit back and watch everyone else suffer!

What I did learn in NaNo was that no matter where you are in your writing career, surrounding yourself with wonderfully sympathetic and supportive writers is key to any success. I participated in the Savvy Authors sprints and not only was the word counts improved, but I also found a wonderful group of people that I hope that continue to sprint with and keep in contact with.

Did you participate in NaNo? What was your experience? Good? Bad? Will you do it again? Did you learn anything new?

Thanks for reading!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Day of November

The last day of November means the end of NaNoWriMo. I learned something new again during this NaNo and hope for those who participated did as well. Any rejoicing? Any regrets? No regrets? Share your thoughts on the 2012 NaNo Season.

 And lastly, a special congratulation to everyone who attempted and another congrats to those who won.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What does the New Adult category mean for Speculative Fiction?

Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about a new genre fiction label—New Adult. In simple terms, it’s a grown-up Young Adult category. The characters are older, 18 to 30, the twentysomethings, and they take on more emotionally complicated issues as they act as adults for the first times.

The label was coined in 2009 when St. Martin’s Press held a contest looking for stories that could be marketed to both YA readers and adult readers. The contest described for new adult fiction as books “with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience.”

For a definition beyond those simple descriptions, founder Georgia McBride interviewed an editorial assistant who worked on the St. Martin’s writing contest. 

“…there is a gap in the current adult market–the literary fiction market–for fiction about twentysomethings. You never stop growing up, I think, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens in your 20s. This is the time of life when you are an actual, legal adult, but just because you’re able to vote (in the US, anyway) that doesn’t mean you know HOW to be one. This is the first time when you are building a life that is your OWN, away from your parents and the family that raised you. It’s a strange and scary place to be. Just as YA is fiction about discovering who you are as a person, I think NA is fiction about building your own life. (Very generalised, of course.) I hope that the creation of this category will allow the adult market to develop and expand in similar ways the children’s market did.”

With the establishment of this new genre label, I wonder what that might mean for speculative fiction. In terms of YA, the changes were huge, since the majority of that category involves some type of fantasy, usually urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Will that same trend continue into the New Adult category? Will that create a new audience for fantasy writers? Or do existing paranormal romances and urban fantasies already focus on main characters in their 20s, and the books will just get additional marketing labels slapped on them?

What are your thoughts about how the advent of New Adult will affect the speculative fiction market?

~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Read her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous epic fantasy romance: Book One, SEEKING A SCRIBE, Book Two, HERITAGE AVENGED, and Book Three, LOST VOLUMES. She has also authored the Ciel's Legacy series, with fast action mermaid/pirate storylines: TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE and TORTUGA TREASURE.  For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Urban Fantasy Perspectives: Suzanne Johnson

I'm very excited to present today's interview with urban fantasy author, Suzanne Johnson. Check out the latest installment of her Sentinels of New Orleans series, River Road, and enter to win one of several fabulous tour prizes through the form at the end of the post.

Welcome Suzanne!

Thanks, Ella—it’s great to be here!

Tell us a little but about the heroine of your Sentinels of New Orleans series, Drusilla (DJ) Jaco.

DJ is a wizard who grew up in New Orleans. She knows she’s not the strongest wizard on the block—no one would ever describe her as kickass, but she can handle herself pretty well. She’s creative in her problem-solving, which often lands her in hot water with the wizards’ Elders, but her methods usually work. Her biggest weakness, but also her biggest strength, is that she leads with her heart rather than her head. It means she ends up in some bad situations, but she always does things for the right reasons. She’s funny and resourceful, stubborn and snarky. She’s been through a lot but came through it stronger. And did I mention she has elven blood on both sides of her family? It gives her some interesting skills.

DJ is a Green Congress wizard, while her mentor, Gerry, is a Red Congress wizard. Can you explain the difference between these two types of magic users?

In the Sentinels series, the wizards are organized into four Congresses, based on the type of magic they’re most skilled in. An org chart would show the Elders at the top, then the heads of the four congresses, then the members of the four congresses, and then the wizards whose skills aren’t strong enough for them to be congress-certified. Red Congress wizards like DJ’s mentor are good at physical magic, so they tend to be the fighters/soldiers. Green Congress wizards like DJ are good at ritual magic—potions, work done with summoning circles, etc. It’s effective magic, but takes a lot of prep time. They’re the geeks of the magic world. There’s also the Blue Congress (illusion magic) and Yellow Congress (mental magic), which we’ll see more of later in the series.

What are your favorite preternatural creatures to read or write about?

With River Road, I had great fun with the merpeople. They’re aquatic shapeshifters who are born, not made. And they’re Cajuns mainstreaming in the Louisiana fishing industry (sort of cannibalistic, right?). Currently, I’m doing final revisions on the third book and I’m really loving the Elves. I enjoy taking old mythologies and putting new spins on them. These are NOT Tolkien’s elves.

The historic undead in your novels are an interesting new twist on ghosts and zombies (not quite falling into either category). How did this idea come about?

When I was writing the first book in the series, Royal Street, I really was trying to pay homage to my beloved New Orleans, dealing with my own leftover issues from Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans has such a rich history that I wanted famous New Orleanians like the pirate Jean Lafitte and voodoo priestess Marie Laveau and jazz great Louis Armstrong to have roles in the book. I began looking for a way to bring them in as real characters and came up with the idea of the historical undead—famous humans given immortality through the magic of human memory. The more famous they are and the more people remember them or know who they are, the longer at a time they can spend time outside the otherworld, the Beyond, and in our world. They can eat, drink, and even have sex (or at least the pirate Lafitte claims this is so).

If you could summon any historical figure to hang out with for a day, who would it be?

He’d probably scare the crap out of me, but I’ve become totally fascinated with the French pirate Jean Lafitte, the last great pirate of the Gulf and Caribbean. He was a very powerful and complex man—smart, persuasive and charming, yet also ruthless and cunning. Calculating and arrogant, but also emotional and even sentimental. He ruled over a city of a thousand pirates, ruffians and their families in the wetlands south of New Orleans. I’d love to see what he was really like after reading so many biographies of him and trying to make him a three-dimensional character in my books.

I know that you've lived in New Orleans for quite some time, so it's no wonder you chose it as the setting for the Sentinels series. How important was it to you to stay true to the city's history, including the Katrina disaster, and is there anything you tweaked to suit the needs of your stories?

No tweaking—that was the rule I gave myself when I wrote Royal Street. I took some heat from reviewers for the slower pace of the book, but I was determined that if I wrote about Hurricane Katrina and what New Orleans was like immediately afterward I was not going to flinch away from it. I wasn’t going to make it better, or make it easy for my characters to live there, or change the facts to suit the story—even when everything had to grind to a halt three weeks after Katrina when Hurricane Rita pushed through and reflooded things.

Staying true to New Orleans was a promise I made to myself, and I was gratified that every New Orleanian who’s read the books comment on how they capture the post-K city so well. I moved the timeline for River Road to three years later so that my characters could come out of hurricane survival mode. It took that long for things to even begin feeling a little normal. So River Road moves faster, is funnier, and really sets the tone for the rest of the series. A chunk of the book is set in Plaquemines Parish southeast of New Orleans, so a portion of the proceeds from the book’s sale is being donated to the Greater New Orleans Foundation for their oil-spill relief fund. That area continues to suffer from the impact of the 2010 oil spill as well as from Hurricane Isaac earlier this year.

That is so wonderful and generous of you, Suzanne!

What is your favorite hometown food or drink?

New Orleans has amazing cuisine, and I don’t think I could pick one favorite! I love oysters. Baked, grilled, fried, cooked into stuffing…you name it. Crawfish bread. Jambalaya. Muffalettas. For dessert, it’s lemon or caramel doberge (or half-and-half) from Gambino’s—Google it. It’s to kill for.

You write both urban fantasy and paranormal romance (as Susannah Sandlin). How does your process differ between working with each of these genres?

The two genres are closely related from a reader’s standpoint but from a writing standpoint, they’re polar opposites. The urban fantasies are first-person from a single point of view, they focus on an external story that needs to be at least partially wrapped up by the end of each book, they have a lot more humor, and the relationships carry over from book to book. The paranormals are third-person from multiple points of view, they focus on a relationship that needs to be wrapped up by the end of each book (each book has a different hero/heroine), they are darker, and the external story needs to develop but carries over from book to book. So they are really very different types of genres to write. My writing process is the same, but my mind has to be in a completely different zone.

What types of stories or characters would you like to see more of in urban fantasy?

I’d like to see better use of settings in UF; a lot of them are set in real cities but you could pluck them up and stick them in a different city without changing the story, which seems like wasted opportunity to me. I’d really like to see more guys reading and writing urban fantasy. It bothers me that it’s seen increasingly as a “woman’s genre.” I think we’re moving away from kickass heroines who can do everything, and that’s a good thing for the genre.

You've got your fingers on the pulse of genre fiction in some pretty influential publishers. Do you have any advice for those interested in writing UF/paranormal novels, or any predictions about where the genre is heading?

It’s a really tough market right now. Really tough. The adult UF/paranormal field is crowded and because publishing is in such flux, the bigger publishers are taking fewer chances and aren’t always providing much in the way of marketing for their authors. Yet with a few exceptions, authors who jump right into self-publishing or sign with startup e-publishers are finding it hard to make themselves stand out in the marketplace and sales are really low. I sure don’t have any answers. Staying published is as hard as getting published.

Whatever route you seek to publication, I think the key to writing genre fiction is finding a fresh spin on what you love and not worrying about the market too much. Sci-fi romance and paranormal romantic suspense are rising stars right now, but by the time you write one, the market could shift and historical paranormals could be on the rise. YA paranormals have been the hot genre for the past few years, but now we’re seeing a shift toward contemporary YA. The success of Fifty Shades has everyone trying to churn out erotic romance, and that genre’s getting glutted. So I think you have to not try to second-guess the market. Take the genre you love and work to find a fresh spin on it. Then just write a good book and see where the market is once you have it ready to submit.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck with the series, I'm really enjoying it so far.

Thank you, and thanks for having me here, Ella!

River Road
Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2
Suzanne Johnson

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0765327802
ASIN: B00842H5VI
Number of pages: 336
Word Count: approx. 92,000
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen

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Book Description:

Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.
Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two. 

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

About the Author:

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, after a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities. She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis' birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.

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