November 29, 2008

The Shapechanger Connection posted by substitute blogger Doranna (who theoretically has only one persona here) from agent Lucienne Diver's Blog Paranormal Week Okay, I confess. Shapechangers have always fascinated me (check out my very first fantasy, DUN LADY'S JESS, if you want proof!). And writing shapechangers has always delighted me. I mean, what's not to like? There's the primal allure, the vibrant nature, the potential conflicts both inside and out... For these are characters who function on instinct as much as thought, and who must find ways to integrate their differences into a society that cannot understand them. These are people who face great responsibilities because of what they can do--or who face the battle of exactly how to use their advantages (and make up for their challenges) without ever giving themselves away to the world at large. But more than that, these characters must manage themselves and the very different way they experience the world relative to everyone else. When your perceptions are so very aw from the norm, it can be like living in a parallel world--what you experience and how it affects you is completely different from the person right beside you. Managing that impact leads to different behavior, different choices, different creates of you a secret outsider in the midst of normality, whether you want it or not. It means that all around you, there's a society living in one way, while you live in another...and meanwhile you're being judged for choices and reactions that seem impenetrable to them. Things shifted a little to the personal there, I see. There's a reason for that...and it turns out, it explains my lifelong connection not only with the animals I train and love, but to the continuing exploration of these characters who have their feet in two worlds. This all rather surprisingly came home to roost about a year ago, during a bodily meltdown that sent me off to the hospital and then an intense and ongoing recovery. The neurological condition at the root of things is one that not only keeps me from filtering sensory input correctly, but it means my internal volume controls aren't set to the norm. That man's quiet voice hits me like a shout; that woman's expensive perfume might as well be an up-close-and-personal skunk. Sensations are more meaningful--and potentially overwhelming--across the board. It's also something I've had all my life, but which generally goes critical after time and stress allow a pile-up of effects. And it means that to some extent, I *am* one of my shapechangers. I hear things you don't; I scent things you will swear don't exist. You don't even want to know how many gas leaks I've detected (or how hard I've had to argue with the gas company guys to keep looking until they find them). I blossom in the quiet woods; I shrivel and fade in any artificially hyped environment. The life of shapesh ifter characters--those who we generally imbue with heightened sensitivities, an alert nature, and a readiness to react--is something I know from the inside out. And now I know some of the costs, too. I suddenly understand why I identify so readily with such characters, and why I have such a drive to explore their lives--and to reveal to them to readers. Oh, okay. I admit it. I also like to write shapechangers of various sorts because they're just so much doggone fun. I mean, seriously. Anyone else up for a good wolf howl?
There's No Gift Like Books For The Holidays by guest blogger Nancy J. Cohen The holiday shopping season is about to kick off. Who’s on your gift list and what should you buy? I have a two word response: BUY BOOKS. The publishing industry is in a crisis. Not only are sales down across the board like everywhere else, but the unique characteristics of the book business furthers the problem. Big chain stores order books from publishers at a discount. Publishers ship them the books. The stores then have the option of returning all books that haven’t sold and getting their money/credit back. In this scenario, publishers lose money on shipping and production for unsold books, and authors get these returns counted against their royalties. No one wins except the bookstores, who refuse to stock books without this provision. It’s a antiquated practice but no one seems able to come up with an alternative. Independent bookstores, who offer the most variety, often can’t compete with the steep discounts given to the big chains who, in turn, discount books to their customers. Thus the spate of indies who are going out of business, a loss for avid readers who like the wide selections at these stores and the personal service not offered elsewhere. Shelf life for a title may be even shorter in the Fall, because the stores need money to stock the big holiday blockbusters. So they’ll initiate huge returns, and the publisher’s profit margin drops further. What does this mean for the author? Fewer publishers are buying new authors or titles. What does this mean for the reader? More shelves filled with the same bestselling authors and less selection. Readers shopping used bookstores and trading books among each other compound this problem. Without rising sales on their newest release, authors run the risk of being dropped by their publisher. Your favorite author isn’t coming out with a new book this year? Guess why? New book sales didn’t make the mark. So what can you do to help? BUY BOOKS FOR GIFTS Don’t know what to get the person who has everything? Get them a popular fiction or nonfiction title. Introduce them to your favorite author. Give the fast food fiend a beginner’s cookbook. Or the music fan a biography of his favorite artist. The nurse in the doctor’s office? Give her a fast-paced novel to read at lunch hour. The TV or sports fan? A book on his favorite team or TV show. Books on fashion, photography, self-help, wine appreciation...there has to be something for everyone. Even fiction. Buy the sports fan a novel about an athletic team. Or get the fashion freak a chick lit novel. As for you, put aside your latte money for two days and you’ll be able to buy a paperback. Reading opens up new horizons, introduces you to new worlds, educates and entertains. Do we want to see people turn into video vaporheads or increase their intellectual prowess? GIVE SIGNED BOOKS Know any published authors? Give their signed books to your friends and family, your doctor and dentist, to the poor neglected receptionist who is always overlooked. If they don’t want to read it, they’ll give it to someone who will. Friends who don’t read? Maybe they’ll start with a book personally signed to them. Or get them a nonfiction title on their favorite hobby. Be thoughtful of your hairdresser and dog groomer and other service people you encounter throughout the year. They’ll be grateful you’ve thought of them. POST RAVE REVIEWS The Internet is a field of opportunity for book reviews. They don’t have to be long. Even one or two lines of why you liked a story will suffice. Post these blurbs at online bookstores and social networking sites. These posts may attract new readers, and that in turn will help support your favorite authors so they can keep writing the stories you love. -------------------------------------------------- Nancy J. Cohen is the author of the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida beauty salon owner and hairstylist Marla Shore. Her latest book, Killer Knots is now available.

Lorraine Bartlett

Five women, five weekdays, many surprises.

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