Saturday, January 31, 2009

February, when a woman's fancy turns lightly to free stuff...and chocolate

For the first time since I moved to the ‘Frozen North’ I’m excited about February! It’s cold out, with huge piles of snow everywhere (we’ve had a near record-breaking six feet of the white stuff already this year!), but things are actually heating up in my writing life. There’s my Valentine’s Freebie, Cupid Be Mine, which will be released through The Samhellion tomorrow, February first. Yes, Freebie--as in do not pay for this short story, or any of the other stories that will be released between now and February 16th! And there’s The Samhellion’s Valentine’s Swag Hunt, now officially underway (note the graphic to the left.) If you’re not participating, you should! Lots of great prizes are on offer. If you haven't already done so, you can subscribe to the Samhellion here.

To top it off, The Romance Studio CAPA’s will be announced on Valentine’s Day. Truthfully, I’m not expecting to win (have you SEEN the authors I’m up against???) but there’s still that little spark of hope, the tiny whisper in the back of my mind saying, “You never know...” LOL! I’ve been around the block too many times to be horribly disappointed if I don’t win, but it’s still exciting. Hopefully anticipation doesn’t kill me in the meantime!

I’ve also just finished a new short, which is a bit experimental and therefore both exhilarating and scary at the same time. Now that I’ve mumbled over it, polishing and primping, it’s time to try and find that baby a home...And, while it goes out into the world, it’s back to work for me. Lots of stuff waiting for me to get back to them, and I’m eager.

Almost as eager as I am for Spring...

And good luck to all the Swag Hunters!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Samhellion Newsletter

For anyone who likes a little free stuff, you should sign up for The Samhellion, the Samhain writer’s newsletter. Every month it contains articles, free short stories, recipes and an interview with one of our host of interesting writers. The Samhellions are a fun group, and the newsletter reflects the diversity that makes Samhain one of the leaders (in my humble opinion, THE leader) in e-publishing.

And this is a great time to sign up for the newsletter. Over the past holiday season subscribers were given access to free shorts from 30 (yes, I said 30!) Samhain writers. The Freebies were so popular, they’re doing it again. In honour of Valentine’s Day there will be another 16 free shorts on offer, one per day, starting January 31st! Since the December holiday shorts are still available also, you’ll have 46 short stories, from sweet to super sexy, to enjoy.

My short, “Cupid Be Mine” will be released on February 1st, 2009, and I hope readers enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

So, what are you waiting for? Go on…sign up! You can do that here

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hurray for Jane

My name is Anya, and I’m a Jane Austin fan.

There, I’ve said it.

In a world where everyone and their grandmother will jump on any bandwagon rolling by, I’ve kept my adoration of JA close to my chest. There are so many reasons to love her, including her wit and style, her characters and ability to pull you into a time and place so you feel you are there, the laugh-out-loud moments. All of these, and so many others, make her novels worthwhile reads. I read both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility as a teenager. Not even having S&S as one of my final examination books could spoil the pleasure.

I’m also generally speaking, a purist. Movie adaptations generally leave me cold. I’d rather read the book.


...Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Need I say more?

There is one particular scene I absolutely adore, and when I get to a point in my career where I can successfully get a moment like that on to paper, I’ll probably run screaming down the street in glee. Hopefully I’ll not have been writing commando at the time.

Scene: In the withdrawing room, at Pemberley. Elizabeth Bennett has just finished playing and singing, and sits at the pianoforte speaking to Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. Elizabeth compliments Miss Darcy on the fineness of the instrument, and is told it was a gift from her brother; a gift she is quite sure she does not deserve. Elizabeth reassures her on that point, saying she is quite sure if Mr. Darcy deemed her deserving of such a fine present, it must be so, for,
“ you know, he is never wrong.”

At that moment, Mr. Darcy looks across the room, only to find himself the focus of the two young ladies attention. He freezes, his eyes flicker from one to the other, and in his face can be seen a sensation we all have, at one time or another, felt.

They are obviously talking about him. What are they saying?

You can see his lack of confidence, only marginally tempered by hope.

In the film the moment is fleeting. If you take a sip of your drink you will miss it. To the story itself, it is a major turning point. Darcy is portrayed as all that is proud, a man supremely confident of his place in the world. In that one swift moment, we see the transformation of his character to a humbler place more clearly than any soliloquy could have told.

I love it, and for me there can only be one film Darcy...just watching him walk away from Elizabeth in the garden at Pemberley is enough to make me sigh. Of course, his prior dip in the pond is artistic license at its height, since it doesn’t appear in the book and Jane Austin probably rolled in her grave when they added it in. But even a purist like me can appreciate, greatly, Colin Firth in a wet linen shirt, breeches and riding boots!

(To see a really nice shot of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, entitled “IBM, Ideal Breeding Material” click here.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rock On, E-Publishing

It’s an exciting time to be affiliated with a really good e-publishing firm. The world is changing, and publishing too is in the midst of a massive overhaul. Business as usual just isn’t cutting it anymore, and smart people are actively looking for new ways to publish and deliver books to the people who want them. I may be biased, but to me e-publishing, and companies like Samhain, are not just the wave of the future, they’re the wave of NOW.

I still have to put up with people saying things like, “Soon you’ll really be published,” although I’ve had the pleasure of two releases. It’s just ignorance, so I stifle my annoyance and tell them that I already am published, and leave it at that. Then I read an article like this one, in Time Magazine on-line, and realise irrespective of those views, I’m probably on the right track. Sure, it would be nice to be able to say I have a NY contract with Avon, or Berkley, or one of the traditional publishing houses. But there is a part of me that would rather not deal with issues like massive returns and bogus sales numbers.

Besides, there is news like Lorelei James topping the movers and shakers list at Kindle, which makes us romance writers know the readers are out there, and they’re following the trends. Instead of a book in every hand, how about an “E-reader in Every Hand” campaign?

And for all you readers interested in what the most popular books were at Samhain this past year, the best covers, etc. make sure you join us for the Sammie Awards! It’s gonna be a blast!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh thyself

Canada, like most other countries, is a mass of contradictions, but it’s almost schizophrenic when it comes to sex. Years ago, when I still lived in Jamaica, I used to spend a lot of time at Negril during the summer months. For anyone not familiar with the island, Negril is a resort town at the western tip. Nowadays it’s a tourist trap, undistinguishable from any other tourist trap despite the ‘seven miles of white sand beach’ the brochures boast about. Back in the day when my aunt ran a small club and lived in a wooden house on the beach, Negril was quiet, undeveloped, and a haven for pleasure seekers looking for something good to smoke, a little mushroom tea, a place to get wild, or all three.

I saw a lot of getting wild there, and a lot of the people whooping it up were Canadians. I’ll never forget the story of my aunt covering her daughter’s eyes as two elderly French Canadians, having just got off a bus, decided to have at it right on the beach—in broad daylight. Somehow, in the midst of all this letting loose, I got the impression Canadians were pretty liberal.

Privately they are—swinging and swapping and enjoying themselves mightily—but publicly it seems if you don’t really talk about sex, your virginity grows back.

I recently received my copy of February’s Chatelaine, the premier women’s magazine in Canada. Obviously, if somewhat obliquely, aimed at a Valentine’s Day audience, it was full of love and romance, Canadian style. Inside was an article called, ‘Burn after reading’ subtitled ‘Racy reads for cold nights’. Being a book junkie and, of course, an erotic romance writer, I went straight to that page. They listed three books; none by Canadian authors, only one of the books written in this century (two were published in the 1960’s) and one of them, which will remain nameless, I read when I was in my teens and even then found to be lacking in style and substance.
I just shook my head.

There is a plethora of writing talent in Canada, and yes, that includes writers of erotic literature. I’m not saying Chatelaine should have gone off the deep end—I’m sure if they listed some hard-core erotica they would have lost a good half of their subscribers—but I’m also sure with a little research they could have found some suitably subdued, mildly titillating books written by Canadians. Failing that, how about some more written in the 2000’s?

In trying so hard to ignore the fact that Canadians actually have a wild side, this magazine seeks to perpetuate the image of “Canada the Good” and frankly looks quite silly doing it.

(In researching this post, I came across some really interesting sites, including an article at titled ‘You said Beaver’, a blog post from 2002 outlining the slow but inexorable defrosting of Canadian literature. This, of course, led me to a mass of other sites, but I’ll leave you to do the surfing on your own! Just like with sex, the anticipation and discovery is half the fun...)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And now for something completely different...

Writer and Vice president of the London Writer’s Society, Kevin Love, recently sent me a link for his latest project and I just had to share. The website, with text by Kevin and illustrations by Jon Oaker, is an introduction to Aiki-DOH!-Ka, a somewhat inept although always enthusiastic practitioner of the martial art Aikido. I found it hilarious, perhaps because a few years ago I took Kung-Fu and can totally relate to poor Aiki-DOH!-Ka’s incompetence, and his determination to stick with it.

For those unfamiliar with Aikido, it is a Japanese martial art and the name is sometimes interpreted as ‘The Way of Harmonious Spirit’. Practitioners are called Aikidoka. Aikido concentrates on grappling (rather than kicking or punching) and re-directing force, both to defend against attack and try to minimize damage to the attacker.

That’s the ideal...but perhaps the most famous practitioner of the art is Steven Seagal of movie fame, who certainly didn’t seem to worry too much about not hurting the bad guys. Of course that was only on the screen, so it doesn’t really count. What you might want to do however, if you ever get a chance to watch one of his movies, is take note of the absolute fluidity of Seagal’s movements. Aikido is beautiful when done properly and he knows what he’s doing.

Having done that, go back to and the genius of Kevin and Jon’s creation becomes evident. Aiki-DOH!-Ka is the embodiment of each of us who, without great natural talent and knowing we’re probably going to get hurt, put ourselves out there over and over again—and after falling flat on our asses, lie there laughing.

As Kevin said, “If we didn’t laugh at ourselves, life sure would be dull.”

Words to live by indeed...

Sunday, January 11, 2009


While doing a spot of research I came across a website called Game Design Central. The owner of the company, Keith Meyer, has recently released a book entitled, Getting Paid to Play: The Business of Game Design, aimed at helping young designers break into the competitive board game industry. There was a brief excerpt; suggestions for the five things newby designers should avoid saying when drafting introductory emails and cover letters or making telephone contact with game companies. Being nosy, I had to click through to that page. By the time I got to number one of Keith's five phrases I was roaring with laughter. If you take out the industry specific details they were some of the pet peeves literary agents and editors talk about all the time.

With Keith Meyer’s kind approval, here is his list of ‘The 5 Phrases You Should Never Use’, with my comments after each...

5. “This game will be the next Monopoly”

For the writing industry take out Monopoly, put in ‘Twilight’, ‘Outlander’, ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ or any other best-selling book title of your choice. And, according to Keith, because of Monopoly’s scope, this claim is even bigger...more along the lines of ‘Lord of the Rings’ along with its entire franchise, and ‘The Hobbit’ thrown in for good measure. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than have that kind of hit.

4. “This game will sell (or make us) millions”

Keith Meyer says in his notes this shows not only hubris but a decided lack of knowledge of the industry. The chances of everything in the universe being in just the right alignment for a board game to become a runaway best-seller of that magnitude are small and extremely hard (almost impossible) to predict. Sound familiar, writers???

3. How can I be sure you won’t steal my idea?

I’m not even going to comment on this, except—HAHAHAHA--which is what I said when I heard an agent say a writer had asked her the same thing!

2. My game is highly educational.

This, Keith explains, is not a bad thing to say, unless it is untrue. The players having to add the numbers on a pair of die and move the right number of spaces doesn’t mean it teaches math skills! This is analogous to claiming a book is spicy, inspirational, funny, erotic or any other number of descriptors, when it isn’t. Of course educational (which he defines as “working with current curriculum course plans”) is a great deal less subjective and easier to quantify, but research into the line or imprint you’re targeting will usually show what they are looking for. Trying to fit a manuscript (or a board game) into a niche it hasn’t a hope in hell of filling is just plain silly!

And, the number one phrase you shouldn’t use???

Wait for it...

1. “I’ve played it with all my friends and family, and they love it!”

(Anya falls off the couch laughing, unable to continue the post)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Power of Theme

Strange the things we remember from childhood and teen years. People who can tell me where they were on a particular date back in 1982, or more embarrassingly, where I was, amaze me. I have very few solid memories of my younger life, not because it was particularly horrible or anything like that, but more likely because even then my head was in the clouds. So when a piece of poetry I had first read many years ago recently came to mind I was a little surprised a) that I remembered it and b) where I remembered it from.

My mother was a committed Mills & Boon/Harlequin reader and I would often raid her stash. As a quintessential pack-rat she was in possession of books from way back when. One day I picked up a Mills & Boon from some time back in the ‘60s. I hope the author, should she ever come across this post, will forgive me for neither remembering her name nor the title of the book (although I think it was My Old Love Came). I do, however, remember the story was based on a poem I somehow memorised but had to Google yesterday to find out the writer’s name!

