Friday, January 29, 2010

Krewe du Vieux! Wahoo!

It's that time again! Carnival time!

What, you don't have carnival in your town? You mean you don't stuff yourselves with king cake and crawfish and cochon de lait and Abita Amber and Old New Orleans Rum and listen to brass bands, and second lines, and Dr. John, and Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, and Kermit Ruffins and Allen Toussaint?

Oh. You really don't do any of that? Sorry.

I guess that's why Louisiana ranked as the happiest state in the union in a study by Hamilton College and Warwick U in the UK. Sure the information from their study was actually collected pre-K, but I have a hard time believing that the rest of the country is doing much better what with this recession we got goin' on. And what with dem Saints marchin' into de Superbowl, I doubt anyone is happier than Louisianians right now.

Krewe du Vieux is tonight, marshalled by none other than Mac Rebbenack, the Night Tripper, himself. That's Dr. John to all y'all. This krewe gets their name from the traditional name of the French Quarter, the Vieux Carré, the old square. They are a walking krewe, hence they are allowed to parade in the Quarter. Some small mule-drawn carts are allowed, mules that are pretty used to the crowds and noise of the quarter from pulling buggies, but sometimes they balk a little. I think that's just another part of the allure.

This parade is all about satire and poking fun at our politicians, big news stories, and ourselves. With sub-krewes named "Drips and Discharges", "C.R.U.D.E.", "L.E.W.D.", "Seeds of Decline", and "Underwear", what were you expecting? ;)

While Phunny Phorty Phellows traditionally started carnival with their streetcar parade on Twelfth Night--what, you don't celebrate 12th Night, either? Your loss-- Krewe du Vieux has become the contemporary parade that kicks off the mayhem that will continue until February 16th. Fat Tuesday. I work in the quarter, so we're closed Monday and Tuesday for obvious reasons. So if I'm not blogging, you'll know I'm probably drunk or sleeping. I love this time of year. :) I'll most likely be all carnival-ed out by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around, probably sleeping in and then going to see The Wolfman, since I know not too many other people will have the same plans.

So that's what's going on here in the happiest state in the union. And ya know, I'm feeling pretty happy. Until I remember that there will be not one, but THREE (3!!) 18 year old boys staying in my shotgun apartment for their very first Mardi Gras. That's just old enough to get arrested, in case you hadn't made that connection. ;)

I just keep reminding myself that they probably won't be around very much. And the three of them should keep each other busy so I don't have to do any entertaining. I just hope the three of them don't get each other into trouble.

Pray for me, won't you?

On a parting note, I saw this t-shirt on Bourbon today:

Yes, it says "What Would Breesus Do?" Obviously a vast improvement over the last big sellers:
"I Got Bourbon-faced on Shit Street", and "I Drove my Chevy to the Levee but the Levee was Gone." Who buys this crap? (okay, secretly, I want an "Even Jesus Loves the Saints" tee. But don't tell anyone.)

Peace out, and enjoy... whatever it is the reast of the country does while we're throwing a party for ourselves! Wish you could all be here!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hush, Hush

So I'm reading Hush, Hush, finally. Yes, I know I'm like the last person on the planet. I'll try to keep this spoiler-free, but there's something I'd like to address.

I just finished chapter 13, and things are really heating up. There's intrigue, danger, misdirection, and Vee, who just happens to be the most fun best friend/sidekick ever. It's been easy to gulp down whole portions like a boa constrictor eating an elephant--which might look something like this:
Seriously, though, there's something about Becca Fitzpatrick's writing that's addictive. It's more than just style; I suppose she's given the reader a reason to read on voraciously from the very beginning-- we want to know the truth about Patch. And as we read, the questions keep coming:

Will the characters in the prologue come back into the story?
What, if anything, do they have to do with Patch?
What happened to Vee in the cemetery?
What's the deal with Elliot and Jules?

And those are just the ones I can list here without giving too much of the plot away.

I'm taking this as a lesson, a new writing resolution, if you will. I vow to keep my readers asking questions, the kind that make them want to keep reading, of course, not throw the book across the room in frustration. ;) I will make them gulp down the story like a boa eating an elephant!

Take a page from Becca Fitzpatrick's book:
Keep them asking questions, and you'll keep them reading. Damnitall, I guess this means one last read-through of Mara's story.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WIP Wednesday: One Last Line Edit

I feel like I've spent half my adult life doing line edits of my as yet unpublished novels. It's frustrating and exhausting because while every read cleans up some plot line or grammatical typo, each read also robs me of the enjoyment and excitement that the novel once provoked.In comparison, I love starting a new project. The words and ideas just flow out of me. But slogging through revisions slowly wears on me, grinds me down to a nubbin of my former writing self.

Familiarity breeds contempt? Maybe. Let's be kind and rather say separation makes the heart grow fonder. But even after a short hiatus, I'm starting to feel too close to Mara's story. The revision demons are starting to nag at me now--Did you fix that character arc? Did you add all the correct French accents to the names? Did you know you still don't have a title worth mentioning?

Yes, damnitall, I know! *grumble grumble*
Friggin' demons think they know everything...

Anyway, to keep from sounding like such a Gloomy Gus, I've linked some excerpts that I posted earlier. I'd love it if someone liked the story enough from the excerpts and wanted to beta for me. It's only about 64,000 words, so it's a pretty quick read.

Teaser 1
Teaser 2
Teaser 3
Teaser 4

Here's a tentative query blurb, too, why not:

While most Romani girls her age desire a husband and a wagon of their own to care for, what sixteen-year old Mara wants is to stop seeing muló, tortured spirits of the dead. To keep from passing this curse along to her unborn children (mostly), Mara refuses the marriage proposal of her childhood sweet heart. Soon after he leaves for Paris, Alex’s letters stop coming. Since her other dream is to play her violin on the Parisian stage, it doesn’t take much to convince Mara to go in search of him. Especially since leaving her family also means leaving behind the frightening muló that haunts her.

Accepting Alex’s old job and room at Hysteria, a nightclub in fin de siècle Montmartre, Mara learns nothing of his whereabouts. Though Guy, a handsome tenor, goes to great lengths to determine that Alex is dead, Mara won’t accept the truth. Alex appears to her that night, telling her to leave. In the morning, the reality becomes all too clear: she’s actually been visited by his muló. Despite the danger, Mara’s guilt won’t let her go home-- not until she learns the identity of Alex’s killer. The problem is, Alex won’t tell her. He won’t even show himself. Though she’s ruined her chances with Guy, the longer Mara stays at the nightclub, the more she likes life there. The lure of the stage grows stronger than her desire to uncover the truth. Will Mara find out what really happened to Alex before the murderer strikes again?
Hope that piques some interest! I really love this story and want to make it the best I can, but I can't do that without your help! It's not just the idea, but the time period that makes it my current favorite of all my "kids". I love the art, the music, the performance art of this period. I love the artist Alphonse Mucha, who illustrated the cover of the magazine above, which was printed during the same winter in which my novel occurs. I've been in love with the artsy 18th arrondissement--Montmartre--for years. Hopefully, I've done it justice!

Thanks bunches, y'all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Hysteria

Thought I'd share an early passage from Mara's Story today, the novel I'm almost done revising. In this scene, Mara is being shown to her new room at Hysteria, a nightclub in fin de siècle Montmartre, by Élodie, one of the dancers. Mara has trekked across half the country disguised as a boy to get safely to Paris, only to discover that the old friend she's looking for is missing.


