Story in the Round–Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of the Story in the Round! This is also the first official day of the Hot Paranormal Nights Blog Hop, so I hope you’ll hop around to the other blogs and see what everyone has going on. 🙂 Enjoy!

 

The people before me glowed. There was no other way to put it. The intricate patterns tattooed all over the exposed portions of their skin were lit up, as if from within.

The man was taller than average, his tan skin in stark contrast to the eerie white glow emanating from his tattoos. The woman was pale, almost ethereal in her beauty and the silken way she moved.

They walked toward Danny and me, the woman’s gauzy skirt swirling around her ankles. The man smiled, and although they looked so strange, so alien, I calmed almost immediately in response. Danny’s steel grip on my arm had relaxed as well, and I guessed the stranger’s smile had the same effect on him.

“Hello.” The woman spoke softly. Her voice tinkled, the way I imagined silver would if it were a sound. “I am so sorry we startled you.”

“That was certainly not our intention.” The man’s pale blue eyes held mine, and the deep, rich timber of his voice reverberated through me. “Please accept our sincere apologies.”

“Who…who are you?” The question blurted out of me; I hadn’t meant to be so blunt. If these two were fairies or wraiths—and their incandescent skin said they were definitely something other than human—I didn’t want to incur their supernatural wrath.

“I am Aria,” the woman said. “And this is Alek. We come from Neráida.”

Danny stepped forward, closer to the woman. I looked at him sharply, but his eyes were trained on her. He seemed to be in a trance, completely unaware of anything but the two strangers before us.

“Your…your skin.” Danny reached out a hand toward Aria. She didn’t move away or deter him in any way, but he seemed to lose his nerve at the last moment. Dropping his hand, he said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Where’s Neráida?” I looked from one hauntingly beautiful face to the other. “You’re not…you’re not from here, are you?” By “here” I meant the mortal realm. I hoped they understood; I couldn’t bring myself to actually say the words. This was all insane, and yet, it was happening right before my eyes.

Danny darted me an “of course they’re not” look and turned back to inspect their skin. How was it so easy for him to accept all of this?

Alek spoke. “No. We are Fae. The Solstice has allowed us to cross the veil between realms. We shall return to Neráida on the autumnal equinox when the veil reopens.”

Fae. As in, fairies. So Danny’s joke wasn’t really a joke at all. My stomach seemed to be filled with ice. I didn’t know whether to run away or ask the million questions that bounced around in my mind.

“Why are you here?” I finally managed to spit out.

Aria spoke, her voice soft, her green eyes dancing with fear. “Our king sent us. We have a task to complete by the autumnal equinox. And if we do not…”

Alek completed the thought for her, looking from me to Danny and back. His voice, I noticed, held just a hint of a tremble. “They will kill us. And you as well.”

 

Click on the image to see all the other blogs participating! 🙂

Blog Hop

 

The Creative Mom: Not a Mythical Creature

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This is quite possibly one of my most favorite comics by The Oatmeal. He’s hilarious and I love pretty much all his work, but that particular series is something to which I can completely relate (click the link and read the whole thing–so worth it!).

Recently, my little corner of the interwebz has been all a-twitter with writers talking about creativity and the challenges that come with it. For instance, Sue Kay Quinn did a blog series about the trials that come with a creative career and our very own Kristin McFarland recently posted about how it’s okay for writers to take a break.

I wanted to put in my $.02 about the whole thing—from the point-of-view of not just a writer, but also from that of a mom. Moms have some pretty big challenges, even in the twenty-first century, when they try to balance a career with the needs of their kids. A creative career is an especially challenging thing because there is no start or stop time. There is no definitive beginning and end. There’s no line in the sand. There is only an internal voice that speaks to you, and it’s entirely up to you whether that internal voice is a gentle soul or a beast with venom-dripping fangs.

For the longest time, I didn’t get this concept. I thought I had to race toward that distant horizon, the ultimate prize. The horizon changed all the time, of course. At first the horizon was just “published author.” Then it changed to “published novelist.” Then it changed again to “published novelist with more than one novel under her belt.” And so on and so forth. I kept racing, kept working harder and harder, until I realized that I wasn’t being productive at all. I still enjoyed writing but when I wasn’t writing—when I spent time with family or painting or decorating the house—I felt this immense sense of guilt that I wasn’t doing enough to further my career.

And I realized that was bullshit.

There’s no reason creative people—who frequently work for themselves—should ever feel guilty for taking the time to recharge their batteries. Speaking for myself, having a variety of life experiences to pull from only makes me a more productive, focused writer.

