Wednesday, June 28, 2017

For the Love of Wolves by Barbara Edwards

I love wolves. I think I’ve loved them since I was a child. 
Why?
I don’t really know except I was fascinated by their beautiful faces and intelligent eyes.
Wolves are interesting if you take the time to study them.
They are monogamous. A single mate for life. Which means they are more faithful than many humans.
In a pack, the alpha male and his mate will have the first litter if there is enough food to support pups. In an abundant area, the other pairs will have litters in order of dominance. Wow. Who would believe wild animals practice birth-control?
wolves hunt as a pack. They will take turns running down a deer or moose. Each wolf resting between runs. 
Wolves were almost decimated by cattle ranchers in the Western states when they were blamed for large numbers of deaths in the young animals. A bounty was given for the scalp. A nasty reminder of the Indian wars.
Recently wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and the pack is thriving. When we visited we were told it was very unusual to see them. they are extremely shy. To my shock, my husband was driving one of the forest roads when a wolf crossed the road in front of our truck. I had the camera in my hand and was too surprised to snap a photo.
The love of wolves is probably the reason why I love the werewolf pack in my Rhode End Series. I’ve based their pack law on the real wolves loyalty and intelligence.

Check out Ancient Blood 

After narrowly escaping a stalker’s vicious attack, Lily Alban is left with the ability to see human auras. After moving to the tiny hamlet of Rhodes End, she finally feels safe, and against her better judgment, falls in love. But she soon discovers the man she loves is not a man at all. As a botanist, werewolf Cole Benedict has dedicated his life to researching healing herbs to find a cure for Lycanthropy. He resists his attraction to Lily to protect her from the beast inside him. But when Lily’s stalker threatens her again, he’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep her safe. Even if that means embracing the instincts of his wolf. Together they must use extraordinary gifts to catch Lily's stalker before he attacks again. But will revealing their inner-most secrets to one another destroy their growing love or save them both? 

Ancient Blood (Finding Rhodes End Book 2) 
by Barbara Edwards is available 
Link: http://a.co/6mOWH09



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Solstice Rituals: There's Still Time to Light Your Fire Wheel by L. A. Kelley

Greetings Earth Mothers and Fathers. There's still time to light your fire wheel.

The movement of the sun during the course of the year held particular fascination for the ancients. Rites of renewal often involved the different solstices. Named from the Latin words for sol (sun) and sistere (to cease), the solstices occurred during times when  the sun appeared to magically stop one progression and begin another. The summer solstice in the northern hemisphere is on June 20.  On that day the sun reaches the highest point in the sky, signaling the start of the hottest days of year, followed by more rapid crop growth, and an eventual harvest to fend off starvation. Not without proper mystical intervention, of course.

Pagan beliefs
The summer solstice held the most importance to pagan or nature worshipping religions, and they spanned the globe.  Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Vikings, Native Americans, and Druids among many others had celebrations linked to the longest day of the year. They often encompassed wild abandonment and fertility rituals (rather like spring break today). Ancient Greeks marked the solstice with a festival of Cronus consisting of feasts, games, and the strange tradition of having slaves served by their owners for a day. In ancient Rome, the festival marked the only time married women could enter the temples of the vestal virgins to make offerings to Vesta, the goddess of hearth and home. In Chinese mythology, the summer solstice was a time to celebrate yin (femininity) and earth. As the Catholic Church attempted to lure pagans to its beliefs, it adopted June 24 as the festival of the nativity of St. John the Baptist, appealing to ancient beliefs and encompassing the theme of birth.

Summer solstice festivals in Great Britain's pagan times often involved fire. Flames, smoke, and ashes were believed to have purification powers to drive away evil spirits and protect homes, families, livestock, and crops. Hence the continued use of burning palms on Ash Wednesday. Rituals also involved singeing horses or cattle with embers or driving them through the smoke to invoke magical protection. One of the more bizarre practices is still done for tourists.  Locals roll a giant flaming wheel down a hillside and (hopefully) into a lake and not the neighbor’s barn. The wheel is stuffed with straw or hay. Pagans believed if it rolled all the way to the bottom and into the water the harvest would be good. If it didn’t make it or skewed off the path, the harvest would be bad, and probably make the neighbor with the burning barn come after you with a pitchfork.

