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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creating a world you don’t want to leave

Please join me in welcoming PAN author, Leanna Renee Hieber, to the FF&P blog.

I write series books. Considering I’m here on the FF and P blog today, I figure I’m in good company. Fantasy books formed my literary passions from an early age; all of them series books. When you start writing those series books, you better love the world you’ve built because who knows how long it will be with you. When I began The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker I didn’t know it was a four book series. When you plant fertile seeds, who knows what might sprout.

I want this post to become a discussion between authors, published and pre-published, of what we love about our worlds and why they become addictive to us.

Every author has their own process, mine begins with character. An idea of them comes to me and then I sit back and watch them as if they were actors in a film (sometimes I’ll cast my characters) and I write the movie that I watch in my head. Characters in my mind’s eye are placed within a setting, the details of which emerge as I think more about the characters. But the characters have to live somewhere. My lifetime love affair with ghosts and Victorian England of course drew me to make their world a “realistic” Victorian universe haunted by ghosts and mythological forces.

Once I build a world via character and a setting that’s compelling to me, things keep growing, people and ideas grow more complex, and that for me is the most rewarding part of writing, how the petals of the rose begin to bloom. So while I love all of the supernatural devices, mythic conventions and Gothic trappings I happily call upon, what actually keeps me falling more and more in love with my characters is watching them grow. Watching them grow up as I grow up and listening for them to tell me things I didn’t know about them. (I’m working on edits to book II, writing book III and IV right now, they’re all dove-tailing upon each other so I’m switching back and forth in my mind, whatever is calling to me wins. I’m learning a lot about my characters right now and every little piece informs the rest of the work and worlds.)

Here’s how I open the world of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker: The theme of this initial opening is something I find myself returning to as the series continues…

Prologue - London, England—1867

The air in London was grey. This was no surprise; but the common eye could not see the particular heaviness of the atmosphere or the unusual weight of this special day’s charcoal clouds: The sky was pregnant with a potent wind, for The Guard was searching for new hosts.

On to London they came, and that wind full of spirits began to course through the streets of the city; merciless, searching. Around corners, elbowing aside London’s commoners and high society alike, nudging their way through market crowds and tearing down dirty alleys, they sought their intended. A candle burst into flame in the window of a marquess’s house. The tiny cry of a young boy summoned his mother into the drawing room. Similar sounds went up in other parts of the city, confused gasps growing into amazed giggles before being subdued into solemnity. One by one the intended targets were seized.

Six. Five …Where is Four? Ah … Four.

Now, Three.

Alone and unaccompanied, the children left their respective houses and began to walk.

And, Two.

Searching for the final piece, the greatest of the possessors paused, a hesitating hunter. Deliberate. And, finally … the brightest, boldest, most promising catch of the day..

One, and done! A sigh of relief. The city’s infamous fog thinned.

Only a bird above espied the six drawing toward London’s center; weaving through a maze of clattering carriages, stepping cautiously over putrid puddles, a sextet of children looked about the cluttered merchant lanes and sober business avenues with new eyes and saw strange sights. There were ghosts everywhere: floating through walls and windows, they rose up through streets and strolled beside quiet couples! One by one, each transparent form turned to the children, who could only stare in wonder and apprehension. In ethereal rags, spirits of every century bowed in deference, as if they were passing royalty.
Drawn in a pattern from all corners of London, the six children gathered in a knot at the crest of Westminster Bridge. Nodding a silent greeting to one another, or curtseying, the youths found each other’s faces unsettlingly mature. Excitement tempered only by confusion crept into their expressions as they evaluated their new peers, in garb ranging from fine clothing to simple frocks, their social statuses clearly as varied as their looks.

A spindly girl whose brown hair was pinned tightly to her head kept turning, looking for something, clutching the folds of her linen frock and shifting on the heels of her buttoned boots. It was her tentative voice that at last broke the silence: “Hello. I’m Rebecca. Where is our leader, then?”

A sturdy, ruddy-cheeked boy in a vest and cap, cuffs rolled to his elbows, gestured to the end of the street. “Hello, Rebecca, I’m Michael. Is that him?”

Approaching the cluster was a tall, well-dressed, unmistakable young man. A mop of dark hair held parley with the wind, blowing about the sharp features of his face, while timeless, even darker eyes burned in their sockets. His fine black suit gave the impression of a boy already a man. He reached the group and bowed, his presence magnetic, confident … and somewhat foreboding. In a rich, velvet voice deep as the water of the Thames, he spoke. “Good day. My name is Alexi Rychman, and this has turned into the strangest day of my life.”

(End of Excerpt) More details at http://www.leannareneehieber.com/ Where I hope you’ll join in the Strangely Beautiful Haunted London Blog Tour beginning 8/22 and Contest on 8/25!

