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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Making Your Setting into a Character

Author Lori Hayes
by Lori Hayes   

“I felt I was right there on the island. I could smell the brine, could taste the salt on my lips.” “I could visualize the ghostly grave, the one that appears in Claire’s photographs. I could sense the presence of a ghost.” “I imagined the sunglow highlighting the tips of the wild horse’s black mane.” 

How does an author make the reader feel as though the setting is one of the characters in your book? 

That answer is different for every author, but for me it means putting myself in that setting and imagining what the character is experiencing. I focus on the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.

For example, when my heroine in The Search realizes a ghostly grave shows up in a photograph, she revisits the hidden graveyard on the island to take another photograph. I draw out her emotions of feeling foolish for taking a picture of the air, hoping the grave shows up again in a photograph, of hiding her actions from another person to avoid explaining the situation, and of dealing with fear while she’s standing there alone taking the picture. The reader can experience the unnerving snap of a twig that makes the heroine jump. I add in her surroundings, including the tree off to the side where the grave had shown up in the original photograph. I also draw in the history of the old fishing village that had once existed on the island. That small detail, combined with the desert-like heat, the sand dunes, and the horses grazing on sea grass off in the distance, helps create ambiance.

Making your setting into a character relies on using several different senses from your point of view character.

It also helps if you can tie the setting and the storyline together, so you have a meaningful way to paint a creative picture to keep the reader engaged in your story. Little details tossed in here and there, as opposed to pages of description, will develop vivid imagery painlessly.
Choose your words carefully. One descriptive word can take the place of several rambling words. Concise writing provides a streamlined technique to draw your reader into your story and setting. Let them feel the breeze on their face, experience stepping into the muck of a tidal pool, and visualize seeing your heroine fall in a lump from the sliding stop of a horse. The simple word “lump” says it all.

It’s easier for me to write about something I’ve experienced, at least in part. If I can draw from a memory and relive it in my head, then the words I write will feel more real to the reader. You don’t have to experience a ghostly grave, however, to write about it. I remember as a child being fascinated with graveyards. I always wanted to see a ghost. A friend of mine and I would roam the cemetery right before closing in the evening. I’d work myself into a frenzy until the snap of a twig caused by an animal set my nerve endings in rapid fire. I drew from that experience when I wrote the scene I described above.

Creating ambiance so your setting becomes a character is easier than one might think. Remember to put yourself in your character’s shoes, tapping into her senses. In a concise way, describe her emotions about the setting and tie it into the storyline. Draw on whatever experiences you have that remind you of the particular scene you are writing. Making your setting into a character really is
as easy as that.

Blurb for The Search: 

The pounding hooves of betrayal have battered photographer Claire Kincaid’s trust in men. After her mother’s death, Claire’s desire for family leads her to the coast to find her long-lost father. Instead, she finds herself stranded on an island with a threatening storm, a suspicious man roaming the dunes, and a dangerous confrontation with a wild stallion. 

When wildlife biologist and park ranger Jeff Rhoades, who is engaged to Claire’s popular landlady, is sent to rescue Claire, he discovers his attraction to Claire makes him question his commitment to his fiancée. To make matters worse, he secretly searches for her father, against her will. Good intentions go wrong, and he unravels a dubious and hurtful past. An island of secrets is untangled along with the mystery of a horse whisperer who lurks in the horses’ shadows. The more Claire searches for answers, the more she discovers that an old truth never existed. 


Lori Hayes writes contemporary romance and romantic women's fiction. She promises to deliver a happy ending in exchange for your much-appreciated time reading her novels.

She lives with her family in North Carolina, and while she hopes to someday say she lives near the beach, right now she is a short drive from the ocean. She thinks it's important to focus on what you have and to appreciate the small things around you, like the tang of salt in the air. For then it becomes possible for your dreams to come true, like her dream of writing and to be published.

She thanks her mother for her career. One day her mom planted the seed for Lori to be a writer, and it took hold. And as her grandfather always said, Stop talking about it and do something. So she did. While her son took afternoon naps, she sat down and started her first novel.

Quickly she learned it wasn't so easy. She bought every book she could find on the subject, and to this day she's still buying books to study. She believes life is one lesson made up of many shorter ones. Tell the story of your own life and it will come to fruition. She's living proof.

