Tag Archives: Dani Collins

Go Go Nano!

I’ve been a terrible WOTI member lately. I blame the fact I have a multiple personality disorder writing-wise. (Don’t we all, I hear you say.)

In this case I’m talking about what I choose to write. Back before I  published, out of a certain frustration with the industry, I began writing whatever I darned well pleased. One of those manuscripts was The Healer, which has landed me here, with this wonderful group.

Most of my other work is contemporary romance for Harlequin which has kept me crazy busy lately and thus unable to pursue the fantasy writing I also love.

I would be thrilled if I could say, “But that’s okay, I’m writing one for Nano.” For those of you who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month, where writers accept the challenge (for bragging rights and the satisfaction of a completed manuscript) to complete a fifty-thousand word novel in the month of November.

I think you can also do one in April. You know what? You can do one whenever you want. The word Nano is a commonly accepted, writing-related noun these days. Eg. “I’m doing a mini Nano until I finish this book.”

Sadly, I’m not doing any kind of Nano at this time, but I did want to cheer on those who are and point to the upper left of this post as a brass ring  NaNoWriMongers can reach for.

The Healer is a lot longer than fifty thousand words. (Um, 120 plus, I think. Yeah, you get your money’s worth on that one.) But it sat on my hard drive in bits and pieces for a long time until I gritted my teeth and finished it one snowbound November about six years ago.

Today it is a 2014 Epic eBook Awards Finalist and–even though I can’t take any credit–happens to also be a Finalist in their Ariana cover contest as well. The genius cover artist, Petra Kay, would probably have other awards without my taking up the Nano challenge, but she wouldn’t have this particular one, so maybe I can take a little credit.

What I’m really saying is, if you happen to be one of those keeners who took up the challenge this year and are now a week in and your courage is flagging… Hydrate, eat something healthy, do some jumping jacks in the cool, fresh air, then get thee back to thy writing desk.

Great things can happen, I promise you. At the very least, you will have finished a book and let me tell you, that in itself is enormously satisfying.

Go Go Nano!

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Shared Whispers – Dani Collins

I admit it, I completely dropped the ball on my post. It’s been insanely busy at the day job and last night, Thursday, when I got home from work and had a few hours, I made the executive decision to spend them with my husband. If I had entered my office, I would have seen my giant note that said, WOTI BLOG. As it was, I got up this morning and went straight to work and the company golf tourney. Blog, sadly, was overlooked.

However, I’ve been longing for my turn to talk about how I was roped into doing the Shared Whisper project. Mike Davis, a fellow author at Champagne Books, suggested this theme for an anthology. It was an opportunity to showcase author voices, provide a sample of our work, and the idea was to offer it as a KDP Select title, for free, simply as a promotional tool.

All of the stories are full, original stories, not excerpts that demand you buy the book to find out what happens. I didn’t have any books out yet when I wrote my contribution and it seemed like a wonderful way to reach readers. (Still seems like it.)

After we did our ninety day stint with KDP Select, Mike–who is a Godsend–sent it along to Champagne Books, who snapped it up. This was very heartening as, even though I don’t expect to make a mint of my one-sixteen of the profits, I believe their improved distribution will help us find our readers.

As for my actual contribution, I agonized when writing it. I’ve never written shorter formats than fifty thousand words and this was more like twenty. I wanted this story to evoke something of The Healer but it was due to come out with Champagne at the time and Shared Whispers was an independent project. That meant I couldn’t parasitically adapt the exact world of The Healer for my short story.

I came up with Saratta. And Magi and Vilander. It was fun! Not nearly enough room to explore all that I wanted of their world and characters, but someday I hope to get back to it.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll visit their troubled country and enjoy it enough to consider purchasing The Healer, which is the kind of world building and character development I wish I could have accomplished with Heart Of A Rebel.

Here’s a quick excerpt from Heart Of A Rebel:

Vilander found his arms going around Magi’s womanly shape, pulling her close as he absorbed that he was inordinately glad to see her.  Despite the chaos the bird had caused, he’d been gripped by an urge to laugh from the moment she had walked in.  She looked the same as he remembered, only mature and prettier.

Her breath clouded against his neck in a suppressed sob and his happiness took a dip into something disturbing.  It had been a long time since he’d held a woman and she was receptive and warm and smelled clean and sweet.  Her hair tickled his jaw in the way only a woman’s could do.  Her breasts flattened on his chest, making him want to cup and test their weight and seek the hardened tips with his thumb and mouth.  Her skirts tangled his legs while her limbs trustingly parted for his own.  It was too much to bear.

