Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting to know Robert Collins

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

I write in mainly two. Locally I’m best known for writing nonfiction about Kansas history. My passion is writing science fiction and fantasy. I’ve sold over 80 short stories, and had three novels published.

What comes first for you when you sit down to write a book? Plot or Characters?

I’m a story person. Characters are fine, but I need some sort of plot to get going.

Do you "cast" your characters using pictures or actors to help inspire you when you're writing?

No, but I have a good aural memory. I can “give” my characters voices from where ever I want and “hear” them. In some ways these are first drafts that get written in my head before I type one word.

How long does it take you to finish a book from start to finish?

That really depends. It took me twenty years of off-and-on work to get my second novel, Lisa’s Way, into its final form. On the other hand, last year I wrote two sequels to Lisa’s Way; one became four short stories, the other is the “second book.”

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

My latest is Monitor, published by Whiskey Creek Press. It’s about a woman who decides to stop her fundamentalist society from coming about by going back in time and becoming a superhero. Also figuring in the story is a mutant teenager training to be a hero but conflicted about where she’s headed, and a mutant villain with big ambitions.
I’m not quite sure where the story came from. I’m sure reading a little of the Marvel Universe in the 1980s played a role. In the end, through, it became the story I wanted to tell.

How much does reader reaction mean to you as an author? Do you read your own reviews?

I like readers coming up to me and telling me if they like my books. As to reviews, I only care about those by people I respect. I saw an ugly review for one of my railroad books at Amazon. Exploring deeper, I was appalled at learning that some reviewers trash books because the author is a woman, or gay, or whose politics are different from them.  I don’t worry about reviews generally; after all, its sales and not reviews that bring in the money.

What are you working on now? Anything you want to tell us about?

I’m always working on something. I’d like to sell the sequel to Lisa’s Way. I’m thinking about putting out another collection of short stories.  And I’ve been researching some big nonfiction projects.

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?

I think as it gets harder and harder to sell to the major publishers, the small press and self-publishing will have to be taken more seriously by everyone, from reviewers to writers’ groups. There have to be the same opportunities for the author whose book sells a few thousand copies as there are for best-selling authors.

As to e-books, I think the technology is making progress. The devices are getting better, and the idea of reading a book on a device is catching on. But the book is bulletproof technology: it doesn’t need special light; it doesn’t need a power source; and it doesn’t break if dropped. The e-book will have to be just like that to completely replace the print book.

Where can readers find you on the ‘net for more information on you, your books and other fun stuff?

First, there’s my website:

I also have a Face Book page, and I’m a member of Book Town.


Monitor excerpt: The computer on the only desk in the room beeped loudly.  The screen changed from its normal white color.  Blocky red letters appeared for an instant, followed by a blue symbol.  The view then changed to the Oval Office of the White House.  Filling much of the screen was solemn, middle-aged man with blonde hair, blue eyes, and an open, honest face.
“Fellow citizens, I come before you with news that is grave, yet should fill all of your souls with joy.  Five minutes ago, our foolish enemies launched a limited nuclear strike at our forces around the world, and at the capitol of this great Christian nation.”
It can’t be happening now, Broeder thought.  I’m not ready.  I haven’t thought out my plans.  I haven’t done the research.
She looked at the pod.
Do not panic,” the man continued.  “I will be taking refuge momentarily, and we will try to save everyone we can in the city.  Residents of Washington, I urge you to proceed at once to your shelters.
This may sound like dire news.  It will not be so dire.  I have authorized our forces to launch a full retaliatory strike against our foes.  With our might, God will strike down those who have rejected Him, and cast their wicked souls into the pit of Hell.  After four decades of Heavenly struggle, righteousness will finally crush sin and evil.
I will transmit another broadcast soon.  Until then, I ask all of your to pray for our victory.  God bless America, and every Christian in it.”
The blue symbol of the office of the President returned.  A male voice came over the intercom.  “All personnel are ordered to gather in the main dining hall for a prayer meeting.”
Corwin turned towards the door.  “Dr. Broeder!  Come on!”
You go,” she replied from inside the closet.  “I’ll be along later.”
Anger bubbled throughout her mind as she removed her clothes and put on the suit.  Don’t these fools understand what’s going to happen? she asked rhetorically.  The Europeans and their allies are going to notice our full strike within a few minutes, and they’ll launch everything they have.  Do these idiots actually believe that they wouldn’t?
Of course not.  We’ve long since stopped considering other points of view.  We have God on our side, so whatever we say is right.
A whole nation blindly following the prejudices and morals of the ignorant President, Joshua Clairborne.  A bigoted brat raised by his bigoted father.
Broeder took one more long look at the pod.
You won’t be able to deny me a Class-One pass because I’m a woman, she vowed silently.  You won’t be able to keep from living where I want to because I’m a scientist.  You can’t keep me from reading what I want to, or watching whatever I want to, or talking to anyone I want to.
You can’t keep strangling the truth.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Angelica Hart & Zi

According to Stephen King, "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write." For some of us, meaning writers, reading has been an obsession since a young age. We'd devour every book, pamphlet, flyer, newspaper, comic book, magazine, and yes, lacking anything at hand at breakfast, would read the back of the cereal box. However, not all readers end up being a writer, what is that epiphany moment that has one crossing the transom? For every writer it is different, for both of us it has been something we simply could not avoid. It has been part of our earliest memories.

