Behind the Story: Two Cuts Darker

TwoCutsDarker125I’ve blogged before about where the original idea for A Killer Need came from. Basically, I wanted a “horror romance” with a possible serial killer hero who I could make believable, likeable, and redeem in some way.

It might surprise you, but Vincent came first, even though his book is only just now coming out. The original idea I played with–and ultimately set aside–was a bad guy undercover as an even worse guy on some kind of private cruise ship. The heroine was in bondage there and sent to him for the night.

You can see why I tabled that idea, right?  I couldn’t come up with a way to make THAT likeable/romantic in any way.

When I started writing Charlie’s story, I honestly had no idea that he fit into the killer storyline at all. He lied to me the whole time. Only after about 30K did I finally realize I had found a way into that killer horror/romance story.

Vincent was Trouble from the beginning. Readers liked Charlie, which was great! But I hadn’t planned on him returning that much. Once I got the idea into my head, though, I couldn’t get it out.  Then I lost balance of the story and had way too much Charlie/Ranay on page for it being Vincent/Mads’s book. Luckily I had a great editor!  Alissa was able to help me bring that balance back in.

You see that “Dare to look beneath the mask…” up at the top of the page?  That’s a reminder for me too.  Sometimes I flinch.  I don’t actually look as deeply as I need to.  I don’t want to explore that darkness.

Aside: growing up, we lived out in the boondocks on a 100 acre farm just off tornado alley. I HATED going to our basement – even though it was supposed to be safer than the house. It was a nasty root cellar beneath the house.  We actually had to go OUTSIDE into the STORM to reach it.  (If you’ve seen the beginning of Twister, our root cellar was a little like that, except theirs was waaaay nicer.)  Small snakes, tons of spiders and cobwebs – you name something creepy that lives under an old farm house, and that’s what we had to sit with during a tornado.

Sometimes writing a really dark, emotional story is like standing at the top of those stairs, barefoot in the middle of the night, scared out of your mind.  There’s a tornado coming behind you.  Wind is whipping your hair and you can’t see.  But you really REALLY don’t want to go down into that black scary hole.

Even if it might save your life.

That’s where a good editor can say stuff like “Explore this more.”  “What’s he feeling here?”  “Can we get more emotional responses here?”

A.K.A. go down into that dark basement and poke around.  You might find something really creepy good in the dark.

Upcoming Giveaway: Lots of Print Books

IMG_0051As I was straightening my office for the New Year, I realized I’ve been moving a giant box back and forth across the floor ever since we moved to this house 1 1/2 years ago.  Every time I have a call for the Evil Day Job, KoKo takes the opportunity to gnaw on the box, so it looks like a pack of rats have been chewing on it.  (The box only – the books are fine!)

These books are my previous RT convention hauls.  Some of them are signed, which makes it doubly hard to part with them! But I’ve finally faced the fact that I’m not going to read them.  I just don’t read print any longer and I need the space. I’m so busy, either running to pick someone up in the car, waiting in line, etc. that I always read on my phone, or if I’m lucky, one of the two Kindles we have (the monsters like them too).

So I decided to give these print books away.  I have plenty for TWO priority boxes and each box will have at least one signed Lorelei James book.  There’s mysteries, historicals, paranormal, etc.  I’m sure I still have some swag (from many authors), so I’ll throw in some of that too if you’d like.

To enter, you must be a subscriber to my newsletter.  Easy instructions will be included on how to enter (I don’t want to randomly draw a name and pick an electronic book reader like me).

The next newsletter will go out Feb. 8th (Two Cuts Darker release date), so sign up if you’d like a chance to win!

Jody Wallace’s Dreamwalkers

I’m pleased to have Jody Wallace on my blog today – with a twist!  Instead of ME interviewing HER, she asked me some cool questions.  Her Dreamwalkers books are on sale until Feb. 5th and she’s offering signed copies and some really cool prizes!

Disciple72lg-200x300 Tangible72lg-200x300DREAMWALKERS INTERVIEW

The premise of the Dreamwalkers series is that certain human brains are so vivid that their nightmares can come to life and eat people. The heroes and heroines (so far) are the folks who fight these monsters and hide their existence from the rest of the world. Oftentimes these nightmares take the shape of popular culture creations, but sometimes there are classics.

1) What are the scariest movies, TV and books you can think of?

I LOVE horror movies – but they don’t really scare me. I’m more scared about things that could happen in real life, especially something happening to my kids.  So in that regard, I’d say that the original Poltergeist is scary.  The way JoBeth Williams fights to save her kids gets me every time. When little Carol Anne says “No more,” ugh, it gives me goosebumps. I almost always cry when she takes her first breath in the tub after JoBeth brings her back.