Changes in Sunlight and Psychology
Psychological reasons may also explain why the summer solstice holds such importance. A lack of sunlight has long been associated with increased depression. Scientific American reported on a study of tweets done in 2011. Researchers looked at random tweets and analyzed them for emotional content as a function of the time of day, the day of the week, and the amount of actual daylight (i.e., the season). They found the amount of daylight was not as important as the relative change in that daylight. Meaning that when the change was positive (days grow longer), people expressed more positive views. When the change was negative (days grow shorter), attitudes soured.

Myths Associated with the Summer Solstice

  • The seasons change because of the Earth's distance from the sun
The Earth rotates around the sun in a fairly regular orbit and the closest point is during the winter. Seasons change because of the Earth’s tilt on its axis. In the summer, the Earth tilts toward the sun bringing more warmth to the surface, while in the winter, it's tilts away.


  • Summer solstice is the overall hottest day of the year
The solstice brings the most light, but not the most heat.


  • On the summer solstice an egg will balance upright on a table.
Actually, you can do this anytime. Shake a raw egg until the yolk breaks inside the shell. Place the egg back in the carton. Once the yolk settles to the bottom of the shell it will stand upright because more weight is at the bottom. Now, invite family and friends into the room, recite mystical mumbo jumbo about the summer solstice, and place the egg upright on the table. Try not to laugh at their stupefied expressions.



L. A. Kelley writes fantasy/science fiction adventures with humor, romance and a touch of sass. She was cast out of the local druid chapter for admitting summer is her least favorite time of year. Check out the books on her Amazon Author Page.






Monday, June 26, 2017

Getting The Details Right

When writing a paranormal fantasy you have the great potential to create your own worlds. You can walk around in it. Create new acquaintances, and make new friends and allies. You’re comfortable in your own skin and your imagination has no limits. I love those kinds of stories.

My stories are paranormal historical, primarily written in the medieval time, and you have to get the details right. You have to learn the customs, the food, clothing and traditions. It all comes down to research. Sometimes it takes more time to do the research than actually writing the story, but those details help to create the story. Not to say that my characters don’t break convention. What fun would that be if they didn’t? They are led by need and desires that would make the church blush.

My contemporary suspense is set in Chicago. I literally have to walk the streets of downtown to get the culture of a big city, what it smells like, look like, and feel like. Crossing a city street is a talent all its own. My favorite time to be in Chicago is during the Christmas season. The lights, the smell of coffee coming out of the coffee shops, and the smell of food as it puffs out the restaurant doors as patrons go in and out.

I’m working on a time travel story now, and I get to use everything I learned from both time lines and combined them together. I have copious notes of both medieval Europe and present day Chicago. All the research I did is helping this story move much more quickly and allows me to compare and contrast the two times periods and explore their differences and the conflict it creates between the hero and the heroine.

The heroine finds herself in the middle of the woods after being chased through a portal by two drug dealers. When men in armor ride up to her she thinks she had somehow found herself at a renaissance fair. She was unaware she had actually traveled back in time.
Here is a little taste of Quin and Grace’s first meeting.

Thank God, somebody who can help me. A group of men were wearing chainmail and metal helmets.
Grace let out a chuckle. “Sorry,” she said as she raised her hand. “I don’t mean to laugh, but you guys look great. Your costumes look so authentic. You’ve taken the medieval thing to a whole new level. Is the renaissance fair nearby?”
One of the men stepped down from his horse. The others moved around her in a tight circle. When he removed his helmet Grace’s heart tripped up. He had to be most beautiful man she ever saw in her whole life. Like Chris Hemsworth in the Thor movie. His blond hair fell just below his shoulders. Even though he was covered in chainmail there was no hiding the strong body beneath it. All he needed was his hammer. He was something right out of a romance novel.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?”
First thought. Handsome or not, what a jerk! There was no Hello, or are you lost, can I help you in some way, just ‘Who are you?’ like I stepped on his cat.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize I was trespassing” She said curtly. “Can you tell me where I can find the nearest road?” She raised her phone over her head to see it still reading ‘No Service.’
“Do you guys get cell service out here? I can’t seem to get any bars.” The ringing of metal scraping metal set her teeth on edge. Handsome had his sword pointed it at her chest.
“Give me the box.”
“Not on your life,” she said, pressing her phone to her chest.
“I assure you it won’t be my life. Now hand me the box.”
He towered over her, but most people did since she was only five-two. She gave up her resolve then slapped the phone in his hand. “Fine. Happy now?”
His stone like expression made her wary. “Your bag.”
“What is this, a hold up?” Stone silence. She blew out a puff of air and slid the bag off her shoulder and handed it to him. He in turn tossed it to one of the men behind her. “Hey! Be careful with that. It has my computer in it.” She turned back to him. “Now what? You have my things.”
He looked her up and down. Not in a creepy way, but like he was sizing up a sandwich. “You are oddly dressed.”
“It’s called jeans and a leather jacket. Look I’m not interested in your little roll playing game. All I want are directions out of here and you can give me back my things and  carry on with your reenactment, thing.”
Suddenly, two arrows thumped down at her feet Thor didn’t hesitate. He picked her up and threw her in the saddle and jumped on behind her. The small band of men broke their circle and flanked them on both sides.
Arrows came out of nowhere. “What is going on?” she yelled
“An ambush.”
“You mean those arrows are real?”
“Why would you question that?”
“Right now I can’t think of, why.”
He pressed her head down and lowered his body around her like a shield. Her heart beat like a jackhammer. The saddle pressed against her hip. This wasn’t as comfortable as it looked on TV. “I’m tired of this game. You’ve had your fun, now let me go!” She tried to shift herself in position to jump but he held her too tightly.
“Sit still, woman, I am trying to save your life.”
“Knock it off, or I’ll press charges for kidnapping. Now let me go!”

If there was a time you could go back to where would it be?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Fall In Love All Over Again . . . For The First Time by Nancy Gideon


How often have we wished to recapture that first glow of love that the passing of time seems to tarnish? When I brought back my "By Moonlight" fan favorite couple, Max and Cee Cee, who anchored the series with the initial four books, after teasing readers with peek-a-boo appearances in the four book "Shadows" spin off books, I realized a lot of time had passed (almost 7 years!) since they steamed up the pages to reviewer raves, and new readers hardly knew them at all. So, in keeping with where the plotline was taking the series, I brought my fav couple back . . . to fall in love all over again when she rescues him from the hands of their enemies only to find out they'd stolen his memories . . . in REMEMBERED BY MOONLIGHT, my first self-pubbed book. I loved everything about it - control over story, cover, promotions, blurb - everything (an OCD dream come true!) and especially returning this magical pair, my shapeshifter bad boy and his take no prisoners NOPD detective mate. Here's a tease . . . (and for how this scene begins, skip over to my MAIN BLOG for today's post.)
Excerpt


“I’m sorry.”

In lieu of explanation, Cee Cee simply leaned into him, resting her cheek upon his broad back, slipping her other arm about his waist in a loose circle. Her palm rode his slow, even breaths. For a long moment, he didn’t move, then his voice rumbled like distant thunder.

“Whatchu sorry about, cher?”

“For taking things for granted.”  She sighed then just let go of all the confusion. “I’m so used to you getting me.  You’re the only one who does.  You know me better than I know myself.  You’ve always been one step ahead, knowing what I want, what I need,  just the right things to do or say. I never had a connection like that to anyone else. Not to my father who I thought walked on water, not to Babineau who’s had my back on the street for years, not even Mary Kate who shared all my secrets. None of them understood the things I kept in my closet.”

Silence, then a husky, “What do you have in your closet that you only shared with me?”

She chuckled and gave him a swat. “Not a literal closet, Savoie.”

“Oh. Forgive me for thinking naughty thoughts. You tend to inspire them, sha.”

Her arm tightened about him as he lifted her other hand to his lips for a light stroke.

“It’s where we locked away our fears, our darkness, our pain. We’d just started to do some serious housecleaning together when—I lost you.”

“You haven’t lost me, Charlotte. I’m right here.”

