December 26, 2011

Tattooed Hearts

You know how some songs make lasting impressions, sort of a tattoo on your heart? Every time you hear it, forgotten memories and emotions snap to the front of your mind, taking your breath away. A first love, a broken heart, a forever farewell. I’ll never hear “Amazing Grace” without thinking of my brother-in-law’s funeral. 
Well, “Safe and Sound” by Taylor Swift is another one of those songs for me. I know it was written for “The Hunger Games” -- and I can definitely picture Katniss and Peeta (or Gale) in several scenes from the book -- but for me, I’ll always associate this song with the scene I need to write now. I've been listening to it for days.
In the first draft of "Finding Valor" Channie and Josh went to prom and high school graduation. In this draft … they don’t. 
I’ve laughed out loud before, even shed a few tears while immersed in my characters’ stories, but I’ve never openly wept. Until today. 
I’m not crazy. I know Channie and Josh aren’t real, but I’ve spent the past year and a half with them. I think about them all the time. They come to me in my dreams and speak to me as I write.
I can hear the sadness in Channie’s voice, feel the tears pricking the backs of her eyes as she tries to convince Josh that everything is going to be all right -- when it obviously isn’t. 
My heart hurts.
I could write it differently, make it easier on all of us, but if I can get through this one scene, I know it’ll be worth it.

December 07, 2011

New Cover

I can't believe I get to go to bed before the sun rises! Yay! Thanks to everyone that commented here, on Twitter and Facebook. Here's the new cover ... (I'm waiting to be sure the folks at IBC change the cover before I make the switch at Amazon.)

December 06, 2011

Need Help Choosing New Coverart

Hey everyone, I need your help! After attending IBC’s online workshop, I’ve decided to change the cover art for “Enchantment.” This was a difficult decision, since I’ve gotten so much positive (and unsolicited) feedback for the cover.
This time, I am soliciting. The deadline to change the cover before the big “12 Days of Christmas” sale is tomorrow. GAAAAAHHHH!
The critique I was given during the workshop mentioned that the current cover is too “Middle Grade.” That is NOT my target market. If you’ve read Enchantment, you know what I’m talking about. They suggested I lose the stars (sigh…I love bright and sparkly anything -- but I’m not the one buying the book.) They also said to change the silhouette and that it’s a bad idea to have the couple “together” on the cover. Since hooking up is the goal of all romance novels, I can see their point. ANYWAY … Here’s what I came up with. Please leave a comment with your preference or let me know if you hate both covers and what you’d do to make it better. (The watermark will disappear after I buy the photo of the girl).

If  you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you’d tweet this link www.charlotte.com to your followers on Twitter and post it on FaceBook. The more opinions the better.
Thanks!

Cover # 1

~***~


Cover #2

And one more ... Cover #3


November 01, 2011

Wanna See My Happy Dance?

Ben Langrinchs -- host of “My Cozy Chair” review blog -- nominated “Enchantment” for the 2011 GoodReads Choice Award in the Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction category! I am completely blown away by this honor. THANK YOU BEN! 
If you’d like to add your vote (Please, please, please) you need to join GoodReads (if you like to read it’s something you should do whether you vote for my book or not) ANYWAY … sign in to your GoodReads account, then go here:

Scroll down and click on the "Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction" link on the side of the page. Wait for the page to refresh with a new selection of books, 

Scroll down (again) to the bottom of the page, type the word Enchantment into the text box below “Write-in Vote, Your Choice” 

It takes a few seconds for a list of books to appear, scroll down (one last time) until you see “Enchantment” by Charlotte Abel and click it. 

That should fill in the text box with an icon of the book’s cover art as well as title and author’s name. Click the vote button and wallah! Another angel gets it wings. Okay, maybe not, but I’ll do my happy dance each and every time someone votes for Enchantment. Leave a comment so I’ll know to start hopping around. If I get a hundred comments, I’ll post a video of my happy dance. (I feel fairly safe making this promise).
Here’s a screencast video of how to vote for Enchantment...



October 25, 2011

How to Thank an Author

I recently saw Michael Hick's "Liking, Sharing, Tagging and Reviewing Books on Amazon" and decided producing my own tutorial would be a great way to justify the money I spent on upgrading Jing from the free version to Pro. (Rationalizing impulse purchases is a life-skill everyone should develop... especially if you're married.)

I also wanted to do my part to spread the word about one of the best way to thank our favorite authors for writing the books we love.

So, here's my justification:


Virtual hugs and lots of love for anyone that uses these techniques on "Enchantment."

