Thursday, February 28, 2008

What’s going on with Anya?

Besides the usual crazy round of work, family, nursing the dog (my baby’s not well, and is now officially the most spoiled dog in North America), here’s the latest…

Night of the Cereus excerpt now on-line
I’m so happy to see the excerpt for Night of the Cereus up on-line. I guess for more established writers it isn’t that big a deal, but for me it seems HUGE. Reading my own words on the Samhain Publishing web site makes it all suddenly official.

Exciting News!
I’m so excited…I just got offered a contract from Samhain for another novella! I won’t say anything else just yet, except that it’s historical, a little dark, and very, very hot! Stay tuned for news on the release date.

Well, I’m going to set up a couple of writer’s bios pages on the internet, and I’ll be interviewed in March by Amy Ruttan for Six Degrees of Sexy. That’ll be a hoot! I’m trying to carve out specific times to interact more on the internet, but it seems to me that the times I can go online, there isn’t a heck of a lot going on! I don’t think my boss would appreciate my using his time to further my writing aspirations…

What I’m working on…
Torn between two lovers…(picture me singing. Actually, please don’t. I couldn’t carry a tune even if you gave it to me in a paper bag!) Right now I have two projects that I’m working on, and one simmering in the back of my mind, fighting to be put down on paper. That third one is the spoiler. It’s jumping up and down, waving its arms in the air, shrieking and hollering. I have a sneaky suspicion it might win and get some air time this weekend. I’m also doing an editing job for a friend, and have a crit job patiently waiting in line too. After my brief hiatus between November and January, it’s nice to feel pleasantly overworked in the writing department.

What I’m Reading
Last night I rushed home to buy Shifting Passions by Xakara, and then devoured it in one sitting. It was amazing. Great characterizations, motivations, and sex. I just wish it had been longer! I’m still promising to get back to The Kite Runner, but honestly, when I’m writing, it takes precedence over my monster TBR pile.

And that’s about that. Talk to you again soon!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Journeys Through Seduction--Night of the Cereus

Life’s a trip: sometimes down a dirt road that seems to lead nowhere; other times down the yellow brick road to Oz, with our heart’s desire at the end. Of course, with cosmic irony in play, the dirt road often leads to Oz, and those yellow bricks take us nowhere but around in circles.

How can we tell the difference?

Usually we can’t, especially when we’re concentrating on simply putting one foot in front of the other. Or blithely skipping along, sniffing the poppies and not keeping an eye out for the open manhole covers! But that unpredictability gives life a certain flavour, whether bitter or sweet, that would be lacking if we could see the future. It holds true for work, play, school, every facet of our daily existence, especially relationships. Today’s ecstasy can be tomorrow’s heartbreak; last month’s knock-down, drag-out, argument can be the breakthrough leading to understanding, compromise, and growth.

In many of my stories the characters believe they have found their own personal truths and are set on a specific path. This is who and what they are—take it, or leave it. Decisions are made based on the knowledge they possess of themselves and the world around them. But life is a journey taken into the fog of the future, usually without even a glimmer of illumination, and when paths cross and personalities collide, anything is possible. Throw in sexual tension, seduction and surrender, and sometimes the explosion is enough to spread light for years to come.

In Night of the Cereus, Marcus and Melanie truly think they have it all together. He’s finally taking the next step as an artist; she’s content with the life she’s created for herself. Neither feels pressure to be in a relationship and, if they were, neither would logically choose the other. In fact, at the beginning of the book, Mel would rather be boiled in oil than get involved with an artist. Then, when they admit the attraction and decide to do something about it, each believes it’s only about sex.

Of course it isn’t. Instead it’s the beginning of a journey that starts with sexual seduction and leads them into the uncharted territory of each other’s heart.

And what a journey that turns out to be!

Night of the Cereus will be released on March 25, 2008, by Samhain Publishing and you can view the blurb (and the hot cover!) on the 'Coming soon--Night of the Cereus' page.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Plot-aholics Unite!

My husband complains writer’s brains are too complicated. Why, he asks, can’t things naturally flow from Point ‘A’ to Point ‘B’ without all the convoluted twists and turns? Why, he accuses, isn’t anything ever simple?

Yeah, right.

