Monthly Archives: April 2013

Zero Hour



No, this post is not about the great new television series which lasted less than three episodes, entirely due to the fact my family and I all liked it (our agreeing on anything is the kiss of death). Today, instead, I’m celebrating the successful end of the A to Z Challenge and bracing myself for the excitement and stress that comes with a book release! 


May is release month, or zero hour, if you will, for book two in the Alex Crocker Seer series, Unveiled. Hopefully the last twenty-five posts have been entertaining, informative, and have built a little interest and excitement for the next book. For those so enthused that you want to reread a post, the list with links follows. For those of you with a life, oops, I mean, for the rest of you, thanks so much for visiting this month! Be sure to subscribe to the blog and/or like my Facebook page to continue to get updates about the books and my other writing. 


It’s been fun, but I need a blogging break…at least until tomorrow!

A: A is for Alex – background on the series’ MC Alex Crocker

B: B is for Brothers – background on Alex’s brothers, Levi and Dave Crocker

C: Creating a Creator – explanation of the Creator, Creator’s Day

D: “D” is Daring – background on Darian, Rectinatti Regan

E: Elusive – some background on Ellie Jamison, a new character in Unveiled

F: Feeding Your Soul – explanation of feeding and essence

G: Grounded for a Lifetime (Or Two) – background on Rocky

H: Humor Me – using humor in writing

I: Interview With a Seer – character interview with Alex Crocker

J: Jammin’ – my writing playlists

K: Knowing Can Be the Battle – background on Sage & explanation of Knowers

L: Longevity, Not Immortality – an explanation of one variation from traditional vampire lore

M: Mr. Right – background on Markus

N: What’s in a Name? – how characters’ names were chosen

O: Outtakes & Outlets – an extra chapter from the series

P: Problematic Parents – background on Alex’s parents

Q: Queen of More Than Her Own Castle – background on Sarah

R: Rectinatti – background on the Rectinatti coven

S: Seer of a Different Sort – explanation of Seers

T: Tools of the Trade – the research that goes into writing

U: Unveiled – teaser, trailer, and links to first chapter from book 2 of the series

V: Vengatti – background on the baddies in the books

W: Warriors, or The Appeal of the Alpha Male – an explanation of warriors and why women love them

X: X-rated or Perfectly PG? – writing for adults

Y: Yesteryear – an extra scene of backstory from the series

Z: Zero Hour – wrapping up the challenge and counting down to Unveiled’s release

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Yesteryear



As promised earlier in the A to Z Challenge, I’m including some backstories that I wrote originally for Unveiled, but which later had to be cut. Since my stories involve characters who can potentially live for millennia, there’s an awful lot of backstory for each of them, most of which takes place well before the contemporary setting of my novels. I don’t have the time to do the research required to write historical fiction, but I had some fun writing a few scenes from when the coven was still in Ireland. This one explains how Markus and Darian met Sage when they were all still relatively young and inexperienced.


Ireland 1752

Markus and Darian had been following the trail of two Vengatti for two nights. The bastards had drained three humans in a nearby village, leaving them worse than dead.

“Damn it.” Darian was sloshing along the banks of the creek the two attackers had used to elude their pursuers.

“Nothing?” Markus asked.

Darian stopped and sniffed the air. He held a finger to his lips to silence Markus, then pointed to a thick cluster of shrubs a hundred yards to the left.

Markus nodded and silently circled around behind. When he caught the scent that had alerted Darian, he stood from his crouch and sighed at the young future Regan. Darian’s grin grew as he approached the hiding spot that held not an enemy, but a member of their own coven.

“Darian,” he reprimanded. It was this type of behavior from which Markus was supposed to restrain him. Though how Ardellus, the Regan, or his own father, the lead warrior, thought Markus, a young warrior only a few years Darian’s senior, could do what neither had been successful accomplishing himself, was beyond him. But Darian threw down the long branch he had picked up, no doubt with the intention of poking the sleeping vampire. His frustration was evident by the hand on his hip. Markus was sure Darian was cursing him for spoiling his fun, but he was more concerned with the young male who had awoken and leapt from the bushes. He held a small hunting knife in a shaky left hand as his eyes darted between Darian and Markus. Looking at his lanky build, Markus would have guessed he wasn’t matured if, in his fear, his fangs hadn’t sprung.

