Friday, December 28, 2012

Birth of a Novel: In the thick of it

At times, I feel like the Dunkin Donuts guy from those commercials in the 80s and 90s. "Time to write the novel," I groan, dragging myself to my laptop. Writing is hard, lonely and often unending work. Even when I finish PINCH OF THIS, I'll start another manuscript...okay, okay, I've got two others sitting open on my laptop begging to be finished as well. There are days that writing feels a lot more like work than others.

Somewhere between the 10,000 and 20,000 word mark, I hit a wall. The story stops making sense, I've lost track of what I the point I was making with all this, I consider making massive changes or scrapping the project altogether. Happens every single time. Having the experience of more than a dozen books under my belt helps me talk myself down from the heights of panic, but this loss of focus and inspiration used to leave me cold for days or weeks at a time when I first started writing.

Here's where I am with PINCH OF THIS: I'm 20,000 words in. I've got my characters' motivations and backstory down. I've got them acting out their wildest fantasies, but I just don't know why they started this journey. Does it even really make sense or did I use a device to push things along? And then there's Octavio from the first part of the tale. I really liked him so wouldn't Jennifer really like him and want to keep in touch? And would William really break down in tears at this point and explore his feelings of inadequacy after being fired? I mean he has to break down at some point and realize how emotionally unavailable he's been. Doesn't he? I just don't know.

So what do when you've hit the wall? First of all--don't panic. It's a natural part of writing and you will get through it if you don't give up. Two, if possible, stick to your guns. Push through a few days and stay the course. If that doesn't work, make minor changes and I cannot stress the word minor enough. There's nothing worse than slashing and burning at this point. That will only lead to massive re-writes which can lead to an endless loop of re-writes. Try tweaking your vision a little here and there and see if that clears the way.

Also, it might be time to phone a friend. Enlist your beta reader to read what you've written up to this point and offer an unbiased opinion. Or you can just discuss the project with another writer or your crit group (if you belong to one) and brainstorm a solution.

If absolutely necessary, step away from the book for a day...maybe two, but be careful this sabbatical doesn't turn into months of inactivity. I often work through a plot snag while kneading bread dough. Not sure why this works, but manual labor in general seems to get the creative juices flowing. Before I know it, I'm at the laptop typing with my elbows because I didn't want to stop and wash the flour from my hands lest I lose the thread of thought that will pull everything together.

Above all, don't give up. I know I sound like a broken record, but when asked how I write so much I reply, "I just write. Everyday." Good, bad or ugly, I keep doing it. Have faith that the clouds will part and you'll feel the light of a finished manuscript on your face.

Next time, I'll talk about the end game. How to finish up that novel and know where to stop.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The #NextBigThing Blog Hop

Thanks to Brigit Aine for inviting me to be a part of the Next Big Thing Blog Hop!
Here's a bit about my latest WIP:

What is the working title of your book?
Sanctuary. It is book one in the Silk and Steel series. Though it's set in a fictional world, it has a very medieval feel to it, replete with knights and lady and court intrigue.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was watching the Showtime series Camelot (really wish they hadn't cancelled the show!) and I thought it would a lot of fun to come up with my own medieval romance...with an erotic twist of course.

What genre does your book fall under? 
I would consider it fantasy because I chose to create a fictional know, rather than do all that historical research, lol.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Duke Ahron - Chris Hemsworth
Lady Merewyn - Olivia Wilde
Lord Magus Leontes - Matthew Gray Grubler 
Queen Cillan - Charlize Theron
King Owain - Taylor Lautner

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
To save her son, one woman seduces a powerful magician though she's in love with the most noble of knights.

Where do you plan to submit your book, or will you self published it? Will you be submitting it to agents and NYC publishers first.
I will be submitting this book though not to agents or NYC publishers. I have my sites set on a major e-publisher for this one.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six months, but that was working off and on, not straight through.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
He Calls Her Jasmine by Ann Jacobs or Bound by Honor - An Erotic Novel of Maid Marian by Colette Gale. 

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I've always loved the Arthurian legend and Robin Hood. Having created a few roguish heroes in past works, I know I love writing about them and the women strong enough to tame them.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
More than a love triangle, there are all sorts of entanglements between the four main characters--Ahron, Merewyn, Leontes and Cillan. So,'s complicated *grin*

Thanks again to Brigit for tagging me as one of her chosen authors. Please visit the wonderful authors I've tagged. Not only are they beloved colleagues and friends, but they are also goddesses of the written word!

Denise Bridger
Regina Carlysle
Desiree Holt
Karen Stivali

Friday, December 21, 2012

And the winner is...#CandyCaneKink Blog Hop!

Thanks to everyone who hopped with us! My winner is Amy, congrats :) I'll email you for your address and get your goodies on the way!


Candy Kane Kink

Happy holidays to all my bad girls and boys! I'll be giving away a signed copy of my book RECLAIMED and a holiday cinnamon and cranberry bath set and candle. You'll be all set to relax with a good book and surround yourself with the scents of the season.

To me, the holidays are all about family. The fictional family I've created that I love the most are the Logans, the main characters in the PIRATES AT HEART series. A clan of bootleggers, pirates and outlaws, they stick together through thick and thin...even if the occasional squabble arises. Here's an unedited excerpt from SAILOR'S KNOT, book three in the series, coming soon to Ellora's Cave.

Sailor’s Knot
Cindy Jacks

Book three of the Pirates at Heart series

The year is 2037 and the next generation of the Logan family pirates have taken over the helm of The Yellow Rose. Running bootleg booze and smuggling runners from the Reformed States of America into the Republic of Texas, business couldn’t be better…that is if brothers Marcus and Nathaniel don’t kill each other in the process.

Captain Marcus Logan is serious, brooding and haunted, carrying a torch for his first mate, Amelie. Nathaniel—the resident party boy—is none of those things, but somehow they’d made their differences work for them until recently. When the tall, leggy blonde, Captain Ruby Delaney, is a guest aboard The Rose, she turns Nathaniel’s head and stirs up all sorts of trouble, not the least of which is winding up in Marcus’ bed one drunken night. This ill-advised one night stand ignites a love quadrangle so intertwined that the phrase “it’s complicated” doesn’t begin to define this sailor’s knot.

Turning over in his mind what he would say, Marcus trudged along the corridor to Amelie’s room. It was time to lay his cards on the table. If only he could explain to her that he’d been foolish, that he’d let his dick do the thinking, that it was the pain over her rejection that had driven him into Ruby’s arms.
Okay, maybe he’d save that last bit for a future conversation. He wanted to reconcile, not drive her to homicide. Maybe he could explain that he’d lost his mind because all he'd ever wanted was Amelie in his arms again, but he was doing his best to accept that she never would be. And facing a future without her in it at all―not even as his business partner―was more than he could bear.
If she would only forgive him, if she would only stay on as his first mate, he’d promise to keep his feelings for her in check and he’d never bring his sex life aboard the ship again. It would be strictly business, but she had to stay. She had to.
Yes, if he could say all of that then everything would be all right. But that he’d never put so many words together in his entire life seemed a huge obstacle. He had to try. He owed her that much after the blow he’d dealt her.
Steeling himself to the task at hand, he approached her door. He’d just raised a hand to rap on it when it creaked open. Boots in hand, Nate appeared, half-dressed. Marcus stopped. Had he taken a wrong turn? Had he walked to Nate’s cabin out of habit? Why, then, had all the color drained from Nate’s face?
“Oh. MW.” Nate gave a curt nod.
A shard of ice stabbed Marcus’ heart. What had his brother done? What the fuck was going on? But Marcus knew the answer to that question. Didn’t he?
“What did you do, Nate?” Marcus growled.
“None of your fucking business.”
Marcus’ temper went off like a shot—he heard himself roaring at his brother as though he were listening to someone else. His hands were on Nate’s throat and Marcus tossed him against hallway wall. Striking wildly, Marcus smashed his fist into his brother’s nose. Nate caught him in the chin with an upper cut and they tumbled to the floor. Marcus continued to throw punches, some landing, some blocked. They continued to brawl, their shouts drawing others out of their cabins.
“Marcus!” Amelie shrieked.
She tugged at his collar clearly desperate to pull him off her new lover.
“Marcus, please.” She was frantic.
Somehow forcing himself off of Nate, Marcus struggled to his feet. He rounded on Amelie who was now sobbing—and wearing Nate’s shirt.
“What the fuck?” he shouted. “What the fuck, Amelie? Jesus fucking Christ.”
“Marcus, please—”
“’Marcus, please’ what? Oh no, I deserved this right? Yeah, fine.” He was so angry he shook.
“And you—” He turned to Nate. “If you weren’t my brother, I’d kill you with my bare hands.”
Amelie sank to her knees, tending to Nate’s bloody nose.
Walk away, Marcus told himself. That’s what he’d have to do, walk away and keep walking until there was enough space between him and Nate that Marcus couldn’t do something he’d regret…one day.
Still shaking, he stormed into his own cabin. Ruby was there, draped over his desk chair, reading a book.
“Get out.” He jerked a thumb at the door. Blood dripped down his hands, his knuckles split open.
“What’s wrong, sugar?”
“Just get out. Pick any room you like, but you can’t stay here.” He stripped off his master key and threw it at her feet. “Steal the fucking boat again if you want.”
“What happened?” She stood.
He uncorked at bottle of whiskey, pouring some over his hands one at a time. “Ruby, I’m going to get stupid drunk and I want to be alone. It’s nothing you’ve done.”
“Okay. I’ll go. But I’m not sure you should be by yourself,” she replied, uncharacteristically compliant.
Turning away, he downed several gulps. His chest warmed bringing with it the slightest bit of numbness. How Marcus longed to be completely numb. Bulletproof.
“If you want, I’ll look after the bridge.” Ruby dressed.
“Do whatever you want. Everyone else on this fucking boat does.” He drank more.
“Marcus…please, tell me what’s going on.”
“Amelie slept with Nate,” he mumbled, hanging his head. The pain of the admission seeping into his veins. Tears prickled in his eyes. He would not cry. He would not cry like some pathetic loser.
“I can stay.”
He choked on a sob sinking onto his bunk, his head in his hands. “Please go.”
“Okay,” she murmured.
He heard her collect his key and slip out the cabin door.

