Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Guest Post: Debra Dunbar

Can an Un-Cool Mom Write Young Adult Stories?  

My short story Love Magick, in Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, is about a teen girl who has to face her fears after performing a love spell for the wrong reasons.

The protagonist, Blossom, is Wiccan. I’ve met some parents who have raised their children in the Wiccan faith, and I always wondered how that might affect them in a predominantly Christian society, especially with the social pressure of High School. I was a practicing neo-pagan for quite a while after college, and participated in a variety of rituals including Wiccan ones, so that part of the story was relatively easy to formulate. But the young adult part. . .

The problem is I’m a 47 year old, ‘un-cool mom’ who usually writes very adult urban fantasy novels. And to make matters worse, I don’t often read young adult novels. I skimmed through Twilight just to understand what the heck my niece was talking about. And I did read Hunger Games, although with the gut wrenching death toll I’m not sure I’d consider it young adult. That’s it. So what’s a writer to do when there’s a short story begging to be brought to life? I pulled from my imagination, blew the cobwebs off the memories of my teen years, pulled together conversations with my oldest son, my niece, the girls from the riding stable. But how could I be sure what I wrote is accurate in today’s world? How could I be sure my ‘un-cool mom’ wasn’t ruining the story?

Beta readers.

 I use beta readers for my novels, and they are a valuable resource for feedback. Of course, my current beta readers were not really suitable to provide feedback on a young adult romance. I needed teen girls. Ones with varied interests and social standing among their peers. I checked with friends that I knew had teen daughters, and also with the girls from the barn and came up with five willing to look at my story and give feedback. One was a young teen with a family background in Wicca. Another was a self-labeled ‘geeky girl’. One was very involved in 4H and FFA activities, and two were from my riding stable. Out of five, three sent me feedback. Given that I have a hard time getting my son to turn in his homework, I was thrilled that three responded.

And the feedback was invaluable. All three validated my assumption that young love, mean girls, and high school social dynamics hasn’t changed much in thirty years. All three identified strongly with my main character, Blossom, and everyone knew a ‘Sheila’ at their school. They gave me valuable insight into slang, especially concerning the intricate meaning of ‘hook-up’, and how ‘crush’ had fallen into middle-school usage. Originally the title of the short story was Love Charm, but I learned that the word charm is strongly associated with ‘charm bracelets’ which are considered middle school. Using the word ‘charm’ extensively would turn high school readers off and age-down the story. I came out of the experience feeling like quite the sociologist!

I hope you enjoy Love Magick, and the other great stories in Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft. For more information on my novels, and to check out my blog posts, book and movie reviews, just stop by

Author Bio: 
Debra Dunbar lives on a farm in Frederick County, Maryland with her family and a multitude of four legged friends. Her novels feature supernatural elements in local settings. In addition to her young adult short story, LOVE MAGICK, included in the anthology BELTANE: TEN TALES OF WITCHCRAFT, she also has published an urban fantasy novel A DEMON BOUND, the first novel in her Imp Series.

Samantha Martin, is an imp living among humans. She tries to keep her identity a secret, but when she spots an angel one night, clearly hunting demons, the imp comes out of the bag. Sam ends up smack in the middle of trouble, dragging her human neighbor, Wyatt, along for the ride. 

A DEMON BOUND is available in paperback and Kindle at, Nook at Barnes and Noble, and a variety of formats at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Guest Post: L.K. Below

Stalking Shade is one of the first books I ever wrote. Originally written in 2007, when I was in high school, it was my contribution to the Char-Lan Writer’s Club.

We may not have been very creative with the name (although we always intended to give it a better one), but we did decide to make the year something special. We decided on a shared creative project. From then on, we worked on our characters and stories. Some didn’t finish their stories, some were short, and some (like mine) longer.

The inspiration for our series was another teacher at our school who had left that year. He had been the CWC founder the year before, and obviously numbered among our favorite teachers. So we decided to immortalize him in fiction as the Spenta Michos.

Of course, we had rules (some of which I’m breaking in pursuit of finishing up the trilogy). No one could call the SM by name — all mentions of who he was had to be subtle clues using his occupation and quirks. And, of course, no one could find him. Because, we thought it very fitting that since he had mysteriously disappeared from our school, he should mysteriously disappear in the story, too.

The best part about writing a shared-world story is seeing what characters the other contributors come up with. Across the board, we had a wide selection:

An angry, pricky goth with clairvoyant abilities (Lori).

A preppy teen who constantly lies (Heaven).

A man who ages backwards (Matheson).

A kleptomaniac afraid to leave the house (Tree).

