Shifters–gotta love ’em

 

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This is a gorgeous cover, isn’t it?  The protagonist looks so alluring as a golden dragon, I can’t wait to read about what he looks like as a mortal:)  My fellow writer/wonderful friend, Kyra Jacobs, has a book–DRAGONS AMONG THEM–coming out April 19, and it’s available to pre-order now.  Kyra usually writes romantic suspense or contemporary romances, so playing with dragons is new to her.  It’s been fun reading her tweets and blogs about writing fantasy, since she and I have both stretched our writers’ muscles lately, her going from romance to adding fantasy, and me going from fantasy to adding romance:)  So I thought I’d ask her about her journey, and she was gracious enough to stop by to answer my questions.  Here goes:

Question #1:  You started out writing mystery romances, and you set them in our hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  I’ve used Fort Wayne as settings for some of my stories, too, but changed its name to protect the innocent (mostly vampires and supernaturals).  Applause for using Fort Wayne  But the new novels you’re working on are contemporary romances and a dragon shifter series.  TWO series, and you work, and you have two boys.  How do you do it?

Three words: Sleep is overrated.
LOL
Just kidding (sort of). I love my sleep, but I love writing more. Of course, the kids win over all—I love them the most. It’s a juggling act each and every day for sure.
But I carve out what time I can and am learning to jot ideas and scene fragments down as they strike because for me, not all “writing” is actually time spent in front of my laptop. Mental plotting/writing is every bit as important.

Question #2:  What is there about dragons and shifters?  How did you go in that direction?  And I’m glad you did, because I find them sexy

They are rather sexy, aren’t they?
I know this may sound cliché, but DRAGONS AMONG THEM started with a dream I had. There was a confused girl in the woods cornered by a pack of hungry wolves and this magnificent golden dragon swoops in and saves her. And then of course my alarm goes off and I’m like, “NOOOOO!” Usually, dreams like that evaporate as the day goes by. But that scene refused to leave me alone and I started thinking, “What if the dragon wasn’t just a dragon but also a handsome prince?”
Even then, I told myself I wasn’t going to write it. I mean, was I nuts? I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. What do I know about writing in a fantasy world? But the story refused to leave me alone—REFUSED—and I realized that if I was feeling that passionate about an idea, I’d be a fool to ignore it, especially out of some silly fear over genre-hopping.  Interestingly enough, I’ve never completed a first draft so fast in my life. Zayne and Addie’s story could not get on paper fast enough.

And, mmmm Zayne. Can’t wait for you to meet him.

 

Question #3:  Did you find anything trickier than you expected when you wrote in new genres?

You know, the hardest part initially was me getting used to being ALLOWED to break the rules of reality. Duh, right? But as an author who tries to make my contemporary novels very believable, I had to learn how to bend and break rules in an alternate reality while still making the characters and situations believable. It was incredibly freeing, once I got the hang of it.

 

Question #4:  Are you a pantser or a plotter?  And do you have a series arc besides the novel arc for each book?

Oh this question—slays me every time! I’m really more of a plantser. (Yep, there’s me bending the rules again lol.) Usually my novels begin with a scene or a fragment of a scene in my mind. Then I start diving into who’s in the scene. What’s their name, their story? What do they want? What’s standing in their way? Often times I’ll follow the Donald Maas story arc that Janice Hardy introduced me to a few years back (here’s the link: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2012/08/the-inner-struggle-guides-for-using.html) to help me dig a bit deeper into the who and why of the novel and to keep the characters’ growth on track. As I write the story I also keep an outline going on the side listing each scene, whose POV I’m in (color-coded by character), and highlights from that scene. Helps me get a visual on the balance of POV (I’m a visual learner for sure) and is great if I need to go back and track down something that happened earlier in the novel.

As for the story vs. series arc, not always. With my contemporary romance novels, each book typically has its own set of hero and heroine and their happily-ever-after. For the dragons series, though, Zayne and Addie are the central focus throughout the series as they fight the odds in various situations on their way to the final happily ever after. The books are not cliff hangers, though, just a progression of time and situations. So in the case of the dragon series, yes, I do have individual novel story arcs that feed into the overall series arc.

 

Question #5:  Care to share a blurb and a snippet of your novel with us?

I’d love to!

Blurb:

Two worlds. One unstoppable passion. A fiery secret that could destroy them all.

Prince Zayne Godfrey, heir to Edana’s throne, is betrothed to the lone princess of rival kingdom Forath. While his heart is not in the arranged marriage, he will do his royal duty.

When he finds a beautiful stranger cornered by a pack of wolves, he doesn’t hesitate to shift into his golden dragon form to save her. She thanks him by taking one look at him and fainting dead away.

Photographer Adelaide Miller is in England for a career-making shoot when a bizarre jogging mishap lands her in a dangerous, medieval-like world of royals, wizards and dragon-shifting men. Her first instinct is to find her way back, but the fire-breathing prince intent on protecting her threatens to melt her heart.

Zayne’s burning passion for Adelaide not only jeopardizes the fragile peace between two kingdoms, it uncovers a ruthless plot to destroy his family. Remaining together may change Adelaide’s very definition of home—and expose one searing secret that could forever shift the balance of power in Zayne’s world.

 

 

Book Links:

Goodreads: http://bitly.com/Dat1GR

Samhain: http://bitly.com/Dat1Sam

Amazon: http://bitly.com/Dat1Amazon

B&N: http://bitly.com/Dat1BN

iTunes: http://bitly.com/Dat1iTunes

Kobo: http://bitly.com/Dat1Kobo

 

Excerpt 1:

The wedding.

Zayne shook the thought from his mind. He had come here to forget his impending doom, not wallow in self-pity.

The prince drew an arrow from the quiver on his back, nocked it to his favorite bow, then shifted away from the oak and lined up his shot on the buck. During battle, the action would have taken him but a second—two, perhaps, if he were dodging an attack. Here in the deep woods where any sudden movement would give his location away, it took several minutes. Time well spent, he knew from experience, if it resulted in fresh venison for dinner.

The deer raised its head and stared in the direction of his hunter with unseeing eyes, ears twitching as he chewed. Zayne held his stance, praying his patience would pay off. After a long moment, the great beast turned its rack in the opposite direction. A victorious smile tugged at Zayne’s lips as he squared his shoulders, took a deep breath to steady his aim—

A woman’s scream shattered the forest.

The arrow slipped from his fingers and sailed six feet over the startled buck’s head. In a flash, he drew another, but the opportunity was already lost. The deer zigzagged over brush and bramble, bounding away to seek refuge in the darkest depths of the forest, and Zayne cursed his own arrogance. He’d taken too long, been too sure of himself. And while his stomach rumbled painfully at the thought of foregoing his anticipated evening meal, he knew better than to pursue the beast. Dangers far greater than the dark awaited him in that direction, and no buck was worth the risk.

A second high-pitched scream sounded, closer this time, and commanded his attention. Whoever joined him in the woods today sounded terrified, not hurt. Lord knew he’d been through enough skirmishes to recognize the subtle differences.

Zayne slung his bow onto his back and charged forward, sacrificing stealth for speed to try to reach the woman before one pitch bled into the other. Thick underbrush snagged at his clothes and sliced his skin, but still he surged forward. It would have been easier for him to transform, faster even, but then his whereabouts would be discovered, and he was not yet ready to return and face his father. Or his betrothed.

The wall of vegetation around him thinned as he drew upon a small clearing. Zayne slowed to quiet his footsteps, then stopped altogether as the scene before him came into view. A pack of wolves milled around one side of the clearing, snapping and snarling as they pawed at their muzzles. Across from them stood the clearing’s other inhabitant: a lone peasant woman.

The source of the screams.

Her outer layers of clothing must have been ripped away during her attempted escape, as she stood quaking in scraps of clothing the likes of which Zayne had never seen before. The bizarre black-and-purple fabric failed to do much more than contain her supple bosom, rounded hips, and slim thighs. Her long, golden hair was pinned up and back and, though mussed, offered him a clear view of her delicate shoulders and creamy pale skin. But what struck him the most was her eyes—startling blue, like brilliant sapphire ice.

A ray of sun broke through the clouds and washed over her, giving the girl an angelic appearance. Never had he seen a woman more beautiful. The sight took his very breath away.

A wolf stepped free from the pack, and the air around Zayne began to swirl. He gasped, as helpless to resist the beast within as he was to draw his next breath. Never before had the transformation begun without his prompting, nor surged forward with such haste. An armor of golden scales replaced his skin, his fingers stretched into talons, and human logic gave way to animal instinct. As the growing fire within his chest sought to consume him, Zayne could comprehend but three things:

He must save her.

He must protect her.

He must have her.

Kyra_Jacobs_Author_web

(I know this post is getting a little long, but Kyra sent me 2 excerpts to choose from, and I liked the second one so much, I thought I’d add it, too, if you’d like another sneak peek at her book): 

Excerpt 2:

Zayne watched with amusement as Addie’s crystalline gaze flashed to the odd slippers dangling from his fingers, then slowly shifted to his face. Even here, in the shadows, the sight of her took his breath away. Emeline insisted the girl was nothing more than a peasant sent into the woods as bait to lure him into a Forathian snare. But no peasant he had ever encountered possessed skin so perfect or golden hair so smooth and long. She rose to stand before him, her pale skin angelic in the moonlight, and the scent of wildflowers and honey nipped at his senses. His gaze trailed uninhibited over her trim yet supple body, dressed once again in nothing but her unusual yet gloriously minimal undergarments.

An angel in devil’s clothing.

“What are you doing with my shoes?” Her voice was low and unsteady.

Shoes? What an odd word. He held up her slippers and fought to keep a smirk from his face. “These? Why, holding them, my lady, nothing more. I feared for your safety and so removed them from your path.”

“Uh-huh.” The blonde vixen’s eyes narrowed. “You knew I was awake?”

“Aye. You blushed when I touched your cheek. I knew it would be but a matter of time before you magically awoke.”

“And yet you let Emeline leave,” she said. “Why?”

“Perhaps I wanted to have you all to myself for a moment.”

Her eyes widened a fraction. Addie took a step back, sucked in a sharp breath and quickly took another. “I see.”

She shifted her gaze from his and swept it across the room toward its lone window, feigning interest in the chamber’s furnishings. She was bold, this one. Perhaps that was why he felt inexplicably drawn to her. The feeling was both new and infuriating at the same time.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you,” he said. “Even if you survived the fall, there are things lurking in the neighboring woods far more dangerous than I.”

Her gaze shifted back to him. “Look, I don’t know who you are or how I got here, but if you’ll give me my shoes, I’ll be out of your hair in no time.”

“But you are not in my hair.” He took a step forward and wished very much that she was. “Nor am I quite ready to let you go.”

Addie held her hands out as though he were a charging horse she was trying to slow.

“Look, buddy. I appreciate you and Emeline taking care of me this afternoon and all, but it’s been a long day and all I really want is to get back to my hotel and forget this day ever happened. So just give me my shoes already, will ya?”

“Leaving tonight is out of the question.”

She stared at him, appearing dumbfounded. “Why’s that?”

“Because, you are being held for questioning on order of the royal family.”

“The royal family? But why? What have I done?”

Her perfect brows knit together. Zayne struggled not to reach out and try smoothing them back into place. Because if he touched her face again, a kiss was sure to follow. And with a kiss…

No, not yet. Questions had to be asked to ensure she truly was no spy. While he had little doubt of her innocence, Emeline would hound him no end if he couldn’t prove that was truly the case. Zayne set the slippers beside the fire, then began pacing the room, walking in slow circles around his guest.

“You endangered the life of their heir apparent today.”

Addie spun to face him. “But Emeline was the only person I saw this afternoon.”

He quirked a brow at her. “The only one?”

“Yes, I swear! I was out for a run, and then this car swerved toward me because its idiot driver was probably paying more attention to their cell than the road. So I dove out of the way, but then I tumbled down this really steep hill, and the next thing I know, I’m being chased by the biggest wolves I’ve ever seen and then—” She looked away, her cheeks darkening.

Car? Cell? He longed to learn more about these things, more about her, but she’d grown quiet, unwilling to share her memories further.

“And then?” he asked, his voice soft.

She shook her head, blinking to hold back moisture now sparkling in the firelight.

“You…you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Zayne sensed the fair maiden’s distress. Though her story to this point made little sense, the embarrassment in her tone was quite real. He reached a gentle hand to tip her feathersoft chin in his direction. “Tell me.”

She shook her head again, stubborn even now. But why? What did she have to hide?

“I know you saw another today.” He flashed her the same fiery look he’d set upon the wolves several hours before. In the daylight, the effect would have been diminished by the sun’s warm rays. But in the current darkness of this guest room, the glow of his eyes would be impossible to miss. “Because I was there.”

Awareness dawned upon Addie’s face as her eyes widened. “No,” she breathed. “No, it…it can’t be.”

Zayne lifted his shirt to reveal the blood-soaked bandages wrapped tight around his midsection. “I assure you, it can and it is.”

Thanks for stopping by, Kyra!  It’s always fun to pester you:)

 

Writing

I’ve belonged to a writers’ group for years now. Before Scribes, I wrote as a hobby, but when I wanted to get better at it, I sought out other writers who listened to my short stories and gave me feedback. Most of us were beginners back then, but thankfully, we had a few members who knew what they were doing. They’re the writers who taught me to use active verbs instead of passive, to use specific word choice to bring scenes to life and create mood. They taught me the basics, and they encouraged me.

When I decided that I wanted to write a novel, I fumbled through several failed attempts before I finally bought how-to books and learned more about plotting and pacing, but it was my fellow writers who told me that repetition of any kind kills tension, and that tension is what drives a story. I tried lots of different ways to try to make middles move instead of sag, and they shared what worked for them until I cobbled things together to find what worked for me. And while they critiqued and encouraged, I did my best to return the favor. Eventually, in my opinion, we all turned into pretty decent writers, but now we face different challenges. For many of my friends, time has become more and more precious. We worked so hard to learn our craft, we never imagined that we’d learn it and then we wouldn’t have enough time to make it happen. The older we get, it seems, the busier we become. We thought when our kids were little, when we had to write between cooking and cleaning and running kids here and there, that life would slow down once the kids got older or once they moved out on their own. Not so.

Some of my friends’ husbands have retired, and their husbands demand more time, attention. They travel more. They DO more. Some have been promoted so that their jobs are more demanding. Some help care for grandkids. They volunteer and meet friends more often. They have more family obligations–aging parents, kids who come for suppers. The list can go on and on. I listen to new and old members of our writers’ group, and I realize that if you want to write, you have to MAKE the time to do it. No matter what age you are or what stage you’re at in life, you have to make writing a priority, or it won’t happen. At first, it bothered me when someone joined Scribes and showed lots of potential, and then their writing got lost in the shuffle. But now I know that’s a possibility. So is getting discouraged. I’ve watched writers finish books, send them out, and wither under all of the rejections. Or they sell, but don’t make enough money to keep them motivated. It’s no easy feat to keep a dream alive. Success often comes one step at a time, and people can falter before they reach their goals. But if they’re lured away by a new love, a new passion, who’s to say that’s bad? So whatever calls to you, good luck with it, and enjoy.

P.S. If you’re interested, I posted a quick, round table discussion between the characters of my Wolf’s Bane novels on my webpage. It’s VERY short. http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/round-table-discussion.html

Writing: my New Year Wishes

This post is not about real goals.  It’s about the unachievable that I strive to achieve.  It’s my fantasy wish list.

Someday, I want to plot as well as Agatha Christie did.  I want to be as clever with red herrings and mislead readers as easily as she did.  I want to write a twist as unpredictable (at least, for me) as the one in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

I want language to flow from my fingers to the keyboard to the printed page that’s as lyrical and evocative and smooth and lush as Elizabeth George’s or Nancy Pickard’s.  I want the depth and layers of their writing, and still achieve the poetic essence that flows in Sharyn McCrumb, Sarah Addison Allen, and Alice Hoffman’s stories.  I want readers to finish a page of mine and marvel in the beauty of words.

I want to trigger visceral reactions strong enough to make readers bite their fingernails and squirm in their seats, like Stephen King.

I want the imagination and creativity, the originality of Neil Gaimann.  I want readers to lick their lips, amazed, at the directions my stories go.  I want the sense of intelligence that permeates Robert Reed’s or Theodore Sturgeon’s stories.

I want the sheer knowledge base of skill and craft that Les Edgerton flings out casually when I sit on panels with him.  The man reads five novels a week.  Studies writing.  Teaches writing.  And is never shy about voicing an opinion.  His blog is worth reading.  http://www.lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/

I want to marry fantasy with action and myths as well as Patricia Briggs, Faith Hunter, or Ilona Andrews does.

And if pressed, I’d be happy to have a career like Nora Roberts’s.  She can use romance as a foundation to explore the fantastic, like in Midnight Bayou, or to thrill with crime, as J.D. Robb, or to play with mysteries (Three Fates) or love stories (too many to list:).

I respect each and every one of these writers when I delve inside their pages, and I come away determined to write better.  This is not the typical list of famous writers to emulate.  I don’t need to be the next Shakespeare or Flannery O’Connor.  I admire literary genius, but I have humbler ambitions.

Who are your writing idols?  Who inspires you?  If a fairy waved a magic wand, and you could steal any writing talent you chose, whose would it be?

Good luck achieving your dreams in the coming year:)

P.S.  This is my 100th post, and I never thought I’d achieve that….

 

Writing–Goals for 2014

Each writer has a different approach to his craft/skills.  And no one’s right.  And no one’s wrong.  But I work better when I give myself goals.  One of my friends at Scribes–my writers’ group–believes that a writer should give a book however long that story takes to grow into itself and be the best that he/she can make it.  He says that a writer who writes less, writes better.  And that works for him, but it’s not necessarily true for me.  If I dilly-dally over a story too long, I tend to rewrite it for no good reason, and I don’t always improve it.  I do better when I think out a story BEFORE I start writing and then make it the best that I can while I pound on the keyboard.

