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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


The sleigh bells have rung, the open fire, now reduced to ash, no longer roasts chestnuts and all family members have rescattered back to homes of their own. Holidays are always fun—eventually.

Most people revisit all kinds of trauma along with the tinsel and culinary delights we’ve come to expect. No, let me expound on that. From the depths of time family ties have been woven/braided/ designed to tether family units together. Usually it is the mother’s job and no matter how thankless it can seem to her, it will have the most lasting of effects on her family.

Skillfully woven webs of colors, smells, food, and musical enticements, designed to engulf the senses, morph into time-honored traditions permanently embeded into our psyches for all time.

The smell of cinnamon, the ringing of a bell, the list goes on forever. They reel us back to our roots every year, be they good or bad, reigniting our childhood memories and bugaboos in the process.

Autonomy so desperately sought or achieved through the ages reverts to previous patterns. Our past and present collides.

Yep, holidays are fun. So why do we do this every year? Do we only tie religious beliefs to family? Do we need a heady helping of retrospection every year? Does it somehow prove our worth? Is it an excuse to get together and party? Or, are we simply swimming upstream to our place of origin?

I love my family but during these times I find myself dreading gatherings...until I’m actually there. So what’s with that?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The best Christmas present...

Christmas has never been my favorite time of year. I always found it to be full of the spirit of grasping, rather than the spirit of giving. Tedious and stressful, I went about the motions for my family's sake...that is until nine years ago.

Where I come from in New York, we had a Christmas blizzard the likes of which no one had seen in decades. The kind of harrowing snowstorm you see on the Weather Channel or in a Lifetime Television Movie. That year, it could have starred my husband and I as we tried to make our way through feet of snow to get to the hospital. Our daughter was on her way, my birthing pains keeping time with the Christmas bells tolling at our local church.

We got to the hospital, and it was dark. No one had power and the parking lot was sparing of cars, though someone managed to shovel a narrow goat path to the front door. We walked in, my husband leading the way like Sacagawea leading Lewis and Clark, only to be asked, "Are you expected?"

I opened my coat, and the poor lady behind the narrow sliding glass looked at my burgeoning belly, a muttered "Oh!" the only thing she could manage.

We were told to head up to Maternity, orderly flying through the halls with me in a wheelchair. It was so quiet, the only thing that went through my head was the line from Twas The Night Before Christmas, "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." It seemed like forever, but the elevator finally pinged, and the doors slid open onto the Maternity Ward, also eerily quiet.

I was checked in and off we went to delivery. From there it was as frenetic as any normal day in the hospital, and at 8:38am December 26, a delivery nurse handed us the greatest Christmas present of our lives...all 6lbs, 7oz of her!

Today, thank God, she is happy, healthy...and 9 years old.

So I want to wish my daughter a very Happy Birthday...and to everyone else, a Joyous Holiday!

Marianne Morea

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Puppy For Christmas!

Just look at this adorable puppy!! Wouldn’t you want to see him as a holiday gift?

He’d be no muss, no fuss. Why? Because he’s Yo-Yo, the Yuletide Yorkshire, featured in the Minx Tobin murder mystery series, Case Five: THE YULETIDE YORKSHIRE. (Catchy name, right?)

Who is Minx Tobin, you ask? Minx is a fitness instructor newly relocated to Los Angeles, California, who has a knack for solving puzzles--puzzles concerning dead bodies. For fun, romance, and... unexpected corpses, follow her adventures in the Minx Tobin Murder Mystery Series!

HO, HO, HO... OH!

Home for the holidays, Minx Tobin introduces her parents to her homicide lieutenant, Gabe Harris. Unfortunately for her, her ex-fiancé Jared drops in on them, creating friction. But Jared soon needs Minx's help in the sleuthing department because a gruesome "present" is found under the tree. Once again, Minx is hot on the trail of a desperate killer.

All Gabe wants to do is propose to the woman he loves. Instead, he has to deal with a cast of East Coast characters, including an unexpected murder. Why do dead bodies always seem follow Minx Tobin??

Visit to see a trailer of this book.

The Yuletide Yorkshire is available for purchase electronically Desert Breeze Publishing,,, and other Internet locations.

And while I’m not expecting a puppy to be under my Christmas tree, I will be seeing my grand-kitty, Gio. Now, isn’t he the sweetest thing?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from my house to yours!


Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!


The Minx Tobin Mystery Series: The Yuletide Yorkshire--Case Five (Desert Breeze Publishing)
Minx finds something unexpected under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, it wasn’t left by Santa.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Year in Review

Happy Holidays! I’ve had such a wonderful year, I wanted to share the highlights.

I’ll start with the best news of all. Both my children are in college this year. WooHoo! It was a little shaky there for awhile, but they pulled through. My son just graduated from High School in June and is a freshman at the local community college on his way to Portland State. My daughter is now a Junior at Oregon State. What could be better than this?

And then there’s my publishing success. I’ve spent most of my life writing, and just as many years collecting those rejection letters. But this year I struck gold. My paranormal/suspense novel ALEX was published with Solstice Publishing! The e-Book came out at the end of May with the print version following in the middle of July. It was absolutely amazing to hold my book in my hands the first time.

Speaking of firsts, I had my very first book signing EVER on November 5th for ALEX at the Oregon Book and Author Fair in Central Point. Over fifty authors attended, and let me tell you, it was great! Not so much in the sales area, though I sold a few copies and ran out of flyers. But it was the interaction with other authors and readers that made it such a memorable experience.

With the success of ALEX, I searched and found the perfect home for my short romances with Breathless Press. I’ve had so much fun publishing through them! The staff and other authors who’ve signed with them are wonderful people and so supportive of each other. I couldn’t be happier. I also have a short ghost story released from MuseItUp Publishing. This was actually the first short story I sold, but they didn’t publish it until October to go with their Halloween theme. It worked perfectly.

