The 2019 Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards is open for Voting!

I’m so excited! Bishop Takes Knight has been nominated for the Best Romance/Paranormal/Fantasy/Vampires & Shifters category in the PRG’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards! I’m my story is among such great books for consideration!

 

Voting opens today, Jan 10th, and runs through next Friday, Jan 24th. I hope you’ll consider voting for Bishop Takes Knight! It’s a long list of books to scroll through, with a large number of categories, but I appreciate your vote!

Here’s the link–which is a great shopping list for future buys, I might add! 

2019 Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards Ballot

Eeeep! I had the wrong link, but it’s been corrected now, thanks to an eagle-eyed reader! 

The Bodies in the Backyard: Can RWA Be Saved?

Earlier this year, I attended the RWA National Conference for the first time. I’m a relatively new member to the Romance Writer’s Association, but I had a book that was a finalist in one of the awards being announced there, and made the decision to attend at the last minute. I learned a lot during the different panels, met some new and interesting people, and had so much fun that I made plans to attend the 2020 convention this coming summer in San Francisco. 

I tend not to go to the website very often, getting my information through digests instead. I avoid participating in the forums: the one time I initiated a question about how best to market something, I inadvertently ignited a controversy, with the discussion devolving into what constituted a romance–and try as I might, I was unable to get the conversation back on track. The moderator ended up shutting the discussion thread, which was mortifying for me. 

Not an experience I wanted to repeat. I tended to skim the discussions if I read them at all–when you have 800+ emails in your box every day, you have to prioritize.

But I still felt as though there was much to be learned about the business and craft of writing, so I renewed my membership when it came due. 

On Friday, I had a health emergency that screwed with my weekend. On Monday, December 23rd, I was happy just to have survived the weekend and looked forward to having a few days off from work. On Monday, December 23, however, Alyssa Day released on Twitter the bombshell news that Courtney Milan had been censured and banned from the RWA stemming from an ethics complaint against her because she, as a Chinese-American, described a book featuring a half-Chinese woman as a “fucking racist mess” on her own Twitter account, and essentially RWA decided to throw the book at her.

Romancelandia went up in arms at the news, and the backlash against RWA was so great, the organization reversed its position pending further proceedings.

And then things really got ugly.

I’m not going to list the particulars of the case: the charges made by Suzan Tisdale and Karen Lynn Davis (in roles as a publisher and an editor, which should not have been allowed as they were raised as one RWA member against another, or that the bylaws make non-RWA space such as Twitter exempt from such actions). I’m not going to go into detail about the private committee formed to come to this ruling that the general Ethics Committee knew nothing about, or that not all information was presented to the board for voting by the President-elect, Damon Suede. I’m not going to give you a timeline of events showing how, when discrepancies in procedure came to light, a large number of board members resigned in protest of the way in which things were handled, and the other egregious events now being reported: ethics complaints never making it to committee, a chapter refusing to pay AOC the going rate for speaking engagements, RWA members reporting gross failures of other members to abide by the stated rules and never getting called out or censured for it, or RWA’s lack of advocacy on behalf of the authors and contractors of Dreamspinner Press for not paying royalties and narration fees, among others.

I do need to point out, however, that in the wake of Carolyn Jewel’s resignation, Damon Suede is now acting RWA president–and supposedly (by his own admission on social media) is on very good terms with the executive officers of DSP, and is one of their bestselling authors. And that he has a book (at the time of the writing of this post) from Dreamspinner Press listed for sale on Amazon as coming out in January, 2020. If nothing else, this represents a conflict of interest. RWA has been very soft on the issues stemming from Dreamspinner’s actions, only going so far as to prohibit DSP from attending any RWA activities.

If you want all these details, including screenshots, statements from RWA and Damon Suede, and links to the rest, I’d advise you to read this excellent post: The Implosion of the RWA. Everything you need to know is there, and it appears it is being updated as events unfold. If you’re looking for the Cliff Notes version of the situation, this Twitter thread by Cate Eland is pretty spot on as well.

I’ve likened the stench coming off this collective mess to that of gases being released from the surface of a pond where bodies have been dumped for years. There’s no telling how much more will come out, or how many bodies are in there.

And the pond is in our own backyard.

I’ve been reading the posts in the RWA forums in response to this appalling situation. Predictably, the members are taking sides falling among two lines: those that support diversity and inclusion, and those who don’t.

