Sunday, August 31, 2008

Traveller's Refuge

Framed and running for his life, Traveller Devereaux decides to follow his missing brother Dancer, using the clues he left behind when he disappeared. They lead Traveller to the mysterious Mystic Valley where the people are blue, the flora and fauna are decidedly odd, and the mating customs are definitely different.

On his journey, he is injured in a serious accident that traps him in a cave with his best friend, Bishop. Bish finds the hidden tunnel leading to the valley and takes Traveller to safety. Trav's slow recovery allows him much-needed time to adjust to the valley and fall in love with Wrenna, the woman chosen as his bond mate. When he finds out that she is related to the man who murdered his parents and siblings, he must choose between the woman he loves and her murderous grandfather.

Two mornings later, sunrise broke across Mystic Valley, throwing beaming rays of light over the training field. Tyger and Llyon danced the deadly Grimahr Dance against Arano and Arturo in the pearly mist rising from the wet grass. Arturo’s first level students stood attentively outside the marked circle, intently studying the moves of the dancers as they demonstrated the flowing combinations of individual moves the students had practiced in class. The contrast between the two teams, Ty and Ly with their flaming red warrior braids and pale green shardas and Arano and Arturo, dark knights with snapping black braids and dark gray shardas, made it easy to pick out the ways each team worked together.

Wolfe lounged against the wall of their training hall, well back from the action and absently watched the fluid movement in the circle while he wrestled with the knowledge Wrenna had dumped on him. As far as he could tell, she still hadn’t informed Dai or Llyon that she had begun schalzina. Wolfe struggled with the unpalatable choices he faced—to break her confidence and tell Dai himself—or accept the responsibility of serving as her healer. Neither choice was to his liking.

On the field, Arturo flung up one muscular blue arm and shouted, “Hold!” The action stopped immediately and his fellow dancers relaxed around him. After a brief muttered conversation, Ty, Ly and Arano nodded and walked off the field, heading for the bridge over the river. Wordlessly, Wolfe joined them as they headed for the main house and breakfast.

Llyon shot him a curious glance, quirked an eyebrow and waited for an answer. Wolfe shook his head in reply and broke off to go to the bedroom he shared with Hawke. He would have liked to bounce his dilemma off Llyon but Ly was no idiot. He would immediately deduce the details and how was that different from just telling him straight out? In any case, Llyon had strong feelings about Wolfe’s refusal to accept his healing skills. Certainly, he wouldn’t be a sympathetic ear.

When Wolfe and Hawke joined the others in the kitchen for breakfast, he saw that his agonizing had been wasted after all. Wrenna sat at the table sipping on wachaz tea, the standard remedy to suppress early schalzina and stomach cramping. The strong scent of the tea filled the air, nearly overpowering the other familiar odors of baking bread and sizzling hopper slices on the griddle.

From Wrenna’s rebellious, stiff posture, it was clear that she was annoyed to be the subject of discussion among the males milling around the kitchen. “I still don’t see where this is your business. Any of you!” she observed acidly, shaking her head for emphasis. Her loosely skewered topknot of fine red silken hair threatened to tumble down. Wolfe squelched every clamoring instinct and reached out to firmly anchor the thick braid into a neatly wrapped knot. Wrenna ignored his ministrations as she pointed out, “Not a single one of you can change the circumstances. And none of you can possibly empathize with the symptoms!”

An embarrassed silence fell over the room. Wolfe delicately cleared his throat and carefully pointed out, “We love you. We’re concerned for you. It’s a built-in part of being a male sib.”

When Wrenna turned her head to look up at him, her eyes met his and after a brief war, hers fell first. “It would help a lot if every one didn’t make such an issue of it,” she admitted grudgingly. “It’s difficult enough when such a personal feminine problem is so public. Now I know how Eppie felt when she was waiting for Dancer. I don’t walk around discussing every instance when one of you has an erection!”

“Maybe you should,” Dai said with a brief twitch of his lips. “It would be more honest than ignoring it.” Her brothers shifted uneasily under the healer’s sharp green eyes. Then Dai shot a glittering rapier glance at Wolfe. “I will see you after breakfast in your Papa’s office, Wolfe. We have much to discuss. As for the rest of you…”

“I’m sure we all have somewhere to be,” Tyger interjected hastily. “Hawke and I have a meeting about a loom—”

“I have patients to visit—” Ly offered immediately.

“I’ll be at Silence’s, helping her get rid of Homer’s stuff—” Arano jumped up and started passing out the platters as Dai filled them with steaming peekie eggs and hopper slices.

Arturo slipped into the kitchen just as Dai finished up. Silently, he sat next to Arano and applied himself to the task of eating. After a thoughtful look at his bowed head, Dai merely asked, “Will you be available to fix breakfast for the younglings, Arturo?”

With a curt nod, Arturo agreed.

“I will wake them before I meet with Wolfe. Since your Papa has taken your Mama down to my retreat to rest, I believe that eating in two shifts will work best. Any objections?” he inquired mildly. Merlyn and Jade didn’t raise stupid children. Everyone concentrated on eating.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's in a Name? by Mona Risk

What’s in a name?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was sure it would be a girl. I called her Mitzie, talked about her in the feminine and even bought her a few pink dresses. At the time, there was no ultrasound to know the baby’s sex before birth. A month before delivery, my mother suggested that if, by any remote chance, I had a boy I should remember to call him George because all first-born boys in my family were called George, my father included. Around the same time, my mother-in-law sent me a letter saying that if I had a boy, he absolutely had to be called Leo like his paternal grandfather. Both grandmothers debated together and agreed the baby should be called Leo George. Both grandfathers couldn’t care less about the baby’s name.

Hey, how about the mother? Did she have any say in the matter?

There was no doubt for me that my baby would be a girl, but what if my intuition went wrong and I had a boy? To be prepared I studied both family trees and eliminated from my list every name that belonged to either family. Together my husband and I chose a boy’s name and kept it secret.

Sure enough, my intuition failed big time and I had a boy. His name was a first for both families. Both grandmothers fussed about the baby and forgot their arguments about names.

So the name was not as important as the person, the character.

I follow the same principle when I name my characters and stay away from relatives’ and friends’ names so that no one thinks he/she can recognize themselves.

In my novels, my heroes are all foreigners and my heroines, all American. I have two Russian heroes, Sergei and Fyodor, three French heroes, François, Olivier and Luc, an Italian, Roberto, a Greek, Stephanos (heroine calls him Steve) and a Puerto Rican, Marc (his relatives call him Marquito).

The names chosen for my heroines lend themselves to the story. In To Love a Hero, Sergei likes to transform Cecile’s name into a Russian one, Cecilya. In one of the first scenes of French Peril, François can’t remember Cheryl’s name, and uses the French endearment that always works well for this playboy. He calls her chérie and she smiles, thinking he knows who she is. In that same book, I had a lot of fun playing with names for the secondary characters, mostly foreign students: Adriaan is Dutch, Roberto Sicilian, Juan-Pablo Spanish, Karl German and Chuck Minho Chinese. I made sure not two names started with the same letters.

Two days ago, I was at my doctor for a checkup. Everyone there knows I write novels. I distributed bookmarks for French Peril. The nurse, a lovely woman called Jocelyn, asked me if she could be in my next book. I needed a name for a nurse and told her I could use a Jocelyna. But then, Gaby, the clerk who books the appointments, protested that she too deserved to be in my book. She always gives me immediate appointments. This woman is a gem. For her I created a Gabriella in my current whip. Now, the whole staff is impatiently waiting for the book where Jocelyna and Gabriella will hold a role.

Names are important. They become synonyms of a story. If I say Scarlet, won’t you immediately think, Gone with the Wind? But it’s the character that makes a name immortal.

What could be more exciting for a young American architect than to live in a French chateau owned by a young count and to work on the restoration of a chapel in the Loire Valley?
But when her professor is poisoned because he knew too much about a missing statue, Cheryl's summer job changes into a dangerous treasure hunt and Count François is faced with a difficult choice:
Are the statue and his chateau worth endangering the life of the impetuous young woman who's turned his life upside down?
Review Your Book Review, 4 Stars
Mona Risk, author of French Peril, offers her fans another great read. In French Peril, she creates a swirling air of mystery around the excavation of a chapel ruin. Murder, mystery, and intrigue seem to follow Cheryl as she assists Francois on his project…. Risk has a talent for character development. Cheryl is a multitalented, impetuous person. Francois is romantic, determined, and very protective. French Peril is a great contemporary romantic read.
The Romance Studio Review: Overall rating: Sensuality rating: Mildly sensual
This is a wonderfully exciting romantic suspense novel. The characters are appealing and the setting is very romantic, a chateau in the Loire Valley. There is an interesting cast of characters. The plot is full of action and the reader is never sure who is on the side of good or evil. As a matter of fact, very few are who they appear to be. The love story between Francois the Comte and Cheryl is very engrossing all on its own. Cheryl is a very earnest grad student. I really liked her character; she has spunk as well as brains. The various plotlines converge into a very exciting climax that will surprise the reader.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Behind The Name

What’s in a name? everything. Don’t believe me? Just ask the boy named Sue. When I’m coming up with character names for my stories, I pick them with great care. Sometimes, I choose the name, because of the meaning (in most cases, long-forgotten), other times I choose the name to give a shout out to various family members whose names happened to coincide nicely for a given character.

Let’s examine the name Nina as a prime example of multiple meanings. She was one of the villains from my book The Dance. It is a common enough name and has several modern translations ranging from Mother (Swahili) to little girl (Latin based lingues) to pretty eyes (Hindi). There are numerous variations (seemingly one for every language), but all in there own way are applicable to the character. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that Nina was the Babylonian Goddess of Life and Death. Once worshiped far and wide and held in such reverence that a King of Sumer even took her name for himself. In the book, this is the definition that fits her best, but the reader wouldn’t realize that until well over half-way through the story.

I’ve been known to spend days (if not weeks) deliberating on the names of my protagonists and antagonists. Having said that, it’s next to impossible to get a full picture of the characters until I see them in action, so I use a generic name as I write the story and once I have a better feel for who the character is, I’ll go back and do the research before I officially dub them.

Of course this begs the question: Would anyone know the difference? I doubt it. I can’t think of a single instance where I finished a book and went back to look up the meanings of the characters names to see if there were any underlying messages hidden within them.
Perhaps I should revisit a few of my favorite books and do just that.

A rose by any other name

Names. One of the most memorable aspects of a story. When I say Aislinn and Wulfgar, almost every romance reader instantly remembers Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove. Names help create the character and define the era, location, and social class as well. When I was in about junior high, I for no apparent reason started a list of every name I could come up with starting with each letter of the alphabet, and kept it probably through college. I've always been fascinated by names--their meanings, origins, and combinations.

As an author you try to create names that fit the character and will stand out, just a bit, from the crowd. One of my publishers has a no-no list of overused names, which I applaud, even though I question a couple of inclusions. I was also a little cranky when my first French gargoyle had to suddenly change his name because I hadn’t checked the list. So Luc became Damien. C’est la vie. Luc had probably been a bit of a lazy choice, anyway. And I’d like to add Jack, Jake and Nick to the list. Sorry. All good solid names. All just a wee bit over-used.

I also use names and variations on names to show certain things within a story. In my cowboy books, the brothers are all named after famous authors, because their father was a voracious reader as well as a rancher. So CJ is named for Raymond Chandler and James Jones, Fitz is Faulkner Fitzgerald, and Trip (Triple H) is named for Robert Howard and Ernest Hemingway. The use of nicknames is an indicator of the relationship between the brothers. From the time he meets Allison, CJ calls her Allie, which no one has done since her father. That she lets him is an indication of her growing feelings for the man. In Curses, there is a similar thing with Jonas/Joe. Mel loves his name, while he’s spent so much of his life trying to be “an average Joe,” that he has totally adopted the name. Only his attraction to Mel lets him accept being called Jonas.

I’ve been guilty of using ethnic names that need a pronunciation guide. David Garvaglia, the hero of Djinni and the Geek, is pleased when Anissa (a made-up name, since I invented the existence of a Djinn language) pronounces his name correctly—Gar-VAHL-ya, instead of Gar-VAG-lee-a. I’ll admit I stole this name from a high-school friend. Cian, the 200-year-old Irish mage in Sorcerer’s Song, coming in September’s Ellora’s Cavemen Anthology, loves the way his name sounds in Lyra’s musical voice: KEY-inn, with just the right inflection.

Lyra, from the Greek for music, seemed kind of obvious for a siren, but pretty enough that I used it anyway. Marina, the selkie in Stone and Sea, is a bit obvious too, but in reality I named her for a cousin. I kind of like to slip little homages in here and there. Beth, heroine of Always a Cowboy was also named after a recently deceased cousin. I do have a couple of websites I use when I’m looking for names, especially for specific nationalities. Other authors on my loops have been helpful too. Welsh author Hweyla Lyn (Yep that’s her real first name. Isn’t it cool?) provided the names for Beltaine Bargain. For most of my contemporary characters I like names that are simple and not too far out, but not overused. I try to diligently avoid trendy. (shudder) Now fantasy and futuristic names...those you get to simply make up. Working right now on Tabrin and Zeyd--futuristic bounty hunters. Yum.

In the end naming your characters is nearly as personal as naming your children, though you're not stuck listening to them grouse about them through their teenage years. It's a fun part of the creative process and a place where you can add a subtle nudge or a tip of the hat. And if they don't work out? Oh well, there's always another story.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

So? Your Hero is a BABY BOY???

I remember when my husband and I came up with a name for our son. We, of course, wanted a great name because after all he would carry it for the rest of his life, be identified with it, yada yada. When we tossed names around, kicked them around like kicking the tires on a used car, we decided we wanted something short, masculine, easily spelled and we didn't want to give him a BABY name that would haunt him later. I'm sure there are plenty of new parents who look at their tiny, itty bitty boy and can come up with a million "cutesy" names that fit perfectly but that "cutesy pie" name is gonna stink to high heaven when he's a thirty year old man. If I were that guy, I'd be headed to see someone "legal-like" to apply for a name change.

I'm constantly thinking of that when coming up with names for my heroes. Female character names aren't as big of a problem, to me. I think of something and BAM, that's it. It's all rather organic. Characters will have certain traits that remind me of particular names so that's the name they'll get. As as rule, I avoid faddy names. A look at an elementary school yearbook can be a big clue as to the current fads. I avoid them like the plague and try like everything to choose more common names. Male characters pose a completely different set of problems. For me, my over the top Alpha male character will NOT have a baby name. That's the bottom line. My heroine doesn't want to yell out a baby name when in the throes of passion with this guy. I would mention some of those names but sure as I do, someone will write and tell me that's what she named HER itty bitty boy thirty years ago or maybe she gave that little boy name to the hulking alpha hero of her latest romantic suspense. I'm not in this gig to make enemies so, nope, no examples but if you are guilty of using littly boy names then you probably know who you are.

Wish I had a big, character naming secret to share but I really don't. Names come to me. I don't thumb through baby naming books either. I avoid weird names and tend to go toward more average sounding names. It's my preference. Nothing is more irritating that reading a book and you don't know how to pronounce the name and have to stop in the middle of things to dig out a dictionary. Irritating.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Name Game-is it accurate?

There are a lot of sites out there dedicated to finding a name. My favorite is this one, but this one is pretty good too. I use them. It isn't so much for the reason of finding a particular meaning to name my characters, but in finding unusual names that aren't so different as to be difficult on the reader.

I get tired of Bobby, Mark, and Fred but I don't want a name that is so out there the reader has to wonder how it's pronounced. I look for ideas in my neighbors too. For example, Captive Heart which comes out in January has an Ora. One of my recent neighbors had this name and though it sounds feminine, it isn't. I gave it to a cameo appearing farmer guy with a shotgun.

In a collaboration, a friend wanted all her werewolves to have one type of name and all her vampires to have another. Her solution was to look up names that mean death or eternity for her vampires and warrior for her werewolves. I thought it was a pretty clever solution. And though I don't think she'll make the reasoning evident in the finished product, she argued that she will know and therefore it matters.

But here's a thought. Back when, parents named their children after something. And Biblically, names were a foretelling of the personality to come. So looking at my children, I have one who's named after a river. She is strong, stubborn, unchangeable, willful, and delighting. Um, yep just like the river. The other daughter was named after a character in a book I read when I was a young teen. However, I always liked the light, playful, cheerful, engaging quality of the instrument and yep, sure enough, that daughter is all those things. One has an old soul with mood fluctuations and depths which seem to contradict what you see on the surface. The other skips and runs instead of walking, she laughs in a high musical tone, she's funny and is rarely down. I couldn't have named them better.

My name means green and warrior. Now I don't think this is a reference to sick fighters but it does conger up thoughts of spring and strength or resilience. I'd like to think I am those things but I leave it for those who know me to decide if it's accurate. Then there's the other side of that. My husband's name is Scott. The meaning is that he is Scottish. No, he isn't. He is German, Norwegian, and Swedish. He's not kilt-wearing either.

I took a class in college which talked about names and the impact they have on us. He wrote a book on the subject in fact (sorry all I remember is he was Dr. Carter and the cover was pale). He noted that every location was given a name for a reason. Like Hell, Minnesota which freezes over every year. He taught us to look at names of streets, parks, cities, and towns. Then he noted that all retirement homes and cemeteries are given serene names like, Hollowed Meadows, Whispering Pines and the like. It game me a whole new perspective on the names we choose to surround ourselves with as humans. I mean, it's not like you're going to see Tortured Souls Resting Home or Muddy Swallow Cemetery, right?

Look around and pop off some names. What is the name of your local cemetery? Your street?What's in your name? What does it mean and does it reflect you? Is it a contradiction to who you are? Speak up. Let's hear what you have to say.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tell me your name...

It's funny how we associate certain names with certain personalities. Names that were common male names in other eras are considered female names now. Names that were indicative of brawny macho masculinity are now thought to indicate wimpy nerdiness. Solid old boy names like Bob and George and Harry are now reserved for... well for solid old guys.

When naming a character we as writers can use some of those characteristics as a type of short hand to tell our readers something about the character. Orrrr, we can cast our character opposite of expectations by naming them something unexpected. Orville doesn't immediately strike one as the heroic type. Hmmm. Let's see what we could do with that. Orville.

First, though, let's give him a last name. There again, surnames tell a story. So, with Orville as a first name, a sturdy old-fashioned first name, we can go two ways. Stick with a down the middle of the road surname like Smith or Jones--or go for something a little more unusual. What shall it be? For myself, I just never seem to stick with the norm so I think that Orville's surname is... Peskowitz. There ya go. Orville Peskowitz.

Now what do we know about Orville? What do you suppose Orville looks like? I believe that Orville has sandy blond hair just long enough to wear in a clubbed pony tail, kind of like that guy in The Princess Bride. His eyes are chocolate brown...a deep dark chocolate. Yummm. Orville is almost six feet tall, but not quite. He has a barrel chest and excels at shot put in his spare time. He renovates old houses for a living and is particularly skilled at carpentry. Oh yeah. The important stuff. He's solvent, intelligent, patient, and single.

Now about that name... he was named Orville after his maternal grandpa. And Grigori after his paternal grandpa. So with a name like Orville Grigori Peskowitz, what do you suppose his friends call him? Anything he wants them to call him! Mostly they call him Orgi, a holdover from a little publicized event from high school. Nope, he doesn't want to discuss it at all. While the nickname lives on as a reminder of immaturity, he's all grown up now and past the foolish choices of the teen years.

Orgi drives a truck. Blue, Ford 150 with a matching cap on the back. He wears jeans, white tee shirts and loves cowboy boots.

There ya go. Whatcha think? I can guarantee you won't likely run into another hero character named Orville...


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Guest Blogger: Author Ashley Ladd

First off, the Grip crew would like to thank Ashley for stopping by today and lending her voice to the topic. Here's what Ashley has to say about Second Chances:

When I was asked to be the guest blogger at The Grip this week and we came up with the topic of second chances, I was thinking about romantic second chances. Of course, my mind revolves around romance, in the real world and in the imaginary world of my books. I wasn’t thinking about other kinds of second, or even third chances.

But as I’ve been reading The Grip this week, everybody’s reminded me that there are many types of second chances. They’re not all about love and romance, even though those are some of the best types.

We get second chances at lots of things: life, jobs, careers, friendships, credit, sports titles, dreams, etc. etc.

I’ve had second chances in more than just love but in love as well. As I mentioned in the discussion Thursday on The Grip, I got a second chance at my day job. Many years ago I had been promoted to manager, and then I was demoted. I was devastated. I was absolutely certain that if I wanted to advance in my day job career, I’d have to move to a different place. But I didn’t for many reasons. Lo and behold, about six months ago, I was promoted to manager of the same department again. I hope and pray I don’t blow it again. I’m grateful for another chance, but I’m also scared to death I’ll blow it again.

I think the second time around at love is very similar. Once burned, once hurt, we’re afraid to try again, with the same person (or job) in particular, but often even with a new person or new job. We know we failed once and we know how terrible that feels and we don’t ever want to feel that way again, so we’re tempted not to even try, to protect ourselves by backing away and wrapping ourselves in a cocoon.

When we’re brave enough, however, we put aside our fears, or at least try to muzzle them, and try again. Believe me, I was scared to death to accept the promotion again because if I fail a second time, I’ll be even more devastated, more humiliated.

But was the option of not taking the chance, of turning down the promotion, better?

Hell no!

That’s giving into defeat up front. That would have been to bury my dreams. Not only would it have hurt me, it would have been detrimental to my family, because face it, a promotion comes with a pay raise and I’ll have more disposable income so my kids can live the American Dream – well, at least more than they would have otherwise.

But we’re primarily romance readers and authors here, so our discussions usually focus on the romance aspect of things.

I can also relate to romantic second chances. My husband and I have had more than two second chances. As some of the other posters who have gone before me have wisely said, marriage is full of give and take and forgiveness and learning to live together all over again.

First, I broke up with my husband before we were ever married. We weren’t even officially engaged. He went into the Air Force and was stationed out in California. I joined the Air Force and was sent south to Mississippi. I dated other people. I’m sure he did. And then, we somehow got back together and married, a fact our kids are eternally grateful for.

After we’d been married for many years, we almost divorced. We came very close to the big D. The healing process was horrendous, but here we are fifteen years and one more child later, still married.

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun some of the time, but overall, it’s been well worth working out our differences, of taking our second chances.

I often write about second chances in romance because there’s a lot of angst and a lot of meat so readily available for these types of stories. Because of this, it’s an excellent premise to get sucked into a short story fast.

My most recent release “Submissive Dreams” features a divorced couple who get a second chance at love.

Is it easy?


Is it painless?


Is it worth it?

Hell yeah!

It must be worth it as so many people give love a second chance.

If you’ve ever had a second chance or or if you know somebody who has, you’ll already know this.

Here's a look at one of Ashley's books:

Submissive Dreams
By Ashley Ladd
Available NOW at Total-E-Bound
Click on the cover for more information.

Stacey disguises herself to fool her ex-husband, the Internet king of porn, but he's not the only one who gets a shock.Stacey Cooke can't believe her eyes when she sees her ex-husband Brand on the Internet—and he's the new king of porn. She divorced him for being too boring in bed and out and so she's stunned. Much worse than stunned, she's jealous and it hurts. She wonders if she gave up on him too early. She can't stop peeking at her ex with all his film partners. When an ad pops up for a new partner to have sex with Brand on film, her friend Lilli persuades her to apply. Donning a mask, disguising her voice, Stacey decides to see if she's still in love with him.

“You’re not gonna fuckin’ believe this,” Lilli whistled long and loud while she shook her head. The late afternoon sunlight filtering through the grimy windows glinted off her multi-coloured hair streaked blonde and red through her auburn locks.

Used to her friend’s over-ebullience, Stacey Cooke gave an obligatory smile. However, she didn’t blink an eye. “Uh huh.”
“No, I mean it. This is fuckin’ unbelievable! Sit down. This is wild.”
With an arched brow Stacey double checked her seating arrangement. “I am sitting. So what is it I won’t believe?”
Reverently, Lilli placed her laptop atop Stacey’s legs. “Look closely. Recognize anyone?”
Stacey gulped. Naked bodies writhed together, kissing, caressing, shagging their arses off… Women were tied up while men enjoyed their wicked way with them.

“Uh, why do you want me to look at this?” Despite herself, she couldn’t stop staring at the huge hard cocks fucking the moist pussies, from creaming her own panties.
“Come on. Don’t you see it?” Lilli jumped up and down as if panicked. She jabbed a finger at the screen.
“Look at the man’s face. Don’t you recognize him?” Her friend’s voice reverberated with frustration and excitement.
Stacey hadn’t exactly been studying faces. Those muscles, those cocks were mouth-watering scrumptious and she was squirming on her chair.
Lilli tapped her pointy, chipped fingernail on a man’s face
Stacey’s eyes dilated on the face she knew so well. It went blurry before her eyes and her heart skipped several beats. She couldn’t breathe. It couldn’t be. She had to be hallucinating. Or this was a trick. Was it April 1?
“That’s Brandon.”
The caption under the bald-headed man proclaimed him to be “Tyrannosaurus Rex”, but it was unmistakably her ex-husband—on steroids. Or maybe some great graphic air brushing was in play. Still, she laboured in disbelief as she struggled for air. “Th-that couldn’t be him. He’d never, ever…” Gobsmacked, she couldn’t finish the sentence.
Lilli leaned close enough to kiss the screen. “Dominate women? Tie them up? Shag them in public? Be a porn star?”
All of the above. Stacey couldn’t help herself and so she stole another look at the man’s face. It certainly looked like Brand but she still couldn’t wrap her mind around all this. Hell no! Her husband couldn’t be fucking other women. Especially not so many other women where everybody could see him. “They say everyone has a double…”
“If it was me, I’d be finding out for sure.” Lilli waved a dismissive hand and paced before her.
The hurtful truth slapped her between the eyes, and she dragged in a deep breath. She uttered, “We’re divorced. He can do whatever the hell he pleases.”
Here's where you can find Ashley on the web:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thank You, Ma'am... May I Have Another?

Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, well shame on me. At least, that used to be my motto. You see, in my younger days I saw things a bit more black and white. Not to say, the edges have blurred to the point of non-existence, but I’m definitely more inclined to forgive and forget for certain infractions, having said that, others are still a shunning offense, though they are few and far between.

I’ve found that the older I get, the easier it is to offer second chances to those who come in and out of my life. Life’s too short to hold grudges.

Over the years (and on multiple occasions), I’ve managed to put myself in positions that by all rights, I shouldn’t have came out of alive, yet here I sit, typing this post. I’ve been shot at, stabbed, gassed, poisoned and beaten to within an inch of my life (I wasn't always the kind, caring, well mannered man I am today), but somehow I always find a way to keep on keeping on. If the Powers That Be have seen fit to offer me a second chance (or countless ones for that matter), then who am I not to return the favor?

Do again vs. Do over

Second chances.

We all need them from time to time, and for different reasons. Something no one has talked about yet is the idea of rebuilding yourself after divorce or widowhood and building a whole new relationship out of the ashes. Won't be me either. I'm smart enough to keep my mouth shut when I know absolutely nothing about a topic.

I've been in the same relationship since the summer I was twenty-one. I can't even begin to imagine the horrors of finding myself in the dating market again at my age and size. Frankly I wasn't very good at it the first time. But I have tremendous respect for those who can, and do, pick themselves up after heartbreak and move on with their lives. It takes a lot of guts o open yourself up to that kind of hurt again.

Those of us who write romance in any of its forms spend a lot of time talking and thinking about the HEA--happily ever after. I even have it in the tag line on my email signature and my website. Of course we know that in real life the HEA isn't so perfect. It's not always happy and as humans are mortal creatures, it isn't really forever. Too often life is about compromises and about making the best of bad situations.

By bad situations, I don't mean relationships with one's spouse by the way. Are there arguments, sulks, and flat-out battles? Sure. Again--humans. Family, job pressures, financial woes, illness...they all take their tolls on us and on any relationship. But I know that when outside forces converge on us, he'll have my back in a heartbeat. And in the paraphrased words of John Travolta... (yeah, I actually read this in an interview once, and it increased my respect for the man immensely) Everytime you're ready to walk out just stop and think...Do I really want to go back to dating again? Would it really be better to have to start all over? And every time, I turn around and stay. And that is one very good way to take a second chance.

Now in some situations, that's not going to work. Some relationships simply aren't better than starting over. In that case, you really have to do what you have to do. For me? A second chance is every morning I wake up beside someone so tuned into me that even if we went to sleep mad at each other, we wake up curled in each others' arms.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Once more with Feeling

Hand me some more of those second chances, too, because I sure as hell need 'em most of them time. I tend to speak impulsively, without meaning harm of course, and find my foot firmly planted in my mouth. Anybody hear me on that one? Fortunately, my friends are understanding and indulgent and are quick to forgive if I've unintentionally offended. WHEW.

But that's just the little stuff. The other second chances are harder, more painful. I'm not just speaking of marriage second chances here. My husband and I will celebrate a 26 year anniversary this year and yeah, we've had big huge UPS and even huger DOWNS but we both like to talk and we're both stubborn, so we've managed to work through tough things. No I'm actually talking about the giant second chances that drop in unexpectedly during the course of our lives.

Many of you know that years ago I fell into a deep, dark hole and those who loved me feared I'd never be able to climb out of it. Some might not be able to understand why I feel free to talk about such a painful time but I look upon it as my own personal survival story. It gives me strength to recall those days and realize how far I've come. I wrote then with no publishing success and went through a number of personal things that simply proved too much to handle. I fell hard into that black hole but when I finally climbed out, I smiled into the sunshine and realized I'd been given a second chance. I took a breath, grabbed with both hands, and held on for the ride. I took each day as it came, giving myself permission to fail, to not be perfect, to just BE. Once I realized that, absorbed it, I took baby steps into writing again. Just little ones. Later, I learned that timing is everything. Someone took a chance on me and my first book was accepted for publication. This all snowballed and now I'm enjoying some measure of success. I got a second chance to live my dream but now I wonder if the journey itself wasn't more valuable than what I gained in the end.

These days, I'm thankful that I found some guts, some courage and took the second chance I was given. I don't take myself too seriously these days. I laugh. I love. I enjoy. Nope, I don't stress about the calories if I want extra cream in my coffee or indulge my love of chocolate. The world won't end if I never sell another book and the universe will not shatter, if I mess up sometimes. I got one second chance, didn't I? Maybe there are a few more chances right around the corner. I'm sure I'll need em.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Can you pass my second chance, please?

There is something completely deflating about following Anny Cook. That woman makes so much sense that I really struggle to find something to add. I'm gonna try anyway, cause it's a great topic. Be gentle with me.

I can't say I have a lot of experience with second chances, per se. I haven't re-dated, re-married, or returned to anyone or any place in my life. But the second chances I do know well are the professional and marital ones.

Marital: As Anny said, they are daily. Every time there's a disagreement, a differing of opinion, even a financial crisis a marriage finds its bearings and starts fresh. You'd no more give up on a minor problem than you would should yourself in the foot. Oh wait, my uncle actually did that. Yes, he did. But that's beside the point. You work through problems, generally. But I'm not going to linger on this point. I'm going to jet on through to the next example... professional second chances.

Professional: I'm in the midst of a rebirth so I feel like I can discuss this with some sense of authority. I haven't openly publicized this so as not to affect sales and whatnot, but things are shaking up. A little while ago I posted something on my personal blog about Gray Spaces. I told everyone, after their expressed concerns, that I had two identities. I went public about the double pen names for the record. There was more that I didn't say and will introduce today.

At the beginning of next year I'm closing down my pen names. Both of them. I won't be writing as either Kelly Kirch or Katie Blu because I'm taking my second chance. I'll be writing as Kelly Marstad. I'll be moving into the inspirational genre. For those of you who need a translation, that would be Christian Fiction.

Now I've heard a lot of comments on this already but basically it comes down to two things. First, my husband's career is at stake and that is tremendously important to me. I don't want to be the reason he is fired and black-balled from his vocation. I love what I write but that's what leads me to the second reason. I've been struggling with the decisions I've made and completely lacking in peace for them. The minute I decided to go this route, I felt like a weight had been lifted.

The second chance at my career is at hand. I'm not ashamed of what I've written which is why I'm telling all of you about it, making it public. I won't hide from it either. I will have to explain my past down the road to those in the Inspirational market, but then that's nothing new to me at this point.

I still have works out there that have yet to be published but they are contracted, and I will continue to promote them and sign them. Why? Because I'm not ashamed, just heading down a different track. The disconcerting thing is that my new market focus doesn't really embrace mainstream authors. I'll be starting over like an unpublished writer as my backlist carries no weight and I'm moving in a market that is REALLY picky about what constitutes overt sexual content. One woman told me her heroine commented on the hero's nice legs in one book and his back-side in another and that was a risk. Heh.

This second chance is scary, new, a little terrifying, and I may be making a huge mistake. That's why it's been under wraps. But I have to give it a go without burning my bridges behind me. So while I'm not giving a second chance, I'm collecting on one and that, my friends, scares me to pieces.


Monday, August 18, 2008

The Second Time

This week our subject is love the second time around. I suspect that when most people look at that phrase, they think of a new partner for that second time around. There are other options, though. In a long term relationship, the individuals inevitably change and at one point or another they grow apart. That is life.

If they want to salvage that relationship, they will make an effort to find something that will pull them back together again. If married, they start with an advantage right from the beginning. Marriage isn't nearly as easy to walk away from as a less formal relationship. There are joint bank accounts and joint ownership in cars, homes, apartment leases--and that doesn't even address the question of children and pets. So marriage acts like a temporary band aid, holding the relationship together until the couple can work on that second time around.

The house hunk and I have put in our forty years. In that time, we've had a second time around and a third time around and... That's pretty much how most marriages work. Somewhere around the twenty-five to thirty year mark the children start to leave home. Empty nesters look at each other and suddenly discover they don't have a clue about the stranger they're living with.

They have two options. They can continue to drift apart. Or they can start doing things together until they discover a new love and commitment. No, it's not the same as when they first married. The out of control passion isn't there so much, but there's a stronger sense of togetherness and the comfort that comes from a partner that sees you with all the warts and blemishes and love handles and still believes that you're desirable. This new love is confident enough to try new things and adventurous enough to enjoy the offbeat.

What if? What if instead of discarding the old, more of us reinvented it? What if we worked to make a new exciting second time around?


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Killer Curves- Coming Soon from Ellora's Cave

Mark your calendar's for my September 5 release Killer Curves. This is an Ellora's Cave contemporary romance.

Killer Curves
Regina Carlysle


After the death of her husband in a fiery crash, Carrie Martin Salem left the world of the racing circuit and retreated to Texas vowing to live a quiet and safe life. But old memories dig deep, leaving her longing for the friend she left behind. From the moment, J.T. Sims steps from the cab of his truck, Carrie knows it’s more than friendship she feels for the hottest racecar driver on Earth.
J.T. Sims never forgot the beautiful wife of his long-dead best friend. She’d had her time to grieve. She’d had years to pull herself together and now it was his turn, his time to reach out for the love he’s always wanted. His mission becomes convincing the pretty Texas lady that she’s strong enough to take what he’s offering. Nights of hot passion and days filled with love.

Excerpt: (Adult)
He’d come for her.
Carrie couldn’t quite believe it but truth was there on his face, burning deep in those dark, brown eyes as he held her pinioned against the side of his truck. His cock pressed flushed against her, burned hot through the crotch of her jeans and she mentally shook her head at the craziness of her position. They were friends. Weren’t they? Oh, no. Simple friends didn’t hold each other this way.
“Tell me what you mean, J.T.” Oh, God, her voice trembled. He’d rattled her for sure and she wasn’t a woman who rattled that easily after all she’d been through.
He wouldn’t be denied and she knew it. J.T.’s muscles bunched as he leaned closer, one tiny sexy increment and brushed his sensual lips against hers as if he planned a serious study on the textures of her mouth.
“I think you know exactly what I mean, sweetheart. I’ve been waiting. All this time just waiting,” he whispered in a rough voice. How did a man get such thick, black curling lashes, she wondered inanely as his lips brushed hers leisurely, as if he had all the time in the world.
J.T. rolled his chest against her and Carrie felt her nipples draw up tighter. They stabbed into full, male muscle and she gasped. Lowering his face, he drank the sound, teased her bottom lip with this tongue, swiped it past her teeth and into the cavern of her mouth. A short quick claiming that stole her breath. When he drew back, smiling faintly, Carrie struggled to catch her breath.
He looked like a man who knew a sexy secret. Well, she had a few secrets of her own and he might not think quite so highly of her if he knew.
“I think you’d better let me down, J.T.” she said breathlessly, before she lost her nerve. One more kiss would have her tossing her good sense to the wind. One more taste of him would have her grinding her pussy against him and begging him to take her on the driveway in front of her house.
Was she that starved for sexual contact?
Oh, yeah. She was.
“What are you afraid of, honey? Me?” Obliging her, J.T. stepped back and slowly lowered her down the front of his body. His scent whipped around her, making her dizzy. His body was hard and strong and utterly edible.
She laughed a little. “Your damn right I’m afraid of you. You’re a very scary man and too sexy for your own good. What do they put in those power drinks you’re always endorsing, huh? Testosterone?”
She’d wanted to lighten the moment and knew she’d succeeded when he chuckled and reached into the bed of his truck. He had his bag halfway out when he glanced at her over his shoulder. A dark brow winged up over one eye. “Can I bunk here, Carrie? Or I guess the better question is this: are you involved with anyone? Am I welcome?”
“No. There’s no one.” She noted the satisfied, cat-ate-the-canary look that flashed in his eyes and continued. Yeah, she knew it was a risky proposition for her heart but she was a hospitable southern woman. “And of course, you’re welcome. Please stay, J.T. There’s only one motel in Mesquite Creek and I think they only rent by the hour.”
Yes. Keep it light. Keep it fun. There was plenty of time later to find out just what the hell he was talking about.
J.T. laughed and finally pulled the duffel from the bed of his truck. “A real no-tell mo-tel, hm?”
“That’s about it. “ She headed back toward the house and knew he followed. A little shiver skittered up her spine. He was watching her ass, the sneaky little devil, and she knew it, could feel his eyes exploring her curves. “I have plenty of room.”
“Yeah, I noticed. Nice big house you have here.”
“I like it. It’s quiet. Nobody bothers me out here.” She walked into the house, deep into the massive living room and spread her arms, smiling. “Home sweet home. You like?”
“Mm-yeah. A lot. The place looks like you. Classy but with touches of sweet thrown in.”
Carrie watched him take in her space as an unexpected thrill went through her at his words. He was one of the best parts of her past and his sincere compliment meant the world to her. “How long have you been driving, J.T.? Bet you’re beat.”
He laughed. “Not that beat. I wouldn’t turn down a shower though.”
“God. It’s great to see you. Really. I’m so glad you’re here. A surprise like this really jump starts my heart.”
“You look good. Better than good.”
“You think?”
“Yeah. Completely delicious.” Moving to her, a tiny smile curving his lips, he reached out and ran a finger through the loose, blonde curls that swept her shoulders. “You’ve let it grow. I like it.”
She met those rich, deep eyes and a blast of nostalgia grabbed her, tickled through her chest. Stopping herself from reaching out to pull him back into her arms, she flashed a grin. “Remember how you used to tease me about my short hair?”
He laughed. “You looked like a regular tomboy. Maybe I didn’t tell you often enough how cute I thought you were.”
“Cute, huh? Every woman’s dream description.” Carrie went serious. “I heard you came in third at Miami.”
“Did you watch?”
She shook her head. “You know I can’t watch them anymore.”
“I get that, sweetheart.” His voice lowered an octave, compassion heavy in his words.
“Anyway. I read all about it. Third isn’t too shabby.”
“Um, yeah. Did pretty good. Gearhardt was happy. Got a nice little bonus out of the deal.”
Gearhardt Racing, based in Houston, was J.T.’s boss and, at one time, had been Mark’s as well. “Lots of endorsements, too, I hear.”
J.T. laughed. “Testosterone laced power drinks and a sandwich outfit. A candy company. Not bad.”
Chuckling, shaking her head, Carrie realized how very much she’d missed him. “How long will you be here? Don’t you have stuff coming up?”
He shifted and tucked his thumbs in the pockets of his worn jeans. “I have a couple weeks before heading up to Texas Motor Speedway for the three-hundred. I’ll meet up with the team there. Two weeks too long for you, honey?”
Uncertainty shook her but she couldn’t let him see. It had taken years to come to grips with her past and now, here it was, roaring back into her life. J.T. brought with him a lot of junk she just wasn’t certain she wanted to face right now.
“No,” she whispered. “Two weeks is just fine but, um, it’s taken me awhile to feel comfortable in my own skin again, J.T.” It was hard but she forced herself to look him dead in the eye. “Mark’s my past and I don’t talk about him much.”He gave her a look and moved closer. Cupping her cheek in one big hand, he bent and brushed his lips against hers. For a man who’d made a living out of being fast, he certainly put a lot of slow in his kisses. He kept it brief and smiled down at her. “My being here doesn’t have a goddamned thing to do with Mark. He’s dead and I’m sorry about that but lets leave him where he is, Carrie.”

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Guest Blogger: Lisa Dawn

The crew of the Grip would like to welcome Lisa Dawn, Marketing Director from The Wild Rose Press.

Arming Yourself with the Marketing Basics

My Space, blogs, Yahoo loops, live chats, websites…

An author has an arsenal of options available to them—so choose your weapon.

The best advice I can give you is to do something you enjoy. If you’ve never been a blogger, don’t enjoy visiting and posting on other blogs, then don’t start a blog. If you don’t like a lot of email in your inbox, then posting to yahoo loops isn’t for you. The Internet is limitless in its reach, but it can also be overwhelming. Don’t try to do everything, but plan the best use of those marketing minutes. And if something isn’t working for you, move on. You can easily take the pleasure out of writing by trudging through promotion hell.

So starting with the basics:
  • A signature line – Every email you send is an opportunity to tell someone about your book. However, don’t overwhelm your contact. A simple signature line will include your name, website, and perhaps the title of your current release. If you don’t have a website, use your publisher’s website, but make the website link to your book buy page.

  • Blogs – Blogs are free and easy to use, but the important aspect is to be consistent and be persistent. It takes time to build a readership.

  • Websites – They should do more than look good. Most authors have a website, but are you using yours as a promotional tool? It’s nice to have photos, signing dates, release information and buy buttons. But your website can do more. Showcase your talents. This is a reader’s first taste of your work. Give them excerpts and give them a reason to return. One option would be to offer a free short story to anyone who signs a guestbook. Hold monthly contests. This is a great way to start building a mailing list. Also, update your page. New reviews, new releases, any news should be posted.

  • My Space – A promotional juggernaut, but it doesn’t have to be a huge time drain. Check your page once a week, spend thirty minutes a week requesting friends and utilize the features. One of the things My Space can do is increase your presence in a Google or Yahoo search. But in order for it to work you need to post on other My Space pages and have “friends” post on yours. Some important things to think about when setting up your page. Use as many key words about your writing in your heading and in your content as you can. For example, if you write suspense, when someone does a My Space search for an author who writers suspense, you want your name to pop up. Suspense, author, romance, and any other word that helps distinguish your work—these are key words that need to be in your profile. If MySpace is your marketing tool, make sure it is working for you.

  • Live chats – Many review sites have chat rooms and many publishers have chats. The Wild Rose Press holds a weekly chat in their website chat room on Tuesday nights at 9 pm ET. These are great places to meet readers. When hosting a live chat be sure to let your author personality show through. If you write romantic comedy, you’ll want that light jovial tone to come across. This is a way to let readers get to know you the author.

  • Yahoo loops – Do you start your own or work with what’s out there? Once again this boils down to time. Most review sites and publishers have Yahoo loops for promoting your books. However, I think one of the best solutions is combining forces. If you’re going to start a loop, ask a few fellow authors, writing in similar genres, to join you. Then you aren’t alone in keeping the loop active. (I also think this is a good idea for starting new blogs.)

However you choose to market your work, be sure it reflects you as a writer. Think about whether you want hot, nearly naked men on your website if you write inspirational romance. When someone visits your website or other promotional spot, they should instantly recognize your brand. Branding helps a reader understand who you are as a writer and what they can expect from your books regardless of the genre.

