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, descriptions, and buy links for my books, click on the covers below on the right.

I love to hear from my readers! If you have a comment for me or if you'd like to submit a character for published character interview or unpublished character analysis, please use the form below or email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Light Fantastique Releases December 15!

Light Fantastique will be available for purchase on December 15. Reviews so far have been great with a four-star review from Romantic Times, which starts with, "This deftly woven adventure is cast with well-developed characters that round out an entertaining mystery." Then Riley over at Smart Girls Love Sci Fi Romance wrote a very perceptive review for her Tea Time Reading column. 

Blurb, excerpt, and buy links are below.

At the Théâtre Bohème, danger decides who takes the final curtain call.

Aether Psychics, Book 2

Hailed as the most talented actress of her generation, Marie St. Jean has something more to her ability than mere talent. She loses a bit of her soul to each role. When the ghostly spirit of the theatre promises her an easy fix, she’s tempted by the chance to finally live a normal life.

Unfortunately, the man she’s drawn to is the last one to settle for normal. But with the Prussians surrounding Paris, there’s no escaping that temptation, either.

Violinist Johann Bledsoe thought he’d left his disgrace in England, but a murder outside the Théâtre Bohème makes him wonder if he’s been exposed. Another reason not to stick around once the siege ends, even if Marie fascinates him.

More murders, steam-powered ravens, and past and present secrets bring them closer to discovering just what lurks within the theatre, and who threatens from without. The only way to save themselves is to reveal their darkest shames—and use the Eros Element in a way that has already driven one man to the brink of madness.

Warning:  Processed in a facility where wine is used as currency and dessert is a reward. If you dislike French cooking and attitudes, move along. Things are cooking in this book, and it ain’t Julia Child.

Purchase Links

Samhain (on sale at time of post for $3.85 all ebook formats, $11.89 paperback)

I'm doing a review tour with CBB book promotions for both Eros Element and Light Fantastique. It also includes a giveaway for a $25 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Click here for the schedule. Stops so far:

Steampunk Sunday at Talk Supe, which includes an interview with Marie. (12/13)

Review of Eros Element at Girl of 1000 Wonders. (12/14)

Reviews of both books at A_TiffyFit's Reading Corner. (12/15)

Review of Eros Element at Candace's Book Blog. (12/16)

Review of Light Fantastique at Girl of 1000 Wonders. (12/17)

Review of Eros Element at Deborah Jay's Author Blog (12/17)

Review of both books at the Shelf Life blog. (12/18)

Character Interview of Johann at Anna Durand's blog (12/22)

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy! 

From Chapter Eight:

Sometimes the wanderlust in Johann subsided just enough for him to feel a twinge of homesickness. The snow outside made him think of how his family home would look now at the beginning of the holiday season. Perhaps a light dusting would give the peaks and sharp-angled roofs a glittering edge, or a heavier fall would make the old hall look like a dowager trimmed in white fur—dignified and elegant, but also potentially deadly.

His mouth twisted into an almost-grin at the association. One never escaped a conversation with his grandmother, the dowager Marchioness, without some sort of scar. Typically for him it included a hint or direct statement of what a disappointment he was to the family, a dreamer rather than a doer like his older brother.

A fluttering movement caught the corner of his eye, and he looked up to see Marie standing in the back of the theatre, something clutched in her hand. Whatever it was disappeared into her cloak pocket, and her expression distracted him from curiosity about what she’d caught, if anything. Longing warred with confusion on her face.

“Mademoiselle?” he asked. “Are you all right?”

“That music,” she said and put a hand to her middle between her heart and her stomach. “It made me homesick for something, but it doesn’t make sense. This is my home, such as it is, but now I miss…something. What were you playing?”

Johann had spoken with hundreds and played before thousands, but he’d never told his secret. His gut said he could trust her even if he wasn’t trustworthy himself. What would it be like if he was, if he could bear open his heart to someone else? He’d never wanted to, and the idea struck him as strange, but accustomed to going with his impulses, he stepped into that space between fear and trust.

“It’s my own composition. I call it Winter.”

She moved closer, and the amused lift of her cheeks became apparent when she stepped into the light cast by the lamps in the orchestra pit. “Original title.”

He put his violin on its stand. “You mock me, Mademoiselle?”

Her smile vanished, and now her cheeks reddened. “Oh, no! It was lovely, but it needs a name that’s less bleak and more poetic, maybe Blossoms Under Snow?”

He liked seeing her blush and wondered if she was one of those women whose flush covered her entire torso if it was deep enough. He sent a desist thought to his groin, but it bounced the notion back with the urge to keep her talking and blushing. “I can’t use a word like Blossoms in a composition title. I’m far too manly for that—it would make me appear weak.”

“Then how about icy shards? That shouldn’t challenge your masculinity.” The temperature in her tone matched that of the hypothetical ice.

What had he said? It figured he would get himself in trouble before long. What did she want?

The answer came to him, then—to be respected for who she was. And he saw her as a very strong woman. But he didn’t know what to say to get himself out of this mess. He only knew one thing—he didn’t want her to leave angry.

“Forgive me,” he said and took her hand. That was always a safe bet, much safer than the ones that had ended him up in this mess, the ones he’d taken to escape his father’s influence.

“For…?” She wouldn’t look at him, and she snatched her hand away.

“For being an ass. I’m too good at it. I didn’t mean to imply that womanliness was the opposite of strength. In truth, you and Iris are two of the strongest people I know.”

“Iris? You are on such intimate terms with her?”

“Miss McTavish, then. Yes, we’ve been working together to help Edward, and no, nothing improper has occurred between us. We’re…friends.”

“You’re not accustomed to being friends with women.” Her statement was almost a question.

“Not typically. I’ve not treated them well in the past, I fear.”

What was she doing to him to make him want to confess and clear his conscience to make room for… For what? He certainly had no desire to be tied down to anyone. As soon as he got this little problem with the Clockwork Guild worked out, he planned to continue the adventure they’d started, perhaps even to the Ottoman Empire and beyond, and he wasn’t afraid to go on alone.

She drew back, but she didn’t leave. “Why the sudden burst of honesty?”

“It was the music. It is a piece about my home, and I play it when I miss it.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Characters on the Couch: Jacci DeVera's Calla

Today I'm happy to introduce Jacci DeVera and her character Calla McAmis, a mountain lion shifter. The interview reminded me of when I lived in Arkansas for a year, and the wildlife service swore that there were no mountain lions in the state but said there was a $30,000 fine if you killed one. Because government logic, y'all.

Queen of the Hollow

Calla is a young shifter, the only female within miles High Lonesome, her small southern West Virginia hometown. Her mother had managed to keep her safe from the bounty of male mountain lions in the past, but now Calla finds herself alone and without a protector...and the moon is full. 

Haben hasn’t been able to get close to Calla since their first meeting, right around Valentine’s Day. When he shows up at her house a year later, he finds the wounded spit-fire determined for him to keep his distance - despite his instinct to keep her safe. 

Calla must choose to either place her trust and safety to an outsider, or fight off every male mountain lion between here and Charleston with just her wits and a shotgun. The stakes are high and the numbers are against them. Even if they prevail, will Calla be able to keep her heart safe from her protector til sunrise?

