Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas

I had great plans to write a poignant yet humorous post for Christmas. Alas, time ran away from me, and I am left with just enough time to type up a quick note.

May you have a very merry Christmas filled with love, joy, laughter, family and good food. May the joy and love of Christmas carry through the end of this year and into the next and fill your house and life with love, joy, laughter, blessings, peace, and prosperity.

Monday, 24 December 2012

What type of shopper are you?

As I shopped with my mother over the weekend, I realized the two of us are different types of shoppers. As much as I love my mom, as shoppers, we are not compatible. (G) There are six types of shoppers: Extractors, Browsers, Consensus Takers, and combinations of all three.

What is an Extractor? What are the "symptoms," as it were? (Is shopping a disease? It depends on whom you talk to.) An extractor does the following things:

  1. Prepares a list
  2. Knows exactly where they are going and where to find the items on their list
  3. Gathers everything as quickly as possible
  4. Purchases only what is on their list
  5. Gets the hell out of Dodge

Now, I must admit to occasionally buying more than what is on my list and--gasp--even browsing, especially when I'm hungry. (A very bad time to go grocery shopping is when I'm hungry. Grin) However, most of the time, I am an Extractor. I'm in and out as quickly as possible.

Browsers, on the other hand, exhibit the following symptoms:

  1. They keep a mental list in their head
  2. They go to the store
  3. They find one item on that mental list, but they are distracted by all the choices and must go up and down every single fucking aisle in the entire store until the Extractor who is with them is ready to kill somebody. (Pant, pant)
  4. Two and a half hours later, they are ready to stand in line at the grocery store
  5. They pay for their items, but just as they leave, they see something else they must have. By this time, the Extractor has filed their nails to a point and can be found climbing the walls and possibly hanging onto the ceiling. Their eyes have turned feral, and they are nearly hyperventilating with frustration.

Consensus Takers:

  1. They go with a list, but must consult with someone else, usually everyone who is with them, before buying. If no one is with them, they will call someone to confer. If they can't get a hold of anyone, they will ask fellow shoppers. They are often convinced by people with samples to buy their products.
  2. They will return home with a lot of shit they didn't need, much to the irritation of an Extractor.

Now, to be fair, even Extractors impulse buy from samples. (G)

The other three... Well, the thought of them gives me a nervous tic. I'll let you combine the symptoms for yourself.

My mother sees herself as an Extractor. She is not. Not remotely. She does write a list. She'll buy everything on that list, but she will also browse, AND she will try to reel you into her shopping madness by using the Consensus Taker ploy of asking your opinion. (Aaaaahhhhh!) Honestly, she means well. She wants to please, and I do appreciate that. And I have no desire to spend four hours grocery shopping. (Twitch... Twitch... Twitch...) LOL I am sure it is just as hard on her as me. Finally, at the third store and three hours later, I returned to the car where I started typing this post with my thumbs on my phone. (I am not kidding. LOL)

As I've said, I love my mother. We just aren't compatible when it comes to shopping. I think she enjoys shopping, any kind of shopping. To me, most of the time, it's just a means to an end. Oh, I enjoy finding that perfect gift. I just like to find it sooner rather than later. (G)

Did I mention Charlie, my husband, is the same as my mother? Imagine our trips to Costco. Hahahahahaha... Groan... It's one of my least favorite monthly shopping trips. (G) He loves it and can't wait to go down every aisle and try every sample. Oh, God, deliver me! ;)

So, what's your shopping MO? And are your loved ones compatible or incompatible like mine? (G)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Everything I Ever Needed To Know, I Learned On Chopped

**Welcome, Camryn Rhys!**

Whether you watch Top Chef, or The Next Iron Chef, or Chopped, if you watch competitive cooking shows, first of all, you are a smart person. Cooking competition shows are the best of all things: reality TV, cooking show, competition. Not only is it addictive, but it is a microcosm of life.

What you see in competitive cooking is the absolute essence of humanity. You've got your Girl Who's In Over Her Head. This girl has low self-esteem, she talks negatively about herself, she doesn't believe in her own food, she makes excuses, and then she wonders why she's not winning. She shows flashes of genuine brilliance, but those flashes are covered up quickly by an almost uncanny fear of success. 

Then, you've got your Playboy Jerk Who Thinks He's God's Gift. He might be European, he's certainly single, he flirts with everything, he wears shirts that open at the collar... and hang there... and hang there. Just like in life, this guy is not a winner. If you take a poll of only female attendees, he might just win Mr. Congeniality, but he's not really husband material. Or champion material. Besides, he'd rather flirt than win anyway.

Also hiding out in there is the Underacheiver Who is Oblivious to Their Suckageness. This person will often talk a big game, but you're probably not going to remember their name in the end because they probably get eliminated right away. They always think they know more than everyone in the room, they "know" they're the best chef here, and they make rookie mistakes, but they're not willing to admit they do *anything* wrong. These people are the bane of your existence, if you're a fan of the show, because they ruin the vibe for everyone when they stick around. 

Then, you've got some easy categories, like The Hot One, The Smart One, The Melancholy One, The Weird One, The Clown, etc. It wouldn't take long, inside one episode, to pinpoint where everyone belongs. I often find myself looking at the people around me, putting them into categories like this. Life is just so similar, no matter where you go.

Beyond the cast, there's this concept of trial by fire. Everyone goes through it. Not all of us have to cook a seven-course meal for the Prime Minister of Australia and her seventy-five closest friends, but we have trial by fire. Someone dies, someone loses a job, someone gets divorced, someone gets sick. Trial by fire. The way contestants in the kitchen respond isn't really that much different from the way they would respond in real life.

When something doesn't work, we freak out; when someone sabotages us, we get angry; when we win, we sometimes say stupid things; we almost never expect to lose. People with integrity react with integrity; people who can handle stress tend to do well in stressful situations. It's really not rocket science. I may not be facing the chopping block every night, but I face a proverbial chopping block, and I know it's coming, and I respond in character. 

Buy Vengeful Gaines HERE
Why do I care so much? Well, I write foodie romance, and my most recent book has a food competition in it. It brings out the worst in some, and the best in others. I would argue, however, that life would have brought it out of them eventually. But the food competition is a microcosm of their lives. There's love and loss, food and even some kissing!

What's it called, you ask? It's called Vengeful Gaines, and it just released from Decadent Publishing. Like I said, it's got food and competing and love and kissing. It's also part of the series of books about the Gaines family at the Misbegotten Gaines Ranch, set in Freewill, WY. There will be another Gaines book out this winter, but for now, check out Mattie's story.

Mattie Gaines has so much to be thankful for—three beautiful children who are well on their way to making great love matches, a successful family business that keeps her challenged every day. But a part of her will never forget her first love, and she longs for her own romance du jour.

Wanting a new start, Will Jordan returns to Freewill and wonders whatever happened to that firecracker Mattie Gaines. When he spies her at the first annual Thanksgiving cook-off, old feelings resurface. Will can’t forget Mattie’s kisses from long ago, and he wants to make her remember, too—even if it costs them both more than they bargained.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Naked Candy Canes

Wrapped, packaged, boxed, covered in bows or ribbons, naked candy canes...er.... We'll discuss *that* in a moment (winks). Oh, and I have some holiday goodies coming up—ahem, pun definitely intended!

Two days before Thanksgiving, the hubby was laid off. How lovely. Then when he was called back to work a week later, his 40 to 50 hours a week were cut to 24 a week. Again...how lovely.

Honestly, the idea of a skimpy Christmas didn’t and still doesn’t bother me. I’m damn good at creative accounting because I was raised to squeeze a penny and make it poop a quarter, so the two kids still under our roof and our four grand babies are covered for gifts.

So, since this year is a bust, I focused on something else holiday related—Christmas promotions for my holiday releases, and also surfing the Internet for what other authors were doing for the Yuletide Season. Until now, I really hadn’t paid much attention to how one can celebrate the holiday online.

There are dudes with Santa hats over their peckers. Christmas lights draped over hunky men like my vampy hero on my upcoming release down there on the right. There are “boxes” hidden by festive lingerie and naked hubba-hubbas reclining by fireplaces adorned with garland and holly. I’ve seen holiday covers with enough decorated cleavage to float a battleship. There are bare buns of steel peeking from under Santa coats, too.

And all these things are surrounded by twinkling, multi-colored lights—LED no less! Oh, look at the rosy glow  on his tush!—and bright bows, festive wrappers, candy canes (hey, is that candy can attached to him?), glass Christmas bulbs, and miles and miles of garland....

Who knew Christmas was full of sex? Sometimes I think I must live in a cave or under a rock because when I come out for a look around I am stunned—nay, flabbergasted!—at how sex is incorporated into everything nowadays. (Oh, look. The poor guy got his candy cane stuck in the elevator door. That’ll teach him to pop those li’l bills before he reaches her apartment.)

Another thing I did for Christmas—and New Year’s for that matter—that I have never done before was write Christmas romances. Oh, sure I’ve written one or two but they were very short and strictly het. This year, I got on the Christmas book bandwagon (and fell off when I tripped over the hot guy wearing nothing but a smile and a sprig of hay). It’s difficult to write December fiction when it’s the end of August and 107 degrees, but I wrote three novellas for our current holiday season in two weeks. Every time I write like that the hubby says I'm wiggling my fingers in the air all night; maybe I should take my laptop to bed with me instead of him! Ha!
The first title came out December 12th from Dreamspinner Press, book II of my Stone Trail Series. I write as Amber Redd exclusively for DP (bold words are links).