Taking a break is easier said than done, though, I know. I recently lost my babysitter. She used to come every weekday for three hours in the mid-morning, which is my prime writing time. I tried a variety of things to get that precious three hours a day in after she was gone: getting my kids to amuse themselves, writing with them around, writing in brief spurts while they played. What invariably happened was that I got interrupted. And when I get interrupted while I’m writing, I morph into a demon, the likes of which aren’t talked about in polite society.

So after a couple of weeks of this, I decided that, no matter what, I wouldn’t feel guilty about not working during the weekday. My new goal—a much more doable one, in my opinion—was to get ten thousand words written on the weekend when I was actively working on a novel. Anything else would be a bonus.

This new goal has helped me immensely.  I think mothers are a uniquely guilty creature anyway: we feel guilt when we don’t spend time with our kids (we’re awful moms; they’ll forget what we look like in the hour we took to chat online), and we feel guilt when we spend too much time with them (are we making them little narcissists? Oh no, we’re neglecting our careers!). I had to tell myself to stop it.

With my new, saner schedule, I take the weekdays to do all the things my kids and I love to do together—get a milkshake, run errands, go shopping—and the weekends to work. It’s a set schedule, and my husband, being the incredibly supportive guy he is, takes the kids to go do stuff with them when I’m working on Saturdays and Sundays.

I had to repress the guilt I felt about this because society says moms should be the primary caretakers, right? But I have a career, too. I’m a mom, but I’m not just a mom. And my husband’s a businessman, but he’s not just a businessman—he’s also a father, a role in which he takes great pride and joy. So, everyone was happy once I let it go. See?

If I’m making it sound easy, that’s not my intention at all. It is a hard choice, and one each and every person should make for themselves. Even having made this choice, I still feel guilt about my husband doing childcare on the weekends, about not seeing my kids that much on Saturdays and Sundays, and about closeting myself in the office to write. But then I tell that annoying, beastly internal voice to STFU and carry on. Because at the end of the day, how I feel about my creativity is my choice. And I choose to feel empowered.

What about you? Do you balance writing or another creative pursuit with family? How do you do it?

Why We Love the Paranormal Genre: An Infographic

So, I happen to love infographics. I’m not even a particularly visual learner; something about all that compact information with pretty colors and images just appeals to me. For my turn blogging this month, I decided to make one just so I could do something different. It was a lot of fun! I used Piktochart.com, a free infographic creator.

Without further ado, here’s the infographic about why we, as readers, love the paranormal genre so much! 🙂 What do you think? Do you agree with my reasons? Have any more to add?

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Part II, The Best Serial Fiction Today: One Reader’s Opinion

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If you missed Part I of this series, go check it out here!

Last time we talked about what serial fiction is, exactly, and why you should care. The main pros of the format are that it’s conducive to reading quickly–say, when you’re waiting with a sick kid at the doctor’s (not that I’d do that. I’d obviously be busy comforting said sick kid).

Now let’s get to the good stuff–recommendations! Here are my current favorites in serial fiction:

bloodandsnow1. Rashelle Workman’s Blood and Snow series. Not only is it chock full of magic, humor, and vampires, the complete season is only $3.99. Pretty cool. She also has a spin-off serial she’s starting soon, based on one of the secondary characters.

 

debtcollector2. Susan Kaye Quinn’s Debt Collector series. I’ve read Quinn’s Mindjack series, and it is awesome. I’ve only read episode one of her Debt Collector serial, but it has her trademark sci-fi/action “movie” feel. I think she’d be a great script writer. The premise is sooo interesting, too–it’s about debt collectors who take souls from people who aren’t living up to their potential. Spooky.

 

Serials on my TBR list:

indexingseananmc1. Indexing. This one is an urban fantasy, and it looks so good! Here’s the description, from Amazon.com: For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where narratives the rest of the world considers fairy tales becomes reality, often with disastrous results.

TheImmortalCircusActTwo_COVER2. The Immortal Circus, Act Two. I haven’t read Immortal Circus yet, which is why this one has had to be put on hold. But it looks amazing.

 

 

So, what about you? What serial fiction have you read lately and what’s on your TBR list?  

Sampling Serials, Part I: What the Heck Are Serial Novels and Why Should You Read Them?

© Miflippo from Stock Free Images.
© Miflippo from Stock Free Images.

If you’ve been paying very much attention over the past year or two, you’ve probably seen serial novels cropping up everywhere. Amazon has a program called the Kindle Serial where you pay a one-time fee of $1.99 (in the U.S.) and are mailed a new episode every week. Websites like JukePop Serials and Tuesday Serial attempt to deliver the best of serial fiction on the web to readers waiting hungrily for their latest “fix.”

