Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Do Women Love Vampires?

The winner of the gift card is: Terra57! Congrats, Terra! Contact me with your snail mail info and your card preference (B&N or Borders) and I'll pop it into the mail. Thanks to everyone who participated.
OK. Antonio isn't in his "Interview with the Vampire" costume, but when I ran across this photo a few minutes ago, my immediate reaction was, "Wow, he could suck on my neck (or the location of his choice) anytime." So, I uploaded him. Yum.

*This is an article I wrote a few months back which was printed in several newspapers across the country.


"He met my eyes with his penetrating gaze. Suddenly, it was hard to breathe. The temperature in the room spiked into the tropical range. My heart pounded in my chest like a ritual drum, and my knees threatened to buckle. I'd never seen such a gorgeous male. My logical mind engaged in a futile attempt to regain my attention -- to remind me that I'd just met this stranger and my behavior was unacceptable. Inappropriate. But something about him felt dark and dangerous. Desirable. I lifted my chin to give him better access to my neck. He smiled, showing a hint of fangs."

Vampires are all the rage these days.

Wait, vampires?

Festering, cadaverous, hygiene-challenged bloodsuckers who crawl out of graves to steal your children? Hideous, terrifying, long-fingered, dark visions from your worst nightmare? Walking corpses?

Not even close.

That was when men ruled the horror landscape. But no more. Now, women have taken over and a new genre of fiction -- featuring gorgeous, sensuous, sexual, romantic, bad boys of the night -- has emerged. What's the name of this enticing category? Vampire Romance.

Psychotherapist Lynda Hilburn, author of the new paranormal urban fantasy novels, "The Vampire Shrink," and "Dark Harvest," noticed a curious thing happening in her private psychotherapy practice. In their therapy sessions, women spontaneously began sharing dreams of dark, fanged strangers. They told tales of nocturnal journeys into forbidden worlds where they encountered -- and became intimate with -- alluring, mesmerizing vampires.

After listening to stories about alien abductions, satanic cults and entity possessions for years, Lynda was intrigued and fascinated by the vampire theme. So much, that she sat down and wrote the first of many vampire books, inspired by the dreams of her clients. When a woman called Lynda's voice mail and left a message asking for referrals in another city for her daughter, who'd decided to become a vampire, "The Vampire Shrink" was born.

"The Vampire Shrink," tells the tale of Denver Psychologist Kismet Knight. She just wants a little excitement in her life. A little publishing fame and fortune. She doesn't believe in the paranormal. Especially not comic book children of the night. But when a new client pulls Kismet into the vampire underworld, and introduces her to gorgeous Devereux -- who claims to be an 800-year-old vampire -- Kismet finds herself up to her neck in the undead. Not to mention all the other bizarre creatures crawling out of Denver's supernatural Pandora's Box. And if being attracted to a man who thinks he's an ancient bloodsucker isn't bad enough, someone -- or something -- is leaving a trail of blood-drained dead bodies. Enter handsome FBI profiler Alan Stevens, who warns her that vampires are very real and that one is a murderer. A murderer who is after her. In the midst of it all, Kismet realizes she has feelings for both the vampire and the profiler. But, though she cares for each of the men, the reality that vampires exist is enough of a challenge . . . for now.

What's all the fuss about vampires?

According to publishing sources, sales of paranormal romance in general, and vampire romance in particular, have broken records over the past twenty years. But the real rise in vampire popularity occurred after the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

"There are several theories about the increase in sales of vampire romance," Hilburn said. "A recent view is that women feel less safe and secure in the world, and the previous symbols of strong, semi-dangerous males -- our law enforcement and military warriors -- were replaced by supernatural beings. Indestructible supernatural beings. Unlike the undead, real flesh-and-blood men can be killed in war or through terrorist acts. Facing a frightening daily "reality" made escaping into magical worlds, filled with all-powerful, appealing immortals, a healthy coping mechanism."

But why do we love them?

Vampires are the quintessential bad boys of the preternatural universe. They don't follow any human rules or laws. Imagine James Dean with fangs. Or, Captain Jack Sparrow rising from his coffin. They're also examples of extraordinary men.

