Thursday, May 31, 2018

Whaddya mean it's May 30th?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me. So busy in fact that I almost missed my normal post day for the Paranormal Romantics blog! May 30th tried to sneak by me without being noticed, but I caught it two hours before the day was over. Needless to say, this is going to be short and sweet. I only have two things to tell you about, anyway.

First, I need your help. You see, today is the final day of the Blue Book Cover Brigade’s efforts to raise money for the ALS Association, and we’d like to end the project on a bang. That’s where you come in. There are three ways to help:

1) Go to our web page, peruse the selection of out-of-this-world SFR and PNR titles. Purchase one…or two…or more, and 25% of each sale will benefit the ALSA. (Note: some authors will donate 100% of their book’s May sales—Prophecy is one of those books.)

2) Have you read all these books already but still want to help? No problem! Go to our ALS team page and make a tax deductible donation to the team, or to the author of your choice.

3) Share this information and links with your friends on social media!

Remember, the project ends May 31, 2018!

Second thing, the third book in my Prophecy series is now available for pre-order!

Collision, Book Three of the Prophecy Series

A heart-rending loss…
Flora Bock will never forgive the Anferthian invaders for murdering her birth-parents. Growing up with the grandson of her sworn enemies is living a nightmare—until the day she sees him through the eyes of a young woman. But giving her heart to him is the ultimate betrayal of her parents’ memory.

 A life in peril…
There are precious few places in the galaxy where Fander K’nil is safe. One look into Flora’s beautiful, hate-filled eyes is proof enough that Terr is not one of those places. He must keep her at a distance and stay alive long enough to fulfill his destiny. No matter what his heart desires.

An empire at stake…
Just as Fander and Flora begin to discover the depth of their feelings for each other, they are thrust into a deadly game of politics and assassination with an enemy who stops at nothing to stay in power. With the lives of everyone they love at risk, they must find a way to avert a new invasion before it’s too late—even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

Haven't read books one and two in the series yet? Check 'em out...

Prophecy, Book One of the Prophecy Series

A woman who's lost everything, a man betrayed by his own, but together their destiny is greater than ever imagined. 

Salvation, Book Two of the Prophecy Series

One incurable disease, two reluctant Healers, three worlds on the brink of war. What could possibly go wrong?

And, boom! I finished my May blog with about an hour to spare. See you all next month with a well-prepared and informative blog. I hope.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Embracing His Roar by @meganslayer #gayromance #pnr #paranormal #shifters #bobcat #lion

Embracing His Roar by Megan Slayer

Sanctuary, Book 11

Gay Paranormal Erotic Romance


From SuperNova Indie Publishing

A bobcat who doesn’t think he belongs and a lion who believes he is unlovable…can they make a relationship work?

Avan has made his share of mistakes, but those are in the past. Moving forward means forgiving himself and having a life at the Sanctuary. He wants just one shifter—Oscar. The bobcat shifter soothes his soul and seems to see the best in Avan. But will he want to be with Avan, even after everything Avan’s done?

Oscar’s lusted after Avan since he first saw him. He doesn’t care what Avan’s done because he believes everyone deserves a second chance. But Oscar’s got a past, too. He’d never felt like he belongs, even at the Sanctuary. The one place he feels safe is with Avan.

The odds a bobcat and lion should be together are low, but the passion between them sizzles. Can they find common ground and embrace their roar or will their differences destroy the blossoming relationship?

Available at


Barnes and Noble:


Google Play:

In Print:

Sunday, May 27, 2018

That funny little number. What the heck is an ISBN and do I need it? by L. A. Kelley

What is an ISBN?
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It has 13 digits and consists of 5 sections separated by spaces or hyphens. The first group is the prefix element, either 978 or 979.  Next is the registration group. It’s between 1 and 5 digits and identifies the country, geographic region, or language. The third is the registrant, up to 7 digits, that identifies the publisher or imprints. The publication element is fourth. It has up to 6 digits and establishes the particular edition and format of a specific title. The last is the single check digit used in some fancy-schmancy mathematical formula you and I couldn’t care less about to validate the ISBN.

Now that I know what it is, what the heck is an ISBN used for?
An ISBN is a product identifier. That’s it. The number is assigned to publications and used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and others to order, record sales, or manage stock. The ISBN identifies the registrant as well as the specific title, edition, and format. ISBNs are assigned to single publications such as books, but not to serial publications such as journals or newspapers. Any book made publicly available, for sale or free, can be identified by an ISBN, but so can individual chapters of books or articles from journals and periodicals. An ebook doesn’t require an ISBN, but a publisher can attach one, if desired. However, each format (e.g. paperback, hardcover, EPUB, pdf) requires a separate number, so if you choose to assign an ISBN to an ebook, it must have a different number than the paperback version.

What does that have to do with the copyright?
Nada, zilch, zippo. The ISBN is an identifier. Simply having an ISBN on a book doesn’t convey any legal or copyright protection. Nor does it take any away from the author. The ISBN only identifies the publisher of a particular edition. In effect, the person or company who ponied up for the ISBN.

How do you get an ISBN?
Some countries issue them for free, but in the USA you have to buy it and they’re not cheap. The only authorized representative in the United States to sell ISBNs is a company called Bowker. ISBNS are $125 for a single ISBN, but they have reduced rates if you buy in bulk.

Does a self-published author need an ISBN?
Maybe. Maybe not. If you only plan to publish an ebook then an ISBN isn’t necessary. Paperbacks or hardcovers are different stories. Companies such as CreateSpace will give you an ISBN for free if you publish with them. Again, this has nothing to do with copyright. The number will only identify the publisher as CreateSpace, and you will still be the author and retain all rights.

If you plan to market mostly ebooks and only sell hard or softcovers through a website or conventions then this is a good cheap way to go. However, you can pretty much forget about bookstores. Most are loathe to take on self-published authors anyway, but a CreateSpace ISBN is the kiss of death. First of all, it’s an Amazon company and indy bookstores don’t want to throw any more money at the Big A. The biggest reason is CreateSpace doesn't have a buy-back option for booksellers, so a retailer can’t return unsold books. Indy bookstores aren’t particularly welcoming to self-published authors, but you may be able to talk a few into carrying your book if you have an ISBN from a company that offers buy-backs, so they’re not out any money if your book doesn’t sell. This means becoming your own publisher. Don’t worry, you don’t need to invest in typesetting equipment. Simply buy an ISBN and use a company that offers buy-back, such as IngramSpark. It won’t guarantee sales, of course, but may put you one step closer.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. Planned to name first child ISBN, but family members objected. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Falling in Love With Social Media (In Spite of Yourself) by Nancy Gideon

When I started out as an author, social media was simple – Type up a newsletter, make copies and tuck it into an envelope. If you wanted to get fancy, you’d include grainy photocopied images of yourself and your cover. Contact with your readers was through those scrawled fan letters or face-to-face at local bookstore signings. And, if you were lucky, the local paper would do an article on you, usually with the slant “Housewife (or Stay-at-home Mom) Pens Happily-Ever-After Love Stories.” Isn’t that cute? Then Romantic Times(RIP!) and Affaire de Coeur coaxed me to spend my hard-earned royalties on magazine ads which quickly spiraled into the bookmark and romance trading card crazes for collectors.

Then, socializing with your reading public went electronic. And time management hopes went to hell in a hurry!

I fought it tooth and nail – first the writing loops (on Prodigy!), then the social groups, springing up like weeds everywhere you looked where you were expected to join and post and chat and still, somehow write those books you had to promote. There were conferences (both professional and fan) where you had to giveaway clever attention getters (my vampire teeth were always a hit!) and smile until your face ached worse than your feet.

Then, suddenly, you never had to leave your laptop. It was all right there with a click of the mouse. My Space, Facebook, chapter and genre loops and groups, Pintrest, LinkedIn, Instragram, Twitter, Wattpad, Snapchat, YouTube . . . and on and on and on. A website wasn’t good enough. You had to blog, and Hop and do events. You couldn’t just write a book, you had to promote it with SWAG and tours and booktrailers and playlists and banners and excerpts and Street Teams. You had to learn about alga rhythms and click-throughs and GDRPs. You had to not only write the book but pitch it, produce it, advertise it, hand sell it, design it, find editors and BETA readers and learn about tag lines and pull quotes . . . And still have time -and the energy- to write.

I confess, some of all the hoopla is really fun! I’ll never, ever enjoy hand selling my books to the public. I’d rather conceive and create in the privacy of my own office. That aspect of social media I adore. From my first bootlegged copy of Photoshop to my subscriptions to Deposit Photo, Neo Sounds, QuotesCover and Canva, I’ve become a graphics whore. An artist by no means, I still love to play with details of text and color and images and sound. Even though I have a Virtual Assistant, I find myself doing much of the leg-work myself because . . . I enjoy that creative aspect of my writing (and I’m somewhat of a control-freak!). I’ll devote my lunch hour to designing banners like this one, endlessly tweaking with text and tone:

I’ll browse graphics for hours, hunt for book trailer music clips and pace the text and images over and over in my mind. I’ve even become addicted to creating YouTube music video playlists for each title.

I could be writing . . . but I’m having too much fun.

