Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How To Share An Eclipse Without Posting It On Social Media Sites

by Francesca Quarto
If my long-time companion, Oliver were still occupying his favorite rug in my house, I would have sat on the floor with him to describe the awesome beauty of the 2017 Solar Eclipse.
Sadly, on so many levels, Ollie is no longer with me, but here's how our conversation would have gone:
" was breathtaking!  I was totally mesmerized by the incremental changes as the moon stepped between our earth and our sun."
Oliver looks up at me with his droopy eyes, their black lashes stick straight out like thick paint brush bristols. The excitement of my news overwhelms him and his fury head drops onto his paws.
I continue to rhapsodize.
"I used those great Eclipse Binoculars that daddy got from Amazon.  I thought he paid too much, but was worth every dollar!"
I stop long enough for Oliver to absorb some of the enthusiasm pouring off me like sweat in a sauna and probably just as annoying.
"I had to press the binoculars really snugly against my face, so my eyes would be completely covered.  Didn't want to risk any burns to my retinas."
Oliver looks over his black nose at me and stares into my eyes.  I think he is just checking to be sure I came away unscathed from this dare-devil feat.
"I just washed my hair and ran outside, curlers and all, so I wouldn't miss a minute of the Galactic show.  I was concentrating on the shadow as it crept across the face of the sun when I thought I heard a voice. For a heartbeat I thought my curlers might be picking up radio waves like Patrick always warns.  I didn't want to stop looking, but then that voice came again.  I turned around to see the Green Acres Lawn man treating our neighbors backyard.
We both laughed at my being wired for space chatter and he left to spray more chemicals.
I tell you, I must have really been determined to see the eclipse...I'd never be caught dead with curlers outside the house!"
Oliver rolls over on his side with a deep sigh of contentment as I rub his rather portly stomach.  His ginger colored fur is thick and long, it feels like silk under my fingers.
"Oliver, I've read that animals can be seen to act in peculiar ways during a full eclipse.  The birds around our bird bath just sort of disappeared as it got darker.  They'd just been drinking like a bunch of kids on spring break, when all of a sudden... zap!  They were gone.  
The air seemed to slow around me and everything went still. It was so quiet while we watched.  I felt like the world was holding its breath for the sun to return to come back into our lives like, well, like it was our only hope against the darkness the world can hold."
This soliloquy proves too much for him and Oliver stiffly rises to his arthritic legs, stretches his back and walks into the bedroom.  As he steps into the solitude and comfort of a plush carpet, he turns and looks back over his thick pelt of ginger this will sound like a fake report...but he actually gave me a wide mouthed yawn! 
Unbelievable!  I guess I found my biggest critic.  But hey, the lawn care guy thought me interesting.  He didn't spray me did he!?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What Makes a Good Love Scene?

After reading romance novels of varying types over the last 30 years, I've come across all types of love scenes. I would even venture to say that there is no perfect type or formula you can use to write a love scene. Personal preference dictates the type of romance you love best. The industry these days has everything from sweet (no love scenes) to behind closed doors (implied but not written) to written but "tame" to written explicitly to erotica which can address all sorts of predilections. And even more in between.

So my question--what makes a good love scene?--is just that. It's a question to readers and authors of romance alike. What makes a good love scene for you?

When I started adding love scenes to my books, I decided to do a little research. I went back to some of my favorite authors and tried to figure out what it was about their loves scenes that made them my favorite authors. What I came to realize was that they didn't have a formula, but they did incorporate certain elements that made things work so well.

Build the Heat

This one is probably obvious, but harder to pull off than you'd think. I had a roommate in college who was drop-dead gorgeous and guys would just throw themselves at her - without any idea of who she was as a person initially. Watching her frustration with that made me realize that I want to see relationships where the heat is not only about the initial attraction, but also a growth of that attraction. No instalove and not "just sex."

Build the Connection

Unless the story starts out with the couple already in some kind of relationship (friends, previous lovers), I prefer to see their relationship build. When they finally make love I prefer there to be a connection already started - even if it's just in the beginning phases. They've noticed each other - not just physically but things about their personalities. They like each other as people, even if they don't admit it yet.

