Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

New Year's greetings from the Nightlife, "where the waitresses are the drinks." Thanks to all of you for helping to make 2011 such an amazing year. May you be bitten at midnight - or kissed if you prefer - and may 2012 be a year full of magic!

Friday, December 30, 2011


This picture reminded me of Luke and Deirdre. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How To Make A Monster

This past June, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop called Vamp Camp as part of the Teen Writers' Conference at The Loft Literary Center here in Minneapolis. About 40 teen writers joined me in the performance hall at the Open Book literary arts building and together we chatted about what it takes to do world building - and specifically creature creation - for YA paranormal novels. Now, I'm a big believer that monster stories are all about the rules (check out this past post on my author blog if you want to know why) so I came up with a list of questions to help us get at the guidelines that govern our monsters' lives. Recently, as I work on Crossfire (the second book in the Darkride Chronicles) I find  myself coming back to this list, touching base with the rules that affect my vampires and werewolves, my Hunters and thralls. So, I decided to share them with you in case they might help you in your own creature creation. Answer as few or as many of the questions as you like, and don't be afraid to stray away from the questions if you get a good idea. Most of all, have fun with it!

1. What do you look like? Are you hideous? Are you super humanly beautiful? Do you look the same all the time, or do you change forms? If you do change, what triggers your transformation? What makes you change back? (remember, it can be anything! Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series, in which the werewolves' transformation is triggered by heat or cold, is a great example of how an original take on the rules can spark a fresh premise). Is your transformation under your control or out of it? If you are a vampire, do you have fangs? Are they always there, or do they come and go? Do they change by magic or do they retract like a cat’s claws?  (Don’t worry too much about anyone else’s ideas about what fangs - or any other detail of your monster's appearance - might look like.  Remember that our ideas about monsters have evolved over time. For example,we used to think of vampires as ugly monsters with ruddy complexions and bellies distended from drinking too much blood.  Then actor Bela Lugosi played Dracula and we began to think of vampires as rich, sophisticated and handsome. Now most people think of vampires as extremely beautiful - and some people think they sparkle. So take the time to research what other people have believed about your particular type of monster, but don't feel beholden to anyone else's ideas. You need to serve your story, so do your own thing!)

2. How did you become a monster? Were you (cue the Lady Gaga song) born this way? Were you made by another monster? How? Was it a choice or was it forced on you? Were you made by science or by magic? Are there others of your kind? Could you make more if you wanted to? Would you make more?

3. How do you feed? What do you eat? Do you have a choice about what you eat? Can you survive on normal food? How do you feel about what you eat? (Note that a lot of our modern-day monsters are morally conflicted about what they eat, which isn’t that far off from how we humans feel about our food! See also this post on the Tofurky/Vampire Connection)

4. What are your super powers? Most monsters have perks! Are you fast? Strong? Are your senses heightened? Can you change your form? Do you heal quickly? Have a psychic ability? Fly? What do you love about being the monster you are? Let your imagination run wild! A lot of the fun in reading and writing monster stories is about the perks!

5. What are your weaknesses? What limits you? Do you have a personal kryptonite? (Traditionally vampires have had a lot of these— they can’t go into a home without an invitation, can’t see themselves in mirrors, are afraid of crosses and garlic, burned by the sun or holy water… Readers have these things in the back of their mind when they come to your story, so know that and be ready to either use those expectations to your advantage or to replace it quickly with a different different set of weaknesses that are even more interesting. Remember, weaknesses are what’s going to give your story drama and conflict! Also, the more weaknesses your character has the more perks you can afford to give her!)

6. How can you be killed? Are you immortal? Can you be killed by ordinary means, or does it take something special like a stake through the heart or a silver bullet? Can you come back from the dead? What can keep you from coming back? Do you have natural enemies? (We think of werewolves and vampires as enemies, but that’s new. Did you know the original Dracula could turn into a wolf and had wolves who did his bidding? At some points in history, vampires and werewolves were almost the same monsters!) Is anyone out to get you?

7. What about the world you live in? When and where do you live? Does everyone know that creatures like you exist, or is it a secret? Who is in on the secret? Who do you need to hide it from? What would happen if they knew? (This question has everything to do with the stakes of your story—by which I mean how much does it matter? This is also where monster stories become great metaphors for the world we live in. A lot of modern monster stories like the True Blood TV series or Daniel Waters' Generation Dead books include monsters who are a persecuted class of citizens fighting for their rights. Monster stories can say a lot about how we view differences like disability or sexual orientation.) What could give away your secret? Are there certain signs that you are a monster?

8. How do you feel about being the monster you are?  If you were ever human, do you miss it? Are you proud to be what you are? Ashamed? Do you think of yourself as better or worse than humans? Is there a cure for you? What is it? What will you have to sacrifice to get it? Would you want to be cured if you could?

These are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself, so feel free to change the questions to suit your story's needs. Feel free to change your answers, too; at some point, your world-building will have to become consistent, but when you are just starting to plan your story you should feel free to experiment. Try changing the answers to one or two important questions and see how it affects your story. What happens if your werebears turn human when they hibernate? What if your vampires can telepathically control dogs? What if your zombies become living humans again when kissed under the full moon's light? See what the story repercussions of each choice might be, and decide on the rules that best fit your story, the ones that will challenge your characters in ways that will make them grow, the ones that will express how you really feel about life and the way it works, and the ones that will stretch readers' expectations in new and interesting ways. Enjoy!   

In Constant Rotation at The Nightlife

I am in a thrallish mood today, so I wanted to share Emmie's theme song, Fright Ranger's "Oh Oh Oh Sexy Vampire"! You can't beat lyrics like "you need my plasma more than I do," right? Now that's a love song! :) Okay, shake it like Emmie, y'all!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It Runs in the Pack

Wanted to show you guys that my love of all things wolfish runs in the family. These are some pics of my four year old daughter Miranda being sweet on the wolf statues at the Minnesota Zoo. She would gladly snuggle up to the real wolves the same way - and given the fact that she is a natural animal charmer, I bet they would even let her - but I won't go for it. Am I the world's meanest mom or what?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Special

Hope the holidays are treating you beautifully! We are enjoying every minute, and to spread the cheer we decided to offer Darkride at just 99 cents on Amazon from Christmas through New Year's! So, if you know anyone who just got a new Kindle - or anyone who could just use a romantic escape from holiday stress - won't you please pass it on? Thanks! We're wishing you plenty of reading time over the holidays season!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

This Review Made Me Happy :)

"Darkride is one of those books that you sit down to read, and find yourself physically incapable of stopping until it's done - and when it is, you still are burning to read more."

Woke up this morning to the best holiday gift of all: a five star review from the wonderful Ricochet Reviews! Not only did reviewer Miranda place Darkride in her top ten books for 2011 (!!) but, even more importantly, I felt like she truly got it, connecting with every character and theme in a way that was gratifying to see. I am thankful for that, and for all that Ricochet Reviews does to promote indie authors in general, and I hope you will show this great blog some love in return!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Team Ander, Anyone? :)

I posted a Luke pic last week, so I thought it was only fair to post an Ander pic this week - otherwise Ander was likely to get jealous! I have to tell you, this wasn't easy to find. Living in Minnesota, I guess I thought big, blond, blue-eyed boys were a dime a dozen, but it turns out that they are actually tough to find out on the wild internets. Who knew? So enjoy, and have an excellent day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who Would We Cast in the Movie?

Yesterday I posted an interview I did with Miranda at Ricochet Reviews. One of the many great questions she asked was this: If you could cast any actor/actresses to play your main characters, who would you select? Well, honestly, I had never given it any thought. I know some writers who think in terms of what celebrity would play their characters, but I've never been one of them, mainly because I have zero memory for actors' names, but also because my characters just look like... themselves. I also had never really fantasized about my book becoming a movie because I was too busy trying to make my book become a book! But I have to admit, it was fun to think about, and I wanted to show you who I came up with.

First, I think it's a no-brainer that Luke would be played by Ethan Peck. Come on, look at the intensity in those dark eyes! Are we sure Ethan isn't a vampire?

Ander is tougher, but I might say Zach Roerig, not only because I'm a huge Vampire Diaries fan, but also because he has that boy-next-door charm.

Cicely is nearly impossible to cast because so many young Hollywood actresses look so airbrushed and I always picture Cicely looking like a "real girl." (That's why I asked my niece Sage to play Cicely on the book cover - because Sage is very beautiful, but also very real. That and the fact that Sage agreed to be paid in old issues of Nylon magazine that I found in my closet.But that's beside the point :) But if I had to take a stab at casting Cicely, I might try Lilly Collins.

And last, I thought it would be impossible to cast Emmie, considering the fact that Emmie is biracial (and there aren't nearly enough biracial actresses in Hollywood) and the fact that Emmie has a very unique beauty. But then I saw Antonia Thomas, and you know what? If she can do a Southern accent, she's in!

So that covers a few of our characters - although I'm the first to admit that I'm not great at this game, and it doesn't even begin to touch on any of the other characters. Who should play Zoe or Lyla or Queen Constanza? Danny or Michael or D.J.? And who would you like to see play Ander or Luke or Cicely? Leave me a comment, please, and help me out!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Interview With A Vampire (okay, actually with me, a chick who writes about vampires. But whatever.)

Miranda over at Ricochet Reviews asks the most insightful, creative interview questions. We chatted about everything from who I would cast in a movie of Darkride (oh, don't I wish!) to which scene was hardest to write (the one that made me cry). I really enjoyed  her questions, and I hope you enjoy reading the answers!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Great Review on Twimom101 Book Blog

"I was grabbed right from the start until the very last word..."

A big thank you to Mandy at Twimom101 Book Blog for your excellent review. It certainly started my holiday week off right! Go check it out, and while you're there, be sure to drop Mandy a comment, and take in some of the other great books featured on this blog worth following!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Darkride is Out Now!

Last night, my seven year old walked in the door and said "Happy Darkride Eve!"  See, he knows that today is sort of a holiday in our family: the day Darkride is finally out as an ebook. And it is out - I can prove it! Just click on the links in the side bar to Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords, and you can see for yourself. In fact, you can even download a copy (for less than the cost of a latte, I might add!) and while you are reading, I invite you to keep this in mind: "Self" publishing is a misnomer. It makes it sound like I put this book out all by my lonesome, when in fact it has taken a whole village of friends and family and mentors and critique partners to get to the point of being able to share this story, and I am extremely thankful for every one of them. And I'm extremely thankful for everyone who reads it, too. I sincerely hope you enjoy it :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top Ten With Twimom 101 Book Blog

I had the fun of doing a little get to know you chat with Mandy at Twimom 101 Book Blog. Check it out and, while you're at it, take a look around an excellent blog :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Two Days 'Til Darkride (Consider Yourself Warned :)

Marcy and I were joking that this picture looked like a Luke PSA: "Stay in school, kids! Don't do drugs, and just say no to vampire boyfriends!" My friend David added "This is your heart. This is your heart on vampires." Any questions? :) Well, it's a lot better than your brain on zombies, that's for sure!

(This pic once again comes to us via Creative Commons, courtesy of the Timo Kohlenberg Studio. They do beautiful work.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Five Days 'Til Darkride, Y'all!

Some people are counting down to the holidays, but we're busy counting down 'til Darkride comes out next Wed. Dec 14th! Thought I'd start y'all off right this morning with a picture of Emmie :)

(Thanks to photographer Sarah Klockars-Clauser for sharing her photo "Pause for Breath" through Creative Commons. Since Darkride is a no-budget production, I am deeply grateful for the generosity of creative people like her!)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eight Day's 'Til Darkride

Good news! We are actually running ahead of schedule, so we've moved the launch date up to next Wednesday, Dec 14th!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Interview on Blkosiner's Book Blog

Brandi Kosiner was kind enough to interview me for her excellent blog, Blkosiner's Book Blog. We chatted about which character I'd most like to have dinner with, what book I'd like to inhabit for a day, and whether pirates are cooler than ninjas! Check it out, and while you're there be sure to read some of her other fun reviews and to sign up for a chance to win a free copy of Darkride!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some Thoughts On Breaking Dawn

Cicely says that "there are mall people and there are library people", and I am generally a library person. Anyone who has read Darkride can probably guess how I feel about the Mall of America, the biggest mall in the US, which is only minutes from my house. In fact, you might think that no amount of money (or heartsbane, for that matter!) could get me to go to the MOA - especially in the middle of the night! But last Thursday night, that's exactly what I did. I headed out to the mall for the midnight premier of Breaking Dawn. It wasn't my first time at the MOA at midnight; I have gone to two other Twilight movie openings there. But it was my first time there since I wrote the MOA scene in Darkride, so this trip made a special impression. I want to tell you all about it, but first a few thoughts on the movie.

