Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday's Inspiration - Bird By Bird Writer's Block

Finally made it to do a post about Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. Today I'm talking about Writer's Block. Skipped two segments since they didn't inspire me. That really isn't bad since so much else of this book has.

About Writer's Block, almost every writer suffers from this. I once had a sort of one but that was due to emotional exhaustion. I was working thirteen hour shifts as a nurse and dealing with patients, doctors and their problems drained me. This was a block in that I couldn't write, but at least I was able to gather events and emotions of myself and others to use later when I wrote.

Anne Lamott feels when a block occurs you are empty rather than stuck. Walking away and doing something else can often clear the mind and allow all you hae experienced to filter in.

I have friends who have written beautiful things in the past, stories packed with emotions and excitement. Then they stop. They say they have a block. To me I wonder if it's not more a fear of success rather than one of failure. Round and round in their thoughts beats this thought "What happens if I succeed?" "Will my family, husband, children, relatives, friends be upset by my success?" Suddenly they can't write.

There is no real cure for writer's block but time and a change of scenery. Just a trip to the kitchen and starting dinner or some other mindless task can free those kinks that have stopped the words from flowing.

Anne Lamott said something else that struck me. She had a large number of bad reviews on one book, That would block anyone, I think but only if you pay attention to those reviews.

So if you are faced with a writer's block, first examine why this has happened. Then go for a walk, put on some music you love, pick up a book and read or choose a mindless task. Be patient and the words will flow again.

Monday, May 30, 2011

30 May -- Week Behind and Week Ahead

Last week was a busy one since I was involved with three sets of revisions and actually they were done in three different ways. Finished the ones of Quests but had a bit of a problem since I could never figure out how to get rid of all the remarks and marks by both the editor and myself. Fortunately she can do this. What I really needed was a step by step plan that I could print out and read. I learn from reading rather than by doing. The second set was my own and that means having a print copy of the segment I'm revising with written notes in, on and around the verbage. This way for me is easy and so it was. The third way was on line in cyberspace with the editor and I participating. This took a long time, hours staring at the computer with notes left for me to go back and correct. While interesting and fun to interact with the editor, plus watch her format line by line and to approve or disapprove changes immediately the process was long and sitting at the computer for that lone rather fried my brain for thought well into the evening of each day.

Good thing about last week was that I finally figured how to plug all the holes in the plot of A Sudden Seduction. It's fun watching a man get hooked and try to get away from a woman he hurt when they were teenagers. But he's a neat guy and she's quite worthy.

This week I'll be continuing to work on A Sudden Seduction, Am up to the point where her former fiance is going to get his. He's not a villain, only a fool. Tomorrow I'll be continuing with Bird By Bird, Wednesday, looking at plotting, Thursday's interview is with Erin Dameion Hill, Friday more tips on Revision, Saturday a chapter and I'm not sure which one and Sunday visits to three blogs.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

3 Blog visit Sunday

http://alisonchambers.blogspot.com/ Interesting article on Plot Wreckers

http://faridamestek.blogspot.com/ Nice bit on Regency things

http://ajbestwrites.com/my-lovely-author-friends-and-book-review-sites/ Perhaps a bit about review sites

Saturday, May 28, 2011

1st Chapter Saturday - The Amber Tower

{The Amber Chronicles Series, Book 4}

by Janet Lane Walters (Dame Amber)

One hundred years have passed since the young witch, Emme, arrived in Rivand seeking love. Though at heart a good witch, she had no idea how love was earned. She commanded the crown prince to accept her love and give her his. The prince rejected her. In anger, she enclosed him in an amber globe, transporting him to another world. Still, her anger controlled her actions and she cried a curse on the Riva family. Every hundred years she would call the crown prince of that time to her and demand his love. She became known as the Witch of the Woods. As the years passed, the curse was forgotten.

A hundred years has passed since the first prince entered the amber world. Though in the future, Emme will find her prince, the past cannot be changed. Herein lies the story of Rafel, crown prince of Rivand and the second of the five lost princes...

Chapter 1

Rafel Rivand, crown prince of Rivand, felt restless. The only reason for his desire to flee the palace lay in the ball to be held that evening. Four and twenty young women of lineage and wealth had been invited. The thought of meeting and greeting them chilled him.

He glared at his mother’s back. His escape from the palace had been delayed while she gushed about the gaggle of girls who would attend. Each had been evaluated as to their desirability as a bride. Her choice had been based on the prestige they would bring to the family.

The queen turned. “Rafel, you are five and twenty. ’Tis time you were wed. You must choose one of these young women as your bride and make her the happiest of women.”

And me the glummest of men. “Yes, Mother.”

His stomach clenched. Choosing a bride meant there would be just one woman in his life. He liked all women, but there was no one he wished to wed.

He hurried along the corridor toward a side door and an escape from the noise and bustle of preparation—all to celebrate an event he found distasteful. He was so engrossed in his plan for flight that when a hand clamped on his shoulder, he reached for his sword.

“Son, I am glad I caught you.” The king smiled. “Have you seen any that you favor among the young ladies and you would choose as your bride?”

Rafel shook his head. He had avoided watching the arrivals of the past few days. “I have seen none of them. I have been busy.”

The king frowned. “I have several suggestions. The time has come for you to put aside your wild ways and settle into producing heirs for Rivand.”

“Leave your list with my body servant. Mother left hers.”

The king nodded. “I will. Perhaps by comparing the two you will find the perfect candidate. My list contains those who come from prolific families. I expect you and your chosen bride to present the kingdom with a son by this time next year. There is nothing like a son to drive wildness from a man.”

“Yes, Father.” Rafel’s hand tightened on the hilt of his sword. Was there a need for an heir to have an heir? He had three younger brothers all in line for the throne.

Rafel watched his father walk away. Only a few strands of gray touched the king’s dark hair. His father was a hale man, good for many years of rule. As thoughts of twenty or thirty years of being crown prince arose, Rafel groaned.

He reached the exit nearest the stable and stepped outside. The bother next in age to him emerged from behind the hedge. “Rafel, are you excited?”

“About what?”

“The ball.”

Rafel shrugged. “Not particularly.”

“But you might find love with one of the ladies.”

“Or eternal unhappiness. What is love other than a trap celebrated by the verses of poets? I have no desire to marry. If you like, you are welcome to them all.”

Peder frowned. “Everyone says you must marry.” He scuffed the dirt with the toe of his boot. “What if you choose the maiden I love?”

Rafel leaned against the palace wall. “Do you have a choice?”

“I do. She loves me, but her parents are angling for the heir to the throne. You have all the luck.”

Luck. “Hardly.” Tonight he would meet young women all vying for his attention. He pushed away from the wall. “See you at the ball.”

“Where are you going?”

“For a ride.”

“You had better be back in time.”

Rafel laughed. “If I’m not you can take my place.” He dashed to the stable.

As he saddled his roan gelding, he heard the head groom speaking to another man. “Tonight our crown prince picks a bride. I have placed my money on the princess of Manir. Who have you chosen?”

The other man snorted. “No choice for me. One hundred years have passed since that witch took the first crown prince. That curse is still upon our kingdom.”

Rafel frowned. A witch. How superstitious the lower classes were. There were no witches other than in stories designed to frighten children into obedience.

He led the horse from the stable, mounted and rode through town to the south gate. As his steed flowed from a walk to a canter, he recalled the painting of a man called “The Lost Prince.”

Rumors said the young man had vanished mysteriously. Rafel wished he could do the same—or at least stay away long enough to miss the ball.

Sunlight filtering through the dense foliage of the summer growth roused him from his reveries. How long had he been gone? His stomach growled, and he realized he had missed the midday meal. He tried to turn the horse, but the steed burst into a gallop along the narrow trail. As suddenly as the urge to return to the palace had arrived, the feeling vanished. Rafel experienced an eagerness to find the trail’s end.

The pounding pace continued. Rafel loosened his hold on the reins. Trying to halt the horse seemed impossible. The trees opened into a clearing. The steed halted at a picket fence. Rafel frowned. He had never heard of anyone living in the forest. He studied the scene. Rose bushes lined the fence and filled the air with their sweet scent. A path led from the gate through a garden with flowers on one side and a kitchen garden on the other. The flagstones ended in front of a small weathered cottage.

Who lives here? Rafel dismounted and walked to the gate. He paused with his hand on the latch. It would not be polite to wander into someone’s house without an invitation. A trace of smoke rose from the chimney. “Hello,” he called.

The cottage door opened. As the person walked along the path and neared, he saw a woman with hair the color of sunshine and delicious curves that intrigued him. When she reached the gate, he met the gaze of eyes as blue as the summer sky.

“Welcome.” She opened the gate.

The music of her voice danced along his spine. “Who are you?”

“Some call me the Witch of the Woods. I am Emme. Are you the crown prince of this time?”

His brow furrowed. What did she mean by “of this time”? “I am Rafel Riva, crown prince of Rivand.”

She smiled. He sensed something predatory in her gaze. He stepped back.

“Enter my garden.”

Her honeyed voice lured him a step or two. He grasped the gate. “I wish I could, fair one, but I must return to the palace.”

Her laughter trilled. “’Tis not to be. You have been called. You have a choice for you can end the curse I placed on the House of Riva. You look so much like the prince who came here years ago. Your hair is black and your eyes are the green of summer leaves.”

“What is your curse?” he asked, trying to hide his amusement. “I have heard little of one.”

“The first prince I called refused to accept my love and to give me his in return. So I sent him into the amber globe. Every hundred years, I return to call the crown prince. He is given a chance to end the curse. A hundred years has passed.”
He recalled what the groom had spoken of at the stables. “What must I do?”
“Accept my love. Give me yours and marry me.”

Her answer produced a bark of laughter. “Marriage. You have chosen the wrong prince. I prefer my single state.”

“That is not the answer I wish to hear.”

Rafel studied her. She was beautiful, but so were other women. “So you cursed my family because my ancestor refused to love you. What really happened to him?”

“I do not know. He entered the amber globe and vanished.” She waved her hand and a ball of yellow appeared near his feet.

“Surely there is another way.” If she had lived a hundred years, how could she remain so young? She must be a witch. But I have never believed in witches before.

