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Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Cornelia Amiri


 Research - The Wolf and The Druidess
By Cornelia Amiri

As I write Celtic/Romances set in ancient times, I’m often asked about my research methods. I love history as much as I love writing.  I admit it; I am a history geek, so I read about the ancient Celts through non-fiction books, reports of new archeology finds, and website articles as often as I can, for fun. That helps because in writing fiction you have to be detailed in your research; not only do you have to know about famous battles and main historical events, you need a strong understanding of daily activities and what the seasons were like. Since it is winter I wanted to share some of my research about life during that season for my latest book, a Paranormal/Erotica/Romance, The Wolf and The Druidess

As the days grew colder, as an ancient Celt, you’ll notice salmon returning to spawn in river pools, the last autumn fruit you’ll see will be white, waxy mistletoe berries, and you’ll watch the men of your tribe herd shaggy red cattle from outlying pastures to an enclosure inside your village. 

Oat-porridge will be your main food during winter yet you’ll eat some delicious meat from hunting. 

As an example, here’s a hunting excerpt from The Wolf and The Druidess:

Out of the corner of her eye, Seren noticed a movement and turned her head. She gasped and pointed to a large red stag with long, branching antlers, strutting out of the forest. He dipped his snout to the salt. After taking a lick, he jerked his neck and looked to one side then the other, scanning the area. He leaned down again and took a few licks, then stared straight ahead at Seren; he’d sensed, smelled, spotted her. The stag thrust his rear legs back and bolted towards the woods.

Seren jumped on her horse and goaded it to a gallop. The chase was on to try to head him off and steer him away from the forest, but to everyone’s horror the stag managed to shoot pass Cynfarch’s mount and dart into the woods. Seren and Gwydion charged into the leafy canopy of the dense forest.

“I wish we had brought the dogs.” Seren said to Gwydion as she rode at his side. “But we didn’t want to frighten the deer at the salt lick.”

“I will transform.” Gwydion vaulted off his horse.

As his body twisted and lengthened in some areas and shortened in others, his face distorted with pain until he shifted into a large white wolf, staring at her with burning amber eyes. He raced off, on the trail of the stag as Seren and the other mounted warriors followed.

A wolf’s growl pierced the air as they rode on. Seren drew her horse to a halt as she sighted the white wolf, he had cornered the large, antlered deer.

Speaking of meat, especially beef, one of the main ways your tribe prepares for winter is with cattle raids. If your tribe doesn’t have enough cattle to get it through the long, cold days the warriors will grab some from a neighboring tribe.

Here's an excerpt of a cattle raid from The Wolf and The Druidess:

“No, he is in danger,” Seren snapped.

“It is our only chance. If we lose milk and beef, the entire tribe could starve during the winter.” Hywell shook his head.

“What harm could possibly befall me? The Silures cannot hurt me if I turn them to ice, first,” Gwydion said.

“My mother would not warn me unless the threat was real,” Seren said. “I myself sense danger, but it may not be from the Silures. You must be careful.”

“Seren, he is a god,” Hywell said.

“Yes, what could happen to me?” Gwydion said.

Rather than answer, she peered into Gwydion’s eyes. “Swear to me, you will take heed.”

“Yes, I will return to you unharmed.” Gwydion pulled his wand from the pouch tied to his side and brandished it high. “I am ready.” He swirled the ash stick, decorated with Celtic spirals, through the air in a sweeping motion.

“Foes of the Ordovices
Your raid is condemned.
I forbid your flight.
Winter’s embrace,
Shall halt your escape,
Frozen like ice.
For the tribe to find.”

A blue light with the power of a lightning bold shot from the wand. Gwydion knew everyone in the village could feel the surge, and he noticed Seren and Hywell had clung to each other during the mighty blast.

“It is done,” he said to them.

“Now you must shift into wolf form,” Seren said to Gwydion as she released her hold on Hywell.

After Gwydion eased off his horse, his body blurred from one form to the next as his limbs shortened and his flesh shifted into a pelt of white fur. The wolf stood before Seren once more.
Hywell gasped. “Gwydion, do not get too near the cattle, you will spook them.”
The wolf nodded, and as he darted off, Seren goaded her horse into a hard gallop. Hywell followed.

Of course one of the main things you want to know as an ancient Celt is how you can stay warm on long winter nights. 

Here’s a heated excerpt from The Wolf and The Druidess:

She leaned up to him and peered at his arresting face, strong chin, compelling eyes, and firm, sensual lips. Her mouth covered his in an all-consuming kiss. His lips tasted like warm honey.

