July 14, 2010 • No Comments
My family was never big on vacations. They were busy and didn’t have a lot of spare money, so travel fell to the bottom of the priority pile and, when it did happen, was often accomplished by bus. Sometimes at seventy-two hour stretches. I get bus sick. I developed an early aversion to travel.
When I was one my own (and possessed a car) prospects improved. True, I took the “dream” vacation with the boyfriend of the day (vile mistake, but good diagnostic tool for future un/happiness), but that’s not the main reason I find travel stressful. Wherever I went for many years, there was usually a disaster of some sort. Bombing. Snipers. Flood. Riots. I was just about to start blackmailing tourist spots so they’d pay me to stay home, but that era appears to have ended with my trek to San Francisco a few years ago. It was AOK, which must have signalled the lifting of the curse. Though there was that flood in Nashville right after I reserved my hotel for the RWA National conference this summer. That’s just a coincidence, right?
Yes, it’s possible that I do read too much paranormal fiction. On the other hand, perhaps I will never take a “normal” vacation, because my perception is different.
Travel is too important to an author for me to hide on my safe little island. My two trips to England (one plagued by the IRA, the other by poll tax riots, mad cow disease, and a storm that washed out the bridge to Wales) have provided a wealth of historical imagery. All of those ghastly bus rides as a kid showed me the prairies in a way an airplane just can’t (there is a giant bronze Viking AND a giant corn cob somewhere in Minnesota). And there’s nothing like waking up to your first up-close view of the northern Rocky Mountains at sunrise. The imagery, down to every last bus stop and greasy spoon, is stored in my mental treasure room. I found seeds of stories in all of those places. (And sitting on my grandma’s porch watching the creek waters creep across the lawn toward me, half-distracted by the itch-worthy fact that I’d stupidly moved straw bales all afternoon wearing shorts and a midriff).
Authors aren’t all that different from those wildly irritating tourists who snap pictures and videos every three steps. You know the ones I mean—those people who seem to experience more with the camera lens than with their eyeballs. Storytellers are also recording every last detail for future use, even if we’re not conscious of it at the time.
What’s one mental holiday snapshot you’ve always kept with you?
July 10, 2010 • No Comments
One of my critique buddies sent this (thanks, Jane!) I got a giggle fit when I watched this.
July 6, 2010 • 2 Comments
Unchained is out!
So the book is out from under my control, free to roam the universe. But am I unchained from Unchained? One of the hardest things about book releases is the knowledge that you can’t take anything back. You’ve done it. You’ve said that. No more access to the delete key.
I had someone ask recently if there was anything I’d do differently. At this point, it’s useless to look back over my shoulder, and even if I could I wouldn’t want to. Yes, every author would like a whole lot more pages to unfurl their fabulous ideas, and more time to hone the manuscript would always be welcome–but there comes a time when you have to declare your work perfect. It’s as much a living organism as a child, and it is what it is, unique and special.
And honestly, I’m pretty darned pleased with how Unchained turned out. It gets the Angst Award among the Dark Forgotten novels to date. There’s no rest for these two characters.
So, go forth, little book and be free. It’s not a separation, just the natural evolution of becoming a grown-up book.
I’m sure I’ll be hearing from Ashe and Reynard when they need someone to do their laundry.
July 5, 2010 • No Comments
One question that I am frequently asked is what favourite junk food I consume while writing. Okay, that’s harder to answer than one might think. An author has to be careful about how she presents herself. Anything that readers might find odd or distancing should be carefully avoided.
This applies in the general as well as the culinary sense. For instance, one should never admit to black magic blood rituals even for research purposes. Similarly, training poisonous spiders to do circus tricks might be seen as off-putting. While junk food is a more innocuous subject–barely on the scale of, say, raising zombies–people have strong loyalties to their fast food. One does not show the burger disrespect.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t eat while I’m working. For one thing, I’m too deep in concentration. For another, what I’m writing is often pretty out there: demon slime, severed limbs, and werewolves with the munchies. Yum yum.
Okay, so maybe that’s not what the well-meaning questioner wanted to hear, but what can I say? I could lie and claim that I have a bag-a-day cheese curl habit (yeah, man, I’m strung out on the orange dust!) but I prefer my junk food, when I let myself have it, without thoughts of mangled body parts.
Then there’s that whole nutrition angle. My books are about slayers and sword-swinging warriors. There’s something about having all that frequently-naked rippling muscle frolicking through one’s imagination. It makes one think fondly of vitamins and sit-ups. And carrot sticks. Graphically, and not just for the crispy crunch.
So how do I answer the junk food question? Honestly, I like slow food. Organic, locally grown, made from scratch using traditional methods. Cuisine is an art. Sure, that makes me sound a bit like one of those snobby, opera-loving, cat petting movie villains, but whatever. At least I’m telling the truth. Plus, I like cats and classical music. And I hate cola. So sue me.
Admitting that is far easier than trying to explain the demon slime and carrot sticks. And it’s never right to lie to one’s readers, even about the small things. I respect them too much.
For those who want to know all about the real Sharon Ashwood: it’s simplest to just read my books, because that’s where I live.
Unchained: the Dark Forgotten. Out July 6. Guaranteed action-adventure, monsters galore, good jokes and hot sex. After that, who cares what I eat?
July 1, 2010 • No Comments
Finally, a help message that I can understand.
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I was wandering around the web and found this:
Put the power of voodoo to work in the office–so you won’t have to! With a mini corporate voodoo doll and 32 page executive spellbook, you’re practically guaranteed to turn nasty colleagues into friendly allies. And if you’re looking for a raise or hoping for a promotion, you can hardly go wrong with this hilarious kit.
June 23, 2010 • No Comments
Now that many jurisdictions have banned the use of cell phones while driving, here comes yet another distraction for drivers. In an effort to raise revenue, California lawmakers are now considering Digital Electronic License Plate (DELP) technology that would allow rear license plates on vehicles to display l.e.d. advertising when the car is stopped.
The technology could also be used to show information such as Amber alerts and emergency traffic updates. But, for those drivers who want to use the space for their own messages, the DMV could charge for the privilege, just as they do for vanity plates.
The added economic bonus from the development and engineering of digital electronic license plate technology would be new jobs in tech and sales/marketing. In California, the bill promoting a study and trials of the program is being pushed by Smart Plate, a Bay-area company that is currently developing a digital license plate. A feasibility study should be completed by January 1, 2013, with research costs of about US$200,000 to be met by private vendors.
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The writing task I always put off is Chapter 3.
Chapter 1 is easy. It’s a fresh idea, a fresh start, a fling with some new characters. It’s like sneaking out of your bedroom window at night and creeping off for some unauthorized fun. It’s the attraction of the unknown, crammed with possibilities.
Chapter 2 is the counterpoint, a response, the chance to provide the answering viewpoint, the villain’s machinations, or the Big Thing that raises the stakes to a nerve-shattering pitch.
Chapter 3 is where the author has to get past the fanfare and start providing actual story. If the fireworks in the first two chapters were nothing but a lot of light and sound, this is where the shaky foundation becomes apparent. Cue sound of fizzling. Cue sound of author whistling as they stroll away, pretending they didn’t like that dumb story anyway.
I hate chapter 3. If we make it past that danger point, chapter 5 is nearly as bad, because that’s where the author has to have another trick in her bag to crank up the volume. It has to be something fresh that the reader hasn’t seen coming, yet not so outlandish that your editor suspects you’re using a plotting version of Mr. Potato Head.
I love chapter 10, because if I make it that far I know my book has a chance to survive infancy. Nevertheless, there are still dangerous waters ahead. I have a tendency to suddenly start hallucinating around chapter 13 that I have far too many pages to fill, and that I’d better drag in a third and fourth plot just to fill it up—which is how I have been known to exceed my allotted word count by, oh, 60,000 words. Sagging middles have never been my literary foe. Knowing when to back away from the keyboard is.
If I can avoid the “gee, I guess I’d better throw in a revolt by the trolls” trap, I finish in good order. The second half of the book will go twice as fast as the first, because all my lovely setup is unwinding just like it’s supposed to. Biff! Bam! Dragons! Holy batwings, Dracula!
The problem is that I have to get past chapter 3 to get there. All the decisions are yet to be made. All the slog up the hill of rising tension has yet to begin. Chapter 3 is what tests not just your inspiration, but your resolve, your toolkit, and your devious plan. It’s where the real authors come out to play, fully prepared to make their characters’ lives sheer hell. Hear us roar!
Or mew. Sometimes ideas aren’t quite ready for the world. After all, who doesn’t have a few started-but-never-got-traction projects stored away on hard drives, in closets, or in craft cupboards?
June 16, 2010 • 1 Comment
Summertime can be when I get my best writing done. I think this is a hangover from being in school—I expect to have more time and energy to spare, so I associate warm nights and hanging out in the garden with creative thought and, more specifically, experimental writing.
When I was in university, my focus was on late eighteenth and early nineteenth century English poets, aka the Byronic crowd. One of their buddies was a novelist named Matthew “Monk” Lewis, who wrote what we’d now call horror fiction. One summer I applied myself to his works. Mostly I was fascinated by the claim that he had locked himself up for a long weekend with a case of wine and deli take-out and written the first draft of The Monk. It’s a substantial pile o’ prose (and not a bad read, if you like gothic). Me, I would take a long weekend to write a synopsis, and only if I were stone cold sober.
Nonetheless, the result of my Monk-ish fascination resulted in a complete manuscript written that summer. Rereading it now, I wish I had the excuse of alcohol abuse for the sword-waving histrionics contained therein. One takes things far too seriously at that age.
Now, since what I write is mostly about brooding monster guys (thanks so much, Mr. Lewis), my summer escapes tend to be light and fluffy adventure stories. I actually started writing one, just to clear the dust and spiderwebs of the Castle out of my soul for a bit. I’ll bet you a quarter that if all I ever wrote was light and fluffy, I’d be looking for something dark and broody. That’s just the way holidays work—we want the opposite of our normal lives so that we can go back and appreciate what we have day to day.
On a parallel note, I’m leaving the chilly northern rainforest (okay, it’s sunny and gorgeous out, but go with me here) for the tropical steam of Orlando in July. If that’s not a reversal of my typical habitat, well, vampires don’t have coffin hair in the morning.
Okay, all you paranormal readers—what bookshelf do you visit to change things up?
June 9, 2010 • No Comments
At the moment, one has to be skilful to avoid the news that a Mr. Potato Head Elvis will soon be gracing toy shelves, first in a white jumpsuit version in August and then in a black leather version come Christmas.
Yikes. Should I ever become famous, I don’t wish to become THAT famous.