Better Fresh - or Seasoned?

The idea of 'fresh' appeals to everyone – fresh ideas, fresh air, fresh kids. No wait, not that one. Fresh is often good. But not always.

So I started wondering: what things are better fresh, and which are improved with seasoning?

News is good when it's recent. But when it's just out, it may contain inaccuracies. History is better seasoned, when people have time to ponder all the facts, gather lots of sources, and hopefully arrive at the right interpretation.

Food is a mixed category as well. Certain food groups demand freshness. Bread and pastries – that obvious. A nice warm pain au chocolat straight from the oven can't be beat. Certainly not by the stiff corpse of the following day.

Fruits and vegetables are in my opinion best when picked ripe from the field. But a little seasoning can bring out the flavor and many people probably prefer the addition of butter, sugar and spices to their veggies. Hmmm. This category might be a toss-up. A sweet juicy orange versus a baked apple topped with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Anyone hungry yet?

There are some types of food where aging brings out the full flavor that just isn't present in the fresh state. Wine and whiskey certainly spring to mind. Also cheese, beef, and what else?

Let's consider something at least as interesting as food – Lovers. 'Fresh' or 'Seasoned'? It's clear that women in general favor the experienced lover. Who wants to have to provide a map to the erogenous zones (no, that's my belly button, dear), or a lesson in the joys of foreplay (uh, sixty seconds may be sufficient time to get your hot rod up to top speed, but I'm not a Corvette).

But which do men prefer? The cliché is that men like virgins. But in real life, I wonder. Wouldn't a guy be just as happy as a woman is to have a partner who knows what she's doing (now that paternity is not really an issue)? The guy who needs an ignorant partner seems a bit insecure to me. I think we should place lovers in the 'seasoned' column.

Let's consider books. Is the first book you read by an author you'll ultimately love better than the tenth? There's the joy of finding someone new versus the pleasurable anticipation of reading a book by an author you know you love. What about a series? Is the first or the last book the best?

Is the joyful surprise of finding a new writer better than the pleasurable anticipation of curling up with a well-loved author?

What is Fresh?

Most writers love listening to editors or agents speak at conferences, or reading their interviews. When asked what they’re looking for in terms of stories, they’ll often say something fresh. What does fresh mean in their eyes? They’re not talking about flirtatiousness or cool air. :) In my opinion, they’re talking about something they haven’t read a hundred times before, or even ten times before. They want uniqueness and originality in both the story line and the writing style. What that means for us is... trash those clichés of all types. Not just things like “avoid like the plague” but also uninventive descriptions of kisses or anything that is similar to what we’ve read in the past. If it makes you think blah, blah, blah... it's out.

How can you make your writing fresh? Read a lot and write a lot. When you read, you will sometimes come across passages, sentences or descriptions that sound bland and boring to you, maybe because you’ve read something similar before. That means it isn’t fresh. When you read something fresh, you think wow, I wish I’d written that. How vivid and original that is.

The more you write, the more experience you acquire and the fresher your writing becomes. Often the first things we write are not incredibly fresh. We are, after all, learning how to write from the ground up.

If you judge unpublished writing contests, you will often see passages that are not fresh enough. Use this experience to learn what is fresh and what isn’t.

Story lines that are the “same ole same ole” are also not fresh. If type of story has been done a million times, like vampires or regular Regency romance, then you need a completely new, inventive spin on the tried and true. Unique hooks and high concepts that quickly catch an editor’s attention are usually fresh. Think of “fresh” as new. Something you haven’t read before.

What would you consider “fresh?” Or have you read any fresh stories recently?


Kilted Lover up for Book of the Month

I'm thrilled that my contemporary erotic romance, Kilted Lover is up for Book of the Month at Dark Diva's Reviews and I need your vote! :) Just click here and you can see all the books competing. I have some amazing and tough competition. If you'd like to vote for Kilted Lover, please scroll a little more than half way down the page and you'll see the cover and title.


Here is the Dark Diva's Review

Kilted Lover by Nicole North
Publisher: Red Sage Publishing


When kilted caber-tosser Scott MacPherson tosses Leslie Livingston over his shoulder to rescue her from two armed thieves trying to steal her priceless amulet, they are thrust into a deadly but sexy adventure. Though Leslie already has a lukewarm, uninterested boyfriend, her attraction to Scott is whitehot and undeniable. She wants to lick this tall, muscular alpha male all over and explore the depths of eroticism with him. But will he want anything more than one night once the danger is behind them?

Shelly’s Review:

Wow, I can really get involved in stories with kilts and handsome scottish guys. Kilted Lover is a great story with love and romance to the max. Leslie could’t resist Scott in his kilt and his sexy, take-no-prisoners way of taking care of her. She was threatened for her very old amulet and Scott came to her rescue, which just happened to put them together on his friend’s houseboat. That’s when there was some pretty scorching chemistry being put to use.

Both Leslie and Scott felt that her amulet had something to do with bringing them together. Did it? Take the wild ride of adventure and suspense in this fun, scottish romance. Nicole North is an author to watch. I enjoyed this story so much, I’m going to check out her first story for Red Sage, Devil in a Kilt.

Rated 5 Delightful Divas by Shelly!

Click here to read a chapter one excerpt of Kilted Lover at eBookwise.



After weeks of lying flat, I’m finally sitting up AND writing again. Now I have no idea if I will be able to use any of what I’ve written and won’t until the haze of pain meds goes away in a few weeks, but I still got something down on paper. Life is finally starting to become normal again.

It’s funny the small things we take for granted, like sitting up or being outside. Right now, I am out on my porch with my laptop. My cup of coffee is sitting to my right. It’s cloudy and it just started to rain. It’s cooler today by almost 15 degrees. I’m listening to the wind ruffle the leaves of the tree beside my apartment. I feel energized, ready to open my new WIP and get some massive word count down. I haven’t felt that way it what feels like an eternity.

My morning porch ritual was something I did almost every morning until a month ago. I’d wake up and put on a pot of coffee. While it brewed, I moved my laptop outside and checked the weather then dressed accordingly. I’d get my phone, my pack of smokes (yes I know, a filthy habit I one day really want to quit) and take them outside. After I poured my coffee, I’d finally sit down, check my email, do a little surfing then get down to business.

