Writers’ Toolbox: Show Off Your Best at the Sandbox

I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it, networking is important! I know you hate it. It’s tedious, frustrating, and it takes practice if you want to get good at it. One of the most important things for struggling networkers is to educate themselves on the different mediums out there.

When someone says network, most people think of the obvious opportunities to gain an audience (blogging, facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc.), and not of the rare, unique opportunities like writers competitions. Today’s find is a monthly genre contest called Show Off Your Best at the Sandbox. It’s a short story contest that probably won’t gain you international recognition, but you will make connections. Even if you only come away from it with one reader, that is one reader that will buy and advertise your product.

Six Sentence Sunday #5

This week’s Six Sentence Sunday is from Let Me Lie.

Brannon would be the one to kill me, of that, I was always certain. What I hadn’t expected was to want it. He strode towards me, covered in Michael’s blood. I stood my ground, ready to face his wrath. His hand came at my face and I flinched, but his touch was gentle.
“I don’t blame you,” he said, “but you should have told me.”

Alpha Male Monday: Emmett Cullen

Emmett Cullen makes alpha look good. Everyone else can fight over Jacob and Edward, but Emmett wins every time with me. He is not a man to do anything halfway. Emmett plays hard, works hard, and by the sound out it (“So it’s still standing? I would’ve thought you two had knocked it to rubble by now. What were you doing last night? Discussing the national debt?”)
he loves hard, too.

Species: Vampire
Occupation: Student (sorta)
Weaknesses: Overestimation of his strength
Special Qualities: SENSE OF HUMOR, Immortal, sexy

Six Sentence Sunday #3

Another six sentences from Let Me Lie.

“What Brannon doesn’t know…” I left the rest unsaid, because we both knew if Brannon ever found out, he’d be really hurt, right before he hurt me. Brannon didn’t take betrayal in any form, and that’s exactly what my existence was to him. A betrayal. I should have never taken that job, should have never let myself that close to him.  Let him get that close to me.

Michael laughed and sauntered towards me. He pushed me against the wall a little too roughly for foreplay, but that was alright. I’d show him rough.

Written Right Wednesdays: Alpha & Omega

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Novellas are so rarely done right. They either have too much going on or not enough. When novella’s go wrong the characters are lifeless, the plot is none existent, and the relationships feel forced. To avoid this, writers must go about writing a short story in the same way they would write a full length novel. There needs to be rising action, climax, and falling action. There should be surprises and originality, not just sex. Sex is good, even in abundant amounts, but not when the sex scenes feel forced and pointless. It must feel relevant to the plot, and natural for the characters to behave in such a manner.

Today, I’m showcasing Patricia Briggs’ novella, Alpha & Omega. Although, this lacks the steamy scenes we all love, it’s a good example of how to pace and plot your novellas. Even though this is a short story it feels complete and realistic (for PRN and UF, anyway).

She drove well, if a little overcautiously — which trait he didn’t mind at all, though it didn’t stop him from bracing one hand against the dash of the rental. She hadn’t said anything when he told her to drive them to her apartment, though he hadn’t missed the dismay she felt.

He could have told her that his father had instructed him to keep her alive if he could — and to do that he had to stick close. He didn’t want to scare her any more than she already was. He could have told her that he had no intention of bedding her — but he tried not to lie. Not even to himself. So he stayed silent.

As she drove down them down the expressway in the rented SUV, his wolf-brother had gone from the killing edge caused by the crowded airplane to a relaxed contentment Charles had never felt before. The two other Omega wolves he’d met in his long lifetime had done something similar to him, but not to this extent.

This must be what it was like to be fully human.

The anger and the hunter’s wariness that the wolf always held was only a faint memory, leaving behind only the determination to take this one to mate — Charles had never felt anything like that either.

She was pretty enough — though he’d like to feed her up and soften the stiff wariness in her shoulders. The wolf wanted to bed her and claim her as his own. Being of a more cautious nature than his wolf, he would wait until he knew her a little better before deciding to court her.

“My apartment isn’t much,” she said in an obvious effort to break the silence. The small rasp in her voice told him that her throat was dry.

She was frightened of him. Being his father’s chosen executioner, he was used to being feared, though he’d never enjoyed it.

He leaned against the door to give her a little more space and looked out at the city lights so she’d feel safe stealing a few glances at him if she wanted to. He’d been quiet, hoping she would get used to him, but he thought now that might have been a mistake.