You have to draw the line somewhere or you’ll have no product to promote. Creating one flashy bit of text with a buy link and graphic that you can use over multiple medias in a planned approach seems the smart way to go. I’m still learning. Now I know what I can do, what I can tolerate, what I can farm out, and what I’ll let pass without regret.

But I never forget . . . it’s all about the writing. And if nothing’s written, there’s nothing to promote.

What are your favorite media outlets (or distractions)? Best bang for your buck or suck on your time?

Happy Loooong Weekend (with a birthday thrown in for me – Yay!)!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Nancy Gideon on the Web

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Poison Spring by Francesca Quarto

Poison Spring by Francesca Quarto

They arrived at their homestead in the dark of the night, the wheels of the creaky buckboard scrabbling madly over the rocks and hard clumps of dirt.  It was still a young spring and bitterly cold, as he prepared to stop.
Maddie sat rigidly, as if awaiting the hangman's noose to envelope her slender neck.  The pale moonlight painted her still face a milky white.  If one peered closely, they'd see the slight tremble of her lips.  She stared straight ahead at the looming shape of the small house as it pierced the darkness.
The reins were pulled to the left and Benjamin guided the horse to a stop near the front door.  Maddie turned her head slightly, watching her new husband throw off his part of the heavy traveling rug and jump down lightly onto the frozen ground.  
She could see her warm breath curdling like thick milk in the dark air, shuddering at the thought of a true winter here.
Benjamin's heavy boots scrapped loudly over the ground.  He quickly secured the sturdy draft horse to a short railing in front of the house, patting the beast on a muscled flank as he past.  
He was a large man, well over six feet.  A shaggy head of thick, black hair made him appear even taller. He had shaved the beard he sported in the small tintype she'd seen.
Watching as he walked around the tethered horse to her side of the buggy, Maddie realized she'd barely looked at this man when they met at the train station in town.  He had materialized like a phantom, his huge frame stepping out of the billowing steam, pouring off the engine. 
She waited now, as he came to her and pulling back the rug, took her hand to help her down.  His own hand was smooth and strong, the long fingers wrapping tightly around her own.  She allowed herself to be swept from the hard seat, engulfed in a strong arm.  For a moment, she was carried like a feather, floating to the ground.
Benjamin had barely spoken since taking her from the platform of the railway station.  After installing her in the open buggy, she heard only the occasional clicking sounds as he encouraged his nag to hurry over the rough country roads to her new home, her new life as his mail-order bride.
Now, with his arm clutching her slim body to his muscled bulk, his voice sounded rich and warm. 
"Welcome to our home, my dear.  Go inside and warm yourself by the fire, while I see to the horse in the barn."
Maddie felt a twinge of fear when he walked back to the buggy and began unfastening the rigging.  She turned and relying on the creamy light of the moon, she walked up the path to the front door.
She stepped inside, closing the heavy door behind herself.  Without warning, a roaring fire sprang to life in a hearth occupying the far wall of a spacious room. Maddie blinked, but the cold that seeped into her body during the long ride in the open buggy, drove her toward its welcoming, if strange, warmth.
Standing with her hands held out like a supplicant to the heat, Maddie slowly became aware of another presence.
"I hope the chill has left you, Maddie," her husband said, his voice deep and caressing in its tone.  
"I feel quite warm now,"
"Never ask questions of me, wife.  All will be clear shortly.  For now, rest yourself at the table and let us have a bite."
Maddie turned her head slightly and wondered how she hadn't noticed a roughly made kitchen table, set with steaming plates of what appeared to be a stew and hot breads.
"Maddie, remember what I just told you.  I shall demand little of you, but you are never to question me!"
Benjamin's anger flashed from pale, gray eyes.  He took her heavy coat and felt covered bonnet off of her, as if she were a young child. These he laid on top of a long wooden chest set against the far wall, before leading her to a chair at the table.
"You need to eat before it cools, wife.  I shall see to the bedroom so you can retire after.  I know you must feel exhausted from your travels."
Maddie watched Benjamin's back as he walked toward the rear of the small house.  The aroma wafting up from the steaming food, made her mouth water with anticipation.  She hadn't eaten since the morning and it was now, far past midnight.
As she spooned the thick, meaty meal, her mind wandered back to the circumstances that brought her to this place.
She answered an advertisement she found in her town's local paper.  "Wanted.  A bride to share my wealth and bounty and who will find everlasting happiness as my wife."
Her life had been nothing but drudgery and hardship up to that point.  Working long, stifling hours in a cotton mill, she saw her future as clearly as if she'd read it in the paper she clutched to her chest.  She knew this was her only way out of that fate and leapt at the chance.
Her picture didn't do her beauty justice, but did show her fine features and full figure as she stood near her deceased husband, Jack.  Dying unexpectedly of a brain fever before his twenty-first birthday, he left her widowed less than two months after they ran off together.   
At twenty-two, Maddie considered herself little better than a spinster and saw a glimmer of hope in becoming a mail order bride.
Not wanting to deceive the bachelor who might consider her as a wife, she fully explained the circumstances of her widowhood and desire to establish a new life.  Her words must have moved Benjamin, who quickly proposed marriage, hiring a man to stand as his proxy in a hurried wedding.
Her spoon clanked against the bottom of the empty bowl, bringing Maddie back to the present.  The fire still swayed in red and orange flames, though Maddie couldn't remember her new husband coming back to tend it.  She stared into the deep hearth, feeling the warmth radiate out and wrap around her whole body like a heavy quilt. 
She snapped out of her dreamy state at the sound of something heavy scraping the wood floorboards.   
Her new husband was dragging yet another long, black box, similar to the one her things laid upon, into the bedroom he was preparing. She vaguely wondered why he wouldn't be joining her in their marriage bed.  Why do they need the long box in there? Perhaps, she thought, it's a wedding gift, filled with fine dresses and shoes!
She leaned back and let the warmth caress her face.  Without warning she was floating like a paper boat on a stream.  Benjamin lifted her in one movement into his arms an through to the bedroom.
"It is time to consummate our marriage, dear Maddie," he spoke close to her ear. 
His breath felt cold against her neck and she shivered in his embrace.  He laid her upon a narrow bed, barely able to accommodate her slender body.  Maddie found both her arms slipping off the sides, dangling freely.
"This isn't...big enough...bed," she mumbled through the haze that settled into her brain.
"Do not distress yourself, wife," Benjamin said smiling down at her from a great distance it seemed.
"Very soon, we'll have no need of it. You shall lie peacefully next to me upon a cushion of red satin, just as they all do, in time."
Maddie's eyelids felt heavy.  They were drifting shut as Benjamin's mouth came down hard on the pulsing life in her throat. There was a sudden stab of pain, followed by the sound of her voice as she whispered her last question, "What are you..."

