Saturday, February 22, 2014

An Interview with Erica Lucke Dean

Today I'm featuring an interview with romance author Erica Lucke Dean, whose paranormal romance, Suddenly Sorceress, came out in December and features a run-of-the mill kindergarten teacher named Ivie who discovers she has magical powers when she accidentally turns her cheating fiancĂ© into a skunk. 

Me: Suddenly Sorceress is a paranormal romance, which is a departure from your previous novel, To Katie with Love, which took place entirely in the real world (or at least as real as a fictional world gets). What do you feel are the unique challenges and delights in writing a story with fantastical elements? 

Erica: The best part of fantasy is the freedom to color outside the lines. When you’re writing about how a magical spell works, you have only to work within the guidelines of what your mind can conjure. I did do far more research so I better understood those things that are considered “fact.” Such as lunar cycles, magical communities, etc. But I had lots of freedom to imagine crazy ways my witch could get herself into trouble. And boy, did she.

Me: Sorceress is full of quirky characters and laugh-out-loud scenes. Which scene is your very favorite? Did you know it would be your favorite when you started writing, or did it surprise you?

Erica: Picking a favorite scene is like picking a favorite color, or a favorite song. That’s hard! I like just about any scene that has all the major players in it. They were so much fun to work with, and when they’re all in the same room, the snappy dialogue makes me smile. 

Me: Okay, Imagine you’re a happy, engaged 22-year-old kindergarten teacher and your fiancĂ© does to you what Matt did to Ivie. And so you turn him into a skunk, naturally, because in this fantasy you’re a witch. Admit it, if you knew you could get away with it scot free, you’d totally leave him that way.

Erica: LOL, probably. He wasn’t very nice, was he? Okay, if I’m being totally honest, I might start to feel guilty after a few weeks or months. Then I’d be afraid he’d fall victim to something higher in the food chain. I might keep him in a little cage on the back porch so he couldn’t get eaten. But I’d be sure to remove his ability to spray me, first. 

Me: Sorceress has… How shall I put this? A lot of sex. Plot-relevant sex, to be sure, but it’s definitely not skimping on the coitus. Does writing sex scenes from writing other types of scenes? How do you decide what heat level to go with in your novel?

Erica: Well, I’ll admit, the sex scenes were hard. I mean, difficult. I didn’t initially want sex to be a factor, but the more I got thinking about the characters, the more I realized it was a perfect way to insert tension between them. This time it’s the poor guy trying to put on the brakes and the girl is pressuring him. I’m no stranger to four letter words, but for some reason when I sit down to write a sex scene, I get squicked out by the language. I wanted those scenes to be really steamy, but I tried to keep the vulgarity to a minimum. That’s a fine like to walk, but I hope I managed it.

Me: This is the part where I would ordinarily show deep insight and say how your book reminds me of other paranormal romance authors’ works. But since I reside pretty far on the urban fantasy side of the UF/PNR divide, so instead I will ask you who your favorite PNR author is and whether you consider his/her work to be an influence on yours. 

Erica: I have had an on-going love affair with Michelle Rowen’s Stakes and Stilettos characters. It’s a fun vampire romance series. That’s the book series that made me realize you get away with being really funny in a romantic setting. Jill Shavis’s Out of This World is another fantasy romance with a huge dose of humor. I like making people laugh so if I can do that while I’m making them fall in love, all the better.

Me: You have what I’ve found to be a unique writing and revising process—the group edit. Tell us a little bit about that and how it works for you.

Erica: I love immediate feedback. (I’m sure you know this because you DO get the lovely updates in your inbox.) And the live group edit gives me more than one person to bounce ideas with, and that makes me happy. Sometimes the words get stuck in my brain and it takes someone to shake them loose. It’s like a great big writer pajama party on Skype. 

Me: I hear rumors that you are working on a sequel to Suddenly Sorceress. (Note to readers: This is a massive understatement. Erica updates me every 500-1000 words on the sequel’s progress.) Any hints on what’s coming for Ivie? Anything else coming down the pipeline, if only so I know what kind of snippets will be flooding my inbox?

Erica: Ivie is in for a bit of trouble. Someone from her past is coming back and he’s bringing chaos (not THAT Chaos) in his wake. More humor, more funny sexual situations. At least one poodle and the return of the goat.

Me: So we’re getting toward the end of your blog tour. What is one question you wish someone had asked you but no one did? Question and answer, please. Unless you feel like being mysterious. 

Erica: I’ve had some pretty crazy questions lobbed at me. I even had to answer to my first kiss. You can find THAT question and the humiliating answer on one of the stops on the tour. I guess the one question no one has thought to ask is, “Why do you feel such a connection with characters so different, and yet so similar to yourself? Do you think you’re trying to make up for something that’s missing in your life?” Okay, that’s two questions, but no one has asked them so far. And the answer? My characters all come from within me. To quote Shrek, I have layers, like an onion. When I write, I can explore each of those layers separately without losing anything from the whole. I can take my adventurous layer and do something entirely insane without having to contend with my paranoid layer, who’s terrified the sky will fall if I do something dangerous. I can separate that shy twenty-year-old from the fearless woman and create more than one dynamic person. They’re all me. Just different sides, from different times in my life. Sides that, just maybe, I didn’t have the courage to explore along the way. 

There you have it, folks. Pick up Suddenly Sorceress, or Erica's first book, To Katie with Love, at your favorite on-line retailer. But for now, enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cons, Cinder, and Brownie Bombs

This weekend I am at Farpoint, a science fiction convention near Baltimore---which means it's right near me. This is the fourth con I've attended with either or both of my fellow authors Mary Fan and Stephen Kozeniewski. Basically what happens is that we set up (and pay for) a table in the dealer's room, and we try to sell our books to the passersby. It's a lot of fun, and we meet some interesting people and hopefully work toward building an audience. We also get excited about the cool jewelry the other vendors sell. There was one vendor selling these elaborate key necklaces, and I've loved jewelry with keys ever since I read The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott. The vendor also has forehead bands. Mary bought one, and I have to resist the urge to do so. Another vendor has a great steampunk angel wing necklace, and one has zombie playing cards. Really, I should not spend 3 days surrounded by people with things I want to buy!

You will be glad to know that I finally read a book I liked enough to blog about! People have been raving about Cinder by Marissa Meyer since it came out two years ago. You have no doubt seen the American cover with the red shoe, but I decided to include the Spanish cover, cuz it's awesome. Except for the bit where it's a girl's body and not her head, and we all know how I feel about that. But look at her dress. Anyway, I confess I felt kind of "Eh" about Cinder. Cyborgs as oppressed second-class citizens didn't sound all that appealing to me, even if it was a Cinderella retelling. I actually became interested in it when I heard the premise for the third novel---Rapunzel alone on a satellite orbiting the moon. So I picked up Cinder, and I'm so glad I did. I read the whole thing in one night, even though I was supposed to be a.) sleeping and b.) buddy reading it with someone in a Goodreads group. Now, I love fairy tale retellings, but Cinder wasn't just a fairy tale retelling. As part of a series, it added an entire dystopic world where the prince has bigger issues to deal with than just finding a wife---like a plague and an evil alien race. And instead of being a housekeeper, Cinder(ella) is the most skilled mechanic in New Beijing. And there's this whole big uber-plot that I'm excited about, especially since, as I understand it, the subsequent books add new characters, but also keep being about the old characters. I've started Scarlet but haven't had time to get very far, cuz con.

As promised I made brownie bombs last weekend. Just what is a brownie bomb? you may ask. And that is totally fair. Well, they come in a variety of flavors, but the original is eggless chocolate chip cookie dough wrapped in a brownie dipped in chocolate. They are a little on the labor-intensive side, but, boy, are they worth it. This was actually my first time working with Candiquik, which was an interesting experience that I may repeat. Probably when I try another kind of brownie bomb---my coworker specifically requested peanut butter. The inventor of the brownie bombs suggested using the leftover cookie dough to make stuffed Oreos, and I decided to take her up on that, a you can see in the picture to the right. They, also, are very enjoyable. 

In other baking news, my sister made some oatmeal caramelitas---oatmeal cookie bars with caramel and chocolate in the middle---and they were a-maz-ing. So I made some, and I think mine were inferior. But they're still pretty delicious. I planned to bring a bunch to the con until I dumped half of them onto my apartment hallway floor (and only cleaned up some of the crumbs like a sociopath). I did bring the rest the next day, but, overall, the loss was very disappointing.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Raising Chaos Release!

 The second most exciting thing in my life has happened to me this week---Raising Chaos came out! I know many of you have been excited to read it, and I hope it lives up to your expectations. I've already had one friend tell me she thinks it's better than Oracle.

Chaos comes at a good time, too, because I was having a very hard time trying to figure out what to write about this week. The last several books I've read have been big cases of "I liked it, but..." My most anticipated book of 2014 came out this week, and I was like, "Surely I will be able to blog about that! It's got the best premise ever!" Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations. I'm on Team Boy She Meets in Second to Last Chapter, and I couldn't describe it without throwing in a few spoiler rants. I've got a few buddy reads on Goodreads coming up, and some of them should be good enough to blog about.  

I did promise my friend I would write a blog rant about how much I disliked I, Frankenstein, and I hate to be a liar, so I'll stick that in here. You know how people say that things are "still a better love story than Twilight"? Well, I got to the end of I, Frankenstein and said to myself, "Nope, Twilight was definitely the better love story."* I have the following pieces of advice to offer the makers of the movie: 1. If you're going to put women in positions of power, you need to give them agency, or it doesn't count. 2. Unless you're aspiring for art film, try to make your characters likable. 3. Don't kill off the attractive people so early in the movie. Now, as a note, the friend I went to see it with still plans to buy it, but she buys a lot of movies, and she's mostly only doing it for the one hot boy. Who, admittedly, was very hot.

In celebration of my book, I made cupcakes from a box this week. Not super exciting, but I did make the frosting that all frosting dreams of being. And earlier in the week, I decided to make no-bake vanilla cake batter chocolate truffles, except I had leftover red velvet cake mix from the red velvet rice krispy treats, so I used that instead. Now, they came out quite delicious, but the night after I made them, I kept hearing banging in my apartment, but the cats were sitting next to me. Well, the next morning, I took them out of the refrigerator, and snakes of red velvet had burst forth from the balls. I have no idea what caused that. I mean, they were still delicious, but they looked kind of like they had been invaded by aliens. I'm making brownie bombs tonight, but my sink is all backed up, so I don't know when I'll be able to bake again. Hopefully I will have more recipe stories soon.

*No undue disrespect to Twilight. I enjoyed the first book and thought the second and third one had some really interesting ideas. And we just won't talk about the 4th one.