Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to find time in your day

by Maureen L. Bonatch

How much time do you spend writing?

Initially my generic answer was, “A lot.” 

This didn’t seem to pacify the person or answer the question. I pondered this and found it difficult to identify an exact amount of time that I could say I spent writing.

So she went on to ask for further clarification by asking, 

Where do you find the time?”

This I could answer, because despite my greatest wish, I’ve yet to discover a way to find more hours in the day or to clone myself. Therefore, as a write, I’ve had to make do with what I had.

Here is where I’ve managed to carve writing time out of each day:

  •          The time I would’ve spent with that extra hour of sleep every morning, I drag myself out of bed to sit in front of the computer at 4:45 a.m. (Or an extra hour in the evening when I should be in bed---hello, caffeine addiction!)
  •         The time that I should be spending on finishing the laundry, cleaning the house more often instead of operating on ‘clutter control’ or trying to fool people who enter like the Febreeze commercials by spraying a cloud from room to room.  
  •        The time I should be exercising instead of sitting in a chair for hours…and hours, without realizing how much time has flown by.
  •        The time I should be spending shopping for some of the newer fashions rather than wearing the same old sweatpants. See above bullet…explains need for sweatpants…(I think they should be changed to ‘inspiration wear’…cause I can get a lot done in them and it just sounds more attractive than sweats…)
  •        The time most people spend on the newest television shows when I don’t have the foggiest idea of what they’re talking about. I park myself on the couch with my family and the television may be on, but my laptop is with me like some extra mechanical arm I’ve grown and can’t be without. (As my family may have mentioned once or twice…not the mechanical arm part, I added that to make it sound cool. They just say, “Why are you always on the computer?” Which in turn makes me want to clutch it to my chest and say, “My precious..”)
  •        When I do spend the time watching a movie, or reading, (because I can’t resist either and can consider it kind of research for writing)…I pick the movie apart, often unable to stop myself from throwing terms at my husband like, “There’s the black moment.” Or “See they’re trying to make you feel empathy for the character.” Or “They didn’t put enough red herrings in the story.” (He, bless his heart, has learned to tolerate me.)
  •        The time most people spend socializing at a ‘day job’ lunch break, I close myself in my office with my sandwich and laptop. (Don't worry, I'm not lonely, my characters keep me company.)
  •         The time I spend waiting on my twins evening activities, I’m sitting in the car with my laptop. (This has probably become entertaining to the other parents during this long winter as I’m wrapped up with a huge jacket, hat and sometimes a blanket in the car like a homeless person who has claimed the vehicle as their new abode.)

I could go on, but I’ve only got the same twenty-four hours a day as the rest of the world.

So tell me…how do you carve writing time out of your day? Or make time for the hobby/craft that you enjoy?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Viking Love

I hope you were as excited as I was to start Season 3 of Vikings on the History channel, and to follow the adventures of real-life Norwegian warrior Ragnar Lodbrok, the former farmer now king.

Nearly as curious as they were ruthless, the ancient Norse revered nature, minted no currency of their own, allowed their women to fight and divorce their husbands, and believed in the afterlife. The series is rich in pagan lore and symbolism. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Ravens and Odin. Ravens appear everywhere, starting with the opening credits. The Norse God Odin has two named Huginn and Muninn, meaning “thought” and “memory.” When ravens descend on a battlefield to pick at the bodies of the slain, it represents Odin’s acceptance of the blood sacrifice he’s been offered. The ravens were also his messenger, travelling the earth during the day and returning to him at night to tell him of the deeds of man.

When it comes to worshipping Odin, there’s no better Viking than Ragnar, who feels a very personal connection with the god. “Odin sacrificed an eye to look into the well of knowledge, so I thought Ragnar should have the same impulses,” says series creator Michael Hirst. Embracing “new” technology—sundials—Ragnar leads his seafarers west for the first time and becomes intrigued with a captive monk. Says Hirst, “He’s not just going on raids to plunder and steal and kill. Ragnar’s actually curious about the world.” Ragnar also embraced the raven by incorporating the image into his armor last season.