October 11, 2011

Stealth Mode, Why I love my iPad

There are at least two dozen reasons why I love my iPad, but I’m already writing a novel, so I’ll just focus on one reason in this post … 
STEALTH MODE! 
When I was a kid, I’d a sneak a flashlight into my room so I could read under the covers after my folks turned out my light and ordered me to go to sleep. If you’re a parent, you already know how well that works. (There’s even a popular book about the subject with a very naughty word in the title. Naughty, but freakin’ hilarious). 
Anyway… I’d wait until I’d hear Momma and Daddy’s bedroom door close, then crawl under the covers and read my weekly book-mobile treasures by the light of my hand-dandy Eveready Jr. Commander flashlight. 
Invariably, one or the other of my parents would have to use the bathroom down the hall and spot the tell-tale glow from under my door. My mother had a sixth-sense that set off an alarm in her head anytime I misbehaved at all. (Very inconvenient during my teen years). 
Flash forward a couple of decades. I’m married to a loveable early-bird that wants me to go to bed when he does. Reading under the covers with a flashlight doesn’t work. Neither does a bedside lamp, an LED book light or an eye-mask. 
The Kindle app on my iPad has a white text on black screen setting that emits a negligible amount of light. TaDa! Stealth Mode. Now, I can read all night without anyone knowing. (Except, of course, for my mother. Her maternal instincts are as sharp as ever, even though she lives two states away.) 
Sorry, Mom, but I’ve got a great book on my iPad and there’s no way I’ll be able to sleep until I finish it. “The Little Universe” by Jason Matthews is well worth the $2.99 price and lost sleep. Y’all should go buy it right now. Especially if you enjoy science fiction mixed with a little philosophy. I can’t quit thinking about it. So … I’m going to sign off now, slip into bed and fire up the iPad. Sweet!

September 04, 2011

Battered Barbies

I was on GoodReads recently talking about "Pet Peeves" and one of the things that came up was how jarring it is to find continuity errors while immersed in a good story. I mentioned that one of the ways I keep up with characters' clothes, positions and injuries while writing or editing is with Barbie and Ken dolls. 

When a character sits, stands up, lies down or turns their back -- so does their doll. Clothing is removed/replaced as needed. Injuries are painted on with highlight markers and removed with alcohol wipes. 

Here's a shot of Channie and Josh's dolls after a rather violent scene in "Finding Valor" I'm not going to say too much about the injuries, except that Channie and Josh did NOT do this to each other! I don't want to give anything away, but I thought you might get a kick out of seeing the lengths I go to just to keep things straight.


I'd love to know how other writers maintain continuity with their characters. 

August 28, 2011

Emergency Preparedness includes eBooks


Thankfully, I’ve never had to evacuate my home. And I hope I never do, but it’s a good idea to be prepared. We aren’t likely to see a hurricane here in Colorado, but recent events -- such as the 5.3 magnitude earthquake that struck 180 miles south of Denver on August 22 -- prompted me to inspect our 72 hour emergency kits. 
It’s been awhile since I’ve even thought about the kits, so I wasn’t surprised to find expired food items and rodent damage. I was however, very surprised to find a time capsule from the 1980’s. Pete and I are empty nesters, so we don’t need legos, coloring books or stuffed animals. Although the Yatzee game might come in handy.
I also found a battered copy of “Dune.” I’m a fast reader, so one novel isn’t going to last long. Especially if there is nothing else to do but sit around, worry and wait. When I originally packed these kits, I didn’t have a laptop much less an iPad. I’m not even sure I had a cell phone. I know for sure that it wasn’t a smart phone.
If we had to evacuate right this very minute, how would we fare? I did a quick little drill and this is what I discovered...
I could grab an armful of plastic grocery sacks out of the cleaning closet and stuff them full of non-perishables out of the pantry. (I wonder long can we could live off peanut butter, graham crackers, Cheerios, Cherry Pepsi and chocolate chips?) 
We have a five gallon bottle of water from Eldorado Springs sitting next to the water cooler that Pete could grab and a laundry basket full of clean underwear in the laundry room I could raid on our way to the garage. 
The only shoes I found in my five-minute foray were flip flops, crocks and assorted sandals. I’d have to leave without “sensible footwear.” Not a life threatening situation, but who wants to flee from danger in flip flops? I also couldn’t find my car keys. Not good.
In the event of a sudden disaster (earthquake, flash flood, tornado or wild fire) I doubt I’d have enough time to sort through my paperback collection or enough space in my grocery bag for more than one or two books. That might seem like the least of my worries in an emergency situation, and it probably should be, but reading is the only thing that keeps me sane. Especially in times of crisis.
Pete and I could survive with what we have -- that man can always find his keys -- but I wouldn’t call us prepared. Except for the reading material. That is the ONLY thing that has improved since I put together our original emergency kits.
If you’re still waiting for evacuation orders to be rescinded, or just want to prepare for the next stressful situation (like waiting for the dentist) download and install a free reading application such as the Kindle Reading App, Nook Reading App, or Mobipocket Reading App onto your smartphone. 
There is a mind-boggling assortment of e-books to choose from in every genre. Literally, something for everyone. You can easily download enough fiction to help you weather any storm.
Some reasonably priced books you might enjoy are ...
Enchantment  by Charlotte Abel. A paranormal romance that explores the differences between love and lust, destiny and free will, and the right to make our own choices. “… an absolutely delightful and original book.” “...deals with teenage sexuality in a nuanced yet discreet way. Without being graphic at any time” “...once in a while I find a YA book/series that sucks me in as much as any of my favorite adult romance authors. Enchantment, by Charlotte Abel, has done so.”
$.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
For a FREE copy, email me at char2556@yahoo.com and I’ll send you a 100% off coupon code. (Be sure to include EC in the subject line so I’ll find your email).
Things to Do in Denver When You’re Undead by Mark Everett Stone. A paranormal suspense thriller that is both edgy and humorous. “...vampires, zombies and ghouls ... are not the misunderstood and endearing creatures we've been reading lately!” “...has all the ear-marks of a best seller and would make [a great] movie!” “live action reenactments so real you wish you hadn't eaten dinner.”
$4.95 at Amazon and Barnes & Nobel
Gabriel’s Redemption by Steve Umstead a science fiction thriller for everyone, including the technologically challenged. Believable and fantastic with a tough as nails protagonist and a large supporting cast of unique individuals. “The detail of the world-building pulled me in and made everything utterly believable.” “...a quick-paced, engaging read” “The high-tension action scenes made my heart race.” 
Fighting the Devil by Jeannie Walker, an award-winning, true crime novel written by the woman that helped unravel the mystery behind her ex-husband’s murder. “A compelling tale that first grabs readers with the novel’s fiery cover, and keeps them hooked to the very last page.”  “... left me looking over my shoulder and chills running down my back.” 
$4.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Nobel
I Wish by Wren Emerson, a young adult paranormal romance for older teens and adults. “...a complex, original world that is as intriguing as it is terrifying.” “steamy hot scenes, a love triangle, a mysterious villain, magic, reverse gender discrimination, dangerous inter-family politics and life threatening situations kept me turning pages when I should have been sleeping.”  $2.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Nobel
Destiny Divided by Leia Shaw, an adult paranormal romance (18+) “...a great balance of action and romance in this captivating plot.” “Good versus evil at it's finest. Sage is tough, mean and yet....vulnerable.” “If you like magic, and very strong-willed kick-ass heroines, then you will love this book.” “This story has it all: humor, sex, vampires, magic, werewolves.” $.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Nobel
Savage Fire by Ben Langhinrchs, an eclectic collection of short stories that will appeal to fans of the horror genre. At Amazon and Barnes and Nobel.
Loose Ends by AJ Powers, a fast-paced short story that will leave you hungry for more. $.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Nobel
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by hurricane Irene. Stay safe, hopeful and sane.
Charlotte
I’d like to invite other writers to add a link to their books with a brief description in the comments below.

June 30, 2011

One True Love, Soulmates and Happily Ever After


Do you remember the first time you fell in love? I do. I was seventeen. And it was amazing.
I’d had various crushes on boys before and had even dated one guy for six months. He was a sweet kid and we honestly loved each other, but it wasn’t The Real Thing
Not even close. I was visiting relatives in a neighboring state when The Real Thing knocked me off my feet, stole my breath and made my heart pound so hard I thought it would break my ribs. It was decades ago, but I still remember the way my heart leapt into my throat the first time I saw him. It was love at first sight. (At least it was for me.) 
I was sitting in a folding metal chair against the wall talking to my cousin at a church dance when this boy burst through the double doors leading into the gym. He was looking over his shoulder and laughing, shirt untucked, tie loose and hanging off to one side and in dire need of a haircut. He looked like an unmade bed, but he was absolutely gorgeous. 
My jaw dropped. I grabbed my cousin’s elbow and yanked him down to my level. “Who is that?”
He rolled his eyes as he pried my fingers off his arm. “That’s Tom* and he’s nothing but trouble. Besides, he already has a girlfriend.” 
I wasn’t going to let a little thing like another girl stand in the way of True Love. Until I actually met her and abandoned all hope. She was gorgeous, with dark, curly hair, a dimpled smile and curves in all the right places. I was all knees and elbows. 
But when I returned the following summer, things were different. I’d filled out a bit and Tom had just broken up with his girlfriend. We fell in love during a three day youth conference in Jonesboro, Arkansas. 
We snuck out of our well-chaperoned dorms every night and stayed up until dawn, talking and holding hands. He didn’t even try to kiss me. But I swear, when that boy gazed into my eyes, even the stars shone brighter. He made me feel as if l were the most intelligent, beautiful and desirable girl on the planet. (I wasn’t, not even close). 
Summer is short when you’re seventeen and in love. We kissed good bye in front of everyone, including my parents (raised eye-brows all around). I got in the car, buried my face in a pillow to hide my tears and pretended to sleep all the way back to Oklahoma. 
My life for the next two years was a dichotomy of emotional highs when Tom and I were together and devastating heartache when we weren’t. Long distance relationships suck at any age.
When we were nineteen, Tom decided to serve a two-year mission for his church. He told me not to wait for him. I did anyway, for about nine months, until he told me to stop calling him. 
I thought I would die. But I didn’t. I survived and met someone else. It wasn’t love at first sight for either of us, but it was and is, The Real Thing.
Pete and I have been married a long time now. We’ve had our share of misunderstandings, hurt feelings and heart aches. The wear and tear of daily life can rub the shine off any romance. 
But I swear, when that man looks into my eyes, I believe it all. I believe in Soulmates and magic and One True Love and Happily-Ever-After. He makes me feel as if I’m the most intelligent, beautiful and desirable woman on the planet. (I’m not, not even close).  
Call me a delusional dreamer if you wish, I don’t mind. It won’t shake my faith in love or magic.  And it won’t keep me from writing stories about heroic young couples, willing to sacrifice everything and fight insurmountable odds to be together either. 
When I create characters that I genuinely care about (and why spend years with them if I don’t absolutely adore them?) It lets me relive that first rush of new love. It also reawakens old hurts when they behave badly, struggle with jealousy and make devastatingly bad decisions. But in the end, just like love in real life, it’s worth it.

*Not his real name

Enchantment is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Print edition now available.

June 23, 2011

Print is Not Dead. It's Killing Me

After publishing "Enchantment" as an e-book on Amazon last week, I received multiple requests for a "real" (print) book. So, I thought, "okay, how hard can that be?" Answer: Very. Very hard indeed.

It was so easy to publish the .mobi file to Amazon. Barnes and Noble's pubit site was a breeze to use as well, although I'm still waiting for it to go live since I just uploaded it this morning. (If you want to know how to convert the Kindle file for your Nook reader, check out Steve Umstead's how-to article on his blog.)

Smashwords ... not so much. Their meatgrinder app they force you to use is aptly named. The e-pub files  I exported from Scrivener look great and work perfectly. The Smashwords converted file is okay, but the table of contents doesn't work. Not a big deal, since "Enchantment" is a novel, not a text book. Still, I like for things to function.

Okay, back to my ordeal with print. I spent several days googling and reading conflicting advice and instructions for the do-it-yourselfer. My brain still hurts. But I learned a lot. Not nearly enough to format a book from scratch, but fortunately for me, I found a downloadable template at CreateSpace. It still required hours of fiddling and tweaking and I have no idea how well it turned out since I have to wait for Amazon to approve it and then I need to order a proof and then I'll have to tweak it some more and do it all over again. I expect it will take several attempts to get it right (I'll let you know). And that was just the interior of the book.

I had to redo the cover art since I'd created it specifically for digital devices at 72 dpi. Print needs to be 300 dpi. Resizing is a one-way street, folks. Downsizing is fine, but don't try to increase the resolution using the image size function, it will look like crap. At least the image of the couple was a solid black silhouette. All I had to do was zoom in and trace the outline with a small-pixled brush. I have a Wacom tablet or I wouldn't have even tried to salvage the file. But the rest of the art ... well ... we shall see. I may still need to start over from scratch. Ugh.

Even then, I'm worried about how the glow effects will print. I know the CMYK colors will be dull compared to RGB which is like painting with light. Gradients can be tricky too. Again, I'll just have to wait and see ...

I am not a patient person.  All this waiting is killing me!

~***~

Update July 17, 2011: 
The first proof had pagination problems, an inaccurate table of contents and a couple of typos. The cover turned out much better than I expected. The colors are rich and vibrant and the glow effects translated into print beautifully. 

I fixed the problems, uploaded the new file, ordered another proof and waited impatiently for it to arrive. This one has chapter heading problems, a different font and about ten extra pages. My first response was "What the hell?" My second response was to throw the book across the room. (Not really, but I wanted to. I still do. Hopefully by the time I finish this rant, I will have calmed down enough to keep from pitching a fit like a toddler.)

I have no idea when Enchantment will be available in print, but you can get a digital copy right now with the click of a button at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (It's temporarily on sale for $.99)

June 19, 2011

The Journey From Writer to Author

After eleven months of work, ENCHANTMENT is finally for sale at Amazon, and already has a five star review! (Thank you Kris!)

This is a major milestone for me and I'm excited to share the news. I've been a writer for several decades and a "real" writer for a little over three years, but now I'm officially an author. BIG difference.

Charlotte Abel Definitions:

writer: a person that intends to communicate with others via the written word.
real writer: a person that invests time and effort into getting those intentions out of their brain and into a shareable format.
author: a person that makes those words available to the public.

My journey to authorship began back in high school, under the guidance of Mary BeeBe, a gifted, creative writing teacher. She instructed, encouraged and challenged all of us. And at the end of the year, she published our angst-riddled short stories, poems and essays. I still have my copy. (And no, I won't share it with the world. I was seventeen, in love and broken-hearted ... and it shows.)

I still remember the thrill of holding that simply bound paper anthology and reading my own words. I also remember the gut-wrenching feeling of trepidation when I realized that everyone else could read those same words. This wasn't a surprise. I'd submitted the stories and poems myself, but until I saw the physical proof, it didn't feel real. Only my closest friends knew how much of myself I'd revealed, but I still felt exposed. And years later, I still do.

ENCHANTMENT is a work of fiction. It is not autobiographical. I am not Channie. I did not experience the same events she did, (except for swimming at the bauxite pit) but I've felt the same emotions. I'll never forget the joy and wonder of falling in love for the first time -- or the hollow-chested agony of a broken heart. I've been scared out of my mind, jealous to the point of insanity, and filled with such yearning I couldn't breathe. So, yeah, I feel naked once again now that my words are available for the whole world to read. But I want them to be read. I want to connect with others and share my stories. I want to read and experience their stories too.

Maybe that's what it really means to be an author ... sharing your dreams and hurts with the world, magnifying the joy and hope, while diminishing the pain and disappointment through shared experiences. But even if there is no magical connection between me and my readers, if all I manage to do is provide a few hours of entertainment, it's enough.

You can find ENCHANTMENT, a paranormal romantic coming of age thriller  at Amazon I hope you enjoy it and if you do, I'd love for you to rate and review it on Amazon's site. Feel free to leave comments here as well. I'd love to know what you think.

June 08, 2011

Plot Holes and Story-killing Trolls



For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on what I’d hoped was the final edit of “Enchantment.” I was doing a quick skim this morning when I realized that I’d created a huge plot hole when I allowed “truth spells” to exist in Channie’s world.
This might have been okay if lying and deception weren’t so important to the plot. It wasn’t as hard to fix as I thought it’d be, but now I can’t help but wonder what else I’ve missed. This is the fourth draft of this story. It’s been beta-ed and edited several times by multiple people and OMG why didn’t anyone catch it? 
I have a theory … 
Before a novel is published, story-killing trolls cast invisibility spells over plot holes, hiding them from the most astute beta readers and professional editors -- but after publication not only do these same evil little creatures uncover the holes, they shine spot lights on them. I can guarantee that if I’d published “Enchantment” as is … the first person to purchase it would have found the truth spell plot hole immediately and left me a nasty (well deserved) review.
To be fair, my editor, Carol, actually did catch the truth spell plot hole, but since she doesn’t usually read (or enjoy) fantasy, she assumed it was just a problem with the genre and didn’t mention it. “If the characters can use magic, why don’t they use it to solve all their problems?” Good question. And one as a writer I need to address constantly. 
It’s not all that hard to create a world with magic and characters with paranormal abilities but it’s damn hard to limit those abilities and magical properties in a way that makes sense and allows conflicts to endure through the length of an entire novel.
Story-killing trolls haven’t singled me out. I’m not the only afflicted writer. The ones most often targeted seem to be writers of post-second-season television series. I loved the first few seasons of “Heros” but I was about ready to throw the remote through the TV by the time it was cancelled. “Vampire Diaries” is starting to piss me off too. And don’t even get me started with “Secret Life of the American Teenager.” I mean, come on … does everyone get pregnant the first time they have sex? 
Question … What books, TV shows and movies have you found with story-killing plot holes? What were they and how would you solve them, or are they unsolvable problems? (It’s easy to write yourself and your characters into a corner with no way out).

May 17, 2011

Enchantment is DONE!

I just finished what I hope is the final draft of ENCHANTMENT. It's in the hands of my beta-readers and editor.

After months of research and waffling I've decided to publish it myself as an e-book. Part of me wants to go the traditional route with an agent and publisher, just for the validation, but vanity aside, it just doesn't make sense. I am opposed to the whole "gatekeeper" philosophy and would rather my readers decide whether or not my work has any value. I also don't like the way traditional publishers overprice e-books. I mean, come on! There's no overhead, printing or distribution costs so why should readers be expected to pay the same price for an e-book as a paperback?

Anyway ... I plan to publish ENCHANTMENT on Amazon, iTunes, B&N and Smashwords by the middle of June. (Depending on how long the final edit and polish takes). If you would like to be notified when it is available, please send me an email at char2556@gmail.com with "Enchantment News" in the subject line. Feel free to subscribe to this blog for automatic availability announcements.

Here's a sample from the first scene ...



Channie Kerns peered over the edge of the cliff at the outcropping of granite where Toby Hansen died two years ago. She wasn’t here when it happened, but she’d heard the story so many times she could picture it in her mind. How he’d bounced when he hit the rocks, cracking his skull and spilling his brains. It was ninety degrees in the shade, but a chill crept up her spine and made the little hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. This was crazy … she was crazy. 
But Hunter Feenie was waiting … and watching. And she’d be damned if she’d chicken out after he’d already jumped. 
She backed up ten paces and glanced at Hunter’s clothes, draped over a fallen log. He’d made a point of peeling his shirt off in slow motion, like some movie star in a love scene — flexing his newly developed muscles, trying to impress her. It annoyed the hell out of her that it actually worked. She’d rolled her eyes for his benefit, but enjoyed the show nonetheless.
Channie had begged Aunt Wisdom to cast a development spell on her every day for the past two years — just boost her hormone levels a tiny bit, what would it hurt? 
But she’d always refused. “Be patient, sweetheart. Your time will come. You’re just a late bloomer, that’s all.” 
She was a late bloomer, all right — hadn’t even needed a bra until after her sixteenth birthday. But Aunt Wisdom was right. Channie’s time had definitely come. And without the help of magic, thank you very much. She was proud of her new curves, but she wasn’t about to strip down to her skivvies just because Hunter did. Jumping off a cliff was one thing, swimming half naked was quite another. 
She tucked the hem of her t-shirt into her waistband, dug her toes into the dirt then took off like a beagle after a rabbit. Her stomach flipped as she hung weightless for a split second, then lurched into her throat as she fell. Toby’s Rock zipped past on her right, a near miss that shot adrenaline into her bloodstream. She tucked her knees to her chest, wrapped her arms around her shins and prepared for impact. 
The cold, emerald water needled the small of her back and took her breath away, but the look on Hunter’s face just before she cannonballed him was worth it. He didn’t think she’d do it. Ha!
She came up laughing, sucked in a quick breath of air and grabbed Hunter’s wrist before he dunked her head beneath the surface. They splashed and teased each other until they were so cold and water-logged they looked like plucked chickens.
Somehow, during all the horseplay, the hem of Channie’s shirt had worked its way out of her cutoffs. Hunter slid his hands around the bare skin of her waist and licked his lips. The muscles of her lower belly tightened, but it was a pleasant sensation, not like cramps. The water was cold, but her skin flushed with a rush of heat. What was going on? Her heart was racing and it was getting hard to breathe. Maybe she was getting sick. 
Hunter let go and crawled onto the first ledge of the sheer cliff. He offered Channie his hand and said, “Come on, let’s go get warmed up.” 
Ordinarily, she would have raced him to the top. She would have won, too. But she still felt a little breathless and lightheaded, so she let him help her. 
When they got to the top, Hunter grabbed a faded drunkard’s path quilt out of his basket, scooped his clothes up off the log and headed towards The Shack. Before the quarry closed twenty years ago, it had been the foreman’s office. Now, it served as a hideout for underaged drinkers and secret lovers. Hunter retrieved a key from a hollow stump and unlocked the door.  
There were holes in the tin roof and the warped floor was littered with trash, empty beer cans and broken glass. But it was the stained mattress in the corner that captured Channie’s gaze. Hunter covered it with his quilt and sat down. What exactly did he have in mind when he suggested they “get warmed up?” 
He patted the quilt and cocked an eyebrow. 
Everything Momma and Daddy had ever told Channie about boys flooded her mind. It was bad enough she’d let Hunter talk her into meeting him out here. The old bauxite quarry was off-limits for several reasons. It was outside her clan’s boundaries, the Empties from Whistler’s Gulch claimed it as their own, and it was dangerous. Toby wasn’t the only kid that had died out here. Every year at least one idiot would drown or break their neck diving off the cliff. Or worse … wind up pregnant. 
Channie squeezed the water out of her hair and edged closer to the door. “I gotta get home.”
“Oh come on, Channie.” Hunter patted the quilt again. “I don’t bite.” 
Channie didn’t need to read Hunter’s energy field to know what was going on. She could see it in his eyes. 
The way his gaze travelled up and down her body made her skin crawl. Her cheeks burned when she realized he could see her bra through the thin fabric of her wet t-shirt. She folded her arms across her chest and raised her shield in case he decided to cast a come-hither spell on her.
Hunter wrinkled his nose and curled his upper lip, scrunching the left side of his face. “What kind of scumbag do you take me for?”
Channie had known Hunter all her life, but she didn’t trust him. Nobody did. It wasn’t his fault, and he’d never done anything to deserve suspicion — until now. But his momma was an  outsider. She swore a death pledge to prove her loyalty and bound herself to the Feenie clan by marrying Hunter’s daddy. That was twenty years ago, but mages have long memories and an unshakeable belief in the power of blood. It didn’t matter what any of the Feenie clan did, they’d never be accepted — not completely.  
Hunter yanked his cutoffs on over his wet boxers but didn’t bother with the zipper. “Why’d you even agree to meet me out here?”
Channie shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.” 
She didn’t want to admit it, even to herself, but she’d sort of hoped that maybe he would kiss her. But now that they were here, miles away from prying eyes, gossiping tongues and chaperones, she wasn’t so sure.
Hunter jerked his t-shirt on over his head and jammed his arms through the sleeves as if he wanted to punch something. “I swear, Channie, you are such a tease.” 
“And you’re a royal pain in the ass.” She backed out of the shack, grabbed her willow-twig basket and her bike then headed down the trail. She was attracted to Hunter, but she didn’t love him. Momma and Daddy were always warning her about how even the nicest boys were ruled by their carnal desires, but they’d neglected to mention that girls could feel lust too. That’s all this was … lust, not love. And it wasn’t enough.


I would love to know what you think, feel free to leave a comment. Check out the book trailer on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=char2556#grid/uploads

May 03, 2011

Brookstone case for iPad 2

I just purchased the "Brookstone Portfolio Case for iPad 2" with a built in keyboard. It's going to take some practice before I gain any sort of typing proficiency due to its small size, but I wouldn't want a bigger one that would compromise the convenience of the iPad's small size. So far, my biggest problem is hitting the "Up" arrow instead of the right shift key, but I think I'll get used to it eventually. Besides, I don't plan to write any novels on my iPad.

I purchased the case for the original iPad last week before they came out with this one, and ended up returning it. The keyboard felt "funny," the space bar didn't work consistently and some of the keys were in weird places. It also blocked the camera lenses, but the main reason I ended up taking it back was the slightest bump would turn the volume up or down when watching a movie. Not cool when wearing earbuds.

All those problems have now been solved. Yea!

I expect this case to work well for my intended purpose of quick blog updates, email and Twitter. If I happen to get a sudden burst of inspiration, I have a convenient way to capture it, since it all fits in my favorite purse, I'm more likely to have my iPad with me all the time.

I wish it would put the iPad to sleep and wake it up the way the "smart cover" does, but that's a minor inconvenience. The case was a bit pricey, but then again, so was the iPad.

It's a very popular product at my local Brookstone. There was another woman purchasing one when I walked in and they only had three left. (Two now, since I bought one of them). They are also available online.

All things considered, I rate this product 4 out of 5 stars. (If it came in pink I'd give it 5)

April 12, 2011

Monitors are Evil

I am an introvert. This isn't news to anyone that knows me, but it's only in the past few years that it's gotten to be a problem. I like people, just not in large groups. I'm much better dealing with individuals one at a time. Even my children. Especially my children. Same goes for my hubby. It's one of the reasons I love to go on long car rides with him. Aside from the captive audience aspect of moving vehicles, we tend to open up with each other when it's just the two of us. Maybe that's why I get so upset when he talks on his phone in the car. (If I'm going to pull my mind away from the story brewing in my head to talk to you, then damn it, I better have your full attention!) I digress...

There is no doubt in my mind that close friends are essential to a happy and meaningful life. Humans are social animals and even we introverts suffer if we go too long without some sort real interaction with others of our species. Phone conversations, email, Twitter and Facebook can't replace the intimacy of a face to face conversation with another person sharing the same space. Cool as they are, even the new iPhones with video chat can't meet that need.

I don't have many friends (other than the characters in my head and the equally nebulous but cherished people I connect with online). Yet, I am blessed by the few friends I do have.  They love me and would do anything for me ... I just can't figure out WHY. 

It's not that I'm a bad person. I'm just not a very good friend. I don't intentionally neglect the people that mean so much to me, I just get ... distracted. I forget what day of the week it is, I miss appointments and don't return phone calls. I have no idea what time it is and am often surprised to find myself typing in the dark hours after sunset. It's gotten much worse since I began writing full time. But it's not the act of writing that's to blame. It's the computer monitor. You see, I write on a laptop, so I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen.

Now don't get me wrong, computers are wonderful tools. I couldn't manage without one. But the monitors are pure evil. They suspend time and take over our brains, making us believe that the light from their little glowing screen is meeting all our physical and emotional needs. We don't feel pain, need to eat, sleep, shower, make love, talk, blink, or even pee. 

But it's all a lie. The monitor doesn't really meet any of those needs, it only postpones them. As soon as something forces us to look away -- fire, smoke, or spurting arterial blood -- it all comes back with a vengeance. As soon as I log off, I know I'm going to need to hobble to the bathroom with my legs crossed then hope I can find that ziplock bag of trailmix under my bed before I collapse in exhaustion.

I escaped the evil monitor yesterday and spent the afternoon with a very good friend, Carol. She's done so much for me. Not only did she photograph my professional portrait, she's edited multiple drafts of Enchantment and even went to Orson Scott Card's workshop with me last June and made sure I didn't get freaked out by: the airports, the turbulence on the plane, the crowds, the pressure, having to drive a rental car, use a map or check into a hotel. She's not even a writer, but she paid her own way, and never complained about being left on her own while I was sequestered away in the workshop. I wouldn't have gone without her. Find Carol and samples of her work (including the photo on this blog) at http://www.facebook.com/SuperiorImaging  

I have another friend that is always there for me. She rescued my daughter's wedding from my ineptitude and poor planning and even saved my life once, but that story would take a novel to tell. Speaking of novels, I need to get back to work. Wow, it's after three and I haven't even had breakfast. I blame the monitor.
 







April 04, 2011

Nothing New Under the Sun




I spent two days gathering copyright free photos. Another two days cropping, retouching, hand painting and manipulating them in Photoshop and what did I get? The perfect cover for my novel "Enchantment"? Yes. An original cover? No.

Not only is my cover art nearly identical to Orson Scott Card's new novel, "The Lost Gate," I'm using the same title as his romantic fantasy published in April of 1999. The image with the book is the first, and favorite cover I designed. The one with the hands is the one I'm actually using. OSC's cover (and book) can be found at amazon.

I knew the title's were the same, but since his book is twelve years old, my storyline is so very different from his, and there are other lesser known works with the same title, I didn't think it was a big deal. Especially since he's the one that recommended I turn my short story "Name Games" into a novel. (This was just before I learned of a little series called "Hunger Games." Love the books, hate the title since it required me to change mine.)

Then, as if the whole title/cover thing weren't bad enough, I stumble across Kate Hart's description of her novel "Refuge" which is about a seventeen-year-old witch that leaves her family's mountain compound to attend public school for the first time.

My novel, "Enchantment" is a young adult paranormal romance set in Louisville, Colorado. The protagonists are Josh, a seventeen-year-old BMX racer and Channie, a transplanted witch from the Ozark Mountains. The main conflict grows out the chastity curse her parents place on her to protect her virtue and the young couple's disastrous attempts to free themselves from its restrictions.

So, yeah, it boils down to a story about a sixteen-year-old witch forced to move away from her family's mountain home and attend public school for the first time. As Channie would say ... Damn it to hell and back.

I am intrigued by Ms. Hart's story but I'm afraid to read it before I finish editing "Enchantment." I know my subconscious mind sabotaged my book cover design since I'd recently read "The Lost Gate." But I'd never even heard of Kate Hart before last week. And I'm ninety-nine percent sure she's never heard of me and one hundred percent sure she's never read my book since it's not yet published. I'm hoping the only similarities between her book and mine are the descriptions and not the actual stories.

I want to cry, but I'll settle for a pint of Ben and Gerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream.

March 24, 2011

Love Triangles

I just finished Amanda Hocking's "My Blood Approves" series. It was a good read (3 out of 5 stars) but not for the squeamish -- especially if vivid descriptions of compound fractures freak you out. The love scenes were a bit too explicit and cliche'd for my tastes, but not anatomically detailed. There were a few eff-bombs and scatological curse words, so reader (and parents) beware. My biggest problem with this story was the love triangle. It took me too long to decide who I wanted Alice to end up with.

Some love triangles can up the stakes in a story to the point of creating rabid fans (Jacob vs. Edward) but the author runs the risk of diluting the reader's emotional response if there is not a clear and distinct "one true love" well before the end of the book or series. It's something I'm struggling with in my own WIP, "Shattered." I want my readers to root for the "right" guy to get the girl so I had to go back and give his competition a few more fatal flaws.

I loved "The Hunger Games" (if you haven't read the series yet, stop right now and go download it!)

************* SPOILER ALERT *********

I was reeeealy hoping Katniss would end up with Gale until the last book. I was happy with the ending but it would have been even more satisfying if I'd been solidly on Peeta's side from the beginning. Since the romance was a subplot and the mainnplot was so incredibly awesome, it wasn't a deal breaker.

****** END ALERT ****

If there is any sexual tension between characters when they are introduced (even if it's negative) I start looking for romance. Especially if it's early in the story. I want to care deeply about the characters and their love lives. The more emotionally invested I become the less I care about typos, grammar and style. Some of the best stories are by Indie authors that can't afford to hire professional editors. But if I can't decide who to cheer for, the writin' better be dang good. I want to scream when the protags can't make up their minds who they really love. It's okay if they're conflicted about who they "should" love as long as they know who they "really" love.

Maybe that says more about me than the story ... Hmmm, something to think about.