“The only way is for you to love and marry me.”

He shook his head. “I cannot.”

“Not even to break the curse?”

Rafel squared his shoulders. “Not even then. If I said I loved you that would be a lie. My mother wants me to marry for prestige and my father for heirs. You demand love. I can please none of you.”

She waved her hand. “So be it.”

The amber globe grew until he was surrounded. Rafel tried to escape, but his blows bounced off of the smooth surface. He closed his eyes. When he opened them, he faced a forest but not the one he had left for the leaves here were touched with the bright colors of autumn.

“Come,” a soft voice commanded.

Rafel turned in a circle.

The voice spoke again, this time spurring him to run toward the trees—toward the voice.
* * * *
The strains of a waltz filled the air with a poignant melody. This evening, the king of Lamau hosted a ball. Women in brightly colored gowns swirled around the room in the arms of courtiers garbed in brilliant hues.

Princess Jalese sighed. This evening, her uncle, the king of Lamau, had held the ball in hopes of finding a suitor for her. She had not been asked to dance. Why would any of the courtiers choose a young woman who was ordinary and often clumsy?
When her cousin, Cyna, glided by with her handsome partner, Jalese felt sad. We should be friends but we are not.

It had nothing to do with how the bodice of Cyna’s cherry red gown clung to her body and the skirt swirled like a cloud when she spun, her russet curls hanging in ringlets down her back. Nothing to do with the envy that shot through Jalese. Not even the fact Cyna was all she was not. Beautiful. Graceful. Charming. What prevented them from being friends was a matter of timing.

Jalese, having lived at the palace since her second year when her parents had died in a carriage accident, had been assumed to be her uncle’s heir. But, four years ago, Cyna’s arrival, following her mother’s death had changed all that. Cyna’s mother had been the king’s estranged sister. Cyna’s beauty had enchanted the courtiers. Some of them had urged the king to make her his heir. The idea was possible for the cousins had been born on the same day, hour and minute. Cyna had brought her birth record when she had arrived.

This posed a problem for the king. To avoid a rebellion, he had decreed the throne would go to the princess who wed a prince to share the rule with her. That presented a second problem for there were no available princes in the nearby kingdoms.

The music ended. The king rose from where he sat with his friends. Jalese left the secluded window seat. To the sound of tinkling bells, the sorceress of Lamau appeared at the king’s side.

She raised her hands and sent clouds of scented flowers through the room. “A prince has been found and will arrive soon.”

A hundred voices murmured and the sound rose in pitch. Jalese drew a breath and her hopes that a prince would choose her over her cousin vanished like rain puddles after a summer storm.

Cyna clapped her hands. She whirled. Like a homing pigeon, she appeared at Jalese’s side. “A prince has been found. Do you know what that means?”

Jalese did but refused to cede the crown to her cousin. Her thoughts raced with questions. When would this mysterious prince arrive? Could he possess the qualities to make him a ruler who cared for the people and the land as her uncle? If so, could he maintain them with Cyna as his bride?

The sorceress curtseyed to the king. “Be prepared.” With a flick of her hand, she vanished.

Once the buzz of voices changed to whispers, the king walked to the refreshment room. “Come, food and drink await.” He led the way to the buffet table.

A cluster of courtiers surrounded Cyna. Jalese tried to escape, but her cousin grabbed her arm. “Join us for the repast.” Cyna’s honeyed voice added to Jalese’s edginess. “Just think. When I marry the prince, I will see one of the courtiers chooses you and carries you away to his estate.”

“Perhaps I do not wish to wed.” Cyna’s words had ruined Jalese’s appetite. She pulled away. “I am not hungry.”

“I will not let you run off the way you usually do. Did none of the courtiers ask you to dance? If you continue to lurk in dark corners, you will never wed.”

During the journey to the buffet room, Jalese stumbled several times. Twice she almost fell. Her thoughts were as scrambled as breakfast eggs. One of the courtiers pulled out a chair at the far end of one of the tables for her. Why all this attention? Being with these laughing maidens and men made her wary. If only she could escape this unwanted company.

The courtiers strode away. With grace, Cyna lowered herself onto one of the chairs. She turned to Jalese. “Someone must take you in hand. When I am queen, you will need a home somewhere else.”

Jalese’s hands fisted. “The palace has been my home since I was two.”

“And mine since I was sixteen.” Cyna smiled. “When I am queen, I will make many changes. Uncle is too generous to the people. The taxes are much too low. The entire palace must be redecorated."

Jalese stared at the table. Cyna would also spend money for clothes and jewels. She would beggar the kingdom.

Jalese looked for a way to slip past her cousin’s chair that blocked the aisle. A man servant filled the goblets with deep red wine. The courtiers returned with platters of food.

Cyna lifted a carydad and turned to Jalese. “Try one. They are delicious.”

“And poison to me.” Jalese jerked back and her hand hit one of the goblets. Dark red wine flowed across the table and splattered on her bright green gown.

Cyna’s hand flew to her mouth. “Oh dear, you have ruined your gown. A blessing though. That color makes your skin look muddy.”

Jalese pushed her chair back, edged past Cyna and fled from the room. Instead of going to her chambers, she entered the garden. Surely her cousin would invade her privacy with dulcet words of sympathy for another ruined gown and jab holes in any self-confidence that remained.

Jalese wanted what she could never have. She wanted to be queen. Her uncle had spent years teaching her the things a ruler should know, leaving her with little time or inclination to learn the graceful ways of a lady.

When she reached the trees of the woods surrounding the palace garden, she sank to the ground. Though autumn had arrived, the night was unseasonably warm. She pulled her shawl around her shoulders and cried until no more tears came.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday's Writer's tip -- Questions to ask self about revisions

Revision is a vital part of the writing process. The draft is done. Now what? Tome for revisions. Before beginning there are some questions that answering can make the process easier.

!. Am I saying exactly what I mean?
2. Have I found the best way to say it?
3. Have I glossed over this section or written in haste without considering the above questions?
4. Have I taken a wrong turn at some point?
5. Can I slow down and make sure my intentions are clear?

By asking these questions before beginning the revisions can help make the story as perfect as it can be at that time. As you grow as a writer going back to some of those earlier written stories can be painful. You might feel the need to revise them again. Unless there's a new edition being contemplated, you can't but the next and the next stories you write will benefit from what you learned as you revise each story.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday's Interview -- Linda Andrews

Today's guest Linda Andrews writes in a number of genres but loves happy endings.

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

My books are either romances or have elements of romance in them. I am drawn to the feel good ending that is a requirement for the genre. That said, my short stories are not romances, but have an element of hope in each of them. Even the horror ones:-).

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

My genres definitely choose me because if I could write what I'd wanted to originally, I'd be writing mysteries. I love mysteries. They are my first love, then Science Fiction and Romance. Lately, I've been combining all three although they're predominantly Science Fiction with those other elements. The horror story came from a really dark place, but I'm proud of it. It is a scifi too so I didn't stray too far from my area of normal.

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't? I would love to write a straight Victorian mystery a la Authur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock was my first crush; although in the new BBC series I definitely lean more toward Dr. Holmes. As for what I won't write, it would be zombies. I love, love, love zombies. Good, bad and decaying I leave them alone and only visit them for entertainment purposes.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I read romances, mysteries, scifi, and urban fantasy.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,

Growing up I never wanted to be a writer. I hated English class and detested dissecting other people's writing. But I was an avid reader and would go through ten books or so a week. To me books were to be enjoyed, not taken apart and interpreted according to the teacher's foibles (As a straight A student I knew how to play the game, even as I despised it). But reading so much for years on end comes with a price and eventually I'd get bored so I started changing things to amuse myself. Gradually the story fairy began visiting me on a regular basis and, for some reason known only to God, I chose to write them down instead of drawing them--once upon a time I was a budding artist. Since I picked writing, I'm determined not to give it up until I'm an overnight success. I heard it only takes 20 years so I don't have so far to go.

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

The wizard Alistair Eugene Holmes is my favorite character. He made appearances in A Knight's Wish and A Hint of Magic, but starred in Dancing in the Kitchen. He was the ultimate anti-hero that is the perfect mate--an alpha male disguised as a mild mannered beta hero. Since he competes for the heroine's affection with the ultimate cliched romance hero, he makes the perfect underdog. And he makes me laugh. Gotta love a man who makes you laugh.

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created? Each of my books has a villain or two. Most of my SciFi have nature or circumstance as the bad guy the hero and heroine have to overcome to survive and thrive. My villians are created in part by the plot, but they are also have many of the same characteristics of the hero/heroine, with a few turned 180 degrees. So if my hero is giving; my villian will be selfish. I once read that the villian is the hero of his own story. And while his story must end badly so the hero and heroine can triumph, he should in his own mind at least, think he's in the right and have motivations other than villiany.

8. What are you working on now?

I just finished the first round of edits for Fiona's story. It is a Victorian ghost story set in London with a mysterious disappearance. So I did kind of manage to achieve my dreams of writing a Victorian mystery. As I wait for the next round to begin, I'm writing a surviving the apocalypse book.

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

With Fiona's story due to be released late summer, my latest release is Hiding Space--a science fiction book with romantic elements. Like most books it started with the What If? question. In this case, what if alien abductions are real and they didn't just want to experiment with you, but wanted to keep you? That led to the question of why and who would be the worst character to put into the situation? So the premise of Hiding Space is this: A single mother finds herself and her three children kidnapped by aliens. Since she's a fan of scifi, she knows this isn't likely to end well and demands to return home. Unfortunately, someone on board the ship refuses to let her leave and another plans to kill her and her family.

But why would any society go to the trouble to collect people from Earth? Well, it seems my heroine and her children aren't as human as they believe. As for the aliens, they're bordering on extinction. While many are determined to survive no matter the cost to their culture, a few are determined to maintain racial purity. My heroine's ancestors were on the brink of solving the problem before their ship disappeared down a wormhole and they passed the knowledge their genetic memory. But the truth won't set her free; it will get her killed for sure.

