A Gentleman and a Rogue

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday's Romance


I just became a member of the Classic Romance Revivial and I thought I'd share a link to their website.




My first love was being a romance writer and it's something that I'm getting back to. What I love about romance is that usually it has a happy ending. It's a very "uplifting" book. Romances are usually easy to read and they take you different places.


The CRR is the heart of Judah Raine who is also a published romance author. The website has "affliate" authors where other romance authors can come together and share their work. There's a great blog that talks about romance and other writers and how to explore the genre on the Internet.


With the dawn of the internet books and reading have gotten a bigger audience. Ebooks in the romance genre seem to have taken off and the CRR takes full advantage of it. How many have a Kindle? A Sony Reader? Ebooks are picking up in popularity due to these devices.


CRR exposes readers to a variety of subgenres in romance from Western to Paranormal. They also review romances which is nice because it helps readers guide them toward books in the genres they want to explore.


I like historicals, regencies, time travel and paranormal romance. I'm not much for a western, but I'll read it if it's well written.


As a romance writer, I like to read other romances to help keep me fresh. One author I'm reading now is Mona Risk. She's published with Cerridwen Press and I'm reading "To Love A Hero." What I really like about Mona is that the story takes place in Bellarus - an exotic location. That appeals to me. The characters are very likable and the plot is something modern and different. I'm not much for contemporary romance but Mona makes it fresh by going to Bellurus.


As for my own contemporary romance, I wrote them in 2002/2003. "All That Remains" and "Are Your Dirty Little Secrets" are set in modern Manchester, NH where Darrin and Kristina have a bunch of challenges to overcome as they grow as a couple. After Secrets, I wanted to branch out and began exploring more paranormal stories.


My next project is a paranormal romance called "The Hungarian" which will be published by Desert Breeze Publishing in May 2010 and I'm very excited about it. Like Mona, I travel to another place - Budapest, Hungary. Ahhh.. the romance of Central Europe.


If you get a chance, check out CRR's website. It's a GREAT resource for Romance on the web and a great place to meet and connect with other romance authors. Also, check out Mona's website. It's plenty of fun.




Have a romantic day!
Steph

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Trip - Portsmouth, New Hampshire


Ah, Portsmouth! I have fond memories of this little town, but not from my childhood, from my years as a 20 something. hehe.

The picture in my blog is a view from one of the Isle of Shoals. This set of islands are off the coast of NH and Maine. There are 9 island and 4 belong on NH and 5 belong to Maine. Cpt. John Smith of Ponchahotas fame introduced the islands to the Western World in 1614. One lives year-round on the islands. A famed double-murder took place on Smuttynose Island in the 1800s (the basis for the book and movie "The Weight of Water"), and New Hampshire's most famous poet of the 19th Century, Celia Thaxter, was raised there, the daughter of lighthouse keeper Thomas Laighton.

I had a chance to visit the islands when I was younger, about 20 something. I had just married my husband. ( I was young when I got married - 23) and I wanted to show him the rich variety of my New Hampshire home, so with my friends, Idgy, Karen, and my sister, Christine, we set off. I remember we caught the boat in Portsmouth and sailed right on over. It was a lazy summer day with not much to do but enjoy the view. I did get to see a bridge where it lifted up between the two towers and I enjoyed watching that. I had never seen that type of bridge before.

One of my most treasured personal pics is of me, Brent, Idgy, Alyssa, and Christine on the island looking out. If I can span it, I'll post it a little later on.

As a side note: I think the isles would make a great romantic setting for a story.

I never visited Portsmouth when I was a kid. Portsmouth has a rich history, though. I didn't actually getting around to visiting it until I was older. I would come home from military leave and go up with my friends, Idgy, Karen, or Alyssa. I remember one time, Idgy and I explored Strawberry Banke, an old neightborhood that was a reinactment from colonial days. Very cool.
Portsmouth has a rich history of being a "navy" town. It also was the home of Pease Air Force Base which has since been closed.

Interesting Historical Note: Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth from Boston to tell the residents that "the British were coming."

Portsmouth even has a bewery which I visited. I love the local/regional beweries. The beer is always so much fresher, but I can't remember the name of it. Redhook, I believe?

I haven't been to Portsmouth in years, but I have fond memories. Anyone else have a thought on Portsmouth?

I hope you've enjoyed learning a little about this NH gem.

Steph

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Tips - Query Letters

The following questions came from "The Fiction Writer's Connection." Here's a link: http://www.fictionwriters.com/tips-query-letters.html

My responses are in red. I'll be posting thoughts on tradtional and self publishing options.

****


Who needs a query letter?

If you are working on a novel and intent to venture into tradtional publishing, you need a query letter to attract an agent. If you are going the self publishing route, you don't really need one.

Who wouldn't use a query letter?

Poets and short story writers generally don't need them. It depends on the requirements of the publisher.

What is the purpose of the query letter?

It is to entice literary agents to represent you to traditional publishers. If a literary agents agrees to represent you, you've got your foot in the door in the tradtional publishing market.

Do I really need an agent?

If you want to approach small press publishing without one, that's fine. Small press publishers are generally more open to writer's without literary representation. There are numerous romance small press publishers who will accept you without representation. You have to research the publisher to find out what they need.


What is a query letter?

A query letter should tell an agent what your project is, interest them, in fact HOOK them, so they will ask to see your project in your entirety.

You want to keep a query letter about one page length, single space. That doesn't leave much more for you to HOOK them.

