Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Writers' Wednesday: Cecily White

Today, I'm happy to welcome my friend Cecily White, who just finaled in the Golden Heart, RWA’s major contest for unpublished authors. Congratulations Cecily on your wonderful contest news-- and for signing with a fantastic agent, nearly at the same time.

Thanks! Nice to know all those voodoo ‘agent summoning’ rituals finally paid off, right?

Sounds like another book to me, LOL. So, would you mind to share your story of ‘The Call’?

Sure, um, it was a dark and stormy night in September-- No wait, that’s how I lost my virginity. Sorry, let me start over…

It was a bright and sunny day in New Orleans when I got an email from Pam van Hylckama Vlieg (who used to be Laurie McLean’s assistant and is now an associate agent at Larsen-Pomada. Woohoo Pam!!!) asking to set up a phone call. At first I thought they just wanted to reject me in person, or maybe give me the ole “We-like-your-style-but-the-project-just-isn’t-for-us” schpiel. But no, apparently Pam had read the manuscript and fell in love with it, then handed it off to Laurie, who also loved it. And thus, they decided to offer representation. Apart from the near cardiac arrest and the fact that I spilled my coffee, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Your novel, ANGEL ACADEMY: PROPHECY GIRL is a young adult paranormal. Can you tell us what gave you the idea for this particular story?

Well, it’s mostly autobiographical.

No, it’s not.

Yeah, it totally is. Substitute socialites for angelblood demon-slayers, tree-hugging liberals for Paranormal Convergence agents, and punk-ass skater boys for Crossworlders and you’ve got my adolescence.

Well, then, other than nostalgia, what draws you to this genre?

I’ve always liked paranormal, especially young adult. You’re allowed to be honest through metaphor in a way folks won’t always accept directly. That, and I want to be snogged by a vampire.

What are you working on now?

It’s a contemporary YA. We’ll see how it goes.

I know you write phenomenally fast. How long did it take you to finish your last manuscript?

Ten weeks, give or take. But when I got to the end, I hated it. So now I have to rewrite it. That’ll take at least another six. . . Live. Eat chocolate. Learn.

While I contemplate--four months???--the speed of your production, do you have advice for writers?

Just remember to write what you love. Find your voice and speak it. Don’t be afraid to say hello to people you admire, or do a cartwheel for the hell of it, or go night swimming in your underwear. Keep your eyes and ears open. Good stories are borne from good observers.

Would you share an excerpt of ANGEL ACADEMY?

Sure thang! This is a scene where angelblood warriors Amelie and Jack (our intrepid H/H's) are off-campus for Amelie's class placement exams. Jack, on loan to St. Michael's Guardian Training Academy from his usual assignment at Paranormal Convergence, has been given the unhappy task of subbing for the school examiner (a dude who was recently murdered by a Reaper). Needless to say, Jack's having a hard time being objective:

Excerpt from: Chapter Nine: Lessons and Nightmares

"Caret initio et–” I began the portal incantation, but was rudely interrupted.

“Include translation, please.”

“Seriously?" I frowned. "Am I five years old?”

Jack made a few notes but said nothing. Smug bastard.

“Fine." I cracked my knuckles and wiggled my fingers theatrically. "Caret initio et fine. There is no beginning and no end. Ab initio, ad patres. From birth unto death. Deficit omne quod nasciture. Everything that is born returns.”

In an icy hot rush, energy shot out of my fingers into a wide arc in front of me. The air between the wards began to ripple– as if someone had painted the scene on a bed sheet then given it a shake. A harsh sound like ripping silk echoed through the room, and when I glanced up, the portal had opened. Disaster free.

Hah! Take that, Jackson Smith-Hailey!

Looking into a Crossworld portal is a little like looking in a mirror, only it’s made of thickened energy instead of silvered glass. I held it open with one palm, the other hand scrawling an immobilization glyph over the Chelax demon. Not that he needed it. His eyes were so wide with fear, he looked like a harsh word might convince him to hurl himself into the portal.

