Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Word of Mouth" Contest for FORGOTTEN SEA!

Only one week until the Forgotten Sea release!!! If you like this series, I need your help getting the word out!

So I'm giving away TWO personalized, complete sets of the Children of the Sea: SEA WITCH, SEA FEVER, SEA LORD, IMMORTAL SEA, FORGOTTEN SEA, and the two novella prequels in the anthologies SHIFTER and BURNING UP. Seven books!

To enter, simply leave a comment on my blog.
To increase your chances, recommend my books or my books page to your friends - on your blog, page, email, newsletter, or by good old word of mouth.

If your friend leaves a comment ("YOUR NAME sent me!"), they'll be entered in the contest for one complete seven-book set.

And you'll not only be entered in the first giveaway, but in a special "Thank You, Friends!" drawing for another complete seven-book set. (The more friends you send, the more times you'll be entered!)

Finally, I'll choose one commenter at random to receive a replica of the series logo - a pewter triskelion on a black satin cord with a sterling clasp, a copy of the warden's medallion.

DO PLEASE leave some way for me to identify and contact you. You can post as "Anonymous," but you must leave an email address, disguised so the evil cyber bots do not spam you. (Example: virginia (at) virginiakantra DOT com)

And please make sure when you're getting the word out that your friends identify you in the same way, so that you have every chance to win! (Screen names are fine.)

The contest will run between now and the release day of Forgotten Sea, June 7. Good luck and thanks so much for helping me get the word out!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Club Discussion Questions for Sea Witch

1. Sea Witch and the Children of the Sea are based on the Orkney legends of the selkie (“The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry,” the movie “The Secret of Roan Inish” ).
‘I am a man, upo the lan,
An I am a silkie in the sea;
And when I’m far and far frae lan,
My dwelling is in Sule Skerrie.’

What did you know about the selkie legend before you read this book? How are the merfolk (selkie, finfolk) different from other shapeshifters?

2. To what extent do you think Margred “acts like a guy” in coming ashore for sex and after her one night stand with Caleb? How did you feel about her behavior?

3. For me, non-human characters are a way to explore what makes us truly human: the capacity to choose, to love, to commit. I wanted to take Margred's "otherness" seriously, both as a non-human character with a unique point of view and as a way of exploring human relationships. I had to consider how Margred’s experience and emotions within her element—her environment, the sea—would affect her thoughts and decisions on land. There’s a recurring line in the books that I use to capture the children of the sea: “We flow as the sea flows.” I adored writing Margred because she’s so amazingly sensual and sexually confident, but has so much to learn about faith, love, and tenderness.

How does Margred demonstrate her “otherness”?
Does her being a child of the sea (not human) make her more or less sympathetic as a character?

4. Caleb is a police chief and former soldier, but he has no magic powers. Would you describe Caleb as an alpha or a beta hero? How does he demonstrate his heroism?

5. Romantic Times said of Sea Fever, “This is an especially fine paranormal with strong characters, logical plotting and a great sense of place. It keeps the magic at a low burn and focuses on the people.”

How important do you feel the setting and the island community of World’s End are to Sea Witch?
Which elements are important to you?
Who was your favorite secondary character?

6. Sea Witch borrows pretty freely from Hans Christian Andersen's original "The Little Mermaid," especially in terms of Margred's search for a soul:

“So I shall die,” said the little mermaid, “and as the foam of the sea I shall be driven about never again to hear the music of the waves, or to see the pretty flowers nor the red sun. Is there anything I can do to win an immortal soul?”

The whole mythology I created for the elementals and the "First Creation" is patterned on the Creation story in Genesis.
Did you see/get the religious references?
How do you feel about their use in a paranormal romance?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Iestyn Again

Only TWO WEEKS until Iestyn's book! Here's his first appearance in Sea Lord


A grunt, another thump, and a man--a young man's legs--appeared as he backed over the threshold, carrying one end of a large trunk. His companion followed, carrying the other. Setting their burden down, they turned to face her.