When I’m Gone—As New Year's approaches, a grieving Richie Tatten collects his dead sister’s belongings from the institution where she lived. The mystery of her suicide confounds him and adds to his growing frustration with the disappearance of his life partner, Albert, who vanished months earlier. Hoping to find answers, Richie heads to the small town of Stone Trail, but the unwelcoming citizens leave Richie reluctant to continue his search. Then new information about his sister’s death gives him a lead on Albert’s whereabouts—and thrusts him into the middle of a battle between magic and werewolves. [Book I available HERE]

If you mix in a mother who is a major rip, a ghost, and some humor, it turns into a fun ride into the New Year.

This manuscript led me to writing Fangs for Christmas, the first book in a unique series that will revolve around some holiday or other. The cool thing about writing this series is that if I miss a holiday I can always come back around later and write it.

And oh what pretty lights! I was talking about the ones in the bkgd but the strand around Mr. Oh-La-La’s neck is nice, too. Oh, and this title should come with a warning label—it’s hot and has some voilence, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

[Release date pending and pen name exclusive to Freya’s Bower] Seven years ago on Christmas Eve, Justice, the one person Tristan cared about the most, vanished. Alone for yet another holiday, he rescues a man in an alley only to come face to face with his missing lover.

But something is different about Justice, and before Tristan can stop himself, he welcomes him back into his life. It forces him into the middle of vampire gang wars and he finds himself on the run with Justice. A car chase, a destroyed Christmas tree, and the alleged murder of a spy vamp sends them into the worst blizzard Pennsylvania has endured in years. Can he allow Justice to have his heart, or will he demand Tristan’s life instead?

So the third holiday release is Wrapped Around Your Handlebars. LOL, yeah the title grabs your attention, but it fits the story perfectly. A couple of my releases have been partly inspired by a good friend and client; Adelle's a doll and a great author so click www.adellelaudan.com to visit her site. I’ve worked with her as first an author and then a client. We were talking the other day and I asked her if she realized we’d been working together for about nine years. It surprised her as much as it did me. She writes biker fiction (www.adellelaudan.com/bikerfiction), and her influence had urged me to pen several stories featuring motorcycles from Heart of a Were (from Werewolves in Love) to Ruby, the White King and Marilyn Monroe to Harley Afternoon Delight (I’m no longer writing as Molly Diamond) and now Wrapped Around Your Handlebars.

Oh, and it debuted today!

After three years of trying to revive his relationship, Oak finally kicks his partner out. Christmas is only two weeks away, and he finds himself traveling by motorcycle up the eastern coast line. Everything changes suddenly when he meets Chandler, a waiter at a Florida City restaurant. Oak insists he’s not interested in the guy, but he’s drawn to his unique perspective on life, even if his enthusiasm for Christmas is overwhelming.

However, Oak hasn’t seen his family since his father kicked him out eleven years ago. Chandler thinks it’s time to visit Oak's mother and sisters, so when Oak asks him to travel together, they embark on a path to redemption and a new, healthy love for one another.

Are there bows and ribbons on the hunks? You’ll have to read the books to find out, but the stories are well-steeped in the upcoming holidays.

Oh, all right! I hear you! I hear you already! Sheesh...

And for those Four Strong Women reader fans out there who aren’t into m/m fiction, I do have something for you with a wintry theme. Jack Frost is often featured during the holidays, but he also rules over the winter season. Also, if you need something to heat you up during your lunch break or to tide you over for a few minutes while you rest on a bench in the mall (better you battling the crazy shoppers out there than me. I hate sitting in jail after trying to go Christmas shopping!) then you’ll enjoy Fire in Winter. Naomi is older, she’s not model thin, and she needs a man asap, but she gets a Fire in Winter she never bargained for!

Someone left an ice rose on Naomi’s porch but why?

Naomi dreams of a sexual partner who can leave her sated and tired in the sheets with no strings attached. When she falls ill, a crystal-blue-eyed stranger saves her, but once she’s well again, he takes her to sexual heights that fill the house with magic only a fire in winter can create.

So I hope you got a few chuckles out of today’s post to relieve that horrible holiday-season stress, and maybe you’ve found something to heat you up during the cold, blustery days of December.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Strongest Woman of Them All...

by Courtney Sheets
First let me say Aloha and Hola and Hello to everyone out there! I’m pretty excited to be hanging out here at Four Strong Women.

I’m a bit of a history nut. My friend refers to me as a ‘history pusher’ because I’m always spouting off tidbits and weird stories to anyone who will listen. So, when Valerie asked me to come join Four Strong Women for a day I knew exactly what I should talk about. The history of my favorite “Strong Woman’ of them all.

Who is the coolest comic book hero of all time? She is so cool she doesn't even get a new movie and David E. Kelley tried to turn her into a weeping PMS like chick in a plastic corset. She has an invisible jet. I'm serious...you can't see the jet. Don't ask me how she gets in it or finds it parked on the tarmac, because I just don't know. She has a lasso of truth and can stop bullets with some fancy jazz hands.

Did you guess Wonder Woman? You did? Then you're right. She is considered one of the D.C. Trinity. Superman and Batman are the others of the Holy Trinity. (And girls, Wonder Woman has had a thing with both of them)

Ok, I know what you're thinking. How cool can a comic book character’s history really be? Well, Skeptical Sally, I'll tell you. Like Captain America and Superman, Wonder Woman was created during war times. She, like her male counterparts, became a symbol of truth, justice and the American way. (Too all the D.C. reps reading this blog sorry for the copyright infringement but come on there is no better way to put it.) Comic Books and some of the most popular heroes are an essential part of American History. Work with me here, people.

Wonder Woman was created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston. At the time the comic book market was dominated mainly by male superhores, The Caped Crusader (Michael Keaton for me please) and The Man of Steel leading the pack with Captain America coming in a close second. Green Lantern is in there somewhere but I never liked him anyway. Marston wanted to create a whole new type of hero, someone females could look up to. He wanted his hero to thrive off intelligence and love. Batman has a tendency to hang people of a build and Cap just blasts Red Skulls minions.

It was actually his wife who gave him the idea for that hero to be a woman and Wonder Woman, a.k.a Diana Prince a.k.a Princess Diana, was born. Marston wanted Wonder Woman's strength and brainpower to be something young girls could look at and strive for in their own lives. He wanted her to be "distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men." Not bad for a guy in the 1940s.

When Wonder Woman first appeared she was kicking Nazi butt, like ya' do. She was the Allied forces secret weapon, as secret as you can be in a red, white, and blue bathing suit. In the original comics she even had a skirt on that bathing suit bottom. Now is she clad in a sleeker blue bustier and red bathing suit bottom. She still has her lasso and her wicked cool boots.

One thing that separates Wonder Woman from her male counterparts is she has actually killed people in the comic books. Batman and Superman rarely ever kill, even if the villain deserves it. Wonder Woman never shies away from killing. She weighs the pros and cons but ultimately will do what is necessary.

In 1972, Gloria Steinem, famous feminist and champion of women's rights, placed Wonder Woman on the first standalone cover of Ms. Magazine under the caption "Wonder Woman for President."

So you see how something that many people brush off as childish and a few silly lines of ink and color on some paper can really be an important piece of American Iconography. Wonder Woman was a champion for women's rights before the issue of women's rights ever really came into focus. What started as a way for every day Americans to defeat the Nazis and the evil lurking on their doorsteps, same with the boys of this club, morphed into something more.

In May of this year, IGN placed Wonder Woman 5th on their top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time. (For the record she beat out Captain America and Green Lantern) For me and many other young girls, she's number one.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Trouble with Automation

Where to begin. For those who aren't too squeamish, how about the moment I'm sitting on the toilet with my pants around my ankles and the phone rings. (For those who are squeamish, just skip that first bit.)

So of course, since Hubs is out with the kids and he could be calling to see if I want takeaway for supper, I rush to get my...um...I was going to say shit together, but, well, you know, pants up, so I can answer it. I follow the sound of ringing*, trip over a couple cats and find the phone buried under the unfolded laundry on the bed (and just as an aside, all automation wouldn't be bad. For instance, an instamatic-laundry-fluff-and-fold I could get behind!)

And you're all thinking...wait for it...wait....yes, you've guessed it - cold-call telemarketer

Now this person is clearly calling because my name was on a list picked by some computer somewhere because my ipad plan with my carrier isn't the most expensive one they figure they can talk me into. I would be mildly annoyed with this cold-call, we-have-a-light-years-better-deal-for-you tactic if it wasn't the FIFTH time I've received this identical call in the past month and a half. Now my mood resembles mildly annoyed in the same sort of way my 17-yr-old house cat resembles a full grown Bengal tiger in his prime.

Why can this nefarious computer program that keeps drawing my name not flag my account as something more useful to the poor cold-callers, like pissed-off-she-devil-swearing-freak-head. DO NOT CALL? And yes, every time I get the call, I make sure to tell them to put a note on my account that I don't want their stinkin' "upgrade",  (half as much data for three times the price? Good deal. right. I'll jump right on that one. Oh. Wait NOT) and that they should please not cold call me anymore.

Or how about my attempts to get into my Photobucket account to which I have lost the password? They have a form for that, you know. Of course they do. A convenient email form linked to the email address that I opened the account with. That would be the email that got hacked and that I have since abandoned and can't get into any more. So they have a form for that, too, though. Huzzah!

After clicking my way through FAQs and forms and drop-down menus I find a ten question questionnaire to fill out. Like when did I open the account. Um...I don't know? six or seven years ago? and what's the email address associated with it so we can send you a new password....

