Friday, January 30, 2009

Guest Blogger Helen Scott Taylor

The Grip crew would like to welcome author Helen Scott Taylor...

Transitions—one author’s journey from unpublished to published

Many changes have happened in my life during the last few years; some connected with the business I run with my husband, but most to do with my writing. Since I started writing, my horizons have expanded in a way I never expected. Doing something that necessitates me sitting in front of a computer all day has surprisingly been the impetus behind my travelling to America and Canada for the first time. I now have writing friends and contacts in Canada, America, Europe, and Australia.

The most significant change, though, happened when I won the American Title IV contest in 2008. The prize was a publishing contract with Dorchester Publishing. On the day the final result was announced, I went from unpublished to published. A transition I’d longed for since I started writing in 2003, but never dreamed would come from winning a contest.

After the initial euphoria of winning subsided, the practicalities took over. My life has transformed in ways I didn’t expect, yet not in ways I did expect. I thought I would feel different, but I feel the same as before I was published. Maybe, because I intended to persevere until I achieved publication, I was already prepared.

One of the unexpected changes has been the shift in attitude of some of my family members toward my writing. After years of feeling slightly uncomfortable when questioned about the amount of time I spend sitting in front of a computer apparently achieving little—in their opinion at any rate—I now have something concrete to show for my efforts. I no longer have the uncomfortable itch along my spine when family members peer at me as I’m typing. They used to wonder why I choose to closet myself away with a computer rather than talk to them, or cook the dinner, or... fill in the blank. Now that I’m published, I’m legitimate. I can type without guilt. Amen.

I have also noticed a subtle shift in other writers’ treatment of me. Published authors now treat me as one of the gang. Some unpublished writers now seem to think I’ve achieved super-human status. I wish!

One of the major differences has been the change in emphasis on where I spend my time. Over the years, I’ve taken many online classes, and read many books on writing craft. Now my focus has switched to subjects such as branding, online promotion, and book marketing. I’m back at the bottom of a steep learning curve. And I now seem to have less time than ever to read for pleasure—one of the changes I regret.

Perversely, now that I’m published, I find I have less time to write because promotion is a time suck of monstrous proportions. I have lost count of the number of blogs and interviews I’ve done. I’ve spent hours researching where I can advertise online. This is something I consider a transition problem that I need to smooth out. Once I get the hang of juggling all the new balls, I hope to allocate my time better.

One of the most significant and stressful things is the change in people’s expectations of me. (Or possibly just my expectations of myself.) Now I have a book published, I feel everyone will expect more from me. I’ve heard other newly published authors say that the first book they wrote after selling was the most difficult. I concur. I’ve succeeded in selling one; I must sell the next. I must improve with each book. This problem is exacerbated, as the book I’m now writing is a sequel to The Magic Knot, set in the same paranormal world featuring some of the same characters. The is the first series book I’ve written, so I’m faced with the new challenge of writing a book that must stand alone, but not over-explain the world and background enough to annoy those who read the first in the series.

In the past, the only praise or criticism my writing received was from critique partners or contest judges. Now when I type my name into Google thousands of sites come up. I’m in the public domain, fair game to everyone with an opinion and access to the Internet. I have always told myself I can’t expect to please everyone (especially after a particularly scathing comment from a contest judge). But now I have reviewers commenting on my writing and I’m no longer reading the comments in private; the criticism is available for all to read—but so is the praise. So far, I find I can handle both criticism and praise without problem. Of course, no one has slammed my book yet.

I’ve also had some notes from readers who’ve loved The Magic Knot. To hear from readers is the icing on the cake of being published. For me the nirvana of publishing is sharing the stories one has nurtured from a germ of an idea to a much-loved finished story.

Finally, one of the biggest changes on publication is that someone actually paid me for writing. (Not a lot, but hey, it’s something.) The concept that people are parting with money to read my story is interesting. I still haven’t quite got my head around that, but maybe I over think things.

The Magic Knot is published by Dorchester and available from all good book stores and online book retailers. To read the first two chapters, go to Click on the cover to buy:

Back Cover Copy:


What woman wouldn’t be attracted to Niall O’Connor’s soft Irish brogue and dark good looks? But Rosenwyn Tremain must find her father, and she isn’t going to let a sexy, stubborn Irishman and his motorcycle distract her. Rose’s intuition tells her he’s hiding something, a secret even the cards cannot divine. Her tarot deck always reads true, but how can one man represent both Justice and Betrayal?


Magic. Niall’s body tingles with it when he finds the woman snooping in his room. Rosenwyn might believe she’s a no-nonsense accountant, but her essence whispers to him of ancient fairy magic that enslaves even as it seduces. Her heritage could endanger those he’d die to protect, but her powers and her passion, if properly awakened, might be the only thing that can save both their families, vanquish a fairy queen bent on revenge, and fulfill a prophecy that will bind their hearts together with…THE MAGIC KNOT

Short Excerpt:

Rose Tremain sat on the chair before his desk, his Magic Knot cradled in her palm. She swayed slightly, her eyes dazed and dreamy. His nerves sparked. Need for her struck like lightning. He managed to suck in air, to ruthlessly crush the feeling until his body calmed.

So, he had been right. Rose Tremain was more dangerous than she appeared. She’d been sent to enslave him by capturing his stones. If she thought he’d give in easily, she had another think coming.

Silently, he walked forward and closed his hand over hers. His vision blurred at the whip of sensation. Too late, he realized his mistake in touching her. Gritting his teeth, he fought the mental pull as she sucked his very essence through their joined hands into a deep hidden part of her that whispered of ancient magic and mystery.

Niall snatched up his Magic Knot and stumbled back. His breath came in short gasps as he stared at her in shock. Rose was the Cornish pisky Tristan wanted. How had she stopped them from sensing the truth about her? That deception alone proved she was up to no good.

Slowly, her green eyes focused on him. Confusion set tiny creases between her delicate brows, then surprise chased them away. She slapped a hand over her mouth.

“Aye, be afraid, little thief,” he whispered. “You’ll pay dearly for your deception before I’m done with you.”