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tricks to Build a Character

The character is the heart of the story in my writing world. I figure out the characters long before I figure out the plot. Maybe because memorable characters are what I look for in books, movies, and shows I love. Maybe because I feel like who a character is will determine how they react to the external and internal impacts going on in his/her life.

I'll be honest, I don't have a single, guaranteed, this-always-works method for determining a character. Sometimes they pop into my head fully formed. More often than not, they start out as a vague entity. I do, however, have several tricks I use to help me profile my character and turn them into something real.

Here are my top 4 methods for setting up my characters:

Character Archetype

I'm a romance writer, and my go to, kick things off tool for creating characters is the book The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes.  This book is fabulous because not only does it give several archetypes for heroes and heroines, but it also gives a how would one type of hero work with one type of heroine.

I don't take these and just write my characters out. What I do is take bits and pieces that I think will work particularly well within my story. I also use it as inspiration. Ex. The librarian is quiet but will stand up to the boss when her intellect tells her to. How can I use that in my story?

Write the Blurb (GMC)

I will frequently write the blurb first. My blurbs always have one part for the hero and one for the heroine and essentially lay out the GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) in one paragraph for each.

The hero/heroine has a problem/need/opportunity resulting in a required action/mission/quest/job (goal) with obstacles that block his/her path (conflict) with something at stake (motivation).
(This sentence is pulled from a workshop with Larry Brooks - I highly recommend you take it!)

By having a simple sentence that breaks down the cornerstones of my characters, I can reference that throughout my writing to keep myself on track.

Character Verbs

Last year at RWA I took Damon Suede's Power Couples workshop. If you get a chance, take it! The biggest element I use from that workshop is Damon's use of verbs. To paraphrase... He assigns a powerful verb to a character. Then he uses variations/synonyms of that verb for each of their scenes. There's also a way to make sure your H/H have verbs that help create conflict.

Picking a verb for my H/H is one of the first things I do. But seriously, take that workshop. I can't tell you about it as well as Damon can. :)

Pick 1 Particular Thing

I use this technique any time I feel like a character is coming in flat--a main character or a secondary character. Even, sometimes, random characters. I try to think of one very unique thing about that character and I build a backstory around that unique thing. Slipping that 1 particular thing into the story ALWAYS ends up making that character come alive.

Unique things could be a multitude of elements. Usually I try to make it something observable by other characters. For example:
  • a tattoo
  • a scar
  • a particular word they use
  • a favorite song
  • something they don't like
  • something they notice or are drawn to
I could keep going. Hopefully you  get the idea. The other trick is to have that element have meaning to the character. You'd be surprised at how fast that can become a central theme.

