Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Next Big Thing

By Cassandra Gold (Guest Blogger)

Paranormal romance isn’t just for Halloween anymore. In fact, it hasn’t been for a long time. In the 1990s, vampires entered the romance world in a big way. Since then, paranormal romance has gone from a tiny niche to a huge market. There are old-school vampires that can’t walk in the sun, new kinder, gentler vampires, psychic vampires, and pretty much every other possible permutation of vampire characteristics.

On the heels of vampires came werewolves. Different authors created different werewolf mythologies. Like vampires, the werewolves of romance can be good or evil, and immortal or mortal. Some change on the full moon, others change whenever they need or want to. Other shapeshifters soon came on the scene, from werecats to weresnakes (and pretty much everything else you can think of). I’ve even read a book with an octopus shifter!

As a paranormal romance lover, I really enjoy the diversity available in vampire and shapeshifter romances, but I am always on the lookout for something new. I admit I have a small (okay, huge) demon fetish. Anything with demons is sure to catch my attention. I also enjoy a good old-fashioned ghost story, the spookier the better. I admit that it often annoys me when one of the protagonists is a ghost, because I start getting hung up on the mechanics of ghost sex, and how unlikely a happy ending between a dead person and a living person is going to be. But maybe I’m the only one who does that.

Lately, I’ve also seen a sudden uptick in zombie romance. Zombie fiction has been around for a long time, but zombie romance? It’s weird, but if done well I think it actually works. Squeamish readers might disagree, though. *g*

I’ve read vamps, weres, demons, ghosts, various psychic phenomena, and now zombies. What other kinds of paranormal romance are out there that I need to try?

And readers, what kind of paranormal romance would you like to see more of? I’ve tackled werewolves, and demons (of course), in my Outcasts series and in a couple of standalone stories. I’ve even done werelions in a short series with Beth Wylde, but I haven’t branched out too far into the paranormal world so far. What kind of paranormal plots / characters do you think aren’t done enough? Which ones are overdone?

What’s going to be the “next big thing” in paranormal romance? Anyone care to hazard a guess?

Whatever the next big thing turns out to be, I can’t wait to read it…

Cassandra Gold

www.cassandragold.com

Cassandra’s latest release— Outcasts: Unleashing Ciaran (ISBN: 978-1-60088-590-7)

Blurb: After all they’ve been through together, werewolf Drew and his half-demon mate Ciaran are more than ready to live a normal life. Then Drew’s peace of mind is shattered by a mysterious 3 a.m. phone call. A new threat has emerged, from a direction he never thought possible. This time, it may be up to Ciaran to protect Drew…

Read an excerpt.

Buy the book at Cobblestone Press.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: What To Do With Lore

What To Do With Lore by Jade Archer

Available from Total-E-Bound Publishing

Rhyn lives a mostly solitary life and that suits him perfectly. His job as a security contractor, protecting intergalactic trade from pirates, makes him a comfortable living and lets him spend most of his time in space, where he doesn't have to put up with the annoying habits of other people. When a jowly, blue-faced alien merchant orders Rhyn to recover valuable stolen cargo, Rhyn figures he's looking for precious metals or something similar. He doesn't expect to encounter a slender, flame-haired young man destined to be a pleasure slave for some rich diplomat halfway across the galaxy.

Lore, the slave, has indentured himself in order to learn valuable skills that will help him improve the lot of his clan. The unscrupulous merchant has violated Lore's contract in sending the youth off world. When Rhyn rescues him from the pirates, Lore believes that the massive, ebony-skinned ship captain is a representative of the law, not the renegade mercenary he is in truth and that Rhyn will help Lore plead his case to the authorities.

The two men could hardly be more different, but they are drawn to each other like moths to a flame. Curmudgeonly Rhyn finds that he enjoys not only Lore's body but his company. Lore lowers the barriers he has built in his years of being oppressed and allows himself to feel protected and cherished. Then Rhyn's true identity is revealed, and Lore flees, apparently betrayed by the first man he has loved.

What To Do With Lore is well-written and engaging. Ms. Archer uses artful detail to paint vivid pictures, not only of the two heros and their environment, but of the minor characters (the merchant and the pirates) as well. Both Rhyn and Lore are distinctive and remarkably well-rounded for such a short tale. Their suspicions and doubts feel as real as their mutual attraction, and their sexual connection is incendiary.

My main complaint about this book, in common with most short erotic romance that I read, is simply that it moves too fast. The characters and the world that Ms. Archer has built, with its multiple races, classes and cultures, deserve more than a mere fifty seven pages. Rhyn and Lore need more time to fall in love. The speed with which they connect strains plausibility (even in a science fiction story) - especially since Lore is a virgin.

I want to know why Rhyn left his career as a lawman to become a borderline outlaw. I want to read about Lore's clan, their hard lives and their family loyalty. Why is Rhyn so anti-social? How did the physically irresistible Lore escape being raped during his servitude? I gather that this book is the first in a series called "Contact", but I'm not sure that this will satisfy my curiosity, unless Ms. Archer intends to provide a lot of back story.

However, if you're the sort who likes to cut to the romance at a break-neck pace, and you're a fan of M/M romance, I heartily recommend What To Do With Lore.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tales from the Slush Pile

By Misty Malone (Guest Blogger)

So how many of you know that when an author sends a query letter off to an agent or editor, sometimes the agent/editor never even sees it? And no, I’m not talking about Postal Service fail or the vacuum of cyberspace eating a lost email. These days, many houses and agencies have gotten so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of unsolicited query letters they receive, they’ve had no choice but to ask for help. Enter: other published authors.

For the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to offer my services as one of these Slush Pile Readers for a New York agency, and let me tell you, it’s been a wake-up call. The sheer amount of rookie mistakes—that every author can avoid just by doing a little, tiny bit of homework—makes me want to spork some people.

But fear not, my friends! I’m going to give you a short list of just some of the mistakes that make slush readers like me mark your letter for the Rejection pile within the first thirty seconds. And for the non-writers out there, think of this as a sneak peek into the world your favorite authors came from, emerging from the slush like Nessie from the Loch.

  1. “Dear Sir/Madam”

  • Okay, really guys? It doesn’t take much to surf the ‘net for the proper names (and properly spelled names) of the agents/editors you’re submitting your work to. If you want them to give your query the proper respect and consideration it deserves, show them the same courtesy and address your queries properly. Ditto for avoiding slang-y greetings and anything overly informal: things like kthxbye, omg, l8r, ;-) , and ‘sup should appear nowhere near your query letter.

  1. Get to the Point

  • Truth is, agents/editors don’t really what inspired you to write this book. They don’t care if your cat, mother, neighbor, or the brain-eating zombie in your dreams told you to write it. The purpose of a query is to sell your product; i.e., tell the buyer (otherwise known as the agent/editor) exactly what the book is about in three paragraphs or less. Leave the other stuff for the book tour and interviews.

  1. Avoid the Squick Factor

  • I have seen tons of queries that try to catch attention by being overly graphic, disturbing, or flat-out gross. This includes any mention of bodily functions, graphically described X-rated acts, or human/animal torture. Don’t laugh—I’ve seen it done. Even if you write horror, just give the agent/editor a brief (five sentences or less) summary of the main plotline and a reason to care about your characters. Save the gore for the actual manuscript.

  1. Be Professional

  • Remember when I mentioned your query should be professional? Well, beyond addressing it to the right person, you want to make sure it’s in an easy-to-read, business-style font (such as 10 or 12 pt Arial or Times New Roman). For e-queries, delete the hyperlinks and pretty font colors. Always double-check that your correct contact information appears somewhere on the query (near the bottom is usually preferred). In case you’d been considering it, queries written in crayon, Wingdings, or alpha-numeric code will be automatically rejected. Proper punctuation is a plus. While you probably won’t get slushed for missing a comma or two, not using a single capital letter or period will make query readers like me want to shove a Strunk and White’s down your throat.

  1. What Not to Say

  • Please, for the love of Barnes and Nobles, avoid using phrases in your queries like:

    • “I don’t know what genre to call this.”

    • “I know your submissions guidelines say not to do this, but I’m going to do it anyway because I’m just that spechul.”

    • “This book has no beginning, middle, or end.”

    • “You may call this experimental fiction.”

    • “I’m a great writer, but need you to tell me if this story idea is any good before I waste more time on it.”

    • “So let me tell you about my super, awesome, guaranteed-to-earn-a-gajillion-dollars future New York Times Bestseller. I’m about 5,000 words into the first chapter but can totally tell you who should be cast when they make it into a movie.”

    • “Manifesto”

(And nope, I’m not making those up, folks. I really, really, really wish I was.)

Though specific guidelines vary between houses and agencies, it’s the writer’s responsibility to find out what those differences are and tailor their queries appropriately. Unless you’re planning to line your cat’s litter box with all those “Thanks, but no” rejection letters you’ll receive, take my advice and avoid becoming another casualty of the slush pile.

Bio for Misty Malone: www.MistyMalone.com

A new voice in town, Misty hails from the Big Apple itself. A Taurus with a penchant for angsty romances gone wrong and good ol' fashioned epic fantasy, Misty writes male/male romantic erotica. Her short stories can be found at Ravenous Romance, and her longer works at www.Phaze.com, including Dead Men Get No Tail, and her forthcoming historical fiction, The Consort.

Check out the book trailer for Dead Men Get No Tail online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTg_IZCRy7k.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Different

I've always been different, to the point that at some times in my life I've felt like an outcast. I was never fashionable or popular - I had friends, but they tended to be as peculiar and distinctive as I was. I was a plump, bookish nerd with coke-bottle glasses and curly hair during a period when long, straight locks were de rigeur. I wanted to be an astronaut and then later, the next Marie Curie. I got such good grades that my high school boyfriend dumped me because he said I made him feel inadequate.

When I was a kid, my deviance from the popular norm bothered me. Like all youngsters and teens, I wanted to fit in, to blend into and be accepted by the crowd. My mother had other ideas, though. I'll never forget arguing with her about wearing snow pants to school under my skirt. "Come on, mom," I whined. "I'll look silly. Nobody else wears snow pants." She looked me in the eye and said, "So what? Do you want to be a sheep?"

Back then, I probably answered, "Sure. Anything, as long as I don't have to wear these dumb pants!" Now, half a century later, I know how wise she was. I'm still different, but now I'm proud of it.

It does seem, though, that my "difference" shows up in my writing. I've had a number of reviews from people who didn't really know what to make of some of my tales. One reviewer wrote that Fire in the Blood was a "romance of a different sort". Another commented that Necessary Madness was a mystery, a paranormal, and a May/December romance all rolled into one book. The one shape shifter book that I've published so far involves a god whose animal form is a cross between a bird and a snake. Meanwhile, my upcoming release Almost Home, due out December 13, apparently defies categorization. It includes a M/M/F relationship, but my publisher refuses to call it a ménage...

Oh well. By now I'm used to being different. And I kind of like not fitting into someone else's pigeonholes!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Halloween Heroes

By Cathryn Cade (Guest Blogger)

Happy Halloween, readers!

I love Halloween. I love fall – the changing colors, the crispy air, the absence of annoying bitey bugs, the scent of wood smoke, the piles of pumpkins … yes, sorry. I could go on and on.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because it’s just for fun, for being silly and a little spooky around the edges. I’m not really in to the super scary or gross-out décor. Just give me some cool fabrics and some old fashioned decorations to scatter around my house, a witch’s broom and some pumpkins on my porch and I’m happy.

And when I read a Halloween story, I like the same things. I love the hero to be a kind of scary guy, definitely an alpha male, but with a tender heart. A big, gooey soft center for the heroine. He’ll use his powers, be they paranormal or just physical and mental strength, to save her from a desperate fate. And ultimately ask her to share his world, his life.

Sigh… that’s not too much to ask, is it? Hmm, I think not. Just check out the Samhain website for Halloween Free Reads in the coming weeks, and … (consulting my crystal ball here)

Why yes! I see plenty of heroes served up with a slightly scary twist. Be on the lookout for my Halloween Free Read, ‘Heart of Steel’. You can read the first half on the Samhain website, and visit my website for the oh, so satisfying conclusion.

An excerpt, you say? Why, certainly. Thanks for asking.

Heart of Steel by Cathryn Cade

She was going to die.

Daria LoveJoy caught one terrifying glimpse of her attacker before he dropped the enveloping blanket over her. He looked nothing like her two previous assailants. Both had been just dysfunctional fans: a teenager who broke into her apartment to talk about his problems and a lonely techie who hid in her hovvie so she’d teach him how to meet women.

This was a huge, virile male. He could’ve been the space pirate in the romance on her holo-reader. Except for the hair color – she’d caught one glimpse of wild blond curls against the health club lights. Fictional space pirates always seemed to have dark hair.

Wriggling wildly, Daria fought the blanket and the powerful arms that imprisoned her. Fear threatened to swamp her. She could hear herself whimpering, but she couldn’t seem to stop.

Whoa, stop thrashing around,” rumbled a deep voice over her head. “You’ll hurt yourself.”

Hurt herself? He was crazy! He’d kidnapped her, was planning to rape or murder her - or both, and he was trying to reassure her?

She stopped fighting, though, trying desperately to control her breathing. She had to conserve energy – save it for her escape. Her heart threatened to bound from her breast and she was trembling all over. Adrenaline – fight or flight. She had to stay calm. Okay, first she had to get calm. She had to think.

That’s better,” soothed the deep voice. “Just let me get you in the slider and we’ll talk. I just want to talk.”

Into his slider? No! Never let them transport you. Every woman knew that was the first rule of being kidnapped. If a captor took his victim somewhere remote, chances of rescue grew faint. He could do whatever he wanted and no one would hear her scream.

***

The woman in his arms, instead of being reassured by his words, began to struggle even more wildly. The little squeaks coming through the blanket escalated into screeches. Jark Steele winced at the high-pitched caterwauling, holding on tighter as he strode toward his slider, parked in the shadows of the fire-oak hedges. Damn, she was a handful, lithe and strong.

He grinned to himself – she might appear to be all soft womanly curves, but his pretty doctor was a scrapper. And even through the enveloping folds of his cashmere blanket, he could smell her, perfume and clean, sexy woman. It was turning him on, big time.

Seven hells of an evening this was turning out to be.

***

Daria kicked and thrashed as hard as she could, but it was like fighting a leviathan. And when she finally landed one solid kick, she received a sharp smack on her bottom. Since despite her regular exercise, it was a round bottom and she was hanging over a hard shoulder, it was an easy target.

Stop that now, you little spitfire. I’m not gonna hurt you,” rumbled the deep voice.

The world swung crazily. She landed on her stinging bottom in an enveloping seat. An ominous whoosh surrounded her, then a decisive snick of metal – a door latching.

The seat rocked, as if a heavy weight had been dropped on it. She heard the whoosh and latch again and then the seat under her surged with power. Oh no, oh no, oh no, they were moving. Fear choked her, sending the demeaning whimpers up the back of her throat again.

Summoning every reserve of will, Daria gritted her teeth and forced herself to be quiet. Under the clinging blanket, she scowled fiercely, her hands curling into fists. She was not going to be a compliant victim. No, sirree. This big – very well, huge – galactic scumball was going to have his work cut out for him.

Carefully, she felt around. The surface to her right was hard, and extended up. Therefore it must be the side hatch. From the sound, they were in a slider – a fast, newer one. If she could find the latch, she could bolt out the nano-second they stopped.

She began to search with small stealthy movements for the bottom edge of the blanket as the slider rocked beneath them, gliding into turns first one way and then the other. The coverlet was fine cashmere, she was startled to notice – soft as a whisper. It was also much too warm wrapped over her head and shoulders on this balmy autumn evening. She’d taken a shower dry before leaving the club, but she was perspiring again as if she were still working out.

Finding the blanket’s edge, she slipped her fingers up over the sleek door toward the latch.

Huh-uh,” rumbled the deep voice over her head. “Don’t even try it, doc. Locked down tight. Can’t have you hurting yourself, falling out before we land.”

He sounded amused. She bit back a scream of sheer frustration. She was terrified, she was hot and she was so angry she was shaking. How dare he be amused! She yanked furiously at the blanket, pulling wads of it toward her head, wriggling to pull the ends out from under her.

An arm like a tree trunk descended on her, pinning her so that she could wriggle no further.

Real sorry, doc, but you gotta stay hidden. We’re not there yet. Can’t have one of the locals spotting you.”

With a growl of rage, Daria kicked her legs as hard as she could in his direction. The toe of her soft workout shoes connected with something hard, and her growl became a yelp as pain shot from her toes.

Aw, now, doc.” Unbelievably, the deep rumble sounded remorseful. “Simmer down, can’t you? I know you want out of there. Just a few more minutes, I swear. I’m landing now.”

****************************************

Thanks for tuning in to my guest spot on Lisabet’s blog!

Visit me at http://www.cathryncade.com

Trick or Treat!

~ Cathryn

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Grammar Pet Peeves

In addition to being an author, I'm also an editor – and of course, a reader. My experience editing has made me painfully sensitive to errors in other people's prose. (If only I were as sensitive to my own mistakes!) There are a few types of grammar errors that particularly bug me. I will admit that if I'm reading a published book and come across instances of these five problems, my opinions of both the author and the publisher tend to take a nose dive.

I'm not trying to be snooty or put on airs here. Really, I wish I could ignore this sort of thing. Unfortunately, grammar mistakes tend to jump out at me and hit me over the head.

Here are the five types of errors that bother me most.

Gerundal modifiers with incorrect subjects

A gerundal modifier is a verb phrase that uses the present participle (ending in -ing) to modify a noun or noun phrase. For example:

Unzipping her skirt, Adele grinned at Jake's physical reaction.

Picking up their guitars, the band launched into a soulful rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun”.

Both of the above sentences are grammatical. The rule for this sort of construction is that the noun or noun phrase being modified must be the same as the implied subject of the gerund, that is, the person or thing associated with the continuing action expressed by the gerund. Thus, it is Adele who is unzipping the skirt and the band who is picking up their guitars.

The problem arises when an author violates this rule, that is, when the subject of the main clause is not the subject of the gerund. For example:

Gasping at the ferocity of his kiss, her hand found its way into his jeans.

Tearing off her clothes, his breath came faster.

“Her hand” is not gasping. “His breath” is not tearing off her clothes (unless he happens to be some kind of elemental wind god!) I could hardly write these sentences without gritting my teeth!

This is probably the most common grammatical error I encounter when reading romance, partly because this construction seems to be very popular.

Run-on sentences

A run-on sentence has two separate independent clauses that are not joined by any kind of a conjunction. Most often, authors who make this mistake join the clauses with a comma. Thus this kind of error is sometimes called a “comma splice”. For example:

The bell rang, she raced to the door hoping that it would be him.

Louisa donned the filmy negligee, she felt sexier than she had in years.

Last night I was reading a story where the author had three spliced clauses in a row. Grr!

Sentence fragments

A sentence fragment is sort of the opposite of a run-on sentence. Sentence fragments are verb phrases – predicates – that lack a subject or noun phrases that lack a predicate. They are not complete sentences and thus should not stand on their own. For example:

Julia stood on the curb, scanning the traffic for a taxi. The pounding of her heart in her chest. She couldn't afford to be late.

Roger knew that Helen was the one. Wanted to tell her before she disappeared from his world.

I suspect that most sentence fragments result from the author restructuring a paragraph while she's writing, and not cleaning up the debris.

Note that it is permissible to use sentence fragments, sparingly, when you are expressing inner dialogue. People don't speak or think in complete sentences. For instance (from my own story, “Woman in White”, published in Sex in the City: New York):

The last thing I wanted was to hurt her. I just couldn't help myself. She was my goddess, my dream. My reason for getting up in the morning.

Strictly speaking this is not grammatical. “My reason for getting up in the morning” is a sentence fragment. However, in this case, it is a stylistic device, deliberately chosen to convey a certain mood and tempo.

Incorrect use of contractions

Want to make me groan and throw your book across the room? Use “there's” when you really mean “theirs”, or “it's” for a possessive instead of a contraction.

“There's” is short for “there is”:

There's a naked man in my kitchen!

“Theirs” is a possessive pronoun used to indicate something that belongs to some group:

Our boyfriends are cuter than theirs.

In a similar fashion, “it's” is short for “it is” while “its” is possessive (though “its” cannot be used alone the way “theirs” can.)

It's a difficult task getting a man to listen to you.

The alien squeaked and wiggled its ears.

Incorrect subject-verb agreement

In English, many verbs take different forms depending on whether their subject is singular or plural. For example:

Her prize depends on which door she chooses. (singular)

We choose our partners based on our past experiences. (plural)

Sometimes authors use the wrong form. Often this occurs when the subject is separated from the verb by a prepositional phrase in which the object of the preposition has a different number than the subject. It is a particular problem when the subject is a collective noun, that is, a noun which is singular but which designates a group. For example:

As their first order of business every year, the committee of teachers choose a chairperson.

"Committee" implies a group, but it is a singular noun nevertheless. So the singular form, "chooses", is what is needed.

An easy way to decide which is correct in such cases is to remove the prepositional phrase. Usually this will make any error obvious:

As their first order of business every year, the committee choose a chairperson.

The opposite error, using the singular form when the plural form is needed, is far less common.

We all make mistakes occasionally. That is (part of) what editors are for. In my opinion, however, it is an author's responsibility to become familiar with the rules of grammar and to use them correctly most of the time. I've encountered writers who smile, shrug and say “I'm no good at grammar. My editor will fix it.” I'm sorry, but I view that as an unprofessional attitude.

Maybe I'm too rigid about this sort of thing. As I noted before, though, I really can't help it. Noticing grammar errors is not a conscious choice on my part. I can't help it, and unfortunately, it sometimes interferes with the pleasure of reading.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fetishes and Toys: Freaky or Sensual?

By Dana Littlejohn (Guest Blogger)

Hello everyone!

My topic today is Fetishes and Toys. Are they freaky or sensual? The question is relevant in the world of romance. I mean, honestly, how many fetishes and toys do we see in the romance novels we read? How many of them turn us on or off? Well, I decided to explore that for a bit. Now, I’m not going to get into who likes what or what I like (never that!) I’m just going to take a fly on the wall approach. :-)

I looked into fetishes that men have because, well, I like men and the more I can learn about them the better my characters get. (*shrugs* that’s my line of thinking anyway) When I started to look into fetishes I asked around and found that people can have a fetish about anything! Shoes, stockings, nails, hair, body parts from the top of your head to the soles of your feet! So I wondered how does one ‘get’ a fetish? I asked around about that, too. Some answers I came across made me go ‘hmm, I can see that’, some made me go, ‘oookaaay, I’ll give that a nine on my strange-o-meter’ and I even came across a few that I had to add to my, ‘damn!’ list.

I learned that young boys coming into their sexuality find themselves in compromising positions with different objects as they peek in on the women they are transfixed by at the time. When they reach the goal they were trying to achieve (work with me here, I’m trying to keep this clean and politically correct.) said object becomes synonymous to that good feeling. If the behavior continues so does the connection. Over time the object in question makes you horny (can I say that?) because it reminds you of the good feeling and you’ve got yourself a fetish. Ta da!

For example: one guy told me with such lust in his voice and eyes about how he absolutely loved high heels on his women. He was in the closet when his sisters friend spent the night and his, umm, appendage (that’s a good word) was pressed against the shoes she had worn to a party as he, well, pleasured himself. He could feel the shoe, but didn’t want to draw attention to himself by moving around so he left it. As an adult he makes sure his women wore shoes in bed with him because it takes him back to those good feelings.

Another guy confessed that the very first time he was with a woman just as he climaxed she scratched his back so hard he could feel blood trickling down his back as he lay on her catching his breath. At the time it stung like crazy, but when she was doing it at the time of his greatest pleasure he connected the two. He now gets very turned on by women with long nails and asks that they scratch him doing sex.

With toys, in most cases you make a conscious effort to use them, although I did come across a story where she just sprang the thing out on him. He did not appreciate it at all. The men that had issue using them to enhance their sex only had a problem with its look. The anatomically correct looking toys bugged them for some reason. (*raised eyebrow look*) I asked if they got past it and with smiling faces they replied that with so many colors and shapes on the market they couldn’t pass up all the good that came with the toys. You put those vibrating do-dads in the right places and BANG! Fire crackers, bright lights, shimmies and shaking all around! Men are open to the experience and experimentation of toy play. Who knew!

You may find these to be a little weird or freaky or maybe sensual. I don’t know. This is not Psych 101 by Dana Littlejohn, by no means. This info came first hand from talking to close to fifty men over the age of 30. (I told them it was a survey for school, sexual psychology or something. LOL) So with this new info I came to the conclusion that…men are strange! Kidding! Seriously, fetishes can derive from anything and whether they are freaky or sensual depends on your taste. The use of toys not only can bring fun and excitement into the bed, but totally can enhance an already good feeling.

From what I learned from the passion-filled explanations of the men I spoke to about their fetishes and toy play, I came up with two stories. Happy Feet is a short story about a man who had a foot fetish and fell for a woman he thought had beautiful feet. This December I have a Christmas story coming out called Reindeer Games, which is about a couple who have been having an ongoing booty call for years and the woman has decided it was time to make him permanent in her life. Both books make their home at Phaze. Be sure to check them out!

Until next time…Dana has left the building!

Bio: I was born in Brooklyn, NY on a snowy winter's day. I was told that I interrupted my parents' Christmas party. It was well after midnight, but my arrival put a stop to the late night party and stopped my mom from going ice skating with everyone else at Rockefeller Center. I moved to Indianapolis, In. in summer of 1994 where I still live with my husband and children. In 2003 I picked up my pen again and I have no intentions on putting it down. Come on a imaginary trip into my world. You'll enjoy every minute of this wild ride!

~ Dana Littlejohn, Author of sensual romance.

www.danalittlejohn.net

www.facebook.com/danalittlejohn

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Buttons and Clichés

Over the weekend, I finished the first draft of a short story called "Like Riding a Bicycle". The story focuses on a long-married couple. They originally had a D/s relationship but over the years, their sexual interactions have become more vanilla, due to pressures of life and work, lack of privacy, and so on. The story involves a chance interaction that rekindles their old fantasies and pulls them back into BDSM and power exchange.

Now, personally, I thought this story was very hot. It incorporates both physical and psychological elements that I always find arousing. On the physical side, it offers blindfolds, butt plugs, and flogging, leading up to penetration and mutual orgasm. As far as psychological turn-ons are concerned, there's the Dom calling the sub a kinky slut because submitting makes her wet - his forcing her to admit her deviant desires - the sub's articulation of her total devotion - the Dom's intuitive understanding of how to give his sub what she needs - rough sex followed by tender caresses. By the time I'd written the last sentence, I won't lie - I was horny as hell!

As I mentally reviewed the tale, though, I was assailed by doubts. So many of my BDSM stories include similar elements. Was I succumbing to clichés? Writing the same story again and again? At the same time, well-defined sub-genres (like BDSM) have conventions, commonly recurring themes and actions that exist because that's what readers enjoy and expect. The elements that I've described "push my buttons" and I assume that they have the same effect on my readers.

So how do I succeed in pushing my readers' buttons so that they find my stories sexy, without descending into sameness? I really don't know the answer to this question. I do know that the few times I've penned a different sort of BDSM, the reactions haven't necessarily been favorable. My holiday paranormal tale Tomorrow's Gifts features some M/M BDSM interactions between one of the protagonists and a gorgeous but self-centered Dom who is a basically a stranger (actually, he's sort of a ghost...). I received a number of negative comments from readers about this aspect of the story - and that was after I toned down the gay gang bang (which the protagonist eagerly desires) at the request of my editor!

Maybe I'm more sensitive to the issue of repetition and clichés than readers are. I'd be interested to know whether, when you read multiple books by the same writer (assuming that it's a writer you like), you notice repeated plot elements or other details. If you do notice, does it bother you? Or do the elements feel familiar and thus comfortable? When you read erotica or erotic romance, how important is novelty -- as opposed to having story that turns you on?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Fine Line Between Insanity and Dialogue

By Dorothy Cox (Guest Blogger)

Thank you so much for having me on your blog.

One of my favorite things to do with my friends is to read unpublished manuscripts by fellow writers. The internet has so many websites where authors can show off their unpublished work.

We’ve seen many wonderful manuscripts, and some that were not so wonderful. The difference?

Well, most of the time it’s dialogue. Some of the worst manuscripts have dialogue that doesn’t flow well. The writer wants to get somewhere and instead of taking the time to get there they just jump right in. They go from a normal sentence straight to the good stuff without a comprehensible transition. A reader notices when dialogue jumps ahead without evolution. Pretty soon your reader is too busy wondering why the character is so irrational, and not really reading what’s going on anymore.

You may know where you need the conversation to go, but when you talk to someone a conversation has a natural flow to it. If you want your characters to fight the conversation has to slowly escalate to a fight. You don’t just go from “I want a sandwich,” to “Get out of my house” in two sentences. You have to think about how to get there from where you are. A lot of this has to do with your characters motivations, and feelings. The reader needs to be aware of these as they read. They need to understand your character, and empathize with them. Bring some of the thought process into the dialogue.

In order to make your dialogue flow like a real conversation you need to be able to have a conversation with yourself. My father always told me that you weren’t crazy if you talked to yourself, you were crazy if you answered yourself. Well maybe we need to dip our toes into the crazy end of the pool. Become your character. Why are they going to get mad? Then bring some of your own life into it. We all do it. Think about the last fight you had. Why did you get mad? What part of that can you bring into your argument? How about your own motivations? Bring them along too.

Arguments don’t start off yelling, they start off as a normal conversation. Someone says something like “I want a sandwich.” Now start talking to yourself. Don’t be afraid to go off on a tangent. Tangents are good. But while you are off on your tangent keep asking yourself where can it go from here? A normal progression would be an offhand comment that can be taken further, to slightly escalate the fight.

A normal reaction could be “You always eat sandwiches. Don’t you eat anything else?” Well now someone’s made a comment that can drive you straight into an argument, and before you know it she’s kicking him out of the house before you can turn the page. And let’s be honest, aren’t most fights usually about something stupid? It doesn’t have to be the most important thing in the world, it just has to get you where you’re going. Just take a few minutes, dip your toe in the crazy end, and talk to yourself. The dialogue practically writes itself.

Bio: I’m a college student in Fresno, California. I’ve won a couple of awards for writing, and have been featured in the newspaper. I’ve been writing books since I was three or four, and I made my parents staple my coloring pages together so I could write a book on it. It wasn’t a success. Almost twenty years later I wrote my first real book, Watcher. When I’m not working, writing, or going to school I’m with my husband, probably sleeping.

Website: http://www.dorothycoxwriting.com/index.html

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dorothycoxwriting

Book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jz4O8zmJB-8

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Psst!

By Nichelle Gregory (Guest Blogger)

Psst! I want to share a secret. Are you ready? Ok, here goes...I like to people watch. I can't help myself. I find the interactions that take place between complete strangers fascinating. I don't mind admitting I've found inspiration for stories simply by observing or listening to people. I live in the city, so there are no limits to new visual specimens to feed my curiosity.

I can't tell you how many times I've stared out the window to watch men and woman pass by while I assess their posture, facial expressions, and any other clue that would give me a hint as to what they are feeling. I realize my assessment could be completely off, but that's not the point for me. It's the brainstorming of ideas, the unknown possibilities of what drives a person to react and interact in their environment and those around them that I'm interested in.

When I see a couple madly in love, I wonder how long they've been together or whether they've experienced their first real fight. If I see a couple arguing, I wonder what's set off the disagreement, whether they'll break up or fall into bed for some hot make-up sex. I think I enjoy watching couples interacting with one another the most, but I've gleaned inspiration from all sorts of people in different places.

I know what you're probably thinking: Mind your own business, Nichelle! And you're right, I suppose, but I bet you do the same thing. C'mon admit. Tell me you've never listened in on the fight your co-worker is having on the phone. Or that you haven't got out of bed to see who your neighbor is bringing up for a little hanky panky in the middle of the night. Ok, so maybe, I am nosy, but like I said, I can't help myself. I'm curious about how others deal with heartache, happiness and everything in between. I think observing others gives me some idea on just that.

I got the inspiration for my newest release, Lovin' Leela from my noisy neighbors upstairs. The two of them liked to have sex in the wee morning hours or right when my husband and I were ready to go to sleep which is normally way after midnight. Let me tell you, there's nothing like being awakened to moans, grunts and the sound of the headboard slamming against the wall above you at five-thirty in the morning.

I love sex, but I'm afraid I'm just not in the mood before my alarm goes off...well, not usually, hardly ever. I never would've thought I was the type of person to listen to people having sex, but I learned that this fascinated me too. I timed how long the sessions lasted, how many times he uttered a groan or how many times she squealed with delight.

I imagined what it would be like to be single, horny and completely unaware the noisy neighbor above was a total babe until I decided to confront him. A few weeks ago, my wild neighbors moved out and I'm extremely happy they did, but I wish I could've thanked them for creative inspiration. My fingers flew over the keys to tell the tale of Leela and Sam. I had such fun crafting this spicy novella and I'll always remember it with fondness because of the story behind my story!

Lovin' Leela

Available now from Total-E-Bound!

A justified complaint of noise leads Leela Monroe on a wild sexual adventure in which she discovers just how easy it could be to "love thy neighbor".

Leela Monroe has had just about enough of the loud music and desperate cries of passion keeping her up all night thanks to her new neighbor next door. Ready to give him a piece of her mind, she's distracted from her complaints when Sam answers the door, throwing her off guard with his sexy smile and into a state of unyielding longing. She gives into the hot chemistry between them, enjoying sex for the first time in her life, but can a relationship based on pleasure truly amount to anything more?

Bio

Nichelle Gregory has been in love with books and writing since middle school. A lover of the arts, she enjoys anything that embraces the creative nature within us all. Bringing believable characters that thrill and excite her readers to life is a challenge that continues to push Nichelle. She loves creating stories involving super sexy alpha heroes with divine heroines in magical, exotic, and fantastic scenarios.

So, gone on . . . Indulge your secret fetishes and desires!

Visit her website http://www.nichellegregory.com and blog http://www.simplysexystories.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Lust

A few days ago I received a thoughtful crit from my friend and fellow blogger, C. Garcia-Sanchez. I have never met Garce, but we've had long, deep email conversations -- the sort of conversations one normally gets into around two in the morning after you've drunk most of a bottle of vodka. Although our lives have been radically different, and our approaches to writing could hardly be less similar, I still think that we are kindred spirits.

Anyway, I had asked him to read my current WIP, a science fiction M/M erotic romance. He's even more of a scifi fan than I am and I knew he'd offer some great insights on what was and was not working in my fictional world, a near-future dystopia in which persecution of gay men has risen to new heights. I was not disappointed.

" Let me pontificate annoyingly about sci fi for a second," he began. "Just roll your eyes and indulge me because I don't get to talk about these wonderful things very often and I may accidentally say something useful in my kitchen sink rambling."

Then he began making distinctions between hard and soft sci fi, invoking Michael Crichton and Ray Bradbury and triggering all sorts of recollections of books that I'd read and that I wanted to bring to the discussion.

I started to write a response, my mind crowded with Kate Wilhelm, Sherri S. Tepper, James Tiptree, and all the other authors I planned to mention. I realized suddenly that I was incredibly excited by this interaction. The thrill of sharing books and the ideas behind them was not all that different from sexual arousal. Not that I had the physical reactions, of course, but I understood that I was in the grip of "book lust". And I knew that Garce felt it too.

I've always loved to read. As a shy child and teenager, I'd disappear into the worlds of my books for hours at a time. Even when I emerged, to do the dishes or my homework, my mind still wandered through Middle Earth, or Holmes' London, or the dank corridors of Chateau D'If. Back then, however, reading was a solitary activity (though I adored writing term papers in literature class, having the opportunity to dig really deeply into an author's work and then try to articulate my insights -- even if only to the teacher).

Now that I am an author and a reviewer, I have more opportunities to share my views of books with others. Unfortunately it's often a one-sided conversation. Right now I'm halfway through one of the most intriguing and enjoyable books I've read in quite a while: The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, by Gordon Dalquist. I normally read in bed, after the day's work is done. I've been staying up 'way past my normal bedtime (and paying the price the next day), entranced by this 750 plus page opus. I'm loving every minute but already preparing myself for the inevitable let-down when there are no more pages to turn.

Yes, once again, I'm seriously in the grip of book lust. And I'm suddenly inspired to actually make use of that Goodreads account I created but have never really explored. I'm a bit worried though, that it might become addictive.

I've felt this sort of excitement all my life -- I just never labeled it before. I suppose there's nothing wrong with book lust. It presumably won't get me arrested, or pregnant. Still, I wonder whether, like all sorts of desire, it might not be a bit dangerous...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing with Crows

By Suzanne Rock (Guest Blogger)

Thank you so much for having me here on the blog! Today I want to talk about a major pest that has been plaguing me lately – crows.

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, then you’ve probably encountered these pests. They sneak up on you when you least suspect it and peck away at your subconscious. Sometimes it starts out as a small thought such as “I don't like this sentence.” Then it turns into something more. Maybe you think “I don't like this character,” Or a chapter doesn't feel right. Before you know it, you're throwing your computer across the room and swearing off writing permanently, convinced that you will never be able to form a coherent sentence again.

Everything I write is garbage.”

Why do I even bother trying?”

It’s pointless.”

I have a writer friend who has a name for this. She calls it the “Crows of Doubt.”

The crows can be crippling for a writer. It can keep you away from your manuscript for days or weeks, sometimes even months. Some people never recover. So how do you get rid of these pests?

Crows are depicted in mythology as “harbingers of doom” ( http://www.squidoo.com/crow1). They love to circle above death and carnage, looking for a meal. Once one crow finds a potential snack, others soon follow. Their loud caws are disturbing, and often distract people from whatever they are doing. “Once a crow arrives, they’re difficult to get rid of because they’ve found an adequate food source.” (http://www.howtogetridofstuff.com/pest-control/how-to-get-rid-of-crows/)

Boy, don't I know it.

So, the question is, how do you tell these crows to get lost, so you can get back to doing what you love – writing?

I did a little research, and here is what I learned:

  1. Build a scarecrow.

Surround your work area with your accomplishments. Maybe it's a collage of your book covers, or a picture of you with your close writer friends at a conference. Perhaps it's that thank-you note from a reader or a letter of encouragement from a friend. Keep them handy by your work area. The next time you hear the crows coming, pull out your accomplishments and go through them. Reflect on how far you’ve come, and how much you’ve learned about the industry and writing in general. Remember you are good, and you’re only going to get better. Believe it, and keep writing.

  1. Keep your surroundings clean

Don't clutter your hard drive and work space with non-writing things. They provide too much of a distraction. Keeping an internet window open to twitter while you write (or facebook, or your email inbox) might seem like a good idea, but it really isn’t. The temptation is too great. Many times these little distractions can feel innocent enough, but they can cause us to miss timelines, which in turn makes us discouraged. When we’re discouraged, the crows arrive.

  1. Use bright lights

Crows hate bright lights, so keep our work area well lit. Use plenty of lighting and if you can manage it, sit by a window or outdoors. Sunlight does wonderful things for your mood. Writing in the dark, or at a dreary desk facing the wall, will just make it easier for the crows of doubt to invade.

  1. Make some noise

If you feel the crows looming on the horizon, talk about it. Everyone has been there, so we all know what you’re going through. Maybe you just got your 40th rejection letter on your manuscript and you feel like you just can't go on anymore (been there, done that). Or maybe you opened that royalty check that just covers your morning latte – if you order a small instead of your usual large (been there, too). Whatever reason you have for doubting yourself, talk about it with others who understand. Sometimes just getting everything off your chest is a huge relief and can get rid of those nasty crows. (Just do it in private, not in public forums. You don't want these emotional outbursts to come back to haunt you, lol).

  1. Shoot them with a water gun

When all else fails, try target practice. Print out a picture that exemplifies your angst (a crow maybe? ;) ) and bring it out into the back yard with your kid's water gun. Go on, I won't tell anyone. Take aim, and give it your best shot. After ten minutes of showing the crow who's boss, you'll feel much better, and if not, at least you’ll have something interesting to write about. :D

So, now I’ve told you what I do when I begin to doubt my writing. What about you? How do you deal with the crows of doubt? Tell me about it!

Dark Deception by Suzanne Rock

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRw_BspWIXg

Blurb:

After being plunged into a chaotic and deceitful society, Maria Guerrero finds comfort in the arms Enrique Torres, a man she believes is innocent of her world. She keeps him ignorant about her inner monster, and the blood oath she took to save her brother's life. Instead she prefers to use their sexual play as an escape from her supernatural world. When her secrets catch up with her however, Maria is forced to confess her sins. Will Enrique find it in his heart to forgive her deception? He must, before her vampire master demands her to pay him his due. With the help of a disillusioned fey warrior, she convinces Enrique that vampires are real, and danger lurks around every corner.

Enrique can’t allow himself to fall for Maria charms, or he’ll risk revealing secrets of his own -- secrets which would not only scare her, but put his mission in jeopardy. He hopes that by forming a physical connection with the young vampire, he’ll lower her defenses and earn her trust, for she’s the only one who could help him bring peace to the Immortal Realm. As they play out their sexual fantasies, her true identity is uncovered. On impulse he gives her his trust, only to be repaid with her betrayal. Now he wants revenge… but what will be the cost? As the Immortal Realm descends into chaos, Enrique and Maria must choose whether to trust each other again, or fall victims to the dark deceptions that rule their world.

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRw_BspWIXg

Excerpt:

Got ourselves in trouble again, I see.”

Maria froze. “Carlos.” How did he get here? She was alone in the room and the door was locked. Her gaze tore away from the tall, lean vampire and settled on the open window. Damn, she knew not to be so careless. Knowing Carlos, he probably watched her whole exchange with Enrique. He would want a full report, but Maria was in no mood to give one.

The vampire crossed his arms in front of his chest. “So, you remember me. After not seeing you for two nights, I was beginning to wonder…”

She turned on her heel to face him. “I would never forget you -- or the kindness you’ve shown Frederick and me.”

He frowned, his perfect dark brow arching over his amber eyes. “You need to work on your lies, Maria.”

Her breath caught. Leave it to him to bring up her immaturity. She carefully schooled her face into a blank mask, as she was taught.

His features softened as he approached. “You're still a very young vampire and unable to hold you mask.” He stopped, his face inches away from hers. Crooking his finger under her chin, he turned her head first to the right, then to the left. A frown creased his perfect angular features. “You look gaunt.”

She jerked her head away from his grasp. “It is nothing.”

I've heard that you haven't been going to the feedings.”

They are innocent people.”

They’re food, nothing more.” He sighed. “At this rate you are going to collapse before your second year.” Reaching out, he trailed his finger down the side of her face. Maria forced herself not to flinch. “It would be a pity to lose such wonderful vampire flesh.”

She bit back a retort. Arguing would accomplish nothing. Carlos was a master of words and would only use her arguments to manipulate her. An image of her brother appeared in the forefront of her mind and she strengthened her resolve.

At her darkest hour, Carlos rescued both her and Frederick from the brink of destruction. The vampire leader was now securing their future. Under Carlos' protection Frederick would remain safe. She would remain safe. Frederick's dealings with the underworld had put her in danger more than once before. Now that they had the protection of the vampires, they wouldn't be touched.

Carlos slipped his hand lower, catching the 'V' in her dress. “You can't keep denying our desire for flesh and blood, Maria.” He leaned in close, his warm breath gliding against her cheek.

Maria shivered as his icy fingers danced over her skin. She was grateful for his protection, but would never...could never...

One night with me and I can take you away from all this.” His voice was soft and filled with promise. Maria resisted the stirring in her lower abdomen. “Think about it, no more accusing stares from the servants, no more chores...”

No more Enrique. She had always loved Enrique's handsome features, but now that she had spent more time with him her feelings ran much deeper than lust. He treated her like somebody -- somebody who mattered. He was so different from Carlos, who only wanted to use her body to further his agenda.

Maria stepped back from his touch. “Why do you have me stay here at all? I mean, you say you want to trap Enrique -- Señor Torres -- but wouldn't it just be easier to send in vampires to capture him?”

Carlos smiled, showing each of his perfectly white teeth. “Ah, my dear. It isn't enough just to capture him.” He took a step forward. “I want to humiliate him.” Golden flecks danced across his eyes. “Ruin him.”

Maria's back hit the wall. She was trapped. “Why?”

He stepped closer, his chest even with her head. Her skin tingled at the power before her. She felt her fangs lower in response.

Why?” He tipped his fingers under her chin and tilted her head up to his gaze. “Because I loathe him, Maria.” He lowered his head until his mouth hovered inches above her own. “As every vampire should.” His lips brushed against hers. Maria felt the cold press all the way to her toes. “The fool will destroy us all.” He kissed one cheek. “If he knew your real identity...” He kissed the other cheek. “He wouldn't hesitate to put a stake in your heart.”

No.” Enrique was kind and thoughtful. He loved her and...

And he only approached her after she became a vampire and used her charms on him. His caring words, his gentle touch, all of it prompted by the magik Carlos bestowed on her. Sure Enrique was always kind to her, but it wasn't until she became a vampire that his interest turned sexual.

Maria straightened and tried to pull away, but it was no use. The weight of her burden felt like an anvil on her shoulders. The only reason why she was even allowed at the Torres estate was because Carlos decreed it. At any moment the vampire lord could take the privilege away from her. Then what would she be left with?

Carlos' grip tightened. “You know it is true. Don't deny who you are -– or your destiny.”

Hunger, pure and raw blossomed in her core. Only a select few were allowed to feed directly from the vampire leader. Maria had no illusions as to why she was bestowed such an honor. Vampire feedings were steeped in sexual energy and it was no secret that Carlos favored her.

Her master tilted his head to the side. His long dark hair fell away from his shoulders and exposed the smooth ivory skin of his neck. “Now feed.”

Bio:

After over a decade in the scientific world, Suzanne needed a creative outlet. She tried scrap booking, cooking, crocheting, painting, and piano, none of which held her interest for very long. Then one of her friends suggested writing. Thrilled with the idea of creating her own worlds, she opened up her lap top and never looked back.

When Suzanne’s not writing, she can be found playing with her two daughters, testing her husband’s latest kitchen creations, or curled up with her favorite romance novel in her central Massachusetts home.

Backlist:

Spyder's Web, Loose Id

Up on the Housetop (Book 1 of the Kyron Pack), Loose Id

Cria, Loose Id

Down on the Boardwalk (Book 2 of the Kyron Pack), Loose Id

Dark Deception (Book 1 of the Immortal Realm), Red Sage

Links:

Website: www.SuzanneRock.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Suzanne_Rock

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/suzanne.rock

Embrace the Shadows Blog: http://embracetheshadows.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2982868.Suzanne_Rock

Youtube Channel (so you can see my other book trailers): http://www.youtube.com/user/SuzanneRock1

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All You Need is Love

Yesterday, John Lennon of the Beatles would have turned seventy years old. A few months ago, Ringo Starr turned seventy. It's all amazing to me, a member of the "Beatles generation". Where did the time go?

I was in fourth grade when the Fab Four appeared on the Ed Sullivan show (in black and white!). By the time I was in sixth grade, I was as devoted a fan of the mop-headed men from Liverpool as anyone, despite my tender age.

The Beatles inspired me to write my second play. (The first one was a satire about the 1964 presidential election.) I might even be able to dig out the manuscript from the "Writing" box I've dragged around with me for the last half century or so. The play was a fantasy about meeting the band on a train trip (even then travel was a huge turn-on for me) and helping them to escape from a mob of crazed fans. Of course the tale had a love interest. Unlike most Beatles fans, I was most seriously enamored of George Harrison. I liked him because he seemed quiet and intelligent and less cocky than John or Paul.

The Beatles wrote the soundtrack of my teens and twenties. I will never forget sitting in a darkened room at a party (I was probably thirteen), tears streaming down my face, with "Michelle Ma Belle" playing over and over. The guy I had a huge crush on was "making out" with another girl. I'd never felt so desolate. That song still makes me feel sad.

Then there's the relatively obscure Beatles song "Misery", which my siblings and I sang in three part harmony on a local TV talent show. (We came in second.) Occasionally, when we all get together, we belt out a chorus.

I recall kissing my first lover on the couch in my mom's living room, the White Album in the background. "Dear Prudence" and "Rocky Raccoon" mingle with my recollections of his taste, his smell, his scratchy, romantic stubble. I was deeply in love and playing with fire. Fortunately, I did not get too badly burned.

"Within You Without You" recalls my high-school era trip to the ashram, where my aunt was the devotee of an Indian guru. "Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream..." I remember trying to meditate and being horribly frustrated because there was no way I could turn off my mind...!

One of my most poignant Beatles memories does not involve them directly at all. I was in Prague, a magical city where the people are for some reason especially devoted to John Lennon. As we walked across the ancient Charles Bridge, a young man with a guitar began singing "Imagine". A crowd gathered around him, singing along, voices rising into the chill, moist air and vanishing into the fog. "Imagine all the people, living life in peace..." The moment had an ethereal beauty that I will never forget.

In the last couple of years, since I bought an MP3 player, I've been listening to The Beatles' music once again. It holds up amazingly well, I find, especially the later, more complex songs. And I find myself singing along, as I lift my weights or do my leg lifts. It's hard not to.

I can barely believe that two of the Fab Four have passed on. When I look at the early pictures, where they are so fresh-faced and eager, I can easily summon the electric excitement they kindled in me - and in so much of the world. And it bothers me, a bit, that many teens today have scarcely heard of them, and definitely don't care about a band that was popular in their grandparent's day.

Yikes! I'm old enough to be a grandmother myself.

Well, wherever you are - Happy Birthday, John! Maybe we should make you the patron saint of romance writers. After all, it was you who sang: All you need is love.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pigskin Passion

By Jaxx Steele (Guest Blogger)

Hey guys, Jaxx Steele here!

I knew I wanted to blog, but I had no clue what to blog about…and then I remembered what season this was. It’s the best out of all the five seasons. What’s that? You say there aren’t five seasons, Jaxx, only four. Silly Jaxx that must be a typo. Well, that where you would be wrong, wonderful reader. There are indeed winter, spring, summer, fall and FOOTBALL! Football season is going on right now! I would like to share my love for the season and why I like it!

First, what’s not to like? Strong, strapping men, flexing big thick muscles, wearing spandex outfits that leave nothing to the imagination…AND they run around sweating and tackling each other! Man! If there’s a downside to football season I don’t know it! The beer, the commercials, the men, the contact, the bodies, the— Ahem. My apologies…I digress. Let me calm down and tell you why I like this game.

For me, football season is 16 weeks of a testosterone festival. It is all types of sexy sweaty men, all shapes, sizes and colors, wearing little thin clothes climbing all over each other. I am one of those football watchers that don’t have a favorite team, per se`. I mean, I do live in Indianapolis so I route 100% for the Colts when they play and my hometown is New York so I will also route for the Giants when they play, but I am not a diehard fan by far. I watch for the glory of the game and the sexy bodies on the field. Don’t get me wrong. I may be watching for the sweet bodies running across the field, but I do know the rules. I even played the game as a running back in college. Come on! You know I did…I had to. Did you not read the paragraphs before?

My thought for this article is to of course share my love for the game, but to also encourage you to watch so that you could enjoy it as much as I do so that it will never go off the air!

Putting a little XX in Man Love! http://www.jaxxsteele.com

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Sells

A few days ago, it being the end of a month and the quarter, I received royalty statements from two of my publishers. All in all, the news was good. My takings from my primary publisher hit a new record (not that I'm about to go quit my day job or anything...!). The fact that I made anything at all from my secondary publisher (with whom I have only three titles, all more than two years old) pleased me since it suggested that the work I've been putting into marketing is slowing starting to pay off. A small number of readers now recognize my name and are willing to check out even the books that are not newly released.

When I scrutinized the numbers, though, I felt somewhat less happy. Practically all my sales were associated with my recent M/M titles, Necessary Madness and Gaymes. The ratio of those sales to the rest of my dozen or so books was something like 80/20.

I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I'm proud of those two books and I'm delighted my M/M titles are popular. I just feel a bit uncomfortable being part of the M/M bandwagon.

Gay erotic romance is huge. That's great. I like to write M/M fiction - sometimes! But I also enjoy other genres and gender mixes. The market seems to be telling me that I shouldn't waste my time. I should be focusing exclusively on M/M books if I want to build my readership and my income. I should write what sells.

It feels a bit dishonest to me to deliberately focus on M/M just because it's the latest rage. I know that many of you probably think I'm crazy. If I can do it, I should, right? But... I get bored easily. And I write as much to entertain myself as for the market.

Does that make me unprofessional? Maybe. I'm a bit of a curmudgeon and an outlaw. I've always wanted to be different (and I am). I've never been a slave to fashion in my clothing. I don't much want to be in my writing either.

So what do you think? Should I make my choices based on what sells? Is that being wise, or crassly opportunistic?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reasons

Why do authors write beyond their first published novel? Is it a craving for the attention of an audience, is it the fun of following made up characters for however long it takes to complete their story, or is it a burning need to apply and build on the creative juices that have suddenly come to the surface?

These questions came to me as I sat in wait for my latest release, Shadowed Pursuit. My fourteenth published romance novel, Shadowed Pursuit is an October release from Champagne Books and was written with as much enthusiasm and energy as my first story, None So Blind.

For me, the answer to why writers continue to write beyond their first release lies with all three suggestions. The thrill of readers complimenting my work, the enjoyment of following the lives of characters I have never met, but who will soon become my mind’s companions, and the need to discover the depth of my own imagination all play strong roles.

Writing takes work. A lot of it. Plot, characterization, and setting each require mind-grinding thought. Chasing down a publisher willing to look for the merit in your story is a heavy load to bear and, when accepted, brings adjustments not only with the editor but with your own level of satisfaction when you see alternatives flashing before your eyes in that last run-through.

If I had one piece of advice to those thinking of trying to get a story published, it would be to make persistence your best friend.

SHADOWED PURSUIT - Synopsis

While strolling in a Lake Ontario park, Madison Murphy survives a Doberman’s vicious attack. Rescued by a man wearing biker leathers, her head injury, caused by a fall to the paved walkway, leaves her hospitalized and suffering memory loss.

With the help of a nurse named Annie, Maddie embarks on a course of discovery, wracking her brain for clues to her identity, seeking out her personality traits, and trying to rationalize the reason for the attack. She can’t understand the flashing scenes of the Arctic tundra, a courtroom hubbub, or the ones of Ontario’s Kingston Penitentiary.

When she learns a criminal is out to get her and had ordered the dog’s attack, she knows she must place her trust somewhere, but not at the hands of the tattooed stranger who had rescued her and continues to plague her. His authoritarian attitude and actions overwhelm her in her present state, yet she thinks he holds the key. She turns to a retired detective anxious to help. Together they struggle to unravel the mystery as pieces of her memory kick into play.

Various memories point to Maddie’s career in the RCMP. She learns that as a police officer, her testimony had helped convict Cade McKinnon and sent him to prison. His reasons for protecting her from death now plague her.

As the criminal, Gerald Finnigan, draws both Maddie and Cade into his web, the two find they share more than their common interest of seeing his underworld activities cease. The refusal of their mutual attraction to die a quick death provides a stumbling block producing as much conflict as nailing Finnigan will.

Excerpt: Chapter One

A series of stills flashes before Maddie’s eyes. The face of the beast bearing down on her is grotesque with its bared teeth and snarling fury. Free-flowing moisture drips from her hands’ protective shield onto her new T-shirt. Strange she should think of her recent purchase when her legs are crumpling beneath her.

Maddie shivered in fear and peered through slitted eyes. Surprised by her narrowed vision, she struggled to clear her senses and escape the mist blocking coherent thought. Frantic, she looked around, raising her hand to examine the item pinching her left index finger. The task proved beyond her capability. She glanced down to check the cause and noted to her dismay, both wrists were strapped to the steel side rails of a bed. Her hands swaddled in bandaging, only her left thumb and index finger remained free. Recognizing the pulse oximeter and its function to measure blood oxygen levels, she didn’t know why she lay helpless in some kind of medical facility. She trembled. Where am I?

Partially open white-and-green curtains hung from a curved overhead rod and circumscribed the area in which she lay. A cacophony of bleeps, buzzers, and moans drilled into her brain. Suddenly a flash of color shot into the draped opening. It stopped with startling agility, backed into full view and entered her room. “Oh, you’re awake. Good.”

Staring down at her stood a fantasy of multi-colored flowers, each bloom seeming to compete for space on the fabric of the scrubs. The long name on the woman’s identification pin wasn’t easy to read in such a hazy state, but Recovery Room Nurse and the name Annie were strong possibilities.

You’re in the hospital in Kingston, Ontario, hon. Two days ago, you had an unfortunate mishap and needed surgery. You’ve been in and out of consciousness ever since. Do you remember the incident?”

Maddie tried to think, but thinking hurt. She shook her head with care. “Do you remember your name, hon?”

Tears came to Maddie’s eyes. “No.”

We think it might be Maddie.”

Maddie?” The gritty sound of her own voice surprised her.

That’s the name engraved on the bracelet you wore.” The nurse retrieved a sealed envelope from her breast pocket. “This has been in the floor safe. Want me to open it for you?”

Please.”

Annie removed the sterling silver jewelry from the packet and dangled an exquisite chain in front of Maddie’s eyes.

Maddie blinked several times, pleased to see her vision clear. The nurse let her examine the intricate scroll on the small bar, then flipped it over to the backside. The initials, C.M. meant nothing, either.

Don’t you recognize this?” Annie asked.

No.”

Since the bracelet must be yours, why don’t I fasten it on your wrist, the one that doesn’t carry our hospital identification tag?”

Maddie nodded.

After the nurse closed the clasp to secure it, she touched the right wrist’s Velcro strap. “You’re restrained because we didn’t want you to thrash around and hurt yourself.”

An unbidden groan escaped Maddie’s lips. I’m a prisoner.

The image of a prison plowed into her thoughts--gray limestone walls guarded by a large central tower, four corner turrets, and a closed massive front gate. She rolled her eyes off to the side with caution. The mirage had disappeared when she looked back. “What incident?”

The doctor will explain. Your throat might feel dry and scratchy from the tube inserted for surgery.”

My throat does feel irritated.

I’ll rub ice chips across your mouth and slide one or two onto your tongue.” The offer flowed with the lyrical resonance of a fairy godmother.

Maddie inched upward the fog-saturated object that used to be her head. Dizzied by the movement, she lowered it back to the pillow. With the compassion of a Mother Teresa protégée, Annie stepped closer to cool and dampen Maddie’s lips. Desperate to rid her mouth of its furry sensation, she sucked on the chips and swallowed.

The doctor will be in to see you soon.” Annie brushed a lock of hair back off Maddie’s forehead. “Ah, here’s Dr. Whitlow now. He’s the neurosurgeon who operated.”

Neurosurgeon?

A stethoscope dangled around the navy suit collar of the short stocky man entering Maddie’s room. “Hello, young lady. I see you’ve decided to join us.” He plucked a penlight from his vest pocket, snapped it on and peered into her eyes.

Doesn’t a white light appear just before one passes into eternity?

When the doctor exhaled, he filled the confined space with the pleasant scent of wintergreen. Maddie inhaled, preferring the doctor’s breath to the smell of disinfectant in the air. Annie handed him Maddie’s chart from its holder at the end of her bed. Dr. Whitlow scanned the report, and checked the heart monitor and blood pressure reading. “Hmm; 142 over 94 is a little high for blood pressure, but it’s understandable--you’re upset about your situation.”

His words reverberated against the walls of Maddie’s dulled mind. When he released the Velcro restraints, the restriction hampering her freedom vanished. “Thank--” She stopped speaking; speech not only hurt her throat, it slashed at her facial muscles.

A quiet scrape accompanied the doctor’s shift of a chrome chair to her bedside. She squirmed under his scrutiny, and focused back on him. The lines in his face testified to a lifetime of experience. In some shadowed recess of her mind, she believed his seniority would stand her in good stead.

Let me explain what has happened, my dear. You were brought to Kingston General yesterday morning after an encounter with a vicious dog. A Doberman Pinscher, I believe.” The doctor’s eyes roamed her face. “The police haven’t been able to track down the dog’s owner to see if his shots were up to date. The lab is testing its brain for rabies. The paramedics said there was no froth around his mouth, so that’s promising.”

He’s dead?

Aware facial expression would be painful, even awkward, she guarded against any show of emotion.

More good news--we were able to treat the animal’s scratches to your face, leaving minimal chance of infection and no scarring stitches.”

This doctor is an optimist.

The dog knocked you over and, when you fell, your head hit the pavement, causing a concussion.” The doctor’s eyes filled with compassion. His pause allowed her to process the information. He leaned closer, fixated on her face. She tipped her head to show her understanding and silently pleaded for him to continue. She needed his enlightenment, his specialized attention, his warmth.

Dr. Whitlow smiled and reached for her wrists again, holding them up where she could see her hands better. “Your palms and fingers needed sutures from the deep bites you received fighting off the animal. The antibiotics in your IV should prevent infection. At least you have grasping ability on your left hand.”

Maddie concentrated on the taped gauze packages in front of her. This padding would do a boxer proud, but I’m in no shape to get into a ring. Her nonsensical thought amused her. Did she have a sense of humor in her real life?

The doctor lifted his brow. She realized her mouth had curved into a slight smile at her own joke. Maybe he assumed she was still under the effects of anesthesia.

He continued, “The paramedics said if it hadn’t been for a bystander’s intrusion, you might not be alive. The man didn’t stay around to give his name.” Dr. Whitlow paused again, this time frowning. “I see panic in your eyes. Do you recall the attack?”

No.” Her throat’s rasp startled her.

Perhaps that’s for the best.”

The tears that threatened from the doctor’s first pronouncement now trickled from her eyes, hiding him behind the blur. She wanted to complain about the dull ache in her head, but she couldn’t find the strength or stability to trust herself not to break down to a mass of self-pity. Why was it so important she maintain decorum?

Perhaps, if she widened her eyes, he would catch on. Her eyelids hardly moved. It now registered: they were puffy and not responding to her command. The damn dog came close to scratching out my eyes.

Annie gently dabbed a tissue at the moisture itching Maddie’s cheeks.

Do you know if you have any allergies?” Dr. Whitlow’s face didn’t betray concern.

Her mind blanked. “No clue.”

Who could we contact?” he asked.

Maddie’s heart raced. “I have no idea.”

Dr. Winslow checked the heart monitor. “I realize you’re confused, and no doubt frightened, but we’ll take good care of you.”

The word frightened didn’t come close to the panic rocking her insides. She glanced at Annie, appreciating her pleasant smile.

BIO: I am a multi-published author with Wings ePress, Inc. and Champagne Books. I live with my husband of forty-eight years in Nova Scotia, Canada. Since our four children are grown and flown, I have time to send my imagination soaring to unbelievable heights.

Carol McPhee: http://carolmcphee.webs.com Multi-Published, Award-Winning Romance Novelist Strong, smart, sensuous heroines; heroes to die for.