Weekend Update March 5, 2016


Some very important updates! Followed by some rambling about publishing and marketing.

Note: The article I reference in the vlog can be found here. The author is Meredith Wild, her company is Waterhouse Press.

Reborn series book three is called Reclaim, and I’ve set the release date for October 25, 2016! Get excited!

Tuesday Check In


Hi all, and happy almost July! 😉 This is just one of my quick check in posts. First off, I have another giveaway happening on Goodreads for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Relapse. It’s open to U.S. residents only through the end of the day on Sunday, July 5. (One day I’ll be able to offer these giveaways to readers abroad, when I have money or something.) You can enter here.

For my fellow indie authors, I thought I’d share the results of my first giveaway of Reborn through Goodreads. I’ve prattled on about marketing before on this blog, but really my basic marketing strategy so far is to try a bunch of things and see if they work, lol. Although I’m by no means an expert, I like to share what I find out in hopes that a fellow author might find it useful. I mean, that’s how I pick up all of my book pimping ideas–from seeing what both traditionally published and indie authors do, how they get the word out about their books. I wanted to try another avenue for my giveaways to reach a wider audience than my Facebook page (although I’ll continue to hold them on there, too). The fact that Facebook hides everything now has made it a little harder. Also, I may have read an article that said indie goddess superstar Colleen Hoover’s first novel made it big after she did a giveaway on Goodreads, lol. The skeptic in me realizes that probably a lot of people have tried this and have NOT become instant indie god/dess superstars. I’m pretty sure Colleen Hoover is made of magic.

Anyway, the point is that I tried it. Here’s what happened, and what you might notice, too, if you try it. 1. A lot of people will enter the giveaway. I’m not even sure how people find out about these things, but over the 5 day giveaway, I had 407 people enter, which didn’t seem too shabby. 2. Also, you’ll see a spike in the “to read” shelf for your book because I *think* Goodreads requires you to add it so you can enter the giveaway. 3. I had a few downloads and Goodreads ratings trickle in for Reborn, and picked up a couple more followers. What I don’t know yet is if the winner will actually rate/review the book after she reads it. It would be really awesome to get a review out of it–then again, I’m always wary of getting reviews on Goodreads. (I’m still bracing myself for the day when someone goes off on a long hate tangent about one of my books. As a woman writing fairly sexy books, I feel that this is somehow, unfortunately, inevitable. Though I guess, as they say, any publicity is good publicity…)

So, the jury is still out on whether the Goodreads giveaway will help with reviews and spreading the word about Reborn. Nevertheless, I opened up the giveaway for Relapse this week. I’ll write a follow-up post about all of this at some point. Otherwise, July’s experiment is to not do any other pricing promotions or anything like that (well, except for this giveaway). I play around with the prices of my books a lot, but for now they are going to remain steady. (FYI, Reborn is $1.99, and Relapse is $2.99. Both are now available through all ebook platforms.) I’m going to TRY to focus less on marketing, and more on writing.

Speaking of writing…I am writing, I swear. I have a lot of other life stuff going on right now (ch-ch-ch-ch-changes), but I’m fitting in some planning and writing here and there. I have some ideas for the titles of the rest of the series and pounded out a few book summaries last night. I don’t know if anyone else is like this, but sometimes it helps me to write a draft of a back cover-type book summary before I write the book. It helps me to be more focused from the start–otherwise, I end up having subplots galore. (I’m still afraid that sometimes Relapse has too many subplots…) For titles, I am attempting to stick to words starting with “re-” so that they have some sort of common thread, but was really drawing a blank for a while. I tried to brainstorm “r” words with my mom, the former English teacher, who also helps me edit, but all she came up with was “rutabaga.” I guess in the next book Siobhan could eat a magical rutabaga that gives her more special powers. (Don’t worry, I’m not calling the next book Rutabaga.)

“Siobhan and the Magical Rutabaga”

 

Otherwise, I’ve been spending my summer finishing up work with my current adviser, getting some reading in, and watching season four of Game of Thrones. (I know, I’m a little behind.) And Poldark on Masterpiece Theatre. Mostly because of Aidan Turner (who, by the way, also played Kili in the recent string of Hobbit movies). There are also a lot of other good things about the show, like some interesting characters and a plot and stuff.

Anyway, those are all of the updates I have. Happy Fourth of July, and enjoy the long weekend!

 

Checking In


Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Just a few quick updates and things, and probably the last post for awhile…or, at least, until after April 17th. Or maybe not, since I frequently get the urge to update social media and the good ol’ blog when I’m procrastinating. (But, seriously, if you catch me on here you should yell at me to get off and do my work.)

Last week was my spring “break,” over which I did work, although I didn’t get quite as much done as I’d planned. Instead my laptop crashed mid-week. As in crashed, to the floor, because it fell off my couch…onto carpet, and it really didn’t fall that hard, but apparently it was enough to screw up the hard drive. I knew it wasn’t good when the computer started beeping at me and wouldn’t reboot.