An unnamed alien female.

A middle-aged pickpocket (Dodge).

Due to the nature of some of the characters, I wasn’t able to use all of them in my book. The first book uses Matheson only briefly (because he attended a certain meeting), and Heaven a bit more. Because of her use in the first book, I decided to include her in the rest of the trilogy. She plays a stronger role in the second book, Out of the Shadows, and makes a cameo in the third book as well.

The group might have been the inspiration to write the first book, but the inspiration for the series was Lori herself. I had so much fun with her — and given the way the first book ends — that I decided there needed to be more. In fact, I’m having a hard time letting go of her still. She’s a very unique, fun character.

And now it feels like a dear friend is moving away. With the release of This Blackened Night, the trilogy will come to an end. Lori might be a prickly character, not easy for anyone but Terrence to love, but I had a lot of fun with her. When I wrote this third book late last year, I dragged my feet to see it finished for the same reason. I didn't want to let the pair of them go. A not-so-secret part of me is hoping for an overwhelming response from readers asking me to continue so I have an excuse to revisit my favorite characters. Maybe you'll fall in love with Lori and Terrence every bit as fiercely as I have. Lori might be stubborn in pushing people away, but Terrence is the most persistent character I've ever written. Good thing, too.

Join me in celebrating the release of the third book!

This Blackened Night by L.K. Below

With murders cropping up all around, who should she trust?

After months of searching, Lori finally scrounges up a clue as to the whereabouts of the missing leader of her secret organization. But her vision isn't encouraging--it points to her vampire companion Terrence as the culprit.

Terrence is adamant that he isn't at fault. Even though she knows she might be walking into a trap, she follows his lead to a shabby island port. When her informants start turning up dead with puncture wounds in their necks, Lori wonders just how well she knows Terrence. And why does he act different during the search than in their hotel room?

Lori doesn't know who to trust anymore. She only hopes that she won't be the next victim.

Learn more about the series as a whole on the Lyrical Press, Inc. website:

Read an excerpt from This Blackened Night at

Bio: If L.K. Below gets far too attached to her characters, well, that's because they're interesting people. Read two of her favorites in her urban fantasy series, The Order. Join her online at to learn more. Want to keep up to date with her tour stops? Follow her on Twitter ( or Facebook (

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Guest Post: Michele de Winton

Hi and thanks again for having me over.  It’s awesome to share a taste of what I’ve been working on with your readers.

I thought I’d give you a few quick insights into me and my latest release A Talon at Her Throat. I love to hear from readers so do let me know what you think on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or via my website

Michele de Winton in 140 characters or less.
I’d like to think I’m like my characters: with sass, style and smarts. Love yoga, books, food, sun, girlfriends, my boys. Words are my drug.

A quick insight into the book: A Talon at Her Throat
Torn between hiding her goddess lineage from mortals and needing her powerful gifts for self-preservation, Yasmin Freeman just wants to be ordinary. But when an assignment leads her to Gray, a Talon shape-shifter able to assume the deadly features of any bird of prey, the true nature of her abilities is revealed.
Fiercely protective of his people, Gray is honor-bound to dispose of intruders, but Yasmin provokes a lustful hunger in him he doesn’t understand—a hunger that drives him to disregard the Talon’s strict avoidance of humans.
Gray’s seductive touch triggers an ancient bonding process Yasmin is powerless to stop. Their bond should hold them together, but without the cooperation of their peoples, humans, goddesses, and Talons could die. Yasmin must face Gray in battle if she is to plead with the Talon elders for cooperation, yet defeating Gray might mean the end of the fragile trust between them.

Three words that best describe Yasmin…
Smart, haunted and passionate.

If Gray had a theme song, it would be…
Sleepeater by Shihad. It’s got a good driving beat, some big guitars and enough darkness to make you want to jump around with the lights off. But it’s not all thrash metal and evil screaming, there’s some musicality and space to feel the air beneath your arms as you dance around the lounge (or maybe that’s just me ;-)

You can listen to it here

Great title too isn’t it? I think I feel another paranormal title coming…Sleepeaters, Talon, Goddesses…

