Monthly Archives: August 2013

Author Spotlight: Andrea R. Cooper

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1.  Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a wife and mother to three kids: two boys and a girl. I live near Houston, Texas. It’s not the weather, which is HOT 362 days a year, that keeps me here, but family and the food—especially Tex-Mex (which is the right kind of hot ) J For all of those who live in the north, a can of cheese soup is not Queso or Tex-Mex – you will have to try it if you are ever down this way.When I was growing up, I wasn’t much of a reader. The books that I craved were not allowed in my house—anything with magic, mythical creatures, paranormal, etc. Seriously, I wasn’t even allowed to watch Disney movies. During my junior year, I found and enjoyed Historical Romances by Beatrice Small, Julie Garwood, Sandra Hill, and others. But it wasn’t until my late twenties that I found fantasy stories. I devoured these novels. Then I added paranormal and even YA to my list.

I love writing…let me correct that, I love writing fiction. Make me write nonfiction and I want to do anything else…even stuff I hate like cleaning house and laundry. I think I’d break out in permanent hives if I couldn’t write fiction.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
In Elementary school, I always got wonderful comments and grades on anything fiction that I wrote. As a teen I wrote poetry until my late twenties. Then I started reading more. I read Christian books, historical romance, paranormal, and my husband introduced me to fantasy. Yet, I still didn’t write novels or even consider myself a writer. After reading some frustrating books in my early thirties, I decided to write books I would enjoy reading.

However, I’ve always been a story teller. As early as I can remember, kids on my street would ask me what we were going to play that day. I set the plot and characters. Once, I had us playing ‘space vampires’, but so that the ‘vampires’ didn’t bite each other, I said their first two fingers were their fangs and used to ‘bite’ the others.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write fantasy, paranormal and historical romance. I love these genres—reading, and writing them. The most enjoyment I get from writing is creating new worlds and characters. Since I don’t outline, I discover things at the same time as the characters.

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4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My latest fantasy/ paranormal book is The Garnet Dagger. This is the first book in a trilogy. I’ve already written books two, Son of Dragons, and book three, War of Darkness. I’m working on revisions of the latter and the former is with a beta reader. I hope to have Son of Dragons out before the end of the year.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The world of The Garnet Dagger is full of magic and mythical creatures. Here you’ll find elves, witches, dragons and magical beasts like the bergone and shints who do the Warloc’s bidding. If you look into a Troblin’s eyes, it can weave whatever vision it wants you to see—and with three hearts they are hard to kill.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Brock is the hero of The Garnet Dagger. He is an Elvin, who has been bitten by a vampire. Instead of craving blood, he must live on the kajh—or life essence of others. Trouble is, he cannot touch another without killing them. What I like most about Brock is his compassion for other species, and his sarcasm.

Celeste is a witch. She has been imprisoned by monks and her magic kept dormant except for her gift of healing. The monks twist her magic to their malicious purposes. Even though she has seen the worst in people, she still has hope. And she’s not short on comebacks when bantering with Brock.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
Nivel, in The Garnet Dagger trilogy, is more than he appears to be. In fact, he could have his own book.

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
My website is www.andreaRcooper.com
The Garnet Dagger is available from:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iTunes
Or at www.crimsonromance.com

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New Chosen of Azara Cover

A few posts ago, I explained why I came to the decision to get a different cover for Chosen of Azara. It was a tough decision to make, because I love the old cover, but I really feel like the new one conveys better what the book is about, and since Sevry is the only one of the three main characters who is present in all three parts of the book, I really wanted to have him on the cover. And now, here it is!
Isn’t that just dreamy? 😀 Many thanks to Design by Katt for such beautiful art!Stock credits:
couple: Stephen Orsillo
ocean: Grondin Franck Olivier
http://www.dreamstime.com/

(Note: It’s going to take a day or two to update the book files and get the new files and images pushed out to the different retail outlets.)


Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage, Part 4

And now, the blog post you’ve all been waiting for, Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage, Part 4: Bondage! (past installments: Billionaires, Bad Boys: Inner Torment, Bad Boys: Jackassery). (Caution: soapboxing may occur. If I cause offense, I make no apologies; I stand by my words.)

I’m going to start out with two basic ideas. The first is that there’s nothing wrong with a certain amount of roleplay and fun and games between consenting partners, the key word here being consenting. I’m not conversant with the BDSM lifestyle or practices, but from online discussions I’ve read on the subject of Billionaire Bondage novels (both in forums and in book reviews), I’m given to understand that among those in that community, consent is key. In other words, you don’t do what Bux Cashton does: he informs Sweet Young Thing that he is the dominant and she is going to be the submissive, and if she wants to be with him that’s how it’s going to be; they’re going to play by his rules. By this time, she’s far too taken with him (goodness knows why; see the Jackassery installment) for it to be easy for her to say, “Get lost,” and even if she does, he isn’t one to take “Get lost” for an answer. So, basically, she is being coerced, emotionally bullied, and manipulated into entering into this sexual practice.

Idea number two: While there’s nothing wrong with a certain amount of roleplay and fun and games between consenting partners, the desire to cause feelings of pain, humiliation, and helplessness in one’s partner has no place whatsoever in a loving, healthy relationship.

That should be self-explanatory; I can’t imagine that it isn’t. So I’m not going to bother trying to explain further. I’m just going to say that if you are in a relationship with someone who takes pleasure in hurting you or making you feel bad, you need to get out. In Billionaire Bondage books, Bux Cashton does enjoy those things. He gets off on it; it makes him feel powerful, and it’s an outlet for his feelings of Inner Torment. I don’t understand why Sweet Young Thing sticks around long enough for Bux to eventually reform (to the extent that he does), except Hot Tormented Billionaire.

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In my books, sex between the main characters is an act of love, or at least mutual liking and attraction (later developing into love), between equal partners (equal regardless of whatever differences in age, social status, or previous experience might exist between them) who are each as deeply concerned with the other person’s comfort, enjoyment, and well-being as with their own. Consent is asked for and received, at least the first time (with one exception, but in this instance they’re too busy tearing each other’s clothes off to stop and talk about it, so I guess the consent is implied), and after that first time there continues to be a sensitivity to the other person’s mood and willingness.

Being tied up does become a running joke during one story (and no I’m not going to say which one; you’ll have to read and find out, bwahaha), because of something that happens accidentally – something that the woman does, incidentally, so the roles here are switched around.

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It’s the villains who engage in sexual sadism (btw, I did mention at some point that my books are not for young readers but for adults and older teens, right?). Not in every book, but there are a few who use that as part of their power play. And occasionally one of the main characters is involved in a wrong relationship (before taking up with the right person, the other main character) and the ideals I talked about above don’t necessarily apply to those relationships. But when the main characters do get together, that’s how it is, because that’s what I believe a loving, healthy intimate relationship should be.

So, the Bondage Scale:

Eruz (Urdaisunia): He does have concubines (common in his culture for a man of his ranking), but he usually feels like it’s really more trouble than it’s worth, and would never force any of them to do anything they don’t want to. And where he lives, pain and suffering are so common that he would rather use sex to escape from it, not to indulge in more of it.
Bondage Rating: 0

Sevry (Chosen of Azara): No time for sex, never mind kinky sex. Plus, he’s seen too much suffering in his life to find anything fun or sexy about it.
Bondage Rating: 0

Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): Nope, no way. Uh-uh. Forget it. He’s experienced too much personal suffering to want to inflict it on another person.
Bondage Rating: 0

Adan (Sarya’s Song): He already blew it once with Sarya; if he ever gets another chance, he isn’t taking any risk that he might blow it again. As for other relationships, he’s just too easy-going and too much of an all-around nice guy to want to hurt anyone.
Bondage Rating: 0

Silas (Daughter of the Wildings):  He’s seen people hurt other people just because they can, and he has no desire to be that kind of person.
Bondage Rating: 0

Edit: I’ve had some complaints from the gentlemen that this rating makes them all sound like they’re boring in bed. So I’ll note that the Bondage Rating is based strictly on disregard for consent and the degree of enjoyment obtained from causing feelings of pain, humiliation, and helplessness (with fun and games, adventurousness, etc. not being considered.)

And to soothe some ruffled pride here, I’ll give them all a big 10 on the special Red-Hot Lovers scale. Or, ok, 11.  That better, guys? (Aw, look, I made Sevry blush!) And no, Silas, the scale does not go to 12. *sheesh*

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So, in conclusion, on a scale of 0 to 40 points on the Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage rating, we have:

Eruz (Urdaisunia): 12 points
Sevry (Chosen of Azara): 10 points
Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): 17 points (scored high on Inner Torment)
Adan (Sarya’s Song): 17 points (scored high on Billionaire)
Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): 9

I am therefore forced to conclude that I am not really in step with the BBB&B trend. That’s okay, though. It’s been a fun way to look at my heroes from some different angles, but, in all seriousness, it isn’t something I would want to write. It’s just too far removed from my ideal of what men, women, and the relationships between them can be, an ideal that I feel it’s important to convey through my writing. I’m writing what I love and what I believe in, and I’m happy with it.


Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage, Part 3

In this series, I’ve been looking at how my novels stack up against the hottest trend in fiction right now: billionaire bad boys who are into bondage. So far I’ve covered the Billionaire factor and one of the two components of the Bad Boy, Inner Torment. In this post: the other half of the Bad Boy factor, Jackassery.

The guys in these books, I don’t know. It’s a good thing they’re rich and they’re hot, because it’s kind of hard to tell why any woman would want to have anything to do with them at all otherwise. They refuse to take No for an answer, they manipulate or coerce Sweet Young Thing into sexual practices that are outside of her normal preferences and comfort zone, they control where she goes and when and who she sees… If you’ve ever read any of those Top Ten Signs Your Partner Is An Abuser lists, this is probably starting to sound familiar.

