Monday, April 25, 2011

10 of My Favorite Vampires

Day 22 of the A to Z Challenge brings us to a type of character for which I have a definite weakness.

V is for Vampire

I'm currently preparing to shoot the book trailer for my vampire book, which is now ready to start final revisions before I head to the writers' conference this summer.

If I'm writing about vampires, I must have some favorite vampires from films and television that inspire me - don't I?

Of course I do! Here are my top ten:

1 - Blade from the film series of the same name

2 - Viktor from the Underworld film series

3 - Professor Dracula from the 70's TV series Cliffhangers

4 - Louis from Interview With the Vampire

5 - Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's Dracula

6 - Count Dracula from Dracula 2000

7 - Dean Winchester for one episode of Supernatural

8 - Bill Compton from True Blood

9 - Eric Northman from True Blood

10 - Godric from True Blood

Monday, April 18, 2011

10 Questions For Kelly Boyce, Author of The Outlaw Bride

Day 15 of the A to Z Challenge brings us to a very special celebration.

Because today O is for Outlaw Bride.

Whom do I spy through my little opera glasses this week? Oh there - I see her! Debut western historical romance author Kelly Boyce, whose first e-book hits an e-reader near you TODAY.

Quick - let's pick up our skirts and dash over to see her. I'll just wait until she's in between chatting with readers.

Kelly - thank you for making your first stop on your release week promo tour here at A Piece of My Mind.

1 - You've been writing with clearly-plotted writing and career goals since you began your writing journey.

Don't know why I know that...oh, I know why. Because you've been picking me up for the drive to our monthly Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada meetings for the past 8 years. Ha, ha...!

So, what role do you think concrete expectations have for writers, who have to create their own workdays?

For me, concrete expectations are essential.

Where I have a full-time job (like most writers!), I needed to be very strict with my time management to ensure I wrote every day. I put my writing on equal footing with my day job, and since I wouldn’t dream of not showing up for the day job (they frown on that), I also wouldn’t dream of not showing up for the writing gig.

It means hideously early mornings, starting at 5:30am, which allows me 1.5 hours of uninterrupted writing time. I generally write fast, so I’m able to get a fair bit done in that time (although never as much as I’d like).

I set weekly goals, monthly goals, give myself manuscript completion deadlines, etc. I’m pretty goal-oriented, so having those goals keeps me focused.

2 - If I was going to describe you with a quote, I would definitely pick this one by Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism:

"Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy."

I’m one with Lao.

How does this fit with your writing style?

Being a huge planner, I usually have back-up plans for my back-up plans. That way, if Plan A goes haywire, I have Plan B through G at the ready.

But overall, I’m more of a Nike girl. My motto is “Just Do It”. Tired on Monday morning and don’t want to get up? Too bad. Just do it.

Didn’t make my weekly goal by Friday but don’t want to work the weekend? Too bad. Just do it.

3 - Ha, ha! Exactly.

How long have you been a part of RWA?

I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) and RWAC (Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada) in June 2003 and promptly realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

What role do you think this played in your development as a writer?

RWAC is probably one of the most supportive groups of talented writers I have ever come across and they were essential at teaching me everything I didn’t know. I would not be where I am today with my writing had it not been for joining up with this crew.

4 - You served two terms as president of our chapter. How did you manage to balance your day job/RWAC exec/writing life/personal life?

I drank a lot.

Well…okay, not a lot.

I mean, not every day, or anything.

The key to being a great chapter president is having a great executive behind you, which I had during both my terms. They made me look good.

The rest of it – day job, personal life, writing - was sheer time management, but I’m a Capricorn, we thrive on schedules. I break out into a rash if I don’t have a calendar handy. It’s not pretty.

5 - What attracted you to the western historical romance genre, Kelly?

I grew up watching spaghetti westerns and have always been a huge Clint Eastwood fan. My early television viewing included Bonanza, Big Valley and of course Little House on the Prairie.

Me, too!

Added to this, as kids, my brother, Craig would devour books on cowboys, Indians and such, then regurgitate the stories back to me. Safe to say, I was fully immersed in the Old West from a very early age, so writing a western historical romance was an easy fit for me.

