Monday, December 10, 2012

A Day of Celebration!

I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this year – if I had, surely I’d have plastered this milestone of writerly success on every blog, Facebook and twitter feed possible. Alas, I missed the 50,000 mark by just under half.

I’m not ashamed. The goal was to increase my word count, and I did that. And while I didn’t finish the novel I’d set my sights on for the month, I did write a few thousand words on various other projects. Perhaps my most successful writing month since June.

I’m just a few chapters shy of completing the book I started for NaNo, and I promise to go back to blogging this month. Based on some of your emails, I know I’m not the only one who has missed the weekly muse avatar.

But this Monday, I’m more excited to announce something more important than the muse – the launch of the first Best of” Vine Leaves Literary Journal Anthology.

It seems just yesterday that Jessica Bell approached me about starting an online journal dedicated to the vignette. As Jessica notes on her blog today, in the past year, we’ve read approximately 1000 submissions. And out of those 1000 submissions, we published around 160 online in our quarterly issues. From those 160 that were published online, we chose 'the best' pieces for our annual print anthology. In our very first anthology, The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012, we showcase 108 different authors and artists.

Impressive, right?

This anthology launches today in partnership with eMergent Publishing – and we couldn’t be more thrilled, and proud.

Thank you to all who were involved in putting this anthology together, especially Jodi Cleghorn at eMergent Publishing, for agreeing to partner with us for our annual anthologies, and Nick Panagiotopoulos for his amazing design skills. We couldn't have done this without you. And a special thanks to my partner, Jessica, whose exemplary talent, dedication and work ethic truly keep Vine Leaves progressing.

If you would like to support the vignette, please help spread the word about this anthology today. Here are some quick ways you can help:

Share on Twitter:
@VineLeavesLJ Best of #Anthology, #NewRelease out today! Awesome vignettes, incredible talent. Great 4 #xmasstocking!

Share on Facebook:

And of course, pick up a copy for the readers and writers in your life. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer!

- Dawn

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pre-Order Best Of Vine Leaves Anthology Today!

PictureEditors: Jessica Bell and Dawn Ius
Original Artwork: Gary Waters
ISBN: 978-0-9875000-4-5
Size: 140 X 216 mm (Perfect Bound)
Printing: premium colour on high quality paper
Pages: 150
RRP: €13.99


The Blurb:
In late 2011, Jessica Bell and I founded Vine Leaves Literary Journal to offer the vignette, a forgotten literary form, the exposure and credit it deserves.

The vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot, instead it focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object.

The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces from across the year.

From the haunting prose of Theresa Milstein and Carrie Mumford, to the controversial and quirky work of H. Edgar Hix and Greg Belliveau, the pathological effects of cigarettes and apple seeds, ice sculptures and mental illness are explored. We meet a lovable old man named Joseph and find out out how the good old washing machine can change one’s life. Oh, and how could we forget a mention of the mother with the scissors?

Each vignette merges to create a vivid snapshot in time and place. Prepare for big stories in small spaces, between and beyond the words.

Read one at a time.

Taste them. Savour them.

Live them.

PRE-ORDER to receive your discount on the recommended retail price:

Australia $20.99 + postage (RRP $23.99)

UK £9.99 + postage (RRP £11.50)

USA $17.99 (RRP $20.99)

Europe €11.99 + postage (RRP €13.99)

Rest of the World $20.99 plus postage

For more than three copies contact sale(at)emergent-publishing(dot)com for discounts on shipping.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Breaking for some aMUSEment

November was supposed to be a no distraction zone. Limited social media, gradual cut-backs on favorite TV shows, and no blogging - not even a Monday Muse Avatar.

But then I finally, after much prodding and teasing from family and friends, discovered SONS OF ANARCHY - and of course, Charlie Hunnan (aka. Jackson Teller). Trust me, Jax is worthy enough a muse for me to come out of the NaNoWriMo darkness and talk a little about my new obsession with this show.

Yeah, I'm not going to lie. It IS a bit of an obsession. Admittedly, I'm not the only one in the house with a  SONS OF ANARCHY crush. We watched three quarters of the first season this weekend, and I suspect some of our regular weekday programming like The Voice, X-Factor, and Revolution will be on PVR hold until we're caught up on all...five?...seasons. I'm not complaining.

The picture really doesn't do Charlie justice. I've known enough bad boys in my life - heck, I even married a former "bad boy"- and yep, Jackson Teller epitomizes the stereotype. Part of a motorcycle gang, smokes and drinks and swears, involved in plenty of illegal activity, looks damn fine on his Harley. A classic bad boy.

But that alone isn't what makes him swoon-worthy.

The Jackson Teller character is well written, though it straddles the line of cliche. Part of the reason I think it avoids the dark side - or maybe we just choose to ignore it - is because Charlie Hunnan has invested a lot into the role. I believe him. I believe in him. And not just because his adorable smile makes my heart skip a beat.

Sure, the other actors are compelling. Ron Perlman is brilliant as club president. Kim Coates is incredible in a very creeptastic role. I could go on and on. But something about the way Charlie walks, talks, smiles, even fires a gun seems almost effortless, as though he's not acting the part of Jackson Teller...he just is. 

Which is something to keep in mind as I'm writing my NaNoWriMo book, NEED. This WIP is nothing like I've worked on before - and yet, it's flowing from me like no other book has before. Maybe it's because I've opted to turn off the internal editor, or maybe it's because it's fresh blood, something new to sink my teeth into. Regardless, I'm invested - and the end result based on feedback so far is that the character is believable. Her story is believable.

There's still half of November left and I'm behind on my word count. I think I can catch up - as long as the next season of SONS OF ANARCHY stays at HMV, and especially if I cast Charlie in another important role - my muse. Here's hoping he tackles it with the same effortless brilliance.

Going back under now. Hope your NaNoWriMo efforts are going well.

- Dawn

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Going dark for NaNo and stuff

Halloween kind of came - and went - with so little hoopla, I barely even got my skeletons out of the closet, let alone scatter them throughout the house in some kind of spooktacular fashion.

It's not like me. I'm the girl who dresses up, even when the rest of the office doesn't. I'm the pumpkin carver, the Halloween cookie decorator, the scare-the-crap-out-of-the-kids neighbor. Yeah, that girl.

But this year, I couldn't quite muster that Halloween feeling - which is actually kind of nerve-wracking since I write thriller and paranormal suspense.

Instead of dwelling on it, I'm moving on...right into November.

This will be the third time I have signed up for National Novel Writing Month. I'm not a NaNo success story. In fact, generally, announcing that I will be taking part in NaNo almost guarantees I will have a record low word count for the month.

But let's be honest. My word count these past few weeks - since I completed Heartless - has been lack lustre at best. I can really only go up.

I've registered for NaNo as "the other me" since I'll primarily be working on NEED, one of my young adult endeavors, along with Killer's Instinct, Heartless revisions, two elementary school graphic novels for the Alberta Canola Producers' Commission and a few other odds and ends projects including revisions to a feature film script, the first few chapters of an exciting new thriller, and book two in the Jagger Valentine series.

Clearly, it's not all getting done. Realistically, I won't even complete one actual book, though I'm going to try really hard. But I will write 50,000 words - which is the magic number to complete the quest. And who knows, maybe it will become a habit.

I know my limitations, my distractions, my barriers to success. I'm eliminating some of them after tonight. I'm going to set the PVR to record all of my favorite shows and reward myself once a week with a catch-up TV binge. (Thank goodness I'll be all caught up on Revenge after tonight!)

I'm also shutting down the blogs. Throughout November, I won't be regularly posting here or at - not even a Monday Muse Avatar. *Gulp* However, I may do very short weekly posts on the Dawn Dalton blog with a NaNo update.

And of course, I won't be on Facebook or Twitter - much. Hey, some habits are hard to break.

Despite this crack at discipline, I've still got the day job, my family and friends, a few contract jobs, critiquing for a couple of writers and Vine Leaves Literary Journal to keep me busy when I've completed my daily NaNo word count.

1666 words a day.

No sweat, right? *deep breath*

And so, here we go. To my fellow NaNo writers, good luck! Looking forward to seeing everyone on the other side.

- Dawn

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pure aMUSEment

Ack! I love James Purejoy.

I first discovered him in the movie A Knight's Tale, and have kind of semi-stalked him ever since. I even half cast him in the role of Nic, the leading man in my novel, Heartless.

But then, James made a (too short) guest appearance on one of my new favorite TV shows, Revenge, and my love for him came rushing back.

Which is why I am super stoked that he'll be starring alongside Kevin Bacon in a thriller TV series starting this January called, The Following. Yeah, I know, Kevin Bacon as an FBI agent - predictable. But get past that, because James is going to be the serial killer.

Love him. LOVE!

And so it makes complete sense to cast him as this week's Muse Avatar.

When I'm not obsessively watching for the latest Frankenstorm news, I'll be kicking off November with some long awaited projects - revisions to Heartless, continued work with Judith Graves on Killer's Instinct, a NaNoWriMo young adult project, the start of an adult thriller and a quirky experimental project with Jessica Bell. Exciting!

But before all that...I'm back to checking Hurricane #Sandy tweets and praying for the safety of my friends and family throughout the United States. Stay safe everyone!

- Dawn

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When bullying hits home

The issue of bullying isn't going away. It's happening at places of work, on the Internet, in schools - within local sports organizations.

Despite repeated tragic stories of torment - and even death - as a result of bullying, the epidemic (pandemic? disease?) isn't getting better. If anything, it's worse.

I've known a lot of victims of bullying, faced my own childhood tormentors, and even now continue to deal with an adult bully, despite repeated attempts to take the higher ground.

But today, I'm at my breaking point. Maybe it's because we're at the tail end of Anti-Bullying Month that I'm even more sensitive to the issue, but this latest instance is not only breaking my heart, it's making me mad.

A dear friend of mine is taking a stand against a group of bullies. Megan is one of the most intelligent, beautiful, caring and funny women I know. She's also a lesbian. Megan and her amazing partner play soccer on a team predominantly of lesbians - and they're a damn good team. They practice hard. Play hard.

And they play fair.

I'm all for friendly competition, and good-hearted razzing on the field is fine, even expected. But a group of girls on an opposing team have taken it too far. Verbal abuse, threats, pushing and shoving during the game and after. They've crossed every line of fair play.

But that's not even the worst of it. Despite numerous complaints against this team, the league has not only decided to do nothing about it, they've turned a blind eye.

Megan is doing what we encourage our youth to do. The team has reported the incident. They've filed complaints. They've rallied friends and family for support.

Isn't THIS where the league should also take a stand?

If a strong, vocal, passionate ADULT victim of bullying stands up and speaks out against this abuse - and her concerns are pushed aside, then HOW can we expect our youth to feel secure that if THEY stand up for themselves, they'll have the support they need?

This is Megan's story and I'll do whatever I need to help her tell it, not only because she is my friend and I love her, but because it's important for victims of bullying everywhere to understand the that one voice CAN make a difference.

Please, read Megan's story and share, because awareness is only the start of the battle.

- Dawn

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: The Comma

I'm the last person in the world to preach about proper sentences. The main character in my book HEARTLESS is snarky, abrupt, sometimes rude - which means many of the sentences throughout the novel are abrupt, choppy, even incomplete. *gasp*

Contrary to what my stepdaughter believes, I was not an A-student in Language Arts and English. Sure, I loved to read and write, but the essay isn't my BFF, and I never quite figured out when to use a colon or a semi-colon. Heck, half the time I can't even remember which is which.

Instead, I tended to overuse the comma.

Until I attended a writer's class with NYT Bestselling thriller author Steve Berry who gave me this great comma advice: Insert a comma only where your eye needs a break.