"Women in therapy often report disappointment with the 'human' males they're in relationship with," Hilburn said. "Would a handsome vampire sit in front of the television, scratching his stomach and drinking beer? Are women lusting after the undead Homer Simpson? Probably not. Imagining a heart-stoppingly-gorgeous man hovering outside your window is much more fun. Most of my clients would open the window."

"The Vampire Shrink" and “Dark Harvest” (the recently-released second book in the series) can be purchased at your favorite bookstore and online through

Author Bio:

Lynda Hilburn writes paranormal fiction. More specifically, she writes vampire books. After a childhood filled with invisible friends, sightings of dead relatives and a fascination with the occult, turning to the paranormal was a no-brainer. In her other reality, she makes her living as a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, professional psychic/tarot reader, university instructor and workshop presenter.


Answer the question, "Why do women love vampires?" as a comment here and enter the giveaway for a $25 gift card from Barnes & Noble or Borders (your choice). Winner will be posted Sunday night, Nov. 2.


Feel free to share the news about this giveaway on your blogs, loops and forums, etc.!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fang you very much: Three vampire authors go for the neck!

What: Vampire Night! Douglas County Library

Who: Lynda Hilburn, Mario Acevedo, Jeanne Stein

Where: Highlands Ranch Library, Douglas County, CO

When: October 29, 7 – 9 pm

Monday, October 27, 2008

Guest Blogger: Angela Knight

The winner of Angela's book is: Liz Roadifer. Congrats, Liz! Send me your contact info and I'll pass it along to Angela. Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

From Mild to Wild

One of my favorite subjects is the importance of love scenes in romance. Sometimes I think writers view these scenes as basically a porn break in the story. All action stops while the characters make the mattress squeak. But in fact, love scenes are a great way to show character and the development of the romance. Here are a few tips:

Show the Passion

1.) The way people make love reveals how they feel about one another. For romance writers, love scenes are a prime way to show the development of the romance. You should be able to read the love scenes alone and see the romance grow.

2.) In romance, we spend a lot of time setting up how sexy the hero is, how seductive he is, what a good kisser he is. We build him up until the reader is dying to experience what it’s like to make love to him. You have got to pay that off with more than three pages of mechanical sex. Otherwise what you’re telling us is that he’s really not that good. You’ve cheated your reader, your characters, and your book.

Making love scenes structurally important

Every scene in a romance (including love scenes) must do at least one of three things, or it needs to be cut.

A.) Reveal character

B.) Develop the conflict (internal, external or romantic)

C.) Develop the romance

Just being hot and sexy is not a good enough reason for a love scene to exist. That’s one of the main problems I see in a lot of erotic romance and women’s erotica -- the sex may be hot, but it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t tell you anything about the characters and it doesn’t develop the conflict or the romance. From a storytelling standpoint, scenes like that are the equivalent of spending ten pages to describe a sunrise. It’s bad writing.

To make a love scene important:

1.) Think about where in the story this particular love scene falls. Is it early in the romance? Are they beginning to fall in love? Are they really passionate about each other, or unsure? What’s happening in the romantic conflict?

2.) What kind of emotion do you want to communicate with this scene? If they’ve just had an argument and this is make-up sex, the mood may have a note of lingering anger. If it’s right before a climactic battle they’re afraid they’re not going to survive, they’re going to be especially passionate and tender with each other. When we have sex, we’re at our most vulnerable to one another. Emotions are at their height -- which makes it a perfect time for drama.

3.) Think about the romantic conflict. What can happen in the scene that will intensify the friction between the hero and heroine?

4.) If the emotion is really dark elsewhere in the story, especially in a romantic suspense, you can use your love scene to lighten the mood.

5.) But watch your timing. If the characters should logically be off chasing the bad guy and preventing a murder, they shouldn’t be making love. Save the love scenes for some point in the story where they can’t do anything else.

6.) By the same token, following a gruesome murder with a love scene is probably a bad idea. You don’t want to give readers the idea your couple is callous.

7.) I sometimes use a love scene to lull the reader into a sense of relaxation before hitting her with something ugly.

