Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Pumpkins, the Pumpkins!

My family worries about me when I talk about fictional people as if they really exist. And I won't even go into looks they give me when I say my characters talk to me. I think they've got the funny farm on speed dial in case I start running through the house wearing only a tiara shouting, "The pumpkins, the pumpkins! The pumpkins are after me!" But I assure them, I'm no crazier than any other author--yes, I know, that gives me a lot of wiggle room--and the things that go on in my head are vital to the production of quality work. I say don't hate on me because the voices like me best...kidding, kidding. But take last night for example.

I went to bed feeling pretty good about myself as a writer. I finally finished a 35K+ novella I've been working on for months. Though I know a first draft is a long way from a finished product, I allowed myself to bask in the glow of the accomplishment. All the Good Men is a tale of Dahlia Foster who's sure the hackneyed platitude is true: After a certain age, all the good men are married or gay. Her best friend and her sisters dare her to put her fate where her mouth is. The terms of the challenge? During the month of August, she has to end her five-year-long ‘man fast’ and go on dates with men of their choosing. Oh, and she has to go out with anyone else who asks.

As the date disasters pile up, the vindication almost makes the torturous evenings bearable for Dahlia. But a handsome new neighbor, Jackson Carmichael, throws his hat in the ring and he may just be the man to prove her wrong…that is if she doesn’t scare him away first.

I drifted off to sleep with that warm, fuzzy feeling only a completed first draft can give. And then the rudest thing happened!

My characters tore me from slumber to start telling me all sorts of things about themselves that I didn't know. What? How could this be? The manuscript took me months to write in the first place because these stubborn characters wouldn't open up. And they pick 2am to get chatty? Begrudgingly, I staggered out to the living room and jotted a few notes in my journal, then stumbled back to bed. But there Dahli and Jackson were again making suggestions for backstory I could add, popping up in my dreams and opening up to me about the laughter and tears that would round them out with some depth.

About 5 this morning, I gave up on sleeping and pulled out the laptop. Now I have at least another 10k - 15K to write, which on one hand is good. The more layers of personality and meaning I put into the book, the more enjoyable a read it'll be. On the other hand, I want to beat Dahlia and Jackson. I'm serious, WTH? They could've told me all these things months ago when I was begging them to...or at least have waited until a decent time to propel me out of bed. Characters can be so inconsiderate sometimes. I suppose I shouldn't complain. They could've kept mute and left me with a fluffy romantic comedy instead of one in which real people deal with real roadblocks, desires, and insecurities.

So this morning I took All the Good Men out of my finished draft folder and put it back in the WIP file. Speaking of which, I best get back to work while my muse is all hopped up on caffeine. I always say, a muse in the hand is worth two in the bush. Okay, I never say that. Not even sure what the original version of that adage means. Anyhoo, back to the grindstone. Quick Brighid, before the pumpkins come after us again! Now, where did I put that tiara....?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Confessions of a Google-holic

Sitting in the park yesterday, on a perfectly lovely autumn morning, I did a little writing the old-fashioned way. I'm usually all about the electronica, but when the little one needs some fresh air, I'm perfectly willing to leave the battery-challenged laptop at home and scribble away in a notebook. No, not the cute Apple kind of 'notebook' that comes in so many lovely colors. I mean a cheap, three-subject, spiral-bound block of paper I bought at the drugstore. And sometimes my best work comes out this way. Yesterday was not one of those days. Sure, the scene I wrote was inspired, dramatic, and just what was needed to move the plot and characterization along—if I do say so myself—however, the whole scene went right in the trashcan. Why? Because it was based on something that DOES NOT happen. [Cindy takes a moment to decide whether to laugh or cry]

Here's what I learned today—When you step on a landmine it does not make a loud click and it will do one of two things 1. Immediately explode or 2. Wait a few seconds and then explode. There's none of this Hollywood melodrama where the soldier or, better yet, his commanding officer hears the telltale sound of a landmine arming itself and has time to say, “Son, don't move. Keep your foot right where it is.” Because even if the soldier stayed as still as a marble statue, the thing's gonna explode. Who knew? Well, apparently weapons experts and military history buffs all over the web know this, but those of us who glean most their munitions knowledge from movies and TV have been seriously misled. Not surprising. Apparently, the myth began due to some US propaganda during World War II designed to make the German S-mine, the famous 'Bouncing Betty', seem like something soldiers could outsmart. Not only is it untrue, but freezing is the worst thing you could with this type of anti-personnel weapon. With a bounding mine, it's better to hit the deck. It only goes to show, even things you think you know bear double-checking with a Google search. Which brings me to my next point, have I become so dependent on Google that I can't write without it?

Okay, clearly I CAN write without it, but the question is, should I? I mean, luckily this time I double-checked my facts before my editor—or worse, a fan—pointed out to me that I'm a doofus. Or is it okay to take certain liberties with the truth if the unrealistic situation works best in the novel? Hollywood does it all the time. See, this is why writers are great big balls of neurosis. I suppose it's up to each author and publisher to decide what's poetic license and what's over the top. But for me, in this case, I feel it's better to rewrite the scene than to rely on bad propaganda turned urban legend. Not to mention, if I've seen it enough times to have adopted it as fact, I could probably be more creative. No need to rely on hackneyed story-telling devices. Today, I'm back at the laptop reworking my brilliant scene so that it's both genius and believable.

So, all you writers out there, how much fact do you weave into your fiction? And how much inaccuracy are you comfortable with? Inquiring minds want to know!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Woman's Guide to Football

Personally, I think it's self-explanatory why I love football, but since I'm still trying to convince author friend, Jambrea Jo Jones, of the sport's virtues, I thought I'd make a list of the top ten reasons football could get your mojo rising.

10. Testosterone - What woman doesn't love high-testosterone, pumped up men?

9. Drama - Aside from the personal lives of the players--which is chock full of scandals, antics, and baby mama drama--longstanding rivalries, last-minute comebacks and Cinderella upsets are enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

8. Pagentry - Fans painted in and waving team colors, perky little cheerleaders, tailgate parties, and a parade of athletic male physiques, football is more than a sport--it's entertainment. There's something to be said for bread and circuses!

