Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm Entitled to a Title So... I'VE GOT ONE!!!

I'm wearing my happy face! 

Last week I finally found out what the powers-that-be at Harlequin's digital-first imprint, Carina Press, were going to name my holiday steampunk romance.  I was a bit nervous, thinking that while my editor knew the project, a whole group of people who haven't read it might not "get" the overall vibe going on with my story.  After all, I took a little walk on the wild side and made the female MC a daring, ingenious cat burglar, when that's usually a role left to the male MC.

Would they get it?  Would they understand?  Heh.  You tell me.  The title for my steampunk holiday romance is *drumroll*:


Squeeee!  They took this title from direct dialog!  So, yeah.  I'm thinking they understood the vibe, and decided to run with it.  It's going to be out December 6th of THIS YEAR, and I'm already through the first round of edits.  Next up will be figuring out the cover art. 

Hmmm.  With a title like that, I wonder what the powers-that-be will decide to put on the front of this latest book?  Could it be... a corset??? :D

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tyranny's Cry: The Educated Free-Thinkers Should be the First to Go

This weekend a terrible thing happened in a country that has nothing to do with the day-to-day travels I take in my boring, ho-hum life.  I have no familial ties to this place, nor do I know that much about it, other than it would probably be better to visit it in summer rather than winter.  Yet when I first heard about what had happened in a country thousands of miles away, I began to cry.  This country is the perennially peaceful Norway, home of my writer friend and fellow HP-fanatic, Cruella Collett, the kindest, sweetest person I know.  Her views of the mind-boggling violence that took place can be found here, and I beg you to read it.  This post of Cruella's reflects her determination not to give in to anger or hatred; rather, she is resolved to push forward from this point on, bolstered by the courage of her conviction to never give in.  How I love that about her, and the people of her country.

As moved as I am at the way the Norwegian people do their best to absorb this violent blow with grace and dignity, I am disturbed to learn today that the man behind this unspeakable waste of human life wrote a manifesto.  In it, he stated he believed that the well-educated people -- such as professors, lecturers and writers -- were "traitors".  He also believed the biggest offenders were journalists.  You know, those brave souls who dare to travel the world over, risking life and limb to uncover that nasty, dangerous thing -- THE TRUTH -- so that we may live free from ignorance.

This man -- this horrible, horrible man -- killed nearly 100 people, but he dreamed of killing so much more.  He dreamed of a world where he could silence the free-thinkers, the dreamers, the idealists, the educators, and the creators.  He wanted to wage war on enlightenment and understanding, simply because there are so many ideas out there that don't coincide EXACTLY with his narrow beliefs.  So he dreamed of crushing them all.

The innocent lives this man took can never be brought back.  They can never be replaced.  That hurts, so much.  The only way I can try to make any sort of peace with this -- and it's a pitiable peace at best -- is that this violent kind of you-don't-think-like-me-so-you-must-die mindset shows the world what the true face of evil is.  It's intolerance.  We MUST beware of it, even when we find it in ourselves.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Titles (Or Lack Thereof), a Blurb and an Excerpt from ZERO FACTOR!

So... my newly contracted holiday steampunk project doesn't have a title. It did, once. But the powers-that-be at Carina Press have decided the title TICK TOCK GOES THE CLOCK had to go. Don't ask me why. Personally, I'm putting the blame on that perennial class-act, Ke$ha. :)

So while I wait on pins and needles to find out what the steampunk project will eventually be called, my mind can't help but drift onto another project of mine. Specifically, ZERO FACTOR.

I'm just a little over five weeks out from its August 30th release date, and I have to say I'm getting pretty nervous. Not the queasy, I'm-going-to-my-doom nervous, like I was sort of expecting. This is the kind of nervous excitement that comes with the anticipation of Christmas, or a longed-for vacation, or maybe even the arrival of a brand-new baby. I'm trying to be calm about it, because being a spazz about my cyberpunk novella's release will only make me more nuts, but it's impossible. I. Am. Excited.

When Samhain offered an open call for novellas for a cyberpunk anthology, an idea I'd had for some time sprang immediately to the forefront, molding itself into a futuristic frame before I was even fully aware of it.  You see, this idea -- the concept of a psychometric empath having to hide her powers from a Nazi-like state -- was just so COOL, I've wanted to write about it for years.  But I could never figure out how to make it work.  If it weren't for Samhain constantly keeping themselves on the cutting edge of fiction and exploring subgenres like cyberpunk, the story of Via and Locke probably would never have been told. 

Have I mentioned recently how much I love Samhain? If I haven't, shame on me. I love Samhain with an undying fire, and I hope I'm lucky enough to publish with them as long as my brain is capable of coming up with stories.