I do believe that a writer can rush a story, to the novel’s detriment.  Or to the writer’s.  I’ve seen people do it.  They burn out.  But I also believe that a writer can play with a story over and over again without making it better.  I’ve seen people do that, too.  This year, I am going to push myself, but I think that my goals are do-able.  This year, I want to write the third book in each of the series that I’ve started.  That means that I’ll have to write three novels in twelve months.

Like I said: do-able.  I’ve never tried the nanowrimo month of pounding out words.  50,000 words in one month would leave me with so many re-writes, it wouldn’t be worth it.  My brain doesn’t function that fast.  It would take me longer to fix the holes in my story, play with transitions, and smooth out the wrinkles of a plot on speed that I’d spend more time polishing than doing it my usual way–plodding along.  I won’t even mention how much work it would take to flesh out my characters.  I usually have to do that anyway.  In a hurry?  The reader might learn what color hair and eyes they have.

But when I plop my fanny in a chair and get serious, I can usually produce 5 to 10 pages a day.  I never work on weekends–except for writing my blog, and that doesn’t count.  It’s “talking” to friends, not writing.   And I never write on Scribes’ days, because I think and talk writing so much, I can’t write when I get home.  But even with those days scratched from use, I should still end up with twenty, good, writing days a month.  That’s 100 to 200 pages, probably somewhere in the middle.  In 2 months, I should have a rough draft.  Give me another month, and I might have a finished draft.  If I’m lucky.  That means, if nothing jostles me off track–and I am well aware that Life happens, best laid plans, and all that–but if nothing goes seriously awry, I should be able to write a book in three months.  That gives me time to think and plan about the next book before I have to start writing it.  And if I finish THAT book in three months, I have a month to do character circles and plot points before I sit down to write the third book.

It all looks good on paper.  It could work.  So why not give it a shot?  If it doesn’t happen, I won’t hang my head in shame.  I might bang my head against a wall, but that usually improves my thinking:)  Anyway, hopefully, by the end of 2014, I’ll have three books in each of my three series.

I don’t know what your writing goals are for 2014, but good luck with them!  It never hurts to plan (and maybe dream) ahead.  Here’s wishing you all the best!

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

 

Broken’s still Beautiful

Company was coming, so things that are often neglected got cleaned at our house.  My nicknack  box with lots of small slots is tedious to dust.  So are the little figurines that fill it.  I carried them to the kitchen sink to give them a quick dip and rinse, and that’s when I realized how many of them are broken.

My mom bought me the nicknack of a small elephant with big ears like Dumbo and a thin trunk held up to say hello.  Trouble is, the elephant only has half a trunk now.  Nate was helping me when he was little.  He was thrilled to be able to handle each fragile piece.  The trunk, unfortunately, was TOO fragile.  It didn’t survive an excited boy.  I should have pitched the elephant, but every time I look at it, I remember that day.  So it still sits in its small space in the lower left corner of the shadow box.

My husband bought me a collection of mice figurines.  One’s a mother mouse rocking a cradle with her baby inside it, another’s a mouse cooking at an old-fashioned black stove, there’s a tooth fairy mouse, etc.  Ty was helping me clean these.  He put them in a bowl of warm water to get them extra shiny.  The glue that held the cradle on the painted “rag rug” melted.  I tried gluing the pieces back together, with no luck.  Now, I rinse them separately and balance them back in place–no one the wiser.

In my office, the clock master on a bookshelf, busy at his work table, only has half an arm.  A rabbit has a chipped ear.  For me, the chips and imperfections don’t detract one bit from each piece’s beauty.  Our living room ceiling has a small, round hole in it where Nate experimented with a rocket propelled by a tire pump.  The rocket worked.  Our ceiling suffered.  In some odd way, I’m almost more fond of it now.

And just like my nicknacks and ceiling, the bumps in my life, though unwelcome at the time, have taken me in directions I’d have never explored on my own.  The same goes with my writing.  When an editor I’d sent a mystery manuscript to said, “I don’t do mysteries anymore.  I’m over paranormal romances now.  Do you have one to send me?”–I didn’t even know what a paranormal romance was.  But I replied, “If you tell me what it is, I’ll try to write it.” She sent me a list, bless her.  I didn’t get it right the first time, but I was closer on my second attempt.  On the third try, she wanted to buy it, but by then, she was ready to move on herself.  Everything fell through, but I was hooked on writing about witches and werewolves, goddesses and gargoyles.   It’s not what I planned to do.  I won’t be the world’s next Agatha Christie, as I intended, but life, as usual, suprised me.  The dream of being a writer is still there, just a little chipped and glued back together.

(http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5023544.Judith_Post)