Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'm back!

My sites, that is.

I'm not sure whether I resolved the issue, or finally waited long enough, or it resolved itself (whatever it was), or if something was actually done at the server level while I wasn't looking...

The fact is, I'm back!

Some of the features of my old site are slow to return, but it's because I meant to edit them anyway. I'm not going to put back into my gallery my first attempts at 3D art. But I'm adding some new ones!

The Art Gallery is now an integral part of the site at MashaHoll.com and I'm moving the rest of my graphic novel there too. Which, by the way, has been updated.

Mind you, I'm still working my way through the intricacies of a brand new mode of storytelling. I'm not going to ask for any slack, but I will welcome helpful comments and critiques. If you just don't like it, fine. Don't read it. But if you think you know how I could improve it, I'd appreciate a hint or two.

And I still don't have a title for it. Graphic Novel just won't do forever.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review: Hot Read!

Ravished by a Viking

a novel by Delilah Devlin

Coming soon from Berkeley Books

Clash of cultures, clash of myths, clash of powerful personalities: it should be easy to review Ravished by a Viking, a novel of erotic science fiction by Delilah Devlin. After all, how many authors can bring out on paper the excitement and more-than-willing suspension of disbelief that old fashioned adventure stories once brought us?

A kidnapped brother. A battle of wills between a ship's captain and a planetary warlord. On one side, human colonists toughened by the harsh environment they've mastered, and who still praise and reward sheer physical strength. On the other, a galactic empire used to relying on the power of energy weapons and science.

And in the middle, our heroes. Men, women, wills and desires. Dagr, Clan-leader of the Wolfskins, who only looks like an unpolished barbarian. And Honora Turgay, who loses her ship to the Viking leader, but never surrenders her determination.

Ravished by a Viking is a myth come to life, but it's also the story of two people: adventure, passion, discovery, transformation. All of Delilah's scenes burn with energy, whether she writes believable, exciting, and heart-pounding action scenes, or scorching, breath-stealing, and enviable sexual encounters.

Yes, it should be easy to review one of Delilah Devlin's stories, because each one of the delivers the promise of a great read, abundant humor, and larger-than-life characters. Delilah is a born storyteller, and knows how to build the tension on all levels, entwining sensual conquest with a growing friendship between the main characters, slowly turning what could become redundant sniping into clever flirting. And most importantly, she always surprises the reader – and sometimes the characters themselves.

But a reviewer should also announce to the reader what to expect beyond the open cover. Is it a romance? Of course, and I'll say no more. But that would leave out the cleverly built and logical world of space-travel and alien societies her characters inhabit.

Is is science fiction? Of course. We have space-travel and ancient civilizations and the kind of questions science-fiction authors like to ask. But that would leave out the intense relationships between the characters.

Is it erotica? Oh yes, with scenes as hot and intense as Delilah can write, as charged emotionally as they are physically, it has to be. But that would leave out the character development and the world building and the tight plotting.

Yes, it was hard to write a review of Ravished by a Viking when the story speaks for itself you're ready to re-read rather than write about it. But if I didn't, you wouldn't hear about it, and you'd miss a wonderful, action-packed, emotional roller-coaster of a read.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another Borshch marathon

I made Borshch again and I made my family happy.

Over the years, I've translated our family Borshch recipe. I've posted it. I've used it to illustrate lectures in my folklore course. I've ranted about it. And of course, I've cooked it innumerable times.

My own recipe has at least 4 variations.

It's the quintessential recipe of the Russian cook. However faithfully you follow your teacher's instructions (whoever your teacher may be -- grandmother, mother, aunt, cousin, friend, even cookbook) it will never taste the same as the original. It's one of those country recipes that take on the spirit of the cook and reflect the cook's qualities in the flavor and the body.

Don't ask me what it means. Taste someone's Borshch and learn from them, and then try to duplicate it. Right away, it will be Borshch (not borsht), but it will be yours, not the original.

Why? I don't know.

Maybe because chopping the onions into 3mm chunks instead of 4mm chunks makes a difference. Or not. Because I've substituted potatoes for beans and back again, depending on my mood and what was in the pantry -- and it was still MY Borshch (not borsht), unmistakably, and I choose the meat according to what looks best in the meat department, not by name or price. It's usually a roast, though.

This is the magic of traditional recipes.

They're fluid, none any more right than others, but some are still "righter" than others.

No, I'm not posting the recipe here. Maybe, once I finally (SIGH) solve my site issues the recipe will appear there once again (shortly, so be on the lookout), but I won't leave it on my blog.

It's MINE. MINE, I'm telling you.

I'd rather feed you than tell you. I'd rather teach you and show you, than tell you and leave it to languish in the archives of a blog.

A traditional recipe is a living thing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Picture the Season

I don't know about the Christmas spirit, but I definitely get into the Christmas colors. So I decided to add to it.

The thing is, unless it's seriously traditional (and you should ask a folklorist raised on old tales, legends, and centuries-old recipes what traditional means), a lot about modern Christmas is just silly. And when Santa's Elves get into mischief... well...

