The cover is done, the book is coming ... Soon! A new title in the Star Sojourner series by Jean Kilczer, an author I am proud to claim as a friend. If you haven't met her hero, Jules Rammis, you're in for a treat! If you've read her earlier books in this series, you already know that. Jean mixes science fiction action, adventure, danger and humor in a wild ride across worlds, with a good-hearted hero who just can't seem to stay out of trouble. Tangleroot is another winner.
For Day 4 of the Facebook Fantastical Reads Event, I'm featuring an excerpt from R. K. Ryals' Tempest - book 2 in her Scribes of Medeisia series. Enjoy! And ... come visit us on Facebook!
And then I lost my battle with the wind, just remembering to turn my head so that when I fell onto Oran, it was with my cheek, my nose and mouth open and uncovered. It put me eye to eye with Lochlen. His reptilian eyes were dilated, his pupils blackening his gaze.
"It ends soon,” he promised.
His eyes stayed locked on mine, and I concentrated on that. Lochlen, my dragon. I’m not sure when I had started seeing him that way. It was a strange connection I’d felt since I’d first met him at the edge of the Ardus. Not a love at first sight romantic kind of feeling; he was a dragon after all. More of an I need you kind of feeling; a friendship that seemed to start without words.
I was so tired. The wind bore down on us so roughly I felt like I couldn’t breathe. And maybe I couldn’t. There was no room under the fabric for all of us to breathe, no oxygen left. The wind was stealing it all away.
“Just a little longer,” Lochlen yelled, his eyes on mine.
My face was pressed so deeply into Oran’s fur that I could almost smell the forest on him, the hair tickling my nose.
“Don’t let go!” Kye ordered from above me, his voice firm, commanding.
The flat, thick tent was lifting, and I knew the men were losing their battle with the wind.
“Don’t let go!” Kye yelled. “Remember why we came!”
I tried lifting my head, but between the wind, the fabric, and Kye, I couldn’t move at all.
“Can’t breathe!” Daegan panted. “Can’t ...”
“Can’t breathe,” I agreed, my voice a whisper.
No one heard me.
I'm participating in my first-ever actual Event on Facebook! The Fantastical Reads Event starts Feb. 1, continues through Feb. 8 and features giveaways and the opportunity to meet up with a great group of writers. I feel like I'm in stellar company with the likes of M.E. Lord, Elise Stokes, David C. Cassidy ... eight writers in all with an awesome lineup of books.
I'll be giving away free copies of all four of the books in my Portals urban fantasy/detective/light romance series: two copies of Shadow Path, featured on the poster. One copy each of Stormcaller and Deathtalker, books 2 and 3 in the series. And two copies of Sister Hoods, book 4 in the series, released just last fall. In addition, Sister Hoods - which is currently priced at $5.99 - will be available for $4.99 next week.
My hope is that, during the coming week, I'll be able to host some of my fellow-
Fantastical Reads authors here on my blog, and post excerpts from their featured books. If you'd like to see what the event's all about, here's a link: https://www.facebook.com/events/205889079615386/208999475971013/ (At least I hope it will work; as my friends already know, I'm notoriously low-tech and inept about this stuff ...)
But I am hugely jazzed about this event, and it's exciting for me just to be among these folks! So I hope you'll stop by (or find us, if that link doesn't work). Just remember
Feb. 1-8, and check us out!
Here it is! I am soooo excited! The new
cover for the new Sister Hoods!
Have I mentioned how excited I am?
If you've already read the print version of
Sister Hoods, I hope you'll get the ebook, because … well, there are changes. Especially in the relationship between Kat Morales, the human cop, and Tevis, her elf partner.
The ending of the book has changed too. So if you haven't read the print version, I'm hoping you'll get the ebook instead.
I had my fingers crossed when I sent the revised manuscript to my publisher – Studio See Publishing LLC, by the way – but thank
God, she understands me. When I told her I was making changes, she laughed and said, “Okay.”
And … She loves the new Sister Hoods! So do some readers who have already received “sneak previews” of Sister Hoods, the ebook.