He ground his teeth against his natural reaction.  He didn’t have time for a tryst.

And she wasn’t the kind who welcomed them.

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Can You Believe That?

The title is apt on two levels. It was the original title to this article, which talks a bit about how I developed the world for The Healer, but it’s also a nice gasp at my audacity in recycling material.

I apologize if you read this on one of the forums our gang posted to back in February. I don’t usually repost something that’s already out there, but I figured many of our readers here are new and frankly, after pushing out more than 12000 words on my latest tome in the last three days, my brain has gone dry with regards to genius tips on How To Write.

What I need to do is refill the mental well. Without further ado, here’s a shortlist on how I topped it up in the first place:

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I should have acknowledged two unknowing contributors to The Healer: Stephanie Bryant, author of 30 Days Of World Building exercises associated with Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and Conrad Phillip Kottak, author of Anthropology: The Exploration Of Human Diversity.

Stephanie’s brief lessons encourage you to look at aspects the average writer (me, for instance) doesn’t consider when developing a story setting, particularly when said writer usually writes contemporaries. Full disclosure: I don’t read a ton of fantasy. I’ll read anything with a great romance and I follow some of my favorite authors wherever they go—although not too dark—but The Healer was a departure for me as far as writing goes. My worst nightmare was that purists would point and laugh at the author trying to write a fantasy.

Stephanie saved me by forcing me to look at layers of economy, politics, recent history, cataclysmic events, sky, land, resources, religion, language…

And then dear Conrad stepped in, or rather, my husband rescued Conrad’s text book from a garage sale and I said, “Why on earth would you buy that?” He said, “It might be interesting.” I rolled my eyes and ignored it until I needed it.

At which point I opened it and learned that humans are kind of predictable in the way our civilizations evolve from hunter-gatherer tribes to chiefdoms to fiefdoms, all with common hierarchy types and pretty soon you have a King and the only entity that can be higher than a King is, of course, a god.

Interestingly enough, the looser the organization, ie, nomadic tribes, the closer and less defined their gods are, like in the water and the trees and the wind. The Greeks and Romans were pretty complex and they had quite a cast of thousands with their belief system. Their gods and goddesses had specific jobs to oversee: war, harvest, the underworld. Same goes for the Egyptians and Aztecs.

Belief systems are all about explaining the world to ourselves. (Why does the sun rise? Why did my child die?) By the time a civilization reaches empire stage, they tend to have a single god that is eternal and omnipotent.

Fascinated by this, I decided to have three distinct cultures in each of these stages: the Shotes are highly evolved and expanding under the will of their single god, Whirla. The Kerfs are agrarian, wanting their gods of harvest and fertility to keep them safe and fed. The Alvians I made tribal, no real belief system because they’re in tune with nature.

I forgot to mention John Vaillant in my acknowledgements above. He wrote The Golden Spruce, which I read in Book Club a few years ago. In it, he talks about the Hawaiians having songs that belong to a particular tribe in exactly the way we accept ownership of land. The Haida people of The Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida’gwaii) have stories that only one tribe may tell. It’s like trespassing. (Or pirating against copyright, I suppose.)

This was such an interesting perspective, I had to touch on it with my healers. You see, the Alvians are as human as the rest of us, and began growing jealous when one tribe had stronger healers than another. To defuse infighting when marriages were arranged that tied up the strongest lineages, they began to broker mating deals.

Alvian customs don’t allow them to marry and Athadia is meant to rejuvenate her race by making herself available to the best Alvian men she can find. This goes directly against the way Vaun was raised. Conflict! I love conflict.

Finding a workaround taxed my tiny brain and none of my unknowing mentors stepped in to help. Luckily, Fate had a plan.

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The Healer 7,7,7 Challenge

We’re cooking along with our 7,7,7 challenge, but I have to admit I’ve lost track of who tagged me in.

Also, I’m cheating. My next fantasy project is still in my head so my snippet is from p.7 of The Healer. Vaun has discovered a camp of Shote traders. They appear to have one of his Kerf women captive.

For a Kerf, however, all men would fight. And if she happened to belong to one of the families wavering between Shote and Kerf loyalty, her return would draw her people closer to his. Yes, they needed to free her, but after nightfall. He and Chador would do it. A raid it would be, but a stealthy one.

