Jilly: Villainous Heroes

Have you ever waited impatiently for a book or series starring a character that you’d previously loathed?

I’ve read a couple of villain-turned hero stories and even blogged about one of them here a few years ago (Grace Burrowes’ 2014 historical The Traitor, starring the baddie from her previous book, The Captive), but I’ve never done the foot-tapping, finger-drumming, calendar-watching book launch thing for a very bad guy before.

It’s Ilona Andrews’ fault. I’ve squeed about their writing here before, once or twice 😉 , but their newest trick leaves me open-mouthed and thinking hard.

According to their blog (link here), the project started in 2015 as an April Fool. They put up a spoof cover and tongue-firmly-in-cheek blurb for a romance starring Hugh d’Ambray, the hard-as-nails enforcer for Roland, the grand antagonist of the bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. It began as a joke that prompted a deluge of requests that spawned an idea that became a book, and what looks like a whole new series, Iron and Magic.

I’d think it was another April Fool, except they’ve posted footage from the cover shoot, run a title contest, and best of all the blog post I linked to above contains a further link to a long excerpt. It’s really, really good and I can’t wait to read the rest of the book. Judging by the comments (more than 1,400 at the time of writing), I’m not alone.

I’ve read the excerpt a few times now, because I’m fascinated to understand how the authors have managed to establish empathy for such a dark character. It would be easier to understand if the character’s bad deeds were in the past, or somewhat diluted as backstory, or happened to a character we don’t care deeply about, but in Hugh’s case his murdering, torturing and various atrocities have been committed across multiple books, right in front of our eyes, against our heroine Kate Daniels and her community. He should be unforgiveable.

So how have they done it?

Spoilers below, so read the excerpt first if that’s your thing.

Continue reading

Michille: Recycled Novel in a Year

Start-Strong-Start-Simple-1Today (yesterday to readers of this post), I was noodling around looking for ideas for this blog post. I stumbled on a blog post from two years ago based on a series from one of my favorite blogs: Writers Write. Back in 2016, they were running a series called Write Your Novel in a Year (Anthony Ehlers is the blogger of this series, the link is for the 1st post – this is the last). He had a new post every week and at this time in 2015, they were up to week 14. Continue reading

Nancy: Self Care for the Creative Soul

Self-care: the gift that keeps on giving.

Today, I have a good-news/bad-news story to share with you. First the bad news: I almost had a surprise for you, but couldn’t quite pull it off. You see, I’ve actually been working on my long-neglected, hella-frustrating, partially-broken website this past week, and I came sooooo close to being able to do a big reveal of the fully functional site today. Then it turned out I could only get so far without tech support doing something blah blah staging site blah blah DNS I dunno. Anyway, the support people I need don’t work on the weekend, so I’m in a holding pattern until later today (if you’re reading this on Monday).

The good news, in case you didn’t realize it, was actually buried in the description of the bad news: I have been working on my website. And it’s close, really, really close to being functional. Close enough for me to say I might actually be able to finish it without hiring outside help! I should know more by the time I do my next post, so stay tuned.

While I’ve been working on my website, I’ve also been finishing one book, starting the discovery/first draft of a new story, waiting for editor feedback on my novella and novel 1 of the romance series…you get the idea. There aren’t enough hours in the day and there’s always more I could be doing. The risk of burnout and stress meltdowns is high. But I don’t have time for that! So I’ve been trying some things Continue reading

Michaeline: The March Lion Takes a Nap

Cold and rainy winter day, street is banked with plowed snow, and the water is knee-deep. A small boxy car chugs through the water.

Through my windshield; this guy made it through the lake, so I figured I could, too. Photo by E.M. Duskova, March 9, 2018

World weather continued to rage this week in my friend universe, but today my area finally caught a break. The skies are blue, and the temps are above freezing, and it’s beginning to look a lot like spring.