A sampling from the book's first three reviews:
“Between the front and back cover, you'll find intrigue, love, and a mix that makes for believable interactions between humans and magical creatures. The logical but surprising conclusion will leave you feeling emotionally full on a feast of fantasy.” - Jean Kilczer
“This is a very enjoyable read with lots of plot twists and surprises. Still, the growth and development of the characters is the best part of the story. This book is fantasy adventure done right!” - Linda Walker
“I am not going to go into great detail, because I do not want to give away any spoilers. One of the things I love about P.L. Blair’s writing is her ability to transport me into her worlds. I am so immersed in the story that at times I have to shake myself to remind me
that I am in this mundane world.” - Ch'kara SilverWolf
My thanks to these three lovely ladies, authors themselves as well as regular reviewers for Amazon, who took time from their own busy schedules to read Sister Hoods in manuscript form.
Ummm … Have I mentioned that I'm excited?
Okay … yes … I am excited. I have the release
date from my publisher for the ebook version Sister Hoods – book 4 in my
Portals urban fantasy/detective/romance series. October 31 – Halloween! I love
A “few” details remain to be completed. My
publisher – Studio See Publishing LLC – is still working on cover art. Fortunately, she's still amused by me calling her every single day to ask, “Is it ready yet?”
I have a very understanding publisher. She
realizes that I am at least borderline OCD as well as weird, and that I am turning into a puddle of anxiety as the release date draws closer …
Heck, she was even okay with me making some significant changes between Sister Hoods, the ebook, and Sister Hoods, the print version – including a new ending … And, by the way, if you've read the print version, I hope you'll get the ebook because it changes
the dynamics a lot between my main characters, human Kat Morales and her elf partner, Tevis.
And – just a hint – here's the blurb from the upcoming Sister Hoods:
A bank robbery in Rockport, Texas, sends Corpus Christi police detective Kat Morales and her elf partner, Tevis, in pursuit of a band of nymphs and satyrs. The answer to their initial question – why nymphs and satyrs would rob a bank – only leads them into a deeper mystery in an enchanted woodland on the South Texas coast. And while he and Kat try to save the woods from an evil wizard and a deadly wyvern, Tevis finds himself engaged in a personal struggle with potentially disastrous consequences: He is deeply,
irrevocably in love with his partner …
So … coming Oct. 31 – Halloween – to a Kindle and Nook near you … Sister Hoods, the ebook.
One of the banes of writing is the dread Writer's Block. That point at which everything in your book comes to a screeching halt while you struggle with the terrifying question:
What Comes Next?
On those occasions when I hit the end of a scene – and find myself wondering where to go from there – I frequently turn to my
villain and ask, “What are you doing?”
Especially in my Portals books – a mix of urban fantasy with police procedural with romance – a lot of the plot is action/reaction. A crime is committed. My main characters, Kat Morales, her elf sidekick Tevis and their allies, step in to investigate. The perpetrator moves on to whatever he/she intends to do next …
For me, knowing what the villain – the antagonist – is doing is as critical as knowing what my protagonists are up to.
You don't have to write scenes from your antagonist's point of view – although I've done that in my more recent Portals books, and it can be a heap o' fun! But … I think … you need to have an idea of what that individual is doing, and whether you can use his/her
actions to bring your protagonists either closer to enlightenment or deeper into a swamp of confusion.
I'm a pantser in my writing style: I get a flash of an image in my head, a bare germ of an idea, and I sit down and start writing chapter 1. But at some point past that first burst of writing energy, I start thinking about the back story. Why has this happened? Who is the perp? I start getting a handle on the villain.
Sometimes that isn't immediately obvious. Sister Hoods, book 4 of my series – soon to be released as an ebook – starts with a bank robbery committed by a band of Nymphs and Satyrs. That leads to the question of why Nymphs and Satyrs would rob a bank …
And that leads to the discovery (yeah, us pantsers have to learn these things the same way as our readers) that the Nymphs and Satyrs aren't, in fact, the villains. They're just trying to save their home …
That brings up the question of who the real villain is, and what he's after …
For me, the plot of a book is a kind of dance, all of the characters revolving around each other in moves that can be as deceptively simple as a waltz, as intricate as a ballet, or a complicated mix of steps that pull first one way, then another. Sometimes the dancers move seemingly independent of each other, but they are always bound to one another,
their position on stage dictated in part by their relationship to the other dancers.
That's what helps me when I get stuck in a plot. What's the villain up to? The answer nearly always leads to new discoveries.
Authors love reviews. It's cool to look on your
book's page on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and discover that somebody's posted a 5-star review. After you've got a couple of books under your author's belt, you realize that even those not-so-glowing 1- or 2-star reviews have some merit. I've purchased more than a couple of books in my time because of bad reviews.