Check out this card. It's available at Zazzle (link below), singly or in packs. I have more gifts available at Zazzle and at CafePress. Heh. Just have a look. I'll never know whether you do or not. Anonymous shopping is the word!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Site Troubles

NOTE: Graphic Novel pages added! Check out the sidebar!

You may have noticed that my sites are down. I'm working on it.

In the meantime, I'm still here and there, like Facebook and this blog, and I'm still at the computer behind the scenes.

Since I have no idea when the Graphic Novel section of my site will be running again, I'll start posting episodes here as soon as I produce them. Of course, that too was slightly delayed by the website hiccup.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Puppy Bliss

I always fantasized of writing with a dog at my feet.


I have no idea. It's just one of those images you have that represent something close to perfection.

A sleeping dog more or less at my feet, and me working steadily at my computer.

Well, tonight, for a moment at least, my dream is realized. Exhausted by his play, Percy the Puppy crashed two feet away from my chair and is sleeping the sleep of the innocent while I work at my countless little writing projects. What's more, I'm having a glass of wine, my second child is happily watching TV at an acceptable volume, my elderly mother has retired, my husband is home and reading -- the vibes in the house are peaceful and relaxed. Everybody is self-contained and satisfied.

(The oldest is out doing her Friday night thing after giving us an update on her plans to keep us relaxed and happy. She's a good kid.)

Nights like this are rare. Nights like this with a relaxed, sleeping puppy, blissful at the feet of his human Alpha are even rarer. Nights like this are what happiness is made of.

It's not the big achievements -- that's exhilaration. It feels good, but it's not happiness. It's the little moments. The puppy sleeping and twitching in his dreams, collapsed in exhaustion right on top of the soda carton he's shredded into microscopic bits.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Free Read Continued

Today is the day when I wish I could just write a WordPress plugin from scratch all by myself. Of course, I'd need a little (just a tiny bit, yeah, sure) more knowledge, and lots more free thinking time... But still.

I have already have issues with my Webcomic site, and I don't seem to be the only one.

But I have updates!

So I'll post the next few pages here until the WordPress + Webcomic issues are resolved.

Read on...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Site... Free Read

Yes, yes, another site... But this time, I haven't tweaked the layout or the design... yet.

It's all about content.

It's all about a WEB COMIC.

Or would that be a WEB EPIC? You be the judge.

The problem is, it doesn't have a title yet. So check out how it all starts and leave me a comment.

For the actual, comic-like sequential (still) art, check it out here.

Or you can watch the trailer-like Prologue.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Site Designs

I've been working on several new web site designs for Otter Creations. Those won't be for sale, since they're custom designs, but they were fun to create.

All the more so as they're all in WordPress 3.1.

A bit of a headache to bend it to my will (people who write tutorials assume a lot of knowledge from their readers, and of course their minds never work like mine), but as usual, the reward when it all comes together is worth a little chair dance.

The first one is a future blog on the late Hunter S. Thompson -- as writer, not the notorious Hunter S., it's being done enough. I'll let the blog speak for itself when it goes live, I'm only doing the layout and maintenance.

Right -- because the minimalist design for this one was done by Royal Jelly, who also does other graphic arts like T-Shirts and totes and cards.

Then I had some fun with my graphic tablet, which I don't use nearly enough. Well, that's going to change.

And that has to do with the big computer crash and the new computer acquisition and other geekery. Windows 7 is much more tablet-friendly than XP. I'm still learning the tricks, but it definitely lets me do more and better with the tablet. See me rubbing my hands in glee.

So I did some tracing and some font-searching and some layering and some other fun stuff. And there was the dialogue with the "client" (this was another in-house job so to speak, but Otter Creations takes every one of its sites seriously).

And finally the update to MashaHoll.com is in the works. Just because I wanted to play. Well, and because updating the site had become a big pain in the... sit-upon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Unexpected Benefits

Well, the old computer died, and I've been setting up the new computer. Hence my disappearance.

However, all these weeks of geek heaven and new desktop gadgets, new OS and re-installing everything (and I'm not done yet!) didn't prevent me from going on my daily walks with Percy the Puppy.

And reaping some unexpected benefits.

I knew I had to exercise. Like so many people I hate exercise. I don't hate movement. In fact, I rather enjoy certain types of sports. Give me access to a horse and the leisure to spend time at the stables, and I'll get up before dawn to take advantage of the opportunity.

No, really. I've done it. I would do it again.

But life gets in the way of the best possible solution, and the ideal exercise is totally impractical.

So now I have a puppy. And I walk the puppy.

True, I knew that by getting -- well, going with the "get a puppy" scheme, I would be signing up for daily walks, at least once-daily, and I was fine with that. After all, I am under doctor's orders to exercise daily (who isn't?).

So I expected that I would feel a little better. And that I would make my doctor happy. Nothing much.

But there's more involved in walking a puppy than just taking him outside and strolling for 15 minutes. That is, if I want to survive a day until the family gets home with my sanity intact. So 30 to 40mn of daily, energetic walks, more on the weekends, is what I end up doing.

The unexpected benefits? Oh, sure, the usual, more energy, more enthusiasm, better overall good-feeling.

But there's more. Walking really is a complete exercise. Stay tuned for more about "walking with Percy."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dog Time

Dog time is not human time.

Seems obvious?

But just stop and think about it. When a dog's life intersects with a human's life, whose time is going to have to give in? A human's or a dog's?

To some extent, we can fit a dog's time into a human's time. A dog will sleep at night and play during the day. A dog can learn to eat a human meal times -- after all, an animal will eat when food is available. A dog will learn the patter of his family (or in his perception, his pack's) existence.

But while you can teach a child, even a fairly young child, to count off human time by the beats of the clock, a dog's time is only ruled by its needs. There's sleep time and waking time. There's time when he's restless and time when he's hungry. There's time when he needs to relieve himself and time when he's bored. And you can't tell him "in a minute." Or expect him to learn something in lessons of 50mn and lesson-segments of 10mn.

It takes however long it takes.

It takes a deep breath, a lot of patience, and turning your back on time. And on modern urban life.

Life with a puppy is like a daily trek in the great outdoors, even when you're cooped out inside your home for fear of a heatstroke because you don't handle well the summer temperatures. Here's your nature: an animal at your feet, reminding you of a different rhythm of life. Not a schedule, but a rhythm of needs and necessities.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This is one way to procrastinate...

I do this:

And there's more here.

There. The cat's out of the bag. You know how my secret procrastination method.

Except it's grown worse. It's invading my writing world. I have this idea...

Wait for it...

I want to tell a story in pictures.

I mean, I see pictures anyway when I write. I see pictures when I imagine my stories, and meanwhile, I think in sentences, even when I look at the world around me. Or at least in words.

Like: "Street sign. Blue. Noticing -- why? Familiar street. Bright against background. Image? Image. Pole, sign -- computer. Maybe. Not my best. Can do?..."


That was pretty much the stream of consciousness of a second while I was walking my puppy tonight, and I happened to look up and notice the light and colors of a familiar street corner. And thought that it would be possible to make this exact image in computer art and that I almost had the skills, and then I started going through my computer files mentally...

So I'm thinking... If I'm that visual and the words come naturally jumbled and broken... What if I put images first and words as support, instead of words first and images as ghosts in my mind?

What if I tried my hand at a graphic story with the help of my favorite graphic software?

Plot -- scenario -- storyboard -- actors --

It's beginning to look a lot like a movie, actually. And no, none of my characters are in the Gallery yet, but then I don't know them well enough yet to ask for autographs.

What? Oh, what it's about?

Well, it's set in the real world, but sometime in the future...

Oh, sorry, I'd better check on the puppy. He keeps getting into all the trash baskets lately.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Teaching is Still Cool

There comes a time in a teacher's life when pulling a group of students along just sucks, and you think you'll never, ever want to do it again. Not ever.

But like a stage performer, you're drawn back to the limelight. Because teaching, in whatever form, is a performance, and you have the undivided attention of an eager audience.

I'm not immune to the bug. Oh no. So when I get the chance to show off and teach a workshop to fellow writers, I jump on the opportunity!

It's one thing to offer workshops through my own website at Otter Creations, but it's something else to visit a different site and teach out there in the wide world.

I just finished a workshop for Passionate Ink on world building and another one for Savvy Authors on descriptions. It was fun, that's for sure. It had me rethinking what I thought I knew about the subjects -- or rather, seeing things in a new light. That's the best part of teaching: you never stop learning yourself.

And of course, the attention you get isn't bad either. But you know, we writers have this little issue with self-esteem vs. ego...


Check out the next workshop coming up from Otter Creations. It's about writing a synopsis.

Were you one of the fortunate ones who made it to National? Did you get a request? Or are you just pumped up and ready to send out queries? Either way, you'll need to have a synopsis ready. Join me in a very hands-on, practical, 3-week workshop.

And while you're on the Otter Creations site, why don't you cast your vote for the workshops you'd like to see offered next year? You can even request a brand new one.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mammals of the Universe Unite

So you thought that my Percy posts were all going to be about puppy cuteness?

Umm... no. After all, a writer's mind is twisted and takes strange side-trips.

What did my mind do this time? What it always does. Observe and step outside the box. Doesn't yours? Maybe you just don't call it that.

Percy the puppy is growing fast, although he's still a baby. Supposedly, he's going to hit "adolescence" in three months or so... Wait, that would make him the dog equivalent of a grade schooler.

Let's see... We got him at 3 months, and he was definitely a fluffy, cuddly baby dog. The first day he slept most of the time.

Then he started growing. The he started growing bolder. And then louder and bitier. Now he's losing his baby teeth... and his adult teeth are already there to replace them.