My favorite words as a child were, Once upon a time, obviously the opening of many fairy tales. Zi’s similar memory was Sunday night’s opening music to the Wonderful World of Disney. I knew when I heard those words an adventure, a fantasy, or simply magical moments would soon flash upon the reel of my imagination.

We have had the honor and privilege to read to children and I saw delineated on those young folks’ faces a reflection that reminded me of my youthful jubilance when I read those words, Once upon a time.

For Angelica, as a child, her run on of, tellmeastory said over and over until someone read her story turned into, wannahearastory until someone listened. Before she could write she'd draw pictures, and read from those pictures. As soon as she could write little stories appeared on napkins, fancy stationary, scraps of paper, anything and everything that could hold pencil, crayon or ink, including the wall, which her mother was not so happy about. Zi had a similar hunger to string words together in a coherent and logical thought pattern, writing constantly and in volume, and then those thoughts turned into stories that he couldn't put down fast enough. Every word, every image, every twist and turn within a plot became vital.

I used to carry several books around with me, imploring any reading-able body to read me a story. It didn't matter if they were young or old. It didn't matter if they had an accent or not. It didn't matter if they altered their voice for each character, although, that was indeed the preferred option. I used to say read me a story so often that it turned into a run-on chant. There was nothing grander than being read to, a story where I could travel to a different land, where taste and textures were defined with whorls of words. One moment I was a baby rabbit, another a mouse with a hole-in-the-wall house, sometimes an audacious child. I especially liked rhythms, the playful beat and measure that tapped out a story, sometimes silly, sometimes funny, and sometimes very strange. Mattered not. It was the journey, that sweet, wonderful roller coaster of sounds that created dream bubbles that I could actually see in my mind’s eye.

I’ll share one of Zi’s first memories of reading aloud. I wrote this without first asking him. It is personal but as I later explained, apt.

Zi was a child with undiagnosed dyslexia and struggled early with reading and writing. Recalling that period, he has expressed the humiliation he felt not learning the same way others were, though he never felt sorry for that boy.

At an early age he knew he wanted to read and write and valued those tools. As an adult you can easily discern that his books are respected treasures and opening the world of storytelling is a passion. It was the Woodlawn Public Library located in Union Park Gardens just off the Bancroft Parkway that provided him what I call a breakthrough.

Reading and writing was an endless series of embarrassment and humiliation where the stumbling over words, the constant juxtapostioning of words and letters, and the inability to sound out words were painful. Peers at a young age have not developed empathy or compassion and would tease.

The third floor of that library was his safe place and by some unexpected gift of divine foresight, close to his home. His mother worked and that circumstance made it the perfect after-school sanctuary.

He once recounted to me the old radiators were far too hot, occasionally whistled, and tinted the air with that odd metallic smell of water boiled in an iron pot. While there, he would grab any read-aloud style children’s book, books far beneath his age, and hide in a corner on that third floor and quietly read aloud to himself. Never minding if he stumbled over words or struggled with inflection, he just read; hour after hour. Over time the books chosen became more complex and he slowly fought to compensate for his handicap. It was in those secluded corners hidden amidst the radiator smells I believe Zi birthed a deep love for writing and reading. It was children’s books that opened a new world, free of ridicule and filled with possibilities borne from the imagination of authors. He fights and works so hard with our work to make it his gift back.

When asked why, we respond, we want to make people laugh, cry, smile, wince, fear, enjoy. We want to entertain. So, where is that line that pushes a reader into the realm of writing. That we cannot say, probably for every writer it is different, we only know it is an experience that keeps us alive. Sound dramatic? Of course it does, we're writers.

We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi

Titles can be purchased at
Champagne Books

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Researching the Historical Novel by Allison Knight


Because I write historical novels, I spend a lot of time reading about the past. After all, things have changed - a lot. Of course, if you want to write about life a one or even two  hundred years ago, there are all kinds of great research sources available, dairies of people of the times, photographs, news accounts and letters of people who lived during those times. Just about anything your little heart desires.

However, if you want to go back to say a thousand years, or even seven or eight hundred years, you have a problem. There are very few writings. First, common people didn't read or write. They either didn't know how, if they did, they didn't have time.

There's almost nothing recorded about the lives of the farmers, or serfs, depending on your station in life. The nobles had some of their happenings transcribed by the minstrels of  the time but the performers tended to exaggerate the good parts and ignore the bad. Few songs survived to be passed down through the centuries because they were never recorded. Again, most of the people living then had no writing skills.

We do have the tapestries that depict life in the castles or battle fields, but if the tapestries were done for the master they often were embellished to make the master look good. There were no newspapers and few books, and very little that was recorded survived to this day. Paper was hard to come by and few people could write. Scrolls were often used for official communications, but ordinary messages were probably carried verbally.

So what is an author to do? Add to the lack of information, the misconceptions promulgated by Hollywood and you have a bigger problem.

With Battlesong, my medieval romance set in Scotland and England at the end of 13th century, I also had to find a Scottish clan living in the south of Scotland at that time. I certainly didn't want one of the famous clans, because mine would not be a very nice bunch of people. I spent hours studying the maps of Scottish clans and the dates they existed.

Let me list some of my problems writing about that period. Any suggestions are always welcome when it comes to finding information about these long ago times.

