Reader Challenge: Name that Beginning for “Dangerous Reflections,” my second novel

Three ways to start my second novel, and I can’t decide which is the best. Help me out! (Hint: there are prizes.)

Alastair and Martie, wizards in my second novel, "Dangerous Reflections"

Alastair and Martie, wizards in my second novel, “Dangerous Reflections”

If you like historical fantasy, or books such as “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” or “Harry Potter,” this challenge might be for you.

All you have to do is read five pages of three different openings (15 pages total) for my novel “Dangerous Reflections.” Decide which one grabs you and makes you want to read more. Then post your choice here or on my Facebook author page.

There are three prizes up for grabs: two $10 Amazon (or Barnes and Noble) gift cards, and an autographed copy of “Rings of Passage.” Into a virtual hat I will put the names of participants who picked what ultimately turns out to be the most popular opener. The top three chosen can then select their prize.

There is no deadline, but after 20 or more people have posted their choice of opener as a comment on this blog, or on my Facebook author page, I will conduct the drawing.

This is a learning experience for me. I want to know what readers like. Here’s your chance to tell me.

The three openers for “Dangerous Reflections”can be found here:

Beginning 1
Beginning 2
Beginning 3

Richard III Tour: Middleham Castle – Pilgrimage to the past

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: Richard’s childhood home was one of the places I most wanted to visit. Getting to Middleham Castle proved to be a challenge, testing my endurance. Once there, I had very little time. The universe granted favors in the form of earthly delights – a picnic lunch of delicious market cheese and bitters, with a gorgeous view of the Yorkshire Dales. I had longed for transcendence, but felt let down at the time. The photos tell a different story. Middleham had been a jewel in the crown of my Richard tour. The lesson: Let the expectations go, and experience what is offered.

Middleham Castle, Yorkshire
September 22, 1990

Middleham Castle

Doors through Middleham Castle

This day was a lot of work.

This morning, I got the train to Darlington, then a bus to Richmond.

Richmond was having its market day. Cobbled streets, buildings all of stone. I wished I could stay longer. Went to an antique fair. Then I got some cheese and a beer and packed them away to wait for the bus to Leyburn.

Oh, what a beautiful ride through the Dales. I’ve never seen a landscape like Yorkshire. Sort of Pennsylvania pushed up against Indiana farmland. Loads of sheep. Long-haired ones with long tails. We went over hills, through woods, past fields divided with dry stone walls. Leyburn was quite quaint, as well. But then I had towalk 2½ miles to get to Middleham Castle. And I didn’t have a whole lot of time because I had to catch the bus back.

No pleasant walk across the Dales, this.

I had to walk along a fairly busy two-lane highway with no shoulder, up and down steep hills in a cold wind. Not fun at all. I got there and was almost locked out – but the British Heritage lady let me in after all.

There I climbed up on the ruins overlooking the great hall, and ate my Leicester Whirl cheese with herbs and garlic, and my Huntsman’s cheese, and drank my Stones Bitter.

I talked to Richard, but it’s not like he was there like he was at Warwick and Kenilworth. Maybe I was just too tired to commune.

It actually did seem rather peaceful. If I felt anything, it was in what had been the chapel.

I explored it faster than I would have liked, but my time was short. The material about the castle was all about Richard, and I got some books. But then there was that walk back looming before me.

At last I set off – the wrong direction! Going probably ¼ to ½ mile the wrong way toward Coverdale. Turned around, back through the town of Middleham. The walk back was exhausting, colder, but without as many cars. Crossed the Ure River. Couldn’t enjoy the countryside. Too much against me.

Back in Leyburn, I caught the bus, changed in Richmond. The bus driver kindly dropped me at the rail station, saving me that walk. I blessed him over and over.

Once on the train, I was freezing. A woman brought a refreshment cart through, and I got a hot chocolate. A lifesaver! I felt like a guardian angel was looking after me – maybe Richard? – for making that long pilgrimage to his castle.

______________________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

 

Richard III Tour: Kenilworth Castle – The King’s ghost roams

Aside

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: I remember being very affected by Kenilworth, as if I had entered a holy realm. It was back in the days before there were digital cameras, and I had used all my color film at the storybook castle, Warwick. All that remained in my backpack was 35mm black-and-white 400 ASA film – which meant the pictures would be contrasty with some visible film grain. Turns out, Kenilworth looks amazing in black and white. That day, the universe had my back.

Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
Sept 20, 1990

I can’t describe how I felt at Kenilworth. These huge chunks of ruins gave me the eeriest feeling. Like how I always imagined Wuthering Heights. It was the first place I’d visited that will actually be in my book.

I had to take two buses to get there. I got there late – about 4:30. There was hardly anyone there – two or three other people and myself. And it was cold, about 50. The wind was blowing gustily. The sky was steel grey. Surrounded by gentle, green slopes, sheep, a quaint town.

Door into the past

Door into the past

There at Kenilworth, it was so isolated. So far from anywhere. It echoed with the past.

I walked all of its nooks and crannies. I climbed up into a tower, up these narrow spiral stairs in the dark – and it was ghostly. And to think that Richard stayed there.

I got a tight stomach, a tingly feeling, as if I might see Richard’s ghost any minute. As if the past were going on at the same time in a different dimension. As if we were sharing the same physical space. I was nervous, as if I were about to meet someone famous. I got rushes, as if I had taken an amphetamine. Like Anise must feel in Richard’s presence.

______________________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

 

Richard III Tour: Warwick Castle – The King slept here

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: Walking into Warwick was like entering a storybook castle. I remember being fascinated by centuries-old structures that the locals took for granted. What struck me was the difference in perspective between what Americans think as “old” compared to the British. “Thousand-year-old castle? Eh. Nothing special.”

______________________________________________________________

Sept. 20, 1990
Warwick Castle

Queen Anne's bedroom at Warwick

Queen Anne’s bedroom at Warwick

Warwick, still intact, was magnificent. So much of it has been tampered with by the Victorians. But there was an old bed there, carved intricately of wood. With the 4 big bulbous posts and roof – to be surrounded by curtains. I imagined Richard and Anise there and I could picture the scene perfectly. Delicious.

I saw the dungeons and tried to absorb that. And where Edward IV was imprisoned by the Earl of Warwick. Just a tiny room, with a bed and a teeny tiny writing table with a candle on it.

My floor plan of Anise's bedroom

My floor plan of Anise’s bedroom

I went up and down 200 stairs (narrow staircases) and got quite a thrill, knowing Richard had been there. I saw a room I quite liked for my book, as Anise’s room. 

It was somewhat difficult today, dealing with the buses. But so well worth it.

______________________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

Richard III Tour: Bosworth Field – Praying with the King

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: My visit to Bosworth Field is burned into my memory. It is the ultimate destination for a Ricardian – the place where he did not plead, “My kingdom for a horse,” but instead cried, “Treason!” as an unworthy pretender invaded his realm and wrested it from him. Richard was the last English king to lead an army to the battlefield. To stand where he died moved me deeply. But to kneel where he prayed transcended it all.

______________________________________________________________

Leicester
Sept 25, 1990

Map to Bosworth Field

10 mile round trip on foot

Today was exhausting and exhilarating. I went from low to high several times.

I walked 10 miles.

One mile to the bus station.Then scrambling around trying to get the right bus. (Leicester has not treated me well.) Then from Market Bosworth, 2½ miles to the visitors center at Bosworth field. Then 1½ around the battlefield. Then 1½ round trip to Sutton Cheney church where Richard prayed the night before the battle. Then 2½ miles back to Market Bosworth.

Then another mile back from the bus station in Leicester to my B&B. And I really had to run to Market Bosworth to catch the bus and only with about a minute to spare – or else I’d have to wait another hour.

Nerve wracking.

The battlefield was really nice and the walk there wasn’t too bad, if long. I didn’t get to stay long at the place he was actually killed though. I wonder how they know.

Church of St. James, Sutton Cheney

Church of St. James, Sutton Cheney

At Sutton Cheney, there is this really old, old church with a damp smell. But so peaceful. I knelt where I thought Richard might have at the altar and looked at the crumbly walls as he might have. And I got that tingly feeling, like you get when you’re in the basement and you just want to get upstairs now. And at that point, a sadness came over me and I cried for Richard.

I sat for a few minutes alone in the church and cried. Then I prayed that I would have the talent and perseverance to tell Richard’s story.

______________________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

Richard III Tour: Leicester – I felt his bones beneath me

In 1990, I set off for England for a month – the first time I had been “across the pond”  – and I was going on my own. I was thick in the middle of writing my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” I believed him innocent of the crimes he was accused of, and read all I could about him. Books and research were not enough. When I went to England, I went to experience the places Richard had lived and died. I went to find the king I had fallen a little bit in love with.

______________________________________________________________
Looking back from 2014: When I visited Leicester, the city was not yet famous for being the place where a King of England’s remains were excavated in 2012. During my visit, there were no crowds gathering at the site where Greyfriars Priory once stood. The city felt unloved and avoided, much as Richard himself had been before becoming the poster child for archaeology.
______________________________________________________________

Karla Tipton

Karla Tipton, England,

Leicester, Sept 24, 1990

I’m starting to wear down. Either it’s me or all this traveling is taking its toll. I caught trains and carried heavy luggage all day. In the pouring down cold rain. Miserable. Did laundry.Then tonight I walked to all the places Richard had been that are no longer standing. Not very exciting. I did sort of feel his bones beneath me at Greyfriars – but it might have been fatigue.

Tomorrow, Bosworth Field. Which means another long walk. I sure hope this one is not along a busy highway like the one to Middleham. If it is, I hope it’s flat with lots of shoulder.


______________________________________________________________
Related links:
King Richard III Pub
Statue of Richard III
______________________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

Why did Shakespeare throw Richard III under the bus?

Dedicated to a fellow writer from my newspaper days, who inspired deliberation on this topic through his blog, “A Year of Shakespeare: 38 Plays, 365 Days.”
Richard III and Shakespeare
Why did Shakespeare throw Richard under the bus?

Some of the assumptions I make here may be false, however it is based on a fair amount of research, some of which I did while researching for my novel, Rings of Passage. I don’t claim to be a Shakespeare scholar. Experts out there take issue, please, if you will. Let’s get this thing cleared up.

Why did Shakespeare throw Richard III under the bus?

  • Political fear

Shakespeare wrote Richard III during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and so his portrayal of Richard is sometimes shrugged off as “toeing the party line.”

Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII dispatched Yorkists whenever he could get away with it. On flimsy charges, he beheaded Richard’s niece Margaret (countess of Salisbury,  George, duke of Clarence’s daughter) when she was 68 years old. She was hardly a threat.

He learned his hatred of Yorkists from his father, Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, whose hate was grounded in the reasonable fear that his kingship was both undeserved and usurped.

If you had Yorkist leanings during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, you had good reason to be afraid.

Yet Elizabeth the First did not share the hatred of her father and grandfather. She was a moderate in government and tolerant in religion. She enjoyed the theater, earning the disapproval of the Puritans on her own counsel.

According to Lisa Thyer, author of “Shakespeare Life and Times/Intro to Shakespeare’s life and Historical Context”:  “Theater was often used as a covert forum for political criticism: …some may have remembered the swinish face of Henry VIII, and all in the audience knew that it was only under special circumstances that they could publicly share the thought that monarch was a swine.”

Criticism of the Tudor dynasty embedded in a dramatic performance would not be cause enough for Elizabeth to eliminate a playwright, whose work she most likely enjoyed.

To toe the line of the current political climate is not a convincing enough argument for  Shakespeare’s trashing of Richard III.

  • Chasing the fame

How many tabloids have jumped on the bandwagon to destroy some celebrity’s career for the sheer purpose of selling more copies? Could the Bard’s motivation have been opportunistic?

Although Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays “preceded only by the three parts of Henry VI and perhaps a handful of comedies,” according to Wikipedia Richard had been dead a century by then, give or take a few years. Richard’s “dark” reputation had already been convincingly painted against the backdrop of the “Tudor Myth*.”

The rehashing of that old chestnut wouldn’t have gained a playwright much traction unless he happened to be Shakespeare. Like all great writing, he took an old idea and told the story in such a compelling way that it became new again.

It’s the universality of this theme, molded by the deft hand of a genius, that propelled Richard III to the top of the Elizabethan drama charts.

If there was any bandwagon jumping, it was because Shakespeare knew he could use the legend of Richard’s evil to drive home the idea that, in the karmic scheme of things, crime doesn’t pay. Shakespeare was not adverse to cozying up to his audience’s preferences, however (more on that later).

  • Poetic license

By the time Shakespeare penned Richard III, he had already written three historical plays Henry VI, parts I, II and III.

While researching the intrigues of British royalty, Shakespeare wasn’t looking for truth. He was looking for drama. And something deeper.

Shakespeare grew up on the morality plays popular at the time of his youth. These plays, and the classical dramatic tradition of unity and decorum learned as part of a grammar school education, provided the foundation for his work. Along with his contemporaries, Shakespeare blended old morality drama with classical theory to develop a new secular form for the English Renaissance.

In a nutshell, this new form of drama resonated on an emotional level, but also incorporated themes dealing with the human condition and destiny. And despite its ambiguous themes and complexity, this new brand of drama should be universally understood, not only to the educated elite, but also to ordinary people.

Because of the speed that authors had to produce plays at the time, and the Renaissance theory that  tragic plots should be grounded in history, Shakespeare turned to source material typically used by playwrights of the time: Raphael Holinshed’s 1587 Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande.

Among the sources Holinshed used for Richard III was Thomas More’s unfinished, The History of Richard III.

Born in 1478, More was 7 years old when the Battle at Bosworth took place. As a boy, he lived for a time in the household of Dr. John Morton, who was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VII, and one of Richard’s bitterest enemies. Morton’s conspiratorial machinations against Richard eventually helped put Tudor on the throne.

More’s account of Richard’s life was interpreted through the prism of Morton’s anti-Richard propaganda, which was then reiterated in Holinshed’s Chronicles, which provided the plot for Shakespeare’s play.

Morton’s hatred filtered through Shakespeare’s pen dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s turning Richard into an evil and unredeemable monster who murdered children.

In his quest for drama and theme, Shakespeare had no use for primary sources that proved otherwise.

Even if Shakespeare knew that Richard III could not have perpetrated the crimes he was a accused of, he didn’t care. In Henry VI, Part II, Shakespeare has Richard killing the Duke of Somerset, when in actuality Richard was only three years old.  In part three of Henry VI, Richard is seen participating in the Battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton.  In fact, Richard was 8 years old and living in Burgundy.

Shakespeare’s motivation was not to exonerate, but to exploit plot twists to amplify his theme.

As with the character of “Vice” of whom Elizabethan audiences would been familiar from the morality plays the fates turned on Richard in the end**.

“Fate versus free will” was popular with audiences influenced by the growing Calvinism of the Elizabethan era. Inherent was the belief in historical fatalism, in which individual historical events are determined by God, who often punishes evil with (apparent) evil.

Shakespeare used Richard’s “reputation” as the perfect vehicle for conveying this idea.

Does that make him a toady to the Calvinists? I don’t think so. Still, he wasn’t beyond playing to the preferences of his audience.

Yet it is done so brilliantly. Can’t we forgive him?

I never really doubted that Shakespeare’s real motivation behind Richard III was artistic. I need not have taken the journey, just to come to the conclusion I had at the beginning.

However, I have learned much, and do not regret the trip.

And finally…

  • Conspiracy theory

In a nutshell, there are serious scholars who believe “William Shakespeare” was an identity assumed by a member of the nobility, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, to enable him to write plays and sonnets anonymously.

If Oxford was Shakespeare, he would have had strong motivation for painting Richard III’s reputation black.

Prior to Richard’s reign, the de Vere family had been stripped of nearly all its land holdings, after John de Vere participated in the Battle of Barnet in 1471, against the Yorkists. Richard’s elder brother, King Edward IV, confiscated, and then turned around and granted to Richard, all of John de Vere’ s property.

Was Shakespeare’s most famous play written by de Vere out of some kind of revenge?

Food for thought.

My Sources
Footnotes:
* Tudor Myth: Political propaganda promoting the Tudor period of the 16th century as a golden age of peace, law, order, and prosperity; and the Yorkist period of the15th century, including the Wars of the Roses, as a dark age of anarchy and bloodshed.
** Richard was God’s curse on England in punishment for the deposition of Richard II in 1399, which formed the basis for the conflict between the Yorkists and Lancastrians and sparked the Wars of the Roses.

Author Christine Elaine Black discusses her creative process

When I heard about Christine Elaine Black’s novel “A Rose for Lancaster” from our mutual acquaintance, author Cara Bristol, I had to read it. Set in the 15th century, the romance between Blanche and Giles takes place after the defeat of King Richard III, who is the hero of my novel “Rings of Passage.” Based on our novels, Christine and I are on opposite sides of the Wars of the Roses! When I read “A Rose for Lancaster,” I was immediately charmed by the story. Blanche is a Yorkist and Giles a Lancastrian. They rise above their political loyalties to be together. In this interview, Christine discusses her writing life and her love of history.

_____________________________________________________

Christine Elaine Black’s links:

A Rose for Lancaster

“A Rose for Lancaster”

Author Biography
Blog
On Twitter

_____________________________________________________

Christine Elaine Black interview

Karla: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event, or a comment someone made to you, or an experience that made you think, “Hey, I’d like to write.”

Christine Elaine: I started writing to encourage my daughter’s foray into the storytelling world. I intended to write for her (which I did) but then I enjoyed it so much I kept writing and delved into the romantic historical genre.

Karla: Do you have a very early work that you would like to reinvent or get into shape to share with the world? What is it?

Christine Elaine: I have quite a few projects that are finished but ‘rough,’ and that means finding time to re-read, edit, re-shape and publish. If I had unlimited time I’d likely have it done by now but life in the real world calls to me. It’s a constant give and take to be an author.

Karla: When you write novels, do you use an outline, or are you a pantser (flying by the seat of your pants)?

Christine Elaine: I start with an idea. I love ancient Rome and found it difficult to source a romance book in that time period. The idea for Maximus sprang into my head and I started writing the story without much plotting. The characters took over and the story fell into place. Although I write ‘romance’ which is typically as story dealing with the relationship of a couple central to the plot, I like to add many other characters to embellish the plot. Since trying out the self-publishing market I write slightly outside the romance box to include a few of my favourtie secondary characters. It’s fun!

Karla: What is the MOST important to you? Plot? Character? Setting?

Christine Elaine: A really great story is the most important to me. The characters add to that of course and I love them all, even the mean ones in a strange way, but story is important. The characters need angst and conflict to make us care.

Karla: How scheduled are you when writing?

Christine Elaine: For a number of years I wrote late at night. Parents will understand the reason for that! It was my time to relax and spend in a constructive, creative way. Lately, I’m learning a whole new world of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking and that’s eating away at my writing time.

Karla: Where do you write? Is there certain music you have playing in the background? A favorite room, desk or chair? Are you like J.K. Rowling, and write in a coffee shop?

Christine Elaine: I use the Mac (family room) or the PC (home office) and prefer silence if I can get it. I’ve never written when I’m out and about in the real world. Too many distractions for me.

Karla: Are the stories that you write different from those that you read? For instance, romance versus humor.

Christine Elaine: I’ve read a lot of historical fiction. If I could write like the authors I idolize that would be a dream come true. Let me give you a few examples:

Colleen McCullough’s Roman series (a tour de force)
Jack Whyte’s Camelot series (incredible)
Bernard Cornwell’s Viking series (amazing)
Pauline Gedge’s Egyptian works (mesmerising)
Jo Graham’s Numinous World series (fantastic)

As you can see, I read a list of heavy hitters in the literary world! I couldn’t begin to compare myself to career authors.

Karla: Is your creative process something you sweat over? Or is it something you trust to “kick in” as soon as you get started.

Christine Elaine: I don’t have any issues with the creative process. If I need to take a break from a particular scene, character or book, then I switch to something different or go for a walk. Often I write prolific amounts and edit or switch things around as new and improved ideas come to me. It’s hard to hit the delete key on work but in the end it can be for the best.

Karla: If you have a troublesome plot issue, how do you solve it? Is there a method or a meditation you turn to solve the problem?

Christine Elaine: I sleep on it. Often I go to bed thinking about my characters and imagine them in situations, working through problems or having conversations. I don’t dream about them as some of my fellow writers have said they do, but I run scenarios in my head.

Karla: What advice would you give to new authors who are trying to find their voice and their stride?

Christine Elaine: The best advice I can give is network with other writers and look for feedback from trusted or well-meaning friends (including virtual friends). I posted some work on a few writer sites before publishing and it helped to chat with others in the same boat and exchange views on each other’s work. Ultimately, though it’s a growth process and some find it easier than others.

Karla: I couldn’t agree more! And I want to thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your insights with us. _____________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage is now in paperback!

In other news… “Rings of Passage” is now available in paperback through Amazon! It would make a great Christmas gift for the bookworm in your life.

Author Cara Bristol discusses the writing life and her new erotic sci-fi romance, “Breeder”

Cara Bristol was one of my earliest writing colleagues. We were eager and fresh-faced journalism grads from different colleges. We ended up at the same suburban newspaper, writing for the society section (typically called the “soc page” in newspaper jargon). We wrote wedding copy and covered women’s clubs, but both of us had bigger dreams. Funnily enough, at that time, none of them had to do with writing novels. And now we’re both doing it.

Cara featured me on her blog the day my novel “Rings of Passage” came out in August, and now I’m interviewing her on mine. What goes around, comes around – and now we have come full circle. Upon the Oct. 15 release of Cara Bristol’s first erotic science fiction novel ,”Breeder,” I asked about her life as a writer, how the creative process manifests when she writes, and some challenges she must face juggling real life commitments and her art.

(see interview below)
_______________________________________________________________

"Breeder"

Read an excerpt below

“Breeder links:
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Breeder-Cara-Bristol-ebook/dp/B00FX7L5FO/
All Romance eBooks (ARe)
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-breeder-1318747-340.html
Loose ID
http://www.loose-id.com/breeder.html
Author’s website
http://carabristol.com/
Twitter  @CaraBristol
https://twitter.com/CaraBristol
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/cara.bristol.3
_______________________________________________________________

Cara Bristol interview

Karla: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event, or a comment someone made to you? Or perhaps an experience that made you think, “Hey, I’d like to write.”

Cara: I’ve always enjoyed writing. The students in high school would complain about having to write term papers, but I secretly enjoyed the assignments. When it came time to choose a college major, I chose journalism because it involved writing. I liked journalism. I love writing fiction.

Karla: What were your earliest written works? (Poems, short stories, songs, essays, novels)

Cara Bristol BiographyCara: Well, the “earliest” is a 30-page mystery I wrote in the fifth grade. Professionally? As a journalism and public relations director, I’ve written numerous newspaper articles, brochures, annual reports, newsletters, press releases. I wrote (and published) my first erotic romance in 2009. I now have 12 erotic romance titles published. Most of them have been released in the last two years.

Karla: What made you to decide to write a novel, in particular?

Cara: I enjoy the freedom and creation of writing fiction. My preferred format is the novella, but I let the work decide the length. I’ve written short stories, novellas and novels.

Karla: Do you have a very early work that you would like to reinvent or get into shape to share with the world? What is it?

Cara: The work I would redo has been published. If I could, I would rewrite Unexpected Consequences, the first book in the Rod and Cane Society domestic discipline erotic romance series. I would make the heroine less naïve—although I really enjoyed that aspect of her personality when I originally wrote it.

Karla: What is the MOST important to you? Plot? Character? Setting?

Cara: Character. But, of course, all three are important because they are so interwoven. Character drives plot, plot creates character and setting affects then both. But I write romance because I find relationship dynamics fascinating. Put the right (clashing) two characters together and the story practically writes itself. For example, in Body Politics. I sent a diehard feminist on a blind date with a Dom who likes to spanks his women. In Breeder, an Alpha Commander falls in love with slave he is forbidden by law to want. Can you see the conflict?

Karla: Do you write genre fiction or literary fiction? Do you think there is a clear delineation between the two styles? And if so, what is that?

Cara: I write genre fiction (romance), in several subgenres: erotic, paranormal, domestic discipline and science fiction. I see literary fiction and genre fiction at two opposite ends of the continuum. One is black, one is white. But in between, it grays and becomes hard to tell them apart. But my fiction is definitely on the genre side.

Karla: How scheduled are you when writing? (9 to 5, when you have an assignment, when the inspiration strikes).

Cara: I am very scheduled about my writing. I work (write and promote) seven days a week. I am usually at the computer by 5:30 a.m. That said, I rely a lot on inspiration. Even when I’m not at my computer, I’m usually thinking about my writing.

Karla: Where do you write? Is there certain music you have playing in the background? A favorite room, desk or chair? Are you like J.K. Rowling, and write in a coffee shop?

Cara: I have a lovely, dedicated home office that is mine, mine, mine. (I used to share an office with my husband). I do not write to music, I find it distracting.

Karla: Are the stories that you write different from those that you read? For instance, romance versus humor.

Cara: No. My time is so limited that I read strategically. First priority is my genres. Second priority is authors I know. Third is everything else.

Karla: Is writing your job or your hobby? If it is a hobby that has turned into a job, are there drawbacks to this?

Cara: Writing is my job. What no one realizes until they get into it is how consuming a writing career becomes. It’s insidious! When I worked in corporate PR, I didn’t work seven days a week, nor did I bring work home. Now I write at home and writing and home life bleed together. Writing/editing occupies about 50 percent of my work time, promotion the other 50 percent.

Karla: Is one successful novel enough, or do you see yourself as a “career” writer?

Cara: If you were only in it for the money, and you hit it out of the ballpark like JK Rowling or EL James have and earned gazillions, perhaps one novel would be enough. But those authors not even good examples because they both wrote series. You can never rest on your laurels because for 99 percent of authors, eventually the sales from any one book drop. And even if I hit megastatus, I would probably continue to write because I love it so much. I am driven to write. If I hit it big, I might not write as much, but I would still write.

Karla: Are you a tortured artist? Is writing therapeutic, cathartic or simply fun?

Cara: Fun. I’m not the least bit tortured.

Karla: Is your creative process something you sweat over? Or is it something you trust to “kick in” as soon as you get started.

Cara: I had one book that I sweated over and if that’s what writing was like for me all or most of the item, I wouldn’t be a writer. I have learned to trust that inspiration will come.

Karla: If you have a troublesome plot issue, how do you solve it? Is there a method or a meditation you turn to solve the problem?

Cara: Often I find that switching POV helps. Other times, it helps to think about the problem when I am in “nonwriting” mode, i.e. away from my desk such as taking a shower or walking. I get a lot of ideas around 3 a.m. too.

Karla: What advice would you give to new authors who are trying to find their voice and their stride?

Cara: Stop trying to find your voice and tell your story.

Karla: How do you blend other parts of your life (family, day job, etc.) with writing? What challenges arise?

Cara: I don’t have another day job, so that’s not an issue, but blending writing with family and other commitments is an issue. I’m still working on that. I know some authors who have day jobs and small children at home and I have no idea how they do it.

_______________________________________________________________

 “Breeder” excerpt

If not for the sneeze, Dak would have exited the musty, dank corridor. But the muffled sound caught his attention. When he squinted into the darkened cell, he spotted a female crouched on a straw mat in the corner. He hadn’t noticed her on his way into the Breeder Containment Facility; the habitation unit had appeared empty.

Dak turned to the BCF director and sighed. “What about her?”

The beta’s already crooked mouth drooped farther in distaste. “My apologies, Commander. You don’t want that one.”

Sival’s disparagement piqued Dak’s interest. The director’s opinion had proven worthless; none of the breeders he’d preselected for inspection had rated close to satisfactory.

“I would like to see her,” Dak insisted.

“Very well, Commander.” Sival saluted and opened the habitation cell with a master entry card. Dak stepped into the small enclosure. The director followed, and the metal gate clanked shut.

The naked female drew into a tighter ball and tucked her face deeper into the crook of her arm. Other breeders had preened as soon as they’d noticed him and his chest-insignia identification. He wasn’t just an alpha. He was the Alpha.

This breeder’s lack of respect and failure to adhere to Protocol by acknowledging his presence struck him as odd. Dak frowned. “Is she mentally deficient?”

Sival tightened his lips. “No, stubborn, ill behaved. She would not befit an Alpha Commander.” He nudged the female’s hip with the toe of his boot. “Rise to your feet.” She did not respond, and he moved to prod her again. Dak forestalled him with a wave and grasped the female’s arm.

“You will stand.” He hauled her upright. She averted her face, so he grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him. Tangled hair the color of black heating stones fell back from an oval face to reveal eyes like the Parseon moon. The glimmer of intelligence that sparked within the violet depths aroused his interest more than anything else he’d seen so far.

Nature had bestowed the Parseon people with an exceptionally strong immune system so that they rarely required medical intervention, but breeders by nature were weak, and so many of the ones he’d seen had seemed dull or ill or both. This one’s skin, when unsmudged by grime and dirt, probably glowed like the pale sands of the Ospian Sea. He supposed, as breeders went, she wasn’t unattractive, although the stench emanating from her was. His beta would throw a fit if he dragged such a creature into their domicile.

“Why is she so filthy?” he asked.

“She refuses to bathe.”

As Dak scrutinized her facial features for shape and symmetry, he noted little imperfection or dysgenics other than her lack of hygiene and her gender. When cleaned up, she would please the eye, but to bear his sons, it mattered more that she be healthy and strong.

He released her face, stepped back, and assessed her from head to toe. He exceeded the height of most males, alphas included, while she stood smaller than the average female.

The top of her head failed to even meet his shoulder. She was thinner than other breeders too, although her chest bore an abundance of fatty breast tissue. In the chill of the cell, her nipples had puckered to hard points. Despite the coolness, he was experiencing a rise in temperature. A dormant lust chose that moment to kindle, causing heat to coil in his abdomen and groin. He could not remember the last time he’d experienced such a spontaneous reaction—if he ever had. With the pads of his fingers, he probed the sides of her neck for swollen areas. The way she trembled under his touch aroused a sliver of sympathy. Breeders lacked courage, and uncertainty frightened them. Not all alphas and their betas treated breeders well. If he chose her, she would be adequately fed and housed. His command consumed his time and energy, which left his beta alone for long stretches. A breeder would relieve Corren of household chores and provide him with a physical outlet as well.

“What is she called?” Dak asked.

“Her sire named her Omra.”

Peace, it meant.

He parted Omra’s lips with his fingers and slipped a digit into her mouth, running it along her upper gum line to check the solidness of her teeth. At a flash in her eyes, he jerked his hand away a centisecond before she snapped her jaws together, so that her incisor only grazed the tip of his finger.

Sival’s face reddened. “Commander, I apologize. I will have her flogged.”

“Unnecessary. I will take care of it.” He unclipped the sudon from his belt.

Cover reveal: Jackson Paul Baer’s “The Earth Bleeds Red”

THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is Jackson Paul Baer’s first novel due out the end of October 2013 (Pandamoon Publishing). It’s part literary and part suspense.

The Earth Bleeds Red

Author Jackson Paul Baer new book comes out on Pandamoon Publishing in October.

This cover is one of the most beautiful and poignant I have ever seen. Congratulate Jackson on his achievement. Visit his website at http://jacksonpaulbaer.com.

Here’s a description of the story:

Scott and Jessie Miller are a couple in love. Ashley, their only daughter, is 17-years old and has vanished; leaving behind nothing but a pool of blood. Her strange disappearance is quickly thought to be a homicide. Her cozy, northwest town is stunned when police find the body of another girl at the bottom of the Willamette River. The eerie signature found on the girl links to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer. While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI feels convinced that she is the killer’s latest victim.

In spite of three other bodies with the same distinct marking, no one prepared themselves for the discovery in southern Oregon. Local hikers stumble upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaces inside. A cabin appears nearby with another gruesome discovery. Scott finds some solace in his friendship with Father Henry as he and Jessie try to salvage their marriage and move on beyond the loss of Ashley. The FBI finally catches a break when they unearth the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer’s family. What emerged in his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined. What happens to the Miller family and Father Henry will shake your soul and keep you reading till the last page.