2) What monsters do you think your brain would create or has created in your books? (Caveat: real world human monsters don’t tend to get created, just things like vampires and mega spiders, and the size of the monster tends to be between 3-12 feet. If your nightmare is more of an “event”, like falling or appearing in public naked, I bet there’s a monster that represents that kind of horror!)  

I know you said most of the monsters are big – but one of the most horrific real life things I’ve ever seen/had to do was scrape lice out of my baby’s hair. Those wiggling creatures feeding on her, buried in her sweet-smelling hair…. UGH.  It happened years ago and still gives me the heebie jeebies.  So my monster would be something that lived on my kids and slowly devoured them.

3) What kind of dreamwalker hero or heroine do you think would be required to dispatch your nightmares? (Romance optional!)

A big sexy hunk with a gentle hand on a fine-toothed comb to get all those crawlies off my baby!

4) Bonus question: What pop culture monsters do you think the dreamwalkers have the most trouble killing?

Hackers and spammers.  They’re monsters, aren’t they?

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Crochet: Tentacles of Doom Scarf

IMG_1659Some Twitter buddies were talking about octopus scarves and I really wanted to make one.  This pattern from HELLOhappy looked really cute and pretty simple, so I gave it a shot.  It was fun and very easy to make – but fair warning: the tentacles get OLD really FAST.  I decided to only make 2 as called for in the pattern, and made all the others with different instructions.

I made two extra long curling tentacles and then folded them over to make a total of four tentacles.  Then I also made two long tentacles with a simple double-crochet-post stitch (where you go around the post of the previous row, rather than through the normal “chain” stitch at the top).  It gave an interesting 3-D texture to the tentacle, without driving me mad from boredom.

I didn’t want a lot of stuffing in the octopus’s head/body, but I did want a little dimension. It just so happened I’d made a “cowl” earlier in the month that was way too small and ended up more of a fat, wide headband. Which just didn’t work. So I recycled it into stuffing.

I made the whites of the eyes from some leftover “hairy” white baby yarn I bought to make my Evil Day Job boss’s baby a sweet little lamb hat.

Sewing things on/together is not my favorite thing, so I didn’t make as many suckers as I probably should have.  Maybe someday when I’m bored I’ll make a few more and sew them on. But for now, it was all I could do to sew everything together and finish the eyes.

It’s definitely one of a kind.  Some of the tentacles are too long and definitely uneven – but I’m not a matchy-match sort of person anyway.  I like it and the finished product is fun.  I still want to make a more elegant tentacle scarf, but haven’t found the right pattern yet.

Not a Graphic Designer But…

Anytime I need to make an ad or one of those banners for a post, I have to hire it out. I just can’t make graphic manipulations the way I want, even after taking a PhotoShop class a few years ago. I can do basic scrapbook-type layouts, but that’s it, and nothing fancy at all. It’s embarrassingly amateur.

However, I might have found something I can do even with mediocre graphics skills.

I’ve written before how colors influence a story. Beautiful Death will always be indigo, blue, and black with a bit of silver. The Blood & Shadows series is white, black, and red.

When I’m building a story, I like to get out the magic purple pen and paper, but I’d really love to have folders or papers with the right colors for the story. Obviously that’s really hard to find. I don’t want just a plain paper folder – I want something artsy and cool. But when I do finally find one that’s really pretty, it’s not the right color or theme for the book I’m working on.

Then I found Etsy.

I really had no idea there was such a thing as “printable paper.” That didn’t even make sense to me at first. Why would I want to print my paper? But when I find artists that can make stuff like Burning Love, it makes total sense. But I still wasn’t sure *how* to actually use it.

I’m currently using digital papers to build two different story bibles. I can’t do much in Gimp – so I’m making do with Word. I can do just enough to layer a few elements together and make a really cool template page. I can customize it to MY character questions and plot points. I control the colors. The text. How I lay it out. I can hole-punch the papers, clip together with a binder ring, and re-arrange or add to my heart’s desire.

I’m having a blast and the story ideas are really coming. The creative process is just enough “me” to keep the juices flowing, without requiring me to be a real artist with anything but words. And for a few bucks, I can buy new papers for any book I want to work on and print new pages!

Awesome fun!

Christmas Giveaway #3

I’ve emailed the winner for Giveaway #2.

Up next:  something to help the NaNoWriMo-ers or anyone who likes to color.  Adult coloring books are all the rage and I’ve bought several myself.  I do like to color – but I’m not sure that it’s “relaxing” for me personally.  We’ll see. I keep trying new patterns and markers/pencils to see what I prefer.