So without further ado, time to post one of the two official excerpts from ZERO FACTOR. Enjoy!

Armed and dangerous…

A Cybershock story.

Born a psionic—a rare human prized by the government for her gifts—agridome worker Via Brede lives by two simple rules: slip into stealth mode whenever the cybernetic-enhanced militia is near. And never remove the gloves that block her psychic ability.

During a routine delivery, a tear in her glove connects her with what should be her worst nightmare. A meched-out soldier with bulging muscles and a scarred face that makes her heart pound like a pneumatic drill. She also envisions his death in an attack that happens…now.

Locke’s typically ho-hum mission goes sideways when the stunning, green-eyed bubble farmer plants a sensual kiss that sets fire to every one of his remaining man-nerves. He also sees her vision. His own commander is about to kill him.

He needs Via to find out why. First step is to get her to Old Las Vegas without succumbing to a raw, sexual need that burns in him like fever. Getting there will be a snap. Getting out alive—and winning her trust—might be a little tougher.

Product Warnings
This title contains mild violence, blow-your-mind Psionic sex, buns of steel (literally) and the usual hanky-panky at a bordello. Author is not responsible for side effects, including locked-and-loaded hunks taking your dreams by force.

 And here is ZERO FACTOR's first official EXCERPT.  It's the entire first chapter, and here's a hint: everything that is seen in the first chapter is important in the last.  Pay attention now. ^_^

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Plan

I might have a lot going on right now, but all this crazy publishing activity has only made me determined to have a lot MORE going on.  So, I thought I'd sit down and figure out MY PLAN.

By the end of this month, I will hopefully be done with the zero-draft of FORGOTTEN ANGEL.  What's FORGOTTEN ANGEL?  It's a novella for Samhain's Superhero open-call, but more than that, it's the start of a five-book series called EARTH ANGELS.  So far I'm loving the myth-building that's going on -- it makes sense to me to the point that it feels REAL.  That's a fabulous thing when you're dealing with a paranormal world.

By August 1, I hope to set aside FORGOTTEN ANGEL to marinate, and focus on my next submission to Carina Press.  This one is a biggie -- MOST LIKELY is already written but needs cuts and polishing, and it too is the start of a series, tentatively entitled BITTERTHORN ROOTS.  Bitterthorn, a fictional town 30 miles from San Antonio, Texas is such a real place to me, full of simple, solid values and a warm southern touch that is as welcoming as a hug.  Every time I enter into a Bitterthorn story, I feel like I'm coming home.

By September 1, both FORGOTTEN ANGEL and MOST LIKELY are destined to be submitted.  I'm also hopeful of completing a free-read connected to BEST MAN, WORST MAN, tentatively entitled GROOM AND DOOM.  Once I get all three of these projects off the launching pad, it's time to dip my oar into new waters.  Avon Impulse is asking for submissions, and I believe I have just the thing for them.

MONOPOLY MAN is a short story I wrote for eHarlequin's Nocturne Bites line well over a year ago.  Since I've never heard anything back from them, I'm assuming the Slushpile Monster gobbled it up, and I'm now free to submit it elsewhere.  I need to add several scenes I wasn't able to do in the original, due to word count restrictions.  By mid-October, though, it should be ready.  Though I'm nervous about dipping my oar into the uncharted waters over at Avon, I won't know what they're looking for until I reach out to them.  One way or another, I'm determined to put on my big-girl pants and give them a try!

But I won't be satisfied with just that.  The second book in the BITTERTHORN ROOTS series is BURIED SECRETS, a fabulously fun contemporary I've loved for ages.  I don't know why I've never let anyone see this book; it's one of my all-time favorites. :)  If I can get that polished up and off to Carina Press by November, I'll be happy.

But I STILL won't be satisfied (because that's how it is when you're determined to take over the world).

If I'm lucky enough to somehow land FORGOTTEN ANGEL at Samhain (or anywhere else, for that matter), I would love to get the next full-length book, WARRIOR ANGEL out before the New Year.  This idea came to me fully-formed, and its impatience to get itself written is almost painful.  But it has to wait its turn.  I have a plan, and I'm determined to stick with it.

So, just to keep myself straight, here's how I see things:

1. Finish FORGOTTEN ANGEL (July)
3. Submit FORGOTTEN ANGEL (Samhain) and MOST LIKELY (Carina Press) (Sept 1)
4. Complete free read, GROOM AND DOOM (Sept)
5. Rewrite MONOPOLY MAN (October) and submit to Avon Impulse
6. Polish and submit BURIED SECRETS to Carina Press (November)
7. If possible, Finish and submit WARRIOR ANGEL for Samhain by New Year's (maybe)

And if you think this is ambitious, you should see what I have planned for next year.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Love Letter (Of Sorts) To J.K. Rowling

The date for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II looms on the horizon.  Pottermore is becoming a new term in my personal lexicon of squee-worthy words.  It’s official – I’m once again gripped with Pottermania.  *dons Hogwarts robes and Gryffindor scarf*  I’ve been thinking a lot about how grateful I am that Harry came into my life, and why.  Then I got to thinking how I’d love to send J.K. Rowling a thank-you note for all her hard work in bringing Harry and the Wizarding World to life.  But of course I don’t know her personal address, so I decided to do the next best thing – I’d send her an open letter.

Dear Ms. Rowling:

When Order of the Phoenix came out, it was all my little figure skating students could talk about.  I had heard of Harry Potter, of course; I‘d even seen the movies (The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets).  But until that time, I hadn’t seen what the big deal was.  Book 5, though, seemed to stir up something so frenzied in all the kids that I became curious.  I bought all the books leading up to the fifth, and plowed through them in TWO DAYS.  When the fifth book came out, I was waiting in line at midnight like everyone else.

I was hooked.     

So many things came into my life because of your books, not the least of which was Harry and his wonderful world.  This magical world you created was so vivid and the characters were so real that I fell in love.  In fact, I became SUCH a fan I couldn’t contain all my thoughts and theories.  I had to talk to somebody about how I believed Snape had secretly been in love with Lily (I was right), and how I was certain that because the Gryffindor Sword went to Harry, he MUST be a descendent of Godric (I was wrong).  But no one in my circle of friends was as insane as I was about investigating HP stuff as if the very secret to life itself was hidden somewhere between the lines.  So I went online. 

Here is where Harry changed my life.

I never used to be computer-oriented.  Before HP came along, I never gave online communities a thought.  People who chatted online were nerds.  Shut-ins.  Creepers.  Whatever.  So with that attitude, I had no intention of entering into anything when I stumbled onto a website called HPANA.  I wanted to read what other fans theorized, sure, but I wasn’t going to join them.  Then I found the Wizarding War thread, and it was like finding my long-lost family.

A few Wizard Warriors at The Knight Bus, NY
I joined in.  The first person who greeted me (Cher-Bear, my sweet Southern Belle), warned me that I’d be sucked in if I stuck around.  The second person who said hi (Joris, our group’s graphic artist and my go-to guy when I’ve forgotten something [which is all the time]), suggested I read the rules of their online castle before I jumped into the deep end.  And the WW thread WAS the deep-end.  Amazingly enough, I had landed in the most hardcore, brainy, fiercely aggressive theory-based thread on the entire site right from the beginning.  I had found my home without even trying.

This was no kiddie HP thread.  Page-long posts were encouraged, and bad-spelling/punctuation was frowned upon out of respect for you, Ms. Rowling.  As a result, most of the posters were adults, with a handful of scary-genius older teens who could more than keep up with us (Joris, Emmitt, Mari, the Neils, May, Mandey and Ben come to mind – terrifyingly brilliant, all).  I personally learned how to do all sorts of things on the computer I had never even known about, thanks to Neil and Joris (if they can walk this poor old dinosaur through the process of how to embed a link into text, they can do anything). We got to know each other so well that we missed each other when someone didn’t post for a few days.  Christmas cards and personal photos were exchanged.  Birthdays were day-long celebrations.  And when the final book was released, many of us met in New York to attend the midnight release party at Scholastic – some of them coming all the way from Australia to be with the HPANA family (love you Andrea and BrioNI!).

I drifted away from HPANA once all the HP secrets had been revealed and I had nothing left to theorize over (I admit it – I went into a phase of mourning that HP was no more).  A year or two later I joined Facebook on a lark.  I probably would have abandoned my FB page if Joris hadn’t found me.  Before I knew it, I was back in the warm embrace of my online family.
Have you ever seen happier people? Finally, the last book!

We’re still together, The High Wizard Court of HPANA’s WW thread.  And there’s been a fantastic offshoot of our mutual interest in the written word – a couple of us have become published (gnargles&snorkaks, aka Tami Hart, aka Hart Johnson), and more are trying.  We’re all going to make it, I have no doubt in my mind, because we’ll always be there for one another.  We cheer each other on, help each other out when we can, celebrate like drunken monkeys whenever something good happens in someone’s life, and we’re united against any setback that might take place even though we are scattered throughout the world. 

So thank you, Ms. Rowling.  In writing your books you gave me the gift of not just one magical world, but two.  I will always love HP, and I’ll always be a Wizard Warrior.

JustHarry of HPANA
Stacy Gail, Author