Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Giving Tuesday by Diane Burton

 


Many people spent Black Friday and Cyber Monday buying things for themselves, their families and friends. What sales we encountered! My brother-in-law was in retail before he retired. He'd come home on Black Friday with stories about violence in the stories that would make your hair stand on end. 

In 2012, a movement began as a simple idea--a day set aside at the beginning of the holiday season to do good. It's grown into a global movement. It's not just for giving money--although many charities depend on people's generosity at this time of year. Helping within the community, being generous with your time and talent, assisting a neighbor. Today is that day.

Since this is a blog about and for paranormal romantics, I wondered how I could connect Giving Tuesday. In our world-building, a sometimes neglected area is religion or spirituality. Who or what do the people worship? Do they have ceremonies, holidays? How do they celebrate? How do they deal with the poor? Are there poor and neglected or is it a utopian society?

In building the world our characters inhabit, mention of religious aspects adds a richness to our stories. Like backstory, we only need casual mention--not a huge info dump. For example, the characters, who landed on an alien planet, could find themselves in the middle of a major celebration, complete with parades, singing, dancing, drinking and . . . 

This is my last post for 2020, so I'll wish you happy holidays however you celebrate. Enjoy. Stay safe.



Monday, November 30, 2020

What's in a Name, and Other Stuff

 

A belated happy Thanksgiving to the US folks out there! I missed my October PNRomantics post due to deadlines, and almost missed November too! (Hey, there's still a few hours left of today where I live.) A lot has happened in the last couple of months, so let’s get on with this.

My winged aliens have been set free and the Silverstar Mates series is complete! This series was a blast to write. Creating this new universe was a challenging change of pace from my Prophecy series. If you love sexy silver foxes, you should check it out.


Reflecting back, one of the most notable writing moments for me was one evening when I took a break and watched a documentary about immigration. In it they talked about the word “alien” and how it can be used in a degrading and insulting manner, and that many immigrants prefer it not be used at all.

This is a real-time issue, and I figured that intergalactic travelers might feel the same way. So, instead of alien, I chose to use off-worlder for this series. I kinda like the idea, and you may see this play out in future books of mine as well. I’m mulling that over right now.

Now for the fun little nuggets…. The heroes in these stories are winged beings, and as such have adopted various sayings like: On the other wing, instead of on the other hand; nest, instead of house; flock, instead of family; etc. There are too many others to list, but you can check them out for yourself.

Also, as you read the books you may notice something very special about the heroines’ names. All of their names—first and last (in some cases maiden)—are related to birds. Seriously! Robyn, Meryl, Martin, Vogel, etc. And there’s a future heroine mentioned whose name means “birdlike” in Latin.

And speaking of the future, as of today I started working on the prequel to the Silverstar Mates series. It will be a short story that takes place fifteen years before Above the Storm, and will answer the question I seem to be getting a lot: Who is Sovah Raptorclaw?

Heh, heh, heh. Who indeed? Stay tuned.

XOXO,

Lea Kirk

For more on Lea's books (past, present, and future), check out her:

Newsletter | Website | Facebook | Twitter | BookBub | Amazon | GoodReads

~*~*~*~*~

Need gift ideas? The print versions of my three Prophecy series novels are on sale through January 1, 2021.




 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Waiting on a Friend by @meganslayer #newrelease #gay #gayromance #historicalgayromance #christmas #pnr


 Waiting on a Friend by Megan Slayer 

Cover Art: Bryan Keller

BIN: 009604-03113




Book Length: Novella

Page Count: 44

Price: $3.99 $3.39

King Mason doesn’t want to spend another year alone. He loves his job at the men’s shelter, but there has to be more from life than work. He’s seen the pretty blond man around the community and can’t wait to make a move at the Christmas street party.

Randall Stevens has big plans for Christmas 1980, and all of them involve meeting King Mason. He’s fallen hard for the man, and his wish is to take things to the next level. Christmas Eve just might be the night -- except some wishes are meant to go sideways. Can Start Me Up help provide the solution he and King need?

From Changeling Press and available now!
or wherever ebooks are sold: https://books2read.com/u/m0wvM7

Copyright ©2020 Megan Slayer

Being a friendly face didn’t soothe his loneliness, especially at Christmas.

Kaz, a man King knew from the baths, crooked his brow. “Want to hook up in the changing rooms? Share a little Christmas cheer? I’ve got poppers.”

“Not tonight.” King wasn’t one for drinking, and he’d taken drugs exactly once -- not his thing. The headache from the hangover was a drag, and the lone time he’d gotten high freaked him out too much. He hated losing control, and Kaz tended to fly a little too close to the edge for King. “Have a merry Christmas,” King said. “Happy New Year if I don’t see you before then.”

“You know I will -- on both accounts.” Kaz shrugged. “If you’re interested, I’ll be at the baths until two.”

He didn’t doubt it. Kaz spent all his time looking for someone to fuck. King wasn’t one for casual. He wanted a steady guy. Someone to come home to, fuck, and love. Someone to hold when they slept. That’s what he wanted. Was that guy out there?

He hadn’t found the opportunity to talk to him. What if he could be King’s forever?

Darryl, the new owner of Start Me Up, strode up to King. “I hear you could use this.” He handed King a card. “I don’t know what for, and I don’t want to know. Take it.” He mashed the card into King’s hand. “Trust me.”


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

BE THANKFUL . . . by Nancy Gideon


Who can’t wait to leave 2020 behind! Raise your hand. What has this year given us to be grateful for? Panic. Anger. Loss. Isolation. Misinformation. Fear. We huddle in our homes mourning the loss of the freedoms we took for granted, including the ability to gather together on this holiday with those we love. We isolate because we love them, because we look ahead to that time when we can open our doors and put this quarantine safely behind us. Face it, in the future when we look back on this year, this will be our overwhelming reaction: 


(Thanks to my very clever bakery owner niece whose Mad Batter, LLC offers these socks for sale on her site: The Mad Batter).

This constant anxiety has done more than affect our day-to-day freedoms. It’s also placed a burden on our creativity. Our COVID brains struggle with those happily-ever-afters and plot twists our WIPs demand. One saving grace for me, since I just started a new contemporary project, is Zoom. I’ve been able to real time with my two writing groups and listen to speakers from across the country. I’ve been able to chat and critique with my PotL writing pals several times a month – more frequently now than when we were face-to-face. Real people, real conversations! So, this is me in the COVID world, doing what I do, remembering my motto: “Writers are never on break, They are either writing, thinking of writing or rewriting what was written.” 


Another way to put things into proportion is this article on things 1st graders are thankful for this Thanksgiving. Out of the mouths of babes . . . 



Me and my household will be enjoying a carry-out meal from Bob Evans (probably for days!) doing our part to keep local businesses going. (Yes, I’m happily taking one for the team by sacrificing those five hours at the stove!) We’ll be messaging family and friends to keep them close in our hearts, if not our homes.

Enjoy this holiday quiz while preparing or consuming your feast c/o Meebily. Visit this link for more holiday fun: Thanksgiving Trivia


Another thing I’m thankful for . . . YOU!! Stay safe and happy holiday!

♚♚♚♚♚
Nancy Gideon on the Web


Friday, November 20, 2020

Putting Chemistry on the Page

Given the title, you probably expected a "show / don’t tell" kind of post, but not today. 🙂 Instead, I'm going with a feedback list.

The other day I posted a question on social media. I wanted to know readers’ favorite ways to read/experience chemistry on the page. That build up of tension between the hero/heroin in a romance novel that makes you keep turning the pages.

I got some great answers, so thought I’d start a list. That way when I get stuck or feel like I’m repeating myself, I’ve got a resource. So here we go, favorite chemistry moments in romance:

  • The moment when they’re eyes meet and they connect for the first time.
  • The way they avoid each other, even though they are attracted to one another, but still have to be in the same room or elevator.
  • The first casual touch. It doesn’t have to be sexual. (But not a handshake) It can be as innocent as a hand on the arm, or a hand on the lower back to guide them.
  • Where you can tell they really, really want to kiss, but neither will make the first move. Then they’re interrupted and the moment is gone, but they’re both just SMOLDERING.
  • That “will he/won’t he” moment when you’re hoping he will.
  • When they’re laughing and then the chemistry kicks in and they stop abruptly
  • That shared joke or inside piece of information that no one else in the room knows about, but you see them connect over it.
  • When they share a vulnerability, fear, or experience that builds intimacy and connection.
  • When the other person sees more than everyone else.
  • Becoming hyper-aware of each other. Both physical – the sweep of her neck, the way she blushes, his strong forearms, and personal – the way she’s nice to everyone, how he defended her when he didn’t need to.
  • A feisty dialogue exchange where the underlying tension just screams through both words and actions
  • Their inner thoughts reveal that they both WANT but can’t HAVE, but still WANT

Okay – that’s what came from Facebook and Twitter (and me lol). What else? Help me add to it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Why Audio Books? by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

Listening to audio books is growing in popularity, especially during Covid. Why? Plenty of reasons. One good reason for even children to listen to audio books is that it increases vocabulary and pronunciation. Hearing how a word sounds helps add it to a person’s lexicon. It also helps develop fluency. Listening to the way a narrator (who by job description needs to be fluent) pauses or emphasizes words or phrases helps build fluency awareness and skill.

This doesn’t take much time, either. Audio books help those with little spare time get in some reading, because they can do it during a commute, while doing housework, or even while taking a bath.

No matter when a person finds it convenient to use an audio book, it helps improve their critical listening skills, a skill at which we could all use some improvement. Rather than thinking about what we’re going to say next, we must genuinely listen to the speaker (narrator) in order to hear and analyze character names and characteristics and aspects of the plot. This helps improve our focus and attention spans and develop better critical thinking and comprehension skills.

It also helps us improve our memory skills because we must remember the names and relationships and actions of various characters and plot twists.




Reading the book, it’s said, is always better than seeing the movie, but when you listen to a narrator read the story to you, you gain an interesting and lively perspective on the story. Narrators by trade are enthusiastic and skilled story tellers. You still get to form the images and your own opinions of the events and characters, while hearing a narrator’s tone may actually help you develop empathy for characters.

Speaking of seeing, audio books are a huge benefit to those with poor or no eyesight, but they are also good for the average American who spends up to 7 hours a day looking at a computer screen. It saves you from more eye strain. Reading with your eyes shut is actually pretty relaxing, just the same as listening to soothing music.

This is why listening to audio books boosts mental health—according to Psychology Today, listening to audio books interrupts negative thinking patterns. This is especially helpful to those who suffer from anxiety or depression. During the mandatory isolation of Covid, this could be about anyone.



Physically, it saves your back from carrying around a lot of heavy books. You can have dozens on a single thumb drive. You can also bike, jog, walk, exercise, or do housework while listening to audio books.  Getting some fresh air while you listen to an audio book is a great way to lighten your mental load from all the forced indoor isolation of the era of Covid.

So, why audio books?  A better question might be why not! These days, they’re flying off the shelves--or across the cosmos.



Click on the above pics to purchase one of mine. You can even get them free for trying out audible books for the first time. Happy listening!


Monday, November 16, 2020

Getting to Know Your Character From the Inside Out

Sometimes in the writing world, the lingo is the scariest part. Hearing words like indirect characterization causes you to flashback to 7th grade ELA class bringing with it all the sweaty nervousness that comes along with being a preteen. How-tos are packed with these terms, sometimes making them scary to pick up and read. After several searches on Google, you still don't feel any closer to breaking down these terms that should be your bread and butter. Luckily for you, I teach 7th grade ELA class, and I'm here to break it down in a much more approachable way. 

When you sit down to write your protagonist, antagonist, or supporting characters, you're faced with two options. Will we, the readers, get to know this character from the inside, the outside, or both? 

Indirect Characterization simply means that we're getting to know your character from the inside.  We get full access to their thoughts and motivations, as well as a peek into their flashbacks and internal struggles. You see this a lot with the first-person point of view and with third-person omniscient. Sounds great, right? It sure is, but this also means that you have to write a character that is loveable despite their flaws. Remember that what the character sees and thinks has to (unless you are purposefully making it not so) line up with their actions. Because as we all know, actions speak louder than words. 

Direct Characterization is when the reader gets to know the character from the outside. We can see how the act and what they say to those around them, but we have to make our opinions based only on what we can directly see. Welcome to the third-person point of view. A lot of times, this is how readers get to know the supporting staff of a novel. 

See, the lingo isn't too bad, right? 

Remember that the goal of getting to know the character is so that the reader gets emotionally attached. Once we're invested in their fictional lives, reading the book becomes a necessity and not an option. So when you're sitting down to write that next scene or chapter, take a moment to ask yourself: Will this scene work better from the inside out, or the outside in?

Happy writing!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Pleasure to Meet You


Greetings from Strawberry!

In my fervor to save Halloween from the 2020 nightmare last month, I never introduced myself. You probably were wondering who this Kentucky lady is, and why Halloween is so important to her. 


I’m Marilyn Barr, homeschool mom, energetic healer, particle physics guru, and paranormal romance author. My life has led me down an extraordinary path which all started with an IQ test when I transferred from private school to public school in first grade. Being pulled out of class once per week to work on thought experiments and creative pursuits, I have lived on the fringes ever since. My professional experience spans from aerosol engineer to high school inclusion teacher to Shamanic journeying practitioner.

My diverse experiences are channeled into a paranormal romance series, the Strawberry Shifters. Strawberry KY is a haven for paranormal misfits, recreating the Bergan brand with the changing times to fund their isolated existence. The pharmaceutical world is wondering what the secret is to small-town Bergan Pharma's overnight success, but would they believe it is the vampires who run the night lab?  The community of paranormal creatures works in harmony until the Fae decides to put a Sluagh prison on the edge of town.  Now vampires and shifters must work together to exterminate the soul-sucking Sluagh and take back their territory. 


Bear with Me is the first installment of the series and follows the reconciliation of Grant and Alison Luther. Grant has followed his dream to Bergan Pharma and will stop at nothing to reach the pinnacle of his career. His wife, Alison, relocates as one last chance to put their marriage back together. Alison is an #ownvoices character because we both have sensory processing disorder (SPD). I demonstrate how this disorder is actually a superpower through Alison. Too bad Grant must be taught to see it as such. From ablest to amorous, can he make the changes necessary before he loses his family? Bear with Me is on sale (Buy Now!) for 99 cents (until 12/4/2020) to introduce you to the small town where everyone is more than they seem and to celebrate the release of Book 2: Round of Applause on 12/7/2020.


Round of Applause picks up where Bear with Me left off. November has turned to December and the Yule party is just a few snowflakes away. No one in Strawberry feels like celebrating though. The plan to rescue the mystery woman from the Sluagh fortress has gone horribly wrong and now one of their own is trapped inside. We get a closer look into the lives of the townspeople outside Bergan Pharma as they come together to close an inter-realm portal before it allows the Sluagh army to invade Strawberry. This tale of unconventional family challenges the societal norms of rural America in a demonstration of love conquering all.Pre-order Here




Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Naughty List is Now a Series. Free on Amazon with Book 2 on Sale.

The Naughty List is now a series.
Free November 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Judgment Day (Book 2) is on sale for $2.50


Murder, mystical artifacts, an invisible demon with anger management issues, and an overbearing cupid—not what Rosalie Thatcher wished for on her Christmas list.


The holidays had always been a magical time for Rosalie, but not this year. Her new manager at Penrose’s Department Store is determined to make this season the most profitable in the store’s history, even if it sucks the life out of every employee. Introducing arbitrary rules and stealing the affections of the cute temp Santa were bad enough, but forcing Rosalie into the stupid elf hat was the worst. The worst, that is, until she meets a real E.L.F. (Elemental Life Form) named David and gets lassoed into a desperate hunt for the stolen Naughty and Nice List. Now all Rosalie and David must do is dodge a murderous invisible demon and recover the missing artifact before hellhounds track them down.  The couple race against time for without the magical guidance of the Naughty and Nice List, the world will tumble toward eternal chaos. 

FREE ON AMAZON




You can run. You can hide. But you can’t escape Judgment Day.

Changes are in store for Rosalie, David, and the gang at Penrose’s. Remodeling has begun and lives are in upheaval as well as floorplans. Rosalie’s duties as the new human warden on the Integral council draws her deeper into their politics. A clan leader dies, another is elected, and a plot against a third turns deadly. Who will emerge unscathed and who will be banished? Meanwhile, Judgment Day approaches when rights are set wrong and anyone who crosses a cupid risks the Kiss of Death. 

AMAZON SALE

 




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

ARE YOU BEING MISLED?

An overall look at phishing and ransomware 

By Keri Kruspe




I know with the holidays coming around, this may not be the happiest subject to talk about. But, with everything going on and how much we are doing things on our computers, I wanted to give some practical advice on how to protect yourself.  

I’ve been working for the banking industry for over thirty years and one thing hasn’t changed in all that time. Bandits are out there and they want your money.

Personally, I’ve survived numerous physical bank robberies and bomb threats over the years. Working in Las Vegas for most of those years, I’ve watched how desperate people who lost it all at the casinos have resorted to do the unthinkable by robbing others. The threat was real… it was in your face and unavoidable. How you reacted to it determined the trauma afterward.

But during the ensuing years, another type of robbery has gained momentum to the unwary. While it might not be as physically dangerous as a bank robbery, it can have devastating consequences that the victim has to deal with for months, if not years.

I’m talking about cyber crime, especially regarding your bank account or credit cards.

In this article, I’m going to highlight a couple of areas:

           Define phishing and ransomware

·         Understand and identify common cyber crime tactics

·         Armed with this knowledge—how you can protect yourself.

 

Phishing and Ransomware: Social Engineering

 Social engineering is the practice of manipulating people into giving up confidential information (like passwords, bank account information, or access to a computer or network). Social engineering is so popular with criminals because it works! It’s easier to exploit someone’s instinct to trust rather than hack into a security program (or walk into a bank and point a gun at a hapless teller).

 Social engineering usually comes in an email, text, or phone call. These thugs pose as a legitimate institution and imitates a trusted business, financial institution, social media site or government agency. These messages will ask for private information or will get victims to download malicious software.


Phishing History

The term phishing became popular in the mid-1990’s. It’s a variation of the word “fishing” because phishers lure their victims with bait–such as an attractive offer. In 2004 they filed the first phishing lawsuit against a California teenager who created an imitation of the website America Online. He gained sensitive information from users and had access to credit card details to withdraw money from their accounts.

They estimate it that 1 in every 3,000 emails sent are phishing emails that costs companies in America an average of $1.3 million dollars.

Phishing Tactics


They design a phishing email or text to gain your trust and then trigger a response. It may include upsetting or exciting info that demands an urgent response. Typical words used are, “urgent”, “important”, or “outstanding payment”. These communications will ask you to “update”, “validate”, or “confirm” your account information online.

They’ll pray on greed by making attractive offers. They’ll claim, “You’ve won a free trip or lottery. Just click here and it’s yours!”

What they’re looking for are: social security numbers, full name, date of birth, full address, retail shopping account, loyalty reward accounts, username and password for online services, email account access, personal identification numbers (PIN), credit card, and bank account numbers.

 

How to Recognize a Phishing Attack



Here are some basic characteristics of phishing emails:

  1. Generic Names “Dear Customer”
  2. Poor spelling and grammar
  3. Links to another website
  4. Unrealistic threats/demands/offers
  5. Sender’s emails address may look like a known organization, but something is off
  6. Logo’s and Branding–somewhat similar but just a tad off

Malware

     Malware is short for "malicious software" and is a cyber-attack that typically starts with a successful  phishing assault. It's intentionally designed to cause damager after being implanted to a computer or server. These can be viruses, worms, adware, Trojan horses, and ransomware

Ransomware

     This is a sophisticated malware that is delivered to your computer via a phishing attack. Once it invades your computer, it stops you from using it and encrypts your files. You don’t have access to your computer unless you pay a sum of money to unlock the system with a decryption key. An advanced ransomware will encrypt system files, drives, or Master File Table. It’s almost impossible to recover from as the files cannot be accessed without the decryption key. 

      How to prevent Ransomware:

  •     Watch out for phishing. Ransomware is sent by a successful phishing attack.
  •      Install Anti-Virus software
  •      Back up data
  •      Filer email
      As our technology progresses, so will the criminals advance their ability to steal our hard-earned money. But fear not… all is not lost. Just remain diligent and remember that no financial institution will send you an email asking for personal information or to click a link. If you are unsure, call whatever place the email claims it’s from to verify its authenticity. Avoid any link clicking. Better yet… don’t open a strange email you are unsure of. 

      I know it’s a cliché, but keep this in mind… if it’s too good to be true… it usually is.