Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Place Revisited (AKA The More Things Change, The More They Suck!)




This post contains a long, disjointed, semi-apoplectic rant about matters that are largely culinary, entirely personal and have nothing whatsoever to do with writing. Should you choose to continue reading this post you do so at your own risk. Proceed with caution. Consider yourself warned.

A long, long time ago on another blog far, far away I wrote a post about a few of my favorite things, which at that time included the T-Rex Barbecue in Berkeley.


Let me just say for the record that I’m a big fan of Berkeley restaurants. If there’s one thing this place does well it’s food. If you’re dining out in Berkeley you have to work hard to find food that’s not free-range, organic, sustainably farmed, humanely raised, consciously and creatively prepared, fresh, local and really, really delicious.

The T-Rex seemed to me when I first visited it to be a quintessentially Berkeley restaurant. This was not surprising, seeing as (as far as I know) it’s run by the same people responsible for several other trendy, successful restaurants in Berkeley and its environs.  Clearly, these people have their finger on the pulse of your average Berkeley foodie, or so you’d think.

But that was a couple of years ago and the times they are a changing…and not in a good way.

To be fair, it’s not just restaurants. These are strange times in Berkeley altogether. They’re weird, incomprehensible, end-of-days kinds of times; the kind of times when reasonably young, seemingly healthy and definitely health conscious men and women might suddenly drop dead for no apparent reason; like one of my favorite restaurateurs or the woman I used to go to for Acutonics Sound Therapy treatments. A few weeks ago, a mountain lion was shot and killed just blocks away from the Gourmet Ghetto—my neighborhood for almost seven years; the place where my kids grew up, went to school, partied with their friends; the streets where I shopped, hung out, drank coffee, walked my dog.  
So, with all this insanity going on, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by my most recent visit to T-Rex, but all the same I was.

See, I’d recently been disappointed to learn that Gladstones restaurant in Malibu had gone though some changes as well. New hours. New décor. A new menu. It’s no longer open for breakfast most days of the week and I very much fear that my days of enjoying a Hangtown Fry there may well be over.

Not to worry, I told myself; you can always go to T-Rex. Sure, the view there consists of two parking lots and a not very attractive intersection rather than Malibu Beach, the Pacific Ocean and pods of dolphins, but the Hangtown Fry at T-Rex, made with their incomparable fried oysters, can’t be touched.

Well, make that couldn’t be touched—past tense—because fried oysters are a thing of the past at T-Rex these days. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

T-Rex was never perfect. Then again, no place ever is. Berkeley sure isn’t…it just comes closer than almost any other place I’ve ever known. The food was awesome but the service at T-Rex always left a little something to be desired, although (I hasten to add) this was never the wait-staff’s fault. The waiters and waitresses there have always been adorable; friendly, courteous, knowledgeable and very apologetic on the all too frequent occasions when computers went down, dishes failed to appear tn a timely (or even remotely logical) fashion or drink orders went mysteriously astray. But really, who cares about a missing beer or a tardy salad when the food is this good?

I took myself to T-Rex when I heard the news about Gladstones. Yeah, I knew it was too late in the day for a Hangtown Fry, but figured I could make do with an order of their heavenly fried oysters, a fabulous salad, or perhaps their signature mac and cheese…

The waitress looked uncomfortable when I mentioned that I didn’t see fried oysters on the menu (and we hadn’t even gotten to the “where have all the salads gone?” portion of the convo yet). Apologetically, she explained that the owners wanted to spice things up. Inexplicably, they decided to do this by firing their chef.

Big mistake. As anyone who knows anything about restaurants can tell you, a restaurant is only as good as its chef.

“So, no fried oysters?” I asked in disbelief.

 “No fried oysters.”

 “And no Hangtown Fry at brunch?”

“Right. No Hangtown Fry.”

At this point, while I struggled to come to terms with my grief, the waitress (who also mentioned that the fried oysters were also a staff favorite and that they shared my distress at their removal from the menu) seemed inconsolable and near to tears as she explained that the new chef had gotten rid of several dishes that the old chef was justifiably well-known for. “He even changed the macaroni and cheese,” she confessed sadly, further shocking me because, hello, did I mention how insanely good this used to be?

And…okay, my daughter is now insisting I also mention that it might only have been me who was inconsolable or close to tears, but I don’t think so. That waitress and I, we shared a bond. She was upset too. I could tell. But I digress…

Okay, let’s re-cap. No fried oysters that were just this side of heaven. No mac and cheese of the gods. No insanely creative, only in Berkeley, you’d think it was dessert—it’s that good—salads. Fine. I can deal. There's gotta be an upside, right? So, what culinary marvels has the new chef chosen with which to replace these venerable, memorable, mouth-watering dishes?

“The fish and chips—that’s his. Oh, and the chicken tortilla soup.”

Really? That’s his idea of spicing up and *cough* improving things?

For those of you who don’t know Berkeley well, and I think this must include the current chef at T-Rex as well as its suddenly-out-of-touch-with-reality owners, let me explain a few Gourmet Ghetto facts of life. First of all, if you want chicken tortilla soup, you’re going to go to Picante on Sixth Street, just off Gilman and maybe all of six blocks from T-Rex.  The owners of Picante are related to Alice Waters—she of Chez Panisse, Café Fanny and the Edible Schoolyard fame. 

Picante is where Alice goes when she wants great Mexican food. Do I really need to say any more than that on the subject? And if you don’t go to Picante, you’ll go to Tacubaya on Fourth Street. Or probably half a dozen other places; like Celia’s or La Fiesta.

Same thing with fish and chips. There’s Seabreeze Market down at the marina for all things seafood. Or Spenger’s, for God’s sake, even if we’re all still adjusting to the “new” Spenger’s a decade after the renovation. Or the Kensington Pub. Or Fat Apples—although only if it’s early on a Friday or Saturday, when it’s their special-of-the-day and before it sells out as it pretty much always does because people love it that much.

And now that I’ve brought it up, let me also point out that Fat Apples (which by the way is a friggin' North Berkeley institution) is locally famous for its burgers--which are every bit as good as T-Rex's. They also do a very fine mac and cheese and their salad menu rivals what T-Rex’s used to be.  Hell, just about any place in Berkeley will have a better salad menu at this point. In fact, I think T-Rex might be the only place in Berkeley where you’ll find iceberg lettuce listed prominently on the menu...if at all. 

Iceberg wedges? Seriously? How very…mid-last-century.

I know, I know. I sound distraught, don’t I? Well, it’s only because I am. Good food is serious business in Berkeley.
Look, I may be a mutable Pisces (with mutable Sagittarius rising) but there’s something to be said for stability. Change is good. Sometimes. But you don’t mess with perfection. You don’t fix things that aren’t broken. And when someone stupidly asks you to “spice things up” you don’t add jalapenos to your coleslaw and chipotle to your ketchup and think you’ve accomplished your mission. At least, not in my town you don’t.

