Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The H&W Investigations Gang Talks About Favorite Foods: By Jess Haines

Hello there!  Jess Haines here.  

I’m the author of the urban fantasy H&W Investigations series HUNTED BY THE OTHERS, TAKEN BY THE OTHERS and DECEIVED BY THE OTHERS.  I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to some of the cast—Shiarra Waynest, the lead character, Sara, her business partner, Chaz, her on-and-off werewolf boyfriend, Arnold, a mage who lends her a hand, and Alec Royce, a vampire Shiarra meets in the course of her adventures.

Shiarra and her friends are going to discuss what they like to eat, some of their comfort foods, etc.  Over to you, Shia!


Shiarra:  Comfort foods? Seriously?

Chaz: I like pie.

Arnold:  Dutch apple for the win!

Sara:  I prefer cherry, personally.

Arnold: Pie heathen!

Royce: Is it necessary for me to be here for this topic? It’s been so long since I’ve consumed solid foods, I don’t really recall what I used to eat.

Shiarra: Ha! Sucks to be you.

Royce: Perhaps you’d like to stand in as my comfort food, Ms. Waynest? I promise I wouldn’t take too much…

Shiarra: AUGH!  

Chaz: Stay away from her, freak!

Sara: That’s just all kinds of wrong right there.

Arnold: Hey, I have a question.

Royce:  Yes?

Arnold:  What happens if you eat solid food?

Royce:  Things best not discussed in polite company.

Chaz: In that case, we’re all set.  So?

Shiarra: I’m not sure I really want to know.

Royce:  I suppose it’s not that terrible. With practice, we can hold the food down for an hour or more.  Later, we must purge ourselves.

Shiarra:  That sounds really gross.  Whatever that means.

Arnold:  He barfs. I hope.

Shiarra & Sara:  EW!

Royce:  I warned you that it wasn’t meant for polite company.

Shiarra: Ugh. If I wasn’t so grossed out, now I’d need comfort food. I don’t think I could keep anything down right now.

Sara:  Wait, I have a question.

Shiarra:  No, you don’t!

Royce:  For some reason, I’m finding this rather entertaining.  Yes, Ms. Halloway?

Sara:  Does that also apply to drinks?  Also, do you, like… have bodily functions?  I mean, what do you do with all that blood you drink?

Shiarra: Oh, my god, SARA!

Sara:  What?!  It’s a valid question!

Arnold:  That’s my girl!

Royce:  We can consume some drinks without difficulty.  Water, tea, liquor—nothing with solids, such as smoothies.  As for the rest of your question—

Chaz:  I don’t think we need to hear it, blood-breath.

Royce: Suit yourselves.

Shiarra:  Someone get me a barf bag.


You can learn more about Shiarra and the rest of her friends in HUNTED BY THE OTHERS (link:  What about you?  What are some of your favorite / comfort foods?

Visit me on the web:

Thanks again for having me and the gang over, Brooklyn Ann!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Revise, Revise, Repeat.

I'm one of those strange people who actually enjoys editing and revising...for the first few rounds anyway. I don't edit much during the rough draft, except for correcting typos because they drive me crazy.

At first I follow Stephen King's advice and put it away for a month or so and work on something else. I think everyone should do this since it REALLY helps a ton. Problems become glaringly obvious, yet easy to fix. This revision is the most fun. However, the project is still a "darling" so lots of things get missed.

I then send the revised-but-still-has-problems draft to at least 4 crit buddies and let them rip it to shreds. I get the most valuable help at this stage and have the most fun. If all four say something doesn't work, out it goes. If two out of four say so, then I need to make some adjustments to tone down the issue, or at least clarify it. Quite often I will make a change based on one suggestion because it feels right.

This is when I feel most optimistic about the book and this is when I used to start querying. Not anymore. Someone once referred to revising as moving furniture. They leave scuff marks on the rug. She was right. From roughened transitions to typos, there can be problems. Not only that, but sometimes the right changes weren't made.

So I send it to more crit partners to see how the changes worked. Often they'll point out things the others missed. This is when I begin to be unsure of my story because the feedback is more subjective. Should I really change this scene or character arc when it didn't bother my first batch of readers? And oh, I just got an idea for a new scene, but will it help or harm the story? But...what if the whole story is crap? Should I just give up?

Eventually, I get through the doubts and end up with a polished manuscript that is stronger than ever. Hopefully then it is ready to query.

How do you go about revisions? At what point do they have you tearing at your hair and cursing yourself for ever daring to write the book? 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Freakish Friday: Physical Defects

Long gone are the days when the heroes and heroines of romance novels had to be perfect physical specimens. Well, the hero could have a few scars as long as they enhanced his machismo and made him look dangerous. But the heroine... hell no! She must have alabaster skin, perfect boobs, etc.