I've found that often, in books and movies, what critics praise … I don't enjoy. And what others have shot down in flames … I've
But most of the books in my libraries, both real and virtual, aren't there because of reviews good or bad. As I look at various
titles, I note that a few are bookstore finds whose covers lured me into reading
the blurbs … others are by authors I'd already fallen in love with … and still others – probably the majority – are ones recommended to me by family or friends.
I think this is how a lot of us decide what our next book purchase will be. Not a review stumbled upon by chance, but …
Somebody asking, “Hey, have you read this new book by …?”
What about you? Do you have books that you bought because a friend or family member – somebody who already knows your reading tastes – said, “I think you'll like this one”? Do you share your book finds with other friends and family?
I have. But lately I don't think I've done enough sharing. I plan on sharing more, especially books by a lot of the independent authors I've met through Kindle and Nook. There are some good ones out there … Sam Kates, T. Jackson King, Lisa Williamson, Linell Jeppsen, L.M. Boelz … to name just a handful of the ones I've come to know and appreciate.
Not all of us are comfortable writing reviews of books we've read. It's easier to tell a friend, or a spouse, a brother or sister, a niece or nephew … “Hey, here's a book I think you'd like.”
Word of mouth has been, and is, one of the best ways for an author to become known. If you've read a good book lately …
Share it. Please.
An author will thank you.
Before the book, before I even knew what the book would be about, there was …
He stood framed in the doorway of my thoughts, a quiet, solemn elf who looked a lot like Illya Kuryakin … slender, blond, with
eyes the blue of glacial lakes.
Then I noticed the woman beside him –
auburn-haired, dark-eyed, just a little shorter than Tevis' five-feet-eight. “I'm Kat Morales,” she said. She flicked a smile. “We're police detectives.”
Ah. Okay, so this would be a story about
police. But not just any police, not when one of them was an elf …
The backstory came to me fairly quickly – over the course of a few hours at most. With Tevis and Kat prodding me, filling in details, I realized that our good old familiar Earth has a … Well, call it a “counterpart,” maybe in another universe, maybe another dimension. Even after all this time, not all the details are known to me.
But anyway, this other world – the Realms of Magic – is home to elves, wizards, pixies, dragons, ogres … all the creatures of our mythologies and folklore, all the beings that we now think of as “make-believe.” It's always been there, separated from our own world by gateways – the Portals that give my series its name. From the beginning of time,
the Portals were open, and in the ancient days, the days of our human ancestors, beings from the Realms could move freely from their world to ours.
Then maybe a thousand or so years ago, wizards – who began to fear continued intermingling of humans and beings of magic – closed the gateways. So humans of later centuries forgot that myths and legends were based on real creatures.
“But in a future not too distant from your present,” Tevis told me, “the Portals have opened again. No one knows why, or how. But the inhabitants of the Realms now have access to your world again. Some of them are returning, bringing their magic with them, and humans are poorly equipped to deal with magic, especially when it is used to commit crimes. Kathryn and I,” a nod to the woman standing beside him, “are called in to investigate crimes that happen when magic is … misused.”
Then they gave me an image … the body of an ogre, recently murdered, and Kat – Tevis is one of the few people who call her “Kathryn” – watching, occasionally taking pictures while her partner examines the corpse.
That's how Shadow Path, the first book in the series, was born. Kat and Tevis have been in charge every step of the way. Initially, for example, I thought the book was going to be kind of forensics-oriented – like the CSI shows on TV, for example.
But Tevis immediately demonstrated the ability of elves – they call themselves Aalfar – to See how someone's died just by touching the corpse.
Well, it's been a useful talent.
It's been an interesting journey so far with Tevis and Kat. Through them, I've met a host of other interesting characters – Harley, their boss with the Corpus Christi, Texas, police department; Arvandus, the wizard who has become Tevis' mentor; the banshee, Maeve, one of The Morrigan's many daughters; Gairth, Arvandus' half-lovetalker nephew …
And that's all just in the first book!
Five books in – three published, two in the works – and Tevis and Kat still have adventures that they're sharing with me. The Portals series could go for a while yet …
And it all started with an elf in a doorway.
How about you, if you're a writer? Do your books start with the characters, or with a story that you want to tell? Please come share.
About the photo: These are new images of Kat and Tevis, recently acquired by Studio See Publishing LLC, publisher of the Portals books.
