Seven Shifters I’ve Known and Loved

Today I have Liza Street, author of the Corona Pride series, sharing with us her favorite heroes from shifter romances. I’m delighted to hear what she has to say, as some of these delicious shifters are new to me! I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve already added to my TBR pile based on this list.

Don’t you just love this cover? Be sure to check out Liza’s links at the end of the post to find out how you can get a free story!

So tell us, Liza! List your favorite shifter heroes and why you find them so amazing!

 

 

  1. Clayton Danvers from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Clay was my first shifter heartthrob, and he will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite the violent acts he does to ensure the safety of his pack and his questionable behavior toward Elena in the early stages of their relationship (which I won’t spoil just in case there are one or two PNR fans who haven’t yet read this book), I fell hard for his southern accent and his absolute devotion to his mate. In my head, he’s even hotter than the guy who plays him in the television series. Is he flawed? Very much so. But since he’s my first, I go easier on him.

  1. Matt Barns from Gray Back Bad Bear by T.S. Joyce

It’s impossible for me to talk about how much I love Matt without saying how much I love his mate, Willa. These two were absolutely perfect together, at turns vulnerable and hilarious. Willa, especially, brought some geeky levity to their relationship, and while I adore Matt on his own, I love him even more with Willa.

  1. Arik from When an Alpha Purrs by Eve Langlais

So this guy is completely vain, especially about his hair (that is, his “mane”), but…I sort of loved him for it. Sure, I also wanted to throttle him, but I liked that even though he thought so highly of himself and his mane, he was still vulnerable with his friends. His vanity was great for laughs.

  1. Alcide Herveaux from Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Alcide…sigh. I really couldn’t care less about Bill or Eric. I wanted Sookie to end up with Alcide. Of course, a whole lot of random complications kept them apart throughout the series, but for a while there, I was Team Alcide.

  1. Lucas Hunter from Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Okay, I’ll be honest. I read Slave to Sensation a long time ago and I can’t remember any details about Lucas except that he was totally hot and there was tons of sexual tension. Hmm, might be due for a re-read….

  1. Derren Hudson from Spiral of Need by Suzanne Wright

If you love a good alphahole, you will love Derren. He starts off the story with all kinds of prejudice against Seers, and of course the heroine just happens to be a Seer. He’s controlling and derisive and super controlling. Something about Ally has him rethinking his prejudices, and you know what happens to a controlling man whose worldview is challenged? He’s cranky. So yes, Derren’s an alphahole. If you don’t like violent sex, this book might not be for you. (Not violent as in non-consensual or rapey, if I’m remembering correctly. Just…violent. Explosive. Demanding.)

  1. Adam Hauptman from Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Hello, Hot Neighbor! This dude is just solid. Solidly built, and solid at heart. I don’t want to say too much and spoil later events in the series, so I’ll just say that I absolutely adore his love-hate relationship with Mercedes in Moon Called, and the way she teases him by leaving an eyesore junker car in sight of his house. Sa-woon. I love those two.

About Liza Street:

Liza likes her heroes packing muscles and her heroines packing agency. She got her start in romance by sneak-reading her grandma’s paperbacks. It wasn’t long before she started developing her own series. Now she divides her time between freelance editing, ghostwriting, and mountain lion shifters with fierce and savage hearts.

FREE BOOKS–Join Liza’s mailing list and get Fierce Heartbreaker, FREE, as well as an exclusive Sierra Pride prequel story and other goodies! Visit Liza’s Free Book page to get started. 

Liza’s Amazon page and her website.

Make Your Hero Someone Worth Idolizing

As a writer, I’m frequently asked to pen a few words about the most influential book I’ve ever read. There’s no question which book it would be: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. I’ve been a lifelong fan of murder mysteries, particularly the British cozy, in which the body is discovered in the library and the protagonists sit around and discuss this development with wit and erudition. I still regularly re-read the classics of the Golden Age of Mystery: Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allinghmam, Josephine Tey, Patricia Wentworth, you name it.

Gaudy Night remains my favorite book of all time, the one novel I’d want with me if marooned on a deserted island.

I’ve given a lot of thought as to why.

By the time you get to Gaudy Night in the series, Lord Peter Wimsey, the dapper aristocratic peer with detective tendencies, has been seeing Harriet Vane for several years. Harriet, the somewhat cynical mystery writer, is looking to piece together the remains of her life after having been acquitted of murdering her former lover in a time when murder was a capital offense in Great Britain. Harriet is intelligent and strong-willed, determined to make her way in an unforgiving world without compromising her beliefs—the tenant of which caused the break between her and her deceased lover. Peter Boyle had first refused to marry Harriet on principle; when ‘living in sin’ was almost as much a crime as committing murder. Boyle does a turnaround and decides to ‘make an honest woman’ out of Vane, condescending to make things right with society and her family after first forcing a split with both. Harriet refuses to marry, and instead breaks up with Boyle.

When Lord Peter first meets Harriet in Strong Poison, she is a prisoner in the dock for Boyle’s murder, and Lord Peter has very little time to prove that Harriet is innocent. He also falls in love with her at first sight, and subsequent meetings shows the two of them are mentally and emotionally compatible—for Lord Peter is not a slave to his emotions. Though he would have done everything in his power to prove Harriet’s innocence, he would not have proposed marriage to someone he didn’t think he could make happy.

But Harriet, bruised by life’s circumstances and emerging out of prison bloody, but unbowed, will have none of men offering marriage. The next few books in the series continue in the usual Sayers vein: an interesting and clever murder with Lord Peter being witty and brilliant in the course of deduction and solution. Harriet is not always a presence in every story. I confess, I prefer the novels in which she is there. The interaction between her and Lord Peter take the stories beyond the simple murder mystery formula. At one point in Have His Carcass, Lord Peter and Harriet have a very telling conversation about the fictional characters in Harriet’s latest novel. Lord Peter suggests a fix for the story that would require Harriet to rewrite her story in order to make the characters three-dimensional, more real. Harriet protests that this would be a painful process, whereupon Lord Peter gets to the heart of the matter, asking her what difference would that make if doing so gave her a better story in the end?

This is a critical turning point in many ways. My hero, Lord Peter, sets a precedent for doing whatever is best for the story, no matter the personal cost to the author. I frequently say, “Everything is grist for the mill” and it is true: no matter what the trauma I might be experiencing, at the same time there is this Critical Observer taking notes. I know at some point that experience will be transmuted and used in a story. I like to think that Lord Peter guided me to this choice.

In Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers takes this concept further. For most of the series, the Lord Peter we see in the stories is the same face he presents to society: fatuous, superficially shallow, yet clever enough to solve ‘little difficulties’. He solves mysteries while never failing to produce the most appropriate quote. He’s entertaining at parties. He collects rare books, loves music, and is a peer of the realm. It’s easy to see why he is frequently underestimated by his adversaries. However when we meet him in Gaudy Night, it is a Peter who has come back from a series of harrowing adventures—and Dorothy Sayers lets this show. This Peter Wimsey is older than the one we met at the beginning. He loves Harriet, but he’s also tired of the song and dance. He tells Harriet that the next time he asks her to marry him will be the last. Sayers makes good on that earlier suggestion that an author should do whatever is best for the story.

Gaudy Night isn’t just a story about Harriet deciding whether or not she’ll marry Wimsey. She’s deciding what path to take for the rest of her life. She’s having to choose between the life of academia and quiet study, where everything seems clean, ordered, and black and white—and the messy disorder of a life more passionate, with the man who loves her, writing stories to entertain instead of enlighten. Yes, there is a mystery, but it is the catalyst within the crucible rather than the main story. In Gaudy Night, for the first time in their relationship, Harriet views Peter as a man rather than as an appendage, and that scene in which she becomes conscious of him as a sexual being is one of the hottest scenes I’ve ever read. No, seriously. One of the steamiest, most sensual scenes I have ever read. Even though there is no sex involved.

There comes a point in Gaudy Night in which Harriet’s life is threatened—and Peter does her the honor of letting her take the risk. He doesn’t swoop in and forbid her to risk her life. He warns her of the risks of kicking over the ant hill—he acknowledges she can choose to say nothing and walk the cloistered halls of her university for the rest of her life—without him. He is also prepared to be there to pick up the pieces afterward if things go badly. It is one of the most perfect examples of an adult relationship that I’ve ever seen. When at the end of Gaudy Night, Peter proposes and Harriet says ‘yes’, your heart is singing with hers because you know this is the right answer for both of them. Sayers makes Peter an honest, three-dimensional human being in Gaudy Night, putting her money where her mouth is as an author. Not only has this book influenced me in my own personal relationships, but it has definitely influenced me as a writer, too.

I fell in love with Lord Peter when I was thirteen. I named a horse after him. I feel badly for all those young girls who are looking at Edward Cullen and thinking that’s what the perfect man is like. Because Lord Peter is a gentleman who will treat me as a lady—and an equal.

It’s what I strive for as an author, even though I write in a completely different genre. Someday, I want someone pointing to one of my heroes and saying, “This. This is what I want from a relationship. To be treated with honor and dignity. To be treated as an equal and an adult.”

Because let me tell you, baby. There’s nothing hotter than that.

Cimmerian Shade: A Hot Paranormal Boxset!

 

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Dare to discover what lurks in the shadows in **New & Exclusive** paranormal and urban fantasy stories from your favorite NY Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling authors.
Under moonlit skies, witches, werewolves, vampires, dragons, and more, battle not only for their mates, but to stay alive…

 

Fall for the alphas who play by their own rules despite the odds, whether century-old curses or forbidden love, or worse. For them, what lies in the darkness is worth the fight when it comes to romance.

 

 

 

 
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What Lies Within Us by Kiki Howell & Gina Kincade
 
Kyna Hughes travels to Ireland only to find out her whole life has been a series of well-orchestrated lies. Thrust into days of dark magic, secret societies, mystical hauntings, and ultimately, kidnappings and satanic weddings, she struggles not to lose her heart to one of two men—a hunky former Navy SEAL hired to protect her, and a sinister Wizard hired to train her to develop her hidden powers.
 
Dating 911 by Kathleen Grieve
 
Commiserating with girlfriends over butterscotch martinis, emergency room nurse, Roxanne Carter creates the idea of The Dating Manifesto—a not so scientific research project which promises to point the way to dating success. She wades through a series of unsavory, stale dates while gathering data to find the potentially most suitable single men available, literally putting her back at ground zero.
Just when she is ready to give up on dating, in walks sin personified in the form of a sexy firefighter, tainting all of her previous data.
 
A traumatic warehouse fire leaves firefighter Jett Avery’s closest friend dead. The false mask of charm and pretense is slipping as Jett tries to repress his turbulent emotions, remorse, and guilt. After months of anguish, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder seems to be taking over his life and he needs an outlet, fast. In an attempt to combat the worst of his depression, he decides to use his brand of therapy—Sex. The remedy, usually a quick pick me up for Jett, has lost its luster. He is almost ready to give up until he encounters a wicked seductress who ignites a fire he’s not ready to put out any time soon. The bonus? She’s an ER nurse with just the right kind of healing, the missing element Jett’s search had not yet uncovered. He finally feels alive when he’s in her presence.
 
Jett’s twin brother, emergency room Doctor Cruz Avery, the playboy of the ER, decides Roxanne is the woman for him. He places all brotherly affection aside and is in hot pursuit, complicating an already tricky situation.
 
Roxanne finds herself battling a growing competition between brothers for her affection. She discovers she’s drawn to both men, making it difficult not to compare them, and finds herself with an important choice to make. Jett hounds her during every date, and the irresistible hunk generates an indomitable need to play with fire. Yet, there are qualities in Cruz that slide right into the appropriate dating criteria of her Manifesto.
Does she choose the brother who by analysis is the perfect match? Or the one she can’t resist?
 
 
Torch Song by Lashell Collins
 
Dominic Draco has no illusions about who he is. As alpha of the dragon clan, he is also the leader of the shifter Alliance, and that sometimes requires him to be ruthless. He’s a dangerous man to know. In fact, he’s a heartless bastard. That’s the real reason he’s kept the beautiful Lucinda Lindley at bay for so many years, despite the longing he feels for the sexy human singer. But in granting an old friend’s dying request, watching over Lucinda is now his responsibility. Can he keep her safe from the perils of his cut-throat world when the Alliance’s enemies begin to circle? Or will Lucinda become a casualty of the shifter faction war?
 
Ethereal Witness by Angelica Dawson
 
Magic just became real for Paige Brown. Since she helped her roommate cast a spell, she has wanted to explore her new-found talent. Flashbacks to her ancestor give her clues, specifically to a love spell that she hopes will snag the professor she has been fantasizing about. Both Paige and her previous incarnation, Jane, find that controlling magic is more than a simple recipe. Will Paige be able to break her own spell? Will she discover the love that is closer than she knows?
 
Love Story of a Reaper by Elvira Bathory
 
What would you do if you found out that you weren’t like everyone else?
That you were special, but only in a way no one could find out about?
What lengths would you go to prove yourself to your family? A family that you didn’t know you had?
 
Morrigana was moving through life with a part-time, minimum wage job, and only a handful of friends. She was different from other people and they treated her that way. However, she was happy with her life until the day she met Kheelan; that is when her life was turned upside down. She finds out that she isn’t even human, and that a family she wasn’t aware she had needed her to complete a mission. As Morrigana and Kheelan’s adventure progresses, will their focus on business remain professional or will their growing passion take over?
 
Burning Midnight by Erzabet Bishop
 
A triumvirate of blood and fire…
 
Diana Robichard runs Moon Called, an antique shop specializing in cursed objects. A new antiquity falls into her possession and promptly disappears, her tidy world is upended. When faced with a threat to those she loves the most, witchcraft alone may not be enough to save them.
 
Alpha Aristide Benoit is a wolf on a mission. When multiple pack members and finally his daughter go missing, he is ready to do whatever is necessary to find them as well as save the woman who has claimed his heart.
 
Vampire Regent, Rand Sinclair has a problem. His vault is missing an amulet never meant to see the light of day. Endangering a treaty with the wolves, he must act quickly before the woman he loves is swept into an ancient curse that will destroy them all.
 
With This Heart by Red L. Jameson
 
Talk about a killer kiss…
 
Being a former soldier with PTSD takes its toll on Aaron and has wiped him clean of optimism along with having dreams. But he’s no longer sure if he’s living in reality or fantasy after he tries to save a friend and finds his world filled with women who have wings and…Valkyries.
 
Adala kills. Not on purpose. She’s a Valkyrie—from just one touch, she takes warriors to the afterlife. Oh, but she’d give anything for a break, for normalcy, to have one day of not wearing her legionnaire uniform. When she’s asked to talk to the human Aaron to help him understand just what he’s in for when he tripped into her world, she jumps at the chance, even though she knows Aaron more than she cares to admit, even though she has an insane crush on him, even though she can’t touch him at all. But she gets to wear jeans and talk to a man—a real-life, hero of a man.
 
From her adorable made-up swearwords to when she wears his clothes, from the fact that she’s hundreds of years old to her pet Pegasus, Aaron falls hard for the shy Valkyrie. Dare he risk his life for a kiss? He’s thinking about it, because already he’s given her his heart.
 
With This Heart is a standalone story, that’s part of the With These Wings Series—books that mix rock-hard military men with feathered-fantasy femme fatales for a sizzling hot adventure to find love. Join Chanticleer winner, Red L. Jameson, for more of this heart-tugging fairy tale series.
 
Saltwater Siren by Muffy Wilson
 
Was it love at first sight? Perhaps. Many thought it might have been the work of the unscrupulous Sea Witch, Hermione, long a bitter and banished King’s Court Matron. So, was it the crafty wiles of Hermione, scheming to seek her sordid revenge, or was it a simple matter of serendipity? All we know for certain is that two young royals, one landed and one not, met during a raging storm as fierce and intense as the love they would none too soon escape. Was it fate, design, or—perhaps—black magic? Who’s to say?
 
What we do know is that it was sensuous, erotic, and insatiable as they fought to extinguish the passions that flamed their heat by indulging in every desire that swept them into one another’s arms. Their shared carnal voracity fanned an appetite no amount of indulgence could satisfy.
 
After all, it happened…Once upon a time…
 
Dangerous Beauty, Sexy Beast by Dariel Raye
 
Drayden saved her life— but her incessant need for vengeance could mean the end of his.
Thirteen years after the brutal murder of Treva Evers’ entire family, a cloaked stranger shows up just in time to save her from the same fate. When he disappears as quickly as he appeared, she is drawn into an underworld replete with magic and long forgotten customs, a place where nothing is as it seems, including her mysterious savior, and every word or action could result in brutal consequences.
 
Rose Tears by Amanda Pillar
 
Death is coming for Lori Hardcastle.
 
Half-Succubus, half-Sídhe, Lori has been on the run since she was seventeen. Worried that her vengeful family will find her, she’s been hiding in the Borderlands, a magical plane nestled between the fae and human worlds. However, when her path crosses that of a dangerously sexy fullblooded fae, will she be able to survive the encounter?
 
Conrad Death is a cleaner (he doesn’t like the term ‘assassin’) for the fae White Queen. His latest mission: find the half-breed daughter of the Count of Tears. Easy. Except no one knows what she looks like, her real age, or even what name she uses. However, Conrad isn’t daunted by simple details – he’s finished every job he’s ever started. But when he meets a smoking hot Succubus in a Borderlands bar, his life is thrown into turmoil.

 

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Rogue by Savannah Verte
 
Everyday immortal Bree Brigand gets a rude awakening as her family is slaughtered. Not only is the cursed, suicide blade of legend and lore real, but it has chosen her. She must quickly learn to fast-track a course she’s never navigated, in a world she thought only existed in campfire stories. But, only after coming to terms with the facts…her family is not her family.
 
