Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Whispered by Carrie at 9:11 AM
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Hello, Moonlighters! Please help me welcome Michelle Picard into the moonlight this first Supernatural Sunday of the new year! Michelle and I sat down for an interview and I was able to get all the dirt on her. LOL Yeah, not really, but it sounded good right? Well, her interview is just as fun without the dirt. So, kick back, relax and enjoy!
Buy link: http://crescentmoonpress.com/books/RulingEden.html
MICHELLE: I’m all over the place with this. Some years I do, some I don’t. It all boils down to my state of mind. Am I happy with myself? I don’t need to drop three dress sizes to live a good life, especially if I feel I am making an integrated effort to be healthy on a day-to-day basis. Last year I did make a resolution. I resolved to fold the clean laundry more regularly (lol). Exciting stuff, huh? And I did it for a while, until I started backsliding. But this year I didn’t make a resolution. I’m happier with where I am in my life and if I will never be the world’s most timely laundry folder, well that’s fine because I love the balance in my life as it is. I achieve many more important things on a daily basis and my housekeeping skills are now, appropriately, placed in big time perspective. I can’t be everything, but if I love the things I am and value them, that’s great!
GRACEN: Now that the busy holiday time is over, what do you do to recharge?
MICHELLE: Read, write, start scheduling dinner parties with friends. Just getting the kids out the door in the morning and knowing I can use the time to sink back into my regular routine brings me fantastic peace of mind. I’m a homebody by nature and like nothing better than to stay inside at my desk on my computer. It is nice to exercise more, because it makes me feel good, but I don’t need a lot to recharge. Just lack of craziness.
GRACEN: Do you have any holiday memories from 2009 that you would like to share with us?
MICHELLE: My family surprised me with a Nook. I’d wanted one, although it’s dangerous to purchase the first generation of a new technology. However, since I was e-readerless, I’m thrilled. The biggest excitement was that I actually went out for New Years. We’ve been spending the past decade sharing quiet dinners with one of our favorite couples in our home when the ball drops. This year we found a babysitter and went out to a yummy set menu dinner with dancing following. Our friends came with us and I got to buy a new red dress. That made it downright festive. Okay, so maybe the event ran more to fireside dining than club frenzy, but I loved every minute of it.
GRACEN: What area of the country/world are you from? What are the average temperatures where you are? What type of clothing would most residents be wearing today? What tips do you have for people to “survive” the weather where you are?
MICHELLE: I live in the US, in New England, but I moved around quite a bit growing up. Not from a military family, but changes in family circumstances had me in Kentucky, Connecticut, Chicago, New Jersey and Michigan before heading back to the Northeast. Outside this moment there’s a little over a foot of snow. I survive the winter (which I hate) wearing layers of warm wooly sweaters and socks. I’m not sure how warm it is inside my house because my husband sets our thermostat in Celsius. For all you non-American readers, that wouldn’t be a problem. But since most US residents have their heads stuck in the sand about the metric system, I still struggle.
GRACEN: Do you have any favorite outside hobbies? Can you perform any of these hobbies right now? If not, why not, and is weather a factor?
MICHELLE: Here is where I sheepishly admit I have no hobbies I perform out of doors. I have romantic dreams of becoming a gardener, but so far my thumb is black. First on my list of hobbies is reading, of course. And I am proud to say I can read virtually anywhere, including outdoors. Heck, I’ve even brought books to sporting events. My husband stopped asking me to share his tickets and started calling up friends. They didn’t bring books.
GRACEN: Do you prefer your hot tub inside the house or outside the house? Why?
MICHELLE: First off, is this an offer to install one in my home? Because currently I am without, but would looooove to have one (grin). At heart I am a practical gal, so I’d choose indoors. That way I can enjoy a soak in any weather and if the bubbles inspire other activities, I can spontaneously accommodate without planning for climate. No rain, hail or snowstorms to get in the way.
GRACEN: If you could be any character/creature, who/what would it be and why?
MICHELLE: A shape shifting dragon. All the benefits of being human combined with butt-kicking size, power, intimidation factor, and intelligence. Plus, you can fly. Or at least in the variety of dragon I’m imagining.
GRACEN: It was fun getting to know you, Michelle! Now, let’s get to your writing. Why the fantasy romance genre? What was the draw for you?
MICHELLE: I’ve always read fantasy. My first attempt at writing a novella was in high school when I wrote a tragic romance fantasy set in the He-Man world. Do you remember that cartoon? Things didn’t go well when He-Man fell in love with She-Woman and it turned out they were related. Even when I was a kid and the bookstores didn’t distinguish between fantasy and romance fantasy, I sought it out. Thankfully there’s so much more out there now. An avalanche at times. Yay! I adore world building and playing with ideas about magic. But no story is complete without the romance. Romance makes explicit the human need for connection and companionship and hope.
GRACEN: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like hot, sexy, etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
MICHELLE: I want my readers to feel intrigued by possibilities and wishing they were a part of my story world and a part of my characters’ lives. To feel the pull of the story drama. To feel like they are invested in the characters’ personal and external conflicts and rooting for their happiness. Okay, maybe not so much for the villains’ happiness, but I don’t like all evil villains. Even they have redeemable parts to them and should be interesting enough for a reader to want to share conversation with them at a cocktail party. My writing has to combine a rich vivid world, internal conflict in my main characters, intrigue, and romantic and sexual tension for me to be satisfied. Oh, that’s a bit more than a word or phrase. Another way to describe my writing is long (lol).
GRACEN: Do the holidays disrupt your writing schedule? If so, how tough is it to get yourself back in writing mode and what have you found that seems to help?
MICHELLE: Holidays definitely disrupt my writing schedule, but I’m a multi-tasker and juggler by nature, so its not any harder to jump back in than on any other chaos driven day when I have to stop and start the process a million times. I do better when I can take breaks. I call it thinking time when my muse has opportunities to hijack my mind and make her outrageous desires known.
GRACEN: Do you prefer hot chocolate with marshmallows or a hot toddy? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
MICHELLE: Hot chocolate with marshmallows. I’m a creature of comfort and there’s something very soothing and mundane about cocoa. Plus I like my mind sharp to balance the complex worlds in my writing and my muse does too. There’s a lot of detail to juggle in my stories, and the alcohol would fuzz the edges too much. This question made me realize that none of my characters have been big drinkers or have had alcohol affect their actions in a significant way in my storylines.
GRACEN: Who decides what characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one pouring the soap in the Jacuzzi?
MICHELLE: We work as a team. She’ll listen to a song and pop ideas and images into my head. Or she’ll throw me dialogue and conflicts. But I’m fully in charge of stitching it together. My mind is constantly working to find the gaps in detail or world building or pacing balance once the muse has had her way. I do know that my muse has a decided bent in all my stories. Not until after I’d been offered a contract on Ruling Eden did I realize she’s made me include gates and portals in every story I’ve written. I’ve completed four manuscripts (half way through a fifth) and they all include the integral concept of a gateway.
GRACEN: What creature/character did you have the most fun creating and why?
MICHELLE: In Ruling Eden, my recent release, there’s a character that goes by the name of Satan. He’s not the devil in any traditional sense of the word. He leads the race of demons, but they’re not evil as much as amoral. In my world building all of the paranormal races have been created as guardians of humanity, including the demons. Only their vision of what that means is a bit twisted. My Satan adopted the name because he was amused by the human mythology of Hell and was making fun of it. Satan’s Hell is a realm known as L’Etrange, which he designed to mimic 1950’s suburban middle class America, with ugly split ranch homes, rancid color schemes, and tacky kitsch. He always has a wicked cutting joke on his tongue and he likes to stir trouble. His favorite hobby is cooking and he walks around wearing a button that reads Practice Random Acts of Chaos. The chapter in which we first meet him is one of my favorites.
GRACEN: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why? Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
MICHELLE: As much as I’m in love with my hero, Gabriel, a half-angel/half-incubus demon, I’d probably choose my heroine Rachel. She’s strong, a survivor, and shares enough of me (surprise, surprise) that I could relate to her. Second runner up would be her Fae bodyguard Tarn. Tarn is a tease and the life of the party, but has a hidden serious side that comes out unexpectedly. He’s pretty mysterious, even to me, with a past that has yet to be explained. I would never want to meet the dragon Matriarch, referred to as the Eemah in my story. She’s powerful, scary, vindictive and unfortunately short sighted. A bad combination. I find this hilarious since before I referenced my preference for becoming a shape shifting dragon if I had to choose one type of creature. Thankfully, my story has a very sweet, sexy and heart wrenching character named Qest who is also a dragon. He’s my heroine’s half-brother and very appealing.
Thank you so much for having me today. I really enjoyed the visit.
GRACEN: Thanks for joining us today, Michelle. It is a pleasure having you join us and interesting to learn more about you and your writing.
BLURB FOR RULING EDEN:
What if a modern woman suddenly learns she is heir to the throne of a magical realm hidden in our world and is the most powerful magical being on the planet? Growing up an orphan, Rachel always assumed she’d be going it alone, until the night before her twenty-fifth birthday when she was thrust into the realm of Eden's Court.
Her new job description? Unite seven contentious magical races in order to prevent the destruction of earth. But learning to rule is easier than facing her attraction to Gabriel, half-angel, half-demon. Born of a forbidden love between mortal enemies, Gabriel is convinced he is a political liability to Rachel. Once Rachel stops denying their chemistry, she must convince him to pursue their love. Although Gabriel is willing to help her solve a murder, avert a war, and learn to use her overwhelming magic, accepting their destiny together is another matter.
EXCERPT FROM RULING EDEN:
By Michelle Picard
The portal dumped us in the middle of a playground: chipped paint on the metal struts of the swing set, a jungle gym missing several key monkey bars, and a dilapidated rusty slide ending in a mud puddle. We’d opted to head straight for L’Etrange after visiting Kemuel, but I wasn’t expecting this.
The gate to this outdated tot-lot from Hell swung back and forth in the desultory wind. The place was deserted. With early fall in the air, I shivered, wrapped my arms tightly around myself, and looked beyond the gate to empty streets of 1950’s middle-American suburbia. Cookie-cutter houses with colors such as overripe avocado, rust orange, and uninspired brown dotted the street. The homes featured exposed carports and aluminum siding. The fifties won my vote for most unattractive architecture. What were people thinking?
Gabriel, Tarn, and Sebastian examined the play area with confused faces, as if trying to place the use for this run down bunch of metal and plastic.
My eyes refocused on the rusting playground. “L’Etrange is nothing like I pictured it.”
Gabriel looked around the streets, appearing resigned. His sigh was unusually angst-filled. “Satan has redecorated. The last time I visited his taste ran to Bourbon Street in New Orleans during a perpetual Mardi Gras. But I was here a quarter-century ago.” He shrugged at the view. “I imagine the middle-class suburban theme struck him as humorous in some way. He claims he makes social commentary on Achra culture with his choices each time he rebuilds L’Etrange.”
Satan sounded twisted.
Before we came, Tarn had rubbed his hands together in anticipation of our visit, and informed me that few, if any, non-demons were welcomed in L’Etrange. Tarn had anticipated his glimpse of the place. He’d have to live with the disappointment. Frankly, I was too wound up to give my own disillusionment more than passing notice. Desperation to solve the murder plucked at my last nerve.
My fae guard grabbed at one of the swings hanging askew on its chains and pushed it into movement, gesturing out into the streets with his hand. “The crescendo,” he chastised Gabriel, “after such a build-up leaves much to be desired, my friend.”
Gabriel shrugged again, and headed for the gate out of the playground.
“So, if the layout’s new,” I trailed Gabriel, sounding snarky to my ears, “how do we find Satan?”
He walked toward the nearest house, examined the black cookie cutter mailbox sticking out of the sparse grass edging the street, and continued on to the next, calling over his shoulder, “Check the names on the mailboxes.”
I rolled my eyes, but I crossed the street to start inspecting the other houses. Tarn and Sebastian followed me, weapons drawn. They didn’t bother reading the names on the boxes, leaving the pleasure to me. The names, things like Rod Serling, Jack the Ripper, Marilyn Monroe, and, my all-time favorite, Senator Joseph McCarthy, lent a psychotic element to the already disturbing nature of the neighborhood. Finally, I hit pay dirt: a mailbox painted with a large scarlet S.
“Gabriel,” I yelled across the street. He jogged over to my find and examined the box. “What do you think?”
We walked up the concrete path to an uninspired split level with tan aluminum siding and teal green trim. The doorbell, also teal, was surrounded by a decorative metal plate backdrop of a dog with three heads. Cerberus. How original.
Gabriel hesitated and turned to me. During our past diplomatic visits, I’d taken the lead by this point. Now, I saw shades of struggle shadow his face. “Rachel, will you allow me to ring the bell? Satan, he is… moody, and I prefer to test the waters.”
The entire Kesayim leadership needed a prescription for Prozac. I wished I’d had time for a briefing on this place before we trucked it over here, but Gabriel rarely asked for much. I trusted his judgment. The trust began to feel familiar, crowding out years of suspicion and doubt. At least with Gabriel, Tarn and Sebastian. “Go ahead,” I replied with forced casualness.
He rang the bell and the tune to the Addam’s Family pealed out from behind the door. Several heartbeats later, the door opened and a stunning dark-haired woman with the requisite glowing red eyes answered. She was wearing a mint-green sweater set and a straight calf-length khaki skirt. A string of pearls, with earrings to match, set off the outfit. Very traditional, very modest.
She was the farthest thing from it.
She hadn’t opened her mouth at this point, yet her body reeked of fuck-me-now. I inhaled, shocked by my reaction to her pull. Tarn and Sebastian crowded me from behind, stepping closer to the woman, eyes glazed as if not quite in control of themselves. It took me a moment, but I finally got it. Succubus. Heterosexual as I was, even I could imagine happily following this woman to bed. And I was supposedly immune to her?
She smiled. I imagined cutting the threads of attraction between us and my magic obliged and shut me off from her allure. I reinforced my shields to further dim her glow, elbowing Tarn and Sebastian with both arms to break her spell and move back further from her. I willed my shields to extend to the two of them, a new trick but one that might come in handy.
“Gabriel, what a treat.” The woman’s voice reverberated pure candy, her attention all for Gabriel as she purred. She stepped out on spiky heels and leaned down to present her cheek for a kiss. “Give your Aunt Niiki a kiss hello and tell me what brings you here to visit after all this time.”
I scowled. Jealous, me?
Gabriel, looking like he faced a helping of castor oil, hesitated, gritted his teeth, and leaned in to kiss his “aunt.” She sighed after the contact. It was only the cheek for pity’s sake. Niiki was not gaining points with me.
She gave him a Shirley Temple frown, and waved a manicured finger at him. “I should be angry with you for avoiding us so long. Your Uncle Coale will never forgive me if I do not drag you back to our home.” Dramatically, she softened her features into an indulgent smile and gave a second sigh. “But you were always my favorite nephew. I cannot stay mad at you.”
Gabriel clenched his right fist at his side. “I am your only nephew, Niiki. And I am here to visit Satan. I will be unable to attend Coale. You may send him my regards.”
She chuckled and clucked her tongue. “So serious. Have you never learned to play?” She looked beyond him, a coy smile on her lips. “And me with a prior engagement, just when you brought home some little friends.” She returned her predatory gaze to Gabriel. “Do they play better than you, my dear? But no matter, it is daring to bring foreigners to L’Etrange. They will be entertaining, regardless. And finally bringing a female home to meet your family--”
Gabriel made a chopping motion with one hand, his voice raised. “Niiki, stop it! You well know this is our Mother Heir. Show respect.”
Niiki raised an eyebrow. “Our Mother Heir?” Mock surprise on her face, she looked directly at me. “Do you belong to us? How nice. Perhaps we can display you in the china cabinet next to the Wedgwood soup tureen.”