Élodie tugs me back behind the stage, but not before I catch Guy's eye. He grins at me. I follow her up a narrow flight of stairs while she is chattering so quickly I can only understand three words she says out of ten. Climbing the stairs doesn't wind her much, though my feet feel like lead weights and my boots too tight. When we get to the third floor above the stage, we take a dark hallway. There is a row of door-less rooms overstuffed with costumes and reeking of cedar, but the last room has a thick wooden door that Élodie opens with a flourish.

"This was Alex's room," she says, something I understand right away.

"Did you know him well?" I have to ask. She is thin and beautiful with long blonde hair and a slim body I can see through her tight clothes.

"Better than some," she admits, dropping my skirt bundle on the bed.

"When did you see him last?"

She purses her pink lips thoughtfully. "Oh, a month and a half ago. I was sorry he left. I liked him. I didn't believe he stole anything for a moment."

"Honest?" Is she just lying to my face or does she truly mean it? Her dark blue eyes look sincere, and she doesn't look smart enough to fool me.

"Honest. Sorry the room's not the nicest. Alex never complained, of course, and it's far enough from the other rooms that no one else ever did, either."

I understand what she is not so subtly telling me, and am sorry for insulting her intelligence, even if it was only in my head. This is where they house the unmentionables, this third-floor room with a hole in the roof and a pair of doves nesting under the eaves.

Still, it is the size of a small wagon and it's all mine. The cracked window looks down on a damp, urine soaked chute of a courtyard and the first rays of sunset paint the dull walls a bright orange. The metal bedstead is rusty, the mattress looks lumpy and the blanket scratchy. There is an old wardrobe in the corner, a dry, dusty basin, and a small brazier. Four pegs stick in the interior wall where Alex must have kept his violin. Mine is almost too small to be securely held but I set it there anyway.

"It's not much, but at least it's yours alone. My sister and I share a windowless room this size, and some of the guys are crowded in head to toe. There's a brazier and some peat if you get cold tonight, but you won't have to sleep here if you don't want."

"What do you mean?"

"You're new and pretty enough." She says this with a sweet smile, like she is trying to explain to a toddler that the stove is hot. "You could have your pick of beds tonight, or any night. Stay warm and maybe make a little silver on the side if that's your thing. Only keep your claws out of Campion, if you like violin players so much, all right?"

Her smile tells me she's kidding, but her eyes don't.

"I haven't met your Campion, but I promise to steer clear of his bed. Is he not...," my tongue stumbles for the word, "a faithful lover?"

"He's more of a dream lover." Élodie giggles and her fair skin blotches into red strawberries across her neck and chest, her cheeks become crisp frost apples.

"He doesn't know you like him?"

"Not yet." She flips her long hair back over her shoulder. "There a dress in that bundle? Let's get you presentable before the Three Hags get their hooks in you."

"Three Hags?" I unwrap my skirt and blouse. Everything else I stow under the pillow for now.

"Mme. Laurent, the costume mistress, Mme. Moreau, the money, and M. David, the owner. He's the biggest hag of them all." She pauses while I turn away to change, pulling my skirt over my trousers and sliding them off. "It's Mara, right? Modesty is a waste of time in this place. Almost every night I have to change in front of the other girls, and guys, sometimes, too. There's not a lot of time between acts, some nights. Now hurry, they'll be expecting us."

"Alex didn't tell anyone he was leaving?" My skirt flutters around my legs. I am a girl again. I wonder briefly what Guy is doing.

"Not a word. It's strange. He really seemed to like some of us." Her color flares again and I wonder if she ever shared that narrow bed with him, keeping him warm, keeping him from thinking about me. She seems comfortable with this dark hallway and the staircase. We are opposites, she and I. Élodie. Even her name trickles off the tongue like a song.


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Whole Story

A little after nine last night I look up from my television when I hear what can only be gunfire.

A single shout drifts through my usually quiet neighborhood, a single shout that swells, multiplies, grows into a cacophany of yelling. Car horns break up the screaming. The sky is on fire. Dogs are barking, and I hear the sound of church bells punctuated by more gunfire.

It sounds like the end of the world.

Unless you know the context.

Maybe you don't follow football, but--

The SAINTS are in the SUPERBOWL, baby!

When the game ended, the whole city erupted into celebration, that, at first glance, sounded almost threatening, maybe even apocalyptic if you've never been to New Orleans when something happens worth celebrating.

That made me think of my writing in an interesting way. Part of the reason our own writing seems so alive to us, is that we're seeing the whole story when we write, and read the words back to ourselves. The words have extra meaning to us because we associate them with pictures in our heads and moods that we're feeling. Moods that we may not be translating properly to the written word. Moods the reader may not be experiencing.

This is something I'm going to keep in mind next time I sit to write. Something I should know already, but I've never really been able to put into words before. Hopefully, my own revelations might help others, but this post will serve as a reminder for me. Just another writing resolution I'm going to try my darnedest to keep!

Had any good writing resolutions of your own, lately?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

WIP Wednesday: Let it Be

Finished my new chapters for Mara's story last week. A part of my brain wants to print them out, edit them, paste them into the manuscript and start revising the whole novel. It's killing me to be so close to being finished (*snarfle* finished? that's a laugh), so close to querying, to publication...

Whoa, Nellie. I'm getting carried away here, letting the cart go sliding downhill while the horse watches on unphased, munching grass. I haven't even sent Mara's story out to betas. It doesn't even have a suitable working title. What am I thinking?

It's easy to think that a finished first or second draft is almost "done". But it's probably not. You do your novel a disservice by querying before it's been read, critted, revised, and critted some more. EVANGELINE has been the project that I've made the most mistakes with-- mistakes I've learned from. I queried too early, didn't get enough feedback, and honestly, I'm not sure I even understood some of that feedback until I started a new project, one free of the old mistakes.

I was supposed to return to EVANGELINE while Mara's story was stewing, but I still feel like I'm too close to it. So instead, I've dusted off an old story, and I'm rewriting it, trying to use what I've learned from Mara's story. I'm able to change it in ways that I haven't been able to with EVANGELINE. And I'm enjoying reuniting with the characters. Maybe next month I'll find some insights on how to make Evie's story better, but for now, we need some time apart.

The weird thing about this new novel I'm working on now is that its urban fantasy. Not YA. So it's a change, since I haven't worked on this project since November of 2008. But a good change. Maybe ironing out the flaws of this old manuscript will help me think of how to make EVANGELINE work.

My current wip used to be 140,000 words and a huge mess that I'd saddled with the wildly inappropriate "The Uneven Parallel Plane". Oddly enough, it began life as a 10,000 word short story, so I thought the title glib at the time. Luckily, there's a great scene that ends right at 80K words that makes a natural ending, so I've decided to chop it up into two books. And I've decided to chop the title. Right now, since the story involves the concept of parallel worlds that mortals can't see, I'm calling it "Parallel". Also, the MC is a college gymnast. Get it? ;)

But I'm open to suggestion.

It's got tons more action than Mara's story or EVANGELINE, so I'll be looking through it for a snippet to use for the upcoming Fight Scene Blogfest. See Crimson Ink for more details or if you'd like to participate! Here's a quick blurb about PARALLEL for your blurb-reading enjoyment:


What do you do when you discover you’re really a golden dragon being chased by dimension-hopping demons intent on destroying the world? Probably exactly what Renata Long does-- Freak out.

Faced with the knowledge that billions will perish if she doesn’t go into hiding, all Renata can think about at first are the people who died when demons attacked the bus she and her college gymnastics team were on. The last thing she wants is to put the lives of the only three surviving members of her team in jeopardy. Of course, the only reason those teammates even survived the attack is due to the demon blood running through their veins. They are Oldkin, just like Renata’s foster-mother, Olga, whose magic saves them from harm and awakens their blood.