Keep this mind: Summarize your novel in one-two paragraphs. Hook. Hook. Hook. Focus on the conflict of the novel. Note the theme. Next, if you have credits, liste them. Don't forget to put your word count in the query letter. Words counts are important to agents. Most competitive books have word counts between 75,000-125,000. Don't go over that. Especially if you're a first time author who is unproven.

Be polite. Be humble. Don't sound arrogant. A little humility goes a long way. If you have a brisk attitude in your letter, it will come across. Do a little homework. Google that literary agent to see if they have a blog. Hang out on the blog for a little bit and see what they're like. Is someone you want to pitch your story to? Find out what their requirements are for submitting. A little homework goes a long way.

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions? Do you need a query letter? A literary agent? No, but it helps, especially if you want to be published by the "big" tradtional publishers.


Friday, August 28, 2009

The Friday Book Review - Sex with Kings


Book Review for: “Sex with Kings”
Written by: Eleanor Herman
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-058544-0
$13.95
5 Stars


Herman takes her readers on a delightful romp through history and gives us a taste of what its like to have sex with kings. Masterfully written and easy to read, history comes alive in ways the reader doesn’t expect.

Herman takes a look at some of history’s most famous kings: France’s Charles VII, Francois I, Henri II, Louis XIV and Louis XV. She also gives us a peek into English kings as well, including Edward III, Henry VIII, Charles II, and even Prince Charles.

Sex with kings was an art and no one was more skilled than the royal mistresses. Herman points out that the kings usually gave their hearts to their mistresses – their wives were very rarely treated with the same affection. Louis XIV fell in love with his last mistress, Madame de Maintenon while she was serving as a governess to the children he had with his second mistress, Madame de Montespan. While he did have affection for his wife, it wasn’t the grand passion he reserved for his mistresses.

There was a lot to consider if one was going to have sex with a king. The first consideration was the fine art of giving him pleasure. The mistress had to appeal to his sensual side. Very rarely were their wives chosen for their sensuality. Henri II of France clearly preferred Diane de Poitiers over his wife, Catherine de Medici. After nine years of marriage, Henri had yet to have a child by his wife because he spent so much time with Diane. An agreement was worked out were Diane would work Henri up and then she’d send him to Catherine to finish the job.

Mistresses had appearances to keep. Generally, they didn’t scold or throw fits. They were always in a good mood – even if they weren’t. They never frowned. They had to enjoy the king’s hobbies, even if they didn’t. After all, the benefits outweighed the discomfort.

Mistresses were usually paid well. The king provided everything she needed or wanted – and he usually took care of the bastard children. Herman points out the children the king usually had with his mistresses were healthy and thrived. The children with his wife were usually sicker. This was due to the fact the royal bloodlines were intermingled. Marie-Theresa, Louis XIV’s wife, was a sickly woman and short in stature due to her family’s in-breeding. Out of their six sons, only one grew to adulthood, and he resembled his mother in her dull, unattractive looks.

Mistresses were provided with jewels, apartments, real estate, and titles. Most of them knew better than to engage in political intrigue with the king, but some tried. Diane de Poitiers almost ran the government for Henri II, but his grandson, Louis XIV, didn’t care for his mistresses to be active in his political life.

The book ends with Herman taking a look at modern day mistresses, Wallis Simpson and Camilla Parker-Bowles. While times change, the allure of having a mistress does not.

Herman’s writing is brisk and sharp. Her anecdotes about the various kings throughout history are interesting. The book includes several color portraits of various royal mistresses and a reader’s guide to help sate the reader who demands more. “Sex with Kings,” is a book that is hard to put down.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday Tips - The Blurb

Every book needs a blurb. But what is a blurb? It's a 150-200 word tease of your book. Blurbs can also be quotes from other authors or review agencies used to tease your book.

What do you use a blurb for?

Mostly, they're used for the back cover tease of your book, but it could be used in other places as well. You can use them on your web site and promotional material.

Some places I think blurbs would be effective:
Amazon.com Review of the item
B&N Review of the item
Good Reads


Where can you get blurbs?
Well, you can solict from review agencies like Reader Views, ForeWord Magazine, Kirkus, and of course, other authors in the genre you're writing about.

An example of a quote blurb - "A thrilling mystery," SG Cardin, author of "The Wolf's Torment."

When you tackle the 150-200 word blurb think of these elements:
Set the mood, scene, or conflict.
Try to convey what makes your book unique.
Use question marks to intrigue the reader
More action verbs, less adverbs
REMEMBER - Blurbs are not summaries - tease, tease, & tease.

The first time you put the blurb together may not be your best effort. Rewrite, edit, & rewrite. Very few get the blurb right the first time they draft it.

So here's a "blurb" proposed for my novel, "The Wolf's Torment." I'd love to hear your thoughts. Does this tease you? Intrigue you? Or make you snooze.... Be honest.

******

Moldavia – dark, mysterious, a country steeped in mythical legends of vampires, werewolves, and witches. For Crown Prince Mihai, he is indoctrinated to the brutal truth when he witnesses the brutal slaying of his mother by a witch.

Wanting to control his own destiny, Mihai goes to England for a modern education intent on modernizing the country, but when his father recalls him to Moldavia for his royal duties, his life takes a stunning turn he’s been trying to avoid when his best friend, Viktor, is bitten by a werewolf.

