Friday, April 30, 2010

When Enough is Enough

I like writing sex scenes--really I do. However, that doesn't mean I think it's particularly easy to do. I know there are people who disagree, but at the risk of repeating myself again (because I know I've already said this several times before) I think it's a whole lot easier to write sex badly than well.  Which is why I was somewhat less than thrilled when one of my editors recently asked me to add and/or expand several sex scenes to my newly contracted book.

Not that I objected, exactly. The book had surprised me by turning out to be a lot more "sweet" than I'd originally intended. I'd written it to adhere to a very specific (and very short) word length, which meant I'd cut out or glossed over a lot more of the story than I would have otherwise. Since that word length limit no longer applied, I was actually pretty happy to be given the chance to rectify the oversights, to expand the book and delve a little deeper into the characters' motivations. But, after three rounds of edits, I think we all (me, my editor and even the characters) had reached our limits. To add even one more scene, at that point, would have been gratuitous. 

In real life, you could maybe get away with something like that. But fiction's not so forgiving. Gratuitous sex in fiction is just plain boring. And there ain't nuthin' sexy 'bout that. 

I am firmly of the opinion that sex, just like any other aspect of fiction, has to move the story forward in some fashion. If it doesn't, it probably doesn't belong in the book. Again, I know there are people who'd disagree with that statement...and I really wish they'd stop writing 'cause I've read some of their stories and they're boring as hell.  

It's not just a matter of numbers, either. There are some amazing books that seem at times to be almost wall to wall sex, but it totally works because that's how the characters interact with each other and you're shown something new about them in every scene. But then I've read other books where the h/h just stop and have sex at the most random places within the story and for no discernible purpose. Well, okay, I guess they sort of have a purpose, but it was by no means a good, solid,  plot-moving, character illuminating, relationship defining purpose. And those are really the only ones that count.   
So what about you? Where do you draw the line? What turns you off about sex in fiction? And, as a reader, what makes you say "enough is enough"?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

13 Things I Bought in Fargo

Here's my first attempt at Thursday Thirteen and sorry if it's the lamest thirteen ever. Last weekend my husband and I went away for a weekend WITHOUT OUR KIDS. Not that I was excited or anything. A couple of weeks ago fellow 9NN Meg Benjamin talked about her trip to Santa Fe. Well, I got to go to Fargo, North Dakota! Don't laugh! It was exciting!

We did venture out of the hotel to do a little cross-border shopping and here are 13 things I bought:

1. silver flipflops (2.50 at Target!! We don't have Target here.)

2. gladiator sandals

3. shoes

4. Purse (it came with a bonus umbrella!)

5. black Capri leggings

6. jeans – skinny with a cuff

7. yellow, red and blue dishes (for my yellow, red and blue kitchen)

8. outdoor rug for our deck

9. jeans from Aeropostale for my daughter (we don’t have that store here)

10. T-shirts from Hollister for my son (we don’t have that store here)

11. T-shirt from Abercrombie & Fitch for me (we don’t have that store here)

12. underwear from American Eagle for my husband (we DO have that store here, but he can't be bothered to go out and buy underwear for himself)

13. red and black slutty lingerie for me (okay for my husband) (sorry, no photo!)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Growing Stones

Have you ever thought to yourself, that’ll never happen to me? I thought that once, but then I found myself in the ER with a kidney stone. I’ve listened to others talk about it. I’ve heard the news of my brother, my sister and my husband’s brothers suffering from the ailment a time or two…or more, but I never knew the word “suffering” until now.

In mid-March, while sitting in my day-job’s office, a tightness had started in my back and side. I’d thought I was having a muscle spasm. By the time I’d left work, the pain had increased. When early evening had rolled around, I’d wanted someone to hit me over the head with a two-by-four.

After an evening visit to an Immediate Care Center, then a visit to my local ER two days later, both of which dismissed it as a UTI and sent me home with antibiotics, I’d finally received a referral for a scan.

And what do you know…a lodged kidney stone.

Then the adventure truly began.

There are several things I’d learned during the adventure. The first had been that Stadol is the bomb! That being said, let’s move on to the second one.

A lot of conversations go on in the ER, and it seems sitting behind a curtain make sthe voices louder.

One particular “ER mate” had proven rather comical. She had a habit of clearing her throat, which to me had sounded more like hawking a loogie. Though the sound had turned my stomach, it evidentially had no affect on the soundee.

The woman had continuously talked about food, whether it was crispy fried potatoes or chocolate. Her “there’s a rumbly in my tummy” had almost made me laugh out loud. The bed busting fart she’d emitted had managed to break my restraint.

My humor had quickly ebated when a nurse pushed aside the curtain and entered my little sterilized domain with the unsettling news she had to obtain a lean urine sample via a quick cath. Little did I know it takes three nurses to achieve such a task, especially when the first nurse had failed to operate the contraption correctly. All was well when the task was completed, and the three went on their way.

I’d finally arrived at my private suite, which had been just big enough for the bed and a closet-size bathroom.

Speaking of bathrooms, I’d quickly discovered making the trip while maneuvering an IV pump wasn’t as easy as they make it look on television.

Another thing I’d learned was how little it takes to amuse the staff. Days before my self-imposed incarceration, I’d made a visit to the nail salon. My shiny blue nails with elegant white stripes lined with silver color and matching toe nails had incurred many a conversation. More than once the comment had been made that I didn’t look as though I belonged in the hospital, and I couldn’t have agreed with them more. There’d been a million other places I’d wished to have been.

While awaiting surgery, I’d found myself in the company of several vampire romance lovers, and of course I’d felt the need to tout my vampire romance series, The Watchers.

Stent in place, I’d been sent home to wait out the curing of a major infection before surgery to remove the stone.

Ever heard of a stent? It’s a wire that runs from your kidney to your bladder and feels as though you’ve got a coat hanger for a tampon. Not pleasant. Not pleasant at all.

You know, I do believe the surgical staff were in need of comic relief the day of my surgery. Before going under, comments on my, once again newly painted toenails which matched my fingernails filled the room. I shouldn’t have been surprised that while in recovery, I discovered one of the booties had disappeared, leaving exposed the nails which had amused the staff.

Another reason I say the staff must have been in rare form was the fact that a few days later I discovered a 4” piece of tape in a spot where I wouldn’t even pay someone to place and remove.

When I’d made the joke to my doctor as to how a 1” piece of tape should have sufficed, he’d laughed and referred to the tape on my leg to hold the string which was tied to the end of the stent to aid in removal.

My leg. Someone surely had not gotten the memo on that one, I thought as I recalled the “Ah! Kelly Clarkson” moment I’d had during remove of said tape.

Pulling the rip cord on the stent as the approved time had been the highlight of my adventure. It had meant I’d neared the end of the journey.

As I write this little ditty, I must say I’m feeling more and more like myself every day. And for that, I am truly grateful.

So, the next time you hear someone is suffering from a kidney stone attack, I hope you’ll remember my little tale on Growing Stones and offer your sympathy, because believe me, they deserve it.

D. (Diane) McEntire
The Watchers Series
Samhain Publishing

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Guest Blogger Adele DuBois - The Handsome Face

I’m a sucker for a handsome face. I like men with symmetrical features who are easy on the eye. No ruggedly handsome, craggy types with a two-day stubble and unkempt hair for me. My fantasy hero has a smooth jaw line that doesn’t scratch my tender skin, a gorgeous face to match a well-toned body, and smells fresh enough to have stepped from the shower. He’s confident and commanding and not afraid to love a woman. That’s my type of man and the hero I created for DO ME GOOD.

The hero of DO ME GOOD, Gunnar, is my first otherworldly protagonist, and I admit I’ve developed a crush on him. He’s a fearless Nordic warrior cast into eternal servitude during a time when mortals served gods and goddesses. He becomes a celestial in the pre-Christian period before those who interacted with both gods and mortals were called angels. Gunnar is a Nordic Light Elf and so handsome he is “fairer to look upon than the sun.”

I hope you enjoy DO ME GOOD as much as I enjoyed creating this story. Here’s a sample of the book with a summary and excerpt. Thanks for reading.


DO ME GOOD by Adele Dubois

Release Date: April 14, 2010, Ellora’s Cave


Penny throws her hot, but worthless mooch of a boyfriend out on her front lawn with his clothes, and vows never again to be a bum magnet. Exhausted by overwork and mountainous debt, Penny pleads for divine intervention.

Gunnar, a rebellious Nordic warrior cast into servitude by an angry god to learn humility, answers. While Penny sleeps, the celestial arrives to complete her household chores, but she awakens and finds him. The handsome immortal kisses her, sparking a passionate, forbidden sexual encounter.

Dark forces seeking vengeance for Gunnar’s past misdeeds mark Penny as a target. To protect his lover, Gunnar tests immortality in a death battle using a god’s magical sword. But the strength of Penny’s love might be what saves them both.


He smoothed the hair at her temple and then rubbed a thick tendril between his thumb and forefinger. “I am Gunnar.” He pronounced the name “Goo-nar”.

A coarse brand of the sun, surrounded by a circle on the back of his hand, and covering the areas between his thumb, index knuckle and wrist caught her eye. His hand looked muscular and powerful beneath her gaze.

She touched the scarred skin with the tips of her fingers while he held a length of her hair, recognizing Freyr’s sacred insignia from her textbooks. “The pain must have been excruciating.” Without thinking, she lifted the old wound to her mouth and laid four kisses against its perimeter before pressing a fifth to the emblem inside.

A low tremor vibrated across her lips as they touched the ancient symbol on the white, extended hand. The brand grew warm and then hot on her mouth, though it did not burn. Her lips tingled and her body hummed with the pleasant sensations. She ran her tongue over the thick scars to erase the heat and then licked the center with the tip of her tongue in a tiny swirl before lifting her head.

His gasp of surprise was the last thing she expected as he released her hair and leaned away.

“Have I offended you? I’m sorry.” She searched his face for clues as to what to do next. Behind his shocked expression she found desire and longing and something completely unexpected.


Penny waited for his reply without letting go of his disfigured hand. She could tell his next words didn’t come easily.

“Kindness isn’t something I’m used to finding. Perhaps you’d be less inclined toward compassion if you knew what I’d done to deserve this brand of servitude.”

She reached out and hooked her arm around his neck to bring his face closer to hers. “I am Penelope. And if you are from Alfheim, I know who and what you are. I just don’t understand why you’ve come.” How could she deserve his rare, benevolent gifts? She was just an ordinary woman, barely scraping by.

“Sometimes we get what we need, simply because we ask. That’s the beauty and power of the unexpected.” His warm breath grazed her cheek in shallow rushes, lifting goose bumps across her skin. His wide, firm mouth smelled of sweet ground parsley and fresh-picked mint.

Their gazes locked and held, assessing, appraising.


Gunnar’s eyes were like pools of deep blue water speckled with light that pulled her in and down. Down. Her breathing slowed as the sound of her heartbeat intensified in her ears and the inside of her mouth moistened. She licked her lips and became intensely aware of every nerve ending shimmering along her body. Her muscles tensed as if waiting for something unexpected to happen.