Who are your favorite western authors?

Maggie Osborne is at the top.
Cheryl St. John.
Linda Lael Miller is great.
I’ve also recently started reading Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.

6 - If you could set up the perfect western film marathon, what three films would have to be on the playbill?

Oh wow…that’s tough.

Unforgiven, definitely.

And I’m a huge Christian Bale fan and loved 3:10 to Yuma, so that’s definitely on the list.

And the entire series of Deadwood to round things out.

7 - Well, now I'm dying for a peek at what a Kelly Boyce western looks like. Tell us all about Connor Langston.

Aside from being the hottest thing to hit Fatal Bluff since the railway stop, Connor Langston is a good guy trying to do the best he can with the circumstances forced upon him after his brother’s death.

He is a man of honor, whether he likes it or not, and has an indelible sense of right and wrong. And did I mention stubborn and prideful? He starts the story seeing life strictly in black and white, but bit by bit learns things are often shadowed with shades of grey.

8 - And Katherine Slade?

Ah, Katherine…

If ever there was a woman with a streak of bad luck, she would be it. But God love her, that isn’t enough to stop her from trying to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, when a promise to a dead man brings her to Fatal Bluff, her need to make amends collides with her bad luck and she finds herself taking on an assumed identity.

Given that she can’t seem to lie her way out of a jam with any sense of finesse, this charade is destined to end badly. But Kate is never one to give up, and as the story goes along, her sense of justice and determination do not let her down.

9 - What's in store for The Brides of Fatal Bluffs series?

On her way to keep her promise, Katherine meets up with two other mail order brides on their way to Fatal Bluff to meet their intended husbands. Each of these brides will get their own book, and I am toying with an idea for a fourth in the series starring a certain bounty hunter you’ll meet in The Outlaw Bride.

10 - You'll be appearing all over the blogosphere this week - what other stops can readers find you on The Outlaw Bride train?

I am all over the blogosphere this week! Aside from hanging out with you and your lovely readers, I am also making the following appearances:

April 18th: ThePopCultureDivas

Manic Readers

April 19th: My blog!

April 20th: Carina Press Blog as well as Carina’s Facebook page

April 23rd: Petticoats & Pistols

Thank you, Kelly - and congratulations on this very special milestone.

Here is an exclusive excerpt from The Outlaw Bride:

Connor Langston dropped the wanted poster on his desk. He stood, the chair scraping across the floor behind him. Weariness settled into his bones. He placed both his hands on the small of his back and stretched the muscles.

“If the woman doesn’t want to marry Figg, I can’t force her, Oliver.”

“I understand, Sheriff. I just don’t want her to create a scene. I have my business reputation to consider.” Oliver Hewitt patted down the thin ridge of black hair that wound around his shiny head. A sly, hopeful expression blanketed his features. “You know, Sheriff, if she won’t marry Figg, perhaps you should marry her. Lord knows you could use a wife, what with your current predicament and all.”

Connor’s jaw prickled with warmth. He didn’t need anyone musing about his predicament, current or otherwise. It irritated the hell out of him that eight years later the people in this town still looked upon him with pity. He was tired of their sympathy doled out in the tragic clucking of tongues and heartfelt pats on the backs. He didn’t need the constant reminder. He just wanted to get on with his life.

“I don’t need a wife,” he bit out, glaring at the small man.

The sound of raised voices filtered through the half-open door.

“Oh dear…” Oliver’s shoulders hunched up to his ears as if he could block out the noise. “Sheriff, please!”

Connor’s patience snapped. “Dammit, Oliver! Can’t you ever take on a venture without it turning into a complete disaster?”

The deep baritone of Bart’s voice interrupted Connor’s outburst before Oliver could respond. “Why don’t you run along, Oliver. We’ll be right behind you.”

“Yes, yes. Perfect. Wonderful. Thank you, Sheriff!” Oliver spun around quickly and hustled out the door, reminding Connor of a waddling duck.

Bart pulled out a cheroot from the front pocket of his shirt and lit the end. “Stop glarin’ after the man, son, and let’s go break up the brouhaha.”

Connor stalked to the door and yanked his hat from the hook, jamming it onto his head. “Why am I getting dragged into this?”

Bart chuckled, a low rumble from deep within his chest. He slapped Connor on the back. “You’re getting dragged into this, son, because one day you woke up, rolled outta bed and said, ‘Today I think I wanna be sheriff.’”

Connor barely remembered that day. At the time there had been too many other things to think about.

A shriek interrupted his thoughts and he picked up the pace, running across the street toward the train depot, where a growing crowd waited to greet him.

Though he suspected there wasn’t much left in the world to surprise him, Connor had to admit finding a feisty red-headed woman dangling arse end up over Walter Figg’s shoulder was a bit startling.

“Put me down! I don’t care what you were expecting, I changed my mind. Now let me go this instant and go back under the rock you crawled out from! I will not marry you and you can’t make me.” Small fists pounded Walter’s back with all the fury of a cornered bobcat.

“Shut yer yap, woman.”

A string of colorful names rent the air. “Get your filthy hands off me, you flea-bitten warthog!”

Standing in the crowd, Clara Bates gasped and slapped her hands over her son’s ears. Several others snickered, the ruckus breaking up the monotonous routine of their day. Walter appeared the only one unmoved by the woman’s declaration, or her flailing limbs.

With a frustrated groan, Connor shouldered his way through the growing crowd to stand in front of the jilted groom. This was not how he had planned on spending his day, arguing with the slow-witted mountain man and kicking up a row for all the townsfolk to mull over and discuss for a week of Sundays.

For about the tenth time that day, Connor seriously questioned the new vocation he had acquired. With a weary shake of his head, he pointed to the boardwalk in front of him and addressed the would-be groom. “Walter, put the lady down.”

- Kelly Boyce, 2011

The Outlaw Bride is available from Carina Press TODAY - Click here for details

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jets vs Sharks at Neptune's West Side Story

Day 10 of the A to Z Challenge brings us to J - and today that stands for Jerome Robbins, Jets vs Sharks, and Jim White.

When you're a dance freak like me, there are certain iconic dance moments that just give you shivers.

This Sharks moment is one of them.

The triad of Puerto Rican immigrants refusing to give up their stake in their New York neighborhood is a masculine thing of beauty, portrayed above by National Ballet of Canada dancers in West Side Story Suite, a second version of Robbins' choreography arranged for dance companies.

Here Jerome Robbins rehearses the moment where the three Sharks kick out at their rivals, the Jets, while reaching for the proverbial better life.

They do so in harmony, because their gang gives them strength in numbers in the unwelcoming streets of America.

What Jerome Robbins' staging of this groundbreaking piece of musical theatre did in 1957 was to elevate the dance portion of the musical triumverate. His steps weren't just a part of the story being told - his steps told the story on their own.

Canadian choreographer Jim White has adapted Mr. Robbins' work for Halifax's Neptune stage, ingeniously keeping the signature dance sequences while fitting entire gangs into a limited space.

With every production, I stand in awe of the ways that set designers make Neptune appear to be three times as big. But for West Side Story, the biggest challenge is the choreography - and Jim White has pulled off a minor miracle.

To see what I mean, try to imagine the following piece (from the 1961 film version) in an area 33 feet across and 17 feet high. Granted, set designer Geofrey Dinwiddie stretched his options to include the side entry doors bracketing the stage. Climbable scaffolding becomes tennement fire escapes and gives Mr. White extra space to place his dancers.

Oh, how I love that piece. Obviously, my favorite from this favorite of all musicals.

It can be both a joy and a hinderance to watch a performance of something so beloved, because there are certain things you want to see. Settling into my seat at Neptune, I had no idea what to expect - but I should have known they would pull off the seemingly impossible.

The opening 10-minute-long dance Prologue unfolded seamlessly, and when those three Sharks stepped into that side battements my heart thrilled with joy.


Liam Tobin's effortless tenor soared through difficult songs like Maria while delivering the lyrics with the immediacy of dialogue. I definitely enjoyed his confident performance, considering he's only beginning his musical theatre career.


Anwyn Musico handled equally challenging vocals with her fearless soprano. I can't tell you what a joy it was to hear these two sing their duets.


Stephenos Christou led that glorious Sharks moment for which I was waiting, as the leader of the Puerto Rican gang. His charismatic turn along with show standout Dayna Tietzen as Bernardo's girlfriend Anita might have overshadowed the youthful leads if they hadn't hit those notes with such bullseyes.


Dayna Tietzen managed to shine brightest among this large cast of solid performers. Her dancing burned brightly with exceptional technique, while her lovely alto caressed and her portrayal of Anita reached out to connect deeply with her audience.


Galen Johnson's voice was not in the same league as the other two parts of his triple threat, which were exceptional. I definitely enjoyed his nuanced performance as a gang leader struggling to keep the lid on the more excitable members of his crew.


Finally, Dani Jazzar, another third of that special Sharks moment, was a big favorite of mine as Bernardo's lieutenant and Maria's unrequited love. He prowled with fury, giving membership in a gang authenticity, while tugging my heartstrings when he realized Maria was lost to him.

West Side Story runs through May 29th at Neptune Theatre in Halifax.

A few more Jerome Robbins moments on J Day -

I once had the pinch-me-is-this-real moment of watching Jerome Robbins walk past me when I worked at a performing arts theatre in Toronto. His piece The Concert was premiering with The National Ballet of Canada, and he was at our theatre for the event.

I couldn't believe that the legend himself was walking along the aisle right in front of me.

CLICK HERE to listen to Peter Martins speak about how Jerome Robbins' West Side Story literally changed his life - inspiring him to emigrate to the US.

Finally, here's a brief interview of Mr. Robbins as he talks about Fancy Free, where you can see his fondness for using three males dancing in unison to represent a larger culture.

Monday, April 4, 2011

10 Questions For Deborah Hale, Author of the Gentlemen of Fortune Series

Day 4 of the A to Z Challenge brings us to my arts feature, Through the Opera Glasses.

Whom do I spy through the crush?

Why, I do believe it's a Harlequin Historicals author and my fellow Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada member.

Because today, D is for Deborah Hale.

Oh, there she is! *waving my fan* Ms. Hale! Oh, Ms. Hale! Fancy meeting up - let's get out of this press. The A to Z crowd - they're very keen!

*phew* That's better. Here - let's take a glass of punch and sit over here.

1 - Deb, I was thinking about your first published book being a direct result of your Golden Heart win. Looking back - after 25 books! - how did your contest experiences benefit you as an emerging writer?

Let me count the ways!

For one thing, it was great training for meeting deadlines. It gave me a goal to work toward and an objective measure of my progress.

It also helped me to network before I had a local RWA chapter and the Internet was in its infancy. Through the Golden Heart I was able to connect with some wonderful mentors who taught me so much about the craft and business of romance writing.

2 - Do you work with a critique partner?

I have worked with a number of critique partners over the years and found it a terrific experience.

More recently, however, I’ve gotten much more editorial feedback from both my editor and my agent. So they’re kind of like my critique partners, except I don’t have to critique their work!

*hiding behind my fan* I know - it's a time thing. As in, I have someone waiting patiently for me to return his critiqued manuscript and I don't know why he hasn't set the dogs on me.

I still have a couple of trusted writing friends I can swap material with when I’m trying something different or need fresh eyes.

3 - You know, you have a natural gift for breaking down something that's rather complex, and then switching on the mental lightbulbs.

Thank you so much – you made my week!

But it's true! Your craft-of-writing workshops are so popular with our own Romance Writer of Atlantic Canada members, and beyond.

Photo by Lori Robitaille of Deb's Relationship Dynamics workshop at the 2006 writers' retreat

I love being able to share some of my own hard-learned lessons with other writers.

Did you always consider yourself a teacher by nature, or did you discover this through your writing career?

In my pre-writing life I was a teacher, so giving workshops and writing craft articles provides my teaching-fix these days. Often when I stop to plan a presentation or article, it helps remind me that I know more than I sometimes think I do!

4 - Do you like to write to music, or do you crave silence?

When I’m working on new material, the right instrumental music really helps me get into my story world. I wrote my two Luna fantasy novels to the score of Lord of the Rings.

Oh, I love that soundtrack.

Since I’ve been concentrating on Regencies, my favorite writing music is the soundtrack from the movie Casanova and an album called Two Upon a Ground by Chevari Agreable. If I’m writing a scene that takes place at a ball or assembly, I have a CD of Regency dance music that provides great atmosphere.

Do you have food-pitfalls that silence your creativity?

As for food, I’m much more productive and creative when I can wean myself off sugar and refined carbs – but that’s easier said than done! A cup of coffee first thing in the morning can jump-start my writing but much more than that affects my concentration.

Any food 'tools' that entice your muse?

A glass of wine late in the evening can put me in the right mood for writing love scenes!

5 - Have you ever written a book as a response to reader demand? You know, 'Please give us So-and-so's story...'

I had reader requests for Con ap Ifan’s story after he was introduced in The Elusive Bride. But I was keen to write Border Bride, anyway. I’ve had other requests, sometimes for the stories of my villains. Maybe one of these days I’ll figure out a way to reform them!

6 - How did the Gentlemen of Fortune series come about?

It was rather by accident, but later felt as if it was meant to be.

I had a proposal rejected by Harlequin Historical because it wasn’t emotionally intense enough, so I sent my editor three story ideas that I hoped would be a better fit. She chose the one that eventually became Married: The Virgin Widow.

Since I needed the hero to have made a lot of money, legally, in a short time, I did some research and discovered that the trading port of Singapore had been founded during the Regency and vast fortunes made there. HH accepted that proposal, and offered me a three-book contract.

When my editor suggested the second two books might be connected in some way, I said I could connect all three by giving Ford Barrett a couple of business partners. After that a lot of things just fell into place as I wrote the first book that led into the others.

7 - Tell us about Ford Barret.

Ford is the hero of Married: The Virgin Widow. He believes he was used and betrayed by the woman he loved and now he’s in a position to get a bit of his own back. But revenge isn’t nearly as sweet a dish as he thinks it will be.

And Laura Penrose?

Laura has been through a lot since her courtship with Ford fell apart. She’s coped with it all by numbing her heart. When Ford returns, that isn’t an option any more.

8 - What is Hadrian Northmore really like?

Hadrian is one of my favorite heroes from all my books. He has literally fought his way to the top from the lowest depths by refusing to let anyone stand in his way. He has a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder about social class, so Lady Artemis Dearing represents everything he despises. Yet he can’t resist his feelings for her.

What about Artemis Dearing?

Artemis comes from a prominent family that has lost everything but its pride. She resents upstarts like the Northmores…until she gets to know Hadrian and discovers how much alike they are beneath all their superficial differences.

9 - Would you enjoy meeting Simon Grimshaw in real life?

I would definitely want Simon to have my back in a tight spot, as happens to Bethan when they first meet. Like her, I would admire the way he uses his wits to defuse a volatile situation.

And Bethan Conway?

I would love to spend time with Bethan! She’s such a refreshingly direct country girl, but with a secret or two to make her intriguing.

10 - Deb, you've had quite a few books adapted into manga format. Who approached you about embarking in this new direction?

Actually, I didn’t know anything about it until they popped up on the Japan Harlequin website. When I sell my rights to Harlequin they want everything. That means if some cool new format for story delivery comes along – audio, e-books, book-based games, etc. they have the worldwide marketing muscle to run with it!

What was your initial response?

I love the fantastic job the Japanese illustrators have done with The Wizard’s Ward and Beauty and the Baron. I’ve heard they may be coming out in manga format in English, which I would love to see!

As a special treat for A Piece of My Mind readers, Deb is insisting we give away a copy of Married: The Virgin Widow to one lucky commenter. Contest closes at midnight Atlantic Standard Time, Tuesday, Apr. 5th.

Deb will draw the name and the winner will be announced here. Please leave us a way to find you in your comment, either a link to your blog or your email address.

Here's an exclusive excerpt from Bought: The Penniless Lady. Enjoy!

'Hadrian stretched out on the bed with a drowsy sigh. Artemis covered him with a light blanket. As she drew it up under his chin, a bewildering impulse compelled her to raise her hand and smooth a stray lock of dark hair back from his forehead.

"It feels quite pleasant, being tucked in like a wee lad. I’d almost forgotten." One corner of his mouth curled into a crooked smile that was dangerously endearing. “Do I get a kiss to sweeten my dreams?”

The word kiss caused Artemis a spasm of alarm mixed with a searing flare of desire. He did not mean that kind of kiss, she chided herself. All he wanted was the sort of innocent peck on the cheek or forehead she gave Lee when she put him to bed at night. Having caught a heartbreaking glimpse of Hadrian’s nightmares, she knew he needed something to sweeten his dreams, if anyone did.

“If you like.” The words came out in a tremulous whisper as she bent over him.

Her lips grazed over his brow, relishing the warm smoothness of his skin. She inhaled a deep draft of his spicy, smoky scent. Her well-honed sense of discretion warned her that she should not linger so close to Hadrian, but her body was slow to respond. After a brief struggle with herself, she tried to pull away, only to feel the hot mist of his breath and the velvet caress of his lips upon her throat. The unexpected thrill of those sensations held her captive there, hovering over him.

Though she could not break away, she was not entirely paralyzed either. His overture called forth an answer from her. Before caution had a chance to intervene, her lips grazed the outer corner of one devilish dark brow then trailed down to the crest of his high cheekbone. As she moved, his kisses swept along the sensitive flesh just below her jaw, moving over her chin and finally upward to meet her approaching lips.

She’d received enough kisses from Hadrian by now that this one had a deliciously familiar feel. But it held a subtle thrill of novelty, too. She sensed a tender restraint on his part, which appealed not only to her physical desires but also to her wary heart.

Her heart had good reason to be wary, painful memories reminded her – all the more because she had allowed herself to feel something for her husband. It was only a compound of compassion, curiosity and admiration, spiced with reluctant desire. But that could be more than enough to scorch her if she risked playing with fire.'

- Deborah Hale, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Top Ten Oscar Gowns From the 2011 Red Carpet

Last weekend my very favorite night of the year - after Christmas Eve, of course - unfolded from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Continuing a three-year tradition here at A Piece of My Mind, here are my top ten gowns from the Oscar arrivals red carpet:

1 - My favorite: Co-host Anne Hathaway's scarlet strapless Valentino gown with Victorian-style train, complete with rose detailing.

Anne made a previous appearance on my 2008 list. You can check previous Oscar gown posts by clicking on my Weekly Look at the Arts tab just below the blog header.

Photo by John Shearer

2 - Hilary Swank's feathery strapless Gucci Premiere gown dazzled.

Hilary previously appeared on my 2008 list.

Photo by Lucy Nicholson

3 - I really loved this ethereal Monique Lhuillier crystal-encrusted gown with an illusion neckline worn by Mandy Moore.

Photo by Steve Granitz

4 - This ruby-red stunner was worn by an unnamed guest of supporting actor nominee John Hawkes.

Photo by Jason Merritt

5 - Helen Mirren makes her third appearance on my Top Ten Oscar Gowns list with this sculpted Vivienne Westwood gown.

Photo by Matt Sayles

6 - John Hawkes' Winter's Bone co-star Dale Dickey shimmered in this sequined off-the-shoulder blue sheath dress.

Photo by Lucy Nicholson

7 - Jennifer Hudson rocked in this fitted tangerine Versace mermaid gown.

Photo by Jason Merritt

8 - The incredibly stunning Aishwarya Rai shone by going for understatement with a bronze sequined Armani Privet gown.

9 - Michelle Williams was luminous in this short-sleeved beaded Chanel sheath dress.

Photo by Frazer Harrison

10 - Having made the Worst Dressed List for previous Oscars, Helena Bonham Carter's restraint with this custom-designed gown by Oscar-winner Colleen Atwood was a welcome surprise. I especially loved her fan-shaped clutch.

Photo by Jason Merritt