Lisa Dawn
Marketing Director
The Wild Rose Press

Thanks to Lisa for sharing her wisdom with us today. Here's a promotion she'd like you to check out. Click on the picture for more information.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Big Pimpin'

Promotion? Isn’t that what you get when you do really well at the day job and they want to reward your efforts? Or if you do so bad that they don’t want you to have hands on experience in the environment anymore, but you have such a great kiss ass team mentality and they don’t want to get rid of you?

Ok, all kidding aside, promotion is the key to having a successful writing career. You can write the best book in the entire history of written literature, but if no one hears of it, how will they know? Sure, depending on the house who publishes your work, a certain amount of promotion will be done on your behalf, but when it comes right down to it, the future of your book really lies in your hands. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Have a large web presence. This is particularly important if the majority of your works come out in the form of e-books. The more people you reach out to on the web, the better the opportunity is that one of them will read your work and heaven forbid, tell someone else to check it out as well. I personally use, Publisher’s Marketplace, blogspot, MySpace, Twitter, Goodreads, chats and message boards, to convey my presence.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your books in a face to face environment. On any given week, I pass out ten to thirty business cards, I don’t ram the information down their throat like a seventeen year old Amway salesman, but if there is an opportunity to segue into you’re your elevator pitch, take it. If not, is it really that big a stretch to create one? Again, don’t yammer incessantly about it, but touch on the topic of your book and if there is an interest, let them know where to find it and move on to the next topic.

Conferences are another invaluable source. Though, I’d like to point out that the ones that are directed more at readers than authors will generally be your better bet. We all seek approval from our peers, but let’s face it; it’s the avid reader we’re really need to meet out there.

Reviews, both given and received, are another way to get your name out there. Say you do a review on author X. Fan of author X googles said author. Your review pops up and maybe…just maybe, they take an interest in your work as a result.

And we can’t forget the age old custom of book signings. What better way to let potential new readers know you exist than sitting in the front of a book store (you’re already a leg up, because they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t readers) with a smile and a stack of books?

Are there other ways to promote? I’m sure there are and some of them are probably more effective, but this list is just how I’ve chosen to approach the necessary evil of self-promotion. Does it work? Well, not as well as I’d envisioned in my fantasy rise to fame, but my numbers seem to be increasing every month, be it ever so gradually. Having said that, if anyone has any suggestions as to how I can coax more people to read my books, I’m all ears.

What a writer's gotta do...

Like others have mentioned I long for the day when I can turn to a professional publicist and say, "Fine. You handle it." Of course I also feel the same way about cleaning my house. Turning either of those chores over to a professional isn't happening anytime soon, so like most other e-book/small press authors, I'm forced to handle it myself.

What works? Got me. My sales numbers don't give me much of a handle on that. I've tried ads in the big magazines, blogging, guest blogging, chats, myspace, promo giveaways, contests, you name it. Each time I think I'm onto something big, my sales stay steady. So I'm left shaking my head. Yes, I've had people win a copy of one book and then go buy the others in that series. Yes, I've had people leave comments on blogs and go buy the books. I've had booksignings where I sold three and others where I sold thirty. Honestly? I can't figure out any trend or pattern. And that's using my scientific analysis background. The best I can tell you is that all of it works--sometimes.
In the two years since I made my first sale, I have noticed a couple of things. Chats aren't as well attended as they once were. From an author's point of view, that's a disappointment. Even if hundreds or thousands are reading the excerpts later on digest, it's hard to keep a chat going if you have three readers show up. And if you do run a free download contest, you honestly don't want to give free books to the same reader time after time.

Like many authors, my promotions budget is essentially zero. I can afford to chip in on the occasional big prize or mail out the occasional goodie. I bought magnets for RT and have another hundred or so to pass out. I do not have a software program to produce cool flashy banners or other graphics, and therefore what I do end up investing is time. And every hour I spend promoting is an hour I don't write. I do have my dragon logo. At one point I was told that he was too juvenile for the romance/erotic romance market, so his image has gotten an overhaul (above). He's still Cedric and he still shows up on my emails, but it's now in his grown-up persona.

So what works, what doesn't? Don't ask me. I'm just plugging away at it like everyone else. Of the two publishers I'm with, I will say that the one I do more promo for, I'm one of their lower sellers, while the one where I mostly let the books sell themselves, I'm sitting at #1 on their bestseller list. Go figure.
As the US inches deeper into recession, we're competing harder for what small amount of money is left for luxuries. I know a number of authors are sending promo to the Australian romance conference this winter in hopes of expanding their readership overseas, where the economy is stronger. I will probably do likewise and hope they like dragon magnets too.

Oh, and one cool note? One of our recent Saturday guests here on the grip had an email from her publisher the day of her guest appearance asking what she'd done for promo, and to please keep doing it. Thought that was a very cool testament to the whole blogging thing, and to the Grip in particular.

Anyway, promo is a part of the job description and it's not going away. We do what we can, what we have to, and what we can afford to get the word out. Why? Because there's not much cooler than having someone come up to you and say,. "Oh, I love your books!"
One last thing... Last Saturday, Lisabet Sarai offered a free download of Rough Caress to one lucky commenter. Jeanine if you would please contact Lisabet at to claim your free copy?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


That is, I am NOT a Promo Ho. Many are. They are completely awesome at getting their names out and pushing their books but I am sooooo not one of them. Maybe it's because I'm new to all of this but I have learned CAN teach an old dog and some of it's sticking.

When sold my first book, I thought....hmm, okay this is it. I'll go on to my next work in progress and the book will just fly off the shelves all by itself. No one will have to teach my little baby to fly, either. It'll just git-up-and-Go. SNORT. Yeah, right! Boy, did I ever have a lot to learn. Fortunately, I'm a quick study and I'm finally figuring out what works and what doesn't. At least for me.

Chats are an interesting thing. Some believe they do little good, especially if they aren't well attended and smallish loops to begin with. Others love them and are constantly chatting up their newest releases. For me, the jury is still out. I'm coming to the realization that too many chats, too close together not only make me seriously nuts, they might be overkill. Lately, I'm trying to space my chats a bit and only attend those that have a reputation for being well attended. I actually love chatting. It's a fun way to become familiar with the works of other writers and learn a bit about our customers and what they like. Right now, though I'm limiting to two (maybe three) chats each month. And NO, I don't like having a chat with just myself as the only author. Groups of authors getting together is far more fun. I tried going it alone once and quickly learned that I play with others far better than I play with myself. (Oh MY...did I really just SAY that? LOL)

I also belong to a number of groups. Some are better than others but it's a really good way to learn which kind of promo will help me sell a book. Authors are generous people, as a rule, and love to trade information. It's all a learning deal and I try to pick up and yes, share, things I think might be valuable.

Lately, I'm trying something new. Like Anny with her beautiful piks, I'm putting on my creative hat these days and trying to come up with promo items for an upcoming convention in Australia. I just ordered cheap but pretty business cards and I'm looking into buying either pens, sticky notes, or magnets. I've heard that most stuff is tossed in the trash by conference attendees so it's best to stick with things folks can actually use. I'm playing with some unique ideas that will set me apart...I hope, I hope. Surely something super creative will strike before I have to send this stuff off.

Kelly mentioned name recognition, branding, so I've added my Avatar. These days I pretty much put it everywhere I can. I use it for all my blogs and believe me, I'm doing plenty of those. I have a personal blog and do three group blogs. It is super time-consumming and I have no clue if it works or not but I'm giving it a try. Right now, I believe what I do is trial and error. Most is error and I'm normally quick to recognize and toss away if something isn't working.

The biggest problem with promotion is TIME. It takes a great deal of time and effort to promote and it seriously cuts into moments I could spend writing. Lately, I really resent it too. Still, it is a necessary evil. My first little baby never did learn to fly but others have since had my assistance and have done better. After all, who wants to write a book that no one will read? Promotion may leave a writer feeling completely out of his/her element but it's something we all have to think about if we hope to achieve any measure of success.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Doing it your way

Wasn't Anny's post pretty? She's a woman of incredible talent both for her writing and her creativity in crafts. I've seen these hairpiks and the longer, fancier versions. She makes chinka boxes too any fabric, button, and yarn crafts you can come up with. She's just that good.

I'm less creative with the crafts and lean pretty heavily on internet promo. I've been studying Anny and Cindy for a year now, watching how they handle chats and how they interact with their reader audiences. I confess I'm not as adventurous as they are... yet. I'm working on it at a snail's pace. I'm also up against some professional changes in my life and have slowed down my promo until I have it all worked out. My first milestone is to host a chat. I haven't yet and I'd like to.

Promo comes down to one thing: Getting people to recognize your brand. What's a brand? It's how people recognize your work, your name, your image in the general market place. Yes, a simplistic explanation but a valid description. Your brand is everything from your genre to they way your name appears on your blog/website. If your brand is inconsistent, it confuses the reader and takes them longer to remember who you are and what you write.

People require ten mentions before your name is remembered. If you have your name coinciding with an image, it strengthens the recognition factor. For example, Regina's avatar, the sexy little blonde cartoon from Three Wicked Writers she uses or the eyes avatar on my blog. Those are things that even when seen without my name or her name attached, will become recognized for their association.

Do you have a brand? You might without even realizing it. What do people associate with your work? Wicked humor? Damaged alpha werewolves? Klutzy heroines? Do your stories have compatible themes? Do you write in one or more genres? It's all part of how your reader will recognize you. If you haven't thought of it, now is the time.

Another aspect of branding is getting your name out there. It goes without saying that if you don't put your brand out there, no one will ever know your work unless by chance. So get out there. Drum up the sales and extend yourself. It doesn't matter if you chat, do contests, give things away, or flash your pearly whites. Whatever it is you do and makes you comfortable, go for it!


Monday, August 11, 2008

Getting the word out--Promo!

One of the first things I discovered when I was offered a contract for that first book was the reality of my responsibility for promotion. It's a very simple truth--No one will buy a book if they don't know it's for sale. That might seem simple, but in e-books especially, the author has to spend time introducing their name and product. No one is going to accidentally mosey by our books on a rack in WalMart and pluck us off the shelf. The best we can hope for is a few sales generated because they're browsing our publisher's website.

But way before our book reaches that all important release date, it's our job to bring it to the attention of as many people as possible. Many writers choose to use promotional items in this quest. There is an ongoing search for unusual, inexpensive (let's be frank--most of us can't afford to spend big bucks) promo items. There are the usual suspects: book marks, business cards, magnets, pens, lip gloss, keychains, mini-cds, and the list goes on.

My observations led me to eliminate the paper goods. Inevitably, they end up in the trash. So what makes a promo item a success? It needs to be something that the individual would hesitate to throw away. Preferably it is something that they handle frequently or something that their eyes will fall on often. For that reason I would suspect that a pen is probably the number one candidate. There is a second reason that pens work so wonderfully in my opinion... pens travel. How many times have you ended up with a pen in your possession with no idea where it came from? How many times have you taken a pen from your pocket or purse to sign something and then accidentally left it behind? See? Pens travel.

In a secondary level, I would say magnets and lip glosses would work well. Magnets seldom get thrown out. Say your magnet ends up on someone's refrigerator. The secret to promotion is repeated exposure. How many times do people open their refrigerators? How many times does a person use their lip gloss/chapstick?

But suppose that those things just don't speak to you? Suppose you want something more individual and personal... something unique. Then perhaps you might want to devise something that reflects your stories while advertising your books. To that end, I decided on the hair piks in the photos.
In my Mystic Valley series, the valley inhabitants have very long hair and they use hair piks (both short and long) to adorn their hair. So I devised two types of hair piks to give away as promo items. The short piks I hand out anywhere and everywhere. My website is printed on the side of the pik. And people hesitate to throw out something hand crafted. The long piks are used as prizes in contests. I have to say that they are a popular item. Even when people haven't read my books and are totally unfamiliar with Mystic Valley, their curiosity about the piks leads them to find out what the piks are all about. And that, after all, is the whole point of the exercise.

So... anyone want a pik? E-mail me at with "hair pik" in the subject line. Don't forget your snail mail addy. One pik per person!


Sunday, August 10, 2008

More Than Words. Out NOW!!

More Than Words (Historical Romance/Fantasy) Released August 4, 2008 from

Kylie Dobson is a romance author with a problem. As a seat-of-the-pants writer, she depends on the strength of the characters to drive her plot. But when her hero, Milo, Lord Gafton refuses to chase after the prescribed heroine, everything goes wonky. Kylie is inexplicably sucked into her work of fiction, transported from a contemporary venue to a fictional Regency setting. What's worse is, nothing she does is affecting the plot and she can't get out.

Set into motion by her own creative process is a winter storm which seals the Regency party goers in on a country estate. If that wasn't bad enough, a murderer is on the loose and he's picking off one guest at a time. The more time she spends with Milo the more she comes to depend on him. She's convinced that his character sketch will kick in at any moment and he'll fall for her heroine. But will it happen before she loses her heart to him? And what happens when the plot draws to the end? Will the killer have his way and will Kylie solve the case only to be returned to her reality without the man she's fallen for?

The next morning, Kylie sat in front of her laptop trying to recreate the solarium scene in her mind. A soft flutter tickled along the side of her neck. Her eyes sealed shut, Kylie batted it away. Seconds later, the wispy flutter returned. She swiped at it, returning her fingers to rub clumsily over the spot which insisted on distracting her from her visualization exercise. Determined to work through the problem with her novel, she wasn’t about to let the irritation of a mosquito pull her from the scene she needed to write.
The problem was with Milo, she decided. Miss Sutterfield was blameless. Kylie had made Milo too demanding. She’d have to go back and rework his character. Maybe make him weak-kneed for Miss Sutterfield. But try as she might, she couldn’t play the image of Milo being anything less than he was for the lovely Miss Sutterfield.
Kylie grunted her irritation. A low throaty chuckle drifted to her moments before something flitted over her earlobe. Leaping to her feet, she grabbed madly for her laptop only to find it missing. “What the—?”
“Were you quite finished? I would have allowed you more time but your furrowed brow proved too fetching to resist.” Milo sat on the settee, arms draped along the back and legs crossed, his negligent pose was at odds with the light dancing in his dark brown eyes. He twirled a feather between his fingers closest to where she had been sitting.
She blinked, rubbed a knuckle over her tired eye and blinked again. “Great, I’m seeing things.”
Milo cocked an eyebrow. His smile broadened. “Are you?”
“Yes, I are,” she snapped. “Get back in my head. We have work to do. You nearly messed up the plot by refusing to compromise Miss Sutterfield.” Kylie muttered to herself. She went through the solarium scene in her mind. She had actually managed to talk herself through the initial door opening, where Milo first saw Miss Sutterfield nervously standing across the room, when Kylie froze.
Milo hadn’t faded. She could still see his booted foot in her line of vision where she stared at the floor, trying to reason out the hang up. Her gaze traveled up his boot to the form fitting buff breeches, over his crossed knees. The muscular flex of his thighs was not hidden by the clinging material, nor was the line of his lean hips, visible through his parted coat. Her face heated and she had the distinct urge to fan herself. If a man were standing and had something going on in those pants, it would be really difficult to hide. She’d have to keep that in mind for a future scene.
Kylie studied the deep navy coat with its large brass buttons, the black piped edging and the way his lapels only seemed to widen his already broad shoulders. Milo’s cravat, a cascade of folded, tucked, and knotted fabric should have seemed frilly, effeminate, but it had the completely opposite effect. The abundance of white deepened the warm tones of his skin, framed his jaw and made the visible tendons steely by comparison.
Her mouth went dry. “You’re still here,” she croaked.
“As are you.”
Her gaze lingered over the cut line of jaw, the prominent chin with a small indent perfectly centered below full, smooth lips. Kissing lips. She remembered thinking that when she created his character, imagining lips which had pouty thickness without losing the fine hard line of formation. His nose was long and straight, his dark eyes engaging and seductive beneath the straight, dark slash of his brows. Chestnut locks waved back from his high forehead and skimmed the back of his cravat. “Damn, I did a great job on you.”
His mouth curled, taking on a lopsided tilt. “So glad you approve.”

Wheeling her around, he backed her to the wall where he had been standing. His mouth crashed down on hers. Where before she had dominated the exchange, now Milo seared her lips with his. He commanded her, held her captive under the seductive onslaught of his kiss. Kylie clutched his shoulders, hanging on when her body wanted nothing more than to dissolve within the sensations he crafted. Her head spun, her insides did summersaults, her ears rang happily. Through it all, her body awoke with a long, shuddering sigh, blissful and no longer willing to remain complacent.
Kylie rocked her hips to his, rejoicing in his obvious arousal. Milo’s hands clinched repeatedly on her waist, clearly wanting to touch her but not allowing himself to take the liberty. Deciding to show her Regency man a little real world experience, she reached between them, stroking over his length. He muttered something into her mouth which sounded like a half-crazed oath. Her sentiments exactly. The man was huge. She’d written that part of him well, too.
The realization poured over her like a bucket of ice water. What the hell was she doing? Feeling up her fictitious hero? Hello, Kylie, get a grip. Oh, she’d love to get a grip. Oh wait, no, she shouldn’t. Kylie shoved him, then shoved him again when she wasn’t immediately successful in pushing him away. “Quit doing that.”
Milo’s breath rasped with the same harsh grating as hers. He swore viciously under his breath. It sounded nothing like the previous one meant to call upon the power of God. No, this oath was pissed.
“I admit I got carried away the first time, but you can’t just grab me and kiss me.”
“The first time, Kylie? What of the second time? And if the second was my doing, why did you grasp the front of my breeches?”
“Fine. I got carried away both times. It can’t happen again.”
“It will happen again.”
“No, it won’t. You’ll go on your merry way lusting after Miss Sutterfield and I will work out the bugs in my plot. We’ll all live happily ever after. End of story,” she snapped.
“Is that the promise of a novelist? Hmm? Happily ever after? Because you are correct about it being the end of the story in such circumstances. But it would be your happily ever, not mine. I may have been formed by your mind and creative effort, but I choose my own direction.”
“That’s not what I meant. In real time, end of story is a figure of speech. Though, I want to figure out the ending and get back to some semblance of normalcy.”
“You’re meant for me, Kylie. You don’t see it yet, but you are as drawn to me as I am to you.”
“You’re drawn for Miss Sutterfield. At some point your true nature will come out, you’ll realize your mistake and make a bee-line for her. Then I’m left in the dust. No thanks. I’m not about to get burned by the embodiment of my hero. I’ve done it in real life and I’m not doing it for the plot development of this book.”

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Guest Blogger: Author Lisabet Sarai

The crew at Oh Get a Grip welcomes guest blogger, author Lisabet Sarai!

Candlelight, Wine and a Whip: Why BDSM is Romantic

Let me begin by saying that every individual has different preferences, desires and limits. That is, in fact, one of the first tenets of BDSM. The picture of the pierced self-corset posted a few days squicked me, too. However, I do believe that many people get hung up on the externals, the paraphernalia and the physical acts popularly associated with dominance and submission, and miss the main point. At the fundamental level, BDSM is about the relationship between the dominant and the submissive – a relationship that at its best is as intimate, intense and fulfilling as anything portrayed in vanilla romance.

BDSM not about one person controlling another. It’s not about cruelty or ego or weakness or low self-esteem or inequality. Serious practitioners (and I guess I must count myself in that number, though my current relationship is vanilla) will tell you that the essence of dominance and submission is an exchange of power. The submissive freely offers the dominant power over her body. (For now I'll assume a female submissive. I've written both male- and female-dominant tales, as well as some lesbian D/s, but it gets awkward to keep using multiple pronouns!) The dominant accepts responsibility for the submissive’s well-being, which includes her pleasure.

The sub surrenders herself to the dom, in devotion and trust. The dom can do whatever he wants with the sub; she has, after all, given her consent (although in the real world, there are always limits, agreed or intuited). He has the intoxicating knowledge that by taking what he desires, he will also give his sub what she most craves: the satisfaction of pleasing her master and the freedom to experience her secret, forbidden fantasies of ravishment and abuse.
Some threads in BDSM literature portray non-consensual dominance, where the submissive is coerced, humiliated and literally abused. I exclude these from consideration. Some people are turned on by such stories, and that’s okay, but I can’t see anything romantic in these scenarios.

My BDSM work focuses on individuals, often in a committed relationship, who share mutually complementary desires and explore them together. Whether the tale involves bondage, or spanking, or electrical stimulation, or some other challenge posed by the dominant for the submissive to experience, the real point is the psychic bond that develops between the participants in a BDSM scene. I know that it probably sounds absurd if you haven’t experienced it, but the dom beats the submissive out of love for her.

I had intended to share an excerpt from Raw Silk. This novel traces the journey of an intelligent, independent woman coming to accept her submissive desires and to love the man who intuits and fulfills them. At the same time, he recognizes his need for her. However, I decided instead to give you something a bit more light-hearted, a selection from Rough Caress, my collection of BDSM short stories. “Wednesday Night at Rocky’s Ace Hardware” is not a true story – but it might well have been. It captures the spirit of my own experiences with D/s, and demonstrates, much better than my halting efforts above, how BDSM can be wonderfully romantic.
Thanks Lisabet! And now a little about one of her fabulous romances. Click on the cover for more information:

X-rated Excerpt from “Wednesday Night at Rocky’s Ace Hardware” From Rough Caress :

We pass a display of galvanized steel fittings. I stop, fascinated. Sturdy eyebolts and swivel bolts, hooks and pulleys, interlocking rings and brackets, all sensuously curved and shining a dull silver. I can't take my eyes away, imagining spread limbs and stretched muscles. Hardware stores always bring out my creative side.
He laughs at my intensity. "You know that we can't attach anything to the walls, Sarah. It's in the resident's agreement."
"Well... what about out on the deck?" Our top-floor condo has a lovely patio built out on the flat part of the roof. From there we have a fabulous view of the city, from Twin Peaks to the Golden Gate.
"You want me to bind you out in the open, where anyone uphill can see you?" He rolls his eyes heavenward, pretending annoyance. "And you say that I'm perverted!"
He steers me onward. Reluctantly, I leave the suggestive display of fittings, only to be transfixed by the rolls of self-service chain at the other end of the aisle.
"Chain is completely impractical," he reminds me with a grin.
"But it's so decorative, so evocative," I counter. "Whips and chains, you know."
"Whatever you want, dear," he says, bowing low. I make a choice and he cuts me a four-foot length of the pretty, brass-finished stuff with half-inch links. He dumps it into our basket. It gives a satisfying clink whenever we move.
My nipples go taut at the sound. He notices, of course, and leans down to tweak one, hard. Another wave of lubrication gushes from my cunt. His nostrils flare as my scent fills the aisle.
"My turn," he says. "Let's go check out the dowels." His thumb and forefinger are still grasping my swollen tit. He leads me toward the back of the store.
I look around nervously, but there are few customers at eight PM on a Wednesday evening. Despite my comments about the deck, I'm actually terrified of public exposure. To be more accurate, public restraint or punishment is still beyond my limits, something I'm not ready to admit that I want. He knows that perfectly well.

He halts in front of a rack holding wooden rods of varying diameters and lengths. I have small hands; I could not get my thumb and forefinger around one of the thickest. The thinnest are perhaps a quarter-inch in diameter, like the sticks used to mount children's balloons.
When he releases his hold on my nipple, I still feel the echo of his fingers on my throbbing flesh. "Bend over," he orders. Trembling with fearful excitement, I bend at the waist. I rest my hands on my thighs for support, but he can see that I am not comfortable. He flips my skirt up, baring my buttocks. "Don't move," he cautions, and then disappears, leaving me alone in this awkward and obscene position.
He is gone for what feels like forever. Slight currents of air brush my exposed ass like ghostly fingers. My engorged pudenda ache for his touch, and the scent of my lust is stronger than ever. Sweat trickles down my neck, dampening my hair. My heart sounds so loudly in my ears, I do not even hear him when he returns. He has a folding stepladder, which he assembles and places in front of me. "Hold on to this."
The position is more stable and places far less strain on my back. "Thank you, Master," I whisper, once again marveling at how finely tuned he is to my needs.
He slips a casual finger into my soaking cunt and wriggles it around. "You certainly are wet, Sarah." My pelvis churns at his touch. Without thought, I grind myself against his hand. I am rewarded by a sharp slap on my butt cheek.

"Be still!" he says softly. "I did not give you permission to move."
He continues to explore my well-lubricated folds. Meanwhile I press my lips together and tighten all my muscles, struggling to obey his directive of immobility.
"What are you thinking, little slut?" he whispers in my ear. "Tell me."
I can hardly speak, aroused and taut as I am. "That I'm yours," I gasp, finally. "That I would do anything for you."
"Really? Well, we'll see about that, won't we?" His voice holds that familiar hint of mockery, but I can tell he is pleased. He pulls his hand abruptly from my sex, and I almost cry out in disappointment. "Now, let me think about this..."
I can hear him rummaging among the dowels. My mind paints pictures of what he will do, what he will choose. I see him easing the fattest rod into my cunt. My sex spasms at the thought, and an electric thrill seizes my clit. But then, why would I think he'd prefer my cunt to my rear hole? He's told me, often, that taking me anally is the purest form of domination. What if he forces a dowel into my ass, presented so conveniently to him here in the aisle of this hardware store, where anyone could watch and observe my total degradation?
I almost come with that thought. But as usual, he surprises me. Just as I am getting control of myself, I hear a swooshing sound, and something burns a fiery track across my left buttock. Before I can recover, my right cheek is symmetrically assaulted. Tears rise and spill down my face at the sudden, spectacular pain.
I tense, expecting more blows, but instead there is the blessed relief of his palm, delicately stroking my inflamed skin. "Yes," he says, "this should do quite nicely, seeing as birch switches are fairly hard to come by in the city..." He circles me, raises me up, and deposits a gentle kiss on my grateful lips. "Don't you think that this will work well, Sarah?"
I nod, still dazed by the pleasure and pain surging in my lower parts. He smoothes my dress over the rosy streaks that I know mark my skin.
I am barely decent when a bespectacled clerk in a blue-striped vest rounds the corner and almost bumps into us. "Oh, excuse me," he says, flustered. "Can I help you with anything?"
My Master looks down at me, pondering a moment. "Let's see, we have plenty of rope... which way to the plumbing supplies?"

BDSM work by Lisabet Sarai

Rough Caress (
short stories) ISBN 978-0-980-4739-7-1
from Eternal Press

Ruby’s Rules
(erotic romance novel) ISBN 978-1-897559-24-6
from Eternal Press

Raw Silk
(erotic romance novel)
Incognito (erotic romance novel)
Rendezvous (romantic novella)
from Total-E-Bound