I can only think it’s a thinly veiled indictment of yours truly, since the Hubster loves complex spy-vs.-spy or suspense novels. Besides, what would be the use in a book without plot twists? No matter how hot the sex, handsome the hero, or feisty the heroine, if the plot is lacking, so is the book. Then there are no gasps of disbelief, unexpected bursts of laughter or welling of tears. In short, there would be no fun. No fun in reading, and none, whatsoever, in writing either.

Whether you call them plot devises, plot twists or simply plot, without it literature falls flat on its ass. Now, I have to tell you, I’m the person who covers their face when the effluvium is about to hit the fan during a movie or TV show. And it doesn’t have to be scary stuff, in the traditional sense. Embarrassing or shocking moments do it for me too. And if a book can sneak one of those up on me, make it so I don’t see it coming, figuratively not giving me a chance to cover my eyes, I love it all the more.

Let’s face it, we know when we pick up a romance there must be a happily-ever-after. If there isn’t, then it’s not a romance. And we’re told, ad nauseam, there are limited plots for writers to work with. With that in mind, a writer has to be able to inject the unexpected into their stories, just to keep the reader interested, and invested, in the tale.

One of the best examples I can give of a twist that snuck up on me was in Molly O’Keefe’s Undercover Protector, published by Harlequin Superromance. That book kept me up until one in the morning during a time when I sorely needed my sleep! But the best part was when she threw in a plot twist that literally had me flinging the book down on the bed and running out of the room shouting, “Molly, you didn’t! Molly, you COULDN’T!”

She did, she could, and man, I love her for it. Molly had me from the start with that story and kept me there with her ability to introduce new strands into the tapestry of the tale as she went along. By the end it was oh, so satisfyingly complete.

As both a romance novel and novella writer I’ve learned to approach the two sub-genres a little differently. In the longer format I have the luxury of using secondary characters and sub-plots to provide the twists. In the shorter format I find the same effect can be achieved with something as simple as a smile when the reader is expecting tears or rage, or a light-bulb moment at an inopportune time. You have to keep your characters true to how you’ve written them, but real life is hardly ever predictable, so your characters shouldn’t be either.

However, there will always be a certain level of predictability in romances. Two people meet, fall in love against the odds, or remain in love against the odds, and end up promising to stay together. Bless the writers who take that straight-forward formula and turn it into a delicious twisty pretzel for our enjoyment!

And can I add that Molly’s latest release, Baby Makes Three, is right up there as what I classify as one of my favourite non-traditional romances? I might have to use that one in a future post about characterization...something else Molly does sooooo well!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Why Romance?

Sex is great. It can be fun or intense. It releases endorphins and gives you that glow. It’s natural, an instinctive urge. Yet, although many women nowadays are far more open about their desire, both for having sex and for reading about it, I think it’s also safe to say that when it comes to books romances still rule. And not just the erotic romances, although they’re my personal favourites, but romances in general. We may like it sweet or raunchy, naughty or full of intrigue, outside the box (or the bedroom), sometimes with more than two people, or with same-sex couples but most of the time we demand the ‘happily-ever-after’ ending. Let’s face it, the sex may get you all hot and bothered but it’s the resolution, the knowledge of the couple travelling on together, that satisfies the soul.

I think that, just like sex, the urge to want things to work out between couples is instinctive. Anthropologist Desmond Morris explained it by saying pair-bonding has developed in our specie as a survival technique. Man is not a solitary animal. To thrive we have to interact and cooperate with each other. Pair-bonding allowed the men to go off hunting, assured that their women, who remained behind, would remain faithful. They also no longer had to think of their companions as competitors, but could concentrate on working with them. For their part, the women would be assured that whatever their mates brought home was for the benefit of the family unit, instead of having to share with that hottie-hottie in the next cave.

Of course things have changed, with women working as much as men, but it’s still basically the same. We have the same needs, the same urges—the changes are simply geographical. The jungle is the office. Bringing home the bacon means a stop at the supermarket instead of killing a wild boar. The hottie lives in the next apartment or works in the accounts department at hubby’s company. Or at the wife’s company. We constantly hear stories of infidelity and destruction of the pair bond. Unfortunately that seems to be a part of the way society has evolved.

But when we read, it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we pick up a romance we want to see two people, soul mates, finding answers in each other, even when they didn’t know there were questions in their hearts. In the world the author has created we seek the triumph of right over wrong and reassurance that everything will be perfect, or as close as possible to it, in the end. Maybe it’s a higher standard than we sometimes hold ourselves to, but it seems to be what we crave, what we dream of. And we want it to last, which is why we end the books where we do, leaving what happens after to the imagination. Without romance, both the real-life and the made-up, the world would be a very boring and perhaps chaotic place.

So long live the romance, both between book covers and between our bed sheets, and let’s live our own happily-ever-after, in whatever incarnation we can!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Queen of the Night

The Night Blooming Cereus, also known as the Queen of the Night, is a desert plant and part of the cactus family. For 364 days (365 on leap years) it really isn’t much to look at. In fact, some people consider it to be downright ugly. It’s scraggly. The leaves and stems indicate its relation to other cacti but they’re flattened and seem almost sickly. It’s a rather unassuming shade of gray rather than a healthy looking green. The Cereus plant I remember had twined itself around the truck and lower limbs of a Poinsiana tree, and for the majority of the time it looked one short step away from death.

But once a year, on a moonlit spring night, the Cereus would more than make up for its previously slouchy, lack-lustre, appearance. On that night the tuber-like buds unfurled into huge, glorious, creamy blossoms and released the most unbelievably hedonistic scent into the warm night air. My aunt, who owned the plant, would make an event of it, and that one night of the year it was guaranteed I would be allowed to stay up late, even if I had school the next day. We would sit on the veranda, the small ‘whistling toads’ chirping in the background behind the adults’ voices and laughter. Aunty June would keep the lights dim and the Cereus blossoms, stroked by the rays of the full moon, took on a soft otherworldly glow. And weaving its way into and around everything was that heady perfume. It was magical, a moment out of time.

The Cereus hides its true beauty, only revealing it when the time is right. There is nothing contrived about the moment when the blossoms unfurl. Instead it is natural, primal. In Night of the Cereus, when Marcus and Melanie first meet, the scent of the Cereus provides a backdrop for seduction. For one night the restraints they customarily operate under are released and they experience passion as sweet, as deeply intense, as the scent of the flowers. Instinct draws them together and a chance encounter blossoms into a night of sex so overwhelming neither will ever be the same. But Marcus and Melanie each have secrets that could destroy their fragile connection, and just as the beautiful Cereus blooms wither in the morning light, so could their newfound love.

Warning! The night and the man aren’t the only things that are hot in this novella. The sex’ll make you want to turn on the air conditioner, even in the middle of winter!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What am I doing here again?

Born in Jamaica, transplanted to the ‘Frozen North’, writing has been a dream of mine for a long time. It remained only a dream until a few years ago when the simple truth occurred to me—I couldn’t become a writer if I didn’t write anything. A dedicated history buff, I happily penned two monster (and monstrous!) medieval novels before realizing I really had no clue what I was doing. It was the first of many such moments; when I had to decide what it was I wanted out of writing. Up until then it had been nothing but fun. Was I willing to put in the work necessary to actually get published?

I guess you can figure that the answer was, “Yes.” It was hard—it still is. I pictured the life of the writer being one of the secluded artist, toiling, sweating, crying, bleeding to get the right words on to the page, then happily sending the perfect, completed manuscript out and getting on with the next. Perhaps after a short break to pat herself on the back, eat a couple pounds of chocolate and sip a libation, or three.

I was so far off the mark I was in a different universe.

I had to learn the craft, then figure how to break the rules so that my ‘voice’ could come through without totally cheesing off readers. Then I had to figure out where, if anywhere, my work fit, followed by trying to convince editors I would be an asset to their organization.

I also discovered (to my horror) that I needed to market myself. A website at least. Preferably in conjunction with chats and blogs and appearances and talking to booksellers. For a behind-the-scenes type of person, it’s a real stumbling block. I’ve worked hard to get over my natural shyness but the realization I needed to ‘get out there and mingle,’ even just over the web, fills me with trepidation.

Yet here I am...writing my very first blog post and wondering, 'what am I doing here again?' Oh yes, connecting, communicating, trying to work up the courage to actually market my novella, 'Night of the Cereus', published by Samhain Publishing, which comes out on March 25, 2008.

Did I distract you, make you wonder what the heck a 'Cereus' is? Good...that's my marketing plan...the sneak attack! Come back soon and read my next post. I'll tell you about the Night-Blooming Cereus, and how this amazing flower fits in with my book. In the meantime, love a little more. It's easy, and keeps people wondering what you're really up to!