Monday, September 30, 2013

Writing in Romantic Suspense. How did I get here?

     For me, setting out to develop a romantic suspense series came more out of a love for the characters rather than a set intention. The goal of any story is to entertain, to captivate the reader and whisk them away to a world of another’s creation. As a writer I find stories spiced with romance and suspense to be the most fun to create, but it is always the characters that make any story fulfilling.

     My journey into this genre began when I wrote my first novel, To My Senses. After that book had been published, I envisioned a follow-up to it. Recovery, became the second novel in the Nicci Beauvoir series and where we are first introduced to Dallas August. Born out of my love for the characters, and my desire to highlight New Orleans and all that she had suffered during the ravages of Katrina, Recovery led to the third book in the series, Sacrifice. Even after the saga of Nicci and David was complete, I felt there was still more to be done with Dallas August. He is a character with a great deal of potential and his business of buying and selling secrets ignites the imagination. I never consciously decided to start out on a series, but I eventually let the story and the characters make that determination for me. As a writer, I think you know when a story has reached its conclusion and when there is more to be written. The same is true for Dallas August, and I have already completed the second book in The Secret Brokers series, Of Sins and Shadows, which will be released next May. And I know there will be more for him in future novels. I believe when you find a character compelling as a writer you wish to continue with his or her development. It is an intriguing process to see how far a character can go. And I believe the reader enjoys revisiting old characters in each installment of a series as well. Like any good life story, we want to find out what happens to characters in which we have become emotionally invested. It is like conversing with long lost friends and catching up on the trial and tribulations in their lives. We find common ground and comfort in the fact that their downfalls are ours as well, even if their secrets, affairs, intrigues, and schemes seem a little more glamorous than our own. In the end, it is this feeling of familiarity that is the biggest inspiration for creating a series. Like wrapping your body in a warm robe on a cold winter’s evening, curling up with a favorite character is appealing to most of us. What is dear to the heart gives one a sense of calm amid the chaos of our ever-changing lives. And finding a few moments of peace amid the hectic, technologically fast-paced, sometimes overwhelming world in which we live is necessary, if not required. It nourishes our souls and reminds us that true characters, even the ones made up on the page, matter to all of us. 




Friday, September 27, 2013

Listmania and Goodreads. A good or bad thing?

     Like most things that start out with the best of intentions, I feel Goodreads and Amazon’s Listmania have begun to try on the nerves of many writers. We are used to people categorizing our books into a genre, but some of the lists individuals come up with are just short of astonishing. When one sets out to write a novel, they never imagine a day where they end up in the “best books with no story whatsoever” list.  

     But categories proposed on Goodreads seem to have taken the list thing to a new level. With the ever-present review bullying, the uptick in solicited reviews, and the exploding use of ads clogging the site, the use of lists to categorize books has become yet another in a long a list (excuse the pun) of offenses that has turned Goodreads into a network site many writers dislike using. When we start creating lists like “aggravating female leads who get on our nerves” or “books I have no intention of reading,” then the list epidemic has begun that slippery slide toward oblivion. When you trivialize what was once useful, you make it no longer palatable to those readers and writers who are seeking genuine opinions, and not fodder for foolishness. Which is the problem with any site that strives to be commercial and in the end only becomes a mere shadow of the professional and well-intentioned vista it started out as.

     I have watched Goodreads and Amazon grow into the powerhouses of book promotion. Rivaled by no other sites, Goodreads and Amazon perhaps need to start curbing the overzealous ardor of its members and helping readers and reviewers stick to the facts of a book, and steer clear of the fluff. I’m not advocating either site change everything, but perhaps execute a little more discretion when it comes to silly lists, and go back to the book-oriented sites they once were.

     But don’t get me wrong, I am all for the use of lists on these sites. As a Southern writer whose books are usually based in and around New Orleans, I do treasure lists that allow me to highlight the individual flavor of my work, but do I need a list that touts best “awful sex scenes” or “books a sex stalker can relate to” or my personal favorite from Listmania, “Nude photos UFO aliens erotica + classic Shakespeare.”  Really? I wonder what Bill wouId think of that list? I understand 50 Shades of Grey has changed the sexual landscape of books, and trust me, my books have a hefty dose of panty dropping in them as well, but how much is too much? When does the list pass the point of being useful and become comical and almost offensive.

     In the end, I guess the lists that are started on these sites are in a strange way a reflection of the world we live in. It seems the rise of the social media has allowed everyone to voice those once silent thoughts, and even given them the opportunity to make lists glorifying their varied viewpoints. After all, freedom of speech is in our constitution, but somehow I wonder if our founding fathers had to publish their work on Goodreads or Amazon what kind of list would they have ended up on? “Hot men in wigs do destiny?” It boggles the mind.   

Monday, September 23, 2013

Why we cannot have too much of Paranormal Romance?


     Can one ever have enough of hot vampires, shifters that combine the best of animal and human form, witches, ghosts or all other assorted creatures that go bump in the night? Of course not. Since we began telling stories as hunter-gatherers huddled around the fire, the allure of the life that exists beyond the safety of that firelight has enthralled us. Paranormal romance is a testament to our imagination and a way of bringing all the legends of our past into our present, and preserving them for future generations to come.

