Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Freeing the Witch

Happy Friday the Thirteenth, Everyone. I know I’m having a good day because I get to announce the official release of Heart of the Mountain 2: Freeing the Witch just in time for Halloween!

Easily the hardest to write and probably the best of the romance novels I’ve written, Freeing the Witch is about Emaula a sweet, shy witch who is trapped by her psychopathic mother who is slowly eating her soul and has cursed her to be poisonous to the touch. She is saved by her friend Jasprite (heroine of Hiring the Tiger) and whisked to the jungle mountains of the south where she meets the effortlessly charming Porter, a wolf she immediately falls in love with but can never touch.
The wolf-pack is deeply suspicious of witches, and Emaula’s curse makes her particularly distrustful, so Porter finds himself for the first time ever disagreeing with his pack. He loves Emaula and he knows she wants him, what he can’t understand is why she’s so hesitant about it. And even if he could get her to admit her feelings, and smooth over the tensions with the wolf pack, there’s still that evil mother to contend with.

Starting today, you can find it online at Evernight Publishing: here.

Or on Smashwords: here.

Emaula and Porter’s love story has been particularly weird for me to write because it’s so sweet (my roommates have been listening to me complain for months about how hard it is for two shy people to fall in love). Generally my characters are as much in competition with each other as they are with the outside world; this is the first time I’ve really tackled a romance between not just one shy person, but two.

Porter and Emaula both have a lot of growing to do before they can acknowledge their own worth and fight for their mutual love.
But that’s also the reason this is one of my favorite stories. Their happy ending, because of course there’s a happy ending, is sooo earned.
So pleased to finally share this with the world.
I hope you guys enjoy Freeing the Witch.

Three Lessons From The Brooklyn Writers’ Workshop

So last weekend I went to Brooklyn’s Writer Conference and I learned a lot about how to start a novel, what YA is (according to one agent) and especially how to pitch to an agent. I’ll be writing about those other two topics later on, but this pitching thing is tough. I got a request for a partial and two and a half requests to send first chapters (I’ll explain the “and a half” below), so fairly successful. I wanted to get my notes on it out into the world so that I could reference them myself the next time I pitch.

It boils down to three things: Tell a Story, Know Your Audience, and Be Human and Professional

Be Human and Professional

I had meetings with four agents and the first one was late to our pitch. I was terrifically nervous, so in a way it was good because I had a moment to sit and feel in control of the space. This also gave me the opportunity to eavesdrop on the other writers pitching.

Oh, we are awkward, nervous people.

I heard a lot of rehearsed and lifeless pitches, and it reminded me of watching middle-school students suffer through their first presentations. The same advice teachers gave you then, counts now. Don’t recite your notes by rote. Smile. Make eye contact.

Now, I’ve got a leg-up on other authors in this way. My day job is as a teacher and tour guide, so while I am the strong, silent, prefer-to-sit-under-the-stairs-and-take-notes-on-mere-mortals type, I’ve learned to command a conversation and talk naturally.

There’s a ton of resources on how to speak confidently at job interviews and in business meetings, but I think the best thing to do treat the agent like a person. They are not a genie who will grant you a best-seller if you rub them the right way (please don’t rub the agents). So, get out of the straight-jacket of a rehearsed monologue.

I can’t believe this is advice we need to hear, but I saw this three or four times (mostly men pitching fantasy to women): don’t argue with an agent during a pitch. I don’t care if she just said that the only good fantasy is about sparkly vampires or you will never sell your book. Bottle your pride, your rage, your contrarian nature and be professional. That agent wasn’t for you; don’t go off on her and make an enemy out of all the other agents in the room.

It helps me to start the conversation with something besides the business (since the temperature was wildly fluctuating at the conference I opened with the weather. Terrible idea in writer, awesome advice for small talk.) Then lead into my name and credentials.

Tell a Story

With one of the agents, I got detoured from my pitch and we went down a rabbit hole about the world. I got so carried away explaining the history of the world, how magic functioned, how it was based off the people in the area I was raised, that I never got around to telling her about the main characters’ stories. Not until she asked me, “what are the stakes? What’s the germ of the story?” I got lucky that she brought us back to that, because the details of my world weren’t enough to sell her on the pitch.

I applied her advice (leading with a log line that I had buried deeper in my pitch) and it lead me to my most successful pitch. I went into charming storyteller mode and told my novel the way I talk about movies and pieces of art. I hit all the marks professionally but entertainingly and it engaged the agent enough to ask for a full partial. We also finished early so I got to talk about my sales as a romance writer, my other work and ideas, and how the market might respond to such a book.

Know Your Audience

A.K.A.: do your fucking research. When I signed up for the conference, I remember choosing one agent who only represented fantasy and thinking she’d be a great fit not for the novel I’d be pitching to everyone else, but for a separate project I’d just finished. So, I signed on for her and thought in my hubris I would prepare a second pitch just for her.