As if meeting a Nordic Light Elf in the flesh wasn’t amazing enough.

Just when she wondered how his mouth would taste, he brought his lips to hers and kissed her. An explosion of kinetic energy shot vibrations through her body that prickled every fiber and muscle, held her taut and then released, leaving her breathless


Buy Link:


Monday, April 26, 2010

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (Warning: Long)

Over at Smart Bitches a few months back, Sarah wrote about re-reading Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten and how much she loved it. It started a lively and, as always, intelligent and thought-provoking discussion. Some people loved Bitten, others threw it against the wall. People in the second group tend to hate the book because of either the heroine, or the hero, or both.

That’s what – or whom – I’ve been thinking about. Bitten isn’t a complex story, but it features two complex characters, and I think Armstrong was very brave in writing such characters her first time out. It’s easy to write characters that all readers will love, but such characters run the risk of being boring. Armstrong didn’t do that with her first novel. She took a lot of chances, challenging the reader to try to understand a hero who sometimes comes across as reflexively brutal and a heroine whose behavior ranges from baffling to really fucking annoying.

A lot of readers don’t like Elena because she’s an emotional pinball, going from passive, to passive aggressive, to petulant, to ass-kicking aggressive, back to passive – and then doing it all over, again and again. I find her exasperating, but I think her flaws make her an exceptionally believable character (aside from the turning into a wolf thing).

Ten years ago, Elena was bitten by her then-fiancĂ©, Clay. She didn’t know Clay was a werewolf; she didn’t know werewolves existed. Clay, a brilliant guy with a U-Haul’s worth of emotional baggage and very poor impulse control, loved Elena so much he wanted to turn her into a werewolf so they could stay together – even though no woman had ever survived a werewolf bite and even though he didn’t give Elena any choice in the matter. He’s sworn ever since he didn’t mean to do it and, given his self-control issues, that might be true.

Elena, defying all odds, survived. Now she’s the world’s only female werewolf, and she’s never fully accepted it.

The orphaned Elena grew up in a series of foster homes. All she ever wanted was to get married and have a family of her own. When he bit her, Clay destroyed her dreams of a normal, human family life. But even if marriage and kids is now out of the question, Elena still longs to settle down (somehow – she never quite explains how she thinks it will work) with Philip, her sweet, patient, oblivious human boyfriend. Even as she returns to the Pack’s home base to help deal with a crisis, starts sleeping with Clay again, and goes days without phoning home, Elena insists her future is in Toronto with Philip.

But in Toronto, Elena is perpetually hungry and claustrophobic. She’s starving with Philip, both physically and emotionally. She can’t ever eat enough to satisfy her werewolf’s metabolism, because she can’t let Philip know she’s not normal, and she never has enough room or enough time to give her werewolf side the freedom she needs. She has to sneak out in the dead of night to Change and run, trying not to disturb Philip and lying to him when she does. Still, she insists, this is the life she wants.


She’s lying. She’s lying to herself, so she’s lying to us. Once we realize Elena’s an unreliable narrator, her annoying behavior (if she loves Philip, why’s she jumping Clay’s bones? if she’s still so pissed off at Clay, why doesn’t she do something like, you know, yell at him a little? how bad does she miss Philip if she never bothers to call?) makes sense. Elena may love Philip, but she’s in love with Clay. She wants to want a normal human life with Philip, but what she really wants is to stay in Bear Valley with Clay and the Pack, the family she never dreamed of.

She can’t let herself want that, though, because she hasn’t forgiven Clay for destroying her chance at a normal life. If she lets herself have what she really wants, then Clay gets what he wants – i.e., her. Which means he’ll be rewarded for his unforgiveable act of betrayal. In short, making herself happy means making Clay happy, and she doesn’t want to do that. Nose, face, spite. Given what she’s been through, I don’t really blame her.

Then there’s Clay. Oh, Clay. I love me some damaged alphas, and Clay is very damaged and very alpha.

Like Elena, Clay is a bitten – as opposed to born – werewolf, and he’s even more of a mess than she is. If he were human, we’d call him a sociopath.

It took me a while to figure out, but I finally realized who Clay reminds me of – Carol O’Connell’s New York City detective, Kathy Mallory. Like Clay, Mallory is brilliant and like Clay, she suffered childhood trauma of a type and severity that can’t ever be truly healed. While they can function – they feel, and love, and (mostly) refrain from preying on people weaker than they are, which is everyone – they’re not ever going to be anything close to normal. Expecting a Clayton Danvers or a Kathy Mallory to understand the normal rules of human behavior and human morality, much less adhere to them, is simply unrealistic.

Clay (like Mallory) has to use someone else as a moral compass because he never had a chance to develop one of his own. His moral compass is Jeremy, his Alpha and adopted father. Clay doesn’t think in terms of good vs. bad, or right vs. wrong. He thinks in terms of what Jeremy would approve or disapprove of. While he knows that what he did to Elena was wrong, it’s pretty obvious he only knows it’s wrong because Jeremy said so and because it made Elena leave him. He doesn’t truly understand what a violation it was. He still thinks of Elena as his wife, and he always will.

For people who don’t like Bitten – or who absolutely loathe it – the wall-throwing moment comes when Clay chases Elena through the woods, ties her up and rips her clothes off. She demands he release her, and he replies, “Since you can’t fight me, you can’t be expected to stop me. It’s out of your control.”

Now, that’s all kinds of fucked up. But Clay’s the survivor of a childhood werewolf attack who spent his formative years living alone in a swamp, subsisting on small animals and other children. He thinks he’s being chivalrous. Clay’s not evil. He’s not even malicious – he’s broken.

I understand why some readers don’t read past this scene, why some – especially those who’ve experienced actual sexual assault – find it offensive and infuriating. This type of sex scene was quite normal thirty and forty years ago, in what the Smart Bitches call Old Skool romances, but nowadays I think a lot of editors would tell an author they have to take it out.

Then it gets worse.

Clay proceeds to…what? He thinks he’s making love to Elena, but we can’t call it that because she’s freaking tied up. Still, it’s not rape, and we can’t be sure exactly how nonconsensual it really is.

“I won’t force you, Elena. You like to pretend I would, but you know I won’t. All you have to do is tell me no. Tell me to stop. Tell me to untie you. I will.” And then he repeats it, just for good measure: "Tell me to stop. . .Just tell me.”

Elena doesn’t say a word. She refuses to let herself come – that’ll show him, Elena! – but she doesn’t tell him to stop. This isn’t rape. I’m not even sure it falls under “forced seduction.” Despite her physical powerlessness, Elena could stop Clay at any moment, and she doesn’t.

No matter what she says, or thinks, Elena’s ambivalent about this episode even as it’s happening. The reader is left with the impression that at least part of her welcomes the loss of control Clay offered, just as he thought she would. That’s a risky way for an author to write a scene nowadays, and I think Armstrong had a lot of guts to do it.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m near the end. Elena still hasn’t admitted that it’s Bear Valley she belongs in and Clay she belongs with. I know they end up together, both because it’s a romance novel and because I’ve read about the later books in the series. But even though I know they’re gonna get their HEA – or, since this is Clay and Elena we’re talking about, their Happily For The Most Part – I’m still enjoying reading two characters who aren’t entirely likeable right at first.

And I’m wondering if I have the nerve to write characters like that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Social Networking (And my scream of terror)

In the last half hour on Twitter I saw a link to a post about how to use social networking as a writer, and then a post on how NOT to use social networking.

I know I have to use social networking. It’s the way of the world now, the way we communicate. I have a blog. I joined Facebook even though I didn’t really know what to do with it. A few old friends from high school found me. I figured out how to use Twitter even though it took a while for me to get it. (All these mini-conversations going on, how do you follow them? How do you know if someone replied to you? What’s the point of it?) Now there’s the whole “fan page” thing at Facebook. Apparently you aren’t supposed to use Facebook to promote your business. Well, since I do so little promoting on there, they haven’t outed me yet. But the other day I accidentally created a fan page. Sigh. Yes, I didn’t mean to do it. I was just trying to link Facebook and Twitter. I’ve already discovered how to link Goodreads to Twitter so everyone can see “what I’m reading now” and also lastfm, so everyone can know what my “loved tracks” are. It took me days to figure out how to link Facebook and Twitter; in the end it took a Google search and about three clicks of my mouse. But then I had this fan page. (I think). But I have no fans. And one of the big sins in the ‘how NOT to social network” bucket was sending people invitations to be your fan over and over. Eep. I don’t want to annoy people. I feel weird even asking someone to be my friend.

I know you’re supposed to Tweet and comment about things other than your new release, or your latest review; you’re supposed to interact with people. Be entertaining. But I’m not entertaining, I’m ordinary and boring.

I just went into Facebook and discovered I had 59 messages. Gah! What are all those? And how do people send them? Another piece of advice in the “how to use social networking” article: don’t avoid what you don’t understand. Gulp. I need lessons on Facebook. And being entertaining I think.
So if I try to be better at Facebook and I try to be more interesting, will you be my fan? Oh wait! It changed! You don’t have to be my fan now! You can just say you like me!!/pages/Kelly-Jamieson/113030128727964

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday 13

For our inaugural Thursday 13, I humbly present my (current, at least) favorite 13 Internet videos, in some vague semblance of order from most loved on down:

1. The First 5 Seasons of Lost in 10 minutes

The Reduced Shakespeare Company specializes in boiling classics like Shakespeare, the Bible and Lost down to their essential elements. This vid includes an intro by Lindelof and Abrams. If, like me, you're struggling to get caught up before the end of the series, this video will be of no help whatsoever. It's a lot of fun, though.

2. The Supersizers Go Regency

This is actually a series of 6 videos, from the BBC series where a couple of very funny food critics spend a week dressing, living and eating in the manner of various historical periods. If you read Regency romances, you need to watch this:

3. Mike Rowe reading Tiger Woods' dirty texts

Doesn’t really need commentary, except to say I love Mike Rowe. Rowr.

4. A trailer for every Academy Award winning movie, ever:

5. Where the Wild Things Are (trailer)

I haven't seen the movie yet, and I know some people were disappointed, but this trailer is absolutely magical and I watch it constantly:

6. The 4:00 Inspection of the Queen's Life Guards

Despite the YouTube title, it's not the changing of the Queen's Life Guards - it's the 4:00 inspection. One day over a century ago, Queen Victoria passed through Horse Guards (which was, for many years, the HQ of the British military) and found the Queen's Life Guards either drunk and/or passed out. She was so angry she ordered that thenceforth, and for 100 years, there would be an inspection of the Guard at 4:00. It turned into a treasured institution, as things British are wont to do, and they still conduct the 4:00 inspection to this day.

Note: in London last week, I offered to clear a weekday from my sightseeing schedule and take Diva to the sights I thought she'd enjoy, namely the Tower and Horse Guards. But it would mean she'd have to miss a day at the camp in Surrey she was attending with her cousins, and she refused. She loved that camp, wouldn't miss a day of it. So we had to do the Tower and Horse Guards on Saturday. And as it turns out, there are no Guards on horses at the entrance to Horse Guards on the weekend. She was tired and cranky after doing the Tower and then being dragged through Trafalgar Square, partways up the Mall, and then down Whitehall to Horse Guards, only to get there and see guards, but no horses. "Mom! You made me walk five miles just to see a bunch of horse poop!"

But, as it turned out, they had a lovely museum, and we got to peak through a 2 way mirror to see into the stables, and the museum includes a replica of the stables with items of the Guards' uniforms which you can try on. So Diva did:

7. Adam Ant, Goody Two Shoes, from 1980something

This is why I love YouTube. People are archiving my youth. This is the original MTV video (disappointment warning: the video cuts off before the end. I can't find it in full length). After 25 years, I still love this song. And please note: emo boys weren't the first ones to wear lip gloss. Nor were eighties pop stars. I think it was David Bowie, actually...

8. Dramatic chipmunk

Yeah, I know, but it never fails to crack me up:

9. Behind the scenes of a porn soundtrack (ADULT CONTENT (DUH), NSFW)

I’ve included two videos from The Hub and I are addicted to this site:

10. Bea Arthur's Sex and the City parody

You MUST watch all the way to the end (if you're under 40 this might not mean so much to you):

11. The Evolution of Dance

This guy is amazing. You can never tell if a guy's a good dancer just by looking at him. But most of the time, you can tell if he's good in bed by watching him dance. Or so I've been told.

12. Three guys doing aerobics

More 80s cheese. What will future anthropologists make of Western civilization in the 80s? My favorite gossip blogger, Michael K of Dlisted, calls this "the out gay's version of learning how to walk."

13. A really, really good soccer game - watch till the end (ADULT CONTENT, NSFW):

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Next week, I'm heading to Ohio for the RT Convention. It's my first time, and I'm really excited about going. For the past few weeks, I've been shopping, planning, organizing, and getting everything in order so the almost-week I'm going to be gone runs smoothly for the rest of the family.(3 kids + 3 piano lessons + 3 sports schedules = panic time!)

I'm extra-excited about going this year because my book, Lessons Learned, is nominated for an RT Award for Best Indie Press Contemporary Romance. But when people ask where I'm going, I give a vague, "writer's conference," and change the subject.


Because the vast majority of the people in my town have no idea I'm published.

The fact that I write isn't a secret - I've had short stories and articles published under my real name, and the local paper even did a story on me years ago. And when we first moved to town, I wasn't shy about talking about the writing.

But when I sold my first book, I chose not to share the good news.

See, originally I wrote sweet romance manuscripts, with the closed bedroom door. In the conservative area where we live, this was perfectly acceptable. But what I eventually sold was Taking the Cake, with a pseudo-stripper heroine. There were no closed doors involved. Add in a career in the educational field, and it seemed the better part of valor to take a pen name and keep it private.

It's worked out pretty well. I can write what I want without worrying about any impact on my day job. I get to have a secret identity, which is cool. And most important of all, I can keep my second career without asking anyone's permission.
Still, sometimes I wish I could tell. Like now, when my real life friends aren't quite sure why I'm so excited to be going to Ohio.
What are your thoughts on pen names? Pros, cons, funny stories?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guest Blogger Cerise DeLand - What’s age got to do with it?

Lately in romanticas, we’ve seen the increase in popularity of older women and younger men partner novels. We even see ‘cougars”, as older women who take younger lovers are called, portrayed on TV in Carmen Diaz skits on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and in a new comedy series with Courtney Cox. We also see it in the striking popularity of a new multi-author series at Ellora’s Cave called The Cougar Challenge. (

So this must be a pervasive dynamic in the general population.


Well, I have no clue about the statistics.

But I do know that more and more women (and perhaps men) are reading these novels.

Now, I ask you, what is the reason for that?

Is it just a fantasy that a woman can still have hot sex with a younger dude when she’s over forty?

Or is it that older women are sub-consciously learning how to: a) be more aggressive when media tells them things are beginning to sag, or b) learn or re-learn how to please a younger more energetic lover?

Write to me!

This inquiring mind wants to know!

No, I have not written a cougar novel. YET. But will with the EC Cougar Challenge group!

Let me in on your secret fantasies. Do younger men turn you on?

If so, why?

Or why would you never, ever…

You get me!

And come to my blog, too, for tasty treats of my own books: and soon to come, my website at

Ciao, bella!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who can love a nerd?

I’ve just finished plotting and started writing a new book.
The hero is an ex-nerd and I’m loving him. He’s not a nerd now, but at the start of the book he’s back home where that’s how he was known.

Then today Finicky (my daughter) and I ended up watching Can’t Buy Me Love, one of the best nerd stories out there (remember the sweet hearted young Patrick Dempsey trying to win over the popular girl next door?). One of my other favorite movies is Never Been Kissed with the perpetually nerdy Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore)… who gets the guy (yummy Michael Vartan) in the end. Ooh, and how about Sandra Bullock’s character in Miss Congeniality? Love her.

Anyway, I was thinking a lot about nerds.

What do you think of nerds turned hero?
I think it works for a number of reasons.
One, the nerds have this inherent sweetness about them. They’ve been kicked around so they’re much less likely to do any kicking unless they really need to. In fact, I love it even more when they do stand up (especially for the women they love) because it’s that much more of reaction for them. It’s taking them out of their comfort zone (well, Miss Congeniality would be the exception there!) but they’re willing because the person or situation really matters to them.
Two, they use their brains to get what they want. Outsmarting bad guys, figuring out the mystery, seducing the girl… nothing sexier than a high IQ. Especially when he’s protecting you—or kissing you! I’d think it’d be pretty hard to argue with a genius who can give you fifty good, logical reasons why you should go to bed with him. Heck, he’d probably be able to make it sound like it was your idea all along!
Three, they’re generally depicted as a good guy, using their incredible intelligence to research things or build things or invent things. They’re making the world a better place—nothing more heroic than that.

