Friday, September 29, 2017

Writing What You Love with @MeganSlayer #vampires #gayromance #eroticromance #gay #paranormal

I am part of a book club, well 2, and for one of them we have to read the book the group selects. I don't mind. These tend to be books I wouldn't have read otherwise. So I'd finished the book selected for this month and was returning it to the library. I told the librarian that I'd returned it, so when she saw it in the return...that's why. She asked me what I thought about the book. It wasn't my favorite story. It wasn't. I had some issues with the way the author wrote the true crime story. He focused more on his thoughts and his insertion into the story, while trying to claim it was a true crime kind of tale. If he'd said it was a work of fiction, then he was spot on, but by calling it true crime...well, I disagreed.

Here's the thing, the librarian then said to me, well you have to write what you know. He must feel that close to the story.

She's right. He must've felt that close to the story. To be honest, the crime he wrote about hit me hard, too. But I'm not a crime writer. I get too antsy during mystery books and want to disclose whodunit immediately. I guess it's part of my short attention span. But what she said got me to thinking. Write what I know? Or write what my imagination and the characters dictate?

I tend to write what I want based on what the characters tell me to do. Really. I tried to write more than a few times to what I knew. It's only worked when my characters share some of my experiences. Okay, so I don't personally know any vampires and I haven't chatted up a zombie, but that's my imagination. I don't know if I wrote a story that focused just on my personal experience, if it would be a good story. I don't know. I guess it would be more of an autobiography than a work of fiction. Although I suppose the book would be a mix of both. My memories aren't photographic. For all I know, I'd probably embellish--not to make the tale better, but because that's how I'd remembered it.

But I haven't written that story about my experiences. I've written about vampires, zombies, shifters, romance, love and people finding second chances. It's been fantastic. I love it. I've written with my friends and written alone. I can't wait to get my next book out there. I hope you all enjoy them. :-)

Here's a little bit about my upcoming story, Biting Love. It's part of the series I wrote as a crossover to Madison Sevier's Rosie Peaks series. Check it out!!

Biting Love By Megan Slayer A Rosie Peaks Crossover Novella
Megan Slayer Publications
M/M, Anal Sex
Vampires
Contemporary, Paranormal
 Mix one vampire with one human who doesn’t believe in the paranormal and add some sizzle.
Anson wasn’t looking for a partner when he spotted the handsome human, but he’s not about to argue when the mood strikes. He’s got to bring a date to the Halloween bash and Parker fits his bill exactly. Now all he needs to do is convince Parker that vampires truly exist.
Parker is practical, intelligent and a little on the geeky side. He can’t believe his eyes—a handsome man has not only hit on him, but asked him out…to a masquerade ball. He doesn’t believe in vampires, but Anson wears his Dracula costume a bit too well.
Can these two find love and trust after all or will the sparks only last until the dawn?
 Universal Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/3nOWlBAmazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075MHSXYL/Amazon JP: https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B075MHSXYL/Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B075MHSXYL/Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075MHSXYL/Amazon DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B075MHSXYL/Amazon FR: https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B075MHSXYL/Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B075MHSXYL/



Megan Slayer - It's Always Fun to Squirm

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Keeping Stereotypes out of my Books by Barbara Edwards