I forgot.

I cannot explain how embarrassing it was to sit down with an agent and have her listen to me pitch a YA fantasy/sci-fi romance and then immediately explain she doesn’t represent sci-fi. It’s especially bad, when you’ve paid for the pitch session. But this is good advice for an email query too. When an agent reads queries, she is working for free, so not researching wastes her time and more importantly your rejection threshold. There you are agonizing for two days, two weeks, two months anticipating feedback and she deleted your email because you didn’t respect her guidelines.

When things went south, I was able to roll with it. I apologized for the misunderstanding and asked how I could improve my pitch and what advice she had (you know besides, doing my fucking research).

Towards the end of our conversation, I thought she was throwing me a bone when she gave me the name of another agent at her company who might fit the work. I almost didn’t write the name down, since I figured it was a pity gesture. But I’m glad I did, because she was right; that other agent would be a really good fit for my book. Because I acted like an adult and didn’t collapse completely under my own humiliation and despair, I have a personal introduction to an agent who has represented a lot of very lengthy books that have sold well. Which is like… half a point, right?

On the other hand, I knew one of the agents dislikes The Fae, so when I referred to my world I was able to speak to that by calling it a kind of post-industrial fairyland, but you know without the fairies. And that really interested him.

So, know the agent, be a kind professional, and tell a story. Pitching is hard; but it’s a necessary step in an author’s career. You can’t level up until you master it.

Steampunk: How to Feed People Underground?

So this is less to do with Steampunk in general and more to do with my story in specific. One of the primary images I was working with was a huge number of people trapped underneath another city. And one of the main problems was figuring out how they were still around after being effectively buried alive.

I turned to science for my fiction and let me tell you, the future is coming fast and it’s actually rather encouraging for those of us afraid of climate change.

Aerofarms is a real company in New Jersey; they grow salad in a warehouse.

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Aerofarms

Obviously, this is hugely important stuff. The technology they use allows them to produce huge amounts of crops without soil or sunlight (aka land in New York); their website can tell you better than I could about the technology they use and how it gives reliable crops with better growing seasons using less water, and all that other really cool, hippy crap.

I’ve eaten the salad and it’s as good as salad is ever going to be for me (I’m a pizza and burger person). I think this is an awesome company and it needs all kinds of support.

However.

I grew up in farm country and I’ve worked in warehouses. So that image above is hugely jarring to me. There’s something so out-of-place about plants growing indoors that I immediately started thinking about science-fiction Dystopias. Of course, this is closer to a Utopia because more food, produced with less waste and cheaper, is the stuff of a good society.  It feels strange to us now, but this is the way we will be fed in the future, at least those of us who eat salads.

Personally, I will be eating this:

 

Clean meat, grown in a lab, with no harm to animals.

Honestly, I’d totally eat that. It looks like raw hamburger meat and I bet it tastes the same. Once they make it cheap and shape it like nuggets, I’ll never kill an animal again.


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

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Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk: How does Clockwork…Work?

While I was writing The Scribbling Windhund, I made the inventor/terrorist very aware and a little embarrassed when he started going into technical details, so he’d cut himself short and not over explain science that I couldn’t explain. However, I do know a thing or two about clockwork mechanisms and if you’re interested, I’m going to indulge.

One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was take apart my older sister’s wind-up music box collection and clean the insides. Partly it was fun because she couldn’t put them back together and it terrified her to see her beloved music boxes in pieces, but mostly I enjoyed it because it let me pretend to be an inventor.

I’d have my tweezers, a little copper bowl of Brasso, some q-tips, rubbing alcohol (which was absolutely not necessary and probably shouldn’t have been mixed with other chemicals), and a tiny screwdriver. Then I’d set to work dismantling the movement.

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This is a “movement.” Clockwork speech for the shit inside.

The way these music boxes work is really painfully simple and extraordinarily beautiful. The round part in the upper left of the image is either called the main spring or the spiral spring. If you take it out of the case (and be very careful you don’t hurt yourself when you do), you’ll be holding a flat band of metal wound very tightly. That’s were the energy of winding the music box comes from and the longer and thinner the wire was the longer the box would play (the shorter and thicker the faster it would play). This is basically the battery of the mechanism. After you put in the energy turning the key to the music box, it tightens the spring. This is slowly unleashed and turn the wheels, gears, and eventually causes the revolving cylinder to turn. The raised bumps hit the tuned teeth of a steel comb (or lamellae) and “Music of the Night” or “Romeo and Juliet” begins to play.

I’d take great delight in carefully unscrewing the comb, and dismantling the gears, cleaning them of the little bits of dust and hair that somehow got into the device. I’d talk to myself pretending to either be inventing the thing for the first time, or defusing a bomb, or discovering a piece of old technology lost to the ages.

And of course, I’d reassemble it by the time my parents came to yell at me for messing with my sister’s toys.  They’d find nothing except a perfectly functional music box and the strong scent of rubbing alcohol and Brasso in her bedroom.

The only time I ever really got in trouble was when I took to un-making my Great Uncle Wes’ pendulum clock. The piece was much more complicated, with a lot more small moving parts (pinions, the escapement, the damned pendulum, a chiming train, and a movement train) and after I’d taken it apart I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to put it back together before someone caught me.

In the end, I stole the clock and all it’s parts and hid in the clean field (which was actually a very dirty hill) next to my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I can vividly remember skidding down the rocks and past the snake burrows to hide among the staghorn sumac. I spent the rest of the day figuring out those gears and wheels and pinions, watching the sunlight cutting through the leaves and the bars growing longer and longer as I ran out of time.

I was particularly frustrated when I realized I had put the hour hand where the minute hand needed to be and I had to take it all apart and reassemble it again.

I was there for about four hours, lying among the rocks and the grass on my belly trying to piece the thing back together. In the end, I couldn’t figure out the chiming mechanism (I suspect I lost some pieces on my flight to the field).

I don’t know if my Uncle Wes ever figured out exactly why the clock stopped chiming, but I know whenever my Aunt Annie would remark on how he ought to go and get it fixed he would just shrug and cast me a wry little smile.

It was like this clock, but not as ornate:


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

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Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Cover Reveal!

Once again, I got so interested in Steampunk that I forgot to announce my new release!  It’s another anthology story called “Tortured Heart” and it will appear in Denying the Alpha.

Which looks something like this:

 

 

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I love these anthologies because they always get me to write something new and interesting. I keep returning to the same world of shifters so this is similar to “The Scarf” and Hiring the Tiger. “Tortured Heart” tells the story about a crow shifter who has fought hard to rise to steward of his witch’s household only to fall in love with a rival witch’s wolf.

The release date and teasers soon!

 

The Scribbling Windhund: available at The Fantasist

The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, one of them is mine!

The Scribbling Windhund

Way back in the spring-time, I finished this novella just in time to send it into a Steampunk themed issue of The Fantasist. I didn’t have particularly high hopes; since I wasn’t sure a futuristic version of colonial-era Prussia about the impact of climate change, with very dark moral undertones narrated by a mechanical dog counted as steam-punk. I’m not really sure what Steampunk is. I know it when I see it… sorta.

The guest editor, Megan O’Keefe, was open to a wide interpretation of steampunk and my little love story managed to sneak into The Fantasist. In order to celebrate, I thought I’d bring you an exploration of Steam-punk.

I’m going to be showcasing the Steam-punk that inspired my story. There’s going to be music, movies, artwork, and more than a few author interviews.


Also you can find my steampunk story, The Scribbling Windhund, here.

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Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

The Promised Land: Make it a Reality.

No, I’m not having a come-to-Jesus moment. The Promised Land is a post-apocalyptic play about climate change, terrifying family dynamics, and dictator/farmers.

This play, written and directed by my husband, is Dunvegan Production’s first show and we’re trying to bring it to audiences in New York City. If we raise enough money on Kickstarter, we’ll be able to perform the play in an Off-Broadway theatre. We have a script (which is a gift if you donate), we have a cast (which you can’t have even if you donate), and big plans for The Promised Land.

Here’s the pitch!

 

If you can help us out with a dollar or with a share, we’d appreciate it.

For cast interviews, photos, and other suchness, Like Dunvegans’ facebook.

To learn more about the kickstarter and to donate, Click here.

 

Katherine Wyvern’s LGBT tales series features… me!

Fellow Evernight Author and erotic rambler, Kathertin Wyvern was kind enough to let me talk about my first two novels and how my sexual fantasies were forever changed by watching “Miller’s Crossing.”

I realized what I wanted most was not graphic descriptions of the great sex I was not having as a teenager (though I wanted that in spades), but the wholeness of the gay character. In the Cohen Brothers’ film, the love triangle between three men is integral to the plot, yet they stand out not as gays who happened to be gangsters, but as gangsters who happened to be gay. They are sexual characters defined by things outside their sexuality.
I started writing those stories.

 

Click the picture for the full interview!

 

Visit my Website for all the blurbs, excerpts and news!!

 

Cover Reveal

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There it is! The future home of Sunshine and Snakes. I’m in such good company. As always I’m more excited to have this book in my hands so I can read the other stories!

No release date yet. But I’m thinking it will be out by Christmas.

 

Blurb

Meet the hardcore heroes of LAWLESS! They’re fearless, dangerous, big on revenge, and defiantly walk on the wrong side of the law. Although their morals may be compromised, their loyalty to that one man is never in question. 

 

Our five hand-picked novellas are dark, dirty, and will make you see bad boys in a whole new light. From bikers to hitmen, these dangerous men won’t be satisfied until they have everything they came for—until they have him.