Gabriel scowled. How easily this woman knotted his spine. He hadn’t lost it like this visiting the angels’ realm. I stepped to Gabriel’s side and offered my hand to Niiki, keeping fangs in. “Niiki, how lovely to meet you.”
She glanced at my hand for a moment, looking repulsed, hesitated, but took it and gave a tepid shake. “Of course…my lady,” she replied, honey-voiced. “I am only too sorry I must run just as you arrive. But I am sure Satan will be thrilled to host you, ruler of Eden and all.”
She turned back to Gabriel, dismissing me. “You are in luck. Your Uncle Satan is cooking today, so he is in a good mood. Now, give your Aunt Niiki a kiss goodbye and promise to come back for another visit soon. I will make some excuse to Coale, but he will pout for weeks knowing he missed you.”
Somehow, I doubted that. Gabriel grudgingly gave her another peck on the cheek and she patted his head before swaying down the steps and sauntering out to the street. Tarn and Sebastian scrambled to get out of her way, although she attempted to rub her body against each of them as she passed.
What odd L’Etrange had politics made him agree to kiss this woman whom he so clearly despised? Twice.
Tarn’s whistle after she left was long and exaggerated.
I turned to Gabriel. “Your aunt?” Catty much, Rachel?
He answered, raising his eyebrows at my tone. “By marriage…to Coale.”
“Satan’s your Uncle?” Sebastian asked.
“No. Niiki is his sister. She likes to make trouble.”
I couldn’t help myself. “I noticed.”
Gabriel glared at me. I shrugged and turned toward the open front door. He grabbed my arm. “Be careful. Of all of the realms, only here am I frightened for you.” His grasp tightened around my arm as he spoke. “No matter how jaded, even Solinthe cares about the Kesayim compared to Satan. Demons care only for their piece of Lillith’s mandate, and even that they interpret to their taste.”
“I’ll be careful,” I reassured.
“No.” He jerked his head in disagreement. “More than careful. Satan has no allegiance to Eden’s Court or the Mother Heir. He sends an envoy to council because it amuses him.”
My laugh sounded hollow. “Well, no surprise there.”
“Satan is a Mortnoire demon,” Gabriel continued. “He incites the chaos of battle, blood and death and feeds off the energy.”
A swirling blackness invaded my guard’s eyes. He wanted me to feel his fear. But, I was tired of my own, and tried to push this newest warning to the side. Maybe a shortsighted attitude, but what did Gabriel want from me? I pulled hard enough for him to release my arm. Voice snarly, I tapped my right foot on the ground repetitively. “Do I go in or don’t I?”
His jumbled look of worry, caring, and anger sliced regret through my gut. I softened. “Look, demons are center stage of the mess back at Eden’s Court. If Satan’s left the sidelines to do more than cheer for the possibility of war, I need to know.” I reached my hand to touch his, a light caress lasting a breath.
His brow relaxed and he nodded, turning away from me, avoiding my eyes and hiding his own. “We go in.” He gestured Tarn and Sebastian to my side and stepped into the house.
Buy link: http://crescentmoonpress.com/books/RulingEden.html
Saturday, January 9, 2010
The following scores are out of a possible 5, with 3 being average.
Friday, January 8, 2010
BLURB (snatched from Noble Romance Publishing website):
Battle Mage Helene Sharp has not seen her ex-lover, Master vampire Lee Corday, in over a year. When a series of murders lead right to his door, she knows she must confront him.
As Helene soon discovers, the unthinkable has happened. Lee’s blood has been stolen and placed in a powerful talisman. A spell has been cast over his blood and a dark witch now controls Lee’s entire brood. To make matters worse, she is using them to kill off the most powerful members of the Mage Council.
But the dark witch is after more than just power. Helene soon uncovers something she has only heard about in whispers. The power of the Druids, once thought to be dead, may be living inside an ancient artifact. And the witch means to use the vampires to get it.
If the witch succeeds she will be unstoppable. Not only will the supernatural community be at risk, but all of humanity, and the entire world, will fall.
This was a fast paced, fun read. Tension between the hero and heroine is there, it is paranormal genre, but you also get a thrill of a ride along the way, well choreographed fight scenes and more than once I found myself holding my breath for fear the characters would lose. I got so lost in the storyline, I even forgot it was in first person! I'm not a first person fan, but Erika had me thinking (for just a brief moment) that I should try to write something in first person. It was just that well-written and I could easily see this book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble or one of any other book distributors.
The characters were loveable and likeable. Helene was tough and edgy, eager to kick baddie butt, but her magic wasn’t perfect or even amazing in strength. I liked that she was flawed. Those flaws made her more human and I could identify with her easier. I even liked that she could be placed under the spell of the more powerful Blue witch. Brett, the hero, was sexy and the way he could hop bodies, even into Helene’s—Christ! That was hot! Yeah, I wouldn’t mind meeting Brett in a dark alley. Yum!
But, Erika’s cast of likeable characters didn’t end with her hero and heroine. By the end of the book, I found myself hoping we'd get a second book with Lee in the starring role. And I'd love to know what happens to the mage council now (I don't want to give away any spoilers so I won't say what happens). I wouldn’t be objectionable to a novel with the Blue witches in the starring roles. Or even a story where the Druids are front and center.
Overall, this was a good read. I was entertained and after my bout of horrid books during the holidays, I was happy to finally find a book that I wanted to read. So, while it’s a paranormal book, I wouldn’t classify it as dark paranormal and there are a lot of mystery/thriller type elements to it.
Buy Link: https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=53
Disclosure pursuant to FTC Rules: This book was purchased by me and the review is my opinion and is not based upon receiving anything from the author, publisher and/or publicist.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
GM: Do you make resolutions for the New Year? Why or why not? If so, please share one or more of them with us!
CL: I think human beings need moments in time such a New Year's or the start of a new school year to take stock. Time can get away from us! Making resolutions seems a natural way of doing that. We can stop for a moment and wonder, what have I accomplished? What do I still want to do? So yes, I make resolutions. This year many have to do with my career--more like a big honkin' to-do list!--but I'd also like to drop a few pounds. Sorry I'm not too original there!
GM: Now that the busy holiday time is over, what do you do to recharge?
CL: I'll admit that it was difficult to balance the holiday thing, the "mom with kids at home" thing, and the "launching a book" thing! Now that much of that pressure has eased, I'm happy to be back at work. Routine does my family wonders and makes my job easier!
GM: Do you have any holiday memories from 2009 that you would like to share with us?
CL: Most of them involved being sick, but we survived. Almost all of my family succumbed to a pretty nasty chest cough. So that's no good! But at least we were all together, having traveled to northern Indiana for the holiday, and the house was full to bursting with good food and drink. If you have to be sick, that's the way to do it!
GM: What area of the country/world are you from? What are the average temperatures where you are? What type of clothing would most residents be wearing today? What tips do you have for people to “survive” the weather where you are?
CL: I was born in California, but I grew up in the Midwest: Indiana, Ohio and now, Wisconsin. My husband is from England, where I also lived for a year. We live very near Lake Michigan, and this year the winter has been very kind to us. I keep waiting for the really big snow, like last year, but it hasn't happened! Worst case, we live in a condo with maintenance men to clear away the snow, so I can never complain too much…
GM: Do you have any favorite outside hobbies? Can you perform any of these hobbies right now? If not, why not, and is weather a factor?
CL: Outside hobbies… Hmm, I suppose people have those ;)
Most of my hobbies are more for the housebound set: reading, writing, movies. But in the summer, here so near to Lake Michigan, it's an absolute delight to take walks. The weather now makes that a little prohibitive, because if there's anything worse than winter winds, it's the winter winds that scream off of a lake!
GM: Do you prefer your hot tub inside the house or outside the house? Why?
CL: I'd prefer inside. The shock of having to get out in the cold would mean I'd never leave! Me + total prune skin = not pretty.
CL: One of my absolute favorite characters of the last few years has been Rose Tyler from the British sci-fi television show "Doctor Who." She's not the smartest, not the prettiest, not the most perfect--but she managed to completely steal the Doctor's heart and prove herself clever and capable in every instance. I had such sympathy and admiration for her, and for the woman who played her, Billie Piper. She's been off the show for some time, but that combination of resilience and an open heart has stayed with me. She's the sort of girl you want to know and be friends with, which made her so appealing.
CL: I'm a recovering historian, having abandoned academia shortly after earning my master's in history. The facts and even the stories in history just weren't enough for me. I'm compelled by the SNAP that happens when two people meet and fill one another's needs. Finding how a pair of characters fit together is the mystery that compels me from one story to the next. So the combination of history and romance came naturally to me.
GM: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like hot, sexy, etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
CL: I'll use two, which my critique partners bestowed on me: Angsty Redemption. I love pathos and drama and thick, lush emotions--so that's where the angst comes in. But I'm also fascinated by imperfect characters who find their way to redemption, and therefore to a more perfect happily ever after. I think that most humans are imperfect and struggling for something more, so that search is the key to my writing.
GM: Do the holidays disrupt your writing schedule? If so, how tough is it to get yourself back in writing mode and what have you found that seems to help?
CL: My daughters are in school six hours a day, so just having them back to their regular school schedule is such a boon. Throwing in the release of SCOUNDREL'S KISS this week means I won't start writing again until next week. Just the opportunity to sit down and create once again will be motivation enough. I've had a lot of time off, having just finished two manuscripts in Nov/Dec, so the lure of beginning a new project is a strong one!
GM: Do you prefer hot chocolate with marshmallows or a hot toddy? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
CL: Hot chocolate! Although with the resolution to lose a few pounds, I'm trying to cut down. And now that the holidays are done, I've put the hot toddies away. Next year, though…
GM: Who decides what characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one pouring the soap in the Jacuzzi?
CL: I do! My muse is (mostly) obedient. She'll mess with the works on occasion, though. For example, a secondary character in SCOUNDREL'S KISS, Fernán Garza, started out a complete buffoon. But it turned out that he had a very intriguing backstory and would go to great lengths to keep a particular secret. I certainly didn't start out thinking of that! So yes, she still messes with me once in a while. I like to think that I come up with the rational ideas, and she gives them that interesting sparkle that I hadn't initially planned. It keeps me interested too!
CL: Again, the surprise was Fernán. He really threatened to steal the show. Perhaps I took comfort in his buffoonery because the hero and heroine were so full of drama and angst! A little comedic remedy to liven up the intense love story.
GM: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why? Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
CL: I wouldn't want to meet the Sheriff of Nottingham from WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. Nasty piece of work, him. But I'd most certainly want to meet my heroes. Don't make me choose because they'll get jealous. Just to see such men in the flesh and get to know them would be, well, a wonderful piece of fiction ;)
SCOUNDREL’S KISS BLURB:
In the sequel to WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS, Meg of Keyworth's troubled sister Ada travels to the Kingdom of Castile.
When it comes to temptation...
Turning his back on his old life as a rogue, Gavriel de Marqueda has joined a monastic order in Spain and taken a vow of chastity. Before he becomes a monk, he must pass one final test: help a woman who has lost her way. But when he lays eyes on Ada of Keyworth, he is tempted beyond measure by her sultry beauty and dangerous curves...
Rules are meant to be broken...
Far from her home in England, Ada has been battling inner demons for more than a year. When she discovers that her only friend has abandoned her, she has no choice but to grudgingly accept Gavriel's help. But Ada is not fooled. Though Gavriel wears the robes of a monk, Ada sees that he is a virile man who looks at her with a hunger that matches her own--one that begs to be satisfied again and again....
SCOUNDREL’S KISS EXCERPT:
Gavriel brushed his mouth along the curve of her shoulder. She shuddered but did not pull away. The moist heat of his breath raised goose bumps on her skin and reflected back against his face. He waited, glorying in that intimate caress, knowing he would take her if he tasted her.
"Order me to go," he rasped.
Ada looked over her shoulder. He let his eyes fall down the line of her brow and her cheeks and her chin. "I won't do that," she said.
"Why not?" The need to touch her again burned like hell's fires. "No respectable woman behaves as you do."
"We both know I left respectable behind some time ago."
"Then you do this as a game or as punishment.”
"You're mistaken if you believe this involves you alone." She spoke with less deliberation and more speed. "Perhaps I do this simply to see what I'll do next. I hardly know who I am anymore. It makes me wonder."
He reached out to trace the line of her shoulder blade but pulled back. "Wonder what?"
"Am I the kind of woman to seduce you outright, or will I wait for you? Either way, you've become a most welcome distraction."
"You think you've cured me because I no longer shake or cry," she said. "But in that you're mistaken. The need is still here. Right here." She clenched one hand over the other and pressed it to the hollow between her breasts. "It's like thirst or hunger or lust. A need. Can you understand that?"
He could only nod, a weak one at that. A delicious and wanton angel stood before him, his own parable of temptation. The redness of the hot spring had faded, leaving the smoothest white porcelain skin--a feast for his eyes. But he wanted more. No matter his aims or his vows, he was a man who needed more.
"I can understand," he said thickly.
"Then help me, Gavriel. Give me something new to crave."
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
They're everywhere. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, there are distractions laying in wait for you, ready at a moment's notice to keep you from doing what you set out to do that day. They come in every shape and form and are so stealthy, so sneaky, that we don't even realize they're upon us until it is much too late. And then, of course, we must deal with the distractions before we can get back to the plan for our day.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Okay, I get that some of you (especially if you recall my review of Ripping the Bodice) are going huh? Well, just because I thought that the author could have done more with the story doesn't mean that I couldn't see and respect the talent that exists. When an author can make me emotionally invested in characters to the point where I want to know more about them, whether I like the story or not, it's a success in my book. Knowing how to write strong characters is half the battle, and some might argue the hardest part. As I said in my review, interesting premise, I just would have liked to see some of the elements done differently. But enough on that one, so let's move on to the new work.
Inara and I traded emails discussing my feelings about Ripping the Bodice in more detail, and I found myself completely shocked when she agreed to have me review more of her work. Now, I'm not always a big fan of opening with a sex scene, because most of the time they feel gratuitous, but the opening scene in Lavey's latest work, Champagne, caught my attention big time.
I must admit to my surprise that I actually liked this beginning. Here's why - the opening sex scene has a major purpose and goes a bit to set the scene. Lavey seems to have a improved her skills in the use of daydreaming. This one wasn't too long, or too short, but just right to evoke feelings of frustration from the reader - why couldn't she have at least finished the dream? This opening scene (the first paragraph) had me hooked to the point that I wanted to read on.
[Something funny about the cover, from a distance of like 12 inches or so, the guy taking his shirt reminds me of the Travelocity gnome! lol!]
One of the things that I can appreciate is when an author brings in what they like to their stories. She likes wine and she uses that knowledge in her story. Personal knowledge, experience, or even well-done research can strengthen a story and add depth to it's characters.
Within the first four pages of this story, the true talents of this author are evident. This one looks to be a really good treat so stick around after the interview to get a glimpse into the world that is Champagne!
Now, let's get on to the interview:
ME: Do you make resolutions for the New Year? Why or why not? If so, please share one or more of them with us!
INARA: Hmmm...for me, resolutions are on a year by year basis. Some years I think of things I want to do or change, and other years just meld into the one previous. This year I definitely have a resolution and that is to do my best to make each day run on what I call 'taffy time.' This is something that happens when I don't stress over not enough time to accomplish everything I want or need to do. Time seems to stretch out like it's on a taffy pull. One hour seems to last three or four. Days like this are a wonderful gift and I'm determined to manage my stress level by living in the moment. I also have vowed to hang up and put away my clean laundry in less than two weeks after washing it. I have a feeling taffy time will be easier.
ME: Now that the busy holiday time is over, what do you do to recharge?
INARA: Well, this is a toughie for me this year as my dad passed away on Dec. 27th, smack in the middle of the holidays. So recharging my 'batteries' is more than a matter of resting up after the traveling and visiting friends/family this year; it's also just processing the loss of my father, dealing with mortality and trying to get back on track with day to day things, including my writing.
ME: Do you have any holiday memories from 2009 that you would like to share with us?
INARA: My favorite 2009 holiday memory is actually from Saturday night, when my boyfriend and I stayed at my sister's place in Venice Beach, and another friend came over for dinner. We drank amazing wine, got tipsy, played Dad's favorite music (Blood, Sweat and Tears & Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass), sang along loudly, and danced for a couple of hours. Dad would have approved.
ME: What area of the country/world are you from? What are the average temperatures where you are? What type of clothing would most residents be wearing today? What tips do you have for people to “survive” the weather where you are?
INARA: I'm from California, a Southern Cal native. Started in San Diego, then have slowly moved up the coast, first to Los Angeles and then San Francisco. Average temp is around 65-70, I think. I saw everything from shorts and tank tops to sweat pants and layered shirts/jackets today. I have been known to wear shorts, thermal shirt, fleece jacket and knit cap on my beach walks so I can wade in the surf even when it's cold out. I have been told I'm not sane. J As far as tips, California really is the place for people who don't like temperature or weather extremes. At least the coastal regions are. I am a big weather weenie so I love living here.
ME: Do you have any favorite outside hobbies? Can you perform any of these hobbies right now? If not, why not, and is weather a factor?
INARA: My favorite outside hobbies are sword-fighting, surfing, and walking. I can walk in any weather other than then the wind really kicks up (I have been bonked on the head by bits of trees). Today would have been a great day to surf, but we were on the road and I also prefer to surf in Southern California 'cause the currents and conditions are gentler and I'm not that good. Also there are very large great white sharks off the coast here ... and while there hasn't been a recorded attack off of Ocean Beach (the beach near our house), I really don't want to be the first. Also, the one time I did surfed there, the currents were so strong in the white water alone, it was just scary. As far as sword-fighting, I prefer cool weather, no wind, and definitely no rain!
ME: Do you prefer your hot tub inside the house or outside the house? Why?
INARA: Oooh, I'd have to say I'd prefer one of each! I love sitting in a hot tub outside, especially when it's cold out – the contrast between the cold air and hot water is really nice. But I've stayed at places where there's a hot tub inside and you don't have to worry about wearing a bathing suit. A glass of champagne or wine is necessary indoors OR out.
ME: If you could be any character/creature, who/what would it be and why?
INARA: A swashbuckling shapeshifter, specifically a large feline like a tiger or leopard. I love sword-fighting and I'd love to have the grace and strength of an exotic feline.
Now, let’s get to your writing:
ME: Why the erotic romance/erotica genre? What was the draw for you?
INARA: I wrote a short story for my boyfriend as a present, actually the story that CHAMPAGNE is based on. It was fun to write and challenged me. He loved it so much, he was determined to see it published, so I looked into various options with no real luck until my friend and fellow write Cynthia Gentry told me about Ravenous Romance (this was before it officially launched). I sent my story into Holly Schmidt at RR, she bought it, I met with her and Lori Perkins at Romantic Times when it was in San Francisco, and found myself with a seven-book contract. A lot of the ideas I pitched were from stories /characters I'd created in my late teens when my libido and imagination kicked in at the same time – I used to write little vignettes at work when I was bored and spent a lot of time 'writing in my head.' Writing for Ravenous has been great 'cause I'm getting paid to entertain myself!
That being said, I also write in other genres (mystery, horror, non-fiction and screenplays) and each genre has its draw. I do love mysteries...
ME: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like hot, sexy, etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
INARA: Humorous. No matter what genre I'm writing, there is always a strong vein of humor running through the story and narrative voice. Could I say that any more seriously? J I also think 'sensual' describes my work better than 'sexual.' I've always found myself turned on more from the brain first rather than the body, so I write what appeals to my sense of what's erotic and what's not.
ME: Do the holidays disrupt your writing schedule? If so, how tough is it to get yourself back in writing mode and what have you found that seems to help?
INARA: Gah!!! Which is another way of saying, "Yes, the holidays disrupt my writing schedule." At least they do when travel is involved and/or socializing with friends and family. I need quiet time to gather my thoughts and get into the writing and the only thing that works for me is a few days of decompression, meaning no socializing and lots of quiet time in front of my computer to get back into writing mode.
ME: Do you prefer hot chocolate with marshmallows or a hot toddy? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
INARA: Definitely hot chocolate, but with whipped cream, not marshmallows. I love hot toddies, mind you, but my characters tend to either drink/eat chocolate or wine. Or single malt scotch. It shows in my writing through many loving descriptions of food and drink. J Reading my stuff tends to drive people to their fridge or cupboards in search of food and drink. CHAMPAGNE, for instance, is set in and around a champagne house during the harvest and the food/wine is as important to the story as any of the characters. I like to write what I like to read and I do love food and drink. GONE WITH THE WIND will always be my favorite book for all the culinary descriptions. Sigh. I'll never have a seventeen-inch waist again... J
ME: Who decides what characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one pouring the soap in the Jacuzzi?
INARA: My muse and I tend to agree for the most part on what types of characters we write about. She can be a pissy bitch at times if I don't let her have her way with certain plot points or character quirks, but she tends to settle down after a glass of good zinfandel and behave herself. We both like lots of soap in the Jacuzzi, so it works out well.
ME: What creature/character did you have the most fun creating and why?
INARA: That's kind of like asking me if I have a favorite amongst my cats. I really do love all of my characters, even the heinous ones. They're so much fun to write!
ME: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why? Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
INARA: Well, a lot of my characters are at least loosely based on people I've met or conglomerations of several people, so I have actually more or less 'met' many of them. Including some of the more unlikable ones. I tend to practice literary revenge when someone has pissed me off or treated me/a friend badly. Which doesn't exactly answer your questions... Lemme see. I would love to meet Connor from RIPPING THE BODICE because I like charming, quirky men with good senses of humor and lots of patience. Plus I have a weakness for accents. J I would NOT like to meet Daryl from CHAMPAGNE because he's a selfish yuppie putz and I try to avoid them whenever possible. That being said, I would love to meet any of my characters and find out what they think of me. Would they love their creator or be really angry with me for what I've put them through?
BLURB for CHAMPAGNE
"Well-written with Ms. LaVey's usual flair for humor, sex and fun, Champagne is a wild ride through France. Ms. LaVey has a way with words and humor; she never fails to leave a smile on my face." --Bookwenches (4 stars)
"Champagne by Inara LaVey is a witty, fun, informational and erotic adventure through France's wine country. I look forward to reading more work from this talented author." --Dark Divas (4 "delightful divas")
Jeanette Wilson is an American girl on the trip of a lifetime to the wine regions of France. Unfortunately, she's trapped with her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Daryl, a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, self-styled wine expert bent on swirling, sniffing, sipping, swishing, chewing, swallowing and occasionally spitting his way through the wineries. Between his endless lectures and insufferable putdowns, her insignificant other is quickly turning her dream vacation into a nightmare.
But things change for Jeanette once they come to the zenith of their French road trip, the Champagne house of Chateau Roux-Dubois. Their hosts, Amaury and Marie-Elise Roux-Dubois, turn out to be both charming and attractive, and go out of their way to extend a warm welcome to her. And they make it very clear that it is she, not Daryl, who is their special guest, particularly when the striking Marie-Elise takes Jeanette down to the wine cellar for a very personal tour, followed by an unusual French lesson from Amaury.
When she and Daryl are invited to stay and participate in the harvest festival, Jeanette finds herself caught up in a ménage a trois with the Roux-Dubois, both intent on teaching her many things...and not just about wine.
"Miss Wilson! Are you enjoying yourself?"
I groaned inwardly as I recognized the hearty Ms. Buxton's voice. My groan turned into a grin when I saw her costume: she was totally decked out as the Evil Queen from Snow White, except showing far more cleavage than either Disney or the Brothers Grimm ever imagined. Her red and black corset was a thing of amazing engineering, nipping her waist into nothing while emphasizing wide hips, broad shoulders and a vast expanse of breasts. She looked a bit like a drag queen.
At a loss for words, I gave a little finger wave and nodded in answer to her question.
"You don’t seem to be. In fact, you look positively gloomy!"
"Do I?" I shrugged and took a sip of champagne.
Claire plunked herself down next to me on the bench in a rustle of black taffeta and a squeak of leather. I scooted over to avoid being sliced open by what looked to be a disturbingly sharp-edged collar on her cape.
"Is that metal?"
"Oh, no!" Claire smiled happily at the question. "Aluminum. No edge. Looks wicked though, doesn’t it?"
"It does indeed," I agreed. "Is Daryl dressed as one of the Seven Dwarfs or the studly woodsman?"
"Ooh, naughty!" Claire tapped my hand with the edge of the hand mirror she held. Its handle was black latex, undeniably a dildo. Who's the fairest of them all? "Neither one. He's Prince Charming."
That was a matter of opinion, but I kept said opinion to myself. "But Prince Charming ends up with Snow White."
"Not in this story." Claire's smile broadened and all I could think of was 'My, what big teeth you have!' even if it was the wrong fairy tale. "You don't mind, do you?"
I didn't bother pretending I didn't know what she was talking about. "I'm not Snow White. Why should I?"
Claire tilted her head to one side and studied me. "You're either a very good actress or an even better sport."
I shrugged. "Does it matter?" I drank more champagne, hoping she'd go away. She didn't.
Instead Claire pondered my question. "No, I suppose it doesn't."
I sighed, feeling bored, lonely and annoyed all at the same time. "Then pardon my bluntness, but what do you want?"
Claire looked surprised, then shrugged. "You looked unhappy. I suppose I wanted to see if you were going to, I don't know, perhaps cause a scene or something."
I laughed. I couldn't help it. The woman was honest to a fault. A gale force of fresh air. "You're safe. If I do cause a scene, it won't have anything to do with Daryl."
"Jolly good!" Claire gave me a friendly smile. "You did look sad, though."
"Just thoughtful," I said.
Claire shook her head. "It's a party, my dear. Not a place to be thoughtful. Buck up and have fun!" With that, she got up and left in a swirl of black leather and taffeta.
Just for fun, here's some images of Inara's cats:
Caught by the sun! Bring treats to me now! Better than a Snuggie!