Friday, December 31, 2010

We Have Winners!

Everyone's out in sunny (and soon to be soggy) Alabama, buying black-eyed peas for luck, greens or cabbage for prosperity, and pork for...uh...to support the local pig farmers...Heck, I don't know why. Because it's tradition.

I miss my New Orleans tradition, which consisted for a trip to Popeye's Fried Chicken. For fifteen years, I heralded the New Year with an extra spicy chicken breast and a side of red beans. Much better.

What's your tradition?

I'll be picking the winner of the big 11-book prize pack tomorrow, so check back. There's still time to comment to enter!

In the meantime, here are the rest of this week's winners:

DOTTIE won the ARC of Anna J. Evans' upcoming novel, Demon Marked.
BRODIE won her choice of book from the Dec. 28 release list--she's chosen the new Dark Divine novel from Bree Despain.
MONICA won a copy of Patrick Lee's new apocalyptic Ghost Country. Please contact me within the next five days to let me know your email and mailing address.

Congrats, everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Writing Resolutions (& an 11-Book Giveaway for 2011!)

Writers have resolutions like everyone else...except different. Yep, lose weight is up there, along with be nicer to people and, this year, to fight the war against high fructose corn syrup.

We also have a few others. Mine for 2011 look something like this:

-- Start publishing original short fiction on this blog site. Beginning Feb. 1, I hope to post new short stories or novelettes on the first of each month as free downloads.

-- Feature more author interviews, reviews and giveaways on the blog.

-- Revamp my website.

-- Draft at least one novel, preferably two--depending on the status of the ones already in circulation.

--Work toward the April 2012 release of my debut novel ROYAL STREET. Covers! Galleys! And work with my editor on revisions for its sequel RIVER ROAD.

-- Stop being an online workshop whore. Is there a 12-step program for this available?

So, in the spirit of giving, here's my big Almost New Year's Eve Giveaway: 11 books in honor of 2011. I might throw in a couple extra, but you'll definitely get these (included links in case you want to read more about them):
1. Charlaine Harris: Dead in the Family (A Sookie Stackhouse Novel)
2. John Barnes: Directive 51 (a cool piece of apocalypic fiction)
3. Mark Hodders' The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack (really good steampunk)
4. Claudia Gabel's Romeo and Juliet and Vampires (YA mashup)
5. Mark Acevedo's Werewolf Smackdown ( hardcore urban fantasy)
6. Jonathan Barnes' The Somnambulist (urban fantasy with my favorite opening paragraph, maybe ever)
7.  Caitlin Kittredge's Nightlife (urban fantasy, Nocturne City Book 1)
8. Illona Andrews' Magic Bites (urban fantasy, Kate Daniels Book 1)
9. T.A. Pratt's Blood Engines (urban fantasy, Marla Mason Book 1)
10. Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book (urban fantasy, in a Gaiman kinda way)
11. Nick Valentino's Thomas  Riley (YA steampunk, signed copy with swag)

There you have it! To enter, tell me your favorite book of 2010--what blew your socks off?  As always, extra entry for comments, blog followers, followers on Twitter @Suzanne_Johnson, and an extra for Tweeting (or Retweeting) the contest. Drawing will take place on Saturday, New Year's Day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Ghost Country by Patrick Lee

Released yesterday (Dec. 28) from HarperCollins was Patrick Lee's Ghost Country. I loved loved loved this book (and you know I never gush). Want to win a copy? Read on...

PLOT:
  For decades, inexplicable technology has passed into our world through the top secret anomaly called the Breach. The latest device can punch a hole into the future . . .What Paige Campbell saw when she opened a door into seventy years from now scared the hell out of her. She and her Tangent colleagues brought their terrible discovery to the President—and were met with a hail of automatic gunfire after leaving the White House. Only Paige survived. Fearing a terrifying personal destiny revealed to him from the other side of the Breach, Travis Chase abandoned Tangent . . . and Paige Campbell. Now he must rescue her—because Paige knows tomorrow’s world is desolate and dead, a ghost country scattered with the bones of billions. And Doomsday will dawn in just four short months . . . unless they can find the answers buried in the ruins to come. But once they cross the nightmare border into Ghost Country, they might never find their way back . . .

THE AUTHOR: This is the second Travis Chase novel from Michigan author Patrick Lee, following The Breach.

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, I have to preface this by confessing that I am a SERIOUS disaster-movie geek. If it's a disaster flick, however awful, I assure you I have seen it. I probably own it. (The irony that I was myself in the middle of Hurricane Katrina is not lost on me, and I'll admit I lost my taste for disasters for a couple of years. Believe me, they're not nearly so fun when they're happening to you.) So it follows that I have a weakness for apocalyptic fiction. Ghost Country is a great apocalyptic story, and I'll be going back and picking up its predecessor The Breach now. Patrick Lee achieves something not too many apoca-fiction (I need to trademark that) authors can, and that is decent characterization as well as worldbuilding. Oh, they're not the world's deepest-feeling characters; the emotion is very subdued. But it's there, and I give the author props for that. The worldbuilding, and the ability to convey a complex system of people moving back and forth between a seventy-year span without confusion, is extremely well done. In my new rating system, I give Ghost Country a 62: that's the page at which I didn't want to put the book down till it was finished.

THE GIVEAWAY: I'm giving away a copy of Ghost Country--just tell me your favorite disaster movie or apoca-fiction book (my fave apoca-novel is Stephen King's The Stand). As always, extra entry for comments, blog followers, followers on Twitter @Suzanne_Johnson, and an extra for Tweeting (or Retweeting) the contest. Drawing will take place on Friday, New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Release Day (& Win a Book of Your Choice!)

After a few quiet weeks in publishing for the holidays, we have a whole new spate of spec fiction coming out today. In case you have gift cards you want to spend, here are today’s releases plus a drive-by summary and genre key (YA=Young Adult; SF=Science Fiction; UF=Urban Fantasy; PNR=Paranormal Romance; F=Fantasy).  At the end, a giveaway!

Dec. 28 releases, by author

Barant, D.D.: Killing RocksKickass FBI profiler survives but might have to sell soul. (UF)
Beukes, Lauren: Zoo CityPsychic hunts killer in freaky Johannesburg. (UF)
De la Cruz, Melissa: Bloody ValentineBlue Blood vamps break more hearts. (UF, YA)
Despain, Bree: The Lost SaintHeaven’s wolf grows cocky, falls into trap. (UF, YA)
Feehan, Christine: Ruthless GameAlpha ghostwalker has to save Rose. Surprise! She’s knocked up. (PNR)
Francis, Diana Pharaoh: Crimson WindWarrior must save her mortal family amid unexpected revelations (UF)
Holzner, NancyHellforgedDemon stalks Deadtown zombies and really kills them. (UF)
Howell, Morgan: The Iron PalaceHalf-breed Devourer on quest to claim destiny. (F)
King, J. Robert: Guild Wars: Edge of DestinyDragons and dwarves and heroes battle for future. (F)
Laurie, Victoria: Ghouls, Ghouls, GhoulsTV crew haunts ghostly Irish castle. (UF)
Lee, Patrick: Ghost CountryThree people go into future to prevent apocalypse. (SF)
Lovegrove, James: Age of OdinWashed-up soldier gets new assignment with Norse gods. (SF)
McMahon, Gary: Pretty Little Dead ThingsTom sees dead people, and it isn’t pretty. (UF)
Myles, Jill: My Fair SuccubiFallen angel is waiting, but succubus finds vampire tempting. (PNR)
Rickloff, Alix: Earl of DarknessLady reduced to theft finds bigger prize in Irish earl. (PNR)
Robertson, Linda: Arcane CircleSurprise! Boyfriend is king of the werewolves. (UF)
Robinson, A.M.: Vampire CrushGrade school sweetie all grown up, with fangs. (UF, YA)
Ronald, Margaret: Soul HuntSupernatural tracker’s losing her power just when the demons show up. Bad timing. (UF)
Schreiber, Ellen: Once in a Full MoonCute new student howls in the moonlight. (UF, YA)
Stolarz, Laurie Faria: Deadly Little GamesFamily tragedy brings out teens’ scary powers. (UF, YA)
Taylor, K.J.: The Dark Griffin (Fallen Moon)Former slave and griffin companion finds kindred spirit. (F)
Terrell, Heather: Fallen AngelGeeky girl gets the guy; neither is human. (UF, YA)

THE GIVEAWAY: Which of today’s releases most interests you? I’ll give away the book of your choice for leaving a comment. As always, extra entry for comments, blog followers, followers on Twitter @Suzanne_Johnson, and an extra for Tweeting (or Retweeting) the contest. Drawing will take place on Friday, New Year's Eve. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review & ARC Giveaway: Demon Marked by Anna J. Evans

Coming from Signet Eclipse on January 4 is Anna J. Evans' Demon Marked. Want to win a copy? Read on... 

PLOT:  Emma Quinn satisfies her demonic cravings by feeding on human life force, and keeps her conscience clean by preying only upon those who deserve it. But when Emma overindulges one night, she's in trouble with her victim's gang---or she will be...if they find his body. She turns to mob lawyer Andre Conti, an arrogant womanizer. He's also a man who doesn't believe in her powers, but who will awaken sensual cravings Emma wasn't sure she possessed...

THE AUTHOR: Anna J. Evans is a veteran author with multiple titles published by Ellora's Cave, Samhain, and NAL. Demon Marked is the second in the Marked series, following Shadow Marked earlier this year.


MY THOUGHTS: This is a fun, fast read, a paranormal romance set in an alternative version of New York that has been overrun with demons. Other than the invisible demons inside Emma, who need to be fed in a way that makes her an emotional vampire of sorts, the demons actually are pretty benign. There's a nice bit of snarky humor, although sometimes it doesn't quite jibe with the seriousness of the events taking place. My biggest quibble was the age difference of the H/H--she's barely 20 and he's in his thirties. (Hey, did a guy write this?) But Emma's no ordinary 20-year-old, and Evans makes it work. The romance is sexy and integral to the story.

THE GIVEAWAY: I'm giving away an ARC of Demon Marked. Please note the ARC doesn't have the final cover shown here but a plain cover with no illustration. As always, extra entry for comments, blog followers, followers on Twitter @Suzanne_Johnson, and an extra for Tweeting (or Retweeting) the contest. Drawing will take place on Friday, New Year's Eve. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reader Expectations, Happy Endings & Lover Unbound

According to my favorite Word Meter (which you'll find over in the righthand column Quick Status section), I'm at the 82% mark in completing a major revision to my WIP. "Major," in this case, means skewing the whole focus of the book, writing new scenes, deleting old scenes (more than 10,000 words so far), shifting some scenes around, and rethinking the overarching theme of the book.

What's left, however, is revising the ending. You think beginnings are hard? Endings are murder.

I'm over at the Castles & Guns blog today, talking about writing endings to novels and one particular book whose ending drove me nuts. Click on the link, come on over and leave a comment! 

Friday, December 24, 2010

We Have Winners (& Teaser for Next Week)

Merry Christmas, y'all! Okay, obligatory Alabama greeting out of the way.

First off, we have winners! Congratulations to RKCharron for winning Black Magic Sanction or another book by Kim Harrison; to teawench for winning Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World; and to Lisa R for winning Nina Bangs' Eternal Prey. I'll be emailing everyone shortly for mailing info!

I'm off to do family stuff and work on some book revisions till Monday 12/27. But a sneak peak at some of the things coming up next week, but not necessarily in this order:

--A review & giveaway of Patrick Lee's new dystopian sci-fi book Ghost Country, which releases on the 28th.
 --A review & giveaway of Margaret Ronald's new Soul Hunt urban fantasy set in an alternate Boston...Tuesday is its release day.
--A sneak peek at January releases in science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance -- including YA.
--A New Year's Grab Bag 11-Book Prize Pack to celebrate 2011.
--Some reminiscing about New Year's, and the unveiling of my Big Blog Plans for next year.