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Lycanthropy isn’t commonly accepted in Southern West Virginia, so if someone got wind that Calla McAmis believed in mountain lions in Appalachia, much less that people changed into them, she probably would be ordered to go.

Otherwise, Calla has lived a very sheltered life and is now 19, so she might willingly go to a psychologist in order to be able to cope with the modern day world she has just found herself forced into. An excerpt from the story reads:  “I just…want to live like everyone else does. Not like this. Not hidden away. Not scared. Not knowing what to do on a – on a Saturday—or a Tuesday night—or wonder why Taco Bell is so great—or what Instagram is—and have a cell phone. All I know is that I will have to fight when the moon is full. Nobody else does that. I don’t want to, either.”

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

I would say it is an internal conflict, a problem coping with the world, without Calla’s mother. Her mother died unexpectedly, and Calla had never been out of her mother’s sight until that moment. So now she has to learn to do everything else, outside of being a shifter, all of a sudden with no one to guide or teach her. Calla’s external conflicts are mostly in the form of other shifter-cats that want to encroach on her territory.

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?

Calla would wait rather awkwardly at the door for you to tell her to sit and where to sit at.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

She’d come across as backwards with a stranger, even one she initiated visiting. She would only answer questions you asked to her. To a question like “Why are you here?” or “What is bothering you?” she might respond with: “I want to be like normal girls.”

CD: Oh, that would be a challenge!

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Calla does not walk into a bar. (The county is probably a dry county anyway.) If she did by some mistake, she would immediately turn around and leave and go home. Home is the only “safe” place to her.

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)?

We “sit down and visit.” There’s a few interview type questions I ask, but I’m always delighted with a question/answer session like this, as it never fails to shed additional light and depth on the characters. A lot of times I’ll take an opportunity to shove the character into an unrelated scenario, and see how she reacts. That teaches me a lot. Plus sometimes it’s enough of a characterization ‘insight moment that it works its way into the story.

About the author:

Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachia herself, Jacci has an intimate knowledge with the ways of life, the people, the inherent magic, and the languages of the South. She writes fantasy, paranormal, and western romance.

Jacci enjoys writing as much as she enjoys napping, cats, cookies, myths, and wolves. The only "rule" she has when she writes is that the story must have a happy ending.

Thrilled with the direction writing, and particularly romance, has taken in recent years with genre lines blurring, her love of fantasy, paranormal, and historicals can intermingle without concern for intolerance.

The journey is as important as the destination itself. Stories are found everywhere.

Buy links:

Thanks for stopping by and reading! If you would like help with an unpublished character you're stuck with or would like to feature one of your published characters on my blog, please feel free to email me through the contact form or at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Character on the Couch: Luke from Red Jameson's With These Wings

Some characters walk right into my head and take over. This is the first time one walked into a couch session and did. So, without further ado, meet Luke. I think you'll like him.

Hi, Cecilia! I’m Luke Anderson. Actually, that’s Dr. Luke Anderson. I’m a trauma surgeon who’s been in the army for the last four years, since my residency ended. And less than a week after I became a civilian again, my parents died from a drunk driver. So now that I’ve spilled my guts, I guess that means I’m officially on your couch.

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Okay, so in medical school our psychiatry training was—what?—less than a year of knowledge crammed in with many other classes. Which means I knew the symptoms I was experiencing before I was honorably discharged from the military were PTSD. But it’s completely different when the doctor becomes the patient, isn’t it? My mom, shortly before her death, recommended a therapy support group especially for soldiers with PTSD. And it’s there I’ve made many friends, including the psychologist who runs it.

However, all that said, it’s still tough as sh—sorry. It’s tough to talk about having any problems, any issues. That’s why I thank god every day for my girlfriend, Sam, and that she came into my life when she did. She’s so patient and good with me, good for me. Yeah, she just might beat out any psychologist.

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

God, it is weird dissecting myself like this. So I’ll try to be more objective, call myself patient X. Here’s my diagnosis: Patient X experienced PTSD for roughly eight months before his discharge. After his parents were killed in an accident, there were a few days of insomnia, lack of appetite, aggression, anger issues.

But then I met Sam. Sorry, it’s just too weird to call myself patient X. So here I am being me. And I might still have nightmares for…who knows how long. But the daily broken record of guilt and shame are getting quieter and quieter.

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?

Oh, I love shrinks. This question made me laugh. I don’t know why, but I’m sure you could analyze why. Anyway, I would probably sit anywhere.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Well, the first time I went to group, I didn’t talk about my problems. Figured, since I was the new guy, I’d better say something, though. So I talked about trying to find a job fresh from being discharged. I’m guessing that means I’m not open to revealing myself.

But I was different with Sam. Yeah, I keep talking about her, but I can’t help it. She—I felt like I could reveal myself. It took a while, and I was still grieving, but I did open to her. It’s still hard to open up in group, though. But I’ve since had a few talks with Mack, the psychologist I was talking about who runs the support group.

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

A beer and I’d ask Sam to join me. After talking with Mack, I felt like he cracked my skull open. There were things inside my mind I didn’t even know existed. So, yeah, I’d ask for Sam to join me, to sit next to her, and laugh. Man, she can make me laugh. And sometimes, that’s all you need in life, you know?

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)?

I’ll let Red answer this one, but it’s been fun being interviewed. I think. I feel a bit like after a talk with Mack, which reminds me I have to call him. Anyway, thanks! -Luke

You're very welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

Red: So, what did you think of Luke? Yep, he popped into my head shortly after his girlfriend, Samuella, popped in there first. While sitting in my mind for a few months, usually when I’m finishing another of my books, my characters tell me things about themselves. I listen. That’s all I do. I just try to listen to what kind of person they are. To become the best listener of your characters, I think it best to listen to real people. I mean really listen. Get to know why people say certain things, why they think the way they do, get to know as many people as possible. And care about them. It not only makes you a great writer but a better person too.

Before I write, I make sure my couples are compatible. So I do a basic questionnaire for them based on the Attachment Theory. Writing romance, I think, takes a lot of responsibility to not just write about a couple falling in love, but also make sure the couple will be good for each other and will stay in love for a long time. That’s why I find the Attachment Theory so helpful.

Thank you so much for interviewing Luke and me! This was a blast and such fun questions! :)

Thank you both for visiting! I like Luke a lot and am looking forward to reading the book.

As a military historian by day, sometimes Red does feel a bit clandestine when she writes romance at night. No one knows that while she researches heroes of the past and present, she uses everything for her characters in her books. Her secret's been safe . . . until now. 

She lives in Montana with her family and far too many animals but never enough books.

She loves her readers, so please feel free to contact her at http://www.redljameson.com 

Blurb:  Book 1 of The With These Wing Series, a paranormal romance

For more than a thousand years Samuella Dís has been a fairy godmother. The fairy title is ironic, since she’s a dís—an ancient society of all-female, winged, immortal avengers who paint their toenails with reckless abandon and have difficulties with real swearwords. However, something’s wrong with Sam’s latest assignment. Her newest orphan is a six-foot-three soldier, who’s indubitably handsome, and a flausching man. Not a boy at all, but a flinging flanging man!

Luke Anderson is home barely a week when he loses his parents in a drunk driving accident. Already plagued by nightmares from his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, he’s not sure how much more he can take. And maybe he’s gone a bit crazy because he can’t keep his eyes off one spunky strawberry blonde at his parents’ funeral—inappropriate, right? But she offers so much comfort in those huge amber eyes of hers, and, hey, it’s not like the world would end if he hit on the woman.

