Friday, April 30, 2021

One-Star Reviews—Nightmare or Dream?

 



Time to address an elephant in the room, folks: Those one-star (or two-star) reviews, and how authors handle them. (Disclaimer: I am not addressing the vicious, malicious one-star reviews left by ugly, small-minded people. Pretty sure we all agree that those nasty little trolls aren’t worth the air they breathe.)

So, legit one-star reviews…they really aren’t a dream, per se, and to the best of my knowledge not a single author genuinely “loves” them. But, are they all nightmare quality?

My personal opinion is that I’d rather not get any at all, however, when I do, I find that if I detach myself from my initial knee-jerk emotional response, they’re easier to dissect into meaningful, and even helpful input. I can own them.

When I started my author journey, I took to heart some great advice: Not everyone will love your books, and that’s okay! This helped me be more objective when I finally received my first one-star review on Amazon.

Let’s take a look at it. This is from my first book, Prophecy:

“This was a very boring book. The women were in charge and the men were just yes dears. The plot didn't make sense either. Why did one alien from a race of aliens have the right to destroy earth and another alien race? To call for deaths because he wanted to? I was so bored that a skip some parts. Do not waste your time reading this book.

And here is the second one for the same book, which was posted five years later:

“I didn’t get past the first few chapters, I didn’t finish reading this book.

Ouch, right?

Or are they?

I appreciate that the first reader took the time to explain why they didn’t like the story. Boring is their personal opinion, which is at odds with 99% of the rest of the reviews. This is one of those readers who doesn’t love my book, but it’s not a personal attack. They might very well love another one of my stories, or not. If not, then they will never be one of my readers anyway.

The women were in charge…. Hallelujah! This is the coolest statement in support of my story! Why?  First, because the women aren’t “in charge.” In this alien culture, they are viewed as equals to the men. They are respected, and hold positions of authority. Not everyone sees this as a good thing, unfortunately. On the other hand, other potential readers might look at this review and think, “Hot damn! Girl power!” and 1-click the snot outta this puppy.

Second, if the men were all “yes, dears,” then the hero would not be the senior captain of an entire fleet, would he? He would have been a she instead, and that would’ve turned this into a completely different story in a completely different genre.

The plot didn’t make sense. What a beautiful red flag that this pantser (an author who doesn’t outline or plan a story) needs to keep an eye on her plots/sub-plots. Even my developmental editor has pinged me on goal, motivation, and conflict issues (GMC) for a couple of subsequent books. Just telling a story is not enough. One of my weak points, I get it.

The right to destroy/call for deaths. Um, conflict? Without it there isn’t much of a story? (Note to reviewer: This kind of thing happens in real life all the time. It’s tragic.) I love this comment because it confirms that the villain’s GMC did not resonate with the reviewer. The underlying message here to me: Work on this, stupid!

Skipping over parts. Yikes. This might explain why the reviewer didn’t understand the roles of men and women in this culture, and found the plot confusing. Skipping parts in any book can be detrimental to the reading experience in general, but more so with an emotional, action-packed 90K word novel. If you skip, you’re gonna miss something important!

That being said, the onus is on me to be alert for other such mentions. If this becomes a common thread in reviews for other books, I need to take a closer look at why, and fix it.

Do not waste your time reading this book. Once again, this is a personal opinion that doesn’t stack up to most of the rest of the reviews. I’d be lying if I said this one didn’t hurt, but it isn’t my job is to please everyone. I could do everything right, and there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. And I’m okay with that.

What’s my take-away from this review, you ask? GMC is a potential weakness, one that I’ve since owed and am working to improve. Now when I start a new project, I loosely outline my chapters, and I write out the GMC for each of my main characters, as well as for the overall story arcs. I’m not a full-blown plotter, yet, but meeting myself in the middle is working for me so that makes it a win.

Sadly, the second review is all personal opinion/preferences. I do wish this reviewer had given me a little more to go on so I could understand why they got through only a few chapters before giving up. But, they didn’t, and to get my panties in a bunch trying to figure it out is bad for my mental health. <Cue Let it Go! here.>

I have found that writing is a learning and growing process. Authors are always trying to improve their writing, and reviews provide an excellent tool to uncover potential weaknesses.

So, readers, has a one- or two-star review ever influenced your book purchases? What are the triggers that get you to 1-click a book?

Authors, my way is not the only way. Do reviews of your books help you, or do you avoid them? Why, or why not?

Until next month!

~Lea

 

~*~*~

Bonus new release announcement!

Loved by Aliens has landed near you. Prepare to abducted by out-of-this-world heroes from nine popular SFR series. Yes, you read that right: Nine books from nine different series all for the price of one! But only for a limited time, so grab your copy today.

 


This set includes full-length books by:

New York Times Bestselling Author S. E. Smith: River’s Run

USA Today Bestselling Author Grace Goodwin: Viken Command

USA Today Bestselling Author Skye MacKinnon: Alien Abduction for Beginners

USA Today Bestselling Author Demelza Carlton: Ghost

USA Today Bestselling Author Debbie Cassidy: Rogue

USA Today Bestselling Author Lea Kirk: Above the Storm

Becca Brayden: Alien King Crashes the Wedding

Kate Rudolph: Synnr’s Saint

Nancey Cummings: Have Tail, Will Travel 

Aliens, take me away!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Second Chances are the Best Chances ~ with @meganslayer #romance #hot #bdsm #indie

 A white hot second chance romance!


