Thursday, October 28, 2010

Samhain and the evolution of Halloween

Samhain, pronounced sow-in, is often credited with the origins of the secular and modern-day Halloween holiday and there have been misconceptions of the Ancient Celt festival as being evil and a time of devil worship.

The term Samhain translates to mean "summer's end" and the Samhain festival was a celebration of the end of the light season and the beginning of the dark season, but that shouldn't imply anything sinister. The Ancient Celts believed a new day began with nightfall. To them, the "dark" was the birth of new beginnings. And so Samhain marked the beginning of a new year.

In early Ireland, people gathered for Samhain at the end of harvest. Fire played a pivot role in the celebration. Hearth-fires were extinguished and a priest, or Druid, would light a central bonfire. Gifts were given to show gratitude for the harvest, prayers were offered and sacraments were cast into the fire. At dawn, each household would take a a torch or a burning ember from the flames and rekindle their home fires.

 Samhain was considered an "in-between time." Not belonging to the old year and not yet a part of the new year. It was viewed as a time outside the natural state of things. A time of reversals. A time of chaos and upheaval. A time when the dead could return to their loved one and celebrate.

In ancient days, Samhain would've been celebrated at the end of the harvest. It wasn't until Christianity spread that firm dates were established for celebrations. In 835, Pope Gregory combined pre-Christian festivals with Christian celebrations to make the acceptance of Church doctrine more appealing to new converts.  Samhain  was blended with other religious festivals, such as All Hallow's Day and All Saints Day.

But some of the ancient traditions survived the Christian invasion. According to Celtic legend, a magickal apple tree grows at the heart of the Otherworld and many a hero set out across the sea to find this mystical place in order to eat its enchanted fruit. Re-enacting this quest, villagers poured water into large wooden tubs, tossed in apples and took turns bobbing, or "dookin'" for them.

Ancient Celts also wore costumes and painted masks as a way to placate the spirits that roamed the villages during Samhain. Today, children and adults alike dress up for a night of trick-or-treating. They attend parties, hold bonfires, and tell ghost stories. Many never realizing how old theses traditions really are or the meaning behind them.

So, what Halloween traditions will you celebrate this year?

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Real Werewolves Among Us?

While internet surfing for Halloween trivia I came across a phenomenon called werewolf syndrome, also known as hypertrichosis. It is a rare congenital condition that causes an abnormal amount of hair to grow on the body and only about 50 cases have been reported worldwide.

The first documented case of werewolf syndrome was around 1566 with the birth of Petrus Gonzalez in the Canary Islands. He was taken from his family and presented to King Henri II who ordered the "furry boy" to be given a formal education. He married and fathered two children who inherited his hairy appearance.

In the early 19th and 20th centuries, individuals with this disorder found acceptance and viable work as circus and freak-show performers because of their strange, animal-like appearances.

Julia Pastrana (1834-1860), the original bearded lady of a freak show, had thick, dark hair distributed symmetrical over her body, including the palms of her hands. She was thought to be a “Digger” Indian from Western Mexico and stood only about 4 feet tall.

Meet the Kung Fu Werewolf~ Tai Djinn, (1849-1928) He was born in China and raised by Shaolin monks after his parents abandoned him because they believed he was afflicted with evil spirits. He became quite adept in the martial arts and mastered the skills of the seven Shaolin temples.

And in more current times, the wolf boys--Danny and Larry Ramos-Gonzalez, are talented circus performers from Mexico and were featured in an ABC News Primetime story in 2007.

There is no cure for hypertrichosis and it is mostly considered to be a "cosmetic" problem. The treatments are the same as for any hair removal, i.e., shaving, waxing, electrolysis, and laser hair removal.

For more information visit:
The Human Marvels

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday's Treasure: Night of the Vampires by Heather Graham

Harlequin [Mass Market Paperback]
Genre: Historical Romance, Paranormal
Length: Novel
Release Date: November 23, 2010

Reviewed by: Kristal Lee

Heat Level: 3 (Campfire)
Rating: 4 gold coins

Masked behind the death and destruction of the Civil War, a more sinister war rages.
One of a supernatural kind.

Cole Granger, a Texas sheriff and his friends—a former union soldier and a Confederate native, have put aside politics to fight the real enemy of humanity. Vampires!

Cole has learned that in this war any hesitation could cost him his life. But, in the midst of a battle to cleanse the “disease” from a Union prison he encounters a woman with lightning reflexes and a sassy wit. Only her tongue isn’t the sharpest tool in her mouth and he’d be dead, if she’d wanted him to be.

Half-blooded vampire, Megan Fox, is in Washington D.C. at the request of General Robert E. Lee. She’s to aid in the extermination of the vampire infestation that’s ravaging both North and South by teaming up with her brother’s three-member hunting party. Except her brother, Cody, doesn’t know he has a sister or that she’s come to help.