First there is the actual appearance of my characters. We have lots of information about what they wore, again from tapestries or paintings, but what did they look like? We do have the paintings of the nobles, but the appearance of the common people doesn't exist, except for the tapestries or paintings of the time. Were they tall, or short, with curly hair, or straight and how did they wear it?

There are records of deaths and births,  so we know people didn't have long lives. But, what kind of illnesses existed, and how were they treated? Most of the medical treatment was handled by the lady of the castle, but again, we know little about the herbs and treatment she used.

Of course, there is the food people ate and how it was prepared. No cake mixes back then. And what about the meat? They hunted for game, and we know they raised a lot of sheep. So how was it preserved? Salt was an expensive commodity. We have proof of that.  Some vegetables were grown, but in Scotland and England, crops don't grow well in the winter. And grain can mold.  So packaging was a problem. No plastic containers, no waxed paper, no tin foil. They wrapped their food in cloth, if it was available. But some of the foods we have today were either unknown then or considered poison. I love the story of the tomato. But that's for another time.

We have little information about daily life, although we can guess that without our electric conveniences life was tough. A couple of misconceptions need to be mentioned. Some of the castles had glass windows. They were little, expensive and the glass was wavy but they did have them. Also the walls of a castle were often painted or whitewashed, so they weren't the dark, drab places often depicted. We do have some knowledge of their entertainment, again from the tapestries, and certain celebrations were passed down from generation to generation until today, but we can only guess how much has changed over the centuries. You can get an idea of how that might happen if you ever played the game of telephone with your friends, where one person whispers something to one other and it's then passed around a group, until everyone has heard something. Of course, it's never the same as what has first whispered.

Then there's the inconsistency in some of the information available. Take the concept of the privy. Was the garderobe a privy as a lot of people suggest, or was it a closet? Did the shaft from the garderobe empty into the moat of the castle and what about the castles that didn't have moats? There were a lot of those.

And bathing?  Did they bath frequently? Many people say, no. but there are records of the lady of the castle helping with baths and that baths were always prepared for guests. So what's the real story?

I hope you see the problem, so what do authors do?  We guess. We make up names, descriptions, places, how things were done based on the limited knowledge we have and hope we haven't blundered too badly.

Will I stop writing about the times centuries ago? Nope. The third book of the 'song' series, is in construction at this time. Again, I'll have to make things up and hope I don't stray too far from the actual facts. Unfortunately, there's no way to check.

Happy reading!
Coming in August - Watch for 'Battlesong' the sequel to award winning 'Heartsong' from Champagne Books

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Talking Magick with Ciara Gold

 A Wee bit of Magick
Before I begin, I’d like to thank Dawn for this wonderful opportunity to post on her blog.
Yesterday, I spent all day critiquing/judging four entries for an on-line chapter contest. I love being able to help new writers, because I remember so well being in their shoes.  In the beginning I had a great story, but my mechanics were horrid with that first attempt, and I was very lucky to find a group of writers willing to help me learn.
What I found with these four pieces of work was rather interesting. All four had the story and a decent plot. All four generally had good mechanics. Only one had any magick or spark. So I started looking at why the other three fell flat. Some problems were little, some not so little. Here were the top three issues each of these examples needed work on. 
 ·         Most of us that have been writing for a while know about passive vs active. We know the to-be words should be used sparingly.  But here are some that aren’t as obvious to the new writer; realized, watched, saw, heard.  These words take the reader out of deep POV.  If we’re in the character’s head it’s assumed she did the realizing, the watching, etc. So – Melony heard the sound of running elephants becomes the thundering footfalls of elephants caught Melony’s attention.
·         Characterization plays a big role in a winning piece of work. Characterization is supported by more than internal thoughts of that character. Supporting characters give insight into that character as well as dialogue. Here’s where “show don’t tell” is important. Don’t tell me the character is heroic. Show me. Don’t tell me they have a phobia of pink, lacy hats. Show me.
·         Dialogue is the biggest problem for most beginning writers. One character asks a question and another answers.  A writer must get into the heads of each character because each will have their own voice, their own quirky way of responding. I think 50% of the magick in a manuscript is the dialogue. Dialogue goes hand in hand with characterization in helping the reader “see” beyond the description of the character.
That said, I’d like to post an unedited excerpt from the book of my heart, to be published this coming December.  I didn’t misspell magick without good reason as this Victorian fantasy hosts a wizard with all sorts of magickal powers.  I love this story because it has opened up a wealth of possibilities for connected stories and I have in fact already started working on others in the series. Title? I haven’t really settled on one yet. For some reason, the title eludes me. I’ve gone from Magick Moon to Celestial Moon, but as my editor hasn’t yet read it, I imagine she and I will come up with a title to outshine my other titles. This excerpt shows the hero, Vin or Lord Lockenworth, exchanging words with the protagonist, Lord Thurmon. Kirin, by the way, is a unicorn and Vin is a wizard of extraordinary abilities.
            The men walked to the stables in strained silence, each taking the other’s measure. It wasn’t until they’d reached Kirin’s stall that Thurmon opened the conversation. “I know you, Lockenworth. Or at least, I know your type.”
            Vin breathed in the fresh scent of hay and stroked Kirin’s nose. She’d become agitated by Thurmon’s presence. “And what type would that be?”
            The alcohol he’d consumed after dinner loosened his tongue. “Rake, rogue. You and I are of a similar nature. I, too, consider myself a lady’s man, yet I’ve managed to avoid marriage. Now I find myself on the other end, as protector of the innocent.”
            “And you don’t want to see your sister hurt by any actions on my part?”
            “Well said.”
            “Your sister is lovely. I would be a fool not to be tempted by her beauty, but she’s far too young for my tastes.” He paused, enjoying the subtle nuances of this discussion. “Why drink a young wine when you can enjoy the full bodied richness of an aged vintage?”
            Thurmon narrowed his eyes and fisted his hands. “Then my warnings should veer in another direction.”
            “Ah - now we are beginning to understand one another.”
            Thurmon slapped his gloves against his thighs. “You wish a liaison with the governess.” The flat statement caused Vin to grin. Humans were indeed very transparent.
            “As do you, if I’m not mistaken,” Vin said.
            “I could never pass up a challenge.” Thurmon swayed.
            “And Miss Willshire has spurned your advances which makes her more desirable in your eyes. You enjoy the hunt. An affair with the governess would not be frowned upon nearly as harshly as ruining the reputation of a peer’s daughter?”
            “You’re very astute, Lockenworth. What about you? What makes you intrigued by the woman?”
            “If you have to ask, then perhaps we don’t understand each other after all.”
So – what do you think adds magick to a manuscript? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I love Texas

I love Texas. It's my adopted state but I'm one of those people with a bumper sticker thats says "I wasn't born here but I got here as fast as I could." I think part of iot is the fact that texas is the only state that was a country first and people still have a lot of pride of place. And secondly, the landscape is so varied-large cities, small towns, ranchland, oil derricks. There's juist so much to write about. And I never get tired of my cowboys. Trouble in Cowboy Boots is the first book the Sequins, Saddles and Spurs series I wrote with Regina Carlysle and Ciana Stone, about three women who are victims of enomic downsizing. Leaving las Vegas with an ancient pink Cadillac and three huindred dollars between them, the head outto see what they can find. What they find is tiny Mesa Blanco, texas, when their car breaks down, it doesn't have much to recommend it except three very hot men.
Get it at Ellora's Cave
Stranded in Mesa Blanco, Texas, with no money and no prospects, Emily Lathrop hires on as the cook at the Lazy Aces Ranch. Two problems—she can’t cook, and owner Wyatt Cavanaugh is so hot she nearly burns herself just standing near him. Trying to keep her hormones under control is a problem when Wyatt seduces her into his bed and teaches her the real meaning of erotic love.
Now proper Emily finds herself shockingly addicted to the BDSM games he likes to play, her body craving the bondage and domination that pushes her thermostat past the point of combustion even though she suspects it’s all going to come crashing down any moment with a big, painful thud.
Emily Proctor slammed the hood of the car and looked at her two friends.
“I don’t have a clue what’s wrong with this clunker, but I jiggled everything I could. See if it starts now.”
They’d set out from Las Vegas, the three of them, refugees from downsizing, with nothing but this whale-sized bucket of bolts, a few possessions, prepaid cell phones for emergencies and the grand total of three hundred dollars between them. West there was only California and LaLa Land so they’d headed east, away from the desert heat. They’d expected the car to break down somewhere, just not on a highway with nothing around them except pastures and cattle. They hadn’t even passed another vehicle in almost an hour. And it was hotter than nine kinds of hell.
She’d pulled her thick mane of sable hair back into a pony tail. Now she lifted it off her neck where it rested limply and used it to fan her skin. If this was a nightmare, she wanted to wake up right this minute.
Lola Lamont wriggled in behind the wheel. One blonde curl from the mass of curls piled haphazardly on her head and held in place with a clip fell forward onto her forehead and she brushed it impatiently away. Stretching out her long, showgirl legs and straightening the t-shirt that barely concealed breasts that were the envy of every other girl in the shows she worked herself into place on the seat. Letting out a long, slow breath, she carefully turned the key. The motor coughed, gurgled, groaned and finally turned over with a sound that set all their teeth on edge.
“At least it started again.” She sighed. The 1966 pink Cadillac convertible was her contribution to their road trip. “This old gal has been very good to me.”
“It may be time to put her to sleep,” Roxie snorted.
“Roxie!” Lola did her best to look affronted.
“I’m with Rox,” Emily put in. “You think this hunk of junk will at least get us to the next town?”
Leaning against the car, Roxie fanned herself with her hand. “It better, or we’re gonna burn up like fried chicken.”
“All right.” Emily dusted her hands off on the seat of her jeans shorts. “Rox, get in the car. Lola, you drive. Roll all the windows down to catch some kind of breeze and pray as you never have before that we hit civilization before this thing rolls over for the last time.”
The grand adventure they’d tried to make this was turning into a grand pain in the ass. If they didn’t light somewhere soon they’d be in bigger trouble than they’d had in Vegas.
No one said a word as they rolled down the highway, each mile unwinding beneath them with unbearable slowness. Emily knew they were sending up silent prayers to the gods and the fates and anyone else who would listen.
Please, please, let us land somewhere safe.
Just as the engine was beginning to make threatening noises again, signs of life emerged. Smack in the middle of the highway sat a town. If you could call it that, Emily thought. A far cry from the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas.
But it had a main street, cross streets running into it and, lord have mercy, a cafe, where the car heaved its last and died.
“At least we’ll be able to get something cold to drink,” Roxie sighed.
“You better hope it’s cheap,” Lola warned. “Maybe we could all share one.”
“Maybe we could just go inside and see what’s what.” Emily blew a stray hair away from her face. How in god’s name had she ever thought this would be fun?
“’What’s what’ better be a way to get that hunk of junk fixed,” Roxie said, climbing out of the car.
“As if.” Lola tugged on her very tight white shorts and brushed at her hot pink tank top. “The only way that’s gonna happen is if we rob a bank or win the lottery.”
“Right now we don’t even have money for a lottery ticket,” Emily reminded her and sighed. “Okay. Let’s go see what’s inside. Hopefully they have air conditioning or we might sweat to death.”
The inside of Blue Belle’s looked so cheerful Emily almost threw up. Booths among one wall were upholstered in what she could only call an electric blue and the scattering of tables and chairs had cheap vases of artificial blue flowers on them. Every available space on the wall was filled with more pictures of bluebonnets than she’d ever seen. Not that she’d seen that many.
At three o’clock in the afternoon the place was mostly empty. The first thing Emily noticed was the blast of cool air that greeted them. The second was the three men sitting at a corner table. They all looked up as the women trooped in. If Emily had been in a better mood she’d have checked them out. Right now all she wanted was cold liquid, not a hot man.
The three of them plunked down in chairs at a table near the door. Roxie picked up the menus stuck between the salt and pepper shakers and fanned herself. A woman in jeans and a blouse the loudest blue Emily had ever seen came out from behind the lunch counter.
“Y’all look like you’ve just been dragged through hell,” she commented. “What can I get for you?”
Roxie stopped fanning herself and looked at the plastic-covered menu. “We’ll have the large Coke.”
“All of you?” the waitress asked.
“One coke,” Emily told her. “Three straws.”
The woman stared at them for a long minute then shrugged. “Okay. One Coke. Three straws.”
“Couldn’t we each just get a small one?” Lola whined.
Emily bit back the retort that bubbled up. “Even a small one is more than two dollars,” she hissed. “They probably think they’ll get rich on strangers coming through.”
The woman returned with a huge glass filled with the bubbly soda, plunked it down on the table and slammed three paper-wrapped straws beside it.
“She probably figures she won’t be getting as tip,” Lola giggled.
“She’s right,” Emily said and picked up one of the straws.
They were each taking small sips, savoring the icy cold liquid, when the waitress returned with two more large glasses of coke and set them on the table.
Emily looked up at her. “Um, we didn’t order those.”
“I know.” The woman’s voice could have curdled milk. “Your friends over there did.”
“My friends?” Emily frowned. “I don’t have any friends here.”
“You do now.”
The voice was deep and so smooth it sent shivers of delight dancing along her spine. She was vaguely aware of a chair scraping on the floor next to her and a body folding down into it. When she forced herself to look at the occupant she nearly lost it. A typical cowboy hat sat atop a head with thick sun-streaked brown hair long enough to touch the collar of his chambray shirt. Hazel eyes with flecks of amber and green were watching her with an amused look. Sensuous lips turned up in a slight grin that softened the harsh angles and planes of his very masculine face. Faded jeans covered long legs that he crossed with one ankle resting on the other knee, giving her a good look at dusty, but obviously expensive, cowboy boots. Hand tooled. Emily had seen enough of them on high rollers in Vegas.
Emily was vaguely aware that the other two men had also joined them but she couldn’t make herself pull her eyes away from the man next to her.

Come visit me at www.desireeholttells and

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Talking with Alex Beecroft

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

There's not much to tell.  I'm a person whose fantasy life is a lot more interesting than their real life, thank goodness!  I have several genres that I enjoy – Historical, Fantasy and Mystery.  I've also written a contemporary and a ghost story.  In fact, other than Horror and Western, I don't think there's a genre I wouldn't attempt if you asked me to.

What comes first for you when you sit down to write a book? Plot or Characters?

Characters, definitely.  I often take the first five chapters or so to find out who my characters are and what they want, and only then do I sit down and figure out what the plot is.  The characters have to be alive and kicking before they can start making the decisions which lead to the plot.  This method often means that I have to go back and re-write the first five chapters once I know what I'm doing, but it's worth the extra effort.

Do you "cast" your characters using pictures or actors to help inspire you when you're writing?

Yes.  I'm not a very visual writer.  I don't see pictures in my head when I write, so if I didn't find a photo to use as a visual reference, I would probably not know, myself, what my characters looked like.   I usually start off by "casting" actors to play my characters.  Peter Kenyon from Captain's Surrender, for example, is played by James D'Arcy and John Cavendish from False Colors by Simon Woods.

How long does it take you to finish a book from start to finish?

It depends on the length and complexity of the book.  I would say that a novel length book, 80,000 words or more, takes me not less than nine months and sometimes a year.  I do three drafts and a final polish, and an awful lot can change between drafts.  Usually the more I think about the book, the more ideas I get for how all the different pieces can be tied together.  My first drafts are terrible!  Almost all the good stuff gets added in during my revisions.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

My latest book is called Shining in the Sun.  It's a holiday romance between a rich yachtsman and a poor surfer.  They both have terrible lives (in very different ways) and react by running away from them for one month of freedom every year, but this year they run into each other and discover that together they're strong enough to turn around and start facing their problems.