Find out more about Helen at the following links:

Dorchester is the best place to buy at the moment as they have it on an introductory offer of $3.50

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hasta la Vista

Well, it's been fun, but I think we're all running out of things to say. I do want to thank Lisabet and the new Grip crew for taking over, and I'll definitely be here next week cheering them on. For a sneak peek at the new crew, look at the lit of contributors on the left.

Change is good, right? Getting tired and stagnant is maybe the one thing that truly makes us feel old, so we need to mix things up. When I started here, I didn't have my own blog, so a lot of my venting went on here. Now I have my own forum, so be sure and visit me there now and then.

Big thanks to Anny, and Dakota, and James and Brynn. I've had a blast working with you for the last--year? Really? And to Kelly and Rita, founding members and friends both who helped make the Grip the fun place it is. Now it's time for a fresh new outlook on things, and I'm really pleased that five other authors thought enough of the Grip to want to keep it going.

So TTFN, and I see you around the web!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes defines "Transition" as:

movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change

Things cannot stay the same all the time. People move on, the tides turn, the moon waxes and wanes...well, I suppose the earth turns and the moon just looks different every night. It can't actually wax and wane, it's a rock for God's sake.

You didn't expect me to stay on topic did you? Tsk, tsk have you learned nothing about me these last few months?

Anyway, objects in motion stay in motion and all that crap. Whatever. All I know is that we are writers, we move from world to world with the flick of a flash drive and no one can expect us to hold our attention in one place for too long. We bounce, it's how we're wired. And when the bouncing stops or slows we move on to other projects.

It doesn't mean we don't love the original project, we just can't focus our energies anymore on something that isn't working for us.

Oh heck. We love you all and I want to thank everyone who came to the blog to support us and talk to us and read our ramblings about various topics. Show your love to the new crew. They will be fresh and totally bouncy. And you can be sure we'll stop by once in a while to say what's up.

Thanks for giving me your attention every Wednesday. I heart you all.

Dakota Rebel
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slipping away

This is my last Grip post. Like Anny, I'm off to other things. There's a crew of wonderful ladies in the wings waiting to take over. It's been wonderful sharing views every week and I look forward to seeing the directions the Grip will now take.

Happy writing and reading to you all. I'll be seeing you, and if you choose, you can keep up with me at my home blog.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Moving On...

This is my last week at OhGetAGrip! Yep. Time to unwind and spend some down time getting my act together. So I'm moving on. It's been fun and very interesting blogging with James and the ladies. I found it amazing to see so many different views on the subjects we wrote about.

But, now I need to get back to the works in progress that are piling high on my desk. I've been getting behind on my "extras"--you know those bits and pieces that help you keep all your characters straight? My series bibles are in sad shape, crying out for attention.

Hope you'll hang around and meet my replacement! My best wishes to her and the new crew!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Gallery By Dakota Rebel

Available now at


Lana Healy agrees to a blind date with Conner after much nagging from a mutual friend. She knows that Conner is an artist, but what she was not aware of is the fact that he’s also a vampire. This ceases to be an issue for her when their chemistry together becomes undeniable.

Lana soon realises that his being a vampire is the least of her worries when it comes to her feelings for him. She can only hope that he feels the same way.


I was surprised at how easy the conversation felt with him. We fell into an easy report littered with sarcastic remarks and light, humorous banter. His wit was quick, and he matched me dig for dig. It was nice to talk to a guy who didn’t get offended at my mouth. I cuss like a sailor and pass judgement on everyone with no explanation or remorse. A lot of men can’t handle that. But Conner took it all in stride. It was refreshing.

We passed on dessert so the waiter left the bill on the table while we finished our

“So was your opening a smashing success?”

“It was, thank you. This city is full of assholes who couldn’t wait to, what was it? Start blowing smoke up my ass. I practically sold out opening night.”

“Great, then you can get the check.” I smiled sweetly, winking at him over my glass.

“It would serve you right if I went to the bathroom and never came back,” he said.

“You had to order the chicken and the foi gras.”

“I was hungry. If I’d known you were going to bogart the steak tips I would have
gotten the lobster, too.”

He dropped his credit card on top of the check with a dramatic sigh. I laughed. I had been laughing all evening. I couldn’t remember spending such an amusing evening with anyone other than Hugh Grant, Ben and Jerry.

“What are you thinking about right now?”

“I was just wondering if Amanda was right, if I could really bounce a quarter off your ass?” When in doubt, sarcasm works in a pinch.

“Well, I usually don’t pull out the kinky stuff until the third date. But I suppose I could make an exception if you promise to still respect me in the morning.”

“That would imply I respect you now.”

He smiled, dropping his eyes to the table. He covered my hands with his own, causing me to let out a breath I hadn’t realised I was holding. His hand was warm and his skin was just as soft as it looked. It made me wonder about other parts of him, which made me blush.

“What are you thinking about now?” His voice was teasing, making me realise he had looked up at me in time to see the redness creep over my cheeks.

“Nothing you want to hear about.”

“I doubt that very much.”

The waiter brought the check back, saving me yet again from my awkwardness.

“Come on.” Conner dropped the pen on the table before taking my hand and leading me out of the restaurant.

“Where are we going?”

“I want to show you my work.”

“Now?” It was going on ten p.m. and the gallery was long closed.

His hand tightened a little around mine. I squeezed back. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I liked him touching me, and I didn’t want him to stop. In fact, I found myself wanting him to touch me more and touch more of me.

As if reading my mind, he pulled me against him and kissed me. It was soft, warm and much too quick. My panties became instantly damp at the feel of him against me. I looked at him with wide eyes when he pulled back.

“There, now the first kiss is out of the way. We can both relax and have fun.” His logic was frustrating. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hit him or make him kiss me again. Relaxing was the least of the thoughts flying through my mind. “Let’s go see some art. If you can call it that.”

“Do you have a key?” I followed close behind him, one hand still in his and the other wrapped around his arm. His muscles were firm and flexed slightly as we walked.

“No, but all vampires are experts in breaking and entering. Greg won’t even know. Maybe while we’re there we can loot the safe and run away to Maui together.”

“Isn’t Maui a little…sunny for you?”


“Maybe a little. But wouldn’t you rather run off to Transylvania or something?”

“You know, just because you’re cute doesn’t mean you can throw racial slurs at me.
I’m going to call the ACLU and report you if you’re not careful.”

“Be still my heart.”

Dakota Rebel

Saturday, January 24, 2009

If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On...

The Grip is thrilled to welcome the lovely Lisabet Sarai!

I couldn’t live without music. But I can’t write with it. The reason, I think, is that I tend to focus on lyrics above melody. (This might have something to do with my past incarnation as a poet. I wrote tons of poetry when I was young, single, and overflowing with angst and lust.) The words of a song will interfere with the words in my head that I’m trying to squeeze out onto the page.

(My husband, in contrast, focuses entirely on the music. He barely hears the lyrics. Needless to say, our opinions of a particular piece of music are frequently quite different!)

I suppose that I could try purely instrumental music – I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Mozart made an effective background for writing – but I certainly don’t need external music when I’m working on a writing project. My attention is elsewhere – on the characters and their trials and tribulations. I need to listen to their conversations, not to mention their screams and groans of ecstasy.

I do use music quite a lot in my stories, however, usually songs that are among my favorites. In Raw Silk, Kate dances in a Thai go go bar to the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”. Appropriate for a BDSM novel, right? Actually, I remember dancing in Patpong, the Bangkok red light district, to that very song, twisting and shaking and getting turned on by the fact that people were watching me. I could hear it quite clearly as I wrote that scene.

In Exposure, my erotic thriller coming next month from Phaze, the main character Stella works as a stripper. She exercises to vintage Supremes: “Stop in the Name of Love”. She performs to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. “Strange what desire will make foolish people do...” Actually, that could be a tag line for the novel.

Recently I submitted a short story about a trio of classical musicians to one of my publishers. I had to do quite a bit of research for that tale. I know classical music, a bit, but I’m no expert. I knew I wanted to include one Bach piece that I adore (a solo cello piece) but I had no idea what it was called. The characters play Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, and Boradin. I figured that if I got anything wrong in this story, I’d have some readers yelling for my blood.

Brynn’s strategy of creating a soundtrack for each of her books is a totally new notion for me. I’m not completely clear on whether she imagines the soundtrack as a background for her plot as it unfolds, or simply a set of cues for her own imagination.

I can certainly understand how a song can trigger story ideas; I’ve had that happen. My stories aren’t like movies though, at least not the way I experience them when I’m writing. My books don’t have soundtracks – I doubt I could create one, even retrospectively.

Some of my favorite recordings are soundtracks though. I blush to admit that I’ve always loved musicals. South Pacific. Sweet Charity. Hair. Recently I’ve been listening again to movie soundtrack from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which had a huge influence on me when I was younger and wilder:

“Give yourself over to absolute pleasure.
Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh.
Erotic nightmares beyond any measure,
And sensual daydreams to treasure forever
Don’t dream it, be it.”

This could be a theme song for erotic romance, don’t you think?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sing Me a Song

I love music. I feel that life should come with a soundtrack. So, why not our books? I do my best writing when I have music playing in the background. I even work in musical references to nearly every book I’ve ever committed to pixel.

If I’m struggling to find the proper emotion of a given scene, I will stop, create a play list of songs to set the mood and let the feeling the music inspires carry over into my words. So far it has proven quite effective.

Most of the time, I just set my iPod to shuffle and let it play. It’s rather odd, but I usually don’t even register the lyrics while I’m typing. I just feel the presence of the music, comforting me, embracing me, urging me on.

What music does it for me? It really is a varied list. As an example, here is twenty of the last songs that played while I wrote (about an hour’s worth of music).

Stone in my Hand by Everlast
Pony by Teenager
16 Military Wives by The Decemberists
Wanna Be in L.A. by Eagles of Death Metal (the name is misleading, as they are far from death metal)
Vampire by People in Planes
Going On by Gnarls Barkley
The Resolution by Jack’s Mannequin
Rusty Cage by Johnny Cash
Via Con Me by Paolo Conte
Pretty Vegas by INXS
Finding Out True Love is Blind by Louis XIV
Repetition Kills You by The Black Ghosts
Moving to New York by The Wombats
You by Atmosphere
Wishing Well by Terence Trent D’Arby
I Will Possess Your Heart by Death Cab for Cutie
Bonnie and Clyde by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot
Violet Hill by Cold Play
Believe by The Bravery
Io Sono Qui by Nek

There you go… that’s a pretty good representation of the type of music I listen to while writing. What music moves you?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Play that funky music

I don't have specific music for each book. My music varies by my mood. My main listening choices? Celtic folk, Celtic punk, Jimmy Buffett, Warren Zevon, and a diverse group of other odds and ends. I guess if I'm doing a paranormal, I might lean more to the Celtic, while with a western, I might lean more to the Buffett and Eagles. Maybe. The Buffett also tends to come out when I'm sick of winter in Michigan. Zevon gets played when I'm disgusted with the world. Grateful Dead when I'm feeling old. Great Big Sea is for--well--practically anytime. I DO usually have music on when I write--that or the TV on something like game shows or travel channel--basically something in the background I can ignore. I have trouble writing in dead silence.

One quirk? The faster the music, the faster I tend to type, if I'm in the zone. So if I'm smart, it's the dh's punk albums that are on my MP3 player, or in the CD changer. I also use Pandora and Last FM, two internet radio sites that are easy to manage without looking up from my computer.

My youngest son once told me, "Mom, you never did near enough drugs to account for the music you listen to." You know what? The kid is right.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

He writes the songs that make the whole world sing

I love music. I'm pretty eclectic when it comes to styles that I like. If it's good I'll listen to it.

When I'm writing I have to listen to music. There has to be some background noise going on or I can't concentrate. (You didn't miss the part about me being weird right? Okay.)

Over the course of the last year I have found myself creating soundtracks specific to the story I am telling. And today I would like to share a few of the songs that have helped to get my books finished.

For Raven (part of the Naughty Nooners Antho) this song was prominantly featured:

Mitch was built almost entirely on this song. I listened to Ben E King croon to me for hours on end while I assembled Mitch and Jarrod's story. (There is M/M intimacy in this video. If you do not care for it please don't watch. Thank you.)