Sigh. So, in case you’re incredibly curious (and it would be incredible if anyone’s still reading at this point!) and you’re just dying to know what they replaced the Hangtown Fry with on the brunch menu, I’ll tell you. Eggs Benedict. ‘Cause, yeah, you can’t hardly find that around here either.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Zillionaire Vampire Cowboy's Secret Werewolf Babies - Chapter 8



Rock Fangsworthy was a man of action—gruff, manly actions like boldly striding across rooms and menacingly narrowing his slate-blue eyes. So when he needed to work something out, such as why he couldn’t forget the hurt look in Buffi’s bluebonnet orbs no matter how hard he clenched his jaw—or other stuff like how much his dentist scolded him about that habit—he liked to do it during a long, hard, sweaty ride.
Chastity would probably volunteer, but right now he’d rather lick tar.
Chastity just wasn’t doing it for him anymore, not since Buffi van Pelt had walked back into his life. Which was exactly what he had to figure out.
What he really needed was to thunder dramatically across his fields on the back of his horse, Monk.
He dug his diamond tipped spurs into Monk’s side. The horse yelped and refused to budge. Rock sighed. Ever since the gelding, Monk had been impossible to live with. Maybe a little sweet talk would work. He ran his palm along the animal’s neck and searched for the right words. “It’s just you and me, Monk. And a bag of sugar makes three. Now how about a gallop so I can get this dagblasted woman out of my mind?”
Monk’s sudden burst of speed nearly sent Rock tumbling backwards into the tumbleweed. The two of them flew across the countryside like a Texas brushfire. Finally, he could think. What was it about Buffi van Pelt? How had he let a shapeshifting Barbie doll get under his cold dead skin? Why couldn’t he just be happy with the Barbie doll waiting at his ranch, the one who didn’t turn into a hairy beast and gnaw on bloody hunks of meat?
Feeling faint at the thought of blood, he gripped his powerful thighs tighter around Monk’s flanks. The horse whimpered, but Rock figured there was a good chance it was from pleasure. He threaded his fingers through Monk’s flowing mane. With the wind on his face, Rock barely noticed the cattle stampeding out of their way or the shouts from Remington-brandishing farmers, or the surprised peep of a baby thrush suddenly without a nest. With horse and vampire moving as one, peace finally descended on the non-existent soul of Rock Fangsworthy.
He knew what he had to do.
*****
In the deserted lounge of the Bloodsuck B&B, Chastity snuggled in the warm, cozy lap of Billy Bob Bobson while he poked at keys on the inn’s computer. She could get used to this, the way she could get used to a featherbed she could wrap around her little finger.
Or whatever.
She leaned over to click a random key on the computer and rubbed her triple D’s against his arm.
“Oh, baby,” Billy Bob groaned. “You’re so hot, you blow my top.”
“You have such a way with words, BB, that turns me on.” She wriggled her white-denim covered hip against his turgid love rod and tickled his ear with her tongue. “You’re like some kind of poet.”
“Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby baby baby…” He moaned.
Okay, maybe it rhymed, but would it kill him to throw in some more “hots” and maybe a “sexy” or a “fucking gorgeous?” She leaned in and tugged on his bottom lip with her teeth.
His eyes bugged open and his face turned pink. The color of manly lust.
She sighed blissfully. There was nothing in the world like having power over a male. When you had a man, even a pathetic one like Billy Bob, under your thumb, you could make him do whatever you wanted. Hand over his gold watch? Coming right up. Kill Buffi van Pelt? Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.
“Now,” she breathed, sliding her tongue along his upper lip. “Enough boring research, don’t you think?”
“Eee…” He squeaked. He probably wanted to say something stupid like he was just getting started when she’d punched the wrong key and turned the computer off, but she bit his lip before he could finish. Then she ran her tongue down his cheek to the tip of his jawbone. This was a special sex trick she’d learned in middle school.
She nipped at the tender spot at the back of his jaw, right at the juncture of his neck, the same spot that made most men quiver and beg to give her more diamonds. But Billy Bob Bobson had a very strange reaction.
He screamed and dumped her onto the floor, which was covered by a crocheted rug that didn’t cushion her ass at all.
Not only that, he held a wooden stick in front of him. It looked like a cross, but it was shaking so much it might be an X.
“Is that a cross? Because if it is, I’m already saved,” she said crossly, wincing at the brand new bruise on her perfect rear end.
“Stay back. You’re one of them, aren’t you? You lured me in here with your gigantic boobs and your short shorts…”
She smiled. Finally some more poetry out of Billy Bob. “Why, thank you.”
“It was all part of a diabolical plot, wasn’t it?”
Now he’d lost her. “Excuse me?”
“Come on, show ‘em to me.” He bared his teeth, one of which had a gold filling. Was that supposed to be sexy? Well, maybe it kinda was. Gold always turned her on.
“Rawr,” she purred, arching her back and curling her legs under her like Marilyn Monroe.
“Do it.” He clicked his teeth together as if that was supposed to mean something to her. “Whip ‘em out. Give me an eyeful of those puppies. Make me cry like a baby. Scare me. Make me beg for mercy.”
Okay, this dude was seriously twisted. Just the way she liked them. Whip ‘em out? Consider it done. She brought her hands to the bottom of her T-shirt. Man, was it tight. She wiggled her torso to inch the shirt over her enormous bazongas. Damn doctors hadn’t warned her about this. Sucking in her tummy, she yanked hard.
“Ow!” Her boobs popped free, but now her T-shirt covered her face, and her arms were all tangled up inside. She couldn’t even see Billy Bob’s drooling face. What a rip!
“What the hell is going on here?” Rock’s gravelly voice interrupted.
Oh, fudge. Chastity struggled to free herself from the clinging fabric. “It’s not what it looks like!”
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you. The Rent-a-Burro guy said the Tastee Freeze girl said her sister-in-law saw you come in here with him. And to think I was going to give you this.”
Chastity tore her T-shirt in two and blinked at the sight before her. Rock, his jaw bulging, his vein pumping, held out one of his diamond spurs.
“I was about to propose.”
“With that?”
“It’s a diamond, isn’t it? I thought you’d appreciate my impulsive spontaneity. I guess I don’t know you at all, do I?”
She scrambled on her knees toward him. “That’s not true, you do know me, I’m not that complicated, you know me blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back, I’m easy, come on, Rock baby…”
But then Billy Bob shoved that wooden thing in her face again. “Stay back, vamp. I don’t want any funny business.”
She swatted the stick away, so it swung toward Rock. He took a step back, then another. His lip curled and two of his teeth grew into hard, white, curved…well, fangs.
Fangs?
“I have to go tend to my horse,” he said, his voice sounding kind of weak and sickly. “You both better be gone when I get back. Or else.” Ending on a quiver, he wheeled around and strode out of the room, his one remaining spur winking in the lamplight. How many carats were in those spurs, anyway?
“Okay, buster.” Chastity got to her feet, snatched the cross out of Billy Bob’s hand, and stuck her bare boobs in his face. She wasn’t worried about getting Rock back. Easy peasy. But she definitely had to get to the bottom of one thing. “Why is Rock wearing fake fangs?”
Billy Bob couldn’t tear his eyes off her boobs. “Not fake…”
He couldn’t possibly be referring to her cha-chas. “Not fake? You mean…” she gasped. “Real? Does that mean?” She gasped again, scrunching her eyebrows together to work it all out. Was the man who was so close to proposing she could practically taste the wedding cake … could he possibly be … A zillionaire cowboy vampire?
To be continued...Chapter Nine

If you enjoyed this chapter of The Zillionaire Vampire Cowboy's Secret Werewolf Babies, please be sure and join us again next Thursday for the next exciting installment.