I am much happier with today's romance novels. I know I bring up JR Ward a lot, and with my new Friday theme I will probably continue to do so because her characters are so delightfully flawed. One of her heroes is blind and another is partially castrated, to begin with. One of her heroines is average looking and has scars from surgical operations. I love her for this!

As much as I have issues with Laurell K. Hamilton these days, she was even more ballsy. One of her characters had tentacles! Apparently that's a huge fetish in Japan nowadays but I was pretty squicked out at first. But the way she wrote Sholto, she made him beautiful and sexy. That's damn impressive...until when it came time for the heroine to get it on with him and the tentacles magically disappeared and turned into a tattoo. I and many other readers were disappointed with this if you can believe it.

Why? Because we fell in love with Sholto and wanted him to be embraced for who and what he was.

Although she's not in the paranormal genre, I have to give major kudos to historical romance author, Eloisa James for giving her characters defects. In FOOL FOR LOVE, her heroine has a bad hip. In WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST, the hero has a bad leg (and is also the regency version of Dr. House, how awesome is that?!) and the beautiful heroine becomes disfigured by an illness but he still LOVED her!!! Seriously, that one made me cry.

What other authors have dared to defy romance tradition by making imperfect characters? What can we learn from them?    

Monday, June 20, 2011

Supernatural Dads

Father's Day was yesterday and I got to thinking about the role Dads play in the paranormal genre. From Alpha-overprotective werewolves to evil demons, they have an influence, no matter how subtle.

In my first few books none of my heroines wanted children and it wasn't really an issue because all of my vampires are sterile. But a friend recently read an earlier work of mine and pointed out that the hero's reaction to that situation was unclear. Reading her response made me realize part of me was clinging to an old belief of mine: That men never want to be fathers.

I've since recanted that opinion, but I was surprised to see remnants of it in my work...and it wasn't just that one. My heroines in my first few novels don't even have fathers. They're either dead, traveling salesmen, or the epitome of evil.

As I scratch my head and try to work that out, I think of all the good dads in my favorite genre. In Sherrilyn Kenyon's NIGHT PLAY, there's Bride McTierney's awesome dad ,who's not only a vet, but also a medic to the were-animals in town. In the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, there's Zsadist, who is just awwwwww with his new baby daughter, and there's Mercy's dad in Patricia Brigg's series...but I can't give that one away.

Really, that's all I can think of for preternatural dads. Do you guys know any more?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Freakish Friday: Characters with Addictions

At first you might not think of addictions as something "freakish" unless it involves porn or a weird sex fetish, but if  you hear a first hand account, you may reevaluate that opinion. Issues with drugs and alcohol are usually skirted around in the romance genre, but some authors dare to go there.

I have full respect for J.R. Ward for doing so in book 7 of the awesome BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD series, LOVER ENSHRINED. Her main character, Phury is hooked on a fictional (I think) substance, and is ultimately saved by the power of love. Although this was my least favorite of the series, Phury's struggle tore at my heart. It also made me realize that as with any flawed character, there's a place for redemption for substance abusers in romance novels.

I don't know enough about drugs to yet dare to cover them extensively in one of my novels yet, but one of my heroines is an alcoholic. Writing about her issue brought back memories of how close I came to walking in her shoes during the end of my previous marriage. Another character will fight with her cigarette addiction, a dragon I plan to tackle when I turn 30.

Being that many of my heroes are writers and rock stars, many have dealt with these issues. The most prominent two that come to mind are Stephen King and Dave Mustaine (Lead singer and guitarist of MEGADETH). I've read ON WRITING a kajillion times and I just finished reading MUSTAINE and I'm fascinated at the parallels between the two. Both nearly lost their lives due to substance abuse and both had amazing wives that contributed to their redemption.

If such miracles can happen in real life, then surely they have a place in fiction.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Another Three and a Half Meters"

All writers have days in which, overcome with frustration, they declare, "I've been writing/ querying/ networking for X months/ years and I've gotten NOWHERE!" If you haven't yet, then you must still be a newbie.

The path to success in publication is slow and arduous with many things to leave you discouraged. But whenever I find myself thinking my efforts of the last two years have been in vain, I think of the movie, THE COUNT OF MONTE CHRISTO. Other than being the best revenge film ever (Loved the novel, by Alexandre Dumas too) it is incredibly inspiring at times. 

Edmond Dantes is framed for treason and imprisoned, but with the aid of a fellow prisoner they plot to escape by tunneling out at the painstaking pace of three and a half meters a year. Dantes laughs at first, but the inmate asks him if he has anything else to occupy his time. In return for Dantes's aid, the inmate offers him an education in everything from languages to sword fighting.

