Posted by Anna Campbell Aug 6 2013, 11:00 pm in Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, contemporary romance, Dakota Harrison, Debut authors, e-books, Exhale, Samhain
Wow, wasn’t it fun to have debut Aussie author Dakota Harrison in the lair? Thanks to everyone who swung by to make Dakota feel welcome.
She felt SOOOOO welcome in fact, she threw in another copy of her book as a prize so I have two winners to announce today! So the winners of the download of EXHALE are:
Congratulations, Pat and Jodi. Could you please contact Dakota on elven_scribbles @ yahoo.com.au (no spaces) and let her know what email address you’d like your books sent to and what e-reader platform you’d like her to use for your prize. Happy reading!
Posted by Anna Campbell Aug 5 2013, 12:02 am in Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, Breathless, contemporary romance, cross-cultural romance, Dakota Harrison, Debut authors, Exhale, interviews, Samhain, Writing Contests
It’s always exciting for me to host a friend in the lair. Doubly exciting when it’s an Aussie friend. And triply exciting when that Aussie friend is launching their debut romance.
Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to Dakota Harrison who lives in the beautiful Granite Belt region in Queensland. Beautiful and cold – it’s renowned as the coldest place in our subtropical state and they even get snow! Wow!
Dakota is here to tell us about her debut romance for Samhain, EXHALE. Here’s the blurb:
Takeshi is finishing up a brutal double shift in the ER when a familiar—and bloody—face erases all thought of heading home. The broken body of the woman fighting for her life belongs to Gabby, his best friend’s mother. A woman he’s loved since he turned nineteen, when he foolishly declared his love for her.
She’s not dying today. Not on his watch. And not with a promise left unfulfilled.
Gabby has never forgotten the taste of the kiss Taka gave her under the mistletoe all those years ago. Or the silly promise that surely by now he’s forgotten. She’s wrong. Taka remembers. And she melts as he uses every trick in his highly trained surgeon’s hands to heal her—and rekindle the heat between them.
But there’s a secret lurking in Gabby’s past. And when it follows her all the way to Seattle, it threatens to drag the one man she loves into the nightmare she thought she’d left behind.
You can find out more about Dakota and her books on her website: http://www.dakotaharrison.com/index.html
Welcome to the lair, Dakota!
Hi Anna! Thank you so much for inviting me into the lair! It’s a real thrill.
Dakota, huge congratulations on the release of your debut from Samhain. Can you tell us about EXHALE?
EXHALE is about one woman’s wish for happiness after enduring a life marred by terrible grief and loss. Gabby longs for safety and steadfast love, but she’s almost too afraid to want it. Where her heart lies is with a man who she believes she has no right to. No right to want him, no right to now ask for what he would have freely given her, many years before. And now he’s taken.
Taka’s achieved most of what he set out to do by the time he hits thirty years old. Career-wise, he’s on the fast-track to becoming one of the best surgeons in his field, but he can’t let go of the thought of Gabby. Her love. Her promise to him years earlier. The thought that maybe if he laid his heart on the line and asked one more time…
Wow, sounds intense and sexy and really emotional. What were the inspirations behind this book?
Well, I could say it came out of nowhere, but to be honest, we had my adult nephew living with us for a couple of years when we first moved into our new house. He was twenty, and he had a couple of good friends who used to visit. One in particular was quite flirty, even though we both knew he was just playing. That got the ‘what if’ bug flying around my head – what if the nephew wasn’t her nephew? What if he was her son? Why would she have a son so old and her so young? What if the friend wasn’t playing around? What if it was real?
So it led from there. He’s actually quite impressed he inspired me to write a book!
I bet he is! What’s coming up next for Dakota Harrison?
I have a second release coming out in October, BREATHLESS, a story of a woman who makes some bad decisions which lead to the destruction of her entire life. To get away from the all-encompassing guilt and pain, she flees to a tiny town in the U,S. to start a new life where no one knows her, or what she’s done. Plus, I’m almost finished the sequel to EXHALE, which stars Taka’s yakuza cousin, Shin, who we meet in the final chapter of the book. It’s set in the glittering city of Tokyo.
They sound great. We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?
Of course! It’s a funny one, actually. In January and February last year I sent of a *heap* of submissions for my fantasy romance manuscript. Some were requested, some slush. It had won and placed in many contests, so I was confident it might find a home – somewhere. Well, roll on four months later, and I kept getting “We love it, love your writing, but I/marketing don’t know where to place it. I’m going to have to pass.” This happened so many times I could almost print a novel with the rejections. I’d sent it to so many different places, I’d actually lost track of where I’d sent it (this particular character trait is something that drives my best friend, Kylie Griffin, nuts! She’s always trying to get me to make a spreadsheet. I’m like, a spread-what?!?).
Anyway, late one Sunday evening in May, I received a particularly wonderful email from an editor at Samhain, stating how very much she loved the story, etc, but unfortunately fantasy wasn’t what they were after at present – but – did I have anything else I could send her? In particular, contemporary romance? She’d noticed in my cover note that I’d recently won a contest with one – the RWA Valerie Parv Award. I wrote back and said, “Yes, of course, I’d love you to have a look at it, and also, would you like to see the one that just finaled in the RWA Emerald, too?” So, off I sent both of them once she’d asked, and promptly relegated the excitement to the back of my mind. I thought, “This will take months, like the first submission.”
I was up early the next morning, for a change, when I received her email. She loved it. She wanted it. Can she please buy it! She’d skimmed the first few pages to gauge if it was up her alley, then loved it so much she sat down to read the whole thing in five hours! I was in shock. I thought I was reading the email wrong. I sent it to someone, just to make sure it said what I thought it said! Then I rang my husband and squeed! Then I felt sick. This made it real. That elusive contract offer was right there. And for a genre I wrote for pleasure for myself, not for publication. My contemporary stories were always that – written because I loved the characters who popped into my head. I’d always thought my fantasy and scifi would be the ones that would sell.
That’s a great story. And congratulations again. You were a contest queen here in Australia. I remember seeing your name over and over in Romance Writers of Australia finals listings. How do you think contests benefited your career and writing?
Anna, the contests were pure gold. My very first one, I came second last. The judge was so kind, told me all the things I was doing wrong that newbies seem to do (and was I green!), and gently explained how to fix it. So I did. I took the feedback and sifted through it, and most of it was 100% right, then I applied it and read up on why the suggestions were made, trying to understand where/why I’d made those mistakes. I re-entered the rewritten partial into a RWNZ contest – and came second. From there I wrote and wrote and entered everything I could that offered feedback. Some judges in one or two contests were so acidic that the judging sheet almost shriveled in front of my eyes on the screen; then I’d get the two other judges in the same contest who loved it and scored me the highest mark there. I seem to split them fair down the middle. It was good practice getting such varied feedback, as not everyone will like what you’ve written, and some will hate it. It helped toughen me up.
Contests are invaluable if you use them as a tool to strengthen and improve your writing. If you’re looking for ego-stroking, you won’t get it there, you have to be prepared to take the hard comments with the good. But I believe those four years in national and international contests have helped me tighten my work to a standard that may have taken me many years to accomplish on my own. And it helped lead me to the very best friends I have ever met. I can’t recommend contests enough, although they did keep me poor! I never only entered one manuscript. If there was a limit, I’d enter to the limit. If there was no limit, I’d enter everything I had!
That’s so true about contests toughening you up! It’s a great lesson. I know you live in one of the prettiest spots in my home state Queensland. Can you tell us about your corner of the world?
Yes! We have what they call ‘Brass Monkey Season’, it’s our tourism slogan – where it gets so cold it could freeze the balls of a brass monkey! The council even had a statue made. The term’s origin is a little hazy; some say it came from a war name for the structure they sat cannon balls on, which was made of brass and called a ‘monkey’ (which is where many locals believe the term came from); others state it’s from during the 19th and 20th centuries, when small monkeys cast from the alloy brass were common tourist souvenirs from Asia. The Three Wise Monkeys. These monkeys were often cast with all three in a single piece of brass. In other sets they were made singly. Although three was the usual number, some sets of monkeys added a fourth, with its hand covering its genitals. Old brass monkeys of this type are collectors’ items.
I prefer to believe the former option – it’s a little more colorful!
In summer we have lovely mid 20s to mid 30s temperatures, and autumn is glorious with all the fruit and ornamental trees turning to fabulous colors. And no humidity! That’s the best part
What about you? What’s your favorite season, and where? It can be anywhere in the world! Even somewhere you haven’t been yet, but desperately wish to go. What makes a particular area special for you?
Get commenting, people! Dakota has very kindly offered up a download of EXHALE (international) for one of our visitors today. Good luck!
Posted by Anna Campbell Sep 18 2012, 12:05 am in Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, Bec McMaster, Call Stories, Debut authors, Heart of Iron, Kiss of Steel, London Steampunk Series, Steampunk, Writing Contests
by Anna Campbell
I love having debut authors visit us in the lair and today I’m delighted to introduce Bec McMaster, an Aussie contest queen whose first steampunk romance, KISS OF STEEL (Book 1 in the London Steampunk series from SourceBooks), is out this month.
You can find out more about Bec and her books on her website: www.becmcmaster.com
Bec, welcome to the lair! Congratulations on the release of your debut, KISS OF STEEL, the first in the London Steampunk series. Can you tell us about this story?
Thank you so much, Anna! I’m very excited about the release. Here’s a little blurb:
In the steam-fuelled world of Victorian London, Whitechapel is the last bastion of safety for those that fear the rule of the aristocratic Echelon. With their puppet Queen, army of metal drones and their blood taxes, the Echelon crush any and all who oppose them. The only man they don’t dare touch is Blade, master of the rookeries and one of their own…
On the run from a dangerous duke, Honoria Todd is forced to accept the protection of the ruthless master of the rookeries. Infected with the craving virus that makes the Echelon what they are, Blade has dedicated himself to destroying the duke. Honoria could be his perfect revenge…or the salvation he never dared dream of.
But when a monster starts to haunt the rookeries, Blade must let his darker side emerge to save the woman he loves – even if it means he may lose her forever.
Sounds great! What were the inspirations behind this book?
Everything inspires me, to be honest. I collect images and stray thoughts every day and somehow my sub-conscious percolates them for a few months – or even years – then spits them out as fully formed worlds and characters.
Basically, this world has been calling to me for a while. I had this idea of a vampiric aristocracy that played off the origins of the ton; the Echelon. Of course, as it is set in Victorian times, women were not offered the Blood Rites, for fear that the driving hungers of the craving virus would overwhelm them. Being such delicate flowers and all. Thus they were sentenced to life as thralls – or blood-servants – to the blue bloods of the Echelon. Every debutante desires to make a good thrall contract, or if she is lucky enough, to become a blue blood’s consort.
Can you tell us about the London Steampunk series as a whole?
It’s a dark, dangerous world with heroes and heroines who must fight to achieve their happy ending. KISS OF STEEL is Blade and Honoria’s story and sets up the entire world, exploring the gritty confines of the rookeries and what lurks beneath the streets of London. As a series writer, I have always felt that each book must explore a different aspect of that world in order to progress, so HEART OF IRON (which is book two) is set firmly in the glittering, deadly world of the Echelon; of silk, steel and blood-letting.
I can’t say a lot about book three, though ultimately I am building toward a confrontation. Each book is a step in that direction – though some of the steps may surprise you.
I’d love your take on defining Steampunk. Any thoughts?
When most people hear the word steampunk they’re immediately thinking of dirigibles and goggles, corsets and mechanical monsters. The whole spirit of adventure, of exploring the unknown. When science didn’t have so many strictures, because so many things were considered possible. That’s what steampunk is to me; exploring those possibilities as if they could have been reality.