August 25th 2007

Missouri, USA

12:05 AM

“Must I stress once more, Commander, that Alderina of Rutgers and her progeny hold the key to Terrillian survival?” Yellow lights from the nearby systems console cast a cadaverous glow to John Doe’s features. The former Exalted Leader of the Terrillian colony of Neith’s short red hair stood on end as he raked his fingers through it.

“I am aware of what the hybrid represents.” Which was exactly why Commander Brongill of Da'Hap hoped not to locate Alderina of Rutgers. Brongill's chair creaked as turbulence rocked the XT Planetary Explorer zipping zero point one arcs above the fertile fields of the alien planet Earth. His left thumb stroked the control sphere rising from the con in front of him. Data streamed down the transparent Terveyza banding his saucer shaped shuttle, partially obscuring the view of the thunderclouds in the distance.

"Then do you think you could find her, Commander?" In his impatience, Doe leaned back, bumping against the other two seats in the spherical cockpit designed for two but now stuffed with three Terrillians.

"Aye. Sir." Brongill added the title as an afterthought. Glancing to his left, he caught his chief medical officer/navigator Tula of Ferrite wince as she wiggled, gaining a little space between her flat stomach and the protruding console.

Sludding politicians, she mouthed, before rolling her eyes and focusing on the medical readouts scrolling down the wedge of Trevayza in front of her.

Brongill nodded and jammed his own chair against Doe's. The politician was merely a tourist on this mission, Brongill and Tula had jobs to perform and for that he needed a little elbow room.

"Well do you think you'll accomplish the mission today?" Doe tried to turn his chair. The tight quarters prevented the action, but not his will. The politician clamped both hands on the chair and yanked, grunted and twisted.

With Doe's frenzied actions transmitting through his chair, Brongill's hand slid off the control sphere and accidentally activated weapons. He locked his retort behind his teeth and took the arms off line. Politicians. He hated the lot of them. Especially the bumbling incompetence of the man at his right. The fool never ordered, he shambled, whined and sniveled until Brongill did as requested. "Sir, please remain still."

Muttering under his breath, Doe collapsed on his immoveable seat. "We must find the woman."

"And we will."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday -- Plotting

Here goes more on plotting. First a bit about foreshadowing. There are writers who do no foreshadowing of events to come and others who foreshadow so much that when the event occurs it is anti-climax. Finding the right balance can take time and skill. With no foreshadowing the event slams the reader and may draw them out of the action. With too much the event that will occur can bring yawns. Remember looking forward to an event can be stimulating but take care not to build up to a let down.

Other ways of making the large scenes in the story have the desired impact on the reader include using a preview scene and using contrast scenes. When using a preview scene show the conflict to come but make the ending of the scene differ from the main ending of the crisis or the black moment. Use hope when the other scene will end in despair or despair when the scene will end in hope. During the build up to a climax, crisis or dark moment make the small scene before the impact scene one with a mood in opposition to the one to come.

Make sure the major scenes have an aftermath where there is change. Don't make matters continue as they have been. Major scenes mean major changes.

Another thing to remember while the story moves along the road that is the plot that motivation matters both the internal and the external. These motivations may be in conflict or in agreement but always keep them in mind as you plan your scenes, major and minor.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Inspiration - Bird By Bird -- Writing Groups

In today's essay, Ann Lamott wrote about writing groups and I just realized how many more groups there are to belong to. She speaks about conferences and about writing classes. Critique groups also get a plug. One thing that struck me was when she spoke about doing critiques and how one should not be cruel. Sometimes this does happen in groups and the critiquer isn't trying to be mean. Al least I hope not. This person is being honest and blunt. Nothing can crush a writer more than harsh remarks about their prose. Of course the other side is too much praise may not be good either. I find trying to concentrate on one thing when doing a critique can make the critique positive. Hurtful things don't do more than make a person want to give up. One of the things she said was that these groups should offer support. When someone is down listen to all they say and encourage them.

Now to what struck me was the proliferation of groups on line. I belong to a number. These aren't really groups that look at my writing and offer suggestions but they do answer questions. Some are just for sharing my good news. Others take a different role and that is of promoting what I've written. One problem lies in having too many of these groups and not participating in them fully. I'll admit this is one of my faults but I try and if there's something I wish to comment on, I will do that. Perhaps not as much as I should.

What about you? What kind of writer's groups do you belong to? Are they local and hands on or are they national and informational or are they on the net with sharing the highs and lows the main purpose? Do these groups help keep you going in what is often a lonely road?

Monday, May 23, 2011

23 May - Week Behind and week ahead

Revisions, revisions and more revisions. Yes, there are three in my past and in my future. Had to stop keying in the self-revisions for Confrontations to do the ones for Quests. That was a slight problem since I have no idea how to use the editing program being used. I have a vague idea and am able to put in my comments but I have no idea how to delete the ones I either agree or disagree with. Therefore the editor is going to get a huge mess. Then somewhere in the middle the colors changed from red to blue. Makes no sense and I have no idea what I did. Been working on them for four days and should finish today. Then hopefully I'll get all the ones I want to put in Confrontations so I can send it off before I'm back to the ones on Moon Pool.

Now for this week. I've a fair start on A Sudden Seduction and will continue with that as my creative time. On Thursday Linda Andrews will be my interviewee. Had a really good bunch fill out the interviews this time so I'm set for a few more weeks there. Have several interviews to complete. Need to double time. On Saturday the chapter will be from The Amber Tower and then it's on to other stories. I would also like to get some rights' back books sent out again. There is not enough time in my days.

Sounds like I'm whining but I guess everyone has those days.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

3 Blog visit Sunday

http://sarah-janelehoux.blogspot.com/2011/05/eight-is-enough-q-with-janet-lane.html Visited because I have an interview up.

http://www.tracystjohn.com/blog.html Same as the above reason.

http://annajames1.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/annas-corner-tips-on-becoming-a-better-writer-2/ Some interesting information here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

1sr Chapter Saturday -- The Amber Dragon

Written for a Jewels of the Quill anthology, this is one of my favorite stories in the Amber Chronicles.

{The Amber Chronicles, Book 3}

by Janet Lane Walters (Dame Amber)

A tale from the days of the onset of the curse on the Riva family and the entrance of the first prince into the world of the amber globe.

Chapter 1

Stephen Riva, crown prince of Rivand, stared at the Witch of the Woods. With her hair the color of spun gold and eyes the brilliant blue of summer skies, her beauty fascinated him. But the words she spoke made him uneasy. He frowned and turned toward his father. The king glared at the woman.

The witch pointed a finger at the king. “You have not won. Fire will not destroy the garden or drive me from the home I have created.” She spun and waved her hands. All traces of the fire set by the king and his men vanished. She grasped Stephen’s hand and pulled him into the garden. “I love you. Will you love me in return?”

He shook his head. “How can you speak of love? Love does not strike in an instant and set a heart on fire. Love grows like a flower from a seed, planted and carefully tended.”

A dreamy expression appeared on her lovely face. “The moment I beheld you I knew you were mine. Your dark hair, your handsome face and your muscular body have enchanted me. I could drown in your moss green eyes.”

Stephen shook his head. In all his twenty and one years, he had never heard such nonsense. “You will not have me. I have a duty to Rivand, the land I will one day rule.”

“Do you have brothers?”


“Then one of them can take on your duty to the land. You have no reason to reject my love.”

Stephen shook his head. “There are three reasons. Duty, honor and love. My duty as crown prince of Rivand is to take the throne. Should I run away from doing this, I would lose honor. I do not love you.”

Her eyes narrowed. “So be it. If you will not be mine, you will not be Rivand’s king. A curse I lay upon the House of Riva. Every hundred years a prince will be given a chance. Accept my love and give his heart in return for mine, or be taken into the amber orb and spend his life in another world.”

Stephen looked at her. “I pray one day you will learn love does not happen in an instant and cannot be given on command.”

She smiled. “And you may learn love can occur in an instant and become eternal.”

Though there were no clouds, thunder rumbled. A streak of lightning flashed across the sky and struck the ground near Stephen’s feet. He saw the sparks coalesce into a sphere imprisoning him behind the walls. Stephen stretched his arms toward his father and the Witch of the Woods. The walls of the orb were too distant to touch. He turned and stared at a mass of trees.

The rustling leaves became voices urging him to walk. His strides lengthened until he ran. Was this a dream? The branches of the trees scratched his face and arms. He groaned. Truly he had been brought to another place.

Stephen had no idea how long he walked. The clusters of trees thinned. Beyond them he saw a road and some distant buildings. Before stepping onto the hard-packed earth he removed his coronet, his sword and most of his jewelry. As a stranger in an unknown land he dare not appear hostile. He wrapped his possessions in his cloak and hid them in a hollow tree. With his boot knife he marked the spot. Then he stepped onto the road and sought his new destiny.

* * * *

Princess Valia stared at the seventeenth prince who had come to Lanton to court her. Since the day her father had decreed she must marry, every available prince from the neighboring kingdoms had arrived at the palace. This young man was her last possible choice for a spouse.

He was handsome. The way he preened like a peacock meant he knew about his looks. He acted as though his willingness to wed her was a gift and her acceptance a given.

Valia scowled. How dare he think she had no other choice? How dare he ignore her? She was tired of hearing about his skill with a sword and of the many maidens who desired him.

There had been no praise of her eyes, the blue of summer skies. He had sung no odes to her amber-colored hair. No poems had been written about her delicate features or her perfect figure. The entire conversation had centered on him. She had not been able to steer him in her direction.

She rose and flicked away the hand extended to assist her. “Prince Hogen, I refuse your offer of marriage. You are but a third son and your conversation and manners are tedious. Your pale hair and eyes do little to compliment my beauty. Go home, for you have failed the test I set for the man I would wed.”

“And that might be?” His voice held a haughty tone.

“To think of me and not of yourself.” She turned and saw a fierce scowl on her father’s face. The wizard stood at the king’s side. He smiled, and his expression caused a chill to slither along her spine. Why was the man pleased by her decision?

The scorned prince halted at the door. “You will go to your grave a spinster. I am the last of the available princes. I will give you another chance to say you will wed me.”

Valia laughed. “I have no need of another chance. Be gone.”

When the door closed with a bang, Valia saw her father’s scowl had deepened. Though he stood at a distance, she sensed his anger. His boots clicked on the marble squares of the floor. At the king’s side, the wizard appeared to glide.

