Pimpage and the bookstore
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My lovely friend and fellow cohort on the writing front, quietselkie has a post up today. She'll be ordering print copies of Master of Crows and Drago Illuminare to sell in her store. I'll autograph some and leave the rest virginal.

If you have some patience, a little spare cash and want to purchase a book or two of mine while helping out one of those increasingly rare birds - an independent bookstore - check out her entry and the links:

http://quietselkie.livejournal.com/387923.html


I'll even brush up on my rotten penmanship so I can sign with a flourish and still be legible. :D

And we're out the gate - Master of Crows
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Finally. Master of Crows went on sale this morning at Amber Quill Press. Yay!

http://www.amberquill.com/MasterCrows.html

I've already posted an excerpt and pictures on this blog, so no need to repeat; however, if you'd like to head over to The Midnight Moon Cafe: http://midnightmooncafe.blogspot.com/ and read how the tale came about, check out a different excerpt and enter a contest they're having for me (free books), please do.

Just leave a comment if you want to enter the contest or just drop me a line. Oh, and the spot to leave comments is at the very end of the entry in tiny lettering, so it's a little hard to see. Look for where it says:

"posted by Grace Draven at 12:30 am 3 Midnight Mooners"

Cover Contest
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Every year Cover Cafe has a contest for the best and worst romance covers. The best are split into several categories, while the worst is on its own. There is some really beautiful stuff nominated and some really horrible stuff too. Last year, the winner of the Worst Romance Cover was a cover by Kensington Publishing for an anthology called Big Spankable Asses. Yeah, you read that right. I think it was nominated as much for the title as the cover.

Anyway, the votes are and the judging finished for the 2008 contest. Take a look. The comments are what's most entertaining. I sincerely hope publishers read this contest.

http://www.covercafe.com/contest/2008/intro-res08.html

Midnight Moon Cafe - in which I blather about heroes and heroines
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If you get a moment stop by The Midnight Moon Cafe. My latest jabber is about the flawed hero and the unsung heroine. MMC was also kind enough to post Melissa Findley's artwork there for others to see--it's too good not to share of course. ;D

http://midnightmooncafe.blogspot.com/

An Interview with the author Nina Merrill
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It's Interview Day today, and I'm posting one I had with one of my favorite authors and fellow Amber Quill Press bud, Nina Merrill. Nina has several works out with Amber Quill, including her latest gothic romance, SCARRED.



I asked Nina If she wouldn't mind sharing some information and thoughts on how she got into this writing gig, what motivates and inspires her and who wins out as her favorite characters. She graciously agreed to spill her secrets, so take a look. It's most interesting!


Q:When did you first become interested in writing erotic romance or romance of any heat level for that matter?

A: I've written romantic stories since my late teens, when I modeled them on the hundreds of Harlequin romances I consumed during my middle and high school years. But it wasn't until 2003 when I began seriously interacting with readers and other writers on the Internet that I discovered there was a market for the spicier romances that interested me most. After that, it was a pretty steady progression from writing stories to participating in critique groups to producing a story that was finally published.

Since then I've learned, through both reading and writing in the genre, that the best erotic romance uses its erotica to carry a lot of weight within the story. It's not just a simple insert Tab A into Slot B and agitate explicitly for several pages. It reveals things about the characters that no other story element can, because the characters are exposed and naked in more than the usual way. It can also move the plot forward, and it can make a reader feel with and for those characters.

Q:What attributes do you find yourself assigning to your characters? Are there some traits you love and others you dislike but uniquely fit that particular character?

A: I think many of my characters are people I'd like to meet and be friends with in the real world, but there have been a few that would make me run for the hills if I met them in real life. Even some of my heroes. What works in a story, for instance, would not work in an actual relationship. That man who's made your happiness his sole purpose in life? You might end up filing a restraining order against him for stalking, even though in fiction he's the perfect mate. In general, I like characters who are strong and practical, who think and act their way out of stressful or dangerous situations. I like characters to have a touch of humor, even if it's bitter. And every character needs a weakness, whether that's a hero with a weakness for a particular woman, or a character who just can't get enough avocados, like Laura Jayne, the heroine of my light romantic comedy Genie, No Bottle, with Amber Quill Press.

I'm working on a novel at the moment, and one of the main characters is a serial murderer. He's got a very good reason for killing people, women in particular: if he doesn't, he will die. While I don't like that particular character trait, I do enjoy writing the ambiguous nature of that character. He's a very clever, motivated man, with that one gaping hole in his soul.

Bella, the main character of my twisted fairytale Straw into Gold, is quite the opportunist. While circumstances have forced her into a corner à la Rumpelstiltskin, Bella's pretty quick to take crafty advantage of the situation and manage to come out the winner. But I'm not sure she's likable in the usual sense. I respected her as a character, though.

Q. As the creator of these characters, do you have a favorite or two?

A: I'm probably fondest of a secondary character from my longest novella to date, Napier from Sacred and Profane. He's a very practical-minded individual, with a twisted sense of humor and a penchant for spearing rats on his dagger. Napier threatened more than once to steal that story away from the hero, Tibald de Bergère. I spent a lot of time wrestling Napier to the metaphorical ground and making him give up the stage to Tibald. I liked Napier so much that I've given him his own story, since he wouldn't be quiet and do as he was told. I'm still working on that story, which will be part of an anthology with three other writers. More news on that anthology in just a few questions!

Q:What is your writing schedule like?

A: I own a small business, so that takes up a lot of my time. Much of my writing is done in the early morning. I'm up about 5 AM most days, feeding cats and poultry, making a pot of coffee for my spouse, who telecommutes east coast hours here on the west coast. My bookshop business doesn't open its doors until 10 AM, so I have a couple of hours each morning that I spend writing or plotting, or sometimes -- OK, a lot of times -- answering email and surfing the Internet (I like to call it "research"). I also take advantage of slow days at the shop to do revisions or editing for others. And frequently I declare a Writing Sunday and spend the entire day with a story. But mostly I write around other real life events and schedules. Some days it's tough to focus.

Q:Your books cover a myriad of times, professions and histories. How much time do you spend on research?

A:Oh, golly. It's hard to quantify the time spent on research. So much of it falls under the category of pleasure reading, or learning about a subject that interests me. In the case of my most recent story with Amber Quill Press, Scarred, I can point to the last three years as a bookseller dealing with used and new books and other booksellers or antiquarians. That's on-the-job-training talking whenever my heroine touches a leather binding or talks about a flyleaf or worries that furniture polish could be adversely affecting book covers.

A lot of my stories begin with a germ of something interesting I've come across in my reading travels. Sometimes that germ dictates the period or environment in which the story must be set, and if that's the case, then I'm off to the research race. I generally start on the Internet these days, to get a feel for what sorts of research materials are available, but with an entire used bookstore at my fingertips, it's rare that I can't find something I need that's right at hand. Case in point: for the novel I'm working on, my little bookstore uncovered a Bluebeard story book, a book about carousels, and a book detailing the pictorial history of steam power, as well as a number of books about carnivals. I've read them all in the past year while I work on this novel.

Q:What's the inspiration for your backstory? Do you already have it rounded out before starting your tale, or does it come to you as you write? What kind of impact does it have on the story's setting/world building and character motivation?

A:Backstory grows from start to finish as I write a story and research it, and as the characters reveal bits and pieces. It's one of the toughest elements for me to add to a book without doing what's called an "info-dump," where page after page of a character's background gets shoved in front of a reader, yet that background isn't really an integral part of the story that's being told. As writers, we're always trying to get across the "why" of something to our readers, without burying them in minutiae. Readers aren't there in our head when we're writing, and they may not come from even a remotely similar background or have any frame of reference. So we tell them the "why," in pages of exposition. But that's a flawed tool in a writer's toolbox. What a writer really needs is verisimilitude. In theory, I don't have to have traveled to the Templars' compound in Paris to give a reader a feel for its layout, it tons of chilly stone, its messy dining hall. But I do need to help a reader understand the monastic commitment of Templars to their commanderies, and explain why the introduction of a woman into that equation is so disturbing to my hero. And I need to do it without spending pages and pages lecturing.

Sometimes backstory drives the plot instead of merely informing character motivations, or causes a drastic change as I'm writing, something that makes me rethink the entire story or rewrite large portions. On occasion I've scrapped an entire story because of an especially useful bit of backstory, one that changed at a fundamental level how I saw those characters and their situation.

Q:Can you give us a peek into your newest book, Scarred? I understand it's a gothic. What inspired you to write within that subgenre?

A:Gothics come pre-loaded with suspense and dread and drama. And there's a lot to be said for melodrama, when it's handled correctly. We all love the dark, brooding hero (though a modern woman would likely call the cops on him, and rightly so). The Heathcliff archetype holds a deep appeal, focused as he is on the One Woman For Him, and hiding his Mysterious Past from her at the same time.