Darn, he's fast. He's doubled in size and he's only 5 months. He's thinking of lifting his leg to pee and he's debating about marking his territory.

So why is all this NOT gushing over puppy cuteness? Because I keep seeing parallels with human development. Before you say anything, no, I'm not anthropomorphizing Percy the puppy, or equating my toddler kids (back then) with dogs.

I'm marveling at the consistency of our universe and at the similarities in mammalian development and needs regardless of species. Saying that Percy the puppy is growing from babyhood into childhood is more than a metaphor: it's acknowledging a developmental step (or two). Calling a dog who's not a puppy yet not full-grown an adolescent is not the same as labeling him a teenager. Teenager is as much a cultural stamp as a developmental stage. Adolescent indicates a physical stage: growth, hormonal changes, behavioral and developmental changes.

And certainly, having a pet in the house keeps things lively and interesting. I certainly can't rest on my butt anymore. Have to get up to make sure Percy isn't getting into trouble.

What, you thought the kids were going to help? I'm not that naive.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Percy has New Digs

Percy created a welcome fest for Dad today, even though Dad was only gone a few days. But what's a few days to a puppy? Probably an eternity.

For that matter, he created an equally enthusiastic welcome for me today. We went to buy him a crate upgrade. His original, tiny-puppy crate doesn't fit him anymore. He's getting to be a big boy, and he isn't even 5 months old. At 8 lbs, he's about the size of a miniature Schnautzer (although I don't know about the weight of a mini Schnautzer).

How do I know? Well, we went to the dog park last week. Percy is kinda lonely here with us humans. We thought it would be good for him to meet other canines. And he had a good time playing with dogs his own size and temperament.

So there was a miniature Schnautzer (you can't miss them, there's no other dog that looks like a grumpy gramps out there), and Percy is almost as big as the grown-up Schnautzer. Wow. How big is he going to get? It's really a lottery with mixed breeds, isn't it?

Well, anyway. My oldest daughter and I went to get Percy his new digs. On the way back, I stopped at the grocery store for a few missing items, and Sir Percival got really worried about my absence. On the flip side, he gave me a very warm (and kissy) welcome back greeting. I mean, really. I was only gone a few minutes. I guess not only he can't tell time, but he can't really sense time, either?

Or maybe time just doesn't matter, but absence does.

Wow. That's deep.

And right now? He's quite worn out by all this emotional stuff.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Workshops

It's been a busy summer. I'm wrapping up a month-long workshop on Worldbuilding (through Passionate Ink) and preparing for my next one (on Descriptions) through Savvy Authors.

In August, I will be proposing a hands-on workshop directly through Otter Creations on writing the synopsis. There will be announcements and descriptions a-plenty, but if you're impatient, you can always email me with questions. There's a lot of additional information on my workshops in general and on the other services I offer on my Otter Creations site.

It's been a lot of fun doing the Worldbuilding workshop. I've wanted to look at story-worlds (my own and that of other writers') the way I've looked at folklore and folk tales, and I'll admit it worked. I hope that the participants got as much from the workshop as I did, because everything I suspected about my own story-building came out exactly as I thought. All the listening and reading of folk tales, legends, and myths that I've done since I was little did pay off. I read, I write, and I create my worlds as if I were still opening a book of magic tales.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away...

And no, I did not make a mistake. My imagination always allowed me to endow a fast car, a motorcycle, or a spaceship with the same exciting, adventurous feeling as the black destrier of the Fantasy Hero.

(Why black? Come on, be practical: a white horse gets dirty so fast, while a black horse is so much more impressive!)

Now it's your turn: I'm open to suggestions and requests for Fall Workshops.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A New Beginning

Well, it's been a while.

Oh my, oh my, it HAS been a while.

It's been a crazy year to say the least, and the least said, the better.

Meanwhile, this crazy family really did something crazy.

We got a puppy.

Yes, that's him there, the very afternoon when we got him. His name is Percy and he's an All-American Mutt. What I mean is that he's got traits and characteristics from several breeds, he seems to have taken the best of them all, he's a charmer, he's smart, his pregnant mom is a shelter rescue, and he fits right in our family.

Of course, we wanted a laid-back, couch-potato lap dog.

We got an active, smart, curious terrier-type.

Naturally. I should have known.

Now I plan on writing up his (mis)adventures on Mondays. Oh, and also how the neighbors' pitbull (no, don't worry, she's a nice dog) wishes she could play with the puppy next door. And how my Mom doesn't quite understand what to feed the dog and why he should get scraps from the table. And our walks in the South Texas heat, and how Percy is keeping me fit in spite of myself.

Ah yes. We're all Percy-crazy now. Can you tell?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Welcome to Kick-Ass Author Fiona Jayde!

 Today, let's welcome Fiona Jayde to Alien Places. She's stopping by on her tour of cyberspace to celebrate the launch of COLD VICTORY. Make yourself comfortable and listen to her tale.