One of the hardest things about writing paranormal is the preconceptions of the audience. Everyone knows a vampire, a werewolf, a ghost or a dozen others. So what do you do if you want to include one in your story? Do you use the stereotype? Or do you try to find something different?
I know in Ancient Awakening, I wanted a terrible villain: a creature who sucked the life from his victims. That sent me skating too close to Dracula. 
I had to really think about my villain. How to make him different?
I finally made him a true ancient, older than the vampire.
Ancient Awakening excerpt:
Josh Randall swallowed the bitter taste of fear. In Vietnam, he’d learned the first danger sign was often an unusual noise. He pressed his ear close to the cracked-open door. 
Quiet as a grave,” he mumbled. 
“Relax. That’s good.” Wally belched loudly and scraped the last drops of stew from his cup with a folded slice of stolen bread. He dropped the cup next to his sleeping bag.
Wally and Butch’s rough laughter echoed eerily within the mausoleum’s marble walls. It had taken a minute to open the brass lock sealing the heavy double doors. Another to bring in the meager supplies they carried. A hundred years ago they’d been called tramps or hobos. Josh liked those terms better than homeless. He had a home although, at times, he wasn’t sure where.
At least he was with friends. Josh eased the heavy metal door open another inch and peered into the darkness. Dread twisted his innards. Without his pills, the shadows constantly threatened. The cold cubicle enclosing them sent paralyzing shivers over him. He huddled around his purple backpack. Everything he possessed was inside.
Smoke from the brightly burning fire in the center of the mausoleum made his eyes water. He blinked away the tears. The absence of tropical plants, mud and humidity didn’t fool him. He’d believed they were safe before, and his friends had been blown to smithereens.
A familiar hum was steadily growing inside his brain. He clamped his hands over his ears. When the noise continued, he wrapped his sleeping bag over his shoulders and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Maybe if he crawled underneath the cover the sound would vanish. He concentrated on his friends’ voices.
“Man, it’s great to be out of the damn wind.” Butch’s cup clinked on the floor. “Time to head for Florida. Indian summer won’t last so we gotta hustle. We could stay a couple days, maybe make a few bucks.”
“Ain’t likely. New Englanders’ more likely to hand out clothes or food. Bunch o’ tight-fisted do-gooders, ‘specially here in Rhodes End. ‘Member last year? Them old biddies gave us new boots before the police moved us out.”
“Mean bastard, the chief. Don’t want to meet up with him again. Prob’ly the reason none of the other guys are around.”
“Ain’t just him,” Wally’s voice dropped as though he feared being overheard. “It’s this place. Something about Rhodes End causes an itch between my shoulder blades.”
“You’re an old woman.” Butch snorted loudly. “Worried the dead gonna grab ya? Nobody buried here, but I bet there’s something worth pawning. No reason to keep it locked otherwise.” 
“I ain’t afraid of nothing,” Wally protested. His shoes scuffled on the polished marble tiles as he fumbled his way around the eerily lit space. A ceramic urn splintered on the floor with a loud crunch. He fished a small penlight from his pocket and used the pinpoint of light to examine the mess. “Worthless shit. Wouldn’t get fifty cents for it all.” 
Josh cringed and peeked warily from the folds of his sleeping bag. The hum had changed to a soft slithering, like a snake on sand. Something stirred close by, something evil. 
Wally pointed towards the faintly illuminated back corner. 
“How about that? Mighty fancy carving on it.”
“If it was a little bigger, I’d figure it for a coffin.” Butch scratched his unwashed head while he squinted at the carved stone rectangle. “With gold rings or teeth on the body.” 
“Lem’me see.” Wally shined his small flashlight so the beam revealed the writhing figures.
“Piece of shit.” Butch pushed at the box. Stone grated on stone. “Too heavy to lift. Help me get the lid off.”
“No,” Josh whimpered. Evil. He smelled evil. He couldn’t tear his terrified gaze from his friends. He tasted it.
“Watch out!” 
The box crashed heavily to the floor. 
“Damn it, ya broke the friggin’ side. Be worth spit now.”
“Quit yer whinin’. At least you’re not bleeding. Damn edge cut my hand. Shine a light here while I check inside. Better be worth our trouble.”
Bloodcurdling shrieks tore open the night.
Battle-ready, Josh threw aside his covers. Where the hell was his rifle? His fingers tore over the smooth marble. Butch let out a screech and stamped over him before clawing his way outside. The night swallowed him.
Twisting shadows battled across the walls. Josh scrambled to find his rifle, kill the enemy, defend his squad. 
Wally swore hoarsely, his voice breaking over vile words. Tumbling outside, Josh found grass and dirt under his hands, but no gun. 
He didn’t recognize the next scream as Wally’s, but it couldn’t be anyone else. 
Bile choked him. He couldn’t help. He had to escape.
Josh ran. 


Then I stumbled into werewolves. There are thousands of stories about all kinds of werewolves. Lovers, killers and everything in between. It’s fun to be different. In Ancient Blood, I built an entire clan of werewolves. It was a matter of writing my own rules for what they are. I based it on research into real wolves and their behavior. Even so, I need to keep details in a diary to make sure I remember.

Blurb Ancient Curse: Evil never dies; and for psychic Rainie Gamble who accepts a job to weed out evil artifacts, this could not be more true. When she arrives at the home of Thomas Broquette, her new boss, she isn’t sure what to expect. But the handsome and intriguing Thomas is only the tip of the paranormal activity she encounters while going through his library.
After several near misses when Rainie is injured by evil forces, she wonders if her new boss is hiding a secret? What does t he previous owner Mason have to do with the threads of doom encasing the estate? And why does Thomas bring her father, a well-known art thief, into their midst.
The attraction she feels for Thomas grows, as does the evil winning its battle against the inhabitants of what could be her new home. Rainie wonders if she will find and defeat the inhuman force causing all their problems before she and Thomas are sucked into its evil forever.