The gods have been featured in many episodes of Vikings, in different forms. In the season one episode “Sacrifice,” one of my favorites, we see Odin, his son Thor and the god Greyr as three towering monuments inside the temple at Uppsale. Ragnar asks Odin who will bear him a son, since it appears Lagertha cannot. Soon after he meets the princess Aslaug. She gives him sons, but Ragnar’s troubles have just begun.

And by the way, what’s up with Ragnar’s buzzcut-meets-braid hair? Is it true to Viking tradition? “I was dreading the usual long hair biker look, but didn’t know how we would escape it,” Hirst says. The solution came when star Travis Fimmel showed up in a crew cut to begin filming. “He hadn’t grown his hair long enough to have extensions so we couldn’t have orthodox long hair,” Hirst recalls. Enter costume designer Joan Bergin. Joan said, “Leave it up to me. I’ll come up with a look.”

So, is it historically accurate? Maybe not. Researchers hypothesize Vikings may have shaved their heads as a health precaution to prevent lice. What few records exist report the back of the head was shaven and the front fringe left long. Ragnar’s son Bjorn and many other characters of the series have haircuts closer to the Norman tradition. But, hey, Ragnar has to have a signature look.

2. Loki. Hirst sees the mythic Loki as “a kind of serious mischief-maker.” To embody that spirit, he created the clever but unstable shipbuilder Floki (Fustaf Skarsgard). The character also represents Heimdall, a deity with gold teeth. His treasured possession is Gjallarhorn, which will be blown at the onset of Ragnarok, the battle that ends the world. Floki is indeed pictured with a horn, even though it is a drinking horn. We learned at the end of season two how dangerous he can be. Hirst says more strange dark things are ahead for this character.

3. Visions and Prophecy. Everybody believes in prophecies in this world. The Seer (actor John Kavanagh) and his visions are as integral in the show as prophecies were in Viking culture. The Vikings believed their fate was set initially at birth, and that the Norns who lived under the tree of life would spin the details of their fates every day.

Ragnar’s second wife Aslaug tells him she is a volva, a female seer. She proved she was the daughter of Sigurd, a famous volva who had killed the serpent Farnir by prophesying her child would be born with the image of that serpent in its eye. When the child is born with a malformed pupil, it was named Sigurd snake-in-eye. Next, she predicts that if Ragnar forces himself on her, their second child will be born cursed and we see that with Ivar the Boneless, born with malformed legs.

This type of magic was considered female domain. The woman of the house acted as priestess, to prophesize, to weave spells in the threads of her family’s clothes, and to concoct herbal remedies. Most Viking men, even the gods, consulted a volva rather than trying to divine the future themselves. This is what Odin does when he resurrects a long-dead volva from her grave in the poem Baldrs draumar. The seer predicts the death of his own son.

In Viking society if something terrible or really interesting is going to happen, people have simultaneous dreams about it. In the first episode in season three, Aslaug, Siggy and Helga have identical dreams of a stranger arriving in Kattegat with blood dripping from his hands. When he arrives, he's an extremely mysterious, slightly Rasputin figure who does wonderful things for Aslaug in terms of her crippled son Ivar, but the other two women are afraid.  Since the name Harbard is another name for Odin, it will be interesting to see what Vikings has in store for us in Season three.

I will delve into Viking lore more next time with the mythology of swords, the Valkyries, dragons and talking skulls.

Until then, if you’d like to read Norse history and mythology, here are some suggested books:

The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland - Here are thirty-two classic myths that bring the Viking world vividly to life.

The D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths – retellings of the Norse tales and descriptions of the gods and their world. For children ages 5-10.

Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan - Viking raiders kidnap two infant brothers from a village. Clever Vali is groomed to be Viking king Authun's heir, while Feileg is raised ferally as Gullveig's werewolf protector as she schemes against the god Odin. I particularly like the way the magic is portrayed in traditional Norse Shamanic tradition.

