Welcome to my blog!

I'm so excited that my lifelong dream of becoming a published author has come true. If you'd like to go straight to excerpts from my books, the links are:

The Mountain's Shadow - Lycanthropy Files Book One (October 1, 2013): the first chapter with buy links is here.

Long Shadows - Lycanthropy Files Book Two (March 25, 2014): first chapter and buy links are here.

Blood's Shadow - Lycanthropy Files Book Three (November 25, 2014): blurb and cover are here.

If you're not getting enough randomness from me here, please feel free to follow me on Twitter and/or like my Facebook page. I've also taken the Pinterest plunge.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Character on the Couch: Getting Catty with Another Villain

Someone didn't get his coffee this morning. (Image attribution via Wikimedia Commons: Puma concolor shot at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum |Source=self-made |Author= User:Cm0rris0n)

Fellow author of shifter literature Abigail Owen approached me wanting to make the villain of her second book, Kyle Carstairs, a bit more menacing. Here's our initial exchange:

Character name: Kyle Carstairs

Age: 28ish

Gender: Male

Species (if applicable): mountain lion shifter

Cultural or historical context: these shifters are very similar to their wild counterparts - loners and very aggressive. They've been forced to band together in pride-like groups.

Brief description and relevant history:  Kyle is my villain in the 2nd book in a series. He was co-villain but mostly off-stage in the 1st book. Kyle's father was the Alpha for one of the prides. He ruled with an iron fist. He and his father were challenged together. The dad was killed, and Kyle ran off. In book 2 he's joined forces with a larger off-screen villain (the reason cougars had to band together in the first place - these people take more shape in book 3).

Where you're stuck, or why your character needs a psychologist: Trying to make him more menacing without going over the top. Getting behind his motivations.

What you may not want me to share generally in the post:
Open to sharing all that in the post. :)
Note: I removed one question/answer pair that may lead to spoilers.

Rawr. (Image in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

So I sent the following questions for follow-up:

Are your mountain lion shifters (love it!) female-dominant?
The society is male dominated, but with a twist. I based the society on real mountain lion behavior. Mountain lions don't live in packs or with other lions - they're very much loners. The older males are the 'big dogs' because they're bigger and stronger only. Cougars are known to kill each other for territory. I add another twist. Due to natural environments shrinking, the types of shifters who do live in packs (lions, wolves) are attacking the loners like cougars, and killing them to gain their territories. Cougar shifters banded together to form the Shadowcat Nation - a group of ten Dares (like prides) that are Alpha Male led. But it's a really tense situation, since their animal forms don't naturally live in groups.

Even if not, what was Kyle's relationship to his mother or any other significant females? Yeah, paging Dr. Freud. ;-)
Kyle's mother doesn't even rate a mention in book 1. His father is Alpha of the Carstairs Dare, and Kyle wants the job. Based on the above scenario, Kyle's mom has been out of the picture a while. If she didn't run away from his father (who's a sadistic tyrant) then he killed her. Kyle has never asked which.

What is Kyle's greatest insecurity?
Not being in control. He wants to rule everything in his domain and destroy anything that threatens him (typical cougar). But he takes it to another level, trying to force one woman to be his mate (wife) (for political gain) while trying to force another woman to mate him (difference is this is just sex) in order to produce a cub who would inherit the mother's Seer ability. But a Seer he could control after he killed the mother.

Similarly, what strength does he have that he needs to control better? In other words, what's gotten him in trouble before?
I had to really think hard about this. My initial thinking is that his strength lies in - ironically - his strength. He's a massive cougar, very intimidating, with an ugly temper and temperament. He manages by fear. So far, only Jaxon has "bested" him in a fight, and even then not completely. Kyle still got away, though being so beaten threw his confidence a bit.

So here are my thoughts:
It seems to me that you've figured out Kyle's motivations – power and control – but they need more depth to make him truly menacing. In other words, what is his internal conflict? For example, has he ever thought about why he wants to lead the Carstairs Dare? It's a fairly straightforward motivation for someone to want to be king, but people still want to do so for their own reasons. How will him being the leader help him resolve what he's struggling with? Sure, he can want external things like wealth, but it will add depth to his character to give him more to deal with internally. You're on the right track with his insecurity and wanting control, but control of what?

I did a workshop at the 2012 Moonlight & Magnolias Conference called Characters on the Couch:  Personality as the Key to Believable Internal Conflict. Since you did an online Myers-Briggs personality profile and came up with INTJ as his personality, here are some possible things to consider:

INTJ is a good type for a fiercely independent person/shifter because independence is one of their strongest characteristics. So is the ability to come up with a vision of how things could be so much better-run or organized and strategy, although they may be less interested in implementing it themselves. In pursuing their vision, they often fail to consider how others are thinking or feeling.

So what is Kyle's vision for the dare if he should become king? Or does his vision go beyond it? How could you integrate his need for control?

I hope this was helpful, and I look forward to reading this series when it's published!

If you would like to type your characters, here's a link to a free online MBTI, which I find is accurate enough for character typing:  http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes1.htm

As for typing yourself, I recommend finding a psychologist who administers it and paying to take the real thing. A lot of companies also offer them as part of career development testing.

Oh, and here are some mountain lion kittens. Because kittens:
Too freaking adorable! (Image in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

If you have a character you'd like to send to my couch, please send me an email at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com. You know what to do to make that an actual email address. I'm a clinical psychologist by trade, so I bring real-life psychological knowledge to help you through those stuck points. And no, I don't charge.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Reviews: Red the Were Hunter and Solace Shattered

So the theme of my reviews this evening is fantasy from the urban fantasy writer's perspective.

First, my long overdue review of Rebekah Ganiere's novel Red the Were Hunter.

What if you were the key to an ancient prophecy that would begin to heal your lands, but fulfilling your destiny meant you had to turn your back on everything you'd been taught to believe in?

Redlynn of Volkzene, member of the Sisterhood of Red, is heartbroken to discover another girl kidnapped and her best friend slain by werewolves. Defying the head of her order, she sets out to kill the beast she believes responsible. The King of the Weres-- But there are worse things in Wolvenglen Forest than the wolves.

Adrian, reluctant heir to the throne of Wolvenglen, and his band of wolf brothers are bound to protect the humans; especially the Sisterhood. Finding Redlynn unconscious in his woods, awakens in him a passion he's never before experienced and a protective instinct that has him ready to turn on his own men. Problem is, a female is the last thing Adrian needs complicating his life.

But all is not as it seems in Wolvenglen Forest and to save the missing girls before time runs out, Redlynn and Adrian must move past their inner demons and learn to trust each other. In the search for vengeance however, sometimes you must give up what you desire most.

With her Fairelle series, author Rebekah Ganiere takes fairy tales and gives them an interesting twist. The aspect that drew me into this first book, a clever take on the Little Red Riding Hood tale, was heroine Redlynn, or "Red," herself. She's got an urban fantasy level of snarkiness and strength, but she doesn't hide from her emotions. She has her feelings and then moves on, or at least tries to when she meets Adrian, prince of the Weres, her sworn enemy. Ganiere does a great job with showing how their attraction turns to mutual affection on both physical and emotional levels in a way that keeps the reader guessing whether they'll get their happily-ever-after. The plot twists and turns are also interesting and unexpected. I ended up reading this one twice since I had to delay my review, and I enjoyed it both times, first because of that tension and the second time because of the gorgeous writing and storytelling. I didn't find myself getting frustrated with the characters (e.g., "Oh, just tell her already!") either time. In short, this is a fun book and definitely a series I'll be watching for.

Check out my interview of her two characters at this post from May.
Here's Rebekah's author website.

My rating:  Five glasses of wine - a whole bottle!

Second, my equally overdue review of Anna Steffl's Solace Shattered:

One relic is lost in an act of fidelity when Paulus’s blessed sword falls into undeserving hands. One relic is won by testing the strength, endurance, and mercy of the champion who proves himself worthy of the Blue Eye. But two souls are shattered in the process. Though Arvana serves her penance by choosing a champion, the pure joy of a shacra evades her until a forbidden moment of tenderness. Will the single kiss endanger the fate of the world and destroy her heart’s longing for solace? This fascinating trilogy continues with greater stakes and deeper romance in an unforgettable fantasy world.

Like Redlynn, Arvana, the heroine of Solace Shattered, is trying hard to figure out her emotions as she works for the greater good. As in Seeking Solace, the first book in the Solace trilogy, Arvana, a "Solacian" nun, finds herself the object of male desire and attention, this time from the handsome Captain Degarius of Sarapost. To his credit, he's a lot less pushy than Prince Chane Lerouge of Acadia in the first book, and that, in turn, makes him more attractive to me as a reader. Still, I'm thinking Arvana has got to be the hottest nun ever to be earning all this male attention. Seriously, she'd win the nun beauty pageant, if there was a Solace version, hands-down. Possibly related:  Captain Degarius is a leg man.

Seriously, though, author Anna Steffl does a great job of keeping her large cast of characters distinct from each other, and each is very well drawn. Even her minor villain Miss Gallivere was somewhat sympathetic. I mean, really, the poor girl has one job, to make a good marital match, and she keeps getting thwarted by a freaking nun. I was relieved that the narrative generally stayed in one place, the Acadian capital of Shacra Paulus, this time, although it's apparent that the Orlandians are getting frisky, and the Gherians are as freaky as ever. Sadly there were no dragons this time. This book definitely raises the personal and professional stakes for its heroes - reluctant and otherwise - and I'm excited all three volumes in the series are available for free ebook download right now from the author' website because I'm totally getting the third one once I post this review.

By the way, she has a really useful "who's who" of characters if you lose track between books.

My rating:  Four glasses of wine plus a cheese plate.

Disclosure:  I received review copies of both books for free from the authors.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Beachin' - Inspiration for Some of Long Shadows' Settings

So here we are at the July 4 holiday weekend, and I'm not at the beach. Those of you who are, well, go ahead and enjoy it. Be sure you wear your sunscreen, and look out for sharks. And hurricanes. And sand fleas. And...

Who am I kidding? I'm insanely jealous of you if you are at the beach. Seriously, I've been wanting to go since last year. This desire ended up coming out in my second book Long Shadows, which was in progress at the time. Max, the hero, is from the Caribbean, and of course I had to make him and Lonna end up there. I won't spoil anything plot-wise for you, but here's a description from the book:

I focused my attention externally to try and figure out the myriad twists and turns in what seemed to be an island plantation house with white walls, and dark wood windows, baseboards, and molding. The furniture stood large and heavy, and every surface held a small statue or other tchotchke that looked like it could have some sort of magical significance... (Long Shadows, page 207)

I drew my inspiration for the Wizard Headquarters for that region from the Horned Dorset Primavera hotel in Rincon, Puerto Rico. They seem to have a flash website, so apologies to my readers with devices that won't support it. That's where Hubby and I honeymooned 10(!) years ago. At the time, they prided themselves in being a true getaway, and the rooms didn't have televisions or telephones in them. I've heard that's changed now, unfortunately. I guess they bowed to the pressure of our electronics-addicted society. Oh, wait, my books are all electronic only at this point. Hooray for device addiction!

So, back to the inspiration. Here's a picture of the building where the breakfast room was:

We stayed in one of the villas. At the time I had not yet gotten a digital camera, so my pictures were all with a regular camera with (gasp!) real film. One of my rolls of film got partially exposed between me taking the pictures and developing (thanks, TSA). So no, that's not a pretentious filter on this one:

So what about inside?

He opened a door near the stairs, and we went through another small hallway that led into a bedroom. On one side, a king-sized bed with cotton bedspread and dark wood headboard dominated the room. On the other, French doors opened to the balcony on the beach side... (Long Shadows, page 209)

Here are a couple of pictures from inside the building we stayed in. First kind of a dark picture of the front hall (with a cameo appearance by Hubby as potentially sinister shadowy figure):

And then our room:

As for the balcony, here's the one on the main resort building:

 Finally, our room had a delightful little balcony of its own with a wonderful thing called a plunge pool. I still look at this picture when I need to relax:

And finally, here's a beach picture. Let's all pretend to be there. If you like, you can even download a copy of Long Shadows to your device and go to a Caribbean island with Lonna and Max. Just watch out for wizards who have their own agenda:

That night I dreamed of a tropical beach with a turquoise ocean at my feet and large-leafed flora all around. Huge fuchsia plants dripped the scent of their purple and pink flowers on the breeze. I leaned back in my beach chair, cold drink in hand, and soaked up the sun... (Long Shadows, Page 12)

For a longer excerpt and buy links for Long Shadows, click here.

So, fellow having to stay at home people, what are your favorite beaches or beach books? I'm partial to Destin, FL, and I'll read just about anything, even nonfiction, if there's an ocean in front of me.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Character on the Couch: Debbie Herbert's Female Villain

I'm excited today to welcome Harlequin Nocturne author Debbie Herbert and her Female Villain, who shall remain nameless, from book three of the series to the blog. If you haven't read Debbie's first, which is out now - and look at that gorgeous cover! - I highly recommend it. She brings something unique and fresh to the urban fantasy world with her mermaid clan, and her villains are creeptastic.

Here is the original exchange:

Brief description and relevant history: 

Besides occupation, F.V.’s a loner, probably never married, if she had a boyfriend he dumped her because she grew too clingy and obsessive in their relationship.

What you may not want me to share generally in the post: 

Her name because it could possibly be a spoiler.  Just call her ‘villain’ or ‘antagonist’.  

Note: I chose F.V. for Female Villain. Original, huh? Give me a break - it's Monday, and I was dreaming of the beach when I woke up this morning.

Where you're stuck, or why your character needs a psychologist: 

Explanation for antisocial, aggressive, irrational behavior.

For the first time, I’m working with a female character that is the villain.  F.V. is obsessed with the hero, Nash, and has been for years, although he doesn’t know it.  She has delusional fantasies where he loves her back and wants to marry her.

F.V. hasn’t told him of her love because she has a scar on her cheek and feels she is not worthy of the perfect Nash.  Over the years, she’s had several plastic surgery operations and now the scar is very faint, but in her mind it is still a big imperfection.  But just as she gathers her courage to tell Nash of her feelings, along comes the beautiful Lily (the heroine) who ‘steals’ her man.

F.V. is furious and stalks Lily.  She commits a string of increasingly aggressive actions against Lily to scare her away from Nash.  Finally, she decides the competition must be eliminated. Forever.

I’ve tried to find psychological profiles on female stalkers, etc. but found little other than the infamous David Letterman stalker fantasized that she was actually married to him.  I’ve also read most violent women do not directly, violently assault their victims, preferring instead to use such indirect means as poison.

So my question is, what would make a person become this way?  Should I portray her as psychopathic, sociopathic, living in a fantasy world? What kind of parents/background contribute to this behavior?
Any help much appreciated! 

Note:  This post is based on a conversation I had with Debbie after the June 21 Georgia Romance Writers' meeting. We went to lunch with aspiring author Waverly Bishop, and we all brainstormed about this character. The content below is a summary of the conversation.

By the time we talked, Debbie had already come up with some really great backstory aspects to explain some of F.V.'s irrational and sociopathic behavior. Namely, that she had been attacked at some point, leaving her scarred, and that in her mind, she feels that warning her potential victims justifies eliminating them as competition if they don't heed the warning. She also came up in foster care. But Debbie still struggled with how it would all make for such intense emotions and behaviors, and she was also unsure of whether it made sense for F.V. to still be so obsessed about her scar, which she's had several plastic surgeries to correct, and therefore is practically invisible to everyone but her.

With regard to why F.V. is how she is, we basically worked backwards from the present and decided that F.V. would have been warned before she herself was attacked. Since her aggression is targeted toward females, it made sense for her scar to have been made by another female, possibly her foster mother. Also, because F.V.'s violent tendencies are all tied up with her attraction to a certain man, her attack could have happened as a result of her pushing sexual boundaries, possibly with a foster brother, whom she'd been warned to stay away from. Her feelings toward her foster mother would possibly be mixed – admiration for the power she displayed but fear and loathing for keeping F.V. from her desired target and then attacking and damaging her physically as well as emotionally. It also served as a very effective example as to how to deal with a woman you want to keep away from a man, even down to giving "fair warning."

As for the scar, there is a disorder called Body Dysmorphic Disorder, in which a person perceives some sort of flaw in their appearance and obsesses over it to the point of severe distress. It's not uncommon for someone with BDD to have several cosmetic surgeries to "fix" the perceived flaw and to still not be satisfied. Yes, there are treatments for it, but it's often difficult to convince someone to seek treatments. Plus, it sounds like the F.V. has some delusional characteristics even beyond the BDD. Here's a link to the Mayo Clinic's information on BDD.

This sounds like a fantastic book, and I can't wait to read it! Debbie really does a great job coming up with freaky villains, which you'd never suspect because she's so sweet in persion. It's always the ones you least suspect, huh? Her first book Siren's Secret is out now from Harlequin Nocturne, and it's available on Amazon and all other retailers.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sneak Peek Sunday: Six Paragraphs from Long Shadows

I'm taking part in this week's Sneak Peek Sunday, through Sara Ellwood's blog, which means I get to post six paragraphs from Long Shadows. Obviously I need to start writing longer paragraphs. :) 

Long Shadows:  The Lycanthropy Files, Book 2

People say I’m beautiful, but they don’t see the monster inside.

It was like a fairy tale: a big, beautiful house, a plucky heroine, an evil wizard… But the best friend never fares well, and I didn’t. The heroine got cursed too, but she found true love in the end. I got a lifestyle change that wasn’t a choice and came with no warning. The worst part? I couldn’t even remember the specifics of my first change— only that it was traumatic, so my mind had even less to make sense of.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m a werewolf. Please hold your applause. It will only make me cry. Big girls don’t cry, and when you’re a predator, you don’t show signs of weakness.

My part of the story started one rainy February morning. I’d just gotten into the office, a satellite site for the Arkansas Department of Family and Child Services, and snarled at the pile of cases on my desk when the phone rang.

”Marconi!” my boss Paul barked. “Get in here!”

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Literally. I had a wicked aconite hangover. No, I didn’t use it recreationally. I used it to “spirit-walk,” or create a spiritual doppelganger so I could roam as a spirit-wolf rather than a physical one. I almost kicked my spirit out of my body again when Paul startled me, but I took a few deep breaths to get everything settled in, like spreading batter into the corners of a pan.

To read a longer excerpt, click here. To read other excerpts from other romance authors, check out the list at the Sneak Peek Sunday site.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cover and Blurb Reveal: Blood's Shadow

I am pleased to reveal the cover and blurb for the third Lycanthropy Files book Blood's Shadow. This is my favorite cover yet!

Encountering werewolves can be deadly. Trying to cure them? Murder.

The Lycanthropy Files, Book 3

As the Investigator for the Lycanthrope Council, Gabriel McCord encountered his share of sticky situations in order to keep werewolf kind under the radar of discovery. Now, as the Council’s liaison to the Institute for Lycanthropic Reversal, he advocates for those who were turned werewolf against their will.

Everyone seems to be on board with the Institute’s controversial experimental process—until one of its geneticists is found lying on his desk in a pool of blood.

Gabriel races to single out a killer from a long list of suspects. Purists, who believe lycanthropy is a gift that shouldn’t be returned. Young Bloods, who want the cure for born lycanthropes as well as made. The Institute’s own very attractive psychologist, whose most precious possession has fallen into the hands of an ancient secret society bent on the destruction of werewolves.

Failure means he’ll lose his place on the Council and endanger the tenuous truce between wizard and lycanthrope. Even if he wins, he could lose his heart to a woman with deadly secrets of her own.

Release date:  November 25, 2014

My Facebook fans got to see this a day early. If you'd like to stay on top of Lycanthropy Files and other news, please like my Facebook page. I promise to not spam your feed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Author/Character Interview: Rebekah Ganiere and Co.

I apologize for being a little discombobulated lately. See my previous post about my cat. But, I'm happy today to welcome the lovely Rebekah Ganiere and get to know some of her characters. I also appreciate Rebekah being a guinea pig for this format and her fun and imaginative answers.

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist, er, wise woman or healer who handles people problems in your world – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court/Village Council order is a valid answer.

Adrian- I'd never have a need to seek one out.

Redlynn - (rolls her eyes) Never?

Adrian(Cocks an eyebrow) Never.

Redlynn - What about the time you thought I was injured?

Adrian- Well that's different. I'd do anything to save you.

Redlynn - (Shakes her head) Stubborn wolf.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Redlynn - Our problems are two fold. You have the external problem of girls going missing in Wolvenglen Forest but you also have the internal conflict, like Adrian's conflict.

Adrian - I don't have conflict.

Redlynn- Oh really? No conflict? None? You just were so happy to find me knocked out in the woods?

Adrian - Okay so it took me a while to get used to the fact that we were supposed to be together, what do you want from me? You know what I've been through. And what about you? Are ready to tell me you were okay with everything about me when you first found out?

Redlynn - Well...

Adrian - Exactly.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Redlynn - I would never flop anywhere. I would find the chair with the best view of the entire room and scope out the easiest exit route and sit there.

Adrian - I'd sit on the couch. If I have to do this, I might as well be comfortable.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

Redlynn - I don't know you, so I'd be polite, but you're not going to hear me moaning about my problems. Those are personal and things I only share with Adrian

Adrian - Likewise. Any problems I have I share with Redlynn, together we can work out anything.

5. Your character walks into the village pub or castle cellar after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she drink? Do they interact with anyone?

Adrian - I might have a cup of ale or mead if offered, but I wouldn't have too much. I wouldn't want my tongue to get too loose and spill things that I shouldn't.

Redlynn - If I were forced into in therapy session, I wouldn't want anything impairing my judgment. I'd have anything I needed before arriving and sit without speaking till I got the layout of the land. And even then I wouldn't speak unless absolutely necessary.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

Rebekah - As an author I let the characters build themselves in the first draft. What they say, do and think is all them. After that first draft I do a large character profile to help define them a bit more and get more of their GMC into play. Then I go back and see if the two match. If they don't I fix places where it doesn't.

Redlynn - We as characters don't care for that sometimes, but other times it works well. For instance in my story, Rebekah couldn't even finish the book before she went back to the beginning and changed a few things about me. I just wouldn't let her. I pulled the brakes in the second to last chapter and let her know that I would never do any of the stuff she'd written in the last five chapters.

That is very true. She wouldn't. Redlynn is stubborn that way. Most of my characters aren't but I have had a few!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Rebekah, Adrian, and Redlynn! My review of Red the Were Hunter will be forthcoming next month, but the book itself is available now.

You can find Rebekah, the book trailer, and cover at her website.