The Christmas Ballet by Constance Bretes: Book Tour and Giveaway!

The Christmas Ballet
By Constance Bretes

Constance has 2 $10 gift certificates to Paparazzi Accessories to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here https://goo.gl/taJJDH.

About The Christmas Ballet:

Laura Hemmingway cut herself off from men and her family when the man she loved married her sister. She moved across the country and was doing just fine until she received a devastating call to return to New York. She had to face the death of her sister, her sister’s little girl, Maria, and Maria’s father, Stefan—the man she had once loved. She figured she would pay her respects and leave as soon as possible. She never anticipated on the beautiful little girl stealing her heart. And she never expected that seeing Stefan again after twelve years would stir up old feelings.

Stefan’s life was complete. He had a successful career as an attorney, a beautiful wife and an adorable six-year-old daughter. Although he and his wife had been married in name only for the past several years, he cared for her deeply. Then her unexpected death brought him face-to-face with his former lover, and the guilt he’d carried for years.
Stefan is still in love with Laura and wants to give her everything she deserves. He and Maria are racing against time to convince Laura to stay with them in New York.

Can a little girl’s love, and the true magic of Christmas, help Stefan convince Laura to stay and give their relationship another chance?

Content Warning: contains some sexual content
Genre – Contemporary Romance
Heat Level – Hot

Excerpt from The Christmas Ballet:

He smiled as he thought about the look on her face when he’d stroked her. Maybe she was more interested in him than she either believed or cared to be.
Then he thought of something. “One more thing, Laura,” he called out to her, and she stopped at the door and turned around.
“On the nineteenth, the law firm is hosting the annual Christmas party. It’s quite grand and lasts all evening long.”
“You want me to be sure to be available to babysit Maria,” Laura said.
“No. I want you to plan to come with me.”
“What?”
“Remember that beautiful, green, velvet dress we saw at Macy’s? I want you to get that dress, and the accessories to go with it, and attend the party with me.”
“Stefan, really. You know I don’t go to those types of events, and I don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I’m not comfortable with either of those things.”
“You need to get comfortable.” He smiled.
“This is not a part of a job for the nanny and teacher. It’s out of the range of the job description. You need to get Ginger to go with you. I’m not going.” She gave him a defiant look.
“Laura, I want to take you to this event. I’m not taking no for an answer. I will arrange for Rhonda to take you shopping to help you get what you need. You will charge all the purchases to a credit card I will give you that’s for your use only. This is the first of many social parties you will be attending.”
He watched her as she clenched her hands into fists and released them.
“Who do you think you will get to care for Maria on these…occasions?”
“Usually Lillian is available.”
“Stefan, it’s my job to care for Maria, not be your date to your parties. I don’t like being told what I will or won’t do. I don’t like social parties, and I don’t like wearing expensive clothes. It’s not me, and you’re not going to change me.”
“I don’t want to change you. I want you to attend an event by my side. It won’t hurt you to have some beautiful clothing to show your feminine side. I want the world to see the beauty I see. Be glad I want to show you off. Some men might decide they don’t want others to see what they see.”
“Flattery doesn’t work with me. You can tell me what to do as far as Maria is concerned, but my personal life is off limits to you.”
“That’s good to know. At least I know you won’t get carried away and escape my grasp by someone making flattering remarks to you. Your personal life interests me.”
“Stefan, you just don’t get it. I am not going to this party,” she said, enunciating each word slowly and carefully. “Besides, your mother would be horrified to see me walk in with you.” Her face hardened as she stared at him.
“Look at it this way—you’d be doing me a big favor.”
“How?” She raised an eyebrow.
“I’m not interested in the other women that come to this social party looking for an eligible bachelor. With you on my arm, it would send a clear message to all the others that I’m taken.”
“God, you’re impossible. Ginger is more than capable of providing you that kind of service.”
“I don’t want Ginger. You have the grace, quiet beauty, and finesse I want in a date, and I will not take no for an answer. After Maria’s recital, you and Rhonda will set a shopping date. And one more thing. When you get your hair done, I’d like you to wear it down.” He smiled at her.
“This is not going to happen.” She put her hands on her hips and glared at him.
“It will. I’ll just have Maria work on you.” He eyed her.
“What?”
Stefan grinned. “You heard me. You’d never turn down anything from Maria.”
“Grrrr.” She growled and stomped up the stairs.
He laced his hands and put them behind his head. Oh yeah, it’ll be a night she’ll never forget.

About the Author:
Constance Bretes is an author of contemporary romance and suspense. Her romance books are often set in different parts of the country, but her favorite site is Montana. She retired from the State of Michigan after 38-plus years of service and now writes and researches full time. She is married to her best friend and has recently moved from Montana to Alabama. Her hobbies include basket weaving, sapphire digging, and checking out old ghost towns.

Constance’s Social Links:

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Snatching Diana by Seelie Kay Book Tour and Giveaway!

Snatching Dianna
Feisty Lawyers Book 1
By Seelie Kay
 
Seelie will be giving away some great ebooks for this tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here
 

About Snatching Dianna:

 
The hours are counting down as investigators try to prove that Dianna Murphy has been snatched. Unfortunately, without witnesses and solid evidence, all the police really know is that she is missing.
 
When suburban Milwaukee law student Dianna Murphy fails to connect with her roommate, there is no real evidence that she has been snatched. Until Law Professor Janet MacLachlan, a former covert agent, discovers a single clue, one that points to a taking by a slave trafficking cartel. In a race against time, Janet recruits her husband, secret agent Cade Matthews, small-town Police Chief David Manders and his wife, criminal defense attorney Julianna Constant, and other law students to uncover the truth. Can they prove she has been taken, before Dianna disappears without a trace?
 
Romantic Suspense (Three Flames)

Buy Links:
 
Barnes and Noble:  Coming soon

 


Excerpt:
 
After what seemed like hours in the sweltering van, it lurched to a stop.
 
Dianna heard a man bark orders. A door to the van opened and someone pulled the rope from her feet, then removed her hood. She took a deep breath.  A man grabbed her by the arm, forced to her feet, and pulled from the van. Dianna stumbled when she hit the ground. The stones were hot and her feet were covered by athletic socks, no shoes. Show no weakness.
 
Dianna immediately surveyed her surroundings. It was still night, but she was in a well-lit courtyard. A large stone mansion stood in front of her. She looked to her right, then her left. The courtyard was enclosed by a large stone fence, at least eight feet high. A fortress. Fortunately, Dianna was a rock-climber. She could rappel over the fence with the right equipment. All she would need was something to serve as a pick, maybe a rope. A knife, a screwdriver, even a fork. Keep your eyes and ears open. Be ready.
 
A large black man, dressed in a white suit and a maroon turban, walked out of the front door and down the stairs. He stopped and flashed a malevolent smile. He flung his arms wide and in a cultured baritone boomed, “Welcome to paradise, ladies. I hope you enjoy your stay.”
 
Some of the guards laughed.
 
“Crikey,” Tillie muttered. “Sounds like a blasted genie.”
 
Dianna glanced sideways and for the first time, got a look at her new friend. She was tall and thin, her body well defined. She looked strong and aware, almost fierce. Her eyes seemed to be studying the place, taking everything in. She showed no fear. Instead, she seemed interested. Something was off. Tillie did not act like a victim as the others did. She was not cowed. Was she a cop? Or like Dianna, someone who would not permit themselves to be broken?
 
There was only one thing of which Dianna was certain. She had found a friend. A useful one.
 
 
About Seelie Kay:
 
Seelie Kay is a nom de plume for a writer, editor, and author with more than 30 years of experience in law, journalism, marketing, and public relations. When she writes about love and lust in the legal world, something kinky is bound to happen!  In possession of a wicked pen and an overly inquisitive mind, Ms. Kay is the author of multiple works of fiction, including the Kinky Briefs series, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, and The President’s Wife.
 
When not spinning her kinky tales, Ms. Kay ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. She resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she shares a home with her son and enjoys opera, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine.
 
Ms. Kay is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS:  Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you!
 
Author links:
 
 
 

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Cool! 50s Slang That Lingers On

I’m spending a lot of time doing research these days. I decided to set the WIP in the 1950s, and this has me scrambling to look up things such as when certain movies were released, and what songs were on the Top 40 in August of 1955.

When I write a story with a historical setting, I like to immerse myself in the culture of the time. Once I spent over a month reading books and watching documentaries on WW2 when I wrote a story partly set in 1940. So now I’ve been perusing sites that describe ladies undergarments, searching for real landmarks to use in the story, diving in to the fascinating world of nightclubs, and so on.

Somehow, I never expected slang to be a big part of the story. Mostly because one character is British–and I thought his style of speech wouldn’t lend itself to much American slang. The other character is a former society girl–ditto, right?

But not really. Slang is so pervasive in our culture, we don’t really recognize when we use it or not–see example above “ditto”. The society girl would also have a much greater tendency to use slang than I thought. But there are expressions and phrases that have only come into being in the last thirty to forty years or so–and while they may sound right at first, you can’t use the phrase “get the bugs out” if it didn’t come into popular use before the advent of widespread software design.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time checking out websites that serve as slang dictionaries. One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered is not how much things have changed but how much has stayed the same. Sure, 50s slang had a way of adding words instead of reducing them–for example, “Are you writing a book?” was used to tell someone they were asking too many questions and “agitate the gravel” was to leave in a hurry. Today, we’re far more likely to reduce our speech to acronyms, such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and YOLO (You Only Live Once)–probably because texting is so popular, and these acronyms save time and characters when typing. Interestingly enough, I rarely use acronyms. I wasn’t much of a texter until I got a smart phone with a microphone–and now I dictate my texts, so acronyms don’t come into it very often. I can’t help but wonder if changes in technology will affect patterns of slang again in the future.

But one of the most fascinating things I discovered in my searches is how much has lingered on from previous popular turns of phrase. We still say “cool” to denote someone who is calm under pressure but also someone who is up-to-the-minute fashionable or impressive in some way–someone we’d like to emulate. The biggest difference between the use of “cool” in the 50s vs now seems to be the pronunciation, with the cool kids today stretching out the vowels.

Another holdover is “pad” to refer to someone’s home. Though perhaps not in use quite as much as cool, we still hear places referred to as bachelor pads from time to time. On occasion, I also still hear people refer to kids as ankle-biters, despite the fact the speaker wasn’t born until the 80s. And when someone wrecks their car beyond repair, we still say it’s been totaled.

Words seem to go in and out of fashion, and date us as writers, even though we may be writing in a different time period or our main character is of a different age than we are. If I were to write a story featuring teenagers, I’d have to do a study of slang much as I’m doing right now for my 50s characters.

Also, different groups have their own slang, which may or may not make it into the general lexicon. If you’re writing about hot-rodders, surfers, or Regency dandies, you must keep that in mind.

While this is by no means a complete compilation, here is a list of 50s slang posted by the Lincoln-Sudbury High School (compiled, no doubt, as a homework assignment):

Actor: show-off

Agitate the Gravel: to leave (hot-rodders)

Ankle Biter: a child

Ape: (used with “go”) to explode or be really mad

Baby: cute girls, term of address for either sex

Back seat bingo: necking in a car

Bad news: depressing person

Bash: great party

Big Daddy: an older person

Big tickle: really funny

Bit: an act

Blast: a good time

Blow off: to defeat in a race (hot-rodders)

Boss: great

Bread: money

Bug: “you bug me” – to bother

Burn rubber: to accelerate hard and fast

Cast an eyeball: to look

Cat: a hip person

Chariot: car

Chrome-plated: dressed up

Circled: married

Classy chassis: great body

Cloud 9:  really happy

Clutched: rejected

Clyde: term of address, usually for a normal person (Beats)

Cook, Cookin’: doing it well

Cooties: imaginary infestations of the truly un-cool

Cranked: excited (Beats)

Crazy: “Like crazy, man” implies an especially good thing

Cream: originally, to dent a car.  Later, to badly damage

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’: looking for trouble

Cut out: leave

Daddy-o: term of address (Beats)

Dibs: a claim – as in “got dibs” on that seat

Dig: to understand; to approve

Dolly: cute girl

Don’t have a cow: don’t get so excited

Drag: (hot-rodders) a short car race (Beats); a bore

Eyeball: look around

Fake out: a bad date

Fast: someone who was sexually active

Fat city: a great thing or place; happy

Fire up: start your engine

Flat out: fast as you can

Flat-top: men’s hairstyle (a crewcut which is flat across the top)

Flick: a movie

Flip: to get very excited

Floor it: push the accelerator to the floor

Fracture: to amuse

Fream: someone who doesn’t fit in

Frosted: angry

Get bent!: disparaging remark as in “drop dead”

Gig: work, job (Beats)

Go for pinks: a drag race where the stakes are the car’s pink slip

Goof: someone who makes mistakes

Goose it: accelerate the car fully

Greaser: a guy with tons of grease in his hair

Grody: sloppy or messy

Hang: as in “hang out” which means to do very little

Haul ass: drive very fast

Heat: police (Beats)

Hep: with it, cool

Hip: someone who is cool, in the know

Hopped up: a car modified for speed

Horn: telephone

Hottie: a very fast car

Illuminations: good ideas, thoughts

In orbit: in the know

Jacked up: car with a raised rear end

Jacketed: going steady

Jelly Roll: men’s hair combed up and forward on both sides, brought together in the middle of the forehead

Kick: a fun or good thing; a fad

Kill: to really impress

Knuckle sandwich: a fist in the face

Later: goodbye

Lay a patch: to accelerate so rapidly that you leave a patch of rubber on the road

Make out: a kissing session

Make the scene: to attend a party or activity

Mirror warmer: a piece of pastel fabric (often cashmere) tied around the rear view mirror. (A 1950s version of the Medieval wearing your lady’s colors.)

Most: a in “the most” – high praise usually of the opposite sex

Nerd: same as now

Nest: a hair-do

Nod: drift off to sleep

Nosebleed: stupid

No sweat: no problem

Nowhere: opposite of cool (Beats)

Nuggets: loose change

Odd ball: someone a bit off the norm

On the stick: pulled together. Bright, prepared…

Pad: home

Paper shaker: cheerleader or Pom Pom girl

Party pooper: no fun at all

Passion pit: Drive-in movie theater

Peepers: glasses

Pile up Z’s: get some sleep

Pound: beat up

Punch it: release the clutch quickly do as to get a fast start

Put down: to say bad things about someone

Radioactive: very popular

Rag top: a convertible car

Rap: to tattle on someone (Beats)

Rattle your cage: get upset

Raunchy: messy or gross in some way

Razz my berries: excite or impress me

Real gone: very much in love. Also unstable.

Reds: the Communists

Right-o: okay

Rock: a diamond

Rocket: a car

Rod: a car

Royal shaft: badly or unfairly treated

Scream: go fast

Shot down: failed

Shucks, shuckster: a deceiver, liar or cheat

Sides: vinyl records

Sing: to tattle or inform on someone (Beats)

Souped up: a car modified to go fast

Spaz: someone who is uncoordinated, a clutz

Split: leave

Square: a regular, normal person.  A conformist.

Stacked: a well-endowed woman

Subterranean: a hipster (used by both Ginsberg and Kerouac – Beats)

Tank: a large sedan (usually driven by parents)

Tear ass: drive (or go) very fast

Threads: clothes

Tight: good friends

Total: to completely destroy, most often in reference to a car

Unreal: exceptional

Wail: go fast

Wazoo: your rear end

Weed: a cigarette

Wet rag: someone who’s just no fun

Word from the bird: the truth (Beats)

What’s your tale, nightingale?: What’s the story?

Wheelie: lift the car’s front wheels off the ground by rapid acceleration

I also found the following lists useful:

1950s slang by fiftiesweb.com

20 Slang Terms from the 1950s No One Uses Anymore

Your Guide to 1950s Slang

You’ll find a lot of overlap in the lists–presumably because they all relied on the same source material. If you come across a different and more complete list, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

Getting the Most out of NaNoWriMo for Non-Participants

I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. I’ve tried in the past, and found the pressure of writing a set amount daily intimidating. Even though you were allowed to have “makeup days” and nothing mattered as long as you met the end goal: 50 K in 30 days, that constant questioning as to whether or not I’d made my daily word count was so unnerving, it sent me into a tailspin of paralysis on the very first day from which I never recovered. And it left me with a lasting case of writer’s block it took me months to get over. Even now, watching the vast proportion of my social media interactions center around this fact can make me hyperventilate a bit.

Then there’s the fact that the NaNo guidelines are the antithesis of how I normally write. Not that I could find any specific guidelines when I searched this morning. So perhaps it’s my own understanding of NaNo that is flawed. For the most part, it seems people planning to participate may or may not make a sketchy outline in September, then sign up and begin tracking their word counts while they bang out their story in 30 days. No editing. No going back and changing things. Just write.

While this appeals to the pantser in me, I’m a big fan of going back and re-reading my WIP, editing as I go. Yes, on some levels this slows me down (and I’ve been known to bog down polishing the same scene over and over again) but this process works for me. Typically when I do this, I can see underlying themes I want to expand upon and weave into future scenes–something that’s far easier for me to do the first time than to go back and add later.

There’s also the fact that I don’t really need the act of completing NaNo to validate my ability to write a complete story in 30 days. When I was heavily invested in fandom, I wrote the equivalent of a novella every month. For four years straight. No, the mechanics of NaNo aren’t beyond me.

I suspect that one of the reasons I find NaNo so stressful is that when I was a child, we used to have timed multiplication tests in school. The teacher would put a recording on, and a flat voice would drone, “Eight times four is—beep!” A tone would sound, and the speaker would move on to the next problem. I’d begin hyperventilating at the sound of the incessant, relentless beeping, and the fact the test was progressing on without me being able to keep up.