I made another garden, yea,
For my new love;
I left the dead rose where it lay
And set the new above.
Why did the summer not begin?
Why did my heart not haste?
My old love came and walked therein,
And laid the garden waste.

A.W.E. O’Shaughnessy

Who knows why it popped back into my head after, oh, probably twenty-five years. What it did tell me however is how powerful a book’s theme can be. That Mills & Boon is long gone, but the theme, and the poem it’s based on, has lingered in my scatter-brained head all these years. That’s pretty impressive, especially in light of the fact the only other poem I think I can recite on request is Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.

And for anyone wondering, the old love came, but the new (and true) love won out in the end!

BTW, Blogger wouldn't let me use the ampersand between 'Mills' and 'Boon' in the labels. Thought I'd mention it, in hopes no one will fuss me for not using the company's full legal name there!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


As a quick corollary to my previous post-

I wrote a short piece a few days ago, went through the gamut of emotions, including the slight depression as I hit 'send' and wished it all the best. But the compulsion to keep looking at it, seeing if there was some way to make it better, lingered. So, giving in, I opened the file one more time, and started to read...

Suddenly the story didn't seem as compelling as before! Don't you wish it was like that in life when you break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend/lover, that as soon as you know it's over, you can look at them and think, "Why was I so into them in the first place?" LOL!

I still love the story, but now I can move on...

One other thing...I just got my icon for being a CAPA nominee. I still can't believe The Pearl at the Gate was nominated and grin everytime I think about it. Here's the icon!
Isn't it bee-oo-ti-ful??? :-)

Monday, January 5, 2009


The relationship I develop with each story I write seems to be almost the same as I would have with a lover. The first rush of “meeting” the characters and the thrill of getting to know them excites me, giving me the impetus to put their adventures down on paper. I think about the story all the time, wondering what’s going to happen next. No matter what else I’m doing the characters, like an absent lover, are constantly on my mind.

Sometimes the relationship seems to falter, and the lover is put aside with the hope that, perhaps when the stars are in proper alignment, the relationship can continue. Sometimes I know it won’t, and there is a sense of loss, of failure, but after the sadness wanes, I move on (faithless hussy!). There can also be a time when I hate the book or novella, usually during prolonged editing or at those moments when I have to fight though a blockage. But that dislike is similar to feeling a lover is being difficult but the relationship is still worth saving, so you persevere.

The worst time for me is when the story is finished, and I know it’s finished. That is, for me, a time of mourning. Even if it is rejected and needs to be re-written, or accepted and has to be re-edited, the moment when I feel I’ve finally captured what I wanted will never come again. I’ve come to recognise this and instead of trying to jolly myself out of it simply accept it, ride it out.

Eventually I hear the call either of a new love or an old one waiting for me to come back, and the excitement, the obsession, builds again. Ahhh, love!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First lesson learned for 2009...

...always write your blog post in Word first, so that when the computer goes ca-boom, you'll have it saved!

I usually do, but tonight, having had a good writing day and some really nice soup, I was feeling cocky. Lesson learnt...cocky doesn’t work for me!

The original blog post was better, but now the muse is tugging like the dickens at me and I really want to get back to writing that boiling hot love scene I was building up to. So this post will be shorter...did I hear a sigh of relief??? LOL!

Firstly thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the people who bought The Pearl at the Gate in 2008, and a huge shout-out to the reviewers at The Romance Studio, who nominated it for a CAPA!! I was a little surprised to see it in the Historical category rather than the Erotic Historical one, but hey, I’m just so chuffed they nominated it at all! The full list of nominees can be found here, on their site, so go by and check it out.

That novella really got my writing juices flowing again, so I’m hard at work on some re-writes and other stuff. This will be a year where I concentrate a bit more on promotions and getting out there, so I hope no one gets tired of seeing me around and about. I’m also trying to get the historical blog a group of us were discussing last year up and running. It’s a really exciting group of writers involved and hopefully they’re still interested and we can get going. I find myself drawn more and more to the historical and fantasy side of writing, although I love doing a really hot contemporary on occasion. I think this year I’ll be concentrating more on the historical, but you never know...the muse (in my case an old witch with an evil cackle and not much clothes) will have her way!

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming. All the very, very best for 2009, and remember—don’t cry for yesterday, for it is already gone, but live today as though tomorrow may never come!