I'm sure English teachers all around the world are sending me dirty looks right now (my Grade 6 teacher, Mrs. Kratky, included) but hear me out. You want to make the reading experience as smooth as possible, right? You want tight writing, fast pacing, sentence variation. Don't you?

Commas can bung that all up.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow some of those basic comma rules, like using them to separate items, etc. But it's a good exercise to go through your manuscript and look at your comma usage. Some of them may be misplaced - or *gasp* not even required at all.

Have a great Wednesday!

- Dawn

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TV Tuesday: Chicago Fire

I'm not generally into traditional police procedurals, or TV shows that feature doctors, nurses, or firemen. Exceptions include House and CSI (the Grisham version, not this weird Ted Danson thing), though when I drill it down, both of those shows had much more to do with characterization than the setting. House - in the beginning - was a brilliant character.

But there's something kind of appealing about Chicago Fire - and yes, I'm talking about more than the aesthetics. Because let's face it, the show is filled with beautiful people - handsome, muscular firemen, and gorgeous female EMTs. No stereotyping here, right?

Aside from their striking good looks, there's nothing truly outstanding about the roles from a characterization standpoint. There's the fireman with the drug problem, the dude with fiancee problems, the female EMT who has bad luck with men, and the female EMT who has great luck with the ladies, the brooding hunk, the domineering boss, get the picture. Been there. Done that. Like 1000 times.

Chicago Fire has plenty of drama - fires blazing out of control, heroic rescues from burning buildings and the like. And of course, the there's internal conflict aplenty, with the story lines from each character crossing over, intersecting or merging with each other, which all sounds so complex...

Except it isn't.

And perhaps, for me at least, that's exactly the allure of Chicago Fire. Not quite mindless TV, but maybe one of the only shows on my PVR list that doesn't get me thinking about a new idea in a similar genre.

Yet. Let's see what happens after the first season.

Watching Chicago Fire? What do you think?

- Dawn

Monday, October 22, 2012

The walking muse

I'd actually selected a different Arrow-toting hottie for the role of this week's Muse Avatar. But then I watched The Walking Dead last night, and yeah, I'm just going to say it - I love Daryl.

Sure, he's a redneck with anger issues and a chip on his shoulder. And, yeah maybe some of his actions are... questionable. But can you blame him? He's one of the few survivors in an epic zombie apocalypse. Sometimes stuff's just gotta get done.

Which is how my week looks. I'm fighting the flu that has plagued my husband, and powering through on a few projects that I've put on the backburner while finishing Heartless. If I'm lucky, I'll be making an announcement about exciting news I've sat on for months. Not to mention, the "other me" is taking part in the Crossroad Blog Tour hosted by Judith Graves. (Today I'm hanging out with Karen at the For What It's Worth blog talking about spiders, Killer's Instinct, and Alexander Skarsgard... Check it out for a chance to win a KINDLE preloaded with 13 haunting tales!)

And of course, Halloween is less than 10 days away. My house is decorated for the season and hubs and I spent hours on Sunday icing sugar cookies - ghosts, monsters, spiders and more. (The kidlet was working...don't judge!)

It's another busy week, but for some reason, the plate feels manageable with Daryl as my muse. Something tells me if I need a pick-me-up (or someone's butt kicked), he'll be more than happy to step into action.

Have a great Monday!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TV Tuesday: Revenge

I love Revenge.

Not the act of, of course, but rather, the TV series. I'm a bit behind on the 8-ball with this show, but after a solid tip from my awesome mother-in-law and some gushing about the series by my fabulous employer, I picked up the first season of Revenge this past weekend.

I'm almost done - and it's 22 episodes.

I know I've been doing a lot of binge TV watching (I swear, there's a reason), but few shows have compelled me like this one - and truthfully, it's not in my traditional wheelhouse. Typically, I go for the supernaturally-inspired series, like The Vampire Diaries, Walking Dead and True Blood. Don't get me wrong, those kinds of shows still own priority position on my PVR schedule.

But I've been forcing myself out of my comfort zone lately -- and Revenge definitely hits the mark.

The show centers on a young woman who integrates herself into a rich community with people who don't realize she's only there to exact revenge on those who had destroyed her family.

Though I do believe in karma, I'm not big on the act of revenge and by all accounts, I shouldn't be obsessed with this show. There's nothing supernatural about it. It isn't a thriller. It's not twisted like American Horror Story or funny like Friends. And it's definitely not a reality show featuring Adam Levine. 

But here's the thing. When I was a teen, I LOVED The O.C. - a show about a group of young people living rich, and dealing with typical teenage drama. (Sidenote: I also loved Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 - the originals, of course.) Writer Mike Kelley was a consulting producer on The O.C., and he's the showrunner/creator of Revenge. Basically, the show boils down to this: a group of rich socialites and their drama - The O.C. for adults. 

And a proven recipe for mindless TV?

Not quite.

Revenge isn't mindless. The plot lines are complex. The characters - all of them, not just the leads - are three dimensional. The writing is spectacular. And even though I can't quite put my finger on it, there's something crazy addictive about the series.

Any ideas?

- Dawn

In case you needed another reason to watch - a beautiful cast.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Revenge of the Muse

I've watched a lot of TV in the past two weeks, fresh shows (Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, and more!), old favorites (hello The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries!), and even a couple new-to-me series. After some deliberation, I've programmed the must-see-TV shows into my extensive PVR list and started weeding out the ones I really should let go if I want to get any actual writing done.

I'd planned a whole week's worth of posts devoted to Chicago Fire - lots of muse avatar potential on that show, let me tell you. I'll come back to this series eventually (especially since one of the stars has eyes that rival those of muse avatar favorite, Ian Somerhalder) but I'm making a last minute switch and assigning the muse role to Nick Wechsler of the show I'll be gushing about on tomorrow's TV Tuesday post, Revenge.

I'll save the review for tomorrow but I'd be happy to blabber about Nick right now. I'm totally hooked on his character, Jack. He isn't the leading man - though a case could be made that none of the guys on the show really are. Yet, he's the character I keep thinking more about.

