Monday, February 28, 2011

February Run Down

Last month I began using a spreadsheet to track words written. January's grand total was 14,445 with 10,547 words credited to my current WIP. I challenged myself to do better.

Did I?

Yes and No.

Here's the tally:

Grand Total for February ~ 17, 375 words written.

The breakdown:

WIP ~ 10,223
Blog ~ 3,685
NKotWB Blog~ 2,073
Season Reviews~ 1,394

Although I surpassed January's total word count, I'm annoyed that I didn't manage more words for my WIP.  324 words short of matching and my goal had been to exceed.

So what happened?

My organizational skills in February were virtually non-existent. Creatively, I felt like I was tied to the end of a bungy cord, flailing all over the place. I really need a schedule. I really hate schedules.  Schedules keep me on track. Schedules are stifling, inciting a sense of rebellion.

Believe it or not, I did make a weekend writing schedule. I just didn't follow it. I tried to structure it the same way my work week runs. Problem is, I'm not a morning person by nature. Getting up at 5:30am on Saturday just ain't gonna happen. Even with the alarm set, even with the furbabies pawing at the door, even with Professor X nudging me.

I need a new plan for March. 10,000 words a month for WIP isn't gonna cut the cake. I did 50,000 words in November for NaNoWriMo. I can do it again, right?

I had a little extra help, though. I took some time off work and with a few holiday freebies I gained extra writing days that I don't normally have. Can't repeat that pattern too often, so I need to figure out something that will consistently work for me.  I'm thinking about going for a weekly word count goal. I just need to figure out what's doable and stretch it a little.

What about those of you who also shuffle a "day" job with writing? Do you worry about scheduling time to write? Do you hold yourself to a word count or hours spent at the desk? Do you set deadlines for yourself, or do you adopt the attitude, "it'll get finished when it gets finished"?

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Characters and Aristotle's Seven Causes of Human Action

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about characterization so this Sunday's Pondering is more craft-related than philosophical, even though it's inspired by Aristotle.

When I develop a story it's always the main character who comes to me first. Out of the blue, he pops in my head and starts talking. I pull out character development worksheets, personality trait grids, interview questions, family and medical history questionnaires, and anything else I find that will help me actualize who this figment is, what makes him tick, and what he wants to accomplish.
(c) Marie-Lan Nguyen/
Wikimedia Commons

I've also come to realize that if I want my characters to connect to the reader like a real person, I must learn to incorporate what Aristotle's identified as the seven causes of all human action. 

CHANCE:  action based on luck or fortune, risk or hazard
NATURE:  action based on inherent qualities or personality traits
COMPULSION: action based on irrational, irresistible impulses
HABIT:  action based on customs or practiced behavior
REASON:  action based on a premise or cause in a belief, action, or event
PASSION:  action based on a strong emotion, motive, or sexual desire
DESIRE:  action based on a longing, craving, or want

The thing I need to remember when using any of these seven causes is to remain consistent with my character's personality. I can't force an action that isn't natural for the hero, or the heroine. For instance, if the heroine truly believes her brother was savagely murdered by the hero, she isn't likely to eyeball him passionately and swoon at their first encounter. Although she has REASON for action, PASSION of a sexual nature at this juncture isn't credible. Now, if the heroine ran toward the hero with the intent to scratch out his eyes, her PASSION for justice or revenge works in tandem with her REASON and creates a believable action.

I've also discovered that the causes can be used in opposition to create conflict that moves the story forward. In my current WIP, a widowed werewolf believes (REASON) that he can't fall in love again because his kind mates for life. It doesn't matter that his mate is dead. He's still alive and holding to the promise he made because it's his NATURE to be loyal. However, the poor guy is so tired of being lonely that he let's his guard down around the heroine. Pretty quick he realizes that he doesn't feel so achingly empty around her and he begins to crave her company. No longer able to suppress the DESIRE to not spend the rest of his life celibate and alone, a PASSION for the heroine ignites. Now he's in trouble. He can't turn his back on the past because he believes that would be disloyal but he can no longer bear the thought of a solitary future either. 
But, pitting his REASON and NATURE against his DESIRE and PASSION  drives this character's story only as long as his actions remain consistent with his core self. That's the tricky part. He can't simply say in Chapter Six "Oh well. My wife's dead and I'm a free wolf, now" and jump into a long-term relationship with the heroine without consequence. For one, that would be out of character for his NATURE. Two, that would make for a very short and boring story.

Characters' actions need to be genuine and representative of who they are. Grounding their motivations in one or more of the seven causes of human action will bring life to a figment readers will love.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

In the Blink of An Eye

Today's Saturday Shout Out goes to Adam Bojelian and his blog "In the Blink of An Eye."

Adam is an eleven year old poet with severe cerebral palsy. He's blind, wheel-chair and oxygen dependent, and the illustrious winner of Brit Writers Special Achievement Award 2010 and the Gold Blue Peter Badge.

His creative verse, A Silly Poem, appeared in the Herald Scotland  last year~
A Silly Poem, Adam Bojelian 2010
At my school the green fish digs a hole and chases the dog down the road.
In the yard the big dinosaur laughs out loud and tells me a joke.
I laugh.
Later that day I saw a bug eat my teacher for lunch.
The lion reads a book in a tree and then, a scientist with a monkey drives a car too fast through the air.
In my dream, I catch a spaceship to the moon.
I go off looking for hot dogs.                      

(c) Adam Bojelian
Due to the severity of Adam's impairment, he communicates through blinking. This includes writing. It can take a day for him to write one line, a month to complete a verse. Despite his physical challenges, Adam loves creating imaginative poetry. He is an inspiration, proving that when your soul is born of writing, nothing can stop the words from coming.

To see more of Adam's imaginative verse, visit him @

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Apocalyptic Horseman Seen in Cairo

Do you believe your eyes?

Or the scientific explanation that the ghostly horseman is a reflection of the leaping flames in the background?

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Which Fact Didn't Belong?

On Monday, I revealed a little about myself, but among the tidbits was a fabrication. So, which fact didn't belong?

On a cruise to Jamaica, our ship had to wait several hours before coming ashore in Montego Bay because fuliguline had congregated in the port.
I did take a cruise to Jamaica. The lie was that the ship was delayed. Fuliguline blocking the port and eating duck for dinner are exaggerations of the lie.

K.C. suggested that I wasn't really afraid of killer rabbits. After much thought, I had to agree. Although the statement wasn't an intentional lie, more than likely I would tame the critter and turn it into a pet. Having an attack bunny would be awesome!

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday's Treasure: Primal Bonds by Jennifer Ashley

ISBN-13: 9780425240786
ISBN: 0425240789
 Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Format: Mass Market Paperback , 320pp
Pub. Date: March 2011

Two decades ago, Shifters announced themselves to mankind. However, their revelation was met with fear and skepticism. Collared and forced to live in shiftertowns, these non-humans are treated as second-class citizens, or worse.

Feline Shifter Sean Morrissey is a Guardian.  Wielding a sacred sword, he aids dying shifters on their journey into Summerland. It’s a lonely calling, considering very few females want to be bound to a male whose life revolves around death. When a half-Fae, half-Shifter female seeks refuge in Sean’s shiftertown, he mate-claims her, sight unseen. 

Andrea Gray is in need of a protector. Though she agrees to the Guardian’s offer, Andrea is given the freedom to accept or reject his claim at any time. Her intense attraction to sexy Sean Morrissey is something Andrea never expected. Neither is Sean’s determination to turn a proposal into a committment.

Primal Bonds is dark and delectably decadent. Dealing with issues of inequality and prejudice, it has a certain grittiness that rubs likes a grain of sand in your shoe.  Down-trodden, but not despairing, these characters are doing everything they can to make their lives better. They’re fiercely loyal and never do anything half-way. Especially fall in love.

Sean is intense in his pursuit of Andrea. Before he even meets her, Sean makes a commitment to love and protect Andrea. He’s strong, persistent, kind and caring.  I fell in love with Sean’s character because he committed to love before sexual attraction entered the scene. He wants to love and be loved.  His actions are based on that need rather than desire.

Andrea is the perfect girl for Sean. She isn’t the submissive little she-wolf everyone expects. She gives Sean as good as she gets. When he becomes over-protective and bossy, Andrea lets him know it. She doesn’t cower away from confrontation.  She looks it in the eyes without hesitation and without fear. Beyond the mating frenzy that nearly overwhelms them at time, Sean and Andrea build a solid relationship while dealing with a Shifter uprising and a Fae who wants to steal Sean’s sword.

The setting and circumstances of the shiftertown gave the story a rawness that rackeled my sense of fairness. The story seemed alive and continued to engage me page after page.
I loved Primal Bonds for its fresh and interesting presentation of shapeshifters in a society where they thrive despite oppression of their basic civil rights. The story is action-packed, seasoned with the realities of living with injustice, and the power and perseverance of true love.

Jennifer Ashley, NYT and USA Today Best-Selling author, writes historical, contemporary and paranormal romances. She also writes mysteries as Ashley Gardner and paranormal/urban fantasy as Allyson James. Whatever name she’s penning, Ms. Ashley is fast becoming one of my favorite paranormal authors. I can hardly wait for the Shifter Unbound saga to continue. 

 Gold Coin Rating:   4.8
 Heat Level:             Bonfire

Reviewed for The Season.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

One of These Facts Doesn't Belong

The gauntlet is on the ground and the first challenge of the 2nd Writers' Platform-building Crusade has been issued.

In 300 words or less, Crusaders must reveal tidbits of themselves that include:
· one secret

· one lie

· one interesting quirk

· one annoying habit
· one of your best character traits, and

· one of your favorite things in the whole world.
The post must include the random words, “bloviate,” “fuliguline,” “rabbit,” and “blade.”

I have accepted the challenge, so here are some randoms facts about me, in no particular order, without rhyme or reason.
I exaggerate. A lot. Not that I bloviate, but I like descriptive detail and sometimes I get a little carried away with embellishing the facts. Recently I convinced co-workers that the armadillo living in my backyard was 4 feet long and weighed 100 lbs. In all sincerity, I believed it myself because that's how big the darn critter looked in the dark with Brave Little Basset perched on its back and barking in its ear. 

On a cruise to Jamaica, our ship had to wait several hours before coming ashore in Montego Bay because fuliguline had congregated in the port. We ate duck for dinner.

I hog the covers at night. Professor X now keeps a blankey close by so his knees don't knock whenever I wrap myself up like a mummy.

I could never be a real spy because I love pizza. If I were captured by the enemy, all it would take to break me would be a slice of pepperoni pizza loaded with mushrooms and black olives waggled beneath my nose. My mouth would run like a faucet.

At fourteen I was published in a children's magazine and was paid $25.

I think my best trait is the ability to "think outside the box." It made for interesting, if not heated discussions in theology classes.

I'm quirky about movies. I love bloody, gritty vampire flicks like BLADE, UNDERWORLD, and VAN HELSING. Although, natural disaster films like TWISTER, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, and NIGHT OF THE LEPUS give me panic attacks. Professor X doesn't understand this, even though I've explained that I'm not afraid of fantastical beings such as vampires and werewolves because they are kindred spirits. I am, however, scared to death of tornadoes, apocalyptic storms, and killer rabbits.

I may have revealed something about me that isn’t strictly true, can you guess what it is? 

I'll reveal the untruth in Wednesday's post. 

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award~ Thanks Heather and E.C.

Earlier this week, Heather Hellman of Pen, Paper, Lots of Coffee  and E.C. of E.C.'s Ramblings gifted it's KRISTAL kLEEr with the Stylish Blogger Award. Heather Hellman is a YA fantasy writer And E.C. is an urban fantasy and paranormal historical romance author, both of whom I virtually meet via Rach Writes 2nd Annual Writers Platform-Building Crusade. Thanks for the passing along this awesome award, Heather and E.C.

 Now, the idea behind this award is to pay it forward by:
1) Thanking and linking back to the person who gave the award,
2) Stating 7 things about myself in the blog post, and
3) Passing the award to 15 recently discovered bloggers.

Here are seven facts about me:

1)   My favorite candy is plain M&M's.
2)   Autumn is my favorite time of year.
3)  I've been onboard Air Force One, the one used during the Kennedy Administration.
4)  I've eaten lunch inside the Space Needle.
5)  I love to watch hockey even though I'm a native Floridian.
6)  I suck at playing video games.
7)  I don't have an iron, although I do own an ironing board.

Now, I'm passing the award onto these fantastic blogs/bloggers.

Jae Lynne Davies (Sugar, Spice and Everything Paranormal)
Margo Kelly (Margo Kelly)
Margo Benson (Margo Benson)
Writing Nut (Writing in a Nutshell)
Raquel Byrnes (Edge of Your Seat Romance
Summer Ross (My Inner Fairy)
Louise Wise (Wise Words)
MC Howe (Pensive Sarcasm)
Chantele Sedgwick  (My Writing Bug
Charity Bradford (My Writing Journey)

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Friday, February 18, 2011

I Am Number Four

Cool paranormal thriller debuts today. An alien teenager comes to Earth to escape the ruthless species that murdered his family. The film is based on the YA book by James Frey and Jobie Hughes.

There are mysteries in human history for which there are no apparent explanations. There are unexplained jumps in the development of human technology. No one can explain things like the lost City of Atlantis, the Loch Ness monster, the Bermuda Triangle, and, of course, crop circles and UFOs. The explanation for these, and many other of Earth’s mysteries, is that aliens have been visiting your planet, and influencing events, for as long as the planet has existed.
I am Pittacus Lore. I am from the Planet Lorien, three hundred million miles away. I am one of ten Elders who lived on our planet. I am ten thousand years old. Everyone on Lorien was gifted. We are incredibly strong, incredibly fast, and we are born with powers called legacies. Despite our powers, the Elders, responsible for the defense of our planet, failed.
Lorien has been destroyed. Our entire population was killed, except for nine children and their nine guardians. The Nine fled to earth, where we hoped they would be able to hide and grow, to develop their Legacies and one day avenge the loss of Lorien. Unfortunately, the same race that destroyed Lorien followed them to Earth. They have been hunting the children and have killed three of them. The six that are still alive have started fighting back. Our war has come to your planet, and it will either be won or lost here.
I am telling the story of Lorien, the Nine, and the war at hand so you do not allow the same thing that happened to us happen to you. I am trying to find the Nine and unite them. They may be walking past you right now, or sitting near you, or watching you as you read this. They may be in your city, your town. If they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, they are living anonymously, training, and waiting for the day when they will find each other, and me, and we will make our last stand together."


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ASHLYN CHASE Shares a Tidbit of Wisdom and Her New Release

I'm excited to have ASHLYN CHASE visiting today. Ashlyn is a multi-published author of light paranormal romances and erotic romances. Her 2010 release, Strange Neighbors was one of my favorite reads last year and she follows it up with this month's release of The Werewolf Upstairs.

Ashlyn, Welcome!

Thank you for the opportunity to reach more readers, Kristal.

I carry a tidbit of wisdom in my wallet. When I switch wallets it’s the first thing I transfer to the new one. It’s old, it’s tattered, but if it ever wears out, I’ll probably write it on a new card and keep it going. It’s a quote by Maya Angelou. It goes like this:
“People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”
That really hit home with me. It’s the reason behind the Golden Rule. We’ve all been on both sides of right and wrong behavior. When I accidentally hurt someone else’s feelings (Most of us don’t do it on purpose!) I feel worse, simply because I know how it feels. If you’ve lived among other human beings for a while, you’ve been hurt. It sucks, but it happens. And we all know what it feels like. So, I try to make people feel better, not worse. And I hope I succeed more than I fail. But that’s real life.

Being an author, I know my words affect people I’ll never come in contact with. That knowledge can really get to a writer if he or she lets it. 

We have a responsibility to know what we’re putting out there, yes, but we can’t control how other people respond to it—and playing with our readers’ emotions is what writers are supposed to do…especially romance writers. 

No romance writer wants to offend their readers. Even those who write erotica are writing for a particular audience who enjoy it. So, if you’re a writer, how do you know what to say and what not to say? Simple. You don’t. You let the characters say what they’d say and do what they’d do, and hope readers will find them unforgettable. 

I write comedy and as such have to ignore some of those very wrong things I know would hurt someone else. Humor crosses the line. My characters can do and say things in fiction I’d never do or say to a real person. Is it cruel? Sometimes. Is it politically correct? Not always. So why don’t I water it down a little? 

Because then it wouldn’t be funny. My goal is to entertain my readers, not to bore them. And according to most of the reactions I get, people enjoy my books. 

Some readers will write and tell me how I made them feel. Many more won’t. But this is why a satisfying “happily ever after” ending for my characters is so important. It’s that last feeling with which I leave my readers. After they’ve been on an emotional ride with my characters, vicariously faced all obstacles, and rose to their challenges, they deserve a good “Ahhh…” at the end.  

Ashlyn, thank you for sharing your inspiration and how you apply it in your writing.  I think you do achieve your goal to entertain rather than bore with your books. For me, your novel Strange Neighbors was definitely a fun read that still makes me smile when I talk about it with my friends. And now, the stand-alone sequel, The Werewolf Upstairs, is out and I can't wait to read it!  BTW, the cover is fabulous.

Desperate for change, public defender Roz Wells moves to a new apartment, but she’ll get more than she bargained for when she starts dating the seriously hot guy upstairs who just happens to be a shapeshifter and possibly a criminal!
Konrad Wolfensen has made a living staging break-ins to spook businesses into buying his security system. But when he’s accused of a serious crime, he’ll have to enlist the help of his new neighbor/girlfriend to keep his cute, slightly criminal rear-end out of jail.

Here's what people are saying about The Werewolf Upstairs: 

Mary from Sparkling Reviews says: "I absolutely loved The Werewolf Upstairs. There is no lack of delicious steamy romance, that will keep you turning pages and wanting more. Konrad seduced Roz and The Werewolf Upstairs seduced me!"

Night Owl Reviews say: "The Werewolf Upstairs is a fun read, with a lot of paranormal activity, and a slew of secondary characters. It's original and full of laughs, steamy sex and madcap mayhem. Some of the predicaments Roz and Konrad get themselves into are entertaining and humorous." 

Rhomylly Forbes/Romantic Times says: "Take one sexy bad-boy werewolf, add a curvaceous attorney and let nature take its course...long on steamy love scenes, Chase's latest is an entertaining, funny read. If you're looking for a way to escape these cold February nights, this one just might be for you."

If you're craving funny, steamy, paranormal romance, Ashlyn Chase's The Werewolf Upstairs is sure to satisfy.  For more information on Ashlyn and her books, visit her at 

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday's Treasure: Strange Neighbors by Ashlyn Chase

ISBN: 978-1402236617
Author: Ashlyn Chase
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release date: June 1, 2010
Book Blurb
When all-star pitcher and shapeshifter Jason Falco buys a small apartment building, he sees it not only as an investment, but as a place to escape the demands of major league baseball.
That is, until he meets his tenants! A vigilante vampire: a wereraven with a morbid sense of humor; a werewolf thief who poses as a security expert; and two witches who work as phone sex actresses and own an owl familiar. Not to mention a beautiful, all too human nurse who gets Jason's blood pumping overtime.
With all the hooting, howling and hollering going on, how can an All-American guy get some peace and sweep a girl off her feet?

Strange Neighbors is a charming story with a quirky cast of characters who worm their way into a reader's heart. Steamy scenes, an acerbic ghost, and an entertaining plot with hilarious hi-jinks and misunderstandings makes this one of my favorite reads in 2010.

Rating:       4.3 Gold Coins
Heat:           Bonfire

Ashlyn will be my guest blogger on Wednesday. She'll be talking Maya Angelou, the Golden Rule, comedy, and tidbits on her newest release, The Werewolf Upstairs

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Wouldn't you think that as a romance writer Valentine's Day would be one of my favorite days of the year and that I'd have lots to say on the subject? Maybe I'm warped, but V-day doesn't come close to being my favorite holiday. Halloween is how I roll. That's why I write paranormal.

Looking for V-day inspiration I Googled, alot, and found beaucoups images of Cupid with his cute curls, babyish physique, often portrayed in a diaper-- the uber icon of romantic love. Really? I can't fathom the hype.

I prefer Sherrilyn Kenyon's description of Cupid <ahem> Eros--he doesn't like the name Cupid. Youthfully handsome man with a military haircut, dark brown goatee, wearing black leather and riding a motorcycle. Now that's a god of love I can embrace. 

After spending too much time looking for pictures of biker Cupid, I was disappointed not to find one. Downhearted, I plunked over to YouTube looking for, you know, love songs and what-not. Disney tunes popped up, Beauty and the Beast being the most prevalent.

I've always loved the story of B&B. I have the French faery tale by Marie Le Prince de Beaumont downloaded in my Nook and it's the inspiration for an upcoming WIP. While listening to the lyrics of  Disney's B&B, I realized that the transformation of emotionally tortured, deeply scarred heroes is one of the core elements that appeal to me in romance stories. I'm a sucker for stone-cold hearts thawed by the power of love.

Sometimes, it's the anti-hero that grips me like in Phantom of the Opera. Phantom is the Seducer. But, I see him as the man who truly loves Christine. Though it breaks his heart, he lets her go, knowing that she'll have a better life without him. No HEA for him. His sacrifice leaves me a little heart-sick.

But, what is V-Day if not about expressions of love?

My all-time favorite V-Day was when Professor X hand-made me a Valentine's card because he was still recovering from a long illness and not able to go shopping. He isn't a poet, so it wasn't a sonnet or ode professing that my eyes are as bright as starlight and my breath fresh like wintergreen. Thank god, because I would've cracked up laughing and thought it was a joke. Rather, he simply wrote what was on his mind. And drew a few hearts on the paper. That card is a treasure, worth more than anything he's ever bought me.

What's your favorite V-day memory?

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday's Pondering: Writing Lesson by John D. Engle, Jr.

I love fireflies. Their mesmerizing iridescent glow composes epic adventures across the dark canvas of night in a mysterious language that burns my imagination. When I discovered John D. Engle, Jr.'s brilliant firefly poem  in Writers Digest, it spoke to my bard's soul. I clipped it, laminated it, and have managed not to lose it for over 20 years-- quite a feat for me. I could misplace something while it's still clutched in my hand, so says Professor X. Nevertheless, Mr's Engle's masterpiece has never been far from my reach. Presently, it's taped to my glass-top desk where it continues to inspire me to practice with persistence the art of writing with abandon.


"Last night before I slept,
I watched a firefly writing bright poems
on the dark pages of my bedroom.
Although he wrote in golden, disappearing ink,
strange words from an unknown language,
I caught the rhythmic beauty
of his message and his method.
His art was an extension of his being--
a must of meaning in cool fires of feeling,
a paradox of ease and urgency,
contradicting darkness with a mix
of pyrotechnics and indifference.
He did not seem to care that I
was the only reader awake
and that I could only half read what he wrote.
But he was, nevertheless, a persistent poet;
and persistence can be understood in any language.
Although dawn erased both the poet and his poem,
the flaming loops and curves
of his un-selfconscious, uninhibited syllables
flow permanently pure in the midnight
rooms of my mind; and there with a foxfire pen,
I try to practice what I have been taught."   John D. Engle, Jr.

Mr. Engle is an award winning poet, creative writing teacher, and writing coach. He has also published works in fiction, non-fiction, and drama, including a full-length historical. 

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Shout Out: The NYT Bestseller List

One small step for authors, One giant leap for digital publishing.

Props going out today to the NYT Bestsellers List for adding two new categories in recognition of fiction and non-fiction e-book sales. Since 1935, the New York Times' Bestseller List has been the leader in recognizing book sales. According to Janet Elder, NYT's editor of news surveys and election analysis, the newspaper has spent more than two years developing a system that tracks and verifies e-book sales. After seeing the significant support e-books receives through sales, the Times has officially redesigned the section of its Sunday Book Review that features 14 best-seller lists, including those for fiction, nonfiction, hardcover and paperback, children’s books and graphic novels. Now that list will include fiction and non-fiction e-book categories. 

With digital media rights in constant flux and e-Authors caught in the slipstream this development is monumental. Finally validation for "Green" authors choosing digital publishing over traditional and acknowledgment for the readers who followed. To show support for NYT's decision to incorporate e-book sales into their coveted lists, click here.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Shadow People

Image Copyright: Jeanne Nelson
Have you ever seen a dark figure in your peripheral vision only to find nothing there when you turn to look?

If you have, you may have glimpsed one of the Shadow People~ dark humanoid figures that lack distinctive features who appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. The most frequently sighted is the Hat Man, a tall dark man wearing a hat and often a cloak. Some reports suggest that the Shadow People aren't malicious in nature, but rather observers of our world. Others insist that they are soul-stealers. No one knows why they come or how long they've been around but the phenomenon is world-wide.

Jason Offutt, author of Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us, states in an interview with Stephen Wagner: "The oldest mention of entities like this in literature I've found was in the late 1800s, although shadow people have been reported in various religions throughout history." 

Scientific explanations attempting to debunk these paranormal experiences claim the manifestations are a result of optical illusions or hallucinations.

"When a specific region of the brain called the left temporoparietal junction is stimulated, it can create the illusion of a shadow person. Images seen in peripheral areas of vision can be caused by pareidolia, a condition in which the brain incorrectly interprets random patterns of light/shadow or texture as being familiar patterns such as faces and human forms." ~ Wikipedia

Photo: Disney's Peter Pan
In faery lore, shadows have their own life force. If a faery steals your shadow, you will wither and die. If you steal a faery's shadow, he or she will grant you one wish.

The notion of a sentient shadow can be found in J.M. Barrie's  beloved Peter Pan. And a modern variation of the Shadow People was showcased by the appearance of "The Observer" in the FOX television series FRINGE.

Whether it's a supernatural visitation or a figment of imagination, I've experienced this phenomenon many times. Always accompanied by a rush of adrenaline, a wave of nausea and a stomach-dropping dread.

Have you encountered the Shadow People? What was your experience like?

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Which Way is Write?

I'm tooling at New Kids on the Writer's Block today. Join me for a look at a few software programs for writers in  "Which Way is Write?"

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday's Treasure: Surrender to Darkness by Annette McCleave

ISBN: 978-0-451-23193-2
ISBN-10: 0-451-23193-7
Publisher/Imprint: NAL ~Signet Eclipse
Release Date: 01/04/2011

Jamie Murdoch is an immortal demon fighter with a Norse “berserker” curse that sparks an uncontrollable rage.  Because his latest rampage injured an Ignoble, he’s sent on a goose-chase of a mission to Japan to secure a dark relic that no one is sure actually exists.

Kiyoko Ashida, schooled in the ways of the onmy­­òji, has dedicated her life to fighting evil. Near death after a failed attempt to save her dying father, Kiyoko uses the Veil- a relic her family has safe-guarded for generations, to sustain her life-force.

When Murdoch comes looking for it, Kiyoko learns that the cloth she’s always believed to be something good is actually a weapon that dark forces could use for evil purposes. She’s torn between surrendering the fabric to a delegate she knows can protect it and forfeiting her life.

To complicate matters, Murdoch’s berserker reacts to her in an all-consuming possessiveness that she would like to explore. Only he forbids any touching between them for fear of setting off his berserker and killing her.  Now he’s located the dark relic, Murdoch will have to harness his desire, find a way to safeguard the Veil and keep Kiyoko alive before a fallen angel rips it away to destroy the world and Kiyoko with it.

Once again, I’ve jumped into a series out of sequence. Surrender to Darkness is the third installment in the Soul Gatherers series by Annette McCleave. Her website at allows readers to peruse terms common to the series world building and blurbs on the individual Soul Gatherers.  I recommend those new to the series check it out before delving in. 

I enjoyed the intermix of the Japanese culture and a creative paranormal mythology. Since I’m familiar with martial arts terms and Asian culture in respect to martial arts (because dear hubster is such a fan), I didn’t need to reference the glossary at the back of the book. Good thing, because I didn’t realize it was there until I got to the end.

There are a few jarring pulls, places where the POV changes to introduce new characters and the story location shifts outside of the hero and heroine’s awareness.  The first time this happened, it was disconcerting. Since this is the first book I’ve read in the series, I’m not familiar with the ancillary cast of characters. To fans of the series, these unexpected POV changes may not seem as abrupt. By the end of the story, I understood what the author was accomplishing with these switches; however, as a new reader to the series I wished that the transitions had been smoother.

The relationship between the hero, Murdoch, and a secondary character- Emily (who seems to be the thread that weaves the series together) isn’t fully explained in this installment. Perhaps that ground work was laid in a previous book, but the explanation of the close relationship they share in this story didn’t quite materialize.

There is a lot of sexual tension between Murdoch and Kiyoko. In fact, it seeps from the pages. Considering all the delicious build-up, I expected an explosive climax that rocked the rafters. Unfortunately, the long awaited consummation didn’t live up to the hype.
In spite of that little disappointment, I enjoyed reading Surrender to Darkness and will gladly venture into the Soul Gatherers series.

Gold Coin Rating:  3.3
Heat Level:   2 (Candlelight)

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Monday, February 7, 2011

The Finger

Months of chronic elbow pain, unremitting after ice and heat packs, anti-inflammatories and pseudo-rest, prompted me to trudge over to the orthopedist's office. Diagnosis: lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as "tennis elbow."

Whaddaya mean, doc? I'm a writer, not a tennis pro.

According to the fine doctor, I have overtaxed a tendon that runs from my elbow to my middle finger, a common injury to tennis players but not exclusive.

Hmmm, I wonder how I managed to accomplish an injury stemming from one finger. Ironically, the bird finger. Now there are times I want to flip off a driver who's cut me off, I rarely give in to that temptation. So, I studied my habits and can say I still have no idea how I did this. It doesn't appear that I use the middle finger any more than the others. If had to pick one with the most repetitive use, I would have placed my bet on the index finger. Yep, that would be the one. It points, dials, scratches, flicks, turns pages, and opens snail mail. 

Whatever the cause, I've renamed this phenomenon "Writer's Elbow" because I sure didn't get this from playing tennis.

The cure? A wrist splint. Yes, a wrist splint. Not the elbow brace I'd been wearing. 

How long? Six weeks. I almost croaked. Actually, I think my voice did croak a bit when I repeated back to the doctor, Six weeks? Are you kidding?

Ummm, no. He wasn't. Six weeks in a brace with anti-inflammatories as needed and a warning that if this fix doesn't work, a cortisone injection will surely follow. Crap! I've heard those things hurt like the dickens. My brain went into avoid-shot-at-all-cost mode.

The first night I wore the brace to bed I had a nightmare about the top of my hand splitting open and large toad frogs leaping out of the hole. Freaky. Even for a paranormal writer.

In folklore and mythology, frogs often symbolize transformations and self discovery. Think of the Frog Prince, a parable of animus integration and metamorphosis.

Okay, my dream was probably more of a response from my brain alerting me that the brace was too heavy and tight, but it's much more interesting to ponder it from an allegorical perspective.

Although dream frogs are generally positive symbols, their leaping could represent a bad habit of hopping from one thing to the next without completing the former. Ouch! That's how 2010 turned out for me. Skipping from one writing project to the next, leaving a string of unfinished manuscripts. At least until NaNoWriMo came along and I committed to finishing one, Howlin' Hearts.

2011 is the Year of Completion for me. Even with Writer's Elbow to contend with I'm determined to finish what I start and not start something else until I do. Perhaps this dream was a warning to be diligent despite unforeseen circumstances. So, I'll wear the brace and rest the finger. I've got nine others I can use to type.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Here Comes the Rain

"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." ~ E.L. Doctorow

This Sunday Pondering brings to mind one of my favorite song's lyrics by the Eurhythmics :
Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion...

Here comes the rain again
Raining in my head like a tragedy
Tearing me apart like a new emotion

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday Shout: Second Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade

Giving a Shout Out today to Rachel Harrie (Rach Writes), young adult horror fiction writer and sponsor of the Second Writers' Platform-Building Crusade. If you're new to the blog-verse, this blog event is a must.

So, what is this Platform-Building Crusade all about?  Well, Rach says:

"Basically, the Crusade is a way to link those within the writing community together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms. The Crusaders are all bloggers in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs."
This is a fun way to meet to other aspiring writers and explore the world of social networking. Click on over to Rach Writes for more details.

Special props to Ciara Knight, paranormal and fantasy fiction writer for adult, young adult, and middle grade. Ciara is a fellow newbie at New Kids on the Writer's Block whose blog post today brought Rach's Crusade to my attention. Ciara blogs regularly at and Saturdays at

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Faery Winds

"Dirt devils," my Grandmother used to say. Whenever we'd see a little dust kick up from the ground and swirl around like miniature tornadoes. Though they lacked the destructive force of storm tornadoes, she'd warn, "Be mindful. Faeries are afoot. You don't want them catching you."

What Granny called "dirt devils" are known in Irish folklore as sidhe gaoithe, faery winds. A sudden gust of wind or a whirlwind thought to be caused by the Faery Host rushing past.

W.B. Yeats remarked that Irish peasantry were careful not to offend the traveling faeries and at the sight of a faery wind they would remove their hats, saying "God bless them."

An Irish legend tells of an unfortunate man who built his house in the middle of a faery path despite the townsfolk warning. It wasn't long before a sidhe gaoithe whipped up, destroying the man's new home.

Modern Science pooh-pooh's superstitions and would have us believe that this phenomenon isn't supernatural.

"Dust devils form when hot air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler, low- pressure air above it. If conditions are just right, the air may begin to rotate. The spinning effect, along with surface friction usually will produce a forward momentum. The dust devil is able to sustain itself longer by moving over nearby sources of hot surface air."  Wikipedia

 Most of the dirt devils that I've encountered were about ankle-to-knee high. An unnatural stillness would fall. Not a wisp of wind stirred. I didn't dare breathe the thickened air. The faint buzzing of voices and galloping hooves tickled my mind, if not my ears. The presence of one, or many, brushing past. There and gone in a blink of the eye. Too quick for them to hear the jack-hammering of my heart as I stood frozen waiting for them to pass. Who knows what would've happened if they'd noticed me noticing them.

Have you experienced a faery wind, or other faery encounter?

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

North American folklore has it's quirks. Groundhog Day is one of them. 
Punxsutawney Phil

According to legend, on February 2nd, when a groundhog emerges from its burrow, one of two things happen: he'll emerge to investigate his surroundings, or he'll retreat and hide. The outcome will determine whether or not winter will soon end.

If it's overcast when the little critter peeks out , he'll be prompted to leave his winter home and scourge for food. A sign that Spring is near. However, if it's sunny, the poor, hungry groundhog will be frighten back into his burrow by his shadow. An omen that there will be at least six more weeks of winter.

Seems pretty straight-forward, as far as superstitious prognasticating goes. But, it seems a bit backward to me.

Wouldn't cloudy weather signal more snow and a bright cheery sun suggest that Spring is coming?

Ahhh, what do I know about forecasting winter? I'm a Floridian. I haven't had to live through months of snow and sleet and ice. For those of you who do, I hope that Punxsutawney Phil doesn't see his shadow today.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tuesday's Treasure: Day of the Dragon by Rebecca York

  • ISBN-10: 0425238180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425238189 
  • Publisher: Berkley Sensation 
  • Release Date: Dec 7, 2010 
  • Pages: 352

A dragon will move heaven and earth for the woman with the key to his past and a door to his future.

Ramsey Gallagher has lived a long time. More than 2,000 years. He knows more about the Earth’s ancient history than most scholars, but very little about himself, about his dragon heritage.

Dr. Madison Dartmoor may have stumbled upon the secret to Ramsey’s origins. Her archeological excavation, in the region where Ramsey lived as a child, has unearthed an ancient artifact that might be the missing link that he’s been hoping to find. He travels to Las Vegas where she is scheduled to give a presentation on her research only to discover that the lecture has been cancelled at the last second.

Madison refuses to discuss the small statute made from an unidentified substance that shifts from man to dragon by moving its arms. The attack on her crew at the dig site in Italy has convinced her that someone doesn’t want her discovery made public. And it seems that person will do anything it takes to ensure that her research is reburied, forever.

Ramsey and Madison join forces to uncover the truth about the ancient artifact while outrunning the ever-present danger of a madman bent on preserving mankind’s dominance in evolution. Only when that danger is eliminated do they realize that a bigger threat lies in an enemy who is closer than they think.

Day of the Dragon is a contemporary paranormal, action-adventure story with a little romance along the way. It has an Indiana Jones flair, without the comedy. There are lots of suspenseful twists that intrigued me and drew me into the plot so that I was trying to ferret out the answers to solve the mystery along with the characters.

I did feel that the beginning of the relationship between Ramsey and Madison was a little forced. Madison is an intelligent woman with a mission and she seemed to fall too quickly for Ramsey’s seductions, especially in light of the harrowing situation they were escaping. However, this bump was smoothed over a bit when it came to light that the two are likely soul mates.

I noticed a tiny reality slip when Madison’s assistant is shot at point blank range in the chest while they are in Vegas. Not only did he survive, he showed up at the dig site in Italy a few days later. The assistant is not a preternatural being.  Even though he’s described as pale and on massive pain-killers, it seems unlikely to me that a mere mortal would be capable of such a long journey so soon after (what I took as) a life-threatening injury.

The only other issue that had me rubbing a worry knot was how Madison came to be Dominic Coleman’s protégé after her parents died. I kept wondering why he chose her, especially after Madison asks him if he was responsible for her parents’ deaths and he refused to answer. I would’ve liked to have known Dominic’s motivation for choosing Madison since his relationship to her is a vital thread in the plot.

In the end, the little hiccups I experienced when reading this story didn’t stop me from enjoying the read.

Rebecca York fans will be happy to learn that Day of the Dragon begins a new shifter series for the author, so more stories will follow.

Gold Coin Rating: 3.0
Heat Level:  3 (Campfire)

This review is also posted at Good Reads and The Season.

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