Driven by demons Viktor cannot control, he struggles to maintain his humanity, yet his actions threaten to dismantle Moldavia and Mihai’s life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review Friday - Against a Crimson Sky


My note: I had the opportunity to read this before I read "Push Not The River" and I totally enjoyed the story. It put me in touch with my "roots."
Steph



Against a Crimson Sky
By: James Conroyd Martin
ISBN: 0-312-32682-3
St. Martin’s Press
$24.95
4.5 Stars

“Against a Crimson Sky” takes a gripping historical look at the final partition of Poland (1795), it’s people, and tells the personal story of the Stelnickis. Martin uses a grand, sweeping style reminiscent of epic storytelling to paint a vivid picture of the era. “Against a Crimson Sky” is a book that can easily be visualized on the movie screen.

The story beings in 1794 shortly after the Russians invade Poland before the country’s final partition. Zofia Gonska is pulled from a river escaping death. Switching scenes, Countess Anna Berezowska-Grawlinska (minor Polish nobility) makes her way back home to Sochaczew after the Russian invasion of Praga and reunites with her lover, Count Jan Stelnicki. As Poland is finally taken over by Russia, Prussia, and Austria, Anna and Jan get married and start their family.

Zofia, Anna’s cousin, had previously tried to keep Anna and Jan apart. Now, she finds herself drawn to the peasant boy who saved her, Jerzy. Zofia though is like a bird that can’t stay still and the peasant life isn’t for her. She leaves Jerzy and returns to Praga, a town just outside of Warsaw, and gives birth to her daughter, Izabel.

Anna and Zofia make peace, yet Jan finds married life unable to satisfy his restless nature. When Napolean hints that he would return Poland to the Poles, Jan and his friend, Pawel, join the Emperor’s legion, leaving Anna to raise their three children, Jan Michel, Tadeusz, and Barbara. Anna, uncomfortable with the local magistrate, Dolinski, leaves Sochaczew and moves in with Zofia at Praga.

As Napoleon marches across Europe, Anna and Zofia, as members of Poland’s nobility, help to entertain various European dignitaries, including Russia’s Czar, Alexander, and even Napolean himself. Zofia is always in the thick of Polish intrigue while Anna prefers to keep her eyes on her boys who have gone to military school.

After years apart, Jan is reunited with Anna in Sochaczew as their boys join Napolean’s march into Russia. This time it’s Anna who leaves Jan to work as a nurse in Praga. As Napolean’s march into Russia holds the promise of a reunited Poland, will Jan and Anna’s marriage withstand another separation? The end of the novel is surprising and satisfying.

The book’s historical backdrop is intriguing and the supporting cast is not only dynamic, but strong in it’s own right. Zofia, Pawel, Charlotte, and Dolinski have their own interesting stories to share. Anna is a vibrant lead character in her own right and is a steady, grounding force during the turbulent times of the book. Anna’s nobility, whatever the situation, always shines through.

The pace is quick and the writing is sharp. The book is a sequel to “Push Not the River,” but stands on it’s own. For an exciting look at Poland’s struggles and the human condition in the face of war, “Against a Crimson Sky,” is a book that will keep the reader turning the page.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Romantic Settings - California Wine Country


Thursday is my California day and unfortunately, I haven't been able to blog about Calfornia the past couple of weeks. This week I'm making the time and I'm going to tie it into a writing "theme" - setting.


Setting is so important in a story. It sets mood, tone, and the background that your characters are going to be playing in. For me, researching a setting before writing is so important. It helps bring an authencity to the story. How does this fit into California? California can inspire the perfect setting. The above picture was taken in Nov 2007 when my family went up north to Napa Valley. The view is from the top of Sterling Winery looking down into the Napa Valley. Sigh... I find California Wine Country very inspirational for my writing.
California has great gifts - a long seacost, the Heart Castle near San Simeon, Wine Country, and San Fransisco. I live near Los Angeles, and it's pretty crowded, but there are plenty of places in Southern California that can inspire one - Catalina Island for one.
All the above locations I mentioned inspire my "romantic" muse. I have the rough idea to write a romance that takes place in the late 1930's near in the heart of Napa Valley. Sigh... If only I could find the time to write it.
The first time I saw Sonoma and Napa Counties I fell instantly in love. It reminded me of home with all it's greenery. And there's something about wine and grapes I find romantic.
Did I tell you I loved "Bottle Shock?"
So when getting ready to write your story, give your setting extra thought. Research. Visit it if you can. You'll find it'll pay off.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on setting and what you think is romantic. Smiles.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday Stuff - Publishing News & Writing Tips

From Publisher's Weekly:

Sony to go EPub only
Sony plan to announce today that it will use only the ePub e-book format in its e-book store by the end of the year and will cease using its proprietary DRM, according to the New York Times.

Other than that, not much else is going on. Dan Brown's latest book is due in September and I believe it's called THE LOST SYMBOL.

***

One thing I've noticed is that ebooks are gaining in popularity as of late. They still aren't as in demand as print books but with the popularity of the Kindle, ebooks are picking up as of late.

Kindle is already available, and I think Sony's ebook reader is too. B&N's ebook reader will be avail next year.

The advantages? Saves paper. books are cheaper. They can carry multiple books on a reader. Saves space. Never goes "out of print."

The disadvantatges? Eye strain. The ebook reader itself is expensive. The Kindle is $299. Sony is a little cheaper, I think. The ebook reader can break. Hard to read in sunlight.

Several of my books are avail on ebook including ACROSS THE FICKLE WINDS OF HISTORY from Lulu.

Anyone with an ebook want to weigh in? Ebooks are inovative - some would argue they're the future. And with today's technology they certainly look forward to the future.

****

Steph's Wednesday Writing Tip:

When writing dialogue, identify the speaker only if you have to so as to avoid confusion. Use simple tags. "said" and "replied" are generally the most accepted. Stay away from tags such as snarled, hissed, and gushed.


