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Monday, September 21, 2015

Ducks in a Row

It's that time. My writing fingers are getting itchy and I think I'm ready to start a new project. It's an exciting moment - opening up MS Word, seeing that beautiful blank page, and going to "Save As". But am I really ready?

I don't have a formal checklist of tasks I need to complete before I decide that an idea is developed enough to become its own story. However, some things I need to have in place before I'm willing to start. Here's a random list in no particular order:

Character Names: The main characters MUST have first names picked out before I will even write the first word. Names can say a lot about a character right off the bat, and I want to make sure they're a good fit. Last names, though, I'm willing to be flexible on. They don't come up as often, and as such, I've used placeholders before if I just want to get down to it. And actually, when I finished the first draft of Elysium, I decided to change the male lead's surname for various reasons. (Thanks, search & replace!) I'll usually run a google search on the name combinations to make sure I'm not inadvertently naming a character after someone well-known.

Place Names: UGH. I HATE coming up with fictional place names for sci-fi/fantasy. Haaaaaate. Again, I've used placeholders here before just so I'm not sitting here, staring at the screen for an hour trying to find a name that doesn't sound stupid.

Title: Ha. Hahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. The issues I've sometimes had in the past with coming up with the perfect title have already been well-documented on this blog, so I'm just gonna leave that there.

Plot: Since I primarily write romance, 99% of the time the endgame is going to be "happily ever after", so that's taken care of. Getting there is, of course, a much different story. In thinking it over, I guess I don't really have any hard and fast rules here for what needs to be in place before I start writing. Although I write in order, sometimes I get going and realize that where I've decided to start the story is not the best place, and changes have to be made. Other times I think I've reached the end, only to learn that nope, there's more story in there somewhere. I usually have a basic framework in mind, but any outlines I make don't take a firm shape until I get started.

So where am I now? My two leads have first names. When I first started composing this post, my heroine didn't have a surname, but as I was climbing into bed last night to go to sleep, the perfect name popped into my mind, so yay? (Google has confirmed it is a good choice.) I don't have a name for the fictional planet most of the story will take place on. I know how I want to start the story, I know what the climax will be, but I haven't quite figured out the denouement. Bits and pieces of the middle are fleshed out, and I have some specific scenes and character development in mind. I think I'm good to go.

The title, though? Ha. Hahahahaha. Watch this space in a couple months for the usual freakout about how NOTHING SOUNDS RIGHT. I suppose I'll have to name that new Word document something vague.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Guest Post and Giveaway! - Love for Sale, by Linda Nightingale

Today we've got a really great guest post and giveaway by Linda Nightingale. She's here to talk about Japanese lifelike robots and how they relate to her new book, Love for Sale. We all know how much I love my android/cyborg romances, so I'm thrilled to be hosting her here.

And! Plus! Also! Linda is also being EXTREMELY kind and generous and is giving away a pair of citrine earrings to one lucky commenter. The earrings can only go out to someone in the US, but if you're outside the US, you can win your choice of one of her e-books instead. Check out this gorgeous jewelry:

Now that we're done ogling, let's actually get to these robots. Take it away, Linda!

This may seem to fly off the pages of science fiction, but it’s a hot new research field and making rapid progress.
At the Toshiba booth at the Consumer Electronics show, Chihira Aico, a life-sized robot in a pink party dress with pearls, stood like a mannequin, perfectly still—at first. Suddenly, the android began to gesture wildly.
 “I can be a news reader, consultant or cheerleader!” She threw her arms up and squealed, “I can get excited!”
Chihira is a new concept for a life-like android. Her creators intend to make her seem even more expressive when interacting with humans. By adding additional motors to her joints, engineers are refining her movements to make them appear fluid while programmers work on her language processing, improving her communications skills and responsiveness.  The ultimate goal is for the robot to read human behaviors and emotions, then mimic them, thereby appearing human herself.
This complicated piece of hardware has over 40 motors in her joints to coordinate her body’s movements. Fifteen tiny air pumps on her fact control the blinking of her eyes and the opening of her mouth as she speaks. Toshiba developed Chihira under the direction of Hitoshi Tokuda, the project leader. Osaka University performed the muscle research, building on previous work on prosthetic limbs.
On-lookers thought Chihira was creepy. What do you think?
A hi-tech hotel in Japan, Nagasaki prefecture's Henn-na Hotel, opening in July will employ ten robots at the check-in counter as receptionists. If you think these humanoid androids are creepy, you might think twice about visiting this hotel. They can establish eye contact and respond to body language.
In my sci-fi romance, Love For Sale, which will be released by The Wild Rose Press on June 10, my androids are completely indistinguishable from human and are sold as companions… programmed to love. When I wrote Love For Sale, I didn’t know about the Japanese life-like robots. I don’t find them creepy but extremely interesting. I’d love to interact with a human-like android.
A recent Pew report entitled, “A.I., Robotics, and the Future of Jobs,” suggests that while it might be some time before we see a robot takeover of our workforce, we’ll be having sex with them sooner than we think. Hum. Interesting. Would you find a sentient being programmed to love you disturbing?
Thanks for having me on your blog!  I enjoyed my visit.