You can read more about the serial HERE. And be sure to enter our contest! Rules and information can be found HERE.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Help Wanted


Maybe it was reading the fourth or fifth novel where the hero was a former Navy SEAL trying to conquer his tragic past that made me start thinking about the limited career paths we seem to offer a lot of romance heroes these days. The military is, of course, a big employer, but only certain parts of the military. SEALs, Marines, and Army Rangers are given preference (I don’t know what romance writers have against the Air Force exactly). If not military, there’s always law enforcement: police officers (preferably detectives), sheriffs and deputies, FBI agents, spies (current and former), DEA agents. But once you get beyond these two groups, the career possibilities get a lot thinner.

Now the reasons for this lack of variety probably lie with the sort of shorthand baggage that each of these career choices supplies. If a guy is a former SEAL, you can pretty much assume he’s burly, brave, and above average in his ability to protect the heroine, not to mention really, really hot. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that the most prominent real-life former Navy SEAL is Jesse “The Body” Ventura—who’s not exactly my dream of a romance hero (sorry, Jesse)—there’s a certain laziness here. You don’t have to do as much in the way of characterization because your audience can fill in the blanks: brave, fit, hunky, etc., etc., etc. And that’s also true of all the other “kneejerk” professions you find in lots of romances. If a guy is a big city homicide detective, generations of movies and TV shows tell us what to expect from him.

But wouldn’t it be interesting to have some heroes whose characters weren’t pre-set, whose professions didn’t predict what kind of heroism they’d be capable of?

Take academics, for example. Now mystery novels have a long tradition of college settings, with the professor hero/detective. Why can’t professors be romance heroes too? Having worked around them for years, I can tell you they’re not all shy and retiring. How about science? I have a personal interest here since I’m married to a chemist, but several of the scientists I’ve known over the years were both smart and hot. Granted, a writer would have to go against the popular “nerd” cliché (yeah, I’m talkin’ to you Big Bang Theory), but it might be worth it to have a more unusual hero to work with.

How about doctors or dentists? I had a veterinarian hero and he worked out fine, and my fellow Naughty Niner Erin Nicholas has done very well with doctors and paramedics. How about musicians? How about chefs—some of the TV chefs are notably hot. Hell, why not an insurance agent? Or an accountant—oh wait, I did that already.

The real irony here is that romance heroines have much wider career possibilities than heroes: artists, chefs, decorators, business women, winemakers, hoteliers, and yes, cops, spies, and military personnel among a huge number of other professions. In romance, women can do it all. Men, on the other hand, have very real limits.

My point is that it might be a good idea to start thinking outside the box now and then. Why limit our heroes to obviously “heroic” jobs? One of my favorite books, Jennifer Crusie’s hilarious Faking It, has a hero and heroine who are both con artists. It’s a great book, and I never for a moment worried that the hero wasn’t macho enough. Maybe it’s time to expand our horizons a little bit.

And maybe it would be good for all of us to acknowledge every once in a while that guys in ordinary occupations can be both heroic and hot.

So what about you? Are you willing to read books where the heroes aren’t exactly the standard issue stalwarts? Or are you hooked on the military/law enforcement complex?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Guest Blogger Julia Knight - Mary, Mary...


Quite contrary. That is me in a nutshell, or so my mother tells me. Ask me to do something, and I’ll probably say yes. Tell me to…and well, let’s hope luck is on your side. I’m not sure why—I may have an ingrown stubborn gland or something. My husband’s favourite phrase (well, after “It’s beer o’clock”) is “I suppose there’s no point me saying ‘No you can’t’, is there?”

So when it came to writing an historical, as opposed to my previous fantasies—where women can behave how I say so, lol—it was a bit of a bind. Because, well, in many eras most women had to do what they were told, or else. Which is why I always loved/identified with Scarlett O’Hara perhaps, because she wouldn’t be told either (and yes it gets me into trouble same as it did her! Though not quite the same trouble). And Boudica, who went to war rather than be told, or Cleopatra, who mostly did the telling. So when I had the idea to do a pirate romance, while I was standing on HMS Victory and drooling over sailors in uniform, I knew it had to be the heroine who was the pirate. Because if I’d have lived then, there is no way I’d have been doing as I was told…

Now, Catherine Harcourt, my Wicked Lady in my latest Samhain release, is not me. I tend not to steal things, like ships. Or jewels. Or anything, in fact. I’d probably cut myself if I tried to use a sword, and klutz that I am, I’d almost certainly blow my own foot off with a flintlock. I don’t go around in disguise so I can fleece someone of money. When I see an attractive gent, my first thought is not how I can use him to steal something else (preferably involving taking him to bed at some point). I do not plot and scheme, except for my books. But we do have one or two things in common. Catherine also will not be told. By anyone. And under our prickly exteriors, we’re both rather gooey in the middle.

So do you identify with any historical figures, fictional or otherwise? Who really gets under your skin?

And so to the blurb.

Nice girls love a sailor. Naughty girls are quite partial, too.
When a man she thought she loved offered Lady Catherine Harcourt a life wrapped in a velvet bow, she took it. That life wrapped her in velvet chains. Now her status as a respectable widow allows her virginal alter ego, Cecily, to relieve milksop-for-blood dandies of their riches and go back where she belongs. The sea—aboard her pirate ship.
The one knot in her sail is Paul Ambury. Daring, irresistible, and a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Yet the temptation to indulge in his gorgeous body—all in the name of the plan, of course—is too much to resist.
Paul has known his share of empty-headed society women, and fiercely intelligent Catherine doesn’t fit. When he wakes up adrift in a longboat after a blazing night together, he knows why. She took him for a fool—and took his ship.
Plus, the evil little genius has him neatly trapped. If he reveals why he lost his ship, he faces court martial. If he does his duty, he must find her and hang her—the one woman with whom he’s fallen in love. Damn it…

Julia Knight is married with two children and the world’s daftest dog. She lives in Sussex, UK, and when not writing she likes riding motorbikes, watching wrestling (it’s the muscles, sweat and baby oil combo) and exploring new ways to get a giggle out of life.

To learn more about Julia Knight, please visit www.juliaknight.co.uk.

And for the last, I’d like to say thanks for having me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cover Angst

There are so many things authors stress and obsess over: what if I can’t salvage this scene? what if my editor hates the whole book? what if my editor loves the book but all the reviewers hate it? what if no one buys it? Of course, these fears all concern the book. The author has a lot of control over the book.

Most authors – except for the biggest selling, highest grossing, household name types, and sometimes not even them – get very little, if any, control over their cover art. And we all know how bad – how very, very, very bad – romance covers can get. Every writer I know has experienced some degree of Cover Angst at one time or another.

I wasn’t crazy about the cover of Kiss and Kin at first – I didn’t think it was particularly reflective of the story. On the other hand, KnK was part of an anthology, and the three stories had to have similar covers. Regardless of its relevance to the story, it’s a pretty cover, and it grew on me.

The day Samhain offered me a contract for Yours Mine and Howls, I knew exactly who I wanted to do the cover – Kanaxa. The first cover of hers I saw was Blood, Smoke and Mirrors:

Isn’t it gorgeous? Smart Bitches squeed over the cover when they reviewed the book. I looked at the book and I said – hey! That’s a Samhain book! So once I had a signed contract for YMAH I asked my editor (Mary the Awesome) if Kanaxa could do the cover, and MTA said she’d request it, and Kanaxa said okay, and voila!

Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m two for two! (And I have a release date - February 8, 2011!)

Bad (and good) cover art is a frequent topic of conversation over at SBTB -- see the cover art posts archive here. They recently ran a poll about the importance of a cover matching the contents of a book. Some people don't care. Others - and I'm one - think it's important.

It's not such a big deal if a cover is generic - beautiful woman, hot guy, Standard Romance Cover Pose - or if instead of people it depicts a logo or abstract design. What really annoys me is when the cover models are nothing like the characters as described in the book - the heroine is a short brunette pixie-like thing, but the woman on the cover is your typical leggy blond, or the hero has a facial scar and the cover model doesn't. The worst is whitewashing - when the hero or heroine isn't white, but the cover model is.

Some publishers will tell you that they know what kind of cover art sells and what kind doesn't, and that if the cover doesn't entice the browsing reader, it doesn't matter how great the blurb, or the book itself, is.

I'm not sure I believe this. For one thing, a lot of publishers will use the same covers -- not just the same cover models, but identical poses -- for different books. (This happened with a Black Dagger Brotherhood book - I don't reall which one. Everybody thought damn, if they'd do it to a best seller like JR Ward, they'd do it to anyone.) It seems lazy, like they can't be bothered to pay enough attention to the story to get the cover right. And in the case of whitewashing, it's insulting to readers, implying either that only white women buy romance -- which is clearly ridiculous -- or that white women won't read romances featuring non-white characters -- which is also demonstrably false.

It seems like e-book cover art tends to be more content-representative and less prone to duplication across different titles. I'm not sure why that is -- anyone care to speculate? - but I like it.

What are some of your favorite good romance covers, and your favorite bad ones? As far as the good, my all time favorite Old Skool cover is Laurie McBain's Wild Bells to the Wild Sky:
I couldn't tell you my favorite bad one - there are too many to choose from!

Friday, October 22, 2010

My vacation

I guess going on vacation messed up my usual planning and organizing because I didn’t have this blog day marked on my calendar. So, since I don’t have a fascinating and pertinent topic to blog about, I will have to bore you with stories and pictures from said recent vacation.


We went to Santa Barbara, California, which is just about my favourite place on Earth. I haven’t seen the whole Earth, but I’ve been to a few places and although there might be places I’d like better, I haven’t seen them yet. My husband attended school in Santa Barbara at the Brooks Institute of Photography many (many!) years ago and they were having an anniversary celebration and reunion which he wanted to attend.

I also made this a “business” trip as I was doing extensive research for my books. Seriously. Walking on the beach and studying the gorgeous oceanside homes is research. Driving into the Santa Ynez Valley and visiting a winery is research. Sitting on an outdoor deck overlooking the harbor with the mountains in the distance and drinking wine is research. I was researching setting of course, as most of my books are set in Santa Barbara.

I did “real” research, too, by visiting the Historical Museum and the library. I’ve started a historical romance set in Santa Barbara — don’t know if I can actually finish it, but hey, I’ve started it! — and I wanted more details on a few things I couldn’t find on the Internet or in books here. They had many books on the history of Santa Barbara in the library and I was able to get some of the information I wanted. Unfortunately, the library at the museum was closed that week (the one week I’m there they close!) but I did make some notes on some of the exhibits and bought a book that should be helpful.

It was a wonderful trip with lots of time for relaxing by the pool, long walks on the beach looking for special rocks, shopping in Paseo Nuevo, trying new restaurants as well as our old favourites (Taffy’s! Derf’s!), whale (and dolphin) watching on the Condor Express, seeing old friends and meeting some new friends and filling my head with images and descriptions and ideas for stories.

Here are a few pictures taken by the hubs:

Taken from Stearns Wharf


One night it got really foggy - the palm trees looked so cool!


Taken from the harbor - this is Castle Rock, for which Castillo Street is named, as I now know from my research!


Stearns Wharf


Looking back at the city from the wharf


The teenage boy looking out over Santa Ynez Valley


Olive trees hundreds of years old


Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Zillionaire Vampire Cowboy's Secret Werewolf Babies - Chapter Seven






Chastity Feelsgood had been told—more than once— that she wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t bright at all.

At least, she was pretty sure that’s not what it meant.

She twirled her diamond ring around her finger—on her right hand she noted with annoyance— then touched the two carat diamond studs in her ears and finally ran the tip of her finger over the bare skin of her neck—where the diamond choker should be. It was probably a little more bling than most would wear with a t-shirt and shorts, but the t-shirt did have sparkles that spelled out Princess so she was pretty sure it worked. Besides, the shorts were short and the t-shirt was tight and she knew that tended to make up for all kinds of other flaws.

She was thrilled Rock had finally come through with the well, rocks.

She was less than thrilled that he was at Buffi Van Pelt’s place.

Looking in the window of the woman who was—apparently— trying to bang your boyfriend was not the same as spying. She was pretty sure.

It was the most bizarre scene she’d ever spied on though. One minute Rock and Buffi were yelling at each other, while there were kids running around and puppies yapping. Then he was kissing the bejeezus out of her. Then he was falling over unconscious.

What the hell was that?

For a heart stopping moment, Chastity was afraid that he was dead. Before he could buy her the choker. Or the tennis bracelet. But then Buffi, the slut, kissed him again and he came to like he was Sleeping-Fucking-Beauty. Or was it Snow White? That was more like it since he had that really pale skin and…

Chastity shook her head, hating when she got distracted like that. She was here because Buffi the slut was trying to hone in on Chastity’s payday and that just wasn’t gonna happen! The sex with Rock was the best she’d ever had… and that was saying a lot. But if it weren’t for the billion-zillion-frakillion dollars, or whatever he had, she wouldn’t be putting up with his weird eating habits (what kind of Texan didn’t eat meat for God’s sake?) and his even weirder sleeping habits. And then there were the bats. She shuddered. Good thing he had more than a million because she didn’t think she’d be putting up with bats for only a million.

At least she was pretty sure he had more than a million.

She knew for sure those black things flying around his house were bats.

Suddenly, through the open front window, she heard Rock shouting something about getting the winery and Buffi yelling something about that never happening. Then Rock was storming through the door, his jaw tight and the vein in his temple throbbing. Chastity yelped and ran as fast as her four-inch hot pink stilettos would let her go toward the bushes at the side of Buffi’s house.

Thank God Rock was too riled up about Buffi to look around as he stomped across the yard, but as he swung himself up onto Monk’s back, Chastity took another quick step back into the shadows just in case.

“Ow! Dammit!”

She gasped and swung to face the man who was, obviously, also hiding behind the hedge. Then
she gasped again. It was the man who’d been standing outside of Rock’s place the other night!

“Get your fuckin’ heel off my foot woman,” he growled. Then he wrapped a big arm around her waist and lifted her up, setting her off his toes.

She was impressed. She loved strong men. And he was soft and warm. That soft part didn’t sound like a good thing, she could admit, but after rubbing up against the cold hardness of Rock Fangsworthy, soft and warm were okay.

And not all of him was soft.

There was a throbbing shaft of heat just below his huge belt buckle.

She was pretty sure she knew what that was.

“What do you want?” she asked. “This is the second night you’ve been sulking in the dark.”

He frowned down at her. She realized he was taller than she’d first thought because he’d been hunched over, hiding behind the bushes. He was probably at least six feet tall. He was a little thicker through the gut than Rock, but maybe he would at least eat a steak once in awhile.

“I don’t sulk in the dark or the light,” he growled.

She blinked up at him. She was pretty sure he’d been sulking both the other night at Rock’s and here tonight. “But you’re hiding out here, trying not to get caught…”

“Do you mean skulking?” he asked.

Yeah, that sounded right. Okay, when in doubt… distract.

She ran a hand up over his chest—his warm, softer-than-Rock’s-but-still-firm chest. “What are you doin’ out here darlin’?” she cooed.

“I was waitin’ for Fangsworthy.”

“Why?”

“I needed to… talk to him.”

“Why didn’t you?” Sure Rock had been obviously pissed off and she couldn’t let him know she’d followed him over here, but if this guy just wanted to buy some cattle or something what was the big deal?

“Those rocks on your ears caught the light and practically blinded me,” he snarled.

She smiled. She’d worn her hair up to better show off her new pretties. Rock had simply left them on her pillow with a note that said “to Chassy, from Rock”. He hadn’t used the word love, but they were big enough that she could overlook that little detail. For now.

“And those shorts had me thinkin’ of other things,” he added, his eyes dropping to the skimpy white denim that hugged her assets.

She wiggled said assets out of habit. The lamp in Buffi’s living room window gave enough light to the yard that she could see the man admiring her and that boosted her mood considerably.

“Who are you, honey?” she asked, unable to resist the urge to run her hand over his warm chest again.

“Billy Bob Bobson.”

She smiled up at him, careful to drop her eyelids to half-mast the way she practiced in the mirror. “What’s your story Billy Bob?”

“I’m gonna kill Fangsworthy,” he growled. The he swallowed hard.

Chastity thought about that. Then decided that thinking about it was too much work. “What’s that mean sugar? Like you’re mad at him and you’re gonna “kill” him?”

“No.” He swallowed again. “Like I’m gonna kill him.”

Again, the thinking thing didn’t seem worth the effort. “Why?”

Billy Bob seemed to consider that for a moment. Then he said, “Money.” He sighed, all growling aside. “Isn’t it always about money?”

Oh boy, a man after her own heart. “How’s killin’ Rock gonna mean money for you, baby?”

“My family will disown me if I don’t do it.” For a moment Billy Bob looked sad. “If it was only a million dollars I wouldn’t do it, but it’s a billion dollars.”

Chastity widened her eyes. “I know just what you mean,” she breathed. Then she frowned. “Hold on, you can’t kill Rock.”

“Why’s that?” Billy Bob growled.

“Because he means money for me.”

“How so?”

“He and I are gonna get hitched.”

Billy Bob glanced toward Buffi’s house. “You sure about that?”

Chastity drew herself up to her full five-foot-two plus four inches. “You don’t think I can compete with that?” She shifted her triple D’s, pushing the left one up just a little higher than the right to make them look even. Stupid frickin’ plastic surgeon and his shot of tequila before my boob job…

Billy Bob’s eyes dropped to her ample cleavage. “Um.” He cleared his throat. “As far as I’m concerned you’re all that and a bottle of Bud, but Fangsworthy looked pretty into Ms. Van Pelt.” He moved in a little closer to her. “If you need comforting, I’m not busy tonight.”

“Well, since you’re not busy…” She ran her hand over his chest. “I do have an idea of something you could help me with.”

“Name it.” He pressed his pulsing rod of desire against her.

“Kill Buffi Van Pelt instead.”

Billy Bob paused. “Um, huh?”

“Once she’s out of the way, Rock can have her land to expand The Double Fang. Then he’ll have even more money. Once I marry him, the money will be mine. And then I’ll make sure you get even more than your family will give you for offing him.”

It was a great plan. Chastity was pretty proud of herself. Maybe she was a brighter bulb than people thought.

“Is she a vampire?” Billy Bob frowned at the house again. “That’s all I know how to do.”

“I have no idea.” Chastity waved his concern away and ran a hand over his steely pole of passion.
“Does it really matter?”

“It might,” Billy Bob squeaked as she fondled him.

“Well then we’ll Gooble some different ways to murder someone and you can pick your favorite,” she cooed.

“Gooble?”

“You know that internet thing where you look stuff up.”

“You mean Google?”

“Yeah, whatever. You got a laptop?”

Chastity knew that men had a hard time thinking when she was doing what she was doing to Billy Bob, which usually worked in her favor. Unfortunately, she needed Billy Bob to focus. She let go of his raging rod of lust.

“Billy Bob Billionaire?” It was good that billionaire started with a B. That made it easier to remember, unlike Rock’s gazillion—frakillion—whatever.

“Yeah, baby?” He leaned in.

“You stayin’ here in town?”

His eyes were still a little glazed over. “Yup. Over at the Bloodsuck B&B.”

Chas eyes widened. “They say that place is haunted.”

Billy Bob looked a little sick at that. “Well, of course it is,” he muttered.

A few ghosts didn’t bother Chas. If she had to put up with some spooks to win back her man-- and his money-- she’d do it. “Okay, hon, I’ll follow you there.”

“How’d you get here?” Billy Bob asked as he turned and started toward the back of the house.

As they rounded the corner she saw a mini-cooper parked behind some trees at the edge of Buffi’s property.

Oh, this was much better than the burro she’d ridden out. Her inner thighs burned a little at the memory of the chafing. The Rent-A-Burro service was the only way for tourists and visitors to get around in this God-forsaken place.

She looked around as they crossed Buffi’s dark yard. She didn’t see the animal anywhere. Of course, she had no idea how to do things like tie a donkey up, so she’d just left him (or was it a her? Not that she cared) to his own devices after arriving at the winery.

If the ass was still here—the donkey, not Billy Bob—Buffi could just deal with it in the morning.


To be continued...Chapter Eight

If you enjoyed this chapter of The Zillionaire Vampire Cowboy's Secret Werewolf Babies, please be sure and join us again next Thursday for the next exciting installment.


You can read more about the serial HERE. And be sure to enter our contest! Rules and information can be found HERE.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Reading Rut


Lately, I've found myself in a bit of a rut reading-wise.

I've got one paperback started, and one e-book, but I can actually walk away from them for days at a time without twitching. (I'm typically the kind of reader who, when she starts a book, is almost always glued to the page/screen until the last word is read. It's hell on my sleep schedule, but extremely satisfying story-wise.) There's nothing wrong with the books - they're both well written, by authors I enjoy, and I have no real issue with either book. [Note: neither of these books are by NNN members, so you guys can stop wondering. LOL]

But I can't seem to finish them.

It's not that I'm not reading, because I am. But right now it's more about the short stories, essays, articles, stuff I can find online and finish in one sitting - before being interrupted by the kids, before work drags me away, before life in general gets in the way.

It may be just a function of how busy life is right now - soccer season, for one, plus all the other activities my kids find themselves enjoying. The day job is hopping, and the writing requires attention, too.

But I miss sinking into a book and letting it take me away from all that.

So, any suggestions on breaking out of that rut? Any books you think will grab me by the throat and not let go? Any and all help greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Guest Blogger Lissa Matthews - Napping For Fun and Profit


Hi there! My name is Lissa Matthews. I write contemporary and kinky erotic romance for epubs, Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, and Loose Id. I’ve just recently dipped my toe into the paranormal pond and I have to say, I can feel the undertow pulling at me. I’m a transplant to North Carolina by way of Hell, otherwise known as Florida. And I am very glad to be here at NNN today.

It’s Tuesday, October 19, and I think my brain is finally starting to function again. We had a rather busy weekend and in the days leading up to it, I had a very busy and stressful week. I think I’ve managed an average of four hours of sleep a night in the last seven days. And, I don’t know about any of you, but I need sleep. I don’t function well or at all really without at the very least six hours.

I’ve always loved sleep. I know they say “you can sleep when you’re dead” and that’s true, but at the same time, I like sleeping now. When I don’t get enough, my brain turns to slush and I get the most awful headaches that often turn into migraines. Yuck! The only cure at that point is complete and total relaxation and me crawling into the bed.

I’m also one of those people that LOVES to nap. Sunday afternoons for a couple of hours. Weekday afternoon power naps (10-20 minutes and I’m refreshed). Going back to bed on a rainy or snowy morning. Generally, I’ll stop my day and nap for a bit if I can, but sometimes I try to just push right through, keeping the coffee or tea brewing until I either can’t continue or it perks me up enough that I get beyond it all. Today, is one of those days where no amount of coffee or tea or straight injection of caffeine works.

I don’t know why I’m like this. I have been since I was a child. I used to come home from school and take a nap or come home from work and nap. I always wanted naps after church. In the car on trips. During PMS it’s really bad, so much so in fact that I did a search on it one evening and found there’s something called PMS Fatigue. That’s me, hands down. Or rather, pillow down and blanket pulled up.

That’s the other thing. I need to have a pillow and a blanket. I can’t nap without them. I prefer comfy clothes too. Not pajamas necessarily, but a soft cotton lounge pant and t-shirt works really well. I have those things and I can nap on the couch, in the bed, in the recliner, or hell, even on the floor if I have to.

I know. It has driven my mom crazy for years that I nap, that I love to sleep. My DH hasn’t ever cared cause he naps while watching ball games or races on TV. My son naps from time to time, as does my daughter. And my cats…dear God. Talk about laziness!

What about you? Do you nap? Have you ever been a nap and sleep loving person?

My character, Rosie, from my upcoming (next week…EEK!) Samhain Publishing release, Cracklin’ Rosie, has an issue with sleep, too. Hers, though, is in the form of a roofer by the name of Decker. She’s gotten precious little shut-eye since he arrived in town and when she does manage a few winks, she dreams of him, of naughty sexcapades with him, of her kinky little secret desires and him fulfilling them. Too little sleep has made Rosie a grumpy, frustrated woman. And well, what else is she supposed to do other than…give in to the patient, good-natured, teasing he offers? Right? Hmm…guess you’ll have to read to find out exactly what she gives in to and what she wants to give in to that he withholds.

Thanks to everyone for having me today. I do believe a nap is in order for this afternoon. I even have new lounge pants (red Kyle Busch ones, too) and a new soft t-shirt (Kyle Busch, of course. After all, the races were in town.)

If you’d like to know more about me and my books, my likes, etc… Here’s where you can find me: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads.

~lissa

Blurb:

A tool for every job. A belt for every occasion…

Blue Jeans and Hard Hats, Book 2

Food is Rosie’s life, and life is good. She loves it, makes it, serves it in her diner, writes about it in her blog, and she’s happy. At least until a storm puts a rather large tree limb through her roof, and a sex-in-a-tool-belt roofer on top of her cabin.

But that’s not where she wants him. No, she wants him behind her with a strip of leather in his hand. That’s what makes her edgy—vulnerability is not her style. Except the more prickly she gets with him, the more he turns on the charm.

Decker arrives in Blue Ridge, Georgia, with nothing on his mind but a job and some new scenery. His legendary patience is tested from the first moment he meets sharp-tongued Rosie. She’s got hips that sway, non-stop curves and a mouth that needs to be filled with things that are much sweeter than vinegar.

A few singe-worthy kisses, and Decker uncovers passions that will likely earn her every red stripe she’s begging for. And Rosie discovers Decker’s got a hunger burning deep inside to give her anything and everything she needs. Maybe even…forever.

Warning: Between the sheets of this book you’ll find a twist on a decadent southern dessert, sweet rose wine, picnic table sexiness, truck sex, a man who knows how to give a spanking and a woman who knows how to bend over a hot yummy lap.

Monday, October 18, 2010

2012 and Other Disasters


I love a good prophecy of doom. The writings of Nostradamus fascinate me, and I’m intrigued by the Mayan calendar, according to which December 21, 2012 will be the end of the current cycle of time. (Interpretations of this vary widely.)

I remember the excitement of the Y2K drama, and how anticlimactic the actual event felt. I know people who stockpiled supplies in case the entire grid went down and society collapsed.

I, on the other hand, barely knew where my flashlight was.

So obviously, while I enjoy the theory of disaster prophecies, I spend no energy preparing for them.

Enter our friend, RF. RF is a world-wandering spiritual seeker, someone who’s studied with Lakota shamans and lived in the wilderness and follows the guidance of “spirit,” or “intuition,” which speaks to him in hard-to-interpret ways. Those who know and love him have learned to respect his intuition, while not always taking it literally.

RF came to visit recently, and informed us that by the end of 2011, our beautiful piece of land here in Alaska—high on a ridge with views of glacierswill be underwater.

Okaaaay….

He thinks we should go to Hawaii, which he believes will be thrust further above sea level by the earth changes about to take place. In his opinion, the 2012 date is a little off—it’s really more like late 2011.

I’ve never had a personalized prophecy of doom before, and the experience is interesting.

Nothing against Hawaii, but we have a life here in Alaska that would be hard to permanently uproot. A child, friends, work, a home, a huge investment of energy, time and love. It would take something pretty major to make us walk away from that. We have no plans to do so.

