Monday Musings – Does Social Media Bring us Closer? Or Drag us Farther Apart?


Until recently, I always kind of agreed with the general wisdom that social media was robbing us of the ability to interact human to human. But then I read something from a well-known and very entertaining social media maven, Kristen Lamb, that made me reconsider. In her book, Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, Lamb put social media into historical perspective, which was a fascinating exercise. She believes that social media is a natural result of our short attention spans, and that it is part of a natural evolution from an earlier time, when lengthy tomes like War and Peace were the norm. But more importantly, Lamb posits that social media has allowed us to interact better because we can now reach out to millions of people around the world, instantaneously connecting and sharing. It’s easy to see where a shy person, safely hidden behind the anonymity of a user name and an Avatar, could enjoy much more human interaction than before social media. Writers are a perfect example of that! Most of us tend to be introverts and if left to our own devices would probably never leave the safety and comfort of our own little spheres. But with social media we can reach out and connect with readers, other authors, and people who share our interests.

Yes, some conversations that might otherwise have been conducted face to face are now happening on a broader, much more public stage. And there is definitely a danger in hiding behind anonymity. It’s much easier to treat people badly if you don’t have to look them in the eye. It’s a danger we all need to guard against. But what we lose in physical touch, maybe we can make that up in emotional gains. While a Facebook friend is not necessarily the type of friend who will help you move or bring you chicken soup when you’re sick, if you treat that friend right…with human kindness and consideration…there’s no reason the friendship can’t gain that type of gravitas over time.

Have we connected online? If not, what are we waiting for? #:0)

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Amazon Author Page

 

 

Monday Musings – Book Trailers


I’m thinking a lot about this subject right now because I recently started updating and creating new trailers. I’ve been in a creative frenzy and having a ton of fun. I use Nero to create my book trailers because it’s not so complex that there’s a five year learning curve but it has a lot of fun effects and offerings. The last time I designed trailers for my books was about 4 years ago. At that time I believed trailers would help sell books by making the stories visual and fun. At some point over the last several years I fell away from the notion that trailers did much good in selling a book so I stopped making them and concentrated my time in other areas.

Looking back, I think that was a mistake. The real value of a book trailer is not to immediately sell books, but to create excitement about the story behind the book. There can be a connection between the two. But there doesn’t have to be.

I love movie trailers. A movie trailer hopefully gives me a firm idea about the movie, so I can decide if I want to see it. Sometimes trailers lie, presenting a dark drama as something comedic, or portraying a dramatic piece as a romance. When that happens it’s very irritating. We don’t watch trailers purely for entertainment, though they can be very entertaining, we watch them for information, to determine tone and object of the story line, or to learn if the subject matter is something we’re interested in pursuing.  The result of watching a trailer we like is not necessarily to go immediately and watch the movie or read the book, but the trailer should leave you with a lingering taste that, hopefully, will entice you to pursue more information.

Book trailers are one piece of a writer’s marketing portfolio. They can be powerful, or they can just be meh. But one thing is inescapable, they must be true to the book. Otherwise the author is lying to her readers.

And that’s just not acceptable.

Happy viewing, Everybody!

 

If you’re interested, here’s the brand new trailer for my Hoale Construction Mysteries. I hope it sticks with you enough to encourage you to pursue more information about the books.  #:0)

Monday Musings – Gothic is Cool


When I say Gothic, I don’t mean dying your hair black and coating yourself in black fabric. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfield would say,  I’m talking about Gothic fiction. I cut my fictional teeth on Gothic romances. I ate them up…devoured them. I mean, to have blood-less horror, suspense and romance all in one story is the very definition of heaven for me. So what are the elements of a Gothic romance that appeal to me? It’s the settings more than anything: Dark, lonely castles–foggy cliff sides, high above a roiling ocean–tortured heroes with dangerous secrets–terrified heroines trying to cling to their dreams while fighting for their lives. Gothic romances throb with atmosphere.  They test the human spirit and challenge the human will.  As a reader, it’s easy to immerse yourself in Gothic fiction, because there’s just so much heft and flavor.

So what stays with me long after a Gothic romance is done? The humanity. Built on a platform of Beauty and the Beast mythology, these stories embody the idea of acceptance and love. If a terrified woman who finds herself alone in a world where the man she loves might be a monster can hold onto that love despite danger and misunderstanding…If she can look beyond the ugliness of her perception, to the man underneath…anything is possible. It’s the ultimate love story. And I eat it up like lemon cake!

Happy reading everybody!

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:

BCL WEB small

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!

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

Monday Musings – Is He an Alpha or Just an Ass?


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Book 1: Hoale Construction Mysteries

Romance readers love strong men. Arguably the most important aspect of a romance novel is hitting the right note with your hero. Readers want heroes who are alphas. Strength is sexy to most people, which is why soldiers, firemen, and cops are automatically elevated to hero status in romance stories.

So, are you susceptible to the alpha male?

Let’s do a little test. You are a contestant on a couple-matching game show. Through a series of questions, the field of bachelors has been whittled down to 2 men. Both are attractive. Both are clean and well-spoken. However, Bachelor #1 wants to be a house-husband. He promises to cook and clean house, and then rub his lover’s feet when he/she comes home after a long day of work. Bachelor #2, works hard all day conquering his little piece of the world and then comes home to sweep his lover off his/her feet and create mind-blowing sex. He cooks steaks on the grill but not much else, and his idea of cleaning is throwing his sexy, silk boxers into the laundry basket.

Now, I realize the idea of having somebody clean and cook for you is damn tempting. But is that really what you want in a man? I would choose Bachelor #2, because I like the alpha male. I think men were meant to be strong and conquering. And though I definitely believe women can and should be strong and independent, a strong woman deserves a strong man—one who can keep her on her toes (as well as curl those toes when the lights are turned down low #:0).

But when does strong become overbearing? It’s a fine line in romance fiction. One person’s alpha can be another person’s jerk. We want a man who is decisive and knows how to get things done. But we don’t want him telling us what to do or taking decisions away from us. He should be strong enough to know when to let his partner stand tall, while he stands behind him/her in support. He isn’t afraid to let his softer side show, or too politically correct to be strong when necessary. Walking that line can be tricky, both in fiction and in real life. But certain basics must always hold true. An alpha male doesn’t let anybody mess with his friends and loved ones and he’ll fight to the death to protect them. He might make mistakes, but in the end he always does the right thing, even when it’s hard to do. And he might not be rich or famous, but he rocks the bedroom, keeping his lover’s needs foremost in his mind.

An impossible standard for any man to reach? Maybe. Maybe not. But if you don’t have an ideal to shoot for, you might just end up with the ass!

Happy Reading everybody!