NaNo feels a bit like that to me.

So why am I writing this post, then?

Because there is still a lot to be gained from unofficially participating in NaNo. 

For starters, there is the accountability factor. Though you may not be trying to get to that daily word count, perhaps you have other goals. The plethora of articles on writing, on making the best use of your time, and the number of groups outside of NaNo itself, can all be used to your advantage during the month of November. On any given day, you can Google “NaNo” or some variation of such, and come up with a wealth of useful information. Not to mention the Twitter hashtags and chats–some fun, some inspiring, most supportive.

The fact so many people out there are buckling down to their keyboards and making a hard push to complete a novel (or at least a novella) in 30 days means there’s a lot of support out there. Can’t find a group that welcomes non-participants? Start your own! There’s a wealth of collective creative energy out there. Don’t cut yourself off from it.

Maybe you aren’t officially participating–but there’s no reason you can’t set your own goals. Challenge yourself to read a set number of articles on marketing, or take a course on improving your craft. The principles are the same: if you tell yourself you don’t have the time, you’ll never make the time.

My plans for NaNo are to finish a stalled WIP. It was going like gangbusters until my mother died last year, and it has been languishing ever since. I want to push through to the end now–and a NaNo-style approach seems to be the best way to break through this block. I’m hoping to get it into a semi-decent form for a December submission.

Which means, I need to go get cracking on it. What are you doing for November?

Creativity, Gratitude, and Self-Care in a Dumpster-Fire World

I’ve been finding it very difficult to write lately.

I know I’m not alone in this–it’s a refrain I hear from many creative types right now. It has less to do with my personal battles with depression and more to do with the constant bombardment of horrific news–especially the mounting tension as we move steadily toward the US mid-term elections. These elections are going to prove to be a referendum on so many things: where we stand as a nation on democracy, diversity, climate change, health care, decency, equality, and compassion. The stakes have never been higher.

As such, I find myself creatively holding my breath, unable to concentrate on the WIP despite a looming deadline. It feels too damn frivolous to be carving out a HEA right now, even though readers probably need the stress-relief, temporary escape, and emotional encouragement more than ever.

And yet I believe in the transformative power of storytelling.

For a while now, Supergirl has been accurately needling social issues of the day in its writing. On the surface, the show is nothing more than a little escapist superhero television action, but at the end of season 2, Cat Grant makes an amazing speech on resistance and courage in the face of fearful times, and I fistpump the air every time I watch it.

 

It’s a powerful scene that fits seamlessly with the the plot without overtly hammering the viewer over the head with the message. It’s brilliant.

But the writers of Supergirl haven’t stopped there. In another episode, James Olsen shares an experience of being accosted and accused of a crime as young black child–an experience Mehcad Brooks had in real life when he was only seven years old.

And this season, the show’s opening montage openly describes Supergirl as a refugee on our planet–and the first couple of episodes have dealt with the growing hostility and suspicion of “aliens” living on Earth and a rising “Earth First” movement. Yes, it’s a somewhat cheesy CW show–but it’s tackling real issues and I applaud them for it. I was particularly struck in this past week’s episode when the AI’s shield that allows him to look human fails while he’s ordering pizza–and the resulting hostility on the part of the restaurant owner takes Brainy completely by surprise. He keeps saying, “But you know me…” while the pizza guy calls out workers with baseball bats to beat the AI to a pulp.

The imminent violence was stopped because one person stood up–a person, it turned out, who also had a lot to lose if her own secrets were publicly known. Who wouldn’t have been spared from the same violence. That’s courage. As is telling your boss that he needs to do more than ‘tell both sides of the story’, that he needs to take a stand.

And that’s what makes storytelling compelling. It’s what moves a program beyond the realm of ‘cheesy superhero TV show’ into something worth watching.

This is the kind of writing I want to do myself. I want to bring that kind of layering and introspection to a story that is meant for entertaining consumption. Because when we start to have compassion for the Brainys and Nias of this world, then we can see them as people in our neighborhood, and not enemies to be hated. 

But it’s hard when your creative well is dry. When fear and anxiety dominate your thoughts. I’ve recently come to the realization that I can no longer support this sustained level of outrage and horror. It’s not healthy. It’s not useful to anyone, let alone me.

In some ways, it means I’m still speaking from a place of privilege, that I can even say I need to distance myself from current events. There are so many who can’t, who are living the very events I find so appalling. But self-care and distancing is not the same as turning a blind eye. It’s saying that a warrior needs to sleep before a battle. That an army must be well-fed and rested before an incursion. That this is a marathon, not a sprint, and there must be breaks along the way.

So I purchased the little notebook pictured above. I can’t say that I really believe its sentiments, but I’m making a concentrated effort to find something each day that makes me happy–something for which I’m grateful–and jot it down in this little book. I’m cultivating a sense of gratitude in a field sowed with fear and poisoned with anxiety.

WE ARE ALLOWED TO DO THIS.

No one would expect you to eat tainted food day after day without making any effort to clean it up and make it healthier. No one would demand you willingly consume poison in sublethal levels when it’s possible to filter it (unless you live in Flint, Michigan, apparently). Yes, we should be outraged at what’s happening in our country and our world. But outrage alone is ineffective. And a steady diet of outrage will kill us as surely as the things we’re outraged about.

So I’m reading more and watching the news less. Taking a little break from writing and playing around with other forms of artistic expression, such as painting. I’m having my nails done, despite the fact it’s an expensive luxury. Having nice nails makes me feel good at a time when precious little else does. As coping mechanisms go, it’s probably one of the less destructive ones.

I’m also making a determined effort not to spread fear and hate. I’m of two minds over this–I think we should be outraged. I think we should be making our voices heard. To say nothing is to be complicit. But I also fear by pointing fingers at it, we’re also fanning the flames over it and keeping it alive.

Vote. Donate your time or money, whichever you might have. Overcome your fears and participate in the process. But don’t let the fear consume you.