But because my favorite stories--nerd or otherwise-- are romances, I also thought about the love interest. One of the problems with Miss Congeniality’s love story for me was that he’d known her all this time—seen her smarts, her abilities, her wit—yet he isn’t interested until she’s gorgeous. They never did really solve that for me in the movie. (But I’ll watch and likely love anything Sandra Bullock does, so it’s okay). Never Been Kissed is better, as is Can’t Buy Me Love, because they never completely shed the nerdiness and the guy/girl fall for them anyway—in fact, because of who they really are. That’s the best.

In romance novels, Vicki Lewis Thompson has a whole series of nerd books. Which I enjoyed. Lucy Monroe’s hero in The Real Deal is blessed with a mega-IQ too. What are some others? Where do you stand on the nerds? In what instance can they really do it for you? Or not?

Friday, April 16, 2010

I See By My Outfit

So the DH and I are wandering through this impossibly upscale boutique in Santa Fe, and he picks up an item of clothing that can be described as a long-sleeved bustier in rose pink velvet, satin, and lace. “No,” I say, shaking my head (I mean, it cost several hundred dollars). “Don’t you want to look like a romance author?” asks the hubs, innocently.

Now I found that comment fascinating; in fact, it haunted my thoughts for several days thereafter. It was particularly interesting because that boutique specialized in clothes I think of as sort of “Round-up Time At the Bordello.” Is that what I’m supposed to look like? What does a romance writer look like these days anyway?

Over the twenty-plus years of my teaching career, I developed a sort of teacher’s uniform: pants, blouse, jacket of some kind (sometimes just an overblouse), necklace, earrings. A lot of my colleagues wore outfits that were basically similar. You could see by our outfits that we were the faculty (sing that to “Streets of Laredo”). But one of the features of those outfits was their anonymity. We all looked basically the same and we all sort of blended into the woodwork. Somehow, I think romance writers don’t want to do that.

Looking at the author photos on romance novels doesn’t really help. The top NYT bestsellers all seem to own the same black pant suit, although they accessorize it differently (a gold necklace here, a silk scarf there). Rather than writing scenes of passion, they look like they’re ready to plead a case before the Supreme Court. Is that what romance writers should look like? A lot of readers might disagree.

I think the popular idea of how romance writers look may be based on Barbara Cartland. Now Cartland was definitely old school. She went on writing romances well into her eighties and she tended to dress like a certain type of romance heroine right up until the end—pink chiffon, pearls, picture hats, parasols, a platinum blonde wig. She also wore false eyelashes and the kind of eye makeup favored by Cleopatra and certain working girls. But she definitely stood out.

But to be frank, not many of us can carry that look off, particularly at the age of eighty. I’d just as soon not wear something that might have me skulking into corners, hoping nobody sees me when I’m dressed like this.

So what’s the right image for romance writers now? When we go to signings, should we try for professionalism? Armani suits and Manolos? Or do we dress like bronco bustin’ harlots? Probably we need some kind of middle ground, whatever that middle ground may be. Maybe the black pants suit with a rose pink bustier. Or maybe not. But I’ll tell you straight out: I’d rather not fade into the woodwork.

So tell me, y’all—what’s your mental image of a romance writer?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex...

...make that Sexual Tension. :)

I've noticed a growing trend in the last couple of years, especially in erotic romance, where sexual tension is really lacking or even non-existent. Sometimes the plot is focused so entirely on getting the two (or three) into bed right from the word go, that the build-up stage (whether it's a few pages or a few chapters) is completely skipped. Sure the characters are thinking about sex, and they may even know the other person wants it too, but what seems to be glossed over are those moments when it's more about a look, or a touch, even an almost touch.

The thing is, it's those "almost" moments, like when they're a whisper away from that sizzling first kiss, that make it even more explosive and satisfying when the couple finally hooks up. I want that build-up, that anticipation, that close call that leaves them aching for each other before I get the pay off. Just because an erotic story comes loaded with sex, doesn't mean that sexual tension needs to be sacrificed.

I'm a huge fan of super hot romance (which is probably clear if you've read my books LOL) but I need that sexual tension for it to be a truly satisfying read. I always know I'm reading a really hot book when I want it to happen as much as the characters do.

Strangely enough, lately I'm finding books that rely more on the sexual tension than just the sex, are turning out to be hotter, sexier books. Now I personally don't need a dozen "almost" moments before the payoff, or have them holding off to nearly the last chapter of the book either (I mentioned I like super hot books, right?) but there needs to be some kind of balance.

So what about you? Have you had problems finding books with enough sexual tension lately, or read a really good book that just nails it?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Guest Blogger Samantha Sommersby - A secret about bad sex…

First let me reveal my bias, I write for an adult audience. My sex scenes are hot and explicit. To me, sex is a normal, healthy part of adult relationships. I can't imagine leaving that part out of the story, or not allowing the reader to experience it fully and completely. I leave the bedroom door wide open so readers can grab a box of popcorn, pick a seat, sit back, and enjoy the entire show.

Although I candidly tell folks that I write erotic romance or urban fantasy with erotic elements. I don't think I write erotica. Why? Because the sex isn't primary, it's not the focus of or the reason for the story. Rather it's something that naturally unfolds as the desire and emotional connection between my cotagonists deepens.