“Daughter, what am I going to do with you? Hogen was the last of the princes available for you to wed.” The king’s gaze sparked with anger.

Valia smiled. “Father, do you think I am beautiful?”

“That has nothing to do with your need for marriage. You must beg one of the princes to return. Surely there is one who is less offensive than the others. I must have time to train my successor to rule when I am gone.”

Valia’s heart skipped a beat. “Do not think that way. You are only of middle age.”

“I must consider the future. Lanton must have a strong ruler. Since you cannot choose, I will.”

“Father, no.” Valia’s hands rested on her hips. “I refuse to marry a man who can say nothing about my beauty. I will gladly wed one who adores me. He can take on the boring chores of a king and leave me time to spend maintaining my beauty. I will not wed a man who wants me to worship him.”

The king turned to the wizard. “Do something. Cast a spell to make her change from the vain and selfish woman she has become.”

The wizard smiled slyly. “Sire, I can devise a spell but you might not be willing to pay the price.”

“Gold, silver and jewels will be yours. I will gladly pay you to create a spell.”

Valia stared at them. “Have I no say?”

The king shook his head. “You will do what must be done. Wizard, you will have what you desire. I must have a son to rule when I grow old.”

“As you command, Sire.”

Valia tried to scurry toward the door, but her father grasped her arm. “My child, you must wed before another year passes. You have reached your twentieth year.”

She did not trust the wizard and had no idea why she felt this distrust. “Why must you be this way? Am I not your greatest treasure?”

“You are, and there must be a strong man to guard you when I no longer can.”

The wizard stood on her other side. “The spell I will cast would best be done in the garden.”

A chill rolled along her arms. Though Valia wanted to flee, she would not let this man know she feared him. She walked between the men to the garden. A breeze carried the scent of summer flowers. Chimes in the trees produced a sweet song. With a wave of his hand, her father sent the guards and gardeners away.

A strange lethargy stole over Valia. She sank onto a garden bench. Her father sat on another one. The wizard spoke quietly. Her father’s eyes closed. When Valia tried to rise, she could not move. She called to her father, but he failed to answer.

The wizard approached her bench. His midnight blue robe swirled around his ankles. As he raised his arms, the wide sleeves billowed. He held a wand. “Sire, do you agree to the terms I set?”

“I do.” The king’s voice sounded as though he stood at a great distance.

Valia frowned. What were the terms and what did they mean for her? Should not she be the one to accept or refuse? She opened her mouth. No sound emerged. Again she tried with the same result. Where once she had dismissed the wizard as a fool, she now knew he was evil. Fear washed through her.

The wizard chanted strange sounding words. He walked three times in a clockwise and three times counter around the bench. The seventh circuit followed the clock.

Valia felt as though the bench formed a cage to keep her in place. Images of becoming a marble statue for the duration of the spell brought fear. How could she fulfill her father’s demand to wed if she remained an unmoving figure seated on a bench?

The wizard faced her. He waved his wand from side to side. Her gaze followed. His gibberish changed to words she understood. They unnerved her:

“For seven weeks this new form will be yours. There is but one chance to escape your fate. If you find a prince and convince him to kiss you, you will return to your own shape. To do this, you will have a single word. The first one you utter to another will be all you can say. If seven weeks pass and you have not found a prince, you will become my smiling, silent bride.”

Valia wanted to protest. She had no desire to be the wizard’s wife. She looked at her father. He appeared to be asleep. Had the wizard cast a spell on the king?

The wizard’s wand twirled faster until Valia could no longer see the gem at the tip. The sight transfixed her. “Seven times seven,” the wizard shouted. “The spell is complete.”

The lethargy Valia had felt vanished. She stared at the sky. The sun touched the horizon. Soon darkness would come. She rose and nearly fell. Putting her front paws on the ground, she lumbered to the garden pool.

Valia stared in trepidation at the water. Though the sunlight faded, she could see her image. A scream built and was swallowed when she remembered what the wizard had said. Her first and only word could not be a “No” cried in anguish, anger and despair. She leaned forward for another look. Nothing had changed. She was still a five foot tall amber dragon instead of a beautiful princess.

Ugly. Where she had been the most beautiful woman in the kingdom and all the surrounding ones, she was now ugly enough to scare people.

Her father and the wizard were gone. She crept beneath a weeping cherry tree and huddled under the drooping branches. Nothing could change her back. Except a prince. She had to find one, and there were just seven weeks for the search. If she failed, she would become the wizard’s bride. His silent bride. That fate terrified her. Valia rested her head on her front paws. Where was she going to find a prince? A few tears trickled from her eyes.

Night arrived. The moon rose. Valia’s stomach rumbled. She had to leave the palace. No prince would be found if she remained here. First she needed to find food to satisfy her hunger.

Valia made her way to the rear of the palace where the kitchen and the storehouses were located. With her foreclaws, she shredded the wooden door of one of the buildings. The odor of raw meat made her ill. She could not eat that. She moved to a second building and found smoked hams on a shelf. She ate a half dozen. After shattering a barrel of dried fish, she ate her fill. Hanging from hooks she saw rings of sausages and managed to drape one around her neck.

With caution she crept to the garden gate and smashed the wooden barrier. She left the palace grounds. As she wandered away, she thought about the wizard. He would be surprised at her flight from the place where she would have been cared for. He would prefer she stayed, so she would have to marry him. But if she wanted to find a prince she had to search.

* * * *

Stephen scraped the plates he had gathered from the tables in the main room of the Forest Edge Inn. Two weeks had passed since his abrupt arrival in this land. He stared at his hands, roughened by the hot soapy dishwater. Was this the way a prince should spend his days? Was he in fact still a prince? Working as a lowly servant was his present lot.

With a groan he returned to the chore. He dipped pewter plates into a pan, scrubbed away the dried food, dipped them in cold water and set them to dry. The last of the mid-day diners had left. When he finished, Stephen joined the other kitchen workers at a long table and filled a plate with food.

The innkeeper strolled into the kitchen. He gave each man their weekly payment. Stephen stared at the copper coins. How long would it take to accumulate enough to buy a horse? If he had one, he could hire on as a caravan guard. When he reached a large town he could sell his rings and chains. Forest Edge was too small to take the risk of selling them here. No one knew him as anyone other than a man who had wandered into the village seeking work. Stephen had no intention of being thought of as a thief.

Conversation buzzed around him. “She is missing. The king is said to be in mourning.”

“Who?” Stephen asked.

“The king’s daughter refused yet another prince. She vanished. He has no other child and refuses to marry again.”

“What will he do?” one of the cooks asked.

The innkeeper shrugged. “He might adopt one of the many princes who were suitors for her hand.”

Stephen wanted to tell these men he was a prince. He stared at his red rough hands. As if anyone would believe him. He finished his meal, grabbed a broom and a rag and went to wipe the tables and sweep the floors in the main room of the inn.

That evening a caravan arrived. As Stephen cleared platters from a nearby table, he listened to the men’s conversation. Before long a crowd had gathered to hear the traders’ tale.

“There is a dragon terrifying the countryside,” one of the drivers said.

“Dragons belong in the north,” a villager said.

“Sure and they do. This dragon is a strange beast,” the master trader said. “Has a hide the color of the finest amber, not the usual brown or black.”

The first speaker reached for a tankard. “Odd in other ways, too. This creature does not fly or spit fire.”

The head trader leaned forward. “Heard a wild tale about this dragon. Beast seems to be mute. Turned thief awhile back. A group of farmers were roasting a steer for a wedding feast. Dragon invaded the farm. Ate most of the steer and dragged the rest away.”

The gathering of men laughed.

“’Tis true,” the wagon driver said.

Stephen frowned. In Rivand, dragons belonged to tales told at night to frighten children into obeying. He lingered near the table until the crowd dispersed. “I have never seen a dragon. Are they dangerous?”

One of the men looked up. “Can be but they seldom come down from the mountains. As we said, this beast is truly odd.”

“What do you mean?”

“Farmers and villagers seek to appease the creature. They leave raw meat, but the dragon refuses to eat what is left.”

Stephen frowned. “What does the beast eat?”

The trader shrugged. “We do not know but there have been reports of the beast invading camps and eating the roasting meat. The creature is a problem and must be chased to its natural place or the caravans will suffer. Men want cooked meat when on the trail. If the guards cannot depend on being fed, they will not hire on.”

“Where is this dragon now?”

“The last sighting was on the road miles to the east. You are thinking about chasing the dragon?”

“I might.”

The trader laughed. “Good luck.”

Stephen cleared the tables and lugged a full tray to the kitchen. He knew what he would do. He would retrieve his sword, jewels and coronet. With the money he had earned here, he would buy supplies. He would find and slay the dragon. That would make him a hero. A hero was almost as good as being a prince.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday's Writer's Tip - Revision

To some, revision is a dirty word but to others that's what makes a story sing. There are many reasons to revise a story. Among them are making sure each word says what you want to say. Don't know about you, but often when I'm revising I come across something I've written in the heat of the first burst of creating a world and realize I'm not sure what I meant. Those first words that flow onto the paper may not be the right ones.

Do you dare change them. Of course. The words you write in a sentence, a paragraph or a scene aren't embossed on the paper or inside the computer to remain forever and cannot be changed. You might think of a different verb, one that makes the picture clearer or see the slant of the scene needs to be changed. Do it. Don't be afraid to cross our words, rewrite a scene or change the whole direction of the story you're telling.

Remember revising could be the difference between rejection and acceptance.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday's Interview Dorien Gray

Today's interview is with Dorien Grey. We internet met years ago on a site we both belonged to All About Murder. As you can guess he writes mysteries.

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I write primarily mysteries, though I've branched off slightly from regular mysteries (my soon-to-be-14-book Dick Hardesty series) into the paranormal (in that a spirit is a major character) in my 3-book Elliott Smith mysteries. I occasionally dabble in poetry and have been working on "The Great American Novel" for several decades.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

We sort of bumped into one another and decided we were a match. Since life has always been a mystery to me, and I spend so much of my time asking questions which cannot be answered, mysteries are a natural to me because I can both ask the questions and provide the answers.