I'll admit, even though I was psyched to go to the midnight opening, my expectations for the movie itself were not that high. After all, Breaking Dawn was my least favorite of the Twilight books, the one where it sort of jumped the shark a little and where the politics of the books really began to intrude on my enjoyment. I say this as a true Twi-hard, of course. I love the Twilight Saga like I love a Snickers bar: I know it's not good for me, but I revel in every sweet, nutty bite. I pride myself on being an early adopter of Twilight; my friend the book rep gave me an ARC of the first book and I was recommending it to friends before anyone had ever even heard of it. I even brag that I have an advanced degree in Twilight (Okay, it was only a six week course, but it was a good one!) and I dream of going to Forks. But I still wasn't sure Breaking Dawn would work for me. Luckily, I would say that, for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised. Here are a few things I liked:

--People watching! The fun of going alone to the midnight opening is being able to eavesdrop on the people around you and watch the crowd. This bunch wasn't as fanish as I had expected (very few t-shirts, and not one wedding dress in sight) but they were interesting. For one thing, it was an older crowd than I expected. When I've gone to Twilight openings in the past, there have been more teens and tweens there with moms, but this bunch seemed to be largely 20-somethings (maybe folks who were teens when the Twilight phenomenon started?) Since the MOA has a bar right in the movie theatre, this made for s tipsy crowd! The audience was also more racially diverse than I expected. I remember past crowds as being more white, but this time there seemed to be more Native American and Latina folks, and I had to wonder if that was because of the media attention paid to the Native American wolf-pack actors. Whatever the reason, it was nice to see. (The guy and girl behind me in line were shifting fluidly between English and Spanish. At one point I heard her ask him if he knew anything about the books. He said, "All I know is the guy with corto pelo got buff." :)
--Being able to see the Snow White and Hunger Games trailers on the big screen!
--The fact that the acting has improved. Kristen Stewart seems to have broken the habit she had of saying a line, pausing to act, then saying the next line. She now seems to be able to emote and speak simultaneously, which makes the pace much quicker! Robert Pattinson has improved, too. He is actually finding Edward (after three movies) and seemed much more comfortable.
--More humor! Some of it unintentional (when Edward broke the headboard of the bed during the honeymoon scene, the audience nearly died) but a lot of it an intentional attempt to lighten the mood of an otherwise dark movie. The wedding toasts, in particular, were brilliantly in character.
--The flash-back of Edward in the 1930's, when he was preying on human villains, was particularly nice, with a colorized feel and a non-sparkly vampire edge to it.
--The wolf pack, and particularly Leah and Seth, are very believable.
--Jacob's emotional moment was a long time coming and well done.
--They cast the perfect actress to play Renesme in the flash-forward vision Jacob has when he imprints. (A strange moment, no matter how you look at it, but at least they tried to make it feel a little more appropriate by showing a vision of Renesme as she would look as a teenager, so that the sexualized/romanticized feeling of the moment wasn't focused on a baby!)
--The attempts at pointing up the pro-life/pro-choice debate. They tried to make it explicit by having Alice use the word "fetus" and Rosalie correct her, "It's a baby! Call it what it is!" This happens not once, but twice. The word "choice" is also used very intentionally through-out.
--No one sparkles in the whole movie. Not even on the beaches of Isle Esme.
--The final shot is great. I won't spoil it, but it hit the right ending note.

What I didn't like:

-- I'm not a fan of anything starting with voice-over.
--They seem to make Alice more of a shallow fashion-doll in every movie. Alice is my favorite character and in the books she has a strong personality and she and Bella have a very real sisterly relationship, but in the movies she really gets reduced to shopping for shoes.
--Did the wolves get smaller? In the books, they are the size of horses. In the last movie, they looked big enough to ride on. In this movie, they look like someone shrunk them in the wash to roughly the size of black bears, or maybe even - gasp - wolves! Is this some effect of global warming that no one told me about? Also, I didn't think the wolf CGI was as realistic in this one, which is sort of a big deal, since they do an entire scene with the wolf pack in wolf form, communicating only through their telepathic link.
--Bella had to be painfully thin during the pregnancy scenes. As a result, she was also quite thin in her non-pregnancy, "healthy" scenes. This made me worried. I have struggled with an eating disorder in the past, and I can easily see someone who admires Bella being "triggered" (having her eating-disordered tendencies set off or encouraged) by Bella's weight loss in this movie. I imagine that Bella related "thinspo" or "thinspiration" (photos of extremely thin women shared among anorexics and people who have anorexic tendencies online) are probably all over the internet right now (I'm guessing about this. I don't actually dare look). The movie doesn't exactly glamorize this thinness - Bella is dying for most of the movie and meant to look horrible - but I still worry. Take good care of yourselves, my fellow Twilight fans! Be gentle with yourselves.

