Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Bad Boys and Why They're So Good

*WARNING - This post contains potential spoilers for The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments Series, The Vampire Academy Series, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights.

If you're a paranormal romance reader, you probably already have an idea of what I'm talking about...especially if you're reading some of the most recent popular paranormal romances and urban fantasies. Oh, those bad boys! *SWOON*

You know the ones I'm talking about. Patch Cipriano, Jace Wayland (Morgenstern/Herondale/Lightwood), Gale Hawthorne, Will Herondale and the countless others that have charmed us. I have found something while reading my most recent favorites. When it comes down to a couple of choices for main guys, I'm more than happy to let the heroine of the story have the good guy as long as she leaves me with the bad boy. ;-) Why do we love them so much? What makes the characters so irresistible?

Well, I have a theory about that. 

We are women. Hear us RAWR. It's our natural instinct to nurture, to 'make all better,' and to comfort. The boys above all have something in common. They're snarky, rude, and obnoxious...but for a reason. Poor Jace - what a troubled childhood he had. I'll never forget the quote, "The boy never cried again, and he never forgot what he'd learned: that to love is to destroy, and that to be loved is to be the one destroyed." If that doesn't scream broken, damaged, and wounded, I don't know what does!

What about Gale? The poor guy was in charge of caring for his family from a young age, oppressed by the capitol, and then forced to watch the girl he loved fall in love with someone else - ON TELEVISION.

“I knew you’d kiss me.”
“How?” I say. Because I didn’t know myself.
“Because I’m in pain,” he says. “That’s the only way I get your attention.”

If that scene wasn't enough to tear your heart out, what is? Patch - fallen angel. Need I say more? Will Herondale - well, I haven't quite figured out what his deal is yet. (Come on, Clockwork Prince!) The point is, each of the bad boys we love so much have been broken, damaged, and wounded - and we know that our heroine is going to come along and make them whole again. Or, in some cases, she won't, and then we'll end up mourning them and wondering if they ever found happiness. (Gale - *Hint, Hint, Suzanne.)

When faced with two handsome, strong men, is it in our instincts to choose the one we can 'fix?' Or, is it something to do with the bad boys being the alpha male? Is it somewhere in the backs of our minds...this little drive to look for the leader of the pack? Maybe. There is one exception I've found, though.

Adrian Ivashkov.

He doesn't seem to be wounded. I mean, he fights his own demons in the darkness of spirit, but he's  pretty much got everything a boy could want. He's wealthy, royal and handsome. Also, being Moroi, he's not the 'tough' one or the fighter, so I don't think the attraction is the alpha male variety.  Richelle Mead has managed to create a snarky, arrogant, cocky, rude, lazy addict that I can't get enough of. I will happily hand you twelve Dimitris for an Adrian. I'm not sure whether that means Richelle needs therapy or I need it.

I have to put a shout out in here for the original bad boys - Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre) and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights). Come on - Mr. Rochester was hiding his wife in a wing of his house, teasing Jane with that hideous Blanche Ingram and lying throughout the entire book but we still love him. Heathcliff made it his life's mission to bring down everyone who ever crossed him, and I don't know about you, but I thought it was pretty hot.

My very own 'bad boy,' Jackson Vance (Amaretto Flame) is a musician with a taste for whiskey and pretty girls. Hmmmm...what is he hiding? ;-)

In any case, my favorite stories have the bad boys in them...the ones that are toxic, but you just can't get enough of them. Who is your favorite bad boy? (Let me know because if I don't know him, I want to be introduced ASAP!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Eagleton Coven: Amaretto Flame Chapter Excerpt

Great news - Amaretto Flame (the first in the Eagleton Coven series) has just been published and is available via Amazon for Kindle.

I will have it available in other formats soon, including regular ebooks if you're interested in reading that way. In any case, I'm super excited to hear what everyone thinks, and I am including the first chapter here. Unfortunately, the first chapter does NOT include one of the best parts of the book, and that would be Jackson Vance. ;-)

So, if you like the first chapter and you want more, you can get it for Kindle here. Without further ado...

Chapter 1

I was angry. I was so angry that I felt as though my body could burst open with that anger. Red, pulsating streaks of fury rushed through my limbs, building the pressure until I thought something inside of me might snap.
This is how I felt as I ran…it’s why I was running. I had knocked over a chair in my haste to get outside, to escape the confines of the small room I had been sitting in. The daylight and fresh air didn’t help, and so I kept running over the grounds of Eagleton. My feet pounded over emerald grass as I sought some solitude; some place where the concerned eyes of my family couldn’t reach me. I ignored their gazes as I passed, even as some deep part of me registered that only my sister, Sylvia, kept her eyes on the ground instead of looking at me questioningly.
I could hear his footsteps behind me as I rounded the pond, and it only made me angrier. My coven brother, Everett—who was also my best friend—couldn’t leave me alone in this desperate moment, even though that’s all I wanted him to do. My lungs burned, though my muscles were accustomed to working even harder than this. I turned my head slightly as I pounded forward, getting a view of Everett in my peripheral vision.
“Go back!” I yelled. I didn’t want him to see me like this.
“No,” he shouted back. “I’m not leaving you.”
His refusal only made me run faster, and as I reached the forest that he and I both knew as well as our own selves, I stopped. The anger had built in me too long, and I knew it actively sought its escape now. With the furious red haze in my vision, I opened my mouth, looking forward to letting all that anger go. My hands shot out to either side, and with the last moment of sane thinking, I made sure Everett was behind me. Then, I screamed.
A shrieking, high-pitched wail shot its way out of my mouth. I watched the forest change with clarity that I usually didn’t possess. The glistening green leaves and carpet of grass before me turned black, as if they’d met the hot end of a blow torch. The air shimmered and shifted and I felt for a moment like I was looking through vapors. Somewhere in front of me, a tiny sapling snapped under the force of my anger, and a shower of dead leaves fell to the ground. It was like the whole earth was moving for a few seconds, and then the scream quieted and died.
I surveyed the damage with sorrow for only a moment, and then the tears came. This was my power. Olivia Landry, future high-priestess of Eagleton Coven, destroyer of life. Maybe that wasn’t a fair assessment. You see, I was born with an extraordinary power, one that was unheard of. With a scream, I could obliterate anything and anyone that stood before me. I had used this power before on people, and those weren’t even people. They were the deadly Venator, hunters that wanted to track down all of my kind and kill them, or turn them into slaves in mills. That had been different. There had been a kind of triumph when that had happened.
This, I thought as I looked over the blackened trees and scorched grass, was just unfair destruction. Then, with a bitter note, I reminded myself that I’d been messing up a lot lately. Why stop now? Why not just scream until every tree of the forest was black and lifeless?
Everett was there a moment later, his arms going around me protectively as he murmured comforting words. He was shaken. I could see it in his face as I turned to look at him. He’d never seen me use my power before, and that, combined with what we had just been told, left him reeling. But he didn’t stop comforting me.
“It’s okay, Olivia. It’s all out now. You’re okay,” he said.
“I’m not okay,” I argued.
His sky-blue eyes took me in for a long moment, and his hands ran down long ribbons of my dark hair. “Yes, you’re okay.”
I didn’t reply. He wasn’t the one being forced to leave his home—the only home he’d ever known. Still, it was my fault. I had broken the rule. Not him; me. I deserved this. With a deep breath, I collapsed onto the forest floor, Everett shifting his body so that he could sit with me, his arms still trying to comfort me.
Today had started well. Everett and I had been chosen for a special mission. He’d been chosen for his unique ability and I had been chosen because I needed the experience. Ivanna, our coven mother and high-priestess, had prepared us in the usual way. She’d briefed us on the situation and what needed to happen. With the wave of her hand, she’d disguised our faces, making us appear years older than we truly were.
Just a few hours away from Eagleton—our home—a boy was being held in a group facility; an orphanage. The boy was one of us, a Wise One, born with the ability to wield the ancient magick. Not long ago, his entire family had been killed in a raging fire at their home. Joshua, the boy, had been the only survivor. At just fourteen years old, he’d been turned over to the state for care. It was our mission to get him, or at least to offer him the chance to come with us; to learn how to properly control the magick.
But the boy wasn’t cooperative. It didn’t surprise me. Each one of my coven brothers and sisters had suffered through something similar before coming to Eagleton. In what seemed a cruel cosmic joke, most Wise Ones were born to ordinary human parents. Imagine walking into the room one day to find your young child moving things through the air with his or her mind, or creating a storm in the middle of your living room. I glanced at Everett. Or, what if your child could speak directly into your mind with his mind, excitedly telling you about a bug he’d found on the playground? Imagine that his voice took over all of your thoughts, making it impossible for you to concentrate on anything else.
It’s not odd that parents of Wise Ones often thought that their children were evil; incarnates of some black demon that went against everything they’d been taught in chapels and churches. That’s why these Wise children often ended up abandoned or victims of their own parents’ attempts to free the world of their evil. But Joshua’s fate had been different, maybe even worse than the rest of ours.
He was a fire-wielder, and in the grips of a nightmare, he’d inadvertently used his powers. The house had gone up in flames quickly, destroying his family and his life. The firemen and police thought it was a miracle that the boy hadn’t been hurt. They’d rescued him from the charred and burning home, thinking that he had a guardian angel watching over him. What they didn’t know was that he had been immune to the flames as he slept, because he’d created them.
It was absolutely understandable that he’d be bitter, angry…that he’d hate the world. He’d tried to ignore Everett and me from the moment the lady had led us out to the courtyard to speak to him. We had tried gently persuading him that we could help, using the disguise Ivanna had given us—hopeful foster parents. Nothing we said got through to him, until Everett had told him that we were like him, that we understood what was going on with him.
He’d snapped his head toward us quickly, those sky-blue eyes burning through me.
“If you’re anything like me, then I hate you almost as much as I hate myself,” he’d said, his voice dripping with disgust. After a few more attempts to talk to him, he shut down completely. His finger jutted out toward the ground. I’d panicked, knowing what his plan was. I shook my head no, even as a small flame leapt up from the grass. The other children were in the courtyard too, some of them jumping rope while others dribbled basketballs or played hopscotch.
Knowing he wasn’t going to come with us, Everett and I prepared to leave…to get out of there before we angered him and pushed him to do something we would all regret. But something wouldn’t let me leave just at that moment. Maybe it was the look in the boy’s eyes; the lonely, desolate look. I recognized myself in him, and my mind went back over the time I’d spent in a foster home before being brought to Eagleton. I’d remembered just how lonely it had been; how I thought I’d never be able to pull myself out of the dark misery. In a last minute, desperate attempt to do something for the boy, I’d leaned over and given him the numbers of the phone back in Eagleton.
It was untraceable. Surely it wouldn’t matter too much, and I was confident that the boy would call when he came to terms with what was happening to him. We wouldn’t have to lose him, and we could still keep him safe from them…the hunters. So I’d said it twice, reciting the numbers slowly so he would memorize them. That’s where I’d gone wrong. It was absolutely forbidden to reveal anything about Eagleton to anyone who didn’t live here.
Everett and I had gone back to Ivanna after escaping the group home without the boy. I knew a punishment was coming, but I wasn’t prepared for what she would say. She focused her dark, piercing eyes on me in a way she never had before. Ivanna was beautiful, with black hair as shiny as glass, and high cheekbones. She was a tall woman, but even without her height, she had a presence that made her seem imposing and large. We’d met with her in her cottage behind the main house, Everett insisting on going with me although I told him to stay in his room.
Nervously, I told her the entire story as she perched on the edge of her desk in the small library. She was quiet as I described the boy’s demeanor, and when I talked about him using his power on the patchy grass outside the orphanage, she stayed calm. There was a long moment of silence after that, and Everett made no move to speak up about what I had done.
“There’s one more thing,” I’d said. “I gave the boy our phone number.”
Again, I was met with Ivanna's piercing gaze. Her face was unreadable, the muscles under the skin relaxed. I thought she might not get angry after all, but then suddenly, her expression changed. It was as if she just remembered that it was one of the most important rules in Eagleton not to give out any contact information. Her brows drew together and she moved to sit at the desk, clasping her hands together.
“I’ve never been this disappointed in you, Olivia.” Her voice was as chilling as her eyes. “You have always been ruled by your emotions, but I expected better from you in this situation. What if the boy had been a plant for the Venator? What then? I don’t have to remind you what would happen if the hunters found our location…what would happen to every single one of us.”
I wished she would scream in rage rather than focus her icy quiet wrath on me, but the demeanor with which she delivered the words didn’t cut as deeply as the words themselves. I’d trained for years to fight the Venator. I’d seen the trophies of their kills; I’d heard horror stories about the hidden locations full of Wise Ones and humans that they’d enslaved. The thought of the Venator coming anywhere near my family sent an arch of terror through my bones.
“Ivanna,” I said, “it was just a number. It was an untraceable number. You can’t think that I’d ever willingly endanger any of you.” Did I have to say this to her? She of all people should know that I’d walk out into a crowd of Venator if it would save my family.”
“But you have endangered us,” she argued. “When you break a coven rule, you endanger the coven. That’s why those rules are in place. I could toss you right out for this.”
An odd feeling crept over me as she said those words. It was as if the words weren’t matching up with her external display of anger; she should be screaming and shouting, with her eyes flashing. If her face showed a lack of anger, Everett’s showed an overload of it.
“If you toss her out of the coven, I’ll be right behind her,” he said loyally, his hands gripping the arms of the chair as if he were prepared to jump up at any moment and follow through on his threat. While he spoke calmly—because he would never dream of raising his voice at a woman—his jaw was clenched and the air around the three of us was practically crackling.
“Peace, Everett,” Ivanna said, holding up a hand toward him. Her eyes remained on me. “Do you see the kind of loyalty you’ve placed in danger?” A sharp pang of guilt flamed up in my stomach, and I felt the sting of threatening tears. I was too prideful to let them show as Ivanna spoke again.
“You must be made to realize the magnitude of what you’ve done, Olivia.” She heaved a long sigh, as if the old thing parents said was really true; as if this would hurt her more than it hurt me. “You’ll be leaving the coven tomorrow.”
It was like the world went black for a moment, and my whole body was numb. It was like I wasn’t really sitting here listening to what she was saying, and briefly, I thought I might wake up and realize this was all a dream. Everett stiffened in the chair beside me, and as my mind reeled, Ivanna clarified things.
“You’ll be staying in the house in Staves until Midsummer. You can prepare anything you want to take with you and I’ll provide the rest. I’ll need you back here in a few days for a meeting, but otherwise, you’ll live as a normal human until the solstice.”
“Ivanna,” Everett said tensely. “We need her here.” Without looking up from the top of her desk, Ivanna nodded.
“You’re absolutely right. We do need her here. Perhaps this lesson will teach her just how badly we do.” Her words had a certain finality to them, and quickly, my disbelief turned to rage. I’d given the boy a number. That’s it. She was acting like I’d handed each of my family members over to the Venator, one by one. The pressure built in my head until I could finally feel my limbs again, and that’s when I’d made my escape from her cottage.

I hadn’t stayed long on the edge of the forest with Everett. I wanted to be alone; to wallow in the heat and anger inside of myself. By the next morning, it had simmered and boiled so long that it blocked out the self-pity, which was a small relief. I packed my clothes carefully and slowly, trying to delay the final moments I guess, because there are only so many ways you can fold jeans and t-shirts. When I was just about done, Everett knocked on the door to my bedroom. His pale blond hair was cropped short, but it looked as if he’d been running his hands through it all morning. He helped me carry my bags downstairs, through the massive main house, and out front to where a car was waiting.
It was as if my family had shown up for a funeral. Charlotte and Perry, the eldest coven members, stood closest to the door as I exited. Perry was our coven brother, but also Ivanna’s real brother, and although he was a giant, burly man, his dark eyes were exact replicas of Ivanna’s. Charlotte smiled weakly at me, and smoothed her strawberry-blond hair, gray strands here and there shining in the sunlight.
I noticed that Max was holding Sylvia’s hand, and I willed her not to become emotional. She was by far the most sensitive and outspoken one of our group, along with being the youngest. Max was five years older than me, with dark eyes that sparkled and shaggy dark hair. The tattoos that covered his chest, back and arms made him look more like the singer in a heavy metal band than a Wise One and computer genius. Sylvia was usually all sunshine, with glowing mocha skin and caramel eyes, but today, she kept her eyes on the concrete and her face was long.
I gave them all a quick smile. I couldn’t do more than that, because my anger kept threatening to turn sad at the thought of leaving them. As for Everett, I could barely look at him. Without pondering how I’d survive the time away from him, I paused long enough to squeeze his hand and then I walked to the car. Ivanna was standing near the passenger-side door as I placed the bag I was carrying into the trunk with the ones Everett had already deposited.
To my relief, Charlotte walked around and got into the driver’s seat. I gave Ivanna a quick look, and then side-stepped her and got into the car. If she was waiting for me to kiss her goodbye, she’d be waiting a long time. I could sense her disappointment as the car pulled away from the main house, but I decided to focus on other things…like how I was supposed to behave like a human. Surely Ivanna didn’t expect me to actually communicate much with humans?
A thread of fear shot through me. To be honest, I was terrified of them. There had only been one point in my life when I’d lived with them and communicated with them every day, and that simply hadn’t worked out. Since leaving the foster home, there had been very few humans I interacted with. I wondered if I could blend in with them. As I watched the miles fly by, I imagined all sorts of scenarios involving humans. I imagined me talking with them, telling them who I was and where I came from.
“Oh, you didn’t know there’s a battle going on between good witches and bad ones? Well, there is. You should watch out, too, because if the bad ones get you, you’re toast. What’s that you say? I’m completely bonkers?”
It was almost amusing enough to make me crack a smile. Still, none of the fantasy images my mind could create would prepare me for the real interaction I was about to have with humans.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How it All Came to Be

My second grade teacher told me I was going to grow up and be a writer. I had given her some kind of little note and she proudly read it to the class, and then told me my first book had to be dedicated to her. I probably raised an eyebrow at her and then went back to passing notes or drawing on my desk...but she called it. Reading was something I had always done, and the more I did it, the more I wanted to do it. As a child, I had a literary appetite the size of Texas and couldn't stop reading.

Nancy Drew books, anything by Christopher Pike or V.C. Andrews, Stephen King - books were my LIFE. At around the age of twelve or so, I developed a taste for classic literature and was wooed by Shakespeare, Poe, Emily and Charlotte Bronte...I read Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment voluntarily. Yes, I was a weird child.

I had a difficult family life, and reading was a constant for me; an escape. Still, I never imagined I'd have a career in writing. I never imagined being a writer. Even though I wrote poems and stories and logged my life into journals every day...it never really occurred to me. It wasn't until I was about nineteen years old that I realized this is not only what I want to do, but it was what I was made for.

Losing myself in a book, growing to love the characters as if they were truly parts of my life, remembering bits of a book or story years after I'd read it - these were things that were very important to me. I want to recreate those same feelings for others. So, I began really writing and approaching agents. Completely ignorant of the process or what to expect, I had a few bad experiences with agents who were super shady, but I managed to avoid being really taken.

Because of the experiences, though, I gave up for a while, discouraged. Then an opportunity came up for me to earn a living as a non-fiction writer. Well, it wasn't what I really wanted, but it was awfully close. I experienced some very great successes with non-fiction and still write non-fiction for a living. However, it rekindled the flame in me that wants so badly to create those worlds and those wonderful characters and that great escape. So, I started writing again. What I've found in my lifetime is that there is no escaping it; writing.

There are tiny signs and events that always seem to push me back into writing. There is rarely a moment when something happens that I don't think, 'How can I fit that into a story?' As happy as I am when I am reading an amazing story, I'm even happier when I'm lost in one of my own. When someone reads something of mine and likes it...oh, there is no other feeling on Earth like it. Nothing can come close.

This is the precise reason I've decided to self-publish my books. I realized that what makes me happiest of all is getting the feedback from people who have read and love my books; hearing them talk excitedly about something that happened or tell me that they're in love with one of my characters. Whether I make a million dollars or a couple of hundred, if people are reading my books and they're happy with them - I am happy. So, I've decided to bring my stories straight to my audience, and I hope that you'll accept them with open arms and always tell me how they made you feel, or what you'd like to read about next.