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!