You can find Lori Hayes at: 
Twitter   Facebook   Website   

Monday, June 24, 2013

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Day trips for your Muse

by Jill Archer

Now that summer is in full swing, there are more chances to get outside. This is terrific for us writers because we spend a lot of time sitting. (Most writers, including myself, take great pride in their butt-in-chair self-discipline, which is good because that’s what gets the job done). But sitting for long periods of time isn’t always good. It’s healthier – and more fun – to get up and get out every now and then. But there’s another reason that extra chances to get outside are a plus for writers – increased opportunities for site visits.

As writers of the fantastical and the speculative, site visits can provide us with accurate, real world information on a particular location that we may want to use in our story. This is great for writers who set their stories in places that actually exist in the real world. But even if you don’t, like me, the site visit can be a wonderful jumping off point for building your own setting. Sometimes, when I visit a place, I find it so interesting that I just know it’s going to end up as the basis for a future setting. For fun, I thought I’d share two of my favorite inspirational places with you today.

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
I write a genre-bending fantasy series featuring 21 year-old post grad magic user, Noon Onyx. In Noon’s world there are two types of magic: waning magic, which is dark, destructive, and deadly, and waxing magic, which is soft, nurturing, and creative. Usually men are born with waning magic and women with waxing magic. But due to a birth mix up, Noon was born with waning magic. In the beginning, it makes Noon feel very uncomfortable.
The idea behind waning and waxing magic was born from my love of nature. And one of my favorite places to visit when I need a “garden fix” is Longwood Gardens. It is an amazing place – so full of life!
Many things contributed to the creation of Noon’s character, but one of them was the horrifying idea of not being able to walk through a place like Longwood Gardens without killing everything. (What if your presence in a garden had the potential to blacken everything and turn it to dust?) I even managed to find a few fanged creatures there: a dragon, a snake, and a gargoyle. In short, one visit to this amazing place yielded a treasure trove of inspiration for future stories. Interested in reading more about Longwood Gardens? Check out a longer post I wrote about it last spring HERE.
St. John’s Episcopal Church Ruins in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia
In my second novel, Fiery Edge of Steel, there is an old crumbling structure called the Stone Pointe keep, which serves as a backdrop for some of the novel’s biggest scenes. In addition to my own imagination, the structure had a few real world inspirational sources. One of them was the crumbling ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church ruins in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. My family and I traveled there last spring break and stayed in a cabin off of the Appalachian Trail. It was a wonderful

visit full of hiking and touring the quaint, charming, and picturesque town of Harper’s Ferry.

The St. John’s Episcopal Church ruins are west of Arsenal Square, on the hill to the north of Shenandoah Street, past St. Peter’s Church. There’s something about stone ruins that always fascinates me. Maybe it’s the combination of durability and ephemerality. Stone ruins last for generations and yet, they are mere skeletons of their former fleshed out selves. They are concrete evidence that nothing lasts forever.
Visitors must use their imaginations to bring ruins back to life. And, as writers, we can take those ruins – that skeleton – and turn it into anything we want. In our imaginations, the remains of what once was are like the monster’s body in Frankenstein beforeit was brought to life. And our inanimate setting “monsters” can be beautiful, frightening, soothing, full of tension, or whatever else we need them to be.
Interested in reading more about Harper’s Ferry? Check out a longer post I wrote about it last spring HERE.

Final Things to Keep in Mind
The most important things to keep in mind on site visits/day trips are two of the most basic building blocks of good writing: (1) USE YOUR IMAGINATION. Simple, right? We’re all writers so we’re used to using ours. But even so, I always try to push myself to consider how the places I visit might serve as inspiration in some new and different way. I use day trips as imagination sparks or seeds.
(2) DON’T FORGET THE FIVE SENSES AND MORE. Since great description is a part of great writing, actually going somewhere and experiencing it for yourself is the best way to take note of the location’s effect on your five senses. But don’t stop there. Pay attention to the place’s effect on you, which is more than just sensory input. Everything about the place – from its sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel, to its mood, vibe, and energy level, to the way other people interact with it, its history and its possible future – impacts how a place affects someone. While I don’t think places are alive, they do have personalities. And the better you can use the unique characteristics of a place to build some of your own settings, the stronger your stories will be.
So how about you? Do you use site visits or day trips to build your own settings? Where have you been that’s been interesting enough to use as the basis for a setting? Are you currently stumped on some aspect of setting design? Please feel free to share any thoughts, comments, questions, or advice for others regarding sf/f settings and/or real world site visits. Thank you, Nancy, and everyone else at FF&P for inviting me here today to guest blog!
More about Fiery Edge of Steel
When traveling into the unknown, sometimes the biggest danger is the one you bring with you…
Lucifer and his army triumphed at Armageddon, leaving humans and demons living in uncertain peace based on sacrifice and strict laws. It is up to those with mixed demon and human blood, the Host, to prevent society from falling into anarchy.

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

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

More about Jill
Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels from Penguin/Ace. DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL are available now. WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE will be the third book in the series.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Conquering Fight Scenes (Part 1) with K. M. Fawcett

If you have a fight scene
in your romance story, ask yourself the following questions. Why is it there? Is it essential to the plot?

Fight scenes, like love scenes, must drive the story forward. They must serve a purpose. They must create change either by resolving something or by complicating something. Change advances the story. If your fight is gratuitous, cut it.

Keep these points in mind when creating your believable and exciting fight scenes.
Pacing: Fights are dynamic and fast, so the action should be conveyed quickly. You want the reader to feel they are a part of the fight or at least watching it. Taking too long to describe an action slows down the visual image in the mind’s eye, therefore, slows the pacing. Using short and medium length sentences rather than long, complex ones gives the illusion that the action is unfolding in real time. Be careful not to structure all sentences the same, though, as a lack of variation could lead to choppy, robotic and monotonous prose.

Action – Reaction: Action comes before reaction. Cause is followed by effect.
Ex. 1 (Reaction first)  Blood gushed from his nose when she decked him.
Ex. 2 (Action first)   She decked him. Blood gushed from his nose.
In example 2, the reader experiences the action as it’s unfolding, and will have an emotional response to it right along with the characters.

Clarity/ Word Choice: Be straightforward and to the point. Describing your fight choreography in minute detail also slows pacing. Avoid getting too technical so your fight scene doesn’t read like a training manual.

If you want to showcase a particular technique in the final battle scene, explain it or refer to it earlier in the story, perhaps in a training session. For example, in the original Karate Kid movie, we saw Mr. Miyagi practicing the crane technique. Daniel asked him about it, and we learned that, “If do right, no can defend.” Daniel practiced it, and when he got into the crane stance in the final scene, we knew this awesome move would make him a winner. Another example is the five-point palm exploding heart technique in Kill Bill. If these techniques weren’t explained until they were used in the story, the pacing would halt and/ or their significance would be lost.

Use expressive words and strong action verbs to paint a clear image and to evoke an emotional response in the reader. A fight should create reader urgency so they keep turning pages to find out what happens next. The reader should feel the excitement and energy of the action, not confusion over the words used to describe it.

Emotion: Be sure to include your character’s emotional response. What’s at stake? What will it mean if she wins the fight? What will it mean if she loses? Emotion creates suspense. It connects the reader to the characters. It makes the reader root for a character’s success or demise. Emotion can be demonstrated thru dialog, physical action, internal sensations, and thoughts. Warning: Too much introspection can slow your pacing.

Dialog: Combatants are not going to engage in a long discussion while fighting. That can come pre-fight when they are gearing up for the confrontation (sizing each other up and down, posturing, etc) or post-fight when the opponent is no longer in a position to attack. There is room for terse dialog in a heated battle. However, no fighter will waste precious energy and breath by waxing poetic.

Climatic Battle: The main fight against the villain should come at the climax, and should be the biggest, most difficult fight in the story. If the most exciting fight is with a minion earlier in the book, it makes the climax appear dull in comparison. Many times the hero has to fight the villain earlier in the book, but at that point the hero hasn’t grown yet. He shouldn’t be able to defeat the villain until he has completed his character arc.