     I know some paranormal romances may be bit much for future readers to swallow, and fiction tends to blur the lines of fact, but it is the preservation of the concept of what these paranormal creatures represent that will always captivate us. How such stories have the power to transport us to another place and time is vital. Feeding the imagination with stories, any kind of story, is as important as feeding the body with food or the soul with spirituality. Without our imaginations we cannot thrive, and whether stories are about vampires that live throughout the ages, ghosts that fall in love with the living, or strange mortal creatures that have the power to change form, all are needed to keep us growing.

     Plus, there is a great deal we can learn about our humanity from such tales. When we can see another’s life, read their thoughts, and for a moment walk in their shoes, then we also learn to embody compassion. Yes, they are supernatural creatures, but when we feel their pain at not being able to walk in the sun, know the touch of another, or live openly as they are, we begin to understand and empathize a little more with that strange neighbor next door who feeds all the stray cats, and never talks to anyone. Sure we might picture that neighbor as weird, and perhaps be leery of their company, but we eventually learn to accept them; just as we accepted Lestat, and Frankenstein as important aspects of our culture.    

     Lastly, we can never have enough of such stories because they give us hope and joy. They entertain, and for a few hours take us away from the burdens of life. We all need to escape, and paranormal romances allow us that escape. We become the hero or heroine, we live vicariously through their adventure, we find love, we face difficult odds, and for as long as the book lasts, we are enthralled. Isn’t that what it is all about? To find a story that touches your soul? Because in the end, what moves us matters. Sometimes to be able to appreciate life, to be uplifted, you must first be swept away. No medium does that as well as a book. And when it is a paranormal romance, well, that’s even better. Love, after all, knows no limits. If we can believe a lonely vampire or abandoned ghost can find love, then perhaps, hopefully, we can, too  

Friday, September 20, 2013

New Orleans

     Like the memory of a first kiss, the warmth of New Orleans pervades your soul and forever becomes a part of you. To travel among the wide oaks and antebellum homes of the Garden District makes for beautiful postcard pictures, but it does not give you a true indication of what it means to be a New Orleanian. You have to immerse yourself in the old world atmosphere and varied traditions of the people of this town in order to understand them, and, hopefully, become one of them.

     You need to dine in the myriad of exceptional restaurants and take part in a heated discussion about where to find the best bowl of gumbo. Spend a Monday morning drinking coffee and chicory in an old uptown kitchen while learning how to cook the perfect pot of red beans and rice. Experience the wrong way to eat a muffaletta sandwich, the right way to shuck an oyster, and the only way to eat a beignet. And you will always have to remember that if your food isn’t boiled, blackened or fried, it just ain’t cooked.   

          You will want to traverse the different sections of the old city divided not by points on a compass, but by proximity to the Mississippi River or Lake Pontchartrain. Because no one in the Crescent City could ever tell you where to find the south end of town, but they could recite by heart the neighborhoods along the bend in the river. From the Bywaters to the Irish Chanel, from Lakeview to the infamous Ninth Ward, so many smaller sections alive with their own unique histories make up this city. Each part of New Orleans has a rich heritage based on the struggles of its French, Spanish, Irish, African, or Italian founders.
     Then head over to Canal Street, where the local term “neutral ground” was created in the early 1800’s. In those days, the wide thoroughfare was first used as a common market area between the feuding French and Spanish occupants of the city. Take a streetcar ride down legendary St. Charles Avenue to see the world renowned Audubon Zoo. Along the way, soak up the different styles of Victorian, Greek Revival, and Colonial architecture represented by some of the city’s finest homes. Let the soothing rocking motion of the streetcar ease your cares, as the sweet scent of magnolias streams in from the open window beside you. At the end of your streetcar ride, walk the broken cobblestones of the French Quarter, and take in the alluring sights of the tightly packed Creole cottages. Listen for the seductive sounds of Jazz music resonating around you, the smell of great food hovering in the air about you, and let your imagination linger on the romantic wrought iron balconies above you. Make your way to Jackson Square and take in the tall spires of St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic cathedral in the continental Untied States. Walk through the adjoining Cabildo Museum, where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803. Stroll on over to the Moonwalk, by the edge of the Mississippi River, and enjoy the calliope music coming from the Delta Queen Riverboat. After you have learned to bargain like a pro with the vendors at the French Market, then saunter down the shady sidewalks of Esplanade Avenue. The street made famous by Tennessee Williams and his tale of hidden desire. Finally, let yourself wander the narrow alleys of St. Louis Cemetery Number One, where you can visit the above ground tombs of famous former residents Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen, and Paul Morphy, the chess phenomenon.

     But there is another, more important, criteria for being an ingrained member of this eclectic southern city. You have to learn to appreciate life. Not the day-to-day hurried existence that shortens the lives of stockbrokers and businessmen, but the easy lust for the fulfillment of the senses. For everything about New Orleans is tailored to the forgotten art of self-gratification. In these days of such soulless existence, it is a heartwarming relief to find a place unashamed of its abundant way of life. No one in New Orleans regrets the way they live, they only regret when they have to leave it.

     So the next time you think about my hometown, don’t linger on the unforgettable disasters of our past. Instead, revel in what makes our city unique, shamelessly flamboyant, and stoically unapologetic for its transgressions. New Orleanians have moved on from Katrina. Despite the numerous media attempts to bury the residents under clouds of negative press and dim outlooks, the people remain resilient. Because they know that when Mardi Gras is over, crawfish season is right around the corner. We may have paid a heavy price for our time in paradise, but we know that somewhere up in the heavens, someone is answering our prayers. After all, the Saints did finally win the Super Bowl.       




