2010: You suck! 2011: You rock!

Can you believe today is the last day of 2010?

All I have to say is: Hallelujah!!!! Buh-bye 2010, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

It’s amazing that entering into a new year gives me a feeling of better things to come. A fresh start. A sense of excitement. Do you get the same feeling?

To work on making 2011 so much better than the crappy year of 2010, I’ve decided to really sit down and focus on some New Year's resolutions.

First my personal ones:

1) Quit smoking. You know I’ve been down this road before. When I quit almost eight years ago, it was simple. I’d decided I wanted kids. For me to be okay with getting pregnant, I had to at least not smoke for six months before we even started trying. I quit cold turkey. Didn’t pick up a cigarette for five years. But there is a truth to if you ever been a smoker, there is a part of you that will always be a smoker. I never should have picked up that one cigarette again. But I did and I’m finding quitting a second time is way harder than the first time ever was. But in 2011, the smoke sticks are gone!

2) Lose the 25 pounds I’ve gained from all the medical crap I’ve gone through the last five month. I’ve actually already started on this one. I’m still not 100% but its time to suck up the fear I have of reinjuring myself and get my butt back to the gym. Fear is a crazy thing. I’ve never been timid about exercise. I boxed, I did hardcore step, I ran, I did weight lifting and I loved it. Now I’m scared to even walk fast. A month in bed and pain will do that to a person. But it’s something I have to work through. I started using the WiiFit a week ago. While I’m definitely not going to get an exercise class calorie burn quality workout with the Wii unless I do it for about 3 hours, it’s been a great start. I’m finding my limitations right now. What aggravates my back and what doesn’t. And I’m feeling the sweet pain of sore muscles, which has been so refreshing. My next step is going back to the gym and working on the machines. My goal is to eventually get back into a classroom setting. It will be small steps. I do need to be cautious, but the fear will no longer stop me.


1) This one is pretty straightforward. 2010 was an awful writing year for me. For someone who had really been going strong in building her writing career, 2010 put me back….well, a year. I did get my first full length story published, but for new writing I really don’t have anything going on. That will change in 2011. I’m making myself a writing schedule and I’m sticking to it. I would like to complete one novel and at least two novella’s this year. I also have a couple of stories I’ve gotten my rights back to and I plan to put up on Kindle (after I do some rewriting on them). I read one of the stories yesterday and while I still love the little story, it has so much potential for growth. Funny how three years can make you see things you didn’t see the first time you wrote it.

2) Phase out the day job. As I work through 2011, I want to phase out what I do during the day, which is write articles. People, this is complete dullsville for me. I absolutely hate doing it. But it has one major benefit. I work at home. I’m available to my kids 24/7 and no worries of if they get sick and can’t go to school or summer and Christmas break. Unfortunately, I have found in the almost year I’ve been doing this, I am a creative writer. That is what gets my juices going. I can spend hours writing fiction and not tire. Can’t say the same for article writing. It’s so structured that I struggle with it. It’s also been difficult letting go of the fiction writing rules to write for articles. Repetitive words are the key and they always read funny to me after I’m done. Right now, I have to write articles. My goal is by the end of the year, to be in a place where writing articles is not my main financial egg.

Now that I have that written out, I’m feeling pretty good. At midnight tonight if you hear a squeal and a country-tinged woo-hoo, that will be me embracing this New Year. Welcome 2011!

How about ya’ll? Any New Year resolutions?

Happy New Years everyone! May 2011 be good to each and every one of us!

Time flies...

The irony of this post is that time got away from me, which is why I’m so late in getting it up here. Time is such a conundrum for humans. It dictates every aspect of our lives, yet it’s invisible and passes, it seems, at different speeds for different individuals. I remember in my twenties, time stood still. It dragged. Now, later in life, time just flies by. For example, where the hell did 2010 go?

It was just a little while ago that I was pondering this about 2009 as 2010 loomed, and now--surprise!—it’s 2011. Is that even a valid number? I mean, really? TWO THOUSAND AND ELEVEN? It boggles the mind.

Well, it boggles my mind anyway. I don’t think I’m the only one, though, or else we wouldn’t have all those sayings about time, such as

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Time got away from me.

Time stands still for no man.

Timing is everything.

It just takes time.

Time heals all wounds.

Time after time…

and so on…

I guess because being a writer has been so much a part of my life for so many years that I work on an alternate time frame. I have to plan a Christmas or New Year’s story well in advance, for example, or plan when my next novella will be done or plan for the release of my latest book weeks or months in advance. Publishing is like crafting in that you’re constantly working now on something that won’t see the light of day until at least a few months from now. If you’ve ever wondered why you can walk into a hobby store in July and find winter crafts or yarn colors for fall, or if you’ve been to a hobby store lately and been overwhelmed by all the Valentine’s Day materials, that’s why.

The changing of the years is a great time to reflect, and today I’ve been really thinking about my writing. Though I’ve been a writer for years in other areas, my first erotic short story, Grave Circumstance, was published in December of 2006. It seems like a million years ago, but it really wasn’t. It’s just been four, but so much has happened and I just have to wonder…

How did all those words come out of me?

Where did they come from?

Will I run out?

Only time will tell. LOL

To readers everywhere: Thank you so much for sharing our passion! May we all find many fantastic stories to read, write, and enjoy in 2011. Have a great New Year’s everyone!

Time-Our Most Precious Commodity?

Time is running out on 2010.

And time only runs one way.

Is this a true statement? I think so. A scientist I've enjoyed reading has posed this question: If time travel is possible, why have we never seen a person from the future in our time? We think about traveling back in time (the medieval time period seems to be popular, though personally I would not want to live then). But I can't think of a story where someone from the future traveled back to our time. Perhaps this is because we don't know what type of life this person from the future would live, whereas we know a lot about how people in the past lived.

The other reason I don't think time can be changed is because it is a man-made construct. The earth twirls around on its axis without regard to today, yesterday, or tomorrow. The rain falls, plants and trees grow, the seasons change - all without worrying about the concept of time.

But man has, over the centuries, constructed and measured time to provide a framework for living life. Not so much to tell us when it's time to wake up or go to bed. These things we know by the position of the sun in the sky. But measuring time tells us many important things. How far have we traveled (in a time when distance wasn't easily measured)? Ships at sea used time in calculating longitude (poorly, but it helped).