Boys. Lucy released her breath. They were just boys--sixteen? seventeen?--in long white shirts and ragged shorts, one big and broad with a shock of dark hair and a belligerent expression.

Tough guy, Lucy thought with a teacher's instincts and a smothered smile.

His companion was wiry and lean, not quite grown into the strength of his wrists or the size of his feet. Beneath a mop of blond-streaked hair, his eyes watched her, guarded and golden as the dog's.

He nudged the trunk with one foot. "Warden said you needed clothes."

She swallowed. "Yes. Thank you."

The bigger boy shifted his weight awkwardly. "There's more."

"Other clothes. If these do not fit you." The tawny one frowned in apparent concern. "You are taller than Miss March."

"Miss March?" Lucy asked cautiously.

"She was our teacher."

Was? "What happened to her?"

"She got old." A girl spoke from behind the two boys.

Their age, Lucy thought, or maybe older. With girls, it was hard to tell.
She had sleek, dark hair the color of mink and a wide-lipped, sulky mouth.

"She died," said the big, dark boy.

"I'm sorry," Lucy said.

The girl shrugged, her eyes cool blue and disdainful. "She was human."

Her casual dismissal chilled Lucy. "She" was human. Did that mean...

"Are you a teacher?" asked the tawny-haired boy.

"I..." Lucy dragged her scattered thoughts together. "Yes."

"We don't need a teacher anymore," the girl said.

The boy shot her a look. "Speak for yourself."

"Suck-up," taunted his companion.

The wiry teen clenched his fists. "Stupid."


"Tell me your names," Lucy said. As if this was the first day of school, the first fight on the playground.

The tough guy scowled, unwilling, maybe, to back down in front of the girl.

"Iestyn," said the other boy, the one with the strange, pale eyes. "This is Roth."

The girl tossed her head. "Kera."

She looked like a model, a girl made up to look like an adult. A beautiful almost adult in a short silk tunic the color of apricots that left her arms and most of her legs bare. Beside her, Lucy felt like a scarecrow. She resisted the urge to pull the slicker tighter.

"I'm Lucy."

"Warden said to call you Miss Hunter."

She smiled easily, encouragingly. "I think we can drop the 'Miss.' I'm not that much older than you."

For some reason that made the bigger boy laugh.

Iestyn poked him to shut him up. "Warden said anything you want, you can ask us."

Anything you want... She would have killed for a shower. A long, hot one. But she suspected enchanted castles didn't run to indoor plumbing.

"Maybe...A fire?" she suggested hopefully.

Iestyn nodded. "We brought wood. And water for your bath."

"The prince said you would want one," the girl—Kera—said.

Conn had ordered her a bath.

Something softened in the center of Lucy's chest. That was thoughtful. It didn't make up for kidnapping her, of course, but she could still appreciate the gesture.

Roth came back with a bundle of driftwood and dumped it by the empty fireplace.

Lucy roused. "I can do that." She nudged the hound Madadh out of the way to kneel on the cold stone hearth.

While she arranged wood and kindling, Kera drifted from the room, delivering an armload of towels before disappearing again. Iestyn and Roth trudged in and out, dragging in a copper tub big enough to sit in and buckets of clear, hot water. A faint sulfur smell rose with the steam.

Lucy shivered with cold and anticipation. "Did you have to boil all that?"

Iestyn grinned and leaned down to strike a spark to the fire. "No, there's a spring deep in the cliffs under the castle. Where all the elements meet, earth and air, fire and water. But--"

"It's a bitch of a climb," Roth said.

"But my lord thought you would appreciate some privacy on your first night," Iestyn continued.

Roth snickered.

Blood surged in Lucy's face. They weren't talking about the bath anymore. Conn's clothes hung in the armoire. This was his room. She sat back on her heels, hoping the boys would blame her sudden flush on the fire. She cleared her throat. "I bet you enjoy that. Having your own hot springs, I mean."

"Oh, aye," Roth said darkly. "If you don't mind demons looking at your butt."

Iestyn's bucket slipped, splashing water out of the tub.

Roth jumped back, cursing. "You great wanker!"

"Here." Lucy got between them with a towel, reassured by their squabbling, glad for something to do. They were just boys after all.

She mopped up the mess while the fire crackled and the boys trudged in with more buckets and went out again. Red shadows danced on the hearth. Under the slicker, a line of sweat traced down Lucy's back. She glanced from the half full tub to the open door and sighed. She was not getting naked in front of the boys. Still she was beginning to relax, lulled by the fire and their uncomplicated wrangling, soothed by the promise of the bath and the possibility of clean clothes.

To pass the time, she opened the trunk.

A long red buttoned cloak lay on top. She lifted it carefully, shaking the scent of lavender from its folds. Below were neat piles of thin drawers and thick socks, tidy stacks of yellowed shifts and bright shawls, sturdy dresses of no particular color or style. She looked dubiously at some of the dresses. The waists were so tiny, the shoulders so tight. Several pieces she was sure would fit: a hooded cape in deep green velvet, a padded turquoise robe, a sheer silk nightgown that whispered of seduction.

Everything was clean and creased, as if it had been lying unused for a long time. Lucy frowned. A very long time.

When the boys came back, Lucy was smoothing the wrinkles from the green cape, trying not to notice how her hand trembled against the velvet. "Your teacher, Miss March...How old was she?"

Iestyn looked surprised. "Almost a hundred, I guess."

Lucy's heartbeat quickened. Her suspicions grew. "And how long ago did she die?"

"I don't..."

Kera reappeared and set a silver hand mirror on one of the chairs. "Fifty years ago."

Iestyn nodded. "Maybe more."

"But you knew her. She taught you." Her mouth dried. Over fifty years ago.

"Aye." Roth's grin revealed strong white teeth. "The prince said he was not having us grow up as little savages."

"But we were the last," Kera said. "Or almost the last."

Iestyn set another bucket on the hearth. "There was Dylan."

"But he had already gone through the Change before he came," Roth said.

"We were the last on Sanctuary," Kera said.

Lucy moistened her lips. Her pulse drummed in her ears. "The last what?"

Iestyn regarded her with wide gold eyes. "Why, the last children."


Monday, May 23, 2011

Another giveaway!

Allyson James is giving away a complete Stormwalker Trilogy as well as June releases from Alyssa Day and me.

Check out the details and leave a comment to win on her blog.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We Have a Winner! (Actually, we have THREE!)

Congratuations to Julie M., Angel492003, and Meggerfly! Look who's waiting to go home with you!

Thanks everyone so much for coming by to comment.

Don't miss more giveaways! Make sure and sign up as a blog subscriber (or join my Yahoo mailing list) so you can be the first to hear about future contests!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Iestyn Who?

Sometimes a character strolls on to the page and then won't leave your imagination or your heart...

From the Children of the Sea prequel "Sea Crossing" in the anthology SHIFTER


Emma's heart beat like a frightened rabbit's. She wrapped her arms around her waist, tucking her hands under her armpits to hide their trembling.

She was a teacher in a girls' school. She was not used to violence. Male violence. The men's casual assault and her rescuer's swift reprisal had shocked and shaken her.

The bigger man--the one who had grabbed her--led his limping companion away. Emma fought a shiver of reaction. Revulsion. They were no worse, really, than the men in the boarding house she had learned to lock her door against each night or the ones who called and whistled after her on the street. No worse than Paul.

They had not raped her.

Although they could have.

Another shudder shook her. Thank God she had been rescued. He had rescued her. Again.

He stood planted, unmoving, his eyes narrowed as the other two men staggered
from the hall. Emma's gaze slid over the hard slabs of his torso to the ridges of his abdomen and felt a clench in her stomach that might have been fear. He wasn't even breathing hard. If not for the dark hair covering his powerful chest, the breeches clinging to his thighs, he might have been a statue.

"You," he barked.

Emma jumped.

But his attention was on the boy, the one with the odd colored eyes. The
only one who hadn't run when those two men cornered her.

"What in Llyr's name were you doing?" the big man demanded.

Emma moved instinctively closer to the boy. He was only a child. He--

"She was all alone," the boy said with dignity. "I thought--"

"You did not think. Murdoc could swat you like a fly. Next time you see the prince's peace disturbed, you call me or one of the other Wardens, understand?"

Wardens? Emma shied at the word like a horse from the bite of a lash. What was this place? A jail? An orphanage?

Her chest hollowed. An asylum?

The boy's thin face flushed. "Yes, sir."

Emma's protective instincts roused. Orphaned or crazy, the child meant well. "He was only trying to help."

Her rescuer turned his dark, brooding gaze on her, and she felt again that quick clutch in her belly. Tension rose off him like steam.

Her mouth dried. She should not have come down. She was not safe here.

She lifted her chin, refusing to be cowed.

"You wanted to help," he said without expression.

He was speaking to the boy. Emma gathered she was irrelevant.

The child straightened his narrow shoulders. "I--Yes."

"Right. Make yourself useful, then. Fetch a girl to attend the lady."

The boy nodded and darted away.

"Wait!" Emma called after him.

The child paused, almost quivering in his desire to be gone.

"What is your name?"

He shifted his weight from foot to foot. "Iestyn."

"Thank you, Iestyn," she said gently. "I am Miss March."

"Yes." His smile flashed. "Thank you, miss."

He ran off.

Her Viking was still watching Emma with an intent, cat-at-a-mousehole look that made her palms grow damp.


Guess who's all grown up now and getting his own book? ;-)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Forgotten Sea Giveaway!

THREE WEEKS until the Forgotten Sea release! Hooray! And look what showed up on my doorstep!

I have three copies to give away.
Who wants one?

Oooh, oooh, meant to add: Please include an email addy so I can get in touch with you if you win. You can obscure it by writing out "at" or "dot" or whatever so evil bots won't find it. Example: virginia (at) virginiakantra (dot) com.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Write on Wednesday: the Pitch Appointment

Romance Writers of America meets in NYC next month! So it seems a good time to reprise my advice about editor and agent appointments.

I met my first editor, Mary-Theresa Hussey, at a pitch appointment back in the days when she was a lowly assistant editor at Silhouette and I hadn't yet completed my first manuscript. (This was so long ago you could get away with that.)

Mind you, it took me four years to write a story she could actually buy. But that meeting gave me hope and was the start of a working relationship that lasted ten years.

So let's say you're headed to New York. You score an appointment with the agent you most covet or the editor you want at the house of your dreams. You have ten minutes to convince her that you are a perfect match. Now what do you say?

First of all, relax. No matter how you feel inside, this is not the do-or-die moment of your career. Remember that the editor wants to like your book. All you have to do is describe your story in words that will let her know what it's truly about. I can't find my own high concept with both hands in the dark. But I can talk succinctly about story because of Debra Dixon's wonderful explanation of goal, motivation, and conflict. Because of her, I can offer

Virginia Kantra's Cheat Sheet to Perfect Pitch

Start:"Thank you for taking the time to meet with me."Say a few words about the publisher or agent that suggests you've done your homework, read their authors' work. This means, of course, that you have done your homework, that you know that this agent represents your genre and you are not pitching your sweet Christian romance to an erotica publisher.

I've written a word count, subgenre
set in location and/or time period.

My Title is about a character tag (descriptive adjective and specific noun)
Fighting/striving/struggling for character goal
because character motivation
But conflict (why can't she have what she wants?)

The other primary character (hero or heroine)
is a character tag
who wants character goal
so that character motivation
But conflict.

A sentence about how the romance is affected by or impacts the plot.

A sentence about how the characters work together or at cross purposes to defeat the antagonist or overcome the conflict.

A sentence establishing your area of expertise or level of excitement about this story.

Finish by telling her what you want: "I would like to send you the story."

Don't be thrown if the editor asks questions about your story. This means she's interested.

You can ask questions, too. They probably get tired of, "What are you looking for?" But you could certainly ask specific questions about projects you have simmering on the back burner. Which brings me to,

Have a second pitch prepared in case the editor says this project doesn't meet the needs of her house at this time or asks what else you are writing.

As I mentioned above, you want to do your research before you even request any appointment. Make sure you have visited
Agent Query - An excellent guide to what an agent is and how to submit to one,
along with a free, searchable database of over 700 agents.

as well as Preditors and Editors
Another Realm hosts this guide to literary agents and publishing houses.

And good luck!

(You can find an earlier version of this post and other articles about writing on my website.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Forgotten Sea - New Sneak Peek!

He was out there somewhere. She could feel him, just like this morning.

Lara skimmed along the tree-lined walk, her flat shoes crunching the pea gravel. She imagined Justin blundering in the dark, dazed and bleeding, hurt and resentful, a danger to himself . . . or to others.

She needed to find him. For his sake. For hers.

She had to tell somebody. Tell Simon.

Her stomach churned. The thought of facing the governors, of Zayin’s scorn and Simon’s disappointment, made her sick inside.

But she had no choice. A trickle of sweat rolled down her spine. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

The distinctive pitched roof line of the headmaster’s residence poked over the trees—six chimneys and a weathervane shaped like an eagle.

Simon Axton lived alone in the original Colonial farmhouse, set apart from the other school buildings behind the main hall. Lara had been invited inside exactly eight times. To the sunroom to take tea with her cohort on graduation day. To the book-lined library for cocktails with the schoolmasters and other proctors over the holidays. Once or twice to bring Simon a file he’d left at the office.

Lara approached the front porch, her steps slowing, anticipation burning a hole in her gut. Too late, she realized she should have called. But what would she say?
What could she say? She was supposed to be in her room.

Simon’s cool dismissal pounded in her head. “If you’re quite satisfied, I believe we’re done here.”

The thought of his displeasure dried her mouth. She stared up at the darkened windows, listening to the whisperings and rustlings and cracklings of the overgrown garden. A soft thump sounded from the back of the house, some small, nocturnal animal hunting in the night.

Her heart thudded.

Suck it up, she ordered herself. Get it over with.

Straightening her shoulders, she marched toward the steps.

That noise again, like a prowling cat or a raccoon testing the garbage cans or . . .

She caught her breath. Or like an escaped patient, skulking in the bushes.
Goose bumps rose along her arms. She stood frozen, her mind racing, her breath whooshing in and out of her lungs. He couldn’t be . . .

Maybe. Why not? How far could he get, with a skull fracture and the heth around his throat?

She thrust her hand into her skirt pocket, wrapping her fingers around the knife—his knife, Justin’s—and was instantly electrified as if she’d grabbed a live plug. Her nerves sizzled. Like a bug flying into a bug zapper.

She strained her senses.

There? Almost. Almost . . . There.

A whisper of warmth, male, animal, alive. A swirl of wild energy, around the corner, behind the house. Intangible. Unmistakable.

Justin was here, somewhere nearby.

Clutching the knife like a divining rod, she plunged into the darkness at the side of the house, stepping over beds of hostas and lilies of the valley, creeping under the black and staring windows. It was like her Seeking—was it only this morning?—or the game she’d played as a child. Warm. Cold. Warmer. Hot.

She shivered. A dangerous game, with high stakes and an unpredictable playmate.

Warm, warmer . . .

A thick oak raised its arms over the backyard, obscuring the star-strewn sky. She stepped into the mottled light, her gaze scanning the dappled ground, the silvered plants, the velvet shadows. Against the foundation, the door to the storm cellar yawned open, a gaping black hole.


The knife burned in her pocket. The air left her lungs.

There. Sprawled across the stone threshold, one arm reaching for the wooden door as if to shut it behind him. His hair was bleached, his skin pale in the moonlight. The bandage on his forehead was dark with blood.

Justin lifted his head and met her gaze, his eyes nearly black in the shadows, burning with intensity. “Help . . . me.”