Friday, January 7, 2011
Ghosts of Christmas Past by Xakara
Today we welcome Xakara on the blog who is also offering one of her backlists to one lucky commentor on this blog today. Let's get started.
Congratulations on your book! Why don’t you tell us a little about it?
Ghost of Christmas Past is a paranormal polyamory romance. It’s the story of PsiCorps Agent Torrin St. James who is wounded in the line of duty and left in a four year coma. He wakes to find out that everyone thought he was dead and the life he remembers is gone. Rather than a traditional boy-meets-girl, (or in this case, boy-meets-boy-meets-boy-meets-girl), it’s a friends-turned-lovers and lovers reunited romance.
Where were you when you got your first book contract? Who did you tell?
I was in my living room on my laptop reading the contract offer email. I’d gotten an initial email two weeks earlier letting me know my story had been passed on to someone else and to hold tight for a response. Despite the good vibe from it, I was on pins and needles until that official offer came.
The first person I told was my husband-like-person.
What draws you to write your genre and sub genre?
I write Erotic Paranormal Ménage, so there’s a lot going on there. Starting with paranormal, I can’t help but look at a scene and think there’s something hidden and otherworldly going on beneath the surface. I’ve always loved the paranormal and grew up with science fiction, fantasy and horror books, movies and television as a staple in my home. Stephen King was my introduction into horror and I love him to this day, but I didn’t feel it was right that being non-human automatically made a character a monster. That belief led to an instant love of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.
On the erotic side of things, I got into that by default. I write bisexual characters in polyamorous relationships and feature open-door sex. It’s detailed but not explicit, but the bisexual element automatically defines the romance or urban fantasy as erotic by current standards. I used to hesitate to say I wrote erotic because I didn’t want to disappoint, but I’ve come to accept that there’s more room in the erotic cart than it appears and my brand of love-scene works well within it.
I write ménage because it’s my own little part of being a poly activist. I want to show that love is bigger than the standard boy-meets-girl we’re raised to believe. I present loving, polyamorous relationships because they exist and sometimes the hero or heroine doesn’t have to choose.
Do you have any tips for new writers?
Accept that you don’t know what you’re doing and take in every bit of advice and instruction that you can. Attend conferences and conventions if you can afford it. Take workshops and build your library of technique books, (or wear out your library card doing your research), and don’t feel you’re too good to do writing exercises. If you remain willing to learn you’ll find there is a world of resources and mentorships waiting for you.
Research, research, research! Learn everything you can about the agents, editors and publishers you want to submit your manuscript to down the line. There are safeguard sites out there to help you make informed choices. Preditors and Editors is a great place to check and Absolute Write allows you to ask as many questions as you need to and get varied feedback.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t have any guilty pleasures. I fully revel in all the things I love. The closest thing I think others would classify as a guilty pleasure is my adoration of Supernatural fanvids *grin*.
Where can your readers reach you?
Are you working on another book?
I have two more PsiCorps novellas in the works. There are two Therian World novellas and a Therian World novel that follow up my first publication SHIFTING PASSIONS and I’m working on book one of the Angelic Prophecies.
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
Torrin paced around him, defiant. Quintus reached out and took Torrin’s hand. “I’ve treaded as close to the line for you as I could and still do my job to keep you safe. No one’s had it easy, Torrin, but at least we can all get through it if you’d just sit down.”
Torrin looked down to where they touched. His large, dark olive hand made Quintus’s smaller, pale one look delicate. It was hard to make someone five feet eleven inches, one hundred and ninety pounds look fragile but at nearly six and a half feet and a slimmed two hundred and twenty pounds Torrin managed it. He let his thumb stroke the milky skin along Quintus’s thumb. His long-term memory was fuzzy, but of what he had he could count the number of times his Handler had touched him with bare skin outside of a medical emergency. This would be the eighth instance in twelve years Torrin could recall. Empaths in general didn’t like skin contact with people outside their Triads ... especially other Empaths.
Quintus stared at their hands as well, as if he couldn’t quite make sense of it. The silence grew. Thirty seconds, sixty, ninety seconds and then Quintus looked up at Torrin. Sky-blue eyes had gone glacial-white, and Torrin shivered beneath the Gaze. Sincerity and the echo of old grief moved up his arm from where they touched, while Torrin’s anxiety and loss moved down.