The Whale Road by Robert Low - Charts the adventures of a band of Vikings on the chase for the secret hoard of Attila the Hun.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman - In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.

Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Key - Wonderfully imaginative historical fantasy. Seemingly random deeds connect Viking raiders and English and Welsh princes: If only Bern Thorkellson hadn't stolen that horse in a desperate act of vengeance against his sorry fate; if only Dai ab Owyn hadn't stepped outside the safety of Brynfell right at the moment when the Erlings attacked; if only Ivarr Ragnarson hadn't been born ill-formed and downright cruel; if only Aeldred hadn't been king of the Anglcyn; if only Thorkell Einarson had murdered only one man and not the second; if only Alun ab Owyn hadn't stepped into that pool on a moonless night and seen the Queen of the Elves in procession.

The Hammer and the Cross by Harry Harrison & John Holm -  Born the bastard son of an English thane, Shef goes on to lead the Viking army originally belonging to the sons of Ragnar Lo├░brokkr, rising in rank from a thrall (slave) to carl (freeman) and ultimately emerging as a jarl (nobleman).






Sandy moved to Arizona 17 years ago and fell in love with the southwest desert, including its Native American influences. After a trip to Sedona, the germ of a novel was born.

“I love to take ordinary characters and put them in extraordinary situations that change their view of the world.”

Her first novel, Song of the Ancients, introduces witchcraft and shamanism seen through the eyes of an ordinary woman.  Readers interested in witchcraft—or just a dark, eerie tale—will enjoy this paranormal suspense, written by a real-life Wiccan High Priestess.

Winner of the Pacific Northwest (fantasy) , On the Far Side (paranormal)  and Orange Rose (paranormal romance) contests, Song of the Ancients will be published in May 2015.





Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Eulogy for the Paranormal Romance

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

I’ve heard the proclamation from NY that the paranormal is ‘dead’ before. The first time was back in the ‘90s when the first three books of my “Midnight” series caught the beginning wave of the vampire romance craze. The genre was so new booksellers didn’t know what to do with the books. MIDNIGHT KISS was mistakenly shelved as horror (of course with that green guy on the cover I can’t say I blame them!). With Anne Rice leading the charge (of course we know Anne Rice’s books aren’t romance!), authors like Lori Herter and Maggie Shayne stirred up a feeding frenzy. Publishers snapped up anything in which “What’s your blood type?” replaced “What’s your sign?” until quality suffered for the sake of quantity. And just like that, the paranormal was buried beneath the sheer volume of bad books, and from its ashes a desire for the Inspirational took wing.

But readers who LOVED the genre didn’t go away. They just started looking elsewhere for their preternatural fix, turning from the Big Six publishers in New York to a new trend of small presses, starting with ImaJinn Books, to feed their need.

We know how the story goes. Bam, the Twilight books and suddenly everything as sparkly again as younger readers sunk their teeth into the genre. This time the popularity of the paranormal became a monster that consumed the industry for decades. Editors demanded preternatural elements, looking for that new blood (translated to mean Blockbuster) to keep the tide high. Shifters, Steampunk, gargoyles . . . you name it, they were crazy for it. And then a little piece of Twilight fan fiction buried even the best paranormal authors with the insatiable lust for any shade of gray. And the word from New York was change to writing bondage-crazed billionaires if you want to stay under contract. No paranormals need apply.

But those who LOVE the paranormal didn’t give up on the books they wanted to read. And again, they turned from New York in search of what they couldn’t get enough of, this time within the realm of Indie authors. Great paranormal reads still flourish, they’ve just gone underground. And because I don’t want to write what I don’t like to read, I’m not willing to wait for that trendy tide to turn back to walks on the dark side of romance.

My first Indie title, REMEMBERED BY MOONLIGHT is a paranormal romance filled with all the things I adore in the genre: larger than life tortured hero, kick @ss heroine, sizzling romance and heart pounding action. And I’m happily working on the next book in the series. Because there’s a hunger out there for the books I love to write. And I’m proud to feed it.