I watched the tendrils of oily dust wisp about the room, then curl back in wild arcs. “Something’s wrong. This doesn’t feel right.”

“Try not to think about it.” He gave me a dismissive pat on the shoulder, drawing the last shreds of darkness out of my head. At the same time, little spurts of golden light flashed over my skin. “A job well begun is half done.”

“Thank you, Mary Poppins.”

I tried to focus on my breath and not on the deafening sirens in my head as I kicked the demon into the portal. Telling me not to think about it was like making someone chug a 20oz Diet Coke, standing them in front of a waterfall, and telling them not to think about peeing.

I’d just turned to say that out loud when the world. . . shut off.

Whatever platitudes Jack was about to spout were lost under a curtain of thick, black silence. And when I say ‘black’ and ‘silent’, I don’t mean ‘kind of dim’ and ‘naptime quiet.’ It was as if someone had dropped one of those heavy, fireproof blankets the EMT’s use in emergencies over the entire building. It shut out everything. Light, street noise, air, even the sounds of birds and crickets vanished. The result was something so oppressively empty it felt deafening.

“Okay, what just happened?” I whispered, certain that anything louder than a whisper would shatter my eardrums. I was wrong. Even if I had screamed, the words wouldn’t have made it more than a few inches in front of my face. They disappeared as I said them, sucked into oblivion.

Jack’s hand still rested at my shoulder. He tightened it now. “Don’t move.”

The cadence of his voice suggested yelling, though I could barely hear him. His arms threaded snugly around me, tugging me against the firm line of his chest.

“What’s going on?” I yelled.

“Don’t let go of me.”

"Um, wasn't planning on it."

He stood just a few inches away, but I swear, he sounded as if he was whispering from the end zone of a football field. All noise seemed to evaporate like an early morning fog. With both hands tight around my waist, he started moving toward the place where I remembered the door having been. Maybe. Frankly, I couldn’t tell squat given the sensory deprivation tank the room had become. Jack, thankfully, could. When we’d reached the doorframe, he freed one hand, groping at the wall in search of a light switch. Clearly a man with some experience groping in the dark. Because that wasn’t intimidating.

With sight and sound gone, the rest of my senses seemed to sharpen into hyper-focus. Jack’s touch was velvet on my skin, and he smelled amazing– like shampoo and marshmallows and something uniquely musky. Sunshine, if sunshine had a smell. Sigh, I could die happy now.

Wait, not literally. . . .

What a place to stop. Where can we get more?

If luck holds, you'll be able to read the rest at some point in the future. ;-)

Well, it shouldn't be long. Thanks so much for stopping by to share your good news. Be sure and come back when the book is out.

Thanks again for having me on the blog, Barb!!

Visit Cecily at her website, http://cecilywhite.com/
and follow her on Twitter @cecilywhite.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Susan Muller

I’m so happy to feature Susan Muller today. Susan lives in Spring, Texas, and loves to read, travel, and play with her grandchildren. When not writing, she can be found doing volunteer work at a local hospital. She’s never seen a ghost, but wouldn’t swear they don’t exist. And I'd have to agree. There are some things we just can't explain.

Thanks for inviting me Barb. I’m glad to be here.

Your book THE SECRETS ON FOREST BEND is a Romantic Suspense. What draws you to this genre?

It contains my two favorite things: romance and suspense. I have always loved mysteries, whether in books, movies, or on television. I think it’s the puzzle aspect. Trying to fit all the pieces together and figure out who-done-it. And what’s life without a little romance to jazz things up?

Absolutely. A little romance can add pizzaz to just about anything. So, could you please tell us a little about the book?

Love to.

Another day . . . another dead body.

While working a case, Homicide Detective Adam Campbell stumbles across a crooked cop, an intriguing woman and a vengeful ghost. Can he stay alive long enough to bring down the cop, win over the woman, and destroy the ghost?

In this excerpt, Adam has stopped to see his partner about evidence of a crooked cop in their department. While there, both Ruben and his mother warn Adam about his new girlfriend, Jillian.

Adam rubbed his hand over his face. “So what are we going to do about this?”