Monday, September 16, 2013

A French Quarter Ghost Story

The French Quarter of New Orleans has been called “the most haunted place in America.” Trust me, it is. Growing up there, I often heard neighbors complaining about their noisy ethereal guests. I, too, had strange experiences: doors slamming, lights switches going on and off, cups flying out of cabinets, the usual stuff. But probably the creepiest occurred one fall day when I was alone in the Creole Cottage my father rented for his business. Left to answer the phones while his secretary was at lunch, I was sitting in the front part of the cottage where the french windows allowed in the bright sunshine. I had been doing homework when this strange swishing sound began in the room behind me. It was as if fabric of some sort was rubbing together. Now, in the office where I was there were cats; four of them. What kind of business has cats in the office, well, this is New Orleans and nothing is the norm. Anyway, the cats were sprawled about on different desks and as the swishing noise drew near, I saw every cat’s head pop up from where they were resting. As the sound entered the office I was in, all the cats turned in unison to the room entrance. At this point I was feeling a little uncomfortable. But as the noise grew louder, all the cats suddenly sat up and began to follow something with their eyes moving across the room toward me. The room instantly grew very cold and a slight breeze brushed across the side of my face. At this point, all four cats were staring directly at me. The hair on the back of my neck rose, and I was frozen to my chair. If that was not enough, then the giggling started; a soft tinkling kind of noise that was definitely female and sounded as if it was right next to my ear. The swooshing noise began again and I watched terrified as the cats began to follow something out of the room with their eyes. When the noise stopped a few seconds later, the cats all stretched, repositioned themselves on their respective desks, and went right back to sleep. At this point, I jumped up from my chair and ran to the front door. I stood on the doorstep with the door open so I could hear the phone ringing, but stayed outside, comforted by the hum of life from the French Quarter around me.

      When I told my father about the incident, he laughed and said, “You just met Annabelle. She died in the cottage of yellow fever in the epidemic of 1853 just a few months short of her wedding to some plantation owner.”

    I then inquired how he knew this.

    “A neighbor told me. In the Quarter, the neighbors always know about all your ghosts.”

     The experiences I had in that cottage became the impetus for my book, The Ghosts of Rue Dumaine. It is my homage to Annabelle and all the other ghosts I encountered there.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sneak Peak: The Ghosts of Rue Dumaine

 Danica leaned against the doorframe and reflected on the various stages of childhood and adolescence she had gone through while occupying this room. The rainbow-painted walls her mother had painstakingly decorated for her had been replaced with posters of boy bands and television heartthrobs until her mother had died. After the funeral, Danica had come home and removed all the posters in a fit of rage, wanting to be surrounded once more by her mother’s rainbows. The last year she had spent in this room, she had felt comforted by those rainbows, as if her mother’s love had been forever sealed beneath the paintbrush strokes on her walls.

"I missed this old place," she whispered.

A sudden rush of cold air moving down the hallway caused Danica to turn away from the bedroom door and peer into the darkness behind her. She took a few steps further down the hall until the aroma of cigar smoke mixed with a hint of brandy wafted in the air around her. Danica remembered that smell. It had always filled her bedroom whenever the dark man would appear.

"Is it you?" she softly called into the hallway. "It’s me, Danica. I’ve come back. Just like I said I would."

Danica walked briskly past the entrance to the master bath to the final door at the end of the hall. Without hesitation, she pushed the cypress door open and walked inside the master bedroom. The light from the large picture window overlooking the courtyard shone into the room, accentuating the deep burgundy color of the carpet beneath her feet. She stepped into the center of the room and observed the ceiling fan above. Danica waited, straining with every breath to hear the slightest stirring.

"Welcome home," a man’s wispy voice resonated around her.

A hopeful smile curled the edges of Danica’s heart-shaped mouth. "Thank you, Gaston. It’s good to be home."

A few minutes later, Danica returned to the living room, where she found Pat scrolling through messages on her cell phone.

"Let’s sign the papers," Danica happily announced. "I want to get moved in as soon as possible."

Pat gave her a wary going-over with her brown eyes. "You positive about this, Danica? I need to make sure you’re aware that other tenants have had problems—"

"It’s fine, Pat. I know you said the place is haunted and people have had some bad experiences, but this…." Danica waved to the room around her. "Just feels right."

Pat gave a skeptical shrug. "I have the papers ready back at the office. The rent is eight hundred and fifty a month. Mr. Caruso wanted me to charge you the same rate he charged your father. He insisted I make this as appealing to you as possible. You must have made quite an impression on the old man when you were a kid. He never cuts anyone a deal."

"Please tell Mr. Caruso I appreciate it."

Pat replaced her cell phone in her front jacket pocket. "Let’s turn off all of these lights and head back to the office."

Suddenly, from the shuttered window beside them, three loud knocks reverberated across the room.

Pat grabbed at her chest. "Jesus! What in the hell was that?"

Danica smirked as she watched the color drain from Pat’s perfectly made-up face. "Just someone outside on the street banging on the wall…happened a lot when I was a kid. Drunk tourists would often bang on the shutters at all hours."

Pat regained her composure. "Of course, you’re right. I didn’t think of that."

Danica motioned to the pocket doors leading to the kitchen. "Let’s get you out of here, Pat, before you have a heart attack."