“I know you are.” Her voice hitched slightly. “It’s just so hard, Max. So hard to be with you and still feel so far apart. To expect things that aren’t returned. Silly things like a joke that only we understand. Signals that aren’t received. I feel like I’m standing on the outside again, and I know it has to be the same for you.  I tend to forget that I’m not the only one frustrated here. I’ve been too focused on my own situation to consider yours. That’s why I’m sorry. I want us to be in this together, not standing apart and alone.  I don’t want to lose you, Max. I can’t go through the pain of that again.”

He turned, releasing her hand so his could cup her cheek in his palm.  His thumb brushed away the tears that threaded through rain drops. His features were drawn in dramatic plays of light and shadow, his eyes bright, the only splash of vivid color upon that stark palette. He was breathtaking, and hers was gone. She held herself still and left herself open, something she’d never been able to do with anyone but him.  She didn’t try to hide to her vulnerability. Or her longing.


“I’m not going anywhere, Charlotte.”

And being self-pubbed, this OCD freak has control of the price, too. So through June 30, REMEMBERED BY MOONLIGHT is ON SALE for only $1.99 as part of my "FROM MIDNIGHT TO MOONLIGHT" price slashing tour. What a great chance to jump into a new series (or two)!! And as a bonus, I'm also giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to a lucky tour follower (hop over to the TOUR PAGE for deets).


T
wo series to sink your teeth into - Vampires AND Shapeshifters all at a low, low price.

If you need more convincing, here's a visual behind the scenes look at REMEMBERED BY MOONLIGHT . . .



Happy Summer and Happy Reading!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nancy Gideon on the Web



Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Between Places

Last weekend I trekked to the V Bar V Ranch for Summer Solstice. This little-known site, in the Verde Valley near Sedona, is one of the largest and best preserved petroglyphs in Arizona.


But I go specifically on the morning of the longest day of the year.

The sun rises over the top of the rock wall, and an annual miracle occurs. Bands of light pass between two rocks and illuminate specific points in the figures permanently etched in the stone. The petroglyph art is positioned so that when the sunlight hits a specific line carved in the rock, it coincides with the start of the planting season. 

For the Sinagua Indians living in this arid land nearly a thousand years ago, this was their calendar.

The growing season was tricky. Plant too soon and the corn crop would shrivel and dry before the monsoons. Plant too late and the kernels would not have time to ripen.

Timing was everything.

My visit to V Bar V on the day of equal light and dark reminds me to keep a balance in my own life. To resist wasting my time auditioning for others: parents, teachers, employers, lovers, strangers, and friends. To stay true to myself and to Nature.

I yearn to balance dark and light, the way the earth balances day and night. The shadow has its reasons and seasons, and brings us important lessons to learn. We must know when we are way out of balance, have had enough, are stagnated, or need emotional rescue of a practical nature.

Maybe you are oriented on your path by a set of rules you didn’t make. Or maybe you coast along because it’s so difficult to change course, regardless of what strongly held beliefs that course is violating.

Can you can recall a moment when you stood at a crossroads, a point where opposites met and a choice was required: dark or light, joy or sorrow, right or wrong, be silent or speak out. Fight or flee. Do--or don’t do.

According to Goddess Mother Nature, we are now standing at one of those crossroads. Next week, the world will literally begin filling with darkness, as the wheel turns toward winter. Today we stand at the world’s still center and survey which path to choose.

The Sinaguas had their map, revealed to them at the proper time. Like the ancients, I don’t look for paths, they will seek me out. That’s what is so exhilarating about these in-between days. They are the creative nexus at which vision and craft come together.

Feel your power! Create. Let your poetry, song, art, new love or inspiration uncoil from its hidden domain and fill your core.

The between places are not horrible or frightening. They are thresholds for awakening, if the soul is alert and watchful for omens of change.

And yes, timing is important.

So look in the mirror. Meet the eyes you see there directly, because they belong to the only person in this world you can truly change.  Be attentive to the thresholds and boundaries of your life—the places where metamorphosis occurs—and find the lines you should erase and re-draw.

How will you transform in the remaining year?

