Monday, February 28, 2011

February Sponsor Recap

I would like to thank all my sponsors for February, Bob Avery, Suzanne Tyrpak and Dana Taylor. Your generosity in supporting my blog is greatly appreciated.  For those of you who might have missed the original posts, here are the book blurbs once again.  

Beneath A Buried House by Bob Avery:

Book Blurb:
Things aren’t always what they seem. Tulsa Police Detective, Kenny Elliot’s quest to uncover the truth behind the death of a transient makes him a target – from whom or what he isn’t sure. When he brushes the dirt from the surface of an apparent John Doe overdose case, he finds a labyrinth of misdirection and deception beneath, and a trail, which leads him to an encounter with an aberration in human nature, the likes of which he’s not prepared to deal with.

Drawing on his strength of character, and sense of right and wrong, he wrestles with deep personal feelings to solve the case.

Dating My Vibrator by Suzanne Tyrpak:

Book blurb:
Dating My Vibrator and other true fiction is a collection of nine true and almost true short stories all based (unfortunately) on my own experience. After nineteen years of marriage I was thrust into a brave new world of dating: online, offline, standing in line, listening to lines. And I have survived to tell these tales. Dating, divorce, desperation—all that good stuff. CAUTION: if you’re contemplating divorce, these stories may convince you to consider marriage counseling. If you’re out there dating, chances are you will relate. OMG! Here’s a scary thought: maybe you’ve met some of these guys. Names have been changed to protect the guilty. Joe Konrath gave it 5 stars and says, “Pure Comedic Brilliance.  Just .99 cents!

Devil Moon by Dana Taylor:

Book Blurb:
Maddie Harris left Boston in humiliation.  She hopes the job as assistant principal in a small Arkansas town will keep her too busy to notice the hole where her heart used to be.

Phil Wilcox, divorced former NFL star, returns to his hometown as the new football coach.  He hopes to repair the tattered relationship with his eleven-year-old daughter, despite his thorny ex-wife.

Neither is seeking romance, but a mischievous moon and a friendly spirit have other ideas.

Buy Links:

Author Links:
Twitter Name: @SupernalDana

Vestal Virgin by Suzanne Tyrpak:

Book Blurb:

Vestal Virgin—suspense in ancient Rome

Elissa Rubria Honoria is a Vestal Virgin--priestess of the sacred flame, a visionary, and one of the most powerful women in Rome. Vestals are sacrosanct, sworn to chastity on penalty of death, but the emperor,Nero, holds himself above the law. He pursues Elissa, engaging her in a deadly game of wits and sexuality. Or is Elissa really the pursuer? She stumbles on dark secrets. No longer trusting Roman gods, she follows a new god, Jesus of Nazareth, jeopardizing her life and the future of The Roman Empire.

Barnes & Noble:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

#SampleSunday - Visions, QUEST FOR NOBILITY

Today's SampleSunday, is from QUEST FOR NOBILITY.  Dyla Telkur is an empath who has dream visions that can sometimes portend the future.

Chapter 4 – Visions
The fire danced and crackled with life, seeking to devour anything in its path.  Three separate spurs raced around the warehouse, burning all they touched.  Boxes of all shapes and sizes became ash as the flames joined to become one intense hungry blaze.
She watched the scorching scene, riveted to the floor.  She turned her head, seeking an escape, but saw only shadows.  The flames were almost upon her when the walls disappeared.  She felt the heat closing in and tried desperately to free herself.  When she turned back, the flames surrounded her, engulfing her in an inferno of pain and torment.  Screaming, she felt the flesh melt from her limbs.
Dyla bolted upright in bed, awakened by an ear-splitting scream. Drenched in sweat and trembling uncontrollably, it took her a moment to realize that it was her own scream she heard and she shuddered in fear.
She clamored off the bed and fell to her knees.
“Oh no, oh no,” she whispered while rocking back and forth.              
Within moments, Darius came rushing into the room and found his sister on the floor.  Folding her into his arms, he made a telepathic connection and was immediately assailed by images of pain and suffering.  He had never felt such intensity through his link before, and he nearly staggered back at the blow.
“It’s OK, you’re safe,” he said softly, clutching her tighter.
It took Dyla several minutes before she came back to herself.
“Darius, I had a terrible vision.  There was a fire, it destroyed everything.”
Darius lifted her chin and met his sister’s eyes.
“I felt it when I touched you.  You’re safe now.  It was only a bad dream.”
“No, it wasn’t a bad dream, it was more than that.  I was there, inside it, feeling the heat of the fire.  It burned me.  I’ve never felt anything so horrible before.”
“Do you want me to summon the healer for you?”
“No, I want to talk to Mother.  She’s never mentioned having visions before, but she may understand what’s happening to me.”
Darius helped Dyla to her feet and slipped a robe over her shoulders.  A number of concerned servants stood standing in the doorway to the bedchamber watching the scene unfold.
Darius reassured them.
“It’s all right.  Go back to bed.  Everything here is fine.”
The servants nodded one by one and slipped away.
The twins left Dyla’s room and walked down the corridor to their parent’s bedchamber.  Dyla knocked lightly on the door. 
Silence greeted them.
“That’s strange.  They’re not answering.  I’m surprised they didn’t come when you screamed,” Darius said.
Dyla reached out, turned the door handle, and walked into the room.  It was empty.
“Where are they?”
The room was pristine.  The bed had not been slept in and there was no sign of their parents.
Dyla looked about the room, worry written on her face.
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
“It’s awfully late for them not to be in their chamber.  Where could they be?” Darius asked.
“Did you see them after the banquet?”
“No, I was with Ty.  What about you?”
“I think you’re right.  Something’s not right.  Come on, let's get dressed."
"I'll only be a minute.  I'll meet you by your bedchamber."
"Sounds good."
Both Dyla and Darius ran to their bedchambers and emerged within minutes fully dressed.
"Where do we start?" Dyla asked.
"Let's start with Father's study.  If  they're not there, let's check in with Ronal.  Maybe he knows what’s going on."
            "I hope so," Dyla said


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Who Owns Who?

Last fall I was laid up with a back injury for 4 1/2 months and spent most of that time in bed.  That made my kitties very happy.  They got plenty of lap time and lovings.  Now I'm feeling better, but still need to rest my back as much as possible.  I bring my laptop to bed and try to do some writing or posts for the blog.  This working thing does not make Crystal very happy.  She was used to having my entire lap to herself and now she has to share with a machine.  Here she is with that look of indignation:

I have learned to type around her.  Really?  I type around my cat???? So I ask you - who owns who?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Today's Sponsor: Vestal Virgin by Suzanne Tyrpak

Book Blurb:

Vestal Virgin—suspense in ancient Rome

Elissa Rubria Honoria is a Vestal Virgin--priestess of the sacred flame, a visionary, and one of the most powerful women in Rome. Vestals are sacrosanct, sworn to chastity on penalty of death, but the emperor,Nero, holds himself above the law. He pursues Elissa, engaging her in a deadly game of wits and sexuality. Or is Elissa really the pursuer? She stumbles on dark secrets. No longer trusting Roman gods, she follows a new god, Jesus of Nazareth, jeopardizing her life and the future of The Roman Empire.

• New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks says,
“...a writer of real talent...a promising new voice.”

• New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen says,
“Suzanne Tyrpak weaves a spell that utterly enchants and delights. Her writing is pure magic.”

            • A torrid tale of love, honor, and sacrifice pitted against horrific acts of murder, betrayal, and depravity.  Rife with intrigue and brimming with exquisite detail, Vestal Virgin is a deftly paced masterpiece of historical fiction.  I hope Tyrpak is planning another foray into this ancient world . . . and soon!
— Eldon Thompson, author of The Divine Talisman

5.0 out of 5 stars EngrossingDecember 28, 2010
This review is from: Vestal Virgin (Kindle Edition)
I loved it all: the story, the characters, and the setting. I felt like I was walking in ancient Rome. Many of the details about the times were new to me, and fascinating. I loved reading about the strong women in a time when most women had no power. This book has it all: the conflict between good and evil, old and new religions, love and hate, doing the right thing vs. protecting family. Gripping. I have also read and loved other, very different works by Suzanne Tyrpak (most notably Dating My Vibrator, also available on Kindle). She is a fine writer whose talents shine in a variety styles and genres.
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as Robert HarrisDecember 28, 2010
jeroen ten berge (Welllington, New Zealand) 

This review is from: Vestal Virgin (Kindle Edition)
I've been a big fan of Robert Harris since 'Fatherland', and when he delved into Roman history and offered 'Pompeii' - combining well researched history with fictional suspense, I was once again absolutely blown away. 'Vestal Virgin' is without doubt as good, and a must read for anyone who loves a fantastic story set in ancient times as turbulent as today's.

5.0 out of 5 stars Strong Women CharactersJanuary 1, 2011
L.C. Evans "Author" (North Carolina, USA) 
This review is from: Vestal Virgin (Kindle Edition)
In general I'm a fan of historical fiction, including ancient Rome, so I was immediately drawn to Vestal Virgin. I was not disappointed. The author did a superb job with the setting. She deftly worked in details of life in ancient Rome, and I could easily understand the everyday life of the times and exactly what it meant to be a vestal virgin. The sights, the smells, the sounds--all seemed real as I watched the characters' lives unfold.

The virgins typically were chosen as children and took vows to serve for 30 years. Vestal virgin Elissa is the main character and she is no exception to the strict laws. As a vestal, she is an educated and powerful woman who starts out wanting to avenge her brother's death at the hands of the tyrannical Nero. She ends up finding a better goal. Along the way she is pursued by Nero, who thinks he is a god. But courageous Elissa is also a mystic and she works to decipher an ancient prophecy that foretells the destruction of Rome. Elissa's younger sister Flavia is another strong woman character. Ambitious Flavia has a different goal from her sister--she wants to become Nero's wife.

I read this book quickly, unable to put it down. I was caught up in the story and totally invested in the lives of the well-drawn characters. I loved Elissa and even Flavia, who behaved like a naive and spoiled child, won me over in the end. The men characters, though well-drawn, did not appeal to me as much and came across as weak in comparison to the women.

Very enjoyable book and I would like to read more by this talented author.

Author Bio:

Suzanne Tyrpak ran away from New York a long time ago to live in Colorado. Her debut novel is Vestal Virgin, suspense set in ancient Rome, available on Kindle and Smashwords—and soon to be released in trade paperback through Amazon.  Her collection of nine short stories Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction) is available on Kindle and Smashwords. J.A. Konrath calls it, “Pure comedic brilliance.”  Her short story Downhill was first published in Arts Perspective Magazine. Rock Bottom is published in the Mota 9: Addiction anthology, available on Kindle.  Her short story Ghost Plane was published by CrimeSpree Magazine. Venus Faded appears in the anthology Pronto! Writings from Rome (Triple Tree Publishing, 2002) along with notable authors including: Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth Engstrom, Terry Brooks and John Saul. Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers awarded her first prize in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest, and Maui Writers awarded her third prize in the Rupert Hughes writing competition.
Excerpt from Vestal Virgin:
Veils of mist rose from the Tiber’s rushing waters and swirled around Elissa’s feet. She walked across the bridge and felt like she was walking through a cloud.
Footsteps, muffled by the fog, tapped softly behind her.
Or was it rain?
She stopped. So did the tapping.
She glanced back, half expecting to see Angerona. Shifting vapors swallowed the river, swallowed everything. Clammy wetness seeped through her palla, and the tunica beneath her stola clung to her back. Brushing a limp strand of hair out of her face, she listened for footsteps, heard only the steady beat of rain.
When she reached the far side of the bridge, a labyrinth of twisting lanes told her she was in the Hebrew Quarter. Here, women remained cloistered in their homes and were rarely seen, men mumbled prayers in Hebrew, and pork was a forbidden meat. The Jews were a strange people, though Elissa saw few of them today. The Day of Saturn was their Sabbath and all the shops were closed.
She wondered which way she should turn. She only knew she sought the shop of a tentmaker. There were no streets signs, no numbers on the houses. Just graffiti. The cobblestones were slick with rain. Reaching out her hand to steady herself, she touched a wall dripping with water, and something slimy brushed her face.
Stifling a scream, she hurried on. Saw no sign of a tentmaker.
Backtracking, she walked along another street.
Fog crept toward her from the river, and she could barely see her shoes. The idea of finding Justinus seemed ludicrous. Commonsense told her to return to the House of Vestals before she was discovered missing.
Or worse.
            People often met their death in Rome’s deserted alleyways. Just last week a woman had been raped and stabbed. Retracing her steps, she sought something familiar. She would have asked for help, but every door she passed was closed.
She hurried by a stinking pile of rags.
The rags shifted.
From beneath the tattered pile of cloth a gnarled finger appeared, beckoning for her to come closer. She heard a wheezing sound. Blood-shot eyes peered out from the mud-caked rags.
“You seek the truth?” said a rasping voice.
“I seek the prophet Paul.” 
The gnarled finger extended, pointing a blackened nail.
“But I’ve just come from there.” 
“Then you did not go far enough.”
“To find the tentmaker’s shop?”
“To find what you are seeking.” Eyes glinted in an ancient face, though whether male or female, Elissa couldn’t guess. A gash festered on the creature’s forehead.
“You’re hurt,” Elissa said.
“An old wound that doesn’t heal.”
“Maybe I can help you. Tell me your name.”
“You don’t recognize me?”
“Should I?” 
The creature sucked in air. We met last autumn at the Circus Maximus, but I looked younger then. Opening its mouth the creature revealed double incisors. “My name is Agrippina.”
The gnarled finger beckoned. “Rome burns and from union unholy the sister will bring forth a son. Have you heard these words before, Elissa?”
A chill ran through Elissa’s heart. “How do you know my name?”
“I know many things. I know the meaning of the prophecy.”
“What is it?” Elissa inched toward the pile of rags.
“Come closer.”
She took another step.
“Your answer lies in Book Fourteen.”  
Bony fingers, cold as death, wrapped around Elissa’s ankle. Her scream was followed by a clap of thunder. Breaking from the creature’s grasp, she turned and ran. Rain pelted her with icy needles, stung her face, soaked through her palla.
Fog descended, dark and thick. When she glanced back, the pile of rags was gone.
Certain she heard footsteps, she called out, “Is anybody there?”
Within the soup, she saw a face, pale and frightening.
The face was joined by others. Waxen masks of the dead destined to wander from their graves, eyes smoldering within the shadows.
The slippery cobblestones caused Elissa to stumble. Regaining her balance, she sprinted through a twisting alleyway.
“Though I walk through a valley dark as death,” she recited, her voice thin and breathless. “I fear no evil for you are with me.”
Lemures surrounded her. Mouths gaping, hands outstretched.
Through a shadowy veil, Elissa saw her brother.
She ran toward him, tears streaming from her eyes as she threw herself into his arms.
His body felt warm and wonderfully alive.
She looked up at his face.
“I thought I heard you calling.”
            She peered into the fog. A sign swung on squeaking hinges above a doorway. It advertised a tentmaker’s shop.
Justinus drew her close, and their mouths merged in a kiss, more insistent than the rain. 


Thursday, February 24, 2011


The Challenges and Rewards of Writing Fantasy without Killing the Parents
Dead parents are a long established literary tradition, especially in fantasy fiction. Harry Potter is currently the most famous fictional orphan. And of course Frodo Baggins lost his parents and was adopted by his Uncle Bilbo. Cinderella was left under the domination of a wicked stepmother. Luke Skywalker thought both his mother and father were dead and then he lost his Aunt and Uncle.

Ditching parents when writing a story tends to be convenient. It frees main characters of normal obligations and forces them to be resourceful. Young adult fiction thrives on high parental mortality because its audience wants to enter an adventure unencumbered by parents. It's real spread your wings and fly stuff that meets some valid psychological needs.

But how do I avoid always laying the elder generation in the grave in chapter one? Two broad approaches for making narrative accommodations for fictional parents present themselves: 1) Find some explanation for ostracizing a parent from the story, or 2) Include the parent and explore the richness this adds to the character development of the offspring.

Suggestions for writing Mom or Dad out of the show:

1. Daddy is just not around. He does not have to be dead, but his relationship with the mother is ancient history and the character grew up without knowing the dad. Mom can be the one to skip town too.

2. Mommy and Daddy are in another geographical location and not present at the scenes of action. For example, Dreibrand Veta, the hero of my fantasy series The Rys Chronicles, is off conquering and exploring the unknown regions of the world while his parents remain in their distant ancestral home.

3. The character and his or her parents are estranged. This technique allows the parents to live in the same area as the hero or heroine, but something has occurred to make one or both sides sever ties. I am currently using this approach in a work in progress. I felt that a certain character needed to have parents in the vicinity, but I did not want these parents to barge into the narrative. Therefore I had them become disapproving of the main character. His bloody takeover of the city and the associated mob violence upset the parents so much they disowned him. The estrangement works well. I did not have to stoop to arranging their tragic deaths, and the main character has to live with the moral disapproval of his parents.

4. Sometimes the parents are actually dead. I do it sometimes. I am only advocating for not doing it constantly. Shan, a rys main character in The Rys Chronicles, does not have living parents. Their identity is a mystery but not a relevant one. No one really cares. He's over four hundred years old and far more concerned with his current ambitions than knowing who bore him.

Suggestions for including the parents in the lives of your main characters:

1. Parent as counselor. A mom or dad can be that special person a main character consults when he or she faces a dilemma. The character does not even necessarily have to do what mom or dad recommends, but scenes of consultation with a parent are a nice way to provide the reader with character insights. Most people run big decisions by mom or dad. It's a normal and believable thing to do.

2. Parent as antagonist. Making mom or dad the outright enemy of a character hits strong emotional chords with readers. Any person can relate to feeling anger toward a parent, and the concept of this animosity becoming bitter and irretrievable is quite compelling. An example from history is how Benjamin Franklin's son sided with the British Empire . Franklin was the traitorous rebel, and the son refused to be part of the revolution. Now that's a conflict!

3. Parent as supporting character. Some situations will benefit from taking the parent along for the adventure. A familiar example is the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indie's father becomes a central character in the story. This allowed the father and son to rehash old grievances, renew bonds, and learn to appreciate each other. 

Allowing fictional characters to have relationships with one or both parents can help characters blossom in a reader's mind and make them relatable. Throwing parents into the narrative mix is also a great way to increase tension. The hero has to save the world AND his father is mad at him. The heroine has just met Prince Charming BUT her mother doesn't think he's good enough for her. You get the idea.

I admit it can be liberating to enter a fantasy where the main character is free of parental balls and chains, but I think it is overused. Parents don't have to inject themselves directly into a story, but I prefer to at least mention them, and in my work in progress I've been actively making them part of the story with several characters. The additional relationships are adding pleasing nuances to the story. I've explored how rebellious youth gradually softens into respect and cooperation between son and father. I've engineered the destruction of a father-daughter relationship as a daughter endures the prospect of forced marriage and the brutal indifference of her father.

Another aspect about character development to consider is that a main character can become a parent. My fantasy characters have sex lives, and as years go by Mother Nature tends to get her way in the arena of reproduction. I like to write a warrior hero who has children. It raises the stakes and helps him see the good from the bad when politics and invasions sideswipe morality. The concept of a father or mother fighting for a child is a primal force, and I like to reach into these deep emotional realms when I write.

Unlocking the sharp feelings contained in the parent child dyad is a challenge for me as a writer. It makes things more complicated, but I believe that the results are more engaging and rewarding. There's a lot of raw power within these basic familial relationships, and simply casting aside that resource at the beginning of a story can be a waste.

Anyway, I can always kill the parents later…

Author bio:
Tracy Falbe is the author of Union of Renegades, The Goddess Queen, Judgment Rising, and The Borderlands of Power that comprise The Rys Chronicles fantasy series. She's a Michigan native who spent 14 years living out West in Nevada and Northern California. To pursue a writing career she earned a journalism degree from California State University, Chico. When not pondering fictional realms, she likes to grow food, swim, hike, bike, go boating, and watch documentaries.

About Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I - Have you ever looked at the facts of your life and realized your dreams won't come true? Have you ever looked into the unknown and seen opportunity? For Dreibrand Veta, a young officer in the Horde of the Atrophane Empire, these questions explode from his spirit in a fit of rage and launch him into an epic struggle. After he encounters a rare super race, the rys, he is forced to choose sides between passionate rivals and navigate his way through a foreign culture all while plotting to seize his own wealth and glory.
Fantasy readers can sample the first novel Union of Renegades by downloading a free copy from her website Paperbacks available too.

All her fantasy novels are also widely available at major online retailers.