It's my opinion that building the connection and the heat are even better when they work in tandem together. And I've seen few do that better than Lucy Monroe. Read one of her books looking for that specifically, and you'll see what I mean.

Include Something "Surprising"

I like it when some aspect about making love is surprising to one or both of them. There are multiple surprises a writer could incorporate. There's the often used virgin surprise - which I usually feel is better when he's also surprised at how much he likes the thought of being her first. There are smaller surprises. He's surprised he falls asleep in her arms. She's surprised she felt something deeper. And so on.

Make The Scene "Fit" the Couple

I find it to be a real turn off when the scene doesn't make sense to who they are as people. For example, let's say she's been established as shy and timid. The first time they make love if she's immediately a wild-cat in bed, the writer's lost me. I get that they want to establish that she's so comfortable with the male lead that she'll be herself. But having that grow and develop over several love scenes works better, in my opinion.

What About Paranormal Romance?

Love scenes can become even more unique in paranormal romance. Do you like these scenes to show the character's powers as well as their connection and heat? Think about how shifters would differ in this department versus say vampires or witches. I love it when a writer can incorporate that added element in every part of the character's lives and that includes love scenes.

As I mentioned, the above observations are what I've noticed I like as reader. Since this is what I prefer to read, it is also what I try to incorporate when I write. My success in that is TBD. These are mine. What are yours? Think about some of your favorite romance writers and what makes their love scenes so compelling.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Eclipse Weirdness by C.J. Burright

Since another total solar eclipse won’t be coming around the U.S. for years, I’m getting all geared up to take it in. I’ve got my glasses, and since Oregon is expected to be overrun with tourists, I even got the day off without asking. Score! If I’m super-lucky, the skies will be clear…but this is Oregon, so here’s to hoping. People are making a big deal about the eclipse, and wherever there are people, there’s bound to be some weirdness. Which I am, of course, happy to share with you. First, some cool weirdness.


Did you know that by taking pictures of stars during a total solar eclipse, Eddington demonstrated how gravity bends light? Also, French astronomer Jules Janssen discovered helium during a solar eclipse in 1868. That’s some super-cool scientific weirdness.

It is written…according to some Greek historians, a solar eclipse in 585 BCE was enough of a sign to halt warfare between the Lydians and the Medes. If only that worked in today’s world, right?

If you’re near animals during the eclipse, watch for some weirdness. Experts say that the birds and insects go eerily silent. The darkness confuses nocturnal animals into waking up and tricks others into settling down for a nap. Since I live on some acreage, I plan to take notes on the level of eeriness. For future writing projects, of course.

And now for some even weirder stuff…

In ancient China, predicting the eclipse was a big deal for an emperor’s success. If astrologers failed, not only did this not bode well for their leader, but some paid with their lives. And Babylonians would plant temporary kings during eclipses so the bad luck wouldn’t fall onto their real king. Some poor sap got to be king for a day—and face the wrath of their Gods.   

Some people in India fast during the eclipse because any food prepared during an eclipse will be unpure and/or poisonous. Even better, some Indians avoid demonic possession during the eclipse by bathing in urine before and after. And don’t forget to rinse your eyes! They also believe that urine protects vision…but to be extra-safe, don’t forget protective eclipse glasses.

Thinking about getting it on during the eclipse? You might want to reconsider. Back in the day, it was believed that would result in ugly, little demon children.
Not that Dean Winchester as a demon is ugly...but to play it safe, go with what some Latin Americans do—wear red undies and a safety pin to prevent any birth defects. Need a partner for some eclipse action? Check craigslist. There's a 40 year old guy from Europe who's looking for a woman to help him produce a child during the eclipse. He claims he's smart, attractive, in good shape, and his blood is pure. Hrms. If he was such a great catch, I'm thinking he wouldn't have to resort to craigslist, but what do I know? 

