Sunday, August 20, 2017

Podcast Episode 41: Interview with Moon Bound Authors Camryn Rhys and Krystal Shannan

Interview with Camryn Rhys & Krystal Shannan

In which the ladies of the podcast interview the authors of the Somewhere, Texas series, and the spin off series Moon Bound. There's a giveaway on the podcast blog page, too! 

Find the link to the podcast blog here:

The podcast is 1 year old! To celebrate, we're having a massive giveaway contest. Follow the link below to enter! Good luck! 

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Wondering

Motivation, Inspiration, and Dr. Pepper

Wednesdays are a good day to sit back and reflect on the first half of the week and to look forward to the last half. There's a reason we call Wednesday "hump day". It's often the hardest day of the week to get through at work and in our daily lives. 

On this particular Wednesday I have been working on the final Mythical Madness novel, ShadowBound. This is Jak's book and should wrap up the series. I'm normally a fairly fast writer, but this book has been like pulling teeth. It's taken me twice as long to get to 20,000 words than it usually does to complete an entire novel. 
After I ground out 1500 hard-fought words I opened my Dr Pepper,  sat back and turned on South Park for laughs, and found myself reflecting on why this book has been so difficult to complete.

The book itself isn't the issue. I enjoy writing in the Mythical Madness world and I have had a vision of Jak's journey for quite a while. I have books planned out through the end of 2018 and I have a ton of work to do to meet all my goals. So, as I sat on my couch contemplating Jak's story and why it's so darned hard to write, I've come to the conclusion that it's not the book. It's me! I got off track during my depressive episode earlier this year, and I don't think I'm fully back on that track. Real life, family, and the things going on in the world are distracting me from my imaginary world and making it difficult to fully immerse myself. 

I think every author faces this dilemma at some time or another. The best advice I've gotten is that I shouldn't stop writing, no matter how hard it is. Even if I get one word down, it's a victory. From authors who have beat this issue, I've heard that forcing myself to put words on paper, even if they aren't particularly good words, will grease the wheels. If I push myself to continue on, it should get easier day by day! I've been working hard to follow this advice, making time to write every day. Even if it's unpleasant to force myself to get into writing mode, I have found that once I start it gets easier and easier as time goes on. 

So, on this Wednesday I would challenge all writers to forge ahead, even if it feels like you can't bear to put the pen to paper or the fingers to the keys. Even if you only manage ten minutes or ten words, it's something. Make writing a habit, and eventually it will come more easily (I hope!). In the end, ShadowBound will be finished and Jak will get his story. It's been a long, uphill battle with many more skirmishes to fight, but I won't give up! 

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Podcast Episode 040: Review of I am Dragon

Review of 'I Am Dragon'

Elle and I discuss the movie 'I Am Dragon', a recent release out of Russia. It's a delicate, beautiful paranormal romance with a lot going for it. 

Focus on Fantasy Romance Podcast is celebrating its first birthday! Join the ladies of the podcast and other guests and have a chance to win some really amazing prizes!


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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Real Author: The Art of Happy Endings

Real Author: The Art of Happy Endings

I love happy endings. (No, get your mind out of the gutter I'm not talking about that). I'm talking about books, movies, songs, music videos, cartoons and comic books that give me that one crucial aspect of the story that I'm looking for the whole way through: a happy ending. 

What is a happy ending? I think "happy" is subjective on the best of days, but I can tell you what I perceive to be a happy ending. The characters come to a fruitful, satisfying conclusion to their current story with some hope that any further life they may have to lead off the page, screen, etc might not be as crappy as whatever they just went through in the story. That seems pretty simple, doesn't it? But, it's not. Frankly- the two main characters who have experienced a romantic connection with some discussion of a 'relationship' to follow, should be together or in the preparatory stages of solidifying said relationship by the time I close the book. Does this mean they need to be hitched with 3.5 kids and a white picket fence? Nope. However, it does mean that the last 300 pages, 2 hours of my life, or three minutes of music video had better not have been for nothing! (Yeah- I'm one of those readers who gets mad when I'm led on!)

Now-- hold your horses before you go getting all BUT AMY! on me. I know as well as anyone that there are certain types of stories that are not relationship based. There are all kinds of genres where the relationship between Hero 1 and Heroine 2 is not the point. Thrillers, spy novels, mysteries, hard SF, and horror are a few genres I can think of right off that the author might not have to worry about something like a happily ever after. I mean, how many horror novels do you read that have a happy anything let alone ending?

But, folks, romance is NOT this genre. I don't read exclusively romance. I'd go so far as to say that I like a pretty broad range of books. However, if you're going to bill a book to me as a romance you'd better gosh darn give me the warm n' fuzzies! Don't get me wrong-- I'm a writer who would love to write you the absolute best, most heartwarming romance and then have the whole world burn around them at the end while they hold hands and smile (have seriously considered it!)-- BUT, I would never, ever, ever tell you that this book is a romance novel. I'd tell you it's "ugly cry" and "romantic" but not a full fledged romance. 