7. Foooood - Keeping with that bread and circuses theme, I love football food. Be you kitchen-impaired or a bonafide foodie, you can turn any given Sunday into a rockin' dinner party.

6. One of the guys - A woman who appreciates football gets to take part in some esoteric--and at times bizarre--male bonding rituals. Male bonding not your thing? Think of it this way, you watched and celebrated game day with him, now it's his turn to take you shoe shopping.

5. Bad boys - T.O., Randy Moss, Jeremy Shockey. The list goes on and on. The NFL is rife with the bad boys we all love, but know we shouldn't.

4. The pants - Those tight, tight football pants sure do accentuate the positive. Narrow waists and delicious mounds of buttocks...and what's more they BEND OVER for the camera in those tight pants!

3. The pants - Mmmmm, those pants bear repeating.

2. The pants - Did I mention the pants? Just making sure.

1. Man-Love! - No where else--outside of a gay porno set--can you see so much male-on-male contact. Hot, sweaty bodies clashing together and rolling on the ground. What happens in the tackle, stays in the tackle...not to mention the locker room, but that's a whole other blog entry.

And that's why this author's a football fan for life. Viva el NFL!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

And The Pants Thicken

Okay, so it's day three of my pantsing experiment and I have to admit, the urge to map out the whole story is getting harder to resist. Doing do my best to let it develop organically! Must resist. Must. Resist. LOL.

To my surprise, the story is knitting up as quickly as a plotted book would for me. In fact, it's getting longer than I ever intended it to be! This fun experiment may result in a finished novella ms. BUT I'm not thinking about the end goal with this one--the journey is the destination, right?

Here's a peek at how things are coming along:

Along the two mile walk, Kathryn met up with other neighbors headed in the same direction. At the junction of three small farming communities, the marketplace—more of a happening than a locale—was the place to be on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. She waved hello to Jolisa, from two plots over; Susannah, the local apothecary and hostess to male travelers; old Sampson, who sold cotton yarn and thread; and of course Roy.

He walked next to his mule with a plodding gate until he caught site of Kathryn. Jogging up beside her, he took the cart handle from her. “Allow me, Miss Kate.”

“Oh, you don't have to,” she said, but didn't object too strenuously. She took the mule's lead from her neighbor and handed it to Marcus. What harm was there in letting Roy play the gentleman? Peeking under the tarp, she saw his cart brimmed with contraband. Oil and firearms from the nation of Texas and coal, spices, and tequila from Mexico.

“You been mingling with privateers again?” she asked.

“Me?” He gave her an oily grin. “Never. I found this stuff by the side of the road.”
Of course he had. Roy was the kind of man who knew how to get things. Anything...for the right price.

“Marcus,” the man barked, “you're getting bigger every day.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Your birthday's next month, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And yours,” he said to Kathryn, “is next week if I'm not mistaken.” Pulling from
his pocket a package wrapped in cloth and fastened with string, he presented it to her on his outstretched palm.

“You shouldn't have.” She covered her mouth with one hand. The other hesitated, then reached for the present. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure.”

“May I open it now?”

“I insist.”

Her fingers worked the crude knots to reveal a carved wooden comb, a sewing needle, a small glass bottle, and a pot of balm. She uncorked the bottle and inhaled. Coconut oil. “Oh, Roy, thank you, but this is too much. How can I ever return such a favor?”

A nervous laugh shook his thin frame. “Don't think nothin' of it. I found those by the side of the road, too.”

“Well, it's a beautiful gift. Thank you.”

“You can use the wrapping as a scarf. The coconut stuff's for your hair and the other's made from honey and beeswax. I think it's for your lips.”

“And who told you that? The bush by the side of the road?” she teased.
He twittered again. “Right.”

Though he didn't want to take it, she slipped him a pint of whiskey to show her gratitude.

She found a place near the pond to set up her cart so she could keep an eye on Marcus while he fished and swam. The other children, ones with horses or mules to draw their family carts, had beaten him there and were taking flying leaps from the rope swing into the tepid water.

A pop of gunfire caught her attention. She scanned the woods for Reformer troops or guerrilla soldiers, but found only a thirteen year-old boy, all knees and elbows, taking pot shots at an old sign post. Kathryn marched over to him, her brow furrowed, jaw set.

“Daniel Mabry, give me that pistol,” she said. “You scared the dickens out of everyone and I don't think your daddy would appreciate you wasting his ammo.”

“But—” he began to object, but she quieted him with a smack to the back of the head. The crestfallen boy handed over the gun.

Stay tuned! More updates to come...

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Plotter's Take on Labor Day

Happy Labor Day to all! Hope this last holiday of the summer finds you and yours safe and well.

On this day to honor the tireless worker who keep our society running, I humbly present a plotter's way to celebrate. After all, being an author is hard work! And though the benefits are not as demonstrable as the duties performed by teachers, police officers, doctors, firefighters and the members of our armed forces, and many other professions too numerous to name, we writers offer the gift of entertainment--necessary respite from the daily drudgery that weighs on all of us.

So how do I celebrate the joys of my profession this holiday weekend? As many of you already know, I am a staunch plotter (Viva los plotters!). Before I set about working on a manuscript in earnest, I must have a vision of it from beginning to end and all stops in between. Sure, I'll change a character or event as the story requires, but still, I'm pretty faithful to my overall outline. It's the only way I can keep myself focused and produce a complete product.

Though I wouldn't give up my process for the world--it's treated me pretty well thus far--I will admit it's mentally draining. All the obsessing and reviewing. Did I get it right? How will this plot line play out? Why can't I see it? But today, since we're supposed to honor labor by taking a much needed rest, I ignored the voice that drives me to write in such an orderly fashion. I decided to play. Yes, play! Because writing can feel like playing with no more purpose than the joy of linking raw words together, plucking a gem from the ether of jumbled thought. Yes, today, I'm flying by the seat of my pants and enjoying it immensely.

Here's what I've come up with so far and, if I do say so myself, I can't wait to see what happens next. But I peeking! Wish me luck :)

Flashing red lights and sirens—death came cloaked in garish, noisy trappings. At least it should have appeared so, but Coulter didn't seem to notice. His gaze already fixed upon some imaginary plane. In this, his final minutes, he remembered the coconut scent of her hair and her cherry-flavored lip gloss. Was it lip gloss? Or lip balm? He couldn't remember. She'd told him once, but he couldn't keep straight the different types of cosmetics she used. As if her beauty needed any enhancement to begin with. He should have told her that, but he hadn't.

You're wasting time, a disembodied voice murmured. Her voice.

It occurred to him that all his time had been wasted. Foolish, self-aggrandizing bravado wrapped in a veneer of lofty ideals. And he'd never taken the time to tell her why he'd left. Did she know? She had to know. She knew the intimate details of his mind. Still, he should have told her. But he hadn't.

He fought against the unwelcome teardrops that flooded his eyes. He would not allow himself to die as a blubbering coward. Dying well, that was all he had left to hold onto, the last shred of his pride. The coming darkness held no pain and to his surprise, he was not afraid. Regret. Therein lay the anguish. So many regrets.

A wet cough brought up a bitter mouthful of sputum and blood. It wouldn't be long now. Coulter pressed his face against the cool marble floor. He wished it were warmer. Flash, screech. Flash, wail. Flash, screech. Flash, wail. Yes, death came cloaked in garish, noisy trappings. Shut it out and remember the coconut scent of her hair. Katrina.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Twelve spicy dishes, with an order of happily-ever-after

Experience the series that prompted You-Gotta-Read-Reviews to rave: "The author writes in vivid detail and such heart-wrenching feeling about everyone involved in the story. The reader is given an enticing glimpse into how complicated relationships can be when there are no set boundaries and yet, how simple they can be when the walls come tumbling down. Ana's trepidation about taking steps to further involve her heart when she is so frozen by fear of the unknown cause the reader to turn pages to its completion and wait eagerly for the next book to be released. Okay, Ms. Jacks, I'm waiting." Buy it today!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Rejection Letter...What a Relief!

Yes, you read the title of this blog entry correctly. I got a rejection letter from an agent yesterday and I was happy to get it! Now, before you start thinking I've gone off my rocker--which, by the way, happened a loooong time ago--allow me to explain.

Since the beginning of my ebook author odyssey, I've felt at home with the vision and voice of the ebook community. Naturally drawn to alternative forms of expression, I embraced the rich variety available through epublishers. One year into my dalliance with writing, I made a five-year career plan. It included expanding my skills, tackling the task of full length novels, and working my way up the epublishing food chain. I stuck to this plan for another year...and then I was seduced by the darkside.

Author friends of mine, being supportive and fabulous as ever, began to encourage me to sub my work to agents. Ugh. An agent? Really? Don't get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for agents as professionals and human beings, but I don't feel that print publishing as a whole is the future of the industry, so why buy into it? Because I'm as human as the next author and the prospect of a print contract conjured up reveries of six-figure advances and my name plastered all over Barnes and Noble. So I started the painful process query letters. Queeeeeery letters. Note: in my head, the term 'query letters' is accompanied by Darth Vader's Theme. Dun, dun, dunnnn, dun, da, dunnnn, dun, da, dunnnnn.

Anyhoo, after months of battling constant rejection for reasons as far flung as my some of my heriones' panties, a dark cloud descended over the entire process of writing. I'd just about decided to swear off agents for good when a friend passed along an intriguing contest--sum up my book in 140 characters or less. Not 140 words. Characters. I thought it sounded fun so I entered. Unfortunately, I was one of the winners. Stars in my eyes again, I forked over my complete manuscript. I received an email confirmation that the agency received my manuscript and that it would take 6-8 weeks for them to respond. Cool.

I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited. During this waiting period, the excitement of the unknown mixed with the dread of another rejection letter weighed on me. My daily 1000 words started to feel an awful lot like work. Perhaps the energy it took to keep hope alive for all those weeks sapped the creative impulse I pour into my stories. Who knows? The exhaustion was compounded by the fact that even if the agent decided to represent the manuscript, the waiting had just begun. There's the wait to see if any publisher would read it and then another wait while it sat at the bottom of an editor's TBR pile. Crap.

Finally the 8th week passed, but I'd still received--say it with me all you writers out there--no response!

Another week passed. And another. And another. Sixteen weeks later I received a polite, well-crafted, and thoughtful rejection. The agent pointed out the many strengths of my work, citing the pacing of the novel as her only problem. I appreciated the professional feedback. And instead of feeling down in the dumps about another rejection, I felt FREE. Free of the desire that had consumed me for so much time! And I felt overjoyed to return to my original path--exploring the future of this industry instead of hopping on to the tail end of a dinosaur. Sparkles and dollar signs cleared from my eyes, I saw with my own vision again: bringing tales of strong and sexually empowered heroines to the women of the ebook community. I write women's erotica because I feel it's an important excerise of my freedom of expression. Go girl power! That's all I've ever truly wanted. And it's good to be back.

So when I say, a rejection letter...what a relief, I absolutely mean it. And not with a smidge of irony.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Delusions of Grandeur

As anyone who's read my work can tell you, I keep my characters and plots grounded in contemporary reality. Sharp prose-check. Engaging characterization-check. Sexy love scenes-BIG check. Flights of fancy....not so much. That is until I hit my latest bout of insomnia.

Getting only four hours of sleep every night leave one with much time to write. I've finished a few current projects, started edits on others so I figured it was time to dip into the NWIPF-- Neglected Work In Progress File. There I found a story that has been swimming around the goldfish bowl of my brain for nearly a year titled 'Hour of the Wolf.' Okay, it's more CJ's story than mine, but since we both occupy the same head and I don't have the strength to create a blog of her own, I figure it's okay to refer to the work as mine. (This multiple author personality disorder moment has been brought to you by Prozac). Sorry for the digression.

Anyhoo, I had only the broadest of strokes laid out for this tale of shape-shifting love:
Sophia came to Albemarle Sound for a little peace and quiet. Spending most of her alone, she's fascinated by a red wolf who's taken to visiting her nightly. When she meets Gabriel, a singularly handsome man in town during a shopping trip, he seems all too familiar. Is it Sophie's imagination or does this stranger possess a wolfish quality? Suddenly the wolf's visits cease and Gabriel disappears as well. Determined to find out what's going on, Sophia discovers a dark secret revealed in local folklore. Can she free the wolf and Gabriel from a curse that dates back to colonial days?

Could've been the 'singularly handsome man' part or the 'dark secret,' but something about the project intrigued me. I started to play around with an outline. A few hours later, the outline was finished and the project had gone from an idea for a short story to an epic novel complete with an underground society of American werewolves. I took the next step and broke the outline into scenes and chapters, then toiled away at character worksheets, backstories, geneology charts, and mapped out territories for the Lupine Alphas. See, I've even given my wolven folk a working nickname.

I should be all set to write....except for one thing....Am I out of my cotton-picking mind??? I've never created a fantasy world, I know nothing about writing a paranormal plotline, and the scale of the undertaking is freaking me out ever so slightly. An epic saga...did ya really have to start with an epic saga? I've got a bang up opening scene for the first chapter, but other than that, my fingers are frozen with anxiety. Have I finally gone off the deep end into delusions of grandeur? Stay tuned. The mental breakdown will be blog-a-cized.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

To M, because he's brilliant

Word ooze
Across the page after page
Your verb sap

At first glance
Unrelated utterances
Upon further study
Related to universal truths

Beautiful mind
Beautiful poet

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

HEA...Why Do We Love It So

The Disney Movie Club shipped me the wrong movie. I’d ordered “Monsters, Inc”, but I received “Enchanted.” My upper lip curled in disdain at the sight of the cover, but my four year-old son was unfazed by the error.

“Let’s watch this movie, Mommy,” he said, finding (as children often do) the simplest solution to the problem.

Now, I’m a huge fan of Pixar, the quality of their storylines and the detail in the animation makes their movies easy to sit through over and over again. And over and over and over…well, you know how kids can wear out a DVD. “Enchanted,” on the other hand, seemed to me a saccharine piece of shlock I didn’t want to watch even once, much less dozens of times in a row should the little one develop a liking for it. But, thanks to McDreamy’s starring role in the movie, I decided to give it a go. If nothing else, I could stand watching Patrick Dempsey as the charming leading man for a couple hours.

By the second musical number in which rats, pigeons, and cockroaches helped our heroine scrub down the hero’s filthy New York apartment, I was laughing aloud at the funny and astute satire of archetypical Disney princess movies. And though I don’t want to spoil the ending for those of you who want to see the movie, but haven’t gotten around to it, I will say this—by the end of the movie I cheered right along with my son when Princess Giselle wound up with her true love. Okay, I’ll admit it, I even got a little misty. My heart rejoiced though my brain huffed, “What a load of crap.”

Given the predilection in romance and sensual erotica genres for a neat, fulfilling happily-ever-after ending, the movie made me wonder—Why do we love HEA so? In reality almost as many marriages fail as succeed and that doesn’t take into account the myriad of people we burned through just trying to find the person we’d be willing to take a chance on. With a real world full of broken hearts, dysfunctional couples, and blasé pairings, how can we willingly suspend our disbelief and seek out fiction that propagates what some would call the myth of true love?

I finished my long list of reasons why we shouldn’t buy into HEA and then the realization struck me—It is for all these reasons and more that we do crave the fantasy in our fiction. HEA endings allow us to experience vicariously the satisfaction that so often eludes us in our day-to-day lives.What woman doesn’t want a break from work, motherhood, chores, and the tedious (and often messy) reality of an adult relationship? Somewhere inside of us is a little girl who wants to flounce around the house in a tiara and a tutu. We love to conjure up mental images of a prince who knows how to anticipate our every need, who will catch us each time we fall, and who doesn’t fart, burp, pee on the toilet seat, get cranky or forget to take out the trash.

That we have different tastes as to the form of our princes has given rise to the different icons of masculinity we romance writers use to delight our readers—the dark and brooding vamp who longs for a mate to bring meaning to his soulless existence, the uber-macho warrior who needs the softness of a feminine touch, the rebel without a pause who runs into the one woman that can ease his restlessness, and of course the regal and gentlemanly prince who finds his true, but forbidden love through a chance meeting. Just to name a few.

With our appetite for love and romance sated for a little while by the many incarnations of our princes, we are all the more ready to take on the challenges each day brings. But when the real world gets to be a little more than we can take, we’ll be back at the cinema, the video store, and of course Once Upon a Bookstore hungry for more flights of fancy.

Check out Ana's happily-ever-after in Point of Distraction the Final Collection today!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

12 Things I love about Ana

With the release of the final installment to the Point of Distraction Series only days away, Ms. Ana Welsh has been on my mind. Mostly, I've remembered the fun of creating and 'watching' the character blossom. She has some signature moments that always make me smile. Thought I miss writing about Ana, I love to visit her world and reread the collection often. I hope you enjoy her journey as much as I have.

And without further ado, here are 12 things I love about Ana -- my favorite moments from each story:

Story 1: On the dance floor with Miguel

Story 2: Granny panties!

Story 3: Mmm...pineapple

Story 4: A Scunci?!

Story 5: Ana runs into Nikhil...literally

Story 6: Chocolate sauce on the dining room sconces

Story 7: Cinnamon apple pancakes

Story 8: Ana the photogenic

Story 9: Honey drizzles

Story 10: Malasadas

Story 11: That damn Peter Frampton song

Story 12: Todd's post office faux pas

Chock full of fun, laughter, tears, friends, adventures, good wine, great food and sexy, sexy men, you can't go wrong with Point of Distraction. Check out all four books July 20th!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bread Dough Diaries--Epiphany #2

Happy Monday, all. While Monday marks the end of Easter festivities for some, it also means it’s Bread Dough Diaries day! Come on, don’t pretend like you aren’t excited, lol.
So, today’s installment is actually more of a Cake-Batter-Epiphany, but I think it qualifies since technically cake IS a type of bread–just ask Marie Antoinette. I know, I know, she didn’t really say that. Anyhoo, I started writing the first chapter of Clean–Book 2–Devil in the Details this weekend (woo hoo!) and of course, immediately came up against a snag. Here’s the situation:
The book opens with an echo of the ‘box nightmare’ that plagued our heroine, Della Jordan, from the first book. DJ indeed finds herself in a box, a broom closet to be precise, but this is no nightmare. She’s actually trapped in the closet with a five year-old girl who’s mother has just been murdered by three Russian mobsters. The thugs don’t know DJ and Natalia are there and our heroine would like to keep it that way. My challenge as the author–how to get them OUT of the closet.

Plan A- in typical DJ style, was to come out, gun blazing. She’d neutralize the threat then retrieve the little girl. But my bullsh*t alarm went off and I couldn’t write it that way. What’s wrong with that scenario? 1- DJ’s one tough woman, but I doubt she could take out three guys with only a .32 before one of them has time to open fire on her. 2- No matter what they show in TV and movies, five year-olds do not often keep their cool in a crisis soooo the only thing that’s keeping Natalia from kirking out is the fact that DJ is there to hold her hand. If DJ leaves the girl alone in the dark, the mother in me says the girl will start screaming and crying, especially because her mother has been killed. All the ruckus would give away DJ’s surprise attach for sure. Back to the drawing board.

Plan B- With this one, I thought I’d found the ideal solution. As DJ often did in the first book, she texts Mickey for help. Though he’s surprised to find out that she’s not in Barbados as she should be, he calls 911 and reports a domestic disturbance at the NJ apartment DJ’s trapped in. Ultra-pleased with myself, I went about my day….and then I decided to make cupcakes.

While I folded the cake flour into the batter, my inner monologue declared a loud ‘DOH!’ Of course Plan B wouldn’t work. Mickey can’t call the cops. DJ’s whole career is about avoiding police involvement. There’s a dead body in the apartment which means the po-po would have a few questions for Ms. Jordan. Damnit! Back to the drawing board.

Then, right in the middle of filling pastel-colored cupcake liners, the answer hit me. Mickey could still call 911, but instead of domestic disturbance, he reports smoke coming from the window of the apartment next door to where DJ is holed up. The sirens would still run off the Russians and DJ could slip out with Natalia without any law enforcement complications. And since I’ve got a source who used to be a NJ firefighter who can tell me what the firemen would do in the case of a false alarm, I can work out the details with a high degree of accuracy. Yessss! I licked the batter from my wooden spoon quite satisfied with myself. DJ’s out of the closet and I’m free to write on…until I hit another plot snag which I’m sure will happen any time now, lol.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Bread Dough Diaries--Epiphany #1

Today I thought I'd share with you a new blog series I'm working on called The Bread Dough Diaries. With the help of a couple insightful friends (Thank you, Kensi and Muriel!), I realized that cooking and baking are integral to my writing process. Now, before you accuse me of cat-vacuuming--and believe me, I can cat-vacuum with the best of them--my culinary endeavors give me much needed meditation time. I have the best ideas when I'm away from the laptop with my hands covered in flour while I knead like a mad woman. Yesterday was no exception.

I've been struggling a bit to complete the plot outline for the second book in the Clean series, titled Devil in the Details. But yesterday, as I worked the gluten in what would become a five grain loaf, I had that gorgeous 'Eureka!' moment. It turns out that Boris took a blood-stained handkerchief from the target of a hit because.....y'all didn't think I was really gonna blurt out a spoiler like that, did you? Ouch, ouch! Stop flogging me! Sorry, I'm a story tease, I can't help it! Want to know more about the Clean series? Drop by CJ Elliott's website. There are some blurb-a-licious excerpts and even a sample chapter from the first book!

Viva the Bread Dough Diaries. Check 'em out each Monday on my blogs to find out what CJ and I are up to for the week!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy Read an eBook Week!

To celebrate Read an eBook Week and the growth of our industry (eBooks rule!), I'm holding a contest. The winner receives $10 in gift certificates, $5 for Freya's Bower and $5 for Lyrical Press! The contest will run all week. The most creative response to this question wins: What's the best thing about eBooks?

I can't wait to see what y'all have to say!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Post-Parting Blues

Last night--my eyes bloodshot from hours of staring at the laptop screen--I attached the file containing the manuscript for Temptation and pasted a synopsis of the book into the body of an email. I wanted nothing more than to shoot the message to my editor at Lyrical Press, but I hesitated. Like I always do. Is the book good enough? Did I spend enough time on self-edits? Maybe I shouldn't send it because there's that one scene that I think isn't quite perfect. These doubts and more circled brain.

"No," I said aloud. My family is used to me talking to myself at the computer so the sudden outburst drew little attention. The manuscript is ready, just do it already! Finally, I clicked 'send.' My stomach clenched into knots and my palms started to sweat. This morning, I feel about the same way.

An author friend of mine also subbed something to a publisher about a week ago and it's nice to have someone to play the waiting game with. We both have lots of other WIPs to work one, but neither of us feels much like writing. And I realized, I feel this way everytime I finish and sub a manuscript. I'm off my writing game for at least three or four days. Sometimes the funk lasts as long as two weeks. I wonder, is there such thing as post-partem blues for writers?

Let's face it, producing a manuscript is much like going through labor...except the sweat and pain and pushing lasts for weeks or months on end, lol. Perhaps when the baby we've incubated for so long is out in the world, we do go through what I've deemed post-parting blues. I'm interested to find out if other writers go through this kind of letdown after the initial glee of finishing up a novel. And don't forget to vote in this week's poll. How do you feel once you've subbed the book to a publisher? Check all answers that apply.

Can't wait to see what y'all have to say!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Available today!

I'm proud to announce two new releases today. They're both bite-sized bits of action packed fiction.

The Wedding Feast is my first horror short story written as CJ Elliott. Buy it today at Wild Child Publishing
On the heels of unbearable personal tragedy, Chloe escapes to the peace of a family cabin in rural Kentucky. When her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, she's forced to go against her better judgment and accept a ride from a stranger.

Shade is tall, darkly handsome, and taciturn. He takes her to his cabin in the woods to use his phone, where he introduces her to his gaggle of motherless children. Due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, Chloe's visit stretches on and more mysteries about Shade and the children crop up. Can Chloe make it back to civilization and safety before this family's deadly secret engulfs her?

Another first for me, this BDSM story just might melt your hard drive! Buy it now at Freya's Bower.
Fiona Wilder's name didn't fit her at all...until she met Marcelo. Introducing her to a world of sexual play--limited only by their imaginations--he unlocks Fiona's wildest fantasies.

Book One: Master and Servant: Fiona becomes Marcelo's protégé, discovering the power that comes from submission.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Desire-Part XIV-Progress?

Bacchus’ stomach lurched watching Pan blink in and out of sight, but soon enough the satyr appeared, huffing and puffing.

Pan gulped for air. “They’re too quick, Sire.”

“I thought the specters were supposed to be attached to her.”

“That appears to be—” Pan wheezed—“a figure of speech.”

“Maybe we’re going about this all wrong. I wonder if there is a way to lure them into a trap?”

“If the trap doesn’t include running, I’m all for trying it, Sire.”

Two hours later, Bacchus threw a half-melted carton of ice cream across the room, painting the far wall with swathes of pink, white, and brown. Perfectly good Neapolitan gone to waste.
Nothing he’d tried succeeded in luring the specters away from her for very long. Not gold, not cigarettes, not ice cream, though they’d been mildly interested in the pornographic movie he’d put on his the living room. Pan said they’d peeked around the corner, but the moment the satyr made a move toward them they’d scampered back to their host.

Bacchus tried to remember his last visit to Earth, prior to his downfall. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember ever having seen a specter. Pan had described the effort to see The Sorrows like scanning for a radio station. He’d had to find the right frequency, but once he’d tuned them in, he had a hard time tuning them out.

“I won’t even repeat what they said you could do with that ice cream.” Pan shook his head. “But they did appreciate the single malt scotch.”

“Always happy to please pure evil.”

“Sire, I think it’s time to reevaluate our approach.”

“I know, you’re right. I think we’re going to need some back up.”

“I took the liberty of inviting a few of your friends over. They’ll be here later for brainstorming, refreshments, and cards.”

“Why is it that you are always two or three steps ahead of me?” Bacchus smiled.

“Because it’s your job to perform in the now. It’s my job to make sure you don’t have to think about anything but the now.”

The former god squeezed his steward’s shoulder. “Were I given to weepy emotions, I’d be blubbering all over the place right now.”

“You should change for the party, Sire. I’ll take care of the mess here.”Without argument,

Bacchus trudged to the master’s suite. His thoughts weighed heavy on him, not that he’d expected this task of making himself whole again to be easy. At least they’d made a little progress.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Desire-Part XIII-The Riddle

Almost an hour later Furina uttered a cry of victory, “Sonofabitch, I’m just too damn good. Get your ass over here before I put in the last letter of the combo.”

Bacchus hurried over to watch her depress the final key.

“The combination spells ‘Ariadne,’” she said.

“That’s weird.”

“That’s ‘Arianna’ in Greek.”

“Oh, I guess that does make sense then.”

An ethereal voice came from the small box, “What can consume a man and not have had its fill? What grows larger when you feed it and when it is starved larger still? What drives a man to great lengths, but never reaches a destination? What rapids flow, what hurricane blows, what fire rages without cessation? The contented man knows nothing of me. What am I?”

With eyes wide, Furina gave an exaggerated shrug. Bacchus took the pad of paper from her and scribbled down as much of the riddle as he could remember. He read the words over and over again. Something nagged at the back of his mind, but what?

“Please tell me your first guess,” the box said.

For lack of a better answer, Bacchus replied, “Jagermeister?”

“Your first guess is incorrect.”

Bacchus grabbed at his testicles, relieved to find them and his shaft intact.

“What can consume a man and not have had its fill? What grows larger when you feed it and when it is starved larger still? What drives a man to great lengths, but never reaches a destination? What rapids flow, what hurricane blows, what fire rages without cessation? The contented man knows nothing of me. What am I?” the box repeated.

Contented man, contented man, contented…the words rolled around the former god’s brain. If one is contented one doesn’t want for anything—Bacchus snapped his fingers. “Desire.”

The box sprang open into a smaller scale replica of the golden lotus inside the original box.

Furina snickered. “You know that kinda looks like—”

“I know, right?”

“Well, my work here is done.”

“Thank you so much.” Bacchus picked up the flower. “Now, how do I close the infernal thing?”

“I couldn’t tell you. I just crack ‘em, I don’t close ‘em.” Furina turned to pack up her things.

“How may I repay you?”

The goddess shouldered her bag of tools. “We can settle up once you get yourself back to your rightful place in the cosmos. Just trot that fine ass down to the Underworld and look me up.”

She winked at him and laid a hard slap on his firm buttocks.

“You know I’m more than happy to oblige.” Bacchus arched an eyebrow.

The Goddess of Thieves turned to leave, but stopped, then faced him again. “Oh and I don’t recommend opening the other one. There’s something really foul inside it.”

“Not to worry. The only thing I plan to do with that one is return it to its rightful owner.”

“Good deal,” she said, then disappeared without even rustling the drapes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Point of Distraction Method--From Heartache to True Love in 12 Steps

Point of Distraction the First Collection

1 Get your groove back

2 Break the rules

3 Visit an old friend

Point of Distraction the Second Collection

4 Start dating again

5 Do something out of character

6 Surround yourself with friends

Point of Distraction the Third Collection

7 Reconnect with your past

8 Experiment a little

9 Realize your true potential

Point of Distraction the Final Collection

10 Say goodbye to who you once were

11 Give yourself choices

12 Embrace your bright future and true love

Get all 12 steps in four easy installments: click here!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Desire-Part XII-Furina

Bacchus watched Furina--patron goddess of thieves--study the little ornate box with a powerful magnifying glass. She popped her chewing gum and let out a low whistle.

“This isn’t your run of the mill magical object. Where the hell did you get it? —On second thought, don’t tell me,” the Goddess of Thieves said.

“And you’re sure this one is Arianna’s?” Bacchus asked.

“Yup, her name is engraved in really tiny ancient Greek letters on the bottom. The other one has no name on the bottom and something inside it is saying the most obscene things. You don’t hear that?”

“No. Can you open hers?”

“I won’t guarantee that I can, but I’ll take a crack at it.”

She reached into her bag and pulled out a hammer that looked suspiciously like that of a certain Norse god.

“Please, don’t smash it open. I need to be able to close it and lock it again.”

“Ha,” Furina barked. “You don’t make things easy for a gal.”

She continued to chew her gum furiously.

“May I offer you a lager? Lambic? Boilermaker?” Bacchus asked.

Furina shook off the question. Her fingers tapped out esoteric rhythms and calculations.

“You said this thing is made of hope?” she asked.

“So I’m told.”

The brilliance of inspiration sparked in her golden eyes. She pulled a dark orb about the size of a peach from her satchel, slammed it against the wall, then shook it. Pure luminescence bathed the room in a blinding white glow. Furina pushed the orb through the wall of the box and examined it again under the magnifying glass.

“I got you now, you tricky little box,” she said.

Bacchus hovered over Furina’s shoulder. “What’d you find?”

“You see that pinpoint of light. That’s the keyhole.” A wistful smile stole over her cupid’s bow lips. “I don’t suppose you have the freakin’ key.”

“That would be a big no on that one.”

“Why am I not surprised? You have a needle of Athena?”


“Serpent fang?”


“Phoenix feather?”

“Where would I get a Phoenix feather in South Beach?”

“Okay, how about a satyr hair?”

“That I’m sure I can lay my hands on.”

He headed down the hall of the condo, passing the room in which Arianna still slumbered, Bacchus gave into the urge to peek in on her. Though her chest rose and fell with even measure, he couldn’t help but be concerned. She was going on day two of this comatose state, but Pan had assured him she was alive and well, just deeply sedated, cradled in the beauty of warm, peaceful dreams. With any luck, she’d be free of all of life’s suffering when Pan administered the antidote to the draught.

From the shower drain, Bacchus plucked the makeshift passkey Furina had requested. Once equipped with the hair, she picked the lock with ease. A miniature keyboard, identical to the one he’d seen at the Hall of Earthly Gifts appeared.

“You gotta be friggin’ kidding me.” Furina grimaced. “And let me guess, you’ve no clue as to the combination.”

“You’re guess is correct,” Bacchus said.

Though she affected an annoyed demeanor, a twinkle in her eye told Bacchus the Goddess of Thieves enjoyed the challenge presented by the box.

She pulled a golden snail shell from her supplies and pushed it into her ear. Working methodically she tapped each one of the keys while she held the box close to her cheek.

“We’re in luck. The keys control tumblers. Give me a little while and I’ll crack the combo for you. You have something to write with?” Furina asked.

Bacchus refilled his stein and returned with a notepad and pen for his accomplice.

“So once I enter the combination, what’s the third obstacle?”

“And how did you know there’s a third obstacle?” Bacchus asked.

“It’s a divine object. Of course the obstacles will come in a group of three. It’s not going to explode or shrivel my genitalia or anything like that, will it?”

“No, nothing like that. It’ll ask you a riddle and I think I have the answer, unless the riddle’s different from the box I saw opened.”

“And if I get the answer wrong?”

“That I can’t say. I don’t think anything will happen, but maybe we shouldn’t assume shriveled genitals are out of the question.”

“Thanks for the heads up.”

Almost an hour later Furina uttered a cry of victory, “Sonofabitch, I’m just too damn good. Get your ass over here before I put in the last letter of the combo.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Winner Is...

I’d like to thank everyone who participated. All of the entries were hilarious. Alas, I could only pick one as the winner, but here are all the entries for your amusement!

Her lips felt thick, cold and wet, like a big mouth bass in the depth of winter solstice. - Kensana Darnell

Her heart sunk like a lead ball in water. - Nicole Zoltack

Her eyes were as green as a frog. - Nicole Zoltack

She was just like my mother except I wanted to hump her. - Arnold Lopes

His teeth rattled like that equipment that construction workers use on the road. - Nicole Zoltack

After being shot, Jackson danced along the dark path like Blackbeard with his wooden leg on fire - Joy Wisley

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t. - Martha Eskuchen

Tears welled in her eyes like a well. - Nicole Zoltack

Her eyes lit up like headlights with a 300lb mule deer caught in them, which was pretty surprising since she was such a dim bulb between the ears. - Desiree Lee

And the winner is….

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up. - Martha Eskuchen

Yay, Martha! Thanks for sending in the absolute worst analogy and thank you again to everyone who participated.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Bad Analogy Contest

There's still time to get in your entry for the Bad Angology Contest. Give me the worst metaphor or simile you can come up with, such as:

Her lips were as red as a baboon's ass when it's in heat.

All entries will be posted here and Playground Mystique tomorrow. The winner gets a book from yours truly and a $5 gift certificate to either Freya's Bower or Lyrical Press (winner's choice!)

The entries have been rolling in all weekend and they've have me ROFL. Keep 'em coming!

Email your worst to

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Wait Is Over for Point of Distraction the Second Collection

One good distraction deserves another...and another and another.

Delving further into the life and times of Ana Welsh, the second book in the Point of Distraction series brings a new set of challenges.

In Dirty Pool, Ana Welsh meets an unusually attractive man. Despite seeming to reciprocate Ana's interest, Jordan Christiansen remains aloof and passive. After a few misread signals, it's up to Ana to find out just what game this sexy mystery man is playing.

The Road Less Taken finds Ana taking advice from a massage therapist, who tells her she needs to step outside her comfort zone. Charming and enigmatic, Nikhil might just fit the prescription, but Ana vows to maintain a friendship only. As the sexual tension builds, will she decide to give in to her desires?

Alone in a Crowd exposes the pitfalls of a bottle of tequila, a little black book and drunk-dialing. With four dates in three days, not to mention a surprise visit from her ex, Miguel, Ana discovers she's overbooked her weekend. Even with all this attention, Ana can't help but feel something-or someone-is missing.

Warning: This book contains lots of detailed, hot lovin', a sassy, sexy heroine, an alternate use for a pool table, and a veritable boy buffet. Love can take a lot of practice to get it right.

Haven't read the First Collection yet? No problem! Buy it now

Friday, January 2, 2009

Desire-Part XI-The Spectres

Pandora prattled on for another half an hour discussing the different types of strudels one could make, but Bacchus heard little of her dissertation. Instead he went through his mental checklist of all the things he needed to know about the boxes and The Sorrows. Once she reached a logical moment to pause, having departed to the differences between regular cherries and maraschino cherries, Bacchus patted her hand.

“Love, I’m so sorry to interrupt. I never tire of hearing your stories on fruit fillings, but may I ask you a couple more questions about The Sorrows.”

“I’ve always believed The Sorrows could be vanquished by strudel.”

“Yes, I’m sure. Strudel aside, what else could be used to conquer The Sorrows?”

“I’m not sure. They’re very much like cockroaches and they reproduce like rodents.”

“What do you mean they ‘reproduce?’”

“Well, when the box was opened, The Sorrows fractured into infinite pieces and attached themselves to every human who existed and every one that would ever exist for eternity. I have a box for each mortal.”

“Oh my, that must be a very lot of boxes. Do you keep an inventory of all of them?”

“I do try, but it’s tricky because a new ones pop open every seven minutes and once in a while a soul achieves enlightenment and a box retires.”

“And how’s that work?”

“When our children vanquish all their own Sorrows, they achieve enlightenment. And the box goes dormant.”

“What happens to it then?”

“I really don’t know. The Mother comes to collect the dormant ones, but I couldn’t tell you what she does with them.”

“And what about the boxes that haven’t opened yet?”

Pandora took Bacchus by the hand and led him to a stepped, mountainside garden of sorts that stretched as far and wide as either of them could see. “Here’s where they lie in wait, ready to attack all those poor newborn babies. When they’ve opened, I pick them and store them in the Hope Wing of the Hall of Earthly Gifts and that’s where they stay until a soul reaches enlightenment.”

“What happens to the souls that die before they reach enlightenment?”

“The souls that are plagued to death by The Sorrows continue through the cycle of birth and death until in one lifetime they are able finally to overcome.”

“How horrifying.”

“I imagine it is.”

She led him in from the terrace and shivered. “I’m sorry to rush you in, but I really don’t like it out there in the garden of evil.”

“I don’t blame you one bit.”

“The moaning of the specters. I hate it.”

“May I ask, what exactly is a specter?”

“A specter is pure evil. And what’s nasty about The Sorrows is that they’ve bonded together into binary specters. Fear is bonded with despair, cowardice with anger, famine with poverty. Envy and greed, cruelty and violence, and of course disease with death. Each member of the pair feeds off the success of other so no matter which one makes the host more miserable, they both win. You get the picture?”

“Indeed I do. And how would a third-party go about capturing another person’s Sorrows?”
“Why I’ve never heard of such a thing. It’s up to each man or woman to imprison them.”

“Theoretically, though, could it be done?”

“I suppose it’s possible. Anything is possible.” Pandora smelled the air again. “Are you sure you don’t smell blueberries cooking? I’m quite sure I smell muffins—no, wait—maybe not muffins. Blueberry pancakes perhaps? Those are lovely, too.”

“Madame Pandora, please focus, love. If a third party wanted to imprison the Sorrows for someone else, how would he go about it?”

“Haven’t the faintest idea, sweetheart. Maybe if the third party was a god or a demi-god, any divine or magical being can see The Sorrows attached to a human. How to go about plucking the wee beasties from a host, I couldn’t tell you. And once you got them in the box, I don’t know that they’d stay. They could just pop right out again when you opened the box to put in another ”
Out of the corner of his eye, Bacchus thought he caught a glimpse of Loki’s verdant skin. If he could perceive the trickster with his feeble human sight, Pandora would surely see the mischievous god skulking about.

“Hey, how about one of those blueberry muffins?”

“Oh you’ve decided to try one?” Her eyes lit up. “I’ll be right back.”

She headed off in a flurry of pink clouds.

Bacchus spoke into the air around him, “Whatever mischief you’re up to, wrap it up, I’m not kidding.”

“Did you say something, sweetheart?” Pandora reappeared at Bacchus side with a muffin and glass of Riesling.

“Blessings to you, my dear lady.” Bacchus drained the glass of wine then took a bite of muffin.

“This is lovely. The streusel really makes it.”

“Come by anytime you want one.”

“I hope very soon to be able to take you up on that offer, Madame Pandora.” He finished his snack. “I’m afraid, though, I must be on my way. You’ve been such a dear to talk with me about all this.”

“As I said, anything for you.” She hugged him.

Bacchus loped down the marble steps in front of the Hall of Earthly Gifts. Loki rolled in the meadow off to the side of the path, cackling with amusement.

“What in Hades is wrong with you?” Bacchus yelled.

“Oh—” Loki wiped a tear from his eye—“You gotta admit the blueberry muffin scent was genius on my part. What that dingbat has for fruited cupcakes is beyond me.”

“There are a great many things that are beyond you.”

“But not these.”

Loki held up two Sorrows’ boxes.

“What have you done?” Bacchus said through clenched teeth.

“I purloined Arianna’s vessel.”

“And the other one.”

“I’m a genius, a genius. I took one of the boxes that hasn’t bloomed yet.”

“You pus-for-brains imbecile. You don’t even know how dangerous that thing is.”

“Bacchie baby, why are you angry? It’s just a teeny-weeny cube of evil. And we won’t use it unless we have to.”

“We won’t use it at all. Give me the box.”


“Give it to me.”

“No!” Loki juggled the two boxes. He vanished when Bacchus reached for him and reappeared in a different spot, giggling. “You’re quite the lard arse now aren’t you?”

“Nice, make fun of the divinity-impaired.”

“Oh that’s right, you really can’t catch me.” The trickster doubled over in a gale of laughter.

“Fine, you twisted snot-bubble, just give me Arianna’s box.”

“Oh Hades Euphrates, I don’t know which is which.”

“Then you’ll have to give me both.”

“Or I could give you neither.”

“I knew I shouldn’t’ve gotten you involved in this. You louse up everything you touch.”

“But you did involve me so here we are. Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyaaahhh.”

Bacchus could feel a vein in his forehead throbbing, but he concentrated his awareness on thoughts of Pan. The satyr appeared in a flash of wiry fur, his hand around Loki’s throat.

After Bacchus blew the goat hair from his lips, he said, “I may not be able to catch you, but Panny certainly can. You may still have your divinity, Loki, but I have divine friends and that’s something you can’t say. No wonder no one likes you.”

A scowl darkened Loki’s features and he growled at Pan, but handed over the boxes. “Cut the insipid flute music you’re piping into my head.”

“Once Bacchus is safely on his way,” the satyr replied.

The former God of Intoxication clapped Pan on the shoulder. “I am forever in your debt, my friend.”

“Think nothing of it, Sire.”