Friday, March 27, 2009

Metamorphosis is Released!

Today's the big day--my short story collection Metamorphosis is being released by Aspen Mountain Press. It's my ode to my classical idol Ovid and his great work Metamorphoses.

Metamorphosis is a journey through the short stories of critically acclaimed author Celina Summers. Every story deals with a transformation--from a world where the Church places the blame for original sin upon men to a New Orleans garden that brings a play to life. The collection culminates with a previously unpublished prequel to Summers' best selling epic fantasy series The Asphodel Cycle. Sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, Metamorphosis is a romp through the realms of speculative fiction--where anything can happen and nothing is quite as it seems.
You can find Metamorphosis at -- where you can read an excerpt from one of my stories, Funeral Meats. It will also be available soon on Fictionwise, Amazon, Mobipocket, Kindle and other online retailers. And at only $2.50--what a bargain!
I hope that you all enjoy the stories of Metamorphosis, because I certainly enjoyed writing them.
I also wanted to prove that I could write something shorted than 150,000 words. *wink* They don't call my fantasy 'epic' for nothing. The fabulous cover art was done by Renee George and the collection was edited by my good friend Lori Basiewicz.
Have fun and thanks! I'll be spending the day wedding dress shopping in Kentucky with my daughter. In yet another instance of life imitating art, she, too is going through her own metamorphosis. Timing is everything.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do You Believe in Miracles?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how close the extraordinary truly is to the mundane. What does it take to make a normal happenstance evolve into something amazing? What sort of chrysalis does the everyday world take shelter in so that it can emerge into a new universe and take flight?

Some might say it's God. I refuse to discuss religion in this blog, unless it's one I made up or one that died out thousands of years ago, so I'll leave that distinction up to you.

Others might think that extraordinary circumstances create extraordinary people--that when destiny demands it, there are some few incredible mortals who can rise above themselves and transcend into something more, something we can only hope to achieve or dream to attain. Still others, when thrust into the same circumstances, are unable to do the same. Why is that? How is it that some succumb meekly to their perceived fate while others fight against it in search of something greater?

If you can answer this question, you have discovered the secret to what makes up a hero.

Heroes are on my mind a lot lately. They are hard to find in our everyday world, especially one that seems to be collapsing around us even as I type this. And yet, you can still find a man willing to land an airplane full of people on the Hudson River or a young man or woman willing to volunteer to serve their country in a time of war. On the other hand, you can also find people who are willing to bankrupt the retired and use taxpayers' money to take expensive retreats.

It truly takes all kinds, doesn't it?

A speculative fiction writer, such as myself, is always searching for that miracle of personality that makes a hero--or an anti-hero, or even the villain. Although my worlds are peopled with hundreds of named characters and thousands more the reader never meets, there's a very tiny subset of individuals that have that glitter of persona that lifts them above their peers and makes them into the implements that drive a story. That glitter can be almost indiscernible until a moment of decision pushes that character in one direction or the other--to heroism or villainy--and sometimes only a few keystrokes makes that determination for me.

It's an amazing thing, searching for miracles among the mundane. It is, I think, ultimately what every writer does when developing a character. And in the real world, it's character--the trait--that defines a person with what we, as writers, try to create.

So ask yourself: do you believe in miracles?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Holy Crap! A Golden Rose Nomination???

I nearly fainted when I found out that Temptation of Asphodel had been nominated for a Golden Rose Award for Best Sci Fi/Fantasy Novel of 2007 by Love Romances and More--especially when I saw my idol Christine Feehan's name on the nomination list too. I mean, think about it. Here I am, in the middle of the night (darned insomnia) and I find something like this out?

Wow. Someone hand me the vodka. I need a drink.

But then I started to think about it and I realized what a huge thing that is. For a new writer such as myself, who writes for a small, independent press to even be considered alongside a forerunner in genre romance--a giant, if you will--is a testament to how e-publishing has changed the face of the writing world. The perception that writers who publish with smaller presses are somehow inferior or untalented is fading. There's a heck of a lot of good fiction out there in the small presses and e-publishing houses these days. Now, I'm not saying that I consider myself to be the equal of a Christine Feehan. I'm a journeyman writer; she's a master.

So what else can I say but just WOW?

I love the fact that my Asphodel books are loved by my readers. I write to entertain, to share fantastic worlds and to hopefully transport people from their everyday lives to something magical and heroic and emotionally honest. To see my name alongside the other fantastic writers nominated gives me hope that perhaps I may have succeeded in some way in doing just that.

It is a glorious feeling. Thank you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Life's Little Ironies

This has been a week of ironic suspense in my world. All I want to do is write, but first I have to get all that editing done. All I want to do is go out, but I'm laid up flat on my back for another couple of days at least. All I want to think about is this new idea I dreamed up this week, but I don't have the time to start on it.

I've discovered it is possible to function on a pseudo-intellectual level on less than two hours of sleep. For eight days. Straight.

I feel the cusp of a writing binge coming on. This one's going to be big, I know. I have one novel out on agent queries, another out on a small house submission, one contracted to be written, one ready for the second draft, two ready for pre-publication edits and one coming out in a week. Yeah, I've been just a little busy. Don't even think about mentioning the promotional nightmare the next few months are going to be, especially with the last Asphodel novel coming out in May.

Then on the personal front, the irony becomes overwhelming. I take a look around at my situation, at the situations of my daughters and all I can do is laugh. Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. My younger daughter (probably vastly unaware of this) got married today. Her sister (who is completely aware of this) is getting married in three weeks. Now what are the chances of that--all three wedding anniversaries those close to each other?

It's a good thing I have a sense of humor.

But irony makes life spicy, doesn't it? After all, if everything always worked out the way you planned for it to, what surprises would there be? I love surprises--especially when I'm not told about them and find out anyway like a kid digging through her mom's closet near Christmas time. But see, the kid who looks for her presents and finds them loses something on Christmas morning--she loses that element of surprise, the excitement of holding up a box and wondering what's in it. While everyone else is enjoying themselves, she has to act excited and pleased about something that she already knows and all of a sudden it's not that much fun any more, is it?


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Let Me Tell You a Story About Vampires

I've had several people ask me the same question over the last few weeks that I think bears answering.

"Celina, why are you writing a vampire novel? The vampire craze is dead."

They blame it all on Twilight. I haven't read Twilight so I can't really comment on that. But here's the story of how the Vampire Covenants Trilogy came about.

I was talking to Sandra Hicks one afternoon (she's the publisher of Aspen Mountain Press) and mentioned that I thought it would be a good idea if some of the AMP writers got together and co-wrote novels. My first thought was that if writing a romance, we should pair a female writer and a male writer--the woman would write the heroine's point of view and the man the hero's. She thought that was a great idea and followed it up with, "So, who are you going to write with?"

I didn't even have to think about it. Rob Graham is a friend of mine, we'd talked online and done chats together and I liked his unique writing style. So I said, "Rob Graham." Her reply was, "So, set it up."

I contacted Rob and he was not only willing, he was enthusiastic. As I was a fan of his vampire novel "In the Dark," I suggested a vampire romance novel--but a historical one. I wanted to go back to the era where vampire lore was running rampant throughout Europe and base our story there. So that put us in eighteenth century Europe--just in time for the French Revolution. He knew he didn't want to write a stereotypical vampire for his hero; he wanted a German, a warrior from Saxony--not a high noble like a Count, but a member of the lower nobility. Rob named his hero Gunther von Wittershiem, a vampire some two centuries old. In order to balance that out, I created Marguerite Giffard--a twenty year old English widow reemerging into Court society in Georgian England. She was of higher rank than Gunther and, as a widow and an orphan, had learned to administer both the estates of her family and her late husband who'd died a few months after she married him at the age of sixteen. I based her in a lot of ways personality wise on Emma Harte, the mistress of Lord Hamilton, particularly when I saw this portrait of her:

That mischievous beauty so enchanted the painter George Romney that Emma became his Muse. Marguerite was born out of Emma's character traits and it helped that Rob absolutely became enamoured of Emma's portrait.

So we had our characters. Now we needed a conflict. Rob created our villain, the French Comte de Condé sur Víre, Alphonse de Brunel. With a rivalry between the two vampires that had lasted for centuries, de Brunel was naturally drawn to Marguerite when it became apparent that Gunther, despite the laws that governed the vampires, was falling in love with her. As Gunther and Alphonse continue their private war, Marguerite, unaware that the man courting her was an immortal, is put into great danger.

Considering the turbulent politics of Europe at the time, including the incipient madness of King George, there were all sorts of opportunities for fun in numerous cities across the continent. Our hero and heroine would romp through London, Paris and St. Petersburg as the story unfolded--three cities with dangerous political problems. So we enhanced that, creating the Conclave of vampires that enforce the Covenants--a group of laws all vampires must answer to. If a vampire is found to have broken one of the Covenants--just one--the punishment is destruction. The politics within the Conclave are just as turbulent as the mortal ones. Paris is led by the vampiric Benedictine monk Augustin Calmet (who is a historical character, the author of a treatise on vampires in the early eighteenth century) and assisted by the devious Marcellin Dautin. Calmet's rival in the Conclave is a Moorish warrior in Madrid, Fausto Oleastro. These two immortals have been at odds for hundreds of years and the Conclave is divided between their supporters.

So now, our stage was set. Before we'd even written a word, we had a rich tapestry of elements to work with. As a fantasy writer by nature, world building is important to me--and one of my favorite things to do. Writing the beginning of Breaking the Covenants was exciting. It was fun. While our character flirted and went through their forbidden courtship, we played in the great houses of London and had a ball.
So here's the answer to that question, and the point of this story. The vampire novel is NOT dead. It's a sub genre of literature that has thrived since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula and stemmed from a hysteria so great that the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (Marie Antoinette's mother) issued an edict forbidding the disinterment of bodies checking for signs of vampirism. The vampire novel is a classic archetypal story, one of seduction and sex, violence and evil, danger and sometimes even redemption. No matter how you dress your vampires up, whether in the panniers of the last few doomed years of Marie Antoinette's court, as a rock star based in New Orleans, or as sparkly teenagers in a high school--the vampire is still there. He is iconic and classic, the personification of physical urges discouraged by the staid rules of society (at least until the fifties or so), the silent watcher in the shadows who gauges his prey, the tortured soul who needs the blood of life to maintain the immortality of his death. The vampire is beautiful, desirable, charismatic and ultimately, unattainable. There is a gothic loveliness to his isolation and just as the vampire turns his victims into creatures of the night, there is always one potential victim who turns him in some way--turns him into a protector, turns him into a monster, turns him into a man willing to sacrifice himself for her. There is always the hope that she can somehow redeem him...from God, from society, from himself. As these are motivations that all of us can relate to, the vampire and his literature lives, will always live.
Much like the vampire himself is immortal, so is his story. And that, my children, is why I decided to write a vampire story. It seduced me, like the vampire does his victim, and now I am helpless in its grasp. I'm even keeping vampire hours these days.
Congratulate us, by the way. The second book of the trilogy, Warding the Covenants, will be completed this weekend. The first book, Breaking the Covenants will be released in a little over a month. And then the vampire--our vampires--will have their way with you all.
Sleep, for now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Here it is--the long promised cover for Metamophosis, my collection of short stories being released by Aspen Mountain Press on March 27, 2009! Pretty sweet, huh? Thought you might like it.


is a journey through the short stories of critically acclaimed author Celina Summers. Every story deals with a transformation--from a world where the Church places the blame for original sin upon men to a New Orleans garden that brings a play to life. The collection culminates with a previously unpublished prequel to Summers' best selling epic fantasy series The Asphodel Cycle. Sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, Metamorphosis is a romp through the realms of speculative fiction--where anything can happen and nothing is quite as it seems.
Coming March 27, 2009 from Aspen Mountain Press.

This collection was edited by my very good friend and outstanding writer in her own right, Lori Basiewicz. You can check out her pet project Trunk Novels for some outstanding pieces of literature that she's set her red pencil to. The cover art was done by Renee George, whose cover for my book The Asphodel Cycle: Temptation of Asphodel was nominated for Best Cover of 2008 by Love Romances and More Cafe.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Read an Ebook Week! And a contest...

This week is Read an Ebook Week and so, in honor of the occasion, I'm giving some lucky person all three Asphodel novels absolutely for free! All you have to do is shout out in the comments portion of this thread and you're entered. At the end of the week, I'll draw a winner and that person will get to Read not just one Ebook, but Three! That way you'll be all ready for the release of The Asphodel Cycle 4: Apostle of Asphodel when it comes out in May.

So this is Read Three Ebooks Week in Elf-Killing land--welcome aboard. It's also a good time to check out my fan page at Facebook and join up. That's the first place to look for news these days.

I just got the cover art for Metamorphosis--it's WONDERFUL. I'll share it with you guys later.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Making Something Old Something Better

I run into a lot of conversations among authors about tropes, archetypes and cliches. "How can I write without using the cliches?" "Anyone who writes about Elves is stealing from Tolkien." "There's no way to write something new."

I usually end up in arguments about this. As a classical mythologist, I am convinced that archetypal themes and characters aren't the anathema so many writers think they are. Sure, you don't necessarily want to write abouta farmboy-turned-savior with a magical sword, an ancient mentor skilled in the ways of magic and the stock secondary characters of the D & D world. However, that doesn't mean you have to avoid them either. The hero's journey, as identified by Joseph Campbell, is a route that all good adventures follow. There is a certain path a writer must follow in order to create a hero. And while you don't have to hit every earmark that Campbell identified, you need to hit at least some of them.

So I have an example, not from writing but from popular music. Michael Jackson's song "Smooth Criminal" is not among my favorites. (okay, I hate it) But look what happens when another group takes that song, the archetypal actions of the original artist, and makes them their own.

God love Alien Ant farm.

Sure, all the familiar elements are there. But the music has been changed, the atmosphere is different, the characters are on a different path. The song is recognizable, but it's been changed from the original into something almost completely alien to the original. We, as writers, can do the same. So don't worry about how Tokienesque your Elves are! Don't sweat over your magical sword/book/ring/necklace/kitten. Just write a good story, tell a good tale, supersede the tropes and make them your own and it will work for you too.

And you won't even need to borrow a baby chimpanzee to do it. You can leave Bubbles at home. What we, as writers, need to be worried about is our narrative voice, the credibility of our characters, the complexity of our plot arcs--telling a damn good story. The rest? It will take care of itself. Oh, and just to top that off, check out Nathan Bransford's blog entry for today. Although he's not saying what I am, this advice from a top and incredibly helpful agent might help you to see the bright side of life. My recommendation: listen to Alien Ant Farm's version of Smooth Criminal while you read it. It makes for an almost orgasmic episode of optimism.

You can take something old and create something entirely new and completely original out of it. So instead of worrying yourself into cold sweats about it, sit your butt in the chair and just write.

Annie, are you okay? Are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Great Day

So, I've been working hard on my paranormal romance/urban fantasy theater novel Carnival, now renamed Deception Enters Stage Left, getting it ready to query. Since the month of February is cursed in my household--a superstition my husband created and now has me believing in--I decided that I wouldn't query until March 1. Keeping that goal firmly fixed in my mind, I started to send out queries after midnight.

Then this morning, I found a request in my mailbox. That's always exciting. Before I'd quite gotten the SQUEEEEEE! out of my mouth, I hit refresh and found another. This time, I bypassed the SQUEEEEE! and went straight for the valium. I'm an old-fashioned kind of girl in that way. Then I went and took a hot bath--with bubbles naturally--before I returned to my computer.

And lo and behold, there was a third request in my email.

Three. In one day. Dang. I'm not the mass-query kind of writer. I send out only a few at a time, mostly because I had a nightmare once of sending out a hundred queries and getting all the responses screwed up as a result. So I send out small numbers--like ten. I usually pick them with an eye to their response times too. So while I might send out a couple with quick turnaround times on query letters, I compensate by sending out some that have longer response times and then some that are the ones who say on their website "if we aren't interested, we won't reply." That way, I figure that when the inevitable rejections come, they'll stagger in instead of swarming. Then I send out one query to replace the rejection so that I never have more than ten out at once.

That's my theory anyway. I like to try to keep my stress levels down as much as possible.

So anyway, now I had three submission packages to get out today. I always--always--double check my submissions before they go out just to make sure that something wonky hasn't happened and I knew that was going to take up a bit of time. Problem was, I already was fully booked for the day. I had to get four more chapters edited for a project I'm working on for another writer, I had a brainstorming session with Rob for our vampire project, I had a doctor's appointment, a book trailer to make, edits to get done for my short story collection (Metamorphosis) coming out in a couple of weeks plus my daily writing hours--and I even had hopes of getting the house in order.

Yes, yes...the house is still messy. But, here I am at four am the next morning with everything else on my list done. I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. Now for the fun part--I have to get up at eight.

A writer's life is grand, isn't it? Hectic, stressful and bizarre, but grand. I figure as long as I don't turn the news on for a while, my mood might remain cheerful for a couple of more hours at least. Here's hoping!

Wow. I just realized something. I even got a blog post into the mix. Wonders never cease.