Friday, January 30, 2015

Fan Video for Outlander

It's been a busy week, and more than a little fun. How to Get Away with Murder is back. I got to see Tim Minchin last Sunday. The short story I'm working on is sexy and sweet.

And someone created this fan video of Outlander to the Queen song, "Bohemian Rhapsody." (There's wedding night footage in it, so not completely SFW.)


Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Envisioning Freddie

I'm obsessed with this photo:

This is exactly how I'm envisioning Freddie, the hero of my time travel story, right down to the semi-shy way he's peeking around his arm.

I just wish I knew who he was.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WIP Wednesday

I'm working on two short novellas right now for upcoming paxes, one about time travel and one about second chances. This is the current opening I have for my time travel story, tentatively called "Unison."

*_*_*

While nearly everyone on the midnight shift either wore ear protection or listened to music as they worked, Freddie Valek never did. It wasn’t that working in a tool manufacturer’s warehouse was so fascinating he didn’t need the distraction. It was that his imagination was more than enough to keep his brain occupied while his body did the heavy lifting. Literally.

He’d always been a dreamer. Anything could transport him from the moment, from a bird zooming across an indigo sky to more traditional methods like movies and television. Books worked, too, except for the fact that he wasn’t the greatest reader. His imagination worked faster. He could be battling trolls in a war-torn aerial kingdom or marching down the streets of Washington, DC, in hippie clothes protesting the war without ever having to sit for ten minutes trying to figure out why so many of the words swimming on the page in front of him didn’t sound at all like the way people actually talked in rural Kentucky.

He’d thought maybe it might be different when he moved to New York City in 2006. But no, words didn’t match the way people talked here, either.

Some of the guys had given him a hard time when he first started working at the warehouse, calling him a dumb hick because he couldn’t shake his accent, but that stopped not long after he dragged an old-timer out of the way of a forklift backing up into an area that was supposed to be off-limits. He never really understood why that should make a difference. After all, anyone else would’ve done the same thing. It was just common decency. But it did, which made the transition to all the choices the city had to offer that Kentucky didn’t just a little bit easier.

Hell, they even knew he was gay and didn’t give him grief for it. Not like what he’d seen other boys get back home. More proof that this was the right place for him, even those times when it felt like something was still missing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Strength Training

Exercise and I are not friends. We never have been. I never get the endorphin rush, it exhausts me no matter how in shape I am, and I look like a boiled lobster within five minutes of starting.

None of that is an exaggeration.

However, I've had increasing issues with osteoarthritis in my hips in the past couple years. It got diagnosed four years ago, after nearly a decade of problems that I ignored, and that year, I went and lost almost sixty pounds in an effort to hold off on the pain. That worked really well until I had foot surgery two years later. It's gotten progressively worse since then (though my foot is so much better, thank goodness), which meant that since it hurt to move, the weight came back. More weight added more pressure. It's a deadly cycle.

In December, I knew I had to do something about it. Something more aggressive. No more slacking. No more excuses. I'm only in my forties, and I am far too young to just shut off a big part of my life. Instead of just trying to lose weight, however, I needed to strengthen all my muscles to support the joints better. I talked to my family, and we decided to up our membership to the gym to include all of us and turn it into more of a group effort. That way, there's always somebody in the house to support you.

We started going just before the new year. I can't do treadmills--the impact on my hips makes it hurt too much, counteracting whatever benefits I might get--but ellipticals are perfect. I added in weight machines on my lower body--extensions, abductors, adductors, etc.--while at home, I started daily squats and some basic core strengthening exercises like hip crossovers. I started very small. On the at-home exercises, I was more interested in making sure it became a habit first rather than looking for results, so I started with just five while I figured out when was the perfect time of the day for me to do them to ensure they happened. Those numbers increased as the past month progressed, as did my weights at the gym.

Frankly, I'm shocked at the results so far. 

Though I've lost what I'd gained since we renewed our wedding vows in Vegas in October, I'm not obsessed with the scale. My metric for success is pain. Where before I measured a good day by not having to take any ibuprofen just to suffer through, it's different now. I have more good days than bad, and I've only had to take painkillers once (on Sunday, in fact, because Saturday night I couldn't get to the elliptical I wanted and spent time on a treadmill, big mistake, and since I knew I would be walking around San Francisco for hours, ibuprofen was on the menu). This is such a win for me, it's not even funny. I knew exercising would help osteoarthritis--just being on the elliptical earned me a few hours of no pain before--but I didn't anticipate such swift results when I added strength training. I have whole days where I don't even feel a twinge. Know why that's such a big deal?