Do all writers live in two worlds? Even when I'm not writing, I spend a lot of time in the world of my Portals books – that Earth of the not-too-distant future when gateways have opened between our human world and the Realms of Magic, home to all the beings that we've long dismissed as myth and folklore.
Kat Morales and Tevis, the human and elf police detectives in that world, have become like best friends, people I hang out with a lot. So much so that I sometimes feel less writer than chronicler – simply writing down the stories they tell me. It's a beautiful sensation. When I'm in that zone, it's like watching a movie, seeing the events unfolding before my eyes, and I'm the transcriber hurriedly scribbling down what various characters see, smell, feel, taste …
It's a world of wonder – the world that our ancestors knew, where unicorns move silently through shadowed forests, companions to nymphs and satyrs.
It's also a world of danger. Magic is a two-edged sword, potentially as harmful to the
spellcaster as to the spell's intended target. And not all the creatures known to our ancestors were benign. So in the world of the Portals, there are evil Wizards, beings with godlike powers and dark hearts, creatures who consider humans nothing more than lesser beings to be manipulated.
Even nymphs and satyrs have a dark side. Even pixies …
Don't look for Tinker Bell in the world of Portals.
But it's easy to get lost in a different world when you write fantasy or science fiction. How about those who write crime novels or romance set in our existing world? Do you
also live in two worlds, the reality around us, and the world of your books? And … Westerns. I like Westerns too, as a reader – and historical novels. Now
there would be an interesting world to live in – the past of, say, regency England or Medieval Italy.
Or the Old West of Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp …
So … As a writer, where do you spend the most time? In the everyday world, or in the world of your books? Or is it about equal between the two?
And … for that matter … as a reader, where do you like to hang out?
As a reader, I'm drawn to books with characters I can care about. I was pulled into Lord of the Rings – high on my list of all-time favorite trilogies – by the depth of its plot, but what kept me turning page after page was the characters that JRR Tolkien created. Frodo … Sam Gamgee … Aragorn … Legolas and Gimli …
I wanted to know not just “what happens next” but –
What happens next to these characters that I've come to know.
I don't think I'm an atypical reader. I do like the books I read to have some kind of plot. But for me what's important isn't what's happening but …
Who is it happening to? And how does that character react?
As a writer, I am thrilled when readers tell me that they've fallen in love with the characters in my Portals books. Because … I also love my characters, and I get a kind of parental glow when somebody tells me that they like my kids.
That's the key to creating characters your readers will at least care about: You as a writer have to care about them first. Because if you don't … and if that care, that love, doesn't show … Why should I as a reader care what happens to them?
Here's the Prime Directive (with apologies to Star Trek) for creating memorable characters: They are not something to hang a plot on. They are people, with minds and thoughts and lives of their own.
Many years ago, I was reading a short story written by an acquaintance. She had done a reasonable job of creating a believable protagonist – then came a snag. The protagonist (I'll call him “John”) did something so totally out of character it stopped me cold.
I told my friend, “I just can't see John doing this.”
She said, “But I need him to do it, because otherwise, the plot won't work.”
That's fine, I told her, but give him a reason to do it. If you've created an upstanding citizen – but you need him to rob a bank later – then give him motive. Rewrite the character to be a bit less upstanding. Have someone kidnap his wife, his sister, his kids, his beloved dog, and force him to rob the bank on pain of death to whatever he loves. Put him through some mind-altering crisis that changes how he thinks, or renders him incapable of recognizing the difference between right and wrong.
But don't just out-of-the-blue have Mr. Straitlaced and Upstanding wake up one morning and decide to rob a bank. Your readers won't buy it.
As a writer, if I'm to make my characters real to my readers, they have to be real to me. Some writers go so far as to write out complete biographies of their major characters – even down to where, or if, this character went to school, what he/she likes for breakfast, hobbies, games …
I don't go into that much detail, but it's mainly because my approach to writing is one of telling my story to myself as I go along. My characters come to me the same way as my friends and acquaintances in the “real world”: I see them, we shake hands, and I learn more about them as we hang out together.
How you get to know your characters isn't as important, I think, as that you do get to know them. Care about them. Love them. Spend some time with them. If you care about them as a writer, then your readers will care about them too.
Anyway … that's my humble opinion. What do you think?
(By the way, the photo above is the new Kat Morales, Corpus Christi, Texas, police detective and human protagonist in my Portals books.)
Full-time writer of fantasy, sometimes newspaper person, perpetually a highly opinionated broad.