Because the road to . . .

Clever, cool and preternaturally lethal, Max Savoie is leader of a secretive shape-shifter clan, heir to a mobster’s legacy, and the love of New Orleans’ top cop . . . but he can’t remember any of them. The only way to recover his past, and his rightful place in the arms of the woman who risked all to save him, is to surrender to a mysterious visitor who could use him as a weapon against all he’d loved.

Happily-Ever-After . . .

After rescuing her mate from his ruthless captors in the North, hard-hitting Detective Charlotte Caissie is now painfully vulnerable—a stranger in his eyes . . . and in his bed. The key to his memories is locked in a tortuous past. To reclaim the strength of their passionate bond, Max must learn to trust her enough to face that darkness at her side before the threat it hides exposes the secret Cee Cee carries.

Is never smooth.

When an investigation into grisly deaths in an underground Shifter fight club points to more than just dangerous clan rivalries, Cee Cee enlists Max’s help to find a traitor in their midst while there’s still time to turn a deadly invading tide. But the cost of saving their treasured future may mean sacrificing his past. Especially when the enemy they pursue . . . might be Max, himself.

“Every delicious word Nancy Gideon puts on the page exhilarates with a sensuous ferocity. Hopelessly addicted.”Darynda Jones, NY Times Bestselling Author

Monday, February 23, 2015

Boosting the Signal - the SFR Galaxy Awards!

It's hard at times to find books that you might be interested in - there's so many out there and depending on where you search you might find yourself either swamped by too many choices or not enough. But for those of you who like science fiction romance you won't find a better way to fill your reading list than to visit the SFR Galaxy Awards!

And I'd be amiss if I didn't brag a little - IN THE BLACK was lucky enough to win three awards! Most Mysterious SFR, Most Elegant HEA and Best Shipboard Mystery!

But there's way more than just my 'lil offering here - and if you're looking to stack your TBR pile with plenty of excellent reading you couldn't find a better bunch of books to start with!

So fight the cold with some hot and heavy science fiction romance where the action never stops and the stories always reach for the stars!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Where did I put my sweatpants?

By Stephanie Beck

Where did I put my sweatpants? This is not a question I've had to ask this winter, because I've pretty much worn a pair every day since November. Oh sure, I put real pants on, even dresses and skirts on occasion, but sweatpants...they're awesome.

Pst. I even bought 2 pair this year to replace a few pair I'd had for years. It was hard tossing the worn out, over washed and dried pairs in the trash. They were like old friends, but there was no life left in them.

My new ones are great. We're going to get to know each other well, because, I live in Minnesota, and heaven knows spring is taking its sweet, sweet time in getting here.

But I'm not weather whining, I'm celebrating sweatpants. And you should, too.

Best thing to do while wearing sweatpants? Read!! And knit!! Even better than best? READ ABOUT KNITTING (and werewolves).

Unraveling Midnight
by Stephanie Beck

Creating home, #2

An entanglement with a werewolf brings unexpected turns.

Scott, a lone werewolf expelled from his pack, bends over backward to give his kids everything he can—including knitting lessons for his daughter. Learning to knit becomes much more appealing with Lucy Jamieson as the teacher. His heightened senses tell him the compassionate and beautiful human might be what he and his little band need, yet getting involved with Lucy means exposing her to his paranormal reality.

Although Lucy’s childhood skewed her expectations of family, she recognizes and respects Scott’s desire to protect and provide for his kids. When Scott is hit by a truck, Lucy offers to help with the kids--and gets more than she bargained for after learning Scott’s true nature...

44,000 Words

Buy Now and do those sweatpants justice!

All the best,
Stephanie Beck

Friday, February 13, 2015

World Building: Aliens

Last month, I wrote about considering transportation in building your world. Thanks to watching all four seasons of “Farscape” I came up with the idea for this post. Nonhuman characters.

picture from Amazon
Somehow, I missed “Farscape” the first time around (1999 to 2003). I saw some reruns and couldn’t make heads nor tails of the premise. When I found all the episodes on Amazon Prime, I figured why not watch.