“Easy, boy,” Markus called. “We’re Rectinatti, same as you.”

“I’m not your boy,” the young blond responded, pushing his long hair from his eyes.

Markus gasped. Darian smiled.

“I guess not, Knower, but if you were smart, you’d still drop the weapon,” he said, approaching. The young male made no move to attack, nor to lower the knife. Markus examined him as Darian did. His face was bruised; his lip swollen.

“What happened to you?” Darian asked.

The male tried to scoff. “Don’t worry about it. The other male looks worse.”

Darian looked at Markus with a raised brow. “Where have you heard that before?”

Markus grinned. “From you, every time your father beats your arse for doing something stupid.”

Darian shrugged and nodded. “Next time,” he teased the blond, “rough up your knuckles on a tree. Makes it a bit more believable.”

“Piss off,” he returned, finally lowering his hand and turning away.

“Hey.” Markus flashed in front of him and spun him around by the scruff of his neck to face Darian. “You have any idea who you’re saying that to? Look closely.”

Darian reached his right hand to scratch at his nose, making the silver and sapphire ring evident.

“Oh, shite,” the blond answered, his jaw dropping.

“The proper response is usually to bow.” Darian waited for a reaction. When none came, Markus knocked the back of the young male’s knees to push him to the forest floor. The blond shook him off. “He’s not the Regan yet.”

“True,” Darian said, striding forward until he was directly in front of the boy, looking down his nose at him. “But I still have the power to have you strung up and beaten. Or taken in and trained. From the smell of you, you’re young and need food, essence—and a bath. So which will it be, Sage Matthew?”

Sage’s eyes widened. “How do you know my name?”

Darian laughed. “You don’t think my father keeps track of all gifted members born into the coven? You were supposed to be presented to my father as soon as you matured,” Darian said staring down at him. “I guess your father forgot that while he was beating you senseless.”

Sage actually grinned. “And you were supposed to be home three days ago and are hoping showing up with me will make your own father forget that,” he said, wagging his marked brows.

Darian cursed and looked away from Sage’s eye contact. He had forgotten how Knowers work. 

“If I refuse you, I’ll have good company as I’m being whipped in the stocks, won’t I?”

Darian scowled.

Sage continued mocking Darian’s earlier words. “You don’t think the coven keeps track of our future Regan? It wouldn’t be the first time according to the tales I’ve heard.”

Markus couldn’t keep from howling.

“Laugh all you want, Markus. As my guard, your father will have you right there beside me.”

Markus’s smile faded. Darian was right. As was the young male: it wouldn’t be the first time he was punished for not being able to tame Darian’s reckless behavior.

“We’ll owe you one.” Markus offered Sage a hand to help him to his feet. “You could ask for two worse males to owe you a debt, trust me.” Markus held his gaze, though it meant the young vampire would have free range of his thoughts. The trust paid off. Sage took his hand and stood.

Before sunrise that night, Markus and Darian realized just how much they and the coven would owe Sage over time. They had caught up with one of the two Vengatti they had been pursuing. He was injured and his partner had left him for dead. Darian had been ready to finish him off, but Sage had stepped in, reading him first.

“They discovered our nearest safe house and were headed there,” he told Darian. “They planned to ambush you, to kill Markus and take you captive.” His face looked young, but his blue-grey eyes knew the gravity of what he forewarned.


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X-rated or Perfectly PG?

Although today’s topic is not directly related to the series, it is certainly something I pondered while writing the first two books and especially while drafting the collection of short stories related to the series, which include a lot more romance and a little more lovemaking!




Be it sex, violence, or swearing, everyone has a different tolerance or taste for what they want to read, watch, or hear. There are those who silently cheer when the ratings of our favorite HBO shows warn of nudity and adult situations. (If you’ve seen Alexander Skarsgård or Joe Manganiello, you’d be nodding right now.) There are others who prefer the much more PG lovemaking of ABC family shows, where apparently the pregnant teens all got that way without ever taking off their bras. Whether or not consumers want a few f-bombs in their books or sex scenes on their television shows, is a matter of personal preference. No one should be judged for liking or disliking such material. With that said, it’s impossible for writers or producers to please everyone, so how do we decide where do to draw the line?


“Know your audience” is the logical advice here, but that’s harder than it might seem. If you’re writing for the younger or the older crowds, this might be a bit more straightforward. Older audiences tend to have less of a comfort level or tolerance for the naughty things in life, at least when they’re explicitly described or portrayed. Though there were certainly some grannies who jumped on the Fifty Shades train last year! Younger audiences think they want naughty, but, really, they have no clue what naughty is yet—best you not be the one to teach them. It’s the middle crowd that’s tough. Some still view the world through the more prudish or proper view of generations past. Others, entrenched in raising kids, judge everything by how they’d handle it if their seven-year-old discovered it. The rest of us just want a little excitement in life, and we’ll take it wherever we can get it: books, movies, television—bring it on! 


So the question still remains: to include nookie or not to include nookie? That depends on your purpose. With anything that could potentially offend or make readers uncomfortable, decide whether it’s necessary to develop character, plot, or tone. If it is, include it. Because if your soul sucking antagonist walks around saying, “Oh, golly, that hurt!” no one’s going to read your books, regardless of whether or not they approve of swearing. If it’s not meaningful, though, it’s probably best to table it. Even the steamiest sex scene looses its appeal if it’s squeezed randomly into a chapter like a cheap drive-through meal—initially tempting, but void of any nutritional value.


Unless, of course, it features Alexander Skarsgård or Joe Manganiello; then you should keep it. Trust me on that one.

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Warriors, or The Appeal of the Alpha Male



Excerpt from Unforeseen:

“The prophecy reads:

The last of three,
Where essence is strong, marred
And before the turn, battle-worn
From which will then be born to us
A unique warrior
is’ he who Sees a way
To victory.”
“That’s it?” Alex asked seeing the eager look on Ardellus’s face as he waited for her to explain the lines. It hardly made sense. It sounded like chunks of the lines were missing.
“It’s okay, Alex. I didn’t see how it fit, either. For one thing, it clearly refers to a male,” Darian said. He dropped the pen, looking only a little disappointed.
“Only this version, son,” Ardellus corrected. “The footnote states the spelling was changed from the original copy written by the Knower who prophesied it. The transcriber changed the pronoun to the masculine, because he believed the feminine form to be a transcription error.”

“And why wouldn’t he? It refers to the Seer as a warrior,” Darian pointed out.
“So?” Alex asked sitting up straight.
“In vampire culture all males were traditionally called warriors and females protectors, because those were the roles they played in the coven,” Darian explained.
“Well, the prophecy isn’t about a vampire, it’s about a Seer. And it refers to a ‘unique warrior.’ As the first female, I’d be unique,” Alex argued, irked by the sexist stereotyping. She saw the corner of Ardellus’s mouth twitch. She hadn’t liked his earlier attitude towards Rocky, but he had potential.

“Unique as a Seer, yes, but females, especially human females, can’t be warriors,” Darian said.

“Just because we’re smart enough not to look for a fight, doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of fighting. You call your females protectors. Have you ever seen a female protect her best friend, her child, or her lover for that matter? We can be fierce. Your Sarah seems calm and controlled, but I bet if anyone tried to harm you, she’d rip him limb from limb, right?” Alex asked Darian. She smirked when he didn’t deny it. “You’d be a fool to underestimate or underutilize half a population based solely on gender. The Others seem to have come to that conclusion a few days ahead of you, or I wouldn’t have been grabbed in that alley. Don’t make the same mistake twice, Regan.”


Explanation:

Warrior Traditionally the role all males in the Rectinatti coven filled. As males they were expected to train to fight the Vengatti to protect both the humans living near their coven and the females in the coven. After the coven settled in America, more males took on human occupations and only served the mandated hours. It was then the warriors became a select group of males (and only males) led by the lead warrior to kick butt and protect those weaker than then—and, yes, that includes females, even female vampires. So Alex is, indeed, a unique warrior.


Writing Reasons:

I was the seventh grader who begged her mother (unsuccessfully) to play Pop Warner football. In high school I was more intimidated by the heels most girls wore to prom than by any guy who wanted to verbally spar in my honors classes. And as one of only two women in my black belt class, I wasn’t afraid of physically sparring with the men either. I’ve always taken pride in my strength and my independence. Basically, I’ve been a feminist since before I knew what the word meant.


