Monday, July 31, 2017

Touring the Scottish Highlands

By Sandy Wright

My husband and I are in Scotland while I research settings for the second book of my Ancient Magic paranormal suspense series. What a marvelous excuse to get to know the country of my origin!

Day 1: Inverness
Despite being jet-lagged, we enjoyed our stay in the Palace Hotel, right across the street from Inverness Castle.

We had tea while gazing out the window of our room at this amazing view of the Ness River and Inverness Castle. Thank you, Paul, for asking for a “castle view” upgrade, it was worth it.

Inverness is a pedestrian-friendly city. It includes a lovely two-hour waterside walk that follows the river south and then crosses to the opposite bank via a couple of islands. While we didn’t have time to do that whole path, we strolled around the city center and shopped. I found my Campbell clan tartan and bought cashmere scarves for family members (my buying splurge for the trip), as well as a traditional sgian-dubh, the ceremonial knife that’s 
part of traditional Scottish Highland dress. If you have any friends who wear kilts, you know the clansmen usually wear their knife tucked into the top of their kilt hosiery. However, I plan to use mine as a ritual athame.  

We had dinner at a little Italian restaurant down the street for our hotel, where I discovered a new favorite wine, Primitivo Del Salento Caleo. I would recommend both the restaurant and the wine.
My only regret is that we could not visit the Inverness Highlands Family Archives to research my Campbell clan family roots. It wasn’t open on Sunday, and we had an early-morning tour scheduled the next day. I do intend to contact them for research assistance when we get home.

Day 2: Outlander Tour
We met Diana Bertoldi, our Tours By Locals guide, and were delighted to discover we were her only customers for the day. She told us she’d lived in Italy before moving to Scotland. While her son still lives in Milan, Diana considers Scotland her true home.

Our first stop was the Culloden Battlefield, one of the most important places in Scottish history. It’s managed by the National Trust of Scotland and has an informative visitor centre. However, Diana worked at the site previously, so she gave us a vivid account of the final battle in the Jacobite Uprising. 

At Culloden), the Jacobites (mostly Scottish clansmen) lost 2,000 men, while the British suffered a mere 300 causalities.  The Duke of Cumberland’s dragoons (think of the Outlander character Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall) chased fleeing Jacobite clansmen into the Western Highlands, executing many of those they caught. The Scottish massacre was so complete that the Culloden burial sites are marked by clans, not individuals.

Those clansmen who were not executed were often transported to the colonies, ushering in the first wave of large-scale Scottish immigration to North America. The British government also banned the tartan and kilt. The clan system—the social order that had existed in the Scottish Highlands since before the days of William Wallace—was lost to history.

Although the clan way of life was formally eliminated, their sense of national pride was not.  In 2014, Scotland issued a referendum on national independence. That, coupled with the release of Diana Gabaldon’s Starz television drama, Outlander, has sparked renewed interest in Scotland’s Jacobite Rebellion. The efforts of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Highlanders mark one of the most important—and ultimately tragic—moments in Scottish history.

Our wonderful guide Diana had arranged for us to meet the current McKenzie Clan Chief, Laird John Ruaridh Grant MacKenzie.
We spent a delightful couple of hours visiting with him and touring his home, Castle Leod. We shared a dram of whiskey, while he gave us the background of the castle and all the family portraits. 

The relative most interesting to me was George, the 1st Earl of Cromartie. A friend of Sir Isaac Newton and an ardent alchemist, he spoke five languages and was against the burning of witches. A truly modern man!  His father Sir John, owned Staten Island for a time, but sold it on account of “too many Indians and mosquitos.”

He also showed us the giant chestnut tree on the back grounds, planted by Mary Queen of Scots’ mother, as well as the only redwood tree in Scotland, along the front drive.  

When she learned I was researching sacred sites for my book, Diana took us to the Corrimony Cairns.
Sitting in a grassy field surrounded by sheep and bordered by a small stream, the 4000-year-old burial cairn and the standing stones ringing it are still intact. We had the place completely to ourselves, so Diana gave me no information, just instructed me to walk the perimeter and then let her know what I felt, if anything

I walked two-thirds of the way around the stones, feeling like they were repelling me. As I rounded the back of the cairn to complete my circle, it felt the opposite: the stones were pulling me toward them. When I told Diana what I’d experienced, she explained that an energetic ley line ran through the site, roughly along the line where I’d begun to feel attracted! 