I used to just start writing and see how a character developed. Sometimes I still do that (you can only make a pantser plot so much). But These techniques have become so effective for me, that I find I'm addicted and have to do them every time. If you've read my books, can you pick out any of these in my characters? I'd love to see if my craft is showing. ;)

Fellow authors, what are your favorite tricks?

***This post was originally part of an #MFRWAuthor Blog Hop, but I wanted to share here as well.
***GIFs linked directly from

Friday, May 18, 2018

Write What You Know by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

Everyone always says to write what you know, but that doesn’t have to mean that all you can write about are places you’ve been, activities at which you’re an expert and events you’ve experienced personally. It most often means, literally, to research something you want to write about so well that you’ve added it to your plethora of things you know.

Some of you might ask if it really matters whether you research if you’re just making it up, as in fiction writing and building your own world. The simple answer is: hell yes! Here’s an example: many people often say what a great Sci-Fi writer someone is and that their “make believe” stuff actually comes true. Hm, I wonder why that is? It’s because they so thoroughly researched a scientific theory that they understand it on a left-brain basis and are able to then fictionalize it for their own purposes with a right-brain concept. As modern science advances, scientists can refine theories and the hypothesis is recreated in a real-world application, literally rather than creatively. 

It’s not just science that needs to be researched. If you have a character with certain hobbies or one who plays sports or rock climbs or hikes, or, well, anything that makes a character seem three-dimensional, even if it’s a taste for cinnamon added to their coffee, it’s something you need to research. Yes, research can be as simple as what types of coffee taste best with cinnamon added. They can also be as complicated as what type of machine might theoretically be used to detect the presence of jinn (yes, I have researched that!). It’s what makes your writing stand out among the millions of books that come out every year. It just makes you a better writer and it’s something readers may not always notice on a specific level, but one they appreciate by how much more realistic and believable your make-believe world really is.

That said, you need to be careful. Realistic fiction is a strong goal, so even though it’s fiction, you need to apply your facts in realistic ways. Some people who read fiction are experts in various things. Of course, you know that, but did you also know I’ve seen reviewers write scathing condemnations of writers who get things wrong, or who stray too far from the “facts” while using facts to back up their make-believe that they offend the experts? So, where and how does one research to gain a better understanding of things, so that even if you change some details it’s still believable in your make-believe world?

I don’t need to be a retired educator to know most people begin and unfortunately end with Wikipedia. Why is this bad? Because literally anyone can write or change anything they want on Wikipedia, about any subject at all. Be honest. How many experts do you think spend their time writing entries on Wikipedia? Next to none. It would tarnish their reputations in many respects. Do you think I let my college students use Wikipedia on their Works Cited page? Hardly. Do they credit nine-year-old Mikey who cut and pasted it, plagiarizing NASA?

So where do you go for your information? NASA’s a great start if you’re looking for science facts. I’ve used it and I don’t write science fiction. I have science fiction elements in my mashup urban fantasy reinvented (yes, that’s what I call it because I took genre facts with my left brain and got creative with them with my right brain!). 

If you are lucky enough to have access to university archives online, use those by all means! If not, always check the bottom of a web page, or the top, for copyright data. That will tell you who’s responsible for the information on that website and give you a good clue about whether they are ‘true’ experts, as in recognized by other professionals in their field, on the information you want. Use more than one reference, because you might have difficulty understanding the theories or concepts at first and reading it several different ways from various writing styles helps comprehension. Sites put out by authorities for youngsters is a great place to gain a better understanding of the main concepts. This goes for science, sports, hobbies, and anything else that might be complicated. Just remember that if you’re looking for rules, as in for sports, if you’re talking about adults, you need to look up professional or university rules specifically, because they differ, as do the rules for kids’ sports. 

Does all this research seem complicated? It can be and is often the most labor-intensive part of writing but thank goodness for the internet. Just think what we writers had to do before we had it? And, for many of us, it’s really interesting to find out details about so many things.

Better researching . . . makes better books.

Check out some non-science fiction vs nonsense in one of my books, such as The Book of Life. I'm about 3/4 done with the sequel, The Tree of Life, where you can discover how to detect jinn--in "my" world! You can get The Book of Life in digital, paperback, or also in audio! Click and listen to a clip!

 Audio clip

Monday, May 14, 2018

Legacy of the Stars

My evil twin, Bianca Swan, who writes erotic romance has decided to take a story I wrote called Star Angel, a short piece published in Four by Moonlight, and run with it.  She is up to about 55 pages.  Though it is an erotic romance, the beginning isn't too spicy. So, here is a sample of Legacy of the Stars:

Chapter 1
I watched her walk down the aisle with another man. I’d always known it would happen someday, but I hadn’t expected tragedy to strike like lightning or, dear God, so soon. My Lily looked like an ice princess in her alabaster gown with its silver beads and pearls glittering in the mellow light of the church. In his tuxedo, he looked like the usurper he was.
Her smile glanced off me as she passed the family pew. Brief, oh, so brief that touch before she looked up at her future husband. She was radiant, but with each step she took another piece broke off my heart. Lily was a ballerina and, graceful as the dancer in Swan Lake, glided down her long walk to matrimony. Too soon, they reached the altar.
The man marrying my sister spoke his part, the words echoing hollowly in the expanse of the church. Then…
“Do you, Lily Jane Spears…”
I think while she said her vows I held my breath, perhaps, unable to breathe at all.
Then the breathless moment was over. He folded back the innocent veil and kissed my Lily.  He probably thought she was a virgin. She should have been. She certainly looked virginal in her sacrificial robes. Head held high, a nineteen-year-old girl had bravely took that fatal walk, and now swept down the same aisle a married woman.
She was beautiful. She was his wife. She wasn’t mine anymore.
With the arrival of this moment, our secret was secured, but I was the one left behind. Lily had always feared that I’d go first, and in truth, I thought I’d be the initial victim of our mother’s marriage mill. Everything had happened quite differently than expected. Lily had been a better return on investment. Peter Fellows had more than two pennies to rub together.
One couldn’t really blame Mom. After Father’s death, we’d been forced to move from the land of milk and honey. Thomas Furman Spears had provided well for his family while he lived, but with his demise, he’d abandoned us to near poverty. A long-haul trucker cum potato farmer didn’t put us in the category of wealthy, but he’d spoiled both his children, though, in fact, I’d known Lily was his favorite.
After Father passed, we moved to the Lone Star State, and Mother returned to work as an admin for a scrooge of a boss. At fifteen, to help with expenses, I took a part-time job in the hardware store after school three days a week. At sixteen, Lily was suddenly thrust into the role of homemaker, welcoming us both home at night.
I felt isolated now. Cast away in an emotional storm. I grasped at my rigid control. My thoughts wandered from the floral-scented church and the tragedy playing out before me to the not-so-distant past. To other teenagers, three years was an eternity. To us, it was a time of learning and togetherness—and of startling revelations for me.

I’d preferred to think Lily felt as I did. That certain things were timeless.  That belief betrayed me.
Prospector’s Rest, Six Months Earlier
The Meadow Valley High School was a stately structure resembling a classic English University, ivy crawling along the brick front and cement bay windows overlooking a parklike entryway. I often wondered how such a building had found its way to a small town in West Texas. The area wasn’t exactly known for its beauty and culture, but when Dad died, we’d left Idaho, returning to my mother’s hometown. I don’t think she even glanced over her shoulder as we passed over the Idaho state line. She did toot the car horn, but that was our way of marking progress wherever we went.
I awoke from the sudden flood of memories when another student bumped into me, spilling her books to the grass.
“Sorry!” Jane Perkins grimaced. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
I’d seen Jane around school. She was a pretty girl with long brown hair as straight as my own and eyes the color of a gray winter morning. She held my gaze for a long moment, then smiled before bending quickly to retrieve her books.
“Let me help.” I grabbed a volume from the grass and handed it to her.
“Thanks. Sorry again.” She turned to go, turned back. “Say, Asher, are you going to the Prom?”
“No plans yet,” I said.
 Peter Fellows, a Senior this year, had asked Lily, and she’d accepted though he was a  year older and a grade ahead of her.
“If you don’t have a date—I don’t have one—I mean would you like to go together.” The invitation came out on a rush, and Jane’s high cheekbones pinkened. A lot of people in the area had Native American blood. Jane’s features, including her cheeks, was classic.
“Sure.” I smiled, letting my hand come to rest on her elbow in an unassuming caress.
Her blush deepened, as enchanting as her smile. “Great. I’m late for class.” She shoved a folded piece of paper into my hand. “Call me. I’ll call you back. We’ll plan for the Prom. There’s your sister.” 
Jane pointed to a cluster of students milling around, waiting for the school bus.
“Talk later then.” I smiled, and she hesitated a minute, staring at me.
“Later.” She waved.
As I drew nearer where my sister stood, the conversation within her little group came clear.
“Have you seen the new Star Wars movie yet?” The boy fiddled with car keys on a long chain, regarding my sister with big brown cow eyes.
She shook her head. Her hair captured the afternoon sun in a copper halo. In fact, in her long white dress—why were pretty dresses called Sunday clothes?—she looked like a fiery-haired angel. This morning as we dressed for school, she’d cursed that she hadn’t had time to do the laundry and was going to be overdressed.
She’d been concerned about the other girls' opinions. I’d laughed and said, ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it.’ Now, that wisdom and witticism had come back to bite my butt...hard.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please share. This is very much a work in progress! Happy 14th of May!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

#Mothers and the Future by Diane Burton

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers and to all the mothers you know!

Mothers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. There are mothers who gave birth and mothers of the heart. I’m fortunate to have had a wonderful mother and a terrific mother-in-law. I’m doubly fortunate to be mother to two great adult children and to their spouses who call me Mom.

I’m sure we all know couples who long for children but physically cannot have them. Some will go through expensive procedures to have a child from in vitro fertilization to surrogate motherhood. Some couples adopt.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. Starting with conception, we have worries and physical pain. The older we are the higher the risks. Two of my grandchildren were lost in miscarriages. The emotional pain expectant mothers go through upon that loss is immeasurable. Childbirth is no picnic, either. In my mother’s day, doctors slapped chloroform on a woman, and the next thing she knew she had a baby. I come from the generation that wanted everything natural. No drugs. We were tough. 😊 And, of course, the father would be in the delivery room instead of pacing the waiting room or off fishing.

Giving birth does not equal motherhood. Raising a child is a lifelong occupation. It’s a good thing we didn’t realize what we were in for when we longed for a child. Worry didn’t end with the pregnancy but exploded as the child grew. And let’s not even go into the expense of raising that child.

Advances in medicine (and attitude) are growing all the time. Think about the advances in your lifetime. What about the future? As a science fiction writer, my imagination can come up with many scenarios. My colleagues imagine even more. We writers play the “what if” game.

What if everyone who wanted a child could have one? What if a woman didn’t have to carry her child? Extend fertilization outside the mother’s body so the whole gestational period was also outside. No inconvenience of frequent trips to the bathroom, gestational diabetes, exhaustion, plus the expense of a new wardrobe. You carried on with your life and popped into the lab occasionally to watch the fetus mature. No waiting for an ultrasound to show what s/he looked like. Also, no pain of childbirth. No drugs, either. You get a call from the lab saying your baby is ready to be picked up. Sort of like a car from the dealership.

Whatever the future brings, our future as humans depends on mothers. 

Motherhood is my greatest accomplishment, my greatest pleasure. Grandmotherhood is even better. 😊

Monday, May 7, 2018

Poking the Muse (Who, Maybe, I Shouldn't Be Keeping in a Cage and Starving) by Jane Kindred

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that my muse seemed to have gone dark. I was hoping by this month’s blog post I’d have a happy “I’m writing so fast my fingers are cramping” post to write. Alas, I haven’t written a single word.

I know a lot of people don’t believe in writer’s block. They think it’s an excuse lazy people make for not being willing to put “butt in chair” and just do the work. I suspect those same people tell their depressed friends that if they just went outside and got some exercise and counted their blessings every day, they’d feel better.

I don’t know if this is writer’s block. I just know that I want to be writing, I have time to write, and I am not writing. I see other writers on Twitter talking about drowning in plot bunnies, telling their new characters clamoring for a story to get in line. And there’s nothing in my head.

Well, not entirely nothing. There are two characters who keep dancing at the edges of my dreams, but they refuse to come out into the light and play. I named them the other day—Armand and William—in hopes of coaxing them out of hiding, but to no avail. I know the skeleton of their story (it’s based on a popular fairy tale), and I have vague images of a fog-shrouded setting of stone statuary and an empty, cobwebbed manor estate, but Armand and William remain stubbornly silent.

I think part of my problem is that the panic of a deadline isn’t looming over me, and I’ve gotten used to panic-writing. Another part is my aging cat, who howls bloody murder if I do anything but sit on the bed and let him have my lap. Not to mention the existential angst of living in 2018. But if I had a real story brewing, those things wouldn’t matter (or at least they would be mere details, obstacles, incidental).

In the meantime, I’m anxious and worried about everything. Which is something I’ve always lived with, but not writing definitely exacerbates it. It’s like a constant feeling in the back of my mind that I’m going to get in trouble, I’ve done something wrong, or some karmic fate is going to catch up to me, some disaster I cannot escape.

Spinning other people’s fates has always had a remarkably calming effect on that background noise. I often wonder if other writers use their writing this way, consciously or otherwise. Giving their characters problems and flaws that they can eventually triumph over. Writing worlds that they, the author, can control when everything in the real, mundane world is so often out of our control. Writing as therapy. Maybe that’s something I can do. Maybe.

Maybe I’m doing it right now.

Maybe Armand and William need a therapist.

Friday, May 4, 2018

When Fiction and Reality Become One

 By Maureen L. Bonatch

Crows lurk around the office where I work at the day job. They unexpectedly fly at the window and startle me, and others, from working. Just the other day one stared me down in the parking lot.  Cawing. I had to force a little extra courage in my step as I approached him while he watched me with a narrowed eye. I’d seen him before. Sitting on top of the light posts in the parking lot. Watching

When I see him, it makes my skin crawl a little. 

