Author Interview with Jay Shaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome author Jay Shaw here today for some nosy questions on my part, and to find out more about her paranormal story, Wolfhaven, the first in the Duality series.

Hello, Jay! I’m delighted to have you here with us, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Hi McKenna, thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here.

I’m a mum of two teens who stays up early and wakes up late. I love snuggling down on a wet windy day and losing myself in a wonderful book. Other passions of mine include photography, sci-fi and action movies – hopefully with some romance mixed in, reading, steak with mushroom sauce, cheesecake, and hot military men in combat boots and thigh holsters.

I write sci-fi, paranormal, action, and contemporary, romances.  I find a single genre boring to both read and write, so I tend to blend them together. Life’s a melting pot of awesomeness, both in the complexity and variety of people, and the endless possibilities out there. It’s why you’ll find both M/F and M/M pairings, set in wild and wondrous worlds you’ll want to escape to and explore, over and again.

I know exactly what you mean, Jay! I write some paranormal stories, but some urban fantasy and contemporary too. I like to mix it up. 🙂

I’ve never been too fond of labels, pigeonholes, or boxes, so I write stories I enjoy, and hope they find their way to other eager readers who will read and love them as much as I do. As for my characters, they will, through trials and tribulations, adventures and discoveries, ultimately find their one great love – a love that all of time and space will lie down and be still for. 

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

I’m a Kiwi, from New Zealand, where I was born and raised; and where, for the foreseeable future, I intend to remain. I grew up in the suburbs of Auckland, breathing fresh air and sunshine, pretending I was Princess Leia with my arms out flying X-wings in the back yard, while four or five Luke’s and Han’s battled invisible Stormtroopers with stick-lightsabers.

There were roller skates, bicycles, rolling down the grassy slope in cardboard fridge boxes with my brother, the neighbours’ kids, and the dog, mudslides, bouncing on the trampoline with as many of our friends as could possibly fit, and not coming home until the streetlights flickered on. Yes, I grew up in the time before the internet, and cellphones came with a battery the size and weight of a brick, lol. Some might beg to disagree, but I think I turned out all right.

Today, I live in a small town fifteen minutes’ drive from the beach, where I juggle life as a mum, and semi-reclusive writer, who – on occasion – does lunch with her close-knit group of most-excellent friends.

Your childhood sounds amazing–I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, it looks amazingly beautiful! I’m more a mountain girl than a beach girl, but you make it sound tremendously appealing! 

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I’ve always loved the written word. Stories about handwritten letters lost to time and history, only to be discovered generations later, always fascinated me. My imagination was nurtured on a diet of Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, MacGyver, and supplemented with Danielle Steel novels, and Wilbur Smith adventures. But aside from a high school English assignment where we had to create a myth/legend to explain the existence of a natural landmark, I didn’t write as a child. My passion came later; when after my marriage ended and I was trying to work out what the next chapter in my life would involve.  It took a few years and many false starts before I realized writing was my thing.  With the encouragement of a new friend, I signed up for Nano, and wrote WOLFHAVEN’s first draft that November. Two months later, I’d published my first book. I had found my passion and my path.

That’s AMAZING. I tried NaNo once, and it nearly crippled me as a writer. I’m so impressed that not only did you complete the challenge, but you turned it into a published novel as well! 

Have you written in other genres?

The short answer is, yes. I doubt I’ll ever be one of those authors who stick to one genre their entire career.  There’s too much potential out there, too many stories in need of telling. The genre I feel the most at-home in is science fiction romance. I love the freedom it offers, the chance to create and explore new galaxies and the beings that inhabit them is too good to pass up, lol. There will be more paranormal, and sci-fi, romances to come in 2018. But for the moment I’m discovering a love for contemporary romance.  My current work-in-progress is book two in a Movie Star Romance series.

 Contemporary romances definitely have their appeal–sometimes a story can only be told in a contemporary fashion–but like you, I crave the excitement and storytelling potential that comes with paranormal and sci-fi settings!

How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

Not usually. Characters introduce themselves to me fully-formed and it’s not until I’m writing them do I learn who they are beyond what I learned in our initial meeting. If I need a food, drink, music, transport, or likes/dislikes, that don’t immediately come to mind, then I’ll turn to my preferences and see if any of them fit the character or situation. Sometimes by sifting through those, I discover what doesn’t work and that can actually be more useful. 

Editing: love it or hate it?

Love it. The hard work’s done. You have your draft, words on paper or screen that together weave a magical spell to entrance your readers. I love seeing the pattern of a story and being able to conjure it into the best version of itself I can.  Nothing beats that sense of self-satisfaction and achievement when, at last, you see your vision come to life; and you breathe a full breath for the first time since your first pen-stroke or key-clack.

Yes, I love the editing part too–sometimes the hard part for me is to stop tweaking–I can always see room for improvement! 

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Hell yes! Everyone says don’t read them, reviews are for readers. But, what with still being a new author, I can’t help but get giddy over the fact that someone took time out of their day to read my book. Good reviews have a tendency to add pressure to meet readers expectations.  Bad reviews cut me to the quick and give me stage fright. It’s best to offer up a thank you, and remember not everyone reader is going to love your creation. And keep writing stories as they’re meant to be told. A story will always find its reader.

 Yes, it’s funny how one negative review can negate 50 glowing ones in your mind, isn’t it?

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

No, because their stories don’t end.  I don’t type The End. I prefer to think my characters’ journeys continue on without us, and I hope it leaves the readers with the ability to imagine and wonder what the characters are up to next.

Sequels are funny things. When I’m writing what I think is a stand-alone, secondary characters will step up and demand their own books, or something will happen that earmarks itself as a potential plotline I hadn’t anticipated.  It’s a wonderful feeling.

That’s an awesome way of looking at it! 

Tell me about the world-building you chose for Wolfhaven. How does it differ from shifter stories? It looks complex and layered to me–what was your inspiration for the structure of the society you created?

I’m not a plotter. When I start a new story it’s usually begun life as a single character introducing themselves, or a question requiring a fifty-five thousand word answer. WOLFHAVEN started this way.  I was scrolling through Pinterest when the name Asena caught my eye; its meaning was “Mother of Wolves”. I pinned it and as I scrolled some more another name appeared on my feed; Connell – “Strong Wolf”.  I was onto something. 

Within those first few precious moments of inspiration I knew, Asena was leader of a wolf pack and Connell was her grandson. I also knew Connell didn’t want the destiny expected of him.  From then on the world of WOLFHAVEN expanded as I wrote. Each time I needed something – a conflict, a character with certain traits or desires, a location – it unfolded before me, clear as day.  I knew the world in this story would represent two points of view, and everything would be in tandem with each other.  Nothing in life is ever black-and-white, and I was keen to show that through both characters and the world they inhabited. It’s why the series is called Duality.

Everything is about balance; life and death, wolf and human, pack against pack, dictatorship versus leading by example, two brothers with opposing views which actually aren’t so dissimilar when you look closer, summer and winter, love and hate, organized religion versus being in tune with nature, differing sexualities and lifestyles. WOLFHAVEN has it all.  This duality wasn’t something I set out to weave into the story, but rather a side effect of a story about coming of age and discovering how to make your destiny unite with who you’ve always known yourself to be.

I think WOLFHAVEN differs from other shifter stories mainly because wolf and human are an integral part of themselves and their lives. The connection is never questioned or doubted, and there is enough complexity and interesting potential for future stories. I’d like to believe it offers the reader a chance to think beyond the page, to imagine what living in the WOLFHAVEN world would be like; to be a wolf patrolling the borders, inhaling a million and one scents as the cooling wind ruffles their fur.

 

WOLFHAVEN Blurb: For three generations, an uneasy truce has existed between the shapeshifter packs of Wolfhaven and Silver Ridge.  But Equinox is fast approaching; and all is about to change.

Connell, grandson of Wolfhaven’s chief, is hungry for adventure; and eager to explore the world beyond the boundaries of where he grew up.  Is this a plan set for failure?  Only Lupa, Goddess of Wolves, can know; for it is she who bends destiny to her will. 

Thayer, heir apparent and Connell’s older brother, has found love with Lena – Mistress of the Moon – and daughter of Silver Ridge’s alpha.  Yet, the course of true love never runs smooth.  Lena is matched to another.  A wolf of her father’s choosing.  

Fierce and strong, Kellan is Arden’s second and will make the perfect mate.  If only Lena wished it.  Silver Ridge, a world of zealotry and submission, is no place for a freethinking female.  Especially not one, whose lover whispers of a world beyond her father’s reach.

Will Connell’s dreams of freedom and adventure be thwarted, as Thayer and Kellan challenge for the right to claim Lena as their own?  Or will Lena resolve to put the traditions of her pack and the demands of her father over those of her own heart?

 

Excerpt from WOLFHAVEN

Connell woke amid the confusion of his pack sprawled all around him.  Some were in human form, their limbs tangled with those of their mates as they slept; no space between their bodies.  Others had chosen to enjoy Equinox in wolf form.  He had been alone when he left the clearing, unnoticed by any of his writhing packmates as they fucked with abandon under the full moon.  Its ethereal glow highlighted the curve of a spine here, and the shadows where bodies arched in the rictus of pleasure there.

Connell couldn’t help the flash of Thay and Lena in his mind, the mating that had turned his life into something he didn’t recognize.  Many had approached him, made brave by Equinox, to  proposition their chief.  He had gently refused them all and suggested alternative interested parties in his stead.  Connell wanted more than a casual coupling. 

The council lodge was deserted when Connell had curled into a ball of creamy white fur, tail   tickling his nose, and fallen asleep.  Now though, a slumbering tapestry of every shade of brown and red and cream imaginable was spread across the octagonal floor.  They had found him after moonset and chosen to stay close, rather than return to their own cabins.  Perhaps it was a safety thing, but the growing warmth in Connell’s chest said otherwise.

He stretched his senses outward, ears pricked to catch the smallest of sounds.  All was still.  As if on a wave Connell felt the room close in around him.  His position, the expectations of his pack, his fear that he lacked what it took to meet said expectations, his anger at Thay – every emotion swirled thick and potent in Connell’s gut.  He had to leave, flee, and run until he could run no more.  Maybe then the answers and the insight would come, and he’d be the chief his pack needed.  The chief they deserved.  Connell was up on his feet, moving to the doorway lit with morning light on white snow; luring him forward with the clean crisp scent of freedom and solitude.

The snow was cold under his paws and against his belly as Connell bounded toward the track at the edge of Home Boundary.  Patrol would be hard going, but the exertion was what his wolf craved.  Too long confined by his human as Connell had taken his brother’s place at their grandmother’s side.

Connell stretched his wolf, pulled at the snow with his forelegs to gain speed and distance from Wolfhaven and his sleeping pack.  He let his mind loose, gave it free rein, and took in the stark beauty of the wilderness he had always called home.  Familiar scents came to him as he ran, reached out to welcome him on the still air; sharp bite of frozen water, a stag somewhere to the east, a flutter of feathers on a cedar perch as he passed beneath. 

He heard Dex shadowing his tracks, watching his back even as he gave Connell space.  It was a comfort Connell had not been aware he’d needed.  He was grateful it was just the two of them out here in the undisturbed quiet.  Dex had left Arabelle’s warmth to be out here with him.

Connell snorted, annoyed at himself for allowing his mind to go there.  Dex deserved happiness and the comfort a mate would provide.  But for some reason Connell couldn’t help resenting whoever his friend finally chose. 

He snarled in annoyance and drove onward, muscles bunching and releasing.  His breath a cloud of white around his muzzle, as he reached the giant cedar and turned into the climb; only to startle to a halt at the scent of blood flooding his snout.

That was terrific! Thanks so much for stopping by, Jay! I hope you’ll come again and share more of your stories with us!

 

Biography

Jay Shaw is a New Zealand author, a mum of two teens, and a lover of books. She’s an incurable romantic who stays up early and sleeps in late, writes in bed, loves both action and romance movies, survives on a diet of M&Ms, bottled water, and steak with mushroom sauce. 

Jay has a preference for tall, dark-haired, military men in thigh holsters and combat boots, but isn’t opposed to the occasional shirtless cowboy in tight denim. 

Her favorite books to write are fantasy and sci-fi stories about characters who will ultimately find their one great love. A love all of time and space will lie down and be still for.

Discouraged as a Writer: You’re Not Alone

Yesterday, someone posted in one of my Facebook groups a comment I’m seeing more and more lately: a statement of how discouraged they are as a writer.

Truth be told, I understand that all too well. Recently, I decided to leave my previous genre and pen name to start over again. I knew it would be tough, starting over from scratch, but I seriously underestimated how hard to would be to gain traction in today’s market, despite all the lessons I’ve learned about marketing, networking, and how to use social media effectively.

So this post could be a long wail about how tough the industry is, and how hard it is to get noticed when 4500 new books are published on Amazon every day.

But it’s not.

Instead, I’m reminded of the horse-mad girl I used to be, and how I would do anything to ride horses–bike five miles a day to the barn to muck stalls, just to be allowed to ride the school ponies. Volunteer to get on the ‘crazy’ horses, to find out how bad they were before letting students on them. Save my pennies for riding lessons when friends were taking ballet or learning to play the piano.

Once, I’d bargained hard for a riding lesson with a new instructor, only to fall ill on the day of the lesson. I begged to be allowed to reschedule, but the instructor said no. Instead, I attempted to follow her coaching while sick as a dog, barely able to sit upright in the saddle. At the end of the lesson, she told me I had no business being on a horse and I should never bother getting on a horse again.

At the time, I was crushed. Mortified, it was a year before I got up the nerve to approach someone about riding lessons again.

But I did it because I loved horses so much, I couldn’t imagine not riding.

The same holds true for writing.

Several years ago, I was warming up my horse for a dressage clinic when one of the women in the class asked, “Does he always just go on the bit like that?” Her tone was clearly one of admiring envy.