Let me tell you, many of the people who have resigned no longer feel the need to keep silent about the workings of RWA, including the backdoor channels that have allowed certain women, women referred to as Nice White Ladies, to make their complaints, charges, and attacks without repercussion. Among the women who have taken a stand for diversity and inclusion, many have pointed out it is Courtney Milan, a woman on color, who took the blow for being a vocal proponent of change, even as white women making similar statements were not challenged.

There is a lot of anger in the forums. People are livid with the ruling, the machinations behind the scenes to bring it about, and have lost faith and trust in the RWA as a whole. The board members who resigned are all AOC, and suddenly Damon Suede is in a position to appoint a new board without having to go through the election process. People who have poured their heart and soul into making RWA a better organization for all its members are disgusted and discouraged and see no point in staying on for empty promises once again. Many people can point to Courtney Milan as the driving force behind those changes and this feels very much like a public smackdown for her doing so.

The remainder of the members speaking up on these forums have complained about the “drama” (my quotations, not theirs) and express a desire for things to go back to the way they used to be in the Good Ol’ Days when we talked about men’s chests and how to write stories with beautiful blonde-haired blue-eyed heroines. “Can’t we all be nice” is one refrain, along with tone-policing anyone who dares to call out racist, ableist, or anti-GLBT language or attitudes on these threads.

Many have indicated their intent to let their memberships lapse when time for renewal, either because they are tired of the drama or because of the lying, manipulation, and double standards being revealed in this case against Courtney Milan. Many have resigned from their role as judges in the upcoming RITA awards, while others have declared their intention to withdraw their entries from the awards themselves. Still others have made eloquent cases for staying in the organization and forcing it to make things right: petitioning for the resignation of Damon Suede and Executive Director Carol Ritter, and calling for an audit and complete transparency of the proceedings and everything leading up to this moment. Some AOC have advocated staying because leaving is exactly what the Nice White Ladies would like them to do.

I chose to stay for the moment, so I could sign the petition and also vote in any potential future elections to replace the Board. I am of mixed feelings about this. I’m not sure the RWA can be saved. I’m even less sure that it should be saved. What’s going on in RWA feels a lot like what’s been happening with Brexit and the MAGA populations among us: a division down the lines of those who want the Old Way (which always worked for them) to stay in place versus those who will no longer accept anything less than a full seat at the main table with access to the entire meal–as it should be.

I signed the petition because I want answers, and I don’t think we’re going to get them any other way.

It’s hard to justify “both sides” of an argument when one side wants to do active harm to the other. I don’t think immigrants belong in cages. I believe that POC are at higher risk of being incarcerated or killed, face steeper sentencing, and more. And like the Old Guard among the RWA, I think what we got with our current administration here in the US is (in part) a backlash against having an intelligent, articulate, and empathetic black man as President before him. I include this statement because I believe the polarization we are seeing in RWA is but a reflection of what we’re dealing with as a nation–or even the world.

See, the thing is, I fit the Nice White Lady demographic. I’m a white, middle-aged cishet woman who was raised as both a conservative and a Christian. I live in a small rural, conservative town. I live in a cultural and social cocoon that likely would have never been breached had I not discovered fanfic and broadened my narrow horizons. I’ve worked for people who don’t believe in evolution, and think the world is only six thousand years old. I have one black friend. And let me tell you, this doesn’t make me an expert on racism or prevent me from being racist. I’ll never forget the time we were planning to meet to see a movie on a snow day and she casually mentioned her street hadn’t been plowed yet because she lived in a black neighborhood.

I didn’t believe her. I thought she was being paranoid. I thought that battle had been fought and won a long time ago because she had the right to vote, sit anywhere she wanted on the bus, to attend public schools alongside me, and to marry any man she wished (I specifically didn’t say anyone here because at the time, same sex marriage wasn’t an option). I didn’t believe her because I’d never experienced the kind of racism she dealt with on a daily basis. And I never will.

So when a POC tells you, as someone outside their experience, that you’ve gotten something wrong about their experience, the last thing you should do is double down on your wrongness. You don’t point to your degree as a historian, or the amount of research you did on the story. You shouldn’t drum your heels and cry about being called out for using racist scenarios or racist language. You shouldn’t claim that because it was never your intent to be racist, it’s impossible for this to be the case.

Let me put it another way. It doesn’t matter if I intentionally bumped into someone with my car or misunderstood the rules of the road, wasn’t paying attention, or otherwise accidentally hit someone with my car. I still HIT SOMEONE WITH MY CAR. The very fact that some accident victims would still politely point out the injury I caused them is a testament to their character, but they would be completely justified in telling me off and reaming me out for my careless action, even going so far as to press charges and demand reparation for medical expenses, etc.