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

If I had the time, I'd like to try any number of other genres. I'm very partial to science fiction. I would have no interest whatsoever in writing Harlequin-type romances.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

It is one of my greatest regrets that I am so busy writing I find almost no time to read, but when I do, my tastes are pretty eclectic: biography, historical non-fiction, other mystery writers, humorous, etc.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,

I've been writing since I was about five, I think...my first efforts were dictated to my mom, who always encouraged me and instilled me with a love of and fascination for words. For most of my working life, I was a book and magazine editor. Everything I write reflects...though very subtly, I hope...the fact of my being gay. I try to show that what unites us as humans is far greater than what separates us. And I sincerely believe that today's reader is much more aware of the fact that a good story well told is far more important than who sleeps with whom.

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

That's rather like asking a parent "Which one of your children is your favorite?" I wouldn't say even if I had one, lest I hurt the feelings of the others. I should mention, though that Dick Hardesty is an alternate-universe me. He is everything I wish I were, and we share the same beliefs, opinions, outlooks, and sense of humor.

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

Every mystery has its villains, though I frequently write them as almost sympathetic...I've strongly empathize with more than one of them. A couple others are without any redeeming qualities whatsoever and I take delight in giving them what they deserve. Just as each book is different, each villain is different.

8. What are you working on now?

I'm nearing the end (finally) of The Peripheral Son, book #14 in the Dick Hardesty series. After 13 books in the same series, it has come to the point where I consider each book one more chapter in an ongoing story. Readers who have been with me from the beginning...and I am incredibly grateful that there have been so many...have watched the characters grow and develop and have come to look on them, as I have, as not only real people, but friends

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

My most recent release is Caesar's Fall, the third book in the Elliott Smith paranormal mystery series, in which the protagonist, Elliott, and his non-corporeal friend John try to help a troubled, recently-deceased spirit find out why he died and who was responsible.

10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.

I think the opening pretty well lays the groundwork, and I'll let it speak for itself.

Those of us born to and raised by loving parents find it difficult to comprehend that not everyone is so blessed; that there are those parents who, for whatever reason, treat their children as unwelcome strangers. The process often leaves the child with emotional scars which can never completely heal. I could never imagine what it must be like to be a peripheral son, until….

Dick Hardesty

"Did you get any sleep?" I asked Jonathan as I watched Joshua slosh milk into his bowl of cereal, filling it to the brim.

"A little. I guess I still haven't quite come down yet."

He was referring to the Gay Men's Chorus concert the day before, in which he had his first solo. The concert had consisted entirely of songs from Disney movies, from "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah" to "When You Wish Upon a Star"—and, of course, "Some Day My Prince Will Come," which the entire chorus signed as it sang. Jonathan had the solo on "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes." Needless to say, he was terrific.

Someone said that the reason time passes more and more quickly as we get older is because each day is an incrementally smaller percentage of our total life. If that's true, at the rate time appeared to be zipping by, my one-hundred-tenth birthday was just around the corner.

We had just enrolled Joshua in first grade at our local elementary school for the upcoming school year, and were trying to deal with the logistics involved in this new chapter of our lives. Though Joshua was counting the days until his sixth birthday, my mind simply could not accept the fact that he'd been with us for nearly two years following the death of his parents, Jonathan's brother and sister-in-law. We had entrusted his weekday care to Estelle and Bonnie Bronson, two sisters who ran the Happy Day Daycare Center from their home, almost from the time he came to us. They had been very good about looking after him until one of us got there to pick him up. But public schools do not afford such service, and we had to find an alternate plan.

Again, thank you for the opportunity. If you'll let me know when it appears, I'll post a link to it on several sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and my own website.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday -- On Plot

If you're writing a novel you have to think about the long view. This means not putting all the information up front but giving hints about what will come next. One scene builds into the next. Knowing what the major points and having an idea about which scenes will be used to reveal them is always a plus. But the revelation can cause a problem. Blocking the scene in an outline form can be a help.

Revelation can have several other problems. When giving hints and doing a bit of foreshadowing make sure you aren't pushing this too hard, like a mother trying to get a child to eat something they don;t want to eat. Subtle wins the days. Give enough of a hint to alert the reader and leave it. Giving twenty hints about the same coming event in the scene will become annoying.

Another thing that keeps the reader moving is finding a twist that makes the reader wonder what will happen next or what is the meaning of the scene. Not only does this make the reader think but it enriches the plot.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Inspiration - Bird By Bird - The phone

Before I start on the Bird By Bird bit, I'd like to talk about the tree in my front yard. For somehow it always inspires me. It's a Japanese dogwood that was supposed to grow to eight feet. It's now about 20 feel. The other thing is the way it changes, In the spring, the leaves come out green and medium to dark. Then the change happens and the tree begins to turn to lighter colors and finally the entire foliage is white. In the fall the leaves are a dark red. So watching the changes always inspires me.

Now on to Bird By Bird. This time is on finding information and as Anne Lamott says, the phone is a wonderful tool. So are personal contacts with people who know things you don't know. When calling an expert when you say you're a writer and you'd like to know about X, they usually will tell you X and maybe even Y and Z. Sometimes what you hear may not be what you wanted for your plot but thinking things over can give you a different line. I've used the phone and the personal touch. In writing about medical things I was fortunate enough to work in a hospital. I remember once getting much more info than I needed about a blow to the head but all the neurologist told me made the scene in the book more realistic.

Using the phone has had pluses and minuses but I spoke to the Poison Control Center and received volumes of information about poisons and the treatment. I did have one funny phone conversation. I wanted to know how long the police would keep a body of a murder victim before it was released for burial. Very important for the conclusion of a murder mystery. Called a friend of my daughter who was a police officer and had to leave a message.

Perhaps I sounded out of breath or something because the call came back immediately. "What do you need? Is everything all right?"

Me: I just murdered someone. How long will the police keep the body before releasing it?

He: No, no. She's a writer. Ma, you're on speaker phone.

A bit of laughter later and I had my answer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

16 May - Week Ahead and Week Behind

Forgot to mention this. Just finished reading Healing the Mage by Gianna Simone and really enjoyed the read which is a bit different from my usual reading material. Well done, my friend.

The edits aren't finished but are on hold for a bit buty they will be finished soon, I hope. This week I'll be working on the rough draft of A Sudden Seduction and finishing the editing on Confrontations. Tuesday is Bird By Bird. There is much to be digested in this book. Wednesday will be more on Plot. Thursday Dorien Grey is the interviewed. Friday another Writer's Top. Saturday first chapter of The Amber Dragon, my favorite of the Amber Chronicles and Sunday 3 blogs visited.

Last week was given over to edition. I don't like sitting at the computer for hours on end and when finished my brain felt fried. Did this four days running. Also heard that I'll be getting the edits for Quests no. 3 of the Henge series. Timing is almost good on that.

Been thinking about expectations and always find it wonderful how the expectations of various writing friends differ. Do they write for money or for the love or writing? I don't think anyone should become a writer unless they love every aspect from putting the initial words down to the revisions. The revisions should be where the writer looks from two views as writer and reader. Sometimes hard to do.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

3 Blog Visit Sunday

http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/ I have an interview up here.

http://maevealpin.blogspot.com/ A bit on Steampunk here

http://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com/Reviews, interviews and other related subjects

Saturday, May 14, 2011

1st Chapter Saturday -- Woman Freed From Amber

This is the companion piece to Woman Cast in Amber. Not quite as strange a story.

{The Amber Chronicles, Book 2}

by Janet Lane Walters (Dame Amber)

Kriston Riva, seventh son of the late king of Rivand, stood at the shelves in the gloomy basement room that housed the kingdom’s archives. To combat the dreary atmosphere, the candles in every sconce on the stone walls cast light. To add more illumination, a half-dozen lanterns burned on the long work table. He held one in his hand. Since his father’s death, he’d spent several hours every day searching for scrolls that carried versions of the curse placed on his family by the Witch of the Woods. He’d read four. The scroll he lifted from the shelf contained the story of how the curse had begun. He carried the cylinder to the table and carefully twisted the cap.

On the day Kriston had reached his majority, his father had appointed him Keeper of the Archives. Kriston would have preferred an army commission but, as the youngest son, he had no choice except to accept his father’s offer. Kriston hoped his oldest brother, now the king, would find a different position for him. A position better suited for a twenty-five-year-old who excelled with a sword and could master any horse. Kriston often felt he would languish in this room until his skin turned as yellow and fragile as one of the oldest scrolls.

The past moon had been filled with events producing sorrow and joy for the Riva family and for Rivand. The moon had begun with the death of the aging king followed by the coronation of the new, Kriston’s oldest brother. On the day the crown prince had been born, the king’s wife had died giving birth to the infant.

A lump formed in Kriston’s throat as he recalled his brother’s anguished cries following the death of his beloved mate. “I married for love and I shall not wed again. I have an heir and need no other children.”

Kriston knew the men of the Riva family married either for love or convenience and even death never broke the marriage bonds. In his brother’s case, the tradition could bring trouble to the kingdom. His infant nephew was the crown prince who would face the Witch of the Woods. Though no one of his family believed, Kriston felt sure the curse had yet to be ended.

That belief had sent him to the archives to search for every record that mentioned the curse placed on the family by the Witch of the Woods. During the search, he learned what he feared was true. As the only son of the king, the young man would have no choice other than refusal. The only hope Kriston had of making changes had been discovered in a scroll that spoke of the year ending with a thirteenth moon. This rare event was one said to be a time of magic when miracles became possible.

His grandfather had faced the witch and had not vanished as the five crown princes had before him. Kriston tried to recall the night his grandfather had died and the story Hugh Riva had related. Vague memories arose but few of the details. When Kriston had crept into the dying king’s bedchamber, he had been just five years old. As the years passed, the memories had faded. Remnants of the tale woven by an aged man circled the edges of Kriston’s thoughts. Catching and holding them amounted to trying to capture sunbeams in a silken net.

With a groan, Kriston unrolled the oldest scroll he had found on the shelves. He hoped this one would tell the story of the first prince to vanish. As he puzzled over the fading ink, he knew this was the one he sought. In the words, he had found the source of the whispered comments he heard from the gathered people at the time his infant nephew had been acknowledged as the crown prince.

