Serpentine Walls Release Party — Welcome and have some cake!

October 30, 2013

Hello! CJane Elliott here ready to chat with you and celebrate the release of my novel Serpentine Walls. It’s also my birthday, so thanks for helping me celebrate.  Enjoy some virtual birthday cheesecake:


Got a slice?  Good!  Enjoy and I’ll be back soon to talk about Serpentine Walls.

Serpentine Walls Order Page

CJane Elliott Website

CJane Elliott Twitter
Breaking Birthday Present News!  I just heard from those awesome folks at Dreamspinner that EVERYONE gets gifts!  With the code CJaneBlog you’ll get 25% off all of my books and all Coming of Age books in the Dreamspinner Store. It’s good until 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, November 1!

How “The Galatea’s Captain” Throws a Wrench in the Machine

October 27, 2013

Hello, beautiful dreamers!

Anka here, back to talk to you about Steamed Up, DSP’s newest steampunk anthology!

“The Galatea’s Captain” was the first steampunk story I ever completed (and one of my very first completed stories in general, because I’m a total loser). I got a bit experimental with it, so my process, I think, makes for a kooky little anecdote:

Basically, I decided a) I was going to submit a story to the anthology, b) I was going to Google a list of steampunk tropes and include them as many as humanly possible, and c) I’d spice it up with my own individual flavor. It was a fun and challenging experience!

Immediately, I knew that I’d do the lattermost by including lots of characters of color. Most steampunk stories tend to be set in Victorian England, with white English characters, which can make sense, but as a person of color, I wanted a character like me, with various strengths and vulnerabilities, tossed into a setting that intrigued me.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Galatea’s Captain” so you get a quick look at the plot and my protagonist, Kamil, who’s recently lost a limb and commissions the help of a brilliant tinker to fill the emptiness in his life:

The frigid air of Alba, capital city of Camlaan, sends a phantom ache through Kamil Ramses’s bad leg. Despite the chill, a light sheen of sweat begins to mist across his brow when he steps out of the horse-drawn carriage the Duchess of Althea had reserved for them.

Seeing his pinched expression, she hooks his right arm in her left and says, “Oh, Mr. Ramses, please do not tax yourself! I just knew we should have brought along your chair!”

He winces. Ever since his arrival in Camlaan, he’d been sequestered away in the Altheas’ sprawling estate, stuck convalescing in the wooden wheelchair its master had commissioned on his behalf. The cane he now holds, made from ironwood and embellished with gold, is also a gift from the wealthy old couple, but he prefers it immensely. It allows him some autonomy, at least.

“Don’t worry, Your Grace, I’ve become quite accustomed to this by now,” he replies after a moment, smile stilted. If he could, if it would serve to allay her doubts, he would pat her hand.

Instead, he gazes out at the harbor ahead of them. The sea breeze tickles his nose, whipping his long, dark swath of hair around his narrow face in spite of the cord around it. No boats are visible on the water, hidden by the colossal bodies of anchored airships, comprised of various woods and metals, fantastical figureheads carved into their bows. Their colorful sails billow in the wind, blotting out the gray sky above.

Although he misses Siro, his homeland, rather intensely, Kamil admits to himself that Camlaan has many virtues, many incredible, beautiful sights. Perhaps when he recovers, he can pay proper homage to them. If he ever does.

“Shall we continue?” The duchess’s hesitant voice disrupts his reverie.

He flashes her another smile, disarming this time. “Yes, I’m ready now.”

She beams up at him through the netted veil of her hat. Elaborate silvering curls encase her round face, contrasting starkly with the black lace of her gown. Her small hand remains a chaste weight on his arm as she guides him into the heart of the harbor, humming all the while.

“What can you tell me about this Air Pirate Talos?”

So there we have it! An injured philosopher from another land, a “pirate” who ends up not much of a pirate at all, and all of the assorted people who get sucked into their affairs! I hope you’ll read Steamed Up and “The Galatea’s Captain”, and that you enjoy them if you do.

While we’re on the topic, what are some of the things you’d like to see in steampunk that break out of the standard mold of the genre? What settings beside Victorian England? What sort of characters? Did any of the authors in Steamed Up do something in their stories that surprised you? Do tell!

It was a pleasure talking with you all today. Don’t be a stranger! Remember, you can find me, my stories, and links to social networking sites I haunt on the Dreamspinner Press website. Steamed Up is available in ebook and paperback formats.

Fonts, Editing, and Bad Puns (Oh, My!)

October 27, 2013

Hello, dreamers, Anka Grace here!

“The Galatea’s Captain”, in DSP’s wonderful anthology Steamed Up (also available in paperback), is my first published work, and collaborating with Dreamspinner Press was a very exciting, fulfilling whirlwind of an experience.

Here’s a summary of the story:

When philosopher Kamil Ramses learns the plight of the poor in Camlaan, he offers guidance to its queen. But en route to meet her, his foot becomes gangrenous and must be amputated. Talos is captain of the airship Galatea and a brilliant tinker, a far cry from his impoverished childhood. He is summoned to fashion Kamil’s new foot, and Kamil’s distrust is quickly overcome when he sees the fine quality of the captain’s own prosthetic arm. But Talos has only two weeks to make Kamil’s prosthesis. If that’s enough time for Talos to overcome his own prejudices against Kamil’s privileged past, romance might blossom.

I’ve always been intrigued by the setting of Victorian England, which my Camlaan takes inspiration from, but it would have been a mess of anachronisms and inaccuracies if the brilliant editing crew at DSP hadn’t stepped in. Working with them was one of my favorite parts of the process, because of how thorough they were, and take a look at this gorgeous final result:

How did they know I loved that font? Because they’re geniuses, of course (and possibly psychic…). If the summary, the font, the pre-production staff, and/or my rakish charm (ha-ha) pique your interest, you should definitely take a look at “The Galatea’s Captain” and Steamed Up. They’re – dare I say it – quite steamy!

Do you have a twitter or a tumblr? If that atrocious pun didn’t scare you off, remember, you can find links to mine on my DSP author profile. I’m actually very shy, so don’t be afraid to coax me out of my shell!

Can you guess the sources of the allusions I’ve mentioned in this post? How about in the story? I’m a huge geek about that stuff. Kudos if you can!

Saving Sonny James Contest Winners, and thank you!

October 22, 2013


Contest One: Signed paperback of Saving Sonny James (drumroll) Suzie!

Contest 2: two winners, any Vasquez and James ebook (two drumrolls) Lilly and Trix!

Contest 3: Book + $20 Dreamspinner Book Money! (Timpani and horns) Allison!

Thank you to everyone who visited and read and played. I had fun, I hope you enjoyed it too. If you’re after more excerpts, contests, or brand new antics from Luki and Sonny, check out http://www.sylvre for a calendar of events on their Road Trip Blog Tour, in progress right now. Best to all, and I hope to see you again soon.

“Zipper Fall” launch party is now offically over!

September 22, 2013

It was a pleasure chatting with all of you, and thank you for stopping by! The winner of a book of choice is Katherine! Congratulations, Katherine, I’ll shoot you an email. Good night to kind lurkers, too! The 25% discount code “PavelleBlog” is good until Monday at midnight for all my titles and mystery/suspense titles at Dreamspinner Press, so have fun browsing. Don’t forget to check out the free reads under the “genre” button on the left navigation bar – there are some good books in there!

And now I’ll bid you all good night, and go turn into a pumpkin.

“Zipper Fall” release party – a book giveaway winner!

September 22, 2013

Aaaaand – drum roll, please – Trix is the winner of either Wild Horses or Zipper Fall e-book! Trix, please PM me and let me know what you’d like, and how you’d like it! Congratulations!

