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Lena did it. Go read her version of this first, ya hear me?

I know, I already posted today about the uber-agent rejection, but I have leisure to post again and I hardly ever have time these days to sit and just be, so deal.

And I’m actually gonna be serious. This time. Don’t get used to it.

Putting Faces to Characters ~AKA~ The Next Big Thing

What is your working title of your book?

An Ordinary World/Ordinary World. It’s part of a planned series, tentatively, The Luce Series. Luce means ‘light’, but I was told is also means truth and understanding, or a window into such, and I’ve always found that an amusing concept for the name of a secret club for vampires and other supernaturals that have to hide who they are from the real world. I’m weird. Don’t judge.

Luce, the real deal at Royal and St. Louis. Photo courtesy of MOI.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

To be honest, the story itself is older than dirt. I had the one character, Esteban Marquez, already in my head when I visited New Orleans for the first time. Then I saw this cool-ass building on the corner of Royal and St. Louis and he proclaimed it home. When I got back to Georgia (boo), the idea for the other main took on life because of my cat. This series consists of the untold–to anyone but my writing partner, and even she doesn’t know everything–story of what happened when they first met.

The whole idea, though, is that these guys have such relatively mundane lives. I mean, I wrote the two mains for so many years that they just went on with day-to-day things and grew and changed, and it was just… the way it was. Sure, one is a vampire that has to do some really vicious stuff, but he still has to place liquor orders for the bar. Sure, the other is a leopard shifter, but he still wants to go to college. So, while we see them as supernatural and, yeah, they get into real paranormal shit-storms, it’s “normal” and “ordinary” for them. Lien, a sixteen-year-old leopard shifter, at the start of the story, would rather ignore the fact that he can change into a melanistic leopard anytime he wants. He meets Esteban, a vampire, who he’s supposed to stay away from, and well, he just can’t stay away. Along the way, in books to come, he figures out that life with Esteban becomes “ordinary”. It might not be what Lien wanted at first, but there it is. It’s his life. It’s not awful–though in book one, it was horrible–it’s not strange for them. It’s just… different.

Isn’t that the way it is with everyone? Everyone has a different definition of “ordinary”, no matter how fucked up that “ordinary” may be. Some things aren’t black and white, and sometimes all it takes is one person–pun intended, as you will see–to make it “ordinary”. And perfect. For them.

What genre does your book fall under?

Urban Fantasy. Maybe Dark Urban Fantasy, I’m not sure. One of my mains is only sixteen, but it’s not YA by any stretch.

~

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Esteban Marquez is easy. For me Vincent Perez always has been and always will be Esteban. Granted, Este would never in a million years allow his goatee to become so unkempt as in that picture. Este is a five-hundred-plus year old vampire, who, depending on his mood, will say he was twenty-five or thirty when he was made. He’s from Merida, Spain (which really doesn’t exist that I know of-there’s a city in Mexico called Merida, though) and has a permanent set of non-retreating fangs that brush his lips when he speaks.

I know, right? *whew*

A long time ago I had the perfect pictures of Vincent that fit so well. Lemme look. Ok, here you go. This is the only one I can find. Not perfect, but we have his velvet jacket and all …

Lien is harder. How can you find a pic of someone with hair like spun rubies and the face of an angel. Or would that be the face of a half-fae leopard-shifter (shh-that’s a plot secret)? I’d like the reader to choose how they see Lien based on the book, where Vincent as Este is a no-brainer. He looks just like him. How about Esteban’s wife, Nita, instead? That’s an old pic of Sophie Marceau and its always worked well.

You know there had to be monkey-wrench *somewhere*.

~

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I suck at pitches. Next question. LOL!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m old-school. I believe in agents and Big Six (Five? Four?) publishing, and yet see the wisdom of smaller press, too. *shrug* I’m hopeful, but in the end we’ll see.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The one I just finished took six-nine solid months for a first draft. It took another six-plus for revisions/edits because I have a day-job from Hell, which made the final project look nothing like the first draft. And I do mean NOTHING. Book two is currently sitting at 3k after a couple of weeks. Just because I’ve written for twenty years doesn’t mean I knew how to write a novel. It was a bitch, yo? I spent a lot of that first book learning–like everyone should–so I’m hoping this one will go faster.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Adrian Phoenix and her Maker’s Song series. I don’t write in first-person and neither does she, and we both also have multiple POV. When I found her work it was such a rush. (no pun intended this time–if you get the pun)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

That’s tough to answer because I don’t think it was any one thing. I’ve always wanted to move to novel length, but I think you have to reach a point in your life where you’re ready to do something like this, because this shit ain’t no joke. I was ready, and finally said, “Ok. Let’s do this. Out of the hundreds of people who live in your head, who do you love the most?” And the answer was my Luce-verse. I eat, sleep, and will die, New Orleans. The choice was easy.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The mains are male and most of the characters in general are either gay or bi-sexual and they make no excuses for the fact. Neither will I. They’ve often told me they have enough to worry about–like staying alive–than the gender of the person they love. (And there isn’t really much smut involved in my writing. There’s a fairly graphic rape scene in one book and a bit of the *bow-chica*, but no *wow-wow*.) Mostly, I think readers might like how real they are in spite of being supernatural creatures. They’re idiots and funny sometimes, but they’re also smart cookies. Some can kill with a glance, but they love with all their hearts.

And it made one beta reader cry. *fist-pump*

How about I just show you this?

AN ORDINARY WORLD takes place in New Orleans. Esteban Marquez, having dispatched the former Master of the City, now rules with the tenuous approval of the Vampire Council. However, all is not going as well as he planned. Someone wants to take what the five-hundred year-old vampire has won and the hub of his newfound power, the supernatural consortium, Luce–bound to him through preternatural power and blood– is recovering from an attack. Esteban is wounded and searching for answers while dealing with the mundane chores of his authority. Luce is healing, but not quickly enough to go unnoticed.

Lien, the wayward sixteen-year-old son of a leopard shifter king, is hell-bent on having a normal life in spite of his father’s stance on tradition. He wants college, parties, friends, maybe even a boyfriend; his father just wants him to stay home. The one word about vampires in the pard handbook says “NO” and Lien is good with that… until he wanders beneath Luce’s balcony and becomes the final, irresistible push that upsets Esteban’s precarious balance of power.

Something that could heal Luce and Esteban’s damaged strength is something–someone–he does not have; a One–one shifter meant for one vampire. Esteban may have found him in Lien. If only he had faith and his wife would stop interfering. If only Lien would believe that a One is not just another faerie tale. Lien’s decisions will save Esteban’s life, and cost Lien the lives of everyone dear to him.

~

Ok, serious-time is over. Ain’tcha’ glad? I’m not good at this stuff. I write. I don’t know anything about platforms or branding or anything else. It hurts my brain to think about it. So, here’s to spreading the misery.

Lisa Kessler – because I have always loved to torment her.

El Farris – because I hear she’s working on a new project.

Sinead MacDughlas – because I can.

Anthony Richer – because I like to torment Yoda, too.

~

Hop to it.

Namaste. 

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I’ve only had two hours sleep because of Lilly and I’m obviously hardcore paying for it because I’m fucking delirious. See, the hubs deals with her during the week because I have to get up at o’dark a.m., so I return the favor on the weekends. It sucks because it cuts into my writing time in an epic way. Today, I needed to do more research on how to do a synopsis, even work on book two, but that shit didn’t happen. Instead, I give you my favorite reporter – bonus points if you get the reference.

~

“Astrea, can you tell the readers of Horse and Hound why you don’t blog much about your writing, give writing advice, or even talk very much about writing in general?”

Because this isn’t a writing blog. This is me, alternately bitching about or reveling in my life while I’m writing. I’m no genius, no one needs to learn writing skills from me, and I don’t have the time, anyway. I have my way of writing, my own opinions on the matter, other people have theirs. It’s too much drama anymore to get into that shit. Plus, I have a full-time, very stressful day job, a bad-ass grown daughter in college, an awesome husband and way too fuckin many pets. I’m busy, bottom line.

This is for me to introduce myself as a human being to potential readers who happen to trip over my blog along the way. And for my friends to snicker and point at me.

Namaste, bitches. 

~

“Why don’t you promote your blog, or ask participatory questions at the end of your blogs?”

Because I’m not a blogger in the true sense of the word and I’ve never wanted to be one. I’m not that good at it if I did. I have no hook, no mad skillz, no message I need to impart. It’s just me. Being me. And I kinda’ like the idea of that because when I visit the web sites of my favorite authors, I really don’t like to see FOR THE LOVE OF THE GODS, BUY MY BOOK NOW!! plastered all over the page. It’s annoying as fuck. I’m gonna buy the damned book! I just want to see what they’re up to, rather than hearing about sales figures or the lack thereof. I’m just like that. My husband doesn’t understand it, questions it often, but that’s how I am. I wanna know the person behind the prose because I can read their books and see what they write, and draw conclusions from that, but I may never know the rest of the story unless they tell me.  That’s what I want to see on someone’s blog.

*ETA And that’s what you’ll see on mine until the day I’m lucky enough to be some big shit author with a publicist who tells me otherwise. It’s just my preference for now.

~

“Is that why you share so many pictures of your pets, etc.?”

Yep. Cute, ain’t they? Except Lilly – AKA, Gator – who is a holy terror.

~

“Is it true you write mostly gay or bi-sexual supernatural characters?”

Yep.

~

“And some of your writing is pretty damned dark.”

Yep.

~

“Like… really dark.”

Yep.

~

“But you share cute puppy pictures.”

I also have an extreme fascination with insects, particularly dragonflies and luna moths. I’m a total Trekker, a huge geek besides, love hockey, and I own a t-shirt that says “Babe With The Power” (that I wear every Friday) and routinely won’t speak to anyone while I’m wearing it until they sing at me first. What’s your point?

~

“How can your writing be so dark at times and yet you seem so… not dark?”

Gods, it’s like you don’t even know me. Do you even read my blog?

Would it help if I just flat said that I have a morbid fascination with the Crescent City Connection and hurricanes?

~

Well, no, because our readers would need you to explain that a little more.

Not all of them. But what if I don’t want to explain that on my blog?

~

You’d have to explain that. 

I think you just made my point for me.

Wanna see a cute puppy?

~

Not… 

*sigh* … really, no. 

~

Too late.

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Sinead, Sinead.

Stretching The Creative Muscle

It felt like a dare, so I wrote and edited this short in exactly 61 minutes. I read it to my husband and he said, “What happened to him? Did he take the dog’s stick and open a can of whoop-ass on the cat? Was the cat APRIL?”

Have I mentioned that I love that man?

~~

The park fountain on Main Street had always been one of my favorite places. Had. Water didn’t bubble out of the fountain anymore; the concrete has started to chip around all the swirly edges and what grass there was along the sidewalk has long since turned brown. There aren’t even any birds in the trees. There are definitely no children around, but there is me and my dog, Cassie. Some sort of collie mix, but I really don’t know. She wandered up one day about four years ago around noon and has never left. Guess she remembered the dog park across the street, no matter how long ago that’s been. So, I pulled a name out of my ass and gave it to her. It fits because she’s so bubbly and happy. Dumb dog.

I was twenty-six when all hell broke loose, when the bombs fell and whatever shit that was inside them spewed venom all over the country. Now I’m thirty-two. I feel a whole lot older, but at least I’m alive. My name is Shelby, by the way, one of those good old Southern names where you don’t know if it’s a boy or girl until you meet them, but I don’t worry about a name so much anymore. It’s not like there’s anyone that’s going to wave and smile and call me by name. Cassie might bark, but if she speaks, I’m heading for the mountains and she’s on her own.

Mr. Baker’s old ice cream cart is sitting over there. The pink and blue balloons that used to float up around his head and aggravate him are hanging limp, brittle with age, and the wheels on the cart aren’t round anymore, they’re rusted and bent, making the cart list sadly to the side. It’s all gone, all rotted. The buildings are even starting to crumble. I have no idea why I still come here. Maybe because it’s peaceful, relaxing, even without the trickle of water.

Maybe because I’m just a melancholic, masochistic idiot and I think April’s still out there somewhere and somehow her now chemically twisted mind will remember the park just like Cassie has? Yeah, the sarcasm even bites me. Guess having an already chemically imbalanced brain helped for once. Yep. All us nutjobs are all that’s left. The so called “sane people” faired much worse. They’re just gone. They kinda’ melted.

Cassie trots back to me with a large stick in her mouth, tail wagging so hard I swear it’s going to fall off, and I have to laugh. Dogs faired just fine, but the rest of the animals? Gone, all dead, save for one other species; cats. All this time we’ve been joking about how much trouble we’d be in if they ever grew opposable thumbs. Well, they didn’t. They just got smarter.

“Come on, sweetie. Let’s go home.” I ruffle Cassie’s head and raise my own to look to the west, then into the deepening shadows of the trees, satisfied, and yet disappointed, that no one is there. No one is here but us. “Sunset’s coming and those little furry bastards will be everywhere.”

Just when I think we’re going to make it back into the hardware store, a loud snap comes from the bushes and Cassie darts off, barking hysterically.

“No! Cass!”

A howl of pain and then silence cuts short my panicked dash for the edges of the trees. The leaves rustle in a long line behind the bushes; something’s moving back there, but it’s too big to be my little collie.

“April?” My heart sinks.

April had really long legs, but she wasn’t quite that tall. And she certainly didn’t have slit pupils in her green eyes.

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It’s a TRAP!

Boy, I was blindsided last night. Saved, but not really, by the husband changing the subject to Anne Rice.

I was standing in the smoking area at the local hockey arena and was suddenly asked a question! Seems at least SOME of my day-to-day, flesh and blood friends actually do read all my Facebook bullshit and know I am writing.  *gasp* What have I done?! We had been standing there talking about gods only know what, when Cheryl (I think it was Cheryl, I was so stunned I’ve forgotten) pops up with a question.

What is your book about?

I look up, Lynn is looking at me, Cheryl is looking at me, a few other faces join in. I’m like a deer in fucking headlights and ***(see below) FEEL surrounded by villagers with pitchforks. I stammer, “Vampires.”

Oh, boy. That’s all I had? *sigh*

Bobby comes to the rescue by telling everyone he thinks I’ve shot myself in the foot by picking a fight with Anne Rice. Hell, I’ve been dead in Anne’s ass since Memnoch, that cat fight is nothing new, has been raged very publicly through the internet for a decade and is eternal. But I sorta have shot myself in that anything I write now has to be good or I’m gonna look like an idiot. So, yeah. I’m being overly critical about everything I write. That conversation gives me a few minutes to think of SOMETHING to say about the subject of the book in particular. Epic fail. ***I have performance anxiety like a bitch and just could not spit anything out.

***I flat do not do well with unexpected questions out of the blue where my writing is concerned. No one should take that personally, ever. It’s the whole performance anxiety thing as well as being that I don’t discuss it on a regular basis with flesh and blood human beings that are not writers themselves. It’s almost like it’s a dirty little, NOW very public, secret of mine. I’ve always been a writer. Betcha’ that a LOT of people don’t know that because I just… don’t…. talk about it. *shhh* One writer can look at another and say, “You’re a sick bitch.” And the other will say, “I know.” And grin and move on. With non-writers that conversation goes that way not so much. *shrug* So! *shhh* It’s been a rule. Don’t talk about Fight Club.

Well, now I gotta because I’ve thrown it out there. Shit.

After we move on from Anne, I manage to say I’d been “writing” this story line for about 13 years (it’s actually been longer) and just decided it was what I needed to do. I’d finished the paralegal thing and this is a bucket list kinda thing.  Cheryl is kinda making the ‘oh’ face. Christ. What did I not do? Tell them what the book is about.

So…. here goes. At least with me sitting here typing, I’m not looking anyone in the eye and to erase any stammering, I just hit the backspace key. LOL!

An Ordinary World

Once upon a time in 1996, in the blistering heat of a New Orleans July, we find sixteen year old Lien doing his level best to get into college, and drive his father batty with his running around with his best friend, Marcel. Lien is a trip, he’s also pretty damned cute (understatement of the decade), and Tulane is his dream. He wants college, parties, friends, maybe a boyfriend.

Yes, he is GAY if you want a label! I’ve found it’s really more that supernaturals have enough different things to worry about – like fangs, claws, maybe demon summonings, definitely just staying ALIVE – than what label they put on their sexuality.

All he wants is just a normal life. (An Ordinary World, anyone?) Of course, there’s a problem with this. Lien is not human.

He’s a leopard shifter, sort of like a werewolf to explain to the non-paranormally inclined reader. He belongs to a group of leopards, a pard, that inhabits the territory around the Honey Island Swamp just outside of new Orleans. They’re pretty old school, hard core about heritage and very proud, they keep to themselves for the most part and run a fishing/shrimping company. Lien’s father is Julian. Julian is the Ra, the king, of the pard and sports a Cajun accent from Hell. Julian is not only in charge of his own territory, but he polices the unclaimed swamplands to keep the peace. Hard to do because Delacroix, the neighboring wolf pack, are a bunch of hard-ass pains in the asses that make the leopards look like the Brady Bunch. The kicker here? It’s getting close to time for Julian, who has reached his early sixties, to step down and turn the pard over to the new king. Who is Julian’s heir apparent? Not Lien.

One, that’s not how they do it; they name their successors. Two, Lien is different. Telling you how different he is would spoil the story for you, but he’s so different that some of the pard just don’t like the boy. The named successor, Fernando, being one of them.

To make the situation worse, the leopards don’t like vampires. They have a one word rule about them in their hand book beside the question on personal fraternization.

It says NO.

Back in New Orleans at a place called Luce (loo-CHAY), we have Esteban Marquez. He’s a Spanish bred vampire and over five hundred years old. Depending on his mood, he’ll say he was twenty-five or thirty when he was made. He is married to a “unique” vampire named Nita Marquez. Just the mention of her name makes his eyes roll and his temper flare.

Luce is a consortium, which means it’s a gathering place for supernaturals of all kinds. It’s a bar, a hotel, a dance club, and Vampire Council outpost. They have one in every major city across the globe. Vampires and shifters are the main visitors, but you will find faeries and demons, witches and such. And some things even I can’t put a name upon. Nefarious is a good word to describe the goings on at Luce. Esteban is Master there and serves as judge, jury and executioner when the supernaturals of New Orleans get out of hand. Without him, New Orleans would be a blood bath and the powers that be in the human government know it, so they tolerate Luce and everything that comes with it. Luce consumes all of Esteban’s time and energy, save when his wife is being a pain in his ass. (You could also equate the book’s title to Esteban, but you’ll have to read to find out why.)

And lo! Someone, in his first three years of taking the position of Master, has tried to kill him by burning Luce down around his head. You see, there is a strange connection between Esteban and his lady, Luce. One that now has Esteban wounded and the Vampire Council on his back because they think he’s too weak to hold New Orleans after all. They’re just chomping at the bit to take it away from him. Which would be BAD for Esteban in more ways than one. His wife wants to help him in a way that only she can, a way that will solve everything. He just wants her to go away, but…. for reasons he may or may not say (because I’m still editing that speech), he does not make her leave.

One thing that could help him, help that he would happily accept, is something he does not have. It’s called a One. One shifter meant only for one vampire. A bond so sacred that even the Council has laws that back their significance.

A small part of proving that Esteban, with no help from anyone, is strong enough to keep Luce is by keeping the truce he made with Julian three years ago. The truce: The leopards handle swamp business, Esteban handles city business and neither the two shall meet. It’s a pact. Leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone. We’ll cooperate if we need to, but lets just stay away from each other, m’kay? However, there is a clause that says one will without fail come to the aid of the other should they ever ask. The key word is ASK.

Never will you meet two more hard-headed men than Julian and Esteban. Throw Lien into the mix and…. oh, boy.

Can you see where this is going?

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