(I would like to interrupt your regularly scheduled D.R. post to let you know that after posting the QaF video above I was required to spend an hour watching fan videos and crying because that is how I roll. I can NEVER watch just one Queer as Folk video. No, I have to watch a ton. And I always cry. And then I usually still end up watching a few episodes on top of that. I just LOVE that show. *sigh)

Okay, back to the soundtrackiness.

For To Hate and To Hold this song pretty much sums it up. If you decide to pick it up when it comes out next month, after you read it listen to this song again. You'll get it.

There are of course other books and other songs. But these were the most recent, and some of my favorites so I wanted to share them with you. Music makes the books go round...or something like that.

I think that, even if it's only subconciously, our characters and plots can reach another level if our writing environment matches the tone of what we are working on. Then again, I'm weird so maybe that's just me.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Create Soundtrack…check

When I’m writing a book, one of the first tasks I complete is making a soundtrack for the manuscript. All of the song on the list mean something to the story. They set the tone or correspond to events happening throughout. I have a Zune and one of the things I love about it is that I can keep a bazillion playlists on my computer. All I need to do is plug in my headphones, select a list and go. Some lists are short. Some are long. The nice thing about playlists on the computer is that I’m not limited to CD space, and since they’re utilizing the same bank of songs, they take up minimal space on the PC.

Here’s my playlist for one of my current works in progress, a mainstream forbidden older woman/younger man story:

1. Two Sparrows in a Hurricane – Tanya Tucker
2. Angels Would Fall – Melissa Etheridge
3. Stain Glass Masquerade – Casting Crowns
4. Follow Me – Uncle Kracker
5. How Do I Live – Tricia Yearwood
6. Enjoy the Silence – Depeche Mode
7. I Was Made For Loving You – Kiss
8. It’s Not Over – Daughtry
9. Crush – David Archuleta
10. Mrs. Robinson – The Lemonheads
11. Monday Morning Church – Alan Jackson
12. Suffering – Jay-Jay Johanson
13. This Year’s Love – David Gray
14. Losing My Religion – REM
15. Careless Whispers – WHAM!
16. Mrs. Steven Rudy – Mark McGuinn
17. What Happens in Vegas – Phil Vassar
18. Only the Good Die Young – Billy Joel
19. Life’s a Dance – John Michael Montgomery
20. I Swear – John Michael Montgomery
21. Only Hope – Mandy Moore

Eclectic. It works for me. I encourage anyone who loves music and works by it to make up their own playlist. Yes, it takes time to put together a playlist, but when I write to music, I get at least double the work complete.

Happy Writing!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sound Track?

I confess this subject is new to me. I suspect that I have a touch of ADD so peripheral sounds--even music--are very distracting when I am writing. And to tell the truth, I don't listen to music very much.

But on occasion, a song will strike a chord with me, giving me a story idea that I might (or might not) use. A song from one of Josh Groban's albums was just such a melody. I was contemplating one of my characters for a future Mystic Valley book, a character that was in his youth a singer very much like Josh. But I just couldn't get a handle on what his story was going to be. And then, the song, soaring through my apartment struck that chord and I knew what I needed to write.

Music touches our souls. And sometimes it gives us the answer.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

It’s Never Too Late for New Year’s Resolutions

Please welcome the very naughty Kaenar Langford to the blog today who has some fun goals.

I know it’s a few weeks past New Year’s and resolution time, but I don’t think it’s ever too late to decide to do better. With this in mind, I’ve set 10 goals for myself for the year and I’ve also provided myself with some incentive to follow through.

1. I’ll spend more time doing the vacuuming and if that doesn’t work out, I’ll hire someone to do it for me.

2. I’m going to spend more time cleaning the bathroom. Again, a local cleaning service could be hired to make sure I’m keeping this resolution.

3. I’m going to spend more time in the kitchen. And some of it might even be spent cooking.

4. I’m going to offer to help my neighbour look for the soap next time he loses it.

5. I’m going to make that pesky mirrored wall in the bedroom shine. There always seem to be fingerprints on it. Or maybe the prints are not from fingers.

6. I’m going to hire a local handyman to get some jobs done around the house.

7. I’m going to take more time for myself, do things I like, such as going to the beach.

8. I’m going to help my neighbour’s son build a snowman. He’s not so sure about my design.

9. I’m going to learn to play pool.

10. I’m going to become more physically active and take up whatever sport this is.

See, that’s not so difficult, is it? Just set some realistic goals, ask the right people for help, and you’re good to go.


Check out Kaenar Langford at

My latest book from Total-e-Bound is available now
Check out Indulge Me in the male/male anthology, Naughty Nooners

My latest book from Ellora’s Cave, Absolute Trust,
is a futuristic m/m/f ménage.
Look for it in print soon
A double volume along with Jude’s Choice,
the first book in the Prime Prey series

Friday, January 16, 2009


Goals are integral to the growth process, not just as writers but as people. If you’re not constantly looking forward, you will grow stagnate. As I’m sure is the case with most of us, my goals shift and evolve as the years pass. I have literally dozens of goals at any given time, some small, others perhaps a bit too lofty.

I’ve seen several of my goals appear among the posts of my fellow contributors, so rather than recover ground that has already been treaded oh so eloquently, I thought it would be more fun to post my top ten goals for this year.

10. Write an entire trilogy (each volume containing 80K+ Words).
9. Get more money for doing less at the day job (accomplished by receiving just the right promotion).
8. Become a Best Seller
7. Buy more real estate and flip it for a healthy profit.
6. Get back into the same shape I was in while I was in the Army.
5. Learn a new language or learn more in one that I’m weak in (I speak thirteen now with varying degrees of fluency).
4. Dance more.
3. Help a complete stranger for no apparent reason.
2. Win the lottery.
1. Become the undisputed ruler of the entire free world.

Some of these will obviously be a bit easier to accomplish than others, but I’m going to give them all one helluva shot.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Outta my way!

Goals are tricky things. There are the big, all encompassing ones and the tiny everyday ones. Some of them are things you can accomplish on your own, others require the cooperation of others.