And now, a bit about book research. Let me list a few things I’ve done either by coincidence or in order to “learn a world” and write about it – and then I’d like you to share the most outlandish thing you would consider doing, or have done, in name of book research. So, here goes:

- climbed rock walls (very…ehm… EXCITING.)
- learned to ride a horse (and today, got stepped on, scraped against the wall, and have accidentally fed him a finger along with a carrot. That foot will bruise, for sure.)
- learned to hunt deer
- various martial arts, including weapons moderns and ancient
- worked in a flower shop (it’s not just arranging flowers – it’s also washing buckets and dealing with the generous public)
- started a business / killed a business / grew a business
- traveled (I rout my business travel through new places in name of reserach, whenever possible)
- trained for a triathlon (and completed two – highly recommended, it doesn’t include heights and you can break when biking downhill…)
- “volunteered” in a restaurant kitchen (free labor in exchange for learning new things)
- ate wild mushrooms (and foraged for them, learned to ID them, and discussed possible lethal methods with an interested toxicologist)
- contacted professors at universities to find out stuff (and they were, usually, happy to oblige!)
- had coffee with a retired CIA employee, who was very helpful in making my CIA operative credible and legal
- fought in medieval armor, AND slept in it (to see if it’s possible…)
- started fire with a bow drill, attempted to brain-tan deerhide (don’t try this at home, its very smelly!)
- shot a machine gun/rode in a tank / held gas mask drills (that’s in elementary school during the Cold War, in Europe, where we took civil defense seriously).

So, spill it. If you write, what was the wildest thing you ever actually did that made its way into your book? If you don’t write, what would you consider doing? I’ll go cook dinner, and before I sign off for the night, I’ll do a random drawing for a winner of a signed trade paperback copy of either Zipper Fall or Wild Horses for one of you who responded!

Don’t forget, buy any of my titles or any mystery/suspense from Dreamspinner Press at 25% off, using the code “PavelleBlog” !

“Zipper Fall” release party 5: What’s good for the gander is good for the other gander, too.

September 22, 2013

You might think Wyatt is the wild one and Jack is the voice of reason. Jack merely impersonates a rational adult, though. Now I know that picking locks in real life is a lot harder than in fiction, but I couldn’t resist! Watch Wyatt be a bad influence in this excerpt:

***

SATURDAY afternoon had come and gone, rolling into evening, and I still hadn’t heard from that infuriating, obstinate man. I didn’t want to go out, didn’t want to watch a movie or hang out online; I wanted Jack, and nothing else would do.
Pathetic.
“Hey, Wyatt.” Reyna called me later that night. “I got the most unusual phone call.”
“Yeah?” I was parading around my small apartment in a pair of black silk shorts and a ratty, light-blue T-shirt at least a size too large. With the phone stuck to my ear, I continued straightening up those odds-and-ends that tend to accumulate over a period of several days.
“Yeah. Azurri called. He wanted to ask some personal questions about you.”
“Oh yeah?” I perked up immediately. “Like what?”
“I can’t tell you that.” She giggled. “Oh, nothing harmful, don’t worry too much. It’s just, if I told him about you, he’d tell me about Auguste. They went to school together.”
My heart sank. “Reyna! Did you sell me out?”
“No, you pathetic goofball, I’m giving you a heads-up. Why’d he ask about you if he lost interest, right?”
We talked some more, me trying to pull critical information out of Reyna, her working hard not to let anything slip. She succeeded; I failed.
Resigned to my fate of earning my living through honest work, I poured myself a tall glass of beer, and once its head settled, I navigated it over to the coffee table, where I left my laptop. I settled on the sofa and got to work. The Novack proposal was beginning to look good. He wanted to target novelty seekers and the lunch crowd. For his crepes, he’d do best to advertise with the Francophiles in the area. Over the next two hours I compiled an exhaustive list of French teachers, as well as local schools and translation agencies, and I was about to get started
102 KATE PAVELLE on travel agencies when my ears picked up suspicious noises from my
front door.
Somebody was trying to pick my lock. That bastard.
Karma was out to get me in this life instead of the next. Payback was imminent. I tiptoed to the door, grabbed my old baseball bat off the coat rack, and listened to the burglar’s effort from the other side. I snickered—what a bumbler. Really, my locks were pretty average. I saw no need to draw attention to myself by indulging in high-tech security. A peek out my peephole didn’t show anything, since whoever was trying to burgle me was either bent over or kneeling on the floor. I was just about to call them on their incompetence and laugh in their face when I heard the tumblers align and fall in place, and the door swung open.
I jumped back, the baseball bat at the ready on my shoulder. I crouched behind the opened door, waiting to see who it was so I could whack them a good one for their trouble.
Tall, brown hair…. “Jack?” My voice rose, and he turned, startled.
His eyes widened at the sight of the weapon. Then I saw him relax and push the bat down with his long arm. “Hey, Gaudens. Should I also greet you with a baseball bat?”
I cleared my throat. “As I recall, you greeted me with a gun and tied me to a chair.”
“I guess turn-about is fair play.” He shrugged, sauntered over to the dining nook right off the kitchen, and set a brown paper bag on the table.
I shut the door behind him, turned the lock, and hung the baseball bat back in its place on the coat rack. “Why… why didn’t you call first?” Being fair-minded, I didn’t ask him why he didn’t knock.
“Why should I call?” he asked. “You never do.”
“Actually I always call before I break in, to make sure nobody’s there. Then I knock for good measure. That one time you were asleep. Your phone must have been turned off.”

