Monday Musings – Out Cookie! Bad Cookie!


Does anybody besides me find this whole stalking cookie thing creepy? For example, I’m currently thinking about doing a tile backsplash in my kitchen, so I’m surfing sites like Overstock.com for tiles. Sure enough, when I then go to Facebook to see what’s happening in the social network world, guess what pops up in the advertisement column? You guessed it, Overstock.com. But worse, I’m looking at the very items I was just perusing on that site. Now, you probably don’t know this about me but I’m a very private person. I won’t even let apps and stuff track my location on my phone and iPad. I don’t want anybody tracking me. So I’ve been researching how to stop these online companies from cyberstalking me with those invasive cookies. What did I find out? It’s not so easy to stop. The first thing I did was Google, How do online companies know what I’m looking at?  I clicked on that link and it told me how to get rid of cookies on my browser. When I went to Settings to do just that, along with cookies from Facebook and Overstock.com, I discovered 5 new cookies from howdoIgetridofcookies.com. (raised eyebrow…swear words).

Even if you select the browser setting that doesn’t allow cookies, companies like Google ignore restrictions and stalk you anyway. So I got rid of Google Chrome and I’m using IE instead. Guess what I just found on my Facebook page, using IE? Assholes.

The DH downloaded something that is supposed to keep companies from adding cookies to your browser. Then he went to Facebook and guess what? He was able to view the tile sample I just sent him through email. F’ers!

To make it worse, if you disable cookies you can’t log into a lot of sites, such as Facebook, your online bank, etc.

This is a problem.

So we dig deeper and discover from the Do Not Track application that the culprit is Facebook. Apparently they track you across the web. Mother F’ers!!! So now I know my enemy. But I still can’t keep their cookies out of my jar.

Don’t worry, I’m going to keep digging.

Declan Sands, intrepid reporter, slipping on my flak jacket and going deep to get the scoop. You can call me Small Throat. #:0)

Stay tuned.

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Monday Musings – Why Hansel and Gretel Were in the Woods…Maybe


I love the woods. Especially at this time of year. With the leaves turning and the underbrush dying out, it becomes a magical place. I base a lot of my stories in the woods, at least partially, because I’m fascinated by the atmosphere and the possibilities there.  Every wood has a personality. Some woods are dark and creepy. Some are vibrant and interesting. These differences make them a fun setting for lots of stories. In fantasy trees can have any attribute you want them to have. Trees that grab or pummel people with their long, gnarled branches (Whomping Willow from Harry Potter)…trees that offer poisoned apples to an unsuspecting victim…trees that consume a person, making them part of the tree. Fun stuff. Then there are the vines that drag people into deep, dark holes and bushes with dangerous berries or flowers that attack, driving thorns deep into a victim’s body. Ish! Woods are great paces to hide kid-eating witch cabins and wonderful places to simulate death (the black forest).

Woods can be useful plot points in a contemporary story too. There’s no better place to hide from bad guys. And no easier place to get lost. The woods can create needed tension in a story, or offer a way to survive.

For me the charm of woods is in the quiet history embraced within its branches. There’s nothing more fascinating to me than looking at an ancient tree, speculating on the things it has seen, the events it has survived. Then there’s the whole cycle of life and death thing that’s represented so succinctly in a wood.

I guess these are all reasons why I love to spend time in the woods, both in real life and in my fictional meanderings. They stir my imagination and soothe my soul. It’s what “getting back to nature” really means to me.

I hope you’ll join me on my next trek through the fictional wood.

 

Here’s one of my favorite scenes in the woods, from my sexy paranormal, Bright City Lights:

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With a snarl of rage, Rabb shot back to his feet and took off running. He followed the trail of spinning leaves and dust that, along with a faint thickening of the air, were the only evidence of his attacker’s movement across the clearing.

The leaves on a tree at the edge of the clearing crackled, tree limbs flying sideways as the creature plunged into the woods.

Rabb followed, his senses on full alert. He couldn’t help wondering exactly what he was dealing with. If it was a vamp, it was a damn powerful one. The shadow of its passage disappeared in the dim light of the trees and Rabb had only the disturbance of leaves and undergrowth to track the creature’s movement. He’d also begun to pick up a low level hum that he thought must be the result of air displacement from the speed with which the creature navigated.

Suddenly everything went still. Rabb dug his claws into the dirt and skidded to a stop, listening for the telltale hum. The woods were unnaturally silent and still. Nothing moved. Not a single creature trilled, whistled, or sang.

The silence took on its own power, running jagged nails across Rabb’s nerves. His fur stood on end and he could taste the beat of his heart on his tongue.

Whatever stalked him was close. And it was watching him.

Despair swamped him. He suddenly knew that, whatever it was, he didn’t have a chance against the thing. He was toast. Rabb fought the urge to run, to strike out blindly, and instead focused his enhanced senses on the immediate area. His gaze slid slowly over everything, cataloguing the deep, rich black of the forest floor and the vibrant green of each leaf. He noted the moist, green centers and jagged edges of broken twigs on the ground, the torn, matte surface of wild berries hanging from a nearby bush, and the tender veining dividing the undersurface of the leaves in the trees, the glistening beads of moisture dotting their tops. His ears took in the far away slough of a soft breeze dancing through the trees, and farther away, the low rumble of cars droning along the highway. His nostrils pinched against the stench of exhaust, faint but clear, and flared with pleasure at the rich scent of the earth beneath his grasping claws. Broken tree branches sent a sweet green odor into the air which seemed wildly incongruent with the evil stalking him.

And finally, beneath it all, was the scent of something ancient. Something that didn’t belong in the woods. A soft scuff against the dirt had him turning and he opened his jaws as it hit him, snapping the air as the wind was knocked out of his lungs. He flew backward, smacking into a large rock and sliding to the ground in a crumpled heap. Before he could climb to his feet, the thing was on him. He was shoved face down in the dirt and teeth that felt the size of his little finger ripped through his neck. He tried to turn, teeth snapping helplessly as he snarled. Terror quickly replaced rage at the exquisite torture of having his blood drawn out through the torn flesh. His heart beat so hard against his chest it hurt. A soft yelp of fear spilled from between his lips before he could stop it.

His legs flailed in desperation, claws ripping dirt, grass, and flesh as he struggled to displace the fiend on his back before his entire life was extracted from those two small holes in the back of his neck.

An overwhelming sense of loss twisted in his gut, turning his muscles to mush. His lungs locked down under the terror, depriving him of life-giving breath as he struggled with panic. Ice filled his veins, sliding inexorably through his limbs. His heart slowed its beat, no longer able to send blood streaming through his quickly weakening body. Rabb’s wolf slid away, leaving him vulnerable to the rough claws digging into his back and shoulders. With no adrenaline to soften their sting, his countless wounds created a dull pain that throbbed in time with his dying heart. A horrifying sound found its way into his consciousness. The sound of gulping and ravishing. An indecent sound of gluttonous pleasure that made him shudder.

A handsome face flashed across his mind. A beautiful voice said his name.

Brant.

He wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to the man he loved. He couldn’t. The monster on his back would see to that.

Don’t just lay there, get your ass off the ground and fight that thing, Rabb!

Rabb frowned. Easy for you to say, fang.

Bullshit. You got a problem? Deal with it. The Rabb I know wouldn’t just lie there.

Rabb realized imaginary Brant was right. It wasn’t like him to just lie there.

He wouldn’t would he?

No. He wouldn’t. He would fight until he had no fight left in him. Something was wrong. The vamp was doing something to his mind.

Rabb shoved the fear away. He heaved himself off the ground, arching his back. He managed to surprise and momentarily dislodge his attacker. The thing made a mewling sound and almost immediately reattached itself to his neck, slamming him back to earth.

He called to his wolf and was met with silence. The magic seemed to have drained away with his blood. Despair tried to wind spiky tendrils of ice around his gut again. He forced his mind away from it, retrieving Brant’s scolding face and holding onto it with a tenaciousness borne of desperation.

The miasma of despair retreated enough to allow his wolf to stir in his breast. The beast snarled, thoroughly pissed. Rabb opened himself to it, allowing it to spring from the cocoon of helplessness the vamp on his back had created. In a flash he shifted, flinging the sucking creature away with the power of his change, and shoved to his feet. The effects of the mind poison slipped away as he embraced his wolf.

Rabb got an impression of a gray, skeletal face, surrounded by tangled, dark hair before, with a snarl of frustration, the creature spun away and retreated. Its departure created a path of spinning vegetation and flailing tree limbs through the woods.

Rabb stood rooted to the spot, panting from loss of blood and the effort of fighting his way back. Brant’s imaginary voice danced through his mind, the sound urgent and filled with fear.

At first he ignored it, thinking his mind was playing tricks on him again. But the man calling his name sounded worried. Rabb took a step forward and fell to his knees on the blood-drenched earth.

“Rabb! Where are you?”

Oh shit. Worried Brant wasn’t in his head. He was in the woods. Blackness pulled at Rabb’s vision as blessed unconsciousness tempted him. He focused on pulling air into his lungs. His muzzle opened and he tried to howl. The sound came out weak and gravelly, too wimpy to carry through the dense tree growth.

Rabb tried again and the result was even weaker. But it was all he had. He fell sideways, landing on a rock that dug into his ribs and pushed air from his lungs. Pain enveloped him, clawing his lungs with every breath, and he finally gave in to the blessed relief of sleep’s charcoal embrace.

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Monday Musings – The Strangeness Factor in Fiction


I’m a creature of many worlds…some of them fantastical and others just thrilling and/or mysterious. As a writer, it’s not all that strange to have a toe in several worlds at once. But there is a certain amount of schizophrenia involved in it! So that begs the question…are all writers completely, totally, rabidly crazy? Well…yes…of course! If we weren’t, our prose would be ever so boring. I mean, take for example the real world this writer inhabits. It’s wonderful…filled with love and constant challenge…but it’s hardly noteworthy. What feels like a soft, warm sock to me would probably just feel like soggy, old wool to you. So perception is important, but so is strangeness. I’m not talking about the strangeness of my early morning outfit when I walk the dogs (And believe me, you don’t want to SEE that outfit!) I’m talking about a world that’s slightly off-kilter from the one you know. A world that maybe has some recognizable parts, but which is different enough to be interesting.

This isn’t to say that all strangeness would draw you in like a pair of strong, warm arms, but some strangeness is necessary for a good story. Much as it pains me, not everybody who reads my books will love them. And some who like my work generally, may wrinkle their noses at a particular story I create. It’s all good. All that means is that I stepped beyond the strangeness parameters the reader didn’t even realize he or she had put into place. We all have them. For example, I can accept that the hero has green hair and scales, but that tail with the pincers on the end is just too much. Or, a world with shifters and vamps is peachy keen, but a world with an armadillo shifter is just damn weird.

The interesting thing is that, over time, as fiction evolves and changes according to the whim and tastes of the reading public, our strangeness parameters stretch and skew with it. For example, now maybe I can deal with the pincered tail, but a hero with two penises might send me running to the door (to buy the damn book!). This strangeness factor pertains to all fiction, even contemporary or literary. Even in a world built very closely along the lines of our own, there will be things about the story that strike a strange chord. The hero is fighting drug addiction, for example, and you don’t have an addictive personality so the concept is foreign to you.  The question then becomes, is this a strangeness you’d like to explore? Or is it too uncomfortable for you to experience? The answer will determine if you will pick up the book and read it, or pass it by for something that fits within your parameters.

I experienced this with the TV show Dexter. When I first started watching it I didn’t think I was going to be able to enjoy the premise. I’ll admit I have a problem with representing a serial killer as a nice, misunderstood guy. But I hung in and soon found I could identify with the character’s issues and emotions, if not the way he dealt with them. I also liked the supporting cast and the tension between Dexter’s addiction and his job with the police. So I stretched my strangeness parameters and embraced a world I didn’t think I’d enjoy. I don’t know why I did it. Just as I couldn’t tell you why readers pick and choose their reading material as they do. I only know that we start building our strangeness parameters as soon as we start perceiving the world around us. And we keep adjusting them until the day we die. Which makes life ever so wonderful and interesting. And helps millions of authors sell lots of strangely wonderful books!

Happy Reading everybody!

My Sexy Saturday – SIZZLED!


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Intergalactic intrigue, sizzling sexual tension, and a giant snake shifter to be vanquished. Things are never dull.

Blurb: Enjoying much-deserved R&R on the black sand beaches of the ruling Authority’s planet Enitrus, Cliff Blood is not happy when his brother Matt and his lover Rum show up to spoil his vacay with bad news. It seems Brand Lotus, evil snake-villain with a plan to take over Earth by force, has been discovered heading back to Earth and he’s targeting the Bloods’ favorite cops.

Problem is, the Blood boys aren’t going to make it back to Earth before Lotus gets there, so Littlejohn and Petra have to fend for themselves, while negotiating a new development in their relationship that already has them slightly off-balance.

Book page with buy links and excerpt!

~~*~~

Heat pounded down onto the black sand, radiating up to put a sexy sheen over Falen’s golden skin. The vibrant ball of light in the sky painted golden highlights in the Marshal’s wavy, auburn hair and brought out a sexy spray of freckles on his skin. Cliff’s fingertips nearly sizzled from the heat his lover was putting off as he rubbed him down. Despite his relaxed posture, Falen’s muscles quivered under Cliff’s hands, taut with expectation. His big hands clutched the edges of his over-sized towel; his toes dug into the dense, heated sand.

Cliff skimmed his palm down Falen’s long, lean back, sliding it over the golden mounds of his lover’s perfect, naked buttocks. Falen sucked in a breath as Cliff’s fingers slipped into the delicious valley between them. The towel tore under his grip.

Book page with buy links and excerpt!

 

Back to My Sexy Saturday!

Sam Cheever Kicks off a Great New Series With “The Demon’s Mate”


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 This post is part of The Romance Reviews’ Fall into Romance Blog Hop, which runs from September 13th (12:00 am EST) through the 21st (11:59 pm EST). Take your time and enjoy all the great posts, you have 9 days to get through this event.

SC_DemonsMate_largeThe Demon’s Mate — Demonically Fun and Sexy!

The Demon’s Mate is the first book in Sam Cheever’s brand new Royals of Sheoldris series. It was a great book to kick off what promises to be a fun series. The book has everything a romance reader wants. A sexy alpha male hero, an irreverent, independent heroine, and a world filled with danger, intrigue and magic. There’s even a fat, opinionated cat in the story!

The idea behind the series is a world that is created and managed through scribes with magical quills. Wars are fought in the pages of books, love is realized, and futures are built or destroyed with the swipe of a pen over paper. It’s a great premise and I enjoyed the world very much.  In The Demon’s Mate, Terra is reading her favorite paranormal romance when Demon King Jacobin walks out of the pages and knocks on her door. She doesn’t accept the fact that the sexy, green-eyed demon on her doorstep is her fated mate and tries to run from him and deny his charm. But she can’t escape the feelings he causes in her.  I highly recommend this book if you enjoy M/F erotic paranormal romance.  It’s a ton of fun!

Author’s website and book page

Comment for a Chance to Win! 

If you could choose one book where the hero would walk out of the pages and knock on your door, what book would it be? Tell me in a comment (include your email) for a chance to win a copy of one of Sam’s books!

I’ll announce the winner at the end of the Fall into Romance Hop.

Good Luck!

The Romance Reviews Hop

Monday Musings – Slogging Toward my Future


Change.

That’s the watchword for my life right now. I’ve undergone major changes that have all been self-instigated. I’ll admit I thrive on change. Change jazzes me…jolts my creative juices. I like to mix it up every once in a while because if I don’t I get complacent…lazy. But sometimes I instigate change because it’s necessary. In this case, I determined that both of my major changes were imperative. One was personal–an attempt to reduce my economic footprint so I could enjoy life more; and the other was professional–meant to remove a limiting and negative force from my writing world.

Both will be very good for me eventually. And both have been Hell on Earth initially. #:0)

My family recently downsized our home so we could spend less time doing things we don’t want to do and refocus our efforts on things we enjoy. By any measure that’s a good goal. But it’s definitely easier said than done. After several weeks we’re finally starting to feel settled and the house is beginning to feel like home.

The second change was an important professional one for me. For some time I’ve been frustrated by one of my publishers’ lack of professionalism. This publishing house had one of my favorite and most popular series but they weren’t doing anything to help me grow it. I had lots of ideas for how to make the series better but met with lukewarm interest and no follow-thru. So I bit the bullet and started the process to get my rights back. It’s been painful but I knew it was the right thing for the books, my readers, and my career as an author. The good news is that I finally got my rights back on the books and I’ve been busily working to make them available again.  It’s been a tedious but important process re-editing the books and getting them fresh new covers and I’m glad I’ve done it.  As I move the series into its next generation, I’ll do so with the knowledge that the books are the best I can make them.

So these days change rules my life. Everything changes. Life is a process after all. But how you fare under these changes depends on whether you embrace or resist them. I decided a long time ago to embrace change and wring everything I could from it. But having said that, I’ll admit the last couple have been hard on me emotionally. I’m sure I’ll come out of the experience stronger and feeling more settled, but for now I’ll have to be happy with the satisfaction of reaching for my goals and finding them within my grasp.

Not a bad goal in itself. #:0)

Happy reading everybody!

 

 

Monday Musings – Why do I have Reader ADD?


Maybe I need a medi-patch or something. I mean…you know you have a problem when you start 4 books at the same time and have to skip back and forth between them when you hit a slow spot (or you think you’re going to lose your mind). Or maybe as I get older I just don’t have as much patience as I used to. It’s true, I just can’t force myself to push through a slow spot in a book anymore. So I make sure I’m reading several books and come back to that book another day. It can be a challenge to remember what was going on when I left, but I’m amazed to discover that in doing this I can usually move beyond my lack of interest.  There was a time, in my youthful ignorance, when I loved to declare that it was the author’s fault if I got bored. Sometimes that’s still true, but I think a lot of the blame has to lie at my feet. (Maybe it was the act of becoming an author myself that allowed me to see the error of my ways. #:0) If I shy away from a certain part of a novel one day, and easily conquer it on another, that doesn’t have anything to do with the book…that’s me.

Besides, one man’s slow spot is another man’s angsty tidbit. So I proclaim that it’s because I like a faster pace in the novels I read. It’s absolutely true, my favorite authors keep the pace moving along nicely, and that’s how I try to write too. But personal taste aside, I think my problem is deeper than an allergic reaction to thoughtful, deliberative prose, I think it’s my lifestyle. Ever since I set out to create my own success, I’ve been so driven that I rarely stop to smell the roses. Hell, I pass the roses by so fast I couldn’t even tell you what bleepin’ color there were. I count the success of each day by how much I accomplish. And if I don’t accomplish all that much I mentally beat myself about the head and shoulders with a thorny branch (possibly snatched from the unseen roses as I whizzed past them).  I have an inner impatience that sometimes astounds even me. It seems pretty likely that this impatience is bleeding into my enjoyment of books. I mean, if a book spends several pages lamenting the characters’ inability to connect in any meaningful way…well…some (me) might say that not much got accomplished during those pages. And if my inner accountant is cataloging how much I’ve accomplished when reading…those pages would definitely count as a fail.

But this isn’t good.

At least I think it’s not good.

I don’t feel damaged in any way by this ravaging impatience. I still enjoy reading. But I no longer force myself to finish a book just because I started it…though mostly I do finish books…because then I can chalk them up as an accomplishment. Oh gawd…I’m a hot mess.

But at least I’m lovable, right? Say yes so I can chalk it up in the accomplishment column for today. Oh yeah, I wrote this blog…check!

LOL