Thank you FF&P for hosting me on the blog today. I’ll be back on July 8th with more on fight scenes, including the use of setting, characterization, choreography and improvised weapons.
~K.M Fawcett

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race #1)


The last thing Addy Dawson remembers is a blazing inferno and freezing river water overtaking her lungs. When she awakens, Addy finds herself on a strange, alien planet, trapped in a cell with no doors, no windows-- and to her horror-- a naked warrior who claims to be her mate.

An alpha gladiator, Max is forced to breed and produce the finest specimens for the Survival Race, a deadly blood sport created by the alien rulers of Hyborea. To rebel means torture-or worse-yet Max refuses to become the animal his captors want him to be. But their jailors will not be denied, and soon Addy and Max find themselves unwilling players in this cruel game. Pushed to the limit, they will risk everything for the chance at a life free from captivity. And though fate brought them together as adversaries, Max and Addy will discover that when they're together, there's nothing in the universe that can stop them.

K.M. Fawcett writes sci-fi/ paranormal romances, and enjoys stories filled with adventure and strong, kick butt heroes and heroines. She holds the rank of Sandan (3rd degree black belt) in both Isshinryu Karate and in Ryukonkai (Okinawan weapons). She and her husband own Tenchi Isshinryu Karate Dojo in NJ. When not writing or working out at the dojo, K.M. is home with her two children and two cats.  

Monday, June 17, 2013


Getting into the head of your characters is a topic we've all dealt with, read about in spades and had shoved down our throats until we're choking on the vileness that is those very words, right? Well, yes and no. The question I'd have is how far are you willing to go in order to get in touch with your character? What if your character is the opposite gender?

We've covered cross gender writing before, particularly if you've taken my class. I talk about the basic stuff in terms of getting to really know your character but what I usually gloss over is just how deep YOU the AUTHOR will go, what lengths will you go to in order to craft a deeply emotional character that readers can connect to.

Sure it's important to remember motivation but what gets tough is finding the motivation to save the hero or heroine when they're so hell bent on destruction that they can't find their way. Readers love jaded characters, JR Ward's sales (among others) are a testament to that. That's a case when some outside help is needed, usually in the form of a sidekick or best friend.

Or in my case, a second lover and a bottle. I possibly could have done without the bottle but the problem was with the story I recently sold to Red Sage, the character was an addict. Yeah, I went pretty far in my research to truly portray a jaded, wounded hero who needed more than just love. I'm in NO WAY suggesting you pick up vices or habits to dig into your characters heads, but to be fair I was in my early 20s when I started that story. My life was a chaotic mess and the music I listened to resonated deep within me. Writers seek all forms of inspiration, whether they know it or not, the subconscious plays a huge part in character creation.

The best way to remain objective to the voices in our heads is to get them on paper, bang them out then start asking the difficult questions. Why are you like this? What would fix it? How could we create the scenario given the world you're in that would allow you to realize the truth of romance?

That truth by the way is this: I love you so much more than the need to destroy myself.

Substitute 'destroy myself' with whatever behavior pattern your character (read, your hero) exhibits, then create that world and scenario. For Joséf in ENDANGERD, he hasn't learned the lesson in the first book, but he comes a step closer because of the way I chose to split the love he receives. Livía, his soul mate, gives attention to the demons in his heart, the ones who tell him he's not worth loving. Her female lover, Isabella, tends to the demons in his head. The ones that call him to go out in a Last Action Hero manner. She appeals to the logic in him.

To really make the impact and have you, the reader, root for the romance, non-traditional as it is, I had to dig into the core of fans who read ménage romances, and who enjoy and understand it from the paranormal perspective. This story meant a lot to me, and ten years later, it still does. So much so for both my career and my heart that I can't wait to share the beginning of Joséf's adventures with you, dear writer who happens to also read romance.

I'm hoping in the long run I can find something to pull me out of me, when I'm writing but the pre release reviews have been pretty positive, and I'm not sure I want to mess with that formula. For you however, the talented writer, understanding what motivates your audience outside of the typical desire to escape reality, will help you capture a writing formula that works for you.

Sascha Illyvich Bio:
Proclaimed by the Publishing industry as the Bad Boy of Romance, Sascha started writing fourteen years ago. His erotic romances have been listed under the Night Owl Romance and Road to Romance’s Recommended read list, and he's been nominated for a CAPA by The Romance Studio
Former host of The Unnamed Romance Show on Radio Dentata Sascha continues to write for Red Sage, Decadent Publishing, Sizzler Editions and Total E-bound. Find him at http://saschaillyvichauthor.com Agency Representation provided by The Corvisiero Agency
Editor for Sizzler Editions Intoxication Erotic Romance line, Sascha is also part of the WriteSex Panel, a blog group defining erotica for writers in any genre! Find us at http://www.write-sex.com
I hope you will join my class titled
Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers
This Two Week class starts July 22, 2013
For more information click  HERE

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Author Viola Ryan
by Viola Ryan 

Poet Lord Byron once said, “We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched.” He should know. Lord Byron is the poster child for bipolar poets. Mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depression, occur with a vastly higher frequency among creative people. Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, a professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins Medical School, herself bipolar, wrote about this in Touched with Fire, Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. 

Being diagnosed with any disorder is a terrifying experience. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in November 2004. I was just beginning to get back into writing after my kids started school full time. I was terrified what this meant for my future aspirations of being a writer. 

I took great comfort that the list of writers who are believed to have suffered from mood disorders included many of the people who inspired me to write, including many speculative fiction writers--Hans Christian Anderson, James Barrie, Samuel Clemens, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson. Handel composed The Messiah in 24 days in a manic episode. Everyone is familiar with the mood swings of Van Gogh. What is remarkable is if you line up his paintings chronologically, you can witness these. His paintings are evidence of his moods.

When someone is manic, there brain scans light up. This is called the Christmas Tree brain. When neurons fire, the brain makes connections. Normally, a person makes connections between A, B and C. For a manic person, we have to make sense of A, B, C, M, Q, T and Z. This helps drive our creativity. 

Depression also affects creativity. We all have to make sense of the world. Mood disorders affect our perception of reality. That is the hardest part of being bipolar for me. It is hard enough to trust your own perception. When I am manic or depressed, I know my perception is off. It is hard to even know when I am manic or depressed. It took years of therapy for me to recognize the warning signs. The highs of mania and the lows of depression have to be reconciled with the times I am level. All this gives me an interesting perspective of the world and also drives creativity. 

When I was diagnosed, I was terrified what being medicated would do to my creativity. That list of amazing writers weren’t medicated. I came up with some wild ideas while I was manic. How could I write, if I couldn’t come up with ideas? What I was unable to see was I came up with amazing universes when I was manic and I could stay up and write for hours and hours, but what I wrote was unintelligible to others. These great ideas were impossible for others to follow since I jumped around a lot. 

I agreed to seek therapy and take medication because I didn’t want to hurt my family. If I lost my creativity, that was a price I was willing to pay. It would tear me apart, but nothing was more important than my children having a stable upbringing. 

What I didn’t realize was being medicated wasn’t going to kill my creativity. It made it so it was more accessible to others. Being medicated doesn’t mean I’m always level, though I joke I take drugs to prevent what others take drugs to feel. Being manic can be compared to being on crystal meth. Being medicated means my life is manageable and my highs aren’t so high and my lows aren’t so low. The times I am level is much greater. 

Years of therapy taught me how to use these to my benefit. When I am manic, I am big idea girl. I come up with some amazing things. I can’t write, since what I write will be so disjointed, but I can do mind maps and research. I love researching when I’m manic. Net surfing is a manic person’s paradise. I can surf from one thing to another. It is also a great time to read, since I get so obsessive, I shut out the world. Reading is an important part of writing. 

When I am depressed, I can’t write either. It goes beyond writer’s block. I have trouble remembering words or anything for that matter. Writing becomes an act in frustration. There are better ways to spend my time. The world slows down and I’m hypercritical. This is the perfect time to edit. 

Then when I am fairly level, I write. I take all those big ideas and edits and turn them into a book that others will enjoy.  

Thank you FF&P for having me. You are one of the important parts of my support network. Thanks to you, my debut book, The Mark of Abel, came out  December 2012, a full eight years after I was diagnosed and thought I would never be able to make my dream of being a published writer come true. 


Blurb for The Mark of Abel:

Lucifer is fed up with humanity. He created hell to deter evil but man’s inhumanity is only escalating. He just wants to return home to heaven and Eve, but ever since that little problem in the Garden of Eden, the Pearly Gates remain firmly shut to him. It doesn’t help that he’s the first vampire, an abomination in God’s sight.