But his warning has made me think. A lot. If the sky is about to fall in some way—where do I want to be? What do I want to be doing? Who do I want to be with? After all, the end could come at any moment. I may not even make it to 2011!

I’ve come to the conclusion that the issue isn’t avoiding disasters I can’t control, but living my life in the truest, most graceful way possible until then. If disaster strikes, I want to be with my family, doing the things we love. Basically, I want to be right where I am. Maybe that’s the real purpose of a prophecy of doom—making you examine your life and make changes if any are needed.

Of course, I’ll have my snorkel gear handy come late 2011. And December’s always a nice time of year to visit Hawaii.

What do you think of doom prophecies? What do you think will happen in 2012? What would you do if someone gave you a warning like this? Should we be packing up to go somewhere else?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Football and Sex




Yes, those are two of my favorite subjects.

That's right, I'm a football fan-- college football to be exact.




So what? Well, our team has a big game this weekend against the team that beat us last year by one point--ONE point-- in the last three seconds-- THREE seconds. We're out for blood. And we (hubby, Ruckus and I) are gonna be there. Almost everyone we know is going to be there, actually. And those who aren't there will be watching on TV. Tickets are selling for almost $200 each (yes, of course I thought about selling our four tickets... for about thirty seconds. There's no way I'm missing this game, are you nuts?)


Okay, *fan* might not be the right word.


It's a way of life here. It’s even kind of… okay, a sickness. And it’s not just me. It’s my husband, son, my family, our friends, my in-laws…



I’m not kidding. We all cheer for the same team too. I grew up in a house where my mom not only knew more about football than my dad but could swear and scream better than he could. I grew up in a family where Saturdays in the fall were sacred. Still are. You simply don’t schedule other stuff to go on during game time.



And when that commandment is broken… drastic measures are taken. For instance, one of my husband’s nieces decided to get married. On a football Saturday. On a home game day. The horror!


To keep her six uncles from abandoning the reception for the game, they set up a big screen TV at the reception hall.


Seriously.


I know you’re thinking that’s pretty pathetic. And you might be right. Then again, this is a part of our culture. It bonds us. If you can't think of anything else to say at Thanksgiving dinner, football will *always* get the conversation going. Most of our friends cheer for this team too and those who don't-- well, we simply don't see them between the season opener and the bowl game. Once basketball season starts we don't care as much.


Tailgating, road trips to away games, all-night celebrations of championships… all have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s a part of our life. (I mean, you know it’s a big topic of conversation at our house when a thirteen-year-old girl who couldn’t care less about anything having to do with sports actually knows what an I-back is and does--in spite of herself).


But it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I love football. After all, football and romantic fiction aren’t really that different.

For instance, a football championship game is much like a wedding:
There’s a lot of hype leading up to the big day.
Everyone has something special to wear.
Drinking and partying commence right afterward.
Months of planning come down to just a few hours.
And in the end, it’s all about scoring.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Zillionaire Vampire Cowboy's Secret Werewolf Babies - Chapter Six


Rock groaned, delving even deeper into Buffi's mouth, clutching her damp body to his with a fervor that left him breathless. It was a good thing he was already undead, because her sodden form combined with his sub-freezing body temperature was a recipe for a major head cold.

But no matter. Even if he'd been susceptible, he would have risked it all, just for the opportunity to have Buffi in his arms again.

Rock thrust his fingers through her thick, soft hair, suckling on her earlobe, breathing in the soft scent of gardenias, tuberose, and… blood?

Gagging, Rock stepped away, slapping a hand over his nose and mouth to block out the smell. His gaze raked Buffi's body, trying to find the source. Where was she bleeding?

Then a soft growl somewhere around his ankles drew his attention. Looking down, he saw the two little dogs – wolves – boys – whatever tussling over a slab of raw meat. He swallowed hard against the nausea rising in his throat as blood dripped on the floor.

Buffi stared at him uncomprehendingly for a moment, her blue eyes hazed with lust. Then she looked down at the little ones as well. Snapping out of it, she clapped her hands together for their attention. "Vlad! Ivan! I was saving that for dinner!" Shaking her head, she leaned over to tug it out of their gnawing, sharp-toothed mouths. Blood oozed down her wrist, and she lapped it off with a shrug.

Rock could feel his eyes roll up in his head as he crashed to the floor.

***

"Rock! ROCK!" Buffi stared in horror at the unconscious man lying prone on her hardwood floor. One minute he was kissing her with all the passion and desire she'd dreamed about for years; the next, he was toppling over like one of those big trees on that Discovery Channel reality show. She winced as she noticed the dent his head had made in the flooring. Hopefully it wouldn't be too obvious once he got up, or she'd have to get a throw rug to cover it.

She knelt down next to him, reaching out a hand to check his pulse. Then she pulled back, first because he wouldn't have one anyway, and second because she still held the chunk of beef in that hand.

Raw meat. Of course. She shook her head. How could she have forgotten his aversion to blood?

Rising to her feet, she loped to the kitchen and deposited the steak in the fridge. It was a little worse for wear, but nothing to put her off her meal. Then she washed her hands and returned to the living room.

The sight that greeted her brought a sudden rush of tears to her eyes. Vlad and Ivan, worn out from all the excitement, had curled up on either side of their father, snuggling up to his unconscious form. Their glossy black pelts were a stunning contrast to Rock's pallid skin.

She bit her knuckle, trying to hold back the wave of emotions that threatened to overwhelm her. Maternal pride. Fear that she'd done the wrong thing in keeping his children away from Rock. Regret at the lost years. And threaded throughout it all, a current of desire and a deeper, stronger emotion she refused to name. It was over between them. It had to be. Rock had to leave.

But first, he had to wake up. Tiptoeing past Vlad – or was it Ivan? – she bent down next to Rock and shook his shoulder gently. "Rock," she whispered. "Wake up."

A rush of relief swept through her as he shifted slightly, though he didn't wake up. At least he wasn't more undead than usual after his fainting spell. She gazed at him, memorizing the lines and angles of his face. He was so strong, so handsome, so manly. He was everything she'd ever wanted in a mate. Well, except for the aversion to blood and the whole not-alive thing. Giving in to temptation, she ran her fingers through his hair, brushing the strands away from his tightly-closed eyes. "Rock," she whispered again. "Oh, Rock."

She leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. With a gasp, he awoke, his eyes staring into hers. Startled, she pulled back, inadvertently treading on Vlad's – or was it Ivan's – paw. With a yelp, he jumped up and ran across the room. Ivan – or was it Vlad – joined his brother moments later, both of them growling at the interloper, their hackles raised.

"It's all right, boys," she said, stepping forward, but she was stopped by a hand on her arm.

"What happened?" Rock's voice was more gravelly than usual. "Why am I on the floor?"

"You passed out," she said. "There was some, uhm, blood…" Her voice trailed off as he grimaced.

"That never would have happened if that damn vampire hunter hadn't attacked me with a stun gun," he growled. "Thanks for that, by the way."