Hope you'll stop by next week and visit!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Nina Bangs - Eternal Prey


Coming from Avon Paranormal Romance on Dec. 28 is Nina Bangs' Eternal Prey. Want to win a copy? Read on...
 
THE PLOT:  A magnificent creature, Utah wants vengeance against the bloodsuckers who murdered his brother. Once the beast within him is unleashed, he won’t rest until every vampire is destroyed. But he never expected to encounter a leader of his immortal enemies who was so beautiful, bewitching . . . and mortal. It is Lia’s destiny and her duty to stop the renegade vampires who are intent on annihilating the human and non-human races alike. But she never dreamed that Utah, once a deadly foe, would now become her ally and protector, or that loving him would be more dangerous than anything she’s ever faced before. For when Utah frees his predator soul, there will be no end to the carnage. 

THE AUTHOR:  USA Today bestselling author Nina Bangs lives near Houston, Texas, with her cat, Abby, and two vampires who never made it into her books. Eternal Prey is the third in her Gods of the Night series. 

MY THOUGHTS: You don't need to have read the first two in this series to love Eternal Prey--in fact, I'm off in search of the first two. At first I thought the premise (at the end of the Mayan Calendar in November 2012, earth's dominant species--humans--will be destroyed, and only the shapeshifting remnants of the dinosaurs can prevent it, plus there are vampires) sounded over-the-top. But Bangs pulls it off, and I found myself really loving the worldbuilding in this. Plus the dino-shifters are, you know, hot. 

THE GIVEAWAY: Want a copy of Eternal Prey? All you have to do is comment on your favorite shifter. (Mine is...Adam, from the Mercy Thompson series...although I was always fond of Quinn in the Sookie series....) As always, extra entry for comments, blog followers, followers on Twitter @Suzanne_Johnson, and an extra for Tweeting (or Retweeting) the contest. Drawing will take place on Christmas Day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (& Giveaway!)

My latest read is Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World, a "weird west" kind of steampunk that takes weird to new levels--in a good way. Author Stephen Donaldson says Gilman "writes like a modern-day Dickens drunk on rich invention and insane war," and that bit of hyperbole is as apt as anything I could come up with. So, here's the scoop on  The Half-Made World...and at the close of the blog, a GIVEAWAY.

THE PLOT:
A fantastical reimagining of the American West which draws its influence from steampunk, the American western tradition, and magical realism. The world is only half made. What exists has been carved out amidst a war between two rival factions: the Line, paving the world with industry and claiming its residents as slaves; and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that cripples the population with fear. The only hope at stopping them has seemingly disappeared—the Red Republic that once battled the Gun and the Line, and almost won. Now they’re just a myth, a bedtime story parents tell their children, of hope.
     To the west lies a vast, uncharted world, inhabited only by the legends of the immortal and powerful Hill People, who live at one with the earth and its elements. Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels to the edge of the made world to a spiritually protected mental institution in order to study the minds of those broken by the Gun and the Line. In its rooms lies an old general of the Red Republic, a man whose shattered mind just may hold the secret to stopping the Gun and the Line. And either side will do anything to understand how.

THE AUTHOR:  Gilman's 2007 novel Thunderer (published by Bantam Spectra) was nominated for the 2009 Locus Award for Best First Novel and also earned him a nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in both 2009 and 2010. The Half-Made World was released in November by Tor Books. Born in London, he now lives in New York and practices law.

MY THOUGHTS: If you're looking for a quick, easy, read-in-a-couple-of-sittings kind of book, this isn't it. It's hard to get into in the beginning because the worldbuilding is packed into the opening chapters. Stick with it through the first hundred pages, however, and you'll be rewarded with a truly unusual, rich and engaging story in a world where the culture clash between the coming of the railroad, the outlaw Wild West, and the mysticism of the Native Americans is reimagined in an amazing way.

THE GIVEAWAY: I'm running out of book space, so I'd like to pass my hardback copy of The Half-Made World along to someone else! As always, extra entry for comments, blog followers, followers on Twitter @Suzanne_Johnson, and an extra for Tweeting the contest. Drawing will take place on Christmas Day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Character Interview (& a Kim Harrison Giveaway)

Cross-posted from the Castles and Guns blog! Comment for a chance to win Kim Harrison's Black Magic Sanction (or another of her books if you aren't up to speed on the Rachel Morgan series), in honor of BMS's Dec. 28 release in paperback! If you already commented on the C&G blog, no need to do it again unless you just like commenting! 

Have you ever interviewed your characters? I tried this recently, and learned a few things about the hero in my WIP. Oh, I'd already done the usual character sheets, and five defining events in his life and all that pre-planning stuff. I thought I knew him really well. Then I decided to interview him, using some questions I'd gotten in a workshop. 

Here's the short pitch for the book, Redemption: A pandemic vaccine has left human blood poisonous to vampires, and the vampire world is fighting to protect its way of life. Immune at first is Penton, a small ghost town in the South repopulated by peace-loving master vampire Aidan Murphy, his scathe of vampires, and their unvaccinated, willingly bonded human familiars. His community is shattered by a series of brutal attacks perpetrated by his hated brother Owen and the Vampire Tribunal, and he's forced to take a human doctor hostage in order to have medical care for his people. He doesn't know that he, and his damaged heart, will be the one Dr. Krystal Harris tries to save.
 
And here's my interview with Aidan: 
 
Aidan arrives on time, greets me briskly, then plonks himself in a chair on the other side of my desk and stares at me in silence. He isn't going to make this easy. I sigh, and dig out my questions. 
 
What are you most ashamed of?
Damn, you don't waste time with the small talk, do you? I'm ashamed of what I am. There, is that what you want to hear? I don't want to be a bloody monster. I want to be a man, a husband, a father. I want to be who I was before I was turned into a predator. I'm ashamed that I can't get past it and move on, that I can't just accept what I am and be happy. 
 
What are you most afraid of?
Getting someone else I love killed. Nuff said. 
 