This giveaway includes:

I’ll ship these anywhere on the planet and you can enter as many times as you want. To enter, comment on this blog post with HEROINE names you’d like to see more of.

Eight Magical Tales: A Here Be Magic Boxed Set

FINAL3D_COVER_HBM_BoxedSetA bunch of us at Here Be Magic got together and wrote brand-new stories centered around magic. Our boxed set is available now and only $.99!

TERROR MANSION by Rebecca York
His psychic dream can save her life–if she’ll only trust him.

NIGHTGAZER by Joely Sue Burkhart:
A princess on the run. A grumpy wizard stripped of his power. Can she heal him in time to save her throne?

GORGOUS NIGHTMARE by Angela Campbell:
Can a reluctant psychic stop a deadly killer before the woman he loves is murdered?

SAVED BY THE TRICKSTER by Shona Husk:
Zander has one month to prove he deserves to be let back into heaven. Lysanna is a Trickster, a demi-god charged with making people believe in Light and hope. Now, Zander will have to choose between his duty to heaven and Lysanna.

TALL, TALL TREES by Linda Mooney:
If fighting the animosity between their two tribes isn’t enough, Oron and Pellera must battle monstrous creatures and the deadly growler to save their lives and their love.

DEVIL OF BOURBON STREET by Cindy Spencer Pape:
For a widowed cop and a street musician, magic, murder, and New Orleans might add up to love—if they survive.

RAVEN’S SONG by Shawna Reppert:
Set between the first and second books of Reppert’s award-winning Ravensblood series, can a reformed dark mage save an opera star from a deadly stalker?

HEALER OF THE NILE By Veronica Scott:
Can a village healer persuade the god of Fate to help her save a soldier trapped between Life and Death?

Buy links (more coming as they go live!):

Christmas Giveaway #2

Thank you to everyone who’s bought The Billionaire’s Christmas Bargain and/or posted a review!  The winner of the journal has been posted.

This week, I’d like to offer a $25 gift certificate to any online book retailer. To enter, I’d like to you recommend an unusual hero name you’ve always wanted to see in a romance novel.  Post on this blog post as often as you wish (multiple entries allowed).

Christmas Giveaway #1

To celebrate my first Christmas story release–The Billionaire’s Christmas Bargain–I’ll be giving away several small items over the next six weeks as little “gifts” to you.  Of course I’ll do some gift certificates too, but personally, I love handmade items.  I’ve got a crocheted scarf I made, some small journals, and who knows what else!  Note that some giveaways will be exclusive to my newsletter subscribers, so sign up!

Up first, I’m going to giveaway a small (<20 page) journal I made. I bought digital papers from Ephemera’s Vintage Garden and Tsunami Rose, mixed with some Paris-themed washi tape, and some digital raven postcards I bought several years ago.  I printed them out on card stock paper and cut them apart by hand, so these are far from perfect–but I think that gives the pages their charm. The journal is tied together with waxed cord and this particular journal has a little pocket inside with raven stamps.

To win this journal, comment on this blog post with your favorite Christmas book or movie. I’ll draw one name from the commenters on Sat. November 7th. I’ll ship the journal anywhere on the planet, and I’ll also offer a free download of any book from my backlist, including The Billionaire’s Christmas Bargain if you haven’t picked it up already.

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NaNoWriMo – Probably No

I’m always tempted by NaNoWriMo. I love the energy, excitement, and especially the challenge.

However, I’ve had a tough few months. In fact, the year has been pretty jam packed. I’ve been pushing as hard as possible for quite awhile. Three billionaire books releasing June 2014, April 2015, and November 2015. Mama Connagher in Jan 2015. One Cut Deeper in May. Two Cuts Darker in Feb 2016.  So all that promo – as well as edits to keep the production pipe going – plus of course the new words. I had big deadlines in June and September, with constant edits on opposite works throughout. Plus I’ve written a short story <5K and a novella 33.5K since too.

Not to mention some other “fun” things just for me.

I’ve had at least 2-3 NaNoWriMo months since June.  So while I’d LOVE to do it again, and certainly have enough to work to do so…

The smart me says I need a break, even if the stupid me says sure, bring it on!

I’m neck deep in edits right now anyway through next week.  Hard, good, but deep edits requiring 10-15K new words by the time I’m done. Once I’m done with them, I have a feeling the initial excitement of NaNoWriMo will be over and I won’t be tempted to join.

We’ll see, though. You know I love a challenge.

And I have LOTS of books I want to write.