And don't rush off! There's an excerpt, some additional information, and don't forget to leave a comment! Follow Fiona on her tour, read all about her, and chat with her all along -- the commenter with the most posts will win a prize!

And here's Fiona!!!

Fiona Jayde is a space pilot, a ninth degree black belt in three styles of martial arts, a computer hacker, a mountain climber, a jazz singer, a weight lifter, a superspy with a talent for languages, and an evil genius.

All in her own head.

In life, she is an author of kickass, action packed, steamy romances, possesses a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do and blue belt in Aikido, a web developer, scared to death of heights, loves jazz piano, can bench-press about 20 pounds — with effort, speaks English and Russian fluently, and when not plotting murder and mayhem enjoys steamy romance novels, sexy spy thrillers, murky mysteries and movies where things frequently blow up.

MH-- Hi, Fiona! Welcome to Alien Places. Thank you for stopping by my corner of the universe. Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. Congratulations on the release of your new book!

FJ-- HI Masha - thank you for having me! I'm thrilled to be here at Alien Places.

MH-- First of all, I have to say that your bio had me all a-twitter. You could be my twin, or my clone, because I'm the same person on the inside! Well, maybe I'm not a jazz singer but a musician who plays a dozen instruments... All in my head.

FJ--OMG too funny!

MH-- And Yay! for the talent for languages.
You did say you're fluent in Russian, and I noticed that the heroine's name in Cold Victory is Zoya. Now that is a very Russian name. What can you tell us about your linguistic knowledge? Is is school-learned or a heritage? And how much do you use, or does it influence your writing?

FJ-- I was actually born in Russia - lived there till I was 11 when we moved to the United States. (Talk about a culture clash!) You could say its both school learned and heritage - since I went to the proper Soviet school, I did take Russian Lit classes - we read Pushkin, and ... Well I can't remember who else, but I remember Pushkin cause I really liked him. Still do actually. And since my family and relatives still continue speaking Russian around me, I continued speaking it by heritage. I actually have a "mental switch" - while I understand both languages equally, I have to mentally switch from one to another in order to speak. So half the time I'll have conversations with my mother where she is speaking Russian and I answer in English.

My knowledge of Russian influences my writing in a lot of ways actually - if I need an exotic word, I don't have to dig very far:) As far as Zoya being the name of my character - I wasn't even thinking Russian much, it just seemed right to me!

MH--  That's amazing and weird all at once. I'll confess that I speak Russian to my mother as well, but I definitely never dared respond to her in anything but Russian! Well... no one, and I mean NO ONE contradicted my mother.

You also admit to a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. I image this knowledge helps write action scenes. Or does it? Have you found now and then that knowing how actual sparring works has confused your fight sequences?

FJ-- Knowledge of martial arts is a bit  like a double edged sword when it comes to writing action scenes. (And I DO love to write fight scenes!) It helps to know fancy terms - spin kick, hook kick, backfist. It helps to know weapons - I LOVE swords, sai, kamas, nunchucks. I have rubber nunchucks - which often hit me in the head.  It also helps to have access to people who could help choreograph a fight scene depending on what angle you are approaching it - streetfight, military fight, cop vs suspect, etc.

Side story - when I was about 17, and just starting to dabble in writing, I asked one of my instructors how to seriously damage an opponent. "What would you do to have someone go down, instantly, by your bare hands?". So he gives me a really strange look, pulls me into the office and asks me if everything is okay in school.  You can imagine the look of relief on his face when I told him it was for a story!

In all reality though, writing fight scenes that remain somewhat realistic can be hard. A real fight doesn't last that long, and no one does all the fancy footwork we see in the movies. I love writing kickass heroines - but I also worry about giving the wrong idea about safety to my readers. Its great to be Buffy, but the reality of it is that it's always safer to try to walk away from a situation, or try not to put yourself into a situation in the first place, no matter how badass you are.

MH-- Why do we have to "mother" all our readers? Some days I wonder if it wouldn't be easier to be a male author...

Your inner self goes mountain climbing, but your real self is afraid of heights. How does that contradiction translate into your writing? Or have you ever had the occasion to write a mountain climbing (or any kind of climbing) scene? Could you picture it, in that case?

FJ-- Actually that contradiction is especially great for my writing. Similar to flying a spaceship - I can barely tell left from right, but I sure as heck can fake being a hot-shot pilot from research. (Now I got an idea of a character - a hot shot rock climber with a deep dark fear of heights lol). In this case I'm very much an outsider - I catalogue all my experiences to use in writing, but I rarely actually participate. So I might go to a rock climbing class and interview the people who do it, but you wouldn't find me scaling the Alps:)

MH-- All right. I have to ask. How did Cold Victory start? Where did the idea come from?

FJ-- Well, it started with a scene. I had a scene in my head for a long time, and I couldn't figure out how to fit into anything I was writing at the time -it demanded its own story. The scene involved some semblance of technology - and I knew it was some sort of a military operation. Cold Victory pretty much stemmed from that one scene.

