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It’s BRIMSTONE Week!

Brimstone is available today!  You can get it in your favorite bookstore, online or in person, and in many e-book forms!  And what a bargain! It’s two books in one!

I’ll be posting excerpts all week on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and this blog.  Are you following all those things?  It’s the best way to find out about late breaking news and impromptu contests and giveaways.  (Impromptu is code for “RCM doesn’t always plan very far ahead.)

Today’s News: Want to get your copy of Brimstone (or any of my other books) signed?  I will be joining the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour in Montreal Canada this Saturday the 14th and in Philadelphia on Tuesday the 18th.  Details, including the locations, times and what other authors will be there are all on the Smart Chicks page.

Brimstone Cover Today’s Random Brimstone Excerpt:

 The air seemed eerily quiet once the EMTs were gone.I found myself at the edge of the pool, looking for… I don’t know what. Another glimpse of black shadow, a whiff of something other than chlorine. I’m not sure what it would mean if I did smell something. That I was crazy? Or that I wasn’t. 

I never saw the future. I couldn’t have warned Karen any more than I could have warned my grandparents the night they died. There was nothing I could have done. 

“Of course there wasn’t.” 

My heart slammed against my ribs. I jumped, too, arms windmilling to keep myself from somehow defying physics and falling into water three feet away. 

“What! Careful.” Big, tanned hands caught my waist. Well, where my waist would be if I wasn’t wearing the World’s Most Unflattering Swimsuit.

Last Week’s Winners: Congratulations to the winners of their very own signed copy of Brimstone. Izzybella won the random drawing (by being comment #28 as picked by random.org) and Milena won the arbitrary “Most Creative Essay” award that I just made up because she amused me. Email me and send me your addresses so I can send your books!

Today’s Totally Impromptu Contest: Wish me and Maggie Quinn a Happy Book Birthday in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll pick someone to win a copy of BRIMSTONE!  (If you’ve already bought it, you know you can give away one copy to a friend. Or an enemy you want to make into a friend.)

Brimstone cover reveal and a little something extra

I’ve mentioned before that the first two books of the Girl vs. Evil series are being released in a new edition in September.

Without further ado, I present the cover of BRIMSTONE.

Here’s the cover copy:
Slinking down the streets, hiding in the shadows, always lurking just out of sight, evil follows Maggie Quinn. It’s no ordinary, everyday evil, either—it’s Evil with a capital E, and whatever’s behind it, it clearly wants Maggie.
But Maggie isn’t the type of girl to go down without a fight. She has a few powerful tricks up her sleeve, not to mention a best friend who’s a witch, and she’s declaring open season on demons.
BRIMSTONE is available on September 11, 2012.
In honor of Maggie’s new digs, I’m giving away something.
Answer these three questions in the comments section correctly to enter to win a signed copy of your choice of any of my books (including BRIMSTONE, you just have to wait a little longer).
1. What is one thing Maggie is afraid of?
2. What’s Maggie’s preferred way of dispatching demons?
3. What is the name of Maggie’s best friend?
Bonus (for tie-breaking):
4. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
Good luck!

Book Birthday Party!

The Splendor Falls comes out today! 

I hope Amazon delivers your pre-orders and bookstores are obligingly stocked with copies!  I haven’t been out to make the rounds yet, because I LOST A DAY this weekend. Seriously, I got up thinking it was Monday, went to check my mail and couldn’t figure out why I had an inbox full of congrats on my release. Because it’s TODAY not TOMORROW.

Not only that, but if you are cheap like me, and haven’t picked up your own copy of the award winning book HELL WEEK, you’re in luck.

Hell Week comes out in paperback today!

That’s two books!  It’s like having twins.