“Don’t worry,” he told her. “I am not fussy. Whatever you apartment is like, it is doubtless more civilized than the Indian lodge I grew up in.”

“An Indian lodge?”

“I’m a little older than I look,” he said, smiling a little. “Two hundred years ago, an Indian lodge was pretty fancy housing in Montana.” Like most old wolves he didn’t like talking about the past, but, he found he’d do worse than that to set her at ease.

“I’d forgotten you might be older than you look,” she said apologetically. She’d seen the smile, he thought, because the level of her fear dropped appreciably. “There aren’t any older wolves in the pack here.”

“A few,” he disagreed with her as he noted that she said “the pack” not “my pack”. Leo was seventy or eighty, and his wife was a lot older than that — old enough that they should have appreciated the gift of an Omega instead of allowing her to be reduced to this abased child who cringed whenever he looked at her too long. “It can be difficult to tell how old a wolf is. Most of us don’t talk about it. It’s hard enough adjusting without chatting incessantly about the old days.”

She didn’t reply, and he looked for something else they could talk about. Conversation wasn’t his forte, he left that to his father and his brother who both had clever tongues.

“What tribe are you from?” she asked before he found a topic. “I don’t know a lot about the Montana tribes.”

“My mother was Salish,” he said. “Of the Flathead tribe.” She snuck a quick look at his perfectly normal forehead. Ah, he thought, relieved, there was a good story he could tell her. “Do you know how the Flatheads got their name?”

She shook her head. Her face so solemn he was tempted to make something up to tease her. But she didn’t know him well enough for that, so he told her the truth.

“Many of the Indian tribes in the Columbia Basin, mostly other Salish peoples, used to flatten the foreheads of their infants — the Flatheads were among the few tribes that did not.”

“So why are they the ones called Flatheads?” she asked.

“Because the other tribes weren’t trying to alter their foreheads, but to give themselves a peak at the top of their heads. Since the Flatheads did not, the other tribes called us “flat heads”. It wasn’t a compliment.”

The scent of her fear faded further as she followed his story.

“We were the ugly, barbarian cousins, you see.” He laughed. “Ironically, the white trappers misunderstood the name. We were infamous for a long time for a practice we didn’t follow. So the white men, like our cousins, thought we were barbarians.”

“You said your mother was Salish,” she said. “So the Marrok isn’t Native American?”

He shook his head. “Father is a Welshman. He came over and hunted furs in the days of the fur trappers and stayed because he fell in love with the scent of pine and snow.” His father put it just that way. Charles found himself smiling again, a real smile this time and felt her relax further — and his face didn’t hurt at all. He’d have to call his brother, Samuel, and tell him

that he’d finally learned that his face wouldn’t crack if he smiled. All it had taken to teach him was an Omega werewolf.

She turned into an alley and pulled into a small parking lot behind one of the ubiquitous four story brick apartment buildings that filled the older suburbs of this part of town.

“Which city are we in?” he asked.

“Oak Park,” she said. “Home of Frank Lloyd Wright, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Scorci’s.”

“Scorci’s?”

She nodded her head and hopped out of the car. “The best Italian restaurant in Chicago and my current place of employment.”

Ah. That’s why she smelled of garlic.

“So your opinion is unbiased?” He slid out of the car with a feeling of relief. His brother made fun of his dislike of cars since even a bad accident was unlikely to kill him. But Charles wasn’t worried about dying — it was just that cars went too fast. He couldn’t get a feel for land they passed through. And if he felt like dozing a bit as he traveled, they couldn’t follow the trail on their own. He preferred horses.

After he got his suitcase out of the back, Anna locked the car with the key fob. The car honked once, making him jump and he gave the car an irritated look. When he turned back, Anna was staring hard at the ground.

The anger that being in her presence had dissipated surged back full force at the strength of her fear. Someone had really done a number on her.

“Sorry,” she whispered. If she’d been in wolf form she’d have been cowering with her tail tucked beneath her.

“For what?” he asked, unable to banish the rage that sent his voice down an octave. “Because I’m jumpy around cars? Not your fault.”

He was going to have to be careful this time he realized as he tried to pull the wolf back under control. Usually when his father sent him out to deal with trouble, he could do it coldly. But with an Omega wolf around, one that he found himself responding to on several different levels, he was going to have to hold tight to his temper.

“Anna,” he said, fully in control again. “I am my father’s hitman. It is my job as his second. But that doesn’t mean that I take pleasure in it. I am not going to hurt you, my word on it.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, clearly not believing him.