Stark thought about throwing up. He would have, if he’d had something to work with in his stomach. The raw and empty nausea rolled inside his gut, scraping his insides with its jagged edges.

She’d flinched away from him, and that gave Stark a nasty satisfaction. She’d been aroused despite her own resolve. He’d seen her blood pumping, seen her react. Seen those tired eyes pleading with him for something.

Her orders were kill his crew.

Sick with himself, he braced a hand over a newly replaced bulkhead. Bloodmate or not, he had a duty to Victory and to the crew. Regardless of this fucking biological anomaly, he would stand by them.

 “What the fuck were you thinking?” Two minutes later Dex caught up with him, paler than usual, his scars dark on his face.
 “It needed to be done.”

“You showed her and yourself that you don’t give fuck. Congratulations.”

Stark breathed through tight clenched teeth, and tried to force down the heavy burning low inside his stomach. “Were you able to verify if she carries explosives?”

“I didn’t have time.”

“Why the hell not?”

“I’ll show you.” Dex stabbed at his wrist unit calling up a pale gray column of transparent light. The base of the holo-output showed a small figure huddled in a corner, arms wrapped tight over her knees, her body curled into itself as if to ward off a beating.

Rage wasn’t questioned as he grabbed Dex’s uniform. “What the fuck did you do?”

“Nothing her bloodmate hadn’t done already.” Dex spat the words with fury in his eyes. “I simply administered her meds.”

Cold Victory © Fiona Jayde


MH-- Do you usually start with characters, a plot, or just a situation?

FJ-- I usually get a scene in my head which dictates the rest of the book. So I would have to guess the answer here would be a situation. Usually the scene is pretty dramatic - which then leaves me with the fun and grueling job of figuring out what comes before and after.

MH--  Hah! So I'm not the only one!

What is the most difficult part of the actual writing? And which part do you dislike the most (are they the same)?

FJ-- For me, the most difficult part of the actual writing is the second draft. My process requires three full drafts and then post critique polish. The first draft is really me spewing words on the page - just raw emotion. The second draft is where it all has to make sense. The third draft is where I question my sanity, my chosen career as an author, and the small semblance of talent I may posses.

MH-- Oh, I hear you. I think you have more fortitude than I, because I question my sanity every time I sit at the computer!

So how do you write? Do you plan? Do you plan on paper or think out your stories? Do you just write your books as they come and re-write until they're just right? Do you use some magical software to help your process (I wouldn't mind a “make novel” button myself)?

FJ-- I'm an avid plotter. I used to be an avid pantser, but I would continuously get stuck.  I usually do a lot of preplotting before I even start writing - I need to have a full outline before I begin the first page. (It all changes of course, but this way it's not near as painful as it used to be).  As far as magical software LOL. I wish. But I could recommend the writing blog which I run with my good friend Lacey Savage - tipsandwips.com. We talk about our processes (Lacey is an avid pantser), snippets from writing books, anything really writing related.

MH-- Thank you for stopping by! Best wishes for the rest of your tour and for a resounding success of your book!

FJ-- Thanks so much for having me, Masha - it was a pleasure!

Blurb for Cold Victory:

Intergalactic warfare has not been kind to humans. Convicted pilot Zoya Scott has the chance to avenge her family, redeem an act of desperation with that of sacrifice. She’ll end this war if she betrays the man whose touch burns through her soul, the man whose ship and crew she must destroy. The man who is her bloodmate.
Commander Galen Stark never expected the convicted pilot on his ship to be anything more then a good looking inconvenience. A small brush of their hands grips him with vicious lust, a need he can’t control. She is his bloodmate – a biological reaction burning through his veins.

Except she carries an explosive. And Stark may have to give the order to destroy them all.


"Excuse me, Commander.” Those gold eyes flared. “Perhaps you were misled about their skill level. Most of them never had field experience. Their battle skills were taught in hologames.”

Stark had to get away from her before his damned glands forced him into doing something stupid. Like kissing her. Fucking her breathless. Feeling her shuddering around him as she came. “So noted.”

“Right.” A bitter smirk. Those eyes went dull again, as if he were responsible for leeching out the light inside them. “Your job is to give orders and coordinate attacks. You don’t know who is out there dying.”

He couldn’t breathe without taking in her heat, couldn’t think beyond the words she hurled at him. “You’re right, I don’t. I don’t know their names or anything about them. They’re just soldiers. They’re trained to follow orders.”

Before he knew what he was doing, he roughly pulled at the sleeve of his undershirt, exposing neat rows of tattoos. “I don’t know them.” He shook his head, battling arousal, emotion, and frustration. “I just count their deaths.”

Silence. He was an idiot to lose control like this, to share the part of himself which he’d always kept hidden. He was an idiot to need her to understand the only way he could grieve. He was an idiot to feel this raw, sexual pull toward her.

“I’m-I’m sorry.” Her voice thick, her eyes shattered, Zoya lightly touched the dots on his upper arm.

Shock rippled on his skin, pinpricks of heat and vicious, coiled lust. He nearly staggered, fighting the dark urge to cover her lush mouth while his body primed to take, to feast. Her eyes flared wide, yet she didn’t pull her arm away when his fingers closed around her wrist.

“You shouldn’t touch me.” Her pulse beat hard under his fingertips, her skin like warm, smooth silk. He gave her time to back away, to rip her arm away, say something cutting. Yet she did nothing, simply looked up at him with hot, unguarded eyes, her mouth vulnerable and soft, seconds from his.

Flashes of skin, hot gripping palms, moist hungry lips. Stark didn’t know when he pressed her against a bulkhead, when her hands clutched his shoulders, when her ragged breaths became his own. He couldn’t get enough, couldn’t take a breath, couldn’t tear himself away from ravaging her lips, plunging into the sweet depth of her mouth.

Her scent was like a potent drug pumping into his veins. Lips fused, tongues mated, he kissed her like a starving man, as if both their lives depended on it. Cupping her head, he held her steady for his onslaught, fighting himself, fighting against the soft, hitched breaths she made against his mouth. Even as someone screamed inside his head about duty and protocol, the beast inside him wouldn’t let him stop.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Web Politics or Web Satire?

Today a what looks like a political web prank is making waves in Chechnya and in Russia. It purports to promote the candidacy of Chechnya's current president, Ramzan Kadyrov, to the presidency of the Russian Federation in 2012.

To get the full impact of the original site, here,  you need to understand Russian, so you'll have to trust me when I say that it's classic political satire, very well executed, and more dangerous than physical attacks: it makes people think.

All writers know the power of the word. Even more so, the power of the insidious innuendo, the well-written (or well-said) comment that doesn't really hit you until later. The one that stays with you, makes you examine every aspect of the form and the content, and what's more, makes you come back to look at it again.

This is what the authors of the "Ramzan Kadyrov for President of the Russian Federation" site did. There is no overt criticism of Kadyrov, quite the contrary. The site appears to be laudatory and supportive, but...

It's not what is said, or how it's said, it's the context that counts. You have to think about Kadyrov's achievements such as they're praised in the web pages. Indeed, with everything the president of Chechnya has done in Russia's favor, according to this site, he surely would be a good candidate.

Kadyrov didn't find it amusing at all.

I thought it was a fine example of a well-executed political satire, classical in its delivery, worthy of any of its illustrious predecessors.

As a literary sample, of course.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Linda Poitevin, Guest Blogger

Today I welcome Linda Poitevin to my corner of cyberspace. Like most of us writers. Linda leads a life full of challenges, and it's not the big hulking ones that usually bring us down. How we deal with life varies greatly, so I ask Linda: how about you?

And don't miss the excerpt from Linda's latest book, A Fairy Tale for Gwyn. Don't forget, either, to post some comments for a chance to win a prize on Linda's blog tour! If you've joined a Goddess Fish blog tour before, you know how it goes: there are random drawings, and there are prizes for the most posts! So join in the fun.

The Great Juggling Act: On balancing life and writing

I’m often asked how I manage to balance my writing with the rest of my life. My short answer is this: I don’t.

Maybe I’m just balance-impaired. Or challenged. Or just completely off-balance! But whatever the reason, balance in my life resembles one of those little games where you try to maneuver the little bead into a center hole by tipping the game board a little this way and then a little that. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at that kind of game. I invariably tip too far one way, then too far another, never quite achieving the necessary finesse required to master the game.

My life kind of goes like that, too. I tend to be one of those really committed types (no, not one who needs to be committed...at least, not yet!) who throws herself into the challenge of the moment. For instance, I'm an avid gardener. One would think that would mean that my houseplants flourish, too, and they do...for approximately six months of the year. But come garden season, the poor babies stagger, parched and gasping, from one erratic watering to the next, barely making it through until I'm confined to the house again and ready to devote my attention to them.

If a clean house becomes a priority, I drive my family insane with my nitpicking about things being left out of place; the moment something else claims my attention, however, the dust bunnies morph into really big grizzly bears. With teeth. It doesn’t really matter what my project is, it pretty much consumes me until it has run its course. Or until my interest runs out, whichever comes first.

So, balance? Sigh. I wish. But I do think I'm getting a little better with age and experience. Over the years, I’ve learned not to make every issue my own (or the dust bears would be woolly mammoths by now!), and to set my own priorities in life (like writing) rather than letting life do that for me. It’s helped tremendously to recognize that this is just how I function sometimes, and to give myself permission to do so. The houseplants will invariably survive, the living room will emerge relatively unscathed from beneath the clutter, and I will climb back onto life’s balance board until the next distraction comes along.

What about you? How do you manage to balance your life? Any tips for the more unbalanced among us?

Linda Poitevin
lives just outside Canada’s capital, Ottawa, with her husband, three daughters, and a varied collection of animals. In her spare time, she gardens (organically), cans and freezes the family’s winter fruit and vegetable supply, knits (basically), crochets (better), and starts way more projects than she ever finishes. (Fortunately that doesn’t hold true of her books!) She loves spending time with her family, having coffee with friends, walking by the river and watching thunderstorms…in about that order.