But the evil demon general Hakroth will stop at nothing to use Renata in order to find an object protected by the dragons, an object that limits demonic power on earth. If he succeeds nobody-- mortal, immortal, or dragon-- will be safe. Freaking out is no longer an option.

PARALLEL (working title) is an 80,000 word urban fantasy that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rekindling an Old Flame

I was out shooting again for most of the day today, but first I wanted to say--

I saw Nicholas Cage this morning! He was filming a scene right outside my window this morning. He looked stressed, even though I smiled at him-- and construction workers have been telling me all day since then how happy my smile makes them, so I don't know what his problem is. ;)

Guess you can't please everyone.

We didn't see a whole ton of progress in some places, but I have to admit I'm extremely impressed with Brad Pitt's Make it Right Project. The houses are quality construction, not to mention energy efficient and the best part is each design is unique. No cookie-cutter shotguns like out in the Musician's Village. Some of the houses even had rooftop gardens. Awesome. Almost makes you want to move to the Nint' Ward, huh?

The picture above is from one of my favorites. See the bridge in the background? That's how close these houses are to the Industrial Canal. I think that's one of the houses designed to float if there's major flooding in that area again. Pretty cool. Well, I better get back to work. Lots of photos to process!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Calling All Urban Fantasy and Romance...

Get those manuscripts ready, because Query Tracker is about to have their next contest!

Be one of the first fifty on Monday morning, 9am eastern to enter your first two pages and a one paragraph blurb about your novel to the form on Query Tracker's main site:

The submission form will go live at 9 AM EST, and only the first 50 entries will be accepted. So get your one-paragraph blurb ready. And your first two pages. Ms.Emmanuelle Alspaugh at Judith Erlich Literary Management will be requesting material from the contest entries.

Ms. Alspaugh represents Danielle Younge-Ullman (Falling Under), Alissa Johnson (As Luck Would Have It), Jenny Brown (Lord Lightning), Marcella Burnard (Enemy Within), Laurie London (Bonded by Blood), Christina Phillips (His Forbidden Princess), and Jordan LaRousse and Samantha Sade (Oysters and Chocolate). Her nonfiction authors include food writer and memoirist Adrienne Kane (Cooking and Screaming), family therapist Catherine McCall (When the Piano Stops), and Marie Claire editor Sarah Wexler (Living Large).

Though she also represents women’s fiction, historical fiction, and young adult fiction, the only genres that will be accepted in this current contest are romance and urban fantasy.

Need help writing your blurb? Head on over to Writer's Relief Blog for some helpful tips.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oh! The Places You'll Go!

So I don't want to get pedantic or preachy today, but I want to address this post to those writers who are afraid to plot because they think that it takes all the surprises out of writing.

Well, I'm here to say that I don't plot every little thing that happens in my manuscript before I write. I imagine that would be exhausting and take all the fun out of the journey you've taken with your characters. But there is a happy medium between and unplanned road-trip and an over-planned tour. Think cruise ship.

Taking myself for example (since I've yet to set up my experimental laboratory full of guinea pigs-- er, I mean writers-- for less biased research), I recently added some scenes to my wip AFTER I thought it was finished. I didn't plan to skip these chapters, but when I read through my printed copy of my first draft, I knew something was missing.

My initial notes for these new chapters?

Cast more suspicion on red herrings. Develop E and M's friendship.

While I've covered those bases-- I think ;)-- I've also packed even more plot into these chapters than I ever thought possible. I've done horrible things to my mc, caused her anxiety and pain, and even made her debate ending her life! I'm so cruel. But it's all for the betterment of the story.

The point is, I didn't plan any of these things. I'm the type of writer who NEEDS (with a capital N-E-E-D) to have some idea of where I'm going. An itinerary, to keep from abusing the inappropriate term "outline", and to go along with our "cruise" metaphor. This itinerary keeps me hopping from one important destination to another, making sure I see all the important sights and scenery.