What beliefs would you die for?
I'd die before I let anyone else I love get hurt, but we don't usually get that chance, do we? They always get hurt. It's better just not to love. 
 
What three things do you value most?
Things I haven't already lost? 'Cause otherwise it would have been my wife Abby and son Cavan, and my life in Ireland. But that's long gone--all of it. Now, I guess I'd say Penton and the life I've built there for my people. My friendships with Mirren and Will and Hannah. My human familiars, Mark and Melissa. It's the people who matter, not the things. 
 
What emotional pain are you afraid to express?
Shit, if I'm afraid to express it, what makes you think I want to, like, EXPRESS it? Good God, woman. (I sit and stare at him.) Fine. Whatever. I don't like to talk about losing Abby, okay? It's not the anger at Owen, it's the anger at myself for second-guessing my decision to let her die. I can't forgive myself for it. (Clams up and gives me what his familiar Melissa calls his Irish pig-farmer stare.) 
 
What do you do for a living and why?
I'm a master vampire. That's pretty much what I do for a living. I have a scathe of 75 vampires and 125 humans, and through money I've made over the years in investments I've bought up all of a virtually abandoned mill town in rural Alabama. We all live together there. I guess I'm the mayor (chuckles). The Mayor of Penton. 
 
What makes you vulnerable?
(Sits a long time and stares at the floor.) Getting emotionally involved. I have people I care about, but Mirren's the only one who really knows me well. Krystal Harris is pushing all of my buttons, I have to tell you. She's breaking through some walls I've spent a long time building up, and I'm not liking it. Couldn't you have gotten me a male doctor to kidnap? 
 
What kind of family do you come from?
My human family was a simple Irish farm family in County Cork, Ireland, but I've been in America for more than 300 years. My human brother, Owen, was turned vampire at the same time as me. He is NOT my family, you got that? He lost that right a long time ago. My family now are my lieutenants--Mirren, Will, and Hannah, and my fam Melissa and her husband Mark. 
 
What are three defining moments from your past that have made you who you are today?
Well, that's pretty damned easy, yes? When I was made vampire. When I chose to let my wife die rather than be turned into a monster like me. When I took on responsibility for this scathe and moved it to Penton. 
 
Do you have any unusual skills or talents?
I always worked the soil, and it's still what I do. Sounds pretty damned stupid, but I have a greenhouse that I putter in at night--mostly growing night-blooming flowers. It still makes me feel a part of the world of sunlight. Shit, that's pathetic. 
 
In what ways do you label yourself?
I'm a predator, always fighting to keep the monster inside under control. I hurt the people I love. I don't feed from the same people I have sex with--that's an intimacy I just don't do. It's better for everybody that way. 
 
What's the one thing you regret most?
That I didn't kill my brother Owen when I had the chance. 
 
What is the one thing you desire most?
Peace. As normal a life as I can have. Making a good place for my people to live. Doesn't look like that's happening, does it? I'm outta here. (Stalks out of the room.)
 
What I learned about Aidan from this is how angry he is. I knew he was frustrated and tortured, but not how deep the anger went. As I revise now, I'm working more of than anger into his scenes. 
 
How about you?  How do you get into your characters' heads? Have you tried the interview? If you're a reader but not a writer, do you really enjoy getting into a character's head?





Let Vampires Eat Cake (A Recipe and a Vampire Necklace Giveaway!)

Read on for a chance to win this cool "vampire bites" one-size-fits-all choker made with garnet-colored teardrop crystals, made by the folks at Smitten-2-b-Bitten.

'Tis the season for cooking. And like my favorite urban fantasy heroines, I don't cook. I can cook, but it's not something I enjoy. I started flipping through some of my favorite UF books to see if I could find a cook but the closest I could find was Sookie Stackhouse, who occasionally whips up a casserole and a plate of biscuits to feed her favorite shapeshifters. Guess UF heroines are too busy saving the world to pick up a saucepan.

DJ, the heroine of my New Orleans novels, is big on Cheetos and Diet Dr. Pepper unless she can pick dinner up (which is often). Then she'll go for oyster po-boys or muffalettas, beignets or bread pudding.

So in honor of my and DJ's pathetic cooking skills, I'll offer this "Cheater German Chocolate Cake" recipe from my writing partner Suse over at Wastepaper Prose, which she swears by and which she has (unadvisedly) talked me into making this year.

Cheater German Chocolate Cake
1 package yellow cake mix
1 3.5-oz package instant vanilla pudding mix
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans. Combine the ingredients. Mix and pour batter into the pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cake tests done. Set aside to cool

Icing (because it isn't frosting in the South, y'all):
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flaked coconut
In a medium saucepan, mix the evaporated milk, brown sugar, egg yolks and butter.  Cook over medium heat until thick. Remove from heat and beat until partially cooled. Beat in the vanilla, then stir in coconut and pecans.

I will be making this cake on Thursday. Last time I made a three-layer cake (a Lane Cake, the unofficial State Cake of Alabama), it tilted like the Tower of Pisa, and I blamed it on the high water table in New Orleans. Before that, while I was living in San Diego, I made a three-layer Red Velvet cake, and when a ginormous crevice split down the middle I blamed it on a mythical earthquake only the cake and I could feel.

I think my vampires have the right idea. A simple, one-ingredient diet, served warm.

Comment with your favorite holiday food, and on Christmas Eve, I'll be drawing for the Vampire Necklace. You know the drill: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, +1 for tweet or retweet. Go to it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Conducting the Character Interview (& a Kim Harrison giveaway!)

First off, attention NOOBLING (AKA WHOO) and MARIAN L--multiple emails to you have gone unanswered over the past couple of weeks. You have won prizes. Please email me asap so you don't lose your prizes!

I'm blogging over at the Castles and Guns blog today about interviewing your characters--it's surprising what you can learn. Join me over there and leave a comment either here or there. One commenter will receive a copy of Kim Harrison's Black Magic Sanction, in honor of its Dec. 28 release in paperback! Not a reader of Kim's Rachel Morgan series? I'll substitute a paperback of your choice!

Now, go forth and comment--you know the drill!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

We Have Winners!