Gray drew himself up tall. His sister might stand beside him as one of Congress Ten, but he was her senior and superior. There is no reason for attack and you know it. The human has shown us no cause to reveal our strength openly.
She’s built a… What is that thing? Perl hissed in his head.
A tent.
She’s built a tent in the Clearing. And she comes from the Human Council.
And soon, she will try to sleep. He sent back. Her dreams will be full of me, and she will run terrified from the Landing.
Gray heard his sister sigh, but he cut her off. Your impetuousness will be your downfall, sister. He tossed his head as his anger rose at her blatant insubordination, resenting a need to explain his actions to her. This human is weak. Just as weak as every other the council has sent out here. She will leave by morning.
Yet even as he spoke, Gray wondered about the woman below. Her soft curves, the spiraling hair threaded with gold, the almost luminous pale skin, they were all in such contrast to the features of the Talon women he was used to. But there was something more than that in this one. The radiant heat he’d noted when she first arrived was different now. When she’d taken her shoes off, something had altered in the earth around her. Something old and powerful.
He looked down again. The woman fussed around her tent, hammering pegs into the ground with no style and certainly no connection with the earth. Gray rolled his shoulders. His concern was nothing. Once she settled down for the night, he would begin. And she would never return.
“Go back to your duties,” he hissed to his sister. “This woman is mine.”

You can get hold of A Talon at Her Throat from The Wild Rose Press or via iTunes.

You can find Michele de Winton on

Drop her a line or post a comment on her blog through
And she also blogs at The Naked Hero as The Luna goddess:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Guest Post: Lisa Carlisle

Vampires and Music

Do you listen to music when you read? How about when you write?

I usually listen to music when doing either and find the music helps me tap into a certain mood or emotion. Unfortunately for people who are in listening distance, this means I often play the same song or album over and over again. ;)

I listened to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album every night when writing a book a few years back. Recently, I listened to Garbage’s #1 Crush for several nights when working on a scene when a lover professes his almost obsessive love. And then when working on a love scene, I found an old CD I had of the Red Shoe Diaries soundtrack.

Speaking of soundtracks, since I’m a huge fan of vampire books and movies, I’m thrilled that some of the vampire movie soundtracks are really quite good. I have soundtracks to Interview with the Vampire, Queen of the Damned, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and my new favorite, discovering new music from what’s played in the True Blood TV show.

Now I have the magic of iTunes and Spotify to help me make playlists related to my books. When creating my site, I wanted to share these with readers so you can get the feel for the music used in my stories. My series with Ellora’s Cave called Underground Encounters focuses on characters who meet in the Goth club Vamps. Not surprisingly, music has made it into my stories – both for what the characters hear and what they play. I think their choices reflect their personalities in a way, too.  For instance, Tristan Stone, a dark brooding character in my upcoming book, Fiery Nights, listens to Nine Inch Nails when contemplating the loss of his love, Maya. While Nike, the heroine in my book Smoldering Nights, plays Fiona Apple’s On the Bound while trying to process her overwhelming attraction to the man sitting next to her—or not necessarily a man after all after he reveals his story—and his fangs.

You’ll see a playlist of soundtracks mentioned above, music in my books, and my Halloween playlist, which I play year-round, on my Web site at

I’m also here to announce the recent release of Smoldering Nights, the first in the Underground Encounters series. Without further ado, here it is:

Smoldering Nights

Nike loves visiting the goth club Vamps—she can exchange her firefighter uniform for a slinky fantasy outfit. There she runs into the man she’d been admiring from afar at a rock climbing gym. He’s been the star of all her sexual fantasies, so is it any wonder they end up in his private room upstairs? Just when things begin to heat up, Michel’s enemies appear.

Only Michel isn’t an ordinary mortal. And someone from his past is on the hunt for vengeance. Michel and Nike are forced on the run and hide out in a coastal cottage in Maine. They can’t resist their attraction and spend the nights exploring each others’ bodies while trying to sort out how they feel about each other. Can they overcome their differences to be together? And how will they evade the predators who are chasing them?


We squeezed through dancers to make our way to the darkly lit bar guarded by more stone gargoyles on each end. Just as we made it to the other side of the dance floor, I felt someone watching me.

It was him.

Oh my God. He was here.

In all the times I’d come here, dressed in all kinds of tight, miniscule outfits, never had I felt so exposed. I wished I wasn’t wearing a laced-up black leather dress that exposed a lot of cleavage and was tight enough to show a pimple on my ass.

He was sitting on one of the dark-red leather stools, facing the crowd. I looked up at him twice and caught his eye quickly both times before I looked away. Those ice-blue eyes were so penetrating. Each time I’d caught his eye at the rock climbing gym, I’d have the same reaction—I’d look away quickly.

Why didn’t I have the guts to say hi? He was just another guy. So why did he have that effect upon me? There were tons of hot guys with jacked bodies at the gym. This one—only this one—made me react this way, like a zombie unable to speak.

My palms were beginning to heat up and I was painfully aware of the sound of my heartbeat despite the reverberation of the pounding bass around us.