That hasn't happened to me in well over fifteen months. Even on a good day, there would be twinges, or I'd step slightly differently and my leg would go out from under me.

Needless to say, I'm not giving this up. It's giving me my life back. I still hate exercise, but damn if I don't love the results.

Monday, January 26, 2015

An Evening with Tim Minchin

Last night, my husband, kids, and I went into San Francisco and saw Tim Minchin at the Nourse Theater. If you haven't heard of him, he's an Australian songwriter/pianist/comedian/performer. His brand of musical comedy is irreverent, mostly social satire with some keen insights along the way. My family just adores him, so seeing him perform live was a real treat.

We own the Blu-ray of his Royal Albert performance, but this was just him, a bare stage, and his piano. Our seats were pretty good, center of the balcony about six rows back, but only because I found out about the show too late to get orchestra seats. Those would've been amazing. His show consists of performances with short comedic stand-up bits in between songs while he probably catches his breath. Most of his songs are pretty manic. It's no wonder his encore was two quieter songs, one of which was a preview from the musical version of Groundhog Day that he's working on. I absolutely love that movie. I told my husband afterward that the second that shows up on US soil, we're going.

Anyway, if you haven't heard Tim before, here are videos of two of my favorites of his songs. The first is called "Lullaby," and I still giggle hysterically when I hear it. It's one of those songs that starts out slow and slowly cascades into hysterics. Plus, it's an excellent showcase of just how talented a pianist he really is:
This second song is called "Prejudice," and it's pretty typical of how subversive he can be:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Going to San Antonio

Yesterday, I finally caved and registered for EPICon in March. This year, it's in San Antonio again, which I love, at the Menger Hotel, which I also love, and it doesn't conflict with anything in my personal life, so it should've been a done deal ages ago, right?

I only wish.

I waffled back and forth about going ever since the finalists were announced for the Epic Awards. I wanted to go and get all dressed up for the awards ceremony, but this convention is always teeny-tiny. Even though the panels and presentations look really good, EPICon is harder to justify in regards to cost. Going becomes about want rather than requirement. And it's hard for me to succumb to that. It's time away from my family as well as money. I can't say it's necessarily time away from work because truth of the matter is, I usually spend half my time at conventions working in my room. I even do that at RT. My friends there know to expect that now.

But I pulled the trigger on it anyway. A couple days away from stresses is good for me, and 2015 is about taking care of me just as much as it's about taking care of the rest of the family. Plus, my very good friend Catherine Snodgrass is supposed to be going, so I'll get to see her. It'll be a win all around.

Just as soon as I stop feeling guilty about it.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Learning from The Duchess

I always thought history wasn't my bag. It was the only class in junior high I ever got a C in, because the teacher bored me so much. I went from an A to a C+ in six weeks, and struggled to finish with a B. High school was better, thank god. What a difference a good teacher can make! But still, I always dreaded history, and found the vast majority of it dry as toast. As a result, I didn't study it unless:
  • The era interested me to some degree. 19th century western America falls into that category.
  • I needed to for a story.
  • I saw something in a movie or book that intrigued me.
That means, I know next to nothing about most English history. As a general observation, most historical romances set in England, whether it's Regency, Victorian, Elizabethan, or something else, have to either be written by an author I really, really, really trust, or be so much fun that I don't care about the setting.

All of this is my way of explaining that I had no idea what I was setting myself up for when I sat down to watch The Duchess last night.

For those who don't know what it is, it was a 2008 film starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, about Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, and her rather dramatic life. It won Best Costume Design at the Oscars, as well as garnering an Art Direction nomination, and since I'm in an Oscar mood lately - and was on my own so couldn't sit and watch one of this year's nominees because I'd promised my husband we'd see them together - it seemed to fit the bill.

And it did, for the first two-thirds of the movie. The Duchess is an exuberant personality, married very young to a much older, colder man in desperate need of a male heir. She bears two daughters, is forced to raise another of his illegitimate daughters as her own, and puts up with his many affairs, until he starts an affair with her best friend (played by Hayley Atwell, who isn't nearly as interesting here as she is in Agent Carter). That's when the tides turn. She's furious and hurt and devastated at losing the one thing that was hers, as well as being humiliated by the move.

It only goes downhill from there.

I finished the film pissed. It's based on a true story, so considering the time period, you can figure out why. But I'll admit, I wanted the escapism. I wanted emotional retribution for Fiennes' condescending attitude and tight-fisted manipulation of his marriage and wife. I wanted what I perceived to be a happy ending. I didn't get it. It's not a tragic ending, thank god, but it certainly wasn't emotionally fulfilling. A good part of that is likely due to the fact that beyond my utter loathing for the kind of man she was married to, it felt like Fiennes phoned the performance in. Atwell didn't convince me, either. Maybe I should've guessed something would be up when Knightley, who I usually find tolerable but hardly great, gave the best performance of the bunch.

I would hardly deem it a waste of time, though. The costumes are sumptuous, and until that awful moment when I realized it wasn't going to end the way I wanted it, I was really enjoying myself. Plus, the movie interested me enough to pursue more information on the period and the players, which doesn't happen all that often for British history. But most importantly, it made me grateful for the time I live in. While there are a whole host of rights issues that still have to be sorted out, I have choices the Duchess could only dream about. 

In a world where I'm often frustrated by the ignorance and small-mindedness too many display, a history lesson like this one is well worth it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Suspense sale at Amber Quill

A new sale at Amber Quill!

Today through Friday, all suspense titles are 50% off. That includes LGBT, het, and non-romance titles. A number of my titles are there at Amber Allure, like:


And tons more! Check 'em out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Being a fan at RT

Yesterday, I got a notice from the RT organizers that I still wasn't off the waitlist for the book signing on Saturday. I'm actually really okay with that. Last year, I got pulled off the waitlist at close to the last minute, which meant I was scrambling for promo, and I do not want to go through that again. In all honesty, if they let me know at any point before now and the convention that I've somehow made it off the list, I'll say no thank you. I want that Saturday off from being an author at the convention. On that day, I want to be a fangirl.

Like most authors, I was a reader first. I'm still a reader. Maybe not at the same voracious rate I used to devour books, but that's got as much to do with the fact that I'm also the mom of two very busy teenagers as it is about my writing. I sneak in pages of a book on my Kindle while I'm waiting to pick my son up from middle school, or when my daughter's softball practice runs long. I have a book to read before I go to bed, and another to read on days I bother to curl my hair. (Trust me. My hair takes forever to curl. I decided that was a solid twenty minutes I could use to get some reading in.)

In past years, I've had to sneak off for a couple minutes at a time if there was an author I wanted to see. It's a pain. Last year was an even bigger pain because authors were in two separate rooms. The one I was most passionate about seeing was one that had been introduced to me in a workshop earlier in the convention. I didn't get to see him until after we were all done, when I had to race to the other room and hope that he was still at his table. Luckily, he was, but damn, I do not want to go through that again.

Another plus to being a fangirl on that day? Less promo to worry about. That gives me more room for books to bring home. Much to my husband's chagrin, of course, but that's my problem to worry about, not his.

So a week or so before the convention, I'm going to go through the list and prepare who I want to see. I'm the anal type who creates the alphabetized list, complete with titles that interest me, so that nothing gets missed. Hopefully, everybody is in the same room this year. That certainly makes it easier for me. Books, credit card, list. Yep, that's all I need to be a happy fangirl.

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Release - Against a Wounded Landscape

Woo hoo! New release time!


Yesterday, my story, Against a Wounded Landscape, came out as part of the Knight Moves pax at Amber Allure. Here's the blurb:

Sir Tanash, the greatest knight Tasora has ever known, has one quest—to rescue his king’s only son. Fifteen years ago, Princy Liseny was kidnapped, and in the time since, Tasora has crumbled. By bringing the prince home, Tanash hopes to return the kingdom to its former glory.

As captive in a rival land, Liseny has spent most of his life locked away from the world, brought out as the ultimate prize while his real home is slowly destroyed. Escape is a godsend. So is Tanash, but neither is as simple as Liseny hopes. He has to learn to adjust in more ways than one. Though Tanash refuses to act on their mutual attraction, he does agree to help Liseny seek out an alliance to take back to Tasora.

What he doesn’t expect is to fall for the young prince along the way...

To read an excerpt and for purchasing information, check it out at Amber Allure.

Also, today is my posting day at the Amber Pax blog. I chat about how the story got started and my love for notebooks. If you head over and comment, you automatically get entered to win the entire pax collection. How can you not give it a go?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Create your weekend


Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oscar Nominations

Oscar nominations for 2015 are out, and I have a lot of movies I need to see, including some I'd been hoping to avoid like American Sniper. I'm not a big fan of military movies, to be honest. I end up only watching them when they get nominated for something.

In fact, I haven't seen many at all of the major nominated films. One will get remedied soon - The Imitation Game - but others I missed when they were here because of being too busy - Birdman and The Theory of Everything. I didn't even see Gone Girl because I didn't want to watch the movie before I read the book (because I'm probably the last person in the country who hasn't and I'm not spoiled on the ending). The only movie I've seen of any of the acting categories is Into the Woods.

Thank goodness I can watch at least a couple online very soon. I'll have to be spoiled for the book when I watch Gone Girl, and Boyhood is also available. I'll have to hope that our local theater gets some of the nominees back for a second viewing as they've done in recent years. That might be the only way I get more than a few crossed off before the winners are announced.

Anything you're sorry you missed? I didn't see enough this past year to really merit being annoyed by a snub right now, though one thing is for sure, I'm going to do everything I can to see more movies in 2015.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vampire/Dark Fantasy Sale at Amber Allure

Love those vampires? Amber Allure has the sale for you!
Today through Friday, Amber Allure has dark fantasy/vampire stories on sale for 50% off! Titles include my Bridge Over Troubled Water and Threshold, and a whole slew of Jamie Craig titles, including the Master Chronicles.

Check them out!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kyle MacLachlan Confirmed

Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly confirmed that Kyle MacLachlan is definitely returning as Dale Cooper in the Twin Peaks relaunch/reboot/whatever it's going to be, coming in 2016. I can't even tell you how excited I am about this. I mean, I never really believed David Lynch would do it if he wasn't sure he could have MacLachlan on board. Dale Cooper really was the heart of the show, and without him, even twenty-five years later, there would've been a gap.

But now we don't have to assume. We have confirmation.

I actually rewatched the entire series in December after the first announcement was made. Though I've owned it on DVD for years, I haven't watched it since it first aired. So many surprises this time around. Like how much I actually remembered. And how differently I reacted to certain elements. And how much more meaning I found in so many different things.

I was a huge Dale/Audrey shipper back in the day, and with the beauty of hindsight, discovered why my favorite ship got derailed. Apparently, MacLachlan was dating Lara Flynn Boyle, and there was some discord over his scenes with Sherilyn Fenn and their popularity. So it got written out, and their amazing potential was never realized. Watching it the second time around wasn't quite as exciting, I'll admit. Since my daughter is just about fifteen, I spent the first couple episodes where Audrey is flirting with Cooper--and more importantly, he is letting her--wanting to shake Cooper and say, "She's in high school, you idiot. Stop thinking with your pants!" It cracked me up to hear how many times later on they stressed she was eighteen. I didn't notice that the first time around.

The next fifteen months are going to drive me crazy as news trickles in on who's attached to it. But for me, the most important actor already is. I'll be all right with any and all who come on board after this.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Want another taste?


What, you thought I was done with Against a Wounded Landscape? Nope, not even close.

Today over at the Amber Pax blog starts the blurbs and excerpts posting for the upcoming pax release. Against a Wounded Landscape is on deck today, with another excerpt that takes place just after the one I posted on Friday.

Go take a look! There will be other sneak peeks for the rest of the stories during the week, all leading up to the release on Sunday.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A taste from Against A Wounded Landscape

A week from Sunday, my fantasy long novella, Against a Wounded Landscape, comes out at Amber Allure. Here's a little taste:

*_*_*

Pushing Aldray into the corner, Tanash stripped away his blades from their scabbards and threw the tattered blanket over his prone body. One dagger he slipped into his boot. The other, he palmed as he crept behind the open door to listen for the other guard. He would much prefer a sword, but his was hidden with his belongings outside Enthmore’s ramparts. Trying to move around the castle visibly brandishing a weapon—even on this day of celebration—would hinder his quest.

“Aren’t you done yet?”

Tanash pressed to the heavy wood, using the murk to his advantage, as the other guard plodded close. His great height put his gaze higher than the small window in the door, allowing him to track the guard’s progress. As the guard paused inside the threshold, Tanash shoved forward with all his might.

The edge of the door slammed into the guard’s side, knocking him to the ground. Before he could find his feet, Tanash was there, his arm around his throat, squeezing until the body went limp.

Though both guards were now incapacitated, Tanash worked swiftly, binding their wrists and ankles with strips torn from the blanket, gagging them with their socks. He left both men slumped in the corner when he locked the cell behind him, then tossed the keys into the cesspit under the stairs. While he wished he could take one of their uniforms to help blend into the population above, neither was remotely close to his size. He made do by peeling away the worst of the ragged clothing he’d stolen to feign poverty and left behind the dungeon he’d used as a foothold into the citadel.

The corridor was empty when he emerged from the dungeon. Most of the castle’s residents would be in the streets or at the arena, taking part in the dances and exhibitions that were a part of the kingdom’s annual festivities to mark their growing prosperity, a detail Tanash had planned on. He’d picked the fight with the soldier at the pub a week ago, specifically so he would be locked securely in the dungeon on this day. It was his single best opportunity to search the citadel and escape with his prize.

If he got caught, there would be no second chance. One look at him, and the king would know he was a knight of Tasora. Tanash would be executed before the sun fell.

He moved with the stealth of a man half his size. As he stole through the lower level to reach the center salon, each footfall was light and quick, unheard even by him. He’d never been inside this particular castle, but he’d seen others when he accompanied King Cersamor, enough to know that variances were slight.

And he was right. The stairs leading to more private chambers curved up into a balcony overlooking the salon. He took them three by three, then doubled over to keep from being spotted below.

Nobody was up here, either. He had the luxury of pausing at every closed door he found to listen for sounds within.

He stopped at the very last one. Closing his eyes, he blocked out the distant jubilee to focus on the hollow echoes at his ear.

Wood scraped across stone.

The rustle of silk.

A long, drawn out sigh.

As he hoped, the room was occupied. The only question remaining was whether its denizen was friend or foe.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Year Ahead

I have to say, I'm excited about 2015. It's the little things, like:

  • Knowing I won't be signing at RT this year so I can spend Saturday morning being a fangirl for all those authors I adore. When I registered for the convention, I got put on the waitlist which seems like a blessing in disguise, frankly. No more sneaking away for a couple minutes at a time.
  • Getting a weekend with my sisters in August for us to just hang out. We live in different time zones/states - North Carolina, Oklahoma, and California - and the last time we were all together was five years ago.
  • My daughter starts driver's training. This doesn't fill me with dread like it would for most parents. Her schedule is insane. I'm counting down the days until she can shoulder some of the transportation responsibilities.
  • Shows/people I get to see. Just in the next four months alone, I have tickets for Tim Minchin, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury, and Book of Mormon. And it's very likely Newsies will be thrown into that mix as well.
What are you looking forward to this year?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Shapeshifter sale at Amber Quill

Attention shapeshifter fans!
Today through Friday, Amber Quill has shapeshifter stories on sale for 50% off! Whether you want m/m, het, or something in between, they're marking them down.

I've got a few titles in the sale, but there are a ton of excellent authors to choose from. Go check them out!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Best Christmas gift ever

Bit by bit, I'm getting back into my routine. My daughter returned to school yesterday, my son goes today, and I am back to writing. I took the holidays off for the most part, so I could spend time with my family. That means, of course, that now, I'm rushing to get caught up.

I don't regret it for a second. It was quiet and cozy, and with my daughter a freshman in high school now, I'm relishing these holidays for as long as I can. Plus, I got a new toy for Christmas! I love to cook, and my husband surprised me by getting me a sous vide circulator. Don't know what it is? Well, sous vide cooking is about sealing food in vacuum bags and cooking it in a temperature-controlled water bath. It cooks more slowly and evenly, only up to the desired temperature, so in theory it's impossible for food to get overcooked. It's been used in the restaurant industry for ages, and we'd been dying to try it.


And now we have! Its most practical non-professional application is for meat, so since we were having beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner, it was agreed we would try it out on that. It was a risk, sure, but oh, so worth it. Instead of roasting, we cut the meat into 1" slices, sealed them in bags, and put it in the bath with the circulator for an hour. When I took them out, I gave them a quick sear on the stovetop with just salt and pepper.

Best. Beef. Ever. Seriously. We were able to cut them with butter knives, and for this gal who likes her beef on the rare side and usually gets screwed over with pieces more medium, it was perfect. We've tried it with ribs, which turned out very tender as well, and this week, I'm trying bratwurst.

What was your favorite Christmas gift this year? Was Santa generous?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Blog Hop winners

Whew, what a New Year's! I can't believe it's 2015 already. Though if history repeats itself, I'll be writing 2014 on everything until summertime anyway, so it's like keeping it around a little bit longer, right?

Thank you to everyone who stopped in for our New Year's Blog Hop. As promised, I'm announcing the winners today. And they are...

$20 Amazon Gift Certificate - Michelle Gallegos
Swarovski USB drive - Brandy Mulder

Congratulations! Contact me at vivien_dean@yahoo.com to organize the details of collecting your prizes. Thank you to everyone for stopping by!