Tender Bites Contest Running All Month Long

Don’t forget, kittens, I’m doing a contest!  The rules are simple – review Tender Bites somewhere on the interwebs, email me the link at lucybluecastle@gmail.com, and you’re entered to win.  At the end of the contest I will literally put everybody’s email address into a literal hat and draw out a winner.  And the winner will get autographed paperback copies of all three books in the Bound in Darkness medieval vampire romance series, written, obviously, by me.  (To get a peek at what those are exactly, click this link:  https://lucybluecastle.wordpress.com/bound-in-darkness/)

The Details:

1 – Reviews do NOT need to be positive to be considered contest entries.  One review = one entry, regardless. 

2 – If you do more than one review or post your one review more than one place, send me each link separately – every link counts as its own review and its own entry in the contest. 

3 – You don’t have to buy your own copy of the e-book to review it – how would I even know?- but I do insist that you actually read it.  If it’s obvious from your review that you haven’t read it yet, that you’re reviewing the promo materials or me as a writer in general or life its own self, I won’t enter it, and you can’t make me.  I can’t imagine anybody doing that, but gurus tell me that stuff I can’t imagine happens online every day of the week, so I figured I’d just mention it.

4- The contest is open as of right now, and closes at midnight on December 1, 2012.  I’ll do the drawing later that day and post the results here.  Obviously make sure I have a good email address for you with your entry so I can email you if you win. 

And that’s it.  Or at least I think that’s it – if you have any questions or I’ve left anything out, tell me so in the comments so I can address it.  Thanks, kittens!  Tell me what you think!

Tender Bites Contest – I’m suppressing the urge to use yet another exclamation point . . .

Don’t forget, kittens, I’m doing a contest!  The rules are simple – review Tender Bites somewhere on the interwebs, email me the link at lucybluecastle@gmail.com, and you’re entered to win.  At the end of the contest I will literally put everybody’s email address into a literal hat and draw out a winner.  And the winner will get autographed paperback copies of all three books in the Bound in Darkness medieval vampire romance series, written, obviously, by me.  (To get a peek at what those are exactly, click this link:  https://lucybluecastle.wordpress.com/bound-in-darkness/)

The Details:

1 – Reviews do NOT need to be positive to be considered contest entries.  One review = one entry, regardless. 

2 – If you do more than one review or post your one review more than one place, send me each link separately – every link counts as its own review and its own entry in the contest. 

3 – You don’t have to buy your own copy of the e-book to review it – how would I even know?- but I do insist that you actually read it.  If it’s obvious from your review that you haven’t read it yet, that you’re reviewing the promo materials or me as a writer in general or life its own self, I won’t enter it, and you can’t make me.  I can’t imagine anybody doing that, but gurus tell me that stuff I can’t imagine happens online every day of the week, so I figured I’d just mention it.

4- The contest is open as of right now, and closes at midnight on December 1, 2012.  I’ll do the drawing later that day and post the results here.  Obviously make sure I have a good email address for you with your entry so I can email you if you win. 

And that’s it.  Or at least I think that’s it – if you have any questions or I’ve left anything out, tell me so in the comments so I can address it.  Thanks, kittens!  Tell me what you think!

Lucy Blue on Author Central!

My Author Central page on Amazon is now officially up and running and ready to serve the full menu of my vampy goodness. Plus a bio, links, and other goodies to help you find something to read. Writers, if you haven’t gone to Amazon and done one of these, you’re missing a great opportunity, even if you have less-than-warm-and-fuzzy feelings about Amazon – it’s your own little website within the website, and it’s tied in to their huge stream of reader traffic.
Here’s the link to mine: http://www.amazon.com/Lucy-Blue/e/B001IXQ7TQ

Budapest

 Okay, kittens, here it is – the last preview tidbit from Tender Bites before it goes live on Amazon tomorrow. 

“Budapest” is the most contemporary story in the collection; I envision it happening pretty much right now.  In every vampire story I’ve done before, the vampires have either been isolated predators or, as in the case of the Bound in Darkness series, all connected to one another through a single quest or event.  In “Budapest,” I’ve played with the idea of a vampire society that isn’t exactly open but isn’t isolated, either, a system of connection between vamps and how that would affect their relationships with one another and the mortal world.  It’s one thing to say “I’ll love you forever” to someone whose body at least is going to eventually die; it’s something else when you and your beloved one are literally, physically immortal.  It’s not a new idea, obviously – I may be the only vampire writer on the planet who hasn’t gone here yet.  But this is my take. 

Budapest

Last Tuesday

Cat climbed out of her lead-lined coffin, stumbled, and nearly fell flat on her face.  It was barely sunset; she was still mostly asleep.  The pounding on the door started again, louder this time.  “Who is it?” she demanded, her eyes darting around the barely-familiar hotel room.  Where the hell had she put her sword?  She grabbed the gun with blessed bullets from the nightstand instead—less reliable, particularly against atheist vampires, but hopefully in Budapest, that wouldn’t be an issue. 

“Richard,” the door replied.  “Catriona, let me in.”

“Oh for pity’s sake . . .”  She fumbled the deadbolt open and reached for the handle.  “What are you doing here?”

“You’re not an easy girl to find,” he muttered, pushing past her.

“That was rather the idea,” she retorted. 

Richard was the oldest friend of her momentarily estranged lover, Indo.  In fact, rumor had it Richard was the oldest friend any vampire had, that he was the oldest vampire left roaming the earth.  She had never thought he looked the part.  Tall, thin, and blond with a patrician nose and the perpetual squint of a perpetual scholar, he always looked like an unmade bed.  Tonight he was even more rumpled than usual, his wrinkled coat far too thin for the chill winds of Eastern Europe in November.  Her nostrils flared, picking up the smell of blood, faded faint but still distinct, the smell of a powerful death – vampire blood, not human.  His black coat was covered with it.  This was not normal.  She had known Richard for three hundred years, and she had never once seen him take a living victim.  He had been the first vampire of her acquaintance to attempt to live on cow’s blood, and he was rumored to be one of the so-called “Blessed Nine” scientists and alchemists who had been working for decades on creating a synthetic.  If he were stained with vampire blood, something bad had happened.  “Richard, where is Indo?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea.”  Indo had left her six months before, swearing once again she was too wicked, too savage for bearing.  She had accidentally taken too much from a perfectly willing thrall and put the stupid girl in the hospital where she had recovered completely in the space of a day.  But Indo, Enforcer that he was, had completely overreacted, as he always did, and had taken off in a huff.  He always went to Richard when they had these fights.  Richard was his sanctuary, his monastery, his ashram, his calm.  But now Richard was covered in vampire blood, and he looked anything but calm.   He was prowling the room like a cat, peering into the bathroom, the closet.  “I suppose he could have gone back home to Tokyo.”  He yanked back the drapes, exposing her impressive view of the city.  “I honestly don’t know.”

“But he is alive.”  She put her hand on his shoulder.  “Richard?”

“Of course Indo is alive,” he said bitterly, his eyes searching the dark as if for predators or prey.  “If anyone ever truly threatened to kill Indo, I have no doubt some sort of samurai angel with a golden katana and a thousand tongues of fire would rush immediately to his defense.”

Cat suppressed an unbecoming snort.  “Did the two of you have a tiff?”

He gave her a look that could have wilted a cactus.  “You could say that.”

“Oh dear . . . . So what do you want me to do about it?”  She started to move away, but he caught hold of her robe, silk clenched in a dirty fist.  “What’s wrong with you?” she asked, worried all over again.

“I’m very tired, Catriona.”  He was looking at her in a way he’d never looked at her before.  Other men had, of course – humans who thought they were predators before they realized they were prey; vampires who mistook her delicacy for weakness.  It was a hungry look, a conqueror’s look.  It looked strange on Richard . . . strange because in the dim light of the hotel room, it fit his face so well. 

She reached down and disengaged his hand from her robe.  “Maybe you should tell me all about it.”

He clamped his hand around her wrist like he was grabbing a sword hilt, hard and sure and painfully tight–none of the adjectives she would ever have associated with being held by Richard.  She had never realized how big he was before, how powerful.  He had always seemed hunched, a spider, a scholar.  Now he was standing up quite straight, and she realized how broad he was at the shoulders, how big his hands were.  “No.”  For once he wasn’t squinting in the slightest.  She had never noticed how blue his eyes were, how intense his gaze could be.  “I don’t want to tell you anything about it.”  He dragged her closer, his free hand going to the draped closure of her robe.  “I don’t want to talk.”

Angelique

Another tasty morsel from Tender Bites, coming this weekend from Amazon.  This is the only first-person story in the batch, told from the point of view of Amadeo, the hunky vampire in question.  He goes to Paris during the Terror to do murder in the streets and ends up discovering his soulmate . . .

Angelique

Paris 1792

 

Chaos breeds vampires as a plague breeds rats; one feeds off the other so efficiently that matters of cause and effect become mere questions of philosophy.  Commit enough mortals to the cause of carnage, and the vampires simply appear; like the rat, we cannot choose but to respond.  And rarely had rats and vampires alike smelled such a feast as could be nosed in the madness of Paris after La Revolution. 

I hadn’t intended to partake.  I had entered one of those tiresome stages in a vampire’s eternity when the whole world seemed a pointless cesspool.  Born in the cruel savagery of the ancient world, I had watched the progress of civilization make art of madness, order from chaos, grace from the random superstition of human faith.  But over the course of the last century, I had seen this beautiful new world ripped apart brick by brick by its so-called great minds.  I was not a fan of revolution, even in the name of justice.  What is justice to a predator?  Paris had once been the jewel of the world, the center of learning and culture, my favorite spot on earth, more dear to me even than Venice or Rome.  Now the streets ran with offal, and great stinking apes more thirsty for blood than any vampire held sway.  But my friends insisted the hunting was too good to resist, and so I came.  And it was there that I met my Angelique.

Angelique Dumont was the daughter of two of the most pinched-nose blue bloods in France.  On the night I first saw her, she already wore a red ribbon at her throat in bitter remembrance of a father and two brothers sent to the guillotine.  She, her mother, and a single plump cherub of a sister were defiantly established in a flat within sight of the palace of Tuileries.  Like most of what remained of the aristocracy, she passed her days making desperate plans to escape to England with the family fortune and her nights in desperate gaiety, pretending flight was the furthest thing from her mind.

The ballroom at the city palace was not so grand as the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, but it was dazzling nonetheless, lit by hundreds of flickering candles and packed from wall to wall.  So when the painted doll of a girl stumbled out into the midnight garden, her green eyes were as blind as an infant’s.  “Merde,” she swore, tripping on the hem of her gold-embroidered skirt as she dove gracelessly for the support of a nearby column.  Glancing back over her shoulder toward the ball, she didn’t see me in the shadows.  I watched in amusement, arms folded on my chest, as this delicate blossom of the uppermost crust vomited into a hedge.

“Too much wine, mam’selle?” I inquired politely, offering her my handkerchief.

She screamed another oath and straightened up so quickly her heavy powdered wig slipped precariously to one side.  But she collected herself quickly, giving her head a slight jerk that caused the wig to right itself as if by magic.  “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur,” she said as she turned around, smiling prettily. 

Then she saw my less-than-glittering attire.  The men she was accustomed to meeting in gardens wore jewel-encrusted silks and gold-embroidered velvet.  I would sooner have had a stake carved from the True Cross driven through my heart.  I was wearing leather and a servant’s broadcloth coat with my own hair pulled back in a simple ribbon.  I wouldn’t even pass for a footman.  “How did you get in here?” she grumbled, snatching the handkerchief from my hand and spitting the last of the sourness from her mouth into its plain linen folds.  “Go back to the stables where you belong.”

“Your gratitude warms my heart.”  Truth be told, her snobbery made me adore her at first sight.  She was all I could wish in a quarry, sleek and impudent as a vixen.  “No wonder votre famille is beloved by all in Paris.”

The color rose in her cheeks luridly enough to show pink through the heavy powder.  She raised her little hand to slap me, and I smiled, knowing when she struck me, I would take her.

But she did not strike.  “A thousand apologies, Monsieur Stableman,” she said, making a deep, graceful curtsey that must have been the envy of every royal ass-licker at court.  “I thank you for your kindness.”  She rose and turned away, leading me deeper into the garden, the last thing I expected.  And the one thing I have never been able to resist is a surprise. 

Check out the backlist!

I just finished making spiffy new pages for the two trilogies I wrote for Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster:  The Falconskeep Trilogy and Bound in Darkness.  Check’em out – there are links for each at the top of the page.  And if you haven’t read these yet (or like so many readers find yourself missing an installment), by all means, watch this space.  I’m going to be giving away paperbacks as part of a contest to promote the new e-book anthology, Tender Bites, I’ve got coming out later this week.

So I have a cover!

Here’s a sneaky peek at the cover of my upcoming anthology of vampire short stories – my hubby, Max Castle, did the layout & design, with some editorial assistance from my BFF & research goddess, Marcia Addison.  Pretty nifty, huh?

And then came no . . .

So Monday, I heard back from the literary agent who had asked to see three chapters of my manuscript.  As soon as I saw the email in my box, I was pretty sure it was bad news – it came back too quickly.  The agent who wrote me was very kind and very professional and had all kinds of good things to say about my credentials.  But bottom line, this is what she said:

While the story was entertaining, and marketable due to its  draw upon our culture’s love of all things celebrity, I had a difficult time personally connecting with the voice. The story felt very plotted, very matter-of-fact. I think this is perhaps in part to the past present tense which we’re learning of the actions, the very nature of hearing the story after the fact. Regardless, the voice made it hard for me to really feel a part of the story. I kept waiting for that moment that I felt like I would be “all in” and unfortunately that moment never came.

She went on to suggest that I consider a kind of flashback/flash forward structure so that there’s a more immediate sense of urgency to the action.  Anybody who survived me watching the last couple of seasons of Lost will know my reaction to that, and those who didn’t can probably guess.  There was more, and it was all very thoughtful and polite, and I will be sending her a genuinely heartfelt thank you note.  Because while I’m bitterly disappointed, I know from her letter that she wasn’t the right agent for this book – she didn’t like it; she didn’t “get” it; it didn’t speak to her.  That doesn’t mean she’s not a great reader and a great agent – everything about what she wrote and how promptly she wrote it suggests that she is. 

But it doesn’t mean my book isn’t a great book, either.  As painful as they are and as useless as they feel at the moment they happen, this is what all those rejections do for us – or have done for me, anyway.  When I was a new writer, if a New York agent had taken the time to write me a long letter telling me what was “wrong” with my book, I would have broken a bone rushing off to the computer to “fix” it.  It would never in a million years have occurred to me that she might be mistaken or that other people just as fabulous might disagree with her and – perish the thought! – agree with me instead.  But now, after seven books that a lot of people have paid for, read, and loved, piles of rejections, and years and years of reviews, good, bad, and brutally ugly, I know that one woman’s meh is another woman’s page-turner, and vice versa.  I’m not saying I ignore criticism and advice or that I’m always right or that every writer has to “follow her own path” or whatever – that way lies madness, kittens.  (Just ask anybody who’s read anything the brilliant, wacko, and entirely-self-propelled Anne Rice has written in the past 10 years.)  What I am saying is that my opinion – and your opinion on your own work – matters, too; matters a lot; ultimately matters most.  So the trick is to listen carefully to the criticism, think like a grown-up about what’s being said in relation to your manuscript not as your precious baby but as a piece of work, one of many you’ll produce over your career, and decide what to incorporate and what to leave alone.  And in this case, I’ve decided what to incorporate is, either find another agent who does connect with the book or self-publish it as I originally planned, not because this woman isn’t smart but because in this particular instance, this woman is wrong. 

And incidentally, in her letter, she allows quite graciously for this possibility:

As you know this is a business based on personal taste and as obvious from my notes above, these couldn’t be more subjective of opinions. I wish you the best in finding a better suited match for this project.

I think that’s very kind, and I intend to take her good wishes in the lovely spirit in which they were obviously intended.  And if I write something in the future that I think is more in keeping with what she’s looking for, I will definitely consider sending it to her – again, I couldn’t ask for a more thoughtful reading.  But in the meantime, American Starlet is going to stay as she is.  Because I love Scarlett’s voice, and I’m still convinced a lot of other readers will, too.

Finally, a yes – querying an agent

Last week, I saw a reference to a particular literary agency on my Twitter feed.  I clicked over to their website and saw that not only did they apparently represent work like mine, they represent another writer who used to work with the same editor as me at Pocket.  They had very clear and specific submission guidelines, and I have a completed manuscript, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least send them a query.  They listed their response time to query emails as 2 weeks, so I figured I had nothing to lose.  Last Friday, I sent them an email, and yesterday, they emailed me back – they want to see the first three chapters!

Nothing more may come of this – they may read my chapters and decide they aren’t interested after all.  But I’ve made it over a hurdle, and it was almost entirely painless.  My only hesitation in sending the query in the first place was a childish but horrible fear of more rejection – I couldn’t face one more no.  So getting a positive response so quickly is a very, very good thing. 

Btw, I absolutely loathe writing queries – I hate being my own advertiser; it just feels wrong.  And I know a lot of other writer peeps who feel the same, some of whom have been known to check in here at the blog.  So for the record, here’s the one that worked for me this time:

Dear Ms. XXXXX –

                 The best, most accurate pitch line I can give you for my new novel, American Starlet, is “Valley of the Dolls as written by Flannery O’Conner.”  The fictional memoir of Scarlett Cross, the daughter of a Hollywood movie idol and a fashion model from Tupelo, Mississippi, it’s lurid and tragic, trashy and satirical.  Scarlett witnesses her mother’s brutal murder at the age of four, and she spends the next thirty-plus years (and three installments) fighting to first forget then to discover how and why it happened.  American Starlet, a manuscript of 109,626 words, briefly touches on her childhood before moving on to her adolescence and young womanhood, including her rise as an actress in her own right and the start of her stormy lifelong romance with on-again, off-again husband, two-time Sexiest Man Alive Romeo Kidd.  Book 1 is complete, and I have detailed synopses for two sequels, American Actress and American Movie Star. 

                 Before Scarlett, I wrote six historical/paranormal romances published by Pocket Books – The XXXXX Agency client XXXXXXX and I used to share the same editor, Lauren McKenna.  A Falcon’s Heart, This Dangerous Magic, and Wicked Charms were published under the name Jayel Wylie, and A Falcon’s Heart was dubbed a “Desert Island Keeper” by All About Romance.  My Demon’s Kiss, The Devil’s Knight, and Dark Angel are medieval vampire romances I wrote as Lucy Blue – German editions of those three books were released in 2011 and 2012, and I’m still collecting royalties from e-book sales. 

                 Until the agency was sold earlier this year, I was represented by Russell & Volkening.  Timothy Seldes was my agent through the first six books, and Joy Azmitia worked with me on the first draft of American Starlet.  I originally went with Joy to FinePrint Literary Management, but she has left there and has left being an agent, so I’m looking for new representation.  I found your website through Twitter, and I think my work could be a good fit for your agency. 

                 Thanks very much for your attention and consideration.  I look forward to hearing from you soon. 

Very basic.  Paragraph 1 = this is what the book is.  Paragraph 2 = this is who I am.  Paragraph 3 = this is how I know about you and why I think you might be interested in me.  Be confident; be honest; be ready if they ask for more.  I’ve already sent off the three chapters – I’ll keep y’all posted on how it goes.  Again, they might very well say no, and I might very well end up publishing this thing all on my own, and that will be just fine.  But it’s still really nice to hear yes – I highly recommend it.

Hanging out my own shingle . . .

Well, kittens, it’s official, and I can officially talk about it – as of today, I am a free, unsigned, unrepresented author.  My agent, Joy Azmatia, is no longer working as an agent.  And rather than going through the dance of trying to find another one, I’m going to try it on my own for a bit.  Joy has been awesome; the agent I had before her, Timothy Seldes, was legendary for his talent and influence.  They were both more than lovely to me – smart, kind, supportive, energetic – I couldn’t have asked for more.  They both behaved like my career was just as important to them as it was to me, and I can never thank either of them enough.

But publishing has changed.  And I’ve changed, too – I’m not as eager as I used to be, not as willing to compromise.  I’ve been writing genre fiction for a long time now, and I’ve had a fair amount of mid-list success.  But I’ve never really felt like I fit in.  What I do has never really checked off all the boxes of what my genre is supposed to be – supernatural historical romance, with vampires – I can’t even define my genre without a whole sentence.  And my box office as a writer has reflected that.  The readers who have enjoyed my novels have really enjoyed them, and I love them all – you know who you are.  And I hope I’ve done a good job of pushing my own vision of emotions and relationships and the universe at large through the mask of genre expectation – I hope these stories have been me.  But I know they haven’t been completely me.  I know there are things I’ve wanted desperately to do that I haven’t done because it wasn’t what mainstream publishing wanted – historical periods I’ve wanted to explore, relationships and characters I’ve wanted to talk about, beliefs I’ve wanted to share.  The last couple of years, I’ve been working on two different projects, one an urban fantasy romance, one a contemporary pulp saga, and the idea of trying to force either into a mainstream publishing genre box makes me want to cry.

So I’ve decided I’m not going to – or not yet, anyway.  I’m sad to lose my agent and scared to death of all the work and commitment publishing on my own is going to require.  I’m learning all kinds of new stuff – if I didn’t have so many gifted friends to hold my hand and help me, I wouldn’t dare to even try.  But after a couple of decades of being a storyteller for hire, I’m ready to open my own shop.  Watch this space for the results – and in the meantime, pray for me, y’all.