Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Makes Mountain Lions Awesome?

I think anyone who reads paranormal romance loves a good shifter book. For Andromeda's Fall, the first book in my upcoming Shadowcat Nation series, I decided to feature mountain lion shifters. Mountain lions are gorgeous animals, very powerful and mysterious, and frequently spotted where I live in Northern California. I find them fascinating.

I'll admit that I lucked out when starting my research for Andromeda's Fall. A friend of mine is a bit of an expert on these incredible creatures. He gave me quite a bit of information, which I then supplemented with my own research. Many of the unique qualities mountain lions exhibit directly influenced how I ended up building the entire Shadowcat Nation world.

Below are just are a few examples of what I found interesting and how I applied these facts to the series:

Mountain lions are very much loners. Unlike African lions, they do not live in prides or any type of societal groupings. They may come together to mate, but, otherwise, they avoid each other. In fact, mountain lions encountering each other in the wild will fight, often to the death. It's not unusual to see a cougar missing an ear, more often than not from fighting with their own kind. Mothers do raise their kittens for 1-2 years.

Shadowcat Nation: This aspect of mountain lions' natures caused me some issues in that I needed my shifters to interact. In the series, disappearing natural environments (due to the same causes that are true today) are causing group-based shifters (like African lions and wolves) to attack the loners in order to gain their territories. Mountain lions must band together against the threat, creating the Shadowcat Nation. But their loner natures make for a tense situation. In addition, this new societal setup is relatively new, so they are still figuring out how it works.

Large Territorial Range
Mountain lions have the largest range of any mammal in the western hemisphere (excluding humans). They are found in areas stretching from Canada to Argentina. They used to roam all of the US, but humans have driven them out of the eastern areas and they are now only found in Western US and Florida. With such a large range, they thrive in multiple types of habitats - mountains, forests, swamps, high deserts, snow. Not only that, but cougars travel a larger distance than any other types of large cats. They can have territories that span as little as 10 square miles (which is more rare) and as much as 370 square miles. Most need at least 30 square miles

Shadowcat Nation: I decided to divide the Shadowcat Nation into 10 pride-like groups and name them Dares (after a little side research on naming animal groups). I made the Dares of the Shadowcat Nation spread out over the wild cats' natural range. Each Dare then has its own Alpha, its own enemies, and therefore its own focuses and needs.

Not Monogamous
Mountain lions don't mate for life. In fact, they only mate during the season; otherwise, all bets are off and they're more likely to fight.

Shadowcat Nation: I did keep this aspect of their wild nature. They might mate randomly and not for long. But I added some of their human nature in there as a competing impulse/imperative by giving some of them a desire to find a partner in life. In addition, I added a mystical kicker in the form of Fated Mates. A Seer will inform the pair if they are destined to mate for life.

A couple of other small facts that I thought were cool.... Cougars don't roar. They scream and purr or make a few other quieter sounds. More often than not, they're silent, even when fighting. They often attack from behind, and they are incredible fighters. Check out this video from YouTube of a mountain lion protecting her kitten from a bear.

I hope you enjoyed this walk down research lane as much as I did when going through it. Two of the more interesting websites I found were National Geographic and Defenders of Wildlife.

I can't tell you how glad I am that I took the time to research mountain lions before starting to write. Otherwise, my shifters would have been more like African lions, which they are not. Not only that, but I learned that research can lead to some great ideas in terms of world building and character interaction.

Look for Andromeda's Fall, the first book of the Shadowcat Nation series, to be released by The Wild Rose Press at a date TBD!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Hills of Texas

I am now about 75% finished with my first contemporary romance. Hooray! Wait... what?!?! I thought I was writing a ghost story?

But no. This book has really decided to stay contemporary after going back and forth a bit. I have enough plot from the contemporary that there was too much going on with the ghosts in there too. Also, as I wrote, the contemporary started taking over. I'd write for a while and realize I had forgotten to add the ghost stuff in. Oops!

So instead of ghosts (which I'll still do later, but in a different way) you guys will be getting contemporary cowboy (hopefully by December). I'm renaming the series "The Hills of Texas."

I should have the first draft done by the end of this week (fingers crossed). I'll do some editing for several weeks and then its off to Wendy!

Here's a peek into the story line.

Morgan Lansing has been on her own for a long time. Now she is building her place in the small Texas town of Las Colinas and the surrounding counties of ranches as the new large animal vet in town.

Cash Butler works hard balancing his role as Sheriff of Las Colinas County with the role as a single father to his five-year-old daughter Eva.

With a little help from Cash's well-meaning, but slightly meddling family, Morgan and Cash start to develop a friendship that could grow into much more. Except for one thing...

Morgan hasn't told Cash yet that she was once his wife's college roommate and friend. And Cash's unexplained bitterness toward his deceased wife means that when she does tell him the truth, she could lose him forever.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cover Art Adventure

I've mentioned in previous posts that I plan to start doing my own book covers. I had planned to start with Sarai's Fortune. I designed three covers for the book and was going to do a cover vote this month.

Then Andromeda's Fall and the Shadowcat Nation series were contracted by The Wild Rose Press (which is awesome!!!!). However, this also means that I no longer have a use for these three covers. In addition, I tend to make multiple versions of each new cover I do (I like to have a selection - even from myself). So I will likely have more covers I don't need as I continue along.

Consequently, I've decided to add a section to my website with any of my personally unused book cover ideas for sale as pre-made covers (changed slightly to add variety). Check out the new Cover Art section of my website which includes Covers For Sale, How to Order, and a Portfolio of sold/published covers (including my own).

Incidentally, below are the 3 covers I had originally created for Sarai's Fortune. Out of curiosity... which do you like best?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Workshops Resolution... Check

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to continue to improve my writing through various workshops. We're a little over 1/2 way through 2014, and I've taken nine workshops so far this year - one or two each month.