Truths and lies collide in a world where the hunters and the hunted trade places faster than she can discern who is which, and everyone is an assassin. Can she find and claim her destiny? Or, will being marked by a male who is not her one true mate ruin everything, and clip this dragon’s wings before she can become all she is meant to be?
 
Hexing Hearts by Alyssa Drake
 
At eighteen, undeveloped witch, Remy Vasile abandoned her island home without a backward glance. Five years later, circumstances outside of Remy’s control have drawn her back to Firefly Island, dredging up painful memories which lay dormant during her absence.
 
Sebastian Ayres enjoyed a life of pleasure pursuits. However, his blasé attitude evaporates the moment Remy’s hand brushes against his. Irresistibly drawn to his mate, Sebastian must undertake the daunting task of persuading Remy that he is not just any man, but the only man, for her.
 
Unbeknownst to either, dark secrets, hidden since Remy’s birth, are about to be uncovered and Remy will be confronted with a life-altering decision. With the help of her sister and some unexpected allies, Remy must decide if she will fight and risk her heart or continue running from her destiny.
 
Dragons Curvy Concierge by Mychal Daniels
 
When Bronwyn Scott finds herself way over her head as the first-time business owner of a personal concierge service, she’s not about to fall for a rich mystery man trying to test her professionalism at every turn.
 
Determined to make her business a great success to find and show the mother who left her at birth that she made something of herself, Bronwyn has no time for games or entitled, gorgeous rich dudes.
 
MacMillan “Mac” Kelnar is at that time in his life where his business can run itself, he’s successful, powerful, and a mature Dragon who’s paid his dues.
 
When he sees his mate across the parking lot of a Home Improvement Center parking lot as she suffers a hit and run, he’ll stop at nothing to have her, even if that means pretending to hire her as his personal concierge.
 
Determined to have his mate, this Dragon won’t stop at nothing until his mate realizes that the only services he’s interested in are having all of her.
 
Credence – Moon Dragons by Decadent Kane
 
Torren is days away from competing in the Draconic Challenge and earning the prize he needs to complete his magic credence. His sky-high dream of apprenticing with the Ancients is finally in sight. The last thing this solitary moon dragon needs is a mate dragging him down to earth, and a human one at that. Not that his body will listen.
 
Dovie is minding her own business—literally—when a handsome stranger walks into her bookstore. One spontaneous orgasm later, she’s left with no choice but to close up shop. The last thing she needs is an overbearing dragon dragging her to his mountain and telling her to shelve her dreams in favor of a stupid contest. Not that her body will listen.
 
Torren and Dovie must fight their treacherous attraction to each other or sacrifice their ambitions forever. But moon dragon magic doesn’t choose lightly, and when darker forces shatter the peaceful mountain enclave the dragons call home, human and moon dragon alike will have to reconsider just what they need to achieve a happy ending.
 
Kiss of the Fallen by Kharma Kelley

 

Dear Readers,
I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted nothing to do with the war brewing among all the Supernaturals and have grown tired of fighting all these centuries. All of us are screwed up anyway; but who am I to judge who drinks blood and who eats souls?
   
As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, I get sucked into one last mission with the vampires and the next thing I know, I find a half-naked demon chained to my bed; and let’s just say she is not happy.  And, as much as I enjoy seeing a beautiful woman grace my bed, unfortunately, I’m not happy either.
   
Of all demons, someone delivers to me a Black Blood Slayer; demons bred to do one thing and one thing only: kill vampires.  Her blood is spiked with a desire I long to tame, but if I do, I could be six-feet under… again. And this time forever.  But her fighter’s spirit and tenderness shakes me to my missing soul, wanting to claim her with a need I cannot name.  But with both of us on the run and my people gunning for us, how can I be sure she wants me to love or to kill?
   
-Commander Tristan Castillion, Vampire Royal Guard
 
Selene by Shelique Lize
 
My name is Selene and I am a moon goddess. Between my siblings and me, we control the balance of the universe. Without us, the mortal and immortal realms would be thrust into eternal chaos. Don’t ask me what that means. It’s what I’ve been told for as long I can remember. I have never questioned my existence because it was the only life I have ever known. Then one day, everything changed when I became enthralled with the earth.
 
I couldn’t resist the alluring beauty that beckoned me almost every single night. My curiosity was so fierce and dominate, it was becoming impossible to ignore it and I gave in. I found the only god brave enough to take me to the mortal realm but he wanted something in return. He wanted my body, and I gave it to.
 
I went to earth and experienced life like never before. It was like my eyes were opening and I started to question my entire existence. Feelings all of a sudden are very present and then everything changed again, when I fell in love with a human.
 
Being a goddess has never been so complicated.
 
One Last Lullaby by Kallysten
 
When Kirsten walks back into Jacob’s life after years of estrangement, it’s not to resume the relationship she once ended abruptly. Instead, she’s there to work as a mage for the same agency in which Jacob is a Special Enforcer… or at least, that’s her story and she’s sticking to it. Whether Andrew, her boss and one of Jacob’s fathers, hired her for her skills or to get her back in Jacob’s life is anyone’s guess.
 
Although Jacob is determined to see in Kirsten a co-worker and friend, he still loves her as much as he ever did. He used to believe she was ‘the one,’ and even years after she broke up with him he still doesn’t understand what happened. It doesn’t help that every little thing she does reminds him of what they once shared.
 
As the agency battles deadly demons night after night, the relationship between Jacob and Kirsten goes from awkward to downright painful… until one botched magic spell traps them in a strange world inhabited by the demons, and the only way back will require them to reveal to each other their most painful secret…
 
Lust by Liz Gavin
 
Magical, sinful New Orleans attracts many lost souls who find haven at kinky Club Desire. Marcel Revault is the real deal: bound to the house, haunting it for over 150 years. Clara Hervaux, movie-star extraordinaire, indulges in her dark side as a club regular. As an empath, she’s gotten hooked on Marcel’s otherworldly sexiness. When Clara goes missing, Marcel uses their empathic link to find her, but can he break the curse to save her? Or will Clara fall prey to the jealous witch who cursed him?
 
Witch Playground by Isis Pierce
 
When Samantha Smith agreed to cast a spell to sneak her friend Sassy into the hottest paranormals’ club in Vegas, she never thought she’d actually get caught. Now she’s facing a trial and the possibility of losing everything—including her magic, and maybe even her life. To get out of legal trouble, she might have to sleep with a vampire or go to hell with a bounty hunter. Maybe both. And that’s a whole new kind of trouble.
 
Frozen Soul by Catherine Banks
 
A wolf’s love is forever…and so is the bond of the pack.
Even after she broke it off with their Alpha, Tysen, the pack still loved Jess. So when they discover her current boyfriend, Jon, is literally draining her soul, her wolf family is right there to come to her rescue. Back amongst their ranks, the bond she shares with them, and Tysen, grows stronger than ever, and she can’t deny how desperately she’s missed them all.
 
But now the truth of Jess and Jon’s relationship comes blasting through the door and brings everyone to their knees; she’s sacrificed more for the pack than any of them realized.
 
The question now remains: is there a way for Tysen to save her soul?
 
Taste Of Darkness by Catherine Vale
 
Natalya should have known better than to watch the handsome fisherman from the shadows, but she found herself drawn to him, night after night. If she had only stayed away from him, he would not be facing the darkness that will now haunt him for eternity. But she couldn’t stay away, and now it’s too late; he’s been turned into an abomination, a creature that will never again be free.
 
Natalya is all that Caine has left. He just doesn’t know it yet.
 
Natalya knows better than anyone what it’s like to have her world ripped out from under her, forced into the darkness, never to walk in the sun again. It wasn’t long ago when she was turned into a blood-sucking vamp, a ruthless killer. So when she finds herself to blame for an innocent human being turned, she knows that it’s up to her to save his life. But when Caine awakens to discover what he has become, will he ever be able to find his place in a world, where he just doesn’t fit in? And can he learn to forgive Natalya long enough to fight alongside her?
 
When a merciless pack of werewolves scent the newly created vamp, they will stop at nothing to destroy him, and everything he loves. Caine must learn to embrace his darkness, if he wishes to survive.

 

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Kill Your Muse

I have to admit, whenever I read someone speak of their Muse’, I cringe inside. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with having an outside source of inspiration for a creative project. Most of us have been there. We imagine a specific actor playing the role of our hero, or we see a photograph that lights up our imagination. I have no problem with that. My problem lies with those who speak of their muse as a somewhat capricious being who abandons them willy-nilly, or leads them on wild goose chases, or shows up in the middle of the night like a bad house guest who parties for three days straight only to disappear for months on end.

No. Just no.

Let’s look at the Merriam Webster definition of a Muse. If capitalized, as most people do when referring to their Muse, then it comes from Greek mythology and is attributed to any one of the nine Goddesses that preside over songs and poetry. It can also mean, as we’ve already discussed, a source of inspiration, a guiding genius.

More interesting to me is the definition of muse when it is not capitalized, which is ‘a state of deep thought or dreamy abstraction.’ I think that is a better representation of the writing process, don’t you?

Because here’s my problem with ascribing your writing to a Muse: you are giving all the power of your creativity to something outside yourself. You are absolving yourself of responsibility for an inability to sit down and tell your story, but you are also robbing yourself of the right to claim achievement over your successes, too.

I’m often amazed at the great lengths people go to describing their Muses—giving them names and detailed descriptions and character traits. I would suggest to you if you’ve done that to take a hard look at your creation and ask yourself why you’ve given your Muse these attributes. I think you’ll see that a lot of what you feel about your writing process is tied up in this artificial construct.

I also think this fabricated being is holding you back.

So I say to you: kill her. Kill your Muse.

Or if you can’t be that brutal, show her the door. Tell her that she no longer has any power over you. She is not the one that decides when you are going to write, you are. You don’t need her to come hold your hand, or whisper in your ear, or show you what’s in your heart. You know this to be true. You know that all you really have to do is start writing the words, and more words will come. They may not be the best words, but you know what? That’s what editing is for. Whatever you do, stop giving her all the credit and responsibility for your writing.

Sure, it may be easier to say, “My Muse has abandoned me,” rather than admit that you’ve been playing Minesweeper or wasting time on Facebook again. It might make you feel better to think, ‘if only my Muse would come back, I could write that bestseller I know is in me.’

One of my favorite quotations is from Calvin Coolidge: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

If you’ll notice, there’s not one word about a Muse in there. So free yourself of the tyranny of your so-called Muse and start writing again. You’re better off without her. You don’t need her.

So get rid of her. You’ll be happy you did.

 

 

 

The Panther’s Lost Princess (Redclaw Security Book 1)

I am so pleased to announce that The Panther’s Lost Princess, Redclaw Security Book 1, is now available on Amazon and KU!

If you love shifter romances, this one’s got a little of everything for you: fated mates, a princess in disguise, lovers on the run, and a heroine learning to come into–and accept–her power.

Blurb:

Ellie West has always known there was more to her story than being abandoned at birth. A child of the foster-care system, she didn’t get many breaks, but the one thing she can do is sing. It’s her only ticket out of poverty and obscurity. Nothing else matters, not even the nagging sense that she’s different. She’s headed for great things. She only needs a chance.

Jack Ferris couldn’t agree more. His firm, the elite paranormal agency Redclaw Security, has been hired to find a missing princess and return her to her family. Discovering that Ellie, a waitress in a hole-in-the-wall diner, is both the princess and his fated mate is like being hit with a sledgehammer. Ellie West can’t be his mate. She’s the mission.

The sooner Jack completes this job, the better, only Ellie has no intention of throwing her dreams away for a kingdom she’s never known. With hired assassins on their trail, Ellie might not have a choice. They must do whatever it takes to stay alive.