But there's plenty of time to visit the places not on the itinerary, see the sights that make the trip really worthwhile. These surprises are what give your work life and flavor, real color and craziness. Isn't it always the kooky side-trips that you remember the most about your vacations? The unexpected adventures? It's the same way for me when I'm writing. I can never have everything planned, and so while I feel the safest when I'm writing the scenes that I've already planned, I have the most fun writing the scenes that are "off-itinerary".

And having an itinerary means I won't wind up in the doldrums with writer's block.

Give it try sometime! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the places you'll go. ;)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WIP Wednesday : Crafting the Query

Okay, so I'm still revising Mara's story. And it STILL doesn't have a title. But I'm working on my query already. I sweat over my queries, researching and planning, and cutting and pasting and offering them up for the slaughter on forums like Query Tracker or Absolute Write. Maybe query-writing seems like a necessary evil, but I like to write a query as I'm revising just to make sure I'm on the right track.

So what is the right choice when it comes to query crafting? I've written queries that read like a synopsis, or like jacket copy, and others that are more evocative than tell about the actual plot. I've written queries of all kinds. I even tried to use Query Tracker to see which of my queries got the most requests. I wish I could tell you that one worked the best, but my results don't show any determinable pattern. Some liked the informative query, others the evocative, and still others responded favorably to the original, three-paragraph pitch query, making it 5! paragraphs all together.

Which just goes to show you how subjective (yes, I used the "S" word!) the decision to request pages is. And if you've done the amount of insanity-inducing research I've done, you'll note that many agents want something different in their query guidelines.

My request rate for the first fifty-three queries for EVANGELINE went as follows:

53 Sent
4 Still Out
9 Partial Requests
3 Full Requests
28 Rejections
9 Closed / No Response

And note that all 3 full requests were based on just the query. I have yet to have an agent request a full off a partial. You can make yourself nuts trying to tailor your query to each agent, but just remember that in the end, it's the pages that make the difference.

So make those pages shine!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ready, Aim, Fire!

I'll be out most of the day shooting for our upcoming Katrina-versary exhibit. The above photo was taken in December of '05 in Chalmette, LA. In May, 2007, it looked like this:

I doubt it's going to look much different this time around.

It's going to be a long day (and a long night. I've got Chorus tonight). I need a chai latte, stat.

What's making your day long?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tere SMART! S-M-R-T! Wait...

Okay, maybe I'm not that smart, but my new phone is!

Yes, I'm getting all worked up about my new phone, but if you'd been living with a "dumb" phone for as long as I have, you'd be excited, too. I can check my EMAIL on the effing thing, y'all! And once I figure out how to synch it with my pc, I'll be able to store a bunch of music on it, too. (no, I don't have an iPod, either. Maybe now you're understanding all the hoopla.)

And I don't have to press the same button three (or like 12 if I go too fast and skip the letter I want, lol) times to write a text. I hated that. Plus the camera on this puppy is much better than my old one, so I'll be experimenting with that, too. It's a Samsung Instinct, in case anyone was wondering.

In other, non-phone related news, I am almost done with the new chapters I'm adding to the middle of Mara's story. Not only do I think I've gone a long way towards adding to the overall mood of the novel, characterization, the plot and the level of intrigue have also improved. So after I do one final sweep of the entire manuscript, I'll be shamelessly soliciting beta readers. My goal is February 1st-- that way, I'll be done before carnival gets insane.

Yes, that's right people, it's CARNIVAL TIME! I just had my first slice of king cake-- and no, I didn't get the baby, thank goodness, or I'd have to buy the next one. That's what the picture above is of, in case you can't tell. Stood outside last night in the freezing cold (literally, this time, it really was only 32 degrees, y'all! Brrr.) to watch the Phunny Phorty Phellows roll on Twelfth Night, a tradition since the 1870s. Or the 1990's, if you want to get technical. ;) I do love carnival-- and I even wrote a carnival scene into EVANGELINE-- but I definitely feel all Mardi Grased out by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around.

Actually, Mardi Gras is so early again this year, February 16th, that it's gonna be as cold as a witch's you-know-what. If I don't have a Mardi Gras cold this year, it'll be the first time in like three years. And lucky me, my husband's 17 year olf nephew is coming down to stay with us, in our half shotgun, for 9 days. NINE days with a teenager. Please don't anyone tell me this will be good research or I may shoot you.

Anyone want to buy me a ticket to Rio instead? ;)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lucky You!

More great book giveaways are in store for your future. ;) Visit Sherri Salach's book blog, Flipping Pages for all Ages for your chance to win!

Here's what the winner/winners will get to choose from: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (third book in the mortal instruments series)
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead (fourth book in the vampire academy series)
Hush,Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (second book in the hunger games series)
Hunted by P.C and Kristin Cast (fifth book in house of night series)
Evermore by Alyson Noel (first in the immortals series)
Blue Moon by Alyson Noel (second in the immortals series)
Stargazer by Claudia Gray (second in evernight series)
Eternal by Cynthia Leicht Smith The contest will run until January 8th, around 5:00pm. This is open to U.S Residents Only! Sorry to those of you who are outside the U.S.

What's the one thing that's better than a book giveaway? Why, a contest where the prize means your first five-- strike that-- TEN pages are critiqued by The Zombie Queen, Carrie Harris herself. ;D

So here's your chance to get critted by a semi-lunatic, to-be-pubbed-in-2011 YA author. I tend to do best with YA, fantasy, and other genre literature, but feel free to enter even if you write midget goatherder romance. Actually, I particularly want you to enter if you write midget goatherder romance. Please, do it for me. The rules are pretty simple: leave a comment on this entry, and you have one entry. Become a follower and get another. Tweet or blog about the contest and that makes three, three entries, ha ha ha! (Sorry. Sesame Street moment there.) I'll pick a winner Monday morning. And if there's enough interest, I'll do one of these every month this year. If not, I'll give away signed pictures of me sulking or something. The winner gets to email me the first TEN pages of their novel/short story/zombie haiku collection/whatever. Standard manuscript formatting, please, which means double spaced, 12 point font so I don't go permanently cross-eyed. I can read Word and RTF files. I'll return my comments to you within the month. Did I mention that they're free? Gee!

So run along now, and visit these gracious bloggers for your chance to win!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Belated No-Kiss Blogfest Offering

It's the moment you've all been waiting for. ;) Here's my No-Kiss scene, from Mara's story (which still needs a title, damn-it-all!) Hope you enjoy it. Mara has just arrived in Paris and paid a church to let her sleep there that night. It's not what she was expecting, but at least dressed as a boy, nobody bothers her. Nobody but the ghosts of her memories...


While the church offers me shelter from the cold, I'd almost rather sleep on the street.

The hall is dark, warmed by stale, sweaty body heat, and noisy. The man beside me smells of onions. We are all strapped into a pew with several ropes across our chests to keep us in place. I tuck my skirt bundle between my legs and lean straight back. A chorus of snores fills the place already and judging by her breath, I think the old woman on my other side has a rotten tooth. It is the second worst night's sleep I've ever had.

The worst was over nine months ago, after I'd made the decision that led to this very moment. It was my sixteenth birthday-- the day Alex asked my father for my hand as everyone had been expecting him to since I turned fourteen. Papa agreed. But I refused.

I'm still not sure why exactly. Everyone thought I wanted another man instead, but it's not that. I'm not ready to be a wife and mother, not even married to Alex. And I don't want to raise my children near the Tinker's roving fingers. I'm not even sure I want children if it means passing on this curse.

So I crushed one of Alex's dreams. But I like to think that I helped him follow another one. Well, I did before Lucia made me worry. I tried to explain it to him that wintry night out behind the horse paddock. That it wasn't about him, but he didn't believe me.

His face was stone that night, not a single smile for me. "Mara, don't you understand that no one will ever love you as much as I do?" He sounded eerily like the Tinker. It made my skin crawl. I tried to look into his dark eyes and feel the longing he felt for me. To find it somewhere inside of me, profane and holy at once.

"If you love me so much," I argued, "then you'll understand I don't want to marry anyone right now."

He shook his head so his shaggy black hair fell into his eyes. Flicking it out of the way, he frowned at me. "Listen to yourself, Mara. This isn't a game. If anyone but me heard you say that, the kris would be called and, and..." He stepped closer and grabbed my hand. "If you don't want to marry me now, please say you won't do anything stupid. You need to be a good girl and help your mother with the cleaning and cooking."

"But I'm no good at those things." I turned from him, yanking my hand from his grasp. "And I don't want to hear anything about duty or what I owe anyone. I want to play my violin. If I need money I make up fortunes for rich gadje women."

"Hmph. You don't know anything about life, Mara." He tugged me by the arm and pulled me close to his chest. My heart changed tempo when I smelled his sweat. He was so much taller than me I grew almost lightheaded when I looked up at him. "Your father has taken care of you too well."

The lightheadedness faded when blood flushed my cheeks. I struggled away from him. "Don't say anything about my papa. He's a good man."

"Too good," Alex said, still holding me tight. "He should have given you a good beating every now and again. When you really deserved it."

"What have I ever done to deserve a beating?" I let the tension in my body melt into his. Very slowly, I licked my lips. I stared at him through half-lidded eyes, waiting for his mouth to crush against mine like the last time we found ourselves in this same position. We had done much more than kissing in the shadows of those woods. His mouth opened and he dipped his head toward mine.

But before our lips could touch, he groaned and pushed me away with a rough hand. "How many other times have you been out here, with how many others?"

I didn't know what to say, shocked that he would ask me such a thing. "Do you really want to know?" I asked at last.

"I suppose not."

He turned away, heading back to his mother’s vardo, leaving me alone in the woods listening to the snorts of the horses nearby and the Tinker's odd language as he came up from behind me.

"You'll never need another, my sweet," he said, kissing my neck. "Not while I'm here."

And I knew I'd never get away from him, not while he was still tied to Hugo's wagon. He kept me up all night with his hands and his words.

Here in this foul-smelling church full of dirty, poor gadje, I almost wish I'd told Alex yes if it meant we'd be sharing a warm vardo right now, even if the Tinker would be there, too, making our lives miserable.

A little boy no more than eight or so comes up to me with a dirty finger in his mouth, having escaped from his parents. I almost open my mouth to whisper to him that it's okay, that he'll find them, when he makes a lunge for my bundle. Without thinking, I kick him in the shoulder and grab for my things, tucking them up to my chest. The little boy runs off whining.

Now it is the worst night's sleep ever.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Shooting Stars Contest

Bethany Wiggins and Suzette Saxton are having a "wicked awesome" contest to ring in the New Year. See their blog for details...

Bethany and I have decided to hold a contest, our very first, all in the name of ringing in the New Year. We want to give you a boost toward achieving your dreams!

The Prizes:

2 Query Critiques*
2 First Five Page Critiques*
1 Inscribed/Autographed The Dark Divine*
5 Winners

Head over to their blog to see how you can enter.
Good luck to all who do!

Stay Tuned...

Hope everyone had a fabulous New Year! I've been fighting off a head cold since then, so I've been taking it easy. Of course, I was taking it so easy, I forgot all about the "No-Kiss" Blogfest. Oh, the shame! But, if anyone's still interested, tomorrow's "Teaser Tuesday" will be the post I was supposed to submit for the blogfest.

Here's the link to the 75 other entries while you wait. I'll have to make some time to read through them myself. I bet the collective sexual tension is thick enough to cut with a chainsaw. ;)

See you tomorrow!