Friday, 30 March 2012

Update - new series!

It's early days, but it looks like the first story in a series of paranormal romances will be accepted by Total-e-Bound, either as a standalone or as part of an anthology.

Last October, as a research exercise (and as readers of my blog may remember) I went on a paranormal investigation with a friend. It was organised by a paranormal events team whose name I won't reveal, nor will I say where it was except that it was a former stately home, now museum, in Yorkshire. We did a quick walk-through and then were split into teams to carry out various exercises in different rooms, hoping to receive a ghostly response.

My team had a medium present who had apparently been on "Most Haunted", although I'll just say that I'd never heard of him. He led us in several rounds of calling out ("If there's anyone there, could you move something, make a noise, knock on something?") with very little effect, apart from the odd bang on a pipe which could have been anything. So far, so unimpressive. It didn't help that the heating had been turned up to full for some reason, so I was absolutely melting in my heavy sweater and couldn't take it off without being left in just a bra.

We then did some table-tipping, which I admit I have always been very sceptical of. A group of four girls (who were obviously friends) rested their fingertips on the table and sat for a long time, trying to coax a ghost into moving it for them. What happened next is open to conjecture. The table shuffled across the carpet in a disjointed diagonal movement.

I don't claim to know for sure exactly how that happened. I can only say that, if it was faked, all four of them must have been in on it to get that particular movement. If one alone had pushed, the table would have fallen over. I will also add that, after a while, two of the girls swapped with me and another guest, and the table refused to move with us on it.

From there we moved into a bedroom, where we tried some more calling out and then some work with a glass, none of which elicited any responses. We compared notes with the other group as we passed them on our way to the final location and found that they hadn't got anything either. Traipsing downstairs into the kitchen, my hopes for paranormal activity were not exactly high.

I'll bypass the "human pendulum" routine we went through, involving us standing in a circle and one of us being pushed around by a spirit, since frankly I found it unconvincing. There was, however, a moment on the ouija board which was worth mentioning, even though it involved the aforementioned group of table-tipping girls and therefore could have been faked.

"Can you move the planchette to the first letter of your name?" It moved to NO.

"Are you attached to this house?" NO.

"Are you connected to one of us?" NO.

"Would you like us to leave?" YES.

There you are. I can now say I've been told to piss off by a ghost. I suppose if people came into my house and started asking me questions I might get a bit annoyed too.

So that was the investigation, and from there came the story, following a team of paranormal investigators with a heroine who, in the beginning, is stuck in a relationship with the team medium but secretly longing for one of her teammates.

As I said, it's early days. I should know more next week - will keep you all updated!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Guest Post - The Strong Female

Please enjoy this guest post by Sheryl Steines, author of the urban fantasy novel, The Day of First Sun. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

The Strong Female

I am always amazed to hear that, in the year 2012, women are still talking about strong female characters. It’s funny that we’re always surprised when one comes along. Even in Hollywood, actresses still can’t find roles to sink their teeth into. As a reader, I look for characters that I can relate to in some way; a character who is more than a damsel in distress but less than an unfeeling, mean, witch. I’m putting it gently, but I’m looking for someone, who when facing a problem, doesn’t necessarily need a man to bail her out--a woman who can take care of herself in spite of her vulnerabilities. Because in reality, women are multi-layered and complex. We don’t fall to one end of an extreme or the other.

When I was younger, I started reading Danielle Steele, but I couldn't read her for long. Her female characters were far too needy and always put themselves in a position of requiring a savior. Even as a child, I couldn't help but wonder why these characters always needed a man to improve their lives. Why couldn’t they simply take care of themselves? It seemed as though female characters fell into two camps, and only two. They were either villains, witches, someone to be hated and despised, or they were weak, pathetic, your classic damsels in distress. Why is fiction lacking real women, women who can simply be human and celebrate all that they are?

As I got older, I found myself drawn to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I saw in Buffy a strong character. Yes, she could kick ass, kill the vampires and fight the demons. She also had a brain, could plan, and could save the world each week. But she wasn't uni-dimensional. She also has a side that liked clothes, shoes and boys, a side that was feminine, a little vulnerable; a side that, okay, sometimes needed to be saved. She was a complex female character, real and human, a character with whom I could definitely relate.

The strong female character isn’t a caricature or stereotype. She’s not a total wimp like Snow White, and she’s not a total monster like the evil queen. She falls somewhere in the middle. She’s reactive, emotional, human, sexual, confident and sometimes unsure of herself.

When I originally wrote my character Annie Pearce in The Day of First Sun, I wrote her as a no-nonsense person, strong and smart, the girl who could survive on her own. But she didn’t feel genuine. As the story unfolded and changed, I rewrote her, gave her friends and family with whom she could interact. I gave her feelings, gave her stress. I let the other characters take charge once in awhile and offer some support. I melded two halves into one woman--a strong woman, who can take care of herself and ask for help when necessary. We’re not perfect, so why should our characters be? Instead, why can’t we make them simply authentic?

Charlize Theron made a really compelling comment regarding her character in the movie Young Adult. She said, "Women are usually either really good prostitutes or really good mothers. Maybe women are finally getting the chance to play more honest characters," Theron said. "We usually don't get to play bad hookers or bad mothers -- or anything in between."

Maybe it’s time to be a little more real and a little more honest.

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Day of First Sun eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of The Day of First Sun for just 99 cents
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About the book: A vampire, a rogue wizard and an army of soulless zombies are par for the course for Annie Pearce and Bobby “Cham” Chamsky of the Wizard’s Guard. But when the non-magical princess, Amelie of Amborix, is murdered by magical means, a deeper plot unfolds. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Behind the wheel of her ’66 Mustang Convertible, Sheryl is a constant surprise, using her sense of humor and relatable style make her books something everyone can enjoy. Visit Sheryl on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Eroticon 2012 - fun and frolics in Bristol

Last weekend, after months of nerves, I attended my very first conference as a published writer – Eroticon 2012, the first conference for erotic writers and sex bloggers.

I drove down to Bristol the day before, since the thought of driving for four hours first thing in the morning was enough to give me hives. As it was, I had to pull over twice for a catnap, the second time after I nearly slid under a lorry, so frankly I was grateful to be there in one piece. Thanks to the miracle of satnavs, I made it to the Premier Inn easily and spent the night serving as proof positive of their Good Night Guarantee. :)

I can honestly say that, even though I knew precisely nobody, I felt welcome from the moment I arrived at the conference venue. I had been worried about what I would wear for some time – should I go daring, artistic, professional? Fortunately, the array of different outfits that surrounded me, ranging from corsets and stockings to T-shirts and jeans, meant that nobody had the chance to feel uncomfortable, and in a room full of erotic writers and bloggers it was clear from the start that everyone was completely comfortable in their own skin.

I joined Liz Simpson and Jennifer Denys for the first workshop, which was “Identity, Ethics and Sex Blogging”. Mina Lamieux, Molly Moore, Lori Smith and Zoe Margolis led us in a fascinating session on the implications of sex blogging both for the blogger and those they blog about, something that has often crossed my mind when writing for Erotic Diaries.

I then headed upstairs to “Taking Your Writing Beyond the Page”. Scarlet French led us through an unusual session on mindful eroticism and collaboration with sex practitioners, opening with five minutes of deep breathing which left me relaxed and ready to sink into my chair.

Next was “Convincing Queer”, where Aisling Weaver and Josephine Myles showed us how to write beyond our experience, something I’ve done several times (much to my husband’s chagrin when it came to writing threesomes). I wasn’t one of those blindfolded or tied up, but as I was sitting at the front I was quite glad Aisling didn’t pick me to demonstrate the flogger!

The afternoon Publishers’ Panel (Hazel Cushion, Maxim Jakubowski, Monique Roffey, Richard Eadie and Paul Andrews) was my last session, as unfortunately I had to drive another four hours back home. Topics discussed included the recent PayPal censorship debate, which fortunately hadn’t affected any of the publishers too badly, although Hazel Cushion of Xcite noted that a novel involving a threesome with twins had been pulled. Someone also asked what kinds of stories publishers wanted, and all were in agreement that good, well-written stories were always welcome, preferably with a new twist – although Hazel Cushion provided more specific requests: no stories involving a married couple pretending to be having an affair, and more Victorian spanking!

All in all it was a great day – apart from those already mentioned I got to meet Lady Cave, Lucy Felthouse and Victoria Blisse, and still managed to arrive home with time to mess around with the goody bag we were given and not collapse from exhaustion. Roll on Eroticon 2013!