Buy Link: Love For Sale

Author Links:

And lastly, coming soon from Linda—Gambler's Choice from The Wild Rose Press.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Book Tour for The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions

The book tour for The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions kicks off today! I'll be commenting and tweeting and sharing and whatnot, but here's the schedule so you can follow along as well for some new excerpts and fun interviews. (Don't be shy about showing some love to the generous tour hosts!)

September 14th: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading
September 14th: Book Excerpt @ Author C.A. Milson’s Blog
September 15th: Book Excerpt @ Indy Book Fairy
September 16th: Book Excerpt @ Solafide Publishing Book Blog
September 17th: Author Interview @ Teatime and Books
September 19th: Book Excerpt @ Books Are Forever
September 21st: Author Interview @ Editor Charlene’s Blog
September 23rd: Promo Post @ Books on Fire
September 24th: Book Review @ I Heart Reading
September 26th: Book Excerpt @ The Single Librarian
September 28th: Character Interview @ Compelling Beasts Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Meet the Team - Ro Bernard

Last one! And my favorite, of course! (from The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions)

Name: Ro Bernard

Role: The Leader

Country of Origin: Palavia

Known associates/affiliations: Former member of The Midnight Scorpions

Greatest accomplishment: Winning a training tournament with other new recruits at the time of her initiation, despite being younger and smaller than most of the competitors

Biggest fear: Never doing anything significant with her life

Additional information: Her full name is Rohalia, but only two people ever called her that. She thinks it's too frilly.

Trivia: After all this time, I still think Ro's my favorite character that I've ever written. I almost feel bad for everything I've put her through, but I know she'll keep getting back up no matter how many times I knock her down.

Anyway, on to real trivia. When writing the original Disintegration, she came very close to being named Rosie (partially due to the song "Cracklin' Rosie"; what can I say, I'm a closeted Neil Diamond fan), and I don't even remember why I changed it at this point. However, it does resurface as a nickname in this book.

Due to my affinity for her, I guess, I've been asked before if Ro is supposed to be me, or an extension of myself, or a projection of how I'd like to be. The answer to that is a big no. Sure, we have some similarities (I assume that's the case with most of the characters I write since, well, I'm writing them), but I assure you, she is not intended to be a self-insert character. We're both a bit snarky and we both hate to cuddle, but that's about it.

And so we come to the end of the "Meet the Team" series. I hope you had as much fun as I did, and don't forget to check out the rest of Boobulon's artwork and show him some love!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Promo/Guest Post - Aquarius Rising Book 2: Blood Tide, by Brian Burt

Today we're in for a real special treat! Award-winning author Brian Burt is here to talk about a new sub-genre of sci-fi, "cli-fi" (or, "climate fiction"). Since the first book in his series, Aquarius Rising: In the Tears of God, won the 2014 EPIC eBook Award for Science Fiction, I'm pretty sure he knows his stuff! Let's learn something!


I've always loved the way that science fiction as a genre has spread a big tent to welcome many different kinds of writing: hard SF, soft / sociological SF, space opera, alternate history, steampunk, cyberpunk, science fantasy, techno-thriller, you name it. There's something for every taste. Recently, a new sub-genre has emerged, grabbing media headlines and critical attention from sources as diverse as NPR and Wired. It's been called "climate fiction," or "cli-fi" for short. Catchy, eh? So what is this new category of fiction, and why does it matter?

Climate fiction reflects a growing movement among writers in and outside of science fiction who choose to develop their stories around a central theme of "what if global warming really does proceed unchecked?" What will the world look like if weather patterns alter dramatically, the cycle of seasons becomes unrecognizable, coastal mega-cities flood, large swaths of land become arid wastelands, and masses of people are forced to migrate away from their homes in search of less hostile environments? What kind of social and political chaos will result, and how will we cope? Will we try to geo-engineer a solution on a planetary scale, and what if there are unintended consequences? Will humans be forced to tweak their own genetics to adapt to the harsh conditions that constitute Earth's "new normal"?

These speculations provide a lot of grist for the mill of creativity and imagination. In some ways, frankly, that's nothing new. Some brilliant SF writers explored ecological themes long before climate change became a hot topic (pun intended); Frank Herbet's Dune series is a classic example, as are Kim Stanley Robinson's Orange County and Mars trilogies. I still remember getting chills from reading Ursula Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest.

When I finally worked up the courage to move from short fiction to attempting a full-length novel of my own (gulp!), climate fiction became a natural source of inspiration for my debut book in the Aquarius Rising trilogy, In the Tears of God. For SF writers, the age-old advice to "write what you know" becomes a bit tricky (since we're often imagining new worlds that nobody really knows). But I think it's wise to "write what you know you care about." Fiction isn't activism by any means, but infusing a story with themes about which the author is passionate will make it much more enjoyable to read.

And that's why, when I settled down in front of my MacBook to start that first chapter, I developed a bond with Ocypode the Aquarian, a member of the hybrid species of half-human, half-dolphin humanoids who have built thriving reef-cities amidst the wreckage of drowned Human cities. I imagined him floating near a submerged building, its sides now covered in corals, a rainbow of fish darting in and out of the encrusted window frames that provide entry into the dim, cavernous interior. I found his underwater world beautiful, mysterious, and dangerous; I wanted to learn more about it, and about him, and his desperate quest to conceal the secrets that he knows could rip Aquarian society apart. But when enemies above the waves unleash a genocidal war against Aquarius, he's forced to choose between the damage of revealing his secret or the risk that ignorance will destroy his entire race.

It's been a wondrous journey for me as a writer, and it's continued with the recent release of Book 2, Blood Tide. Book 3, The Price of Eden, is in progress. I can't way to see how it all turns out, and I hope you'll consider joining me. Give cli-fi a try. It impassions its practitioners, and you'll feel that energy in every scene!

Megalops is an Aquarian from one of the many reef-cities that thrive beneath the waves on an Earth transformed by climate change. Humans clinging to the barren lands blame Aquarius for their plight and unleashed the Medusa Plague that entombed Megalops's wife and daughter in stone.  Tormented by that loss, Megalops swears to avenge his murdered family by unleashing a Vendetta Virus as cruel and lethal as Medusa. Ocypode the Atavism and his allies battle desperate odds to prevent Megalops from igniting global conflict.  War demands sacrifice.  If Mother Earth and Mother Ocean wage war against each other, will anyone survive?

About the Author:

Brian Burt writes both short and novel-length speculative fiction. He has published more than twenty science fiction and fantasy stories in various magazines and anthologies. His short story "The Last Indian War" won the Writers of the Future Gold Award and was anthologized in Writers of the Future Volume VIII. His debut novel, Aquarius Rising Book 1: In the Tears of God, won the 2014 EPIC eBook Award for Science Fiction. Aquarius Rising Book 2: Blood Tide has just been released by Double Dragon Publishing. Brian works as a cybersecurity engineer and lives with his wife, three sons, a corn snake, and an aging white German shepherd in idyllic Plainwell, Michigan. The dog, in particular, remains unimpressed with his literary efforts unless they come with bacon.  You can sample Brian's writing at

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Meet the Team - Reggie Quinn

(from The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions)

Name: Reggie Quinn

Role: The Muscle

Country of Origin: Charytar

Known associates/affiliations: Occasional patient of Dr. Cassels; cousin to Ted Quinn

Greatest accomplishment: Leaving home and becoming completely self-sufficient at age 15

Biggest fear: Dying alone

Additional information: There are a number of allusions (some made by Reggie himself) to how not all of the jobs and tasks he's performed in the past were completely legal, but he chooses not to reveal specifics. He also mentions some siblings, but they're not close. How and why Ted is the only member of his family he regularly contacts isn't stated, but in some ways, they both need each other.

Trivia: To continue on with how completing Mass Effect was on my mind when I started writing, I'll admit I was thinking of James Vega when creating Reggie. Though if I had to pick a real-life person to model him after, I vote for Channing Tatum. ;)

Without giving away too many details or spoilers, I'll say that I loved writing Reggie's interactions with Ro. "Opposites attract" plots are all well and good, but one of the reasons I love them together is their similarities. There's plenty of witty comments and snark to go around, and that made writing just plain fun.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Meet the Team - Zara Thorne

(from The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions)

Name: Zara Thorne

Role: The Comm. Specialist

Country of Origin: Tektan

Known associates/affiliations: Graduate of Coral City University

Greatest accomplishment: Building devices and pioneering technology that (most of) her friends can't even understand

Biggest fear: Humiliation

Additional information: It's not specified in the book exactly what sort of skin condition Zara has; probably something along the lines of eczema or psoriasis. But, as Mielle says, we're not supposed to know about that (and Zara herself never directly acknowledges it).