“Zipper Fall” release party 4: A bit about Jack, Wyatt’s lust interest.

September 22, 2013

Trix and Katherine pinged back with writing tips, which is awesome, and I may try the headphones, especially when I am working on the treadmill desk, which is not nearly as quiet as when I bought it.

I’d like to introduce Jack Azzuri. He has his own tidy parcel of baggage to work through. The most apparent characteristic, aside from a body that must have been sculpted by the ancient Greeks (love handles and all), is his legendary, explosive temper. Wyatt never expected to meet him when he broke into his apartment. All this is laid out front-and-center in the first chapter, which you can read in the sample of DSP’s website. Here is a little detail of Wyatt’s first up-close encounter with the man who would haunt his thoughts forevermore:

***

ELEVEN o’clock could never come soon enough as the far-away wall safe kept crooning its siren song. I barely resisted biting my nails. My microwave clock showed I still had ten minutes to go before departure when, impatient, I pulled on my lightweight, dark green jacket and a baseball cap, hoisted my black backpack, and headed out the door. I walked, using the next twenty minutes to calm down and control my adrenaline levels. I still could back out. I didn’t have to go through with it. The idea died young: it was like paying the entry fee to a public swimming pool and then talking myself out of getting into the water. There was no way I wasn’t getting inside that apartment tonight.

Two blocks away from Azurri’s apartment, I ducked inside an entryway and stuffed my jacket and baseball cap inside the bag. I caught my hair up in my black skullcap, hiding every single strand by feel alone. The black hood of my sweatshirt covered my head as I continued to my target area.
The windows in the corner of the third floor were dark. I dialed the number on my cell phone anyway, but nobody picked up. I sucked in a deep breath.
Shit. I was really going in. I did my phone-check routine, making sure it was on vibrate and the camera flash was off. I also set it on redial, just in case someone was home and I had to distract them—even though that never happened. As a last step, I covered the phone’s screen with three strips of electrical tape. That way, if I had to use it in the dark, I wouldn’t make a target out of myself.
The service entrance in the alley wasn’t equipped with an alarm, and the lock wasn’t hard. Somebody must have miscalculated, thinking there was no point protecting a self-closing door next to a Dumpster. I slipped in like a shadow and took the service elevator all the way up. There was a narrow staircase from the fifth floor to the roof. I took it to an unlocked door. It creaked only a little as I pushed it open, but even that little sound almost made my heart stop. I scanned the flat, asphalt roof and the vents and chimneys to my left. The edge of the roof was to my right. Working fast, I reached inside my backpack and slipped a climbing harness over my black cargo fatigues. I slid my silenced phone into a secure side pocket. The other pocket held my flashlight. I pulled a coil of climbing rope out of the backpack and fastened it to a sturdy chimney. Before I knew it, my feet were anchored on the rim of the ledge and, with the rope wound behind my butt and through my self-belay device, I leaned back over the abyss.