I posted on my personal blog my idea of New Year's Resolutions. (Mid-range goals, I guess.) My nine things to do in '09 include things like "visit one place I've never been before" and "make at least one new friend." I do NOT make resolutions about losing weight (no need to sabotage myself on that one) or getting a bigger publishing contract. My major goals are things that make me stretch, not things that make me crazy. My short term goals are more like tasks, as Dakota said. "Finish this book by Jan. 31, Make revisions to that one by the end of next week." I try to make it WORK, but not INSANE. Sometimes that's a balance that's hard to achieve. I do find that short term goals are more likely to be met if I've told someone about them. I hate admitting failure, so I will work hard to do what I said I was going to do.

My bigger goals? Make enough from my writing to ease the financial strain on my household. Maybe be able to fund a vacation or two, and--gulp--college which is approaching fast for my sons. Get back in shape, so that when I do have the money to travel, I can do all the things I want to do, without falling on my face. (Let's just admit that Cindy surfing was not a pretty sight.)

Sometimes, you have to adjust your goals, as life and circumstances change. I try to remember that and take it in stride. Friends and family are more important than goals. Mostly, I try to make my goals something for me to work on, and not let them get in the way of others. Life is too short to be a jerk.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Big shock - Dakota has a strange habit when it comes to goal setting. (When aren't I strange, honestly.) Most anyone will tell you that it is best to set reasonable and reachable goals. Break large goals down into managable ones so you don't get discouraged.

I don't do this.

I prefer LARGE goals. Things like "Quit my job and be a full time writer." Or maybe "Write five 50k+ novels this year." "Relearn German...all of it."

Large goals are good. Tackling the big picture makes me feel like I have a purpose, I am striving for something. If I don't reach the goal immediately that's okay, it carries over. There is no time limit on my goals.

When I told people I would get a publisher by the end of 2007 people laughed at me. Friends told me I was crazy. They had watched me struggle for years and years with the industry and knew from seeing me go through hell that it's a tough business. But I knew I was finally ready. I knew that it was my time. And poof. Not only did I receive a contract in 2007, by the end of 2008 I found myself a multi-published author with a pretty decent internet presence.

So when I told the Mr. I would be quitting my job to be a full time writer in the next two years, he did not laugh. He is actually being quite supportive of me, telling me to do it now. (I think he may be kidding so the day job remains.)

Large goals are great. It's nice to look on the horizon and see that large change can happen. Now, I am not so cavalier with my goals as to say I will lose 40 pounds by RT. I know what I honestly could accomplish and what is overly farfetched. So a big part of large goals is the ability to meet them eventually.

Don't get me wrong, small goals are good too. I have those as well, "Finish the story I'm working on now." "Outline this book." Things like that. But I honestly think of those more as tasks that need to be done rather than goals. "Write 10 pages a day," is a job, we're writers. We should strive to hit numbers like that. But again, I don't count that as a goal. That is just something that needs to be done, a task on the calendar.

So I guess it's whatever you need to do to accomplish the things you really want. If breaking a large goal into manageable pieces helps you reach it then by all means, use my hatchet. As long as everyone is keeping their eyes on the end result how you get there is just backstory.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Map, Please

I’m a dreamer and I’m a list maker. The two go together well when it comes to making goals. I have a lot of them too. Some barely spoken, some mapped out in pains-taking detail. I think it’s good and important for you to know where you want to go and what you want to do.

When you ask the most successful people in the world about their goals, they don’t talk about goals in terms of weeks or months. They speak in years. They talk about 5, 10 and even 25 year plans. Goals are important. Goal setting techniques are used by top-level athletes, successful business-people and achievers in all fields, including writing. They give long-term vision and short-term motivation. They provide focus and help you to organize your time and your resources so that you can make the most of your life.

Goals come in all shapes and sizes, from “I want to lose weight” to “I want to have a New York Times Best Seller.” People will disagree as to which of those is easier, but few who’ve achieved either of those goals – or any other major goal for that matter – will disagree that reaching your goals is a process. It takes work. For the most part, our greatest dreams don’t fall in our laps. They start with a seed, a notion and they grow into success.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Goals are funny things. They can drag us down or they can boost us up, depending on our willingness to adjust them as necessary. Some people find that they function better with their goals written down. Others just have a vague idea of what they want.

I fall somewhere in the middle. For me, long range goals are best kept somewhere in the back of my mind. As life happens, I try to adjust to new realities. For instance, an expensive vacation trip will be a long range goal. While our finances are doing fairly well, I'll keep making tentative plans for that trip. But if something changes (such as the recent economic troubles) then my plans will be adjusted to meet the new economic reality.

On the other hand, I manage short term goals better with a calendar and a legal pad. I define short-term as six months. And when I'm listing my goals, I try to provide as many details as possible: supplies, time, space, money. For instance, I plan to complete a new calligraphy piece for my living room before spring. Supplies-- frame, paper, ink, paint brushes, calligraphy pens, cleaning fluids, matting board. Space--two tables in my work room (gonna have to clean them off!) Time--approximately 100 hours. Money--no new expenditures required because I already have the supplies. Once I have the approximate time allotted, I can fit this project in my calendar--along with all my other short term goals!

Personally, I've found that projects won't be completed unless I enter them in my calendar. Somehow they end up forgotten or shoved to the side in favor of some other goal.

Some goals are never met simply because we are too ambitious. For instance, if my goal is to walk everyday, I likely won't meet that goal. Life will interfere. Weather will interfere. Illness will interfere. However, if I determine that my goal is to walk three times a week, I'm more likely to meet that goal. It's more realistic. And who knows? On good weeks, I just might walk every day.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Love Never-Ending

January 30th the 5th book in the Mystic Valley series will be released from Ellora's Cave. Love Never-Ending is Bishop and Samara's story. Love is never easy in the valley and in Bishop's case, his stubbornness makes it even more difficult.

Samara was aware of him the moment he walked through her garden. She couldn’t say what alerted her to his presence but she knew he was there, standing beneath the tree watching her. When she challenged him, he flushed in delayed embarrassment at being caught staring at her.
“Perhaps it would be best if I just went.”
Then she smiled. Clearly, that wasn’t what he really wanted to do. As she continued to watch him in turn, his cock poked at the front of his sharda indicating more than a passing interest. A strange desire to display her body for him crept over her. Impulsively following the odd urge, she twisted until she was facing him, stretched on her side with her head supported on her bent arm. “Is this what you wanted?” Slowly she bent her top leg so that her nearly bare mons was revealed. He caught a glimpse of swollen wet folds.
He inhaled sharply and fought the urge to haul his cock out of the heavy folds of fabric and stroke it while she watched. As though she read his very thoughts, she gestured toward his sharda. “You have seen me. May I see you?”
“If you will explain something to me?” He lifted an eyebrow in query.
“What would you like to know?”
“What does it mean when someone says you’re ineligible?”
A flash of pain crossed her face and then it was gone as she calmly replied, “I was raped when I was younger. Since I am no longer a virgin, I may not pledge or take the bond mate vows…and I will not have children.”
He went to her then, not thinking about any consequences, only intent on expressing comfort and outrage at the injustice. Already, though his time in the valley had been short, he understood the importance of childbearing to the valley inhabitants. “Why would that make any difference?”
“It is the law in the valley,” she said, sitting up as he stood next to the blanket. “Only virgins may pledge. Without the pledge there are no children.”
“Then what is left for one such as yourself?”
She shrugged. “If I find a man I wish to be with and he is not interested in children, then perhaps I will be fortunate enough to have a covenant bond. It is just as binding but there is no pledge—no mind bond. That is not likely to happen.”
Following impulse, Bish undid the tabs that fastened his sharda and cast it down on the edge of the blanket. He stood still as she stared in amazement at his genitals. Under her watchful eyes, his cock lengthened until it speared up from the black nest of curls at his groin. Her eyes widened and sparkled. Unable to resist, he stroked his cock with one hand while he cupped his heavy balls with the other proudly displaying himself for her pleasure.
Samara slowly licked her lips and then reached out, touching the flushed wet head with a gentle fingertip. “Are all out-valley men as generously endowed as you?”
“I suspect some more so, some less,” he admitted gravely.
“Your skin is such a beautiful color.” She moved to her knees in front of him. “May I hold you? I’ve never touched a man before.”
Bishop inhaled sharply. “There’s been no one since the rape?”
“No. When I was much younger, I couldn’t bear the idea of a man touching me.” She leaned forward and planted a kiss on the fat head of his cock. “And then, when I was old enough to consider it, no one was interested in me.”
“Why the hell not?” he burst out.
“Oh, partly because my parents were overprotective. And partly because I’m not eligible.” Though she answered him calmly enough, her eyes never left his cock. She licked her lips again, her tongue trailing across her bottom lip as though she still tasted him. “May I?”
“What, Samara? Tell me what you want,” Bish said quietly. “I want no misunderstandings between us.”
When her tongue flickered across her lips again his cock pulsed releasing another drop of clear fluid. “I want to taste you,” she declared in a sudden rush. “Can I taste you?”
“If you allow me to return the favor.”
“You wish to kiss me?”
“I wish to lick and suck your pussy until you have an orgasm. You know what that word is here in the valley?”
Samara bent her head over his cock and licked him with lush abandon, curling her tongue around him, sampling his textures and tastes. A low hum in her throat vibrated against the sensitive underside as she lavished more kisses and luxurious forays with that wicked flickering tongue.
Bishop speared his fingers in her tumbled golden brown hair and held her still. “Samara.”
“If we continue with this, I will not leave until I bring you to orgasm many times. Is that what you want?”
Samara was silent as she thought about that.
“Look at me,” he commanded. When her eyes met his, he asked, “Is that what you want?”
After a moment she nodded. “Yes.”

Friday, January 9, 2009

Gimme Fever

Cabin fever must be a horrible state of mind to drift into. I truly can’t imagine ever suffering from it. When the weather turns bad, we turn to each other. We play games, watch movies, soak up the heat of our hot tub or any number of things to keep our mind off of being unable to enjoy the outdoors.

Last year we experienced a horrible ice storm that left many without electricity for weeks. Those lucky enough to have generators were still effectively iced in for several days. Even if you were brave enough to venture out, nearly every store and all restaurants in the area were closed. How did we get through the isolation? We lit candles and played board games and read and well… various other activities that seemed to make the time fly.

When my son became bored with our company (which was inevitable, but did take nearly two days), he would bundle up, grab his sled and slip and slide up and down the roads. No cars out, meant he could do something he normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to do.

I guess my point is that any situation is only as bad (or good for that matter) as you make it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Let Me Out

Okay, I AM one of those who suffers from Cabin Fever. Doesn't even have to be winter, but it helps. I never noticed this too much while I was working outside the house, especially when I was working two jobs, or hauling my oversized butt up and down hills all day at a nature center. By the time I got home, I was too wiped out to want to put shoes and a coat on and leave again. Now that I work at home, though, I definitely reach the point of climbing the walls.

Part of my make-up is an enormous love of travel, and of experiencing new things. My dh? Not so much. So while I'm getting itchy feet and wanting to go somewhere--anywhere, he's happy to spend his free time flicking channels on the TV. Plus, he does work long hours outside the house, and enjoys vegging out when he finally does get to spend some time at home.

So what to do? Traveling solo is too expensive--just no budget for that on a small-press writer's pay. I can think of a few small things that help, when I get my backside in gear and do them--things I've promised myself to do more often in 2009.

1. Exercise. Cliche, but true. I have a deep-water aerobics class at the local high-school pool. Since I love being in the water, this is good for me mentally as well as physically. Also gives me the chance to talk to other humans, so it's well worth the couple hours away from my computer.

2. Change of scene: I need to remember to pack up the laptop and go somewhere else to write for a while. Local coffee shop or even the public library. At least it's a different set of walls to look at, and you're not constantly distracted by things like dishes or laundry.

3. Other writers: Spending time with any of my writer friends always refreshes me and makes me remember why I wanted to do this in the first place. Lunch out with Dakota or a Monday night critique meeting usually help put the blahs back in their place.

Someday, though? The change of scene is going to mean typing on the lanai looking out over the beach. If I keep telling myself that, it's bound to come true, right?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cabin Fever?

I was confused at first when this topic hit the board. "What the heck is cabin fever?" I asked the Mr. He explained that NORMAL people require sunlight and activities outside of the house to avoid going crazy. When I gave him my usual "Huh" look he told me to re-watch The Shining.

Oh. Okay. Going nuts because you are stuck inside due to shorter days and cold weather. Yeah, I don't have that. I hate being outside. I don't like the sun. I am an Irish girl so I burn ridiculously easily, never tanning but peeling and ending up as ghost white as I started. So I am not in any way, shape, or form a sun worshipper.

As for activities outside the house...well I also have the good fortune of being incredibly lazy. So sitting on my ass inside with nothing else to do is actually a favorite past time. I hate the cold, but other than temperature issues I freakin' love winter. I can get out of doing all kinds of things due to snow and rain and the like. "Oh, sorry I can't make it to the (insert outside obligation here) the roads are just terrible and the kid has a cold and the dogs can't be left alone...yeah, winter kind of rocks.

Plus, if I am cooped up in my house with nothing else to do, I can write more books. No one complains that I have been on the computer all day because they are too busy finding things to do on their own so that they are not stuck with this "Cabin Fever" thing. Everyone wins!

Now, for those of you who are snickering at how witty Dakota is I should warn you, I am not kidding. I have never, not once, said to anyone that we should go outside and do something. Not once. I like INSIDE. Inside there is internet, and food, and the temperature is the same year round. Outside there are bugs, and that dreaded sun up there in the sky, and it is cold/hot/wet/etc at any given time. And since I live in Michigan it can be all of those things within five hours. Not fun for me.

So sorry, but I can't blog about beating cabin fever cause I don't really understand it.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cabin Fever

Sorry, but when I hear this term, I picture the Muppets from Muppet Treasure Island chanting “We’ve got Cabin Fever. We’ve got Cabin Fever. We’ve got Cabin Fever …” Makes me giggle.

I rarely get cabin fever so I’m probably not going to be help to you at all. I am a hermit. If I could, I would go days on end without leaving the house, but I’m forced to and I often look like Mr. Mole blindly poking his head out of his hole and complaining about the bright evil sun—even if it’s not particularly bright. I’m content and happy with my life. I rarely want to get away.

Generally, if I get cooped-up syndrome it’s because I’ve been locked up in close quarters with people for too long without that solitude thing I was complaining about a few weeks ago. It’s very very easy to solve.

1. If I can get away for a few hours by myself, I will.

2. If I can’t get away, I completely rethink my everyday pattern and do something new. I don’t bake everyday, but I love to bake, so I’ll do that. Or I’ll do something artistic. I give myself a mind vacation without even stepping outside.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cabin Fever

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...
Jack Frost nipping at your nose...

Ah, winter. In the beginning, there is a certain amount of excitement at the change to winter--especially because it coincides with the holidays. But then in January, the winter doldrums hit. By February, parents are ready to adopt their families out. By March, moms are ready to flee for their lives. Cabin fever truly sets in.

What to do?

The expression cabin fever was coined back when families were scattered on the frontier. Winter meant isolation and darkness and bitter cold. Visitors were rare as travel was difficult. After endless days cooped up in the family cabin, some individuals went so far as to actually commit murder.

In the modern age, that's rare. But there is still a bit of cabin fever when the weather it too bad to carry on our normal activities. Children aren't as likely to go outside to play because it's dark by the time they come home from school. The temperatures drop at night making it much colder to go out to the store or mall. And suddenly, the family is suffering from cabin fever.

In these economic hard times, fewer families are going to go out to eat or shop. So there will have to be adjustments.

Try a family game night. Friday or Saturday night is good. If the kids are old enough, draw lots to see who prepares dinner and who cleans up afterwards.

Try a family movie night. Rotate who decides on the movie. Have popcorn.

Try a family craft night. Remember that perfection isn't the goal, but the joy of creativity is good. Perhaps donate the results to a shut-in or nursing home patient who hasn't any family.

Try a family dance or exercise night. Let the kids lead the routine and pick the music. Most likely, you'll definitely get your heart rate up and wear the kids out at the same time.

What about you? What do you do the combat cabin fever?


Friday, January 2, 2009

Everyone Loves A Scoundrel

Everyone Loves a Scoundrel - But Handle Yours With Caution

By David Niall Wilson

Everyone loves a scoundrel. So I've been told throughout my writing career, so my observations of which men and women are most attractive to hordes of the opposite sex women have led me to surmise, and so the world of publishing has confirmed. From Hannibal Lecter to Billy the Kid, from Mata Hari to the Goddess Kali, you just can't beat a good anti-hero. In fiction, though, as in life, we have to exercise caution when we set out to make gold from lead or draw our heroes from the dark side.

Hannibal, for instance, is an example of a man who should be as execrable as any in the history of humanity, but is instead fascinating. What causes this? What is it about the charismatic bad guy that draws people in ways that white-hatted heroes often fail to match? I believe the difference is only a matter of perspective. What is less clear is whether or not such a shift in perspective is a good idea. It is easier to justify it when the character is wholly supernatural, like Dracula. When we draw our villains from real life we are treading on thinner ice.

If we were presented a Hannibal Lecter drawn from the atrocities he performed, rather than one who listens to classical music, knows fine wine, and shows flashes of psychotic brilliance, the result would be very different. If the gunslingers in westerns were shown as cold blooded killers who didn't bathe regularly, I doubt they'd have attained their mythic status. The reason, then, that we allow ourselves to love bad guys - in my mind - is that we first remove them from reality and invest them with a touch of magic. We make them into the types of characters Superman and Batman used to do battle with. We give them charisma and good looks. We let them outsmart people and escape from situations that, in reality, would be their undoing. We put swash in their buckle and pearly white teeth in their smiles.

You can make a villain sympathetic and heroic just by changing the circumstances of his situation. Hannibal was treated poorly as a young man. Billy the Kid and Jesse James were southern soldiers who were hounded after the war. By carefully crafting the "good guys" to be boring, or setting them up to seem overbearing, dull, or outright mean-spirited, we create an atmosphere that makes readers pull for them to get smacked down. Then we provide the villain with just the right skills and attitude to get that job done. Sometimes we like to believe that we would have done exactly what those villains did in their situation, and we root for them to succeed against authority figures we've been conditioned to distrust or outright dislike.

In my own fiction, I've made great use of the anti-hero. Though most of mine aren't outright villains, the qualities are in place. In my trilogy, "The Grails Covenant," I offered up the Vampire Montrovant. He isn't loved by his own clan, but he is respected. He has a decided cruel streak, but he is brave, determined, handsome, and charming at the same time. He is willing to cut a man into tiny bits of meat to reach his goal, but not to perform that same act just for amusement.

In my novel Deep Blue, Brandt, the hero, is a down-and out blues guitarist who drinks too much, has too high an opinion of himself, and pays little attention to the feelings of others. His better qualities shine through over time, but he is not a cookie-cutter good guy. His is a real life with real problems, set against a backdrop of music and dark fantasy. You can relate to him, and that is another key.

My first novel, "This is My Blood," retells the story of the gospel through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, a fallen angel raised in the desert to tempt Christ with her beauty. Throughout this novel I give examples of how often the mantle of hero can shift from one character to another, and how the manner of looking at a thing affects changes in how your characters are perceived. Lucifer is the villain, and there's little doubt of that, but when it comes to other characters I worked in, such as Judas, Lilith, and Peter, things become decidedly blurry.

I think, as authors, we have a responsibility in writing about evil that I take very seriously. It's one thing to give almost supernatural powers and charisma to a villain, or to present them as misunderstood and build them a following. It's quite another to invest their actions with that same mystique. Hannibal Lecter is an amalgam of several real-life serial killers. The atrocities that they performed are among the vilest deeds recorded. By pulling Hannibal from reality as we know it and turning him into a mistreated child grown into an evil super-genius of comic book proportion, we find something darkly fascinating, or even charming in the character. We can't make the mistake of translating that fascination to serial killers in reality. There is a trend - particularly in modern horror films - to take the brutality and cruelty to bizarre lengths without providing the disconnect from reality such subjects have traditionally commanded. I think it's a dangerous trend without much in the way of socially redeeming factors. I see no villains or heroes to pull for in movies like "Saw," or "Hostel," and I believe they represent a frightening step toward legitimizing evil and branding it as "cool."

Billy the Kid was a crazed young gunman who killed dozens of men in cold blood, often on a whim. The fictionalized version of that same young man rarely shows the brutality or the insanity inherent in his life, or the harm that he caused others. We have our mythic gunfighter, and we love him, but we can't allow that to translate to romanticizing the act of one man brutally killing another.

Hannibal Lecter is a cultured man who, while he kills brutally and actually eats his victims, always seems to have reason and some sort of code of ethics behind his choice of victims. The men he is based on, the Ed Gein and others, had no such compunctions. They ruined people's lives and lived like monsters on the earth. There was nothing charismatic about them, nor would you be likely to romanticize them if you met them in person - though folks like Ted Bundy throw a monkey wrench into that logic.

In closing, I'd say that as in all things creative, the vision you follow will be your own. The villain is one of the most powerful characters in a writer's arsenal, and like anything powerful; he or she should be used with caution. Be careful what you romanticize, but as Jesus says in "This is My Blood," to paraphrase, without a backdrop of darkness, there is no way to judge the light. Here's to those characters that walk the thin lines in shades of gray…

Thanks to James Goodman for inviting me to participate. Those interested in what I have to say can get a belly full of it HERE - or once a month at Storytellers Unplugged. My recent collection, "Ennui & Other States of Madness" is available from Dark Regions and there are still a few copies of "The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature" available at The Horror Mall or on Twitter.

Am I Evil?

Good girls like bad boys or so I’ve been told. But what happens when a bad boy turns into the bad guy? Does he lose his appeal? Is he any less charismatic? He shouldn’t be.

A truly effect villain should possess a potent amount of charm to survive or at the very least lull those around them into a false sense of safety. Oh, sure there’s the argument for the absolute unstoppable lunatic who slashes his way through the general populace, but he doesn’t pack near the wallop as a villain who has enough endearing qualities to give the reader a vested emotional interest in them.

One of my all-time favorite villains is Elijah Price from Unbreakable. Here is a character born with a rare genetic disorder that makes his bones as brittle as glass. He dedicates his life to searching for an answer as to why he was born the way he was. Through the course of the story, I actually felt sorry for him, even rooted for him at times, until in the very end it is revealed that he is truly the villain of the story. There were clues along the way, but they were easy to dismiss because of the likeability of the character.

I prefer my bad guys to have at least a few redeeming qualities, just as I prefer my heroes to be a little sullied. The world is not black and white, why should our characters be?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Love those Bad Guys

While I'm a die-hard romantic, I utterly agree that a villain can make or break a book. Whether it's a real character or a set of circumstances, or a flaw deep within ourselves, there have to be obstacles, or the happy ending doesn't mean much. And when I look at books and/or movies I love, often it's the villains that truly stay with me. Who didn't love Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves? (Or in Die Hard, or Sweeney Todd, or in Quigley Down Under, for that matter? --I'll admit to a teensy crush here on my favorite bad-guy actor) or another favorite of mine, John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons? Arnold Schwartnegger in the first Terminator movie? Darth Vader in the original Star Wars? Weren't we all at least reluctantly impressed by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lechter? Especially at the end where he tells Clarice that he has no intention of coming after her. That reaffirms the concept that he's three dimensional. Somewhere in his twisted mind, there is room for the concept of "The world is a better place with you in it." (apologies if quote is bit off.)

A really good villain will have readers/viewers identifying, just a little, letting us tap into our own wicked side. He or she can be witty, making us laugh, even while we cringe in terror at the danger presented to our hero and heroine. Perhaps he's handsome and compelling, like Dracula, or hideous like Freddy Kruger, but note that with both of those, the villian is the main character of the piece, the star of the show. Paper-thin bad guys, with no appeal, no charisma, no depth, make for a story that just doesn't stick in our minds. It's true that as writers, we need to put as much effort into our antagonists as into our heroes. The hero/heroine need a worthy opponent, or their success simply isn't as impressive. So whether it's an internal demon or a fanged and cloaked one, a top-rate villian is the hallmark of a good story.