And if my intent wasn’t malicious, if the action was truly accidental, the victim would still not be obligated to accept my apology.

But I would be obligated to learn the effing rules of the road and abide by them.

So while I’m not yet ready to cancel my license by withdrawing membership from RWA, I’m determined to become a better driver. To educate myself on things that are so ingrained, so innate in my upbringing, that I don’t even realize they are there. Language that may be unintentionally hurtful because it excludes or maligns. Attitudes I never thought about before that impact others on a daily basis. To speak up when I see someone slighted. To welcome when my own instinct is to not make eye contact or speak to anyone I don’t know–that’s my insecurity that can’t be allowed to make someone else think it’s about them. To educate myself on my own shortcomings. To think before reacting.

I’m going to get it wrong at times. I know this because I am of the Nice White Lady demographic. I took a hard look at myself after reading this thread on Twitter by Foz Meadows explaining why NWL get so defensive when called out: it’s because their identity is tied up in being nice and to be told they aren’t nice is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It challenges a NWL on a fundamental level. It’s most likely the basis behind the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, PhD. I don’t know for sure because I haven’t read it yet.

But I will.

 

Snowfall is Featured on DirtyLittlePodcast

Love podcasts? You’ll want to check out dirtylittlepodcast.com: this week my Redclaw universe short story Snowfall is being featured. Narrator Joshua Macrae brings the characters to life with his sultry reading of this story. His dreamy voice is perfect for the main character, celebrity Nicholas Lang, who winds up stranded with workaholic Peyton Grant when his car goes into a ditch on a snowy night. Peyton’s looking for no-strings attached sex, and Nicholas is happy to comply. But when it turns out the two of them have more in common then they think, will it really end with just a one-night stand?

 

I confess, I had a specific actor in mind when I created Nicholas. I’d love it if you listen and take a guess as to who that might be!

Snowfall on dirtylittlepodcast.com

The Panther’s Lost Princess: Now Available on KU #MFRWHooks

When I wrote The Panther’s Lost Princess back in 2017, I was new to indie publishing and new to marketing as well. One of the things I struggled with was ‘elevator pitches’ and short, pithy hooks I could post on Twitter. Mostly because I’m a wordy person,and distilling a story down to a short catch phrase doesn’t come naturally to me.

 

But once I penned this phrase, I knew it was perfect for The Panther’s Lost Princess:

She’s a waitress looking to change her future. What he knows about her past changes everything.

The Panther’s Lost Princess (Redclaw Security Book 1) is now available on KU! Be sure to check it out! 

Want a sneak peek? Here’s an awesome book trailer!

 

 

 

Want to see other terrific books? Follow the hop!

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The Difficulty–and Importance–of Resurrecting Good Habits

A few years ago, I used to take a 30-40 minute walk on a near-daily basis. It was rare for me to miss a day, even when it was bitterly cold. The thing most likely to deter me was extreme heat and humidity (which we get more often than not now). Even then, I made it out there most days.

It wasn’t easy. I work long hours, and in the short time between getting home and going to bed, I have to feed all the livestock, cook and eat dinner, do the routine chores, and hopefully get a little writing done. A daily walk wasn’t virtuous on my part–it was necessary. I had a big high-drive dog who needed the daily exercise to keep him sane enough to wait until my day off to take him for a longer hike. The only way I’d get it done was to walk in the door and go straight to his leash–if I didn’t do it right away on getting home, the chances were much slimmer I’d take him out for the length of time he needed. Especially, after dinner, when exhaustion would kick in. But I made it work because it was necessary.

Fast forward two years: my beloved but difficult dog Sampson succumbed to cancer, and Remington, my current big dog, though young is made of less intense stuff. Remy is also even more heat intolerant than I am, which is saying something. Then back in January, I injured my foot, which exacerbated an old knee problem, and the next thing I knew, I was no longer walking every day. By the time the foot/knee problem improved, I’d gotten out of the habit. I’d gained weight and my fitness was down as well. Now it was the hottest part of the summer and it was just easier to throw the ball for the dog in the shaded yard where he could jump in and out of the water trough at will than it was to force myself to do that daily walk again.