The gothic subgenre was one I hadn't tried, though I read a lot of them as a girl. When Amber Quill put out a submissions call for an erotic gothic anthology, an idea gelled out of a number of disparate things -- isolated island, gloomy old house, the dangerous past of the rich man, the woman who finds him attractive, and the key to the whole thing: an old sketchbook filled with incriminating, erotic drawings of the islanders getting into sexy mischief. Add in a spooky housekeeper and some stormy weather, and you've got a gothic. Plus, I'd been rather taken with the idea of writing a sex scene involving a library ladder, and I was able to explore that in Scarred. The novella was a lot of fun to write. I enjoyed every word.

Q:What do you do when the muse won't cooperate and the words won't come? Any tricks of the trade you can impart that might help the rest of us who sometimes suffer from writer's block?

A:I don't really believe in writer's block.

That said, there are certainly days I don't feel like writing, but I need to make progress on a story. When that happens, the best way I know of kick-starting the writing engine is to simply sit down at my keyboard and start to write. Write anything. An email. A blog post. Bad haiku. A complaint letter to the cat about leaving that mouse where I'd step on it. Even another story that isn't under deadline or contract. And so on. The simple act of sitting down and gaining focus is often all that's needed.

I'm also a proponent of using music to get me into the particular headspace for a story. I make soundtracks for most of my stories, and sometimes just popping in a CD or starting a playlist on my computer is enough to make me think about the characters, and from there the words begin to come. They might not be good words, the right words, and I might have to throw out a few hundred from the early part of the session, but they come.

The only advice I give to anyone who wants to write is this: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Everything else is secondary. If you sit down to write, you've already done the most important thing: You've prioritized the writing above other tasks. Once the muse sees that you're serious this time, she'll wander by.


Q: Any projects in the works now?

A:There are always projects in the works! My story brain is a busy place. At the moment I'm juggling three projects.

The first is the novel I mentioned above, about a serial killer in a traveling show. That's taking a lot of time and research, and has multiple characters telling the story. I'm really excited about it; it's a change from what I typically write, because while there are sexual elements to the tale, it's not what I'd consider erotic fiction.

I'm also working on a short romantic novel about a woman who escapes an abusive situation by stealing a pickup truck, not realizing the male owner is still in the back of it. When they meet face to face, sparks -- of multiple sorts -- fly.

And last but not least, I'm writing one quarter of an erotic paranormal anthology involving the four elements: air, earth, fire and water. My element is water, and my witch can control the sea. The hero is a privateer who discovers her after his ship is wrecked, but what he isn't sure about is whether or not the sea witch caused the wreck in the first place. He certainly can't resist her charms. And the best part about this anthology is that I'm writing with three other amazing women, including my buddy Grace Draven!

Q:If asked to recommend one of your books to new readers, what would you suggest and why?

A:I think it all depends on what a reader's genre preference is. I've been surprised by the success of Genie, No Bottle, which is a short, fluffy, romantic comedy with erotic elements. Month after month, that little story outsells most of my other works.

I do have a couple favorites, however. The first is Paint It Black, which is a paranormal novella involving a psychic and her buttoned-down customer, a stock broker who's being pursued by a succubus. I wrote the story over the course of a couple of months, winter evenings when my bookshop was open late but the customers were sparse. The uptight hero charmed me, and I loved the practical psychic who nevertheless brings an aura of the paranormal to the story.

My other favorite is my longest published erotic story to date, Sacred and Profane. At forty thousand words, it's almost a novel. In it, my heroine accidentally travels back in time to the weeks prior to the destruction of the Knights Templar by the French king in 1307. Jennie, a student of medieval France who is working on her doctorate, tries to convince the Templars of their imminent danger, and desperately searches for a way to return to her own place and time. She never manages to return, but she does fall in love with a handsome, earthy Templar, which causes its own set of problems. I loved the tension between modern Jennie and the rigid, monastic Tibald, who is attracted to Jennie despite his vows.

Q:Do you have a home base like a blog or website that readers can visit to check your books, read excerpts or learn about your latest projects?

A:Readers can keep up-to-date with my publications at my LiveJournal, http://nina_merrill.livejournal.com/. I'm not the world's most faithful blogger, but readers can find me there and ask questions or find links to my published works.

Thanks for visiting Nina!

You can find a listing of all of Nina's works at Amber Quill Press. Just follow the link to check out her cool stuff.

http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/bio_Merrill.html

Some amazing artwork
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About a month ago I commissioned and licensed an art project from the very talented Melissa Findley. It's another illustration for my fantasy romanc novel, MASTER OF CROWS. I'm a great believer in "supplemental" art. Why not help your official publisher cover along with a little extra, yes? Anyway, here is Melissa's handiwork, and I think it's amazing.




If you'd like to learn more about Melissa and her artwork, please visit here:

http://wickedeye.wordpress.com/

Excerpt Monday
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This month I'm participating in Excerpt Monday with several other writers. It's a link fest where readers can read excerpt on one blog and follow links that blog has posted to other blogs where authors have posted excerpts of their books.

For more details regarding Excerpt Monday and a list of participants, go here:

http://excerptmonday.wordpress.com/

I've highlight five links so you can follow if interested. They are listed after the excerpt. I've not had a chance to read these yet and chose them based on a variety of subgenres and ratings.

My excerpt today is from my fantasy romance novella Draconus. My romantic leads are a dragon shapeshifter and a spellsinger. A fun story to write and one that inspired me to write another dragon shifter story called Wyvern.

Draconus is available as an e-book at Amber Quill Press and Fictionwise and as part of a print anthology called Drago Illuminare available at Amber Quill Press and Amazon.

Drago Illuminare

http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/Draconus.html
http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/DragoIlluminare.html

http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b38129/Draconus/Grace-Draven/?si=0
http://www.amazon.com/Drago-Illuminare-Grace-Draven/dp/1602728763/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245068417&sr=1-1


Now then, on with the excerpt from Draconus:

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Five excerpts from various other authors:

R.F. Long - http://www.rflong.com/blog

Ella Drake - http://elladrake.blogspot.com/

Cynthia Justlin - http://www.cynthiajustlin.com/2009/06/15/excerpt-monday-this-dark-place/

Jamie Babette - http://jamiebabette.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/excerpt-monday-4/

Stephanie Adkins - http://stephanieadkins.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/excerpt-monday-june-15th/

The Midnight Moon Cafe - my introductory post
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The group over at Midnight Moon Cafe kindly asked me to join up as a Moonlette at the cafe. I'll do a couple of posts each month on whatever I feel like gabbing about at the time--writing stuff, some promo, etc.

My first blog there is about the humanity of a character in a paranormal world. Stop by and leave a comment if you have the time.

http://midnightmooncafe.blogspot.com/

MASTER OF CROWS - A NOVEL
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A fantasy romance I worked on for a couple of years is finally going to see the light of day. MASTER OF CROWS will be published by Amber Quill Press and available for purchase in e-book format on July 5th. The print version will come out shortly thereafter, and I'll post that date then.

Huge "THANK YOU!!" to my beta readers, scatteredlogic, nina_merrill and elysepatrice who offered their time, talent and fierce editing skills that helped me get to the end of this tale. Ladies, my editor sincerely appreciated the clean copy. :D

As of today, the publisher hasn't updated the book info. on the website, but I'll provide the link so you can see what the cover art will be when the book is released:

http://www.amberquill.com/AQP_upcoming.html

I've also commissioned, licensed or been generously gifted with various pieces of artwork for this project by artists independent of my publisher. I like my publisher's cover art but wanted some additional visual pieces available for such things as bookmarks, etc. Two of the three independent pieces are ready to show off, and I can't wait to display the third once it's finalized.

To spare those on my flist who don't wish to scroll through pictures, blurbs or chapter excerpts, I'm placing everything beyond this point behind the cut. Click to see the rest.

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Summer Free Read Project - A Darkness of Gods deleted scene
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Voirey Linger of Romance Divas has spearheaded the Summer Free Read project. I'm participating for the month of June. Those of us taking part had a choice of posting a chapter of an existing published work, a deleted scene or a stand-alone tale. For more detailed information regarding the Summer Free Project, visit Voirey's site at: http://www.voireylinger.com/index.php?p=1_12

At the end of the scene, there are links to works by three other authors participating in the Summer Free Read Project. Like me, they will have links to other authors participating in the project. Please check them out and enjoy the reading.

On with the show.

This is a deleted scene from A DARKNESS OF GODS, a long-time WIP with a hero who is one of the fallen Grigori and a heroine who is an assistant museum curator. I hope to finish this story before 2009 is done.

The scene is defined as Sexy (meets criteria as set by the coordinator) because of some language and implied violence. While the story in its entirety does have graphic sexual content, this scene does not.

Deleted scene behind the cut. Just click to read.

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LINKS:

Sweet and Non-Romantic - Jodi Henley - Kill Velocity -http://jodihenley.blogspot.com/2009/05/excerpt-from-kill-velocity.html

Sexy Romance - Barbara Romo - Undercover Alien - http://barbararomo.com/Excerpts.php

Erotic and Adult - Emily Ryan-Davis and Elise Logan - GMS: MERCY http://scorchedsheets.com/blog/

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