Thanks for everyone who commented, followed and tweeted this week! Below are the winners of this week's contests. I'm saving some REALLY good ones for the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned! If you've won, I'll be contacting you later tonight or tomorrow for mailing info, or sending ebooks.

The winner of the JR Ward book of choice is....JAZ!

The winner of The Dark is Rising series is...THERESA!

The winner of the Madeleine Drake ebook Faery's Bargain is...JAMI!

The winner of the $15 Amazon or Book Depository gift card is JAMIE (the guy)!

The winners of Vampire Vacation are...TERI ANNE, JAZ, NANCY, JAMIE, SANDYG, TABITHA, CHELLE, DEB-MC, WEBGURL, TANYA1224, SHE and KIRSTEN

Congrats, everyone!

Winners are coming!

I'll post this evening with all of this week's contest winners--check back! Now....Christmas shopping!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Sanity Tips from author C.J. Ellisson (& Win a copy of Vampire Vacation!)


Housekeeping note: Check back tomorrow (Saturday) for all the winners of this week's giveaways! And read on for a great, hot, sexy vampire giveaway today!

Today, I'd like to welcome author C.J. Ellisson, who writes erotic urban fantasy. Her first novel (and first in a new series) is Vampire Vacation, about a most unusual inn for vampires in Alaska! C.J. offers some hilarious insights into surviving holiday insanity, and is offering multiple ebooks of Vampire Vacation for commenters today. Your chances of winning are high, so leave a comment! You know the drill: 1 entry for comment, 1 for blog follow, 1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and 1 for tweeting or retweeting this contest!

Eight Ways to Stay Sane During the Holidays

by C.J. Ellisson

1) Never buy your children gifts that need to be assembled the night before. Like bikes. Give them a picture and tell them Santa dropped it at the store because it was too big for the chimney, then go "pick it up" at before-mentioned store. We built bikes one year. Kills all chances of getting a little Christmas Eve nookie when your spouse is pissed off and frustrated building something with lots of tiny parts.

2) Do not invite friends over. Don't think a gathering mid-month with a few friends for cocktails at your house isn't a party. It is, and the bastards will stay late and make a mess. They will only exit after drinking all your best wine and waking your kids up with their drunken laughter. Avoid such a gathering at all costs, no matter how easy it sounded in November, and get together in January—much cheaper when they're all trying to lose their extra holiday weight *snort*.

3) Volunteer for only one thing. Be it your kid's school party, donating all the crap in your house that has barely been used or still in boxes to those less fortunate (let's face it, cleaning out all those closets takes way more time than the kid's one-hour party at school), or organizing the buying of all gifts for your combined extended family. Pick and choose wisely. To do more than your share makes the rest of us lazy bitches look really bad.

4) Run from your family for several hours each week. I'm not saying you should literally run screaming from the house, but if it's a nice day and your neighbors are far away, go for it. But you should take time for you—even if it's to escape into the bathroom to soak in the tub with a good book. A relaxed parent is less snarky and more patient.

5) Drink a lot. Okay, not if you're an alcoholic, and if you are I'm sorry. But if I couldn't drink at least a little every day (and with my current life that means sometimes only one drink), I'd probably need to run screaming from the house more often—like nightly, right after dinner. Or on bad days, before dinner.

6) Have lots of sex. What? You only give it up for birthdays, anniversaries, when you want something, it's Valentine's Day or after a fight? Change the mindset, girlfriend. Steady sex will make you realize killing him in his sleep just means you'll have to train a new one all over again, and really, he's not so bad.

7) Limit the time you spend with your extended family. High hopes this year no one will mention the horrid thing you did ten years ago? Wrong. Most families live for the sharp jabs, the passive-aggressive subtleties, and the late-night slurred slams. We optimistically think they will evolve, but no, sadly, they never will. Accept it and you'll be happier.

8) Get enough sleep. This really helps with numbers four and six. You handle stress better when you are well rested and won't be too tired for your man to shower you with affection—letting him prove, once again, how awesome you are.

Eat, sleep, drink and be merry this holiday season. You deserve it.

Thanks for having me, Suzanne! I hope some of my tongue-in-cheek ways to stay sane help your readers this season ;-)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: C.J. Ellisson, author of erotic urban fantasy, lives near Washington DC with her husband, two children aged 10 and 8, two Staffordshire Bull Terriers and a young cat she's newly allergic to. After spending most of her working life dealing with real estate—either as a wholesale sales manager in mortgage banking, corporate trainer, Realtor or as a property manager—she's now writing full time and happy for the first time in years. Writing has become her passion and to find people want to read her stories feels like a dream come true. You can visit C.J. at her website, on Facebook, or at a new fiction blog offering free fantasy fiction daily from seven published authors. And if you like erotica, please try Everything Erotic, where original work posts five days a week.

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ABOUT VAMPIRE VACATION: Contest time!! In honor of all the joyous holidays this month, C.J. will be giving away twelve ebooks of her debut novel, Vampire Vacation.  If you're interested in winning one, please leave your email in the comments field and the winners will be picked randomly. Here's the book's back cover description:

Meet Vivian. She’s a 580-year-old vampire who exudes sex, has a talent for drama, and is passionate about two things: her human husband, Rafe, and their resort for the undead. Her ability to project physical illusions has created the perfect vacation spot—a dark, isolated Alaskan hideaway where visitors can have their wildest fantasies come true. Vivian knows the best performance requires perfect timing, but the powerful vamp is put to the test when she discovers a corpse in a locked guest room minutes before the next arrivals. Always cool-headed, Rafe hides the body, convinced he and Vivian can find the culprit without disturbing their guests. Juggling the increasingly outrageous demands of their customers while tracking a killer isn’t easy. Will their poking and prodding give them the answers they need, or will it uncover secrets Vivian would kill to protect?

Good luck, everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Publishers are Buying--And What They Aren't

(And yes, there's a giveaway today---read on!)