I was inspired by my own summer holidays, which I spend in the same village that I write about in the book.  It's such a lovely place that I wanted to wrap it up with a bow and give it to everyone, so that they could have a Cornish summer holiday too.

How much does reader reaction mean to you as an author? Do you read your own reviews?

Reader reaction is hugely important to me.  I read all the reviews I can find, and when they're good I feel that this slaving over a hot typewriter is all worth while.  Good reviews definitely make me want to write more.  Bad ones do make me want to give up, but – fortunately for me – the impulse rarely lasts more than a week before I pick myself up again and go on regardless.  But I treasure all my positive reviews, and keep them to re-read when I'm feeling down and depressed.  They always cheer me up.

What are you working on now? Anything you want to tell us about?

At the moment I'm writing a very long Fantasy novel called Under the Hill.  It may even end up being two volumes.  It's a quirky tale of a group of amateur ghostbusters and how they bite off more than they can chew when they find themselves going up against the Faerie Queen.  It was inspired in part by the ending of Torchwood.  I had enjoyed Torchwood when it was fun and slightly silly, rather than when it became very slick but dreadfully depressing.  So I wanted to do a story about a paranormal investigation agency myself, but to keep it fairly lighthearted and romantic and avoid laying on too much angst.

What books are currently on your nightstand/bedside? Anything coming you are dying to read?

At the moment I'm absolutely swamped in research.  I'm reading all about World War Two for a historical romance I mean to do after I've finished Under the Hill.  So I'm enthralled by Enemy Coast Ahead by Guy Gibson, and Bomber Boys by Patrick Bishop.  And for light relief I'm reading the Inspector Barnaby books by Caroline Graham.  I can't wait for my copy of Counterpoint by Ruth Sims to arrive from America, though.  That will trump everything, when it gets here.

If someone hasn't read any of your work, what book would you recommend that they start with and why?

I would say False Colors because it's the book I'm best known for.  It's also more representative of what my writing is normally about than Shining in the Sun.  I am very proud of Shining in the Sun, but partly I'm proud of it because it's the sort of book I didn't think I could write – I'm not a contemporary fan in general – and I don't know that I would be able to do it again.

If you could have been the servant to any famous person in history, who would that be and why?

Because there is a straightforward example of a man whose life made the world a better place.

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?

I'm sure that ebooks will go from strength to strength.  Once I got my ebook reader I became a firm convert to the idea of having a library in my pocket.  As far as publishing goes, however, I hesitate to guess.  It seems clear, though, that reading is not going to go away for a long time, so I don't think that writers are going to become obsolete quite yet.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

It's as hard to choose which character you love most as it is to choose which of your children you love most.  You love them all equally, though sometimes for different reasons.  I love John Cavendish from False Colors because of his delicacy, and Garnet Littleton from Blessed Isle because nothing phases him at all.  I love Darren (also known as Ryan) from Shining in the Sun because he's such a foul-mouthed vulnerable mess, and Jasper from The Wages of Sin because he has suffered and been made stronger and more compassionate by it.  

I don't hate any of them, but I pity Captain Edwards in Captain's Surrender and Darren's father in Shining in the Sun because they are so self-centered and self-righteous that they will probably never understand how hateful they've allowed themselves to become.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her/it/him when she/he/it refuses to inspire you?

I don't think I actually have one.  I have a strangely personal relationship with my characters, who come to life and often refuse to do what I think they should.  I'm always very happy when they surprise me, because it means they have become their own people.  But I don't think I have a muse in addition to them.

When I'm feeling uninspired I just wait until something comes along that interests me, and I go with that.  Sometimes the interest fizzles out, and sometimes it gets stronger for feeding – the way the WW2 idea has.  When it carries on getting stronger and starts becoming an obsession, I know I have my next idea/setting for a book.

If there was a soundtrack to your latest novel, what genre/songs would be included?

For Shining in the Sun, The Boys of Summer by Don Henley, definitely.  Also lots of Trance music – Sunset on Ibiza, God is a DJ, Southern Sun, Rapture by Armin van Buren, that sort of thing.

Which of your characters would you most likely fall for if they were real?

Either Jasper or Alfie (from False Colors), I think.  They are both uncomplicated, sensual, sunny characters who enjoy life and are well able to cope with anxious, nervous, self-sabotaging partners like me.  Jasper would be better for me because he doesn't have Alfie's temper and would stay calm when I yelled and threw plates. 

Having said that, though, I would have to be a gay man first, because falling for any of them would not do me any good in my present state.

Besides the bedroom, what's the sexiest part of your home in your opinion and why?

The garden – it's enclosed and surrounded on all sides by climbing roses, honeysuckle and jasmine, so that in the evening it's cool and full of scent, and none of the neighbors can see in.

Where can readers find you on the ‘net for more information on you, your books and other fun stuff?

I have a website here:
but I'm most often found hanging out on livejournal
Or, if you are in the UK, come along to the m/m meetup in Ely this September and meet me in person:

Sneak Peek into Shining In The Sun:

Footfalls gently whispered across sandy soil and grass.  He was turning when Ryan's arms slipped about him.  His shoulder collided with the yellow skeletal fish on the front of Ryan's T-shirt, which gave him a quizzical look. 

The kiss that must have been intended for the crown of his head landed on his temple.  It might have been the clapper and he the bell, the way he rang with it.  A sweet shock vibrated through every particle of him, echoed in his chest and trembled into silence at his finger ends.

"Ah!" he said, thought whiting out in sensation as Ryan shifted behind him to align himself better, chest to Alec's back.  Alec's buttocks nestled into the curve of Ryan's groin.  He could feel the press of his own thin linen slacks and Ryan's numerous pockets and zips, keys and change and the hot, smooth bulge of his swelling prick.

"S'OK," Ryan murmured into the nape of his neck, breath stirring the little hairs there, making him shiver all over.  "You don't have to do that."  His hands burrowed under the blazer's rough wool, stroking over Alec's stomach.  Splaying out wide, they pulled Alec gently but inexorably back against him.  There must be electricity in the palms of them: the fingertips poured out gentle sparks of need into each millimetre of skin over which they slid.  Ryan touched his lips and then his tongue to the back of Alec's neck, and harbour path, sea and sundial swam into steel before him as his eyes unfocussed and slid shut.  "You don't have to do anything."

Oh God!  Alec's life unravelled under Ryan's hands.  His own cock stiffened, needy and demanding, and Ryan's hand slid slowly down his belly to cup it, heat welling through his palm.  The firm slow press filled Alec's backbone and belly with writhing prickly pleasure.  Summer was here, beating on his back, boiling in his veins and balls. 

All at once, he thought of his father, his share portfolio.  Whist foursomes, wedding plans, his mother's tears and hopes for grandchildren rose up to blot out the sun.  He thought he stiffened with realization, but instead found himself pushing into the hard encircling fingers.

"The car!  Oh, God, I… oh… I never called back for the car!  And they'll be…"  A kiss just beneath his ear, the laving press of Ryan's tongue down the side of his neck and the words skittered away.  He groped for them as if they could shield him from this – oh – this glory.  "Shut.  They'll be shut now."

"You can stay with me."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Talking with Scarlett Parrish

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
I write erotic romance. Within that genre, I dabble in contemporary, M/M and urban fantasy. I want to try a little bit of everything, as long as it’s spicy, too!

I’ve always written. Always. But I never felt I’d really hit my stride until November 2008, when I complained to my ‘partner in grime’ Lori (who writes as Lauren Gallagher and L.A. Witt) that I had no ideas left in the tank. Being a no-nonsense type she said, “Ah, just make up some characters, get them drunk and have them fuck a lot.”

I took her advice and the result was Long Time Coming, which is why that book is dedicated to her.

I have never had so much fun since I started writing erotic romance. Finding my genre was like coming home.

What comes first for you when you sit down to write a book? Plot or Characters?
Character is plot. If my characters are three-dimensional, they determine their own course of action much of the time. Even with the projects I outline, my characters have a tendency to turn around and say “Nope, not doing that. This is a better way to make the story develop.” It’s fun when that happens; it shows they’re becoming real people...if only in my own head.

It’s really helpful for me to ask all my main characters three things: What do you want? How far are you prepared to go to get it? What will happen if you don’t?

Do you "cast" your characters using pictures or actors to help inspire you when you're writing?
Sometimes. But as with the original spark of an idea, by the time the book’s finished, the characters and situations bear no resemblance to whatever (or whoever) inspired them.

It’s fairly accurate to say I use templates on occasion, but the characters soon become wholly themselves rather than offshoots of so-and-so.

How long does it take you to finish a book from start to finish?
From opening up MS Word and typing ‘chapter one’ to finishing the first draft? It averages out at around three months. I know I can write faster than that; I’m not as self-disciplined as I ought to be so that’s my number one thing to work on regarding my writing. Lori is a great motivator for working harder and faster – she’s a robot ninja from the future with pens for fingers. She can write an entire novel in the time it takes my laptop to boot up.

I’ve been advised by well-meaning folk, “Don’t push yourself,” but that’s a mindset I’ll never subscribe to. I’m in this game specifically for that reason. I want each book to be better than the last and I always want to be pushing myself.

But no matter how long the first draft takes to write, I never need more than two weeks to edit it to submission standard. It must work because my editor told me I gave her one of the cleanest manuscripts she’d ever seen in all her years in the job. (Strange, as it’s a ‘dirty’ book)!

The thought of taking a year to write one book fills me with horror. Anything longer than three months feels like an eternity. I’d like to get it down to two for a novel, one for a novella. There are too many books to be written to spend longer than that on one.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
My only published book thus far is Long Time Coming, which I mentioned earlier. It was written less because of inspiration, more because of a dare. I wrote it blind, with no outline, no plan, nothing. It ended up being the story of a woman who’s a bit of a player, and the man who finally tames her. I wanted to see if I could write a sexy book and ended up falling in love with the hero, Leo, myself!

When you're not writing, what do you like to do to just kick back and have fun?
I’m not gregarious by any stretch of the imagination, so I like to spend time alone or in very, very small groups – no more than say, four or five people. Ideally one-on-one. Truthfully, I’m an introvert, which doesn’t mean psychotically anti-social; whereas an extrovert would be energised in company, I feel like that about solitude. Company drains me. I like to go to the cinema alone or stay home and read. To be honest, writing’s the most fun I can have on my own (snerk) and that’s why I do so much of it. I’ve found what I most love to do, and I get paid for it. No hobby or pastime comes close to giving me that much pleasure.

Do you ever experience writer's block? If you do, how do you cope with it?
I don’t. I say it doesn’t exist.

People who claim to have it are putting the responsibility for their work outside of themselves. Blaming time, family, work, illness, whatever. Yet there are others in exactly the same situation who get on and do it. There are twenty-four hours in everyone’s day.

Ideas are all around us. There’s always something to write. We never hear of hairdresser’s block or dentist’s block or shop assistant’s block. We don’t always feel like bouncing out of bed and getting on with the day at hand and that’s tough but if you want to pay the bills, you do your job.

You know the best cure for ‘writer’s block’? A mortgage.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
Definitely yes and I have no idea where it came from; no-one else in my family was a reader.

The first book I read that made me realise what words can do was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The Twits by Roald Dahl was another childhood favourite. I read Dracula at the age of seven and that sparked a lifelong love of all things undead. I binged on Danielle Steel novels in my teens. I still read children’s and YA books in my thirties. There’s no rhyme or reason to my reading tastes over the years. I was a voracious reader throughout my youth and still am today, though the vast majority of books I read now are in the genre I write – erotic romance. I carry my e-reader everywhere. I also like historical biographies and historical fiction set during the Wars of the Roses or the Tudor period.

If you could have been the servant to any famous person in history, who would that be and why?
I lean towards Anne Boleyn. She was innocent of the charges against her in my opinion. I would have liked to have known the real Anne, rather than the historical figure. But as the saying goes, “History is written by the victors.”

Or Leonardo da Vinci. Can you imagine picking that genius’s brains?

What do you see for the future of publishing and ebooks?
There are a lot of doom-merchants when it comes to publishing. I don’t believe a word of it. As Adam Ant once sang, “There is always room at the top/ Don’t let them tell you that there is not.” Storytelling’s been with us since the dawn of mankind. It’s not going away any time soon.

As for ebooks? They’ll grow in popularity, like any new technology. A couple of decades ago mobile phones were expensive and as big as housebricks. Now everyone’s got one. The same will be true of e-readers.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
Love? Daniel Cross from The Devil You Know, which will be on submission by the time this interview’s published. He’s a shameless flirt who’d nail anything that moves, male or female. His flirting is of the sort that makes the object of his attention feel like the only man or woman in the world. So by his own admission he’s a slut, but he’s charismatic and fun with it.

Hate? None of them. Cian Ambrose from A Little Death (a novella which will be on sub soon after this interview goes public) is a psychopathic killer, but hey, we’ve all got faults. And he’s just a little angry at the whole ‘undead and condemned to a life of bloodsucking and no-one truly understanding or loving him’ thing.

Fear – see above. Cian again!

Pity? I treat all my characters badly; it’s a wonder they don’t hate me, but everyone gets what they deserve in the end. I do feel sorry when I have to hurt one of the good guys, though.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?
Just like I don’t believe in writer’s block, I wouldn’t say the muse is a real person either. However, just as there are things which make writing more challenging but not impossible, there are other things which make writing easier.

Having a good night’s sleep (rare). Having nothing to do for the rest of the day, which frees me up to think of whatever book I’m working on at the time. Music. I don’t listen while I work, but if I’m doing chores for example, I’ll listen to a favourite album or two which I nominate as soundtrack for my work-in-progress. It’s a way of almost hypnotising myself into the writing mindset. And caffeine. Caffeine is always good. Twining’s Assam tea is nectar.

Plus, when my partner in grime, Lori, is online, I find it much easier to get work done. I have no idea why this is the case, but it works, so I’ll take it. She’s the only person I can talk to on MSN without getting distracted. I’m miles more productive when she’s around.

Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I’ve always got one book on the go. Just like Lori, I only draft one book at a time, but I may also be working on galleys, edits or revisions for another and synopses and queries for still more.

At the moment I’m drafting a novel with the working title Family Jewels, set in – yes, a jewellery store. The owner’s daughter and the acting manager take a shine to each other, and you can imagine the rest...

Have you ever experienced weird cravings while you write? If so, what kind?
Um...I write erotica. Cravings? You do the math. ;)

I think I’ll leave it at that.

What is the strangest source of writing inspiration you’ve ever had?
A conversation with a complete stranger in a library about the works of Anais Nin and the Marquis de Sade.

You come back from the dead as a spirit, what message are you trying to get across?
That 30 Seconds to Mars, Linkin Park and Goo Goo Dolls are the three greatest bands in the universe, if every good-looking man had at least three tattoos the world would be a better place, and whatever the question, chocolate is the answer.

If you were a world ruler and you were given a choice of 3 laws to enact, what would they be?
1 – The ‘If your surname is Leto, shirts are illegal and tattoos are compulsory’ Law.
2 – The ‘If your neighbours make too much noise, homicide is the only option’ Law.
3 – Jude Law.

Where can we find you on the web?
I don’t have a website – yet! – but I have a blog at and both fan mail and hate mail are welcome at

Release Blitz and Giveaway~ Heart Stopping

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions . One randomly drawn commenter via Rafflecopter will receiv...