People used time to fix certain ceremonies in place (though many of our fixed dates today were originally established by seasonal events – for example the winter or summer solstices). But the concepts of days, months and years took scientists years, centuries actually, to figure out. Even now, we need a leap day every fourth year to account for the vagaries of the earth's revolutions around the sun. 365 days is not a perfect measure of one year. But centuries ago, the calendar used to be off by several days each year, and in a relatively short period of years, the seasons would be totally off-kilter.

I read a quote recently from someone who said, under the age of 25, the most precious commodity to a single person is sex. After the age of 25, the most precious commodity to anyone is time. What do you think?

Happy New Year to all our readers!!!!!

Interweaving Emotion and Sex

I'll be teaching my workshop, Writing Hot Delicious Love Scenes, starting Jan 3. Further info below about how to register if you're interested. A lot of writers, especially beginning writers or those who haven't written many love scenes, have questions about how to interweave emotion and sex. It's one of the things I cover in depth in the workshop and give attendees an opportunity to post a love scene for critique so they can get my take on how they've woven these two elements, along with other elements. Here is a small excerpt from the workshop.


Whether you’re writing a highly emotional love scene between two people who are in love, or one-night stand sex between people who have just met, emotion needs to be a part of it. Even in erotic romance, some kind of emotion is vital. If you don’t include emotion and characterization then your scenes may be porn-like or mechanical and robotic. Some writers make the mistake of thinking sex scenes are only about the physical, as if the character no longer thinks about things or as if their mind is shut down. The opposite is true. When characters or people in real life experience sex, the mind is just as involved in the experience as the body. That’s important to keep in mind for any sex scene.

Some scenes will have loads of emotion and some scenes will have a little emotion. But even with the one-night stand variety of sex, you still need feelings and thoughts blended in.

Why is this so important? You need to establish an emotional connection between your READER and your POV CHARACTER. Without this connection, the reader won’t care. And you must make the reader care or they toss your book aside.

You can add touches of emotion anywhere within a scene, whether it's extremely erotic or not. When I say emotion, I don't mean mushy-gushy type emotion. I’m talking about the psychological. What’s going on in their minds? Basically, it's just little things that keep the reader in touch mentally with the POV character. If you only have physical, external reactions from your POV character, you're missing an opportunity to strengthen the reader connection and you're not staying in deep POV. So with any reaction you have for your character, examine it. Ask yourself, is this reaction from deep inside the character. Or is it something an external observer would notice?

For example, if your heroine has insecurities about her body when she's naked in front of the hero, show that from deep within her psyche. It's another opportunity to make the reader empathize with your heroine, care about her, and make her even more likable. The hero could pick up on her insecurity and say or do something to make her feel better. This would be a touch of emotion that makes him more likable. It shouldn't be cliché at all. And an alpha hero can stay alpha and still do nice things. You will hopefully make a character empathetic when first introducing them, but you also need to keep that empathy going throughout the story, building on it, making it stronger so the reader completely identifies with the heroine and falls head over heels with the hero. That links back to who the character is inside. Their thoughts and emotions.


Workshop: Writing Hot, Delicious Love Scenes

Date: January 3 - 31, 2011

Instructor: Nicole North

Fee: $25

Do the love scenes or sex scenes in your romance novel lack that magical spark and sizzling heat that makes the reader go WHEW!!? The romance genre has exploded with bonfire-hot romance and erotic romance novels and novellas over the last few years. In this workshop we'll explore the many aspects of fantastic, hot and delicious love scenes, whether you write mildly sensual
romance or erotic romance. We'll look at the best ways of writing those all-important love scenes that take your characters to the next level of their relationship.

Topics covered:
Leading up to sex
Interweaving emotion and sex
Differences between romance and erotic romance
Choosing your words
Kissing during sex
Sexy dialogue
Humor during sex
Sexual positions
Personalizing your love scenes
Sensual settings
Seducing the reader
The hero
The heroine
Historical vs. contemporary love scenes
Determining placement
Progression from one love scene to the next
Oral sex
Avoid sex cliches
Sex and conflict
Written and multimedia examples

Please note: this workshop does not deal with pure erotica or alternative lifestyles. The lessons and examples contain graphic language and frank discussions of sexuality. Only those age 18 and over are permitted to enroll.

This is an interactive online workshop with exercises and critique/ feedback from the instructor on your written love scene. Workshop will be conducted via a Yahoo group. Lessons will arrive at your email inbox. To register or to see what others have said about my workshops please visit www.nicolenorth.com and click on workshops. Thanks!!

Instructor bio: Nicole North's erotic romance novellas have been described
by reviewers as "exciting, high octane, captivating, scintillating, sinfully
delicious and pure romance." Her stories contain "heart and heat, killer
love scenes, magic and extraordinary characters." Her books from Red Sage
include: Beast in a Kilt in Secrets Volume 29 Indulge Your Fantasies (July
2010), Kilted Lover (Nov. 2009), and Devil in a Kilt is in Secrets Volume 27
Untamed Pleasures (July 2009). Laird of Darkness (March 2011) will be her
first novella from Carina Press. Scoundrel in a Kilt will be released in a
future Secrets volume. Though she has a degree in psychology, writing
romance is her first love. Please visit her website to learn more about her
books or see what past students have said about her workshops.
Website: http://www.nicolenorth.com

Time of My Life

Today I'm relaxing after the last few crazy, busy, fun, exhausting, over-eating, emotional holiday celebrating days. I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday and now comes the time when we tend to look back. Over the past year. Over the past decade.

And look ahead.

But I didn't want to write a typical heading-to-the-new-year post - there will be lots of them over the next week or two. So, since our theme this week is time, I hopped over to You Tube to see what music videos had to offer.

There was Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time. Totally dated but a cool little mini-movie - my favorite type of music video.

There's the Glee version of Time Warp - what fun!

Then came the perfect time video. What romance lover hasn't played and re-played this scene from Dirty Dancing? My love of the good girl/bad boy romances didn't start with this movie, but this movie certainly fed that love. Unfotunately, I wasn't able to embed the video in this post, but click here for Time of Your Life and enjoy!

And looking back over the past twelve months, I have to admit it was a pretty good year. Not only is my recent release, See Me, doing well, but I'm looking forward to a four story series being released from Samhain, starting sometime this coming spring.

And looking ahead to 2011, I can hope I'll be able to say I'm having the time of my life.


Kilted Lover receives CAPA nomination!

I was thrilled to see my book, Kilted Lover, on the list of Cupid and Psyche Award nominations from The Romance Studio! What a nice Christmas present! To be nominated, among such big name authors, is a major honor.

The nomination must have come as a result of this wonderful review from earlier in the year:

5 Hearts from The Romance Studio "Leslie Livingston plans to enjoy Charleston's Scottish Games when her Celtic amulet draws the attention of two thugs. Now she's being tossed over the shoulder of the kilted, virile man she'd been admiring earlier. Scott MacPherson can't stand back and let thieves attack the hot little red-head. Evading bullets he gets her to the safety and now that the danger has dialed down, the heat between them turns up. But will one night of erotic exploration be enough for them?

I loved this story! I can't say how much I enjoyed everything about this fantastic novella. In fact I've decided to do a little research and head out to some Highland Games this summer to find my own kilted hottie. Swift action made time fly by as I read -- suddenly I was sad to say good-bye to one of the sexiest heroes I've ever met. Scott is the perfect man, he rescues a damsel in distress from two armed bad-guys after effortlessly completing the cabertoss, all while wearing a kilt! Leslie is a refreshing mixture of goddess and good girl. This author is at the top of my must-read list, I hope she provides me with an endless supply of sexy Scottish studs." Overall rating: 5 Hearts.
Sensuality rating: Very sensual.
Reviewer: Theresa Joseph

Kilted Lover: Chapter 1 excerpt (this part is rated PG)

"My amulet isn't for sale," Leslie Livingston said for the second time, wishing this line at the refreshment stand would move forward already. Every minute that the Charleston sun beat down on her was another step toward dehydration. And the jerk harassing her about the amulet made the situation twice as annoying.

"Come now, luv, I'll give you a hundred US for it." The gray-haired Englishman sipped his cola. Too bad she couldn't have gotten in line ahead of him.

"No, thanks." Her grandmother had given her the amulet years ago and she would never part with it. Even if it was worth only ten dollars, the sentimental value was priceless.

"Two hundred, and I'm being very generous." The man beside her inched closer. His black dress pants and white button-up shirt seemed out of place at the Scottish Games.

She took a step back, hating close-talkers. "Nope, sorry. Why are you so interested?"

"I'm a jeweler and it's an unusual piece. Two-fifty?"

Leslie sighed, though she felt like screaming. "No," she said in a firmer tone.

"You've got to be joking. It's only a peridot, for God's sake. It can't be worth any more than that." His pale gray eyes took on a menacing quality.

Leslie was tempted to grab his drink and pour it over his head. "Clearly it is, or you wouldn't want it so badly."

"How much did you pay for it?"

"It was a gift." Move forward, people, she mentally shouted at those in line ahead of her.

"Three hundred, and you'll be robbing me blind."

"Leave me alone," she said through clenched teeth. "Even if you offered me a thousand dollars, the answer would still be no."

The man's hand shot out toward her chest and the amulet. She jumped back and slammed into a body so solid that it didn't budge. Big hands caught her upper arms.

"What the hell are you doing?" The deep voice almost growled the words.

"I'm sorry--" Leslie began. But his eyes were fixed with malicious intent upon the British man.

"The lady said no. So beat it."

With her back pressed against his hard chest, she felt his words resonate.

"Fine." The Brit looked like he wanted to snarl, but he strode away, muttering about ignorant Americans.

Her rescuer released her.

"Thank you." Leslie couldn't help but stare up--way up--into his sexy face. His narrowed, sea-green gaze was pinned on someone far off to her left. The frown and clenched jaw emphasized his rugged, masculine bone structure. She noted his long, sun-streaked sandy hair, the white T-shirt stretched over his enormous chest, and the plaid kilt belted at his waist. A low-slung silver chain held a black leather sporran in place at the front of his kilt. Male earthiness emanated from his skin. But for the t-shirt, he might have been a fearsome warrior transported through time from the Scottish Highlands.

"No problem." He fully focused on her, and the temperature climbed ten degrees. That made it around ninety in the shade, not unusual for September in the Low Country.

Music swirled from bagpipes in the distance. Voices mixed with laughter, and for an instant, she imagined herself far, far away with this luscious hunk. In Scotland? Chills and heat raced over her skin.

"That is an unusual amulet. What makes it light up?"

"What?" The large peridot encased in gold was indeed glowing. She lifted the stone and the heat from it surprised her. "I have no clue."

Though her grandmother had given it to her fifteen years ago, today was the first time she'd worn it. The story of its origins was lost in the mists of time. She'd always considered it gaudy and unfashionable, but she thought it appropriate today, a Celtic amulet worn to Scottish games.

"How old is it?" he asked.

"I don't know." Now was he interested in it, too? Surely not. He didn't look as if he would wrestle her for it.

"It's your turn." His attention lifted to her eyes and held her captive with the power of his stare.

Okay, that was just too sexy. Heat and awareness rushed over her. "My turn?"

He grinned and gestured toward the vendor.

"Oh, sorry." She spun around, feeling a bit lightheaded, not to mention idiotic, and placed her order. Dear God, he was yummy. She had the mad urge to lick him.

That's just stupid, Les. You're a mature, responsible, respected veterinarian. You don't have those kinds of thoughts.

"You're still in line?" Her boyfriend Fletcher appeared beside her, back from a quick jaunt to the car to retrieve his travel-size bottle of sunscreen.

"Yes, long line," she barely got out. The startling effects of the man behind her hadn't worn off. What the hell was going on? She was supposed to feel flushed and excited around Fletcher, not some stranger. She paid and picked up the two drink cups.

"Thanks again," she told the kilted man.

"Any time." Why did that murmur sound like an invitation?

Her hand unsteady, she gave Fletcher his cola and a bit of the liquid sloshed over the side. He sighed. "These are my new shoes."

"Oops. Sorry."

Handmade Italian loafers weren't exactly the thing to wear to Scottish games, but he would wear little else on his precious feet except these or golf shoes. Everything he owned screamed money, from those damned shoes to his designer sunglasses.

"Here." She gave him a napkin.

He bent and wiped the leather while she listened to the Scot ordering. No, not a Scot. His accent was American, but she liked thinking of him as a Scot. And he was no doubt a descendant of legions of Scots. He wore large brown work boots, probably steel-toed. A bit of mud and grass stuck in the thick tread. Now, there was a man who wasn't afraid to get dirty. Something about that appealed to her on a primal level. So different from Fletcher with his pedicures and shiny loafers.

With his drink in hand, the Scot bypassed them. His gaze met hers again, lingering, magnetic. The hint of a charming smile touched his lips. Then he was gone, striding toward the gaming field, his hair brushing his wrestler-like shoulders. She could wrap that mane of sun-streaked hair around her hands twice over and hold his head for--What am I thinking? She guzzled a sip of cola, but that didn't stop her from studying the hunk's trim waist and narrow hips in that red, blue and green plaid kilt. No man in a kilt had ever looked so damned sexy. And she knew if he considered himself a true Scot, he wore nothing underneath the plaid. She closed her eyes and imagined those tanned, muscular legs sliding between hers, the sprinkling of golden hair rasping her skin.

What am I doing? Lusting after another man right in front of Fletcher? She placed the cold, sweaty cup against her face. Well, Fletcher should be sexier.

"What was that about?" He stood and threw the napkin in the trash.


"You thanked him."

"Oh, a pushy British man tried to grab my amulet and that guy told him to leave me alone. He's so big he'd probably beat the man to a bloody pulp."

"And you like that idea?"

"No. I'm just saying...." What was she saying? That maybe she liked the way the guy had protected her and stood up for her. Fletcher could never have done that convincingly. Suddenly his perfect three-hundred-dollar haircut and equally expensive knit golf shirt irritated her. Yes, her parents loved Fletcher, but did she? They'd dated for ten months, but things were not progressing as she would've liked. Every day he seemed more like her cousin or best friend rather than a boyfriend or lover.

"I thought you were dropping me off, then going to play golf," she said.

"I'm not sure I should if someone is harassing you."

"I can take care of myself. We go home tomorrow, so this is your last chance for golf."

The romantic weekend getaway in an elegant beach house was supposed to bring them closer together. She had imagined long, barefoot walks in the edge of the surf. But Fletcher didn't like going barefoot in the sand because he might get parasites.

She couldn't remember their last hot night together--correction--lukewarm night together. They slept in separate rooms at the beach house because he said she kicked him during the night and hogged the bed. She was beginning to think he'd lost his sex drive, while hers had apparently shifted into overdrive today. Her body was still tingly from standing near the hunk.

"You have your phone, right?" Fletcher asked. "Fully charged?"

"Of course. You charged it last night." Thanks to him her phone was always charged, her fridge always stocked with the most expensive bottled water, and her dog groomed weekly to show-dog standards, just as his prize Pomeranians were. What could be better? Was she only being ungrateful?

"All right. If you're sure you'll be okay, I might go hit a few."

Good. "Pick me up at eight, after the Celtic rock concert."

"Call me if you need to leave before then." He gave her a dry peck on the cheek.

Yes, definitely a cousinly kiss. "Bye." She watched him stroll away in his starched khaki pants. Watching him made her feel bored in contrast to the excitement of watching the Scot stride away in his kilt.

I've lost my mind.

She should be happy with what she had--a nice-looking, organized, eligible bachelor with an amazing income and everything that came with that. Dejected, she made her way to the bleachers.

When the kilted hottie strode confidently along the other side of the athletic field, her spirits lifted instantly. I shouldn't look. I shouldn't look!

But she couldn't help it. The way he moved did something to her, ensnared her attention and gave her a delicious flutter in her stomach.

He'd confined his long hair into a ponytail which revealed the hard line of his square jaw. He laughed at something one of the other men said, and his granite features transformed into an expression--alive and warm and approachable--which mesmerized her. What a contagious sound his deep laugh was. She caught herself smiling in response.

When his turn came to toss the caber, he leaned forward and hoisted the fifteen-foot log vertically onto his shoulder. That thing would break a normal man's back. All his muscles rippling and flexing, he walked forward a few paces, stopped and heaved the caber. It landed on the top end and flipped to rest with the bottom end pointing directly away from him.

Amazing. Leslie joined in the applause.

When he strode out of sight, her gaze drifted over the crowd and caught on the gray-haired British man who'd harassed her earlier. He darted a glance her way, and started when he noticed her eyes on him. He turned and slipped away through the crowd. What was his deal? A cold prickle needled her.

Read the rest of the Chapter One Excerpt.

Also available at Red Sage and Amazon.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year to all our readers!!!


PS I'm blogging for the first time over at Here Be Magic, the blog of Carina Press paranormal authors. I'm sharing a yummy holiday recipe for date nut bread. Hope you'll drop in and tell me your fav holiday treat.

Happy Holidays!

I remember many traditions we had for the holidays during my childhood, all of them treasured though some of them have been discontinued. For example, although we were decorating fiends when I was a child, I don’t decorate much for Christmas or New Year’s, although that was a major part of the holidays when I was growing up. However, we never traveled during the winter holiday season when I was a child and now Hubby and I do, so decorating is something we’ve only done a couple of times in the many years we’ve been together.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not mooching off relatives during this festive time of year. I’d love to have the holidays at our house, but it just never seems to work out that way. There’s always someone moving or having a baby or something that makes it impossible for them to travel, so we go to them. It makes it kind of nice, actually. While there’s something comforting about settling in around a Christmas tree that you’ve put up yourself and having all your loved ones tucked safely in upstairs or in the spare bedroom, there’s also something exciting about heading out to someone else’s abode to enjoy time with those we don’t see often enough.
One of the most enduring Christmas traditions I remember from my childhood was holding hands around the Christmas tree and singing carols. I couldn’t sing well, but it didn’t matter. We all sang anyway. On New Year’s Eve, we always sewed new pillow cases and slept on them that night. I’m not sure where this comes from, but we did it every New Year’s Eve for as long as I could remember. If anyone knows the origin of this custom, please share!
I guess one of the most important traditions that resonates with me for Christmas and New Year’s was that we made sure everyone was taken care of, even the animals. I know it sounds odd, but as long as we were all together and okay, that’s all that mattered, and that included our critters. On that note, I will leave you with some Christmas critters who desperately want to wish you Happy Holidays…either that or they have to poo-poo. LOL
Happy Holidays!

Guest Interview - Lillian Grant

What, no conflict?

I was working on an idea for NaNo the other day. (NaNo is a special kind of torture where writers go insane and sign up to write fifty thousand words in thirty days.) Anyway, I was working on plot ideas and my eldest wandered into my office and asked what I’m doing.

“Plotting,” says I, “My story needs conflict.”

His response. “Is it a war novel?”

Nooo, it’s romance of course!

So, why do you need conflict? Poor delusional child. I explained how it goes. Girl meets boy, or vice versa, they feel attracted, fall in love, something happens to pull them apart (conflict), they overcome the obstacle and live happily ever after.

He grins at me. “I’ve got a conflict for you. How about your hero is abducted by aliens. They probe him and when he returns to earth he’s gay. Now the heroine has to either get herself changed into a man or find the aliens to reverse the procedure if she wants to save their relationship.”

I do apologize for him. I gave birth to him and after that I have no idea what went wrong.

Funnily enough, around the same time as my son was regaling me with even more ridiculous ideas, a whole discussion opened up on Romance Divas about novels being contracted with no conflict in the plot and didn’t readers want conflict anymore.

I myself have a novella that has been tossed back at me by a publisher because it has no conflict. But I actually don’t mind stories without conflict. Hell, my favorite book of all time doesn’t even have a plot. I defy anyone to read Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary and find the purpose of the book. Just when you think it’s about to get to the reason, the bit that ties it all together, it ends. Despite Hunter’s massive oversight in writing a book that has no real point, other than to meander through the life of journalist Paul Kemp as he lurches from drink to drink and from one apparent disaster to another, it’s a brilliant book.

Let’s be honest, most people don’t have romances with conflict, most relationships are not all Romeo and Juliet with calamity around every corner. Unfortunately my own romantic history has been full of conflict and hand wringing. Maybe that’s why I can accept a story where it’s all love and laughter because it’s not my experience of real life. How about you? Do you want conflict in your romance?

Here's the blurb for Lillian's book, Happy Birthday, Nancy Tobin.

Suddenly single on the eve of her fortieth birthday, Nancy Tobin’s not sure turning middle-aged is worth celebrating. She's stuck in a dead-end job as the boss’s bitch with only her morose Labrador for a companion. What does she have to party about? Maybe if she ignores the whole birthday thing, it will just go away.

Hot, twenty-six-year-old Jake Turner has other ideas. When he bumps into Nancy at the library, he sees a woman in need of a wake-up call. Determined to unleash the beauty hidden beneath the sad façade, he schemes to relight her spark. He wants to give her a birthday to remember but he ends up being the one who can't forget: a visit to his apartment becomes a weekend in his bed where he discovers an offbeat, unpredictable, sexually adventurous woman he never wants to let go.

With Jake, Nancy can do anything, her life can be whatever she chooses. But this new and exciting relationship teeters on the edge of destruction when her soon-to-be ex-husband reveals the reason for Jake’s initial interest in her. Can Nancy trust Jake when he finally tells her he loves her?

You can read an excerpt from the book here: http://www.lilliangrant.com/
Purchase links:




Thanks for joining us today, Lillian.

Holiday Traditions

So the countdown has officially started and if you’re anything like me you have a bunch left to do. Yes, I waited till the last possible minute this year. What is Christmas without a little last-minute chaos, right?

With all the added stress of everything I need to complete before Christmas, I can’t wait for Friday to get here. For me and my family, Christmas Eve is the big holiday. No, we don’t open presents. We do save that for Christmas morning, but as far back as I can remember Christmas Eve has been our big hoorah.

I’ll pack the twins up early and we’ll drive the 45 minutes to my parent’s house. I’ll spend some time with Mom in the kitchen, then get lunch at one of my old favorites. It will either be a hotdog from Circus Hall of Cream or a burger from Checkers. I know, totally not fancy, but it’s a huge part of my day. You see, the city I live in now DOES NOT have a good hotdog. I’ve spent 10 years trying to find one, only to be disappointed over and over again. My city also doesn’t have a Checkers. It’s a shame really. They have the best burgers. Which one I’ll pick will depend on what I’m wanting more that day.

We’ll spend the afternoon relaxing and my Dad will eventually come home from work. When he does, we all pack up in the van and spend an hour driving around looking at Christmas lights with Christmas music playing in the background. We always go to this one particular house. They have their lights setup to Christmas music, so they blink with the beat. The kids love it and I must say I do too.

Afterwards, we head back to the house where we start laying out a buffet style dinner. No, we don’t do turkey or anything like that (we do have Christmas dinner). This is a buffet of all the goodies I loved growing up, including my Mom’s cheese ball, which Christmas would not be Christmas without her cheese ball. It’s a simple feast including sausage biscuits, wienies, chicken croissants, cheese and meat, but this is my favorite meal of the year.

We’ll put something on the TV and watch it together and maybe play a game. Then the kids will go to bed, as will my Mom and Dad. My sister and I will stay up way longer than we should then go to bed ourselves.

Christmas morning in the Bishop household isn’t like it is in most homes. There isn’t a mad dash to the Christmas tree or a crazed ripping of gift wrapped presents. No, it is very orderly. We eat breakfast (a small one so we are hungry for dinner) then we get dressed. Yep, no PJ’s by the tree and then we sit in a circle and take turns opening gifts. It was like this when I was a child, and my kids have grown up with it like this. I’m used to it.

I’ll never forget the first Christmas at my ex-husband’s family’s house (ten years ago). Chaos can’t even describe what it was like. I almost had a panic attack, not used to the madness. Everyone was off in their own little corner, frantically tearing into gifts. The noise level was insane. At one point my brother-in-law called my husband’s name and THREW a gift across the room at him. Talk about a fish out of water. I remember sitting on the couch, just breathing, trying to absorb it all.

I’ll miss that this year, but I’m glad my kid’s will have both. They’ll have the quiet, orderly Christmas with me and then have the craziness of their daddy’s Christmas. It will be interesting to see when they become adults which method they will take on themselves. I see my daughter taking on mine, while my son, LOL, yeah the mad dash fits him.

I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday! Be Safe and Be Merry!

Guest interview: Vivi Andrews

Please help me in welcoming Vivi Andrews, our special guest for today!

Vivi Andrews was born and raised in Alaska, and she still lives in the Last Frontier when she isn't bouncing around the globe. After graduating from Northwestern University, Vivi tested out a variety of careers—from the movie industry to accounting—but kept coming back to her first two loves, writing and travel. She lived in nine cities—on two continents and one tropical island—while pursuing her dream of writing romance professionally.

In 2009, Vivi won the Golden Heart Award, presented by the Romance Writers of America, and her debut novella, "The Ghost Shrink, the Accidental Gigolo & the Poltergeist Accountant," hit the digital shelves. Within two years, she wrote and released eight paranormal romances, including the popular Serengeti Shifter series and critically-lauded Karmic Consultants books.

Vivi is currently hard at work on her next happily-ever-after.

Welcome Vivi! Please tell us about No Angel. And do you have a review you could share with us?

No Angel is an unconventional Christmas story. When Sasha's boyfriend is sucked into Hell on Christmas Eve, an angel in cowboy boots appears in her apartment and tells her she has until dawn to fight her way into Hell and back out again if she wants to save her boyfriend - who, as it turns out, isn't as unfamiliar with Hell as he's been letting on.

Here's what Kelly at Reading the Paranormal Reviews had to say: "I loved, loved, loved the role reversal of the straight laced, half-demon guy vs the tough, can-shoot-a-gun-straighter-than-most, reluctant Champion of Good girl. Sure, Jay was hiding his demon side and trying to be the perfect boyfriend, but I just loved that Sasha saw him as a desk-jockey who wouldn't be able to fight his way out of a paper bag. AND SHE LIKED HIM DESPITE THAT. There was something fabulous about her and her attitude that I totally dug."

Wow that's an awesome review! Please tell us about your favorite character in the book.

The heroine Sasha is a badass Hollywood stunt woman. She's wise-cracking, gun-toting, and I couldn't lover her more if I tried. As the daughter of a celebrity family, she has massive trust issues about people using her for her parents' fame and she's built a wall of defensiveness and sarcasm around herself, but with a little Christmas magic - and a trip to Hell - she finally figures out how to bust a door into that wall.

I love tough heroines! What element of this story was the hardest for you?

I think one crucial part of my process is a kind of selective memory loss. I always forget the most challenging parts when I have the shiny finished product looking back at me. My editor did have to crack the whip and get me to add more world building in edits - since I always seem to skimp on the details that are so clear in my head and somehow miss the transition to the page, but that wasn't a painful fix. At least, according to my faulty memory it wasn't.

Please tell us about one of your other books.

My recent print release The Ghost Exterminator is another book with a wise-cracking tough-girl heroine. Jo Banks was born with the ability to shove pesky ghosts into the white light. Even though she might secretly long for normalcy, she's embraced her unusual gifts and made a career for herself as a premiere Ghost Exterminator. Her latest client, studly and stuck up Wyatt Haines, isn't sure he believes in ghosts or anything else Jo says, but when her extermination goes awry and throws two prankster ghosts into Wyatt's body to haunt him, he's going to have to learn to trust her and embrace the unexpected if he's going to get his body back under his sole control.

And you should have seen me dancing around my living room when Romantic Times reviews called The Ghost Exterminator "laugh-out loud funny" and gave it four and a half stars.

I can see why you'd dance! That's fantastic! :) What inspires you?

It seems like anything and everything inspires me. I have a hundred stories bouncing around in my head trying to get out. I don't know if I'll have time in this lifetime to write them all, but I'm sure going to try. :)

What was the most important thing you learned just before you made your first sale?

I think what I really needed to learn was not to sell myself short. Not to limit myself by telling myself I can't do things. I never used to think I could write paranormal because I didn't have the same passion for worldbuilding and creating world bibles that I'd heard my favorite paranormal authors swear by. I thought I'd never be able to write a novella because my stories always spun out with subplots on top of their subplots and I thought I couldn't write short.

But when I challenged myself to test my limits, I sold my first story - a paranormal novella. Stretch your boundaries as a writer and it can change everything.

That is truly fantastic and helpful advice! What do you wish you’d known before becoming published?

I wish I'd known to take a moment and enjoy the phase I was in, when it was all about the stories, before promo and deadlines and other businessy writing demands entered the equation. I miss the focus I was able to give to each story, without having to step away to do edits on another or promote a third.

It does get very hectic sometimes. What’s next for you?

I'm excited about my next shapeshifter release which completes my Serengeti Shifter series. Serengeti Sunrise releases this May from Samhain and features two very strong-willed lion-shifters, neither of whom are very good at compromising. Neither Zoe nor Tyler want the obligation of a relationship, but what starts as a no strings affair is quickly tangled beyond recognition in this steamy novella.

Congratulations on your upcoming release! Sounds fabulous! Would you like to ask readers a question?

I'd love to! In No Angel, my heroine is facing the pressures of the holidays combined with introducing her significant other to her parents for the first time. I'd love to hear if your readers have any stories about bringing a boy of girlfriend home for the first time or a particular tale of holiday mayhem. And I'd like to give a copy of No Angel to one randomly selected commenter, since it is the season of giving. :)

Thanks so much, Vivi! That's very generous of you! And thank you for being our guest today!

For more about Vivi's books or the life of a nomadic romance author, please visit her blog, Ramblings from the Road, at http://viviandrews.blogspot.com or stop by her website at www.viviandrews.com.

Guest interview: Toni Anderson

Please welcome Toni Anderson, our special guest for today!

Toni is a former marine biologist who conducted her Ph.D. at the Gatty Marine Laboratory in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. She was born and raised in the U.K., but now lives in the Canadian prairies with her husband and two children, living about as far from the ocean as possible. Her stories are set in the stunning locations where she’s been lucky enough to live and work—the blustery east coast of Scotland, the remote isolated mining communities of Northern Labrador, the rugged landscapes of the U.S. and the Red Center of Australia. She escapes the long brutal Canadian winters by writing Romantic Mystery and Suspense stories.

Welcome, Toni! Please tell us about Storm Warning, your latest release from Carina Press.

STORM WARNING is a story about a graduate student haunted by her father’s ghost. She becomes the chief suspect in a drug smuggling investigation and ends up falling in love with the DEA agent investigating her. The story came to me as I walked the dogs and pushed the stroller around the blustery little town of Cellardyke where we were fortunate enough to live for six happy years. Blame Daphne Du Maurier and an overactive imagination. Blame the misty sea air and the constant sight of the Isle of May just off the coast. Blame the cute little puffins and the incredibly brave Lifeboat personnel who go out in seas too rough for mere mortals. :)

Wow, what a dramatic setting! Do you have a review you could share with us?

I’ve had some nice reviews and got a Top Pick from Aubrey at THE ROMANCE REVIEWS.

“I found Storm Warning to be a very easy read that kept me captivated. It is exactly the way I like my romantic suspense novels to be. Heavy on the action, sex and dialogue. The dialogue between Sorcha and Ben was intelligent, witty and fast-paced. I loved that the setting wasn't the usual romantic suspense setting of the jungle but a small town in Scotland. I would definitely recommend this book to others and look forward to reading more from this author.”

Awesome! Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

My favorite character is the hero, Ben Foley. Don’t get me wrong, I love the heroine, but I put Ben slap bang into his worst nightmare and then expected him to be a hero. He’s not exactly a white knight, in fact he can be pretty cranky, but I love him anyway.

Which element of this story was your favorite to create?

Trying to do justice to the setting while maintaining a certain ‘pace’ was probably the most enjoyable aspect of writing the story, especially after we moved to Canada. And researching puffins. Who doesn’t love puffins?

Yes, they are so cute! Which element of this story was most difficult?

The most difficult aspect to create was portraying Sorcha’s mental state. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but trying to describe what she was hearing/thinking/feeling when she didn’t understand the symptoms herself was much harder than I’d anticipated.

Very intriguing! Please tell us about Sea of Suspicion.

This is the book of my heart :). Sea of Suspicion is a mixture of murder mystery and romance set in the marine lab where I did my Ph.D., and where I met my husband (there wasn’t so much lust and intrigue and adultery in my day—at least not that I knew about). Nick Archer is a tortured hero trying to find the person responsible for his wife’s death more than a decade ago. Juxtaposed against that lovely dark tormented soul is the sweetest heroine I’ve ever written, but even she has secrets that are tearing her apart. I love all the personalities in the lab. I adore Nick’s partner and his chronically ill wife. Sigh.

I’d describe the atmosphere as BBC mystery meets hot romance all to a Rolling Stones soundtrack.

Could you tell us what inspires you about Scotland and how it works as a story setting for romantic suspense? Does the setting become like another character for you? (In case you don't know, I'm a Scotland fanatic.) :)

I’m British (and Canadian as of two months ago :)) and lived in Scotland for 12 years total. My hubby is Irish/Scottish and most of his family lives in Scotland, so it is home in many respects.

The setting is definitely another character for me. I think Scotland works as a modern setting for Romantic Suspense because it oozes personality and atmosphere. From the rugged coasts, to the green fertile fields, the exposed moors, the incredibly beautiful mountains, lochs and glens. It is full of both tumultuous history and modern day drama. My question is why wouldn’t it work as a setting for Romantic Suspense?

I think it would be one of the best settings for contemporary romantic suspense. Like you said, the atmosphere. I see it as a very moody place because of the weather--lots of clouds, rain, fog, wind. The hauntingly beautiful castle ruins and rugged shores. Scotland can at times have a very gothic feeling perfect for suspense. I feel inspired! :) Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?

Yes—join a writing group, preferably full of people who like to write the same sort of books you do. Read some of the excellent writing books out there: Stephen King, Donald Maass, Dwight Swain. And write everyday as much as you can. Get a critique partner and learn the value of both giving and receiving writing advice. And keep going. I think a lot of writers get put off because they have no idea how tough it really is, not just to write a book, but also to find the courage to send it out to industry professionals. Hold on to your dreams and make them come true.

Wonderful advice! What’s next for you?

I have a couple of completed manuscripts in various places. I am currently writing what seems to be turning into a spy novel *rolls eyes at self* set in the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan—I know, I know, crazy! It is a romance and features a snow leopard biologist and a SAS soldier. After that I’ll either write another story set in Scotland, or a murder mystery romance that is brewing in Bamfield, Vancouver Island, where I spent 6 weeks this summer. The ideas never stop, I just need to clone myself.

These sound fantastic! Do you have a question for readers?

Where in the world would you want to go--be it reality or fiction?

Thank you for being our guest today, Toni!

Thanks so much for having me today! If readers want to know more I have a website, blog, Facebook Fan Page and personal facebook page where I spend way too much time. I also twitter and have a Newsletter.

Guest Blogger - Paige Tyler


Thanks so much for letting me guest blog today!

Readers often ask me how I come up with ideas for my books, so I thought I'd give you a little behind-the-scenes peek at how I came up with my new release, a paranormal erotic romance from Ellora's Cave called DEAD SEXY.

Before I say anything else though, isn't that cover too hot for words?! When the art department sent it to me, I probably gazed at it for a good ten minutes in mouth-drooling appreciation before I could email them back telling the artist it not only rocked, but totally fit the book. The hero is "Dead Sexy," after all!

Okay, back to the story and how I came up with it. First, to set the stage, I need to share a little something with you about myself. Well, about my hubby and me, actually. We love zombie movies, from the George Romero gems to Shaun of the Dead and everything in between, including "Walking Dead," the new series on AMC. You just can't go wrong with a movie full of walking dead people, can you? Well, if you've ever seen a zombie movie (or even you haven't), then you know the creatures aren't the heroes of the film. I mean, how can they be, right? They're all dead and decayed and downright unattractive, not to mention pretty damn scary. Which was why you can imagine my surprise when my hubby suggested I write an erotic romance about a zombie hero. I was like, you're kidding, right? What woman in her right mind would fall in love with a dead guy? No way could that possibly work, or so I thought.

Turns out, my hubby wasn't kidding. In fact, he started working up ideas for the story.

"The hero didn't have to be a zombie all the time," he told me. "Think outside the box - take a little literary license!"

Okay, I thought. I suppose I could be open minded.

My hubby told me that in his out-of-the-box world, the hunky hero got cursed by an evil Voodoo priestess and only turns into a zombie sometimes.

"I'm listening," I said.

"And when he does go zombie, he doesn't have to be like the kind in the movies," my hubby added. "Well, he has to look like one, you know all dead and stuff, but he doesn't have to be a mindless creature or attack humans or eat anything gross."

So, brains are completely out, thanks goodness!

"Think Jensen Ackles or Jared Padelecki, with a really, really, really dark tan - (yes, my hubby knows I've got a thing for the Supernatural hunks!) - well, maybe more gray and black than tan, but you get the idea."

I thought about that for a minute. "So, the hero's dead, but he's still sexy, is that what you're saying?"

"Exactly," he said, giving me a grin as my eyes lit up with understanding.
By that point, my hubby had pretty much sold me on the idea. Of course, I knew if I ran with it, I was going to have to sell it to a publisher, and I knew that could be tough since the hero is a zombie. But I ran with it anyway and ended up with a full-length novel. And it came out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself! I still had to find a publisher for it, though.

About this same time, it just so happens that several of my other books were in the process of being picked up by Ellora's Cave and I thought what the heck? Why not pitch it to my editor there and see what she thinks? So I did, and she told me to send it to her. She was interested to see how I handled the whole zombie-thing. Well, long story, short, she liked it. A lot! My zombie romance with it's dead-sexy hero had a home! I was thrilled and my hubby walked around for a week with a smug, "I-told-you-so" look on his face.

I've been getting the word out there about DEAD SEXY ever since I signed the contract for it and I'm thrilled with the interest from readers who can't wait to get their hands on it! I can't wait for them to read it, too!

Now that I've revealed the story behind the story, I thought I'd share the blurb and an excerpt just to whet your appetite for more!


Romance author Simone Kent thinks she might just have found the most perfect guy in all of New York City - in bed and out. But Drake Parrish is about as far from perfect as any man can get. Eight years ago, he was cursed by an evil Voodoo priestess to live part of his life as a zombie. Since then, he has lived like a recluse on New York’s Upper East Side, afraid to go out for fear he’ll suddenly turn into one of the walking dead.

The sex is the hottest either of them has ever experienced and Simone discovers just how naughty she can be with Drake, while he finds himself feeling things for her that he hasn’t felt in a very long time. When the Voodoo priestess learns of their relationship, however, she comes after him again. She is determined to make sure he won’t have a future with Simone, even if that means killing both him and the woman he loves.

Excerpt:  http://www.paigetylertheauthor.com/ExcerptDeadSexy.html

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and that you can't wait to read more! You can get DEAD SEXY from Ellora's Cave at http://www.jasminejade.com/ps-8917-50-dead-sexy.aspx

You can also check out the trailer here!


If you decide to pick up DEAD SEXY, let me know how you like it!





Travel -- Fictional Trips to Find Love and a New Lease on Life

While I've always agreed with Dorothy Gale that, "There's no place like home," traveling to new and favorite places is one of my favorite pastimes. Not only does each trip provide great scenery and a welcome getaway, but it also gives me a chance to research locales which often are chosen as settings for my novels.

Each of my stories available at Ellora's Cave was set in a place I've visited on more than one occasion. Yes, even Hell is a spot where real-life events found me forced into its depths. While it's rewarding and exciting to launch into flights of fantasy, there was nothing more valuable to my writing than actually witnessing the fascinating details of those destinations and stimulating my senses with their overwhelming details.

In HELLE IN HEELS and TO HELLE AND BACK AGAIN, the Devil's daughter uses her wits and sex appeal to survive against all odds when she's dealt the ultimate challenges by her fiendish father and various villains.

Kimberly Taylor returns to a small town in Texas to slay some sexual demons and explore erotic possibilities with the ROUGHRIDER who may become more to her than a childhood friend.

Eve Morneau is TORMENTED once she's bitten by a rare beatle. She suffers the pain and agony of its poison as well as betrayal by a loved one and a raging conflict between her morals and a sexual awakening by the man who must heal her malady that defies traditional medical therapy of the day.

Each of these women embarks on a journey that thrusts them into situations seemingly more than beyond their control. Only by taking leaps of faith and learning to trust in others, as well as in their feminine instinct, allows them to achieve personal success, heal their bodies and minds, and find the love they sought for so long.

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

Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace

My Space -- Not What You Think

Do you have your own space? A place you can call your own, where you can let your creativity fly? A place where you can just sit quietly to read? A place with a door that closes, so when the kids (or anyone else) need something, they know they have to knock?

I've never had a space like that, not one I can call my own. And I've done okay without it. I've written all over my house -- in my dining room, kitchen, family room, bedroom. Even outside on the deck. Have laptop, will travel, you know. But I'm one who gets distracted easily. The kids come home from school, and there goes my concentration. Hubby's having some of his "me time" out in the garage with the music loud, and I'm lost.

Unfortunately, my house is not one that could be added on to easily. I even once thought about renting an office somewhere, just so I could have my own space. That's just crazy-pricey, though. One day, hubby and I were chatting about the situation  and I said, "Too bad we can't use the upper space of the two-story foyer." He kinda looked at me and said, "Why couldn't we?"

Thus was born "MY OFFICE"!

Even though we've had this planned for a few months now, he wasn't able to start construction until the week before Thanksgiving. And man, what he cranked out in that long weekend!
This "was" my plant shelf. It's now part of the floor.

My hero, being -- ahem -- careful on that ladder. He's working on the header that will hold the floor joists.

Wha La! Floor joists! How cool is that?

This is me, screwing in the floors. I only did like 5, but at least I can say that I helped!
A shot taken from the top of my stairs. Wall studs, Yay!

MY DOOR! Knock, please... :)

That's my fireplace in my living room. Weird that all of this used to be one big, open area!

That same shot from up above, just now we have drywall! That's my bedroom there to the right. The only way into the new room is through there. 

Isn't this amazing? As hubby says, the easy part is done. Now comes the hard part, how to get heat and air up there, and to do the electrical. Then we can re-carpet our entire upstairs, and paint the rest of the house (We've been waiting to do this so we can paint. I'm tired of the white walls. Give me COLOR!).

I can't wait to furnish my office (that has a lovely ring to it, doesn't it?) so I can sit in there, at MY desk, and write. The area may be small, but that's okay. It's mine. And I know I'll love it. I'll post more pictures as we go along.


There's No Place Like Home...Sometimes

Never in my life would I have expected to travel as much as I have in the last fifteen years. I used to be extremely content to just hang out at home, enjoying sunsets and the slow, constant rhythm of life as it beat steadily like my heart--hypnotic, secure, routine. However, even though I love being at home most of the time, sometimes I get these...these urges. They usually happen when I glance up at the sky and see an airplane's silhouette slicing through the light blue canvas upon which the clouds paint their fanciful pictures. When I spot one of these majestic human-carrying birds, I want to be on that plane going somewhere, seeing something, experiencing life.

Having an adventure!

If learning to love to travel came as a surprise to me in my later years, the destinations I found myself visiting were even more shocking to my homespun sensibilities. For example, I've developed a special fondness for the Caribbean, an area that in my youth I would have never, ever imagined I'd be lucky enough to see. The ocean and islands are somehow familiar to me in a way I can't explain, and I feel a connection to the people and nature that I can't really explain.

I know that many folks think that it's because of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that I've fallen under the Caribbean's spell, but it's not. The movies would have never come about if the pirate lore hadn't survived this long, and the pirate lore about the area didn't survive this long because people hate the Caribbean. Rather, I think they're as mesmerized by it as I am, especially by the warm Caribbean waters. I can just imagine the romantic notions and tales that swirled in the heads of the sailors who frequented the seas there as they gazed out at the ocean, like dark velvet--lonely but not really alone, as everything is alive in the ocean--their imaginations, in the form of a shapely mermaid or a wooden chest full of treasure, keeping them company under the silver moonlight.

I've traveled many other places over the years, but the Caribbean's captured my heart in a way not every other place has, although I do have other favorite spots as well. Today, though, I'm just going to post some pictures from the Caribbean, one of my favorite travel spots and the setting for some of my past and future stories. Enjoy!