Fortunately, two thousand years ago his estranged brother, Jesus, gave him a prophecy--The path back to heaven can be found in terrors in the night turned into art and transformed by divine wisdom. Seems simple enough. The artist even bears a symbol so he knows who she is. If only she would stop dying every time he finds her. 

Janie’s a frustrated artist and college art teacher who wants two things—a  guy she can show her paintings to and a night without nightmares. Each nightmare plagues her until she paints it. She doesn’t realize these paintings are key to unlocking her destiny, one that could redeem the original fallen angel.

Bio: A very good friend of Viola Ryan in high school said, “You don’t think outside the box. You blow the thing up.” Sometimes boxes need exploding. That’s why she’s here. She has a whole bag of C4 and isn’t afraid to use it. She’s blessed with people who treasure her eccentricities or at least put up with them. 

Sometimes the box can be a cozy place. Without some sort of stability, her two daughters’ and her life would be unmanageable. That stability comes from her husband. He’s the rock holding her family together. 

On the flip side, his career is anything but stable. He’s a Chief Marine Safety Technician in the US Coast Guard. They’ve lived from Kittery, Maine to Yorktown, Virginia. Fortunately, the moves have all been on the east coast. Then again, the Coast Guard tends to guard the coast. 

Her oldest daughter (15) was born on Cape Cod, not far from Plymouth. Massachusetts. Her youngest (11) was born in Yorktown, Virginia, down the road from Williamsburg. Viola jokes they’re doing the colonial America tour. 

You can find her at:

Website     Blog     Facebook

Monday, June 10, 2013


author Isabo Kelly

Using Earth Biology to Create Otherworldly Creatures
by Isabo Kelly

As writers of paranormal, fantasy and science fiction romances, we spend a lot of time developing otherworldly creatures, be they supernatural or extra-terrestrial. But there’s no reason we need to stick to set parameters for these creations. (If readers required strict adherence to traditional myths, we wouldn’t have sparkly vampires.)  

With such rich and diverse examples of biology and behavior right here on Earth, we have a wealth of fun material to use. Incorporating real biology and real world behavior in your otherworldly creatures will not only add originality but bring those creations to believable life. 

Imagine a being that spends its entire life in the clouds—there are actually microbes that scientists believe live and breed in the clouds without ever settling on a solid surface or substrate (once thought to be essential to life). Perhaps your alien species requires a high pressure environment and if brought to a lower pressure setting would die, like so many deep sea creatures. Or perhaps they live at extraordinarily high or low temperatures and can’t survive outside these extremes. 

How about aliens whose breeding system is similar to the Anglerfish, where males are absorbed by females, becoming little more than vestigial lumps ready to release sperm when the female is ready to breed. Or forget sperm all together and use parthenogenesis—a breeding system where females’ eggs don’t require sperm in order to develop into a living embryo—and see what kind of interesting creature you can develop with that! (I love that word—parthenogenesis.) 

The strange and wondrous examples are plenty. Just a quick perusal of Earth biology will give you a myriad of things to incorporate into your creations. I recommend watching nature shows as a place to start. Then doing searches on the Internet for strange animal adaptations or behavior will give further helpful details. You can also find a number of books on interesting animal biology, such as Weird Life by David Toomey. Discovering the different ways life goes about its business here on Earth will provide whole hosts of possibilities for you. 

But I’m not suggesting you use the biological facts strictly. For example, in the science fiction television show, FARSCAPE, there was an alien species called the Delvians who looked humanoid but were actually plants and used photosynthesis to eat. Just because you find an interesting fact about how red-sided garter snakes form “mating balls” in which a female is swarmed by hundreds of males when she emerges from hibernation, doesn’t mean you have to give that trait to a were-snake species. Take that mating behavior and use it for your demons, for example. Or maybe your Fae can only reproduce if the females are swarmed by a multitude of males. Think of the plot possibilities! 

There are bacteria and fungi that live deep in the Earth’s crust and eat by synthesizing inorganic chemicals from the surrounding rocks. In my Naravan Chronicles series, I gave the native shape-shifting species on Narava a similar way of “feeding”—their cells pull the nutrients they need directly from the surrounding atmosphere, so when they’re in a shape other than their natural form, they can still eat. This way of feeding led to some complications that gave me great room to play with this species. 