_______________________________________




















Sandy Wright lives in Arizona with her husband, a super-smart Border Collie/Aussie mix named Teak, and two huge black panther cats (18 pounds each), named Salem and Shadow Moon. Their daddy, Magick, was even bigger! He's featured in her debut novel, Song of the Ancients, the first book in her paranormal suspense series, Ancient Magic.
Her debut novel involves witchcraft and Native American medicine magic. It's set in the energy-laden town of Sedona, Arizona.  
Sedona is but one earth "power site" in the world. The Ancient Magic series will travel to unravel mysteries at other sacred sites. The second book, tentatively titled Stones of the Ancients, takes us to the ancient standing stones of Scotland, where the author gets to trace her own heritage next month while researching the book. The series continues to Hawaii to learn about Pele, the Goddess of fire and volcanos. Book four  will conclude the Ancient Magic series somewhere along the ancient icy land bridge of the First People, either in Newfoundland or Alaska.  
Book 1, Song of the Ancients is available now on Amazon, in both print and ebook. Book Two, Stone of the Ancients, will be available early 2018.


Friday, June 23, 2017

The First Ever Mate

The First Ever Mate-Match  by Francesca Quarto

 "It's no matter, my pet.  One day you'll find yourself besieged with offers of marriage.  A dear girl like you, with a  heart as big as the sky above!  Here, have another cake, love."
Her mother's answer to any challenge in life was a sweetie of some sort.  Plagued by worries about her continued spinsterhood, Corina feared her girth might soon match her dark moods.
"Mother, I am no longer willing to sit about, waiting for a suitable man to come banging on the gate, asking for the opportunity to bring me flowers and candies and pallid conversation!
I shall no longer spend my time trying to entertain braggarts, brutes and banal bumpkins!"
She stormed out of the room leaving her mother with mouth ajar, and the maid snickering behind a well-mannered hand.
Corina went straight to her rooms, asked a servant to bring her paper and pen and began to write on the creamy parchment.
"Seeking This Gentleman For Potential Loving Relationship~~ Description as follows:  
Highly intelligent, good wit, patient beyond sainthood, tolerable story-teller, intolerant of fools and braggarts, loving of the Creator's natural world, respectful of all persons, no matter their gender.  Appearance NOT relevant...Demeanor is all.  The Lazy and Arrogant need NOT apply."
Lady Corina Forthright
Handing this off to the loitering maidservant, she gave her a small coin, along with the notice.
"I want you to post this in the village square, where other news items are on display.  
 Corina sat back and waited for her replies to come in.
The first, as predictable as storms in spring, came from the town dandy.  
A lay-about heir to a vast fortune, he was seeking a new thrill to brighten his dull days as a budding cretin.  He presented himself to Corina,  two of his toadies standing ready to praise him to the heavens if called upon as character witnesses.
His puny overtures were easily deflected by the robust young woman he desperately tried to charm.  Any interest faded as quickly as his perfumed wig under her scrutiny and questioning.
Corina scanned his frills and curls, noting the touch of powder on a pale face that never saw a walk in a summer field.  She turned on her heels, left the room and smiled when she heard his gasp of disbelief.
Suitor two was not as obviously mis-matched to this fine young lady.
Sir Ralph Longstreet was a well-known intellectual, with several books penned under his name and a penchant for stirring controversy with his political rants.  His interests, however, were narrowly defined by a rather blind egotism.  He would brook no differing of opinion, as his alone, held the defining one.
Corina thanked him for contributing his humorous views of the world that existed in his very small mind.  She left him pacing, mid-lecture, on his unique insights regarding a woman's place as mere muse, in the world of letters.
This parade of sad excuses for a man in full, went on for nigh onto a year.  The parchment fixed to the wall on the Village Square was tattered and faded and nearly illegible.  Naturally, few had the gift of reading, but word circulated quickly around the countryside and beyond of this outrageous effort to find a man.  The Lady's quest soon morphed into urban legend as the months passed.
One day, before Corina's thirty-something birthday, a caller came to the gates seeking entry at an hour still deep in darkness.
His insistent clamor raised half the residents within the manor; the others, being over the age of either hearing, or caring.
Corina was immediately roused by the clanging of the gate as it swung inward.  She peered out her tall bedroom window  in time to see a hunched figure ride through the gate.  He swung himself from his magnificent stead with the grace of a boulder racing downhill.   His arms were rather longish for his seemingly short height and swung like loose tree limbs from a stout tree.
"Oh good Lord!" Corina moaned.
Feeling obligated to meet with any who answered her blind manner of seeking a husband, she snatched a comforter off her bed. Wearing it like a queen's robes, she set her jaw for confrontation and her heart for disappointment.
The stranger had his back to her as he stood in front of a warming fireplace.  Corina studied him from behind, noting the slope of his shoulders, the stubby bowed legs and a mop of hair that sat on his head like the foam on a small beer.
She cleared her throat.  He turned.  
His eyes were a deep red in a dead-white face.  He smiled and for a moment his eye teeth gleamed long and sharp in his blood red mouth.  He had pushed his long cloak to his hunched back, magnifying its deformity. 
"Good evening my dear, Lady Corina."
His voice was like the feel of silk upon her skin and she gave a little shudder as he moved toward her, suddenly within touching distance.
He stared into her light gray eyes so intently that she nearly forgot to speak.
"You come calling at an odd hour, sir."
This sounded silly even to her ears and she smiled back at him when he laughed.
"Yes, but this is one of my favorite times; when all is still, but the beating of our hearts."
Corina found this explanation totally logical and gestured for him to take a seat.
He joined her on the brocaded chair she favored in this room, and without asking her leave, took up her hand.
She looked down momentarily at the long fingers and his very pallid skin.  It seemed natural that he held her hand. He slowly raised his free hand to to her slightly heaving breast and then up to the pulse, hammering now, at the side of her neck.  It lingered there for several heart beats.
His eyes never left Corina's during this intimate exploration.  For her part, she only sighed with each contact of his roaming hand.
The fire began to burn low by the time the stranger opened the door to the sitting room.  There were no servants about now, save the gatekeeper, lying inert by his small cottage.  
They exited the murky hall way as the stranger threw open the heavy doors with a flick of his wrist.  
Passing under the velvety dome, into the moon's glow, everything seemed filtered by a heavy gauze to Corina's eyes.  She was aware that the stranger had a tight hold of her hand as he led her to his untethered horse.  The horse snorted in recognition and the stranger patted him to silence.
Turning to Corina he spoke again, his voice calm and soothing.
"I have come to claim you, dear lady.  You will share all my years of living in this world; all that you want shall be yours, in me.  My station is equal to your own."
He lifted her onto his saddle; springing like a deer to sit behind her.  The comforter she had hung over her shoulders was long dropped away, but she felt no chill as he wrapped his long arms tightly around her, pulling her to his body.  
She seemed to find her voice as they cantered out of the courtyard.
"Your station you say, is equal?  What then shall I call you sir?"
"Count will do, my dear."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Roadblocks Encountered When Writing a Series

I've now written and published two complete series with several more in various stages of publication. And one thing that is becoming clear to me is that I will always, always agonize over the last book in the series. The one that wraps it all up.  That last book of the series is - pardon the expression - a bitch to write. If you are writing your first series, or considering it, here are some of my key learnings to possibly keep in the back of your mind.
 
Wrap It Up
With the other books, you have the option to  mysteriously refer to something coming in future books. Really fun to do. I love laying those breadcrumbs. But with the last book, you actually have to wrap everything up with a big, red bow. Which means no more bread crumbs and ending things satisfactorily. If you can (I'm talking to you fellow pantsers), keep track of ALL breadcrumbs laid as you go. Also, when you lay them, have an idea of how you'll wrap them up and how they tie to other things.
 
Corners
You now have the other books published, which can paint you into corners. Not that corners are a bad thing if they get you where you want to go. But I'm the kind of author who writes fairly loosey-goosey. I have an idea of direction and some key plot points, but, beyond that, I can go where the wind blows me. But not as much with a final book. My path for that last one has to be fairly straight and narrow. So, again by keeping the series end-state in mind when writing those first books, you might save yourself some pain.
 
Known Characters
Typically, my main characters in each book are "known" characters. They are people already introduced in previous books, often with large roles to play in all those preceding books. This makes it harder to "reveal" something about them that we don't already know or, for example, take a goofball and make him a charming Alpha male. It also means readers have previously set expectations about that character and their voice, so you'd better get it right. Make sure to keep track of every detail of those characters in the previous books.

Starting From a Tough Spot
One of my roadblocks when writing Black Orchid, the last book in my Svatura series, was getting Nate and Adelaide back together when he'd been brainwashed and she'd been...well...broken. I'd known since writing Blue Violet (book 1) that I was going to rip the two of them apart, and I knew exactly how I was ultimately going to solve that issue. What I didn't know was the journey in between. (Note: It ended up taking four or five rewrites of Black Orchid to get there.) I don't have great advice for the pantsers out there on this one, other than try not to do that to yourself. Lol.
 
Upping the Ante
This part, I'll admit, is kinda fun. Each book needs to be a little bigger and have a slightly different approach from the others. I love coming up with ways to make the love unique, the fights bigger, the conflict escalate, etc. I tried to have most of that mapped out when I started the series. But - loosey-goosey remember? - the journey often gets me there in unexpected ways. Both fun and completely nerve wracking for me. Having a series map before you start can help, even if it's fairly high level.
 
Pressure Cooker
I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to end each series "right" - in other words, in a way that I would want to read without being disappointed or chucking the book at the wall (that's my barometer). These are characters and a world that I have come to love, sometimes over years. I want to send them off in style for me and for my readers. Granted, this is pressure of my own making, but it's definitely in the back of my head all the while. I think it's a good thing, so authors, let yourself feel that pressure.
 

Despite all the roadblocks and moments of learning, I'm very proud of the series I've finished. And I can say with confidence that the next series will also end the best way I can make them. Here's hoping it gets easier as I continue to write more of them. :)

Shameless Plug: By the way...I've just released a boxed set version of my first series--The Svatura Series--at 50% off the individual book price totals. Get started on this award-winning series today!



Monday, June 19, 2017

The Beginnings of a Poisonous Garden by C.J. Burright

Over the last decade or so, spring has brought with it an unfortunate tradition into my life. I go outside, inspired to garden with all the lovely flowers and innocent woodland creatures, and upon my return to the great indoors, it is inevitable. It has an appropriate name: poison oak, and the things it does to me are not in any way enjoyable. Puffy face. Horrible rash. Blisters. The itching is the stuff torture chambers in horror movies are made of. And I’ll be the first to admit that me + poison oak = dark things.

And while I was in that bleak place where I cursed the outdoors, plants, cats that wander into poison oak and bring it back to me, and even well-meaning husbands, the dark side of me (oh, yes. She most definitely exists) was inspired to write this post. What if, instead of beautiful flowers and edible vegetables, I planted a poisonous garden? *Rubs hands together and cackles* You never know when you might need to pass on a little poison, and here are a few plants that might be helpful. You know, so others might share in the misery.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Narcissus. Grinding up its bulb and sprinkling it in…oh, I don’t know, chocolate chip cookies that your innocent victims won’t suspect…will cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Too much can be fatal, so use accordingly. Did you know that this flower was named after the Greek legend Narcissus, who saw his reflection in water, became obsessed, and fell in? He drowned and made a comeback as the flower. Also, in ancient times, the flower’s perfume had a bad rep of causing headaches, madness and death. Definitely a good fit for a poison plant garden, eh? On the positive side, the bulbs may also be used as an antiseptic dressing for wounds, and mixing it (not too much!) with honey serves as a painkiller. I suppose it’s another case of user intent.

Lily of the Valley. Consuming its leaves and flowers will instigate irregular heart rate, digestive upset and mental confusion. Serving it to an unlucky, unsuspecting guest might make for good party entertainment, at least the mental confusion part. Once upon a time, Lily of the Valley was considered unlucky, said to have sprouted from St. Leonard’s wounds after he vanquished a dragon. That sounds like good luck to me, but whatever. And the Irish believe these flowers are used as fairy ladders…with a warning. The gardener who plants a bed of them will be struck dead in a year. So maybe keep only one plant in your poison garden. The ying to the poison yang: Lily of the Valley may alleviate the pain of gout, ease eye pain, restore speech, and help treat heart disease and memory. So once your victim is poisoned and undergoing mental confusion, if you’re feeling benevolent (or guilty) maybe you can use the same plant to restore their memory.  
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Nightshade. If you’re going to have a poisonous plant garden, Nightshade is a must. All parts of it are fatal, especially the unripened berries. Ingesting it causes intensive digestive issues, but more than that, Nightshade is alleged to be a favorite for witch’s spells. In centuries past, it was rumored that consuming small quantities would allow visions into the future. Take too much, though, and it’s madness instead. Also cool, Nightshade is an important ingredient for the flying ointment witches smeared over themselves to ride the skies. And keeping Nightshade close will keep evil spirits away. If only it worked on that demon poison oak…


via GIPHY
There are, of course, many other plants you could include in your poison garden, but I believe I’ve given you enough nefarious ideas for one day. Use your powers for good, people. 😊 Do you have any innocent-looking poisonous plants in your backyard? Are you vulnerable to the evils of poison oak like I am? 