Gwydion raised his mouth from hers and as he peered at Seren, her pulse pounded.

“Does that kiss mean you love me too?” he asked in a low, smooth voice.
“In truth it does.”

As he waved his hand in front of her, Seren’s clothing vanished.

She felt cool as she stood nude before him. “That trick of yours isn’t fair, but it does hasten things along. And that is good because I can’t wait. I need you now.”
“But I want to go slow, to explore every inch of you,” Gwydion said in a deep, masculine tone.

As he scanned her body, she felt the heat of his gaze. As she felt his warm fingers against the small of her back, he pressed his lips against hers. The wet kiss sent a delicious sensation spiraling through her. Easing his mouth off hers, he ran a trail of feathery kisses down her tingling neck.

As far as getting through winter in modern times, take a copy of The Wolf and The Druidess to bed with you along with a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly night.  That should warm you up.

For more on The Wolf and The Druidess

Here is a blurb and links for additional information

Blurb:
A god leaves the Otherworld and even risks his life...for love.

In days of old, deep in the dark woods, Druidess Seven discovers a wolf shape
shifting into the bare, muscular body of God Gwydion. Her wicked thoughts turn
from the Samhain feast to feasting on Gwydion's yummy goodies. Can their new
found love survive the ultimate long-distance relationship of a god in the
otherworld and a woman on earth? Is the love Seren and Gwydion share strong
enough to overcome the social barrier between an immortal god and a mortal
woman? Will the warning of danger from beyond the grave destroy the sensual
magic brewing between the wolf and the druidess?



Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Drop by J. Hali Steele


She’d had the dream for months.

Lynn watched him walk across the noisy bar filled with clinking glasses, paper blow horns, and the drunken strains of Auld Lang Syne. Her body trembled as he approached, not in fear -- in anticipation.

“You knew I’d come for you.”

Weak with desire, one word slipped past her lips, “Please…”

“You belong to me,” he whispered.

Light was blotted out as he bent to cover her mouth with his. The points of his teeth pierced her lip, and he sucked the spot greedily until his tongue nudged for entrance. Lynn opened like a flower, accepting him, tasting the blood he’d licked from her lips.

Sounds from the boisterous crowd slipped away.

When he released her from his embrace, they stood naked in the middle of a large, well-appointed room. Wood blazed in the fireplace and candles glowed from every surface, casting an eerie light over the stone walls. A sumptuous bed rested in one corner, heavy antique furnishings sat around the space. A bottle with no label stood in the middle of a small table, condensation dripped down its sides.

Large hands stroked her back lovingly. “I hate the cold.” Lynn shivered beneath his touch.

“I’ll warm you up.” Blue eyes gazed from a starkly handsome face dusted with dark blond stubble. Hair the same color flowed in waves around his shoulders. “I’ve waited so long to find you again.”

“Again?” She was puzzled. He’d never said that in their dreams before. Snatches of memory flitted through her mind as her fingers explored the solid muscle of his abdomen, touched hard thighs, and caressed his buttocks. She had done this every time. Lynn wanted to grasp his cock, slide the silky skin back and forth.

“You’ll remember soon.” His eyes glowed red as he lifted Lynn in his arms. Carrying her to the bed, he placed her in the middle, and straddled her body. The tip of his erection glistened with drops of cum begging to be licked away. “You always loved sucking my cock.” Slipping down her body, he said, “But tonight, I want to taste you.”

Lynn arched from the bed when his hands pushed at her thighs, opening them for his invasion. His tongue swept the crease of her pussy, taking every drop of liquid that had gathered there. He prodded, and nibbled on her clit, knew just what she wanted and needed. His tongue teased at the opening before he shoved it inside. In and out, he stroked and licked her. Soon his fingers joined his tongue, the noise they made set her body on fire.

“Oh God, Jaron, more.” Her hands pulled at the hair on his head, tugging him tighter between her legs.

He murmured against her pussy, “Ahh, say it again, call my name again.” His tongued drew lazy circles around her clit making her dizzy with desire.

Jaron! Something was different. She’d never used his name in the dream. How did she even know his name? It didn’t matter. What mattered was Lynn needed this man, needed to feel his cock in her pussy. “Don’t make me beg.”

“Never.”

He slid up her body, kneeled between her thighs which spread her legs wider. Positioning the wet tip of his cock at her slick opening, he shoved in to the hilt. His balls bumped her ass, made her scream, “Jaron…Jaron!”

“Again, say it again.”

Her dream lover thrust inside her, over and over. She took it all. Her hips bowed up, seeking more, needing more. The thickness of his cock filled her, touched deep inside her, and stirred an orgasm from the depths of her soul making her pussy convulse and clench around him before sending a torrent of cream sliding around his shaft.

“Oh my love,” he groaned, “I want more.” Pulling his full cock from her, and raising his body, he turned Lynn over. “So much more,” Jaron whispered close to her ear. She felt a warm trickle of liquid down her butt, into the crevice of her ass. “You know what I want.”

Her hands clutched the bed cloths as she strained to look over her shoulder. The thick head of his cock shone with the aromatic oil he’d dribbled over her. Mesmerized, Lynn watched as he jerked the skin back and forth, urging drops of cum from the small slit. Lord, she wanted to feel every inch of him in her ass. “Mmm, yes, I want you there.”

“I know what you want.”

Jaron always said that as he pressed the tip of his oiled cock to the small rosette between her ass cheeks, and eased the head in. One inch, two inches…then, when the muscles relaxed around him, he filled her up.

“Love me, Jaron.”

“I always have, always will.”

He pushed back and forth in her ass, gently at first. Once she picked up his rhythm, he became an animal, pumping in and out of her, taking her closer to orgasm. Lynn loved it, she craved every sweet, thick inch of his cock buried inside her.

“Yes!” She met each stroke by pushing her buttocks firmly back into his groin. One of his hands pressed the middle of her back, held her in place, while the other reached around to knead and play with her clit, coaxing more cream from her. “Jaron, come for me, come now.” His thrust became short, quick, and Lynn knew it wouldn’t be long before she felt him fill her with his seed. When it spurted from him, warmth washed through her as another stream of her cum slid into his hand.

Suddenly, the dream unraveled, became real. Lynn flinched, and sucked in a noisy draft of air as memories spiraled out of control through her mind. Her heart hammered painfully.

Jaron Dugal was her husband.

Lynnette had married him over five hundred years ago. He’d been bitten by a vampyre but refused to change her unless she wanted it. She’d been too afraid, so she refused to become like him -- a creature of the night. By taking a single drop of her blood before she died of old age the first time, each reincarnation, Jaron found her.

Rolling onto his back, he pulled her on top of him. “You remembered.” Sadness tinged his voice as he smothered her face with kisses. “I’ve missed you so much this time.”

Staring at the thin red line of tears staining his cheeks and the hair at his temples, love swelled in her heart. Lynn couldn’t do this anymore. She pulled from his arms, and got off the bed. Walking slowly to the table in the center of the room, she reached for the unmarked bottle that was always there.

Opening the top, she poured a single drop onto her finger, and turned to face her husband.

“Lynnette…” Jaron’s eyes pierced her. “It’s not easy to live as I do.”

She sucked the one drop of his powerful essence from her fingertip, “Each time I remember, it hurts too much.” Tears of love welled in her eyes. “I can’t leave you alone this time.”

Jaron opened his arms wide, “Come, my love, I’ll keep you warm forever.”



Author bio: J. Hali Steele wishes she could grow fur, wings or fangs so she can stay warm, fly or just plain bite the crap out of… Well, since she can’t, she would much rather be roaming where her fictional big cats live—in the high desert of California. She enjoys spending time with her sisters and friends who willingly listen to her ramblings about the paranormal world of vamps, shifters and anything else that goes bump in the night. They’re a captive audience, and she promises to untie them soon!

A multi-published author, when J. Hali’s not writing, she can be found snuggled in front of the TV with a good book, a cat in her lap, and a cup of coffee.

You can visit her at www.jhalisteele.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/purpleprose. She blogs every Friday at www.paranormalromantics.blogspot.com and she answers ALL emails at
jhalisteele@yahoo.com.

Author Interview: Anna James


Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Anna James, whose latest book Isabella's Dilemma has been released by Sugar and Spice Press.

Anna told me that, in her opinion, pornography is typically viewed as being exploitive or degrading, where erotic romance includes a plot and well-developed characters, and she would never write anything that could be considered exploitive or degrading to any of her characters. The plot in an erotic romance can stand alone without the explicit sex, however if the sexual content is removed the characterization will suffer.

For Anna, a good erotic romance will have characters that are passionate and linger in the reader's mind long after she finishes the story. There should also be strong emotional conflict, sexual tension, and a level of sexuality that is emotionally driven. Also, as far as she is concerned, a happily-ever-after ending is a necessity.

"What are the biggest public misconceptions about erotica?" I asked.

"I think the biggest misconception is that that the term erotic romance can have a different definition depending on who is publishing it. There are romance novels that are considered 'main stream; but have sex scenes that I think are explicit. Then there are erotic romances that have very mild sex scenes and probably should be considered 'main stream'."

When Anna is researching her books, she either goes online to find specific details she needs or she asks someone she thinks can help her.

"Many times my stories will take place in locations I have visited. For example part of the story I just finished takes place in Boston Massachusetts," she told me. "I have visited Boston on many occasions and have incorporated things into the story that I enjoy doing whenever I visit, for instance walking the freedom trail or visiting Fanuel Hall."

"Did you always set out to write erotica or did it evolve from something else?" I wondered.

"I was actually surprised when Isabella’s Dilemma (now available from Sugar and Spice Press) came out and it was classified as 'Erotic Contemporary Romance'. So, no, I didn’t set out to write erotic romance. I started out writing what I thought was more 'mainstream' than anything else. While the sex in my stories is descriptive it’s not necessarily explicit. I consider it on the mild side of the erotic romance genre."

She has also written a short romance story called "A Picture Perfect Christmas" that is in the 2010 Christmas Collectibles Anthology that is available from Midnight Showcase Fiction, which is non-erotic romance.

"I think it was easier to write because I could 'close the door' and not have to worry about the rest," she said.

I wondered how her writing path evolved.

"I’ve read hundreds of romance novels. Literally! I used to belong to a reader service and they sent five books per month. After years of reading them I thought maybe I could actually write one. So I gave it a shot."

She wrote her first story about twelve years ago. Unfortunately, it was rejected multiple times. She got so frustrated that she gave up on the whole idea of writing.

"Then, about two years ago, I was on line and found a bunch of small press publishers. I either didn’t know about them or they weren’t around at the time I was first submitting my story for consideration; regardless, I was excited to find this new pool of publishers that I hadn’t yet tried. So I dusted off the story, did a minor amount of editing to update it and sent it off. It went under contract last December."

"What does your family think of your writing?" I asked. "Do they read it?"

"My family is supportive of my writing and they read my stories. In fact, I don’t send out anything for consideration before my mother reviews it."

On a personal note, I asked Anna, "If you could be anyone you wanted, who would it be?"

"I can’t really think of anyone else I want to be. I have been blessed with a terrific husband and five wonderful kids (although their teenage years were / are a huge challenge!!!). I guess I’m really happy just being me!"

She has considered getting her belly button pierced because she thinks it looks cool, however she hasn't done it yet because someone who did it told her it was very painful.

Her favorite food? Chocolate.

"I consider it a staple that I can’t live without. I have developed a taste for dark chocolate because it is actually good for you, which is how I justify eating it every day," she said.

However, she cannot bring herself to eat cow brains or frog legs.

"What is your strangest habit?" I wondered.

"According to my husband, it’s my obsession with having the lights on all the time, even though they may not be needed. I also forget to turn them off when I leave the room – which drives him nuts."

When she's not writing, she enjoys hanging out at their cottage and going out on their pontoon boat for a cruise around the lake. She also enjoys listening to books on her mp3 player, especially when she's on vacation or when she's exercising.

"I love going to NYC or Boston for a day of shopping, theater and excellent food," she said. "Most of all I like hanging out with friends and family."

Finally, I asked Anna, "If you could give a new writer one piece of advice, what would it be?"

"Believe in yourself and in your writing. The road to publication is littered with rejection letters (or e-mails as the case may be). If you get rejected find another publisher and keep doing it until you have a contract!"

You can keep up with Anna on her blog, http://annajames1.wordpress.com

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Amber Kallyn

Why I love to write

Ha! That should be why I must write.

I can’t not do it.

But, recently a wonderful editor decided to take a chance. She published me.
My dream has come true.

There are so many people out there working their tail off to improve and trying to get published, sometimes I take a step back and wonder how I happened to get so lucky.

I’ve been working at the craft seriously -- IE trying to get published -- for half a decade. Yet, sometimes, it still seems like everything has happened overnight.

Whodda Thunk?

I am so truly blessed to be able to do this, and to connect with people who -- gasp -- love my stories. It is truly an amazing experience and I thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am today.
So, for all aspiring authors out there, here’s my advice:

1. BICHOK

Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard

One of my favorite quotes is by the all-knowing Anonymous, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

It can be hard to turn off that inner editor. But regardless how much it feels like what you’re writing is awful, at least it’s there. It’s written. And it can be edited and revised into better shape. A blank page is just a blank page.

Consistency is key. The more you write, especially every day even if only a few minutes here and there, the better a writer gets. And, the more you write, the closer you are to that goal.

2. Improve your craft

Always work to improve. There are so many ways to do this, from critique groups to online workshops to self-help books. Even the most brilliant genius can gain from trying to learn more.

3. NEVER give up

Perseverance really is the key. Work hard, improve your craft, hone your talent. If you don’t give up, it will happen.

Q4U:
What drives you and makes you keep writing?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Amber Kallyn

Adventures in World Building

In addition to research, another area I do a lot of work with is world building. Paranormal and fantasy worlds, even if they take place in the present day, require a ton of thought and structure.

In my Dragos Series, my dragons are based on different mythos from around the world, with a bit of imagination thrown in. Most can shift with their clothes on. Breathing fire, for women, is a product of the Dragon Burn, once they find their destined mate. The dragons are different colors. They can heal fast, like other shapeshifters, but it takes a lot of energy. I wanted other magical creatures in my stories, so I devised a way different types could mate. Most children take on the powers of their mother, and some have no powers at all.

In my paranormal Tiger Shifters series, I created an island off Denmark for my matriarchal tiger clan to live. Scotland is populated by werewolves, and the Norse are were-bears. I tried to keep consistent with technology of the time, but I changed a lot of other things. That’s the fun part of writing fiction, not just fantasy.

Sitting down to start writing about a new world is exhilarating. There are endless possibilities. Then the characters and events take over -- and the world develops like baking a cake.

All the ingredients come together to make something complete and whole.

Q4U:
Readers -- How important is the world building to you? Do you want to see the world clearly, or have you read stories you loved with just a little world and a lot of the characters and events?
Writers -- How do you like to world build?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Amber Kallyn

The Hurdles of Research

I’ve been doing an immeasurable amount of research lately. Some on marketing and promotion, since in today’s world this pretty much falls to authors.I find myself enjoying some aspects of research, disliking and slogging through others, and finding more things to add to my “To Learn About” list.

Let me tell you, I don’t exactly like researching subjects I’m not interested in, but sometimes one does what they must.

But research can be fun.

Recently, I got an idea for a Steampunk Urban Fantasy. I love the Victorian Era so delving into research was interesting.

Consuming.

I found so much to learn about.

A week later, I had too much information. LOL.

And I figured something out.

Research can be daunting; the overwhelming availability of materials out there is immense. It’s important to know when to stop looking and start writing. Rewriting and editing is always available later.

By only researching the basics, you’ll gain the ‘flavor’ you need to begin the project. Once the story is written, you will be able to see the areas specifically you need to research more and include that information during the editing process.

So, I stopped researching and started writing. I have notes everywhere (RESEARCH: This and That). And that’s all right.

I’ll fix it during my edits.

But at least I’m back to the writing now, rather than in the swirling vortex of lovely information out there.

Q4U:
Readers - How much information do you like in historical stories you read?
Writers - How do you handle your research?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Amber Kallyn

Love-Hate Relationships and Goal Setting


In early December and through January, I start thinking about my goals for the year. Not just as New Year’s resolutions, but also because my birthday is in December -- and damn it, each time I get another year older. (If anyone has a way to stop that, email me directly...)

Now that I’m published, my goals changed a bit. I had to add a ton to my list of ‘Things to Accomplish’ this year. Yikes.

I’m also closer to getting my degree. Finally.

The thing about getting a Bachelors in Teaching is, at least in my state, it requires a 9 week stunt as a full-time student teacher. Of course, I don’t get paid, in fact, it costs me a pretty penny.

So, in late fall 2011, I’ll be blocking out 2 months for that.

Uh, oh. Now I’m down to ten months. Eek.

I have contracts for three books (Jan, Mar, May), but two are written, so only one to go.

I have stories to write, some to revise. I need to submit them, do edits, etc.

But this year, I also need to add the whole marketing/promotion angle -- of which I’m not very good at.

The thing is, my goals are kind of like my outlines. I use them as a road map, but they change and evolve as the year goes by. I find them useful for the few times I find myself wondering ‘What do I do now?’

Then there’s the Hate part.

Goals, as well as outlines, can be daunting, intimidating -- glaring at me through the dark with their red-rimmed evil eyes...

There’s so much to still be done.

That idea sucks, what was I thinking?

I can’t possibly do all that...

Then, there comes the time when I panic.

OMG, I’m so far behind.

Eventually, I either make it back on track or revise my goals to be achievable once more.

Q4U:
What’s your relationship like with goals? Do you set goals for the New Year or not?



Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Amber Kallyn


Critique Groups. Some Love ‘Em, Others Hate ‘Em.

Me? I LOVE my group.

I began with limited time, so I figured an online group would be my best choice. I put up a short story. Man. Talk about harsh. I cried.

But then I took a step back. I read the comments again. After bandaging my ego and my muse, I began to see a pattern.

One could be put in the ‘spiteful and unhelpful’ category.

Another tried really hard to be nice, and everything they said was true. My writing wasn’t anywhere near being up to snuff.

Boy, that hurt.

I took my story down, rewrote it, worked on something else, came back for another edit, then posted it again.

This time, though I’d critiqued about 15 other works (short stories or chapters), I only received 4 critiques back.

Three of them pointed out glaring issues I still had in my writing. The fourth loved it, but couldn’t say why.

After another round of double-fudge-chocolate chip-brownies, I took it down and stuffed it away and worked on something else.

By the time I was ready for another critique group, I’d heard good things about trying a local one. I attended a few meetings of general groups.

In one, we brought ten pages of a work-in-progress with copies for other people. Then, we read our pages out loud in front of everyone. They shouted comments, some wrote them on their copies, and then I got all the copies back.

I didn’t learn much.

First of all, I couldn’t critique very well trying to listen to someone read their prose. Second, I don’t do literary. I just don’t ‘get’ it very well. So I didn’t have much to offer.

Second, I’m a speed reader. Even when I critique and edit. My brain works like that. I had read the person’s ten pages and marked my thoughts in red pen by the time they started reading page three.

Third, I found the copies I got back had comments such as, “I don’t like this word.” Or “Great job.” Not very helpful.

By the time the next meeting came around and I had the next 10 pages to read, everyone had forgotten my story. They’d only heard me read it once. They didn’t remember if I’d introduced character A already, or if Character B had done such and such. And to top it off, I didn’t remember their stories either.

After a few meetings where I didn’t really connect with anyone, I stopped going. But I kept writing. Got a novel done and knew it needed help. Kept reading how-to books and trying to improve.

Then I talked to an author on-line and she told me about her wonderful critique group. It was local. They met every 2 weeks, but they sent their chapters (around 15 pages but not strict requirements) in advance. At their leisure, the members read and edited, then when they got together, the group took turns with each person’s chapter. The author got to hear everyone’s opinion at the same time, AND heavily edited paper copies of the critiques. Because the members had the chapters in advance, they could read them as fast or slow, or as many times, as they needed to give an in-depth critique.

So, I looked around locally. At this time, I was writing fantasy, a slight blend of traditional with urban pacing (fast).

I didn’t find anything other than the read-out-loud experience I’d had before. I tried more online groups. While there was a slight benefit, it didn’t ‘feel’ right.

Desperate for one-on-one face time with other authors, I found Meetup.com in early 2007. It’s a site for meetups of all types—play dates, specific and general interests. I gathered my courage and started a group.

I scheduled the first meeting for 3 weeks out, terrified no one would become a member, and no one would come.

At our first meeting, there were 14 of us. We had literary writers and genre writers. The funny thing was, all 8 of the genre writers wrote some form of Fantasy or Science Fiction. Guess we have the hardest time finding critique partners.

When summer came, things were a bit touch and go. By fall, we decided to split into two different groups. My group became Speculative Fiction only. Over the years, we’ve had members come and go. Some have been great, but needs changed. Others just didn’t fit.

Currently, we have 7 people. In my experience and opinion, 6-8 is the perfect number. Some of us have been there from the very beginning, two of our members have been there less than a year. But we all fit just right.

We also meet the first Saturday of each month for ‘write-ins’. These started the first year some of us tried Nano, and have devolved into plotting, brainstorming and gossip sessions.

It leaves us free to concentrate on the work during the meetings, when we know we get to gab on the Saturday.

It also pushes everyone to write. Each member is required to submit a chapter for each bi-monthly meeting. Now, sure, sometimes life comes up. But, it’s a kick in the pants to sit down and type.

Q4U:
Do you like critique groups? What is the best benefit you get out of them?