That was my first experience with the supernatural Scottish highlands. It wouldn’t be my last, as we had two full weeks of sacred sites to visit with our next tour group, Gothic Tours.
If you would like to read more about sacred sites in the Scotland Highlands, visit my continuing blog at www.writerSandy.com

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I live in Arizona with my husband, a super-smart Border Collie/Aussie mix named Teak, and two huge black panther cats (18 pounds each), named Salem and Shadow Moon. Their daddy, Magick, was even bigger! He's featured in my debut novel, Song of the Ancients, the first book in my paranormal suspense series, Ancient Magic.
They say write what you know, and I'm Wiccan, so my debut novel involves witchcraft and Native American medicine magic. It's set in the energy-laden town of Sedona, Arizona.  It was interesting to introduce the concept of witchcraft, seen through the eyes of an ordinary, non-magical woman, and go through her reactions and disbelief along with her. While I did a lot of research for this book, most of the magical stuff I drew from my own Wiccan background and practice.
    Sedona is but one earth "power site" in the world. The Ancient Magic series will take Samantha and Nicholas, as well as a few secondary characters, to adventures at other sacred sites. The second book, Stones of the Ancients, will take us to the ancient standing stones of Scotland, where I get to trace my own heritage while researching the book. The series continues to Hawaii to learn about Pele, the Goddess of fire and volcanos. The last book will be set somewhere along the ancient icy land bridge of the First People, maybe Newfoundland, Alaska or Siberia.
Book One – Song of the Ancients is available now on Amazon, in both print and ebook.
Book Two, Stones of the Ancients, will be available early 2018.





Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Actor and Dog off the Chain ~ @MeganSlayer #mmromance #novel #pets #dogs

Odd title for a blog post, right? I know it is. Follow me here. It’ll make sense in a moment.

When I wrote the book, What’s His Passion? Wild Card, I knew I had two strong characters—Kris and Zayn. I knew they were the focus of the book, but side characters can be just as important.

I’m an animal lover. I really am. Having three cats and three dogs, you could say I live in a zoo. You’d be right. When the mailman knocks on the front door, it’s a five-alarm panic. But I love it and this love showed up in Wild Card. Kris is a wounded man. He needs more than a lover. He needs a few friends, too. My dogs are great companions. They don’t talk back—although I’m convinced some of the barking is sassing—not that I mind. They stay beside me when I’m blue and are great for exercise. So how does this match up to Kris? And why would I bring a dog into a story about a gay man in porn?

In Wild Card, Kris lives in a nice private development, but even in the nicest places, wicked people exist. His next-door neighbor has a dog. You’ve probably seen the type—the dog is constantly outside. There’s no grass under the dog house and the circle he runs. Rain, shine, heat, cold…the dog is there. Kris sees a bit of himself in the dog next door. They’re both wounded. The dog needs attention and love. So does Kris.

So Kris’s in porn. He believes he can reach a little higher in life. He believes the same thing for the dog. They’re kindred spirits. The dog is a pit bull, so people think he’s dangerous. He’s actually very sweet and goofy. But out on the chain, he comes across as scary. He really wants attention. Same thing for Kris. People see the porn actor and think he’s dirty or nasty. He’s so much more once someone unlocks his potential.

Here’s an Easter egg for you—the dog is named Nugent. According to the neighbor, he’s named after Ted Nugent. That’s not where I got the name. I’m a huge Cincinnati Bengals fan and the kicker for the team during the writing of Wild Card happened to be named Nugent. The dog is named after a professional athlete. Grin.

Now I have to admit I’m the kind of person who can’t stand to see the dog/cat/etc hurt in a book or movie. For the dog in Wild Card, the feeling was no different. Nugent is a sweet dog. He and Kris as well as Zayn have to have a happy ending. Want to know what the happy ending is? Then you’ll have to read What’s His Passion? Wild Card. I hope you enjoy the love and the dog.

Here’s a little bit about What’s His Passion? Wild Card:

Following his heart and passion will be his biggest role of all.

Kris Hunter wants out. He’s done pornographic films for the last six years. The pay’s been good, but his creativity is nearly dead. His passion is to act and to be a star on the big screen in mainstream films. When he auditions for famed casting director, Zayn Mason, he’s convinced he’s on the right path. He doesn’t want to take the casting couch route to success, but he certainly wants Zayn in his bed. Can he follow his dreams and the man he desires or will forces beyond his control derail his progress?
Zayn Mason sees the potential in Kris. As a casting director, he looks for the right actor to fill the roles in movies. He’s seen plenty of talent come and go, but no one stirs his soul both creatively and physically like Kris. But Zayn knows the pitfalls of the movie industry. Crossing over from porn isn’t easy and Hollywood isn’t always forgiving. Besides, he’s got demons of his own. Can these men get beyond their pasts and find a future together under the bright lights of the silver screen?

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of voyeurism and intimacy with multiple partners.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Don't Surf Amazon in your Underwear. The Algorithm is Always Watching. (by L. A. Kelley)

Don’t worry. There’s no math. We won’t talk numbers because at the most basic level an algorithm is merely a set of rules used by a search engine to solve a problem. At a more advanced level, it’s code to tell how to sort and load product lists in response to a query. They’re not scary. You may even have used one today.  Every time you type a question or search an item on sites such as Google or Amazon it is the algorithm that supplies the answer, not some gnome living in the laptop. Google uses algorithms to scour websites for information. The Amazon algorithm does internal searches on its pages, but whether you’re looking for a vacation rental from one or a romance book from another, the basic process is the same. Using a programmed set of steps, a search engine retrieves results that the algorithm’s code says most closely matches the query.

Where did the Amazon algorithm come from?

Not some alternate dimension, but Palo Alto, California from an Amazon company called A9. The process to develop an algorithm starts by analyzing data in a catalog of information; in the case of Amazon, it’s the product description and keywords on the website. Descriptive text for every item is indexed, meaning scanned for certain words and phrases. The algorithm is also written to check past traffic patterns for you and others who searched for similar information to the query. It then ranks them and returns the results. As you type in keystroke after keystroke, the algorithm is already trying to determine what you want. This is why when you’re hunting for a fantasy, by the time you type in f-a-n-t, the drop down box appears with preliminary results and, son of gun, one of them is fantasy.

The better the algorithm understands the meaning of a query, the more able it is to retrieve accurate results. To that extent, algorithms examine the words and even the meaning behind those words. If a customer on Amazon types in the search box Texas barbecue, the algorithm first checks to see how many categories it can locate. It sees two; Texas and barbeque, and then works to bring up results that match both by scanning product descriptions. A well-written search algorithm is so strong it can even adapt to misspellings and offer suggestions for additional words. Amazon also keeps track of your buying habits so the algorithm can anticipate desires. This is why you get those helpful emails that start “Based on your recent visit, we thought you might like…” It tracks not only purchases, but also clicked items that caught your eye. 

What does this mean for the Amazon sales rank?
The information Amazon uses to suggest products during a search is based on terms in product descriptions from the catalog. For books, that means the blurb next to the book cover and the key words, but those aren’t the only factors. The algorithm also checks sales rank and that’s more complicated because rankings are always done in relation to competitors in the same category. If a book’s sales rise, that knocks down others in the same category.  One rank goes up, books close to it in rank go down. Ranking is also related to purchase time. Recent sales boost a book’s rank, so does a temporary price drop but the effect quickly fades because the algorithm also favors steady sales over dramatic surges.

What about those dreaded reviews?
Reviews on Amazon only count in rank if from a verified sale. Gifting a book is nice, but only helps sales rank if the gift is redeemed within 24 hours. The algorithm also gives more weight to newer reviews, reviews from verified Amazon purchasers, and reviews voted as helpful by other customers. Price has no effect on sales rank. Enrollment in KDP Select or Kindle Unlimited won’t confer any additional advantage. While books don’t receive an added boost in rank, downloads through Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Online Lending Library are treated as sales. Pre-orders also count as immediate sales which is why publishers love them.

What’s the myth of high sales and rank?
High sales rank doesn’t guarantee high placement in search results. Surprisingly, sales rank isn’t the only determinant. Other factors include relevance, keywords, sales history, product description, and available inventory, so a book with high sales rank may appear later in search results than lower-ranked books. How can you help your book along? Techie experts offer the following advice.

  • Have a well-written description.


  • Use keywords in the book description, but not more than once because this can look like keyword stuffing. Amazon frowns upon the practice and you can get dropped in the ranks.


  • If a reader with a verified sale lets you know they liked the book, ask them to leave a review.



  • If you gift a book ask the recipient to retrieve it immediately or it won’t count in the sales rank. 


About the Author
L. A. Kelley writes sci-fi and fantasy adventures with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. The A in her name does not stand for Algorithm although she wishes it did because that would be cool. Check out her Amazon Author or Facebook page.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Making Every Word a-Count-able by Nancy Gideon


As an author (and even as a speaker or reader) I LOVE words. The more the merrier! Why grunt a syllable when a mellifluous abundance of adjectives and prepositional phrases can say it so much more eloquently?

At least, that's what I believed while writing my first dozen historical romances. And then, a rude awakening. I was assigned an editor who . . . edited. She didn't share the same appreciation for my every adverb. When I received my revisions, I had to search frantically to find the remaining text! My wonderful, ample paragraphs had undergone a starvation word loss diet. Where was the lyrical poetry of my phrases? How could my nouns and verbs survive without the companionship of all their passive friends? My musically masterful alliteration? Pick one? Seriously?! How is the reader going to know it's important unless I stress how very, very vitally important it is? My manuscripts would come back, every page riddled with red and blue ink, a regular St. Valentine's Day verbiage Massacre!

Jump ahead to present day: I survived. I learned. I had several awesome senior editors who taught me how to self-edit: That middle area between revisions (polishing prose) and line edits (technical accuracy) that improves the quality of the writing to the point my manuscripts would come back almost virginal (except for commas and semi-colons, those little suck ups!). I learned to distance myself from my "ly"s, my dialogue tags, to go all Atkins on my descriptions and to take no prisoners when it came to superfluous phrases . . . but leave my allotment of occasional alliteration alone! Yes, I know it's alliteration. I meant to do that!

The bitter lessons learned makes going through the revision draft of PRINCE OF FOOLS, the third book in my "House of Terriot" shapeshifter series, a poignant exercise instead of a pathological slasher rampage. Though I relish every one of those initial 103,900 words, I accept the fact that my book can live a long, happy life after deleting 7,900 of them (or at least, sending them to live elsewhere as Extra Content!). I know that exchange of witty banter between my H/H is amusing and clever but does it serve a purpose in furthering the plot, or reveal needed information about the characters? No? Out! Brutal but necessary to obtain that lean, mean word count.

So, now that I'm an "accomplished" revisionary, what's the first thing I tell anyone about to self-publish their book? Get a freaking professional editor! I may attempt it at home, but I don't pretend that I am fluent enough in Grammarian to get past all those eagle eye readers. What I can do is prepare the best, cleanest copy possible for that steely penned professional. And to let them know up front, if it's alliteration . . . I meant to do that!

Now, back to page 239. Only 4,000 more of the little buggers to go!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nancy Gideon on the Web



Sunday, July 23, 2017

It's Utopia, Baby!!
by  Francesca Quarto

"Oh, don't get me wrong sweet cakes. This Utopia place, sounds like some kinda Ocean City fun park!  I mean with all that perfect harmony stuff you're talking about."

Franky stopped speaking and she was relieved.  He had cultivated a life-long New Jersey accent. Every word he spoke was like a trip down a cheese grater on her ears.

"First, don't call me sweet cakes, or any other moronic sexist idiom you can create," she said through her teeth.

"Second, Utopia isn't like a fun park, or any other gathering place for flip-flop wearing, soda swilling, Board Walk Bunnies in bikinis!   it's an imaginary place; an island, that was described by Sir Thomas More, in a book he wrote in fifteen-sixteen.  It describes his vision of a perfect political and social system.  Maybe you would have known about it, if you read a book, rather than the Sports pages, once in a while."

"Huh?  I mean, you don't have to get all up in my face with attitude, baby!  When we hooked up last night, you didn't seem to mind my sports-perfect body!  I got a degree in Physical Education by the way."

He seemed hurt, but she went on.  Now Carmella was incensed by his bringing up her greatest weakness in life; sex and security.  Not necessarily in that order.

At twenty-eight, Carmella had a fear of turning thirty without any prospects for a long-term relationship, let alone, marriage.  Her Italian heritage ran deep and the large family gatherings she endured over the years, were hell.

With endless questions about boyfriends and plans for settling down, code for getting married, she was beginning to feel like her spinster great-aunt, Florencia, or Floppy as everyone knew her. Already, well-meaning cousins would glance in Floppy's direction when talking to her about potential husband material.

Floppy had grown up in lower Manhattan.  New York had managed to squeeze her like a vise, until she was as stunted as a pygmy shrub.  Her enormous head of frizzy gray curls, did little to alter the vision of a walking bush and her breath smelled like a garden compost pit.

All in all, Carmella knew she was nothing like this horticultural anomaly, but the fear of remaining single haunted her every decision.  And Franky was one of the results of that process.

"You're an idiot, Franky, if you think I'm impressed with your perfect body.  It just proves you spend more time working your biceps than your brain."

That shot seemed to hit somewhere in the unconscious part of that gray matter; the part that wasn't concerned with being a muscle-bound Viking storming the Jersey shore.

Franky looked deeply into her eyes and suddenly lurched forward, pulling her into a deep kiss.

When she could breath again, he spoke softly, the knife edge of his Jersey accent barely registered in her hearing.

"I love it when you talk like a professor to me, with all that fire in your eyes and your lips kind of trembling with all that...passion.  Oh,baby!."

Carmella felt herself melting into those well-formed abs, as they fell back onto the bed they had recently vacated.  It was still damp from their exertions, the sheets hanging like dead sails over the side.

She no longer thought of finding the perfect man, matching her intellect, point for point; she didn't think about the perfect symmetry of two well-trained thinkers...in fact, she stopped thinking altogether.

After, would be time enough to reflect on the inequalities in society.  Time enough to contemplate the myth of male superiority.  Here, wrapped in the arms of this adoring man, there was no cogitating and thank the gods, time was standing still

Thursday, July 20, 2017

You Might Be a Romance Writer If...

I've been writing all my life. I think just about every writer/author will tell you that. We write long before we are published. The publication part just lets the rest of the world know that we are writers.

I've been a romance writer for most of that time. Actually I've been a romance reader ALL of that time, and the writing followed naturally. So...after 7+ years of doing this gig for publication, I've started to notice a few signs about being a writer, and especially a romance writer.




Do any of these sound like you?

You might be a writer (especially a romance writer) if:
  1. Every time you start writing a non-romance story, it doesn't get good (in your head) until a romance suddenly appears.
  2. You change the endings of movies and books in your head (or add characters, new plot lines, a better romance...whatever).
  3. Proper grammar has been drilled into your head, and you've yelled at the TV "It's 'I,' dude. The crew and I. " When a newscaster just said, "The crew and me went on location."
  4. Other writers, and definitely editors, still find mistakes with your grammar, so you are far from perfect in that department. Just perfect when it comes to "I" vs. "me". Lol.
  5. At a reunion, an old schoolmate asks if your mom (previous high-school English teacher) is proud of your writing, and you answer that absolutely she is, but it's a little awkward to know your mother reads all the sex scenes you wrote. Followed by dead silence and stares.
  6. Your husband walks into the living room to find you straddling the couch with your hands "tied" behind your back to see if you could physically reach your foot in that situation while riding a horse (in a "stealthy" manor). (Yes, it is possible, though cramps ensue.)
  7. You post on Facebook declaring for whoever is watching (big brother-style) that all your searches involving knives and knife throwing (plus martial arts, ninja skills, breaking and entering, climbing tall walls, special positions, and whatever else) have to do with research for a fictional book.
  8. You check out Wikipedia for the plot of a series of books, because you can already tell it's going in a direction you wouldn't have written, and hope you're wrong. But you don't want to read ALL those books if you're right.
  9. You stop reading a book or don't like a movie because they royally f'ed up the romance bit. (I'm talking to you Force Awakens writers.)
  10. You commonly wake in the middle of the night exclaiming "That's it!" But if you don't write it down, your brilliant idea is gone come morning.
  11. You've missed actually hearing/participating in a meeting at work, or a conversation with your spouse, because you realized the fix for your latest WIP and you were working through the details in your head.
  12. You start hearing sexual innuendo in everything people say, and it makes you snicker every time.
  13. You stop at a red light and desperately search for a scrap of paper and a pen so you can write down your latest brain wave before it disappears.
  14. Every October 31st you warn your spouse, children, family, and friends that you'll be unavailable for the  next month while you write a book. And on your fifth consecutive year of this, your husband declares that if you get to write a book for NaNoWriMo, he gets to grow a mustache for Movember.
  15. You get to a point where every month is NaNoWriMo.
  16. You tell people that the voices in your head are why you feel compelled write, and they nod and smile like that's normal, then exit the conversation as soon as they can without appearing rude. (They don't want to upset the voices.)
I hope you had a chuckle, especially if you related to a few of those. Fellow (romance) writers, what other signs have you noticed? Readers, what about you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dragons, Swords & Sorcery...Winter is Here! by C.J. Burright

I’m one of those people who 99.9 percent of the time prefers the book to the show, but one exception is Game of Thrones. I’m not necessarily saying I prefer HBO’s version to the books. There’s no way the show could adequately capture all the intricate plot lines and characters without going on for eons…not to mention fans are in a strange position right now, something I’ve never experienced before: the show is ahead of the books. It’s hard to prefer the book when it hasn’t even been published yet, right?

Nevertheless, Sunday was the season premiere (YEAH!!) and I’m super-excited to see what happens next in one of my Favorite Shows of All Time. If you’re a fan, gush with me. If you’re not…I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. Kidding (sorta). Here’s a quick list of a few of my favorite things about GOT to tide me over until next week.

DRAGONS

There are dragons, fire-breathing, flying, magnificent dragons. That’s all I have to say about that.

via GIPHY

SWORDS AND BATTLES, WARRIORS AND CASTLES

Medieval fantasy is my catnip, and GOT has it all. Glorious warriors with brutal swords, fighting for their land and families to the death. Battles, sometimes whole armies, sometimes one on one…and some knives in the back. Or arrows to the chest while sitting on the pot (and deservedly so). Amazing castles in every kingdom, even one in the sky. The whole world is absolutely brilliant.













MAGIC AND OTHER SUPERNATURALS

Not everyone has magic, and what magic there is seems hard won…usually with a staggering price. Think twice before copulating to produce a shadow. Just sayin’. And besides the dragons, there are a myriad of terrifying, supernatural creatures to watch out for. I love that most of the people are normal humans, which makes defeating the supernatural creatures feel insurmountable, especially since the humans are always fighting for dominance among themselves. How can they possibly come together to defeat a mighty, supernatural foe? Stay tuned.















CHARACTERS TO LOVE AND HATE

There’s the noble, rejected bastard. The clever, snarky imp. A girl who’s lost it all, intent on vengeance. A queen who thirsts for power. Another queen who seeks justice and peace. A slippery spymaster. A spoiled princess forced to face harsh reality. Knights who are a human blend of good and bad, all with their own agendas. Just to name a few. These characters bring out the love—intensely. And the hate. There are a few that, even though you know you should despise them, they’re impossible not to like. And once in a blue moon, that character who SO deserves justice actually gets it or the character who FINALLY gets the break they need. BAM! Those are some very satisfying moments.





































GAMES AND POLITICS...WIN OR DIE

One thing I learned early on—getting too attached to characters may lead to deep, deep regret. And throwing of books, gnashing of teeth, and yelling. Lots of yelling. There is political intrigue everywhere in these stories, and people die. Good people, bad people (yep, some of those in the poster above are already goners). It’s not always justice, and it often seems the most powerful and clever and ruthless people are the only ones who will survive. At one point, I vowed I’d quit reading and watching if either Jon Snow or Arya Stark died. I’d be done. And then I read somewhere that Arya is G.R.R. Martin’s wife’s favorite character, so I know at least one of my favorites will last until the bitter end. I hope it’s not a bitter end, but whatever happens, emotions will be invoked. Oh yes, they will be invoked.

I could go on and on, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I have a show to watch! If you’re a GOT fan, who’s your favorite character? Or do you prefer to stick to the books and avoid the visual?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Where Do Writers Get Ideas? by Diane Burton



Readers often ask writers where we get our ideas. I thought I’d share something with you that might answer that question. Yesterday, Hubs and I drove up to nearly the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula to pick up our two grandkids from summer camp. On the way home, they regaled us with their adventures—swimming, crafts, etc. Then they settled down and quietly read. That got me thinking . . . Well, what else does a writer do on an eight-hour road trip?

Have I ever mentioned I love Young Adult stories? From Harry Potter to the Hunger Games to Divergent, and I Am Four. I’m fascinated by the stories available to young readers. (Where were those books when I was young?) A while back, I wrote a science fiction YA story. Haven’t published it because I didn’t have anything to follow up with. But . . . while returning from the kids’ camp, I thought about a camp for middle-school age kids. That’s nothing new. Rick Riordan wrote the Percy Jackson series, where the kids at Camp Half Blood (in present-day upper New York State) learn sword play and how to use their supernatural gifts to triumph over the “bad” gods, goddesses, the Fates, Furies, etc.

Since I enjoy writing science fiction adventure, my story would take place on a planet in another world, one I developed for my unpubbed YA. At my camp, the staff could be part of a faction that wants to overthrow the current regime. Along with the usual swimming, games, crafts, they teach the kids something insidious, something to help them with their cause.

Obviously, I’m only playing with the idea at this point. What happens when I start to write? What will the finished product look like? Probably little like the initial ideas. That’s the fun part of writing. Taking an idea, developing it (and the world), then putting fingers on the keyboard and seeing what happens next.

From picking up grandkids at summer camp to a story. That’s how a writer gets ideas.


Apologies for missing my regular posting day on Thursday. I could blame it on chaos on the home front. My Arizona family (son, DIL, Toddler Girl, a Great Dane, and a Lab) just moved in with us until they can find a home. Yay! We’ll all be in the same town for the first time in twenty years. Or I could blame missing my date on a laptop that wouldn’t open, even after 3 trips to Best Buy’s Geek Squad. In actuality, I forgot.



I'll be back next month on my regular blogging date, the 13th. Have a great summer.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Three Twisted Sisters: Texas Hill Country’s Most Famous Trio

While you can legally drive 80 mph on Texas State Highway 130, also known as the Pickle Parkway, motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts flock to three Hill Country Ranch Roads.  SH 335, 336 and 337, are known throughout Texas as the Twisted Sisters.

A stretch of one of these seemingly pleasant curvy roads starts off pretty straight, but then bucks, snorts, twists and turns in an effort to throw us like a bull in a Bandera rodeo. This is whitetail deer country, and they will pop up at the most inopportune times, like in the middle of a downhill, off camber, decreasing radius turn! Then there’s the occasional cage…they can be as unpredictable as a deer and seem to show up at inopportune times, as well.


I hail from South Carolina and from the time I got my first sports car drove the mountainous curves of North Carolina, Tennessee and northern Georgia.  These curves wind so tight you can almost hear them whine.  Recently, I returned from a visit to my son in Yorkshire.  Let me tell you there are curves in ‘them thar hills’ where you can say hello to your own arse coming around a sharp bend!

The second weekend in June, along with a friend and fellow author Toni Sweeney, I drove the Twisted Sisters with my car club.  My license plate surround says it all:  ‘Houston Miata Club – Our members love to go topless’.  Toni navigated on this epic adventure.  I trusted her to know left from right—which I do not! Luckily, the HMC go as a 'convoy' around the twistys and turnys.  We drive to have fun not to set any records--a good thing for one who doesn't know N, S, E & W as more than letters of the alphabet


So here’s to Black Magic, his Momma and Toni Sweeney—On the Road Again…

You might enjoy this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOjO3HSqD1Q

Sunday, July 9, 2017

#GetBitten with a #MilitaryRomance meets #ShifterRomance this summer



Buttoned-up Corporal Kaitlyn Amador is dangerous on every level. As a human, she poses a threat to Marine Captain Jax Raymond’s special Force Recon unit. Though the team has a reputation among the other recon units, only their commanding officer knows their secret. As a woman, the danger posed is entirely different. Jax can survive the temptation for only so long before his wolf takes over and pursues what it wants.

Military intelligence specialist Corporal Kaitlyn Amador is the first woman in the Marines to be assigned to a recon team. And everyone’s watching her. Her mission? Not only prove herself worthy of her place in the group, but uncover the mystery of why Bravo Team is so successful. A mission that gets more difficult every time she’s near Jax...


Excerpt of When Danger Bites

Friday, July 7, 2017

Ode to a Romance Hater

So another one of those pompous screeds is going around about how dreadful the romance genre is. Or so I’ve gathered. I didn’t read it; I just know what’s in it because all of those articles are the same. (See what I did there?)