Maybe it's the slow build of characterization, or the subtle way he seems to command the scene, even when it's not really his scene. It could be our emotional connection (yes, through the TV), and how my heart kind of aches for him, even though he's about to make a really silly move (I'm on episode 10 of the first spoilers, please.) Or heck, maybe it's just that he's so damn hot.

Regardless, there's something about him that keeps me coming back for...more.

With that kind of hold on me, there's no doubt Nick is a worthy choice for this week's muse avatar.

Happy Monday and have a great week.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: Research

I love writerly research.

Whether I'm Google mapping street addresses for a better sense of place, digging into ancient history, or learning a new skill, my research notes help to flush out the details in my manuscript, giving my work a level of authenticity that can't be achieved with simple guesswork.

One of my mentors, NYT Bestselling author James Rollins, taught me one of the keys to good writing: specificity. (I can write it, but it's sure a tongue twister to say!)

Most times, I rely on the Internet. It's not possible to travel all over the world - especially when I like to write internationally-inspired stories. But the world wide web is good for everything from looking up a street address to scrolling through pictures of that street for a suitable setting.

When Wikipedia steers me wrong, I head to the library, where I stock up on books related to my research topic. And then, I buy one or two "bibles" - the key texts that give the most authentic background material.

But every once in a while, I need to get a bit more intimate with a subject.

Which led me to buy a recurve bow. No, I'm not going all Hunger Games, but my character in Heartless carries her bow, Chester, everywhere she goes. I couldn't quite understand the challenges of that without experimenting myself. But I also needed to know more about archery - the difficulty in hitting a small target, the feel of the arrow firing from the bow, the strength required to pull back the string.

So, I started taking lessons, bought myself a recurve, and set up a target in the backyard using hay bales and, erm, zombie print-outs. Consider it research for a couple of books.

While I typically like to complete most of the research at the start of any new project, I'm excited to infuse these archery details now, after finishing the first draft of the book. The scenes are really starting to come to life.

And at close range, I'm not a bad shot.

No head, no undead, right?

Learning archery was the right move for this book, but I'm about to start an exciting new project and I've already begun a list of the research required before I actually put pen to paper. I won't need to learn how to shoot another weapon (though, I enjoyed an excursion to the gun range last year), but I will get to face some of my fears...and learn about a whole new exotic location. I can hardly wait.

- Dawn

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

TV Tuesday: 666 Park Avenue

At the Drake Building, the setting for ABC's new drama 666 Park Avenue, all of your dreams and desires can come true - wealth, sex, love, even revenge. But be careful what you wish for, because the price you pay...could be your soul.

Cue: audience "oohs" and "ahhs"

666 Park Avenue is billed as a horror, but only in the lightest sense. It's certainly not going to test any TV boundaries like FX's brilliantly creeptastic American Horror Story, and at times the attempts at "scary" come off as more campy.

I'm really picky about my "camp" and two episodes into this series has me straddling the fence. Despite a fairly solid main cast, including Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams, the supporting characters often make dumb choices, lending an overall tone of disbelief to the show.

Still, I can see the appeal. 666 Park Avenue is a soap opera with supernatural undertones, a show filled with Melrose Place-esque juicy gossip, beautiful people and drama. The plot isn't complicated - or rather, doesn't appear overly complicated based on what I've seen so far, and if you can overlook the lack of genuine creep factor, it's 40-ish minutes of mindless fun. Providing you have time for that kind of guilty pleasure.

Tell me, is 666 Park Avenue in your address book or are you going to bypass this Manhattan block?

- Dawn

Monday, October 8, 2012

Diverse aMUSEment

I love the diversity of Johnny Depp.

Determined not to be pigeon-holed as a pretty boy - despite his startling good looks - Johnny has taken on some of the most challenging, unique, and brilliant acting roles of the last two decades, proving he is much, much, much more than a pretty face.

While there are similarities in many of the roles Johnny has taken on, there's a big difference between his character in Secret Window vs Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for instance. But they also have one thing in common - Johnny is amazing in both movies.


I'm striving for that in my own career. Not just in mediums - journalism, screenwriting, short stories and novels - but in genres, as well.

In just a few short thousand words, I'll finish my paranormal-ish suspense/romance (talk about diverse!), and then will move on to my second thriller novel, a comedy-inspired screenplay, a paranormal young adult, the third educational canola book, and a semi-secret horror project that literally haunts my dreams. (Hey, it's the month of Halloween...scary is allowed.)

Yeah, I know, diverse. But I think that's what inspires me.

A little like Johnny Depp does. Which is what makes him the perfect Monday Muse Avatar. Don't you think?

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends and family. Have a fabulous week!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag This Week: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thriller Thursday: Book 17 - Kill You Twice

Chances aren't great I'm going to hit the 100 Books in 2012 goal - not even close. I don't know what's up with me lately, but I've been seriously slacking on reading - I've even delved into one book and then moved on to another novel before finishing the one I've started.

Until Kill You Twice.

In my humble opinion, Chelsea Cain is one of the best thriller writers in the world, and her Archie Sheridan/Gretchen/Susan series never fails to thrill.

Or inspire a healthy dose of writerly envy.

Kill You Twice is the fourth book in a series that follows the always captivating, sometimes gory ongoing story of tortured cop Archie Sheridan, and his unorthodox relationship with the mesmerizing murderess, Gretchen.

Yeah, I'm a little obsessed with Gretchen.

Like each of the characters in all of Chelsea Cain's books, Gretchen is beautiful and flawed, compelling - and most of all, memorable. From the first book, Heartsick, I found myself reeled in by Cain's brilliant writing style, not only from a technical standpoint, but from her ability to make me feel, to make me fall in love...with a serial killer.

Kind of in a Dexter sort of way.

It would be impossible to disclose the details of this plot without giving spoilers on the previous books, so here's the basics: Archie is still flawed, Susan still dyes her hair in neon, the new mystery is creepy, the descriptions are gory, and Gretchen is...perfect.

Read this book. No, really.

- Dawn

PS - This series was optioned for development of a TV show slated for FX. I can't WAIT to see who they cast for Archie and Gretchen!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: Conflict

I'm not good with conflict in my personal life. In fact, I'll pretty much do just about anything to avoid it.

Even if it means not standing up for myself. In 90% of instances, I'd rather walk away from a situation than fight or debate my point of view - even when I'm not to blame. Or perhaps, especially when I'm not to blame. Call it a character flaw or an act of cowardice, but it is what it is - conflict is not my BFF.

Which is why it doesn't come as a big shock to realize my current manuscript lacks...conflict. Pretty much the kiss of death for authors, right?

Oh sure, I've figured out how to craft those clever cliffhanger endings, my sentences are so tight adverbs have to lose their "ly" endings to squeeze in, and I know my characters better than I know myself. Truth.

But when it comes to the natural (and then ramped up fictionalized) conflict that is inherent in all human relationships, I struggle. A treasured beta reader for HEARTLESS, my editor, and a number of writerly and non-writerly friends have showered the book with praise. There's just this one little caveat - Where's the conflict?

Good question!

As I finish up the first draft of the book this week (so close!), I'll be thinking about the revisions process and ways I can ramp up the conflict. In the meantime, maybe my characters will teach me how not to become a doormat in my personal life :-/

So...what are your strategies for dealing with conflict? On the page, of course.

- Dawn

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TV Tuesday: Revolution

As a super fan of the TV show Supernatural, I've been patiently waiting for Eric Kripke and JJ Abrams' new series, Revolution. I'm three episodes in, and I admit, I haven't quite made up my mind about it yet.

The premise is intriguing - set 15 years after a global blackout, a world without electricity. No iPhones, no vehicles, no light after sunset.

I'm a fan of Billy Burke, so I'm happy to see him as a leading guy, and with my new Breaking Bad obsession, I'm thrilled actor Giancarlo Esposito is back on TV in another edgy role. Perhaps relieved is a better word, since the generic characters - Burke included - lacked some of the grit I'd hoped for. After all, Kripke did create the Winchester boys.

The pilot had a Hunger Games-esque vibe, so strong in fact, I'd actually begun casting Katniss, Gabe and Peeta. I'm rethinking the boys after the third episode but Katniss is a lock.

Actress Tracy Spiridakos (Go Canada!) plays a wicked crossbow shooter named Charlie Matheson.   After her brother is kidnapped and her father murdered, she leads a small group of survivors on a quest to Her uncle? Electricity? The real motive is still a bit unclear, and while there's no question Charlie is beautiful, and skilled, she's kind of all over the map and her character hasn't yet resonated with me.

That said, the visuals are stunning - and symbolic. A broken ferris wheel in the middle of a field, overgrown with weeds and wild flowers. A main street turned into a car graveyard. Wrigley Field, an empty stadium, barren and lonely. Each episode is peppered with reminders of a former life - old photographs stored on a battery-dead iPhone, abandoned airplanes now used as shelters, looters seeking the last of the canned goods. It's not going to compete with the cinematography of shows like Game of Thrones but then, not many can.

While I'm not blown away, I am intrigued enough to keep Revolution on my PVR list. I'm not willing to exchange it in place of The Voice for Monday night real-time viewing (yes, I do like my talent reality shows), but it provides great background noise when I'm making dinner or catching up on social media.

For sci-fi fans who are still looking for something to replace Lost, Revolution might be the key - but for me, this post-apocalyptic world needs to get a little dirtier if it's going to compete against my very full slate of fall TV shows.

Are you watching Revolution? I'd love your take.

- Dawn

In My DVD Player: Breaking Bad

Monday, October 1, 2012

Muse of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy is on my TV show hitlist - and let's be honest, a lot of it has to do with Charlie Hunnam.

Nope, I've never seen him act (though I hear he's amazing on the show as JAX), and I really have no idea what the show is about - but I was late to the Breaking Bad party and the same people who turned me on to that show are talking about Sons of Anarchy. 

 Who am I to argue? Especially when the show clearly boasts some impressive eye candy talent.

I'm (just) 3,000 words (or two chapters) shy of finishing Heartless (minus a whole book rewrite, of course) which means two things: Finishing season 4 of Breaking Bad as reward, and the promise of a new project in the horizon. Maybe Sons of Anarchy will be my new series, as well.

I know, it's a Muse Avatar stretch - but I'm betting with the promise of Charlie ahead, I'll have no problem polishing off those last 3,000 words. And THAT is muse-worthy.

Have a great week!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Monday, September 24, 2012

Breaking from the norm

I'm breaking from my traditional Muse Avatar fare this week to highlight an actor that inspires me far more than even the hotness that is Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgard or Adam Levine.

For the past few weeks, hubs and I have been obsessed with Breaking Bad, in my opinion, one of the most well-written drama series on TV today. There's a number of reasons I've dubbed the show brilliant, but a lot of it has to do with the characters - and the amazing cast members who have brought those characters to life.

I've featured Aaron Paul on my blog before, and in addition to being pretty darned cute, he absolutely deserves last night's Emmy win in the outstanding supporting actor category. He is outstanding.

But I'm most enthralled with - in awe of, inspired by - Bryan Cranston. No doubt his performance as the meek-chemistry-teacher-gone-major-bad-dude Walter White is fuelled by the complex character created by the show's mastermind, Vince Gilligan, but Cranston's portrayal is mind boggling.

And a blatant reminder of the importance of characterization.

Walter White is an extraordinary character - sympathetic, flawed, driven, even desperate. And the potential for growth? Staggering. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of an over-the-top yet somehow believable character arc. I'm invested - 100%.

Long after I (reluctantly) turn off the DVD player, I think about Walt - about the decisions he's made, and most importantly, the motivation behind them.

As I push through the last 10,000 words of HEARTLESS, I've been thinking a lot about character motivations. I've got a lot - too many - projects on the go, but there is no other character I know better, or love writing more, than Jagger Valentine. And yet, with this first book in the series, I have only started scratching the surface of what drives her.

I had a tough weekend, and a crappy start to the week to boot. The next few days don't look much better. But if I'm going to cross the finish line of this book, I need to channel my inner Jagger - and perhaps some Walter White - and push emotion to the side. I need to do whatever I must to get the book done. Without breaking bad, of course.

I can't think of a more inspirational muse avatar for the week than the brilliant Bryan Cranston.

- Dawn

PS - Those last 10,000 words? Yeah, they're a bitch. Tomorrow I'll be talking about my strategy for typing "the end" (sooner rather than later) on the Indie Elite blog. Please...come hang out, laugh at my psychosis, or offer some block-busting tips. Pretty, please?

The Book In My Bag Today: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Monday, September 17, 2012

More than an inspirational voice

Okay, let me get this out of the way: Yes, handsome hubby, you ARE better looking than Adam Levine, and while it may *seem* like I have a small obsession with the Maroon 5 frontman this past week, I assure you, it's strictly from a research/writing point of view.

Moving on.

It's no secret I'm a fan of reality-based talent shows, and for years have followed American Idol, despite my favorites almost never winning the title. If not for the addition of Stephen Tyler and Jennifer Lopez a couple of seasons ago, I may have forfeited the show for good...

I think Idol's days - for me - are done. Stephen and Jen are off the show this season, and last year, I fell in love with a new reality-based sing-off - The Voice.

Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with Adam Levine. Sure, Blake Shelton has some country charm, and Cee-Lo is funny in a creepy sort of way, and I'm vaguely intrigued by the hot mess that is Christina. But really, I'm invested in Adam - the way he begs for the artists he wants, how my heart aches when they choose another coach (are you NUTS, people?!), the way his face lights up when the sane people DO choose him.

And then I heard this new Maroon 5 song...

...and something creative popped.

I'd been struggling with a character/plot point with HEARTLESS for a while, and something about the lyrics, or the video, or just Adam Levine's voice/face/smile/ unlocked the key to my writer's block.

Despite being down and out with a cold for a couple days, Sunday turned into a fairly productive writing day - and I'm pretty sure I have Adam (and of course, YOU handsome hubs) to thank for that. But why stop the creative drive at Sunday?

I'm so close - SO close - to finishing the first book in this series that I know if I applied myself I could  be typing THE END by the end of the week. Since Adam did such a great job this weekend, I figure it couldn't hurt to cast him in the role of MUSE AVATAR for the WHOLE week.

Have a great week! I know I will.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Heather McCorkle's cover reveal - awesome!

I love a good book cover.

Yeah, I know you're not supposed to judge a novel by it's cover, but there's something exciting about seeing the book jacket for the first time, both as a writer and a reader. Which is why I'm excited to help promote this new book from the talented Heather McCorkle.

Rise of a Rector is the final novel in her channeler series (due out this October). To celebrate Heather is giving away two copies of her historical fantasy novel, To Ride A Puca. Before we get to that though, here is the cover:


To add it to your Goodreads lists, click here. If you'd like to check out the rest of the channeler series (her novella Born of Fire is now FREE on Amazon & B&N!) you can do so on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. To win an eBook of To Ride A Puca, all you have to do is help Heather spread the word.

There will be two winners! To enter fill out this form.

Thanks for helping Heather spread the word, and GOOD LUCK!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: The Girl of Nightmares, Kendare Blake

Monday, August 27, 2012

Starting a new BAD habit

I *may* be crushing a bit on Aaron Paul.

You may know him as Jesse Pinkman on the hit TV series Breaking Bad - which is pretty much the only place I know him from, and really, we've only just met.

Not literally *met*, of course. I mean, figuratively since I've only just discovered the brilliance that is Breaking Bad.

Hubs and I are about three quarters of the way through the first season, and I'm captivated. Perhaps borderline obsessing - and it has only a little to do with Aaron. No, really.

The writing is amazing.

Unlike the majority of TV shows I'm addicted to these days, Breaking Bad isn't a fast-paced, get-your-heart-pumping, sex-infused supernatural jaunt. Though at times somewhat shocking, and perhaps slightly gory, Breaking Bad is more of a slooowww burn - but man, when the pieces all come together, the payoff is worth the investment. And then some.

Breaking Bad is one of six shows sitting next to my DVD player, along with Being Human (season 2), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (all seven seasons - gulp!), Dead Like Me (2 seasons), Lost Girl (season 2), and Mad Men. I'm a little bogged down in TV land these days - but I have a good excuse.

As most of you know, I've just recently signed a rep agreement with the amazing agent Anna Archer of Lucas Talent. Anna reps screenwriters and show runners for the Canadian TV/film market, and I'm thrilled to join her team...

And yes, a little scared.

My whole life, I've wanted to write books - in all genres, for all ages. That's still the main dream, but my writing aspirations have extended to the screen, and though I'm mums-the-word (for now) on what's on the horizon, I admit, I'm going to need to lean on my muse to get me through the next week of writing both for the original dream, and in its now super-enhanced form.

I think Aaron is perfect for the role. How about you?

If you're not watching Breaking Bad, you should check it out. It's smart, thought-provoking TV, with stellar writing, and some excellent acting, particularly the work of Aaron and Bryan Cranston. Already Breaking Bad? What do you think of the show?

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: The Girl of Nightmares, Kendare Blake

Friday, July 27, 2012

Breaking up is hard on the knees

It's not you, Diet Coke...

Actually it is.

After more than 25 years of loyal consumerism, I've come to realize Diet Coke isn't really that good for me - and I've decided it's time to part ways.

* pauses for dramatic effect *

Our on-again-off-again relationship began in high school, when my then Coca Cola habit was adding more body curves than thirst satisfaction. I switched to "diet" and drank almost a six pack a day, usually in the cafeteria where I skipped classes to write. Oh yeah, I was a big time party girl, let me tell you.