I love the word ‘steampunk’. Break it down, and it essentially describes the entire genre. ‘Steam’ of course, refers to the driving technology of the story (mainly Victorian times though it can feature in alternate or futuristic worlds) though the ‘punk’ part is often left out of the equation. Basically, it refers to an anti-establishment thread woven into the story, a message or commentary on society. That’s why I love playing with the Victorian era so much; there was so much change occurring, and some of it was desperately needed.
We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?
Of course. Though where to start…
Once upon a time, a young woman was battling away at her computer when she was hit by an idea, a world so richly embellished that she couldn’t resist exploring it. This time may – or may not – have been around October 2010.
She started to write it all down – or possibly the story wrote itself, it was that clear. And when she was nearly a third of the way through, she started entering it in contests because her critique partner had done the same and said it was easy. Having nothing else on hand, she entered it in RWA’s Emerald award. Christmas came, preventing her from much writing for almost a month and then the results flooded in. She had finalled. Could they please have the full manuscript? In a week.
Cursing her critique partner (who was also in the same boat), she drank four hundred cups of tea, pounded out the last third of the book and sent it in. At the same time, she turned her eye toward foreign contests. The US, to be particular.
Results came back – people actually liked this book. She finalled in several contests, including the Valley Forge Sheila Contest, where the final judge was Leah Hultenschmidt of Sourcebooks. Coming first, she was asked to send the full manuscript to the editor.
After a brief polish, she sent it in. It was a Tuesday. Figuring she wouldn’t hear back for weeks, possibly months, she settled back into normal life and forgot all about it.
On Thursday night at 11p.m. the phone rang, jolting her out of sleep. Peering through bleary eyes she saw the area code. America. Her heart started pounding. She’d been waiting on results from another contest and sometimes they rang. Boyfriend lifted his head off the pillow curiously.
“Hi, it’s Leah Hultenschmidt from Sourcebooks. I’d like to buy your book.”
Complete brain meltdown. Some incoherency later (boyfriend notes she babbled like a hysterical chicken) she asked for some time to notify some of the agents she’d already queried and said she would get back to editor in a week.
Ensue wild leaping around house. Entire gymnastic floor routines. Then hysteria. She needed an agent!
The previous week she’d queried five agents. Dashing off an update email, she swiftly heard back from several of them. More lack of sleep, tough choices and late night phone calls until she signed with the awesome Jessica Faust of Bookends.
The contracts came through. Author wandered around in a bemused daze for several weeks. She had finally found her very own happily ever after!
Cool! What’s next for you?
HEART OF IRON (aka book two) is the follow up to KISS OF STEEL and features Honoria’s younger sister Lena, and Will Carver, the rough lieutenant that serves as Blade’s right hand. I’ve already had a few requests for Will’s story, so I’m very excited to say that its just as action-packed as KISS OF STEEL and will throw the pair right into the heart of the conflict.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Do not enter a full manuscript contest when you haven’t finished writing the darned thing.
No, seriously, the reason I wrote the extended version of my call story above, was to show that contests can be a way to a publishing career. To start with, they’re excellent for providing feedback on your darling. Granted, some of that feedback can hurt, but as an author we’re going to need a tough skin somewhere down the line and where better to start nurturing it? The honest truth is, someone, somewhere, is not going to like your book or your writing. And that’s okay.
Secondly, they’re a way to get at editors without going through an agent. I made a list of all the editors who might like KISS OF STEEL and then I entered every contest where they were the final judge.
Thirdly, love what you do. Enjoy the smaller moments and celebrate the large ones in style. Then, when times are tough you can look back on those moments and remember just what inspired you to get into this business.
Great advice, Bec. Now, do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get conversation going?
Thanks so much for having me, Banditas! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the brief tour into the gas-lit streets of my alternate London. My question to you all is this; what element of steampunk appeals to you? Is it the gorgeous dresses, corsets and bustles? Gentlemen in their bowler hats and waistcoats? Goggles, pocket watches and steam-powered pistols? Or do you prefer the more adventurous side – dirigibles, horseless carriages, gyrocopters or dreadnoughts (steam-powered ships)? Science, in all its mad professor glory?
Get commenting, people. Bec has very kindly offered an international giveaway of KISS OF STEEL (paperback) to one visitor to the lair today.
Posted by Anna Campbell Mar 6 2012, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Bandita Booty, Blaze, Debut authors, Fever, firefighters, Guests, Intimate Enemies, Joan Swan, paranormal romance, Phoenix Rising Series, Romantic suspense
by Anna Campbell
It’s always fun to host debut authors in the lair and lately we’ve had a clutch of them! There must be some good writing mojo out there that we’ve got all these great new authors hitting the shelves.
Today, I’m delighted to bring you Joan Swan, whose debut romantic suspense with paranormal elements FEVER is creating enormous buzz in Romancelandia. New York Times bestseller Larissa Ione said, “Swan’s gutsy, jaw-dropping style will have readers talking!” Joan is a triple RWA Golden Heart finalist – as you know, theBandits all met through the Golden Heart contest so we love to hear of GH gals who make good!
You can find out more about Joan and her books on her website: http://joanswan.com/books/
You can also find Joan at Facebook on http://www.facebook.com/JoanSwanAuthor and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/joanswan
Here’s the blurb for FEVER:
Dr. Alyssa Foster will admit to a bad boy fetish…
But when she finds herself face to face with a convicted murderer with determination for freedom and an eye on her as his get out of jail free card, Alyssa knows she’s in deep trouble…. Not just because Teague Creek is a prisoner desperate for freedom, but because his every touch makes her desperate for more.
A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose…
Teague Creek has one shot at freedom, but his plan to escape with a hostage develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives who know of his strange abilities, he needs to avoid trouble, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever.
Joan, welcome to the lair! Congratulations on the release of your debut, FEVER, the first in the Phoenix Rising series. Can you tell us about this story?
Thanks so much for having me here! I’ve been a Romance Bandit (and Anna Campbell) fan for a long time.
FEVER is about a man with unusual powers whose been convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and imprisoned for life. He has lost the daughter he lived for, the career as a firefighter he loved and been denied an appeal. With no hope left, he plans an escape. But his plan goes wrong when the woman he kidnaps as leverage to get his daughter back turns out to be someone else. And this woman quickly clues into the abilities he tries to hide, creating a bond neither can afford while they’re on the run from both the cops and undercover operatives who want Teague silenced. This time, permanently.
Hey, thanks for the compliment! What were the inspirations behind this book?
Bad, bad, bad boys! And way too much time around them!
I’ve been a sonographer for twenty years and one of the hospitals where I worked gained a huge prisoner clientele over a year’s time span. I went from scanning two or three prisoners a week to scanning five to eight prisoners every single morning. I spent half my day surrounded by guards and inmates and it didn’t take long to wonder, “What if a prisoner took someone hostage in an escape attempt?”
Can you tell us about the Phoenix Rising series as a whole?
A mysterious explosion at a military warehouse injuries a team of seven hazmat firefighters, killing one. The contents of the building, extremely confidential and dangerous radioactive chemicals used by the Department of Defense in secretive scientific experiments, have inflicted the team with various paranormal abilities. Abilities the government wants to study covertly. Abilities the team wants to understand and expose. With military advancement and national power at risk on one side and personal health and freedom at stake on the other, each group is fighting for precious stakes.
Your next book, BLAZE, is coming out next October. Can you tell us about this story?
In BLAZE two of the firefighters on the team whose relationship suffered physical, mental and emotional trauma from the warehouse fire, come back together, united as stronger individuals for the good of the team and find their love for one another, one that never died, is as strong as ever. But they face an even darker conspiracy than expected, one that will push their bond to the limit.
We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?
It’s been quite a while now – nearly two years ago. But I got the call on my drive to work. I work in San Francisco and park in an underground garage, so I remember having to pull over and stop so I could keep my cell connection with my agent to discuss everything. I remember thinking, “Crap, I’m going to be late.” Then in the next second thinking, “What the hell do I care? Oh, my God. They want to buy my book!”
Cool! What’s next for you?
Hopefully, INFERNO, book 3 in the Phoenix Rising series, with Kensington! My editor currently has the option proposal and I hope to hear about it soon.
I also have an Indie book releasing in April. INTIMATE ENEMIES is a romantic suspense manuscript that finalled twice in the RWA Golden Heart and I’m thrilled I’ll be able to share it with readers.
Ooh, sounds great! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Learn your craft.
Read a lot.
Trust your gut.
Let your writing be authentically you.
Be patient. Quality takes time to cultivate.
There are no magic beans. (I swear! I’ve turned over every freaking rock out there!)
Learn to take and apply criticism from trusted sources of those equally or more experienced and successful.
Thanks, Joan. Do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita Buddies?
Tips for success cut across all professions and life goals. What advice would you give to someone on succeeding at a large, long-term goal?
Get commenting, people! Joan is giving away a print copy of FEVER to one lucky person who leaves a comment today (U.S. and Canada only). Everyone who comments will also be eligible to enter the draw for a COLOR NOOK or a KINDLE FIRE. For details, see: http://joanswan.com/giveaways/blog-tour-ereader/ Good luck!
Posted by Anna Campbell Feb 21 2012, 12:19 am in Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, Cassie's Grand Plan, Debut authors, Emmie Dark, Guests, Harlequin Superromance, In His Eyes
by Anna Campbell
You meet some terrifically nice people in this business and one of the nicest happens to be a debut author for Harlequin SuperRomance in March. I’m delighted to introduce to the lair Emmie Dark from Australia who is here to tell us about CASSIE’S GRAND PLAN.
You can find out about Emmie and her books at her website: http://www.emmiedark.com/
Emmie, welcome to the lair! I’m so excited when an Aussie makes good! Congratulations on the release of your debut for Harlequin SuperRomance, CASSIE’S GRAND PLAN. Can you tell us about this story?
CASSIE’S GRAND PLAN is the story of Cassidy Hartman and Ronan Conroy. Cassie, the operations manager for a chain of furniture stores in Australia, has a plan to get her life under control. First, she’ll get herself promoted. Then she’ll update her appearance. Steps three and four—marriage and family—well, those will have to wait until the work stuff is all sorted out. Then Ronan McGuire shows up. The sexy business consultant has the power to derail Cassie’s plans before she’s even really started—and he’s proving quite the distraction. If he doesn’t approve her promotion, she’ll be back to square one. Cassie needs to keep her focus on that first step, no matter how much Ronan tempts her to skip ahead to the third and fourth ones…
Sounds delicious. A bit Hepburn and Tracy. What were the inspirations behind this book?
The inspiration for Hugh and Cassie’s story came from a number of different places, but primarily it was based my own experience and that of my family. I grew up in a retailing family—my parents owned furniture stores for most of my life (they’re retired now) and my sister worked in a furniture store for a number of years. I grew up with conversations around the dinner table about deliveries and orders and customer service. I’ve had more of a corporate career, so I was familiar with the concept of audits and consultants coming in to review your work. From a plot perspective, I just took those two things and asked myself—what if a consultant came to review a chain of furniture stores? In terms of their emotional journey, I really enjoy stories where the heroine is empowered and strong, and matched with a hero who is just as confident. Cassie thinks she’s got life all under control, but it’s not until Ronan starts probing that she realizes it might not be as solid as she thinks.
We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?
The most amusing thing about my call story is how close I came to missing it! I have a personal work policy that I don’t answer my mobile phone before 8am, otherwise my working day has no boundaries. So when my phone rang at about 7.45am (I was awake, but still in bed with my laptop and a cup of tea—writing!) I considered whether or not I’d answer it. The number was blocked, so I figured I should probably take it. Then I heard my lovely editor Megan’s voice as she introduced herself and where she was from—and then said why she was calling! I jumped out of bed and raced to find a pen and paper to write down what she was saying because I knew I wouldn’t remember any of it. Mostly what I recall is being shocked to the point of speechlessness. Megan asked a few times if I had any questions, but I just couldn’t gather my thoughts enough to be coherent and ask any!
What’s next for you?
My second book is coming out with SuperRomance in August this year. It’s called IN HIS EYES and it’s a reunion story about two teenage lovers reunited after ten years, having been separated by a traumatic event. It’s set in a wine country, and my heroine, Zoe, is a winemaker, while the hero, Hugh, is the owner of a large wine conglomerate. I was able to use all the knowledge I’ve gained over long years of wine tasting to help write the book—I knew all that chardonnay drinking would come in useful one day! I also was lucky to gain invaluable insight from friends of mine who run their own vineyard and winery. That book is now done and I’m working on what I hope might be my third SuperRomance—I’ll keep you posted…
That sounds like fun research! Hic! Can you tell us about your particular corner of the world?
I live in Melbourne, Australia, and I love my city. I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a city that really values things like art, writing and culture. I also live in a very pretty bayside suburb (not too far from where my heroine Cassie lives!) which means I can take a walk along the beach whenever I feel the urge. I hope that people reading CASSIE’S GRAND PLAN might enjoy the insight into Melbourne it gives them and maybe think of visiting!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I remember hearing a quote ages ago that was something along the lines of “the key to success is being ready when your luck arrives”. I think it’s very astute. There IS some element of luck to getting published—you have to have the right story in front of the right editor/agent, at the right time. The real trick though, is that when the planets align in your favour, you have to be ready to grab that opportunity with both hands and don’t let go!
Great advice. You have a really great contest running at the moment on your website. Would you like to tell us about it?
As a new author, I’m still excited about the idea of people actually reading my book. (Although I don’t know if that ever wears off, really!) If you’d like to go into the drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card, all I need you to do is to send me a photo of you, reading my book. Visit my website (www.emmiedark.com) to find out more.
And you’ve got a giveaway for us today too, don’t you? Lucky us!
I’m giving away a copy of CASSIE’S GRAND PLAN to one lucky commenter. Leave me a comment and tell me about your favourite piece of furniture—what makes it special to you?
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 27 2012, 12:02 am in Alliance Forged, Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, Blade of Light Series, Debut authors, fantasy, Guest Authors, Kylie Griffin, paranormal, Vengeance Born
by Anna Campbell
It’s my great pleasure today to introduce to you a dear friend and talented Golden Heart-winning author whose debut romance VENGEANCE BORN is out next month.
Kylie Griffin and I have known each other for years, hooking up through a mutual friend on the breakfast shift at the very glam Langham Hotel in Melbourne back at the 2005 Romance Writers of Australia conference. Kylie was a contest queen and is always happy to help another writer so I think it’s karma (as well as talent) that led to her getting a three-book contract for her “‘Light Blade” series. Nalini Singh, New York Times bestseller and all round cool chick, described VENGEANCE BORN as “unique and filled with compelling mystery.”
You can find out about Kylie and her multi award-winning romances from Berkley at her website: www.kyliegriffin.com
By the way, Kylie’s also a talented photographer. Check out the beautiful shots of the area where she lives and some of the locals that illustrate this post.
Kylie, welcome to the lair! I’ve been so looking forward to your visit, ever since you sold. Great to see an Aussie hitting the big time. Congratulations on the release of your debut, VENGEANCE BORN, the first in the “Light Blade” series. Can you tell us about this story?
Anna, it’s so exciting to be here. Thanks for inviting me over!
VENGEANCE BORN is very much Annika’s story as you can see when you read the blurb.
There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not pure bred is virtually powerless. Until an unlikely champion is born…
Annika, half-blood daughter of the Na’Reish King, longs for more than her tormented life among her father’s people. Conceived in hatred and bred as a tool of retribution, she’s gifted with a special talent that can heal as well as destroy.
With the Na’Reish vastly outnumbering them, Kalan, a Light Blade warrior, knows the future of humankind depends on him alone. Incursions into human territory and raids for blood-slaves by the Na’Reish Horde have increased. As Chosen-leader, he faces the task of stopping the demons—and convincing the Council of aging Light Blade warriors that change is necessary for survival.
When Annika learns Kalan is a prisoner in her father’s dungeon, her dream of escape seems within reach. She agrees to free him in exchange for his protection once they reach human territory. Now, marked for death for helping him, Annika must learn to trust Kalan as they face not only the perilous journey to the border but enemies within the Council—and discover a shocking truth that could throw the human race into civil war…
I think there’s a bit of everything for everyone in VENGEANCE BORN.
For readers who like fantasy world building, there’s plenty of those elements in the plot and sub-plots – creatures, paranormal powers, a deity, conflict between races, secrets unveiled and political machinations.
If you want romance, Annika and Kalan struggle against personal prejudices, flaws and other external hurdles to find love.
There’s intrigue and mystery – some twists and turns in the plot will satisfy this craving. Some secrets you may anticipate, others I hope you don’t see coming.
Action – fighting, a chase scene, death, escaping from dungeons, rebellion…as I said, something for everyone!
Never a dull moment! What were the inspirations behind this book?
The inspiration was the heroine, Annika. She first “appeared” to me exactly as readers discover her in the opening scene of the book – descending into father’s dungeon about to meet a human Light Blade warrior for the first time, about to begin her escape and achieve her goal of beginning a new life.
I played a game of ‘what if…’ to learn more about her. It seems a strange thing to say that I had fun considering the possibilities of a crossbreed child born as the result of a rape. But the idea of a bastard child bred for revenge against an old enemy gave me a huge range of character traits and plot lines to play with.
How would the environment influence her development? Could any one person or influence balance her horrendous upbringing? How could they or it affect her? Which traits would dominate?
I decided that Annika would have strength and courage backed by a determination to free herself – there would be no waiting around for someone to save her (I love a strong heroine) – but, because of her upbringing, she’d also harbor a flawed sense of worth and need for acceptance.
And so, VENGEANCE BORN came into being…
Can you tell us about the Light Blade series as a whole?
When I first started playing with ideas for this series, I knew I wanted to make it (at a minimum) a trilogy. The scope of the external plot wasn’t going to fit in just one book.
While the series isn’t epic fantasy in its purest form, it does have similar elements. The world is entirely fictional, there are different races (not just humans), the plots employ typical themes such as a quest, a guiding deity, struggles against an opposing force, the threat of world domination, revenge and redemption, but readers also get to focus on a romance between main characters.
Without giving away any spoilers, in VENGEANCE BORN readers quickly learn the Na’Reish outnumber the humans, and that the human race is under threat of enslavement. Annika and the other Na’Chi prove to be the key to humanity’s survival, although no one realises it at the time, and it takes Kalan to engineer a change.
This change and some of the broader themes continue throughout ALLIANCE FORGED and Book #3 in the series, although we see them unfolding through other characters and their personal stories and romances. Readers will also get to learn more about each of the races in these stories.
So if readers like this sort of epic-style story with a good romance then the Light Blade series is one to try. While each can be read as stand-alone romances I’d recommend reading them in sequence for the full impact.
This trilogy will tie up some over-arching plot threads but there’s plenty of scope to incorporate other threads and extend the series beyond three books. Some secondary characters are already demanding that their stories be told, so I hope I get the chance to tell them.
We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?
Ohh, so do I. Reading how others get the call always encouraged and inspired me to keep persevering.
Where to begin? Let me roll back the clock…to Oct.16th 2010, a little after I’d returned from attending the Romance Writers of America conference, where I’d won a Golden Heart (paranormal section for unpublished writers).
As a result of pitching and querying, I’d received several offers of representation and I was in the midst of organising telephone calls, matching schedules and time zones (no easy feat, especially when daylight savings has just kicked in!).
In the midst of phone calls to agents, I received an email from Leis Pederson from Berkley offering a two book deal for “Bloodborn”, the first book in my fantasy romance Light Blade series. I have to admit to being a little stunned at first, but then thought “halleluia, I did it!” before bursting into tears in front of my computer, some of it was in happiness, most of it was exhaustion from some very sleepless nights.
Long story short, I ended up with seven offers of representation, and it was on my last phone call that I found my new agent – Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency. I really, really connected with her.
Elaine began working her magic. Within 24hrs she’d sent out “Bloodborn” to three other publishing houses and contacted the two I already had it sitting at as a result of pitch sessions at conferences. We decided to accept Berkley’s offer – and I came away with a three-book deal.
Now, for a bit of an interesting aside, this time concerning Leis Pederson – three years ago I entered an Romance Writers of New Zealand writing competition with the then (only three chapters) version of “Bloodborn”. It won and Leis was the final judge – she requested the full but I didn’t have it finished. It took another year and another ms in between before I finished “Bloodborn”. I entered it into the Emily in 2010 – won the paranormal section and Best of the Best. And as the prize for that Leis Pederson critiqued 30 pages. She read my work and requested the full.
So it ended up with her in a round about way a couple of years after she’d first requested it. Things have seemed to have come full circle. Weird coincidence or fate? You decide.
What’s next for you?
ALLIANCE FORGED, the second book in this series, is out in early July, so I’m at the tail end of the publishing process with it as I type this. Here’s the blurb:
There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not purebred is virtually powerless. Until a blind priestess lays claim to a half-breed warrior, body and soul…
Hunted and marked for death by Na’Reish demons for their half-blood heritage, the Na’Chi are searching for a new home—something an alliance offered by the human leader could provide. With both races divided by prejudice, when Light Blade rebels brutally attack the Na’Chi, the alliance seems doomed to fail.
Varian, leader of the Na’Chi, a hybrid race of gifted warriors, is cursed with the darker impulses of his demon heritage. Controlling the part of himself that craves the high of the battle is a struggle he’s afraid he’ll lose—until he meets Kymora Tayn, a priestess driven to serve her deity. While he’s unwilling to trust anyone outside his people, he finds himself drawn to Kymora’s strength and passionate nature, and discovers she has the power to calm the darkness inside him.
When the Na’Reish raid human territory for blood-slaves and kickstart a war, the key to the survival of both races—Na’Chi and human— is an alliance. However, when Kymora is kidnapped, pitting human against human, Varian realizes he must embrace his darker half, not only to save the alliance…but also the woman he loves.
And, all going well, Book #3 (untitled) is scheduled for an early 2013 release. Both books feature characters introduced in VENGEANCE BORN.
On the new manuscript/writing front I’m thinking of finishing off a sci-fi/space opera romance that I started just before I received ‘the call’ from Berkley back in late 2010…unless, of course, I’m contracted for more in the Light Blade series!
You live in a really beautiful part of the world – I love the beautiful photos of western New South Wales on your website. I’d love you to tell us about YOUR Australia. Do you think that dramatic landscape inspires your writing?
The landscape certainly provides a peaceful setting for my writing and there have been times I’ve retreated to the great outdoors for a walk to clear the mind or think over a problem. Getting out and away and into nature does help in that respect.
As for my Australia – I’m definitely a country girl through and through. While I love visiting the big cities or larger towns to see friends or family, I’m most comfortable and love open spaces.
I also do a lot of driving to get to places out where I live (I travel an 86 miles round trip to do my grocery shopping & if I want to get to a larger place of 60,000 people, it’s a 186 mile round trip).
Most times I don’t mind the driving as nothing beats being able to look out over the plains and seeing the patchwork of crops and fields, and the volcanic landscape of mountains and hills silhouetted by a sunset or sunrise can be spectacular.
In the summer I love sitting outside in a camper chair and gazing up at the Milky Way. The village I live in has about half a dozen street lights and they’re spaced so far apart they really don’t interfere with stargazing, so you get an awesome, clear view of the night sky. It’s huge!
At these times I’m often reminded of this stanza in the poem My Country by Dorothea McKellar.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
She certainly captured the heart and vision of Australia and it’s her words I recall when I return home from a trip away.
And when friends and family visit me they often get to see a myriad of local wildlife, some who make themselves right at home in my backyard or under the house – kangaroos, echidnas, lorikeets, koalas (and the odd King Brown snake) – a treat I sometimes take for granted.
I love that poem too! Kylie, is there anything you’d like to ask our Banditas and Bandita Buddies?
Anna, I’ve had a wonderful time visiting you here at the Romance Bandits blog, thanks so much for inviting me and letting me share a little about my Light Blade series and writing. And seeing as we’re talking about epic-style fantasy/paranormal romances, I was wondering do your readers like reading books in this genre? What do like or loathe about it? Do they have a favorite author? What makes their worlds and characters so fascinating? I’d love it if they could share their thoughts on the subject.
Kylie has very generously offered one of our commenters today a copy of her debut VENGEANCE BORN. So get commenting, people!
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 6 2012, 12:12 am in A Piece of My Mind, Anna Campbell, Bandita Booty, blogging, Canadian Authors, Dark Ages, Debut authors, heroes, historical romance, Julia Phillips Smith, Julia Smith, Nova Scotia, paranormal romance, Saint Sanguinus, vampires
by Anna Campbell
What a treat I’ve got for you today. I’ve long admired Julia Phillips Smith’s wonderful A Piece of My Mind blog which covers all sorts of arcane and fascinating topics with the lightest and wittiest of touches. So when Julia asked me to read her debut paranormal-historical romance, SAINT SANGUINUS, I was delighted. This book kept me awake into the wee hours as I devoured the dramatic, passionate story of Peredur and Tanwen. After that, I just had to bring Julia into the lair to chase the cabana boys…uh, tell us about her books.
There’s a very dramatic trailer for SAINT SANGUINUS which you can see here:
Julia’s website is here: Website: http://juliaphillipssmith.com/
If you click on the cover of SAINT SANGUINUS, it will take you straight to the Amazon link (the book’s currently only 99 cents – BARGAIN!).
You can find the book on Smashwords at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/105486
Julia, welcome to the lair! Great to see you here. Congratulations on the release of your historical paranormal debut SAINT SANGUINUS which as you know I loved and called “a dark, dramatic take on the vampire genre.” Can you tell us about this story?
First of all – thank you, Sven *winking as I scoop up my prosecco from the tray* – my smile is impossible to tone down today, because I’m so thrilled to be here at the Banditas Lair.
My story is a Dark Ages vampire superhero origin story. Quite a combination, but there you go.
I’m a big fan of superhero origin stories. Wolverine, Green Lantern, Thor, Harry Potter – I can never get enough of watching the genesis of a hero as he steps into the role that destiny assigned to him. The more epic the scope, the better. That’s why the superhero genre always delivers for me.
But I also love all-too-human heroes and their stories. 300, GLADIATOR, Horatio Hornblower, the Sharpe series with Sean Bean – I love watching these natural leaders emerge from among their peers. SAINT SANGUINUS follows the tradition of these stories and introduces readers to a man destined to become something quite different than he could ever have expected from the opening scene of the novel.
Here’s a taste:
An elite brotherhood stands between humans and vampires, preventing one side from annihilating the other. Who are called to this service? Only those warriors who curse God with their dying breath.
Welsh warrior Peredur falls to a spear before he can claim Tanwen for his bride. Raging on the battlefield, Peredur utters the curse that seals his fate and leads him to another life. Using the power of a saint whose bone makes up an amulet, Peredur takes on the trials to become a true member of the brethren. Yet his need for the chieftain’s daughter Tanwen still burns.
Tanwen resists her father’s command to take a husband. The only one who understands her sorrow is Cavan, the wise woman’s son. When he promises that he can reunite her with her beloved, she agrees to his terms. But does Tanwen truly understand the depth of the price that must be paid?
Wow! Lots happening there! What were the inspirations behind this book?
My initial inspiration was the Count Saint-Germain series of books by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. As a running theme throughout her series, Ms. Yarbro addresses the more day-to-day (or should I say, night-to-night) problems of being a vampire with a long lifespan. How does one hold onto different properties stashed here and there? How would you keep leaving these holdings to a future descendant, and how would you eventually claim your homes and businesses as your own ‘descendant’ after enough generations had passed, so that the locals don’t recognize you anymore?
I just love how her main vampire character has to deal with problems that don’t usually surface in vampire fiction. Although, if you think about it, Bram Stoker dealt with Count Dracula’s transportation-of-Transylvanian-soil problems in the beginning of his story.
So this got me thinking about the kind of scenes that don’t often appear in the vampire genre. My main character Peredur’s transformation from man to vampire was the launch pad for me. I wanted to really experience how it felt to take those first vampire baby steps.
I found the setting so intriguing. Can you tell us about your fascination with Dark Ages Britain? Did you come across anything unusual or unexpected when you were researching the period?
I can pretty much say I’ve been fascinated with the Dark Ages since late elementary school, when I went to a Christmas Tea and Sale at the neighbourhood church where I went to Girl Guides. I bought a paperback copy of Mary Stewart’s THE CRYSTAL CAVE in the used books section. Not only did I inhale every beautifully crafted line of that book, but I couldn’t get enough of her Author’s Notes detailing her historical research and her decisions as to naming conventions for towns and villages in post-Roman Britain.
I then gravitated toward all things Arthurian. Arthur Pendragon is the ultimate seize-your-destiny prototype hero for me. The Arthurian romances also whet my appetite for courtly political intrigue. But I tended to collect non-fiction research books on Arthur, ever since high school, including ARTHUR’S BRITAIN by Leslie Alcock and THE QUEST FOR ARTHUR’S BRITAIN by Geoffrey Ashe.
A few years ago I blogged about the unexpected discovery of Dark Age artefacts in Staffordshire, England:
Of course, I wouldn’t claim to know EVERYTHING there is to know about Dark Age life. Right, Anna? (ANNA: Hey, what’s a potato or two between friends?)
The power vacuum created in Dark Age Britain by Rome’s withdrawal always fascinated me. In contemporary times, the same situation replayed itself in the Eastern Bloc countries as the Soviets pulled out. I find that sort of scenario irresistible as a writer, and it’s one of the issues I’ll be exploring as I continue the series. I love to see who steps to the front of the pack to take charge of all the squabbling.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been posting serialized fiction on my blog for a little over a year, now, following the dark fantasy tale of a boy once brought up to be a noble, but never claimed by his family when it came time to leave the nursery. Instead, he’s raised by a falconer to be his apprentice, until a fateful hunt while in his teens sets him on an unexpected and dangerous path.
I’ll be wrapping up this storyline soon, and then shaping it into novel form which is due to be released in the spring. It’s packed to bursting with deadly power plays within the noble houses, threatening to pull down servants like my hero Scorpius along with them. That will be book one of a trilogy, so I’ll have book one of two separate series out, and then continue on with both series.
You can read about Scorpius here:
Sounds great. And another hero thrust into the role! You live in a really beautiful part of the world that one day I hope to visit. I’d love you to tell us about YOUR Nova Scotia. Do you think that dramatic landscape inspires your writing?
I grew up in Halifax alongside my cousin Julianne MacLean’s family. Our dads were both scuba divers, so we spent many dreamy days running over the granite bedrock along the Atlantic Ocean as the men went on their dive and the moms set up picnic base camp.
As you can see in these two pictures, it’s a landscape that invites gothic tales to run rampant in my mind. That’s a shot of my dad back in the day, and the other one is of the four of us: back row, my sister Daisy Piper, my cousin Charlie. Front row, Julianne MacLean and me.
(My sister’s website: http://daisypiper.com/ )
So besides the gorgeous ocean, my favourite thing about Nova Scotia is the woods. The province is still heavily forested, with large tracts of undeveloped land, and in my own neighborhood we have a greenbelt running through the subdivision. Walking in the woods really renews me.
My local RWA chapter – Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada – has a yearly retreat which takes place at White Point Beach. These two shots were taken there and showcase both of my favorite things.
I’ve long been a fan of your blog, A Piece of My Mind. You range so widely when it comes to topics. I’d love you to talk to us about keeping up the mojo for a long-running blog (when there’s only one of you!) and ask if you have any advice for would-be bloggers.
Thanks, Anna! I’ve actually given a workshop on blogging at my RWA chapter, because not every author enjoys blogging. Yet my chapter knows how much joy my blog gives me. And that’s really the secret.
Not helpful, I know, if writing blog posts feels like donating a kidney, minus the anaesthetic.
When I started A Piece of My Mind, a lot of the blogs I followed were written by authors about the writing life. However, I was four years away from this debut release, and my own interests ran to the full range of the arts. I decided early on to let my blog follow my heart, and after taking part in a year-long Blog Improvement Challenge in 2009 run by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness (http://www.sophisticateddorkiness.com/) I defined my blog as an arts blog.
I soon devised a weekly schedule, which I kept up solidly for four years: Poetry on Mondays, Arts features on Tuesdays, Photography on Wednesdays, Lists of 13 Things on Thursdays, Music on Fridays and Serialized fiction on Saturdays. Each of these features was attached to a meme hosted by another blogger, which carried its own readership (except for my arts feature, which is my very own.)
This year, however, as I put the push on to either sell or self-publish SAINT SANGUINUS, I realized that I couldn’t hope to keep up my regular blog schedule. I pulled back on three of the weekly features – Poetry, Arts and Photography, shuffled the serialized fiction from Saturdays to Wednesdays, and had to cut way back on how much I visited with other bloggers.
This is where I can see the shine coming off of blogging for writers who feel that it takes away from their fiction writing time. Let’s take the cooking analogy for blogging. I come from a family of cooks, and though I adore eating delicious food, I’m not a cook. Every moment spent in the kitchen is a precious moment of life I’ll never get back.
Meanwhile, my mom lives to cook. She expresses herself through preparing food. It’s an art form for her, and each ingredient is a color or texture. That’s what my blog is for me – a way to express myself and to connect with people with similar interests. I’ve made so many friends through blogging, from all over the world. Like you, for instance, Anna!
So for writers who are thinking of attaching blogs to their websites, my advice is this. If you suspect you will run out of things to blog about in a matter of months, perhaps your best bet is to hook up with a group blog where you will only be required to post once a month.
Another idea is to find memes that interest you and take part in them. This gives you ready-made subject matter and helps your blog to schedule itself. For example, on Fridays I take part in a music meme called 5 on Friday, run by Travis at Trav’s Thoughts (http://travsthoughts.blogspot.com/). We post five tunes (which I link to on You Tube) and that’s that. Easy peasy.
Yet another way to shake up your blog schedule is to take part in a blog carnival or festival, or a blog challenge. Carnivals can be huge affairs, with literally a thousand bloggers signed up. A carnival is centred on a time-limited event, such as the A to Z Challenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/) which takes place throughout the month of April. Or the Movie Madness challenge (http://reviews.blueteacup.com/?p=2134) I’m joining this year.
Which brings me to something I’ve bumped into on blog sidebars here and there: Blogging Without Obligation buttons, started by Tiffini at Down the Rabbit Hole (http://www.tartx.com/blog/?page_id=233). For me, blogging is fun. My enjoyment with it is contagious. Try to capture a sense of play when blogging. It’s like a giggle – before long, your fun will ripple out to readers, who will then want to know more about you – and discover you’re an author, with a book they’ve just got to read!
Julia, is there anything you’d like to ask the Bandits or the Bandita Buddies?
I’ve had the good fortune to meet six blog friends In Real Life. I’d like to ask Romance Bandit readers if they’ve had the same pleasure – or if the Real Life meet-up brought surprises?
Julia has very generously offered a commenter today a copy of SAINT SANGUINUS! So get commenting, people!