Aside from the major plot line—and American astronaut gets sucked through a wormhole, ends up across the universe, and strives to get home—and the romance between the astronaut and a humanoid, I became fascinated by the aliens. I don’t always pay attention to credits (shame on me) so it was a few episodes before I realized one of the producers was Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son). Hubs and I were fascinated last year by the reality show “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge.” So it was no wonder that makeup of the characters on “Farscape” were so well crafted.

And were there a lot of alien characters! I can’t imagine having so many different species in a novel if you had to describe each one. In a television show or a movie, this isn’t that big of a problem. But in a novel? If you don’t want to confuse your readers, you would almost need a cast of characters at the beginning.

A fun exercise I thought of while watching “Farscape” was trying to figure out why the aliens looked the way they did. What type of environment did they come from? What was their planet like? Did their culture or religion determine their makeup and clothing? Were they warriors or peacemakers? Conquerors or slaves? What physical features were prized? What personality characteristics?

Whether you write sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary or historical novels, you build the world your characters inhabit. Those characters have backgrounds. We all develop the history of our main characters. We can’t skimp on the secondary or tertiary characters. If you give them a name, you need to know their background. The reader doesn’t need to know everything the writer knows. Think of character development as an iceberg. Ten percent above water (what the reader gets) and ninety percent below water (what the writer knows).

I found so much I could use in my science fiction romances, I considered the time watching “Farscape” research. What a lot of ideas.

I’m participating in the Love at First Sight Valentine’s Day Author Blog Hop, sharing a little bit about my characters from The Pilot, the first book in my Outer Rim series. The Hop runs through Saturday. If you want to have some fun, come on over.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cold as a witch’s…

Well, you know the rest.

Slept late, woke up to temperature of 27° yet weather forecast says throw in the wind chill factor and you have a “feels like” 13 ! I’m inside but my fingers are just warming up because I was outside for a minute, exactly long enough to know I wanted to be back inside, and I am with hands hugging a hot cup of coffee!

What’s new with everyone? Recently, I wrapped up Hold Me Hard, book 3 in the Dirty Rotten Vampires series at Changeling Press and, lo and behold, another character seeks life in the pages. Vald Gerlach appeared briefly in Love Me Madly, book 2, plays a larger role in book 3, and now he hopes I’ll give him and both demons he lusts after some write time.

Authors: do you plan a series of stories only to have new characters pop onto the page looking for the time of day? Readers: do you pick up a series of books and discover a character in the story you wish the author would bring to life? Both scenarios happen to me more often than I’d like. My reading and writing schedule is chocked full, damn it!

Ignoring this crazy, sexy, and ancient-as-hell, vampire was not going to happen if he had anything to say about it! Vald held me captive night after night. He invaded my sleep time, work time, hell, he took over my day-to-day life until he wrangled the following out of me, which he knew would seal our fates together forever.

Dared once, it’s game on. Let’s play!
Vald Gerlach is the oldest vampire alive and the power encompassed in his body should only exist in one monster at a time. Today – he’s that monster. With thousands of years to devise ways to make a creature beg, Vald will test many on Drecara whose hot, curvaceous body he desires above all else. And for the hell of it, he plans to experience the charms of Mictain, her protector, just to feel his fire. Vald hopes the extraordinary demons are up for a challenge because the game is on!

Thus, Dare Me Once, Dirty Rotten Vampires 4, is born! Now, to get it contracted…

In the meantime, here are buy links to other Dirty Rotten Vampire stories to warm up those page-turning fingers and heat to boiling the blood racing through veins to every nook and cranny of your hot body! *smile*

HURT ME GOOD, DRV 1 – Read more

LOVE ME MADLY, DRV 2 – Read more

J Hali Steele

Growl and roar-it’s okay to let the beast out.


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