Have a great writing week!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday Writing Tips - An Overview of the Fantasy Genre

Thinking of writing some fantasy? Here's an overview. Enjoy.
Steph

*****

When one thinks of fantasy, JRR Tolkein comes to mind. Peter Jackson's wonderful movie trilogy of Tolkein's work highlights all the elements which embody the fantasy genre.

Fantasy doesn't deal with the "theoretically possible," (that's Science Fiction) but the impossible. Fantasy creates new worlds and embodies them with a degree of familiarity to make them appealing. In fact, it's possiblily the most popular children's genre, appealing to children and teenagers with their coming-of-age stories.

Fantasy, however, is not an easy genre to write for. While there are no set rules, there are "standard elements" which are expected to be in a fantasy story.

As you flesh out your stories keep the following elements in mind - you'll need to weave them into your story: create a fantasy world, establish myths, legends, and fairytales, establish rules for your magic, define your archetypes, draw maps, flesh out the characters' journeys, and establish a suspension of disbelief that is believable.

As you prepare to write your fantasy story, you've got to create your world. "The Lord of the Rings," used a pre-industrial setting, akin to Earth's middle ages, and this is usually used in most writings, however this setting isn't set in stone. Growing more common are futuristic worlds. Drawing maps goes hand-in-hand with this element. It allows you, the writer, to visualize your world, its countries, the land, and the people who populate your world.

Next, you have to establish your world's myths and legends - an imaginary past, if you will. Most myths and legends have their roots in what's considered eternal truths. (good vs evil, for example)

Magic is crucial to your fantasy world. Without it, logical explanations would have to be found for your fantastical events.

The fantasy genre is grounded with archetypical elements - the wise old wizard, the young hero, the divine child, a quest, dragons, unicorns, a walled castle, a wasteland, and a dying king are some examples. They're expected to appear in some form or another in the genre.

Fantasy writing usually deals with journeys or quests, and nothing connects better with young readers as a "coming-of-age" story. As we follow our hero on his/her journey, we get familiar with our fantasy world that we've created.

The fantasy genre does require the reader to suspend their belief about the natural world, but that doesn't mean, you, the author, can let anything slip by. Every world has laws and rules that can't be broken. By keeping your characters grounded within the laws of your world, you make them believable.

By staying true to these elements, you should establish the back bone of a good fantasy story.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Review Friday - A Woman in Berlin

I read this book about 2 years ago and I found it a fascinating, poignant read. To my surprise, I found a Movie Trailer on You Tube for it. I understand the movie was released in the US in July 2009 in limited distrubtion. I would LOVE to see it, but it's not playing in my area. Here's my review and a link to the You Tube Preview. Enjoy!

Steph

*******
Book Review for: “A Woman in Berlin”
Written by: Anonymous
259 pages
Picador
ISBN: 0-312-42611-9-51400
$14.00
5 Stars


“A Woman in Berlin” tells the amazing story of the fall of Berlin in 1945 and the subsequent Russian invasion before the allies arrived. The author paints a riveting picture of the war’s aftermath and chronicles in brutal detail what she had to do to stay alive.

The novel is told in a journal format and starts on Friday, April 20, 1945. The story is by an anonymous woman who describes herself only as a thin, pale blond who wears the same overcoat. Her first entry presents a graphic scene. Berlin is under siege by the Russians. The author knows the Russians are about to liberate the city and she’s dreading it. They don’t have a good reputation as liberators. She lives in an apartment building with several other residents. The rations are poor, there’s no radio, and there’s no electricity. Gas stoves, central heating, and hot plates are all “gifts of the modern age,” but ineffectual if there’s no power.

The bombs intensify around Berlin. The fighting heats up and then nothing. An eerie lull settles over he city. The author writes with unflinching honesty noting how the German society was built around the strength of their men, but now shattered, their men are miserable and powerless, leaving the German women at the mercy of their conquerors.

On April 27, the author notes that the Russians have entered Berlin. They’ve quickly earned the nickname of “Ivan.” She realizes that in order to be safe, she had better find a Russian officer to watch over her. She knows that in order to earn his favor she’ll have to be intimate with him, but it’s a risk she’s willing to take.

The author is candid. Having worked as a reporter previously, she can speak Russian. The initial Russians she meets are surprised by her. She seeks out a Russian lieutenant, Anatol, and becomes involved with him. He’s good to her and she gets used to him. Their relationship is short-lived. He’s soon transferred and a man known at the Major comes into the author’s life as her new lover and protector. The Major is tender and respectful of her, something that is stunning to her.

Slowly, but surely, Berlin starts to come alive. Basic services are beginning to be restored. By the end of the novel, which ends on June 16, with her own announcement that she intends to stop writing, the author meets with her fiancĂ©, Gerd, who after discovering how she’s slept with several Russian men after the city’s fall, leaves her a final time. The novel concludes with the announcement of American and British forces taking over the southern part of Berlin, giving the author a sense of hope after the Russian misery she’s endured.

One of the main themes throughout the novel is the rape of Berlin after the city falls – not only of it’s possessions, but of it’s women. The author chooses to give her body to Russian officers, (the officers have a reputation of keeping a woman relatively safe, whereas an enlisted man was known to rape a woman) but she still feels no better than a whore. After a pregnancy scare, she wonders how many other women have done what she has only to end up pregnant by a Russian soldier.