He reminded himself that a man’s word didn’t count for much in this modern day. It helped his control that he scented as much anger on her as fear — she hadn’t been completely broken.

He decided that further attempts to reassure her were likely to do the opposite. She would have to learn to accept that he was a man of his word. In the meantime he would give her something to think about.

“Besides,” he told her gently, “my wolf is more interested in courting you than in asserting his dominance.”

He walked passed her before he smiled at the way her fear and anger had disappeared, replaced by shock . . . and something that might have been the beginning of interest.

Alpha Male Monday: Jericho Barrons

Jericho Barrons is the epitome of alpha male. He is unapologetically strong, intelligent, and demanding. He is who he is. He can’t and won’t change that. As Barrons himself so eloquently put it, “Stop pining for the man you think I could be — and take a good, long, hard look at the one I am.”
Species: Unknown
Occupation: Owns B&B
Weaknesses: Mac (maybe)
Special Qualities: Immortal (seriously immortal), can fuck for days without tiring, fiercely intelligent, and he can do any kind of magic known to mankind.

Six Sentence Sunday #2

This Six Sentence Sunday’s excerpt is from my current WIP, Let Me Lie.

“The logical part of my brain knew he couldn’t scent the vampire in me, but my nerves didn’t know that. My survival instincts had already decided in favor of flight but the predator had zeroed in, and any movement would be a signal that I was up for the chase. Escape was out the question, but I could distract him. He might be were, but he was still a man.

“It’s Burberry,” I whispered, looking up at him through my eyelashes.

His lazy hold became rigid, and he asked me, with no small amount of suspicion, “Burberry?””

Written Right Wednesdays: Darkfever

Since we’ve been on the topic of hooks this week, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorites. The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning is superb, and in my opinion Darkfever has one of the best hooks of all time.  (Click on the quote for a full excerpt of Darkfever)

“My philosophy is pretty simple–any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book.”

Beautiful! There is a reason this book is a bestseller, and it’s Moning’s ability to suck you into the story. Her writing is suspenseful and intriguing. When writing your hooks–scratch that, when writing your entire manuscript, you should incorporate this same atmosphere. Readers want to feel the tension. Make me want to read more. If your first sentence isn’t good enough grab my attention, chances are, neither is the rest of your story. I’m not saying this to be cruel, but you need to realize that first impressions last the longest. Think of Twilight. Why do you think so many people made it through the insanely slow pace of that book? The prologue! It catches your attention.

“I’d never given much thought to how I would die–though I’d had reason enough in the last few months–but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.”

Whether you love or hate Twilight doesn’t change the fact that that’s a good opening line, because it makes the reader curious. Who’s going to die? Why? How? What reasons did the narrator have to think he/she would die?

Your hook should create questions, so that people have a reason to move forward.

Alpha Male Monday: Adam Hauptman

Adam Hauptman is alpha of the Columbia Basin Pack. He has a strict moral code, and a hot-temper. Anyone who knows him knows where he stands on any issue, and how he will react to a threat. Adam is loyal, brave, and a complete control freak.

Species: Werewolf
Occupation: Owns a security company
Weaknesses: His daughter, Jesse, and a hot temper
Special Qualities:immortal, ex-military, raised in the south, and he’s fourth in line to become Marrok (the lead alpha position).

 

 

I am eternally indebted to Patricia Briggs for brings me the Mercy Thompson Series, and if you haven’t read it yet, shame on you! It’s wonderful. Adams great, but Mercy is better. She’s my favorite heroine of all time. She’s not whinny or overly feministic. She has that balance.

Six Sentence Sunday #1

Below are six sentences from my latest work-in-progress, Let Me Lie. I’m still in the process of writing it, but if I’m successful with JulNaWriMo, it will be ready for revision/rewriting by August.

“It only takes one bad decision to ruin a perfectly good future. One minute you’re living life to the fullest, the next, you’re dealing out death just to ensure you take your next breath, because dying is not an option. I’m not talking about the six-feet-under kind of dead. I would welcome that with arms wide open at this point, because the way my life’s going it’ll be the only peace I ever know. It’s the unnatural death I fear. A salvationless eternity of hunger, pain, and loneliness.”