I grinned as the thrill of being suspended over a street threatened to overcome my senses— alone in the dark, unseen. Slowly, I slipped my soft black shoes down the side of the building in careful steps as I fed extra rope through my harness. The soles of my feet felt every contour of the vines and flowers carved into the acid-rain roughened stone, giving me extra purchase. I descended past the glowing fifth- floor window and the dark fourth-floor window, and I had just started to breathe a bit harder when, finally, the third-floor window appeared. I stood on the generous parapet and unclipped myself and let the rope hang by my side. Slowly, I pushed in the glass panes.
Lights from the streets illuminated the Spartan bedroom interior as I slipped in, landing in a crouch. The white carpet gleamed pale amber, reflecting the sodium lamps outside. I look around and froze.
The bed was occupied.

At this point, I should have climbed out the window and back up the building and gotten out of there. Yet I stood here, conflicted between running away and getting a little closer. The bed’s owner was sprawled naked on his back, his head and shoulders shrouded by the shadows. The stark city glow, barely impeded by sheer curtains, accentuated the shady contours of his trim abdomen and his well- muscled legs. I stopped in my tracks, feeling as though a Grecian marble statue from a nearby museum had been placed on this stranger’s bed, displayed for my eyes to feast upon. He was incredible, beautiful in the unearthly glow, and I felt like a lost man, captivated by the sight of his physical beauty. Even if I weren’t into guys, I think I would have gotten hard.
He stirred. I broke from my stunned reverie and looked around fast. The dark corner of the room to my left was my only hope, and then I realized a closet was there, with its door cracked open. I ducked into the shadows, moving fast. I blessed my luck and slipped inside, not making a sound. My breathing came in short, shallow breaths, and my heartbeat felt like a drum against the wall of my chest. I fought to maintain absolute silence. I heard Jack Azurri stir. His bed creaked. Then there was the soft patter of his feet, almost muffled by his lush carpet.
I hope he won’t kill me on sight.

::I swear I’ll never do this again.::

I heard him piss in the bathroom next to me, and I breathed a deep, silent sigh of relief. Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t have to voice any rash oaths just yet.
He flushed and washed his hands.
More footsteps, this time in my direction. Once again I began to negotiate with the powers that be.
“Fuck, it’s hot.” The low, sexy growl shot an arrow of heat down my spine.
I heard him draw the curtains aside and open the window even wider. The heavy evening air stirred, and even more light poured in from the street.
My heart sang in relief.
The mattress creaked as he got back in bed. So far so good. I’d have to wait until he was asleep before I could make my exit out the window, which he, being such a considerate gentleman, had opened even wider for my convenience. I didn’t dare attempt cracking the safe with him there. In fact, I barely dared to breathe. I waited, wondering why the hell he wasn’t on a vacation like he should have been.
Light snoring reached my ears, and I pushed the closet door to the side a little more, just enough to get out comfortably. With painful slowness I peeked around the wooden panel.
There he was, now fully lit by the dramatic glow from outside, legs spread apart, sporting a significant boner. You would think I would be no stranger to that part of male anatomy, but being single, it had been a while since I had seen a full-grown specimen. Also, I had never seen one from someone’s closet while hiding in there, trying to avoid detection. This situation had all levels of awkward written all over it, and as my mouth went dry, I felt a hot blush rise up to my cheeks. All the same, I wasn’t quite willing to look away.

***

Oh Wyatt… you have no couth! I do have couth, though. I even have a discount coupon. Use the “PavelleBlog” discount code to receive 25% off any of my titles, as well as any mystery-suspense titles from Dreamspinner Press. This coupon is good for the next 2 days!
Drop me a line and visit so I can enter your name in a free e-book drawing (Zipper Fall or Wild horses, your choice!)

“Zipper Fall” release party 3: A bit about writing.

September 22, 2013

I get asked about how I write. People who ask me about writing don’t realize that writing is, mostly, about not procrastinating. Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, WordPress, Tumblr, plus any excuse for online research, can send me off course and into the time-sink of browsing to “see who is there.” On a typical day, I wake up at 5:45, respond to email, clear the dishwasher while the coffee is brewing, fix lunches, and put up a load of laundry. Once I walk my daughter to the bus stop and take the dog around the neighborhood, I am ready to write. In order to do that, I push the power button on our WiFi antenna. Yes, I really do. It keeps my word count up and my needless visits to “see who is there” down to zero.

I am an Organic Writer, which means that creating an outline is a sure way to lose interest in the story. After all, I already know what happened, right? So, why bother writing it out? Sometimes, when I am plagued by distracting and unrelated story lines that pop into my mind, I outline them. It’s the surest way to banish them forever. I have the WiFi turned off for 4 hours in the morning, which usually results in 3-5 thousand words. I take a break every 45 minutes to an hour (switch the laundry, water the plants, feed the koi) to move my body around. After lunch, my writing time will be over for the day, and I’ll need to apply myself to business activities that keep the lights on and the WiFi service turned on. In general, I feel very blessed to be able to do this.

And now, I have a question for you. If you do write, what is your favorite trick to keep distractions to a minimum? Respond, and I’ll enter your name into a drawing for a free copy of Wild Horses or Zipper Fall (Your choice!)

Party’s ON! “Zipper Fall” release blogfest Sunday, Sept 22nd!

September 22, 2013

I am online and blogging about Zipper Fall, the 2nd book of the Steel City Series. It can be read as a stand-alone, but if you read the no. 1 book of the series, Wild Horses, you will recognize several characters and landmarks.
I’ve been asked if I climb. Wyatt Gaudens, my POV character, is a climber who misuses his skills for burglary. I do climb a bit, and I was inspired to try it to get over my fear of heights (my wild, adventuring characters do all kinds of things I’d love to be able to do – I live through them vicariously!). I can climb up a wall and rapell down, and I love to boulder when outside. Wyatt is a natural where I am a struggling coward. So now some of you will ask, wait, do you also pick locks?
I tried, using lock picks I bought online. It’s hard, but doable. I watched people pick locks and crack safes, and both activities require patience, a steady hand, and a special touch that seems to come to some people naturally. I’ve never picked a lock that didn’t belong to me, although I’d lie if I claimed that no locks were harmed in the making of this book ;-)

To get more familiar with Wyatt’s mindset, I am going to share a brief excerpt. Our poor, flawed, adrenaline-addicted hero just needs a better source of excitement in his life:

***

Life can be incredibly boring at times, and in order to make it worth living, I need a bit of zing to spice up my dull routine. I’ve always been like that, and besides, I have always been able to talk my way out of anything. My mother used to say I’d make her go prematurely gray with my wild skateboarding antics. After a while, skateboarding wasn’t enough, and I started rock climbing. Small risks turned to bigger risks, except I didn’t want to endanger my climbing buddies by doing something really crazy on the rock face. Instead, I discovered the thrill of occasional and strictly recreational break-ins. Two years ago, I took my first souvenir. I knew it would be missed, which made the experience even more thrilling. Heightening the risk heightened the excitement. Last year, I wore a distinctive ring for a few days. I got away with it, which was almost disappointing, because it was a Superbowl ring. I ended up wiping my prints off and sending it to the local TV station, and its return made the news because anything having to do with the Steelers makes the news. I rode that high for almost a whole month.

***

I have a question for you: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in search of YOUR adrenaline high? Log in to www.dreamspinner.com/blog so I can see your answer!