Thursday, August 30, 2018

Fantastic holiday hints for your nerd(s)

Every year around September one of my brothers-in-law starts poking at me for my birthday/Christmas list. The best thing Amazon ever did for our family was provide the shareable wish list option. I can’t tell you how happy this makes my BIL. Now, instead of poking at us to give him an actual list, he pokes at us to update our online lists. If we don’t, then he just buys what’s still on them…and odds are that it’s the same thing he bought us the previous year because he doesn’t exactly use the wish list feature correctly.

He’s kind of adorable like that.

This year I decided to get a jump on him and update my list now (i.e., stop him from buying me another DVD of I Am Dragon, etc.**) Yes, I realize it’s only August, but my birthday is in November and he likes to buy early. I must redirect him before it’s too late! Just trust me on this, I know what I’m doing.

Oddly, my practical mind has veered in the direction on crazy-nerd-lady this year. As hard as it is to believe, this is not normal for me. Usually I ask for things like a wall calendar for scheduling my writing deadlines, or Amazon gift cards, or books, or music (last year it was all Imagine Dragons), or socks. Stuff I need and use. For some reason "practical" flew out the window the moment I typed “Sci-fi” in Amazon's search box.

Have you ever done this search before? If you haven’t, you must! There are some pretty amazing items of the sci-fi kind out there. If you are a nerdist like me, or you’re shopping for one this holiday season, here are a few of the cool ideas I came across…some of which may or may not be on my list:

“Must Haves” for every Star Trek fan on your list:


Ever wonder What Would Capt. Kirk Do? Here’s an insightful book of witty advice from everyone’s favorite Star Fleet captain.

What space cadet wouldn’t want this for their desk?

For the discerning and social nerd. Alcohol not included. (You can find Romulan ale on eBay, or from Harry Mudd…but you didn’t hear that from me. That stuff’s illegal!) 

For your loved ones battling the evil Empire:

Start 'em out right. (Available in 12 different colors!)

They will thank you every morning when they wake up to Boba Fett's—Star War’s new hottest character—sultry voice murmuring, “As you wish.” Or “Han shot first.” (I don’t really know this, but it sounds cool.)

If you or your nerd are more the Time Lord type:

The cuddly blanket inspired by van Gogh’s lesser known painting, Wibbly-Woobly Night.

Sci-fi B-movie collector?

This is the pin collection for 2018! 

And finally, in honor of humanity’s greatest entertainment loss:

Draw your grieving nerd from the depths of despair and angry letter writing with a friendly game of Firefly Yahtzee.

I could go on, there are so many unusual and fun items out there (including tons of t-shirts for every nerdtastic member of your family!) and only a limited amount of space on this blog. However, over the next couple of months, I will post some of them on my Facebook page if you’re looking for more creative gift ideas.


USA Today Bestselling Author Lea Kirk loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her science fiction romance Prophecy series. She’s an avid Trekkie, Gryffindor, and wannabe space explorer. She’s made one foray into paranormal romance with her Magic, NM vampire novella, Made for Her, and hopes to write more stories in this world.

When she’s not busy writing, she’s hanging out with her wonderful hubby of twenty-eight years, their five kids (aka, the nerd herd), and a spoiled Dobie mix pup.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Getting Back Out There with @MeganSlayer #writing #publishing #revisions #newedition

There are a few fun things involved in being an author. You're writing books. That's cool enough. I love being able to write for a living. You are welcomed into someone else's life to share your story. That's big. The first time I heard someone sought me out because they wanted to read my book was a crazy, fun moment.

But there are a few things that aren't so fun. One of them would have to be when a publishing house closes. You've got your works there. You want to keep them out. Most of all--at least in my case--you love your publisher and don't want to see them close. But then it happens. Now what?

I ran into that problem. I have books with a pub that's closed. Many publishers don't want previously published stories. They want new works. Makes sense. New hasn't been seen before. New is shiny. New

But those old stories aren't bad. Some need updated. Some need help. Most don't have anything wrong with them. They're just stories that have been out already. Some have had large reader bases and some have had smaller ones. Some books just need another chance to get out there and be seen.

That's where I'm at. I've got an entire series that's aching to come out again. So that's what I did. The whole series is coming out in October. Which? The Battle Scarred Series. Yes. I'm thrilled to have them back out again. It's great.

Want to know more about the Battle Scarred series? Here's a little bit about book 1, You Have Me:

You Have Me 

By Megan Slayer
Battle Scarred, Book 1
Contemporary Paranormal Romance
M/F, Anal Sex, BDSM, Bondage, Toys, Spanking

When the rest of the world crumbles and fails, you have me. 

Kynan Laing gave up his mortal soul to the will of the Sources, the ancient beings in charge of the universe. With the sensual grace and speed in his vampire form, he serves in his role as a Protector for the Supernatural world. But the impending war between the Supers and Hunters is heating up. The woman he's charged to protect is all grown up and the perfect submissive partner he wants. Can he keep his heart under wraps while keeping her safe?

Alexa Mercury doesn't know why she's supposed to trust the vampire, but she does. Even when she pushed him away, Kynan watches over her. She craves him like no other and wants to submit body and soul to him, even if he is a Supernatural creature of the night. When circumstances beyond her control force them together, Lexa will have to decide whether to offer her heart to the vampire or risk her very soul. 

This book was previously released and has been revamped for this edition.

Copyright © January 2018 by Megan Slayer

Kynan closed the door to her room and enfolded her in his arms. He stroked her hair, breathing in the scent of her perfume. Watching her through the window paled in comparison to actually holding her.
“Stay with me tonight.” Lexa’s words curled around his heart. “I need you more than you know.”
“You have me,” he replied. She fit so perfectly against his body, like they’d been fated to be together. He thanked God and the forces who’d thrown them together. He kissed the top of her head. “You’re shaking.” Kynan carried her to the bed and cuddled her on his lap. Was their reuniting too much, too soon? Too bad.
“Don’t peer into my head.” Lexa rubbed his arm.
“I won’t.” Damn it. He’d spent so much time peering into the heads of humans he forgot what it was like to take someone on their word. “Tell me what’s upsetting you?” Besides her scary as hell ex happened to be a hunter and wanted him dead. “I’ll lay down my life for you.”
“You’re dead.” She tipped her gaze to his. His skin tingled from her touch on his arm. Most of the time he felt nothing. Now that he was with her, everything came into sharp focus. Her touch sizzled on his skin, and he longed for his heart to beat for her. He groaned.
“I don’t want to be alone.” Lexa kissed his neck, pressing her face to his jugular. “I want to feel loved, not like I’m a freak.”
“You’ve never been a freak.” Why should she feel that way? Because she liked kinky sex? Because she knew a vampire? Bullshit. “Tell me what you like.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

#New Cover for By Reservation Only by Barbara Edwards

Check my new book cover! By Reservation Only will be released soon from The Wild Rose Press.

I’m inviting you to visit the Deerbourne Inn, the setting for my story. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy the cool nights, warm days and glorious autumn colors.  Get acquainted with the new owner, Nathan Harte, an award-winning chef, escaping the rat-race of the city for a slower more rewarding life. His Red Clover Cafe will feature his diverse menu while the Inn’s breakfast menu sparkles.

Walk through the centuries old building and pick a room on the second or third floor. Old fashioned wallpaper, original antiques and crafted items from local artists made each room individual, yet give it flavor.

For those who love the paranormal: Ignore the occasional weeping from an empty room or a snip of female laughter unless you’re curious about who haunts the place. 

Victoria Harte, his sister, has claimed the two cottages for her patients: wounded military suffering from PTSD who need the peace and quiet of the Vermont countryside. 

The Deerbourne Inn is in Willow Springs, Vermont. a fictional small town near all the area attractions. Do you ski? Fish? Hike? Like Fall foliage? Hunt antiques? There is something for everyone. 

Please follow, friend or like me. I love to hear from my readers.
Amazon Author’s Page

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Lowdown on Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents for Writers by L. A. Kelley

In light of the recent brouhaha over “cockygate” it’s time for a little rundown on the differences between copyrights, trademarks, patents and how they pertain to writers.

What’s a copyright?
Copyright is legal protection for works of authorship. For the written word it covers such things as fiction and nonfiction in all lengths, magazine and newspaper articles, even computer software, manuals, catalogs, brochures and compiled information like databases. It can also cover dramatic works, motion pictures, audiovisual and sound recordings. Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, facts, inventions, processes, systems of operations, words, names, symbols or proprietary information, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. A book title can’t be copyrighted. A single word can only be copyrighted in context. You can’t copyright the word “amazon”, but you can form a company called Amazon and copyright the word in a particular font to use for the logo. Doing this forms a trademark.

How do you get a copyright?

Write stuff. Copyright protection is automatic

the moment your work has tangible form. Whether you write longhand, use a computer, or dictate your work into a recorder, you have copyright protection. Only original works can be copyrighted, so, sorry, that fifteen century treatise on milk pox by an anonymous friar can’t be offered up on Amazon under your own name. This doesn’t mean your idea has to be original. There are plenty of updated versions of Frankenstein floating around that use the basic premise of the tale: mad scientist creates a monster that eventually runs amok and destroys him. Even if Mary Shelley wanted to complain, she couldn’t.

Only works published before March 1, 1989 need a formal copyright application. Nowadays, nothing is necessary, but a self-published author can place something like Copyright©2019 by L. A. Kelley in the front matter. It functions as a subtle reminder to others that this is mine, write your own stuff.

What’s the difference between that and a trademark?
Most people get trademark and copyright confused. Trademarks are words, names and symbols used to identify goods and services. A trademark is designed to protect a brand so consumers don’t mistake one similar product with another. You don’t trademark a book series title unless you can prove that the title is part of your specific brand. In the case of “cockygate” the author registered for and received a trademark on the word “cocky” written in an open-access font. Soon evidence appeared the trademark should never have been granted as the Patent and Trademark Office didn’t have the full details of the application. After months of outrage from the writing community and numerous lawsuits the author was told to stick her trademark where the sun don’t shine. She and her bottom-feeding lawyers withdrew the application.

One area of confusion is that trademarks can be words. It’s important to note that the words must be associated with a brand, but the brand does not have to be commercial. Law enforcement agencies can have an image and brand to protect, too. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police control licensing over their image and have been cracking down on trademark infringement for over twenty years. Merchandise with the RCMP name and logo are available in commercial outlets, but vendors pay a ten percent licensing fee to the Mounties.

Technically, trademarks can’t be used without the owner’s permission. This means if you insert one in a novel, the owner can demand removal. The list of trademarked single words is long and surprising. Gerber owns the trademark to “onesie”. “Shabby chic” belongs to designer Rachel Ashwell. The National Association of Realtors owns the term “Realtor”. Marvel comics trademarked “Super Hero” in 1967, but the word “superhero” is okay to use by anyone. Even sounds can be trademarked. The three note NBC chime and the MGM lion’s roar is trademarked, but Harley Davison was unable to get one for its engine sound. My favorite

famous non-trademarked sound is The Wilhelm Scream. It’s a sound effect that cropped up in 1951 and has been used in over 200 films. Since the originator never applied for a trademark and his name is lost in the annals of history, it’s free for filmmakers to use. You’ve heard it dozens of times, but never knew what it was. Now you do. If you’re curious, check out this compilation of The Wilhelm Scream. I bet you recognize it.

A writer can avoid trouble by using generic terms; trash bin for Dumpster, tissue for Kleenex, sports car for Corvette. Frankly, most companies aren’t going to come after a writer for using a trademarked term. The only ones I know who are frothing-at-the-mouth possessive about their property rights, and employ a cadre of lawyers to defend them, are Disney and Marvel (a Disney company.) I recommend staying away from any mention of their products.

So what the heck is a patent?
Patents are used for inventions and processes. As with a copyright, you can’t patent an idea. In short, patents can be issued for a process (steps to produce a result), a machine, manufacturing (combining materials in a new way), or composition (a novel drug or genetically modified seed.) The only instance for a writer to consider a patent might be in the development of a software program, for example, a different type of grammar check. Even then, the benefits of a patent is debatable. It depends on how the software is used together with the hardware, and what should be protected from a competitor. The software innovation may lie in an apparatus, system, algorithm, method, network, data processing or the software itself. It’s important to remember the patent process is expensive, time-consuming, and a patent needs to be filed in every country where you want protection.

L. A. Kelley writes fantasy and science fiction with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. She applied for a patent to copyright her face as a trademark and was soundly rejected (insert The Wilhelm Scream.)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Help! My Series Has Been Hijacked by My Villain! by Nancy Gideon

He’s gorgeous, he’s suave, he’s snarky, he’s Italian, and oh, so sexy . . . and, he’s the villain! What’s an author to do when the bad guy is getting all the prime real estate scenes? It wasn’t planned that way but there it is. Every time he gets page time, no other character exists.

It all started in the first book of my Touched by Midnight vampire romance series. The hero was doing fine on his own until two old friends show up at his wedding, an icy, deadly blonde and . . . him. Gerardo Pascale. Dark, droll, and dangerous to this author’s pitter-pattering heart, the more I tried to vilify him, painting him as petulant, vengeful, and treacherous—a slave to the vicious vampire who made him, then turned him against his best friend, the more intrigued I became. Even after a final attempt at revenge against the friend he blames for his misery ends badly, Gerardo redeems himself on the last page, giving the reader, and me, hope that he become hero material.

Book 2, MIDNIGHT TEMPTATION. He’s baaaack! Sleek and sinister but with a heart unable to harden when it comes to the daughter of his friend and the woman he admires, Gerardo schools young Nicole on the ways of their kindin post-Revolution France, trying to seduce her away from her beloved with the mysteries he confides. And he steals the show. I don’t want to give toooo much away because MIDNIGHT TEMPTATION is on sale through the end of the month for only $.99! If you haven’t read the series, take chance and get to know this deadly charmer.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ 

Her compelled gaze settled far back into the shadows, upon the figure of a man in stark silhouette. He jerked as if with some shock of recognition, then took one gliding step forward to the edge of lamplight.