Your turn to talk about what you love about your worlds!
Leanna Renee Hieberwww.leannareneehieber.com2009 Prism Award Winner: DARK NESTUpcoming from Leisure Books / Dorchester Publishing:THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER - the ghostly, Gothic, Victorian fantasy begins 8/25/09!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dealing with Criticism

Please welcome our PAN author Kelly Gay.

I posted some of this on my blog last year, but wanted to freshin it up and talk more about criticism after a great conversation I had with another author at this year's RWA national convention. Criticism is something every writer must face no matter where they are in their career. And the best advice I've heard and use myself is: Be Prepared. Know *ahead of time* how you're going to approach negative feedback.

Criticism is your friend. Repeat after me. Criticism is your friend. I'm talking those constructive notes from CPs, judges, editors, agents . . . Most of them, even ones that might seem harsh (or are harsh) have something of value. The ones who slam you, offer nothing constructive or useful and seem to be taking their crappy day out on you -- those can go in the trash. Those only make you second guess yourself.

The notes you receive could be something you already know, deep down, needs to be addressed. It could be something you haven't thought of. And it could totally go against everything you believe in where your book is concerned. So what do I do when this happens?

I listen. To every single thing. Even if, at first, it totally doesn't 'ring' with me.

Here's how I prepare, my rule of thumb -- if anything at all (even something as small as one word) pulls a reader out of my story to write a note, it's potentially something that could pull *another* reader out of my story. So give every comment and note serious consideration. Try to figure out why that particular thing stuck out.

Often times, I'll get notes that are spot on and sometimes I know immediately a note doesn't jive with the story I want to tell. It could even make me bristle at first, but I have to take a moment and remember my rule -- there is a reason that particular thing caused the reader to stop reading, and I don't want another reader being pulled out of the story in the future.

In the end, I might not address the note the way the reader saw it, but I do give it time and thought, and usually I'll end up putting my own spin on things and amend the story in some way. And there are times when I don't, but that's only after I give it a lot of consideration, look at things from all angles, and talk to the person who gave the note (most often great things come from discussions like this).

While criticism can sometimes be debilitating and make you want to quit writing altogether, it can also be really helpful to your story. If it hurts, if it makes you angry or sad, allow yourself those feelings. Get it out. But don't wallow in them. Take a deep breath, take a step back, and reevaluate those notes or comments. Create your own rule. Decide in advance how you want to approach negative criticism. It helps to be prepared. :-)

Kelly is the author of THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS, the first in a new urban fantasy series debuting from Pocket Books November 24, 2009.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Today we're going to have two guest blogs since last week was RWA National Convention. Please welcome PAN author Eilis Flynn.

Is there a difference between fantasy and science fiction? Of course there is. One has a background with no logic or rationale, while the other has a background that's all logic and rationale. They still have a lot in common, though, because fantasy has a lot of science in its basis.

I'm putting together a workshop on dragons around the world with Jacquie Rogers for the Emerald City Writers' Conference in October, and the research we've been putting into it has made us think about the science in fantasy. Komodo dragons (better known as Komodo monitors or monitor lizards, I think; I'm typing this far, far away from all my notes) don't have that much in common with the dragons in fantasy, but it's clear how the dragons of fantasy came about. The Komodo lizard is big and it's deadly, and the basis of the fantasy dragon's fiery breath may have as its origin the venom that helps the lizard bring down its prey. (An off-topic useless fact: that giant lizard, according to the Wikipedia entry I just read, can also be found on the island of Flores, where the remains of the "hobbit" skeleton were found in recent years. A giant lizard. A small humanoid skeleton. Gigantism and dwarfism on the same island! Is that fascinating or what! But I digress.)

I should also point out that Yasmine Galenorn's "Smoky" the hot hot hot! dragon has nothing, but nothing in common with the Komodo dragon. Smoky is also a shape-shifter, and again that doesn't have much in common with the lizards of real life -- until you think about it; how many times have you heard about reptiles shedding their skin? In effect, they're changing their shape, aren't they?

I could go on, but I won't. I've got to do a heck of a lot more research, and dragons are a fascinating topic to do it on. The Komodo lizard is a long-lived creature due to its slow metabolism, and they live a very long time, just like the dragons of fantasy. Another fascinating fact!

Fantasy and science fiction. So different and so much in common!

Eilis Flynn's latest book is ECHOES OF PASSION, on sale now from Cerridwen Press. She may be reached via her website at www.eilisflynn.com.

PRISM Results

Back from conference and ready to post again. We'd like to congratulate all the entrants in the PRISM contest and the winners.

Best of the Best

1. The Dragon Master by Jennifer Ashley w/a Allyson James

Best First Book

1. La Vida Vampire by Nancy Haddock

Light Paranormal

1. Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready
2. La Vida Vampire by Nancy Haddock
3. The Trouble with Moonlight by Donna MacMeans


1. The Dragon Master by Jennifer Ashley w/a Allyson James
2. Dragonborn by Jade Lee
3. King of Sword & Sky by C.L. Wilson


1. Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair
2. Fallen by Claire Delacroix
3. Moonstruck by Susan Grant

Young Adult

1. Sleepless by Terri Clark
2. CHOSEN: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast
3. Cave of Terror by Amber Dawn Bell

Time Travel

1. Twist by Colby Hodge
2. A Sexy Time of It by Cara Summers
3. Madman’s Dance by Jana G. Oliver


1. Siren Singing by Isabo Kelly
2. Carnal Desires by Crystal Jordan
3. A Mermaid’s Kiss by Joey W. Hill


1. “Dark Nest” by Leanna Renee Hieber
2. “Kung Fu Shoes!” in These Boots were Made for Stomping by Jade Lee
3. “The Spacetime Pool” by Catherine Asaro

Dark Paranormal

1. Mona Lisa Craving by Sunny
2. Immortals: The Redeeming by Jennifer Ashley
3. Hotter After Midnight by Cynthia Eden

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Releases to Look For

Michele Hauf
ISBN 978-0-373-61815-6
Demon hunter/familiar

Max Fitzroy, the legendary Highwayman, had slain scores of demons with a razor-lined whip and a burning need for revenge. Now, to rid himself of the demon inside him—who’d cursed him with immortality and stolen all sensual pleasures—Max needed a witch’s familiar, the one creature he’d made a career of killing.

But the Highwayman wasn’t prepared for the familiar named Aby. The sleek and sexy conduit to the demon world saw past his demonic shadows as easily as he scaled the walls she’d erected to protect herself. Max needed Aby to grant him his freedom, and then he needed to slay her. But how could he destroy the only creature he’d desired in centuries?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Interview: Heather Osborn, TOR

Today we are welcoming Heather Osborn, editor for TOR. To submit to TOR follow their submission guidelines. Also we will be welcoming Heather to a special Q&A session with FF&P members on Tuesday, July 7, 2009. You will need to be a member of FF&P to view this session and participate. We'd like to thank Heather for taking the time to answer these questions.

1. You gathered a bunch of followers on Twitter when you announced you
were looking for a manuscript to fill a hole in your schedule. What was
your impression of the submissions you received from that call and do
you think that you would do something like that again in the future?

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of manuscripts I received. Yes, there were some clunkers, but the vast majority of them were well written – which, believe me, is not often the norm when it comes to un-agented or unsolicited submissions. I am actually still working my way through some of those submissions – all told, I ended up with around 80 manuscripts. I would have no hesitation in doing a public call for submissions again.

2. Because you've mentioned it before and it deserves being mentioned
again, TOR takes unagented submissions, but you don't want a query
letter, just the first 3 chapters and a synopsis. Why do you choose to
bypass the query letter? What do you gain by going straight to a partial?

Well, the purpose of a query letter is to inquire as to whether or not someone is interested in looking at your partial. Because Tor is always interested in looking at the partials, there is no real need for a “query letter”, per se. That being said, I do encourage a cover letter to accompany the submission. The cover letter would contain much of the same information as the query letter, but would not ask if I am interested in seeing the submission, as ideally, it would be sitting on top of the submission when I read it!

3. What type of stories are you looking for in romance right now? Is
there something in particular you'd love to see cross your desk? How
many romances is TOR releasing a month?

Hmmm, I really love all different types of paranormal romance. The main thing I am looking for (what all editors look for, actually!) is a compulsively readable, well-written story. I like all different levels of heat, from super sexy to sweet. As for what I’d love to see cross my desk…hmmm, a book from Patricia Briggs, Naomi Novik, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh… I could go on and on! But more seriously, I just want a great read. Right now, I would love to see a great vampire, werewolf, or futuristic story cross my desk. For some reason, I don’t have a lot of them at the moment! The Tor Romance line currently publishes one romance a month.

4. You've mentioned an interest in Urban Fantasy. What particular traits
of Urban Fantasy are you looking for in a manuscript?

I love Urban Fantasy. LOVE. I try almost every new author out there, and what seems to draw me the most are strong female protagonists behaving in intelligent, realistic ways, intricate worlds, and a sense of real danger inherent in the setting and plot. Again, see Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, etc. I want to be sucked into an alternate version of the world, with a heroine who rings true as an authentic character. Not one who everyone adores, one who struggles with life, love, happiness, and possibly demons.

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Let’s see. Number one piece of advice: read your work aloud. It really helps to spot errors in the text as well as awkward and stilted dialogue. Make a book as clean as possible before submitting it. And that doesn’t mean running it through spell check. Get it critiqued, proof-read, beta read, etc. First impressions count.

And this isn’t really a piece of advice so much as a comment. 90% of the submissions I get start in the wrong place. Usually several chapters before they should. An editor will usually not read past a few chapters in order to find the real start of a story, so beginning a novel in the wrong place can be the kiss of death for new authors.

The other day on Twitter someone attributed this quote to (I believe) Teresa Medeiros: “Your book should start at the point where everything changes.” That is such fabulous advice. And I am willing to bet that if you think of the openings of any book you personally love, you will find that to be true.

6. Who is your all time favorite couple in a book?

That is such a tough question! I am a voracious reader, so there are tons of fictional couples I love. I guess for me, I have to go old school and say that my favorite couple is Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth from PERSUASION by Jane Austen. I know most people go for Elizabeth and Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, but although I love P&P, Persuasion is actually my favorite Austen novel.

7. I see you are taking pitches at Nationals. Do you have any advice for
the writers who will be pitching to you?

Well, my advice would be that since you already know Tor Books accepts unagented, unsolicited manuscripts, you shouldn’t worry! Honestly, unless you are pitching something that we absolutely do not publish (children’s poetry, philosophical texts, etc), I will ask to see at least a partial. Other than that, I would ask you to relax, to understand that editors are not ogres or demons, and everything will be all right. I don’t mind if authors read off of cue cards in front of me, although I don’t think it is truly necessary. Treat me as you would anyone who asked you what your book is about. I don’t need polished cover copy, I just want to know what your book is about!

Also, it helps if you have some detailed information: Is the book complete? What genre and sub-genre is it? What is the word count? (I prefer actual word count, but estimated is fine, too.) Is it the first book in a planned series? What is the heat level? These are all things you should know about your own book.

8. Finally, twittering shows us a different side of editors and agents.
Do you like twittering and what was your favorite ride at Disney?

I love Twittering! It is actually the only social media that I find works for me. I have a sadly neglected LiveJournal that hasn’t been updated since January, and I am on Facebook but I never use it. I use Twitter almost every day. I do feel sorry for people who follow me expecting a professional editor viewpoint. I do occasionally comment on work, but never in any real detail. Instead I choose to talk about deliciously insane things like cookiecakepie and the Cupcake Truck currently parked outside the Flatiron building.

My favorite ride at Disneyworld was Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. I have a hilarious picture of me on it – I honestly have never looked happier than when staring down the barrel of a screaming Yeti.

Thanks again, Heather. We hope our FF&P members will take advantage of the Q&A session on Tuesday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Steampunk Explained

We are pleased to have Gail Dayton as our guest PAN blogger as she explains to us one of the latest trends.

Steampunk is one of the new trends in science fiction/fantasy, and in
paranormal romance, but there are still a lot of people out there who aren¹t
quite sure what it is. My latest release from Tor Paranormal Romance, NEW
BLOOD, is a Victorian steampunk fantasy romance, so I thought I¹d take my
guest slot here at the FF&P blog to explain steampunk.

The word itself is fairly new. It comes from the word ³cyberpunk² which
refers to science fiction based on the Internet, or computers. Steampunk, in
its most basic form, refers to historical science fiction or fantasy. Jules
Verne¹s books could be considered steampunk, had they been written today.

He has fantastical machines and science, but based on the technology of the
Victorian era. Naomi Novik¹s Napoleonic-Wars-with-dragons novels are
fantasy, rather than science fiction, but they are generally considered to
fall into the steampunk category. It¹s speculative fiction, taking place in
³real² historical eras.

In terms of film or television, the movies "League of Extraordinary
Gentlemen" and "Wild, Wild West" are both steampunk stories. They both take
place in historical, steam-driven eras, and use machines and science that
were not possible in that time. Even fantasy, since LXG has a vampire in it.

My book, NEW BLOOD, takes place in Victorian-era Europe in a world where
magic is commonplace. (Do not let the cover of the book scare you. There are
no rivers of blood in this book. Just a few tiny drops.) Most people have
the ability to work simple spells for eliminating mustiness, for example, or
warding away ghosts, but some have the talent to do more, to become
virtuosos of magic. But during the witch-burnings of the 17th century, the
last blood sorceress was killed, women were banned from practicing magic,
and the blood magic of sorcery was lost.

Jax, blood servant of the last sorceress, has been searching for a new
sorceress, and finally finds her in the Carpathian wilderness. Amanusa turns
away from blood magic at first, fearing its evil, but she wants justice on
those who¹ve ruined her life. When she sets the magic loose, she must flee
for her life across a ravaged Europe, with Jax who is bound to her by blood
and magic.

The story is a quest and a romance, the beginning of a series which will
continue in February 2010 with a murder mystery on London¹s dark East End

Have I cleared up any confusion? Have I whetted any appetites for steampunk
stories? (Like mine, hint, hint--) I sure hope so! :)