I know that most of you want to RUN out to your bookstore to either buy your copy while they still have some, or harangue (nicely!) the bookseller for not having it in stock. But if you’re in the DFW area, you might want to wait for Saturday, because I’m having a…

Book Release Party
Hurst (Texas) Barnes and Noble
(at North East Mall)
Saturday, September 12th
2 – 4 PM

Can’t make it that day?  Here are some other events I have coming up:

FenCon — September 18-20
Booksigning at the B&N at the Parks Mall — October 10
Buns ‘n Roses Literacy Fundraiser – October 11
Booksigning in Little Rock, AK with many other spooky book authors — October 24
Texas Book Festival — October 31

I’m also doing a bunch of guest blogs, interviews and giveaways in the next few weeks, so I’ll keep you posted!

Q&A Day: Building Character… the fictional kind

From Aliya (Who’s letter cracked me up. Thanks Aliya!):
As an avid reader and a hopeful writer I find something that really makes or breaks a story is the characters. So many times I find a book that has a sturdy, interesting plot, with flimsy little characters whose only purpose seems to be to carry out said plot. What’s something you found helpful when building the characters in your books, as well as keeping them from seeming too similar/one-dimensional? Was it something that came easily to you? If you could provide a little insight that would be awesome =).

My answer:
Characters are my favorite thing, except maybe for dialogue. I won’t say it always comes *easily* but it’s something I don’t remember having to learn how to do. I had to sort of retroactively figure out what I was doing with my best characters, so I could do it consistently do it with the rest.

A good main character is three things:
1) Multi-dimensional (They aren’t just one thing, they have facets and layers)
2) Relatable (You can put yourself in their shoes, even when they’re making mistakes.)
3) Internally consistent and internally logical. (Their traits mesh together and make sense as a whole).

When I create a character who’s going to get a lot of page time (a protagonist like Maggie, or major supporting character, like Lisa or Justin), I start off with the character "hook.” I like that term, because it’s the thing that the writer holds onto, and the thing that grabs the reader. If you had to describe ONE THING that told you the most about a character, what would it be? I knew, before I put my fingers on the keyboard, that Maggie was going to be plucky and inquisitive: the girl detective type who won’t let a mystery rest.

Everything else has to work around this core trait, whether it supports that trait, compliments it, or contrasts with it. It’s the thing that drives your character’s decisions, gives them direction like a compass. If you think about it like drawing, it’s a bold, dark stroke on a clean piece of paper: you can’t erase it, so the whole picture must be build around it.

Then you add other lines to make a more complete picture. These are secondary characteristics, quirks, hobbies, history, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses (never forget weaknesses!). Add shading: dark and light areas, fears and flaws as well as good stuff. But they all have to work with that first bold stroke. If they don’t relate to it, that’s when something rings false and fake. Going back to Maggie: she’s very determined, but the flip side of that is she can be a bit pig-headed. She’s extremely loyal, but she can be blind to her friends’ faults.

See how every trait has a positive and negative side? That makes them seem natural, like a real person, and not like I’m just giving her random strengths and flaws as the plot demands it.

While many stories concern the growth and change of a character, what’s actually changing is the outer layers: perspective, feelings, and how they express their core trait. For instance, Luke Skywalker starts off as a idealistic farmboy who craves action. He’s a hothead, but he basically wants to do good: save the princess, join the rebellion, etc. He struggles with that hotheaded impulsiveness and when it is expressed as anger, it tempts him to the dark side, but his good nature wins out. (He’s still a ‘doer’ but he learns to "let go of his anger.")

Stories with a major change to the character (i.e., a bad to good redemption) mean you have to think ahead and give them a core character that can be expressed in different ways so it the change is plausible. For example, if character who has a focused iron will realizes his goal is wrong-headed or even ‘evil,’ and then repents and changes, he’s still iron willed. (It takes a lot of willpower to change.) Alternatively, you may hide the characters TRUE core with a lot of layers of other stuff. (A fearful character may find his backbone, for example.) If you don’t want this change to come out of nowhere, you have to make those layers logical–why is the character fearful, and what would motivate him to change?

By playing with the core character, and all the layers and contrasts that you add to it, you can come up with a character who is textured, but in a way that seems plausible, logical, and realistic, so that all their actions, reactions, and changes ring true.

So, here’s a writing assignment. Take a character from a favorite book, whether your own work in progress or someone else’s, and say what is their ‘hook.’ My example above was Luke Skywalker, the hotheaded but idealistic boy who controls but never loses those core traits.

Post in the comments and discuss. On Friday I will randomly choose a poster from all blog comments to receive a copy of my (RITA® Award winning) book HELL WEEK.

Fieldtrip to the 5 Randoms

The thing about a blog is that while you get the inner workings of my demented mind through my ramblings, if you want the answers to direct questions, you have to go to someone else’s blog. Check out the interview with yours truly at this charming blog called the 5 Randoms. I like how their posts are in the form of lists. I like lists.

So, in honor of the 5 Randoms blog, here are 5 Random things I’m happy about today:

1) Got over a big hump in the revisions of the southern gothic novel. (Seriously, I’ve been working in circles for days, and last night I finally moved on to the next chapter.)

2) A friend who I thought had dropped off the planet touched base in her LJ yesterday.

3) There was exactly enough cream for my second cup of coffee this morning, so I don’t have to go to the store until this afternoon.

4) Even thought we’re not done with the heat yet, I can feel the turn of the season coming in the cool damp of the air first thing in the morning.

5) Hell Week was on an end cap when I walked through B&N the other day. Right in the mail flow of traffic into the mall. Squee!

Heart stopping events this weekend

First things first. Don’t forget there’s a…

BOOKSIGNING for

HELL WEEK (Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil book TWO)

on SATURDAY, August 30th

2 to 4 PM at the Hurst Barnes and Noble

Pertinent details, including a map to the location here.

Right now this is the only signing I have scheduled for this book. Someday, when I’m so famous I have people chanting my character’s names like nineteen-sixties schoolgirls at a Beatles concert, then I’ll have a bunch. ;-)

However! This is not the only event going on this Labor Day weekend. On Monday, vendors for the Texas State Fair will compete to become this year’s equivelent of last year’s favorite state fair food: Fried Cookie Dough.

I swear, I could not make this stuff up. Highway to Hell, MQ book 3, takes place in South Texas, and my editor kept making remarks in the manuscript along the lines of "For real?" And I kept telling her, this state is way more quirky than I could invent.

This years contenders are: Texas fried jelly bellyes, deep-fried s’mores, fried banana split, and chocolate-covered strawberry waffle balls. (And if you think that last thing is not like the others, don’t worry. Quote from the Star Telegram article: "frying the strawberries in a chocolate coating keeps them firm." I think the word you’re looking for is CRISPY.)

But the most nauseating thing on the list: Chicken fried bacon. (Mr. RCM read this to me while I was eating breakfast. I did not thank him for it.)

Says the inventor (Glen Kusak of Yoakum Packing Co.): "As you know, everything is beter with bacon on it, and Texans like everything chicken fried… That was the thought process behind it."

The Star Telegram article is here if you don’t believe me.

I won’t be having fried bacon at my booksigning, but I hope y’all will come anyway!

Win Free Stuff

In honor of her book, Oh. My. Gods., and tied in with the Olympics, author Tera Lynn Childs is doing a really massive book give away. Here is her explanation. Basically there’s a chance to win a daily prize every day, and a big gold medal prize, too. Check it out for more info.

I mention this because on Decathlon Day, she’s giving away a copy of HELL WEEK, my brand new, hot off the press book about sassy psychic girl reporter Maggie Quinn. Which did I mention, comes out on August 26th.

This has reminded me that I promised to give away a copy of HELL WEEK, too. In honor of school starting next week, I’ll be having a comment and win contest as well. (On a much smaller scale. But then, Maggie only takes on evil sorority girls, not decedents of Greek Gods.)