I hadn’t realized how much I missed and needed this for creativity until yesterday. I don’t know why I need to write outside, or why I have to sit in the exact same spot, but there is something about it that clears my mind and helps me focus.

So this got me thinking this morning. What is it about rituals that help with writing? Is it a kind of Pavlov effect? That your mind gets used to a certain set of events in order to prepare to write? It seems the case for me.

Do any of you have writing rituals? What happens when that ritual is messed with? Does it stop the creativity flow for you?


A Few of My Favorite Things - Nothing Scary Here...

I know the topic this week is horror. But, quite frankly, horror scares the hell out of me. So, I decided to buck the trend and share with you a few of my favorite things. They are -- in no particular order:

Shoes. I mean, come on. What woman doesn't like shoes? Flats, tennies, sandals, and ohhh, the heels! I love heels! I even had the heroine in Getting Naughty use a favorite term of mine: Her sitting-and-looking-pretty shoes. Yep, I wear the high ones, but only if I don't have to do a lot of walking. They can be killer, and oh, the blisters! I don't care though, I'm still going to wear them :) I picked up these cute gray suede ones just yesterday!


Pandora Radio. Best. Site. Ever. Seriously. Music -- free music -- at the touch of your fingertips. I have the site bookmarked on my laptop and it was one of the first apps I downloaded for my phone. I listen to it while I'm on the treadmill (current choice is Buckcherry Radio), and we always have it on in the background while we sit around a roaring campfire at our campground. We even listened to it while we basked in the blistering sun on the beach in Florida. If you don't already use it, you have to start. Now.


Ellora's Cavemen. 'Nuff said.
(See them in person in 2 weeks at RomantiCon 2010!!)

This Cuisinart Grind & Brew Coffee Maker. I can't make coffee. I totally admit that. My husband is the one who gets the coffee going every morning. But during those times when he's out of town, I'm on my own. This gem makes it so easy. Toss in some coffee beans and fill the tank with water, and wha la -- the perfect cup every time! It really would be difficult to NOT get a good cup of coffee with this baby. Highly recommended for those of us who are, ahem, coffee challenged.


Back to the whole music thing. Creed. I love, love, love this song. I listen to it several times a day, and yeah, you guessed it -- it's my ring tone. But really, a sober and nearly bald Scott Stapp? Yum. I love his energy in this song, and love watching him in the video. Again, just yum.

I could go on and on, but I think I'll stop here and save some more of my favorite things for future posts. But I'd love to know -- are any of these one of your favorites, too?


Writing with Crows

Today we have a special guest, Suzanne Rock.

After over a decade in the scientific world, Suzanne needed a creative outlet. She tried scrap booking, cooking, crocheting, painting, and piano, none of which held her interest for very long. Then one of her friends suggested writing. Thrilled with the idea of creating her own worlds, she opened up her lap top and never looked back.

When Suzanne’s not writing, she can be found playing with her two daughters, testing her husband’s latest kitchen creations, or curled up with her favorite romance novel in her central Massachusetts home.

Thank you so much for having me here on the blog! Today I want to talk about a major pest that has been plaguing me lately – crows.

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, then you’ve probably encountered these pests. They sneak up on you when you least suspect it and peck away at your subconscious. Sometimes it starts out as a small thought such as “I don't like this sentence.” Then it turns into something more. Maybe you think “I don't like this character,” Or a chapter doesn't feel right. Before you know it, you're throwing your computer across the room and swearing off writing permanently, convinced that you will never be able to form a coherent sentence again.

“Everything I write is garbage.”

“Why do I even bother trying?”

“It’s pointless.”

I have a writer friend who has a name for this. She calls it the “Crows of Doubt.”

The crows can be crippling for a writer. It can keep you away from your manuscript for days or weeks, sometimes even months. Some people never recover. So how do you get rid of these pests?

Crows are depicted in mythology as harbingers of doom. They love to circle above death and carnage, looking for a meal. Once one crow finds a potential snack, others soon follow. Their loud caws are disturbing, and often distract people from whatever they are doing. Once a crow arrives, they’re difficult to get rid of because they’ve found an adequate food source.

Boy, don't I know it.

So, the question is, how do you tell these crows to get lost, so you can get back to doing what you love – writing?

I did a little research, and here is what I learned:

1) Build a scarecrow.

Surround your work area with your accomplishments. Maybe it's a collage of your book covers, or a picture of you with your close writer friends at a conference. Perhaps it's that thank-you note from a reader or a letter of encouragement from a friend. Keep them handy by your work area. The next time you hear the crows coming, pull out your accomplishments and go through them. Reflect on how far you’ve come, and how much you’ve learned about the industry and writing in general. Remember you are good, and you’re only going to get better. Believe it, and keep writing.

2) Keep your surroundings clean

Don't clutter your hard drive and work space with non-writing things. They provide too much of a distraction. Keeping an internet window open to twitter while you write (or facebook, or your email inbox) might seem like a good idea, but it really isn’t. The temptation is too great. Many times these little distractions can feel innocent enough, but they can cause us to miss timelines, which in turn makes us discouraged. When we’re discouraged, the crows arrive.

3) Use bright lights

Crows hate bright lights, so keep our work area well lit. Use plenty of lighting and if you can manage it, sit by a window or outdoors. Sunlight does wonderful things for your mood. Writing in the dark, or at a dreary desk facing the wall, will just make it easier for the crows of doubt to invade.

4) Make some noise

If you feel the crows looming on the horizon, talk about it. Everyone has been there, so we all know what you’re going through. Maybe you just got your 40th rejection letter on your manuscript and you feel like you just can't go on anymore (been there, done that). Or maybe you opened that royalty check that just covers your morning latte – if you order a small instead of your usual large (been there, too). Whatever reason you have for doubting yourself, talk about it with others who understand. Sometimes just getting everything off your chest is a huge relief and can get rid of those nasty crows. (Just do it in private, not in public forums. You don't want these emotional outbursts to come back to haunt you, lol).

5) Shoot them with a water gun

When all else fails, try target practice. Print out a picture that exemplifies your angst (a crow maybe? ;) ) and bring it out into the back yard with your kid's water gun. Go on, I won't tell anyone. Take aim, and give it your best shot. After ten minutes of showing the crow who's boss, you'll feel much better, and if not, at least you’ll have something interesting to write about. :D

So, now I’ve told you what I do when I begin to doubt my writing. What about you? How do you deal with the crows of doubt? Tell me about it!

Book Trailer:

Suzanne's new release is Dark Deception:

After being plunged into a chaotic and deceitful society, Maria Guerrero finds comfort in the arms Enrique Torres, a man she believes is innocent of her world. She keeps him ignorant about her inner monster, and the blood oath she took to save her brother's life. Instead she prefers to use their sexual play as an escape from her supernatural world. When her secrets catch up with her however, Maria is forced to confess her sins. Will Enrique find it in his heart to forgive her deception? He must, before her vampire master demands her to pay him his due. With the help of a disillusioned fey warrior, she convinces Enrique that vampires are real, and danger lurks around every corner.

Enrique can’t allow himself to fall for Maria charms, or he’ll risk revealing secrets of his own -- secrets which would not only scare her, but put his mission in jeopardy. He hopes that by forming a physical connection with the young vampire, he’ll lower her defenses and earn her trust, for she’s the only one who could help him bring peace to the Immortal Realm. As they play out their sexual fantasies, her true identity is uncovered. On impulse gives her his trust, only to be repaid with her betrayal. Now he wants revenge… but what will be the cost? As the Immortal Realm descends into chaos, Enrique and Maria must choose whether to trust each other again, or fall victims to the dark deceptions that rule their world.


“Got ourselves in trouble again, I see.”

Maria froze. “Carlos.” How did he get here? She was alone in the room and the door was locked. Her gaze tore away from the tall, lean vampire and settled on the open window. Damn, she knew not to be so careless. Knowing Carlos, he probably watched her whole exchange with Enrique. He would want a full report, but Maria was in no mood to give one.

The vampire crossed his arms in front of his chest. “So, you remember me. After not seeing you for two nights, I was beginning to wonder…”

She turned on her heel to face him. “I would never forget you -- or the kindness you’ve shown Frederick and me.”

He frowned, his perfect dark brow arching over his amber eyes. “You need to work on your lies, Maria.”

Her breath caught. Leave it to him to bring up her immaturity. She carefully schooled her face into a blank mask, as she was taught.

His features softened as he approached. “You're still a very young vampire and unable to hold you mask.” He stopped, his face inches away from hers. Crooking his finger under her chin, he turned her head first to the right, then to the left. A frown creased his perfect angular features. “You look gaunt.”

She jerked her head away from his grasp. “It is nothing.”

“I've heard that you haven't been going to the feedings.”

“They are innocent people.”

“They’re food, nothing more.” He sighed. “At this rate you are going to collapse before your second year.” Reaching out, he trailed his finger down the side of her face. Maria forced herself not to flinch. “It would be a pity to lose such wonderful vampire flesh.”

She bit back a retort. Arguing would accomplish nothing. Carlos was a master of words and would only use her arguments to manipulate her. An image of her brother appeared in the forefront of her mind and she strengthened her resolve.

At her darkest hour, Carlos rescued both her and Frederick from the brink of destruction. The vampire leader was now securing their future. Under Carlos' protection Frederick would remain safe. She would remain safe. Frederick's dealings with the underworld had put her in danger more than once before. Now that they had the protection of the vampires, they wouldn't be touched.

Carlos slipped his hand lower, catching the 'V' in her dress. “You can't keep denying our desire for flesh and blood, Maria.” He leaned in close, his warm breath gliding against her cheek.

Maria shivered as his icy fingers danced over her skin. She was grateful for his protection, but would never...could never...

“One night with me and I can take you away from all this.” His voice was soft and filled with promise. Maria resisted the stirring in her lower abdomen. “Think about it, no more accusing stares from the servants, no more chores...”

No more Enrique. She had always loved Enrique's handsome features, but now that she had spent more time with him her feelings ran much deeper than lust. He treated her like somebody -- somebody who mattered. He was so different from Carlos, who only wanted to use her body to further his agenda.

Maria stepped back from his touch. “Why do you have me stay here at all? I mean, you say you want to trap Enrique -- Señor Torres -- but wouldn't it just be easier to send in vampires to capture him?”

Carlos smiled, showing each of his perfectly white teeth. “Ah, my dear. It isn't enough just to capture him.” He took a step forward. “I want to humiliate him.” Golden flecks danced across his eyes. “Ruin him.”

Maria's back hit the wall. She was trapped. “Why?”

He stepped closer, his chest even with her head. Her skin tingled at the power before her. She felt her fangs lower in response.

“Why?” He tipped his fingers under her chin and tilted her head up to his gaze. “Because I loathe him, Maria.” He lowered his head until his mouth hovered inches above her own. “As every vampire should.” His lips brushed against hers. Maria felt the cold press all the way to her toes. “The fool will destroy us all.” He kissed one cheek. “If he knew your real identity...” He kissed the other cheek. “He wouldn't hesitate to put a stake in your heart.”

“No.” Enrique was kind and thoughtful. He loved her and...

And he only approached her after she became a vampire and used her charms on him. His caring words, his gentle touch, all of it prompted by the magik Carlos bestowed on her. Sure Enrique was always kind to her, but it wasn't until she became a vampire that his interest turned sexual.

Maria straightened and tried to pull away, but it was no use. The weight of her burden felt like an anvil on her shoulders. The only reason why she was even allowed at the Torres estate was because Carlos decreed it. At any moment the vampire lord could take the privilege away from her. Then what would she be left with?

Carlos' grip tightened. “You know it is true. Don't deny who you are -– or your destiny.”

Hunger, pure and raw blossomed in her core. Only a select few were allowed to feed directly from the vampire leader. Maria had no illusions as to why she was bestowed such an honor. Vampire feedings were steeped in sexual energy and it was no secret that Carlos favored her.

Her master tilted his head to the side. His long dark hair fell away from his shoulders and exposed the smooth ivory skin of his neck. “Now feed.”


Spyder's Web, Loose Id

Up on the Housetop (Book 1 of the Kyron Pack), Loose Id

Cria, Loose Id

Down on the Boardwalk (Book 2 of the Kyron Pack), Loose Id

Dark Deception (Book 1 of the Immortal Realm), Red Sage


Embrace the Shadows Blog:

Youtube Channel (so you can see my other book trailers):

Robin Redcap

Since this week theme is horror, I thought I would share a couple of excerpts from a horroresque short story I wrote a couple of years ago. It was published by Freya’s Bower in the In the Gloaming-An Anthology of Faerie Stories. I had a lot of fun writing this story. The horror aspect allowed me to really dig into my imagination. I had to do a lot of research for this one short story because the tale of Robin Redcap at Hermitage Castle is real folklore and I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. I really need to think about doing another horror based romance like this someday.

A shuffling noise came from behind him. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. A feeling of hopelessness filled him. He tried to shake it off, but the shuffling moved closer, intensifying the feeling. His stomach rebelled. Gasping, he straightened and shot glance at Kat. She wrestled with a thistle that had a lock of blonde hair tangled in its grasp, seemingly oblivious to the bleak sensation. How could she not feel it too? Every cell in his body screamed with dread…with alarm. Instinct told him to run, to not look behind him, that whatever stood there would change him…forever. No! He would not allow an odd sensation to overcome his common sense. Slowly, he turned. Astonishment attacked him as he registered their guest.
No, it couldn’t be. It was only a legend.
But sure enough, the sinful creature from the famous lore sat perched on the corner of the ancient fountain. The hunched powrie watched him with profound crimson eyes. White hair from its long beard merged with the colorless strands hanging around his shoulders. A wide grin spread across Robin Redcap’s face, showing long, sharp and black teeth. He raised his talon-like finger and beckoned him closer.
Graham couldn’t move, couldn’t even get his mouth to form words to warn Kat. He remained riveted in place. The powrie shrugged its stooped shoulders. With lightening speed, he moved over to Kat.
Graham found his voice as Redcap lifted his iron pike above her unsuspecting head. “Kat!” The raspy noise that croaked from his throat sounded more like a rusty gate opening than his own voice.


Redcap stepped forward. The bloodstained spike mesmerized Graham. Just a moment more and that steel would pierce his skin, slice his body into chunks. His mind rebelled at the thought. Against his better judgment, he lunged forward, tackling the faerie. “Stay back!” he snapped over his shoulder at Kat.
There had to be a way to defeat the creature. It couldn’t be this simple. No creature was completely immortal, was it? Something was its kryptonite. But what?
As they wrestled, he frantically tried to remember how to kill a Redcap.
The Recap’s evil laugh echoed off the walls. In that instant, Graham realized the Redcap was toying with him. That he alone wrestled for his life.
Kat’s cries penetrated his ears. Her broken sobs pushed him to roll the faerie over and pin him to the ground. He stared down at Robin’s smiling face as he wrapped his fingers around its neck. Again, the powrie laughed.
”Keep him safe. Dear God, please keep him safe,” Kat cried out.
“Bible verses!” Graham muttered.
The sly grin slid off the creature’s face, its eyes rounding in shock.
The powrie started to struggle.
Graham opened his mouth and shouted, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The creature hissed as if in pain. Instantly, he collapsed to the floor as the faerie disappeared in a cloud of smoke. A howl of rage sounded throughout the castle.


Robin scurried forward, his iron-shod boots resonating through the chamber. The iron pike lifted at his side.
Graham jumped to his feet, preparing to battle the creature again.
The instant that Redcap was just a breath away, Kat yelled the Bible verse she’d recited only an hour before. As she said the words, Robin’s lips curled up. A growl vibrated from him. He threw the sharp pike through the air.
The force of the spear entering Graham’s shoulder propelled him backward. He crashed against the wall, slumping to the ground. A hiss of pain escaped him, his shoulder burning white hot.
“No!” Kat screamed. She jumped to her feet.
A delighted laugh rolled through the castle. Redcap disappeared.
“Graham! Oh, my God!” She reached for him, but her palm hovered inches from actually touching him.
Graham grasped the rod in both of his hands as he fought stay conscious. His breaths coming short and sharp, he stared forward in stunned amazement. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.

Any horror romances you enjoy?

Heaven Help the Heroine?

The heroines in novels face many horrors along their paths to finding true love and self-actualization. Cheating lovers. Loss of careers. Meddlesome casts of characters. And some of the most memorable ladies on film were tormented by mummies, werewolves and countless creatures who went bump in the night. In my erotic historical romance, TORMENTED, Eve Morneau is thrust into a world rife with mystery and secrets. Her torment is within and without. Eve’s soul and body are stirred by a physician who carries secrets of his own, one of which is that he is a vampire.

In this scene, Eve suspects the man who has promised to heal her wound may embrace the erotic as well as the unconventional.

Charles Galletiére touched his patients to make them better. And she’d certainly forgotten her trials and pain while Charles and she lay on the sofa earlier.
Her thoughts tumbled more, her legs straightened and she glanced in direction of the low growl. Though scarce time had passed since he’d entered, he now stood before the window.

“Again, I’m sorry our time together was interrupted. Lottie Banks dare not show her face around here again. She means nothing to me. Never did.”

His Southern drawl was so sweet. Like Grandmother Ellie’s strawberry jam on toasted bread. But his jaw remained set.

She looked him square in the face. His scowl softened and he approached the tub. Lithe as a jungle tiger he moved, his feet practically skimming the rugs and floorboards.

And the way he watched her. Sticking her hand into a pile of flaming logs wouldn’t burn as much as his gaze when it played over her body.

“Does the bath please you, Eve?” He knelt beside the tub and swirled his hand through the water.

She shifted and the soap skidded past her foot. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t look away. His scent was unlike any other man’s she’d ever met.

“It does, thank you.” Silly chit. Say something more or he’ll know you’re mesmerized.
The amber flecks in his eyes built to a bonfire. Soon he’d touch her. Where? Only near the wound? For how long?

Charles’ right hand plucked the cloth from her breasts. While staring her down, he reached under the water and between her legs. In another heartbeat his hand emerged, bearing the scented bar of tallow.

But how did he manage this feat without touching her?

Especially while watching her face and not what he was doing?

She closed her eyes for a moment before re-opening them.

“You’re still so tired, Eve. But I’m glad you’ve rested some.” His words quieted the clattering in her head. “You’ve had a difficult journey here. Surrender your care to me, dear one. Let me alleviate your suffering tonight.”

His eyes took on a more golden cast.

A strange calmness settled over her. Cloaking her body. So very nice. “Mmmm.” Unseen fingers pressed upon her eyelids and drew them down.

The washcloth skimmed over her upper back. Where wetness lingered, his hot breath hit. Jasmine essence filled the air. Glorious flowers. More pungent with each passing minute.
She jerked upright. Her breasts bobbed above the water. Something soft pressed against the back of her head. His lips kissing her? Charles’ hand glided the cloth over and around her right breast and repeated the cleansing on the left. Each pass of the soapy muslin cloth brought a tingling in her nipples that tracked to her belly and continued to her toes.

But he took no liberties.

Despite the low fire in the hearth, sweat beaded her brow and neckline.

Flames licked between her legs and she pulled them closed. Finished soaping and rinsing her breasts, Charles moved around to the opposite side of the tub. His hand split the surface and headed straight for her belly. Several droplets splashed onto her mouth and she licked them away. As the cloth met with her calf she grabbed the sides of the tub, straightened and opened her legs again.

His touch traveled along the fleshiest part of her thigh and came to rest just below her knee. “Has the water soothed the ache any?”

Her thoughts tangled much the same as a ball of yarn when in the paws of her pet kitten. Which ached more—her whole body for his touch or her leg from the beetle’s bite?

Words refused to come but this time her tongue remained unfettered and stirred some saliva.

She swallowed several times. “A bit but the pain is quite intense at times. And the fluid that seeps out has the most unbearable odor. You can see the seepage for yourself once my leg is out of the water.”

He abandoned the washcloth and his fingers closed around her ankle. Carefully he pulled the afflicted leg out of the water.

After propping her limb against the side of the tub he moved forward and lowered his face to the dripping appendage.

He touched the swelling with the tip of his tongue, pressed his teeth to the wounded flesh and reared back. “The foul work of an Artemis beetle. Most unfortunate.” His breath came hot against her wet skin.

Charles had bitten her. Either that or her mind was playing tricks.

But if he had bitten her, how would that heal her wound? “You can help me?”

He searched her face for a moment before his steely gaze settled on her heaving breasts. “I can rid you of the scourge this bug has cast upon your body.”

His lips puffed warm air over her wound. The soft hiss of breath from his nostrils and mouth dried her damp skin. An invisible but fiery knife tip prodded her belly.

Charles’ mouth played against the putrid wound. Slowly his jaw opened and his teeth again met her calf.

His nostrils flared, almost as a wild beast’s at the scent of its prey. The aroma of crushed spices came in with her next breath. His tongue lashed the sore spot and a dark veil drew over her eyes.

Wishing you many happy reading moments,

Shawna Moore
TORMENTED (Recommended Read) – Ellora’s Cave
ROUGHRIDER – Ellora’s Cave
HELLE IN HEELS – Ellora’s Cave

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I love surprises... As long as they're good ones!

I love surprises, really I do. Take, for instance, what happened a couple weeks ago...

It's the Friday before Labor Day weekend, and I'm up in my bedroom packing and getting ready for a long weekend of camping (well, RVing, really. But that's another subject entirely). Hubby had been hanging out in his bat cave (otherwise known as the basement) for the majority of the morning. Nothing out of the ordinary there -- after all, the man is a workaholic and that's where his home office is located. Out of the blue, he comes strolling into the bedroom and heads straight for my laptop (which is on this little writing desk set up against the wall. No, we won't get into the differences between his home office and, ahem, mine). My hackles didn't quite get raised, but I watch him and think to myself, Helloooo, whatcha doing? (Yes, I'm a bit protective of my pretty red Dell, LOL.) He grabs the mouse and starts clicking away. Click, click, click and my email is up. And what's sitting there at the very top of my Inbox? A shiny new email informing me that my new iPhone 4 is on the way!

Okay, now I know to some of you that a new phone might not be a big deal. But to me, it was. I've been wanting an iPhone for a while now, but my upgrade isn't available until next fall. Yep, over a year away. Hard to justify laying out that kind of cash for a phone. Still, hubby surprised me by ordering it waayyy ahead of my upgrade availability. Hugs and kisses ensued, and I spent the rest of the holiday weekend basking in my soon-to-be-delivered-iPhone glow.

Monday rolls around, and I check the status of my order. Holy, cow it's going to be delivered tomorrow! I'm grinning when I tell him that, and he looks back at me with a smile of his own, but I'm pretty sure it was only because he thought I was nuts for being so happy about it. And then... Tuesday arrives! I spend a little time that morning watching out the window and the front door for the Fed Ex truck. There's one stopped down the street at my neighbor's house, and I think to myself, Awesome! It's almost here! But, guess what? The truck passes my house right by. LOL. But, do I panic? No, not me. I wait a little longer, just knowing that another truck will be by soon (I usually have very little patience, so that I took this attitude was a surprise even to myself).

Turns out, I was right. About a half hour later, here comes another truck. I meet the driver at the door and she hands me this little box. Man, the thing weighs nothing -- because there's NOTHING IN IT! Can you believe it? That was certainly a surprise I didn't enjoy!

The top had been punched in along the taped seam, and it was open. Someone had stolen my iPhone! I look at hubby (who's still on his long weekend vacation from work) and, yes, I admit it -- a few expletives flew out of my mouth. The driver, being oh-so-casual, told me to just call the 800 number on the label and they'll take care of everything.


I handed everything over to my wonderful husband, because at that point I think I may have ripped the head off of anyone I talked to. Being the poster child for calm, he sat on the phone -- on his day off -- for well over an hour trying to sort it all out. In the end, there was nothing we could do but wait for the phone company to file a claim.

Once I calmed, I had this enormous let down. Yeah, I was pretty bummed. This was, after all, something my husband surprised me with, a gift from him, as well as something I was really looking forward to. Want to talk about dangling a carrot only to have it ripped away, LOL.

It took another week to get a replacement phone. When it arrived, I did a little mental happy-dance, and then set out to activate it. Typical to this story, there were problems there, too. After a handful of phone conversations and one trip to the AT&T store, we resolved them all. I am now the proud owner of a kick-ass iPhone 4, LOL. I have to say this is the best techno-geeky surprise gift anyone can get!

Face time, anyone??


I also wanted to share some of the great reviews I've gotten for Getting Naughty! I'm thrilled with the way this story is being received!

Oh my God! Kristin Daniels has done it again in a hot, passionate, and wild night of a story. I couldn’t decide who I loved the most, Tara or Jared. Heck, both of them were hot, and man the risk of getting caught was there all the way. I loved that Tara was determined to make her man see she is horny in a way that only he can satisfy. Now Jared, wow, for a man who is a workaholic he sure knows how to let loose. So much passion in this book and man the risks make it hotter than ever. Though it is short, it sure packed a big punch in making it exciting all the way to the end. Get it and a bucket of ice, for Kristin sure has a very dirty, naughty, and oh-so-fun imagination. ~~ Lena, Happily Ever After Reviews

Getting Naughty is an extremely erotic, spice-up-your-marriage tale of naughty pleasure. Jared has become too involved with his work and Tara is there to show him what he's been missing. Their sex is taken to the next level as they try to stay hidden from the cleaning crew (in the supply closet) and still achieve those mind-blowing orgasms. Getting Naughty is sexually explicit, which makes it so much more erotic and enjoyable. Kristin Daniels gives us a treat with this one and in my opinion, Getting Naughty should not be missed! ~~ Ashley, Blackraven's Reviews

Have a great week!


Surprise Musings

I love surprises. Okay, I love surprises that I have an inkling about. Hmmm, maybe that doesn't count as a surprise. I mean, if you have an inkling your boyfriend is going to propose or know the gender of your child in advance, it really isn't a surprise, is it? Still...

Anyway, this topic made me think about some of the surprises I've encountered in my life, some good and some not so good, as well as the surprises I've thought up for my characters. I've enjoyed a number of pleasant run-ins with the Sudden Unknown and would prefer to dwell on those, and so I will, unless--surprise!--my computer goes bink and I lose this entire post. THAT would be a very unpleasant surprise.

The first gift of jewelry Hubby bought me when we were courting was a necklace, and he hid it in some chocolates. It was supposed to be a big surprise when I ate the truffle and found it lying there, but his excited puppy dog expression sort of gave it away. I knew something was up, but it didn't matter. What I didn't know until then was what good taste he had in jewelry. Amazing! And that first piece of jewelry has been followed by several others, all pleasant surprises in their own way (What? You can buy THAT at a department story? Cool!), if not for their beauty, for the fact that somehow after all this time Hubby has never picked a bad piece of bling.

I remember that my mother used to try and surprise me on my birthday and holidays where gifts were exchanged, but she failed miserably. She would go to great lengths to hide the gift, taunting me mercilessly, but then she'd either forget where she'd hid it, or she'd send me to that exact location to get something for her and I'd find it. I think she suffered from some sort of genetic malfunction that wouldn't let her hide anything from anyone. We got many good laughs at the expense of a spoiled surprise, but I wouldn't trade any of that laughter for the thrill of not knowing what a gift was until I opened it. A gift is just a gift; laughter with a parent is a priceless treasure.

On the literary front, I am surprised at how long I've been writing and under how many pseudonyms. Some days it hits me--you've been an author for YEARS!--and I can't believe it. A lot has happened over the decades, but one incident sticks out in my mind that was a wonderful surprise. A few years ago, I'd been informed I'd won a contest for an online website but didn't hear anymore about it for a long time. I was supposed to get some money for winning, but as the days passed with no communication, I figured I'd never see a dime. Then one day I got an e-mail saying they'd paid me $100 more than the prize money promised because they felt so badly about making all the winners wait. The money came through, and I was thrilled. Of course, I bought books with it, which is no shock to anyone. lol

On the domestic front, I've been surprised this year at the number of butterflies I've seen. For a long time, I didn't see any around these parts, and this year they're everywhere, fluttering and sharing their simple beauty. A very, very uplifting surprise. For those of you wondering about Plato and Socrates, the tiny spiders living in our soon-to-be remodeled bathroom, you will be shocked to note, as I was, that they have been joined by two other spiders, one of which is VERY big, although not as huge as the wolf spider that nearly frightened me to death the other day. He was hastily relocated, to HIS surprise, I'm sure, outside. The other spiders I left be, although I had to name them. Therefore, Socrates and Plato have now been joined by Medea and Skittles. What can I say? It just didn't look like an Aphrodite to me. :)

What about you? What surprises have you enjoyed that have to do with jewelry, parents (no walking in on them making love!), or bugs? Please do share!


Surprise Call

I was standing in my kitchen one late afternoon contemplating dinner when a big surprise appeared. No, it was not a naked man falling through the ceiling, alas.

However, it was a man calling on the phone and asking for me. Now, since I am married, that does not happen very often. Especially someone I was sure I didn't know. But I admitted to being myself. He then identified himself, his publisher, and announced that he was calling to see if I was intending to sell them a short story I'd submitted.

This may not seem like a big deal, unless you're a writer. But I was stunned. He was calling me??? I could barely answer him. It was truly such a complete surprise!

Backstory. Though I have finaled and even won a reasonable number of contests, I'd never, not once, received a phone call to announce my proud moment. I've sold a novel and a novella, both sales offered and finalized completely via email. So I felt like I'd already had my "first call" story, without any excitement whatsoever. An offer is always nice to get, via any medium, but the personal touch was definitely lacking.

Honestly, I'm chagrined to tell you how exciting it was to have this man on the phone. And he even complimented my story!

Now comes the sad part. I asked him a few questions about the terms of the sale. Sob. I didn't like them. They weren't terrible, but I liked my story, too and thought I might do better elsewhere. So I had to say no to the very first person who made the effort to call me with an offer. I didn't enjoy that.

But…it's sort of like a first kiss. The surprise. The excitement. The confusion. I'll never forget it.

Any other surprise calls out there, writing or otherwise?

Outer Banks Vacation

Recently we took a trip to the Outer Banks of NC. Our trip was unfortunately interrupted by a hurricane and a mandatory evacuation, but we still enjoyed the first part of the week. The weather was perfect and hot. We were in an ideal location and it was very restful and beautiful.
Although this photo doesn't show it, the first two nights there was a blood moon, which I don't remember seeing very much, if ever. When the moon first came over the horizon it was red. When it rose more, it was normal white as this picture shows. I loved the way the light reflected off the water.

Most days during our visit, the water was too rough, and the currents too dangerous so swimming was not allowed. Even no more than knee deep, it almost knocked me over. But the surfers went crazy.
Sunrise is a beautiful time of day in the Outer Banks

We visited Currituck Lighthouse, built in 1873.

We climbed to the top and this is one of the views down the steps.

View from the top of the lighthouse of the Whalehead Club

Birthday Surprise

Yesterday was my birthday. It was a nice lazy day, just the kind I like. We usually meet friends for breakfast on Sunday mornings and I was surprised when my daughter and her husband, and my son and his girlfriend joined us as well. Yeah, they're not known for getting up early on Sunday mornings. So it was a treat to have us all together and we had a great time.

I was able to get a little writing done on my current work-in-progress after breakfast. The weather warmed up and I even got to curl up on the swing on my back porch with one of my free books from RWA National. Then hubby took me out to dinner. Nice birthday all the way around.

Then I got the rest of my birthday surprise.

Okay, it's on order because right now they are sold out, but hubby has heard me talking about Kindles and other e-readers, and he's been checking them out. I think hubby has iPad envy myself, but I want a reader small enough to slip in my purse and with a screen I can read outside. So...I'm getting a Kindle!

I guess I'll get another suprise when the box shows up at my door.

So anyone want to share their birthday surprises?


With a Little Luck

Paul McCartney and Wings hit the top of the music charts with a lovely song based on the first segment of my topic. But this award-winning, prolific musician from Liverpool was blessed with more than a little luck. It’s my opinion his career has been based on talent, hard work and tenacity. I believe he, and his band mates who formed the Beatles, couldn’t have scored decades of success relying only on luck. Their musical gift and ability to work through some pretty difficult times delivered their dreams and carved them a place in history. The same holds true for us authors.

But friends and family still bring up the four-letter word beginning with “l” and ending in “k”. It’s as though some believe we must be born with an angel atop our shoulder to reach our potential in life. Rather than an angelic presence, I tend to think of luck as being spawned by Satan. When luck eludes me, as has always been the case, I can hear him snickering as I endure soul-searching, self-doubting moments. And his outbursts only succeed in spurring me to work harder—which is a good thing and he ends up the laughingstock.

Mealtime is often when luck is mentioned. Recently, over a lunch at a local restaurant, a friend cornered me with, “You know you’ve never been lucky. How will you make your publishing dreams come true?” Needless to say, the salsa and chips soured in my stomach. I sipped some water and prepared a reply. While I admitted everyone is entitled to opinions and beliefs, I preferred hard work and persistence over relying on a magic touch that would propel into the hallway of my desired New York publisher. She smiled and wished me, well, you guessed it. Funny how I left the restaurant and drove away wondering if she truly was a friend or simply someone who enjoyed holding the “luck factor” over my head?

What do you all think? Does luck play a role in our successes, or will talent, hard work and persistence make our dreams become reality on a more regular basis?

Wishing you all many happy reading moments,

Shawna Moore
TORMENTED (Recommended Read) -- Ellora's Cave
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora's Cave
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave

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Helle's Myspace

The Truth In Movies

Hello all. I’m still laid up and on pain meds, thinking is not the easiest thing for me at the moment. At the risk of being completely incoherent with anything that I write, I decided to offer a little eye candy.

What better actor to start off a truth themed eye-candy blog than one off with one of the hottest actors on the big screen right now. Gerard Butler. Who's with me?

He starred in a fantastic movie called The Ugly Truth. Anyone remember the vibrator scene? I can watch that scene over and over again and still laugh. This movie was my introduction to Gerard. I'd seen 300 but had nooooo clue he was in it. I've been Gerard ga-ga ever since.

How could I do a thread like this without including Hugh Jackman? In Wolverine, we learn how Logan became Wolverine. If the truth had been told, we may have never had the yumminess that is Wolverine.

I normally like meatier men, but when I saw James McAvoy in Penelope, I feel just a bit in love. The way he refused to tell Penelope the truth about who he was to allow her to have the life she wanted was very heroic.

Sorry this wasn't longer:) I'll be back to 100% soon!

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.”~Mark Twain

We’ve all heard this quote a few times. Do you think it’s accurate and if so why? In my opinion, truth is stranger than fiction because sometimes in life there is no rhyme or reason for things happening, or for people doing certain weird things. Real people don’t always have proper motivation for their behavior or for their decisions. They just do it because they feel like it. For instance, in real life people become doctors because they want to be doctors, pure and simple. In a story, however, we’re usually expected to provide some sort of motivation for a character wanting to become a doctor. For instance, maybe a parent of the character died of a certain disease so the character promises to find a cure for this disease or help lots of others to fill the gap of not being able to help their loved one.

In real life, a murderer may have no motive or a very weak motive for committing a terrible crime. But in fiction, our villain needs to have strong motivation to be believable.

It’s true, some things that actually happen, that you see on the news would not be believable if they were written in a fictional book. The author would need to add something to shore it up, some strong reason that it happened.

Some people believe this quote is true because they believe authors can’t think up or create anything as bizarre as things that sometimes happen in real life. I doubt this is the case. Most authors are highly inventive, but we are obligated to stick to a certain number of rules and to make our stories believable. The reader already knows our stories are fiction, so we are constantly trying to convince them to suspend disbelief.

Now, to totally contradict myself… I write some pretty bizarre things in my stories, such as heroes who shape-shift into mythical creatures, and characters who travel through time. These are not seen as bizarre anymore in romance fiction. Lots of stories contain these elements. But compared to real life, they are strange. Some scientists believe time travel may be possible, but so far they’ve only proven it can happen for a few seconds. So, at the moment, time travel is something fictional that is actually stranger than truth and yet still believable within the story realm. Humans who change into animals have been a part of legends for centuries. I even grew up with stories of long ago witchcraft in which the witch magically changed a human into an animal. But I haven’t actually seen this happen. Have you? So, that is another fictional thing that is stranger than truth and still believable.

Why do you think truth is stranger than fiction? Or is it?


To Tell the Truth

No one likes a liar. Yet, keeping secrets or not telling the "whole" truth is a well known way of creating or sustaining conflict in a story. Often the reader is aware that one character isn't being truthful to the other and they know that the trainwreck is coming when the truth is revealed.

If it's not done right, this device might seemed contrived, if it's well-motivated, I think it can work really well. After all, are we all totally truthful to each other in real life? It's often easier to avoid conflict by avoiding the whole truth, perhaps telling one of those "little white lies" or maybe just leaving out the uncomfortable part of the story.

I admit to using this device in several of my stories.

In my Red Sage novella, Dark Angel, Julie doesn't tell Rafe the "whole" truth about why she sought him out to find out what happened the night her sister died. But then, Rafe, avoids telling her the truth of the events of that night for most of the story.

In my Ellora's Cave novel, Chains of Desire, Hannah lies about who she is - as a decoy for her princess, she must. But Jarrod lets her think he's something he's not as well.

In my Samhain contemporary romance, The Ride of Her Life, Sarah is not entirely truthful with Dean when she talks him into giving her a ride across the country on his Harley. But then again, Dean isn't entirely truthful with Sarah either, about what he's doing with his life now. Both of them avoid telling the truth, but when it comes out, they might as well have outright lied.

Sarah took another swallow, then cleared her throat. She looked up at him with those big eyes, took a deep breath and blurted, “Take me with you.”

Dean wasn’t sure what he expected, but it certainly wasn’t that. “What?”

“You’re leaving for Los Angeles in the morning, right?”

“Where did you hear that?”

“From Jennifer Krusick’s son. I want to go with you.”

“Sarah, I don’t understand. If you want to go to California, you can drive there yourself. You don’t want to ride on my bike.”

“Yes, I do. Anyway, my car died this morning.”

“Take a plane. It’s a lot quicker too.”

“I don’t want quicker. I want interesting. I want exciting.”

Heaven help him. Sarah Austin wanted excitement. “By the time we get to L.A. on my bike, your whole vacation will be gone.”

“I have a lot of vacation time saved up.”

“This is crazy.”

She laughed, but it wasn’t a light, happy sound. “I know. Please take me to L.A.”

He frowned. There was desperation in her face, in her voice, and he didn’t understand it. “Why do you want to go to California?”

She took a step closer to him. He could smell a light, flowery scent, probably from her hair. The shiny strands looked so soft he almost reached out to touch them before he caught himself and pulled his hand back. He stepped away before he could try it again.

“It doesn’t matter why I want to go,” she said, determination rising in her voice. “I’ll pay for everything. All the gas. The food. The lodging. Everything.”

“Sarah?” He stepped closer again, even though he knew he shouldn’t. He must have been allergic to that scent she wore because he felt a little dizzy, a little off-center around her. “Are you in some kind of trouble?”

Some emotion he couldn’t identify flashed in her eyes. “If you won’t take me, I’ll hitchhike.”

“Be serious.”

“I’m perfectly serious.”

“Sarah, be sensible about this.”

She started to shake and her face turned as red as it had this morning, but Dean could tell the difference between embarrassment and anger. This time he’d ticked her off royally.

But damn if she didn’t look fine. This was not the meek and mild little Sarah he remembered sitting on her front porch with her nose in a book. This Sarah was vibrant and alive. Her eyes sparkled. Her skin glowed.

He wanted to know more about her. What had she been doing all these years? What was going on with her now?

He wanted to give in to the crazy urge to pull her into his arms and discover what her body felt like beneath the baggy clothes. He wanted to kiss her and find out what her passion tasted like.

As he entertained his lustful thoughts, he saw Sarah pull herself together. Drawing in a deep, shaky breath, she relaxed her clenched fists. She stared at him through narrowed eyes and set the root beer bottle on the coffee table.

“Thanks, anyway.”

I've noticed in each of these examples, both of my characters have not been entirely truthful with the other and I think this is important, especially in the reader's mind. If only one of the characters was lying, there may be lots of negative reactions. But if neither one of them is being truthful, it tends to balance things out.

So do you like stories where the characters keep the truth from each other?


Water = Beach fun!

When I think of water, I automatically think of my family's annual Florida vacation. Every summer we rent a house with friends along the Florida Panhandle. The best part? The house is right on the beach!

The view from our deck

I love waking up every morning and sitting on the deck with my cup of coffee, reading and watching for dolphins. Then at night, I love even more falling asleep to the sound of the Gulf's waves.

Taking a walk along the water's edge... so relaxing!

We've been going to the same house for the last seven years, and we never tire of it. In fact, we've become great friends with another family who rents the house next to ours. So not only do we look forward to the amazing view, tropical weather and everything that goes with it, but we can't wait to enjoy time with our friends.

How we spend our days there. I'm sitting in one of those chairs, to the left.
I'm not saying which one I am, LOL!

Just looking at these pictures makes me want to go back, but I have to wait. The next 10 months can't come soon enough for me!


Water Fun

To my mind, there are three wonderful things to do with respect to water.

1. Savor its beauty
I think most people enjoy just watching the ocean, the play of the waves, the flash of sunlight on the water, the boom of strong surf. Even a small brook can provide a pretty picture and lakes augment the beauty of many landlocked landscapes. My story Scarlet and the Sheriff was born when I pictured the hero and heroine in a lake at midnight. She was skinnydipping and he got the report. Well, what's a guy to do? You can read an excerpt here. Despite their hi-jinks, it is normally calming and restful merely to gaze at a beautiful body of water.
2. Enjoy water sports
Though I love looking at any waterscape, water sports provide endless fun as well. The picture at the start of this blog is Hanauma Bay in Hawaii, famous on the Island of Honolulu for its snorkeling. My family has snorkeled in many spots; it's a good sport even for youngish children as long as you find a sheltered area. One of my kids recently became scuba certified and I would love to do that. But she has more time than I do.
This next picture is jet skiing, also in Hawaii. It's not my favorite sport, though many people love it. The last time I was on a jet ski was in Puerto Rico where we were vacationing with many of my husband's friends. He felt compelled to race with one of them on the jet ski (which was also transporting moi). I was so mad at him, I made him stop the machine and I jumped off and swam to shore. He's crazy and I'm sane (and he's also not here to dispute my facts). That was it for me and the jet ski.
3. Admire the marine life water supports
We love wildlife viewing of all sorts. Marine life can be harder to spot than wildlife on land, but when you do, it's awesome. Whale watching boat trips are popular where I live, and I've never been on a trip where we didn't get good views of the amazing creatures. Dolphins are the best mammals on the planet, IMO. I blogged on that subject last year, so I won't repeat it, but if you ever get a chance to contribute to saving dolphins, please do. They are as gentle and playful in real life as they seem to be when you see them on TV or at Sea world.
When you snorkel, it's easy to see the incredible variety of marine life that we take for granted (if we think of it at all). I hope everyone is aware that all marine animals (even the scary and ugly ones) are dependent on all of us for their ultimate well-being and even survival.

Okay, I got a little off subject. Sorry. What is your favorite way to enjoy the amazing diversity of water?