Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Space

This is my desk. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It has witnessed great and bloody wars as well as the most gentle of touches. It has seen the rise and fall of entire civilizations and wept at the passing of a God. It is at this very desk that I formed the idea for my first book and received my first rejection, but it was also here that I received my first contract. We’ve been through a lot together.

I’d never really noticed before, but as I studied the picture, I realized I have an interesting mix of organization and utter chaos going on in my work area. I guess it only makes sense as that pretty much sums up what my life seems to be these days.

You may notice I have three screens in the picture. The center one is my primary computer and the one I do the bulk of my writing on. The laptop to the right, is my work computer. So, it is where I do all of my engineering work and keep track of all of the ongoing projects for the day job. The laptop on the left is a computer I set up to allow me remote access to the control systems and databases of my leading clients all over the country. If it weren’t for this little baby, I’d have to travel ten times more than I already do.

Behind each of the laptops are book cases where I store reference books organized by relevance and frequency of use from left to right. And yes, the placement of these books often changes from project to project. I have several actual book cases (all but one full to overflowing of course) placed along the walls of my living room. This is where I keep the books I read for pleasure and the remainder of my reference material.

The cubby holes above the screens are stuffed with notes, marked up copies of MSs, pictures and various other scraps of paper I couldn’t bear to part with, but didn’t garner enough significance to be granted a home in the filing cabinet to my right. I go through them about once a quarter and either chuck what turns out to be utterly useless or file the things that I still find interesting at the time.

Other than that, I’m sure it is much the same as any other desk you might run across, but I’m comfortable here and being comfortable helps keep those creative juices flowing.

Cindy's Space

Writing Space #4:

This is my desk. If you'll lool closely, it ALMOST holds my laptop. Actually it does, if there is nothing else in it, which is rare. What you don't see is that it's in the middle of my dining room, so there's no place for a chair, and it has to be folded shut in order for anyone to sit at that end of the table. So I really only put the computer there if I need to print something. Or if company is coming and I shut the computer down and hide it in the desk. But it does hold my stuff, which is handy. And the file cabinet (the thing the printer is sitting on) only sticks out into the archway to the living room a little bit. Also handy.

Writing Space #3
Yep. My bed. I got a little wooden lap desk for Christmas last year, and it holds the computer while I lean against the pillows and type. As my bedroom is on the first floor, it's still handy for grabbing snacks and letting the dog out. She likes it when I work in here, as it is her favorite place to sleep. Yes, by the way, that is a sticker on my computer. it's called a skin, and you can buy them on Dell's website. Also makes it easy to tell which of the identical laptops belongs to Mom.

Writing Space #2
The couch. Sometimes I use the lap desk out here, more often the folding TV tray. I turn on Travel Channel or gameshows sometimes for background noise, otherwise listen to music. The faster the music, the faster I type, if the words are flowing that day. And I can write fine amid the chaos. Last night I had 3 teenage boys (2 are mine) and the dh laughing and screwing around in the kitchen, and I was able to write an entire sex scene. Good thing they don't know what I'm writing. :) Well, they have an idea, but after one accidental glance at the screen a couple years ago, the boys know not to bother. The dh just offers to "test drive" any and all positions.

And finally...
Writing Space #1
The dining room table. Yep. Probably more than half of my writing gets done right here. I swap out one of the kitchen chairs for my "office" chair and talk to the iguana while I write. That's him in the cage you see behind the table. Keep in mind, too that this "office" space is all of about five feet from #1. As is #3. This is not a huge house. And if I am working here, I have to shut everything down and move it out of the way so we can eat.

Well, now you've seen just about my entire house, except for the bathrooms and the boys rooms. (Not fit for human habitation.) Someday, when the kids are gone, I'll have an office. For now, I work with what I've got. It seems to be getting the job done.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dakota's Space

I love my laptop. Absolutely adore it. With it I can write wherever I want. I can take it to the pub with me to smoke cigarettes and bang out a few pages, I can take it to the park and write outside, or I can go where I write most of my books with it. To my bedroom. On my bed. Ensuring terrible posture and adding to the carpal tunnel issues in my wrist. But it's comfortable to me. I get my best ideas staring across the room at the white board until that familiar click hits.

My daughter can run in and out all day, the cat can lay next to me and purr, the dogs can jump on the keys and bark at me to pay attention to them. This is how I work best. I can do the quiet library writing, but I prefer noise and people. It is more relaxing and condusive to good writing than anything else for me.

This is where I wrote Sweet Dreams, Hello, and The Gallery. Where Ethan and Jamie were created. Where Mitch introduced himself to me. It all happened in this messy room with my family around me, complaining that I had been on the computer ALL DAY! All of my research books are here, my files, everything I love to be surrounded by is here. It may be a pathetic excuse for an office...but it's my space and I couldn't be happier here.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two Offices

I have two offices depending on my mood and who's at home. This is Office A:

Office A is used all summer long while my other office gets dusty and is only entered when I need to get a reference book. It keeps me in the hub of the family so I can keep my thumb on what my precocious boys are up to. It is also used in the evenings...same reason.

Then there is Office B. It's my dungeon and I'm quite happy there, thank you very much. This is the one place where I can shut out the world and focus on the lives of my characters and whatever they're up to at the moment.

This is a view of my office straight on from the doorway. If you think it looks small...well it is. It's a cubicle that's been set up in my basement (thankfully dry and carpeted).

This is one of my desk surfaces. Truthfully, I worry that the papers overhead will fall on me one of these days...I really should file them in the filing cabinets outside my office. The notebooks lined up in front of the whiteboard are the notebooks I carry with me all the time. When one is full, it gets put there so that I can go back and look at story notes later. This is an old picture. There are about ten more notebooks now.

This is the backwall of my office. That white board peeking up from the bottom is what I use to plot my books using the heros journey. It's saved my life more than once. The two framed pictures on the wall were Christmas presents from my critique partner, Bronwyn. She gives the best gifts.

This is a part of my books shelves. Though it crowds the space just a little, I have two five-shelf bookshelves in the cubical. Both are fairly full. These are just my writing books (my keeper shelf is in another room).

I did a blog recently at the Hot Spot about writer's offices. If you'd like to see more, you can go here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Home Office

The Home Office. When you're discussing a corporate office the home office is where the head honchos hang out. It's where the big decisions are made. That's true of the writer's office too.

Whether the writer's office is in the bedroom or the dining table or a shed in the back yard, it's truly the home office--the place where things get done.

My office is in the living room area. We don't need a living room. We have visitors possibly twice a year. Maybe. We did need an office space so I could write so there you have it! The couches reside in a spare bedroom and Anny holds forth in the Home Office.

It's a space slapped together with a couple of tables, a couple of really short bookcases, and a comfortable chair. The main components--computer, twenty two inch monitor, keyboard, and printer--and two bright sun lamps are the important things. Aside from the two small bookcases in front of my desk, there are also five large bookcases (stuffed) near at hand just in case I need to look something up.
This is the view from my desk. That black thing on the right is an air purifier. The book underneath it is two feet long and sixteen inches wide (a book about castles with the most gorgeous pictures) and that seems to be the only place I could stash it.

The bookshelves are all double stacked (that means that there are two rows of books for every shelf). And there are a couple more bookcases in the other room. It's a good thing that I gave half of my books away when we moved here--twenty boxes.

Though I'm a newbie (going into my second year), I've been a writer for a very long time. This is my first office. Most of the time I pounded on a typewriter --remember those?--in the bedroom or at the kitchen table with four children and their assorted friends pounding in and out and the television blaring.

Later we bought a Commodore computer with a dot matrix printer but there were still kids--teenagers--still slamming doors and playing their music and reading over my shoulder. And still later we bought a Dell computer, and the children changed to grandchildren but my writing was always done in the midst of family chaos.

Then we moved here with no children or grandchildren. Ahhhh! After thirty years of writing, I finally have an office. And some days it's too quiet in the Home Office.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kama Sutra Lovers


Elyria—land of the matchmaker arranged tri-marriage. Noting the heated desires Hart, Arik, and Giosetta kept hidden, their matchmaker decided to give them a nudge toward tying the knot. Kama Sutra cards with erotic suggestions started turning up in surprising places. Never slow to take a hint, Arik and Hart quickly arranged a hot naughty encounter for Giosetta that opened their own eyes to all the sexy possibilities in a loving threesome. Two men, one woman, and a life so hot it rates five fans.

That’s the way it was supposed to be. But somebody is trying to kill them so they’re on the run, forced to fit their honeymoon in stolen moments while fighting off the Assassin’s Guild, carnivorous spiders and piecing together the puzzle of why their tri-marriage is under attack. Only by solving the mystery will they finally find their happily ever after.


With sudden determination, she pulled the pale yellow sundress over her head, shimmying until the folds fell into place. Her tight nipples poked at the material, obvious and excited. She paused for a moment to look around her room one last time. She didn’t plan to be a virgin when she returned. Her eyes lit on the bedside table with her secret stash of “just-in-case” condoms. Then she shook her head. No. She was willing to bet her trust money that her men were well prepared.

Slipping her sandals on, she sashayed out the door like a woman on a mission. She was going cock hunting and she planned to bag more than one.

The journey to the carriage house was both too long and too short. As she descended the wide curving stairs, trod the broad hallway gallery leading to the patio and crossed the beautifully manicured garden she had too much time to worry about whether they would reject her and too little time to consider what her options were in that case. The only conclusion she reached was that she wasn’t going to leave until she accomplished her primary mission. They would fuck her separately, together, standing on their heads—she didn’t care, but it was going to happen. Then she would deal with the aftermath.

When she reached Hart’s door, she took a deep steadying breath. Then another. You can do this, Giosetta. It’s what you’ve wanted for years. No chickening out now.

With a nod, she opened the door and entered the dark foyer. Three steps inside a brawny arm circled her, tugging her back against a wide bare chest at the same time as a broad palm covered her eyes. “Naughty, naughty girl. Didn’t anyone ever teach you to knock?” Arik growled in her ear. “Tchk. I think we’re going to have to spank you to teach you better manners.”

Giosetta whimpered and pressed her hips against the hard body at her back. His rigid cock poked between her legs as she instinctively widened her stance. Then Hart was standing in front of her, binding soft cloth over her eyes as Arik’s hand slid down to cup her breast. Hart’s hand cupped her other breast, tugging and toying with the nipple. His damp skin brushed her lips and his musky scent filled her with anticipation. His body crowded closer as Arik released her, capturing her wrists in his strong hands.

“Take her dress off,” Hart commanded gruffly before covering her mouth with his.

Giosetta had never been kissed like Hart kissed her. His soft, firm lips explored her with a thoroughness that was shocking. His tongue tasted, sipped, sucked, licked until there was no part untested. In the back of her mind she was vaguely aware that Arik had removed her dress by the simple expedient of ripping it down the back and peeling it off. Standing nude and blindfolded in the dark hallway, she discovered the erotic joys of body to body contact with two naked aroused men.

Clearly rejection wasn’t going to be a problem. What other delights they had in store for her remained to be seen. She trembled with anticipation as Arik slid his hands between her body and Hart’s. One hand slipped down over her mound and cupped her pussy. A thumb massaged her clit while he fisted Hart’s cock with his other hand.

Hart groaned and thrust forward in Arik’s strong grip. Then he raised his head and Giosetta could hear them kissing, pressing against her as their heads met over her shoulder. The tip of a thick finger slicked through the fluid slowly trickling from her pussy before gently entering that first inch inside her.

Bombarded by too many sensations, she rubbed her face against Hart’s chest before some age-old urge prompted her to bite him.

“Fuck! Do that again, Setta!” A deep growl rumbled in Hart’s chest as Giosetta licked and sucked his satiny skin before biting down again.

“Living room,” Arik commanded curtly. “Now.”

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guest Author Aithne Jarretta

The Grip crew would like to welcome author Aithne Jarretta to the blog.

Author Responsibility ~

First rule… Make sure you get enough ‘i’s in responsibility. All kidding aside now, I’d love to touch upon something just a bit different regarding Author Responsibility.
When I began writing, I sat at my lovely writing table with its beautiful scenery just beyond the window and punched these keys for endless hours.

CONCENTRIC CIRCLES, my debut novel grew and evolved into an epic love story.
I grew… as an individual writer and on a personal physical level. *sigh* I’ll deal with that tomorrow (Scarlett O’Hara syndrome).

Wrong. I didn’t deal with it. With awesome tunnel vision I took on the tasks of learning about book promotion, making my own book trailers and editing in a pdf format. (pdf = realms of frustration. Dakota’s three Tuesdays would have seemed an easy fix. Lol)

In the middle of all this wonderful growing experience I forgot something.

My health.

What does this have to do with Writer Responsibility? When our health hits rock bottom, there are no stories to write.

Then the world is down a Bard.

So, I learned that spending countless hours in front of the computer screen is detrimental to our immune system. The rules had to change.

So rule number one became… Get outside and enjoy the sunshine (While thinking about novel characters. Let them exercise with you.) It’s our responsibility to make sure the world has plenty of healthy Bards. We all have characters to develop and stories to share.

Take care of yourselves and your characters will follow. Because we all know we’re just a bit crazy (fun!) and those voices speak to us more precisely when we have a clear, healthy mind and body.

Since today’s topic was about Responsibility, I’d like to say that the heroine in CONCENTRIC CIRCLES found herself in a whole new life experience when she made a mystical discovery while shopping with her grieving friend Barb.

Shayla Brinawell embarks upon a journey of self discovery and magic. New responsibilities emerge and change her life perspectives in a pirouette of fast paced changes.

Sky Purington, Paranormal Romance Author has this to say about CONCENTRIC CIRCLES:
"I was utterly captivated with Ms. Jarretta’s unparalleled world-building skills and imaginative plot. Fast-paced and wonderfully intriguing, Concentric Circles is saturated with sensuality, humor and magic. Delve into a world ripe with gripping characters, self-sacrifice and true love. Thoroughly engaging, a page-turner until the end!"

Here’s a small Magical Moment from CONCENTRIC CIRCLES for your reading enjoyment.

The rest of the Gaderian went by in a haze, Shayla’s mind preoccupied with the idea of buying a knife in Cleveland, Ohio that would bring her here tonight. Just another hint from the White Lady? Thoughts spun on a spiral of mystery as her fingers moved over the cool handle in her palm, pulling her mind back to the sleepy little shop, Circle’s Threshold into Ancient Journeys.

The glass case shimmered before her vision. There it was, lying on blood-red velvet. The sensual idea of having such a treasure pulled her like a persistent beacon toward home. “How much?” she asked, passing a hand over the glass case with longing. Connell, the man behind the counter, winked and passed the knife’s alluring power to her.

Everything after that blurred into memory’s oblivion.

If you’d like to read more of CONCENTRIC CIRCLES (first chapter, Circle’s Threshold: Hawthorn & Heart) then please follow the link below and discover a FREE READ.pdf for your enjoyment.

Don’t be surprised when you also discover two short stories there. KISSING SANTA is a holiday short about family, hearth and heroes. THE MATCHMAKER was featured at LSAR in July and won 2nd place in their FREE READS contest.

I’d like to take a moment to thank Cindy and the other blog staff here at Oh Get a Grip! for this opportunity to tell you about my soon to be released paranormal romance novel, CONCENTRIC CIRCLES. Watch for updates at my character MySpace:

Aithne Jarretta
Feed Your Romantic Spirit ~ Indulge in the Magic!

CONCENTRIC CIRCLES ~ A spellbinding tale that will keep you enthralled...PNR Reviews
~ Visit the Authors @ The Book Spa Listmania
~ Can’t get enough Paranormal or Fantasy?
Visit Infinite Worlds of Fantasy Authors @
Website: Infinite Worlds of Fantasy ~ Listmania

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writing... Accept No Substitute

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the responsibilities necessary to maintain a successful career. Between blogs, websites, appearances, conventions, networking, editing, and all the other things that go into getting the best book you have to offer in front of as many people as possible, one might wonder when we find the time to actually… write. Oddly enough, there’s more time for that than you might think. It’s amazing how many words can be committed to pixel in as little as an hour a day.

But in the midst of keeping up with all the other stuff, we must never forget our primary responsibility. What is that you say? Our responsibility to our publisher? That’s important, but nope. Our responsibility to our fans? Not quite, but we’re getting warmer. No, I’m referring to our responsibility to ourselves, to write what makes us happy.

As much as we love, need and hope to have more of them, readers may come and go. You’re only as good as your latest book after all. Have you ever stopped reading books by a certain author after being subjected to a particularly horrible offering?

It’s horrible to think about, but the sad truth is that even finding a great publisher doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a long and happy writing career. True it’s not a daily occurrence, but there have been several publishers who seemed to be doing well enough, suddenly up and shut their doors. The first book I ever had accepted fell victim to this very scenario. It was eventually picked up by one of my current publisher’s but it was still quite heart-breaking at the time.

At the end of the day, the only aspects of writing career that really matter our will to write and to what level of ability we do so. It only makes since that we should write what moves us, not what moves the market. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your great opus, you’d better be happy, no damned well overjoyed with your characters and your story. By the time you get through the editing process and well into pushing your book, you will be more familiar with the thing than you ever thought possible.

So an author’s responsibility is to themselves, their vision and the written word.

Writing Right

There are advantages and disadvantages to having the Thursday slot. I have plenty of time to think about what I wasn’t to write, and I can also play off of what the first three have to say. On the other hand, sometimes it seems like by Thursday, all the good ideas have been covered. I imagine this is even worse for James on Friday.

Author responsibilities. We’ve discussed our responsibilities for marketing, to our editors, and to the safety of our readers. So what’s left?

Well, one responsibility I do think we have is to do what we do, well. It may seem silly and old-fashioned, but I don’t want to be part of the dumbing down of language. When I write, I use slang and incorrect grammar freely in dialogue, but I try not to in narrative. While my natural style of speaking is very casual, I do think it’s good to use language properly at least some of the time. It is not archaic to know how to use the word whom, and to do so upon occasion.

Another responsibility I think we have, or maybe it’s more of an opportunity, is to show our readers a world where tolerance, environmental responsibility, and consideration for others is the norm. My books feature complex characters with varied backgrounds and acquaintances. One of my first heroines was raised by a Lesbian grandmother. Another has to deal with being a New-Age vegetarian in a conservative cattle town. I try not to hit readers over the head with any particular philosophy, but the general message is that differences are to be respected, even celebrated. In an upcoming novel, the two heroes are of different races, and the only thought either of them give to it is to be glad it doesn’t matter to the other. I think we have some responsibility, just as people, if not as authors, to refuse to perpetuate stereotypes or foster intolerance.

Finally, I agree that we have a responsibility to ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to believe in what we do, and to keep pushing ourselves to do better. When an author gets lazy and complacent, or is writing a book they don't enjoy, the reader can tell. And that doesn’t do anyone any good at all.

What are your thoughts? Do authors have responsibilities to their readers? I’d love to hear some feedback on this one, and I’m looking forward to what James has to say tomorrow. And by the way, Dakota was right.

We are all, definitely, crazy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Please Ma'am May I Have Another

When this topic was first mentioned I was a little nervous. Responsibilities? Please, I'm almost 30 years old and still live with my mother. What do I know about responsibility?

Luckily, I have two brilliant women who post before I do every week. Reading Anny and Brynn's blogs this week made the lightbulb go on. Ohhhhh...I get it now.


I am the kind of writer who will bang out 12k in a day, then get emails from my editor after submitting that say things like "You have three Tuesdays in that one week." And I feel awful. I mean, this woman has a hard enough time removing my excessive commas, fixing my misspellings that are not, (i.e. "Wear are we going." *Groan.), and reworking my abysmal chapter breaks. She shouldn't have to make sure I know how the weeks work as well.

I am very fortunate to have such a wonderful editor, a woman who is so understanding and kind about pointing out my errors. She keeps me from making grave mistakes. (Get it? GRAVE...I write Vampires...nevermind.) She is my last line of defense between my mind and my readers and I can't thank her enough.

So today, I'd like to talk about a writer's responsibility to his/her editor. Your editor has a tough job. The worst job really. She has to take your baby, your book, your hard work...and tear it down until it is readable. She has to hit that send key and know you will be railing against her, bitching and moaning that she doesn't understand why your character would do that thing she is questioning. Well, if your editor doesn't get it...neither will your reader. If you don't explain it in the book, the person reading it cannot pull it out of your brain six months later when your book hits the shelf.

Fighting with your editor is a bad idea. She is almost always right. (I did say almost. A writer's first responsibility is to themselves, if they do not agree with the changes an editor wants to make that is their right...I'm referring to MOST cases. I do not expect any one to allow their editor to completely change a plot line or anything. Please do not get angry and scream at me that your editor is an idiot...mine is not and that is the only experience I have so shush.) In regards to word choices, accurate history requirements, and how many Tuesdays are in any given week, she has the upper hand in almost every case. And honestly, she is just trying to help you. She is saving you from future embarrassment on issues that WILL come back to bite you on the ass.

Now, as Anny so eloquently put it...the internet is forever. DO NOT...let me repeat that for you in the back DO NOT EVER slam your editor in email, on chat loops, on other people's blogs, you know what, keep your trap shut on the internet completely. In case you weren't aware let me be the first to inform you:

Your editor has the internet. They probably read your blogs. Their friends have the internet too and will like nothing better than to be able to call your editor and say "Oh my God did you see what your writer said on so and so's blog about her editor being nothing more than a baboon brandishing a stick?" Yeah, DO NOT EVER trash your editor.

Did you know that editors also talk to each other? Yup. And if you trash one...they will all know and your career could be over. Do you really want to end up at a desk job for the rest of your life because you didn't like your editor changing "Was going to" to "Would?" No, I don't think you do.

So there is just one more thing to keep in mind when making your decision to become a writer. Anny and Brynn have done a great job, and I can't wait to see what Cindy and James have to share with us. By the end of the week some of you may well be asking yourselves "Why would anyone want to be a writer?"

Because we are crazy. :D

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Author Responsibility

So you write a book. It’s fiction right? You can write whatever you want, right? Have your characters do whatever they want? Well, not exactly.

For many of us, our books are based in reality. I’m not saying that we’re rewriting true stories and touting them as fiction. I am saying that many of us are dealing with “people” who we’re sending out into the human race. We need to pay attention to the laws of reality. I think every author has two overriding responsibilities: research and safety.

We have to research? People know this is fiction. Can’t we take creative license? Well, mostly…no. If you want to write people living in a real-life society, you need to know history. You need to know how things work. You need to know laws. You need to know the actual lay of the land. Not only will it add flavour to your book, but there will always be someone to tell you a “2005 Taurus doesn’t have that option” or that the word gay to designate a male-male relationship didn’t come into use until the early 1900s, in fact meaning a womanizing man as recently as the 17th century. Therefore your character in 1352 wouldn’t use it in that context. (Yes, if you write historical books, you must be conscious of word origins)

If you want to be a credible author, you’ll know your facts. This leads me to the other half of what I call author responsibility. Safety. Some of us write some edgy subjects. A lot of us write steamy sex, but just because we write fiction doesn’t mean a reader won’t read something we write and think it would be a good idea to try. Heck, I have. Why wouldn’t someone else? As many of you know, I write a lot of BDSM novels. Everything I write has to go on the page with an eye to safety. Safe, sane and consensual is the BDSM credo, but it should be the credo of romance writers, too. Don’t write something that could potentially send someone to the emergency room. You’re not writing a how-to manual, but you still need to present things in a “this is how this is safely done” format.

This doesn’t just apply to edge play. I read a book recently where the characters were playing with food and my instant thought was “this isn’t going to end well.” And how about…condoms. Should we put them on our characters? Should we worry about STDs and unplanned pregnancies? Or should we make an unobtrusive public service announcement and just slip the latex on? Condoms are a sore spot with me. As a writer I still wrestle with the responsibility of this one. And I say to myself, “Come on…it’s fiction.”

Brynn, please read above…

Seriously, especially when it comes to sexual activities in a book, an author must be responsible in how things are presented. Our characters might run around performing acts of daring-do around the continent and a reader will read with vicarious enjoyment. This is interesting and things they might never dream of doing. But when our characters settle down with their lover and get basic…this is something the reader could do—and might.

Variations on sex are still somewhat taboo things. It’s not something that’s openly taught or discussed. And if someone wants to spice up their love life and they don’t want to go to a sex shop, order a sex manual or surf the net for porn, where are they going to turn? Perhaps that spicy romance novel, with that dashing hero and kick-ass heroine…the book that’s sitting on the bed stand…page 56…

Monday, October 20, 2008

So you're an author...

You've written your novel, submitted it, received a contract. Great! Now what? Now the work begins. Oh, you thought you were finished? Not so.

Aside from all the authorly things you'll need to take care of--such as edits, blurb, cover, etc.--you will now take part in a crash course on publicity. Yep. You are the number one PR person for your book.

There will be a host of things for you to manage. Website. Blog. Pages on MySpace, Facebook and others. And there will be numerous other opportunities to promote your book.

Almost every fellow author can offer you advice and assistance regarding your new duties. But there are some things that they might hesitate to tell you. So I'm going to leap in there and tell you the ugly truth. Many new authors are sooooo excited and sooooo thrilled that they lose their heads and common sense for a while. I was an avid reader long before I was a writer. As a reader I had ample opportunity to observe lots of writers. I made up my list of personal rules from watching others blunder. So here's my list of my rules. You'll need to make up your own.

Anny's Rules

1) Always behave professionally. This includes no foul language when interacting with others.

2) Be kind. Kindness goes so much farther than rudeness.

3) Remember that every single thing that you type is public. Everything. And thanks to the internet, it is out there forever. So think long and hard before your fingers hit the "send" key.

4) Never type anything when you are angry or hurt. See number one and number three. There are a lot of authors who have lived to regret skipping this rule.

5) Squash your natural paranoia. No, everybody is not out to get you.

6) Develop a thick skin when it comes to things like reviews. The blunt truth is everyone is not going to like your writing. You would be better off worrying if you don't get bad reviews. Think about all the authors who write books that you don't particularly care for. How would you review their book? Honestly?

7) Read the rules. Practically every review/excerpt site has specific rules. Take the time to read them. Make sure that you don't flout the rules when you post excerpts. See number one.

8) Check the calendar. Practically every review/excerpt site has a calendar. It's rude to cross post during another author's chat. And it's unprofessional.

9) Never discuss personal business a) with a stranger, b) with a reader/fan, c) in a public forum. Just don't. See number one.

10) Never discuss your publisher, editor, fellow authors, or other professional business in a public forum. That's what private e-mail or even snail mail is for. This is a serious breach of ethics.

These are my rules. Everyone's list will be different based on their own personal beliefs and experience. The important think is to make a list ahead of time so that you avoid some of the pitfalls in your new life. Believe me, it is an entirely new experience.


anny cook

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Guest Blogger: Cara Hart

The Grip crew would like to welcome author Cara Hart:

I’m a traditionalist.

I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m tall, and I like my men taller than me. I prefer an older man – I had such crushes on guys who were seniors when I was a freshman in both high school and college. And Rob Crowe had the cutest curly hair I’d ever seen back in my first year of college. I nearly hyperventilated when he sat down next to me at the production of Loves Labours Lost in May that year. I must have blushed the whole time.

And call me a hypocrite, but I guess I’ve had my fair share of crushes on younger guys, too. I always felt a little silly when I got all hot and bothered over that baby. Even just a year younger and I felt like it was wrong. Crazy, I know, since my mom’s older than my dad. And several of my friends have married guys younger than them. They’re all happy as larks after robbing those cradles. I, on the other hand, still have my thing for older men. Not too old, of course. No daddy complexes here, but two or three years older is just about right.

The funny thing is, I’ve read some really great books where the heroine is older than the hero. Jo Beverley’s The Demon’s Mistress is one that comes to mind. It was published as part of a set, In Praise of Younger Men. And, hey, if Jo Bev can do it, it’s worth reading, if you’ll pardon my partiality towards those historical novels. Which obviously leads to a whole new set of complications. If the lady’s too old, the hero won’t be able to beget those heirs they’re all crazy for. And didn’t those historical heroes all wait until they were past their prime to marry, anyway? Are we just playing into the whole new cougar stereotype in the contemporary novels? But really, aren’t we just giving ourselves that equality we’re still lacking, despite all these centuries of proving women can do anything a man can do? Those old stereotypes ought to be going the way of the bodice-rippers.

My dad loves that old baseball movie – “If you build it, they will come.” (I like Kevin Costner, myself) Well, if you write it – and write it well – they will read. Guaranteed. I know I will. I’ll still be dreaming of that one perfect guy for me, single as I am. And maybe, just maybe...

He won’t have to be the older man.

Now here's a look at Cara's upcoming book from Resplendence Publishing:

A Love in Disguise

The Lady on the Run
The letter from her brother warned her of danger, but Kate Carteret is doubtful until she discovers her bedchamber in ruins. In the face of an unknown threat, she flees her home and finds sanctuary as companion to a family friend. Then Kate’s peace is shattered by the arrival of the Earl of Ashton, a man with a few secrets of his own.

The Gentleman Sent to Find Her
Though retired, James Meredith has unwillingly accepted one last mission for the Crown – locate a dead colleague’s sister, who may hold the key to the identity of a traitor. Her trail leads to the home of his cousin, a tiny village in the north of England. His aunt’s new companion, a middle-aged spinster, should be easily dismissed. Why can he not get her out of his head?

Both Searching for A LOVE IN DISGUISE

“Disappeared, Your Grace? How could both of them be missing?” James Meredith, Earl of Ashton, leaned back in his chair facing the desk of the Duke of Foxborough and studied his grandfather’s aged face through narrowed eyes. “Carteret is one of your best men. Perhaps he’s simply late reporting to you and his sister went to visit friends.”

James always loved this room. The scent of old books and tobacco lingered in the air. Mahogany paneling and shelves stuffed with books and trinkets made the study of Foxborough House feel like a cave filled with treasures from distant lands. As a child, on visits with his mother’s father, the old man would gather James into his lap as he sat in the great leather chair behind the desk and spin wondrous tales of adventure and intrigue.

More recently, James had become the storyteller as he gave the duke reports of his whereabouts and missions. But today he was again the listener while his grandfather wove a tale.

“Without informing her staff? Do you know any woman who would simply leave her household with no information about her destination or return?” Incredulous, the duke shook his head. The leonine mane of hair was now an iron gray, rather than its original black. “You might, certainly, but the girl would never.”

James refused to believe the tale. “Could the man have turned traitor, then, and fled to safety with the girl?”

“Unlikely, lad. I knew Carteret better than his own sister did. The man was as loyal as they come.” The duke paused and sighed before continuing, his grief obvious. “No, he must be dead and I greatly fear the man who killed him abducted the girl as well.”

Foxborough leaned forward in his chair, determination written plainly on his countenance. “James, I realize you’ve lost your taste for this kind of activity.”

A bark of bitter laughter escaped James. “Lost my taste for clandestine killing? You jest. I never acquired a taste to lose.”

Abruptly, he stood and stalked to the window. He gazed out over the back garden of the Grosvenor Square mansion as he leaned against the sill. In a few weeks, the landscape would burst with the radiant color and sweet perfumes of daffodils, roses and camellias. A feast for the senses. But today, the sight of a bare winter garden did not help to soothe the bleakness in his heart.

“We have discussed this before, sir. I did my duty to the best of my ability. I consider that duty complete. I do not wish to rehash the issue. Again.” He infused his voice with finality and desperately hoped his grandfather would leave him in peace.

Foxborough rose from his chair and stood beside James. “Carteret’s last communiqué indicated he was close to discovering the traitor. He would rendezvous with another agent and continue here to report as soon as he completed the assignment.

“Word reached me he landed at Drakemouth, his usual debarkation point, and procured transportation, but I’ve no further information of his movements. He would have sent word to me if he was still alive. Whoever killed him will have confiscated and most likely destroyed whatever evidence he possessed.”

James moved to the small oak table between two towering bookshelves, poured himself a brandy and downed it. He needed the fortification against what his grandfather was about to say.

“Michael’s mission was to uncover the identity of a highly dangerous traitor. Information has been leaking over the Channel and much of it has come directly from this office. I’ve already put another agent in place to find Michael’s body and plans are in motion to send another to complete his mission. The disappearance of the man’s sister, however, creates something of a dilemma.

“I want you to locate the girl—Catherine. They were extremely close and she may have information we can use. The French may also appreciate her importance to Carteret. Locate her, find out what she knows and keep her safe.”

James sighed. He poured himself another drink, leaned his shoulder against the bookshelf and contemplated the glass in his hand. The amber liquor swirled, a small funnel appearing in the center. He felt himself being sucked into a similar whirlpool.

“You have other men, I believe, who could accomplish this task for you.” Taking a sip of his drink, James savored the flavor of fine brandy. How ironic that his grandfather fought so steadfastly for England, but refused to allow his cellars to suffer the loss of French wine. The liquid burned a path to his stomach as he swallowed, as though taunting him for hypocrisy.

“You are asking why I want you to complete this mission for me.” The canny old man studied James closely. “You are one of only three men I trust without reservation. The others are your cousins and they are already engaged in activities which preclude involvement in this matter. By default, you are the only man I can rely upon without hesitation to fulfill this request. Find the girl and protect her above all else.”

The worry in the old man’s eyes disturbed James. Never once in as long as he could remember had he seen such an expression mar Foxborough’s countenance. Even when James’ mother lay dying, the old man had displayed only sorrow and resignation.

Fear now twisted the duke’s strong features. There had to be a compelling reason behind this request.

“What is this girl’s importance to you?” James probed. “Why such an interest in her?”

“Carteret held a barony and his father was one of my first recruits. For that reason alone, I would be extremely concerned about her welfare. However, Michael also had the habit of writing letters to his sister in code. While innocuous in their appearance to her, they would be full of information for us. If he stayed true to form, he would have sent her a letter prior to his last discovery, containing information which may lead us to his killer.”

Check out A Love in DIsguise, coming November 4, 2008 from Resplendence Publishing:
Visit Cara on MySpace at:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Older Women Make Beautiful Lovers

As I thought about what to write for this post, I realized that three out of five of my serious relationships have been with older women. I suppose it must stem from some deep seeded juvenile fascination born of teenage lust. It makes sense that some of the first women I desired were older than me: The hot teacher, a friend’s mom, the sultry brunette across the street who loved to weed the garden in her front yard wearing short shorts.

Yes, I’m married to an older woman, but at this point in my life, I don’t see what the big deal is. The heart knows no age, it just knows what makes it happy and my cougar makes me very happy.

When it comes to writing, I’ve used both extremes of the season to season scenarios, but for the most part, I keep hero and heroine close in age. Unless I need the age difference to help propel the storyline, I just don’t think about it anymore than I think about the difference between my wife and me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the age game

Okay, I have to admit, this topic leaves me wondering what to write. I just don't get, how in this day and age, such a trivial thing as age differences between our heroes and heroines matters one tiny bit. I just don't. It ranks right up there with my confusion about race distinctions in a romance. We write books about aliens or vampires or ghosts who might be hundreds or even thousands of years old. Does age difference matter then? Is a handful of years one way or the other really a bigger issue than having a hero who can turn into a wolf or a bear? What if you have two heroes, or two heroes and a heroine? Is age really the biggest issue in that kind of relationship? I'm sorry folks, but on this one my stance is firmly BFD--big freaking deal.

We all know the history, and a good bit of the biology involved. Yes, women are genetically programmed to look for a protector. When you're younger, I suppose that would be an older man. Say someone in his late teens, early twenties, when we first reach reproductive age. Then as WE age, the ideal age of a mate doesn't, at least not as rapidly. After all a 25 year old is likely to be a better physical protector than a 45 year old, right? Come on folks, we should be past this crap, just as we're past the idea of 17 year old heroines.

Truth is, love comes in unlikely packages, and those match-ups are part of what make romance fiction an industry. We want to see the alpha heroes, but we also want to see the alpha female choose her ideal mate. Sometimes he's older, sometimes she's older, sometimes, they're even the same age. If we wrote all of our stories the same, we'd lose our audience pretty quickly. To keep things interesting, we've got to mix things up, and age is simply one variable we can play with.

So have I written an older heroine with a younger male? Well I have an 800 year old djinni and a 30-something computer programmer in Djinni and the Geek. I'm pretty sure Twyla the pixie is older than Bram the half-dragon in Between a Rock and a Hard-On. What, that isn't what you meant? With regard to strictly human characters? I don't know...I'd honestly have to go back and check in a lot of the books. And oh yeah, in real life, I married a younger man. By three whole weeks. 22 days a year I hear about it, for the last 23 years. Sigh. Honestly, people. Find something bigger to worry about. Age is just an arbitrary number.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Call me Mrs. Robinson

Cougar you say? Alright, I've been called worse things. Yes, I too have myself a younger man. Granted, there is not a HUGE age difference, but as we met at a critical time in his life, it is enough to make an impression on our relationship. He was only nineteen and I was twenty-one. I could go to bars in the US, but he would force me to go to Canada every weekend with his underage friends so that they could get drunk and stupid. I had a toddler at home, and he was fresh out of high school. Those two years do not matter anymore, but at the time we met it could be awkward.

As Anny said on Monday, the older woman/younger man scenario just makes more sense. Men are cocky and confident when they are young, but women grow into our confidence. We need time to 'marinate' I suppose. Those of us who are not in Hollywood wear our wrinkles and laugh lines like a badge of honor. We are stronger for them, we have been through enough to know we are going to survive anything. Whereas men tend to think they can handle it all before they've had to handle anything at all.

I think it also helps that women are just more patient. We can tolerate the frustrations from younger men much better than an older man can tolerate it from a younger woman. If our boys want to go out and get drunk with their friends until all hours of the night we can roll our eyes and be over it. But older men are going to have a harder time trusting their young chippy to behave themselves when out alone. I don't know how fair this statement is, but as life isn't fair I'm not too worried about it.

When I wrote "Hello" it hadn't been my intention for it to be a cougar story. I honestly didn't even think about it at all until I got a review that referred to it as such. Yes, Diane was older than the man in the story, but I didn't do this on purpose. It just fit the situation.

Like wise, when I met the Mr, it wasn't my intention to date someone younger. In fact, I had ALWAYS dated older men, (sometimes much older). But this is the only relationship I've ever had that has lasted more than two years. So something must be working about it.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'd Like the Ten Also

Since I was young, the relationship of older women to younger man has always intrigued me. As a member of the dating pool, I always dated younger men and in turn married one. As a writer, it’s one of my favorite relationships to write. Why I’ve been intrigued and why I like to write those relationships comes down to the same reason. There’s always been a slight taboo, a naughtiness, to a woman dating or marrying a younger man—at least that’s perception prevalent in society. Things are changing. An informal survey of the contributors to this blog will tell you that four of the five are in an older woman/younger man relationship. Granted in some cases, the age span is small, but whether there’s a difference of three weeks or three years or thirty years, women often gets teased or looked down upon for robbing the cradle or having a boy toy. Not always, but it happens.

As Anny mentioned, the sort of relationship isn’t a new thing, though people tend to believe it is. So I hit the books:

Did you know that Catherine II of Russia created the role of Queen’s Consort during her reign? The position was always filled by young twenty-somethings who went through a rigorous screening, including testing in bed by her appointed test-woman, in order to get the…um…position. The role was filled on a rotating basis until she was sixty-seven.

Well-known Cleopatra had a temple built where she kept young male lovers. Of course, she kept them drugged—not with snake venom—to increase their lust.

Oooh…a whole temple full of young lovers? Sign me up! But then there’s Empress Theodora. This lusty older woman was well-known for taking ten young men to her bed in an evening. Did they have a number system do you think? Traffic lights?

Queen Zingua of Angola had young warriors fight to the death for her. And they got the prize of bedding her. She had them killed in the morning, but that’s another story.

These were all short term (very short in some cases) relationships. What about the long haul? In romantic fiction, the older woman, younger man scenario has grown in popularity over the last few year. As I mentioned, I’ve always enjoyed it—three of the books on my keeper shelf are early Harlequin Temptations which covered that relationship and the neurotic reactions to it. Woman were afraid they’d be shunned and looked down on…

Do we still have those same fears? My husband is younger than I am, and believe me back when we dated and got married in the early 90’s, I downplayed that as much as possible. It takes a lot of strength to brave a plethora of robbing the cradle jokes. It takes a lot of will power not to get peeved too. Who’s right is it to say who we can and can’t fall in love with?

There’s some sort of unspoken mainstream rule that has always said the man must be older. Why? Who knows?

Societally, this is just what we’ve been told. It might stem back to the middle ages (or earlier) when progeny was imperative. A young woman who could bear lots of kids was the ticket. It’s about time to kick that bucket.

Psychologically speaking, the man being older stems from instinct. Woman have instinctively sought a protector. It goes back to the whole hunt and gather thing. Men provided. Women bore the young. A younger woman was better equipped. (Oh see, we’re there again)

Physically, the older man/much younger woman set-up makes little sense. While female fertility drops in their thirties, male fertility drops then as well. Women tend to have about a seven year longer life expectancy too. Excuse me, but wouldn’t a man with good swimmers who can accompany you into your later years seem a good choice. Well, you know…if that kid thing is important to you. Today, in many cases it’s not. It doesn’t play a role in our mating game.

As women, we are free to choose who we want as mates. More and more, we’re exercising that right. Books about these relationships are helping change traditional mindsets. So is Hollywood. Do these couplings sound familiar? Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Madonna and Guy Ritchie…these are just a few.

Woman aren’t necessarily looking for younger men. We demand what we want and don’t necessarily sit back and let society tell us how things should be. There are options we were never “allowed” to consider. Good options. Men who might just end up being the love of our lives. We’re looking for fun, interesting, exciting and yes, just a little taboo. A guy who feels…great. A partner. A mate. And when it comes down to that, well age doesn’t really matter. In real life or on the pages of a book.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Older women

People seem to be under the impression that the older woman/younger man scenario is a new cultural phenomenon. Not so. In my former reincarnation, I was the family historian. Older women/younger men marriages accounted for approximately fifty percent of our family couples.

The age discrepancy was anywhere from six to fifteen years. You might ask why that would be and I have a theory. Single young women had a limited number of options in the past. Basically, they were unpaid labor in the home if they remained single. Many families were anywhere from six to twelve children. Of course the wife/mother was always happy for an extra pair of hands.

But I think there finally came a time when the woman started looking around for an escape hatch. After all, if she was going to work her fingers to the bone, why not do that in her own home? The older woman was attractive to the men back then precisely because she was settled. Her expectations were mature. She was prepared to be a helpmate.

Widows were in even more dire straits. Without a wage earner to help them support their families, many widows were eager to settle down with a new husband with what some considered indecent haste. But consider. There was no such thing as life insurance. Women had few legal rights.

In my family, one young woman was left a widow with one small child under two--and she was pregnant. Within six months she had remarried to a nineteen year old man. She was twenty five. They had a long marriage for that time--over forty years--and six more children.

I confess that I'm puzzled about why people find the older woman/younger man couple so objectionable. To me, it makes far more sense than the other way around. In general women live longer. The couple are more likely to have a long life together. According to medical evidence their sex drives will be closer in sync. Their professional lives should track closer together as the professional track for a woman takes longer.

Instead of worrying about the age discrepancy, we should be asking about other things like what they have in common. Just like any other couple.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tuttle's House of Horror

Coming next week from Resplendence Publishing

Tuttle’s House of Horror

Here is a blurb:

Tyler Duke has a plan. With the help of his closest friends, he will open the doors to the infamous Tuttle House on Halloween and provide a weekend of thrills and chills for curiosity seekers. Why is the house infamous? It was the sight of the largest mass murder in the history of Northeastern Oklahoma.

If all goes well, they’ll earn enough money to spend spring break in Cancun, but unbeknownst to them, someone has taken up residence in the old mansion and he has a plan of his own. Bobo hopes the weekend brings people in droves. Nothing would make this twisted clown happier than to put gaping smiles under the faces of the house’s patrons. If he can just maintain control of his inner demon until the grand opening, it will be his greatest achievement, a night so brutal even the Fallen will take notice.

Will Tyler and his friends discover the killer in their midst before it’s too late or will they become the main attraction in Tuttle’s House of Horror.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Guest Blogger: KyAnn Waters

Born to Alpha, Rise to Alpha, and the Quintessential Alpha

The Alpha male – women adore him, men want to fight him, only the heroine can tame him.

The appeal of an alpha hero, especially in romance writing, is the sureness of his position in the story. He’s strong, confident, knows what he wants and typically that’s the heroine. His prowess is legendary, his skill with a sword unmatched?

But no one wants a hero, not even an Alpha, without flaws? Alpha doesn’t mean A**hole. An Alpha male isn’t afraid. That includes not being afraid to be honest, to show real emotion, and to be giving when necessary. He’s just sure he’s the only one who knows when that time is.

So how does an Alpha become the man everyone looks up to and every woman wants to be with? He has history, circumstances that forced him to step up. Alpha males learn from life's hardships. Instead of giving in to emotions, he rises above them. He’s created, and then defined by his desire to lead. He’s confident in his abilities and then, as an author, I give him a woman who doesn’t conform to his ideals. She’s stubborn and opinionated.

In All Lycan’s Eve – Ellora’s Cave
Kean is born to his station and rises to his responsibilities.

Kean chuckled with a nod of his head and closed the door. “I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a willing woman.” He raised an eyebrow. “Figuratively speaking, of course.” Because to bite a human made them part of the pack, made them Lycan.

Melville twisted the lid off a long neck bottle of beer. “Aye mate, you give me heart a bit of a jolt. You sounded like your da. Seeing how he’s finally convinced you to take your place.”

“Ah, that he has, but not this Halloween.”

“I’ll drink to that.” Aiden tipped his bottle in agreement and drank.

Kean laughed. “You drink to anything.”

With a heavy heart, Kean acknowledged and accepted that this year’s Halloween party would be his last. His father grew tired of the burdens of leadership. Those burdens would soon be Kean’s. He understood duty. More than that, it would be his responsibility to ensure the continued secrecy of their society and see to the financial obligations of the pack.

In After Dark – Ellora’s Cavemen JOTN Vol II.
Alandro is a vampire who doesn’t rise to Alpha until faced with adversity.

Alandro took his place beside his father. “Where is she?”

“Just wait.” Vasco reseated himself. “She doesn’t know who she is or more importantly what she is.” He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “We must proceed cautiously.” He steepled his fingers beneath his pointed chin. “She was just a child. We don’t know how much she witnessed of her parents’ death.”

“Their murder.”

Vasco nodded. “And it appears she was raised by the slayer who killed them.”

Alandro leaned forward and rested his forearms on the table. “Then you know who the slayer is?” He narrowed his gaze on his father. “Tell me.” He stood. “So that I can find him. After I drink every last drop of blood from his body, I’ll tear his heart from his chest.”

“Alandro, calm yourself and listen. You don’t understand. The slayer is dead.”

Then what was the problem? If he didn’t have to fight for his bloodmate’s safe return, why wasn’t she already with him? A part of his soul remained vacant without her. Until a few hours ago, he believed he’d spend eternity alone.

In The Cougar Meets Her Master – The Wilder Roses
Colt, with his BDSM lifestyle, is the quintessential Alpha shown by behaviors.

The dealer set a small pile of chips on the table. “All in,” Colt said and slid the chips into the betting circle. The night would ride on a single turn of the cards. If the house won, he lost. But if the cards played in his favor the night was bound to get interesting.

Taylor spun on the seat and met his stare. A smile tugged on her lips. “You’re feeling lucky?”

“In about two minutes, we’re both going to be feeling lucky.”

The dealer dealt the table. “This is our hand. Winner take all.” The jack of clubs showed face up. He didn’t bother to look at his hole card. Anticipation for the hand paled in comparison to what he felt for Taylor. The dealer worked around the table. The man to the right tapped the green felt for a card and busted. The dealer paused over their cards.

Colt shook his head. “Stay.”

Taylor’s pink tongue peeked from between her lips. One brow arched.

A moment later, Colt flipped over their cards and the dealer announced, “Twenty-one,” and stacked double the chips in the betting circle.

Colt smiled. “I win.”

She swallowed, and the seductive movement in her throat had his dick jumping in anticipation. “So what do you want?”

“Room service.”

The Grip crew would like to thank KyAnn for being here today. To find out more about any of her books, click on the covers, or on the link below.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Alpha? I'd Rather Have an Omega.

The alpha male, the top dawg, leader of the pack, the go to guy, whatever you want to call him, we’ve all heard about him. You know… he’s the guy that draws the attention of everyone in the room the moment he enters. He’s the kind of man that men want to be and women… well, women just want him. Yadda yadda yadda. I’m sure there are dozens of definitions and/or clichés I could throw out here to make my point, but I’m sure you all already have a predetermined idea of what an alpha male means to you. The question is, do you enjoy reading about him?

For me, I prefer the broken hero, a guy that seems to be constantly dodging the curve balls life throws his way (and more often than not, catching it right on the chin for his efforts), but still manages to come through each little adventure a better man than when he went in. I want to see a character grow, share in his transformation and give him a mental pat on the back when he manages to pull the situation together. I like to root for the underdog.

I don’t want to read about a guy who has all the answers and knows just what to do in any given situation. Where’s the fun in that? Of course, everything is going to turn out rosy. How could it not with Sir Studly swooping in to save the day? No, I’d much rather see Joe Nobody stumble into a situation he is totally unprepared for and watch him squirm, wiggle and flail and accidentally coming up with the right answer or at least a close enough to right answer that everyone can go home happy at the end of the story.

So, what does it for you in a good tale? Would you rather be whisked away on a grand adventure with a night in shining armor or would you rather read about his not quite so debonair brother who gets caught up in the aftermath of one of his brother’s exploits and surprises everyone (including himself) when he rises to the occasion?

Alpha Dog

Having my academic background in animal behavior gives me a very clear impression on what the alpha male means. The smartest, toughest wolf, the biggest silverback gorilla, or the ram with the biggest horns. When it comes to people though, the definition can vary. Are we talking about the captain of the football team? The class president? The corporate raider or the military officer?

I’ve written several books with traditional “alpha heroes,” but even more with heroes who for one reason or other aren’t. Alpha implies a very social hierarchy. So by definition, the wounded loner isn’t an alpha. I also write a lot of geek heroes, who rely more on brains than brawn. And if you’re setting up a series with a group of men, say a SEAL team or a family of brothers, then by definition only one can be the alpha. But the others…oh, yeah, they can be heroes too.

When we talk about alpha, I think we’re really just talking about ideals. Men with strength and honor and brains and courage. Men who, as Anny said, can wield a frying pan or a hairbrush as well as a gun or sword or baseball bat if necessary. Men who are protective and willing to lay down their lives for their woman, but would rather live for her and with her. He might be a little bossy, but he’s always there for her and willing to subordinate his needs for hers.

Are the heroes in our books realistic? Sometimes. There's a little fantasy mixed in, but there's a lot of truth to a good character too. There are a lot of good men out in the world who may not always have those eight-pack abs, but still have what it takes to make a woman smile. They bring home paychecks, cook meals, and some of them even bring home roses when they know their wife had a crappy day. (Thank you, love!) And yes, they’re still flawed. Goes with being human. And sometimes those flaws are what make us love them all the more.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Alpha or Beta...

I have to admit I was really stuck when it came to this weeks topic. I pretty much like a good mix of qualities in a man. I want him to defend me if someone insults me in public, but I would prefer he use his brains rather than his fists. I want him to take care of me, kill the bugs, and get things off of high shelves when I can't reach them. But I am unwilling to lose my independence, I can open my own doors (thank you very much), and I get the clicker at least 55% of the time.

I would think that having a man constantly assert his "Alpha-ness" would get annoying. Too much testosterone...too much anything really, is never a good idea. More isn't always better, sometimes it's just more.

By the same token, I think if I had to watch a man cry every time I forced him to watch Steel Magnolias, there would be much hair pulling out. And not necessarily MINE.

In books, I think that this becomes even harder to balance. You are trying to create the perfect hero. You want someone who encompasses all of the qualities you think your heroine will be looking for. Someone who can be tough and strong when he needs to, but always up for a good cuddle at the end of the day. I don't personally know a lot of guys that can just "turn it off" at the end of the day.

Many, too many really, authors end up with unbelievable heroes. Men who leave the reader scratching their head and muttering "Why did he do that? Why would she put up with that?" And we never, NEVER want readers asking questions in the middle of a book. We want them to be so engulfed in the story that they forget they are reading. They need to believe the hero would do that, and fall in love with him for it.

See, I am babbling. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am with Anny. My preference is the Mr. and I wouldn't want him any other way.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Gloria Steinem and I Aren't Best Friends

What I’m about to say isn’t going to make me very popular, especially with women’s libbers. I love men. I love being with them. I love talking about them. I love writing them. And I want a man to be a man.

When I think alpha, I don’t think of the heroes in novels from the seventies and eighties. So many of them, while alpha, were also great big jerks. No, what I think of is a man who is in control and who will guide the situation to his will for the good of everyone, not just for a petty whim. The alpha male is in charge and can make a decision. He doesn’t need a committee to get things done. He doesn’t need to ask five people what they think… He gets it done.

My book On Your Knees had this dedication: To all the women who have to be in control but don’t want to be.

That’s the thing. More and more today, many women are being forced into roles they neither want nor enjoy. It’s not how we’re constructed, yet in order for the world to go ‘round, woman have become the decision makers in their homes, in the workplace, in the bedroom.

I contend that quite a few women don’t want all the power that’s been thrust upon them. And that men are being stymied by the shift of dynamics. Yes I believe in equal pay for equal work. I’m thankful for the right to vote. I’m glad my day consists of more than cleaning and cooking and child-rearing. But for God's sake, there’s nothing wrong with a man opening a door for you, having an opinion or being the consummate leader of his pack, so to speak.

As a woman, I like feeling watched over. I like feeling like a world of responsibility doesn’t rest on my shoulders. I think many woman are exactly in that position—everything falls to them. They long for a man who will give them relief from that. There’s no mistaking the popularity of Male Dominant/female submissive BDSM books nor the way ménage books with two men and a woman fly off the shelves. These are books comprised of strong heroines and strong men. Alpha men. It’s the fantasy we seek, because let’s face it—finding a man like the ones in books is near to impossible. But isn’t that what reading fiction, especially romance, is about? Fantasy? Escape? The encounter with the love or the people who take our breath away and, hopefully, remind us of the blush of our new love…way back when? Or model what we once sought or dreamed (or still dream) about in a lover? An alpha: The man who’s comfortable in his position, who knows what he wants—what you want too—and isn’t afraid to do what needs to be done to obtain it. A man others look up to. A man who stands a head and shoulders above…

A man who’s fiercely possessive and who loves his mate with undying passion.

So yes, I feel the men in the books I write—and the books I read—must be alpha.

Monday, October 6, 2008

To Alpha or Not...

Alpha males are big in romance right now. Or are they? I think that the heroes we have now are very romanticized versions of the alpha. I surfed the web in search of a nice neat definition of an alpha. I wasn't surprised when I failed to find one.

The closest was the definition of the alpha mammal (humans qualify!) In the simplest terms, the alpha is the one that everyone else defers to in regard to decisions or wishes. Hmph. Isn't that the male that we used to have prior to feminism? Are we sure we want him back?

It must be hard for men to figure out what women want anymore. We read books with supposed alpha heroes. When we describe the ideal male, he's an alpha male. But the truth is if a true alpha claimed most of us, we'd beat feet the other way.

I'm not sure what we should call the ideal man. Or maybe, I should say my ideal man? What is he like?

I want a man who is capable of defending himself and his family from danger. That defense certainly includes the physical, but I want him to have the judgment and good sense to know when an issue can be settled verbally.

I want a man who can take care of himself and his family... someone who can cook, clean, do laundry, use a hair brush and a vacuum cleaner. Not because I expect him to do those things all the time, but because I want the security of knowing that our children wouldn't suffer if something happened to me.

I want a man who is secure enough within himself to deal with me helping to bring home the bacon--even if I bring home more bacon than he does at some time in our life. I don't want this because I'm anxious to go out there and hunt down that pig, but because bad things happen in life and some day we might have to switch places.

I want a man who isn't afraid to be both tender and disciplined with our children. I'm tired of always being the bad guy. And children respond really well to those deep rumbly tones of a male voice.

I want a man who is willing to put me first. If he has to make a choice between any other person in the world and me, I will come first every time. If our children play conquer and divide, they'll lose because we always stand together.

I want a man who is willing to commit for a lifetime.

You'll notice that there are no physical descriptions in any of the above. The physical changes. Age gets us all. But the important things aren't affected by age. They're things that are influenced by attitude. I think that's what women find so attractive. They find that attitude of self-confidence and competence very, very attractive. They fall in love with the man who has the confidence to admit that he doesn't know a darn thing about a car engine, but he can discuss the merits of three different types of crochet hooks. The man who is equally capable of changing a diaper and undressing his slightly tipsy wife demonstrates that he's a true man for all seasons and reasons.

Where is this ideal man?

I think I left him in the bedroom...


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Three For All

Hey, everyone, here's a little taste of my newest Ellora's Cave release.

Three for All
By Cindy Spencer Pape
Out now from Ellora’s Cave

Blurb: In her 600 years, elven reporter Eislinn has had two great loves in her life—paranormal police officer Callum, another elf, and Lothan, a demon enforcer. One hot summer night the three of them come together, and Philadelphia practically explodes with the passion.

Note: This book contains male/male and male/male/female sexual acts and light bondage.

Excerpt 3: BSDM/ménage ADULT

Callum lifted the satin blindfold Lothan had set on the floor by their feet and fitted it into place over Eislinn’s eyes. She wriggled happily and panted. Callum didn’t think he’d ever seen her so turned on—or himself for that matter. Lothan’s dark, smooth body was hairless and marked by a line of silver runes that ran from his left nipple up over his shoulder and down his back to his right butt cheek where it curled around his hip to circle the base of his cock. A row of tiny silver barbells dotted the underside of his cock from tip to scrotum. The whole package was so blindingly sexy that he could have made a jellyfish hard and Callum couldn’t wait to have that thick dark cock in his mouth—or his ass. Preferably at the same time as his own cock was fucking Eislinn.

Lothan turned her around and bent her lengthwise over the bench, until she rested on her belly. It was exactly the right length for her willowy torso. Her pert ass jutted into the air at one end while her hauntingly lovely face was turned to the side on the far edge of the vinyl cushion. Her long chestnut hair trailed across the hardwood floor and she obediently lifted her hands to the small of her back, as if anticipating the handcuffs that Callum snapped into place around her dainty wrists. Lothan fitted a spreader bar between her ankles, wrapping the soft leather cuffs around her ankles with tender care. Oh yeah, the demon knew Eislinn’s tastes as well as Callum himself did. He pushed aside a twinge of jealousy. He and Eislinn had called it quits over a century ago. He loved her but there had always been something missing in their relationship. He hadn’t been celibate in the interim. He had no right to mind that she hadn’t. And looking at Lothan, he could definitely understand the attraction.

“Ready?” Lothan stood after testing the ankle cuffs.

Eislinn wriggled on the bench. “Ready.” Her thighs were slick with cream and Callum couldn’t resist leaning down for one quick taste. He swiped his tongue along her slit, then straightened and brought his hand down hard on her sweetly rounded ass. Lothan smacked her other cheek at exactly the same time.

“You’ve been a very bad girl, Eislinn.” The demon’s low bass rumble sent a tremor of arousal from the base of Callum’s spine straight to his taut and heavy balls.

“And naughty girls have to be punished, don’t they?” Callum smiled over at Lothan, letting all his desire for both of them show in his gaze.

The look Lothan gave him in return was smoldering. As one they both slapped Eislinn again. Her squeal held a trace of pain but a wealth of pleasure. The spanked her again, their movements timed as perfectly as if they’d been doing this together forever.

“You frightened us, dearling,” Callum reprimanded. Another spank. “You need to learn not to do that.”

“When there’s danger, you call us, damn it,” Lothan growled. Eislinn’s creamy white ass was turning a lovely shade of pink. Rivulets of fluid were beginning to trickle down her thighs as her arousal heightened with every stroke.

“You don’t fight demons on your own.” Callum finished.

“Y-yes.” her words and breath were fractured but she nodded her understanding.

“Yes what, sweet thing?” Lothan reached up and fisted a handful of her reddish-brown tresses. He pulled hard enough to make her bend her neck back.

Callum ran a finger along the curve of her spine. “Use your words, Eislinn.”

“I promise. I’ll call next time.”

“Not good enough.” Lothan and Callum spoke at once and brought their hands down again.

“You don’t go into situations like that alone,” Lothan told her.

“One of us knows where you are at all times,” Callum added. He was surprised how easily the words, “one of us,” had slipped out but they felt right. He’d trust Lothan to take care of her, in a way he’d never trusted another soul.

“O-okay.” She panted. Callum could see her body tense. She was so close to coming she couldn’t get the words out easily. His cock pulsed in response.

He and Lothan locked gazes again. With a joint nod, they each brought their hands down again—harder this time. Eislinn screamed and went over the edge. They both leaned forward to stroke her back as her body convulsed. Since Lothan held her hair, her face was turned to Callum. He couldn’t resist the opportunity. It had been a hundred long years since he’d kissed her.

Have a good week!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Guest Blogger: Author Renee DeMarcus

The Grip Crew would like to welcome author Renee DeMarcus. Please leave Renee a note to let her know how much we appreciate her stopping by!

This isn't an excerpt, but a piece written for this blog. Enjoy!

“I think I’m in love.” Stella said breathlessly as she climbed onto a barstool and took a seat.

“Oh my God, I so knew Michael was right for you.” Leah had set the pair up on a blind date three weeks earlier and she had been on pins and needles waiting to dish the juicy details with her friend.

“He is so different from any guy I’ve ever been with, for real.” She plopped her shiny black purse on the bar with a heavy thud and started scanning for the bartender. As Stella absently reached for a bowl of nuts, Leah noticed a ring of angry looking red marks on her wrist. “I swear to God, he could be the one.” Her other hand reached for a small menu and Leah’s eyes widened when she spotted matching red marks on the other wrist.

“Stella, don’t tell me you let him tie you up.”

Stella giggled. “Yep, last night. It was so hot.”

Leah’s mouth dropped open. She was open-minded and had no problem with silk scarves binding her to the bedposts or even the occasional lusty round of naughty-girl-in-need-of-a-spanking. But staring at the injuries visible on her friend’s pale skin left her feeling cold and uncomfortable. “But, Stella… he must have tied you up pretty tight. I mean, you still have marks.”

“These are nothing. You should see the ones on my ass.” There was a definite satisfied tone to her voice.

“Did you ask him to loosen the restraints?”

“No. You can’t talk when a ball gag is in your mouth, Leah. Duh.” She popped a few nuts in her mouth and started chewing, waving the waiter over by waving her reddened wrist in the air like a flag. “Michael is so amazing—he really gets me.”

“Gets you? Yeah, like, gets you in need of medical attention.” Leah took a swift drink of her Margarita, wishing she’d ordered something stronger. This bar always served watered down drinks, if it wasn’t on her block she’d never come again. “I had no idea Michael was so twisted—he’s always seemed so normal at work.”

Stella sighed. “Oh, he is twisted alright. I think he is twisting right around my heart.”

“This is not normal, Stella. Man, I should have set you up with Bill—he’s a therapist.”

“Relax, Leah, it’s normal for me.”

* * * *

Like Leah, many of us consider ourselves pretty open minded when it comes to sexuality. Even if we’re more traditional in our sexual practices, many feel wickedly adventurous by dabbling in an occasional session of what we think is BDSM with our partner. But is it? Probably not.

Wanting to enrich one of my stories with a flavor of BDSM, I recently endeavored to take an online workshop on BDSM given by a couple living the Lifestyle—erotic romance author Sascha Illyvich ( and his Domme. I found the lessons and the instructors utterly fascinating and realized I possessed little understanding of the psyche involved in the BDSM Lifestyle.

BDSM (Bondage/Submission/Sadism/Masochism) is so much more than the cliché Domme in black leather sporting a whip and looming over a submissive man on a leash. Does BDSM encompass the stereotypical tools such as whips, chains, collars, ball gags, and even unusual fetishes? Yes, however, BDSM practitioners also follow a lesser known code of ethics known as SSC—safe, sane, and consensual.

Most surprising was learning most BDSM couples engage in their sexual play from a loving place. I know, it sounds contradictory to believe any sort of violence is loving—it’s tough concept to wrap one’s mind around.

One current theory suggests BDSM practitioners associated violence with sexual arousal at a critical point in early development, creating a spark of interest that grew as they developed to maturity, resulting in the expression of BDSM in their adult lives.


Others theorize BDSM is a perversion resulting from abuse or trauma.

Again, maybe.

What I found over the course of my research was that individuals engaged in the Lifestyle believe they are expressing their true selves, feeding an inner psychological or emotional need in a healthy way.

This new knowledge has inspired my writing and I have gained a broader understanding and acceptance of those engaging in alternative lifestyles. My recently completed novella, BLACK AND BLUE, possesses shades of BDSM and I am certain future books will as well.

So what do you think? Do you believe one can work out emotional issues sexually with a lover, one who is aware of those problems and actively attempting to help their partner grow in a positive way, even if the methods involve BDSM?

Renee DeMarcus

And now for a look at Renee's latest book:
by Renee DeMarcus
available from Resplendence Publishing
(Click on the cover for more information)

Blurb: Introverted biomedical research assistant Taylor Anderson has given up on finding sexual satisfaction, let alone a man, until her pushy best friend, Tyanna, insists she meet her boss, Brian Jackson.

Brian is an African-American man with a playboy past, one which nearly derailed his fledgling career. He is determined to tame his bad-boy image, focus on his law practice and philanthropic endeavors.

Brian and Taylor’s awkward first date leads to a second and a sexual journey in which Taylor overcomes her sexual insecurities and Brian finds the one woman he believes he can truly commit to.

But when meddling Tyanna lets it slip that she all but resorted to blackmail to get Brian to agree to a meaningless sex-date, Taylor is humiliated. She retreats to her lab work, intent upon denying the stirrings of love within her heart. Taylor decides Brian simply played her, adding her to a long list of sexual conquests.

Can Brian convince Taylor he is more than his past, that their connection holds the promise of more than a meaningless sexual tryst?