I'm sure other things, both positive and negative, will come to mind - especially since I'm sure I'll see the movie again! But actually my favorite moment of the evening wasn't in the movie at all. It was when we were leaving the theatre. I found myself surrounded by a bunch of twenty-something girls, all hyped up on adrenaline and chattering excitedly about vampires, and I felt like I really could be Cicely in the Mall of America scene of Darkride, surrounded by thralls. As we reached the landing, one girl in front of me paused to look out over the still and dark amusement park. "Kinda eerie, isn't it?" she said.

"Yeah." Her friend smiled. "But it would make a hell of a place for a game of hide and seek!"

Seriously made my night :)

Here are a few pictures I took over looking the amusement park at about 2:30 am. They aren't the best pictures, but I still wanted to share them with you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In Process

"My work has always been in process.  Finishing a dance has left me with the idea, often slim in the beginning, for the next one. In that way, I do not think of each dance as an object, rather a short stop on the way."  -- Choreographer Merce Cunningham

I ran across this quote today while working on outlines for Crossfire, the second book in the Darkride Chronicles, and I really identified with the sentiment. I think that anyone who writes a series hopes that each of the books will feel complete in and of itself, but that they will also feel like part of something bigger. We want them to be snapshots of something in motion, moments in the lives of the characters - lives which hopefully go on even off the page. This quote has given me something to think about while I scribble my notes (and clean my kitchen, and go over Darkride copy edits and do all the other things I have to do today!) I am excited for the next stop on the way!

Monday, October 31, 2011

We Have a Cover!

Endless thanks to our model, Sage Aurora Magee, and to photographer Rhonda Kist and cover designer Marcy Rede for this Halloween treat! They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I'm happy to be judged by this one.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Under Cover Work

Okay, so I'm yawning. So I'm on my second or third diet coke of the day. So what? We are so close to having a Darkride cover, I can almost taste it! Almost two weeks ago,  photographer Rhonda Kist spent an evening in the cemetery taking some beautiful shots of model Sage Rory Magee in the role of Cicely. (If you'd like to see the pictures and read more about the shoot, take a look at the Behind the Book page!) I was thrilled with the results, and my partner Marcy and I have been staying up late nights to work on the cover ever since. (In fact, we haven't even taken the time to watch the Vampire Diaries episode we recorded on Thursday, which is saying a lot!) We've been trying different pictures as the cover image and doing what we call "font feng shui," which involves downloading a million beautiful fonts and looking at the title in every single one of them, then subtly shifting the cover elements a millimeter in this direction or then a millimeter in that direction, trying to strike a balance. Obsessive? Yes. But we all know that we do judge a book by its cover and I really want this one to reflect the story inside. I feel grateful for the fact that I get to be part of the cover design fun; writers don't usually get much if any input into their cover images, but because I'm releasing Darkride independently rather than going through a publisher, I can have a hand in every part of the process. I'm a person who loves a DIY project and this one has been a huge learning experience for me. (Did you know that there is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer inspired font called "Buffied"? Or that you can download the font "Fangtasia", inspired by the logo of the vampire bar in Trueblood?)  Just a few more late nights and I'm sure we'll have it just as we want it. Can't wait to show you the results!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Darkride Comes to Light

Do you know what it's like to give all you have for love?

 I do. I put my whole  heart into writing my YA paranormal romance Darkride, and I'm thrilled that you will be able to read it as an ebook soon! I'll be announcing the exact release date the second I have it. Until then, I hope you will make yourself at home on this site.  Read a description of Darkride on the About the Book page or a sample chapter in Take a Taste. Check out some of the making of Darkride in Behind the Book. Comments are very welcome, so let me know what you think!  Become a follower of this site to be the first to know when Darkride comes to light, and be sure to friend me on facebook, too, and visit me at my author website,, for links to free short stories to tide you over as you wait.

Maybe you read Twilight or the Vampire Diaries and they left you hungry for more. Or maybe, like me, you loved vampires long before they sparkled and you'll love them long after. Either way, I hope you find the romance and adventure you crave in Darkride. So, go ahead. Seize the night!