I've seen and read lots of books and articles over the years about how to write a good sex scene, some focusing on the "dos", other on the "don'ts". Today I'm writing about something that I haven't seen a lot of other authors discuss, the importance of a bad sex scene. Now, I'm not talking about poorly written sex, or a specific type of sex that I have judgments about. I'm simply talking about a sex scene in which the outcome is far from ideal.

Personally, I love it when an author inserts a well crafted and strategically placed scene in which the characters fumble, struggle, strike out, or somehow "misfire". I think it makes characters more real, more vulnerable, and most importantly, more relatable. This is particularly the case when the author is able to show that the hero/heroine can get through the situation with finesse and that, as a result, they experience a more profound sense of intimacy.

There are some important key elements to making this sort of scene work for you.

1. Regardless of the failure, your hero/heroine must stay in character. You don't want the reader to suddenly feel as if two entirely different characters are introduced.

2. Remember that you are striving for vulnerability and reality. The situation should be believable. You don't want it to come off as comical and you don't want to make the reader too anxious or afraid. Be subtle.

3. Use humor carefully. No one wants to be laughed at or feel like they are being ridiculed when they're naked. Remember that your characters are bare not only physically during an intimate scene, but emotionally as well.

4. Keep the sexual tension high and the pacing steady. Lead both your characters and the reader down the garden path and then surprise them by inserting an obstacle.

5. Acknowledge the obstacle. It's better when one of the characters is able to do this rather than relying merely on narrative.

6. Have the characters talk through the obstacle to normalize it. This will show the reader that they have the strength to get through those mundane relationship issues that are necessary to conquer if they're going to have a long-lasting relationship.

What's the most important ingredient of all? The thing guaranteed to turn your imperfect encounter into utter magic? Giving the reader the sense that above all else, the characters are in love. To quote Jason Jordan:

"True love does not come by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly."

Samantha Sommersby is the author of the critically acclaimed Forbidden series, including her newest book Forbidden: The Temptation. Sam happily spends her days immersed in the world of the Forbidden, a world where vampires, werewolves, and demons are real, where magic is possible, and where love still conquers all. To learn more about Sam's books or to sign up for her monthly newsletter visit

There’s a fine line between man and beast…one only the heart can cross.

Forbidden, Book 4

A year ago, Jacob Madison got more than he bargained for during a rock-climbing trip to Yosemite. A freak accident left him badly injured, at the mercy of the elements—and the wolves who rescued him. If it hadn’t been for them, he’d be dead. He’d also still be human. Now he’s back, hoping to find out who he is and what he’s become. Instead, he finds smart, sexy Allison Connelly.

A forensic psychologist, Allison is newly divorced and proudly standing on her own two feet…until an unexpected storm shears off the snow bank she’s standing on. She plunges down an icy ravine, thinking she’s heading for oblivion. Then she lands in the arms of a tall, dark Texan. Jake.

Brought together by circumstance and bound by passion, secrets from their past threaten their future before it can begin. And somewhere in the mountains lurks a rogue Were turned serial killer. Whatever the danger Jake’s inner beast poses to Allison, there’s only one way to protect her—unleash it. Even if it costs him her love.

Product Warnings: This book contains raging winter storms, truly inspiring sex, a kick-butt heroine, and one very hot, dirty-talking cowboy…who’s sometimes furry.

10 Wonderfully Weird and Random Facts about Forbidden: The Temptation

1. Much of The Temptation, my very first werewolf novel, was written in a coffee shop named after an iconic vampire – Lestat.

2. The forth book in the Forbidden series was not supposed to feature Jake. The hot, dirty-talking cowboy made an appearance in The Revolution and seduced my muse into giving him his very own book. Jake can be very persuasive.

3. In an act of revenge my vampire Dell, sexy secret agent and sorcerer decided to pop up in The Temptation and steal the show for a few pages.

4. Baylor University, which is where the epilogue takes place, is my alma mater and where I met my husband.

5. Pine Ridge Ranch was loosely based on place I vacationed with my family near the Grand Canyon a few years ago.

6. In addition observing wolves locally at the San Diego Zoo, I watched Wolves: A Legend Returns to Yellowstone and A Man Among Wolves with Shaun Ellis, over and over. I think that Shaun Ellis scares me more than the book’s villain, Roane Devlin.

7. I learned about the Pawnee creation story a few years ago while on a tour at the Library of Congress and used it as the basis for Roane Devlin’s belief system and the motivation behind his killings.

8. As part of my research I used handouts my son received and notes he took while attending a workshop on how to blow things up at DragonCon. If they repeat that one this year I’m definitely going. Too much great information to miss.

9. My son’s friend Ryan asked me to put him in one of my books. That was the inspiration for the character Ryan. I expected him to have a small, bit part. I should have known better. The real Ryan has yet to discover that I make him wear an apron in the book. I’m not sure how he’s going to feel about that.

10. I’m currently spending my days profiling characters for a Young Adult story that will be set in my hometown of San Diego, CA. Wright, the young Were from The Temptation, will be one of the featured characters.

Buy link:

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's In A Name?

According to Juliet Capulet, "[w]hat's in a name? that which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet;/So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,/Retain that dear perfection which he owes/Without that title."

While her wisdom might be timeless, I must disagree here. To me, names all have some inherent connotation to them which colors how I perceive the character. If Romeo were instead named Percival, he would not--to me--be the same man. Biased, maybe, yet true.

As writers, we have an endless supply of names for our characters. We must take into consideration the way first and last names flow together, possible nicknames for our characters, and how each name would implicitly characterize this figure. When filling out the elements of a character, his or her name is essential.

Maybe because I love writing alpha males this is more important, as some names just sound stronger than others, but I am very picky about certain names for heroes. This DOES NOT apply to real life, but as our heroes are essentially real men, but better, I hold them to a higher standard. For example: "Richard" is unappealing as a hero because the nickname there is "Dick." I find it much more appropriate for the villain or male obstacle of the piece. "Harry" is another I'm not fond of, mostly for its visual connotation.

Unfortunately, I have stumbled across a small handful of books whose heroes, though incredibly heroic and well-characterized, I just could not root for. I didn't like them as much as others equally worthy because their name did not scream "hero." Even beta males as heroes deserve strong, or at least interesting, names. But because names and personal identity are so important to modern society (I point to the monogramming and personalization crazes as proof) its positive and negative impressions must be considered. Below I have borrowed names from "Lord of the Flies" for illustrative purposes.

Jack: the hard consonance and its brevity lend the name to a strong, stoic leader-type hero. It is a simple name, not short for anything, nor does it have a commonly used nickname. Such a man would be equally strong but elemental.

Simon: This rings as an intellectual name, which in itself is sexy and powerful. Smart men are some of my favorite heroes. Simon is probably more of a beta male, but no less heroic for it. Like Jack, it is not a diminutive, nor is it often given a nickname.

Ralph: While this seems like a solid alpha-male name, it evokes the idea of vomit. Also, unlike "Jack," which has a pleasing hard "k," the "f" sound of Ralph just isn't as hero-worthy. Don't ask me why, I haven't figured that out yet.

Eric/Erik: This name is appealing in its dual spellings. "Eric" is more of an all-American good ol' boy who surfs and has those sea-blue eyes framed by windswept blond hair. "Erik," on the other hand, is familiar, yet foreign and exotic. He would have dark hair to contrast those seemingly-innocent blue eyes, and maybe a tinge of Eastern European accent to make his sweet nothings even sexier.

I've been told that I'm too sensitive to what others say are non-existent connotations, but what do you think? Is this naming business b.s., or would a rose really smell as sweet if it were called something unpleasant-sounding like "yeasty" or "hymen"? And on that note, what is your most and least favorite word to hear?

p.s. my fave is lush

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Break Party on the Ninth!

Spring is finally here, and with it that grandest of school traditions, spring break.


Yes, it's me!

With my kids still in elementary school, spring break is family time, a chance to relax and unwind after the long winter months. (For some reason it always seems to take forever to get from December to April, doesn't it? Or is that just me?)

Anyway, our usual spring break is typically close to home, with maybe a couple of day trips around the area.

Not this year, though. This year, we went to Hawaii.


Spinner dolphins racing our snorkeling boat

The trip had been in the works for a couple of years, but it still didn't seem real to me until we were on the plane headed for Maui. Even the last few frantic days of packing weren't enough to convince me I'd be spending the week in a tropical paradise.

But once we got there -- oh, bliss! Best vacation ever. Warm every day, so many new experiences, fun time with family (including my parents, which made it even more special). We went on a snorkel tour to Molokini and saw spinner dolphins and sea turtles; we visited Mount Haleakala and got stamps in our National Parks passports; we took in a luau and lazed around the pool. I actually have a tan line.


The view from our seats at the luau

And now I'm back, looking toward next year, and wondering how we're going to top this spring break adventure. So that's this month's Party On The Ninth question - if you could go anywhere in the world for spring break, where would it be?

Post a comment and you could win a tropical-themed prize pack, specially selected for you in Hawaii. Be on the lookout for comments from the other Nine Naughty Novelists as well, since I completely forgot to collect their answers to the question in advance. :) Sorry, guys, I guess my brain is still on island time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vacation Pics!

I haven't been able to do as much traveling as I'd like these last few years, but I did get away for a short trip lately to Australia. So today I'm going to post a few snapshots from my trip to Sydney.

Sydney is a very picturesque city with a lot of history...

These firemen are standing in front of the oldest bar in Australia, which is located only a few blocks from the Observatory, which is set at the top of a really big hill. I'm not real fond of big hills, but I heard the view was nice. Here's part of the path leading up to the Observatory. That's it in the background...

Here's the front of the Observatory...

  And here's one of the views from the Observatory...

Some people prefer this view...

Or even this one...

There's just no accounting for tastes, I guess.

We were lucky enough to be in the city for the St Patrick's Day parade...which, as it happened, took place several days after St Patrick's Day, but that's not really important. Here's part of the parade...

Since it was the tail end of their summer, the weather in Sydney was really hot. We went to a couple of local beaches to cool off. This is Bondi Beach, where they have a famous Lifeguard Museum.

This is an exhibit in the museum. It's a little hard to tell, but it has to do with the evolution of swimwear:

Here's another view:

The other beach we visited was the intriguingly named Manly Beach. Here's the Manly Lifeguard.

Here's part of the Manly Police Force...

 Here's the Flamenco guitarist who serenaded us while we ate lunch...

And here are a few other...well, Manly men, I guess you'd call them...

On our last night in town we took a dinner cruise on a sailing vessel called the Southern Swan. That's the Opera House in the background, in case you missed it.

This is a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge taken from the Southern Swan...

This is part of the Southern Swan's crew. Note the pirate earring. Nice touch, huh?

Here's the captain of the Southern Swan pondering the angst, loneliness and romanticism of life on the high seas...

In his off-hours, the Captain also fronts for a rockin' Celtic band (crew-boy has several of their songs on his iPod, btw). Unfortunately, this failed to impress the Swedish Exchange Students with whom the Captain was flirting.

They turned him down.  Yes. I eavesdrop. A lot. How else am I supposed to come up with story ideas, hmm?