Motivating love scenes

1.) Heroes, heroines and villains often seems to assume certain natural roles in romances. Villains drive the external conflict, for example -- it’s their actions that set the rest of the story in motion. The villain kills his first victim, steals some priceless object or sends a threatening letter to the heroine.

A.) The heroine, for her part, sets the sexual pace; the hero can push all he likes, but she’s the one who decides when and if they make love. Otherwise, it’s rape. She’s the key to making a love scene believable, because she’s got the most to lose.

B.) But the sexual heat in a book ultimately comes from the hero. That’s not to say the heroine can’t make the first move – she certainly can. But it’s the hero that really turns the readers – and the heroine – on. He has to win her sexual trust before he can do that.

2.) Use Linda Howard’s Twelve Steps to Intimacy to show that the hero has taken the trouble to gain the heroine’s physical trust.

A.) In the initial stages, it’s all about checking the potential partner out – is he or she sexually attractive?

B.) After the couple has that first eye-to-body contact, there’s an electric moment when their eyes meet. Women will often instinctively drop their eyes or look away, since a direct stare is aggressive. Your Alpha hero, on the other hand, may hold the gaze until she meets his eyes again and gives him a slight smile. That’s his invitation to come over for the next stage: voice to voice, where the characters talk.

C.) Next, Howard says, he may touch her hand, either by a handshake or in a simple brush of the fingers. After that, he’ll touch her shoulders, then her waist. Any time you’re working from the waist down, it becomes overtly sexual, even if it’s just a brush of fingertips along the knee.

D.) Next comes the first kiss, which needs to be given a lot of attention. The kiss is a precursor to lovemaking, an indication of what we and the heroine can expect. How skillful is he? How tender? Build the anticipation.

E.) The next step is a touch of the head. We’ve all seen couples play with each other’s hair or caress faces. We all instinctively recognize this as intimate behavior.

F.) It’s at this point that the hero may touch her breasts. If your heroine’s arousal doesn’t match his, Howard says, this is where she’s going to call a halt. Much further along, and it’s very difficult to get the male to stop.

G.) Now we need privacy, because the next steps are mouth to breast, hand to genitals, and actual penetration.

According to Howard, if your hero skips steps -- going from talking straight to a kiss, for example -- that can be very shocking and arousing, but he also runs the risk that the heroine will shut him down hard. Then he’ll have to work to get back in her good graces again.

Passion and the Five Senses

1.) When you begin writing the love scene, don’t rush. Give your characters -- and your readers -- time to savor it. I usually give a love scene ten pages, rarely less than five. The longer a scene is, the more emotionally powerful it is. One rule of thumb I’ve heard is that a scene can’t have real power if it’s less than two pages. I’ve been known to write kisses that went on for three or four paragraphs.

2.) Think about location. You don’t always have to do it in bed. Actually, you may want to do it everywhere but bed, because other locations make the sex seem more spontaneous and exciting.

Create a sensual environment -- a garden in the spring, perhaps. The hero and heroine are sitting in the warm sunlight, listening to the lazy drone of bees and the chirp of robins. The air smells of roses and rich brown earth. He touches her . . .

3.) Next, think about who makes the first move. What kind of foreplay is he using? How does it feel? What position are they going to make love in? Remember: these people are going to be making love a lot, so it needs to be different every time. If one character is dominant in a scene, I might have the other run things in the next one. Mix it up.

4.) It’s very important to be as creative as possible with every sexual encounter, because you can bore readers easily. I did a survey once, and many readers said they don’t like long love scenes because they’re so often badly done.

5.) The love scene is where you focus on the sensations the characters feel. Think about your hero’s hands. Are they strong, warm? A little rough with callouses from hard work or swinging a sword? How does his mouth taste? What does his body look like? Lean? Powerfully muscled? Smooth or hairy? How does his voice sound?

6.) Don’t forget your heroine. I sometimes do a POV shift during the scene -- and yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that. Sue me. But I think it’s important to show how each of the characters feel about making love. How do they perceive each other?

7.) How does your heroine look to your hero? How does her skin smell and taste to him? What about her really turns him on?

8. ) It’s often in one of the love scenes where I first show evidence that my hero is falling in love with my heroine. My guy has probably been with a lot of other women, but sometime while he’s making love to her, it dawns on him that there’s something different about my heroine. Maybe he doesn’t recognize the importance of that moment, but the reader does. Having that moment fall during the love scene gives the scene more emotional significance to the reader.

9.) The advice I always give is if you really want to turn on the reader, you have to be turned on yourself. Don’t try to write something that doesn’t do it for you, because the reader will be able to tell.

Pillow Talk

1.) Readers love flashes of humor during passion, because it makes the characters seem more real and human.

2.) But be wary of having your characters prose on with reams of dialogue. The more passionate we are, the less inclined we are to talk. If you have your characters composing sonnets to one another’s eyes, the unconscious message you’re sending is that they’re not that turned on.

3.) Keep the dialogue short, rough and sexy. I love having my Alpha Male ask questions while making love.

4.) Make sure he stays in character with his dialogue, even if it means being a little politically incorrect. Though many conservative readers flinch from coarse language, having your hero use euphemisms may sound off.

5.) Avoid manhood in particular because many readers find it laughable.

6.) Certain words are radioactive, especially terms for female genitalia which are also used as insults.

7.) Avoid Latin phrases in love scenes, such as “penis” and “vagina.” Don’t use clinical language when you’re trying for passion.

8.) Use the language that sounds true for the kind of character you’re writing.

9.) Note that it’s not the F-word that makes a scene hot. It’s the detail and emotion a writer uses in the scene.

Heat Levels and Reader Comfort

1.) Trade paperbacks tend to allow sexier content than mass market. Younger, hipper readers tend buy trades, and they’re more willing to walk on the wild side. That means you can get away with more.

2.) Look at what other authors in your subgenre are doing. Push the envelop a bit, but probably not as far as you would in a trade. Write your love scene a little longer with a little more detail and have the characters make love in gardens or swimming pools as well as beds.

3.) Also, be aware that our readership is changing. Yes, you do have some really conservative readers who still believe “Good Girls Don’t.” But our younger readers have grown up on MTV and cable, and they’re a lot harder to shock. In fact, they’re actively looking for sexy books, which is why erotic romance and women’s erotica are so hot right now.

I think that even after the erotica craze fades, readers are still going to looking for sexier romance than in the past. If you can deliver that, editors and publishers will love you.

Angela is giving away a copy of her book WARRIOR to one lucky commenter. Just leave a comment here about her post and a winner will be selected Tuesday night.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jeaniene Frost

The winner of Jeaniene's book is: Night Huntress. Congratulations! I will send Jeaniene her contact information when I receive it (and after I get back from being out of town on Monday). Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

To believe or not to believe?

One of the things I get asked a lot as a vampire writer is, do you believe vampires exist? My standard response is that I haven’t seen anything to believe that they do, but I’d never say never to the possibility. Is that a cop-out? Maybe, but it’s true. I’ve never seen anything strange or inexplicable in my life, but that doesn’t mean I’ve slammed the door shut on the possibility that paranormal things might exist. Hey, I watch Ghost Hunters, and occasionally there are some weird things caught on tape or audio. But does that prove ghosts exist? I can’t say. There’s that big “what if” factor to the paranormal question, and it plays both ways. What if the hazy thing on the video is just a trick of the light, instead of an apparition trying to manifest itself? Or what if that voice on the recorder was picked up from crossing signals with another TV or radio station, instead of a spirit trying to communicate?

So, what if all those legends about vampires, werewolves, zombies, or other creatures truly are nothing more than the imaginings of our ancestors, or the playing out of cultural taboos in monster form? Would I still want to read books or watch movies about them, knowing they’re 100% fantasy and such things have never existed in reality? Yes. As I said, I don’t have any basis to believe in vampires, but I write about them because they’re fun to imagine and to create fictional worlds around. Before I wrote about them, I loved to read about vampires, and I still watch almost every new vampire movie that comes out.

What about you and your favorite paranormal creature? If it were possible to completely slam the door shut – no room for questioning – that such a creature existed now or ever, would it make a difference in your enjoyment of them in book or movie form? Does the possibility, however faint, that something more might exist than what we know, spur you to delve deeper into your fictional creature of choice? Why or why not?

And especially at this time of year, when things that go bump in the night feel a little more real than our sophistication normally makes them, here’s another question – if it were possible to prove, beyond a shadow of scientific doubt, that supernatural creatures did exist, would you want to know? *wink* Would you really want to know if your creature of choice might be sitting next you, even now?

Everyone who tells me what their favorite paranormal creature is, and whether you’d want to know if that creature’s existence was proved/disproved beyond all doubt, will be entered to win an advanced reading copy of AT GRAVE’S END, book three in the Night Huntress series.

I look forward to reading what everyone has to say!

The winner of Jeaniene's ARC will be selected and posted Friday morning (I have to go out of town on Friday, so will need to pick Jeaniene's winner earlier than usual). Good luck!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

OK. I'm excited. Book signing at Boulder Bookstore, October 22

I'm so happy to be sharing the signing with Esri Rose and Carrie Vaughn. I was a nervous wreck last year, doing the signing by myself. That was my very first signing as a brand new author and I talked so fast with such a high pitch, that only dogs could hear me. Plus, I wore my long, black velvet cape and sweated like a -- sweating thing. This year I'm much more relaxed. Really. If you're in the area, I hope you'll drop by and say hello. Let's go out for some wine afterwards. I'll be ready . . .

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jackie Kessler

Jackie says: And the winner is -- Shari C! :) Please email me at J A X aht J A C K I E K E S S L E R daht C O M, and I'll send you a signed copy of HB, plus some spiffy B&W swag.

Of Devils and Details

Let’s say you’re an enterprising sort who’s decided the best way to get ahead of the game is to sell your soul to the Devil. Terrific short-term prospects; unlimited fringe benefits over the course of your life (however limited that lifespan may end up being). Whether you’re a lawyer or an author or a politician, this could be your winning ticket. All it takes is a dollar and a dream, right? Or a contract and a pen?

But they don’t tell you HOW you’re supposed to actually get that ball rolling. Seriously. Do you look up “Devil, The” in the phonebook? Maybe go to Call 1-666-OH-SATAN? You’d think it would be more straightforward for those who wanted to sign away their souls, wouldn’t you?

And assuming you can rustle up Old Nick or a demon to do the Big Bartering, what are you supposed to use when you sign your soul away? Virgin blood? Is that an air-quotes “virgin”? Or is symbolism enough and a splash of extra virgin olive oil on the contract will do? Or is that only for people who love Italian food? Do you know how tough it is to find virgins these days?

When you sign the contract, do you have to provide your Social Security number and two forms of picture identification? Like you’re going to lie, when you’re bargaining with Satan? If the Devil is as omniscient as the Almighty, then shouldn’t the Devil know if you’re committing contract fraud? For that matter, if you commit contract fraud when you’re signing your soul away, is that an automatic ticket to Heaven?

And is there a soul-back guarantee?

If you sell your soul, do you become an actual demon when you die, or merely one of the damned? Being a demon sounds like it has perks; being damned, not so much. Is that covered in the fine print? For that matter, what does Hell do with your soul? Wallpaper the bathroom? Eat it? Recycle?

What are some nitpicky questions you’d have if someone (not necessarily you) decided to sell their soul? Leave your answers in the comments . . . and on Halloween, I’ll pick one commenter at random to win a signed copy of HELL’S BELLES, plus spiffy swag for my upcoming co-authored superhero novel, BLACK AND WHITE.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Boulder Bookstore Signing Oct. 22

This coming Wednesday, October 22, I'll be signing DARK HARVEST (and THE VAMPIRE SHRINK) at our local independent bookseller, Boulder Bookstore. Sharing the evening with me are Esri Rose (BOUND TO LOVE HER) and Carrie Vaughn, author of the "Kitty the werewolf" series (her latest is KITTY AND THE SILVER BULLET).

Esri made this cool button for the store employees. Thanks, Esri!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Program: The Paranormal in Fact and Fiction

For all of you who live in the Denver area of Colorado, come on down! I'll be giving a presentation this Saturday, October 18, 1-3 p.m. at the Lakewood library, 10200 W. 20th St., (at Kipling), Lakewood, CO.

Stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'm a sick puppy

I recently signed up for a 6 month trial of both HBO and Showtime so that I could check out True Blood and get my fix of Dexter. I'm not sure what I think of True Blood yet (beyond the fact that I'll watch anything vampire), but I love Dexter. And I wonder what it says about me that I love it. I was in serial-killer heaven when I discovered that there were at least 15 episodes I could watch on Showtime on Demand. How brilliant is a show that makes us (or at least me) root for the so-called bad guy? Anyway, if you haven't checked out Dexter yet, that's a bloody shame. Bwwwwwaaaaa.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Guest Blogger: J.F. Lewis

The winner of Jeremy's book is -- Ellory! Congrats, Ellory! Send me your snail mail info and I'll pass it along to J. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Why Do My Werewolf's Teeth Keep Falling Out?

When Lynda asked me to guest blog, she said that I could write about anything “educational, interesting or entertaining about anything paranormal” which is why we’ll be talking about werewolf calculus.

No. I’m kidding, we’ll actually be talking about werewolf and vampire dental practices, because -- I mean come on, who doesn’t find odontology fascinating? What? It has to do with writing paranormal fiction; I promise. Just bear with me.

One of the things that has always struck me about vampire fangs is where are they hiding in there? Are there hidden pockets? Do the existing teeth just get longer and more pointy? What? I know. I know. I’m weird, but then again I should be weird right? I write books about vampires, demons, gun slinging ghosts, and evangelical werewolves. But back to the teeth.

Another question that I’ve always had is: Does it hurt? If there are hidden pockets for the fangs, surely it feels a little weird to have the fangs push the other teeth around, right? And if not . . . why not? Vampires in the Void City universe definitely feel it when they pop their fangs. Sure it’s a feeling to which they become accustomed. The older the vampire, the less he or she would notice, but the first time it happens? Yowtch!

Which brings me around to werewolf dentistry.

When I sat down to work up the rules for my little world, I had originally planned to have the transformation from human to werewolf be painful, too, but then I stopped and thought. Since lycanthrope isn’t a curse in my universe, pain wasn't necessarily required. A vampire is something that was human. Sprouting fangs for them is unnatural. Of course it hurts. For a Void City werewolf, making the transformation is akin to getting home after a long day’s work and slipping into something more comfortable. The sharp nasty werewolf teeth push the human teeth out of the way, forcing them out of the mouth completely. The fingernails pop off releasing wolf claws in a process that is indescribably freeing. It feels good.

And it works. It makes sense, which is the writing topic that I'm touching on in my meandering way. The bigger the element of the paranormal in your fiction, the larger the burden becomes. It must make sense. It has to be consistent and you, as the writer, must know how it all works even if the reader doesn't get all of the nuts and bolts up front (or ever). As long as you've given it thought, then you may find that some details don't even have to be explained through exposition. You'll show them instinctively and Showing is almost universally always better than Telling.

JF will be giving away a signed copy of STAKED to one lucky commenter. Just answer this question as a comment: What did you learn from JF's post? The winner will be posted on Tuesday evening.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Colorado Romance Writers Anniversary, Wickedly Romantic blog

I can't believe I forgot to take my camera. The lovely members of Colorado Romance Writers put on a wonderful Authors Tea today in honor of their 20th anniversary. A great time was had by all. I was surprised and delighted to discover that all the copies of my books had been purchased! Those words are music to an author's ears!

Monday, October 13, I'll be guest blogging at: talking about alpha males (and other kinds of heroes). Stop by and leave a comment to win a copy of DARK HARVEST.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Guest Blogger: Cynthia Leitich Smith

I grabbed my camera, my pen, and a little spiral notebook.

I set my sights on the neighborhoods that border Austin’s Congress Avenue and started walking. It was the most obvious place to begin.

After all, the heart of my YA Gothic fantasy TANTALIZE (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) is a fictional vampire-themed restaurant set on that street, and most of the characters’ homes are drawn from the surrounding area.

In the forward to GOTHIC: TEN ORIGINAL DARK TALES (Candlewick, 2004), anthologist Deborah Noyes writes: “. . . think of gothic as a room within the larger house of horror. Its décor is distinctive.” Essentially, I was shopping for that décor.

I literally plunged into my fantasy world to find sensory and scenic details that would help build a more resonant story. The lens of the camera forced my eye to focus -- on the band fliers stapled to light poles, the leather-clad bikers and spandex-clad bicyclists, the neon glow of signs. The pen in my hand begged for details -- the smell of a backyard barbecue, the wheeze of the city bus, the crunch of rock beneath my feet.

I ducked into the local real estate market -- explaining my ulterior motive only to find myself showered in floor plans and model bedrooms for a make-believe seventeen-year-old girl. I visited local boutiques and second-hand stores to “outfit” my cast.

I’ll never forget walking into a cutting-edge new storefront and confessing to the clerk that I was pre-writing, seeking clothes for folks who existed only on paper.

She glanced at me -- perhaps age 20 with blue spiked hair, many tats, and multiple piercings, and asked in the most bored voice imaginable, “Independent film?”

“No,” I said, “vampire novel.”

She jumped in place, held up a finger, and told me to “wait right there!” while she found help in back.

For the next couple of hours, I had not only all the customer service I could’ve wanted but two live models with plenty of ideas for my plot.

When the time came to draft the companion book, ETERNAL (Candlewick, 2009), I found my story largely set in Chicago. I’ve lived in the Windy City before, for three years in fact, and it’s my husband’s home town. But I had to return when it was -15 degrees wind chill, so that I could record the music and profanity and intensity of the city, the way the chilled air ached in my lungs.

I’ll never forget standing on Navy Pier, dutifully scribbling, when the ink in my pen froze. But--like with my Texas walkabout -- that experience brought me inspiration and material to bring the setting to life.

This kind of prewriting (or side-writing) results in scribble-filled notebooks, napkins, plane tickets—even notes on my hands. Only a handful of references make it into the final novel. They’re usually nothing splashy, nothing that will linger in the reader’s mind. But each detail supports of the overall gestalt of the piece, the authenticity amidst the monstrosity. And, besides, hunting them down is horrific fun!

Just to get you in the spirit of things . . .

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Guest Blogger: Michele Bardsley

The winner of Michele's books is: BethRe! Congrats! Give me your snail mail info and I'll pass it along to Michele. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Ten Reasons to Love the Paranormal

1. Dean and Sam Winchester. Do I really need to explain the draw of two hot guys who know how to kick Supernatural ass? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

2. Nina Blackman. The mouthy, cranky, hilarious vampire in Dakota Cassidy’s Accidentally Dead. You don’t know whether to hug her or push her off the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe you could hug her then toss her over the rail.

3. Amanda Feral. The zombie heroine of Mark Henry’s Happy Hour of the Damned embraces her new . . . er, life by looking fabulous while ingesting the homeless and the occasional hitchhiker. What? A girl’s gotta eat.

4. Sookie Stackhouse. A mind-reading waitress submersed in the paranormal because she decides to date a vampire? Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire novels rule.

5. Betsy Taylor. The shoe-loving secretary turned vampire queen threw open the doors for humorous paranormal fiction. All hail MaryJanice Davidson and her Undead series!

6. Jane Jameson. You won’t get to meet her until March 2009, but trust me when I say you’ll want Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs. Jane is a small-town librarian who’s never quite fit in with the citizens of Half-Moon Hollow. Now that she’s a vampire, she’s really an outcast, but luckily there’s the vampire welcoming committee, The Guide for the Newly Undead, and her very hot sire, Gabriel, to help her.

7. Melinda Gordon. The Ghost Whisperer puts herself in danger to save earthbound spirits. This show just makes my Friday nights (which is sad, really, but there you go).

8. Ned, the Pie Maker. Pushing Daisies is one of the coolest paranormal tales on television. The guy can only touch the dead once and only for a minute—or someone else dies in the person’s place. He raised his true love from the dead and can never touch her again. Aw!

9. Constantine. I loved this movie, mostly because Keanu Reeves was in it, but there was all that cool supernatural stuff in it like dragonfire guns, bugged-out demons, and trips to Hell.

10. Broken Heart, Oklahoma. I could hardly complete a list for paranormal lurve without including my own novels. In my series, vampire parents must deal with their new undead lifestyles and the fact that their little town has been taken over by paranormal creatures. The fourth book in the series, Wait Till Your Vampire Gets Home, comes out on November 4, 2008. Find out more at

What do you love about the paranormal? Leave a comment and win an autographed copy of Because Your Vampire Said So and an autographed copy of Dakota Cassidy’s Accidentally Dead.

Michele's winner will be selected Tuesday night and posted here.

Witchy Chicks, Sisters in Crime, New Interview, Book-of-the-Day Giveaway

I'll be guest blogging tomorrow, October 6, at Witchy Chicks. Stop by and say hello!!

Also, my local Rocky Mountain chapter of Sisters in Crime interviewed me for their website. Here's the link:

Romance Reviews Today posted a new review of DARK HARVEST:

And is giving away copies of DARK HARVEST in their book-a-day giveaway:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Guest Blogger: Mindy Klasky

The winner of Mindy's book is: Crystalgb! Congratulations! And thanks to everyone for participating.

Crayons, Reese's, and the Paranormal

Do you remember getting one of those amazing boxes of 64 crayons when you were a kid? Some of the colors were similar, but each had a unique name. Blue-Green was much more green than the somewhat confusingly named Green-Blue (it was always the last color in the name that dominated the shade.)

And are you old enough to remember the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup advertising campaign, the spots where one person was single-mindedly eating a chocolate bar and another person was single-mindedly eating peanut butter? They collided, and they started to complain ("You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter on my chocolate!") And then they realized that they'd invented an amazing combination taste treat?

I think of crayons and candy every time I sit down to write. (No, not just because I'd rather be illustrating my work in 64 colors. And not because I need a snack. WANT a snack, yes, but need a snack? No.)

Once upon a time, I was an author of classic fantasy novels. My first six novels, The five volumes of The Glasswrights Series and a stand-alone called SEASON OF SACRIFICE, were created for a traditional fantasy audience. They were set in pseudo-medieval worlds, where caste and hierarchies determined characters' abilities to act. They had wholly imagined settings, unlike any place in the real world. They were blue. They were chocolate.

Now, though, I write paranormal romance. My Jane Madison Series is a bit more complex than my early fantasies (even if the books themselves are lighter, more humorous.) GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL tell the story of Jane Madison, a librarian in contemporary Washington, D.C., who discovers that she's a witch. There are some fantastic (stemming from fantasy) aspects of the story-telling: Jane awakens a familiar, transforming a statue of a cat into a living, breathing man. She works spells, using crystals and runes. There is plenty of fantasy, plenty of blue, plenty of chocolate.

But there's also green and peanut butter in Jane Madison's world. At the same time that Jane grapples with her magic identity, she's trying to work out her role as an ordinary woman -- a girlfriend, a best friend, a daughter, a granddaughter. She worries about her job, and about paying the rent. She obsesses (just a little) about clothes and makeup. There's green, to contrast with the blue. Peanut butter, to contrast with the chocolate.

Individual chapters of the books sway more to the magic than the real world -- they're the classic Crayola combination "Green-Blue." Other chapters emphasize the human, the ordinary - the creamy core of the peanut butter cup, with just a bit of tongue-teasing chocolate around the edges.

Combined, the Jane Madison series is something wholly separate from plain blue or plain green, from lonely chocolate or lonely peanut butter.

Some of my traditional fantasy readers have followed me along my path of writing evolution. Other Jane Madison readers have back-tracked into my older works. I receive regular email encouraging me toward old blends, or demanding new ones. For now, I'm enjoying the variety that Paranormal Romance enables -- I'm a chemist in my writing kitchen.

What about you? Do you prefer books that are more single-minded in their approach -- more pure fantasy, more pure romance, more pure chick-lit? Or do you like blends? Let me know in comments below -- I'll be choosing one commenter at random to receive a copy of one of the Jane Madison Series books (your choice, which one!) Leave your email address, or check back here to see who won!

Men come and go, but magic is forever. Right?

Dark Harvest Officially Releases Today!