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Adventures in Romance has moved March 8, 2009

Posted by Jeannie Lin in Announcements.
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Hello visitors!

I’ve moved my blog to my own domain. Please come on by and redirect all links to:



Worldbuilding at its best: Interview with R.F. Long February 17, 2009

Posted by Jeannie Lin in writing.
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One of the hardest things to do as an author is create a living, breathing world in which characters can grow and interact. When an author tries to force an unnatural setting onto the page, it becomes obvious and the effort falls flat in the worst way. Fantasy author R.F. Long, author of the upcoming book The Scroll Thief, has an amazing ability to spin out magical worlds with effortless grace in every story. I am pleased to have been able to interview her for this blog.

Tell us about your inspiration for Scroll Thief. What made you want to tell this story?

For a long time I was working on a very traditional epic fantasy and associated stories. I love this sort of thing but there are a lot of them around. The Holtlands were born from this first novel, so was my novella The Wolf’s Sister. But one day I was wondering about the other lands surrounding the Holtlands – what they might be like, what their history was and how they interacted with the people and lands about which I was already writing. One of my characters, Bareda, starts off that epic, in Klathport which also set me thinking about what her life was like there. She’s a minor character in The Scroll Thief, but that story was never destined to be her story.

Mdina, the "silent city" of Malta. According to the author - "It captured something of Klathport for me, the way I imagine a once opulent, desert city."

Mdina, the "silent city" of Malta. According to the author - "It captured something of Klathport for me, the way I imagine a once opulent, desert city."

I’d always loved stories like Arabian Nights, spent my honeymoon in Andalusia in Southern Spain and everything started to gel together once I came up with the character of a young thief with far too big an opinion of himself. Initally Malachy was going to be hired to steal a religious artifact by the Mahailian sect, the only way the peaceful worshipers of the Goddess could get it back, but then… well frankly, he wouldn’t take the job. It was going to take a fair amount of bullying to keep him in line. Halia fitted the bill exactly. Malachy’s older sister, the former courtesan and sometime criminal mastermind, was initially intended to be killed off, but my husband, on reading the first chapters, wouldn’t let me.

What was your process for research?
Mainly I tend to look things up as I go along, getting the information as and when I need it. However, because of my great love of the art and architecture of Andalusia and the mythologies upon which I often base my writing, I sort of spend my life in a perpetual state of research. I work in a library, so I don’t find research of any kind onerous. I also really enjoy and make use of television documentaries as a quick way of gathering information which I can later build on. I love Celtic legends particularly, but I’m starting to read up on Norse legends of late. The Internet offers a vast array of information, some sites more reputable than others, so I feel it is important to check the sources and follow up on references. Cross referencing is vital. I have a few books at home which I use constantly – Rollestone’s Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race, Encyclopedia of World Mythology, Everyday Life in the Middle Ages etc. I’m always on the lookout for things like that – books, sites, artwork, music – anything that will provide both research possibilities and inspiration.

Many authors stay in one world for an entire series after they’ve created it because it takes so much effort and research. I’m always amazed, however, at your ability to recreate a world with each new story. How do you do it?

The lost village of Iliz Koz in northern Brittany - swallowed up by sand in the 15th century and rediscovered in 1960.

More inspiration: The lost village of Iliz Koz in northern Brittany - swallowed up by sand in the 15th century and rediscovered in 1960.

Well, The Wolf’s Sister, its sequel, The Wolf’s Mate and The Scroll Thief are set in the same world, but only the first two in the same land. I think its important in any fantasy world that the countries and races are not just carbon copies of each other, or indeed exact copies of our world in the middle ages with extra magic. My forthcoming novel Soul Fire, is set in our world and the world of the Sidhe of Irish folklore. I love playing with new ideas, and with worldbuilding, even at the most subtle level. Whether building a new world with landscapes, history and mythologies of its own, or altering our own world to allow the magical and fantastic to creep through, the key thing for me is a combination of consistency and believability. I always ask myself why a character might do something, and so by extension why a country might have a law banning magic, or why iron might drive away faeborn people. Once I have a reason for something, I make sure I stick to that reason throughout the novel and treat it as a fact of existence, rather than something I’ve made up.

You live in Ireland which to me is a magical place in and of itself. How much does that play into your creative process?

I think very much so, for a number of reasons. Ireland has a long tradition of story telling – you just have to sit down and ask someone how their day has been in order to get a story out of them. Its a recognised entertainment. Ireland’s mythology comes from an oral tradition and many stories, particularly when you reach the folklore, were written down from oral sources and that tone has carried through. “Once of a time” many of them begin, a small step away from “Once upon a time”.

As one of my inspirations is music, particularly Irish traditional music, much of the rhythm of my writing and the songs to which I listen as I write tie together.


Colimore Harbour with Dalkey Island in the background. Dalkey is the author's hometown.

I’m a nut about the craft of writing. Can you give any pointers on specific techniques or devices you use? (Don’t feel like you have to spill all your secrets, just a little hint)

I plan out a plot, but only lightly – no more than a paragraph for a chapter, a line or two per scene. It gives an overview of the story arc, but still allows me the freedom to let the story take me where it will. Usually if I get stuck with a story, I’ve tried to push it in a way it didn’t want to go. I have found that I need some sort of guideline (otherwise the story just runs on and on and I end up rewriting an enormous amount) but it still need fluidity and freedom to go where it will.

One technique I find particularly useful in constructing scenes, particularly in a fantasy setting, is to try to engage all five senses. The human sense of smell is one of the most evocative tools, so if I describe Cerys the healer’s hands smelling of lemons, the reader instantly knows what that is. Some readers will also know of the antisceptic properties of lemon juice, its use in early medicine, and that too is consistent with the character. She has both a reason to smell of lemons, and a scent that readers identify easily.

Following on from that, the same is true of sound, taste and touch – as writers we often overuse sight descriptions, whereas if you take a moment out of your busy day to just stop and experience the world around you, you will hear traffic or birdsong, or a conversation in the next room, of the hiss of a gas fire beneath the noise of the television. You will feel the cushion at your back, or the breeze running through your hair, or the blush of heat in the cheek turned towards the sunlight. You may taste the remnants of that chocolate you had earlier, or the slight aftertaste of berries in a glass of wine. There is more to experiencing the world than what we see. I think its important to bring that in to writing as well.

The vacation pictures were a lovely bonus and they have convinced me that I absolutely must travel to exotic locations as part of my Adventures in Romance. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it. Thank you for the interview and the tiny peek into your creative process!

The Scroll Thief is available February 24, 2009 from Samhain Publishing. I know I’m clamoring for a copy.  More information about the magical worlds of R.F. Long can be found at: http://www.rflong.com

Review: “Carolina Wolf” a steamy romp in the swamp February 10, 2009

Posted by Jeannie Lin in book reviews.
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“Carolina Wolf” by Sela Carsen

Debra Henry is a librarian on a crusade to renovate the town library. As a secret descendent of Morgaine Le Fay, she has a deep-seated love for knowledge and its preservation. She’s all set to present her proposal at the town meeting where she meets gorgeous wildlife expert, Maddox Moreau. He’s there to assure everyone that the dark beast sighted in the swamp is definitely not a wolf. There are no wolves in South Carolina.

But he didn’t say anything about werewolves. Minor technicality. And there’s two kinds — the one that tries to attack Debra, demanding that she reveal her secrets, and the one that lunges out from nowhere to save her. Suddenly it’s not an injured wolf she’s cradling in her arms. It’s Maddox…a very naked and unconscious Maddox.

From the opening scene among the buzzing mosquitoes, “Carolina Wolf” promises to be a humorous romantic romp in a charming Southern setting. Sela Carsen has a wicked way with words and each clever turn of a phrase keeps you on your toes as she creates two likeable and pleasantly familiar characters. Debra is your quintessential vixen in librarian’s glasses ready to let down her hair. Maddox is your rugged outdoorsman, a Molotov cocktail of pheromones and masculinity.

But then you discover there’s much more to the story. Debra is a witch. Maddox is a werewolf. The slimy mayor who keeps on pestering Debra for a date is scheming to steal her power for his own nefarious purposes.  Carolina Wolf doesn’t stop there. This is no surface homage to the supernatural. The story evolves in layer after layer, building an in-depth folklore of its own that mixes Arthurian legend and Wiccan mythology with refreshing new elements.

Debra and Maddox take us from moments of claw-biting danger, to primal attraction, to mesmerizing magical lore. All the while, they’re not forgetting to laugh. And you can’t help but laugh with them. The love scenes had me breathing hard with excitement, then, with a clever twist, the story would catch me off guard and I found myself giggling out loud. Yet the comedy never pulled me away from the story. It enhanced the growing intimacy between Debra and Maddox and reminded me of those achingly “real” moments in a relationship when your guard is completely down.

“Carolina Wolf” brings it all home; giving a taste of peril and the euphoria of a great romance. A deliciously fun read on so many levels.

By Sela Carsen
Samhain Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-60504-374-6

“Carolina Wolf” the Tickle Me Fantasy anthology. The print release is scheduled for November 2009.

Butterfly Swords finals in “Chase the Dream” February 5, 2009

Posted by Jeannie Lin in Announcements, writing.
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It was 6:00 am Wednesday. I woke up and groggily turned on my laptop. I had a workout I had to rush to at 6:30, but for some reason I thought I’d check out Rachelle Chase’s blog…just to see.


My words! The opening for Butterfly Swords. I couldn’t smile wide enough. I started e-mailing people and gushing. I compared it to a couple of my writing buddies as the “I’m on TV” feeling. My writing is on the Internet.  Okay, I know it’s easy to post something to the Internet…look I’m doing it right now.  But it was so cool to be recognized…and of course I’m jittery about the amazing agents and editors that Ms. Chase has gathered for the panel.

You can keep on entering every week for this contest. (It’s still open by the way!) So I had entered every week for four weeks, alternating between “Butterfly Swords” and “Silk and Seduction”. I was kind of worried she would be darn tired of seeing that thing again, but the rules allow it so there had to be a reason, right?

Persistence paid off! And though this was the same story that finaled in “Hook, Line & Sinker”, I had revamped the entire opening based on other contest feedback. I switched it to start in the heroine’s POV and in a more action packed spot. It had to mean something that more than one judge would point out that the opening was just okay compared to the rest of the entry. So even if people love your writing – pay special attention to the comments you get repeatedly!

So, come by and browse the finalists. Get your 1000 words together to enter. It’s free and you may final or win the mini-crit. One of my chapter-mates finalled two years ago and that’s how she got the editor request that led to her first sale.  And you can learn a lot by reading the openings that finalled or won the mini-crits. Rachelle Chase and Leigh Michaels are really making an effort to comment constructively and provide a learning opportunity.

Oh yeah, and if you honestly feel “Butterfly Swords” was the most compelling, come by and vote for it from March 4 to March 11.  🙂

Excerpt from Butterfly Swords

Not because it is easy, but because it is hard November 24, 2008

Posted by Jeannie Lin in writing.
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I write historical romances in an unusual time period — 8th century China. It’s from all those costume dramas I used to watch growing up. I love the honor and the melodrama! People always say write what you love, right?  But now that I’m trying to get published, there’s the other side of the scale. Is it actually marketable?

My setup isn’t that unusual. No more unusual than vampires or shape-shifters once were in romance. And romances are now being set in ancient Rome and Egypt and South America, all over the world and in all sorts of time periods. Jade Lee has a whole series set in 19th centry China.

I figure even if I wrote something “popular”, there’s always the risk of “There’s too much of that out there” or “No one’s buying X anymore.” Pick your poison. 

When I was writing my first manuscript, another author told me exactly the thing I needed to hear. It’s going to be a difficult time period to sell, but if the writing is phenomenal, it could be groundbreaking. If the writing is phenomenal. So whenever I get low marks on a contest or harsh critique or editor/agent feedback on a rejection, I never dismiss it as “oh, this just wasn’t for them”. I blame my writing every time; it’s just not good enough yet. My writing is the one thing I can fix.   

So I continue to write and have anyone who will read it critique me and then I revise and revise. Nothing else feels so good as when I’m writing these stories with these heros. I may never publish this particular genre of work, but heck, I have a day job.  I spend money and countless hours on contests and submissions and conferences because it’s all part of the journey and I love the journey.  I better, it might take a while. 😉 

There are times when I think this is unsellable and I should just move on, but then I realize, I’ve hardly begun to fight. Sherrilyn Kenyon received 156 rejections one year. Who am I to give up at a mere dozen? So I’m going to keep on writing in this genre and querying my way toward my 100 rejection goal.

I know it won’t be easy, but no one I know strives for publication because it is easy. So I titled my inaugural blog post with my motto. Hopefully it will help me stay on track whenever I take a hard look at the market and wonder if there’s any place for what I write.

Here it is in a nutshell: I write swordfighting historicals set in ancient China because it’s what I love. I do it not because it is easy, but because it is hard. I’m stubborn.

What’s your stubborn muse?

Silk and Shadows wins in Gateway to the Best contest November 23, 2008

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First place in the Historical Romance category.

My first contest final and win ever! And, as icing on the cake, I received a request for the full from the editor judging the historical category. I’m quite surprised and giddy.

At the moment I entered, I had only written 25 pages of this manuscript and decided to enter it for feedback because of MORWA’s special contest deal which allowed a second entry for half price. I’m encouraged that the story received such a nice response its first time out.