So after Ancient Curse, what is my next challenge?
I’m going back to the first Jacob Rhodes and why he came to this land. I hope to finish it shortly since I’ve been short-circuited by real life. It’s nice to be back in my fictional world.

Please follow, friend or like me. I love to hear from my readers.
Amazon Author’s Page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003F6ZK1A




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Listen Up! The Ins and Outs of Audiobook Production by L. A. Kelley

The first step in audiobook production is choosing a producer. You can use a boutique company, narrate yourself (a really bad idea unless you’re a professional voice actor), or use ACX. ACX is owned by Amazon and is the big dog on campus for audiobooks. To use ACX, the book must be on Amazon in either print or ebook. The website brags the production process is painless. It isn’t. Web pages are weird to navigate and it’s challenging to find specific information. A few muttered curses worked nicely for me to ease frustration, along with several emails to tech support.

Production Steps
After creating the account, claim the audio rights, no sweat if you’re self-published. Otherwise it may take a little back and forth with your publisher. If you have an outside narrator, great. ACX doesn’t care. If not, ACX has thousands to choose from. You need a short audition script. One section of the ACX website says it should be 1 or 2 pages; another says 2 or 3. (Did I mention information was sometimes a challenge?) I say longer is better, so use 3 pages. For fiction, make sure to select passages with different emotional content to get a feel for the actor’s range.

The producer can put numerous qualifiers on the audition reading, such as tone, range, or emotion, and also select the narrator’s gender. Listing genre information is important since some narrators have preferences, but putting too many qualifiers may decrease the narrator pool. ACX puts your Amazon book description on the audition request, but authors can add additional information such as character ages or required accents.  

Payment to narrators comes in two way; split royalty or flat rate. Split royalty requires no front money, royalties are divided between producer (you) and narrator.  Flat rate can be anywhere from $50 on up per finished book hour.  This means an 8 hour book at a $100 finished rate will cost $800 to produce. Voice actors want to eat, too, and you’ll get a much better response by offering flat rate. With split royalties you’re likely to hear only from narrators with little experience trying to break into the business. This doesn’t mean they’re awful. Everyone has to start somewhere, but you may be in auditions for a long time before you find someone suitable. The cap on auditions is 30 days. If you don’t find a narrator by then, the project is terminated and you need to resubmit the book.

The Book Begins
Once you find a narrator, it’s time to submit the offer through the ACX site with the deadline for the first fifteen minutes check. It nice to add a little note along with it telling the narrator how much you enjoyed the performance. If the offer is accepted, ACX deletes all the other auditions, so be sure you’ve picked the right narrator, otherwise back to square one. Next, the author sends the complete book manuscript, otherwise known as the script. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. I used the final Word version of the ebook minus the front and back matter. If you do edits, make sure they’re finished before hitting Send.

The first file you receive from the narrator is the 15 minute check. When will you get it? Well that depends. The deadline is something you and the narrator agreed upon in the offer. Make sure to give the narrator enough time to put together a stellar read. I decided on one week and my narrator had no problem with that. The phrase, 15 minute check, is actually a misnomer as the narrator begins at the first page of the book and stops at a logical point roughly fifteen minutes later. For most books, mine included, this is the first chapter. It took her a little over sixteen minutes.

Listen carefully to the audio file. Make sure you and the narrator are on track with
pacing and flow. If you think the reading is too fast or slow, or doesn’t quite capture the mood of the book, say so now. Once the fifteen minute check is approved the narrator starts on the rest of audiobook. Depending on the size you may receive one chunk of audio files or several chapters at a time. My narrator divided the book roughly in half and sent each separately (chapters 1-15 and then chapters 16-24).

Note any errors such as mispronunciations, skipped words, or lines that need work. Is any part confusing? If you have dialog with two or more characters can you tell which person is speaking? Is the tone correct? Did a character who's supposed to be lightly teasing sound snarky and sarcastic instead? A few missed words in the script is no biggie. Simply jot them down and the narrator will make corrections in the audio file. Make sure to note the chapter and time code so the narrator can find it easily. You’re not Steven Spielberg, so don’t pick apart each sentence. Remember, an audiobook is a collaborative process between two professionals. You want the narrator to bring his or her interpretation to your words. That’s why you hired a pro. But if a scene doesn’t work for you, state the reason clearly. Telling a narrator, “I need you to make this, you know, like sound better, you know, cause it’s like, you know, not right.” isn’t helpful.

If you chose the correct narrator, corrections will be minor. I listened to each chapter file twice and noted changes. Once completed, she posted the final master file on ACX. I went through it one more time, found less than a handful of changes to be made and then bam the book was done. I approved the file and made payment to the narrator. The last step is ACX’s final audio check. It takes from 10 days to 2 weeks and then the audiobook is live. From start to finish, the whole process for Rimrider took less than 2 months.

Thinking of starting an audiobook? Keep these things in mind.
When I write, I have very clear character voices in my head, but a talented narrator will bring her own skill and interpretation. Give the narrator a chance. You may even like her interpretation better. Shut up, voices in my head.

The worst part of the whole process is ACX. The site needs serious work. Amazon owns the world. Can’t they spend a few extra bucks to hire some techs to get bugs out of the system? An author can’t even make changes to the audiobook description that appears on Amazon and Audible. Mine came out all jumbled up and looked like it was banged out by a drunken monkey on a keyboard. Use your favorite curse words and don’t get frustrated. When all else fails, email tech support because you won’t be able to fix problems yourself.  

   Offer a narrator both flat fee and split royalty for payment, but be prepared to pay. Voice actors like to eat, too, and I believe most want money up front. If I only offered split royalty, I’d still be waiting for a narrator. 



Now, check out my new audiobook on Amazon and listen to a free sample.


Orphan, pirate, spy.

Awakened by her father, teenager Jane Benedict is ordered to memorize a mysterious code. Hours later, Mathias Benedict is dead and Jane and her brother, Will, are wards of United Earth Corporation. To evade the company's murderous clutches and uncover the meaning of her father’s last message, Jane leads Will on a desperate escape across the galaxy aboard the Freetrader smuggler ship, Solar Vortex. Tangled in the crew’s fight for freedom, Jane saves the life of a young smuggler, Mac Sawyer, and learns her father’s code identifies a secret cargo shipment. The trail leads to the planet Rimrock and the massive prison complex of Golgotha. Undercover as a spy, Jane stumbles into a conspiracy that can spell doom for the entire Freetrader cause and the extinction of an alien race. Can she escape the prison confines and deliver a warning before it’s too late?

Piracy, intrigue, romance, space battles, and a daring rebellion from Earth wait on the galactic rim. Will Jane answer the call to adventure and find new purpose, or is death for high treason her fate?


L. A. Kelley writes fantasy and scify adventure stories with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. She does not narrate her audiobooks since her monotone delivery has been described as corpse-like.



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Authors of the Past

When I look back on what started me writing, I have to say it was due to reading authors from the past. I may be dating myself but I started reading their work in the 80s. My preferred genre at the time was historical romance. I couldn't get enough of them. I joined a book club and waited impatiently for my books to arrive. When the they came it was like Christmas. I sucked up every word like a vacuum cleaner, and the author's heroes and heroines took me out of my crazy life, and transported me into another from cover to cover. When the story ended I would think about their lives like an epilogue. I always wanted more.

The first book I fell in love with was with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss' Shanna. OMG! I was so hooked.  I read just about everything she ever wrote. I have to mention I've read A Rose In Winter at least three times.



Julie Garwood became another one of my favorites. Gentle Warrior was my first introduction to her.  The story captivated me. A young woman forced from her home and seeks the help of a baron who's only intent was to seduce the her and in the end they fall in love with each other. I love the theme of her books.



Johanna Lindsey wrote everything from Regency to Science Fiction. She wrote her first book Captive Bride on a whim in 1977. I didn't read it until the late 80s, when it came in the mail from my book club, but I loved her writing style and loved the Malory-Anderson Family.




Jude Deveraux had more than 40 books on the New York Times bestseller list. I read the entire Velvet series. When I saw her name on the book club form I always made a checkmark.



Dana Ransom was another author I got hook on. The first book I read of hers was Wild Savage Love. HELLO! After that I just went down her book list. I bought everything she wrote. I loved her! Little did I know that years later I would meet my idol and she would become one of my closest friends, Nancy Gideon.



Many of you may be too young to know these authors. If you read them today you may shake your head, but for those of us that were reading them 80s and 90s, they held us captive. They turned on my imagination. Women around the world lived in those stories from beginning to end. We identified with the heroine, and loved the heroes. The stories may be a little hokey, but that was the culture of the time. In today's world these books are dated. The craft has changed and the stories and characters have evolved. It's like watching something on a VHS tape. The technology is dated, but the movie is still good. I'm sure in time you will have your own list of authors that inspired you to write your own stories. These were mine.


Who inspired you to write?

Monday, September 25, 2017

To Correct and Serve . . . by Nancy Gideon


That breath suspending moment you wait for as an author . . . the return of your edits. You scroll through Track Changes, rapidly accepting all the comma placements, the grammatical corrections with big over inflated names (my favorite: Dangling participial. Always makes me chuckle!) while looking for the important things that make or break your book. There it is. Thank goodness. Comment balloons claiming “LOL!”, “This is AWESOME!”, “This reads like poetry.” The devil may be in the details, but it’s pure heaven when they get the humor! A good editor finds faults. A great editor also applauds strengths.

We all know the drill, even if you're a retired English teacher, don't edit your own work! No, no, never, never! A pair of objective eyes can spot mistakes you skim over, but believe me, a reader will ALWAYS catch. That's not to say give an editor your first draft. Read it, check it. Read it again. Have a BETA reader or two give it a look. Then, and only then, provide it to a professional editor to smooth out potential reader speed bumps.

Now you can disagree with even the best editor. The work you publish is ultimately YOURS. I adore alliteration. Yes, I am fully aware I'm doing it and that it will make editorial teeth grind, but get over it. It's there because I want it there, and I reserve my right to STET loudly. There's also the comma vaguery issues. Different schools, of thought, use, commas differently (this from the William Shatner School of Punctuation). If your school isn't the editor's school but is your school of choice, by all means, site your educational preference! Formatting is something individual, as well. You like italics, they like quotes. You like sentence fragments, they stick in an "and." Again, your call. Pick your battles but let your editor manage the war. If you can't agree and it's giving you an ulcer, get a new editor (even if you're at a New York house, you can request a change for stylistic differences, so don't be afraid to ask, but do not demand).

A good editor can read between the lines to find your meaning but sometimes it can be, again, a subjective though vital interpretation.


I just received my final edits for my October 23 release, PRINCE OF FOOLS. Accept, accept, accept, face palm-Dooh!-change, delete, accept. Surprisingly painless! I've just begun the last read through before it's off to formatting, and man, oh, man, it's smooth. Who knew a little prepositional tweak and added commas could work such magic! (I use Laurie Kuna, my favorite Comma Queen, in case you were wondering!)

PRINCE OF FOOLS is up for pre-order and will be flawless a month from now (and if it isn't, that's on me! Alliteration, you know!). Here's a tease:


A dark prince to her Cinderella barmaid . . .

Rico . . . Prince in the shapeshifter House of Terriot

Reckless, hotheaded Rico Terriot seeks purpose and a sense of pride training the resentful guardians of New Orleans to defend a city besieged by a deadly outside force. Torn between his desire for his brother’s mate and the woman tied to the child of another, protecting their future happiness means denying his own on a dangerous path to redemption.

One night of stolen pleasure he didn’t remember and she couldn’t forget…

Amber . . . a single mother hiding a terrible past

Rico Terriot was the stuff of dreams . . . lately all of hers. But there’s no happily-ever-after for someone living in the shadows, protecting dangerous secrets that threaten her and her daughter. Dare she believe in a fairytale prince when he comes to her rescue, not knowing the price he’ll pay for making her troubles his own? From world’s so far apart, is love strong enough to hold them together . . . and keep them alive?

“5 Captivating Stars (or Hearts)! A stunningly raw, heart racing story that held me in a trance from cover to cover! Intense and seductive paranormal romance/suspense at its best – PRINCE OF FOOLS is another Page Burning, Must Read by an author that delivers every single time!” – Cross My Heart Reviews

To Correct and Serve. It's not just a good idea. It should be a law.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Nancy Gideon on the Web


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mabon and the Eleusian Mysteries

Happy Mabon! Welcome to the Autumnal Equinox, when Nature once again comes into balance. My hope is that the globe does finally come again into balance, and we can be free of catastrophic occurrences for the rest of the year. (In the meantime, please refer back to my last two blogs for spells to dispel our current hurricane, and give support to the victims of recent devastation.)

In Arizona, Mabon is the start of a whirlwind of activities. The rest of the world is slowing down, turning over crops, and preparing to nest through the cold winter months. But we’re the Northern Hemisphere misfits. After hibernating in our air-conditioned home caves through the 115-degree summer, around Mabon, everyone goes outside to catch up on yardwork and have outdoor BBQ's with neighbors. There is a long list of community activities: concerts, hay rides, farmers markets, sports activities, pumpkin fests and corn mazes. Everyone wants to play
outside after being cooped up indoors for so long.

In this frenzy of activity, Mabon always seems to catch me off-guard. So soon? Really?

I’ve done better this year. Because I’ve spent a lot of this fall at our forest cabin, I’ve been able to witness the seasonal changes from summer to fall. It’s cooler, of course. The hummingbirds have migrated from our feeders down to Mexico. And the light is different. When the dogs and I take our daily walk in the forest, the trail is more dappled, and the sun slants through the trees at an acute angle. Best of all, the elk are back. We hear them bugling at bedtime almost every night now.  

Nature is aware of the equinoxes, even if we sometimes are not. The September astrological sign is Libra, the scales, signifying balance. Mother Nature establishes, once again equality between the forces of light and darkness. From now on, the days will shorten and the nights get longer. The Goddess descends into the Underworld, the world of darkness, where she tends to her dead souls. This act of going down into the underworld and defeating death is celebrated by the many rituals and processions of the Eleusian mysteries.

The Eleusian rites were the most famous goddess festival in all of Europe. People came from all over the continent to participate, because they believed those who went through the mysteries gained good luck and insights, and they became sanctified by the goddesses.
From the Autumn Equinox until the end of September, a different ritual, a different theme, was observed each day. The festival started with processions from Athens to Eleusis. Participants deposited sacred objects at the feel of the Goddess Demeter, then went to bathe in the sea. Then people gathered for Torch Day, going through the temples and the town in search for Persephone, or Kore.

The following day was a grand purification ritual, and initiates washed away ignorance and assumed new grace. Then on September 27, people marched day and night, carrying lit torches. This marked the true start of the mysteries. It began with Holy Night on September 28, when people thronged to a great bonfire. The hierophant invoked Kore, and her true presence was felt. Painted in dark colors, she was enthroned as the Queen of Hell.

Holy Night was the most important time because people confronted the idea of death as they watched Kore, the Divine Maiden, turn into the Crone and then turn back into the Young Queen of the Underworld. The presence of the Goddess gave people a chance to see their own death as part of their lives, and to remove fears about the afterlife.

I’ve always thought that this is a teaching that should have been continued. In our modern times, because of our denial of death and the aging of the body, we have rejected the wisdom of the aged, and in doing so have robbed old age of its meaning and youth of its direction.

It’s time for our cultural bias against age to end. The number of people reaching the mythic retirement age of 65 has zoomed from about seven and a half million in the 1930s (when Social Security legislation decreed 65 as the age of obsolescence) to 34 million today. By the turn of the century, that figure will be 61.4 million.

The Autumn Equinox reminds us that life has a beginning, a middle, ad also an ending. It’s us to us to convert our society to more “conscious aging” and a new way of looking at and experiencing aging that moves beyond our cultural obsession with youth, and toward a respect and need for the wisdom of age. 









Saturday, September 23, 2017

Becca's Bountiful Bodice: A Story of Epic Proportions

by Francesca Quarto
"As the Court Scribe, I have witnessed and documented many notable occurrences in this royal house,  nearly forty years by my count.  The following is a true accounting of one of the strangest stories among the many.  Let me begin the tale, begging your indulgence until I have reached the conclusion, lest you misjudge the outcome.
And so, I commence writing.
The Lady Becca was plump and ungraceful at twelve years of age.  Her skirts fluffed out like tents in motion when she passed through the long halls of the Dowager Queen's residence.  The old lady, being Becca's Royal Great Grandmother, had taken her in to raise after the untimely death of the girl's parents to the Black Scourge.
The Dowager Queen was no mere figure head in the kingdom.  She was uniquely qualified to float unscathed through the rough waters of political intrigues and lethal family jealousies. 
She was determined to shelter her granddaughter from the harms she skirted over her long years, by foregoing an alliance outside of the Royal lineage.
With her intimate observation of the Royals, it was not lost upon the old woman that with the many inter-family marriages,  cousins to cousins, uncle's to nieces, and so on, the glorious family history began to sound like a tale of idiots and imbecilic rulers.It was time to add fresh blood to the line; unadulterated by close family ties.  
She studied her great granddaughter over her growing years, noting a certain strength in her character. She didn't have the beauty of former Royals, none of the flighty temperament either.  Her mind was quick and sharp, unlike the elegant buffoons wearing crowns and stumbling over their own shadows.
No, she reasoned, Becca would bring balance and strength to the family lineage.
The years swept past like flocks of dark crows, for indeed, they were dark times in the land, with one mad king after another rocking the throne. 
Becca, meanwhile, had been sent away by the Dowager Queen to be refined and well rounded in her knowledge of court protocol.
She was taking no chances that her great granddaughter would not become the cog in the family wheel that was needed, before it went totally off track!  She hired the most experienced woman herbalist in the kingdom, to provide Becca with companionship and a daily dose of the herbs to help her grow strong, vital, and at least as attractive as the washer woman she so closely resembled.
When she returned to the marble halls of the castle, she found the old woman had finally succumbed to her burden of years. It was a blessing from the many Gods, that the old Queen hadn't lived long enough to see the result of all her planning and machinations.
The young girl that left her great grandmother's care, returned a young woman grown.  And grow she did.
The once softly round twelve-year old, had been transformed into a woman of extraordinary proportions, resembling the mythical warrior women that tempted sailors and travelers to their beds and death.
Her size was matched by her girth, making her approach seem like the mighty Amazonian and her departure like a war wagon trundling toward battle!  Of the grace and feminine qualities her grandmother would nurture, nary one had budded, let alone, bloomed with the girl.  Even her voice was an assault upon the halls of the castle, booming like thunder when excited, or filled with the ear-itching buzz of a hive when in normal conversation.
There was but a single feminine attribute left to the young woman; her bodice!  It was filled copiously to near overflowing and thrust out like the carved goddess on a Viking ship. Though raw-boned and as big as a church pillar, Becca could make herself as alluring as a siren's song as she trod the halls, letting her great bosom swing like twin bells, calling all to attention.
Now, the king reigning at the time of Becca's reentry to the court, was an old lecher and nearly blind.   Becca was presented to him as his very distant relation.  She made a clumsy curtsy, he squinting from the throne, she, showing teeth the size of a horse's. She asked if she might approach his golden chair to deliver a message from the Dowager Queen, known by her these many years.  Naturally this piqued his interest.
Becca rose to her full giantess hight and coming within touch of the king, leaned in, making certain to fill his clouded eyes with those two billowing clouds of flesh.  His demeanor changed markedly as the creamy mounds lightly brushed his cheek. The message was clear, if not his mind, but quickly lost, as he felt enveloped by desire.
And so, a new chapter was begun for Becca, for the king and assuredly, for our land.  Her Majesty, Queen Becca of the Prodigious Bosom, still rules like a force of nature, long after the king's demise.  Storming at the inequity of poverty among the people, raging at political corruption and scheming for self-enrichment by the few wealthy families, Becca Regina has mothered this kingdom and sheltered all beneath her ample bosom's shadow.
I put this tale to pen and parchment, to reflect upon true leadership and perhaps recognize the more subtle points of true greatness.  
While the good Queen certainly used her best, nay, only female attribute to garner the king's feeble attentions, she never denied her true self in the doing.  She towered over him in every way, her voice boomed from her seat beside him, making him seem like a puppet on her knee.  She returned the glares of the fawning courtiers, defying their efforts to control by flattery.  Yes, she was the true iron rod in the backbone of the royal house.
If you've read this story, you may arrive at the conclusion that Queen Becca used the only remarkable attribute she had to make her way to the throne.  And I would add simply,   Bigger boobs have sat there!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Top 10 Heroes/Heroines!

As  writer, I think it's important to examine the characters who truly speak to us so that when we write, we can try to imbue our our heroes and heroines with some of those characteristics. When I first decided to write a post about my top 10 heroes/heroines, I thought, “Oh, this’ll be cake.” I write superpowers after all. So, cake, right? Nope. 

When I started making my list, I discovered that I could write it ten times over. I could do a separate one for superheroes, or literary heroes, or real life heroes, or movie heroes, or anti-heroes, and on and on. It really depends on what definition of hero/heroine you decide to use. I finally decided to make a hodgepodge list for my Top 10 that combined of all of those categories – although I mostly stuck to fictional characters.

