January was a very slow month here at The Idea Boutique. The author who contributed were fabulous, but I know the empty slots were many. Let's just say we are all still recovering from the holidays, and that meant, I, too, needed a little break. But we're back now and February is just around the corner.

To those of you who always check back on dates with scheduled posts, I apologize for yesterday's missing one. I can't always control everything, and I simply wasn't able to get the post.


Just One Spark - Jenna Bayley-Burke

A fire fighter fit for a calendar caught me in the grocery store checkout line, two tantrum-prone toddlers ready to bolt. The man was a dream, both because of how he looked and because he stopped his day to talk with my boys, giving them stickers and a distraction so I could pay for seven gallons of milk. These are big toddlers, people.

Safely securing my beasts into the only thing that can hold them down – a five point harness car seat – I turned the radio up and headed for home, thinking that maybe that fire fighter should play a role in the novel I was starting the next day as part of my first NaNoWriMo, if only he hadn’t had a ring on his finger. No matter, I work in fiction and I had almost twelve hours to come up with a reason for the ring. Quite proud of myself I turned the radio up, Mindy McCready’s Maybe, Maybe Not coming across the front speakers (don’t want to damage the delicate eardrums of the screachers in the back) of my compact sedan.
What if … Mr. Hunk-of-the-Month had to explain the ring to a woman sitting on a washing machine in a Laundromat? Instantly, I was dying to write the scene. I stayed up until midnight (unheard of when you have a child who routinely wakes at four-twenty to begin his day) just to get the scene out. I didn't care about what came next, didn't plot a character arc or layer in symbolism. The story unfolded as I imagined what I would want to read if I picked the book up at the store and shelled out the change from my last trip through the Coffee People drive-thru.
The way I wrote False Alarm, my NaNo 2004 ‘winner’ that vaguely resembles Just One Spark, the book of the same characters now published by Mills & Boon, defies everything I’ve learned about novel writing since. If I’d known you never sell your first book, character motivation is the driving force of any story, and this is a hard business to break into, I never would have tried. Thank goodness for naivete.


Catherine Spangler ~ Touched by Darkness

After reading Susan Mallery’s great post, I’ve got to ask, “How in the heck do you find easy books to write, Susan? Please—puh-leez—tell me.” I know there are authors for whom the words just flow, hot and heavy. I know there are authors who can produce forty pages a day. I do not fall into this category. I’m a tooth-pulling author, as my good friend and critique sister, Linda Castillo, likes to say: “Writing is like having a tooth pulled . . . slowly . . . and without anesthetic.” Yep that’s me, the toothless wonder, slugging back wine and chocolate to ease the pain.

Ah, but when all the frustration and struggle pays off with characters who have somehow come to life and a story that flows well, I tend to block out the pain and suffering. It’s kind of like having a baby. In a moment of weakness, you forget about the difficult labor and decide to have another one. Of course, by the time labor rolls around again, it’s too late for regrets .

When I sit down to pull a tooth—uh, I mean to write—the stories that spring forth reach all the way back to childhood. I’ve always loved fairy tales. Those are the first stories I remember having read to me when I was a child. And they were the ones I picked when I got to choose. My favorites were those where the princess and her prince overcame great odds and lived happily ever after. Well, gee, maybe that’s why I write romances. I want to explore the relationship between the P/P (that’s old speak for prince/princess, AKA hero/heroine), and I definitely want that happy ending.

Back to the childhood—I went from Cinderella to a fascination with the paranormal and metaphysical. I discovered Edgar Cayce when I was eleven and became obsessed (I think it was soul recognition—his readings resonated for me). I read everything I could about him and his psychic readings. With Cayce, I discovered Atlantis. I went on to read everything I could find about Atlantis. I even became somewhat an expert in Cayce circles, giving a detailed talk on Cayce’s Atlantian readings at a conference. That talk is on my webpage at http://www.catherinespangler.com/. I believe my fascination with Cayce and Atlantis are where the seeds for Touched by Darkness, the first book in my Sentinel series, were sown.

My first two books, which were SF romances, were based on Atlantis. They never sold, and I abandoned the Atlantian theme. My third book, Shielder, did sell, and I wrote a five-book SF romance series. All the while, Atlantis continued to simmer in my psyche. When I was ready to switch gears with a new publisher and move away from SFR, the idea for reincarnated Atlantian souls immediately surfaced. It was still a tooth pull, but a pretty quick one.

The premise for the series: The Sentinels are good reincarnated Atlantians who are coming to Earth (in physical bodies) to track down Belians—who are the bad Atlantians also returning to Earth, and who are causing death and destruction (think serial killers, gang lords, mafia types). The old battle of good versus evil that destroyed Atlantis thousands of years ago has resumed. Both sides are evenly matched and both are in mortal bodies, and can be killed. But the Sentinels have a weapon to aid in the battle: human conductors who have psychic abilities that enable them to enhance the Sentinels’ tracking powers. Sentinels and conductors are always opposite sex and the conduction raises sexual energies, which makes things interesting—and very sensual.

In Touched by Darkness, Dr. Kara Cantrell is a conductor who saw her Sentinel lover murdered seven years ago. She fled to the small town of Zorro, Texas, pregnant from that union. She’s tried to put the past behind her and raise her son like a normal child—except he’s not. He’s a Sentinel, with growing powers. An evil Belian begins stalking the citizens of Zorro. Their only hope is Damien Morgan, a tall, dark and dangerous Sentinel who is determined to get Kara to conduct for him, as well as mentor her child. Kara resists until she realizes she has no choice, if she wants her son Alex safe. Then she finds she faces an even greater threat: the mutual attraction between her and Damien. Her challenge becomes saving her son without losing herself—and discovering if she can overcome the pain of the past to love again.

Hmmm. I really didn’t need that tooth. And I think Touched by Darkness has all the elements I love in stories—mysticism, paranormal elements, hunky prince, spunky princess, romance, emotion, steamy sex, *and* Atlantis.

I hope you’ll check it out. During the month of January, I’m giving away a pink quartz crystal Sentinel pendant. It’s wire-wrapped in sterling silver, and designed like the pendants worn by the Sentinels. Please drop by my site and sign up for the contest. There are also excerpts from Touched by Darkness and other upcoming projects.

Book two of the series, Touched by Fire, will be published in October 2007. I also have a novella, Street Corners & Halos coming out in the Demon’s Delight anthology in March 2007. That’s a story about a vampire who also happens to be a prostitute, and the angel sent to save her. There go two more teeth . . . .

Wishing you a fabulous 2007!

~ Catherine


Susan Mallery ... Sizzling

After writing nearly ::gasp:: a hundred books, I have discovered there are far more ideas out there than I will ever have time to write. They seem to come to me in two distinct forms. Easy and hard.

Easy books arrive in my brain almost fully formed with a great opening, characters I can instantly relate to and a plot that makes me whimper with excitement. Hard books often arrived with next to nothing.

So why bother with hard books, you may ask. It’s an excellent question. There are a couple of reasons. First, I don’t get that many easy books—maybe two a year and I write close to six books a year. Second, there is something satisfying about creating a story from nothing. I love taking different pieces of ideas and fitting them together. Turning them over, working them around and around until I start to have a book, then ripping it apart and putting it together a different way.

My current book—Sizzling—is an interesting hybrid of easy and hard. Reid, my hero, arrived to me fully formed. I knew everything about him from the moment he entered my brain. But his story took an interesting journey.

Sizzling was supposed to be the second book in a four book series about a family who owns restaurants in Seattle. But while I was writing the first book I realized that Reid wasn’t ready to be a hero and that his brother, Walker, wouldn’t wait. So I flipped them. Walked went second in Irresistible and Reid had to grow up a little.

Reid is a former professional baseball player and a playboy. His idea of taking responsibility is thinking ahead far enough to order pizza before the game, so he doesn’t miss a minute. My first thought for his heroine was a marine biologist. Don’t ask me why. Then some former homeless girl who had been rescued by a teacher and was now a social worker. Then while I was writing Irresistible Reid happened to meet a home health care nurse named Lori and she really didn’t like him.

Irresponsible, playboy heroes have a lot of growing-up to do and Lori seemed just the woman to take on the job. She was smart and had a lot of attitude, at least on the surface. So I let go of the marine biologist thing and my heroine was created.

There was only one other major element missing. The catalyst. If Reid was going to grow up and be a hero any still-breathing woman would be desperate to adore, something had to motivate him to change. So what is the worst thing that could happen to a guy like him?

I put in calls to my writer friends and we brainstormed and talked and laughed. At the end, I had a list of horrible things that could drop-kick Reid to the worst moment of his life. One of them stood out as the most interesting, most compelling, most fun for me, as the writer. A newspaper article talking about how poor Reid wasn’t “all that” in bed. Yup—I was gonna hit him where it would hurt the most.

At that moment, Sizzling went from hard to easy. I loved torturing Reid. Then he grew up and became the kind of man who deserves to be a hero. But not without a few twists and turns along the way.

Happy New Year. May you find happiness, healthy and plenty of fabulous reading in 2007!



The Rest Falls Away~ The Gardella Vampire Chronicles

About three years ago, I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I’ve never been a big fan of vampires or horror movies, and I’ve never (still to this day!) read Dracula, but on the eve of Thanksgiving 2003, when I was cooking my fanny off in my kitchen in prep for the next day’s dinner, I brought my laptop in to keep me company. I’d borrowed my friend Brian’s first season of Buffy and I popped a DVD in just for something to watch while I was cooking.

I got hooked. I watched the whole first season that weekend, in between cooking and visiting and all the other stuff we do over the holidays. But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about that show.

In the mean time, I’d been writing novels for years, trying to get published. I’d written contemporary stories, but my real delight was in writing in historical settings. Plus, I loved authors like Jane Austen, Liz Carlyle, Julia Quinn, and others who set their stories in Regency England.

As the months went by and I was trying to figure out what my next writing project should be, I noticed that there were a lot of books being published—and sold—with vampires in them. Many of them didn’t appeal to me, because I don’t find the undead romantic. To me, vampires were the bloodsuckers I’d seen on Buffy, and in the movies; but to me they weren’t romantic heroes or heroines. My concept and opinion of the undead was not a sympathetic one.

So I didn’t consider writing about vampires, even though I knew the market was hot for stories about them.

…Until I happened to watch a Buffy episode in which Angel/Angelus (a male vampire) has a flashback to a scene that takes place in 19th century Paris.

And then the following night, I was watching the Disney version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella with my daughters.

And I started thinking…what if Angelus was at the ball with Cinderella?

Then I thought…well, what if Buffy was there too?

Or, better yet…what if Cinderella was a vampire slayer herself?


That was the germ of the idea that blossomed into the Gardella Vampire Chronicles.

I ultimately decided to set the first books of the series in Regency-era England, which is arguably the most popular setting for historical romance novels. I realized I was taking two very hot ideas: vampires and Regency England and putting them together.

The thing that makes The Rest Falls Away different from a lot of the vampire books is that the vampires are the villains, through and through. There aren’t any tortured vampires without a soul. There aren’t any predestined soulmates. The main characters of the series are mortals, not vampires.

The story isn’t about a vampire culture or society in Regency England. It’s about a woman who learns that she’s a superheroine during a time when women are supposed to do little but stand around and look pretty until they find a husband…then to wed, bed, and breed.

She learns that she has a task to do, one that is a family tradition (which makes her different from Buffy), but like Buffy, she has to learn how to balance the two sides of her life.

So…what about you? Do you think vampires are romantic? Or would you prefer to stay far, far away from them?

Thanks for stopping by the Idea Boutique…and I wish you a joyous New Year!
Colleen Gleason