The author humanizes a slice of history that is slowly fading from our view. The book is raw and honest, discussing uncomfortable truths that today are still uncomfortable. Rich in history, “A Woman in Berlin,” is a stirring and poignant read.

*****
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEZxcSf9HwM

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday News from the Publishing World

Barnes and Nobles has been in the news lately as they try to expand their markets in this tight economy. My source for the following information is Publisher's Weekly. You can access their website at: http://www.publishersweekly.com/

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Barnes and Nobles just acquired Barnes and Noble College Booksellers. I'm not quite sure how this will effect the College Booksellers per se, I'll be looking to see what happens here.

Barnes and Nobles is also planning to open an online store, much like Amazon that will focus on selling - ebooks. Yes, Barnes and Nobles is getting back into Ebooks. B&N were into ebooks from 2000-2003, but then got out in 2003 when they determined the ebook market was sluggish. Now, the market has been revitialized with the Amazon Kindle. To that end, they are developing what they call the PLASTIC LOGIC READER - their verison of Amazon's Kindle. It should be available sometime next year. I'll keep my eyes out for that as well.

If you've got anything you'd like to share, leave a note.

***

On an unrelated note, it's that time of the month to PLUG my official online newsletter. I put out a monthly newsletter that focuses on the writing world. I discuss genre writing, editing points, news from the publishing world, like the Barnes and Noble tidbit I just discussed, look at a Small Press - this month Leucrota Press is featured as well as look at Literary Agent blogs for those who are interested in traditional publishing. I also have book reviews posted for books I read and my books.

You can sign up for my newsletter at: http://sgcardin.tripod.com

Go to the end of the home page and fill in the form. The newsletter is free.

Smiles & Have a great week!
Steph

Monday, August 10, 2009

Excerpt Monday - The Wolf's Torment

The Set up: Viktor tells Mihai he's been made into a werewolf.
*********

“Do you believe in myths? Vampires? Werewolves? I never did, though I heard many tales about them growing up,” Viktor said.

Mihai felt a cold shiver run own his spine, recalling the old witch’s pursuit of his mother. Had something similar happened to Viktor? No wonder his friend was distressed. Mihai grew distant, sensing Viktor had something to tell him that involved those repugnant legends.
“I’ve heard tales. The one that intrigued me the most was where a deadly plague ravished a village in Carpathia in the dark ages. Everyone died except the son of the count who oversaw the village. The son was changed somehow from the plague, and when he grew up, one offshoot of his children became vampires, the other werewolves. There’s more to the myth, but I’m being brief. Why do you ask?”

“I have been bitten by a werewolf, Mihai.”

Mihai got to his feet, stunned. Not his best friend! How could such foulness touch him? His eyes raked over Viktor, drinking in his friend’s features. Viktor was a man, but a werewolf was sly and cunning, a beast that, if left untamed, would ravish those he cared for.

Mihai lunged at Viktor, choking him. “Damn you. How could you let this happen?”

Viktor’s hands clamped around Mihai’s wrists, and with relative ease, he pushed Mihai backwards, causing him to crash into one of the posts of the gazebo.

“That wasn’t the reaction I expected from a friend.”

“How can you be a friend to me now? You don’t understand—!”

“Then explain it to me, Mihai. I have built a life here in Moldavia and I don’t want it taken from me.” Viktor balled his hands into fists.

Mihai drew in a deep breath. “I didn’t tell you the entire truth about my mother’s death. Yes, there was a carriage accident, but she was being pursued by a witch. It was a witch that slew her, and I witnessed it.”

“Why was a witch after the Queen of Moldavia?” Viktor asked.

“My mother had been promised into servitude to the witch as a little girl,” Mihai said.
Even now, at this moment, when Viktor was being totally truthful with him, Mihai couldn’t confess to his own mother being a witch. Not even to his closest friend. How could he? Viktor was a wolf, and Mihai had heard several tales of the werewolf’s cunning nature.

“I see. The witch took no pity on your mother, and the bastard who did this took no pity on me either. I have transformed. Sonia witnessed this. She’s so upset she won’t let me touch her, and I fear I might have tried to harm her in my unnatural state.” A tear escaped from Viktor’s eye.

Mihai stood there, rocked by his friend’s confession and his own painful memories of the night his mother died. How could he let such a beast into his home? How could he not? Viktor loved Sonia, yet even now his confession spoke of the werewolf’s inability to control his actions.
“How dangerous are you?” Mihai asked.

“I don’t know. But there’s more - Sonia is pregnant with my child.”

Mihai noticed how Viktor skirted his question, only to drop another bombshell on him. “Did you try to kill her in a bestial rage?”

“No, but she’s scared. She wants to leave me, and I don’t want her to. I want to be married to her and I want us to raise our child.”

Mihai shook so badly that he had to grab onto a support pole in the gazebo. “Is the child a werewolf, too?”

“No, thank heavens. Sonia and I have reached a compromise, with your help.”

Viktor was a good man. To see him in such agony broke Mihai’s heart. He knew wolves could be very dangerous. He had to make a decision. Could he forsake Viktor? Banish his friend from his life? What would a man do? Protect his family? He looked into Viktor’s pained eyes and knew he couldn’t send Viktor away.

“I’ll do whatever I can for you.”

“Go to Sonia. Tell her you and Theresa have agreed to be the child’s godparents. You’ll look after the child and keep it safe from me while it lives here with us.”

“And Sonia?”

“Once the child is born, if she wants to leave, she can. It’s her choice.”

“I’ll do this for you, but if you so much as touch that girl, be it as man or beast, I’ll kill you myself, and know this - I will not have you going after the citizens of Moldavia.”

“Mihai, my maker claims I am an ancestor of his and wants me to go to him for the next full moon. I don’t want to do that,” Viktor said, his voice shaking. “Will you make a place to keep me safe?”

“Where would I keep you?” Mihai asked.

“In a dungeon. You must build it as quickly as possible. You have little less than three weeks before the moon is full again.”

“Viktor—”

“Mihai, please, I hate him. He can do so many incredible things. You must lock me in a dungeon and keep me safe. How can I retain my humanity if you don’t? I won’t go to him, I won’t.”

“Fine, I’ll watch over you myself. You’re like a brother to me. If not for that, I would disown you. Do you understand?”

“I do.”

“Now do you understand why I want to modernize my country? I want to have all the latest inventions like railroads and lithographs so people will think Romania is modern, too.”

“You want all these new things to chase out the legends of the past?”

“Yes.”

“I see.”

“Don’t pretend that you know my heart, Viktor. I won’t forsake you, but my priorities are to Moldavia, and above that, Romania,” Mihai said.

“What happened to the boy I met in London?”

“I’m a man now, with responsibilities.”

“A man? A man has a heart. It’s what makes him human.”

“Then act like a man and go to the castle to sleep in your own room,” Mihai said.
“Tomorrow morning we’ll make plans to deal with your ailment.”

Viktor nodded his head, turned around and took long strides back to the castle.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Saturday Tip - Queries & Agents Etiquette Stuff

I've been making the rounds around the Internet visiting various agent blogs. I've also submitted some queries in my day.

Here's my thoughts: If you're serious about your writing, then you'll GET serious about sending out a query that is a quality query.

Tip #1 - Leave your EGO at the door. Be pleasent when writing a query. Don't haress agents and don't send out mass email queries that sound generic. When you write a query, write with that agent in mind.

Taken from BookEnds, LLC:

Every single agent on earth is included in the “to” section of the email. I know you’re querying widely, heck, I tell you to query widely, but at least make us all think you’re querying us individually or that you care who might become your agent. I don’t bother to even respond to these emails, they just get deleted.

I really like BookEnds. They've got a great blog, update it often, and the agents there, Jessica, Jacky, and Kim are down to Earth and honest. If you you're just starting out, I suggest you hang out with their blog for a week, just to get to know the climate of querying.

Tip #2 - Which goes along with tip #1. Be humble. Good manners always gets results. Be pleasant. Throwing a fit or calling an agent names will not get results.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Book Review - Kabul Beauty School


Book Review for “Kabul Beauty School”
Written by: Deborah Rodriguez
Random House
ISBN: 978-0-8129-7673-1
301 pages
$14.95
5 Stars

Written from Debbie Rodriguez’s personal experiences in Afghanistan between 2001-2006, “Kabul Beauty School” not only tells Debbie’s story, but the stories of the Afghanistan women that Debbie met during her stay in the country. Rodriguez uses an easy writing style that has the reader turning the pages without realizing it. The stories of Afghanistan and it’s women will swell up a range of emotion from happiness to despair, but thankfully Rodriguez leaves us with hope for the future.

Rodriguez begins her tale in 2001. She worked as a hairdresser in her mother’s salon. She was also in an abusive relationship. Wanting to challenge herself, Rodriguez takes emergency aid classes and is sent to Afghanistan two months after 9-11. Rodriguez spends several months helping out, and toward the end, when people learn she has skills as a hair stylist, the idea to create the Kabul Beauty School is born. Debbie leaves to go back to the states, but will be back to help teach school when it opens.

While Debbie is in the states, she finally leaves her abusive husband, but it isn’t an easy break up. Thankfully, Debbie has the support of her mother and sons. She also works on supplies for the new school. When everything is ready, Debbie heads back to Afghanistan to help get the school off the ground. It’s a satisfying time as the reader sees Debbie’s strength in the face of her hardships.

Conditions in Afghanistan are pitiful. It is the epitome of a war zone. Not only that, the Afghanis have strict customs towards men and women, customs that most modern civilizations don’t understand. Rodriguez paints a beautiful example of the difference in the opening chapter of the book where she goes to attend the wedding. Her friend, Roshanna, is expected to be a virgin for her arranged marriage – but she isn’t. She was married previously and abandoned by her husband after he took her virginity. After several attempts to consummate her new marriage don’t produce any virginal blood, Debbie pricks her nail and stains her blood on a rag. Then she gives it to Roshanna to prove her virginity. The story is heartbreaking.

Rodriguez uses a very conversational style that made turning the pages easy. I felt like I was in the trenches right there with her. Her strength to pave new paths in Afghanistan stood out, but when it came to her own path, Rodriguez, surprisingly, marries an Afghan man, Sam. Sam understands Debbie’s western ways, but doesn’t necessarily approve. He also has a wife with eight children. It’s something that’s hard to except in the western world.

Rodriguez tells the story of how the Beauty School is kept open through 2006, until she’s forced to leave. She also shares stories of several more Afghan women who went to the beauty school. These women had to overcome hardships that are practically unthinkable by the western world.

Rodriguez’s story leaves the reader feeling hopeful for the future. “Kabul Beauty School” is a tale of human strength, endurance, and heartbreak that will have the reader lingering on Debbie’s story days after finishing the novel.
***********
An Update: According to several posts on the Internet, Debbie went back in mid-May 2007. She didn't stay long. (I could be wrong on the date, but I think I'm accurate.) She stayed maybe three days but had to leave since she and her son received death threats. - And supposidely her Afghan, husband, Sam was not to be trusted.
Upon publication of her book, it was not well received in Afgahistan. The women mentioned in the book were upset with Debbie. Debbie was supposed to share a percent of the royalities with them, but they claim they haven't any seen any percentage. Their lives, since the book, have become uncomfortable in Afgahistan. The Kabul Beauty School is due to come out as a movie in 2010 or 2011.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday Promo - The Wolf's Torment

Here's another professional review on "The Wolf's Torment."

***********

Professional Review, Andrew Ian Dodge, Blogger News Network


The Wolf’s Torment
S.G. Cardin
iUniverse (2007)
ISBN 9780595417339
Reviewed by Andrew Ian Dodge, Nov 2007

I am fan of gothic horror novels, having written a few tales myself in the genre, but I do have a low tolerance for derivative novels that add nothing new to the genre. This is not one of those. Despite the fact the author has never been to places in the book; she has been in the region however, she evokes the feeling of that part of Central Europe oh so well.

The novel includes a pack of wolves, some witches and a bunch of vampires thrown in for good measure. For this story she has come up with a few legends and “facts” about supernaturals which is a nice touch. The legends of all intertwine in that part of the world; so the method used in this novel is accurate.

It reads well and does not hang around too long. There is none of the bloat that you find in modern gothic horror novels. While its plain to see that the author is a woman; from the romance aspects of the novel, there is none of the soap opera like plodding that can affect some novels in this genre. I found this far more enjoyable than the last few Anne Rice and Anita Blake novels.

The fact several of the main characters start out in London is a nice touch. The spoiled upper class girl who gets more than she bargained for is most amusing as well. Might be a lesson to some of those in the UK/US who marry Eastern Europeans without finding out who they really are first.

Only one criticism and this is personal taste. Why does it always have to be the werewolf that is the evil one in the end? That said the author was keen to make sure her werewolves were not one-dimensional knuckle-dragging beasts.

I hope to hell that she decided to publish this via iUniverse and its not because publishers rejected her novel. Because any publisher who rejected this novel needs to seriously have their head examined.

I enjoyed the novel immensely and was pleased to see that there will be a sequel in future. I hope that they author will include me on her review list once again. The fact I stayed up past midnight two days before an operation to finish this novel speaks volumes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday Writing Tips - Past vs Present Tense

I just thought I'd post a few thoughts about past vs present tense. When do you use them?

Generally, most children books are written in present tense. It's easier for them to understand the story unfolding in the "now."

Post adult books are written in the past tense. It's easier to understand and read as an adult.

Here's an example: Present tense. Caterpillar licks his lips.

Past tense: The caterpillar licked his lips.

Present tense can be a bit disconcerting for adult readers, but for young readers just starting out, it's easier for them to understand the story in the present.



Food for thought when considering what tense to use for your next story or project.
Smiles,
Steph

Monday, August 3, 2009

Excerpt Monday - Destination: Berlin

This excerpt is from my novel, "Destination:Berlin." It's 1988 and Sharon has just discovered she carries top secret documents. She's in the middle of Communist East Germany.

************

A million wild thoughts were racing through Sharon’s mind, but one thing worried her. She hoped Jr. Sgt. Nagory wasn’t returning with the KGB. As she walked toward the fire, her upper body felt stiff and sore with the slightest motion. Yet she was sure that if she used it a little, she could soothe some of the tightening of the muscles.

It’s only muscle pain, but it could have been me and the junior sergeant both burnt to a crisp in that inferno over there. I’m grateful we weren’t.

Was it like this for her father, too? He had been a first lieutenant in the infantry during Vietnam. Certainly he’d faced intense situations like this.

“Corporal?”Sharon stopped, realizing she hadn’t gone far.

“Over here, Jr. Sgt.”He approached and motioned for them to kneel against the bushes, then he looked hard at her. Sharon could sense a change in his demeanor and it unnerved her.

“Corporal,” he said seriously, “I need for you to be totally and completely honest with me right now. Can you do that?”

“Of course,” Sharon answered. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you a courier? Do you have classified government documents with you? Documents the Stasi want?” asked Dimitri.

Sharon shook her head. “No,” she said slowly. “I told you in the dining car. I’m going to Berlin to attend the Orientation Tour.”

Dimitri stared hard at her for a moment. In the darkness, Sharon was sure she could detect him softening, but he asked again, “You have no secret documents on you?”

“No,” she repeated firmly. “What’s going on?”

“What’s in your briefcase?”“My paperwork. Border crossing documentation.”“Let me see it,” he said firmly.

“Why?” she said, her voice sounding calmer than she felt. “What are you expecting to find? Secret government documents?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not lying to you, Jr. Sgt.”

Dimitri put his hand on hers and looked gently into her eyes. “I believe you. Please let me look. Our lives depend on it.”

“Look.” She gave him the briefcase, confident he would find nothing out of the ordinary.He opened the case and read her border crossing documents, squinting in the firelight. Satisfied, he removed the entire contents and jiggled the bottom of the case. It began to move and then separated altogether from the case.

“It’s got a false bottom,” Sharon remarked, keeping her voice even and firm. She hoped it hid the trepidation she felt.Dimitri extracted a folder. He recognized the top sheet, blue and with the word “Top Secret” printed on it. She was stunned. What was going on, she wondered, her heart racing? Where had that file come from? She didn’t put it there. How did it get there and how did Dimitri know about it?He looked at her harshly.

“Tell me again you’re not a courier.”

“I’m not,” Sharon said coolly. “I have no idea where that came from, but it’s classified. I can’t let you see any more of it.”

They faced off, her eyes looking for answers and trust. A minute ticked by as her heart pounded in her chest, entertaining the idea that he was lying. Just when she thought they’d hit a stalemate, he blinked first. His hands shook as he gave the folder back to her. As Sharon took it, both realized that a certain amount of trust had been exchanged between them when he handed her the folder.

“The Stasi are willing to kill you and take that folder from your dead body. I heard them making plans to do just such a thing. I think you need to know what it contains,” he explained.

“I agree.” She turned the page over and was aghast at what she read. “The launch codes,” she whispered, in muted shock.The documents contained the launch codes for the very nuclear weapons she guarded at the site in Osnabrueck. They could have only come from one place – the COMSEC vault.

“Corporal?”

Sharon closed the file and put it back in the briefcase. “You said they were willing to kill me for these documents? You’re right.”

“You said they were launch codes?” he asked.Sharon pursed her lips, trying to push her fear back so it wouldn’t show on her face.

“I’m a military police soldier who guards nuclear weapons. These are the launch codes to those weapons.”

Sunday, August 2, 2009

NH Sunday - Hampton Beach


Hampton Beach - I'll always remember it as fondly as a remember a New Hampshire summer. Sigh...
Did you know? New Hampshire has the smallest coastline in the USA - only 9 miles. Trust me, Rhode Island has much more. But Hampton Beach has a part of that coastline. It's a place many in the state flock to during the summer time and back in the mid to late 1970's, my family did too.
I'll always have fond memories of Hampton Beach. They also give me good memories of my family. Just like Bear Brook, my family would pack up the car, stuff the ice chest, pack the chairs and beach umbrellia and we were off. It took about an hour to get to Hampton Beach using the state highway. I think it was the 101 but I could be wrong. During the peak season in the summer time, I remember that traffic would get backed up leaving and arriving. My dad always wanted to leave early to get there and then stay late to avoid the "rush."
Of course my granny and grandpa would be there. Most of the times Auntie Sue was there with Uncle Gary, Emily & Matt. Uncle Mark or Uncle Rusty would come sometimes.
Ah, the 1970's. The world seemed carefree to a little butterfly like me, but even back then it was complicated. Fleetwood Mac rocked. Vietnam was just ending, and everyone believed that Jimmy Carter would be a great president. Poor Ford. Inflation was crazy, and drugs, well drugs were avaliable back then just like they are now.
We'd get to the beach, park, and usually we used the public parking. I remember the public parking was relatively inexpensive, but I could be wrong. Sometimes we used the parking lots for $5.00. We'd lug our stuff down to the beach and set up the chairs, blankets and beach umbrella. Sometimes we'd rent one.
After a cooler packed lunch it was time to play in the water. It was usually cold, but not umcomfortly so. We'd play frizbee. Auntie Sue and I would make sand castles or make holes in the sand and bury me in them. Sometimes we'd walk the rocks and look for starfish and lobsters. My dad liked to catch the lobsters.
Sometimes we'd walk the boardwalk and window shop, and get an ice cream. At the end of the day we'd wash off the sand and lug our stuff back to the car. It was fun watching the tide come and in out. And it always came in so quickly!
I loved riding the waves. I was a little fish back then.
In the early to mid 1990's, I had a couple of opportunities to go back to Hampton Beach. I took my husband one time. He thought the water was cold. It was hard for me to impart the love I had for the beach to him, and I don't think he every really understood the appeal of the beach. The memories, I suppose. How can I share happy memories when he wasn't really there? He does have a love for the beach, growing up an hour away from the Pacific and we both love the water, but even with that, he found little appealing about Hampton's shore or it's boardwalk. Maybe it was just too East Coast for him?
Anyway, I look forward to the day when I can take my boys, Andrew & Joe. And maybe share some memories with them. I'll have to dig into the photo album to see what I can find. Maybe Auntie Sue has some more photos...
Smiles,
Steph

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saturday Tips - Query Letters

Looking for an agent? It can be a challenging task. If you're ready to query, a good source on the Internet is: http://www.agentquery.com

Agent Query lists agents, what they're looking for, and if they're open to new authors.

Tip #1 - Research. Did you write an action/adventure? a thriller? a romance? Research those agents that are interested in those projects.

Tip #2 - DON'T: Write this as your first sentence: "I'm looking for a experienced agent who has made multi-million dollar deals..."

OPEN WITH SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

I had an opportunity to read your “bio” on Agent Query’s website and I was very impressed . With consideration to your acquisitions, I feel you will enjoy my novel, "The Wolf's Torment," set in Romania 1865, dealing with werewolf myths and legends. This novel blends your interests of fantasy, romance, and historical fiction.

Then hit the agent with the 1-2 sentence blurb that will knock their socks off. Something like this:

Can the intense young Crown Prince of Moldavia overcome the curse that haunts his family and his nation when a werewolf bites his best friend?

Or what might be more effective, now that I think about it - Open with your blurb and then go into the paragraph.

Here's how it should read:

Can the intense young Crown Prince of Moldavia overcome the curse that haunts his family and his nation when a werewolf bites his best friend?

I had an opportunity to read your “bio” on Agent Query’s website and I was very impressed . In doing the marketing research for my recently written novel, With consideration to your acquisitions, I feel you will enjoy my novel, "The Wolf's Torment," set in Romania 1865, dealing with werewolf myths and legends. This novel blends your interests of fantasy, romance, and historical fiction.

Thoughts, comments, feedback welcomed.
Steph