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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Conflict over conflict

A local newspaper in my area is sponsoring a pet calendar contest and scoring big bucks with votes for a quarter apiece. 85 initial entries will be voted on until only twelve remain. 6012 votes has garnered first place for a cute little Yorkie. That honorary position cost voters $1503. Now, I love my cat and dog, and I entered pictures of them in the contest, but I don't have nearly enough of a competitive spirit--or willingness to spend my money to assure that they'll be in that top twelve--to contribute more votes.

I discovered early on in my writing life that aspects of my personality, good and bad, bled over into the characters I created. The not having a competitive spirit for instance. Perhaps because I never have played team sports or been involved in an activity that requires a driving need to win is why I simply don't have it. Now, competing with myself, that I do. Every day I challenge myself to complete goals with my writing, editing, exercising, whatever needs to get done at my bookshop, even down to learning the next line of a piano piece I'm working on.

Not having that competitve drive stems from an abhorence of conflict. Maintaining the peace and avoiding turbulence goes back to forever ago and has stayed with me all my life. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when, in Water Music, the first book I wrote, I struggled to the point of tears to have my characters at conflict with each other. Such a vital component of a tale and I battled with it. I knew conflict equalled drama, had to have it, but I didn't want my protags angry with each other, or be shaken by unkind words or overhear a hurtful remark, even though I knew all would work out in the end. Now, inner conflict I could do without going through a case of tissues. Developing a character at war with him/her self to overcome something that holds them back from gaining what they want, or goal they must reach is not a problem. But two characters arguing or not speaking to each other because they're angry is so difficult for me to write. Spending time on such a scene alters my mood for the rest of the day.

Since writing that first book I've learned there are many ways to create conflict without characters dragging out the battle axes. It's born out of human characteristics and events that don't have to be soul shattering: misunderstandings, man against nature, man against himself, revenge, self-preservation, greed, duty, love, and self-discovery. Any of these can work as a source of conflict but it needs to suit the character. Having a greedy hero or vengeful heroine are traits I'd avoid. I like to reserve those for the subplots and secondary characters. I can give the bad guys all sorts of conflicts without batting an eye or dropping a tear.

My vote is for love, peace and understanding any and every day, but I know for the sake of drama I have to have conflict amongst my pages. How easy or difficult is it for you to build conflict in your stories? Do you get a knot in your stomach like I do when your book characters are at odds with each other, even though you know you'll soothe the hurt feelings in a later chapter? If you have to mentally prepare to write such scenes, what do you do?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Does It Take to Get Published?

I have never heard anyone mention talent first. PERSISTENCE is the most common answer I hear. Stubbornness is a word I use. It certainly takes to allow other to see your work such as critique partners, editors and agents. After all these are your babies and we believe they are perfect.

Through all the rejections, (93 on one book and still is not published) I still couldn't quit because every book I submitted to an editor or agent was better than the last. When one was rejected, I started another and believed it would be the one. Oh, I cried and took to my bed, ranted and raved at their stupidity of not wanting my story while I quit writing for a few months.

Here are some quotes from well-known authors about writing:

'For God's sake, don't do it unless you have to. . .It's not easy. It shouldn't be easy, but it shouldn't be impossible, and it's damn near impossible.'
Frank Conroy

'I like to do, and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don't write, I feel like shit. I've got the talent and I feel that I'm wasting it.'
Ernest Hemingway

Often ideas would call to me. No matter what I did, I could not shake them. In the middle of sleep, more ideas to go along with the original would pop up. I had to get them written down, and I began to write again. I quit crying and ranting after the first few years, and I started to toughen up. I talked to other authors and heard their stories about breaking into the business. At a local conference, an author who gave the luncheon speech cried through her whole speech telling how hard it had been for her.

'There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.'
Ernest Hemingway

'Easy reading is damned hard writing.'
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Many wonderful writers quit and will never know how close they may have been to being published. I always thought the next book would be the one, so I kept writing. For years, I thought of myself as a hack because I revised so much, but then I talked to multi-published authors and many of them did the same thing. It can take a short time or many years to make it to publication.

'Books aren't written-they're rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.'
Michael Crichton
'Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.'
Richard North Patterson

By now, you are probably saying to yourselves: Why in the world does she write if it's so difficult. The answer for me is that I can't quit. During the times when I was hurt from many rejections I would eventually start to get antsy and bitchy because I wasn't writing. I had to get back to writing.

'You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any artist, you are learning your craft-then you can add all the genius you want.'
Phyllis Whitney

'Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential.'
Jessamyn West

Don't give up on your dreams unless another replaces it. You have to keep learning even after you are published. It never ends.

See you next month.

Sandra K. Marshall;;

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interview of Cover Model/Actor Chris Perrons

Today it’s my pleasure to present an interview of multi-talented cover model/actor, Chris Perrons! His lifetime careers encompass many avenues; Weapons and Explosives specialist for the Royal Air Force for more than 16 years, stevedore, Microsoft Certified System Engineer, actor, model. Chris holds a Black Belt 2nd Dan Karate, is trained in Tae Kwon Do, and does both English and Western Horseback riding. I had the good fortune to be seated next to Chris at the RT2008 Cover Model Reunion Dinner. We talked about military life (since I was a military wife for 21 years) and being left-handed! He’s a true professional, gracious gentleman!

Where to find information about Chris Perrons:!/profile.php?id=1173175952&ref=ts

Q: You’ve had lots of different career directions. Is there one job you’ve thought about trying but haven’t yet attempted?
A: Actually, I have thought about applying to become a marshal for the FAA. I'd like to have a role in keeping airplanes safe from terrorism.

Q: You had an interest in acting as a child, and continued to pursue this as an adult. What inspired you to become an actor?
A: I've always found it to be very enjoyable and I didn't find the opportunity when I was in the Royal Air Force.

Q: Tell us about some of your acting roles. Do you have a favorite one?
A: I enjoyed several of them for different reasons but the one that stands out for me was as Archie Beaton, in "Brigadoon".

Q: You’ve been to all Romantic Times Booklovers Conventions from 2001-2009. In 2001 and 2002, you were a finalist in RT’s “Mr. Romance” contest. What memories stand out from these conventions?
A: Meeting so many interesting and wonderful people initially and again every time since. It truly is like a huge family. The rehearsals were fun and the appearances for photos, etc., were also very flattering to asked to attend.

Q: Readers, Romance Industry Representatives, and Authors attend RT Conventions. Our impression of the contestants is that they’re fun, easy-going guys, and all get along (and handsome, of course!). Did you find this type of camaraderie or did you ever encounter negative vibes from other contestants?
A: I don't think there was anything negative that I could feel from any of the guys. Mostly, we were all in the same situation, seemingly for the first time, somewhat nervous and didn't want to make fools of ourselves. I feel that we were generally supportive of each other.

Q: For RT2003, you presented a workshop on acting. What one important tip would you give to budding actors/models?
A: Get to know the character that you are portraying completely and become that character. I personally put myself in their position and don't cast my mind back to my own memories or experiences. That seems to work for some actors but I feel that one has to keep it real, "in the moment".

Q: You now live in Florida. What kind of a culture change did you go through?
A: Still going through, over twelve years later. I'm very English and mannerisms are very different. Meeting new people is so nice. The Southern hospitality is very heart-warming.
Discipline on the road is quite an adjustment. The heat and humidity, where I am in East Central Florida, is almost constant. The beaches are beautiful. Also, I had to revert to Imperial measurements, instead of metric. It was like going back in time. I still convert to metric in my head.

Q: What’s next for Chris Perrons?
A: Being that I'm employed at NASA (Kennedy Space Center), I don't know how much longer my job will exist. I'm training to become a home inspector. I've got people overseas telling me about possibilities working with my former RAF colleagues and of course, I audition as much as I can. Who knows what break might occur?

Q: Favorite food?
A: Almost anything but I really enjoy Indian cuisine, as most English do.

Q: Favorite drink?
A: Real English tea.

Q: Where do you consider to be the most romantic place in the world?
A: I'm tempted to say "my place" but that's probably not very PC. I think one of Scotland's castles on the bank of Loch Ness. Urquart, I think it's called.

Q: There are so many romance genres. As a cover model, is there one genre in particular that you’d like to be asked to do?
A: I feel somewhat drawn to the historic but I'm rather open.

Additional Information: Chris is now a US citizen. He appeared in the movie, "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector" (2006).

CONTEST: Leave a comment for a chance to win two decks of Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen Press cards! I'll choose two winners! Deadline for leaving a comment: midnight ET on 30 September. BE SURE TO PUT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN WITH YOUR COMMENT!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Egyptian Romance

My Steampunk/Romance As Timeless As Stone by Maeve Alpin has a heroine, Seshat, from the Middle Kingdom period of ancient Egypt. I love history and Egyptian history can be so much fun. I thought I’d share some of the more interesting trivia I came across while researching that era. I love candy and believe it or not, so did the ancient Egyptian they invented and indulged in two all time favorites: licorice and marshmallows.

Another interesting tidbit is in Egyptian society writers or scribes were well paid for their work and it was a highly thought of profession. One of my favorite writing quotes is from Ptahhotpe or Ptah-Hotep, an ancient Egyptian official who lived in the late 25th century BC to early 24th century BC. “Be a scribe! Your body will be sleek, your hand will be soft....You are one who sits grandly in your house; your servants answer speedily; beer is poured copiously; all who see you rejoice in good cheer. Happy is the heart of him who writes; he is young each day." Ptahhotpe

The ancient Egyptians also thought well of libraries, an inscription over the door at the Library at Thebes, reads, “The medicine chest of the soul.”

Also in ancient Egypt, male servants cooked, washed clothes, and did the weaving. The women thrashed the grain. So even then I guess the women still got the hardest work.

The ancient Egyptians were very romantic and believed the gods wanted them to enjoy sex. An extraordinary tidbit about the ancient Egyptians is that the ankh, the famed symbol of life, also represents male and female private parts. One of the most amazing pieces of trivia regarding the ancient Egyptians’ belief in sex after death was that they attached phallus to the mummified bodies of men and added artificial nipples to the mummies of women.

So to sum up these fun facts, the ancient Egyptians liked marshmallows, licorice, books, and sex, plus they thought men should do the cooking and laundry. Who wouldn’t love people like that?

And I’m sure you’ll enjoy my ancient Egyptian heroine, Seshat. She loves reading and writing, she’s a lector priestess and works in the temple library, studying ancient tablets and writing magic spells. When Egypt’s enemies the Hyksos create a new war machine called a chariot, and speed toward the temple to attack, she conjures a spell, turning into stone to avoid rape and capture. She’s sure her soldier friend will turn her back when he arrives with Pharos army but he doesn’t find her as her head has been chopped off. She is finally transformed back, centuries later by Ricard in 1830 Paris, when he places her head on her shoulders and reads the incantation held in her hands. How can you not love a strong woman with magical powers who so resiliently transforms not only form stone to flesh but from ancient Egypt t to 19th century Paris.

And here is the blurb for my Steampunk/Romance, As Timeless as Stone:
Though society stands in their way, can love transcend time with the aid of robotics and ritual? In peril for her life, the Priestess Seshat turns herself to stone in ancient Egypt. Centuries later, Ricard, a dashing nineteenth century Frenchman, repairs a broken statue and reads its incantation--unprepared for the gorgeous flesh and blood woman who steps forth. Seshat is drawn to the brass robots Ricard creates and the glamour of the Victorian age, and most of all to Ricard himself. But the society of his day cannot accept a woman like her. How far will Ricard go to secure her happiness? Is their love strong enough to transcend time itself?

As Timeless As Stone, Trailer
Web Page

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Different End

Every author feels a sense of accomplishment when they type two words, "The End." Sometimes they experience relief and sometimes they're let down because the characters they've spent so much time with are now committed to paper and the story is over. Usually, they get over it quickly because the follow up to writing "The End" is edits and then release. There's no author that doesn't enjoy release day, the day we get to share this new work with all our readers.

But there's another kind of ending that some authors have to write and this one is a lot bigger and lot more emotional than the end of a book. The end of a series can have a serious emotional impact on an author and, in turn, on the readers. Recently, I read some of Kate Douglas' thoughts about the end of her popular series "Wolf Tales." Reading her emotional words made me start to think about the end of "Tales of the Darkworld."

On October 7, Sunstroked, Tales of the Darkworld Book 6 releases. This is the second of the M/M stories in this series. It is also a quietly intense romance, almost sweet despite the hot scenes and fiery sexual tension. To me, it also serves as notice that this series is drawing to a close.

Tales of the Darkworld started with two novellas about brothers and sisters. Two vampire siblings who own a cemetery in the Darkworld and two black dragon siblings, one who suffers from unrequited love and the other who feels cast out of her family. From Shifting Winds and Hot Water came the bigger picture of the Tales. Two families, three best friends, and a man with a mission to ensure that all his friends and relatives find their mates. Ten tales of love, lust, betrayal, pain, triumph, redemption, life, death, rebirth, sexuality, and friendship.

The series revolves around the machinations of three Machiavellian best friends, black dragon Sean Antaeus, vampire Marius Granville, and the man with a mission, magia Alfred Stone. Alfred's task is to ensure that his friends and family find their mates. However, the reason for Al's task isn't clear until Book 9 Rain of Tears, Al's own story. At that point, I'll close out the series with the story of the most dominant character across all of the books, black dragon Sean Antaeus.

The release of Sunstroked next month means I'm on the downslope of the series. Each book from this point on is less standalone. Each book will bring me closer to The End. And I'm not sure I'm ready to face that. Sure, I have other ideas and another series in my worlds planned. I know my publisher and editor is rubbing her hands together in anticipatory glee of receiving the next of my Five Dark Realms series. We've had long discussions and conversations about all my ideas for these worlds.

Even so, I feel the emotional pinch of ending the Tales and I know when it's time to write "The End" at the end of Force Majeure (Book 10 Sean's story) I will probably sit and have a long cry. It will be time for me to let go of the Antaeus dragons, the Granville vampires, the Stone magia, the McCallan werewolves, the wildling, and the demons. I'm sure it will be difficult for some of the series fans as well. Letting go of Holden and Garret, Colin and Eden, Emily and Vahid, Sean, Marius, Declan, Alfred, Careen, Corey, and all the others will be emotional at best for them too.

This series launched my career and it will be with profound sadness and a huge sense of accomplishment that I write the final book probably sometime late next year. Between now and then, as I write the last four books, I'll be working to showcase the series as a whole. With each of the last releases, I'll be talking about not just that story, but all of them. Because in the end, when I write "The End", I'll have given my readers one very big love story that encompasses more than just dragons, vampires, werewolves and demons but also includes the relationship between me... and them.

Happy reading!

Interview of Reader Sarah K. Ballew

Today it's my pleasure to interview one of our wonderful readers, Sarah K. Ballew! We love to read about those who enjoy romance books!

Photo: Sarah's son Colton (apparently using the phone and someone's glasses)! Cute!

I was born in Lindsay, OK, many moons ago as a poor redneck girl. I grew up trying to overcome the middle child syndrome and keep from having the “Good Girl” sign attached to my forehead, but somehow it stuck. I moved around OK and TX throughout the younger years, settling in Tulsa, OK, to finish up High School. I tried out many colleges until I settled on a small liberal arts college in central KY to finally receive confirmation that I knew something.

My freeloading self followed the parental units to central FL for room and board, because I hadn’t sucked enough money out of them yet. I had every intention of finding my way back to OK, but fate found me first and I met my super terrific husband and landed my “super terrific” paper pushing analytical job.

I now live in a lovely coastal city in central FL with a 2-yr-old son, a 6-yr-old rat terrier, a cat of undetermined (ancient) age and a soon-to-be ___ yr-old husband (he might read this and take away my reading privileges if he sees I posted his age) on 2 ½ acres of land that requires lots of attention along with our older home (not “historical”) that requires even more loving attention.

Q: What type of genre do you enjoy the most and why?
A: I love historical fiction the most – takes me away from reality and allows me to see life of the history I have always loved. The ones that make me laugh while solving a mystery are the best.

Q: What inspired you to read romance books?
A: I was a typical young girl trying to figure out what life was all about. I started reading Judy Blume books for the younger kids. Someone in school had “Forever”, which lead me in search of more of her work and I found “Wifey”. I then found my mom’s stash of Harlequin novellas & novels and was hooked from then on. I have read all the classics by Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Janet Daily.

Q: Besides those of us at “Romance Books R Us”, who are your favorite authors?
A: Growing up I would say Janet Daily was my favorite until I found the world of the
Internet and realized how many authors there actually are (Although she still holds a place in my beginners heart). I now love many authors:
Katie MacAclister - especially her Dragon series
Stephanie Laurens -Cynster and Bastion Club series
Stephanie Rowe - Vampire Series
Bertrice Small – any and all of her books
Samantha Kane – Brothers in Arms
This list could go on as I research and join more groups like RBRU.

Q: What is your all-time favorite romance book? Why?
A: “Shanna” by Kathleen Woodiwiss is my all-time favorite. I have reread this book so many times. I never get tired of it. I think the shear determination of Ruark to be with Shanna and win her over on his terms is what captures my attention.

Q: When do you read and do you have “comfort food” as you read?
A: I read mostly at night once my 2-year-old has gone to bed. I don’t like to eat when I read. Too much distraction. Also I don’t like messy fingers on my books or laptop. The idea for me is to escape reality when I can, so I think food would be like the penny for Christopher Reeve in “Somewhere in Time” and take me away from paradise.
(Sarah - great comparison!)

Q: Do you enter contests? What type of items do you enjoy getting if you win?
A: I love entering contests. It is a way of finding out more about the author and other authors. LOVE getting Books but would love to get an eReader someday!

Q: Do you read blurbs and excerpts? Which one is most important in your decision to buy a book and why?
A: Yes I read the blurbs and excerpts. I think the blurbs are the most important. They determine if I am going to spend my limited time reading an excerpt and then the except determines if I am going to spend my money on a book. Both are very important, but the blurb is the first step for me. Sort of like a first impression of meeting someone helps you to determine if you want to spend more time with them.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I have had a wonderfully insightful time while doing this interview. It has brought back great memories for me. I know there are a multitude of excited readers out there that know nothing of your group and I hope I can help spread the word. Keep up the good work.

Thank you for your kind words, Sarah!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interview of Author Keta Diablo

Today it's my pleasure to present an interview of romance author Keta Diablo!

Latest Book: Where The Rain Is Made
Buy Link:

Keta (kee-ta) lives in the Midwest portion of the country on six acres of beautiful woodland. Here, she communes with nature; eagles, owls and loons (the winged version). There's a lovely environmental lake on her property named after a famous Native American chief, and the locals insist burial grounds from 150 years ago exist in her woods. Hmm. Maybe it's not always the wind she hears howling at night.

When Keta isn't writing she loves to read and garden and spends far too much time at the local animal shelter trying to wrangle a way to adopt them all. Two years ago she adopted Emma LaPounce, a mid-life feline who was in crisis when her long-time owners moved out of town, took their furniture but left her behind. Hours before Emma was to journey to the other world, Keta adopted her, and now she runs the entire darn house.

Q: What part of the book is the easiest for you to write? Why?
A: The easiest part for me is dialogue and that’s because I “get it”. I can easily imagine a scene and know what the characters would say to one another or what the inflection in their voice would sound like. I’m not sure why, but that part generally flows much better for me.

Q: What part of the book is the hardest for you? Why?
A: Two parts – the beginning and the ending. The other parts of the book are like a road map in my mind. Once I get started (the hard part) I usually know where I’m going next in my head. The ending is difficult because you don’t want it to be sappy or very anti-climactic. You want to end on a positive note most of the time if you’re writing romance and the reader expects that HEA. It’s hard for me to wrap up a book after I’ve become so attached to the characters and the story.

Q: Do all your heroes and all heroines look the same in your mind as you “head write”?
A: Gosh, I hope not. I look through magazines until I find the perfect picture for my hero and heroine. Then I post it above my computer and refer to it often while writing. This also helps me keep the hair and eye color straight.

Q: Do you eat comfort food when writing? If so, what food inspires your imagination?
A: The only thing I have along the lines of food or beverage while I’m writing is coffee or tea, occasionally a little chocolate. I take a break away from the laptop or desktop when I’m writing to eat. And it’s a much-needed break.

Q: What hobby do you enjoy when not writing?
A: I love to garden, but live in the Midwest part of the country, so we only have about four months to enjoy the flowers. I do a lot of reading if I can, and also spend time at my local animal shelter trying to figure out how I can bring more abused and neglected pets home. Unfortunately, I can’t save them all.

Q: What is your favorite romance book that you’ve read?
A: I have several in the romance genre I adore. The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne is at the top of my list and Windflower, a novel written by Laura London (actually a husband and wife team) from the 1980’s. I’ve read that book over and over and love the secondary characters almost as much as the first. Today, the writing would be considered purple prose and very flowery, but there are scenes that are so vivid, so humorous, I laugh every time I read it.

Q: What genre would you like to try writing in but haven’t yet done so? Why?
A: I’d love to try Young Adult, but don’t now that I could. I have to read a lot more books in this genre before I would even attempt it.

Q: Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Chats, or Twitter. Which do you like best and why?
A: I never do chats, that’s not for me. I love to Twitter and I have a Facebook fan page which I use frequently. Please join me!
Tell us where to find you: website(s), publisher’s page(s), blog(s), Facebook page(s), etc. List them all!
Keta’s Haunt, Author Home,
Keta’s Keep Erotic Blog:
The Stuff of Myth and Men, (Gay Fiction Blog)
Romance Writers Behaving Badly,
Quackers and Tease,
My publishers:
Decadent Publishing,
Amber Quill Press:
Noble Romance Publishing,
Phaze Publishing:

Where The Rain Is Made, Paranormal Erotic Romance, Decadent Publishing
Shapeshifter, Time Travel

A decadent-looking savage has captured Francesca DuVall and her brother, Marsh. Now she must spend every waking moment planning an escape from the camp of the brutal savages. What she doesn't count on is the powerful draw of desire interfering with her scheme.

Ethan Gray is a curator at a national museum in Washington, D.C....most of the time. But when he travels through time to help his beloved People, he becomes Meko, leader of the most revered and feared tribe of the plains, the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers.

Their worlds are decades apart, yet Meko can’t resist the dark beauty he kidnapped during a raid. He has many battles to fight, but none more crucial than capturing Cesca’s heart forever.

Cesca had never seen him so calm. Vapors rose from the water like a fine mist, sheathing his shoulders and head. Meko moved not an inch, and for a moment she wondered if he drew breath. He came toward her, the ripples circling, beckoning her. “It will never be over between us,” he whispered.

His words threw her mind into total disorder. She stiffened and thrust an arm out, hoping the action would be enough to hold him back. Yet still he advanced. He encircled her outstretched wrist with a gentle hand and pulled her to him. His warm breath fanned her wet skin. Drawing her head back, he bared her throat and delivered a series of lingering kisses to the throbbing pulse in her throat. His lips traveled along the damp flesh of her shoulder before he claimed her mouth.

A hot flame clawed through her belly when he slipped one hand beneath the water, pressed it against the small of her back and pulled her closer...closer until she felt the full length of his hard body against hers.

All desire to claw his face vanished. Any shred of resistance she intended to use disappeared as quickly as the space between them. His tongue probed the inside of her mouth. She clung to him with her legs wrapped around his hips. When he pulled back, her breaths came in short bursts. She heard a moan and prayed it wasn’t hers. Lucifer, she was such a fool for the man!

Meko cradled her in his arms and pushed through the water back to shore and laid her in the tall grass. A Cheyenne curse fell from his lips as he looked down at her. Events happened so fast, she couldn’t think. The soft beating of the drums, distant laughter, and the soothing sound of water trickling over rocks came to her through a fog.

And then she surrendered.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for hosting me! My latest release is Where The Rain Is Made, an erotic romance through Decadent Publishing.

Where The Rain Is Made will remain on my shelf for years to come and be revisited often :) I cringed, flinched, sighed and shed a tear. Any story that can do that has my vote all the way. Ms. Diablo, I look forward to seeing more from you in the future. 9 out of 10 STARS! SERIOUSLY REVIEWED

Please follow my blog to find out what else I have coming out in the near future, KETA'S KEEP EROTIC BLOG

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Erotic Romance or Porn?

As a writer of erotic romance I often see knowing looks on the faces of others when I tell them what I write. Men can be especially bad about jumping to the wrong conclusions. They immediately have two categories in their minds “silly women’s romance” or “porn for women”. At that point I always feel honor bound to explain that well crafted erotic romance is either.
Porn does not foster tender feelings or look for common ground between partners. It’s a purely physical focus. Erotic romance focuses on the sexual side of emotional bonding. In my opinion emotional intention is the big difference between porn and erotic romance. They are not the same thing at all.
Pornography doesn’t care about those involved in the act or ask about their feelings and to my eyes, is not the least bit romantic.
Erotic romantic fiction is about exploring love through the feelings and emotions associated with sexual expression. In erotic romantic fiction (if not always in real life!) sexual exploration must lead to a caring mutually beneficial relationship. Love and respect must exist between the fictional partners or else it simply doesn’t work as a romance. The sexuality part of the story has to be honest, emotionally engaging and trigger a physical reaction in the reader or else it doesn’t work as erotic fiction.
An author has to seek a delicate balance between love and lust that oscillates between the panting, crazed, call of the wild and the highest, selfless expression of sacred love. When it all comes together the result can be some very memorable, soul-thrilling erotic romance and it is not silly women’s stuff or porn…
Where do you draw the line between erotic and pornographic?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Flawed Hero

I was chatting with a good friend of mine the other day and she sent me some pictures in an email of a gorgeous male model as a suggestion for a future Wake-Me-Up Wednesday feature. I, or course, anxiously viewed the photos and I noticed the man had a considerable sized birthmark on his bicep.

Now while this does nothing to lower the appeal I have of him, I was surprised he had not removed it given his choice of career—a male model. I mean in this day and age, the idea and pursuit for the perfect human body has drastically increased over the years, and often times, people go to extremes to achieve it.

Now before I dig myself into a hole, let me make myself clear that I in no way, shape, or form, think this man (or anyone else for that matter) should have birthmarks, scars, or any other permanent blemishes removed. In fact, I loved the mark on the male model. It gave him character, depth, and when I looked past all the beautiful muscle and skin, my mind automatically thought he was the bigger man for not removing it—especially given the career he was in.

So, by now I’m sure you are all saying, “What is Renee’s point?”

Glad you asked.

Gerard Butler as Erik in Phantom
of the Opera
I, as a writer and a romance fan, love to read about the flawed hero—the hero who is either scarred emotionally or physically, and feels they are forever haunted by their imperfections. There are many famous ones: Claude Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo, and of course, my favorite, Erik from Phantom of the Opera.

But I also have a flawed hero in my historical, Ræliksen. At the time, when I was writing it, I realized my Norse warrior hero, Dægan, was too perfect. He needed something to make him more “human”. And so I dabbled a bit in tarnishing his perfect facade.

In the story, Dægan Ræliksen has a large unsightly scar upon his right bicep, which he acquired long before the heroine, Mara, comes to know him. But later, I wrote in that he gains another wound, on his inner thigh, as he battles to save her. This scar, while it doesn’t necessarily haunt Dægan, is the one that convinces the reader he is indeed a mortal being with limits, and it also becomes the very thing to which Mara differentiates him from his twin brother.

But still, that was not enough for me.

Ræliksen: Book One
of the Emerald Isle Trilogy
Another “flaw” I gave to Dægan is that he kills a man—a man who is supposed to be a loyal follower but becomes a turncoat character—and this is the blemish which tortures Dægan the most because his vengeance gives him nothing but the desire to do it all over again. He cannot help but feel he is a wretched man and unworthy of Mara at this point, though she never fears him thereafter. In truth, she tries to comfort him as he deals with the betrayal and pain of it all.

That being said, I felt closer to Dægan than I ever have the moment I wrote his imperfections in. And I think many of us are that way. We sympathize with the tortured hero and, as nurturers, we want to console, heal, and mend their tormented soul to the best of our abilities. We can even look at scars, blemishes, and imperfections as items of interest when it comes to sex appeal—case and point, the male model with the noticeable birthmark.

So, what is your preference? Would you rather read about the ideal man who is almost godlike in appearance with flawless skin and perfect features, and never does anything wrong? Or would you prefer the hero who might have a troubled past, a slight scar on his muscled body, and/or a crooked tooth in his cute little smile? If so, who's your favorite tortured / flawed hero?

Visit Renee Vincent at

Ræliksen is available in both print and ebook formats at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Interview of Author Janie Franz

Today it's my pleasure to interview romance author Janie Franz.

Latest Book: The Wayfarer’s Road
Buy Link:
Book Trailer:

BIO: Janie Franz still calls herself a Southerner (she was born in Tennessee though she has spent more than half her life living in North Dakota. She holds a degree in anthropology and has an unquenchable curiosity, which may explain the broadness of her journalism credits that include over a hundred regional, national, and international publications and thousands of articles for the past ten years. She’s written feature and cover articles about a wide-range of topics, including art, music, food and drink, environmental issues, medical and health issues, relaxation and yoga, organic gardening, and asphalt paving.

She has co-written two books with Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox (The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book), and has self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid! She also wrote seven chapters in Rick Baker’s 7-Minute Organic Garden book and have multiple entries in a number of Gale medical encyclopedias.

In addition, she runs her own online entertainment publication, Refrain Magazine ( And she was a prolific book and music reviewer, until she began actively writing novels and handling marketing for them.

She has been a radio announcer, a booking agent for a groove/funk band, and a yoga/relaxation instructor. She is married to a singer/songwriter, and their daughter (married to an animator) is a fiber artist while their son, the executive chef/part owner of The Toasted Frog, plays drums and blues harmonica with local bands.

The Bowdancer, her first published work of fiction, launched the Bowdancer Saga.. The Wayfarer’s Road and Warrior Women (November 5, 2010) continue the story of Jan-nell.

Franz has three books under contract with Muse It Up Publications. Ruins: Discovery is the first book in an archaeology romance/thriller trilogy and will be released under the Muse It Hot! division April 1, 20110. Sugar Magnolia, a contemporary romance about the music industry will be published by Muse It Hot! in July 2011, first as an ebook and then in print the following year. "The Premier
will be available later in 2011 as a Muse It Up sweet contemporary romance.

Q: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
A: My favorite character in The Wayfarer’s Road is Jan-nell, the bowdancer, of course. I know her very well and can identify with her as a mother and an herb woman. But I must say that my favorite character for the whole saga is Bekar, one of the warrior women. You’ll find out all about her in the third book, Warrior Women. She just came striding across the pages and I couldn’t restrain her.

Q: What genre would you like to try writing in but haven’t yet done so? Why?
A: I haven’t really plotted a good mystery yet. I’d love to do one of those with lots of maps and codes and artifacts. It would be great fun but a lot of work to do it. I might do it down the road. I just haven’t had time yet.

Q: Do all your heroes and all heroines look the same in your mind as you “head write”?
A: No. All of my characters look very different. But I will admit that I’m rather fond of chestnut hair on my heroines. It’s a deep reddish brown that I don’t see written about much. There are lots of redheads out there in fantasy so I wanted something different. Jan-nell has long chestnut hair and a character in one of my contemporary novels has shorter chestnut hair. I do have some heroines with red or auburn hair.

When I wrote Warrior Women, I had to make all of the women in the sisterhood look different so I had a range of hair color and styles. These women were also very tall, while Jan-nell is very short.

The heroes are all different, too, but I have a fascination with dark-haired men. Khrin in The Wayfarer’s Road has shoulder-length curly medium to light brown hair. I have heroes in some of my contemporary books who are Hispanic or have American Indian traits, and some have Italian characteristics. Some of my heroes aren’t even 21, and some are in their 20s and 30s with a few who are middle-aged. Some are medium height; some are very tall. And in The Lost Song trilogy (books 4, 5, and 6 of The Bowdancer Saga), the heroes and secondary characters are from all races and some have shaved heads.

Q: What’s your strongest point as a writer?
A: I like to think my strongest ability as a writer is in characterization and being able to draw in multiple themes within a story.

Q: What’s the first thing you did when you received word you’d sold a book?
A: I just sat at my computer and stared at the acceptance email. In the days that followed, I felt a transformation occurring. I felt whole, as if all parts of my writing life had finally come together. I was a published author. It was a wonderful realization.

Q: You’re on a remote island with a handsome man, a computer, and a “mysterious” source of electricity to power your computer. What do you do?
A: I’d write and hope that the mysterious source of electricity also had an internet connection so I could send my stories somewhere…Yeah, I know a lot of writers would say they’d try to get close to the handsome man and create a few nights of romantic bliss. But I’ve reached an age when a handsome man looks at you as a friend or his mother if he’s young enough and not as a lover. Though I might enjoy looking at him and engaging him in intelligent conversation over some roasted fish at the end of the day, writing about him with a spunky heroine would be the only way I could experience anything romantic or adventurous I’m afraid.

Tell us where to find you: website(s), publisher’s page(s), blog(s), Facebook page(s), etc. List them all!

The Bowdancer Saga continues in The Wayfarer’s Road. Healer Jan-nell, now a woman traveling alone with her precocious young daughter on the Wayfarer’s Road, meets a handsome wandering bard. But he is carrying his own secrets along with the priceless chance at hope for her and her child to belong.

Jan-nell strained her ears to hear in the darkened barn. The rain had stopped sometime during their late-night meal so all she heard was the dripping from the trees. The horses snorted and stamped their hooves but did not seem to sense anything amiss. Yet, there was something moving outside, a shuffling in the wetness, and then—there—muffled voices and some shushing like Jan-nell had seen village children do before attempting some innocent prank. If indeed this were such a prank, it would definitely not be innocent.

Khrin had obviously heard the noises too, and shot Jan-nell a questioning look, tinged with something like fear. When Jan-nell bent to blow out the candle and reached for her staff, he stayed her hand, putting his finger to his lips and began to fumble with his cloak and tunic. Before she could figure out what he was doing, he had flung off his tunic, opened his linen shirt, and grabbed her right hand to place on his hairless chest. She tried to jerk her hand away, but he held it fast, whispering in her ear, "Trust me." Then he blew the candle out.

Just then, the latch on the stable door was lifted and the door swung open. A shaft of lantern light spilled over the backs of the horses. Razlo and another man, both well into their cups, entered and came around the first horse’s tail. Their lantern light fell on Khrin who lounged with a bent knee, looking annoyed at the men, as he caressed Jan-nell’s hand on his bare chest.

"That light is frightfully bright, gentlemen," Khrin announced.

Razlo’s drunken companion squinted beady eyes at Jan-nell and Khrin. "Ye be right, innkeeper. She be a whore." He twisted his head toward Razlo. "When be our chance?"

"I am not a whore!" Jan-nell shouted, trying to pull her hand away from Khrin, and attempting to stand.

Khrin jerked her back down. "That is true," Khrin said quietly. "She is no whore."

The beady-eyed fellow cackled. "Then she be giving it away."

"No," Khrin countered. "She has not given anything away." He held up the coin Jan-nell had given him for the meat pies. "She paid me."

This time Razlo sputtered. "Whores! The both of you! Get out of my barn!" The shout unsettled the horses and they started stamping about the stable, making Razlo and his guest step clear of the animals near the door.

Jan-nell glared at Khrin and stood. Then she addressed the two men. "And I am sure your intentions were very pure. Were you coming to bring us an extra blanket or perhaps some scraps from your kitchen?" She harrumphed as she woke Mira-nell. "We have to go now, sweeting."

"Be gone and take that child abomination with you!" Razlo bellowed, startling one of the animals, causing it to whinny and rear. It pulled at its rope tether, nearly pinning Razlo and his lantern against the wall. The beady-eyed guest fled outside, and Razlo escaped to stand at the open door, supervising their evacuation.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Publishers Behaving Badly....

Awhile back, I blogged about authors behaving badly, and how one should conduct themselves in a professional manner. It's recently come to my attention some publishers need to do the same.

-Answer your email. I realize you may receive a ton of mail per day, but if your newly-contracted author has a valid question, at least forward it to someone who can answer in a timely fashion? And remember; I've most likely 'friended' or 'liked' you on FB, so remember I KNOW you're online and my email has been unanswered for weeks.

-Be honest. If the company is making money, authors should too. Please send checks/prizes won/royalties paid on time. Authors like to know our books are selling, even if what we've sold doesn't even meet the quarterly minimum. Please allow us access to our reports?

-Don't play favorites. Yes, I'm sure every publishing house has their golden child, the author who belongs to the release-of-the-month club and earns big bucks for the company. Remember they didn't start out that way; they worked their way into the Best Sellers like us newbies will...eventually.

-And let authors talk to each other. How can we get to know each other if you don't encourage interaction? You'll get better cross-promotion if we become friendly and can toot each other's horns once in a while. Trust me; my own blogmates do for their own publishing houses.

-Learn to spell, or at least proofread your posts. If you own your own publishing company, don't let me see typos every time you post. I can understand dyslexic fingers; I have them myself at times. But every single post?

-Follow simple instructions. If you're scheduling a chat, tell your authors they have to join the group. Don't just say 'sign me up'. The moderators cannot do it for you. And you expect authors to follow your submission guidelines? There's an idea; 'Here's my MS....publish it for me?' Doesn't. Exactly. Work. That. Way. At times I feel as if you don't really understand how your business works; sort of like a child operating a lemonade stand who wants the customers to provide their own cups or product.

-And if you request an interview on this blog, I send out the questions a month in advance. Please send me back the correct interview and respond to my 'gentle reminders'? I'm easy to work with; just ask anyone who's been showcased the past eight months. Ask my blogmates; I'm a loyal person. If I like your books, I'll shout it from the rooftop. But if I don't, well, you won't hear it here. I'm polite that way.

But act unprofessional and believe me; I'll take my business elsewhere.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Interview of RBRU Member Author Kenzie Michaels!

It's my pleasure to present an interview of RBRU Member Author, Kenzie Michaels...someone I've known for years and am happy watching her successful career!

Latest Book: Teacher’s Pet
Buy Link:

Kenzie Michaels resides in the Midwest with her husband, three children, and various
household pets. Her fifth-grade teacher showed this avid reader how to write the stories in her head, successfully unleashing her imagination upon the written word.

Q: What’s the first thing you did when you received word you’d sold a book?
A: Hi Marianne:) The first thing I did was jump up and yell ‘YES!’
The family looked at me like I had just grown an extra head. I guess I just don’t get that enthusiastic about housework!

Q: What part of the book is the easiest for you to write? Why?
A: Dialogue. Sometimes I can ‘hear’ the characters in my head as they’re yelling/arguing/discussing something. And lately, the first chapter has been easily forthcoming. The rest, not so much; I guess when it’s time, the characters will talk to me again.

Q: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
A: My favorite character would have to be Danny, Tammy’s twelve-year-old son. At first, he was just an average kid, but as the story evolved, he became his mom’s protector and got to be a rebel for a chapter or two. He was fun to write. : )

Q: Do you eat comfort food when writing? If so, what food inspires your imagination?
A: I always have a glass of iced tea in the kitchen, so I have to get up and stretch a little. I’ll also grab an Oreo (okay, a handful!) or whatever cookie is on hand. Now when I’m reading, I love a bowl of Chex mix!

Q: You’re on a remote island with a handsome man, a computer, and a “mysterious” source of electricity to power your computer. What do you do?
A: Seriously? My favorite man, no kids, and plenty of power for my computer? (Rubs hands together in glee) Can you imagine the books I’d crank out? Especially if the man has fantastic survival skills, and could build me a comfortable shelter. And we’ve also been stranded with an endless supply of pasta and a couple of chickens, because I can’t stand seafood!

Q: Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Chats, or Twitter. Which do you like best and why?
A: I love Facebook! It’s very user-friendly and I like it better than Twitter or MySpace. I also follow about thirty blogs, and I love chats where everyone participates, instead of posting and running. And when Yahell is cooperating and the posts show up in a timely manner.

Tell us where to find you: website(s), publisher’s page(s), blog(s), Facebook page(s), etc. List them all!

What happens when you discover the man you had mind-blowing sex with three months ago is your son's teacher? Tammy Saunders is horrified when she realizes the man who set her heart racing is her son's favorite teacher. With one bad relationship behind her, will she trust her heart again, or will she continue to deny her feminine side?

And is this particular teacher popular only with his students? Kevin has made some bad choices in his life, but sleeping with not only one, but now two, of his students' mothers, has got to be the worst mistake he ever made. Especially when he realizes he's lost his heart to one of them.

“Could we please talk about my son?” she asked, teeth clenched.Stay cool…count to ten…Her hand felt like it was on fire from where he’d touched his lips to her skin. Images flashed through her brain as she remembered the reckless way they’d crashed together in the front seat of his car, and she moved another step farther away from his commanding presence. She cleared her throat nervously.“I mean, that is why you called.”

“I lied.” He locked the door, causing a flash of alarm. “You’ve haunted me for months, Tammy. I go to sleep at night, and you’re in my dreams. I catch sight of a woman whose hair cascades down her back and try to catch sight of her face, hoping it’s you.” His eyes held her blue ones as he slowly moved closer. “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought of me these past months…”

His blatant arrogance and cocky manner struck a chord within her. “Thought of you?” she gasped, curling her lips into what she hoped was a sneer. “Oh, right. Let me see if I have this correctly. We have mind-blowing sex, I run off to collect my kids, and you’re telling me that you, Mr. Obviously Popular, can’t sleep at night because the poor sex-starved widow never bothered to tell you her name? Is your ego that fragile?" She laughed. “Believe me, I’ve lost no sleep over it.” She crossed her arms defiantly over her chest, hoping he wouldn’t notice her knees shake as he drew near.

“Then let me refresh your memory.” His lips closed over hers as his arms pulled her stiffly forward. His tongue prodded between her lips and with a quiet moan, she opened them slightly.

Encouraged, he made small circles on her back as her tongue answered his. But she remained stiff, and when he finally ended the kiss, her eyes had darkened to a midnight blue. He moved his hands to her shoulders and traced her lower lip with his thumb. “You’re telling me you feel nothing? Your body betrays you.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Paraprosdokian Sentences

I've double checked the spelling on this crazy word since I never heard of it before. It means that the first half of a sentence has one meaning and the second half gives it a whole new other meaning. I'll admit I'm taking the easy way out on this blog. As some of you know, I got hacked and my computer crashed two days ago. I was forced to buy a new one (on sale, naturally), and am busy transferring what I can from my Carbonite backup system. Also trying to finish the paper work on two new contracts, one for a free read from Ellora's Cave called Shelley's Secret, and another for a very long historical at PIP. (Passion in Print) This one will be called For Love is New.

"Enough of my computer problems, here are some great examples of paraprosdokian sentences from a hilarious e-mail a friend sent me.

I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple payments.

Evening news is where they begin with 'good evening' and then tell you why it isn't.

I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove you don't need it.

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check if you say the paint is wet?

Hospitality: making your guests feel at home even when you wish they were.

Change is inevitable except from a vending machine.

Dolphins are so smart. Within a few weeks of captivity they can train a human to stand on the edge of the pool and throw them fish.

And the one I like the best. Behind every sucessful man is his woman. Behind his fall is usually another woman."

Hope you get at least a smile from these.!!!!!!

Interview of Author/Poet Vivi Pruitt

I'm pleased to present an interview of author/poet Vivi Pruitt.

Latest books: Divine and Night Lights
Buy link:

Vivi Pruitt, author and poet, has been living the holistic lifestyle in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia half her life. In this beautiful environment she practices meditation and studies Sanskrit and Eastern philosophy which inspires some of her work. Ms. Pruitt’s profound unique simplicity takes modern spirituality to its cutting edge as she transforms enlightening experience into beautiful poetic couplets and exquisite verse. She has studied under the living masters His Holiness Swami Vivekananda Saraswati and Her Holiness Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi and the late His Holiness Swami Satchidananda.

Q: What part of the book is the hardest for you to write? Why?
A: Since my latest two books are written in poetic verse, finding the right word to mirror the experience and create rhyme and rhythm was sometimes challenging. The poetry I write flows effortlessly in time and space. At least that is my intention. Minimalism, simplicity, flow.

Q: Do all your heroes and all heroines look the same in your mind as you “head write”?
A: Interesting question. In these two books, my characters are taking shape, and I rarely see their faces. For the most part, they are formless, or just images of light with vague shape. The essence of purity is always the same, whatever the form.

Q: Do you eat comfort food when writing? If so, what food inspires your imagination?
A: Most of my writing is centered around my meditation practice. I have a routine which sometimes includes eating, but in order to experience profound states, lack of eating is the better choice. I do drink a lot of tea!

Q: What hobby do you enjoy when not writing?
A: I like meditation, yoga, reading, photography, design…many creative pursuits!

Q: What is your strongest point as a writer?
A: The ability to capture the essence of an experience and remain focused enough to translate it into words is an art form. It requires tremendous presence.

Q: What is your favorite romance book that you’ve read?
A: The Love of the Last Tycoon by Fitzgerald. Absolutely my favorite. The purity and innocence of the tragedy really touched my heart.

Divine BLURB:
A song of ecstasy! A collection of life affirmative poetic couplets and verse to enlighten and inspire. A modern sutra.

I am sugar
Super sweet
The gateway too
A love discreet.
Reflecting all
Your dreams come true
A shining beacon
Gold and blue.
A band of stars
Silver and white
Like diamonds dancing
Day and night.
A single rainbow
Next to Thee
My deepest darkest

Night Light BLURB:
Transport your mind beyond space and time into a mystical world filled with grace and divinity. Feel inspired and uplifted as the experience of pure bliss consciousness permeates your entire being with the divine imagery of sacred union as the mystical marriage evolves through poetic metaphor

On the edge
In stillness light
Sweet gratitude
Holy the night.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Heading for Romanticon...are you?

October 7th through October 10th 2010

My very first Romance Convention!  Yippee!  I missed last year because of lack of funding. This year's tax return went to register and purchase airfare and hotel.

I have met so very many new friends online as an is my chance to meet all of you face to face and swap stories, share smiles, and simply enjoy meeting all of you.  I can't afford to go to all the marvelous conventions out there like RT or RWA...I am not quite to the "independently wealthy" category yet...give me another ten or twenty this is the only one I am attending this year.

I have an EC book in print, and will bring all the others in the form of cover flats to be signed (if anybody wants one).  I will be co-hosting/presenting a reader workshop titled "Recipe for Success", along with my pal Amber Skyze (I didn't even have to hold a shotgun to her back to get her to agree!) and we will be giving away loads of goodies.  It'll be everyone's chance to let EC know what you want most in your romance books, so plan to join us.  All results will go back to EC to help improve your reading experience!

It will be even more exciting because this is the 10th anniversary of Ellora's Cave Publishing, and EC has some fabulous things planned for their celebration!  The lovely but elusive Jaid Black will be there this year and she will be ready to sign all of those books you have been drooling over!

I will be there, signing books, chatting with fans, and having a blast.  I am bringing an extra-large suitcase so that I can smuggle out my favorite caveman and bring him home in the pet compartment of the plane.  Snort.

So let me know if you will be coming to Ohio in October, and I will make certain I look for you!

Fran Lee

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Adrift and Spend The Night With Me

Today is release day for me. My first book with Loose Id. I'm very excited about this book and enjoyed writing about a heroine who wasn't Barbie sized. This is also my first M/M/F Check out Adrift available now.

Also below is my second release Spend The Night With Me available from Ellora's Cave tomorrow Sept 15th.

Here's a little taste:

“I expect everyone to be there.” Mr. Carlton stood up and continued talking to the small group in the conference room. “My wife looks forward to this every year, so I don’t want to disappoint her. There will be boats at the dock to take people back and forth to Carlton Island.”
Kari cringed just thinking about getting into a boat and being escorted over to her boss’s island. The last thing she wanted to do over her weekend was spend it with him and fellow coworkers. Kari enjoyed the peace and serenity of her apartment. She didn’t have to make small talk except with Pepper, her cat.
Last year she’d been able to get out of the company picnic, but something told her this time she wouldn’t be so lucky.
“This is bullshit.”
Kari swiveled her chair to see who else felt like she did, but was brave enough to voice his opinion. She was met with the most amazing blue eyes.
Her heart caught in her throat. Was he speaking to me?
Ben Eckhart hadn’t uttered a word to her in the three years he’d worked at Carlton Technologies. Kari had admired him from afar, knowing he’d never be interested in someone like her. She wasn’t a size 2 pinup model like Ben probably dated.
“Does he think we don’t have a life outside of work?”
He was talking to her.
Hanging out on her deck with a book wasn’t in the cards for her this weekend.
“Have you ever been?” he asked.
“Once. I’ve managed to escape all the other yearly get-togethers, but I don’t see that happening this weekend.”
“I heard people have gotten let go for not attending.”
She’d heard that too, but thankfully it hadn’t happened to her. With the economy in dire straits, she wasn’t risking it this year. “That’s what they say. I can’t afford to take any chances. I’ll be going.”
“Me too, I guess.”
Kari groaned inwardly. She didn’t want to spend the weekend lusting over Ben. At work she could cover up her scars, but on Carlton Island she’d be expected to dress more casually.
Maybe she could think of a way out of this.
“Spouses and significant others are more than welcome too,” Mr. Carlton continued.
Kari turned her attention back to her boss. Right about now, she wished she had someone in her life she could bring along to ease the pain of watching Ben. Fortunately he wasn’t aware of her feelings for him.
He leaned closer to her chair and whispered in her ear. “You bringing someone?” Heat from his breath trickled down her neck, straight to her core. Images of Ben wearing only swim trunks filled her mind. She pictured a hard, smooth chest and abs of steel she could run her fingers along.
“No,” she snapped.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
She swiveled her chair slightly and glanced over her shoulder. His lips were close. Close enough that if she leaned just a little bit, she could graze them with her own. “I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just really frustrated about having to go this weekend. I’m going alone.”
“Hmmm. I guess I’ll see you there.”
“Guess so.”
Mr. Carlton ended the meeting. Kari gathered her notebook, pen, and coffee mug before heading back to her office. She wondered if Ben would be coming alone or if he would be bringing some lucky lady.
She prayed he came alone. He’d broken the ice by talking to her in the meeting. Maybe they could get to know each other better over the weekend.
As she sat in her chair, she realized she was fooling herself. Ben would never be interested in a size 12 disfigured woman. Even if he did show an interest, Kari couldn’t take her clothes off for him. Her scars were a reminder that she’d never have a love life again. It was bad enough that the memories of that horrible night still haunted her; visible scars stared back from the mirror. They screamed at her, taunting that she’d be lonely the rest of her life.

It’s time to put these away. I need to move on. It’s time for closure.
Brooke stared at the pictures scattered all over the floor. They’d haunted her for over eighteen months. Memories of what she had lost. Memories of what she should’ve had. The one and only love of her life. Carl.
He’d been gone for a long time. She would never forget that dreadful day when her future mother-in-law had called with the news. Carl had been killed by a suicide bomber. He was only days away from coming home. Instead he’d returned in a body bag.
It was time for her to get back to the living. She needed companionship. She wanted to feel a man’s strong arms around her again. The need to feel safe and secure grew with each passing day. And if she was honest with herself, she needed sex. Down-and-dirty sex.
She’d been lonely for so long. She wanted to remember how it felt to have a man ravish her body.
Kim, one of her best friends, had been offering to set her up in a room over at Freedom Fantasies forever. Freedom Fantasies wasn’t just any old place. It was a Manor where women went to live out their fantasies.
Paige, her other best friend, had recently rekindled her marriage there. Maybe it was time she had some fun—even if for only one night.
Looking around the apartment she’d once shared with Carl, she realized how much of him was still there. Pictures were everywhere. On the entertainment center, the end tables, even in the kitchen. There were constant reminders of their life together. It wasn’t healthy for her to continue to obsess over him. He was gone and he was never coming back. It was time she realized the truth.
Quickly, she got off the floor and started collecting all the photos. She placed them in a big pile on her bed. From the closet in the spare room she retrieved an old empty box she’d kept for future storage. This was the perfect time to pack away Carl’s photos. It was time to let go.
She stacked the photos one by one neatly into the box. Once they were all safe, she tucked the box away in the closet. She didn’t want to forget Carl, she just wanted to move on.
His closet had been emptied because his family wanted some of his belongings. She’d kept a few shirts, which she occasionally wore around the house. She liked having his scent lingering. His dog tags hung around her neck as a constant reminder of what they could have had—what was taken away by a suicide bomber.
She removed the tags and brought them to the closet where she packed them away with all his pictures.
As she passed the mirror, she stopped. When had she started to look so old? At thirty she wasn’t old. She looked tired and worn-out. She examined her reflection more closely. Her blue eyes were cold and empty. Her blonde hair appeared lifeless. Had she really been presenting herself to the world looking like this?
She rushed into the bathroom and turned on the shower. After giving her hair a thorough shampooing and conditioning she blew it dry. Using her large round brush, she added volume. She added makeup to her drab complexion.
Upon inspection she liked what she saw. She looked more her age again. She didn’t look old and beaten. It was time to put on some sexy clothes and hop over to the Manor. While she wasn’t going to have Kim set her up, she was going to mingle in the bar area. Maybe she’d find someone who intrigued her all by herself. There was nothing Brooke despised more than being hooked up.
While she was there she’d pop in on her friend and see how she was doing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Autumn Leaves

Fall seems to be hitting early in Michigan this year, and here’s me, not complaining a bit. I love the autumn. I’m not sure why this is, particularly. It isn’t childhood memories of raking leaves (borrrrring) and I certainly don’t look forward to Michigan winters. So why do I find the fall one of the most invigorating, sensual times of the year, and frequently, for me, one of the most productive? Here are a few possibilities:

I really don’t like the oppressive summer heat. Lowering temperatures means not sweating all the time and I can open my windows again.

Late summer/early autumn is the time in Michigan with the most fresh fruits and vegetables available. I love that. Oooh, might be time to hit the orchard and cider mill next weekend.

The constancy of change. I seem to have a natural preference for the transition seasons of spring and fall, rather than the extremes of summer or winter. When I lived in southern California, one of the things I missed was the simple fact of change. I think it reminds me that life keeps moving on.

Start of a new academic year. I spent a lot of years of my life dealing with schools in one form or another. (Student, grad student, faculty, substitute teacher, parent, etc.) So I naturally tend to think of the autumn as the real start of a new year. Just looking at all of the school supplies in the store can make me giddy.
The Michigan Renaissance Festival: occurs every August-October. (This pic is from a few years ago) and is always one of the highlights of my year.

Birthdays and the lead up to Christmas: from August through December is/was crazy in my family. My mom and youngest nephew were born in August, but now that Mom’s gone and Scott lives a thousand miles away, we don’t do much for that. My dad’s birthday is this week (he’ll be 86!) and then in October is my eldest son and eldest brother. (Also my older nephew, but he lives out west, too, so we don’t get to party with him.) Halloween is a big deal at my house, and always loads of fun. November is my younger son, and was the younger of my brothers—yeah, the fall was always expensive for my parents! Followed by Thanksgiving, then of course in December comes Christmas—the biggest party of the year for someone like me who never quite grew up. So fall is busy, exciting, and full of cool stuff.

This year, the fall will hold a couple other bonuses. My second great-niece is expected to arrive in October. (And I’m sulking, because I haven’t even gotten to meet the first one yet.) Also from Oct. 7-10, I’ll be in Ohio at Romanticon, with bunches of other Ellora’s Cave readers and authors, having a blast. (The picture is from last year’s conference.) Oh—and my new family room/office is actually underway. You can check out construction pictures on my blog from last week.

Add in deadlines, book releases, and all the other ups and downs of life, and fall is a busy, happy time. And yeah, somehow, the cooler air even smells better! Now off to find that apple cider I was thinking about…

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Honor a Hunk--I mean, a Hero

I know, I know, those bad-boy heroes are hard to resist. I love reading about hell-raisers and dark, mysterious men just as much as everyone else.

But, being that yesterday was such a momentous anniversary (something this huge deserves two blog days, don't you think), I think we should pause and think about the true heroes out there: men that repeatedly went back into a building about to collapse, hauled all their gear up fifty-plus flight of stairs to save the lives of two or three people...only to never come out of that building again.

Thank you to all the brave, wonderful heroes that serve and protect us every day.

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