The Blurb

It’s sounds like a bad horror film, and if you’ve ever written you’ve one, then you know that’s not such a bad comparison. Blurbs are hard work. You have to sum up the concept of the plot, introduce the characters, and engage your readers in two paragraphs or less.  It’s enough to make any writer consider a career change. I wish I knew of some secret formula to make writing blurbs easy, but there just isn’t one. The best advice I can give you is to familiarize yourself with as many blurbs as possible. Writing is a “watch and learn” process, so browse your local bookstore and pay close attention to the blurbs. Which ones catch your attention? Why? Which ones didn’t?

A blurb that caught my attention today was Vivian Arend’s Black Gold. It’s short, funny, and intriguing.

Their wolves are howling at the moon. Their human halves are on different planets.

Takhini Wolves, Book 1

Lone wolf Shaun Stevens’s automatic response to the words “happily ever after”? Kill me now. Yet with all his friends settling down he’s begun to think there may actually be something to this love-and-roses crap.

One thing’s for sure: his dream mate will have to out-cuss, out-spit and out-hike him. So he never expected the one to push his forever button would be a blue-blooded Southern debutante with a voice as dark and velvety as her skin.

When Gemmita Jacobs steps off the plane in Whitehorse, Yukon, it’s about more than her caribou research project. It’s her declaration of independence from an overprotected upbringing. Except there’s something in the air she can’t quite define—something that unexpectedly rouses her mating instincts.

Moments after their eyes lock, the deed is done—and done thoroughly. When the pheromone dust settles, though, all the reasons they don’t belong together become painfully clear.

It’s enough to make a wolf learn a whole new set of cuss words…


Product Warnings

Two strong wolves getting exactly what they deserve. Includes wilderness nookie, shifters being naughty in public places, the Midnight Sun as a canopy for seduction and grizzly shifters on the loose. Oh, and don’t forget the sarcasm.

Alpha Male Monday: Callan Lyons

Face it, the alpha male is a dying breed in today’s society. As women have slowly gained rights and respect, it seems men have lost a lot of their inherently dominant qualities. Beta males are on the rise, and whether this is good or bad, I can’t say (Click here for a hilarious opinion of beta males). What I can say with certainty is that the majority heterosexual women are drawn to alpha males (I said alpha males, not assholes), and we can’t get enough of them. While they are few and far between in the real world, in romance there’s an alpha on every corner. This is why romance books sales are on the rise in a declining economy. WE WANT MORE ALPHAS!

Sadly, it doesn’t look like there will be a surge of alphas in the human population anytime soon, but in the meantime, we can console ourselves with fantasies of the perfect alpha male.

Forgive the crappy cover! This is a great read with plenty of smut, and an alpha male to die for.

Callan Lyons serves as the alpha to the feline breed pride, and leader of Sanctuary. He’s loyal and fiercely protective. There isn’t a situation he can’t handle, in or out of bed.

Species: Lion Breed
Occupation: Leader of Sanctuary
Weaknesses: Merinus Tyler, and children
Special Qualities: He has enhanced DNA, military training, his body produces an aphrodisiac, and his dick has a barb that can enhance his mate’s pleasure.

Everlong

The most damaged heart can fly with the right pair of wings.

Madelyn’s life is far from fairytale perfect. She is second in line for the throne of a corrupt, brutal monarchy. Or at least she was until her dark guardian sacrificed his life to hide her safely in a realm of infinite possibilities.

For years she’s lived among a colony of escaped slaves as her guardian’s widow. Even in this simple life, though, nothing is as it seems. Her hero kept a secret—a younger brother named Clayton Delaney. Warrior, winged demon…and the man who now wants to lay claim to her heart.

No longer cast in his brother’s shadow, Clayton meets all obstacles head on, including one named Maddie. His infatuation with her reaches the breaking point when she undergoes a royal rite of passage, going into heat and pushing them both over the edge.

Just as Maddie learns that some risks are worth taking, she discovers that her guardian may be alive. And she’s forced to make a choice between the man she’d thought she loved, and the demon willing to lend her his wings.


Product Warnings

This book contains virginal angst, a hero who’s too nice for his own good, wings, claws, and convenient use of glamour. It contains heartbreaking loss, conversation with a woodland creature, and sweet, sweet demon loving.

I had the pleasure of beta reading Hailey Edward’s Everlong, last year and I was very impressed with it. Hailey is an amazing writer and I can’t shout enough praises for this book–and I read the draft! I just placed my ordered for a paperback copy, and I plan to reread it this month. If you’re in the mood for a sweet romance that is both suspenseful and satisfying, then you should grab a copy, too.