 

Excerpt:

She closed the distance between them with grace and determination. When she stood a mere breath away, she looked up at him from underneath her bangs. At some point when he’d been upstairs, she’d taken out those horrible fake blue contact lenses. Now she gazed at him with eyes that glowed gold in the firelight. With her index finger, she lightly traced down his arm, hesitating as she neared his wound.

“Does it hurt much?” Her voice, velvety-soft, connected with something inside of him and pulled him a step closer.

The words dried up in his mouth, and he had to swallow hard before he could speak. “Ellie.” He wasn’t sure where he was going with that, only that he had to try to make her understand why he couldn’t accept her invitation.

“Jack.” The way she said his name, with such amusement at his futile attempt to resist, battered at his remaining intentions.

“We can’t… I can’t. It would be wrong. I’d be taking advantage of you. Surely you can see that, right?”

“What if I want to be taken advantage of? What if I choose you?”

Her words pulled a groan out of him. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I know what I want. Better than anything I’ve ever known as long as I can remember. I want you, Jack Ferris.”

Take her. Mark her. Make her our own.

Book 1 in the Redclaw Security series is waiting for you–pick up a copy today!

Feed Your Creativity through Play

I don’t treat my writing like a hobby. I treat it like a second job. There are days when I don’t feel like writing, but I do it anyway. I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration to strike or handing my creative power over to a capricious Muse. There are times when I look at the disaster that is my house and think perhaps I shouldn’t devote so much time to this endeavor. There are days when I say, “Screw it!” and take the dogs for a walk instead. Sometimes when the words don’t come easily, you need to examine the story and determine what’s wrong with it. There are times when it is best to let that particular scene sit for a while until your subconscious can work out the knots.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop writing in the meantime.

Writing is a muscle that needs to be used daily to stay strong. Too much time off and it becomes harder to get back into the habit of ‘exercising’ daily. But any athlete will tell you it’s possible to over-train, and that you need to give certain muscles a rest while exercising others. So what’s a writer to do in this situation?

When I find myself in a situation like this, I give myself permission to play.

So much of my life has been spent trying to talk myself out of writing. I told myself there was no future in it for me, that I’d never be a published author. To be fair, until the advent of digital publishing, which broke the stranglehold on the industry and its ability to dictate what people would read, this was true. But it went deeper than that. I told myself that making up stories about my favorite characters in movies and television was somehow wrong. A self-flagellating monk couldn’t have been more repressive about an innocent habit than I was.

For twenty years, I shut that creative part of me away, concentrating on my education, my career, my family. Then one day, I discovered online fanfiction archives when I was at a very dark time in my life. I mainlined stories in my favorite fandoms, tentatively opening a Word Doc and starting my own fanfic. After logging in over a million words, someone encouraged me to write original fiction for publication, and here I am.

But I haven’t forgotten my roots—that marvelous feeling when you write for the sheer joy of it, when you spin stories out of thin air, and the ideas come flying at you like barn swallows, weaving into your current narrative until you have a story that makes you smile. These days, I keep telling myself I don’t have time for fanfiction anymore, and that is true. When I hear that internal voice telling me it’s ‘time to put away childish things’, I remember that’s exactly what I told myself when I shut the door on my creativity the first time.

Which is when I typically say, “Screw it!” and scribble out a story just for me. I’ll throw in all my favorite tropes: opposites attract, misunderstandings, rescued kittens, damaged-but-salvageable heroes, The True Meaning of Christmas—you name it. As I write, I’m convinced it’s the silliest story in creation, but that’s okay, because it’s just for me, right? Only when I share it, I discover that other people like it too. The very things I’m somewhat embarrassed about for liking are the same things that other people enjoy. I mean, tropes are tropes for a reason, right? Sometimes you should just let ‘er rip and see what your subconscious comes up with.

The lovely thing about imaginative play is that it unlocks the mind for more imaginative play. Before I know it, I’m daydreaming about the story I’m working on, and solving the problems in it while washing the dishes or walking the dogs. And yes, time writing a silly ‘just-for-fun’ story IS time away from a marketable one. But if your story is just plodding along, or you’re stuck between stories, struggling to find the mojo for the next one, I suggest that you take a little time to play. Go on. It’s allowed. 

Every Day is National Book Lover’s Day: Share Your Favorites!

Today is National Book Lover’s Day! I’ve been thinking about that a lot today, how books came into my life when I was a sick child, frequently kept home from school, but going on adventures with my elderly dog to Middle Earth or Narnia while still confined to bed.

I was very fortunate to have grown up in a family of readers with a mother who believed in the power of books. Every couple of weeks we went to the library and checked out dozens of books–so many we had to get special permission to bring home more than the standard allotment. We wanted nothing more than to go home and start reading, but our mother made us write down all the titles on sheet of paper kept pinned to the fridge so we’d know how many books we’d checked out and what to collect to take back to the library. We chafed at this onerous task, but as soon as it was done, the books were ours.

I can clearly recall swinging in a hammock, reading a book. Sitting under a tree in the June sunshine doing the same. Reading with a flashlight under the blankets when we should have been asleep. Reading on long car trips while adults marveled at the lack of motion sickness. On buses and waiting in lines at the bank. On trains and airplanes. I can’t imagine going anywhere without something to read.

My early love (and what I still reach for on bad days) were horse and dog books. Misty of Chincoteague and Lad: A Dog. Black Beauty and Big Red. The day that the Scholastic Book Sale came to school was a major day of celebration for me.

I moved on from those early, comforting loves to the grittier books of Jack London. But I read almost anything: the Golden Age of Mystery was meat and drink to me. When I hit high school, I fell hard for sci-fi and fantasy. Oh! And I discovered the racing thrillers of Dick Francis and read them all. I love historicals, romances (especially Regencies), paranormals, and urban fantasy. My idea of the perfect way to spend the afternoon? Take me to a library or bookstore and then sit beside me on the sofa in front of the fire (or under a tree in the summer sun) and read with me. My Amazon wish list is 97% books.

So when I came across this post by The Bloggess, asking people for their favorite reads, I couldn’t help but gush over my favorites. Seriously, check out the post because the suggestions in the comments are pure gold!

I posted this: 

OMG. Where do I start? I adored the Beekeeper’s Apprentice (and the whole Mary Russell series by Lauren R. King) and the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander (And Only To Deceive not only had me cheering because it was the best book I’d read in years but also weeping because I’d never write anything that good…) And my go-to comfort reads are the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters, and I re-read Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers at LEAST once a year, and have you read the Mary Stewart heroine-in-jeopardy books? I used to read The Moonspinners every summer and now I’m going to have to re-read it again!

The Honor Harrington series by David Webber. The Heris Serrano books (along with the Deed of Pakesenarion) by Elizabeth Moon. Echo Robin McKinley, and L.M. Montgomery–if you haven’t read The Blue Castle YOU MUST! Because how can you resist a story about a downtrodden young woman who decides to say exactly what she’s thinking? 🙂

I’m trying to avoid the tried and true classics I’m sure others will name (like Pride and Prejudice, because seriously, as scary as the world is these days, I love a story where the worst thing that can happen to you is getting cut dead at a party or your sister running off to Gretna Green…)What a great post for National Book Lover’s Day!

But that’s just scratching the surface of my lifelong love affair with books. So what I want from you, dear reader, is to share your favorite books with me as well. Because I suspect when you do, I’ll be all “OMG, I loved that book/series too!!” and then we can share the joy.

Because for a book lover, every day is National Book Lover’s Day

 

The Power of Self-Forgiveness

WARNING: Discussion of self-harm and other destructive behaviors

I’m a tiny bit embarrassed to admit it, but this past weekend, I was tooling around the back roads in my car, listening to my iPod when a song by a favorite artist queued up. Most of the songs on the CD are about standing up for yourself, not letting anything hold you back any longer, and there is an underlying theme of getting out of abusive relationships and situations. It’s a powerful CD by a great artist, Anna Nalick. So when “Scars” began playing, I started singing along–only to be struck like a sledgehammer when I finally realized what the song was about.

It was about cutting.

I was staggered by two things: first, the fact it took me so long to recognize the meaning of a song I’ve listened to several times before. I’ve lived with a cutter. I know the signs. Sadly, knowing the signs doesn’t always mean you understand what compels some people to self-harm. In my defense for not picking up on the meaning of the song, in it, the singer speaks to that part of her that self-harms as though it is another person outside of herself, and the first couple of times, that’s how I heard it: that the singer cared about someone who she wasn’t going to give up on, someone in a dark place that needed help. Once I realized she was speaking about herself–the part of her that was twisted and in pain, I was gobsmacked.

The second revelation followed closely upon the first: there are many more ways to self-harm than cutting. You can practice self-harm by staying in a bad relationship, or eating the wrong foods, drinking too much, using drugs, or simply by hating yourself.

I hit replay on the song I don’t know how many times. All because of one line: Know that I forgive you.

Wow. I can’t tell you the effect that had on me. Here I am, on a lovely Sunday morning, tootling along country roads with a tired puppy in the back, having just gone on a hike in the woods. And this song hit me with something on the level of an epiphany: we have to accept the part of us that is destructive in order to heal. We have to learn to love the whole of us, even the parts we hate, in order to get better. Sure, today we might not be the person we want to be, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be that person tomorrow. Aside from habit and exhaustion, two things that make it very hard to change anything about our lives, I think it’s critical we stop denying that part of us that hurts, the part that uses pain and distress as a coping mechanism, that says, this pain (be it the way you feel when you slice skin or the way you feel when you binge and purge or whatever your not-so-great coping mechanism might be) is better than the pain you were feeling before–of being unloved, unwanted, unworthy.

And when I sang those lyrics about forgiveness, I felt something inside me shift. Something I hadn’t even realized was bound in chains. Something gave, took a deep breath, and said, “Okay. We’ve got this.”

We. As in all the parts of me. The good and the bad. The parts I like (which admittedly are few) and the parts I dislike (the list of which seems to grow longer each year).

No, I don’t think I’m magically healed. You don’t spend a lifetime running a negative commentary on yourself and erase its effects overnight because of a pop song. I don’t think I’m going to immediately stop doing the things that are counter-productive to the life I want to lead. I suspect I’m going to find myself choosing between the lesser of two evils for a long time to come. But I think I’ve taken a big first step here because I realize now it is a choice. I can choose to keep walking in the direction I want to go or remain stuck in a quagmire of angry thoughts and bad decisions.

I choose to sing.

 

What a Difference 10 Years Makes: Publishing in 2007 vs 2017

I’ve been doing some cleaning up around the house and I recently came across some old journals. I’d gone to a sci-fi convention back in 2007 or so, and had attended all the writer’s panels they held. I scribbled down every bit of advice, every shared experience, every tale of woe shared by the authors on the panel. Believe me, it wasn’t a cheerful or encouraging discussion.

Let’s place this in perspective though: at the time of the convention in question, smartphones had yet to exist. Amazon had just launched its first Kindle (with a $400 price tag) and readers swore up and down it would never catch on. Instead, Amazon sold out of them before the day was out and they were on back-order for months afterward. Google Maps wasn’t yet a thing–and I don’t know about you but I can’t go anywhere without it today! There was also no such thing as ‘the cloud’, if you wanted to save important material, it went on an external hard drive. Heck, I used to back up all my stories to a thumb drive before there was such a thing as dropbox or Google drive!

Youtube was just becoming a thing. No one had heard of a Roomba, much less videotaped their cat riding it to upload it to Youtube. The guy that used the 3D printer to create an arm for his son? Yeah, didn’t happen yet. Virtual reality devices and space travel remained concepts for science fiction. Now my husband has a VR device and space travel is looking more and more possible.

Ten years ago, the main way for someone to get published was through the Big Six (or Big Five now, since the Penguin-Random House merger). Self-publishing back then meant ‘vanity publishing’, and was the mark of someone who couldn’t get published any other way. It’s taken a decade to diminish that stigma, and there are still people out there who refuse to read any self-published work.