Every few months, it seems, some douchebag feels the need to tell the world that the romance genre is trash. “It’s lowbrow.” “It’s addictive and dangerous to your health.” “It gives women unrealistic expectations.” “It’s formulaic.” “It’s sexist.” “It’s unfair to men.” Blah, blah, ad nauseam.

First of all, Douchebag McScreedwriter, romance readers don’t actually care what you think. They read romance because they like it. You can shame them all you want (and plenty of you have, including my college writing teacher in my Freshman year), but they’re just going to keep reading it.

As for the romance writers? We’re just going to keep writing it—for them. You see, Douchebag McScreedwriter, romance isn’t about you. It isn’t for you. We aren’t writing it with you in mind, and we don’t care if you like it or not.

We do care that you belittle our readers and malign their interests and intelligence. We care that our readers are infantilized and talked down to by smug, self-appointed arbiters of literary taste who, for the most part, have never even read a romance novel. Because our readers are awesome and smart and feminist and fully able to discern the difference between fantasy and reality all by themselves, and they are tired of your shit.

And do you know what happens in romance novels after your little screeds are published? We write you into them and find interesting ways to plot your demise. The Nazi that gets punched in my upcoming paranormal romance, The Dragon’s Hunt? That’s you, Douchebag McScreedwriter. I gleefully created a composite of Internet scolds and mansplainers and political douchebros and orange-faced baboon trolls—and, yes, literal Nazis—and I punched you in the face.

There’s nothing that pisses me off more than bullies. And you, Douchebag McScreedwriter, are a bully. In my current WIP, the hero’s job is to send the deserving to hell. So guess where you’re going next, Douchebag McScreedwriter? That’s right: straight to the devil. So buckle up, buttercup. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What Kind of Fireworks Are You Looking For In a Story?

by Maureen L. Bonatch 
Happy 4th of July (Independence Day) for all those who are
Photo Courtesy Creative Commons/Pixabay 
celebrating today! On this day, and many other days of the year, people are often looking for a reason to set off fireworks. Whether it’s the loud sound that gives your heart a little jump-start, the threat of an underlying danger, the risk of dealing with such a volatile substance, or the magnificent colors that light up the sky, so many people love fireworks.

But what kind of fireworks are you looking for in a story? You know, not necessarily the genre—because you can mix and match elements of the story with different genres—but more that little something that makes your heart beat a little faster. That essential part that makes you pick up the book in the first place. There’s often something that gives a story the edge that keeps you from putting the book down.

Did You Know…

Fireworks were invented in the 7th century in China and were believed to scare away evil spirits and bring luck and happiness.

Light the Match

There are so many wonderful books available to read. So many that unfortunately we are often consciously, or unconsciously, navigate toward certain elements in a story. When you discover those little things in the blurb, an excerpt, or first pages, you know that you’re probably going to like the book. (And if you’re here, I can only assume you enjoy the paranormal and fantasy in a story as much as we do!)

Burn The Fuse

So you’ve chosen your next book from your TBR (to-be-read) pile. You might love the author’s voice, the characters, the setting, but
Photo Courtesy Pixabay Creative Commons
often there is one part that you’re waiting for. That something that keeps you hurrying through the pages. You know—the good parts. Nope—I'm not just talking about the sex scenes. The best parts of a story are based upon personal preference.

The Fireworks!

Here come all the Ooohs! And Ahhhs! in the story. I’ll name a few story fireworks, but I’m sure you have more to add to our glorious display.

        Love Scenes
Okay, for many people this is the part they’re waiting for. Their sweet spot is when the hero and heroine finally hook up.

Magic
I must admit, in most stories, this is what I’m waiting for. Where’s the magic? The moment when Harry found out he was a wizard? Wow—in my opinion, that’s when the story just got started.

Mystery
Do you love fishing for those red herrings in the story? Maybe you love lining up the clues and guessing who the bad guy really is.

Kicking-Ass
I have to say, this might come in second for me. I love a kick-ass heroine. It’s nice for the hero to sweep her off her feet now and again, but nothing is more exciting than seeing a heroine landing on her own two feet on her own. Especially since I have two teenage daughters who are avid readers. Those are the kind of women I want to inspire them.

So, Where Do You Find the Fireworks in A Story?


Hurry before the fuse burns out— the .99 cents sale ends is a few days—snag some story fireworks in DESTINY CALLING where you’ll definitely find my two favorite fireworks of magic and kick-ass heroines.


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