Sunday, February 17, 2008

Guest Blogger: Author Toni V. Sweeney


I'm delighted to welcome romance author Toni V. Sweeney as my guest blogger today.

1) Please tell us about your newest release (what it's about. where we can find it. what inspired it.)

My latest book (written under my own name) is Sinbad's Last Voyage. It's the first in a series, set against the background of an interplanetary war with Earth and a very aggressive planet called Albegensia, which could probably be compared to ancient Sparta. Up until this point, Earth has never lost a war, but they've

never fought Albegensians before, so they're in danger of losing this one. Navajo Andrea Talltrees' husband, Tran, has been arrested as a spy because he's an Alien National and at the suggestion of her godfather, Andi goes to the Thieves' Quarter to hire halfbreed smuggler Sinbad sh'en Singh to find Tran--a nice trick since Sinbad hates Terrans with a passion because his people lo

st a previous war and paid dearly for their defeat. Fortunately, he takes one look at Andi and decides to put the passion to work on her instead! He agrees to find Tran but when they do, things aren't as they seem and the two have some very dangerous and unexpected decisions to make that will affect not only their future lives but the fate of the Earth as well.

Sinbad's Last Voyage is available as an e-book from Double Dragon Publishers and as a paperback from lulu.com.

The story was vaguely inspired by the old TV series Beauty and the Beast. I was fascinated by Vincent, the cat-like hero of that show and patterned Sinbad, who is part feline, after him in some ways--he's brave, strong, ruthless when he has to be, gentle when necessary, has a wicked sense of humor, and totally faithful to the woman he loves, even when she's married to someone else--yet he never steps out of line. In the fourth book, Sinbad's Pride, he finally confesses to Andi how he felt the first time he saw her: "I'd have crawled across Terra on my hands and knees, if you'd just agreed to let me kiss the inside of one of your thighs! I wanted you so badly I wanted to smash things!" Yet he never lets her know until she confesses that she loves him, too.

Now that's the kind of man to have!

Needless to say, Sinbad is my favorite character, so favorite in fact that I've written four books about him with two more hovering in the wings. How much do I like him? Let's just say that if this guy were real --I'd marry him!

I also have a new short story which went online on Amazon Shorts last week. This is a feature of Amazon.com. So far, they have 9 of my stories, which can be downloaded to computer or hand unit. The new one is called Paradise Redundant, and is my take on the time travel story. (Reader be warned--I hate time travel stories!)

A poem, Epitaf, will be featured in the February, 2008 issue of Sounds of the Night Magazine, which is available from SamsDot Publishing.

2) How long have you been writing? What is your daily routine?

I've been writing for 57 years! (I was drawing my own comics when I was 8, wrote my first novel at 9.) My daily routine is to drive 30 miles one-way to my full-time job, put in my 8 hours, then come home and write for 4 or 5 hours, have dinner and watch a DVD or anime on the Sci-Fi channel, and crash. Been doing that since 1975 and don't seem to be getting ready to stop any time soon.

Ashley's response: You're one busy lady. I used to drive that far to my day job, too - all the way down south of Miami. On another note, you're an artist? That's so cool. So are both my daughters - the older one in fact has her degree in graphic design. Both adore anime. If any of your drawings are online, please direct us to the exact page.

3) How did you come up with your pseudonym: Icy Snow Blackstone?

Icy Snow Blackstone was my great-great-great-great-grandmother. She was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1809. Her father was an English minister, John Blackstone, who was active in politics in Augusta. She married a minister and at least one of her sons was a minister, too. I always thought her name sounded like a Romance writer's name, so when I wrote The Irish Lady's Spanish Lover, I decided to use it as a pseudonym to separate the romances from my science fiction/horror novels.

Ashley's response: I dabble in genealogy and I've found a lot of great names in the family, but none this wonderful. That is so full of character, I love it. I think the best name I found in our family tree, and it was my hubby's side, not mine, was Zachariah "Black Jack" Roy.

4) When you look out your window at the time of this interview, what do you see?

Not much. Since it's about 8:00 PM, it's pitch-black outside, but if it was daylight, I'd see a birm covered with grass and bougainvillea, palm trees, and Norfolk pines with a miniature citrus tree or three. Perhaps a coyote cavorting on the lawn, some crows having a picnic on stale taco shells tossed out for them, and a condor swooping out of one of the trees.

Ashley's response: It seems surreal to me that you might see a coyote or a condor. Of course, I'm from Ohio where we had sparrows, red birds, blue jays, deer, and trees like walnut, oak, maple, and dogwood. I only saw ducks at the park. Here in Florida, I see egrets, ducks all over the neighborhood, sometimes covering my whole front lawn or perching on my fence, and although I've not seen it, my friends say they've seen alligators in the regular neighborhoods. So what I'm saying is that, what is normal, every day stuff to one person, is exotic and unusual to another.

5) What does your family think of your writing career?

Good question. Certain members (who shall remain nameless) have voiced a reluctance to read my books because they contain sex and violence and quite a few 4-letter words. I tell him to read my one Young Adult novel! Others are on my permanent list of buyers. Doesn't matter. I love both of them!


6) Besides writing, do you have any other jobs or hobbies, and if so, what are they?

I work full-time as bookkeeper for a Native American trader at San Juan Capistrano. We specialize in jewelry, pottery, and hand-woven rugs made by the Zuni, Navajo, Acoma, and Santo Domingo Pubelo Native Americans. Being a semi-invalid, most of my recreational interests are fairly sedentary ones. I like to watch TV--I've just discovered Anime--and read. I collect novels about vampires. So far, I have several hundred. I once owned about 600 hundred but when I moved, I put them in storage and the rats got to them so I had to start over. There are some out-of-print first editions resting in the tummies of some very well-read rodents! I have a degree in art and I used to paint and sketch. When I owned a house, I had many of my paintings and sculptures on display. I once owned horses and liked to ride, and--believe it or not--I used to be a dancer! I studied for 13 years and had just begun a professional career when I had my accident.

Ashley's response: I LOVE Native American crafts. My house is decorated in Southwest style so I'm always on the lookout for quality items. If these are available over the Internet, please post the url so I and the readers can visit and send some business your way. :)

7) I see you have several novels in the works. Please tell us about them.

I have a new vampire series--The Second Species--and so far have two novels written--Shadow Lord, and Shadow Passion, which I just completed. They're about a family of vampires who aren't really vampires in the mythological sense, but, as the series title implies, are actually a second species of Mankind. It traces them from the 1700s to the 21st century with a theme of revenge running through it. In the story, I've made the vampire's weaknesses--such as sensitivity to garlic--into logical, sensible reasons, and completely abolished other myths. A word of warning to my own family: since the vampire family consists of three brothers and a cousin, there's plenty of sex, and since there's revenge, there's plenty of violence. Oh my!

The other series, The Kan Ingan Archives (Blood Sin, Blood Exile, Blood Ties, and Earth Blood), is a continuation of the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic, jumping two thousand years into the future to follow the life of one of his descendants, who loses his kingdom because of a woman, spends fifteen years as a homeless Exile, then regains everything only to relinquish it voluntarily after a family tragedy.

I also have another Icy Snow novel, Three Moon Junction, which is a futuristic romance about a young woman on the run from gunmen after witnessing her boss' murder. She gets on a shuttle taking women to a Federation colony and hides out by becoming housekeeper to a lonely rancher, only to find out that the "contract" she signed is in reality a marriage license and he's not her employer, but her husband. Double oh my!

Ashley's response: Wow! These sound great. I can't wait to read them.

8) Please tell us if you will be appearing anywhere soon, on or offline, and if so, where and when?

As I mentioned, I'm more or less a semi-invalid, and I've also have just been diagnosed with cataracts (oh, the problems with being an aged person!), so I only drive when necessary, such as to and from work. In spite of being on stage for 20 years of my life, I'm terribly shy. The last time I went anywhere was a year ago when I did a reading of some of my stories at a coffeehouse in San Diego, Now, that was an experience!

Online, I have a website--www.tonivsweeney.com--and am part of the Pink Fuzzy Slippers writing website--http://pinkfuzzyslipperwriters.blogspot.com/. I also have a MySpace site:

http://www.myspace.com/tonisweeney.

Ashley's response: I can relate. I'm shy, too. Not as much as I used to be, but I'm still not a Toastmaster.


9) Do you have a favorite historical time period? If so, why?

Since I'm a Southerner, I imagine most people would expect me to say the South during the War Between the States, but believe me--that era was no picnic! If I were to pick any time in the South, it would be pre-Civil War.

I've always favored the Napoleonic Era, when women cut their hair short and wore those scandalous Empire dresses made of muslin and wore toe rings and Grecian sandals. From all I've read, they seemed to have had more freedom then, as opposed to the Victorian Era which came later. So--perhaps that era, or the "Roaring" Twenties--with the Charleston--oh you kid!--and bathtub gin. I'd love to have been a silent movie star--maybe a vamp like Theda Bara. 'Course I'd have to change my name--Sweeney doesn't have much of a seductive ring to it!

Ashley's response: I'm drawn to the nostalgic periods more than historical, so we have some shared interests. I'm fascinated by the times my grandparents and parents were young and falling in love. Since people I knew and loved lived in those times, (my grandparents were born in the 1890s and were romancing in the 1920s and then my parents, aunts and uncles had their hey days in the 1940s) those are what fascinate me most. I love to research all the little details of those times and imagine them in their youth.

10) Please tell us where we can read excerpts of all your books, and where they can be purchased.

Three of my books (Walk the Shadow Trail, Vengeance from Eden, and The Last Voyage of Sinbad) have been made into Audio books. They can be bought from Books in Motion, or on Amazon.com. The e-book editions of Bloodseek, the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic: Book One, Walk the Shadow Trail, Vengeance from Eden, and Sinbad's Last Voyage (Note the title change), as well as Murder in Old Blood, and Icy Snow Blackstone's The Irish Lady's Spanish Lover can be downloaded from Double Dragon Publications, and the paperback editions from lulu.com. The Rose and the Dragon, and its sequel Dragon in Chains, are listed on Amazon.com, also, as is my one Young Adult novel, Spacedog's Best Friend. I plan to have excerpts of my books online at my website www.tonivsweeney.com pretty soon now. There are links there for purchasing copies, as well as reading reviews.

Ashley's response: My father loves audio books and I keep meaning to get published in those, too. I'll have to follow in your footsteps and try to break into that medium as well as the written novel.


Below is an excerpt from Sinbad's Last Voyage:

...She felt so lovely she whirled about the cabin, dancing into the cockpit, eyes closed, swaying as she hummed under her breath. She punched the music into life, something from Tschaikowsky winged through the Mariner—the Sleeping Beauty Waltz—and Andi swayed with the music, overcome by the sheer happiness she felt.

She didn't hear the wheeze as the hatch slid open, and only as the music came to an end, and she stopped, skirts swirling about her, did she hear the gloved hands applauding. Spinning around, she saw Sinbad in the hatchway. He was leaning against the doorframe as if it were holding him up, looking as if he'd dressed in the dark, hair in a tangle about his face, shirt and jacket hanging open.

"Very nice." His words were a sibilant hiss. "You've very graceful, Talltrees. I'm glad your upbringing doesn't forbid dancing."

"How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough."

"Why didn't you say something? Sneaking up on me like that." She was ashamed he'd seen her acting so wanton.

"I wasn't quiet, believe me. You just didn't hear."

She smelled the smoke and alcohol, as he staggered past her to the synthesizer. "You're drunk!"

"You're right." He pushed buttons, programming the machine.

"Did you have to?"

"Please!" He turned to look at her. "You're spoiling my mood."

There was bright scarlet on his chest, streaking from his left breast to disappear beneath the leather waistband.

"You're hurt."

She touched the crimson streak, felt his body tremble as her fingers brushed his skin. Andi looked up quickly, mouth dropping open.

Lipstick.

Someone had kissed his chest, trailing kisses across his stomach. He looked so smug...just stood there...smiling.

"You certainly look satisfied."

The smile broadened. He touched his chest, looked at the smear on his fingers, at Andi, and back at his hand again.

“Oh, I am. Very." He gave a quiet chuckle.

"Did you enjoy your illicit sex?" she asked, acidly.

"Immensely." He turned back to the synthesizer, picking up his cup, contentment rumbling in his throat.

"Hmph!" She put as much disdain into the sound as she could.

"Disapproval, Talltrees?" He took a swallow from the cup, and leaned against the control panel. "There's an old Terran saying: don't knock it 'til you've tried it. What would you know about sex? Illicit or otherwise?"

"Well, I am married, you know."

"Uh-huh?" That one word questioned the validity of her entire marriage.

"I've been married for 16 years."

Sinbad raised his cup again, ignoring her.

"To the same man."

"God! You make it sound like a prison sentence." With a shake of his head, he set down the cup, swatting his hair out of his eyes. "I doubt that you know about sex at all, and even less about men."

"Of course I know about men. I've got a husband, and four brothers."

"Brothers don't count. I'll bet your father watched you like a hawk, didn't he?"

"Well, Daddy was a little strict."

"Papa Talltrees kept his little blond baby under lock and key? To keep the hired hands from sampling the sweets?" He settled on the control panel, one foot resting against the pilot's seat, arms folded across his chest.

"Of course not."

"Well, it certainly wasn't to keep you off the boys, I'll bet. And as soon as you got breeding age, he mated you to the first available male." He frowned. "Why an Albegensi, when there were so many nice little Milky boys around? Talltrees!" A theatrical gasp, one of those fang-showing leers. "You and the Albegensi? A little roll in the hay, and Papa found out?"

"Of course not," she snapped. "Tran was… I don't have to explain myself to you."

"You're doing a pretty poor job of it, anyway." He shook his head.

"You make everything sound s-so..."

"Not me. I'm just asking questions." He frowned, a wrinkle of concentration creasing his forehead. "And the big one is: did you enjoy it? I don't think so. Even bigger one: did he?"

"Oh! You're the most vulgar, filthy-minded man I've ever met."

"God, I hope so. I was beginning to think I'd lost my touch."

If she'd been holding something, she'd have thrown it at him. As it was, she stood there, teeth clenched, hands balled into fists, before bursting into a shriek of defiance. Outside in the hangar a tekkie strolling across a catwalk glanced toward the ship.

"Better tone it down," Sinbad cautioned, looking out the view port. "The tekkies can hear us. They're liable to think we're having a lovers' quarrel."

"A lover's quarrel? I wouldn't have you for a lover if you were the last man in the universe."

"If I were the last man in the universe," Sinbad answered, "you'd have to stand in line." He stretched languidly, arms above his head. For a moment, Andi was reminded of a lion she'd seen in the Coast City Zoo: powerful, dangerous...beautiful. "God, I feel good!"

He's enjoying this. This verbal sparring amuses him.

"You promised you wouldn't drink."

"Unh-unh," he waggled a finger at her, "I promised not to drink while piloting the Mariner. Well, in case you haven't noticed, the ship and I are both firmly on the ground. At least, the Mariner is, and I can drink as much as I want as long as we stay that way...."

11) Is there anything else you'd like your readers to know?

When I started writing, I used a female point of view, but somewhere along the line, the hero got into the act and forcefully took over my stories so that now, they have a male point of view. I never intended it to happen but it did. I guess that's to show that men can be just as romantic and misunderstood and susceptible to being hurt and betrayed as any woman in the world. Every one of my heroes--from Riven the Heretic to Sinbad to Marek Strigoi the vampire--is searching--for vengeance, peace of mind, love, trust. Each of them has lost something, and inevitably, when they find what they're looking for, it also involves finding the woman who'll love them forever. I love happy endings so even those I'm guilty of having a couple of stories that didn't end happily, I try my best to at least suggest that the hero and heroine are going to be happy at some future date. In a way, my stories are a reflection of my own life--I had it all--the man, the happy home, everything--and lost it all, very tragically, so now I'm searching for someone to make it happen again. Someone once told me I should write my autobiography. I told them no one would believe it! I write fantastic fiction, but nothing's that fantastic!

Thank you for chatting and spending your valuable time with us. I hope you'll join us again, soon.

Thank you for asking me. It was a pleasure.

Great excerpt! And great interview. I really enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you for joining us and good luck with your career(s). Lots of great sales and happy times to you.

Please keep in touch.

Ashley

7 comments:

Amarinda Jones said...

I love this line - "I'd have crawled across Terra on my hands and knees, if you'd just agreed to let me kiss the inside of one of your thighs!"

Fascinating interview

Ashley Ladd said...

Isn't that a great line? Love it!

This is some great stuff.

naida said...

hi ashley, wonderful interview and great blog.

Ashley Ladd said...

Thanks Naida! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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