Since the dís are a dwindling species, The Norns, Sam’s bosses, are trying to matchmake Sam and Luke. Only, the last time they played cupids England almost collapsed. Plus, there’s the issue of human men going insane once they’ve had sex with a dís. And Sam could die from a broken heart. Oh, and there’s the little matter of when a dís gets upset she can cause apocalyptic events. But it might be worth it for love. Then again, the Norns have been stalking Oprah lately, and there’s no guessing if they’re merely insane or certifiably brilliant.

Where you can find With These Wings:

And other retail book sellers


“I never sleep,” she said.


Now she smiled. “Of course I sleep. I mean, I don’t when I’m—I don’t need—I mean, I slept with you.”

“I noticed.”

She reached a hand out, almost touching his cheek, but stopped. “Are you okay?”

He had to refrain from wincing. Again, he was reminded she was here for him because she wanted to comfort him. She didn’t want to get in his pants and see what the hell had inappropriately sprung to life.

She probably thought him too old. He was too old for her. But as soon as he’d told himself as much, the thought flickered away like a spring butterfly, especially as he looked down at her wide lucid brown eyes.

He nodded. “Are you okay?”

“I—” she looked genuinely perplexed. “I never sleep.”

“You sure about that?” he teased.

She grinned again. “I sound like a broken record, don’t I?”

“Do kids your age still use that expression? Do you even know what a broken record is?”

She laughed. “Hey, I’ve listened to many a Forty-Five in my day.”

He popped his brows up. “I’m impressed. You even know the lingo. But don’t tell me you listen to records because the sound quality is better.”

“It is better.”

He rolled onto his back, flinging his free hand over his eyes. “God, you’re not one of those, are you?”

She scooted closer to him. Now, she propped herself up on an elbow and looked down at him, but his arm was still under her. “Who are those?”

“Those people who talk on and on about the difference between digital sound versus…I don’t know…versus anything else.”

She shook her head. “There’s a huge difference in the sound quality. Can’t you hear it? Or are you too old?”

He chuckled at her mocking, removing his hand from his face. “Okay. I have to know. How old are you, missy?”


“Yeah, missy.”

Her smile turned mischievous. “I can’t tell you how old I am.”

“Why not?” He suddenly swallowed. “Jesus, you are over eighteen, aren’t you? Oh god.”

She started to laugh as he placed his hand over his face again. “I’m older than eighteen, yes.”

“Thank god.”

“I’m quite a bit older than eighteen.”

“I doubt it.”

She bit her bottom lip, still not telling him, and in the process giving him a heart attack from worrying she was much too young. Or maybe his heart was spasming because he loved this fun banter they had.

Deciding to confess his age, he said, “I’m thirty-three. Am I…ten years older than you?”


“Twelve years older than you?”

“I’m not twenty-one.”

“Are you older than twenty-one?”

“Of course I am.” She rolled her eyes.


She sighed. “Okay, I’ll tell you, but you can’t tell anyone.”

“Or you’ll have to kill me? Are you a spy? Is your age a national security issue?”

She giggled, shaking her head. “Ready, Mr. Smarty Pants?”

He took in a dramatic breath. “I’m bracing myself. Hit me with it.”

Her smile fell away as she said, “I’m one thousand, seven hundred twenty-six years old.”

“Wow, that’s—that’s very detailed.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Characters on the Couch: Viola Carr's Lizzie and Eliza

It's often said that we authors have voices in our heads. Viola Carr has voices with their own voices. She's currently in the midst of the very clever Electric Empire steampunk series. The second, The Devious Dr. Jekyll, came out Tuesday.


Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy steampunk fantasy retelling of the horror classic—in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous Dr. Henry Jekyll.

In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London in blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching the Chopper will make Eliza’s career - or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father’s forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde. 

When the Royal Society sends their Enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she’s a sorcerer, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London’s luminous magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own. 

Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free …

Before I give you the cover and blurb for the second book, which I cannot wait to read, here's an interview with Viola, Eliza, and Lizzie. It made me laugh, which gives you an idea of the tone of the books. Yes, there's some dark stuff, but a lot of humor. Oh, and as you can see, she comes from a place where they add an extra vowel to "behaviour."

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Oh, dear. Where does one begin? {evil laugh}

My heroine – crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll – is witty, clever, polite and cautious. But she has a secret dual identity. Drink the magic potion, and she becomes Lizzie Hyde, her flamboyant, rude second self.

Lizzie is reckless, angry and unafraid. She carouses in seedy pubs, drinks too much gin and flirts with dangerous men. She couldn't care less what other people think of her.

Which would be all very well, if Eliza wasn't trying to carry on a respectable career in a strait-laced Victorian London obsessed with keeping up appearances. If Eliza wasn't addicted to the magic potion, over-using to the extent that Lizzie sometimes pops out of her own accord. And if magic of any kind wasn't forbidden on pain of execution.

Most inconvenient!

Understandably, Eliza doesn’t like talking about her 'problem'. Getting her into therapy won't be easy without a pretext. She's worked as a mad-doctor in lunatic asylums. So you might get her in your office with the promise of showing her some cool new treatment for mental illness. As for treating her own issues… well, she'd decline with a sharp smile and a witticism, and walk away.

Lizzie thinks it's Eliza who's the problem. Offer her a way to get rid of Eliza, and she'd at least listen. If you suggest to her she's a sickness who needs to be cured? She'll likely punch you in the face.

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

Yes to both! External, because changing shape at whim is very inconvenient when magic is a capital offense. Spies are everywhere. She's sure to get caught.

And internal, because despite the trouble Lizzie causes, deep in her heart Eliza secretly wants to be Lizzie. To say and do exactly what she thinks, to take what she wants with no regard for the consequences.

Lizzie, too, wants her own life. She's sick of being stuck inside Eliza all the time. She wants out.

Not to mention the romantic conflict. What if they're interested in different men? Worse: what if it's the same man?

Most of the time, they'd each happily strangle the other… but they love each other, too. The way we all secretly love the darkest, strangest part of our own heart. Because, well, it's our heart.

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?

Eliza sits quietly, smooths her inoffensive gray skirts, folds her hands in her lap. She listens to what you've got to say before she opens her mouth to demolish you with her cutting wit, so she won't have to face the problem.

Lizzie – assuming you got her in there at all – slouches about, grumbling and poking at your stuff and wondering where the gin is.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Lizzie: {flops on couch in a flounce of scarlet skirts} Well? Don't just sit there gaping like a stunned sardine. Get on with it. All this head-shrinking malarkey is cutting into my drinking time.

Therapist: I'd like you to talk to me about the effect your behaviour is having on your host.
CD note: Viola made it easy on me and filled in the therapist questions.
Lizzie: {snorts} My behaviour? All my fault, is it? What about her? She never wants to have any fun! Always yammering in my ear with 'do this', 'don't do that', 'keep your voice down', 'ooh, Lizzie, don't flirt, whatever are you up to with that sly-fingered gent?'

Therapist: So you’re hearing her voice?  She gives you instructions?

Lizzie: Invading my privacy, that's what it is. Right distracting it is, too, having prim and prissy Dr. Eliza chirping in my ear when I'm getting down to most private business. Never a moment's peace!

Therapist: And how does that make you feel?
CD: Hahahahaha!

Lizzie: Like I want to punch her in the nose? I'm only doing what she'd do if she had the guts. At least Miss Lizzie knows how to have a good time. I'm a prisoner, that's what I am. I'm the victim here. She's the one with a stick shoved up her snooty behind.

Therapist: I'm sensing some hostility…

Lizzie: Right. She's the one what hates me. I'm just trying to get along. Are we done here?

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Lizzie orders gin. Flirts with the bartender. More gin. Flirts with the bloke next to her until he pays for more gin. Has deep conversation about how she, Lizzie, is just fine the way she is, thanks very much, and Eliza is the one who ought to get some frickin' therapy. More gin, laced with laudanum. Everything goes black. Eliza wakes up next morning sprawled on the pub floor, wondering what the hell happened, where her stockings are and why her skirt has blood on it.

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)?

I definitely do a lot of work on backstory. What are the pivotal events that made this character the way she is? What are the core beliefs that guide her decisions? And what are her limits – what would those core beliefs never allow her to say or do?

Often the characters don't consciously know what these things are. One of Eliza's core values is justice – she's driven to solve crimes and get justice for murder victims, particularly murdered women. But at the start of the series, she doesn't really know why - not until she uncovers some mysteries from her childhood does she come to understand.

Thanks for hosting me on your blog today – it was lots of fun!

And thank you for coming by! You gave great answers. I mean, Lizzie did. 

My review of The Diabolical Miss Hyde:

I picked up a copy of The Diabolical Miss Hyde at the Avon Party at the Romantic Times Convention because it was the only obvious steampunk there. I started reading it that night and got sucked in, but then life got in the way. I picked it back up last night, and can we say book hangover? I was up way too late finishing it.

Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of that Doctor Jekyll, and she's a forensic medical specialist, although that's not what she's called. She also has a secret. Like her father, she has a literal dark side who comes out, Lizzie Hyde, and does all sorts of naughty things.

One of the things that really worked about this book that I never would have expected was that Eliza's parts are in third person while Lizzie's are in first. It gives the reader a good sense of Lizzie's frenetic immediateness, especially since she only gets to come out every so often. It also works for the transitions later in the book so you know exactly whose POV we're getting.

Also intriguing is Captain Remy LaFayette, who is part of the Royal Service whose mission is to squash the practice of magic, but who is dealing with his own curse. I won't spoil what it is, but I found it all intriguing. Lizzie is attracted to this captain with a dark side, but he's got the hots for Eliza, and wow, that's going to be a complicated love triangle, especially since Eliza is attracted to a bad boy of her own.

I really really hope this is the first in a series because I can't wait to get back to this complex world and these fascinating characters. (And I'm so glad it is!)


A perilous case. A worthy foe. This could make her career ... or ruin it forever.

Solving the notorious Chopper case was supposed to help crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll—daughter of the infamous Henry—establish her fledgling career in the chauvinistic world of Victorian law enforcement. But the scrutiny that comes with her newfound fame is unwelcome for a woman with a diabolical secret: her dark and jealous shadow self, Lizzie Hyde. And there is the mercurial Royal Society agent with his own secret to hide, Captain Remy Lafayette. Does he want to marry Eliza or burn her at the stake? It’s impossible, however, for Eliza to push Remy away when he tempts her with the one thing she can’t resist: a bizarre crime to investigate. And although Eliza is uncertain about Remy, Lizzie isn’t. Lizzie wants to steal the magnetic and persistent agent and usurp Eliza’s life. 

As the search for a bloodthirsty ritual torturer dubbed the Pentacle Killer draws Eliza and Remy into a terrifying world of spies, art thieves, and evil alchemy—where the price of immortality is madness or damnation—only Lizzie’s dark ingenuity can help Eliza survive. Eliza and Remy must race to thwart a foul conspiracy involving the sorcerous French, but they must also overcome a sinister enemy who is all too close to home: the vengeful Lizzie, who is determined to dispose of Eliza for good.


Viola Carr was born in a strange and distant land, but wandered into darkest London one foggy October evening and never found her way out. She now devours countless history books and dictates fantastical novels by gaslight, accompanied by classical music and the snoring of her slumbering cat. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

If you could be your evil twin for one night, what would you do? Comment for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Diabolical Miss Hyde.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Snarkology Halloween Hop: Victorian Ghosts and Hysteria

Follow the hop for more fun, great books, and awesome prizes. (Click Image)

This year I'm thrilled and honored to be part of the Snarkology Halloween Hop. There are lots of bloggers participating, each with their own prize, and the grand prizes for the actual blog hop are fabulous, too. 

(1) $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Victorian Ghosts and Hysteria

When I was a kid, I spent hours reading ghost stories. Something about apparitions from beyond the grave fascinated me. Like many elementary school children in the South, I read Kathryn Tucker Windham's series, most notably 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, which, thanks to my overactive imagination, ensured that I didn't go upstairs to go to the bathroom in the evenings without turning ALL the lights on. Yes, I liked the idea of ghosts. No, I didn't want to meet one.

Pratt Hall at Huntingdon College (image credit: al.com article)
Thankfully I'd mostly gotten over my fear of ghosts by the time I went to Huntingdon College. If you're familiar with the 13 Alabama Ghosts book, you will recognize the school as the site of the haunting mentioned in the eleventh chapter, or The Red Lady of Huntingdon College (hyperlinked to an al.com story about her). My sorority pledge room or storage room - I was never sure which - was supposedly the site of the tragedy, but we were always careful to never be up there alone or piss off Martha. I never saw, heard, or felt her, which was probably good with my aforementioned imagination. You see, the mind is a tricky thing. The Victorians knew this well.

While researching my current work, the third book in my Aether Psychics series, which will be called Aether Spirit, I found a fascinating book called The Birth of Neurosis:  Myth, Malady, and the Victorians by physician and medical historian George Drinka. It was written in the early 1980s and is long out of print, but thanks to my local library, I was able to get my hands on a copy quickly. It details the history of mental health in the Victorian era outside of Freud. Yes, there were others working in psychology, which was really psychiatry since they were all medical doctors at the time. The cultural context for mental illness is fascinating and can be seen in Victorian ghost stories if you know where to look.

First let’s talk about how death was handled in Victorian times. Typically people died at home, not removed from their relatives in hospitals, and it was common across the lifespan. Women frequently died in childbirth and children before they reached adulthood. If you think about it, signs of death and mourning were everywhere, whether they were people in mourning clothing, the peals of church bells, or elaborate funerals and processions. Rules about mourning were also part of the many Victorian social regulations. Is it any wonder that ghost stories became a popular genre with well-known authors such as Charles Dickens (of course), Arthur Conan Doyle, and Henry James contributing to it? It was actually a great genre for female authors, too.

So how do ghosts and mental illness intersect? What happened beyond the grave and “madness” were two areas the Victorians didn’t have much control over or knowledge about, but about which they were fascinated. They’d made some progress with regard to nerves but still didn’t know exactly how they worked and regarded the nervous system, particularly that of women, as fragile and easily overwhelmed by the growing chaos of “modern” life or other disturbances. Would such overwhelmed nervous systems be more inclined to see things that weren’t there and mistake them for spirits? We recall Ebenezer Scrooge’s accusation that Marley’s ghost is a bit of undigested beef.