Anywho, my three-year-old laptop now has a brand spankin’ new hard drive, and I didn’t lose anything vitally important (like, you know, my dissertation) because I back that shit up. Although I am mad at myself for losing some book-related notes and things, which I thought I had backed up, but apparently I hadn’t gotten around to it in a while. It really wasn’t that much, and I was planning to make more detailed notes and get reorganized anyway…but still. Kinda mad at myself. Oh well. It’s like a fresh start…a clean slate. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Okay, we’ll get to the update part now, I promise:

1. For Kindle users: Because I like to play around with the prices of my books to see what will happen, Relapse will be on sale tomorrow, Wednesday March 18 through March 20 for $0.99! And it’s always free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Get it here. On a related note, Relapse is enrolled in KDP Select right now and has to be exclusive to Amazon until the enrollment period expires. Which brings us to…

2. For Nook and all other ebook users: I’ll make Relapse available to all other platforms Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

Also, thanks to everyone who downloaded Reborn for Nook and iBooks during my last promotion a few weeks ago. To be honest, I hadn’t sold many copies through these other platforms (not nearly as many as I have through Amazon, and I’ve heard similar stories from other indie authors). But I had never really tried the free promotion thing on Smashwords, and when I did it boosted sales way beyond my expectations. I mean, I know people like free stuff–I do, too–but still, I didn’t expect to give away 400+ copies. And, at this point, I really just want to reach more readers and build my audience, so every little bit helps! Plus, it boosted sales post-promotion, too. So, I just wanted to say thanks…and, if you find yourself with a free minute or two, I would love you forever if you left a review on Barnes & Noble! And now you have Relapse to look forward to in a few months! 😉

Release Week Wrap Up


As many of you probably know by now, since it’s all I’ve been talking about for like a week and a half, Relapse, the sequel to Reborn, released last Tuesday! It was a great week, and at the end of it I had my friends over to celebrate, complete with jello salad (and other more edible fare), drinks, and a (probably really awkward) reading of the sexiest chapter in Reborn.

Right now, the ebook version Relapse is exclusive to Kindle so that I can use the promotional thingies (to use the technical term). Get it here. It’s available in paperback now through Amazon as well. Having the paperback version just makes it feel more real, you know? In the new year, it will also be available through Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc. If you’ve read Relapse, feel free to leave a rating and/or review on Amazon or its Goodreads page.

And, if you don’t know what the Reborn series is all about, check out the character profiles and excerpts floating around this blog. Here are a few teasers:

Reborn: The Encounter

Relapse: Prologue

Relapse: Chapter One

*****

relapsecoverJasper might be gone for good, but Siobhan can’t escape the memory of him.

Or, rather, Psyche’s memories of him—memories of a kinder, gentler man, not the one who lied and manipulated her. She should have tried harder to reach him—to save Jasper from the darkness consuming him. Guilt—maybe that’s the reason why she still sees his face everywhere she turns. That, or she’s going crazy.

And Siobhan really doesn’t have time to lose her mind. Her best friend is in love with their enemy and is addicted to an alien drug. The Alpha Rhos blame her sorority for their sister’s death and take their quest for vengeance too far. Desperate, the Gamma Lambda Phis call on the help of the most deceitful Olympian of all, making her a promise they’re not even sure they can keep.

Once again, Siobhan finds herself not knowing who she can turn to or who she can trust. She comes to realize that her greatest enemy is the darkness within herself.

Relapse: Chapter One


Here’s a teaser for your Tuesday: Chapter One of Relapse, the sequel to Reborn! The release date is exactly a week from now, Tuesday December 2. It’s coming up so fast, yikes!!!

I’ve also posted the prologue, which you can read here.

*****

I’m standing in the middle of a congested ballroom, surrounded by an endless swirl of color and laughter.

This place tugs at the far reaches of my mind. I pause to get my bearings, but the movement of dancing couples jostles me continuously forward. Above us, a chandelier hangs from a domed glass ceiling, dripping diamonds. Beyond it, the sky is midnight blue and littered with stars.

I peer into the crowd and spy a dark head making its way toward me. Without even glancing in his direction, the revelers part to give him room, quickly sidestepping to avoid the brush of his broad, feathery white wings. Muscle ripples down his chest and abdomen until it meets the white loincloth tied around his hips. His skin shimmers a faint gold, his eyes the dark blue of the sky above us. Those eyes meet mine, and a warm smile spreads on his face.

“I thought you were gone,” I tell him once he’s within earshot. My feet are poised to carry me into his arms, but something holds me back.

The corners of his mouth waver slightly. “I was. I am. You know that, Psyche.”

“But you’re here now. Just like I remember.” This time I extend tentative fingers and trail them down his chest. “White and golden. Like an angel. My Eros.”

He gently catches my wrist, lowering my hand. “I’m gone for good this time. You have to let me go.”

“I don’t want to.” I reach for him again, my hands grasping nothing but air even though he hasn’t moved. “I miss you.”

“That wasn’t me,” he insists. “That was the darkest version of me, with everything good and noble stripped away. I died with you, Psyche. You have to let me go.”

Tears sting my eyes. “I can’t—”

“Yes, you can. You’re the strongest person I know.” His smile is gone, in its place a fiercely determined frown. “You must.”

“But I…” I falter as everything starts to melt away—the ballroom, the dancers, the light, the colors, and my sweet, golden prince—

Two arms envelop me from behind, drawing me against a wall of muscle and heat. I crane my neck and glimpse the sheen of pale skin and the shadowy fringe of black feathers in the suddenly dark room. His hands slide possessively up my legs and hips, and I give an involuntary gasp and shudder, my heart racing in excitement even as a chill rakes my spine.

His breath is hot on my ear. “I don’t want you to forget me. I won’t let you—”

 

I jolt awake, panting, and bring my hand to my forehead to wipe away the perspiration beading there. Sweat soaks the underarms of my pajama shirt. I scramble to sit up and look over to Tanya’s side of the room. Her bed is empty, the sheets rumpled, the pillow gone.