“I know you from the gym, don’t I?”

Oh God. He was speaking to me. Whenever I heard that sultry voice and the French accent, I trembled slightly inside. Was there anything sexier than a French accent? During my brief semester in the south of France my junior year of college, I was in a constant state of sexual arousal with sounds of the French language all around me. Especially when purred by hot French men.

I opened my mouth to answer, but nothing came out. Maya elbowed me.

“Ye-yes,” I stammered, trying to sound nonchalant. “I go to Rock Hard Climbing.” That’s where he worked. “I’ve-uh-seen you there.”

Maya said, “I’ll catch up with you later.”

He nodded at her before she moved down to an empty spot at the other end of the red and black marbled bar.

Damn it. How could she leave me alone with him? She must have figured out he was the guy I often drooled about, when she saw me clam up like an idiot.

I stared at Maya as she scanned the crowd on the dance floor, shooting invisible daggers at her back. I’m going to kill her later.

In all those months fantasizing about this guy, never did I think it would start as awkward as this. Perhaps he’d smile at me first or nod hello at the gym. Then one day he’d ask if I needed a hand with something. Maybe compliment me somehow. I would appear a bit aloof. Each time I went to the gym after that, things would progress nice and slow. We’d gradually talk a bit more until he finally asked me out.

He snapped me out of my thoughts when he said, “I thought I recognized you. You look—” he paused, “different.”

Never, NEVER, did I think our first conversation would be in some underground club with my breasts pushed up against a leather laced up bodice, accentuated by a brooch with a silhouetted skull.

About Lisa Carlisle

I’ve loved the vampire myth since I was in third grade and had a crush on Dracula (rivaled only by my eternal love for Darth Vader). When I was younger, I served in the Marine Corps and backpacked around Europe on my own, which has provided me enough settings and characters for a lifetime of writing. Now I live in the Boston area with my fantastic, supportive husband and two kids. I’m very happy to be a multi-published, award-winning author writing in different genres.

Disclaimer: I go bat-shit crazy before Halloween and start decorating my house on October 1st. You can never have enough gargoyles.
Lisa Carlisle

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Guest Post: Joseph R. G. DeMarco