In my short story, Mate Run, I gave my were-tigers the same background breeding issues that plague the Hawaiian monk seals—female numbers dropping for unexplained reasons, males so desperate to breed they gang up on females, sometimes killing them and making the situation even worse. Then I developed a solution to those problems that was unique to the were-tigers. Obviously seals and tigers are very different mammals with different behavior and biology. But I didn’t stick strictly to tiger biology when developing my were-tigers. Why? Because I didn’t have to. My world. My rules. 

One of the best things about writing in the FF&P genres is that we have such huge scope for our world-building. We don’t have to adhere to ancient myths or even parallel biology. In fact, the more unique you can make your otherworldly creations—without making them so strange humans can’t envision them!—the more interesting your worlds will be. Using things that really happen here on Earth will give you the needed authenticity while also providing a wealth of originality, creating otherworldly beings readers won’t be able to resist. 

So tell me, have you come across any strange animal facts that you’d love to use in your fiction? 

Isabo Kelly is the award-winning author of numerous science fiction, fantasy and paranormal romances. Before settling down to write full time, Isabo got her B.A. in Zoology with an emphasis on marine biology at University of Hawaii, Manoa and her Ph.D. in animal behavior from University College Dublin in Ireland. For more on Isabo and her books, visit her at www.isabokelly.com, follow her on Twitter @IsaboKelly or friend her on Facebook www.facebook.com/IsaboKelly


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself by Nancy Gideon

What keeps a writer from taking that next step in their career?  Fear.  Whether you’re a newbie with that first work-in-progress or a bestseller looking for that next big hit, these six things can blow up into monstrous roadblocks at any point in your creative journey. 

Fear of Commitment

There’s safety in the process of writing for yourself.  No pressure to produce or perform, just the pleasure of puttering with words and calling yourself a writer.  Constantly researching, always rewriting, switching from one Oh Shiny! project to the next.  But never finishing, never submitting.  Sometimes, that’s enough, and that’s okay. Writing is a wonderful, cathartic pastime.  But an author has to be willing to make the jump to Not as a Hobby status in the eyes of the IRS.  Make a commitment to a critique partner, to a contest, to yourself.  Go for PRO status. And get it out there.  Welcome to being an author!

Fear of Not Being Ready

It’s that constant nagging insecurity that keeps you circling instead of moving forward.  Just another quick read through.  Maybe it should be a comedy instead of a mystery.  Maybe it should be in first person. First person is real popular now.  I should take a class on the Hero’s Journey and wait until I have 3,000 friends on Facebook. Maybe I should throw in a Highlander or a vampire.  There comes a point when you’re not making it better, you’re just making it different. It’s time to let go and trust yourself.  Put the vampire Highlander in your next book.

Fear of Competition

It’s a dog eat dog world. You tell yourself you’ll never be a Nora or Tami or Agatha or Dean. No, you won’t be. You’re not in competition with them.  You  are your only competition.  There’s always room for another good book – especially in this new e-volution. You’re not fighting with other writers to take their spot. You’re making a spot for yourself by writing the best book you can . . . and getting it out there. Stop looking around and look toward your own future.

Fear of Exposure

Yes, someone out there is not going to like what you write.  I guarantee it.  They will write a bad review. Someone is going to be offended that you have sex in your book.  Someone is going to look down their nose because you published a romance or self-published or used a semi-colon. It’s not personal.  You are NOT your product.  We fear ridicule.  We avoid criticism. It’s in our nature.  And when you publish, you have your baby out in front of the world and some will say it’s ugly.  You can’t do anything about that, but you can choose not to be intimidated.  You can write under a pseudonym.  You don’t have to read reviews. Remind yourself it’s just one person’s opinion and they’re entitled to it. Just don’t hide your light under a basket. Be proud of that accomplishment the majority of our society wishes they could claim. You’re an author.

Fear of Failure

Not everyone makes The Times list.  Not everyone wins a contest. Not everyone gets a 5 Star or even a 4 Star review. Not everyone sells that first, second, third or thirtieth book. Does not making that list, that number, that sale make you less of a person, less of a critique partner, less of a writer? No. Look at those other would be failures out there.  Tom Clancy.  Thomas Edison. J.K. Rowling. Failure is when you give up on the chance of success. That’s when the door closes on your dream. Don’t forget to rejoice in the goals you have reached.

Fear of Success

On the flipside, sometimes the thing you fear most is attaining what you’ve worked for.  That Second Book syndrome.  I’ve sold.  I’m an author.  I’m at the top.  Now what?  How can I match or perpetuate that success?  Am I prepared for the pressure, the deadlines, the interviews, the loss of personal time and space, the tours and obligations? There’s comfort in anonymity, but when you’re in the spotlight, there’s no place to hide.  Think about how you’d handle that success you dream of.  Be prepared for the call up from the minors to play in the Show so you can enjoy it if it happens. When it happens.
It all comes down to taking a determined step of faith a la Indiana Jones, trusting that the path will be there to support you.  Faith in yourself, in your talent, and in your dreams even when you have no control over the outcome. No risk, no reward. Don’t look down.  Don’t look to others. Rather look ahead, or better yet, upward.  And reach.
Nancy Gideon is the award winning author of over 54 romances ranging from historical, regency and series contemporary suspense to paranormal, with a couple of horror screenplays tossed into the mix.  She works full time as a legal assistant, and when not at the keyboard, feeds a Netflix addiction along with all things fur, fin and fowl. Her latest release, PRINCE OF SHADOWS, book 8 in her dark paranormal “By Moonight” series for Pocket Books, is now available as an e-exclusive.Visit Nancy at http://nancygideon.com or http://nancygideon.blogspot.com.
Pocket Star / 5-27-13
Held hostage until she chooses a mate, Kendra Terriot must play a careful courtship game when choosing from among the dangerous Shifter heirs. As a prince in the House of Terriot, Cale knows with Kendra at his side he can be the leader his clan needs, but first he must learn to become the kind of man she desires. In a treacherous race for the crown, where weakness means death, to prove he’s not the beast his gentle beauty fears, the only way to win her trust could mean surrendering his throne. But the only way to win her heart could mean letting her go.


Sunday, June 2, 2013


Love Triangles – readers either love them or hate them. Yet they are very popular plot devices in both paranormal romances and young adult romances. If you’re thinking about including one in your next story, you need to consider how you’re going to resolve it in the end (unless you write ménage where a threesome is allowed, at which point you’re sitting pretty).
The first trick is to make the relationships worthy of being a good, tension evoking love triangle. For example, if Mary Sue has both Leo the Loser and Adam the Alpha Male chasing after her, it’s pretty obvious which one’s the better catch, and there’s no suspense involved with guessing which one she’ll choose. You have to create partners with both positive attributes and flaws. There’s a reason why Archie can never decide between Betty and Veronica – because they’re both awesome girls! You want readers to be divided into Team A and Team B. You want your protagonist to be torn between both lovers because it creates conflict, and conflict is part of good story-telling.

Next, you have to think about how it will be resolved. Sometimes, there’s one person left in the cold while the happy couple rides off into the sunset (like poor Walter in Sleepless in Seattle). Sometimes, there’s information revealed that makes one part of the triangle no longer appropriate (like Leia finding out that Luke’s her brother – after she kissed him). Sometimes, one person dies/moves away/leaves the picture/starts anew someplace far, far away, thus removing himself from the picture.
And sometimes, there’s a satisfying HEA for everyone… so long as the rejected party doesn’t imprint on his former love interest’s child.

Most of us who have written love triangles know which hero and heroine will get the HEA. We write our stories by planting both clues and red herrings along the way, ramping up the conflict until the very end when we’re forced to resolve the love triangle (or have all three hop into bed together for the grand climax – those lucky ménage writers). And we hope are readers are happy with the outcome and not left going, “Why the hell did she choose him??!!!”

What are some of your favorite love triangles? How did they end (or are they still on-going)?

About Crista:
Crista McHugh is a multiple award-winning author of fantasy and paranormal romance. She currently lives in the Audi-filled suburbs of Seattle with her husband and two children, maintaining her alter ego of mild-mannered physician by day while she continues to pursue writing on nights and weekends.

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