A Fun Surprise
This will be a short one. Not feeling on the uppity up today. Some kind of crud going around these parts. Can someone tell me what the heck is going on with the summer? I could always count on these few months to be sick free, but this year it hasn’t been. Stomach virus, sinus infections, fever. I feel like I’m in the dead of winter right now. It truly sucks.

But anyway, back to the theme of the week. Family Fun.

I went to my nephew’s birthday party a few weeks. I love kid birthday parties. Seriously. I do. I love watching them have a great time, the smiles, the laughter, the screaming and, most of all, the wear out and early bedtime. LOL. Anyway, this birthday party had a really fun surprise for me. If you’re a parent, you know what kid parties are normally like. The kids run wild, while the parent sit back and take pictures. That sooooo wasn’t the case with this party.

There is this place here in North Carolina called Monkey Joes. It has these huge blowup slides and obstacles to climb on.

The surprise for me?

If you have a kid, you have an excuse to go on them too. LOL. Boy, did I get in touch with my inner child that day and had a great time doing it. I slid, climbed, whooshed, and squealed with the rest of the kiddies. By the end of the party, I was just as exhausted as my twins, who loved watching mommy fall on her face, my hair in my eyes, and tears on my cheeks from laughter. Don’t get me wrong, I play with my kids, but there was something especially fun and childlike that day. I loved every minute of it. And I wasn’t the only parent embracing their inner child. I even saw some adults sliding without a kid in tow. Really, I couldn't blame them. There is something about those huge air filled slides that just scream for you to get on them once you walk in the door. Very hard to resist. I honestly think they need to come up with one just for adults. I'd go in a heartbeat.

If you have little ones and are looking for a great place to take them, try Monkey Joes. I’m telling you, you won’t regret it!

Is there a place where you felt connected to your inner child? A place that beckoned you to throw caution or better yet, you're mommy mask, to the wind and say to heck with it, I'm playing?

*note* I threw the picture of my daughter in just because I felt like I had to. Couldn't have two pictures of the son without at least one of her. LOL.




Esme
www.esmereldabishop.com
A Journey to DC and the Ancient Past
Last week while in Washington DC for the RWA national conference, a friend and I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History among other things. I thought I'd concentrate on this museum today because it would be a great family activity (our theme for this week.)I admit it, I'm a nerd when it comes to science and prehistoric animals, etc. I watch all the educational TV shows about dinosaurs, whale evolution, Neanderthals, etc. So as you can imagine I was thrilled to be able to see the Tyrannosaurus rex, but it is only a cast. Still, the huge size of it was amazing. Here are some of my favorite pics.


Archaeopteryx (cast) 145 million years old, the earliest and most primitive bird known. Because it displays a number of features common to both birds and dinosaurs, Archaeopteryx has often been considered a link between them—possibly the first bird in its change from a land dweller to a bird.

(above) Pterosaur, meaning "winged lizard,"often referred to as pterodactyls, were flying reptiles that lived 220 to 65.5 million years ago. Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight.
Triceratops lived around 68 to 65 million years ago in what is now North America. It was one of the last dinosaur genera to appear before the extinction event.

A Coalified Stump.

(above) Mammoth and other animals.

Dire Wolves, became extinct approx. 10,000 years ago.

(above) One of the saber-toothed cats. Sabre-toothed cats were generally more robust than today's cats and were quite bear-like in build. They were believed to be excellent hunters and hunted animals such as sloths, mammoths, and other large prey.

One of the tiny, prehistoric horses, 50 million years old. Check out this neat recreation of one of the ancient horses.

These pictures only cover a small portion of the Museum of Natural History. There is also a large display of stuffed animals in The Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals. The Hope Diamond was also on display, along with many other things. Since we were in a hurry to do all our DC sightseeing in one day, we didn't get to linger. We came, we took pictures, we left all in an hour or two. But it was awesome!

FFA – Fun Family Activities or Flying Farmers of America?





My family loves board games and the title of this blog is a play on the classic bluffing game called ‘Balderdash’. The beauty of this game is that people of all ages and interests can play. You only need to be a good bluffer to excel. One person picks a card and reads what’s on it – an odd word or 3 initials or a movie title, etc. Everyone else writes down a phrase that could match the card. In my example, if the initials were FFA, you could write down Flying Farmers of America, Fuzzy Felines Association, etc. The best part is that the real answer is always some odd thing that no one knows, so this is not a game that requires knowing the “right” answer. The way to win is to bluff well so that people choose your answer. You get a point every time someone does. If you wrote down Fuzzy Felines, and three people guess that’s the real answer, you win 3 points, even though the correct answer is actually Flying Farmers. It’s a lot of fun because you’ll get many hilarious answers and it’s also a good game for a large group. And even the strangest answer will find at least one taker.

Another game we enjoy is Scattergories, which can be played individually or with partners and is also good for a large group. You get a list of categories such as: things found at the beach, book titles, items in a suitcase, etc. Then you roll the dice to get a letter. Let’s say the letter is ‘F’. Then, within a time limit, you write down answers to each category. For example: Fins, Frankenstein, Flip-flops. It’s great fun when people have creative answers, such as ‘fannies’ for things found at the beach.

There are many, many enjoyable board games, and sometimes I think we have them all!
Some of our best family memories include winter evenings (usually after skiing – another great family activity) sitting around the fireplace with a large group of friends or family and tackling these games. The main thing to remember (and some don’t) is that you’re playing for fun, not to win. My rule is to give everyone, and especially children, the benefit of the doubt. Is Fiction a novel beginning with F? Not really, but I voted yes! As the (admittedly inebriated) guy argued, it is something you see when you enter the bookstore. So what if he was technically wrong – we had a lot of laughs.

To keep somewhat on the writing topic, I’m actually writing a novel called The Candy Land Con, which references – guess – which game?

We enjoy cards (Sequence is great) and lots of old favorites like Scrabble and Clue. But I’m always on the lookout for something new. Do you have any favorites?
Leigh Court and The Bet
We're thrilled to have Leigh Court as our guest today. Her story appears in Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures. Thanks for being here, Leigh. Please tell us about The Bet. And do you have a review you could share with us?

Sarah Silversmith at Romance Readers Connection gave my story a rave: "THE BET is a sensuous story that had me captivated the whole time I was reading it... my favorite of the anthology."

Awesome review! What do you find most difficult about writing erotic historical romance?

Well, if I'm honest, the hardest thing for me about erotic romance is that it tends to be more graphic than mainstream romance. Don't get me wrong -- sex is undeniably a big part of romance whether it's EroRom or mainstream, but I guess that's why I write historical. It lets me be "comfortably vague" about certain body parts!

Your story mentions an erotic work of literature. Can you tell us about how you researched it and worked it into your story?

My story THE BET in Secrets Volume 27 relies heavily on the Kama Sutra. My hero Damian makes a bet with a friend that he can seduce a virgin (my heroine Claire) using only his words. But Damian knows there's a good chance the virginal Claire won't even understand what he's talking about, so he gives her a copy of the Kama Sutra as a sort of visual introduction. For me, the most interesting part about researching the Kama Sutra was the history of Richard Francis Burton, the man who brought this ancient work to the attention of the modern world. 'Ruffian Dick,' as he was nicknamed, has a fascinating story of his own that Damian shares with Claire in THE BET.

It's a wonderful story! What element of story creation is your favorite?

I think the part of story creation that's most fun for me is asking the What If question. I like to throw my characters into an impossible situation and watch how they deal with it (while falling in love along the way, of course)! In THE BET, Damian is forced to agree to an outrageous wager, despite his better judgment .

I love Damian! When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I became an author because of one particularly bad week at work. I was a TV news reporter who had to cover the death of a very good friend of mine, and then later that same week cover the particularly gruesome death of a New York State Trooper. I picked up my first romance novel that week, hoping to cheer myself up. When I got to the end, I thought, "Hey, I write for a living, maybe I could write one of these!"

I can imagine. I almost never watch the news. What is your writing process or method?

LOL, I'm a pantser who -- when I get stuck during a story -- really, really wishes I was a plotter!

Please describe your journey to publication.

Ironically, I wrote three single-title stories before finding a copy of Red Sage Publishing's SECRETS anthology in my local bookstore. I picked it up and saw these were novellas. (I also loved the fact there were contemporary, paranormal and historical stories -- something for everyone!) As a news reporter, I was used to telling an entire story in one-minute-thirty-seconds for the nightly news, so I know how to "write tight." I went home and banged out a Victorian romance called THE DISCIPLINARIAN, and Red Sage bought it two days after receiving it! (You can find THE DISCIPLINARIAN in Secrets Volume 15.)

I loved The Disciplinarian! Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?

Every author says this, but it's true: just keep writing. You get better with each story, your craft improves, and you'll sell when you're meant to sell. Perseverance is key, and luck plays a part, but the most important thing is to just keep writing!

Great advice! What’s next for you?

I just sold a contemporary novella to Samhain, which is scheduled to be out at the end of September!

Congratulations! And thanks for being our guest here. It's been fun!
Go RVing
Growing up, we always took camping trips as a family. We started renting a cabin for a week at Allegheny State Park everning summer. Then my parents bought a pop-up trailer - for seven of us! Eventually, they got a larger trailer, but with five kids, it was always crowded and noisy. And while we did get to visit places that we never could have otherwise - when I grew up and moved away, I swore I'd never go camping again.

Um...yeah...this is a picture of our latest trailer at a campground we like to visit in southern Pennsylvania.



We started in a tent. With two children, the four of us weren't as crowded as my family was when I was growing up. But of course, any two children in a confined area are going to find something to complain about :) We graduated to a pop-up trailer, like my parents did, took a trip to Wyoming in that sucker. Saw Mount Rushmore and Sturgis, South Dakota during Bike Week! We went to Georgia and Michigan and other places we never would have gone otherwise. And while they were bored a lot of the time, they loved the campfires and sight-seeing and s'mores and time together with the family, even if they didn't always want to admit it.

As our kids got older, they didn't go on as many trips with us. Summer jobs and college and other activities took higher priority. Just as they did for me. I understand. We've since gotten our second travel trailer and camping is nothing like it was when I was growing up. We have a shower in our trailer. Satellite TV. Internet access, if I'm lucky.



My husband and I still travel together. I've learned to be a pretty good navigator. And I can write on the road as easily as at home. In fact, I wrote more than half of my Secrets 24 novella, Bad to the Bone, while we camped a week in Bedford, Pennsylvania. We still enjoy each other's company and a good campfire. We travel around the eastern half of the US and are looking forward to eventually being able to take more time to visit the other half of the country.



Oh, and you know how I know my kids enjoyed their camping trips with the family, even if they didn't say so at the time? My daughter and her husband have been talking about getting an RV someday. Funny how that works out. :)

Natasha
www.natashamoore.com
The Book Signing of Shannara and Other Musings
The posts this week got me thinking about significant experiences in my life, and, not surprisingly, many of them revolve around writing and writing events, such as conferences. Some were pleasant, some bittersweet; others were odd, unmentionable, or the kind of incident you look back at and laugh, even though at the time it might have been stressful. However, all were learning experiences, and since I love to learn, I wouldn't trade any of them for the world. So, on this lovely Sunday, even though family business has kept me from posting in a timely manner and Blogspot has fought me for an hour or so, I thought I'd post a couple of memories of literary fun I've had over the years.

One of the first conferences I attended included Terry Brooks as a keynote speaker during lunch. When I discovered he'd be signing books as well, I was thrilled! He was one of my mother's favorite authors and she spent many happy hours with his books. My conference experience now took on the definite air of a pilgrimage. Immediately, I ordered a hardcover of his book on writing, Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life, and waited for the big day. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the conference, I discovered I somehow, in the rush to get to the airport, left the book at home. Undaunted, and inspired by his keynote speech that afternoon, which was very entertaining, I bought another copy of the book at the conference bookstore and took my place in line.

When my turn came, Mr. Brooks glanced at my name tag, but I'd turned it over. I asked him if he would sign the book to my mother and briefly told him why--his work had been very comforting to her in her last few years of life. He paused and looked down, but recovered quickly as I spelled her name, which is an unusual derivation of a more common spelling. He tried to pronounce it, and the last thing he said was something about it sounding like something he would have named one of his characters. I think my mother would have liked hearing that. I know I appreciated his willingness to respond to my unusual request, and as I write this, I realize how bizarre it actually sounded: Umm, can you sign this book to a dead person? However, Mr. Brooks handled it with great aplomb and showed himself to be not only a brilliant author and speaker, but a kind and compassionate human being.

What I learned from this is that if you have a favorite author, take some time, if the opportunity arises, to let him/her know how his/her work is cherished. I'm sure Mr. Brooks has heard all kinds of stories; however, even multi-published writers need to hear their work has value and impact. Also, if you are getting ready to do a book signing, keep in mind that your books may be significant to a reader for more than just literary reasons, so don't be surprised if you get some odd requests. While I would draw the line at stripping naked while inking my signature in a tome, I would still be open to other, less revealing suggestions. On a final note, the other copy of the book ended up finding a home across the US with a science fiction writer I met at another conference.

Some people say you can judge a conference by its keynote speakers. I say it's the food, but keynotes definitely play a role, as they are sometimes a huge drawing card for many authors who are fans of literature and publishing. Let me just say up front that not all authors, editors, agents, and/or publishers make good speakers. Some are actually fairly terrible at it. However, others are pleasant surprises. I think every author should consider what he/she would say if asked to address an audience at a literary event. Have you ever imagined YOU up there on the dais speaking to a hundred eager writers waiting for your words of wisdom? I have, and in some cases, that's the only reason I haven't gotten up and walked out on a terrible speaker. I know it can't be easy, although some people seem to make it seem so.

For example, at a conference years ago, Stephen J. Cannell, of A-Team fame, was a keynote. He'd added writing novels to his long list of accomplishments. I didn't know what to expect, but he was funny, inspirational, and humble. He made a point to note that he'd been taking workshops at the conference to improve his craft even though he was published, and reminded everyone that a writer can never know everything about writing.

Another of my favorite speakers, who shall remain nameless, was someone who had been the forefather of a genre and was, at the time, being pushed out. He made some rather direct, blunt comments about publishing and fiction, which sort of shocked everyone, but he was absolutely right. Inspiring? Yes, if you were mature enough as a writer to not get offended. Informative and entertaining? Yep!

If you do ever become a keynote, here's some tips that I suggest you keep in mind, and I base this on the rotten, as well as the great, speakers I've witnessed. First, realize that your audience is there to be inspired. They may care about your path to publication, but truly, every writer's path is different, so there must be something more to it than that. I've seen more than one writer get up and ramble on about how he/she broke into the business, but in many cases that can only get part of the audience to connect. I saw a famous writer at one conference who obviously got her big break because she was part of a literary dynasty. In other words, there was no way this person wasn't going to be published unless she didn't want to be. Struggling writers couldn't empathize with her, and she came off as rather out of touch.

Secondly, realize that you are there to inspire, regardless of who you are supposed to inspire. Some of the people in the audience are not writers, but perhaps part of the publishing industry, and they need a pep talk now and then as well, or even as in the above case, a little kick in the pants. Anything is better than nothing. If everything is geared toward one group of people, the others feel left out and disconnected. As with all things literary, the success of the speaker depends on how attuned to the audience he/she is.

I will have to end this on a rather abrupt note, leaving out the part about throwing my panties at Sherman Alexie, because I'm late on posting. However, I'd still like to know: Do you have a specific keynote speaker you loved or hated? Why? Is there a conference memory you'd like to share?
"Writer's Block"
I also went to National’s this year for the first time. As a newer writer, I’m not one of those who were born with a pen in my hand, a book maybe, but definitely not a pen. I didn’t start writing until about three years ago. Anyway, I digress. As a new writer, I have had very bad bouts of writer’s block. Scary stuff really, especially worrying if you have finally written all the voices out of your head. I hate the feeling of nothingness in my brain that, Heaven forbid, my muse has left me for greener pastures.

So I went to Nationals with a purpose: figure out how to kick writer block’s ass. There had to be a reason behind the dreaded occurrences. With stunned amazement, I’ve watched writers who seem to have no issue turning out pages upon pages everyday when I struggle to write a single sentence. What was the matter with me? What caused my dilemma? How do I get rid of it?

I was shocked by the answer. The ongoing consensus from writer after writer was writer’s block does not exist.
Say what?!?! Well, I sure as heck have it.

However, I forced myself to listen. I mean, they had to know what they were talking about, right? These were multi-published authors who’d been around the block a time or two. As I listened to their reasoning on why writer’s block doesn’t exist, the more my eyes opened.

Really? Did she just say outside interference creates this? Well, dang, I have a ton of that.

Worry over finances? Damn.

Worry about selling a previous manuscript? Raise hand, wiggle fingers.

I could have easily placed a check beside everything they listed.

Wow, they really did KNOW what they were talking about. So I perked up, waiting for that splendid moment when I would finally know the secret to beating this horrible thing.

The secret wasn’t much of a secret. Write. It was all you could do.
So I came home with the determination to kick writer’s block to the curb and really get into my new project. I can say I have made headway, more so than I have in the last few weeks, but I have found a new problem. One I wished I had been more aware of when I’d been in these workshops, so I could have asked my questions. I am hoping that maybe some of you could shed some light on this recent development that I have become aware of. I have heard writers say they couldn’t wait to finish a book and start a new project. They wanted something fresh, new characters, new plot, new everything to work with.
My issue is the exact opposite. I find it difficult to let my previous work go so I am open to start a new piece. The problem doesn’t really lie with the shorts I love to write. It’s my full length pieces, the ones that take me months to write, where I am with the characters for so long they become a part of me. I’m finding it difficult letting them go so I can move on to a new, fresh story.

Does anyone else have this issue and if you
do how do you get past it? Throw me some of your ways of working through those moments where you go Oh God, what have I done and how do I work myself out of it. (If you can’t tell, I’m a pantser, I don’t know if I would have this issue if I plotted)

On a side note, the comic with the cleaning describes me completely. LOL.

One a different note, The Feline Fugitive has been reviewed by both Book Wenches and You Gotta Read Review.


Cat lovers, here’s one for you. Esmerelda Bishop’s The Feline Fugitive is a quick and entertaining read about a woman and the cat who loves her. It is humorous, sexy, and suspenseful and features a couple of characters who will alternately amuse and exasperate you. Bobby, Book Wenches


Are you new to the shapeshifter genre? This would be a perfect book for you. It explains some of the aspects of shapeshifting and what a life-mate is all about. It doesn't overwhelm you with too much information just the right amount. Plus, you get a hot and steamy relationship to explore with Luca and Claudette. For a short story, it packs a lot in just a few chapters. It was a pleasant and refreshing read. If you are strapped for time, this would be perfect for you. Roberta, You Gotta Read

Thanks!
Esme
http://www.esmereldabishop.com/
http://www.lyricalpress.com/
My RWA National Conference Experience

by Kristin Daniels


Last Friday I posted from the RWA National Convention in Washington DC and promised an update on my experience for you this week.


All I can say is Wow! What a great time I had. As a first-timer, I think I walked around half the time in a daze. There was a lot of “Holy cow, was that JR Ward I just passed standing at the concierge desk?” or “Okay, wow! Cindy Gerard and Kylie Brant are over there just chilling on one of the lobby’s sofas!” Yep, I was pretty star struck.


After the morning session and crying at Janet Evanovich’s tearful recollection of her first sale, I jumped in with both feet. Workshops galore, then back to the banquet hall for a great lunch with keynote speaker Linda Howard. I’m not sure if you all remember, but in my first interview here with Nicole, I talked about how Linda Howard inspired me to start writing romance. To actually hear her speak (and to practically roll on the ground with laughter—she is one funny lady) was something I won’t soon forget.


Besides meeting up with some longtime online buddies, new fellow authors and even a couple Fierce Romancers, I think the highlight of the week was sitting in on a two hour chat with JR Ward (The Black Dagger Brotherhood series) and Jessica Andersen (The Nightkeeper Series). It was casual, and they were so friendly. They answered every question asked without hesitation and I really got a great insight into how they work. It was inspirational to say the least.


The RITA awards the last night was a lot of fun—I love getting dressed up! Some of my favorite authors were up for awards, and a few of them even won. Had me wondering if maybe, just maybe, someday my book and picture would be up on that screen as a nominee. Really, stranger things have happened!


PS—I received some great writing news yesterday. Once the deets are ironed out, I’ll post here and let you know about it!

My Close Encounter with David Beckham
OK, I didn't get THIS close.
My boys play club soccer in southern California, and a few weekends ago they had the opportunity to be present during a promo stop for David Beckham and retired French soccer star Zinedine Zidane (who ain't half-bad himself). Adidas was kicking off a program to establish soccer fields with artificial turf throughout the inner city. I think they chose our soccer field to announce the program because it's relatively new and has artificial turf. Anyway, our club soccer players along with kids from AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) were invited to be "window dressing" at the event. Another So Cal team actually got to play in a scrimmage with Becks and Zizou (that team is sponsored by Adidas and our teams are sponsored by Nike - I think that's why those kids got to play the scrimmage and not ours). The kids also received shorts, jerseys, and cleats from Adidas, which was cool.

The kids sat at the foot of the stage where Becks and Zizou were introduced, and the parents got to sit on bleachers set up on the field and take pictures. There was also an area for the media. The crowd went nuts when they finally made their appearance. They answered a few questions from the media and placed their feet in cement for their footprints. After they wiped their feet off with towels, they tossed the towels out to the kids!



Following the footprint ceremony, they played a scrimmage against a team of boys and a team of girls. Zizou knocked one of the kids over and immediately extended his hand to help him up. I'm sure that kid's going to treasure that moment forever!

It was very fun to watch. After the scrimmage, the rest of the kids were invited back onto the field for a group picture. As my older son walked past Beckham, he asked him for his sweat towel, which Beckham tossed to him! (He hasn't washed it yet, nor will he ever wash it!) Then during the group picture, my older son, who was the tallest kid out there (long story) stood in the back row next to Beckham, who put his arm around him. We're still trying to get a copy of that picture from the media who was there taking the pictures.

We still got lots of great pictures, and it was an exciting day for the kids (and the moms). I managed to restrain myself, although one of the moms, who happens to be British, yelled out after the footprints, "David, you can come to our house later to wash your feet." LOL

Of course, all did not end completely happily for Becks as he was booed last weekend when he returned to the L.A. Galaxy when they played against his former team AC Milan. Becks has been trying to leave the Galaxy to play with Milan (who had him on loan for a few months), and the L.A. fans don't appreciate that. Of course, we know his wife loves L.A.

So that was my brush with David Beckham, who was the inspiration for my as-yet un-sold, unpublished romantic comedy, Kick It Up, about an English soccer star (this one single) who comes to L.A. to play soccer and winds up in all kinds of trouble. And no...I didn't bring my manuscript to the field.
Liane Gentry Skye Serves Up Two Hot Stories
I'm thrilled that we have Liane Gentry Skye as a guest here today so we can learn more about her and her two sizzling, emotional stories released this month. One is in Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures (which also contains my story.)

Liane Gentry Skye was considered the girl most likely to become a nun in high school. Upon graduation, she wasted no time rewriting her miserable destiny. Two marriages, one real life alpha hero and four beautiful babies later, she decided it wise to exchange her rhinestone thong for soccer mom sweats.


Thank you for joining us today, Liane! Please tell us about Heart Storm from Secrets Volume 27.

Sirenia is the last fertile mermaid of her brood. With her final breeding moon upon her, she races a hurricane to find and mate with the only merman who can save their kind--the prophesied Lost Son of Triton. When she rescues an injured Navy SEAL, another storm breaks. A passion storm. But when the time comes to ask Byron for her freedom, her heart threatens to stand in the way of the last, best hope for her kind.

I loved this story! You have another release this month. Please tell us about Wicked Temptation.

Wicked Temptation is the first book in Red Sage Publishing's multi author series, Three Kinds of Wicked.

Here's the series blurb: Trey is a time strider, sworn to guard the fates of mortal couples destined to help humanity earn immortality. When a covetous goddess doses Trey with an aphrodisiac, he acts on his secret yearning for a mate to call his own. But the only thing worse than falling in love with a destined mortal is making love with one. When Trey loses his heart to Sage, a mortal woman destined to love another, the fate of all humanity hangs in the balance.

In penance, Trey must stride through a fractured timeline, doing whatever it takes to reunite the couples his actions have torn apart. Only then can he earn a final chance to help Sage save humanity from the evil that covets their very souls. But even if he is successful, can Sage forgive him the carnal journey it took for him to help save her world?

My individual story, Wicked Temptation takes place in 1969 during the Summer of Love, and chronicles Trey's affair with Sage and her tormented lover, Russ as they journey toward Woodstock.

That's a unique and interesting setting and time period! What did you find most challenging about writing each of these two stories?

Since Heart Storm was my first attempt at romance, plotting was a challenge, as was staying in control of the shifting POV in the story. Sometimes, my villain wanted to run away with the story. I never knew how much I liked writing bad guys until I met my evil merman, Ba'at Rath.

Even though I'm still happy with the story, since so much time passed between the time Heart Storm went to contract and the time I saw the final proofs, that changes in my writing were jarring to me. But I still love the story. How could I not? It's the first work of fiction I ever sold!

I began Wicked Temptation just before entering a very painful period in my life. I had to struggle with a lot of dark moments as I wrote the book, and when I finally slogged my way to the end, the last half of the story in no way resembled the lighter voice in the first half. So I had to go back and revise. The end result was an edgy, brooding story that I don't know I'd have been capable of before.

That's fascinating. What inspires you?

Anything and everything. Seriously, I get inspired by the strangest things. The turn of leaves before a storm. The delicate lace of a dragonfly's wing. A memory. A poem. A perfect bunch of grapes. A little old lady give the man she's loved all her life that shy, knowing smile. The sound of my children breathing during the wee hours, proof all is well in their world.

I can totally understand that. What was the most important thing you learned (the thing that made all the difference) just before you made your first sale in erotic romance?

True erotic heat isn't in the mechanics or the choreography. It's in the emotional connection between your hero and heroine Once the emotion is there, the mechanics follow.

Absolutely. Would you like to ask readers a question?

The economy has changed not only my buying habits, but my reading habits. How have your reading habits changed since the country's bottom line took a nosedive? Reading lighter fare? Re-reading old favorites? I really want to know!

Thanks for being here with us today, Liane! I've enjoyed it! Everyone please visit Liane's website at: http://www.lianegentryskye.com/

To learn more about Heart Storm click here.

To learn more about Wicked Temptation click here.
SUNRISE is Award Winning Novella

This past week Romance Writers of America held their National conference in Washington DC. Industry professionals and published and aspiring authors meet, give and attend workshops, eat and drink and network. Also at this conference many chapters hold their own get togethers and some announced the winners of their annual contests. I wish I could have been there this year, but it wasn't meant to be.

The finalists for the Passionate Plume, a contest for published works of erotic romance, put on by the Passionate Ink chapter of RWA, were announced several months ago. I was entirely thrilled that my story, Sunrise, which is included in the Ellora's Cave anthology, Jewels of the Nile II, was a finalist in the novella category. I was surprised and honored to find out on Thursday night that it won!

Sunrise was one of those special stories that seemed to write itself, from the first line to the last. Maybe it was because it was written in first person, present tense, something I rarely do. But I felt as if I was channeling Caroline. As if she was telling me her story and I was simply getting it down on paper. Man, I really wish that happened more often :)

Blurb:

Caroline has been meeting Alan at sunset for months. The hot sex they’ve been enjoying started out mindless and anonymous, just the way she wanted it. Little by little, they’ve gotten to know and care for each other. Caroline fears the changes in their relationship she can’t seem to prevent.

Alan wants Caroline in his life. He sets out to seduce her with his voice, his hands, his body. He’s no longer satisfied with sex in the shadows and wants more. Can he make Caroline feel the same?


Excerpt:

He sits on the bench and pulls me between his legs. The light is at my back. I can see him, but I know I’m in the shadows. The way I like it. It seems much longer than six weeks that he’s been away.

“You cut your hair.” I comb my fingers through his short, dark strands.

He shrugs and pulls the clip from my hair. The heavy weight settles over my shoulders and down my back. The breeze picks up the golden strands and blows them across my face. He gathers my hair in his hands and pulls my head to him. His kiss is hard, bruising, punishing even. I know why and wish I could give him what he wants.

At first his lips are dry, but as we kiss they quickly moisten and we slip and slide against each other. Our whole mouths are soon involved. Tongues. Teeth. Taste. No one else kisses me the way he does. As if he would devour me if he could. As if my taste is the only thing that can sustain him through the days to come.

Or is that the way I kiss him?


In celebration of winning the Passionate Plume, I'm holding my own little contest today. One commenter today will win an autographed copy of Jewels of the Nile II. So my question today is...I've heard so many readers who have strong opinions about reading books written in the first person. It doesn't matter to me one way or the other if a story is 1st or 3rd person. How about you?

Be sure to check back tonight when I'll announce the winner...I love contests, don't you???

Natasha
www.natashamoore.com
Real Life Heroines
by Kristin Daniels

I'm coming at you from RWA Nationals in Washington, DC! The conference started in earnest today, and can I just say Wow! I've laughed, cried and been inspired beyond belief. I've passed some of my own favorite authors in the hallways and the lobby, and listened to sage words of advice in opening ceremonies and luncheons.

In a lot of ways, these women--every one of them who put their heart and souls into their craft--well, they are my heroines. I look at them, listen to their stories and realize that maybe they're not so different from me. The trick is to take what I'll learn here and apply it to write the best books I possibly can.

But for now I'm going to enjoy my time here in DC, soak up the knowledge, and maybe, just maybe, walk away from it a better author.

More on my experiences next week...

Until then,

Kristin
Great Jobs for Heroines
I blogged before about good professions for heroes (law enforcement, special ops, and cowboys among my faves), but what about jobs for heroines? What can our heroines do that allows them so much time to take long leaves of absence from work and skulk around with the hero or spend precious hours engaging in sexual antics?

A heroine who's a student or teacher is always good. They usually have summers off and can get into all kinds of trouble, like my heroine Lila Monroe from The Stranger and I. Lila is a marine biology graduate student AND a student teacher, so she doesn't have to check in with a boss when she goes jauntering about the desert with a spy and people shooting at her. My heroine, Lacey Kirk, in A Doctor-Nurse Encounter is...you guessed it...a nurse. I know these days, you have your heroines who are doctors too, but that didn't work for this particular story. The heroine in Circumstantial Memories, Julia Rousseau, works in an antique store AND she's a student. But she's trying to regain her memory, so that's a full-time job.

The heroines in my erotic romances are a little more on the edge than my Harlequin heroines. One is a male strip club owner - she's not a male, the strip club is (Vivica Steele in Hot on Her Heels), one owns a sex toy company (Hayley Grant in The Gee Spot - the lovely lady in the cover above), one is a bounty hunter (Cassie Cartwright in Aphrodite's Fire), and one is a Vegas showgirl (Brandy in the upcoming Triple Threat). I also have a librarian in Virgin of the Amazon (yeah, she lets her hair down) and an attorney in Sex and the Single Pearl.

Are there any professions for heroines you don't like to see? I could not get a few past my editor at Harlequin - one was an attorney. The rock singer was a definite no-no (loved that heroine), as was the radio talk show host. I'm not sure why these professions wouldn't fly, although I was told attorneys aren't very sympathetic. I have an FBI agent upcoming as well as an artist and then a heroine who's rich and doesn't really do anything at all. I'd love to write a psychiatrist heroine one of these days, and does a D.A. count as an attorney?

So does the heroine's job matter to you at all, or is it just a function of the plot?
Strong Heroes Need Strong Heroines





A few years ago I was in Puerto Rico on a business/pleasure trip with many other people. We’d been divided into groups of about 20 to play an elaborate scavenger hunt game in the city of San Juan. After it became clear no one was going to organize my group, I did so, assigning duties, etc. to everyone (all strangers to me). I apologized for being so bossy, and the President of the company, who was in our group, said to my husband, “It takes a strong man to marry a strong woman.”

That comment always stuck with me. I think it explains one reason why readers like strong heroines. Romance readers want powerful, or at least capable, heroes. Such men must be balanced by equally sharp women to create compelling conflict and a satisfying resolution. If one of the characters totally dominates the other, the story becomes unbalanced and less interesting. The hero must be secure enough that strength in his woman is considered an asset to his life, not a detriment.

But I believe at least somewhat in the yin/yang of male/female relationships. They both must be very good at some things, but not necessarily the same things. I’m not too keen on the heroine who possesses greater physical skills than the hero – things like running or endurance. First, it doesn’t happen that way in real life. Second, it emasculates the hero.

But the heroine can (and should) have important skills or characteristics that the hero doesn’t have. Let him run faster; she can think faster.

So who are some romance heroines I like that meet these criteria?

I tend to like Jayne Anne Krentz heroines. Sharp and witty, they live their own lives, but never feel the need to emasculate men to prove how strong they are.

I also like the heroines in Georgette Heyer’s old Regency romances. They are funny and go toe to toe with the heroes in a way that they both emerge victorious.

Nora Roberts has very strong heroines (though sometimes the men seem a little like an accessory, rather than a main character on center stage).

Which brings me to the realization that I think I like heroes more than heroines. But isn't that the appeal of romance novels? They offer a great hero we can fall in love with for a few hours, with a heroine to match him (because the reader doesn't want to identify with someone who is ultimately a weakling).

I wish I had some current examples of wonderful heroines, but I haven’t been able to read a lot of fiction since I started writing it. There are only so many hours in the day. I noticed in reading the other posts on this blog that most of the mentioned heroines are in paranormals. Hmmm, what does that mean?

Carly


P. S. My all time favorite heroine is Pippi Longstocking. Her ability to rebel against silly rules and trick pompous adults is rooted in the fact that she doesn't need to fear consequences since she’s the strongest person in the world. So this choice argues against what I said earlier. But Pippi doesn’t inhabit the romance world. If she were to marry a man she could pick up and twirl around her little finger like a pizza dough, I probably wouldn't love that romance.
Anti-heroine: No, This Ain’t Your Mama’s Sister
One of the more interesting aspects of being an author, especially an author of erotic horror and fantasy, is that readers tend to wonder whether or not you’re one of your own characters. In particular this curiosity applies to the heroine, or, in some cases, the anti-heroine.

The anti-heroine is the female equivalent of the anti-hero, a character archetype that’s come into its own in literature and film over the course of the last five years or so. These characters do things or live in ways that are at the least morally ambiguous, and, to the extreme, downright reprehensible. However, they still function as a main character of a story and, strangely enough, many readers migrate to them. They aren't the villains in the story, although their behavior may be villainous, and they can be soooo much fun to write.

To do this post, I started listing the heroines from my short stories, novellas, and novels, and I realized among their ranks resides a number of anti-heroines. You know, bad girls gone really bad but who run lead in the story? These chicks will never be TSTL, but they definitely qualify as TSTBA (too scary to be around). They aren’t bad as in naughty, although that may play a role in their personas. They’re bad as in being some kind of evil or possessing a rather strange sense of right and wrong. They’re dark angels who don’t know there’s a light, or simply don't care. They revel in their rotten ways because of some extreme character flaw or because they can't get what they want if they don't behave they way they do. Their needs are always most important, as the other characters in the story discover, sometimes too late.

There’s an adage that states, “Write what you know,” and so for that reason there’s a little bit of me in every one of my main characters. One little piece of me as sort of an anchor, a point of connection. However, the tough part of having an anchor is that while sometimes it can hold you in safe harbor, other times it can weigh you down and not let your character develop. Writing the anti-heroine can be quite a freeing experience in that a writer can take a little bit of herself and expand on it into a personality that is totally foreign and complex—no rules or societal norms to restrict her—and, therefore, very interesting. Many actresses have proclaimed they’d rather play the bad girl in the movie than the good girl, because those roles are so much more fun. Writing the anti-heroine, for me, is much the same way.

There is a down side to writing the anti-heroine, though, and that is, as I mentioned before, everyone thinks you’re her. I don’t mind if readers connect me to some of my heroines, like Rumani Gladstone in Ride ‘Em, Girlfriend, a Robert Louis Stevenson-quoting professor with a sassy attitude who lifted herself out of bad circumstances through hard work and determination. Nor do I mind being mistaken for Claret McDaniel in Second Nature, an environmental activist who loves living in harmony with the earth, or Emma Rose, the heroine of The Survivors, who finally finds a way to forgive herself for being a survivor. I don’t even mind being compared to Lilly Gillingham of A Stranger’s Desire, a high school teacher with an unusual sense of Southern belle propriety who sets out on a somewhat dangerous, quirky sexual journey to rediscover herself after her mentor dies.

None of these ladies qualify as anti-heroines. They make mistakes and act out because of their pain maybe. They may get angry or make blunders because of miscommunication or good intentions gone horribly wrong. However, they rarely cross that fine line between good and evil, or if they do, they have a really good reason and hop right back over to the good side. My anti-heriones, though…well, they never knew there was a line to begin with, and being compared to them can be a bit unnerving.

For example, Miranda in An Even Trade has some serious mental issues that cause her to act in a very, very unladylike way in her quest for revenge against God. At one point she’s standing on a city bus, barefoot, wild-eyed and holding her girlfriend’s panties with a gun weighing down her purse. Editors would add little worried notes at the end of their rejections, sometimes with religious advice, to which I would hurriedly respond with a message thanking them for their time and indicating Miranda and I had nothing in common except losing a loved one to cancer. Every other part of her came from my asking, “What happens when someone is so grief-stricken she embarks on a futile journey to get revenge for a perceived injustice by a deity?” There are some people who choose the road to recovery after a losing a loved one and others who never reconcile those feelings and take a different path. Miranda not only took a different path, she plowed one of her own, and for that reason she was a fascinating character to write.

Another bad girl I enjoyed writing was Ellie in The Perfect Sin, who lets her love for one of her teachers drive her to commit a shameful act she chooses to live with every day of her life instead of facing consequences. While I wouldn’t want my friends to think I’m as conniving as Ellie, I did enjoy her quasi-erudite attitude and her willingness to go any lengths to get what she wanted. She showed some remorse along the way, but ultimately her desires continued to cloud her judgment until the very end of the story and beyond.

And speaking of clouded judgment, Miss Witch is one of my favorites among my stable of monstrous personalities. She’s a delusional sociopath who believes her sole purpose in life is to do away with other sociopaths—a serial killer of serial killers (pre-Dexter). She shows no remorse and glories in a heinous crime well done. To her credit, she's a campy vamp who never takes an innocent life, and actually saved a baby spider once. Of course, to her discredit, she believes no one in Horrordom is innocent, she uses those feminine wiles to seduce victims, and she saved the spider so she could use it later as an accessory. Did I mention she's resourceful as well as completely mentally unbalanced? Kind of makes you feel sorry for Jack the Ripper as she leads him to his doom.

I’ve saved my best awful angel for last. Vektor Schloss is more of a secondary character in Disappear, but definitely a presence not to be ignored. As a matter of fact, she won’t let the other characters ignore her. She’ll one day get her own book in the series if I can manage it, as anti-heroines can be a challenge to maintain for an entire novella. However, if any inter-galactic, warrior witch-training cannibal can carry a book, it’s Vektor. This is one little curly-haired doll you should never turn your back on, even if she is supposed to be on your side. Forget that and you'll either become her next, er, date, or her next meal. She’s opportunistic, quick-tempered, has razors for teeth, and is hungry all the time--and those are her good qualities. She’s a heck of a lot of fun for other characters to hang around with, if they can keep her from trying to have sex with them or kill them, and almost too much fun to write.

Do you have a favorite anti-heroine from a book or movie? Do you have an anti-heroine you’ve written? If you’ve never considered writing one before, I whole-heartedly recommend it. Unlike writing the heroine, who sometimes can represent who we want to be or who we wish we could be, writing the anti-herione lets a writer explore who she's afraid she might be, and that makes for some interesting fun. :)
What a book!
We've all read heroines that scream TSTL, right? Certainly, none of us ever want to be accused of writing one! But what is it that makes a heroine memorable...in a good way?

Well, I recently finished Christine Feehan's "Hidden Currents". The last of the Drake Sisters series. What a fantastic read. Now THIS was an emotional ride! The first five chapters or so I was on the edge of my seat. I couldn't put it down. The rest of the book had me either laughing or in tears. The ending was beautiful. It was the best romance book I've read in a very long time. Elle was smart, strong, tortured, vulnerable, the works. There were depths to her character that brought her off the page and into my heart. Jackson was her equal in every way. Brave, proud, sweet, sensitive, lovable, tender, powerful, aggressive, and of course, delicious. Um, I think I'm in love. LOL

Christine Feehan always writes with emotion, but this book is by far the best I've read from her. The thing is, as writers we cannot turn our brains off long enough to enjoy a good book! We tend to analyze each word. We pick the story apart. I sometimes miss the days before I started writing because I used to sit down with a book and just enjoy it. These days I make notes. LOL

At any rate, this particular book will stay with me for a long long time. I love reading something THAT good. I know half the reason I loved the book so much is because Elle Drake was such a terrific heroine. What she endures is heart wrenching. If you haven't read it yet, my advice is to have a box of tissues handy. LOL

Is there a heroine that stuck with you? If you're an author did YOU create a heroine that just really rocked yours socks?
Those Animated Animals -- Some Smiles for Your Sunday
From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved animals. As pets they add comfort, companionship, loyalty and fun to our lives. When wild and part of nature’s kingdom, their majesty and beauty captives us.

Walt Disney and Charles Schultz were the masters of portraying animals at their animated best. To this day I delight in watching clips of some of my childhood favorite characters, including those below. Sip your favorite beverage this Sunday afternoon and join me in a trip down Memory Lane. Reel yourself back to a carefree time when giggling and grinning were more the norms than the exceptions in your younger days.



The Aristocats (aristocracy never had it so cute) –

Click here to access a clip that will have you humming along










Lady and the Tramp (featuring my favorite romantic scene, complete with spaghetti) –





Mary Poppins (Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious -- who doesn’t love riding those carousel horses?) –






101 Dalmations (countless laughs from over a hundred adorable puppies) –





Snoopy and Woodstock (my all-time favorite cartoon character—Happy Dance time) –




Bambi (an emotionally compelling Classic) –




Rudolph (happy holiday memories) –






Wishing you all many happy reading moments,

Shawna Moore
TO HELLE AND BACK AGAIN -- Ellora's Cave Exotika
TORMENTED -- Ellora's Cave (Recommended Read from Alternative-read.com and Dark Angel Reviews)
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora's Cave Exotika
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave Exotika

Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace
Spiders, Iguanas, and Lorikeets...Oh My!
Guess who’s got a spider in her spare bathroom?

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m an animal lover, a possessor of the mutant gene that makes a person go ga-ga over not just cute puppies and kittens, or even horses, birds, and bunnies, but any creature that flies, crawls, wiggles or squiggles about on earth. That even includes spiders, snakes, alligators, snails, and, as my hubby so cleverly puts it, especially the birds and the bees (ba da dum). I used to think I was some kind of freak and tried to break my habit of being so soft-headed and soft-hearted, but then, after several bouts of recidivism, in an effort to get on with my life, I decided to do what many of my contemporaries around here have done when they can’t find any really good excuse for any number of screw-ups they’ve committed or flaws they’ve yet to overcome—I blamed my mother.

She IS responsible, actually, on both the nature AND nurture level. Biologically, she contributed her tainted DNA to my fertilization and production. On the nurture side, she did nothing to dissuade my critterological pursuits. As a child, it was not unusual for her to ask my grandmother if she could bring a friend to dinner. That friend usually turned out to be a bug she’d let loose on the table or a snake she’d keep tucked safely inside her blouse sleeve so as to not raise the alarm and my grandparents ire. You can see how I never stood a chance, can’t you?

So, guess who’s got a spider in her spare bathroom?

I do. His name is Leonidas, and he’s a tiny little guy, much tinier than his predecessor, Pericles. He made a little web in an out of the way spot near the faucet, and every morning I go in and say, “Hiya, Leonidas, wassup?” To no one’s surprise, he doesn’t answer me. I’m not sure what he lives on, as I never see anything in his web, but he seems to be doing well. And as long as he’s not trying to snag a cat or attack me with laser beam eyes, he can stay.

This is how I am, so imagine my surprise when my husband left it up to me to pick out which excursion we would take on our cruise this last June. He should know better! But I think he hates making decisions more than he fears whatever hokey scheme I will come up with to get my hands on some critters, so he cleverly found a way to delegate the decision to me.

“Honey, you make the decision,” he said.

So I did. That’s how we ended up in the bottom of a submarine-type thingie staring out the windows and taking in scads of fishies before wandering a marine park on the island of St. Thomas. Our guide introduced us to our captain and his first mate, Davy, a very adorable English Bulldog. Oddly enough, the captain described how he was surprised Davy could swim like a champ, since his breed wasn’t known for their aquatic skills. Why someone who captains a boat would choose a dog whose breed isn’t known for its swimming capabilities for a pet was beyond me, but Davy seemed to bask in the attention of his guests, going so far as to try to chew my hand off with his puppy teeth before allowing me below. Since he didn’t try to eat anyone else, I felt sort of special, so we soldiered on into the bowels of the boat.


I enjoyed seeing the bottom of the ocean and some of its inhabitants, including yellow tail tuna and a fish called the Sergeant Major (because of the stripes). We also saw barracuda, which may be why in one picture we took (not posted here) it appears the captain, who’d gone out with fish food to attract some marine life for our viewing pleasure, is trying desperately to get back in the boat. I imagine Davy was up on deck, throwing chum overboard and chuckling. I hear English Bulldogs are quite clever when the mood, or opportunity, strikes.


Anyway, we ambled off the boat with some memorable pictures, some of which you see here, and wandered over to the marine park. I have mixed feelings about these places, as I do zoos, but since I didn’t realize it was part of the excursion at first, I was committed to seeing it through. I was happy to note that the iguanas roaming freely throughout appeared to be very, very content and happy…and confident. These fellows would stroll right up to us, stop, and pose. No begging for food, just striking poses. And they wouldn’t leave until I took several photos of all of them, turning this way and that, lifting their chins in the air and doing jazz tails. Then they just all sauntered away as if nothing happened, as if being fabulous was an everyday occurrence for them. I have to admit, they were quite striking, and they did inspire some ideas for my next shape-shifter story.


We also enjoyed the lorikeets, which is a bird in the parrot family. They were colorful and friendly, although we did witness what the guide described as a marital dispute between two of the birds involving a third bird. They all got in this box with little plastic balls and starting batting them around while jumping on each other and "grooming." Personally, I think we were unwitting voyeurs to an ornithological ménage scene, but who am I to question park personnel? Besides, I got even more fodder for new stories.

There was so much more to see—stealthy stingrays, sneaky starfish, drooling nurse sharks—but I have to admit that there’s no critters like my familiars, who watch over me as I write and demand attention so that I don’t get too absorbed in my other worlds. They keep me balanced and lavish me with the opportunity to worship them, for which I am eternally grateful, so I was happy to return home to my kitties and, of course, Leonidas.

Have you hugged a spider today? lol
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