One of the YA authors on the writer’s panel spoke of the difficulty in getting published, and why so many authors accepted terrible deals as a result. They wanted so badly to be published that any offer seemed like manna from heaven and was accepted without question. This author explained that she’d submitted a story and had been told by the publisher they loved it so much they wanted it spun out into a ten book series. What unpublished author wouldn’t jump at that kind of offer? But she didn’t really examine the contract details or what the press would require of her. Without fully comprehending what it would entail, she signed a contract agreeing to produce 70 K words every six weeks–and that later books in the series could be written by other people. She was responsible for creating a ‘Bible’ that could be used by other authors to follow the story arc. She told us that she had to write a minimum of 5 K words a day and never had a chance to look over what she’d written–she just submitted it and hoped the editors would catch anything wrong.

This young woman looked exhausted. And you could see in her eyes that the joy of writing had become a drudgery of pounding out words that she scarcely cared about any longer. Her take-home message was about reading contracts and standing up for what you believe in, but when asked if she would do it again, she said yes because she was published. Wow.

The guest of honor had even harsher words for the industry. He spoke of how publishing houses used to be run by people who loved books, and for every mega-seller like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and one moderate best-seller, the firm would carry eight mid-listers. In his opinion, that was all changing. When he began writing, the expectation was that once you had one hit seller, sales from that first book would help produce others in the series. Now, every book had to sell in the stratosphere, and each book you wrote had to outperform the one before. Publishers were getting greedy, and demanding greater production with no care as to the content. Authors could no longer get by on writing one book every year or so. The guest speaker, by the way, was George R. R. Martin.

Another writer agreed with him, saying that she’d known many authors unable to live up to the ‘outsell your last book’ production model who’d been dropped by their publishers and had re-invented themselves under a new pen name with a new press–which meant dividing their original audience even more and having to build from scratch again. And with the number of Big Publishing Houses getting fewer and more interconnected, finding a new publisher wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

I basically came away from the panel thinking I’d never be a published author.

And yet I am.

In 2013, I was one of the authors at a sci-fi convention on a writer’s panel, giving advice to eager wanna-bees in the audience.

What changed?

Remember that list of tech I mentioned? Yeah, the one that has had the biggest impact on publishing is the Kindle–or e-reader in any form–but face it, Amazon has been the largest driving factor here. Amazon put e-readers into the hands of thousands, and then has nearly singlehandedly created the self-publishing industry by making it so darn easy to do. Advances in tech have also made it possible for people to make cover art, format stories, promote newsletters and so on–and if you can’t do these things yourself, the Internet has made it possible for you to find the skilled services you need. (Another reason why we need Net Neutrality, damn it!).

Now I’m not saying Amazon is the Great Hero here. The rise of e-readers has made it possible for me to become published because the rise of small digital presses meant someone would take a chance on a no-name like me. But that same juggernaut has slowly crushed a number of these small presses over the years because many of them can’t compete with the behemoth that is Amazon. I’m just saying that as a company, it revolutionized the way we read–making books more accessible, making self-publishing an option many didn’t have before, and also freeing the industry from standards set by a select few as to ‘what will sell.’ But I also believe that Amazon will grind us all to dust if we let it. That’s why though I use Amazon and KU, I don’t rely on them alone for sales. I distribute to other outlets when that KU wave crests. I support my local B&N (sadly, B&N’s website TANKS compared to Amazon’s–ordering an e-book from them is a huge PIA in comparison) and independent bookstores too. Once Amazon has ALL the publishing market, we’ll discover Amazon isn’t really a publishing company. They sell e-readers. Authors aren’t their priority.

But they have made it possible for me to be a published author. Something that never even seemed remotely possible in 2007.

Never Throw Out That Scene

Never throw out a scene you’ve written. I’m not saying don’t cut scenes–sometimes the story needs judicious trimming for the sake of pacing and to keep the pages turning. Sometimes the scene you’ve written just doesn’t belong. Sometimes you realize in retrospect it told you something about the character and it’s very useful to you, but not to the story. Cutting it only makes sense. But don’t throw it away.

Sometimes all you have is a scene. An idea, a thought, a single snapshot, as it were. You have something you want to say but you’re not sure what. You have an inkling of a story but don’t know what the rest of it will be. Be patient. Let it simmer on the back burner of your mind. But don’t throw it away.

Some time ago, I attended a sci-fi convention in which the guest of honor was George R.R. Martin. At the time, I knew of his series A Song of Ice and Firethough I’d only heard of the first book, A Game of Thrones. I knew he’d worked on Beauty and the Beast, a television show I’d enjoyed, so I was interested in hearing what he’d had to say. Mind you, GOT as well know it, the television show everyone is talking about, didn’t exist. Only two or three books in the series had been written at this point. Even so, Martin was well-known in the sci-fi community for his work and it was considered a coup for the convention to have him as a guest speaker.

For a little perspective: at the time of the convention in question, there were no such things as Smartphones. People still used MySpace and Twitter didn’t exist. E-readers where just starting to become available and they cost a bloody fortune. And the only way to self-publish was through a vanity press. Wow. Hard to believe, eh?

Martin had some fascinating and harsh things to say about the publishing industry, which I plan to share in a different post, but the thing that struck me most about his address was when he told us that once he’d written a scene that didn’t belong to anything else he was working on. It wasn’t a complete story–it was just a scene he’d pictured in his mind: a woman and a white wolf. 

After he’d completed the short scene, he didn’t know what to do with it. Shrugging, he tossed it into a drawer, where it sat for the next ten years. One day he ran across it again and somehow, after all that time lying dormant, the seeds within it came to life. Apparently his subconscious never forgot about the scene because now a story sprang up to go with it–and A Game of Thrones was born.

So the next time you write a scene because you just can’t get it out of your head until you do, don’t hit delete when you’re done. Even if you think it’s incomplete and serves no purpose, you never know.

You could hold the next great series, the stories that everyone is talking about, in your hands.