When readers come to the romance aisle they have a few concrete expectations, and the HEA is one of them. Now-- can you play around with the HEA? Yup! Mix it up. Put 'em through hell! Make the characters fight for every precious moment. That's the best thing about romance. It's hard! Very few romance novels are boy-meets-girl, girl-likes-boy, they date, have no issues and live a long, uncomplicated life together. Usually, you're reading the romance to get the experience of falling in love again. All the ugly, beautiful truth of it as best as the author can tell it. 

When I sat down to write the story of Rand and Muriel in Redshift, I had a vision of a novel that told a complicated and beautiful love story. Lovers torn apart by circumstance, who had to fight the very universe to find each other again. In the end, I wanted them to stand on the edge of the last day of the world and know that all that mattered is that they were together. But I couldn't. I just couldn't. Sure, crappy stuff like that happens in real life every day. But it wasn't real life--it's my ROMANCE novel! As much as I felt the emotion in that moment, I couldn't bring myself to make so much heartache mean so little. I won't spoil it, but the end is pretty good even without all the fire. 

What about novels where the characters sort of get together but it's not a real relationship? Oh, you mean the ones where they tease about it but don't get there after 9 or 10 books? Those aren't romances, either! Nope. They're usually Urban Fantasy, Romantic SF, or some other genre with romantic elements. I love books like this-- but it's not what I go looking for when I want to read a romance. It doesn't answer the fundamental question-- the need-- of the romance reader. Did they get a HEA? 

So- there are infinite ways to write HEAs. There are infinite ways to write books that have them, and books that don't. I think what's important is knowing what you want to write. If you're hoping for a romance- find a way. If you're looking at something else with romantic elements, romance your heart out and don't worry about the HEA. (I still prefer a hint at HEA but we don't always get what we want!) Writing the HEA in a way that satisfies the romance reader is a tough thing to do, but it's necessary. Just saying "A and B will be together" doesn't really do it for us readers anymore. I know I try to one-up the last book with every new book's ending. Can I pack a bigger punch? Can I take your breath away more quietly and unexpectedly? Can I leave the reader more emotionally touched (happy, sad, furious, crushed etc) than I have before? Challenging myself to bring the epic emotional feels is the way I strive to keep my HEAs fresh and exciting.

Have you read any amazing HEAs? What's your favorite? I'd love to hear from you in the comments. Let me know how you feel as a reader, or an author, about the HEA. 

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fangirl Friday (Postponed til Sunday!): Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

Whether discussing the 1887 version of Sherlock Holmes who first appeared in A Study in Scarlet, or watching Benedict Cumberbatch play the esteemed hero detective on BBC, there's nothing quite so exhilarating as having a fangirl obsession with the world's only consulting detective. I became a fan of Sherlock Holmes in the 7th grade when I read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes from our local library. Doyle had a style about his writing that really captured my imagination and took me along on the journey, through the clues with Holmes and Watson, and it was the best feeling in the world to solve the unsolvable puzzles with the indomitable duo. 

Of course, there's nothing extremely sexy about the original Holmes. He was a lean, sharp man with a penchant for cocaine and the violin. He smoked too much and cared too little (or too much) and was more or less an emotional burden on poor Dr. John Watson. What I loved most about original Holmes was the way Doyle made him at once unreachable hero and a completely human person. The thrill of the deduction was just as exciting as seeing the small glimpses of a man inside the shell of Sherlock Holmes.

Which brings me to my favorite iteration of Holmes. The new BBC television drama Sherlock takes place in a modern day London. Sherlock Holmes is the world's only consulting detective, and he finds himself living with retired soldier Dr. John Watson at 221B Baker Street. There are so many things to love about this version of Sherlock Holmes. First off, his character is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. He's both a wonderful actor and a cutie! He brings an air of bored playboy and broken man to the character of Sherlock Holmes. In this era, Holmes is a heroine addict who uses heroine when he gets bored. (It's something to do.) Though he has a group of loyal acquaintances, Sherlock has no one he can really call a friend until he meets John Watson. Watson has a deep and well-written character in this version as well. He is skeptical but thrill-seeking and just as intent on the chase as Holmes. 

There's too much about the show to really get into every detail. I will, however, talk about my favorite episode. SPOILERS AHEAD-STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN SEASON 4!!!!!!

My favorite episode of the entire show has to be the episodes up to and just after Mary Watson's death. It's your standard Holmes/Watson escapade all the way up to the part where Vivian Norbury pulls the trigger and Mary jumps in front of Sherlock to take the bullet. Now, as an ex "wet work" agent, Mary has done her share of heroic deeds, but I think this particular one is a little bit of payback. Mary once shot Sherlock, and now she's saving his life. She saves him, I think, more for John than for Sherlock. She saw how broken and unhappy John was when he thought Sherlock was dead before. She couldn't imagine how broken hearted he'd be if Sherlock was really dead. The next episodes, when John really despises Sherlock and blames him for Mary's death, are exceptionally well written. We learn later on that it's also a bit of self-loathing on John's part that makes him act this way because he was texting another woman in the days leading up to Mary's death. The moment when John confronts his guilt and speaks to Mary's ghost (who has been haunting him through these episodes) are heart-wrenching. I adored the moment that Sherlock acknowledged that Mary was haunting him, too. 

"I'm Sherlock Holmes; I'll wear the damned hat. Right, Mary?"

There are many reasons to love Sherlock Holmes, especially if you love a good mystery. To me, the character dynamics are just as important as the clever deductions themselves. We have Mycroft (Sherlock's interesting older brother) and Mrs. Hudson (his hilarious landlady), as well as Molly Hooper and Greg Lestrade. All these characters make the show multi-dimensioned and unforgettable. 

I hope you enjoyed my gushing over the wonderful world of Sherlock Holmes. Let's talk about it! What is your favorite episode of Sherlock? Do you have a favorite Holmes adventure? Tell me in the comments!!

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

SFR Brigade Showcase: Letters from Icarus Kane

Letters from Icarus Kane

London, 1870


Greetings to you from dreary London. I write to you in hopes this letter finds you well in the future. My magical scroll will bring this letter to you with well wishes from Cora, Archimedes, Lucia and the others. As requested, I have prepared my answers to your questions. I must tell you that I am uncomfortable answering such personal queries, but I shall do my best. My wife would allow nothing else, as you well know.

Your first question was: How is married life treating me?
I find it difficult to express the extent of happiness that has suffused my soul since my marriage to Cora. Our courtship was not the typical one, as you know. She is an easy woman to love, but I am not so easy. Coming face to face with my father and the events of my past has allowed me to accept this and to try to change it. Mostly unsuccessfully, they like to tell me.

How is your relationship with the aether?
Since discovering that the aether is both sentient and ancient, I have developed a tentative and respectful friendship with the intelligence that powers our magic. It has created, as you'd imagine, unparalleled opportunity to learn from them. Their rules, however, make it difficult to learn and ask questions, and they cannot break their three rules. 

Is my bromance still strong with Archimedes?
I confess I did not understand this term "bromance" as it alludes to an improper relationship between Archimedes and I that most certainly does not exist. My darling wife tells me that this infers a deep and lasting friendship, and so to this I can answer. Archimedes is a man of loyalty, courage and deep understanding of human nature that I will never possess. There is no man I would rather have at my side, or guarding my back, than him. At the moment he is traveling in Egypt with his intended, and I must admit that I feel his absence deeply. It is my greatest hope that we will all soon be reunited.

What does the future hold for the group?
As I lack the ability to tell the future with any certainty, and the aether refuses to tell me, I can only speculate. However, the reports from Egypt tell me that Archimedes and Lucia are on a daring quest to recover stolen artifacts of magical significance. It is entirely possible that Cora and I will join them there if the need should arise. Corrigan has returned to Romania in search of his lost gypsy bride, and the last I heard he was tracking her through the wilderness of the Hoia Baciu Forest. Bastion and Stella accompanied him, and are well on their way to a marriage of their own if my wife's intuition is to be believed. Lucan Orrin, the Grand Master, remains in India at a summit of the world's magical leaders as they try to create an accord with the non-magical community. In this, I have no speculation as to what might happen. My only hope is that we can avoid another war. 

How is Machiavelli?
I confess, I do not understand your fascination with the damnable bird familiar. He is quite well, and determined to keep his pointy beak in the midst of all our business. Of late, Cora has begun to suspect that he may have a love interest of his own, as he is soliciting courting advice from her during their weekly brunch. I do my best to avoid the creature, but secretly appreciate that he holds such regard for my wife. Should I ever be away, I know he would keep her safe.

Will there be children in the Kane household?
This question is highly impertinent, but I suspect my wife put you up to asking this one. For now, I feel our lives are too unpredictable to introduce children into the mix. Cora insists that a child or two would do nothing more than settle us, but I fear she would only insist on bringing them along on our adventures. We would soon have a small rogue with red hair and a darling daughter with blonde curls, each as fearless as their mother and as careless as their father. This is not a combination I wish to encourage, but I feel I shall soon have no say in the matter. My wife has wiles that never fail to leave me witless. 

Is there anything you wish to say to the fans?
We have fans? I find this hard to believe. We are simple folk who live to serve London with our magic. Of late we have enjoyed some quiet time, but I fear this will soon come to an end. My scroll, dear chronicler, will come to you filled with our adventures. You may assure these "fans" that Cora, Archimedes, the others, and I, will not keep them in suspense. 

Until the next time, 

Icarus Kane
Alchemist & Ward of London

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Podcast Episode 038: Interview with Renea Mason

Podcast Ladies Interview Renea Mason

Renea Mason is the bestselling author of the Symphony of Light and Dr. Vincent series. She lets us in on her writing secrets and tells us about her writing journey.

Enter to win an e-book from Renea by going to the podcast blog and leaving a question for Renea in the comments. 

Find the podcast blog HERE


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