"Gladly," Pat offered and rushed to the doors. "I never liked this place. I just hope you know what you’re doing, Danica."

"I know," Danica asserted with a grin. "I’ve always known."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Self-Publishing: The Good and The Bad.

     Like most writers, my path to publication was plagued with numerous rejections, intermingled with a few unexpected successes. I tried for several years to send out query letters to agents and publishers. Every time I was told the same thing, you have talent but do not currently fit our needs. Sometimes when a door is slammed shut in your face, you need to pry a window open with a crowbar. Despite the numerous warnings for authors to avoid such pitfalls, I decided to self-published my first novel, To My Senses. I considered it an educational opportunity to discover if I really had the talent to make it as a fiction writer. I researched quite a few companies and went with one associated with a large, and reputable, book seller/distributor. The experience gained was priceless.

     And after my first novel, To My Senses, was released I learned the ins and outs of book promotion. My novel garnered critical praise, and received a few awards, all of which helped to bolster my confidence to continue onward with my writing. But it was the encouragement of the book reviewers I got to know while promoting To My Senses, that really convinced me to push onward and publish my second novel, Recovery. Finally World Castle Publishing picked up my third novel, Sacrifice. Now I am on novel number five, The Secret Brokers, with four more contracted and waiting for publication with my publisher.

     Is my self-publishing adventure for every writer? No, absolutely not. However, if you are a writer who writes for you, and not to impress a publisher, then perhaps you should look into self-publishing. It can be frustrating to get your book out there and garner the attention you feel it deserves, but if you are talented, the readers will eventually find you. Good books are hard to find these days. As an avid reader, I set out to write a novel I would want to read and remember. And I soon found I was not alone in my beliefs when a small following grabbed on to my novel and started spreading the word about work. Word of mouth is your best promoter and no publicist can buy you that kind of attention.  Believe in your writing, get your work out there by any means necessary, be patient, and the rest…well, that is where your story begins. 




Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Satyr's Curse Excerpt

Excerpt The Satyr’s Curse
     Julian put his glass of wine down on the table. “Maybe it is time for a change of tactics.”
     Jazzmyn cringed as he came up to her side. “I don’t know if I like the sound of that.”
     He moved closer to her and placed his hands about her waist. “I like you this way.”
     She ran her hand up his thick chest. “What way?”
     “Challenging,” he replied as he enfolded her in his arms.
     “Some men might call it obstinate.” She slid her arms about his neck.
     “Not me,” he admitted, holding her close.
     Julian began swaying to the steady drumbeat of a strange melody drifting down from the balcony above.
     Jazzmyn moved along with him, easing her body side to side in time with the hypnotic rhythm. The small garden echoed with the sound of flutes, cymbals, and a seductive drumbeat.
     “What is this?” she asked while gazing up at the balcony where the tune was emanating from.
     “Very old music, almost ancient. Fascinating, isn’t it?” He dipped his mouth closer to her ear. “Close your eyes and let the music in, Jazzmyn. Just give in to it.”
     The heat rising from his skin permeated through her thin dress while his enticing scent tantalized her. His arms felt strong and sure about her as his hips gyrated suggestively against her body. She closed her eyes and lost herself in the dance as her longing for him began to build.
     “You smell like spring,” he whispered as his hands fervently roamed up and down her back.
     Jazzmyn’s body heaved with pleasure as she pressed against him. She fought to control the desperate surge of desire that was taking over her rational mind. Her thoughts became obscured with images of the two of them, naked and holding on to each other in the darkness. The ache from her loins was so intense that she almost moaned against his chest. Her hands squeezed his shoulders as she imagined him moving inside her. It was as if the nearness of him set off some kind of chemical reaction in her body. It was an all-consuming lust for him, a want like she had never known. Sure, she had experienced passion with a few men, but no man had ever evoked such desperate need in her. Unexpectedly, an image of Kyle, making love to her in front of her living room fireplace, stunned her out of her trance. She suddenly pulled back from Julian, feeling like a frightened doe, running for her life in the woods.
     “What is it?” he asked, noting the change in her.
     She shook her head. “Maybe I had too much wine. I just felt dizzy for a moment.”
     He placed his arm about her shoulders. “Come and sit down.” He escorted her to the table and pulled out a chair for her. “Here.” He reached for her water goblet. “Drink this, it will help steady you.”
     She took the glass and gladly sipped a few deep gulps of the cool water. The fire in her belly cooled and her head immediately cleared.
     Julian kneeled beside her chair and worriedly examined her face. After she put the glass down on the table, she finally turned to him.
     “I don’t know if it was the wine or the dancing, but I just had the most unusual feeling.”
     “What kind of feeling?”
     “An intense feeling of….” She rubbed her fingers back and forth over her forehead. “I don’t know how to describe it.”
     “You were thinking about us…about how we would be together,” he murmured in a sultry voice.
     Jazzmyn stared at him in disbelief. “How can you possibly know what I was thinking?”
     His slowly smiled. “I can feel your thoughts.”
     She sat back in her chair, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. I must come across as a timid schoolgirl, but I guess I’m just a little overwhelmed by you.”
     “You are hardly a timid schoolgirl.” He held out his hand to her and Jazzmyn took it. He pulled her from the chair and wrapped her in his arms. “You’re a woman with desires and needs. And I am a man.” He lowered his face to hers. “A man who desperately needs you, Jazzmyn.”


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

5 Things I Have Learned from Animals

     I have learned over the years that animals can teach us a great deal about ourselves. Our behaviors are similar, and in many instances our social behaviors are the same, as well. But there are a lot of things wildlife can teach us about surviving in the world that we have created. If anything, you could say our four-footed friends are better at living among us than we are. After all, you don't see your local raccoons going after each other because they envy another's tail stripes, or running in gangs that try to lay claim to all the garbage cans in a certain neighborhood. They are a little more realistic about life than we are. For the animal world life is made up of food, shelter, and self-preservation. Things we seem to have taken to extremes with McDonalds, luxurious homes, and Botox. So there are a few things that dealing with animals have taught me that I think are important to keep in mind when trying to get through tough times in our hectic, fast-paced existence.

    The first thing I noticed is that our furry friends lack any vanity. They are happy with how they look and don't seem to have any meltdowns because of fur loss, or missing limbs. They adapt to whatever setbacks they are given, and move on. I am often amazed at their strength, and wish I had that kind of resilience, especially with the pangs of middle age bearing down on me.
     Another trait is how animals co-exist among themselves. Sure, they hunt each other for food-and not expensive baubles-but when not in need of sustenance, they learn to live in peace among each other. The goal of any confrontation is never annihilation with them, but resolution. Territory is fought over, but eventually disputes are settled without lawyers, courts, or guns. It's amazing how respect, a not abject anger, eventual closes every argument. They may disagree, but they eventually find a way to live together. Why can't we do the same?
     Probably the most important lesson I have learned is that all creatures have an innate appreciation for their environment. The fallacy among our species is that all animals are destructive. But I have never seen a pack of squirrels take down a forest or level a lot of trees like we can. Animals give back to the land they live on, and preserve their homes. For them nothing is disposable, and everything is recycled. Respect for their planet is more ingrained in their minds than ours, which is a sad state of affairs. If we are the dominant species, why are they setting the example of how to keep our planet green?
     Love is unconditional with animals. There are no limitations or boundaries set that if you love me a certain way or treat me better, I will love you more. Love is love to them, it has no preference for one over another. Their depth of emotion is not blinded by wealth, appearance, or power. They love without restrictions because they are not blinded by the trappings of our society.
And with them, you know you are loved because you are you.

     Finally, I am amazed at their ability to enjoy the simple things. Nothing makes me smile more than when I see a variety of different animals soaking up the sun, or taking time to stop and smell the grass, or look up at a passing flock of geese soaring through the sky. That wonder for the world is always present in their eyes. They never appear jaded or lack the glow of discovery in their faces. Every new squeaky toy is a treasure, and every pecan a feast. Nothing is taken for granted, and everyday is relished. And when they settle down for bed at night, they are more thankful than the most pious of people, because they know that all they have is this moment. Tomorrow is always hoped for, but they are grateful for the wisdom they were given today.
    I still have so much to learn, and the time I have spent with our furry, finned, or feathered friends has given me a greater understanding of the big picture. It's not all about us, it's about them, too. And together, we might all just learn how to be happy on this big old earth, and learn to appreciate every gift that we have been given.           

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bad Day for Boobie


     As many of you know I am a permitted wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. Part of my duties as a rehabber involve caring for orphaned and injured wildlife, and one of the squirrels under my care, Boobie, was taken to the vet yesterday for care. Now the vet that handles wildlife with difficult problems is an hour away from my home. Yesterday Boobie needed care for a bad tooth infection, and was taken to the vet. His infection required surgery, and I had to leave him behind and drive home to await word on whether or not he would make it. Later in the afternoon, I was told that the surgery could not be performed, and that antibiotics were his only hope. After driving back to the vet and bringing Boobie home, I started my own form of TLC along with his hefty dose of antibiotics. At this point you may be asking why did I go to so much trouble and spend so much time and money helping a squirrel?
     Easy. Because his life matters. Any rehabber will tell you of the cost and time involved with caring for these animals (and we do not get paid for any of this), but few can comprehend the satisfaction we get from knowing we have helped another have a better life. And after all, they have feelings and emotions just like us. When we help them, we help ourselves.
     So Boobie is home and will live with me on antibiotics and hopefully resolve the bad infection. He is a precious boy and knows I am trying to help. Sure he is grumpy, and having a human handle him all the time and shove bad tasting medicine down his throat isn't much fun, but, hopefully, we can get him back to the world he loves, so he can go on being a squirrel for a little while longer.
     I love what I do, and my wildlife keeps me sane, and when I see a squirrel like Boobie struggling with his difficulties, it puts my own infirmities and discomfort in perspective. We have healthcare, doctors, pain medication, and we can tell someone where it hurts. Boobie, and millions of others like him, can't. They have to depend on our ability to rise beyond our dependence on our language and hope we can see with our hearts, as well as our eyes. So next time you see a squirrel in a tree or running across the road, don't look at it like a inanimate object, without feeling or emotion. Animal is only something that defines someone who does not speak our language, but trust me they know us better than we know ourselves. A lot better.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Beyond the Bedroom Door


So you want to write a romance book. Now, what kind of romance do you write? Do you stay with the teenage version of romance where a kiss on the cheek and a yearning for more is enough, or do you go all the way and break through those bedroom doors? I think this is a question every romance writer faces. How far do you go? The level of heat you wish to put into your story depends on such factors as the story, the characters, and the writer.

     The story and how sex contributes to it should play a role in your decision. Not every story needs sex to sell it, but when you are talking about the human condition, sex is invariably a part of our sense of self. Also, sex is a real life issue, and whether your characters have it, or don’t, could make or break your story. I let the characters decide that facet of a tale. Some characters, like people, are less sexual, some more. Their interaction with others is sometimes based on a sexual relationship. After all, the goal of any romance may be a “HEA”, but do you know of many couples in today’s world that get to that “HEA” without a having a little SEX.

     Terminology is also important. You can make it really dirty by how you refer to those “sensitive areas” or try to be descriptive without getting into what some people might call a vulgar territory. It’s tricky, but then again how your characters interact in the story will have a lot to do with how detailed you wish to get. If you are writing about werewolves, it might be easier to get to the nitty-gritty, as opposed to writing a story about intrigue among a Manhattan social set. Just be prepared to defend your choices. I invariably find that how the sex scenes are played out has a lot to do with likability for readers. Many reviews of your book will come down to how deftly you handled the way your characters get down to business.   

     If you are going to get graphic, then I suggest you also get ready for some interesting questions from fans about sex, safe sex, and your sex life. It was the one thing I never expected as a writer, but readers have a funny way of associating your books with you. I get asked a lot of questions about my love scenes, namely are they based on fact. Personal, yes, but we humans are known for our curiosity. Needless to say, you had better be prepared to explain yourself if your characters go all the “R” or “X” way. There will be questions about safe sex, as well. In our AIDS and STD wary world safe sex has become the norm, and some readers will wonder why you do or do not address it.

    The bottom line with sexual content is do what moves you as a writer. As in life, sex does not a relationship make, and unless you’re writing erotica, it isn’t the beat all and end all of a good romance book. It’s about love; happy, sad, unrequited, or lost. What gets us to the bedroom is sometimes a hell of a lot more interesting than what goes on behind those closed doors.       



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Excerpt From Diary of a One-Night Stand.

     “You’re here,” a deep voice said in front of her.
     Kara opened her eyes and beheld Scott Ellsworth’s handsome face. He was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt and a pair of gray slacks. His dark, wavy hair looked a bit disheveled, as if he too had been anxiously weighing the pros and cons of their meeting. His deep-set gray eyes gazed up and down her slim figure.
     “I wasn’t sure you would come,” he admitted as he stood back from the door.
     “I told you on the phone I would be here.”
     Kara walked into the suite and took in the finely decorated living area. To her right she spied a gold sofa, coffee table, and two matching gold and mahogany chairs. Beyond the living room there was a small bar with a sink and mini refrigerator. Placed atop the bar were two crystal flutes, with a silver ice bucket sitting between them. In the bucket was an open bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame.
     She turned back to Scott. “Champagne?” She raised one blond eyebrow. “That’s rather cheesy, don’t you think?”
     Scott closed the door. “I figured it would help get you in the mood.”
     Kara tossed her black purse onto the couch. “In the mood?” Kara arched one eyebrow as she walked up to him. “That’s what foreplay is for, isn’t it?”
     Scott put his arm about her slim waist. “So, am I to skip all of my well-planned seduction material and just get right to it then? That’s rather a lot of pressure to put on a man, Kara.”
     Kara gracefully ran her hands up his white shirt. “I thought you were the kind of man who worked better under pressure.”
     Scott grinned. “Yes, I am.”
     He placed his other arm about her and pulled her close. His eyes drank in the aristocratic curve of her chin, dainty nose, exquisite cheekbones, and round, red mouth.
     “We’ve waited long enough,” he mumbled, and then he lowered his lips to hers.
     At first Kara was surprised by the intensity of his kiss, but then she found her body responding to his raw desire. This was not the sugarcoated kiss of a nervous lover or anxious beau seeking her approval. This was the kiss of a man wanting only one thing, without the trappings of a hoped for future together. When she was younger she might have been repelled by such a kiss, but now she reveled in it. She had done the “right thing” with the right kind of man, and for a time had found the experience fulfilling. But now as she noticed more lines on her face and a roundness settling over her hips, she wanted nothing more than to know an uncomplicated kind of mating.
     She eagerly started undoing the buttons on his shirt. Scott moved his lips away from hers and his teeth nipped along her pink cheek until he found her earlobe.
     “I want you,” he murmured in her ear. “All I have been able to think about for the past week is you.”
     Kara kissed the exposed skin on his chest as she hurriedly fought to finish with the buttons on his shirt. Scott’s hands reached around and pulled at the zipper on the back of her dress. She felt the cool air in the hotel room tease the skin along her back as he worked the zipper down. She kissed his neck and chest, and then bit down hard on his right nipple.
     Scott gasped and then stood back from her. She stared into his eyes, then at his mouth, and finally took in the smooth, tanned skin on his muscular chest. He grabbed her hand and led her to the bar, but instead of stopping, he picked up the champagne from the ice bucket and pulled her to a partially open door on his left. After shoving the door open with his foot, he took a swig from the bottle in his hand and nodded to the doorway.
     “Get in there,” he ordered in a husky voice.
     Kara casually strolled into the bedroom. Before her was a spacious room decorated in muted shades of gray, with a king-sized bed, love seat, and a large patio door that opened onto a private balcony. She looked back from the balcony to see Scott following her into the room, carrying the bottle of champagne in his hand.
     “Take off that dress,” he said in a commanding voice.
     Kara never removed her eyes from his as she slipped the dress from around her shoulders and let it fall to the floor.
     He took another long sip from the champagne bottle. “And the bra.”
     Kara removed the black lace bra from around her breasts and let it join her dress on the floor.
     He slowly moved toward her, letting his eyes wander over every inch of her body. He took another gulp of champagne. When he pulled the bottle away, Kara watched as the liquid glistened against his lips. She leaned forward and tasted the champagne on him.
     Scott pulled himself away and pushed her back toward the bed.
     “Lay down and take off your underwear,” he told her in a voice no louder than a whisper. “I want to see you naked on the bed.”
     “Yes, Mr. Ellsworth,” Kara replied as she sat back on the bed.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Love vs Romance

     My first book, To My Senses, has been called a romance by some and more than a romance, a love story if you will, by others. Is there a difference between a romance and a love story? I believe that difference is in the eye of the reader. For some, a romance novel may follow a set of circumstances that promise the inevitable happy ending, but a love story often takes the reader on a much different ride. It engages the reader on a deeper level with emotionally charged characters and poignant, life-altering choices. Romances may bring a comforting conclusion, but a love story does not because, as many of us know from experience, love is never predictable. Some romances may be forgettable, but a great love story will live on in the reader’s memory for many years to come.
     Why are love stories so engaging? Perhaps it is because of the nature of love itself. Love changes us, and can alter our direction in life, as Nicci Beauvoir was awakened by David Alexander’s love in To My Senses, or Pamela was transformed by Daniel’s love in my novel, Broken Wings. Such great love can act as a sudden wind on a calm sea, righting the sails of a ship, giving us a new course and a new horizon to aim for. We are penetrable souls, influenced and defined by whom we love. In such a way, love can move mountains or melt even the coldest heart, as is the case with my favorite character, Dallas August in Recovery.
     When looking back on our lives, it has never been the house, car or other material things we long for, but those individuals most cherished whom we hold in our hearts forever. Kara Barton realized this in Diary of a One-Night Stand, and Dallas August also has such an epiphany during his adventures in my fifth book, The Secret Brokers. These characters learned that in that final moment of life, we remember those we have loved, and hope to carry that love with us to the other side.
     It is not to say that the love shared between the characters of a “happily ever after” romance novel is any less sincere than the emotional ties binding two star-crossed, and sometimes tragically torn apart, lovers. Maybe it is when characters are taken to heart and become embedded within our psyche that they move from the light fragrance of a romance to the rich bouquet of a love story. Where romance may tweak at our hunger for passion and adventure, a love story reaches down into the inner workings of our soul and touches us in a way never expected.
     That is what I hope my books do; take the reader on a journey through the highs and lows of love. Teaching everyone that it is the attainment of life’s greatest endeavor that matters most, and everything else we garner along the way simply pales in comparison. As Nora Kehoe, from my latest novel Acadian Waltz, said, “our souls are not judged by the sins we accumulate in life, but by the love we take with us after our life has ebbed away.”



Sunday, July 21, 2013

5 Steps to Inner Beauty

5 Steps to Inner Beauty (My Article from Beleza 11/12)

     Ever since man could put his thoughts down on parchment, papyrus, stone, or animal hide, he has sung the praises of beauty. What was true in ancient times is true today, and the myth of what constitutes true beauty eludes us as much as it did our ancestors. So what is beautiful? What is timeless, and what makes a person unforgettable?
     I am not speaking of physical appearance. Outward beauty is an opinion and not meant to arbitrarily blanket a population of varied cultures, races, and diverse individuals with a generic formula for what is pleasing to the eye. All the designer clothes, enticing perfumes, and makeup are not going to change the way you feel about the face you see in the mirror everyday. Real beauty starts on the inside.
     The essence of inner beauty begins with confidence. What is confidence? Have you ever watched someone walk across a room at a party or business meeting, and your eyes are drawn to them like a hypnotic beam of sunlight undulating on a dark ocean? They move with an uncanny grace and wear a haunting smile. You have just witnessed the effect of confidence. More intoxicating than a shot of tequila and able to take out a Wall Street tycoon with a single wink, confidence is the powerful light that makes beauty blinding.  
     How exactly do you nurture confidence? We all know confidence is not something one is born with, and in our cynical world it is becoming a much more difficult commodity to acquire. But, with a little effort, you can strengthen your confidence. Let’s begin by looking at five steps that can help your true beauty flourish.
     Step one: Explore the inner workings of you. What appeals to you about you? No one has seen the world, experienced life, or lived quite like you. You are unique. Too often we try emulating everyone else, and what we end up becoming is unhappy. Those who have learned to embrace their individuality have cultivated those qualities that make them unique, and as a result, they are the happy ones. Happiness helps to amplify beauty. When we feel good about ourselves, it shows. So grab on to those qualities you love about yourself and rejoice in them.
     What about the qualities you are not so crazy about? You must be willing to accept the whole you, flaws and all. No diamond is without a few imperfections. It is your flaws that make you who you are. Those quirky characteristics that cause you to cringe are parts of your personality, and somewhere in the cosmos you were deemed strong enough to handle those pesky shortcomings. So pat yourself on the back. Your imperfections are a gift because they have made you stronger and better on the inside than you could have ever thought possible. Never waste your time wondering why you have been given such flaws. EVERYONE has them! No one has a perfect life, a perfect body, or a perfect mind. So do not envy what does not exist.
     If there are things about you that you absolutely have to change, then change them. Do, build, educate, or be whatever it is that makes you feel the best about you. Learning to enrich what you are will invariably lead to a better feeling about who you are. Further your education, learn a new skill, accomplish a goal, or conquer a bad habit, overcome any obstacle that is keeping you from feeling the best about who you are. Many times it isn’t the newly acquired degree or skill that empowers us, but the act of overcoming the hurdles in order to attain a long-desired goal that builds confidence.
     Step two: Assess your environment. Being in a situation that takes away from your inner sense of confidence can be just as debilitating as having no confidence at all. Find people who share similar interests. Pursue a job or career in a place that will help bolster you and not tear you down. Build relationships that are positive and uplifting. Learning to avoid situations and people who are detrimental to your inner beauty can be very important. When you find yourself surrounded by individuals who are negative or a work situation or home life that eats away at your steadfast belief in yourself, then walk away. Stress comes from living a life that is incompatible with your inner workings. Stress is bad for your health and painful, so remove from your life those stressors that you can control and you will immediately feel your confidence gaining ground.
     Step three: Learn to be receptive to new experiences. Any and all experiences are great confidence builders. Take friends up on offers to go places you would never have thought of visiting in the past, or accept invitations to see new or unusual surroundings. But you do not have to wait for others to take you to places you have never been. Set out on your own to tackle such exploits. Dine at a restaurant alone or go to a movie by yourself and see how much more confident you feel after such a feat. Sometimes it is the simple act of overcoming a place or situation that we fear that can be the most rewarding. And it makes no difference if the experience is good or bad, they can all help you to grow and build your confidence. Look at every experience as a new adventure and revel in what you learn about yourself along the way. Do not hesitate to accept every chance to expand your horizons. You never know where each opportunity may take you.  
     Step four: Be willing to reinvent yourself. We are dynamic individuals whose bodies and minds change with the passing of time. No one likes change, but you must accept the fact that nothing stays the same. Realize that all you have is this moment, and once it is gone, it can never be recaptured. Know you are not going to be the same person you were in your twenties as you are in your thirties. How you see yourself will vary as you live your life, encounter new experiences, and grow as a person. At this moment you may be a hard-working career girl with no time for a social life. But in ten years you may be a wife and mother, and your inner confidence will change as your definition of who you are changes. Be mindful of those life events and be willing to re-evaluate what makes you confident and beautiful at every stage of your life.
     Step five: Be able to laugh at yourself. Laughter really can heal, and wherever there is laughter, there is optimism. When you stand in front of the mirror getting ready for that next big business meeting, date, or social gathering, look at your reflection and laugh. There is nothing more confident than to be able to laugh at yourself. Individuals who approach life with a tongue-in-cheek attitude will eventually be the ones to whom everyone migrates. So the next time you walk across a crowded room, remember laughing at yourself in the mirror and let that sly smile settle across your lips. You will notice then that people will be looking at you and wondering what makes you so confident. Just keep them guessing and always remember you are alive, you are here, and you are beautiful.



Friday, July 19, 2013

The View Over 40!
Being a reader, I discovered many of the books in the romance market had characters under the age of thirty as the heroine. Being a woman over 40, I wanted to write about a heroine going through the same inner turmoil as someone from my generation. I believe the over 40 female reader is woefully underrepresented in today's market. I set out to write a character that many women could relate to, and to cover issues that are part of getting older. I also wanted to tackle the foibles of marriage. A lot of books end at the "happily ever after" part in a story, but fail to cover the challenges of marriage through the years. In Diary of a One-Night Stand, we find a woman, Kara Barton, in her forties, grappling with a stale marriage and searching for more. Her decisions are not every woman's decisions, but I feel many women can relate to the issues she tries to cope with. Kara embarks on an affair with a business associate, and it turns into something much more than she ever imagined. Her marriage falls apart, and she tries to make important life choices for her and her ten-year-old daughter, Simone. I know many readers take issue with the whole concept of infidelity, but it is a fact that such shortcomings are common in the world. I did not want to glorify any extramarital affair, but show how such an encounter could not only pull a marriage apart, but also strengthen it. Diary of a One-Night Stand, I hope, gives a reader pause and helps them to consider that the grass is not always greener on the other side of marriage. Oh, and did I mention that it is also a pretty hot love story. So, if you are looking for a steamy read with some valuable, thought-provoking content, pick up Diary of a One-Night Stand, and see how great life can be after 40!  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Out Now! A different kind of Paranormal Romance.

     Gruesome murders shock New Orleans. But Jazzmyn Livaudais is too busy running her restaurant to pay attention to the sensational headlines. And when the charismatic Julian Devereau enters Jazzmyn’s life, she becomes even more distracted by the handsome stranger.

     Seduced by Julian’s charm, Jazzmyn is swept up in a passionate romance. Then she learns the horrific truth about Julian and the murders. Cursed to an unending life where no woman can satisfy his lust and no wine can quench his thirst, Julian needs Jazzmyn’s love to free him from his torment. 
But Jazzmyn is in love with someone else. And Julian isn’t very happy about it. He vows to keep on killing until Jazzmyn submits to his will. For Jazzmyn Livaudais the nightmare is just beginning.

    The Satyr’s Curse.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Finalist in the 2013 Readers' Favorite Books Awards for Best Southern Fiction and Best Contemporary Romance!