Sunday, May 16, 2021

What I'm Watching on TV and How it Plays into my Writing

 You've heard that good writers read, right? 

This is solid advice. There are so many meaningful lessons you can learn by reading across genres. Watching how another writer puts words together can teach you so much. And so can paying attention to other kinds of storytelling. 

Don't chase me down with pitchforks just yet. I've got some good reasons for thinking this way. Here are 3 reasons that what you're watching can also play into what your writing (in a good way). 

1. Encourages You to Use Other Creative Techniques to Tell Your Story

We're creatures of habit. So, if you're awesome at writing dialogue, guess where you'll find a lot of your plot? Dialogue, of course. But, if you're watching a show that may share some traits with your work in progress, and you notice how they use day/night to transition between scenes, you might just feel so inclined to try out that transition as well. 

I'm currently working on a romance novel set in Seoul, South Korea. Thanks to Covid-19, I won't be getting back to my favorite travel spot any time soon. So, what's let for my research? Korean dramas! Can I use all the visual aspects of what I see on my computer screen? No. But I can pay attention to how the actors look as they wait at big intersections in the midst of a group of pedestrians, and then use that foot traffic pattern to up the credibility of my own novel.

2. Using Words to Create Sounds

I had a brilliant grad school mentor (Douglas Kearney, American Poet), who would ask us to take sounds and turn them into poems. He would ask us questions like, what the Star Spangled Banner played on the electric guitar would sound like in words. I've never forgotten that way of thinking, so I'm asking myself how to create sounds with words.

There's this awesome song that's played at each stop on the metro in Seoul. When I'm writing a scene in which my protagonist is hopping on and off the metro, how much of that song is she paying attention to? And how does it sound to her? Does it sound high-pitched or outdated? Maybe it sounds comforting? But how do I describe that to a reader that's never heard it? 

As I'm watching a Korean drama, what songs and sounds do I hear? How do I use words to create those sounds so that my reader can feel like they're in Seoul?

3. Tropes

We know that every storytelling genre has its own tropes, and while we can't use all of the ones allotted to visual storytelling, we can definitely have some cross-overs. 

Since I'm writing a romance, we expect the characters to be together in the end, right? But what tropes can I borrow from the shows I'm watching, and how do I make those tropes my own?

Often in Korean dramas, the guy and woman leading characters knew each other (briefly) in their childhoods. I cannot even tell you how much I love this fated connection trope. But in a novel where my leading guy and gal don't know each other, how can I take that trope and flip it so that it fits into the story I'm telling?

In case you're interested in binging some of the shows I've seen (and LOVED), here's a Korean drama starter list:

  • Crash Landing on You
  • It's Okay to Not Be Okay
  • A Korean Odyssey
  • The Bride of Habaek
  • Because This is My First Life
No matter what your overall genre preference is, don't skip over good storytelling just because it's visual or theatrical. There are a lot of fun, and useful, techniques you can gather to try out in your own writing if you're paying attention. 

Happy writing (and watching)!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

 Magic in New Orleans 

                          When a demonic witch threatens those he loves,                        Jared Dupre must summon all the magic he possesses to survive.


New Orleans, known as the Crescent City or the Big Easy, recently celebrated its three-hundredth anniversary. It was first settled by the French, then taken over by the Spanish, sold back to the French, who then sold it to the United States.

The city's historic past includes such characters as the famous pirate, Jean Lafitte, and the infamous Delphine LaLaurie who in 1834 was run out of New Orleans when her mansion caught fire and tortured slaves were discovered. And such locales as the notorious Storyville red light district, the iconic riverboat gamblers, and everyone's favorite party, Mardi Gras.

My husband David and I first visited New Orleans in 1989 and fell in love with the city. I’m a history buff by heart so I found the old Spanish architecture with its wrought iron balconies enchanting. All you have to do is walk the streets of the French Quarter to feel the magic.

There’s a saying, “Only in New Orleans.” And this is so true. As I sat on our hotel balcony sipping a glass of wine and munching on a bag of voodoo chips, I could  see a musician setting up on the corner. Soon the clear sounds of his saxophone filled the night. The smell of spicy gumbo from the restaurant across the street wafted through the air.  The clip clop of a horse- drawn carriage passed beneath me, its driver thrilling his passengers with tales of the ghosts who haunt the city. A man, painted silver, walked along juggling oranges, while a bicycle cab pedaled by. On Bourbon Street, a second line band marched past. A group of laughing tourists carrying red go cups went into a bar, and the long low whistle of a paddle wheeler on the river could be heard.

As I sat there taking it all in, I thought what a wonderful place to set a story. From its diverse people and cultures to its incredible food, such as hot sugary beignets, po boy sandwiches, and crawfish etouffee; every kind of music from funky blues to jazz, rock ‘n roll to country; and Voodoo shops, haunted houses, and above-ground cemeteries.

People claim witches and ghosts walk the streets, and I have to admit sometimes I believe it’s true. My research for His Magic Touch is when I began studying local witchcraft and hauntings.

The Hotel Monteleone, on Royal Street, is one of the settings I use in the book. Not only known for its Carousel Bar, it’s also one of the most haunted hotels in the city.

I hope His Magic Touch brings a little of New Orleans to life for you, and you’ll get a chance to visit this unique city on the Mississippi.


Excerpt from HIS MAGIC TOUCH by Debby Grahl

Angelique Montief flicked her wrist and set the bamboo ceiling fan spinning. Kneeling on a woven mat with sweat coating her body, she lifted a small wooden brass-bound casket from the bottom of a large trunk, inserted a gold key, and opened the lid. Inside two objects lay wrapped in thick cloth. She carefully unwrapped the smaller bundle to reveal a pentagonal mirror, a gift handed down to her by her grandmother, its ancient oak frame carved with tiny pentacles. She glanced over her shoulder at her locked bedroom door, then stared into the mirror and whispered, “Show him to me.”

When the glass remained blank, fear clutched at her chest. Again, she said the words, and the image of a plantation house engulfed in flames appeared. “No, please, he can’t be dead.” Tears blurred her vision. The fiery image changed to reveal a human form lying beneath flowering bougainvillea.

Hope rising, Angelique peered closer.

“Show me his face.”

She saw his indigo blue eyes blink open.

“I’m coming, my love.” He couldn’t hear her, but she hoped in his heart that he knew she would find a way to get to him.

As the smoke in the room thickened, she knew her time was running out. She rewrapped the mirror and placed it into the smaller casket among cloth bags of herbs and potion-filled vials. Relocking the lid, she hung the key on a chain around her neck, dropped a jeweled dagger into her pocket, and tucked the casket under her arm.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Failing at Vampiric Accuracy

     When I was a teen, I went on a date to see “Interview with the Vampire” in theaters. While I have forgotten the name of the guy who took me, I never forgot my love of paranormal romance or my desire to write a vampire novel like Anne Rice. Fast forward to 2018 and I sat down to write the vampire book which later became Strawberry Shifters Book 1: Bear with Me. I planned to create a plausible vampire who could manage in an isolated community with a set of accommodations. Just like all disorders, vampirism would be a mixture of challenges and superpowers.

Interview with the Vampire by The Geffen FilmCompany

            The first step was a series of criteria to define a vampire to which I would be faithful in my quest to find a modern-day vampire. A need to ingest blood as a basic necessity and an aversion to sunlight were the most prevalent traits in my research. I also found they were pale and tended to sleep during the day as a consequence of the sunlight allergy. I also noticed a common theme of vampire communities being male-dominated with differing explanations of low female populations.

            In my research, I found a disease of the bone marrow that caused a need for blood (though usually administered via IV) myelodysplastic anemia. Less than twenty-thousand people are diagnosed with myelodysplastic anemia each year in the USA with more than 80% of them being male. (Focus Medica.) This disease has traits in my profile for a modern-day vampire in that patients have extreme fatigue, pale complexion with bruising, and frequent infections. They must avoid sun exposure because the stress on their bodies to repair the damage makes them more vulnerable to infections. It is also a genetic disease which fits the family saga of the Von Popescu legacy in Strawberry KY.

            While researching my modern-day vampire, I was undergoing stem cell treatments for my sensory processing disorder. In talking with my chiropractor, I found out stem treatments are a promising treatment for myelodysplastic anemia as well. I could share my experiences through the eyes of the vampires of Strawberry as they undergo life-prolonging treatments from Dr. Van Dijk (who I modeled after my chiropractor).

            “Most of our patients are visiting for stem cell treatments. Vampires have myelodysplastic anemia or hollow bone marrow, thus the need to drink blood. The stem cells build new bone marrow so the vampire can make their own red blood cells and platelets, reducing their blood dependence. They first get their injections in their knees, elbows, hips, and shoulders. Next, they wait out here until the cells filter into their spongy tissue at the center of the long bones. Finally, I give them chiropractic manipulations to clear residual stem cells from their joints to ensure the most cell implantation success.” – Dr. Van Dijk, Strawberry Shifters Book 3: Go Scorch Yourself

Graphic from Epainassist

My modern-day vampires would have deformed blood cells (and not nearly enough of them) due to abnormal bone marrow, thus their need for blood. However, less dense bone marrow could be stretched to the extreme so they would have the low density needed to fly…

            My commitment to reality drove off the rails and I gave them wings…

            The vampires of Strawberry have bat wings large enough for them to fly but able to compact themselves to fit within the confines of a suit blazer. When creating Lucien Von Popescu, I decided to give him the largest wingspan in the colony. To fly his six-foot frame with a lanky build, he would need a twenty-foot wingspan.

            “As soon as my back thuds against the brick, my view of the Sluagh is blocked by a black leather jacket with wings protruding from it. Not Sluagh wings with their kaleidoscope of colors, these are tan wings covered with tiny black hairs. Giant wings reach from my waist to high over my head. Their span shields my escape route.” – Betty, Strawberry Shifters Book 3: Go Scorch Yourself.

            Since my vampires had a touch of whimsy, I decided to take them one step further. Their eyes would be adapted to the dark with enlarged pupils, but what if the pupil and the iris were reversed. I was inspired by the picture in my son’s vision therapy lobby of cataract patients. The eye in the picture had a brown ball in the center of its pupil. What if the iris expanded to cover the pupil like an umbrella unfurling to block a hole rather than the iris muscle constricting the hole from the outer ridges?   

            “Her eyes are so odd I can’t help but stare. The colors of the pupil and the iris are reversed. It looks like a black hole has crushed her green iris like a paper wad, and left it in the middle of her eye.”

                               ---Grant in Strawberry Shifters Book 1: Bear with Me

            Not quite magical realism and not quite fantasy, I can’t wait for you to fall in love with the vampires of Strawberry, KY. They are the secret behind the twenty-four-hour productivity of Bergan Pharma and the reason why a blood bank license is vital to their research activities. Familiarize yourself with Ryan, Molina, and Lucien in Bear with Me (here)and Round of Applause (here) to prepare for when Betty takes them on in Strawberry Shifters Book 3: Go Scorch Yourself.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Viking Research and Sale for MAGNAR by Mary Morgan

As some of you may know, I’m a research geek when it comes to writing my stories. I get giddy when I have to look up anything—from historical herbs, landscape, naming a character, and food. 

Do you ever wonder how a medieval person made cheese? Or what about breads? How did one heal a broken leg? What about medieval weaponry (Sorry, I have a fascination with swords)? There are tons of books and internet sites, but a YouTube video is often times the best for me. I’m able to visualize the process, instead of merely reading about the history of a particular item.

In doing research for Magnar, I fell in love with this particular website and their videos—The Ribe VikingeCenter. Located in Denmark, Ribe is one of their oldest towns. The VikingeCenter gives you a glimpse into an authentic, living Viking experience. It now has been added to my bucket list of places to visit.

Here is their website:

It was customary for the Vikings to eat two meals per day—one in the morning and one in the evening. They ate with their fingers from flat wooden trenchers, or used wooden bowls for porridge, soups, and stews. The Vikings also used antlers and bones that were fashioned into spoons.

In my research, I discovered the Vikings used an interesting leavening agent in their breads. Since they didn’t have baking soda, baking powder, or yeast, they did have another leavening agent—reindeer antler salt. The oil is distilled from the antlers and from there salt was created. 

This bread recipe below is super easy to make and delicious warm from the oven with butter and/or honey spread thickly over a slice.

Skål (Cheers) 

Viking Bread


3 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 cups water

3/4 cup rolled oats

3 tablespoons rolled oats (to sprinkle on top)

Honey and butter


Whisk all dry ingredients together and then add the water.

Stir everything with a wooden spoon until it comes partially together.

Knead the dough with damp hands.

Form the dough into a round disk (approximately 8 inches across). Place bread on baking stone or a greased baking sheet.

Lightly brush the top with water and sprinkle the reserved oats on the top. Put into a cold oven.

Turn on oven to 375 degrees for 1 hour.

Cool slightly and then spread with butter and/or honey.

And for the first time, MAGNAR is on sale for 99¢! Grab your copy today or gift one to a friend! 



Friday, May 7, 2021

Dragonflies and Trees ~ Story Research by @jsubject & an #excerpt from MADE FOR HER #SFR #SFRomance #Romance


How my Story Research Method has changed

by Jessica E. Subject

When I first started writing for publication, my research consisted of looking up everything I could possibly need to every topic I referenced in my stories. I printed out pages and pages of material, emailed and interviewed sources with multiple questions, and kept all this material in binder upon binder, so I had it all to reference.

Recently, when I was rearranging my office, I realized I hadn't used most of the material I'd saved over the years. So, I went through it all, and ended up recycling most of it.

My research methods have changed since then. As an author, I know very little of what I actually research will make it into the story. So, unless I'm interviewing someone, I only write down the information I need as notes in the book I'm using to write my story. Yes, as I currently research information on dragonflies, and wetland vegetation, I write all kinds of notes across the top and in the margins of various pages. I also jot down information in my series notebooks if it might pertain to other stories in the series. And if there's a website or video I want to reference again, I'll bookmark it. No more binders full of information I'll never use again.

I'm curious, as an author, do you find your research methods have changed as you've written more books?

As a reader, would you like to know tidbits of information the author learned while researching for their story that didn't make it into the book?

Here's an excerpt from MADE FOR HER, which was a very research-heavy story...

Colonel Jones grabbed the remote before focusing on the three-dimensional holographic picture beside her. Another presentation for the general public, but she doubted it would work to recruit anyone. The audience was always more curious than willing to enlist. 

“In 2084, as you know, Earth made first contact with the Rafkels, a peaceful species living on the planet Raf, located twenty light-years from Earth.” She pressed the button to show her spectators an image of the still-foreign planet. “While meeting this species remains years away, their message warned us of other intelligent life forms in our own galaxy.” 

Mikayla rolled her eyes. The actual message had not been a warning, rather a fact, but the government insisted on changing the wording to garner more recruits and support for cloning. “Since then, world governments have combined efforts to develop a spacecraft that will take us faster and farther into space. 

“If you join the military today, you will learn how to fly these vessels and train the clones for future wars. Science fiction has now become our reality.” Yeah, like that would work to recruit people. Who wrote the speech, anyway? Very few, if any, would ever make it to the SFTC, Space Flight Training Center. “It will never be your life on the line, but that of men and women created only for that purpose. Serving your country is no longer about sacrifice, but about honor.” 

She cringed at the bullshit words. People still died all the time. Terrorists, like the ones who’d killed Daniel, still objected to cloning, causing destruction and death. Just last month, a popular off-base nightclub, known to be a military hang-out, had been turned to rubble in a matter of seconds after a suicide bomber with known allegiance to the Al-Tidoa group blew himself up inside the building. Many, both clone and human-born, had died. 

When Mikayla switched the display to the live feed from Onatria’s main lab in Geneva, she sighed at the collective gasp. Robotic arms transferred material between Petri dishes at various stations while other, more complex equipment dissected strands of DNA. Human-born and clones alike wore white lab coats and watched new life grow under their microscopes. And in a glass-walled clean room, casket-like clear chambers held young clones attached to a multitude of tubes. Except for the military and Onatria staff, this was the first time anyone had seen the labs. The government had grown desperate for people to enlist. 


By Jessica E. Subject

After terrorists murder the love of her life, Colonel Mikayla Jones trains squadron after squadron of the clones he brought to life, to take to the skies. When she discovers a young clone of her husband in her newest class, her world spins out of control. How can she command the look-a-like when she can’t help but yearn for him to fill an ache in her heart?

Dare was created to be the best. As the first Daniel clone to leave Onatria labs, he needs to prove he is more than just a DNA copy. To do that, he must rely on the wife of the man who donated his genes. But when she refuses to train him, Dare faces discharge and returning to the labs. Can he convince Colonel Jones to finish his training and find a way into her bed? Or will long kept secrets unhinge the entire clone project?


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

That’s for the Birds


By Maureen Bonatch 

                                                    Hanging out on our deck 

May 4th is Bird Day. Who knew? Not me, but then again, I’ve never considered myself a ‘bird person’. I’m not a bird watcher, even though it’s a popular hobby enjoyed by all ages—or am I? It seems the word is out with the feathered species that they have an uninterested party in the vicinity and they’ve made it their mission to convert me. 

Flew the Coop

As a child my grandmother always had a pet parakeet, and it was always named Babe. That’s right, when one Babe met his or her demise, another Babe would take their place. I have no idea how many Babes there were, it could’ve only been two but since I was young I found the idea of seamlessly replacing a pet a little odd. I was also traumatized by being dive-bombed when she’d let Babe fly around her apartment—and by her story of how Babe liked to perch on her glasses and once fell into her cereal bowl while doing so. 

A Little Bird Told Me

Despite my decision to remain uninterested in the avian species, in the years that I rose as an early bird long before the sun to write I’d crack my window in the spring when the birds welcomed the day with song. The volume at that time of the year, for that brief time in the morning, is nothing like the rest of the year. It made me feel better to know ‘someone’ else was up with me in the wee hours of the morning. 

Eagle Eye 

But, I digress. Back to the bird watching. The birds around our home seem to really want to ensure that I watch them whether I want to or not. 

  • They’ve come ‘knocking’ on the window a few times in the last few years to torment Scruff. He’s always been fascinated by birds. When they swoop past him on the deck they are one of the only things that causes him to bark rather than just huff. He desperately wants to be their friend and from this visitor, and others, it seems as from this bird's-eye view that the feeling is mutual. 
                                                                Peering in at Scruff

  •  The birds ensure they erect multiple nests crowding so close to our house as if they’re vying for a room inside. We had to remove the wreath from our front door since they always put a nest there and wouldn’t permit anyone to enter or exit without a huge fuss. Last year we were surrounded with had two on the trees near the front porch and one in the back. So far this year, I’ve found there the first one outside our laundry room window. When I peered out this morning I got a beady stink eye right back. 
                                                              Hello from the kitchen!
  • They tend to like to sit in the gutter right outside my office where I work like a sitting duck for them to repeatedly startle me as they swoop in or dangle their tail down from their perch. 
                                                                 Hello from upstairs!

So maybe I am somewhat morphing into a bird watcher as they vie for my attention as I used to do with my Mom by saying, “look at me” while I did cartwheels through the yard. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll change and have a parakeet named Babe? 

Getting My Ducks in a Row 

Speaking of changes, I have some exciting writing stuff coming soon! Stay tuned here, or sign up for my newsletter, to hear more about my new Paranormal Cozy Mysteries coming out in a few months! That, or I can do some cartwheels through your yard—although I think the newsletter would be a little less uncomfortable for me now. 

Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her website, Facebook & Twitter Be the first to know about Maureen’s book sales and new releases by following her on BookBub, Amazon and/or signing up for her newsletter

Monday, May 3, 2021

Excerpt from Veronica Scott's HEIRESS OF THE NILE Ancient World Paranormal Romance

 Thanks for having me back as a guest!

I love writing novels set in ancient Egypt and the opportunities for doing research on different topics. This one involved checking into everything from herbal medications of the time to musical instruments to post traumatic stress disorder issues (PTSD). Of course the Egyptians didn't call it that but there are tablets going back 3000 years discussing the issues ancient soldiers had when they returned from war.

The heart of the story is the romance between Lady Pebatma and General Marnamaret of course, aided by the gods and her younger brother, who seeks help for the impoverishedf family from Pharaoh.

Here's the blurb:

1550 BCE

Forced by a vengeful Pharaoh to flee for her life and hide in the poorest section of Thebes, Lady Pebatma has scraped and struggled to support her ailing mother and young brother for the past two years. Now, out of funds with the rent to pay and no possessions left to sell, she begs the goddess Hathor for help. With a new pharaoh taking the throne, surely something can be done…

A powerful general in command of the army and best friend to Pharaoh, Marnamaret has everything a nobleman in Egypt could desire…except for true love. He refuses to settle for less. On a whim, he prays to Hathor to send him the woman of his dreams.

Will the goddess answer these heartfelt petitions? And if she does, will Shai the god of Fate allow the course of two lives to be changed by love? For none can deny Fate….

Author’s Note: This is a connected series. Heiress of the Nile can be read as a standalone. Although it’s my newest novel, the story falls between Priestess of the Nile and Warrior of the Nile timewise and is set in the early days of this Pharaoh’s reign.


Here's the excerpt. Pebatma has gone to the temple of Hathor to beg for help as she has no rent money and a kindly priestess takes her into a mysterious garden to chat.

“You’ve been a devoted servant to the Great One, through all your own travails. Not a word of reproach have you offered to her for what your family has suffered. Diligent in your daily prayers, offering what you can, when you can. I’m sorry you never became one of the sacred order yourself, but Shai the God of Fate had other plans. We must all bow to his will of course.”

Wondering how this person could know so much about her, when she’d never spoken a word to anyone at the temple since the day she and her mother were refused entry, Pebatma swallowed hard. “You’re remarkably well informed, my lady.”

With a vague gesture, the other dismissed the remark. “Temple walls have eyes and ears, or so it is said. Why not tell me yourself what troubles you today? What would you ask of Hathor were she standing here?”

Pebatma heard a cow moo in the distance and the faint sounds of a sistrum whirring. Goose bumps rose on her skin and she shivered, unable to take another bite of the roll. She became uneasy about where it was she truly sat right now and to whom she spoke. The priestess was watching her intently  and Pebatma opened her lips to demur but heard herself explaining about her mother’s terrible illness, her own toil at the inn—“Not that I mind honest work of course because we’re blessed to be able to stay together and have a roof” —her worries about her brother, who was to have had a secure and illustrious career in the military until their family’s disaster and now labored as a mere baker’s apprentice—“He eats more than he bakes.” —and found herself weeping over her own crushed dreams for a worthy man of her station and true love.

The priestess listened silently, making encouraging murmurs and finally gathered Pebatma into her arms for a hug as she wept.

It’s like being in my mother’s arms, Pebatma marveled. Yet the other had seemed no more than her own age. Perhaps being in the temple made the woman wise beyond her years. Comforted, she hiccupped and wiped her eyes. “I’m so sorry to burden you with my entire basket of worries.”

“I asked, did I not?” Tapping her toe, the priestess watched her for a moment, her eyes dark and sparkling. “Today is the day, little sister. Change is carried in the breeze from Mother Nile and the god of Fate plays with the lives of others now. Be patient, walk one step at a time and remember in life as in the game of senet one cannot jump to the golden square and claim victory without passing through the challenges first.” She raised one hand, sketching the symbol for Hathor in midair, which glowed turquoise. “Go forth, have faith and be well.”

Pebatma blinked as the glare from the blazing symbol grew blinding. When she opened her eyes, she was outside the temple, standing in the doorway of a shop, having no memory of how she left the priestess. An unaccustomed sensation at her wrist caught her attention and she lifted her arm to stare at an amulet, a faience bead bearing the cartouche of Hathor, on a knotted black-and-red cord. She’d never seen it before but when she touched the bead with a fingertip, the stone was cool and a wave of peace swept through her.

Horns sounded as a squad of soldiers marched past. Pebatma checked the position of the sun and gasped. She was fearfully late and would have to endure a scolding when she got to the inn. How much time had she and the priestess talked? Not overly long, she’d believed. Running her fingers over the new amulet again, she broke into a run and hurried through the maze of back alleys with which she was all too familiar now, heading for work.

Amazon     Apple Books     Kobo     Nook     GooglePlay 

Author Bio and Links:

USA Today Best Selling Author

 Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!

 She read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”

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Saturday, May 1, 2021

Festivals & World Building by Diane Burton

Today is the first day of Tulip Time, a festival in West Michigan. This post originally appeared here in 2017 with a few changes to bring it up to date.

Each year, Holland, Michigan celebrates their Dutch heritage with the Tulip Time Festival, except last year because of covid. I remember when my sister and I drove across the state to watch our siblings in their high school marching band in a parade. We saw President Gerald Ford (when he was a representative) riding in a convertible and waving to the crowd. Now we go to watch our grandchildren.

In past years, Hubs and I would spend a day savoring Dutch food, like boerenkool stamppot (mashed potatoes and kale), gehaktballen (meatball and gravy), saucijzenbroodjes (like pigs in a blanket), and olibollen (a big deep-fried ball covered in powdered sugar) or Hollandse boterkoek (almond flavored shortbread) for dessert. Makes me hungry thinking about all the wonderful flavors.


 We would also shop in the Marktplaats where vendors displayed Dutch souvenirs, like hand-made wooden shoes, tulip decorated mugs, and just about anything with a Delft design. And, of course, windmills. Dancers in the street wearing wooden shoes (and multiple pairs of socks) is always fun to watch. The best part of the day was watching a parade of children dressed in Dutch costumes, accompanied by marching bands.

Celebrating heritage or founding comes easily for us in the United States. We’re such a young country, and most of our citizens come from all over the world. Many of my own ancestors came from The Netherlands, so I especially enjoy Tulip Time. Since I’m a “melting pot” like so many in the U.S., I could easily join in festivities for German, Polish, Irish, British, Scottish, Welsh . . . you get the picture.

As part of the world building for our stories, we should think about celebrations and festivals—secular and/or religious. Where did the inhabitants come from? What do they hold dear? What are their celebrations like? How long do the festivities last?

In my Switched series, the planet Serenia was founded by a group of colonists called the Intrepid Ones. Like most world-building, I knew so much more than what appears in the book(s) where small but significant details are dropped into conversations or the narrative. The reader doesn’t need to know as much as the author, but I made up an entire scenario about the Intrepid Ones: who they were, how they arrived, what they found, why they left their home planet.

It made sense to me that the Serenians would hold an annual celebration to honor those who settled their planet. At the beginning of Switched Resolution, the crew of the starship Freedom are supposed to serve as an honor guard at the opening ceremonies for Founders' Day. Not good when the captain and officers don’t show up. They had other priorities, like retrieving their ship stolen by rebels.

Hmm. I wonder what foods they served during the festivities.


Actions have consequences as Space Fleet Captain Marcus Viator and NASA reject Scott Cherella discover when they switched places. Does the reserved Marcus have what it takes to imitate his smart-aleck twin? Despite help from his love, Veronese, Scott’s already been outed by two of Marcus’ best friends.

When rebels steal the ship with part of the crew aboard, Scott has to rescue them and retrieve the Freedom. The stakes increase when he discovers the rebels are heading for Earth. They know he’s a fraud and they want Marcus. The safety of the Alliance of Planets depends on Scott and his allies.

Switched Resolution, which wraps up the Switched series, takes the reader from Earth—where Marcus adjusts to a pregnant Jessie—to the starship Freedom commandeered by rebels, to the chase ship with Scott and Veronese aboard.

Below is the reason for taking the easy way out by rerunning an old post. Typing one-handed presents a challenge. At least, it isn't my dominant hand. 😊

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!




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



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.



©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.