As I make my bed, I try to salvage the fading images of the dream. All I can recall is a twisted mixture of memory and nightmare, and two faces of the same man—one pale, one faintly golden. And hands—his hands—and the pain and pleasure of those hands as they claimed me—

Diving into the bathroom, I turn on the shower and stick my face under the ice cold water.

Shivering but fully awake, I slip on a pair of skinny jeans, a stretchy red tank top and a zip-up hoodie, then go downstairs. The floorboards protest underneath my feet, their groans magnified in our quiet sorority house. At first, I think the living room is empty, until I see the platinum blonde ponytail peeking out from beneath a dark blue blanket on the couch. The blanket stirs, and my roommate Tanya emerges, stretching her arms over her head.

“Good morning, Twin,” she yawns when she sees me. Not only are Tanya and I roommates, but we have the same big sister, so in sorority lingo we’re “twins.” Our big sister, Victoria, is our chapter president—and also just happens to be the goddess of victory.

“You slept down here,” I realize, sitting down at the kitchen table.

Tanya nods. “You were talking in your sleep.”

My hand flies to my mouth. “Oh, my God. I’m so sorry. What…what did I say?”

“It was nothing. Don’t worry about it.” Throwing the blanket to the side, she gets up and paces toward the stairs, avoiding my gaze.

“It couldn’t have been nothing,” I persist. “What did I say?”

Tanya pauses at the foot of the stairs. “It was mostly gibberish. But a few times you called out for…for him.

I open my mouth to reply, but all I can manage is an almost soundless, “Oh.”

“What were you dreaming about?”

“I don’t know,” I say quickly, my face burning. “I mean, I don’t remember it.”

Tanya shrugs. “Well, I’m going to take a shower.” Her brown eyes narrow at me. “Are you alright?” She glances at the clock on the entertainment console, and a light bulb goes off in her head. “It’s Wednesday. You have Eric’s class. I thought you were dropping it.”

“I decided to tough it out,” I tell her. Tanya raises her eyebrows. “Okay, Victoria practically begged me to stay in it. To keep an eye on Dr. Mars for her.”

“That’s a little risky. He can’t be too happy with us for—”

“For deporting his son to Olympus? Yeah, probably not.” I sigh, shaking my head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. This is our first class since the ritual. Dr. Mars canceled Monday’s class. He was probably too busy plotting his revenge to play everyone’s favorite history professor.”

“Don’t go if you really don’t want to,” Tanya says. “I’m sure Victoria will understand.”

“I’ll be fine. It’s not like he’s going to do anything to me in front of an auditorium full of people, anyway. I hope,” I add under my breath.

“If you say so. Just be careful.” She turns and runs upstairs. I fold my arms on the table and lay my head down on top of them. I hate keeping things from Tanya, but I’d rather her think the only thing bothering me is having to face Dr. Mars in World Myths and Legends.

A couple of days ago, a few drops of ambrosia in my coffee brought back an onslaught of repressed memories from my past life as Psyche: a young woman so beautiful she captured the heart of Eros, the Ancient Greek’s paragon of love and desire, and sparked the ire of his mother, Aphrodite. Psyche’s memories transport me back to a time long before I was born, to a place I swear I’ve never been—yet remember just as vividly as my childhood home in Laurel. Closing my eyes, I can almost feel Eros’s rock hard chest trapping me against the warm sands of an alien beach. (An almost embarrassingly large quantity of the memories are of us having sex.) Her memories were once only able to break through in my dreams, but now they are always a part of me. And the dreams themselves are as intense as ever.

I haven’t told anyone that I got the memories back. No one in my sorority knows. Not even Anna knows, and she was sitting right there when it happened. I spent the rest of our coffee date trying to convince her to stay away from Eric. She got mad at me and stormed off. The opportunity to tell her hasn’t come up again.

Lifting my head, I force myself to get up and go into the kitchen to grab some breakfast. After a bowl of cereal, I head out into a cool but sunny morning. Even though I trudge as slowly as possible across the Greek Quadrangle to campus, I still enter Frasier Hall with five minutes to spare. Taking a deep breath, I push through the double doors of the lecture hall.

The first person I see when I step inside is Jasper.

He’s sitting in the third row with his black dress shoes kicked up on the back of the seat in front of him. I squeeze my eyes shut. It’s like the first day of class all over again, when I saw Jasper for the first time in six years. Thumping heart. Sweating palms. Short, gasping breaths. The only difference is, now that I’ve taken enough ambrosia to fully awaken my Olympian heritage, I don’t have to wrestle with wings threatening to tear out of my back at any moment. I’m in control of them. I’m in control. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Like when I thought I saw him coming out of the library while I was waiting for Anna. He’s not even here. I let a breath I hadn’t even realized I was holding whistle out slowly and open my eyes.

Sure enough, the seat is empty.

I walk up the center aisle and sit in the back.

At the front of the room, Dr. Mars opens a black leather briefcase, his thick hands emerging with a text book and a slim folder. His charcoal black hair looks like he just combed his fingers through it a few times before coming in today. The beard framing his deep frown is fuller and wilder than the last time I saw him. He’s less like a calendar lumberjack and even more like the rough, rugged kind you might find hurling an axe into a tree. The look makes me think of pine trees, log cabins and flannel shirts, although if he lets that beard grow any longer, he’s going to look like those guys on Duck Dynasty.

His dark eyes swallow all the light from the room as they sweep it. “We’re starting,” he booms, and the buzz of voices around me fades. He clears his throat before continuing, his lips a flat, pale line. “Before we dive into today’s lecture, I’d like to introduce Pat. She’s the teaching assistant for one of my other classes and will be taking over the TA duties for this class as well.”

As though she just stepped out of thin air, Apate is suddenly standing next to Dr. Mars. She’s all milky white skin, obsidian hair, fishnet stockings and black leather—like a vampire hooker. Confused whispers and a few feminine gasps of dismay go up around the room. Several of the guys move forward in their seats, eyes glued to the front of the room with renewed interest. Apate absently plays with the gold chain at her neck. From this distance, I can’t be sure, but I think it’s the same shield necklace she wore that night in Jasper’s office.

“I hold office hours Wednesdays and Fridays, six to seven, at the library.” She gives a coy tug of her lower lip with her teeth. “Or by…appointment.” Smirking, she takes a seat in the front row.

“Thanks, Pat. Let’s move on.” Dr. Mars takes his place behind the podium. “As those of you who have actually done the reading know, today’s lecture topic is: evil.” An ironic smile flickers at the corners of his mouth. “Or, rather, the various myths that sought to explain why there is evil in the world. They are stories about giving into temptation. About the allure of doing what you’re told not to do. Of men and women defying their god.” He pauses to glance down at his notes, turning the page.

“To many Christians, the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis explains the origin of sin,” he continues. “Most of you may already be familiar with this one. God creates the first man and woman. He drops them in the Garden of Eden and forbids them to eat the fruit of a particular tree. So, naturally, Eve takes the word of a talking snake and eats the forbidden fruit anyway.” Dr. Mars’s smile cracks wider, and a few people snicker. “She offers some to Adam, and they realize, ‘Oh, shit, we’re naked,’ and cover up their naughty parts with fig leaves.” More laughter. “Then they hear God walking around the garden and hide from Him because they’re ashamed. God knows they have sinned and, as punishment, banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.”

Dr. Mars tilts his head to the side, his forehead creased as though he’s deep in thought. “Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of the story,” he decides with a smile and a wink. “I may have left out a detail or two, like the serpent telling Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would open her eyes and make her as wise as God. Again, it’s a story of rebellion—of doing what you’re not supposed to do—and a story about lust. In this case, Eve’s lust for knowledge, to know what her God knows.

“The Greek myth also shares this theme of insatiable curiosity and temptation. I’m sure you’re already sick of hearing me prattle on, so I’ll let Pat tell this one. Pat?” Dr. Mars says. He nods at Apate, and she gets up hesitantly, turning to face the auditorium again. Her smug grin is gone. Instead, her incisors dig into her lower lip as her feline green eyes dart from face to face. She balls her hands into fists at her sides.

Clearing her throat, Apate says, “I guess the Greek story really begins with Prometheus, an immortal who loved humans and sometimes served as a mediator between them and his fellow gods. In one instance, he was asked to divide up a sacrificial bull between men—and at this point, they were all men,” she adds with an eye roll, “—and the gods. Prometheus tricked the gods into taking a bag of the bull’s bones while the men got the best cut of meat. Zeus was…pretty pissed. He punished them by withholding the gift of fire, but Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and smuggled it to Earth.

“At this point, Zeus was livid. He tortured Prometheus and cursed him and his descendants. To punish mankind, he had an evil, irresistible gift in mind. He had his son, the craftsman Hephaestus, create the first woman in the image of the goddesses. The Olympians gave Pandora many gifts—everything from beautiful clothes and jewelry to grace, charm and feminine wiles. As a final gift, the gods gave her…” The word catches in Apate’s throat, and she has to clear it again. She shuts her eyes for a moment and takes a deep, calming breath. Reopening them, she continues, “They gave her a jar to take to mankind. Inside the jar, the goddess Nyx had locked away the spirits of evil: deceit, suffering, doom, old age, strife, retribution, blame and violent death.

“You can see where this is going. It’s always a woman’s fault.” Apate recovers her nerve and scowls, giving another roll of her eyes. The snide remark makes me like her for a full two seconds. “Pandora arrived on Earth, her curiosity over the contents of the jar growing and growing until she couldn’t take it anymore and opened it. The spirits escaped, bringing evil, pain and suffering to humankind.” Apate straightens her shoulders, looking pleased with herself. “The end.”

“Thanks again, Pat,” Dr. Mars tells her, and she slips back into her seat. “I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase ‘Pandora’s box’ before. When you ‘open Pandora’s box,’ you do something that seems insignificant, but turns out to have severe and far-reaching consequences.

“Well, that’s enough of story time. Let’s talk about this paper that’s due next week.”

At the end of class, I rush out of the door without so much as a glance at Dr. Mars or Apate, letting the crowd of students filling up the hall absorb me. Up ahead, I glimpse black and gold plaid as a familiar tall, slender figure walks against the current of students. Her glossy brown hair ripples around her face when her hazel eyes flicker to my face. She quickly turns on her heel and starts walking away.

“Anna. Anna!” I shout, stopping in the middle of the hall. I hear a few annoyed grumbles as people skirt around me.

Anna jumps and whirls back around. “Siobhan. Hey!” she calls out, closing the gap between us in a few long strides. “I didn’t see you there!”

“Right,” I mutter. “Going to class?”

“No, actually I was on my way to…see Eric,” she falters, pointing down the hall at the room I just ran out of. “Never mind.” She whips past me and walks up to the double doors, catching one just before it swings completely shut.

“Don’t go in there!” I hiss, coming up beside her. “Let’s go somewhere and talk. Hear me out.” Anna opens her mouth to protest

That was mean!” Apate’s voice shrieks from inside the auditorium. Anna and I freeze.

Eric’s responding chuckle is cool, amused. “But well-deserved.”

“I’m still paying for that?”

“You double-crossed me—”

“And I’ve more than made up for it! I think you owe me now.”

“You want something, Apate? Out with it.” The sound of Dr. Mars’s thunderous voice reverberates through my chest. I look up and down the hall, but it’s emptied out.

“You know what I want,” Apate insists in a quieter tone, the words quivering slightly. “Don’t make me beg. I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to. Please. Let Dolos go.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I’ll do anything you say. I promise. Just let my brother go. He’s suffering. Just please let him—” The sound of metal slicing through wood chokes off the rest of Apate’s plea.

“What part of you are mine don’t you understand?” Dr. Mars growls. His words are punctuated by the soft, shuddering sobs of Apate biting back tears. “Until I decide your services are no longer required, you, are, mine.”

Apate gives a sharp cry of pain. “I am not yours or anybody else’s. I look out for myself and my brother. Screw you.” Boot heels smack the floor inside, growing louder as they approach the door. Anna releases the handle in panic, and the door closes with a loud click. We stumble away from it and take off for the nearest exit.

*****

relapsecover

Character Profile: Victoria


Victoria
imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Note: I’m sharing these character profiles to reintroduce you to some of the characters in Reborn. This means they may contain some spoilers. So, if you haven’t read Reborn yet, beware…..

Victoria (Nike)

Age: Like all of the Olympians, she’s really old, but she looks about early twenties.

Physical Description: Tall; athletic; auburn hair usually worn in a ponytail; amber-colored eyes; white feathered wings

Species: Olympian; goddess of victory

Relationship Status: In a relationship (you’ll meet her in Relapse)

Other relationships:

Goals: In Reborn, Victoria’s main goals were to send Jasper back to Olympus and to protect their college campus. As you find out at the end of Reborn, Victoria and Jasper are related. You’ll learn more about their rocky sibling relationship in Relapse. As the patron goddess of Gamma Lambda Phi, and its chapter president, Victoria’s ongoing goal is to maintain the trust and respect of her sorority sisters. She’s someone the sisters, particularly Siobhan, go to for advice.

As the paragon of victory, she’s also motivated by winning. And, as you’ll see in Relapse, she sometimes takes this need to win a little too far…

Strengths:

  • Practical
  • Sincere
  • Wise
  • Charismatic

Weaknesses:

  • Self-conscious, especially about how the sisters perceive her

Hobbies:

  • President of Gamma Lambda Phi sorority
  • Running

*****

“I have a dark side, too. You just haven’t seen much of it.”

Influences


Only two more weeks until Relapse comes out…..eek!!!!! Why did I decide to release it right after Thanksgiving again? Oh, right, because I love you guys, and I want you to have something to read over winter break. 😉

Before we go on with today’s post, I thought I’d mention I got a little (very, very little) writing done this weekend…335 words, to be exact. I’m working on a novella from Anna’s POV. The novella takes place somewhat parallel to the events in Reborn. I don’t know if I’ll do anything with it, or if it will become part of the next book. I’m mainly doing it to find her voice and flesh out her back story, since I want to incorporate more from her POV in future books.

But, anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. I want to talk about influences: the authors, themes, and types of characters I’ve become obsessed with over the years. This may turn into a two-part post…we shall see…

1. Mischief and Mayhem

As a reader and writer, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that there could be these otherworldly, always mischievous (and often malevolent) beings sort of lurking in the background, in worlds adjacent to our own, influencing it in ways we don’t realize. (Or sometimes, as they do in Reborn, they get very mixed up in our world.) It’s a totally freaky, even creepy idea–one I think is so much fun to explore in fiction, but nothing I actually believe in real life. When I was first playing around with the story that would eventually become Reborn, this is the concept I knew I wanted to capture. I wanted my supernatural beings to be volatile, mischievous, and manipulative–characteristics often embodied by The Fair Folk. I’m talking about the devious Fair Folk of Irish lore, or like Puck et al in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not the Disney fairies like Tinker Bell, lol. To be quite honest, I don’t know a lot about Irish folklore besides what I’ve seen other authors use–and they’ve incorporated it quite well already into works of fiction, so I wanted to do something a little different.

I think Karen Marie Moning’s Fae are the best–but, as she is my favorite author, I’m probably biased. In Moning’s Highlander and Fever series, the Fae are arrogant, devious, and lethally seductive. Back in the day, I wrote a book review of The Immortal Highlander–my absolute favorite of her Highlander romance novels. Immortal’s antihero, Adam Black, is a good example of this type of character, although he’s not mischievous in a cruel way. The Seelie Queen places a curse on Adam that strips him of his immortality and makes him invisible. His is a hopeless case until he meets Gabby, a sidhe-seer–gifted with seeing beyond the glamour used by the Fae, and the only one who can see Adam. Since Gabby seems to be his only hope, Adam ingratiates himself into Gabby’s life and eventually convinces her to help him. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this book, but I remember Adam perched on Gabby’s desk at her law firm while she tried to get work done, nagging her. Obviously, that kind of behavior would be super creepy and annoying in real life, but the love-hate dynamic between Adam and Gabby made for a very entertaining book. It didn’t help that Adam’s glamour was that of a sexy Scottish Highlander, making it almost impossible for Gabby to resist him.

Moning went on to write the Fever series–a sexy urban fantasy series in which the walls between our world and that of the Fae become even thinner. The Immortal Highlander isn’t an official prequel to the Fever series, but it’s definitely where her books about time-traveling, sexy Scottish Highlanders start to get much darker, and it sets up the conflict for her later books. I think the Fever series was a pretty daring one–primarily, I’d call it an urban fantasy, but Moning combines elements of a bunch of different genres and just makes it work so well (mystery, sci-fi, romance, and they’re funny as hell). I’d say for marketing purposes, it’s a good strategy to choose one or maybe two genres that your work fits into, but her books have taught me that it’s okay to push the limits of a genre and mix things up a bit.

A very much related type of character is:

2. The Trickster

You didn’t really think you’d get through this post without a picture of Hiddles, did you?

The Trickster is, according to TV Tropes, which I can’t stop reading lately, a type of character that “plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior.” This is definitely related to what I’ve described above, but I’m separating them out. We can depict these qualities in an entire race, like the Fair Folk (or the Olympians…), or in an individual character (whose peers may or may not embody these traits). I prefer the darker, more anti-hero-ish tricksters who use outright manipulation and deception to get what they want, without (much) remorse. They also pretty much pop in and out of places and situations as they like without a whole lot of consideration for rules or puny humans other people. Recent examples include Rumpelstiltskin on ABC’s Once Upon A Time and Loki in the Thor franchise. Another classic example (teehee) is Jareth from Labyrinth.

One of my other favorite trickster types is Julian from L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game. I’ve most definitely fan-girled over this trilogy before on this blog, but it’s one of my all-time favs. One of my friends introduced me to L.J. Smith back in freshman year or so of high school, and my life was changed, forever. (Dramatic much?) These books were already ten years old or so when I originally read them, and now…yes, I just confirmed on Wikipedia, The Forbidden Game is twenty years old. Aaaaaand now I officially feel old.

Anyway, I reread them this summer (they were first published as separate books, but since they’re short, they’re published now in an omnibus edition), and…they were still good. Sure, they’re written at about a middle school reading level, and, since they are so short, I noticed some of the repetition. Smith is a fan of the epithet, which, in  a longer book, may help you remember each character–but, in a shorter book, it gets repetitive. Even so, there’s just something about Smith’s writing I’ve always loved. It almost has a beat to it–like poetry.

The Forbidden Game is an urban fantasy trilogy with a tiny blonde-haired, green-eyed protagonist named Jenny Thornton. Jenny starts out as an innocent, naive girl still dependent on her childhood sweetheart, Tom. (I mean, Tom’s nickname for her is Thorny. You don’t get any more disgustingly cute than that.) There’s mystery and magic from the start of Book One, The Hunter, when Jenny, who is being followed by two delinquent-types, takes refuge in a strange store called “More Games.” She buys a game in a plain white box, simply called “The Game,” from the even stranger boy running the shop. Of course, with his white-blonde hair and otherworldly blue eyes, he’s über attractive–and, despite his seeming indifference towards her, Jenny feels a strange connection to him.

That night, Jenny, Tom, and the rest of their friends start to play The Game, setting up a paper house and drawing their worst nightmares on sheets of paper. The next thing they know, they’re inside the paper mansion, transported there by the cyberpunk boy from the More Games store. His name is Julian, and he’s the youngest of an ancient race called The Shadow Men. In order to win Julian’s twisted game, Jenny and her friends must confront their worst fears–and, if they lose The Game, they lose their lives. Julian is a predator and master of manipulation (and very Jareth-esque). Of course, as the series goes on, you find out that Julian maybe isn’t the ultimate big bad he claims to be.

The Forbidden Game includes one of L.J. Smith’s favorite themes (and, okay, one of mine): the love triangle. Ms. Smith’s love triangle is usually set up as the relatively innocent girl caught between the good guy/hero type and the seemingly bad boy/antihero. In this case, Jenny’s good guy is Tom, and Jenny’s bad boy is Julian. Jenny knows that sweet and caring Tom is the guy for her, but she can’t help but be tempted by Julian’s beauty and charisma. These books are also about obsessive love: Julian is obsessed with Jenny and will do anything to have her.

Which brings us to one of my other favorite topics, and the final one for tonight:

3. Forbidden Desires

Two of my favorite themes in fiction are sin and temptation (well, what is perceived to be sinful by that character). Often, this takes the form of fairly-innocent-girl-gets-tempted-by-dark-sexy-mysterious-man’s-dark-world-of-…..darkness…..okay, I’m becoming less and less articulate as this post goes on, but you get the gist. 😉 Let’s just call it forbidden love/lust. This theme probably at least in part stems from the idea of sex as a sinful or evil act–perhaps a very Western/Christian notion. In some of these stories, the innocent heroine, initially intrigued by the sexy, devilish antihero, ultimately resists temptation and does the “right” thing. Going further with this interpretation, maybe it has something to do with the antiquated notion that women retain their virtue and innocence for as long as possible. And, even though I don’t agree with that, it’s a fun theme to explore in fiction. This is probably why Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was big on writing about sin, temptation, and the hypocrisy of the Puritans, remains one of my favorite classical authors.

Like I said, The Forbidden Game is the perfect example of this. Throughout the series, Jenny has to battle against her attraction to Julian in order to do the right thing and save her friends. But Julian’s influence on her isn’t all bad: Jenny transforms from the innocent girl who still relies on her boyfriend for everything into a more independent and confident young woman who thinks for herself. This theme of the allure of darkness is also a major theme in the musical The Phantom of the Opera. And in a certain 80s children’s fantasy movie.

With the relatively recent explosion in popularly of paranormal romance and other darker forms of romance and fantasy, the above types of characters and themes are fairly common right now–although not every author approaches them in quite the same way. These otherworldly characters, whether they’re the Fae, gods, fallen angels, vampires, etc., may be charming and alluring, but they’re also cunning, dangerous, predatory, and don’t play by our (human) rules. Of late, they’re also typically inhumanly beautiful, which further emphasizes their almost irresistible pull and maybe plays a little bit into the notion that not everything attractive is good for you.

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When I think of what a paranormal romance is–just what exactly the genre encompasses–these types of characters and themes are what come to my mind. I think everybody is a little bit different with regards to this. Although many paranormal romances still have that major, initial element of forbidden love, some authors go on to develop a story that is a little more traditionally romantic/lovey dovey, and it’s this type of story a lot of readers are used to now. Since I’ve been marketing Reborn as a paranormal romance, I think a few people have been confused by how I chose to approach Siobhan and Jasper’s relationship. It’s not traditionally romantic–it’s passionate and intense, but also a roller-coaster ride, and even a bit scary at times. That’s because the, er, “classic” paranormal romances, like L.J. Smith’s work, combine themes from the romance and horror genres. I’m not even sure “romance” is the right word, except that it captures the passionate relationship between the two lead characters. But these stories are also about temptation, forbidden desires, obsessive “love,” good and evil, dominance and submission, predator and prey. The settings are dark, mysterious, and sinister–as are some of the characters.

If you’ve read Reborn, you may see now how the above ideas have influenced it. My Olympians are, for the most part, volatile, capricious, mischievous, and manipulative. And even the ones that aren’t completely devious have a dark side (as the tagline for Relapse says, everybody has one…although perhaps not quite to the extent that my characters do, lol). Siobhan isn’t completely innocent in the conventional sense, but she’s a bit of a small-town girl thrown, thanks to Jasper, into the darker, alluring world of the Olympians. Jasper is her forbidden fruit–Siobhan knows he’s dangerous, but is tempted all the same (and Jasper will go to any lengths to keep her). And, unlike the strong, “virtuous” ladies described above, Siobhan isn’t as good at resisting temptation. In Relapse, Siobhan’s struggle against this forbidden world is taken to a new level as she begins to realize she’s more like the manipulative, control-freak Olympians than she thought. As a final tease, you’ll also meet a new character in Relapse–a sexy, silly, trickster-type like Jareth or Julian. I’m excited for you to meet him. 😉

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Character Profile: Apate


You may remember Apate as Eric’s other “teaching assistant”/minion of darkness in Reborn. She’s the goddess of trickery/deceit and has a much bigger presence in Relapse. Now that Jasper’s gone for good (…), Apate is next on Gamma Lambda Phi’s list of asses to kick back to Olympus. She also antagonizes Siobhan like it’s her raison d’etre. I’ve been having a blast writing her character, so thought I’d share!

Species: Olympian

Age: In Olympian years, a young adult

Physical Description: Petite; obsidian hair; creamy complexion; wine red lips; cat-like green eyes; often wears black; smells like iron and roses

Relationships: In Relapse, she sets her sights on Jimmy to be her “new toy” (poor Jimmy).

But her most important relationship is with her twin brother, Dolos, who Eric is holding captive to get Apate to do his bidding. Dolos is really the only person Apate would do anything for.

Goal: To free her brother

Obstacles: Being a spirit of deceit, she has trouble getting people to trust her. She also has a hard time trusting other people.

Strengths: Beautiful, confident, independent, doesn’t (usually) care what people think of her, loving (at least when it comes to her family)


Weaknesses: 
Jealous, suspicious, mischievous

Power: Apate and her brother can produce complex illusions, making others see/hear/taste/feel/smell whatever they want them to.

Who would play her in a movie: Phoebe Tonkin, of The Secret Circle/The Vampire Diaries/The Originals fame

Theme Song: Kesha’s “Cannibal”

 

“I’m impulsive. I do things for my own amusement, not really thinking through how it affects other people. Sometimes not really caring.”

 

 

Update Time!


Below is the video update I posted to my Facebook page last night! It’s my first vlog, so don’t judge. 😉 I used my phone (in retrospect, I should have turned it the other way, horizontally, lol)…so it’s REALLY upclose and personal, ha! But give it a watch for some exciting news and updates about my WIP!

[One correction: Towards the beginning I say it’s Reborn’s half-month birthday…I meant half-birthday.]

 

 

The Girly Heroine


The subject of “strong” female characters has been on my mind a lot lately. A few of my fellow bloggers and writers have addressed this subject, most recently H.N. Sieverding’s blog post The Trouble with Alpha Males. So this is a post that I just really needed to write. I hope we can have a thoughtful, productive conversation about it.

First off, I want to say that I think it’s GREAT that people are talking about how women are portrayed in books, on TV, in movies, etc. It’s a subject that really needs to be talked about, especially considering the way girls and women have been portrayed through these media in the past. I think it’s fantastic that we now have characters like Scarlett Johansson’s character in the Marvel franchise, Black Widow, who is beautiful and smart and can kick ass. Women haven’t always been given these kinds of roles, and I think it’s an important step for our society to show women as warriors, fighters, soldiers, “superheros.” It may be especially important for young girls to see these kinds of role models–to read about strong female characters like Katniss from The Hunger Games and Tris from Divergent and then to see them in film. We need to teach and show them that women are smart and strong and awesome.

But today I’d like to make the point that being physically strong isn’t the only type of strength and isn’t the only way to make a “strong” female character. And to start criticizing female characters for being “weak” because they are not as physically strong as a man is going down a road that I think is just as bad as not showing women as warriors at all. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I certainly have. And I am going to attempt to explain what I mean by this in the following post.

Not everyone is physically strong–men or women. There are a lot of men who aren’t physically strong–who don’t fit the stereotypical “alpha male” mold. The alpha male is the ideal–we’re a society that reveres demonstrations of physical strength and power. And yet I think in our society there persists this idea that a man doesn’t need to be physically strong to be considered “strong” or “dominant”–there’s just something about being a man that automatically makes you “strong.”

I’m a woman, and I’m not physically that strong. I want to work out as much as I need to be healthy, but health is what’s important to me, not being “as strong as a man.” I’d also like to take some self-defense classes at some point because I think those could be useful. But I have no desire to push my body as far as the human body can go. If that means I’m not as physically strong as some other people, be they men or women, I don’t really care. There are other things I like to do that are way more important to me. Does this make me weak? If I write a female character who is like this, does that make her weak?

Fuck no.

Like I said, as a society we may look up to people who can kick ass, but physical strength isn’t the only type of strength. I’m going to be self-centered and use myself as an example again. I’m really smart. I feel that my intelligence is probably my greatest asset–my greatest strength. I know that I can intellectually do the same things “as men.” It may not feel like it sometimes, but we have made great strides since the 1930s or so when women were expected to be housewives and maybe teachers or nurses. (Again, not that there is wrong with ANY of those things. The problem is not with being a stay at home parent, but that is what was expected of women at the time–like all women are the same and should be content with that and aren’t given any other options.) I’ve grown up in a society that has allowed me to go to college and graduate school and pursue scientific research. Generally speaking, I’m pursuing something that was once really considered a man’s world (and maybe, to an extent, still is). Intelligence is another type of strength.

So is what I’ll call emotional intelligence. Going back to the physical strength thing–in a lot of ways we’re still a male dominated society, and maybe we seem to admire physical strength because that’s what men look up to. You’ve probably heard that women tend to be more helpful, more nurturing, more caring. Is that true? I don’t know–but I do know that they tend to be seen as more submissive traits, “weaker” traits, and that’s perhaps because they’re not valued as much by men. (Not all men. Or it’s that men are taught this. Again, I’m not talking about specific people, but about our society and culture.) Being nurturing or wanting to raise your children–whether you’re a woman or a man–does not make you “weak” or “submissive” or (gasp) “girly.” It’s not that there’s something inherently wrong with being this way, it’s perception–it’s the way we regard the task and why we look at it this way.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about “girly.” It’s not a bad thing to be girly. It’s not bad to be a woman that has traits that are typically thought of as more masculine–but it’s not bad to be feminine, either, and being feminine doesn’t make you “weak.” I like the color pink. I like wearing skirts and dresses. I like flowers and bunnies and unicorns. I like romantic comedies. I don’t really give a crap if this is because somehow I was taught to like pink and romcoms. Maybe it is, but they’re things I like, and I’m not going to reject who I am. I also like things that aren’t typically geared toward women, like action movies and science magazines. Yes, Scientific American still seems to be in the men’s section of the magazines, and this really pisses me off. But my point is, you can be feminine and be smart and strong, too.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m writing this. I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts criticizing certain female characters for being “weak.” Like I said at the beginning of this post, “strong” female characters is definitely something we should be talking about. I’m glad people are talking about it. But the times I’ve seen female characters called “weak” seems to usually be because they aren’t physically strong. I think this needs to stop. Yes, it’s good to have female characters that are warriors, but not every single woman needs to fit this mold.  And if she doesn’t, that doesn’t mean she’s weak. I’m afraid we’re approaching an all-or-nothing type of model–that, unless a woman is EVERYTHING, smart, beautiful, strong (but also has the type of body typically thought of as sexy), clever, then she’s not interesting or not deserving or something.

This is a theme I’m trying to incorporate into my Reborn series. If you’ve read Reborn, you know that my main character, Siobhan, is a runner, so she is athletic in this way, but she is not a super soldier. She has other types of strengths that will revealed throughout the series (and that may arguably make her a better match for the Olympians than physical strength would). She’s petite, blonde, and, yes, she was a cheerleader in high school and is a “sorority girl”–which I know bothers some readers. She likes pink and shiny stuff and dressing up. She also like scifi and fantasy and is a biology major. Her big sister in Gamma Lambda Phi, Victoria, is intelligent and clever, but also a warrior. In my book, I wanted to have all different kinds of female characters, but they are all strong, in my opinion. (But I’m sure at some point someone will insist Siobhan isn’t a strong female character…and if they do, kindly refer them to this post.)

I’m done babbling. So, what do you think makes a “strong” female character? Please respectfully share in the comments!