When she suddenly appears in the midst of a fight to cleanse the prison of vampires, the three men are immediately suspicious of her motives. None more so than Cole. Although he trusts Cody with his life, Cole is unwilling to simply accept that Megan is his best friend's sister or that she's on a military mission to help them.

That changes when President Lincoln seeks out Megan and asks her to put an end to his wife’s nightmares of a little drummer boy who's out to destroy everything. The President sends Megan and Cole to Harper’s Ferry to find the grave of the vampire child with orders to put his soul to rest before more of his contamination spreads.

But, Cole will have to learn to trust Megan and Megan will have to learn to believe in Cole if they are to survive the Night of the Vampires.

Heather Graham’s paranormal, historical romance is written with such finesse one wonders if she hasn’t stumbled upon a dark, terrifying truth that our government would prefer to keep hidden. But, the story isn’t about conspiracy theories or subterfuge. It’s a story about two very different people forced to overcome prejudices on their quest to make the world a safer place and they happen to fall in love along the way.

The vampire element provides a fresh take on the atrocities our Nation suffered during the dark time of the Civil War. Despite the oppressive nature of that tragic era, this story isn’t bogged down by the retelling of consequential events. Rather it’s presented as if those events are going on around the characters, on the periphery, allowing their story to move forward unencumbered by the tomes of history. Ms. Graham provides enough descriptive detail to give a sense of life in war-torn America circa the 1860’s without a drawn-out expository—something I prefer to avoid when reading fiction. The setting never overpowers the plot and sometimes that is difficult to accomplish when using monumental historic events for authenticity.

In case you're wondering, Night of the Vampires is filled with more suspense than horror. Now, there are some throat ripping, heart-staking, off with their head moments that will delight vampire enthusiasts; but, I believe that readers who are less blood-thirsty will also find this book enjoyable.

Buy from B&N

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Superstitious, Anyone?

Superstitions. What are they and where to do they come from? According to Wikipedia, "superstition is a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge." Sometimes superstitions are referred to as folk tales, old wives tales, or urban legends. I'm not sure anyone can pinpoint with accuracy where, when, or why these handed-down warnings originated but some have been around since ancient times and many revolve around Halloween. 

Did you know that the tradition of pumpkin carving on Halloween came from the old belief that placing a burning candle inside a jack-o-lantern kept evil spirits and demons away? Have you ever heard that gazing into a candle on Halloween night will show you the future? And everyone should remember that if you hear footsteps coming up behind you on Halloween night, do not turn around because it could be DEATH following and looking DEATH in the eye hastens your own demise. Oooh, creepy.

So, why is Halloween associated with the dark and sinister more than any other time of year?   Some people believe that it is rooted in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) which celebrated the end of summer--the time of light, and the beginning of winter--the dark time. The Celts believed that the veil to the Otherworld weakened on Samhain. This allowed spirirts, good and bad, to pass into their world. Friendly spirits of departed friends and family were welcomed into their homes, while the unwanted and capricious spirits were kept at bay with costumes and painted masks. Over the centuries, various customs and  religious rituals merged to become the modern concept of Halloween: costume parties, trick-or-treating, apple bobbing, and scary movies. But not many truly believe in the dead walking the streets except, maybe, for the zombie and vampire enthusiasts among us.

And yet despite our modern technologies, scientific advances, and a more "logical" world perspective we still hold on to old superstitions.

I'm an educated woman with a whole of common sense and sass, but I still "knock on wood" whenever I say something and don't want to jinx my luck. I also throw salt over my shoulder if I spill it. Silly little actions, I know, but I can't help myself. Because in the back of my jammed-packed brain there is a sliver of the "what if". What if I don't do that and something horrible happens? Maybe it's something left over from the primordial evolution of cro-magnon man to modern man. Who knows. But I know I'm not the only one who harbors a bit of those old superstitions.

Soooo.....time to play Plinky!  Leave a comment and tell me.....

What are you superstitious about?

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prince of Persia

Click here for Official Website
Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, and Gemma Arterton
Walt Disney Studios

When I first heard that Jake Gyllenhaal was playing the lead in Prince of Persia, I was flabbergasted. I couldn't wrap my brain around him playing such an overtly Alpha male role. I've always seen him more as the Beta male. You know, a gal's best guy friend. That's just how he comes across to me. After watching the movie, all I can say is "puurrrrrrrrr."
Jake's character, Dastan, is the adopted son of a Persian king. When he dies after Dastan presents him with a gift, all suspect that Dastan has murdered him. Dastan flees with the captured Princess Tamina who is guardian of the dagger containing the sands of time. Together they must prove Dastan's innocence, unmask the traitor, and keep the Tamina's dagger from falling into the hands of enemy. Lots of action, lots of acrobatics, and lots of fun to watch.

The heavy subjects of jealous, betrayal and power are balanced with unexpected moments of comic relief. Gotta say, I loved the ostrich races and the characters intertwined with them. The scenes were well paced, the plot intriguing with a red herring here and there to complicate the story line. The location was beautifully filmed and all the actors were committed to their roles. I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent absorbed in this film. Kudos to the writers, directors, producers, actors, camera operators and the entire production staff on their efforts. It isn't an easy task to turn a video game into a well-crafted movie, but they did it fabulously.

Since I was already thinking about alpha and beta males before viewing this film, the matter continued to mull around in my brain. Romance readers (and writers) often gravitate toward those larger than life Alpha males. Their heroes can be reserved and quiet, but when it matters they must step into the ring without hesitation and beat the crap out of anyone who messes with their heroine.

Taking a step back from Alpha males for a moment, I ponder how the heroine roles have changed for today's readers. These women are no longer the helpless females tied to the railroad tracks who are forced to wait for the hero to rescue them. In these modern times, readers expect the heroine to act in her own behalf. Getting help from the hero is okay, but he isn't expected to do all the work. The dynamic between hero and heroine has evolved. The Alpha male now has to deal with an Alpha female. And this is exactly why Prince of Persia worked so well for me.

Dastan and Princess Tamina are equally pig-headed and equally matched. They clash from the get go and I believe this type of delicious conflict builds the massive sexual tension that readers and viewers expect.

What about your thoughts? Who is your favorite Alpha male (character)? Who is your favorite Beta male (character)?

*Photos @  IMDB

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shout Out to Naima Simone and That Man is For Me

This week's shout out goes to romance author Naima Simone for her blog post That Man is for Me at Naughty Author Chicks. I was struck by the serendipity of finding her article on my anniversary.

Naima discusses that "my husband isn't my inspiration [for my heroes] because he's my real life. He's my fiction come true. I realize there are certain moments where he expresses his love in ways that would seem unbelievable if they were written in a romance book. But it's the little things...the things that don't exactly beat the path to the bedroom but they seduce the mind all the same. They say in subtle, low-key ways, I'm paying attention. I'm sacrificing for you."

She goes on to talk about the little things that her hubster does for her and I began pondering the little things Professor X does for me.

He keeps our local pizza pub number in his speed dial because he knows pizza cures whatever ails me.

He rubs my feet, my shoulders, and especially my wrists and hands without any expectation of reciprocation.

He calls me from the grocery store just in case I might remember something that isn't on the list.

He took me to see Clash of the Titans, foregoing Avatar until the DVD came out, just because he knew I was a fan of the original movie.

He DVR's his sports games and waits until after I go to bed to watch them so that the time we're together is spent doing something we both enjoy.

He puts out a clean towel on my vanity stool at night so that when I stumble into the bathroom at 5am I don't have to rummage through the linen closet with the blurry sleep-walker vision.

He kills the sneaky viruses that attach themselves to my computer during my web surfing before they can damage any files.

And, he supports my journey to become a published author, sometimes with more faith than I have myself.

When I think of all the little things Professor X does for me on a consistent basis I know that my fictional heroes' actions pale in comparison. They may have more brawn, but my hubster has more heart. He's the real deal, not a figment of imagination, and that makes all the difference.

Thanks Naima for reminding me of that.

What are some of the little things your hubster (or significant other) does that makes him your real life hero?

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Grimm Brothers....Brewhouse??

Perhaps this would be better suited for Weird Wednesday but it has to do with the Grimms Brothers and Freaky Friday is all about the paranormal.

While sipping a cup of hot tea and perusing STUMBLR, I came across a blurb about GRIMM BROTHERS BREWHOUSE. Apparently, a group of beer enthusiasts came up with this novel marketing idea for their flavorful home-grown brews.

Now, if you live in Loveland, Colorado, or Northern Colorado, you're in luck because GRIMM BROS BREWS can be found in the fine bars & grills there. I was hoping for an internet order form on their website, but no such luck. So, the rest of us need an airline ticket and a rental car to reach for a taste of those special blends. Of course, we could start a campaign to have this ingenious start up company add a shopping cart to their online presence. Whadduya think?

Visit their website at and click on the comment tab to obtain their email information. Shoot an inquiry to them asking them to consider opening an online store, or making their product available to online retailers so that we can get a faery taste of the GRIMMS BROS BREW. You can also friend them on FB or tweet them.

Leave a comment letting me know if GRIMM BROS BREW sounds pleasing to your beer buds.

Thanks to The Dieline for bringing these creative German beer brewers to my attention.

Happy Tales, yall!

~kristal lee

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Writerisms and other Sins: A Writer’s Shortcut to Stronger Writing by CJ Cherryh

I found this post while on Stumblr and thought I'd pass it along. ~kristal lee

Copyright © 1995 by C.J. Cherryh

Writerisms: overused and misused language. In more direct words: find ‘em, root ‘em out, and look at your prose without the underbrush.
  1. am, is, are, was, were, being, be, been … combined with “by” or with “by … someone” implied but not stated. Such structures are passives. In general, limit passive verb use to one or two per book. The word “by” followed by a person is an easy flag for passives.
  2. am, is, are, was, were, being, be, been … combined with an adjective. “He was sad as he walked about the apartment.” “He moped about the apartment.” A single colorful verb is stronger than any was + adjective; but don’t slide to the polar opposite and overuse colorful verbs. There are writers that vastly overuse the “be” verb; if you are one, fix it. If you aren’t one—don’t, because overfixing it will commit the next error.
  3. florid verbs. “The car grumbled its way to the curb” is on the verge of being so colorful it’s distracting. {Florid fr. Lat. floreo, to flower.}If a manuscript looks as if it’s sprouted leaves and branches, if every verb is “unusual,” if the vocabulary is more interesting than the story … fix it by going to more ordinary verbs. There are vocabulary-addicts who will praise your prose for this but not many who can simultaneously admire your verbs as verbs and follow your story, especially if it has content. The car is not a main actor and not one you necessarily need to make into a character. If its action should be more ordinary and transparent, don’t use an odd expression. This is prose.This statement also goes for unusual descriptions and odd adjectives, nouns, and adverbs.
  4. odd connectives. Some writers overuse “as” and “then” in an attempt to avoid “and” or “but,” which themselves can become a tic. But “as” is only for truly simultaneous action. The common deck of conjunctions available is:
    • when (temporal)
    • if (conditional)
    • since (ambiguous between temporal and causal)
    • although (concessive)
    • because (causal)
    • and (connective)
    • but (contrasting)
    • as (contemporaneous action or sub for “because”) while (roughly equal to “as”)
    These are the ones I can think of. If you use some too much and others practically never, be more even-handed. Then, BTW, is originally more of an adverb than a proper conjunction, although it seems to be drifting toward use as a conjunction. However is really a peculiar conjunction, demanding in most finicky usage to be placed *after* the subject of the clause.
    Don’t forget the correlatives, either … or, neither … nor, and “not only … but also.”
    And “so that,” “in order that,” and the far shorter and occasionally merciful infinitive: “to … {verb}something.”
  5. Descriptive writerisms. Things that have become “conventions of prose” that personally stop me cold in text.
    • “framed by” followed by hair, tresses, curls, or most anything cute.
    • “swelling bosom”
    • “heart-shaped face”
    • “set off by”: see “framed by”
    • “revealed” or “revealed by”: see “framed by.” Too precious for words when followed by a fashion statement.
    • Mirrors … avoid mirrors, as a basic rule of your life. You get to use them once during your writing career. Save them for more experience. But it doesn’t count if they don’t reflect … by which I mean see the list above. If you haven’t read enough unpublished fiction to have met the infamous mirror scenes in which Our Hero admires his steely blue eyes and manly chin, you can scarcely imagine how bad they can get.
    • limpid pools and farm ponds: I don’t care what it is, if it reflects your hero and occasions a description of his manly dimple, it’s a mirror.As a general rule … your viewpoint characters should have less, rather than more, description than anyone else: a reader of different skin or hair color ought to be able to sink into this persona without being continually jolted by contrary information.Stick to what your observer can observe. One’s own blushes can be felt, but not seen, unless one is facing … .a mirror. See above.
    • “as he turned, then stepped aside from the descending blow … ” First of all, it takes longer to read than to happen: pacing fault. Second, the “then” places action #2 sequentially after #1, which makes the whole evasion sequence a 1-2 which won’t work. This guy is dead or the opponent was telegraphing his moves in a panel-by-panel comic book style which won’t do for regular prose. Clunky. Slow. Fatally slow.
    • “Again” or worse “once again.” Established writers don’t tend to overuse this one: it seems like a neo fault, possibly a mental writerly stammer—lacking a next thing to do, our hero does it “again” or “once again” or “even yet.” Toss “still” and “yet” onto the pile and use them sparingly.
  6. Dead verbs. Colorless verbs.
    • walked
    • turned
    • crossed
    • run, ran
    • go, went, gone
    • leave, left
    • have, had
    • get, got
    You can add your own often used colorless verbs: these are verbs that convey an action but don’t add any other information. A verb you’ve had to modify (change) with an adverb is likely inadequate to the job you assigned it to do.
  7. Colorless verb with inadequate adverb: “He walked slowly across the room.”More informative verb with no adverb: “He trudged across the room,” “He paced across the room,” “He stalked across the room,” each one a different meaning, different situation. But please see problem 3, above, and don’t go overboard.
  8. Themely English With apologies to hard-working English teachers, school English is not fiction English.Understand that the meticulous English style you labored over in school, including the use of complete sentences and the structure of classic theme-sentence paragraphs, was directed toward the production of non-fiction reports, resumes, and other non-fiction applications.The first thing you have to do to write fiction? Suspect all the English style you learned in school and violate rules at need. Many of those rules will turn out to apply; many won’t.{Be ready to defend your choices. If you are lucky, you will be copyedited. Occasionally the copyeditor will be technically right but fictionally wrong and you will have to tell your editor why you want that particular expression left alone.}
  9. Scaffolding and spaghetti. Words the sole function of which is to hold up other words. For application only if you are floundering in too many “which” clauses. Do not carry this or any other advice to extremes.”What it was upon close examination was a mass the center of which was suffused with a glow which appeared rubescent to the observers who were amazed and confounded by this untoward manifestation.” Flowery and overstructured. “What they found was a mass, the center of which glowed faintly red. They’d never seen anything like it.” The second isn’t great lit, but it gets the job done: the first drowns in “which” and “who” clauses.In other words—be suspicious any time you have to support one needed word (rubescent) with a creaking framework of “which” and “what” and “who.” Dump the “which-what-who” and take the single descriptive word. Plant it as an adjective in the main sentence.
  10. A short cut to “who” and “whom.”
    • Nominative: who
    • Possessive: whose
    • Objective: whom
    The rule:
    1. treat the “who-clause” as a mini-sentence.If you could substitute “he” for the who-whom, it’s a “who.” If you could substitute “him” for the who-whom it’s a “whom.”The trick is where ellipsis has occurred … or where parentheticals have been inserted … and the number of people in important and memorable places who get it wrong. “Who … do I see?” Wrong: I see he? No. I see “him.” Whom do I see?
    2. “Who” never changes case to match an antecedent. (word to which it refers)
      • I blame them who made the unjust law. CORRECT.
      • It is she whom they blame. CORRECT: The who-clause is WHOM THEY BLAME.
      • They blame HER=him, =whom.
      • I am the one WHO is at fault. CORRECT.
      • I am the one WHOM they blame. CORRECT.
      • They took him WHOM they blamed. CORRECT—but not because WHOM matches HIM: that doesn’t matter: correct because “they” is the subject of “blamed” and “whom” is the object.
      • I am he WHOM THEY BLAME. CORRECT. Whom is the “object” of “they blame.”
      Back to rule one: “who” clauses are completely independent in case from the rest of the sentence. The case of “who” in its clause changes by the internal logic of the clause and by NO influence outside the clause. Repeat to yourself: there is no connection, there is no connection 3 x and you will never mistake for whom the bell tolls.
    The examples above probably grate over your nerves. That’s why “that” is gaining in popularity in the vernacular and why a lot of copyeditors will correct you incorrectly on this point. I’m beginning to believe that nine tenths of the English-speaking universe can’t handle these little clauses.
  11. -ing.
    “Shouldering his pack and setting forth, he crossed the river … “
    No, he didn’t. Not unless his pack was in the river. Implies simultaneity. The participles are just like any other verbal form. They aren’t a substitute legal everywhere, or a quick fix for a complex sequence of motions. Write them on the fly if you like, but once imbedded in text they’re hard to search out when you want to get rid of their repetitive cadence, because -ing is part of so many fully constructed verbs {am going, etc.}
  12. -ness A substitute for thinking of the right word. “Darkness,” “unhappiness,” and such come of tacking -ness (or occasionally – ion) onto words. There’s often a better answer. Use it as needed.As a general rule, use a major or stand-out vocabulary word only once a paragraph, maybe twice a page, and if truly outre, only once per book. Parallels are clear and proper exceptions to this, and don’t vary your word choice to the point of silliness: see error 3.

Copy and pass “Writerisms and other Sins” around to your heart’s content, but always post my copyright notice at the top, correctly, as both a courtesy and a legal necessity to protect any writer.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Weird Tidbit about Butterflies

Did you know that butterflies have taste buds in the soles of their tiny feet and stand on things to taste them?

Slight pause for the ewwww factor.

I'm a Florida gal and walk around barefoot the majority of the time. I can't imagine my sense of taste being embedded in my feet. Geez, the places those things take me. Kinda sheds a whole new light of the term butterfly kisses.

Note to self: Avoid the use of butterfly and kisses in the same sentence to avoid flinching and involuntary stomach roll reaction.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday's Treasure: Second Chances by Lauren Dane

Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance,
Length: Novel
Release Date: October 25, 2010

Reviewed by Kristal Lee

Heat Level: 5 (Wildfire)
Rating: 4.5 gold coins

When Rori Simon returns to her hometown she’s not the shy, frumpy girl that all the boys overlooked in school. She’s a smart, sassy, sexy woman whose put the pain of her childhood behind her and moved on with her life. For the most part, that is. Rori's always been in love with Jude Callahan and now that she’s home Rori hopes to turn his head and win his heart for good.

Devastatingly handsome, Jude Callahan has never been interested in love. A good time, yes. A relationship, hell no. When he reconnects with Rori, his childhood gal pal, Jude begins wondering what he’s missing in not having an exclusive with one special woman. But Jude is afraid to give into his feelings and surrender his heart. He just isn’t ready for that kind of commitment. In a moment of claustrophobic fear, Jude pushes Rori out of his life and into the wake of Zach Helm.

Zach immediately recognizes Rori as a kindred spirit. He’s finally found a woman he can love and trust with his sexual dominance. He doesn’t hesitate to show Rori how much he wants and needs her. Rori, believing that Jude will never change, accepts Zach for who he is and all he has to offer.

Too late, Jude realizes his loss as he watches the only woman he can imagine a future with falling in love with another man. He can’t bear to lose Rori completely, so he faces his mistake and endeavors to be the best friend he can be to Rori and Zach.

Lauren Dane’s Second Chances is a heart-clenching erotic romance. I never expected to be so moved by a BDSM love-triangle story. The characters are true to life and believable enough to be your friends, family, or the next door neighbors.

I loved watching Rori and Zach fall in love, moment by moment. And, despite his initial jerkish behavior, I felt sorry for Jude because he was presented in such an honest fashion that his motivations and inner demons were understandable and relatable.

The small town setting reminded me of my hometown. Quaint, gossipy, at times stifling, but always a place where family was family and that’s all that mattered. It was beautiful to see how the families rallied together when tragedy struck. Readers that have disjointed family connections may be a little cynical at the lengths Rori’s family and friends go to for her, but coming from a close-knit southern family I found their actions to be spot on.

Since Second Chances is an erotic romance, steamy, hard-core sex is a high expectation. Ms. Dane doesn’t disappoint. I found the love scenes fabulous and tastefully written. Considering that this was the first BDSM book that I’ve read, I appreciated that Rori was an unschooled submissive and that as she learned about this lifestyle, so did I.

My only tweak is that I wish Rori and Jude’s relationship would have been developed as fully and richly as Rori and Evan’s. The last chapters seemed a tad rushed with more telling rather than showing so I didn’t connect as fiercely with Jude as I did with Evan.

I noticed in the acknowledgments that this edition of Second Chances is a revision of an earlier publication. Because of how much I loved this story, I’m hoping thatMs. Dane will consider another such revision and provide a longer, more in-depth detailing of Rori and Jude’s second chance.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Aspiring Author's Alphabet

Over the weekend I was blog surfing and discovered an inspirational alphabet for writer's. If you get a chance, check it out at Maeve Greyson's Musings.

Here's my irreverent take on an alphabet for aspiring authors.

A is for “Aaack!” I’ve been writing all day and only managed two decent paragraphs.
B is for Basset Hound. Fearless guardian and defender of my slush pile.
C is for Crank Up the volume, Nickelback inspires me.
D is for Do Not Disturb. It may look like I'm napping but I'm really working out plot points and story arcs with my eyes closed.
E is for Elusive. When the right word flies off the page and out the window.
G is for Golden Hearts-- the brass ring for unpubs.
H is for “How many online writing courses did I sign up for this month?”
I is for It Takes a Village to Birth a Book: the author, the mentor, the critiquers, the beta readers, the agents, the editors, the publishers, and so on and so forth into infinity.
J is for Justifiable Homicide. When an author is forced to murder her characters before they kill the story.
K is for Kink in the Neck from sitting hunched at the computer staring at the cursor for too long.
L is for Look Ma, I’m a writer!
M is for Monster Puppy’s interruptions for a game of tug.
N is for Netbook. It’s always within reach.
O is for Onomatopoeia. I like the sound of that.
P is for Pizza. A necessary nourishment for perseverance.
R is for Rocky Road Ice Cream. Beats rejection blues every time.
Q is for Quietly going insane waiting to hear about a submission.
S is for Synopsis. Just shoot me now and put me out of my misery.
T is for Typographical boo-boos that Spell-check misses.
U is for Uh-Oh. I didn’t mean to press send.
V is for Vision. Without one, there is no direction. Only chaos and massive amounts of rewrites.
W is for Whispers of Doubt that I must steel myself against.
X is for eXcitement that a new story idea brings me.
Y is for Yes I’m a writer. No it’s not a hobby.
Z is for Zippidity Do Da. Sometimes a little whimsy staves off the insanity.

What is your alphabet?

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Shout Out to Books for Boobs

Givin' a shout out this week to Sarah Hoss at Heart of Romance whose blog post brought my attention to romance author Kerri Nelson and her efforts to raise money for breast cancer research. "Kerri is clearing out her huge collection of books to help raise money for Breast Cancer research.  Read about her recent breast cancer scare on her author blog ( and then join in her effort for a great cause!"

According to the American Cancer Society website: "Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman's life is a little less than 1 in 8 (12%). 

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States in 2010:
  • About 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 54,010 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 39,840 women will die from breast cancer"

From a personal perspective, my maternal grandmother was a 30 year breast cancer survivor. However, my best friend lost her mother and sister to this dreaded disease. And presently, I have two friends in the midst of the battle. 

Please consider joining forces with the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and others who are supporting the brigade to find a cure that is taking away our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins, granddaughters and friends.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Paranormal...Here to Stay or Gone with the Mist?

Reposted from New Kids on the Writer's Block:

I’m a paranormal writer. Not because it’s the hot ticket right now, but because I have a dark, ghoulish side that revels in the supernatural and fantastical. Lately, I’ve heard the buzz that paranormal is a saturated market, that it’s a fad, and that it won’t last in today’s changing market.

Hmmmm. That’s something to consider, but I’m not worried. Why? Because if paranormal is truly a fad, it’s a very loooong running fad.

Last weekend I attended a paranormal workshop sponsored by the Central Florida RWA chapter. In attendance was NYT Best Selling Author, Heather Graham, and upcoming author Susan Blexrud.

One thing that I took to heart is that paranormal is not a new genre. Susan pointed out that the forerunners of paranormal fiction include Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, and Virginia Woolf.

Whoa! That means paranormals aren’t the new kids on the block after all. They have substance. They have staying power. They influence us more than most give credit.

Yesterday I read a blog article at The Hot Word Blog that talks about a newly discovered fish species called “dracula minnow.”  It’s only 1.7 centimeters in length and has fangs. And, the Danionella dracula is known to stab other fish. Geez, even scientists are getting into the paranormal, naming their discoveries after Bram Stoker’s infamous character.

Television shows such as Ghost Hunters, The Vampires Diaries, True Blood, and Merlin pull in large audiences each week ~a testament to the voracious fascination our society has with things that go bump in the night.

And authors such as JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer have sparked the next generation of paranormal enthusiasts, leaving me to believe that the naysayers spouting the demise of the paranormal in the world of fiction are mistaken.

I’m happy about that.
Werewolves and vampires and dragons, hurray! It seems they’re here to stay. And faeries and ghosts and gargoyles galore. Who knows what else is in store!

Are you a paranormal fan? Or not-so-much? Have any paranormal stories  inspired you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.
~kristal lee

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Reviews and Treasure Chests

My mom taught me that books are treasures. Now, when she sees the hoards of books that line my bookshelves, cover the furniture and sprawl along the floor, she teases that she never expected me to take those particular words so seriously.

You see, I collect books the way pirates collect treasure. Except for the robbing and pillaging part. (Just a reminder that pirating books is, well, ILLEGAL and punishable under the full extent of the law. Simply put...Don't Do It.)

Like any good pirate worth her salt, I know each and every coin that I own and where's it's hidden, although that's generally in plain sight rather than buried in sand.

I love to read, I love to tell people about what I'm reading, and I love to write. So, when offered the chance to become a book reviewer, I jumped on board without a moment's hesitation.

One thing I've learned is that book reviewing is different than reading for pleasure because a credible review is so much more than I liked it or I didn't like it. I believe publishers, authors, and potential readers want honest feedback. And if a book isn't my favorite brand of rum, it's still my duty to evaluate its merit and worth without bias.

After I delve into the characters, plot, setting, relationships, and sensibility/believability of the story, I endeavor to explain not just what I liked or what I didn't, but why. The added bonus for me is that through this process I'm learning why NYT bestsellers are bestsellers and why others aren't and I'm hoping to use all that I glean to become a better writer.

Since I volunteer to review several books a month for The Seasons, and I have a to be read pile for my personal interests that could rival Jacob's Ladder, I've decided to use my blog as venue for the reinvestment of time spent reading and writing reviews.

When posting reviews at The Seasons, I'll follow their finely established rating system. However, when I post here, at It's KRISTAL kLEEr, I'll use the rating system I've developed consisting of gold coins for the book lover's treasure chest. Click here to preview my rating system.

Mark your calendars for the inaugural voyage of ...TUESDAYS TREASURES...and the christening post scheduled for October 19th, featuring Lauren Dane's upcoming release SECOND  CHANCES.

Ahoy, mateys. Happy Reading!

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

And the Winner Is.........

The Random Number Generator has selected a winner...

              JULIE SHUMWAY

Congratulations Julie!

Email your mailing address to kristal(at)kristalleeromances(dot)com and I'll get your prize out to you this coming week.

Thanks to all who participated in the "Passionate Ink" giveaway!

~kristal lee

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sagging Middles

(Reposted from New Kids on the Writer's Block)

More than two months have past since I attended the 2010 RWA National Conference. I'm still digesting information from the fabulous workshops and my learning of the craft continues. One of the books I picked up while there is Angela Knight's "Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance."

You don't need to be an erotic romance writer to benefit from AK's how-to guide. It's written in an easy, down-to-Earth style that seems more like an afternoon tea with a writing mentor than a textbook.

One of the gems that I plucked from it's pages is a simple tip to avoid sagging middles. Ms. Knight's solution to this problem is "making a bad situation worse." In other words, up the conflict ante'. The middle should be the place where everything goes to he** in a hand basket. "[T]he action needs to ramp up with every scene so that each crisis is worse than one before."

In romantic fiction, love may conquer all in the end but until then it should throw everything into chaos. Love needs to complicate the external conflict so that it is much harder to defeat or overcome. If your story is sagging in the middle something must force the hero/heroine to jump from the frying pan into the fire. AK suggests to consider "the worse possible thing that could happen to [the] hero--given his particular emotional hangups--that he could still survive...[t]hen do it him." Be ruthless with your characters. Misery loves company and the readers will rally behind them.

The middle is also where lust begins to give way to love. As the pressure of the external conflict builds, a moment comes when the hero/heroine experiences an eye opening moment and realizes that he/she is in love and has much more to lose than when the story started. Falling in love should make the problem the hero and heroine are facing much more difficult to overcome and add unexpected consequences.

If your middle is sagging, take a hard look at the story's conflict. Conflict should drive the plot. If it doesn't, you're likely to experience a sputtering of your story. Check out your villain. Is he/she as three dimensional as your hero and heroine? Or a cardboard flunkie?

A weak villain undermines the conflict and sucks the ooomph right out of the plot. Your villain shouldn't be too easily defeated, unbelievable, and/or suffer motivational anemia.  His motivation should be as strong or stronger than the hero/heroine. One trick to creating a worthy villain is to remember that he is the hero in his own mind. He isn't evil for the heck of it. Something deep, dark and sinister motivates him to that end.  He has a cause, he has goals, and he can up the ante' if you let him. And, like a pair of big red suspenders, he can help hold up that sagging middle.

"Passionate Ink" is packed full of useful information and is an excellent resource for romance writers of every genre. If you're interested in winning a free copy of "Passionate Ink," please visit my website ( and enter to win. The contest runs through midnight Saturday. Hope to see you there.

~kristal lee

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

"Passionate Ink" by Angela Knight

After finishing "Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance" by bestselling author Angela  Knight (, I decided that whenever I come across a particularly informative, wow-every-writer-should-have-this book, I'll post about it here. These recommendations will be about writing-craft books I've come across by browsing bookstores, talking with other writers, or at book swaps. "Passionate Ink" came to me by way of the RWA National Conference this year. I had the opportunity to attend Ms. Knight's riveting workshop and picked up a copy of "Passionate Ink" before I left. I'm immensely glad and grateful that I did. 

So, for my first writing-craft book recommendation, I give you "Passionate Ink." 

Bow down to Mistress Knight. Her guide to writing erotic romance should be on every aspiring romance writer's keeper shelf. Wait, forget the bookshelf, it's too far away. It should never be beyond arm's reach when tapping out your manuscript. Even if you aren't writing EroRom this how-to book is an invaluable resource, delving into characterizations, plotting, dialogue, voice, and the practicalities of the writing and publishing industries.

She uses excerpts from her works to demonstrate techniques and emphasizes why those particular caveats are important to the success of the story. I learn by association, so reading those enlightening tidbits after delving through the how-to's of those craft points are helping me more than hours of lecture time in a stuffy classroom.

Every writer worth her salt should know about GMC. Ms. Knight takes this a step further with her Romantic Conflict Chart. After using her simple guide on my current WIP, a little light went on and the Hallelujah choir began to sing. I finally understood why my story pooped out around Chapter 10. And more importantly, how to fix it.

If you're struggling with your manuscript, or you need some advice on how to spice things up, consider picking up "Passionate Ink." It's well worth your time and money. 

Because I believe that this book is such an excellent resource, I'm doing my first contest give-away. All you have to do is become a blog follower via Google Follows or Network Blogs and leave a comment. The contest runs through midnight, October 9th, EST. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator on October 10th and will receive a copy of Angela Knight's "Passionate Ink." 

Notice of Advisement-- "Passionate Ink" contains frank language and sexually explicit details. By entering this contest, you are asserting that you are at least 18 years of age, or the legal age of consent in your respective state or country of origin.

~kristal lee 


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