“I’m sorry, Quintus. I owe you everything, including the chance to be here and be an ass. I’ll sit down.”
Quintus blinked and only clear blue skies stared out at Torrin once more. “Thank you, Agent St. James. You have my sympathy. I could not imagine how this was for you. I wish I could make it easier.”
Their hands fell away from one another--a near autonomous motion that made them separate beings again. Torrin sat down and pulled the paperwork toward him. The hard copies became a blur as they moved from point to point in Quintus’s ever-methodical manner.
“How long?” Torrin gave no qualifier or context. He didn’t need to.
“The first six years. Until it was quite clear you could not see beyond Riley and Sky. There was no room for me and so I ceased looking for it. Being your Handler became enough, Agent St. James.”
Quintus never looked up. He passed another datapad for Torrin’s thumbprint and continued on with their task. Torrin wanted to push. How do you not push when you realize someone used to be in love with you? How do you leave it alone when in the touch of a hand your glorified babysitter becomes a well of lost potential?
The first day at PsiCorps, Torrin had imprinted onto Riley and Sky like a hatchling to movement. Each had dominated their psychic categories, setting records in CyberPsi and Psychometry that still held in the Corp more than a decade later. He’d been so dazzled and swept up in their skill and confidence that Torrin had never wondered about his choice. He had never considered what would have happened if he’d just sat at a different table for breakfast that first day; just one table over in the empty seat beside Quintus.
“This is the last set.”
Torrin nodded and took the papers and datapad. Quintus read off the pertinent points aloud, and Torrin took stock of the other man. Quintus’s hair fell in thick, raven waves that captured the light and threw back blue highlights. Skin, merely pale before, shone alabaster in contrast, clear and smooth; trapped in a youth that would not begin to wane for several decades more ... if then. Matte black lashes fringed midday blue eyes that sat large in his face, not quite balanced out by a strong nose and full mouth.
The curve of his neck, strong but almost slender; the set of his shoulders, masculine but streamlined, the body muscled but lean; men like Quintus danced the line between pretty and handsome. A rounding of the jaw, a certain set of the eyes, a half inch there and a quarter turn here, and Quintus had come down firmly on the side of pretty with handsome close enough to lean over and lay its head on his shoulder.
He’d noticed Quintus’s beauty before, on more than one occasion. But now his mind fought to put it in the context of a different choice, a life unlived.
“Will you require another Handler, Agent St. James?”
Torrin blinked. “What?”
“You’re staring, trapped in a thought cycle. There is a great deal on your plate right now and you have no time for what ifs. Do you require another Handler to get through the last of the trial or shall we move past this?”
Torrin nodded. “We’re past it. I’m fine.” He looked down at the papers and started going through clauses and signing agreements. Had he ever touched Quintus intimately before they became Handler and agent? He seemed to remember touching his face while they were shielded. Had that happened? The holes and blurs in his long-term memory gaped in mocking, but Torrin could almost feel the smooth skin glide beneath his hand like silk and cream, leaving the imagination open to what the rest would feel like.
“Agent St. James!”
Torrin looked up and fought to focus. He’d begun to trance unintentionally.
“Did I project?”
Well, damn. Torrin rubbed his face and laid his forehead on the table. The cool wood calmed his thoughts. The scent brought to mind home and safety. He and Sky had bought a table similar to this one ... similar. Sky and Quintus shared a similar pale beauty, though Sky’s was darker, richer, aged ivory rather than new snow. But it had looked stark against the grain of the wood as they christened the new table. Would Quintus be even more striking against the mahogany? Would his cries sound as intimate and soul-searing off the unfamiliar walls of the safe room? Black hair spilling--raven feathers on wood--the way Sky’s had fanned like rubies tossed in the sun. No, in the snow, rubies in the snow, the two of them naked against the wood.
“Agent St. James!”
How did you come up with the title?
As a Christmas/Winter Holiday story, I wanted a title that immediately let you know what you were in for while tying directly into Torrin’s mindset. Being thought dead and knowing everyone has gone on without him, Torrin feels like a ghost and a piece of their past come back to haunt them. It was just a perfect fit.
Do you work on one project at a time or multiple?
I like the opportunity to work on one project all the way through, but I don’t often get that luxury. I write what comes to mind and since literally everything can inspire me, I end up with endless excerpts I have to take time to write up before they’re lost. I’ll claim both. When I get on a roll I can follow all the way to the end before something else distracts me, but there are definitely times before that roll where I’m pulled into other projects.
Is there one particular thing that you find challenging about writing?
Proper time management is the most challenging thing. I can get a lot done when everything is perfectly smooth sailing, but I rarely get smooth seas so things are often disrupted.
Who is your favorite author?
What are you reading now?
I just finished The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown yesterday.
Are your characters a reflection on you or anyone you know?
I plead the fifth.
Do you use more than one pen name? Why?
Right now I only use Xakara. I would consider taking a new pen name if, overcome by fever, I suddenly wanted to write non-paranormal contemporary or historical.
What do you do to get in the mood to write?
Reading is the surest way for me to get in the mood for writing.
What is your favorite thing about writing?
I think more than anything, I like sharing the finished story and larger world with others.
If you were a supernatural creature, what would you like to be and why?
My first answer takes too much explanation so I’ll go with my second and say vampire. But I’m very particular about the type of vampire I’d want to be so my Maker would have to talk a very good game and deliver well. I can’t explain the allure of vampires because for me it happened well before there was a sexual component. I think as a child they seemed so sad that I wanted to be one to keep them company. As I got older it was a love of the idea of seeing the future and having the power not to be withered by the passing of the ages.
How long have you been a writer?
Are we only counting getting paid? In that case for two years; otherwise I started writing when I was nine.
How many books have you written? How many have been published?
I’ve written five, two are published, two are pending.
Do you have a favorite character from one of you own books? Who and Why?
I fell in love with Quintus from the new book Ghost of Christmas Past. There’s a vulnerability in him that just did me in. Of course I loved the entire cast on that point, but let’s not digress.
Over all I think Dante from BloodSprite is my favorite character. I love her willingness to sacrifice and extend herself for her beloveds despite having little faith she’ll be any good at being what’s needed. She also has this wonderful openness with everything about herself and those she loves and it’s something I hope to grow into as I mature.
What is the easiest and hardest thing about writing?
The hardest thing is sitting down to write. I have sleep issues and it makes getting to that moment of focus difficult. Fortunately, once I’ve got a pen in hand or my fingers on the keyboard, something is going to come out no matter how exhausted or unfocused I feel.
The easiest thing is coming up with ideas. In fact it’s harder to get my thoughts to stop flowing rather than to get going with plot concepts.
Do you find love scenes difficult to write?
It can get tricky when dealing with multiple participants and figuring out who put what where; but love scenes themselves are easy for me. Is that scandalous?
Are any of your personal experiences reflected in your writing?
I don’t think it’s possible not to have some personal experiences seep into the writing. Since I write paranormal however, none of the stories are actually autobiographical…or are they?
How long does it usually take you to write a book?
There isn’t an average time for me yet. With enough caffeine and indulgence of my insomnia, I can do a 30k novel/la in a week. That said I’ve struggled with a 12K novella for months. It’s all about how fast the idea is flowing and how much time I can carve out to nurture the flow.
Do you set timelines when you’re writing or write when the feeling hits you?
I write when the mood strikes or when I can’t put it off any longer; whichever comes first.
Do you characters talk to you?
All day, every day, without any regard for courtesy.
Who controls the storyline, you or your characters?
I plead the 5th.
What is your writing day like once you start a book?
I don’t have a set time for writing or a set number of pages I look for in a day. I write until I don’t know what comes next or until I’ve given myself a headache staring at a computer screen for several hours. After I sign off I keep a notebook handy for excerpts of upcoming scenes which usually leads me to whatever comes next when I write the following day.
Do you promo your backlists when you’re writing a new book, or dedicate your time solely to writing?
I have a backlist of one at this point so it’s not taking a lot away from new writing. Ask me again after I’m on release four and writing book five.
How many books do you write in a year?
As many as I can.