I have tried for a mix of topics from various sources. All of them have been online. And I've gained at least one thing from every single one that I've applied to my writing. In many cases, I gained many tips and ideas. For the curious, here are the courses I've done so far:

  • Mastering the Key Moments in Your Story (Writer's Digest)
  • Writing Paranormal/Fantasy (Writer's Digest)
  • Writing Romance & Women's Fiction (Writer's Digest)
  • Making Characters Come Alive (Writer's Digest)
  • Book in a Month (Candace Havens)
  • Cowboy Workshop by Lori Wilde (Writer's Digest)
  • Ghosts by Eilis Flynn & Jacquie Rogers (Via RWA Online Chapter Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal)
  • Humor Workshop by Ally Broadfield (Via Candace Havens's Group)

I can categorically state that my writing has improved. Here's why...

Even if I didn't apply every little bit, there were always brilliant nuggets I could take away and apply to my writing. Some resulted in a complete methodology shift. Some were more informational to help writers out with research-related issues/questions or get them started. Some where "how to write" type classes. Some were hands-on git-er-done type classes.

Two were the best timed workshops I could ask for. I started my ghost paranormal romance set in small town Texas in June. The Cowboy workshop came along in June, and Ghosts hit in July. Perfect right?!?! Providence.

I have a bunch of other workshops I plan to take this year. Mostly RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter workshops. I'm looking forward to each and every one. I would recommend taking these types of classes to any writers out there. Like I said, you can always find something to apply to your own personal style and preferences. Just get ready to take a lot of notes, and plan to revisit them frequently to refresh yourself.

I feel can definitely check off this particular resolution as complete. (Losing 10 pounds, not so much.).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Black Orchid Excerpt - Nate

Black Orchid, the fourth and final book of the Svatura series, is available in eBook and print...


Nate sat on the dusty ground and leaned his back against the trunk of a tree as he stared at the house through the brambles and bushes. Then he heaved a sigh and popped another piece of chocolate into his mouth and tried not to gag. Something was seriously wrong with this candy. He normally loved M&Ms, but every bite seemed tasteless and mealy in his mouth. Although, come to think of it, so had most of his food lately.
Nate sighed again, fidgeting with the strap on his backpack. He’d always had too much energy to sit still for long, so hanging around waiting was not his idea of fun.
Come on….Where are you?
He’d spent the last four days keeping an eye on the small house where Adelaide was supposedly hiding. So far no one had come in or out, but at night the lights came on. Someone sat in a large picture window for hours, but he’d yet to make a positive ID.
I hope Maddox’s sources are right and I’m not just spinning my wheels here, Nate thought. He was anxious to get his assignment fully underway. But he couldn’t do that until their intelligence proved correct.
He no longer worried about Adelaide using her telepathy to sense him, not after the first day when she obviously had no clue he was there. Assuming that was her in the house. At least the news that she no longer had her abilities might be correct. Maddox was counting on that fact. That, together with her lack of memory, was vital to this plan.
A green M&M followed the red one as Nate continued his surveillance. I really need to bring better snacks if this is going to last much longer.
A good hour later, Nate was about to give up. His shift was almost over and his replacement would arrive any minute. Suddenly, he caught the flash of lamplight softly glinting off golden blonde hair as someone passed by a window. Nate’s pulse jumped. He waited, staring intently until she suddenly reappeared at another window. But her back was to him now. She stood there for a little while, but he couldn’t tell what she was doing.
“Come on, sweetheart, just give me a little glimpse,” he muttered. And then she walked away. Nate quickly checked all the windows he could see, but after a good ten minutes, he gave up on seeing her face.
“Dang it!”  He fought the urge to get up and kick the tree. With his mood he’d probably misjudge the force and bring the entire thing crashing to the ground. His frustration was doubled this evening. He’d had the dream again.
Just a dream, dude. Any tears Adelaide Jenner may have actually shed were all a show.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Goofy Bit of Fun... Traveling Giveaways

I'm combining Flat Stanley with Abandoned Art for a goofy bit of fun with my books...

I read an article in Sacramento Parent magazine recently that talked about Abandoned Art. Essentially, artists are leaving art in random places for anyone to find and take home - bringing a little beauty into unsuspecting lives. Fun concept right?

So then I thought, that would be a great idea for books. After a little research I discovered Book Crossing. They take the concept a little further. You can print out labels that tag the book with an ID. Then anyone who gets it can go to the website and see where it's been. Also a fun idea.

And, finally, almost all parents and most kids have heard of or done a variation on Flat Stanley. We've done it with our kids where we take a picture or draw a paper doll that looks like them. Then the doll/picture travels with us and appears all over the place in our pictures.

I decided to have a little fun by combining these concepts. Here's my plan...

Periodically, I'm going to take print copies of Blue Violet and leave them in random places with a note to any finders to please enjoy. I'll take a picture where I've put the copies and post them to my Facebook site. Traveling Blue Violet Giveaways. I might even get friends and family in on it, giving them copies to take on vacations.

Look for pictures to appear on my Facebook soon!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Svatura Series - New Covers Revealed

In recent posts I've talked about my big internal debate about the possible impact of book covers and my observations about my own books. After finally deciding to change my Svatura covers, I shared several of the design options I was working on.

I have finally finished and have started the process to change the covers over on all the retailers and my websites.

Below are the new book covers for the Svatura series. Notice that I just HAD to keep those flowers in there - they were too pretty to let go entirely. I decided to make the ladies eyes glow the colors that they glow in the books (so no, I can't make Lila's eyes glow red to go with the title, lol.).

I hope you like them, cause we're stuck with them now!

In addition, here is the cover for the box set version of the series which will be out at the end of this month: