All He Wants for Christmas Release Boost!

11 Holiday Shifter PNR Romances
New & Exclusive Stories


All He Wants for Christmas Box Set
Publish Date: November 1, 2017


All He Wants for Christmas ebook3d cover.jpg
Contributing Authors:
Emma Alisyn, Cecilia Lane, Ariel Marie, Shelique Lize, Ever Coming, Dottie Wilson, Anna Morgan, Paulina Woods, Starla Night, AR DeClerck, Angelique Armae
ALL HE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS, a limited edition paranormal holiday bundle brings you a selection of new and exclusive stories guaranteed to make you blush every time you hear the words Happy Holidays.
A polar bear alpha falls in love with the dark unicorn sorceress he thought he killed in battle twenty years ago. A tiger shifter learns of the surprise he left behind with a curvy waitress…his fated mate. A dragoness fakes a mating with a bad boy to escape an arranged marriage, and discovers true love. These stories and many more are inside this steamy hot compilation.


Werewolves and bear shifters, Jack Frost (like you’ve never read him before) and fiery dragons, we have something for everyone. Each story is a must read fantasy action adventure, certain to keep you up long past your bedtime.


Ready to dive into 11 curated paranormal holiday novels and novellas? Download now because you deserve a bit of me time.


Don’t wait, this box set will only be here for a short time and then it is gone forever.



Purchase Links:
Amazon: US : AU : CA : UK


Polar Enemies by Emma Alisyn


Blurb:
He went mad with grief and murdered his mate. Only she didn’t die, and the dark unicorn sorceress Elsaday has finally returned. Will she wreak vengeance on his clan down to the last cub, or will the Solstice moon bring peace and healing?


Excerpt:


“You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me.” She hated that at this moment he was physically stronger than her. That she felt fragile. That she wanted to lean on his chest and let him comfort her.
Theon’s arms tightened. “That’s where you’re wrong, beauty. I know you. I killed you. And, now you’re back from the dead, and all I can think about is tasting your lips.”
“Don’t,” she whispered. “It’s easier if we’re enemies. Don’t make me fall in love with you when we hate each other.”
His lips curved, but there was no humor in his winter eyes. “Too late. For both of us.”
The kiss reawakened her heart, and then shattered it into pieces.


About the Author:
Emma Alisyn writes paranormal romance because being a SAHM isn’t like how it is on television. Her lions, tigers, and bears will most interest readers who like their alphas strong, protective and smokin’ hot; their heroines feisty, brainy and bootylicious; and their stories with lots of chemistry, tension and plenty of tender moments.


Get a FREE book INSTANTLY: Join my mailing list @ smarturl.it/HowlList


Connect with Emma:


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Her Christmas Wolf by Cecilia Lane


Blurb:
Wolf shifter Tommy Conri has been burned by love, but one woman has his inner wolf sitting up and taking notice every time her brown curls bounce past his window. Can foxy Faith’s dreams of sleigh rides and mistletoe kisses mend the wolf shifter’s heart?


Excerpt:


He approached slowly, almost as if afraid she’d dart away, and stroked fingers across her cheek. Then that smirk returned and he pulled something from behind his back. He dangled the mistletoe above her head. “This is what you do, isn’t it?”
Yes, Faith wanted to scream. She stared wide eyes at the bit of greenery and then dug deep for courage.
He wanted to play? She could tease, too.
She planted her hands on his chest and stood on tiptoe. A tiny press of her lips to his was all she gave.
Only, Tommy didn’t want to play games.


About the Author:


Cecilia Lane grew up in a what most call paradise, but she insists is humid hell. She escaped the heat with weekly journeys to the library, where she learned the basics of slaying dragons, magical abilities, and grand adventures.


When it became apparent she wouldn’t be able to travel the high seas with princes or party with rock star vampires, Cecilia hunkered down to create her own worlds filled with sexy people in complicated situations. She now writes with the support of her own sexy man and many interruptions from her goofy dog.


Connect with Cecilia:


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A Tiger’s Gift by Ariel Marie


Blurb:
Dixon Blackburn had almost let his mate slip through his fingers. Upon his return, he discovered that he had left more behind than just his mate.


Excerpt:


Deja crept back to her bed as slow as she could. She sent up a prayer that she could make it to the plush mattress, where she could potentially get at least one more hour of sleep. Her eyes were heavy and begged to shut. She took another step and reached her hand out.


Almost there.


The wood floor was usually unforgiving, but tonight, the big guy upstairs was looking out for her. She leapt and landed softly on the bed, then quickly crawled underneath her comforter as she tried to hide from the chilled air. She held her breath and peeked from beneath her cover and stared out across her small bedroom.


Quiet.


She sighed as she rolled over onto her side, and tucked her pillow beneath her head.


“Thank goodness,” she whispered.


Her three-month-old son, Augie, was still asleep. August Dixon Scarlett was her pride and joy. Right now, the little stinker had yet to master the art of sleeping through the night.
If she weren’t so tired she would laugh at herself. Life as a single mother to a three-month-old was certainly not glamorous, but she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.
But she knew that one day it would come. She just had to hold out and continue working with him to finally get her much-needed, sleep-filled nights.


She peeked over at the small crib again and took in his still form. He was her angel, her everything.


She wished she didn’t have to do the single mom thing, but it was what it was. There was no way that she could contact his father and tell him that he had left her a little present.


She sighed.


His father.


There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t think of Dixon. He was her tall, dark, and handsome that she had met a year ago while working as a waitress at the Ski Bar and Grille. The minute their eyes had met, her body reacted to his like no other man before. He and his friends had kept her laughing all night while she served them, but it was him that she had eyes for, and he for her.


Dixon, as all other patrons of the Ski Bar and Grille, had come to Breckenridge for the fun, snow, and skiing. He had come into the bar a total of three times, always requesting to be seated in her section. By the last time, he had won her over with his intense amber eyes. Just remembering his heated look had her squeezing her legs shut.


How could a memory of a single look make her want him all over again?


About the Author:


Ariel Marie is an author who loves the paranormal, action and hot steamy romance. She combines all three in each and every one of her stories. For as long as she can remember, she has loved vampires, shifters and every creature you can think of. This even rolls over into her favorite movies! She loves a good action packed thriller! Throw a touch of the supernatural world in it and she’s hooked!


She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where she currently resides with her husband and three beautiful children.


Connect with Ariel:
Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepurl.com/clg-H1


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Demon Beauty by Shelique Lize


Blurb:
As a bastard, Kyra has spent her entire immortal life hiding from the powerful Demon lord her mother betrayed. When she stumbles upon Marek, a Wyvern shifter being attacked by a pack of demons. Can Kyra and Marek put aside their differences, to survive the demons now hunting them both?


About the Author:


Shelique Lize is a mother of two beautiful baby girls, and a wife to the luckiest man on the planet. It took her five years to write Velicious, but once her first daughter was born, she decided to revisit the world that she had created. Falling in love with her characters all over again, she wanted to finish their story. Velicious Part Two was written in half the time.


Shelique loves anything to do with the paranormal world. She’s a proud Canadian but dislikes winter. She prefers watching the snow falling beautifully from inside a warm home.


The movie Grease is her all time favorite movie. She loves all romance movies. She thinks everyone should still watch Disney movies. Sailor Moon is her favorite anime. Currently, she likes to listen to The Weekend and Lana Del Rey, and she’s pretty open to every other genre of music.


Connect with Shelique:


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A Very Beary Christmas by Ever Coming & Lila Gray


Blurb:
Down in Shotgun Row, far away from Mardi Gras and the French Quarter, a crew of mismatched beasts clash and mangle mingle with their beasts and each other. None of them have found a mate. Their beasts are too fierce. Their manners too gnarly. Their reputations, vengeful and swift. Then Tansy moves into town, taking over her grandmother’s bakery, Etienne knows something is unique about her. One of the motley crew from the infamous Shotgun Row might have just found their his mate.


Excerpt:
I winked at her. “I know, darlin’. I’m doing okay, okay enough to help out someone I care about.”
She sprang to the defense. “I’ll pay you back. This is just a loan. With interest.”
Rolling my eyes, I answered, “You will not. But that was a good try. Go get your son and hurry it up. We’re losing daylight.”
“Oh—okay.” She grabbed her tattered purse and went outside, but of course, not past the back yard. While I sprinted back to my house and started up my truck, I couldn’t help but smile. She was back in my life again—returned like a hurricane to pick up their next victim and I was happy to be caught up in her storm.
I had a chance for her to be mine again. She’d always been mine in my heart and this time I wouldn’t be losing her to anyone.


About the Authors Ever & Lila:


Ever coming and Lila Grey have been friends for years and often spend hours discussing  all things shifters. They have recently began writing as a team, their first series, The Shifters of Shotgun Row which features, among other things, smexy gators.  To follow the duos crazy foray into the bayou, please follow them at Www.shotgunrowshifters.com and sign up for their newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/c89ub9.             


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School of Ice & Whispers by Jacqueline Sweet & Devon March


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Dragon Solstice by Anna Morgan


Blurb:
Desrea wants to find her true dragon mate, but her mother thrusts her into an arranged marriage with an older man she’s never met. No offense to Lorren, but Desrea wasn’t built to sit at home while a man provides. To escape the contract, she fakes a mating with bad boy Ryker. However, the powyr of the Solstice has other plans. Desrea’s mate might be Lorren, or it could be Ryker, because there’s no way she’s fated to love both.


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A Genie’s Sacrifice by Paulina Woods


Blurb:
Being a giver in the genie world is not as glamorous as humans think. For the length of the sentence, their life is not their own. When Persha is gifted to a polar bear shifter named Brandon, she prays that she will be able to guard her heart. But when they find themselves bouncing between worlds, the spark turns into a flame and it will take a sacrifice for them to find happiness.


About the Author:
Some people write because they love it, others because it pays the bills but for Paulina it’s a compulsion. Even before she published her first book she carried around notebooks to write in and could be found lost in thought as she scribbled away. From funny to dark, her thoughts flowed from her fingertips like water from an undying well. When she finally decided to publish it felt natural. This was what all her writing had been about over the years.
Her world may be a little dark and scary. Sometimes it may seem like she has fallen deep into a pool of despair but each character, each moment has been predestined from the beginning of time.


Connect with Paulina:


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Her Perfect Christmas Dragon by Starla Night


Blurb:
Can this sweet, curvy pet groomer teach a gorgeous, implacable dragon shifter alien the true meaning of Christmas, or are they both about to get burned?


Excerpt:


Peridot shortened the distance, keeping the delectable, sugar-and-cinnamon-scented female at arm’s length. Close enough to rescue from another tumble. Far enough away to keep his unwelcome, nearly unmanageable desires in check.
Karmel hummed along with the holiday music as she wove between shoppers, her curves swinging as she walked. The tag on her threadbare dress curled up above the hem, tickling the back of her neck.
It took all of his will not to reach over and tuck it in.
Because if he did, he might not be able to stop himself from caressing her slender neck. And then tasting her delicate skin.
With his teeth.


About the Author:
Starla Night was born on a hot July at midnight. She hikes, scuba dives, and swims naked in the ocean. She writes about smoking-hot dragon-shifter billionaires and steamy alpha merman-shifters at http://starlanight.com/


Connect with Starla:


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The Naughty List by AR DeClerck


Blurb:
Christmas was never kind to Merry. Her best friend had disappeared one cold winter’s night, and she had lived her life in solitude ever since. But a chance encounter with a jolly neighbor leaves her with a very surprising gift under the Christmas tree.


Excerpt:


“So you left to find your parents?”
“No. I left because Krampus recruited me.”
She moved away from him to the other end of the couch. “Excuse me?”
He turned to her, his face hard but his eyes beseeching her to believe him. “Krampus recruited me.”
“To do what, exactly?” Her voice was shrill with barely controlled hysteria. The man she’d yearned for these last ten years was certifiably out of his mind.
“To take care of the Naughty List.”


About the Author:
Wife. Mother. USA Today Bestselling Adventure Romance Novelist. Food assassin. Reading ninja. Self-proclaimed nerd. All-around goofball.
AR DeClerck spends her days wrangling a job, family and pets and she spends her nights writing romance novels from the comfort of her couch. She believes that LOVE is the greatest adventure of all, and she never wants her readers to forget the feeling of falling in love.


Connect with AR:


Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepur.com/cecnzL


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A Touch of Tinsel by Angelique Armae


Blurb:
When she flees a brutal relationship with an evil Fae prince, Irish witch Sloane McKinley falls into the arms of vampire selkie king Roane CuMara. But can she truly escape when the Fae prince threatens to destroy Sloane’s family if she doesn’t turn over Roane’s selkie pelt by Christmas Eve?


Excerpt:


There were two things alchemist Sloane McKinley knew never to do.
One—never misjudge a dark Fae. Those enticing creatures were nothing but empty souls behind their cunning masks. To destroy your magick, they’ll prey on your soul, pull you so far down the abyss, you’ll end up needing to be spoon fed.
Two—never engage a vampire selkie in hopes of earning his aid against said Fae. That mistake will only land you in the fangbearer’s bed—naked—your desires too stoked to be doused by anything less than complete submission to the beast.
Tonight she broke both rules.


About the Author:
National best-selling author Angelique Armae / J. C. Makk is a native New Yorker who loves all things royal, can trace her Irish roots back to the Scottish Highlands, is half Italian, and is owned by a long-haired Tuxedo feline. As a child her favorite toy was Emerald The Witch, a small doll with green eyes, green hair and purple skin. She spends most days writing, unless her cat deems otherwise.


Miss Armae’s books and novellas have garnered numerous awards and nominations, including the Sapphire Award, P.E.A.R.L. Award and Word Weaving Award. Her books have also been featured on Midwest Book Review’s Book Watch TV. Angelique’s first novel, COME THE NIGHT, made Fictionwise’s Best of the Best list, rounding out the top five best selling dark fantasy books of the year. Since the release of COME THE NIGHT, Angelique’s books have made Amazon’s Overall Kindle Bestsellers List (top 30), Barnes and Noble’s NOOK list (top 10), iBooks Bestsellers List (top 50) and Kobo’s Romance Bestsellers List (top 10), as well as various other bestsellers lists.


Aside from writing, Angelique also dabbles in digital art. She is the recipient and two time nominee of the Dream Realm Award for best cover art.


When not working, Miss Armae enjoys traveling, learning about the ancient Celts, exploring history, and learning new languages. After studying design in London, England, Angelique returned to the States and studied history and French literature at Skidmore College.


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What I Learned from Failing NaNo

First, let me start off by saying I didn’t officially sign up for NaNoWriMo. I wrote about my reasons for taking the best of NaNo without committing to the event in an earlier post. Suffice to say, after a terrible year for me personally, I didn’t need the additional stress.

But even with the extremely modest goal of 200 words per day, I failed. How lame is that, right? 200 words EVERY DAY and I failed to meet this low bar.

In my defense, it wasn’t entirely my fault. As most of you know, I have a young puppy. He’s about 8 months old now, and full of beans. One ear up, one ear slightly floppy. Legs that go in all directions and a tail that spins like a helicopter when he runs. He’s a big goofball with little sense of personal awareness.

Last week, he was under my workstation when he got caught in the power cable to my laptop. His movement jerked the laptop sideways into my glass of wine. As the wine tipped over, I snagged it with catlike reflexes–we’re talking WINE here–but some of it slopped over the brim into my keyboard, shorting it out.

I wasn’t going to let this defeat me, however. I knocked the dust off the desktop, one I had inherited last year but never set up. I met each setback with grim determination. The monitor was missing the power cable–no problem, I found an old one that still worked. The mouse wouldn’t interface with the system? No problem, I found a wireless one that did. The ethernet cable didn’t work even when directly connected to the PC? Got it covered–we’ll connect to the modem wirelessly. I’m listing these things because normally tech issues like this have me pulling out my hair and cursing a blue streak. But I refused to give in to these issues. I solved them.

And then I discovered the inherited PC didn’t have Word on it. Seriously?? Who doesn’t have Word??

Not wanting to mess up my WIP trying to integrate some alien word processing program with it, I pulled out one of my many lovely notebooks and wrote by hand while the SO worked on my poor laptop. Take that, One Ridiculous Setback After Another!

Only the words ground to a halt. I couldn’t muster even the measly 200 words per day I’d set as my goal.

Why? Because the story was a hot mess, that’s why.

I had 39 K written by the time of the Wine Incident. Very respectable for 3 weeks, NaNo or No NaNo. But to my dismay, those 39 K words only covered the first 24 hours of action… and my story was supposed to take place over a six month time span.

*facepalm*

Obviously I had a serious pacing issue. Not to mention a ‘bogged down in minutia’ issue. The story might have had good bones (and I still think it does) but it was seriously flawed. And it took being forced into inactivity for me to admit it.

I could have kept plugging away at it and reached 50 K easily. I would have unofficially ‘won’ at NaNo but I still wouldn’t have a usable story. Worse, I would have continued to build on an unstable foundation. It would be like laying down railroad tracks with an incorrect map. The tracks would have gotten progressively off-course, needing a much larger correction than if I’d just stopped and regained my bearings.

So in short, what I learned from failing (once again) at NaNo:

  1. NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. There is no shame in this. Sure, when everyone else around you is constantly posting and tweeting about their NaNo experience, you might feel left out, but ask yourself if NaNo is really right for you. If not, there is nothing wrong in not participating. Seriously.
  2. There is one very important lesson to be learned from NaNo: park your butt in the chair and write. I can’t emphasize enough how much this matters. All the writing courses in the world, all the marketing advice out there, they all boil down to this: you must commit to writing on a regular basis. You must create and publish no matter what, come rain or shine, in order to build your audience. More than anything else, the next story is your best marketing plan. So shut your browser, stop checking your social media or sales rankings, and sit down at the keyboard.
  3. Writing is a muscle you must exercise in order to make stronger. But just like with your own muscles, you have to mix things up to prevent injury or strain. Yes, you’ll go farther with daily training. Want to get good at something? Practice, practice, practice. But just like with your own body, you have to learn to respect your creativity. You don’t weight lift every day–you alternate weight training with cardio in order to give your muscles a break. You need time to rest and rebuild your creativity too. I recommend do something every day with regards to your writing–but remember that reading and watching movies–exploring how other people tell stories–is part of the process. Sometimes the story you’re working on needs to marinate a while during which you figure out what the next move might be. Don’t rush that process just to bang out words.
  4. Don’t just bang out words. Not unless that’s part of your process. I’m a pantser by nature, but with the current WIP, I can see I’ve gone off the rails. I could just keep pounding away at it, but I think it’s better to take a little time to solve my pacing issue before I go any further. Either I need to shorten the projected timeline, or introduce time jumps that don’t jar the reader after detailing every minute of the current time frame, or both. The trick is not letting too much time pass while you let a story mature. Give yourself a deadline: set the story aside for 48 hours and come back to it. If you can’t solve the problem by then, maybe the thing to do is shelve the project until such time as a solution presents itself to you. Or slog your way through it. Only you can tell which is the best course of action.
  5. I saw a Tweet today from Chuck Wendig, in which someone asked him for ‘advice you wished someone had given you when starting out as a writer’. He said, “That every book takes the time that it takes, and the writer you are when you begin is not the writer you are when you finish.”

Some stories are more complicated than others. Some stories you’re not ready to tell, even though you think you are. Some stories practically write themselves–but that doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than stories that someone slaved over for ten years or more. Give your story the time it needs to grow up. NaNo is a wonderful concept with many good things to offer, but it is not the only path to writing a story. That’s different from author to author and from story to story.

The current WIP is a hot mess. It’s up to me to decide if it is salvageable or not. I think I know how to fix it, so I’m going to give it my best shot. But for me, the worst thing I could have done would have been laying tracks in the wrong direction.

Sometimes ‘failing’ is the right thing to do.

 

 

You Don’t Have to Wear All The Hats: The Indie Author’s Secret to Staying Sane

I’ve worked with publishers and I’ve published on my own. One of the biggest differences between the two is how much work the publisher does on your behalf: cover art, editing, sending your book out to review sites and so on. There’s also the advantage of the built-in audience your publisher already has, the value of a larger group newsletter, as well as networking opportunities with other authors in the same publishing house. Sure, when you go indie, you retain more control over every little detail of your work. You get to set your production schedule, retain complete control over cover art, have the last word on editing, and get a bigger share of the royalties. But there’s a reason publishers take the lion’s share of sales earned. 

You have to wear a lot of hats to be an indie author.

There are some people who love this. They relish having all the control. But there are others who are overwhelmed with spinning all the plates at once: finding a good cover artist and editor. Scouring the review sites to find ones that will accept your story. Lining up beta readers and ARC readers. Designing eye-catching graphics and running Facebook groups. Scheduling posts across the board to all your social media sites. Holding giveaways and writing guest blog posts. All the while working on the next release because we all know the next story is your best advertisement.

Where does anyone find the time to do all of this? Especially if you haven’t a freaking clue how to set up a newsletter or your attempts at  website design or graphics look as though a second grader created them.

The good news is you don’t have to wear all the hats. (Do you like my image above? It was from a Peggy Carter cosplay photo session I did last month 🙂 ) You are allowed to delegate.

The bad news is you might have to pay for that delegation.

Here’s my take on where you can and cannot skimp.

  1. Pay for an outstanding cover. No, seriously, you can’t let your BFF with Photoshop make your book cover unless he or she is a graphic artist and is looking to expand their portfolio. For one thing, you can get in a lot of trouble if your cover artist isn’t using royalty-free images (or images they purchased) that have been licensed for cover art. But even more importantly, if your cover art looks like it’s been done by an amateur, if it doesn’t match genre expectations, then readers will give your story a hard pass. People DO judge a book by its cover. And a crappy cover will sink even the most amazing story. You have a nano-second to catch a reader’s eye and make them take a second look with your story. Don’t blow it with a crappy cover.
  2. Pay for quality editing. Yes, good editing is expensive. There’s a reason for that. An editor doesn’t just correct your grammar and punctuation, though that is important. A good editor tells you when you use repetitive phrases or actions. When your story has continuity errors or plot holes you could drive a truck through. When you are writing outside genre expectations. A good editor meets deadlines and does more than give your story a cursory read. It may take time to find an editor that’s a good match for you, but when you find him or her, cling to them for all they are worth because they are worth their weight in gold. Readers will notice crappy editing and comment on it in their reviews.
  3. Formatting: if you can’t figure it out, pay someone to do it. There are lots of people out there who offer formatting for all the major outlets for reasonable fees. Nothing pisses a reader off more than weird formatting on their e-readers. Yes, there’s software out there like Calibre that will put your book in the different formats, but if you want elegant formatting–pretty chapter headers or reliable reading across the different file formats–pay someone. If you have to cut costs (and believe me, I’ve been there) teach yourself how to do it.
  4. Graphics: Social Media Posts and Teasers. This is a tough one for me because there are some great options out there for creating your own, like Canva. However, I simply don’t have the time right now to learn how to make sophisticated graphics. I can make a serviceable image, but an elegant one? Not so much. If I have to chose between spending 3 hours messing around with Canva to produce an image that looks cheesy or write 3 K on the WIP, I’m going to choose the WIP every time. Eventually, my skills will improve. But in the meantime, I’ll pay someone to give me this:It doesn’t have to be expensive. Talk to your friends. You probably have friends who would love to make something like this for you without charging you an arm and a leg. Or again, find that graphic artist looking to expand their portfolio.
  5. Marketing: You have to do it. You can’t simply launch your book like Noah releasing a dove from the deck of the Ark, hoping it will eventually return with evidence of dry land. I wasn’t able to nail down exact numbers but read that in 2014, Amazon reported at least 5 K new releases each day. You might think that’s insane, but what’s really crazy is expecting your book to get singled out among the pack for notice if you make no effort to call it to anyone’s attention. I highly recommend Bad Red Head Media’s 30 Day Book Marketing Challenge. Get it. Read it. Do it. If you want to pay someone to promote your book you can, but this is one area if you’re willing to do the legwork yourself, it will pay off.
  6. Create a Book Bub account for yourself. If someone follows you, boom. They get notified every time you have a new release. Post that link on your website so people can find and follow it. Easy. Free.
  7. If you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, consider hiring someone to teach you the ropes at first. Yeah, you hear me say ‘hire someone’ a lot, and believe me, I know what it’s like not to have the funds to do that. But you only have a couple of options: Teach yourself or pay someone to do it for you or pay someone to teach you to do it yourself. I’m a big believer in hiring the right help to teach you how to do it for yourself.
  8. Don’t have the discretionary funds to pay for the right help? I get that. Then join groups/lists/sites where you can learn what you need to know for free. Consider offering your services to another newbie needing to learn the ropes. I like the ‘watch one, do one, teach one’ philosophy because I think (aside from being a cool thing to do) sharing what you’ve learned helps you retain those lessons. Face it, if you only ever set up a newsletter once every few years, you’re going to forget how to do it.
  9. Decide what’s really important to you and what works best. Don’t waste your time on things that frustrate or annoy you. If participating in every Facebook group or wasting hours on Tumblr is not your thing, don’t do it. You only have so much time and most of it should be spent working on the next story. Because even though it isn’t sexy or cool to say it, THE NEXT STORY IS YOUR BEST ADVERTISEMENT. Sure, there are lots of people out there willing to take your money to teach you how to make your next book a bestseller but if you aren’t writing and releasing on a regular basis, it’s all for naught. Readers are like stray cats: feed them and they will come. Stop feeding them, and they will drift off in search of food elsewhere.
  10. Check out the time-saving options for scheduling posts across various sites. Crosspost whenever you can. This post will automatically appear on my Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr pages. When I use Hootsuite to schedule a post, I can set it to post to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook simultaneously. Simplify your life whenever you can. But pick a schedule and post regularly. Your audience, like stray cats, will expect you at certain times once you establish your schedule. Don’t disappoint them.

One other thing I would add: be authentic. I confess, I struggle sometimes to balance the author side of me with the part that is enraged about world events or just wants to post pictures of my pets. Don’t work so hard at presenting your brand that you show your readers someone who doesn’t actually exist. Yeah, there’s a risk in revealing your real self. You might lose readers. But truthfully, your real self is revealed in every word you write. So what do you really have to lose?

Bottom line: if you have the time, energy, and skills to teach yourself what you need to know to be a successful indie author, go for it. But in those areas where you have doubts, where your skills are subpar, hire the right help until you can master those skills. There are some things I believe should always be left to the experts–cover art and editing being the biggies–but be ruthlessly honest with yourself. If you’ve been skimping on services because you can’t afford them, consider saving up to give your story the best launch possible before releasing it into the world. After all, you want that dove to bring back an olive branch.

My Non-NaNo Month

Back when I first began writing, I found out about NaNoWriMo and thought what a cool idea! There was so much I loved about the concept: committing to writing a novel in 30 days, the community, the support of fellow writers. The concept that everyone has crazy-busy lives and the only way to become a writer is to park your butt in the chair and write–no matter what–really resonated with me. So many people I knew talked about how they wrote their first book with NaNo, or their NaNo book went on to become a bestseller.

I signed myself up. At the time, I was already writing the equivalent of a novella a month in fanfiction. Stretching my output to 40 or 50 K would be a snap.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the crushing pressure putting a set number of words to paper each day would entail. I ended up with my first (and worst) case of writer’s block as I stared at the calendar on the wall and realized I hadn’t made my word count for the day. By the time several days had passed, I would hyperventilate every time I thought about sitting down to the keyboard. I gave up after only a week.

It took me a while to find my groove again after that. At first, it wasn’t clear to me why NaNo proved to be such an unexpected stumbling block. I was already a productive writer. So what was the problem?

Well, for one thing, NaNo asks that you simply sit down and pound out the words–no going back and editing. No correcting. You’d think as a die-hard pantser, this would be right up my alley. I could understand why someone who is meticulous about plotting might find NaNo challenging (unless they spent October plotting out their NaNo book). But a pantser? Piece of cake, right?

No. See, part of my technique is I re-read what I’ve written over and over again, massaging and tweaking as I go. This helps me recognize underlying themes and plot points only my subconscious noted before. Then I can expand on those themes, fleshing them out or seeding hints along the way. I love doing this. It’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process, as cumbersome and slow as it may be. I’m sure if I was more of a plotter, I could speed my productivity up. The problem is too much outlining is a sure-fire story killer for me. If I do more than jot down a few notes or story ideas, I feel as though I’ve already written the story.

So the ‘rules’ of NaNo inherently go against the way I write. Back then, I didn’t realize this was the issue, nor that I didn’t have to stick that tightly to the rules as long as I made my word count. I just floundered and failed, and it took me so long to recover from it, I decided never again. NaNo wasn’t for me.

Which is okay. Really. Sure, everyone else you know is doing it, and when you see all your social media friends talking about it, you want to play along as well. But if it is not for you, THAT IS OKAY.

This year, I’ve got a story I’d like to get finished, so I decided to use the NaNo momentum to help me write. Only this year has been a very sucky year for me personally (and it’s not over yet, more bad news on the way). Seriously, I’ve had so many losses this past year if I put them all in one story readers would claim it was unrealistic. So I reasoned that I didn’t need any additional stress right now. No NaNo for me.

But a kind of Non-NaNo I could do. 

What I needed more than anything was a commitment to parking my butt in my chair and writing every day, no matter what. Neil Gaiman has some great quotes along these lines. I was looking for the one in particular about butts and chairs and didn’t find it, but found this one instead:

“Just write. Many writers have a vague hope elves will come in the night and finish any stories for you. They won’t.”

So I decided November would be my Non-NaNo month. I made a very modest goal: 200 words per day. I figured I could commit to that without too much stress and that most days I’d exceed that goal. So far it’s working. I’ve been averaging about a thousand words a day, which is awesome.

Only my story is a hot mess. I’m sitting at around 34 K and my characters are snowed in together, learning about each other. From that standpoint, it’s kind of cool. Only they’re being too nice to each other and I have to figure out what’s going to happen when the snow melts, and how I transition from a blow-by-blow account of a snowy weekend to the progression of six months that I had originally planned for the story to take place. ARGH. I have a strong feeling most of this draft is going to end up on the cutting room floor.

They won’t be wasted. I’m learning about these characters as I go. But I’m also learning that even this Non-NaNo method might not be ideal for me. Still, the important thing is that I’m writing. As Nora Roberts says:

“You can fix anything but a blank page.”

Which is why I am still writing every day this month. Cheers to NaNo and Non-NaNo participants alike! Go us. 🙂

 

 

All He Wants For Christmas: A Paranormal Holiday Romance Book Bundle Release

11 Holiday Shifter PNR Romances New & Exclusive Stories

 

All He Wants for Christmas Box Set
Publish Date: November 1, 2017

 

All He Wants for Christmas ebook3d cover.jpg
 
Contributing Authors:
Emma Alisyn, Cecilia Lane, Ariel Marie, Shelique Lize, Ever Coming, Dottie Wilson, Anna Morgan, Paulina Woods, Starla Night, AR DeClerck, Angelique Armae
 
 
ALL HE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS, a limited edition paranormal holiday bundle brings you a selection of new and exclusive stories guaranteed to make you blush every time you hear the words Happy Holidays.
 
A polar bear alpha falls in love with the dark unicorn sorceress he thought he killed in battle twenty years ago. A tiger shifter learns of the surprise he left behind with a curvy waitress…his fated mate. A dragoness fakes a mating with a bad boy to escape an arranged marriage, and discovers true love. These stories and many more are inside this steamy hot compilation.
 
Werewolves and bear shifters, Jack Frost (like you’ve never read him before) and fiery dragons, we have something for everyone. Each story is a must read fantasy action adventure, certain to keep you up long past your bedtime.
 
Ready to dive into 11 curated paranormal holiday novels and novellas? Download now because you deserve a bit of me time.
 
Don’t wait, this box set will only be here for a short time and then it is gone forever.

 

 

Purchase Your Copy Today!
Amazon: US : AU : CA : UK

 

Polar Enemies by Emma Alisyn

 

Blurb:
He went mad with grief and murdered his mate. Only she didn’t die, and the dark unicorn sorceress Elsaday has finally returned. Will she wreak vengeance on his clan down to the last cub, or will the Solstice moon bring peace and healing?

 

Excerpt:

 

“You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me.” She hated that at this moment he was physically stronger than her. That she felt fragile. That she wanted to lean on his chest and let him comfort her.
Theon’s arms tightened. “That’s where you’re wrong, beauty. I know you. I killed you. And, now you’re back from the dead, and all I can think about is tasting your lips.”
“Don’t,” she whispered. “It’s easier if we’re enemies. Don’t make me fall in love with you when we hate each other.”
His lips curved, but there was no humor in his winter eyes. “Too late. For both of us.”
The kiss reawakened her heart, and then shattered it into pieces.

 

About the Author:
Emma Alisyn writes paranormal romance because being a SAHM isn’t like how it is on television. Her lions, tigers, and bears will most interest readers who like their alphas strong, protective and smokin’ hot; their heroines feisty, brainy and bootylicious; and their stories with lots of chemistry, tension and plenty of tender moments.

 

Get a FREE book INSTANTLY: Join my mailing list @ smarturl.it/HowlList

 

Connect with Emma:

 

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Her Christmas Wolf by Cecilia Lane

 

Blurb:
Wolf shifter Tommy Conri has been burned by love, but one woman has his inner wolf sitting up and taking notice every time her brown curls bounce past his window. Can foxy Faith’s dreams of sleigh rides and mistletoe kisses mend the wolf shifter’s heart?

 

Excerpt:

 

He approached slowly, almost as if afraid she’d dart away, and stroked fingers across her cheek. Then that smirk returned and he pulled something from behind his back. He dangled the mistletoe above her head. “This is what you do, isn’t it?”
Yes, Faith wanted to scream. She stared wide eyes at the bit of greenery and then dug deep for courage.
He wanted to play? She could tease, too.
She planted her hands on his chest and stood on tiptoe. A tiny press of her lips to his was all she gave.
Only, Tommy didn’t want to play games.

 

About the Author:

 

Cecilia Lane grew up in a what most call paradise, but she insists is humid hell. She escaped the heat with weekly journeys to the library, where she learned the basics of slaying dragons, magical abilities, and grand adventures.

 

When it became apparent she wouldn’t be able to travel the high seas with princes or party with rock star vampires, Cecilia hunkered down to create her own worlds filled with sexy people in complicated situations. She now writes with the support of her own sexy man and many interruptions from her goofy dog.

 

Connect with Cecilia:

 

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A Tiger’s Gift by Ariel Marie

 

Blurb:
Dixon Blackburn had almost let his mate slip through his fingers. Upon his return, he discovered that he had left more behind than just his mate.

 

Excerpt:

 

Deja crept back to her bed as slow as she could. She sent up a prayer that she could make it to the plush mattress, where she could potentially get at least one more hour of sleep. Her eyes were heavy and begged to shut. She took another step and reached her hand out.
 
Almost there.
 
The wood floor was usually unforgiving, but tonight, the big guy upstairs was looking out for her. She leapt and landed softly on the bed, then quickly crawled underneath her comforter as she tried to hide from the chilled air. She held her breath and peeked from beneath her cover and stared out across her small bedroom.
 
Quiet.
 
She sighed as she rolled over onto her side, and tucked her pillow beneath her head.
 
“Thank goodness,” she whispered.
 
Her three-month-old son, Augie, was still asleep. August Dixon Scarlett was her pride and joy. Right now, the little stinker had yet to master the art of sleeping through the night.
 
If she weren’t so tired she would laugh at herself. Life as a single mother to a three-month-old was certainly not glamorous, but she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.
 
But she knew that one day it would come. She just had to hold out and continue working with him to finally get her much-needed, sleep-filled nights.
 
She peeked over at the small crib again and took in his still form. He was her angel, her everything.
 
She wished she didn’t have to do the single mom thing, but it was what it was. There was no way that she could contact his father and tell him that he had left her a little present.
 
She sighed.
 
His father.
 
There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t think of Dixon. He was her tall, dark, and handsome that she had met a year ago while working as a waitress at the Ski Bar and Grille. The minute their eyes had met, her body reacted to his like no other man before. He and his friends had kept her laughing all night while she served them, but it was him that she had eyes for, and he for her.
 
Dixon, as all other patrons of the Ski Bar and Grille, had come to Breckenridge for the fun, snow, and skiing. He had come into the bar a total of three times, always requesting to be seated in her section. By the last time, he had won her over with his intense amber eyes. Just remembering his heated look had her squeezing her legs shut.
 
How could a memory of a single look make her want him all over again?
 
About the Author:
 
Ariel Marie is an author who loves the paranormal, action and hot steamy romance. She combines all three in each and every one of her stories. For as long as she can remember, she has loved vampires, shifters and every creature you can think of. This even rolls over into her favorite movies! She loves a good action packed thriller! Throw a touch of the supernatural world in it and she’s hooked!
 
She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where she currently resides with her husband and three beautiful children.
 
Connect with Ariel:
Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepurl.com/clg-H1

 

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Demon Beauty by Shelique Lize

 

Blurb:
As a bastard, Kyra has spent her entire immortal life hiding from the powerful Demon lord her mother betrayed. When she stumbles upon Marek, a Wyvern shifter being attacked by a pack of demons. Can Kyra and Marek put aside their differences, to survive the demons now hunting them both?

 

About the Author:

 

Shelique Lize is a mother of two beautiful baby girls, and a wife to the luckiest man on the planet. It took her five years to write Velicious, but once her first daughter was born, she decided to revisit the world that she had created. Falling in love with her characters all over again, she wanted to finish their story. Velicious Part Two was written in half the time.
 
Shelique loves anything to do with the paranormal world. She’s a proud Canadian but dislikes winter. She prefers watching the snow falling beautifully from inside a warm home.
 
The movie Grease is her all time favorite movie. She loves all romance movies. She thinks everyone should still watch Disney movies. Sailor Moon is her favorite anime. Currently, she likes to listen to The Weekend and Lana Del Rey, and she’s pretty open to every other genre of music.

 

Connect with Shelique:

 

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A Very Beary Christmas by Ever Coming & Lila Gray

 

Blurb:
Down in Shotgun Row, far away from Mardi Gras and the French Quarter, a crew of mismatched beasts clash and mangle mingle with their beasts and each other. None of them have found a mate. Their beasts are too fierce. Their manners too gnarly. Their reputations, vengeful and swift. Then Tansy moves into town, taking over her grandmother’s bakery, Etienne knows something is unique about her. One of the motley crew from the infamous Shotgun Row might have just found their his mate.

 

Excerpt:
 
I winked at her. “I know, darlin’. I’m doing okay, okay enough to help out someone I care about.”
 
She sprang to the defense. “I’ll pay you back. This is just a loan. With interest.”
 
Rolling my eyes, I answered, “You will not. But that was a good try. Go get your son and hurry it up. We’re losing daylight.”
 
“Oh—okay.” She grabbed her tattered purse and went outside, but of course, not past the back yard. While I sprinted back to my house and started up my truck, I couldn’t help but smile. She was back in my life again—returned like a hurricane to pick up their next victim and I was happy to be caught up in her storm.
 
I had a chance for her to be mine again. She’d always been mine in my heart and this time I wouldn’t be losing her to anyone.

 

About the Authors Ever & Lila:

 

Ever coming and Lila Grey have been friends for years and often spend hours discussing  all things shifters. They have recently began writing as a team, their first series, The Shifters of Shotgun Row which features, among other things, smexy gators.  To follow the duos crazy foray into the bayou, please follow them at Www.shotgunrowshifters.com and sign up for their newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/c89ub9.             

 

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School of Ice & Whispers by Jacqueline Sweet & Devon March

 

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Dragon Solstice by Anna Morgan

Blurb:
 
Desrea wants to find her true dragon mate, but her mother thrusts her into an arranged marriage with an older man she’s never met. No offense to Lorren, but Desrea wasn’t built to sit at home while a man provides. To escape the contract, she fakes a mating with bad boy Ryker. However, the powyr of the Solstice has other plans. Desrea’s mate might be Lorren, or it could be Ryker, because there’s no way she’s fated to love both.

 

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A Genie’s Sacrifice by Paulina Woods

 

Blurb:
Being a giver in the genie world is not as glamorous as humans think. For the length of the sentence, their life is not their own. When Persha is gifted to a polar bear shifter named Brandon, she prays that she will be able to guard her heart. But when they find themselves bouncing between worlds, the spark turns into a flame and it will take a sacrifice for them to find happiness.

 

About the Author:
Some people write because they love it, others because it pays the bills but for Paulina it’s a compulsion. Even before she published her first book she carried around notebooks to write in and could be found lost in thought as she scribbled away. From funny to dark, her thoughts flowed from her fingertips like water from an undying well. When she finally decided to publish it felt natural. This was what all her writing had been about over the years.
 
Her world may be a little dark and scary. Sometimes it may seem like she has fallen deep into a pool of despair but each character, each moment has been predestined from the beginning of time.

 

Connect with Paulina:

 

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Her Perfect Christmas Dragon by Starla Night

 

Blurb:
Can this sweet, curvy pet groomer teach a gorgeous, implacable dragon shifter alien the true meaning of Christmas, or are they both about to get burned?

 

Excerpt:

 

Peridot shortened the distance, keeping the delectable, sugar-and-cinnamon-scented female at arm’s length. Close enough to rescue from another tumble. Far enough away to keep his unwelcome, nearly unmanageable desires in check.
 
Karmel hummed along with the holiday music as she wove between shoppers, her curves swinging as she walked. The tag on her threadbare dress curled up above the hem, tickling the back of her neck.
 
It took all of his will not to reach over and tuck it in.
 
Because if he did, he might not be able to stop himself from caressing her slender neck. And then tasting her delicate skin.
 
With his teeth.

 

About the Author:
Starla Night was born on a hot July at midnight. She hikes, scuba dives, and swims naked in the ocean. She writes about smoking-hot dragon-shifter billionaires and steamy alpha merman-shifters at http://starlanight.com/

 

Connect with Starla:

 

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The Naughty List by AR DeClerck

 

Blurb:
Christmas was never kind to Merry. Her best friend had disappeared one cold winter’s night, and she had lived her life in solitude ever since. But a chance encounter with a jolly neighbor leaves her with a very surprising gift under the Christmas tree.

 

Excerpt:

 

“So you left to find your parents?”
 
“No. I left because Krampus recruited me.”
 
She moved away from him to the other end of the couch. “Excuse me?”
 
He turned to her, his face hard but his eyes beseeching her to believe him. “Krampus recruited me.”
 
“To do what, exactly?” Her voice was shrill with barely controlled hysteria. The man she’d yearned for these last ten years was certifiably out of his mind.
 
“To take care of the Naughty List.”

 

About the Author:
Wife. Mother. USA Today Bestselling Adventure Romance Novelist. Food assassin. Reading ninja. Self-proclaimed nerd. All-around goofball.
 
AR DeClerck spends her days wrangling a job, family and pets and she spends her nights writing romance novels from the comfort of her couch. She believes that LOVE is the greatest adventure of all, and she never wants her readers to forget the feeling of falling in love.

 

Connect with AR:

 

Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepur.com/cecnzL

 

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A Touch of Tinsel by Angelique Armae

 

Blurb:
When she flees a brutal relationship with an evil Fae prince, Irish witch Sloane McKinley falls into the arms of vampire selkie king Roane CuMara. But can she truly escape when the Fae prince threatens to destroy Sloane’s family if she doesn’t turn over Roane’s selkie pelt by Christmas Eve?

 

Excerpt:

 

There were two things alchemist Sloane McKinley knew never to do.
 
One—never misjudge a dark Fae. Those enticing creatures were nothing but empty souls behind their cunning masks. To destroy your magick, they’ll prey on your soul, pull you so far down the abyss, you’ll end up needing to be spoon fed.
 
Two—never engage a vampire selkie in hopes of earning his aid against said Fae. That mistake will only land you in the fangbearer’s bed—naked—your desires too stoked to be doused by anything less than complete submission to the beast.
 
Tonight she broke both rules.

 

About the Author:
National best-selling author Angelique Armae / J. C. Makk is a native New Yorker who loves all things royal, can trace her Irish roots back to the Scottish Highlands, is half Italian, and is owned by a long-haired Tuxedo feline. As a child her favorite toy was Emerald The Witch, a small doll with green eyes, green hair and purple skin. She spends most days writing, unless her cat deems otherwise.

 

Miss Armae’s books and novellas have garnered numerous awards and nominations, including the Sapphire Award, P.E.A.R.L. Award and Word Weaving Award. Her books have also been featured on Midwest Book Review’s Book Watch TV. Angelique’s first novel, COME THE NIGHT, made Fictionwise’s Best of the Best list, rounding out the top five best selling dark fantasy books of the year. Since the release of COME THE NIGHT, Angelique’s books have made Amazon’s Overall Kindle Bestsellers List (top 30), Barnes and Noble’s NOOK list (top 10), iBooks Bestsellers List (top 50) and Kobo’s Romance Bestsellers List (top 10), as well as various other bestsellers lists.

 

Aside from writing, Angelique also dabbles in digital art. She is the recipient and two time nominee of the Dream Realm Award for best cover art.

 

When not working, Miss Armae enjoys traveling, learning about the ancient Celts, exploring history, and learning new languages. After studying design in London, England, Angelique returned to the States and studied history and French literature at Skidmore College.

 

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The Big Chop: The Hair Dilemma for Middle-Aged Women

I’m obsessed with my hair at the moment.

Let me preface this by saying I’ve always been ‘the girl with the hair.’ Mountains of hair that could barely be tamed. People have been commenting on it my entire life. Stylists jokingly begged my mother to stop putting “Miracle Gro” on my hair when I was a child. I like to think I looked like Rachel from Friends, but the truth is, I looked much more like Young Hermione from Harry Potter.

So I’ve always had this love-hate relationship with my hair. I go through cycles where I can’t stand it any longer and I chop it all off. This provides relief for a variable period of time. I love the convenience of short hair. I love being able to zip in and out of the shower, without the prolonged ordeal of shampooing and conditioning a pelt worthy of Chewbacca–especially living as I do now, in a house with low water pressure. I love being able to run my hands through my hair messily and dash out the door. No blow-drying. No attempts to tame the frizz. No hours of damp hair (of particular concern now that winter is rolling in again). Better still, I’m not using my hair as an excuse not to do things. I don’t know when I turned into that person to be honest. Maybe it was when I moved into a house with crappy heat and water pressure. But I find myself weighing whether I have time for a shower before I choose to do certain activities now. And forget about swimming. Between the coloring and the chlorine, my hair felt like straw. The big chop is an excellent way of getting back to healthy hair.

What I don’t love is looking like an angry hedgehog. Because that’s what I look like with short hair. I am not a pretty woman, and it takes having the right kind of face to pull off a pixie cut. Heck, there are beautiful women out there who can’t wear a pixie well and they don’t have my square jaw and rather masculine features. So any love I have for the short cut soon turns into absolute loathing. I begin the growing out process and swear I will never cut it short again.

The things I love about long hair? I love how it makes me feel sexy. I love being able to style it different ways. I do a little cosplay, and I have more options when my hair is long (unless I want to invest a lot of money in wigs…) With long hair, I can toss it back in a ponytail or barrette and it’s out of my face. I can put it up to look professional and curl it to look romantic. Most actresses have long hair–for a reason. We associate it with not only beauty, but youth as well.

A small part of me thinks as a romance author, I should maintain the ‘look’ of romance, if you know what I mean. I’m also very much aware that, no matter what my SO says, he prefers my hair long rather than short. (A wise man, he avoids rendering any sort of opinion on my hair, only to say it’s my hair and I should do what I like with it.)

This time, my chop or not chop decision is harder than usual. I’ll be honest, this past year has been rough. 2017 has been a train-wreck of colossal proportions: personally as well as for my country. I’ve been struggling, and only recently felt like I might be turning the corner in my downward spiral. For the first time in over a year, I find myself getting serious about cleaning up my diet, exercising more, eliminating or decreasing the stressors in my life. I want to spend more time writing and less time stewing. Cutting my hair short feels like it would be a step in the right direction to meet these goals. A clean sweep, a fresh start. A dramatic change to signal the dramatic (well, okay, little shuffling baby-step) changes I’m making in my life. Part of me really wants to do this.

Another part, the chicken-shit part, is afraid. Scared I’ll look as terrible as I fear. Worried that I’ll hate it and then be stuck with it while I go through the misery (the YEAR LONG MISERY) of growing it out again, wearing hats and refusing to look in mirrors and in general being a snarling bitch until it is long enough to pull back off my face again.

But mostly worried that I’m somehow kissing youth and beauty goodbye with the big chop. Yes, I know, not beautiful in the first place, but okay, the possibility of beauty. Of somehow announcing that I’m done with romance. That I’ve accepted middle-age and am willing to look my age. I read an article that suggested far too many women my age hang onto their long locks well-beyond the time a shorter cut would look better on them. I feel I might be in that category now.

When I read back over this, I’m struck by the vanity of it all. There are women out there who have no choice when it comes to their hair. Illness or hormonal imbalances or simple genetics have determined their choices for them. And I still have a lot of hair, though my part is definitely wider than it used to be. But for most of my life, my hair has been the only thing I could be vain about. So yeah. Decisions, decisions.

I’m excited and nervous. I want something dramatic but want something easy to grow out if I change my mind. I think the worse thing is the sneaking suspicion that no matter what decision I make, it won’t change my life in any meaningful way. I’ll still have to work on that diet, and fit more exercise in, and park my butt in the chair and write the next story. The puppy will still need training, work will still be stressful, and my house will still have crappy heat and low water pressure.

But maybe I’ll lose twenty pounds of pressure to be something I’m not. Maybe I will find the shedding of locks to be freeing in more ways than one.

 

My Me Too Story

It wasn’t my intention to go into details about my experiences with sexual harassment and assault. I’d seen the #MeToo hashtags on social media and shared them, in part because I believe there is value in victims realizing they are far from alone. I understood that many people who have experienced such negative situations might not be in a place where they felt like they could share, and I was okay with that too.

I also felt that though I’d been harassed and assaulted too many times to count, my experiences didn’t count on some level because I’d managed to avoid the ultimate assault: rape. So perhaps it was best that I simply shared the hashtag and otherwise remained silent on the subject. What did I know anyway?

But here’s the thing. The Harvey Weinstein revelations opened some real dialog, and had the potential to provide healing across a large scale. In the course of some of the fallout from these discussions, Twitter has promised to invoke stricter rules with the intent of protecting people from online harassment. We’ll see if they follow through, but at least it’s a step.

People from all walks of life shared the hashtag. Sometimes that was all they could share, and they typed those words with shaking hands. Sometimes seeing those words on someone else’s timeline led people to share more deeply, and in doing so, bring a measure of comfort to those who have suffered in silence so many years.

But then Mayim Bialik posted her opinion piece in the NYT. I have to say, as one of those, ‘Gosh, if you just obey the rules, nothing bad will ever happen to you’ opinion pieces, this is one of the worst. Because the whole thing reads like one long ‘n’yah, n’yah, n’yah’ to every woman who intentionally or otherwise made Ms.Bialik feel bad about her appearance while working in an industry where the roles are largely assigned based on appearance. Whereas the post pretends to be a ‘guide’ on how to avoid sexual assault by dressing modestly, not saying anything that could be misconstrued as flirting, and by all means, go get a degree in neuroscience because everyone knows brains aren’t sexy, the piece is really a giant FUCK YOU to beautiful women everywhere and the popular girls in high school.

Let me say for the record, I belong to neither of those groups.

I take exception to Ms. Bialik’s post on many levels. For one thing, sexual assault is not about sex. It is about POWER. It is about someone saying they own you and they have the right to do things to you without your consent, and the assaulter gets his (or her) jollies out of degrading you to the point you feel helpless to report them. It is a power trip. Your personal attractiveness has nothing to do with it. I would hazard a guess that the greater the disparity between power bases, the more pleasure the perpetrator takes in his or her actions.

The other thing that pisses me off about pieces like this is the implication that if you just followed the Good Girl Rules, then nothing bad will happen to you. The flipside of this implication is if something bad HAS happened to you, it must somehow be your fault for not obeying the rules. And crap like this shuts down any possible healing that might be taking place with the Me Too hashtag, as it turns into a finger-pointing game.

Case in point: me.

I’m going to leave out all the times I was catcalled and harassed on the street. Ditto the times I’ve been flashed, or the times old men have said lewd things to me in passing. I’m not even going to recount the time I was followed on the interstate for over 150 miles (I didn’t notice at first, but once I did, I couldn’t shake the guy until I pulled a dangerous stunt to exit the interstate at high speed as he was passing me) or the time I was run off the road at night by someone who’d been tailgating me with the high beams on. Fortunately, I had no hesitation about putting the car in reverse and backing up the interstate at 70 mph…  I’m not even going to include the letter I received from the father of one of my high school friends six months after his wife died, professing his long-standing desire to date me.

The main reason for not telling all these stories is they are simply too numerous to count, and honestly, after a certain point, it starts to feel like the normal cost of being female. I’m not saying that’s right. I’m just stating a fact. I’d be hard pressed to name a woman who doesn’t have stories like these to tell.

But let’s look at the more serious infractions. I should point out that all of my high school year book pictures were so bad, I never bought any, nor did I buy any of the yearbooks themselves. In high school, I had mountains of frizzy hair, glasses with Coke-Bottle-thick lenses, and teeth only a gargoyle could love. I graduated early, and wound up in college at seventeen, wearing braces. Seriously, as unsexy as you could get, and by Ms. Bialik’s reasoning, should have been utterly safe.

Only I wasn’t.

My first experience with sexual assault came when I was flunking organic chemistry. I approached the TA for help; he recommended a tutor and gave me a name. At the very first session, my male tutor said the only place in his dorm with enough room for us both to look at the books at the same time was on his bed. I spent 40 minutes trying to get him to keep his hands to himself and refocus back on the material, but it was no use. I could have insisted on future meetings at the library or a study room, but I was too freaked out by the experience. I could have reported him, but I didn’t know to whom, and beside, who would believe me? They would take one look at me–gargoyle in glasses–and one look at him, your average clean-cut All-American rich boy–and said it was wishful thinking on my part. Or worse, an attempt to extort money or something. At the time, I bought into the myth that rape and assault were about sex. I must have done something wrong. So I did what most teenagers would do. I said nothing and dropped the class.

The next time I got assaulted, it was by a professor. I was in the lab working on my project by myself. It was 2 pm on a sunny afternoon in a building full of people. I was working at a point where the two counter tops came to a right angle, and standing with my back to the door when this professor entered the room, came up behind me, and pressed his erection into my backside. He pinned me in the corner without escape.

I stomped down on his instep while at the same time driving my elbow into his gut and shoving him backward. Then I turned in all innocence, blinking at him wide-eyed as he bent over double, and said, “Golly! You surprised me! You know, you really shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.”

He never came near me again. I found out later he had a reputation for hitting on college girls, but again, I said nothing. I’d taken care of the problem and because he wasn’t my professor, he wasn’t in a position to give me a failing grade. I know now I should have reported him. At the very least, that report would have given ammunition to the next girl who filed a complaint.

The third time was more serious. I was trying to get into grad school and studying hard, no time for a social life. But I met a guy, and he was cute and made me laugh, so when he asked me out, I said yes. On our first date, we somehow never made it to the movie we’d intended to see, and spend most of the evening talking. He wanted to go out again that weekend, and we made tentative plans, but when Saturday afternoon rolled around, I had to finish a project and suggested we meet with my friends for dinner that night instead of going out that afternoon.

When he came over that evening, he took me aside privately and castigated me for ‘canceling our plans’, letting me know he didn’t appreciate that. I honestly couldn’t see what the fuss was about, as we were having dinner that very evening, nor did I appreciate his attitude, but what was I to do? Kick him out? Tell him he was being a jerk and I wasn’t going to put up with that? These days, that’s exactly what I would do. But of course, at the time, I didn’t. I was 21 and raised to be polite.

After dinner my friends wanted to go out, and we went as a group to hear a band play at one of the local bars. I was uneasy about my date, but felt safe because I had company. Then, while the guys got drinks, my roommate informed me that earlier in the day, she’d caught my date going through my car. When she questioned him as to what he was doing, he said he was looking for my schedule. This creeped me out, but again, I thought I was safe because I was surrounded by friends. Only later when I went to the restroom, I came back to find my friends had left without me–and I was alone with my date.

In retrospect, I was very close to being a dating statistic that evening. Probably the only reason I’m not is because I instinctively knew not to let him in the apartment–and because I did some pretty fast talking when he dropped me off. Even so, I shouldn’t have gotten in the car with him, and I never should have told him I didn’t think dating was a good idea on my doorstep. At the time, I was certain he was going to hit me. I realize now I was in far more danger than that. But I made myself the bad guy–it was me, not him, I was trying to get into grad school, I couldn’t allow myself to be distracted, he needed a girl friend who could treat him with the respect he deserved. When he brought up the fact that people got married and went to grad school all the time, all the alarm bells went off, but I kept it cool. It had nothing to do with him being the Conductor on the Wackadoodle Train. It was all my fault.

He eventually left–and immediately sought out my friends, telling them he’d ‘lost’ me and begging to know what to do to get me back. My roommate, clueless as to what had happened (no cell phones in these days) suggested he write me a letter telling me how he felt. So he did. A letter so full of misspellings and poor grammar that I knew everything he’d told me about himself and his career was a lie.

And then the stalking began. I ended up cutting off all my hair and relinquishing my contacts for glasses again. I took an unlisted number. I got a big dog. I moved. Eventually, he no longer knew how to find me, and the harassment ended. Several years later, I ran into him in public and I swear, I saw murder in his eyes. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but you had to be there. He would have killed me if he could. I pretended not to recognize him, all the while my heart pounded hard enough to burst through my chest any second. Only when I saw the doubt cross his face as to who I was did I make my excuses and leave the party.

So when I say I Mayim Bialiked myself big time, it’s true. For years I went about in defensive coloration mode, and I’m telling you, it’s no protection. Years later, I was working at my new job in a new town, and stopped for groceries after work on the way home. I was in hurry, so I dashed across the parking lot into the store, grabbed a few things, and ran back out again. As I exited the store, a truck at the far end of the parking lot turned its headlights on. I thought nothing of it. It was on the other side of the parking lot. Probably someone headed home, just like me.

But by the time I’d opened my car door and tossed the groceries inside, the truck had pulled up in the parking space next to mine. As I closed my door and pressed the automatic locks, a man appeared at my driver’s side window. And the look on his face was that of a predator that had missed its kill. I’ve never been so unnerved in my entire life.

Again, before cell phones. And I wasn’t sticking around to confront the guy. I peeled out of the parking lot as though pursued by the hounds of hell. No, I didn’t report it. What would I have said? Some middle-aged white man with dark hair pulled up beside me in the parking lot. Big whoop. Or if I’d been taken seriously, the police may have watched the lot for a few days, but that’s all.

With ALL of these incidents listed here, my dress was the same, my standard uniform: jeans, T-shirt, and hiking boots. It’s how I dress 97% of the time. Tell me how that is being provocative or flirtatious.

So yeah, when I read Mayim Bialik’s opinion piece, it pissed me off. I said as much on the Twitter feed of someone with a LOT more followers than me, and someone else jumped in to MANSPLAIN my reaction, saying I shouldn’t twist Ms. Bialilk’s words. Um, go read the post yourself. No twisting necessary.

This mansplainer did have some good points in the cascade of Tweets he sent in response to me. He (and I assume male because his Twitter account was in a male name) stated (and I paraphrase here) that seat belts don’t guarantee you will survive a car crash, but to ignore the advice to wear seat belts is foolish and dangerous. That though the drunk driver is still the cause of the accident, don’t negate the importance of seat belts in improving survivability. That because seat belts don’t convey 100% safety, I shouldn’t act as though being ‘safer’ isn’t a valid reason to use them.

Now this is the point at which I stopped responding to the guy. A) He had his own axe to grind and I wasn’t going to let it be at my expense. B) He wasn’t listening to me when I said I that every decision I made was with my personal safety in mind and that I only took exception to people who implied the lack of ‘seat belts’ must have factored into someone’s victimization.

As neat as this little seat belt analogy is, it still points the finger of blame in the wrong direction. We shouldn’t be asking, “Was she wearing a seat belt?”

We should be asking, “Why was he driving drunk?”

The Heart of the Pack by Iris Sweetwater: Brothers of Fang Book Tour

Today we welcome Iris Sweetwater as part of her book tour for her newest release: The Heart of the Pack (Brothers of Fang Book 3). Happy release day, Iris!

Links:
Amazon 
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Website/Newsletter 

Name: Brothers of Fang: The Heart of the Pack
# in Series: 3

Blurb: Isaiah knows that the war between the pack and the coven are over, and that means things will change. It is time to let go of what is in his heart bad go with what is best for the Olympia pack. However, doing so is not as easy as he thought as the beautiful hybrid, Annalise remains in his territory. When he finds out that the coven is at risk without her, he must make a heartbreaking decision to send her home, even if it kills a piece of him and her both.

Now, there is a new war, one that is being waged inside the leaders of the coven and the pack. It is the kind of war that cannot be won with claws and teeth. It is a war of the heart, and no one knows who will win and who will be lost in the process.

Book Trailer: 

Release Date: 10/20/17
Special Deal: Anyone who purchases the Brothers of Fang books by 11/3 and shows confirmation to me on any of my social profiles gets all the exclusive bonus chapters full of untold secrets.

 

Bio: Iris Sweetwater grew up writing poems and thinking up crazy stories while she was bored at school. Everyone was certain she would become an author one day, especially when at 13, she saw her first poem being published in an anthology. Since then, life has given her many twists and turns, seeing her as a sales associate, an SEO content manager, a teacher, a curriculum specialist, a mother, and a ghostwriter. All of these things have led her to finally being in the time of her life where she knows she should be sharing her own stories and not just someone else’s. She hopes to make a career out of writing paranormal romance, young adult fantasy, and contemporary romance while still pursuing ways to help children engage in the learning process.

Are You A Book Addict?

I started to write a post about my addiction to diet and health books, but as I was gathering the evidence for a photo, I realized I had a much bigger problem: I’m addicted to buying books in general.

No seriously.

I have stacks of unread books all over the house. Books are piled precariously on counter tops and nightstands. They threaten to topple over whenever the cat brushes past them, and on more than one occasion, I’ve had to rescue a book from the jaws of the puppy.

The last time I moved, for giggles and grins, I counted my books as I was packing them. I stopped after 5 K because it was slowing me down. And that’s not even counting what I have on my Kindle! Many I’ve re-read dozens of times. Some I’ve only read once. But lately my TBR stack has grown out of control, and I strongly suspect some of the books I’ve snagged will never be read at all.

The Japanese have a delightful word for this: tsundoku. I am tickled to know there is a word for this, because it means I’m not alone.

 

According to Wikipedia, it means “acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up without reading them.” The image I’m posting here could have been taken from house, if I had the acres and acres of lovely bookshelves pictured here.

Truth be told, it wouldn’t matter how many bookshelves I had, I’d still have an overflow of stacks of unread books waiting their turn.

That’s not to say I won’t read these books. Some day I will. I used to read five or six books a week, so buying books on this scale wasn’t unreasonable. I don’t have that kind of time anymore, particularly since I’m writing as well. I love books. I love going to bookstores and libraries. I love going to someone’s home and checking out their book collection. You can learn a lot about a person by the books they have. 

I hear people talk about decreasing clutter and getting rid of their books because they have electronic readers now. I get it, I do. I see the attraction of having your library on a single device, never being at risk of running out of reading material, only battery life. But it saddens me just the same. I envision homes of the future where blank sterile walls greet you as you walk in, and you cannot glean any information as to your host’s tastes in literature because their library is entirely digital.

And I worry about the future of writing as an industry when I see fewer people reading, and more people exhibiting signs of a decreasing attention span–a problem fostered by our addiction to smart devices. The people who used to read on the bus or waiting in line now seem to be scrolling their Twitter feeds or streaming a television show.

Maybe I’m part of a dying breed, but I came from a time when books were the major gateway to another world, a different existence. They connect us to the past, and with great minds that have gone before us. With a book, far more than with any other medium, I can step into the story and be a part of it. Books have saved my life more than once. I lived for sci-fi and mysteries when I was a teenager. I still reach for my favorite horse and dog books when I need comfort. And there are some series, like the Lord Peter Wimsey books or the Amelia Peabody mysteries, that I’ll read over and over again.

I like to think there will always be readers because there will always be storytellers. That’s the part of me that wants to believe in a happily ever after.

 

These days, I need to believe in a happily ever after. Life is kind of stressful and I need the escapism of a good book. At least I never have to worry about not having something to read! So yeah, maybe I’m hoarding books just a bit. Maybe it is an addiction. But as addictions go, there are worse ones to have. 

The Panther’s Lost Princess: Free for a limited time!

As part of a promotional thingy, The Panther’s Lost Princess is free on Amazon for a limited time! Book One of the Redclaw Security series, The Panther’s Lost Princess introduces us to the elite paranormal agency when top investigator, Jack Ferris, is assigned one of the most challenging cases of his career: find the heir to the shifter kingdom of Coreldon, who went missing as a baby.

And find her he did, tracking Princess Ariel de Winter to a hole-in-the-wall diner where she worked, oblivious to her heritage, as a waitress under the name of Ellie West.

Finding her was the easy part.

Convincing her to come with him more difficult.

Keeping her alive when assassins hit their trail: a nightmare.

But discovering his assignment was also his fated mate? Impossible.

She can’t be his mate. She’s the mission.

 

Each book in the Redclaw Security series can be read as a standalone, and though there is character crossover between stories, it is not necessary to read them in order. Be sure to grab your copy of The Panther’s Lost Princess soon–free on Amazon only until 10/11/17!