Sweet Young Thing usually does stand up for herself against Bux Cashton eventually (reviews are divided on whether or not readers appreciate that development), and that does sometimes seem to be a turning point in the plot, with the guy maybe coming to realize that there are other ways of interacting with women besides being a complete jerkface to them.

Yeah, it’s a common fantasy, the tormented jerk who comes to appreciate the woman who is so patient and understanding with him and is reformed into a nice, loving, romantic, wonderful guy. But there has to be something there in the first place to make Sweet Young Thing think it’ll be worth all the jackassery she has to put up with in the meantime. Are hot, rich, and tormented enough? Apparently so.

Anyway, here’s the Jackassery ratings on my own heroes (with bonus notes about how the ladies deal with it):

Prince Eruz (Urdaisunia): Considering everything he’s dealing with in his personal and professional lives, Eruz is really a pretty nice guy. He commits two main acts of jackassery where Rashali is concerned, neither of which are intended to be controlling, bad, evilly underhanded, or otherwise offensive, although they certainly come across that way. One is more a matter of social ineptitude than anything else (Eruz isn’t really a people person), the other is a matter of urgent political necessity. Rashali’s reaction is to renew her resolve to make sure the Sazars are destroyed or driven out of Urdaisunia, though she later comes to realize that his actions weren’t what they seemed to be and maybe there’s another solution to the Sazar-Urdai conflict.
Jackassery Index: 3

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Sevry (Chosen of Azara): Again, considering everything he has to deal with, he’s a pretty nice guy. His main problems are the pressure he’s under to complete his task and, as with Eruz, a lack of social skills. For all his many and varied experiences, he’s never had to deal with someone like Lucie before. When he realizes that she’s the person he’s been looking for all this time to help him complete his mission, he uses a number of tactics to try to persuade her, including guilt-tripping. His worst act of jackassery certainly isn’t intended to be that way; it kind of just happens. He still gets himself slapped by Lucie, plus she’s never afraid to tell him that what he wants from her is out of the question.
Jackassery Index: 2

Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): Roric scored highest on the Inner Torment scale. He’s worked very hard to build a new life for himself, and everything in his life and his world is very carefully controlled. He dislikes having any kind of chaos or unpredictability in his life. When Perarre comes into that world, he is fairly overbearing in his attempts to make her obey all his little rules for how things should be done. They work for him; shouldn’t they work for everyone? Perarre really really wants this job – or, more specifically, she wants the future opportunities that a good reference from the renowned Professor Roric Rossony will open up to her – so she goes along with it to some extent, though never without pushback, and he eventually comes to see that a little chaos in his life won’t hurt anything. Which is good, considering what happens next.
Jackassery Index: 4

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Adan (Sarya’s Song): When Adan and Sarya first met, when they were teenagers, he did one thoughtless thing that caused her a lot of pain, but he didn’t mean to. She still hasn’t forgiven him. He also has a number of other faults – he feels no need at all to demonstrate false modesty, and he’s extremely fond of, er, female companionship, but he never does anything with the intent to make Sarya feel bad or to control her. He actually isn’t as big a jackass as Sarya thinks he is, but she cuts him no slack whatsoever.
Jackassery Index: 5

Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): Silas commits one supreme act of jackassery, fairly early on in the series. Even while I was writing it I was thinking, Dude, no! You don’t do that! To his credit, he realizes almost right away what he had done and why it was bad, and feels really bad about it. Lainie doesn’t hesitate to let him know how bad he’d made her feel, but after some awkward conversations and a really spectacular act of redeeming himself, she forgives him. And he’s just been a doll ever since 😀
Jackassery Index: 5

Conclusion: No one’s perfect, and everyone does stupid things that hurt someone else, even when they don’t mean to. But just because you might have had a good excuse for making a stupid mistake or otherwise doing something hurtful (past trauma, the demands of your job, temporary stupidity), there’s never a reason why you can’t apologize, do something to make up for it, and try to do better in the future.

Coming up: Bondage.


Author Spotlight: S.M. Boyce

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S.M. Boyce is a fantasy and paranormal fiction novelist who also dabbles in contemporary fiction and comedy. Her B.A. in Creative Writing also qualifies her to serve you french fries. She updates her blog (smboyce.com) a few times each week so that you have something to wake you up in the morning.

Connect:
Blog | Website | Facebook | TwitterGoogle+ | Pinterest | Youtube
Goodreads Page | Amazon Page

About Lichgates (Book 1 of the Grimoire Saga):

Kara Magari is about to discover a beautiful world full of terrifying things: Ourea.

Kara, a college student still reeling from her mother’s recent death, has no idea the hidden world of Ourea even exists until a freak storm traps her in a sunken library. With nothing to do, she opens an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire and unwittingly becomes its master, which means Kara now wields the cursed book’s untamed power. Discovered by Ourea’s royalty, she becomes an unwilling pawn in a generations-old conflict – a war intensified by her arrival. In this world of chilling creatures and betrayal, Kara shouldn’t trust anyone… but she’s being hunted and can’t survive on her own. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

For twelve years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this human girl, there is something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire.

Welcome to Ourea, where only the cunning survive.

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Excerpt from Lichgates:

Kara Magari squinted back up the path she’d just climbed. The gazebo’s roof peeked through the trees, evidence of where she’d been only ten minutes before. Not bad. With her finger in the air, she traced the way she’d taken, starting at the lichgate and going down over each step in her head. Her finger hovered and came to a stop, though, when she examined the base of the hill.

Built into the rock was a marble door, shrouded with overhanging roots and dangling moss that clung to its frame like bangs. She rubbed her eyes, but the closed entryway was still there when she opened them again.

She brushed her hand along the door’s smooth stone. It was simple, with only a round stone knob and a small emblem carved into the rock at eye level. The symbol looked something like a four-leaf clover made out of crescent moons.

Kara’s fingers itched on the handle, but she hesitated.

The ground trembled with a sudden force that knocked her against the cliff. The breeze stopped, dissolving with a hiss into the hot summer sky. She scanned the valley. Several somethings cracked in the ground under her feet.

Thunder rumbled overhead. A dark cloud churned in the sky, and her heart fell into her stomach; there hadn’t even been a single fluffy cloud up there ten minutes ago.

A blinding bolt of moss-colored lightning flashed, striking the ground nearby. The hairs on her arms stood on end. Heat coursed through her calves, and she caught her breath. Her ears rang.

Wait. Was that lightning green?

The cliff trembled as a boom shattered the air. It began to rain. The heavy drops pelted her skin and clung to her hair as another rumble coursed along the far edge of the valley. She needed shelter, and the last place she would go in a lightning storm was up a hill.

She turned back and twisted the door’s handle, sighing with relief as it openedunlocked. Still, as wet as it was outside and as much as she wanted a safe place to wait out the rain, she lingered on the threshold to examine the room.

Mud covered everything from the floor to the ceiling. Since there weren’t any supports to hold the roof, she couldn’t figure out how the ten-by-ten dirt shelter hadn’t caved in yet. The air within was heavy, moist with the rot of dead leaves, and her only guiding light streamed in from behind her. Roots dangled from the ceiling like stalactites reaching for the floor. The wind picked up, howling as it pelted rain against her back.

Kara tested the ground with her sneaker. The dirt floor supported her weight, so she tip-toed into the room and left the door open. Rain fell in lingering drops on the threshold before it disappeared into the growing pools of mud. She stuck her hands in her pockets and watched the raging storm outside.

A flash of dark brown blurred past her.

She jumped. A tan flicker snaked along the roof, and clumps of soil fell in sheets. She glared at the ceiling, holding her breath as the settling dust rained onto her shoes.

It had almost looked like a root moving, but that—that was crazy.

Another streak of motion raced down the opposite wall. It passed through a shaft of light, and Kara saw its pointed, wooden tip. Tiny veins sprouted from it like hairs, digging into the dirt so that it could travel.

It was a root moving.

A second spiny vine shot up from the floor and wrapped itself around her leg. It pulled. She tripped, falling into the first root as it snaked along the far wall. Dirt poured over her head, blinding her. The scent of decaying bark made her cough. The root tugged again, and she was yanked onto her hands and knees. It dragged her towards the center of the room. She reached for the knife strapped to her free ankle, the one Mom had—no! She couldn’t think of Mom. Not now.

A third root wrapped around her waist, and another grabbed her hand as she reached for the blade. The roots flipped her onto her back. With a bang, the door snapped shut. Her stomach churned. The floor disappeared. She fell, and the roots let go.

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Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage, Part 2

So, I’m taking a look at the heroes of my novels in comparison to the current hot trend of novels about hot, tormented billionaire hunks who like to play rough. The previous post evaluated them on the Billionaire scale, with Adan Muari from Sarya’s Song topping out at 11 (on a scale of 1 to 10), and the others coming in considerably under that. Next up: the twin factors on the Bad Boy scale: Inner Torment and Jackassery.

These two are linked because, in my extensive analysis of the trend (that is, reading lots of reviews, both positive and negative, of books on the “Falling in Love With a Billionaire” list on Goodreads), the male protagonist’s past trauma and inner torment are what lead to his extreme narcissistic, hedonistic, selfish, and domineering behavior (aka his jackassery) and provide the excuse, nay, the justification, for any and all such acts. The overall idea is that the sweet young thing he fixates upon as his conquest (female in the examples I’ve seen, though I suppose this trend could also exist in the M/M romance sector) eventually comes to peace with and/or helps him overcome his inner torment and the accompanying bad behavior.

(Because I’m analyzing Inner Torment and Jackassery separately, this is going to turn into a four-part series. Me and series, it always turns out there has to be one more installment.)

My heroes on the Inner Torment scale (ratings are a function of badness of the stuff they’ve had to deal with combined with how well they deal with it) (Also, these are the characters as they are at the beginning of the books, more or less. Sometimes things get better, sometimes they get worse, bwahahahaha):

Prince Eruz (Urdaisunia): His father hates him. His brothers hate him. His wives are mad at him, and his concubines aren’t too terribly thrilled with him either. His country is falling apart, and he’s wrestling with all these inconvenient ideas about equality between the Sazars and the Urdai and how just because you conquered someone doesn’t mean it’s ok to abuse and oppress them. But Eruz is mostly too busy trying to do his job and figure out how to do what’s best for everyone to go all emo over this stuff. And at least his daughter loves him ❤ 😀
Inner Torment rating: 3

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Sevry (Chosen of Azara): His country was at war from the time he was three until he was twenty-three. After that, his people destroyed and his country in ruins, he spends a very long time on a seemingly hopeless quest to try to restore what was lost. His circumstances keep him isolated, constantly on the run, unable to tell the truth about himself or form close relationships with anyone. He’s dedicated to his duty and determined to carry it out, but he’s lonely and he’s getting pretty tired. He still manages to keep it together, barely.
Inner Torment rating: 7

Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): Hoo boy. Roric. Wow. I struggled with this novel for years, just not quite sure where Roric was coming from. And then one day he opened up and told me about his past, and I was both horrified by what he’d been through and terrified of writing about it. I thought there was no way I could write about a character with stuff like that in his past. I’m just not qualified (and I’m expecting some pushback for taking on a subject like this when the novel is released). On the other hand, I finally understood why he is the way he is – the accomodations he’s come to in his effort to deal with his past and rebuild his life. Once I understood him, the story was much easier to write.
Inner Torment rating: 10. Possibly 11.

Picture Adan (Sarya’s Song): Incredibly rich, good-looking, popular, and talented, from a large and loving family. His father actually expects him to work, as in manual labor, on the family plantations during his visits home, so he knows what hard work is like and he understands, to an extent, what life is like for those less fortunate than him. He’s pretty easy-going and content with life, except that as a teenager he did one incredibly thoughtless thing which totally ruined all his chances with the only girl he’ll ever love. Not that he’s given up hope, though.
Inner Torment rating: 2

Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): As a kid, he made some selfish and thoughtless decisions, which had devastating consequences for someone he cared about. Rather than (or, in addition to) being traumatized by that, he learned from it. Eventually, spurred on by the ideals he came to embrace as a result of that incident, he threw away the wealth and privilege he was born to and chose the life he’s living now, and is happy with it.
Inner Torment rating: 2

Conclusion: My guys have all been through bad stuff (and continue to go through it). Some of it only mildly traumatizing, some of it devastating. They do have bad dreams and bad memories and painful, complicated emotions. But life is hard for everyone. Harder for some than for others, but no one is entitled to a bump-free ride through life, so they deal with it and go on as best as they can.

Next time: The Jackassery rating (or, Why in the world do the ladies put up with this $&%@#???)


Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage, Part 1

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You see them all over the place, on the bestseller lists, in ads on Goodreads, on the front pages on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and probably on the front tables at brick&mortar bookstores and prominently displayed at Target. Novels about a fabulously wealthy, hot, tormented hunk who sets eyes on some sweet young thing and decides he is going to have his way with her (or possibly him; I’m not conversant with m/m romance but I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend exists in that sector too) and won’t take No for an answer. Kink ensues. (Note: I haven’t actually read any of these, but I’ve read a bunch of book descriptions and reviews on GoodReads. Close enough for literary analysis, right? :-D)

So, being the hard-blogging author that I am, I decided to examine my own novels through the lens of the 3 B’s to see how they stack up to the latest hot trend, on a totally arbitrary scale from 1 to 10. This will be a series of three posts because there’s a lot to talk about. (Oh, and as I’ll be talking about books of mine that I haven’t released yet, I will do my utmost to avoid spoilers. As always, the disclaimer is that these are romances in addition to being fantasy, so the more-or-less HEA is a given.)

First up: Billionaires.

The guys in these books are all fabulously, obnoxiously, breathtakingly rich. They are in their 20’s and own half of Manhattan or Seattle or wherever. They seduce women in the offices of their world conglomerate headquarters and at expensive hotels where one night costs the same as a mortgage payment or two or four for us regular folks.

Let’s examine the heroes from my first five books (Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, The Lost Book of Anggird, Sarya’s Song, and the Daughter of the Wildings series – which is actually six books but I’ll consider it as one) through the billionaire filter.

In Urdaisunia, Prince Eruz is the High Prince, the heir to the throne. Pretty good deal, right? He’s gonna be king one day! Awesome 🙂 But…the land of Urdaisunia has been suffering from worsening drought, food shortages, and epidemics for years, and has enemies from all sides, inside the country and out (and above), eyeing it so they can exploit what few resources it still has. Still sounds great, right? Oh, and his position as heir to the throne depends on the approval of his seriously disapproving father and his ability to outsmart his scheming brothers. All things considered, just chucking everything and running off to start over from scratch somewhere else starts to look pretty good.
Billionaire rating: 6

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Chosen of Azara: Sevry is an actual, real live king. Yay! But he’s got no country, no people, no home, no nothing. All he’s got to offer a girl is an empty land, a ruined convent, a pure heart, and a willingness to work hard.
Billionaire rating: 1

The Lost Book of Anggird: Roric is a professor, a highly valued breed in the Vorunne Dominion, and he’s one of the elite of the elite. He’s extremely well-compensated, both in salary (though he seldom has to actually handle any money himself) and in the living accomodations and other perks he’s provided with. And then one night it all goes kablooey and he finds himself left with nothing but the love of a good woman (or not?), a price on his head, and an interesting new talent (as one of the test readers put it).
Billionaire rating: 2

Sarya’s Song: Adan is the heir of a fabulously wealthy family. Want to know how wealthy? Allow me to refer you to this quote from the book:

Adan Muari, tall, handsome, well built, auburn haired, heir of a family that owned nearly a quarter of Msaka Ras and a substantial portion of Msaka Dolna, possessed a True baritone voice of divine quality and extraordinary [magical] strength, and an equally extraordinary opinion of himself.

Msaka Ras and Msaka Dolna are not companies, nor buildings, nor city blocks. They aren’t cities, or counties, or provinces, or even countries. They’re continents. So yes, he’s incredibly rich. But if the world’s going to end, what difference does money make?
Billionaire rating: 10. or maybe 11.

Daughter of the Wildings: Silas was born into one of the elitest of the elite mage families in Granadaia. He walked away from it all because he seriously disapproves of everything his family stands for and believes in, and they feel the same way about him. So now he’s just making his way as a bounty hunter across the Wildings. If he catches a good bounty with a good price, he lives well for a while. No captures, no money. But he has his freedom and his integrity, which mean more to him than money any day.
Billionaire rating: 2

Conclusion: Money and status aren’t everything, and can be lost just like that. When you’ve got nothing left but yourself (or, in a relationship, when you’ve got nothing left but each other), that’s when you see what you’re really made of: money and status, or something more substantial.

So far Adan is in the lead with a B,BB,&B rating of 11 (on a scale of 1 to 10). Next post: we’ll see how he and the other guys stack up on the twin measures of Bad Boy-ness, inner torment and jackassery. Stay tuned!


Lucie, Character Growth, and Learning Curves

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Something I read recently has led me to musing on Lucie’s character development in Chosen of Azara. Lucie was kind of a risky character to write, and very difficult to get right (assuming I got her right). In fantasy, young noblewomen who go off on adventures are usually spunky and rebellious and seize eagerly at the chance to run off somewhere and do exciting and dangerous things. But with Lucie, I wanted to do something different – something that is pretty much the complete opposite of almost every fantasy heroine I’ve ever heard of.

Lucie is pretty happy with the way things are and the life she has. She does have a bit of a free-spirited streak that pushes the bounds of convention and propriety, but she is willing (though somewhat reluctantly so) to accept the reasons why one day she will need to give up the things she enjoys doing. She also has the occasional complaint about her fiance, Estefan, but she understands that in her society, marriage is about a lot more than the whims of the heart. In spite of her “eccentricities,” she wants to do what’s right and proper and expected of her and to be a credit to her family. She wants the handsome husband, the beautiful house, the fashionable clothes, the social standing. She is looking forward to devoting her life to raising her children and managing her household.

And then the dream, the things she wants and that she’s always been taught that she should want, starts to fall apart at the same time that she’s presented with an alternative that, according to everything she’s been raised to believe, is unthinkable, that would cost her her family, her friends, her reputation, and everything that’s important to her. Lucie finds herself in a quandary: cling to what she believes is right and important, for the sake of her and her family’s name and reputation and her own security, or throw everything away and take a leap into the unknown. Either option requires more courage and resolve than Lucie possesses at the beginning of her story, and a major part of Lucie’s story is watching her find the courage to do what her heart insists is, in the end, the right thing to do.

I knew I was taking a chance of turning off readers with a character who seems weak, who wants to be proper and conventional, who is not only indecisive but outright offended when the handsome stranger says, “Throw everything away and come on my quest with me,” and who wants to cling to the life she has even as it becomes increasingly clear that that life is detrimental to her. But it’s a common source of conflict and growth in the real world: the person who hates their boring cubicle job but is afraid to quit because then how will they pay the bills? Or the person who hangs on to the same circle of friends they’ve known since junior high even though those friends aren’t progressing beyond a junior-high mentality and the person wants bigger and better things out of life but they’re afraid to leave those friends behind because what if they never make any new friends? Or the woman who can’t bring herself to leave a bad relationship because what will she do once she’s out on her own?

We see spunky, rebellious, and strong-willed all the time in fantasy. With Lucie, I wanted to start with a character who is the opposite of that and show her growth into, not necessarily spunky and rebellious, but strong-willed and courageous enough to do what her heart is telling her is the right thing to do, no matter the pressures on her from other people or the consequences to herself.

So that’s the character growth part of this post. As for learning curves, that’s my part.

The great thing about being an independent author is that you’re in charge of every aspect of your book, from what you write about in the first place to the final presentation. It’s amazing to have that much control, but also involves learning a lot of new things. And one of those things is book covers.

Book covers (though with ebooks what you’re talking about is an image that represents the book on a website or on your ereader) are a hugely important tool for drawing attention to a book. They need to be eye-catching, attractive, and convey a good sense of what the book is about. For authors who publish with traditional publishing companies, the art/marketing departments take care of all that, and sometimes they do a good job and sometimes they don’t. (Caution: any and all of those links may be NSFW. Brain bleach available in aisle 2.) Either way, the author generally has little if any input into or approval over what goes on the front of their book.

Independent authors have the opposite problem: It’s all up to us. We have to think of the concept and then license or commission the appropriate images. And it isn’t easy to think of a single image to represent your whole book. One character? Multiple characters? Just a landscape? An object? A literal representation of a scene in the book or something more general? It’s mind-boggling if you aren’t used to doing this, and sometimes it takes trial and error.

With Chosen of Azara, I wanted something representing one or more of the characters (I very much prefer book covers with pictures of the characters), and something representing the cove of Azara or another aspect of the magic in the book. I fiddled around with pictures of various crystals and necklaces, trying to get the magical talisman that is an important object in the book, but that didn’t go anywhere. Finally I settled on a picture of someone who sort of looked like Lucie, and a picture of a rocky ocean cove, and tried putting them together, with results I wasn’t entirely happy with.

When I went looking for a cover artist for the Daughter of the Wildings series, I came across Design by Katt and fell in love with her fantasy portraits of women. I knew I’d found just the artist I needed to turn my Chosen of Azara cover concept into something wonderful. And she did – she took my original images and concept and did a gorgeous job with them. Her rendition of Lucie captures Lucie perfectly.

It’s a gorgeous cover and I love it, but I started feeling like maybe my concept doesn’t really represent what Chosen of Azara is really about. Lucie is only one main character of three in the book, and the main main character is actually Sevry. So I started thinking he should be on the cover. As well, just having Lucie on the cover doesn’t convey the dark, angsty, romantic, adult (as in grownup, not as in porno) nature of the book – it looks more like a Young Adult book, or maybe fantasy with a chick-lit-ish twist. So, reluctantly, I came to the conclusion that my original concept was a misfire.

In the meantime, as I saw more of Katt’s work and as she did the lucious cover of Sarya’s Song, I came to realize what a really skilled and talented artist can do with photomanipulation and digital painting. It was okay if I couldn’t find a photo of two people who look exactly like my characters – the main things to look for were the basic physical type and the positioning. Everything else, hair color, hairstyle, even clothing and facial expression, can be altered. So I went browsing for stock images for a new cover and almost instantly came across the PERFECT picture to become Sevry and Lucie. I ran it by Katt and she roughed out an idea of what can be done with it, and oh my, it’s going to be amazing! She’s working on it even as I write this. 😀

So watch this space for the new cover for Chosen of Azara. Once I’ve revealed it here, I’ll start uploading it to the various retailers where the book is available. The old cover isn’t going away, though; it will still be around on the site, because I do think it’s the perfect picture of Lucie.


Author Spotlight: Constance Williams and Lillian Bishop

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Introducing Constance Williams and Lillian Bishop, authors of The Witch Lake Chronicles.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
C – Well, there are two of us – myself and Lillian.  The thing that sets us apart from most co-authors is that we live on different continents.  I live in the United Kingdom, and Lillian in the USA.  We were introduced by a mutual friend more than a decade ago and we’ve been writing together ever since.  Being so far apart presents its own unique set of challenges, but we’ve overcome them and actually learned to love it.  Having two very different views of the world means we always have something new and fresh to contribute and, in the end, it actually has proven to be a real asset to our work.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
C – We’ve both been writing all our lives, really.  I really got the bug when I was in kindergarten and my teacher would give out ‘storybooks’ to people whose writing was good enough.  I was determined that I was going to be one of the first to get one!

L – For me, it was first grade, because of Young Authors, and I loved it so much I never quit! It fit in well with my elaborate storytelling games with the neighborhood kids.

C – When we first started writing together, we would just bat ideas back and forth on a casual basis.  From there things progressed.  The idea to actually publish our work only came a couple of years ago.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
C – We’ve been known to write all sorts of things, really.  Our current series, though, is young adult paranormal fantasy  After playing around with lots of ideas, we settled on the genre for our first series because it is one we feel really confident in.  Plus – it’s really fun to write!

L – I really think it’s a good genre to be in. It’s popular for a reason, it’s highly entertaining on a number of levels, and it’s the kind of thing you can read through pretty quickly and easily. Life gets pretty busy, so having something that fits with that is a good thing for readers!

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
C – The Dreamwalker, the first instalment of The Witch Lake Chronicles was released this summer, and we’re working on the sequel, The Protectors, which we hope will be released towards the end of the year

L – We plan to keep the series going for some time, with a third book already plotted!

C – Plus, there’s a totally different series we’re plotting out as well.  We plan on being around for quite some time!

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
L – Contemporary New England America, for starters. We’re working in a world like our own, but with supernatural elements involved that are not common knowledge.

C – The series is based in the town of Witch Lake, which is a somewhat isolated little place.  Not the kind of town that people go ‘oh hey, let’s go there, that’d be great!’  It’s nestled on the shore of Witch Lake itself, which is a large body of water with bluffs at one end, and mostly surrounded by forest.  A beautiful, quiet part of the world.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
C – The Dreamwalker focuses on Sam, a teenage boy who has been homeschooled for the past few years, but who returns to high school for his senior year.  His return is surrounded by all sorts of rumour and conjecture – none of which come anywhere close to the truth.  His story is all about trying to find his place in the world, and discovering who he is and where he fits in.

L – Then there’s Rhionnan. She’s a girl who died when she was 18, nearly a century ago. She’s fiesty, and has little tact when talking to people. She’s a passionate person by nature, which is the driving force behind just about everything she does.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
C – Both Lillian and I have phobias which are specifically mentioned in the book!  We couldn’t resist, though they are pretty hidden.

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
You can find our book, and more about the series, at our website www.witch-lake.com

We’re planning on releasing it in other formats later in the year, so look out!  You can keep up to date by liking us on facebook for new updates – https://www.facebook.com/witchlakechronicles


Author Spotlight: J.J. DiBenedetto

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Introducing J.J. DiBenedetto, author of the Dream series. (I’ve reviewed the first two books, Dream Student and Dream Doctor.)

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a native New Yorker (although I live in the Washington DC area these days), full blooded Italian (three of my four grandparents came off the boat), a fundraising professional by day, married to my beautiful wife and owner of (or maybe owned by) a tortoiseshell cat.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started in high school; I’ve always had the urge to write.  It was always science fiction then, and through college and afterwards.  About 10 years ago, I finally finished something – the first draft of what would become “Dream Student”.  It was a contemporary story rather than far future, starships and aliens sci-fi, and…well, it wasn’t very good.  So it sat for several years, until last year when a friend of mine sold a novel.  I decided, “why not me,” dusted off that first drat, rewrote it from the first word, and here I am now!

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I guess I’d call my books Paranormal Romance or Paranormal Suspense, but they really cross genres.  There is some romance, and suspense, and mystery and the paranormal twist (the heroine can see other people’s dreams), but it’s difficult for me to really pin down the genre exactly.

I enjoy these books because I’ve come to love these characters (I’d have to, to write five books about them!).  That’s the main thing.  And I like that (I think) I’ve been able to balance the mystery and the paranormal with everyday life and the difficulties we all face.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My series is the Dream Series.  It follows Sara, who we meet in the first book as a college student hoping to go to medical school when her supernatural dreams begin.  The books follow her from there to med school, residency and becoming a doctor (as well as falling in love, getting married and becoming a parent).  They also follow her from confronting a serial killer to figuring out who’s trying to kill one of her teachers, to stopping a mobster and a corrupt politician.

The latest book in the series will be released later this month.  It’s called “Waking Dream” and it introduces something Sara’s never dealt with before – a nemesis.  She meets someone else (outside of her immediate family) who has the same talent for dreaming that she does…but not the same moral sense of what to do with it.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The world of the Dream Series is our world.  I try to keep it as real as I can.  The one difference is the time.  The first book takes place in 1989-90 (not at all coincidentally, the same time I was in college), and each book jumps ahead as Sara’s life progresses.  The latest book takes place in January of 2001.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
The heroine of the series is Sara Barnes.  When we first meet her, she’s a fairly typical bookworm.  She’s very shy and focused on her schoolwork.  She’s got a big heart, though, and a best friend who won’t let her stay in her shell.

Her boyfriend (later husband) is Brian Alderson, who’s even shier than Sara at first.  But he’s also very smart, extremely devoted to her, and he’s got a very goofy sense of humor that comes out over time.  He’s also ready to defend Sara and the rest of his family against anything that threatens them.

In the third book, “Dream Child”, we meet Lizzie, Sara’s daughter.  She’s about to turn four, and she’s incredibly precocious.  She’s very bright, friendly, bubbly, compassionate, and as Sara notes “doesn’t pay much attention to the line between good behavior and brattiness.”

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
A fun fact about me?  I was a DJ in college (5 to 7 AM Friday mornings!), and to this day I still have my FCC Class III Radio Operator’s License, and it’s still valid.

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8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
My blog is Writing Dreams (http://www.wrtingdreams.net)The books are available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/jjdibenedetto).  The first book, “Dream Student,” is also available at Audible.com and on iTunes as an audiobook.