Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Wickedly Challenging Characters by Helen C. Johannes #WickedWednesday #fantasy


Ohhh, those characters that want to hide and tease an author. Helen knows a few things about wickedly challenging characters. Please welcome my guest, Helen C. Johannes

Writing fantasy romance is a challenge, creating worlds from literally the soil upward. But I can handle that. All it takes is imagination fused with relevant life experiences.

For instance, I’ve never lived as a cursed warrior in a land populated by beast-men, but I have experienced a high mountain meadow in spring, ridden horses, and learned about panning for gems from my father’s Alaskan experience. I’ve never fended off danger with swords, but I’ve travelled the UK, hefted swords to learn about balance, and explored tumble-down castles.

None of that, however, made writing these three characters from BLOODSTONE any less wickedly challenging.

#1: The Shadow Man
Mirianna and her father fell into place, but my hero, the Shadow Man, refused to tell me his real name. I wrote a third of the book before he reluctantly revealed it. That resistance was clue to his character. Being an ‘into-the-mist’ writer, I had to keep writing to discover the truth.

The Shadow Man wants to be left alone. But beneath this stated goal is a deeper need: he’s lonely. When the opportunity comes to relieve his loneliness with a blind boy servant, he impulsively acts against his stated goal. Conflict ensues. His neatly ordered life, miserable as it has been, falls apart despite repeated attempts to maintain his solitude. What he thinks he wants and what he needs are at odds, and that’s just his internal conflict.

Add a woman so determined to protect her aging father she embarks on a dangerous journey, an old enemy seeking power, and a—possibly—magical lion shadowing his every step, and my hero has more than enough conflict. By first draft’s end, he had dug up and faced every ugly truth preventing him from being the man he ought to be, the man he’d chosen to bury (that real name).


#2: The lion
I’ve never lived with a mountain lion, but I’ve lived with cats. However, even I didn’t know when I started writing who or what this lion would be. (Remember that seat-of-the-pants thing?) She appeared with various characters at critical moments, and I had to let her gradually reveal how she was connected. Additional challenge: she has no point of view, so I couldn’t get into her head like I could my hero. (He was just stubborn; she was downright enigmatic.) So, write a mountain lion-like cat into a fantasy when you have no idea why she’s there, except she was in the very first scene from which this book sprang, and you have the idea of this wicked challenge.

#3: Gareth
I’ve worn corrective lenses since childhood, but I’m in no way as severely visually limited as Gareth. Thinking of sensations, sounds, and smells as his primary means of interpreting the world forced me to expand my means of description. I also had to remember he was 13, not an adult. Writing him was a definite challenge, but also wickedly satisfying.

Conclusion: Don’t be afraid to write what you don’t know. Fuse a bit of imagination with a fragment of authentic experience and even the seemingly impossible can become satisfying and convincing fiction…if you’re up to the challenge.

Author Bio:
Helen C. Johannes writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. She writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. Warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun—that’s what readers will find in her books.

BLOODSTONE, Launching a Star Winner in Fantasy Romance, from The Wild Rose Press.

What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?

Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon’s blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…

Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.

Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man, not a fiend hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?

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Monday, April 20, 2020

Corona—the crown—as Muse by Dee S. Knight


Today is a different kind of post, but I know you'll enjoy it. Dee is one of my favorite guests, so grab a cup and have a read.
Corona—the crown—as Muse

It’s been a couple of months since the novel coronavirus hit our shores. Not a fun couple of months, that’s for sure. We’ve seen people die, not because they did anything wrong but because they happened to fit certain physical criteria. Business have been lost and parents, suddenly without jobs, have been worried about how they’re going to pay bills and care for their children. Tragedy has struck every corner of our great land, and indeed, the world. All thanks to something we can’t see, can’t touch, can’t taste. Yet, the power is there, for sure. A nasty, negative power.

So, you might wonder why I’ve found my muse in the coronavirus, COVID-19. Well, I’ll tell you.

I count myself among the lucky ones. I don’t personally know anyone who now has or has had the virus. That they know of. I suppose the qualifier should be added. There are only three confirmed cases in our whole county. And that’s my silver lining. I feel blessed. Blessed to live in a land where innovation is encouraged to the point where our doctors and researchers jump to the challenge of finding answers, where when known cases are compared to the known recovered cases, the comparisons are favorable. I’m blessed to live here, where without threats or coercion (for the most part) we took the guidance of our leaders to heart, and by golly, stayed six feet apart so that we wouldn’t get sick and our friends and families wouldn’t either. I’m so grateful to be living now, in an age where computers and great universities provide every opportunity for finding a solution and perhaps a vaccine for this horrid disease so that thousands won’t die if/when it hits again. We have so much hope for better things and times to come.

I know there has been heartbreak because of what we’ve been through the last couple of months. But there is joy, too, in recognizing what could be lost if we as a people gave in to the despair the virus represents. We have another day to grasp life and shake it with all the enthusiasm of someone happy to be here, happy to see another day and know that with each day we’re closer to the end of this mess. It’s good to have reminders like this now and then, that life isn’t a given. We should appreciate each and every day, every hour, every moment. And I do.

That’s why the coronavirus—as awful as it is—is my muse this month.

I just wanted to say all that. Don’t think I’ll share a book or excerpt. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Wicked Grill, Vodka, and Tequila with Lyncee Shillard #WickedWednesday #mermaids


Let's welcome Lyncee Shillard back to Discover... And she has a wicked recipe for this Wicked Wednesday plus a really fun bit about her book and herself. Enjoy!

Hey Hey everyone!
I’m excited to be back on Wicked Wednesday. Who doesn’t need a little wickedness these days? Since we are all on ‘stay home’ but are encouraged to go outside, I thought I’d share some backyard wickedness.  And one of my favorites 😊 It’s an all-day kind of project, so pick a nice day and make a pitcher of blueberry vodka lemonade.

This grilled beef is AMAZINGLY wicked! There are soooo many things you can do with it. My favorite way is to shred it and serve it on hoagie buns or it’s also great in tacos
As with all truly wicked things, this takes a little planning. The first thing you need to do is get your beef drunk.

2 ½ to 3 pound chuck eye roast (if you need more meat cut it down in large chunks.)
1 cup tequila
1 lime
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 to 3 jalapenos rough chopped (I leave the seeds in – but that’s your preference.)
2 cups water

Mix all the ingredients in a large baggie. Add meat. Let hang out 24 hours.

Grill over medium coals for 30 to 40 minutes – depending on the thickness and your preference of doneness.

I have a wicked summer read… it has a mermaid, a serial killer (who just happens to be Neptune’s nephew), a hot lawyer and enough steamy sex to make it fun.

Aislynn is a mermaid who has watched humans from afar for thousands of years.  A negotiator for Neptune, she wonders what it would be like to feel anything especially passion the way humans do when they have sex. The truth is mermaids can't feel emotions of any kind and hot sex is one of those experiences she wishes for.  When the opportunity to become a human - temporarily - presents itself, she takes it.

Finley McCormock is a hard-core, tough as nails divorce attorney who represents rich women leaving their husbands. He has no time to do pro-bono environmental work like his colleagues or to fall in love himself. Why bother? He knows how marriages end.  But his new housekeeper, as odd as she is, gives him a hard on he has to take care of.  The good news is Aislynn seems more than happy to oblige. She is his sexual fantasy come true, from the mid-day office visit that includes a spanking session to the trip to Trinker's Sex Toys. Aislynn is willing to try anything.

But when Aislynn's past catches up with her, Finley will have to decide if his attraction for Aislynn goes further than the surface of the water. Does he really want to get in deep with his mermaid?

I create my murder, mayhem, and steamy sex in cold Northern Michigan (the place of four seasons - they lie! It's just different levels of winter) with my husband. Our children have begun their own adventures, and just as I got into the swing of empty nest, then my grandson came to live with us. Now I’m doing 8 again… they argue everything just in case you forgot. And I now remember why I eat doughnuts and drink vodka 😊

When I’m not hanging out with the 8-year-old, I’m writing or working on my side hustle – Writing with Crayons – it’s journaling (I do workshops and stuff).  For the 5 minutes of ‘me’ time I get a week 😉 I spend it reading, crocheting, or making self-care products.

I’m a planner babe and vodka wizard. I also enjoy taking pictures, I'm not claiming to have a talent it's just something I like to do.

If you would like to come and hang out with me…we will talk doughnuts, vodka, and planners…

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Choctaw Nation and Ireland Bonded by an Act of Kindness


How about some good news? How about a story about an act of kindness that has been remembered and celebrated for close to two-hundred years? This news is close to my heart…and my DNA.

James Cleburn Kirby
One of my grandfathers was a redheaded, 100% Irishman. One of my 
Anthie Lois
grandmothers was ¾ Indian of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes. They met, fell in love, and produced my mother. Recently, I discovered that the Choctaw Nation and Ireland have more in common than these two grandparents of mine.

In 1847, the Choctaw people were probably still feeling the emotional effects of having walked the Trail of Tears in 1831 and 1833. News reached the nation of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland. In March of that year, a group of Choctaw people met to raise money for the starving poor of Ireland. They managed to pool together $170 which they sent to the Memphis Irish Relief Committee who then sent it on to the General Irish Relief Committee of the City of New York. Today, $170 would be equal to $5,000.

The chairman of the New York committee specifically mentioned the Choctaw Nation’s gift in his reports. The gift was significant for those times.

The Irish people have never forgotten the kindness of the Choctaw people. In 1992, a group of Irish men and women walked the 600-mile Trail of Tears and raised $170,000 that went to the famine relief in Somalia. What a gesture of paying it forward. $170 gave the spirit to raise $170,000.

There’s a statue in County Cork, Ireland, commissioned in 2015, that is dedicated to the bond between the Choctaw Nation and Ireland. Last year, a scholarship program began for members of the Choctaw Nation to study in Ireland. When I learned of this, well, I got a bit teary. How very special for those students.

The connection between the people of Ireland and the Choctaw Nation proves how a simple act of kindness can bring nations together. A real lesson here in humanity.

It’s a top wish list item for me to visit Cork County. I bet my grandma and grandpa would be thrilled.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Myths, Magic and Festivals by Alice Renaud #fantasy #pagan


Please welcome Alice Renaud to Muse Monday. What a fun post about fantasy and our own beliefs.

With Easter only one week away, it got me thinking about religious festivals and their place in my writing. I am a Christian, and always look forward to Easter, even if the celebration will be muted this year. But like many of my favourite fantasy authors, I create characters who are… pagan. Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, even Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman… all their worlds are pagan worlds, peopled with gods and monsters. I wonder why that is. Perhaps we can blame Tolkien – the devout Catholic who was obsessed with Beowulf and the vanished universe of pagan Saxon England. Maybe it’s because fantasy is rooted in our collective past – and in Europe we were pagans for a long time before we became Christians. Many pagan customs and festivals have endured, under a different name, like the old winter feasts of Halloween and Christmas.

When I started to write my fantasy romance Sea of Love trilogy, it seemed natural that my shape shifting merfolk would have a mythology of their own. Their goddess, or guardian spirit if you prefer, is the Lady of the Sea, a supernatural watery being who watches over the merfolk… but also over humans who love the sea. The Lady plays an important part in the first two books in the series (which can be read independently), A Merman’s Choice and Music for aMerman. She is really an embodiment of the ocean and Mother Nature, in all her beauty and fierceness.

I don’t see a contradiction between being a Christian, being active in my church, and writing about a “pagan” world.  For me the pagan faith is about a deep love of nature, a burning desire to venerate and protect all living things. “The Divine comes in many forms, and I have many names. But only one love for all the children of the sea,” the Lady tells Alex, the heroine of A Merman’s Choice. The merfolk have a guardian spirit in their image… but the Divine spirit encompasses all living things.

So whatever your beliefs, I hope you are enjoying the spring… and that you will be celebrating in some form, whether it’s in church, in a garden, or simply eating chocolate eggs! Read more about Alex’s encounter with the Lady of the Sea in the excerpt below.

A Merman’s Choice, Book 1 in the Sea of Love series (books in the series can be read independently)

For centuries the shape-shifting mermen of the Morvann Islands have lived incognito among humans. But one of them, Yann, has developed some bad habits. Like rescuing humans, even when doing so risks revealing his true nature. When he fishes Alex out of the sea, he doesn’t expect her to reappear eight months later, and turn his life upside down by asking him to be her guide.
Alex is determined to fulfil a promise to her dying grandmother, by gathering pictures and stories of the Morvanns. But she soon discovers that, on these remote Welsh islands, legends have a habit of becoming true!

Over the course of a few days, Yann and Alex grow close. But some mermen hate humans. Their hostility, and Yann’s secret, threaten to tear the couple apart just as they are discovering that they are soul mates. Can Yann overcome the obstacles in his path and make the right choice?

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An odd, resigned calm enveloped Alex. She felt that she was detaching from her body as she sank into the depths, the same emerald colour as Yann’s eyes. She thought of him, his face, his laugh. If she had to die, she wanted to die with that image in her mind.

A feminine voice spoke in her head. You’re not going to die.

Alex’s chest was no longer hurting. She was underwater, yet she was breathing. I’m dreaming, she thought.

The voice answered. No, you are not. I am real. This is truly happening. The words echoed in Alex’s mind, soft but deep, and rich with all the sounds of the sea. She could hear a dolphin sing, somewhere near the surface, and she understood its language. She could hear fishes whispering, and the great thumping dance of the humpback whales, far away.

Arches rose before Alex, shining and transparent. The structure resembled a crystal palace under the waves. Out of the palace came a figure. A woman, as young and beautiful as the spring, as dazzling and majestic as the ocean. She wore a turquoise dress, and a silver crown on her sea-green hair. In her arms, she held a small, perfect, sleeping baby.

She glided towards Alex. You are safe.

To her amazement, Alex did feel safe. She was no longer drowning. Somehow, she knew that the apparition was not a hallucination, and that she spoke the truth. The legends were coming to life.

Who are you? she thought. Where am I?

The woman smiled. Light emanated from her, with a honeyed brilliance that rippled through the water, bathing Alex in a comforting glow. I am the Lady of the Sea, and you are in my kingdom, in the mermen’s world.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

In The Book, Female Friendship is the Best #girlpower #inspiration

In the current state of social distancing (although I much prefer we use the term physical distancing), we can still stay in touch in real time with social media, text, Skype, etc. Let's transport back in time and think of how our life would be impacted if we didn't have all of these immediate outreach abilities.

I'm old enough to remember when letter writing was the primary mode of communication. If it still was, we'd feel much more isolated, I suppose, but what fun it would be to go to the mailbox everyday and find more than junk mail.

The inspiration for Amanda in the Summer came from a letter in my mail. Actually, it wasn't a letter but a handmade invitation to a wedding. The one-page, 8x11 folded piece of paper resembled a peach-cloud in color, and as I pulled it from the envelope the words "Amanda in summer" came together because of the way the paper had been folded.

Those three words became my inspiration for my short novelette Amanda in the Summer. An image of a woman, sitting on a blanket on the beach, pregnant and writing a letter came to me so colorful and evoked such emotions, I knew there was a story.

Amanda in the Summer is about the friendship between women through three generations. The story is told entirely through the letters of the these women.

So...during this time of physical distancing, are you women keeping your connections going with your close female friends? How are you managing? Do you have longtime female friendships? Our bonds can be a powerful essence for our sanity.

A line of women, all named Amanda, stretches back for generations. Each with her hopes, her joys, her pain—each pouring out her heart in correspondence with a dear family friend who shares their lives, understands their loves, and joins in their sorrows.

But within the correspondence lies a secret. And as the youngest of the Amandas retraces the journey through the years—beginning in post-war America and following through to modern day—the letters reveal, layer by layer, the Amandas who came before her. Soon, the truths and lies hidden in the letters lead her down a path of self-discovery that forges a bond between her past and future.