Trivia: I guess I sort of set up a Betty and Veronica dynamic with Zara and Mielle without intending to. Oops. But just as every team needs some sex appeal, it also needs the shy, nerdy girl, too. Right? ;)

I don't always have people in mind when I create characters (either people I know or actors/actresses), but when writing Zara, and later helping with this artwork, I thought of actress Ariel Winter (from Modern Family) for some reason. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Promo (and Giveaway!) - Her Real-Life Hero, by Vicki Ballante

Today I'm helping promote a new release by my fellow Decadent author, Vicki Ballante. Her Real-Life Hero is part of the "Beyond Fairytales" series and is an adaptation of "The Frog King" and "Iron Henry". Everyone, readers and writers alike, needs to check out this blurb and excerpt. Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end!


Joanie wants to get her romances published but can't seem to succeed with her writing. She buys an antique bureau which the shopkeeper says is magic. While using her new bureau, she begins to talk to the hero in her book, asking his advice on writing, all the while thinking it's her own imagination. She promises he can live in her home, eat at her table and sleep in her bed, if he helps her with her writing. She doesn't expect him to knock on her door and insist she keep her promise.

Theo has also bought a magic chest of drawers that brings him into Joanie's life. He wants to settle down with one woman, tired of shallow relationships, and Joanie seems like the perfect candidate if it weren’t for her insistence on getting rid of him.

The magic keeps on forcing them to live together and Joanie’s not happy. This is her first year alone and she’s been craving time to herself after looking after her younger siblings and an ailing aunt. Theo’s presence in her home, although unwanted, stirs up needs she’s suppressed for years. When they start to discover things about the magic and why it’s bringing them together, will Joanie recognize another type of magic at work? Will she succumb to the charm of Theo or will her need for breathing space pull them apart?


Once upon a time….

“It’s magic, you know,” the shopkeeper whispered in a covert tone.

Joanie sniggered. Was the woman teasing her? With that rainbow scarf wrapped around her head and all those beaded necklaces blinking from her wrinkled neck, she could pass for a gypsy.

“I’m serious.” The woman gave her a knowing smile, which caused her irritation to rise.

“I’d like to take the writing desk right away, please.”

“Don’t be in such a hurry. The piece is not your everyday antique. It has magical powers.”

What type of antique store had she chosen? She’d planned on stepping into the little shop on Essenwood Road in Durban, South Africa, for years but never had the finances to bother with expensive historical objects. Today, she’d come in to browse but had fallen in love with the Victorian walnut bureau which boasted a curved roll top revealing nooks and crannies, which could store her stationery as well as her bird-ornament collection. The desk surface could be propped at a slant for ease of writing by hand—perfect for someone who preferred paper and pen to a computer. Underneath were lots of tiny drawers accentuated with sweet, round knobs. She would have plenty of space to store all her equipment. All in all, a good space for her writing.

“You will discover the magic soon. I’m warning you though…it might shock you.”

Joanie rolled her eyes. “Do you honestly think I believe you?”

The “gypsy” laughed. “I thought as much. Don’t come crying to me when things start happening.”

“Whoa.” She pulled away from the woman’s front counter. “Is there a curse on the desk, or is it haunted?”

“The magic is connected to your deepest desires. It will only surface if those desires are unfulfilled.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. This is like some crazy fantasy story on TV.”

“Beware. Not many people can handle the effects of the magic.”

She studied the antique. “Should I not buy it?”

“Your decision should be based on how in tune you are with yourself.”

In tune with myself? Oh, what a stupid question. Getting a book published, that was her deepest desire. Something the bureau would help with. The dark-stained walnut would calm her, the ancient feel would transport her to other worlds, plus the lack of modern clutter, like files and electrical cables, would keep her from being distracted.
“I’ll take it, magic or no magic.” She handed over her bank card. For a minute, she’d let herself get swept away with the gypsy lady’s crazy talk.

Buy Links:


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About the Author: Vicki writes erotic and fantasy romance. She loves taking her characters into an alternate world where strange and sexy things happen. She lives with her patient husband and three noisy kids in South Africa. In between being a busy stay-at-home mom who hates housework and spends half her life cooking everything from scratch, she runs several blogs, writes under another name, and buries herself in the delightful world of her characters.


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