Love of My Life by Megan Slayer

Contemporary Erotic Romance

M/F, BDSM, Bondage, Spanking

Novella

Includes:

Love of My Life

Private Hideaway

Megan Slayer Publications

 

Love of My Life

When two souls reunite, anything can happen in the city.
Zoe never forgot her first love. Then again, with Torin fronting one of the biggest rock bands in the world, he’s everywhere. He’s back in the city she loves, but does he want a second chance or just a fling? Better yet, can her heart weather losing him a second time?
Torin Michaels might be a rock star, but he’s not immune to heartache. Zoe’s the one woman he never forgot. Cleveland has always been her town. Can he make amends and make it their city?

Private Hideaway


Nothing will keep Torin from the woman he loves.
Torin Michaels isn’t about to let his celebrity status ruin the fragile relationship he’s built with his lover, Zoe. But the pressures of fronting his band Rampage has taken its toll. So what’s a guy to do? Run away to a secluded cabin for white hot sex outside, out of the prying eyes of the public. Will these two get their happily ever after or will forces beyond their control ruin their bliss?

This book has been re-edited for this re-issue.

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FCMJF4D/

https://books2read.com/u/49M5Kk

https://books.apple.com/us/book/love-of-my-life/id1526762307?uo=4&mt=11&at=1010l9S2

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-of-my-life-megan-slayer/1137449742

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/love-of-my-life-11

 

EXCERPT:

©Megan Slayer, 2020, All Rights Reserved

From Love of My Life

Torin placed his hand on the elevator door to keep it open and watched the sway of her ass as she retreated down the hallway. She left him. The audacity. The bell pinged again. Someone else probably wanted the car. Screw it. He strode forward. Zoe Masters managed to enmesh herself in every aspect of his life. He committed her image to memory. Her flair for fashion never failed to amaze him. She worked a tattered concert t-shirt and ‘fuck me’ boots like no other. The streak of green in her ebony hair magnified the green flecks in her eyes. Had he been stronger, he’d never have let her go.

With each step, memories bombarded him. The press hounded him to marry her. His manager begged him to dump her. The band urged him to leave things be. Zoe? She stood at his side and let him make the decisions he felt he needed to make. The bright lights of Los Angeles meant nothing without her. Hell, he’d been kidding himself too long. Any city felt like the middle of nowhere if she wasn’t in his arms.

Zoe disappeared into one of the doorways and her lock clicked shut. Torin made his way down the corridor, past her door to the bank of windows. The view took his breath. Lake Erie, in all her glory shimmered across the horizon. Sailboats and barges dotted the rough surface. To the left, the Key Building, Tower City and the other bank buildings making up Cleveland’s downtown glistened in the late day sun. If he squinted, he could see the flag atop the Atrius. He missed being able to wake up, head to the gym, walk a block to the Atrius to record, grab a sandwich at the restaurants downtown, then home to fuck the night away with Zoe. Most of all, he missed being able to walk down the street hand in hand with his girl.

But she evaded him in the elevator. He folded his arms. Zoe might have been the love of his life, but push over never entered his mind. She had flaws, sure, but she refused to let him treat her with anything but honour. He’d come back to Cleveland to make amends and get her back. Then damn it, he’d get her back.

 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Hi-Yah! Great-grandmother Knew How to Kick Booty by L. A. Kelley

It’s not uncommon nowadays to find a woman in a book or on the movie screen trained in martial arts. With a few high-flying kicks and a karate chop or two, she stands triumphant over the bodies of the bad guys. You might think women’s interest in martial arts is something fairly recent.

Well, you’d be wrong.

In the later part of the nineteenth century, the streets were dangerous, far more than today.  Freedom to walk in public alone was considered the sole right of men. Middle- and upper-class women had limited ability and severely restricted movement. Using an escort meant ceding privacy and even more control over their lives. But by the end of the 1800s, industrialization and urbanization created new opportunities. Women moved into education, work areas, and leisure pursuits, and although respectable women began to ride street cars and walk city streets alone, their actions were not without consequences. The term ‘mashers’ was coined, a slang term for men who harassed or made unwanted sexual advances. Women discovered police were not always willing or able to protect them.

As the right to vote movement spread, so did the idea of woman standing up to physical attacks. Reformers and suffragists were largely responsible for encouraging women to learn self-defense tactics. Many suffragists already used their bodies to resist oppression by picketing and forcing their way into public buildings. What was wrong with a little more shoving and a poke in the eye to make a point?

Needless to say, it wasn’t met with universal approval. Many men denounced women aggressively fending off attackers as indecent and unnatural, a horrified male minister accused them of “breaking down barriers of distinction between the sexes.”

Despite criticism, in the early 1900s, courses sprung up in self-defense. American women in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era turned to boxing and wrestling as an expression of empowerment through physical training. The “manly art” of boxing was touted as a way to develop character and physical strength in men, but rapidly became a popular fad among progressive-thinking women and college girls. Many in the public feared boxing would masculinize women while others emphasized boxing’s ability to enhance feminine beauty. One newspaper editorial praised boxing’s ability to “cure bad temper, feminine hysterics, or a catty disposition.” While female boxers were seen as oddities, exhibitions weren’t uncommon. In 1900, a circus strong woman from England, named Polly Burns, was named the Women’s World Boxing Champion.