Um, duh, the whole point of this particular form is that no, you can't send an email to that address because I can't get into that email...*eyeroll*

Anyway, I finally stumble my way through what are bound to be a dozen only half right answers to their questions and they send me an automated email saying:
Hello there!
***If you want to talk to a real live Photobucket Support Rep. just reply back to this email letting us know!***
This is the Photobucket Support Robot. I couldn't help but notice that you haven't tried the New Photobucket yet! I was wondering if you wanted to try it out to see if you like it and if it helps with any issues you are having. Simply click on this link: http://bit.ly/QlIcxJ and you'll be able to log into the new site. You can opt out of the new site at any time. (emphasis mine)
Really? Really??? Needless to say, I replied to the email.

And finally, what about the client I spoke to the other day who didn't want to use the "outmoded" and "old-fashioned" technology required to fax me information, so could he please have the snail mail address of my work so he could mail the information to me? I felt like telling him no, you'll have to call the Pony Express for delivery, sir. We don't use regular post here.

 And don't even get me started on the plug in cordless phones with all the bells and whistles and displays that won't work during an emergency like, oh, I don't know, a power outage! I'll stick with  Alexander's good old original rotary black plastic, thanks. For as long as land lines remain in existence, anyway....

*Autocorrect, another fine automated feature, changed my typo: "I followed the sound of rining..." to: "I followed the sound of rimming..." Yes. Autocorrect, how my homoerotic brain loves you...

So yeah. Sometimes, where technology is involved, less is more, ya know? Do you have stories of technology gone stupid? Share!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

No Sex Till Brooklyn

**Please welcome guest, Louisa Bacio** 

How can I be a freakin’ erotic writer and never have sex? I mean come on … it’s not like I’ve never bumped the pretties (nothing ugly about it), but lately it’s just about dried up. And, not for trying.

 Oh, and have I mentioned that I’m married? Yep.

Me to hubby, “When’s the last time we, you know?”

Him, “You don’t remember?”

“Um,” thinking really, really hard, “no.”

“Our anniversary weekend.”

Fuck me! No wonder I don’t remember, and I’m not telling you, dear blog reader, our anniversary either. It’s not that we haven’t had a potential opportunity, it’s just that at that time period when we can … maybe, something else comes up. Most of the time it’s that he’s too tired.

Too tired! What do you have to do? Lay there?

Granted, our drives seem to be off. He’d rather do it in the morning. Hello? We’ve got two small children to get ready for school, and we have to skedaddle for work, and BTW have I mentioned after being married for almost 12 years how much I HATE mornings?

Me? I’d do the slippery between the sheets late at night, when the household is asleep, we’re relaxed, maybe had a few glasses of wine and watched some vampire porn (Cough: True Blood) to put us in the mood.

Sigh à and then he’s too tired.

Luckily, I’ve got a wicked imagination, a few fun toys and an even better memory of all those wondrous adventures. Times like this dry spell, though, and I start to know why others – not me, mind you – go looking for a little something-something on the side. Of course, we couldn’t write about that in romance because those women are, you know: (whispers) loose.

If ya’ll excuse me now, my cowboy will be coming home shortly and I think it’s about time this here little missy gets her spurs on. 

And if not that, then I’m going to write a really hot sex scene for my next 1Night Stand!

So tell me, ever go through a dry spell? How do you break it? And, how do you entertain yourself during it?

                                              A Date with Death 
Death sucks. It’s boring, and there’s no chance of getting laid. Stuck in the waiting room of Heaven, Maise fantasizes about all the pleasures of the flesh she didn’t get to experience. When Maise discovers a business card for the dating service, 1Night Stand, she wonders if there’s still a chance.

Reece normally wouldn’t consider being set up, but after his brother buys him a certificate, he feels obligated. A romantic night on the Southern California coast, with the full-of-life Maise leaves him wanting more.

Will a 1Night Stand be enough to overcome death?

Available via Decadent Publishing, Amazon, Nook 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

12 Days of Christmas + 3 Months or More

**Please welcome guest LaVerne Thompson**

It used to be the 12 days of Christmas actually began after Christmas. Then somehow growing up it got turned around to 12 days before Christmas. That’s because even thinking about Christmas, decorating, getting ready for the celebration wasn’t supposed to start until 12 days before Christmas.  So about or around the 12th of December that was the point my family turned toward thoughts of the holiday. Then at some point that was no longer enough time to do the baking, shopping, etcetera, and it was stretched to 25 days before the big day. Okay so still after Thanksgiving so about the last day of November, first day of December we could turn our thoughts to even thinking about what to serve for Christmas dinner, what to get and for whom for Christmas.

But at some point over the years and in this hurry up and happen yesterday mindset we now have to begin not just thinking about Christmas but actively shopping for it around September. Well, even in that frame of mind, I don’t know about you, but come Christmas Eve I still find myself running around with another hundred of my closest friends at the malls searching for that last minute item for the Christmas stocking or that one little thing that must absolutely be under the tree or picking up something for the aunt you completely forgot about. *sighs*

Yeah, I can see where this is all headed. I’ll be hitting the stores the day after Christmas to get ready for the next year.

Meanwhile if you’re looking for a great romantic suspense read for that aunt or friend might I suggest the Guardian Agents, available in print containing all 3 books in the Guardian Agency Series written by my alter ego Ursula Sinclair. Each story is also available separately in e-print.

Buy Guardian Agents HERE
Guardian Agents
By Ursula Sinclair

Three men.
Three women.
Six lives at stake.

The men of the Guardian Agency put their lives on the line for those they are paid to protect - imagine the lengths they'd go to shield those they love.

Shanna flees the altar. What better way to escape than go on her honeymoon without the scandalous groom? When mysterious phone calls threaten, Ross makes sure the safety of Shanna's body becomes his business - and he's all over it.

Rock star River Blu dominates the music charts, but a secret from her past haunts her. With danger lurking, she turns to Noah. He hopes to revisit their history, but he'll need to keep her alive to do it.

Eboni Stiles witnessed a murder. Now those responsible want her dead, but they'll have to get through Simon Blackcat first; and Blackcat doesn't die easily. The danger to her heart, however, is real and present.
Want to know more about me. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Oh, Grandma

By Stephanie Beck

We all have them, those special people who say whatever comes to mind, sans filter. Mine is my grandmother. She is 84 years of awesome. So, she’s a little crazy—always has been—but she loves me.

She shows her love now the same way she has my entire life—with Birthday cards containing $5 that may or may not have my actual age and by attending every single thing she can. Back in the day that meant she made it to volleyball games and award programs at school.

Now it means she comes to my book signings.

This is wonderful and it means so much to me. There’s something special about a grandmother’s pride and I cherish it. But like I said in the beginning, Grandma is a little crazy and retired her filter about ten years ago.

Overheard (by everyone) straight from Grandma:
My first signing was at a purse store—a great venue for a girl’s night out.
“Hey, you, that purse doesn’t match your coat. You should come at get a book instead. My granddaughter wrote them and she’ll sign it for you—that makes it worth more.”

My second signing was in my hometown at a candy store hosting a girl’s night out.

“Why do you have so many darn stairs in this place? Mature ladies like me don’t like to climb this many stairs to get books. You should really put Stephanie right out front next to the chocolate with the spices in it—that’s where a smut writer belongs, you know.”

 In October I was welcomed back. Grandma couldn’t make it up the stairs, so she sat on a bench near the entrance and...welcomed, sure, welcomed, people. One lady turned up her nose at the idea of reading romance, let alone the saucy stuff I write.

“Old prude. Probably wouldn’t know what to do with herself if she read something sexy anyway.”

My grandma is about sixteen different kinds of awesome and I love her so much. She makes me laugh and cringe—usually at the same time. I hope to have many more book signings with her present. I really can’t picture one without her.

All the best,
Stephanie Beck

When Stephanie Beck’s mother told her to quit whining about less than perfect stories and write her own neither of them could have guessed what would happen. Ten years later that advice has become a fulltime passion and occupation. With a wonderful husband and three beautiful children, the fulltime status makes for very long days, but she breaks up the romance and steamy scenes with knitting, walking, sewing and reading.

Please contact Stephanie at stephaniebeckauthor@gmail.com or find out more about her additional works at www.stephaniebeck.net

Grandma Marion’s Favorite Book:

Poppy’s Passions

Can Poppy find the courage to risk triple the love -- and triple the heartbreak?

Poppy Maguire is tired of being a loser. Emotionally neglected as a child, she wants to find the courage to leave her family and the job she hates. She desperately wants to make a change. Little does she realize how much of a change sexy brothers Cody, Michael and Trevor Paraby will bring to her life when the friendly shoulders they offer turn into so much more.

Comfort turns to passion and Poppy learns what life could be like in the arms of not one, but three men who love her. But what happens when the pink line on a pregnancy test doubles and she’s expecting twins, courtesy of one of a Parabys?

The brothers blow her mind by offering her the family and love she’s always longed for. But do they realize what they’re in for? Cody is moving a little too fast, Michael may not be in for the long haul, and Trevor is a bit self-centered.In order for Poppy to have the extraordinary love she fears she hasn't earned, everyone is going to have to do some growing. But can she break free from the bad seed of her abusive family and have the courage to bloom?
Buy Poppy’s Passions HERE 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Holiday Hell: The Family Edition

   **Welcome Seleste deLaney!**
Now, don’t get me wrong based on the title. I love my family. I even like my in-laws from a distance. But right around Thanksgiving every year, this tightening starts to form across my shoulders. A nice massage makes it feel better for a while, but it comes back stronger than ever the next day. And the next.And the next. Depending on when exactly Thanksgiving falls, this works out to somewhere between five and six weeks of building stress.
It disappears on New Year’s Eve, which is when Holiday Hell ends (with the departure of the in-laws).
At the moment (the last week of November), it’s the shopping hell portion of the season. (Also the decorating portion, but as my kids get older, that’s not quite so frustrating—yay!) Other than a couple fill in things to even out their gift numbers, I had my kids done by Thanksgiving weekend. Yep, you read that right—DONE. (Cue jealous/angry grumbles on the other side of the internet.) The thing is, I’ve learned over the last several years that if I don’t get my shopping done, I will only be pummeled with the “well what should we get them” stress. No thank you. I’d rather chew on some C-4. So I shop early and get one thing out of the way. I’m also done with my nephews! Woot! Though I’m currently waiting for someone to tell me I wasn’t supposed to actually buy from their Amazon lists yet. (Too bad. All done. Get over it.)
In theory, this means shopping hell is over. But! Not so fast. No one has determined if we’re doing a gift exchange between the adults or not. (My side of the family stopped years ago, and my parents get cranky if we do anything other than gift cards for restaurants.) So, at the moment, I’m sitting here pondering the next stage while being poked in the back of the skull with the nagging thought of “am I really done?” The short answer is probably not. It will come up shortly that we are indeed exchanging gifts, but we’ll be doing it differently this year. What that means, I have no clue. Only that it will be a change and therefore cannot be prepared for in advance. Surprise! Happy holidays!
So, in the meantime, I’m trying to figure out a baking schedule. Every year I promise to start limiting how many cookies I make. Every year I end up finding new recipes. (Fuck you, Pinterest! *ahem*). On a high note, my daughter ate one of the ingredients for one of the more labor intensive cookies (also my favorite, but I digress) and they are really hard to come by at this time of year. (Honestly, I’ve only ever seen them in stores at Valentine’s Day. Thankfully, they have a long shelf life. Sadly, my shelves are short and my daughter is tricksy.) But on tap for this year are:
Sugar Cookies
Chocolate Chip
Peanut Butter Cookies (half with mini-M&Ms/half without)
Nutella Cookies
Soft Brown Sugar Cookies
…and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
Don't forget the Arts & Crafts! This is the wreath the kids & I made after Thanksgiving!
Good thing I like the baking part. It’s what keeps me sane when the card madness rolls around. Every stinking year, I say “I’m not doing cards this year. They’re bad for the environment, a waste of money, and a shit-load of time.” Every stinking year I end up doing some anyway. I have knocked it down from over a hundred to between 40 and 60, so… baby steps. But, that stress will start about the 10th of December when it’s getting to be crunch time for the mail and crunch time for me, and my head will threaten to explode.
Because this will also be when the incessant phone calls and emails will start. Not the awesome “Hey, happy holidays! I missed you!” calls. No, these will be the ill-timed “what are you bringing for hors d’oeuvres” and “who is sleeping where?” and “don’t get us anything special but please have x, y, and z” and “do we need to bring wrapping paper?” These go on until I get to the point where I find myself with hand cramps from making too-tight fists as I threaten to scream “I don’t care and a Merry-fucking-Christmas to you too” into the phone. (I don’t. I just really want to. A lot.)
The thing is holidays never happen as planned. NEVER. This is a fact of life. It can go from the simple (My siblings bought my son this video game for his birthday that he’d been chomping at the bit for for months—he barely blinked at it when he opened the box. Granted he played with the thing non-stop for two months after.) to the extreme (Forgetting to set the timer for dinner and evacuating the house as all the smoke detectors go off.) But something always goes wrong.
So this year, I am once again trying to stave off the drinking part of holiday hell preparation by expecting everything to go wrong. Shopping will happen the day before gift exchange. Half the cookies will burn to a crisp. Cards will be sent without stamps. I will slip and scream at someone on the phone. “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” will get stuck in my head for at least four weeks on auto-repeat. Hopefully I don’t burn the kitchen down, but it might happen.
This attitude, quite honestly, is the only thing keeping me from needing a massage already. Anyone want to take bets on how long that lasts?
Of course, if any of you wants to send me a sexy massage therapist to be at my beck and call for the season, I really wouldn’t say no. In fact, I’d probably send you a card. And maybe even some cookies (non-burnt ones). 
Happy Holidays, everyone! I wish you a month of holiday sanity so that your drinking this season maybe by choice and not some desperate grab for peace and goodwill. 
The latest installment in Seleste’sSanta’s Naughty Elves series of short stories (A Few of My Favorite Things) releases today as part of Evernight Publishing’s A Vanilla-Free Christmas anthology. (It’s kink, people, be warned… or excited… or both.)
If elves aren’t your thing, you can find Seleste all over the internet on her website, her blog, Twitter, her Facebook profile, Facebook author page, Pinterest, as well as a few group blogs she contributes to regularly. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Periods, Condoms, Road Trips, and Truck Stops

The family traveled up to my mom's for Veteran's Day weekend. We left early Friday. Whenever we go visit Mom (a 3 hour trip), we always stop at Laval Road West on the north side of the Grapevine on I-5. It's about halfway between our house and Mom's. With food, gas, and clean bathrooms, it's a good place to stop, stretch the legs, and powder the nose. After two hours or so in the car, Lily and I are always ready to powder our noses. We pull in and park. Lily and I do the usual and make a beeline for the bathroom.

Now, mind you, this place started as a truck stop, and despite all of the new fast food joints (McD's, Panda Express, In-N-Out, Chipotle, Starbucks, Subway, Wendy's, etc.) being built there to service all of the travelers, it's still a favorite stop for truckers too. There's even a coffee shop in the original building with a little convenient store.

We always go to this building with the coffee shop because this is where the bathrooms not attached to any restaurant are. When you walk in, the coffee shop is to your right. If you turn left, you'll get Wendy's. Just past the coffee shop is a tiny Baskin-Robbins, and just beyond that are the bathrooms. If you walk a little further down past the bathrooms, there are showers and other amenities. Across from the bathroom is the convenient store.

Lily and I ignore everything before the bathroom. Mother Nature is calling, after all.

I'm feeling great and then I notice it. Crap! I've started my period. I shouldn't have started my period, but I have. And, of course, I have nothing with me because, well, I shouldn't have.

So, I take care of business and stroll across the hall to the convenient store in search of pads. I wander through the store, scanning the shelves, until I see some toiletries. If they are going to have anything for females, it should be in this area. But as I scan the shelves, I can't find anything. I'm about to turn away when I see condoms on the top shelf. Several different kinds of condoms. Probably about eight different types of condoms to choose from. From Trojan to Durex to some other brands. From ultra thin to "ribbed for her pleasure" to who knows what else (maybe even the vibrating kind I've heard so much about). If they were going to have pads, they had to be around this area somewhere.

Aha! There, buried two shelves down, were my choices: Tampax tampons and Stayfree Maxipads. Wow! That's some selection! o.O Tampons (not unless I'm swimming) or throwback pads from the 80s. Yay! Lucky me! Then I look at the price. $5.69.

Holy smackerole! Five dollars and sixty-nine cents for--I pull the package out--six pads. Ooookkkkaaayyy.

Out of options, I took my booty over to the register and paid, even as I chuckled about the condoms. So many options for condoms, but only two, very hard to find options for women in dire need.


We know the audience they cater to. (grin) I guess I should just count myself lucky I was able to find pads at all. Heaven forbid women should actually have periods and men should happen to accidentally see sanitary napkins. If they do, maybe they'll be turned off and not need the condoms anymore.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Being a Morning Person

by Jessica Subject

I’m a morning person. Have been for as long as I can remember. Usually this is a good thing, as I can get a lot of work done, especially related to my writing, while the rest of my family is asleep. Or so I thought.
My husband and daughter are both afternoon people. Not night hawks, but they function better about mid-day after they’ve had a couple hours to wake up. That works for me.
Then my son came along. I hoped he would be the same as them. But no. He has to be a morning person. Just like me.
Only he doesn’t want to get out of bed that early in the morning (between 5 AM and 7 AM). No, he’d rather call “MOMMY!” and have me come running to his room to find out what he wants. Nothing. He just moans on his bed and won’t say a word. He’s awake. After a couple times of him doing this, I don’t bother anymore. And that’s when he decides to get out of bed. Chipper as a springtime bird.
So, that’s what my mornings have become. I don’t get as much work done then, saving it until they are at school and I have peace and quiet again.
There is the occasional day where he does sleep in, but then my daughter, by some miracle, is up early. And it’s usually on a day where she can sleep in, such as a PA Day or holiday. She’s more independent though and will read or watch television until I’m ready to make breakfast.

So, tell me, what time of day do you get stuff done? Are you an early riser, or do you prefer the night?

As his ship plummets toward Earth, Cael believes his life to be over. His last ditch effort to save himself ends in a fiery crash. When he wakes up, he believes he’s entered the afterlife, but his surroundings indicate otherwise. He made it to Earth. But who saved him, and what do they want with him?

Now available from Decadent Publishing and other ebook retailers.
More information and Buy Links here: http://www.markofthestars.com/wp/?page_id=10879
Jessica Subject started writing to encourage her daughter to read. Now she writes to keep herself grounded. Although she reads many genres, she enjoys writing Science Fiction Romance the most and believes everyone in the universe deserves a happily ever after. She lives Southwestern Ontario, Canada with her husband and two kids and loves to hear from anyone who has enjoyed her stories.