The Witch of the Woods pointed to the king. “Fire will not destroy the garden or drive me from my home.” She waved her hand. The flames drew inward and vanished. She turned to the crown prince. “I love you. Will you love me in return?”

He shook his head. “How can you speak of love? You do not know me.”

“The moment I beheld you, I knew I was in love. Your handsome face, your dark hair and moss green eyes enchanted me.”

The prince faced her. “Though you are beautiful with your hair like strands of sunlight and your eyes the blue of summer skies, I have a duty to Rivand, the land I will rule after my father. My betrothal has been announced. To have honor, I must keep that promise.”

“Do you have brothers who could become king?”


“Then there is no reason for you to reject me.”

“There are three reasons: Duty, honor and love. I do not love you.”

Her blue eyes turned an icy color. “So you refuse to accept my love or love me in return. Your father has tried to destroy my home. To no avail for I have created the garden anew. Though I could call a plague to destroy Rivand, I will not punish the people. This I say, your land will not prosper or fail. The House of Rivand will bear this curse. Every hundred years, the crown prince will be summoned here and face a choice. Accept my love and give his heart in return or be taken into the amber orb and spend the rest of his life in that world.”

Though there were no clouds, thunder rumbled. A flash of lightning struck the earth. An amber mist shimmered. The light blinded the king’s eyes. When his vision cleared, he saw the crown prince encased in amber. The glow dimmed, and an amber sphere remained.

The witch lifted the globe. “He is a prisoner in the amber. You will see him no more.” She carried the orb to the cottage and closed the door.

Kriston released his grip on the scroll and watched the parchment curl into a tube. He placed the roll with the others. Five versions of the disappearance of a crown prince written a hundred years apart. Each one held slight differences, but the ending was the same. No scroll detailed his grandfather’s story. All Kriston remembered was how Hugh Riva’s friend, Emme, had taken his place in the amber. Hugh had brought the globe to the palace and had kept it in his chambers.

Kriston blew out the lanterns and signaled the servant to snuff the candles. He climbed the stairs to the first floor and strode down the hall. A glimmer of memory stirred. On the morning his grandfather had died, a man had brought the amber sphere to Kriston’s room. Emme had been inside. He had seen her.

Excitement forced him into a half-run toward the stairs. For days after his grandfather’s funeral, he had stared at the woman cast in amber. When he showed the orb to his brothers, none of them had seen the woman inside.

He reached his suite of rooms. If the woman remained in the amber, he believed he could convince the king of the danger his only son faced. Kriston frowned. Why had his grandfather told no one else the story of Emme and the curse on the Riva family? Kriston’s father had decided the curse had been ended by the sacrifice. From what Kriston had read in the scrolls, that belief was wrong. Just because Emme had entered the globe did not mean the Witch of the Woods had obtained her goal—the love of a crown prince.

Twenty years from now, the witch would send a summons. The crown prince would answer. This time, there would be no Emme to sacrifice herself and there would be no younger brother to take the throne.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday's Writer's Tip - Coloring your story

Interesting day here and had to re-post Thursday's interview. Took me back to Wednesday. Now on to the writer's tip.

Coloring your writing. When you hear the titles of a number of books, they bring images to mind, especially when a color is added. The Scarlet Letter is one, Using colors when describing a person or a scene can help a reader envision what you're saying. Certain colors mean special things to some people. When describing a fall vists. you could say the leaves flaunted their bright colors or you could say the yellows, oranges and reds of the leaves resembled the jeweled colors of a Persian carpet. The reader might see the first in a vague way but naming the colors brings the image vividly to mind and perhaps a scene they've actually seen,

Often objects are shown the speeding car but the dark green car sped toward the yellow bus. To me the yellow bus means a school bus and right away I see a tragedy in the making.

Ebon eyes like pools of the night ring better than her dark eyes shone. The color of people's clothes matter. For years white uniforms reminded people of nurses. Now nurses wear clothes of many colors. Perhaps the heroine's or hero's choice of colors in their clothing may have a meaning to them and to the reader. I have a granddaughter who refused to wear pink when she was a child. Not long ago, she told me she could wear pink now. Not sure what that means. If she were a character in a book you'd better believe I'd look into the matter.

Thursday's Interview -- Tracy St. Johns 1

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I have written sci-fi and paranormal erotica for the most part. I love world building and creating different life forms that think and act differently from those of us on Mother Earth. And the paranormal holds immense fascination for me with its cast of inhuman creatures that can seduce and terrify all at once.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

My stories always choose me...usually when I'm in the shower. I have no idea how soap and writing are linked, but that's where my muse shows up. The ideas almost always have a science fiction or paranormal bent to them. I grew up on Star Trek and Twilight Zone reruns, so I guess it should be no surprise.

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

I might try historical some day. I'm addicted to the History Channel; I'm a mythology geek. I've been contemplating an erotic series centered around the ancient Greek gods.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I enjoy horror, particularly Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I've lately plunged into the Sookie Stackhouse series, which is just plain fun escapism for me. If I'm going to read science fiction, it's usually Ray Bradbury, Piers Anthony, or E. E. Knight. And of course I read erotica. Anais Nin was my first exposure and still my hands-down favorite.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,

I've been writing since I was a child. I don't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer. Reading always provided an escape for me, and I lived through the books my parents bought me. But my first 'serious' writing started when I was about 20 years old, with the hopes of someday being published. It only took 23 years to achieve that goal!

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

My favorite character thus far is Jessica McInness, the heroine from my second book 'Alien Rule'. She's feisty, quick-tempered, and doesn't put up with any nonsense her three would-be mates try to pull on her.

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

There are villains, but they actually play very small roles. Usually the greatest conflicts my heroes/heroines face are their own weaknesses, which can be pretty profound. To create my villains, I start with their motivations. Are they greedy for power? Is their view of the world skewed? Do they feel cheated and thus justified in pursuing a less than noble path? No one sets out to be the bad guy...so there has to be very good reason why a character becomes a villain.

8. What are you working on now?

I have several projects at different stages. I'm editing the fourth installment of my Clans of Kalquor series, about a third of the way through the first draft for a new paranormal series, outlining the fifth Clans of Kalquor book, and outlining a novel that I'm co-writing with another author. Whew!

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

The latest release, due out May 27, is 'Alien Conquest', the third of the Clans of Kalquor series. The idea for this one was based on the notion of, what would happen if the Kalquorians, desperate for female mates from Earth, stumbled across a convent full of nuns on a remote planet/moon? Yes, this was one of those questions that showed up in the shower, and I had a lot of fun answering it.

10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.

The heroine, Cassidy Hamilton, doesn’t think life can get any worse after being sequestered against her will in a convent on Europa. A Kalquorian invasion changes her mind in a hurry, and she barely eludes her people’s greatest enemy by hiding in the convent's ventilation shafts. Fear and desire become a heady mixture when her spying reveals the aliens’ intentions for Europa’s nuns: bondage and seduction.

The war with Earth threatens Kalquor’s already precarious survival, and Captain Tranis is determined to conquer the fanatically religious planet. But capturing the curvy beauty who escaped him and his clanmates Lidon and Degorsk is a welcome distraction. Once they have Cassidy in their possession, the three men discover something harder to win than a war: a woman's heart.

From the book:

Cassidy Hamilton sighed before shoving a chocolate in her mouth. As cloying sweetness invaded her taste buds, she studied the page displayed on her illuminated reader for the second time.

The book was a dry read, a dissident rant from decades before when Earth’s nations had first been gathered under one banner, ending all war on her home world. Peace reigned over the once battle-torn planet for the most part, tended to by armored soldiers and soulless battle drones capable of wiping out entire cities. Revolts had been quashed with quick ruthlessness, barely disturbing the fearful complacency of the general populace.

The author of this particular book had no doubt been executed for his anti-unified government views. The long-ago renegade seethed over the assertion all Earth’s outdated nuclear warheads had been detonated in space, an impossibility he warned, given the smallness of the blasts transmitted through the government-controlled media. He then went on with extensive mathematical formulae to prove his point, formulae that went on for five pages.

It wasn’t that Cassidy couldn’t grasp the weighty data. She played in mathematics the way a child might play with clay. Normally, she’d be scrutinizing the computations, looking for errors or little twists in logical application that would serve the author’s needs. Tonight she couldn’t concentrate though. The knowledge that more interesting tomes awaited in the illicit book collection stored in her reader kept her from focusing on the outlawed manuscript.

She shifted, searching for a more comfortable position in the cramped ventilation shaft. Stretched out on her belly, her stiff, long-sleeved nightgown bunching around her knees, it wasn’t easy to move around. The narrow ductwork, glowing silvery-white in the wash of light from her reader, was the only place she dared to read the illegal materials she’d downloaded from her grandfather’s collection before being sequestered in the convent on Europa.

It was still early in the convent’s sleeping hours on the eternal night side of the moon. Cassidy read every night in her hiding place, nibbling on sweets and snacks bought with the modest allowance her grandfather sent her. She’d been stuck on Europa for three years now, her days a monotonous drone of praying, tending crops, scrubbing floors, and Bible study. Even creeping through the ventilation system to spy on her fellow aspirants and the nuns had worn out its novelty. Only the stolen collection of banned books kept her mind sharp and sane. Fortunately, the library was vast. She’d barely sampled the many offerings her grandfather had kept hidden deep in secret computer files.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday - More on Plot - Avoiding Muddy Waters

Don't muddy the waters. You're writing the big reveal scene where a major secret is being told. Unless you're deliberately trying to confuse the reader, don't throw in little bits that confuse the issue. The hero or heroine is learning something about themselves or about their problems and this is a major scene. Why add a mysterious body or the problem another character brings into the mix. If there's a quarrel play it out in full but focus on that alone.

This can be hard to achieve because you want this scene to lead to another and perhaps more important thing. A bit of foreshadowing is all right but to set off on one road and suddenly hop to another can cause a problem. Polish each major scene until it shines and wait to the end to produce the arrow that sends to the next major point in the plot.