What else? I’ve taken some great vacations with the family and also with just my husband. We visited Lake Tahoe for my family reunion. Me and Mark (my gorgeous mate) spent a romantic weekend at the Crater Lake Hotel. I’d say Mark is my soul-mate, but he’d think that was corny. I couldn’t think of being with anyone else, though. We also spent a week in early summer in eastern Oregon. We went to Kai Strand, my very talented sister-in-law’s, book signing for her children’s story ‘The Weaver’. Afterwards, we spent a few days at the John Day Fossil Beds. An intriguing, beautifully unique area of Oregon.

And now I’m fully immersed in the holidays. Oh, Happy Birthday to me, by the way! My Birthday was on the 12th. I tell my family that if we just pretend I don’t have birthdays anymore, then I’ll never grow older. They simply smile and throw a party anyway.

So, there you have my life in a nutshell. I think the gift I’m going to ask Santa for is that every writer seeking publication will know, at least once in their lives, the joy of holding their published book in their hands and experiencing the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that I’ve been blessed with.

Hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Dianne Hartsock

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Does Love Depend on Geography?

A new study conducted by researchers in New York and Moscow says that buying a house and falling in love have one big thing in common -- both are all about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.

The joint study was designed to explore a fascinating topic - whether love is a "universally uniform concept". It was performed by the USA's State University of New York at New Paltz and Russia's Moscow State University. 1157 adults from Russia, Lithuania and the good ole' USA were asked to respond to 14 different statements about love. The US and Russia were picked because we've traditionally been considered to be polar opposites of each other. Lithuania was selected to participate because the researchers thought it represented a mid-way point between American and Russian cultures.

The study found that Eastern Europeans and Americans fall in love differently and view romantic love in totally different ways. Eastern Europeans fall in love much faster than Americans - 90% of Lithuanians and Russians have fallen in love within a month and 39% of those fell in love within a few days. Most Americans, 58%, say that it took them between 2 months and a year to fall in love. So Europeans are more romantic, right?

Wrong. Eastern Europeans consider love to be a temporary and unimportant state. They fall in fast, but they also fall out of love fast. And is that romantic? I think -- nyet.

"The idea that romantic love was temporary and inconsequential was frequently cited by Lithuanian and Russian informants, but not by U.S. informants," the researchers write in the journal Cross-Cultural Research. The Eastern Europe participants also referred to romantic love as "a stage," "unreal" and a "fairytale."

All of the groups considered friendship to be real and enduring and all considered that friendship carries expectations of honesty, loyalty and comfort. However, only Americans considered that friendship and comfort were required attributes of romantic love. Participants were asked to write down all the things they associated with love. The word "friendship" is completely absent from the over 500 things listed by Europeans as relating to love. Yet "friendship" was in the top 3 for Americans, appearing in 27% of the responses.

Cultural differences may account for friendship being important to romantic love for Americans and irrelevant to it for Eastern Europeans. After all, Eastern Europe is much more of a patriarchal society. In Eastern Europe, men run things whereas America's Anglo-Saxon culture gives women much more of a voice. Viewed that way, it makes sense that in Eastern Europe men would look for friendship from men and in America men and women expect friendship from both sexes.

However, the cultures agreed on the most important aspect of romantic love. All listed togetherness or being together as number 1. It was ranked first by 38% of Americans, 45% of Lithuanians and 50% of Russians. One of the most fun parts of romantic love - sex- was ranked differently by each culture - #2 for Russians, #7 for Americans and #9 for Lithuanians.

Here's how those lists of things associated with love broke down:


  1. Being together 50%

  2. Joy 20%

  3. Walk 17.5%

  4. Emotional upsurge 17.5%

  5. Happy 16.25%

  6. Kiss 15%

  7. Do things together 11.25%

  8. Temporary 11.25%

  9. Sex 11.25%

  10. Attention 10%

  11. Love talk 10%

  12. Surprise 10%

  13. Passion 8.75%

  14. Cinema 8.75%

  15. Travel 8.75%

  16. Tender 8.75%

  17. Attachment 8.75%

  18. Holding hands 8.75%


  1. Being together 45%

  2. Sex 25%

  3. Walking 24%

  4. Unreal 20%

  5. Beach/sea 19%

  6. Joyful 16%

  7. Travel 15%

  8. Moon stars 15%

  9. Candelight dinner 13%

  10. Night 11%

  11. Kiss 10%

  12. Talking 10%

  13. Fairytale 9%

  14. Delusion 9%

  15. Crazy 8%

  16. Holding hands 6%


  1. Being Together 38%

  2. Happy 35%

  3. Friendship 27%

  4. Mutual 20%

  5. Care 13%

  6. Love 13%

  7. Sex 13%

  8. Comfortable 11%

  9. Connection 10%

  10. Secure 10%

  11. Do Anything 10%

  12. Trust 9%

  13. Commitment 9%

  14. Gifts 8%

Researchers concluded that "for Eastern Europeans one will find less support by friends and family for those who have lost at love, there will be less of a discourse of betrayal, and also that the spurned lover recovers psychologically much quicker with fewer psychic wounds (however measured) than their American counterparts."

My take on all this? If romantic love is madness, then the Crazy Duck Lady is in the "write" business. :)

How about y'all - what things do you consider most important to romantic love or what activities or aspects do you most associate with romantic love?

Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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Photo credits:

Kinky Lenin

Fiddling Lithuanian woman

Hot American flag guy

Thursday, December 15, 2011

See a Photo and Tell Me Your Tale Contest!'s the season to be jolly...and have fun!
Contest: Win a $15.00 Godiva Chocolates gift card!
Contest ends midnight EST 20 December.

How  to enter and win?

Check out this photo.  It says, "While shopping for your Christmas present..." and GUESS WHAT? YOU have to finish the tale in just a paragraph!

So instead of leaving a comment, leave a paragraph! Be sure to put your email address in the comment box with your paragraph.

Remember: Just one paragraph to write your amusing tale about this photo!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Blue Cats

Happy Holidays!

This year I'm celebrating the friendship of these two gorgeous but very different purebred "blue" cats that are sharing our home.

Some of you may have seen my Blue before. He's my baby...a delicate looking Russian Blue who's the undisputed king of the house. Seven years old this year, he's been an only cat for five of those years.

Now, though, he has a partner in crime. LoverDog (LD for short) is a huge nine year old Chartreaux my human baby brought with him when he moved back home last month. Bounced around in recent years from one home to another, LD endured an airline journey stuffed into a crate that fits under plane seats with his human--this one who has vowed they'll be together as long as they both survive.

Mind you, LD outweighs Blue by more than ten pounds. For the first week or so, Blue was intimidated by all that bulk, taking refuge under the covers of my bed for long, solitary naps. Little by little, though, curiosity got the better of him and he started slithering out, looking and hissing at his new best friend. LD took it all in stride.

Soon they were sniffing and chasing each other, the best of buds who now share two separate litter boxes as well as each other's food and treats. They're enjoying the "cat company", or at least it seems they are...and we're all enjoying our two blue babies as we get ready to celebrate the holidays together.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza or whatever day is special to you...and a wonderful, prosperous 2012!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Books for Christmas!

I'm an author, so books are always on my mind. I'm also a reader -- a voracious one who reads in multiple genres. Most of my friends and some of my family also read like crazy, so this year when I thought of presents and then thought about my poor wallet, I decided to make my gifts do double duty: I'm buying books -- they make great gifts AND I'm supporting an author.

I'm staying away from the NYT Bestsellers. My friends and family will have heard of those on their own. I'm trying to stick with small press and indie authors who need our support. Thankfully, in my work running tours with Goddess Fish Promotions, I've come in contact with hundreds of authors I wouldn't have otherwise heard of. And it's opening a whole new door for me.

I've gone on a search. Smashwords is one of the best places to look for small press and indie authors. And, many of those folks offer their eBooks at a super low price (many times as low as $0.99), so if I find something that looks just right for a friend ("Fezariu's Epiphany" by David M. Brown for the fantasy lover, "Brainstorm" by Gordon Kessler for the thriller lover, or "Farsighted" by Emlyn Chand for the YA lover for instance) I can buy the eBook and read it to make sure it's a good book. Most of my friends and family don't own eReaders, so I buy print.

And here's the neatest thing about indie authors. With some exceptions (David M. Brown lives across the pond, for instance, so it's cost prohibitive) they're more than happy to personally autograph a book and send it to you.

I suppose I could just buy a gift card to Barnes and Noble and send it, but I love that I'm able to use my knowledge of the small press / indie market to help them discover new authors they might not have found otherwise.

So, yes... it's books for Christmas this year! I've found a way to make my dollar do double duty.

What are some small press and indie author books you can recommend to me in all categories? Not just romance, but mystery, YA and more?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dramatic License

Oh. Hello. I didn’t see you come in. I’m afraid I’ve been preoccupied lately. Deadline, you know. The new book, The Opening Night Murdre, is due on January 1, and it still needs about twenty thousand words. So I’ll be spending every spare moment (and some stolen from other things) getting this new manuscript in proper shape. Blogging just ain’t a-gonna happen today.

However, I do have something to offer. The new book is an historical mystery that begins with a Declaration of Dramatic License. See it below, and see what you think:

Declaration of Dramatic License

In my associations with my fellow authors, often I’m drawn into debate about the moral obligation of historical fiction writers to be true to historical fact. I think most people agree that accuracy is desired, at least so far as the commonly known facts are concerned. I don’t know any writer of historical fiction who doesn’t claim at least due diligence in their research. But some feel that reading one general history is plenty, while some are trained historians who bring to bear years of studying primary sources. Several authors I know claim their stories never deviate from history by so much as a single word or thought. Anything less, they say, is Untruth and perpetuates Confusion among the uneducated and ill-read masses.

They all lie.

I agree that unless one is deliberately and openly writing what is called “alternate history” one should stick as close to the known facts as humanly possible. Hollywood often makes us groan and fidget to see, for instance, William Wallace in a kilt or Jane Grey dewy-eyed and in love with the puppet-king husband foisted on her by her father. Or Mary I fat and ugly, and therefore evil and wrong. Or a svelte Henry VIII with a buzz cut and bedroom eyes. I could go on, but I’m sure Gentle Reader knows what I mean. Hollywood often gets it wrong, and we’ve learned to accept that. But we expect better from literature. We desire accuracy in print.

However, in any work of historical fiction there is a level of detail at which known fact fails us and the drama must be served. It is impossible to know exactly what was said or done in private chambers long ago, and even more difficult to know the inner thoughts of the people whose stories the author is trying to tell. At some point in the narrative one must start making things up.

Storytelling is the glue that makes sense out of random facts. One does one’s best to keep the conjecture to a minimum, and to stay within reasonable limits of plausibility, but there is no getting away from the fact that one’s job is to fill in blanks left by historical documents that tell only a fraction of what went on.
The Opening Night Murdre is a work of fiction, set in an historical period. To avoid being chained to the well-known history of either the King’s Company or the Duke’s Men, ordinarily I would have invented a fictional theatre to house my fictional troupe and fictional characters for my story. But then I still would have had to place it on an actual London street where no theatre existed. I might even have placed it on the spot where the Globe had stood, and called it something else. No matter how hard one tries, there’s always the line where fact butts up against fiction.

So why not use Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, located near what is now Porter Street in the Southwark district of London? Unfortunately, that theatre was torn down in 1644, sixteen years before our story opens.

However, this is fiction. If I can invent a theatre and place it on a spot where no theatre actually stood in 1660, then why not simply resurrect the Old Globe and put it where it was originally?

Further, with only a little hand-waving, why not let this fictional troupe of actors perform Shakespeare’s plays even though the two royal theatres were granted a monopoly on “serious” dramas? It’s true that the King’s Company and the Duke’s Men were given patents and Shakespeare’s works divided between them, and lesser companies were limited to older forms of comedy, mummeries and mime. But it is also true that one reason for the patents given to the King’s and the Duke’s companies was to control new playwrights who might satirize the king. So my fictional troupe has been given fictional permission to perform the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, which could not ever be about the current regime.

Although it is my sincere wish not to annoy my Gentle Reader, who might cry, “But no! That didn’t happen!” I reply, “Of course it didn’t happen. In the words of another great playwright, Oscar Wilde, That’s what fiction means.”

Anne Rutherford
December, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Editing: A love/hate relationship

I'm going to discuss my favorite topic—editing. Seriously, it's my least favorite. When an editor returns a manuscript and those bubbles fill the side of the page, I cringe. What was I thinking? What did I do? What isn't clear? Oops, forgot a word. Scrolling on, the pages with no comments allow me to breathe easier. All in all, the revisions improve the manuscript. Make it shine. I love to see the final version. So why do I detest the task of editing so much?

I'll tell you why. It's not that I'm close to my work, as if it were my "baby". Hell no. I can change a scene or take something out without a second thought. That doesn't bother me. What brings me down with edits is the time involved and the whole rethinking process to make sure everything runs smooth. It's a time consuming task, and quite frankly, I'd rather be writing. Edits always come through when I'm in the middle of another project. Not the editor's fault. That's just the way the world spins. So, I'm having to put aside the project I'm happily working on to revise the last book or the one from a year ago. Naturally, I don't want to do it. (The kid in me is coming out.)

After several deep breaths, I remind myself the finished product will be good. It always is. Not to mention, edits are part of the "writing process". I learn from my mistakes, which means I apply what I've learned to future projects, which should reduce the amount of edits. One day. I hope. LOL.

Bottom line, it's good to have an editor and to revise a manuscript. Although I'm not fond of the task of editing, I would never publish without an editor reviewing my work. The time spent revising is well worth it. I deeply appreciate editors for taking their time to read and make comments (sometimes four times). After all, they have the difficult part of the "publication journey". Writers spill the beans and editors grab the mop and point where to clean. Their job is not one I'd want, but I totally respect and appreciate, even if I'm the one cleaning up the mess. LOL. The finished product always shines, and that is what we all want.

My urban fantasy novel, The Awakening, comes out next month (January 2012). Here's the blurb:

Two investigators--one human, one vampire--find a young woman among a mass of dead bodies. She has no memories, and nothing but her clothes, two receipts, and a mysterious dagger carved with the initials 'SB'.

As she seeks her identity, SB realizes she's unlike any other creature in the world, making her the most valuable person on the planet. And the most wanted.

I have 4 other books published. They are paranormal/urban fantasy romances. The Soul Catcher series includes:

Claiming the Evil Dead
Catching an Evil Tail
Fighting Evil
Love Conquers All Evil

Available from Noble Romance Publishing, Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, and more.

Happy Holidays!!

Mary Abshire
Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy Author

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Map your Rout or Fly into the Mist

December 2011
This is often a hot topic for writers, so I should just say, this is just my take on this subject.
I am a pantser. A flyer into the mist, as Jo Beverly says. I have tried to be a plotter. I did plot a complete book once, but I never even started writing it, or at least I had the first page done when I started plotting according to some grand scheme or other, and that is where it sits two years later. I was bored knowing how it all unfolded.
I have to keep going back to my mantra. Every writer is different. What works for one does not work for another.
Then why this article I hear you ask. Or is that me asking? Why bother? Well, to be honest, I just can’t help thinking about this stuff.
Here’s the thing – story is story. The art of writing story is as old as pictographs. There are certain things stories should have – at least in genre fiction. Certain peaks and valleys every story must touch. We’ve all taken the workshops, we all understand the concepts and the need for structure if you want readers to turn the pages. Hero’s journey, W plotting, three act structure, six stage structure,  any advance on six — do I hear a 9? All great, by the way. Great. Helpful. Wonderful that writers have taken the time to offer these tools to other writers.

As far as I can figure it out, what a pantser does (no no there I go generalizing again) what I do, is go back and make sure the story hits the highs and lows required once the draft is done.

These are the questions I ask myself. What are my goals motivations and conflicts for the happy couple? Yes by this time they are the happy couple. Are they clear to the reader and not just in my head?
Where are my turning points? Did I take too long to get there? – thus losing tension along the way.
Is the black moment black enough? Is it driven by the romance or the external plot? Does it work?
Coming in January from Harlequin Historicals
For me, the key scene by scene test  is as follows:
What changed? Who is worse off now than at the beginning of the scene? If no one is, then it needs fixing. Could something even worse have happened? How does it tie back to their goal, their worst fear or their conflict. Is what they have decided to do next reasonable and does it lead to yet more conflict?
Are the motivations clear to the reader? In that particular scene, not the whole book.  Whatever the character does, is it clear why the character does it? And the answer cannot be that the plot requires that they do that. If the plot requires an unarmed woman to go into a dark basement for no good reason, the reader will not buy it.

Without plotting the book, don’t you go off track?  That is a plotter asking, of course.
The answer is. Yes. Terribly. The last book I handed in, well I just never did get hold of that sucker by the date it was due.  And that’s where your editor and/or your critique group can help.  And that is why you need to go back and use the tools in your toolbelt  to polish and sand and rub.  Or at least I do. And I did. Hopefully it turned out much better.
Well that was fun. My guess is there are all kinds of writers out there in addition to Plotters and Pansters, for example:
February 2012  
Pl-antsers   -    they pants a bit and plot a bit, then pants a bit more then plot ….
Plo-sters    -    They get an outline going through to the end then fly off the cliff, catching the odd tree branch
                       they planted on the way down, then leap again
Palonstters -     who knows what they do, but they do it well
I wish to every success no matter how you spell what you are.

