Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Day After Canada Day!

Posted by: Jenn Burke
Yesterday was party day! We celebrated the 148th birthday of our nation. Here in Canada’s Capital, Parliament Hill is normally swarmed with crowds of 100,000 or more, and museums have free admission. It’s pretty cool! In one of the early drafts of Her Sexy Sentinel, I actually had a Canada-Day-on-Parliament-Hill scene, but that subplot ended up getting cut.

In belated celebration, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite TV shows and movies from Canada.
Imdb.com
This movie is filled with Canadian in-jokes. You’ve got the tension between English Ontario and French Quebec, you’ve got a murder mystery entirely centred around Canadian hockey teams moving to the U.S., and an entire scene devoted to explaining how to swear in Québécois French. It’s pretty awesome.

I was a HUGE fan of this TV series when it was on. First of all, it features a do-good Mountie stationed in Chicago, partnering with an American detective to solve crime. Secondly, the guy’s deaf husky is named Diefenbaker, after one of our prime ministers. And lastly, Paul Gross is hot, man.

Imdb.com
In this series from the early 90s, Nick Knight is a vampire cop struggling to find redemption. It’s set in Toronto and was one of my first introductions to the whole “vampires as good guys” trope.

This show is based on one of my favourite book series, Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong. It’s mostly set in Toronto and northern New York and centres around the one and only female werewolf. I haven’t seen all of the episodes yet, but I can tell you that the books…wow, the books are awesome.

Speaking of books, if you’re looking for some fun Canadian spec fic, check out:

Moonheart or the Jack of Kinrowan series by Charles de Lint. These books are set in Ottawa and the surrounding area and effortlessly blend Old World and First Nations myths and legends with the real world.

Tanya Huff’s Vicki Nelson series is set in and around Toronto. Vicki is a former cop with degenerating eyesight who partners with the vampiric bastard son of Henry VIII to solve paranormal crimes.

Light by ‘Nathan Burgoine is a recent favourite of mine. Set in Ottawa during Pride Week, the story focuses on a reluctant superhero struggling to find love and prevent hatred and bigotry from spewing all over the celebrations.


And, of course, there’s mine…

The most dangerous thing they could do is fall in love...

Callie Noble fled to Ottawa to escape danger. But she is far from safe. Overwhelmed by a strange new power she can't control, Callie is terrified and painfully incapacitated. Her only hope is to seek the help of the one man who broke her heart...

Derrick Llewellyn is one of the Sentinels charged with the protection of the city's mysterious secret. Seeing Callie again is a shock enough, but the electricity between them is stronger than ever. Still, loving another marked individual is forbidden, and Callie needs his help—not romantic complications.

But there are forces at work in the city, and Callie finds herself inexorably drawn into a world filled with danger and untold magics. A world where loving Derrick isn't just forbidden...it's the surest way to drive them both mad.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

From the Archives: Gamer Geek Me--Why I Love Paper and Dice Games

Posted by: Jax Garren
Veronica sez: one from the Archives, written by Author Jax Garren for your enjoyment! Her latest 2015 release is STRIPPED WITH THE VAMPIRE.

I play RPGS--not the World of Warcraft kind, the sit-around-a-table-and-roll-dice kind. Like that one with the dragons and the dungeon-crawling, although I don't play that one very often. The basic idea behind P'n'D RPGs is that everyone agrees on a setting then one person creates a plot and the other players create characters. Together you sit around a table and tell the story, using dice rolls or some other form of chance to determine the success or failure of specific actions. Typically each character has a different specialty appropriate to the setting, like piloting, thieving, conning, doctoring, fighting, etc., and the group works together to achieve a common goal. On the geek hierarchy this apparently puts me somewhere between people who can quote Isaac Asimov and erotic furries.

I was in college when I started playing. A group of friends from the Madrigal Choir I sang with (I think I just slid further down the hierarchy) invited my bestie and I to join them for an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign set in Ravenloft, a medieval vampire setting. (Yes, I know what THAC0 stands for. If you do, too--without looking it up--comment and tell me!) The GM* asked us to describe ourselves, and I asked him what the fashion of the world was like. He looked at me blankly, and I persisted, "Well, is it normal to have tattoos? Colored hair? How long? How many piercings are average? You asked me to describe myself." He turned to the rest of the table and barked out a laugh--he had, and still has, this amazingly rich bass voice. "Well, gentlemen, the ladies have joined us." And then he proceeded to give me a very serious rundown of the fashion of the place and era. I later found out he was incredibly pleased somebody bothered to ask.

Right out of college, my bestie and I put a group together--4 women and my fiance--to have a weekly dinner and game night. We were pretty pleased with ourselves because even though we let guys in, we were a female-founded group. We ladies got to set the gaming tone (storytelling over beating up monsters for treasure, with a focus on trying different settings and systems as opposed to sticking with fantasy) and the food tone (cheese plate and wine followed by real food, which everyone takes turns bringing; we placed an early ban on Doritos and Mountain Dew). I started us off running a game set in the expanded Star Wars universe. Our favorite quote was when one of our friends got frustrated and announced to the table, "Shut up! I have diplomacy!" while stabbing at the statistic on her character sheet. 

