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!