According to The Birth of Neurosis, one theory about psychological problems was called the Degenerate Theory, in which successive generations succumbed to worse forms of mental illness until the final progeny died either in prison or mental institutions. So, rather than being a cause for anxiety for individuals and their immediate family only, psychological issues could potentially mean the dying out of an entire family, and this concern permeates the ghost story literature of the era. For example, in the first story in Michael Sims’ entertaining compilation Phantom Coach: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories, from which I draw my examples, the narrator says, 

“…I thought I could make out that Miss Furnivall was crazy, from their odd ways about her, and I was afraid lest something of the same kind (which might be in the family, you know) hung over my darling.” 

Real paper books!
She’s talking about her “darling” charge, a little girl named Rosemund, and the child's great aunt, who is guilty over some events of many years previously. The story is The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Mental illness had symptoms similar to the sensations experienced by those who encountered ghosts. Recall that Arthur Conan Doyle was a trained physician. In his story The Captain of the Pole Star, the captain asks the narrator, the ship’s doctor, about the symptoms of madness. The narrator replies, “Pains in the head, noises in the ear, flashes before the eyes, delusions…” The captain has also been seeing a ghost and is going mad from grief. Or is he? The doctor has to sort it out.
The emotional experiences that attract ghosts in stories also drove people mad, for example, guilt, witnessing violent death, and suggestion through frightening tales. These are evident in The Phantom Coach story by Amelia B. Edwards and Henry James’ Sir Edmund Orme. Also, the narrator in Charles Dickens’ lesser known story The Trial for Murder is at a point in his life when he’s feeling burned out by his job and dissatisfied with his situation when he starts seeing a ghost. Although they didn't call it burnout, Victorian physicians treated men and women who were "neurasthenic" due to overwhelm from the demands of life.

Victorian ghost stories are entertaining in their own right, but knowing how the society viewed psychological illness adds an interesting dimension to the tales.

I will never forget 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. What is one ghost story that still haunts you? See what I did there? Tell me your favorite ghost story for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Novels, short stories, and movies are all fair game. Please leave your email address in the comment box itself so I can easily contact the winner. And don't forget to enter for a chance to win one of the main blog tour prizes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Guest spot - Cover reveal for The Twisting

Today I'm really excited to be part of the cover reveal for Laurel Wanrow's second book The Twisting. I read and LOVED the first book in the series (my review is below by the Goodreads giveaway), so I'm excited to see that this one is sharing a book birthday with the paperback release of  my third Lycanthropy Files book Blood's Shadow.

Welcome to the cover reveal for The Twisting, Volume Two of The Luminated Threads by Laurel Wanrow! The talented Craig Shields www.craigshields.co.uk has beautifully depicted the magical Victorian world of this new adult steampunk fantasy romance. His cover artwork graces both the ebook and a print paperback edition.

Pre-order The Twisting on Amazon for the special price of only .99 cents. The Twisting releases November 3, 2015 in ebook and trade paperback.

About the Book:
The story of otherworldly Blighted Basin continues in THE TWISTING...

In a valley hidden from the rest of Victorian England, Annmar Masterson has found friendship and acceptance at Wellspring farm. But as her recently discovered magical abilities grow, unstoppable crop-eating pests drive her new home to the brink of collapse.

Shapeshifter Daeryn Darkcoat's heart pulls toward Annmar, but duty comes first. With harvests across the Farmlands shire facing destruction, the predator guard scrambles for new solutions, calling upon the ingenuity of animal shifters, mechanics and growers alike.

Desperation drives landowners to utilize prototype machines, heedless of the threat to their way of life. As the danger mounts, Annmar's knowledge of Outside ways—and her magic—might be more important than anyone realizes.

Weaving steampunk engines and a land of wild magic with a coming-of-age romance, this sequel to THE UNRAVELING and second volume in THE LUMINATED THREADS whisks readers off on another spellbinding adventure.

THE TWISTING is a full-length novel, approximately 370 pages, with a sweet romance for readers 18+ due to mature themes. Please note: This is volume 2 of a three-part serialized novel. Volume 1, The UNRAVELING is available now, and Volume 3 releases in the spring of 2016 to complete Annmar and Daeryn’s steampunk fantasy romance. To be notified of upcoming releases, sign up for Laurel's Newsletter. (http://eepurl.com/17xRH)


Annmar scrunched back into her pillow. This wasn’t a cat. The face was too pointed, never mind the sleek body three times as long as it was tall. Yet when she looked into its face, the familiar eyes belonged to…


Eyes squinting, the animal’s ears pressed flat. Its head sank, giving a little jerk up and down.

Had he…nodded? “That is you.” Daeryn. This was a polecat. Her drawings had been correct, but not the same as seeing one uninjured, acting normal. Or as normal as a polecat in someone’s bed would act.

She pressed her fingertips to her temples. Oh, Lord, just stop thinking already. But her head didn’t hurt, her vision wasn’t cloudy, and neither were her thoughts. She lowered her hands and looked around to confirm they were alone before fixing her gaze on…him. “What are you doing in my room?”

His shoulders lifted.

That was a shrug. He half-crouched and jumped to the foot of the bed, then to the floor, all before she knew that’s what he had in mind. He disappeared behind the end of her bedstead.

She half-sat up, and as she started swinging her legs around, a hand pulled down the extra quilt that hung on the end of her bed. Annmar gasped and scooted under her covers. A moment later, Daeryn’s tousled brown hair came into view. The quilt swung through the air, and he stood, the fabric draped over his shoulders and held closed in the front.

He squinted at her, his expression the same as the polecat’s, looking very sleepy. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Didn’t mean to surprise you.”

What was she supposed to say to that? He’d been in her room. Sleeping in her room. In her bed! Oh, Lord, what would Mother… Nothing. Mother wasn’t around to worry about anymore, as Mary Clare had pointed out. Annmar had no one to answer to, Blighted Basin society included. Their lack of rules completely befuddled her. How did these people function?

Still. This was highly improper. She glared at him, and he seemed to shrink beneath the quilt, drawing it closer to his body. He was likely naked.

She heated, the blush running from her chest up over her face and…down. Thinking of it just brought on more heat. Mercy, in her bed. Had he been…

“You…uh, you haven’t been in…here as…” She swallowed.

His eyes widened, and he shook his head vehemently. “Only as a polecat.” He took a step back. “I wouldn’t do that… Not to you.” He turned and walked to the door. “I’ll leave.”

Yes, he most certainly was naked under there, and a part of her was curious. She was nineteen, a grown woman. Her first look at him had been brief—she swallowed—but good. “Hold on a minute,” she gasped.

He paused in the open doorway and half-turned to face her.

“I don’t understand what you’re doing in my room.”

“Sleeping here.”


His brows and shoulders lifted at the same time. He looked as confused as she felt when he stepped out and closed the door.

Laurel Wanrow
About the Author:

Laurel Wanrow loves misty mornings, the smell of freshly dug earth, petting long-haired guinea pigs and staring at the stars. She sees magic in nature and loves to photograph it.

Before kids, she studied and worked as a naturalist—someone who leads wildflower and other nature walks. During a stint of homeschooling, she turned her writing skills to fiction to share her love of the land, magical characters and fantastical settings.

When not living in her fantasy worlds, Laurel camps, hunts fossils and argues with her husband and two new adult kids over whose turn it is to clean house. Though they live on the East Coast, a cherished family cabin in the Colorado Rockies holds Laurel’s heart.

Visit her online at www.laurelwanrow.com.
To be notified of new releases: Laurel's Newsletter

Don't miss Volume One, in The Luminated Threads series, The Unraveling:

The Unraveling

A signed paperback copy of The Unraveling, Volume One of The Luminated Threads is on a Goodreads Giveaway Thursday, Oct 22 through Thursday, Oct 29, 2015.

$10 Amazon card, and 2 print paperbacks—the winners’ choice of The Unraveling (book 1) or The Twisting (book 2)
Open to the US/CA/UK
Ends November 2, 2015
Prizing is provided by the author, hosts are not responsible.

Cecilia's review of The Unraveling:

While I loved the characters and story, the magical part of this book is the setting and world-building. This is a wonderfully written book with imagery that will stick with you long after it's over. I'm not kidding about this - I had dreams of giant vegetables the night after I finished it. The author obviously did a lot of research and planning, and all the layers of this multifaceted society work together beautifully except when they're not supposed to. I also loved that the hero is a shifter, but not a typical wolf or other large mammal. Nope, he's a polecat. Yes, I had to look it up. They're cute weasel-type critters.

I can't wait to see how everything plays out in the next books in the series.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Outtake Tuesday: Cut Scene from A Perfect Man

When we pick up a book from the bookshelf, we're (hopefully) getting something that's been through multiple rounds of revisions and edits. We don't often get to see the early drafts and "mistakes." I decided, for the entertainment of my readers and for the use of anyone who wants to see why certain scenes or characters don't make it into a final draft, to post cut scenes from my published works.

A Perfect Man, which was released in May, has a lot of them because I worked on that book for a long time, off and on for three or four years. I have several cut scenes files, not sure why. Here are the contents of one of them, the original chapter five. An early version of the book had some extra characters, and others had different names. Phoebe, who I'll bring in a later book, is a biology student who is taking classes in the MFA program. I combined Carl and Albie into just Albie. Iain turned into Isaac, Sarah into Samantha.

Confused yet? Here's the deleted scene (warning - adult language):

Sarah sighed and put her face in her hands.  This was going to be tough.  Really tough.  Karen might complain about her story being hijacked, but at least it meant she would have help!  Meanwhile, she would discover the difference between writing what you know and putting yourself through hell to purge the wound you inflicted on yourself and your family.

“You don’t have to do this, you know.”  The voice was familiar, soothing.  It was also the voice that had told her, “You don’t have to feel guilty about this.”

“Fuck off,” she told it.  She opened a new document in Word and started writing.

[story excerpt]

Those mesmerizing green eyes…  “Are you kidding me?” she asked herself.  The phone rang.  It was Karen.

“I’m convening a session of the Bitch Club,” she said.

Sarah wiped the tear that crept down her cheek, smearing it up with the heel of her hand.  “I’m…kind of busy right now.  I’m, um, writing.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.  Yeah, I’ll be fine.  Are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where are we meeting?”

Even late on a Sunday night, the coffee shop was crowded, but Phoebe had gotten a table.  Or, judging from the books piled there, Phoebe had already been camped out there all afternoon.

“Work hard today?” asked Sarah.  She was the first one there.

Phoebe rolled her eyes and piled stuff so that Sarah could have space for her notebook.  “I’m always working.  And I can’t get this damn book off the ground.  It would be so much easier if humans just reproduced by splitting themselves.  Damn romance.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

“Are you okay?"

Sarah sighed.  Why did people keep asking her that?  “Yeah, I’m fine.  What do you want to drink?”

When she got back, Phoebe still sat alone.  “Hey, Phoebe, question.”


“Did you ever do anything you really regretted?  Like really hated yourself for?”

Phoebe frowned.  “Not recently.”

“That’s a nice, evasive answer.  I’m being serious.”

“I am, too.  I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to get past all that stuff.”  She shrugged.  “It’s just not worth it to drag it all out again.”

“Ah.”  She wrapped her hands around the ceramic mug.  The smooth curves fit her hands perfectly, and although the heat stung her skin, she found it to be comforting.

“Is there something you want to talk about, Sarah?”  She saw that Phoebe was looking at her, her pretty cornflower blue eyes dark with concern.

Sarah shrugged.  “It’s this writing project.  It’s like I’ve got all this stuff that I need to get out, to purge, but I’m afraid of what I’m going to find underneath.”

“Like what?”

Karen and Lillian walked through the door before she could answer.  Although the two young women were close in age, they couldn’t be more different in how they carried themselves.  Karen looked young but with that confident air of a woman with her whole life ahead of her in spite of the pensive expression on her face.  Lillian, only five or six years older, had that certain walk that women only had after they had given birth.  Not that it was any less confident, but more careful.  She smiled easily, but there was always a shadow lurking behind it, a whole cache of worries just below the surface about her family, especially her three kids.

“I’m surprised you were able to get away,” Karen said to Lillian as they sat down.

She nodded.  “Me, too, but Paul said to go ahead.  I think he’s relieved that I finally have some female friends, even if they’re in that program he doesn’t see the point in.”

Sarah felt her cheeks grow hot.  She’d never met Paul, but she already hated him.  “Then screw him!”

Lillian smiled, gently.  “I did.  And I’ve got three kids to show for it.”

Sarah couldn’t help but laugh.  “Touché.  So what’s the call for the bitch club?”

Karen sighed.  “Y’know, I’ve been thinking that I must be stupid to call y’all together for a mere hunch, but I think that Seth is up to something.”

“Was tonight your meeting with him?” Phoebe asked.


“How’d it go?”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate him any less, but he was way too agreeable.”

“Even to the idea that his precious Harrison isn’t the perfect man for Lila?”

“He managed to sidestep it.”

Sarah blew on the surface of her coffee.  “I wonder what the other guys told him.”

Karen snorted.  “Who knows?”  She looked around.  “Does anyone want anything?”

“The usual,” Lillian told her.

“Cool.  I’ll get this round.”

When Karen left, Lillian leaned forward, and Phoebe and Sarah leaned in as well.  Lillian checked behind her shoulder to make sure Karen indeed stood in line, and with a small grin said, “I think that they’ll end up together.”

“Who?  Harrison and Lila?”

“No, Phoebe, Karen and Seth.”

Phoebe shook her head.  “No way.  I mean how cliché would that be?”

“Besides,” Sarah added, “you don’t want to shit where you eat, if you know what I mean.  We’ve still got almost two years in this program.  What if it didn’t work out?”

“But what if it did?  They could be a cute writing team.”

“Until things go sour, then they’d be in a cute legal mess.”  Sarah shook her head.  “No way in hell.”

“Fine,” said Lillian.  “Want to put a wager on it?”

Sarah sat back and pondered for a moment.  “If we’re going to wager on our friend’s happiness, we need to make it worthwhile.”

“How about a hundred dollars?”

Phoebe whistled.  “A hundred dollars?”

Lillian looked at her.  “And don’t even think about asking what my husband would think.  Yes, a hundred dollars.”

Sarah stuck her hand out.  “You’re on!  Phoebe?”

The petite blonde shook her head.  “Too rich for my blood.”

“Fine, then, you can be the monitor.  You can make sure that neither of us is trying to influence the outcome, that we play fair.”

When Phoebe hesitated, Sarah added, “And whoever wins has to give you twenty percent.”


Karen returned with her decaf soy latte and Lillian’s iced white mocha.  “What’d I miss?”

“Nothing, really.”

She sat down.  “So what do I do?”

Sarah opened her mouth, but Phoebe’s look stopped her from giving Karen the advice she thought she should.  She couldn’t try to influence the outcome of the bet.  “I think you should just follow your heart.”  The words felt strange on her tongue.  Look where following her heart had led her.

“That’s not exactly what I was hoping for.”  Karen slumped back in her chair.

“I think Sarah’s right,” Lillian said.  “We can’t decide this for you.”

“But…”  Karen looked at each of them in turn.  “This is why I called the Bitch Club to order!  I need some advice here, ladies!”

“I think you should find out what the other guys have told him to do,” Phoebe told her.  “He doesn’t seem to be able to stand very much on his own.  I’m betting he went to the others for help.”

Sarah nodded.  “I’m sure Carl and Albie have lots of advice for him, the young fella.”  They all laughed.

“Yeah, and Iain seems to be somewhat of a smooth operator,” Lillian added.  “This isn’t just your project, Karen, it’s a class project.”

“In which case you should find out where the class is steering him, at least the guys.”

Karen nodded, slowly.  “In that case, each of you gets to corner one of them.  I can’t because it would look suspicious.  Who wants who?”

“I’ll take Iain,” Phoebe volunteered.  “I’m too nervous to tackle one of the older guys.  And Iain knows me from the restaurant.”

“You hang out at the Chocolate Chasm?”

“All in the name of observational research, of course.”  Phoebe blushed.  “And believe me, there’s lots to observe.”

Sarah couldn’t resist.  “Any bodice-ripping going on?”

Phoebe blushed even deeper.  “Nope, at least not there.  I make predictions as to whose bodice will be ripped later that evening.  Not that I, um, ever find out.”

“I’ll take Carl,” Lillian said.  “He seems to like me.  I think I remind him of his daughter or something.”

Sarah sighed.  “That leaves Albie for me.  God, what a prick.”

“But you’re the best one to be able to handle him.  You’re feisty!”

“Maybe a little too feisty for my own good.”  Sarah sighed again.  “Fine, I’ll take Albie.”  She looked at the others. “But you all owe me coffee for not having to do it yourself.”

Karen laughed.  “That’s fine.  We’ll meet here the same time next week, and y’all can tell me what you found.”

Sarah and Phoebe walked out to their cars together.

“It’s going to be an interesting week,” Sarah remarked.

“No kidding.”  Phoebe looked at Sarah through her blonde curls.  “Hey, we never got to finish our conversation.”

“That’s okay, I don’t really know if I wanted to finish it.”

“Well, if you need to talk, I’m free tomorrow morning before class.”

“That’s sweet of you, Phoebe, but I’ll be fine.”  Really, she said to herself as she got in her car, I’ll be fine.  She waited for the voice to argue with her, but tonight it was silent.


Why this scene got cut:

1. The book ended up being on the long end for me and Samhain as it was, so there was no room for the wager subplot.

2. I didn't want Karen catching on to Seth's interest so soon.

3. I wanted to pare the book down to just Karen and Seth's points of view.

If you'd like to check out the final version of A Perfect Man, you can read an excerpt here.

Or if you'd like to buy it, you can find it at Samhain PublishingAmazonBarnes & Noble, Google Books, iTunes, and anywhere else books are sold. It was one of About.com's ten romance novels not to miss in May.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Character on the Couch: Jillian Neal's Brock and Hope

Today I'm delighted to have Jillian Neal and her characters from her newly released novel Gypsy Hope to the couch. We authors typically try to use our powers for good, but Jillian is taking it a step further. For every copy of Gypsy Hope sold, Jillian is donating $1 to the ProLiteracy organization to help combat adult illiteracy. ProLiteracy works globally to educate, provide resource materials, and to help people that are illiterate. So pull up a beach chair, and let's meet these characters!

This is the kind of cover that makes me go "awww!"
First, let me thank Cecilia for having my characters, Brock Camden and Hope Hendrix, on the couch today. Strong characters, passionate love scenes, and deep emotion are the hallmarks of my work. Brock and Hope’s story is no different but does offer another element that I think makes it all the more compelling. Brock is illiterate. Overcoming that, learning to accept both of their pasts, and ultimately a future neither of them imagined makes Gypsy Hope an engaging and heartbreaking novel, to be sure. But I write romance so there will always be a happily ever after. I wouldn’t even know how to write anything else.

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Ha! Honestly, a court order wouldn’t be necessary though Brock Camden would probably not go willingly. He would go for Hope. He would do most anything for her. They’ve been best friends since high school. They would both tell you that counseling would be helpful due to their traumatic childhoods. (Brock’s father was an abusive alcoholic. That situation led to his dyslexia and illiteracy never being diagnosed. Hope’s parents were killed in a car accident when she was a little girl.) Brock is a cowboy through and through, however. He would be more inclined to work and try to bury his pain and his past out in the pastures. That is how he’d been dealing with all of his issues right up until the moment Hope proposes they become a couple long enough for him to “show her the sexual ropes” she feels she’s missed out on.

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

Largely the conflicts are internal. Hope has fear/anxiety issues due to her parents’ deaths. Brock is terrified that someone will figure out that he’s illiterate. When Hope discovers his painful secret, he pushes her away, too. She has to convince him that she loves him whether he can read or not and show him that illiterate does not mean unintelligent, unlovable, or even unattractive.

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?

Brock would follow Hope’s lead. She would cautiously seat herself on the couch. He would sit beside her, wrap his arm around her, and immediately be ready to tell you to “back off” if he thought you were being too intrusive. If he sensed or suspected that Hope was afraid or that the session was too painful, he’d suggest/demand that they leave. He’s extremely protective and would like to think that their problems could be solved without external help.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Brock would only talk if Hope asked him to share. I envision short clipped sentences. He can be quite gruff. His cowboy drawl softens the blow. His opinion would be - what happened in his past happened. There’s no changing it. Why drudge it up now?

Hope would talk more openly in an effort to seek healing for the issues she knows she has. If she loosened up, Brock might follow suit.

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

If Brock were alone and not driving, he’d have whiskey straight up, probably something from the Jack Daniel’s distillery. He’s wary of alcohol after seeing what happened to his father when he drank too much, so he would not over do it. If he were with Hope and driving her home, he’d just have a cheap beer. Hope wouldn’t be likely to venture into a bar alone but does like a glass of wine. She’s a light-weight, so she would be cautious.

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)? And for this book, how did you research illiteracy?

The research on illiteracy actually came many years before Gypsy Hope was born. When my eldest son was eight, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. We were inundated with the horrifying statistics about illiteracy. 757 million people around the world cannot read or write a simple sentence. Nineteen percent of graduating high school seniors cannot read above a third grade level. I wanted to give illiteracy a voice, and in that desire, Brock Camden came on the scene.

As for my characters, they tend to come to me fully-formed. As I write, I get to know them. This is why I will re-write a manuscript at least three times before it goes to my critique partners or my editors. I want to really dig deep and get to know my characters. I’m constantly asking myself, “What if? and How would they react?” when I write. I always want to dig deeper. I never want to “phone in” a scene.

Speaking of Myers-Briggs I am an INFJ empath. Given that I derive other people’s emotions with ease, my novels tend to have a great deal of emotional depth. INFJ’s think using images. So, I often use Pinterest for character and plot development. I can pull the emotion out of an image and transfer it into words. I knew Brock had been Gypsy Beach’s football star in high school but I was missing a part of his past. I opened Pinterest one day and three pictures of sexy cowboys were at the top of my screen. I had it. It hit me like lightening. He was ultimately a misplaced cowboy never meant to be on a beach in North Carolina. So, how had he gotten there? How did that make him feel? and Would he ever go back to the ranch that raised him?

Jillian Neal is a Romance author that manages to blend her imagination, Southern sass, and loving heart in every novel she pens. She showed her talent for weaving intricate plot lines and showcasing dynamic characters in her seven-book, urban fantasy, series, The Gifted Realm. Her skillset continues to shine in her contemporary series, Gypsy Beach, which will leave you with a longing to pack your bags and move to a tiny beach town full of bohemian charm.

She lives outside of Atlanta with her husband and their children.

Cecilia says: I'm an INFJ, too! And yes, I also think in images, although I'm still not good at Pinterest. Thanks so much for coming by and bringing your characters! I do want my readers to know that Jillian's books have the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. They're perfect beach reads whether you have a beach to read on or not.

If you have a character you'd like help with or would like to feature on this blog, please fill out & submit the comment form on the top right. Thanks, and happy reading!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Characters on the Couch: Aidee Ladnier's Charlotte

Today we get to meet Charlotte, aka "Charly," the other half of the paranormally talented duo from Aidee Ladnier's ongoing project.

India Eisley, Aidee's visual model for Charlotte (from Aidee's Smudges Pinterest page)

Character Two name: Charlotte (Charly)

Age: 16

Gender: Female

Species (if applicable): Human

Cultural or historical context (if important to the story, e.g., if it's a Regency): Modern day teenager, American South

Brief description and relevant history: 

Charlotte's parents have just divorced and she and her mom have moved in with her great aunt. Although bullied at her last school, she's still angry to be moved away from everything she's ever known. Her mother offers to help her remake herself for her new school and Charlotte adopts the name Charly and tries to remake herself as the perfect, popular girl. She begins hanging out with the popular crowd but she's drawn to Miranda. And when she's around Miranda she hears voices. Then when they touch, suddenly both of them can see the echoes Miranda sees only they don't repeat actions but instead interact with the young women (like their touch completed a psychic circuit). Miranda represents everything scary to her, gifts she doesn't understand, a sexuality she's not comfortable with, etc.

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

I feel kind of backed into a corner with this character. She has every reason to stay away from the other character and I'm uncertain how to build the bond between them.

Follow-up questions:

The relationship between Charly and her mother is potentially a huge area to explore. Does her mother help her reinvent herself because she wants to help or because she wants her daughter to be “normal”?  

I think her mother helps her because she wants her daughter to have the best. She's willing to take on two jobs in order to pay the credit card bill to pay for Charly remaking herself. She feels guilty for uprooting her daughter but after her divorce, they literally had nothing and so her mother retreated back to her family support system. Charly has family all over town but doesn't realize it at first.

Having every reason to stay away from Miranda is a good basis for a romance novel character. What do they have in common other than unusual talents and homosexuality? Is that why Charly was bullied?

Miranda is a painter and is volunteered by one of her instructors into doing set painting for the school play which Charly is one of the minor players in.

Has Charly had any unusual experiences before she met Miranda that could be related to their talent?

When she's around Miranda she occasionally hears whispers and voices. This alarms her that she's possibly having auditory hallucinations, but as soon as she connects with Miranda she realizes that she's actually hearing the same component that Miranda sees. It's a little harder for her to tune out, and starts to cause some anxiety. They quickly learn, though that once the circuit is complete, the spirits last thought is completed, their last words finished and their last breath breathed. They can move on.

What does Charly want from life? What does she fear most?

Charly wants to be accepted. She joins every club and extracurricular activity she can when she's enrolled mid-year. Her idea is that the law of averages will mean she'll meet someone she can be friends with. She's afraid of being lonely. Her mother is always at work, her aunt is really old and comes from an alien (small town) culture, and Charly's afraid of being alone.

And for the relationship – what does Miranda have that Charly envies and vice versa? Mother/lack of mother relationship could be huge here.

I think Charly's envious of Miranda's ability to buy or do or go anywhere she wants because her family has a lot of money. Charly's mom is barely making it, forced to move in with family in order to survive. Initially, I think Charly's a little willfully ignorant of her mother's finances, but it slowly becomes more worrisome for her. She sees Miranda as having everything she wants and not wanting it.

Cecilia says:

Common values and interests are a great force of attraction to other people. When clients talk to me about wanting to find a partner or even to meet new friends, I encourage them to put themselves in situations that will allow them to meet people with the same interests repeatedly. Think about your involvement in Southern Magic. I’ve found several good friends through Georgia Romance Writers because we have a common interest – writing – that helps us “get” each other.

Both of your characters want the same thing – acceptance. It doesn’t look the same at first because they’re doing opposite things to gain it. Miranda, who wants to be accepted by her family, is in avoidance mode, and Charly is actively pursuing it with all her activities. Gradually coming to recognize it and realizing that they actually do understand each other on a deep level will be a great romantic arc to your story. It also sounds like they have the potential to connect at first through artistic pursuits, again with Miranda being more behind-the-scenes and Charly pursuing the spotlight, but both involved in the drama department.

The desire for acceptance also provides a good basis for conflict because it will also get in the way of them pursuing their helping the spirits cross over. Even in a place that has stories like The Ghost in the Field, people who actually have that kind of talent are often shunned. Thus there needs to be something positive they can connect over on a deeper level. I can see your characters having arguments as to whether they should continue with this spiritual work, but both of them having a noble reason to continue. For Miranda, it’s wanting to help her best friend cross over. Perhaps Charly can discover something that could help her family finances, like a treasure hidden in her great aunt’s house that one of the smudges knows about. That brings up a different value – altruism, or whatever else you’d like to call it.

As for Charly’s internal conflict, her primary conflict emotion sounds like anger hiding fear. The relationship with Miranda has the potential to gradually give her the sense of security she wants if she can overcome fear and envy, which will cause her to push Miranda away at first, and learn to focus on what’s truly important to her.

Thanks so much for bringing the girls by, Aidee! I enjoyed analyzing them. These are fascinating characters, and I look forward to seeing how this story turns out.

If you have a character you'd like help with, please send me a message through the contact form (upper right on page) or email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com

About Aidee Ladnier:

Aidee Ladnier began writing fiction at twelve years old but took a hiatus to be a magician’s assistant, ride in hot air balloons, produce independent movies, collect interesting shoes, and amass a secret file with the CIA. A lover of genre fiction, it has been a lifelong dream of Aidee's to write both romance and erotica with a little science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the paranormal thrown in to add a zing.

You can find her on her blog at http://www.aideeladnier.com or on her favorite social media sites.