Remember it’s okay to tell stories that are simply pure escapism. What may be a light fluffy story to you is what gets someone else through a dark time. It’s not a crime to be proud of your successes, and share your happy news. We need more happy in this world. 

On the back of my little “Okay” notebook is an awesome quote from Jane Austen. I leave you with that thought now.

Will Audiobooks Replace the Written Word?

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Let me start this post by saying I’m not against audiobooks. I’m listening to an audiobook right now, as it was started on a long car drive and I hadn’t finished it by the time I returned home. A well-done audiobook is a delight, and some of my favorites include the Poirot books read by David Suchet, the actor who has played Poirot in some of the Agatha Christie screen adaptations.

My husband has a two hour commute to work each day, and has become a big fan of podcasts as a result. My current commute is much shorter, so I tend to listen to music instead. I get frustrated when I can’t listen to something in large blocks of time. I also tend to use walking the dogs and riding horses as a writing brainstorming time, and as such, would prefer music or simply appreciating nature to listening to an audiobook anyway. Ditto the rare times I clean house. 🙂 Since I tend to listen to an audibook when I’m doing something else, I’m usually not able to devote my full attention to it, and as such, I don’t feel as though I’m getting the maximum amount of enjoyment out of the story as I would if I were reading it instead.

But I don’t begrudge people the right or ability to access their reading material via audio over the printed word. For many, audio represents the only way they can easily access books, especially for the visually impaired. Many more simply prefer audio to print. Perhaps like everyone else, they’re so busy it’s the only way they can fit “reading” into their schedule. Or maybe reading presents challenges for them that listening does not. I’m all for people accessing fiction any way they can get it, and it is one reason I’d like to create audio versions of all my works.

As a reader, however, I can rarely afford to buy audiobooks. Death on the Nile as read by David Suchet is almost $30 US dollars. Newer cars are no longer including CD players, so checking out books on CD from the local library won’t work for me either. Sure, I can subscribe to a service like Audible.com but we’re back to another subscription service. Do I really want to pay for cable, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access, Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Audible, too?

The answer is no.

Yes, I have a smartphone, but it’s an Android, not Apple. I don’t have a tablet. I have an elderly iPod Nano that is on its last legs and I don’t want to lose it because they aren’t freaking making them anymore and that’s how I listen to music in the car. *weeps*

But that’s okay, right? I don’t have to listen to audiobooks if I don’t want to.

Only the buzz I keep hearing is that in the not-too-distant future, everything is going to go the way of audiobooks and podcasts. I haven’t been able to pin down the source of this information, but I keep hearing it repeated over and over. Certainly articles such as as in Forbes, calling Audiobooks Officially 2018’s Publishing Trend would seem to support this notion. Sales of audiobooks were up 43% in 2018. I keep getting advice to make podcasts, or short video presentations on Youtube. Every time I open a news article, it pops up with video. Whenever I click on a link for marketing information these days, it is only available in a video format.

I have to say, as a consumer, this pisses me off a bit. I can read an article–and retain the information in it–faster and more efficiently than it takes for me to watch a 45 minute video. I can read articles on my lunch break–or when I have five minutes between appointments. Presenting everything in video format also assumes the viewer has perfect hearing, which isn’t necessarily the case. Moreover, I can’t watch videos until I’ve finished my 10-12 hour workday and am at home with the headphones on so as not to interrupt anyone else’s activity, and let me tell you, I have more pressing needs to take care of by then. Am I going to take 45 minutes to watch another video or spend that block of time writing a scene? Writing is going to take precedence every time.

As a writer, this notion that everything will go to audio format in the future disturbs me greatly. For starters, creating quality audiobooks is expensive. I experimented with creating an audiobook for one of my older stories, and I found that while I could lower production costs by sharing royalties with the narrator, the top-notch narrators wanted payment up front. Also, for the costs involved, the payout is skewed. Despite the high costs of production, only a sliver of money earned gets paid in royalties. I have as yet to recoup my ROI for my one attempt at producing an audiobook. I may never earn back the investment at this rate.

But it’s possible I’m just doing things wrong. Perhaps my tech is out of date. Maybe I’m uninformed because I’m behind the times. So I’m curious: how do you consume your fictions these days? Ebook? Print? Audiobook? Do you pay for a subscription service? Are you finding limitations on the books you’d like to check out because it doesn’t come in your preferred format? If you preferentially consume audiobooks, does this dictate what other books you may or may not read?

If you’re an author, what cost-effective methods are you using to invest in audiobook production? Are you seeing a ROI? What service are you using? How are you finding your narrators?

Drop a comment here and let me know what you’re doing. I’ll select someone at random from the comments to win their choice of one of my stories (though sadly, they will only be available as ebooks).

I Dream of Strong Heroines

Let me start off this post by saying you know what I mean when I say “strong heroines”. I realize it’s not the best term: a heroine, by definition, is someone we look up to and seek to emulate. “Strong” as a descriptor seems both redundant and lazy somehow. When I say I’ve always been attracted to strong heroines–I mean the female characters that star in their own stories, who pull me into their adventures and make me long for their strength, their no-nonsense attitudes, their ability to Get The Job Done. 

They are smart, tough, and competent. They are all beautiful in their own way, as varied as their own backgrounds. They kick-ass. They make me want to be better than I am, to reach my full potential and more.

Growing up, it wasn’t always easy to find heroines in my preferred books and stories. Women frequently played a secondary–sometimes even tertiary–role in murder mysteries or sci-fiction. They were often love interests at best, and victims at worst. Television programs frequently featured a Heroine of the Week, a guest actress to play the part of the woman who is placed in jeopardy (all too-often by refusing the advice and help of the male hero) so that she can be conveniently rescued by said hero. I confess, I ate up these shows in the eighties. Not because I identified with the female characters in them, but because I identified with the men. Many of the shows I adored back then, I find uncomfortable to re-watch today. Men had the best roles, the best lines, got to do the fun things. I accepted that it was men who went on adventures and the women largely stayed home. Eowyn aside, the Fellowship of the Ring was a boys club.

But when I found a heroine I could admire, I grabbed on with both hands, even if the source material was a little problematic. Lessa from Dragonflight. Princess Leia. Harriet Vane from the Lord Peter Wimsey books. I wanted to be Laura Holt from Remington Steele. I devoured the Honor Harrington books by David Weber. Sam Carter in Stargate might have been ‘one of the boys’ but she was the scientist that was smarter than everyone else on team SG-1.

I cheered when Drew Barrymore’s Cinderella outsmarted the gypsies in this scene from Ever After.

 

It was simply brilliant–as was the scene at the end when the Prince rushes up as she’s leaving the castle. When she asks him why he’s there, he confesses he’s come to rescue her–only she’s already rescued herself.

This trend of loving powerful heroines continues today. I fell hard for Elsa in Frozen. I am a HUGE Peggy Carter fan (hence the T-shirt above). I love Phryne Fisher so much that I supported the crowdfunding for Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears. I love these ladies for their strength, their beauty, their abilities. I wish I had their confidence, their competence, their resilience. 

I am sadly aware I fall far short of their standards.

Recently, I’ve had a bit of a health scare. It’s rattled me hard, and while my condition is imminently treatable, I’m still in adjusting to both the medication and the notion that I need medication. More than anything, there is a disconnect between accepting that this is my new normal when it doesn’t fit with my mental image of who I am. It’s not part of a kick-ass heroine’s backstory.

Or is it?

Perhaps my definition of what makes a kick-ass heroine needs to evolve. Maybe she isn’t the woman who takes out the bad guys with a single punch, or patches a Stargate on the fly, or delivers a snappy one-liner while saving the world.

Maybe she’s the woman who works ten to twelve hour shifts, only to come home and take care of her family. Maybe she’s the cornerstone in a multi-generational household, the one that everyone looks to in order to make things right. Perhaps the very fact she’s still here, still trying, and still alive is a major achievement in itself.

Maybe she’s the one who speaks up even though her voice is shaking. The one who says, “No, that isn’t right.”

Being a kick-ass heroine isn’t just looking good in a catsuit, or solving multi-dimensional math equations while piloting a starship, or discussing with wit and erudition the dead body in the library. It’s both harder and easier than that.

It’s standing up for what you believe in, even when the rest of the world thinks you’re stupid for doing so.

There are more of us out there than you think. You’re more kick-ass than you think. Be your own hero.

Marvel Bows to Troll Pressure, Fires Chuck Wendig

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Last week at the New York ComicCon, author Chuck Wendig announced he’d be working on a new Marvel comic book project. Today, Marvel fired him, citing his online presence as being “too vulgar, too political, and too negative.”

I’ve been following Wendig’s blog for years now–you want pithy insights and masterful writing tips? His is the blog for you. I highly recommend his book on writing, Damn Fine Story.

At no point has Wendig ever hidden his thoughts or viewpoints. Marvel knew who they were hiring when they made the original decision to do so.

So why the big back pedal? Why would Marvel suddenly decide Wendig is too hot to handle after the big ComicCon announcement last week?

The linked articles explain a lot, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version: when Wendig wrote his bestselling Star Wars trilogy, he included GLBTQ characters. This set off a certain small but vocal group of trolls in the sci-fi community that howled over the fact Wendig had ‘ruined’ SW for them, and they began a targeted harassment campaign to trash the ratings. Lucasfilms was behind Wendig 100%, stating the franchise has always been about diversity. (I suggest you read up on the Rabid/Sad Puppies and their attempts to manipulate the Hugo Awards, as well as Gamergate to give you an idea of the organization and object of these trolls, if you are somehow unfamiliar with them). This harassment has been incredibly vicious and ongoing, in part (according to the Screen Rant article linked above) “because Wendig wears his politics on his sleeve.”

Since the ComicCon announcement, Wendig has been the subject of increased harassment, leading to the temporary suspension of his Twitter account recently. Today’s news is frankly gobsmacking, as well as disheartening and disturbing. Marvel has also recently fired feminist Chelsea Cain and dropped the planned Vision comic two months before its release. And, I might point out, it was Marvel Comics who recently decided to go with the horrendous (and utterly insulting) story line that Captain America was actually a HYDRA agent all along. (Spoiler: Not.)

Apparently the furor (and subsequent response from Wendig) was too much for one editor, who pulled the plug on the projects. Wendig believes this decision was made independently from Lucasfilms.

So what is the takeaway from this? We as creators are frequently told we should not be openly political on social media, that we should avoid controversial positions and attitudes. I believe this is a bit of a cop-out. I don’t think it’s possible to create anything in a political vacuum. The very act of not allowing any sort of political slant on something created, be it artwork, music, movies, or stories, is a statement in and of itself–and usually comes from a place of privilege that ignores the reality we live in.

I have to tell you, if you’re reading one of my stories, you’re going to find all kinds of political commentary in them. Oh, perhaps not directly. I write paranormal romance, after all. But one of the reasons I enjoy paranormal romance is the genre allows much scope for observing and commenting on the politics of the day. MUCH LIKE COMIC BOOKS DO. 

I also think in our current environment, we have to speak our beliefs. We must stand up for what’s right and resist what is morally, ethically, and criminally wrong. To stay silent is to be complicit.

Another take home lesson is this: Wendig points out that the arbitrary and capricious manner in which Twitter chooses to silence someone while letting someone else far more abusive and threatening get a free pass is a harsh reminder that social media platforms are not your friend. Hell, they aren’t even your tools. At best, they should be the means to direct people to a platform you control. Don’t give up on your websites and blogs, people.

I was asked while writing this how what happened to Wendig differs from mounting a campaign to boycott sponsors of a FOX television program. Pressure is pressure, correct? The difference is that the trolls went after Wendig directly, dog-piling him with truly hateful attacks. The calls for boycotting sponsors asks a company directly to alter their hiring decisions based on their wallets. And I think that’s what we should be doing now with Marvel Comics.

Another bit of advice from Wendig in his post today was to vote in November as though your life depended on it. Because it does.

I have to say, I admire Wendig’s integrity in remaining true to who he is, and not caving in to the company line–but I also respect his decision to share his experience rather than sit tight on it in the hopes Marvel will change their minds or to limit further damage to future projects. That’s real courage. And we need more of that in this country right now. 

And you should go buy some of Wendig’s books. Seriously.

Celebrate ALL the Wins–Especially the Little Ones

Last year I planted a crepe myrtle tree in my yard. For those unfamiliar with them, this is what they look like in bloom, coming in a wide assortment of colors. I thought it would make a nice splash of color in the the spring.

It died.

Now, I’m not all that surprised. Not because my gardening skills are on par with my cooking skills, which is to say the smoke detector gets a workout in our house. Not because trees and bushes have a high mortality rate in the first year. Not because it was a hot,dry summer.

No. I wasn’t surprised because there was so much death in my life in 2017, I began to feel like a trainee for the Grim Reaper. I lost a lot: three human family members, three furry family members, and my very first horse–the one I bought as a teenager and hid his existence from my parents until I could prove I was capable of paying for him. The one I’d had for thirty years.

Most of these deaths were not unexpected. Old age and cancer both tend to give you lots of warning. It was just bad luck that the timing made all of them come together in the same year.

It was more than just the deaths, though that was bad enough. I also lost my belief that we as Americans were, for the most part, decent, honest people who stood up for the little guy and did the right thing. A belief fostered in part by such comics as this one, where Superman encourages students to embrace diversity. (There’s another, more modern image somewhere of Captain America supporting the same–only the crowd he’s depicted with is actually diverse–sadly, I can’t find it right now. I suspect it was fan art) I lost my faith in our government as an agent for the commonwealth. I lost hope that we’d ever have fair elections again, or that we’d be able to stop a breathtakingly corrupt administration from converting our democracy to an autocracy. Sure, corruption existed in politics before now. But the sheer scale of what’s happening now worldwide is all too reminiscent of the rise of fascism in the 1930s. And we all know how that turned out.

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself to depression. I found it challenging to go on social media. I didn’t have the mental energy to comment on people’s posts. Every day, the news continues to be terrifying and disheartening, which didn’t help. I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms. I gained weight. I was still functional, but just barely. So no, losing one crepe myrtle among all of this wasn’t even a blip on the radar. The only reason I share any of this for background to the point of this post.

Recently, a thing has been going around my Twitter timeline in which someone posted something to the effect of “we’re nine months in to 2018–what have you accomplished?” People RT the original tweet, adding what they’ve achieved as part of the sharing.

I have very mixed feelings about this sort of thing. I am not trying to disparage the person who posted it–I just can’t help but feel on some level, subconsciously or not, by the very nature of social media, this kind of thing turns into a brag/competition thread. There is nothing wrong with bragging, mind you. Hell, I think far too often most of us diminish rather than celebrate our victories. But this kind of post falls into the the same category of year-end retrospective posts for me: a means of comparing yourself to others and finding, once again, you’ve fallen short.

In part because if you haven’t lost 50 pounds, gotten married, won the lottery, run a marathon, taken a dream vacation, landed an agent, had a NYT bestseller, won a major literary award, etc. etc. then you haven’t accomplished enough. And I have to tell you, when I look back over the past nine months and look at what I’ve achieved, compared to everyone else out there, I DO come up short.

But I came across one comment on the Twitter thread, which said, “I’m still alive.” And you know what? That is a mighty accomplishment indeed. It made me think about the things I’ve done in the last nine months a little differently.

So here’s my list of achievements for 2018:

  1. I’m still alive.
  2. I learned to make and like green smoothies, the thought of which used to make me gag.
  3. I’ve come to appreciate my body as is, with all its flaws, and know I need to take better care of it.
  4. I’m starting to reconnect with the things I love, things I’d shut out during my depression. I’d lost so much I was afraid to love anything else–and the scary thing is this wasn’t a conscious decision–I just withdrew my engagement. Even when I needed it the most.
  5. I recognize I probably need professional help to manage my depression. 
  6. I’ve started meditating.
  7. I’ve started playing brain games on Luminosity.
  8. I wrote and published a book. People are leaving enthusiastic reviews, which is nice.
  9. I’m playing around with fanfiction again because it makes me happy and life is too damn short not to take your happiness where you can find it.
  10. I’m still alive.

Some of these may not seem like very big accomplishments, but they are bigger than you know, especially the self-acceptance part. And I repeated “I’m still alive” twice because we don’t often give ourselves enough credit for toughing it out through bad times.

This past week, while preparing for some major renovations at the house, I discovered a small determined leafing of what I thought was a dead tree.

What do you know? That crepe myrtle is still alive.

I’m moving to a safer, better place so it can grow. Where I can keep a eye on it, and shelter it from bugs, storms, and the relentless heat. Where it can thrive. Perhaps that’s my biggest accomplishment for 2018 so far.

Friday Feature: His Midnight Sun by Viviana MacKade

 

 

Hey, it’s Feature Friday, so that means we have a guest poster today. Please welcome Viviana MacKade as she shares with us a little about her upcoming release, His Midnight Sun!

 

 

 

 

 

His Midnight Sun

by Viviana MacKade

 

Tormented, fierce, and broken, sculptor Aidan Murphy has judged himself guilty. He yearns for love but pushes everyone away. He longs for acceptance but has lost the key to open his heart. Until he meets Summer Williams. Beautiful and smart, Dr. Williams promises haven for a man who believes he deserves none. All he has to do is let her in and risk his heart and soul.

Summer’s managed to keep her inner light alive, even through tragedy. She’s created a new life for herself and her daughter in Crescent Creek with loving, caring and fun friends–well, except brooding, breathtaking Aidan. She’s used to keeping away from his type, though. All she has to do is ignore the pull of a man who’s turning up to be much more than snarls and storms. Will her compassion and medical instincts let her?

Love can heal a broken soul and shake up a timid heart. Or it can unleash devastation and revenge.

Will Aidan and Summer survive the hurricane?

 

Release September 15, available for pre-sale

$ 0.99 FREE with KU

On Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

I didn’t realize His Midnight Sun had a theme until well after I finished it. Honestly, I don’t write to teach, preach or any other significant and profound reason. I write to entertain. To give people a break. I like to think my stories are fairy tales for adults, where the characters go through changes and problems and tragedies, but will get to the happily ever after. The great Susan Elizabeth Phillips said that life is too short to waste with depressing books, and that sums perfectly the way I want my books to be.

An escape. Heaven knows if we all need it one sometimes.

So I didn’t have anything in mind other than telling Aidan’s story when I started.

And what do you know, I found myself with a phoenix’s story. A man who learns how to leave the past where it’s supposed to stay, who learns how to forgive himself and how to accept love. And through him, I discovered the same things. In many ways, Aidan’s story is my story, his demons are my demons, and because of him, I saw a way to boot them out.

Summer showed him the power of love–not just romantic love, but for the other people. For friends and strangers alike. Which turned out to be the theme of the book.

The healing power of love.

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

Crescent Creek, early July.

With no fight left in him, Aidan Murphy sank down on the wooden floor of his home studio.

Done.

Aidan filled his burning sight with the finished, almost 7 feet tall piece of art. Hell to work on, pure and simple, but it couldn’t be helped, not when it had called to him with such powerful voice.

Two weeks earlier, he’d been wandering around the stone-site when his skin began humming, and his heart beating faster. Years of sculpting had taught him how to hear the calling, the silent scream of whatever form lay trapped inside the rocks begging him to free it.

He’d followed his guts like so many times before and laying a palm on the cold, white alabaster, had known something waited in there. He’d bought the squared monstrosity, never stopped working on it since the day it had been delivered to his address. At every bite of the masonry blade, at every kiss of the chisel and caress of the rasp, its voice had been easier to hear, pushing him, constantly pushing him to keep going, keep working.

A couple had emerged from the stone and if beauty could hurt, by God, this one would in so many ways. Those two people were set to break any viewer’s heart. Nothing happy or gleeful about them, nothing about being lost in the fallacy of love; the pair stood in a tight embrace made of disillusion and reality. Rightfully so, because wasn’t love just that? Another form of pain? A delusion?

Aidan shook his head. Whatever love was for the average person, these two people he’d given life to scratched at the thick walls of his reticent heart. He didn’t care for such shit.

Much smarter to focus on his very real, very tired body.

Too bad the small motherfucker rock poked at the edge of his consciousness, staring from the opposite side of the room.

Not the colossal couple he’d just freed from alabaster. Oh, no, the one giving him attitude was a stupid overgrown pebble slightly smaller than his fist. Why was it even in the house? He’d cut outside, it made no sense for it to be there. “Shut the fuck up,” he grumbled, rubbing exhausted eyes with scarred, dirty hands.

Never a stone’s call had been left unanswered, but… fuck it, it was too much, too soon. He needed time to return human before starting a new project and besides, what could possibly be inside that little piece of shit? A fucking bug? “Fuck off.”

Of course, the nagging didn’t stop.

Ignoring the silent pull to the useless stone, he got up, walked to the other side of the room, picked it up and all but crashed it on his desk. “Better leave it alone, matey. Next time you bug me, I’ll turn you into sable. Ugly fucker.”

Aches pulsed and hissed everywhere; a thin layer of dust, crumble of wax, and sweat covered him, made his skin prickle. For all the good clothes had done to him, he might as well work buck naked next time.

Back in front of the new statue he stood, hands on hips, looking at it–tall and strong, fiercely beautiful in its message of pain. Perfect.

A sudden ray of light stabbed his eyes, made him jerk his head in protection. Fucking morning sun. Or afternoon sun. He had no clue. It was hard to tell the passing of time when he got lost in the wild, strenuous journey into the heart of a rock.

How many days had gone since it had been delivered and he’d started working on it, four? Probably more as not bruising the stone had slowed everything down. He’d heard fireworks in the distance, so Independence Day had come and gone. Hard to say how long had passed after it.

For days he’d eaten bread straight from the plastic bag or some other easy crap when hunger punched his stomach; had drank lukewarm water from bottles scattered everywhere; slept on the couch when he made it so far from the sculpture, although most of the times he’d pass out on the hard floor until discomfort woke him up, and he’d go back at the rock again.

Ah, but what an adventure, he thought with awe as he ran a hand over the side of the sculpted woman.

Now he was done, meaning he didn’t want to have anything to do with stones for the near future.

He took a sharp intake of air when the little rock on his desk poked at his mind again. No clue as to when but at some point, the cleaning crew would come, let’s see how the rock would like it. “If I throw you back on the floor, they will get rid of you. That’s right, they’ll throw you away,” he croaked, his damned throat hurting from not having talked in days.

Aidan sat down, stretched his aching legs in front of him, and tried to lean back on his arms; his muscles screamed in protest. 

Shit, he was in pieces, worse than usual.

Giving up, he laid on the dirty floor and closed his eyes–they scratched like sandpaper.

Bed. He craved a bed more than the next breath. Decent food. A shower. After that, the little stone would stop being a bitch and leave him alone. It was only a fucking pebble, a leftover from the couple and too small to have anything special in it, anyway.

He’d wait five minutes, no more, and he’d get up, order food, hit the shower and, finally, pass out on a real bed. Satisfied with the carved couple, clean, and with a full belly.

Just five more minutes.

 

THE AUTHOR

Beach bum and country music addicted, Viviana lives in a small Floridian town with her husband and her son, her die-hard fans and personal cheer squad. She spends her days between typing on her beloved keyboard, playing in the pool with her boy, and eating whatever her husband puts on her plate (the guy is that good, and she really loves eating). Besides beaching, she enjoys long walks, horse-riding, hiking, and pretty much whatever she can do outside with her family.

 

Find me:

On my website http://www.viviana-mackade.blog/

On FB

On Twitter

Amazon Author page