My current work in progress is a vampire tale. Considering that I write mysteries and other things, this is something out of the ordinary though not out of my area of interest. I’ve written a vampire story or two but haven’t tackled a novel length piece until now. It’s given me the opportunity to stretch my mind between the books of the Marco Fontana series, a gay P.I. series set in Philadelphia (if you haven’t gotten to know this burg, it’s a great place to visit or even put down some roots). It’s not as far afield for me as some might think. I’ve always been a vampire enthusiast.
Like a lot of people I arrived at my interest in vampires early on. For me it wasn’t the horror elements of that genre that appealed to me. I’ve never been a big fan of horror, which I suppose is odd if one likes vampires. But frightening myself was never a big preoccupation of mine. There were lots of other pieces of the undead puzzle which captivated me. For one, I glommed onto the immortality thing, the powerful nature of the creature, the ability to plant suggestions that get attention and the other advantages of being undead. But at the top of my list of favorite vampire traits is immortality. Vampires can live forever (well, as long as they don’t get staked). Living forever would give a person a great chance to indulge one of my other extreme interests: history. What could be better?
Then there are all those other powers (who doesn’t want to be able to dissolve into mist and sneak around places and under doors?) and that whole sexy side of vampire life, all those sensuous moments that just seem to fall into a vampire’s… um… lap.
Is there a kid who could resist the temptations of immortality, power, money, and the rest? Maybe there are a few. And maybe if I’d actually been given the chance to go down that undead path, who knows how I’d have responded? But no one offered to bite my neck back then or since. I’m still open to the idea.
My fascination with vampires continued well after my pre-adolescent years. I continued reading novels and academic studies of the literature and the phenomenon. All the reading confirmed what I felt in the first place: It wasn’t the blood and the horror of undead life that held my attention. It was the “otherness” of vampires that spoke to me.
The marginality of the creature is a quality lots of people can identify with. Being an outsider among humans, the vampire speaks to anyone who finds himself or herself on the margins of society. Gays, other minorities, and young adults all share that feeling of not belonging, of having to exist on the margins.
The sheer power of the vampire attracts anyone who feels powerless or marginal and offers them a way to overcome those feelings.
You can scan down the list of vampire traits and all of them have a special attraction, for one reason or another, to those who follow their exploits.
When I became the head librarian at an exclusive private school, I paid attention to the reading habits of the students. And, no surprise, vampire novels were among the faster moving leisure reading books. This led me to wonder about the possible connection between vampire literature and adolescent development. I wondered if vampire literature connected in some visceral way with the developmental stages of a young adult.
            I see the link between the YA reader and vampire literature as one key to understanding the world of the adolescent. Knowing the literature and the reasons it is in tune with young adult thought and development is important to providing services which adolescents will see as valuable and meaningful. And to developing readers. 
            For those of us who write, this kind of research provides some insight into what readers like and why.
            Not that we should write to spec. But just as it is valuable to know about story structure, about the steps of the hero’s journey in storytelling, and about a zillion other things with regard to craft, it’s equally important to know what appeals to readers. Not so that we can manipulate but so that perhaps we can give our work more depth and make it more satisfying.
It’s a good day when a researcher can combine subject matter he’s fascinated with and a project that can be academically useful and even meaningful. The nexus between the elements of the vampire’s nature and the stages of a young adult’s development was one such project for me.
            I began reading and rereading vampire novels. Both those written especially for a YA audience and those that young adults enjoyed but were not classified as YA. I also had to revisit all the young adult development literature.
            I approached the research I did with an academic purpose: to get some scholarly and semi-scholarly papers and articles written. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about producing a vampire novel. Well, okay, it was simmering on a back burner.
            Initially, I did get the academic benefit from my research. I presented papers at conferences (one of which was in Worcester, England and is something I won’t soon forget). I also had several papers and articles published in journals and magazines geared to the librarian.
            After I’d done what I could with the subject academically, I took a break from the study of vampires and went back to enjoying the literature for its own sake.
            But you never really stop thinking about things and even while enjoying the books and TV shows and movies, I kept wondering about the power of the vampire to connect with people.
            I eventually came to understand that vampires appeal to more than just young adults. The vampire figure may represent all the problems of the young adult reader but it also represents some of the problems that stick with us long after our YA years.
            The adolescent is in a period of awakening to sexual feelings and to the sense that they can both control themselves and sometimes be out of control, awakening to a world in which they feel they no longer really fit. Because of these feelings, the adolescent finds in the vampire an almost perfect fantasy figure with which to identify. The vampire is suave and sexy, with immense strength which can be used both for aggressive impulses, for hunting, for control of others, but also for self-control. And, the vampire is an outsider just because of who he or she is.
            But adolescents are not the only ones who identify so well with these creatures of the night. Which explains why there are so many readers of vampire literature who keep the genre wildly popular.    
            What I didn’t realize while doing the academic work, was that the information I learned would stick with me and help form some of my notions about vampires and how the live their undead lives as well as help inform my writing.
            As I’m finding with my current work in progress, the vampire figure has a hypnotic and transformative power over the writer as well as it’s victims and our readers. Many writers try their hand at a vampire novel. They may start out to write one kind of novel but something strange happens: their work is transformed by the presence of the vampire in it – particularly if they take the creature seriously. This is so because the vampire powerfully represents humanity’s interior issues – the struggle with self, differentness, marginality, identity, and more.
            The story I began to create started out as one simple thing, then suddenly became something completely different. The vampire on the pages of my manuscript became something larger than I’d originally intended.
            I’m glad that happened and happy that it is still evolving as I work, because it’s made for something a lot more fun and interesting. Something I can get my fangs… err… my teeth into.

 Joseph R.G. DeMarco


Joseph R.G. DeMarco was born and raised in Philadelphia. His Marco Fontana mystery series includes: Murder on Camac (, A Body on Pine (, and Crimes on Latimer (, and more waiting to be birthed. He has also edited a Sherlock Holmes collection, A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes. He is also Publisher/Editor of Mysterical-E ( and prior to that was editor of The Weekly Gayzette, NGL Magazine, Il Don Gennaro, and Kater Street. He has also been a columnist for The Advocate, In Touch, and Gaysweek (NY). His article, “Gay Racism”, which first appeared in PGN, won the Best Feature writing award from the Gay Press Association and is anthologized in We Are Everywhere, BlackMen WhiteMen, and Men’s Lives.  His stories and essays have been published in the Arsenal Pulp Press “Quickies” series, Men Seeking Men, Charmed Lives, Gay Life, Hey Paisan!, Paws and Reflect, Heat of the Moment, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, The International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family, The Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities, The journal of homosexuality, and others. His plays have been produced in Philadelphia, NY, and elsewhere. Though mystery is among his first loves, he also has an abiding interest in alternate history, vampires, werewolves, science fiction, the supernatural, mythology, and more. You can learn more at