Friday, January 31, 2014

A Stunning Cover of Stairway to Heaven

To close out the week, I just have to share this stunning cover of Stairway to Heaven as performed by Ann & Nancy Wilson. John Bonham's son is on drums, too. It made me cry, but it did the same to Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Opening from my menage WIP

I really need to come up with a title for my menage WIP. It's starting to bug me that I don't have one yet. But I thought I'd share the opening scene from it today, and give you a taste of what it's like.

*_*_*_*

The stone walls trembled, rumbling with the enraged growl of a roused beast. Beyond them, the crash of the Calisatar Sea hitting the shore echoed even louder. The whole world seemed to scream in protest to the attacks, but Avaren Rala blocked it all out. He couldn't think about the stronghold crumbling around their heads or the battles that waged outside. He had one order, and he would not fail it. Could not fail it. Ryelmund, his liege and master, would never forgive him if he did.

Nobody stopped him. He took the stairs three at a time, letting others pass by as they fled for safety without a second glance. Only once did his hand stray to his broadsword, when a barrel-chested servant tried to grab his arm, but Avaren shot him a hard stare and the man yanked back with swiftly mumbled apologies. The door he wanted, still thick and solid and mercifully shut, was at the end of the corridor. He reached it without further interruption.

The moment he pounded on the scarred wood, the latch turned and a familiar set of green eyes gazed through the opening. Relief washed through him. He hadn't known how terrified he was she wouldn't be in her chambers until this very moment. "Come, my lady." He held his hand out to her in solicitous offering. "I'm to get you to safety."

He blocked the view of any who might be in the vicinity as Loraledra pulled the door wider. Instead of the scarlet gown she'd worn at dinner when the attacks had begun, she wore soft trousers and boots, apparel from a bygone time when she hadn't yet been queen and propriety wasn't such a strict mistress. The auburn curls that were the envy of women both noble and not had been tied back in a leather strap, a heavy braid falling along her spine. Her cloak and blouse did little to hide her full, soft breasts, though at least her height might work to their advantage and fool the marauders into believing she was a man for a few moments while they made their escape. Still, her sensible clothing was only a costume. Anyone with eyes would take one look at her and know in an instant she was the renowned Queen Loraledra.

"Where's Ryel?" she asked, glancing past his shoulder.

Avaren set his jaw. "On the shore leading the fight."

But when he tried to take the satchel she'd had prepared, she refused to relinquish it. "Then you should be down there with him. Don't worry about me. I'll take care of myself."

Ryel hadn't warned she might argue, but Avaren had been prepared for the worst. "I'm sorry, my lady. I can't allow that."

Her eyes flashed. "Your liege needs your sword more than I do."

"I'm under direct orders."

"So I'm giving you a new one."

"I can't." Gripping her upper arm, he pulled her through the doorway. She fought him every inch, her muscles firm beneath his fingers, but as much as he hated having to resort to force, he couldn't allow her to squirm her way free, even if she was the queen. "Please, your majesty. If he worries about you, his mind isn't fully on the battle. Tonthery needs both her king and queen."

The furious set of her jaw didn't soften, but the guilty slide of her gaze to the tiny windows overlooking the sea gave him hope. A moment later, her stance relaxed, the death clutch he'd had on her satchel loosening. "Fine," she ground out. "But as soon as I'm somewhere secure, you're to return to him, understand?"

Avaren nodded in acquiescence. Though he wasn't certain Ryel would approve of such a compromise, it satisfied all of their needs. Ryel's to protect Loraledra. Hers to support Ryel. Avaren's to fulfill his duty to both of his lieges.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writing frustrations

Some days, I really wonder why I'm a writer.

It's like any job. Good days. Bad days. But because I essentially work for myself, it's up to me to set the discipline of actually doing it. Scheduling is impossible. I have two kids, 12 and 14, with active lives. I have to do all the typical mom stuff, and because I rely on carpooling with someone who can't tell me until very shortly before a time whether or not she can do it, I have to be able to change my plans at a moment's notice.

So I give myself simple goals. One thousand words on this story. Five hundred words on a different story. Answer xxx emails. That kind of thing. Most of the time, it works for me.

But there are days - or weeks, as this has been - where even those goals elude me. Any number of factors might be the culprit. Impromptu doctor/dentist appointments. School activities that only happen every once in a while. Feeling under the weather. When this happens, it's easy to start losing track of what keeps me motivated, or losing the flavor of a story. Sometimes, it even means losing enthusiasm for the story altogether. It's up to me to find it again, because I'm my boss.

It makes me wonder why my boss self hasn't fired my writer self for being so unpredictable. :P

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Celebrating the female body

In two weeks, my daughter turns fourteen.

I am not ready. She is, or at least, she feels like she is, which makes her just like every other teenaged girl out there.

We've been having lots of discussions about body shapes. She and her best friend both play softball, and they both have moms who struggle with their weight. That's four different body types between us, each of us with our own styles and preferences. I lean toward boho rocker with a side of preppy thrown in, my daughter is slouchy kitsch, her BFF likes simple and slightly goth, while BFF's mom is all about comfort and ease. When we went out shopping on Sunday for a girls' day out, it was an interesting affair to say the least.

My favorite part of the whole day, however, was a comment I overheard when they were on my iPad, looking through a fashion website I subscribe to for curvier women. "Look at how beautiful she is. Why can't regular models look like real people, too?"

They have role models they look up to, but even when some of those role models might conform to an unrealistic ideal, others embrace our differences as women. I'm proud that she sees the world like that. I'm even prouder that I do what I can to promote that, which means when I do write heroines, they tend to not be a size six. These are women we need to relate to and celebrate. Especially when you're fourteen.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Going along for the ride with Black Sails

So who picked Black Sails as escapist entertainment this weekend? Anyone?

I had plans to watch it for a while now. I'd known the reviews were mixed - gratuitous sex and nudity, for instance - but I didn't care. So perhaps my expectations going into it were pretty low, but I kind of enjoyed it for the most part. I think the pirate intrigue is going to be fun, and the best part of the episode for me was watching Gates trying to drum up the votes to keep Flint as captain. Well, and comparing what I was watching to the various ships I've toured over the years in the UK. Those things are small below decks. Watching Tom Hopper have to stoop over every time he was down there made me chuckle.

Hopper was surprisingly empathetic throughout the show, though I want to tell him to close his mouth half the time. Standing there slack-jawed is not always necessary. The jury is still out on some of the other actors. Toby Stephens feels a tad cerebral, though I finally bought him as a pirate captain during the final scenes. The character is insane, though, and his tirade to Billy on the boat back to the ship kind of clinched that for me. We'll see how that plays out.

As for the others, the actor who plays Vane creeps me out, I haven't completely bought Silver as a charming rogue yet, and the women are trying too hard not to be stereotypes to really make much of an impression other than that.

But I'll watch again next week. We'll see. I've stuck with worse shows for much longer before giving up.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Loving Chris Pine

I have such a celebrity crush on Chris Pine. I'm not even embarrassed to admit I've loved him since Princess Diaries 2. Hey, I have a 13 y/o daughter. It was completely in her wheelhouse that we watched it a lot, lol. Bottle Shock? Yes. Kirk? Oh, my yes. Plus, he's in one of my favorite romantic comedies, This Means War. And in spite of the mixed reviews, I am totally seeing the new Jack Ryan very soon.

But color me surprised when I saw his interview on Jimmy Kimmel earlier this week and heard him sing. I knew he was doing Into the Woods, but hadn't given too much thought about his singing abilities, because hello, Chris Pine. Those eyes. That smile. So charming. 

I think I love him more now. I didn't think that was possible.

     

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Great new Twitter

You've heard about the idiot councillor in the UK who blamed all the storms they've been having on gay marriage, right?

Someone created a Twitter in response to it.

It's called UkipWeather and has such great little gems like:
And this:
I love people's creativity. Especially when it's in response to such idiocy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Meet my newest menage

My writing schedule rarely works out the way I want it to. I had plans on writing a geek romance after I finished my edits for Enthralled in Silver, but then a different bunny bit me and I've been working on that instead. It's a fantasy m/m/f menage, about the injured king of a small realm, his devoted wife, and his favorite soldier-in-arms who gets them to safety after a siege. Untitled as of yet, but it's over 21k so far and going strong. Probably novel-length, and I have no idea where I'm going to send it yet. We'll see what its tone is like when it's all done.

In the meantime, however, you can meet the trio as I envision them.

Meet King Ryelmund, or Ryel as he's called throughout the story. Kind but powerful, who loves both his wife and his right-hand man.

Avaren, the one man in Ryel's kingdom who would die for his king. Ryel saved him from a life of slavery as a teenager. Avaren was his forever after.

Ryel went against convention and chose Loraledra as his queen, the spinster daughter of the poorest of all his kingdom's allies. The union was considered politically weak, but Ledra won Ryel's heart with her fighting spirit.

There you go! And I really need to come up with a title for this story...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's My Turn at the Pax Blog

Today's my posting day over at the Amber Pax Collection blog, where I talk about how the Bay Wolves series found its start. Head over and check it out! All comments that get left this week at the pax blog have the chance to win the entire Growl collection!

Monday, January 20, 2014

New release - Boundless

Woo hoo! Yesterday, Boundless, the first story in my Bay Wolves series, came out at Amber Allure.

Helping people is what Denny Patton does. Most of the time, it’s through his duties as a cop in San Francisco, but every once in a while, he steps in and aids his brother in an underground battle for those without any rights under the law—werewolves. Their latest mission is to rescue a group of wolves held captive and forced to do the unspeakable. The task will put Denny’s career at risk, but in his heart, he believes it’s the right thing to do.

Especially when one of the wolves turns out to be Elijah Garber, the man who disappeared from Denny’s life seven years ago.

Elijah and Denny were high school sweethearts until Elijah disappeared from the Bay Area the summer after they graduated. The note he left behind told Denny and his family to move on without him, but Denny has never forgotten his first love. Now, he wants answers as to why Elijah left all those years earlier. But more importantly, he wants the future they were always meant to have... 

Tomorrow I'll be blogging over at the Amber Pax Collection blog about it, but because it's part of a pax about werewolves and it's release week, anybody who comments on any of the posts over there this week has a chance to win all five stories. Including today's. Head over and take a look!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cream Cheese No-Bake Squares

I made a scrumptious no-bake square last weekend, a coconut/pecan/graham cracker crust with a cream cheese layer on top. They were gone in less than a day. Even my picky son who doesn't really do nuts devoured them.


CREAM CHEESE NO-BAKE SQUARES

INGREDIENTS
For bottom layer
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans

For cream cheese layer
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

For drizzle
2 oz sweet dark chocolate candy bar
1 tsp butter

DIRECTIONS
1. Line 9" square pan with foil, allowing overhang on all sides.
2. For bottom layer, cook and stir butter, sugar, cocoa, egg, and salt in medium pan over medium heat for 2 minutes or until thickened.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and pecans.
4. Press mixture into prepared pan.
5. For cream cheese layer, beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in small bowl until smooth and well blended.
6. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well after each addition.
7. Spread over prepared crust. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
8. Combine candy and 1 tsp butter in small releasable food storage bag. Seal bag.
9. For drizzle, microwave on high for 1 minute. Turn bag. Microwave for another 30-40 seconds or until melted and smooth.
10. Cut off tiny corner of bag and drizzle over the cream cheese layer.
11. Refrigerate until firm. Remove from pan using foil and cut into squares.

NOTES: Makes 36 small squares. There's a ton of flavor in these. If you cut them this small, there's only 110 calories in each one.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Early picks for Oscars

Oscar nominations came out this morning, with some surprising omissions. For the most part, however, they seemed to go as many thought they would. It's a little early to see how things will play out, and I know I'll probably change my mind about at least one of these before the actual ceremony, but these are my preliminary predictions for the six major categories:

BEST PICTURE
American Hustle
Captain Philips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

With the field opened up so that there can be more than five nominees now, many of these are here just for the recognition of being nominated - Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, and Philomena. Her has a lot of great buzz, but without any acting or directing nominations, doesn't stand much of a chance. That leaves American Hustle, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street. All four have strong buzz, but I'm going to put my money on 12 Years a Slave. It's the type of "important" movie the Academy likes to recognize, and I think it's going to lose out in the acting categories, which will spur many voters to give it picture instead. 

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Efiojor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

This is one of the really tough categories for me this year. I can see a case being made for any one of these actors to win. Bale is respected and AH is getting great buzz, Dern's a veteran, DiCaprio has never won, Efiojor is in a political juggernaut, and McConaughey has his transformation in the role. I think it's going to come down to DiCaprio and Efiojor, and that ultimately DiCaprio's going to edge into the win. The Academy likes recognizing actors in Scorsese roles and he's had a great couple of years.

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Street, August: Osage County

There's a lot of talk about Adams, but honestly, this one is Cate Blanchett's to lose. She's not managed to snag Best Actress yet, it's a powerful performance, and the Academy loves her.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Philips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Another easy category. Leto's got this one locked up. A transformative role as well as a comeback story. This will be the performance from Dallas Buyers Club that gets recognition for the movie.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

This is a two-woman race - Lawrence and Nyong'o. Lawrence is a Hollywood darling in a movie getting great buzz that isn't likely to get other acting wins. Nyong'o has crashed onto the scene and red carpet this year in a pivotal role and film. At this point, I'm going to say Lawrence, based solely on her popularity amongst her peers. Voters are likely to believe Nyong'o will have more opportunities to win. Not to say that Lawrence won't, but she didn't win on her first nomination, either.

BEST DIRECTOR
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

This one's almost as hard for me as Best Actor. It seems safe to knock out Scorsese and Payne right away. Scorsese is a perennial favorite, and Payne's movie is too small for the win. That leaves Russell, Cuaron, and McQueen. Cuaron won the Golden Globe, but Russell has had a lot of great work in recent years with a lot of respected actors, while McQueen is responsible for what's considered an "important" film. Any one of them could win and people wouldn't get upset. If 12 gets best picture, then it comes down to Cuaron and Russell, since voters have liked spreading the wealth in recent years. Based on that, I'll say...Cuaron, but only because his film was more technically difficult and it's not likely to win in any of the other major categories like AH probably will.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Where my distaste of spoilers works against me

Did you ever read a book you thought was the last one of a series, only to discover (on the very last page) that no, it's not, and worse, it ends on a cliffhanger, and even worse than that, the next book (and it really better be the last one or I will have to hurt someone) doesn't come out for another eight months?

That was me. Yesterday.


Fury doesn't even begin to cover it.

It's probably my fault. I avoid spoilers and reviews once I've decided to read something. I don't like having the foreknowledge as it dilutes the final effects.

And yet, if I'd bothered to look at GoodReads, I might've learned ahead of time of this situation and thus been able to hold off on reading this book until after the last one is out. I've done it before. (Don't even get me started on how hard it was to avoid Harry Potter spoilers when I stopped reading after the fourth book.) I could do it again.

Only I won't have to because it's already too late.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Over at Amber Pax Blog


The first in my new series, Boundless, comes out this weekend. In preparation of it, it's featured today over at the Amber Pax blog. Go check it out if you want to read an excerpt!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reading Bingo Challenge

I've been trying to be more diligent in getting through my TBR piles in the past couple years. Things like the reading challenge at GoodReads helped me a lot last year. I actually managed to hit my quota of 52 books for the whole year. That doesn't include the over 100 I started and didn't bother to finish because they weren't worth the time.

Random House created a Reading Bingo Challenge that looks like fun. Basically, it's a bingo card with various types of books in each of the squares.

There's a YA version, too, but I don't read nearly enough YA to warrant trying for it. And while they say you can use the same book to cover different squares, it'll be more challenging to make it 25 different books. Hell, the book from the bottom of my reading pile is going to give my OCD fits, lol

I get to cross one square off already, but I'll talk about that later this week. I'm writing a review on it. It blew me away.

Friday, January 10, 2014

eBook Readers Can Be Beautiful

I inherited my son's Kindle over the Christmas holiday, so the first thing I did was get online to replace the cover because I didn't want to carry around a Star Wars cover. (Okay, the second thing. The first thing was transferring all my books from my cloud onto the device.) A friend of mine had purchased covers from an online site called Oberon Design, so because hers was so gorgeous, that's where I went.

It arrived yesterday.

Isn't it stunning? And so me. The workmanship is exquisite, the leather thick and heavy, and the pewter rose charm that acts as a clasp is the perfect counterpoint. I can't stop picking it up and sighing over how beautiful it is.


My poor iPad cover looks really sad in comparison. It's a vinyl Kate Spade cover that looks like a black/white composition notebook, which I thought was fun and clever when I got it. In fact, the same friend who showed me the Oberon site talked me into getting the notebook cover, too, I just realized. Anyway, I'm fighting not going back and ordering a different cover for my iPad now.

Maybe I'll just ask for one for my birthday.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Peeking out of the Cave

Last night, I sat in our dining room working on a puzzle while my husband worked in his office just a few feet away. He's in software, the head of his department, and his company was in the midst of international releases last night, so he was on chat and conference calls with his team. I couldn't help but hear everything as they worked, the joking around, the questions back and forth, and I'm going to admit...I got jealous.

Writing is so incredibly solitary. When we're in our zone, we don't even hear our own stomachs growl, let alone other people. Hours can slip by where we never utter a single word to another human being. For many of this, this is the norm.

But when I'm not writing...it's hard not to miss that camaraderie of working with people you like and respect. The inside jokes. Friends. I'm not a hugely outgoing person in the first place, but the sense that you belong somewhere is something I think most people crave and need. Multiple somewheres in a lot of cases. Because I definitely have my place in my family, but I can't help but think that it would be nice to have other circles I could slip into with the same kind of ease.

I think it's one reason why conventions like RT are so loved. For a week, we are surrounded by like-minded individuals, who speak the same language we do, who love many of the same heroes and tropes and books, who struggle with many of the same issues. It's a belonging we're rarely allowed, because of the nature of our professional beast.

That's not to say it can't be a relief to be able to retreat back into the writing cave again. I get overloaded on social stimuli fairly quickly. The thought of being surrounded by a ton of people all the time just makes me tired.

But sometimes? Or one-on-ones with people who understand you?

Oh, yeah. Wouldn't that be great?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Geeks in Glasses

I had my annual eye exam yesterday. I never had to wear glasses until a couple years ago--turning forty really does a number on a woman's otherwise healthy body, let me tell you--and then reading glasses were the norm. I didn't need a new prescription, but I decided to get a second pair anyway, because, well, cute glasses are fun, aren't they?

These are the ones I picked out, blue and turquoise and oh so darling:
I need to write some geeks in glasses some time soon.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Cover Art for Enthralled in Silver

I got my edits yesterday for my upcoming Ellora's Cave m/m/f menage, Enthralled in Silver. With them, I also got the official version of its cover. Wanna see?

Isn't it stunning? I just love it to pieces. I seem destined to have a lot of silvery/bluish toned covers, but when they're as pretty as this one, it's hard to complain.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winner and Thank Yous

Thank you to everyone who stopped by the Baby, It's Cold Outside blog hop over the weekend! I hope you got to hear about some great new authors, because we have some really talented in our group.

I announced the winner for the Kenneth Cole travel set last night during the chat, but I'll put it up here, too. The winner was...

Denise Smith!

I'm embroiled in galleys and edits this week, and I have new cover art to share on my upcoming Ellora's Cave release, so stay tuned for more to come!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Getaways for the Awestruck Child in Me


Welcome! I'd say pull up a chair by the fire to warm up, but I live in the Bay Area in California, and we're in the throes of temperatures in the mid-60s, so I'll just say, come on out to the patio, pick out a lounger, and enjoy some January sunshine with me.

I'm sorry, that's mean, isn't it?

If it makes you feel better, I've had more than my fair share of cold weather in my lifetime. I grew up in mid-Michigan. In the country. On a dirt road. Whenever it snowed, we just plain got stuck, because we lived too far out of town for them to do much about it. We relied on one of our neighbors to come around and plow us out. Frankly, I loved it as a kid. Snow drifts six feet high that stretched over thirty yards on both sides of the driveway. We used to tunnel through them, creating catacombs to crawl through. For a kid who lived in her imagination, it was like having my very own Narnia.

These days, though, I have to find that kind of magic in other ways. With my schedule so crazy between raising a family and writing my stories, I find myself making imaginary travel plans to places around the world that appeal to the awestruck child in me.

Like the Kykkos Monastery in Cyprus:

Located in the Troodos Mountains, it's ornately decorated on the inside, with beautiful murals that have recently been restored. Take a look at this gentleman's video for a closer peek at how stunning it all is.

For something more urban, there's the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore:

I think it's an engineering marvel. On the top there are infinity pools where you can go all the way up to the edge and gaze out over the bay and the city:
That takes magic to a whole 'nother level.

Not that I don't love San Francisco. I do. A lot. I love it so much, more and more of my stories are set here, like my upcoming Bay Wolves series at Amber Allure. But that doesn't mean I don't want to escape when the time is right. Like if the weather isn't exactly pleasant.

Where would you go for that magical escape? Tell me in the comments. Everyone who comments will be eligible to win the Kindle Fire grand prize, but on top of that, I'm giving away a prize to one random commenter on this post, a 3-piece Kenneth Cole black cosmetics travel kit for your next getaway:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sale at Amber Allure

To start out 2014 out right, Amber Allure is having a sale on all their titles--40% off!

So if you've been waffling on whether or not to try one of my titles, now is the perfect time to give it a go.