But the March lion might just be taking a nap. Goodness, it roared this week! We got a snowstorm Thursday night, which turned into rain around 3 a.m. Friday morning. Schools were cancelled, but teachers still had to go into work if they didn’t want to use up vacation days. Out in the country, the roads were fairly good, but in the city, the streets were flooded with rain and snowmelt. At one point, I drove through a short stretch where the waters must have been 14 inches (35 cm) deep. I never know how deep is too deep; but since the car didn’t die, I guess it was OK.

All praise to the road workers out there during the wet and the ick, working to keep us safe. I got a shot of one guy scooping out a storm drain (I was stopped at a stop light). It made me think of this:

You never knew what was down storm drains. Rotting leaves, abandoned puppies, transdimensional beings who took a wrong turn at Albuquerque . . . it was all in a season’s work, and Jamal Frost was good at his work. Today, it looked like an ice dam was blocking the storm drain at corner of First and Maple, turning the street into a hip-deep pond. Well, hip-deep for him. His cousin Olivia would have been up to her neck in it.

Water flooding the street and a parking lot, decorated with plenty of ice reefs.

Three blocks later, more flooding at a busy intersection. The Yellow Hat tire company must have mermen as employees. Photo by E.M. Duskova, March 9, 2018.

Jamal didn’t inherit winter magic from his father, but summer magic from his mom, and that’s just what was needed on this spring day. He gathered power from the sleeping trees that lined the street, borrowing a little from their budding spring energy. Then he sent the power down, through the cold waters and into the dark storm drain. He could Feel his reach moving smoothly through the liquid, being blocked by the ice, then melting just a touch here on the edge, and a touch there in the center, and the ice shifting to allow a small crack for the waters to escape to the gray water system. There. A whirlpool appeared, and Jamal backed up so he wouldn’t get sucked into the hole.

At any rate, it stopped raining by 3 p.m. and by nightfall, a lot of the road surface was dry again. The floods had receded everywhere I drove, and today it’s lovely.

More snow predicted for Monday, though. Ah, March. More plot twists than a romantic thriller! There’s got to be a story under all this snow, somewhere!

A road worker is digging out the snow bank that is blocking the storm drain. He's ankle-deep in water, and the puddle is starting to swirl around him.

The road worker takes advantage of a stop light and stopped traffic to attempt to clear a snow drain. Our hero! Photo by E.M. Duskova, March 9, 2018.

Michille: John Grisham’s Do’s & Don’ts

By BJTJ1 - July 15 at the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project’s Second Annual Awards Luncheon., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40699787I read the New York Times every day. Well, not the whole thing, but I scan the home page and find enough articles that catch my interest to keep me on the site for a while. I’m not sure how I missed this gem from May 2017. John Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Popular Fiction. Some we’ve all heard/read before. Some are new to me. Even with the list, JG gives the caveat, “All suggestions can be ignored when necessary. I do it all the time.” Many writers do. But for those of us who aren’t multi-best-selling authors, it’s good to review every now and then.

Numbers 2 and 3 were new for me. Number 5 is a no-brainer. And Number 4 is very common and often ignored. Regardless, here they are: Continue reading

Michaeline: Cold Starts for February Fun

I’ve got to say, I just love a cold start on a fresh story. It’s almost a miracle the way ideas bump together and a structure starts to build up where before there was just random litter. I feel like a caveman, bumping rocks together and watching pretty sparks come out . . . and light my campfire.

I found the video clip we’ve been showing this week of Diana Gabaldon’s process to be very natural. The thing that amazes me is that she relies on only one external input – that crystal goblet from a Sotheby’s catalog. For me, I like to have at least two things bump together.

Those things can be words (like in Elizabeth’s writing sprints on Fridays) or images (all praise to Google Image search). My own experiences are like the logs on the fire – the sparks I get (if I’m lucky) fall on some dry memory ready to burst into flames and story.

For example, my Bunny Blavatsky stories started out when I was googling women photographers. Google led me to Bunny Yeager (image from The Atlantic.com). What an exciting name for a character! Full of cuteness and jet planes and all sorts of resonances. But Continue reading