Below, the Shotes shuffled over the loose red stones, creating flat beds, coming to the woman for their meal and making remarks in lewd tones. 

You can find buy links off my website here and I believe I’m tagging R.J. Hore for the next 7,7,7.

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Seeing Things Differently

Sci-fi and fantasy writers are a special breed, in my opinion, creating magic and gadgets and possibilities out of pure imagination. But the inspiration does come from somewhere and we’re often asked where this mythical well is located.

Well, for me, it’s like a rainbow. (You’ll see what a brilliant analogy that is in a moment.) Snippets of inspiration arrive unexpectedly like light through clouds at just the right angle so you see something that isn’t actually there. If you’re lucky, you follow it to a conclusion that is writer gold.

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Let me give you an example: the mantis shrimp.

A few weeks ago, my daughter’s boyfriend had us in stitches as he related all he knew about the mantis shrimp. It has two appendages that shoot forward at bullet speed (not an exaggeration). If they miss their prey, the force still causes a shockwave that stuns their prey and the speed boils the water around them. They’re ocean ninjas from the fourth dimension.

But that’s not what got my spidey senses tingling. They also have sixteen colour-receptive cones in their eyes. Humans have three.

Actually, thanks to high school biology my daughter was able to educate me further on this topic. What, you think I took biology? You’re funny. No, I’m a writer. I dropped science for English Lit.

So, according to my daughter, men are more likely to be colour blind than women. It results from their having two ‘good’ receptor cones and one that is mutated and thus limits their ability to differentiate colours. They tend to see only greens and blues or in shades of grey. (Yeah, there’s a joke there, but we’re going to stay on topic.)

Here’s the intriguing part (to me, anyway.) These same men are more likely to have daughters who have four receptor cones. Three normal ones and the mutated one. Sometimes the fourth one works and they are able to see colours the rest of us can’t.

That means where most of use three-receptor people see seven colours in a rainbow, those four-receptors girls see, um, way more. (I also dropped math for poetry, which qualifies me to name those new colours, not count ’em.)

Going back to the mantis shrimp, their world is so psychedelic it’s a wonder they’re moving at all and not just on their backs on the ocean floor listening to Pink Floyd.

And whether it’s two, four, or sixteen, it’s different from my perception of reality and right there becomes something I want to explore. I start looking at existing stories that are composting in the back of my mind and wondering if such a detail could fit into one of them and–the bigger question–how?

So far I haven’t figured out where to use it, but it’s in the primordial soup that is a writer’s imagination. For now, I’m just thinking about supper. Seafood, maybe.

 

 

 

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Laws Of The Land

The Healer came about accidentally, and I guess was inspired by character—Vaun, to be precise. I had an image of a primitive Celtic-like warrior leaping off a cliff and I went from there.

Of course he dropped into the fray immediately and of course there was a woman involved because I’m all about the romance. But I quickly stalled, not knowing what kind of book I was writing. Highland historicals were popular, but that sounded like a lot of research for someone with little kids and very little writing time. Plus, my heroine had just started healing the wounds of the men who were fighting so…yeah, I had something else on my hands.

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It sounds like a cheat to just make up a fake world, and yes, I was looking for a shortcut, but I quickly realized it’s not as easy as it seems. For starters, you still need rules that govern the world, similar to our irrefutable physical laws like gravity.

So right away, I was forced to decide whether the heroine heals involuntarily, in which case she can’t control who she heals and therefore neither can I. (What a pain.) Or is it voluntary, in which case she could withhold her power—so why is she valued as a slave and why are they using her to heal themselves in the middle of the opening battle scene?

I settled on making the healing a conscious effort, a skill that it takes practice to hone and govern, and because Athadia is very learned and powerful, she takes vows to make herself stronger. Therefore she is compelled to heal anyone who wishes it—and she can’t heal anyone who refuses. Haha, now I had some plot control.

The vows became very convenient since breaking them weakens the Alvians. And Vaun, being a half-blood with no awareness of his talent was a lot of fun to develop.

The ability to heal is actually the only fantasy element in my story—aside from the ore that also acts on the strength of their gift. But there were still a million and one decisions in terms of geography, culture, level of technology (I chose medieval—historicals are still popular, wink!) and politics.

Fortunately, the one thing I didn’t have to invent from scratch was the romantic conflict. Seems no matter what kind of world humanoids populate, they manage to carry emotional baggage that prevents them from falling in love without a few travails along the way.

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Confessions Of A Pagan

Okay, I’ll admit it. I read my horoscope.

By that I don’t mean I glance at one or two lame lines in a magazine that promise love, riches, and travel. No, I mean I read my chart. I’m not saying I’m good at it. Like many things, astrology is an ongoing study, but I get a huge kick out of studying it.

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It probably started as soon as I realized the concept existed. I was something called a libra. That makes me a mediator good at relationships. I’m always seeking balance. The symbol is the scales. Not sexy at all, like say Leo or Scorpio.

My interest waxed and waned over the years–see what I did there? That’s what the moon does, waxes and wanes. I was often side tracked by other curious concepts like reincarnation and tarot cards, but about eight years ago I started following Astrologyzone.com and somehow that got me really hooked.

What exactly do I mean by hooked? Well, um, ahem. I kind of peeked ahead to the aspects before I started this blog and wondered if I could wait to post it until after 12:20 pm on Friday when the moon was no longer Void Of Course.

This is what you’re dealing with, people. And yes, there is a very logical, sensible, grounded person inside me that regularly questions if I’ve completely lost my sanity. The other part shrugs and says, What’s it gonna hurt to wait for better aspects?

At first I laughed at certain things. Eclipses, for instance. I won’t say I didn’t respect them. Lady Hawk is one of my favourite movies of all time. I had the book. I dig eclipses. Who doesn’t? But they were always described as having all this power which would manifest within two weeks of the event or within three months or six months or a year (before or after) to the day, plus or minus four days. Whaaaa? That’s math! Not my bag at all.

But let’s just glance at my ol’ diary here and oh, look at that. We just had an eclipse in Taurus yesterday, May 9th. Taurus is my eighth house, the one ruling other people’s money, like royalties, for instance. Oh, and what do you know. I got The Call, an offer to buy my first book, on May 8th of last year. Coincidence? For sure. But a weird one, don’t you think?

Given something like that, I figure it’s worth waiting for a new moon before starting a new book. At the beginning of the year, we had a short stretch where no planets were retrograde. I started a pile of new projects in that new moon window. What does it hurt?! When Mercury goes retrograde, maybe it brings a pile of trouble with computers and car repairs, but take that time to revise a manuscript and you will be amazed how well it goes.

Are you raising your brows at me? I’m no crazier than the hockey players who stop shaving during playoffs. Superstitions and heathen rituals are stock in trade in fantasy worlds. (But not reality, Dani.)

Okay, okay, all I’m saying is, we have a lovely window of opportunity Saturday, May 11th. Take a few minutes and start something you’ve been meaning to get off the ground, something you want very badly to succeed. You don’t have to finish it, just give it this really nice start.

And report back to me in three, six, or twelve months, plus or minus four days to tell me how it worked out for you. I’m not making promises that it will flourish; we’ll have to wait and see. You know, study the results.

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Dani’s World – Ever Expanding

From the time I discovered romance novels, I wanted to write and publish them. It took twenty-five years of doing the first to realize the second half of that dream. Through those years, the publishing world did a lot of shrinking. Editors only wanted the tried and true. I wrote to market and got rejected a lot. Eventually I said goodbye to the thought of making money and wrote for my own pleasure.

Which is how The Healer came about. It’s not like anything else I’ve written. But you could say that about a lot of my stories. In those years of struggle I wrote a number of short contemporaries (which have turned into contracts with Harlequin Mills & Boon in London.) I have an erotic romance (ditto), a romantic comedy (self-published), a couple of long contemporaries (still homeless), an intrigue (terrible), and a script for an animated feature, written with my children’s help (call us, Dreamworks.)

In short, I’m all over the map. My imagination knows no bounds. The only thing I firmly demand from myself is that my book have a love story at the heart and a happily ever after. It’s who I am; it’s what I do.Image

I guess my primary goal when I write is to escape the trappings of this world—you know, the one with laundry and day jobs and cars that break down. Hopefully I bring that to readers as well. Are you an explorer with your reading tastes? Or a homebody who sticks to what you know and love?

Learn a little more about me and the books I write by joining me as I’m interviewed at  Beyond The Book Spotlight with Sasha, Evie & Sara at Blog Talk Radio tomorrow (April 13th, 2013) at 8pm PDT.

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