Likewise minding my food choices. See, I have a mild form of acne rosacea, which has gotten progressively worse with age. In my case, while stress is a player, food is definitely a trigger for me. Which means many of the foods I could get away with eating when I was younger are no longer an option. And yet, sometimes I forget that. No, scratch that. Sometimes I choose to ignore the truth. It’s especially hard for me around the holiday season. For me, the worse triggers are cinnamon (sob), cheese (double sob), and wine (bawling now), but also tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes (anything from the nightshade family), vinegar, and citrus. I recently discovered that people with acne rosacea frequently have hypertension too (which makes sense, as rosacea is a vascular problem), which means I’ve had to take wine off the list permanently. Along with caffeine, it sends my blood pressure into the stratosphere. I also seem to be sensitive to gluten and peanut butter, staples of my diet for most of my life. No cheese, no snickerdoodles or apple pie, no wine, no coffee, no chocolate (yep, there’s caffeine there) no bread, no pasta, no peanut butter? Is there really anything left? Anything left I want to eat that is?

Recently on a trip with friends, I choose to ignore my ‘rules’. After all, I’d broken them over and over again without major penalties, right? Only the combined effect of abusing so many rules at once was two days of feeling like crap while I had a major rosacea and hypertensive flare, which left me unable to enjoy my time with my friends. In response, I made a strict effort to eat according to the rules as I knew them, limiting myself largely to roasted chicken and massive salads (no dressing, limited tomatoes) for the rest of my trip.

What I discovered was not only did I calm my current BP and rosacea flare, but I felt better than I’d felt for a while. It made me realize that all that “cheating”, while it hadn’t erupted into an outright flare, was keeping me from feeling my best. From wanting to take the dogs on evening walks. From wanting to do anything more than flop on the couch when I got home from work. Even from writing. Because let me tell you, when you feel like crap, it’s much much harder to be creative.

You know what else is hard? Picking back up your good habits when you’ve fallen off the “habit” wagon. Just like exercise (or writing), practicing a good habit is a muscle that gets stronger with use and weaker with disuse. And when you’re already tired and not feeling well, finding the fortitude to stick to the changes that will make you feel better again isn’t easy. I come back to this point again and again in life: the realization that my current (minor) health issues now must dictate my eating choices, something I’ve resisted mightily ever since I was diagnosed. I drum my heels and wail in protest like a two year old, and yet the only one I’m hurting in all this is me.

I also know without a doubt that if I don’t start, I’ll lose even more ground than I already have. With fitness, with my health, with my writing… and even though I don’t feel as though I have the time to chip away at making these habits part of my life again (seriously, by the time you walk the dogs, and go shopping to keep fresh food in the house, or food prep in advance, and don’t forget that yoga/meditation/prayer–30 minutes here and there adds up to hours you must carve out of your daily schedule), if I want to see change in my life, I have to be the one to make changes.

I used to believe it took 21 days to create a new habit, good or bad, and honestly, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? It’s not even a month. Anyone can manage 21 days. But the truth of the matter is this is a misleading conception: It takes a minimum of 21 days to effectively instill a habit. It can take up to 90 days of regular (ie daily) engagement to make a habit stick.

At first glance, that seems discouraging, I know. After all, I’ve been telling myself I need to get my act in gear for years now. I’ll try for a few weeks–sometimes, depending on how hectic my life is only a few days. Invariably, I slide. But really, the only difference is time. We’ve been taught by too many advertising campaigns to Expect Results in 2 Weeks or Less! It’s just not true, whether we’re trying to institute new habits or return to old ones. No matter what we want to do, whether it’s to change our eating habits or get back into some form of regular activity, or learn a new craft, or improve your current skills–the key is regular practice of the thing in question. So really, the long time course to creating a habit is a good thing. It means I can keep trying and not give up.

I took this photo today and it made me so happy. 🙂

November will soon be upon us, and I know many will dive into NaNoWriMo as a result. Not me, I know that particular pressure isn’t one I need in my life right now. However, I fully intend to take advantage of all the great articles and conversations surrounding NaNo, and hope to make daily writing another one of those habits I pick back up again.

Today, I started with throwing out some of the trigger foods I know are problematic for me. Others, like the unopened jars of peanut butter, I’ll donate to food banks. I also took the dogs for a nice long walk in the woods, and though I’m a little stiff tonight, I managed without the pain I feared the activity would trigger. I ate a relatively healthy dinner too. Now I’m going to sit down with the WIP.

You don’t have to run a half marathon, go on a radical diet, or force 10 K words out of yourself in a single afternoon to call it progress. Slow, steady, and regular wins the habit-making race.

A Good Story vs Good Writing

I learned to love books at a very young age. My mother and grandmother both read to me, and the time spent in their laps, following the words on the page, soon taught me how to interpret those words on my own. Growing up in a house full of books, I was never at a loss for something to read. By the time I was six, I was reading books on the sixth grade level. From loving books, it was only a short step to wanting to tell my own stories.

