Wednesday, October 24

A True Hero: Why I love Eric...

In late August, twenty-year-old Eric Clark, a close family friend was severely injured by an IED in Afghanistan  (Note: pic of him in the linked article is not for faint of heart). My family met Eric when he was about ten years old where his father and I were both US Navy Sailors stationed in Hawaii. My kids have been close friends with Eric for nearly ten years.

When I heard Eric was joining the Army and going overseas, I was worried but not overly so. I've known and worked with so many military who've gone to the Middle East and come back safe and sound. I've been over there several times, though not in a direct combat area, and came back safe and sound.

His injury was a complete shock to me and brought home that anything can happen to anyone at anytime, whether here or there. Eric lost a leg below the knee and several fingers in addition to multiple other injuries. His honor and courage brought him to be there, doing the job most Americans don't want to risk, but his true heroism is in the way he's healing. It's in the aftermath.

Eric is doing so much more than simply coping with his injuries. He's always had a crazy-funny sense of humor, and that humor hasn't left him. He's kept his spirits up, despite his challenges, despite his pain, despite everything. He looked forward to getting his first prosthetic (which happened Monday!), and he wants to be running again by February. I know he can do it, too. If there's any way, he'll make it happen.

No matter what he does with his career now, he will always be a soldier to me. He still has that fighting Army spirit, is still behind his division in the Middle East, cheering and motivating them to succeed and come back safely. That is heroic. That is strength of character. That is why I love Eric.

He's now recovering in Bethesda, MD, where he'll stay through his physical therapy. Anyone who'd like to thank Eric for his service can send letters and care packages to the address at Bethesda listed on the linked article above. If you're particularly moved by his courage, please donate to the Wounded Warrior Project. I'd be happy to tell Eric he's inspired someone to help out such a huge supporter of wounded veterans. Or you can write and let him know yourself :) Send him a message on Facebook!

What qualities make someone a hero to you? Who do you consider a hero and why?

Monday, September 3

Happy Labor Day, and have some books!

By MOTHart
Ah, yes, it's Labor Day, and I am only too happy to have the rest of the day free. I did have to work a few hours early this morning and yesterday morning, but mostly it's been a four-day weekend. I'm feeling good, so I thought I'd share. Today I'm giving away books! A lot of books!!

Choice number 1: Cassi is a good friend, and one of my RWA chaptermates. She writes sexy urban fantasy. Her next book, Shadow Rising, is out this month, Sep 25, and is available for pre-order. But you can get her first one from me for free :)

Choice number 2: Thea has created a delicious paranormal world, starting with the first book of The Elder Races series, Dragon Bound, one of my favs (along with Oracle's Moon)! This is a novella in the series. Her latest book, Hunter's Season, comes out this month, Sep 18.

Choice number 3: For those fans of historicals, here's one of the top authors in the genre, Tessa Dare. Her newest in the series, A Lady by Nidnight, just came out Aug 28. I met the lovely author at RWA National Conference and fan-girled, of course :)

Choice number 4: Anne is a new-to-me author, though this book is not her first rodeo. It is the first book of her new Dark Souls series. I also met her at the RWA Conference, and she's very friendly, personable, and encouraging!

Choice number 5: This is a postapocalyptic romance written by Nico. I met Nico at a book signing in SoCal along with his amazing partner in crime, Zoe Archer (also one of my fav authors). We talked for nearly two hours! He's such a great guy as well as a great author. He's also writing a series with Zoe for Avon Impulse. Look for the Ether Chronicles.

And choice number 6: Welcome to a strange world of supernatural creatures! Roland's creative descriptions, dialogue, setting, and historical eye keep you turning pages. You'll love Victor, his dry wit, and the fantastic cast of characters. I haven't met Roland face to face, but I've followed his blog, Writing in the Crosshairs, for a long time, and he's thoroughly kept me entertained. Roland, I love when the ghosts take over your blog!

Alright, to win, you don't have to follow me. I know--crazy, huh? I want you to follow if you like my posts, not to win stuff. But you do need to either leave me a comment or Tweet me @AngMcCallister to let me know you want to win. Let me know which book you'd like, and on Friday, I'll randomize and then contact the winners. Don't forget to tell your friends. Again, Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, August 30

Major Fail... and then a success story!!!

Okay, so the A to Z Challenge was a fail on my end. I had some issues with Blogger that kept me from a couple of posts, and then I got word that I was exiled. Yep, exiled. As a Navy Sailor, I don't really get to choose where I go, and my orders came to head to San Nicolas Island, ye land with little internet and no cell service. Thus: shoulda, coulda, woulda. I am thoroughly disappointed with myself. I am here, though, at Point Mugu and ready to get back to blogging. Lol, living like a vagabond in the barracks, but I had to give up my apartment for, ya know, the whole exile thing.

At any rate, I have news. Oh, yes, good news. I took leave to attend the absolutely amazing Romance Writers of America's Writer's Conference in Anaheim and had the best time ever. It's Disney World for romance writers, without a doubt. I thought I'd died on the way there and landed myself in heaven--met tons of new people, fan-girled over fav authors, met blog and Twitter buddies, learned a lot about craft and publishing, and came home with over $1500 in free books, mostly autographed. Wow. That's all. Just WOW. Go, if the opportunity arises for you. That is my advice :)

While there, I met the smart, wonderful, fabulous Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill. It might have been my last minute scramble to get to my meeting with her on time, but I was so at ease with her, I didn't even need to hold my crutch (heh--my note cards). I felt really good about her. So we emailed back and forth a few times, and then I got The Call. And just like that, I am now represented by Nalini. Okay, well, no one ever said when the call came it would last an hour! But it was one fantastic, giddy hour, and if you've gotten the call before, you know what I mean. Did I forget to say it's like winning the lottery (and nearly as difficult)??? I think it multiplies your chances exponentially to meet agents face to face.

So what do you think? Are conferences effective, worth the price if you can swing it? Have you had more editor attention than agent interest like I have?

*PS, I have more good news, but it must wait until I have more information. Plus I have greatly missed being able to get on here and keep up with everyone. Glad to be back. Again...

Friday, April 6

A to Z Challenge : Funniest videos ever!

Well, maybe not funniest ever, but definitely the funniest I've seen in a while. These videos are posted by Nice Peter on YouTube. If you love silly humor and don't mind a little bad language, you'll love this.

The Epic Rap Battles of History feature opponents such as Sara Palin vs Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson vs Elvis Presley, and one of my personal favs, Master Chief vs Leonidus. I know this has nothing to do with Romance (my intended theme), but I had to share this. Hope you enjoy!

Seen anything funny on the net lately that you'd like to share? What kind of humor gets you laughing the most?

Thursday, April 5

A to Z Challenge : Entangled Publishing

Well, shucks. I misscheduled my A to Z Delta post on Dating Disasters and thus missed a letter for the challenge. Lesson learned, folks. Now that I'm settled into my nights schedule at work, I can keep a better eye on these things.

While on leave to Washington last weekend, I attended the Rose City Romance Writers Spring Intensive, and I had the pleasure of meedting Liz Pelletier, editor and one of the founders of Entangled Publishing.

She entered the publishing business in an unusual way. After starting Savvy Authors (if you're an author and don't know about it, check it out. It's a fantastic resource with tons of affordable workshops and informative posts every month), she ended up with a small surplus of profit on what she'd intended to be a non-profit venture. So what could she do with the money that would help authors most?

She noticed the majority of authors weren't getting published. As anyone else would do *ahem* she developed a business model based on case studies she'd read on Boeing's success and gathered friends who shared the same vision of how a publishing company should be. Entangled pays higher royalties because of the management team's belief that the author should receive more of the profits for their work. They are not a digital first as some people assume, instead releasing print and digital simultaneously.

Entangled is one amazing publisher, a rapidly expanding one. They've recently added multiple imprints, similar to Category lines by Harlequin. In my opinion, they'll give Harlequin a run for their money some day, though there's plenty of room in the market that's been virtually untouched by publishers other than Harlequin. They've also contracted with a distributor to get select titles on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.

I think what impresses me most about this publisher is that despite the need for the bottom line (it is a business, after all), Entangled cares about and stands behind their authors. Liz shared a lot of tips and information on how distribution works. She has only a minute to pitch the books when she markets them, so getting a great, hooky pitch down to that length is a huge plus. Overall, I was quite impressed with this publisher. Of course, I also know someone published with them, Lisa Kessler, and she's had nothing but glowing things to say about them.

What publishers do you have your eye on? What do you think of Entangled's unique "it takes a village" model of publishing? Have you used Savvy Authors before? Do you think a small publisher can take on the big guns? What do you think they need to accomplish that?

Tuesday, April 3

A to Z Challenge : Casual Encounters

Don't act all innocent! I don't know a single person who hasn't at least perused Craigslist's personals section at least a few times. When you open the page, it even has a scent. Something like... desperation, lol. Alright, I'm not going to knock the site any further. I'll just point out that for women, using CL is like shooting fish in a barrel, and generally women don't need to post pictures to get responses.

Men, however, get the gamut of spam, links to pay sites, fake responses, etc., and they must post a pic to get any real responses. Unfortunately, they post the most lewd pics--ones sure to invite the wrong responses. Now, for those of you curious, I gleaned this information from a multitude of friends who have used the site or attempted to use it. Most never answer the responses they received from a post.

Believe it or not, I don't think all who post there are looking for a drive-by. I've seen plenty of posts where the poster seems to be looking for a connection of some sort, the potential for a continuing relationship. The rest of them seem to post out of boredom.

Has anyone posted--under Personals, not just Casual Encounters (I used platonic before and found that the general public has no idea what platonic means *shudders*)? Do you know anyone who's used the site to meet new people? What's the craziest personal ad you've seen posted anywhere? Do you think CL should even include a section like Casual Encounters under Personals? After all, they're not in the Adult Friend Finder business...

Yay! Day 3 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is complete. My post is a little late, of course, because I was driving home overnight from Washington. I got in around 7 am this morning after a seventeen-hour drive. Couldn't help myself. I had to have a little nap before I had to go to work. Thank you all for patiently awaiting my visits to your blog. I'll be making rounds shortly ;)

Monday, April 2

A to Z Challenge : Bromance

Technically the bromance pictured above isn't typical bromance behavior, but I couldn't help myself. They're hot and confident enough to hug in public. Wikipedia defines bromance as a close, non-sexual relationship between two or more men, a form of homosocial intimacy. I never really thought about the dynamics of such a relationship until I watched I Love You, Man and realized how important it is for men to have these kinds of bonds. Women can often take these kinds of relationships for granted because they're more encouraged for women, at least in my experience.

It can, however, go too far, enough to ruin other relationships. I suppose this means there has to be balance. From the comments on this post on The Nest, you can see there are pros and cons to the bromantic relationship.

Some more famous bromances in the public eye are Matt Damon/Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt/George Clooney, Tom Cruise/David Beckham, Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson, Tom Felton/Rupert Grint (yes, it's Draco Malfoy and Ron Weasley). Bromance is a frequent feature in anime as well.

Personally, I've seen the strongest romantic bonds formed among those men exposed to danger on a regular basis--military members, police officers, firemen. Danger is a great motivation to set aside differences and competitive natures.

Are you or your significant other in a bromance? When does a bromance go to far? Have you had any good / bad experiences with a bromance? Is it a necessary kind of relationship?

Alright. Day 2 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Once again, there is still time to get in on this great blogging experience and push yourself. Head over to the blog by tonight to sign up and join the fun! And a note to my visitors and followers: I'm still in Washington spending time with my kids for a few days (haven't seen them since October), so I'll be by your blogs after I return tomorrow.

Sunday, April 1

A to Z Challenge : Alpha Males

Need I say more? LOL, alright I will. Let's just say I've been reading Romance for a very long time, and I've seen a shift in the perception of an alpha male. In older novels, they were often portrayed as domineering and controlling, nearly knuckle-draggers--the "I know what's best for you" type. I think publishers have realized this kind of guy is indeed NOT attractive to most readers.

Exuding confidence, self-esteem, and leadership seems to be key to being alpha. There is definitely a difference between controlling and leading. This former gives no regard to others' opinions, desires, or input while the latter involves doing what needs doing in order to succeed. If that means having the confidence to go beyond oneself for expertise or advice, then so be it. A man who can see the value in that is absolutely an alpha male to be respected.

Several sites list alpha traits (Alpha Men, How to be an Alpha Male, Masculine Freedom), but you'll see a wide variety of differences from site to site. Everyone has their own ideas, but they all really describe the same type of person. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, there's also been some research that being alpha can be bad for your health especially if you're also a Type A personality.

Are you an alpha male or female? What traits are key to being a true alpha? Would you rather be an alpha or beta? Do you find alphas (m or f) attractive?

So, welcome to Day 1 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and thank you to all of our wonderful hosts. Check out the blog for more information. Sign up before Monday night to participate. Finally, I leave you with this:

Alpha Male

Wednesday, February 29

Lifting spirits on Leap Day...

Aaaaaaaaaahhh, friendship. I must have a lot of BEST friends.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done in the name of friendship?
What do you plan to do with your "extra" day this year?

And how the heck do you know who's following you without GFC??? I have no clue who's following via the RSS feed. What are you guys using? I'm so not happy about this! Google, I love and hate you.

Tuesday, February 28

Blast off : CassaFire by Alex J Cavanaugh

Welcome, everyone, to the long-awaited CassaFire Launch Party! CassaFire by Alex J Cavanaugh is the sequel to the Amazon Top Ten Bestselling CassaStar.

Alex has always been very good to me, and I adore him. Just check out his blog and see how many people he connects with on a daily basis. It boggles the mind what a great guy he is. After I first started blogging, I won his 200 followers contest, and I not only won an ARC of his book, CassaStar, but he featured me on his blog HERE.

I read his first book and reviewed CassaStar HERE. I promise I do not mention books ever on my blog unless I love them. Alex has a talent for creating memorable characters who are easy to relate to and for expressing difficult relationships. Oh, and those action scenes! I can't wait to read this sequel because I think it's going to be even better. Here's what it's all about:

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities. 

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Available today!
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5, $15.95, 6x9 Trade paperback, 240 pgs
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9, $4.99, available in all formats

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:
“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

You can purchase CassaFire here:
Barnes & Noble
Amazon Kindle

And you can view the book trailer here:

Swing by Alex's blog to leave him comments over the next two weeks and be entered to win a CassaFire prize package including a copy of CassaStar and CassaFire, a tote bag, mug, and bookmarks:

Happy Launch Day, Alex, and thanks for inviting me to the party!

Monday, February 20

First Challenge of the 4th Platform Building Campaign

Kicking off the Fourth Platform-Building Campaign is our very first challenge. The challenge is presented by our lovely Campaign host, Rachael Harrie at Rach Writes. I must admit this challenge intimidates me because I don't do flash fiction, and this likely doesn't fit the description of flash fiction, but *shrug* here goes. The challenge is to write a flash fiction/short story in 200 words or less beginning with the words "Shadows crept across the wall." Bonus points for ending with "everything faded," including "orange" in the story, writing in the same genre you normally write, and ending at exactly 200 words.

This is from my most recent WIP, a paranormal romance, though it's modified to fit the challenge. I did begin and end with the challenge words, it is my genre (thus vampires and hand-holding), "orange" is included, and it ends at exactly 200 words. Even if this only qualifies as a scene, I'm a little proud for cutting it this short and still keeping the meat of the scene intact. This exercise is great practice!

Shadows crept across the wall, stretched long by the orange glow of a solitary streetlight. Graffiti plastered the crumbling exterior and streaked the double-doors.

Kade shoved them wide, the shriek of the hinges echoing through the cavernous interior. Dust choked Val’s throat, and she had to fight back a coughing fit, wrinkling her nose at the smell of disuse and rust.

A feral scream tore the silence and froze her insides. That had to be Will. The sound of a scuffle followed, and then more silence. Her hand tightened on Kade’s.

“Sure you’re okay?”

She looked up at the concern on his face. “I have to be.” He flashed an encouraging smile, and her heart squeezed. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Good. Let’s do this.”

When they entered, there was no recognition on Will’s face. His fiery gaze burned into her with lust and famine, as he’d look at any human, like a walking meal. Hungry sounds came from the back of his throat, and he strained toward her. The deranged was half-way changed, his face, torso, and fingers lengthened and his eyes at the cusp of a slant.

Shock slammed into her. Then her ex-husband reached out and everything faded.

A few notes: Huge Thank You to all my new followers. I'm trying out Bloglovin' after reading HR Sinclair's review to see if I can get better organized with following my buds, and I'm also a little behind with keeping up because of my recent push to finish my WIP (and it's done now-YAY!). To top it all, I'm prepping to make the journey to California on Friday. I'll move out of my hotel and move into another hotel, lol. Homeless yet again for a few more weeks, but soon this'll all be over.

Also coming up is the big release of CassaFire by Alex J Cavanaugh. If you haven't followed his blog yet, you must go check it out. He's the best blogger bud evah, and if anyone's great at making likeable characters it's him (pro'ly cause he is one--don't get a big head, Alex, lol). I'll have more details on his sequel to CassaStar on February 28.

Tuesday, February 14

Is it getting hot in here?

Happy Valentine's Day! What better way to celebrate than with a steamy blog hop? This kissing scene hop is the brainchild of Hope Roberson and Cassie Mae. Thanks for thinking up such an perfect topic for today.

My scene is from my newest WIP, a paranormal romance featuring vampires. Never thought I'd write a vampire story, but now I never say never, lol. The hero is a embittered (and crude) vampire prince who hates humans until the day he meets the heroine, a human liaison to the vampire nation. She hates and fears vampires, having lost her ex to his own obsession with becoming a vampire. This is their first kiss. I probably shouldn't have picked a first draft, but most of my stuff is too graphic for public consumption :) Thanks for coming by!

As they neared Ptolomy’s mansion, Val clutched her satchel with an iron grip, her knuckles white. Her lips trembled, and he could smell her fear again. She pulled her thick black peacoat tighter, readjusting the tie at her waist. He felt her chill, it was written so plainly in her body language. Her vulnerability broke open a pocket of warmth in him. Without thinking, he reached for her, pulling her close against his side.
She sat stiffly at first. He stroked his hand up and down her arm, firm and soothing. Her body softened, the tension easing, and she relaxed her head against his shoulder. Unable to deny himself, he nuzzled her pale wheat curls, that heady lilac scent too much to resist. She was softer than mink. He turned his head to brush his cheek against the luxurious sensation.
She lifted her head to meet his gaze. Those eyes were brilliant pools of Caribbean, her pupils dilated with arousal. Hell yeah, she wanted him. But they were also wide with surprise. He’d only wanted to comfort her, but now his head dipped toward hers. When she licked her lips in response, it was all he could do to be gentle when he wanted to ravage her mouth. He touched his lips to hers, a tender sweep across and back again. An electric charge zipped all the way to the bottom of his feet, drawing his body tight. Just as he would have settled more firmly against her sweet mouth, the door swung open.
She jerked away from him, her fingers at her lips. Her eyes clouded with confusion and regret. F**k. He shot his driver a withering look, and the man cringed. He shook his head sharply before the man could stumble over an apology. Douchebag had also arrived at the side of the car, and Kade didn’t want the bastard to know anything was amiss. Holding a hand out for Val, he guided her out of the car and to the heavy doors of the mansion where Ptolomy no doubt waited impatiently for them.

Optional reading only, Val's POV (Graham is "Douchebag" to Kade):

Her lips tingled where Kade’s had been, and Val’s mind was a jumble. Why had she let that kiss happen? She’d been at the head of a panic attack. Maybe that had weakened her enough to succumb to Kade. Maybe she would have taken the comfort from anyone. That didn’t really fly because had it been Graham, she would have turned a cheek. She knew because Graham had made the attempt before.
Even more surprising than her easy participation was Kade himself. He’d caressed her hair with his face, like a thoughtful lover, and it had put her body and mind into a sweet, blissful fog. He’d been so soft, so careful, his lips whispering along hers. She would have taken him for the caveman-kiss type complete with bruising force and an invasion of tongue and teeth.
“Ready for this?” Kade asked. With a start, she realized they were in the foyer, and she was still holding his hand. She dropped it like it was on fire. Apparently it had been on fire because her hand was hot from the contact.

Monday, February 13

Origins Blogfest: the chicken or the egg?

Today's blogfest is brought to you by DL Hammons along with co-hosts Alex J Cavanaugh, Katie Mills, and Matthew MacNish. The 'fest is all about how we got started on the writing journey. Thanks for dreaming this up, guys. I'm looking forward to reading about what lit the spark for other writers!

Sometimes I wonder if I write because I was born a writer or if I am a writer only because I write. I've always loved books. My world was all about books, books, books. After all, I lived in the boonies, only had one really bad tv channel, and didn't get out much. From junior high on, I'd written short stories, decent ones, and some poems, really bad ones!

By the time I got to college, I had quite a collection of stories and gained a lot of encouragement from my instructors and the Dean of the English Department. I was majoring in English, and then I started on the newspaper. The writing there burned me out so hardcore that I stopped reading and then stopped writing. I couldn't look at a book without feeling nauseous. I didn't finish college. Still haven't, I'm sorry to say.

Roll forward thirteen years. I was in the Navy, separated over a year from family, out to sea on deployment, and still hadn't cracked a book open other than what I had read to my kids. We'd gotten a box of books in, and when your life becomes work-sleep-work-sleep-work-sleep-work, you'll do just about anything to break the cycle. So I began reading again, and reading and reading. I was reading one to two books per day. I ran out of books. We got a new shipment which included a famous series. All the girls read and hated it. After a lot of discussion, we decided what we wanted to see in a novel, and I was challenged to write one.

Thus the gauntlet was thrown, and for the first time, I was up for the challenge. I wrote my first manuscript in less than four weeks. It was only for fun, I swear, but they loved what I wrote. I was asked to write about some of the other characters, and I realized I loved the way I felt when I was writing. I loved how it felt to share the writing and how it felt to talk about the stories with people who loved the stories.

Two years later, I have three finished manuscripts with plenty of nibbles for them and about two dozen other ms pans in the fire. I know if I keep learning, keep improving, and keep my dedication, I will succeed. I'll someday share my work with readers who enjoy what I write.

If I could name one person who was most influential, I would have to say it was my friend, Natalie. She was my alpha and my beta reader. She kept me going when I might have slacked off. Now, I'm happy to say she's writing a book of her own, too, that I'm excited about. If I could name a close second, I would say that was my friend, Jenny. Her feedback has guided my writing in the right direction, and her support gave me the warm-fuzzies to keep going. She doesn't write, but she truly gets me when it comes to my writing. I never get those 'she's crazy' looks from her when I talk about characters like they're real people.

So I wonder if I've always been a writer. I went without even thinking about it for more than thirteen years, but once I started, it was like a dam bursting. In two years, I've written a lot more than some people write in ten. Was it there all along, lurking under the surface? If we're writers at heart first who write to fulfill a need, maybe it was. If writing makes us writers, well then I guess I wasn't one for half of my life. I believe that ratio will change over time because I don't think I could ever dam it back up again. Writing is the light of my life now, and I wouldn't give it up again for anything.

Thanks for reading about my origins. If you're participating in the blogfest, I'll be visiting a little late-like today because I have to get home from work before I can make the rounds. Thanks again to our wonderful hosts!

Sunday, February 5

Blogfests galore!

Hosted by Writing with Hope & Reading, Writing and Lovin' It
How could I not enter this Valentine's Day blogfest??? I am, after all, a romance writer. So on V-day, my post will cover a kissing scene. If you'd like to participate, post about a scene from a book you've read, a scene from your own WIP, make up a new scene, or write about one of your own memorable kisses. Check out either of the links below the blogfest pic to add your name to the linky list. Let's have some fun and keep in the spirit of Valentine's Day!

I'm also participating on February 13 in the Origins Blogfest hosted by DL Hammons and co-hosted by the most awesome bloggers, Alex J Cavanaugh, Katie Mills at Creepy Query Girl, and Matthew MacNish at the QQQE. This blogfest is about getting to your roots, showing the blogosphere how you began your writing journey. As DL says: Tell us all where your writing dreams began.  It could be anything from how you started making up stories as a child, or writing for the school newspaper, or even what prompted you to start a blog.  How about stories about the first time somebody took an interest in your writing, or the teacher/mentor that helped nudge you along and mold your passion, or maybe the singular moment when you first started calling yourself a writer.  It all started somewhere and we want you to tell us your own, unique, beginnings.

Who's game to sign up for either of these? How do you feel about blogfests? Has anyone hosted their own? What is it about a particular blogfest that gets you to participate? If you don't ever participate, what about them dissuades you?

Tuesday, January 31

What are you reading?

Here's a little wrap-up o' reading for January. I read a grand total of twenty books. Check out the link titled The Reads at the top of my blog for my final list. Twenty sounds like a lot, but a few of them are novellas. I think I normally read more than that. This month, I've been busy with my big editing workshop and kind of set the reading aside more than usual. Now I've signed up for yet another workshop in February so we'll see if I can beat the past month.

I've already fangirled a little over Anne Gallagher's books and also at the end of this post here over Roland Yeomans' books so I won't beat you over the head with it. I do want to add a couple more favs from this month's list. Some of these I encountered because of the Romance Reading Challenge for January. This required me to read the first of a new series, an erotica novel, or a romance with a teen protagonist. Of course, I chose to do all three challenges. Roland's Legend of Victor Standish was my teen protagonist read, though the book isn't all-out romance. The romantic elements are absolutely all over this series.

Yet another historical series has surprised me. I read two Italian Medieval historical romances by Jannine Corti-Petska, and now I can't wait for another one to come out. She did an amazing job pulling me into the place and time and into the culture without getting away from the story or losing me in too much detail or in dry facts. I loved the heroes and heroines, and I hope Niccolo gets his own story soon *hint hint*

I tried the erotica, though I normally shy away from them. I've read too many baaaaaad ones in the past, and I don't mean bad in the good way ;P However, I read Doubled by Charlotte Stein, and the characterization and relationship development were superb and the love scenes were blazing.

And last but definitely not least, there is Zoe Archer's Devil's Kiss, the first in her Hellraisers series. What better kind of conflict is there than the conflict with oneself? The heroes of this series are cursed with gifts of ultimate gain. Their biggest battles are between what they think they want vs what they truly need. I couldn't put this book down. It was absolutely a straight read through. Man, 4 am is a crazy bedtime!

So what's on your nightstand or on your e-reader device? Have you delved out of your usual genre lately? Has anyone set a goal to read more this year? What's the most books you've ever read in a month (and yeah, you can count school assignments I suppose)? Is anyone entering Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award for the chance at publication via Penguin? OK, that last Q was random, but I'm curious...

Sunday, January 22

The beauty of mating rituals

Four red eyes sense moon phase light from mates
I visited Lynn Rush at her blog today. The picture she posted reminded me so much of being out to sea, and the many gorgeous and unique sights you can see out there. In the Gulf, I saw the biggest pod of dolphins EVER. There had to be more than a hundred of them. I was so upset I didn't have my camera. I kept it with me from then on, hoping I'd see them again, but I never did.

I saw flying fish and poisonous sea snakes (they looked perfectly harmless, like toys floating on top of the water). I saw whales, though not as up close as I'd wanted. I saw amazing and some very strange sunsets and sunrises. One pitch black night, I caught flashes of light in my periphery. It was lightning, but unlike anything I've ever seen, like big, round blasts of yellow from the cloud to the ocean surface.

By far, one of my favorite sights is the bioluminescence, when the ocean water glows in the dark. Sometimes it's blue or green or sometimes it's somewhere in between. In the wake of our ship, a fireworks display bubbled just under the surface. Along the Pacific SoCal Coast, the green glow is caused by fireworms. Yeah, kinda gross but cool. One underway from San Diego to Port Hueneme, the entire ocean lit up the blackest night. It peaked most on the wave crests where the ocean churned and in the upset from our ship. Such beauty, and all because these little worms secrete bioluminescent goo to attract their mates. Other bioluminescence can come from jellies, phytoplankton, algae, sea snails, bacteria, or a host of other creatures.

Seen anything amazing come from a mating ritual? Anyone been out to sea and want to share an experience? Anyone find where my monster pod o' dolphins went? I really want that picture, darn it! 

In other news, please join amazing blogger friend and writer, DL Hammons of Cruising Altitude 2.0, in the Origins Blogfest. Tell us about your journey as a writer and how your dreams began. Meet some great new people you can identify with and find a bunch of fantastic blogs to follow! I know I haven't signed up yet, but I will. You can also help DL out with his query over at Matthew MacNish's blog The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment (the QQQE). Matt is another amazing blogger who helps others craft queries so they can improve their chances at publishing.

Anyone joining in this blogfest or some other you have coming up?

Tuesday, January 17

Mmmmmm... lasagna!

A friend just starting on the writer's journey asked me how I deal with character descriptions, and sheesh, that is so not an easy topic to answer in a sentence or two. As I wrote her a mile-long email complete with helpful attachments, I realized I was describing lasagna to her. Yep, I write my own special recipe of literary lasagna, layering backstory with setting with character description with dialogue with conflict with ricotta.

Several times, I've heard writing a book compared to childbirth. I thought, "Wow, it must be so much more painful for men to write a book." I've heard it compared to learning to drive. Eventually it becomes second nature, but maybe after you've totaled an MS or two. How about dentist visits, anyone???

How best describes your writing process? Heard of other analogies I missed? Do you do small layers or do you work in chunks? Personally, I don't start with layers, but it's what I end up with after edits. Now the real reason behind this post: I'm starving!!!

A quick note to Roland Yeomans: If you happen to see this, I tell you I don't read such young protags normally, but now I eagerly (impatiently) await your next installment of The Legend of Victor Standish. Your writing is like a painting to me. I think it's amazing you're donating proceeds this month to Salvation Army, but I still kinda wanna smack you in the cliffhanger. Please take that as a compliment. You have me happily hanging here :)

Friday, January 13

Whaleshark shifters and other such nonsense

Whaleshark Code of Conduct courtesy of Ningaloo Atlas

Truly, this post has nothing to do with whalesharks. Sorry to disappoint. I was thinking about innovation in the writing community, and it has really quite impressed me. Writers have a way of bringing unlike things together or creating themes not previously published, though we hear continuously that there's nothing under the sun that hasn't been written about already.

I remember back when a shifter romance brought together a wolf shifter and another wolf shifter or a wolf shifter and a human. Now I'm seeing otter shifters with wolf shifters and swan shifters with hawk shifters. Heck, why not a whaleshark shifter? There's inherent conflict in being restricted to an ocean. Pair that shifter with an avian shifter, and BAM! they can never be together as a shifted pair. I'm seeing now romances with a rock 'n roll theme or with a culinary theme (ala Louisa Edwards). I'm seeing more hero variety, like nerd-types and outcasts and handicaps/physical imperfections.

Personally, a well-written story even without something unique can grab me by the nape and pull me in. It's all in the writing. For example, and I know you might groan at this, the vampire stories. I heard this statement somewhere on the internet, and I wish I could remember where so I can attribute it properly, but I find that the concept is one I agree with: I'll get tired of vampires in novels the day I get tired of people in novels. Heck yeah! Because even though I love to see the crazy plot ideas people come up with, it is execution that counts most. This supports the 'write what you love' idea whole-heartedly over writing to the market.

What's the most outlandish story idea (in any genre) you've ever encountered? What are some plot ideas you believe haven't been done yet? Have you been captivated by a novel even though the plot was unoriginal? If so, what was it about the story that hooked you?

Quick side note: If you have any short stories, novellas, etc., ready for submission, go visit Jami Gold for her Pitch Your Shorts event. She has several editors from Entangled Publishing taking two-sentence pitches plus first 100 words for multiple genres. They're taking pitches until January 16. Good luck! BTW, the awesome Lisa Kessler is pubbed via EP, and she says they are fantastic to work with.

Friday, January 6

I'm full of it!

Challenges, that is. Full of challenges. Er, well, if I was perfectly honest, I'd have to admit that writing fiction, by definition, requires being full of it... Anyway, in addition to the A to Z challenge, I'm adding a reading challenge too. I figured I might as well since I read so many books anyway, particularly romance. So here's the deets:

The Reading Romances Challenge 2012:

The goal with this challenge is to read the widest variety of books possible, as many sub-genres as you can find, as opposed to just quantity. This is totally an "expand your horizons" kind of challenge. Since my genre selection has gotten pretty narrow, I figured this would push me to read outside of my habitual path. So here are the guidlines:
  • This challenge runs all year from 01 Jan through 31 Dec.
  • Anyone can join, even if you don't blog. You can post reviews to any book site (Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, Smashwords, etc.).
  • A list of romance sub-genres and themes will be posted to choose from each month.
  • You can list your books before reading them (by leaving a comment on the post with the topics for that month) or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, don’t feel obligated to read them, changes are welcomed!
  • When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the Reading Romances Challenge. If you don’t have a blog, please link it to the page where you post your reviews (Goodreads, Shelfari, Amazon etc).
  • You don’t have to participate every month, but please try to!
  • Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.
There will be random giveaways for active participants throughout the year. Yay, contest! If you'd like to join me in this challenge, sign up right here on Reading Romances. I'm trying to avoid challenges I already know I can do in favor of choosing ones that push me to be better or to try something different. What challenges are you braving this year? What keeps you motivated to meet your challenges?

In other news, one of my fav paranormal romance stories ever:

Alex. Two weeks...

Tuesday, January 3

I'm not one to gush...

Especially about a historical. I've nothing against them but my cuppa usually runs along the steamy paranormal or military/romantic suspense line. Now Anne Gallagher has me hooked on her Reluctant Grooms series.

I first read A Wife For Winsbarren (only a 99 cent read), and you can see my review for that novella here on Amazon. Then a couple of days ago, I read The Lady's Fate until the wee hours of the morning because I couldn't put it down. My favorite aspect about this book is the way Anne develops a beautiful, sweet relationship between the hero and heroine without in any way, shape or form diminishing the love the hero had for his deceased wife. Yes, there were a few times I wanted to knock him on the head and tell him to wake up, but I didn't need to worry because Anne did it for me. Honestly, I haven't enjoyed a historical series this much since I read Pamela Clare's historicals. As Pamela writes an unusual era, you may tell that I prefer historicals with something different to offer. Anne told me she currently has a novella entitled A Husband For Miss Trent available for free download for a limited time on Smashwords. Can't get better than free! But I have to warn you, if you enjoy characters not cut from a cookie-cutter, you might get hooked on her writing style like I did.

In other news, I have officially decided to test my mettle with the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge in which bloggers post the alphabet every day in April minus Sundays. I heard about this challenge via one of my favorite bloggers (and I'm sure you'll love him, too), Alex J. Cavanaugh. Who else could have started this craziness but Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out? Sign ups begin on January 30, and such early notice gives you plenty of time to create a plan of attack. So who's up for this? I have to say challenges like this are a great way to meet new bloggers.

Okay, I really love blogfests, and I've been eager to dive in again. So I found Cassie May's Valentine's Day blog hop, Is It Getting Hot In Here. Yes, a kissing scene--hey, that should be right up my alley, right? Well, I got excited about it and then reviewed my WIPs for something appropriate. To my dismay, all of my writing was too racy for public display. I think I might have to post a sufficiently censored version, lol. Thank you Roland Yeomans for the referral!

Aaaaaaannnd I see I've gotten quite link-happy with this post. How about you? Any links or good stuff going on around the blogosphere you'd like to share? Workshops or contests? Blogfests you're participating in or hosting?

Sunday, January 1

A kind of addiction

Oh, don't look at my screen like that! I'm talking the good kind of addiction, the writing kind. It's such a great one to have because it means the words are flowing and the word count is climbing. LOL, of course it doesn't mean the words aren't garbage, but if that was too horribly important in a first draft, NaNoWriMo wouldn't exist!

My most recent addiction, cause ya know it comes and goes, is to my new WIP, a vampire paranormal romance. Man, I never thought I'd write a vampire novel, but it grabbed me by my pen hand and dragged me right through it. So my good addiction news: I started a week and a half ago, on Thursday, with an 8,000 word count. I'm now at 35,000 words *happy dance* and it still won't let go of that pen hand. What a great kick-off for the new year! Why can't this happen every time? Only down side is I'm supposed to be in revision mode with another WIP right now. Oh, well. Gotta love it while it lasts...

In other news, tomorrow is the first day of Savvy Authors EditPalooza and I'm psyched about it. I found Savvy Authors via one of my dear RWA San Diego Chaptermates, Melissa Cutler (who btw has two shiny new contracts with Harlequin and Kensington *cheer*). Savvy Authors has a bazillion workshops and great articles on everything writerly. This is also where I found Jodi Henley and her character arc workshops. Amazing! I had my greatest writerly AHA! moment on the first day of her workshop. I highly recommend taking one of hers, especially you fellow pantsers. This was the ultimate plotting for pantsers instruction I've ever received.

Now, I haven't been completely glued to the keyboard. I've been catching up on my TBR list. My most recent reads: Anne Gallagher's A WIFE FOR WINSBARREN (sweet historical novella with an original hero who made my heart melt), Lisa Kessler's NIGHT WALKER (hot paranormal with a drool-worthy hero, cover to match, and a vivid setting), Linda Thomas-Sundstrom's Veronica and the Vampire (fun,quirky paranormal with an original premise--lol, vampire pick-a-date), Stephanie Draven's THE FEVER AND THE FURY (erotic romance novella with compelling hero and heroine--they're supposed to be killing each other, yeah, right!) I've read several others over the past week-ish, but these are my favs.

Next up TBR is CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY. I got sidetracked after reading the first one, but now Sondrae got me wondering which side of the love/hate fence I'm on with this series, and seeing how the first movie comes out in March, I'd thought I'd find out. First, I want to get to Anne G's THE LADY'S FATE. Stieg Larsson's taking a back seat for now. Don't know if I'm in the mood for reaaaaallly long books!

So what's your good addiction news? Any writing progress? Reading? Who's working on revisions from NaNo? Who's waiting eagerly for 2012 releases? Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

WDWParksgal @ DeviantArt