Somehow, Diet Coke became synonymous with writing - to the point that I once filled an empty can with water to try and psyche myself out. I barely wrote a solid paragraph. My muse is not easily foiled.

And now I'm on a 12-day cleanse where Diet Coke is one of the big forbidden items, and I realize my dependency on it can't be healthy. Yes, I've read the research on aspartame and caffeine, but that's not why I'm breaking up with Diet Coke this time. I'm kind of a bitch without it.

No really.

Ever since I started this cleanse, I've been on a roller coaster of withdrawal. I claw back my self control,  only to have it yanked from my hands with even the slightest hint of stress. I can't write. (Well, not anything good, anyway.) And okay, I admit I haven't been the easiest person to live with. Headaches. Body shakes. Complete exhaustion. That can't be good.

But breaking up is so hard, because I really love Diet Coke. Coke Zero. Diet Coke with Lime. Cherry Diet Coke. Vanilla Diet Coke. I love them all. I really, really, do.

And I have some great Diet Coke memories.

Like sipping DC and Jack Daniels in Hawaii, until Jamie taught me about Gibson's and Grey Goose, far smoother companions. Better than Mai Tai's any day - and best paired with a turkey burger. (Groan...take me back...)

Or, how about biking 1000 km in the heat, gulping down water while dreaming of the GIANT Diet Coke I'd reward myself with at the end of a 100 km day? Good times.

And just a few weeks ago, I sat at my kitchen table with Karen sucking back an ice cold DC, and a few days later, Sue and I played with puppies in the back yard and drank sangria - and then Diet Coke. (Because Sangria is really really good, too.) What will we drink if I give old faithful the boot?

I'm rather well known as the Diet Coke lady - and my family and friends would never dare offer a substitute. (Diet Pepsi is immediate grounds for friendship divorce.)

The thing is, I don't actually know if I'm ready to quit Diet Coke. For the past 7 days, I've been on my knees begging family, friends, and heck, random strangers for a small sip of their Diet Coke, or even a quick smell. Creepy, right?

Twice I have even cracked a can of Diet Coke with Lime, poured it over a glass of ice, just to feel the bubbles tickle my nose. I know, my willpower is to be commended (*accepts pat on back*) but just who am I kidding? When this 12 days of torture is finished, will I be ready to welcome Diet Coke back into my arms?

Chances are good.

But for now, I'm suffering through the separation. Weighing the pros and cons. Trying to figure out where Diet Coke ranks in the "bad boys" of my dating continuum. Is it too much to hope that DC isn't really that terrible?

Wait. Don't answer that. I'm fragile.

And bitchy.

Got a break up story?  How did you avoid going back?

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: The Next Always, Nora Roberts

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cleansing mind, body

I'm on day 5 of a 12-day herbal cleanse which essentially consists of taking these disgusting herbs twice a day, swilling awful drops twice a day (instant gag reflex), and eating a restricted diet that does not include dairy, flour, vinegar, alcohol, some fruits and, gasp, Diet Coke.

For those of you who know me, you understand how a regime that doesn't include Diet Coke might be somewhat traumatizing. Drinking it has never been about weight loss for me - I actually enjoy the taste.

But more than that, I associate Diet Coke with my creative side, convincing myself that I can't write, edit, or pretty much function without it. Not going to lie, I haven't been super productive in the writing department in the last five days, but I think it has as much to do with the draining after effects of the cleanse as it does my lack of Diet Coke.

I'm not doing the cleanse for weight loss either, though "temporary" shrinkage is certainly a happy side benefit. I started the Wild Rose D-Tox at my doctor's suggestion after we came up blank - again - on how to rid my body of this nagging cough I've had for more than a month. It's the kind of cough that keeps you up all night.

And it's viral - which means antibiotics and cough syrups don't work. But I've also hit an all-time unhealthy stage of my life. I've gained back all of the weight I lost last year, and though there are exciting things happening in my professional life, there's a lot of stress, too, which doesn't help in exorcising this nasty cough.

So, I'm cleansing.

I'm not even half way through, but already I feel a difference.

My Diet Coke cravings have subsided (Sunday was a bad day, my friends), and I feel lighter, less bloated. My energy levels aren't quite up to par, but I'm managing my daily workouts. My skin is clearer, my hair a bit shinier, and I'm not going to bed with that full feeling. I'm not going to bed feeling hungry, either. Because there are a number of foods I CAN eat.

But most importantly, that nagging cough? Almost gone.

While it's tempting to quit the program early and indulge in a morning coffee (with sweets Southern Butter Pecan cream), I'm going to stick it out. Maybe as my body cleans out all of the toxins, my mind will feel clearer too - and I won't need Diet Coke to get me through the creative day.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: The Last Boyfriend, Nora Roberts

Monday, July 23, 2012

An original muse

All this TV (it's for a good cause, honest!) over the past few weeks has reminded me of the original show that introduced me to binge watching -- 24.

I watched the first two seasons in two weekends, enough time to catch me up to the third season, whereby for the next four years, Mondays became almost a religious occasion. Shows like Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, Lost Girl or even True Blood don't hold a candle to the kind of obsession I had for 24 - missing an episode wasn't an option.

It's been two years since Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) saved the last President on 24, but I often watch random episodes thanks to the full DVD collection gifted to me by my awesome mother-in-law over the past few Christmases and birthdays.

Jack Bauer is a spectacular character. Of course, I'm a huge Kiefer fan (he was one of my original muse avatars) but there was something so kick-ass about Jack. I love his vulnerabilities, his tough-guy routine, his failed relationships, his heroism in the face of adversity. Jack Bauer is about as three-dimensional as they come.

I'm working on my own multi-dimensional character right now for HEARTLESS, the first book in a series featuring Jagger Valentine. You'll be hearing a lot about Jagger over the next couple of months - heck, maybe years - but I'm sure having fun with her right now.

I'm on a (soft) deadline with Jagger so she's my main goal as I had into the week, with the hope of finishing this first book by end of month latest. While I'm at it, I'm going to think of Jack Bauer. Well, probably Kiefer Sutherland if I'm being truthful. Either as himself, or in Jack's clothes, I'm sure this week's Muse Avatar will help me power through.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag This Week: The Last Boyfriend, Nora Roberts

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'd be lost without this muse

I've always had an eclectic selection of Muse Avatars. After all, TV and movie stars don't have a monopoly on inspiration. But in light of recent developments in my life, I've been more glued to the TV than ever and thus my muse selections lean more towards some of TV's leading men.

I have a slight obsession with Chris Holden Reid.

I discovered him about six months ago when I found the TV show Lost Girl, a hidden gem in the supernatural genre of series. Seriously, the first season blew my mind (Go Canada!), and while I'm not all ga ga over the female protagonist, Bo, the show has a seriously awesome supporting cast.

In fact, if I ever had the opportunity to cast a TV show, I'd steal two of their actors - including Chris Holden Reid.

On Lost Girl, Chris plays Dyson, a gritty cop who also just happens to be fae. Dyson. I just love that name. I pretty much love everything about him, though.

The photo doesn't do him justice. There's something ultra sexy and raw about his acting, and though the show hooked me in the first season, I'm betting I'll only stick it out as long as Chris does.

This week, I'm sticking him in the role of muse avatar - because I've got a lot on the go. Shocking, right? Here's hoping Chris can help all of us out in the inspiration department. Happy Monday!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: The Last Boyfriend, Nora Roberts

Monday, July 9, 2012

A MUSE worth repeating

I know it's only been a few weeks since I cast Joe Manganiello as muse avatar, but after a couple of "incidents" last week, I'm convinced he needs a repeat appearance.

The first "incident?" I saw Magic Mike with a couple of ladies from work. Total chick flick, total eye candy, and frankly, a total revision of how I'd originally pegged Joe. In True Blood, he's a  a hulking, alpha male werewolf and that's hot.

In Magic Mike, he's a stripper with a (Seriously!) I love the funny side of Joe, and I even love him in his glasses and slicked back hair.

(Sidenote: Magic Mike also reaffirmed how much I DISLIKE Matthew McConaughey. Yuck. He's so sleezy...especially in THIS movie.)

Back to Joe.

The second thing that happened this week is that I've recommitted to a healthier lifestyle. Yep, it's that time of year again...when I realize I've gained way too much weight and lost track of my overall fitness.  I'm sleeping too much. My immune system is low. Blah blah blah. Not good.

So I'm dedicating the rest of the summer (and beyond) to getting back into shape. Which is really about making sure my brain is healthy, too.

So what does this mean? Well...I've cut out coffee creamer to start. Basically, that means I'm cutting back on coffee, because I've never been a fan of that coffee taste. I'm also cutting out sugar. Gulp. Boosting my veggies and fruits, etc. All stuff that makes common sense.

And then I'm training for a triathalon.

Ok, I confess. It's not a REAL triathalon. I live in the country where there's miles of open road. And in our backyard, we have a 16 feet across pool (a Wal-Mart special). I know, not much swimming space, BUT, I discovered yesterday that I CAN do laps in it...sort of. I just go in circles. Many. Many. Times.

My plan is to hit the road sometime today - when it's not TOO hot. I'm going to start with a 10 min run. Hop on my bike and do about 20 minutes of cycling. And then come back and hop in the pool for a swim. Every week, I'll increase the times for each activity. (Unless it pours rain...then I might avoid the pool...)

I've always wanted to try a maybe this experiment will work. Regardless, I'll be looking to my ultra fit muse avatar, Joe for inspiration.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Crossed, Allie McCondie

Monday, July 2, 2012

50 Shades of aMUSEment

A co-worker sent me a link to this fascinating Pinterest site.

Even if you're not one of the millions of women reading the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, I'm sure you can appreciate the, ahem, effort that went into this compilation of potential candidates for the lead role of Christian Grey.

I'm way behind on my reading, with very little chance I'll finish the 100 Books in 2012 Reading Challenge, but 50 Shades of Grey and 50 Shades Darker are books 16 and 17 on the completed list - like I said, way behind.

If you're not on the Grey bandwagon, don't judge. The books were loaned to me by a friend, and despite the questionable subject matter and the bad (really bad) writing style, I couldn't resist seeing what all of the fuss is about.

There's a whole bunch of theories going around the water coolers in offices around the world, about deeper meanings, hard limits, and indeed, who will be cast as the handsome (the author's words, not mine) and ridiculously rich Christian Grey. Yes, they're making a movie out of it. Apparently Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood's Eric Northman) is on the shortlist...I'd probably pay to see that...

While I could go on and on about how much the books annoyed me ("I love you, Ana," he breathes. Seriously, have you tried talking while breathing? Is he exhaling? Inhaling? It's almost as ridiculous as "I love you," he ground out. Gag.) I'll skip to the part where I admit I couldn't put the first book down.

The subject matter didn't shock me, I'm not totally in love with Christian Grey, or wishing I could be Ana (whatever her last name is...does she even have one?) but like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, author E.L James has created a similar chemistry between her main characters. Indeed, the "mommy porn" books have been dubbed Twilight fan fiction - likely why it has broken all fiction sales records (outselling even Harry Potter!) and admittedly why I read it so quickly.

50 Shades is about as commercial as it gets.

And many businesses - from hotels to sex toy stores - are cashing in on the its success.

The writerly girl in me is disgusted by the commercial appeal of a book so poorly written, and the marketer in me is in awe of the sheer brilliance behind the marketing engine that runs this machine.

That said, I was bored by the middle of the second book, and it's doubtful I'll read the third. At least not right away.

I will, however, steal a 50 Shades man from that Pinterest link above for this week's muse avatar. Nope, I don't have a clue who the guy in the picture is, but if he doesn't fulfil the role, there's at least 49 other Christian Grey hopefuls to choose from.

Okay...fess up. Read 50 Shades? Who have YOU cast in the lead role?

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Crossed, Ally Condole