Whatever you plan to do for the eclipse, don’t forget to look down too! Look at the horizon during totality for a 360 degree sunset. Check the ground for shadow snakes or shadow bands, which are moving lines of alternating light and dark. Smack something large and white on the ground beforehand to get the full effect—they only occur during the seconds immediately before and after totality. And lift your gaze again to find Mercury, which is usually outstripped by the sun.

Are you planning to view the eclipse?


Friday, August 18, 2017

Paint a Picture with Words by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

Description is the foundation of a vivid story, the kind that plays like a movie in the reader’s head. Visual description is more important than ever as a staple in a fiction writer’s toolbox. In this modern media day of iphones, internet and music videos, even the readers’ perceptions and expectations are changing. Teachers complain that students don’t have any creativity or imagination any more. They don’t play make believe games. They play video games. They have become so inundated and even dependent upon visual media it’s difficult to interest them in fiction reading, a form of entertainment that isn’t as immediate. It’s not enough to hook the reader’s attention in the beginning. Ageless classics are written with well-drawn characters, realistic storylines and vivid descriptions. Today’s writers, more than ever, need to create evocative scenes with well-paced storylines that elicit visceral responses from their readers, drawing them eagerly forward through a story that however fanciful “feels” realistic.  

Creating a story does require imagination, so the first thing you must do to describe a person, place or thing well is to visualize it. Many writers choose magazine pictures or stock photos to help them better describe settings or characters. You have to begin with an impression, getting a feel for what you are about to describe. Writers are probably among the most observant groups of people in the world, filling their imaginations with visuals and human behavior.

Once a writer has the rough draft version of what they wish to describe, it’s necessary to choose just the right words to convey both a correct and enhanced image. A good describer doesn’t make the mistake of using just their computer’s synonym or thesaurus tool to find more interesting, as in less common, words to replace what they’ve already written. Beginning writers who implement these tools inadequately often end up using the wrong words, as in incorrect word use, which renders the description confusing rather than giving it clarity and creating a visual image in the reader’s mind. One of the handiest tools in a writer’s toolbox, even a seasoned writer who wants to up the voltage of their creative juices, is a describer’s dictionary. These handy references include samples of words as well as phrases to better describe faces, expressions, body types and individual behaviors, such as gestures or walking habits. They go into detail about such seemingly simple things as sizes, shapes, colors, landscapes and objects, as well as more complex details such as skin tone, complexion or the look in someone’s eyes.

With the rough draft fleshed out the writer has created a “real life” image for the readers. Now, it’s important to trim the fat. Take out any unnecessary words or over-the-top phrases and what’s left is a much more interesting piece, one that will draw the readers in and keep their attention. Use these three steps, 1) get the description down on paper, 2) make the description more vivid with interesting phrases and vibrant details, and 3) tighten the writing, removing redundant or verbose words or phrases, and the result will be much better writing, which means much better reading.

Here are a couple examples. You decide which ones are the better reading.

He was a mean and miserly man. Or: "Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as a flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster." - Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol"

It was a dark and stormy night. Or: The impending was inevitable and I could sense it nearing. Thunder rumbled in the distance and a bolt of lightning cracked the midnight blue sky into two. Jagged flashes of pure light cast a glow against the monochromatic background. For the past week, I lay in bed fervently hoping I'd wake up to the gentle patter of rain on my windowpane, an escape from the scorching heat; and now, here it was, cascading in diagonal sheets in its full glory. There was a certain rhythm to the downpour that I caught amidst the wind unleashing a torrent of its own. The rain exhibited no sign to cease, the inception of the storm had only just arrived.-Sachi’s published descriptions

Now you can't make every description detailed, or carry both landscape and motivation within a character's description at every turn. Too much of a good thing can also bore your readers. So like a great love scene, writers must learn to use pacing effectively, knowing that detailed descriptions slow down the pace and are sometimes especially effective after a violent or fast-paced emotional scene. Whenever and wherever a writer uses description though, it has to be a well-worn tool in their toolbox.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Farther, Forbidden Paths

My first published novel was Gemini Rising, winner of the Mainstream Category in the 2012 Preditors & Editors Poll.  That year, it was also 2nd in the Paranormal Romance Guild's Reviewer's Choice Awards.  However,

Gemini Rising is a controversial dark fantasy.  I didn't expect it to be published at all, but Canadian Publisher Double Dragon Publishing released it in 2012.  This year, I took my rights back and Class Act Books accepted the novel for reissue under the new title Anointing: The Gemini Factor.  I'm currently updating the manuscript for republication.

The story is told in a 'frame', starting in the present, the majority told in flashback, then returning to the present for the end.  This excerpt is from the present and is a celebration of Alina's husband's birthday.  The hero and heroine, Alain and Alina, are identical twins.  Male/female mono-zygotic twins are a scientific impossibility, but not in the suspension of disbelief, right?

From Chapter 26 - Another Homecoming

An army of servants trooped across the lawn, their arms laden with brightly wrapped packages.  Mum motioned Rory to a chair center stage on the dais.  Alina stood behind him, her hands on his shoulders.  A young king, he smiled as they stacked the gifts around him [her husband].
With paper and ribbon littering the platform and the ground, Alain slipped into the shadows.  She’d give him ten minutes then signal the orchestra.  Her heart raced, but she mustn’t betray her excitement to Rory.  She kissed his cheek, stroked his hair.  At the soft thud of hooves on grass, she nodded at the conductor.
To Trumpet Voluntary, Alain strode the gamut of wicker torches.  Light gleamed on living gold.  Red ribbons fluttered on the stallion’s halter.  The palomino snorted, tossed his noble head.  His snowy mane flagged in the breeze.  A collective gasp rose from the crowd.
Every eye was on the dazzling pair—every eye but Rory’s.
She clasped his hand to her breast.  “Isn’t he beautiful?”
Her husband’s voice was ice.  “The man or the horse?”
Alina frowned a reprimand.  “Your birthday gift.”
A smile brightened Rory’s handsome face.  “Trust Alain to make a grand entrance.”
With a flick of his wrist, her brother halted the Lusitano stallion at the platform’s edge.  He bowed low, his hair sweeping the grass.  How regal the man and the horse were.  Alain in his tuxedo, the stallion’s golden palomino coat glistening in the torchlight.  Focused on Alain, the horse stood four-square, his ears flickering, nostrils flared.
Her brother straightened, shook his hair back from his face.  “Happy Birthday, Rory, from Lina and me.”
Her husband brushed a kiss to her lips, shot to his feet and bounced down the two stairs.
Alain smiled at her and handed Rory the lead.  “His name is Prospero.”
Rory wound his arms around the arched neck.  The stallion curled his head over the man’s shoulder, pressing him close to the warm scent of horseflesh.
Alina laughed.  “An equine hug.  See, he loves his master already.”
Rory turned, embraced Alain.  “Brother, you have outdone yourself.”
Alain beckoned, offering his hand.  “He was your wife’s idea.  Come, Lina, you must be first to mount him.”
Applause erupted.  The stallion danced to the end of the lead.  An anxious expression swept over Rory’s face.  Alain whispered to Prospero, and the horse stilled.  Alina stepped down into her brother’s arms.  A quick embrace, then she hoisted her skirt and Alain eased her astride the golden stallion.  Rory beamed up at her.
She smiled down at him and blew a kiss.  “I love you.”
Rory fisted the sky, the other hand clutching the horse’s lead.  “I love my wife,” he proclaimed to cheers.  With the same flamboyance, he spun on a heel and paraded his birthday present before his audience.
Alain walked beside Rory.  “Hold the lead tight and cluck.  He’ll piaffe.”
Alina stretched her arms beside her, threw her head back and laughed with joy as the stallion danced in place, his bare back swinging between her legs.
“Wow,” Rory breathed.
“Prospero is the reason I’ve been in Portugal for six months.  It took a long time to persuade the breeder to sell him.”  Alain stroked the muscles rippling under the stallion’s sleek hide.  “Good boy.”
“He’s magnificent.”  Rory clucked his tongue.  “But what will I do with a horse like this?”
Alain squeezed his shoulder.  “Learn to ride.  I’ll teach you, my friend.”
Alina closed her eyes, her body swaying to the two-beat rhythm.  Finally, they were together again, and she’d never allow anything to separate them.

If you're not wary to venture into a story with a thread similar to Flowers in the Attic, look for Anointing: The Gemini Factor, a dark fantasy, coming from Class Act Books in October 2017.

The picture is a mock-up of a cover that is simply for example purposes.  The images behind the smoke will be different in the final cover.  The smoke image is from Fotolia.

Happy 14th of August!  Linda

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Solar Eclipse by Diane Burton

If you haven’t heard about the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, you must be on vacation from all news sources. Not to be confused with the Great American Cookout, which started in April and goes through November, the Solar Eclipse will last about two minutes. If you live in Hopkinsville, KY, you’re in luck. That’s where it will last the longest, two minutes and 40 seconds. It will take ninety minutes to cross the U.S. on a path from Oregon to South Carolina.

What’s going to happen? Basically, the moon will get between Earth and the Sun. Depending on where you live (or travel to), you’ll see  either the total eclipse (along that path from Oregon to South Carolina) or a partial. Where I live in west Michigan, we’ll see a partial. Think of a “fingernail” moon and that’s what we’ll see of the sun as the moon’s umbra (shadow) covers it. Like the one just to the left of the total eclipse below.

copyright: Fred Espanek

Exciting, right? We’re all going to rush outside to look. Right? Wrong. Unless you protect your eyes. Retailers all over the country are offering “eclipse” glasses for sale. Be sure they are safe or you could lose your sight.

Myths and Superstitions What could be scarier in ancient times than the sun disappearing? They had to come up with a reason. Like mythical figures eating or stealing the sun. In Vietnam, it was a giant frog, while the Norse blamed wolves for eating the sun. The Inuits thought the sun and moon were fighting. In Hindu mythology, the god Rahu devours the sun to stifle the light that provides life. Nasty guy.

The worst superstitions have to do with pregnant women. In fact, with prior eclipses, pregnant women were told to stay indoors. The Aztecs believed the eclipse might turn fetuses into mice. Yikes! I might have grandmice instead of two healthy boys. (In case you didn’t know, my daughter-in-law is expecting twins in November.) According to Mexican and South Asian myths, cleft palates are caused by the eclipse. Not so. Scientific evidence debunks those stories.

But one thing is true. Looking directly at the eclipse can damage your eyes. You can make a pinhole projector or buy special glasses. The following warnings are from the article on pinhole projectors.

Keep Safe!

§  Never look at the Sun directly without protective eye gear. Even sunglasses cannot protect your eyes from the damage the Sun's rays can do to them.
§  Always keep your back towards the Sun while looking at a pinhole projection.
§  Do not look at the Sun through the pinhole.

By the way, this is the first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. in ninety years. So unless you plan to live a long, long, long time, it’s best to see it on August 21st.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Binge

I've heard about it, I've read about it all over the place, I've never imagined getting caught up in it.

See, I bought a fire stick from Amazon, it even has Alexa, and, boy, I'm enthralled. I have to be at work in less than 2 hours and I'm only on season one of Being Human which I'm loving by the way. I mean, a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost - what more could a viewer want? I'm on the episode where the crazy vamp b**** turned a little boy and it's intense to say the least. Not sure how it's going to turn out but after watching this episode, I've got to get some sleep or I'll never make it through 2 shifts.

My viewing thus far has been very controlled if I can use that word in this instance. I've stayed away from shows that haven't ended because I'm impatient which has caused me not to watch many newer series which are running on Netflix. Some I know I'll never watch like, don't shoot me - Game of Thrones. I've seen some clips, read lots about it, and there is just nothing that really appeals to me and I seem to be in a very small camp on that one so I'll move on. Last week I did all of Bitten about werewolves and prior to that I binged the Almighty Johnsons, a take on Norse gods and goddesses reborn in people on earth. Before that there was one about teenaged merpeople. After Being Human, I don't know where I'll head but I seem to be on a paranormal spree. Anyway...

Hello, my name is Joann - I'm a binger!

Now if only I can get back to writing. Haven't done much since my hand surgery other than re-reading older stories in preparation for getting them back out there. I didn't realized I had so much! Contemplating new covers boggles my mind but in a good way because I'll finally have complete control over that process.

Well, thunder and lightning have arrived so I'll end by asking for any good suggestions to while away the final days of summer.

What programs have you binged on that you'd suggest to a novice in the arena?

Growl and roar-it's okay to let the beast out. - J. Hali Steele

Friday, August 4, 2017

Oh The Amazing Places You Can Travel to With a Book

by Maureen L. Bonatch 
Photo from our vacation at Islamorada, Florida
While on vacation this year at Key West, Florida, we talked with a girl, who said that she spent two months traveling on a boat, and currently lived on a sailboat and absolutely loved it. I stood there with a million questions running through my mind. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around living like that since it was so foreign to what I was accustomed to.

I could feel her enthusiasm, but shuddered at the thought of enduring the long hot nights until she saved up for some kind of air conditioning­—while I envisioned having so few possessions and so much freedom. Yet, I knew in reality I could never live that life. I was too set in my ways, too much of a willing slave to my routines and possessions. But in my imagination, I could live that life.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

As a writer her story intrigued me. It would be a fabulous setting for a character, or something I would enjoy reading about. Because as a writer, and a reader, there’s something magical about exploring places I might never see. For every beach I walk upon, I think of a book I read years ago about sea turtles, I believe it was The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe. I know nothing about sea turtles, but after reading this book, in my mind I think I kind of do, because I lived that life with that character.

What an indescribable joy to live so many lives in one lifetime. In reality, I’ve lived in one state all of my life, but in my mind I’ve been to many places that exist in the world, and others that only exist in an author’s imagination—and mine.

Get On The Train

There are two camps. Those who love Disney and all it entails and those who…don’t. I admit it. I’m in the second camp. I kind of put all those places—Disney, Epcot & Universal etc.— in one category.  I apologize to all of you who adore this magical world. It could’ve been a few unpleasant experiences, or it might’ve been because I’m rather introverted and don’t enjoy masses of people and long lines, but so far I’ve never seen the magic that enchants others.

But now that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter world exists in ‘reality’ at Universal Studios, I have to admit I would really love to see that. To be able to actually physically arrive at Platform of 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station (and not just in my imagination) and get on the train to Hogwarts would be fabulous.

I’ve been to Hogwarts in my mind many times and could only imagine the thrill of seeing it brought to live and how amazing that must feel to J.K. Rowling to see her imaginary world introduced to reality— to mere Muggles ;)

I’ve Never Left the Mountain

I live in Pennsylvania, so there are always some mountains in view, but they’re not the Misty Mountains. You know, The Mountains of Moria. Those of you who’ve read the Hobbit, and the Lord of The Rings books will understand. I read these books years ago, but I still think of that world as if it actually exists because the author brought it to life so magically.

They enchanted me, and still do. I traveled through those mountains with Bilbo Baggins and his crew and experienced the awe and terror they endured. I loved it­—in my imagination. In reality I might be more of a wimp than a warrior.

Sail Away

Photo from our vacation at Islamorada, Florida
I love puttering around in my home, surrounded by familiar things and places. Thus, exploring the world writing or reading a good book is a fabulous way to get away from the everyday all while staying in the comfort home. 

There are days I just want to sail away from all my troubles and daily stressors, and I can, just by sitting down with a book, or writing a new character. Perhaps one who lives on a sailboat might be in my foreseeable future.

Do You Have a Favorite Book Destination?

Need a New Home for Your Stories? Don’t Miss Your Chance at Winning a New Kindle right Here.

Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keep her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu, her teen twins & alpha hubby keep her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram