Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Story Behind the Story -- Nightwing and "Forever Knight"

This is the letter I wrote in the front of Nightwing:

Dear Reader,

If your M&M's didn't melt in your hand when Frank Langella turned his head and looked straight into the camera in Dracula, then, my dear, you and I need to talk.

If your pulse didn't race when Errol Flynn buckled his swash in Captain Blood, well then -- never mind.

These are two of my favorite secret fantasies -- vampires and pirates -- which I really enjoyed mixing in Nightwing. I also had a good time poking fun at -- and holes in -- some of the sillier myths about vampires.

There's something deliciously kinky about a tall, dark and handsome man with a widow's peak and very sharp teeth...something dangerously wicked about a tall, dark and handsome man with a gleam in his eye and a frilly white shirt open to the navel...

Turn the page and find out what. And just to be on the safe side, leave the M&M's in the fridge.

And this is the dedication:

With thanks to:
Linda Randall Wisdom, for the "Forever Knight" tapes
Connie Severson, for helping me refine my vision
Nancy Haddock, B.S., M.A, Speech Language Pathology, for double-checking my sign language
Malle Vallik, my editor, for going on vacation at just the right time
Special thanks to:
Frank Langella, Errol Flynn and Geraint Wyn Davies, for their inspiration and very strange dreams

Do you remember Forever Knight? The awesomely cool Canadian vampire series? My husband Michael and I loved it! When our cable company dropped the show after the first season, my good friend and fellow author Linda Randall Wisdom recorded the show for me. Every couple of weeks I received a package of VCR tapes, which I still have.

Here are three interesting bits of trivia about Forever Knight from Internet Movie Database:

"Originally Forever Knight was a two-hour made for TV movie pilot titled Nick Knight starring Rick Springfield as the title character." (I've never seen the pilot but I love Springfield's Jesse's Girl.)

"The title was coined by Geriant Wyn Davies" -- the star and terrific actor that portrayed the vampire main character, Nicholas Knight.

"Ranked #23 in TV Guide's list of the '25 Top Cult Shows Ever!' (May 30, 2004 issue."

I wrote in my first "The Story Behind the Story" post that Once Struck was one of my easiest sales. So was Nightwing.

Because she liked my writing (always a good thing!) my editor did her best to get me into as many of Temptation's mini-series as she could. The Patriot was part of 'Rebels & Rogues', Aftershock 'Passion's Quest', Second Sight 'Lovers & Legends', and Nightwing 'Secret Fantasies.'

When my editor told me about Secret Fantasies I couldn't think of a single thing -- I drew an absolute blank. I'd been dying (pardon the pun) to write a vampire story, but I couldn't get my idea for Nightwing to gel -- until I talked to my friend Connie Severson. Connie was an astrologer; she was also deaf in her right ear. When she asked me to tell her about my vampire character, I started with, "His birthday is in July." Connie thought I said June.

"Oh, that's easy," she replied. "Gemini's are two-faced."

Bing! The light bulb in my head clicked on. I knew exactly what to do with Raven -- split him in half.

Several weeks after our initial conversation, I called my editor and told her I had a great idea for a vampire story. She said sorry, but they'd already bought a vampire story for Secret Fantasies.

I said, "Rats!" She said, "Well, tell me the idea, anyway."

I did, and she said, "Don't go anywhere. I'll call you back in five minutes."

It was more like fifteen, but she called me back after she'd talked to the senior editor. "Write the book," she told me. "We're buying it."

And that was that. Just like Once Struck, I didn't have to write a single word to sell Nightwing.

Ooh! And guess what I just discovered? All three seasons of Forever Knight are available on Netflix!

Oh, Linda -- you may be getting your tapes back!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Story Behind the Story -- The Cat Before Christmas and the Real Cat Before Christmas

The Cat Before Christmas is the story of Wiki, a Siamese cat that loves Christmas.

The idea hit me about two weeks before Thanksgiving. That didn't give me much time to write a novella and get it up on Kindle in time for Christmas, but I was excited about the story and decided to give it a shot.

I sketched out the plot and came up with my characters: Cary Tyler, Wiki's owner, Carrie's parents Ted and Lorraine, Carrie's friends Pam and Tina, and Ben Kendall, grandson of Charlie, the owner of the Christmas tree lot where Cary always buys her Christmas trees.

The real cat before Christmas is Smokey, the gray tabby that showed up in our driveway the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

I was not looking for a cat. The last of our three Little Queens went to kitty heaven several years ago, and I was enjoying a cat hair-free house. But there he was with his big green eyes. He was very sweet, had a soft voice, and he wasn't pushy -- he was just there. And he kept coming back over the next two weeks.

I agonized about that cat -- and the coyote that sleeps in our backyard. I talked to Michael. He said okay, let the cat in, and I did the next time Smokey wandered by. He's been here ever since.

He's a grown-up, he's been neutered, and he has all his claws. I worried about my furniture, but Smokey doesn't scratch. He comes into my office and sits by my chair until I take my feet off the footrest, which has a surface like Astroturf. That's where Smokey scratches. It only took him a couple of months to train me to do this.

In January we gave up searching lost cat ads and took Smokey to the vet. She gave him a physical, figured by his teeth that he's about 8 years old, and drew blood. Fifteen minutes later she told us that Smokey tested positive for FIV, feline immunodeficiency virus.

My heart sank. FIV is passed through saliva so likely Smokey was bitten by another cat with FIV. Just as HIV can progress to AIDS, so can FIV progress to feline AIDS. But, our vet was quick to explain, it doesn't always, and many FIV positive cats live long and healthy lives.

Michael wondered if FIV was the reason Smokey had been kicked to the curb. The vet thought he'd probably been infected while he was homeless. Her guess was the economy had put Smokey on the streets.

In multiple cat families a FIV positive cat is usually destroyed to avoid spreading the disease. We told the vet that we have no other cats and we wanted to keep Smokey.

He was underweight, just 10 pounds. He had a fungus infection in his ears, caused by his weakened immune system. The vet gave him two shots: his first rabies and the feline leukemia vaccine. She sent us home with an oral antibiotic to boost his immune system, salve for his ears and bad news for Smokey -- no more going outside because he could infect other cats.

That would be like telling me I could never eat chocolate again. Smokey was not happy about no more strolls around the neighborhood. He darted out the door a couple of times, but as soon as I yelled, "Smokey!" in my mother voice he froze until I picked him up and took him back in the house.

In February I took Smokey to the vet for his second rabies shot. The fungus infection in his ears had cleared up and he'd gained one whole pound. Our vet was thrilled that he'd responded so well to the antibiotic; she was actually grinning. So was I, but Smokey was sill not happy about being a shut-in.

Then I had a brilliant idea. Our deck sits a story off the ground and has no steps. "Why can't we let Smokey out on the deck?" I asked Michael. He replied, "He'll jump off." I said, "Only if he has a death wish. The rail is too high." Most cats won't jump if they can't see where they'll land. Michael argued that he'd jump through the gap between spindles, but we agreed to give it a try.

For a week Smokey was as good as gold. Then one morning Michael let him out at 5:30 and yep -- Smokey bailed, probably through the spindles; in the dark, no less. Michael grabbed the flashlight, went out and found him and hauled him back in the house.

The next Saturday Michael went to Home Depot. He bought two rolls of aluminum screen, which is tough enough that Smokey can't shred it with his claws, and stapled it over the spindles on the deck rail. Smokey spent an hour sniffing every inch of that screen looking for a hole. Then he gave up, flopped down in the sun and went to sleep. The photo is Smokey surveying his domain. He's the only cat in Kansas City with his own private sun porch.

What does Smokey's story have to do with The Cat Before Christmas? Everything. I wasn't looking for a cat, but Smokey found me and purred his way into my heart. Cary Tyler mowed down a fence to reclaim Wiki when he ran away. Michael built one so Smokey could go outside and be happy and safe.

Smokey picked me, but I picked Michael. My husband is the best choice I ever made.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nightwing New Cover & Vampire Reading List

One nice thing about publishing my backlist titles on my own is this -- I can change things whenever I want. Like the cover of Nightwing. Here's the new one. What do you think?

If you like vampire romances and you're looking for something to read on your Kindle this weekend, click on the list for buy links through the Vamp Chix blog, "Hot Summer Deals on Vamp Reads".

Kimberly Van Meter designed the new cover for Nightwing. Kim is also an author, and she has a book on the list. Here are all the titles:

Drink My Blood -- Phoebe Conn
Lost -- Lori Devoti
Found -- Lori Devoti
Wicked Angels -- Michelle Hauf
Vampire Career -- Phoebe Matthews
The Reckoning -- Kimberly Van Meter
Nightwing -- Lynn Michaels

I adore vampire stories. My favorite for-laughs vampires movie is Love at First Bite. My favorite line is (I'm paraphrasing) "Don't mind the mess -- housework killed my mother."

Remember the 1979 version of Dracula, and the scene where Frank Langella as Dracula turned his head as he was climbing the wall and looked straight into the camera? My M&M's melted in my hand, right through the bag. Terrible ending; otherwise a cool movie.

Happy Father's Day -- and happy reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The First Daylily of Summer

Isn't she a beaut? A big, 6-inch lemon yellow bloom -- the first one to pop in my daylily bed on the west side of the house.

What's the name of this daylily? Uh, I think it's "Big Bird", but I wouldn't take any bets. A serious gardener would know the variety name. A serious gardener would have written the name in permanent ink on a plant stake and stuck it in the dirt.

Do I own plant stakes? Yes. Do I own a Sharpie? Yes. Did I intend to label this daylily? Yes, but somehow I never got to around to it.

I used to do the same thing with photographs. I always meant to label them, to write names and dates on the back, but I never got around to that, either. Drove my husband Michael crazy. Digital cameras solved the photo problem, but my flowerbeds are still a guessing game.

I have a really odd looking daylily that's budded out, but not blooming yet. All the buds are on one central stalk. I don't recall ever seeing a daylily like this, and of course, I didn't label it when I planted it.

I'll post a photo when it blooms. Maybe one of you can tell me the name. If so I promise I'll dig out my plant stakes and my Sharpie.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Once Struck -- The Story Behind the Story

My agent called me in the spring of 1995 and asked if I'd like to write a novella for a summer storm anthology being put together by St. Martin's Press for publication in 1996. She'd attended a party with an SMP editor and talked up my books. I said sure, and within a few weeks I received the contract.

Once Struck was the easiest sale I've ever made. I didn't have to type a single word. My agent made this sale, which shows you the advantage of having an agent with good connections.

My agent told me to write a contemporary story of about 100 pages with a rural American background and a summer storm as the climax of the plot. I said, "Can do" and started thinking.

My initial idea was tractors, maybe a tractor race might be fun. I was playing around with that when my agent called and said oops, she'd misunderstood. The editor wanted a historical novella, not a contemporary.

"No problem," I said, though I wondered how many adult beverages were consumed at that party. Then I sighed, scratched the tractor race and headed for the Agricultural Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

This is a fascinating place. Room after room of wonderful exhibits and antique farm equipment. I saw a grain cradle -- a long-handled, long-fingered scythe -- like the one Peach MaCauley used to harvest her wheat.

That's a cradle in the photo. Weird looking thing, isn't it? My thanks to Craig at Stoney Acres Farm in Linden, Michigan for permission to use this photo from his website. If you'd like to see some of the other things Peach uses in the story, check out the Stoney Acres site.

Field trip over, I headed home and started writing. My agent called and asked what kind of a storm I planned to use in the story; the editor wanted to know. I told her a tornado. She said thanks and hung up. Then she called back and told me I'd have to come up with a different storm because one of the other authors in the anthology had a tornado in her story. I sighed again, but said, "Okay, make it a hailstorm."

Then I ripped up what I had and started over for the third time . In case you missed my first post, here's the final version of Once Struck:

Nebraska, 1973

Alone in the world...

Peach MaCauley has only 40 acres of wheat standing between her and becoming a poor relation. On the eve of the harvest a storm threatens her crop -- and her independence. Only one man steps forward to help her...one man she's not sure she should trust.

Kit Taggart is no longer the dirt-poor boy with soulful brown eyes who kissed her behind the church at the Fourth of July Social. now he's a handsome, hard-edged ex-soldier. His price for saving Peach and her crop is one night with her -- all night, from dusk to dawn.

That was the last phone call from my agent, thank God. All the starts and stops had put me way behind on my deadline. I wasn't the only one frustrated by all the "Oops" phone calls -- so were Peach and Kit. Once I sat down to write, they jumped to life and took over. I was typing as fast as I could to keep up with them, until I finished Chapter 7.

I woke up the next morning so sick I could barely stand. I was dizzy, had a horrible cough and my back was killing me. The day before I was fine, right as rain. Michael came home from work at noon and took me to the doctor. I had pneumonia, and Once Struck was due in 10 days.

My agent and the editor said don't worry, get better and then finish the book. I slept for 5 days straight, hooked up the laptop and finished Once Struck in a cough syrup-induced haze. I only missed my deadline by 2 weeks. Not bad for typing two paragraphs and coughing my head off, typing two more and coughing my head off until I finished the story.

I was a little nervous about those last 3 chapter, but I was pretty happy once I'd read them in the page proofs. So happy I wondered if maybe I should write everything under the influence of cough syrup.

Murphy's Law says if anything can go wrong it will. Here's the writer's version of Murphy's Law: If anything can wrong it will -- a week before your deadline.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Where in the World Was Lynn?

I haven't been here, on Facebook, Twitter or anyplace else for a while. So where have I been?

I'd love to tell you cruising the Caribbean, but the truth is that since the first of April I've been at the chiropractor 3 times a week. I have 4 pinched nerves in my back. Possibly more. My lumbar spine is so smashed together that neither my chiropractor nor the radiologist that read my x-rays can tell how many for sure.

I'd also love to tell you I did this bungee jumping or playing polo, but no -- I fell down our front steps in January while I was shoveling snow. Eight-inches of white stuff that hid 2-inches of ice underneath -- which of course I didn't see until I'd cleared the snow.

I was happily shoveling my way down the steps with the little blue plastic shovel that our grandson Zachery used when he was five. About the time I decided that I should probably be shoveling UP rather than DOWN, I realized I was standing on solid ice.

A half-second later my husband Michael, who was shoveling the drive with a really big shovel that looks like it belongs on the front end of a snowplow hollered at me, "Get off those steps!"

The power of suggestion was all it took. My feet shot out from under me and I bounced down five ice-crusted concrete steps on my tailbone. When I landed at the bottom, I jumped to my feet to make sure Michael hadn't seen my Three Stooges descent.

He hadn't, thank God; his back was turned.

Astonishingly, I could move, and I wasn't in screaming agony so I kept shoveling as far up the flight as I could without climbing the steps until Michael finished the drive and took over.

The possibility that I'd pinched 4 nerves and that was why my back didn't hurt, never occurred to me. That is a special kind of stupid. I should have known better.

When I was 14 I went sideways off a horse (I wasn't playing polo then, either) knocked myself cold and crushed a disc between my shoulder blades.

Then I grew up and became a writer. Lots of writers have back problems because we sit all day. The last time my back went kaflooie I was racing to finish Honeymoon Suite. I could do anything but sit. I ended up at a sports medicine doctor.

Post MRI he diagnosed the problem as occupational stress -- sitting on my fanny at a computer for 20-plus years. He told me that fixed keyboard trays should be banned because they keep you in the same position all day long. He recommended voice recognition software and a really good chair.

I bought the chair that you see in the photo. It's unoccupied because I haven't been in it. The arms adjust up and down or forward and back. The seat goes up and down, too.

The platform on the front of my desk is an incremental keyboard tray. This is its highest position. I can stand and type at this height, when I can stand; I'll get to that in a minute. I can also lower it nearly to the floor. It adjusts incrementally, which means I can move it an inch or two or just a hair. That's all it takes to change my position.That's a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic keyboard.

The chair and the incremental keyboard tray got me through Honeymoon Suite, but they were no help this time.

The pain started in my knees in March. Silly me, I thought the problem was my knees. I loaded up on MSM with Glucosamine, but within a week I could barely stand, let alone walk. The dinner plate size bruise on the left side of my fanny had faded, but my back still didn't hurt. I went to the chiropractor anyway on April third, he took x-rays, showed me where the nerves were likely pinched, and I've been on his table 3-times a week ever since.

On Tuesday I posted about the release of Once Struck. That's the first day I've been able to sit in my really good chair for more than 10 minutes. Until then the most comfortable position for me was lying down or leaning against a wall or the kitchen counters. I could sit on the couch for 20 minutes, the recliner for 5, a kitchen chair for maybe 10. I was like Goldilocks; too hard, too soft.

I'm back now, but I'm taking it slow, not overdoing it. Look for my new weekly blog series "The Story Behind the Story" beginning on Monday, June 13.

What's the lesson I learned from this experience? Listen to the guy with the big shovel.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Just In Time For Summer

Here's Once Struck, the Western historical novella I wrote for the anthology Unchained Lightning published by St. Martin's press.

Since I never received a royalty statement, I'm guessing maybe four people on the planet bought the book. Here's your chance to be the fifth!

From the original cover: "Summer is nature's most tempestuous time for storms...and stormy hearts." Each story in the anthology revolved around a storm.

Here's the blurb for Once Struck:

Nebraska, 1873

Alone in the world...

Peach MaCauley has only 40 acres of wheat standing between her and becoming a poor relation. On the eve of the harvest a storm threatens her crop -- and her independence. Only one man steps forward to help her...one man she's not sure she should trust.

Kit Taggart is no longer the dirt-poor boy with soulful brown eyes who kissed her behind the church at the Fourth of July Social. Now he's a handsome, hard-edged ex-soldier. His price for saving Peach and her crop is one night with her...all night, from dusk to dawn.

If she accepts, she'll be ruined. If she declines, she'll be destitute. But what choice does she have?

Once Struck is now available for $1.99 on Kindle and Nook.

On Monday, June 13, I'm launching a weekly blog series, "The Story Behind the Story" with a piece on how I came to write Once Struck. There's a story behind every story an author writes.

Most of the time I'm ripping my hair out trying to think of things to blog about, so this series will give me 18 weeks worth of material. Yippee!