Why are Fathers Imporant in Stories? by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

Fathers add a lot of dimension to a story. This is true whether they are actual characters, or just background information of other characters. A character’s relationship with their father (or lack thereof) adds a lot of background and depth to a character, and this can be especially important if the character may harbor particular emotions, carry inherited traits, or discover secrets about their true heritage.

Take The Descendants VS Descendants as an example.  In one movie, a father is trying to reconnect with his daughters because their mother is in a comma. In the other, the kids are an amusing reflection of who their “bad guy” or “bad gal” parents are.


Authors love to pull the dad card out of their writer’s toolbox.  In my Illuminati series their dad is Osiris, an immortal god, so there’s a lot to live up to, and one sure doesn’t want to get on dad’s bad side—though mom is a force to be reckoned with too.


Whatever your dad scenarios, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hidden Figures by Diane Burton

photo credit: IMDB
Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures? Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably seen the trailers on TV about three black women whose contributions were vital to the space program. Anyone who has read my posts here and on my own blog knows that I’m crazy about space travel. When Russia put Sputnik into orbit around Earth, the adults were convinced they were spying on the U.S., that they could drop a bomb from space and obliterate our country. In school, we hid under our desks and covered our heads in preparation for a nuclear bomb. Yeah, that would save us. But, I digress.

The local book group I belong to read the book Hidden Figures, which seemed more like a textbook. But that didn't stop the producers from making a movie about three amazing black women, representative of hundreds black and white. Women who responded to the government’s call for mathematicians and physicists during World War II. Because of that need, President Roosevelt desegregated the defense industry thereby paving the way for black women to earn three times as much as they made teaching. Who wouldn’t jump on that? But, just because the president ordered desegregation it didn't erase years of treating black women as second/third class citizens. I could get on my soapbox about treating women, in general, as second class. Again, I digress.

The contributions of women to the space program is immeasurable. They were called computers. That was their job title. They performed all the scientific equations, by hand, that enabled NASA to propel a man into space and bring him home again. Even when what we know as “real” computers (IBMs) were brought in, the women learned to use them. But people back then didn’t trust machines. In both the book and the movie, we learn that John Glenn refused to launch until Katherine Johnson confirmed the machine’s computations, computations she performed by hand.

Even though I’ve followed the space program since the original seven astronauts, watched the liftoffs of Alan Shepard and John Glenn on television, listened to news anchors describe what was going to happen and brought in scientists with diagrams, etc. I never knew about the contributions of the women who worked behind the scenes. Without them, we would’ve been playing catch up to the Russians for years.

Remember, that was during the Cold War. Nationalism in the U.S. was so strong in the 1950s and 1960s we had to be better than the Russians. If they put a rocket into space, why didn’t we have one? Their man got into space before ours. Talk about humiliation. President Kennedy challenged us even more—that before the end of the decade (1960s) we would put a man on the moon.

Once we did that, we didn’t have a national challenge. Even though NASA continued with the shuttle and the space station, Americans couldn’t see that those were preparations for exploring more of our solar system. Next stop Mars. Did we not listen or didn’t NASA explain their goals well enough? Maybe we didn’t care anymore. Budgets have been cut. Isn't it ironic that we send our astronauts to the former Soviet Union to be launched? (Side note: watch Interstellar to see what happens when all funding for the space program is cut.) 

Hidden Figures was truly an inspirational movie. I saw the movie on DVD and the extras, especially “behind the scenes”, were even better. As I watched, I remembered the pride in our country that I felt in those days. But more than that, I felt pride that women contributed so much and inspired others to go into the space program. Along with that pride, I felt anger that their contributions have been ignored for far too long.