I had to laugh. ‘Going on the bit’ requires the horse to round his back and be compliant to the rider’s hands, the impulsion of movement coming from the hind end. It is a measure of the communication between horse and rider, and in certain disciplines, it is highly prized. It is impossible to do if the horse has his head flung up high and his back hollowed out.

I’d bought my horse as a three-year-old from a slaughterhouse, at meat prices. He was the last horse anyone would expect to become a dressage champion. When I first began appearing at the local shows, people shook their heads and wondered what I was doing there. Over a period of nearly a decade (and many hours of diligent training), we went from being the horse and rider that made people snicker to the team that came home with the ribbons.

The woman at the riding clinic was stunned when I told her of my horse’s background and how much work it had taken to make coming on the bit look natural for him. In the world of competitive riding, most people buy the right horse for the job. The right horse, the right saddle, the right boots, the best equipment money can buy: these can make a huge difference in where you place in the show ring. It doesn’t eliminate the need for disciplined training, but your starting point on the podium is higher simply by virtue of having an athletic horse, and a saddle that prevents you from making a wrong move. That being said, I’ve seen sheer hard work and determination overcome genetics and natural ability. I competed with my meat-market nag because he was the only horse I had, and the hours I put in riding him were a labor of love. Winning ribbons wasn’t the goal. The horse shows just gave me a structure for the time we spent together.

So I have to laugh when people ask me if I’ve always been a writer, in that same sort of wondering, envious tone. As though having a natural gift for something is more valuable than working your butt off to achieve the same results. The truth is, I wrote passionately as a child, only to give it up entirely as a teenager because I didn’t think I was good enough to be a ‘real’ writer. I thought it was time to put away childish dreams and get on with the business of making a career for myself. I wasn’t a natural.

It wasn’t until I discovered online fanfiction archives as an adult that I rediscovered my love for writing. My creative self, having been ruthlessly starved and repressed for several decades, woke with a vengeance. I read everything I could lay my hands on regarding my favorite show, and then tentatively, I began writing my own stories. Not because I thought I was any good. Not because I ever thought I’d be any good. Because I loved the characters so much I wanted to spend more time with them. Because I felt compelled to tell stories about them and share them with like-minded souls. While I was active in fandom, I wrote over a million words of fanfic. The enthusiastic support of friends gave me the courage to try my hand at original fiction, and eventually go on to submit my stories for publication. Making the transition to original fiction was tougher than I’d imagined, but in the end it was no different from moving up a level in dressage: everything that was once seemed effortless becomes hard work as you increase the challenge and have to master a whole new skill set.

Being a natural is over-rated. It tends to teach poor work habits because everything is easy for you at first, and then when it gets harder, as it always does, you get discouraged and frustrated because you’ve never learned how to put in the hours to reach a specific goal. If you want to get better at anything, you have to put your hours in: under saddle, swimming laps, on the dance floor, at the keyboard. You ‘train’ when you don’t feel like it, when it’s raining, when you’ve had a bad day.

One of my favorite quotes 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.”

They are words to live by—but especially if you’re a writer. You don’t wait until the muse strikes you. You don’t let reviews sink your confidence. You don’t compare yourself to others. You write, pure and simple. Every day, without fail. You hone your skills by practicing. Your creativity is a muscle you exercise. The more you write, the stronger you get. The better your sentences become. Sure, you can sigh and wish you had more talent, but in the end, it is the person who puts the words to paper who is the winner. It is the person who persists who achieves their dream. That person can be you.

Had I been older and more confident, I would have told that instructor if she’d been any kind of decent trainer, she could teach even someone like me. That’s what you need to do when someone tells you that you can never achieve “X”. Decide then and there who you intend to listen to, and keep plugging away. Am I an Olympic level horsewoman? Of course not. But there will ALWAYS be someone who is a better writer than you are at this stage of the game–and someone who is worse.

Keep at your craft. Practice. Take classes. Work with critique groups. If multiple people say the exact same thing is a weakness in your story, they’re probably right. Listen to them. In the end, however, it’s your story, your voice, your vision. No one else can tell your story the same way you can.

Are other people going to be more successful than you are? Hell, yes. But if you are comparing yourself to some Big Name Author who’s been writing for the last 15 years, you’ve done the equivalent of putting your nag in an upper level dressage test when you haven’t done the training for it. 

And once the level at which you’re competing becomes too easy, you’ll find yourself raising the bar. Just remember, every time you do, it will feel as though you’re starting over again. You’re not. You are at a specific point in the path. Everyone else is either ahead of you or behind you–but it’s still the same path.

So take heart. It just means you’re a writer, that’s all.

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!

 

                        ¸.•*¨¸.•*´¨
¸.•´. CIMMERIAN SHADE
 
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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.