The jailers whip the prisoners on every anniversary of of their captivity. As his back is strapped raw every year, Dantes says in different languages, "Another three and a half meters."

As Stephen King says, every written work is created "one word at a time." When we feel like we're going nowhere, we must remind ourselves that as long as we keep writing, every little word is progress. Also, we're getting a priceless education along the way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Preternatural Limitations

A friend and I were discussing...okay, ranting a paranormal series that neither of us are particularly pleased about. As much as I wanted to call those vampires wimpy, she pointed out that they were practically invincible. This is a bad thing. Despite one's desire to make their characters total badasses, there is little conflict in such a situation. Characters need weaknesses, or there's no way to challenge them, no way for them to grow, and no way for the reader to worry about their survival. Thus, you have no story.

I had no problem with this with my vampires. I like the classic theme of a creature of the night, so the sun will kill them. Still, I had to go a step further and see what else hurts them. Fire, starvation, and anything that does major heart damage for a long period of time. Another limitation, albeit not a fatal one, is that though they can taste food and consume it in little bits, they cannot digest it well. For some that is a major bummer.

As for my luminites, (creatures like a cross between angels and Greek muses) I had bigger problems finding their weaknesses since they are my own creation. My main heroine is super-powerful and I found myself walking a fine line with her being too "perfect." Of course, one of her strengths, the inability to feel fear, can double as a weakness, since she'll get herself into dangerous situations. Also, the cold really puts a damper on her magic, among other things.

What weaknesses do your paranormal characters have? How do they play out in the story?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Freakish Friday: Unholy Lust

I'm going to try having a tradition for Fridays in which I explore some unsavory themes. Although paranormal romance novels have beautiful love stories, otherworldly escapes, and unique characters, there's always dark aspects.

This week's topic is "Unholy Lust."

With any romance, lust is a must or you have a boring story. Of course, between the hero and the heroine, lust always leads to eternal love...and steamy sex!

But within a story, lust isn't always a good thing. It can lead to disaster for one or more characters. I was watching HELLRAISER last night and couldn't help but notice all the bad things happening because of lust. There was the woman who murdered people to resurrect her husband's brother...all because he was that good of a lay. The husband's brother had acquired a puzzle box which sent him to hell to be tortured by Pinhead and the cenobytes with ultimate pain and ultimate pleasure (really, I didn't see anything in there that looked like pleasure, but that's just me). All because he had a lust for power and more pleasure.

In horror movies, bad things happen due to lust all the time. The horny teens are always getting killed because they HAVE to do it in the creepy haunted house. Or the mad scientist HAS to wreak mayhem because of some pretty young thing he wants to bone.

With paranormal romance, there's plenty of that going on. The vamp or shifter is always afraid of harming the heroine with his almighty libido. Or the villain creates havoc because they either want to sexually own one of the characters or get revenge because they were rebuffed.

In my Brides of Prophecy series, the creator of vampires sows his own destruction when he rapes my main character's mother. So, like I said, lust isn't always a good thing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This Series Totally Grabbed Me.

...I know this is again unrelated to writing or paranormal romance, but it's my blog, so there. :) Besides, at least it's about reading. I haven't gotten anything done for the past few days because I was devouring the awesome MG series: WARRIORS by Erin Hunter (Kate CaryCherith Baldry, and Tui Sutherland

I'm not usually into children's books, but since my son recommended them AND I love cats, I had to give them a try. The result? HOLY AWESOME, BATMAN!!!

There's nonstop action, well rounded characters, intrigue, forbidden love, and a gender-equal society!!!

So far I've only read the main series and I can't wait to read the others. The only thing I didn't like was the inaccurate depiction of feral cat life, but that was easily forgiven for the brilliant writing, depth, and positive lessons the novels taught. As much as the HARRY POTTER novels were fistfuls of awesome, you gotta admit that Harry didn't always do the right thing. :)

Anyway, when I find a series this good, not only do I want to spread the word, but it motivates me to work harder on my writing.

Have a great day, all!

P.S. I apologize to a certain friend for slacking on my beta reading, but I know if she reads these books, she'll totally understand.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Making Kick-ass Heroines Sympathetic: Guest Post by N.L. (Jinxie) Gervasio

Normally, you would find a kick-ass heroine in urban fantasy novels. She's tough, abrasive, and somehow holds it all together even if her world starts falling apart. However, with those qualities, how do you, the writer, make her sympathetic for the reader? The reader needs to be able to relate to your heroine. She can't be tough all the time, right? Maybe, maybe not. But then, you don't want her to end up all whiny either. I had a character do that once and I'm now rewriting the entire book and a half because that just doesn't work for a thirteen book series. In fact, Carrie Vaughn has an awesome three-part post about this topic: The FormulaWhen Things Go Wrong, and Deconstructing Urban Fantasy. It helped me out a lot with that particular novel, which won't be ready for some time.