"Me?" Buffi yanked her hand out of his grasp. "What did I have to do with it?"

"Oh, please." Rock stood, weaving a little on his feet. "I know you're behind it. You'd do anything to protect this winery."

"How dare you!" She crossed her arms over her still-damp chest. "I resent that insinuation!"

He leaned down until they were nose to nose. A vein throbbed in his forehead. "And I resent your very presence here. This winery will be mine, and no lying,
backstabbing, bedhopping shapeshifter is going to keep it from me!" With one last glare, he shoved his Stetson down tightly and stomped over to the door.

"This winery will never be yours, Rock, never!" Buffi strode across the room and pulled the door open. "And neither will I!"

The reverberation of the slamming door behind him followed Rock all the way to the end of the driveway.

To.
Be.
Continued...Chapter Seven

If you enjoyed this chapter of The Zillionaire Vampire Cowboy's Secret Werewolf Babies, please be sure and join us again next Thursday for the next exciting installment.

You can read more about the serial HERE. And be sure to enter our contest! Rules and information can be found HERE.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Through the Crazy

The very first book I wrote took me three years to finish. Two and a half of those I wrote only when the urge struck (maybe an hour or two a week, sometimes less) and I spent most of that time revising the first five chapters over and over again. Then I realized that I could polish those first five chapters all I wanted, but a complete book they did not make.

I finally realized that if I really wanted to be published that I was never going to finish the book if I kept waiting for the muse to tap me on the shoulder and inspire me when I had nothing else to do. Not unless I was looking to turn it into a five year project. I knew few writers could build a successful career only releasing one book every few years, so it was get serious or stop clinging so tight to that dream of being published.

I'm sure you can figure out which path I chose. :)

Although it seemed like an easy choice, it wasn't so easy to make a reality. I didn't get serious about my writing until after my second son was born, a time when I had less “me time” than ever. But I had finally figured out that there was never going to be a "right time" to get serious about my writing. Just like there is rarely a "right time" to actually write.

Our lives are generally chock full of responsibilities and obligations that make finding time to write a challenge. Life is busy and more times than not, just when it seems like you're getting caught up or things are slowing down, something else inevitably falls into your lap.

It’s tempting to only write when the kids are in bed and the house is completely quiet and your muse finally manages to talk over all the other thoughts running through your head (your to-do list for tomorrow, upcoming appointments, bills that need to be paid, laundy that need to be done). But if you wait for that, then it’s going to take years to finish that book.

I’m sure that’s how long it’s taken a lot of writers to finish that first book. But when you sell that book, do you think your editor/publisher is going to want to wait another few years for the next one?

Yes, there's only so much time in the day, and as much as you might wish you could bribe Father Time to tack on another hour, you’ve got to find a way to work with what you’ve got.

You can’t wait for your life to be less crazy to start/finish that book. Chances are it’s never going to settle down enough, not if you have a family and/or work outside the home too. There will always be laundry and cleaning that needs to be done. There will always be something that is bound to come up unexpectedly. Your kids will inevitably need something when you’re writing, same as they always need something the second they spot you on the phone.

So to help you find a way to write through the crazy, here are a few tips that get me through the day.

~ If listening to Barney or Dora etc makes it hard to concentrate on your scene, try using headphones and listening to music while you’re sitting on the couch next to your little one.

~ Try writing longhand so you can take advantage of the those moments in between carting your kids from one place to the next.

~ Expect to be interrupted. It’s less frustrating if you know any moment your family could need something, and if it takes a few minutes afterward to find the flow again, you’re still getting more done than if you hadn’t taken that little bit of time to write.

~ Anticipate as many interruptions as you can and prepare for them. It seems like my kids always get hungry the second they see me try to squeeze in a couple hundred words, so I always try to have something on hand for them to grab.

~ Accept that it's not the end of the world if you only do one load of laundry.

~ Trust that even if you haven’t quite figured out what happens next in your book that it will come to you when you plant your butt in a chair and just try.

Your Fairy Godmother is not going to wave her wand and present you with unlimited interruption-free writing time, though, wouldn’t that be awesome? It’s up to you to fit writing into your life anyway you can, to write through the crazy, and believe that it will feel incredible when you do.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Blogger Missy Jane - Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2010


Most of you current and aspiring authors out there may already know what NaNoWriMo is, but for those of you who don’t here’s a rundown. November is National Novel Writing Month, so in celebration an organization was created to encourage people to tap into their inner Steinbeck and write. The point is to complete a 50,000 word manuscript within the 30 days of November. Can it be done? Yes. Have I ever finished…er, no. I officially registered on the site (www.nanowrimo.org) in 2005 but have yet to hit the 50K mark by the end of the month. This is the year, I can feel it! Never mind that I’ve said that the past two years as well.

Now, what should I do to make this the year I succeed? Well to be completely honest, my biggest hang-up to writing is my other favorite hobby, reading. I LOVE to read just as much as you probably do and can finish a mass market paperback in a day. The plan for November is to NOT READ ANYTHING! That means I will not buy, look at, think about or consider any new books between October 29 and December 1. You, dear readers, are my witnesses to this oath. If you see any Tweets of me browsing books send a virtual slap my way, please.

My second hang-up is online activity. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and too many Yahoo groups to list. Plus I have a plethora of my own blogs. In support of my NaNo oath, I implore anyone who sees me dallying online in November to yell at me. Or better yet, ask about my word count for the day to guilt me back on track. I’ll either get back to work or burst into tears, depending on my chocolate intake for the day.

So, now that I’ve set some ground rules what the heck am I going to write? Therein lies another issue (I’ve got tons of them). At the moment I have over fifty works in progress…no, really. I’m very good at starting stories but then I get distracted, usually by another story idea, and don’t finish. I think for NaNo I’m going to cheat ever so slightly and work on one I’ve already begun. One with not much of a word count yet and a paranormal romance theme should do nicely. I just think if I tried to start something new right now my head could very well explode, and my desk is messy enough.

However, I have a couple to choose from in that category. For anyone who has read my first book, They Call Me Death, I have a few more already started in that world. Kotori’s story is going strong, Lance’s and Emily’s story is actually completed and there are a host of other characters wanting to tell their view of things. I might have to visit that world again soon. Aside from that, there is the untouched reservoir of vampire ideas running amuck in my mind. A gargoyle or two and a brotherhood of arc angels have also been invading my imagination. I guess we’ll just have to see who yells the loudest for me to decide on whose story to finish first. Or maybe I’ll do something completely different and write a general fiction or literary fiction piece with normal humans and no romance or sex…nah.

Ms. Missy Jane is the alter ego of a Texas mother of four who has been married to the same wonderful man for thirteen years. About five years ago Missy finished reading a book by Mercedes Lackey and thought "Now, what if..." and a monster was created. Missy now spends most of her time lost in worlds of her own making, alternately loving and hating such creatures as vampires, shape-shifters and gargoyles (to name a few). When not writing, she spends her time reading, taking photos of her beautiful daughters and training her husband to believe she's always right. Excerpts from Missy's work can be found at www.msmissyjane.com.