Like what you read? Don't forget to snatch up a copy of LANDLOCKED and SMUGGLER'S BLUES, books one and two!

And don't forget to keep on hopping! Visit more blogs and leave some love for more chances to win great prizes.

Happy Holidays!

Birth of a Novel: But is it any good???

If I had a nickel for every time I or an author friend posed this question: Is what I'm writing any good? It's a natural for us to want our baby (aka manuscript) to be as good as we know how to make it. But the fact of the matter is, the first draft is not the time to worry about the quality. Right now, it is all about the quantity so write, write, write.

If NaNoWriMo teaches us anything, it's that to complete a novel, you gotta work. You have to produce word count and if you worry about every word choice, every sentence fragment, every nuance of a scene, you cannot make forward progress. Nothing is ever perfect and really, it's just another delay tactic to avoid the hard road ahead. A novel is a marathon, not a sprint.

During your first draft, give yourself permission to make mistakes because you're going to. I just went back and read some of the stuff I dashed off in the first couple of days of my current project, PINCH OF THIS and realized it doesn't work with what I'm building now. Did I go back and fix it? Not yet and here's why: I don't know exactly how this journey is going to wrap up and what seems out of place or just plain nutty right now may not seem so when I'm done. There's no sense going back and editing and re-editing something that doesn't have a full form. Don't get caught in that endless loop. Lots of first time writers do and that's also why you'll hear more people say "I'm working on a novel" as opposed to "I've written a novel."

Though you might cringe later, write whatever feels appropriate now. There's always the backspace and delete buttons, but ONLY after the first draft is complete. The hard fact of the matter is that none of it may seem very cohesive once you read it as a finished product, but you won't know UNTIL you finish. So keep plugging away and save the self-edits for another day. Hey, that rhymes. Hee hee.

Next time, we'll talk about how to keep the inspiration flowing because a novel or even a novella is a long haul.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

All Wrapped Up by Jacqueline George

Please welcome back Jacqueline George and her wonderful, sexy gift ideas for your man. Take it away, Jacqueline! ~Cindy
All Wrapped Up

What to get him for Christmas? Men are just so difficult... Sure, you could buy him something for his hobby, whatever he does in his spare time, but even that is difficult. Most male hobbies are so obtuse that whatever you buy won’t fit, is out of date, totally wrong for the way he does things or whatever. That means you resort to asking him what he wants (a cop out) or buy him a gift card from his favourite store (another cop out).
What you want to get him is something that he will definitely remember, and he will definitely remember that you gave it to him. I’m guessing that you (like me) are not gifted enough to paint his portrait or write a sonnet for him. So what can you do? Imagine yourself sitting by the sea in the year 2050, holding hands, and he says ‘Do you remember that Christmas when you...’ Now, that’s the sort of present you are looking for.
Actually, you will be surprised how easy it is. What do men like most, even more than beer and football? Answer: sex. See - I told you it was easy. All you have to do is serve up something new and sexy, and it will be his best present of the year. And it will be coming only from you.
Of course, you will have to think carefully about this, but all the sexiest women are smart about what they are doing with their men. What you definitely do not want is to ‘give’ him something you don’t like doing yourself. Like promising, just because it’s Christmas, to give him a blow job all the way and not pull faces afterwards. That’s cold!
No - what you are looking for is something he would not get normally, but that you can enjoy as well. Wait a minute - isn’t that like buying a box of chocolates and eating half of them yourself? Of course not; he will be enjoying whatever you plan exactly because you are enjoying it too.
So let’s be specific. Does he like you to dress in outrageous clothes? Good. Buy some outrageous things and wear them when you take him out for dinner. Do you really understand how he will feel when you sit opposite him with a cleavage all the way down to here and no knickers? I suspect you don’t, so give it a try and you will be surprised.
Buy him an erotic DVD. There is a lot of awful porn out there, but nowadays there are some more intelligent films around. If you don’t know where to start looking, check out Curling up on the sofa together and watching some classy erotica is a great way to impress him.
Do you have strip joints in your town? Good - take him out to one. Swallow your nervousness and enjoy yourself when you get there. It might not be a very classy way to spend an evening but, with you beside him, it will be an experience to remember.
Does he like toys? Buy him a toy, BUT don’t buy a male toy. Why would you do that? Do you want him to go off for some solitary pleasure with his new vibrating plastic vagina? Of course you don’t, and he doesn’t want that either. What he would really, really like is a toy he can use on you. He wants to make you climb the walls in ecstasy, and that’s not such a bad prospect for you either. The fact that you gave it to him wrapped up in Christmas paper will make it all the more sexy.

Look at this - I have managed to write this far and I haven’t mentioned the word ‘relationship’. Of course, your relationship is what this is all about. A strong, lasting connection with your man just has to include sex. It’s the way we are made; it’s what couples do. Perhaps when you are 110 you can stop thinking about it, but until then love him in all the ways you can.


Jacqueline lives in Far North Queensland, on the shore of the Coral Sea. She keeps herself busy with her cats and garden, and by writing books - some of which are far too naughty for her own good. You can find out more about Jacqueline and her books at

Monday, December 17, 2012

Birth of a Novel: Staring down the bull

We've all been there. Anyone who's ever endeavored to write knows that the hardest part is that blank computer screen (or page, if you still kick it old school). Those first words could make or break the book right? Not really, but it feels like it, doesn't it?

In my experience, it's much easier to get started if I don't stare at a blank screen. I break up my outline into what I think will be chapter size bites and create sections with pieces of the outline and some notes I've developed for each scene. This way, I'm not looking into the gaping maw of nothingness, desperate to make it into something.

I also don't write in order. Now, I know there are some authors for whom this is just not an option, but often I will write the end first. Then I'll work on a few bits in the middle and then I'll get around to writing the opening scene of the book. Granted, I don't always do it this way. Sometimes the opening scene will hit me like a bolt of lightning and then I build the rest of the book around it.

In PINCH OF THIS, I did write the first chapter first. I was struck by an image of a couple at their anniversary dinner, not much to say to one another and really not feeling like there was much to celebrate. I could feel the tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. I could see the furtive glances and both of them pushing their food around on their plates, but not eating much. This imagery was really vivid for me so I went with it. The very next day, I wrote the ending. Now I've just got to weave together everything in between.

My point is this: don't worry so much about getting the first chapter under your belt, just focus on being productive. After all, two thousand words is two thousand words, even if they aren't all part of the same chapter. The book will eventually come together as a finished project just like a patchwork quilt.

If, however, you feel the need to crochet an afghan, working one row at a time in sequential order, don't give up if that next sentence doesn't readily present itself. Talk things out, pretend you are your character and imagine what you'd do next in the same situation. Phone a friend! Or take a *short* break. And by short I mean minutes, not days :)  No cat-vacuuming allowed.

What's important is that you set and meet realistic production goals. Though I often do more, I keep the 2000 word mark in my head. If I write that much, I'm happy. If once in a while I fail, but gave it the old college try, that's okay too. The important thing is that you continue to approach the bull, everyday if possible. Even if the word count you produce that day is terrible, it's better to have terrible words you can fix when you self-edit than no words at all. The quickest way to fail at writing a novel is to stop writing--it's guaranteed you won't finish then.

Next time, I'll talk about how to tell if what you are writing is any good ('s a doesn't matter if it is or least not yet.)


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Birth of a Novel: Character Development

IMHO, there is no other step that will make or break a novel like character development. Skimp on it and the book doesn't hold together. Become inconsistent with it and the plot falls apart as well. I write character driven as opposed to plot driven books so this step to me is crucial.

Who are these people you're going to spend several weeks to several months writing about? How do you get to know them better? What do you do when one just won't cooperate? Oh, trust me it happens. It ALWAYS happens. But it's one of the joys of writing. In a small way, watching a character blossom is similar to watching a child take its first steps. But how to get to that point?

The first thing I do is try to envision my characters--what do they look like? How do they dress? Why do they dress that way? Granted, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but whether we want to admit it or not, the public face one chooses to present to the world sends the world a message. So what message is my character trying to send?

Now when it comes to the hero, I'm a little limited by my genre. Apparently, no one wants to read about hot monkey love with a short balding, paunchy hero. So in general I know my hero has to be tall, in good shape, a pleasant to look at. However, I can play with how he chooses to display his obvious good looks Does he try to downplay them? Is he a peacock? Is he rugged and outdoorsy? Does he prefer a slicker, more metrosexual look?

Once I've nailed down what the hero and heroine look like, I develop their backstory. That's all the stuff that I know have happened to these folks that you may or may not ever read about in the actual novel. Also, it's usually things that have gone on in the character's past.

After the emotional baggage has been doled out, it's time to get down to the particulars: What is this characters favorite food? Drink? Movie? Music? What kind of car does he/she drive? Does he/she like their car? What kind of home does he/she have? The more details you can pin down, the more realistic this person will seem. Characters preferences and why they prefer these things go a long way to telling the reader who they are.

In PINCH OF THIS, I've sketched out Jennifer and William as my heroine and hero. They are both in their mid to late forties. Jennifer is blonde with shoulder length hair. She is thin, but not naturally so, she works hard at it. She dressed in expensive, but not flashy clothing. Her favorite drink is vodka on the rocks. She was once a much freer and more open-minded person, but the demands of motherhood and her husband's corporate image pushed her into a mold she's not all that happy about. She's restless, bored with herself and her marriage. And so on and so forth. I created the same kind of profile for William.

Now that these folks are fleshed out, it's time to put them in action. This can be the tricky part. It's important to keep the characters actions consistent with the portrait you've painted. Or if they do something out of character, you have to be able to defend these developments. Or worse, characters will out and out refuse to take the path you've proscribed for them (sounds nutty, but you writers out there know what I'm talking about). When this happens, you have to resort to what you know about them and make the adjustments as needed. The better you know your characters, the easier it is to do all of this.

Next time, I'll talk about staring down the bull and jumping into those first 2000 words.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Release Day to Em Petrova! @empetrova

Please welcome my guest, Em Petrova. She's got a series that is near and dear to my heart, you know, with my firefighter hubby and all. Check out her latest release in the FIREHOUSE 5 series--CONTROLLED BURN. Take it away, Em!

Five Alarm Christmas
By Em Petrova

What do steamy firemen and the Christmas season have in common, you ask? My latest release in the Firehouse 5 series from Ellora’s Cave—CONTROLLED BURN!

When writing this book, I dug into the psyche of Chief Pearce Johnson. He’s a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Responsible for a team of top firefighters, as well as victims of the flames. And he must shirk all of these horrors and come home to give his wife some pleasure too. Except somewhere in the mix, he finds a new kink with his hunky Italian team member, Mitch. Luckily, his wife’s on board!

Read on for a smoldering scene from CONTROLLED BURN, now available


Fire Chief Pearce Johnson has been struggling with his attraction to fellow team member and special ops guy Mitch Morelli. In the sauna, long looks turn into a steamy self-love encounter. Pearce runs home and tells his wife of fifteen years all about it—resulting in a five-alarm blaze between them. 
Ellie has always suspected her husband would crave another relationship with a man. When he brings Mitch into their fantasies, she encourages Pearce to explore this newfound sexual link even as she longs for the big Italian firefighter to visit their bed. But taming two firemen might be tougher than she thinks. 
Mitch can’t get enough of his rugged chief and Ellie’s femininity. But on the job, his boss pushes him away and purposely avoids working with him. Wounded, Mitch is finished trying to see his lover’s point of view, until one perilous event makes them all wake up and realize love is too precious to ignore.


At the familiar jangle of her husband’s keys in the lock, a tingle shot down Ellie’s spine. She flipped open the satin flap of her robe and let her thighs fall apart slightly, hoping to offer Pearce an enticing view after a hard day at Firehouse 5.

His muscled shoulder appeared through the crack in the door and the rest of his bulky form followed. Her libido kicked into overdrive. For four days, he’d been working back-to-back shifts and she’d been out of her mind with need. If tonight fell through, she was going to stow away in his locker and pop out like a Wife Surprise.

She let him adjust to dim glow of the candlelight. His gaze locked on her and immediate want flashed behind his hazel eyes. The heavy items he’d been holding thudded as he dropped them to the floor.

His chest rumbled. “Mmm. I see I get dessert before the main course.”

Her nipples bunched at that growl, eager to feel his mouth humming against her flesh. “Baby, you get anything you want.”

Something dark slid behind his eyes and he dropped his attention to his steel-toed boots. He bent to unlace them and toed them off.

Ellie waited, pulse racing. Damn, she hoped he was seriously up to pouring himself into a night of lovemaking. She couldn’t wait anymore and the collection of toys he’d given her to satisfy her bodily wants while he captained the biggest firehouse in the city wasn’t doing the trick anymore. She needed a real man between her legs—she needed Pearce.

He straightened up and met her gaze. Her breath caught half in, half out as she noted that smolder in his eyes. Everything in her demanded she get up and cross the room to him, throw herself in his strong arms and seduce him right out of his tighty whities.

But tonight he was going to come after her. She deserved it, after he’d made her wait.

A trickle of cream escaped her tight folds and oozed down her inner thigh. She spread her legs farther to allow him a glimpse.

Right on cue, he groaned. He scrubbed a hand over his face. “Damn, woman, you’ve been waiting for me.”

“Been thinking about you for days.” She crooked a finger and he started forward as if on an invisible puppet thread.

Her heart raced faster as he neared. His thigh muscles bulged beneath his snug-fitting jeans and the top two buttons of his shirt were open, giving her a hint of man chest. Heaviness weighed in her core.

“Darlin’, I’ve been dying to get home to you too.” He plucked her off the sofa and sank to the cushions in one swift movement. She found herself cradled on his lap, legs dangling over one thick thigh and her pussy against his bulging erection.

She wriggled and snaked her arms around his neck. Even after fifteen years of marriage, he was all she wanted. She lived, ate and breathed Pearce Johnson. Long ago, when she’d discovered she couldn’t have his babies, she’d decided she’d been gifted with an amazing man and she’d make the most of every minute. Lately, however, she’d felt a strain in him—a strain she hoped was simply fatigue from working long, stressful hours.

Hopefully tonight would bring him some ease.

Em Petrova
~where words mean so much more~

Monday, December 10, 2012

Birth of a Novel: The Outline


Yes, yes, yes. These two groups work very differently and never the twain shall meet...or shall they? Most authors claim to be either a "fly by the seat of the pants" kind of writer or a strictly disciplined outliner who plots every single scene. I think in reality most of us lean one way, but borrow techniques from the other side as well. Call me Ms. Pants-a-plot...wait, don't call me that. That just sounds wrong.

Anyhoo, for my current WIP titled PINCH OF THIS, I have an outline. I did character sketches of Jennifer and William, my heroine and hero. I made sure I understood the theme which is basically "where ever you go, there you are." I really got into the motivating force so that their wild explorations make sense to the reader. There is a definite climax to the story (no pun intended, lol) and I know what each character must learn to get to the conclusion. I've outlined the book from start to finish and I'm ready to jump into the thick of it. That being said...the best laid schemes of mice and plotters...

I believe for a story to have the ring of truth to it, it has to evolve organically. Yes, I can force my will onto the story, but then it reads as forced. No matter what I think I understand about my characters and the place they need to go, I always learn something along the way and there's inevitably something about the book that has to change. It is then that I deviate from the outline (or sometimes throw it out altogether) and let the book take me where it needs to go. I've done more introspection and learned about myself and the world around me mucking around in the fictional space between my ears. It's great therapy and a lot cheaper too...not that I need therapy...hey, who said, "Yes, you do!"

Anyway, the point is that if I had to choose a camp, I'd call myself a plotter but I think it is important to give yourself the freedom to work in the manner that serves the needs of the manuscript. If that means working outside your comfort zone, all the better. An art professor once told me (and I do consider writers to be artists), in the midst of creation, if you're scared and off balance, that's exactly where you should be.

Also, if there's one thing I've learned: At some point my characters will have an uprising and Jennifer and William will take charge of who they want to be. Ahhh, characters and their wily ways, but I'll get to those slippery buggers next time. Until then, keep writing!


Saturday, December 8, 2012

On a sixty degree day, I found my Christmas spirit

The taste of peppermint, the scent of evergreens and holly, the sight of children excitedly awaiting Santa, the sound of jingle bells, the nip of winter in the air--these things speak of Christmas to me. four out of five ain't bad. Today, on a warmer than usual December day, I found my holiday spirit.

It was one of those accidentally perfect days. My son and I were watching cartoons this morning and one show portrayed a Christmas parade.

"Hey--" he turned to me-- "when is our Christmas parade?"

The lovely little Northern Virginia town we live in has several annual parades, Christmas being among them.

"I don't know," I said. "I bet it's soon, though. Let me check."

I'm usually more on top of these things, but it's been a hectic autumn and a few details had slipped through the cracks. A check of the town website confirmed my suspicions--the Christmas parade was scheduled for today.

Quickly, we changed out of our jammies and headed out the door. The parade route is within walking distance and so is a cluster of local boutiques and the farmer's market. We decided to hit the trifecta and visit them all.

First we hit the Ben Franklin store. Yes, our little town still has a Ben Franklin. I love this place because it has a whole section of crafts for sale from local artisans. It also still has a coin operated rocking horse. I don't know what I'll do when DS gets too grown-up to beg for fifty cents to take a ride.

We purchased a couple of gifts and got each of us a pair of twinkle light glasses. Mine make the lights look like snowflakes, my son's create the illusion of tiny reindeer.

Then we strolled over to the Farmers Market. It's a wonderful collection of local artists, crafters, micro-vineyards and breweries, not to mention the actual farmers. We bought a peck of freshly harvested apples then munched on one while we waited for the main event.

As usual, the parade was uplifting. Not only are the emergency vehicles all in lights a joy to see, as are the floats, but it's wonderful to gather with our friends and neighbors to celebrate this beautiful place we call home.

Toward the end of the parade--just before the big man in red showed up--a girl scout handed me a candy cane and wished me a merry Christmas. I returned the greeting and watched her skip away to catch up with her troop. Once I popped the confection into my mouth and the uniquely candy cane peppermint flavor coated my tongue, I knew I was hooked--pun intended.

On the walk home, my son and I sang Christmas carols and put a dent in his parade candy. For me...the holiday season has truly began.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Birth of a Novel: Conception

The question I heard a lot last month during my NaNoWriMo journey was: How do you do it--how do you write a complete novel?

Well, unfortunately there is no formula that works for every writer or heck, even for every manuscript. However, since I'm beginning a new project, I thought it would be fun (and hopefully informative) to show you what I go through with each and every book. Some stages are easy, some are as painful as giving birth...okay, so NOTHING is as painful as giving birth, but it's damn near as bad.

To begin with, you gotta have an idea, that spark of inspiration that lights the whole fire. The novel I'm completing this month is titled PINCH OF THIS. It will be (fingers crossed) part of a series called SPICE RACK which another author invited me to join. There are two requirements to fit into this series:
1. The couple featured in the book have to be married and need to add a little spice to the relationship. At the end of the book, they have to remain in a committed monogamous marriage, but guests in the bedroom are allowed to "spice" things up as long as they do not become a permanent part of the relationship.
2. The story has to include The Spice Rack, an item sold in department stores and other locations that one would buy gifts. Instead of holding actual spices, the jars have suggestions to spice up one's life. The couple has to use this item as a catalyst for change.

This is a little bit different way to come up with a story line because the starting point has already been decided for me. Usually ideas will just hit me out of the blue and then it's up to me to figure out the specifics. For this one, I had to brainstorm a little. I thought--married couple, spices, bored with themselves and their lives--and instantly thought of travel. Literally sampling different spices from various regions of the world. From there it wasn't hard to come up with a couple who have retired early, are financially well off, but--due to their pursuit of a comfortable life--never indulged in the travel to exotic places they planned to as young lovers. So, how to make this romantic and erotic? While they're sampling the local cuisine, they'll also sample the sexual culture of the location as well.

After this initial concept, the outline wrote itself, but that's spilling over into the next blog entry: The Outline. Love it or hate it, it's a useful tool, even if you only make broad strokes to guide your journey.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Anaїs Nin and The Delta of Venus--Jacqueline George

Please welcome back my guest, Jacqueline George, paying tribute to Anaїs Nin. ~Cindy
Anaїs Nin and The Delta of Venus

Have you heard of Anaїs Nin? If you are reading this, you really should have. If you enjoy a spicy romantic book now and again, you should offer a quiet thank you as you read. If you can have an intelligent conversation about modern sex and relationships, you should probably thank her too.
Who was she? In 1903, a girl was born in Paris to two sophisticated artists. Her parents could be described as Cuban-French, although they could probably support several other labels instead. Anaїs was brought up in France, but died an American. Her early life was turbulent, and her first jobs at the age of sixteen were as an artist’s model in New York. In 1923, she married her first husband in Havana, and moved back to Paris.
This was the Paris of the twenties, a wonderful, frenetic place, full of artists, writers, poets and their various hangers-on. Dali, Chagall and Picasso were there, with writers like Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, and Pound. I will not even start on the poets and philosophers. It must have been a great time to sit in those uniquely Parisian cafes and discuss everything the new century had to offer.
Among the people talking and thinking were Anaїs and her new friend Henry Miller (famous for The Tropic of Capricorn, and other sexually loaded books). Anaїs was drawn to the subject of sex. Then she lived in the apartment of an American man who was away for the summer, and discovered a stock of French erotica. One by one, I read these books, which were completely new to me. She later said I had never read erotic literature in America… They overwhelmed me. I was innocent before I read them, but by the time I had read them all, there was nothing I did not know about sexual exploits… I had my degree in erotic lore.
Anaїs began to write. She turned out a library of material. Her journals, deeply introspective, covered 1931 to 1974 and are a goldmine for historians. Her fiction interests me more, both for its delicate sexiness and for the intriguing hints of a wide and sexy life. She seems to have had a go at nearly every literary and artistic figure of her age, and often included their wives in the party. She managed to run two unwitting husbands in America, one on the east coast and one on the west. Her exploits with Henry Miller were almost certainly wild and adventurous, but we are never quite sure how far they went. After all, in those years ladies did not admit to such things.
She says she took up erotic writing because she was poor and starving in New York. That might have been true, but the experiences she was writing about came from the decadence and free-loving of Paris in the twenties. Perhaps her most famous and accessible books are The Delta of Venus and Little Birds. Treat yourself to them this Christmas. They are full of erotic snapshots, gentle, rewarding, sometimes frustrating, always deeply true. I first read them half a life time ago, and they still excite me. I am jealous of her imagination, and even more of the fun she must have had before putting pen to paper.
Anaїs died in America in 1977. I wonder if she looked back on her life and realised that she had made a difference, that she had contributed to freeing women and giving them back their sexuality. The fact that we can now read and write and think about erotic romance is, in part at least, a tribute to her.


Jacqueline lives in Far North Queensland, on the shore of the Coral Sea. She keeps herself busy with her cats and garden, and by writing books - some of which are far too naughty for her own good. You can find out more about Jacqueline and her books at

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like why don't I feel it?

The tree and decorations are up. I've purchased most of the gifts I'm going to purchase already and they've been wrapped and deposited under the tree. I've been gorging on Christmas movies. My son and I sing the Twelve Days of Christmas every night before bed. It's even been really cold here in NoVA. But I'm not yet in the Christmas spirit.

It could be that I've had a turbulent fall and I need a moment to catch my breath before I feel festive. It could be that December just started and in a couple weeks I'll be wearing Santa hat (complete with rhinestone tiara) everywhere. Or it could be that I'm just feeling Scrooge-y this year. I sincerely doubt the latter since I LOVE Christmas. Whatever the reason, I've got a case of the holiday blahs and I'm not sure how to kick them.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated :) What works for you to get you in that holiday frame of mind?


Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy Release Day to #LilyHarlem! TEAMWORK

Teamwork by Lily Harlem

Book four in the Hot Ice series. (Can be enjoyed as a stand alone read.)

What I know about hockey could fit on the back of a stamp. So my latest patient may be one of the NHL’s hottest defensemen, but I’m not exactly blown away by his stardom. Add in the fact that he’s a surly, growling grump, and I’m more than happy to work my magic on his battered body and then hot-foot to my date with his teammate, Todd “Pretty” Carty.

Todd is sex on a stick, a slice of man heaven and I want a bit of the action, preferably of the bedroom variety. But when Raven emerges from his bad mood and throws his energy into blowing my mind with just one kiss, I find my head spinning and my libido raging.

What I didn’t bargain on is these hard-training, hard-playing hockey players working as efficiently off the ice as on it when it comes to getting results. But who am I to complain when satisfaction is their ultimate goal?

Reader Advisory: Contains m/f/m. Go on, you know you want to indulge!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

#NaNoWriMo Update

I've been a little quiet this week, but that's because I'm nearing the finish line to my NaNoWriMo journey. This month I've written a total of 45,000 words which I split between two novellas and I also managed to write a children's book for my son's Christmas present. Booyah!

I'll be back to my regular blogging schedule once I hit 50,000. Wish me luck :)


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leftover Turkey White Chili

It's Sunday and I know everyone in my household is sick of turkey and stuffing or turkey sandwiches or turkey and cranberry salad. Time to do something totally different with the bird. I usually make white chili with ground chicken, but I developed this recipe about ten years ago to use up leftover holiday turkey and it was a smash success. Ever since then it's been an after-Thanksgiving staple in the Jacks household. It's chocked full of vegetables and a lot more colorful than its name implies. Hope you enjoy!

1 med onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Sweat vegetables in large soup pot until tender

2 pounds leftover turkey, shredded
Add to vegetables and saute for 5 minutes so that flavors blend

8 cups of chicken or turkey stock
1/2 bottle beer
1 can yellow corn
2 16-oz cans of Garbanzo beans
2 16-oz cans of Cannellini beans
2 16-oz cans of Great Northern beans
Deglaze pan with 1 cup of stock then add the rest. Add all canned items.

2 dashes allspice
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Add spices and stir. Simmer for 90 minutes.

1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
Add cilantro, simmer another 15 minutes

Optional garnishes:
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Green onion, chopped
Jalepeno peppers, minced
hot sauce
sour cream
lime wedges

Serve with garnishes and fresh corn tortillas. Enjoy!

Fiction for the bad girl in every woman