Reflection played an eerie game upon his face, highlighting skin so fair it seemed translucent and hollows so sharp and deep they were like caverns. A face so startling, so unnaturally beautiful she came close to stumbling in her study. Beneath an arch of black brows, eyes of an icy, luminous blue entranced her. Even as she jerked her head away, she caught the impression of his smile, serene and sinister all at once.

Nicole had never seen the Devil, but on this night, she was sure he walked abroad. She was just as certain that he followed, safely back amongst the shadows. She could feel him, an essence so powerful it frightened her. The moment she crossed the bridge, the sensations faded, and she knew he was gone. But the fear lingered, lending a quickness to her heartbeats and an anxious panic to her mind.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ 

Gerard appears again in Book 3,then finally in Book 4, MIDNIGHT ENCHANTMENT, he gets tragic hero standing. So, as I presumed all along, there was a good(ish) guy inside just waiting for the chance, if not to see the light of day, then at least find the love of the right woman.

What is it with villains? Does anyone else suffer this affliction? What makes them so . . . yummy? Their ultimate bad boy status? Their need for redemption? Their living on the edge devil-may-carelessness? Their unavailability? Or the wounds behind their darkness that we want to heal? Who are your favorite redemption-worthy villains?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Nancy Gideon on the Web

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Turn of the Wheel by Francesca Quarto

A Turn of the Wheel by Francesca Quarto

Aunt Margaret was never my favorite relation. In fact, I barely knew of her when I became her companion and care-giver, four months ago.  Naturally, she didn't recognize me as kin, her poor- as-a-street-beggar, great niece, Lettie. 
I had to put up with constant ranting and badgering from the minute she opened her piercing blue eyes until her wrinkled lids shut for the day, along with her wizened mouth. 

Fortunately, it was easy to escape into another room in the large house, away from the harping sound of her voice. The money barely helped to dull the verbal abuse she inflicted upon me daily, with her wicked tongue. 
My extremely obnoxious relation was totally bedridden, when I wasn't moving her about in her wheelchair.  The house maid told me my late Uncle Freddy's role in her condition.
The maid said Uncle Freddy was driving a brand new Gold Bug Speedster, just like the one favored by the famous boxer, Jack Dempsey. It was a lavish gift from Meg to Freddy, on their first Anniversary. Naturally, it was his money she spent.  Freddy was a rich old bugger and Aunt Margaret spent his fortune freely.
Before the automobile accident, according to the maid, who'd been with the household for over twenty years,  Meg was once a beautiful, vivacious woman.  She wore her golden-brown hair in the stylish "Dutch Boy" bob of the day, cut straight along her chin line, with thick bangs brushing her fashionably thin brows.  She always wore the latest in make-up, applying her powders and lash Kohl, as expertly as any aspiring movie ingénue.
But all her fashionable wardrobe, make-up, hair styling,and his money, couldn't save her from the fate of a broken body. The maid described the scene of the accident vividly, likely using some embellishments as servants tend to do.

Because Freddy, quite a bit older, with poor eyesight, pushed the Speedster to its limits, he wasn't aware of a dangerous hazard around a slight bend in the road.  He slammed head-on into the neighbor's thick-sided Bessie, newly escaped from her paddock. The cow was stunned.  Getting back to her wobbly legs and crossing over the roadway, before succumbing to  fatal injuries.

The maid said his only passenger, Aunt Margaret, was hurled out of the racing vehicle like a ball from a cannon.  Uncle Freddy was fortunate to have the steering wheel in front of himself and therefore was not ejected from the now ruined vehicle. But his bowels were never the same the servant revealed and he died within a month of the accident, leaving his crippled wife a very wealthy invalid.

Aunt Margaret never forgave Uncle Freddy for her condition and because of her advancing years and ill health, became increasingly afraid of how that would effect her after-life. She confided this fear to me one day in a moment of self-pity no doubt, as we walked (she rolled) the gardens.

Using this as a perfect excuse to get her out of the house, and, out of sight of the other household staff, I suggested we visit old Freddy's grave site.

Rolling her down the garden path and deeper into the less-tended park setting of the family plot, I knew exactly what I needed to do to rid myself of the wretched woman and gain a fortune in the process. 
We had to climb a long hill to reach the square mausoleum, set on the top like a beacon of death.  Pushing the much heavier Margaret uphill, had me sweating like a race horse with the effort. I planned on giving Margaret a last shove at the top, so she'd roll downhill, picking up speed until she careened into one of the many trees below.

Finally we reached the goal and Margaret asked that I open the door with a large skeleton key she removed from a  chain I'd never seen before that held another of the same cut. The lock turned easily and I pushed the door wider, so the interior was better-lit.  

I heard Margaret give a small laugh, more of a snort, like she knew something funny was about to happen.  I had my back turned to her where she sat.  I was curiously peering into the shadowy interior when I was shoved hard from behind.  