Urban fantasy and paranormal fiction has been the darling of publishing for the last few years, but a conversation with my agent earlier this week made me start wondering if the UF bubble has begun to deflate. As a writer of urban fantasy and paranormal romance this is Bad News. Of course, a writer never writes to the market but you can't ignore it (especially if the number of adult authors flocking to ride the YA bandwagon is any indication).

So, like any self-respecting nerd looking for ways to procrastinate, I did a study of the genre fiction sales this past year, using data from Publisher's Marketplace. I only looked at genre fiction, and discounted anthologies,  reprints of books by dead authors, and small limited-run editions such as those put out by Subterranean Press (however much I adore their books).

Here's what I found in books sold between Dec. 15, 2009, and Dec. 15, 2010 (counting multiple-book deals as one sale):

Young Adult: 432
Romance/Women's Fiction: 371
Mystery/Crime: 148
Inspirational: 145
Thrillers: 120
Urban Fantasy: 76
Science Fiction/Steampunk: 36
Horror: 13
Traditional Fantasy: 13

I'd have to do an analysis of the previous year to see trending, but overall throughout the year, there seemed to be a drop in urban fantasy while steampunk gave sci-fi a shot in the arm.

(The Young Adult numbers are mind-boggling to me. I've read some really good YA, but I've also read lots more that I just couldn't identify with, being far-removed from the angst of teenhood.  When will that bubble burst, already? Surely saturation must be near at hand.)

Within Urban Fantasy, here's the breakdown:
*Complex-worlds with multiple paranormal species: 24 sales (with NAL, Ace, Berkley, Prime and Night Shade most active)
*Angels/Demons: 18 sales (Tor, Pocket, Rock and Kensington most active)
*Werewolves/Shapeshifters: 11 sales (NAL most active)
*Witches/Wizards: 10 sales (Berkley and Pocket most active)
*Vampires: 7 sales (NAL most active)
*Ghosts: 6 sales (Tor most active)
*No zombies!

Most active publishers buying in Steampunk (Tor, HarperCollins Voyager and Ace)
Most active publishers buying Sci-Fi other than Steampunk (Tor, Baen, Daw, Roc and Del Rey)
Most active publishers buying traditional fantasy/romantic fantasy (Tor and Orbit)

What can we draw from all this? Probably not much, except that zombies might finally be dying, angels and demons are still hot, and vampires' fangs are slipping. Complex worlds with those species are more seem to be doing best.

And now for the giveaway! To win a $15 Amazon e-giftcard for a book of your choice, just leave a comment!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Updike Cure for Infodumps (& Win a Copy of Faery's Bargain)

Today, we welcome Madeleine Drake, author of the new erotic urban fantasy, Faery's Bargain. At the end of the blog, Maddy will be giving away a copy of the new book in eBook form--comment for a chance to win, plus one additional entry each for blog follow, Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a Tweet or RT. And remember, you can still comment on posts (scroll down) to win a copy of the complete Dark is Rising series and a copy of a book by JR Ward (your choice).
 
The Updike Cure for Infodumps
by Madeleine Drake
Like most beginning writers, I used to have problems with infodumps.  Writing fantasy and science fiction means extra worldbuilding, and extra information that has to be communicated to readers.  But every time I slid into exposition, my critique partners would holler, "Infodump!"

I cut my exposition to slivers, only squeezing in the barest amount of information that I thought readers needed in order to understand that was happening, a sentence at a time.

But they were still infodumps.

I made a rule:  I would only put exposition in interior monologue.

That was better, but those expository passages still stopped the flow of my story.

I made another rule:  I would only put exposition in interior monologue, and I would always include an external stimulus to trigger the internal monologue.

This kept the flow of the story going, but it didn't stop my critique partners crying "Infodump!"

In desperation, I turned to John Updike.  I'd recently taken a workshop where the instructor had praised Updike's ability to keep a story moving in spite of the need for exposition.  So I bought an anthology containing his story "A&P," and I sat down to read it with pen in hand, ready to learn from the master. 

By the time I finished the story, I was indignant.  "A&P" is full of exposition.  How did Updike get away with paragraph-long infodumps when I couldn't manage to pull off a single sentence?

Some dark chocolate and a few deep breaths later, I read the story again, and in my calmer state of mind, I noticed something that the main character, Sammy, doesn't tell us about his hometown or the people who live there.

Sammy jokes, complains, and makes snarky comments about his hometown.  He guesses what other people might be thinking, he compares himself to the people around him, and he's defensive about the fact that he doesn't fit in.  He shares his teenage philosophy on life, and he has knee-jerk reactions to everything.

That was when I realized...

Exposition = boring. 

But exposition + attitude = interesting.

As soon as the information about Sammy's small town is filtered through the youth's point of view--his attitudes, his desires, his fears--it's no longer just exposition.  It's been transformed into characterization, showing who Sammy is and what he wants via his reactions to small-town life.

Brilliant, eh?  Maybe Mr. Updike does deserve his reputation as a master writer after all. 

I still keep my exposition short, and I still tend to confine it to interior monologue.  But now, when I edit, I always look for a way to include the POV character's attitude toward the information I want to convey to the reader.  If a piece of information isn't important enough for a character to react to it...then maybe that information isn't important enough to include in the story.

Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of Faery's Bargain, first book in the Tribes of Danu series by Madeleine Drake. Please note this is erotic urban fantasy; rated H for hot!

ABOUT THE BOOK:  
--A witch gets more than she bargains for when she lends her magic to a sexy Fae warrior--
 Tara's witchcraft has failed to save her naga-bitten nephew: the only cure is a rare Faery herb, impossible for a human to obtain. Kane, a warrior of the Morrigan tribe, is bound to a baigh-duil; he needs a witch to help him send the soul-devouring monster back to its own realm, and he's willing to bargain.
       It seems like a fair trade -- the herb for help with a single spell.  But what will Tara do when she realizes Kane can only perform sex magic and death magic? Available from Cobblestone Press

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Madeleine Drake writes feisty, fast-paced paranormal romance and erotica that spans the space-time continuum. Raised by a pride of cats, a friendly mutt, and the Sonoma County library system, she loves to read about ancient history and mythology, anthropology, gender roles, and sexual archetypes.  Her current releases include Blood Hero (Excessica, 7/9/10) and Faery's Bargain (Cobblestone Press, 10/8/10), and her short story First Date appears in Just One Bite, Vol. 3 (All Romance Ebooks, 11/25/10). Her homeworld is located out past the constellation Orion, but she currently resides in Texas.  You can find her online at www.madeleinedrake.com.

No, go forth and win!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Most Insane Book Giveaway Ever

Monica over at The Bibliophilic Book Blog is giving away a HUGE book prize pack (71 titles at last count). Holy TBR pile, batman! Lots of entries but go and join in the fun!

Before YA Was King (& win the complete Dark is Rising series!)

Everybody (except me) is writing YA these days, it seems. Harry Potter had barely died down before the Twilight series relit the flame, and the whole forest caught fire. Yeah, yeah, dim-bulb analogy.

Anyway, YA paranormals did not spring fully formed from the wombs of Mizzes Rowling or Meyer. Look at Susan Cooper, for example, a British fantasy author who wrote a five-book YA fantasy series (although it was still considered children's lit back then) called The Dark is Rising Sequence--because the term "series" hadn't yet come into vogue. The books borrowed heavily from Arthurian legends and British history but have a more modern YA feel to them than many books of that era.

A month or so ago, a new omnibus edition including all five books in the series was released by Simon & Schuster/McElderry. Here's the scoop:

Will Stanton's ordinary life is shattered with the dreadful revelation that the Dark--the source of all evil--is rising in its last and greatest bid to control the world. He finds that he is no ordinary boy, but the last-born of the Old Ones, immortals dedicated to keeping mankind free from the Dark. Soon, Will is swept up in the great battle, along with his ageless master, Merriman; the three Drew children, who are mortal but have their own vital part to play; and a strange albino boy named Bran. These six fight fear and death in a quest through time and space interwoven with the most ancient myths of the islands of Britain--until, at last, Will and Bran find the weapon that will ultimately vanquish the Dark.

The five books, written between 1965 and 1979, are: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree. The 2007 film "The Seeker" was adapted from book two of the series.

Want to read some vintage YA? For a copy of The Dark is Rising: The Complete Sequence, containing all five novels, leave a comment with the usual drill: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for a Tweet or RT of one of my tweets. Read on!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quilting the Perfect Plot (and a JR Ward Giveaway!)

I know--all you want is the giveaway, right? Well, keep reading!

I've been thinking a lot about plot lately as I develop a workshop I hope to offer in 2011. I'm a serious plotter (as opposed to a "pantser," an author who just sits down and starts writing without a specific plan in mind). Most writers I meet fall somewhere in between, and I admit I fall a bit on the anal-retentive side. (Yes, my crit partner does call me Rain Man.)

Here's the workshop scoop:
QUILTING THE PERFECT PLOT: Storyboards, sticky notes, spreadsheets, index cards...throw 'em out! With a simple word processing program, you can easily stitch together the perfect quilt of a plot to keep your novel moving, help with worldbuilding, and keep your characters from wandering into the desert. This course uses a six-step technique to plot your novel from start to finish, and will give you a huge head-start on your first draft. This will be a working course: bring your best idea (you know the one that's been bubbling in your brain for six months but you haven't figured out where to start?) or a manuscript that's wandered into a maze, and we'll shape it up and get it moving.


The idea behind the workshop is not to plot out every step so that creativity is stifled, but to provide a framework so the creativity can flow without the story wandering off course. A lot of it boils down to defining the relationships within a novel, figuring out how those relationships get from Point A to Point Z, and then patching all those relationship growth points into a...quilt! Er, novel.

One author who's a master at this is J.R. Ward. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm bonkers over the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. (Hey, has anyone read the new Fallen Angels series yet?)  No matter which brother is the lead character in a given novel, Ward is careful to give us a glimpse into where the other character relationships are. So even if you're reading Lover Mine, John Matthew's story, you know what's going on with Rhage or Z or Wrath. It takes a huge balancing act to get all that story in place without it being clunky or intrusive.

So in honor of Plot (and JR Ward is infamous for creating these monster plotting outlines), I'd like to offer one commenter the choice of any of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books--or, if you already have all of them--one of the first two Fallen Angel series books. For the record, that's: Dark Lover (Wrath); Lover Eternal (Rhage); Lover Awakened (Zhadist); Lover Revealed (Butch); Lover Unbound (Vishous); Lover Enshrined (Phury); Lover Avenged (Rhevenge); or Lover Mine (John Matthew).  They're best read in order, so if you're new to BDB start with Dark Lover.

You know the drill! Comment for one entry & tell me which book you want; +1 for blog follower; +1 for Twitter follower @Suzanne_Johnson; +1 for each Tweet or RT. Make sure I have your email address. This one's open INTERNATIONALLY.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

And the winners are....

We had lots of giveaways this week (and more coming next week as I continue my mad dash toward unloading books by the holidays!). Congrats to the following winners--I'll be contacting you shortly:

WHOO won a copy of Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (the first in my favorite urban fantasy series!)
BRANDI and SCORPIO-M won copies of Kathryne Kennedy's Under the Thirteen Moons.
RACHEL F and RACHEL A (what are the chances of that?!) won a copy of Marissa Farrar's Alone.
BENNETA and AMBER K won copies of Marissa Farrar's The Dark Road.
SANDY G won a copy of Michael Marshall's Bad  Things.

Whew! Congrats to everyone, and thanks to Marissa Farrar for giving away two extra books because so many of you guys left comments! Woot!

I have some great ARCs coming up next week in urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and YA...check early, check often!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gonna Do Bad Things To You (Giveaway: Bad Things, by Michael Marshall)

I'll be drawing for lots of giveaways tomorrow (Sunday), so if you haven't entered for: 1) Either Alone or The Dark  Road by Marissa Farrar; Under the Thirteen Moons by Kathryne Kennedy; or your choice of book by Patricia Briggs from her Mercy Thompson or Alpha & Omega series, scroll down and comment to enter.