I had no idea then that thirteen years later, that group would still be meeting. There've been people who've come and gone, but we've had the same 5 member core group for ten years, three of which--my bestie, my now-DH and I--have been meeting since the very first time we gathered around that cheap, just-post-college table in our old duplex.

Things look a little different. The quality of wine and food has improved. (Our last meal was slow-roasted pork shoulder with cracklings, mashed sweet potatoes and bacon-braised collards paired with Chianti and right bank Bordeaux; we have enough foodies in the group that we have a running joke "our gaming group eats better than your supper club.") We tend to talk things out more than the roll dice and frequently pick a rulebook for a setting we make up, instead of using the book's pre-generated material (though we do that, too!) Our children have to be babysat or put to bed before we can start, and early mornings for day jobs and older bones have to be accounted for in our ending time. 

But I wouldn't give that group up for the world. For a few hours on Monday nights, I get to be somewhere else imagining something wild--flinging magic, investigating a mystery, traveling through time, beating up badguys--and I get to do it while writing stories with some of my best friends. P'n'D gaming is writing, acting, reading, improving and interacting with friends all at once, and my life is infinitely better for being a gamer.

Have you ever gamed? Do you have a favorite system? 

*GM stands for "game master" and it's the person in charge of writing and running the plot. Yes, in Dungeons and Dragons the GM is technically called a Dungeon Master--just like in White Wolf s/he is a storyteller and in Eden System's Buffyverse s/he is called a director. I just call all of them the GM. Or "the person whose glass I keep filling with wine in hopes s/he'll be nice to my character."

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blogging the Distance

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
I think I've been blogging five years, now. I'm always a bit shaky on dates, so it could be a while longer. When I started out, I was enthusiastic and had multiple posts every day. Thank goodness for the emergence of Twitter and Facebook which take that overflow of ideas.

My blog is small. But it's part of my website, so updating it is a good way to flag to Google and other search engines that my website is active with new content.

One of the ways that I ensure regular posts is a weekly column. Every Monday I share a "Flower Fortune". The idea for this came from my love for photography (even if I'm not very good at it) and a decision to brand my author self as "a hopeful romantic". So now, every week, I share a photograph of a flower and a few paragraphs along the lines of an inspirational star sign prediction.

I can't say that Flower Fortunes bring me loads of new blog followers, but I have had some lovely compliments and that is encouraging. It also means I'm a content creator as well as a curator (which is mainly what I do on Facebook and Twitter - i.e. share articles I've found).

In between the weekly inspirational posts, I post my writing news and occasional advice posts. Most recently, I've been obsessed with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited lending library and algorithms.

The important thing when blogging is to be realistic about what you can commit to delivering. Your blog is part of your promise to readers, part of your brand. If you can leverage a hobby or interest, that's a win (and makes it seem less like hard work).

What do you blog about?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone

New Releases


FREE

A Reapers novella

Cassius Flynn is a smuggler. An outlaw. A scoundrel. Charming, devilishly handsome in a maverick sort of way and fiendishly clever to boot. He's also the only man Molly McGuire has ever loved.

Molly'd left him a year ago. Stolen his airship, broken his heart and made him look like a damn fool. Still, he's rushed to her rescue, storming into Reaper territory to snatch her out from under the repulsive bounty hunter who brought her in.

High above the plains, up among the clouds in the most rarefied Scraper city of them all, a ruthless statesman has stolen everything Cassius considers important. And without Molly, without her quick hands, sharp mind and pretty face, he doesn't stand a chance of getting it back…

This novella was previously released in serial format on my publisher's site. It can be enjoyed without having read the other books in the series. Be warned: While there is a complete adventure and the story is romantic, Flynn and Molly are recurring characters in the series and they don't get their happy-ever-after until a bit later.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

From the Archives: The Best Villains Ever

Posted by: Steve Vera
Veronica sez: One from the Archives today...I vote for Ming the Merciless myself:

So. Who's the best fictional villain of all time?

I know, it's impossible to answer, but it's a great conversation starter. In fact, next time you find yourself in an awkward silence with several people you have no idea what to say to, give it a shot; it's clutch. 

What I love about this subject is that it gives us a reason to scroll through our internal Rolodexes of awesome movies and epic novels, a chance to remember and relive those characters. Pennywise the clown scared the sh*t out of me. I was twenty. I never looked at drains the same again. 

But does scariness make a villain great? For some people. I put up the question to my FB crew last night in preparation for this blog and got so many novel, witty and contrasting answers that it made me think. What makes a villain great...to everybody? One of my best friends came up with a great line that I told him I was going to steal. Jesse DeStasio commented, "The real menace comes from having a part of us slightly agree with them [villain]." Isn't that true? Colonel Jessep from A Few Good Men comes to mind for me, but there are so many others.  

Maybe it's because I was such a wuss when I was growing up (everything gave me nightmares) but I liked villains that were scary but...funny. One of my all time favorites is the Kurgan from The Highlander movie. He was this huge, scary-looking, predatory immortal who could only die if his head was cut off, but he was funny in a grotesque kind of way--leering and blunt. He had personality; I can still hear his deep, gravelly voice and I saw that movie several eons ago. 

It was pointed out to me by Mr. DeStasio (he takes his movies seriously, even had a list of this very subject in his phone already to go) that the Kurgan's flaw is that we can't sympathize with him. Maybe so. But he's still one of my favorites. 

Then you got your creepers. Javiar Bardem's character in No Country for Old Men anybody? He was good. Quintessential Darth Vader? Hans Gruber in Die Hard? Lord Foul in the Unbeliever series? I could fill three pages and I bet you could too, but there's a secret ingredient that they all have, an overlapping theme that ties them together. Ready for it? *drum roll* 

They all evoke emotion. 

They make us feel. Whether it be fear, anger, outrage, horror, fascination, dread--take your pick. Without emotion, a villain is just a car without an engine. A guitar without strings. Captain Crunch without the crunchberries. And that's no good.   

Here's some of the votes I got last night:
  1. Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (never seen)
  2. The governor in The Walking Dead (I've only seen the first season)
  3. Maleficent in Maleficent
  4. Vincent in Collateral Damage (never saw)
  5. Smurf Cody in Animal Kingdom (never saw)
  6. Heath Ledger Joker in The Dark Knight (I saw this one!!)
  7. Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs
  8. Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter
  9. Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest
  10. Wicked Witch of the West Wizard of Oz
And of course, in keeping with the theme of Here Be Magic: Sauron


Feel free to add. :)


Afflicted with wanderlust at the age of seventeen, Steve has lived in seven states, served briefly in the U.S. Air Force as a Pararescue Trainee, and has a profound aversion to mint chocolate ice cream.

Author of the Last of the Shardyn trilogy:
Book I  Drynn
Book II Through the Black Veil
Book III Blood Sworn













Saturday, June 27, 2015

There's More Than One Way to Enjoy Your Favorite Book

Posted by: Linda Mooney
At some point, we all love to reread our favorite books. They're intellectual comfort food. We love to retreat back to the world the author created, and revisit the characters we connected with.

But there are times when picking up the book or ebook isn't convenient. Maybe you need to rest your eyes, but you want to be soothed, and de-stress. Something you know that tome has always helped you do.

Why not listen to the book?

An audio version of the book is almost as good as seeing your favorite become a movie. You can "hear" the characters come to life. You can live vicariously in the romance and adventure through the narrator. 


In a car, the miles will roll away. On a beach, you can escape the real world. In bed, in a comfortable chair, in the tub - slip on the headphones and let the words wash over you.

Oh, you say your favorite isn't available in audio book format? Contact the author and let them know!

***********















Now available as an audio book!

Beast of the Bayou

Sensuous Paranormal Romance
Narrated by Todd Van Linda
Length: 3 hrs. 58 min.

Click here for blurb, excerpt, and buy links.
Check out other audio books now available!


(Electro Voice - Vintage Microphone, found on Pinterest)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Taking a creative detour

Posted by: Sonya Clark
After several years of writing paranormal, I decided to take a break and try my hand at something different. I wrote a small town contemporary romance. It turned out to be a book I’m really proud of, and I enjoyed writing it. But when I tried to write what was supposed to be the second book, I realized this was a creative detour, not a new direction. It just wasn’t working, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that I wanted to go back to speculative fiction. I may never write another contemporary and if I do it would likely be years from now, so ultimately I decided to self-publish this book.

Even if I never do it again, I’m glad I wrote this contemporary. It gave me a chance to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself. And after struggling with a serious case of burn-out, it made me feel better about writing in general than I have in a long time, just knowing that I can do something so different and finish it.

If you’re a writer struggling with burn-out or even just the usual ups and downs of writing and publishing, I highly recommend taking a creative detour. Challenging yourself can feel really good, it can be fun, and it’s a great way to take your writing to new places. Best of all, you might find yourself coming out of that detour excited to write again.

Here’s the cover and description of my own detour, Good Time Bad Boy.


Wade Sheppard was the king of country for nearly ten years. Now he can’t get Nashville on the phone, much less another record deal. When yet another drunken night onstage gets him fired from a casino gig, Wade is pulled off the road by his manager and sent home. Being back in the small town where he was born and raised, his every screw-up fodder for gossip, isn’t helping any. His family knows him too well, and the pretty, sharp-tongued waitress who catches his eye doesn’t want to know him at all.

Daisy McNeil has more baggage than most her age but she’s finally pulling her life together. College classes will be her ticket out of poverty and instability. She doesn’t mind waiting tables for the time being, but she could do without the rowdy rednecks who sometimes get handsy. When one of them crosses the line, she snaps and gives him and his stupid ten gallon hat the telling off he deserves, but causing a scene gets her fired.

Wade didn’t mean to cost Daisy her job. Chastened, he decides he doesn’t want his train wreck of a life to crash into anybody else. He offers the bar owner a summer of free shows if Daisy can have her job back. Now they’re spending nights together trading barbs and fighting a growing attraction. With a sexy smile and a powerful voice that can make any song his, Wade’s determined to show Daisy that he’s more than just a good time bad boy.

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