A Fairy Tale for Gwyn

Gwyn Jacobs doesn’t believe in happy-ever-after.

Ever since her ex-husband walked out four years ago, abandoning her with a toddler and infant twins, Gwyn has been mother, father, and bread-winner all rolled into one. Her own scarred heart and failed marriage aside, she is determined not to open up her children’s lives to the possibility of another heartbreak...until her very own fairy tale falls into her lap -- and the hero won’t take no for an answer!

Excerpt from A Fairy Tale for Gwyn

      Gareth emerged from the bathroom as she reached the top hallway, the gurgle of draining water from the bathtub accompanying his appearance.
      “All done,” he said, a triumphant look on his face, a bucket of congealed ick in his hand, and his soaked shirt molded to the lean six-pack beneath it.
      Gwyn clutched at her resolve with both hands and moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. What was it she’d intended to say? Oh, yes.
      “Thank you,” she said. She set the books on the folded clothes and shifted the basket to her other hip. “I’m sorry if I sounded ungrateful earlier. I really do appreciate your help. Not just today, but all of it. I don’t know what I’d have done without you this last couple of days.”
      Gareth shook his head at her, looking both amused and exasperated. “You sound like a kid who’s been coached in what to say to some cantankerous old uncle. You don’t have to apologize, Gwyn.”
      “I just don’t want you to think I’m not grateful.”
      “I never thought that,” he told her, smiling in a slow way that had her toes digging into the hall carpet-runner. “Besides, I’m enjoying myself.”
      “Entertaining my sick kids and cleaning out my bathtub?” she asked dryly, hiding her involuntary reaction behind skepticism.
      “No, being with you.” Gareth dropped a towel onto the floor near the top of the stairs and set the bucket on top of it.
      But before Gwyn could do more than draw a startled breath at his unexpected, and confounding honesty, he added, “I’ve missed out on the family thing, remember? It’s nice to be a part of yours for a while.”
      “And besides, I have ulterior motives.” He plucked at his soaking, oatmeal-flecked shirt. “You wouldn’t happen to have something dry I could borrow, would you?”
      “Something dry.”
      Gwyn refrained from shaking her head to clear it, feeling very much like she’d fallen three steps behind in this conversation. “Yes, of course.”  Sandy’s husband, Rob, had left a sweatshirt behind on a visit once that she kept forgetting to return. It might be snug, but “I meant pardon about the other thing. What ulterior motives?”
      Gareth began unbuttoning his shirt. “Sorry, that’s a secret.”
      He hadn’t moved in her direction, but she couldn’t help but shift the basket again, holding it like a barrier between them. The temperature in the hallway seemed to have risen several degrees, flushing her cheeks with heat and turning her mouth dry.
      “A s-s-secret?”
      Lord, ‘s’ was a hard sound to make with your tongue cleaved to the roof of your mouth. She tried very hard to keep her eyes on his face rather than the fascinating trail his hands were taking. The heat in her cheeks snaked a slow, tantalizing path to other parts of her anatomy. Any resolve she’d had when she’d climbed the stairs became a fleeting memory.
      “Mm. But I’ll give you a hint. It hinges on kids recovering and turning their mother free again.”
      Gareth slid the shirt from his shoulders and Gwyn’s knees very nearly buckled. The laundry basket shook in her grasp and she forgot all about not staring. The big screen didn’t even come close to doing the man justice.
      His shoulders…broad, defined, offering a woman’s head a sanctuary like none she’d ever known. His chest, deep, powerful, inviting her touch, and promising.
      Gareth cleared his throat and Gwyn’s gaze flew back to his. As if she’d spoken her every thought aloud, his eyes danced with mischief and smoldered with something darker, deeper.
      “A dry shirt?” he reminded her huskily.
      She fled.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Whose names do you care about?

Here's a good question:

The Perfect Storm for Publishing: Are Publishers A Brand? « Bob Mayer – Author Blog

And a darn good blog post.

I hadn't thought about it in quite this light, but I never go look for a book by a certain publisher. I do, however, check who the publisher of a certain author or book may be, but then I'm a writer, and I'm curious about the business.

How about readers? Is Bob Mayer right? Do you ever go looking for the latest from a publisher, or do you only look for the latest from an author? Let's just leave the genre/subject searches out for now. We're talking name recognition here.

And while we're at it, how about e-books? Have you tried them? Do you know any e-publishers? Do you trust them as brands you might follow or check out for some good reading?

I promise I'll be back with my own answers... and yes, I'm e-published and a little biased, but I have some unskewed opinions nevertheless.

So what kind of name recognition do you do?

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Monday, January 4, 2010

I'm not home today...

... I'm a guest at The Long and Short of It

Join me there, it's all about MORE holidays... well, it's about holidays elsewhere if you will... Just go and find out and leave a comment!