Why, then, are most of the males in my series alpha males, tough guys who feel it’s not only their duty, but also their place to protect their females? It’s awfully hypocritical of women to claim to be feminists yet swoon over tough guys, right? Wrong. Not needing a guy to hold the door (or in this case, slice some throats) for you is completely different from not wanting him to. Any guy willing and able to be my knight in shining armor is likely swoon-worthy. Whether or not I need a knight, frankly, is irrelevant. Protectiveness is born out of love and concern for the protected, and bravery on the part of the protector. I really doubt any guy who thinks little of women would be willing to risk his life for one of us. What some feminist females in real life and in fiction (my MC Alex included) don’t always see is that the chivalry of most alpha males shows respect, not contempt for women. That’s why those of us who recognize this love our alpha males, in life and in our books. So make note, even in an age of equality, chivalry is not dead; it’s hot!

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Vengatti



“They knew your running route,” Darian replied. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been tracking you for awhile.”
Alex had desired honesty, but was overwhelmed with the truth. Her right hand shook by her side.
“But why?” she asked again. She was desperate to understand. “Who are they?”
“They are another coven of vampires, though we use the word loosely when referring to them.” Darian spoke of them with obvious disdain. “We sometimes refer to them as the Others, though, like our own coven, they have a traditional name they call themselves: the Vengatti. It means—”

“Vengeance?” Alex cut in. “Against your coven?” Alex watched as Darian ran his hand through his hair. Whoever these vampires were, they caused the Regan a significant amount of stress.

“Maybe in recent history,” he answered. “But not originally. At first it was just against humans.”

“Humans? What did we ever do? What could we do?” Alex thought it seemed crazy that such a powerful group of creatures could ever be put in a position where they would feel the need to seek vengeance against a significantly weaker species.

“Vampires believe the Creator created both humans and vampires, each species with their own strengths and weaknesses,” Darian started. “Vampires’ strengths should have allowed them to be the more powerful species, and for a while we were. But the human race grew and developed quickly and were able to spread all over the globe, while vampires, who can usually reproduce only enough to keep the population steady, had to stay together to feed within their covens. Most vampires never minded this. Our ancestors enjoyed living apart from humans. But as the world became more populated and total isolation became impossible, some vampires became bitter over the weaker species forcing us to live in secret. A group of these vampires broke off from one of the original covens, and, as they saw it, began to exact justice on the human race.”

Darian paused and seemed to examine how Alex was absorbing all this. She had been intrigued hearing him explain more about this world, but guessing what was coming next, trembled slightly. Noticing this, he might have left it there, but Alex urged him to finish.

“They began feeding from humans instead of just each other. In order to stay strong feeding off weaker essences, they developed a way of feeding from the strongest part of humans’ essence. Because humans don’t feed in return, all that’s left behind is the weaker, undesirable parts. In other words, they feed off people’s goodness, leaving them. . . .” Darian shrugged and shook his head. He was unable to put words to this horror.

Conscienceless? Evil? Alex finished in her mind, too shocked to speak. When Darian and then Rocky had first described how their breed of vampires fed by sharing their essence with the ones they loved, she had begun to think of feeding as an intimate and almost romantic notion. But as she imagined the monsters that survived by draining the good from people, she was horrified.

– excerpt from Unforeseen, chapter 8


Explanation:

Vengatti (sometimes referred to as the Others by the Rectinatti) – The opposing coven of vampires who split from the Rectinatti back in Italy. The Vengatti believed that humans were growing too quickly in numbers and strength and resented having to live in secrecy from them. Feeling they were the superior race, the Vengatti began to feed from humans rather than each other. Because humans have less essence and it is not an exchange, feeding from them often leaves them unable to recover, rendering them conscienceless.


Facts: The Vengatti coven are also run by a Regan, but unlike the Rectinatti, they have no Elder Council. The Regan has complete control over the coven. Since they don’t hold stock in bloodlines, Regans are chosen, or more accurately, perhaps, take control of the coven when a vacancy arises. 


Writing Reasons:

Well, if I had to have some bad guys, I wanted them to be truly loathsome. Somehow vampires who drink from humans, even unwilling humans, didn’t seem bad enough. And draining them was both overdone and in some ways merciful. So I had to find something worse than death. Here, I definitely drew on J. K. Rowling’s idea of Dementors for the Vengatti. A human who suffers a Dementor’s kiss is left without a soul. I always pictured that as being left in a coma-like state, neither good nor bad, just lifeless. As awful and terrifying as that sounds, at least you’d be unable to hurt others. So when I looked to make my Vengatti equally atrocious, I decided to twist this idea. Instead of being left soulless, Vengatti victims who are drained of their essence and survive would be conscienceless. They’d no longer care about hurting others. To see a loved one turned evil or to think about doing evil to your loved ones, seemed to me a fate much worse than death.


Today’s question:

What makes for the most terrifying creatures?

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Unveiled

Since I chose the theme of the A to Z Challenge as my series, in order to celebrate the release of Unveiled, book 2 in the Alex Crocker Seer series, it’s only fitting that “U” be a post on the book itself!


Teaser:

With strength comes vulnerabilities.  With love comes loss.  With power comes pain.  The world Alex now belongs to hinges on such balance.  Her every step seems to be lurching her precariously closer to one wrong side or another.

Alex had known her life as a Seer wouldn’t be easy. She knew her gift would be difficult to control and constantly sensing others’ emotions would be overwhelming. She even knew she’d be hunted for the power it would provide whichever coven of vampires controlled her. What she didn’t foresee were the difficulties she’d have with the parts of her life she ought to be able to control: her decisions, her actions, and her relationships.

It isn’t until she’s botched every facet of her new life that the opportunity arises to make things right. Rocky’s lover has been abducted, and Alex’s gift is the best shot at bringing her home alive. But even that will require tipping the scales in a direction no one but Alex can understand.

This sequel to Unforeseen is a darker tale of the battles Alex continues to fight against her enemies, her gift, and even herself. This time victory might cost her sanity, her lover, or her life.


Trailer:



To read the opening pages of the novel see Unveiled’s web page.


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Tools of the Trade



I don’t like to generalize, but from the writers I’ve met and read about, I think it’s safe to say that one thing we have in common is a love of knowledge. We listen in to conversations everywhere we go, to the point where some of us are just shy of stalkers, in order to learn about people. We devour books, movies, and any other kind of media, including decade old magazines in doctors’ offices, in order to learn about the world. And most of us, whether we write nonfiction, historical fiction, or ‘crazy goblin stories’ (as my 89-year-old grandmother calls the urban fantasy I write), spend oodles of hours researching, which, of course, equates to Google searches and Wikipedia. (If you tell my students I said that, I’ll deny it until I’m blue in the face!)

Some of what I research is perfectly mundane: baby names (see my N post), Massachusetts mill towns, latin words, Irish history. None of these would concern my employers or the parents of the young minds I mold. Other search terms, though, might cause a little concern—vampire lore and major arteries in the body not being the worst of it. 

It probably will surprise no one that the daughter of two teachers from the liberal state of Massachusetts has never fired, owned, or even held a gun. But I write about them. In order to write about unfamiliar topics you need to become familiar with them. So last summer I sat in bed, at my parents’ house no less, watching YouTube videos all about magazines, safeties, and firing techniques. Then, of course, I moved onto ammunition, looking for the type of bullets that would cause the most internal damage. It was an easy progression from there to knives and even swords (for ceremonies; my vamps are old, remember?). At some point my family heard odd noises emanating from the room and came to check on me. I assured them I was still their pacifistic, democratic daughter and decided to call it quits for the night. 

Overall, I learned a little about weapons, and a lot about the danger of search terms on YouTube. *shudder* I’ve no doubt been flagged by multiple government watch lists and will be forever receiving spam from the NRA asking if I’m looking to join. But, hey, it’s all worth it for the sake of art, right?

I hope actual weapons will never be the tools of my trade, but knowledge, which is necessary to write with accuracy and believability, is and always will be. So, although, it may take me on some strange journeys, I’ll keep soaking in whatever the world has to teach me, whether it be through travel, experiences, books, or good ole’ YouTube and Wikipedia. Hopefully, the FBI will understand.

Today’s question:

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever researched online?


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