I’ll glance back to see if he’s still there. He is. If he’s still watching me. He is

He can’t fool me. I know who he is. That crow is Randall Flagg.

Characters That Invade Reality 

If you love Stephen King books, as I do, and especially his book, THE STAND, then you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about. The demonic, evil figure of Randall Flagg appeared not long after the plague in the story. He could disguise himself as a crow—and I’ve never been able to look at a crow the same since. Randall Flagg was a character I loved to hate. A character that has lived on in my mind for years, and I’m not the only one.

I can mention seeing “Randall Flagg” to people and some of them don’t question it. They nod and don’t even frown, or question my sanity. Because they know who I mean. The character has lived on beyond the book in their minds, and mine, and become part of our reality. To me, I don’t think of him as a character in the book. He’s moved beyond that and stepped from the paper into our world.

True to Life Characters

The art of creating a true to life character is something to be admired. It displays an author’s ability to create a character as real to others as it is to them. One that had previously only lived in their thoughts. 

Randall Flagg has stepped over from fiction to reality so far that he has his own Wikipeida page. So I know it’s not just me keeping a wary eye on any crow that lingers a little too long. 

What Fiction Characters Have Become Part of Your Reality?

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

5 Distractions--Confounding Catch-Flies that Discombobulate my Creativity

We all have priorities and we all have goals and we all have things we like to do as opposed to those things we feel we should do. For me, writing still seems like a guilty pleasure. Now that I’ve decided to really give it the old college try, many things get in the way. These are my 5 greatest distractions.

5—Day Job. Really, I have the perfect day job. It’s online so nobody knows I’m sitting cross-legged wearing my pjs with hair that looks like last year’s haystack sipping Scotch at 9:30 in the morning. It’s only part time and though that lessens the money I make, it leaves me with more free time than I’ve ever had before.  But it’s still  a distraction and sometimes I feel guilty for not paying more attention to it.  I used to be an over achiever so I took on extra duties and did all those things that you do to get noticed. Been there; done that. But now, I’m not up for that. It’s a weird feeling and, after all, I do have an obligation to meet. I mean, these unwary people are paying me money to do what I do and that money pays for certain luxuries I’ve come to enjoy—like food, electricity, and Redbox movies.
I remind myself that the dayjob is transient, much like my in-laws. It will not last much longer and when it’s gone, I’ll barely remember it. 
4—Gardening.  Right now my garden is just getting underway. I enjoy yardwork and gardening but, let’s face it, I’m not as young as I once was and a couple of hours digging in the dirt or mowing the virulent herbage I call a yard takes a lot out of me. I can only do so much before I have to crawl into a vat of anti-itch, anti-pain ointment. This distraction will calm down as the summer goes along, but right now the mournful call of unplanted zinnia, the plaintive wails of sprouted parsley yearning to breathe free, and the moans of under-watered seedlings waft into my office on every spring zephyr.
3—Housework. I do like a clean house, but you can’t tell by looking. I learned long ago that housework is happy to wait for you—it will still be there later in the day and the world will keep spinning even if I have dirty windows. My mother and my sister are immaculate housekeepers. I am not. So I am torn between the knowledge that housework is not an essential task—I mean, as long as the place isn’t in such sad shape the health department needs to be called—and the desire to live up to the standards I grew up with.

2—Reading and watching TV. Consuming other people’s creativity instead of producing my own. Oh, this is a problem. I can always rationalize that the fresh murder mystery I want to read is actually research or the hilarious, offbeat comedy I want to watch will provide inspiration. The truth, of course, is that it’s easier to veg out in front of the TV or with a book than to get busy and get to work. If anyone knows a way to solve this—do tell.

1—Family. My kids are great kids and are busy with their own lives. When they drop by, they are the priority so I have no qualms or regrets about spending time with them. They are lots of fun. Right now, I have a huge distraction in the kid area because my daughter is pregnant with my first grandchild. This is a miracle beyond belief because 1—she always professed an absolute and abiding non-interest in children of any ilk and 2—she successfully reached the age of 40 without producing a child or any reasonable facsimile thereof. Now we have a little girl in the oven and—drumroll—she is due on my birthday.

This is a sign from the Universe so I am fully invested in this experience. Trouble is my daughter is in Germany—choosing to hang around the father of said girl-child instead of living in my basement in the OutBack miles from anything faintly resembling civilization. Go figure.

I’ve told you mine. Now tell me yours. What distracts you from doing what you want to do? AND HOW DO YOU MAKE IT WORK ANYWAY?