But what about romance novels? Should the heroine be so tough or strong? I think so.
In my latest novel, Nemesis, my main character (MC) Nemy is a kick-ass type of heroine. She was raised as an Italian mafia princess because she's the only daughter of the current Don, with two older and two younger brothers. You could say she gained some of her toughness because of her brothers. But Nemy has a strong personality. She rebelled against her father at a young age, and has driven him nuts ever since by not being the perfect little Catholic girl.

Heroines need to be strong, yes, but we need to know what makes them strong, and that involves delving into their psyche. Sometimes that is done through memories or reactions, or even emotions. Nemy talks about two separate incidents in her novel that affected her life in different ways. One has to do with a bird and her youngest brother; the other has her witnessing a murder or hit at a very young age. Both incidents have helped shape her into the woman she is today.

Heartbreak has also helped mold her.

Nemy is a tattooed bartender, at a gentleman's club, and while she's looking for her Prince Charming, she honestly doesn't believe he exists because she's gone through two of them already. However, she doesn't realize her prince is right under her nose, and she fights her feelings for him for a good part of the book.

It is my hope that Nemy's past and present experiences, along with her friends' struggles, will relate to the reader. I have a seven-book series planned, and each girl mentioned in the book—Nemy's close friends—will have her own novel. Nemy's friends are a diverse group—each one strong in her own way—and every one of them has her own story to tell that I believe the readers can relate to.

It is through these stories, which involve real life experiences we all go through in one way or another, that will help the reader relate to the character. No character can be perfect. They must feel emotion, have flaws, and make mistakes. Otherwise, the reader won't care about them, and that's certainly not something you want to have happen with your novel.

Prince Charming was a putz.

Prince Charming number two was even worse.

After the last prince ran off without any notice, breaking her heart and their engagement along the way, Nemesis Mussolini swore off men and passed the time kicking ass and slinging drinks, something her mafia father would never approve of. But, when her boss Clancy ups his flirtations, it's difficult to remember she's not interested, especially when he gets that delicious evil glint in his eye that has her melting. Just when Nemy starts to think all men might not be bad, she hears whispers about Clancy's less than legal past, and wants to run like hell from the idea that he could be just like her father.
Great . . . Prince Charming number three may possibly be on FBI's Most Wanted.

While Nemy and Clancy tumble down the romance road, hitting potholes every step of the way, Nemy discovers how much of her heart already belongs to Clancy, and how much of a Don's daughter she really is. When Clancy's daughter is kidnapped, they must work together to use every talent and connection they have to get her back, which means Nemy must learn to trust again. If they fail, Clancy could lose his daughter forever. Can Nemy surrender in time to get her happily ever after, or is she hell-bent on letting her past keep her from the one man who could be her true Prince Charming?

Nemesis is available on June 13th and can be purchased at Running Ink Press

You can check out the first chapter here.

N.L. "Jinxie" Gervasio was born on Friday the thirteenth. Her dad wanted to call her Jinx. Her mom said no. It took thirty-four years for her to discover the nickname, and she's grown quite attached to it. She lives in Tempe, Arizona with Umi (her mother) and Moon (her Alaskan malamute). She enjoys riding her beach cruiser "The Betty" around downtown Tempe, loves a good pub crawl, and has had the pleasure and the heartache of experiencing a love far greater than she could have ever imagined.

She welcomes you to her world.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Resolutions

Because nothing say's "summer" like a hot, topless man. :)

Is everyone excited for summer? Together now ::HAPPY SIGH::: There's barbecues, swimming, fishing, barbecues and other fun in the sun. Summer has always been my favorite time of year. There is nothing more blissful than sipping hard cider under a balmy, star studded sky and conversing with long lost friends who've been hidden away all winter.

But...this year I almost dread it.

"WHAT?" you say?

That's right. Last summer was a train wreck of anxiety. Due to the kids being on break and constantly underfoot, and the frequent influx of unexpected company and what seemed like nightly barbecues, it was a struggle to get anything done, whether it be a blog post or a new chapter in the WIP.

I'm not liking this new hostility for what I consider the best three months of the year. So from now on, I'm going to make "resolutions" for this and every summer to come.

Here goes:

1.) I will try to get blog posts finished in advance.

2.) I will not dive too deep in a new project. Instead, I'll put primary focus on polishing existing ones.

3.) This summer will be mostly dedicated to reading: research, beta reading and reading for pleasure.

4.) I will take at least one day off each week to "be a normal human," abandon my laptop, and enjoy the season.

5.) When I can't write, edit, or research, I will not agonize. Instead I will continue to court my muse with daydreams.

Whew, that made me feel better already! How about you? What are your "summer resolutions?"