Up for grabs today: BAD THINGS (and no, it's not the Jace Everett song, although that song does bad things to me--heh).

THE PUBLISHER'S SCOOP: The new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of The Straw Man and The Intruders is a heart-stopping tale of deception, and our culpability in our own misfortunes. ...A bad thing occurred three years ago. A little boy died for no discernable reason, shattering lawyer John Henderson's world. Today he's a different man, living a solitary, simple existence in an Oregon beach house—until the night he receives a short e-mail from a stranger: I know what happened. With just four words, Henderson is pulled back to Black Ridge, Washington, the one place he'd hoped never to see again. It seems that bad things have always happened in this small town of generations-old secrets—and the shadows here seem even darker now than when tragedy first drove John Henderson away. The deeper he digs for answers, the more danger he draws toward himself and his estranged, helpless family . . . and he's not the only one who's been called home. And that's a very bad thing . . .

MY TAKE: I haven't read it yet, but it sounds spooky and creepy and awesome. I loved Stephen King's Storm of the Century, and this sort of has that feel to it, judging from the description.

WANT A COPY? Just comment today and it can be yours! You know the drill, as always: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, +1 for tweet or retweet.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dark Genres with Author Marissa Farrar (& Win 'Alone' or 'The Dark Road')

I'd like to welcome British author Marissa Farrar today! Marissa's the author of dark paranormals and "romantic horror," including  Alone, in which an woman escapes an abusive relationship only to find the perfect man and then learn he's a vampire, and Dark Road, in which a group of backpackers plunge into a far-East nightmare of ancient curses. Comment for a chance to win either eBook--just put in your comment which one you want (better descriptions below).


You know the drill: 1 entry for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for a Tweet or Retweet.  Now, take it away, Marissa! 


 Would a genre by any other name...
People are often surprised when I tell them what genre I write. I think they expect horror writers to be some shady, slightly warped weirdo who hides in a dark room and only ever wears black. Because, on the surface at least, I seem like a fairly normal mother of two, people just don’t expect the word ‘horror’ to come out of my mouth.
     I can see it in their faces, the slight adjustment of their initial assumptions about me, and, unless they are horror fans themselves, I think they do wonder if I have something sinister and freaky lurking behind the scenes.
     But the truth is that I do. Since I was a teenager I have had a basic obsession with anything scary. I’m an avid horror film watcher. There’s always that slightly dark, twisted part of me just dying to get out. Instead of falling into a depression, I escape into my writing. Nothing makes me feel better than listening to some music (30 Seconds to Mars, Live, Kings of Leon) and writing. It’s like a cleansing process, an escapism, and when I’m done I can turn my attention back to the piles of laundry, and small sticky fingers clambering for my attention.  It makes me feel as if I’ve reclaimed a little piece of myself again.
     So do we choose what genres we write, or do they chose us?
     I never felt as if I had much choice in writing horror. There was never any time I wrote anything else, and even my novel Alone, which is technically an urban fantasy/paranormal romance, certainly has plenty of horror elements. Its sequel, Buried Alone, which is scheduled for a mid 2011 release, definitely goes far more down the horror road.
     Despite this, the majority of my books also have a romance element to them. If I could coin the term, ‘romantic horror’ I would be spot on. For me, having a romantic thread through the scary stuff gives the stories an element of hope, and makes the characters come alive.
     However, this November, during NaNoWriMo, I attempted to write a completely different genre; that of women’s fiction. I had debated about whether to go ahead with it, but a number of different writers and editors  I respect told me it might be good for my writing to try something else, I may even find I enjoy writing something else! So I gave it a shot, and at first it was hard. I desperately wanted to add some action, even though it was a completely character-driven novel, and to have any zombies/ghosts/vampires appear on the scene would have been frankly ridiculous.
     But you know what, towards the end of NaNo I turned around and discovered I was actually enjoying what I was writing, and even more, I actually liked my novel. Now I’m looking forward to getting back to it and seeing if there is something special lurking beneath all the edits.
     Deep down, our genres do choose us. It’s the same as any other personal likes or dislikes—the type of food we enjoy, the style of clothes we like to wear, the music we listen to. But every once in a while it is good to break the mould and try something a little different. You never know what you’ll discover about yourself. 

ABOUT ALONE   Caught in a violent and abusive relationship, Serenity thinks there is no escape. Then she meets a stranger, Sebastian, who shows her the possibility of a different future. ...Only Sebastian has a dark secret; he is a vampire. ...As Serenity’s life takes a terrifying turn, she finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed; one of murder, love, and immortality. She is forced to confront her own weaknesses to save both her own life and that of the vampire she has come to love. But in the end all that matters is; can she find the strength to be Alone ?


ABOUT DARK ROAD   When a group of backpackers are thrown together on a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia, they have no idea of the journey ahead of them.  Shortly after crossing the Cambodian border, one of the group disappears off the side of the road, and they quickly discover they have more than the threat of land mines to worry about. They are plunged into a terrifying world of ancient temples, curses and long-dead kings and, one by one, they start to lose both their minds and their lives, as what was supposed to be an adventure turns into a fight for survival.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marissa Farrar is a multi-published author in both horror and paranormal romance. She was born in Devon, England, loves to travel, and has lived in both Australia and Spain. She now resides outside of London with her husband and two children. She has a degree in zoology, but her true love has always been writing. Marissa’s debut novel, Alone, is a dark twist on the traditional vampire romance and was published by Vamplit Publishing in 2009. Her second novel, The Dark Road, was published in November 2010. Her short stories have been accepted for a number of anthologies including, Their Dark Masters (Red Skies Press), Masters of Horror: Damned If You Don’t (Triskaideka Books) and 2013: The Aftermath (Pill Hill Press). If you want to know more about Marissa, then please visit her website at www.marissa-farrar.blogspot.com.
Thanks, Marissa! Leave a comment for your chance to win one of Marissa's books--be sure to put your preference in your comment, along with your email addy . Thanks for being here today, Marissa!