And I did. I wrote stories similar to those I’d read about things I loved, illustrating them with laboriously colored drawings as well. Well into my teens, going to a library was an exciting event. The Scholastic Book Fair was the best day of the school year. To this day, my idea of a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon is to go to a bookstore.

But somewhere along the line, I gave up on my dream of becoming a writer as something impossible for the average storyteller to achieve. By the time I left college, I was focused first on my career, and later juggling a family with being a professional. I wrote short stories for fun every now and then, but they were few and far between.

Then one day, I discovered online fanfiction archives. Suddenly I realized there were thousands of people just like me who loved to tell stories about their favorite characters. I became obsessed with fandom, cranking out story after story. After a lifetime of suppressing my creativity, the stories poured out of me in a flood. I wrote for the sheer joy of it and the fun of interacting with like-minded fans. For years I read nothing but fanfic, completely immersed in the delights of finding stories that were tailor made for me.

I never let the fact I was a neophyte storyteller stop me. I wasn’t swayed by the fact there were far better writers in my fandoms. I was in love with my characters, and that joy carried me through any confidence of crisis.

The confidence I learned in fandom gave me the courage to try my hand at original fiction after a lifetime of doubting it was possible to become a writer. It just so happened that this was about the same time when e-readers suddenly made publishing within the reach of a lot of people, and small presses were eager to take a chance on new authors. When I made the transition to writing original stories, I continued writing fanfiction at first, but gradually I began leaving fandom behind. My shows went off the air, and I had trouble finding other shows I wanted to write in. More importantly, however, I became invested in my original characters. I only had so much time to write and it seemed stupid to “waste” good ideas on fanfic when they lent themselves to the original stories bubbling inside of me.

But as I’ve said before, when you’re learning a skill set, every time you move up a level, the work gets harder. There’s less fun, especially when you know things should be done in a specific way and what you did before no longer passes muster. These days I’m working with critique partners and tough editors who push me to write cleaner prose and with more efficient style. Don’t get me wrong; I love the input from these sources. I’m a better writer now than when I started ten years ago.

But those same critical voices, the ones that tell me to eliminate adverbs and cut out unnecessary verbiage, and strive for active constructions in my writing are the same voices that often leave me staring at a blinking cursor for hours at a time, struggling to create a sentence that won’t embarrass me. I find myself massaging the same text over and over again because my natural style is wordy and breezy and it needs a fair amount of editing to be presentable to the public at large.

It’s a bit like taking a pony out for a gallop across an open field once you know all the pitfalls and dangers of doing so. When you know about the rabbit holes, and you think about how breaking an arm will mess up your life, it makes it a bit harder to simply clap your heels against your pony’s flanks and let her take the bit in her teeth and run.

Back when I was learning to ride in group lessons at a barn, once a year when we trooped into the arena, we were told it was Broom Polo Day. Instead of trotting sedately around the ring, following one another in line as we popped over a little cross rail or practiced our equitation, we were handed brooms and directed to chase down a large rubber ball, smacking it between goal posts that had been arranged at either end of the arena.

It was insane. We became fiends as we clung to our ponies necks, throwing ourselves into a vicious melee, bouncing our ponies off each other as we crowded in for a hit. We chased the ball from one end of the arena to the other, howling like demons. The ponies got into it too, running flat out at our direction, spinning on a dime to make a course change, letting us hang off their sides as we swung down for a stinging hit. I suspect never in a million years would we be allowed to play Broom Polo these days, but back then we loved it. And the best part was we never knew when Broom Polo Day would appear. One day we were practicing our positions, remembering to keep our heels down and shoulders back, and the next, for one glorious hour a year, we rode like we were Centaurs–at one with the horse. It was a sneaky way of teaching us riding wasn’t always about looking pretty.

This past weekend, instead of struggling with the barely started WIP that already needed to have a plot hole fixed, I accepted the plea of a friend to pinch hit in a fandom fest. Though rusty as hell and not convinced I could even portray the characters I loved so that a fan would recognize them, I sat down at the laptop to pound out the required word count for the fest, only to end up with twelve times as many words as I needed. I won’t say it was effortless, but it might as well have been compared to the difficulty I’ve had writing lately.

What was the difference?

I was having fun. It was Broom Polo Day, but for writing.

And it taught me something very important. Sometimes it’s okay just to play. To throw off the restrictions of rules and “this is what you should do” and just let ‘er rip. And no, I’m not going to go back to reading and writing fanfic the way I did at the height of my obsession. But I will remember sometimes you need to focus on telling the story first before you worry about how well you’re telling that story. That the first draft is galloping toward the ball and smacking it with glee across the arena. It’s the second, third, and fourth drafts that let us look pretty while sending that ball through the goal posts.

So my advice to myself in these coming weeks? It’s okay to bang the story out sometimes without paying as much attention to the rules. Sometimes it’s the best way to get back in the groove when you’ve lost your mojo. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun and ride like a demon. You can always go back to sitting up and pretty when the time comes.

Praise for Ghost of a Chance and Bishop Takes Knight! #MFRWHooks

 

Well, it happened again–I’m pleased to announce Ghost of a Chance (Redclaw Security, Book 2) is a finalist in the 2019 Independent Author Network Awards!

It was also a finalist in the 2019 Bookseller’s Best Awards, and Redclaw Security came in third for Best Shifter/Vampire series in the 2018 Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewers Choice Awards!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And The Romance Reviews gave Bishop Takes Knight (Redclaw Origins, Book 1) a five star review, naming it as one of their Top Picks!

The Romance Review
 

October 18th is also the last day to enter my Bishop Takes Knight Rafflecopter Giveaway–be sure to check it out! There’s still time to enter!

 

 

 

 

In the meantime, The Panther’s Lost Princess (Redclaw Security, Book 1) is now available on KU again!

 

Looking for other great reads? Follow this Book Hooks link for more romances right up your alley!

Bishop Takes Knight: Book Tour and Giveaway!

What a whirlwind this day has been! Work was the usual hectic scene, but today was also the launch of Bishop Takes Knight, the first book in the Redclaw Origins series! The response so far has been enthusiastic. I’ve already received a glowing 5 star review from the Paranormal Romance Guild

 

I’m also doing a book tour and giveaway with Silver Dagger Book Tours. Check out the tour for your chance to enter to win the reader’s choice from my backlist and a chance at an Amazon gift card!

 

 
Bishop Takes Knight
Redclaw Origins Book 1
by McKenna Dean
Genre: Paranormal Romance
 
 
New York, 1955. Former socialite Henrietta (“Rhett”) Bishop,
destitute after her father gambles away the family fortune, takes a
job at Redclaw Security. But Redclaw is no ordinary operation. Part
detective firm and part enforcement agency, Redclaw regulates matters
involving the growing population of shifters who have emerged since
the onset of the nuclear age.
 
Peter Knight is a nuclear scientist shattered by the death of his wife.
Blacklisted by the government and scientific organizations, he drowns
his sorrows while searching for the people behind his wife’s murder.
 
When Rhett is assigned to recruit Knight, their meeting is more than
either bargained for—a rival organization will do anything to
secure Knight for themselves. Following a lead to locate a missing
cache of alien technology stolen from Redclaw, Rhett is thrown back
into her previous glittering life with Knight as her pretend
boyfriend. But when someone from the past turns up to start a bidding
war on the artifacts, Bishop and Knight wind up in a fight for their
very lives.
 
 
 
 
 
McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a
biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at
the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza
parlor slinging dough. Finally she realized all these jobs were just
a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.
She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, as well as
the assorted dogs, cats, and various livestock.
She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are.
Like tea bags, only sexier.
 
 
 
 
Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!
 
 
 
 

Couples Series Romance: What is it and why do we want it?

Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man movies. Remington Steele and Laura Holt. Jonathan and Jennifer Hart (does anyone remember Hart to Hart but me??) The Scarecrow and Mrs.King. Maddie Hayes and David Addison. Rick Castle and Kate Beckett.

What do they all have in common? Couples that banter their way into a relationship while solving crimes.

I love this trope. It’s my personal catnip.

While I love romance stories, I love action and adventure, too. I love mysteries, science fiction, and paranormal stories. I WANT IT ALL.

And I can get it with stories that combine these elements. Even better, when I fall hard for a particular couple, I want to spend more time with them. I want to go on a series of adventures with them. I love watching them meet, seeing the sparks fly, longing for them to get together—but I also believe the story needn’t end when they fall in love or say “I do.”

Granted, I think a TV show that’s built entirely on UST takes a big risk of imploding once the characters finally get together. (I’m looking at you, Moonlighting.) I want to see progression of the relationship, but I also believe it’s possible for the relationship to continue to be interesting and relevant after the couples are an established pair.

It’s like when I first began reading fanfic. I concentrated heavily on first-time stories until I found my OTP, and then all of the sudden, I couldn’t get enough of that pairing. I wanted MOAR, and I didn’t care if they were just meeting for the first time or celebrating their 50th anniversary together. I wanted to spend time with that couple in their universe.The more stories, the better.

From a storytelling perspective, I think writing established relationships is tougher than first times. In part because we romance readers are geared toward Happily Ever After being the end of the story—and I’m not saying romances shouldn’t have HEAs or Happily for Now endings! Far from it! What I’m saying is it’s harder to depict a happy couple as having the kinds of conflicts that make their continued stories interesting.

But it’s what I crave.

I wish I knew how to categorize these stories. Are they considered romances? Genre-based stories with romantic elements? I don’t know. To me, they are romances, even if the genre storyline is a somewhat bigger player than the love story. I know people will argue with me on that point, and I get it. The general rule of thumb which says “if you can remove the romantic elements from the story and it doesn’t fall apart means it’s not a romance” holds true for the most part.

Except when you get hooked on a pairing. 

For me, all bets are off if I fall for a couple. I’m going to eat up their series with a spoon because in addition to fighting mages/shifters/criminals/ and solving the crime/murder at the village fete/mystery surrounding buried treasure, I’m there for watching my couple trade witty comebacks and do their mating dance. And I don’t care if it takes a couple of books to get there, as long as I can see that it will.

Take Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I only recently started this series, but even I can see where things are headed between Kate and the Beast Lord. I’m enjoying watching these two powerful beings battle it out as they move closer together, loving the little hints (and clues left in plain sight) as they dance their way toward a committed relationship. I got my husband hooked on the series as well, and one of the things he likes about it is that the characters are working their way toward love.

Finding the love people have for this series has lead me to start the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh. And every time I find a new-to-me series that features a long, slow dance between the lead couple, I fist bump the air and go, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Mind you, I want to know my “pair” will get together. Extra points if the first story ends with them in each other’s arms. I’m just saying if I can see the pairing coming, I’m willing to give it some time, too.

Recently, I had a conversation with fellow paranormal romance and urban fantasy author Jenna Barwin about her own Hill Vampire series, which includes her 2019 Rone Award Nominee, Dark Wine at Sunrise. I asked her what drew her to write a couples series?

She said, “I write a paranormal romance couple series because I love that genre! As a reader, when I fall in love with a couple, I don’t want their story to end at getting engaged or married, I want to see how their “happily ever after” plays out over the long term, long after they say “I do.”

The Hill Vampire series features an exclusive community of winemaking vampires and their mortal mates. They live on vineyard estates in the Sierra Escondida foothills.

My Hill Vampire series follows the romantic relationship of Cerissa and Henry, who, along with other members of their community, are trying to stop the vampire dominance movement (VDI), a vampire conspiracy that is determined to kill the leaders of Sierra Escondida and take over. The VDM plans a political coup, and once the path is cleared, will turn mortals into blood slaves. So it’s equal parts steamy romance and paranormal mystery/suspense. The mystery/suspense plot is strong enough to satisfy urban fantasy readers, and the romance between Cerissa and Henry is hot enough to satisfy romance readers.

The series begins with Dark Wine at Midnight, in which research scientist Cerissa Patel must find a way to save humanity from a vampire conspiracy without revealing what’s hidden beneath her skin. But her cover story isn’t enough to fool vampire Henry Bautista—he’s dark, dangerous, and will do anything to protect his town, including stopping her.”

So you can see, I have another series to add to my TBR list!!

As for me, I’m trying my hand at writing my own couples series: Redclaw Origins. If you’ve read my books, you know the Redclaw Security series features a new pair in each book, with cameos from previous books and introductions of future characters as well. Redclaw is an elite paranormal agency tasked with investigating matters in the shifter realm as well as securing dangerous artifacts that became active at the same time shifters began making a widespread appearance.

In Redclaw Origins, I introduce Bishop and Knight: two humans hired by the recently formed Redclaw Security to be its newest secret agents. Bishop Takes Knight opens in 1955, and the advent of nuclear technology has triggered the activation of latent shifter genes in an unsuspecting population, while at the same time activated powerful alien tech. Rhett Bishop and Peter Knight proved to be such a delightful pair, I knew I wanted more of their adventures together.

I also have another planned couples series in the Redclaw Universe: The Better Off Red series, which will concentrate on a single team within Redclaw, the Major Shifter Crimes Division, and its lead investigator Morgan Delaney. When Morgan butts heads with her boss’s half-brother, Rian Stirling, over a series of shifter murders, she must resist the pull of fated mates and the appearance of a conflict of interest while she hunts down the real killers.

Of course, this means I need to get cracking on the next book, right? Right. But I’m smiling as I envision all the trials and tribulations I’m going to put my couples through before they get their HEA.

 

 

 

 

Feeling Guilty over Joy When the World is on Fire

photp by Ashutosh Sonwani pexels.com

TW for frightening world news events and the despair they cause. (I promise I’ll make it better, though)

 

 

I have a new book coming out this week, and I gotta tell you.

Most days it feels wrong to talk about it.

I’m not the only one. I think when you take the natural reticence many authors have about self-promotion and add it to the fact most days, the world news is a dumpster fire, it’s difficult to feel right about promoting something as trivial as a new book, or celebrating any event in your life. What if you line up a bunch of timed social media releases, and they hit your timeline on the same day of some horrific event? I don’t know about you, but something like that makes me cringe inside. If that happened, I’d rush off and delete the rest of any planned posts and downplay my book news.

And yet, as of the first of this month, there have been more mass shootings in the US than there have been days in the year. It’s fair to say it’s nigh unto impossible to avoid releasing your doves of happy news on a day when nothing bad has happened. Not a day goes by when we don’t learn of fresh horror: be it rampant, unchecked government corruption (honestly, there are too many stories to link here), the acceleration of climate change, the news that the same insecticides killing the bees are also affecting songbirds, another dozen stories on racial injustice, or whatever hits the news that day. With today’s social media, it’s easier than ever to connect to world events, whether or not the reporting is accurate.

Recently, I wrote a blog post about a reporter who attended a romance conference under false pretenses in order to blast the industry and those who work in it. A point this so-called journalist kept making was that these authors came together to “peddle their soft porn” while “the Amazon burns.” Essentially, she compared romance authors to Nero fiddling while Rome burned (another case of history being written by the victors).

The article by this journalist seeking a free weekend away from her kids enraged many romance readers and writers alike. And for me, it pointed out one glaring hole in her argument about the frivolousness and uselessness of romance stories: as long as the Amazon burns, ANYTHING someone takes pleasure in counts as a selfish waste of time. That includes taking your kids to Little League, being excited about a new job, sharing your vacation pictures online, or seeing the latest blockbuster movie. By this standard, there should be no sports fans, no knitting groups, no book clubs. Why bother getting a new puppy or kitten; we’re all going to die.

Problem is, that holds true regardless if the end is 20 minutes or 200 years from now. Sneering at romance is simply more acceptable than belittling diehard football fans.

Face it, “the Amazon burns” is the perfect metaphor for human civilization as a whole right now. Moderating climate change should be our greatest priority, but that requires a whole chain of events, including putting people in power who believe in science and prioritize global concerns instead of lining their pockets. To take pleasure in the little things in life isn’t a repudiation of making things better in the world.

It helps.

It reminds us the world is worth saving, that people are worth saving. That there are good things in this world, worth sharing with others.

On a more practical level, our social media interconnectedness, while great for sharing things, can also make us more anxious and depressed. And for many, reading is a stress-reducing activity as powerful, if not more so, than meditation. I know this to be true. Without even realizing it, I stumbled upon this a few years ago. I work long hours at a high-stress job, and while I’ve always been a big reader, I desperately needed to spend my 20 minute lunch break with a book each day. If I’m behind my book, don’t talk to me. Don’t expect me to answer work-related questions. I’m the taxi driver sitting at the wheel with the OFF DUTY sign engaged. That twenty minutes absorbed in a story is twenty minutes in which my brain has disengaged from a vicious cycle of worry and anxiety. And I can take a deep breath and come back to slog through the rest of the day’s problems.

The truth is, regardless of whether the world is on fire, we still have to go to work, raise our kids, take care of our elderly parents, deal with relationship issues or that cancer diagnosis, decide if we should take the promotion that moves us across country, and mow the lawn. We still have to live our lives and living without joy is no way to live at all.

So I say, revel in your vacation photos to the Grand Tetons. Celebrate your daughter’s win at the science fair or your son’s award in the local talent contest. Post your puppy pictures and make someone smile. Learn to crochet. Share images of that crafting project you finally completed. Go out to that anniversary dinner. Laugh with friends over a movie. Live-Tweet your favorite TV show or the book you’re reading.

And don’t be afraid to promote your art. It might be exactly the thing that helps someone get through their day.