At the end of the day, it is the story that really matters to readers.  But as I said, this is often a hot topic.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Special Kind of Christmas

My family is doing something a bit different this holiday season. We're all pretty much convinced we don't need anything else. Presents are lovely, especially when given with thoughtfulness and care, but though things could be better we're all doing okay this season. For the most part we're foregoing gifts, and like I told my grandma, "you're still with us. That's all the gift I need." In our house, we're doing homemade gifts. My partner, an artist (You can see his work here) is going to take some photographs he took and help me turn them into a background for my bearded dragon's home. (It's 4' x 2', and I'd like to decorate it a bit more to look more natural.) I'm building him a website. But, for other family members, I'm making gifts.

And surprisingly, my partner and I were talking about it, and this holiday season is far more special than others have been, precisely because we're giving of our time and our energy. I'm going to bake cookies like a fiend, starting this weekend, probably. And I have a pattern for a homemade heating pad (filled with white rice) that I'm going to make out of funky and cute flannel patterns to give to my family members. (Got to love the remnant bin at the local fabric store.) (PS - Don't worry they don't have the internet, so they won't know what I'm giving them. Shhhh!)

In fact, in spite of all the work I have ahead of me, I'm looking forward to this holiday season. So I just wanted to stop by, wish you all the most joyous December, and I hope you all get exactly what you wish for this holiday season.

Now, I have some baking to do....

(You can learn more about the book above, a cute novella loosely based on our own experiences with a formerly feral kitten here:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What a week!

AmazonThis month I'm not writing about anything to do with writing. I'm ranting.
This has been one aggravating week. Husband decided he wanted Netflex. That sounds easy, right? Grrrrrr. It is easy if you want to stream down to your computer. If you want to stream to your TV, well, just find the right directions. Netflex says buy one of three devices. We don't play games so I sent him off to buy a blueray, wireless built in. OMG! He ended up paying three times as much for the built in rather than one and an adapter, brings it home to me and disassociated himself from the process. I spent three days fighting my way through the connect process, starting with press the DPS button on your router. Sure after you tell me what a DPS button is. After I dug it out from behind the desktop, there wasn't any buttons on my router that I could see and nothing was marked with a DPS. That meant I had to find the software for the router, fire it up on the desktop in the other room, run back and forth comparing DPS WPA, SSIN and several other combinations of letters to find out what security system I have on the router, how to disable it in order for it to allow the blueray to connect. It took two days of working on it, quitting when I wanted to stomp on it, calming down, thinking about it, working on it, trying something different, etc. The second day I connected. Hoorah! Then the device tells me to go online, type in a code when prompted to activate it, and--there's no place to type in a code and no prompt to do so. Why, because they failed to tell me I had to register the blankety blank thing first. Another couple of hours of being sent to places online that didn't have what they sent me there to do before I finally happened across where I needed to be to register. Now back to trying to connect with Netflex on the devices confusing menu. Click and the device tells me I have to download update software for the device before I can. After waiting and waiting and waiting for the download to finish, a new message comes on telling me the signal was interrupted. I quit, start again, quit, moving the router, moving the device, etc, trying to find a stronger signal. Didn't happen. Every time I tried again, wait awhile then get the same message. The router manufacturer is willing to sell me a boaster system guaranteed to carry the signal to every room, just $200. No way. So frustrated beyond belief by the third day I go online to Dish, who have been advertising Blockbuster through their box. They have a boaster, 25 bucks, but you have to order online and have it shipped. He doesn't want to wait that long. Thinking a WiFi BB Connector is a WiFi BB Connector, I sent him off to the electronics store to return the blueray and wrote down not only WiFi BB Connector, but the brand name. He comes home with something five times as much and not wireless. Aghhhhh. So I took it back, cornered a geek, found out a WiFi BB Connector is really a signal boaster. Sigh. I really don't want to know all this stuff. I'm not even the one that wants Blockbuster or Netflex, and why he does when he hardly ever watches movies anyway is beyond me, but now I'm challenged. Oh, the boaster the geek wanted to sell me was three times as much and while I'm standing there I noticed a smaller thing that I'd seen on Dish's list of accessories.
So I ask, ”What is that?”
He says, “That's a receiver.
So I ask, “If I get a boaster and don't have a receiver is it even going to work?”
He says, "I don't know. We don't sell Dish here so I'm not familiar with it."
I say, "I'm not going to buy anything until I find out."
Okay, back online. Yes, you do need a receiver and without it, even if you have a boaster you ain't getting a thing. I have to add that I have a receiver that I bought for an older computer and I'm thinking if I went through all of this crap for days and have what I needed at home the whole time--well, the humor of the irony escapes me. It didn't work. It's a couple of years old, so this time, instead of getting in the car and driving 40 miles. Back online to get the manufacturers name of the receiver Dish sells. Ain't none. Call Dish distributors. Since it was a Saturday, only one answered. He doesn't have one in stock and really can't tell me anything because he doesn't do that part of it, but he does know Dish ‘sometimes’ makes their own and sells them so no one can go to the store and buy one easily. By now I'm so tired of it, I'm not even cussing. I just went online and ordered the damn thing. So after days of fighting incompetent, vague, and confusing directions and feeling like an idiot, the first question you know who asks is, "How long is it going to take to get here?"
I almost cussed again. ALL of the crap was because he didn't want to hardwire from my router to the box to start with. MEN!
But then when the new thingy gets here and a friend stops by while the husband is punching a hole in the wall to get the receiver (on an extension) closer to the router because there’s no way now I’m going to spend more on getting this setup—whew, long winded sentence—I make the comment or started to about why he even wanted it. He gives me that look and says, “I’m doing it for you.”
Yep, that shut me up. While thinking, You should have asked if I wanted it, which I very discreetly did not say, I couldn’t help feeling touched that he wanted to do something nice for me.
So, is this story over? Nope. With the hole on the other side of the wall, Dish receives just fine. That was when we discovered the deal with Blockbuster is a little different than Netflex through blueray. I kept wondering why Dish was being so generous, offering a way to get movies through their box for free instead of their pay for view. Well, golly, gee, not fine print, but pay attention to the wording. Blockbuster ‘rents’ the movies to you through Dish. If you want the unlimited number the monthly membership pays for, it’s on the computer or by mail. Now we have a receiver with nothing to receive, and I’m watching for a good blueray on sale, wireless not built in, hoping the otherwise useless receiver isn’t Dish restricted and the new blueray speaks in English instead of letters.
Larriane AKA Larion Wills, two names one author, thousands of stories

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Monday, November 28, 2011


My poor overworked computer contains a motherboard which is currently circling the drain. *sniff* So I've spent a great deal of time double checking my backup system. In the process I came across a document I may or may not have written but I really liked what it said so I'm going to post it here as an inspiration holiday survival piece.

A time comes in your life when you finally get it.....When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out - ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on. And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world through new eyes. This is your awakening.

You realize that it's time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change… or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that he is not Prince Charming and you are not Cinderella and that in the real world there aren't always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of "happily ever after" must begin with you - and in the process a sense of serenity is born of this acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are.. and that's OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions. You learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say, and that not everyone will always be there for you, and that it's not always about you.

And you begin to sift through all the crap you've been fed about how you should behave; how you should look and how much you should weigh; what you should wear and where you should shop; and what you should drive; how and where you should live; and what you should do for a living; who you should sleep with, who you should marry, and what you should expect of a marriage; the importance of having and raising children; or what you owe your parents.

You learn that it is truly in giving that we receive. And that there is power and glory in creating and contributing - and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a "consumer" looking for your next fix. You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don't know everything, it's not your job to save the world and that you can't teach a pig to sing.

You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. Romantic love and familial love. How to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving and when to walk away. You learn not to project your needs or your feelings onto a relationship. You learn that you will not be more beautiful, more intelligent, more lovable or important because of the man on your arm or the child that bears your name. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn that just as people grow and change so it is with love...and you learn that you don't have the right to demand love on your terms...just to make you happy.

And, you learn that alone does not mean lonely.

And you look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that you will never be a size 5 or a perfect 10 and you stop trying to compete with the image inside your head and agonizing over how you "stack up." You come to the realization that you deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity and respect and you won't settle for less. And, you allow only the hands of a lover who cherishes you to glorify you with his touch...and in the process you internalize the meaning of self-respect.

And you learn that your body really is your temple.

And you begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin eating a balanced diet, drinking more water and taking more time to exercise. You learn that fatigue diminishes the spirit and can create doubt and fear. So you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that for the most part, in life you get what you believe you deserve...and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different from working toward making it happen. More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You also learn that no one can do it all alone and that it's OK to risk asking for help. You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom. You learn that life isn't always fair, you don't always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people. On these occasions you learn not to personalize things. You learn that God isn't punishing you or failing to answer you prayers. It's just life happening.

And you learn to deal with evil in its most primal state-the ego.

You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to try building bridges instead of walls.

You learn to be thankful and take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about; a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and to make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never ever settle for less than you heart's desire. And you hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind. And you make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath and you begin to design the life you want to live as best you can.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tips and Tricks...

This month's blog is on hyperlinks. Hyperwhat? Hyperlinks...those little blue underlined words you see in the middle of articles that when clicked, link you to other places on the web.

So? What about them?

I'll tell you...

If they end up attached to your manuscript, even in a hidden, innocuous way, they will wreak havoc in your digital formatting.

Like a parasite, they attach themselves to words or phrases in your manuscript, and you most likely won't realize it until it's too late. Trust me...I just went through the nightmare of cleaning up the mess they can cause.

If you're like most writers today, you use the internet to do research. You look up facts, double and triple check the sources, order books on historical topics or locations...all with the aim of giving your readers the most factually correct information you can within the fiction you create. This is where a hyperlink can attach itself without your even knowing it. All it takes is one cut and paste. It can be something as simple as cutting and pasting the proper name of a place or historical person, (even if it's just for the correct spelling), and BAM! Hyperlink. The source text doesn't even have to be blue...or underlined, to contain a hyperlink. That's what makes them so hard to catch.

So, what can they do to your manuscript?

How about missing words or even missing blocks of text, for one. In my manuscript, the entire second half of my book ended up underlined. The hyperlink was attached to the name of a town in Spain that I had gotten from a source article. One word caused a tremendous amount of trouble, and the problem wasn't detected until a reader emailed me. Even the master digital copy my publisher had didn't show the problems. It wasn't until the digital file was converted for Kindle and Nook that the problems became visible.

Needless to say, the hyperlink had embedded itself in the last half of the document, three layers deep. It took days of line by line reformatting to fix.

I have since emailed Microsoft, and found that removing a hyperlink when the manuscript is still in word format is the easiest way to handle things. Select all and hit CTRL+SHIFT+F9 and that should remove all hidden hyperlinks from your document.

I'm not sure how well that works, but I do know one thing. I will NEVER cut and paste a proper name from the Web...or anything else for that matter...again.

Readers are hard enough to come by and keep, without adding to things.

I hope this post helps some other unsuspecting author from making the same mistake I made.

All the best,
Marianne Morea

Hunter's Blood
Blood Legacy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Holiday Treat

When I think of the holidays, I think of family. I also think of food--special, holiday treats that are only made once a year. Treats like Strufoli--an Italian dessert that makes it easy for you to lick your fingers!

My 2005 EPPIE Award Finalist for Best Historical Romance, THE CONTRARY CONTESSA, also focuses on family and food. And strufoli! One of the characters, Zia Concetta, often makes young Emma’s favorite dessert as a bribe for good behavior. Try this family favorite recipe and you’ll be on your best behavior, too!

Zia Concetta’s Delicious Strufoli Recipe

Ingredients: 4 cups flour, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 ounces cooking oil, 4 tablespoons brandy or whiskey, 4 teaspoons lemon extract, 6 eggs, honey, tiny multicolored balls-“sprinkles”. Also, oil for frying.

* Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well.
* Pour in oil, whiskey, and extract.
* Break eggs in well.
* Stir together and knead until mixed.
* Roll into a long rope and cut into small pieces.
* Dip in deep hot oil and fry until golden brown.
* Cool. Pour heated honey over balls until coated.
* Dip in deep hot oil and fry until golden brown.
* Cool. Pour heated honey over balls until coated.
* Stir and sprinkle with “sprinkles.”

Pride And Prejudice: Because of the Sicilian tradition of “Fortuna”, Lexia Cappello believes she is destined to marry her stepbrother, the Marquess of Rutherford. Robert Weston, however, has a ready dislike of anything or anyone non-English. Can she convince this obstinate lord that his ignoble prejudice stands in the way of his future happiness?

All In The Family: At first Robert Weston is annoyed, then intrigued by his new-found Sicilian stepsister. The more he resists her, the more he finds he yearns to possess her. Can he overcome his pride to admit the error of his ways and win the Contrary Contessa’s heart?

Available electronically at:

Available in print at:

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from my house to yours!

Susanne Marie Knight <>
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!


Coming December: The Minx Tobin Mystery Series: The Yuletide Yorkshire--Case Five (Desert Breeze Publishing)

Minx finds something unexpected under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, it wasn’t left by Santa.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Fun of my first Book Signing!

I had my very first book signing EVER this past Saturday for my paranormal/thriller ALEX. And let me tell you, it was an amazing experience! Not so much in the sales area, though I sold a few copies and ran out of flyers. But it was the interaction with other authors and readers that made it such a wonderful experience.

The two authors seated nearest me were both self-published, so it was very interesting to compare our publication experiences. There are pros and cons to both ways, but when it comes right down to it, I’m very thankful to have been accepted and published through Solstice Publishing. My book came out beautifully and I don’t have the frustration and anxiety my companions do.

I had attended the Oregon Book and Author Fair in Central Point with over fifty other authors. The turn out for the event was nice, but what made my day was meeting fans of the paranormal genre. Especially one fan in particular. She’d won a copy of my short ghost story ‘Trials of a Lonely Specter’ and seemed to really enjoy it. When I found out she lived in Oregon I invited her to the festival.

And she came! Now, I know most of you have oodles of books out there and tons of fans, but ALEX is my first, and this is my first true-to-life fan, who not only promotes online for me, but took the time out of her busy life to come and meet me, buy my book, and have me sign it. Such a satisfying feeling for me, as an author. And she took flyers of my book to pass out to her friends! What more could a brand-spanking new author want?

Also, I got to meet the very talented Solstice author, Verna Clay. Such a darling! I’ve been enjoying her stories through ‘Six Sentence Sunday’ and excerpts on her blog. It was a privilege to meet her in person and I now have a signed copy from her Shapeling Trilogy, ‘Roth, Book One: Protector’.

All in all, it was a wholly satisfying weekend and I’m looking forward to my next signing, December 2nd, at the Borders Bookstore during Newberg’s First Friday Artwalk.


Alex is the paranormal/suspense novel of a young psychic living in a small town in Colorado. Tortured by visions of death and murder, Alex is trying to hold on to his sanity in a world that doesn’t understand him.

Dianne Hartsock

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fearing Rejection

I recently read an article on "fear of rejection". The writer focused on how to overcome rejection in a social situation. I read every word and found myself quaking in my shoes, just contemplating doing a few of the things she suggested.

Since I have a fear of meeting new people and making a total fool of myself, I wanted to panic, bury my head in a drawer of old mismatched socks and ignore any of the suggestions she made. But something held me back. Something spoke to me. Something beyond the need to break out of my self-imposed shell.

This writer could have been talking about my writing as easily as she was talking about getting a social life. What about you? Do you have the same fears?

How often do you avoid writing? Maybe you tell yourself you just don't have time to write. Do you feel writing the story that lingers in your mind, whispering to you late at night, is useless? Nobody would want to read your work. Or maybe you don't see yourself as having the talent, the gift of writing. You know, like all those successful writers. Do you feel hopeless, as if writing is a waste time? Do you waver back and forth about pursuing your dream of being published?

You are not alone.

Seriously, you are suffering these fears with the masses. Every writer out there (okay, there may be ONE writer out there, who has never experienced this fear, not likely though) spends hours, days, weeks, even years in fear of what others will think of their work. The difference between many of them and many of us is that they willing face that fear head on. They write through the fear. On top of that, they are willing to send their work out for other writers to critique and submit to editors for possible publication. You need to adjust to this way of thinking.

Do you want to face your fears? Do you want that story out of your head and down on paper? Do you want to be published?

Only you can make the decision to go forward. You don't have to do it alone, though.

1. Step out of your comfort zone--take a chance.

2. If you are not part of a critique group, join one.

3. Look for a mentor--someone willing to listen to your fears. Let them push you past your fears.

4. Write a goal list, for your writing. As part of this list, add a section for failures achieved. Why? So that you can mark off everything you've learned along the way.

5. Look at writing as growing process. By changing your perspective of failure, you'll note that each lesson learned makes you stronger and more skilled as a writer, moving you one-step closer to achieving your dream.

6. ALWAYS, remember the difference between defeat and success is PERSERVERENCE.

Failing is not failure.

As Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

DeAnn Sicard

Thursday, November 17, 2011

So What If a Bodice Rips?

[This is a rewrite of a piece from my blog at the address that appears at the end of this post. I thought I'd share the thoughts here in the hope of getting a conversation started. Please read with the idea of commenting - whether you agree or disagree with me. Lots of folks disagree with me, but I think that's just proof that there are too many sane people out there.]

There are folks who pride themselves on being open-minded and accepting. I like to consider myself one of those folks. However, within the live and let live tribe, there are a bunch of members who only accept something if it meets their rules and regulations. They think they're open-minded but in reality, they're the opposite. These are people who only want to accept what they find acceptable. Yes, Virginia, I'm talking about card-carrying members of the PC Police. I'm gonna call 'em the PCP because I think the name fits. Lord knows they often act like they're high on something.

Too many of them are reader-come-latelys. Yeah, they might've been well-intentioned enough back when they started reading romance. But they hung around with the wrong crowd. They listened to the wrong sermons and soon enough, they started believing them. And the young PCP converts were tapped as missionaries - sent out to convert others and convince them that the only good romance, the only acceptable romance was new romance. Older romance was written in the wrong style with the wrong plot elements.

Yes, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers (guided by talented Avon Books editor Nancy Coffey) created a genre. It wasn't a genre where you might pick up a book on occasion and read it. It was a genre that compelled readers to buy another book so they could start it the second they finished the last. It was a genre that incited and inspired a generation of women.

Perhaps that was all very well - then. And those women who devoured romance novels like Christmas candy? Well, they didn't know any better. Besides, Woodiwiss and Rogers and the writers who learned from them were all the readers had. But this is a new day. There are a horde of writers who've learned the rules and write the proper stuff. If a writer is tempted to wander off the true path -- she'd better not. The PC Police will get her.

Do they have an APB out for me yet?

If they don't they'd better issue one because I'm about to lay some truth on the readers of this blog. It's the kind of truth that clears the system of the Kool-Aid that writers and editors and publishers of the PCP have been force-feeding readers for far too long. It's an earth-shattering, life-altering truth. Are you ready?

Despite the PC Police, there are still writers who cut their teeth as readers of the groundbreaking work by Woodiwiss and Rogers. Some of us discovered those books at local libraries, long after they'd been published. And some of us love them still.

The work that incited a new genre and inspired a generation can do the same again. The style and plot elements of a Woodiwiss or Rogers romance have been declared incorrect and offensive by the PCP. But I understand the power of a good mind trip and I believe that many readers, like me, read romance in order to get inside the heads and the hearts of the hero and heroine.

Those who decide such things have decided that writers must show, not tell. Well, I am an indie writer who is proud to claim the traditions of writers who created our genre. One benefit - and it's a big one - of being an indie is that the one who decides such things with my books is me. And I've decided that if writers want to stop this generation from putting down a book to watch a TV Show or movie, they'd better show AND tell. Because if we're just showing - well TV does that better, so do movies, YouTube, video games and any other visual medium. A writer's medium is words and when they're done well they shouldn't just conjure images, they should conjure emotions.

To paraphrase The Duke of Eden - writers had better show and tell or (continue) to say fare thee well to our readers. Romance grew into the blockbuster genre because our readers preferred to be reading a love story than doing most anything else. And that was back in the day when the only real distractions from reading were TV and movies. Today the internet, which has opened the doors to careers for indie writers like me, has also opened the floodgates to a world of distraction.

If we want to do more than cater to readers who pick up our books sometimes - when they have time, then we better forget the Kool Aid and offer the wine. Readers can pick and choose their entertainment with YouTube and become part of it with Twitter. If we want to inspire a new generation so much that they turn away from other entertainment, then we'd better learn an old lesson. What created our genre was writing that carried readers into the minds of the characters and made the readers part of the story. After all, telling lets readers come backstage. When a writer shows AND tells we know what characters are saying and we see what they're doing but we also know what they're thinking and feeling and why they're thinking and feeling those things.

Even if we bring back show and tell writing, given the excitement level of the other distractions, we won't engage the readers enough unless we throw out all the misrule of the PC Police. And that means that even the Holy Grail of the PC Police must be breached. SO WHAT IF A BODICE RIPS? Let's rip some trouser inseams too.

No, I'm not advocating rape. What I am advocating is that we stop throwing the baby out with the bath water. There's a world of difference between some use of coercion or even force and rape. There is both dark fascination and universal appeal to situations where desire is inspired against our will, against common sense, even against our morals. They may be presented straight up involving the hero using his superior strength to prove to the heroine that the desire is mutual. Usually, in a Woodiwiss book, that got answered by the heroine using her superior wits to show the hero that the love was mutual as well. The dark side of desire may be presented as a joke, like I did in A Faerie Fated Forever. It may show up in a shoe is on the other foot fashion (involving the hero) as in A Golden Forever.

The dark side of desire may also show up in a dozen different ways. And, yes, bodices may be ripped. But it worked in early romance because those writers carried the reader inside the heads and hearts of the character. It would never, ever, work where writers are only showing.

To all the writers, I'd suggest that we lock up the PC Police and learn to be as smart as our readers. It's harder to mind hop, heart hop and soul hop but doing it well opens the keys to all the cages. Doing it well means that nothing is off limits.

So, there you have it. I've advocated the end of "Show, Don't Tell" and a return to the era of ripped clothing and no holds barred enticement - even if force or coercion is involved. I'm sure the PC Police have an APB out for me now.

On second thought, they've probably skipped the nicety of getting legal process. I bet they've given a shoot on sight order. I'll have to pull out the heavy ammunition. Yes, when the PC Police show up and draw their guns I'll have to........... have to............ rip my bodice. They'll faint dead away and I'll skip right off into the sunset -- but I'll take my readers with me, right inside my devious little brain.

TO THE BLOG READERS - Are you ready for a return to show and tell writing? Would you pass out from shock if a bodice ripped? Comment at will - even if it's to assess the insanity of the Crazy Duck Lady. (Lord knows, many have tried.)

Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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Image credits, in order of appearance:
Hippie ducks
Flame & Flower cover
Sweet Savage Love cover
No Kool Aid
PC Police