Think kung fu is a new thing? Think again. Asian martial arts courses in the early 1900s were popular. Harrie Irving Hancock, taught classes in jiu-jitsu for women and children. In his manual, Physical Training for Women by Japanese Methods (1905) he wrote that the phrase “weaker sex” needed to be “stricken from the language.”

Women using self-defense tactics often made headlines. In 1909, twenty-year-old nursing student Wilma Berger defended herself against an attacker and became a local sensation in Chicago. She had studied under Tomita Tsunejiro, who helped introduce judo to the United States. Under the disbelieving eyes of the local police, she demonstrated her technique on an officer, by tossing him like a sack of laundry.

Interestingly enough, many self-defense courses were taught via pamphlet. Few middle and lower-class women had access to actual classes, so free pamphlets and illustrated articles in newspapers presented the techniques. The Yabe School of Jiu-Jitsu in Rochester, New York, offered free lessons through the mail. Lest you scoff at them, in 1906 Mary Steckler pinned down a would-be mugger until police arrived. She learned her smooth moves from a pamphlet.

One of the interesting parts of early self-defense classes was the “use what you have.” Today, a woman might have pepper spray. In 1900, a woman’s chief weapon was the hat pin. A well-dressed woman always had her hair up in public and she used to secure the hat pin to secure the hat to her hairdo. The pins were long, up to 6 inches, and sturdy. They were also an important piece of jewelry as no well-dressed woman would be seen in public without a hat. A woman might have more than one needle-sharp hatpin on her outfit, a handy, unexpected weapon. In 1912, Elizabeth Foley, an 18-year-old bank employee, was walking home with a male colleague who carried the entire payroll for the bank staff. They were attacked by a robber who knocked the male colleague down. But Elizabeth, undaunted, reached for her hatpin and jabbed the robber’s face. The attacker ran away without the money. No rescue need.

Take that, Wonder Woman. Who needs a magic lasso when a hatpin is at hand?


L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance and a touch of sass. Her great-grandma could wipe the floor with a masher any day of the week.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Cover Reveal for Dance to a Wylder Beat by Marilyn Barr

       Have you visited Wylder, Wyoming Territory? You don't need a time machine to travel to 1878 when The Wild Rose Press has a western romance series like The Wylder West. Each story in our fictional town is written by a different author and the first seven book have been fantastic. If you follow me on BookBub, you have read the five star reviews filled with praise for the romance, humor, and action of the series. But is there room for paranormal romance stories in Wylder?  Absolutely!

      I would like to present the cover for Dance to a Wylder Beat. Mystical Nartan Sagebrush forgot to add "women with paranormal secrets need not apply" on his wife wanted telegraph ad. His spirit guides placed the ad in the hands of Olive Muegge who is everything Nartan needs, but more than he thought he wanted. 


 

Despite their differences, they are drawn to each other but a mistake may drive them apart.  Will Nartan embrace his Shamanic past to save them both or will he choose to rid himself of Olive forever? 


Find out in Dance to a Wylder Beat! 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Ghosts are my passageway to history by Julie Howard

By definition, ghosts are from the past. And the opportunity to write about history is why I enjoy ghosts so much. Those specters don’t want to be dead in my era; they’d much rather be alive in theirs. I happily follow them to the past every chance I get.


With three paranormal books published, I’ve learned a few things about dipping into the past. Setting characters in historical times brings a few sometimes-complicated twists to a plot. Here are the top five lessons I’ve learned about chasing ghosts into the past:

 

1.     Get the history right.

In House of Seven Spirits, my ghost-chasing character, Jillian, travels to Australia’s Outback to find out what happened to a family of seven who disappeared without a trace in the 19th century. I had to do quite a bit of research on everything from how roads were made at this time to what materials were used to build houses in the remote Outback. A medical emergency plays a key role in one scene from the past and I found myself fascinated with old cures and herbs. The better the historical accuracy, the more real the story will feel. If a reader catches an error, it ruins that suspension of disbelief necessary for fiction.

2.     Consider how language has changed.

In my most recent release, Spirit in Time, 21st century woman Jillian ends up time traveling back to 19th century California. She uses words like “okay” and  expressions such as “I blew it,” which would have been puzzling to people of this era. Nearly every chapter, I found myself researching the etymology of certain words to make sure they were appropriate. Even if a word existed in a previous time doesn’t mean it was used in a similar manner.

3.     Tread gently upon real historical characters.

One of the enjoyable parts of reading historical fiction is stumbling upon real (famous) people. An avid fan of 19thcentury California history, I wanted Jillian to meet some of the real people of the time. The most notable example is the mansion she lives in briefly, built by the very real E.B. Crocker, who was a well-known abolitionist lawyer and California Supreme Court Justice. She meets E.B. Crocker, but his youngest daughter, Amy, is the one with a starring role in the book as a young girl. The real Amy, who would change her name to Aimee, became a wealthy heiress and flamboyant character of the Gilded Age. She also wrote a memoir claiming she saw ghosts in the mansion – perfect for my ghost-hunting fictional character. I was careful, though, not to take too many liberties with these historical characters. They are best showcased as the people they were.


4.     Build a world that doesn’t exist anymore.

In my mind, I start with a blank canvas and then paint in the setting piece by piece. I start with the terrain and then add buildings as they would have appeared at the time. Drop back more than a hundred years and so much is different, it’s easier to start over this way. Our modern world and towns are built with automobiles in mind, telephone poles and cell towers dot the landscape, and suburbs sprawl out from city centers. While trains enabled the transport of many goods, people were unlikely to have eaten produce out of season, for instance, except among the wealthier set. Clothing and hair styles, too, are an obvious way to create a bygone world.

5.     Have fun.

Time travel always conjures up the clashes of centuries. In Spirited Quest, a ghost watches more than a century pass by in a hotel she inhabits. The Lady of the Deerbourne, as she is called, isn’t a bit judgmental though. Instead, she finds the shifting of time and fashions amusing and inevitable. As a writer, I have fun jumping into different eras with my characters, and hope readers have fun with the stories too.




Here’s a bit about Spirit in Time:

 

Time travel isn't real. It can't be real. But ghost-blogger Jillian Winchester discovers otherwise when an enigmatic spirit conveys her to 1872 to do his bidding. 

Jillian finds herself employed as a maid in Sacramento, in an elegant mansion with a famous painting. The artwork reveals another mystery: Why does the man within look exactly like her boyfriend, Mason Chandler? 

Morality and sin live side by side, not only in the picture, but also within her. As her transgressions escalate, she races the clock to find the man in the painting, and hunt down a spirit with a disconcerting gift. 

But will time be her friend or foe?

 

        And a peek inside Spirit in Time:

 

“Are you a ghost?” A young girl stood where the guard had been only minutes before. She spoke matter- of-factly, her dark eyes alive with curiosity. 

The house was still whole, she was alive, and the world hadn’t ended. Jillian scanned the room for damage, then blinked. This must be a dream. The long dining table—bare just moments ago—was now laid for a meal. Glasses sat upright, forks and spoons lined up in perfect order, and a tall flower arrangement appeared unscathed. A crystal chandelier above the table remained perfectly still. 

The guard and Asian man were nowhere in sight. 

The girl, dressed neatly in a calf-length white pinafore embellished with pink ribbons, didn’t appear rattled by the cataclysmic jolt. 

“What happened?” Jillian asked, still crouched on her knees. “Are you okay?” 

“You don’t belong here. Mother will be angry.” 

Even though the floor had ceased to shake, the roiling continued in her head. Might this very real looking girl be a spirit? Most apparitions wavered in some manner, their appearances paler and less there than the tangible world around them. This child appeared solid in every way, from the tips of her shiny chestnut hair to the toes of her lace-up black shoes. 

 

 

 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day = Wildlife Too by Tena Stetler


What better way to celebrate Earth Day than consider the Earth’s Wildlife and their needs? 

Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation a passion of mine, which I incorporated into my A Witch’s Journey Series. The fourth book in the series released April 7, 2021, is titled Chocolate Raspberry Magic. It’s also part of the One Scoop or Two Summer Ice Cream Series.

Did you know that the leading cause of injury illness, and orphans among wild animals treated by wildlife rehabilitation is humans. Some may be accidental, other intentional such as firearms, vehicles, traps oil spills, poisons, just to name a few. Every year more humans encroach into the wildlife habitat.  

After having such a negative impact on these animals, wildlife rehabilitation allows people to relieve the suffering of injured and sick wild animals, releasing them back into the wild where they belong.

Wildlife rehabilitation is an important activity in which we can all participate. It has to do with caring for orphaned, injured, or sick wild animals with the ultimate intention of releasing the animal back into its natural habitat. Of course, unless you are an expert, such as a veterinarian, this is not something that you can do alone. However, with the help of the professionals in your community, you can take part in this vital rewarding process in preserving the natural wildlife around you.


Let me tell you a little about Chocolate Raspberry Magic:

Prim and proper Trinity Shilo is the assistant manager for Salem's Wildlife Sanctuary. She hasn't had much luck in the boyfriend department, but the new employee Paul is different. Deep and brooding she sees something special hidden below the surface. Besides she has secrets of her own.

 Paul Thorp is a wounded Special Forces veteran now working in security and computer support. He's fought hard to keep his demons in check and for the first time feels he is ready for a real relationship.

 When a fire breaks out at Puffin Cove Rescue they are called in to help with the recovery and ice cream social fundraiser. Sometimes things are not what they seem, and neither are people. When magic is unleashed will what they learn bring them closer together or push them apart?

 A sneak peek between the pages of Chocolate Raspberry Magic:

As Trinity walked through the aftermath of the fire, she lifted the yellow and black caution tape and carefully stepped inside the building. Her gut clenched and that feeling of foreboding washed over her again. The farther she ventured into the burnt building the stronger the gut-wrenching feeling became. Something needs my help. This was a new sensation. She took a small flashlight out of her backpack, directed the beam over the scorched debris, and moved the rubble with her toe. Nothing.

One more sweep of the light and she’d return to the others. Probably not supposed to be here anyway. A weak squawk emanated from the far corner of the building. Picking up a scorched stick, she poked at the debris. A puff of smoke rose as she made her way to where the sound came from. Shining the light into the corner, she saw movement. She knelt down and carefully shifted the charred rubble. Laying on its side, head slightly raised, and using a wing in an attempt to right itself was a small parrot. Its little eyes locked on her for a moment before its head lowered to the ground.

Frantically, she glanced around, but there was no one in sight. How far had she ventured without telling anyone? The structure overhead groaned in warning. No time. “Okay little one, it’s you and me. I don’t have much experience at this, but I’ll do my best.” Shrugging out of her backpack, she unzipped it completely. “I’m going to scoop you up in my backpack and get help.” She didn’t raise her voice to call for help for fear of scaring the poor thing.

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

What's in a Pen Name?

I am a romance author and life-long reader.

Notice I didn't say paranormal romance. The reason for this is that I both write and read multiple subgenres of romance. As a reader, honestly if it has an HEA, I read it. As an author well... I have three pen names.

That's right. 3. Pen names.

I write paranormal romance and upper YA fantasy romance as Abigail Owen. I write steamy contemporaries including rom coms and cowboys as Kadie Scott. And I write sweet contemporary and Amish romance as Kristen McKanagh. And I LOVE all of these genres. Each one feeds my soul in different ways. Some day maybe I'll had historical, scifi, and a few others to the mix because I love those too.

Maybe not though, because honestly, three pen names is a lot to manage. For authors out there considering branching out and doing different pen names, here are a few things I learned from my experience...


1. Use your real first name (or a nickname of it).

This will make introducing yourself in person (signings, professional conferences, local organization meetings, etc.) easier. Also, I am more my pen name than myself these days, which means I accidentally sign the wrong name when switching to real me. LOL. In addition, it makes it easier for legal things like P.O. boxes, and whatnot.


2. Use the same first name/nickname/initial for all your other pen names.

That way you're not answering to multiple first names. Imagine how confused my readers and writer friends are calling me some variation on Abigail, Kadie, and Kristen. It's not ideal.


3. Keep the same last name or the same initials.

At signings they more often than not line authors up alphabetically by last name. If you use a last name wildly different than your other pen names (Owen, Scott, McKanagh), readers can't find all versions of you in the room, or won't realize you're three different people.


4. Limit yourself to 2 pen names.

3 is a nightmare to manage. If I could go back and do it again, I'd have 1 name for steamy (regardless of subgenre) and 1 for sweet. That split of readers tends to be more specific in what they want to read and see from authors than by subgenre (many readers cross over subgenres but not as much with heat levels I find).


5. Understand that more pen names means more books in a year.

My goal is at least 2 books a year per pen name to keep me fresh in readers' minds. That means 6 books a year, 2 for each pen name with no wiggle room to sneak in another one here and there. Either that OR one of the pen names gets pushed out and forgotten each year depending on schedules and contracts. Think of what you could realistically keep up with.


6. Think about social media impacts.

Think about how you might separate or combine social media use for your pen names.

I have separated my pen names out for websites, newsletters, and Instagram, but kept them together for Facebook and Twitter.

The websites were a no brainer. Someone is going to search on my name looking for a website with books by that name, so I need a different spot for each. Newsletters, I realized might be too many going out if I had them all combined.

Instagram was a realization that sweet readers wouldn't want to see man chest that comes with my paranormals and steamy contemporaries, and so they get different images. 

I may, at some point, also separate out my FB and Twitter, but building the followings there is a long haul I don't want to deal with yet. Generally, I post the same content to all of my spots until it's genre specific, so that does help.


All that said, I may not learn from my own mistakes. Historical does have it's appeal as that was what I started with first in my romance reading life. I also minored in history and love to learn about other eras, so it could be fun. 

Authors - I hope you found this helpful. Readers - if your favorite authors wrote in multiple genres, what would you prefer to make it easy to identify the books and/or the authors?



Sunday, April 18, 2021

Keto Tips & the Best Keto Recipe I've Ever Tried! by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

Okay, so they say the average person gained 28 lbs during the lockdowns. There are plenty of free workout videos and groups, and many states (including mine) have open gyms. I previously did a review of some exercise equipment I obtained to create my own home gym, so now I have decided to discuss the diet I’ve adopted. Keto. Yes, yes, I see your eyes rolling.

Fortunately for you, I’m not a health professional and have no intention of trying to convince you to go on Keto and burn fat instead of carbs (sugars and starches) with the help of ketones, on a 70% fats, 5% carbohydrates, and 25% protein daily diet, (here’s a free keto calculator in case you’re interested: https://www.omnicalculator.com/health/keto#what-is-the-recommended-keto-macros-ratio). But  I can give a personal testimony and tell you that many people lose 10 lbs or more, (especially at the beginning if you need to lose more than 20 lbs) a month.

I know a lot of people who stay on Keto all the time, taking a cheat day now and then or even taking the weekends off once they just want to maintain. Keto works for me. Why? Because I can eat bacon and cream cheese frosting made with real cream cheese and heavy whipping cream, any meat and most vegetables. Sure, I miss heavy carbs, like potatoes and corn (starchy!) and carrots and fruit (natural sugar) on a regular basis. I still take an occasional day off to eat what I want so I don’t suffer at all.  

Keto is very popular now so most grocery stores and even Walmart carry things like Almond Flour. At Sprouts they have 2 net carb cinnamon raisin and whole grain bread (in the freezer section of the bakery, and I assume Whole Foods carries It too), and cauliflower rice or cauliflower mashed potatoes. They even have cauliflower cheese crackers and everything crackers made with almond flour and low carb protein bars, protein cookies, and protein tortilla chips from Quest. I love the Quest Lime Chili chips and their raspberry white chocolate and birthday cake protein bars. Little tip: I cut them into 10 pieces and freeze them and when I feel a sweet tooth, I grab a couple for a very satisfying high protein treat.

There are lots of things you can make yourself, too. They have keto friendly waffle and pancake mix that’s fast, easy and delicious. I make a waffle once in a while with sugar free syrup. Yummy. A friend got me a little griddle that makes mozzarella cheese and egg ‘pancakes’ that can be used as taco shells (while hot, you lay them on a taco cooker and they form into the shape of tacos) or to make sandwiches. If you have a Ninja or other air fryer (or just a frying pan and oil), you’ve got your fried food and you can use crushed pig skins for breading. Delicious.

It doesn’t really sound like I’m suffering does it? But, the best part is that you actually lose weight quite steadily with this diet. I made a delicious keto cheesecake and pumpkin bread for Christmas, but my favorite (and my non-Keto hubby’s favorite) recipe so far is FRIED ZUCCHINI LASAGNA. Even if/when I am no longer on Keto we will be eating this new family favorite.

I adapted it from a recipe by Christine and Carla Pallotta, sisters from the Nebo Restaurant. It’s an old family recipe, what they call peasant food, and it’s so delicious they beat out Bobby Flay at a throw down using it.  Below is the video of their recipe, followed by how I convert it into a keto dish.



The biggest complaint I’ve ever heard about Zucchini Lasagna is that the Zucchini is wet and therefore can be soggy.  Not so in this recipe! The zucchini is FRIED (who doesn’t like fried…anything?). You can use a mandolin to thin slice the zucchini lengthwise, but I just cut off the edge, then turn it onto that flattened side and thin slice it. It’s easier for me. You clean it well, of course, so you can leave the skins on. I lay it on paper towel and sprinkle lightly with sea salt to make it sweat and then blot it dry. But I skipped this step once when in a hurry and it was fine. My zucchini is nowhere near as big as theirs so I use 6-8 to make a huge lasagna pan full. They used a much smaller lasagna pan than mine. When I full on cook I like to get a couple meals out of it! 

I use Almond Flour instead of all purpose flour, to make this keto friendly.  You could also use pig skins for added breading, but I have not found it necessary and it’s just one more step I can skip. So I use the eggs, cheese (parmesan/Romano) and paprika, salt and pepper, and dredge in AF and then deep fry it in a heated peanut combo oil that I used to use in my deep fryer, but you can use whatever oil you prefer. Turn once when golden brown on the bottom. I use a square frying pan and can fit quite a few at a time.

Another Keto-friendly trick I use is low sugar (sugar is a CARB) marinara sauce. Rao’s is good and both Hunts and Prego have a no sugar added variety. To spice up the sauce a bit, I add some browned Italian sausage/ground beef combo (you can skip the meat for a vegetarian version) added to sautéed onion and garlic, then add it all to the sauce. Season to taste, of course.

Being cheap and lazy, I used packaged mozzarella, grated parmesan/Romano and ricotta cheeses and also add cottage if there’s some in the frig. (You know using their recipe cheeses is probably even yummier, but a bit more expensive.)

Layer it according to the recipe, which is the same method as most any lasagna recipe I’ve had. Like all lasagna, it’s even better the next day so make a big batch! People will want seconds! You can also make this ahead and freeze it for an easy company or busy weekend meal. Bon Appetit!


Friday, April 16, 2021

Breaking Up with Your Story

 Have you ever had a story idea so perfect that it practically wrote itself? There’s something so thrilling about getting an idea for a story, plotting it out, watching it take shape on a storyboard. But have you ever sat in your writing chair only to realize, 35,000 words later, that your beloved story idea was dead in the water? Today, let’s chat about 3 signs that you need to break up with your story.


1. You find every excuse in the book to avoid your writing.

Sometimes life throws so many curve balls that you’re simply out of creative energy to sit down and connect with your story, much less your reader (and that’s okay!). But sometimes that avoidance is founded on a broken interest with your current piece.

There are lots of reasons for this break, and none of them are bad ones, but if you find yourself dreading the very thought of writing, it may be your cue to stick your current work in progress on the shelf and go back to the drawing board.

2. You just cannot connect with the main character.

Writing fictional beings who are interesting and relatable into existence is nothing short of a miracle. This means that sometimes the character you need to lead the story, isn’t one that you can connect with (and in extension write) well. And that’s oooooookay!

There could be any of a hundred reasons you can’t quite vibe with your MC. Maybe they need a bit more stewing time to come out fully fleshed, or maybe you need more research/ life experience under your belt before you tackle this particular character again. Either way, if you just cannot connect with your protagonist, it might be time for a cooling-off period.

3. Your writing partners hold an intervention

When your critique partners tell you that you might need a break from your WIP, it’s a fairly reliable hint that you and your story need a break.

Words reflect the writer. Read that again. Words reflect the writer. They hold our beliefs, interests, and truest emotions, so if your story is giving off corpse vibes (and it’s not a zombie thriller), it might be your clue to put it down for a bit.

I don’t want you to see these crafting breaks as a failure because they are anything but that. They are a chance for you to jump back on those gorgeous creative parts of yourself and stir things up a bit. It’s a self-granted opportunity to be curious about the world and wait for one idea to lure you back to the page in promise. There is no reason you can’t go back to a project you set aside, and I hope you do, but there’s a great expression of self-love when we have the courage to set something down and try something else. And that is what I hope you will give yourself permission to do because writing is magical. We take the same 26 letters and rearrange them over and over to connect with people we’ve never even met. We don’t know one thing about. And that is such a lovely gift from one human to another. So be nice to the writing side of that dynamic, and give yourself permission to set aside the piece that isn’t working (yet) for the one that’s dying to come into the world.

Happy writing.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

So What's One More Ghost? by Debby Grahl

An ancestor’s tale of betrayal, murder, and a stolen fortune in silver leads Elise Baxter to Max Holt’s Victorian inn. She is reluctantly, though irresistibly, attracted to Max. 

Leery of loving again, Max lets passion overrule caution, tumbling them into an erotic encounter. 

Guided by ghosts and opposed by an evil presence, the couple searches for the treasure. But there are others who will stop at nothing to unlock the mystery of the Silver Crescent.

 

                       The backstory features a group of miners in Leadville, Colorado.




    For my first blog with Paranormal Romantics, I’d like to tell you about my first published book, The Silver Crescent. I love old haunted houses, and I enjoy using ghosts and witches in my stories. So what better than a pair of Victorian ghosts in need of help? My setting was my home state of Michigan in the beautiful Irish Hills. This is an area of small towns, late nineteenth-century homes, and wonderful ghost stories.

    With eager anticipation, I sent the MS of The Silver Crescent off to a small publisher who responded with the comment, “You have a good story if you could write it.” Ouch! I worked on her suggestions and sent it back. This time she thought it was great, except she wanted me to make the ghosts mean. 

    For me, as a writer, I can’t change characters' personalities at will. They are who they are. I told her this, but she insisted I have a mean ghost. So I had to create an entire new ghost character. This can be challenging because you can’t just plop an additional character in anywhere. They must blend in with the story. By the time I was done, I’d added fifteen-thousand words. The editor was right; the mean ghost definitely added to the story. 

    This small press has closed, and I have regained my rights to the book. Like other writers, rereading our first work can make us cringe as all the no-no's in writing jump out at us. I’m going to revamp the story, and hopefully my editor with Wild Rose Press will love it, and it will be reborn.
 

 Excerpt:

Cedar Bend, Michigan 1900

 The bullet slammed into Cyrus Mosby’s chest. The pain was quick and sharp. A dream-like sensation came over him as his body crumpled to the floor. His eyes fell upon his wife’s portrait. With his last breath, he whispered, “Virginia.”

“Cyrus, my love, I’m here.”

Cyrus opened his eyes. Confused, he stared at his beautiful wife, kneeling next to him, silver tears streaming down her translucent face. “Virginia?”

“Yes, love, it’s me.”

Cyrus took her outstretched hand and slowly sat up. Weightless, he floated upward until once again he stood. “Virginia, I don’t understand. What’s happened? How can you be here?”

Virginia brushed away her tears. “I couldn’t leave you. I’ve been waiting for you to join me, but I never expected it to happen like this. Cyrus, I’m so sorry. I had no idea of the evil that lurked within him.”

Still bewildered, Cyrus glanced around his library: tall bookcases holding leather- bound books neatly arranged, the large mahogany desk where moments before he’d been sitting, an Oriental rug now stained with the blood of three men. His own lifeless body lay at his feet. And here was Virginia, dead these past five years, standing in front of him. Tentatively he reached out his hand and touched her face. His fingers brushed across air that felt cool and thick. “I've truly joined you in death? Or am I dreaming?”



Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Monozygotic Twins

 


Monozygotic twins,
or identical twins. result from the fertilization of a single egg with a single sperm. Fraternal twins, or dizygotic twins, are the product of fertilization of two different eggs.

In identical twins, as the cells divide and multiply, at some point very early in the embryonic growth, they spit into two individuals. As you can imagine, the genetic material in these twins is identical, hence the name identical twins. Monozygotic twins are always the same sex (except in my dark fantasy Gemini Rising!)

Fraternal twins, can be different genders, look different, and have different characteristics. Even though we call identical twins identical and think of their genetic material as identical, we need to keep in mind that there is another important factor—environmental influences—which means identical twins come from the same genetic material, but,  in characteristics they may actually have differences as well.

Whose genes produce monozygotic twins? Only women ovulate. So, the mother's genes control this propensity to twins, and the father’s genes don't. This is why having a background of twins in the family matters only if it is on the mother's side.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) embryos are more likely than naturally conceived embryos to split into identical twins A fertility doctor can transfer just one embryo—in hopes of reducing the risk of non-identical twins—but identical twins may still occur, and more frequently than in the general population.

~*~


Gemini Rising stars monozygotic twins, Alina and Alain aren't quite your average identical twins, however. As their names suggest, they are male/female twins--which scientifically cannot occur. When they are born, to escape the notoriety and the scientific probing, Lord and Lady Alastair whisk their miracle children to their island castle on an island off the coast of England (the island is fictional but patterned after the beautiful and majestic St. Michael's Mount which is off the coast of England)


Here, Alina and Alain grow up in relative seclusion until they reach their 18th birthday. After so long under the domination of their father, who won't even allow internet in the castle, Alain is ready to leave the Keep for good, but Alina fears being alone without friends to turn to.

Therein, this dark fantasy by Bianca Swan begins. As reviewers have unanimously said, the "ending will shock you".

To read a sample of Gemini Rising, or to purchase the book:  https://blacklotustaboobooks.com/product/gemini-rising-biana-swan/

You can find Bianca at:    Her Website:    http://BiancaSwan.com

                                          Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/bianca.swan.589/

                                           Blog:     https://biancaswanblog.wordpress.com/

Have a wonderful Wednesday!  


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Quantum Wishes by Marilyn Barr

         I have wished on stars since I was a little kid. I blame the animated movies I watched where every girl who wished and dreamed of becoming a princess did in the next ninety minutes. Whether you call it wishing, new moon affirmations, prayer, or setting a growth mindset, vocalizing what you wish to bring into your life is a powerful 2021 trend.

Was it the isolation of 2020 which brought about a mass spiritual awakening or that people were given the time to sit back and daydream? I was inspired by many of my Instagram followers reading The Power Wish by Keiko. This book is instructions on personalized moon wishing. Being an astrology geek with a master’s degree in Physics, I had to check it out. With my star chart in hand, I was prepared to do the math required to manifest my latest set of dreams. What I found were down-to-earth (ha-ha) instructions based on one’s moon sign, prose to help someone construct their wish, and a few advanced rituals boost your wish. When I say advanced, I mean the addition of moon water. No blood sacrifices are required.


Why the new moon and not the “first star I see tonight”? The moon is our closest large neighbor so it will have a large impact on us gravitationally. It comes down to quantum physics. Please do not let this particle physicist scare you. I will keep my calculus to myself but the math behind wishing is fascinating…to a few of us. The moon is between the sun and earth at this phase with powerful ramifications to our surface mechanics. This is the only phase where a solar eclipse is possible as even the sun is not immune to the power behind a new moon. In school, we learned there are high tide and low tide every day due to the moon’s movement and the extremes of those tides are in direct correlation to the moon’s position to us. The highest of high tides and lowest of low tides are found twice a month – the full and new moon occurrences. The ocean water is pulled on a quantum level toward the moon, so the earth has a slight football shape instead of perfectly round.


Illustration from aerospaceweb.org

The geeks (like me) who went on to study physics in college and graduate school look at the minutia behind this phenomenon which ironically is the basis behind the wishing woo. Who knew witches, mystics, and astrologists would have common interests with physicists? It goes back to Newtonian mechanics which states that matter (and therefore energy) cannot be created or destroyed, so when we release energy through ion exchanges (i.e. living) it is released as background radiation. (See video of calculus behind it here). Scientists who have studied The Big Bang have measured the overall current of background radiation as their evidence. Moon radiation can increase the vibrational frequency of this background energy in the same way your microwave radiation increases the vibration of your cheese molecules when you melt it for nachos. When there is a New Moon, we are seeing the effects of an absence of radiation reflecting off the moon.



                                                     Illustration from NASA.gov

Does this radiation influence human behavior? Any ER nurse or kindergarten teacher can give you examples of humans acting out-of-character in mass quantities with the only common factor being a full or new moon. The Full Moon is blasting radiation and the astrology community uses this time to release “low vibe” habits such as negative self-talk, self-injurious behaviors, and memories of trauma. It is a time for forgiveness. A coincidence is both of my Strawberry Shifters books were released on full moons. (My debut was released on the Strawberry Full Moon even though I didn’t plan it.)

The New Moon releases almost no radiation and is the opposite. We see an absence of the moon because our eyes are radiation detectors for a small range of light emission. The New Moon acts as a large impaction plate to collect minute levels of radiation to complete the radiation cycle and keep the earth at homeostasis (as much as can be done with our screens and artificial increasing overall radiation (see NASA’s video on it here). What if we send our wishes along this radiation superhighway into the universe? What will is your wish?



Communicating wishes to the universe is one of the themes of my next book, Dance to a Wylder Beat. In 1878, there wasn't quantum physics discoveries to explain the power of the New Moon but that doesn't stop Nartan Sagebrush. He has tools provided by his spiritual culture.  Following the traditions of his Arapaho people, he creates sacred geometry on the ground with his dance steps. He asks his spirit guides for a wife who will help integrate him into the settler population of Wylder, Wyoming Territory. Olive Muegge answers his ad, not as the woman he wants but the woman he needs. Will he see past her wild ways to her golden heart within, or will he miss out on having his wish for community to come true? Dance to a Wylder Beat is coming this spring from The Wild Rose Press.