I fell across the sarcophagus where I presumed Freddy was laid to rest, banging my shins hard against the gray stone and rubbing my forearms raw of its gritty surface. I was gathering myself after the shock, when the door was slammed shut.  I clearly heard the lock being turned into place.  

Stunned and standing in total darkness, a voice suddenly came out of the inky mass surrounding me.
"You are my last relative, Lettie and thought to murder me and inherit my fortune.  Many others have tried before you, dear.  Now you can tell your pathetic story to Freddy while you await your own end.  But you must admit, I had you fooled, playing the invalid.  I've been able to walk short distances since the accident, but kept the truth from everyone as it served to punish that dolt, Freddy for what his stupidity did to me.
Anyway dear, it's time to leave you with the others who tried to kill me off.  Oh, yes, they're all in there with you, relatives who crawled out of the woodwork to get to my fortune. The company will be good to pass the time until...well, you know!" She was laughing outright, now.

I could hear Margaret struggling to get back into her wheel chair, cursing as she hauled her weight onto the cushioned seat.  I heard her begin to roll away, over the loose gravel covering the ground.  The next sound was most gratifying of any, considering the end she provided for me. 
A high pitched scream, lasting several minutes, fading in and out as it became more distant.  Seems this mausoleum will shortly have one more occupant.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Where Did Shifters Come From?

I have a confession to make... I'm obsessed with shifters. 

Oh, that wasn't a secret? Lol. Granted every single one of my series (SvaturaShadowcat NationLegendary Consultants) involve shifters. And my upcoming new release--THE BOSS--is about a team of enforcers who happen to be dragon shifters (coming 9/24). 

I love paranormal creatures of all kinds, but shifters hold a special place in my heart. The power to take on an animal (or sometimes other) form and be able to claim those abilities and characteristics is something I find fascinating. Maybe it's because, as a mere human, my only super power comes from creating worlds in my mind and putting them on paper. How much cooler would it be to live those worlds? To run with wolves or fly with dragons?

So I decided to research the history of shapeshifters. Where did these paranormal creatures come from? I found it very interesting that, unlike other creatures like vampires and Frankenstein, almost every culture around the world has some type of transformation or shape-shifting mythology (typically with animals indigenous to the area). Many of these mythologies go back to antiquity.

In earlier history, shapeshifters were most commonly deities (gods or goddesses) with the magical ability to transform. In Japan they have Kitsune, a fox shifter who is typically benevolent but often a trickster. Korea and China have similar fox shapeshifter myths. In Africa, deities shift into lions or leopards. In South America they transform into jaguars. Some gods/goddesses in Greek, Roman, Norse, etc. mythology can choose their forms.

Another frequent myth seen for shifters in earlier history is humans who were transformed into something by a god or goddess as a punishment. In Greek mythology, Arachne was transformed into a spider. In Roman myth and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, King Lycaon was changed to a wolf by Jupiter (some attribute this as the beginning of werewolf mythology). But in these cases, the person changed had no power to return back to human. This theme continued in later European folklore. The Frog Prince and Beauty and the Beast both involve transformation into animals as a punishment.

Enter the Middle Ages where the werewolf mythology became prevalent. Most of the people executed for being werewolves in this time period were later found by historians to be serial killers. The werewolf mythology also closely follows witch folklore and persecution. In fact, shifter mythologies were not all that prevalent in North America until brought over by European colonists at the same time as they brought their fear of witches.

Based on what I could find, not a lot seemed to change about shapeshifter folklore for quite some time. Up to the 1940s (and even later) they were truly seen as monsters eliciting terror and revulsion. Early books and movies about werewolves have the happy ending being the death or defeat of the creature.

In my research, I couldn't find a specific trigger for the change in perception of shapeshifters and werewolves as monsters to the view of them today as sympathetic and even heroic (and freaking awesome). Even books written in the mid- to late-1900s still use a more classic example of shifters. For example, in C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, Eustace is shifted into a dragon but more as a learning moment or punishment, not at will.

I would argue that shapeshifters we see today both in literature and movies, unlike their earlier counterparts, become the hero of most stories in the last 10-20 years by changing these aspects:
  • ability to change at will (rather than being trapped in the animal form)
  • more reasoned thinking (more human attributes, previous monsters went total animal)
  • usually good and are solving the problem (even if the problem stems from them)
  • frequently have an entire subculture to support them / live with in peace
  • more often than not, shifting/were-hood is not a punishment, but a lifestyle
What a change from the monsters they originally were. Right?

I've found this topic so interesting to research, I'll have to dig more on the psychology behind this phenomenon. My guess is that, like vampires, we've romanticized werewolves and other shapeshifters, giving them more human qualities, behaviors, and values. Dissatisfied by our human frailty, we are intrigued by the thought of what additional power assuming such a form could provide. It makes me wonder what the next 10, 20, 100 years have in store for these fascinating and ancient creatures.

In the meantime, I'll continue to write the characters that speak most to me, which, right now, happen to be dragon shifters. Look for my new Fire's Edge series starting in September!

*GIFs linked directly from

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Best Character Ever Written by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

Recently I’ve been thinking about characters and what they are like. What makes for an interesting character that people would like to read about isn’t as easy as one might think. 

When asked where they get ideas for characters, authors often state dreams, real life, a photo that gave them an idea for a character, or a current event.

However, characters who make you think of them long after you finish the book are remembered for what they did and how they felt about it. They make you think about your own lives and they make you feel. Emotion drive actions, no matter how logical one may feel they’re being. A need to be perceived as good or even professional are all based on personal beliefs and stem from a response to internal, emotional stimuli. Whether or not a character openly acknowledges it, the reader wants to see the character struggle and fail and try again and overcome chaos and disasters, and pick themselves up from disappointments, and have wants and needs and strive to achieve them.  Simple right?

I’ve heard people say that most genre fiction is plot driven and most romance is character driven. Makes sense, but some of the best romance has complicated plots and fascinating supporting characters. Plenty of wonderful genre fiction has fascinating characters who have healthy sex lives and interesting love entanglements. In all fiction I think it’s vital that the main characters are interesting and complex. They don’t have to be rock stars or fashion models, and can even have emotional or physical disabilities. Marked for Greatness and the Tell-Tale Heart come to mind. Imperfections help create character. More books with characters who have mental illness are certain to come in this nation of anxiety-ridden millennials. Prozac Nation, The Bell Jar, and Fan Girl come to mind. 

Whatever else they may be, the main characters in fantastic novels are complex, interesting, and outside the box when it comes to ordinary or mundane.

So what do you look for in a great character when you read or write?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

RealDoll - The Future of Love & Romance?

RealDoll is a talking, emoting(?) human-size, life-like sex toy. They are pretty amazing.

I first saw the RealDolls on a Facebook post and had to learn more…like if they made male models.  I dropped that idea like a lava rock when I found out the price is a modest $10,000.  Not this week.
Abyss Creations is making Love For Sale—very reminiscent of my book of the same name.  Love For Sale was published in 2015, but the story goes way back to the 90s.  It began as a short story, won an award, and I thought ‘why not a novel?’

I digress.

One of the dolls, the one shown in the ads, is named Harmony.  A columnist from the Engadget visited Abyss’ facility and met Harmony. He said, “Harmony’s eyes are a window to an uncertain future.”

I am intrigued by AI used as loving companions—not so much as pleasure bots, but the RealDolls have their place.  There are a lot of lonely people, for one reason or another. Some are just not socially adept. Some are deformed or consider themselves unattractive and unable to find a companion.  Coming home to their doll may be a bit weird, but it’s better than coming home alone, if you crave company.

"A lot of the people who buy the dolls can be shy or socially intimidated by real social situations," McMullen of Abyss says. "And so, they get the dolls and a lot of times it — it does something magical for them. You know, it gives them a feeling of not being alone, not being a loner. And so, it's the companionship that I think, more than anything else, appeals to those people in particular."

“Harmony can hold a conversation, but she's far from a perfect. When McMullen gave me a spin with a beta version of Harmony AI, I ramped up a series of random personality traits to their highest levels, including "annoying," "sexual" and "insecure." It's like a scene out of West World, but Harmony is no Maeve Millay.” Quoting the Engadget article called ‘Computer Love’.

Guile Lindroth is the Brazilian AI engineer and the brains behind Harmony's brain. He has worked for more than 15 years on the project. He manually programs her knowledge base. This permits him to control the conversation without having to access too much of a end user's data.

The term – the Uncanny Valley—was coined by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in a 1970 paper about human reactions to lifelike robots and describes that eerie feeling one gets when encountering an artificial human that comes close to but doesn't quite measure up to "being human". 
Sex bot aside, if you met Harmony, would you find her creepy?  I asked this question on another post about human-like robots earlier talking about the Japanese models.  I’m very interested because of Love For Sale, which is about sentient, human-like androids built to sell as companions, but in the end that was not their purpose.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The MacGuffin by Diane Burton

"In crook stories it is almost always the necklace, 

and in spy stories it is most always the papers."

I’m working on the fourth book to my Outer Rim series, The Spy. The bad guy—introduced in book 1, The Pilot—has his fingers in government, industry, religion, everywhere. They call Hallart a galactic gangster. Through his minions, he’s into every aspect of life. Yet, citizens go about their everyday business, oblivious to how he’s changing their lives. And not for the better.

One brave man infiltrated Hallart’s organization. In the five years, he’s been undercover, Quin worked up through the ranks until he’s as close as he’s going to get to the gangster, the inner circle. His time is coming to an end. He’d better get out before he’s exposed. But he has one more task. One that will bring down the organization and expose all who work for the gangster.

All he has to do is find . . .

Here’s my frustration. I don’t know what he’s searching for. If the story took place in present time, I’d guess a code book, a ledger, incriminating pictures, something like that. But this is science fiction, and the story takes place in the future. I’ve used terms like plexi-sheet instead of paper, an electronic reader instead of books. Where would a gangster keep his records?

Or is that really what Quin needs to expose him?

No one knows what he looks like, except his trusted inner circle. You’d think that a picture or holo-vid would expose him. Here’s the kicker I introduced in book 1: he’s a shape-shifter. And not just one shape. He can shift into anyone. I guess I should have thought more about that when I invented him six years ago. LOL

In the movie Casablanca, everyone wanted letters of transit, something resistance fighters (and just about anyone) needed to get away from the Nazis. The interesting thing is, in the 1940s, there was no such thing. It was a gimmick for the film. In Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, it was the plans for a silent plane engine. In Pulp Fiction, it was a briefcase. Movie goers didn’t know what was in the briefcase. That wasn’t important. In Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV), R2-D2 is the object. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy and the Nazis had to find the Holy Grail, the chalice Jesus supposedly used at the Last Supper.

Alfred Hitchcock called such an object a MacGuffin. It’s something everyone wants and is searching for. In the film, or book, the importance is how the object impacts/influences the characters. Finding the object is the motivation for the characters. It’s not important what the object is.

Back to my story, I’m a third of the way through. I know where it’s going. I know how it will end. But because I don’t have a name for the object of Quin’s search thing, I’ve been using the infamous “xxx.” It’s not important what I call it, but I do have to give it a name. Hence, my frustration. Maybe I should call it “the MacGuffin.”


In your stories, have you ever used a MacGuffin? What was it?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hot off the Presses! Release Day for KINDLING THE DARKNESS by Jane Kindred

Today is a bittersweet release day: Kindling the Darkness is the last in my Sisters in Sin series from Harlequin Nocturne, which closed in early 2017. The three half sisters of the Carlisles—Laurel, Rowan, and Rosemary—were destined to take things to their conclusion—and possibly change the world. Maybe at some point in the future, I’ll decide to revisit their stories, but for now, I’m happy to have the series finale tell the story of Lucy Smok—twin sister of Lucien Smok, aka the Prince of Darkness.

Lucy may be one of my most difficult heroines. I won’t be surprised if some readers don’t care for her. She’s prickly and conflicted, and she’s super hard on herself. But she’s also one of my favorite heroines, for those same reasons.

From a young age, she’s had to take on too much responsibility, taking the brunt of her father’s authoritarian abuse while Lucien played the irresponsible rake. At only 25, already having spent years managing the family’s paranormal consulting business and now the head of Smok Pharmaceutical in the wake of her father’s death, she finds it impossible to make human connections. Lucy is used to having one-night stands for practicality’s sake—scratch the itch when it’s needed so she can get back to concentrating on business. Feeling betrayed by her father and abandoned by her mother—and left holding the bag when Lucien descended to Hell’s throne—she’s resorted to dangerous coping mechanisms, including projecting a cold, caustic personality. Her one pleasure is hunting down Hell’s escapees—and choosing her favorite gun to do it. Frankly, she’s a mess. And I can totally relate to her.

Oliver Connery, on the other hand, is probably one of the most grounded heroes I’ve written. He’s older than my usual hero, and he’s had time to work out what he believes in and what’s important to him. He brings his groundedness and calm to Lucy as a stabilizing force—even when she resists that stability—and, more importantly, he doesn’t try to take the lead—in business or in love. As young as Lucy is, Oliver quickly recognizes that she’s as experienced as she claims to be in tracking paranormal fugitives—and can not only hold her own against monsters but can kick Oliver’s ass if she needs to.

Oliver, of course, isn’t without his own problems. He’s spent years blindly following orders—first in the Marines and later in a secret paramilitary organization whose mission was tracking and capturing paranormal creatures for experimentation. It was the death of his wife and fireteam partner that finally made him take stock of what he was doing and what he wanted out of life. Now he’s happily hiding out in the small mountain town—and thriving “ghost town”—of Jerome, Arizona, acting as the unofficial protector of Jerome’s paranormal community. That is, until Lucy shows up, shooting first and asking questions later.

While we’re on the subject of Oliver, I need to say something about the cover. Oliver is half Navajo and half Welsh, with cinnamon-brown eyes and skin to match, and his hair is a heavily salted dark brown. As you can see, the Oliver on the cover is blond and blue-eyed with light skin. The design process didn’t permit me to see the cover until it was final, so although I tried to get it changed, there wasn’t really anything they could do at that point. Harlequin has done a wonderful job with my covers, and this is the first time they’ve missed the mark, but I just wanted to acknowledge that this is not representative of Oliver.

Kindling the Darkness (Sisters in Sin, #5)

He Wants Redemption... She Only Knows Damnation
Oliver Connery left a secret paramilitary group because he couldn't stand the thought of torturing supernatural beings. Lucy Smok's mission is to send infernal creatures back where they came from. When Lucy learns that Oliver has been harboring hellhounds, she wants to think of him as an enemy—and Oliver wants to think the same of her. But their feelings for each other are another story...

Available now from the following retailers:

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | BAM! | Booktopia | iBooks | Kobo


Climbing back up to the car took a monumental effort. Lucy leaned back in the driver’s seat and closed her eyes just for a moment. When she opened them, the stars visible through the windshield had shifted significantly. The clock on the dash read two in the morning. Her muscles ached, and her shoulder was killing her. She touched her fingers to the torn cloth over the bite; it was soaked with blood. There was no way she was going to make it home like this. And she knew the address of exactly one person in Jerome. He’d said he lived in the building his shop was in, which meant the upstairs must be his residence.

Lucy drove back to Main Street in Jerome and managed to find parking in front of Delectably Bookish once more. Her head swam, and the ground dipped and swayed as she got out of the car. Lucy gripped the post beside the entrance of the shop to steady herself and pounded on the door.
A light came on above, followed by the lights in the shop a moment later. Oliver Connery appeared, shirtless, salty hair askew and glaring furiously out of those cinnamon-brown eyes as he unlocked the door.

“What the hell is—?” He stopped, staring openmouthed as he took in her appearance. “Jesus. What happened? Come inside.” Oliver put an arm under hers and led her in to sit on one of the couches. “The werewolf?”

“I’m even more sure now that it’s not a werewolf.” Lucy rubbed her brow with the back of her wrist. “It’s incredibly fast and resilient—and strong—and it shifts with the wind, like it just decides when it wants to be human.”

Oliver had gone to the café counter to grab some towels, and he returned with them, shaking his head as he pressed one to the shredded shoulder. “I knew this was a bad idea.”

“I assure you, I’m perfectly capable of handling this thing now that I know what I’m up against.” She was sure of no such thing, but she wasn’t about to listen to more of his criticism of her age and experience. Or implicit criticism of her sex.

“So you didn’t kill it.”

Lucy grabbed the towel from his hand. “It wasn’t for lack of trying. You need to get over this idea that all lycanthropes are misunderstood people who need to be given a chance. This thing is a monster.”

“That isn’t what I meant.” Oliver frowned down at her. “You’re going to have to take that suit off. We need to disinfect the bite, and you’re probably going to need stitches.” He held out his hand. “Come with me.”

Lucy bit back another retort about being fine and not needing any help and instead took his hand to let him pull her up from the couch. Because as much as she hated to admit it, right now, she was not fine.

Upstairs in the bathroom of Oliver’s apartment, Lucy peeled off the torn suit and blood-soaked white shirt—both of them ruined by her transformation before the creature’s teeth had even sunk in—and sat begrudgingly on the covered toilet to let Oliver clean the wound and sew her up. “I can do that myself,” she complained between gritted teeth. “I know how to stitch up a wound.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, stop trying to impress me. I get it. You’re experienced. You’re tough as nails. You’re a total badass.”

“I’m not trying to—”

“That wasn’t sarcasm.” Oliver glanced up, his cinnamon eyes dark with concern. “I am impressed. I’m also very worried about this bite. If it’s a werewolf—”

“It’s not a werewolf. And…I happen to be immune.”

Oliver’s dark brows drew together. “Immune?”

“One of the perks of owning a biotech firm that specializes in parapharmacology.”

“I see. I don’t suppose that particular pharmaceutical is on the market for ordinary folk?”

“It’s part of a limited trial.”

Oliver’s jaw tightened, but he said nothing else.

As he tied off the stitches in her shoulder, Lucy became acutely aware of the fact that she was sitting here in his bathroom in her bra and underwear while he was wearing nothing but a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. One of the other aspects of her heightened senses at this point in her cycle was unusually intensified sexual desire.

After putting the first aid kit away, Oliver glanced up and seemed to realize her state of undress as well. “Let me get you a robe.” He slipped out of the bathroom and returned with one in blue-and-black flannel that matched his pants.

“Thanks.” Lucy rose and attempted to slip her left arm gingerly into the sleeve and nearly pitched forward into him.

Oliver steadied her, instinctively avoiding her arm and shoulder, instead catching her about the waist. His hands nearly circled her. Lucy looked up into his intense russet eyes. There were similar-colored highlights in the salt-and-pepper hair, and what she’d thought of as a tan was a matching cinnamon-bark undertone in his skin, evenly warm…everywhere.