So here they are, in no particular order. Enjoy!
Reason: Best Superpower
Telepathic and telekinetic abilities are the top of my list for “if they’re passing around super powers, I want that.” I love all the manifestations Jean takes through herself and the various phoenixes she becomes. 

Reason: Best “Normal Human” Superhero
I like the idea of Batman in general. An “ordinary man,” rather than someone with superpowers, who defeats evil through smarts, hard work, and some really cool gadgets. I like that he has issues and a dark side and a back story. My favorite portrayal is Christian Bale in the Dark Knight movies. Buff, smart, self-sacrificing, obsessed, dark. Oh! And did I mention hot? Yumm.

I will say, I'm tempted to change this to Daredevil ever since the Netflix/Charlie Cox take on the character came out. Similar reasons I love him!

Reason: Best Character Growth
I LOVE a strong female character. Daenerys is one of my favorites. I love that she starts out timid and unsure and grows into a powerful, confident, amazing woman. I love that she still makes mistakes and sometimes causes her own heartbreak as she goes along. I love that she has dragons (let’s face it, dragons are awesome). And Emilia Clarke does an incredible job in the role in the HBO series.

Reason: Best Physical Weapon (Indestructible, Retractable Claws)
Just gotta love a gruff, grumpy guy with metal claws and a heart of gold. He was one of my favorites before the movies ever came out. And then Hugh Jackman went and made him even more awesome in a more likable way… and even managed to do that without the yellow spandex outfit.

Reason: Best Loyal Friend
Val Kilmer’s portrayal in the movie Tombstone put this character in my top 10. Doc is a bit of an anti-hero – drunken gambler that he is. But he is also loyal to a fault, battling grave illness to fight for his friend. I would definitely want a friend like that. And he’s dang funny in a sarcastic way that I really enjoy. He can be my huckleberry any day.

Reason: Best Kickass Female Fighter
Another awesome strong female. She’s not the most powerful vampire in the coven (although she gets more powerful as the series goes on), and she has been misled and trusted the wrong people. But she fights for real, personal reasons – not just because she’s a vampire. And she allows her views to change as truth is revealed. She’s also a kickass fighter.

Reason: Best Real Life Example of Survival
If you haven’t read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, I highly recommend it (not the movie so much, but definitely the book). It is an account of the incredible life of Louis Zamparini primarily focused on his experience during WWII of surviving first a plane crash into the ocean and drifting for ages, but then a POW camp in Japan. An amazing, amazing real-life story.

Reason: Best Protector with a Dark Side
I guess I love the anti-hero types who have a really dark side. And Riddick definitely fits. He’s smart, a kick-ass fighter with no fear, and is incredibly loyal to the few people he cares about. And anyone who can defeat some holy half-dead guy definitely has to rate top 10 in my opinion.

Reason: Best Classic Literature Female
Individual, intelligent, forgiving, independent – and all despite the era in which the book is set and was written. Jane Eyre was one of my favorite characters in high school when I first read the book and remains so to this day. She follows her heart, but remains loyal. She relies on herself to solve her own issues. She’s not afraid to stand up to Mr. Rochester and consequently wins his love.

Reason: Best Ensemble
I absolutely had to include the trio from Star Wars in here because it’s my favorite movie of all time. The combo of these three is one of the biggest reasons. We have Leia who is a strong, independent, feisty woman who can hold her own with Darth Vader. We have Luke who is an up and coming Jedi – and Jedi are wicked awesome. And we have Han who is sarcastic, loyal, and a good fighter. Love, love, love, my Star Wars heroes and heroine.

Who Else?
Like I said, I had a seriously hard time limiting myself to just 10. I had a TON of others like…  

Aragorn from LOTR, Katniss from Hunger Games, Audie Murphy (WWII hero and actor), Black Widow from the Avengers, Mulan, The Incredibles, James Bond, Ben Hur, Perseus, Marmie March from Little Women, Rogue and Gambit and Cyclops from X-Men, Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, Wonder Woman, Beowulf, Blade, Lara Croft, Daredevil… 

I could go on and on and on. I even had Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women on my longer list, cause man can she ever deliver a verbal set-down.

In the end though, the ones I selected for my Top 10 aren’t necessarily the most saintly or deserving, but are the ones I personally connect with most for various reasons. In fact, after writing this, it struck me that I must have a thing for heroes/heroines who are loyal, skilled fighters, and have a dark side.

I had a lot of fun thinking through this list. I’d LOVE to hear about your own list of heroes/heroines. Who do you connect with?