Planning is a must here. Not every detail of the story but the major elements from the opening to the resolution are part of a plan or a plot. If your characters want to act in a way different from your plan, stop and listen to what they're saying. This may mean they have come alive or it could be that they're flawed. Remember, a plot is just a plan and plans are always subject to change.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday - Inspiration - Bird By Bird -- Index Cards

The latest bit from Bird By Bird is about using index cards to note important events or things that grab your attention. Even before I read Bird by Bird, I tried this using a variety of different methods. I used index cards for working out stories. I put interesting facts and important events with impressions on index cards. Then my boys found my box of index cards, they were five and three. I emerged from a writing session to find my story lines mixed with bits of dialogue, strange and interesting facts and was never able to sort them out. I resorted to notebooks of all sizes, a habit I keep to this day to make lists.

I love lists and I think that's what this essay in the book is about. Keeping lists of things to do, stories to write, bits and pieces of life that may or may not be used in fiction. New words, new emotions, remembering things from the past and honing in on what you saw, heard, tasted, touched and smelled today that might find its way into a book.

Memory and memories are a writer's tool. Finding ways to capture and hone them makes for interesting little bits in the stories. Small truths and big lies. So once again Anne Lamott sends me off on a tangent. Does she do this to you?

Monday, May 9, 2011

9 May - Week Behind and Week Ahead

Once again a new writing week to begin. The blog this week will have the usual days. Hopefully I'll post them early since I'll be doing edits on line for two hours a day for the "Moon POol" written with Jane Toombs, friend, co-author and wish she lived closer. I'll be wroking hard on the chapter synopisi for a Sudden Seduction and trying to keep up with all the groups I belong to. Just a few more pages of revision for the conclusion and resolution of The Henge Betrayed - Confrontation and it's off for submission.

Last week was one of those weeks when one has less time than they want for writing, But I did finish reading one of Anne McCaffrey's series and started reading :Sex and Key Lime Pie" bu friend and critique partner Kat Attalla. The finished product is great so far. Kat has such a neat way with dialogue between the hero and heroine. Have some other critique partner books to read in the coming weeks. There are so many books to read and so many to write I always wonder if there'll be enough time to do them all. One will see.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

3 Blog visit Sunday

http://authorsandbooks.blogspot.com/ Read about new books and authors.

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com/ Interesting article on character development

ttp://www.lesleyannemcleod.blogspot.com/ The Regency world is explored here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

1st Chapter Saturday -- Woman Cast In Amber

This story is one of the oddest I've ever written. While it's a love story, it is not a romance. This was written for a Jewels of the Quill anthology.

{The Amber Chronicles, Book 1}

by Janet Lane Walters (Dame Amber)

Hugh Riva, king of Rivand, sat in the bed, his aging body propped by a mass of pillows, aware of nothing but the amber globe he held in his hands. He neither felt the caress of the spring breeze nor smelled the sweet scent of flowers. He didn’t see the moonlight forming pools of light and shadow on the floor of his bedchamber. The liquid rasp of his breathing contended with the chirp of crickets and the songs of the night wrens.

Death held a vigil in the dark places of the room. Hugh was ready for the final sleep. His life had been long, and, while not filled with great joy, had been one of quiet contentment. If he didn’t count one of his nightly dreams. He had a large family, four sons and three daughters who had given him seventeen grandchildren, the oldest of an age to have children of their own.

He stroked the cool surface of the gem and felt the amber warm. When he held the globe so the moonlight illuminated the depths, the woman embedded in the core wore the smile he’d never forgotten.

“Ah, Emme, would that you could see what your act of love has wrought.” Though he felt guilt for her imprisonment in the globe, the guilt was mixed with thankfulness.

The door of the bedchamber creaked. Hugh stiffened. How had an intruder slipped past the hall guards? “Who’s there?”

A small figure moved into the moonlight. “Grandfather, it’s me.”

“Kriston Riva, how did you escape your nurse?”

The five-year-old’s merry laughter invited his grandfather to smile. “Nurse was snoring ever so loud. I wanted to see you, so I came.”

The boy was the youngest of the grandchildren, and the one Hugh loved with a fierceness he took care not to show the others. He patted the bed beside him. “Since you’re here, you might as well stay a bit. Is something bothering you?”

The child climbed the steps and settled beside Hugh. “I was afraid I wouldn’t see you tomorrow. Not so we could talk.”

Hugh’s heart fluttered in his chest. How had the child known what Hugh had hidden from his family and servants? The physician had been ordered not to reveal how little time remained in Hugh’s life. Tonight, he had dismissed everyone who might want to keep a bedside vigil. He pressed the amber globe against his chest. He had wanted to spend his last night with the haunter of his dreams. “I wish I could say you were wrong.”

Kriston patted his grandfather’s hand. “Do you hurt?”

“Not a bit. I’m just tired.”

Kriston peered at the amber globe. “Grandfather, how did the lady get in there?”

Hugh stared at his grandson. Until now, no one had ever seen Emme. “For love.” A love he’d never suspected until she’d made her choice to take his place.

“She’s so little.”

Hugh nodded. “But her heart was big.”

Kriston frowned. “Did you see it?”

“Not in the way you think. She cared more for me than she did for herself.”

The child ran a cautious finger over the amber. “Is she alive?”

“I don’t know.”

Before Hugh could stop him, Kriston took the globe and held it so the light of the moon glinted on the surface. “Why is she in there?”

“For love of me.” Hugh felt a stabbing sensation in his chest. Not now. Not while Kriston is with me. He closed his eyes and waited for the pain to pass.

Kriston moved closer. “I don’t understand why she has to be in there. Can you tell me why?”

“The tale is long. Fortunately, you’re not the one who has to hear the entire story. The call won’t come for you, or even your older brothers and cousins.”


“Patience. Listen to the story.”

“I like stories. I’ll listen.”

Hugh slipped his arm around his grandson’s shoulder. He would tell the boy part of the tale.

“Some five hundred years ago, long before you or I were born, a witch claimed part of the Rivand forest as her own. The place is now called the Witch’s Wood. Our ancestor, King Riva, wanted no witch living in his land.”

“Was she a bad witch?”

“I don’t know, but the king grew angry because she was there.”

“What did she do to make him mad?”

“The tales said in a single day, she built a stone cottage and created an ever-blooming garden with sweet scented flowers, shrubs and trees. Small forest creatures found refuge there. Birds, butterflies and all manner of insects brought songs and color to the garden.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Kriston said.

Hugh shrugged. “Maybe yes and maybe no. The king feared the witch would enchant anyone entering the garden and keep them imprisoned behind the fence.”


“Let me tell you what happened next.” Hugh drew a deep breath.

“The king made plans to rid his land of the witch. His oldest son, the crown prince, heard about the witch and how his father wanted her gone. The prince was brave and bold, yes, and ever curious. On an impulse, he left the palace and rode to the forest. When he found the witch’s garden, he dismounted. The gate opened at a touch. He stepped inside. The sights, sounds, even the aromas delighted him. Yet, deep inside, he remembered his father’s fears and knew the place couldn’t remain.”

“Why not?”

“Because the garden was enchanted, and he was falling under the spell.”

Kriston leaned against his grandfather. “Then what happened?”

“He turned to open the gate and leave, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t escape. Anger bubbled inside him. ‘Witch, show yourself,’ he shouted.

“When she stepped from the cottage, he saw her beauty and found himself tempted. Except he was promised to another. The wedding day had been set. The witch walked toward him, smiling.

“‘Welcome to my garden. You are my heart’s delight. Come smell the flowers, listen to the bird song, and taste the honey of my bees.’

“He shook his head. ‘I can’t stay. I am my father’s heir.’ Though her beauty outshone every woman in the kingdom, he would keep his promise to the woman he planned to wed.”

“Was she prettier than my mother?” the boy asked.

“I ... Well, perhaps. They say her hair was as black as the midnight sky, and her eyes as blue as the cloudless sky in summer.”

Kriston stared into the amber ball. “Was she prettier than this lady?”

“Emme was lovely, so very beautiful, but, alas, she was a slave.”

“Did the prince escape?”

Hugh shook his head. “I’m afraid not.” He brushed his hand over his face. “The witch held out her hand. ‘Stay with me.’

“The prince kept his hand on the gate. ‘I won’t. There’s nothing here for me.’

“‘There is my love, young prince.’

“He laughed. ‘I have no need for love. Love makes a person miserable. A life of contentment is my wish. I’m to wed a young woman of noble birth. There is no place for you in this kingdom. You must depart at once.’

“Her blue eyes filled with tears. ‘Let me stay. This is a fair land and you may change your mind about love.’

“‘Never.’ Once again, he sought to open the gate but it held fast. He demanded, ‘Open this gate so I can leave.’”

“She was bad,” Kriston said. “Why didn’t she let him go?”

“She wanted someone to share her home,” Hugh said, fingering the amber gem. “Let me finish the story.”

“The prince was angry. ‘Free me.’

“‘Give me your love. If you take mine, you will have no desire to leave.’

“Other voices rose and startled the prince. He turned and saw his father, his brother and a troop of men.

“‘Release my son.’

“‘Free my brother.’

“‘I can’t,’ the witch said. ‘I love him. For years, I have watched him in my amber globe. He will remain with me or die.’

“The king threw a flaming brand into the garden. A flight of fire-arrows rose from the bows of the soldiers. The bushes burst into flame. ‘Leave my land,’ the crown prince insisted.

“The witch embraced him. ‘Foolish prince. You have refused a gift of the heart.’ She lifted her gaze to the king. ‘And you, King Riva, have blighted beauty. In this clearing, nothing will grow until love is given and returned. Though I could call a plague to blight your land, I won’t. Your land will not prosper, yet your people will not starve. Every hundred years, I will call the heir to this place and offer him this choice. Love me and prosper, or spend your life and that of your family in an unending limbo of never knowing true happiness.’

“Thunder rumbled. Lightning flashed. The witch vanished. A globe of amber rolled through the open gate. The king picked up the gem. In the depths, he saw a figure.”

“Grandfather, who was it? The lady?”

“Not the first time. The first time was the young prince and, each time she called an heir to that place, those who failed to return the witch’s love became entrapped in the amber.”

Kriston’s eyes widened. “You won? You beat the witch?”

Hugh shook his head. “I would have lost, but, for love, Emme took my place.”

“Can love bring your Emme back?”

Hugh took a moment to answer. “I don’t know.”

Kriston hugged the globe against his chest. “When I grow big, I mean to try.”

“Why, Kriston?”

“Because she looks nice and pretty and so sad.”

Hugh sighed. “She was only a slave who loved me too much.”

For a time, Hugh and his grandson shared silence. The child’s light snores told Hugh he slept. As the amber globe rolled from Kriston’s hands, Hugh caught it. He kissed his grandson’s forehead and rang the handbell for his valet.

Donner bustled into the room. He rubbed sleep from his eyes. “Are you all right, Sire?”

“I’m fine. Carry young Kriston to his room before his nurse wakes and sets the palace in an uproar.”

Hugh waited until the door closed behind the pair. He cradled the gem in his hands, holding it against his heart. “Ah, Emme, did you know what you were doing when you took my place?”

Her soft voice sounded in his thoughts. “For a love I’ll never know, and one you’ll never give.”

He drifted into memories of the past. His first meeting with Emme.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday's writer's Tip - Reading and Writing

What do you read? What do you write? Who do you want to write for?

Several years ago when I was doing a bit of editing for an ebook company when I write to one of the authors and asked this question. "You're writing a romance. How many have you read?" The response was that this author never read a romance.

I thought back to the days when I decided to be an author. I'd been writing for a time, taking courses and studying books on writing but I really didn't know what I wanted to write. I set out on a reading binge. First reading classics and then moved to the modern books. Fortunately I'm a rapid reader. The Evelyn Wood course instructor wouldn't let me take the course. After a few reads I learned I'd never be a literary writer. I liked plots too much. I turned to the genres.

I read 100 romance novels, half contemporary and half historical. I read as many mysteries, fantasy and science fiction. Then I set out to begin writing. My first books were romances of the 'sweet nurse' variety and some of them sold. Then I turned to mysteries and some were rejected with great rejection letters. They finally all sold. So did the fantasies. Decided I don't have enough science to write science fiction.

The point of this is how can you decide to write books when you don't read or don't read the genre. Many writers write books because they love that kind of story. Others think they can do better than the ones they've read. But if you don't read and understand the conventions of the genre and of the particular house you're aiming for can you really expect to sell. Just think about the opening questions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thursday's Interview -- Helen Madden

Today;s interview is with Helen Madden. Met her at EPICON in Virginia Beach and love her Cynical Women cartoons. She's an author and an artist.

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I started writing in erotica, specifically sci-fi, fantasy, and horror erotica. I spent over 3 years writing a short story a week in those genres, and then recorded each story for my podcast, Heat Flash (http://www.heatflash.libsyn.com). I’ve also written a fantasy erotica novel, “Demon By Day,” and am currently writing a sci-fi thriller novel which I’m also recording and distributing on my podcast.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

I would have to say I pretty much fell into the erotica genre. I started writing 15 or so years ago, mostly science fiction and fantasy, but was unable to sell any of my stories. Then one afternoon, I picked up a copy of “PlayGirl” and read the stories in their Readers’ Forum. I thought the stories were awful, and I said to myself, “I could write better than that!” So I gave it a try and submitted my story. A month later, PlayGirl offered me $100 for that story. It was my first published work. I had two other sales not long after that, both erotica stories, and since then erotica has always been a mainstay in my writing.

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

Outside of erotica, I have written straight up sci-fi, horror and fantasy. I’ve tried my hand a bit at mystery writing too, and have done my fair share of technical papers, reports, and newspaper articles. One thing I’d like to do is write a collection of contemporary humorous stories. I come from a family of jokers and storytellers, and there are plenty of wild tales I could write about us all, including one story about how I once went to the wrong funeral.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

Sadly, I read very little fiction these days. I’m just too busy with work and family to stop and read for pleasure. And when I do have time to just relax, I often find myself drawing these days. I draw obsessively now, spending at least an hour each day painting and sketching pictures on my iPad. On the rare occasions when I do read for fun, it’s usually sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, with some mystery series thrown in for good measure. I rarely read erotica for pleasure, though. While I enjoy writing it, it’s just not something I gravitate toward when it comes to reading. Most of the erotica I do read has been from the Erotica Readers and Writers Association (www.era-readers.com). I worked as an editor for their online writing group for a few years, and had the chance to read many wonderful short stories as a result.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,

I am the classic outcast, the square peg in the round hole. In high school I was voted most artistic and worst dressed. Very little has changed over the years. Which is not to say I don’t have friends. I’ve found over the years the outcasts vastly outnumber the popular kids and I have quite the motley crew of companions in my life. I’m a huge geek, given my interest in speculative fiction, and a bit of a gadget girl. Being a podcaster, I spend quite a bit of time working on my computer, editing audio files and producing shows. And I love to draw. I produce a weekly webcomic called “The Adventures of Cynical Woman,” which is sort of autobiographical. I’m a work-at-home mom, spending many hours each day writing, drawing, and podcasting. In addition to my work as an author, I also create cover art, and have produced a number of book covers for LL-Publications.

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

That would have to be Orziel, the half-demon protagonist of my novel, Demon By Day (http://www.mojocastle.com/DemonbyDay.html). He’s not a hero – that would imply he was out to do something good with his life. Instead, he’s a troublemaker to the Nth degree, which is pretty stupid in a way because he’s also very powerless compared to the other demons that inhabit his world. But he’s cunning and brazen and full of tricks, so he usually gets out of any scrapes he gets himself into. Usually.

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

Demon By Day is just chock full of villains. In fact, out of a cast of dozens, there’s really only one good guy among the bunch (again, not the main character Orziel). I love writing villains. I love seeing how far I can push them and how bad I can make them. The more wicked the better, in my opinion.

8. What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m writing a science fiction thriller called “The Little Death.” The main character, Agent Robin Helki, is a telepath who works as an evidence collector for the local police. She lives in a very totalitarian world, where all telepaths are forced to live in compounds and can only work outside their compound under the supervision of a “norm.” When Robin is asked to collect telepathic evidence for what appears to be a suicide, she suddenly finds herself embroiled in a nasty government conspiracy. She also discovers that the more she uses her abilities as a telepath, the more likely she is to go insane. The story is told from her point of view, and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with how her perception of the world changes as she slowly goes mad.

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

“The Little Death” is currently being released in audio format a chapter at a time on the Heat Flash podcast (http://www.heatflash.libsyn.com). The podcast is free, so if you enjoy listening to audio books, you can download all the chapters so far and listen at your leisure.

The idea for “The Little Death” was inspired by a theme challenge posted on the Erotica Readers and Writers Association critique group. The theme was “noir” and I wanted to do something in the vein of “Bladerunner,” only with a female protagonist. I also wanted to explore the concept of telepathy and think about how it might work in the real world. Telepathy is a common trope in science fiction. Whenever it shows up, it’s just assumed that it works and very rarely do you see an author look at how those abilities developed. I wanted to get into that idea in depth, especially as it concerned the effects reading other people’s minds might have on the sanity of a telepath.

10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.

Here’s the opening for “The Little Death,” along with an illustration of the main character, Esper Agent Robin Helki.


"I killed him! I swear I killed him!"

This is the way a case is supposed to end.

"I killed him!" the woman on the vid-screen shrieks again. "I killed him!"

Her aged features twist into a mask as she howls the words over and over. She pulls hanks of iron grey hair out of her scalp, gouges the wrinkled flesh of her cheeks. Blood mingles with her tears.

This is the way a case is supposed to end, I tell myself again. Not how it's supposed to begin.

"I killed him!" the old woman screams one last time. Then the picture cuts off and the vid-screen fills with static.

"What do you make of that?"

I stare at the vid-screen a while longer, trying to ignore the presence at my shoulder. Inspector Slade sits close, too close. He doesn't touch me, but if I move, I'll brush against him and he knows it.

"Well, you going to say anything, Agent Helki?"

"Yeah, get away from me before I report you to OverWatch for sexual harassment."

"Hey, can I help it if it's tight in here? Besides," he adds in a sing-song voice. "I'm not touching you."

He sounds like a damn kid.

"Not quite, no," I reply without looking at him. "But you and I both know what you're doing, and OverWatch won't be pleased. Neither will your wife."

"Fine, fine." He scoots away from me on the narrow bench in the forensics van. "So tell me what you think about the vid."

"Nothing to tell. A woman calls Emergency-9 and rants about killing someone."

"You don't know her?"

"Should I?"

Slade shrugs. "I was thinking maybe she was one of your kind."

I glare at him. "Why? Because she's crazy?"

He looks away. "Okay, so you don't recognize her."

"No I don't. Although frankly I don't think her own mother would recognize a face that panic-stricken. Who is she?"

"You mean who was she," Slade says. "Step out of the van and I'll show you."

We clamber over stacks of equipment and make our way out of the van. Outside, rain pounds the asphalt lot of a run-down sex-tel, standard weather for Old Manhattan. Standard weather for just about any place in the city-state, to be honest. I can't recall a day in my life when it didn't rain. A slump-shouldered man stands in front of the worn, pre-fab building, wringing his hands and pleading with the two uniforms who affix a massive security lock on the double doors...


Bio for Helen E. H. Madden, aka Cynical Woman

Helen E. H. Madden, also known as Cynical Woman, is a writer and artist who quit her lucrative day job years ago with no idea what she might do next. In the last three years, she’s written 165 short stories for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast. Recently, she has begun writing in other genres, especially horror and science fiction. She is currently podcasting her second novel, “The Little Death,” a tale about telepathy, government conspiracies, and the dangers of the human touch.

Helen’s other works include her webcomic, “The Adventures of Cynical Woman,” a look at life as a stay-at-home mom and erotica writer. She is very much in love with zombies right now, but that’s probably because she is one, and could someone please explain the concept of “sleep” to her? Because she’s never experienced it herself.

Visit Helen’s websites at:

Writing, artwork and webcomics - http://www.cynicalwoman.com

The Heat Flash Erotica Podcast - http://www.heatflash.libsyn.com