So what, exactly, is a serial novel? Science fiction writer Susan Kaye Quinn describes it like this on her Facebook page:

A serial is a story told through a series of installments, or episodes, released on a regular schedule. … TV series are the most common form of serial storytelling today.

It’s been done before, most notably by Charles Dickens. So the real question is, why should you choose serial episodes when you have everything from flash fiction to short stories to novels available?

Because sometimes you want a story with an arc that continues on, like a novel, but you don’t have the time to finish a whole novel. You’d like a nice, clean break between stories, but novel chapters leave you with giant cliffhangers, begging you to stay awake for another half an hour. With serial fiction, authors generally wrap up the episode nicely. Yet, you know the characters you love will return for more shenanigans the following week (or month, depending on the author’s release schedule).

It’s the best of both worlds. And, when you’re done, you can always buy the box set so you have all the episodes in one place to read later. Another thing that’s really, really cool is reader participation. Since authors are writing these episodes by the seat of their pants, most of them welcome reader feedback on the plot. Want a certain character to die? Get pregnant? Go to jail? Weigh in on the author’s Facebook page or website and see if you get your wish.

I, personally, didn’t think I’d much enjoy the serial fiction format. I like my stories meaty and I like them all at once. Or so I thought. When I began to write full-time, I found that I sometimes needed a break from reading full-length works. I wanted a snappy, fast-moving story I could keep coming back to (unlike short stories). Enter the serial. It’s the perfect-sized read when I have a few minutes to spare before bed or while I’m at a kid’s gymnastics class, waiting. And if I absolutely fall in love with the characters, I know there’s more coming (also unlike short stories).

So, what do you think? Would you give serial fiction a try? Or do you like your fiction in novel format?

This is a two-part series of posts on serial fiction. Coming on June 18th is Part II, The Best Serial Fiction Today: One Reader’s Opinion. Subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss it!

Hero(in)es with Issues

crazyladyWho doesn’t love a hero or heroine with issues? I know they’re my favorite kind of protagonist. There’s nothing more annoying or off-putting than a perfect caricature character because they don’t exist in real life. We read to find out more about the world, and there’s not much to be learned from unbelievable perfection.

In my upcoming paranormal romance serial novel, Possession, Cara Beaumont is the protagonist who falls in love with a man with issues of the otherworldly kind. But even though Dax Allard has his share of issues, Cara’s far from squeaky clean. She has a past she’s been running from–something that was really fun to write (er, in a weird “writers like to torture their characters” kind of way).

One of my favorite shows of alllll time is The Walking Dead. I was heartbroken when Shane became a bad guy because I thought he really had a lot of potential as an anti-hero. He truly loved Lori, but we automatically wanted her to get back with Rick because he was her husband and the father of her child. Still, we could understand Shane’s point of view as well. I would’ve loved to have seen that dynamic play out further.

So, what about you? Who’s your favorite damaged heroine or anti-hero?

A Hankering for Demons

Supernatural creatures—how we love them. There’s something about escaping into a fantastical world where (almost) anything’s possible, isn’t there?

the-outlaw-demon-wails-the-hollows-kim-harrisonI’m not currently working on anything supernatural, but I’ve had a major hankering to read about demons. Why demons, you ask? Well, I love a character with a flaw. And what’s more flawed than, um, being intrinsically evil? It’s likely the same reason that motivates me to read about serial killers or psychopaths. It’s voyeuristic and informational at the same time. And I have to admit, I love learning bits and pieces about demonology. Constantine is one of my favorite movies EVER.

Possibly one of the most interesting things about demons and demonology is how writers create their own spin on it. For instance, in the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even vampires are said to be demons. Basically these demons take over a person’s body, “evict” the person’s soul from his or her body, and then inhabit that body until they’re killed. There are also demons that freely roam around the supernatural plane and occasionally step into our plane, which makes for some interesting and kick-ass moments.

Personal Demon

As far as literature goes, I’ve read some of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, and I love the demons as she portrays them, too: with different types of powers, and differing levels of those powers depending on what kind of demon they are. There are good demons (oxymoron?) and bad demons, and they’re well-portrayed, for the most part.

I’ve had two other suggestions on what to read to cure my demon hankering: Kim Harrison’s Hollows series and Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong (one of the Otherworld books I haven’t read as yet). Do you have any others to add? What’s your favorite supernatural creature?