“There’s no we. I’m on sick leave. And I want it cleared up before I go back to work. Something like this could ruin a career. If you report it, you’re in the shit. If you don’t report it, you’re in the shit. Hard Luck isn’t even going to want to know it happened. Marshall’s a well liked guy. He brings donuts.”

“I guess it’s okay to commit any type of crime if you bring donuts.”

“Well, murder usually requires bear claws.”

He and Ruben discussed the problem for another twenty minutes without coming up with a solution. When Mamacita announced dinner, they started down the stairs. “Not a word,” Ruben said, nodding toward his mother.

“How’s your friend Jillian?” Mamacita asked.

“She’s doing well. Thank you for having her over that night. I think it really helped her.”

“I know. She called me the next day. Someone taught her good manners.” She glared at him. “She’s a nice girl, and I like her, but she has problems. A shadow follows her, a dark cloud.”

Adam stopped eating. “Everyone she’s ever cared about has died young and violently——her mother, her sister, her father, and now her good friend. I imagine she does get down occasionally, but she seems to handle it well.”

“I’m not talking about grief. She carries that in a small place in her heart and it goes everywhere with her. This is something else. I don’t know what it is, but it wouldn’t come into this house.” She made a sign of the cross. “She’s going to need your help to get away from it, Adam, and I hope you’re up to the task.”

He and Ruben looked at each other and rolled their eyes. When he got ready to leave, Ruben walked him to the door and stepped onto the porch.

“I don’t know what Mamacita’s talking about with the shadow following her bit.” Ruben made quotation marks with his fingers and a spooky, horror movie sound. “But she does know people, and if she says there’s something off about Jillian, then you should think twice."

“Jillian’s different, I’ll give you that. But maybe that’s a good thing. I haven’t done so well with the one’s I’ve tried in the past. Maybe a change is what I need. Anyway, when has Mamacita approved of any woman you or I have ever dated?”

“That’s true. And she’s been right every time. Maybe this once you should use your big brain, instead of the little one.”

Sounds intriguing, Susan. I'll bet the shadow is portentious of something. I can't wait to read it to find out that it is. And I really like the line, "Murder usually requires bear claws."

But I have to ask about REDEEMING SANTA. That's quite a title

REDEEMING SANTA is an action/adventure novella inspired by real life events. I’ve been fascinated by the story since my husband’s uncle, who watched the events unfold, described it to me many years ago. In December, 1927, a man dressed as Santa robbed the local bank. Over two hundred shots were fired. People, including the sheriff, were killed and hostages were taken. It became the largest manhunt in Texas history.

My fictional version centers on a young boy taken hostage and the effect it has on his life. Using all his wiles, and a big dose of courage, he escapes after three days on the run. Now in his nineties, and facing what is probably his last Christmas, can he overcome his hatred for all things Santa for the sake of his grandchildren?

Good grief. That's must have been quite a story to write. I can't imagine how someone would deal with such a traumatic event.

What’s your next project for publication? I’m working on the first of a four part series entitled Season’s Pass. The first book is WINTER SONG and will follow a widowed homicide detective as he hunts a most unusual hit man and finds his own peace along the way.

Another unique plot, Susan. Great title, too--WINTER SONG. Good luck with that book and with the series.

Before you go, what one tip would you offer writers?

Read anything you can get your hands on. Good writing is good writing, no matter what the genre. Join a critique group or volunteer to judge contests. As you read other’s work with a critical eye, you learn what areas you need to work on. Take classes or purchase books on writing. Never stop learning. I guess that’s more than one tip. LOL

Sounds like 'one' excellent piece of advice, Susan. I agree, too. Critiquing the work of others helps us in our own writing. And someone else can find points we've missed in our story, no matter how many times we've been over it. Thanks, again, for joining us today. Come back again, soon.

Be sure to follow Susan at http://www.susancmuller.com/

THE SECRETS ON FOREST BEND is available from: http://www.soulmatepublishing.com/the-secrets-on-forest-bend/, Amazon, Barnes & Noble.
REDEEMING SANTA is available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords.