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Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking Ahead (#WIPmadness check-in, December 30)

Sorry for the late post. I'm off work for the holidays and operating in my own timezone.

First, some business:

1. Which one of you lovely folks will be hosting WIPmadness for January? Just so I can redirect to the appropriate spot. :)

2. We have one final prize winner: Tonette dela Luna! Tonette, contact me and we'll figure something out.

This is the time of year when the light starts to return. (At least, here in the Northen Hemisphere, and especially the farther north one goes). At its darkest, night falls around 4pm here in Vancouver. Compared to 10pm in the summer... well, that's a pretty big change.

I wish that it wasn't considered a faux pas to keep one's holiday lights up past January 1st. I think they should be able to stay up at least until at least winter is gone. But maybe that's just me. I love seeing all that brightness in the dark. January and February can both be quite miserable and I wonder, is it because we took the lights down too soon?

But at least we have another sort of light that doesn't go away: the light within. The spark that keeps us going. So on this, the very last WIPmadness check-in post of 2013, I thought it would be a good time for us to look ahead to the coming year.

What goals do you have? Writing and otherwise.

Writing-wise, I have a few major goals. First, I'm of course trying to sell my finished novel. Getting an agent is my absolute priority, and I'm going to do everything in my power to succeed.

Second, I have other projects I'd like to finish. The urban fantasy I started last year, for one, and the new YA piece I began back in November.

Outside of writing, my biggest focus is going to be my health. Achilles tendonitis sucks, and has prevented me from going to the gym, but I've adopted strategies now for managing to go even if I can't walk very much. I'd like to get back in shape, and focus on fitness because it just *feels* better. The fact that this just happens to be around the time when the rest of the world is guilted into it is just luck of the draw.

So that's my goals for the coming year. How about you?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Celebrate! (#WIPmadness check-in, December 23rd)

Happy Christmas Eve Eve, everybody. Sing along!

Holiday parties are fairly ubiquitous, regardless of what folks celebrate this season. It's about the love, the laughter, the food and drink. About spending time with the people you care about. That's what really matters. Writing goals...well, we try our best, but it's important to have fun, too.

Friday I attended no less than three parties, including the giant bash at Academie Duello. Swordplay and wordplay both featured highly, as the evening also served as the official launch for Pulp Literature Magazine, an incredible new market that features several SIWC folks, including Tyner Gilles, C.C. Humphries, Jack Whyte, and J.J. Lee, among others. There were readings and swordfights and a few amusing skits, to boot. J.J. Lee read from The Last Train: a Christmas Ghost Story, which is going to air on CBC radio's On the Coast with Stephen Quinn tomorrow night between 3:30-6PM PST. I absolutely love that two of my worlds mixed. I got to see all of my friends from sword school, especially since I haven't been back in awhile. (Dueling and ankle/knee injuries don't exactly mix.) I also got a chance to visit with some of my SIWC friends.

Then on Saturday Rocko and I had a little party of our own. Nothing wild, just lots of fun and food and conversation. Everyone made it home safely. The best kind of party, in my opinion. On the big day it'll be the usual: vegetarian brunch with my family, then turkey dinner with Rocko's.

And tiger butter. I have made so much tiger butter this season. But really, that's no surprise at all. *grins*

All this, garnished with a big helping of beta reading and PitchWars revisions, is how I'm celebrating this season. How about you?

And speaking of celebrating ... has helped me choose another winner from last week's comments. Shari Green, please contact me!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Surprises (#WIPmadness check-in, December 16)

Look at what I found!

This is definitely the season of surprises. Hopefully nice ones. Small wonders, big delights. It's about the unexpected. But also hopefully about the wonder.

What has surprised you the most this year? Have you made any discoveries about yourself that have lent something to your creative self? To your writing?

For me, the biggest development was that I gained the confidence to put myself forward in a big way. I started querying like mad. I spent a lot of time at this year's SIWC pitching to agents. That meant I didn't take as many notes (and yes, I'll be sharing more soon) but I was able to put myself out there. I memorized my pitch and was able to deliver it confidently. Not glancing down and referring to notes meant a lot because it meant I could respond to questions on the fly, make my pitch a conversation. Having a finished draft and being able to say, "Yes, it's finished" rather than "It needs a bit more work, can I wait to send it to you?" felt like an accomplishment, too.

And that led to me taking other chances. Like participating in #PitchWars. And I was delighted to find out that I'd been named an alternate for author mentor Rin Chupeco!

So, guess where my goals are right now? Yep, working on the thorough and precise feedback I've received. (Well, that plus beta-reading. One of the authors I featured here the week before last has given me the second book in her series to give feedback on, and I'm excited for that!)

Of course, not all surprises are good ones. Yes, there were rejections. (On the positive side, they were personalized, which itself was useful and encouraging.) 

There was also non-writing-related heartache. Still is. There's a useful book I intend to delve into soon, our very own Denise Jaden's WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART. But that's all I really want to say right now. I am, at my core, an incurable optimist and not afraid to self-assess. I have a wonderful and supportive husband, and a lot of good things to be thankful for in my life. For me, at this moment, staying focused on the writing stuff is where I need to be. Well, that and planning for our annual holiday party this weekend. :)

So, how have your goals been going? What have you discovered? And what has surprised you?

Speaking of surprises ... With help from, I drew another name for a surprise gift. Congrats to Carol Garvin!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Self-honesty (#WIPmadness check-in, December 9)

Some mornings, waking up is hard to do. (Aaaand now I've inadvertently given you an earworm! Oops.)

We all have days where we want to just roll over and go back to sleep. Alas, the world is still out there, time still moves forward, and life continues whether we're conscious or not.

The term "self-care" is such a tricky one. It's a term to be honoured, because we all need to take care of ourselves, and we need to be able to recognize when we've pushed ourselves too far, or are about to. But I've also heard the term abused and overused, invoked as an excuse for not taking action.

So the real questions that we have to be able to honestly answer, especially as writers, are these:

How am I doing?

Do I need to step back and regroup, or do I need to press on?

What am I avoiding by not moving forward in this moment? What do I gain?

And being comfortable with your answer, whatever it is, matters the most. Because regardless of the answer, it's okay. In this moment, you are where you need to be. Take a breath. It'll all turn out just fine. :)

Remember, sometimes the answer actually is, "Yes, I really do need this nap."

With that in mind, how are your goals this week? Are you pushing forward or taking a breather? How are you holding up as the holiday crazies threaten?

Now for announcements ...

March (WIP)Madness 2014 may seem ages away, but realistically, it's just over two months from now. Organizer Denise Jaden has sent out the call for volunteer hosts. Interested? E-mail her at d (at) denisejaden (dot) com.

And last week I mentioned a prize. gave me 6 as the winning number, which means Lara Lacombe, please contact me!

Friday, December 6, 2013

"A Constantly Evolving Animal": Faith Hunter, BLACK ARTS, and a Few Notes on Fantasy

Even for a vampire hunter, Jane Yellowrock is fairly unique. A Cherokee Skinwalker (shapeshifter) who, as a child, accidentally merged her soul with a puma's, Jane stalks her prey on both two legs and four. Half the story is told from the mountain cat Beast's perspective, adding a perspective that is at times equal parts humorous and harrowing. And in her very first tale, SKINWALKER, Jane was hired by vampires to rid New Orleans of a threat even they needed help with.

But as readers quickly learned, her story was far from over.

Now, seven books in, Jane's path takes a darkly personal twist when she learns that her best friend Molly has gone missing. Jane and Beast must face a greater menace than ever before.

And as usual, readers won't be disappointed!

I had the chance to chat with the brains behind this wild storyverse and its two driven heroines. You may have seen some of her contributions from my ConCarolinas notes. Faith Hunter not only writes the Jane Yellowrock series, but is one of the creators of, a group writing blog dedicated to the craft from a genre-based perspective. And today, she's here to share a few of her insights. Welcome, Faith!

Laura: What, to your mind, are the core elements of good urban fantasy?

Faith Hunter: Good UF is a constantly evolving animal. It incorporates a good mystery with danger to the main character or people the MC loves. Three are usually a few good fights. And some romance. (nods head) Sometimes some hot romance. But the main thing is that urban fantasy is not just one thing. It is a blend of all the other genres, whipped into intensity.

Laura: What is the most important element in writing fantasy—to you?

FH: I know I’ve said it before, but, voice. Character voice, narrative voice, authorial voice. Think about the sound of a Sam Spade crime / mystery novel versus a Sue Grafton crime / mystery novel. No one would mix up the two. The voices of these mysteries are different, and it’s the voices that set the mood and tone of a book. In the Jane Yellowrock world and series and books and shorts, every single Point Of View character has a unique voice. When I write in Molly Everhart Trueblood’s POV, she thinks and sounds differently from the way that Jane Yellowrock sounds. Rick LaFleur’s voice is more different still. And of course, Beast, well, Beast is a voice that takes unique to new levels.

Laura: You’re one of the founders of Magical Words. Tell us how that came about and what it is, please.

FH: I met David B. Coe / D.B.Jackson (who writes urban fantasy, historical urban fantasy and epic fantasy) and were best friends instantly, totally. It was so instantaneous that it was weird. We wanted to do something together PR-wise and came up with a fantasy writing site that would cover everything. Writing, plot, blocks, muses, characters, character development, good writing chairs, good tea, PR. Everything. I brought Misty Massey (my other best writing pal) in and we 3 fit nicely together. Besties! And was born.

Laura: What do you see as the future of the fantasy genre?

FH: For the last three years, I have taken a shot at this question and this year (once again) I want to change my opinion totally. Urban fantasy is a constantly evolving genre. Now I am seeing more young adult books, more innocent romance in place of erotica, and more genre blending. Much darker stories, with much more innocent characters.

BLACK ARTS is available in stores and online January 7th.

U.S. residents: want to win a copy? Simply leave a comment here to be entered in a random draw for the prize!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

GEORGE KNOWS: Interview with the Basset Hound

Lolcats aside, I don't often get to feature members of the four-legged sort here. But my friend Mindy Mymudes, devoted plantmistress and mother of spaniels, was minding her own business when a basset hound came to her. You see, he wanted to tell her something.

This candid canine just happened to be George, star of the YA Fantasy GEORGE KNOWS, and thanks to Mindy's assistance and the kind folks at MuseItUp Publishing, his tale will be available tomorrow at online vendors everywhere! (The Kindle version released on Monday.)

George is a familiar. Young Karly, greenwitch in training, is his student. And when it falls to them not only have to save their local park, but also solve a murder, it's up to George to take charge—or at least hope that Karly takes the hint.

So with that, I'm very happy to welcome George the Basset Hound to my little corner of the internet!

* * *

Laura: George, as you can probably see from glancing around here, I'm more of a cat person. I don't actually know much about dogs because I've never lived with one. What are your top three tips for humans who are so lucky to have creatures like you in their lives?

George: I’m going to ignore your c*t comment.
A: Feed us more. Most of us can’t reach the cabinets, much less open them. So, share your Peep food with us. You think it’s fun to have the same old kibble everyday? I bet you wouldn’t enjoy Special Krunchies for every meal.
B: Treats are good. Liver brownies are the very best. Do you want the recipe? Auntie Heather makes the best.
C: We like walks. Lots of walks. We know our poo is popular with you Peeps, after all, you collect all special and all in bags. We’re more than glad to provide. You need to make sure we also get lots of chances to sniff poles and trees. That’s where we get our P-mail.

Laura: Tell us more about P-mail and how you use it to communicate with others.

George: It tells us who’s around and what they’re up to. I can tell if a dog is tall, or short, what its eaten, and if a girl is flirting. If they are trying to take over my territory. All the news that fit to pee on.

Laura: What do humans need to pay more attention to?

George: Peeps really need to pay attention to their instincts. They really don’t use their common senses. It’s like they can’t smelltaste bad things, or hear important noises, or find their way out of the bathtub without a dogs help. And Peeps are impossible to train. I’m an excellent familiar and a great teacher, but my Girlpup Karly doesn’t get it sometimes. I figure if I work with her long enough she’ll either get it, or I’ll be old and she’ll have some other familiar to teach her. I don’t give up easily, though.

Laura: You work with a Greenwitch-in-training. What's your biggest challenge in getting her to learn her craft?

George: The biggest challenge? She’s a Peep. Peeps are poorly designed creatures. They have poor balance, can’t run worth a darn, have lousy smelltasting ability, forget there is an above and below, always looking ahead. Should I go on? If it wasn’t for those things called books, they wouldn’t know anything. Where did their instincts go? Good thing they have us dogs. I know my magic, and with Auntie Heather’s help, I can guide Karly to get the right healing plants. And it takes a solid partnership to heal things with them. Even if they don’t deserve to be healed. Like c*ts.

Laura: Who gave you the job of helping Karly? Are dogs the only type of animals that can work with greenwitches, or do other animals play roles, too?

George: I was born a familiar. Auntie Heather found me for Karly. She’s very good at matching familiars with their witches. Auntie Heather’s had a lot of them—right now she has Roquefort. Roque’s okay. For a raccoon. I don’t know what other kinds of familiars she’s partnered with. I think she’s very old. 

Laura: What types of dogs are best for this job?

George: Obviously basset hounds are the best familiars. I am perfectly designed. Four sturdy feet that keep me close to the ground where the scent is strong, long ears to scoop the smelltaste to my face, big paws for digging, and a very intelligent brain filled with amazing instincts. I know everything worth knowing. Or nosing.

Laura: Do you practice any magic yourself, or just help Karly learn how?

George: I AM magic, I don’t need to practice it. Even my drool is magical. Karly has to practice. All the time. If you paid attention to my aura, you’d know just how strong my magic is. I forgive you, you are only human.

Laura: I see. Well, thanks for taking the time to chat, George!

Laura: ...George?

Laura: Oh dear, he left P-mail on the blog tags.

Laura: But now that he's ambled off to other destinations on his digital tour, I have it on good authority that after his next stop today, he might have to reconsider his opinions on, as he calls them, c*ts. Because there's another animal currently prowling cyberspace, and her skills are something fierce—almost as fierce as the one who brought her to life. Tune in tomorrow for a brief writing Q&A from bestselling urban fantasy author Faith Hunter to find out more!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Question: What do you get when you cross Narnia with the Harry Potter series, set it in the Magical version of the United States, and make the main character an insatiably curious twelve-year-old girl?

Answer: Rachel Griffin, of course!

Last year, I was given the opportunity to help beta read this young adult novel by award-winning author of the Prospero's Daughter series L. Jagi Lamplighter, which recently came out in paperback and Kindle. I enjoyed this book immensely, and I can't wait to read the second one.

Today is Rachel Griffin Signal Boost Day, so I'm delighted to help spread the word. Here's the back cover blurb for you to enjoy:

Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts—a school of magic like no other!
Who knew so much could go awry in one week?

Rachel Griffin has one goal. She wants to know everything.

Arriving at Roanoke Academy in the Hudson Highlands, Rachel discovers that her perfect memory has an unexpected side effect. With it, she can see through the enchantment that sorcerers use to hide their secrets.

When someone tries to kill a fellow student, Rachel investigates. She soon discovers that, in the same way her World of the Wise hides from mundane folk, there is another more secret world hiding from the Wise. Rushing forward where others fear to tread, Rachel finds herself beset by wraiths, embarrassing magical pranks, a Raven that brings the doom of worlds, and at least one fire-breathing teacher.

Meanwhile, she’s busy learning magic, making friends and, most importantly, finding romance!

Curiosity might kill a cat, but nothing stops Rachel Griffin!

L. Jagi Lamplighter can be found at her blog, Welcome To Arhyalon, where she shares her writing insights, epiphanies and tips, including All About the Wonder, a heartwarming post on being a mother, and almost as important, on why she writes fantasy.

Check out Rachel Griffin today!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Onward! (WIPmadness Check-In, December 2nd)

For a lot of us, November was a month of crazies simply for one reason: NaNoWriMo. I am still recovering from channeling all that creativity (and insanity).

But when it comes to writing, there is only one thing we can truly embrace, no matter what stage of the process we're in: onward. Perhaps we need to first take a breath, as I did yesterday with the Vancouver NaNo community's TGIO lunch, but when it comes down to it we must keep moving.

So, how was your month last month? How are you progressing with your goals? And what are your plans this month?

Given the season, I've got a very special gift to one lucky participant every week in December. That is, if you or someone you know has a sweet tooth...

Fire away, Wipsters!

Edited to add: Oh, right, I suppose I should add my goals to the mix. For me, I need to let the NaNo sit for some time. And I'm splitting my time on a couple of separate projects, including last year's NaNo which I really *did* need a break from but which I feel ready to get to work on. This is my only non-YA piece, an urban fantasy, and a project that is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. I've got another YA I'm starting work on, and some serious beta-reading planned.

And the best news? This week I get to feature not one but *three* authors with new and upcoming releases, so stay tuned!